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Rebels use China missiles to shoot down Syrian army helicopters

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Chinese-made missiles have been used to shoot down two Syrian army helicopters, state media reported on Thursday, adding their performance could boost the international sales appeal of Chinese weapons.

The Global Times, a tabloid with close links to the ruling Communist Party, said a pair of videos posted on the internet by Free Syrian Army rebels showed two Mi-8/17 helicopters being shot down by Chinese shoulder-launched missiles.

The paper said it was not known how the rebels, who have been fighting to topple the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad for the past two years, obtained the missiles.

But it said the success of the FN-6 weapons, which it said were developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, could lift the overall image of China's defence products.

"In regards to export prospects, Chinese weapons need to engage in more conflicts to prove their value," Daniel Tong, identified as the founder of the Chinese Military Aviation website, told the newspaper.

Red Flag

Karzai warns of worsening relations with U.S. if prison handover further delayed

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Afghanistan's president is warning that any further delay turning over a key U.S.-run detention facility to full Afghan control would harm relations.

Hamid Karzai's statement comes after he and U.S. commander Gen. Joseph Dunford met Wednesday but failed to resolve the impasse that derailed a scheduled handover last Saturday.

Cult

Pope Francis on gay marriage, unmarried mothers ... and journalists

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© Reuters
A Catholic pilgrim in St Peter's basilica waves the Argentinian flag after the first Latin American pope was elected.
The Argentinian pope has made strident comments about the church's problems - and has come in for some fierce criticism

On need for the church to evangelise:

"We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a church that is wrapped up in its own world: when a church becomes like this, it grows sick. It is true that going out on to the street implies the risk of accidents happening, as they would to any ordinary man or woman. But if the church stays wrapped up in itself, it will age. And if I had to choose between a wounded church that goes out on to the streets and a sick, withdrawn church, I would definitely choose the first one."

On using technology:

"We also try to reach out to people who are far away, via digital means, the web and brief messaging."

On unmarried mothers:

"In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don't baptise the children of single mothers because they weren't conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are today's hypocrites. Those who clericalise the church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it's baptised!"

On vanity:

"An example I often use to illustrate the reality of vanity, is this: look at the peacock; it's beautiful if you look at it from the front. But if you look at it from behind, you discover the truth ... Whoever gives in to such self-absorbed vanity has huge misery hiding inside them."

Eye 2

Court must intervene to end torture of solitary confinement, attorneys argue

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Today, lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged a federal judge to reject California's attempt to dismiss a class action lawsuit challenging prolonged solitary confinement in California prisons. The case was filed on behalf of prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent between 10 and 28 years in solitary confinement and who staged two widely publicized hunger strikes in 2011. It alleges that prolonged solitary confinement violates Eighth Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, and that the absence of meaningful review of SHU placement violates the prisoners' right to due process. CCR lawyers argued today that nominal, temporary reforms by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), which the defendants cited as grounds for dismissing the case, have had little to no effect on the conditions challenged in the lawsuit and, thus, the case must proceed.

"The CDCR's reforms are nothing more than window dressing. They are riddled with the same constitutional problems challenged in this lawsuit, they have had no effect on any of the plaintiffs and, in any event, they are set to expire in two years," said Center for Constitutional Rights President Jules Lobel, who argued today. "The most important similarity, however, is that this pilot program is the third time the CDCR has promised meaningful reforms and failed to deliver. At this point it is clear that a court must intervene."

Vader

Democracy the American way: Syrian opposition 'elects' Texan Ghassan Hitto as 'prime minister'

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© Ma Yan/Xinhua
Ghassan Hitto has been chosen as the prime minister of an interim government by the CIA's proxy army in Syria.
Little-known US resident Ghassan Hitto chosen as head of government for regions held by opposition coalition

Syria's rebel coalition has elected as its prime minister Ghassan Hitto, a little-known American-educated IT manager and Islamic activist who will head an interim government to administer the areas seized by opposition forces from the regime troops of President Bashar Assad.


Comment: Once again we see the Western elite's preference for 'Islamic' regimes that tend towards right-wing religious extremism over secular ones that seek to promote the national welfare.


Hitto received 35 votes out of 48 ballots cast by the opposition Syrian National Coalition's 63 active members during a meeting in Istanbul. The results were read aloud by coalition member Hisham Marwa to applause from a few dozen of his colleagues who had waited until after 1am to hear the results.

"I miss my wife and children and I look forward to seeing them soon," said Hitto, who has lived in the United States for decades and recently moved from Texas to Turkey to help co-ordinate aid to rebel-held areas.

Comment: Oh, so a country's sovereignty counts for something all of a sudden? Respecting the borders of another country actually means something to the U.S.? This, on the day of the 10th anniversary of perhaps the most egregious example of border violation by any one country on another in the history of warfare, says all you need to know about the U.S. regime.


Bomb

10 years on: Iraq rocked by coordinated wave of explosions as civilian uprising against U.S. client regime continues

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© STRINGER/IRAQ/REUTERS
The remains of a car bomb in Baghdad's Sadr City, part of a series of blasts that rocked Baghdad on the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of defenceless Iraq in 2003.
Baghdad was convulsed by a deadly wave of explosions as terrorists detonated up to nine explosions in the course of a few hours over the morning on the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion.

Early reports suggested that at least 34 people were killed and dozens more wounded as car bombs hit Shia areas, including a mosque and a restaurant across the city.

At the Ministry of the Interior in central Baghdad, the Guardian heard one explosion in the distance, followed by a rising plume of smoke. Helicopters could be seen hovering above the scene.

An hour later, in another part of the city, a second blast was audible and another column of smoke a half a mile or so away, this time from an attack in Karrada,.

The first bombing took place near a small restaurant in Baghdad's Mashtal neighbourhood, killing four people and wounding 15 at 8am.

V

Arrests in Brooklyn in 3rd night of police brutality protest

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© twitter user@rdevro
Eighteen have been arrested in Brooklyn's East Flatbush neighborhood as New Yorkers came out for a third night of protest over the police killing of 16-year-old Kimani Gray, police reported.

The demonstration began at Brooklyn's 67th Precinct in East Flatbush, the part of New York's Brooklyn section where Gray was shot to death by police on Saturday. Witness and police accounts differ on whether Gray was brandishing a weapon before he was killed.

According to autopsy results, Gray was shot seven times - four times in the front of his body, and three times in the back.

Brooklynites were heard shouting "murderers!" at the massive police presence Wednesday as officers prohibited people from even stepping onto the street in one of New York's poorer neighborhoods while police helicopters circled overhead.

The event has been marked by a near-absolute lack of commercial media coverage, with most of the slack being picked up by activists livestreaming from the rally or reporting via Twitter.

Video

Ben Affleck could be hanged for war crimes: US intelligence expert

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Oscar winning 'Argo' director Ben Affleck
Is Argo "just a movie?" Or is it a disguised intelligence operation - maybe even a war crime?

These questions may soon be answered in court. Well-known French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre has met with Iranian officials planning a lawsuit against the makers and distributors of the controversial film.

Mohammad Lesani, General Secretary of Monday's Hoax of Hollywood conference in Tehran, announced, "Argo is made by three film-producing companies in Hollywood...the Islamic Republic of Iran is going to sue all those who have been active in the anti-Iran domain, including directors and producers."

If the makers of Argo are deposed under oath, they may be forced to reveal that their film -- like the fictitious film-within-the-film -- is a covert operation disguised as a movie. One of America's leading experts on covert operations believes that Argo is the propaganda project of an intelligence agency or agencies, and that its purpose is to convince the American people to go along with Israel's plan to drag America into a war on Iran.

Star of David

ADL applauds choice of new pope

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The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina as the next Pope Francis I, applauding his close relationship with the Jewish community.

"We congratulate the new Pope and wish him well in his important new responsibility. We believe that the election of Francis I is a significant moment in the history of the Church. We look forward to working with him to continue to foster Catholic-Jewish relations as we have with his predecessors. There is much in his record that reassures us about the future," Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director said in a statement.

"Under his leadership in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergogolio made important strides in maintaining positive Catholic-Jewish relations following the transformational papacies of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI - pontiffs who launched historic reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people.

Bad Guys

Wave of "ag gag" bills threaten food safety and freedom of the press

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© Maqi (CC)
Remember "fecal soup"? A CBS "60 Minutes" exposé in 1987 documented widespread food safety violations by the poultry industry, making use of undercover video from a hidden camera placed by the "60 Minutes" crew. The episode vindicated U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) whistleblower Hobart Bartley, who had been ignored and threatened by his superiors and finally transferred to another plant when he warned of unsanitary conditions at a Simmons Industries plant in Missouri. Bartley was particularly irate about the "eight-foot-high vat of water called the 'chiller,' where as many as 10,000 chicken carcasses were routinely left to float, soaking up moisture to increase their selling weight. Dried blood, feces, and hair were floating in along with the dead birds. Diane Sawyer later called it 'fecal soup.'"

In the modern era, effective enforcement of food safety and the humane treatment of animals has long relied on undercover video investigations by reporters and citizens. The footage and images gained can serve as proof of criminal wrongdoing or lay ugly practices bare. Such images can vindicate whistleblowers who otherwise risk retaliation when speaking up. Now this practice, which has time and time again exposed hidden dangers -- including downer cows linked to Mad Cow disease in the food supply -- is under threat by a series of state bills dubbed "ag gag" bills.