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Israel Prepares for "Dirty Bomb" Drill

© Unknown
Israeli defense officials are preparing for a January drill on the response to a radiological "dirty bomb" attack against a backdrop of regional instability and fears about Iran's nuclear development, the Jerusalem Post reported on Friday (see GSN, Nov. 29).

The "Dark Cloud" simulation would be the Israeli civil defense force's first exercise that deals with the fallout of a radiological attack. The exercise is being directed by ex-Israeli air force Material Command chief Brig. Gen. Zev Snir, who advises the Israeli defense minister on WMD threats.

Jerusalem has long feared a nuclear attack by extremists. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said on multiple occasions he is more concerned that the nation's enemies could smuggle an improvised radioactive weapon into the country via the Port of Haifa than of Iran launching a nuclear-tipped long-range missile at Israel.

A number of military and defense personnel from other countries are set to observe the drill in northern Israel.

"Israel is one of the leading countries in the world when it comes to preparing for such attacks. But we have to test ourselves and ensure that the responses we have in place are applicable and appropriate for the wide variety of threats we face," Snir said.


US: Environemental Protection Agency Finally Admits 'Fracking' Likely Polluted Town's Water

A controversial method of drilling for oil and natural gas appears to be the cause of groundwater pollution in a central Wyoming town, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

The EPA last month said it had found compounds associated with chemicals used in the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the groundwater beneath Pavillion. Many residents say their well water has reeked of chemicals since the drilling began there and first complained to the EPA in 2008.

But until Thursday, the EPA said it could not speculate on where the contaminants came from.

© Pavillion Area Concerned CitizensPavillion Area Concerned Citizens provided this photo of the home of John and Katherine Fenton. It said the haze was from fracking fluids vaporized in the drilling process and that it lasted for about 10 minutes. Similar releases happened a dozen times over 3 days, it added.

In the draft report (.pdf) released Thursday, the EPA said that "the explanation best fitting the data ... is that constituents associated with hydraulic fracturing have been released into the Wind River drinking water aquifer."

Health officials had earlier advised residents not to drink their water after the EPA said it had found benzene and other hydrocarbons in wells it tested.

The process pumps pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to open fissures and improve the flow of oil or gas.


The US Army Now Offers A Prison Guard Specialty Securing 'Civilian Detainees'

© Tumbleweed via flickr
Every soldier that enlists in the Army chooses a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). Designated by a number and a letter, the 31E MOS now includes advanced responsibilities including command and control of prisoner of war and civilian internee camps.

While the civilian designation likely applies to foreign nationals in their home countries, it reads more ominously now that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is getting nods from legislators as it makes its way through the Senate.

Part of the NDAA includes amendments allowing for the arrest and indefinite detention of U.S. citizens both at home and abroad.


Domninique Strauss-Kahn was Treated 'Like the Messiah' at Orgies, Says Prostitute Who Slept With Him Night Before His Arrest in New York

© Agence France-Presse/Getty ImagesCourteous: Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn had sex with dozens of women at sex parties, according to one prostitute
Sex-obsessed former IMF chief Domninique Strauss-Kahn was 'treated like the Messiah' when he arrived at orgies, a prostitute who took part in his group sex sessions has revealed.

The vice girl, named Jade, praised the shamed 62-year-old economist for his 'courtesy and respect' during the sleazy swingers' parties.

The Belgian hooker also told how she had sex with Strauss-Kahn on the night before he was arrested for trying to rape a New York hotel chambermaid on May 14.

And she said the world's former top banker even invited her to his offices at the headquearters of the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC.

Her claims come after Strauss-Kahn confessed to taking part in orgies, but said he never realised any of the female participants were being paid for sex.

Jade, 29, spoke of Strauss-Kahn's love of orgies in a lurid interview today with French newspaper Nord-Eclair.

And she agreed that the man once tipped as the next president of France may not have known he was having sex with call girls.

She said: 'Most of the people at these evenings would have probably thought the participants were all just consenting adults.

'I must say, I found DSK to be very pleasant and overly polite.

'Each encounter with him was mutually respectful. I have always ensured I am seen as a woman and not an object. When people respect each other, nothing bad happens.'


Congo Election Results Delayed Again

© Francois Lenoir/ ReutersA Belgian riot policeman argues with a man as they stand near a placard reading "Kabila go away" during a demonstration in support of Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi in Brussels December 5, 2011.
Election officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo have again delayed the results of presidential and legislative elections. Opposition supporters are rejecting partial returns that show President Joseph Kabila heading for reelection.

Electoral Commission head Daniel Ngoy-Mulunda says results will be postponed for a third day because officials have not completed comparing vote totals sent electronically with those recorded on tally sheets at each polling station. He said it is a huge job that must be done right to assure the credibility of the totals announced.

Results from last month's presidential and legislative elections were to be announced on Tuesday. That was postponed until Thursday and has now been pushed back to Friday.

With results from nearly 90 percent of precincts released, President Kabila looks set to win a second term as he is leading his closest rival by more than two million votes. Analysts say the wait for complete results is less about the final figures and more about how supporters of opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi will react.


Israeli strikes kill 10 in Gaza, rockets hit Israel

© unknown
Violence across the Israeli-Gaza border escalated on Friday with Israeli air strikes killing at least three people and Palestinian militants firing rockets deep into southern Israel.

The latest round of fighting erupted on Thursday when an Israeli air strike targeted a car on a crowded Gaza street, killing two militants who Israel said were planning attacks against its civilians and soldiers.

Palestinian gunmen responded with a barrage of rockets fired deep into southern Israel, some landing near the city of Beersheba, causing no injuries.

Early on Friday, Palestinian medical officials said a second Israeli air strike hit a Hamas training camp in Gaza City, sending shrapnel flying into nearby houses, killing one civilian and wounding 13 others, mostly women and children.


Wall Street "Secret Government" Outed

Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke
© n/aTimothy Geithner (left), US Secretary of the Treasury, and Ben Bernanke (right), Chairman of the Federal Reserve (Fed), photographed in April 2010 are the public figureheads a secret government that wields billions of dollars at will.
We now have concrete evidence that Wall Street and Washington are running a secret government far removed from the democratic process. Through a freedom of information request by Bloomberg News, the public now has access to over 29,000 pages of Fed documents and 21,000 additional Fed transactions that were deliberately hidden, and for good reason.

These documents show how top government officials willfully concealed from Congress and the public the true extent of the 2008-'09 bailouts that enriched the few and enhanced the interests of giant Wall Streets firms. Here's what we now know:
  • The secret Wall Street bailouts totaled $7.77 trillion, 10 times more than the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) passed by Congress in 2008.
  • Knowledge of the secret bailout funds was not shared with Congress even while it was drafting and debating legislation to break up the big banks.

Bad Guys

In Basement of Romanian Government Building, CIA Ran Secret Prison

© Stringer/AFP/Getty ImagesThe National Registry Office for Classified Information, also known as ORNISS, sits in a busy residential neighborhood minutes from the center of Romania's capital city of Bucharest, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011.
One of the CIA's most important secrets in the war on terrorism was hiding in plain sight, on a leafy residential street along a busy set of train tracks in Romania's capital. There, tucked in the basement of a government building, the CIA ran a clandestine prison, former U.S. intelligence officials said.

For years, the building - codenamed Bright Light - housed some of the CIA's most important terror suspects, including Khalid Sheik Mohammad, the mastermind of 9/11. Even after the detainees were shipped off to Guantanamo Bay in 2006 and reports about the prison began to surface, the Romanian government repeatedly denied any knowledge of its existence.

A joint investigation by The Associated Press and German public television, ARD Panorama, however, located the former prison and unearthed details of the facility where harsh interrogation tactics were carried out.

The Romanian prison was part of a network of so-called black sites that the CIA operated and controlled overseas in Thailand, Lithuania and Poland. All the prisons were closed by May 2006, and the CIA's detention and interrogation program ended in 2009.

Unlike the CIA's facility in Lithuania's countryside or the one hidden in a Polish military installation, the CIA's prison in Romania was not in a remote location. The building is used as the National Registry Office for Classified Information, which is also known as ORNISS. Classified information from NATO and the European Union is stored there. Former intelligence officials both described the location of the prison and identified pictures of the building.


Strauss-Kahn Video Shows Maid was Truthful Say Lawyers

Hotel video surveillance footage which emerged on Thursday is "further proof" the maid accusing Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault was telling the truth, her lawyers say.

But Strauss-Kahn biographer Michel Taubmann, meanwhile, accused "a small group of people from the Sofitel" of having ensnared Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a "trap."

France's BFMTV broadcast images showing the former International Monetary Fund chief paying his bill, leaving and getting into a taxi after he was alleged to have sexually assaulted chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo at the New York Sofitel.

They showed that Strauss-Kahn, who admits that a sexual liaison took place but insists it was consensual, was not in a hurry when he left the Sofitel hotel at 12:27 pm on the day of his arrest, May 14.

Other images showed Diallo seated in a corridor and being looked after by Sofitel employees after she said Strauss-Kahn attacked her in his suite.

A hotel employee is shown and heard calling police to inform them of the alleged attack.


US: GOP Blocks Obama Nominee to Head Financial Agency

© UPI/Kevin DietschPresident Barack Obama annouces Richard Cordray (R) as his nominee to be the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on July 18, 2011.
The battle over the future of a new financial watchdog office escalated Thursday with Senate Republicans blocking confirmation of the man President Barack Obama named to head the office and Obama countering by holding out the possibility of appointing the nominee when Congress is on recess.

Senate Republicans were near unanimous in voting to stop a former Ohio attorney general, Richard Cordray, from becoming director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency they said had too much power and too little accountability.

The vote had immediate consequences. Without a director, the agency designed to shield consumers from the excesses behind the 2008 financial crisis is unable to operate at full strength.

Republicans said that until the Obama administration agrees to changes at the agency, they will keep blocking the president's pick from taking charge.

Obama said immediately after the vote that there was no reason to deny Cordray the top spot. He did not rule out a recess appointment, whereby a president makes a temporary appointment to a government post when Congress is not in session. Under such a move, an appointee can serve until the close of the next session of Congress, which would be the end of 2012.