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US: Government shutdown avoided, White House and Republicans reach deal

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© The Associated Press
John Boehner, left, and Barack Obama each announced a shutdown had been avoided.
Racing the clock, in a long day of trading offers, the White House and Speaker John Boehner reached agreement Friday night on a budget framework that would cap 2011 appropriations just under $1.050 trillion while cutting domestic and foreign aid by more than $40 billion from the rate of spending at the beginning of this Congress.

The deal - which was only sealed after Boehner presented the outline to a closed door Republican Conference - averts what would have been an unprecedented wartime shutdown of the government that had become a growing embarrassment for himself and President Barack Obama.

Down to the end, Boehner was still pressing for a lower top line when Obama called him in the early evening. Both men later cast the agreement as the best available, but the grueling, often distrustful process testified to how tough this legislative year will be and the immense pressure on the speaker from the right.

The administration largely succeeded in blocking the most controversial policy riders impacting the environment and abortion-rights. But the cut is one of the single largest in history, and a preview of what lies ahead when Republicans move their 2012 budget plan next week and fight with Obama over raising the debt ceiling in May and June.

"Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them," Obama said. "And I certainly did that."

Vader

Gates: U.S. troops could stay in Iraq for years

Robert Gates

Robert Gates
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said U.S. troops could remain in Iraq for years to come.

It would depend, he said, on what the Iraqis want and what Washington is willing to give.

Gates met soldiers of the 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, in Mosul, where - like the troops Gates met one day earlier in Baghdad - they asked if they would actually be staying beyond 2011, and if so, for how long.

"Well, I think that would be part of any negotiation," Gates answered, "... whether it would be for a finite period of time, whether it would be negotiated that there be a further ramp down over a period of two or three years, or whether we would have a continuing advise-and-assist role that we have in a number of countries that just becomes part of a regular military-to-military relationship."

Any extension, however, would be smaller than the current 47,000-member force in Iraq.

During his travels, Gates nearly always meets small groups of deployed troops. Each time, he gives a short speech and answers questions on topics ranging from global policy decisions to getting washing machines and Internet connections fixed. The secretary shakes each hand, takes a picture and hands out hundreds of his personalized commemorative "challenge" coins - a military tradition.

Control Panel

Nuclear Awakenings

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Dr. Helen Caldicott
Dr. Helen Caldicott is the mother of the anti-nuclear revolution and a devoted anti-nuclear activist. She has spent the last 38 years on a mission to educate the public about the medical and environmental hazards of the nuclear age. Join us as Dr. Helen Caldicott helps us to understand nuclear material and the sciences that surround it. We will explore the risks inherent in nuclear technology and nuclear power, including the danger of using outdated technology in nuclear reactors. Most importantly, we will discuss whether humankind is capable of safely managing nuclear material, technology, and waste. Do the risks outweigh the benefits? Listen and learn.

War Whore

Ivory Coast: French helicopters launch rockets at Gbagbo's palace

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Peacemongers seem to have invaded Africa again
French helicopter gunships launched rocket attacks on President Laurent Gbagbo's palace in Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan on Friday night, according to witnesses.

The strikes came hours after mortar rounds and a rocket were fired at the residence of the French ambassador in Abidjan by pro-Gbagbo forces.

A spokesman for Mr Gbagbo denied that the French ambassador's residence had been attacked.

"The Ivory Coast government believes France is looking for a pretext to resume bombings on the presidential palace," Toussaint Alain, a representative for Mr Gbagbo, said in Paris. "If there are attacks on the embassy, it's not Gbagbo's forces. Nobody has been attacked."

The UN peacekeeping head said Mr Gbagbo's forces had regained ground in Abidjan and fully control the Plateau and Cocody areas.

Alain Le Roy said the Gbagbo camp had used a lull on Tuesday for peace talks as a "trick" to reinforce their positions and that they still had heavy weapons.

Vader

EU tells Portugal: 'no aid without harsher cuts'

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© Unknown
Strikes have been taking place across Portugal
European Union finance ministers told Portugal it would have to implement tougher austerity measure than those proposed by its outgoing government if it hoped to secure a bailout.

The minister were meeting in Budapest on Friday to discuss the sovereign debt crisis that has haunted the bloc for over a year, with Portugal the main focus of their talks.

Debt-laden Portugal on Thursday became the third eurozone nation after Greece and Ireland to request financial help from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund after a spike in borrowing costs.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the Eurogroup, said the finance ministers had instructed the EU, the IMF and Portugal's politicians to negotiate the country's bailout by mid-May for implementation after June 5 elections.

"The package must be really strict because otherwise it does not make any sense to guarantee anybody's loan," Finland's Finance Minister Hyrki Katainen said.

Vader

Bahrain: Western Complicity in Saudi-Backed War Crimes

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© Unknown
Claims of Civilian Killings, Disappearances, Torture, Chemical Warfare Agents and Organ Theft From Victims of State Violence

When Saudi-led military forces intervened in Bahrain on March 14, it was declared by the Bahraini government and its allies among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates that the unprecedented move was a matter of urgency, needed to "restore order and stability" to the tiny Persian Gulf island kingdom. An arcane GCC defence pact was invoked - the Arabian Peninsula Shield - even though legal experts pointed out that such a provision was only applicable in the event of one of the six Gulf states coming under attack from an external enemy.

Three weeks later, the real nature of the Saudi-led intervention is becoming brutally clear. It can now be seen as an invasion that has led to foreign occupation, lawlessness and several categories of crimes against humanity committed by the very forces purported to bring order. In one sense, the rhetorical justification for invoking the Peninsula Shield force, "to restore order and stability", is literally correct. The aim was to restore the order and stability of the US-backed Al Khalifa Sunni dictatorship that had sat perilously on top of an oppressed Shia majority for decades. On February 14, the Shia majority (60-70 per cent of the indigenous population) along with disenfranchised Sunni and non-religionists from working class communities rose up in numbers that had never been seen before. Inspired by revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab region, Bahrain's surging pro-democracy movement rocked the royal rulers.

Bad Guys

Gerald Celente Loses It (and rightly so) - When This Man Acts Like This It Means - WAKE UP!!!!

Gerald Celente Loses It (and rightly so) - When This Man Acts Like This It Means - WAKE UP!!!!


Eye 2

Why Did Richard Goldstone Throw the Goldstone Report Under the Bus?

Richard Goldstone

Israel dismissed the critical UN report
I spoke to Richard Goldstone several times after his eponymous Report came out, and it was obvious that the personal slander and vilification from so many in his own community was wearing him down. He was certainly naive and did not expect the excreta storm that would head his way.

He had always been a person of integrity and his editorial in the Washington Post, allegedly "retracting" the Report named after him is saddening. If it had appeared the day before, one would almost suspect it of being an April Fool's parody.

Indeed, the wording of the editorial, while confused and evasive, was eloquently indicative of heavy pressure -- not least since only two days before at a debate at Stanford University, he is reported as maintaining that "all the investigations showed that, thus far, the facts were as they were reported."

One cannot help wondering what happened in the next two days to change his mind. Did his daughter, ex IDF and self-confessed Israeli patriot, pull the family chains? It certainly betokens a personal tragedy, since it will detract from his reputation and integrity in the human rights and international law field, with no chance at all of earning the forgiveness of the rabid and vindictive Zionists who have been hounding him mercilessly for two years.

Indeed, reading the editorial reminded me of Comrade Rubashov in Arthur Koestler's Darkness At Noon -- a true believer doing one last duty for the group he had lived with for so many years. It reads like a "confession" rung out from someone trying to free hostages near and dear to him by giving the kidnappers what they want while trying to hold on to one's own integrity and dignity. Sadly, of course, those who attacked his morals and probity before, will never, ever forgive him for telling the truth originally -- and like Rubashov, he will be shown no mercy once his confession has served its purpose for the cause.

War Whore

UK: We're not being told the truth on Libya

Look at two other wars our government is currently deeply involved in - because they show that the claims made for this bombing campaign can't be true
Rebel fighters
© Reuters
Rebel fighters look out from a vehicle in Ajdabiyah, Libya

Most of us have a low feeling that we are not being told the real reasons for the war in Libya. David Cameron's instinctive response to the Arab revolutions was to jump on a plane and tour the palaces of the region's dictators selling them the most hi-tech weapons of repression available. Nicolas Sarkozy's instinctive response to the Arab revolutions was to offer urgent aid to the Tunisian tyrant in crushing his people. Barack Obama's instinctive response to the Arab revolutions was to refuse to trim the billions in aid going to Hosni Mubarak and his murderous secret police, and for his Vice-President to declare: "I would not refer to him as a dictator."

Yet now we are told that these people have turned into the armed wing of Amnesty International. They are bombing Libya because they can't bear for innocent people to be tyrannised, by the tyrants they were arming and funding for years. As Obama put it: "Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different". There was a time, a decade ago, when I took this rhetoric at face value. But I can't now. The best guide through this confusion is to look at two other wars our government is currently deeply involved in - because they show that the claims made for this bombing campaign can't be true.

Imagine a distant leader killed more than 2,000 innocent people, and his military commanders responded to evidence that they were civilians by joking that the victims "were not the local men's glee club". Imagine one of the innocent survivors appeared on television, amid the body parts of his son and brother, and pleaded: "Please. We are human beings. Help us. Don't let them do this." Imagine that polling from the attacked country showed that 90 per cent of the people there said civilians were the main victims and they desperately wanted it to stop. Imagine there was then a huge natural flood, and the leader responded by ramping up the attacks. Imagine the country's most respected democratic and liberal voices were warning that these attacks seriously risked causing the transfer of nuclear material to jihadi groups.

Bomb

"Suicide Bombers" Storm Afghan Police Complex

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© Reuters
Afghan policemen keep watch during an attack by insurgents at a police training base in Kandahar, April 7, 2011
Suicide bombers and gunmen have stormed a police compound in southern Afghanistan, killing six members of the Afghan security forces.

Afghan officials say at least three insurgents attacked the complex in Kandahar province Thursday, waging a gun battle with security forces for several hours before being killed.

Witnesses say American Black Hawk Helicopters circled overhead and NATO armored vehicles responded to the assault, which killed members of the Afghan intelligence service, army and police. At least 12 people were wounded.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack which took place near the main highway that connects Kandahar city with the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Also Thursday, NATO said coalition and Afghan troops killed an Afghan border policeman who shot and killed two American soldiers earlier this week in Maymana, the capital of northern Faryab province.