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Nuke

US deploys 15,000 troops to Kuwait as tensions with Iran increase

US Troops
© Unknown
The US Department of Defence have deployed 15,000 troops to the Middle Eastern state of Kuwait as tensions with Iran escalate over US and EU sanctions in response to Iran's defiance to halt its nuclear programme, which claimed to have produced its first nuclear fuel rod earlier this month. On Monday the EU passed a ban on Iranian oil exports following similar action by the US on Iran's oil and Central Bank.

Iran have now threatened to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, which 35% of the World's oil shipments pass through and have been carrying out a 10 day naval exercise and missile tests. The US have stationed two nuclear powered Supercarriers in the Persian Gulf. Combined with the deployment of 15,000 troops it seems that the US is preparing for a potential conflict with Iran on all fronts. General James Mattis, who heads US Central Command got approval at the end of 2011 to station the troops in Kuwait. General Mattis believes the deployment is necessary to keep Iran in check and to ensure America is prepared for any other threats in the Middle East.

Family

US: New Hampshire Republicans Propose Bills That Prevent Police From Protecting Domestic Abuse Victims

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© ThinkProgress
Since the 1970s, New Hampshire police have operated under a progressive policy for handling domestic violence cases that has saved countless lives. Under current law the presumption is that an arrest will be made when police observe evidence of abuse. They have a large degree of discretion and don't need to witness the assault firsthand or obtain a legal warrant before they can separate the alleged attacker from his victim.

All that will change if Republicans get their way. The state's GOP legislators are pushing two bills that will reverse a half century of progress, the Concord Monitor reports:

Better Earth

US: Earthjustice Coalition Sues Navy- Training Blasts Marine Mammals with Harmful Sonar

Southern Resident orcas.
© Kelly Balcomb-Bartok
Wildlife protection agency challenged for not doing its job.

San Francisco, California - A coalition of conservation and American Indian groups today sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for failing to protect thousands of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises along the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Earthjustice, representing InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the San Juans, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and People For Puget Sound, today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California challenging NMFS's approval of the Navy's training activities in its Northwest Training Range Complex. The lawsuit calls on NMFS to mitigate anticipated harm to marine mammals and biologically critical areas within the training range that stretches from Northern California to the Canadian border.
"These training exercises will harm dozens of protected species of marine mammals - Southern Resident killer whales, blue whales, humpback whales, dolphins, and porpoises - through the use of high-intensity mid-frequency sonar," said Steve Mashuda, an Earthjustice attorney representing the groups. "The Fisheries Service fell down on the job and failed to require the Navy to take reasonable and effective actions to protect them."
The Navy uses a vast area of the West Coast for training activities including anti-submarine warfare exercises involving tracking aircraft and sonar; surface-to-air gunnery and missile exercises; air-to-surface bombing exercises; sink exercises; and extensive testing for several new weapons systems.

Syringe

US: Cost, Need Questioned in $433-Million Smallpox Drug Deal

A company controlled by a longtime political donor gets a no-bid contract to supply an experimental remedy for a threat that may not exist.

Washington - Over the last year, the Obama administration has aggressively pushed a $433-million plan to buy an experimental smallpox drug, despite uncertainty over whether it is needed or will work.

Senior officials have taken unusual steps to secure the contract for New York-based Siga Technologies Inc., whose controlling shareholder is billionaire Ronald O. Perelman, one of the world's richest men and a longtime Democratic Party donor.

When Siga complained that contracting specialists at the Department of Health and Human Services were resisting the company's financial demands, senior officials replaced the government's lead negotiator for the deal, interviews and documents show.

When Siga was in danger of losing its grip on the contract a year ago, the officials blocked other firms from competing.

Siga was awarded the final contract in May through a "sole-source" procurement in which it was the only company asked to submit a proposal. The contract calls for Siga to deliver 1.7 million doses of the drug for the nation's biodefense stockpile. The price of approximately $255 per dose is well above what the government's specialists had earlier said was reasonable, according to internal documents and interviews.

Once feared for its grotesque pustules and 30% death rate, smallpox was eradicated worldwide as of 1978 and is known to exist only in the locked freezers of a Russian scientific institute and the U.S. government. There is no credible evidence that any other country or a terrorist group possesses smallpox.

If there were an attack, the government could draw on $1 billion worth of smallpox vaccine it already owns to inoculate the entire U.S. population and quickly treat people exposed to the virus. The vaccine, which costs the government $3 per dose, can reliably prevent death when given within four days of exposure.

Siga's drug, an antiviral pill called ST-246, would be used to treat people who were diagnosed with smallpox too late for the vaccine to help. Yet the new drug cannot be tested for effectiveness in people because of ethical constraints - and no one knows whether animal testing could prove it would work in humans.

The government's pursuit of Siga's product raises the question: Should the U.S. buy an unproven drug for such a nebulous threat?
"We've got a vaccine that I hope we never have to use - how much more do we need?" said Dr. Donald A. "D.A." Henderson, the epidemiologist who led the global eradication of smallpox for the World Health Organization and later helped organize U.S. biodefense efforts under President George W. Bush. "The bottom line is, we've got a limited amount of money."
Dr. Thomas M. Mack, an epidemiologist at USC's Keck School of Medicine, battled smallpox outbreaks in Pakistan and has advised the Food and Drug Administration on the virus. He called the plan to stockpile Siga's drug "a waste of time and a waste of money."

The Obama administration official who has overseen the buying of Siga's drug says she is trying to strengthen the nation's preparedness. Dr. Nicole Lurie, a presidential appointee who heads biodefense planning at Health and Human Services, cited a 2004 finding by the Bush administration that there was a "material threat" smallpox could be used as a biological weapon.

Smallpox is one of 12 pathogens for which such determinations have been made.

"I don't put probabilities around anything in terms of imminent or not," said Lurie, a physician whose experience in public health includes government service and work with the Rand Corp. "Because what I can tell you is, in the two-plus years I've been in this job, it's the unexpected that always happens."

Negotiations over the price of the drug and Siga's profit margin were contentious. In an internal memo in March, Dr. Richard J. Hatchett, chief medical officer for HHS biodefense preparedness unit, said Siga's projected profit at that point was 180%, which he called "outrageous."

In an email earlier the same day, a department colleague told Hatchett that no government contracting officer "would sign a 3 digit profit percentage."

In April, after Siga's chief executive, Dr. Eric A. Rose, complained in writing about the department's "approach to profit," Lurie assured him that the "most senior procurement official" would be taking over the negotiations.

"I trust this will be satisfactory to you," Lurie wrote Rose in a letter.

In an interview, Lurie said the contract was awarded strictly on merit. She said she had discussed buying a smallpox antiviral for the nation's emergency stockpile with White House officials and with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, but that the conversations focused on policy, not the manufacturer.

Red Flag

US: God is alive, due process is dead

Nietzsche stumbled. God is alive, due process is dead

President Barack Obama is God. He holds the power of life and death over every creature on the planet.

The Roman Senate waited until Caesar Augustus's death for deification.

The United States Congress, by nonfeasance and appalling irresponsibility, has deified President Obama during his White House tenure.

Through the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 and acquiescence in repeated executive usurpations, Congress has empowered President Obama to kill any person anywhere in the world who is secretly listed as an enemy on a list that's reminiscent of the Lord High Executioner's "Little List" in The Mikado. The putative "battlefield" is boundless. The standards for listing are secret. The evidence justifying a listing is secret. The legal justification for the assassinations is secret. The secrecy persists after the alleged enemy target is vaporized. No proof is proffered that the corpse had conspired or attempted or had actually engaged in hostilities against the United States; or, that capturing the victim for criminal prosecution or detention would have been unfeasible. Instead, the White House summons into being as its defense a counter-constitutional divine doctrine of presidential infallibility when it comes to killing suspected enemies. Due process is buried in the detritus of "collateral damage."

But enshrined in Article 39 of the Magna Carta, due process is the very wellspring of civilization - the most important concept in the history of mankind. It recognizes that humans are prone to err. Cravings for money, power, domination, fame and vanity routinely distort truth-telling. Events or actions are multi-dimensional, not one-dimensional, and lend themselves to competing rational interpretations. Justice and human dignity alike require listening to all relevant parties before decisions are forthcoming. Due process should be honored because of what it says about us as a people. It is not saluted as a concession to enemy suspects.

Comment: The author of this article is incorrect when he says that Putin killed Litvinenko. Litvinenko's death, allegedly by radioactive poisoning, was clearly a ham-fisted effort to make it look like the Kremlin was responsible. See our series of articles on the topic.


Pistol

US, New York: Rockville Centre Woman Held Teen At Gunpoint After 'Ring And Run' Prank

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© Nassau County Police Department
Bernadette Greenwald
A Rockville Centre attorney is under arrest after allegedly holding a suspected teenage prankster at gunpoint until officers arrived at her home Sunday night, Nassau County police said.

Bernadette Greenwald, 47, apparently lost her cool after someone repeatedly rang her doorbell and ran from the home around 11:15 p.m. Sunday.

The "ding, dong, ditch" prank was apparently carried out three times and after the last incident, police said Greenwald, a former Bronx Assistant District Attorney, grabbed her .9 mm pistol and fired one round into the air in front of her house.

Police said Greenwald later saw a 17-year-old boy walking in front of her N. Forest Avenue home. She allegedly approached the teen and pointed the gun at him. Greenwald's retired Air Force pilot apparently returned home to discover the youth inside his home.

Shoe

Australians chase their prime minister out of town

Julia Gillard stumbles and loses shoe trying to escape indigenous rights demonstrators protesting against Australia Day


The Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, stumbled and was caught by a security guard as riot police helped her force a path through a crowd of rowdy protesters following a ceremony to mark Australia Day.

About 200 supporters of indigenous rights surrounded a Canberra restaurant and banged its windows on Thursday while Gillard and the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, were inside officiating at an awards ceremony.

Dollar

Canada, British Columbia: Vancouver Airport Improvement Fee Jumps to $20 to Pay for Upgrades

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© Wikipedia
Passengers flying out of Vancouver International Airport for destinations beyond B.C. are going to have to pay more for the privilege starting May 1.

The Vancouver Airport Authority has announced $1.8 billion in upgrades and says it's hiking the airport improvement fee by 33 per cent in order to pay for the work.

The fee will jump from $15 to $20 for people flying outside of B.C., while passengers flying within the province and Yukon region will continue to pay five dollars.

USA

US Special Forces Troops Free US, Danish Hostages, Kill 9 Pirates in Somalia Raid

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© unknown
American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Hagen Thisted have been rescued by US Navy SEALs
U.S. Navy SEALs parachuted into Somalia under cover of darkness early Wednesday and crept up to an outdoor camp where an American woman and Danish man were being held hostage. Soon, nine kidnappers were dead and both hostages were freed.

President Barack Obama authorized the mission by SEAL Team 6 two days earlier, deploying the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden last year. Minutes after the president gave his State of the Union address to Congress he was on the phone with the American's father to tell him his daughter was safe.

The Danish Refugee Council confirmed the two aid workers, American Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted, a Dane, were "on their way to be reunited with their families."

Buchanan, 32, and Thisted, 60, were working with a de-mining unit of the Danish Refugee Council when gunmen kidnapped the two in October.

Heart - Black

US: Psychic Peaches Stevens Scammed Florida Woman Out Of $136,000

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© Jail Base
'Fraud' psychic Peaches Stevens allegedly scammed a Florida woman out of $136,000
What else is in the teachings of Peaches? Fraud, that's what.

So say Florida cops, who arrested "psychic" Peaches Stevens for allegedly defrauding a woman in Windermere out of $136,000 over seven years, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

Stevens was collared on Jan. 11 and thrown in Orange County Jail after a years-long bid by one of her alleged victims to out the fizzling fortune-teller.

For the victim -- identified during an interview with Anderson Cooper last fall as Priti Mahalanobis -- there were plenty of signs that Stevens wasn't exactly legitimate. First, Stevens allegedly told Mahalanobis to stuff 11 $100 bills and 11 names of relatives on a piece of paper in an envelope under her bed, along with a grapefruit, to quell the evil that Stevens said was wreaking havoc on Mahalanobis's family.