Minister in Russia’s Caucasus shot dead

Minister in Russia’s Caucasus shot dead

Posted: 12 August 2009 1614 hrs


MOSCOW : The minister of construction in Russia’s turbulent Ingushetia region, Ruslan Amerkhanov, was shot dead Wednesday inside his ministerial office, officials said.

“The construction minister has been shot dead in his office,” Madina Khadziyeva, spokeswoman for Ingushetia’s interior ministry, told AFP.

Russian news agencies said Amerkhanov was shot dead at point-blank range when a group of armed men burst into his office in Ingushetia’s capital of Magas.

Overwhelmingly Muslim Ingushetia and other regions in Russia’s northern Caucasus are battling Islamist militants who are waging a low-level but increasingly deadly insurgency against the pro-Kremlin local authorities.

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Obama slams healthcare “scare” tactics

[SEE: Obama’s Main Man Has a Cold Heart]

Obama slams healthcare “scare” tactics

PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire: US President Barack Obama on Tuesday condemned the wild “scare tactics” peddled by foes of his healthcare reform plan in a passionate defence of his signature domestic priority.

Obama thrust himself into the fierce public debate over his plans to bring health coverage in reach of all Americans in a campaign-style town hall meeting in New Hampshire meant to mobilise grass roots support for his plan.

“The way politics works sometimes is that people who want to keep things the way they are will try to scare the heck out of folks, and they’ll create bogeymen out there that just aren’t real,” Obama said.

With a series of events this week, the president is attempting to wrest back control of the acrimonious debate from Republicans who claim his programme is too expensive and represents a government seizure of the private health system.

The showdown over healthcare, raging through normally sleepy August, has much wider implications than just the medical treatment offered to Americans.

A legislative defeat would deal a devastating political blow to Obama and likely severely curtail his political capital and chances of enacting the rest of his hugely ambitious plan to force through sweeping change.

“Let’s disagree over things that are real – not these wild representations that bear no resemblance to anything that has actually been proposed,” Obama said in the question-and-answer session.

Foes of Obama’s reform drive accuse him of plotting a government takeover of the US private healthcare system, and lawmakers who back his plans have faced a furious backlash from conservatives in their own town hall meetings.

Critics also claim Obama will raise taxes to pay for a plan they say would result in government dictating healthcare choices for Americans and lower the standard of coverage for those who do have insurance.

But Obama, hoping to offer healthcare to the 46 million Americans who currently have no insurance, attempted to cool the boiling rhetoric being blasted across cable news channels and conservative talks radio every day.

“For all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary – what is truly risky – is if we do nothing.”

Obama also rejected the notion that his plan would frame a bureaucratic “death panel” to make end-of-life choices, in an apparent reference to a Facebook post by former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

“The rumor that’s been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for death panels that will basically pull the plug on Grandma because we’ve decided that it’s too expensive to let her live anymore.”

“Somehow, it has gotten spun into this idea of death panels, I am not in favour of that, I want to clear the air here.”

The president said that the confusion had arisen out of an initiative in the House of Representatives to allow elderly patients to be reimbursed from a federal health plan for consultations about hospice and end-of-life care.

Obama’s healthcare meeting was conducted in good humour, and with even those who disagreed with him showing deference habitually given to a president.

But the mood was uglier for other lawmakers who found themselves shouted down and targeted by angry audiences at townhall meetings elsewhere.

In Lebanon, Pennyslvania, Senator Arlen Specter, a former Republican who switched to the Democratic Party, was harangued by an emotional woman who charged the government was trying to hijack private healthcare.

“I’m a Republican, it isn’t about the health care system, it’s about turning the country into Russia, into a socialist country,” she said.

“When are you going to restore this country back like the fathers founded it according to the constitution?”

Obama had hoped that Congress would vote on healthcare reform before its current summer break, but the initiative got bogged down in the ferocious political struggle, with his opponents dictating the terms of debate.

There are currently three bills being framed in various committees of the House of Representatives and two others being written in the Senate, setting up a period of fierce horse trading before any legislation can come to a vote.

Many Democrats fear they could be living through a repeat of former president Bill Clinton’s unsuccessful healthcare reform drive, which never even came to a vote in Congress and severely wounded his first-term administration.

– AFP/yb

Obama’s Main Man Has a Cold Heart

emanuel.jpg

[Emanuel (Rahm’s brother) is special advisor to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget for health policy.  The excerpt below explicitly spells-out his beliefs that budgetary considerations create a need to draw a line between those who merit life support and life-enhancing medical treatment and those who don’t.  The determining criteria is political, those who can be made into functioning citizens, capable of adding to the political dialogue, and those who cannot.  Dementia (Alzheimer’s is “senile dementia”) patients should not be guaranteed basic health care.]

Where civic republicanism and deliberative democracy meet

Ezekiel J. Emanuel  – Hastings Center Report

“a need for citizens who are independent and responsibile and for public forums that present citizens with opportunities to enter into public deliberations on social policies. ..

the need for public forums to deliberate about which health services should be considered basic and should be

socially guaranteed. Substantively, it suggests services that promote the continuation of the polity-those that ensure healthy future generations, ensure development of practical reasoning skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens in public deliberations-are to be socially guaranteed as basic.

Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia. A less obvious example is guaranteeing neuropsycho-logical services to ensure children with learning disabilities can read and learn to reason.”

Swastika painted outside Ga. congressman’s office

[Would they have called it “racism” if the Congressman had been white?  Maybe all those Congressmen of every color and political persuasion who support this death/big money bill should be made aware that the people are waking-up?]


By John Bazemore, APThe staff of U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., arrived at his Smyrna, Ga., office Tuesday to find a swastika painted outside. The FBI is now investigating.

Swastika painted outside Ga. congressman’s office

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI and police were investigating after a swastika was painted outside Rep. David Scott‘s district office in Georgia, an act the suburban Atlanta Democrat said reflects an increasingly hateful and racist debate over health care and should remind people to tone down their rhetoric.

Scott’s staff arrived at his Smyrna, Ga., office Tuesday morning to find the Nazi graffiti emblazoned on a sign bearing the lawmaker’s name. The vandalism occurred roughly a week after Scott was involved in a confrontational argument over health care at a community meeting.

Scott said his office immediately notified authorities, including the U.S. Capitol Police, who have warned lawmakers about potential threats stemming from the increasingly emotional debate over health care reform. An FBI spokesman said the bureau is investigating along with Capitol Police and the Smyrna Police Department.

The congressman’s office is located in a bank building and Scott said he was optimistic that surveillance cameras captured the vandalism.

Scott, who is black, said he also has received mail in recent days that used N-word references to him, and that characterized President Obama as a Marxist.

“We have got to make sure that the symbol of the swastika does not win, that the racial hatred that’s bubbling up does not win this debate,” Scott said in a telephone interview. “There’s so much hatred out there for President (Barack) Obama.”

A moderate Democrat who represents a majority-white district near Atlanta, Scott said he thinks the racism is isolated but can’t be ignored. He said the swastika probably was intended as a warning. He hopes it instead persuades reasonable people to maintain a more substantive debate over health care changes.

“We must not allow it to intimidate us,” he said.

At an Aug. 1 community meeting in Douglasville, Ga., Scott raised his voice at protesters who pummeled him with questions and complaints about Democratic health care proposals. He has said he was upset that they interrupted a meeting that was supposed to be about plans for a new highway in the area.


Swastika painted outside Ga. congressman’s office

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The staff of U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., arrived at his Smyrna, Ga., office Tuesday to find a swastika painted outside. The FBI is now investigating.
By John Bazemore, AP
The staff of U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., arrived at his Smyrna, Ga., office Tuesday to find a swastika painted outside. The FBI is now investigating.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI and police were investigating after a swastika was painted outside Rep. David Scott‘s district office in Georgia, an act the suburban Atlanta Democrat said reflects an increasingly hateful and racist debate over health care and should remind people to tone down their rhetoric.

Scott’s staff arrived at his Smyrna, Ga., office Tuesday morning to find the Nazi graffiti emblazoned on a sign bearing the lawmaker’s name. The vandalism occurred roughly a week after Scott was involved in a confrontational argument over health care at a community meeting.

Scott said his office immediately notified authorities, including the U.S. Capitol Police, who have warned lawmakers about potential threats stemming from the increasingly emotional debate over health care reform. An FBI spokesman said the bureau is investigating along with Capitol Police and the Smyrna Police Department.

The congressman’s office is located in a bank building and Scott said he was optimistic that surveillance cameras captured the vandalism.

Scott, who is black, said he also has received mail in recent days that used N-word references to him, and that characterized President Obama as a Marxist.

“We have got to make sure that the symbol of the swastika does not win, that the racial hatred that’s bubbling up does not win this debate,” Scott said in a telephone interview. “There’s so much hatred out there for President (Barack) Obama.”

A moderate Democrat who represents a majority-white district near Atlanta, Scott said he thinks the racism is isolated but can’t be ignored. He said the swastika probably was intended as a warning. He hopes it instead persuades reasonable people to maintain a more substantive debate over health care changes.

“We must not allow it to intimidate us,” he said.

At an Aug. 1 community meeting in Douglasville, Ga., Scott raised his voice at protesters who pummeled him with questions and complaints about Democratic health care proposals. He has said he was upset that they interrupted a meeting that was supposed to be about plans for a new highway in the area.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Jihadis thrice attacked Pakistan nuclear sites

Jihadis thrice attacked Pakistan nuclear sites

Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s nuclear facilities have already been attacked at least thrice by its home-grown extremists and terrorists in little

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reported incidents over the last two years, even as the world remains divided over the safety and security of the nuclear weapons in the troubled country, according to western analysts.

The incidents, tracked by Shaun Gregory, a professor at Bradford University in UK, include an attack on the nuclear missile storage facility at Sargodha on November 1, 2007, an attack on Pakistan’s nuclear airbase at Kamra by a suicide bomber on December 10, 2007, and perhaps most significantly the August 20, 2008 attack when Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers blew up several entry points to one of the armament complexes at the Wah cantonment, considered one of Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons assembly.

These attacks have occurred even as Pakistan has taken several steps to secure and fortify its nuclear weapons against potential attacks, particularly by the United States and India, says Gregory.

In fact, the attacks have received so little attention that Peter Bergen, the eminent terrorism expert who reviewed Gregory’s paper first published in West Point’s Counter Terrorism Center Sentinel, said “he (Gregory) points out something that was news to me (and shouldn’t have been) which is that a series of attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons facilities have already happened.”

Pakistan insists that its nuclear weapons are fully secured and there is no chance of them falling into the hands of the extremists or terrorists.

But Gregory, while detailing the steps Islamabad has taken to protect them against Indian and US attacks, asks if the geographical location of Pakistan’s principle nuclear weapons infrastructure, which is mainly in areas dominated by al-Qaida and Taliban, makes it more vulnerable to internal attacks.

Gregory points out that when Pakistan was developing its nuclear weapons infrastructure in the 1970s and 1980s, its
principal concern was the risk that India would overrun its nuclear weapons facilities in an armored offensive if the
facilities were placed close to the long Pakistan-India border.

As a result, Pakistan, with a few exceptions, chose to locate much of its nuclear weapons infrastructure to the
north and west of the country and to the region around Islamabad and Rawalpindi – sites such as Wah, Fatehjang,
Golra Sharif, Kahuta, Sihala, Isa Khel Charma, Tarwanah, and Taxila. The concern, however, is that most of Pakistan’s nuclear sites are close to or even within areas dominated by Pakistani Taliban militants and home to al-Qaida.

Detailing the actions taken by Islamabad to safeguard its nuclear assets from external attacks, Gregory writes that
Pakistan has established a “robust set of measures to assure the security of its nuclear weapons.” These have
been based on copying US practices, procedures and technologies, and comprise: a) physical security; b)
personnel reliability programs; c) technical and procedural safeguards; and d) deception and secrecy.

In terms of physical security, Pakistan operates a layered concept of concentric tiers of armed forces personnel to
guard nuclear weapons facilities, the use of physical barriers and intrusion detectors to secure nuclear weapons
facilities, the physical separation of warhead cores from their detonation components, and the storage of the
components in protected underground sites.

With respect to personnel reliability, Gregory says the Pakistan Army conducts a tight selection process drawing
almost exclusively on officers from Punjab Province who are considered to have fewer links with religious extremism (now increasingly a questionable premise) or with the Pashtun areas of Pakistan from which groups such as the Pakistani Taliban mainly garner their support.

Pakistan operates an analog to the US Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) that screens individuals for Islamist sympathies, personality problems, drug use, inappropriate external affiliations, and sexual deviancy.

The army uses staff rotation and also operates a “two-person” rule under which no action, decision, or
activity involving a nuclear weapon can be undertaken by fewer than two persons. In total, between 8,000 and 10,000 individuals from the SPD’s security division and from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), Military Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau agencies are involved in the security clearance and monitoring of those with nuclear weapons duties.

Gregory says despite formal command authority structures that cede a role to Pakistan’s civilian leadership, in
practice the Pakistan Army has complete control over the country’s nuclear weapons.

It imposes its executive authority over the weapons through the use of an authenticating code system down through the command chains that is deployment sites, aspects of the nuclear command and control arrangements, and many aspects of the arrangements for nuclear safety and security (such as the numbers of those removed under personnel reliability programs, the reasons for their removal, and how often authenticating and enabling (PAL-type) codes are changed).

In addition, Pakistan uses deception – such as dummy missiles – to complicate the calculus of adversaries and is
likely to have extended this practice to its nuclear weapons infrastructure.

Taken together, these measures provide confidence that the Pakistan Army can fully protect its nuclear weapons against the internal terrorist threat, against its main adversary India, and against the suggestion that its nuclear weapons could be either spirited out of the country by a third party (posited to be the United States) or destroyed in the event of a deteriorating situation or a state collapse in Pakistan, says Gregory.

However, at another point, he says “despite these elaborate safeguards, empirical evidence points to a clear
set of weaknesses and vulnerabilities in Pakistan’s nuclear safety and security arrangements.”

Hostile crowds confront Democrats at healthcare sessions

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Hostile crowds confront Democrats at healthcare sessions

Reception reflects challenge facing party’s priority

Senator Arlen Specter listened to a critic of the healthcare proposal yesterday at a forum in Lebanon, Pa. One shouting participant left the room after security guards approached him. Senator Arlen Specter listened to a critic of the healthcare proposal yesterday at a forum in Lebanon, Pa. One shouting participant left the room after security guards approached him. (Bradley C Bower/Associated Press)
By Erica Werner Associated Press / August 12, 2009

LEBANON, Pa. – Jeers and taunts drowned out Democrats calling for a healthcare overhaul at town halls yesterday, and one lawmaker said a swastika was spray-painted at his office as debate turned to noisy confrontation over President Obama’s plan.

“One day God will stand before you and judge you!’’ one man shouted at Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania before security guards approached and he left the room.

“If they don’t let us vent our frustrations out, they will have a revolution,’’ Mary Ann Fieser of Hillsboro, Mo., told Senator Claire McCaskill at her Missouri forum.

McCaskill admonished the rowdy crowd of about 1,500. “I don’t understand this rudeness,’’ she said. “I honestly don’t get it.’’

The bitter sessions underscored the challenge for the administration as it tries to win over an increasingly skeptical public on the costly and far-reaching task of revamping the nation’s healthcare system.

Specter, a longtime Republican who turned Democrat this spring, faced hostile questions, taunts, and jeers as he gamely tried to explain his positions. At a crowded community college, speaker after speaker accused him of trampling on their constitutional rights, adding to the federal deficit, or allowing government bureaucrats to take over healthcare.

Specter explained repeatedly that there is no single Senate bill yet for him to talk about, because the Finance Committee hasn’t finished writing one. That explanation was usually met by boos from the crowd. Many had read portions of a bill passed by three committees in the House and tried to get Specter to respond to that.

One woman tried to make it personal for Specter, who has been treated for cancer, alleging that the Democrats’ plan would not provide care to a man in his 70s with cancer. “You’re here because of the plan we have now,’’ she said.

Specter showed some heat at that. “Well, you’re just not right,’’ he said. He called her claim a “vicious, malicious’’ rumor.

Specter said that in a long life in politics he had not seen anything like what he witnessed yesterday and at a town hall last weekend that turned even uglier. “There is more anger in America today than at any time I can remember,’’ he said.

Many in the crowd said they came of their own accord, and several told Specter they objected to Democrats characterizing them as mobs or organized opposition shipped in by lobbyists or the Republican Party. National conservative groups are encouraging people to attend town halls, but liberal groups are doing the same – with less apparent success. Several in the crowd wore T-shirts proclaiming: “Proud Member of the Mob.’’

In Georgia yesterday morning, staffers found a large, spray-painted swastika on a sign outside the office of a congressman who was involved in a contentious argument over healthcare at a recent community meeting.

Democrat David Scott, who is black, said the swastika is the latest example of what he believes is an increasingly hateful and racist debate over reforming healthcare. The Atlanta lawmaker said he also has received mail in recent days that used the N-word.

Scott said local police were notified along with the FBI, the Secret Service, and US Capitol Police, who have warned lawmakers about potential threats stemming from the increasingly emotional debate over healthcare reform.

“We have got to make sure that the symbol of the swastika does not win, that the racial hatred that’s bubbling up does not win this debate,’’ Scott said in a telephone interview. “That’s what is bubbling up with all of this. There’s so much hatred out there for President Obama.’’

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.