Inhuman Insurance Moguls Claim Right to Deny Insurance to Sick Children, Without Profit Guarantees

Coverage Now for Sick Children? Check Fine Print

By ROBERT PEAR

WASHINGTON — Just days after President Obama signed the new health care law, insurance companies are already arguing that, at least for now, they do not have to provide one of the benefits that the president calls a centerpiece of the law: coverage for certain children with pre-existing conditions.

Matthew Cavanaugh/European Pressphoto Agency

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV criticized insurance companies that say they do not yet have to cover pre-existing conditions.

Mr. Obama, speaking at a health care rally in northern Virginia on March 19, said, “Starting this year, insurance companies will be banned forever from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.”

The authors of the law say they meant to ban all forms of discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions like asthmadiabetesbirth defects, orthopedic problems, leukemia, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease. The goal, they say, was to provide those youngsters with access to insurance and to a full range of benefits once they are in a health plan.

To insurance companies, the language of the law is not so clear.

Insurers agree that if they provide insurance for a child, they must cover pre-existing conditions. But, they say, the law does not require them to write insurance for the child and it does not guarantee the “availability of coverage” for all until 2014.

William G. Schiffbauer, a lawyer whose clients include employers and insurance companies, said: “The fine print differs from the larger political message. If a company sells insurance, it will have to cover pre-existing conditions for children covered by the policy. But it does not have to sell to somebody with a pre-existing condition. And the insurer could increase premiums to cover the additional cost.”

Congressional Democrats were furious when they learned that some insurers disagreed with their interpretation of the law.

“The concept that insurance companies would even seek to deny children coverage exemplifies why we fought for this reform,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the Senate commerce committee, said: “The ink has not yet dried on the health care reform bill, and already some deplorable health insurance companies are trying to duck away from covering children with pre-existing conditions. This is outrageous.”

The issue is one of many that federal officials are tackling as they prepare to carry out the law, with a huge stream of new rules, official guidance and brochures to educate the public. Their decisions will have major practical implications.

Insurers say they often limit coverage of pre-existing conditions under policies sold in the individual insurance market. Thus, for example, an insurer might cover a family of four, including a child with a heart defect, but exclude treatment of that condition from the policy.

The new law says that health plans and insurers offering individual or group coverage “may not impose any pre-existing condition exclusion with respect to such plan or coverage” for children under 19, starting in “plan years” that begin on or after Sept. 23, 2010.

But, insurers say, until 2014, the law does not require them to write insurance at all for the child or the family. In the language of insurance, the law does not include a “guaranteed issue” requirement before then.

Consumer advocates worry that instead of refusing to cover treatment for a specific pre-existing condition, an insurer might simply deny coverage for the child or the family.

“If you have a sick kid, the individual insurance market will continue to be a scary place,” said Karen L. Pollitz, a research professor at the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University.

Experts at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners share that concern.

“I would like to see the kids covered,” said Sandy Praeger, the insurance commissioner of Kansas. “But without guaranteed issue of insurance, I am not sure companies will be required to take children under 19.”

A White House spokesman said the administration planned to issue regulations setting forth its view that “the term ‘pre-existing’ applies to both a child’s access to a plan and his or her benefits once he or she is in a plan.” But lawyers said the rules could be challenged in court if they went beyond the law or were inconsistent with it.

Starting in January 2014, health plans will be required to accept everyone who applies for coverage.

Until then, people with pre-existing conditions could seek coverage in high-risk insurance pools run by states or by the secretary of health and human services. The new law provides $5 billion to help pay claims filed by people in those pools.

Federal officials will need to write rules or guidance to address a number of concerns. The issues to be resolved include defining the “essential health benefits” that must be offered by all insurers; deciding which dependents are entitled to stay on their parents’ insurance; determining who qualifies for a “hardship exemption” from the requirement to have insurance; and deciding who is eligible for a new long-term care insurance program.

As originally conceived, most of the new federal requirements would have taken effect at the same time, in three or four years. The requirements for people to carry insurance, for employers to offer it and for insurers to accept all applicants were tied together.

But as criticism of their proposal grew, Democrats wanted to show that the legislation would produce immediate, tangible benefits. So they accelerated the ban on “pre-existing condition exclusions” for children.

Consumers will soon gain several other protections. By July 1, the health secretary must establish a Web site where people can identify “affordable health insurance coverage options.” The site is supposed to provide information about premiums, co-payments and the share of premium revenue that goes to administrative costs and profits, rather than medical care.

In addition, within six months, health plans must have “an effective appeals process,” so consumers can challenge decisions on coverage and claims.

British forces to withdraw from Helmand under new US plan for Afghanistan

[The Brits are no longer part of the Big Picture in Afghanistan, since the govt. failed to hold British courts accountable to American CIA whims.  British troops will be relegated to the “clean-up crew,” filling Canada’s former role.  SEE: It’s over: MPs say the special relationship with US is dead; UK releases ‘US torture evidence’]

British forces to withdraw from Helmand under new US plan for Afghanistan

British forces are to be withdrawn from Helmand and replaced by United States Marines under controversial new plans being drawn up by American commanders.

By Toby Harnden in Kabul

Helmand: US marines could replace Britsh forces in the Afghan region

Helmand: US Marines could replace British troops in Helmand Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The proposal, which would have to be approved by a new British government, is facing stiff resistance. Whitehall officials fear that a pull-out from Helmand, where nearly 250 British troops have been killed since 2006, would be portrayed as an admission of defeat.

Under the plans, British forces would hand over their remaining bases in Helmand to the US Marines as early as this year.

Such a move could bring back unhappy memories of the 2007 withdrawal from Basra in southern Iraq, which provoked jibes about British forces being bailed out by the Americans.

The proposal is linked to a reorganisation of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces that will split the current Regional Command (South) in two after an American-led offensive against the Taliban in Kandahar this summer.

A senior American officer in ISAF said that “the Marines will be the primary force in Helmand and Nimruz” while “British forces will go to a combination of Kandahar and Uruzgan and Zabul”.

British officials opposed to the move argue that the ground-level expertise and knowledge of local power brokers in Helmand, which they have built up over many years, would be squandered in apparent contradiction of the “know the people” counter-insurgency doctrine put in place by the Nato commander in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal.

But while acknowledging the political sensitivities, a senior British officer in ISAF said that a new role outside Helmand would be central to Gen McChrystal’s campaign strategy, which is based on protecting the main Pashtun population centres.

“Through the microcosm of the UK media lens, a lot of people will say, ‘We fought, we’ve spilt British blood in Helmand and now we’re withdrawing’,” the official said.

“Completely wrong. We’re going to where the main effort is.”

Under Gen McChrystal’s plan, Helmand and Nimruz will come under a new Regional Command (South West) while Kandahar, Uruzgan and Kabul will constitute Regional Command (South East).

The US Marines have a strong tradition of independence and a determined preference for operating alone in a single area, as they did in Iraq’s Anbar province. Nato has agreed that Major General Richard Mills of the US Marines – who for 18 months commanded ground forces in Iraq’s Anbar province – will take command of the new south-western area of Afghanistan.

In a recent interview with The Daily Telegraph, Gen McChrystal stressed that Kandahar was of “tremendous moral importance” to the Taliban because it was their former capital and the birthplace of their leader the one-eyed Mullah Omar.

Asked whether British forces would move to Kandahar, he responded carefully: “There’s a lot of politics involved in where forces go, so rather than start a political debate about where forces are what I’d rather do is just move on with where things are now and let things develop.”

Canadian forces, 2,500 of which are currently based in Kandahar – where British forces won a decisive battle in 1880 that brought the Second Afghan War to an end – are due to withdraw from Afghanistan next year. Some 2,000 Dutch forces in Uruzgan are due to be pulled out by August.

British forces first deployed to Helmand in significant numbers in spring 2006, when 3,300 members of 16 Air Assault Brigade arrived. Their mission was to restore security so that reconsstruction could begin and the illegal opium trade be disrupted.

But they faced an immediate upsurge in Taliban activity and this has continued ever since, leading to regular calls for greater troop numbers. There are currently around 10,000 from the UK in the region, and 248 soldiers have been killed there.

This would leave a vacuum in south-eastern Afghanistan at a time when US Marines are pouring into Helmand as part of President Barack Obama’s surge of 30,000 troops, which will soon bring American forces to a level of 100,000, double what they were a year ago. About 20,000 US Marines will be in Helmand by this summer, more than twice the number of British troops there.

Some senior American officers believe the British have become too attached to “Helmandshire” and have developed tunnel vision.

Although British troops have been praised for their valour, the consensus within the American military is that control of the province has slipped away because of inadequate numbers, poor equipment and thin logistical support.

Senior American officers also believe the British became distracted by defending bases in outlying areas like Musa Qala, Kajaki and Sangin when they should have concentrated on the more-populated central Helmand.

A Washington defence source said that, under the new plan, “Helmandshire will become Marine-istan.”

The main British logistics base in Afghanistan is already at Kandahar airfield – a factor that makes a shift from Helmand more feasible. Nato forces in southern Afghanistan are currently commanded by Maj Gen Nick Carter from his Regional Command (South) headquarters at the airfield.

Mark Sedwill, formerly British ambassador in Afghanistan and now Nato’s Senior Civilian Representative, acknowledged that withdrawal of British forces from Helmand would make “a lot of sense” when viewed from a “purely military perspective”.

This was because “the challenges in Kandahar are very well suited to the resources we can bring and the capabilities” British troops have.

“Could we end up with the Brits in Kandahar?” he said. “I guess theoretically we could and certainly I wouldn’t rule it out because from the ISAF perspective we need to look at what is the sensible force deployment as the Canadians draw down after 2011 and given how central Kandahar is to the entire campaign.

“But any shift of that kind is not just an ISAF decision, it would have to be agreed with the British government of the day. There would be enormous political sensitivities to manage just because of the amount of investment of blood and treasure that has gone into central Helmand.”

Maj Gen Gordon Messenger, senior British military spokesman, said that there was “no thought at the moment of doing anything other” than “a job which is utterly, utterly needed as part of the coalition force in central Helmand”.

He added: “How that function changes over time is clearly being looked at … and there are any number of options. But it would be unwise to view moving and conducting ground-holding in Kandahar as one of them.”

Midwest Militia Was Preparing To Defend Jesus–the Poison of Irrational Beliefs

Militia members arrested in Sun. raid to be charged today

At least seven were taken into custody in raids by an FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio

Jennifer Chambers and Doug Guthrie / The Detroit News

Federal prosecutors plan to unseal charges today against members of a self-described Christian militia arrested Saturday and Sunday in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

At least seven people were taken into custody in raids by an FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force as part of an investigation into an Adrian-based unit of the Hutaree, a group that professes it is training in modern armed combat techniques for a prophesized coming battle with the Antichrist.

The suspects are expected to make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Detroit today, according to federal authorities, who declined to discuss the charges behind the multistate arrests.

“Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment …,” one of the group’s purported leaders wrote on its Web site. “We, the Hutaree, are prepared to defend all those who belong to Christ and save those who aren’t. We will still spread the word, and fight to keep it, up to the time of the great coming.”

The group’s insignia, worn as a patch on military camouflage uniforms, is a cross-shaped sword and the letters CCR for Colonial Christian Republic. The Hutaree Web site features links to conservative Christian news outlets along with photos and videos of combat training sessions under the banner, “Preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive.”

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in Detroit on Sunday, “There is law enforcement activity in progress, but I decline further comment because I don’t want to adversely affect its effectiveness.”

Detroit FBI Special Agent Sandra Berchtold said warrants in the case are under court seal and declined further comment.

‘Too extreme’

A member of the controversial Michigan Militia said Sunday that the Hutaree is a nationwide organization with an ardent following in Adrian, 10 miles from the Ohio border just west of Detroit. “Their philosophy and ours differ in many ways, so we don’t do a whole lot with them. They are too extreme or radical for us,” said Jim Gulliksen, coordinator of the Lenaway Volunteer Michigan Militia with membership of about a dozen in the Adrian area. “I just kind of got a bad feeling about the group and we did not want to associate with them. They are a little too paranoid for me.”

Mike Lackomar of Michiganmilitia.com said he heard from other militia members that the FBI targeted the Hutaree after its members made threats of violence against Islamic organizations. Lackomar said the members of the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia and Michiganmilitia.com weren’t arrested.

“Last night and into today (Sunday), the FBI conducted a raid against homes belonging to the Hutaree. They are a religious cult. They are not part of our militia community,” Lackomar said.

Lackomar said he was told there were five arrests Saturday and another five early Sunday. The FBI declined to comment.

One of the Hutaree members called a Michigan militia leader for assistance Saturday after federal agents already had began their raid, Lackomar said, but the militia member — who is of Islamic decent and had heard about the threats — declined to offer help. That Michigan militia leader is now working with federal officials to provide information on the Hutaree member for the investigation, Lackomar said Sunday.

“They are more of a survivalist group, and in an emergency, they withdraw and stand their ground. They are actively training to be alongside Jesus,” he said.

Gulliksen said he heard about the raids when he was in church Sunday morning. He immediately contacted local law enforcement, “to make sure they knew we weren’t really affiliated with Hutaree.”

Gulliksen said he believes national security tensions are high and the FBI may well be focusing on conservative groups because of anger over the federal overhaul of health care.

“A few months ago, I believe one of their (Hutaree) members down South was arrested on some sort of weapons charge,” Gulliksen said. “Everything is getting a little nervous right now with all the threats against congressmen and all.”

Law enforcement swarmed a rural, wooded property Saturday evening near Adrian, neighbors said. Two ramshackle trailers sat side-by-side on the property, the door to one slightly ajar late Sunday, as if it had been forced open.

Phyllis Brugger, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years, said some people who lived there were known as having ties to militia. They would shoot guns and often wore camouflage, according to Brugger and her daughter, Heidi Wood.

“Everybody knew they were militia,” Brugger said. “You don’t mess with them.”

About a month ago, 50 vehicles showed up on the property, and the women said neighbors assumed something bad was going on.

The leader of the local group, Gulliksen said, is a man who goes by RD Merzonik on the group’s Web site.

“I’ve met him. He’s an opinionated man who likes to share those opinions,” Gulliksen said. “The Hutaree is a nationwide group, but I have met a couple of the members here and I can say they all belong to one specific church. Our concern is the protection of our nation. Religion appears to be a big part of what they are doing.”

Muslims shocked

Hutaree members use nicknames sometimes linked to their rank, within an elaborate system for Hutaree soldiers that includes titles such as “Radok, Boramander, Zulif, Arkon, Rifleman and Lukmore.” A parable for commanders suggests, “You may be a leader of flesh but in heaven, leaders are of spirit.”

Sources from the Michigan militia community said one of the FBI raids took place Saturday during a wake for a Hutaree member who had died of natural causes. A Hutaree leader was arrested during the wake while agents were conducting raids.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on Islamic-American Relations of Michigan, made an announcement Sunday during the group’s anniversary banquet about receiving a call from a journalist about the alleged threat against Muslims.

“Don’t allow this news to scare you away from practicing your faith,” Walid said.

Gasps were heard throughout the banquet hall when the news was announced. Walid said he will call local authorities about more information on the allegations. He urged local Muslims to recommit themselves to their faith in light of the accusations.

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported a resurgence in politically motivated militias, which emerged in the 1980s under perceived threats to conservative rights and conspiracies about a United Nations takeover when President George H.W. Bush spoke of a “New World Order.”

Militia groups came into the national spotlight in 1995, after the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. Michigan native Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh were convicted in the bombing, which killed 168 people. Nichols and McVeigh attended Michigan Militia events, a group which believes citizens have constitutional authority to organized an armed force. The Michigan militia denied Nichols and McVeigh were members.

Militia popularity declined during the administration of President George W. Bush, but the Southern Poverty Law Center claims the number of groups espousing anti-government doctrines and political conspiracy theories is again rising with anxiety over a perceived liberal agenda of President Barack Obama. The report identified 512 groups throughout the country, including 47 in Michigan, second to Texas, with 52.

The Associated Press and Staff Writers David Shepardson and Oralandar Brand-Williams contributed.



Suicide bombers kill dozens on Moscow metro

Suicide bombers kill dozens on Moscow metro

Posted: 29 March 2010 1231 hrs


File photo shows Russian policemen standing next to a map of the Moscow metro.

MOSCOW – Two suicide bombers blew themselves up Monday on trains on Moscow’s metro system, killing at least 34 people during morning rush-hour, emergency workers and prosecutors said.

The first explosion took place on a train after it had stopped in the Lubyanka station in central Moscow, close to the headquarters of Russia’s FSB security service, a spokeswoman for the Russian emergencies ministry told AFP.

Minutes later, a second explosion went off in a carriage as the train was on the platform at the Park Kulturi metro station, also in central Moscow.

Moscow’s chief prosecutor said that the attacks, the deadliest in the capital for several years, were caused by suicide bombers wearing belts packed with explosives.

The first blast at the Lubyanka metro station killed 22 people and wounded 12. The second at Park Kulturi station left 12 dead and 7 wounded.

Rescue workers rushed to the scene but the ITAR-TASS news agency said that emergency services were impeded from accessing the site of the blast due to the early morning rush hour traffic.

At Lubyanka Square, next to the metro station of the same name, dozens of orange and red trucks from the emergency services and fire department were present, an AFP correspondent reported.

An emergency services helicopter landed on Lubyanka Square, home to the FSB security service, the successor to the notorious Soviet KGB secret police.

While the affected stations and lines were shut, some metro lines were still open and police were checking people’s suitcases and large bags.

Around the Lubyanka metro station, crowds of people were calling loved ones but phone lines were busy as the network became overloaded, an AFP correspondent said.

The Russian capital has been hit over the last decade by a string of deadly explosions claimed by militants from its turbulent southern region of Chechnya but such events had become less frequent in the last years.

The authorities were quick to blame the blasts on militants.

“An inquiry has been opened according to article 205 of the Russian criminal code — terrorism,” Russian news agencies quoted the spokesman of the investigative committee of prosecutors, Vladimir Markin, as saying.

The head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Alexander Borotnikov was putting together a report for President Dmitry Medvedev. Meanwhile, the authorities denied rumours of a third blast at another metro station.

The Interfax news agency quoted a security source as saying that the first explosion could have been triggered by a suicide bomber.

“There is information that the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber,” the source said.

However another source later told Interfax that the explosive material could have been detonated by mobile phone.

“Experts will start working once all the wounded have been helped and everyone has been evacuated,” said the source.

Chechnya itself has seen a worrying rise in violence over the last months as the pro-Kremlin local authorities seek to clamp down on an Islamist uprising.

Citing better security, Russia last year abolished an “anti-terror” operation in Chechnya that has been in place for the last decade but its confidence has been belied by the spike in violence.

Increased violence in the nearby majority-Muslim regions of Ingushetia and Dagestan had also raised fears on the part of the authorities that the unrest could spread to Moscow.

– AFP/ir

Not Your Typical Grenade

Terrorists Could Use Explosives in Breast Implants to Crash Planes, Experts Warn

The Sun

Plastic surgeons using explosive-laden breast implants in homicide bombers could be a new terror tactic that current airport scanning methods may miss.

AP

File photo shows a silicone gel breast implant.

Female homicide bombers are being fitted with exploding breast implants which are almost impossible to detect, British spies have reportedly discovered.

The shocking new Al Qaeda tactic involves radical doctors inserting the explosives in women’s breasts during plastic surgery — making them “virtually impossible to detect by the usual airport scanning machines.”

It is believed the doctors have been trained at some of Britain’s leading teaching hospitals before returning to their own countries to perform the surgical procedures.

MI5 has also discovered that extremists are inserting the explosives into the buttocks of some male bombers.

“Women suicide bombers recruited by Al Qaeda are known to have had the explosives inserted in their breasts under techniques similar to breast enhancing surgery,” Terrorist expert Joseph Farah claims.

The lethal explosives called PETN are inserted inside plastic shapes during the operation, before the breast is then sewn up.

The discovery of these methods was made after London-educated Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab came close to blowing up an airliner in the U.S. on Christmas Day.

He had stuffed explosives inside his underpants.

Hours after he had failed, Britain’s intelligence services began to pick up “chatter” emanating from Pakistan and Yemen that alerted MI5 to the creation of the lethal implants.

A hand-picked team investigated the threat which was described as “one that can circumvent our defense.”

Top surgeons have confirmed the feasibility of the explosive implants.

Explosive experts allegedly told MI5 that a sachet containing as little as five ounces of PETN could blow “a considerable hole” in an airline’s skin, causing it to crash.

Who Gains By a War In Korea, At This Time?

English.news.cn

A South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan, sinks near South Korea's Baeknyeong Island, close to North Korea, in the western waters on Saturday, March 27, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

A South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan, sinks near South Korea’s Baeknyeong Island, close to North Korea, in the western waters on Saturday, March 27, 2010.  (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Photo courtesy of Reuters

Cheonan; South Korean Naval Ship

SEOUL, March 27 (Xinhua) — Chances seem low that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is involved in its warship sinking, said South Korean officials at the presidential office on Saturday.

“It is hard to say for sure now, but chances appear to be slim that North (DPRK) was related,” a senior official told Yonhap on condition of anonymity.

“Given the investigations by government ministries so far, it is the government’s judgment that the incident was not caused by North Korea, although the reason for the accident has not been determined yet,” a senior government official was quoted.

“An unidentified reason caused a hole in the ship, which led to its sinking. Rescue efforts are under way,” the Defense Ministry said.

“The ship fired a warning shot at an unidentified object, and the object was later suspected to have been a flock of birds. But we are checking,” it said.

Cheong Wa Dae said that there has been no “unusual move” by Pyongyang so far despite initial media reports that the DPRK “might be to blame for the incident” that happened Friday night near the disputed western sea border between the two sides.

Initial media reports said the incident might be caused by a possible torpedo attack from an unidentified DPRK vessel, citing military sources.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has not responded to the incident.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called an emergency security meeting and ordered a “quick and thorough” investigation Saturday into the caused of the sinking, and investigators are asked to keep in mind “all possibilities”, his office said.

He also urged the military to make “all-out efforts” to rescue as many survivors as possible.

He had instructed his government to update other members of the six-party nuclear talks with the development of the incident, while urging government agencies to take measures to reassure the public, Presidential Office spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye said at a press briefing after the meeting.

Rescue operation to search for the 46 missing sailors is still underway Saturday, Yonhap News Agency reported.

“Many of the missing people might have been trapped inside the sunken ship,” JCS (the Joint Chief of Staff) spokesman Lee Ki-Sik told a parliament committee.

So far, 58 out of the 104 crew members aboard the 1,200-ton ship that sank off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula have been rescued, with two of them hospitalized for minor cerebral hemorrhage, the agency said.

The ship “Cheonan” went down off the South Korean island of Baekryeongdo off the west coast around 21:45 p.m. Friday local time (12:45 GMT Friday), with an explosion in the back of the ship, and another South Korean naval vessel fired at an unspecified target toward the north in response.

The vessel could be carrying French-made Exocet and U.S.-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles as well as torpedoes and other weaponry.

Navy and the National Maritime Police Agency have sent nine ships and a helicopter to the waters near the Baehryeongdo, and planned to mobilize Navy’s all rescue force to search for the missing.

The militaries will send divers to help find out whether the ship-based artillery shells or external attack caused the explosion, but authorities said they cannot reach any conclusion until the sunken ship is recovered and examined.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said his country is closely following the development of the incident.

Related:

S Korean Navy ship sinks possibly caused by mine explosion: YTN

SEOUL, March 27 (Xinhua) — Friday’s Navy ship sinking might be caused by mine explosion, South Korean media YTN quoted presidential sources as saying on Saturday.

General of the South Korean Navy Lee Ki-shik said later Friday that the 1,200-ton warship Cheonan went down after the unexplained explosion ripped a hole in the ship’s bottom.  Full story

Rescue continues in S Korean ship sinking, 46 still missing

SEOUL, March 27 (Xinhua) — The rescue operation to search for the 46 missing sailors of a South Korean ship that sank late Friday is still under Saturday, Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency reported.

So far, 58 out of the 104 crew members aboard the 1,200-ton ship that sank off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula have been rescued, with two of them hospitalized for minor cerebral hemorrhage, the agency said. Earlier reports said 60 sailors have been rescued. Full story

Editor: Li Xianzhi


British MPs Starting To Wise-Up

Winston Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt and Josef Stalin

Winston Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt and Josef Stalin

Michael Smith

BRITAIN’S special relationship with the US — forged by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in the second world war — no longer exists, says a committee of influential MPs.

Instead, America’s relationship with Britain is no more special than with its other main allies, according to a report by the Commons foreign affairs committee published today.

The report also warns that the perception of the UK after the Iraq war as America’s “subservient poodle” has been highly damaging to Britain’s reputation and interests around the world. The MPs conclude that British prime ministers have to learn to be less deferential to US presidents and be “willing to say no” to America.

The report, entitled Global Security: UK-US Relations, says Britain’s relationship with America is “extremely close and valuable” in a number of areas, particularly intelligence co-operation. However, it adds that the use of the phrase special relationship, in its historical sense, “is potentially misleading and we recommend that its use should be avoided”.

It does not reflect the “ever-evolving” relationship between the two countries and raises unrealistic expectations, the MPs say.

“Over the longer term, the UK is unlikely to be able to influence the US to the extent it has in the past,” the committee adds.

In an apparent rebuke to Tony Blair and his relationship with President George W Bush, the report says there are “many lessons” to be learnt from Britain’s political approach towards the US over Iraq.

“The perception that the British government was a subservient poodle to the US administration is widespread both among the British public and overseas,” the MPs say. “This perception, whatever its relation to reality, is deeply damaging to the reputation and interests of the UK.”

While the relationship between the American president and the British prime minister was an important part of dealings between the two countries, the cabinet and parliament also had a role to play. “The UK needs to be less deferential and more willing to say no to the US on those issues where the two countries’ interests and values diverge,” the MPs say.

They are also critical of the US use of extraordinary rendition and torture. The report calls for a comprehensive review of the use by the CIA of British bases, such as that on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, to carry out extraordinary rendition.

“The issues relating to rendition through Diego Garcia to which we have previously drawn attention raise disturbing questions about the uses to which US bases on British territory are put”, the MPs say.

They express regret at “considerable restraints” on the ability of both the government and parliament to scrutinise US activities carried out on British territory.

“We recommend that the government should establish a comprehensive review of the current arrangements governing US military use of facilities within the UK and in British overseas territories.” The review should “identify shortcomings in the current system of scrutiny and oversight … and report to parliament on proposals to remedy these”.

The report also demands a statement from the government on the implications of the Court of Appeal judgment regarding the alleged collusion of MI5 in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident.

Last month the court ordered the government to release evidence from American intelligence reports which showed that MI5 was aware of the torture.

Senior US officials subsequently suggested that releasing such evidence might prevent the US from sharing some intelligence with Britain.

India Successfully Test Fires Prithvi Nuclear Vehicle to Cover Prior Failure in ABM Test

[SEE: Indian interceptor missile test fails. Look for Indian/Pakistani tension to boil over because of American scheming.  It’s going to be a long, hot summer.]

Photo from The Hindu

India successfully tests fires two nuclear capable ballistic missiles

 India successfully tests fires two nuclear capable ballistic missiles

© Сollage by RIA Novosti

11:0527/03/2010

India has successfully test-fired two short-range nuclear-capable missiles off the coast of the Orissa state on Saturday, the IANS news agency reported, quoting military officials.

The Dhanush was test-fired from a naval ship off the coast of India’s eastern Orissa state, while the Prithvi II was launched from the Chandipur firing range, some 200 kilometres northeast of the state capital Bhubaneswar.

Both tests occurred at 5:30 a.m. (11:00 GMT).

The Prithvi is India’s indigenously developed surface-to-surface ballistic missile, with a range of 350 km and payload capacity of 500 kg.

The Dhanush missile, which has liquid propellant, is the naval version of the Prithvi. It is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads.

The first Dhanush test launch ended in failure in April 2000 over technical problems related to the take-off stage, but subsequent trials were reported as successful. The latest Dhanush trial was successfully conducted off Orissa coast in March 2007.

NEW DELHI, March 27 (RIA Novosti)