I offered FC to handover my sons voluntarily but the FC rejected the offer: Ayub Gichki

I offered FC to handover my sons voluntarily but the FC rejected the offer: Ayub Gichki

Occupied Balochistan, TURBAT: Mir Ayub Gichki, a member of the Central Committee of Balochistan National Party, claimed that the FC raided his residence without any provocation and shot dead all the five inmates, including his two sons, Murad and Zubair, after their arrest.

Talking to media persons soon after taking over the bodies of his sons and others at the Hospital on Wednesday, he said that the FC personnel in large number had surrounded his residence at 3 a.m. When he came to know about the raid, he immediately established contacts with the Commissioner, Mekran Division, and offered that if the FC wants to arrest his sons, he will hand over them voluntarily. The Commissioner conveyed the offer to the senior FC official in Turbat. The FC official rejected the offer.

Later contacts were established with the Provincial Chief Secretary, Mir Ahmed Bakhsh Lehri, and the offer was renewed around 9.a.m, Mr. Gichki told the media men. On the contrary, the FC officials were given orders to start the operation ignoring the plea from civil administration, Mir Ayub Gichki claimed. Soon after, the FC personnel scaled the wall and entered into the house during one FC personnel was injured and later died. It could not be known from where the FC personnel were fired upon, he went on to say.

FC personnel whisked away a domestic servant Zahur alias Gul Khan to and unknown location. The FC sealed off the entire locality and road leading to the residence of Ayub Gichki. Senator Ismail Buelidai of JUI intervened and prevailed upon the Ministry of Interior asking the personnel to hand over the bodies to Ayub Gichki for burial. Ayub said he had personally identified his two sons Murad and Zubair and three others as Hammal son of Dur Jan, Majid son of Hassan and Asseel son of Jharo, a resident of Buleida. He said all the five victims received bullet wound on their head and they all died instantly. The age group of all the victims ranged from 15 years to 25 years, Ayub Gichki told newsmen.

He said he had told the civil administration that he possessed a licence 0.22 licensed rifle. He and his family are not involved in any unlawful activities, nor they had to do any thing with acts of terrorism. He posed a question to the Government why his sons and others were made a pointed target. He asked the FC personnel to hand over Zahur to him if they have spared his life. (Daily Balochistanexpress)

Cheney’s Crows Coming Home To Roost

Nigeria to Charge Dick Cheney in Pipeline Bribery Case

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/print/2010-12-01/nigeria-to-file-charges-against-former-u-s-vice-president-over-bribery.html

By Elisha Bala-Gbogbo - Dec 1, 2010

Nigeria will file charges against former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and officials from five foreign companies including Halliburton Co.over a $180 million bribery scandal, a prosecutor at the anti-graft agency said.

Indictments will be lodged in a Nigerian court “in the next three days,” Godwin Obla, prosecuting counsel at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said in an interview today at his office in Abuja, the capital. An arrest warrant for Cheney “will be issued and transmitted through Interpol,” the world’s biggest international police organization, he said.

Peter Long, Cheney’s spokesman, said he couldn’t immediately comment when contacted today and said he would respond later to an e-mailed request for comment.

Obla said charges will be filed against current and former chief executive officers of Halliburton, including Cheney, who was CEO from 1995 to 2000, and its former unit KBR Inc., based in Houston, Texas; Technip SA, Europe’s second-largest oilfield- services provider; Eni SpA, Italy’s biggest oil company; and Saipem Construction Co., a unit of Eni. Obla didn’t identify the former officials whom he said held office when the alleged bribes were paid.

Last week, Nigeria arrested at least 23 officials from companies including Halliburton, Saipem, Technip and a former subsidiary of Panalpina Welttransport Holding AG in connection with alleged illegal payments to Nigerian officials. Those detained were all freed on bail on Nov. 29.

Liquefied Natural Gas

Authorities in the West African nation are probing Halliburton, Saipem and Technip for the alleged payment of $180 million in bribes to win a $6 billion liquefied natural-gas contract. Panalpina is being investigated for illegal payments it allegedly made to Nigerian customs officials on behalf of Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

“Eni confirms its availability to cooperate with the local authorities in the ongoing investigations, as it has done in the past with Italian and U.S. authorities,” Gianni Di Giovanni, spokesman for the company, said in an e-mailed statement today.

Christophe Bélorgeot, who is listed on Technip’s website as a spokesman for the company, didn’t answer his phone when called today. No one answered the phone at Halliburton’s Nigerian office when called for comment. A person who answered a call to Halliburton’s Houston office said no one was available to comment. Teresa Wong, Halliburton’s spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.Heather Browne, a spokeswoman for KBR, said by e-mail the company has no comment.

Bush’s Running Mate

Cheney, 69, left Halliburton in 2000 to become U.S. President George W. Bush’s running mate and then vice president. He formed the company’s KBR Inc. unit after acquiring Dresser Industries Inc. in 1998.

The plans to file charges against Cheney were reported earlier today in the Lagos-based Guardian newspaper. Femi Babafemi, a spokesman for the commission, confirmed the plans to file charges when contacted by phone today in Abuja. He wouldn’t comment any further.

Nigeria charged a former aide of President Olusegun Obasanjo with six counts of money-laundering on Oct. 13 in connection with the alleged payment of bribes.

KBR and Halliburton agreed to pay $579 million in February 2009 for bribery payments in Nigeria that stretched from 1994 to 2004.

‘All Potential Claims’

Technip took a charge of 245 million euros ($342 million) related to its stake in TSJK and discussed “resolution of all potential claims” with the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Paris-based company said on Feb. 12. TSJK was a group of international companies comprising Technip, Snamprogetti SpA, a unit of Eni, KBR and JGC Corp. of Japan.

Panalpina, Royal Dutch Shell and five oil-services companies agreed to pay $236.5 million to resolve a U.S. probe of overseas bribery, theJustice Department said on Nov. 4. The bribes were paid to expedite the import of goods and equipment, avoid customs duties on imported goods, extend drilling contracts and lower tax assessments, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest crude producer and the fifth- biggest source of U.S. oil imports.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elisha Bala-Gbogbo in Abuja at ebalagbogbo@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dulue Mbachu at dmbachu@bloomberg.net.

‘In US, 80 agencies eye coup in Iran’

‘In US, 80 agencies eye coup in Iran’

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/153682.html

Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi
Iran’s intelligence minister says as many as 80 organizations have been established in the United States for the sole purpose of attempting to overthrow the Islamic Republic government.

“These 80 organizations are actively operating in the United States with an estimated annual budget of 2 billion dollars,” said the Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi, adding that “there are numerous like-minded institutions and agencies inside and outside of Iran, whose missions are mainly focused on toppling the Islamic establishment in the country.”

“The enemies of the Islamic Republic have always been involved in hatching long-term plans over the past 19 years as part a “soft war” against the Iranian nation and in doing so they have allocated more than $17.7 billion in order to stage a coup against the sacred establishment of the Islamic Republic,” IRNA quoted the intelligence minister as saying on Thursday.

Moslehi made the remarks during a religious seminar in the holy city of Qom following his announcement that the Islamic Republic has taken into custody some of the perpetrators of the recent terrorist attacks that killed an Iranian academic.

On Monday, unknown terrorists detonated bombs in cars belonging Dr. Majid Shahriari and Professor Fereydoun Abbasi– both lecturers at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran– killing the former and injuring the latter along with his wife who were transferred to a nearby hospital.

Moslehi has stated that the three spy agencies of Mossad, CIA and MI6 were involved in the attacks.

On October 28, MI6 chief John Sawers accused Iran of pursuing clandestine nuclear activities, insisting that espionage operations were crucial in impeding Iran’s nuclear program.

Last week, the European Parliament issued a declaration, urging Washington to remove the anti-Iran terrorist MKO group from its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

The European Union took the MKO off its blacklist in 2009. The terrorist group, notorious for its indiscriminate terror attacks against Iranian civilians and officials, has been on the US terror list since 1997.

HA/MB

Iran Arrests Suspects Linked to Recent Terrorist Attacks

Iran Arrests Suspects Linked to Recent Terrorist Attacks

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran announced that it has arrested a number of perpetrators of the recent terrorist attacks on the country’s scientists and university professors.

“With the arrest of these people, we have found new clues to arrest other elements,” Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi said on Thursday.

“The three spy agencies of Mossad, CIA and MI6 played a role in these attacks,” Moslehi added.

The Iranian intelligence minister added that the individuals who cooperated with these spy services were part an extensive organization and were planning more attacks but were stopped.

Two Iranian university professors Fereidoon Abbasi Davani and Majid Shahriari were assassinated in separate terrorist bomb attacks here in Tehran with the latter killed immediately after the blast.

Another Iranian university professor and nuclear scientist, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, was also assassinated in a terrorist bomb attack in Tehran in January.

Iranian officials took the Zionist regime of Israel and US hirelings inside Iran responsible for the terrorist operation.

The CIA: A Law Unto Itself

The CIA: A Law Unto Itself

Eric Alterman

Much of the journalistic world is currently focused on the juicy diplomatic details of the WikiLeaks revelations. This is understandable, but the issues raised are complex. To the degree they provide evidence of policies at odds with official pronouncements, the leaks are warranted. To the degree they merely seek to embarrass those charged with the conduct of sensitive and difficult foreign policy issues, they are destructive. But let’s not allow the debate over necessary and/or unnecessary secrecy to obscure a far more elemental problem with the conduct of US foreign policy: we frequently conduct it through an intelligence apparatus that considers itself immune to the rule of law and unaccountable to the Constitution.

The problem with the CIA et al. is not the intelligence they collect but the operations they conduct. These are—even by the generous terms of legislation written for these purposes, and indulgent court decisions relating to any and all issues of “national security”—criminal. And almost no one appears to care.

To take one example, special prosecutor John Durham recently concluded a three-year Justice Department investigation into whether CIA officers unlawfully destroyed tapes of interrogations (read “torture”) of terrorism suspects. Durham’s report, issued at virtually the moment the statute of limitations on obstruction of justice–related crimes was set to expire, recommended no charges. This despite the fact that, as one ex-official quoted in theWashington Post explained, “To my understanding…there was a standing order from a federal judge that said not to destroy the tapes. That trumps any inside the CIA legal call.”

The above came on top of another recent report—issued by the CIA itself—accusing agents working in Peru of routinely violating the agency’s operating procedures, which led to the accidental murder of an American missionary and her infant daughter, who were shot down by Peruvian forces in 2001 on suspicion of drug smuggling. While the CIA pretended at the time that this was a one-time tragedy, we now know that similar violations occurred in at least thirteen instances. “CIA officers knew of and condoned most of these violations,” the report explained, “fostering an environment of negligence and disregard for procedures.” Its representatives lied to Congress and withheld evidence from investigators to evade responsibility. The punishment? Putting a premium on “moving forward—focused, as always, on conducting strong, effective intelligence operations to keep America safe.” CIA director Leon Panetta chose to issue “administrative penalties” of an unnamed nature to sixteen current and retired officers.

Unpunished criminal activities, up to and including willful accessory to mass murder, accompanied by lies to Congress, the press and the American people, have long been the modus operandi for US intelligence agencies. In the 1980s, liberals were forced to endure accusations of disloyalty and procommunism for pointing out that Reagan administration officials (and their neoconservative apologists) were turning a blind eye to death squad massacres in Central America. In fact, the truth may have been far worse than we commies could have imagined. As one “former high-level intelligence official” explained—as quoted by Seymour Hersh in a now-forgotten January 2005 New Yorkeraccount of US training operations in Iraq—”‘Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?’ the former high-level intelligence official asked me, referring to the military-led gangs that committed atrocities in the early nineteen-eighties. ‘We founded them and we financed them.’”

Yet another recently released official report—this one on US intelligence officials’ “collaboration” with Nazi war criminals in offering them a “safe haven” in the United States—demonstrates that such official lawlessness has been the rule rather than the exception. In 1954, according to the report, the CIA took care of Otto Von Bolschwing, an associate of Adolph Eichmann who worked with him on the earliest aspects of Nazi planning “to purge Germany of the Jews.” Earlier, in 1945, they helped to set up a new life for Arthur Rudolph, who had mercilessly exploited slave labor at the Mittelwerk munitions factory.

In these and countless other cases, the CIA lied to Congress for decades about the degree of its knowledge of the crimes it was covering up. Even now, the full report on the aiding and coddling of Nazi war criminals remains unreleased. (It was leaked to the New York Times.) The parts that the agency did release had blacked-out “court decisions, Congressional testimony and front-page newspaper articles from the 1970s” as too sensitive to share with the American people.

Clearly the culture at the CIA or any other US intelligence agency is not about to change anytime soon, no matter who is elected president. What I find more disturbing is the lack of attention paid to these cases in the media. The reporting is there, but where is the discussion of what it means for us as a nation and what is to be done about it? Indeed, within the punditocracy, you will find far more defenders of official torture than people questioning how it happens in a nation where it is supposed to be against the law. (The Washington Post just added its second torture champion, Commentary‘s Jennifer Rubin, to its stable of pundits, where she will join ex-Bush speechwriter and torture fan Marc Thiessen.)

If you make it to the end of Stieg Larsson’s marvelous Millennium trilogy, you will encounter Swedish public officials confronting the existence of a rogue intelligence agency doing much the same thing as described above, albeit on a far smaller scale. The politicians are furious, the Office of Constitutional Protection swings into action and, after a full and fair airing of the crimes committed, the culprits are jailed and disgraced. I don’t know enough about Sweden to tell you if such a thing would actually be possible there, but, sadly, I can promise you it would never happen here.

Proof That the “Islamist” Terrorist Internationale Is Western Fiction–May 27, 1981

Blowback

—Ralph Shaw

William Webster, FBI Director, whose job it was to warn against and foil any terrorist plots afoot within the US, apparently had no information that hideous plots were being hatched against the US on US soil. He demurred when Reagan’s top aide, Edwin Meese, charged ex-President Carter with weakening the intelligence agencies and making them ineffective

It is a fascinating fact that 20 years before terrorists actually struck the US homeland, a newly elected US administration was preoccupied with expressly such a possibility. Reagan’s Secretary of State, Alexander Haig — a Kissinger protégé — bristled at a cabinet meeting, the first in fact (January 26, 1981), that the US was vulnerable at the hands of fanatics. He had brought along the State Department’s terrorism expert, Anthony Quainton, who sombrely declared that “it is possible for a terrorist group to strike directly at the US in the US…The US is vulnerable.” Bob Woodward has described this intelligence episode in some detail in his book, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987.

It appears that what got Haig all charged up was not vibes from the intelligence community, his in-house expert’s testimony notwithstanding, but what he had read in a book galley of an upcoming book, The Terror Network, by Claire Sterling. In publishing jargon, a book galley is a pre-publication edition of a book offered to reviewers for feedback and comment. Sterling, an American correspondent based in Italy, had woven a tale of a worldwide web of terrorists created and controlled by the Soviets for the purpose of destabilising western democracies. Sterling’s thesis caught the imagination of the secretary of state and was the cause of his subsequent outburst at the meeting.

William Webster, FBI Director, whose job it was to warn against and foil any terrorist plots afoot within the US, apparently had no information that hideous plots were being hatched against the US on US soil. He demurred when Reagan’s top aide, Edwin Meese, charged ex-President Carter with weakening the intelligence agencies and making them ineffective. The future head of the National Security Agency (NSA) concurred with Webster but William Casey, Director CIA-designate pending Senate confirmation, caught whiff of the direction the new foreign policy was taking and decided to oblige the State Department by putting terrorism high on the CIA’s agenda.

The next day, in his first press conference as Secretary of State, Haig denounced the Soviet Union for “training, funding and equipping” international terrorists. He stated categorically that the Soviets “today are involved in conscious policies, in programmes, if you will, which foster, support and expand this activity”. The secretary’s aides were dumbfounded with the accusations he had hurled at the Soviet Union and Spiers, head of the State Department’s intelligence branch, privately admonished the secretary for issuing statements that had no basis in the latest intelligence reports. Haig retorted that he had read it all in a book galley. Spiers decided to refer the matter to Casey. He sent a formal request for a Special National Intelligence Estimate (SNIE) concerning Soviet involvement in terrorism that Casey welcomed with delight.

As work progressed on the SNIE, a story was splashed across the pages of The New York Times Magazine on March 1, 1981 with the catchy title ‘Terrorism: Tracing the International Network’. The author? Who else but Claire Sterling (she died in 1995). The story began with a quote from Haig alleging Soviet involvement in terrorism and it criticised sceptics who were questioning Haig’s assertions. Casey read the story and found Claire’s view that there “is massive proof that the Soviet Union and its surrogates, over the last decade, have provided the weapons, training and sanctuary for a worldwide terror network aimed at the destabilisation of western democratic society”, in consonance with his own proclivities on the issue. Claire postulated a “Guerrilla International” comprising of Cubans, KGB trainers, Palestinians and Red Brigades meeting at terrorist training camps worldwide and hatching their sinister plots. Casey announced at a meeting of CIA experts that the press seemed to be ahead of intelligence agencies on matters of terrorism and asked for an explanation.

The experts went to work feverishly, digging deep into CIA files looking for terrorist meeting camps and “a kind of post-graduate school in international terrorism” that Claire had alleged was in South Yemen but found nothing except one lone report of a Red Brigade member visiting a camp there. The KGB links that Claire claimed could simply not be found. The experts thought that Claire’s reasoning was flawed and her method was ridiculous. She seemed to be weaving yarns out of thin air. During the same time, the expert on the Soviet Union working on the SNIE finished his report on Soviet involvement in terrorism. He concluded that there simply was no evidence for such an allegation. The Soviets were neither involved in nor encouraged terrorism.

Furious at what his analysts had come up with, Casey told them to “read Claire Sterling’s book” and “forget this mush”. He added, with an expletive, that he had learned more from an article that cost him only $ 13.95 instead of from his $ 50,000-a-year analysts. Defence Intelligence Agency Chief, General Tighe, who strongly believed that the Soviets were involved, disliked the CIA analyst’s conclusion. At Casey’s suggestion, he commissioned a DIA study that quite predictably came up with the opposite conclusion. Faced with two opposing conclusions, Casey asked Lincoln Gordon, ex-president of John Hopkins University, who was a serving senior member of the CIA review panel to undertake yet another study on the issue.

Gordon assiduously sifted through all the available data and concluded, in his SNIE, that evidence for a grand Soviet design to destabilise the west through terrorism was lacking. He found Haig’s pronouncements and Claire’s conclusions baseless. The secret estimate with Gordon’s conclusion was finally given to the White House on May 27, 1981, absolving the Soviets from sponsorship of an international terrorist network.

However, as Woodward puts it, “Gordon discovered a final irony”, something called Blowback in intelligence lingo, which is the unintended consequences of a covert operation. Part of Claire Sterling’s information concerning Soviet involvement in terrorism had come from a story published in the Italian press on the Red Brigade. The story was fictitious, planted in the Italian press as part of a small-scale CIA covert propaganda campaign. Believing the story to be true, Claire incorporated it in her book. Haig read the advance galley of the book and that started the whole paranoid response from the Reagan administration.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at ralphshaw11@gmail.com

Carmel inferno proves Israel can’t afford war with Iran

Carmel inferno proves Israel can’t afford war with Iran


Just like Israel’s army in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, the emergency services were wholly unprepared to handle a shock on this scale.

By Aluf Benn

The enormous blaze that broke out on the Carmel will be remembered as the Yom Kippur War of the Fire and Rescue Service, who were not prepared to counter a disaster of such magnitude.

Yesterday it turned out that Israel is not prepared for war or a mass terrorist strike that would cause many casualties in the home front. The warning of the outgoing Military Intelligence Chief, Amos Yadlin, that the next war will be a lot more difficult than past experiences, and that Tel Aviv will be a front line, was not translated into the necessary preparation by the authorities assigned the protection of the civilians.

Carmel fire - AFP - Dec. 2, 2010 The blaze that continued into the night consumed nearly 10,000 dunams of vegetation.
Photo by: AFP

Under such circumstances, it is best for Israel not to embark on war against Iran, which will involve thousands of missiles being fired on the home front.

After the Second Lebanon War, which exposed how pathetic the civil defense system was, reports were written, exercises were held, but everything broke down under the stress of a real emergency on the Carmel range − an area that already experienced the trauma of Hezbollah missiles.

Yesterday Israel asked for help from Cyprus and Greece, and the air force traveled to France to bring fire retardants to make up for the material that had run out. In war time, it is doubtful whether Israel will be able to rely on the generosity and largess of its neighbors.

Responsibility for the home front is currently divided among three ministries: the Home Front Command and the National Emergency Authority, who are answerable to the Defense Ministry; the police, which is part of the Ministry of Public Security; and the Fire and Rescue Command, which belongs to the Interior Ministry.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who is responsible for the firemen and the head of the Fire and Rescue Services, Shimon Romah, were nowhere to be found yesterday. They are obvious candidates for losing their jobs as a result of the disaster.

Each ministry has its own bureaucratic dynamic, and ability to raise funds for equipment and human resources. The firemen are at the bottom of the pile, and have for years struggled to get more resources.

A year ago the firemen went on strike and warned that the system is far from being able to provide for defending the population. According to the firemen’s association, the international standards require one fireman for every 1,000 citizens, and in Israel the ratio is nearly one in 10,000. Over and over the firemen warned that they can’t shoulder the responsibility they are given.

Funding authorized several weeks ago was meant to head-off criticism in a State Comptroller report on the state of the fire departments.

In similar circumstance in the past, organizations that were found lacking were later bolstered with enormous resources. This is what happened to Military Intelligence and the air force following their failures during the Yom Kippur War. This will probably also happen to the Fire and Rescue Services.

An upsurge of civic activism is challenging Putinism

An upsurge of civic activism is challenging Putinism

By Lyudmila Alekseeva

How did “Putinism” – that distinctively Russian blend of authoritarian politics and dirigiste economics – happen? And, now that it has, how can Russians move beyond it, to realize the rights and liberties promised to them in the country’s Constitution?

An active Russian civil society, which seemed to appear out of nowhere in Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union of 1989-1990 after the long Soviet hibernation, receded far too quickly. The astounding difficulty of everyday survival after the USSR’s collapse trapped most Russians into focusing on their families’ most urgent needs. Civic apathy set in.

So Vladimir Putin came to power at a very convenient moment for any ruler – when the people are quiescent. Cunningly, Putin then strapped this apathy to the first shoots of post-Soviet economic growth in order to conclude a new social contract: He would raise living standards in exchange for ordinary Russians’ acceptance of severe limits on their constitutional rights and liberties.

Until recently, both sides adhered to this tacit contract. But, with the global financial crisis, the Kremlin stopped meeting its side of the bargain. Thus, a new social contract is needed, especially as a new, post-Soviet generation of Russians has entered political life – a generation that has not been poisoned by the fear that decades of state terror in the USSR implanted in their forebears.

Putin and his entourage “tightened the screws” on Russians over the past decade, and faced almost no resistance to their claims to unchecked power. Now, from the entire spectrum of civil and political rights enumerated in Russia’s Constitution, we Russians have only one right remaining: the right to leave and return to the country freely. All other rights have been lost or substantially weakened.

But Russian citizens, especially younger ones, are beginning to realize what they have lost. By the same token, the post-Soviet generation has a very different idea of a decent standard of living than their parents had, and hence their aspirations are much higher.

Many have traveled abroad, and all have seen foreign films, from which they have learned that people of their social status in the West have a far more comfortable life than they do. A majority of Soviet people did not have a car or a country house or even a separate apartment. Now the young feel deprived if they can’t have all of that.

At first, people did not think of civil rights as they strove for such previously unknown comforts. They relied on the Kremlin to set the conditions that would give them new opportunities. Now, they are gradually coming to understand that the government has failed them.

A struggle for the restitution of constitutional rights in Russia first became noticeable in 2009. At Triumph Square in Moscow, protestors have consistently demanded that Article 31, which guarantees the right to peaceful assembly, be respected. Movement-31, an umbrella grouping of like-minded protestors, has spread rapidly, staging simultaneous demonstrations in Moscow and 48 other cities two months ago in support of the right to free assembly. There have been simultaneous protests in the past, but usually against increases in rent or utility charges.

One can understand why the demand to comply with Article 31 has gained popular support. For ordinary citizens, who have neither access to media nor personal contacts with the authorities, protests are an opportunity to inform officials of their demands, requests and suggestions.

There are also other signs of awakening civic engagement, which are particularly evident in internet discussions, which the Kremlin cannot control in the same way it does other media. Citizens have started to use the internet for self-organization, for example, to generate simultaneous “flash mobs,” as well as protests by automobile owners, in different cities.

Most recently, the internet has become a means of public control over civil-rights violations by the authorities, as images taken with mobile phones become available instantaneously to all. The authorities have to reckon with the fallout, punishing officials who have come into the spotlight this way.

Russia’s federal government and regional authorities are clearly alarmed by this rapidly growing civic activism. But, despite changed conditions, they respond with the same old methods – suppression, intimidation, and misinformation. And, with elections to the State Duma due in December 2011, followed by the presidential election in March 2012, officials are particularly concerned by an upsurge of civic activism.

It is not hard to see why. Over the past decade, the electoral system has been “improved” in such a way that no outcome can lead to a change in the federal government. That leaves street demonstrations and other forms of civic activism as the only way to challenge Putinism’s standard-bearers. Indeed, given state control of the mainstream media, such activism may be the only way to learn what citizens really think about their rulers.

 

Lyudmila Alekseeva, a veteran Soviet human rights activist, is director of the Moscow Helsinki Group.THE DAILY STARpublishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate © (www.project-syndicate.org).

Russia on a gold buying spree

Russia on a gold buying spree

MOSCOW (Commodity Online): After China and India, it is the turn of Russia to go on a gold buying spree. As gold prices climb and nations around the world try to amass gold to add weight to their foreign exchange reserves, the yellow metal is turning to be the hot asset for governments and investors.

A new data from the World Gold Council (WGC) says that Russia has buying gold bullion in the last few months. India and several other countries have been on a gold buying task in the last few months.

According to WGC, Russia has bought 65 tonnes of gold for its official foreign exchange reserves since July this year.

Now holding 775 tonnes of Gold Bullion in total, Russia overtook Japan to reach 8th place in the league table of national gold holders.

All told, central banks worldwide continued Buying Gold totalling 91.5 tonnes between July and November. Sovereign states turned net buyers in 2009, led Asian and other emerging-economy banks, after 20 years of net selling, then led by European banks reducing their reserves.

“Interest in the metal is broad-based [but] the official sector continues to be an active buyer of gold,” notes a new report from French bank BNP Paribas, setting a new price of target of $1500 per ounce for 2011.

Putin sees Soviet Afghan presence incomparable with Nato

Putin sees Soviet Afghan presence incomparable with Nato

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/International/03-Dec-2010/Putin-sees-Soviet-Afghan-presence-incomparable-with-Nato

Russian Premier during an interview with CNN said Nato’s presence in Afghanistan cannot by compared to Soviet presence Vladimir Putin, Russian Prime Minister said he hoped international community’s efforts come up with a positive result.
During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1980s, Russia failed to have any significant achievements in the country.
“Just as our presence in Afghanistan cannot be compared to Vietnam, the American and international presence in Afghanistan today cannot be compared to Russia’s presence there back in the 1980s,” Putin said.
“I believe the international coalition in Afghanistan is fulfilling an important and positive mission today,” he said during the interview with CNN.
“We render assistance to American partners and other partners from the international coalition in Afghanistan by various methods and means,” he said. “We hope these efforts will yield a positive result.”
He also said Moscow is not planning to send troops to Afghanistan; instead it will support efforts being made by International Community to resolve the situation in Afghanistan.
“We cannot and will not contribute militarily, but we are providing some non-military assistance to our partners from the United States and other coalition countries,” he said.

Another Major Cyber-Attack

Another Major Cyber-Attack

It’s hard to get anything to work when you suddenly have more than 4800 pieces of adware and spyware, in addition to several hundred fake registry entries.   Whoever the nice person was who gave me all these gifts while I slept seemed to really like Kate Hudson pictures.  Anyway, I am back, I think.