Washington’s Idiocy Has the Old Folks Scared–A Good Time To Be Afraid

US seniors fear hard times ahead if no debt deal

By Fabienne Faur (AFP)

WASHINGTON — Retired CIA analyst Ruth Washington is one of the lucky ones. She says she could survive for six months if Congress fails to reach a debt deal and her Social Security payments are cut off.

But she and other senior citizens are not optimistic about the near future — they say their loved ones could suffer, and they are angry at lawmakers on Capitol Hill for allowing politics to endanger their livelihoods.

“I’m fine. I live well, not beyond my means. It just frightens me to think what all those people on Social Security are going to do without money. What’s going to happen if they don’t receive a check?” Washington, 83, told AFP.

“If the government delays my pension, I have about six months that I could survive on my own.”

Washington spends some of her days at the Hattie Holmes Senior Wellness Center, a gathering place for retirees in a predominantly black neighborhood in the northwest section of the US capital.

She knits, listens to jazz and talks politics with her friends. These days, the battle of attrition between Democrats and Republicans over a plan to avert a calamitous US debt default is the hottest topic on the agenda.

The world’s top economy has said it will no longer be able to borrow funds to pay its bills on August 2 if a deal is not reached — potentially depriving the 54 million Americans on Social Security of their much-needed payments.

Donald Gaines, an 81-year-old retired US Treasury legal expert, said he too could “survive for quite a while” without his pension payments, but worried about his loved ones.

“I own my house, I own my car, I have comfortable savings,” he said.

But Gaines said his son is in trouble. After banks allowed him to borrow 2.5 times the value of his home, he lost his job, and his house went into foreclosure.

“I’m sure I’m going to have to maintain the position of helping my relatives and my close friends — I couldn’t sit back and watch them,” Gaines said.

The AARP, the country’s main advocacy group for seniors, sent an open letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to “address the growing anxiety” among those worried that their benefits will be cut off with little warning.

“Beneficiaries need to know that payments will continue, regardless of the Congressional discussion over an agreement to raise the nation?s debt limit,” the letter said.

“Without Social Security benefits, unprecedented hardship would befall millions of Americans who rely on these earned benefits to pay for life necessities such as food, medications, utilities and shelter.”

Disabled veterans have taken their cause to Facebook, organizing a virtual march on Washington this week to push the government to “honor its moral obligations to those who sacrificed so much in the name of freedom.”

Preston Lee, a 78-year-old former civil servant and accountant, is not alone in voicing frustration at the political deadlock over how to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit and curb the ballooning US budget deficit.

“Most of the people I talk with feel that the politicians are really not doing their job,” Lee said. “Do I trust them? I don’t have the choice but to trust them.”

Washington said she was “angry” and accused Republicans of having ulterior motives.

“I don’t think it’s about the debt ceiling — it’s about Obama. They want him to fail and this is a way of getting him to fail. They could have solved this problem a long time ago,” she said.

Gaines agreed, calling the situation “outrageous and completely unnecessary.”

“It’s strictly politics. The Republicans do not want to see Obama succeed in anything. Their whole program is designed to keep him from going a second term,” he said.

“One sentence and a bill could solve the whole problem, but they go so far as to put the whole country in jeopardy just to keep the president from being re-elected.”


Former Intelligence Chief: Stop Drone Strikes

Former Intelligence Chief: Stop Drone Strikes

By: KIMBERLY DOZIER, AP Intelligence Writer |Associated Press
ASPEN, Colorado –ASPEN, Colorado (AP) Former U.S. intelligence chief Dennis Blair said Friday that the U.S. should stop its drone campaign in Pakistan, and reconsider the $80 billion a year it spends to fight terrorism.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Blair said the CIA’s unmanned aircraft operation aimed at al-Qaida is backfiring by damaging the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. The former director of national intelligence suggests giving Pakistan more say in what gets hit by drone strikes and when, despite Pakistan’s record of tipping off militants when it gets advance word of U.S. action.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who previously headed the CIA, has lauded the drone campaign as a key tool to take out al-Qaida and other militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Strikes, which have more than tripled year-to-year under the Obama administration, are done with tacit Pakistani assent, though publicly, Pakistani officials decry the hits. That tension has grown worse after the U.S. unilateral raid into Pakistan May 2 to kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, and an earlier incident in January, when a CIA contractor was held for killing two Pakistani men in Lahore that he said were trying to rob him.

Blair said the continuing drone strikes are more of a nuisance than a real threat to al-Qaida, and that only a ground campaign by Pakistan would truly threaten it and other militant organizations. The U.S. had been training forces for that purpose until the program was canceled by Pakistan in retaliation for the bin Laden raid.

Al Qaida “can sustain its level of resistance to an air-only campaign,” he said. “I just see us with that strategy walking out on a thinner and thinner ledge and if even we get to the far end of it, we are not going to lower the fundamental threat to the U.S. any lower than we have it now.”

One Unfortunate Baloch Who Survived Getting “Disappeared,” Before Disappearing Permanently

 Killing Baluchies (Baloch) is serving God: Pakistani Army

Killing these infidel Balochies is serving Islam – then one of them stepped forward and started shooting at me, said Nasir Dagarzai Baloch who miraculously escaped death the first time after being shot and dumped by Pakistani army. He wasn’t so lucky the second time; as his killers make sure he won’t survive again.

Following is the story of teenage Nasir Dagarzai Baloch who was first abducted on January 23rd, 2011 along with other colleagues Rasool Baksh, Abid Saleem and Mehrab Baloch. On January 27, four days later, they were shot at and dumped in Panjgoor area. Nasir Baloch miraculously, indeed, survived despite being extremely wounded and dumped.

After initial treatment in a local hospital in Panjgoor, Nasir Baloch was shifted to Quetta for further treatment because his condition was worsening and he needed extensive care. At the, Quetta, Hospital the Pakistan intelligence agencies visited him continuously. It was assumed that as soon as he gets better he’d abducted again. The doctors had put a rod in his broken leg and had asked him to visit back in five months’ time. Fearful of re-abduction Nasir Baloch’s family shifted him to his home town and rest of the treatment was carried out there.

After four months of slow recovery, on 25 May 2011 Nasir Baloch was on his way to see his doctor and ask him to take the Iron rod out from his leg. He was travelling from Kharan to Quetta, Balochistan, by Al-Emirate Coaches; when the passenger bus arrived at Luckpass Police and FC joint check point it was stopped. The intelligence agencies personnel already waiting for the Coach boarded the bus and dragged Nasir and his brother, Gull Mohammad Baloch, out; put them in their car and drove off. This happened before the eyes of other passengers of the bus and the local police and FC (Pakistan’s Paramilitary forces).

Nasir Baloch and his brother’s whereabouts remained unknown until his bullet riddled mutilated body was found from Western Bypass area of Quetta on July 17 of this year along two other Baloch, who were later identified as Maqsood Qalandarani Baloch and Murtaza Sarparah Baloch.

During his recovery from earlier torture Nasir Baloch was visited by several of his friends and well-wishers they insisted that he must tell them what he had gone through? Who abducted him and how he survived? On the continuous insistence of his friends he narrated the following story. The friends did not publish his story earlier because they didn’t want to risk his life. Now that he has been re-abducted and killed under-custody his friends decided to publish his story just to give a picture of the brutalities of Pakistan’s so called Islamic army and let the world know about the suffering of Baloch political activists who are still in custody of this savage military.

Open in new windowNasir Baloch’s Narration according him: [warning graphic narration] “On January 23, I along with my three friends (Rasool Baksh, Abid Saleem, Mehrab Baloch) were sitting at my place when we heard a knock at the door. Mehrab has asked Rasool Baksh to check – who is at the door. As soon as Rasool Baksh went out nearly a dozen FC and Military personnel jumped the wall of the house and came in; they ordered us to put of hands up – we did as we were told. Some of the army men went to the next room and ordered all women and children to come out. When they came out they were made stand in a row and an old army officer shamelessly started taking off the earrings from the ears of the women and he also ordered them to handover their rings, watches and whatever else they had in their possession. Later they tied the mouth of women with clothes and locked them in the other room. They then blindfolded and started beating us with butts of guns and kicks; they also verbally abused us. They dragged us out of our home and put us in their cars. After a while of driving we felt that we were in a room being beaten by sticks, kicks, gun butts and they were swearing at us again.

When they open the piece of cloth from our eyes, there was this dark room; people were hanging [by the ceiling] upside down above us. Then, there comes this old white bearded man [Military official] the first day and he tells us: “Listen! I am in the stat of ablution from past 25 years. I have not committed any sins since my childhood. If anyone lies to me I can immediately feel, with the help of my afflatus, that this person is lying. So now! You guys tell me how many people have you killed?”

Mehrab and I replied simultaneously that we bear GOD our witness that we have never killed anyone. Upon hearing this, the old man takes out his knife and starts slitting the thighs of Mehrab; he literally cut a piece of flesh from Mehrab’s thigh. Then he turns to me a starts slitting my chest with that sharp knife. Meanwhile I saw another soldier pushed Abid Saleem to the wall and started hammering his palms on the wall with a huge sharp nail. I heard Abdi Saleem screaming just once and then he lost his conscious – he just fainted before our eyes – but the brutal military official kept hammering his palms to the wall. Our other two friends were also watching what we were going through as they were sitting in the same room. Soon I lost my conscious too.

When I regain my conscious I saw this old brutal and savage soldier rubbing some white powder on my wounds; as soon has he rubbed this powder my entire body, mind and heard started burning. At one glace I saw Abid Saleem and Mehrab were tied with electric wires and they were being given electric shocks – I could feel their agony – they were moving just like a fish out of water. Then they started beating me with a flat plastic belt which Iron bolts had fixed to it, the torturers kept saying: “You’re enemy of Allah, his prophet and Islam. You kill Punjabis, and we are only here to protect them; any Baloch who say wrong about any Punjabi, We will cut off his tongue” – they uttered all these words in one breath while still giving electric shocks to my friends and beating me with the plastic belt.

After all this torture and inhuman treatment they did not ask us any questions but the torture continued. We would lose our conscious and they would wait until we regain conscious and start beating us again. This continued all night.

The following morning the same old white- bearded man showed up again and asked us not to force him to commit any sin. “Tell me the truth! Who are your other friends in Panjgour”? Now we were half-dead; we could only hear but could not speak a single word. Then he ordered his men to untie our hands; as soon as our hands are untied – suddenly they attacked Mehrab and broke his arm before our eyes. They did the same to Abid Saleem and then broke my arm. We all fainted again and when I regain conscious – I saw Abid Rasool Baksh’s body hanging by ceiling – they executed him in the same room where they kept us; he was dead.

Then they put me in a jeep – I was kind of happy and relieved that they are going to let me go – however, the car stopped after a while and they dragged me out of the car. I saw around twenty military men standing in line – then one of them stepped forward and started addressing the others: “since we the army of God, we are fighting for Allah almighty and these Balochi people are kaafir (infidels). They are fighting against Allah and his prophet on the saying of Israel and India that is why killing them in permissible and serving Islam”. After the speech all the solders said “Allaho Akbar – God is great”. Then one of the solders came forward and started firing live bullets at me. Soon I fainted again this time when I regain my conscious I found myself in the Hospital”.

This was the story of late Nasir Baloch who suffered at the hand of the soldiers of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. He was lucky enough to survive first time but his killers made sure that he won’t survive again to expose them. This story also illustrates the pain and suffering of other Baloch political activist that had been killed under custody and those who are still in the illegal secret prisons of Pakistani army. This painful story is enough evidence for the world to open their eyes, wake up and start taking notice of Pakistan’s atrocities against Baloch people. The criminal silence of International Human Rights Organisations and the International Community as a whole is encouraging the brutal Pakistani military to commit more crimes.

Source: BUC Urdu BLOG

Tit-for-Tat Diplomatic Recriminations Threaten Obama’s “Reset” Game

MOSCOW – From wire dispatches
This file photo shows Russian President Dmitry Medvedev giving an interview to the Financial Times newspaper in St. Petersburg, June 18, 2011. AFP photo
This file photo shows Russian President Dmitry Medvedev giving an interview to the Financial Times newspaper in St. Petersburg, June 18, 2011. AFP photo

Russia plans to place U.S. officials on a visa blacklist in response to the U.S.’ decision to ban entry to Russian officials linked to the prison death of a lawyer, the Kremlin said Thursday.

Washington outraged Moscow by banning visas for an unspecified number of Russian officials linked to the 2009 death in prison of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky which became a symbol of abuses in the Russian judicial system.

The Russian foreign ministry warned on Wednesday that it would take “adequate measures” against the U.S. over the move, which it warned could damage diplomatic relations. “I can confirm that the Russian foreign ministry, on the order of the President (Dmitry Medvedev) is working on measures against U.S. citizens which are the same as those announced by the State Department,” Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said.

She told the ITAR-TASS news agency that Russia was “bewildered” that the State Department had decided to prejudge the guilt of the officials before Moscow had completed its own investigation. The State Department did not say what officials were on the blacklist but Magnitsky’s supporters have accused senior investigators of deliberately allowing him to die in a bid to silence the lawyer.

Magnitsky, 37, died in the Matrosskaya Tishina jail in Moscow of untreated pancreatitis after being held in pre-trial detention in a complex fraud case for 11 months. The council that advises Medvedev on rights said Magnitsky was likely beaten in jail and criticized the fact that the very investigators the lawyer had accused of fraud charged him with the same crimes and led the case against him. But so far criminal probes have only been opened against the doctor and deputy head of the Butyrskaya prison in Moscow where Magnitsky had been held for several months. U.S.-Russian relations soured during President George W. Bush’s administration but improved significantly under Obama, who took office in 2009 promising a “reset” in bilateral ties.

Compiled from the reports of AFP and Reuters by the Daily News staff.


Greek Cyprus cabinet quits in wake of blast

NICOSIA – Agence France-Presse
Greek Cyprus’ cabinet resigned in preparation for a reshuffle aimed at holding together a fragile governing coalition in the face of growing public anger over a munitions blast that has escalated the economic crisis.
This file photo shows protesters holding up a poster of Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and marching to the presidential palace to protest the munitions blast.
This file photo shows protesters holding up a poster of Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and marching to the presidential palace to protest the munitions blast.

The entire cabinet of Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias, under fire after a munitions blast killed 13 people and wrecked the island’s main power plant, resigned on Thursday, as Christofias himself said he had no intention of stepping down.

The 11 ministers were asked by Christofias to submit their resignations so a reshuffle could take place, government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou told reporters. “The president … briefed ministers of his intention to make a general reshuffle of the cabinet and for this reason requested that ministers put their resignations at his disposal,” he said. The ministers will stay on until a new government is appointed.

Asked by a reporter if he had thought about it, he said: “No, not in any case. The people elected me and I am accountable to the people.” Stefanou said there will be a reshuffle “soon” following consultations with the government’s coalition partners and other parties.

“It is a move for the president to seek to appoint a government of wider acceptance to achieve consensus on economic measures and to restore public trust,” he said. The move comes after junior coalition partner Diko told its ministers on Wednesday to quit the government. And it follows an announcement by ratings agency Moody’s that it had downgraded Greek Cypriot government bond ratings in part over the economic fallout from the blast and the “increasingly fractious domestic political climate.”

Christofias and his team are widely accused of failing to prevent the explosion, which also injured more than 60 people, caused millions of euros in damage to homes and businesses in the vicinity and threatened economic recovery on the island. Diko said its ministers were asked to tender their resignation to Christofias to “assist and expedite decision making and taking initiatives which everybody expects”.

It said decisions needed to be taken to “restore the trust of citizens in the state and its institutions and rescue the economy.” A reshuffle is supported by communist Akel, the president’s own party. Diko had two ministers — health and commerce — in the cabinet following the resignation of Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou last week.

Leaked documents in the media indicate that officials knew that the 98 shipping containers of munitions — piled up in the blazing sun at the base near Limassol — could explode. The government has said Christofias was never made aware of the risk. Among those killed was the head of the Greek Cypriot navy, Captain Andreas Ioannides, who was reported to have repeatedly denounced the situation. The blast also claimed six firemen and six other military personnel.

The key Vassiliko facility provided more than half of the country’s electricity. Since the blast, thousands have gathered nightly outside the presidential palace to call on Christofias to resign following the island’s worst peacetime military disaster. The containers had been at the base since their seizure in February 2009 when Greek Cyprus intercepted, under pressure from the U.S. and other Western nations, a Cypriot-flagged freighter bound from Iran for Syria.

Stand-Off Between Turkish Govt and Generals Over Ergenokon Plot

[SEE:  ‘Turkey’s ‘sledgehammer plot’ ]

Turkish Chief of General Staff, top commanders resign amid controversy

Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner
Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner and the commanders of the air, navy and land forces have all resigned from their positions amid controversy over the appointment of generals.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier ruled out any prospects of tension between the government and the military at a Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meeting slated for Monday, saying that the decisions to be made at the meeting will be in accordance with the law.

Last August, Turkey witnessed tensions between the military and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government when the General Staff attempted to promote a number of generals and admirals standing trial in criminal cases. The government resisted the move and the individuals were eventually not promoted.

YAŞ meets each August to discuss promotions and dismissals within the armed forces. The fact that there are some commanders and military officers who are suspects in ongoing coup cases has led some to speculate that there could be disagreement between the military and the government about the promotion of these individuals. The ruling AK Party had earlier signaled that it would not give the green light for the promotions of these individuals at the YAŞ meeting.

Currently there are 195 suspects, all retired and active duty members of the armed forces, in the ongoing case of Sledgehammer, a suspected coup plan devised at a military gathering in 2003 that allegedly sought to undermine the government in order to lay the groundwork for a military takeover. More senior military personnel have recently been arrested and jailed on charges of links to the subversive coup plan. The government plans to prevent the promotion of 41 Sledgehammer suspects who are active TSK members.

Before this year’s YAŞ meeting, Erdoğan, Koşaner and President Abdullah Gül had a summit to prevent a similar crisis from happening. The government and the military agreed that none of the generals that are currently in jail will be promoted.

Gül made a statement on Friday, saying his meeting last week with Erdoğan and Koşaner should not be seen as a glitch in communication. “These are normal things. As the president, I need to know what I am signing when such important decisions are made. I can’t blindly sign any document,” he said. The president also said he felt the need to make this statement, speaking to journalists outside a mosque after Friday prayer, because there have been many questions from journalists inquiring if the pre-YAŞ meeting indicated a problem.

Erdoğan on Friday said he wanted no surprises, adding that everything should be done according to the law. “I don’t think there will be any tension. The convention will proceed very smoothly. The laws regarding dismissals and promotions are obvious. The laws in this country are functioning normally. What the laws call for will be done.”

All the commanders except Koşaner were already set to retire on Monday.

The government made it clear that the appointments and promotions at the upcoming YAŞ meeting will be in line with laws regulating dismissal and promotion, while commanders insisted on upholding long-held traditions the military has adhered to for decades in the appointment and promotion of senior-level commanders.


Highest-ranking Turkish soldiers quit from posts

ANKARA – Anatolia News Agency
Gen. Işık Koşaner
Gen. Işık Koşaner

Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner requested his retirement Friday afternoon.

His request was followed by the similar requests by Turkey’s Land, Sea and Air Force commanders.

The Supreme Military Council, or YAŞ, is to meet on Monday.

Other soldiers are expected to be promoted so that that the council can convene.

Gendermarie Commander Gen. Necdet Özel, the only commander who did not ask for retirement, later arrived at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s office for a meeting.

Erdoğan and Özel are expected to release an official declaration.