Thursday, November 27, 2008

Czech upper house votes in favor of U.S. missile shield

WARSAW, November 27 (RIA Novosti) - The upper house of the Czech parliament voted on Thursday in favor of the deployment of a U.S. missile tracking radar in the country.
The bill was backed by 49 out of 81 lawmakers.
An agreement to station a U.S. radar in the Czech Republic was signed on July 8 by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
On September 19, Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The pact governs the deployment of U.S. military personnel at the radar station.
However, the agreements require ratification from both houses of the Czech parliament and the president. The lower house of the Czech parliament, which started debates on the issue on October 29, has decided to postpone its vote until U.S. president-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated.
Some political analysts believe that the ratification process could continue until spring next year.
The United States intends to deploy a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Washington has said the shield is needed to protect against attacks from "rogue states" such as Iran. Russia has opposed the U.S. plans, saying they destroy the strategic balance of forces in Europe and threaten Russia's security.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier threatened to deploy Iskander-M short-range missiles in the country's Kaliningrad exclave, which borders Poland, in response to the U.S. missile defense system.
After Barack Obama's U.S. presidential election victory, one of his foreign policy advisers said the president-elect was not committed to the missile shield, and would only continue with the project if its effectiveness was proven.

U.S. Fighter Jets Escorted Russia’s Bombers Near Alaska

Two F-15 fighter jets of the United States escorted for an hour two Tu-95MC bear bombers of Russia that were patrolling the Arctic air, Interfax reported citing Half-Colonel Vladimir Drik, the aide to the RF Air Force commander.
Russia’s two bombers of long-range aviation made the 15-hour flight November 25 through November 26. The U.S. jets escorted them above the Arctic Ocean near the Alaska coast.

The bear bombers were back at the permanent Ukrainka air base in the Far East early November 27. During the flight, the bombers were refueled by Il-78 flying tankers.

All flights of long-range aviation are made above the neutral waters and in strict conformity with the international air regulations. Russia’s jets don’t violate the borders of other states, Drik specified.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Israel to protect the Vatican

HERZLIYA, Israel November 18th, 2008 - Ioimage, the pioneer of intelligent video appliances designed for simplicity, announced today that it has been selected to protect sensitive areas of the Vatican.

Ioimage intelligent video appliances, monitored by an ioiware Command Center, are being used to detect intruders along a 60-kilometer perimeter of sensitive areas, entry and exit gates and the wall surrounding the Vatican. Ioimage was selected from several other video analytics suppliers for this major contract. The first unit was installed in 2005 following a year of intensive testing which demonstrated the system’s superior ease of installation, stability and reliability. Since then, it has proven itself as an effective deterrent against intruders and has optimized the daily tasks of those responsible for surveillance. Additional ioimage units are currently being installed. These units ─ composed of ioimage’s IP camera with built-in self-sustained video analytics, the ioicam wdc100dn and ioibox video encoders using autonomous PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) tracking ─ will be centrally monitored and managed by the “Corpo della Gendarmeria”, the Vatican’s security force from their control room.

Millions of people visit the Vatican’s public areas every year. Its library and museum collections, which belong to the extra territorial part of the Vatican state, are of the highest cultural significance, while buildings such as St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel house some of the world’s most famous art, including works by Bernini, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raphael.

"As one of the world’s most important sites, the Vatican presented unique challenges," said Boaz Harpaz, CEO of Picksec International Group, the system integrator. "The security system had to be extremely reliable 24/7 in very crowded, surroundings and under varying weather conditions. It also had to be capable of automatically adjusting to frequent changes in public access schedules while ensuring a low incidence of false alarms. Last but not least, it needed to be easy to install and maintain. After extensive testing of a number of different video analytics products, we found that ioimage offered the optimal solution for this critical site." "This project represents a milestone for ioimage and underscores our position as the pioneer and leader in the field of intelligent video," said Zeev Farkash, VP Sales and Customer Support. "Our solution was rigorously tested by the Corpo della Gendarmeria's technical personnel before being selected over those of several competitors to monitor this world-famous site." ioimage website

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Obama-Polish connection

By Matthew Day in Warsaw Last Updated: 2:30PM GMT 18 Nov 2008

"Have you heard that Obama may have a Polish connection? His grandfather ate a Polish missionary."

Writing in his blog, Mr Czarnecki, an MEP, quoted the Polish foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, as saying the above.
In an episode that could potentially strain relations between Warsaw and Washington, Radek Sikorski, an Oxford-educated politician who has lived in the US, was reported to have made the jibe by an opposition politician, Ryszard Czarnecki.
A spokesman for the Polish foreign office conceded that Mr Sikorski had made the controversial comment, but denied that the foreign minister had intended to insult Mr Obama, whose father was Kenyan.
"Mr Sikorski did not tell a racist joke," said Piotr Paszkowski, the spokesman. "He was only giving an example of the unpalatable and racist 'jokes' that surround President Elect Obama." Source

Stupid and sick...!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Man escapes from jail by mailing himself in a cardboard box

Monday, 17 November 2008

A man has escaped from jail after climbing into a cardboard box and posting himself out of jail.

The convicted drug dealer was serving a seven-year sentence in German prison when he seized the opportunity to stow away. The 42-year-old was making stationary with other prisoners that was planned to be sent to the shops. As the products were being packed, the Turkish citizen clambered inside a large box and made his escape via the postman.He was carried out of prison in the back of an express courier service, and cut himself out of the lorry once out of the gates. The dash for freedom was only noticed when the driver realised his lorry was damaged and reported it to the police.German authorities are now hunting for the escapee, who is still on the run. (Source)

Rabbit fashion contest in Tokyo: owners dress pet bunnies in dresses and hats

Monday, 17 November 2008

Thousands of Japanese bunny lovers went berserk (?!) this weekend as the annual Rabbit Festa took place in the suburbs of Tokyo.

Most famous for its unique fashion contest, the two-day event celebrates everything rabbit-related. Owners designed tiny outfits for their carrot crunching counterparts, and paraded their bunnies down the catwalk. More than 8,000 people turned up to check out the rabbit-chic dresses, hats and even umbrellas. (TheLondonPaper)

Al-Qaeda declares war on Iran

Mon, 17 Nov 2008 10:08:41 GMT

The abduction of an Iranian attaché in Pakistan can be interpreted as the onset of war between Iran and al-Qaeda, says a senior militant.

"This is payback time for Iran and for its active involvement in destabilizing the Taliban government in Afghanistan and for facilitating the US-led invasion on Afghanistan through pro-Iranian Afghan groups," Italy's Adnkronos International news agency quoted a senior militant as saying on condition of anonymity.

"[The diplomat was kidnapped in retaliation for] the arrest of top al-Qaeda leaders in Iran, for facilitating the US invasion on Iraq through pro-Iran militias and last but not the least for waging the war on the Taliban," claimed the militant.

The news agency did not reveal whether the questioned militant had ties with al-Qaeda.

Unknown gunmen kidnapped Iranian diplomat Heshmatullah Attarzadeh-Niyaki on his way to the Iranian consulate on Thursday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. His driver was killed during the attack.

Pakistani police have so far arrested five suspects in connection with the case, but the whereabouts of Attarsadeh-Niyaki is still unknown.

A senior Pakistani political advisor, Rehman Malik, said Friday that the unidentified gunmen belonged to the notorious Taliban umbrella group, Tehrik-e-Taliban, although no group has yet claimed responsibility.

The anonymous militant claimed that al-Qaeda will carry out 'more attacks and actions… against Iranian interests in coming days'.

The Islamic Republic was a leading opponent of the Taliban when the radical regime ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. The two neighbors came close to war in 1998 after the Taliban killed nine Iranian diplomats in the central Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

While US officials continue to accuse Iran of arming militants in Afghanistan and destabilizing Iraq, an October report by the MIT Center for International Studies confirmed that Tehran made major contributions to the war against the Taliban following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. PressTV

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lenin statue blown up in central Russian city


MOSCOW, November 15 (RIA Novosti) - A Lenin statue was blown up in the early hours of Saturday in the central Russian city of Ryazan, a police source has told RIA Novosti.
No one was injured in the blast, which happened at around 3:00 a.m. (midnight GMT). Ryazan is some 200 kms (125 miles) from Moscow.
The police source said that the explosive device used had contained "the equivalent of some 200 grams of TNT."
"As a result of the blast, the two-meter alabaster monument was completely destroyed. An investigation is being carried out," said the source.
Ryazan's best known monument to the father of the Bolshevik Revolution is in the centre of the city. It is not known if police will take any special steps to protect it in the light of Saturday's events.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Russians permanently present in space from 2009

MISSION CONTROL (Moscow Region), November 14 (RIA Novosti) - The crew of the International Space Station will be expanded in 2009 from three to six, a Russian space agency official said on Friday.

"Next year, for the first time, we will start using a crew of six members," said Alexei Krasnov, director of manned flight programs at Roscosmos.

The Kazakh National Space Agency said on Thursday that a Kazakh cosmonaut would fly to the ISS in October 2009.

Roscosmos earlier said a Russian space tourist hopeful would miss out on a trip to the ISS in the autumn of 2009, as the Kazakh cosmonaut will likely take his place.

It was also added that work to ensure a permanent presence on the ISS will be carried out through the efforts of the Cosmonaut Training Center. (KP)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

USD 10 million reward for information

A copy of the fax message sent to Lebanese (PressTV)

Lebanese Post offices in south Lebanon on Tuesday received faxed messages from an unknown phone number offering $10 million to anyone who provides information on missing Israeli soldiers in Lebanon.
The faxed message that was received at post offices in Nabatiyeh, Bint Jbeil, Hasbaya, and Marjayoun provided numbers carrying British codes and the following message: "If you have any reliable information regarding missing Israeli soldiers we guarantee you a monetary reward equal to $10 million. You can dial these numbers (…) we guarantee full secrecy and your safety."

This is not the first time for Israel to send phone, mail or faxed messages to Lebanese citizens seeking information on dead or missing Israeli soldiers, in particular missing Israeli air force pilot Ron Arad. (Naharnet)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Al-Qaeda: 'the beheading emir' arrested in Baquba

Khales, 12 Nov. (AKI) - The Iraqi army arrested on Wednesday in volatile Diyala Province a militant who is allegedly responsible for many of the brutal beheadings carried out by Al-Qaeda, Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Arabiya reported on Wednesday. Ahmad Hasan al-Azzawi, known as 'the beheading emir' was arrested in a raid outside the provincial capital, Baquba, Al-Arabiya said.

The raid reportedly took place early on Tuesday in the mountains north of the village of Khales, 15 kilometres from Baquba - an Al-Qaeda stronghold.

Sunni tribesmen from the local United States-backed Awakening Council helped carry out the raid on a suspected militant hideout, according to Al-Arabiya.

Also on Tuesday, a 13-year-old female suicide bomber killed five security officials and wounded 11 others, the US military said.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Qaddafi and Yulia Tymoshenko of Ukraine meet in a tent

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, sporting her traditional braid and a designer coat, chatted on Wednesday by the fireside in a tent pitched in central Kyiv by visiting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Reuters reported.

Tymoshenko, shivering in the gloomy autumn weather, sat opposite Gaddafi in the green tent adorned with geometric symbols and images of palm trees and camels. The Libyan leader wore a black cloak and a bright blue cravat.

A few metres away a small bonfire blazed outside a state residence assigned to the Libyan leader during a three-day stay in Ukraine at the end of a tour of ex-Soviet states.

Gaddafi on Tuesday met President Viktor Yushchenko, the prime minister`s former ally turned rival, with talks focusing on cooperation in energy and a double taxation agreements. UNIAN

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Official: Omar Osama Bin Laden is seeking asylum

MADRID, Spain -4 Nov

The Interior Ministry says a son of Osama bin Laden is in Spain and seeking asylum.

A ministry official says Omar Osama bin Laden requested asylum immediately after arriving at Madrid airport Monday on a flight from Cairo, Egypt, that had been going on to Casablanca, Morocco.

The official says Omar Osama bin Laden was traveling on a passport from Saudi Arabia. The official says he cannot say on what grounds bin Laden is requesting asylum.

The 27-year-old remains at the airport while the ministry considers his petition. The ministry has 72 hours to make a decision, and the petitioner has a right of appeal.

The ministry official spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity in line with ministry rules. (Source)

Monday, November 03, 2008

"Most Beautiful Goat" competition in Riyadh

First it was camels. Now Saudi Arabia has held its first "beautiful goat" pageant. Owners of pedigree "Najdi" goats from around the Gulf region converged on Riyadh this week, hoping to win the prize for top male and female goat, following in the footsteps of lucrative camel competitions which have taken off in recent years.

"The Najdi goat is a pure national product like nothing else in the world," said Sheikh Faisal al-Saadoun, a leading Saudi breeder who organised the show. "They are different in terms of beauty, shape and how eye-catching they are."

The goats are named after the central Najd region of Saudi Arabia, where the goats have a distinctive high nose bridge and shaggy hair with a fine, silky quality. They were given a thorough shampoo for the show, according to the official website which displayed the winners.

Most of the goats in the competition were bred from one star goat, Burgan (Volcano), from Saadoun's stable and have been exported around the Gulf in trade worth millions of riyals.

Burgan was not on display at the show as the owners fear he could be afflicted by the "evil eye". But that did not stop offers from the Qatari royal family to buy him, the compere told the gathering.

Saadoun sold dozens of goats from his stable for at least 100,000 riyals ($26,000) each at the show, adding to some 8 million riyals he has made over the years breeding from Burgan.

"This male goat is different. He is historic and he has contributed to developing the Najdi goat," he told Reuters, as poets recited odes in praise of the goats over loud speakers.

The winner in the male category was a son of Burgan with a value of 450,000 riyals.

The gathering at a ranch outside Riyadh gave breeders a chance to trade but Abu Ahmed, a breeder from the United Arab Emirates, was disappointed that Saadoun did not take his offer of 350,000 riyals for a one son of Burgan.

"I wanted to develop the breed from the point it has got to," he said.

However, camels remain the pride of the Bedouins.

Delicate females or strapping males can sell for more than a million riyals and camel-racing is a popular throughout the Gulf.

Last November a leading authority of Saudi Arabia's hardline school of Islam comdemned camel beauty contests as evil, saying those involved should seek repentance in God. (Welt)

Oxford: the Beast strikes again!

Benjamin West: Death on a Pale Horse 1783/1803

Christmas banned in Oxford by council-owned charity

Oxford city council confirmed the events in the city would be renamed 'Winter Light Festival' to make them more inclusive, provoking outrage among shoppers in the city who called for a return to tradition.
The idea has come from the charity Oxford Inspires, the cultural development agency for the county, which runs the celebrations.
Sabir Hussain Mirza, chairman of the Muslim Council of Oxford, said: "I am really upset about this. Christians, Muslims and other religions all look forward to Christmas."
Fr Brian Van-Dungey, a priest in Garsington, Oxon, said: "I am a Christian and pleased to see my Muslim brothers joining in the condemnation of this stupid and dangerous idea; this sort of thinking creates racial problems and should be stopped in its tracks."
Rabbi Eli Bracknell, who teaches at the Jewish Educational Centre in the city, said: "It is important to maintain a traditional British Christmas. Anything that waters down traditional culture and Christianity in the UK is not positive for the British identity."
Oxford Inspires spokesman Tei Williams said: "In Oxfordshire we have Winter Light which is a whole festival spanning two months. Within that festival will be Christmas Carol services."
Liz Gresham of Oxford Inspires added: "We changed the name to be more inclusive."
Ed Turner, deputy leader of the council, said the renaming of the festival was "unfortunate and sends out a problematic message."
He added: "It is the charity's festival. Among councillors there is certainly no desire to downgrade the importance or the prominence given to Christmas.
"There is going to be a Christmas tree and even if the lights are called something else to me they will be Christmas lights." (Source)

Surely Oxford Inspires (who?) must be one of Richard Dawkins' favorite charities!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Austrian Parliament elects right wing President

The new Austrian Parliament today elected FPÖ deputy Martin Graf, a member of a student combat fraternity, as third president of parliament in its first meeting since the general election.

The Greens and Freedom Party (FPÖ) challenged each other in heated debate prior to the vote about Graf’s membership in student fraternity "Olympia," considered to be extremely- right-wing by the Archive of the Austrian Resistance (DÖW).

The Greens nominated former party leader Alexander Van der Bellen as a rival candidate for the post but, in the end, Graf was elected by a majority. Graf, a lawyer and current head of Vienna lower-league football club FC Hellas Kagran, received 109 of the 156 votes, while only 27 MPs voted for Van der Bellen, who stepped down as Greens leader after the party’s disappointing results in the 28 September general election. Twenty members of parliament voted for other candidates.

The Greens claim Graf’s election did not come about as the result of an obligatorily secret vote since 34 ballots had Graf’s name in the lower left-hand corner – the FPÖ has 34 seats in parliament after its landslide gains in the general election.

ÖVP Second President of Parliament Michael Spindelegger dismissed the Greens’ accusation, explaining that it was irrelevant where a candidate’s name appeared on a ballot. What mattered was that the ballot did not have any additional remarks, Spindelegger said.

The Greens expressed their disagreement with the procedure by holding up a poster saying: "Ihr habt aus der Geschichte nichts gelernt" (You have learned nothing from history), while a handful of teenagers was removed from the public-viewing area after loudly demonstrating against Graf’s election.

Earlier in the day, the SPÖ’s Barbara Prammer was confirmed in her position as parliament’s first president. Prammer, head of the federal SPÖ women’s organisation, received 140 of 182 votes cast by parliament’s 183 members.

Michael Spindelegger of the conservative ÖVP was re-elected second president of parliament, receiving 142 of 170 votes. (Austrian Times)