Monthly Archives: March 2011

CIA operating in Libya, in consultation with opposition

According to the Reuters report, Obama signed the covert aid order, or “finding,” within the past few weeks. Such findings are required for the CIA to conduct secret operations, the report said.

CNN | Mar 30, 2011

Benghazi, Libya (CNN) — CIA operatives are providing intelligence from Libya, where opposition forces are on the run and the defiant government suffered the embarrassing defection of its foreign minister Wednesday.

The NATO-led coalition, which is enforcing a no-fly zone and protecting civilians from the intense fighting, got no help from the weather in its ongoing efforts to protect the fragile opposition movement.


Libya: Barack Obama ‘signed secret order allowing covert operations’

“The weather conditions did not allow close combat support by aircraft in the last couple of days,” said Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Moammar Gadhafi’s government, for its part, kept up the war of words.

State-run Libyan TV late Wednesday quoted a military source as saying a “civilian location was shelled tonight in the city of Tripoli by the colonizing crusader aggression.”

Amid debate on whether the allies will arm the retreating and undertrained rebels, a U.S. intelligence source told CNN the CIA is in the country to increase the “military and political understanding” of the situation.

“Yes, we are gathering intel firsthand and we are in contact with some opposition entities,” said the source.

The White House refused to comment on a Reuters report that President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel troops.

“I will reiterate what the president said yesterday — no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney in a statement. “We’re not ruling it out or ruling it in. We’re assessing and reviewing options for all types of assistance that we could provide to the Libyan people, and have consulted directly with the opposition and our international partners about these matters.”

According to the Reuters report, Obama signed the covert aid order, or “finding,” within the past few weeks. Such findings are required for the CIA to conduct secret operations, the report said.

A U.S. official not authorized to speak publicly could not confirm the finding, but noted when there are crises like this, “you look at all instruments of national power.”

In early March, a U.S. official told CNN “the intelligence community is aggressively pursuing information on the ground” in Libya.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons that he has not ruled out arming the Libyan opposition, but added that Britain has not made the decision to do so.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton provided classified briefings to House and Senate members who asked whether the United States intended to arm the rebels, participants told CNN.

Clinton and Gates made clear that no decision had been made, and Congress members from both parties said they believed it would be a bad idea, according to participants.

Regarding the committing of U.S. forces to the U.N.-backed operation, the White House has said Obama acted within his authority under the War Powers Act. It notes that the president and other officials consulted congressional leaders several times in the run-up to the March 19 deployment of U.S. forces to the U.N.-authorized Libya mission.

Clinton told members of Congress the administration acted within the requirements of the War Powers Act and needed no authorization for further decisions on the mission, lawmakers said.

The opposition got a boost Wednesday with news that Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa willingly traveled to London and told the government there that he has resigned, the United Kingdom Foreign Office said.

CNN’s Ben Wedeman, who has been reporting from Libya for several weeks, said that Koussa’s departure is a significant blow, but not a critical loss to the regime.

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EU to ban cars from cities by 2050

Top of the EU’s list to cut climate change emissions is a target of ‘zero’ for the number of petrol and diesel-driven cars and lorries in the EU’s future cities Photo: ALAMY

Cars will be banned from London and all other cities across Europe under a draconian EU masterplan to cut CO2 emissions by 60 per cent over the next 40 years.

Telegraph | Mar 28, 2011

By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels

The European Commission on Monday unveiled a “single European transport area” aimed at enforcing “a profound shift in transport patterns for passengers” by 2050.

The plan also envisages an end to cheap holiday flights from Britain to southern Europe with a target that over 50 per cent of all journeys above 186 miles should be by rail.

Top of the EU’s list to cut climate change emissions is a target of “zero” for the number of petrol and diesel-driven cars and lorries in the EU’s future cities.

Siim Kallas, the EU transport commission, insisted that Brussels directives and new taxation of fuel would be used to force people out of their cars and onto “alternative” means of transport.

“That means no more conventionally fuelled cars in our city centres,” he said. “Action will follow, legislation, real action to change behaviour.”

The Association of British Drivers rejected the proposal to ban cars as economically disastrous and as a “crazy” restriction on mobility.

“I suggest that he goes and finds himself a space in the local mental asylum,” said Hugh Bladon, a spokesman for the BDA.

“If he wants to bring everywhere to a grinding halt and to plunge us into a new dark age, he is on the right track. We have to keep things moving. The man is off his rocker.”

Mr Kallas has denied that the EU plan to cut car use by half over the next 20 years, before a total ban in 2050, will limit personal mobility or reduce Europe’s economic competitiveness.

“Curbing mobility is not an option, neither is business as usual. We can break the transport system’s dependence on oil without sacrificing its efficiency and compromising mobility. It can be win-win,” he claimed.

Christopher Monckton, Ukip’s transport spokesman said: “The EU must be living in an alternate reality, where they can spend trillions and ban people from their cars.

“This sort of greenwashing grandstanding adds nothing and merely highlights their grandiose ambitions.”

George Clooney says it is ‘odd’ he is linked to Silvio Berlusconi investigation

George Clooney, who owns a house on Lake Como in Italy, may give evidence at the trial of Silvio Berlusconi.

George Clooney has responded to suggestions that he could be called as a witness in the trial of Silvio Berlusconi, saying it is “odd” because he only met the Italian prime minister once.

Telegraph | Mar 30, 2011

By Nick Allen, Los Angeles

The Hollywood star is on a list of 78 people Mr Berlusconi’s legal team want to call as witnesses when he goes on trial next week on charges of having sex with an under age prostitute.

Mr Berlusconi is accused of paying teenage erotic dancer Karima El Mahroug, nicknamed “Ruby the Heart Stealer”, for sex when she was 17, after a party.

He denies the allegation.

The dancer told investigators that Mr Clooney and his girlfriend, Elisabetta Canalis, were at one of Mr Berlusconi’s parties that she attended. Both she and the 74-year-old billionaire politician have insisted the parties were entirely innocent.

Mr Clooney issued a statement expressing puzzlement that he might be called as a witness.

“It seems odd since I’ve only met Berlusconi once and that was in an attempt to get aid into Darfur,” he said.

The actor, who has a home on the shores of Lake Como north of Milan, is a long-time campaigner for a resolution to conflict in Darfur.

According to a report last month in leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, prosecutors have already talked with Miss Canalis, and she denied that she and Mr Clooney attended any of Mr Berlusconi’s parties.

Mr Berlusconi’s defence team has also listed Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, and other Cabinet officials amid the 78 people named as witnesses, along with showgirls and TV personalities said to have frequented his parties.

In the trial, which begins on April 6, prosecutors accuse Mr Berlusconi of having sex with a “significant number” of prostitutes. They claim the women took part in “bunga bunga” orgies involving “masks, stripteases and erotic dances” at Mr Berlusconi’s villa.

Mr Berlusconi denies ever paying for sex and says his parties were normal, “convivial” dinners.

Surge in Satanism sparks rise in demand for exorcists, says Catholic Church

Organisers of a conference in Rome say the rise of Satanism has been dangerously underestimated in recent years

A surge in Satanism fuelled by the internet has led to a sharp rise in the demand for exorcists, the Roman Catholic Church has warned.

Telegraph | Mar 30, 2011

By Nick Squires, in Rome

The web has made it easier than ever before to access information on Devil-worshipping and the occult, experts said.

Exorcism is the subject of a six-day conference being held this week at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome, which is under the Vatican’s authority.

“The internet makes it much easier than in the past to find information about Satanism,” said Carlo Climati, a member of the university who specialises in the dangers posed to young people by Satanism.

“In just a few minutes you can contact Satanist groups and research occultism. The conference is not about how to become an exorcist. It’s to share information about exorcism, Satanism and sects. It’s to give help to families and priests. There is a particular risk for young people who are in difficulties or who are emotionally fragile,” said Mr Climati.

The object of seminars was to scrutinise the phenomenon of Satanism with “seriousness and scientific rigour”, avoiding a “superficial or sensational approach”, he said.

The conference in Rome has brought together more than 60 Catholic clergy as well as doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, teachers and youth workers to discuss how to combat the dangers of Devil-worship.

Organisers say the rise of Satanism has been dangerously underestimated in recent years.

“There’s been a revival,” said Gabriele Nanni, a former exorcist and another speaker at the course.

In theory, any priest can perform an exorcism – a rite involving prayers to drive the Devil out of the person said to be possessed.

But Vatican officials said three years ago that parish priests should call in professional exorcists if they suspect one of their parishioners needs purging of evil.

An exorcist should be called when “the moral certainty has been reached that the person is possessed”, said Father Nanni, a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

That could be indicated by radical and disturbing changes in the person’s behaviour and voice, or an ability to garble in foreign languages or nonsensical gibberish.

While the number of genuine cases of possession by the Devil remained relatively small, “we must be on guard because occult and Satanist practices are spreading a great deal, in part with the help of the internet and new technologies that make it easier to access these rituals,” he said.

The Vatican’s chief exorcist claimed last year that the Devil lurked in the Vatican, the very heart of the Catholic Church.

Father Gabriele Amorth said people who are possessed by Satan vomit shards of glass and pieces of iron, scream, dribble and slobber, utter blasphemies and have to be physically restrained.

He claimed that the sex abuse scandals which have engulfed the Church in the US, Ireland, Germany and other countries, were proof that the anti-Christ was waging a war against the Holy See. He said Pope Benedict XVI believed “wholeheartedly” in the practice of exorcism.

Queen sends critics a message making her scandal-ridden son a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order

The Duke of York was given the honour to mark his 51st birthday

MPs’ reaction to damaging disclosures about the Duke of York was to call for his sacking as trade envoy. The Queen’s response has been to appoint him to an order of chivalry.

Queen’s award for Duke of York sends message to critics

Telegraph | Mar 30, 2011

In a very public show of confidence in her son, the Queen made him a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order in an investiture held at Windsor Castle.

The order is entirely within the Queen’s gift, without any input from ministers, and is given in recognition of “services to the Sovereign”.

While some may question its timing, the award was a welcome fillip for the Duke, following weeks of damaging headlines about his friendships with controversial business contacts including Jeffrey Epstein, an American billionaire who was convicted of child sex offences, and Tarek Kaituni, a Libyan arms smuggler.

A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said the Queen had decided to bestow the honour on the Duke simply because “she decided this was the right time to do it”.


Why the Queen will ALWAYS back Andrew

He was informed of his appointment as a GCVO on Feb 19, his 51st birthday, but it was not announced publicly until Feb 21, the day after a Sunday newspaper published pictures of him in conversation with Epstein during a visit to his home in New York. Since then, it has emerged that Epstein paid a £15,000 debt owed by the Duke’s ex–wife, the Duchess of York, and that another business contact, David Rowland, gave £40,000 to a former aide of the Duchess to help pay another debt. The Duke denied soliciting either payment.

He has also faced heavy criticism over his links to members of the Gaddafi family and his friendships with controversial businessmen from Asia and eastern Europe.

Earlier this month, the Labour MP Chris Bryant described the Duke as a “national embarrassment”. He also broke parliamentary convention, which dictates that MPs should not criticise members of the Royal family during parliamentary debates, by calling on David Cameron to “dispense with” the Duke’s services as the UK’s Special Representative forTrade and Investment.

A Knight Grand Cross is the highest of six grades of the Royal Victorian Order, which was founded in 1896 by Queen Victoria.

Holders of the GCVO are typically members of the Royal family, members of foreign royal families, servants in the Royal Household and former ambassadors.

The Duke’s brother, the Earl of Wessex, was appointed to the order on March 10 – his 47th birthday. The Countess of Wessex became a Dame Grand Cross, the female equivalent, last year.

Other holders of the order include the Princess Royal, King Albert II of Belgium and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

The emblem of the order is a white cross on a silver star, with the motto “Victoria”.

Order of service The sovereign’s personal gift

The Royal Victorian Order was founded in 1896 by Queen Victoria as a way of recognising people who had served her or the monarchy in a personal way.

Unlike the honours system, which is administered by the Government, the order is entirely in the personal gift of the sovereign.

Traditionally, members of the order met every four years in the Chapel of the Savoy, off the Strand in central London, which is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster. However, the chapel is now too small to accommodate all the members and they now meet in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle instead.

There is no limit on the number of people who can be appointed to the order, and there are currently more than 50 Knights and Dames Grand Cross, the highest of the six ranks.

‘Death Squad’: Full horror emerges of how rogue U.S. brigade murdered and mutilated innocent Afghan civilians – and kept their body parts as trophies

Horror: A released video shows an incident in which two Afghans on a motorcycle are gunned down

  • Rolling Stone reveals how U.S. troops murdered Afghan civilians
  • Soldiers cut off 15-year-old boy’s finger and kept it as trophy
  • Video captures U.S. troops cheering as airstrike kills two Afghan civilians
  • New pictures show dead Afghan man’s head on a stick
  • Soldier stabbed the body of a dead Afghan civilian
  • Military tried to pull pictures out of circulation to avoid another Abu Ghraib

Daily Mail | Mar 29, 2011

By Daniel Bates and Mark Duell

The Pentagon tonight apologised after shocking new details emerged of how American soldiers formed a ‘death squad’ to randomly murder Afghan civilians and mutilate their corpses.

An investigation by Rolling Stone magazine details how senior officers failed to stop troops killing Afghans and keeping their body parts as trophies.

In one horrific episode, the magazine claims troops threw a grenade at an innocent Afghan boy before chopped off his finger and later using it as ‘gambling chip’ in a game of cards.

The disturbing detail included in the dossier accuses American troops of a new level of depravity and is likely to be a public relations disaster for the military.

The U.S. Army says the photos of American soldiers posing with dead Afghans are ‘in striking contrast’ to its standards and values – apologising for any distress caused by the images.

The investigation by Rolling Stone also revealed how:

* Troops shot dead civilians and tried to cover their tracks;
* U.S. soldiers hacked off part of a dead man’s skull;
* Soldiers cheered as they filmed a U.S. airstrike blowing up two Afghan civilians;
* A video showed two Afghans on a motorcycle being gunned down.

The magazine claims the men hacked off bits of skull from their victims and kept them as trophies of their kills.

The soldiers are also accused of opening fire on civilians for no reason and covering up their attacks by planting guns and magazine on their victims.

The magazine claims that amongst the accused ‘killing innocent Afghan civilians became less a reason for concern than a cause for celebration’.

Last week Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock, 23, admitted his part in the twisted scheme and was jailed for 24 years.

The remaining four soldiers who are due to be court-martialled are Sergeant Calvin Gibbs – who is accused of being the ringleader – Specialist Adam C. Winfield, Specialist Michael S. Wagnon II and Private first class Andrew H. Holmes.

They were all part of the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, of the 2nd Infantry Division, who carried out at least four executions in Kandahar province between January and May last year.

Full Story

Peking University to screen students for ‘radical thoughts’

Peking University in Beijing Photo: ALAMY

China’s most prestigious seat of learning, Peking University in Beijing, is planning to screen students for ‘radical thoughts’ in a further sign that China’s authorities are becoming increasingly fearful of dissent.

Telegraph | Mar 28, 2011

By Peter Foster, Beijing

Students at the university – China’s equivalent of Oxford or Cambridge – reacted furiously to the news, saying the policy evoked memories of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) when students and professors were persecuted for being politically unreliable.

University authorities said the screening for “radical thoughts”, which will begin in May, was just one element in a ten-point checklist to help students suffering from a range of problems including “psychological fragility, poverty and internet addiction”.

Cha Jing, deputy head of the university’s student affairs office, told Beijing Evening News that the university was anxious to meet “radical” students who exaggerated minor flaws on campus.

“Some would even criticise the school after canteen food prices rose 20 cents,” he explained.

However students and academics heaped scorn the plans, accusing the authorities of petty-mindedness and trying to curb the supposedly freethinking ethos on which the university was founded in 1898 as part of China’s attempt to modernise.

Yu Jianrong, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and one of China’s leading social commentators, was openly scathing of the campaign.

“I don’t know how Peking University defines ‘radical minded’,” he wrote on his microblog, adding with heavy sarcasm, “May I request that the university [Communist] Party committee publicise the standards so that all colleges around the nation can learn from it.”

Zhang Ming, a politics professor at Beijing’s Renmin University, was even more direct.

“It is going too far for a respected university to openly control radical minds,” he told the South China Morning Post.

“Aren’t we going back to the days of the Cultural Revolution? This is hateful and terrible.”

Peking University has always been a centre of liberal thought in China, spawning the anti-imperialist May 4th movement of 1919 and the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 that still haunts the Chinese leadership.

Following a wave of grass-roots revolutions in the Middle East, China’s leaders have shown increasing signs of nervousness, suppressing any threat of a “Jasmine-style” revolution by pressuring lawyers, journalists and academic institutions to “maintain stability”.

In a speech to senior Party leaders last month, China’s president, Hu Jintao, called for a stepping up of “innovative social governance methods”, exhorting officials to seek to try and control online debates and shape “healthy opinions” among the public.

However of more than 2,000 online users who expressed their opinions on one of China’s popular web portals about “radical thoughts” screening at Peking University, the vast majority were indignant.

“How can Peking University, such a prestigious university, be so shameless?”, asked one, while another warned that such schemes would lead to the crushing of the innovation and freethinking that gave Peking University its reputation.

“This will kill freedom of thinking. It will be the darkest moment in Beida [Peking University] history and totally undermine the concept of education.”