Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bin Laden's Wife (No.3) Speaks of Life on the Run

Family planning ... Osama Bin Laden
OSAMA Bin Laden's youngest wife has revealed they had FOUR children together while he was on the run as the world's most wanted terrorist.  Two of them were even born in a state hospital in Pakistan — where the al-Qaeda chief fled just months after 9/11.  Amal Abdulfattah, 29, said the family moved around the country several times before settling in Abbottabad, where Bin Laden was shot dead in a raid by US Navy Seals in May last year. Yemen-born Amal, who was shot in the leg during the raid, said she offered herself to Bin Laden in 2000 because she wanted to be married to a "holy warrior".  She lived with his two other wives at the al-Qaeda HQ in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and there gave birth to first child Saifa.

After the 2001 attacks on the US, Bin Laden hid out in the remote Tora Bora region of Afghanistan while Amal fled to Pakistan. She told investigators: "We all scattered." Bin Laden crossed into Pakistan in 2002, where he was reunited with his bride in Peshawar. Amal revealed they also hid out in Swat Valley near the Afghan border in accommodation arranged by Osama's elder son Saad. The pair moved on to Haripur, where she gave birth in the local hospital to daughter Aasia in 2003 and son Ibrahim a year later. In 2005 they switched to nearby Abbottabad, in a high-walled compound.
Another girl Zainab was born in 2006 and a boy Hussain in 2008. Bin Laden's first two wives rejoined him — and, like Amal, were held after he died, aged 54.
Amal refused to say if the family had been in contact with any Pakistani officials while on the run. They want to deport her to Yemen for breaching a three-month visa when she initially arrived in Pakistan 12 years ago.

On the run ... Bin Laden and wife criss-crossed Pakistan

On the run ... Bin Laden and wife criss-crossed Pakistan

Bin Laden's two other widows Khairia Hussain Sabir and Siham Sharif and their daughters, who all refuse to speak to investigators, face immigration charges next week.

The grand patriarch of the Bin Laden family, a billionaire industrialist and father of Osama, appears in a 1964 painting.
Mohammed bin Laden
The grand patriarch of the bin Laden family, a billionaire industrialist and father of Osama, appears in a 1964 painting.

The author appears at age 6, the year the family moved to Medina and Omar started school. Omar is the son most opposed to his father's violence. He has married a British woman and wants to begin a peace movement.
Omar bin Laden
The author appears at age 6, the year the family moved to Medina and Omar started school. Omar is the son most opposed to his father's violence. He has married a British woman and wants to begin a peace movement.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up its Marxist government, Osama bin Laden joined the Islamist resistance movement.
Bin Laden in Afghanistan, 1984
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up its Marxist government, Osama bin Laden joined the Islamist resistance movement.

As the eldest son of Osama bin Laden and his first wife Najwa, Abdullah holds the most honored position of all his siblings. He is seen here working on his father's backhoe in Sudan in 1993. He runs a small business and shuns publicity.
Abdullah bin Laden
As the eldest son of Osama bin Laden and his first wife Najwa, Abdullah holds the most honored position of all his siblings. He is seen here working on his father's backhoe in Sudan in 1993. He runs a small business and shuns publicity.

The third child of Osama and Najwa, Sa'ad was rumored to be jailed in Iran, although no one, including his mother, knows of his whereabouts.
Sa'ad, Osman and Mohammed bin Laden
The third child of Osama and Najwa, Sa'ad was rumored to be jailed in Iran, although no one, including his mother, knows his whereabouts. Osman married the daughter of a high-ranking member of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, a terrorist group dedicated to the overthrow of the Egyptian state. Mohammed is said to have the necessary traits — and parental approval — to be Osama's successor.

Osama arranged for his first daughter, Fatima, to be married to a Saudi fighter at the age of 12.
Fatima, Sa'ad, Omar, Mohammed, Osman and Abdul Rahman
Osama arranged for his first daughter, Fatima, to be married to a Saudi fighter at age 12. Her husband died in the American attacks on Afghanistan two years later. Abdul Rahman found it difficult to regain Saudi nationality after it was revoked and now lives quietly in Syria.

Omar appears with his beloved horse in Saudi Arabia.
Omar in 2007
Omar appears with his horse in Saudi Arabia.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Solar Tornado

A huge tornado five times the size of Earth erupted on the sun's surface, with superheated gases whirling at more than 100,000 miles per hour. The tornado is up to two MILLION degrees centigrade. Dr. Huw Morgan, co-discover of the solar tornado, adds, ‘This unique and spectacular tornado must play a role in triggering global solar storms.’
‘This is perhaps the first time that such a huge solar tornado is filmed by an imager,’ says Dr. Xing Li, of Aberystwyth University.

Superheated gases as hot as 50,000 to 2,000,000 Kelvin were sucked from the root of a dense structure called a prominence, and spiral up into the high atmosphere and travel about 200,000 kilometers for at least three hours. The hot gases in the tornadoes have speeds as high as 300,000 km per hour. Gas speeds of terrestrial tornadoes can reach 150 km per hour.

The tornadoes often occur at the root of huge coronal mass ejections. When heading toward the Earth, these coronal mass ejections can cause significant damage to the Earth’s space environment, satellites, even knock out the electricity grid. The solar tornadoes drag winding magnetic field and electric currents into the high atmosphere. It is possible that the magnetic field and currents play a key role in driving the coronal mass ejections.

SDO was launched in February 2010. The satellite is orbiting the Earth in a circular, geosynchronous orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers. It monitors constantly solar variations so scientists can understand the cause of the change and eventually have a capability to predict the space weather.

Climate Panel Forecasts Weather Disasters

WASHINGTON - Global warming is leading to such severe storms, droughts and heat waves that countries should prepare for an unprecedented onslaught of deadly and costly weather disasters, an international panel of climate scientists says in a report issued Wednesday. The greatest danger from extreme weather is in highly populated, poor regions of the world, the report warns, but no corner of the globe — from Mumbai to Miami — is immune. The document by a Nobel Prize-winning panel of climate scientists forecasts stronger tropical cyclones and more frequent heat waves, deluges and droughts.

The 594-page report blames the scale of recent and future disasters on a combination of man-made climate change, population shifts and poverty. In the past, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, founded in 1988 by the United Nations, has focused on the slow inexorable rise of temperatures and oceans as part of global warming. This report by the panel is the first to look at the less common but far more noticeable extreme weather changes, which recently have been costing on average about $80 billion a year in damage.

"We mostly experience weather and climate through the extreme," said Stanford University climate scientist Chris Field, who is one of the report's top editors. "That's where we have the losses. That's where we have the insurance payments. That's where things have the potential to fall apart.
"There are lots of places that are already marginal for one reason or another," Field said. But it's not just poor areas: "There is disaster risk almost everywhere."

The scientists say that some places, particularly parts of Mumbai in India, could become uninhabitable from floods, storms and rising seas. In 2005, over 24 hours nearly 900 millimetres of rain fell on the city, killing more than 1,000 people and causing massive damage. Roughly 2.7 million people live in areas at risk of flooding. Other cities at lesser risk include Miami, Shanghai, Bangkok, China's Guangzhou, Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, Myanmar's Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) and India's Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta). The people of small island nations, such as the Maldives, may also need to abandon their homes because of rising seas and fierce storms.
"The decision about whether or not to move is achingly difficult and I think it's one that the world community will have to face with increasing frequency in the future," Field said in a telephone news conference Wednesday.

This report — the summary of which was issued in November — is unique because it emphasizes managing risks and how taking precautions can work, Field said. In fact, the panel's report uses the word "risk" 4,387 times. Field pointed to storm-and-flood-prone Bangladesh, an impoverished country that has learned from its past disasters. In 1970, a Category 3 tropical cyclone named Bhola killed more than 300,000 people. In 2007, a stronger cyclone killed only 4,200 people. Despite the loss of life, the country is considered a success story because it was better prepared and invested in warning and disaster prevention, Field said. A country that was not as prepared, Myanmar, was hit with a similar sized storm in 2008, which killed 138,000 people.

The study says forecasts that some tropical cyclones — which includes hurricanes in the United States — will be stronger because of global warming, but the number of storms should not increase and may drop slightly. Some other specific changes in severe weather that the scientists said they had the most confidence in predicting include more heat waves and record hot temperatures worldwide, increased downpours in Alaska, Canada, northern and central Europe, East Africa and north Asia. IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri told The Associated Press that while all countries are getting hurt by increased climate extremes, the overwhelming majority of deaths are happening in poorer less developed places. That, combined with the fact that richer countries are generating more greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels, makes the issue of weather extremes one of fairness.
However, extremes aren't always deadly. Sometimes, they are just strange.

Study co-author David Easterling of the National Climatic Data Center says this month's heat wave, while not deadly, fits the pattern of worsening extremes. The U.S. has set nearly 6,800 high temperature records in March. Last year, the United States set a record for billion-dollar weather disasters, though many were tornadoes, which can't be linked to global warming.

Verbatim from Yahoo

Thursday, March 29, 2012

African women in field 
Major changes are needed in agriculture and food consumption around the world if future generations are to be adequately fed, a major report warns. Farming must intensify sustainably, cut waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farms.

The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change spent more than a year assessing evidence from scientists and policymakers.Its final report was released at the Planet Under Pressure conference. The commission was chaired by Prof Sir John Beddington, the UK government's chief scientific adviser. "If you're going to generate enough food both to address the poverty of a billion people not getting enough food, with another billion [in the global population] in 13 years' time, you've got to massively increase agriculture," Sir John said.

"You can't do it using the same agricultural techniques we've used before, because that would seriously increase greenhouse gas emissions for the whole world, with climate change knock-ons."
Farming is probably responsible for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, although the figure is hard to pin down as a large proportion comes from land clearance, for which emissions are notoriously difficult to measure.

Although there are regional variations, climate change is forecast to reduce crop yields overall - dramatically so in the case of South Asia, where studies suggest the wheat yield could halve in 50 years. "We need to develop agriculture that is 'climate smart' - generating more output without the accompanying greenhouse gas emissions, either via the basic techniques of farming or from ploughing up grassland or cutting down rainforest," said Sir John.

The techniques needed in different regions vary according to what is appropriate, said Dr Christine Negra, who co-ordinated the commission's work. "In places where using organic methods, for example, is appropriate or economically advantageous and produces good socio-economic and ecological outcomes, that's a great approach," she said. "In places where, using GMOs, you can address food security challenges and socio-economic issues, those are the right approaches to use where they've been proven safe."

The commission's recommendations go a long way beyond farming methods, however. It says the economic and policy framework around food production and consumption need to change to encourage sustainability, to raise output while minimising environmental impacts. Farmers need more investment and better information; governments need to put sustainable farming at the heart of national policies.

Prof Tekalign Mamo, who advises the Agriculture Ministry in Ethiopia, said models already existed for many of the transformations needed. One, highlighted in the report, is Ethiopia's Productive Safety Net Programme, inaugurated in 2003 with the involvement of the government and international partners.
"One [aspect of it] is household asset building, so people don't deplete their resources in times of chronic food shortage," Prof Mamo said.
"Another is working on community assets such as building small-scale irrigation or watershed development; the communities own such activities and also allocate free labour, and the government provides incentives like food or cash for those participating.
"It has lifted about 1.3 million of the population from poverty and into food security, and at the same time they also conserved and rehabilitated the environment."

India's guarantee of employment in rural areas, Vietnam's progress with no-till rice farming (which reduces greenhouse gas emissions from soil), and moves to give women secure land ownership in five southern African countries are also highlighted in the report. But it also recommends changes in developed nations - for example, around food waste. "The less we waste food, the less food we have to produce, the less greenhouse gases are emitted," noted Dr Negra.

The Planet Under Pressure conference is a four-day gathering of academics, campaigners and business people in London designed to inform policymaking in the run-up to the Rio+20 summit in Brazil in June.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Syria Authorities Target Children, Says UN Rights Chief



Syrian authorities are deliberately and systematically targeting children, the United Nations' human rights chief, Navi Pillay, has said. She said she was deeply concerned about the fate of hundreds of children being held in detention. Ms Pillay said President Bashar al-Assad could end the detentions and stop the killing of civilians immediately, simply by issuing an order.

Syria has accepted a peace plan, amid scepticism about its intentions. The peace plan was put forward by UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. Navi Pillay told the BBC that the Syrian leader would face justice for the abuses carried out by his security forces.

Asked if President Assad bore command responsibility for the abuses, she said: "That is the legal situation. Factually there is enough evidence pointing to the fact that many of these acts are committed by the security forces [and] must have received the approval or the complicity at the highest level.
"Because President Assad could simply issue an order to stop the killings and the killings would stop." Ms Pillay said she believed that the UN Security Council had enough reliable information to warrant referring Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"I feel that investigation and prosecution is a crucial element to deter and call a stop to these violations," she said. She listed what she called "horrendous" treatment of children during the unrest.
"They've gone for the children - for whatever purposes - in large numbers. Hundreds detained and tortured... it's just horrendous. Children shot in the knees, held together with adults in really inhumane conditions, denied medical treatment for their injuries, either held as hostages or as sources of information."

Ms Pillay said anyone who committed such violations would be held to account. "There is no statute of limitations so people like [Mr Assad] can go on for a very long time but one day they will have to face justice." The UN says more than 9,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began a year ago. Late on Tuesday, several Syrian dissident groups meeting in Istanbul agreed to recognize the Syrian National Council as the official representative of the Syrian people.

(Navi Pillay is one of the most experienced international war-crimes experts.
Before taking up her UN role as high commissioner for human rights, she served as a judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the tribunal investigating the Rwandan genocide. As a lawyer of more than 45 years experience Mrs Pillay has learned to choose her words carefully. That is why her forthright comments on President Bashar al-Assad will arouse interest.)

None of the delegates believed President Assad was sincere, and the Syrian opposition would never accept any deal allowing him to remain in power.  Journalists said their disunity was openly on display, with constant disputes and walkouts. Earlier, a spokesman for Kofi Annan said he considered the Syrian acceptance of the six-point peace plan an "important initial step" but that implementation was key. Mr Annan - currently in Beijing for talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao - has written to President Assad urging him to put his commitments into immediate effect.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said President Assad would be judged by events.
"Given Assad's history of over-promising and under-delivering, that commitment must now be matched by immediate actions," she said.  "If he is ready to bring this dark chapter in Syria's history to a close he can prove it by immediately ordering regime forces to stop firing and begin withdrawing from populated areas," she added.

The six-point plan calls for Mr Assad's government to pull troops and heavy weapons out of population centres, and for all parties to allow a daily two-hour pause in the fighting in order for humanitarian aid to reach affected areas. The plan also requests that the authorities release those detained in the uprising. However, it does not impose any deadline for Mr Assad, or call for him to leave power.

The BBC's Barbara Plett at the UN says that, despite the scepticism, this is a new situation because it is the first strategy for ending the conflict that has the backing of the entire Security Council, including Syria's allies Russia and China.  She says it seems it was this international unity which forced President Assad to accept the plan.  Mr Annan has written to Mr Assad urging him to put his commitments into immediate effect.

Annan's six-point peace plan
1. Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people
2. UN-supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians
3. All parties to ensure provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and implement a daily two-hour humanitarian pause
4. Authorities to intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons
5. Authorities to ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists
6. Authorities to respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully

Formation of the Mariana Trench

The Mariana Trench has just been delved and explored by james Cameron, director and producer of epic films, who pilotted a manned submersible. It's the first of it's kind to go that deep, in fact the deepest point on the earth. Under the auspices of National Geographic a movie of Cameron's filming and observations will be made.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jet Blue Captain has Breakdown ...Runs Amok During Flight

Passenger's Personal Video of Events Aboard JetBlue Flight

2012 Apocalypse: Will Village of Bugarach Be Spared?

Take a glimpse of the mountainous village of Bugarach and the peak of Bugarach

The followers of the New Age faith believe that mountainous village of Bugarach would be spared in the 2012 apocalypse. Bugarach is located at the foot of Pic de Bugarach, a 1,230-meter (4,040 ft) mountain peak and the highest summit in the Corbières mountains. The peak is also called the "upside down mountain" since its top layers are older than the lower layers due to uplift of the Pyrenees.

Surrounded in legend for centuries, Bugarach has become a focal point for many Apocalypse believers as rumours have circulated that its mountain contains doors into other worlds, or that extraterrestrials will return here on Judgment day to take refuge at their base.

Residents of the tiny southern French hamlet, population 194, are witness to a rising influx of Doomsday believers convinced it is the only place that will survive judgment day, December 21, 2012.
This has set in motion French government agency Miviludes into top gear monitoring sect movements and suicide attempts at the village of Bugarach, which is believed to be the escape route to doomsday events.

Ever since the word is out about the village as the possible escape route, it has begun attracting thousands of visitors who come to pray and participate in processions though the mountainous area with dangerous roads and curves is not equipped to accommodate the huge numbers.
Also known as "Alien Garage", it is believed that extraterrestrial visitors live somewhere 4,000-foot beneath the mountain here and that it serves as the escape route, if and when apocalypse or the end of the world ever happens.

Despite denials from NASA and the global scientific community denying the Apocalypse 2012 theory, it has taken the Internet world by storm as the day coincides with December 21, 2012, apparently stated in the ancient Mayan calendar.

Sub reaches Earth's deepest place - James Cameron


Film director James Cameron returns to the surface after becoming the first person in 50 years to reach the deepest point in the ocean, the Mariana Trench. Titanic director James Cameron described a “desolate” and “alien” environment on the bottom of the sea after a record-setting solo submarine dive to the deepest point in the world’s oceans.

Mr. Cameron plunged about 11 kilometres down the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific, the first one-person mission to the lowest point of the oceans.“I felt like I — in the space of one day — had gone to another planet and come back,” he said, saying the ocean floor was a “completely featureless, alien world.”

Speaking after resurfacing from the mission, the Canadian filmmaker-explorer described the barren ocean floor as not unlike the surface of the moon. It was a “very lunar, very desolate place. Very isolated,” Mr. Cameron said. The experience of hurtling down the “yawning chasm” of the ocean in his specially designed submersible, Deepsea Challenger, was like “falling through darkness — that’s something that a robot can’t describe,” he added.

The voyage was the first manned expedition to the trench since 1960 and the culmination of more than seven years of planning. “Most importantly, though, is the significance of pushing the boundaries of where humans can go, what they can see and how they can interpret it,” he said in a statement.
The journey down to the Challenger Deep valley of the Mariana Trench, which lies southwest of Guam, took two hours and 36 minutes, according to the mission organized with National Geographic.
Mr. Cameron, 57, told reporters in a phone press conference that he was at the bottom of the ocean for a little more than two and a half hours, and had to cut short the planned stay of six hours because of problems with the ocean craft’s hydraulics system.

Being able to make the journey was “the culmination from my perspective of a lifelong dream,” he said, adding he hopes to be able to continue to marry his love of exploring the depths of the sea with his work as a director. He collected samples for research in marine biology, microbiology, astrobiology, marine geology angeophysics, and captured photographs and 3D moving images.

Mr. Cameron is the first person to make a solo dive to the Pacific Ocean trench. After a faster-than-expected, roughly 70-minute ascent, Mr. Cameron’s sub, bobbing in the open ocean, was spotted by helicopter and plucked from the Pacific by a research ship’s crane, organizers said. National Geographic said Mr. Cameron had reached a depth of 10,898 metres at 7:52 a.m. Monday.
The images he collected will be used to make a 3-D feature film, which is expected to be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Brits Upset Over Olympic Uniforms

USA Today           
Chic? Yes. Modern? YesPatriotic? Well, that's the problem.
British fashion designer Stella McCartney designed Great Britain's 2012 summer Olympic kits with a pinch of technology and a focus on the British flag. But now, the daughter of Paul McCartney is hearing some backlash from athletes, countrymen and fashion lovers around the world.
The problem? Not enough red. (The kits are predominately blue and white.) Not enough representation of the flag and the country that is hosting the Summer Games.
A leading sports psychologist is a bit upset about the lack of red in the uniforms. Professor Robert Barton co-authored a report in 2005, along with University of Durham colleague Dr. Russell Hill, on the impact of uniform colors on athletic performance. Red was said to increase an athlete's probability of winning.
"Obviously she has designed these from a fashion point of view and was not taking into account the possible effects that might have on performance," Barton said. "Given there's an obvious justification for [including more red] and given the effects that we and other scientists have found, it does seem like a mistake."
Ever since the announcement came from Adidas that their queen of London chic would be designing the kits, there's been an excitement around the fashion lines. McCartney said she was going to place a focus on the flag.
"The first place to start on a project like this is to look at the Union flag," McCartney said in a Tea GB press release. "For me it's one of the most beautiful flags in the world and it was important for me to stay true to that iconic design but also to modernize it and present it in a contemporary way. Ultimately, we wanted the athletes to feel like a team and be proud with the identity we created."
McCartney created her own Olympic record when she created the Olympic squads' uniforms. She is the first world-renowned fashion designer to create the look of a summer Olympic team, according to Vogue magazine.
Vogue weighed in on the look:
"We must be frank: What with half of Central London's roads and tube stations being dug up in preparation, citizens' collective feeling about hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics might thus far be expressed as a long-suffering sigh of resignation," the fashion magazine wrote. "This year, British female Olympians in London won't be stepping up in any sloppy, blocky old tracksuit. Thanks to Stella, they'll be standing there kissing their medals in ultra-fashion-worthy 2012 style: a jacket, tied with a ribbon-belt to create a peplum, over a pair of skinny navy trackpants implanted with a red tuxedo-stripe zipper on the outside leg. Go, girls."
But not all the feedback is good. Many who have posted comments on McCartny's Facebook page hate the new uniforms, calling them a 'disgrace.'
McCartney responded with the following post:
"Thank you for your great points on the Team GB kit. My intention was to keep the language and strength of the Union Flag, but to use it in a more delicate way. If you look at the history of Team GB kits, it is the most prominent use of the flag and the color red since 1984. It's not a conventional way."

'Go Stella!' Anyone out there think they can do better?

Mysterious Friend

The gull dipped and wheeled against the crystal sky, the rush and roll of waves absorbed it's clamorous cry.
The sea was luminous with sunlight and washed the weariness from my eyes,
And the rhythm of the tide, the heartbeat of the earth, the music of the universe made my spirits rise.
Lost in thought, I gazed into the distance and pondered all the twists of fate that brought me to my knees then raised me once again just to dash my dreams with ease.
I longed for freedom without danger, an existence without heartache, where tragedy was a stranger,
A life without toil, duty and diligence, a life of peace and joy and like the sea, sparkling brilliance.
A murmur like an echo, a whisper in my ear advised,
"Accept your fate with dignity and like the willow, be resilient".
I turned and saw a man, quite old, with his journey writ upon his face and though his years had weighed him down he seemed to glow with inner grace and wisdom shone from sea green eyes.
I knew him and yet knew him not but understood that he was wise, compassionate and kind
And felt a warmth invade my heart and peace restore my mind. These gifts he gave to me.
We were silent for a time and watched the waves cascade, the gulls glide across the bay, the white against the jade.
I had no need to look when I felt his presence fade. I knew I was alone;
He had made his thoughts my own, my strange and quiet friend, familiar, still unknown.
A gull rose up beside me...hung suspended on the breeze, tipped his wings and soared away across the green, eternal seas.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Little Sick Humor


Bales to be Charged With 17 Counts of Murder

Robert Bales
WASHINGTON — Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will be charged with 17 counts of murder as well as assault and a string of other offenses in the massacre of Afghan villagers as they slept, a U.S. official said Thursday. The charges against Bales include 17 counts of murder, six counts of attempted murder and six counts of aggravated assault as well as dereliction of duty and other violations of military law, the official said on condition of anonymity because the charges had not been announced.
The 38-year-old soldier and father of two, who lives in Lake Tapps, Wash., will be charged with a shooting rampage in two villages near his southern Afghanistan military post in the early hours of March 11, gunning down nine Afghan children and eight adults and burning some of the victims’ bodies.

The charges are to be read to Bales on Friday at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas where he has been held since being flown from Afghanistan last week. He faces trial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Military authorities had originally said Bales was suspected in the killing 16 Afghan villagers, nine children and seven adults. They changed that Friday to 17, raising the number of adults by one but without explaining how the change came about. It’s possible some of the dead were buried before U.S. military officials arrived at the scene of the carnage. Six Afghans were wounded in the attack.

Bales’ civilian attorney, John Henry Browne, said he wouldn’t comment on the charges because he has not been officially provided a copy of what they are. He said he spoke Thursday with prosecutors, who told him they will formally present the charges Friday. The killings were yet another blow to U.S-Afghan relations, following a series of missteps, including the mistaken burning of Korans, which prompted violent protests and revenge killings American troops in the war zone.

The brutal shooting rampage also prompted renewed debate in the United States about health care for the troops, who have experienced record suicide rates and high rates of post-traumatic stress and brain injuries during repeated deployments over a decade of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bales was on his fourth tour of duty, having served three tours in Iraq, where he suffered a head injury and a foot injury. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, of the 2nd Infantry Division, which is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

Browne has portrayed his client as a patriot, loving father and devoted husband who had been traumatized by a comrade’s injury and sent into combat one too many times. But there have been conflicting reports about what exactly Bales saw relating to the comrade’s injury. A U.S. defense official said that while it is likely that a soldier from Bales’ unit, based in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, suffered a leg wound a day or two before the March 11 shootings, there is no evidence that Bales witnessed it or the aftermath, or that it played any role in his alleged actions.

Afghan officials have asked the United States for some role in the criminal proceedings, perhaps as observers, and to be kept up to date on the process of the case. The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai has not demanded that Bales be turned over to the Afghan justice system, although some in the country’s parliament did. The Afghans have also urged a fast resolution of the case.

Browne has also said that Bales has some memories from before the incident and some from after but very little of the time when the military says he went on the shooting spree.
“I’m not putting the war on trial,” Browne has said, “but the war is on trial.” He added: “If I can help create a discussion about the war, that would be a great way for me to go out.”

Army officials have said Bales was cleared for return to duty after the head injury he suffered in Iraq. Bales joined the Army in 2001 after a Florida investment business failed and after he had worked with a string of securities operations. Bales and a broker at one company were hit in 2003 with a $1.5 million arbitration ruling after an elderly couple charged that their holdings were decimated.

He also was arrested in 2002 for the drunken assault of a casino security guard and had to complete an anger management class. There also are reports of a second incident involving alcohol, although Bales was never formally charged. A sheriff’s department report released Thursday says Robert Bales was accused in 2008 in Washington state of shaking hands with a woman, pulling her hand into his crotch and then punching and kicking her boyfriend. It describes Bales as “extremely intoxicated.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

U.S. Mulls Concessions on Flashpoint Afghan Night Raids

Afghan President Hamid Karzai may have won a major concession from the United States following a deadly shooting spree by a U.S. soldier, with the Obama administration considering curbs on contentious night raids.  With Karzai demanding a stop to night raids hated by Afghans, but seen by NATO as one of their most effective anti-insurgent tactics, a U.S. official said the United States was looking at modifying them and giving Afghans more oversight.

That would help seal agreement on a strategic pact with Karzai's government for a long-term U.S. presence in Afghanistan beyond a 2014 deadline for most NATO combat forces to withdraw, allowing advisers and possibly some special forces to stay on. The Obama government was discussing options with the Afghans including a warrant-based approach or possibly allowing Afghan judges to review raids before they took place, the U.S. official said on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

From the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim said on Tuesday the strategic partnership deal with the United States must be "based on the national interest of Afghanistan" and in accordance with Afghan law. Karzai this month said not only must night raids by foreign forces halt, but Afghan security forces training to take over their conduct would "not be allowed to enter private homes unless their operations were according to the state law".
That would mean applying for a warrant, he said.

But after the killing last week of 16 Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier in Kandahar province, Karzai said he was at "the end of the rope" on the issue of civilian casualties, calling for NATO troops to leave villages and withdraw to major bases. Anger about the slaughter came after an outcry last month over the burning of copies of the Koran at NATO's main base in the country, sparking a week of rioting that left dozens dead.

The two countries earlier signed an agreement on the transfer of a major U.S.-run prison to Afghan authority, leaving military raids on Afghan homes conducted at night as the final sticking point for reaching a deal.   U.S. and Afghan officials are hopeful of signing the deal ahead of a summit in Chicago in late May, where NATO nations are expected to outline their path out of the decade-old Afghan war and agree on backing for Afghan security forces. Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said no decisions had been made in discussions about the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement, which will be mirrored by similar but less crucial agreements with other NATO nations. "Discussions with the Afghans continue on this issue. No final arrangements have been settled," Kirby said.

While the bilateral agreement is expected to authorize in principle a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, details of that presence, which will be focused on counter-terrorism and advising local forces, would likely be nailed down in a separate "status of forces" agreement.
Karzai's spokesman told Afghan television on Sunday that U.S. and Afghan officials were still discussing the possibility of having permanent U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, another highly sensitive issue.

Nearly 11 years after the Taliban government was toppled after the September 11 attacks, the United States and its allies continue to face major problems in Afghanistan, including a resilient insurgency, a weak government, and an uncertain future for Western support.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Heil Hollywood: Nazi Bunker

The Los Angeles bunker from which Hitler planned to run Nazi empire after the war
It sounds like the bizzare script of a Hollywood B-movie. In a parallel universe the Nazis have won the war, Adolf Hitler moves to LA where he mingles with the stars of the silver screen while running his evil empire from a luxurious ranch deep in the LA hills.

But during the 1930s, American sympathizers were so confident this exact scenario was actually going happen they spent millions building a deluxe compound ready for their fuhrer's imminent arrival.

Hitler U.S. HQ: The ruins of the compound from where American Nazis hoped their leader would one day rule the world lies tucked away in the Los Angeles hills
Hitler U.S. HQ: The ruins of the compound from where American Nazis hoped their leader would one day rule the world lies tucked away in the Los Angeles hills

Leader: Hitler's American followers the Silver Shirts were so confident that he would triumph they spent millions building the deluxe compound ready for his imminent arrival
Leader: Hitler's American followers the Silver Shirts were so confident that he would triumph they spent millions building the deluxe compound ready for his imminent arrival

Equipped with a diesel power plant, 375,000 gallon concrete water tank , giant meat locker, 22 bedrooms and even a bomb shelter, the heavily guarded estate was home to a community of Hollywood fascists who hoped to ride out the war there.

There were further plans to build five libraries, a swimming pool, several dining rooms and a gymnasium with money from Germany.

But on the day after Pearl Harbour, as America entered World War Two, police raided the premises and rounded up the the 50 or so American fascists who were living there.

The remnants of the huge concrete water tank on the Murphy Ranch where which was built in the 1930s by the Silver Shirts group of American fascists
The remnants of the huge concrete water tank on the Murphy Ranch where which was built in the 1930s by the Silver Shirts group of American fascists

Today the eerie landmark lies in ruins, daubed with graffitti, and awaiting the bulldozers so it can be turned into a picnic area for hikers - a soon-to-be forgotten slice of American history.

Close to the homes of actors and directors such as Stephen Spielberg, the site has been a magnet for historians, curiosity-seekers and modern-day nazis. At one point after the war it became an artists colony and was home to the novelist Henry Miller.

Self- sufficient: The estate's vegetable garden. Around 50 or so followers planned to ride out the war there until Hitler's triumph
Self- sufficient: The estate's vegetable garden. Around 50 or so followers planned to ride out the war there until Hitler's triumph

Adolf Hitler's Los Angeles hideout
Adolf Hitler's Los Angeles hideout
History: The 55-acre ranch, was sold to mining fortune heiress Jessie Murphy in 1933 by screen cowboy Will Rogers

The compound was equipped with a diesel power plant, 375,000 gallon concrete water tank , giant meat locker, 22 bedrooms and even a bomb shelter
The compound was equipped with a diesel power plant, 375,000 gallon concrete water tank , giant meat locker, 22 bedrooms and even a bomb shelter

It was built by the Silver Shirts, a sinister group of 1930s fascists who took their name from Hitler's Brown Shirts grass roots organisation.

Fascism had been on the rise in the wake of the Great Depression and the Silver Shirts were one of the most fanatical organizations. The 55-acre ranch, was sold to mining fortune heiress Jessie Murphy in 1933 by screen cowboy Will Rogers.

Plans: The site is scheduled to be bulldozed to make way for a hikers' picnic spot
Plans: The site is scheduled to be bulldozed to make way for a hikers' picnic spot

In the next few years, Murphy struck up a relationship with a German man known only as Herr Schmidt. Unbeknown to her Schmidt was Hitler's agent in America.

He persuaded her to invest $4million ($66 million today) to transform the property into a nazi stronghold fit for Hitler.

Historian Randy Young told the Sunday Express: 'This was supposed to be the seat of American fascism from where Hitler would one day run the United States.  The neighbours were a little freaked out by the construction and weird happenings, but until war broke out, they thought they were just eccentric people.'