Daily Archives: December 10, 2013

President Obama snaps a selfie at Mandela’s memorial service

Fresh off the latest round of controversy regarding when and where it’s appropriate to take a photo of yourself, President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt apparently snapped a selfie at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, where they’re all guests.

The photo shows the three smiling for a smartphone while Michelle Obama stares into the distance. A series of hilarious follow-up photos, practically screaming for a caption contest, show Obama laughing with Thorning-Schmidt and touching her arm before turning inexplicably somber. The first lady looks stern — dare we say disapproving? — throughout.

Thorning-Schmidt and Obama have met officially at least twice before, most recently in September in Stockholm. Thorning-Schmidt also visited the White House in February, when she and Obama discussed economic policy and the situation in Syria. The Danish PM also has daughters slightly older than Malia and Sasha Obama, which came up during the meeting.

For the record, CNN last October asked Emily Post, that last bastion of old-school etiquette in this topsy-turvy Internet world, whether it was ever okay to take selfies at funerals.

President Obama snaps a selfie at Mandela’s memorial service.

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Two French soldiers killed in Central African Republic – World News

PARIS/BANGUI, Central African Republic – Two French soldiers were killed in overnight fighting in the Central African Republic, France’s first casualties in an operation to restore stability in its former colony, the French government said on Tuesday.

Much of the wide-scale violence that has killed hundreds in the last week has eased but Reuters reporters in Bangui saw a mosque set on fire, houses looted and cars torched on Tuesday. Residents reported several lynchings overnight too.

The country has descended into chaos since mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in March. Months of looting, raping and killing since has brought reprisals by Christian militias.

Michel Djotodia, Seleka leader-turned interim president, has lost control of his loose band of fighters, which includes many from Sudan and Chad.

The soldiers’ deaths in the capital were announced just before French President Francois Hollande’s office said he would make a quick stop-over in Bangui on his way back from a memorial service for the late Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

“The head of state expresses his deep respect for the two soldiers’ sacrifice,” his office said in a statement.

The 1,600-strong French force battled gunmen in Bangui on Monday in an operation to disarm rival Muslim and Christian fighters responsible the violence that has killed at least 465 people since Thursday, according to the Red Cross.

Soldiers have also been deployed to other towns across the country, where a regional African peacekeeping force has struggled to stamp its authority.

 

French officials said on Monday night they had restored some stability to Bangui although shooting had broken out when gunmen refused to hand over weapons.

The two French soldiers, marine paratroopers from the 8th Regiment based in Castres, died after coming under attack at close range during an overnight patrol, the government said.

According to Celestin Christ Leon, a spokesman for the African peacekeeping force in Bangui, a rebel commander was harassing people, who called the French to come and help them.

“They came and tried to disarm the Seleka but gunfire erupted,” he said.

‘Arms in the mosque’
Hollande rushed French troops to the country last Thursday immediately after the U.N. Security Council authorized France to use lethal force to help African peacekeepers, who have been struggling to restore order.

An attack on Bangui by Christian militia, known locally as “anti-balaka” and some fighters loyal to ousted president Francois Bozize triggered the latest wave of violence.

Tens of thousands of Christians have fled reprisals by Seleka gunmen following the offensive but the French move to disarm all fighters has subsequently weakened Seleka’s influence in the capital.

In the Fouh neighborhood, civilians armed with wooden clubs and machetes attacked a mosque and nearby houses.

“We found arms in their mosque. We don’t want to see Djotodia and his Muslims here any more,” said one man at the scene, who wielded a large knife and refused to give his name.

At least six people were lynched overnight, mainly during violence targeting Muslims, according to residents in Benz-vi and Miskine, Bangui neighborhoods.

The French presence on Bangui’s streets was lighter than on Monday, when disarmament operations were underway.

France has lost seven soldiers in a separate operation in Mali, where it sent troops in January to drive back militants threatening to take the capital of Bamako.

Central African Republic is rich in diamonds, gold and uranium but despite such resources, most people remain poor. The country has seen little stability in five decades and France has intervened more times since independence in 1960 than in any of its former colonies.

It also lies at a crossroads of conflict in the heart of Africa, with Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia to the east, the Islamist threat in the Sahel region to the north and the revolts of the Great Lakes to the southeast.

Related:

Two French soldiers killed in Central African Republic – World News.

بعد استبعاد السيسي.. هل يفوز الأسد بلقب “شخصية عام 2013″؟ – RT Arabic

أعلنت مديرة تحرير مجلة “تايم” الأمريكية نانسي غيبس الاثنين 9 ديسمبر/كانون الأول القائمة النهائية لعشرة مرشحين لنيل لقب “شخصية عام 2013″، ومن بينهم الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد1 والأمريكي باراك أوباما والإيراني حسن روحاني والموظف السابق بوكالة الأمن القومي الأمريكية إدوارد سنودن. ولم تتضمن القائمة اسم وزير الدفاع المصري الفريق أول عبد الفتاح السيسي الذي تصدر الاستفتاء الذي أجرته المجلة وانتهى في الأسبوع الماضي، علما بأن القائمة الأصلية تضمنت 42 مرشحا

السيسي يتقدم في استفتاء مجلة “تايم” لشخصية عام 2013 – RT Arabic.

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ومن المقرر أن يتم إعلان اسم الفائز باللقب صباح الأربعاء 11 ديسمبر/كانون الأول. تجدر الإشارة إلى أن هيئة تحرير “تايم” هي التي تقوم باختيار شخصية العام، لكنها تترك للجمهور فرصة التصويت لشخصية أثّرت – من وجهة نظرهم – على الأخبار أكثر من غيرها، وذلك سواء بشكل إيجابي أو سلبي. ويتم منح لقب شخصية العام منذ عام 1927، عندما حصل عليه الطيار تشارلز ليندبرغ الذي عبر المحيط الأطلنطي بمفرده لأول مرة في التاريخ. وفي سنوات مختلفة نال هذا اللقب فرانكلين روزفلت وأدولف هيتلر وجوزيف ستالين وجورج بوش وشخصية “مستخدم الإنترنت”. وفي عام 2007 تم اختيار الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين شخصية العام، وفي عام 2011 تم منح اللقب لشخصية “المتظاهر”. ونال أوباما اللقب مرتين في عامي 2008 و2012 على التوالي

بعد استبعاد السيسي.. هل يفوز الأسد بلقب “شخصية عام 2013″؟ – RT Arabic.

 

CIA’s multibillion dollar spy program ends up being ‘a colossal flop’

United States government officials with intimate knowledge of a little-known Central Intelligence Agency spy program now say the CIA’s post-9/11 efforts to send undercover agents around the globe was “a colossal flop.”That’s according at least to one of the former senior CIA officials who spoke with Los Angeles Times journalist Ken Dilanian for an article published on Sunday about the agency’s “non-official cover,” or “NOC” roles. Those are instances in which CIA agents were sent abroad to pose as business executives in order to collect intelligence for their bosses back at headquarters near Washington, DC, such as the case of former spy Valerie Plame, whose first-hand account of her experience was turned into the best-selling book, then movie, Fair Game.Dilanian reported that the CIA spent at least $3 billion on the Global Deployment Initiative — which administered NOC roles — in the years after the September 11 terrorist attack, while the number of specially trained spies grew from the dozens into the hundreds. As they were routinely sent time and time again overseas to collect intelligence, however, their efforts rarely if at all proved to be productive, sources told the Times.According to this week’s report, language barriers and large liabilities kept many undercover agents from properly infiltrating target demographics, such as Al Qaeda and other extremist groups, and instead the CIA spent billions trying unsuccessfully to milk foreign targets for valuable information.“[T]oo few spoke Urdu, Pashto, Dari or other necessary languages, or could disappear in local cultures,” former CIA officers told the Times.Other times, sources said, undercover agents were easily identified. Although the operatives would often be sent overseas with fake identities and backstories, they were rarely able to rope in targets, who the CIA had hoped would be tricked into submitting secret information to the undercovers.Fake companies and operatives in Iran, for example, did little to fool those involved in the nation’s nuclear and missile procurement networks, Dilanian reported. Those spies were ultimately sent back to CIA headquarters following unsuccessful missions.Others, a former chief of the CIA’s Europe division said, weren’t even deployed to the right arena. Some, Joseph Wippl told the Times, were posted “a zillion miles from where their targets were located.”The Global Deployment Initiative’s billion-dollar budget is now being cut, the Times reports, but not after what Dilanian claims to be a failure in which “inexperience, bureaucratic hurdles, lack of language skills and other problems” plagued a program whose successes could be counted on one hand.The “colossal flop” sentiment supplied by one former official, Dilanian wrote, was echoed by around one dozens others who offered to provide the paper with details on the NOC roles, albeit anonymous.One former agent — who did provide the paper with permission to use his name — said that he was only aware of three successful NOCs during his 20-plus years within the CIA.\”They were absolute nightmares for the administrative bureaucracy of the agency,\” the CIA vet, John Maguire, told the Times.

via CIA’s multibillion dollar spy program ends up being ‘a colossal flop’ — RT USA.

NSA confidence shaken since Snowden leaks began

Morale at the US National Security Agency has plummeted since the Edward Snowden leak made international headlines and inspired an ongoing wave of criticism against the intelligence agency – news that coincides with the publication of more NSA documents.Six months after the first Snowden documents were published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, the NSA has become an object of scorn both at home in the US and internationally. A number of anonymous sources have since told the Post that a lack of support from President Obama has further impacted morale at the agency. One official said confidence within the NSA is “bad overall.”“The news – the Snowden disclosures – it questions the integrity of the NSA workforce,” he said. “It\’s become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, \’Why are you spying on Grandma?\’ And we aren\’t. People are feeling bad, beaten down.”Some observers have compared the current situation to 2006, when then-President Bush traveled to NSA headquarters at Fort Meade to address a New York Times report that the NSA had been spying on Americans before the September 11 attacks.“Bush came out and spoke to the workforce, and the effect on morale was tremendous,” Joel Brenner, NSA inspector general from 2002-2006, told the Post. “There\’s been nothing like that from this White House.“The agency, from top to bottom, leadership to rank and file, feels that it is had no support from the White House even though it\’s been carrying out publicly approved intelligence missions,” Brenner continued. “They feel they\’ve been hung out to dry, and they\’re right.”The President\’s reluctance could be attributable to the political message a visit to Fort Meade would send. Obama has publicly asserted that, despite their past secrecy, the bulk data collection programs are fully legal – with his most notable defense coming in a speech in favor of the government\’s massive collection of Verizon phone records.Yet the administration has not endorsed a bill that would entrench that policy into law and Obama said in a recent interview that he will propose some “self-restraint” depending on the results of an investigation into the NSA programs.“The President has multiple constituencies – I get it,” one former US official said. “But he must agree that the signals intelligence NSA is providing is one of the most important sources of intelligence today.”Confronted with reports of NSA employees openly complaining about the President, White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told the Post that multiple administration officials have visited to “express the President’s support and appreciation for all that NSA does to keep us safe.”“The President has the highest respect for and pride in the men and women of the intelligence community who work tirelessly to protect our nation,” Hayden went on. “He\’s expressed that directly to NSA\’s leadership and has praised their work in public. As he said: \’The men and women of our intelligence community work every single day to keep us safe because they love this country and believe in our values. They\’re patriots.\’”Yet the pressure appears unlikely to subside any time soon. An NSA document dated April 3, 2013 obtained by CBC News has revealed that Canada has built surveillance centers and launched espionage attacks at the NSA\’s request. Citing matters that would be harmful to Canadian national security, CBC did not publish details on the document but did note that it reveals the existence of a secret, 60-year-old intelligence partnership between the US and Canada.

via NSA confidence shaken since Snowden leaks began – report — RT USA.

الولايات المتحدة…تسمم العشرات في كاليفورنيا بغاز مجهول

تسمم العشرات من مواطني كاليفورنيا بغاز مجهول، ونقل 9 أشخاص منهم إلى مستشفى مونروفيا في الولاية و45 شخصا قدمت لهم المساعدات الطبية اللازمة في موقع العمل.وقد جرى تسرب الغاز من إحدى البنايات الواقعة في المنطقة الصناعية لمدينة يوم 9 ديسمبر/كانون الاول الجاري، ولم تقرر السلطات المحلية إجلاء السكان.وقال مصدر في السلطات المحلية: “اشتكى العاملون في شركة يقع مكتبها في هذه البناية من أعراض تسمم وقد شمل الأمر أكثر من 200 شخص. وأضاف أن هناك فرقة مختصة تعمل على إزالة آثار الغاز وتحديد نوعه

via الولايات المتحدة…تسمم العشرات في كاليفورنيا بغاز مجهول – RT Arabic.

Seymour Hersh Alleges Obama Administration Lied on Syria Gas Attack

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh has dropped yet another bombshell allegation: President Obama wasn’t honest with the American people when he blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a sarin-gas attack in that killed hundreds of civilians.

In early September, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had proof that the nerve-gas attack was made on Assad’s orders. “We know the Assad regime was responsible,” President Obama told the nation in an address days after this revelation, which he said pushed him over the “red line” in considering military intervention.

But in a long story published Sunday for the London Review of Books, Hersh — best known for his exposés on the cover-ups of the My Lai Massacre and of Abu Ghraib – said the administration “cherry-picked intelligence,” citing conversations with intelligence and military officials.

A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening. The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam. The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy: ‘The guys are throwing their hands in the air and saying, “How can we help this guy” – Obama – “when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?”’

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh

Here’s what Hersh alleges:

The administration buried intelligence on the fundamentalist group/rebel group al-Nusra. It was seen, Hersh says, as an alarming threat by May, with the U.S. being aware of al-Nusra member able to make and use sarin, and yet the group – associated with the rebel opposition in Syria – was never considered a suspect in the sarin attacks. Hersh refers to a top-secret June cable sent to the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency that said al-Nusra could acquire and use sarin. But the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of the Defense Intelligence Agency could not find the document in question, even when given its specific codes.

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Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, told a press conference: ‘It’s very important to note that only the [Assad] regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin.’

It is not known whether the highly classified reporting on al-Nusra was made available to Power’s office, but her comment was a reflection of the attitude that swept through the administration.

The administration was learning about the attack at roughly the same speed civilians were. Hersh says the thorough daily intelligence briefings in the days surrounding the gas attack did not make a single mention of Syria, even as videos and photos of the attack went viral across the Internet. He added that there was revealed a sensor system in Syria that had, in December 2012, shown sarin production at a chemical weapons depot arranged by the Syrian army. Though it was unclear whether this was a simulation or not – all militaries, Hersh says, practice simulations of such things – Obama promptly warned Syria that use of sarin gas would be “unacceptable.”

‘If what the sensors saw last December was so important that the president had to call and say, “Knock it off,” why didn’t the president issue the same warning three days before the gas attack in August?’

The media succumbed to confirmation bias in response to a UN report on the attack. That report, which is less than certain in its terms, said that the spent weapon “indicatively matches” the specifics of a 330mm calibre artillery rocket. MIT professor Theodore Postol and other munitions experts later reviewed the photos and said that it was improvised, likely made locally, didn’t match anything in the Syrian arsenal and would not have been able to travel the nine kilometres from the Syrian army base that the media presumed it was fired from.

Postol and a colleague, Richard M. Lloyd, published an analysis two weeks after 21 August in which they correctly assessed that the rockets involved carried a far greater payload of sarin than previously estimated. The Times reported on that analysis at length, describing Postol and Lloyd as ‘leading weapons experts’. The pair’s later study about the rockets’ flight paths and range, which contradicted previous Times reporting, was emailed to the newspaper last week; it has so far gone unreported.

Though a UN resolution nullified the chances of American military intervention, the impact would be significant if the allegations hold up; recall that President George W. Bush’s legacy was deeply tainted by charges that the U.S. had no proof of nuclear weapons in Iraq when they said they did. Hersh hints at the seriousness of the charges himself: “The cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war.”

This article was originally published at

Seymour Hersh Alleges Obama Administration Lied on Syria Gas Attack – The Wir