Daily Archives: April 11, 2014

Dropbox responds to backlash over Condoleezza Rice board appointment

The addition of Condoleezza Rice to the Dropbox board has stirred controversy in Silicon Valley. Above, Rice last month.

The addition of Condoleezza Rice to the Dropbox board has stirred controversy in Silicon Valley. Above, Rice last month.

The week seemed to start off on a triumphant note for hot Silicon Valley start-up Dropbox. The company held a media event Wednesday to unveil a slew of new applications designed to demonstrate its expanding vision as it marches closer to an anticipated initial public offering.

But the week is ending in controversy over this announcement: Dropbox added Condeelezza Rice to its board.

“When looking to grow our board, we sought out a leader who could help us expand our global footprint,” co-founder Drew Houston wrote on the company’s blog. “Dr. Rice has had an illustrious career as provost of Stanford University, board member of companies like Hewlett-Packard and Charles Schwab, and former United States secretary of State. We’re honored to be adding someone as brilliant and accomplished as Dr. Rice to our team.”

condibox

condibox

The decision to add Rice, who was secretary of State and national security advisor under President George W. Bush, prompted hundreds of often heated comments on the blog. And it triggered a campaign called Drop Dropbox.

“Choosing Condoleezza Rice for Dropbox’s board is problematic on a number of deeper levels, and invites serious concerns about Drew Houston and the senior leadership at Dropbox’s commitment to freedom, openness, and ethics,” organizers wrote on the protest website. “When a company quite literally has access to all of your data, ethics become more than a fun thought experiment.”

The site points to Rice’s role in launching the Iraq war, overseeing a CIA program accused of using torture and supporting warrant-less wiretaps. The site included a button to tweet the message: “Drew Houston: Drop Condoleezza Rice or I will #DropDropbox! http://www.drop-dropbox.com”

That indeed sparked a flurry of tweets and counter-tweets debating Rice’s appointment.

On Friday, Houston responded with a blog post saying that Dropbox remained committed to its users.

“There’s nothing more important to us than keeping your stuff safe and secure,” he wrote. “It’s why we’ve been fighting for transparency and government surveillance reform, and why we’ve been vocal and public with our principles and values. We should have been clearer that none of this is going to change with Dr. Rice’s appointment to our board. Our commitment to your rights and your privacy is at the heart of every decision we make, and this will continue.”

That post drew almost 200 comments by midafternoon, though, as many people continued to express anger.

“I simply cannot continue to give Dropbox my money, and expect I will have a new solution for my needs by the end of the month,” commenter James S. wrote.

 

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EU taking Putin’s letter on gas transit ‘seriously’ – Merkel

The EU is taking seriously President Vladimir Putin’s letter to 18 European countries, in which he warned that Ukraine’s debt crisis could affect gas transit from Russia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

“There are many reasons to seriously take into account this message […] and for Europe to deliver a joint European response,” Itar-Tass reported Merkel as saying.

She said the issue would be discussed in a meeting between European Union foreign ministers Monday.

Speaking in Athens on Friday, Merkel stressed that the price on natural gas should be negotiated. She also said that EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger and representatives of European states should talk to Russia’s biggest gas producer, Gazprom.

“When we take all these steps, we can be sure that we have reached a joined response for the countries that face this problem because they are getting gas from Gazprom,” Merkel said, adding European states “would like to be good clients but we would also like to be sure Russian gas supplies are not interrupted.”

Merkel said that she also discussed this stance with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. “There are no disagreements on this,” she said.

On Thursday, Putin wrote a letter to the leaders of 18 European countries, major consumers of Russian gas such as Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Moldova, Poland and Romania, warning that Ukraine’s debt crisis reached a “critical” level and could threaten transit to Europe.

He told Russia’s European partners that Gazprom would be forced to ask Ukraine for advance payments.

“In other words, we’ll be supplying exactly the volume of gas that Ukraine pays for a month in advance,” he wrote.

After the coup in Kiev, Gazprom ended all discounts and now charges $485 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. This is a price Ukraine says it will not be able to pay because it threatens Ukraine’s ability to continue normal gas transit operations to Europe.

Putin also said, however, that introducing advance payments would be an extreme measure.

“We understand that this increases the risks of unsanctioned retrieval of gas flowing through the territory of Ukraine to European consumers,” he said. “And it could also hinder accumulation of gas supplies in Ukraine necessary to provide for consumption during the autumn-winter period.”

On Friday, Putin said that still Russia would fully honor its obligations to supply natural gas to European partners.

“Russia is acting very exactly, very considerately and respectfully towards our partners. We will certainly guarantee in full the honoring of all our obligations to our European consumers. We are not the problem, the problem is ensuring transit via Ukraine,” he said.

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Putin to US: It’s bad to read other people’s letters

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President Vladimir Putin says it was “strange” to learn of the US reaction on a Russian letter to the leaders of EU’s top gas-consuming nations, as it was in no way designed for Washington’s eyes.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has accused Russia of reneging on an agreement that offered reduced gas prices to Kiev and using “energy as a tool of coercion against Ukraine.”

The price Ukraine is currently paying is “clearly not set by market forces and well above the average price paid by EU members,” she added.

“It’s a bit strange,” Putin said after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov informed him of the US comments during a Russian Security Council meeting. “It’s strange, at any rate, as it’s bad to read other people’s letters. It wasn’t addressed to them, but the consumers of gas in Europe.”

“Everybody is used to the fact that our American friends are eavesdropping, but turning to peeping is shabby altogether,” he said.

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But, joking apart, the pricing on gas for Kiev is regulated by the contracts Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz signed back in 2009, Putin said.

He added that he wrote his letter because “Russia can’t carry the Ukrainian burden alone,” urging the European leaders to hold a joint meeting as soon as possible “to find ways to help and support the Ukrainian economy.”

“Handing out cakes at the Maidan isn’t enough to prevent the Ukrainian economy from plunging into complete chaos,”
he said.

The comment dates back to a PR stunt by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, who tried to feed snacks to protesters and police as she visited Kiev during the standoff in December last year.

In his letter Thursday to European countries including France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Moldova, Poland and Romania, Putin warned that Ukraine’s debt crisis had reached a “critical” level and could threaten gas transit to Europe.

Russia’s Gazprom will be forced to ask Ukraine for advance gas payments due to the accumulated $2.2 billion gas debt owed by Ukraine’s Naftogas, Putin said.

“We’ll be supplying exactly the volume of gas that Ukraine pays for a month in advance,” the letter said.

Following the coup in Kiev, Gazprom has revoked all discounts and now charges $485 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, a price Ukraine says it will not be able to pay because it threatens Ukraine’s ability to continue normal gas transit operations to Europe.

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Kiev backpedals on referendums after deadline to stop protest expires

Ukraine federalization supporters carrying sand sacks for building barricades around the building of the regional administration in Donetsk on April 10, 2014.

Ukraine federalization supporters carrying sand sacks for building barricades around the building of the regional administration in Donetsk on April 10, 2014.

Just after a deadline set by Kiev for protesters in eastern Ukraine to vacate seized buildings expired, Parliament-appointed PM Arseny Yatsenyuk pledged to push through a law allowing regional referendums in the country.

Holding referendums on the status of their respective regions was among the main demands posed by anti-Maidan activists, who have taken over a number of governmental buildings in eastern Ukraine this week.

Ukrainian law currently does not allow regions to hold referendums separately from the rest of the country. It was one of the main arguments Kiev voiced in declaring illegal last month’s referendum in Crimea, which ended with the peninsula’s seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia.

Speaking in Donetsk, one of the regions engulfed by the anti-Kiev protests, Yatsenyuk said his government wants greater autonomy for Ukrainian regions, including the abolition of the offices of capital-appointed governors.

He was speaking just as a 48-hour deadline, which Kiev gave to protesters to liberate the seized buildings, expired. Previously the central authorities threatened to use force, including that of the military and even threatened their opponents as terrorists, unless they withdrew from the buildings.

Arseny Yatsenyuk

The U-turn comes after Ukraine’s elite Alpha unit reportedly refused to obey an order to besiege protester-held buildings. At a session of law enforcement officials in Donetsk, one of the Alpha commanders said that he and his men are a force intended for rescuing hostages and fighting terrorism and will only act in accordance with the law, local media reported.

The unconfirmed act of defiance comes days after the siege by police of a protesters-seized building in Kharkov, which ended with dozens of activists being arrested. On Thursday, a local police lieutenant-colonel spoke to the media, claiming that he and other officers had been deceived by the Kiev authorities. He claimed that they were sent to take over the building under the pretext that it was held by dangerous armed bandits. In fact the protesters had only improvised clubs and offered no resistance to the storming troops.

The officer, Andrey Chuikov, said he would no longer take “criminal” orders and announced his resignation from the police, adding that he would be sacked anyway by his superiors for speaking to the press.

Discontent with the new authorities in Kiev, which has been brewing in eastern and southern Ukraine for weeks, escalated on Monday, as protesters in several cities started to take over governmental buildings. Protests took place in the cities of Donetsk, Kharkov and Lugansk, while smaller protest actions and some clashes were reported in Odessa and Nikolayev.

Pro-Russian protesters hold placards during their rally outside the regional state administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on April 10, 2014.

Donetsk activists remain in control of the regional administration building and have built three lines of barricades to defend themselves from a possible siege. They have declared the Donetsk region, which is home to about one-tenth of the population of Ukraine, a “people’s republic” and have demanded a referendum on its future status. They also declared forming a “people’s army” in response to threats from violence form Kiev.

Negotiations between the activists and the Kiev-appointed authorities of the region were held on Thursday and into Friday morning. They are trying to hammer out a deal to deescalate the tension, which includes some sort of joint patrols formed by police and the activists of Donetsk and a possible relocation of the protesters to a nearby building.

In Lugansk, activists are maintaining their hold on a Ukrainian Security Service office. They also cordoned off a base of the Interior Ministry’s troops on Thursday night, saying this would prevent their deployment for a crackdown on the protest, although later the blockade was lifted.

Meanwhile, in Kharkov, where police on Tuesday captured a regional administration building and took more than 50 activists into custody, the protests do not seem to be calming down. On Thursday evening several hundred people picketed the building, despite a court ban on doing so. A mass protest rally is scheduled for Sunday.

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British Syria-radicalized jihadists biggest threat to UK national security

The MI5 headquarters in central London

Radicalized UK citizens returning from Syria are the biggest threat to national security, official reports claim. With increasing access to equipment and training, there are growing fears Brits are encouraged to carry out attacks on home soil.

The 500 Britons who have gone to fight in Syria over the past three years put the Middle-Eastern country in Whitehall’s sights as a much more dangerous place for radicalization than Iraq. An assessment by the MI5 spells out how alluring Syria has become to UK jihadists.

“The nature of the conflict in Syria and the emergence of Al-Nusra Front, which has declared its allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, is leading to the country becoming an increasingly significant potential source of future threats to the UK and UK interests overseas,” the text also reads.

Concerns over the grave threat have been confirmed to the Telegraph by an unnamed Whitehall contact.

“The threat to the UK comes from a range of countries and groups but Syria is perhaps the biggest challenge right now,” they explain. The Home Office annual review likewise states that the country has been identified as “the most significant development in global terrorism.”

This is believed to be because a whole range of potentially threatening aspects to the UK’s national security is being seen emanating from one single country.

And although the recommendations keep coming in, a lot of them aren’t new. Last year as well, the director-general of the MI5, Andrew Parker, told Parliament that the Syrian conflict has become a magnet for British nationals looking to engage in jihad, many of whom come into contact with Al-Qaeda-linked groups.

The security services are said to be closely monitoring some 250 returnees, who include several veteran hardliners who have fought in Afghanistan or Pakistan, other reports have claimed. Many others have participated in combat or received training in munitions or other skills applicable to terror operations, with some exhibiting a willingness to carry out attacks in the UK, security officials cited in another, February government report said.

But unlike the terrorism hotbeds that are Afghanistan and Pakistan, Syria is much closer to Europe, making it the ideal destination to go, get radicalized and come back with deadly ideas. And because the MI5 can’t keep a watch on all of them, just around half of the British citizens who return are essentially roaming the country without any supervision.

Even before the current report and recommendations, senior security officials in February said the number of returnees is now five times the previously reported figure.

“There are a few hundred people going out there. They may be injured or killed, but our biggest worry is when they return they are radicalized, they may be militarized, they may have a network of people that train them to use weapons,” London Police Chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe explained to the Times then.

Members of Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra

In sum, the combination of proximity to Europe, a rise in the number of extremist groups, easy availability of training and weapons and the ability to travel back and forth through badly-controlled Middle-Eastern borders, is seen as deadly.

Further to the problem, many returning jihadists don’t fit the psychological profile. Recent months have seen details released about the first suicide attack carried out by a British national in Syria. Abdul Waheed Majeed is believed to have driven an explosives-laden truck into a jail in Aleppo earlier this month, joining some 20 British citizens to have died fighting in the Syrian civil war.

Speaking to RT in February, political commentator Mohammed Ansar explained how Majeed’s attack presented a difficulty for the security services because “he does not fit the profile of a young British jihadi who has gone to Syria to fight,” adding also that “fighters from Britain have been calling others to come and join them.”

Similar troubles with profiling occur when women fighters are involved, and such cases are increasing.

And the threat is regionally contagious. Speaking to the Independent about the recommendations he would offer, Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator expressed fears that if counter-terrorism budgets across the continent don’t go up, we will be seeing an even steeper rise in foreign radicalization than presently.

“We should be investing a lot more in counter-terrorism work, including externally, if we are to prevent or mitigate future terrorist attacks,” he said, adding that “National budgets devoted to counter-terrorism are declining across the EU. Yet the threat that we face is becoming more diverse, more diffuse, and more unpredictable.”

But while Britain’s MI5 is among the agencies promising to take an ever tougher stance on nationals planning to engage in terrorism on home soil, the public is asking questions. Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch, and the author of 13 books, notably on Islam and the West, asks on his website why more returnees aren’t being monitored and why they are being allowed back into the country so easily (and if they are even British citizens).

At the same time, Spencer sees that the British government knows full well who the counter-jihadists are (Spencer included) and doesn’t hesitate to turn them away at the border. He also accuses the British government of being particularly lax on the issue for fear of hurting the Muslim community’s feelings and sparking accusations of Islamophobia.

And still not all believe the jihadists to be a lost cause. In fact some, like Ansar, believe would opt for a different strategy – that of de-radicalization and reintegration into British society. It will not be easy, Ansar claims, but studying the British jihadists’ motives will enable us to better understand how to deal with this rising problem.

via British Syria-radicalized jihadists biggest threat to UK national security — RT News.

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Serial shooter suspected near Kansas City as shootings climb to 20

A serial shooter is on the loose in the Kansas City, Mo. area, and authorities announced Thursday the number of roadway shootings they are investigating has risen to 20. Local police currently have no suspects in the case.

Police say that six of the attacks are connected so far. They have asked the federal authorities to help the investigation into the shootings that began March 8.

At least seven of the attacks occurred in the city’s south side, known as the Grandview Triangle, where three interstate highways and US Route 50 intersect. Despite the number of shootings, only three drivers have been injured, but none of the injuries were considered life-threatening.

Authorities believe the shots are coming from inside other vehicles, not from highway overpasses. “It appears these vehicles are being shot at from probably another vehicle that’s on the road,” Kansas City Police Captain Tye Grant told local Fox affiliate WDAF.

According to the Kansas City Star, all of the shootings happened near highway ramps or road splits, which would allow the shooter to make a quick getaway in a different direction.

In Leawood, Kansas, a suburb that was the location of one of the shootings, police say the driver noticed the shooter driving a metallic green sedan, wearing a ski mask and sunglasses. One unidentified victim said she was shot by someone in another car who was wearing a ski mask and a hood, ABC News reported.

“I was just driving down the highway and heard a loud noise. Something hit the car, didn’t know what it was, so I pulled over at my first opportunity to kind of see if there was any damage and that’s when I saw the bullet hole,” Tom McFarlin told local ABC affiliate KMBC-TV. His car was hit on I-470 on March 18. While McFarlin was uninjured, another man was hit on I-70 just ten minutes earlier, WDAF reported.

Another victim says that there were no other cars around when her car was hit, and police say they are looking into the possibility that the shooter could be hiding on the ground.

“We are confident that some have occurred from vehicles,” Police Chief Darryl Forté told the Star. “In other cases, we don’t know.”

Jennie Baugher, who thinks she is the 14th victim, was driving a friend home when her car was hit. “There wasn’t another car in sight and we were in the right lane and hit on the right side,” Baugher told ABC News. “It’s really scary to think that somebody is just out here with no regard to what could happen.”

The most recent attack happened on Sunday, when a 56-year-old man was shot in the leg in the Triangle area, the Associated Press reported. The driver, who didn’t want to be named, said he heard two loud bangs and felt a charley horse in his calf. When he put his hand down, he found blood.

Kansas City police, as well as the police from Leawood and two other suburbs where shootings have occurred, are working with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Officials will not say how they connected the six cases, but are using K-9 teams and ballistics experts at the scenes of the crimes.

Police are urging whoever is responsible to end the spree before someone gets more seriously hurt. “You’re not shooting at a car. You’re shooting at a car with a person in there. There’s an intent to cause harm to that person in that car. That’s aggravated assault. Some people call that attempted murder,” Grant told KMBC. “There’s consequences to the person that is doing that act, it might be jail for life, so this is not a game. It has real consequences.”

Police are offering a $7,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

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NYC court unable to find impartial jury to decide Occupy Wall Street trial

Occupy Wall Street protesters march along 47th Street in New York September 17, 2013.

An Occupy Wall Street protester facing seven years in prison for an alleged 2012 assault may wait even longer to hear her fate as New Yorkers have proven to be so divided on the issue that finding impartial jurors has so far been nearly impossible.

Jury selection in the trial of Cecily McMillan began on Monday but has gone on longer than anticipated because attorneys on both sides of the case have been unable to agree on a juror pool willing to approach the case with a fresh perspective. The trial is the last criminal trial relating to the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York.

McMillan, 25, is charged with assaulting a police officer during a March 17, 2012 protest in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. Prosecutors are expected to argue that McMillan intentionally assaulted Officer Grantley Bovell when he was making arrests at the demonstration. The young woman has maintained that she was unaware Bovell was a police officer and that she was only trying to fend off a man who grabbed her breast from behind.

Occupy Wall Street began on September 17, 2011 with a small encampment in the heart of New York City’s financial district. The movement quickly multiplied, attracting demonstrators from throughout the world who rallied around the idea that the wealthiest one percent of the population had for too long taken advantage of the other 99 percent.

The “We are the 99%” slogan immediately made headlines and inspired countless other protests around the US and elsewhere in the world.

For all the talk about income inequality, though, the left-leaning Occupy movement has been as divisive as the Tea Party, its rival counterpart on the right. Nowhere was that divide more evident than in the movement’s birthplace, where bankers, lawyers, and executives walked past Occupiers’ tents and signs on their commute into offices located dozens of floors above.

That tension lasts through today, with prosecutors and defense attorneys quickly filing through prospective jurors for the McMillan trial. Alan Moore, one potential juror, told the court his wife worked on Wall Street as a bond strategist, so it would be difficult for him to judge McMillan’s actions with a clear lens.

“I like to think of myself as fair,” he said, as quoted by the Guardian, which first reported on the dilemma. “But in terms of Occupy Wall Street in general, I would give less credibility to that group than average…They seem to be people moving a little outside regular social norms and regular behavior. Therefore I don’t give them the same level of respect as people who follow the line.”

The notion was shared by many. The court hoped to fill the 12 juror seats by Monday’s end, although they were only able to fill seven of those seats by the time Tuesday came to a close.

“For 20 years, my occupation has been, in some fashion, on Wall Street,” said equity trader Jason McLean, who lives with his wife, also an equity trader, in the Murray Hill neighborhood of New York City. “Everything I believe – my morals – are kind of the antithesis of what they represent. I don’t know that I could be completely objective.”

Other possible jurors were excluded after reporting negative experiences with police in the past. Patrick Grigsby, who works as an actuary on the Upper West Side, was expelled when he admitted that learning Officer Bovell had been disciplined as part of the so-called “Bronx ticketing scandal” of 2011 would impede his view of the incident in question.

Martin Stolar, McMillan’s attorney, told the Guardian both he and his client are confident that the two sides would eventually “find the people who fit the profile” of impartiality. His co-counsel Rebecca Heinegg agreed.

“A surprising number of people are actually willing to say they can’t be fair,” she said.

The defense team previously told journalist Jon Swaine that McMillan was a frequent visitor to Zucotti Park and known for her peaceful disposition. She had brought a friend down to visit for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration on the day when the incident with Bovell occurred. The young woman had bruises on her back, head, feet, and breasts that the defense says were incurred when Bovell assaulted her.

“An innocent woman is being accused of something that could send her to prison for seven years,” Stolar said outside a previous hearing in Manhattan. “She was leaving the park pursuant to the police department’s orders when she was brutally assaulted by a police officer and subsequently accused of assaulting that police officer.”

The prosecution, perhaps unsurprisingly, disagrees. A criminal complaint obtained by the New York Times claims that Bovell suffered “swelling and bruising and substantial pain to his left eye” in the confusion.

Jury selection is scheduled to resume Friday.

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Israel launches cutting-edge satellite to spy on MidEast adversaries

Ofek 10’s launch. April 9, 2014. Photo by Defense Ministry and Israel Aerospace Industries

Israel’s Defense Ministry has successfully launched Ofek 10, a next-generation satellite that will provide highly-targeted surveillance of specific locations – such as Iran’s nuclear sites.

“We continue to increase the vast qualitative and technological advantage over our neighbors,” said Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon at the launch at a test site in central Israel, Israeli media reported.

“Our ability to continuously reach new levels of accomplishment, as with this launch, is what allows us to live a productive and prosperous life. Blessed is the state, and its people.”

Ofek 10 is the seventh Israeli satellite currently in space, and the first launched by the Defense Ministry since its predecessor, Ofek 9, four years ago.

But it functions in a fundamentally new way – instead of automatically sweeping through vast swathes of territory with its cameras, it can momentarily switch between different locations.

This is due to the fact that its operators can alter the orbit of the 330 kilogram satellite between 400 kilometers and 600 kilometers from the Earth’s surface in its 90-minute circumnavigation of the planet, while zooming in to take high-resolution images of objects as small as 18 inches across.

“The satellite has exceptional photographic ability,” said Ofer Doron, CEO of the Israel Aerospace Industries’ Space Division, which was responsible for developing the satellite. “It’s designed to deliver very precise, high quality images under all conditions.”

Apart from Israel, other countries that operate surveillance satellites include the US, Russia, China, France, Italy, Britain, South Korea, India, Japan, Ukraine and Iran.

Of these nations, Iran poses the greatest threat to security in the eyes of Israeli officials, who have repeatedly insisted that Tehran is on the verge of developing a prototype nuclear weapon. Israel also says it plans to use the new satellite to monitor hostile militant groups, presumably such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

In fact, for security reasons, Israel launches its satellites to the west, and not to the east, sacrificing payload, but making sure that no technologically sensitive debris fall on the territory of its rivals, particularly if any satellite fails to reach orbit and plunges to Earth.

But Ofek 10 avoided this fate, and has already begun relaying visuals and information from orbit. It is expected to become fully operational within three months.

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Clashes, disappearance mar presidential hopeful’s campaign in Ukraine

Seven people were injured in clashes near an Odessa hotel where a Ukrainian presidential candidate was staying, as the building was assaulted by members of the radical Right Sector group.

Oleg Tsarev, a businessman from Dnepropetrovsk and former MP from the Party of Regions, was caught in Odessa clashes between supporters and opponents of the coup-appointed Kiev government on Thursday. At least seven people have been injured in clashes next to the Hotel Promenade.

Shots were reportedly heard after members of the Right Sector nationalist movement and pro-Kiev activists tried to block the entrance to the building.

Soon after the mob blocked the hotel, supporters of the candidate moved in to intervene with the help of several hundred activists participating in a peaceful rally dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Odessa from Nazi Germany.

Security officers from the Alpha Special Forces group had to intervene and escort the presidential hopeful out of the hotel, as police were reluctant to stop the violence.

Tsarev’s misadventures in Odessa didn’t stop with the clashes. On Friday morning his press service reported him going missing, possibly kidnapped by his political opponents. But hours later the presidential hopeful resurfaced, saying on his Facebook page that he had been with friends and that his cell phone had needed recharging.

This is not the first time Tsarev was attacked in recent days. Before arriving to Odessa, Tsarev was beaten and pelted with eggs in Nikolaev by members of the Right Sector, RIA Novosti reports. Earlier on Thursday, presidential candidate Sergey Tigipko was also pelted with eggs.

In order to crush the anti-Kiev rebellion in southern and eastern regions of Ukraine, the governors newly appointed by the coup-imposed government rely on their own armed militias, Tsarev said in his latest interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

“It is being carried out by the fighters, hired by local authorities,” Tsarev says. “In all areas of the south and the east these questions are supervised by first deputies newly appointed by the governors. Everyone has around 200 fighters on their allowance.”

Yet Tsarev says that not all of the fighters are from the radical Right Sector nationalist movement. He maintains that while many members of the neo-Nazi group might command the militias, many units consist of “local small criminals” that were assembled on the orders and financial support of the “oligarchs.”

He says that this type of intimidation falls in line with Kiev’s government, which relies on “language of threats and individual terror,” something witnessed before in a number of post-coup countries.

“Present day authorities in Kiev with their Right Sector and the National Guard, consisting of former militants, have not invented anything new,” Tsarev says.

Kiev’s policy in relation to the south-east of the country, according to Tsarev, aims to “discourage not only historical memory, but also very fresh memories of ‘Eurorevolution’.” He says that the self-imposed government “ignored adopted laws which they passed themselves, for example, an amnesty for all participants in the riots,” when they refer to protests in the south-east as “separatist”, calling the participants “bandits.”

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Australian PM says MH370 black box within scope of one kilometer

SHANGHAI, April 11 (Xinhua) — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said here on Friday that the missing Malaysian flight MH370’s black box is within the scope of one kilometer.

According to earlier media reports, Abbott, who is on an official visit to China, said he was “very confident” that the signals detected are from the missing flight.

In a luncheon in Shanghai, he said the information does not mean that the debris of the plane can be found.

Australia, along with China and other countries involved, will try every effort to continue the search, according to sources who quoted Abbott at the luncheon site.

The plane disappeared on March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, including 154 Chinese passengers.

The plane’s black box, or flight recorder, could be used to solve the mystery of why the plane veered so far off course.

 Xinhua 

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