Daily Archives: May 4, 2014

Condoleezza Rice Withdraws From Rutgers University Commencement Address

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the 2014 Masters golf tournament.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will not give the commencement speech at Rutgers University amid backlash from staff and students.

Rice, who is now a political science professor at Stanford, said that she ultimately decided to decline Rutgers’ invitation as she did not want to smother the spirit of the day.

“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families,” Rice said. “Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”

Students and faculty had protested Rice’s commencement address, accusing her of being a fervent proponent of the Iraq War while working with President Bush.

“Some students and faculty at New Jersey’s flagship university had protested, staging sit-ins and saying Rice bore some responsibility for the Iraq War as a member of the Bush administration,” the Associated Press reported.

Rutgers’ administrators repeatedly refused to heed to the student protests. A day before Rice announced her withdrawal, the university announced that they would not revoke their invitation.

After Rice cancelled, Rutgers President Robert Barchi urged her to reconsider, saying, “[We] stand fully behind the invitation.”

He acknowledged, however, that the commencement should focus on the happiness of the students.

“Now is the time to focus on our commencement, a day to celebrate the accomplishments and promising futures of our graduates,” Barchi said.

Although Rice won’t attend, she refused to take the protestors’ criticism sitting down, saying, “I defended America’s belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas.”

Rutgers is now looking for a new speaker for the May 18th ceremony.

Rice missed out on a serious pay day, having been offered $35,000 by Rutgers to make the commencement address.

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Jupiter’s moon Ganymede may have layered oceans that support life

Images of Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, from the Galileo and Voyager space missions show a bright flat surface

Ganymede – the largest moon in our solar system – may possess ice and liquid oceans which scientists say are stacked up like a multi-layered club sandwich and may contain life.

Scientists from a NASA-funded research team performed a computer modeling of Ganymede’s oceans, taking into account for the first time how salt increases the density of liquids under extreme conditions that exist on the planet.

Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system and is bigger than the planet Mercury, with a diameter of about 5,300 kilometers.

NASA first suspected there might be an ocean on Ganymede in the 1970s. Then, in the 1990s, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft mission flew by Ganymede, confirming it did have an ocean extending to depths of hundreds of miles. The Galileo mission also found evidence of salty seas, which may contain magnesium sulfate.

Scientists then thought Ganymede had a thick ocean sandwich between just two layers of ice. However, the new research suggests there may be more layers than that.

The research first appeared last year in the journal Planetary and Space Science and was led by Steve Vance of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“Ganymede’s ocean might be organized like a Dagwood sandwich,” said Vance.

This artist’s concept of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system, illustrates the “club sandwich” model of its interior oceans.

This new theory means that there is the possibility of life on the icy moon. Previously, the rocky sea bottom of Ganymede was thought to be coated with ice, not liquid, which would be a problem for the emergence of life. But the new “club sandwich” theory means the first layer on top of the rocky core may in fact be salty water.

Ganymede boasts a lot of water, perhaps 25 times the volume of the earth’s oceans. The moon’s oceans are also estimated to be up to 800 kilometers deep.

The makeup of its deep oceans could be something like a layer of ice at the top, a layer of water below that, then a second layer of ice, followed by another layer of water, then a layer of ice and a final layer of water at the bottom.

“This is good news for Ganymede. Its ocean is huge, with enormous pressures, so it was thought that dense ice had to form at the bottom of the ocean. When we added salts to our models, we came up with liquids dense enough to sink to the sea floor,” said Vance.

Salty water sloshing about on top of rock may provide conditions suitable for microbial life. Some scientists have predicted that life on Earth may have formed in bubbling thermal vents on the ocean floor.

Ganymede is just one of five moons in our solar system thought to support vast oceans hidden beneath icy crusts. The others are Jupiter’s Europa and Callisto, and Saturn’s Titan and Enceladus.

The European Space Agency is developing a mission to visit Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede. The mission is currently scheduled for a 2022 launch, and is expected to reach Jupiter in 2030. NASA plans to contribute instruments to it.

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Malaysia Flight MH370 : 11 Terrorists Arrested on Suspicion of Involvement in Disappearance of Flight

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  • Suspects were arrested in the capital Kuala Lumpur and the state of Kedah
  • Said to members of violent new terror group said to be planning attacks
  • Interrogations came after demands from agencies including FBI and MI6
  • Manifest revealed presence of consignment but did not reveal its contents
  • Airline has admitted 200kg of lithium batteries was among the items
  • It refused to say what else, citing ‘legal reason’ related to ‘ongoing’ probe

Terrorists with links to Al Qaeda may have been behind the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

11 terrorists, who were reportedly arrested in the capital Kuala Lumpur and in the state of Kedah last week, have been interrogated on suspicion of being involved in the disappearance of the missing aircraft.

The suspects are said to be members of a violent new terror group who have been planning bomb attacks in Muslim countries.

Aged from 22 to 55, the militants are said to comprise students, odd-job workers, a young widow and business professionals.

An officer with the Counter Terrorism Division of Malaysian Special Branch said the arrests had heightened suspicion that the flight’s disappearance may have been an act of terrorism.

“The possibility that the plane was diverted by militants is still high on the list and international investigators have asked for a comprehensive report on this new terror group,” the officer said.

News of the interrogations comes two months after the Beijing-bound plane with 239 passengers on board disappeared from trace on March 8.

An international search operation was implemented with ships and planes deployed to scour the seas to find the wreckage of the aircraft, which was believed to have gone down in the Indian Ocean.

However, the rescue effort, costing hundreds of millions of pounds, has failed to recover any debris or signs that the aircraft had indeed crashed.

Explanations for its possible disappearance have been focused on a range of theories, from equipment failure, damage to the fuselage, a suicide mission and a terror attack implicating the pilots.

The mystery of the vanished Malaysia Airlines flight took a new twist with the international team probing the incident, considering the possibility that the plane may have landed rather than ended up in the Indian Ocean.

A Russian newspaper had earlier claimed that flight MH370 was hijacked and landed in Afghanistan where passengers were being held hostage.

The theory has been attributed to an alleged source within the country’s FSB secret service, according to newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets.

In interviews conducted so far, suspects have admitted to planning “sustained terror campaigns” in Malaysia, but denied being involved in the disappearance of the airliner.

It was reported that during the trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama Bin Laden‘s son-in-law, Saajid Badat, a British-born Muslim from Gloucester, trained at a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, said he had been instructed to give a shoe bomb to the Malaysians.

“I gave one of my shoes to the Malaysians. I think it was to access the cockpit,” he said.

Badat, who spoke via video link and is in hiding in the UK, told the New York court the Malaysian plot was being masterminded by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of 9/11.

Investigators were earlier exploring the possibility that pilot Zaharie Ahmed Shah had ‘deliberately’ redirected the plane off course.

Shah was also known to be a ‘fanatical supporter’ of Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party, the opposition party which has been the principal thorn in the side of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which has ruled Malaysia for 56 years.

Relatives of the 239 passengers and crew on board missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were recently issued with death certificates.

The latest reports of possible terrorist involvement in the flight’s disappearance will further fuel the speculation that the passengers may have been held captive by a terrorist organisation.

The news comes as Malaysia Airlines said it will close assistance centres in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur for the families of the 239 passengers and crew on board the Boeing 777-200ER jet.

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Foreign jihadis in Syria pledge their own 9/11

Patrick Cockburn  Sunday 4 May 2014

World View: Ambitious al-Qa’ida-type groups now control – or are free to operate in – an enormous area

It is only a matter of time before jihadis in al-Qa’ida-type groups that have taken over much of eastern Syria and western Iraq have a violent impact on the world outside these two countries. The road is open wide to new attacks along the lines of 9/11 and 7/7, and it may be too late to close it.

Those who doubt that these are the jihadis’ long-term intentions should have a look at a chilling but fascinating video posted recently by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), formerly al-Qa’ida in Iraq. It shows a group of foreign fighters burning their passports to emphasise their permanent commitment to jihad. Many of the passports thrown into the flames have grass-green covers and are Saudi; others are dark blue and must be Jordanian. Some of the fighters show their faces while others are masked. As each one destroys his passport, sometimes tearing it in half before throwing it into the fire, he makes a declaration of faith and a promise to fight against the ruler of the country from which he comes.

A Canadian makes a short speech in English before switching to Arabic, saying: “It is a message to Canada, to all American powers. We are coming and we will destroy you.” A Jordanian says: “I say to the tyrant of Jordan: we are the descendants of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [the Jordanian founder of al-Qa’ida in Iraq killed by US aircraft in 2006] and we are coming to kill you.” A Saudi, an Egyptian and a Chechen make similar threats.

The film is professionally made, and was probably shot somewhere in northern or eastern Syria. It is worth looking at carefully, and keeping in mind that these are not an isolated band hiding in desert wastes or mountain caves. Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, the official affiliate of al-Qa’ida, now control, or can easily operate in, a great swathe of territory from the Tigris to the Mediterranean, and from the Jordanian border to southern Turkey.

Threats, such as those made by the group burning their passports, are creating something near panic among Iraq’s neighbours, who were slow to take on board last year that Syrian armed opposition had come to be dominated by al-Qa’ida or its clones. A report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), “The Rising Cost of Turkey’s Syrian Quagmire”, published last week, cites a Turkish official saying: “The armed al-Qa’ida element will be a problem for the Turks. As a secular country, we do not fit with their ideology. What happens if they can’t get what they want in Syria? They will blame Turkey and attack it.” Bear in mind that the thousands of foreign jihadis who have poured into Syria and Iraq mostly got there by crossing the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border. The head of an influential Turkish think tank is quoted by ICG as saying that “When Turkey starts arresting them [jihadis], which it will do, we know what will happen. There will be bombs all over Turkey.”

Jordan is also showing signs of extreme nervousness over support being given to the Syrian armed opposition, just across its border in southern Syria. American, Saudi and Jordanian intelligence have been working on creating a “southern front” around Daraa, the southern city where the Syrian revolt began, a front supposedly made up of moderate, secular fighters, who are both anti-Assad and anti-jihadi. This is deceptive, since an important force in such operations would be Jabhat al-Nusra which, on this front, is reportedly acting in coordination with a Jordanian, Saudi and US intelligence joint operations room in Amman.

But the Jordanians have got cold feet over the idea of a southern offensive launched from their territory. They are no longer as confident as they were in 2011 and 2012 that President Assad is bound to lose. They worry about an estimated 2,000 Jordanian jihadis in Syria, and what happens when they return to Jordan. There was a mysterious Jordanian airforce attack destroying vehicles entering Jordan from Syria on 16 April in which the Syrian government denied any involvement. The Jordanians also forbade an opposition offensive at Daraa timed to coincide with a rebel assault in Aleppo.

Even the US State Department‘s annual report on terrorism, issued last week, has noted that al-Qa’ida-type groups are getting stronger. Its image of al-Qa’ida in the past has been along the lines of a bureaucratic entity somewhat similar to the State Department itself. It therefore takes heart from the belief that because of organisational and leadership losses “AQ’s core leadership has been degraded, limiting its ability to conduct attacks.” The word “core” is useful here since it can mean either “a central command” or simply “at the centre of”. In practice, al-Qa’ida since 2001 has primarily been an ideology and a method of operating, not a cohesive organisation. The State Department has finally noted this, speaking of “the rise of increasingly aggressive and autonomous AQ affiliates and like-minded groups”.

In reality, the situation is worse than the State Department admits, since over the last year Isis has taken over much of Sunni Iraq. It levies taxes in cities such as Mosul and Tikrit and has substantial control in Fallujah and along the Euphrates valley, through western Iraq and eastern Syria up to the Turkish border. It has captured the Fallujah dam on the Euphrates, and can flood or deny water to areas further south; at Baiji on the Tigris, north of Baghdad, it has blown up an oil pipeline, polluting the river which had been used, after treatment, to supply drinking water to Baghdad. On the western outskirts of Baghdad at Abu Ghraib, Isis has held a military parade and the famous prison was hastily evacuated. A comforting theory explaining the surge in Isis’s strength in Iraq is that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki exaggerated its power to frighten Shia voters before last Wednesday’s parliamentary election. He thereby diverted attention from his administration’s appalling record of corruption and incompetence by focusing on the danger of a Sunni counter-revolution. The outcome of the election will show if this strategy had worked.

Unfortunately, all the signs are that the political and military incapacity of the Iraqi government is all too real. Its armed forces are said in Baghdad to have suffered 5,000 casualties including 1,000 dead in fighting in Anbar province in the last four months. Whole battalions are reported to have melted away because the men were not being paid, or they have not received supplies of food and ammunition. According to one report, even the job of army divisional commander can be bought for $1m with the assumption that whoever takes the job can show a profit by making $50,000 a month through protection money and levies on vehicles passing checkpoints.

After the election the government may try to repeat the US strategy of successfully using the Sunni tribes against al-Qa’ida groups such as Isis. The difficulty is that for the moment Sunni communities hate the Iraqi army and security forces more than they do al-Qa’ida.

The Independent.

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Former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Warns of War in Ukraine

Michael McFaul, who served as President Obama’s ambassador to Moscow until February, has warned that the Ukraine crisis is approaching a state of war that could trigger a large scale invasion by Russian military forces.

“The last 24 hours was a major escalation,” McFaul told TIME in a Friday interview, as Ukraine’s military began an operation to reclaim eastern cities and towns taken over by pro-Russia militants. The offensive has led to violence, including reports that Ukrainian helicopters were shot down by pro-Russian forces. Brewing violence in the southern port city of Odessa also claimed dozens of lives Friday.

“This is real,” McFaul said. “This is war.”

Amid reports that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine are urging Russia’s military to intervene on their behalf, McFaul says he’s now reconsidering the widely-shared assumption that Russian President Vladimir Putin would prefer to destabilize Ukraine from a distance, without staging a cross-border invasion that would compel the west to take new retaliatory steps, possibly including arming the Ukrainian military.

“It would be very costly for Russia to invade Ukraine,” McFaul said. “It’ll be real fight — maybe guerrilla warfare for years. That’s not something one does lightly. But it got a lot more likely in the last 12 hours.”

Russia’s parliament has authorized Putin to intervene in Ukraine, though Putin said last month “I very much hope that I will not have to exercise this right.”

But many experts fear the rising violence may provide Putin with an excuse, even if it brings a harsh western response. “It would be a very foolish move on Russia’s part,” says Olga Oliker, an international security and defense policy analyst at the Rand Corporation. “However that does not mean that it can be ruled out.”

The chaos deepened on Saturday as the Ukrainian military continued to press its offensive. The pro-Kremlin news outlet RT alleged on Saturday that residents in the eastern city of Kramatorsk chased off Ukrainian military forces with chants of “fascists.” In one bright spot, however, a team of international observers held for days by pro-Russian forces were released unharmed.

But the larger picture remains bleak. The events of the past couple of days, McFaul said, “make me more worried than ever before.”

via Former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Warns of War in Ukraine | TIME.com.

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Crimea observes 3-day mourning over tragic events in Ukraine’s southeast

89898989SIMFEROPOL, May 04.

The republic of Crimea is observing a three-day mourning over Friday’s tragic events, which claimed dozens of lives across Ukraine’s southeastern regions.

The days of mourning on May 3,4 and 5 were declared upon an order from Sergei Aksyonov, the acting head of Crimea.

All flags across the republic were lowered to half-mast and local authorities of all levels as well as radio and television administrations were asked to cancel festivities and entertainment programs dedicated to May 1 celebrations.

Massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities, who were propelled to power in Kiev amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February, erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern regions in March after Crimea’s incorporation by Russia. Demonstrators, who are demanding referendums on the country’s federalization, seized some government buildings.

Crimea’s urge to reunify with Russia was caused by the republic’s refusal to accept the new Kiev authorities. In a March 16 referendum, Crimeans overwhelmingly voted to secede from Ukraine and accede to Russia. The reunification deal with Moscow was signed March 18.

On Friday, Ukraine witnessed the bloodiest violence since the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich in February with the death toll exceeding the figure of 60.

The highest death toll took place in the southern city of Odessa. A total of 46 people were killed and over 200 wounded after radicals attacked pro-federalization activists and then set on fire Odessa’s Trade Union House with activists inside, burning them alive.

The violence erupted in Odessa in the daytime on Friday with a mass brawl at Grecheskaya Street. It was reportedly instigated by football fans from Kharkov and Right Sector and Self-Defense radicals from Kiev, who decided to organize a march on Odessa streets.

They provoked clashes with federalization supporters. Forcing them out, radicals set fire to a camp at Kulikovo Field where activists collected signatures to hold a referendum on federalization of Ukraine and the official status of the Russian language. Activists from the camp escaped to the located nearby Trade Union House, and radicals set fire to the building.

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