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Iran plans one-kiloton underground nuclear test in 2012

An underground nuclear test

According to debkafile’s Iranian sources, Tehran is preparing an underground test of a one-kiloton nuclear device during 2012, much like the test carried out by North Korea in 2006. Underground facilities are under construction in great secrecy behind the noise and fury raised by the start of advanced uranium enrichment at Iran’s fortified, subterranean Fordo site near Qom.
All the sanctions imposed so far for halting Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon have had the reverse effect, stimulating rather than cooling its eagerness to acquire a bomb.

Yet, according to a scenario prepared by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University for the day after an Iranian nuclear weapons test, Israel was resigned to a nuclear Iran and the US would offer Israel a defense pact while urging Israel not to retaliate.

As quoted by the London Times Monday, Jan. 1, INSS experts, headed by Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland, a former head of Israel’s National Security Council, deduced from a simulation study they staged last week that. Their conclusion is that neither the US nor Israel will use force to stop Iran’s first nuclear test which they predicted would take place in January 2013.

Our Iranian sources stress, however, that Tehran does not intend to wait for the next swearing-in of a US president in January 2013,  whether Barack Obama is returned for a second term or replaced by a Republican figure, before moving on to a nuclear test.

Iran’s Islamist rulers have come to the conclusion from the Bush and Obama presidencies that America is a paper tiger and sure to shrink from attacking their nuclear program – especially while the West is sunk in profound economic distress.

debkafile’s sources stress that both Tehran and the INSS are wrong: The Tel Aviv scenario is the work of a faction of retired Israeli security and intelligence bigwigs who, anxious to pull the Netanyahu government back from direct action against the Islamic Republic, have been lobbying for the proposition that Israel can live with a nuclear-armed Iran.
Our Washington sources confirm, however, that President Obama considers the risk of permitting a nuclear-armed Iran to be greater than the risks of military action.

Monday, Jan. 9, top administration officials said that developing a nuclear weapon would cross a red line and precipitate a US strike. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: “If Iran takes the step to develop a nuclear weapon or blocking the Strait of Hormuz, they’re going to be stopped.” He was repeating the warnings of the past month made by himself and Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Martin Dempsey.

As for Israel, Dennis Ross, until recently senior adviser to President Obama, reiterated in a Bloomberg interview on Jan. 10: “No one should doubt that President Barack Obama is prepared to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon if sanctions and diplomacy fail.”
As for Israel, Ross said: “I wouldn’t discount the possibility that the Israelis would act if they came to the conclusion that basically the world was prepared to live with Iran with nuclear weapons,” he said. “They certainly have the capability by themselves to set back the Iranian nuclear program.”

Israel’s media screens and front pages are dominated these days by short-lived, parochial political sensations and devote few words to serious discourse on such weighty issues as Iran’s nuclear threat.
This is a luxury that the US president cannot afford in an election year.  Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear bomb and conduct of a nuclear test would hurt his chances of a second term. The race is therefore on for an American strike to beat Iran’s nuclear end game before the November 2012 presidential vote.

The INSS have also wrongly assessed Russia’s response to an Iranian nuclear test as “to seek an alliance with the US to prevent nuclear proliferation in the region.”
This fails to take into account that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, running himself for a third term as president in March, has already committed Moscow to a new Middle East policy which hinges on support for a nuclear Iran and any other Middle East nation seeking a nuclear program. This is part of Russia’s determined plan to trump America’s Arab Spring card. source – DEBKA

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Stuxnet a precision, military-grade cyber missile

The Stuxnet malware has infiltrated industrial computer systems worldwide. Now, cyber security sleuths say it’s a search-and-destroy weapon meant to hit a single target. One expert suggests it may be after Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant.

CSM

By Mark Clayton

 

Cyber security experts say they have identified the world’s first known
cyber super weapon designed specifically to destroy a real-world target –
a factory, a refinery, or just maybe a nuclear power plant.

The cyber worm, called Stuxnet, has been the object of intense study
since its detection in June. As more has become known about it, alarm
about its capabilities and purpose have grown. Some top cyber security
experts now say Stuxnet’s arrival heralds something blindingly new: a
cyber weapon created to cross from the digital realm to the physical
world – to destroy something.

At least one expert who has
extensively studied the malicious software, or malware, suggests Stuxnet
may have already attacked its target – and that it may have been Iran’s
Bushehr nuclear power plant, which much of the world condemns as a
nuclear weapons threat.

The appearance of Stuxnet created a ripple of amazement
among computer security experts. Too large, too encrypted, too complex
to be immediately understood, it employed amazing new tricks, like
taking control of a computer system without the user taking any action
or clicking any button other than inserting an infected memory stick.
Experts say it took a massive expenditure of time, money, and software
engineering talent to identify and exploit such vulnerabilities in
industrial control software systems.

Unlike most malware, Stuxnet
is not intended to help someone make money or steal proprietary data.
Industrial control systems experts now have concluded, after nearly four
months spent reverse engineering Stuxnet, that the world faces a new
breed of malware that could become a template for attackers wishing to
launch digital strikes at physical targets worldwide. Internet link not
required.

“Until a few days ago, people did not believe a directed
attack like this was possible,” Ralph Langner, a German cyber-security
researcher, told the Monitor in an interview. He was slated to present
his findings at a conference of industrial control system security
experts Tuesday in Rockville, Md. “What Stuxnet represents is a future
in which people with the funds will be able to buy an attack like this
on the black market. This is now a valid concern.”

A gradual dawning of Stuxnet’s purpose

It is a realization that has emerged only gradually.

Stuxnet
surfaced in June and, by July, was identified as a hypersophisticated
piece of malware probably created by a team working for a nation state,
say cyber security experts. Its name is derived from some of the
filenames in the malware. It is the first malware known to target and
infiltrate industrial supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)
software used to run chemical plants and factories as well as electric
power plants and transmission systems worldwide. That much the experts
discovered right away.

But what was the motive of the people who created it? Was Stuxnet
intended to steal industrial secrets – pressure, temperature, valve, or
other settings –and communicate that proprietary data over the Internet
to cyber thieves?

By August, researchers had found something more
disturbing: Stuxnet appeared to be able to take control of the automated
factory control systems it had infected – and do whatever it was
programmed to do with them. That was mischievous and dangerous.

But
it gets worse. Since reverse engineering chunks of Stuxnet’s massive
code, senior US cyber security experts confirm what Mr. Langner, the
German researcher, told the Monitor: Stuxnet is essentially a precision,
military-grade cyber missile deployed early last year to seek out and
destroy one real-world target of high importance – a target still
unknown.

“Stuxnet is a 100-percent-directed cyber attack aimed at destroying an
industrial process in the physical world,” says Langner, who last week
became the first to publicly detail Stuxnet’s destructive purpose and
its authors’ malicious intent. “This is not about espionage, as some
have said. This is a 100 percent sabotage attack.”

A guided cyber missile

On his website, Langner lays out the
Stuxnet code he has dissected. He shows step by step how Stuxnet
operates as a guided cyber missile. Three top US industrial control
system security experts, each of whom has also independently
reverse-engineered portions of Stuxnet, confirmed his findings to the
Monitor.

“His technical analysis is good,” says a senior US
researcher who has analyzed Stuxnet, who asked for anonymity because he
is not allowed to speak to the press. “We’re also tearing [Stuxnet]
apart and are seeing some of the same things.”

Other experts who
have not themselves reverse-engineered Stuxnet but are familiar with the
findings of those who have concur with Langner’s analysis.

“What
we’re seeing with Stuxnet is the first view of something new that
doesn’t need outside guidance by a human – but can still take control of
your infrastructure,” says Michael Assante, former chief of industrial
control systems cyber security research at the US Department of Energy’s
Idaho National Laboratory. “This is the first direct example of
weaponized software, highly customized and designed to find a particular
target.”

“I’d agree with the classification of this as a weapon,”
Jonathan Pollet, CEO of Red Tiger Security and an industrial control
system security expert, says in an e-mail.

One researcher’s findings

Langner’s
research, outlined on his website Monday, reveals a key step in the
Stuxnet attack that other researchers agree illustrates its destructive
purpose. That step, which Langner calls “fingerprinting,” qualifies
Stuxnet as a targeted weapon, he says.

Langner zeroes in on
Stuxnet’s ability to “fingerprint” the computer system it infiltrates to
determine whether it is the precise machine the attack-ware is looking
to destroy. If not, it leaves the industrial computer alone. It is this
digital fingerprinting of the control systems that shows Stuxnet to be
not spyware, but rather attackware meant to destroy, Langner says.

Stuxnet’s
ability to autonomously and without human assistance discriminate among
industrial computer systems is telling. It means, says Langner, that it
is looking for one specific place and time to attack one specific
factory or power plant in the entire world.

“Stuxnet is the key
for a very specific lock – in fact, there is only one lock in the world
that it will open,” Langner says in an interview. “The whole attack is
not at all about stealing data but about manipulation of a specific
industrial process at a specific moment in time. This is not generic. It
is about destroying that process.”

So far, Stuxnet has infected
at least 45,000 computers worldwide, Microsoft reported last month. Only
a few are industrial control systems. Siemens this month reported 14
affected control systems, mostly in processing plants and none in
critical infrastructure. Some victims in North America have experienced
some serious computer problems, Eric Byres, an expert in Canada, told
the Monitor. Most of the victim computers, however, are in Iran,
Pakistan, India, and Indonesia. Some systems have been hit in Germany,
Canada, and the US, too. Once a system is infected, Stuxnet simply sits
and waits – checking every five seconds to see if its exact parameters
are met on the system. When they are, Stuxnet is programmed to activate a
sequence that will cause the industrial process to self-destruct,
Langner says.

Read more: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2010/0921/Stuxnet-malware-is-weapon-out-to-destroy-Iran-s-Bushehr-nuclear-plant/(page)/3

Stuxnet infects 30,000 industrial computers in Iran: report

The Stuxnet computer worm has
infected 30,000 computers in Iran but has failed to “cause serious
damage,” Iranian officials were quoted as saying on Sunday.

Some
30,000 IP addresses have been infected by Stuxnet so far in Iran,
Mahmoud Liayi, head of the information technology council at the
ministry of industries, was quoted as saying by the government-run paper
Iran Daily.

Apple launches social network for music called Ping

BBC News – Apple launches social network for music called Ping

 

Apple Ping

Steve Jobs: “It’s a social network all about music”

Apple has launched a social network as part of the latest version of its iTunes software.

Ping, as it is known, allows users to build networks of friends and professional musicians, in a similar way to services such as Twitter.

The service also builds playlists based on what friends are listening to.

Analysts said it represents a challenge to existing music-based social networks such as MySpace.

“It’s a social network all about music,” said Mr Jobs, launching the application at an event in San Francisco.

“We think this will be really popular very fast because 160 million people can switch it on today,” he said.

Seven Global Cyber-Guardians Now Hold Keys to the Internet

The Keys to the Internet Each smart card contains a portions of the DNSSEC root key, which would be necessary to reboot the Internet as we know it if connections were severed to stem a cyber attack.

 

 

InternetKeys

By Clay Dillow

 

You may have heard the rumor that swirled briefly last month about an Internet “kill switch” that could power down the Web in the case of a critical cyber attack. Those rumors turned out to be largely overblown, but it turns out there are now seven individuals out there holding keys to the Internet. In the aftermath of a cataclysmic cyber attack, these members of a “chain of trust” will be responsible for rebooting the Web.

The seven members of this holy order of cyber security hail from around the world and recently received their keys while locked deep in a U.S. bunker. But the team isn’t military in nature. The Internet safety program is overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit watchdog group that has access to a security system designed to protect users from cyber fraud and cyber attacks.

Part of ICANN’s security scheme is the Domain Name System Security, a security protocol that ensures Web sites are registered and “signed” (this is the security measure built into the Web that ensures when you go to a URL you arrive at a real site and not an identical pirate site). Most major servers are a part of DNSSEC, as it’s known, and during a major international attack, the system might sever connections between important servers to contain the damage.

A minimum of five of the seven keyholders – one each from Britain, the U.S., Burkina Faso, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, China, and the Czech Republic – would have to converge at a U.S. base with their keys to restart the system and connect eveything once again. We’re imagining a large medieval chamber filled with techno-religious imagery where these knights cyber must simultaneously turn hybrid thumb drive/skeleton keys in a massive router, filling the room with the blinking light of connectivity.

In reality, it’s not so dramatic. The keys are actually smartcards that each contain parts of the DNSSEC root key, which could be thought of as the master key to the whole scheme. But it is interesting to know that there is a group of individuals out there that hold actual, physical keys that would reboot the Internet as we know it. Find out more about these cryptographic keys and how/why they’re made here.

http://bit.ly/aKWGes

U.S. has ‘enough oil to be independent’

Analysts say reserves can be safely tapped if leaders have the will

Offshore Oilrig

By Michael Carl

He added that other factors are involved in helping reduce the cost of a gallon of gasoline.

“Certainly any oil that is produced domestically can be transported more economically than importing it from overseas. So, to the extent that the oil can be drilled and produced in this country, it should benefit the consumer,” Duncan explained.

Duncan said Canadians are in the best position in terms of supply.

Alberta Energy Department spokesman Tim Markle said the Alberta oil sands can yield more than 170 billion barrels of oil.

There are a variety of methods to get to the oil reserve, he pointed out.

“The methods vary from company to company based on the processes they’re using,” Markle explained. “There’s open pit mining. There are other processes that include steam-assisted gravity drainage and a vapex system. There’s also toe-to-heel air injection.”

Energy analysts say demand for crude oil will double by 2035, but some argue that with vast untapped petroleum reserves that can be accessed by new environmentally safe technologies, the U.S. can become energy independent if it has the political will.

The increase in demand was highlighted by President Obama’s announcement last week that the federal government is opening up Florida’s west coast, part of Alaska’s northern coast and the southern Atlantic Shelf for exploration and drilling.

The Atlantic Shelf is estimated to have more than 3.8 billion barrels of oil from Newfoundland to southern Florida. But the American Petroleum Institute’s Erik Milito points out Obama’s target area is smaller.

“Obama didn’t include the whole Atlantic coast in the program. He included south of Delaware and somewhere about the middle of the Florida coast. It’s not all-encompassing,” Milito explained.

“It’s hard to say how much is really available in the area Obama included, but it’s most likely going to be lower than the [3.8 million barrels],” he said.

Milito said the estimates are shaky, noting they are based on data and seismic activity more than 30 years old.

“The industry hasn’t had a chance to go out there and take a look with the newer technologies,” he said. “The estimates could change and maybe even go up.”

Milito added that opponents of offshore drilling shouldn’t be too concerned, because new technologies are making offshore drilling safer.

“It’s not the platforms; it’s the drilling methods that have changed in terms of having blowout preventers. You have stacks of them so that when there’s a blowout they shut off,” Milito said.

He explained that during the production stage, subsurface safety valves keep any liquids or oil from leaking into the water.

Spikes in oil prices over the past two years have turned attention to the Bakken oil shale deposits in North Dakota, Montana and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

The U. S. Geological Survey estimates there are 3 to 4 billion barrels of oil in the Bakken field.

“If we have more oil on the market, the price should go down. It’s the simple law of supply and demand,” observed USGS Petroleum analyst Doug Duncan.

Markle added that companies in Alberta are moving to a cleaner and more environmentally friendly method.

“Open pit mining is the most economical, but it has an adverse environmental impact. So most of the companies coming on line are using steam-assisted gravity drainage or toe-to-heel air injection,” Markle said.

Markle said that future demand is only going to increase, and he believes that the Alberta oil sands are the best source to meet the growing demand.

“We know we can access 170.4 billion barrels, and by 2018 we’ll be producing 3 million barrels a day instead of the 1.4 million barrels a day now,” Markle projected.

“As more companies come online there will be more oil coming out of here. And as we further our technology, we’ll likely find that we can get more oil out of the oil sands,” Markle said.

Both Alberta’s Markle and the American Petroleum Institute’s Milito say oil is becoming a safer and more environmentally friendly energy source.

Political analyst J. D. Pendry said the barrel estimates from the Atlantic Shelf and the Bakken Fields show that the U.S. should be energy independent. He says the lagging development has no logical explanation.

“We have enough oil reserves in our country, much of which is on federal lands, to achieve energy independence. We have more than any other nation on the planet,” Pendry claimed.

“Yet we choose instead to empower the Middle East and tyrants like (Venezuela’s) Hugo Chavez rather than developing our own oil and energy sources,” he said.

“When you factor in our coal reserves and the potential for coal-to-liquid fuel development, it is even more astounding that we purchase even one drop of fuel from other countries,” said Pendry.

He believes the reason for the continued dependence is a lack of political will on the part of leaders. He believes there’s some political maneuvering.

“It’s only a smoke screen for the uninformed, which amazingly enough still works today. When cap-and-trade is forced on us, the president will state that he is pursuing drilling and claim the Republicans aren’t supporting him in his efforts,” Pendry said. “Our energy situation is mind-boggling.”

US has ‘enough oil to be independent’


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Airborne laser shoots down missile in mid-flight

CSM

Advanced Tactical Laser (or ATL)

By Chris Gaylord

Last night, the military officially entered the age of airborne laser weapons. A large laser mounted to the front of a modified 747 jet successfully detected and shot down a ballistic missile while both were in mid-flight.

The airborne laser program – part Star Wars (the sci-fi flick) and part Star Wars (the Strategic Defense Initiative) – has taken years of work and billions of dollars it get here. But the Pentagon can now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station.

“While ballistic missiles like the one [the Airborne Laser Testbed] destroyed move at speeds of about 4,000 miles per hour, they are no match for a super-heated, high-energy laser beam racing towards it at 670 million mph,” says defense contractor Northrop Grumman in a release after announcing the successful test Friday.

Thursday night, a test missile fired from an “at-sea mobile launch platform” – likely a ship or submarine. The 747 detected the liquid-fueled missile and fired three different beams. The first, a low-energy laser, allowed the system to track the missile. Its second blast monitored the atmosphere between the aircraft and the target to better hone the final stage.

Once the system has locked on, it powers up what Boeing calls “the most powerful mobile laser device in the world.” The third stage actually involves six laser modules, each the size of a sport-utility vehicle, that fire in unison through a telescope-like lens located at the front of the 747. “When fired through a window in the aircraft’s nose turret, it produces enough energy in a 5-second burst to power a typical household for more than one hour,” says the US Air Force.

The beam cannot slice through a missile, lightsaber-style, but rather heats up pressurized portions of weapons, rupturing them. In Thursday’s test, the airborne laser disabled the test missile two minutes after it launched.

In a massive collaboration, Northrop Grumman constructed the megawatt-class high-energy laser, Lockheed Martin designed the firing system, and Boeing tied everything together with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

The military has been tinkering with “megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser beam” weapons since 1996. But the Pentagon isn’t happy with the price tag. Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled the original order for a second airborne laser system, but held onto the original aircraft for further experiments.

While yesterday’s success encourages missile-shield proponents, the system still needs lots of tuning. A second trial Thursday night hit its target, but stopped firing before crippling the weapon.

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Russia flexes military power with ‘futuristic’ fighter jet

CSM

Russia returned to the global stage Friday as a first-rank military and technological power by launching a ‘fifth generation’ fighter plane, with futuristic characteristics of stealth, sustained supersonic cruise, and integrated weapons.

A new Russian T-50 fighter lands at an airfield of the Sukhoi aircraft manufacturing plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur January 23. The new fighter aircraft is by some seen as Russia's response to U.S. advances in military aviation.

By Fred Weir

Moscow

Vladimir Putin is jubilant, the Russian aviation industry is filled with pride, and even normally skeptical military experts say they’re truly impressed by reports Friday that Russia has successfully test-flown the first prototype of a “fifth generation” fighter plane.

They all may have good reasons to cheer. Building such a plane is so expensive, complex, and technologically sophisticated that, until now, only the United States has been able to field an operational version of one: the F-22 Raptor.

According to news reports, Russia’s venerable Sukhoi company – maker of many famous Soviet warplanes – sent the V-tailed, swept-wing Sukhoi T-50 on its maiden flight for 47 minutes Friday near Komsomolsk-na-Amur in Russia’s far east (see video here) and it exceeded all expectations.

“We started flight tests of the fifth-generation aircraft today,” Sukhoi CEO Mikhail Pogosyan told Russian news agencies. “I am strongly convinced that this project will excel its Western rivals in cost-effectiveness and these planes will constitute the backbone of the Russian Air Force for the next few decades.”

A fighter of the “fifth generation” should have futuristic characteristics of stealth, sustained supersonic cruise, multi-role capabilities, integrated weapons and navigation systems that are controlled by artificial intelligence, over-the-horizon radar visibility and other cutting-edge wizardry.

Experts say that the mere fact that Russia can put one into the air announces its return to the global stage as a first-rank military and technological power.

“This is an epic event, because it’s the first time in post-Soviet history that [the Russian military industry] has been able to create something brand new,” Alexander Khramchikhin, an expert with the independent Institute of Political and Military Analysis in Moscow, says in a telephone interview.

“Everything we produced after the USSR’s collapse was based on Soviet designs; nobody thought we could make anything so technologically complicated as this. But now, strange as it may seem, this shows Russia’s level is very high.”

Kremlin leaders have been promising to build this new aircraft for years as part of a broader effort to re-arm and modernize Russia’s crumbling Soviet-era armed forces. Though Russia handily won its brief 2008 war with neighboring Georgia, the conflict revealed massive shortcomings in its military machine, including disastrously poor air support for ground forces and almost nonexistent aerial reconnaissance capability.

Prime Minister Putin praised the T-50’s first flight as a “big step” in restoring Russia’s traditional place as a global military power, and pledged that the air force will start receiving production models of the plane in about three years.

As Russia’s president, Putin launched a sweeping, $200-billion rearmament program that aims to introduce new generations of nuclear submarines, intercontinental missiles, tanks, and aircraft carriers for the armed forces within the next five years.

Experts say the T-50 fighter, which has been developed in partnership with Russia’s leading arms client India, will also go far toward restoring the tattered reputation of Russia’s military-industrial complex as a leading supplier of weaponry in global markets.

“This is really good advertising; it shows buyers of Russian-made hardware that we can produce the most modern weapons and also improve them,” says Vitaly Shlykov, a former Soviet war planner who now works as a civilian adviser to the Russian Defense Ministry.

“We invested a lot in this plane, and the fact that we can fly it has a big psychological impact,” he says. “It has a huge symbolic meaning for Russia itself.”

But skeptics say we’d best wait for more details about the top-secret plane of which we have seen, so far, only a few superficial images.

“We see the plane has some external characteristics that are new, but we have no way of knowing whether it actually possesses the technological features that would make it a fighter of the fifth generation,” says Alexander Golts, military expert for the independent Yezhednevny Zhurnal, an online news magazine.

“It’s great that it took off. Hurray. But I want to know a lot more about it.”

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Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad: an astonishingly bold stand

CSM

The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback says he stands up for what he believes. Even so, the Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad against abortion threatens to politicize ‘Super Sunday’ and turn some fans and NFL coaches against him.

In this Jan. 1 photo, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow stands on the sidelines during the Sugar Bowl football game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

By Patrik Jonsson

Atlanta

In a historic career at the University of Florida, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow has kept his faith and his convictions confined mostly to a few square inches beneath his eyes: Every Saturday, he would write a Biblical citation on his eye black.

Now, at the very moment when his hope of becoming a pro football quarterback hangs in the balance, Tim Tebow is taking on perhaps the single most divisive topic in America – abortion – in an advertisement set to air during the single most-watched television program of the year: the Super Bowl.

For a handsome and humble young man, who has become revered throughout much of the South for his devoutness as well as his on-field skill, it is an astonishingly bold decision. In the 30-second ad against abortion, he will speak from his own experience of how his mother did not abort him despite medical advice to do so.

Abortion-rights groups are already calling for the ad’s removal, saying that the group behind the ad is “anti-woman” and “anti-equality.” Online chatter is expressing an unease about Tebow’s willingness to infuse Super Bowl Sunday – an apolitical American rite – with politics. And, perhaps most concerning for Tebow himself, pro football teams already skeptical of his ability to transition to the National Football League might see this as further reason to avoid him on draft day.

“I do stand up for what I believe,” Tebow told Sports Illustrated last summer. “And at least you can respect that.”

Tebow’s story

Raised on a farm outside Jacksonville, Fla., by the son of an evangelist preacher and a mom who home-schooled him, Tebow is an amalgam of charismatic leader, world-class athlete, and devout Christian Southern boy. His faith resonates among fans in the Deep South.

But by targeting the Super Bowl, his “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life” ad ranges far beyond the familiar confines of the conservative South. Fans and coaches in the NFL might resent him for pushing a cultural message on a day usually reserved for quarterback matchups and halftime extravaganzas.

“We’re going down a road here that is filled with potholes, moral and otherwise,” writes Orlando Sentinel sports columnist George Diaz, suggesting that the ad could lead to more advocacy ads, which Super Bowl broadcaster CBS has said it will consider.

The ad, funded by the Focus on the Family organization, is expected to tell the story of Tebow and his mother, Pam. Ill while pregnant with Tim, Pam refused suggestions to abort her son. Those who have seen the ad describe it as “uplifting.”

“I asked God for a preacher, and he gave me a quarterback,” Tebow’s dad, Bob, has famously said about the trying pregnancy.

The appropriate venue?

But various groups, including the National Organization for Women, have called for CBS to withdraw the ad. They say that both the ad’s advocacy content, as well as the group behind it are unacceptable. So far, CBS has said it intends to run the ad.

“This un-American hate doesn’t have a place in this all-American pastime,” Kierra Johnson, executive director of Choice USA, told Fox News.

Tebow has for years had to walk the line between the conviction of his faith and open proselytizing. But the ad comes at a crossroads for Tebow. Professional scouts have said Tebow’s throwing motion and skill-set are poorly suited for the NFL, and his preparations for the upcoming Senior Bowl, which offers coaches a first up-close look at college prospects, haven’t gone well so far this week.

“The anti-abortion ad that he’s in that will possibly run during the Super Bowl will likely create an uproar for him as well that some teams might not want to get involved in,” writes Mark Miller on Yahoo! Sports.

Yet it is the timing of his ad – and not necessarily the content – that could knock Tebow down a few notches among NFL fans. Indeed, a May 2009 Gallup poll found that, for the first time since the poll began in 1995, more Americans are anti-abortion than pro-abortion rights. But timing is everything.

“There are going to be about 100 million of us who won’t be happy for 30 seconds of the Super Bowl,” writes CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyel. “I’m not complaining about the ad because it’s anti-abortion and I’m not. I’m complaining about the ad because it’s pro-politics. And I’m not. Not on Super Sunday.”

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Tensions flare in crossfire between South Korea and North

CSM

North Korea ratcheted up tensions with the South after firing an estimated 30 shells into the two countries’ no-sail zone, which may be a precursor to the testing of short-range missiles.

South Korean Army Helicopters

Seoul, South Korea

By Donald Kirk

North Korea raised the stakes Wednesday in the fight-talk contest for advantage in negotiations with live-fire artillery exercises that once again put tensions on edge between the two Koreas.

In a risky game of punch and counterpunch, North Korean gunners opened the episode in the morning by firing off 30 rounds into the Yellow Sea off the Korean west coast, judging from the number of geysers of water reportedly kicked up in the sea where they landed. South Korea responded with as many as 100 warning shots, according to South Korean defense officials, while the South’s Defense Ministry protested in a faxed message to the North.

The contest resumed in the afternoon with the North firing another dozen or so rounds after asserting its right to stage “exercises” in waters long disputed by the two Koreas. This time, however, the South did not fire warning shots – apparently in hopes of tamping down tensions while pursuing talks on issues ranging from the North’s nuclear program to resumption of tourism.

The shootout dramatized the dangers in troubled waters while North Korea pursues a peace treaty to mark a formal ending to the Korean War that broke out nearly 60 years ago.

North Korea earlier declared the area a no-sail zone, telling ships to stay away during test-firing.

The North Korean warning suggested that the North might plan to test short-range missiles, as it has done in the past, but the firing Wednesday was limited to artillery. Unlike in previous tests, however, the shells landed close to the “northern limit line” (NLL) set by the UN Command in 1956 three years after the Korean War, below which North Korean vessels are banned.

The General Staff of the North Korea’s Korean People’s army said the firing was part of an annual drill, that it had every right to stage live-fire exercises – and may go on doing so. South Korea’s defense ministry called the artillery exercise “a grave provocation” and demanded North Korea rescind the no-sail warning.

North Korea has repeatedly repudiated the NLL, and the area was the scene of bloody shootouts in June 1999 and in June 2002 when a number of sailors on both sides were killed. In the most recent previous incident, on November 10, a North Korean vessel retreated in flames after South Korean ships fired on it when it strayed across the line.

This time there were no reports of casualties, but South Korean officials worried that the firing was a sign of a two-track strategy in which North Korea has appeared interested in negotiations but has engaged in harsh rhetoric against South Korea.

North Korea “has been blowing hot and cold,” says Wi Sung Lac, the South’s chief nuclear envoy, back from four days of talks in Washington last weekend.

North Korea accused South Korea of making “an open declaration of war” after South Korea’s defense minister said the South would have to attack first if North Korea appeared likely to stage a nuclear attack. North Korea also responded with outrage, warning of war, after learning that the South was engaged in “contingency planning” in case of the collapse of the North Korean regime.

Mr. Wi says it’s “difficult” to ascertain the North’s intentions but hopes that North Korea would soon return to six-party talks on its nuclear weapons. South Korean officials have hinted that talks on a peace treaty, long sought by North Korea to replace the Korean War armistice, might be held simultaneously with six-party talks rather than after North Korea has done away with its nuclear program.

After months of tension, South Korea has resumed shipments of aid, mostly fertilizer, to North Korea, and North and South have agreed on talks next week on easing restrictions on South Korean companies and personnel at the economic complex at Kaesong, 40 miles north of Seoul, above the line between the two Koreas. North and South Korean negotiators also are expected to open talks soon on resuming tours to the Mount Kumkang region, suspended in July 2008 after a South Korean woman was shot and killed by a North Korean soldier when she wandered outside the tourist area.

A South Korean spokesperson said Wednesday’s shelling did not endanger a South Korean vessel returning with a load of silica through nearby waters from the North Korean port of Haeju on the Yellow Sea.

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Exposed: Saudi Arabia’s secret nuke stash

WND

Riyadh ‘confident’ it has an atomic option

Pakistani missiles on display in Karachi in 2008.

By Aaron Klein

JERUSALEM – Pakistan’s nuclear weapons project was partially financed by Saudi Arabia, with the two countries sharing nuclear technology, a senior Egyptian security official told WND.

“The Saudis are confident they have a nuclear option via Pakistan,” said the security official. “The Pakistani nukes are also Saudi nukes.”

The official said an agreement between the two countries was secretly inked seven years ago, although at the time such a pact was strongly denied by both Saudi and Pakistani officials.

Pakistan in the late 1990s became the seventh country to successfully develop and test nuclear weapons. The Pakistani arsenal is estimated at between 35 and 95 warheads, according to the U.S. Navy Center for Contemporary Conflict.

Analysts have been keeping a close eye on the rise of Islamic militants in provinces close to Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.

Saudi-Pakistan cooperation has been extensive for decades. The two are both leading Islamic countries with close military alliances. As early as 1969, the Pakistan Air Force flew the aircraft of the Royal Saudi Air Force to help fend off an invasion from South Yemen. In the 1970s and 1980s, about 15,000 Pakistani soldiers were stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect the country’s oil fields.

According to recent media reports, Saudi Arabia negotiated the purchase of Pakistani ballistic missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

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