Moscow alarmed by Chinese maneuvers

Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin

Moscow's Red Square Military Might

Moscow, which conspicuously left out any mention of China’s growing influence and power in its newly adopted military doctrine, is revealing the depth of its alarm, however, through its trade and business decisions, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The new doctrine takes aim at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which Moscow identifies as a threat due to its eastward expansion ambitions. But a glance at the trade balance sheets between Moscow and Beijing and other business decisions reveals an equal concern is developing there.

Not only are trade channels drying up, the Kremlin is planning an uptick in military exercises this year focusing on the Far East and also is reaching out to enhance its relationship with nations that surround China, signaling a possible containment policy toward Beijing.

Russia recently agreed to sell a dozen Su-30 top-of-the-line fighter aircraft to Vietnam, in addition to an increase in other arms exports such as the recent Vietnamese purchase of six Russian Kilo submarines.

A key analyst has concluded that while Moscow’s policy doesn’t directly mention China, it includes references to the nation because of its mention of a “real possibility of military conflict.” The alarm follows China’s training program for what would appear to be an invasion of Russia.

Further, Russian-Chinese trade last year fell some 31.8 percent from 2008, to only $38.8 billion.

For the complete report and full immediate access to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, subscribe now.

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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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CBS Considering Gay Dating Ad for Super Bowl

CHRISTIAN POST

Gay is wrong

By Jennifer Riley

CBS reportedly told a gay dating site that its proposed Super Bowl ad would be reviewed for possible airing and would be considered if a spot becomes available.

ManCrunch.com submitted a 30-second commercial to CBS on Jan. 18 and, as of Jan. 22, CBS reportedly said “the spot hadn’t been officially approved yet” by the network standards and that all spots for the big game on Feb. 7 had been sold out, according to Fox News. But CBS agreed to consider running the ad if an advertiser dropped out.

The ad involves two men watching the Super Bowl when their hands touch as they reach into a chip bowl. The two men then begin to kiss each other as another man sitting nearby watches in shock.

In response to the purported ad, a spokesperson for the conservative pro-family group American Family Association said it would be “totally irresponsible” of the network to air the ad during the most watched TV program of the year.

“CBS should not put parents in the position of answering embarrassing and awkward questions from their children while they’re just trying to enjoy a football game,” said Tim Wildmon, president of AFA, in a statement Thursday. “CBS should quit dithering around and reject this ad out of hand.”

In addition to pressure from pro-family groups, CBS is also coming under fire from pro-choice groups for approving an ad featuring college football star Tim Tebow and his mom, Pam.

Though the exact content of the ad has not been revealed, many are speculating that it will recount Pam Tebow’s refusal to have an abortion while she was pregnant with Tim despite having suffered from a life-threatening infection at the time.

Focus on the Family, which produced the ad, said earlier this month that Pam Tebow would share a personal story centered on the theme of “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life.”

“The Tebows said they agreed to appear in the commercial because the issue of life is one they feel very strongly about,” Focus on the Family reported.

“Tim and Pam share our respect for life and our passion for helping families thrive,” added Focus on the Family president and CEO Jim Daly.

Focus on the Family’s Super Bowl ad, which still needs to receive final confirmation, will be Christian group’s first Super Bowl commercial.

Super Bowl broadcasts are typically viewed by over 90 million people each year.

This year’s Super Bowl, which pits the Indianapolis Colts against the New Orleans Saints, will kick off at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 7.

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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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Joel Osteen Prays for Houston’s First Openly Gay Mayor

CHRISTIAN POST

Joel osteen

By Lillian Kwon

Globally recognized pastor Joel Osteen has been drawing some flak from the press and the public in the past few months over his comments on homosexuality.

His remarks last year on “The View” and “Larry King Live” that “homosexuality is not God’s best” drew fire from the gay rights community and from Christians for avoiding to identify the behavior as a sin.

More recently, his participation in the inauguration of Houston’s first openly gay mayor has also drawn some – but less fiery – attention.

Pastor of America’s largest church, Osteen was invited to offer the opening prayer at the inauguration of Houston’s elected city officials on Monday. While praying for the 14-member City Council, he also specifically thanked God for the new mayor, Annise Parker, a partnered lesbian.

“She’s our mayor. Joel doesn’t view Annise through a gay lens,” Don Iloff, Jr., spokesman for Lakewood Church in Houston, told The Christian Post. “He sees her as a person.”

Annise Parker, the newly-elected happens-to-be-lesbian mayor of Houston was sworn in Monday and the opening prayer was given by Rev. Joel Osteen.

And the Bible instructs believers to pray for and respect those who govern us, he added.

“If you ask Joel he’ll tell you ‘when I can pray at an event over government leaders and in Jesus’ name it’s hard to resist,'” Iloff said. Osteen prayed for the previous mayor, Bill White, at his inauguration.

The spokesman also pointed out that Parker has never pushed or highlighted any kind of gay agenda during her time in government and during her campaign.

“She’s an all business kind of gal,” he said.

During the swearing-in ceremony Monday, the former city controller addressed the economy, public safety and education. She also briefly addressed the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community saying, “I feel your excitement and your joy, your apprehension and your longing for acceptance. I will gladly carry you forward. But today is simply one step toward a tomorrow of greater justice,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

If Parker begins pushing a homosexual agenda, Iloff said Lakewood Church and Pastor Osteen are likely to distance themselves from her.

“Annise says she’s a believer. Let her stand before God; that’s kind of where Joel is,” Iloff noted. “He’s not going to tell homosexuals they can’t come to our church. If the Holy Spirit convicts them, then they’ll change.”

Osteen does not affirm homosexual behavior. Though the pastor himself has never specifically called it a “sin,” his spokesman Iloff says they believe homosexuality is a sin. But sin is sin and homosexuality is no worse a sin than others, such as adultery, Iloff pointed out.

Lakewood Church maintains good relations with city officials, some of whom attend the megachurch. Two of the City Council members are regular Lakewood attendees. Politicians, however, are not allowed to speak from the pulpit.

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Arab claim to Dead Sea Scrolls rejected

RON FRIEDMAN , THE JERUSALEM POST

Dead Sea Scrolls

Jordan has asked Canada to seize the selected parchments of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls that have been on display in Toronto, invoking international law in a bid to keep the artifacts out of Israel’s hands until their “disputed ownership” is settled, the Toronto-based Globe and Mail reported last week.

In its request, Jordan invoked the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which is concerned with safeguarding cultural property during wartime.

The 1954 convention requires signatories “to take into its custody cultural property imported into its territory either directly or indirectly from any occupied territory.”

The Jordanians claim Israel acted illegally when it seized the scrolls from the Rockefeller Museum, located in eastern Jerusalem, during the Six Day War.

On Sunday, Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum ended its exhibit “Words That Changed the World,” which featured scroll fragments on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

In the six months the scrolls were on display in Toronto, they sparked an unprecedented number of visitors, as well as political demonstrations.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called Jordan’s claim ridiculous.

“The Dead Sea Scrolls are an intrinsic part of Jewish heritage and religion. The scrolls have no relation to Jordan or the Jordanian people,” said Palmor.

“Moreover, Jordan’s occupation of the West Bank was never recognized by the international community and the kingdom relinquished all claims on the territories back in the ’80s. On what grounds are they trying to lay claims to the scrolls, which are a cornerstone of Jewish cultural history?”

The Foreign Ministry had not contacted the Jordanian ambassador in Israel and believed that the matter was strictly between Jordan and Canada, Palmor said.

“Since it’s a ridiculous claim, we are sure that it will be rejected. We haven’t contacted the Canadians, either. At this stage it is a legal issue, not a diplomatic one,” said Palmor.

The Jordanians aren’t the only ones trying to get their hands on the ancient scrolls. Last April, the Palestinian Authority appealed to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to cancel the show. The Palestinian Authority and Toronto-based Muslim activists claimed that the scrolls were “stolen” from Palestinian territory and illegally obtained when Israel annexed east Jerusalem.

The exhibit sparked days of protest outside the museum, with pro-Palestinian groups calling on the public to boycott the exhibit.

So far Canada has refused to comply with Jordan’s request. A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade told the Globe and Mail that “differences regarding ownership of the Dead Sea Scrolls should be addressed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. It would not be appropriate for Canada to intervene as a third party.”

The Israel Antiquities Authority said in response to the report that it had the right to loan the artifacts.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are made up of roughly 900 documents and biblical texts and are considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century.

The scrolls were first discovered in 1947, by Beduin in underground caves in and around Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. Excavations that took place between 1947 and 1956 discovered a total of 11 caves.

The texts include some of the only known surviving copies of biblical texts made before 100 BCE, and preserve evidence of Jewish life during the Second Temple period.

More than 200,000 people went to see the display in Toronto, which along with the scrolls featured 200 other artifacts on loan from the IAA.

The scrolls are scheduled to appear at the Milwaukee Public Museum starting January 22.

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1262339383479&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

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Why the world will never run out of energy

WND

Oil, nuclear power remain abundantly available

Nuclear Plant

Editor’s Note: The following report is excerpted from Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert, the premium online newsletter published by the current No. 1 best-selling author, WND staff writer and columnist. This week, he is including a Chapter Three excerpt from his book, “America for Sale.” Red Alert subscriptions are $99 a year or $9.95 per month for credit card users. Annual subscribers will receive a free autographed copy of “The Late Great USA,” a book about the careful deceptions of a powerful elite who want to undermine our nation’s sovereignty.

Oil remains so abundant that it is unlikely the world will ever run out, Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports.

Economist Julian Simon, former professor of business administration at the University of Maryland and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, was famous for taking a contrarian position on energy resources, arguing that our perception of scarcity was not validated by the current or historical factual record of energy abundance.

In an essay titled “When Will We Run Out of Oil? Never!” Simon argued against Malthusian fears that peak oil theorists were right and sooner or later the pumps would run dry, as environmental alarmist Paul Ehrlich frequently argued.

Simon traced fears of energy resource exhaustion back to an 1865 book published in London by W. Stanley Jevons, one of the 19th century’s greatest social scientists, titled “The Coal Question: An Inquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation, and the Probable Exhaustion of our Coal-mines.” Jevons argued that Great Britain’s industrial progress would grind to a halt because industry would soon use all available coal. Jevons further concluded that there was no chance oil would be an alternative resource able to solve the problem.

“What happened?” Simon asked.

His answer: “Because of the perceived future need for coal and because of the potential profit in meeting that need, prospectors searched out new deposits of coal, investors discovered better ways to get coal out of the earth, and transportation engineers developed cheaper ways to move the coal.”

Similarly, Simon traced the fears in the United States back to an 1885 U.S. geological survey that declared there was “little or no chance” oil would ever be found in California. In 1939, the U.S. Department of the Interior argued U.S. oil resources would be exhausted in 13 years. Then, when that prediction proved a false alarm, the Department of the Interior revised its estimate and declared that it was from 1951 that U.S. oil would be exhausted in 13 years.

Simon argued gloomy predictions about running out of oil, coal or any other energy resource including natural gas, were typically wrong for several reasons, including the following:

  • Typically the energy resources exist on earth in quantities much larger than initially estimated;
  • Advances in technology make exploration and recovery of previously difficult to develop energy resources more efficient and economically affordable;
  • Improvements in productivity lead to more efficient use of energy resources over time;
  • Alternative sources of energy are found, even while predominately used energy resources remain abundant.
  • Previously dominant energy resources, such as coal, become less dominant as more efficient energy resources, such as oil, become more understood and utilized – a process Simon believed would continue as liquefied natural gas replaces oil applications, culminating in nuclear energy replacing many current applications of oil and natural gas.

“Simon’s energy resource analysis essentially maintains that we will be running automobiles with nuclear batteries long before we run out of oil,” Corsi wrote. “Another point consistent with Simon’s analysis is that technologies have been developed permitting the clean burning of coal, while coal resources in the United States yet remain among the most abundant on the earth. In the final analysis, nuclear power is the final inexhaustible energy resource.

“Moreover, the development of nuclear power plants to provide electricity to U.S. cities on a scale developed in nations such as France would serve the dual purpose of providing infrastructure jobs that conceivably could match the jobs created by President Eisenhower’s decision to build the interstate highway system, while providing cheap, safe and efficient energy to satisfy our municipal needs indefinitely.”

Today, the U.S. Navy runs ships around the world predominately on nuclear power, without a history of life- or environmental-threatening accidents.

Simon wrote: “Of course nuclear power can replace coal and oil entirely, which constitutes an increase in efficiency so great that it is beyond my powers to portray the entire process on a single graph based on physical units.”

Corsi noted that the one energy resource that is truly renewable and sufficiently robust to produce the energy required in the 21st century is nuclear power.

He said the example environmentalists and radical global warming alarmists typically neglect is France, a country that since the 1980s has built a network of modern nuclear power plants needed to power France’s major cities for the foreseeable future. Today, approximately 80 percent of France’s electricity is generated by 59 nuclear plants across the country that are at least a generation more advanced that the nuclear power plants operating today in the United States.

“As with the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the nightmare scenarios with nuclear power are now decades old,” Corsi wrote. “The Three Mile Island accident occurred in Pennsylvania in 1979, and the Chernobyl reactor meltdown occurred in the Soviet Union in 1986. The world has experienced no similar incidents with nuclear energy since then.”

Red Alert’s author, whose books “The Obama Nation” and “Unfit for Command” have topped the New York Times best-sellers list, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in political science in 1972. For nearly 25 years, beginning in 1981, he worked with banks throughout the U.S. and around the world to develop financial services marketing companies to assist banks in establishing broker/dealers and insurance subsidiaries to provide financial planning products and services to their retail customers. In this career, Corsi developed three different third-party financial services marketing firms that reached gross sales levels of $1 billion in annuities and equal volume in mutual funds. In 1999, he began developing Internet-based financial marketing firms, also adapted to work in conjunction with banks.

In his 25-year financial services career, Corsi has been a noted financial services speaker and writer, publishing three books and numerous articles in professional financial services journals and magazines.

For financial guidance during difficult times, read Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert, the premium, online intelligence news source by  the WND staff writer, columnist and author of the New York Times No. 1 best-seller, “The Obama Nation.

For full immediate access to Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert, subscribe now.

Subscribe to Jerome Corsi’s new weekly economic newsletter, Red Alert, for one year and, for a limited time get “The Late Great USA” free. (This offer applies only to annual subscriptions for $99.)

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Top thieves of U.S. secrets

WND

Judicial Watch said Justice Department docs cite Iran, China WND



Espionage agents

Counterespionage agents for the United States government are reporting that the nations cited most often as stealing – or trying to steal – U.S. military equipment and technology are China and Iran.

The report comes from Judicial Watch, the Washington public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption.

The organization says it filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Justice Department records concerning incidents of theft of sensitive U.S. military equipment and technology.

The documents from the Justice Department’s National Security Division included a report titled “Significant Export Control Cases Since September 2001” which was written by the Counter Espionage Section and lists a series of cases.

Judicial Watch said the report, labeled “For Official Use Only,” reported Iran was cited for 31 cases between Sept. 29, 2001, just after the 9/11 terror attacks, and May 16, 2008.

China was cited for 20 cases.

Among the situations that were documented:

  • “U.S. v. Eugene Hsu, et al.” (9/21/01): Eugene Hsu, David Chang and Wing Chang were charged with “Conspiracy and an attempt to export military encryption units to China through Singapore.” All received guilty verdicts however Wing Chang is still listed as a fugitive.
  • “U.S. v. Avassapian” (12/03): Sherzhik Avassapian was a Tehran-based broker working for the Iranian Ministry of Defense when he attempted to “solicit and inspect F-14 fighter components, military helicopters and C-130 aircraft which he intended to ship to Iran via Italy.” Avassapian pleaded guilty to issuing false statements.
  • “U.S. v. Kwonhwan Park” (11/04): Kwonhwan Park was charged with “Exporting Black Hawk engine parts and other military items to China.” Pleaded guilty and sentenced to 32 months in prison.
  • “U.S. v. Ghassemi, et al.” (10/06): Iranian national Jamshid Ghassemi and Aurel Fratila were charged with “Conspiracy to export munition list items &emdash; including accelerometers and gyroscopes for missiles and spacecraft &emdash; to Iran without a license.” Ghassemi and Fratila are at large in Thailand and Romania respectively. Justice is currently seeking their deportation.

Judicial Watch said last October, the Department of Justice announced that criminal charges had been issued against more than 145 defendants in the previous fiscal year.

More than 40 percent of the cases involved weaponry, ammunition or other restricted technology intended for China or Iran, Judicial Watch said.

“These documents show that Iran and China have concerted efforts to obtain U.S. military technology in violation of our laws,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

“The Obama administration needs to maintain vigilance against the illegal efforts of enemies such as Iran to obtain our sensitive technologies,” he said.

His organization said items sought by Iran include missile guidance systems, Improvised Explosive Device components, military airplane parts, night vision systems and products desired by China have included rocket launch data, Space Shuttle technology, missile information, naval warship specifications and drone technology.

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Obama pushes gay rights, but not without criticism from activists

CSM

Many gay rights activists think Obama isn’t doing enough. But he’s in no rush on same-sex marriage or the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.

Ed Grandis, left, and Juan D. Rondon, hug after a bill allowing same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia was introduced at a city council meeting in Washington, on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

In last year’s presidential election, Barack Obama won 70 percent of the gay vote, John McCain just 27 percent.

Does that kind of clearly dominant constituency — one that’s more politically-attuned than the rest of the electorate — come with any political obligation regarding gay rights? You bet it does, and this weekend Obama is acknowledging the debt.

On the eve of Sunday’s National Equality March, expected to draw thousands to Washington, he’s addressing the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group.

So far, his is a mixed record.

While Obama remains opposed to marriage among same-sex couples, in June he extended some benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. And he has taken steps to include among his administration openly gay officials.

John Berry, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, is the government’s highest-ranking gay official. David Huebner, chief lawyer for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, has been nominated ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. Mr. Huebner would be just the second openly gay US ambassador. (The first was appointed by Bill Clinton.)

Marriage and the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay men and women in uniform remain the toughest issues for the nation — and especially for Obama.

The Pew Research Center reported Friday that while most Americans favor civil unions for same-sex couples, they remain opposed to gay marriage.

It’s an issue that transcends government policy to an unusual extent, carrying significant moral and religious overtones. Pew finds that “nearly half of the public (49 percent) says homosexual behavior is morally wrong, while 9 percent say it is morally acceptable and 35 percent say it is not a moral issue.”

Meanwhile, the armed services for years have wrestled with the Pentagon’s policy regarding gay service members — a policy which senior retired officers (and even some on active duty) increasingly have spoken out against at a time when the troops, like the relatively young cohort of Americans they’re part of, don’t see the point in discriminating against gay men and lesbians.

Many gay rights advocates are losing patience with Obama who (unlike Bill Clinton) has no inclination to jump right into the military issue.

“Eleven months after his election, he has failed to deliver on any of his commitments to gay Americans, but even worse has been his refusal to engage around these issues,” Richard Socarides, who advised President Bill Clinton’s administration on gay and lesbian policy, told the Associated Press.

“What he needs to do now is engage and deliver,” said Socarides. “Spend some of his political capital on ending the gay military ban, a hugely symbolic issue. And with no intellectually sound arguments left against it, come out squarely for gay marriage equality.”

Obama also is being nudged to retire today’s military policy by many members of Congress. Led by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) of Pennsylvania (the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress) 176 House members have signed on to a bill doing away with don’t ask, don’t tell.

Meanwhile, the US Senate — and just last week, the US House of Representatives — have passed versions of a bill broadening the federal hate-crime law to cover violence against gays.

Obama is eager to sign the new hate crimes law. And White House officials push back against the notion that the president is dragging his feet on gay rights.

“The president has been very clear. He’s not hiding, he’s not avoiding [the gay and lesbian] issue,” Melody Barnes, the president’s top domestic policy adviser, told the Washington Post. “He has walked into a range of different communities as well as looked into the eyes of those in the GLBT community and been very clear about what he supports and what he wants done and the way he thinks it’s practical to get it done.”

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Iraq’s WMD Secreted in Syria, General Sada Says

New York Sun

Retired Iraqi General Georges Sada

The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein‘s air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, “Saddam’s Secrets,” released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

“There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands,” Mr. Sada said. “I am confident they were taken over.”

Mr. Sada’s comments come just more than a month after Israel’s top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam “transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria.”

Democrats have made the absence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a theme in their criticism of the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in 2003. And President Bush himself has conceded much of the point; in a televised prime-time address to Americans last month, he said, “It is true that many nations believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong.”

Said Mr. Bush, “We did not find those weapons.”

The discovery of the weapons in Syria could alter the American political debate on the Iraq war. And even the accusations that they are there could step up international pressure on the government in Damascus. That government, led by Bashar Assad, is already facing a U.N. investigation over its alleged role in the assassination of a former prime minister of Lebanon. The Bush administration has criticized Syria for its support of terrorism and its failure to cooperate with the U.N. investigation.

The State Department recently granted visas for self-proclaimed opponents of Mr. Assad to attend a “Syrian National Council” meeting in Washington scheduled for this weekend, even though the attendees include communists, Baathists, and members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group to the exclusion of other, more mainstream groups.

Mr. Sada, 65, told the Sun that the pilots of the two airliners that transported the weapons of mass destruction to Syria from Iraq approached him in the middle of 2004, after Saddam was captured by American troops.

“I know them very well. They are very good friends of mine. We trust each other. We are friends as pilots,” Mr. Sada said of the two pilots. He declined to disclose their names, saying they are concerned for their safety. But he said they are now employed by other airlines outside Iraq.

The pilots told Mr. Sada that two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, Mr. Sada said. Then Special Republican Guard brigades loaded materials onto the planes, he said, including “yellow barrels with skull and crossbones on each barrel.” The pilots said there was also a ground convoy of trucks.

The flights – 56 in total, Mr. Sada said – attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002.

“Saddam realized, this time, the Americans are coming,” Mr. Sada said. “They handed over the weapons of mass destruction to the Syrians.”

Mr. Sada said that the Iraqi official responsible for transferring the weapons was a cousin of Saddam Hussein named Ali Hussein al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali.” The Syrian official responsible for receiving them was a cousin of Bashar Assad who is known variously as General Abu Ali, Abu Himma, or Zulhimawe.

Short of discovering the weapons in Syria, those seeking to validate Mr. Sada’s claim independently will face difficulty. His book contains a foreword by a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, David Eberly, who was a prisoner of war in Iraq during the first Gulf War and who vouches for Mr. Sada, who once held him captive, as “an honest and honorable man.”

In his visit to the Sun yesterday, Mr. Sada was accompanied by Terry Law, the president of a Tulsa, Oklahoma based Christian humanitarian organization called World Compassion. Mr. Law said he has known Mr. Sada since 2002, lived in his house in Iraq and had Mr. Sada as a guest in his home in America. “Do I believe this man? Yes,” Mr. Law said. “It’s been solid down the line and everything checked out.”

Said Mr. Law, “This is not a publicity hound. This is a man who wants peace putting his family on the line.”

Mr. Sada acknowledged that the disclosures about transfers of weapons of mass destruction are “a very delicate issue.” He said he was afraid for his family. “I am sure the terrorists will not like it. The Saddamists will not like it,” he said.

He thanked the American troops. “They liberated the country and the nation. It is a liberation force. They did a great job,” he said. “We have been freed.”

He said he had not shared his story until now with any American officials. “I kept everything secret in my heart,” he said. But he is scheduled to meet next week in Washington with Senators Sessions and Inhofe, Republicans of, respectively, Alabama and Oklahoma. Both are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The book also says that on the eve of the first Gulf War, Saddam was planning to use his air force to launch a chemical weapons attack on Israel.

When, during an interview with the Sun in April 2004, Vice President Cheney was asked whether he thought that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had been moved to Syria, Mr. Cheney replied only that he had seen such reports.

An article in the Fall 2005 Middle East Quarterly reports that in an appearance on Israel’s Channel 2 on December 23, 2002, Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, stated, “Chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria.” The allegation was denied by the Syrian government at the time as “completely untrue,” and it attracted scant American press attention, coming as it did on the eve of the Christmas holiday.

The Syrian ruling party and Saddam Hussein had in common the ideology of Baathism, a mixture of Nazism and Marxism.

Syria is one of only eight countries that has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty that obligates nations not to stockpile or use chemical weapons. Syria’s chemical warfare program, apart from any weapons that may have been received from Iraq, has long been the source of concern to America, Israel, and Lebanon. In March 2004, the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying, “Damascus has an active CW development and testing program that relies on foreign suppliers for key controlled chemicals suitable for producing CW.”

The CIA’s Iraq Survey Group acknowledged in its September 30, 2004, “Comprehensive Report,” “we cannot express a firm view on the possibility that WMD elements were relocated out of Iraq prior to the war. Reports of such actions exist, but we have not yet been able to investigate this possibility thoroughly.”

Mr. Sada is an unusual figure for an Iraqi general as he is a Christian and was not a member of the Baath Party. He now directs the Iraq operations of the Christian humanitarian organization, World Compassion.

Note:  This article was originally published in 2006.

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