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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 94422 times)
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« Reply #6090 on: Feb 1st, 2012, 08:27am »

Reuters

Exclusive: U.S. accuses China of instigating plot against DuPont

By Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO | Wed Feb 1, 2012 7:24am EST

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Chinese government representatives directed a U.S. businessman to obtain valuable technology manufactured by chemical giant DuPont and U.S. authorities were seeking on Wednesday to keep him in jail ahead of his trial on charges relating to trade secret theft, prosecutors said in newly released court documents.

Walter Liew, a U.S. citizen, and his wife, Christina Liew, each were indicted last year by a Northern California grand jury on three counts, including witness tampering, making a false statement and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and evidence, according to court documents.

A hearing on bail is scheduled for Walter Liew on Wednesday in U.S. federal court in San Francisco as prosecutors try to keep him behind bars.

According to court documents, Walter Liew paid at least two former DuPont engineers for assistance in designing chloride-route titanium dioxide, also known as TiO2. DuPont is the world's largest producer of the white pigment used to make a range of white-tinted products, including paper, paint and plastics.

Both Liew, 54, and his wife have pleaded not guilty. Liew was held without bail, while his wife was released, court documents show.

DuPont also filed a civil lawsuit against Liew for misappropriating trade secrets.

Liew denies obtaining or possessing "any confidential, proprietary trade secret materials" from DuPont regarding TiO2, according to court documents.

Last month, Liew's attorneys requested that a U.S. magistrate judge reconsider the decision to deny Liew bail. In the court filing on Tuesday, prosecutors argued for Liew's continued incarceration by listing his connections with Chinese officials.

Liew was hosted at a banquet in 1991 by Luo Gan, who at the time was a high-ranking official of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, according to correspondence from Liew that U.S. federal officials say they seized from his safety deposit box. Luo Gan went on to become a member of the nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo, prosecutors wrote in the filing.

Several other Chinese officials also attended, according to the documents.

"The purpose of the banquet is to thank me for being a patriotic overseas Chinese who has made contributions to China," Liew wrote in a memo to a Chinese company, according to U.S. prosecutors, "and who has provided key technologies with national defense applications, in paint/coating and microwave communications."

Luo Gan gave Liew directives at the meeting, and two days later Liew received a list of "key task projects," including TiO2, prosecutors stated.

"DuPont's state-of-the-art technology is not available publicly and PRC (People's Republic of China) companies have not been able to master it on their own," prosecutors wrote. "Liew, however, obtained that technology from former DuPont employees and sold it to companies controlled by the PRC government."

In his court filing seeking bail, Liew denies he was invited to a banquet with some Chinese officials, but Luo Gan is not discussed. In seeking bail, Liew's attorneys note that was born in Malaysia and has lived in the United States for 32 years.

The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment early on Wednesday.

The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is United States of America vs. Walter Liew and Christina Liew, 11-cr-573.

(Editing by Will Dunham)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/01/us-china-usa-dupont-idUSTRE8100OP20120201

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« Reply #6091 on: Feb 1st, 2012, 08:31am »

AZ Central


Arizona agents face gun-sting blame

House report on 'Fast, Furious' aired

by Dennis Wagner - Jan. 31, 2012 09:23 PM
The Republic | azcentral.com


A U.S. House minority report on the gun-smuggling probe known as Fast and Furious blames federal agents in Arizona for the flawed operation while exonerating top-level Justice Department officials.

The 89-page analysis, released by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking minority member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is based upon five congressional hearings, testimony from 22 witnesses and about 12,000 pages of documents.

Its conclusion: "Operation Fast and Furious was the latest in a series of fatally flawed operations run by ATF agents in Phoenix and the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office. Far from a strategy that was 'directed and planned by the highest levels of the Department of Justice,' as some have alleged, the committee has obtained no evidence that Operation Fast and Furious was conceived or directed by high-level political appointees at Department of Justice headquarters."

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, which is conducting a joint investigation of Fast and Furious, scoffed at the Democrats' findings: "The idea that senior political appointees have clean hands in these gun-walking scandals doesn't pass the laugh test," Grassley said in a news release. "They ignored the warning signs and failed to put a stop to it or hold anyone accountable."

Fast and Furious, launched in 2010, was a firearms-trafficking investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. According to Justice Department records and congressional testimony, agents and federal prosecutors in Arizona allowed gun purchasers to smuggle weapons into Mexico in the hope of identifying and prosecuting high-level cartel figures.

Political controversy erupted with revelations that as many as 1,400 guns had crossed the border and that two AK-47s from Fast and Furious were discovered at the scene of a 2010 firefight in which bandits killed a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

Republicans in Congress have pressed to implicate Attorney General Eric Holder and other Obama administration figures in the strategy that was dubbed "gun walking." Some have suggested that firearms were allowed into Mexico as part of a plot to promote gun-control legislation.

The Democrats' report says House committee members uncovered "no evidence indicating that the attorney general authorized gun walking or that he was aware of such allegations before they became public."

Holder is scheduled to testify before the committee again on Thursday. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House committee, sent him a letter Tuesday that accuses the Justice Department of a "cover-up" and threatens the attorney general with contempt of Congress for withholding records.

The Democrats' report singles out ATF administrators in Phoenix and former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke for criticism. Regarding Burke, who resigned amid congressional inquiries, the report says he gave closed-door testimony acknowledging a failure to adequately monitor the probe while denying knowledge that guns were being "walked" to Mexican cartels. According to the report, Burke testified that "he did not approve gun walking, was not aware it was being used, and did not inform officials in Washington about its use."

In rebuttal statements, Grassley and Issa said Justice Department records show that Lanny Breuer, a senior political appointee who is chief of the Criminal Division, knew about the gun-walking strategy nearly two years ago, yet the Justice Department later denied the practice.

http://www.azcentral.com/news/politics/articles/2012/01/31/20120131arizona-agents-face-gun-sting-blame.html#ixzz1l8mMBPan

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« Reply #6092 on: Feb 1st, 2012, 08:57am »

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Brant Widgeon is an Astronomical Image Enhancement Engineer. Many people are surprised to hear everything that goes into making the beautiful celestial images that have brought us so much awe and wonder. One of the most technically difficult parts of Brant's job however is dealing with space cats.

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« Reply #6093 on: Feb 2nd, 2012, 08:30am »

New York Times

February 2, 2012
Hacking Inquiry Widens to Times of London
By SARAH LYALL and ALAN COWELL

LONDON — The hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers took a new turn on Thursday when a lawmaker said police investigations had spread to the flagship Times of London. The revelation came a day after lawyers said an e-mail referring to “a nightmare scenario” of legal repercussions from widespread phone hacking at the News of the World tabloid was deleted from James Murdoch’s computer less than two weeks before the police opened investigations.

The lawmaker, Tom Watson, from the opposition Labour Party, who has been a central figure in the inquiries into phone hacking, said in a message on Twitter that Scotland Yard had “confirmed to me they are investigating” The Times “over e-mail hacking.”

A spokesman for Scotland Yard, who spoke in return for anonymity under departmental rules, said officers investigating hacking were “in contact with Mr. Watson in relation to specific issues he wishes to raise” after he sent the police a letter on Jan. 23. But the spokesman declined to confirm specifically that The Times was under investigation.

News International, the British newspaper arm of the Murdoch media empire, said it had no immediate comment on Mr. Watson’s message.

The development was significant in two regards: it focused attention on e-mail hacking rather than the illicit voice mail interception at the center of inquiries so far, and it suggested that the most august of the Murdoch publications in Britain was not immune from scrutiny.

The case apparently was related to an episode in 2009 when a reporter who has since left The Times of London exposed the identity of a police officer who blogged under the pseudonym Nightjack, according to British news reports.

James Harding, the editor of The Times of London, said in written testimony to a formal inquiry into press conduct last month that “there was an incident where the newsroom was concerned that a reporter had gained unauthorized access to an e-mail account.”

The reporter “was issued with a formal written warning for professional misconduct,” Mr. Harding said.

The incident led to a court case in which the police officer tried and failed to keep his identity secret.

In his letter to Scotland Yard on Jan. 23, Mr. Watson said it was “almost certain that a judge was misled” in that court case and it was “clear that a crime has been committed — illicit hacking of personal e-mails,” The Press Association news agency said.

The hacking scandal has triggered several separate inquiries. Mr. Watson is part of a House of Commons panel, while Mr. Harding testified at a judicial investigation led by Lord Justice Brian Leveson. Scotland Yard is conducting its own criminal investigations into illicit phone and e-mail intercepts and into bribery of the police.

The newest twist came less than 24 hours after Linklaters, a law firm representing News International said the deletion from James Murdoch’s computer was part of an “e-mail stabilization and modernization program” in which accounts were “being prepared for the migration to a new e-mail system.”

The e-mail was a chain of messages sent June 7, 2008, to James Murdoch — Rupert Murdoch’s son who is head of News Corporation’s European and Asian operations — warning that the potential legal fallout from hacking at The News of the World was “as bad as we feared.”

Linklaters disclosed the existence of the e-mail to the House of Commons committee investigating phone hacking in December. Mr. Murdoch said that while he received and answered the e-mail, he did not scroll all the way down through the chain and so did not read everything in it.

The disclosure of the deletion came in a letter from Linklaters to the Commons committee. The letter says that the deletion occurred on Jan. 15, 2011. Operation Weeting, the police inquiry into phone hacking at The News of the World, began 11 days later.

The letter also disclosed that the e-mail’s existence became known only because investigators unearthed a hard copy from a storage crate filled with material left behind last summer when The News of the World was closed.

A News International spokeswoman said the company had no comment and would not discuss what other e-mails might have been deleted at the same time.

The e-mail has become significant in the hacking case as possible evidence of what the younger Mr. Murdoch knew and when he learned it. Two company officials — Tom Crone, then a News International lawyer, and Colin Myler, then the News of the World editor — have said they informed James Murdoch at the time that phone hacking was endemic at the newspaper.

The younger Mr. Murdoch has always maintained that they never told him and that he knew nothing about it until much later.

Three days after the June 7 e-mail, the younger Mr. Murdoch met with Mr. Crone and Mr. Myler and decided to pay more than $1.4 million to settle a hacking lawsuit. The details of the suit were kept secret, and until December 2010, News International maintained that hacking at the newspaper was limited to a “rogue reporter.”

The Linklaters’ letter said the crate in which the hard copy of the e-mail was found “had a sticker on it which suggested the contents were originally held in Mr. Myler’s office.”

Electronic copies were then found in two of Mr. Murdoch’s laptops, and one from an assistant’s desktop computer, Linklaters said. Mr. Myler’s copy, though, was “lost from the e-mail archive system in a hardware failure which occurred on 18 March 2010,” the law firm added.

News International has given varying accounts about what e-mails it has, where they are and why it did not immediately make them available to investigators. At one point, it said that its e-mail archive had been lost on the way to storage in Mumbai, India; at another, it said it could only retrieve e-mails that were less than six months old.

But new intimations that the company may have purposely destroyed evidence are raising questions about whether the company might be investigated for obstruction of justice.

A judge accused News International last month of destroying possibly relevant e-mails. And The Guardian reported Tuesday that the police were examining “an enormous reservoir of material from News International’s central computer services” that was “deliberately deleted from News International’s servers.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/03/world/europe/times-of-london-in-phone-hacking-inquiry.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #6094 on: Feb 2nd, 2012, 08:34am »

Telegraph

Costa Concordia: Moldovan dancer says she was in love with Captain Schettino

The Moldovan dancer at the centre of the Costa Concordia disaster told Italian investigators she was "in love" with the captain and confirmed that she was on the bridge in the moments before the vessel collided with rocks.

By Nick Squires, Rome
1:03PM GMT 02 Feb 2012

Domnica Cemortan, 25, was interviewed for nearly six hours on Wednesday by prosecutors in a police station in Grosseto, Tuscany, amid reports that divers had found some of her belongings in Capt Francesco Schettino's cabin.

According to Italian press reports, based on interviews with prosecutors, she said she had fallen deeply for the skipper – despite him having a wife and a teenage daughter.

"I love him, and it's not right to destroy his reputation," Ms Cemortan allegedly told investigators. "Everyone is hammering him."

Passengers have claimed they saw the Moldovan being wined and dined by Capt Schettino, 52, shortly before the accident happened at around 9.40pm on Jan 13.

Ms Cemortan confirmed to prosecutors that the captain had invited her up onto the bridge as his guest, to see the ship perform a 'salute' of the island of Giglio. "I was on the bridge," she reportedly said.

The captain misjudged the manoeuvre, sailing to within 150 yards of the shore and smashing into a rocky shoal, ripping a huge gash in the hull.

He then grounded the 950ft-long vessel on a different part of Giglio's coast and belatedly ordered the evacuation of its 4,200 passengers and crew.

The death toll stands at 17, with 15 people still missing, presumed dead.

Francesco Verusio, the chief prosecutor in the case, said Ms Cemortan's testimony would be key in establishing exactly what happened on the bridge that night and whether the captain was distracted – as claimed by some of his officers.

"There are many witnesses and each one will offer their point of view," Mr Verusio said. "We're comparing all the different versions to see how they fit together." Electronic data recovered from the ship's black box would also be vital, he said.

Ms Cemortan is not accused of any offence. Capt Schettino is under house arrest at his home in Meta di Sorrento, near Naples, and faces charges of manslaughter and abandoning his ship ahead of passengers and crew members.

He could face at least 12 years in prison.

Passengers claim to have seen and photographed a young blonde woman resembling Ms Cemortan eating dinner and sharing a decanter of red wine with him less than 40 minutes before the collision happened.

Ms Cemortan had worked for Costa Cruises as a dancer and passenger rep, but she was on the week-long cruise as a guest.

It has been reported that she did not have her own cabin. La Repubblica newspaper offered an explanation for the unusual arrangement when it claimed that some of the former dancer's belongings were found in Capt Schettino's cabin, suggesting that they were sharing.

Investigators have meanwhile identified a mystery woman who turned up on Giglio on the morning after the disaster and spirited Capt Schettino away from television cameras.

She is a lawyer for Costa Cruises and will be questioned by prosecutors in coming days.

The woman was photographed with the captain in the lobby of the Hotel Bahamas, in Giglio's main port, where he briefly took refuge before being arrested by police.

There were fresh concerns over the stability of the stricken ship, which lies on its side in shallow water, after it shifted three inches in seven hours on Wednesday.

Rough seas buffeted the wreck, again delaying the operation to start removing the 500,000 gallons of diesel and heavy oil in its fuel tanks.

A large gap opened up between two glass panels that formed part of the vessel's roof, raising fears that the bad weather is weakening the structure of the luxury liner.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/9056642/Costa-Concordia-Moldovan-dancer-says-she-was-in-love-with-Captain-Schettino.html

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« Reply #6095 on: Feb 2nd, 2012, 08:44am »

LA Times


Mayor to residents of evacuated Japanese town: Come home

February 2, 2012 | 5:00 am
REPORTING FROM SEOUL

Kawauchi Mayor Yuko Endo, whose Japanese farm town was forcibly evacuated after the March earthquake and tsunami crippled a nearby nuclear power plant, has a message for scattered residents:

Come home.

Endo told Tokyo’s Daily Yomiuri newspaper that he and other officials would return in March to the village near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was damaged by an earthquake-triggered tsunami. The disaster led to meltdowns that spewed radioactivity into the atmosphere and led to the evacuation of an estimated 80,000 nearby residents.

Endo said radiation levels in the village had lessened to an acceptable level and that it was time for the 3,000 residents to return and start anew beginning in April. He said public facilities such as schools and clinics will also resume services, a little more than a year after the March 11, 2011 debacle.

The announcement marked the first time that one of nine farm communities in the damaged Fukushima prefecture evacuated by the government will be re-established. Many of Kawauchi's residents now live in temporary housing units in other cities in the prefecture.

Kawauchi officials this month will survey residents on their plans to return or not. The village government said radiation levels in many residential areas have fallen below one micro-sievert per hour, which they called acceptable for habitation. Still, those who return will be supplied with dosimeters to measure ground radiation levels.

The mayor acknowledged that many residents had concerns about returning.

"Those who can return will return," he said. "Those who are still anxious can return after watching the situation for a while. I hope [all] residents will return in two or three years.”

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/02/japan-earthquake-and-tsunami-nuclear-evacuation.html

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« Reply #6096 on: Feb 2nd, 2012, 08:48am »

Science Daily

Societal Control of Sugar Essential to Ease Public Health Burden, Experts Urge
ScienceDaily (Feb. 1, 2012)

Sugar should be controlled like alcohol and tobacco to protect public health, according to a team of UCSF researchers, who maintain in a new report that sugar is fueling a global obesity pandemic, contributing to 35 million deaths annually worldwide from non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Non-communicable diseases now pose a greater health burden worldwide than infectious diseases, according to the United Nations. In the United States, 75 percent of health care dollars are spent treating these diseases and their associated disabilities.

In the Feb. 2 issue of Nature, Robert Lustig MD, Laura Schmidt PhD, MSW, MPH, and Claire Brindis, DPH, colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), argue that sugar's potential for abuse, coupled with its toxicity and pervasiveness in the Western diet make it a primary culprit of this worldwide health crisis.

This partnership of scientists trained in endocrinology, sociology and public health took a new look at the accumulating scientific evidence on sugar. Such interdisciplinary liaisons underscore the power of academic health sciences institutions like UCSF.

Sugar, they argue, is far from just "empty calories" that make people fat. At the levels consumed by most Americans, sugar changes metabolism, raises blood pressure, critically alters the signaling of hormones and causes significant damage to the liver -- the least understood of sugar's damages. These health hazards largely mirror the effects of drinking too much alcohol, which they point out in their commentary is the distillation of sugar.

Worldwide consumption of sugar has tripled during the past 50 years and is viewed as a key cause of the obesity epidemic. But obesity, Lustig, Schmidt and Brindis argue, may just be a marker for the damage caused by the toxic effects of too much sugar. This would help explain why 40 percent of people with metabolic syndrome -- the key metabolic changes that lead to diabetes, heart disease and cancer -- are not clinically obese.

"As long as the public thinks that sugar is just 'empty calories,' we have no chance in solving this," said Lustig, a professor of pediatrics, in the division of endocrinology at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and director of the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health (WATCH) Program at UCSF.

"There are good calories and bad calories, just as there are good fats and bad fats, good amino acids and bad amino acids, good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates," Lustig said. "But sugar is toxic beyond its calories."

Limiting the consumption of sugar has challenges beyond educating people about its potential toxicity. "We recognize that there are cultural and celebratory aspects of sugar," said Brindis, director of UCSF's Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. "Changing these patterns is very complicated"

According to Brindis, effective interventions can't rely solely on individual change, but instead on environmental and community-wide solutions, similar to what has occurred with alcohol and tobacco, that increase the likelihood of success.

The authors argue for society to shift away from high sugar consumption, the public must be better informed about the emerging science on sugar.

"There is an enormous gap between what we know from science and what we practice in reality," said Schmidt, professor of health policy at UCSF's Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies (IHPS) and co-chair of UCSF's Clinical and Translational Science Institute's (CTSI) Community Engagement and Health Policy Program, which focuses on alcohol and addiction research.

"In order to move the health needle, this issue needs to be recognized as a fundamental concern at the global level," she said.

The paper was made possible with funding from UCSF's Clinical and Translational Science Institute, UCSF's National Institutes of Health-funded program that helps accelerate clinical and translational research through interdisciplinary, interprofessional and transdisciplinary work.

Many of the interventions that have reduced alcohol and tobacco consumption can be models for addressing the sugar problem, such as levying special sales taxes, controlling access, and tightening licensing requirements on vending machines and snack bars that sell high sugar products in schools and workplaces.

"We're not talking prohibition," Schmidt said. "We're not advocating a major imposition of the government into people's lives. We're talking about gentle ways to make sugar consumption slightly less convenient, thereby moving people away from the concentrated dose. What we want is to actually increase people's choices by making foods that aren't loaded with sugar comparatively easier and cheaper to get."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120201135312.htm

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« Reply #6097 on: Feb 2nd, 2012, 08:52am »

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« Reply #6098 on: Feb 2nd, 2012, 09:06am »

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NASA's GRAIL mission has beamed back its first video of the far side of the moon. The imagery was taken on Jan. 19 by the MoonKAM aboard the mission's 'Ebb' spacecraft.

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« Reply #6099 on: Feb 2nd, 2012, 3:57pm »

Reuters

Exclusive: Hacked companies still not telling investors

By Joseph Menn
SAN FRANCISCO
Thu Feb 2, 2012 10:13am EST

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - At least a half-dozen major U.S. companies whose computers have been infiltrated by cyber criminals or international spies have not admitted to the incidents despite new guidance from securities regulators urging such disclosures.

Top U.S. cybersecurity officials believe corporate hacking is widespread, and the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a lengthy "guidance" document on October 13 outlining how and when publicly traded companies should report hacking incidents and cybersecurity risk.

But with one full quarter having elapsed since the SEC request, some major companies that are known to have had significant digital security breaches have said nothing about the incidents in their regulatory filings.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp, for example, said last May that it had fended off a "significant and tenacious" cyber attack on its networks. But Lockheed's most recent 10-Q quarterly filing, like its filing for the period that included the attack, does not even list hacking as a generic risk, let alone state that it has been targeted.

A Reuters review of more than 2,000 filings since the SEC guidance found some companies, including Internet infrastructure company VeriSign Inc and credit card and debit card transaction processor VeriFone Systems Inc, revealed significant new information about hacking incidents.

Yet the vast majority of companies addressing the issue only used new boilerplate language to describe a general risk. Some hacking victims did not even do that.

"It's completely confusing to me why companies aren't reporting cyber risks" if only to avoid SEC enforcement or private lawsuits, said Jacob Olcott, former counsel for the Senate Commerce committee. The chair of that committee, John D. Rockefeller, urged the SEC to act last year.

Stewart Baker, a corporate attorney and former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said the SEC guidance was detailed enough that companies that know they have been hacked will "have to work pretty hard not to disclose something about the scope and risk of the intrusion."

Otherwise, "this is an opportunity for enforcement that practically hands the case to the SEC on a platter," Baker said.

Lockheed spokesman Chris Williams said hacking was covered under the company's most recent annual securities filing, which has as one of many risk factors "security threats, including threats to our information technology infrastructure, attempts to gain access to our proprietary or classified information, threats to physical security of our facilities and employees, and terrorist acts."

Williams said the May attack had "no material effect on our business."

Mantech International Corp, CACI International Inc and other defense and technology firms that have been reported by security researchers as hacking victims were likewise silent in their most recent filings. Neither Mantech nor CACI responded to interview requests.

"It's common knowledge" that most large defense contractors have been penetrated, said Olcott.

Sikorsky Aircraft, mindful of a strict New Hampshire law warning individuals at risk of identity theft, wrote to that state's attorney general in August that hackers had gotten into its system and could have accessed Social Security numbers of 55 employees who lived in the state.

Sikorsky said the employee data likely was not the hackers' target, which suggests that they might have been after designs or other trade secrets. But Sikorsky parent United Technologies Corp did not mention the May intrusion in subsequent SEC filings.

"Like other companies, our businesses are subject to (information technology) security attacks at times. We monitor systems and cooperate closely with the government when appropriate," said United Technologies spokesman John Moran.

DEARTH OF CONFESSIONS

Melissa Hathaway, a former intelligence official who led U.S. President Barack Obama's initial cybersecurity policy review and helped push the SEC to enact a disclosure policy, said she was "surprised" at the dearth of new confessions.

"The SEC division of corporate finance has an obligation to ask these companies why they didn't disclose," she said. "We need to have transparency on the state of the situation, and we need to have a national conversation regarding the near-term impact of economic espionage and the long-term health of the nation."

The SEC declined to comment. The agency's guidance officially clarifies previous policy instead of establishing a new rule, a process that takes longer and requires a vote of the commissioners. A person close to the agency said it expects fuller disclosures in annual 10-K filings that will begin appearing in volume this month.

Cybersecurity has been an increasing concern in Washington, and Obama asked during his State of the Union speech for action on legislative proposals. Security experts believe hackers are frequently targeting valuable digital information including strategic plans, blueprints and secret formulas.

But security experts in and out of government have complained for years that most companies don't disclose even very successful hacking attacks, because they never find out about them or simply don't want to spook investors, customers or business partners.

The U.S. National Counterintelligence Executive, in a landmark November report that openly accused China of sponsoring military and economic cyber espionage, said that it is hard for companies to estimate the impact of losses that might not be apparent for years.

One Pentagon contractor that did go into some detail recently about the threat was Northrop Grumman Corp, which warned: "Cybersecurity attacks in particular are evolving and include, but are not limited to, malicious software, attempts to gain unauthorized access to data, and other electronic security breaches that could lead to disruptions in mission critical systems, unauthorized release of confidential or otherwise protected information and corruption of data. These events could damage our reputation and lead to financial losses from remedial actions, loss of business or potential liability."

A few technology companies gave even more specific warnings, including Juniper Networks Inc, which makes gear for routing Internet traffic, and chip-maker Intel Corp. Intel had been one of the few to disclose a successful breach in the past, along with Google Inc, which has complained of attacks originating in China.

In a November filing, Intel repeated that hackers had gotten inside and warned that "the theft or unauthorized use or publication of our trade secrets and other confidential business information as a result of such an incident could adversely affect our competitive position and reduce marketplace acceptance of our products."

Some companies asserted that they had not been hacked, or at least averred that they had not been subject to a "material" or "catastrophic" intrusion.

Others confessed to breaches for the first time, including VeriSign and VeriFone Systems, which said it had experienced "security breaches or fraudulent activities related to unauthorized access to sensitive customer information."

The company did not respond to requests for elaboration. Point-of-sale terminals including VeriFone's models are popular targets for criminal hackers, who can tamper with them in order to record passwords and card numbers.

VeriFone has been reported as a supplier of machines to Michaels Stores Inc, a retail chain of hobbyist stores that had to replace more than 7,000 terminals last year after discovering tampering in 20 states.

Two other companies said they disclosed breaches because of the SEC guidance. Tumi Holdings, the luggage maker that is pursuing an initial public offering, said in a stock prospectus that security systems in some of its retail stores had been compromised in the past.

In an interview, Tumi Chief Financial Officer Michael Mardy said there had been no theft of a database or other massive breach. Instead, he said there had been occasions where store employees had conspired with outsiders on a small scale, for example by giving refunds to people who had not made purchases.

"We felt it was necessary to list as a risk factor because it actually is a risk factor," Mardy said.

University of Phoenix parent Apollo Group Inc, which in the past had noted attempted breaches, for the first time said some attempts had succeeded.

"We are facing an increasing number of threats to our computer systems of unauthorized access, computer hackers, computer viruses, malicious code, organized cyber attacks and other system disruptions and security breaches, and from time to time we experience such disruptions and breaches," it wrote in a 10-Q.

Apollo spokesman Rick Castellano declined to say how extensive the breaches had been. "Cybersecurity is an area of growing area of concern for all companies", Castellano said. "We devote significant resources to manage any potential threat."

(Reporting By Joseph Menn)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/02/us-hacking-disclosures-idUSTRE8110YW20120202

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« Reply #6100 on: Feb 2nd, 2012, 5:56pm »

Aliens shill for Chevy Volt in Super Bowl ad

Published February 02, 2012

Apparently earthlings aren’t the only ones still trying to get a handle on the Chevy Volt.

Ahead of the big game, Chevrolet has released its upcoming Super Bowl advertisement for the plug-in hybrid on the internet, in which a man in a bathrobe goes out to his garage in the middle of the night and discovers a group of little cone-headed green and purple creatures inspecting a Volt.

Exasperated by what seems to be a recurring event, he tells them, “I’ll say it again, it’s electric, but when I need to go farther it uses gas. Please tell me you understand.”

Just to drive the point home, the voice of Tim Allen closes the ad saying, “advanced technology, really advanced.”

The Volt is what Chevy refers to as an extended-range electric car. After its battery pack has been depleted a small internal combustion engine turns on to generate electricity to power the car. Several other automakers, including Ford and Toyota, are introducing cars this year that work in a similar way.

After a year of disappointing sales and bad publicity General Motors is in the process of essentially re-launching the Volt, which is now available at dealers nationwide after a slow rollout since deliveries began in limited markets in December 2010. Only 603 cars were sold this past January as the automaker went about re-engineered the $39,995 car to address safety concerns brought about by government crash testing that led to fires in the electronics systems associated with its liquid-cooled battery pack.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDKTdYKjt3s&feature=player_embedded

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2012/02/02/aliens-shill-for-chevy-volt-in-super-bowl-ad/#ixzz1lGuSTLXs
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« Reply #6101 on: Feb 2nd, 2012, 8:29pm »

Great ad, thanks Swamp. grin

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« Reply #6102 on: Feb 3rd, 2012, 07:20am »

New York Times

February 3, 2012
S.E.C. Is Avoiding Tough Sanctions for Large Banks
By EDWARD WYATT

WASHINGTON — Even as the Securities and Exchange Commission has stepped up its investigations of Wall Street in the last decade, the agency has repeatedly allowed the biggest firms to avoid punishments specifically meant to apply to fraud cases.

By granting exemptions to laws and regulations that act as a deterrent to securities fraud, the S.E.C. has let financial giants like JPMorganChase, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America continue to have advantages reserved for the most dependable companies, making it easier for them to raise money from investors, for example, and to avoid liability from lawsuits if their financial forecasts turn out to be wrong.

An analysis by The New York Times of S.E.C. investigations over the last decade found nearly 350 instances where the agency has given big Wall Street institutions and other financial companies a pass on those or other sanctions. Those instances also include waivers permitting firms to underwrite certain stock and bond sales and manage mutual fund portfolios.

JPMorganChase, for example, has settled six fraud cases in the last 13 years, including one with a $228 million settlement last summer, but it has obtained at least 22 waivers, in part by arguing that it has “a strong record of compliance with securities laws.” Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, which merged in 2009, have settled 15 fraud cases and received at least 39 waivers.

Only about a dozen companies — Dell, General Electric and United Rentals among them — have felt the full force of the law after issuing misleading information about their businesses. Citigroup was the only major Wall Street bank among them. In 11 years, it settled six fraud cases and received 25 waivers before it lost most of its privileges in 2010.

By granting those waivers, the S.E.C. allowed Wall Street firms to have powerful advantages, securities experts and former regulators say. The institutions remained protected under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which makes it easier to avoid class-action shareholder lawsuits.

And the companies continue to use rules that let them instantly raise money publicly, without waiting weeks for government approvals. Without the waivers, the companies could not move as quickly as rivals that had not settled fraud charges to sell stocks or bonds when market conditions were most favorable.

Other waivers allowed Wall Street firms that had settled fraud or lesser charges to continue managing mutual funds and to help small, private companies raise money from investors — two types of business from which they otherwise would be excluded.

“The ramifications of losing those exemptions are enormous to these firms,” David S. Ruder, a former S.E.C. chairman, said in an interview. Without the waivers, agreeing to settle charges of securities fraud “might have vast repercussions affecting the ability of a firm to continue to stay in business,” he said.

S.E.C. officials say that they grant the waivers to keep stock and bond markets open to companies with legitimate capital-raising needs. Ensuring such access is as important to its mission as protecting investors, regulators said.

The agency usually revokes the privileges when a case involves false or misleading statements about a company’s own business. It does not do so when the commission has charged a Wall Street firm with lying about, say, a specific mortgage security that it created and is selling to investors, a charge Goldman Sachs settled in 2010. Different parts of the company — corporate officers versus a sales force, for example — are responsible for different types of statements, officials say.

“The purpose of taking away this simplified path to capital is to protect investors, not to punish a company,” said Meredith B. Cross, the S.E.C.’s corporation finance director, referring to the fast-track offering privilege. “You’re not seeing the times that waivers aren’t being granted, because the companies don’t ask when they know the answer will be no.”

Others, however, argue that the pattern is another example of the government being too soft on Wall Street as it has become a much larger part of the economy in recent decades.

President Obama, in his State of the Union address, asked Congress last week for tougher laws that make “the penalties for fraud count.” Federal judges in New York and Wisconsin recently criticized the S.E.C. for its habit of settling cases by allowing companies to promise not to violate the law in the future.

The commission has frequently turned the other cheek when the companies again settle similar fraud cases. S.E.C. officials have defended that practice by saying they do not have the resources to take cases to court rather than settle. They recently asked Congress to toughen laws and to raise financial penalties for fraud violations.

But the repeated granting of waivers suggests that the agency does in fact have tools it often does not use, critics say. Close to half of the waivers went to repeat offenders — Wall Street firms that had settled previous fraud charges by agreeing never again to violate the very laws that the S.E.C. was now saying that they had broken.

Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican who serves on committees that oversee the S.E.C., said he was baffled that the agency had recently asked Congress for more enforcement powers when it had ceded much of the power it already had.

“It’s really hard to see why the S.E.C. isn’t using all of its weapons to deter fraud,” he said. “It makes already weak punishment even weaker by waiving the regulations that impose significant consequences on the companies that settle fraud charges. No wonder recidivism is such a problem.”

The Times analysis found 11 instances where companies that had settled fraud cases had actually lost the special privilege for fast-track stock or bond offerings, versus 49 times that the S.E.C. granted waivers from the punishment to Wall Street firms since 2005. The analysis counted 91 waivers since 2000 granting immunity from lawsuits, and 204 waivers related to raising money for small companies and managing mutual funds.

The S.E.C. does not maintain a central database of how many companies lose special status or are denied waivers. Its records of granted waivers are scattered across several databases on its Web site.

JPMorganChase is among the big Wall Street firms that have been granted multiple waivers with nearly every settlement of S.E.C. fraud charges. Last July, it agreed to pay $228 million to settle civil and criminal charges that it cheated cities and towns by rigging bids with other Wall Street firms to invest the money raised by several municipalities for capital projects.

JPMorgan received three waivers related to that case for privileges that it otherwise would have lost. But the S.E.C. said the company’s fraudulent actions didn’t involve misleading investors about JPMorgan’s business.

“That distinction doesn’t do it for me,” said Richard W. Painter, a corporate law professor at the University of Minnesota and the co-author of a casebook on securities litigation and enforcement. “If a company has trouble telling the truth to investors in one batch of securities it is underwriting, I would not have confidence that it would tell the truth to investors about its own securities.”

Despite six securities fraud settlements in 13 years, JPMorgan rarely if ever lost any special privileges. It has been awarded at least 22 waivers since 2003, with most of its S.E.C. settlements generating two or more. In seeking the reprieves, lawyers for JPMorgan stated in letters to the S.E.C. that it should grant a waiver because the company has “a strong record of compliance with the securities laws.” The company declined to comment for this article.

Citigroup is one of the rare Wall Street giants that has lost significant privileges recently. In October 2010, the bank paid $75 million to settle charges that it misled investors in 2007 about the size of its holdings of assets backed by subprime mortgages. The company told investors that it had about $13 billion of those risky investments on its balance sheet, when it really had more than $50 billion, according to the S.E.C.

Because those accusations involved Citigroup’s statements about its own financial well-being, the company lost for three years the ability to insulate itself from lawsuits over mistaken predictions about its business. It also lost, for the same three years, the exemption for “well-known seasoned issuers,” which allowed it to quickly raise capital in the securities markets. As a result, Citigroup has had to file thousands of pages of new documents with the S.E.C. and wait weeks for the agency’s approvals to make itself eligible to sell stocks, bonds and other securities to the public.

Citigroup declined to comment on whether the sanctions have had any effect on its business.

Wrangling over waivers is an important part of the negotiations when companies accused of fraud discuss a settlement with the S.E.C., and sometimes it can involve a form of corporate plea bargaining to a lesser charge.

In 2009, the S.E.C. was negotiating with Bank of America over charges that it had failed to disclose to shareholders that billions of dollars in bonuses were being paid to Merrill Lynch executives just as Bank of America was bailing out the firm.

more after the jump
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/03/business/sec-is-avoiding-tough-sanctions-for-large-banks.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #6103 on: Feb 3rd, 2012, 07:27am »

The Hill

Dems face tricky immigration choice
By Alexander Bolton
02/03/12 06:00 AM ET

Democrats face a politically tricky choice over whether to pursue a compromise with Republicans on immigration reform that was recently floated by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

The Republican presidential contenders are willing to grant illegal immigrants legal status if they came to the country at a young age and served in the military.

It’s a tough election-year call for Democrats for several reasons.

Immigration reform has been a winning issue for them as staunch GOP opposition has driven Hispanic voters to support Democratic candidates in recent cycles.

Hispanic voters helped Democrats win tough Senate races in Colorado and Nevada in 2010. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) bolstered his standing among Hispanic voters by claiming immigration reform as one of his highest priorities.

During his State of the Union address last month, President Obama called for Congress to resurrect the DREAM Act, even though lawmakers say there is virtually no chance of it passing the GOP-controlled House.

Striking a compromise would allow Republicans to earn some points with Hispanic voters and lessen pressure on Republican lawmakers to support more comprehensive immigration reform.

Walking away from possible common ground, however, could leave Democrats open to criticism that they missed a chance to make incremental progress.

At a debate in Florida last week, Romney and Gingrich said they could support a scaled-down version of the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act, which Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to pass the last several years, would grant legal status to illegal immigrants who crossed the border at a young age if they meet certain conditions. The legislation, which has previously gotten a few Republican votes, has been criticized by many in the GOP for granting “amnesty.”

Romney and Gingrich, the two front-runners for the 2012 GOP nomination, say they could support it only if it were scaled back.

“I wouldn’t sign the DREAM Act as it currently exists, but I would sign the DREAM Act if it were focused on military service,” Romney said.

That clarification came soon after Romney had vowed to veto the DREAM Act, triggering criticism from prominent Hispanic Republicans. During the presidential debates, Romney hammered Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) for signing into law a version of the DREAM Act in the Lone Star State.

Gingrich and Romney would lop off part of the DREAM Act that would grant legal residency to alien minors who came to the country at age 15 or younger, live in the country for at least five years and complete at least two years of higher education.

Some Democrats are unsure whether they will embrace the Gingrich-Romney approach.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act.

“If you are willing to accept that military service is the kind of bona fide that credentials a young person to take advantage of college benefits, I’d want to explore what other kinds of service might also qualify with them before I wrote off drawing the line there. I’ll do a bit more exploring but it’s a good start,” Whitehouse added.

Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), a leading Democratic voice on immigration reform, said he would prefer to pass the DREAM Act in its entirety, but would not rule out a compromise.

“My belief is we should try to pass the whole DREAM Act. As for what compromise might come about, that’s down the road,” said Schumer.

Other Democrats reject out of hand the GOP proposal to rewrite the DREAM Act.

“I don’t support that,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the lead Senate sponsor of the DREAM Act. “That will literally mean that those who came to this country at an innocent situation early in life have only one way to become legal, and that’s to join the military. I want men and women to join the military out of a sense of duty and patriotism, rather than to feel they are desperate and have no other place to turn.”

The day after the GOP presidential debate in Tampa, Fla., Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) introduced the Adjusted Residency for Military Service (ARMS) Act, which followed the outlines set by Romney and Gingrich.

Rivera said he first talked to Gingrich about the bill in November.

He said Democrats should support it because it’s the only immigration reform proposal that has a chance of passing Congress this year.

“Any Democrats who take a reasonable approach to immigration reform understand the realities we’re facing in the 112th Congress. If we want to do something to help young people in this Congress, this is the only option,” said Rivera, who has endorsed Gingrich.

“If Democrats want to take an all-or-nothing approach, there will be nothing. If someone is willing to die for America, we can give them a chance,” he said.

“I’m comfortable with that [the Romney-Gingrich position] and I think most Republicans are,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who backs Romney and is seen as a possible running mate.

Even if the Romney-Gingrich compromise passed the Senate, it’s unlikely it would pass the House because most Republicans in the lower chamber say the top priority on immigration is securing the borders.

Politically, the scenario of House GOP leaders breaking from their White House nominee would play well for Democrats just months before the election.

Meanwhile, immigration experts say Pentagon officials have tightened their application processes in recent years.

Gregory Chen, the director of advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), said illegal immigrants are currently prohibited from serving in the military.

He said military recruiters now carefully check Social Security numbers to make sure inductees are legal residents, a precaution not always taken in the past.

Chen noted that non-citizens receive expedited processing for citizenship if they serve in the military. He also noted that legal residents can win citizenship posthumously if killed in the line of duty, which can benefit surviving relatives.

“AILA would generally support providing a path to legal status, but this bill is very small in the sense that it will enable very few people to qualify,” he said of Rivera’s legislation.

Chen estimated that the Gingrich-Romney plan would only affect 1,000 people a year.

Rivera disputed that assertion.

“It’s impossible to estimate,” he said.

http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/208469-dems-face-tricky-immigration-choice-

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« Reply #6104 on: Feb 3rd, 2012, 07:32am »

Chicago Tribune

Iran warns of retaliation over oil sanctions

by Parisa Hafezi
Reuters
5:15 AM CST, February 3, 2012


TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday Iran would retaliate over Western-backed oil sanctions and any threat of attack, after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was cited as saying he feared a possible Israeli strike as early as April.

Khamenei's defiant speech to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution was the first direct response to tighter sanctions imposed by the West in recent weeks to force Tehran to abandon a nuclear program it says has purely peaceful ends.

"Threatening Iran and attacking Iran will harm America ... Sanctions will not have any impact on our determination to continue our nuclear course ... In response to threats of oil embargo and war, we have our own threats to impose at the right time," Khamenei told worshippers in a speech broadcast live on state television.

"I have no fear of saying that we will back and help any nation or group that wants to confront and fight against the Zionist regime (Israel)."

U.S. media reports said U.S. Defense Secretary Panetta believed there was a growing possibility Israel would attack Iran as early as April to stop it building a nuclear bomb.

The Washington Post first reported on Thursday that Panetta was concerned about an increased likelihood Israel would launch an attack over the next few months. CNN said it confirmed the report, citing a senior Obama administration official, who declined to be identified.

"Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June - before Iran enters what Israelis described as a 'zone of immunity' to commence building a nuclear bomb," columnist David Ignatius wrote.

"Very soon, the Israelis fear, the Iranians will have stored enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon - and only the United States could then stop them militarily," Ignatius wrote.

Panetta and the Pentagon both declined comment on the Post report.

"PAINFUL AND CRIPPLING"

Khamenei said any U.S. military strike against Iran would backfire and that the "painful and crippling" Western sanctions would only increase the resilience of Iran.

"Americans say all options are on the table even the option of military strike (against Iran)...Any military strike is ten times more harmful for America. Such threats show that they have no sufficient discourse against Iran's logic and discourse."

"Such threats show that America has no way but using force and bloodshed to achieve its goals, which further harms America's rulers, international and domestic credibility," he added.

Khamenei said the aim of the sanctions was to punish "the Islamic Republic because of Islam."

"Such sanctions will benefit us. They will make us more self-reliant ... We would not achieve military progress if sanctions were not imposed on Iran's military sector ... More imposed pressures mean more self-reliance for Iran."

"Sanctions are beneficial also because it makes us more determined not to change our nuclear course ... Iran will not change its nuclear course because of sanctions...,"he added.

Israel, widely believed to possess the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, views Iran's uranium enrichment projects as a major threat and has not ruled out the use of military force to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The Post said the postponement of a joint U.S.-Israeli military exercise that had been scheduled for this spring may have signaled the prospect of an Israeli attack soon.

Iran has said repeatedly it could close the vital Strait of Hormuz Gulf oil export route if sanctions succeed in preventing it exporting crude, a move Washington said it would not tolerate.

Israel's Military Intelligence Chief Major-General Aviv Kochavi said on Thursday he estimated that Iran could make four atomic bombs by further enriching uranium it had already stockpiled, and could produce its first bomb within a year of deciding to build one.

Citing figures similar to those from the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear agency, Kochavi told Israel's annual Herzliya Conference on strategic affairs: "Iran has accumulated more than 4 tonnes of uranium enriched to a level of 3.5 percent and nearly 100 kilos at an enrichment level of 20 percent.

"This amount of material is already enough for four atomic bombs."

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said separately that "if sanctions don't achieve the desired goal of stopping (Iran's) military nuclear program, there will be a need to consider taking action."

A top Chinese newspaper stepped up Beijing's opposition to a Western push for tighter sanctions against Iran, warning on Friday that tensions over Tehran's nuclear program are hurting energy markets and could stifle the global economic recovery.

GLOBAL ECONOMY

China's criticism appeared in the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party. It comes a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Beijing to use its influence to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program.

"The global economy is in the midst of a difficult economic recovery and reducing the shocks of uncertainties is the common responsibility of countries all over the world," the People's Daily commentary said.

"In the near term, the sudden spike in tensions between the United States and Iran is now posing the greatest uncertainty. This factor is disrupting global energy markets and has cast a shadow over the global economic recovery."

China, the world's second-largest crude consumer and the biggest buyer of Iranian oil, has long opposed unilateral sanctions that target Iran's energy sector and has tried to reduce tensions that could threaten its oil supply.

Escalating tensions between Iran and the West have pushed up Brent crude prices by about 9 percent since mid-December.

On Thursday, at a joint media briefing after what Germany's Merkel described as "long discussions" about Iran, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao appeared to reject the pressure to do more.

He said Beijing objected to Western nations politicizing the "normal commercial relationship" it has with the Islamic Republic, echoing language that China has used before.

Merkel, who is in China on a three-day visit, said she hoped the U.N. Security Council could pass a unanimous resolution on the Iran issue.


http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-irantre8120kn-20120203,0,1331284.story

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