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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 127717 times)
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« Reply #7230 on: Aug 25th, 2012, 08:49am »

Reuters

Drone strike may have killed Haqqani network leader

By Michael Georgy
Sat Aug 25, 2012 9:38am EDT

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A CIA drone strike in Pakistan may have killed the operational commander of the Haqqani network, the insurgent group behind some of the most high-profile attacks on Western and Afghan government targets in Afghanistan, Pakistani intelligence officials and militant sources said on Saturday.

The officials said Badruddin Haqqani, who is also believed to handle the network's vital business interests and smuggling operations, may have been killed during a drone strike this week in Pakistan's tribal North Waziristan region.

One senior Pakistani intelligence official said Badruddin had fled a compound that he and other militants were in after it was hit by a missile, then was killed by a second drone strike on a car that he was in.

There was no official word on Badruddin's fate from the Haqqani network. Other intelligence officials were more cautious.

"Our informers have told us that he has been killed in the drone attack on the 21st but we cannot confirm it," said one of the Pakistani intelligence officials.

If Badruddin's death is confirmed, it could deal a major blow to the Haqqanis, one of the United States's most feared enemies in Afghanistan.

The Haqqanis are the most experienced fighters in Afghanistan and the loss of one of the group's most important leaders could ease pressure on NATO as it prepares to withdraw most of its combat troops at the end of 2014.

"We are 90 percent sure that he was in the same house which was attacked with a drone on Tuesday," said another Pakistani intelligence official.

Sources close to the Haqqqani network also said Badruddin was believed to be in the house, hit by a drone strike as militants were planting explosives in a vehicle meant to be used for an attack on NATO forces in Afghanistan.

"The drone fired two missiles on the house last Tuesday and killed 25 people, most of them members of the Haqqani family," one of the sources said.

Pakistani Taliban and tribal sources said they believed Badruddin was killed in the drone attack.

One of Badruddin's relatives said he was alive and busy with his "jihad activities".

"Such claims are baseless," he told Reuters. Another relative told Reuters Badruddin is "alive and well".

Afghanistan's Taliban movement, allies of the Haqqani network, said Badruddin was alive.

SERIES OF DRONE STRIKES

A series of drone strikes in North Waziristan this week suggest the CIA, which remotely operates the aircraft, was after a high-value militant target in the unruly area.

The deaths of militants in such strikes are difficult to confirm because they often occur in remote areas of regions in the northwest like North Waziristan that are hard for authorities to reach.

U.S. officials blame the al Qaeda-linked network for some of the boldest attacks in Afghanistan, including one on embassies and parliament in Kabul in April which lasted 18 hours, killing 11 Afghan security forces and four civilians.

The United States accuses Pakistan's intelligence agency of supporting the Haqqani network and using it as a proxy in Afghanistan to gain leverage against the growing influence of its arch-rival India in the country.

Pakistan denies the allegations.

Militant groups from Afghanistan and Pakistan have formed alliances and often cross the porous border for operations.

A NATO air strike in eastern Afghanistan has killed a commander of the Pakistani Taliban, both NATO and the Taliban said on Saturday.

Both sides identified the dead commander as Mullah Dadullah and said several of his comrades were also killed in the attack on Friday.

A NATO statement did not say who carried out the assault, but the alliance is alone in having the air power to conduct such an operation. It said Dadullah's deputy, Shakir, was also killed.

"Dadullah, also known as Jamal, was responsible for the movement of fighters and weapons, as well as attacks against Afghan and coalition forces," the statement said.

It said Afghan and coalition forces backing the Kabul government had "conducted a post-strike assessment" and found that there had been no civilian casualties or damage to civilian property.

Pakistani Taliban officials, as well as Pakistani intelligence officials said Dadullah had been killed in a house in eastern Konar province, along with 12 bodygards. They said he was the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan's Bajaur tribal agency, near the border with Afghanistan.

Dadullah, in his 40s, replaced Maulvi Faqir Mohammad last year after Mohammad told the media that the Taliban were holding peace talks with the government.

The Pakistani Taliban, committed to the same Islamist principles as the Taliban ousted from power in Kabul in 2001, replaced Mohammad with Dadullah to undercut the secret negotiations, Taliban commanders say.

Some Pakistani Taliban fighters and commanders were forced to flee into Afghanistan after the Pakistani army launched a series of offensives against them in 2008 and 2009.

But they still carry out cross-border raids on Pakistani armed forces. In June, the Pakistani Taliban said they beheaded 17 Pakistani soldiers in a cross-border raid.

(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi and Amie Ferris-Rotman in KABUL; Editing by Ron Popeski)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/25/us-pakistan-afghanistan-haqqani-idUSBRE87O04A20120825

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« Reply #7231 on: Aug 25th, 2012, 08:55am »






Published on Aug 24, 2012 by Promocionyventas1

Ufo | Original Video - UFO Over Lebanon Missouri 5_26_12

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« Reply #7232 on: Aug 25th, 2012, 09:05am »

Defense News

Embraer Picked for Brazil’s $6B Border Defense Project
Aug. 24, 2012 - 05:53PM
By ANDREW CHUTER

The Brazilian Army has selected local contractor Embraer Defence and Security to build the initial phase of a massive surveillance and protection along the length of its 16,886-kilometer land border.

The Tepro consortium, led by Embraer-controlled companies Savis Tecnologica and Orbisat Industria, has been named to undertake contract negotiations on the first part of what could be a $6 billion program known as Sisfron, or Sistema Integrado de Monitoramento de Fronteiras.

Sisfron is set to include land radars and other ground sensors, unmanned air vehicles, communications, command and control and other elements.

The Brazilian Army hopes to complete Sisfron by the end of 2019, giving surveillance and protection 150 km deep along a border with Brazil’s 11 neighbors.

The initial phase of the project will cover an area under the responsibility of the Brazilian Western Military Command.

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20120824/DEFREG02/308240003/Embraer-Picked-Brazil-8217-s-6B-Border-Defense-Project?odyssey=tab

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« Reply #7233 on: Aug 25th, 2012, 09:12am »






Uploaded by ChrisCrossMedia on Nov 28, 2010

"The History of Mickey Mouse"

We are only 2 days away from the release of Disney Epic Mickey! We wanted to give you guys a look back on the history of Hollywoods Most Iconic Icon, Mickey Mouse!

In our video, we start where Mickey was born, in the 1928 cartoon short Plane Crazy! We go through the amazing journey of Mickey, and give some fun quick facts about his life too!

~





Uploaded by disneyanimation on Aug 27, 2009

The classic Mickey Mouse cartoon

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« Reply #7234 on: Aug 25th, 2012, 3:12pm »




r.i.p. Neil Armstrong. Thank you for bringing so much joy and wonder to us on that warm July night in 1969.







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« Reply #7235 on: Aug 26th, 2012, 09:29am »

Telegraph

Mexican police open fire on US embassy car

Mexican federal police shot at a US diplomatic car as they chased criminals south of Mexico City on Friday, in a chaotic incident that left two US embassy employees wounded.

11:19PM BST 24 Aug 2012

The two staffers, along with a Mexican marine accompanying them, were treated for their wounds at a hospital and are out of danger.

The Mexican navy and public security ministry said federal police officers were conducting anti-crime opertions in the area when the incident took place.

The US embassy trio were heading to a military installation in the town of El Capulin when they were approached by a vehicle whose unidentified passengers displayed weapons, the navy and ministry said in a joint statement.

"The driver of the diplomatic vehicle used evasive maneuvers and when it returned on the highway, the passengers in the attacking vehicle opened fire on the diplomatic vehicle," the statement said.

"Moments later three other vehicles joined the chase and shot at the US embassy vehicle," it said.

The statement did not specify who the four attacking vehicles belonged to, or whether it was police bullets that wounded the three victims.

It said, however, that the US diplomatic car "was hit by multiple bullets from personnel of the federal police on the Tres Marias-Huitzilac highway."

Photos at the scene showed an SUV with diplomatic plates riddled with bullet holes and its tires blown out.

The shooting took pace in the state of Morelos, which has suffered a surge in murders in recent weeks amid a turf war between drug cartels. The bodies of four women were found on another highway near Cuernavaca last week.

Mexico is in the throes of a violent drug war that has left more than 50,000 people dead since President Felipe Calderon deployed soldiers to combat cartels in 2006.

The US State Department said in a brief statement that the two embassy employees had received "appropriate medical care and are in stable condition."

"We are working with Mexican authorities to investigate an incident this morning in which two employees of our embassy in Mexico City came under attack by unknown assailants," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

The two wounded employees were taken to a hospital in the city of Cuernavaca, some 55 miles south of Mexico City.

The newspaper Reforma, citing Mexican marine sources, identified the US citizens as Jess Hoods Garner, 49, and Stan Dove Boss, 50.

After the shooting, the army and the police closed a 10-kilometre stretch of highway as well as access to a wooded area around the scene of the incident near the town of Tres Marias.

The road, which has a heavy police presence, is used by Mexico City residents on weekend trips to Cuernavaca, a tourist destination known as "The City of Eternal Spring" and home to a pre-Hispanic temple.

The incident came 18 months after two US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were shot while driving in a car between Mexico City and the northern city of Monterrey in February 2011.

One of the agents, Jaime Zapata, died in the attack by members of the feared Los Zetas cartel.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamericaandthecaribbean/mexico/9498537/Mexican-police-open-fire-on-US-embassy-car.html

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« Reply #7236 on: Aug 26th, 2012, 09:32am »

Washington Post

Why was a Navy adviser stripped of her career?

By Jeff Stein, Published: August 21

Gwenyth Todd had worked in a lot of places in Washington where powerful men didn’t hesitate to use sharp elbows. She had been a Middle East expert for the National Security Council in the Clinton administration. She had worked in the office of Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in the first Bush administration, where neoconservative hawks first began planning to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

But she was not prepared a few years later in Bahrain when she encountered plans by high-ranking admirals to confront Iran, any one of which, she reckoned, could set the region on fire. It was 2007, and Todd, then 42, was a top political adviser to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Previous 5th Fleet commanders had resisted various ploys by Bush administration hawks to threaten the Tehran regime. But in spring 2007, a new commander arrived with an ambitious program to show the Iranians who was boss in the Persian Gulf.

Vice Adm. Kevin J. Cosgriff had amassed an impressive résumé, rising through the ranks to command a cruiser and a warship group after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Following a customary path to three stars, he had also spent as much time in Washington as he had at sea, including stints at the Defense Intelligence Agency and as director of the Clinton White House Situation Room.

Cosgriff — backed by a powerful friend and boss, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) chief Adm. William J. “Fox” Fallon — was itching to push the Iranians, Todd and other present and former Navy officials say.

“There was a feeling that the Navy was back on its heels in dealing with Iran,” according to a Navy official prohibited from commenting in the media. “There was an intention to be far more aggressive with the Iranians, and a diminished concern about keeping Washington in the loop.”

Two people who were there said Cosgriff mused in a staff meeting one day that he’d like to steam a Navy frigate up the Shatt al Arab, the diplomatically sensitive and economically crucial waterway dividing Iraq and Iran. In another, they said, he wanted to convene a regional conference to push back Iran’s territorial claims in the waterway, a flash point for the bloody Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Then he presented an idea that not only alarmed Todd, but eventually, she believes, launched the chain of events that would end her career.

Cosgriff declined to discuss any of these meetings on the record. This story includes information from a half-dozen Navy and other government officials who demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, many parts of which remain classified.

According to Todd and another witness, Cosgriff’s idea, presented in a series of staff meetings, was to sail three “big decks,” as aircraft carriers are known, through the Strait of Hormuz — to put a virtual armada, unannounced, on Iran’s doorstep. No advance notice, even to Saudi Arabia and other gulf allies. Not only that, they said, Cosgriff ordered his staff to keep the State Department in the dark, too.

To Todd, it was like something straight out of “Seven Days in May,” the 1964 political thriller about a right-wing U.S. military coup. A retired senior naval officer familiar with Cosgriff’s thinking said the deployment plan was not intended to be provocative.

But Todd, in an account backed by another Navy official, said the admiral “was very, very clear that we were to tell him if there was any sign that Washington was aware of it and asking questions.”

For the past year, the air had been electric with reports of impending U.S. or Israeli attacks on Iran. If this maneuver were carried out, Todd and others feared, the Iranians would freak out. At the least, they’d cancel a critical diplomatic meeting coming up with U.S. officials. Todd suspected that was Cosgriff’s aim. She and others also speculated that Cosgriff wouldn’t propose such a brazen plan without Fallon’s support.

Retired Adm. David C. Nichols, deputy Centcom commander in 2007, recalled in an interview last year that Fallon “wanted to do a freedom-of-navigation exercise in what Iran calls its territorial waters that we hadn’t done in a long time.” Nothing wrong with that, per se, but the problem was that “we don’t understand Iran’s perception of what we’re doing, and we haven’t understood what they’re doing and why,” Nichols said. “It makes miscalculations possible.”

Todd feared that the Iranians would respond, possibly by launching fast-attack missile boats into the gulf or unleashing Hezbollah on Israel. Then anything could happen: a collision, a jittery exchange of gunfire — bad enough on its own, but also an incident that Washington hawks could seize on to justify an all-out response on Iran.

Preposterous? It had happened before, off North Vietnam in 1964. In the Tonkin Gulf incident, a Navy captain claimed a communist attack on his ship. President Lyndon Johnson swiftly ordered the bombing of North Vietnam, touching off a wider war that turned the country upside down and left more than 58,000 U.S. servicemen dead.

Don’t tell anybody? No way.

Todd picked up the phone and called a friend in Foggy Bottom. She had to get this thing stopped.

* * *

Gwenyth Todd was from a long line of American diplomats, bankers, spies and scholars going back to Revolutionary times. Her first 17 years had been spent following her father, Kenneth Thompson, a career diplomat, and mother, Eve Tyler, granddaughter of a renowned art collector, through embassies in Malta, Turkey, West Africa, England and Spain. Summers were spent at the family chateau in France, where the bloodline led back to Napoleon.

But Washington was home. Her maternal grandfather, William Royall Tyler, had been an assistant secretary of state in the Kennedy administration and director of Dumbarton Oaks, the estate and center for Byzantine and pre-Columbian art studies. The estate’s original owners, Robert and Mildred Bliss, were intimate friends of her family. “When we weren’t overseas, I spent much of my time as a child playing in the gardens,” Todd said during one of several interviews in the past year.

She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in Near and Middle Eastern studies from the University of California at Berkeley, then earned a master’s in Arabic and international affairs in 1990 at Georgetown University.

Bright, brash, tall and sexy — she had modeling jobs between Berkeley and Georgetown — she seemed destined for a promising career. But she also revealed an early penchant for intrigue. She recounts how, studying Arabic in Syria in 1989, she had drawn the attention of the secret police, who suspected her of being an American spy, apparently because of her romance with a dashing young U.S. Army officer, Maurice “Lin” Todd, attached to the U.N. mission in Damascus. Tipped by a Syrian student that her arrest was imminent, she said her boyfriend suggested they marry immediately so she could escape with diplomatic immunity as a spouse of a member of the U.N. mission. The marriage lasted only six years, “a huge disappointment,” she said.

From there on, her life would seem to unfold as if it were an episode of “Alias” or “Covert Affairs.” One time, “I hired a car and driver and drove across the Sinai from Cairo to the Israeli border, with Abba blaring on the stereo and feeling rather like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” she recalled. Destination: Eliat, on the Red Sea. Mission: scuba diving.

Conversant in French, Spanish, Turkish and Arabic, Todd quickly won a White House internship and a job at the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command in Alexandria. Her job involved squiring senior foreign military officers around town.

Right away, remembered her boss, Linda Baish, then chief of USASAC’s Pacific Division, Todd was fearless about standing up to overbearing men.

“I was very impressed with her,” Baish said. “She was, I thought, the kind of person who should be representing the U.S. government.”

In 1991, Todd, 27, quickly won a transfer to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where she gained her first top-secret security clearance and became the desk officer for Iraq, Kuwait and Oman. In charge of analyzing regional events, in particular the effectiveness of economic sanctions against Saddam Hussein, Todd found herself rubbing elbows with Pentagon neoconservatives who she says were already conspiring with Iraqi exiles to replace the dictator a dozen years before the invasion of Iraq. She believed overthrowing Hussein and his fellow Sunnis, implacable enemies of Iran, would be a strategic blunder.

With Bill Clinton’s election victory in 1992, Todd became desk officer for Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. It was a lively time, with covert U.S. involvement in operations to liquidate Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug kingpin, and Abimael Guzman, leader of Peru’s Shining Path revolutionaries.

more after the jump:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/sunk/2012/08/21/96209788-cebd-11e1-aa14-708bac2c7ee9_story.html?hpid=z1

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« Reply #7237 on: Aug 26th, 2012, 09:36am »

Reuters

Two members of punk rock band flee Russia

Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:19am EDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Two members of Russia's anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot have fled the country to avoid prosecution for staging a protest against President Vladimir Putin at a church altar, the band said on Sunday.

A Moscow court sentenced three members of the all-female opposition band to two years in prison on August 17 for staging a "punk prayer" at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February and calling on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.

The sentence drew sharp international criticism of the Russian government, while opposition groups at home have portrayed it as part of a Kremlin clampdown on dissent.

Police said earlier this week they were searching for other members of the band.

"In regard to the pursuit, two of our members have successfully fled the country! They are recruiting foreign feminists to prepare new actions!," a Twitter account called Pussy Riot Group said.

Defence lawyers of the convicted Pussy Riot members - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich - are expected to appeal against their sentences next week.

Tolokonnikova's husband, Pyotr Verzilov, told Reuters on Sunday that the two members of the group who have fled Russia had taken part in the cathedral protest along with his wife.

"Since the Moscow police said they are searching for them, they will keep a low profile for now. They are in a safe place beyond the reach of the Russian police," he said by phone.

Asked if that meant a country which had no extradition agreement with Russia, Verzilov said: "Yes, that suggests that."

"But you must remember that 12 or even 14 members who are still in Russia actively participate in the band's work now, it's a big collective," he added.

The Kremlin has dismissed criticism by Western governments and prominent musicians including Madonna and Sting as politically motivated.

Putin, back at the Kremlin since May for his third presidential term, said before the three band members were sentenced that they should not be judged too harshly.

Under Russian law the three Pussy Riot members put on trial could have faced as much as seven years' jail for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, but the prosecutors asked for three years and they were sentenced to two.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Tim Pearce)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/26/us-russia-pussyriot-idUSBRE87P03O20120826

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« Reply #7238 on: Aug 26th, 2012, 09:41am »

Seattle Times

Originally published August 25, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Page modified August 25, 2012 at 5:22 PM

Smart meter movement stirs rowdy debate in Texas

By SARAH KUTA
Associated Press

DALLAS —

Thelma Taormina keeps a pistol at her Houston-area home to protect against intruders. But one of the last times she used it, she said, was to run off a persistent utility company worker who was trying to replace her old electricity meter with a new digital unit.

"This is Texas." she declared at a recent public hearing on the new meters. "We have rights to choose what appliances we want in our home."

A nationwide effort to upgrade local power systems with modern equipment has run into growing resistance in Texas, where suspicion of government and fear of electronic snooping have made a humble household device the center of a politically charged showdown over personal liberty.

Some angry residents are building steel cages around their electric meters, threatening installers who show up with new ones and brandishing Texas flags at boisterous hearings about the utility conversion. At a recent hearing at the state Capitol in Austin, protesters insisted everyone present recite the Pledge of Allegiance before the meeting could begin.

"It's Gestapo. You can't do this," said Shar Wall of Houston, who attended the Public Utility Commission meeting wearing a large red "Texas Conservative" pin. "I'm a redneck Texas girl and I won't put up with it."

Utilities began replacing old-style electricity meters across the country about seven years ago as part of an effort to better manage demand on an increasingly strained power grid. New "smart meters" transmit and receive data remotely as electricity is used. Utility officials say they can use the real-time information to help prevent grid overloads during extreme temperatures. The devices would also promote conservation, such as cycling air conditioners on and off during peak demand periods.

In 2009, President Barack Obama devoted $3.5 billion in federal stimulus funds to help utility companies make the upgrade.

The conversion has triggered opposition in a number of states. Some residents have questioned the health impact of the radio waves the devices emit or the possibility that hackers could get confidential data from the transmissions.

Officials have downplayed the hazards, but several states, including California, Vermont, Maine and Nevada, have allowed residents to opt out of the new system. In most cases, residents would have to pay extra to have a utility employee come to their house to read their old meter.

Texas utilities have installed nearly 6 million smart meters, or 87 percent of their goal, since the state passed authorizing legislation in 2005. But as the project moves toward completion by 2016, the opposition is getting louder. It also carries the distinct flavor of an ultraconservative state that relishes its history as an independent republic before joining the United States.

State utility commission hearings on the meters have featured as many references to the Founding Fathers, the Revolutionary War and the Constitution as to the technical demands on the power system.

At a recent session, a staff presentation included a slide saying the new meters "are not meant to spy on you." Waiting to testify, activist David Akin replied, "Yes they are!"

Some say the meters would allow the police or other government agencies to tell when a person was awake and what they were doing in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

"I'm not going to let somebody else control what I do in my house," said Ginger Russell, who recently replaced her "No Smart Meters" sign with a steel cage around her home's analog meter in the East Texas town of Magnolia.

Those emphasizing privacy concerns cite a report issued by the U.S. Department of Energy in January that said many companies had not done enough to protect the smart meters from hackers. Some studies have also added to the health concerns. A branch of the World Health Organization last year called radio-frequency radiation from cellphones, utility meters and other devices a "possible carcinogen."

However, the Federal Communications Commission has rated the smart meters as safe, saying they are considered unlikely to cause bodily tissue heating or electric shock. The radio frequency radiation levels are much lower than those emitted by cellphones, supporters say.

Utility commission officials say the security concerns are being addressed and that the overwhelming majority of Texans accept the new meters. The commission will consider this fall whether to allow Texas residents to opt out.

"We believe this new technology is a direction that benefits consumers from an energy efficiency standpoint," said Leticia Lowe, spokeswoman for CenterPoint Energy, which serves the Houston area. She added, "We're moving forward with an industry that hadn't changed in over 100 years."

In the meantime, CenterPoint has directed its employees to leave immediately when a resident rejects a smart meter. The company says contract installers are encountering tough resistance in some neighborhoods.

"We're concerned about the safety of utility workers and other public service personnel legitimately doing their jobs," said CenterPoint spokesman Floyd LeBlanc.

Taormina, 55, says she's keeping her pistol handy just in case. The first smart meter installer who came to her house last summer wouldn't leave until she got the weapon out, she said.

"If someone comes on my property and assaults me - that's the idea of having a weapon is to equalize my little self against somebody that's bigger than me," she said.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2018990678_apussmartmeterbacklash.html

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« Reply #7239 on: Aug 26th, 2012, 3:29pm »

Crystal,
We keep getting letters from our power company to let them in to change our meters but we ignore them. They showed up twice but we refused to let them into our cellar where the meters are located! Twice they have threatened to shut off our power but we told them 'Go ahead and we'll sue you!' They say we have to pay 1800 bucks to have them moved to the outside of the home but so far they have been all bluster and no gonads to actually try!

We mail our meter reading to them every month and they have tried to claim we are under-reporting but our past usage and the rates they charge don't bear that out so we kind of have them over a barrel and they know it! No law says we have to cooperate here so screw them!

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« Reply #7240 on: Aug 27th, 2012, 09:05am »

on Aug 26th, 2012, 3:29pm, LoneGunMan wrote:
Crystal,
We keep getting letters from our power company to let them in to change our meters but we ignore them. They showed up twice but we refused to let them into our cellar where the meters are located! Twice they have threatened to shut off our power but we told them 'Go ahead and we'll sue you!' They say we have to pay 1800 bucks to have them moved to the outside of the home but so far they have been all bluster and no gonads to actually try!

We mail our meter reading to them every month and they have tried to claim we are under-reporting but our past usage and the rates they charge don't bear that out so we kind of have them over a barrel and they know it! No law says we have to cooperate here so screw them!

Lone


Good morning Lone,

Our meter is out front so they don't have to come onto the property. You have to do what you feel is right. And since you send in the reading every month I don't see the problem.

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« Reply #7241 on: Aug 27th, 2012, 09:07am »

Reuters

Syrian helicopter down under fire in Damascus

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Oliver Holmes
Mon Aug 27, 2012 8:34am EDT

AMMAN/ALEPPO (Reuters) - A Syrian military helicopter came down in flames in Damascus on Monday as President Bashar al-Assad's air force strafed and bombarded rebel-held districts in the capital and in Aleppo.

State television confirmed a helicopter had crashed in the Syrian capital but gave no details. Opposition activists said rebels had shot it down. Opposition video footage showed a crippled aircraft trailing fire and crashing into a built-up area, sending up a pillar of oily black smoke.

A day after his enemies accused Assad's troops and sectarian militia of massacring hundreds of people in the town of Daraya near Damascus, the possible shooting down of the helicopter, the latest of several such successes claimed by lightly armed rebel fighters, bolstered morale. But, witnesses said, even more intense army bombardments followed.

"It was flying over the eastern part of the city and firing all morning," an activist calling himself Abu Bakr told Reuters from near where the helicopter came down in the suburb of Qaboun. "The rebels had been trying to hit for about an hour," he said. "Finally they did."

Video footage carried the sound of people celebrating the helicopter's dive with shouts of "Allahu akbar (God is great)".

Although rebel commanders have asked foreign allies for anti-aircraft missiles, Western nations are unwilling to supply such weapons for fear of them falling into hostile hands. There was no indication fighters in Damascus had used any missiles.

MORNING BATTLE

Army helicopters had begun firing rockets and machineguns on Sunday at Jobar, Zamalka and Irbin, working class Sunni Muslim neighborhoods on the eastern outskirts of the city.

Rebels have launched attacks against Assad's forces in and around Damascus in recent weeks, drawing a fierce response.

Activists said the latest bombardment of Jobar erupted a day after rebels killed an army sniper and captured another near a roadblock in Jobar, a run-down, cement block neighborhood near a stadium they said was now used as an army base.

"Assad's army retaliated by arbitrarily arresting 100 people in Jobar. Helicopters dropped fliers warning residents to hand over what the regime describes as terrorists or face annihilation," said Abu Omar, a merchant who lives in the area told Reuters by phone before the helicopter came down.

"It's been going on since seven in the morning. The sound of gunfire and mortar shells exploding hasn't stopped," said activist Samir al-Shami. "I see smoke rising everywhere."

An activist based in the eastern suburbs outside Damascus, Mohammed Doumany, said Assad's forces were firing mortar shells and helicopters were shooting at nearby towns as rebels fired back with machineguns and assault rifles.

"There are constant explosions and blasts from mortars. The rebels are attacking security force checkpoints in the suburbs," he said. Two people had been killed in the shelling, he added.

MASSACRE CLAIM

On Sunday, opposition activists said they had found about 320 bodies, including women and children, in houses and basements in Daraya, just southwest of Damascus. Most had been killed "execution-style", they said.

Activist videos on the Internet showed rows of bloodied bodies wrapped in sheets. Most seemed to be young men, but at least one video showed several children who appeared to have been shot in the head. The body of one toddler was soaked in blood.

Due to restrictions on non-state media in Syria, it was impossible to verify the accounts independently.

The uprising, which began as peaceful protests, has become a civil war. United Nations investigators have accused both sides of war crimes but laid more blame on government troops and pro-government militia than on the rebels.

The killings in Daraya, a working class Sunni Muslim town that sustained three days of bombardment before being overrun by the army on Friday, raised the daily death toll to 440 people on Saturday, one of the highest since the uprising began, an activist network called the Local Coordination Committees said.

The official state news agency said: "Our heroic armed forces cleansed Daraya from remnants of armed terrorist groups who committed crimes against the sons of the town."

The death toll for the following day, Sunday, was about 200, including civilians and fighters, according to another activist network, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

ALEPPO

Clashes are raging across Syria as the 17-month-old rebellion grows increasingly bloody, particularly in Aleppo, Syria's biggest city and its economic hub, where the army and rebels appear stuck in a war of attrition.

Fighting in the northern city on Sunday was the heaviest in the past week, according to Reuters journalists on the ground. Helicopters were circling and firing occasionally on Monday.

Rebels say they control at least half the city of 2.5 million, but their hold is fragile since Assad's forces can unleash their air power and artillery against fighters who are comparatively lightly armed.

Assad, who met an Iranian parliamentary delegation in the capital on Sunday, said the crisis was the result of Western and regional states trying to crush Syria's role in the "resistance" against Western and Israeli domination in the region.

"What is happening right now is not just a plot directed against Syria but the region as a whole, of which Syria is a foundation stone," state news agency SANA quoted him as saying.

The United Nations says more than 18,000 people have been killed in the conflict that pits a mainly Sunni opposition against a ruling system dominated by the Assad family and other members of the Alawite faith, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Diplomatic efforts to stop the violence in Syria are stalled by a stalemate between Western countries, Gulf Arab states and Turkey - which all support the opposition - and Iran, Russia and China - which back Assad.

With veto-wielding Russia leading resistance to action against Assad, the U.N. Security Council remains deadlocked.

Egypt is seeking to arrange a four-way meeting with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the main regional heavyweights. Iran, a Shi'ite power, is Assad's main backer, while Saudi Arabia is believed to be supplying weapons to the rebels.

Iran accuses its foes in the West and the Arab world of fuelling the conflict by arming the opposition.

(Additional reporting by Marwan Makdesi in Damascus and Erika Solomon in Beirut; Writing by Erika Solomon and Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/27/us-syria-crisis-idUSBRE8610SH20120827

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« Reply #7242 on: Aug 27th, 2012, 09:11am »

Seattle Times

Originally published August 27, 2012 at 3:52 AM
Page modified August 27, 2012 at 7:01 AM

Isaac crossing Gulf with New Orleans in crosshairs

Tropical Storm Isaac targeted a broad swath of the Gulf Coast on Monday and had New Orleans in its crosshairs, bearing down just ahead of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

By MATT SEDENSKY
Associated Press

KEY WEST, Fla. —

Tropical Storm Isaac targeted a broad swath of the Gulf Coast on Monday and had New Orleans in its crosshairs, bearing down just ahead of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

The potential for a landfall as soon as Tuesday prompted evacuations along a wide area of the Gulf Coast and sent people out to stock up on staples.

"I gassed up - truck and generator", John Corll, 59, a carpenter, said as he left a New Orleans coffee shop Monday morning. He went through Katrina in 2005 and was expecting a weaker storm this time, adding that he thinks the levee system is in better shape to handle a storm surge than when Katrina hit. "I think the state and local governments are much better prepared for the storm surge and emergencies," Corll said.

Isaac blew past the Florida Keys and was rolling northwestward over the open Gulf of Mexico on Monday. The National Hurricane Center predicted it would grow to a Category 1 hurricane over the warm water and possibly hit late Tuesday somewhere along a roughly 300-mile stretch from the bayous southwest of New Orleans to the Florida Panhandle.

That would be one day shy of seven years after Katrina struck catastrophically in 2005, although Katrina was a much stronger Category 5 storm with winds over 157 miles per hour. Isaac is expected to have top winds of around 90 mph when it hits land.

The size of the warning area and the storm's wide bands of rain and wind prompted emergency declarations in four states, and hurricane-tested residents were boarding up homes, sticking up on food and water or getting ready to evacuate.

On the Alabama coast, Billy Cannon, 72, was preparing to evacuate with several cars packed with family and four Chihuahuas from a home on a peninsula in Gulf Shores. Canon, who has lived on the coast for 30 years, said he thinks the order to evacuate Monday was premature.

"If it comes in, it's just going to be a big rain storm. I think they overreacted but I understand where they're coming from. It's safety," he said.

The storm that left eight dead in Haiti blew past the Florida Keys with little damage and promised a drenching but little more for Tampa, where the planned Monday start of the Republican National Convention was pushed back a day in case Isaac passed closer to the bayside city.

Isaac could pack a watery double punch for the Gulf Coast. If it hits during high tide, Isaac could push floodwaters as deep as 12 feet onto shore in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and up to six feet in the Florida Panhandle, while dumping up to 18 inches of rain over the region, the National Weather Service warned.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called a state of emergency, and 53,000 residents of St. Charles Parish near New Orleans were told to leave ahead of the storm. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley also declared states of emergency.

The oncoming storm stopped work on rigs that account for 24 percent of daily oil production in the U.S. potion of the Gulf of Mexico and eight percent of daily natural gas production there, the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said in its latest update Sunday.

The Gulf of Mexico accounts for 23 percent of total U.S. crude oil production, 7 percent of the nation's natural gas and more than 40 percent of refining capacity.

Several regional governors altered their plans for this week's GOP convention in Tampa. Bentley has canceled his trip, and Jindal said he's likely to do so unless the threat from the storm subsides. Scott gave up a chance to speak.

Amtrak cancelled train service in Louisiana for Tuesday and Wednesday. The route than runs from New York to New Orleans would end in Atlanta, while its route from Los Angeles to New Orleans would stop in San Antonio. Amtrak was also suspending part of its rail line between Miami and Orlando, Fla.

Grocery and home improvement stores as well as fuel stations in Louisiana reported brisk business as residents sought to prepare for Isaac. Some gas stations were running out of supplies.

Even though the storm was moving well west of Tampa, tropical storm-force winds and heavy rains were possible in the area because of Isaac's large size, forecasters said. A small group of protesters braved rainy weather Sunday and vowed to continue despite the weather, which already forced the Republicans to cancel Monday's opening session of the convention. Instead, the GOP will briefly gavel the gathering to order Monday afternoon and then recess until Tuesday.

The Gulf Coast hasn't been hit by a hurricane since 2008, when Dolly, Ike and Gustav all struck the region.

Before reaching Florida, Isaac was blamed for eight deaths in Haiti and two more in the Dominican Republic, and downed trees and power lines in Cuba.


Associated Press writers Kevin McGill in New Orleans and Jay Reeves in Orange Beach, Ala., contributed to this report.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2019000309_apisaac.html

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« Reply #7243 on: Aug 27th, 2012, 09:22am »

Wired

One Astrobiologist’s Plan to Save the Search for Alien Life

By Dave Mosher
August 27, 2012 | 6:30 am
Categories: Space


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A conceptual illustration of the Europa Jupiter System Mission, or EJSM, which consists of an orbiter for both Europa and Jupiter.
Image: NASA/Michel Carroll



Jupiter’s moon Europa hides an ocean of water beneath its icy crust that might harbor extraterrestrial life.

Unfortunately, big dollar signs have kept alive the fictional decree in Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series to leave Europa alone: No robot has ever landed on, drilled into or orbited the chilly world. Only a handful of spacecraft have flown by.

A panel of scientists determined in 2011 that NASA’s plans to explore the moon with a single spacecraft, called the Jupiter Europa Orbiter, or JEO, would cost about $4.7 billion. That amount of cash, they wrote, “is so high that both a decrease in mission scope and an increase in NASA’s planetary budget are necessary to make it affordable.”

But even before the panel slammed the mission’s financial feasibility, astrobiologist Pabulo Henrique Rampelotto of Brazil’s Federal University of Pampa was plotting to save exploration of Europa.

In a study published July 13 in Astrobiology, Rampelotto argues that nixing one large orbiter and instead sending three small spacecraft — two orbiters and a probe carrying surface impactors — could spread out both the cost and the risk while hitting all of JEO’s science goals, and then some.

“[T]he main advantages are the complete access to the habitability of Europa, simpler mission design and low cost for each mission,” Rampelotto wrote in an e-mail to Wired. “Europa is considered the prime candidate in the search for life in our solar system. Its ocean may be in direct contact with the rocky mantle beneath, where the conditions could be similar to those on Earth’s biologically rich sea floor.”

Both NASA and the European Space Agency hope to explore Europa and Ganymede, another of Jupiter’s moons, sometime in the next two decades because both bodies may hide a liquid ocean. In the joint space exploration plan, called the Europa Jupiter System Mission, NASA would launch JEO within this decade. Around the same time that spacecraft launches, Europe would rocket its own Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter into deep space.

Budget hawks, however, aren’t buying into NASA’s $4.7 billion dream. Accounting for other higher-priority missions, JEO would stretch further NASA’s shrinking annual planetary science budget of $1.5 billion.

“I believe you will not find someone who continues to support the $4.7 billion … mission concept,” Rampelotto said. “And that is interesting because before the release, no one was considering the possibility of an alternative mission concept.”

Rampelotto beat the panelists to the punch by proposing his three-spacecraft mission.

If built and launched within the next few years, mission one — an orbiter to measure the thickness of Europan ice and see how deep its oceans go — could reach Europa between 2020 and 2025. A second orbiter would launch a few years later, map the surface in visible and infrared light, and determine if any organic chemicals are present.

“Mission two is technically easier than mission one and could be launched very soon too,” Rampelotto wrote. “After we have those results from missions one and two, mission three would be mature enough to be launched.”

That mission would pound the surface with impactors, penetrate between 3 and 33 feet of ice, and then beam data about the ice’s composition to Earth. It’s unlikely any impactor would reach the subsurface ocean, however, because the thinnest ice may be 1.8 miles thick. Even below that depth, only lakes of water far above the ocean may be locked in the icy crust.

“But, if delivered in potential landing sites where liquid water from the ocean could have recently reached the surface or near surface, we could analyze indirectly the ocean composition, including signals of life,” Rampelotto wrote.

Rampelotto’s plan to barnstorm Europa offers no concrete costs for each mission, which he said would require “advanced studies” to determine. So the idea isn’t without its critics. “NASA team leaders … have advised me that penetrators are difficult and risky to deliver and the best option continues to be a lander,” Rampelotto wrote.

Bob Pappalardo, a planetary scientist who studies Europa and is helping NASA develop future missions to the moon, said Rampelotto’s scheme is a logical one during tight budgetary times. But he noted saving money by splitting up a big mission into smaller ones brings about another issue: fear of commitment.

“The reality is that NASA is not going to want to fund or begin a program of missions, based on the reaction to the Mars sample return suggestion,” said Pappalardo, who wasn’t involved in Rampelotto’s study. “That went over like a lead balloon [at the White House], in terms of being a long-term budgetary relationship.”

Pappalardo hopes that, if there are signs of a recovering U.S. economy in the next few years, they will spur the current presidential administration to open its tight wallet.

“Right now the goal is to do anything at Europa,” he said. “I really hope we’ll come back to our senses soon. I don’t see the vision for planetary science that was present in the past.”

“We need to be planning on the future,” he said. “As it stands, in a few years, we won’t be launching anything. We’re in danger of losing our leadership in planetary science.”

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/08/europa-moon-three-missions/

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« Reply #7244 on: Aug 27th, 2012, 09:36am »

Der Spiegel

08/27/2012

The Bundesbank against the World

German Central Bank Opposes Euro Strategy

By Christian Reiermann, Michael Sauga and Anne Seith

Volker Bouffier has always portrayed himself as the last true conservative in Germany's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Bouffier is the governor of Hesse, the western German state where Germany's financial capital Frankfurt is located, and is known for raging against gay marriage, multiculturalism and school reforms. On questions of monetary policy, he has always been a champion of traditional German virtues. "The European Central Bank cannot become an institution that compensates for the failures of individual government budgets, such as Italy's," he said recently. "That isn't part of its mandate."

But on Monday of last week, Bouffier seemed to be a changed man. He had invited Jens Weidmann, 44, president of the German central bank, the Bundesbank, to a meeting at the Hesse state chancellery. For weeks, Weidmann had sharply opposed the ECB's plans to buy up large quantities of Italian and Spanish sovereign debt. In the meeting with Bouffier and his cabinet, Weidmann had just reiterated his position in the ongoing dispute with ECB President Mario Draghi when Bouffier, to the surprise of everyone in attendance, announced his new priorities. Apparently, the values of Southern European bonds on the balance sheets of Frankfurt banks are now more important than his conservative values.

Of course he still supported stable prices, Bouffier said, but noted that the mood in financial markets had become extremely fragile. And despite his characterization of the ECB's debt-buying plans as sinful, he said that there were no longer any alternatives to massive intervention by the central bank. "The political tools have been exhausted," Bouffier said.

The Bundesbank president is becoming increasingly isolated, and not just in provincial German politics.

'Addictive Like a Drug'

A powerful phalanx of key statesmen, from US President Barack Obama to French President François Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron, have long called upon Weidmann to finally abandon his resistance to the increased use of the ECB's "big bazooka." Now even some of Weidmann's former allies are turning their backs on him. Recently, Germany's powerful private banks have come out in support of Draghi, as have Weidmann's fellow ECB Governing Council member Jörg Asmussen and a majority of monetary policy experts in Northern Europe.

The head of the Bundesbank has now decided that the best form of defense is attack. In an interview with SPIEGEL, Weidmann explained why he believes the approach taken by European leaders is wrong. "We shouldn't underestimate the danger that central bank financing can become addictive like a drug," he says.

Of course, Bundesbank opposition is not expected to stand in the way of the Draghi plan. The EU treaties are being violated once again. Two years ago, during the course of the Greek crisis, European governments suspended the principle that no member of the euro zone could guarantee the debts of another member state. Now a similarly fundamental principle is up for renegotiation: the prohibition on national budgets being financed with the help of the ECB.

The risks are considerable. If Draghi's proposal prevails, Europe's central bankers could lose control over the money supply in the medium term, which in turn could lead to substantial inflation. Southern European governments could misinterpret this as a signal that they can obtain cheap money without instituting painful reforms after all. German taxpayers would be saddled with additional billions in risk without having any say in the matter.

Feelings of Desperation

But those European politicians who are determined to rescue the euro have been ignoring democratic principles for a long time. They are feeling desperate because, after 17 monetary summits, they still haven't been able to stop the crisis. And now they are pleased to see Draghi doing the work for them.

The purchase of government bonds sounds technical and harmless, and yet the weapon with which Europe's top monetary policy experts are now going into battle is essentially no different from the euro bonds that German Chancellor Angela Merkel famously said she will oppose as long as she lives. Not surprisingly, Merkel's take on the Draghi proposal is characterized by her typical doublespeak. At home, her advisers insist that it's a good thing that someone is upholding the principles of the Bundesbank. In Brussels, on the other hand, Merkel indicates that the Draghi plan enjoys her full support.

But the two positions will in reality be incompatible if the euro crisis continues to escalate. Weidmann wants the monetary union to be able to force crisis-ridden countries to withdraw from the euro zone if there is no other way to ensure monetary stability. Merkel, on the other hand, wants to preserve the monetary union at all costs, even if this means inflation and financial crashes.

Now Weidmann is even losing the chancellor as an ally, even though he served as Merkel's economic adviser for five years.

The Talking Paperclip

When Merkel appeared before the press at financial summits or to discuss monetary issues, Weidmann, as her adviser, always stood in the background, a thin, youthful-looking man with his brown briefcase wedged under his arm. As an adviser, he was exactly what she wanted: quick-witted, discreet and loyal to the point of self-denial.

Weidmann, who holds a doctorate in economics, spoke only when he was asked. And when he did state his position at length in off-the-record conversations, he had no trouble coming up with even more tedious wording than his boss. Journalists nicknamed him the "talking paperclip."

Given his nature and reputation, observers were convinced that Weidmann would prove to be even more flexible in his new position than his predecessors. Previous Bundesbank chief Axel Weber, for example, had resigned over his opposition to bond purchases, and ECB chief economist Jürgen Stark followed suit shortly after Weidmann came into office.

It was all the more surprising that the new Bundesbank president was soon openly championing Germany's positions even more staunchly than his predecessors. Whereas Weber and Stark tended to keep their criticism to themselves, Weidmann, in speeches, op-ed pieces and interviews, warned of the dangers of a misguided euro crisis policy. He was regularly outvoted in the ECB's Governing Council. Nevertheless, ECB President Draghi soon realized that it would be foolish to ignore Weidmann's most powerful weapon: the deep-seated and well-founded mistrust that always takes hold in the population when politicians push for banks to start printing money.

When Draghi talked of a possible new bond buying program a few weeks ago, Weidmann's resistance was to be predicted. In light of rising interest rates for Spanish and Italian bonds, Draghi felt the need to send a strong signal to the markets. Without consulting with his colleagues on the ECB Governing Council first, he announced, during a speech in London at the end of July, that the ECB would do everything in its power to save the euro. "And believe me, it will be enough," he added cheerfully.

Buying Time

Draghi explained his plans in more detail soon afterwards. Unlike earlier cases, he said, the bond purchases would be tied to conditions. Only those countries that had applied for assistance from the European bailout fund and were prepared to commit to reforms could expect assistance.

This was Draghi's way of accommodating his critics, to the delight of the government in Berlin. According to government insiders in Berlin, Merkel and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble characterized the Italian economist's plan as "important and valuable" and felt that Draghi's announcement alone had already had an effect. Indeed, since Draghi's London speech the risk premiums on Spanish and Italian government bonds have declined considerably.

With his strategy, the ECB chief is mainly buying time. Members of Merkel's and Schäuble's staffs appear to accept Weidmann's notorious opposition to Draghi with a shrug. At the Chancellery, where the young Bundesbank president used to work, there has even been malicious talk of "fundamentalists." In the Finance Ministry, too, Weidmann is increasingly regarded as a troublemaker. "Some people interpret the ECB's mandate more narrowly. Others interpret it a bit more broadly," says a senior Finance Ministry official, with a trace of fatalism in his voice.

Privately, Chancellor Merkel also has little sympathy for the intransigence of her former adviser. Merkel apparently feels that Weidmann and his staff shouldn't be making such a fuss.

It's a classic conflict over a cheap money policy. The government wants to use the medicine as quickly as possible, because it's easy to get. The Bundesbank, on the other hand, sees the risks and side effects and warns against writing the prescription in the first place. From the Bundesbank's perspective, the most important objective of a central bank is to maintain price stability. By buying up government bonds to force down their yields, they are intervening in fiscal policy, a classic role of government.

Fatal Consequences

The consequences can be fatal. With its bond purchases, the ECB is flooding the markets with money. If it doesn't claw back the money elsewhere, it continues to inflate the money supply. Experience and theory have shown that the injection of funds into the markets could eventually lead to rising prices -- in other words, inflation, which central bankers are required by law to prevent.

more after the jump:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/german-bundesbank-opposes-euro-crisis-strategy-a-852237.html

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