Saturday, March 31, 2012

Editor's Note

Blogging will be light for the entire week. Will be playing host to family members from all over the world starting today .... so time will be (unfortunately) limited. Military and Intelligence News Briefs, World News Briefs, and Afghanistan War News Updates will still be posted daily at the usual hours.

On the bright side .... a number of my readers over the past few years have asked for some pictures of little old me and of Montreal .... so .... since I have been conscripted to play host and tour guide, expect a few in the next few days.

Must go to the airport now, so blogging will return tomorrow morning.

Afghanistan War News Updates -- March 31, 2012

U.S. Marines cross a canal as they head to an overnight post near Khan Neshin, Afghanistan, March 23, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez

Afghan Governor 'Plotted To Kill UK Ambassador' -- The Telegraph

An Afghan provincial governor plotted to kill the British ambassador and was involved in the killing of two Americans, United States officials have alleged.

Ghulam Qawis Abu Bakr armed local insurgents with rocket propelled grenades and tipped them off about a visit to his province of Kapisa by Mark Sedwill and his French and American counterparts, a US newspaper said.

Intelligence officials discovered the ambush plan in November 2009 and the visit was cancelled the night before.

American officials are also trying to prosecute Mr Abu Bakr for involvement in the suicide car bomb killing of an American colonel and American servicewoman earlier the same year.

Read more
....

More News On Afghanistan

Afghanistan presses for answers on long-term U.S. military bases -- Reuters
In Afghanistan, Businesses Plan Their Own Exits -- New York Times
Afghanistan: list of investigations and prosecutions of British troops -- The Guardian
Afghanistan: Military Land Seizures Feed Anger -- Eurasia Review
Analysis: The Afghan balance sheet – a transition to ‘good enough’ -- CNN
General warns of 'endless cycle' in Afghanistan -- Deutsche Welle
Afghanistan, the election and the end game -- BBC

World News Briefs -- March 31, 2012



Kansas, Illinois, Maryland Tickets Share $640 Million Lottery Jackpot -- L.A. Times/AP

Lottery ticket-holders in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland each selected the winning numbers for the world record-breaking $640 million Mega Millions jackpot, lottery officials said early Saturday.

Illinois' winning ticket was sold in the small town of Red Bud, near St. Louis, and the winner used a quick pick to select the numbers, Illinois Lottery spokesman Mike Lang said. The Maryland Lottery said it sold a winning ticket at a retail store in Baltimore County.

Read more ...

MIDDLE EAST

Syria activists lose hope that they will unseat Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. tightens oil sanctions on Iran.

Clinton: Time running out for diplomacy with Iran.

Clashes in Yemen leave 30 dead. Clashes between Yemeni army, militants kill 30.

Pipeline attacked after Yemen drone strike. Turkish prosecutors seek jail for 364 officers.

Gaza man killed by soldiers as thousands protest Israel policy.

ASIA

Triple bomb attack kills 10 in Thailand.

Over 100,000 people displaced by fighting in north-west Pakistan – UN agency.

China arrests six over coup rumours.

Sino-Russian naval drill in Yellow Sea to send warning to US.

Myanmar prepares to vote with Aung San Suu Kyi poised for win.

AFRICA

Tuareg rebels enter key Malian town. Rebels, Malian army fighting in Gao.

Somali Islamists 'lose Deynile airport' near Mogadishu.

Sudan governor to troops: 'Take no prisoners'.

8,000 Libyans enlist to protect borders, oil.

Tribal clashes in Libya's Sabha kill 16.

EUROPE

Far-right groups rally in Denmark against Islamic extremism.

Hungary’s Schmitt won’t quit over plagarism.

US complains to Russia about harassment of Ambassador McFau.

Poles talk about CIA prison, breaking silence.

Gas flare at oil platform 'extinguishes itself'.

AMERICAS

At least three winners in record $640 million U.S. lottery.

Argentina's Carlos Menem faces bombing trial.

18 dead in Honduran prison fire amid inmate riot.

Bail denied for Canadian navy officer accused of espionage.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Al-Qaeda 'plotting another 9/11’ from Afghanistan.

Documents show debate over handling of 9/11 remains.

Militant who targeted Australian nuclear plant held in France.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Nouveaux riches: Billionaire 100 club’s new members.

Murdoch empire faces new scandal, potentially far more damaging.

Exclusive: Soros' son strikes out on his own.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- March 31, 2012


F-35 Total Costs Soar to $1.5 Trillion; Lockheed Defends Program -- Aol Defense

PENTAGON: Lockheed Martin scrambled today to explain the latest increases in the Joint Strike Fighter's costs, arguing that the three versions of the aircraft "will be comparable to or lower than that of the seven" older airplanes it will replace. Overall, the F-35 will cost an appreciably impressive $1.5 trillion over the 55 years it is expected to be flying, up from an estimated $1 trillion.

The latest numbers were released this afternoon as part of the Pentagon's authoritative Selected Acquisition Report. The overall value of the program comes from a Lockheed Martin statement.

Read more ....

MILITARY AND INTELLIGENCE NEWS BRIEFS

Slower procurement raises F-35 program costs $7B -- Eric Palmer Blog

Iraq seeks killer missiles, but U.S. wary
-- Avionics Intelligence

India's Army in Dire State: Chief of Staff -- Ares/Aviation Week

Chinese military defends $ 106 billion defence budget -- Economic Times

Russian Commander Explains Air Force Acquisition Plan -- AIN Online

Russia Deploys S-400 Missiles in Far East
-- RIA Novosti

India and Russia to Develop Hypersonic Cruise Missile
-- RIA Novosti

Russia to Set up New Aerobatics Team by 2015
-- RIA Novosti

Former Soviet intelligence chief found dead -- The Telegraph

Artillery: China Builds A New Katyusha -- Strategy Page

Canadian Air Force looks to import pilots -- Vancouver Sun/Postmedia News

Japan Begins Building Technology Demonstrator Fighter -- Defense News

Azerbaijan Disputes Story On Azerbaijani-Israeli Military Collaboration Against Iran -- Eurasia Review

Clinton promises U.S. will back Gulf security -- Reuters

U.S. Resumes Military Aid To Egypt -- Voice of America

U.S. to Share Combat Expertise With Colombia
-- Wall Street Journal

U.S. Navy to grapple with dip in deployed subs for more than a decade -- Next Gov

Afghanistan presses for answers on long-term U.S. military bases -- Reuters

Marines look to extend unmanned helo program in Afghanistan -- Stars and Stripes

USAF promotes 767-2C as civil freighter
-- Flight Global

Cutting Navy While Obama Pivots To Asia Does Not Add Up -- Aol Defense

Navy: We’re 4 Years Away From Laser Guns on Ships -- Danger Room

Navy ships out radar system ahead of North Korea launch -- CNN

US Military Bets on 'Big Data' to Win Wars
-- Live Science

Is malaria drug linked to Afghan massacre? Army orders review -- KEPRTV

US Military's Handling of Brain Injuries, Mental Health in Spotlight -- Voice of America

Gay pride groups appear at U.S. military academies -- CNN

Wounded British soldiers launch Everest bid -- The Telegraph

Bomb Attacks Kills And Wounds Scores In Southern Thailand



Bombs Kill 9, Wound At Least 70 In Thai Muslim South -- Chicago Tribune/Reuters

YALA, Thailand (Reuters) - Nine people died and at least 70 were injured in a series of bomb explosions on Saturday in Thailand's Muslim south, the latest in a wave of violence blamed on separatists in a region bordering Malaysia, police and officials said.

Three bombs went off in the business area of the city of Yala around lunchtime, they said, adding the devices may have been placed in a car and a motorcycle.

Read more
....

More News On Today's Bomb Attacks In Southern Thailand

Triple bomb attack kills nine in Thailand
-- AFP
Bombs in southern Thailand kill at least 8, wound dozens -- USA Today/AP
8 Killed in Thailand Blasts -- Voice of America
Three deadly explosions hit Yala in southern Thailand, officials say -- BBC
Deadly blasts hit southern Thailand -- Al Jazeera
Bomb attacks kill 9, injure more than 100 in South Thailand (PHOTOS, VIDEO) -- RT
Muslim insurgents kill eight and wound dozens more with bomb blast in Thailand -- Daily Mail

Syrian Soldier's 'Trophy Video' Leaked To Activists



New ‘Trophy Video’ Recorded By Syrian Soldier Is Leaked To Activists -- The Lede/New York Times

Disturbing video posted online by Syrian activists on Friday, said to have been recorded recently in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, appeared to offer fresh evidence of the brutal crackdown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The video, which shows very graphic images of soldiers laughing and gloating over the dead bodies of several men, was leaked by a member of a pro-government militia, an activist in the city of Homs told The New York Times via Skype. The brief clip appears to be similar to several “trophy videos” filmed by soldiers and sold to activists over the past year.

Read more ....

My Comment: I suspect that there are hundreds .... if not thousands .... of these videos (from both sides) in Syria today.

Syria Claims To Have Crushed The Revolt

This image from amateur video released Friday purportedly shows civilians moving with Syrian troops, possibly as human shields, in Idlib, Syria. The information cannot be verified. (Shaam News Network / March 30, 2012)

Syria Says Revolt Over, Army To Pull Out Gradually -- Reuters

(Reuters) - Syria says the year-long revolt to topple President Bashar al-Assad is now over, but it will keep its forces in cities to "maintain security" until it is safe to withdraw in keeping with a U.N.-backed peace deal.

The agreement proposed by United Nations-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan says the Syrian authorities must be first to withdraw troops and stop violence immediately.

The army kept up an offensive against opposition strongholds on Saturday, pummelling the Khalidiya district of Homs city.

Read more ....

More News On Syrian Government Claims That They Have Crushed The Revolt

Syria declares it has defeated revolt -- Times of India/AFP
Syrian official says army will not make 1st move, withdraw troops from flashpoint areas -- Washington Post/AP
Syria to Withdraw Troops From Cities 'After Peace' -- RIA Novosti
Syria says troops to pull back 'after peace' -- Al Jazeera
Syria needs time for safe army withdrawal: official -- Reuters
Syria links troop pullback from cities to 'security' -- BBC

My Comment: These claims are waaaayyyy premature. More news on today's battles here.

Europe's Debt Crisis Is Not Over

Europe Warned Crisis Not Over Yet -- Financial Times

European finance ministers were warned on Friday that the underlying causes of the continent’s debt and banking crisis had yet to be resolved, as Spain, struggling to rein in its fiscal deficit, published its most austere budget since democracy returned after the Franco era.

Two confidential analyses prepared by European Union officials and distributed to ministers meeting in Copenhagen said €1tn in cheap loans to banks provided since December by the European Central Bank had provided a reprieve, but sovereigns and financial institutions needed to use the relative calm to shore up finances and balance sheets.

Read more
....

My Comment: It is going to take 5-10 years of hardship and sacrifice before many of these debt ridden countries have some control over their finances. Are they willing to make that commitment and sacrifice .... I am betting that they do not have the will power to follow through.

Update:
Canada's finance minister is not impressed with these European measures.

Bales Lawyer Claims Military 'Hiding Evidence'



Attorney For Bales Says Military Broke Promise On Witness Access -- CNN

(CNN) -- The lawyer for U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, charged with murdering 17 Afghan villagers, said Friday the defense team has been "misled greatly" by U.S. military prosecutors, who have blocked access to information.

John Henry Browne said he was "promised" that witnesses to the incident would be available for them to interview in Afghanistan, "and they were not."

"My staff on the ground is really upset with the promise they made to us," Browne told reporters.

Read more ....

More News On The Legal Preparations For Afghan Massacre Suspect Sgt. Bales

U.S. Soldier’s Lawyer Says Access Denied to Evidence -- New York Times
Afghan Suspect Attorney: US Gov 'Hiding Evidence' -- ABC/AP
Bales Lawyer Claims Military Stymieing Defense Efforts -- Wall Street Journal
Is Robert Bales competent to stand trial? Army prepares to ask -- L.A. Times

My Comment: this is the start for what i predict will be a very long trial.

China: No Coup Rumors Please .... Or You Go To Jail

Hundreds of millions of Chinese people use social media websites, despite strict censorship. [Reuters]

China Arrests Over Coup Rumours -- BBC

Chinese police have arrested six people and shut 16 websites after rumours were spread that military vehicles were on the streets of Beijing, officials say.

The web posts were picked up last week by media outlets around the world, amid uncertainty caused by the ouster of top political leader Bo Xilai.

The State Internet Information Office (SIIO) said the rumours had a "very bad influence on the public".

Two popular microblogs have temporarily stopped users from posting comments.

Read more ....

More News On China's Crackdown On Social Media Websites

China Clamps Down on Social Networking Over Online Rumors
-- New York Times
China mounts online crackdown amid political crisis -- L.A. Times
China punishes popular social media and websites for coup rumors amid political scandal -- Washington Post/AP
China cracks down on websites allegedly spreading coup rumors -- CNN
China cracks down on Internet after coup rumours -- AFP
Websites shut amid China coup talk -- Press Association
China Punishes Websites Over 'Coup Rumours' -- Al Jazeera
China Arrests Six for Web Rumors; Microblogs Ban Comments -- Bloomberg

Picture Of The Day

RAPTOR REFUELING
A Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 Raptor moves into position to take on fuel from a Stratotanker, during a recent mission over the Pacific near the Hawaiian Islands, March 27, 2012. Air Force Academy cadets on spring break were aboard the Stratotanker to observe the refueling procedure. DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

Who Murdered MI6 Agent Gareth William?

Suspicions: Relatives believe a third party was either present when Gareth Williams died or broke into his home afterwards to destroy evidence, lawyer Anthony O'Toole said

Did MI6 Agents 'Specialising In Dark Arts' Kill Spy In Bag? New Evidence Emerges Sparking Fresh Questions From The Victim's Family -- Daily Mail

* Gareth Williams's family believe a third party was either present when he died or broke into his home afterwards to destroy evidence
* Crime scene forensic scientist’s OWN DNA was found on Mr Williams’s hand
* Relatives wanted to know why the alarm was not raised when Mr Williams failed to turn up at work - by then his body was badly decomposed for analysis
* It also emerged that a Mediterranean couple police wanted to speak to were irrelevant to Mr Williams’s death

The MI6 spy whose body was found locked in a sports bag may have been killed by a secret agent, his family said yesterday.

Their barrister suggested a sinister cover-up had left them with no way of knowing how and why Gareth Williams died.

One theory is that he died at the hands of a colleague. Another is that a foreign agent killed him because of his espionage work.

Read more ....

My Comment: A very strange case. You would think that the murder of an important MI6
agent would result in an all out attempt to find the killer and the reasons on why he was killed.

Hmmm .... apparently not in this case.

Escape From Camp 14

Journalist Blaine Harden chronicles the life of the only camp-born man known to escape a North Korean camp.

'Escape From Camp 14' A True North Korea Survival Story -- CNN

(CNN) -- Shin Dong-hyuk is the only known person born in a North Korean prison camp that escaped and survived to tell the tale.

Journalist Blaine Harden first uncovered Shin's story in 2008 and has now turned it into the riveting new biography "Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West."

North Korea has been splashed across world headlines in recent weeks over its threat to launch a long-range rocket, its suspected nuclear program and for its continued defiance of the West. If you want a singular perspective on what goes on inside the rogue regime, then you must read his story.

Read more
....

My Comment: Some of my father's friends experienced the same thing in a Soviet gulag .... and listening to Shin Dong-hyuk reminds me of those stories .... especially the horrible stories of what happened to their loved ones and family members.

As to what is my take .... I find all of this very disheartening. We are in the 21rst century .... and it is astounding that we do not only have a state in North Korea that treats it's citizens like this, but we are also willing to support it with food aid (which is never given to those who need it), and political recognition.

Stunning Post-Apocalyptic Images Of Cities Around The Globe



At World's End: Artists Reveal Stunning Post-Apocalyptic Images Of Cities Around The Globe -- Daily Mail

From New York City to Beijing, a team of artists are shedding light on what the world would be like at the end of humanity.

In Silent World, artists Lucie and Simon have taken the world's most familiar and populous cities and removed all but one or two people to create the illusion of a lonely world.

In the thought-provoking work, places like the normally bustling Times Square and Tiananmen Square appear absent of their crowds.

Read more
....

My Comment: It does look very creepy.

Third U.S. Aircraft Carrier Days Away From Being Off The Coast Of Iran

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

USS Enterprise Prepares To Cross Suez Canal, Days Away From Anchor In Arabian Sea -- Zero Hedge

Much noise has been emanating out of Israel vis-a-vis its Iranian intentions, with some opinions suggesting an attack is imminent, while others claiming that Israel will ultimately defer to D.C., and postpone an attack, and the eventual gasoline price shock, until after the election. The truth is nobody but a few select generals, knows: in warfare surprise is the key factor, so outright flashing invasion intentions is usually an indicator of just the opposite. That said, the most recent update that Azerbaijan has granted Israel access to its airbases along the Iran border is hardly encouraging for Nobel peace prize winners and other pacifists. Yet as we have been claiming for the past two weeks, ever since the launch of CVN-65 on its last tour of duty, the true catalyst, if any, will be the arrival of the USS Enterprise at what may well be its last place of anchor - somewhere in the Arabian Sea, just off the side of CVN 70 and CVN 72 both of which are patrolling the Straits of Hormuz.

Read more ....

My Comment: U.S. minesweepers are only a few weeks away from being positioned in the persian Gulf. Once there .... everything will then be in positioned (and ready) to support an Israeli attack against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Similarities Between Afghanistan And The Fall Of South Vietnam

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Fabian Aguilar and Lance Cpl. Michael Fitch II, use the scopes on their weapons to scan the area while posting security during a patrol near the Helmand River, Afghanistan, March 24, 2012. Aguilar is a assistant gunner and Fitch is a point man, both assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez

Will Afghanistan’s War End In The Same Way As Vietnam’s? -- Scott Van Wynsberghe, National Post

Massive artillery barrages and waves of tanks. That’s not the way most of us think of the Vietnam War. But so it was 40 years ago today, on March 30, 1972, when North Vietnam started the end game for its sister-republic, South Vietnam. The attack launched by Hanoi — which it called the Nguyen Hue Offensive, but was dubbed the Easter Offensive by Americans — overturned the image of the Vietnam War as an endless series of tactical raids and ambushes. What went wrong for the South back then remains ominously instructive for Afghanistan today.

Read more
....

My Comment:
There are many differences between the two conflicts. North Vietnam was heavily supported by the Soviet Union and China .... and with heavy weapons. The Taliban do not even come close to the arsenal that the North Vietnamese had, nor do they have the material support from a major power. The North also had a comprehensive command and control structure .... the Taliban are not so comprehensive, and in fact they are fractured among many different groups.

As to similarities .... the big one that I can see is that the North Vietnamese were committed to win .... just like the Taliban are. In addition .... the North Vietnamese did have many supporters in the South .... just like the Taliban have in the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan.

Afghan War Support Hits New Low In U.S. Poll

U.S. Army soldiers sight in their M-4 carbines on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, March 26, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

CNN Poll: Afghan War Support Hits New Low -- CNN

(CNN) - Support for the war in Afghanistan has fallen to an all-time low with the majority of Americans saying the U.S. should withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan before the 2014 deadline set by the Obama administration, according to a new poll.

The CNN/ORC International survey released Friday indicated only 25% of Americans favored the war in the Asian country. A majority of Republicans voiced opposition to it, for the first time since the war began in 2001.

Read more
....

My Comment: The fighting season is going to start in the next few weeks .... expect Afghan war support to hit an even lower number.

Friday, March 30, 2012

How Obama's Hot Mic



Obama’s Hot Mic Moment Turned ’007′ Movie Spoof -- ABC News

American Crossroads, the pro-Republican super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove, is likening President Obama to a rogue James Bond in a new spoof video that seizes upon his hot mic moment with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in South Korea.

“Your mission is simple, Mr. Obama,” says a woman’s voice, channeling Judy Dench who plays “M” (the head of the British secret intelligence service, MI6) in the recent Bond films.

Read more ...

My Comment:
Hmmm ..... the above clip is so so.

Now .... this is funny.(My GF disagrees .... but she does not have the same Russian background that I have .... cough cough .... I am older).

F-22 Refueling (2012)


Hat Tip: Theo Spark

Is America Getting Ready For A Resource War?

Has America Reported For Duty In The Resource Wars? -- Daniel McGroarty, Real Clear World

March has been a big month in the Resource Wars - the long-term scramble by the world's major powers to secure access to strategic metals and minerals essential to economic growth and national security. Exhibit A: The announcement that the U.S., European Union and Japan are initiating a World Trade Organization (WTO) action against China for its restrictive export policies on a range of technologically-critical metals know as Rare Earths.

But for all the ink it received, the WTO Rare Earths case may just be the second most important action the White House has taken this month on the strategic resource issue.

Read more ....

My Comment: It is rare .... but when Washington perceives a serious threat .... in this case securing critical supplies of minerals .... the politicians do move quickly. There is more info here.

Argentina: Falkland Islands 'Will Belong To Argentina One Day'

Falkland Islands 'Will Belong To Argentina One Day' Says Minister -- The Telegraph

The Falkland Islands will belong to Argentina one day, according to the country's chairman of the foreign affairs committee.

But Daniel Filmus said Argentina would not try to take the disputed islands by force. "There's no suppression which lasts forever.

"It's just a matter of how much time it takes for it to be understood that there must be dialogue and the need to find a mechanism for diplomatic agreement to get us there," he told Radio Five Live.

Speaking ahead of the 30th anniversary of the start of the Falklands War, which began on April 2 1982, Mr Filmus said Argentines "have enough patience and know what is right".

Read more ....

My Comment: Maybe the Falkland Islands will belong to Argentina one day .... but not today.

Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials -- March 31, 2012

An Israeli F-16I fighter plane takes off from Ramon Air Base in southern Israel in 2008. Foreign Policy magazine reports that Israel is developing a 'secret staging ground' in Azerbaijan for a possible air attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Gil Cohen/Reuters/File

Israel, Iran, And The U.S.: Undermining An Ally, Aiding The Enemy -- Benny Avni, New York Post

A campaign of press leaks, led by some Obama administration insiders, is harming Israel’s and America’s ability to act militarily to end Iran’s nuclear quest.

Washington officials and sympathetic media plainly intend the campaign to erode public support for a military attack on Iran’s nuclear installations. But reports on Israeli military methods, capabilities and alliances are actively aiding the Iranian regime.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials

What if Israel bombs Iran?
-- Gary Sick, Special to CNN

Attacking Iran: Did US just torpedo Israeli deal for a base in Azerbaijan? -- Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor

Iran: The Confidence Game
-- Washington Diarist, New Republic

Hard Line on Iran Places White House in a Bind -- Mark Landler, Thom Shanker, and Helene Cooper, New York Times

Why India is trying to expand trade with Iran -- Rebecca Byerly, Christian Science Monitor

Mideast upheaval knocks Saudi Arabia off balance -- Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times

Arab states redraw the map of alliances after revolutions -- Jamal Khashoggi, The National

Real triumph of Arab League summit: That it happened at all
-- Jane Arraf, Christian Science Monitor

Baghdad’s Last Summit, and the Very, Very Important People Who Never Came -- Yasmine Mousa, New York Times

Ethnic violence belies Balkans peace -- Andrew MacDowall, Christian Science Monitor

Pope's Cuba Visit May Prove Subversive To Castro
-- IBD Editorial

The Terribly Sad True Stories of Lotto Winners -- Jen Doll, The Atlantic

World News Briefs -- March 30, 2012 (Evening Edition)


Mega Millions Jackpot Soars To $640 Million -- ABC News

The largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history leaped even higher to $640 million as throngs of hopefuls bought fistfuls of last minute tickets.

The cash lump sum payment is now worth $462 million, up from $389.8 million.

The drawing earlier today was just $540 million, surpassing the estimated $476 million jackpot and previous record of $390 million.

But it jumped by $100 million as long lines of ticket buyers jammed stores for their chance to join the country's one percent.

Read more
....


MIDDLE EAST

Arabs clash with IDF, scores hurt in West Bank, Gaza. Israeli efforts to defuse 'Land Day' tensions fail as clashes erupt at checkpoint.

Activists: Fresh clashes erupt in Syria.

U.S. stymies Iran bid to snatch Iraqi oil.

Exclusive: Iran helps Syria ship oil to China: sources.

Iran suspends accreditation for Reuters in Tehran.

Clinton meets Saudi king amid Syria, Iran tensions.

ASIA

Asean expects Region's economies to grow in 2012.

Afghan policeman kills 9 sleeping fellow officers. Afghan policeman shoots dead nine colleagues.

U.S. suspends food aid to North Korea over missile plan.

Baluchistan separatists in Pakistan beset by divisions.

US stands by Japan over N.Korea. Japan will intercept NKorean rocket if threatened.

Aung San Suu Kyi vows to fight on despite election irregularities in Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi criticises Burmese election irregularities.

Intrigue grows in Chinese 'murder mystery'. Exclusive – China Communist Party scandal triggered by British man’s death.

AFRICA

Sudan troops fight rebels over town in oil-rich state. Rebels launch assault on town in Sudan's main oil state.

Tuareg rebels seize northern Mali town. Sanctions loom in Mali, junta holds onto power.

Mali's neighbors threaten border closure in aftermath of coup.

In post-Gaddafi Libya, Islamists are rising in influence.

EUROPE

Adolf Hitler's parents' tombstone removed.

Euro zone agrees to boost rescue capacity.Eurozone ministers boost firewall to $1tn. Eurozone boosts financial buffers to $1.1 trillion.

French police swoop nets Islamist militant suspects.

Spain unveils $36 billion austerity package.

Falklands reminds Britain of past glories, future challenges.

Terror in Europe fuels immigration tensions.

AMERICAS

Record Mega Millions jackpot tops $540m.

Honduras San Pedro Sula prison unrest and fire kill 13.

Wiretaps signal that Mexico's election season has begun. Mexico's vanquished ruling party stages a comeback.

Bad omen for U.S. healthcare law: Many comments from the justices. Justices meet Friday to vote on health care case.

Canada budget raises pensions benefit age and cuts penny.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Judge awards $44 million for '83 Beirut attack.

Bin Laden 'fathered four children while on run'. On the run, Bin Laden lived in 5 houses.

Revealed: bin Laden's life on the run.

US drone strike kills 4 militants in Pakistan: officials.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Asia now leads the world in centa-millionaires.

Toyota raises price for Prius, other models as auto sales heat up.

MasterCard warns of possible security breach, Visa also reportedly affected.

Audit faults Apple supplier.

BlackBerry maker gives up on consumer market. BlackBerry maker in turmoil.

The U.S. - Pakistan Relationsip: Who Needs Whom More?



US-Pakistan: Who Needs Whom More? -- Al Jazeera

As the two allies hold high-level meetings after months of strained ties we ask what is at stake for both.

Standing side by side this week, the US president and Pakistan's prime minister vowed to work together while conceding that their relationship has experienced deep strains.

On Wednesday, US and Pakistani military leaders also held talks in an attempt to mend ties between the allies.

Read more ....

My Comment: Until the last day that they are in Afghanistan ... that is how long the U.S. will need Pakistan. And after that .... our concerns should only be limited to keeping the regions terrorists boxed in Pakistan, and Pakistani nukes not falling in the wrong hands.

For Pakistan .... they need a supply of weapons (on credit) from the U.S., and monies to maintain their military and the lifestyles that the generals enjoy having. After that .... I do not think that cultivating the U.S. relationship will be high on their priority list.

Iran Suspends Reuters Accreditation Over Ninja Story



Iran Female Ninjas Suing Reuters For Defamation, Says Iranian State TV -- Huffington Post/Global Post

A group of Iranian female martial artists have hit out at Reuters over a report that allegedly described them as "assassins," saying they are suing the media organization for defamation, Iran's state television reported on Wednesday.

The Reuters report came out last month but does not appear to be available anywhere except in the form of a slideshow that does not mention the word assassins.

Read more
....

More News On Reuters Losing It's Accreditation In Iran

Iran suspends accreditation for Reuters in Tehran -- Reuters
Iran Suspends Reuters Over Faulty Headline -- New York Times
Female martial artists in Iran reportedly sue for defamation -- L.A. Times
Iran’s Female Ninjas Are Suing Reuters -- New York Magazine
Reuters says Iran’s government suspends media accreditation of its staffers in Tehran -- Washington Post/AP
Iran Pulls Reuters Accreditations After Video Complaint -- Radio Free Europe
Iran's Female Ninjas File a Lawsuit: Not Every Iranian Is Out to Kill Us -- Max Fisher, The Atlantic
Reuters no-comments alleged Iranian suit -- Washington Post

U.S. Imposes More Oil Sanctions On Iran



U.S. Tightens Oil Sanctions On Iran -- CNN

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- President Obama ratcheted up the pressure on Iran Friday, deciding to implement previously announced sanctions that will be the toughest to date.

The decision declares that world oil markets can be adequately supplied even if a significant portion of Iran's 2.2 million barrels a day in oil exports is taken off the table.

"There is a sufficient supply of petroleum and petroleum products from countries other than Iran to permit a significant reduction in the volume of petroleum and petroleum products purchased from Iran by or through foreign financial institutions," Obama said in a statement.

Read more
....

More News On Additional Sanctions Against Iran's Oil Industry

Obama clears sanctions to squeeze Iran -- L.A. Times
Obama to Clear Way to Tighten Iranian Oil Sanctions -- New York Times
Buyers of Iran oil to face fresh US sanctions -- BBC
Obama says enough world oil to crack down on Iran sales -- Reuters
Obama imposes sanctions to squeeze Iran's oil exportation -- FOX News
Obama: Global oil supply OK to proceed with sanctions on Iran -- Washington Post/AP
Obama Clears Way for Sanctions on Banks in Iran Oil Trade -- Bloomberg
Obama moves to choke Iran oil exports -- AFP
Obama says enough world oil to crack down on Iran sales -- Reuters
Obama clears Iran oil sanctions -- Washington Times
India and China Skirt Iran Sanctions With ‘Junk for Oil’ -- Bloomberg

Civil War In Syria -- News Updates March 30, 2012



Inside Homs: Pictures Show Devastation Of Uninhabitable Rebel Town As Kofi Annan Tells Syrian President 'The Deadline For Peace Is Now' -- Daily Mail

* President Assad has agreed to implement six-point peace plan - but says opposition fighters must lay down their weapons first
* Fresh images show the flashpoint city of Homs in ruins as fighting shows little sign of slowing down
* U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds talks with Saudi king to agree strategy to end the 'bloodbath'
* An Arab League summit in Baghdad looks to have achieved little more than support for Kofi Annan's proposal
* Washington refuses to stage military intervention for fears of sparking sectarian civil war

Syria has been ordered to announce an immediate ceasefire as fears mount that it will not honour an earlier promise to do so.

President Bashar al-Assad agreed to a six-point peace plan laid out by Kofi Annan this week - but as fighting rages on, hopes of peace are fading.

A spokesman for the UN-Arab League envoy today told the Assad regime: 'The deadline is now.'

Read more ....

More News On Syria's Civil War

Syria: Overview -- Yahoo News
Syria Live Blog -- Al Jazeera

Amid Fresh Syrian Clashes, Annan Demands Ceasefire -- Voice of America
UN orders immediate Syria cease-fire: 'The deadline is now' -- MSNBC
Annan demands Syrian government begins ceasefire 'now' -- BBC
Assad says foreign aid to rebels must stop under peace plan -- Reuters
Syrian military must cease fire first-Annan spokesman -- Reuters

Roundup: Fighting in Syria flares amid peace efforts -- CNN
Activists: Fresh clashes erupt in northern Syria -- CBS
Fresh clashes as Syrian soldiers, rebels battle in Idlib -- CTV/AP
33 killed in Syria, Annan urges peace plan implementation -- M&C
Syrian Fighting Flares Ahead of Talks -- New York Times
Splits in 'Friends of Syria' group may help embattled leader Assad -- FOX News
Saudis Seek to Funnel Arms to Syria Rebels -- Wall Street Journal
Britain to double support to Syrian opposition -- The Telegraph
Opposition in Syria condemns slow efforts to end bloodshed -- Washington Post
Hopes fade that summit will find Syrian solution -- Financial Times
Assad Refuses to Cooperate with Arab League -- RIA Novosti
Syrian Kurds Could Tip Scales of Syrian Conflict -- Voice of America
No clear way to court for Syria war crimes suspects -- Reuters
Young Syrian activists put life on hold in revolt -- AP
Carnage in Syria leaves 1 million in need of aid -- Sydney Morning Herald
One million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance – UN-backed survey -- UN News Centre

Syria crisis: US urges Saudis to support diplomacy to end bloodshed
-- The Guardian
Clinton, Saudi Arabia explore Syria crisis -- AP
Clinton in Saudi Arabia for Syria Crisis Talks -- Time/AP
Hillary Clihttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifnton in Middle East push to end crackdown in Syria -- The Telegraph

Syria in the balance
-- Henri J. Barkey, L.A. Times
Syria is no closer to Peace: Tabler -- ABC.net.au
Undergunned and Overwhelmed -- Rania Abouzeid, Foreign Policy

Tuareg Rebels In Mali Succeed In Taking The Desert Capital Of Kidal


Mali Coup: Rebels Seize Desert Capital Kidal -- BBC

Rebels in Mali have captured the town of Kidal, just a week after the military seized power saying the army needed more equipment to fight the insurgents.

Kidal, which has 40,000 inhabitants, is by far the biggest town seized by the Tuareg rebels.

As the news was coming through, coup leader Capt Amadou Sanogo asked for foreign help to tackle the rebels.

The coup has been condemned - Mali's neighbours have threatened sanctions.

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More News On The Tuareg Rebellion In Mali

Tuareg Rebels Seize Northern Mali Town -- Voice of America
Rebels seize northern Mali town of Kidal-- Global Post
Tuareg rebels use rockets, gunfire to attack northern city in Mali -- Washington Post/AP
Tuareg rebels seize northern Malian city of Kidal -- USA Today/AP
Mali's isolated junta seeks help to stop rebels -- AFP
Mali coup leader wants foreign help to fight rebels -- Euronews
Mali's neighbors threaten border closure in aftermath of coup -- CNN
U.S. frustrated with Malian mediation -- UPI

Anti-Terrorism Raids In France Nets 19 Suspects



France Anti-Terrorism Raids Net 19 Suspects, Say Police -- The Guardian

Toulouse, scene of shootings by Mohamed Merah, among cities in dawn commando swoops on suspected Islamist militants.

French police commandos have arrested 19 people in dawn raids across France as part of what the government described as a crackdown on suspected Islamist militants.

The swoop came amid tension following a spate of killings in southern France by Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old from Toulouse who claimed inspiration from al-Qaida. Seven were killed in Merah's shooting spree, including children at a Jewish school. He was shot dead by police last week after a 32-hour siege at his apartment.

Read more ....

More News On France's Anti-Terrorism Raids

France Continues Crackdown on Suspected Islamic Militants
-- Voice of America
France arrests 19 suspected Islamist militants in raids -- BBC
France detains 19 suspected Islamic extremists -- USA Today/AP
France arrests suspected Islamic militants -- Euronews
19 arrested in French police raids, Sarkozy says -- CNN
French police arrest 19 suspected Islamists, seize weapons -- Washington Post
French police swoop on suspected Islamists -- The Telegraph
French police swoop nets Islamist militant suspects -- Sydney Morning Herald
Sarkozy: Toulouse shootings caused 9/11-like trauma; 19 Islamist suspects arrested -- MSNBC
Toulouse attacks 'a little like 9/11 for France says Nicolas Sarkozy -- The Telegraph
Sarkozy crackdown on 'radical Islamists': A campaign move? -- GĂ©rard Bon and John Irish, Christian Science monitor/Reuters

Chinese Oil Deal Ignores Sanctions Against Iran And Syria

Malta-flagged Iranian crude oil supertanker Delvar is seen anchored off Singapore March 1, 2012. While it works to secure new supply routes, traders say Iran is steaming vessels laden with crude and condensates into Asia, where they can drain the contents into smaller ships and sell the cargoes into China and parts of Southeast Asia. One of Iran's supertankers, the Delvar, was involved in such an operation last week. The ship was first parked off Indonesia's Karimun island, an offshore storage point near Singapore that is often used for ship-to-ship transfers. A smaller, China-bound tanker, Xuan Wu Hu, pulled up beside the Delvar and loaded a cargo of condensate for Huizhou, where China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) and Royal Dutch Shell operate a petrochemical complex. The Delvar then moved to Bukom island, home to Shell's Singapore refinery, where it offloaded crude oil, traders said. REUTERS/Tim Chong/Files

Iran, Syria And China Oil Deal Flouts Western Sanctions -- International Business Times

Iran, Syria and China have been accused of flouting US and EU sanctions in a three-way deal to boost the Syrian regime's bank balance with oil revenues.

Iran, which has backed the Damascus government President Bashar al-Assad thoughout the year-long uprising, has provided Syria with a tanker to ship oil to a Chinese state-run importer, reports have claimed.

The move, in defiance of Western sanctions, could give the Syrian regime an £80m boost, Reuters said.

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Update #1: Exclusive: Iran helps Syria ship oil to China: sources -- Reuters
Update #2: Iran helps Assad ship oil to China, eases sanctions-hit Syria -- First Post
Update #3: Syria Sells Oil to China—Thanks to Iran -- Newser

My Comment:
In the scheme things one tanker is not that much .... but symbolically it is a big thing, and it shows to the rest of the world that China is still committed to the Assad regime.