Russia test-fires ballistic missile to mid-Pacific


MURMANSK, Russia (Reuters) – Russia for the first time test-launched a strategic missile to the equatorial part of the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, a navy spokesman said.

The spokesman said a Sineva missile had been launched from the nuclear-powered submarine Tula in the Arctic Barents Sea in the course of military exercises observed by President Dmitry Medvedev.

"For the first time in the history of the Russian navy, the target of the missile was in an equatorial part of the Pacific Ocean rather than the Kura testing ground on the Kamchatka Peninsula," he said.

(Writing by Oleg Shchedrov; Editing by Kevin Liffey)


The walls come down in Baghdad

by Ed Morrissey

image In 2007, part of the new security plan for Baghdad involved building blast walls between neighborhoods.  This created a lot of controversy at the time, both here and in Baghdad, for dividing the city and cutting into trade.  Critics of the war accused the US of committing “ethnic cleansing”, but in fact the walls contributed to the rapid decrease in violence in the Iraqi capital.

Now, with the city pacified and life returning to normal, the time has come to take down the walls:


Market by market, square by square, the walls are beginning to come down. The miles of hulking blast walls, ugly but effective, were installed as a central feature of the surge of American troops to stop neighbors from killing one another.

“They protected against car bombs and drive-by attacks,” said Adnan, 39, a vegetable seller in the once violent neighborhood of Dora, who argues that the walls now block the markets and the commerce that Baghdad needs to thrive. “Now it is safe.”

The slow dismantling of the concrete walls is the most visible sign of a fundamental change here in the Iraqi capital. The American surge strategy, which increased the number of United States troops and contributed to stability here, is drawing to a close. And a transition is under way to the almost inevitable American drawdown in 2009.

Not all of the walls will come down soon.  Blast walls still protect the Green Zone, for instance, and will for the foreseeable future.  One or more Sunni neighborhoods still have blast walls isolating them.  Many people have grown used to the security they have provided, and some of the people interviewed by the Times advise against removing them at all.

China stiffing America for $100 billion in debt Yet U.S. taxpayers helping Beijing as part of trillion-$ credit bailout

By Bob Unruh

While Chinese companies are in line to benefit directly from U.S. taxpayers’ $700 billion-plus bailout of Wall Street, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other financial institutions, Beijing is stiffing the U.S. for $100 billion or more in unpaid debt.

The status of the Chinese economy, including its repudiated debt, has prompted one analyst to warn of an "ominous threat" involving China’s finances and suggest the possibility of "a dramatic reversal" for the "so-called Chinese Miracle."

"One of the greatest problems facing China is the government’s failure to acknowledge and effectively address the true extent of state institutions’ bad debt," Kevin O’Brien writes in an article titled, "Reassessing China’s Sovereign Risk: Emerging Global and Domestic Trends Threaten the ‘Chinese Miracle."

O’Brien’s report was published at a website for the Global Association of Risk Professionals, a not-for-profit independent trade association of risk management practitioners around the world. It has 77,000 members from fields such as banking, investment management and academics.

One problem that should be addressed, he writes, is the $260 billion in sovereign debt owed U.S. and other investors which China has said it simply won’t repay.

"The repayment obligation was inherited by the People’s Republic of China, when the communists took control in 1949. The successor government doctrine of settled international law affirms continuity of obligations among international recognized successive governments," O’Brien said .  Read More..

TV ad features Obama mocking Bible Candidate’s ‘Fight the Smears’ site tries to bury video documentation

By Drew Zahn

A television commercial showing clips of Sen. Barack Obama mocking the Bible has prompted backlash from the candidate’s "Fight the Smears" website, which falsely accuses the ad’s creator of trying to scam Christians out of their money by promising to air a spot that will never be broadcast.

Under the heading "Scamming the faithful," Obama’s official website says of the man who made the commercial, "The trickster’s claims about Barack’s faith are every bit as false as his claims that this amateurish video is really a TV ad."

WND has confirmed, however, that – true to his word – the ad’s creator purchased air time for the commercial on television stations in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. Sources at WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh and a cable company servicing Erie told WND that the ad had been aired on several occasions.

Nonetheless, in an Oct. 3 update to "Scamming the Faithful," the Obama website maintains its attack of the commercial’s creator, Stephen Marks of the organization pH for America.

"Nothing has changed here," reads the Oct. 3 update, "The scammer is still untrustworthy. … Making scams seem plausible is what tricksters like him are known for. In the end, he’s even less credible now than he was when he first started taking people’s money."

"It is ironic indeed," responded Marks in a statement, "that this so-called ‘Fight the Smears’ website (is) not fighting smears but creating them."

Read More..

Experts: 64 Percent of Russian Pregnancies End in Abortion

By Galina Stolyarova

The number of infertile women in Russia is growing by 200,000 to 250,000 each year, with the main cause being complications from abortions, Marina Tarasova, deputy head of the St. Petersburg Reseach Institute For Gynecology and Obstetrics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said on Monday.

Speaking at an international conference highlighting new methods of oral contraception, Tarasova warned that by the end of 2007 there were already more than 5.5 million infertile couples in Russia.

The low birth rate remains one of the key reasons behind Russia’s ongoing demographic crisis. According to official statistics, every fourth teenage girl in Russia has some form of gynecological ailment or reproductive health disorder.

Each year in Russia, more than 64 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion, while in Western European countries the level is below 25 percent. By comparison, there are 10 to 15 abortions per 100 pregnancies in the U.K. and 5 or 6 per 100 in the Netherlands.

One in ten women who undergo an abortion in Russia is below 18 years of age, doctors say. Gynecological disease rates for teenage girls in 15-17 age group, have jumped by an alarming 30 percent in the last five years.

Olga Kurbatova, a researcher at the Institute of General Genetics, said that two major reasons contribute to the high abortion rate: Russians’ traditional risk-taking attitude to their own health and the unavailability of effective birth-control pills to most Russian women due to their relatively high price. Birth control remains traditionally a task for women in Russia, she added.

The best way to reduce the number of abortions and children living without parental care in the country is to develop a culture of family planning, and particularly to instill the habit of using contraceptives.

Doctors admit, however, that most Russian women avoid using contraception, especially birth-control pills, because of widespread prejudice and fear of side effects. In the meantime, abortion remains a common method of birth control.   Read More..

The Russian government has been struggling to advertise family values and has campaigned for citizens to have more children. This year was officially designated “The Year of the Family.”

According to official statistics, only 40 percent of pregnancies are planned. However, one in ten planned pregnancies ends up in a miscarriage.

“Over the past five years, female infertility in Russia has increased by 14 percent, and over 1.5 million Russians need advanced medical technology to become pregnant and maintain a healthy pregnancy,” Tarasova said.

Moderate Muslims urge action against extremists

Claude Salhani 

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia stated in a recent speech that Muslims cannot keep on remaining silent while other Muslims continue to cause harm to Islam.

Abu Dhabi’s Al-Ittihad newspaper followed up Monday with an opinion piece expanding on the king’s speech in an article titled "Who Is Harming Islam?"

The Emirates’ newspaper described Abdullah’s speech as a "scream" for action.

The Saudi monarch said it was no longer acceptable to "simply complain or condemn." The time had come for action.

The king’s initiative is a welcome development, particularly coming from a monarch with the status and privilege Abdullah carries in the Muslim world.

Aside from his royal title, the Saudi king also holds the title of "custodian of the two holy mosques," in reference to Islam’s first- and second-holiest sites, Mecca and Medina respectively. The third is the al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, in Jerusalem where the al-Aqsa Mosque and the renowned golden Dome of the Rock are located.

The author of the article suggested establishing a central global "fatwa institute" to combat the trend of independent fatwas, or religious edicts, that currently plague the Muslim world.

"Fatwa shops" is how the author of the article described it. Sunni Islam allows for almost anyone to issue a fatwa, which at times has had the unfortunate result of producing the most inane edicts.

The Sunni branch of Islam does not have a central figurehead. There is no equivalent to say, the Catholic Church’s pope, or grand ayatollahs found in Shi’ite Islam.    Read More..

Obama Campaign Met with Hamas and Hezbollah Supporters


The Obama campaign is trying to minimize the damage from a meeting attended by their “Muslim outreach director,” at which several notorious Hamas and Hezbollah supporters were present: Obama concedes mistake over Muslim outreach meeting.

The Obama campaign’s Muslim outreach director participated in a meeting in mid September that was attended by several controversial Muslim activists, NBC News has learned. The Obama campaign now concedes that was a misjudgment, and that its top Muslim staffer would not have attended the meeting if she had known the full participant list beforehand. “Would a campaign staffer have attended if they were aware of the complete list of attendees? No,” said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt in an email statement to NBC.

On September 15, newly named Muslim outreach director Minha Husaini spoke to a small group of Muslim leaders and potential Obama supporters at a hotel in Springfield, Virginia, several meeting participants and the campaign said. Two other Obama-affiliated Democratic Party workers joined Husaini and also spoke to the crowd. …

One meeting attendee was Mahdi Bray of the Muslim American Society, several of the participants said. The MAS website describes Bray as an imam and “long time civil and human rights activist.” Bray’s critics say he has a history of defending terrorists. They point to a video of Bray at a rally in 2000, for example, in which he can be seen pumping his fist in the air in support of the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. In a 2004 interview, he called the Israeli assassination of a Hamas spiritual leader an “unlawful, cowardly and dangerous act of state-sponsored terrorism.” Bray did not return a call requesting comment.

Also attending the meeting was Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR is a Muslim-American civil rights group that has, as its website states, “consistently and persistently condemned terrorism and the killing of innocent civilians.” Nonetheless, the group has many critics, especially in law-enforcement circles, and is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing case.

In an interview on Thursday, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said that CAIR has consistently condemned “every act of terrorism” by groups including Hamas and Hezbollah. But he would not answer whether CAIR condemns those designated terrorist groups themselves. “I’ve already answered your questions,” he said, and abruptly ended the interview. Nihad Awad, the executive director, did not return a call seeking comment.

And that’s not all. Also attending the meeting was the Obama campaign’s previous “Muslim outreach director,” who abruptly resigned in August when the Wall Street Journal exposed his ties to extremists.

Read More..