15-06-13

Latest News Syria: The American crap about chemical weapons

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On March 21, 2013, American President Barack Obama said the U.S. was “deeply skeptical” of Syrian government claims that rebel forces had used chemical weapons as the United Nations faces calls to investigate possible use of deadly gas.

Obama also made clear that while he had serious reservations about the regime’s charges, the use of chemical arms in the conflict would be a “game changer” and required fact-gathering. The UN has been asked by Syria and Western nations to investigate conflicting accounts of two attacks.

Clouding the UN’s decision-making is a chorus of divergent versions of events. Syrian authorities blame the so called rebels for launching a rocket laden with chemicals in the Khan al-Assal area in Aleppo province, killing 25 people. The opposition said government forces were responsible and accused Assad’s forces of a second chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus.

Both sides called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to send a team of investigators. Western governments including the U.S., the U.K. and France are backing the so called rebels.

On March 26, 2013, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has called on the UN chief to dispatch an investigation team to probe the use of chemical arms by foreign-backed militants in Syria.

In a letter to the UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, Salehi emphasized that the terror act represents a major threat to international peace and security and an open violation of global norms, particularly the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). 

While calling on the UN to adopt deterrent measures to avert reoccurrence of such events, the Iranian foreign minister reiterated that the Islamic Republic, as the greatest victim of chemical weapons, censures “this inhumane crime” and expects “all governments and international organizations, including the UN, to quickly and clearly condemn this inhumane atrocity.”

In the letter, a copy of which has also been forwarded to the UN Security Council, Salehi further urged the launch of an objective probe into the incident and the sources of the chemical weapons and agents to the terrorist gangs in Syria, making certain that they are identified and brought to justice.

He noted that the terrorist use of chemical weapons in Syria comes just prior to holding the third conference on reconsideration of chemical weapons, reiterating the need for indiscriminate and effective execution of all CWC regulations, particularly the total abolition of such weapons of mass destruction by those that still possess them. 

Salehi concluded his letter to the UN head by expressing confidence that the world body would strongly condemn the criminal use of chemical weapons against the innocent people of the Syrian city of Aleppo. 

The development comes as the Syrian official TV network quoted Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin as demanding that the UN’s fact finding committee for probing the use of chemical weapons in Syria must not include members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which has engaged in supporting and arming terrorist and militant gangs in Syria.

NATO members, particularly the US, Turkey, Britain, Germany and France, have played an active role in supporting the anti-Damascus militant gangs with military hardware, in addition to what they have referred to as "nonlethal" aid. 

At least 25 people were killed and 86 others injured after militants fired missiles containing poisonous gas into Aleppo’s Khan al-Assal village on March 19. Women and children were among the victims. 

The attack came after Syria’s opposition coalition, known as the Syrian National Coalition, selected a Syrian-born American citizen, Ghassan Hitto, as the prime minister of the so-called interim government.

In late April 2013, one US intelligence official told the McClatchy news agency that they had "low or moderate confidence" that the Assad regime had used sarin gas on a small scale. Not only did the plethora of US intelligence agencies differ in their assessments, but the White House itself acknowledged that "the chain of custody [of samples] is not clear, so we cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and under what conditions".

Two months on, the US intelligence community believed that the Assad regime "used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times over the last year", and that intelligence officials had "high confidence" in this finding.

So, it is clear that the White House has simply pressured its intelligence community to produce a new assessment, not on the basis of new evidence, but in response to the shifting military balance within Syria, the greater involvement of Iran and Hezbollah in key battles such as that at Qusair, and pressure from European allies like France and Britain (and from Israel).

If western powers want to send arms to Syria to counteract Iranian influence as part of a wider strategic war, they should simply say so. Couching this policy shift in terms of chemical weapons could have pernicious long-term consequences. It is clear that the Iraq war did irreparable damage to public confidence in intelligence assessments and policymaking, to the point where it constrained future decision-makers and dealt an enduring moral blow to the global standing of western foreign policies. It is incumbent on this generation of policymakers that they demonstrate the transparency and honesty that was so lacking a decade ago.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/14/us-evidence-syria-chemical-weapons 

Photo: Victims of american chemical warfare in Vietnam

Latest News Syria: Anders Fogh Rasmussen's doublespeak

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As a reminder: 

March 27, 2013

'NATO head urges Syria political solution, rules out intervention'

(Reuters) - NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for a political solution to the Syrian crisis on Wednesday, ruling out Western military intervention despite a plea for U.S. protection by a foe of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib said on Tuesday he had asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for American forces to help defend rebel-controlled northern parts of Syria with Patriot surface-to-air missiles now based in Turkey.

But NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen stuck firmly to his insistence that the 28-nation alliance would not play a military role in the two-year-old Syrian conflict, which has claimed an estimated 70,000 lives.

"We don't have any intention to intervene militarily in Syria," he said, speaking to Russian students in Moscow via a video link from Brussels.

"I do believe that we need a political solution in Syria and I hope the international community will send a unified and clear message to all parties in Syria that we need a political solution," Rasmussen said.

Divisions between the Western powers and Russia and China have prevented decisive action on Syria at the United Nations.

Three NATO countries - the United States, the Netherlands and Germany - sent Patriot missiles to Turkey early this year to protect Turkish cities from possible attack from Syria.

Alkhatib told Reuters on Wednesday that the refusal by international powers to provide Patriot missile support sent a message to Assad to "do what you want".

Rasmussen said there was a clear difference between Syria and Libya, where NATO air strikes helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

"In Libya we took responsibility for the operation based on a United Nations mandate to protect the Libyan population against attacks from its own government...and we had active support from the countries in the region," he said.

"None of these conditions are fulfilled in Syria, there is no United Nations mandate, there is no call on NATO to intervene in Syria, even the opposition in Syria does not ask for a foreign military intervention," he said.

The six Patriot missile batteries dispatched by the NATO allies are stationed around three Turkish cities.

They have a short range - they can defend an area of just 15 to 20 km (10 to 13 miles) against a ballistic missile, according to NATO - and in their current positions are too far away to provide an effective shield for northern Syria.

The U.S. missiles, deployed around the city of Gaziantep, are closest to the Syrian border, about 60 km (37 miles) away, but the German and Dutch batteries are 100 km (60 miles) or more from the Syrian border.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/27/us-syria-crisis...

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June 15, 2013

US Senator John McCain, a hawk on Syria, said America needed to neutralize Assad’s air power: “They (rebels) have enough light weapons. They’ve got enough AK-47s. AK-47s don’t do very well against tanks,” McCain told CNN. “They need anti-tank weapons and they need anti-air weapons.”

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed what he said was a “clear US statement”. “The international community has made clear that any use of chemical weapons is completely unacceptable and a clear breach of international law,” Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels.

Latest News Syria: Anniversary Sawt al-Shaab radio

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Al-Zoubi: National media is media of people

June 15, 2013

Information Minister, Omran al-Zoubi said that the national media is one of a state, not an authority, government or sect, but ''is the media of the Syrian people and state which has to be open to all viewpoints.''

Marking the 35th anniversary of launching Sawt al-Shaab (Sound of People) radio, al-Zoubi congratulated the radio which decided to extend its broadcast hours to be 24 hours a day, which, he said, would be an extra burden amid the current conditions in Syria.

Al-Zoubi indicated that big strides were achieved towards a responsible national media, pointing out that ''there is no private media in the narrow sense of the word, as even the parties' newspapers won't have readership unless they address all social components.''

''Our responsibility is no less than that of the army and the armed forces…We are standing behind them as they are a symbol of the country, its unity and sovereignty,'' al-Zoubi affirmed.

He added that the mission of media is to form public opinion that is based on the concepts of loyalty to the homeland.

''The homeland is invincible, thanks to the sacrifices of the armed forces and our martyrs…their blood will not go in vain,'' said al-Zoubi.

Moussa Abdulnour, Director-General of Sawt al-Shaab radio said that ''the radio's work is based on the relationship with citizens that we seek to keep strong.'' Abdulnour elaborated on the technical development in the work of Sawt al-Shaab work, in addition to enriching it with a trained and experienced cadre.

Abdulnour said ''We have expanded the space of dialogue between citizens and officials, and increased the live broadcast hours.'' ''Hopefully, the radio will assume its role in combating the global conspiracy against Syria and we aspire for a wider communication with all provinces,'' he added.

The radio cadre was honored during the ceremony. Sawt al-Shaab radio went on the air in 1979 as a response to public needs to keep the flag of the Syrian national media flying.

M. Ismael

http://sana.sy/eng/21/2013/06/15/487669.htm

Latest News Syria: Barack Obama, Ban Ki-moon, Chuck Hagel

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Photos:

1) Obama and his friend Ban cozy in the plane
2) April 18, 2013, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, escorts United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon into the Pentagon as Ban Ki-moon arrives for an honor cordon
3) April 19, 2013, Chuck Hagel (L) negotiating with former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli officials on sales of new weapons to Persian Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are arming the so called Free Syrian Army and terrorist groups in Syria)

Latest News Syria: no-fly zone near Jordan border

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An Israeli news source:

‘US studying Syria no-fly zone near Jordan border’

June 15, 2013

Wall Street Journal reports buffer zone near southern border with Jordan would be used to train rebels, protect refugees.

As a part of its proposal to provide military aid to the Syrian rebels, the United States is studying setting up a limited no-fly zone in Syria close to the southern border with Jordan in order to protect Syrian refugees and rebel forces training in the area, two senior Western diplomats in Turkey said on Friday.

Their comments, confirmed by a third regional diplomat, came after Washington said it would step up military assistance to rebels battling President Bashar Assad in response to what it said was proof of chemical weapons use by Assad’s forces.

‘After Syria chemical arms use, US to arm rebels’

“Washington is considering a no-fly zone to help Assad’s opponents,” one diplomat
said. He said it would be limited “time-wise and area-wise, possibly near the Jordanian border,” without giving details.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the no-fly zone would stretch up to 25 miles into Syria, and would be enforced with aircraft flown from Jordan or from Navy ships in the Mediterranean or Red Sea.

US officials told the Journal the White House is considering proposals to arm and train the rebels in Jordan, but that Washington could decide to train rebels in Jordan without enforcing the no-fly zone.

The limited no-fly zone would cost an estimated $50 million a day, and would take a month to get up and running. However, the window of opportunity to set it up is limited.

If Russia decides to deliver the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to the Assad regime, it would become too dangerous for US pilots to enforce the buffer zone, the officials told the Journal.

Imposing a no-fly zone would therefore require the United States to destroy Syria’s air defenses, entering the two-year-old civil war with the sort of action that NATO used to help topple Muammar Gaddafi in Libya two years ago.

Despite that, the officials said the no-fly zone would not necessitate the destruction of Syrian anti-aircraft batteries.

The area near the Jordanian border contains some of the most densely-populated parts of Syria, including the outskirts of the capital Damascus.

Washington has moved Patriot surface-to-air missiles, war planes and more than 4,000 troops into Jordan in the past week, officially as part of an annual exercise, but making clear that the forces deployed could stay on when the war games are over.

A White House National Security Council spokeswoman declined to comment on the topic.

France: UN backing for Syria no-fly zone ‘unlikely’ France said on Friday that it was unlikely for now that a no-fly zone would be established over Syria because of opposition from some members of the UN Security Council.

“The problem with this type of measure is that it can only be put in place with approval from the international community,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot told journalists.

“A decision from the United Nations Security Council is needed, and not just any decision,” he said. A Chapter 7 resolution authorizing military action was needed, and that was unlikely to be passed, he added.

Assad’s government can count on Moscow to block any such resolution if it were to be brought to a vote.

Lalliot said France had yet to make a decision on arming rebels, but that all these issues would be discussed among heads of state at next week’s G8 summit.

Apart from arming the rebels, France could also extend further help to them in the form of sharing more intelligence, providing training and planning operations, Lalliot added.

He declined to say whether that meant French military advisers would be on the ground
in Syria, although diplomatic sources have indicated some are already operating in Turkey and Jordan.

The White House said Washington would now provide “direct military support” to the opposition. It did not publicly specify whether this would include “lethal aid,” which would mark a reversal of Obama’s previous resistance to arming the rebels. But a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the package would include weapons.

Syrian rebels already receive light arms from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They have asked for heavier weapons including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. European countries, in particular France, have argued that the solution is to provide more weapons for mainstream rebels to marginalize extremists.

“We want anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons,” George Sabra, acting leader of the National Coalition political opposition bloc, told Al Arabiya television. “We expect to see positive results and genuine military support.”

Syrian rebel commanders were due to meet Western and Turkish officials in Turkey on Friday to discuss military assistance to the rebels. Until now Washington has been deeply reluctant to send weapons, citing a risk that they would end up in the hands of radical Sunni Muslim brigades.

One of the diplomats said that setting up a no-fly zone could also help Western efforts to monitor the recipients of any arms supplies.

Free Syria Army General Salim Idris told Al Arabiya that the Syrian opposition hopes to translate the change in American position into reality, and be given tangible access to weapons and ammunition.

He also warned that if the US backtracks on its decision to arm the rebels, Iran and Hezbollah would cement their control over the region.

US Senator John McCain, a hawk on Syria, said America needed to neutralize Assad’s air power: “They (rebels) have enough light weapons. They’ve got enough AK-47s. AK-47s don’t do very well against tanks,” McCain told CNN. “They need anti-tank weapons and they need anti-air weapons.”

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed what he said was a “clear US statement”. “The international community has made clear that any use of chemical weapons is completely unacceptable and a clear breach of international law,” Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels.

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The Washington Times – May 10, 2013
‘Put down the arms. The Middle East peace process demands talk, diplomacy and politics, not military involvement, said U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/10/defense-s...

Photo: On April 19, 2013, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) has negotiated with Israeli officials on sales of new weapons to Persian Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/04/19/299074/new-us-arm...

Latest News Syria: White House statement on chemical weapons

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'White House statement on Syrian regime chemicals weapons - full text'

Statement by Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, on chemical weapons

13 June 2013

At the President's direction, the United States Government has been closely monitoring the potential use of chemical weapons within Syria. Following the assessment made by our intelligence community in April, the President directed the intelligence community to seek credible and corroborated information to build on that assessment and establish the facts with some degree of certainty. Today, we are providing an updated version of our assessment to Congress and to the public. 

The Syrian government's refusal to grant access to the United Nations to investigate any and all credible allegations of chemical weapons use has prevented a comprehensive investigation as called for by the international community. The Assad regime could prove that its request for an investigation was not just a diversionary tactic by granting the UN fact finding mission immediate and unfettered access to conduct on-site investigations to help reveal the truth about chemical weapons use in Syria. While pushing for a UN investigation, the United States has also been working urgently with our partners and allies as well as individuals inside Syria, including the Syrian opposition, to procure, share, and evaluate information associated with reports of chemical weapons use so that we can establish the facts and determine what took place.

Following a deliberative review, our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year. Our intelligence community has high confidence in that assessment given multiple, independent streams of information. The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete. While the lethality of these attacks make up only a small portion of the catastrophic loss of life in Syria, which now stands at more than 90,000 deaths, the use of chemical weapons violates international norms and crosses clear red lines that have existed within the international community for decades. We believe that the Assad regime maintains control of these weapons. We have no reliable, corroborated reporting to indicate that the opposition in Syria has acquired or used chemical weapons.

The body of information used to make this intelligence assessment includes reporting regarding Syrian officials planning and executing regime chemical weapons attacks; reporting that includes descriptions of the time, location, and means of attack; and descriptions of physiological symptoms that are consistent with exposure to a chemical weapons agent. Some open source reports from social media outlets from Syrian opposition groups and other media sources are consistent with the information we have obtained regarding chemical weapons use and exposure. The assessment is further supported by laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. Each positive result indicates that an individual was exposed to sarin, but it does not tell us how or where the individuals were exposed or who was responsible for the dissemination. 

We are working with allies to present a credible, evidentiary case to share with the international community and the public. Since the creation of the UN fact finding mission, we have provided two briefings to Dr. Åke Sellström, the head of the mission. We will also be providing a letter to UN Secretary General Ban, calling the UN's attention to our updated intelligence assessment and specific incidents of alleged chemical weapons use. We request that the UN mission include these incidents in its ongoing investigation and report, as appropriate, on its findings. We will present additional information and continue to update Dr. Sellström as new developments emerge.

The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a red line for the United States, as there has long been an established norm within the international community against the use of chemical weapons. Our intelligence community now has a high confidence assessment that chemical weapons have been used on a small scale by the Assad regime in Syria. The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has.

Our decision making has already been guided by the April intelligence assessment and by the regime's escalation of horrific violence against its citizens. Following on the credible evidence that the regime has used chemical weapons against the Syrian people, the President has augmented the provision of non-lethal assistance to the civilian opposition, and also authorized the expansion of our assistance to the Supreme Military Council (SMC), and we will be consulting with Congress on these matters in the coming weeks. This effort is aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the SMC, and helping to coordinate the provision of assistance by the United States and other partners and allies. Put simply, the Assad regime should know that its actions have led us to increase the scope and scale of assistance that we provide to the opposition, including direct support to the SMC. These efforts will increase going forward. 

The United States and the international community have a number of other legal, financial, diplomatic, and military responses available. We are prepared for all contingencies, and we will make decisions on our own timeline. Any future action we take will be consistent with our national interest, and must advance our objectives, which include achieving a negotiated political settlement to establish an authority that can provide basic stability and administer state institutions; protecting the rights of all Syrians; securing unconventional and advanced conventional weapons; and countering terrorist activity.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/13/syria-chemical-weapons-white-house-text

Photos: UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and his personal friend Barack Obama - Ban Ki-moon visits the Pentagon

China calls for objective probe on Syrian chemical weapons claim

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'China calls for objective probe on Syrian chemical weapons claim'

6-15-2013

China says it hopes that the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria will be fair and objective in investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

A spokesperson from China’s Foreign Ministry made the statement after allegations from the White House on Thursday said that the US intelligence community found the Syrian government had used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition several times in the last year.

She said, "The Chinese side is firmly opposed to the use of chemical weapons no matter who uses them. We hope the UN working group investigating the chemical weapon’s claim in Syria can investigate it objectively and fairly on the premise of following international laws and the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council. We always think a political solution is the only realistic and correct way out for the Syrian issue."

http://english.cntv.cn/program/newsupdate/20130615/100668.shtml

Photos: UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and his personal friend Barack Obama - Ban Ki-moon visits the Pentagon

(China: 'We hope the UN working group investigating the chemical weapon’s claim in Syria can investigate it objectively'...)

Google Alert - latest news Syria SANA - chemical weapons

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Google Alert - latest news Syria SANA - 14 June 2013

3 new results for latest news Syria SANA:

Assad crosses 'red line'; U.S. confirms chemical weapon use
Honolulu Star-Advertiser
WASHINGTON » The United States has conclusive evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime has used chemical weapons against opposition forces seeking to overthrow the government, crossing what President Barack Obama has called a "red line ...
See all stories on this topic »

US Prepares Military Options for Syria as 20K Assad Troops Advance on Aleppo

Sunni Cleric In Mecca Urges Support Of Syrian Rebels; Sheikh Saoud al ...

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‘US Begins Agent Orange Cleanup in Vietnam’

August 9, 2012

DANANG, Vietnam—Vo Duoc fights back tears while sharing the news that broke his heart: A few days ago he received test results confirming he and 11 family members have elevated levels of dioxin lingering in their blood.

The family lives in a two-story house near a former US military base in Danang where the defoliant Agent Orange was stored during the Vietnam War, which ended nearly four decades ago. Duoc, 58, sells steel for a living and has diabetes, while his wife battles breast cancer and their daughter has remained childless after suffering repeated miscarriages.

For years, Duoc thought the ailments were unrelated, but after seeing the blood tests he now suspects his family unwittingly ingested dioxin from Agent Orange-contaminated fish, vegetables and well water.

Dioxin, a persistent chemical linked to cancer, birth defects and other disabilities, has seeped into Vietnam’s soils and watersheds, creating a lasting war legacy that remains a thorny issue between the former foes. Washington has been slow to respond, but on Thursday the US for the first time will begin cleaning up dioxin from Agent Orange that was stored at the former military base, now part of Danang’s airport.

“It’s better late than never that the US government is cleaning up the environment for our children,” Duoc said in Danang, surrounded by family members sitting on plastic stools. “They have to do as much as possible and as quickly as possible.”

The US $43 million project begins as Vietnam and the US forge closer ties to boost trade and counter China’s rising influence in the disputed South China Sea.

Although the countries’ economic and military ties are blossoming, progress on addressing the dioxin legacy has been slow. Washington still disputes a claim by Hanoi that from three million to four million Vietnamese were affected by toxic chemicals sprayed by US planes during the war to eliminate jungle cover for guerrilla fighters, arguing that the actual number is far lower and other environmental factors are to blame for the health issues.

That position irks the Vietnamese, who say the United States maintains a double standard in acknowledging the consequences of Agent Orange. The US has given billions of dollars in disability payments to American servicemen who developed illnesses associated with dioxin after exposure to the defoliant during the Vietnam War.

In 2004, a group of Vietnamese citizens filed suit in a US court against companies that produced the chemical, but the case was dismissed and the Supreme Court declined to take it up.

Until a few years ago, Washington took a defensive position whenever Agent Orange was raised because no one had determined how much dioxin remained in Vietnam’s soil and watersheds, and the US worried about potential liabilities, said Susan Hammond, director of the War Legacies Project, a US nonprofit organization that mainly focuses on the Agent Orange legacy from the Vietnam War.

“There was a lot of the blame game going on, and it led nowhere,” Hammond said by telephone from Vermont. “But now at least progress is being made.”

Over the past five years, Congress has appropriated about US $49 million for environmental remediation and about $11 million to help people living with disabilities in Vietnam regardless of cause. Experts have identified three former US air bases—in Danang in central Vietnam and the southern locations of Bien Hoa and Phu Cat—as hotspots where Agent Orange was mixed, stored and loaded onto planes.

The US military dumped some 20 million gallons (75 million liters) of Agent Orange and other herbicides on about a quarter of former South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971.

The defoliant decimated about five million acres (two million hectares) of forest—roughly the size of Massachusetts—and another 500,000 acres (202,000 hectares) of crops.

The war ended on April 30, 1975, when northern communist forces seized control of Saigon, the US-backed former capital of South Vietnam. The country was then reunified under a one-party communist government. Following years of poverty and isolation, Vietnam shook hands with the US in 1995 and normalized diplomatic relations.

Since then, the relationship has flourished and the two countries have become important trading partners. Military ties have also strengthened, with Vietnam looking to the US amid rising tensions with China in the disputed South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves and is crossed by vital shipping lanes.

Although Washington remains a vocal critic of Vietnam’s human rights record, it also views the country as a key ally in its push to re-engage militarily in the Asia-Pacific region. The US says maintaining peace and freedom of navigation in the sea is in its national interest.

The Agent Orange issue has continued to blight the US-Vietnam relationship because dioxin can linger in soils and at the bottom of lakes and rivers for generations, entering the food supply through the fat of fish and other animals.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Defense and the US now plan to excavate 73,000 cubic meters (2.5 million cubic feet) of soil from the airport and heat it to a high temperature in storage tanks until the dioxin is removed. The project is expected to be completed in four years.

Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Washington-based Aspen Institute, said Thursday’s start “marks the coming together of our two countries to achieve a practical solution to dioxin contamination.”

His organization coordinates the US-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin, which connects prominent American and Vietnamese scientists, health experts and former officials.

The group in May said that $450 million is needed to clean up dioxin hot spots, provide services to people with disabilities, and repair damaged landscapes across Vietnam over the next five years.

The US is rolling out a $9 million project to address disabilities in Vietnam through 2015, but it continues to dispute Vietnam’s claim that dioxin has caused health problems there. It remains unclear whether the US will clean up all of Vietnam’s dioxin, and how much it will allocate in the long term for people who claim to be Agent Orange victims.

A national action plan that Vietnam’s government released in June lays out goals for dealing with Agent Orange, but does not give a price tag.

Every penny counts for Nguyen Thi Hien, who directs three rehabilitation and vocational training centers for 150 children and young adults with disabilities in Danang on a budget of roughly 100 million dong ($5,000) per month.

The children, busy drawing and making plastic flowers that are sold to raise funds, suffer from a range of physical and mental ailments that Hien says are linked to dioxin.

Vo Duoc, the steel salesman, will travel to the capital, Hanoi, next month to receive treatment for his diabetes. But he says he’s more concerned about what will happen to his six grandchildren, who haven’t yet been tested for dioxin.

“They had nothing to do with the war,” Duoc said. “But I live in fear that they’ll test positive like me.”

Photo: Professor Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, at Tu Du Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital, is pictured with a group of handicapped children, most of them victims of Agent Orange

http://www.irrawaddy.org/archives/11178

14-06-13

Latest News Syria: Many foreign backed terrorists killed

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The army continues confrontations, killing many terrorists, including non-Syrians 

Jun 14, 2013

Units of the armed forces on Friday inflicted heavy losses upon terrorists and foiled several attempts to attack the Central Prison and Minnegh Airport in Aleppo, killing and injuring several terrorists.

An official source told SANA that the army units repelled several attempts of "Jabhat al-Nusra" terrorists to attack the Airport, killing and injuring several terrorists, in addition to destroying their equipment.

The source pointed out that other army units killed 7 terrorists to the west of Minnegh Airport and destroyed a 23mm caliber anti-aircraft cannon and weapons warehouse to the south of the Airport.

Meanwhile, the guards of the Central Prison foiled "Jabhat al-Nusra" terrorists' attempt to sneak into the area surrounding the prison from a cemetery nearby, inflicting heavy losses upon them.

Another army unit killed a number of "Jabhat al-Nusra" terrorists in Oram al-Kubra village, including an armed terrorist group leader Ahmad al-Shami and 10 other non-Syrian terrorists, while another army unit killed and injured several terrorists on Aleppo-Idleb road.

In Aleppo city, the army units carried out operations against terrorists who were stationed in the cultural center in Masaken Hanano area and destroyed a rocket-launcher, mortar and ammunition near the old and new Hanano Police Stations and in the area surrounding Hanano Barracks.

Other army units carried out operations against terrorists who were stationed in al-Maysar school compound, destroying a 23 mm caliber anti-aircraft cannon and killing several terrorists.

In Bustan al-Basha, the army units killed 8 terrorists and destroyed two mortars, while another army unit carried out a special operation in old Aleppo, killing a number of terrorists, in addition to destroying a factory of explosive devices.

Army units destroy terrorists' dens in Damascus Countryside

Units of the armed forces continued operations against the armed terrorist groups in Harasta, Douma and Joubar in Damascus Countryside.

An official source told SANA that the army units killed and injured several terrorists near the court BUILDINGin Harasta city, including Ayoub Hassoun and Muhammad Hassoun.

The source added that another army unit destroyed a terrorists' den in al-Eb farms in Douma area, killing and injuring several terrorists, including Salim Eido and Nouman al-Shalet.

The source pointed out that another army unit clashed with members of an armed terrorist group in Joubar, killing and injuring a number of terrorists.

Rabia Badereddin and Housam al-Aghawani were identified among the dead terrorists.

Army units eliminate terrorists, including leaders, in Damascus Countryside

Units of the armed forces inflicted heavy losses upon terrorists in several towns in Damascus Countryside.

An official source told SANA that an army unit destroyed terrorists' dens in the farms surrounding al-Khamasia and al-Ahmadia towns in the eastern Ghouta, killing Majid Kahal, leader of an armed terrorist group called" Shabab al-Baraa Battalion", and a number of the battalion's members, including Muhammad Zuhir al-Nazaq.

The source added that other army units destroyed a mortar and killed a number of terrorists in Hijjeira town, including non-Syrian terrorists, among them a Jordanian called " al-Sheikh Bader" and terrorist Nidal al-Saidi.

In Yalda town, another army unit killed several terrorists affiliated to the so-called "Ansar al-Souna Battalion", including Tawfiq Shour.

In al-Ziyabiya town, another army unit killed scores of terrorists, including Talal al-Mandil, leader of an armed terrorist group, and a number of his group, including Basil al-Hamdo.

The source pointed out that the army units continued hunting the armed terrorist groups in Daraya city, killing a number of terrorists to the east of al-Sayyeda Sukaina shrine, including snipers.

Terrorists killed in Homs and its countryside

Units of the armed forces targeted several armed terrorist groups which were attempting to attack military checkpoints at Jisr al-Sad in al-Rastan in Homs countryside, killing and injuring a number of terrorists.

A military source told SANA reporter that the army units destroyed a rocket-pad and weapons which were used by terrorists in their acts of terrorism.

Another unit also destroyed an armored vehicle and eliminated terrorists near al-Mahmoud mosque in al-Rastan city.

An Army unit clashed with terrorists in a car on a farm road in Hasya area, eliminating the terrorists and confiscating their weapons.

In a series of operations in Teldo and Burj Qai'ii, an Armed Forces unit destroyed a number of terrorist hideouts, leaving a number of terrorists dead or injured, while other units eliminated terrorists between the areas of al-Furuqlus and Sad Handoura and near Habra village in Jub al-Jarrah area.

In Homs city, the Armed Forces continued to pursue terrorist groups in the Old City, eliminating a number of terrorists who tried to sneak into Wadi al-Sayeh neighborhood from al-Hamidiye neighborhood, in addition to eliminating terrorists in Bab Houd and Jouret al-Shiyah.

Terrorists killed, heavy machineguns destroyed in Deir Ezzor

Army units continued chasing members of the armed terrorist groups in al-Sina'a, al-Matar al-Qadeem and al-Umal neighborhoods in Deir Ezzor and eliminated a number of them and destroyed their vehicles.

An official source told SANA reporter that the source added that another army unit clashed with gunmen group in Hawijet Sakr district killing four of its members and destroying a mortar in their possession.

Another unit foiled a terrorist group's infiltration attempt from the Eastern Hweika to the Western Hweika district and eliminated ten terrorists.

In Deir Ezzor countryside, terrorists' gatherings were devastated as heavy machine guns in their possession were also destroyed in Hawijet al-Mrai'ieh and Mrat.

Army units pursue terrorists in Hama Countryside

Units of the armed forces killed and injured several terrorists affiliated to the so-called "Ababil al-Sahra'a Brigade", including non-Syria terrorists, in addition to destroying their weapons and equipment in al-Khdaira, al-Souha and Hamadi Omar towns southeast of Salamia.

An official source told SANA that the army units destroyed several gatherings of "Jabhat al-Nusra" terrorist group along with the weapons and ammunition inside them, in addition to killing a number of terrorists in Adla  town in Hama countryside.

The source pointed out that other army units killed and injured a number of terrorists in al-Kastal al-Wastani and al-Shamali towns, in addition to destroying two rocket-launchers, weapons and ammunition which were used by terrorists in their acts of terrorism.

Non-Syrians terrorists eliminated in Daraa

A military source said that the army unit targeted an armed terrorist group in al- Nazehen camp in Daraa, killing and wounding a number of terrorists.

In a statement to SANA reporter, the source said that terrorist Omran Abdul Rahman al-Aidi, leader of a terrorist group, Mounir Mousa Bajbouj, and Musab Fuad Suleiman al-Qtaifan, in addition to the five non-Syrian terrorists of the so-called al-Mujahedin battalion in Daraa were killed.

The source pointed that the other army units targeted terrorists' dens in al-Sheikh Miskeen, on the road of Abtta', in Sason, al-Shabreq, al-Misteriya and Glenn, killing and wounding a number of terrorists and destroyed an armored vehicle and a car loaded with ammunition.

Jabhat al-Nusra-linked terrorist Mansour al-Beiruti of a Palestinian nationality was identified among the dead.

Army units inflict heavy losses upon terrorists in Idleb

Units of the armed forces destroyed terrorists' dens and gatherings in several areas of Idleb countryside.

A military source told SANA reporter that an army unit targeted terrorists' gatherings in al-Ghassania, al-Taibat, al-Shughr and Mashimshan in Jisr al-Shughour countryside and in Nahla villagein Ariha area, inflicting heavy losses upon teerorists.

Osama Ahmad Rahal and Ra'ad Iyad Hasson were identified among the dead terrorists in Nahla village.

In the areas surrounding Idleb city, another army unit destroyed a number of terrorists' dens and gatherings in Taftanaz, Maar Tamsarin, Tall Dineit, Shalakh, Zardana and Tallet Binnesh, inflicting direct strikes upon them.

In Binnesh city, the army units destroyed terrorists' dens, causing the killing and the injury of several terrorists.

In Sermin city, other army units destroyed a den of the so-called "Ahrar al-Sham Brigade" and "Daoud Brigade" terrorist group, killing 13 terrorists.

A military source told SANA that the army units destroyed terrorists' gatherings in Bait al-Kaiari and al-Buweiti in Abu Duhour area, killing and injuring several terrorists who were perpetrating acts of terrorism in the area.

Army unit eliminates terrorist in Lattakia countryside

An Army unit clashed with terrorist groups in the village of al-Houeh in Slenfeh area in Lattakia countryside, leaving a large number of terrorists dead or injured and destroying a heavy machinegun.

English Bulletin

http://sana.sy/eng/337/2013/06/14/487484.htm

Stromae used a great way to promote his new album

Stromae.promotion.jpg

Stromae, well known artist in Belgium, used a great way to promote his new album. He pretended to be drunk on a square in Brussels. The police stopped him on suspicion that he may be tired, drunk, or probably lost his mind.
Stromae tragically lost his sister to suicide a few years ago, and became inspired by the idea of turning destruction into creation.

Ringo Starr collapsed with tonsillitis and pharyngitis

Music.Ringo Starr_Hospital.1964.jpg

3 June 1964 

In the morning Ringo Starr collapsed with tonsillitis and pharyngitis during a photo session for the Saturday Evening Post newspaper in Barnes, north London.

He was taken to University College Hospital where he was ordered to rest completely. Unfortunately for him, The Beatles were due to begin their world tour in Denmark the following day, and it was too late to cancel.

George Martin suggested they draft in session musician Jimmie Nicol as a temporary replacement.

13-06-13

Greece in crisis over state TV closure

Greece.11-juin-2013-au-siege-de-la-television-publique-a-athenes.jpgGreece in crisis over state TV closure


June 13, 2013


GREECE is facing a new political crisis as the government confronts a storm of public protest and a looming general strike over its shock decision to shut down state broadcaster ERT.

The socialist and moderate leftist parties supporting the coalition government were to hold an emergency meeting to decide their response as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras refused to back down.

"We are eliminating a hotbed of opacity and waste,'' Samaras said at a European Investment Bank event in Athens. "We are protecting the public interest.''

The broadcaster's television and radio stations were abruptly pulled off air late Tuesday and its nearly 2,700 staff suspended as part of the conservative-led coalition government's deeply unpopular austerity drive.

"The ERT lockup amounts to a coup d'etat,'' leading union GSEE said in a statement. It announced a 24-hour general strike on Thursday, the third in the crisis-hit country this year.

There was also a protest by journalists in neighbouring Cyprus, where there are fears that budget-straining broadcaster RIK could go the same way as the government looks to slash spending in the island's own austerity drive.

The Samaras administration quickly presented legislation creating a new broadcaster called New Hellenic Radio, Internet and Television (NERIT) to replace the 60-year-old ERT.

"You can't fix a car while it is running, you have to take it off the road,'' government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told journalists.

"It is a temporary postponement.... Everything will pass by parliament, I assure you it's all legal,'' he said, promising a "restart" during the summer.

But the sudden shutdown of ERT caused uproar, with journalists kicking off a 24-hour strike Wednesday while defiant staff staged sit-ins at the organisation's offices in Athens and Greece's second-largest city Thessaloniki.

Riot police were stationed outside ERT offices around the country to prevent "any destruction'', said Kedikoglou, himself a former journalist at the organisation.

The government has imposed sweeping public cutbacks demanded by the debt-laden country's international lenders in return for a massive bailout.

However, the spokesman insisted ERT's closure was not part of Greece's bailout obligations.

"This has nothing to do with the troika,'' Kedikoglou said, referring to Greece's creditors, the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.

Greece is caught in a six-year recession which austerity critics say has been exacerbated by successive pay and pension cuts imposed at the behest of its EU-IMF creditors.

Unemployment is steadily rising and now exceeds 26 percent, with half of young people out of work.

ERT employees, stunned by the sudden loss of their jobs, were defiantly transmitting rogue broadcasts on the Internet and the Communist party channel, vowing to resist the shutdown.

"We are not leaving the building,'' Panagiotis Kalfayiannis, the head of ERT's main union, said. "We are going to Greek and European justice. Even if they want to destroy democracy, rules still apply and I am going to fight.''

Thousands of people rushed to ERT's main headquarters in Athens and its Thessaloniki offices on Tuesday to show their support for the broadcaster.

The European Union said it did not question the government decision but that public broadcasting was "an integral part of European democracy''.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's representative on media freedom, Dunja Mijatovic, also warned that ERT's closure could deprive citizens of a diversity of views.

"Public service broadcasting plays an indispensable role in a country's democracy. It is the only information source that by law has the obligation to provide objective news and unbiased information to citizens,'' Mijatovic said.

Media observers acknowledge that ERT has a long history of mismanagement and heavy-handed political meddling, but say the Samaras administration is not free of blame.

Recent controversial decisions include the appointment of a former deputy minister's daughter as a show host, and the ousting of two journalists who had criticised the public order minister on air.

Messages of support for the broadcaster have poured in from the Greek diaspora - for whom ERT is a vital link to the homeland - and the Orthodox Church.

The government said ERT would reopen with around half its current employees. All 2,655 current staff would be compensated and allowed to reapply for a job at the revamped organisation.

The shutdown followed months of work stoppages by ERT employees in protest at plans to restructure the broadcaster called for by Greece's creditors.

Athens has pledged to cut 4,000 state-sector jobs this year and another 11,000 in 2014 to keep drawing rescue loans under the EU-IMF package.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/media/greece-in-crisis-over-state-tv-closure/story-e6frg996-1226662934705

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Greece.November 17th 1973.tanks.jpg

As a reminder:

Greece: The Rise of the Junta

...Using a NATO plan to protect Greece against a communist invasion, a handful of  junior officers led by Colonel George Papadopoulos, fearful of the upcoming election and the rise of the left, overthrow the Greek government and declare martial law, outlawing strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, mini-skirts, the peace symbol, the Beatles, Sophocles, Tolstoy, Aeschylus, Socrates, Eugene Ionesco, Sartre, Chekhov, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, free press, new math and the letter Z...

... In June of 1967 the Junta announces Army Order No.13 which states that it is forbidden "...to reproduce or play the music and songs of the composer Mikis Theodorakis, the former leader of the now dissolved communist Organisation, the Lambrakis Youth because this music is in the service of communism ... to sing any songs used by the communist youth movement which was dissolved under Paragraph Eight of the Decree of 6 May 1967, since these songs arouse passions and cause strife among the people. Citizens who contravene this Order will be brought immediately before the military tribunal and judged under martial law."  A short time later Theodorakis himself is arrested...

... In another major even of 1969 Kosta-Gavras releases his film Z about the assassination of Grigoris Lambrakis. The movie has been filmed in Algeria since it obviously could not be filmed in Greece. It is nominated for a large number of top awards, including an Oscar for Best Picture, winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Film It also wins the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Picture, and is named best picture by the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and National Society of Film Critics Awards . The film also is nominated for a Golden Palm award at the Cannes film festival. The soundtrack, by Mikis Theodorakis, who is under arrest at the time, becomes a hit record though of course like the film it is banned in Greece. The film ends with a list of things banned by the Junta which include the peace movement, strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, mini-skirts, the peace symbol, the Beatles, Sophocles, Tolstoy, Aeschylus, Socrates, Eugene Ionesco, Sartre, Chekhov, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, free press, new math and the letter Z , which means 'he lives'...

... On March 26, 1970 the regime closes the daily newspaper Ethnos...

... In October of 1971 Vice-President Spiro Agnew visits Greece, under heavy security. Two years later he becomes the first Vice-President to resign due to criminal charges, which include extortion, tax evasion and bribery. Two months after his visit the government of Greece announces that negotiations are taking place to make Athens the home port for the US 6th Fleet. A year later the agreement is signed. The Nixon-Agnew election campaign also receives a half a million dollar donation from the Junta, alleged to have come from the CIA, though a senate investigation of the donation is cancelled at the request of Henry Kissinger...

http://www.ahistoryofgreece.com/junta.htm

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_military_junta_of_1967%E2%80%931974

http://www.liberation.fr/monde/2013/06/12/grece-le-gouvernement-annonce-la-fermeture-immediate-de-sa-television-publique_910065

Photo: Greece, November, 17 1973