Tag Archives: putin

Moscow to spend over $720 bln on new military aircraft

Moscow to spend over $720 bln on new military aircraft

Russia’s air force will get 1,600 new warplanes and choppers by 2020, announced President Vladimir Putin. The program will cost Moscow some US $723 billion.

­“We are talking primarily about providing our forces with state-of-the-art modern technology,” Putin said at an air show in the Moscow Region ahead of the 100th anniversary of the country’s air force. “Over 600 new warplanes and 1,000 helicopters will come into service by 2020 – not mentioning the upgrade to already existing systems.”

Putin thanked industry workers and officers for helping the aviation “endure the difficult times of the 1990’s and early 2000’s.” He also added that the role of a strengthened air force in Russia’s armed forces will be increasing.

The renovation will primarily cover the long-range strategic aviation, tactical aviation, army air force, combined with the introduction of high-precision armament, electronic warfare defense systems, and unmanned reconnaissance aircraft systems.

Speaking at the air show, Putin pointed out that much of this planned work has already begun.

The Russian military faced tremendous spending cuts in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. During his presidential campaign, Putin defined the strengthening of the country’s military as one of his primary goals.


In Iraq, Radical Muslim Militias Hunt Down And Kill Gays And Punks

In Iraq, Radical Muslim Militias Hunt Down And Kill Gays And Punks

By Karlos Zurutuza
LE TEMPS/Worldcrunch

BAGHDAD – “They smashed his head with concrete blocks. His name was Saïf Asmar, he was one of my best friends. Tomorrow it could be my turn…”

Holding a photo of Saïf, hardly recognizable after his brutal assassination, Roby* attempts to control both his fear and his anger. Death squads have been targeting gays and youngsters who follow punk or ‘emo’ fashion since the start of the year. However, Roby doesn’t hesitate to point out the upsurge in the number of attacks since Feb. 6 2012, which, according to official reports, has produced 80 further victims. “That day they killed Ahmad Arusa in Sadr City and four others in Geyara – two working class Shi’ite areas to the east of Bagdad.”

The majority of the young people killed had their names displayed in the street a longside death threats. A leaflet showing the names of 33 young people threatened with death was found in the Sadr City district. It read: “If you do not abandon your licentious attitude within four days, God’s punishment will come down upon you at the hands of mujahidin saints, Islamist fighters.” The threat was encircled with two images of guns. In Roby’s opinion, this manhunt is being led by radical Shi’ite militias from the Mahdi Army – a former group of insurgents under the leadership of the imam Moqtada al-Sadr.


In the militia office in Sadr City, local politician and religious leader Brahim Jawary denies all involvement in this series of killings and “calls for in-depth inquiry into all crimes, including crimes against morality and against the laws of God.” Confronted by this wave of violence, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani warned of “extremist groups who establish themselves as enforcers of moral and religious laws and to lash out people on the basis of their style or hairstyle.”

But in another statement dating from Feb. 13, he did not hesitate to compare the ’emo’ movement to “Satanism.” Referring to it as a “threatening phenomenon,” he added that he had “official approval to eliminate them as soon as possible.”

In the case of Madi*, it was not a letter or leaflet that forced her to run away from her family, but an email. “They threatened to tell my family I am a lesbian if I didn’t leave the country immediately,” recalls Madi, 26, from a secret location in Bagdad. And her fears are far from groundless. “Lots of lesbians have died in Iraq at the hands of their older brothers: honor crimes and domestic cases which the government will never investigate.”

Dismembered or burnt alive

According to the Iraqi LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) organization, based in London, over 720 homosexuals have been killed by extremist militias in the last six years. Madi admits that she has lost many close friends. “The Moqtada al-Sadr militia and the Iraqi security forces are the most aggressive, especially since a fatwa was published four years ago saying that homosexuals should be executed in the worst way possible.” According to Madi, many have been dismembered or burnt alive. She says that doctors are aware of this as they see the state in which the bodies arrive; some doctors who wished to remain anonymous confirmed these allegations.

Inside the Iraqi parliament, the anger is also tangible. “Since 2003 we have taken a step backwards regarding human rights issues,” explains Ashwaq Jaf, a senator for the Kurdish Alliance. “The heart of the problem,” she added, “is that we have two penal codes: the Iraqi Constitution, but also sharia law. Contradictions between the two often lead to ambiguous and dangerous legal vacuums.”

For Roby, the young man on the run, his last hope is pinned on the West. If Western governments don’t lean on Bagdad to clamp down on these crimes, they will remain unpunished by the ‘militia-run’ government.

* Not their real names.

Read more from Le Temps in French.


Kissinger Promises China… ‘Jeb Bush Will Be Next President’!

Kissinger Promises China… ‘Jeb Bush Will Be Next President’! A Must Read!!!

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‘A shocking report prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Prime Minister Putin on the just completed meeting between China’s Vice Premier Li Keqiang and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger states that the Chinese were told that former Florida Governor John Ellis “Jeb” Bush , brother to the former US President and son of another, will be elected as the next American leader despite his currently not even being on the ballot.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping met with Jeb Bush yesterday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing where both pledged to advance cooperation between their two countries and, this report says, agreed that once Bush had taken office a ‘new era’ would begin in US-China relations.

According to this report, Kissinger told Keqiang that the Republican Party election process to select their nominee to run against President Obama was “completely manipulated” to ensure that their 2012 Convention would be “deadlocked” thus allowing for Jeb Bush to be nominated as a “consensus candidate” and thus his parties leader.

The path to a deadlocked convention, this report says Kissinger told the Chinese, lies in neither current Republican frontrunners Governor Mitt Romney or Congressman Ron Paul having enough delegates to ensure their nomination on the first ballot after which their supporters will be free to nominate anyone they so choose.

In order to ensure a deadlocked convention, this report continues, Kissinger noted that Romney will obtain his delegates from what are called Primary States while Paul will receive his from those holding caucuses and “open” primaries, with neither of them receiving enough votes to secure their nominations.

Political analysis on the US election do, indeed, note that Paul’s path to the Republican nomination lies in the caucus and open primary States which shows what is called his “secret path to victory.”

Henry Kissinger

To the most shocking aspects of this report are the comments attributed to Kissinger that claim the entire American electoral system is under the control of their National Security Agency (NSA ) which controls the computers used in their elections and whose outcome is determined by their elites, not the citizens themselves.

In a dire move bolstering Kissinger’s claim of a rigged US election was yesterdays news that the giant global election firm SCYTL , which describes itself as the worldwide leader in secure electronic voting and electoral modernization, had purchased the United States most dominant election results reporting company thus insuring these people would never have true or total access as to who would actually win any of their elections.

Even worse, this report continues, the purchase by SCYTL of the private corporate site controlled by SOE software , which operates under the name ClarityElections.Com and controls the election results in over 525 US jurisdictions , was its being financed by the global investment giant Carlyle Group that was founded by the Bush and Bin Laden families nearly 25 years ago.

When queried by Chinese officials as to why Obama was allowed to be elected instead of Jeb Bush in the last US election, this report continues, Kissinger replied that the American public was not prepared for a continuation of the Bush-Clinton Dynasties that have, in fact, ruled the United States since the 1981 coup d’état staged against President Ronald Regan after he was nearly assassinated by the son of the then Vice President George H.W. Bush’s main business partner .

Kissinger further stated to the Chinese, this report says, that Obama was a “safe choice” to be an “interim leader” as besides his being a member of the Bush family (Obama is former President George W. Bush’s cousin by blood ) his mother, Ann Dunham/Soetoro , was a “prized” CIA asset who was dispatched from Hawaii to Indonesia in 1967, along with seven year-old Barack Obama, to infiltrate villages in Java to carry out a CIA survey of political leanings among the Javanese population and whose “handler ” was George H.W. Bush who a few years later became Director of the Central Intelligence Agency .

Kissinger added, this report says, that by putting Obama in office they were, also, able to secure the passing of draconian new laws in the United States that otherwise wouldn’t have been allowed to pass due to the overwhelming objections of American liberals and progressives, but who now are all but silent as the last vestiges of the US Constitution are being swept away.

Being ignored by these American liberals and progressives, however, are that the laws being passed by the Obama regime are intended to be used against them and include the power of the US President to designate anyone he so chooses as a “terrorist,” kill them without charges or trial, hold American citizens in prison, also without charges or trial, and, under a new law being pushed through the US Congress, would give the US government the power to strip Americans of their citizenship without being convicted of being “hostile” against the United States.

Though the claims made by Kissinger to China detailing how the election process in the United States has now been completely destroyed are beyond appalling, it does not, on the other hand, come as surprising from a “war criminal” who once boasted “It is not a matter of what is true that counts, but a matter of what is perceived to be true.”

To the American people themselves it remains to be seen if they will ever awaken to what is true…one can only hope they will, before all is lost…forever.’

youtu.be/qLOwTy5kOMU ; www.chinadaily.com.cn/usa/china/2012-01/18/content_14471730.htm ; www.whatdoesitmean.com/index1555.htm


University of Akron engineering professor raises doubts about jet crash that killed Poland’s president

University of Akron engineering professor raises doubts about jet crash that killed Poland’s president

John Mangel

Lonnie Timmons III, The Plain DealerUniversity of Akron engineering professor Wieslaw Binienda shows a frame from his computer simulation of the tree-wing impact that downed Polish President Lech Kaczynski’s jet. The model shows that the wing, in green, severs the birch tree with minimal damage.

The 2010 jet crash that killed Poland’s president, first lady and dozens of dignitaries during a politically sensitive visit to Russia couldn’t have happened the way official investigations say, a University of Akron engineering professor’s analysis shows.

Wieslaw Binienda’s findings, based on computer modeling software that NASA used to analyze the space shuttle Columbia’s destruction, are causing ripples in his native Poland, where there is simmering distrust of the formal rulings that the crash was accidental.

Russian and Polish government teams determined that errors by the jet’s Polish military flight crew caused the aircraft to clip a tree, lose part of its left wing, flip over and crash short of a runway at fog-bound Smolensk Airdrome two years ago. The April 10 incident killed all 96 aboard.

But the tree impact that supposedly precipitated the crash wouldn’t have caused enough wing damage to down the plane, said Binienda, a well-regarded expert in fracture mechanics who heads the university’s civil engineering department.

Instead, Binienda’s computer model shows the wing would have lopped off the tree top “like a knife.” The collision would have caused relatively minor damage to the wing’s leading edge – not enough to seriously impair its lift capability and flip the jet.

“It’s absolutely impossible that the wing sheared and then it crashed the way [government investigators] described,” Binienda told The Plain Dealer in his first U.S. interview.

The soft-spoken engineer has become a key player in the international drama swirling around the crash.

Binienda has testified about his findings before the Polish and European parliaments, where politicians skeptical of the government probes are conducting their own inquiries. His analysis, coupled with the work of two other scientists who contend there is evidence of explosions aboard the jet just before the crash, has fueled speculation of a conspiracy and cover-up.

“We try to show that hasty judgment has been made, and the case should be re-opened and re-examined properly, without any conflicts of interest,” said Mateusz Kochanowski, a spokesman for European Conservatives and Reformists, or ECR.

Kochanowski’s father, Poland’s human rights ombudsman, died in the crash. The ECR, a political coalition within the European Parliament, organized a March 28 parliamentary hearing in Brussels at which Binienda and several other researchers testified. The organization’s petition urging a new investigation has collected half a million signatures, Kochanowski said.

The planeload of Polish VIPs, including President Lech Kaczynski, other senior government officials, military officers, clergy and the head of Poland’s national bank, was traveling to Russia on a somber, emotionally charged mission: to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre.

The series of World War II executions carried out by Soviet secret police in April and May 1940 left more than 20,000 Polish prisoners of war dead, many of them members of Poland’s elite.

The Soviet government blamed Nazi Germany for the mass killings. Only in the last two decades have Soviet and Russian officials begun to acknowledge the country’s responsibility for the massacre, slowly declassifying records, though still refusing to call the killings genocide or authorizing reparations. “There’s no crime in Polish history that’s been as covered up and falsified as that one,” said Padraic Kenney, who directs Indiana University’s Russian and East European Institute and the Polish Studies Center.

Though the massacre remains painful to Poles, relations between Russian and Poland have improved since the Cold War’s end and the rise of Polish democracy, said Kenney, “despite the fact that the president [Kaczynski] did tend to make somewhat aggressive statements about Russia.”

As president, Kaczynski was the Polish head of state. The country’s prime minister runs the government. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin invited his Polish counterpart, Prime Minister Donald Tusk – but not President Kaczynski – to attend the first joint commemoration of the Katyn Massacre, on April 7, 2010, near Smolensk, Russia. Three days later, Kaczynski and other Polish dignitaries were supposed to attend a separate ceremony, also near Smolensk.

There, the president planned to deliver a speech that was both combative and conciliatory, with harsh criticism for the killings and cover-up under the Communist regime, praise for recent Russian actions, and a demand that the Putin government continue to release documents and acknowledge “the innocence of the victims.”

As President Kaczynski’s plane, a Russian-made Tupolev passenger jet, approached the Smolensk airport the morning of April 10, its pilot was worried about the weather. “Not looking good . . . it’s unknown whether we’ll land,” the veteran Polish Air Force commander remarked. He sought the advice of a Russian commercial pilot who had managed to set down at Smolensk a few minutes earlier. “Speaking honestly, it’s a bitch down here,” the Russian reported.

Running behind schedule and with a planeload of VIPs, the Polish pilot – who had been the co-pilot on Prime Minister Tusk’s flight to Smolensk three days earlier – decided to try an approach rather than diverting to another airport.

He told controllers he would abort the landing if visibility was too bad, making the “go-around” at no lower than 300 feet. The jet descended rapidly, with the tower advising that the flight was on course as it neared the runway.

Moments later, the jet’s ground collision warning system sounded, its automated voice repeating “Terrain ahead! Pull up! Pull up!” The alert should have triggered an emergency climb. At a height of about 200 feet, the co-pilot said “Go around,” apparently urging the pilot to abandon the landing attempt. The plane’s “black box” flight data recorder noted that either the pilot or co-pilot briefly tugged the control column to try to gain altitude, but the autopilot, which was still on, overrode the effort.The steep descent continued.

With the jet at about 164 feet, a controller instructed the pilot to level off. Seconds later, someone yanked the control column and shoved the throttles to maximum power for an emergency climb. But it was too late. The cockpit voice recorder captured the sound of the plane striking treetops, the flight crew’s curses, a controller shouting “Abort to second approach!” and finally someone’s scream as the aircraft smashed to the ground.

Russian and Polish aviation boards each conducted investigations of the crash. They agreed that the primary cause was the flight crew’s faulty decision to try to land in bad weather, their rapid descent below a safe altitude, and their failure to make the “go-around” maneuver in time.

The Russian report cited the flight crew for setting the pilot’s altimeter improperly (although others were reading correctly); descending too late and too steeply; flying too low; failing to take into account that the terrain dipped, then rose, near the runway; and ignoring repeated warnings from the ground collision system and human controllers.

Another primary cause, according to the Russian investigators, was “psychological pressure” to land from the head of the Polish Air Force. An analysis of the cockpit voice recorder indicated that the Air Force general was in the cockpit during the runway approach and – according to a blood test from his autopsy – was drunk.

The jet was doomed, the Russian probe determined, when, flying 16 feet above the ground and attempting to climb, its left wing struck a foot-thick birch tree trunk. The impact sheared off a third of the wing, which landed 121 yards from the tree, the Russians found. The loss of the wing tip caused the plane to dip sharply left, though it continued a slight climb. As the aircraft rolled, the stub of its left wing plowed into the ground, digging a deep trench. The fuselage flipped upside-down and ripped apart.

The Polish aviation board didn’t quibble with the Russian version of the crash dynamics, but it spread blame to Russian ground controllers who hadn’t warned the pilot he was off the glide path, and who waited too long to tell him to abort the landing.
Palace and candles.JPGView full sizeMarkus Schreiber, APA soldier stands guard near a sea of candles at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, two days after President Lech Kaczynski died in a plane crash.

Other Polish government investigators questioned the autopsy finding that the Polish Air Force commander was drunk, that he pressured the flight crew to land, and that he was in the cockpit at all. A Polish re-analysis of the cockpit recording determined the voice the Russians had identified as the general’s was really the co-pilot’s. There also was consternation in Poland that Russia hadn’t returned the jet’s wreckage and black boxes, and that the crash victims’ coffins were sealed before they were shipped home.

With suspicions deepening in Poland, Binienda – in his Akron lab half a world away – began trying last summer to assess what he had been reading and hearing about the tragedy.

“There were more and more questions and there was no one doing any real [follow-up] investigation,” he said. “I said maybe it is time for me to see if I can do anything.”

The wing-tree impact became the target of his inquiry. It didn’t make sense to Binienda that, after a collision that severed a third of the wing, the jet would be able to climb almost 100 feet in altitude before crashing, as the Russian investigators had concluded. Robbed of lift and momentum, the damaged plane should drop like a stone.

Binienda specializes in fracture mechanics, a highly technical field that analyzes how and why materials break under stress. His focus is the lightweight stuff – aluminum, titanium and exotic polymers –used in aviation and aerospace. He often works with NASA and jet engine manufacturers. He is no stranger to aircraft structures.

To study the wing-tree impact, Binienda created a computer model using a software program called LS-DYNA. He and other engineers routinely use LS-DYNA to simulate complex fracture situations with lots of rapidly changing conditions, like when a loose, high-speed chunk of insulating foam bashed into the space shuttle Columbia’s wing during a 2003 launch, fatally damaging the orbiter.

With LS-DYNA and information from the crash reports, Binienda could input the strength, density and other properties of the wing and the tree. That allows a computer to calculate the impact forces and create a second-by-second, realistic 3-D animation of what happened.
Brother with coffin.JPGView full sizeAlik Keplicz, APJaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, kneels next to his brother’s coffin at the military airport in Warsaw, Poland, on April 11, 2010.

Even when Binienda intentionally under-represented the wing’s strength and over-estimated the tree’s, the simulations still showed the wing slicing off the treetop while suffering only minor damage. The tree impact couldn’t have broken the wing, his model showed. Something else must have done that, and something else must have snapped off the treetop. (For the latter, Binienda suspects it was the powerful backwash from the jet’s engines as they passed overhead.)

Binienda’s simulation also showed that, for the wing tip to have landed where it did, the break must have happened at a higher altitude and closer to the runway than where the birch tree was located.

That seemed to fit with a more sinister crash scenario being advanced by two other Polish researchers who also are working with the Polish parliament inquiry – that two explosions during the landing attempt brought down the jet.

Kazimierz Nowaczyk, a University of Maryland physicist, and Gregory Szuladzinski, a mechanical engineer and expert in blast effects, base their theory on several pieces of evidence:

•Two sudden, sharp changes in the jet’s altitude, as recorded by its ground-collision warning equipment. The violent jolts, according to Nowaczyk’s analysis of the ground-collision readouts, took place when the plane was 226 feet past the birch tree. That position coincides with where Binienda, working independently, calculated that the wing tip must have come off. An explosion could explain the wing separation, Nowaczyk has testified.

•The contrasting positions of the jet’s fuselage pieces. The front portion landed upright while the rear was upside-down, suggesting an internal explosion that separated the pieces in mid-air.

•The large amount of debris and dismemberment of passengers’ bodies. “Shrapnel equals explosion, and there was plenty of it,” Szuladzinski said in an email, declining to comment further until his report to the parliament committee chair is released in May.
Russian soldiers at crash.JPGView full sizeMikhail Metzel, APRussian Interior Ministry soldiers secure the jet crash site near the Smolensk airport.

Both the Russian and Polish crash investigations determined that the crash would have subjected the plane and its occupants to severe G forces, which could account for the fragmentation. And Russian investigators said they detected no traces of explosives on the wreckage.

The U.S. manufacturer of the collision-warning system, Universal Avionics Systems Corp., working with the National Transportation Safety Board, analyzed the flight data for the Russian crash investigation. Neither the company nor the NTSB would comment on whether the readouts shows evidence of explosions, as Nowaczyk claims. The Russian aviation board and the Polish prime minister’s office did not respond to interview requests.

Binienda’s computer modeling of the tree impact is an unconventional approach to an aircraft crash analysis, said Greg Phillips, a veteran former NTSB investigator who’s now an aviation safety instructor at the University of Southern California. Still, “it sounds like the guy has all the credentials that would certainly set off the alarms that we really need to listen hard to this.”

Whether the birch tree fractured the wing or not is a moot point, said Paul Czysz, an aircraft design expert and professor emeritus at St. Louis University’s Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology. “If that tree didn’t do it, there are about 50 others in front of it that could have,” said Czysz, who thinks pilot over-confidence caused the crash. “The fact that he hit the tree that far from the end of the runway means that unless he got that airplane up right away, he was dead. And very few pilots have the reactive skills to get that airplane up.”

The larger question of whether someone engineered the plane’s demise is a matter of debate. The dead president’s twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s conservative Law and Justice party and the country’s former prime minister, said in March he suspects the crash was an assassination.
Putin effigy burning.JPGView full sizeCzarek Sokolowski, APProtesters burn an effigy of Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in front of the Russian Embassy in Warsaw, Poland, on April 9, 2012. The protesters believe the 2010 plane crash that killed Poland’s president and 95 others in Russia was an assassination.

Though he acknowledges there is no hard evidence, retired CIA intelligence officer Eugene Poteat thinks Russia downed the planeload of leaders to wipe out Poland’s pro-NATO, anti-Russian government.

“They had the means, the will, the knowledge, the background, the assets,” Poteat, who’s president of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers and served in the CIA during the Cold War, said in an interview. “Everything it takes to commit a crime like that, they’re past masters at it.”

Kenney, the East European scholar, is dubious of a plot.

“Kaczynski was not dangerous to the Russians,” he said. “Even if some rogue army officer thought [killing Polish government leaders] was a great idea, Putin certainly knew it wouldn’t have been. You have the president of a country with whom you had a sometimes rocky relationship die on your territory? Not a good thing.”

Binienda knows his high-profile position raising doubts about the crash’s official cause could jeopardize his professional reputation.

“If they show that I made an obvious error, it would be a tremendous blemish on my career,” he said. But “if I would hesitate to look for truth just because of my career, that would be a pretty bad scientific approach. I hope at a minimum I can bring people to ask questions, and at the end they will do the investigation and show that my work was incorrect or correct. Either way, I don’t mind.”


Ex-astronaut’s advice to child: ‘Study Russian’

Ex-astronaut’s advice to child: ‘Study Russian’

The Discovery shuttle flew for the last time Tuesday, beginning in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on the back of a 747, looping around the monuments in Washington D.C., and landing in Virginia, where it will ultimately be transferred to the Udvar-Hazy annex of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

In Washington, onlookers left buildings and stood on rooftops to watch the shuttle and its escort circle the city.

NASA retired the shuttle program last month with Discovery’s final space flight, and as P.J. O’Rourke recently wrote, the state of the U.S. program is unclear:

But the U.S. space program is short of machinery, muddled about goals, and low in morale. The space shuttle has been retired. Thousands of NASA employees and contractors lost their jobs. We have no way to get a man into space except by asking Vladimir Putin, “Mother Russia, May I?”

The Bush-era Constellation program, with its moon and Mars capabilities, was canceled. Neil Armstrong called the decision “devastating.” The Augustine Commission, an Obama administration panel of scientists, retired astronauts, and aerospace experts chaired by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine, judged Constellation to be hopelessly behind schedule, underfunded, and over budget. I’m glad they didn’t judge me.

The new Space Launch System or SLS, the heavy launch vehicle that will replace Constellation’s Ares I and Ares V rockets, won’t be ready for a manned flight until at least 2021. Where the SLS will go is, as it were, up in the air. Lunar orbit? Asteroid? Lagrange point? (A Lagrange point is the place between two gravitational bodies where an object is held stationary in perfect equilibrium.) What if Jack Kennedy had declared we were going to put a man on a Lagrange point by the end of the decade? The nation would have been inspired to watch ballet in a suburb of Chicago.

In 2011, China launched more rockets into orbit than the U.S.—the first time ever, according to Gizmodo. Though the U.S. retains advantages in funding, the Chinese launched 19 rockets last year, while the U.S. launched 18; both were eclipsed by Russia, which sent 31 rockets into space.

When asked for advice Tuesday, former Discovery astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher told a boy watching the shuttle, “Study Russian.”


Putin foes encircle center of Moscow with 10 mile round human chain

Putin foes encircle center of Moscow

— Thousands of ebullient Russians stood in a nearly continuous 10-mile chain circling the center of Moscow on Sunday, warning Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that his years of undisputed rule are over even as he prepares to take the presidency in an avalanche of votes next week.

Putin has been Russia’s unchallenged master for 12 years, and the demonstrators who have been rallying persistently since December understand that there is virtually no possibility he will depart any time soon. Winning the March 4 election will put him in office for another six years. But the demonstrators have him on notice that they are grooming themselves as involved citizens and will be heard.

Two weeks before Russia holds its presidential election, hundreds of motorists circled central Moscow to demand that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin allow free elections. Last Saturday night, pro-Putin motorists hit the streets.

Two weeks before Russia holds its presidential election, hundreds of motorists circled central Moscow to demand that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin allow free elections. Last Saturday night, pro-Putin motorists hit the streets.

And so they stood, in freezing puddles and falling snow, shoulder to shoulder along most of Moscow’s Garden Ring Road — double rows here, a sparse stretch there. With the color white as the symbol of their desire for clean elections and a clean government, they wore white ribbons, flew white balloons, brandished white scarves and waved white roses or chrysanthemum bouquets.

The plan was to stand in silence, but cars filled with supporters cheered them on, cruising slowly before the demonstrators, saluting them, waving their own ribbons and flowers, honking their horns with exuberance.

“People are happy,” said Andrei Filozov, planted on a corner near a sea of muddy water. “They feel free.”

After years of acquiescence, they had given themselves the freedom to act. “We’re standing here, showing the changes that have gone on inside ourselves,” said Filozov, 43, a philosopher. “It’s very mystical.”

The latest poll by the independent Levada Center suggests that Putin will win 63 to 66 percent of the vote in the contest. That is no surprise, Filozov said, given the vast government resources at his disposal and the average person’s political inexperience. People need time to nurture their political awareness, and realistically their goals must be long-term, he said. But they will not turn back to the years of indifference that allowed Putin to grow so powerful.

“He will not occupy too many pages in our history books,” Filozov said. “It will be a short history, sad and dark.”

Alexander Sotin, 40, a historian, said the Muscovites standing in the cold were trying to remember what it was like to be a citizen and not a subject.

“Today this great city is like a small village as we make a community of ourselves,” he said. “I hope that year by year our Russian people will make themselves masters of their own fate.”

Police estimated that 11,000 people took part Sunday, although a rough estimate made during a trolley ride of the circuit suggested twice that number — not counting the people in the many cars that honked in solidarity.

The sentiment was anti-Putin and pro honest elections, rather than a rally in favor of an opposition candidate. One car carried a sign in favor of honest amphorae, an allusion to a dive Putin made in the Black Sea last year, when he came to the surface clutching two obviously planted ancient Greek urns.

The exuberant drivers lifted the spirits of Maria Kokovkina, 32, a psychologist. “On my way here, I wasn’t feeling very cheerful,” she said, “but now I feel great.”

She knows the euphoria won’t last, but people have awakened from their acceptance of the status quo, and for now that is accomplishment enough, she said.

“Stability is the biggest myth of the Putin Age,” said Danik Lalin, who works in information technology. “There’s a slow but steady rotting. If you call that stability, then the best stability is in the morgue.”

Along the sidewalks, gaggles of girlfriends snapped iPhone photos, couples walked arm- in-arm, parents brought children.

Irina Andreyeva, 84, came to Moscow from Archangel, near the Arctic Circle. Barely 5 feet tall, she waved her white ribbon energetically at the passing cars. “I feel young and full of life here,” she said. “I feel as I did in 1991.” That was the year she demonstrated for freedom, democracy and Boris Yeltsin — and celebrated the demise of the Soviet Union.

Alexei Bolshakov, 59, came to Moscow from Almetyesk, 660 miles to the east, because he was angry that government employees had been sent to populate a huge pro-Putin rally Thursday, and he was irritated that Putin had accused the United States and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton of stirring up the opposition and financing it.

“I paid my own way,” he said. “Mrs. Clinton is not paying me.”

Late in the afternoon, several hundred activists gathered in Revolution Square, met by a large contingent of riot police as well as men dressed as Cossacks with whips and scowling young men in civilian clothes who the protesters believed to be provocateurs. One activist was attacked by a young man with a beer bottle; a fight ensued and a few arrests were made.

Overall, the day went peacefully, with demonstrators reflecting on a future without Putin in charge — a future they would like to see begin March 5, the day after the election.


Only Putin can decide if – and when – Assad will step down

Only Putin can decide if – and when – Assad will step down

By Zvi Bar’el

Images of the bullet-ridden bodies of bound Syrian civilians, some all but naked, are flooding Arab television broadcasts. Syrian human rights activists say on live TV they can’t collect their dead in neighborhoods that are being attacked by Syrian army mortars. The dead are estimated at more than 300 since Friday.

The many hundreds of civilians wounded in that time don’t appear to have much of a chance to receive medical aid. It’s not only that the hospitals are filled – many of the wounded fear heading to a clinic because they could be killed by the Syrian army.
Medvedev and Assad in Syria

Russia President Dmitry Medvedev, right, and Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus last year.
Photo by: AP

This has the been the demonstrators’ toughest day in Homs, Syria’s third largest city at more than 1.2 million people. Homs has become the symbol of Syria’s civil uprising. The destroyed homes in the Khaldiyeh quarter are evidence of the regime’s savage assault. Its new strategy to allow the army to attack and kill without distinguishing its target, as opposed to previous efforts to focus on the sources of the uprising, reflects the campaign’s current stage.

Syrian demonstrators who commemorated the massacre of tens of thousands of people at Hama on Hafez Assad’s orders 30 years ago can observe Bashar Assad’s decision to adopt his father’s methods. The younger Assad, who allowed opposition intellectuals to express their opinions during the early days of his rule and brought the Internet to his country, is proving to be a butcher keen to maintain his family’s power at any price.

Thousands have fled Syria and thousands more are on their way to the improvised refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Syria. On their way they are chased by gunfire from the Syrian army and thugs in the regime’s security forces. They must pass through the mine fields laid on the border to prevent people from fleeing. Still, the demonstrations continue in Homs, Aleppo and, yesterday, on Baghdad Street in the capital Damascus.

Facing the Syrian army is the Free Syrian Army, which numbers around 30,000, including generals and several hundred junior officers. But this force only has light weapons and relies on Lebanese smugglers for its supplies. Every once in a while it takes control of a small town or suburb.

According to Syrian sources, the rebel army is supported financially by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but it can’t function as a regular army. It suffers from disunity; the ranks are loyal to various commanders. Meanwhile, another “army” has been set up by deserters in Homs, but it’s unclear how this force is coordinating with the Free Army. Al-Qaida might be able to penetrate this situation and spot an opportunity for a new battle led by extremist religious ideology, similar to what we’ve seen in Iraq.

The situation on the ground in Syria hasn’t been affected by the diplomatic maneuvering at the United Nations. Syrian television shows scenes from cities anyone would want to live in. Calm streets, only a few cars, and soft elevator music playing during the broadcast. Syrian television analysts say the dead – if they acknowledge any deaths – have been caused by opposition thugs on the orders of Arab countries at the behest of Western planners.

At the United Nations, Assad can still count on Russian support, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says his country will oppose any resolution that even hints at foreign intervention, blocks arms sales, imposes international sanctions or demands that Assad step down. Lavrov says Russia wants to see a Syrian solution, “not an American one.” If someone is to decide if and when Assad leaves, it will be Vladimir Putin, not Barack Obama.


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Announces Launch of Eurasian Union in 2015

Eurasian Union may be launched in 2015 – Medvedev

The Presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus agreed on creating a Common Economic Space and forming a Eurasian Economic Union during their meeting in Moscow on Friday. Dmitry Medvedev, Nursultan Nazarbayev and Alexander Lukashenko signed a Declaration on Eurasian economic integration and a Treaty on the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Commission. The Voice of Russia’s Sergei Anisimov, Igor Siletsky report.

Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan formed the Customs Union this summer and will become part of a single economic space as of January 1st 2012. All the three countries believe, however, that their integration should go further and have resolved to form a Eurasian Economic Union as they met in Moscow on Friday.

The three leaders have signed a Treaty on the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Commission and submitted it for parliament’s ratification shortly afterwards, President Medvedev said as he addressed a news conference on the results of the meeting.

“Our priority for now is to guarantee the free movement of commodities, services, capital and workforce within the single economic space. In future, we plan a coordinated currency and macroeconomic policy. The Customs Union, which has been operating since this summer, has boosted the investment attractiveness of our economies and stimulates modernization. Next on our agenda is the creation of a Eurasian Economic Union by 2015.”

According to President Medvedev, the new alliance should avoid the mistakes made during the formation of the European Union. He called on the countries concerned to proceed cautiously with due regard to the EU experience.

In the past, the good ideas shared by Moscow, Astana and Minsk within the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Eurasian Economic Community were seldom put into effect. Now, the project of forming a Eurasian Economic Union is progressing at a fast speed. None of the three countries’ leaders had expected that, even Dmitry Medvedev, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said.

“No one had expected the project to get off the ground so soon. But for the Russian leaders, who have taken concrete steps in this direction, it would have remained nothing more than a proposal.”

Members of the Eurasian Economic Union are in for a serious integration, first of all, in the economic area and in other sectors of the economy as well, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said.

“The three countries should use the Kazakh tenge, the Russian rouble and the Belarusian rouble in mutual trade in order to shut out the dollar. The Collective Security Treaty Organization is also considering a possibility of creating a common defense space, a single power grid and a common centre aimed at addressing food problems. All of the countries are rich in oil and gas. With a total population of 170 million, they form a self-reliant market which can survive on its own regardless of difficulties.”

Russia’s, Belarus’ and Kazakhstan’s neighboring countries have expressed interest in joining the Eurasian Economic Union, President Medvedev said. The Union’s leaders will work out a special road map for those willing to join.

The Union will also have a common government. The Russian, Belarusian and Kazakh authorities are handing over 170 various powers to the newly formed supra-national structure. The Eurasian Economic Commission will be headed by Russia’s Minister of Industry Viktor Khristenko over the next four years. The Eurasian Economic Commission will replace the Customs Union Commission on July 1st 2012. The Eurasian Economic Commission will consist of a council and a panel, the council comprising one deputy prime minister from each of the member countries and the panel comprising three representatives from each country.

The idea of a Eurasian Economic Union was put forward by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in his recent article. Western media and politicians quickly moved to deem the move as an attempt to revive the Soviet Union. Putin reassured media representatives that the future alliance would consist of completely sovereign nations and would not pose a threat to anyone. The Eurasian Union, he said, would be built in accordance with the commonly recognized integration principles as an integral part of Greater Europe on the basis of freedom, democracy and market economy.

Konstantin Zatulin of the Institute of CIS Countries said in a Voice of Russia interview that it’s only natural for the countries whose economies have been closely connected for years to strive for integration.

“A union of countries which used to be part of a common economic area, even twenty years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, can produce a serious cumulative effect. Experts predict a 10-15% growth in its GDP. In addition, each member of the Economic Union will increase its share in the global economy.”

As it happens, the former Soviet republics now have a rare chance of implementing a project that will come in handy for the present-day world which lacks stability. Once introduced, the single economic space will enable companies from Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus to get access to state orders and state contracts. The three countries’ common market is expanding, totaling more than one trillion dollars in the manufacturing sector and over 100 billion dollars in agriculture. Russia is planning joint transport engineering projects with Kazakhstan and car and shipbuilding projects with Belarus. As for the Eurasian Union, experts say that it will open still more opportunities for its members given that in future, it will embrace a territory populated by 250 million people.


In Russia we only had two TV channels. Channel One was propaganda. Channel Two consisted of a KGB officer telling you: Turn back at once to Channel One. – Yakov Smirnoff

Russian spy agency targeting western diplomats

FSB using psychological techniques developed by KGB to intimidate and demoralise diplomatic staff, activists and journalists

Russia’s spy agency is waging a massive undercover campaign of harassment against British and American diplomats, as well as other targets, using deniable “psychological” techniques developed by the KGB, a new book reveals.

The federal security service (FSB) operation involves breaking into the private homes of western diplomats – a method the US state department describes as “home intrusions”. Typically the agents move around personal items, open windows and set alarms in an attempt to demoralise and intimidate their targets.

The FSB operation includes the bugging of private apartments, widespread phone tapping, physical surveillance, and email interception. Its victims include local Russian staff working for western embassies, opposition activists, human rights workers and journalists.

The clandestine campaign is revealed in Mafia State, a book by the Guardian’s former Moscow correspondent Luke Harding, serialised in Saturday’s Weekend magazine.

The British and American governments are acutely aware of the FSB’s campaign of intimidation. But neither has publicly complained about these demonstrative “counter-intelligence” measures, for fear of further straining already difficult relations with Vladmir Putin’s resurgent regime. Putin, a former KGB lieutenant colonel, was head of the FSB.

British sources admit they have files “five or six inches thick” detailing FSB break-ins and other incidents of harassment against Moscow embassy staff. “Generally we don’t make a fuss about it,” one said. So pervasive is the FSB’s campaign that the British government is unable to staff fully its Moscow embassy. The intrusions are designed to “short-tour” diplomats so they leave their posts early, the source said.

Despite a recent improvement in US-Russian relations, the FSB has also targeted US diplomats and their families. In a 2009 confidential diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks, the US ambassador in Moscow, John Beyrle, complains that the FSB’s aggressive measures have reached unprecedented levels.

Mafia State recounts how the KGB first became interested in “operational psychology” in the 1960s. But it was the Stasi, East Germany’s sinister secret police, that perfected these psychological techniques and used them extensively against dissidents in the 1970s and 1980s. These operations were given a name, Zersetzungliterally corrosion or undermining.

According to former Stasi officers the aim was to “switch off” regime opponents by disrupting their private or family lives. Tactics included removing pictures from walls, replacing one variety of tea with another, and even sending a vibrator to a target’s wife. Usually victims had no idea the Stasi were responsible. Many thought they were going mad; some suffered breakdowns; a few killed themselves.

It was Erich Honecker, East Germany’s communist leader, who patented these methods after concluding that “soft” methods of torture were preferable to open forms of persecution. The advantage of psychological operations was their deniability – important for a regime that wanted to maintain its international respectability. Putin spent the late 1980s as an undercover KGB officer based in the east German town of Dresden. Harding was himself the victim of repeated FSB break-ins, and last November was, in effect, expelled from Russia when the foreign ministry said it was not renewing his journalist’s accreditation.

Mafia State also reveals:

• FSB officers privately admit the agency was involved in the assassination of dissident spy Alexander Litvinenko. They regret, however, the bungled way it was carried out.

• The British embassy in Moscow has a “polonium” chair sat on by Andrei Lugovoi, the chief suspect in the Litvinenko murder. Uncertain what to do with it, officials have locked it in a room in the embassy.

• Russia’s footballing union knew a week before a vote in December that Fifa’s executive committee would give Russia, rather than England, the 2018 World Cup.

The FSB never explained why they targeted Harding with such zeal. Other western correspondents have also suffered from occasional “home intrusions”, but on a much lesser scale.