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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

LOngest Lunar Eclipse in 11 years

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Russia has no plan to reconsider relations with Iran

MOSCOW, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Moscow has no plan to reconsider its stance on Iran in order to please the U.S. and NATO, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Tuesday.

He told local military reporters that Russia doesn't agree that Iran is its enemy.

"Iran is our neighbor and partner," he was quoted by the state- run Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

He said the security of Russia's southern frontiers would largely depend on Iran's policy in the Caucasus.

He gave a negative answer to a question from a reporter about whether Russia might sell S-300 missile systems to Iran if the U.S. and NATO fails to resolve the disputes with Moscow over the planned missile defense system.

"Cooperation with Iran in the field of defense technologies is prohibited by a UN Security Council resolution today and we can't violate it," he said, adding that this issue has nothing to do with Russia's missile shield talks with NATO.

In September 2010, Russia banned the delivery of S-300 to Iran under the UN resolution, though the contract was signed with Teheran several years ago. Moscow said it would pay a refund of over 166 million U.S. dollars back to Iran.

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Sarkozy wants G20 to control food prices

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday he wants the world's group of 20 rich industrial nations and major emerging markets to set up a shared central database of food prices to help control market volatility and keep commodity speculators in check.

Access to food in many areas will likely become more precarious over the next decades, and the markets will have to be more tightly regulated to avoid massive shortages, Sarkozy told an international conference on commodities and raw materials.

"Speculation, panic and lack of transparency have seen prices soaring," he asked. "Is that the world we want? France is saying quite clearly it is not."

Sarkozy currently holds the presidency of the G-20 group, with which he wants to push through a plan for more transparency in agriculture commodity market networks. He said it would go a long way toward taming the extreme food price volatility of past years. The G-20 takes up the issue of food prices at a meeting of farm ministers next week.

He said a comparison of farm market prices over the last five years compared with the 15-year period of 1990-2005 shows that price volatility for cereals has doubled, tripled for sugar and is now 4 times as high for rice, "the basic staple for a quarter of humanity."

"Is this right, is this acceptable? can we put up with this for longer?," Sarkozy asked.

Sarkozy insisted something had to be done about the many hedge funds and specialized financial institutions that have joined the traditional trading houses on the market floor, driving up prices.

"It is time for the G-20 to take its responsibility," he told the conference. He said it was the same lack of regulation now visible in the commodities and raw materials markets that drove the financial markets "to the edge of the abyss" during the 2008 global financial crisis.

"Will we have the same disaster in the world of commodities and raw materials? It is a pretty simple question. We have got to tackle it - now. And not put it off," he said.

To improve transparency and oversight in market movements, Sarkozy wants a centralized register for data transactions in derivatives. He wants trading data to be better available to boost food security and stable markets by cutting out the uncertainties of excessive speculation.

He said the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations could collect and hold all the data, including those on private stocks.

Rising food prices were also blamed by the FAO in a Tuesday report on food shortages in the Horn of Africa, where over 8 million are in need of emergency aid.

"Very high food and fuel prices are adding to the difficulties of poor households in accessing food across the region," the FAO said in a statement.



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US satellite images capture new buildings at North Korea nuclear plant

The discovery of the new buildings has sparked concern that they may be part of a drive by Pyongyang to fabricate fuel for nuclear reactors or to enrich uranium.

Renovation of some of the buildings at the sprawling plant have also been identified in new satellite images released by the Institute for Science and International Security.

The organisation, based in Washington, DC, identifiec a number of entirely new buildings, including some that were apparently only completed this spring.

The release of the report coincides with a report to parliament by South Korea’s defence minister, Kim Kwan-Jin, that the North may have developed a nuclear warhead small enough to be loaded onto a ballistic missile and warning that the risk of another “surprise provocation” from Pyongyang is now rising.

The South has claimed that its assessment of the nuclear capabilities of its belligerent neighbour is not based on specific intelligence, but its analysts will have been carefully watching developments at Yongbyon.

Construction of the new facilities apparently started after Pyongyang expelled teams from the International Atomic Energy Agency in April 2009 that had been charged with disabling three plutonium production facilities at the site.

North Korea later confirmed that it had begun construction of a gas centrifuge plant at the fuel fabrication facility, an enlarged site around 2 miles south of the 5-megawatt experimental reactor that first reached criticality as far back as August 1985.

Reprocessed plutonium from the reactor is believed to have been used in nuclear tests North Korea carried out in 2006 and 2009.

ISIS analysts have also confirmed that extensive work has been carried out at an earlier fuel fabrication plant, which has been enlarged and given a new roof.

The location of additional new buildings close to the gas centrifuge facility also indicate they are being used for the fabrication of reactor fuel, for enriching uranium or its conversion into uranium hexaflouride, a compound used in the enrichment process to produce fuel for nuclear weapons.
The Telegraph

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Auditor Disputes Report About $6.6 Billion in Iraq Money Being Stolen

The U.S. watchdog on Iraq reconstruction is disputing a report quoting him suggesting that $6.6 billion in Iraqi oil money entrusted to U.S. hands may have been stolen.

The charge, if true, would make the theft of funds the largest in U.S. history, and has already angered Iraqis reportedly debating whether to sue over the missing funds.

The Pentagon refuses to endorse the charge that the disappearing dollars were stolen -- either by greedy U.S. contractors or others involved in its movement from U.S. holdings to Iraq. And now, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen said he never said that $6.6 billion in missing money was swiped.

"What we concluded in our previous audits is that it's been virtually impossible to account for what happened to that money," Bowen told Fox News in a telephone interview Monday, adding that criminal cases have led to the convictions of people who have stolen money from a special fund set up by the U.N. Security Council.

But Bowen said he did not mean to imply anything more when he answered a Los Angeles Times reporter's question about whether it would be serious if billions of dollars was stolen from the Development Fund for Iraq.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/06/14/auditor-disputes-report-about-66-billion-in-iraq-money-being-stolen/#ixzz1PMDWVxDb

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N.Korea 'Exported Massive Amounts of Missiles'

North Korea exported ballistic missiles on more than 500 occasions between 1987 and 2009, according to a report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service. The figure was cited by Jonathan Pollack, a Northeast Asia expert at the conservative Brookings Institution, at a seminar hosted by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

A total of 420 cases of ballistic missiles export were reported between 1987 and 1993, 30 cases between 1994 and 2000, and 60 from 2001 to 2009. Pollack said North Korea exported missiles to Syria, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Libya, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

He said North Korea is an important source of the missile trade, because it acquires technology from various sources, develops its own missiles, and exports them to other nations. He called it the most important supplier of ballistic missiles for Iran and Syria. The North is also suspected of selling missiles to Burma.

A South Korean government official said, "We believe that North Korea has earned a huge amount of money from exporting missiles, with scud missiles costing at least US$1 million each."



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It's official: US Housing Crisis Is Now Worse Than Great Depression

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It's official: The housing crisis that began in 2006 and has recently entered a double dip is now worse than the Great Depression.

Prices have fallen some 33 percent since the market began its collapse, greater than the 31 percent fall that began in the late 1920s and culminated in the early 1930s, according to Case-Shiller data.

The  unemployment remains at a still-elevated 9.1???? percent, throwing into question whether the recovery is real.
"The sharp fall in house prices in the first quarter provided further confirmation that this housing crash has been larger and faster than the one during the Great Depression," Paul Dales.
According to Case-Shiller, prices dropped 1.9 percent in the first quarter, a move that the firm interpreted as a clear double dip in prices.

Moreover, Dales said prices likely have not completed their downturn.

"Nonetheless, prices are likely to fall by a further 3 percent this year, resulting in a 5 percent drop over the year as a whole."

Prices continue to tumble despite affordability, which by most conventional metrics is near historic highs.

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke says US faces downgrade over debt

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke says US faces downgrade over debt

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the US could lose its AAA credit rating and create a new crisis in the financial markets if it does not raise the cap on government debt.

Mr Bernanke warned that if the $14,300bn (£8,784bn) debt ceiling was not lifted quickly there could be disastrous consequences.

"Even a short suspension of payments on principal or interest on the Treasury's debt obligations could cause severe disruptions in financial markets and the payments system, induce ratings downgrades of US government debt, credit fundamental doubts about the creditworthiness of the United States, and damage the special role of the dollar and Treasury securities in global markets in the longer term," he said.

US politicians are currently locked in talks to resolve the impasse on the budget and are attempting to find trillions of dollars of savings.

In his speech in Washington yesterday, Mr Bernanke said that failing to increase the debt ceiling now would actually cause the deficit to swell in future.

"Interest rates would likely rise, slowing the recovery and, perversely, worsening the deficit problem by increasing required interest payments on the debt for what might well be a protracted period," said Mr Bernanke.
The Telegraph


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Iran FM hails strategic ties with China

Baku-APA. Iran’s foreign minister has expressed optimism about the future of the Islamic Republic’s relations with China and has hailed the close stances of the two allies on global issues, APA reports quoting Press TV.

“Tehran-Beijing ties are strategic and their prospects are bright,” Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters on Thursday in the Kazakh capital Astana, IRNA reported.

Salehi is currently in Astana as part of an Iranian delegation led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that is attending the 10th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit.

He said Iran and China have similar views on many important international issues, and the two countries plan to hold regular negotiations.

The Iranian foreign minister hailed the upcoming 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the People’s Republic of China, saying it would be a turning point for the efforts to strengthen and expand the two nations’ bilateral ties.

Salehi made the remarks after a meeting between Ahmadinejad and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The two presidents discussed recent developments in North Africa and West Asia and bilateral economic and trade cooperation, Salehi explained and described the talks as positive and constructive.

During the their two-day meeting, the leaders of the six full members of the SCO -- China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan -- plan to adopt a new charter with a new article on observer states’ accession to full membership in the intergovernmental security organization founded in 2001 in Shanghai.

Iran, India, Mongolia, and Pakistan are the four observer states of the SCO. Iran, which has held observer status since 2005, is seeking full membership.
Iran’s full membership in the SCO would create a powerful coalition with China and Russia.



Boehner gives Obama Friday deadline on Libya

House Speaker John Boehner talks to the press following a political strategy session on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 14, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Stepping up a simmering constitutional conflict, House Speaker John A. Boehner warned President Obama on Tuesday that unless he gets authorization from Congress for his military deployment in Libya, he will be in violation of the War Powers Resolution.

In a letter sent Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Boehner, the top Republican in the constitutional chain of succession, said Mr. Obama must provide a clear justification by Friday for committing troops to Libya.

Sunday marks the 90th day since the president notified Congress that U.S. troops had been committed to help enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, which is designed to protect the rebels fighting Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s government.

“The Constitution requires the president to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed,’ and one of those laws is the War Powers Resolution, which requires an approving action by Congress or withdrawal within 90 days from the notification of a military operation,” Mr. Boehner said in the letter.

The White House has repeatedly said it has complied with the law by alerting Congress to the initial deployment, and by testifying at more than 10 hearings and providing 30 follow-up briefings about the pace and extent of U.S. troops’ commitment.

But the administration has never sought approval from Congress.

“We are in the final stages of preparing extensive information for the House and Senate that will address a whole host of issues about our ongoing efforts in Libya,” White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said Tuesday evening, adding that the administration also will present its legal analysis of the War Powers Resolution.

The Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war, but makes the president commander-in-chief. Those dual roles have caused tension throughout the nation’s history.

Two weeks ago, the House passed a nonbinding resolution that urged Mr. Obama to provide detailed information on the deployment. Mr. Boehner at the time signaled that Congress might cut off funding for the deployment in Libya if the administration didn’t comply.

That resolution gave Mr. Obama 14 days to comply, and the time runs out on Friday.

Washington Times


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Fuelling fury: NATO targets tankers

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