Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Tehran is not done with threats after shaking its fist at Israel: Tuesday, Aug. 7, Iranian Armed Forces Chief Gen. Hassan Firuzabadi pointed at Ankara and other Middle East capitals when he declared: “Turkey will be next in line for violence after Syria if it continues to work on behalf of Western interests.”
He went on to assert that “Ankara is toeing the Western (American) line in the region, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They are therefore accountable for the bloodshed in the Arab Republic [Syria]”
The Iranian army chief warned: “If those nations carry on this way, they should realize that Turkey is the next in line.” He was in fact holding them all responsible for a potential outbreak of war with Turkey.
Spreading around responsibility for violence with accompanying threats appears to be Iran's latest diplomatic ploy.
Earlier Tuesday, Tehran passed a message to Washington in which the United States was held responsible for the lives of the 48 Iranians nabbed by Syrian rebels in Damascus last week. The message was dropped off at the Swiss embassy in Tehran which handles US interests in the absence of diplomatic ties. It denied that the hostages were Revolutionary Guardsmen and insisted they were pilgrims to Shiite shrines in Syria. All the countries “supporting current events in Syria, starting with the US,” would be held responsible for their safety by Tehran.
The rebel Free Syrian Army‘s Al-Baraa Brigade has threatened to execute its Iranian “prisoners” if Syrian army shelling continues against Aleppo. Three were reported already dead as a result of that shelling.
Gen. Firuzabadi addressed his threat to Turkey shortly before the arrival in Ankara of Iran’s foreign minister, Ali-Akbar Salehi, in the hope of galvanizing the Turks into forcing the Syrian rebels to let go of their Iranian hostages.
Tehran now holds at least three nations, the US, Turkey and Israel, in peril of military action in the context of the Syrian conflict. Israel was the object of the first threat of engulfment by the "Syrian fire."
The world wasted 10 years of Israeli warnings on Iran’s nuclear program and another eight years before imposing belated sanctions, says Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States.
His op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal was another implied hint that Israel cannot wait much longer before trying to delay Iran’s nuclear program with a military attack, and such articles by the ambassador to the United States presumably are coordinated with Israel's highest officials.
“Historically, Israel has exercised that right [to defend itself] only after exhausting all reasonable diplomatic means,” he wrote. “But as the repeated attempts to negotiate with Iran have demonstrated, neither diplomacy nor sanctions has removed the threat.”
Oren noted that Israel exposed to the world in 2002 that Iran built a secret nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz. Since then, “The ayatollahs systematically lied about their nuclear operations, installing more than 10,000 centrifuges, a significant number of them in a once-secret underground facility at Qom.
“Iran is also the world's leading state sponsor of terror. It has supplied more than 70,000 rockets to terrorist organizations deployed on Israel's borders and has tried to murder civilians across five continents and 25 countries, including in the United States… By providing fighters and funds, Iran is enabling Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to massacre his own people.”
Oren underscored that Iran has become a global terror threat even without nuclear weapons, and if they are acquired, it will be easier for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to carry out his policy stated last week that "the annihilation of the Zionist regime is the key for solving the world problems."
The Israelis ambassador, a native of the United States, said that Iran’s rhetoric makes it clear it has no plans for forfeiting its nuclear ambitions.
“Iran will continue to drag out the negotiations while installing more centrifuges. These, according to the IAEA, are spinning even faster. The sanctions, which have dealt a blow to Iran's economy, have not affected the nuclear program. Meanwhile, more of Iran's expanding stockpile will be hidden in fortified bunkers beyond Israel's reach.”
Oren diplomatically wrote that Israel appreciates “the determination of President Obama and the U.S. Congress to advance the sanctions and their pledge to keep all options on the table” and reminded readers that “the president has affirmed Israel's right "to defend itself, by itself, against any threat," and "to make its own decision about what is required to meet its security needs."
Oren said that sanctions along with “a credible military threat—a threat that the ayatollahs still do not believe today – may yet convince Iran to relinquish its nuclear dreams. But time is dwindling and, with each passing day, the lives of eight million Israelis grow increasingly imperiled.
“The window that opened 20 years ago is now almost shut.”
Israel National News
At least nine people have been reported dead as torrential rain caused flooding that paralysed most parts of the Philippine capital, Manila.
The flooding - neck-deep in some areas - forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, closing schools, offices and the stock exchange.
Nine members of one family died after a landslide hit shanty houses in Quezon City, a government report said.
More than 50 people died when Typhoon Saola struck more than a week ago.
Widespread flooding has been reported in the capital and the surrounding provinces, according to a statement from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
It said "the south-west monsoon enhanced by Tropical Storm 'Haikui' located 300km [184 miles] north-east of Taiwan" was expected to bring more rain.
"Expect landslides and flashfloods in mountainous areas and floods in low-lying areas."
President Benigno Aquino met civil defence officials to discuss the situation. "Everybody who is supposed to do something is doing what he is supposed to do," he said.
The severity of the rain since Monday afternoon - in an already saturated city - has led officials to issue the highest level of alert, says the BBC's Kate McGeown in Manila.Casualties
Four members of another family were rushed to hospital in the landslide that killed the family in Manila's Quezon City, according to the government's disaster council.
"This is where my house used to be, this one is the end of our fence," Jessie Bailon, one of those affected by the landslide, was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying.
He said that his wife, two children and one grandchild were still missing.
Another resident said that "the ground was shaking" and that he barely made it before the landslide hit his home.
A local police official was also quoted as saying that four people had drowned in another province, but this has not been confirmed.
Weather officials warn that the floods could get worse as the overflowing La Mesa dam, which holds back Manila's main reservoir, spills more water.
"If we put it in a percentage, at least 50% of Metro Manila is flooded," Jean Navarez, from the state weather service, was quoted by AFP as saying.
Residents living in slums and shanty towns on low ground have taken shelter in community buildings, reports said.
Several key roads were impassable and power had also been cut in some areas, mostly as a precaution, officials said.
Dams and waterways in affected areas are also being closely monitored. Rescue efforts are now underway to help stranded residents.
"As of now, it's difficult to rescue the trapped residents, as we are battling strong currents with our life crafts," police rescuer Eric Baran told Reuters news agency.
"It's been raining continuously for over 24 hours now," resident Justin Robertson told the BBC from Quezon City.
"We live on a hill and at the bottom of the hill there is a junction which is covered in water. Most offices and schools are closed today and we've decided to remain indoors as the main roads are either flooded or blocked with broken down vehicles."
Rav Moshe Wolfson of Brooklyn has held an emergency gathering in his community and called upon the members to be strong in Torah and prayer so that the Jewish people will survive the time of tension with Iran.
The rabbi noted that the Torah sages predicted that Persia, now called Iran, would one day destroy the world, inthe times immediately preceding the Redemption.
Rav Wolfson is known as a hassidic "mashpi'a" – literally, an influencer – a title that refers to rabbis who do not head a hassidic dynasty (chatzer) but have influence outside their own communities.
"Our Sages of Blessed Memory say that Persia will destroy the entire world and the Jews will be in a difficult situation," he told his followers. "Why are we quiet? Where is the awakening? Why is everyone apathetic? Why is everyone busy with silly and unimportant things? Do we not hear the alarm? Do we not know that we must break open the gates of Heaven and ask for mercy from G-d?"
"In the coming weeks we face a total war in Iran, Israel, Europe and the U.S. And the nation of Israel in its entirety must prepare spiritually. The Rambam says that it is a mitzvah to pray in difficult times, and if one does not pray, one is being cruel, and it causes the situation to get worse, G-d forbid."
The rabbi compared Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the evil Haman from the Scroll of Esther, who wanted to kill all of the Jews. If Israel attacks Iran before it achieves nuclear weapons, there will be a world war, he said.
"There is no need to panic," he added. "We believe that G-d will perform miracles for us, it is possible that the time of Redemption (geula) has come and we must prepare for Redemption. Since the Holocaust, G-d has done great miracles for the Jews, especially in the Land of Israel, that hosts most of the world's Jews. And the Torah world receives unnatural help from Heavens. We can see that G-d wants to perform miracles for us and we must prepare for redemption."
Israel National News
It’s a high tech idea whose time has — or may sometime soon — come.
Palm Beach County schools officials are considering a proposal that would have the more than 60,000 students who ride a big yellow bus to school each day giving their fingerprints on an electronic key pad to get on the bus.
In a July 9 message on his department’s blog, School District Chief of Support Operations Joe Sanches told principals that based on their responses in a recent anonymous survey on the use of biometrics in schools “we will seek Board approval to pursue a pilot use on school buses.”
Simply put, biometrics is the use of a person’s unique biological characteristics — most typically their fingerprint — to identify them. For years now, school districts around the nation have used electronic fingerprint scanners to keep track of which child gets on which school bus and which child checks out which book from school media centers, and to allow children to access their lunch accounts in cafeterias.
Sanches said his department has yet to work out all of the details of a proposal for Palm Beach County’s schools, but said “we would like to consider doing a pilot to help with attendance on buses.”
In his message to principals, he said he got 48 responses to his five-question anonymous survey. About 60 percent of principals responding said they agreed that using biometric technology was better than simply giving students ID cards. Fifty-one percent said they would support using the fingerprint technology for student attendance, in the cafeteria lunch line and media centers, and to keep track of students on buses.
Palm Beach County has dabbled in fingerprint technology in the past, with pilot projects in some school cafeterias like Don Estridge High Tech Middle School in Boca Raton. Food Services General Manager Allison Monbleau said that pilot was stopped about three years ago because parents had to sign and return a form to opt into the system. It only really worked if most of the majority of parents opted their children in, she said, or else the lunch line is slowed by too many children still entering their access codes.
Unfortunately, Monbleau said, few parents opted in at the pilot schools. As a result, the effectiveness of the biometric technology was hampered.
Don Estridge High Tech also had plans at one point to test a fingerprint scanners in classrooms to keep track of attendance, said Assistant Principal Mike McCurdy. But those plans fell through as the vendor creating the attendance scanner was never able to finish the product for testing.
But the technology has stuck in other areas. Mike Burke, the district’s chief operations officer, said fingerprint scanners are used for all of the time clocks for the district’s roughly 11,000 hourly employees — like bus drivers.
Next door, in Martin County, fingerprint scanners are in every middle and high school cafeteria lunch line. School district spokeswoman Cathleen Brennan said the three high schools in the district cost about $1,260 each to set up the lunchroom fingerprint technology, and $103 per year to maintain the software and equipment. The district’s five middle schools, which have fewer lunch lines than high schools, cost $900 each to set up and $103 per year to maintain.
Brennan said parents can choose to opt out of the system, and that it speeds up the lunch line because children don’t have to deal with remembering an access code to get to their lunch account. It also better ensures security because students can steal another student’s ID card or access code, but they can’t steal a fingerprint.
Palm Beach County has 23 traditional high schools, 33 traditional middle schools, 107 elementary schools and 17 alternative schools. At the prices Martin County paid it would cost Palm Beach County nearly $29,000 for all high schools and $29,700 for middle schools to set up fingerprint scanners in lunchrooms and about $5,768 a year to maintain the software and equipment.
The Desert Sands Unified School District in the California’s Inland Empire region tested early versions of fingerprint scanners on school buses but no longer use them.
“It didn’t really work out well for us,” said Desert Sands Schools Transportation Director Rick Majors, who said the scanners they used cost about $1,000 per unit.
Although Sanches’ department has yet to flush out all of the details, School Board member Chuck Shaw said as a former school principal he likes the general concept of using fingerprint scanners to keep track of kids on buses.
“Especially with little kids, safety is critical,” Shaw said. “If there are any tools out there that can help us keep track of children and ensure safety, I think it is well worth exploring.”
But, he added, “The obvious question is that I’m sure it is going to be a big cost.”
One question principals in the survey had difficulty answering is how they thought the public would react to fingerprint scanners. About 45 percent of principals
Read more: http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/region_c_palm_beach_county/palm-beach-county-school-district-looking-into-using-fingerprint-tech-to-keep-better-track-of-kids#ixzz22rzI4OYj
Italy's economy shrank 0.7% in the second quarter, underlining a deepening recession, as government austerity measures continue to affect everything from factory activity to consumer spending.
Italy's GDP fell for the fourth quarter in a row,preliminary figures showed.
Compared with a year earlier, growth slumped by 2.5%, Istat said.
GDP fell by 0.8% in the first quarter compared with the final three months of 2011, the statistical agency said.
Earlier, data showed that factory output in June slumped 1.4% compared to May and 8.2% year on year.
"The austerity measures are obviously weighing on the economy," said Vincenzo Bova of MPS Capital Services. "Investments and consumption, both private and public, are the hardest-hit areas," he added.
Prime Minister Mario Monti's government is implementing a series of austerity measures worth 20bn euros (£15.8bn) as it grapples with rising borrowing costs, driven by market fears over the widening eurozone sovereign debt crisis.
But investors are worried Italy - the eurozone's third biggest economy - may be next in line to suffer the same ordeals that have hit Greece, Portugal and now Spain.'No sign of change' from recession
Italy's government has the biggest debt burden of any of the major eurozone countries at 123% of GDP, which makes it particularly susceptible to a loss of market confidence - something that would make it impossible for the government to roll over its debts as they come due for payment.
Despite the austerity measures investors have continued to dump Italian sovereign bonds, which have pushed their yields close to unsustainable levels as markets fear a breakdown of the euro.
Italian business confidence fell last month, as company executives are increasingly pessimistic over the country's economic prospects and expect the recession to worsen in coming months.
Employers' lobby group Confindustria predicts that the economy will shrink 2.4% this year, with unemployment hovering around 11%. The government's forecasts the economy to contract by 1.2%.
"There is no sign of any change of trend for Italy," said Annamaria Grimaldi, an analyst at Intesa Sanpaolo.
Mr Monti has been trying to persuade other European leaders to give Italy some breathing space to allow its economy to grow, rather than sticking to tight fiscal targets that have contributed to the recession's deepening.
In an interview with Der Spiegel at the weekend, Mr Monti said: "If everything goes according to plan, I will remain in office until April 2013, and I hope that I can rescue Italy from financial ruin by then - and this with moral support from a few European friends, led by Germany. But I will also say very clearly: moral support, not financial."
Germany and other countries "should allow a bit more leeway to those states in the euro zone that follow European guidelines the most closely", he added.
But Mr Monti has struggled to rebuild public confidence in his leadership back home, where his popularity has plunged from record levels since he took office last year. In fact, there is mounting speculation that his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi may be making a comeback.
German politicians from across the spectrum have reacted furiously to warnings by Italy’s Mario Monti that Bundestag control over EU debt policies threatens to bring about the “disintegration” of the European project.
“We must make it clear to Mr Monti that we Germans will not shut down our democracy to pay Italian debts,” said Alexander Dobrindt, secretary-general of Bavaria’s Social Christians (CSU).
Bundestag president Norbert Lammert said parliament’s integrity cannot be subordinated to the ups and downs of the markets. Free Democrat (FDP) leaders said Italy’s unelected prime minister is playing with political fire by trying to circumvent democratic legitimacy.
The dispute comes as relations between Germany and Italy touch the lowest ebb since the Second World War, with Il Giornale publishing a front-page picture of Chancellor Angela Merkel under the headline “Fourth Reich”.
“The tone of the debate has turned dangerous. We must be careful that Europe does not rip itself apart,” said German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle. He himself fanned the flames over the weekend, saying he was “categorically” against further expansion of the EU rescue machinery or bond purchases by the European Central Bank. “I can’t imagine that a majority of the Bundestag will back unlimited debt liabilities,” he said.
The outburst leaves it unclear whether Germany will agree to activate the eurozone rescue fund (EFSF) on acceptable terms if Spain and Italy request bail-outs, the political trigger needed for ECB bond purchases under the “Draghi Plan”. Mrs Merkel and finance minister Wolfgang Schauble back ECB action but revolt within her coalition threatens to spread beyond a hard core.
Marchel Alexandrovich, from Jefferies, said the greater risk is that Spain and Italy recoil from a rescue now that bond spreads have fallen back. “This could drag on for months,” he said.
Yields on two-year Spanish debt fell 44 points to 3.37pc on Monday, the lowest since April. The IBEX index in Madrid rose 4.4pc. Hopes that the ECB will soon open up its big guns overshadowed an EU-IMF Troika leak that Cyprus is in “worse shape” than feared, requiring more than €10bn (£8bn) in aid.
Hans Redeker, from Morgan Stanley, said Mrs Merkel has a clear interest in pushing Spain and Italy into rescues now before opponents are ready for elections. “We’re moving into a phase of ECB monetisation. No investor can afford to lose out on the sugar rush,” he said.
New intelligence information obtained by Israel and four Western countries indicates that Iran has made greater progress on developing components for its nuclear weapons program than the West had previously realized, according to Western diplomats and Israeli officials who are closely involved in efforts to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb.