Sunday, December 09, 2007

Israeli Says US Intelligence Report On Iran Flawed

Israeli officials are throwing cold water on this week's U.S. intelligence report that plays down Iran's nuclear ambitions. Israel remains deeply suspicious of Iran's nuclear program. Israeli parliamentarian and former general Ephraim Sneh says a U.S. intelligence report that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago is "very flawed." Sneh told Israel Radio that the report does not give sufficient weight to Iran's program to enrich uranium. He said even if Iran suspended its pursuit of nuclear weapons, enriched uranium would enable it to restart the program at any time. Amos Gilad, a senior official in Israel's Defense Ministry, went even further.He said Iran is determined to obtain nuclear weapons. Gilad told the same radio program that Iran's enrichment of uranium and development of long-range missiles shows its intentions are not innocent. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, and it described the U.S. intelligence report as a "great victory." Israel has grown increasingly alarmed about Iran's nuclear program since late 2005, when the Iranian president threatened to wipe the Jewish state "off the map." Sneh said the statement shows that Iran poses an existential threat to the State of Israel. Hinting at a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, Sneh said the U.S. report shows that when it comes to existential threats, Israel can rely on no one but itself.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Where Was Jesus Born? 1 In 3 People Don't Know

The Christmas carollers may have already been heard singing O Little Town of Bethlehem the length and breadth of the country. But it appears a huge chunk of their audience may have no idea why the town should be worthy of such reverence. In an alarming survey published today into knowledge of the Christmas story, it appears that one in four adults do not know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Among younger Britons - between 18 and 24 - the total for those who could not give the correct location rose to 36 per cent. Other religious blank spots included the role of the Archangel Gabriel - more than a quarter had no idea that Gabriel brought God's message to Mary at her home in Nazareth to say that she would give birth to a son. And the majority of those questioned - 52 per cent - did not know that John the Baptist was Jesus's cousin. More than 75 per cent were unaware that Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled to Egypt to escape from King Herod. Most thought they had fled to Nazareth, the family's hometown. Only 12 per cent of adults could answer all four questions about the Christmas story correctly. The survey of more than 1,000 adults was commissioned by the public theology think-tank Theos and is likely to reignite debate about the secularisation of Christmas.It follows the news last week that only one in five schools is planning to perform a traditional Nativity play this year. Paul Woolley, director of Theos, said the findings show that the public's understanding of Jesus's birth is "shaky". He added: "The fact that younger people are the least knowledgeable about the Christmas story may reflect a decline in the telling of Bible stories in schools and the popularity of Nativity plays. "No one seriously thinks that being a Christian or a member of the established Church is the same thing as being British today. "But at the same time, if we are serious about social cohesion, we can't afford to ignore the stories that have bound us together as a culture for 1,000 years. "Any attempts to play down the Christmas story in order to help social cohesion are likely to be counter-productive." Christian churchgoers were the best informed about the Nativity, with 36 per cent answering all questions correctly, compared with only five per cent of atheists. The survey also showed regional differences in how well people know Bible stories. The South East was the area with the highest percentage getting all four answers right, at 19 per cent. That was followed by the South West, which scored 17 per cent. Those who demonstrated the worst Biblical knowledge were in Yorkshire and Humberside and London. In both regions, 15 per cent of those questioned answered all four survey questions incorrectly.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Deported Woman Returns

A woman deported from Minnesota has been granted humanitarian parole and is on her way back to the state Thursday. The parole is considered an extraordinary measure that is rarely granted. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has sole discretion over the decision. "Tomorrow I go to church, my regular church and I say thank you," said Nixon Avendano. Avendano’s wife, Sara Gonzales, was accused of using two names and nationalities on an application to stay in America.A federal judge ordered her deportation—Gonzales had lived in St. Michael with her husband and five children for 15 years. But it is Edwin, her youngest son that has brought her back to America. The family said he is autistic and his condition had worsened in his mother’s absence. "When you got a little kid and he is sick, it's pretty hard. I know she's coming home," said Avendano. Under the humanitarian parole, Gonzales’ maximum stay in the United States is one year.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Man Killed After Falling Off The IDS Tower Identified

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office has identified the man who fell while clearing snow off the glass roof of the IDS Center skyscraper. 52-year-old Fidel Danilo Sanchez-Forez slipped, crashed through the roof, and fell about three stories to his death. Police confirmed Sanchez-Forez, of West St. Paul, worked for Columbia Building Services. "This is clearly an accident," Sgt. Jesse Garcia said. The man was clearing snow off the roof of the Crystal Court shortly before 2:00 p.m. when he fell through the ceiling. Officials said he was wearing a safety harness when he fell. "I was just thinking, I'm going to see this man in his last few seconds that he's alive and I was just hoping he would live through it and then they covered his body with a sheet. Then I knew he was dead," said witness Andrea Bate-Boyle. The 51-story IDS Center overlooks the Crystal Court, which features a 105-foot ceiling-to-floor water fountain and a canopy of glass skylights. The building's Web site says the skylights are 121 feet above ground. Garcia said police cordoned off the lower part of the Crystal Court and were in the process of clearing the skyways entering into the IDS Center. "We don't have to make this a public viewing," he said. The IDS Center has been the site of two suicides in the last 11 years. In 2001, a 30-year-old man jumped from the 51st floor, crashed through the Crystal Court, and landed by a fountain near a restaurant. In 1996, a 32-year-old man knocked out a window in the 30th floor of the IDS Center and jumped headfirst to his death. The IDS tower, a city landmark built in 1972, overlooks the Nicollet Mall, downtown's major shopping area. Scenes from the Crystal Court were featured in the opening segment of the original Mary Tyler Moore show.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

US Jet Intercepts Ballistic Missile

A US F-16 fighter used an air-to-air missile to destroy a sounding rocket in its boost phase for the first time this week in a test of a new missile defense concept, US spokesmen said. The system -- named the Net-Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCDE) -- breaks new ground in that it would arm fighter aircraft or drones with missiles fast enough to intercept a ballistic missile as it lifts into space. The aircraft would have to get to within a 100 miles of the launch site to catch the ascending missile in the first two to three minutes after launch. But it could be very useful in a short range combat situation against short and medium range missiles, said Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the US Missile Defense Agency. The Pentagon has two other better known boost phase intercept systems under development -- the Airborne Laser and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor -- but those are still years away from being ready, he said. "So it does give us an initial boost phase capability even though it is a much shorter range missile, and you have to be in the area of the missile launch to be effective," Lehner said.The test Monday at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico involved an F-16 fighter that fired two modified AIM-9X missile at an Orion sounding or research rocket. The first destroyed the rocket and the second recorded the interception, the Pentagon's missile defense agency said. The missile seekers' relayed images of the rocket at close range, demonstrating the capability to acquire and track the target, the Pentagon's missile defense agency said. "Although not unexpected, the subsequent intercept destroyed the target," it said. "A second AIM-9X launched during the test observed through its seeker the intercept of the target by the first and was also on a trajectory to intercept the target," the agency said. Besides special seekers, AIM-9X and AIM-20 AAMRAM are fitted with a new liquid propellant second stage to give it the burst of speed needed to catch a ballistic missile in its boost phase. Lehner said the missiles were heavily instrumented during the test, but otherwise conditions were "pretty realistic." Raytheon Missile Systems, which developed the NCADE, said it "provides a revolutionary, low-cost approach to interceptor development and acquisition."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Iran Expels Canadian Ambassador

Iran's government has ordered Canada's new ambassador out of the country in a move that Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier called 'entirely unjustifiable.' Iran's decision Monday to expel Ambassador John Mundy came as the two governments were in the middle of a tussle over their diplomatic representatives. Canada has twice refused Iran's candidates for its ambassador in Ottawa, accusing them of being student radicals during the 1978-79 revolution with links to the taking of hostages at the US embassy in Tehran.'Unfortunately, we have as yet been unable to accept the candidates Tehran has submitted,' Bernier said in a statement. 'We believe the expulsion of our ambassador is an unfortunate and unjustified consequence of this situation.' Mundy is a career diplomat who was appointed to the post in Tehran in April. Bernier said both countries would continue to maintain embassies in one another's capitals and the Canadian embassy in Tehran would be headed by its charge d'affaires for the time being.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hamas Threatens To Strike Inside Israel

The military wing of Hamas pledged to strike in the depth of Israel in response to the killing of five of its militants in pre-dawn air strikes in southern Gaza Strip. "The Israeli army's happiness after killing the resistance men would not last long and the time of account is imminent," Abu Obaida, the spokesman of the Ezz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades said at the funeral of the fighters in Khan Younis city. "The enemy must be ready for black funerals. Al-Qassam Brigades will turn everything on the head of the Zionists, destroy all their expectations and attack them unexpectedly," warned the spokesman. Ezz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, have the capability to recruit 100 fighters at any time to succeed anyone killed by the Israeli troops, Abu Obaida said. He slammed the U.S-hosted peace conference held in Annapolis onNov. 27 as "a cover for the Israeli army's aggression" and attacked the acting Palestinian government in the West Bank for implementing the U.S.-sponsored security plans. Hamas movement has said the Israeli military escalation was a natural result of Annapolis conference. "Waging the war against the resistance is the only clear result of the ominous meeting."Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert launched at the U.S.-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland their first formal peace talks in seven years with the goal of forging a deal by the end of 2008 to create a Palestinian state. Hamas and other allied militant groups have strongly opposed the resumption of peace talks with Israel, saying Abbas does not have political legitimacy to speak on behalf of Palestinians. They also oppose the U.S.-sponsored "road map" which calls for the renouncement of force in the first place. The Islamic Jihad movement, meanwhile, called on Palestinian factions to unite and put their differences aside in the face of what it called a looming Israeli incursion. The Israeli aerial attacks in Khan Younis killed five militants from Hamas and wounded three others. The killed militants had been positioned not far from the border, monitoring the security fence that separates Israel and the Gaza Strip in the east of Khan Younis to encounter Israeli undercover and special forces that often infiltrate the border areas by night.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Savage Sues Terrorist Support Organization

Syndicated talk host Michael Savage has filed a copyright infringement suit in California against the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), saying the group is using an almost 5-minute clip of his show for fundraising purposes. CAIR was sent a cease & desist letter, but has yet to remove the the material off of its web site. According to the suit, Savage says even "even genuine charities" must get permission before using copyrighted material. It also claims that CAIR "manipulated" the content to serve its own fundraising purposes by taking it out of context.CAIR therefore "destroyed the value of the copyright material and the performance as a whole," the suit claims. CAIR has been urging advertisers to yank their sports for his show over what they say is a history of anti-Muslim comments. So far, CAIR says OfficeMax, JCPenney, AutoZone and Wal-Mart have all pulled their commercials from his show. The suit maintains that any success of the advertiser boycott effort was "due to the copyright infringement and the false context" of the clip.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Evel Knievel Dies At 69

Evel Knievel, the hard-living motorcycle daredevil whose jumps over Greyhound buses, live sharks and Idaho's Snake River Canyon made him an international icon in the 1970s, died Friday. He was 69. Knievel's death was confirmed by his granddaughter, Krysten Knievel. He had been in failing health for years, suffering from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable condition that scarred his lungs. Knievel had undergone a liver transplant in 1999 after nearly dying of hepatitis C, likely contracted through a blood transfusion after one of his bone-shattering spills. Immortalized in the Washington's Smithsonian Institution as "America's Legendary Daredevil," Knievel was best known for a failed 1974 attempt to jump Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered cycle and a spectacular crash at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. He suffered nearly 40 broken bones before he retired in 1980.Although he dropped off the pop culture radar in the '80s, Knievel always had fans and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years. In later years he still made a good living selling his autographs and endorsing products. Thousands came to Butte, Mont., every year as his legend was celebrated during the "Evel Knievel Days" festival. "They started out watching me bust my ass, and I became part of their lives," Knievel said. "People wanted to associate with a winner, not a loser. They wanted to associate with someone who kept trying to be a winner." His death came just two days after it was announced that he and rapper Kanye West had settled a federal lawsuit over the use of Knievel's trademarked image in a popular West music video.