Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Musical Innerlube: Medium Rara-Sitar and Panflute by Stephan Mikes/Bonnie Pedic



http://www.stephanmikes.com/

source: Interview with Sitar Player Stephan Mikes

Disapproval of Bush breaks record

President Bush has set a record he'd presumably prefer to avoid: the highest disapproval rating of any president in the 70-year history of the Gallup Poll.

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, 28% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing; 69% disapprove. The approval rating matches the low point of his presidency, and the disapproval sets a new high for any president since Franklin Roosevelt.

The previous record of 67% was reached by Harry Truman in January 1952, when the United States was enmeshed in the Korean War.

Bush's rating has worsened amid "collapsing optimism about the economy," says Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies presidential approval. Record gas prices and a wave of home foreclosures have fueled voter angst.

Bush also holds the record for the other extreme: the highest approval rating of any president in Gallup's history. In September 2001, in the days after the 9/11 attacks, Bush's approval spiked to 90%. In another record, the percentage of Americans who say the invasion of Iraq was a mistake reached a new high, 63%, in the latest poll.

Assessments of Bush's presidency are harsh. By 69%-27%, those polled say Bush's tenure in general has been a failure, not a success.

~ more... ~

 

South Africa: Union refuses to unload Zim arms

Opposition to a shipment of arms being offloaded in Durban and transported to Zimbabwe increased on Thursday when South Africa's largest transport workers union announced that its members would not unload the ship.

SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) general secretary Randall Howard said: "Satawu does not agree with the position of the South African government not to intervene with this shipment of weapons.

"Our members employed at Durban Container Terminal will not unload this cargo neither will any of our members in the truck driving sector move this cargo by road."

He said the ship, the An Yue Jiang, should not dock in Durban and should return to China.
 
"South Africa cannot be seen to be facilitating the flow of weapons into Zimbabwe at a time where there is a political dispute and a volatile situation between the Zanu-PF and the MDC."

"The view of our members is that nobody should ask us to unload these weapons," he said.

Satawu said it planned to engage support from the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Defence secretary January Masilela on Thursday that the scrutiny committee of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee's (NCACC) scrutiny committee, which he chairs, had approved the conveyance permit on Monday already.
 
 

Steven John Lalas - Greece's hidden ace in FYROM name negotiations

Former Greek spy returns after 14 years in US prison
Athens - A former Greek spy on Sunday returned to Athens after spending 14 years in prison in the United States, ending a spectacular espionage affair between the two countries.
The case had put a heavy strain on diplomatic relations in the 1990s.
Fifty-four-year old Steven Lalas, a US citizen of Greek origin, worked as a member of the technical staff at US consulates in Izmir, Turkey, Belgrade in the former
Yugoslavia and Athens, from where he forwarded secret documents to the Greek intelligence service.
The documents were mainly concerned with US policy during the first phase of the Balkan crisis.
Lalas was busted in 1992 and sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of espionage in the US in 1993.
His activities were discovered when he was working at the US embassy in Athens.
High-ranking Greek diplomats are said to have boasted of being well-informed of US plans in the Balkans, leading US espionage experts to carry out checks.
Lalas was caught red-handed on hidden cameras, the media in Athens reported on Sunday.
He was subsequently arrested and sentenced after a trip to the US.
Following his release from a high-security US prison, Lalas will have to inform authorities on his movements for the next five years.
The return of the former spy was facilitated by an agreement between the governments in Washington and Athens.
Lalas also committed himself never again to return to the US, Greek media reported.

Steven John Lalas
Steven (Stavros) John Lalas is a Greek American and a former State Department communications officer. Charged with passing sensitive military and diplomatic information to Greek officials, he was arrested in northern Virginia on May 3, 1993.
Spying activities
During his active years as a spy, he passed an estimated 700 highly classified documents, that included U.S. gathered intelligence information of Turkish military strategy in the Aegean Sea and Cyprus, and U.S. diplomatic assessments and views on Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia. Athens was Lalas' fourth communications posting with the State Department. He also served at posts in İzmir(where he was allegedly recruited by the Greeks), Belgrade, Istanbul, and Taiwan. US investigators claimed he made an average of US$24,000 over a two-year period by providing documents, thus earning a steady income selling Defense Intelligence Agency reports about troop strength, political analyses, and military discussions contained in cables between the U.S. Embassy in Athens and the White House. He also obtained information from FBI communications about counter-terrorism efforts, and the names and job descriptions of CIA personnel stationed overseas.
Lalas' apprehension
According to the U.S. Government, it received the first tip that led to identification of Lalas as a spy as a result of an accidental slip in a conversation between an official of the Greek Embassy in Washington and a State Department official. The Greek official knew of information that could only have come from a secret communication between the U.S. Embassy in Athens and the State Department. The State Department official recognized something wasn't right and reported it. This led to an FBI secret investigation, and Lalas was later observed through a video monitoring system stealing documents intended for destruction, taking them out of the US embassy and handing them over to his Greek liaison.
Also according to U.S. authorities, Lalas originally claimed he had been recruited by Greek military officials in 1991, and that he feared for the welfare of relatives living in Greece if he had not cooperated. Authorities later discovered that he began spying for the Greek government in 1977 while with the U.S. Army.

The Sombolay and Lalas Cases
These two cases underscore the miscarriage of justice and the unequal treatment that occurred in the Pollard Case.
In the one case, you have an American soldier, Albert Sombolay, who in spite of having spied for Iraq during the Gulf War - a clear act of treason - received what can only be described as a "slap on the wrist" as a punishment. Sombolay's actions could have resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops fighting against Iraq. Yet in his case, the Army and U.S. government bent over backwards to downplay the case and to hush it up. Sombolay's 35 year sentence was quietly reduced to 19 years. Further reductions likely occurred as a result of appeals that were planned in the wake of this first reduction. The case then became so shrouded from public view that it has not been possible to get any further information on it since then.
In the other case you have a State Department official, Steven Lalas who, out of ethnic loyalty to Greece, exposed the identities of countless CIA agents operating in the Balkans. He put the lives of all of these American agents in jeopardy. Lalas did not even honor the terms of his plea agreement, and yet in spite of this, and in spite of the enormity of his crimes, the government still honored its plea agreement with him. The CIA restrained itself so completely in this case that it declined to even comment about the potential harm Lalas' actions may have caused to the national security. Throughout the Lalas case, Greece was treated with kid gloves. Compare and contrast this to the savaging that Israel took from the U.S. government and media in the wake of the arrest of Jonathan Pollard.
The treatment of Sombolay and Lalas cases by the U.S. government was delicate and restrained. Consequently, the American public is largely unaware of these two, in spite of the enormously serious crimes that they committed against the United States. The Pollard case, on the other hand has been so sensationalized that it is unlikely that either Pollard or Israel will ever fully recover from the effects of the smear campaign that the government has waged against them in the media since the inception of this case.

Lalas: Something Wasn't Right
Steven J. Lalas, an American of Greek descent, was a State Department communications officer stationed with the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece. He also served at posts in Belgrade, Istanbul, and Taiwan. Charged with passing sensitive military information to Greek officials, he was arrested in Northern Virginia on May 3, 1993.
The U.S. Government received the first tip that led to identification of Lalas as a spy as a result of an accidental slip in a conversation between an official of the Greek Embassy in Washington and a State Department official. The Greek official knew of information that could  only have come from a secret communication between the U.S. Embassy in Athens and the State Department. The State Department official recognized something wasn't right and reported it. This led to an investigation, and Lalas was later observed through a video monitoring system stealing documents intended for destruction.
Lalas originally claimed he had been recruited by Greek military officials in 1991, and that he feared for the welfare of relatives then living in Greece if he had not cooperated. Authorities later discovered that he began spying for the Greek government in 1977 while with the U.S. Army.
He passed an estimated 700 highly classified documents, including papers dealing with plans and readiness for U.S. military strategy in the Balkans and a U. S. assessment of Greece's intentions toward the former Yugoslavia. Athens was Lalas' fourth communications posting with the State Department. During his espionage career he earned a steady income stealing, then selling, DIA reports about troop strength, political analyses, and military discussions contained in cables between the U.S. Embassy in Athens and the White House. He also obtained information from FBI communications about counter-terrorism efforts, and the names and job descriptions of CIA personnel stationed overseas.
Greek handlers allegedly paid him $20,000 for about 240 documents over a three-year period ending with his arrest.
In June 1993, Lalas pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage and on September 16 was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison without possibility of parole. Prosecutors had recommended the 14-year sentence in return for Lalas' promise to reveal what documents he turned over and to whom.
The full extent of his espionage activity was confirmed prior to his sentencing only after he failed two FBI polygraph examinations. Lalas [was at the time] serving his sentence in federal prison.
Reference
"Profile of a Spy," in Security Matters, the FBI Security Education Bulletin. Summer 1996.

US man 'gave secrets to Israel'

A military engineer has appeared in court in the US on charges of passing classified information to Israel.

Ben-Ami Kadish is alleged to have given secrets involving information about nuclear weapons, fighter jets and missiles to Israel in the 1980s.

He was charged with four counts of conspiracy, including disclosing documents relating to national defence and acting as an agent of Israel.

He declined to comment on leaving the Manhattan courthouse.

~ read on... ~

 

Israel's Shin Bet launches blog

The Israeli secret service has launched a new venture: it has started to carry an internet diary, or blog, written by four of its agents.

The agents discuss how they were recruited, and what sort of work they perform; they also answer questions sent in by members of the public.

The tone of the blog is chatty, at times even facetious.

[ ... ]

The blogs are intended to draw members of the public into other areas of the Shin Bet website - in particular the recruitment section.

Some of the positions are advertised with a red star and the slogan "hot job".

There is the opportunity to work on what are described as "irregular missions"; to work on one's own; and to acquire a variety of "special skills".

~ more... ~

 

Yemen: Discontent challenges government

While calls for secession have been heard, a primary force driving recurrent waves of disturbances in the south and elsewhere in recent months appears to be the poor economic management of Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) and discontent at its untrammeled domination of the governance system.

Public sector and military employment is a fulcrum for southern protests because the security services constitute the largest single employer in a country in which up to 40 percent of the population live in poverty and unemployment stands at anywhere between 20-40 percent.

The analyst who requested anonymity explained that, "What is sparking them [the protests] is part of a much larger grievance against the regime. And what you are starting to see now is an increasingly common narrative between what is going on in the south and what's going on in the north [al-Houthi rebellion].

"At their heart, these demonstrations are about the inability of the government to provide basic services that include most of the people in the decision-making," she said, adding that the wave of southern protests is "building" and looks set to increase in "seriousness."

[ ... ]

The US has ordered all non-essential diplomatic staff to leave the country and has issued a travel warning for its citizens following a mortar attack on its Sana'a embassy compound on 18 March. According to a government official the main suspect in the bombing is al-Qaida militant Hamza al-Dayan.

Al-Qaida in Yemen has stepped up its attacks on government targets and foreign interests and nationals in recent months, conducting a series of audacious assaults that appear to confirm the severing of the long-rumored relationship with the Saleh government – which reputedly enjoyed a modus vivendi with the old al-Qaida leadership.

Stracke explained that US assassination strikes against al-Qaida leaders in the wake of the 2001 USS Cole attack in Aden harbor, and a related government crackdown on the group, led to a period of relative quiet from 2004-2005.

"This changed in 2006 when 23 [jihadi] prisoners escaped. And among them was the leader of the new Yemen al-Qaida group, Nasir al-Wuhayshi," she said.

~ more... ~

 

' "Load up the pantry," says Manu Daftary, one of Wall Street's top investors'

"Load up the pantry," says Manu Daftary, one of Wall Street's top investors and the manager of the Quaker Strategic Growth mutual fund. "I think prices are going higher. People are too complacent. They think it isn't going to happen here. But I don't know how the food companies can absorb higher costs." (Full disclosure: I am an investor in Quaker Strategic)

Stocking up on food may not replace your long-term investments, but it may make a sensible home for some of your shorter-term cash. Do the math. If you keep your standby cash in a money-market fund you'll be lucky to get a 2.5% interest rate. Even the best one-year certificate of deposit you can find is only going to pay you about 4.1%, according to Bankrate.com. And those yields are before tax.

Meanwhile the most recent government data shows food inflation for the average American household is now running at 4.5% a year.

And some prices are rising even more quickly. The latest data show cereal prices rising by more than 8% a year. Both flour and rice are up more than 13%. Milk, cheese, bananas and even peanut butter: They're all up by more than 10%. Eggs have rocketed up 30% in a year. Ground beef prices are up 4.8% and chicken by 5.4%.

These are trends that have been in place for some time.

And if you are hoping they will pass, here's the bad news: They may actually accelerate.

~ more... ~

 

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