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The USA is the most corrupt country in the world and I have 10,000 posts that point heavily to that fact…

FBI releases papers on Russian spy ring that involved Anna Chapman October 31, 2011

The FBI is releasing tapes and documents shedding new light on the 11-year investigation of a Russian espionage ring that led to the biggest spy swap since the Cold War.

The tapes, released on Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Associated Press, show the sleeper agents meeting handlers, receiving money and transmitting coded messages. The probe was known as Operation Ghost Stories, according to the documents.

Russia provided members of the ring with false identities, hi-tech communications gear and middle-class lives in America, and told them to cultivate friendships with academics, entrepreneurs and policymakers.

But a high-ranking US mole in Russian intelligence ran the ring, and it never stole any secrets. Ten spies were arrested in June 2010 and traded for four Russians convicted of spying for the west.

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Occupy protesters clash with police in Denver and Portland

Violent clashes between Occupy protesters and police broke out in Denver, Colorado, and Portland, Oregon, over the weekend.

Police arrested 20 people and fired pepper spray and pepper balls as they moved to tear down tents set up by Occupy Denver demonstrators on Saturday. Amid angry scenes, two protesters were held on felony charges after police said an officer was knocked off his motorcycle and other officers were kicked.

Patricia Hughes, 38, a nurse who was at the Denver demonstration described the police behaviour as “brutal and outlandish.”

She said that police were putting on their riot gear before the demonstration began and that more than 100 officers charged into the crowd after one officer fell while dismantling a tent.

“It’s an extraordinary decision that the police in Denver think rubber bullets are an acceptable response to a peaceful protest,” she said.

Hughes said the Occupy demonstrators planned to hold a general assembly to discuss their response to the incident and to call for donations of warm clothes and hats which she claimed police had confiscated.

In Portland, about 30 demonstrators were arrested after they marched to the Pearl District, a gentrified former industrial area, early on Sunday. The arrests came after the protesters defied a midnight curfew to leave Jamison Square.

In Nashville, Tennessee, demonstrators defied a curfew near the Capitol building. It was the third consecutive night that they had refused to abide by the police curfew. There were no arrests, but demonstrators had been arrested on previous evenings.

“My heart has been here all along, but the arrests gave me the momentum to come,” 61-year-old Vicki Metzgar, the director of a Nashville public schools science and maths initiative, told the Associated Press. “This [plaza] belongs to us, not the politicians.”

The demonstrations ended a galvanising week for the Occupy movement after Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old former marine who served in Iraq, was seriously injured by a police projectile during a demonstration in Oakland, California.

Jean Quan, the mayor of Oakland, apologised for the clashes between police and demonstrators on Saturday. In a video statement in which the shouts of protesters rallying outside City Hall could be heard in the background, he said he was “deeply saddened”.

The arrests in Denver came as an early snowstorms hit north-eastern cities, leaving two million people without power and contributing to a quiet weekend for protesters in New York and Boston.

The Boston mayor, Thomas Menino, urged activists who have been camping out on a downtown square for weeks to leave for the night because of the weather. Many, however, braved the cold.

In New York on Friday, city authorities took away generators being used by demonstrators to keep warm and power electronic devices.

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Earthquake Adds Even More Pressure to Relations Between Turks, Kurds October 27, 2011

Sunday’s powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has put the spotlight on relations between Turks and Kurds.

Tragedy and grief

The quake happened a few days after the killing of 24 Turkish soldiers by the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK. The response to the quake, which killed more than 500 people, injured at least 1,600 and left thousands homeless, has seen both a humanitarian outpouring of support but also ugly nationalism by some Turks toward the survivors.


Turkish soldiers carrying the coffins of soldiers who were killed in an attack by members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during funerals in Van, August 18, 2011.

At the same time the predominantly Kurdish region around the city of Van was being devastated by an earthquake, Turks were demonstrating across the country against the recent killing of 24 Turkish soldiers by the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in an outpouring of grief and fury.

Muge Anil controversy

But even as the magnitude of the disaster became clear, with rescue workers battling to save those trapped and tens of thousands of people left destitute, well-known television presenter Muge Anil provoked a storm of controversy by questioning why Turks should help Kurds who are in desperate need in the earthquake area.

She said people should know their place. She said first the Kurds throw stones at Turkish police and kill Turkish soldiers, but when they are in trouble, she said they call the Turkish army and police for help.

After a storm of protests, Anil was forced to apologize. But political columnist Asla Aydintasba, of the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, says Anil’s mistake was to say on televison what many Turks are feeling.

“Coming right after the PKK attack here, when 24 people died, there is a certain amount [of] racism, in some quarters, we see this in social media,” said Aydintasba. “People saying that we are not going to grieve for the earthquake because the people who died did not grieve for the loss of [the] lives of Turkish soldiers. Getting into a cab and start talking to the cab driver, start talking to random people, this resentment towards Kurds does exist. It does signal a deep current underneath which [we] need to really focus on.”

Help vs. hate

But other Turks have reached out to the quake-stricken area. On Wednesday, TV stations ran a nationwide appeal called “One Heart,” raising millions of euros. Calls for warm clothing also have been met with a strong response. But organizers are reporting that they are finding obscene notes condemning Kurds in the pockets of some of the donated clothes. It is such a problem that all items are being searched.

Concern about such ethnic hatred prompted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to angrily condemn it.

He said each word, each phrase, each expression towards discrimination is inhuman, unconscionable. He said he is seeing all this as sickening and that it is enough.

Ethnic polarization

The prime minister should be concerned, according to retired Brigadier General Haldun Solmazturk, who spent much of his career fighting the PKK. He says the past few months have seen an upsurge in fighting, claiming the lives of more than 50 Turkish soldiers. He says this is fueling a deepening and worrying ethnic polarization.


Rescuers work to save people from of collapsed buildings in Ercis, Van, eastern Turkey, October 24, 2011.

“There has been a rapidly growing reaction to the events in southeastern Turkey, especially these ambushes,” he said. “And people are looking for [an] answer, which is not being answered – neither by the politicians and bureaucrats. So the tension is just building up, and this reaction is directed to the Kurdish people. At some stage, this could ignite an actual attack. I am afraid that there is potentially that once sparked, [it] could spread throughout Turkey.”

Observers say the Van area earthquake is now taking on an increasingly symbolic importance – will such a tragedy unite Turkey or further polarize it?


Demonstrators shout slogans and hold Turkey’s national flag during a protest against the latest attacks by Kurdish rebels against the Turkish military in Istanbul, Turkey, October 19, 2011.

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Oakland police fire teargas at Occupy Wall Street protesters October 26, 2011

Hundreds of police swept into Oakland’s Occupy Wall Street protest, launching teargas and beanbag rounds before clearing out an encampment of demonstrators. At least 85 people were arrested when police broke up the camp, sparking fury among activists who have accused authorities of a heavy-handed response to their demonstration

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Panetta Praises China for Response to Taiwan Arms Sale October 23, 2011

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has praised China for its muted reaction to the latest U.S. arms sale to Taiwan.

Last month the Obama administration announced it is providing Taiwan with a multi-billion dollar arms package that includes upgrades to the island’s F-16 fighter jets.

Panetta spoke with reporters on the Indonesian island of Bali where he conferred Sunday with the country’s defense minister, Purnomo Yusgiantoro. The U.S. official said China has handled the Taiwan deal in what he described as a “professional and diplomatic way.”  He suggested that the U.S. administration’s decision to provide Beijing with a “heads up” before the announcement of the sale may have contributed to the measured reaction.

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and considers U.S. arms sales as interference in Beijing’s efforts for reunification.

Panetta also discussed U.S. military ties with Indonesia, which until last year had been frozen for more than a decade over alleged human rights abuses by the country’s special forces known as Kopassus.

The U.S. defense secretary is at the start of an Asian tour that takes him next to Japan and then South Korea. The trip coincides with talks between the United States and North Korea on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. Those talks begin Monday in Geneva.

Before leaving Bali, Panetta is meeting with Indonesia’s president, Bambang Yudhoyono, and also with other defense ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) who have gathered on the resort island.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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