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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…

White House reveals plans to boost cars’ fuel efficiency November 17, 2011

The Obama administration proposed Wednesday increasing cars’ fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, a White House energy priority that has come under scrutiny in Congress.

The plan grew out of an uneasy agreement between the administration, automakers and environmental groups to reduce US dependence on oil imports and cut tailpipe emissions.

Regulators hope to finalise the proposal by summer following a 60-day public comment period. The administration wants to give industry five years to develop fuel-saving technologies further and plan products before the rule would start taking effect in 2017.

“We expect this programme will not only save consumers money, but ensure automakers have the regulatory certainty they need to make key decisions,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

Current standards require automakers to raise efficiency from 27 miles per gallon today to 35.4mpg by 2016.

Targets beginning in 2017 would require a 5% annual efficiency gain for cars and 3.5 to 5% for light trucks, which include SUVs, pick-ups and vans.

Thirteen major automakers, including General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Honda have signed on to the fuel deal.

Automakers – especially truck-heavy US vehicle producers – consider the 54.5 mpg target ambitious, and the proposal estimates it could cost them $157bn to meet it.

“The proposed regulations present aggressive targets, and the administration must consider that technology breakthroughs will be required and consumers will need to buy our most energy-efficient technologies in very large numbers to meet the goals,” Mitch Bainwol, chief executive of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers trade group, said in a statement.

President Barack Obama has made fuel efficiency a signature environmental and energy priority since cars and trucks account for 20% of carbon emissions and more than 40% of US oil consumption.

But the role of federal environmental regulators and the state of California – a leader in efforts to reduce emissions – in developing auto standards has rankled the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Republican members of the Oversight Committee, who are scrutinising Obama’s “green economy” agenda, have challenged administration assumptions on who can regulate gas mileage and emissions under federal law.

It is unclear whether the panel’s investigation would slow or derail the regulation, especially should Obama fail to win re-election next November.

The proposal envisions reducing oil imports by 2.2m barrels per day by 2025, offsetting almost a quarter of current American use of foreign petroleum.

The average fuel economy for new vehicles is now 2.5mpg more than four years ago, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Automakers would rely on numerous conventional engine, transmission and component technologies and lighter vehicle designs to meet the new standard, even though Obama is pushing further electric and hybrid car improvements and the plan includes strong incentives for their development.

GM’s Chevy Cruze, Ford’s Focus and Hyundai Motor’s Elantra are new, small car entrants powered by conventional engines that are popular with consumers as gasoline prices now average about $3.43 per gallon in a rough economy.

Dozens of fuel-efficient vehicles were on display at this week’s Los Angeles Auto show.

“Our surveys show car buyers want better fuel standards, particularly because they want to spend less on gasoline,” said Shannon Baker Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union.

Efficiency improvements would save consumers an average of up to $6,600 in fuel costs over the lifetime of a model-year 2025 vehicle, but they would pay up to $2,200 on average for more fuel efficient vehicles, according to the proposal.

Although environmental groups pushed for a tougher standard, they lined up behind the proposal. They said, however, that actual fuel economy would come in lower than 54.5mpg due to real-world driving factors.

They also said regulators still need to tighten provisions favoring production of less efficient, bigger pickups and SUVs, a complaint of European automakers that did not sign on to the agreement.

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Bullet ‘hit White House window’ November 16, 2011

The window thought to have been hit is on the south side of the White House

Two bullets have been found at the White House, one of which struck a protective window when it was fired, the US Secret Service says.

The casings were found on the grounds during a probe launched after gunshots were fired nearby late last week.

The US Parks Police now says it is searching for a 21-year-old man, Oscar Ramiro Ortega, over the shooting.

The bullets have not yet been “conclusively connected” to the shooting, the Secret Service told AFP.

“An assessment of the exterior of the White House is ongoing,” the service told the news agency.

Tattoos

The discovery of the bullets, which were found on Tuesday, follows reports of gunfire between the White House and the Washington Monument at about 21:30 local time on Friday evening.

Oscar Ortega has been linked to Friday evening’s shooting

Witnesses heard shots and saw two speeding vehicles in the area. An AK-47 rifle was also recovered, the Associated Press reported.

In a blog post issued by the US Parks Police, Sgt David Schlosser said the investigation into the shooting near the White House had led to them to issue a warrant for the arrest of Mr Ortega.

“As the investigation unfolded, the US Park Police located a vehicle in the 2300 block of Constitution Avenue,” Sgt Schlosser said, some seven blocks away from the White House.

“Evidence in the vehicle led to us obtaining an arrest warrant for Oscar Ortega.”

Mr Ortega is described as a white Hispanic male of medium build, with several distinguishing tattoos – including three dots on his right hand, his name across his back and the word Israel tattooed on his neck.

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Kidnapped US baseball player rescued November 14, 2011

With tears in his eyes, Wilson Ramos, a catcher for the Washington Nationals professional baseball team in the US, embraced his rescuers and said he had wondered whether he would survive a kidnapping ordeal that ended when Venezuelan commandos swept into his captors’ mountain hideout.

Ramos said he was thankful to be alive and described his “hair-raising” final moments as a prisoner during the rescue on Saturday, when soldiers exchanged heavy gunfire with the kidnappers in the remote area where he was being held.

He said his kidnappers had carefully planned the abduction and told him they were going to demand a large ransom.

“I didn’t know if I was going to get out of it alive,” Ramos told reporters at a police station in his hometown of Valencia, flanked by police investigators, national guard commanders and the country’s justice minister, Tareck El Aissami. “It was very hard for me. It was very hard for my family.”

El Aissami said the authorities had arrested four of the captors, all of them Venezuelan men in their 20s. A 60-year-old woman and a 74-year-old man were also arrested as accomplices for supplying the kidnappers with food, he said.

The six suspects were led past journalists at the police station with black hoods over their heads.

The authorities were still searching for at least four Colombian men who escaped during the rescue, El Aissami said. He did not say whether anyone was wounded in the gun battle.

Ramos, 24, was seized at gunpoint outside his mother’s home in Valencia, 90 miles from Caracas, on Wednesday night and taken away in a 4×4. It was the first known kidnapping of a Major League Baseball player in Venezuela, and the abduction set off a series of candlelit vigils and public prayers at stadiums as well as outside Ramos’s house.

El Aissami said investigators’ first break in the case came when they found the kidnappers’ stolen Chevrolet vehicle abandoned in the town of Bejuma alongside the mountains of central Carabobo state.

With that location pinpointed, he said, they studied past crimes in the area and ended up checking on a rural house that authorities believed had been used in a previous kidnapping.

A 4×4 parked outside had mud on it even though there was no mud in the area, El Aissami said.

Investigators suspected that the vehicle was being used to shuttle food to another spot nearby, and eventually determined the house was probably being used by the kidnappers as a support base while holding Ramos elsewhere.

El Aissami said authorities took over the house and detained the couple who had been cooking for the abductors.

Once investigators thought they had found the general area where Ramos might be, President Hugo Chávez personally authorised an aerial search mission and teams also set out on foot in the mountainous area, El Aissami said.

Teams searched most of the day on Friday and finally came upon the remote house where Ramos was being held.

Chavez followed the operation “minute by minute,” the justice minister said.

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Wilson Ramos kidnapping vehicle found in Venezuela November 10, 2011

Officials said on Thursday they have found the vehicle used by armed men who abducted Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, in a case that highlights a sharp rise in kidnappings for ransom in Venezuela.

Police found the kidnappers’ vehicle abandoned in a nearby town Thursday morning and were gathering evidence, Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami told reporters.

“It’s a very important find,” he said, vowing to rescue Ramos and capture his abductors. He said anti-kidnapping units led by “the best investigators we have” were dispatched to the area in central Carabobo state.

The 24-year-old Venezuelan player, who had just finished his rookie season, was seized from his home in the town of Santa Ines by kidnappers on Wednesday night.

“The abductors haven’t made contact with the family or with anyone,” said Domingo Alvarez, vice president of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, in a telephone interview. “We’re worried.”

Ramos was taken away in an SUV by four armed men from his home, spokeswoman Katherine Vilera of his Venezuelan team, the Aragua Tigers, said on her official Twitter account.

Police last year said that 618 kidnappings were reported in 2009, and the numbers have grown rapidly in recent years. In 1998, when President Hugo Chavez was elected, just 52 kidnappings were reported. Security experts say the real number of kidnappings today is much higher because many cases aren’t reported to authorities.

The wealthy in Venezuela have taken steps to protect themselves; sales of armored cars have soared in the past several years. Bodyguards typically shadow Major League Baseball players when they return to their homeland to play in the winter league.

“Every major league player has his own security, but we don’t know if at that time he had his security there,” Alvarez said. He said it’s the first time a Major League player has been abducted in the country, though other players’ relatives have been held for ransom in the past.

A person close to Ramos’ family, who asked not to be identified by name due to safety concerns, said the catcher was at home with his father and brothers when several men “entered the house and took him away.”

Drew Storen, a relief pitcher for the Nationals, tweeted his concerns: “Extremely upsetting news about Ramo. Thoughts and prayers with him. Scary situation.”

Ramos is considered one of the key young players for the Nationals as they try to become a contender in the National League East. As a rookie in 2011, he hit .267 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs in 113 games. He also threw out 19 of 67 runners attempting to steal a base, a 28% success rate that ranked third among qualifying catchers in the National League.

Washington acquired Ramos from the Minnesota Twins in a trade for All-Star relief pitcher Matt Capps in July 2010.

Venezuela is home to dozens of major league players and Alvarez said they are increasingly worried about the rise in kidnappings. Relatives of several players already have been seized.

In November 2009, the 56-year-old mother of Victor Zambrano, who retired after a seven-year major league career, was rescued in a commando-style operation three days after she was kidnapped. The former pitcher’s cousin, Richard Mendez Zambrano, had been kidnapped a few days earlier, and was later killed.

In June 2009, Colorado Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba’s 11-year-old son and brother-in-law were kidnapped and released a day later.

The mother of former player Ugueth Urbina, who was a two-time All-Star pitcher while playing for six teams, spent more than five months in captivity until she was rescued in early 2005.

Ramos’ abduction “makes us worry, makes us stay alert facing a situation that is truly dramatic and unfortunate,” Alvarez said.

Venezuela has one of Latin America’s highest murder rates, and violent crime has worsened in recent years. As ransom kidnapping has soared, the government passed a revised law in 2009 that stiffened prison sentences for kidnapping and also allows authorities to freeze the banks accounts of victims’ families to prevent them from paying ransom.

Former Boston Red Sox slugger Tony Armas, who lives in Venezuela, said young players have been taking additional security measures due to the risk of kidnappings.

“But many of them are careless sometimes. No one seriously thinks that this can happen to us, and much less in a country like ours where people love baseball,” Armas said in a telephone interview.

“Most of us came from humble families. We still have relatives who live in poor areas, we frequent those places and unfortunately the criminals are getting more soulless all the time,” he said.

Ramos had been training before next week’s season opener with his Venezuelan team and Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Melvin Mora, also a Venezuelan, proposed that the Venezuelan league ought to call off its games “until he appears.”

But league president Jose Grasso said that won’t happen. “Turning out the stadium lights isn’t a solution,” Grasso said, calling Ramos’ abduction “an isolated event.”

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At least 17 killed in Kabul bomb attack October 31, 2011


October 30, 2011

by legitgov

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At least 17 killed in Kabul bomb attack 29 Oct 2011 At least 17 people were killed in central Kabul on Saturday when a suicide bomber struck a vehicle in a military convoy, according to officials. Five troops and eight civilians were killed in the attack, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said. Afghan officials said four Afghans, including two students, were also killed. Among the dead was Master Corporal Byron Greff, a Canadian, according to the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command. It was not immediately clear whether he was included in the ISAF-provided figure.

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