Thursday, August 28, 2008

Do You Want To Save 10% By Opening A Target Visa? Just Kidding!

Reader Nancy says that Target rejected the 10% coupon she received for being a Target Visa card holder. When she asked why, the cashier told her it had probably been used, but had no more information.

I went to use my coupon, which was not expired, and was told it was invalid. The cashier said it was probably used already. Since I knew I hadn't used it, I asked them to tell me when/where it was used. They couldn't tell me for sure why it was rejected, just that the computer wouldn't accept it. Long story short, no one at Target nor the credit card company could tell me when I had supposedly already redeemed this particular coupon.

Basically, it was their word against mine and the Target did not have to bear the burden of proof. They simply reject the coupon and I'm out the 10% I would have saved on my purchases for that day. Maybe they should put this in the fine print of their ads to solicit Target credit cards? They always ask if you want to save 10% today by opening up a Target Redcard.

That's how they get you. They just asked if you "wanted" to save 10%. Ha! Get it? Ok, we're just kidding.

Put on your negotiating pants and calmly tell Target that you're going to cancel your account, transfer your balance, and buy everything at Walmart from now on if they don't send you another coupon — one that works.

Here's some contact information for Target's CEO just in case the negotiations don't go well, but we sincerely hope it doesn't come to that.

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America - The Newest Third World Nation

By the Earl of Stirling

The evil Bush administration has largely completed the process begun years ago of turning America, the most powerful and richest nation in history, into a Third World nation. I remember a lunch, about 21 years ago in Long Beach, California, with the president of an aerospace company, myself, and a senior foreign general. A comment by the general has always stayed with me. He said, “America is a very rich nation, it will take a lot to bring her down”. In the twenty some years after this, I am simply amazed at just how far one crooked president after another, with the assistance of our “bought and paid for” Congress has managed to take us.

Currently we have an economy that is being held together with bailing wire and glue until after the November election. Even CNBC’s Cramer, a capitalist if there ever was one, now says that the American stock market is so rigged that the average person needs to get out NOW (link to a video with him talking about this is .
We have just seen the early stages of systemic problems in the American economy and the global economy with the fallout from the subprime mortgage problems. The real problem is that the “policemen” of the American economy, and to a lessor extent the entire global economy, have “been asleep” at their jobs; and this has not been an accident. Laws have been changed overturning the post-Great Depression rules designed to save the banking industry from itself.
We have had a massive host of new investment vehicles created over the last few years, and in many cases even the people pushing the vehicles do not understand how they work because they have been designed to be so complex as to confuse even the experts. We have $1.2 quadrillion invested in derivates, trillions in collateralized debt obligations and structured investment vehicles ~ and many of these new forms of financial paper are shady in the extreme.
The American economy, and with it the global economy, is being deliberately set up to collapse. One can look to the traditional sources of war, economic crisis, and revolution to find the cause behind the demise of America. The global international banking families fingerprints are all over the programmed fall of America. While they had their hands in the War of 1812, and the Civil War, blackmailed Wilson to get the US into the First World War, placed their puppet FDR in the White House to control (to their designs) the Great Depression and then to bate the Japanese to attack us to get American in the Second World War, the deliberate high treason committed on 9/11 by senior Bush/Cheney administration officials was a new low. We have now experienced almost seven years of wars based on this false flag operation and we are being led into yet another war with Iran (a nation with advanced biological strategic weapons of mass destruction that can kill a third of the world). Additionally the satanic US Vice-President is in Georgia preparing to push the Russians into the coming Third World War; a world war that with current 21st Century weapons will kill most of us.
We are currently witnessing the main stream news media’s massive coverage of the Democratic National Convention, with the follow-on coverage of the Republican National Convention in a couple of weeks. This coverage is designed to convince the American public that “their vote does count”, that the American political system is working for them. This BS/hype is falling on more and more ‘deaf ears’ as more people turn to the alternative internet news sources for the truth. Americans have not forgotten that two years ago they elected a Democratic Congress to end the war in Iraq but instead the Democratic controlled Congress actually increased the funding for the war and the troop levels.

Some thirty-five years ago, we legalized bribery in America by allowing PACs (political action committees). What had been done before under the table, suddenly became legal and this allowed money to elbow out whatever influence the public had in Congress. Unless you are making tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to your congress critter don’t expect him to really care about you or your interest. The average Congressman must raise $40,000 per day for every day that he/she spends in Washington. Not even the most beautiful hooker on earth can rake in that level of money but out Congressmen and Senators do, giving a whole new meaning to the term prostitution.

We have a medical/pharmaceutical industry that is more fraud and rip off than real medicine. Most expensive pharmaceuticals are designed to “treat you” rather than to “cure you” and in fact the treatment usually brings on additional serious health problems. No one can do anything about this as Big Pharma spends untold millions every year buying off Congress.

We have a giant agricultural industry whose genetically modified food is killing off the bees and without the bees, most of us will not have enough food to survive.

A sign of a Third World country is that its systems don’t work well because the government is for sale. When you can bribe anyone in the government to get what you want, regardless of the death and suffering that it causes to the population, that is a sign of very deep sickness in the nation. No society that allows a high level of organic corruption, of the outright buying of votes in its parliament or congress, will function well. That is why so many African and other Third World nations are failed states. This is happening more and more to America.

We are in a madman’s race to see what kills us first, corporate food and medical nightmares or the ever increasing march to global war by the neo-cons.

It breaks my heart to see the great American experiment in democracy fail and fail so horribly. The first Earl of Stirling (Sir William Alexander of Menstrie) was the founder of English-speaking Canada and was the owner of what became several American states and most of Canada. The last claimant (before me) to the Earldom was Major General Lord Stirling of the American Revolutionary Army. He was a key financier of George Washington; took over Washington’s command when he would take a rare leave of absence to return to Mt. Vernon; saved Washington’s army at the Battle of Long Island (which the Earls of Stirling use to own); and gave his fortune and his life to the American nation. On my watch (as Earl), I am seeing America destroyed.

Original here

FDIC may borrow money from Treasury: report

(Reuters) - Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) might have to borrow money from the Treasury Department to see it through an expected wave of bank failures, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The borrowing could be needed to cover short-term cash-flow pressures caused by reimbursing depositors immediately after the failure of a bank, the paper said.

The borrowed money would be repaid once the assets of that failed bank are sold.

"I would not rule out the possibility that at some point we may need to tap into (short-term) lines of credit with the Treasury for working capital, not to cover our losses," Chairman Sheila Bair said in an interview with the paper.

Bair said such a scenario was unlikely in the "near term." With a rise in the number of troubled banks, the FDIC's Deposit Insurance Fund used to repay insured deposits at failed banks has been drained.

In a bid to replenish the $45.2 billion fund, Bair had said on Tuesday that the FDIC will consider a plan in October to raise the premium rates banks pay into the fund, a move that will further squeeze the industry.

The agency also plans to charge banks that engage in risky lending practices significantly higher premiums than other U.S. banks, Bair said.

The last time the FDIC had borrowed funds from the Treasury was at nearly the tail end of the savings-and-loan crisis in the early 1990s after thousands of banks were shuttered.

The fact that the agency is considering the option again, after the collapse of just nine banks this year, illustrates the concern among Washington regulators about the weakness of the U.S. banking system in the wake of the credit crisis, the Journal said.

Original here

Tourists evacuate as Gustav grows near Jamaica

By HOWARD CAMPBELL, Associated Press Writer

KINGSTON, Jamaica - Tropical Storm Gustav surged toward hurricane force on Thursday as it drove toward Jamaica and aimed for the Cayman islands, prompting evacuations of tourists and offshore oil workers. In its wake, impoverished Haitians scrambled for food. Meanwhile, New Orleans kept nervous watch, three years after Katrina's destruction.

Gustav — the cause of flooding and mudslides that killed 23 in Haiti and the Dominican Republic — was nearly stationary about 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of Jamaica's low-lying capital, but it was expected to run west-southwest later in the day, very close to the shore.

Its top sustained winds were just below hurricane strength at about 70 mph (110 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Also Thursday, Tropical Storm Hanna formed in the Atlantic, northeast of the northern Leeward Islands.

It was too early to predict whether Hanna will threaten the United States, but Gustav was already causing jitters from Mexico's Cancun resort to the Florida panhandle. Gustav was projected to become a major Category 3 hurricane over warm and deep Gulf waters, sending oil prices jumping above US$120 a barrel Thursday on fears of production slowdowns.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC has evacuated nearly 400 people and said it will pull out another 270 Thursday, affecting production. BP PLC also removed personnel from the region that produces about a quarter of U.S. crude and much of its natural gas. Transocean, the world's biggest offshore drilling contractor, is suspending operations at all of its rigs and pulling nearly 1,600 people out of the Gulf.

Some models showed Gustav taking a path toward Louisiana and other Gulf states devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita three years ago.

Jamaican authorities urged people in rural areas to seek shelter, but businesses remained open early Thursday in Kingston, where a steady drizzle was falling from dark clouds.

Emergency officials opened shelters and sent relief supplies to flood-prone areas.

Gustav hit Haiti as a hurricane on Tuesday, causing floods and landslides that killed 15 people on Haiti's deforested southern peninsula, where it dumped 12 inches (30 centimeters) or more of rain. A landslide buried eight people, including a mother and six of her children, in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Gustav's projected track pointed directly at the Cayman Islands, an offshore banking center where residents boarded up homes and stocked up on emergency supplies.

Forecasters said Gustav might slip between Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and the western tip of Cuba on Sunday, then March toward a Tuesday collision with the U.S. Gulf Coast — anywhere from south Texas to the Florida panhandle.

"We know it's going to head into the Gulf. After that, we're not sure," said meteorologist Rebecca Waddington at the National Hurricane Center. "For that reason, everyone in the Gulf needs to be monitoring the storm."

New Orleans began planning a possible mandatory evacuation, hoping to prevent the chaos it saw after Hurricane Katrina struck three years ago Friday. Mayor Ray Nagin left the Democratic National Convention in Denver to help the city prepare.

Any damage to the Gulf oil infrastructure could send U.S. gasoline prices spiking.

"A bad storm churning in the Gulf could be a nightmare scenario," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Alaron Trading Corp. in Chicago. "We might see oil prices spike US$5 to US$8 if it really rips into platforms."

Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic were still getting heavy rain Thursday, and rising waters damaged many homes.

In the low-lying Cayman Islands, where Gustav is expected to hit Friday, tourists flocked to the airport to get out before the storm.

Stacey McLaughlan of Albany, New York, said she and her husband were told to leave their resort by noon Thursday or prepare to move to a public shelter.

Cayman Airways pilot Chris Witt says a lot of evacuation flights are planned for Thursday, but McLaughlan said she and her husband had to pay an extra US$1,000 to get out because their airline refused to bring in a plane to return them to the U.S.

Finding affordable food was an immediate priority for many in Haiti. Jean Ramando, an 18-year-old banana grower, said winds tore down a dozen of his family's banana trees, so bushels of 60 bananas they once sold to Port-au-Prince markets for 135 gourdes ($3.55) would have to be moved at prices as high as 300 gourdes ($7.80).

"The wind blew them down quickly so we need to make some money quickly," he said as he carried bushels through floodwaters.

In the Dominican Republic, friends and relatives buried a mother and six of her seven children, smothered when a landslide crushed their tin-roofed shack.

Marcelina Feliz, 32, was found hugging the body of her smallest child, rescue officials said. A neighbor was also killed.

"I don't know how I can live now, because none of my family is left," said Marino Borges, her husband and father of several of her children.

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Within the next 10 years, the U.S., China, Israel, and a host of private companies plan to set up camp on the moon. So if and when they plant a flag, does that give them property rights?

(© NASA)

A NASA working group hosted a discussion this week to ask: Who owns the moon? The answer, of course, is no one. The Outer Space Treaty, the international law signed by more than 100 countries, states that the moon and other celestial bodies are the province of all mankind. No doubt that would irk all of the people throughout the ages, like monks from the Middle Ages, who have tried to claim the moon was theirs.

But ownership is different from property rights. People who rent apartments, for example, don't own where they live, but they still hold rights. So with all of the upcoming missions to visit the moon and beyond, space industry thought leaders are seriously asking themselves how to deal with a potential land rush, cowboy-style.

"This is a very relevant discussion right now. We've got this wave of new lunar missions from around the world," said William Marshall, a scientist in the small-spacecraft office at NASA, but who spoke this week at an event hosted by NASA's CoLab, a collaborative public-private working group. He was speaking from his personal interest and not on behalf of the agency.

To be sure, the United States aims to send astronauts back to the moon by as early as 2015, in a mission that would include a long-term settlement. China and Israel, among others, are also working on lunar projects. And for the first time, several private groups are building spacecraft to land on the moon in an attempt to win millions of dollars in the Google Lunar X Prize. Some participants say that they plan to gain some property rights in the mission.

One of those people is Steve Durst, a director on the board of the International Lunar Observatory (ILO) and owner of the Space Age Publishing Co. He's linked to one of the Google Lunar competitors, Odyssey Moon, and he said during the talk that he hopes to scratch out his initials on one of the legs of a lunar rover and "claim his acre."

His group has calculated that there are about 10 billion acres on the moon, not counting crater slopes. Given that there are about 6.7 billion people on Earth, it aligns nicely with the idea of "I want my acre," he said.

The question is, he said: "How do you get activity going if the moon is owned by everyone at the same time?"

Durst has helped start the ILO in Hawaii to eventually put an astrophysical observatory on the moon that will generate power, communicate, and act as a property rights agent, he said. Durst gave a talk in China last week and he jokingly said that he skipped over the part about property rights.

Ultimately, he thinks it's about balancing the common good and free enterprise. "I'm happy to deed over half of my acre to a common acre pool. I see this as a way of reconciling a right of individual ownership and the idea that the moon belongs to the whole Earth."

The question of lunar rights also hit home when someone from Russia bought part of the Russian rover and then subsequently claimed that he owns a bit of lunar surface under its foot, according to Marshall. Land rights could also get tricky when it comes to coveted areas of the moon with "peaks of eternal light" that could be more valuable for research, he said.

"It's much easier to solve this problem by thinking it through and thinking through what would most benefit the best interest of humanity … rather than doing it once it's a mess," Marshall said.

So, he said, it comes down to assigning rights in the best interest of humanity, including ensuring no monopolies and no military installations.

Entities can apply for space in geostational orbit and receive a slot on a first come, first served basis, according to Marshall. That's an interesting model, he said, because it does that without granting ownership and allows access by less prosperous nations.

"In conclusion: Who owns on the moon? No one. Who should own the moon? No one. Does this stop property rights? No. The best way forward is probably some sort of property licensing body like how it works in geo," he said.

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Military help for Georgia is a 'declaration of war', says Moscow in extraordinary warning to the West

Moscow has issued an extraordinary warning to the West that military assistance to Georgia for use against South Ossetia or Abkhazia would be viewed as a "declaration of war" by Russia.

The extreme rhetoric from the Kremlin's envoy to NATO came as President Dmitry Medvedev stressed he will make a military response to US missile defence installations in eastern Europe, sending new shudders across countries whose people were once blighted by the Iron Curtain.

And Moscow also emphasised it was closely monitoring what it claims is a build-up of NATO firepower in the Black Sea.

Enlarge Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) meets with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - the 'real architect' of the Georgia conflict - and the Security Council (unseen) in Sochi yesterday

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) meets with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - the 'real architect' of the Georgia conflict - and the Security Council (unseen) in Sochi yesterday

The incendiary warning on Western military involvement in Georgia - where NATO nations have long played a role in training and equipping the small state - came in an interview with Dmitry Rogozin, a former nationalist politician who is now ambassador to the North Atlantic Alliance.

"If NATO suddenly takes military actions against Abkhazia and South Ossetia, acting solely in support of Tbilisi, this will mean a declaration of war on Russia," he stated.

Yesterday likened the current world crisis to the fevered atmosphere before the start of the First World War.

Rogozin said he did not believe the crisis would descend to war between the West and Russia.

But his use of such intemperate language will be seen as dowsing a fire with petrol.

Enlarge The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Dallas at Georgia's Black Sea port of Batumi today, carrying what the U.S. says is humanitarian aid

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Dallas at Georgia's Black Sea port of Batumi today, carrying what the U.S. says is humanitarian aid

Top military figure Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy of Geopolitical Studies in Moscow, alleged that the US and NATO had been arming Georgia as a dress rehearsal for a future military operation in Iran.

"We are close to a serious conflict - U.S. and NATO preparations on a strategic scale are ongoing. In the operation the West conducted on Georgian soil against Russia - South Ossetians were the victims or hostages of it - we can see a rehearsal for an attack on Iran."

He claimed Washington was fine tuning a new type of warfare and that the threat of an attack on Iran was growing by the day bringing "chaos and instability" in its wake.

With the real architect of the worsening Georgian conflict - prime minister Vladimir Putin - remaining in the background, Medvedev followed up on Rogozin's broadside with a threat to use the Russian military machine to respond to the deployment of the American anti-missile defence system in Poland and the Czech republic.

Poland agreed this month to place ten interceptor missiles on its territory, and Moscow has already hinted it would become a nuclear target for Russia in the event of conflict.

Enlarge A South Ossetian separatist fighter prepares to fire his weapon as another raises the South Ossetian and Russian flags, in Tskhinvali, the capital of Georgia's separatist-controlled territory of South Ossetia yesterday

A South Ossetian separatist fighter prepares to fire his weapon as another raises the South Ossetian and Russian flags, in Tskhinvali, the capital of Georgia's separatist-controlled territory of South Ossetia yesterday

"These missiles are close to our borders and constitute a threat to us," Medvedev told Al-Jazeera television. "This will create additional tension and we will have to respond to it in some way, naturally using military means."

The Russian president said that offering NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine, two former Soviet republics, would only aggravate the situation.

Moscow has consistently expressed its opposition to the U.S. missile shield, saying it threatens its national security.

The U.S. claims the shield is designed to thwart missile attacks by what it calls "rogue states," including Iran.

Meanwhile, Russia - seen by the West as flouting international law - today demanded NATO abide by an obscure agreement signed before the Second World War limiting its warships in the Black Sea.

Russian ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin

Russian ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin

"In light of the build-up of NATO naval forces in the Black Sea, our fleet has also taken on the task of monitoring their activities," said hawkish deputy head of Russia's general staff, Anatoly Nogovitsyn.

The Montreux Convention, as it is called, sets a weight restriction of 45,000 tonnes on the number of warships that countries outside the Black Sea region can deploy in the basin.

"Can NATO indefinitely build up its forces and means there? It turns out it cannot," said Nogovitsyn.

NATO has said it is undertaking pre-arranged exercises in the Black Sea involving US, German, Spanish and Polish ships. Two other US warships sailed to Georgian waters with humanitarian aid.

Georgia is poised to sever diplomatic relations with Russia, or reduce them to a bare minimum.

"We will drastically cut our diplomatic ties with Russia," said a top official.

President Mikhail Saakashvili said he was frightened to leave Georgia to attend the EU summit on the crisis.

"If I leave Georgia, the Russians will close our airspace and prevent me from returning home," he said.

Russia sought Chinese backing for its action - but the Communist regime in Beijing appeared reluctant to offer support, instead issuing a statement saying it was "concerned" about recent developments.

NATO called for Russia to reverse its decision on recognition for the two enclaves, both Georgian under international law.

But the new 'president' of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoyty, called for Russian military bases on his territory.

French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner warned today that an marauding Russian bear could trample over other ex-Soviet states.

"That is very dangerous," he said, pointing at Ukraine and Moldova.

Original here

'Moscow Has Maneuvered Itself into a Dead End'

Russian President dismayed Western leaders on Tuesday when he recognized the independence of the two Georgian provinces Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Many German commentators argue that Moscow may look strong now, but in reality it is cutting off its nose to spite its face.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has upset the West by recognizing the Georigan breakaway provinces.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has upset the West by recognizing the Georigan breakaway provinces.

Moscow's decision to recognize Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia has made it clear that the current Russian leadership places no great value on ties with the West. That, at least, seems to be the tenor of the response by world leaders to Tuesday's announcement by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Still, despite the harsh words, there seems little the West can do to confront a confrontational Moscow.

Medvedev said on Tuesday that Georgia had forced Russia's hand by trying to reassert control over the two regions, both of which had run their own affairs since wars with Tbilisi in the early 1990s. Georgian troops launched an attack on South Ossetia on Aug. 7 but were quickly forced out of the region by a huge Russian counter-attack which then pushed deep into Georgia proper.

The West had been trying to persuade Russia to withdraw its troops from Georiga, but Moscow continues to maintain a military presence. The decision to recognize the breakaway regions' independence makes the prospects of sending in international observers and peacekeepers to maintain the cease-fire all the more unlikely.

Still, some in Europe are urging the West to keep a level head. In an opinion piece for the tabloid Bild on Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier writes: "By recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia has turned up the heat on the conflict. That is irresponsible. But exactly for that reason, we in the West cannot react without careful thought.... Conflicts can only be solved with one another and in an atmosphere of respect and mutual trust."

On Wednesday German commentators assess the damage Moscow's decision will have on relations with the West. And many argue that it is Russia itself that will suffer the consequences in the long term.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"For weeks Moscow's leadership has been escalating an isolationist furor … The president and government are eagerly breaking bridges that they had carefully built …"

"The exchange of goods, military cooperation on fighting terrorism, diplomatic efforts to keep Iran in check, none of these seem to hold any value for the Russians now."

"It is as if Russia has suddenly woken up and realized that for years it had chased the illusions of compromises and partnerships, and now it is celebrating the break with the West as an act of liberation."

"Moscow sees itself as a new global policeman … the protector of the small nations. However, even small friendly neighboring countries regard this with distrust, looking fearfully at their own Russian minorities, because Russia could use this as a pretext for military action -- as it did in Georgia. Saakashvili had tried to commit genocide and thus had lost his right to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Medvedev said. But the Ingushetians, Chechnians and other countless Caucasus peoples also regard themselves as having been the victims of genocide. Sometimes the perpetrators were from nearby, and sometimes they were sitting in the Kremlin. The shock resulting from Medvedev's decision may be spreading across the Atlantic now, but it could actually cause an earthquake along Russia's restive flanks."

"Moscow wants to dictate its rules to the rest of the world, but for all its oil and gas it is unlikely to succeed. Instead it has maneuvered itself into a dead end, in which compromises that have already been reached seem like defeats. Only Moscow can find its way out again."

The conservative Die Welt writes:

"The Russian leadership duo seem particularly pleased that they can finally answer the diplomatic defeat represented by Kosovo. The method is simple and perfidious: Russia is playing Europe, NATO and the West at their own game. If you want to act out of empathy for the rights of ethnic minorities -- we can too. What Kosovo is to you, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are to us."

"The perfidious part of all this is naturally that Russia couldn’t care less about the rights of minorities -- as it proved in the way it dealt with Chechnya. Their priority is the effort to win back a part of the old territorial and imperial might. And what could be nicer than to do so using Western arguments?"

"It is now clear that this is just the beginning. Ukraine, which is internally divided ... will undoubtedly see its territorial integrity come under pressure."

The business daily Handelsblatt writes:

"One could accuse Russia of naked imperialism if it weren't for Kosovo. The precedent that the West has created on the doorstep of the EU and NATO was a free pass for Moscow to carry out its long prepared Georgia coup."

"It is worrying how quickly feathers have been ruffled. The hot heads in Moscow are already boasting that Russian gas supplies could be turned off if the West has any stupid ideas -- completely misjudging the true power relations. This is pretty absurd as Russia would be cutting off its nose to spite its face if it were to resort to the energy weapon."

"Russia can flex its muscles at the moment because NATO and the EU are finding it difficult to find a common line. … They don’t have any way of applying pressure on Moscow. The withdrawal of the strategic partnership and the refusal of WTO memberships won't leave much of an impression on Moscow. The Kremlin is determined to make trouble and sees confrontation as a sign of political strength. This is certainly a fallacy, but until Moscow realizes this, a lot of diplomatic damage is going to be done."

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"Abkhazia and South Ossetia are now, once and for all, under Russian control. All the Europeans' well-intended plans to send international observers and peacekeepers into the region are now obsolete. The Kremlin has no interest in resolving the conflict with help from outside."

"The way in which Russia has de facto annexed part of another state is brutal but it also creates clarity."

"There is no point in negotiating anything with Russia and that would also send the wrong signal. The EU cannot talk about easing visa restrictions or building up economic cooperation, when the other side has shown that it regards international treaties as little more than scraps of paper. If someone bangs a door shut, there is little point in scratching at it hopefully."

The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:

"There is no question that, according to international law, South Ossetia and Abkhazia belong to Georgia. And undoubtedly the invasion of Georgia by Russia troops is a flagrant violation of international law. Russia is only recognizing the two regions out of pure power political considerations.... However, Moscow has made a volatile decision. One day the forcibly pacified Chechnya -- or indeed Ingushetia and North Ossetia -- could invoke the precedent that has now been created."

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

"Is this act of recognition not the prelude to a new aggressive policy of regaining former (Soviet) Russian territories? Does Putin, the new Czar … want to recreate the vanished empire? This type of speculation is not backed up by the facts. The interests and the power relations between the various powers are too different across the former Soviet Union. That is why South Ossetia/Abkhazia should not be regarded as the writing on the wall. To halt the negotiations over the Georgia crisis now and adopt a common line of confrontation with Russia would be a major mistake."

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"The act of recognition must be seen in context. The secession of the breakaway provinces is a result of Russian aggression; without Russia exerting a dubious influence and stationing troops there, these areas could hardly have been characterized as self-contained entities."

"Through its recognition of part of an independent state, which it had prepared for with illegal force, Russia has violated its duties to the international community. All law-abiding states have to stand together. They must not accept the new situation. The very least that is required is collective protest. Sanctions are another possibility … In the end one of the foundations of the international order is at stake."

Original here

Two-headed boy born in Bangladesh

The boy, named Kiron, was born by Cesarean section on August 25, weighing 5.5 kilogrammes
The boy was born by Cesarean section on August 25, weighing 12 lbs 1 oz Photo: AFP

The boy, named Kiron and weighing 12 lbs 1 oz, was born by Cesarean section on Monday at a clinic in Keshobpur, 85 miles from the capital, Dhaka.

But an estimated 150,000 people from the region descended on the clinic to try to catch sight of the boy so he was moved to a larger hospital. Police are now mounting a round-the-clock operation to protect him and his family from intrusion.

Dr Mohamad Abdul Bari, his mother's gynaecologist, said: "He has one stomach and he is eating normally with his two mouths. He has one genital organ and a full set of limbs.

"He was born from one embryo but there was a developmental anomaly."

The clinic had been unable to determine whether the baby had one or two sets of vital organs, Dr Bari said.

Kiron's life was not in immediate danger but he and his 22-year-old mother were moved to the hospital in the nearby city of Jessore city because of the large crowds that had gathered at the clinic, the doctor said.

"Around 150,000 people gathered yesterday from different areas. It became tough for us to care for the baby.

"We called police to tackle the situation and they are guarding the hospital in Jessore as well," he said.

The Samakal newspaper said that many well-wishers had left money for the baby's family.

Original here

Russia Backs Independence of Georgian Enclaves


Olga Kravets/European Pressphoto Agency

News from Russia set off celebrations in Abkhazia on Tuesday.

MOSCOW — Russia on Tuesday recognized the independence of two enclaves that have long sought to secede from neighboring Georgia. The action deepened strains with the West over the conflict in the economically vital crossroads of the Caucasus and roiled a broader debate over how to respond to separatist movements around the world.

The Russian decision was intended to consolidate its political and military gains in the two and a half weeks since it invaded Georgia after hostilities flared over the breakaway territory of South Ossetia, an ally of Moscow.

The Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, declared in a nationally televised address that South Ossetia and the other pro-Russian enclave, Abkhazia, would never again have to endure what he described as oppressive Georgian rule.

“This is not an easy choice, but it is the only way to save the lives of people,” Mr. Medvedev said.

With Russia’s image and financial markets suffering in recent days, Mr. Medvedev took the unusual step of giving a series of interviews to foreign media on Tuesday to explain the move. He said Russia had abided by international law in recognizing the two enclaves, but he left no doubt that the decision was in part retaliation for the West’s support earlier this year for the independence of Kosovo from Serbia, which Russia had opposed.

The United States and its allies denounced the decision, saying that Georgia must not be broken apart and contending that Russia was violating the cease-fire framework that it signed to halt the fighting. The Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, accused Russia of trying to annex South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

“This is a challenge for the entire world,” Mr. Saakashvili said. “Not just Georgia.”

In Washington, President Bush said, “Russia’s action only exacerbates tensions and complicates diplomatic negotiations.”

While the dispute centers on two slices of land, it has been playing out against a much broader backdrop of historic antagonism among the major powers over separatist movements.

World leaders have for years struggled to determine which ones to recognize, often making decisions and then trying to limit the repercussions by warning that each situation is unique.

The questions now are: whether that hesitance to bestow recognition could be eroding, as witnessed by Kosovo and Russia’s action in Georgia; and whether other independence movements will use the recognition of the two enclaves to further their own ambitions by citing similar grievances. Not far from Georgia, for example, is an Armenian enclave that wants to secede from Azerbaijan, and Kurdish separatists are seeking their own homeland in regions of Turkey and Iraq.

In the past, most countries feared that if they waded into one such conflict, it could be used against them in a future one. On Tuesday, no other big power followed Moscow’s lead and voiced support for South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s independence.

Many in Abkhazia have expressed the desire to be separate both from Georgia and Russia — and some experts say it might be viable as an independent nation, albeit a very small one, because of its larger size and busy port.

South Ossetia, in contrast, has only 70,000 people and borders on the Russian region of North Ossetia. Suspicions have long arisen that after seceding from Georgia, South Ossetia would be absorbed by Russia and joined with North Ossetia — and most Ossetians say they support that.

The Kremlin said Tuesday that it had no plans to take over South Ossetia. It has already given Russian passports to many residents of both places, thereby widening its influence.

Mr. Medvedev announced the enclaves’ independence with unexpected swiftness, only a day after the Russian Parliament unanimously called upon him to do so. Diplomats and analysts had surmised that the Kremlin might draw the process out as part of negotiations with the West.

But tensions between the sides have been escalating, and not only over the status of the regions. On Tuesday, Russian military and diplomatic officials continued to complain about NATO efforts to assist Georgia, suggesting that the alliance might be trying to send military equipment, rather than humanitarian aid. The Russians also expressed discomfort about the presence of NATO ships in the Black Sea off the coast of Georgia.

Russia has for months been seething over the West’s decision this year to recognize Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, a traditional Russian ally. The Russians were especially angered when Western diplomats emphasized that Kosovo was not any sort of precedent and had no bearing on the standing of the breakaway enclaves in Georgia.

As if to drive home the idea that recognition of the enclaves was in some sense payback, Mr. Medvedev used an interview on Tuesday with Russia Today, the Kremlin-financed English-language channel, to turn the West’s rationale on Kosovo against it.

“There was a special situation in Kosovo, there is a special situation in South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” he said. “Speaking about our situation, it is obvious that our decision is aimed at preventing the genocide, the elimination of a people, and helping them get on their feet.”

Still, Russia, a sprawling nation with many nationalities, has faced its own secessionist pressures, notably in the Muslim region of Chechnya, where Moscow has fought two wars to crush an independence movement. Even as they were hailing the independence of the two enclaves, Russian officials were trying to explain why Chechnya did not deserve the same right.

They contended that when Chechnya had had autonomy in the late 1990s, it became a source of tremendous instability, and Russia had no choice but to reassert complete control.

“You know what they did to their own place,” the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said Tuesday. “They turned it into a place where international terrorists were feeling at home.”

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, this part of the world has been a locus of the problem of addressing separatist aspirations.

For a time, a consensus developed in the West, but with two aims that sometimes appeared to be in conflict. On one hand, the allies, led by the United States, were quick to recognize the independence of former Soviet republics, including Georgia itself, the better to wrest these countries away from Russia’s orbit and into the arms of the West.

“Depending on where you sat, you could easily call those places breakaway republics,” said Derek Chollet, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, adding that many hard-liners in Russia did see those countries as breakaway regions.

On the other hand, a post-cold-war understanding, hardened by the experience in Bosnia, developed that the West should be very careful about recognizing breakaway regions, so as not to set a precedent, or embolden secessionist areas, Mr. Chollet said.

That consensus held until February, when Kosovo declared independence, and the West said Serbia lost its right to Kosovo because of actions over the years by the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006.

Igor Lukes, a professor of international relations at Boston University, said international law contained clear standards for evaluating whether an independence movement should be recognized, in part based upon whether such a territory has well-defined borders, a well-established central authority and a populace that strongly desires secession.

The problem is that these judgments typically become hostage to conflicts between large nations, as in the case of Kosovo, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Mr. Lukes said.

“These situations are not really murky,” he said. “What makes the situations murky is each superpower tries to exploit ad hoc situations as they emerge to advance its interests and to hurt its rivals. It’s really the way the superpowers manipulate the reality. It’s not the reality that is complicated.”

On the border area around Russia and South Ossetia on Tuesday, there was mostly joy. Hundreds of South Ossetians streamed south to their homes, buoyed by Russia’s decision.

At a rest home in Alagir, an hour’s drive from the border, aid workers sat alone, eating sardines. It was one of the first moments since the crisis began early this month when they looked out at an empty dormitory.

Three hundred refugees had left in the morning, and 400 more were expected to pass through on Wednesday on their way to the narrow Roki Tunnel, which cuts through the nearly vertical ridge of the Caucasus to South Ossetia.

“This was the only hope of people who live on the other side of the pass to return to a normal way of life,” said Avan Galachiyev, an agent of the Federal Migration Service who had been helping the refugees.

Artur Dzhoiyev, whose family fled their village, Hampalgon, 18 years ago, was thinking idly about returning to his “historic motherland,” maybe building a house.

Now, he reasoned, things would be different. No Georgian checkpoints, no need to lurch along rocky bypass roads, no rooting for documents under the hostile gaze of soldiers.

The Georgians, Mr. Galachiyev said, have lost control of the road.

“And they won’t get it back,” he said.

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Chinese cop-killer becomes internet hero

By Malcolm Moore, Shanghai Correspondent

Yang Jia, a Chinese man accused of murdering six policemen, has become an internet hero
Mr Yang is rumoured to have been badly beaten and maimed by police

Yang Jia, a 28-year-old unemployed man from Beijing, appeared in court in Shanghai charged with an alleged attack against the police on July 1, the anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.

Mr Yang is said to have thrown molotov cocktails into a police station in Zhabei, a northern suburb of the city, before entering the building and attacking a group of unarmed officers with a knife. He was arrested at the scene.

However, instead of condemnation, he has received widespread approval from Chinese internet users, or netizens, for his apparent act of defiance.

He has become a symbol for the growing number of people who are attacking Chinese police in protest at the brutality of the state.

Mr Yang has even been compared to Wu Song, one of the greatest heroes in Chinese literature, who killed a tiger with his bare hands.

One message left on his MySpace page said: "You have done what most people want to do, but do not have enough courage to do".

The prosecution said Mr Yang had acted out of "revenge" after he was caught by police riding an unlicensed bicycle last October and interrogated. He later sued the Shanghai police for 10,000 yuan (£803) for psychological damage, but his claim was rejected.

Mr Yang is rumoured to have been badly beaten and maimed by police.

One blogger, Zi Bingyue, wrote: "Yang Jia is not bad. He has no previous criminal record. On the contrary, he has a strong sense of the law. He gave seats to older people on the bus and carried luggage for weak travellers."

His father, Yang Fu, said his son must "have been greatly wronged" and added that he hoped Mr Yang's almost inevitable death sentence would help spur the Chinese legal system to change in the future.

Another blogger, Qing Feng, wrote that Mr Yang had been ground down by the reality of being unemployed in China. "He would have self-destructed one way or another since he has lost hope. He has no job, no degree, no income, no background, no relationship or normal family," he said.

Since Mr Yang's arrest, his lawyers have been uncontactable. An attempt by the Telegraph to trace them to a second-floor office in north Shanghai was met with a simple note saying that the office would be closed for the foreseeable future.

In addition, blogs mentioning Mr Yang have been deleted and bloggers have been told by websites that sensitive articles will be blocked.

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Russia cruiser to test weapons in crowded Black Sea

Russia's flagship cruiser has re-entered the Black Sea for weapons tests hours after the Russian military complained about the presence of US and other Nato naval ships near the Georgian coast.

The 'Moskva' had led a battle group of Russian naval vessels stationed off the coastline of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia during Russia's recent conflict with Georgia and sank smaller Georgian craft.

The assistant to the Russian Navy's commander-in-chief told Russian news agencies the cruiser had put to sea again two days after returning to its base at the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol.

"'Moskva' has today departed toward the Black Sea Fleet's naval training range to check its radio-controlled weapons and onboard communications systems," Captain Igor Dygalo was quoted as saying by Interfax.

The Russian navy's press office was unable to confirm his comments when contacted by Reuters.

The presence of so many ships from Nato countries earlier drew the ire of a Russian military spokesman during a daily media briefing on the conflict.

"The fact that there are nine Western warships in the Black Sea cannot but be a cause for concern. They include two US warships, one each from Spain and Poland, and four from Turkey," Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of the Russian military's General Staff said.

On Sunday, the US guided missile destroyer USS McFaul arrived with aid including camp beds, bedding, tents and mobile kitchen units, the US Defence Department spokesman Bryan. Whitman said.

Separately, the US Coast Guard cutter Dallas has been dispatched with aid, while a third vessel, the Navy command ship USS Mount Whitney, is being loaded in Italy with humanitarian supplies for Georgia, he said.

The Nato ships in the Black Sea are carrying more than 100 'Tomahawk' cruise missiles, with more than 50 onboard the USS McFaul alone that could hit ground targets, reported RIA news agency, quoting unnamed sources in Russian military intelligence.

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