Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gulf beaches hit as distant hurricane pushes oil

Crews aboard vessels around the drillship Discoverer Enterprise 
continue operations to minimize the impact from the BP Deepwater Horizon
 oil spill in Reuters – Crews aboard vessels around the drillship Discoverer Enterprise continue operations to minimize the impact …

GRAND ISLE, La. – Rough seas generated by Hurricane Alex pushed more oil from the massive spill onto Gulf coast beaches as cleanup vessels were sidelined by the far-away storm's ripple effects.
The hurricane was churning coastal waters across the oil-affected region on the Gulf of Mexico. Waves as high as 6 feet and winds over 25 mph were forecast through Thursday just off shore from the Mississippi Delta in Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.
In Louisiana, the storm pushed an oil patch toward Grand Isle and uninhabited Elmer's Island, dumping tar balls as big as apples on the beach.
"The sad thing is that it's been about three weeks since we had any big oil come in here," marine science technician Michael Malone said. "With this weather,we lost all the progress we made."
The loss of skimmers, combined with gusts driving water into the coast, left beaches especially vulnerable. In Alabama, the normally white sand was streaked with long lines of oil. One swath of beach 40 feet wide was stained brown and mottled with globs of oil matted together.
Dozens of vessels that were being used to combat the oil spill were tied to docks Tuesday as Alex, more than 500 miles away, approached the Texas-Mexico coast. Most days, the fleet would have been skimming oil from the Gulf and ferrying workers and supplies. But the hurricane turned many people fighting the 11-week-old spill into spectators. And they will be for days.
The nasty weather will likely linger in the Gulf through Thursday, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian LaMarre said.
Officials scrambled to reposition boom to protect the coast, and had to remove barges that had been blocking oil from reaching sensitive wetlands. Those operations could soon get a boost. The U.S. accepted offers of help from 12 countries and international organizations. Japan, for instance, was sending two skimmers and boom.
Alex is projected to head for the Texas-Mexico border region and stay far from the spill zone off the Louisiana coast. It is not expected to affect work at the site of the blown-out well. But the storm's outer edges complicated the cleanup.
Early Wednesday, Alex had maximum sustained winds near 80 mph (130 kph). The National Hurricane Center said the Category 1 storm is the first June Atlantic hurricane since 1995. It is on track for the Texas-Mexico border region and expected to make landfall Wednesday night.
Skimming efforts off the coasts of Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi had mostly stopped.
At the main staging area for oil cleanup efforts around Grand Isle, stacks of boom, bottled water, ice chests and cleaning materials stood ready to load up when the work restarted.
Brothers Otis and Vahn Butler of Houma got there jobs just three days ago.
"I like the work," Otis Butler said. "We've been steady busy until today. Now we're mostly standing around and looking around. We just find things to do when we can today. But once this is over, I bet we'll be twice as busy."
Scientists have said the rough seas and winds, though, could actually help break apart the oil and make it evaporate faster.
The wave action, combined with dispersants sprayed by the Coast Guard, have helped break a 6-by-30-mile oil patch into smaller patches, Coast Guard Cmdr. Joe Higgens said.
"It's good news because there is less on the surface," Higgens said. "It's surface oil that washes up on the beaches."
On the beach, cleanup workers struggled with wind that blew sand into their eyes and mouths and humidity that let the sand stick to their skin.
Jefferson Parish Council member Chris Roberts said the oil was entering passes Tuesday at Barataria Bay, home to diverse wildlife. A day earlier, barges that had been placed in the bay to block the oil were removed because of rough seas. Boom was being displaced and had to be repositioned, he said in an e-mail.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement said 28 platforms and three rigs in the path of the storm in the western Gulf have been evacuated. Still in the water are vessels being used to capture or burn spewing oil and gas and those drilling relief wells that officials say are the best hope for stopping the leak for good.
Hurricane warnings were posted for parts of the coast along Mexico and Texas. Except for the border area itself, though, most of the warning area is lightly populated.
So far, between 70.8 million gallons and 137.6 million of oil have spewed into the Gulf from the broken BP well, according to government and BP estimates. The higher estimate is enough oil to fill half of New York's Empire State Building with oil.
More containment help could be arriving after the storm lets up. Mexico, Norway, Holland and Japan are providing skimmers; Canada is providing containment boom; and Croatia is pitching in with technical advice. Only one offer has been rejected, according to the chart. Dispersant chemicals offered by France are not approved for use in the U.S.
The U.S. rarely faces a disaster of such magnitude that it requires international aid, though it did accept assistance after Hurricane Katrina.
___
Associated Press writers Jay Reeves in Gulf Shores, Ala., Kevin McGill and Michael Kunzelman in New Orleans and Matthew Lee in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Russia plays down US spy arrests

Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Wednesday, 30 June 2010 11:31 UK

A photo said to be of suspect Anna Chapman on the Russian social 
networking website "Odnoklassniki", or Classmates A social network image said to be of suspect Anna Chapman
Moscow has played down the arrest of alleged Russian spies in the US, saying the issue would "not negatively affect relations".
The Russian foreign ministry said it had "noted" a similar White House statement that ties should not be hurt.
Russia had said on Tuesday that the US charges were baseless and a throwback to the Cold War. PM Vladimir Putin said US police had "let themselves go".
Ten people were arrested in the US and one in Cyprus after an FBI inquiry.
A Russian foreign ministry spokesman, quoted by the Interfax news agency, said on Wednesday: "We expect that the incident involving the arrest in the United States of a group of people suspected of spying for Russia will not negatively affect Russian-US relations.
"In this connection, we take note of the statement of White House official representative Robert Gibbs."
We're beyond the Cold War; our relations absolutely demonstrate that
Phil Gordon US European affairs official District Court complaint 1 [PDF] District Court complaint 2 [PDF] Suburban lives of agent suspects The FBI's 'spy novel' allegations Ambivalent relationship
On Tuesday Mr Gibbs said: "I think we have made a new start to working together on things like the United Nations, dealing with North Korea and Iran.
"I do not think that this will affect those relations."
US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Phil Gordon echoed Mr Gibbs, saying: "We're moving towards a more trusting relationship. We're beyond the Cold War; our relations absolutely demonstrate that."
But he added: "I don't think anyone was hugely shocked to know that some vestiges of old attempts to use intelligence are still there."
Russia had initially reacted strongly to the allegations, rejecting them as groundless and saying they could damage the attempts to "reset" US-Russian relations.
Mr Putin had said he hoped the new relationship would be "preserved", but he also said: "Your police have let themselves go. They are putting people to prison."
'Tip of the iceberg' Russian media on Wednesday said the issue reflected a rift between the FBI and the Obama administration.
[Ms Chapman] is someone who has extraordinary training, who is a sophisticated agent of Russia
Michael Farbiarz Assistant US attorney Cold War meets 'burger summit' Profile: Russia's SVR agency Russian Spies: Your comments Long history of deep-cover 'illegals'
The Moskovsky Komsomolets said "the main target in this story is Obama who has a lot of ill-wishers in his own country".
Kommersant said top Russian officials had been ordered not to comment on the matter.
The 10 people arrested in the US are accused of conspiracy to act as unlawful agents of a foreign government, a crime less serious than espionage but which carries up to five years in prison.
Eight also face a charge of conspiracy to launder money.
The 11th suspect, arrested on Tuesday on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, is awaiting extradition to the US on suspicion of espionage and money laundering.
The arrests came just days after a US visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Sources in the US say the FBI had had to move because one of the suspects, reported to be 28-year-old Anna Chapman, was set to leave for Moscow.
Ms Chapman has been painted as the femme fatale of the alleged spy ring, with several glamorous photos posted on her page on the Facebook social networking site.
Vladimir Putin, 29 June Vladimir Putin said US police had "let themselves go" She was reportedly lured to a Manhattan coffee shop by an undercover FBI agent after which, in an intercepted phone call, she was told her cover may have been blown and she should leave the US.
Assistant US Attorney Michael Farbiarz told Associated Press that Ms Chapman was "someone who has extraordinary training, who is a sophisticated agent of Russia".
He said the arrests were "the tip of the iceberg" of the workings of Russia's SVR intelligence agency.
According to US court papers, most of those arrested purported to be citizens of the US or Canada.
The 11 were allegedly part of an operation where agents posed as ordinary citizens, some living together as couples for years. In security circles such agents are known as "illegals" or "sleepers".
'Secret messages' They were allegedly trained by the SVR to infiltrate policy-making circles and collect information, according to papers filed in New York.
Investigators say some of the agents had been using false identities since the early 1990s, using codes and engaging in advanced computer operations, including posting apparently innocent pictures on the internet which contained hidden text.
Five of the suspects briefly appeared in a Manhattan federal court on Monday, where a judge ordered them to remain in prison until a preliminary hearing set for 27 July.
These included Ms Chapman, a couple known as Richard Murphy and Cynthia Murphy, who were arrested in Montclair, New Jersey; and Vicky Pelaez and a man known as Juan Lazaro who were arrested in Yonkers, New York state.
Another three - Mikhail Semenko and a couple known as Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills - appeared in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, after being arrested in Arlington, Virginia.
The final two people - a couple known as Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley - were arrested in Boston, Massachusetts, and appeared in a federal court in the city.
All the suspects except Ms Chapman and Mr Semenko have also been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

LPP Archive...

US couple plead guilty to spying for Cuba over 30 years

An elderly US couple charged with spying for Cuba for almost 30 years have pleaded guilty, with the husband agreeing to serve a life sentence, the US Justice Department said.

US couple plead guilty to spying for Cuba over 30 years
Walter had been known as Agent 202 and Gwendolyn was Agent 123 Photo: AFP
 
Walter Myers, 72, a former State Department official with top-secret security clearance, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage and two counts of wire fraud, according to the department.
His wife, Gwendolyn Myers, 71, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to gather and transmit national defence information to Washington's Cold War enemy Havana, and will serve between six and 7.5 years behind bars.
The pair also agreed to forfeit $1,735,054 – the total salary Myers earned from the US government between 1983 and 2007, when he made repeated false statements to investigators about his security status.
"For the past 30 years, this couple betrayed America's trust by covertly providing classified national defence information to the Cuban government. Today, they are being held accountable for their actions," David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.
"These guilty pleas should serve notice that we remain vigilant in protecting our nation's secrets and in bringing to justice those who compromise themnstitute in Arlington, Virginia.
But from 1988 to 1999 he began to work for the department's bureau of intelligence and research (INR). In 1985, he was given top-secret security clearance which was then upgraded to a higher level in 1999.
By the time he retired, Myers was working as a senior Europe analyst at INR and had daily access to classified information stored on computer databases, the Justice Department said.
A scan of his computer showed that from August 2006 until his retirement in October 2007 Myers had viewed more than 200 sensitive or classified intelligence reports on Cuba, which has been under a US embargo since 1962.
The couple would allegedly get encrypted messages from Cuba via short-wave radio, and Gwendolyn Myers, who worked as an analyst at a local bank, would pass on information to her contacts by exchanging shopping carts in grocery stores because she said it was "easy enough to do", the department added.
In early 2009 the FBI launched an operation against the couple, who met four times with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Cuban intelligence officer.
Myers told the agent that he usually smuggled information out of the State Department by memorising it or by taking notes.
When asked by the agent if he ever sent information to Cuba that was classified higher than secret, Myers replied "oh yeah... oh yeah."
Apart from being contacted via coded messages on short-wave radio, the couple travelled all over South America and the Caribbean to meet with Cuban agents.

EFT Archive ( Research Alert Group)...

Code Pink’s Support for the Enemy

Posted by Ryan Mauro on Jan 21st, 2010 and filed under FrontPage. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Ryan Mauro is the founder of WorldThreats.com, National Security Advisor to the Christian Action Network, and an intelligence analyst with the Asymmetric Warfare and Intelligence Center.


ADDITION Rice US Middle East
Code Pink members became known during the Bush Administration as confrontational anti-war protestors, but the group is actually worse than that. Code Pink’s leadership has aligned with almost every tyrannical force opposing the U.S., from Chavez to Ahmadinejad to Hamas to Iraq insurgents. Code Pink is acting more like the ambassador for enemies of the free world than an advocate for peace.
Kristinn Taylor and Andrea Shea King over at BigGovernment.com are doing an excellent job chronicling the outrageous activities of Code Pink and its leadership over the years. Most recently, Code Pink has organized a “Gaza Freedom March” to call for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, currently controlled by Hamas. The organization boasts that they have provided humanitarian aid to the territory, and has done so under the protection of Hamas. The terrorist group often diverts such aid for its own purposes, and it should be suspected that this is no different. Hamas also builds support by providing social services, so if such aid didn’t directly go to supporting the group’s violent operations, it certainly did go to support its recruiting efforts.
Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamic organization whose goal is to wage “a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” In other words, it wants to create a worldwide Islamic state. Code Pink has also teamed up with this extremist organization, placing ads on its website asking them to “join us in cleansing our country.”
Code Pink has been embraced by the Iranian government as well. Jodie Evans, one of the group’s leaders, met with Ahmadinejad in New York in September 2008, resulting in a trip to the country two months later. The group met with high-level government officials, and offered to help fund a “peace park” and environmentally-friendly businesses in Tehran. Co-founder of Code Pink Medea Benjamin praised the prices of public transportation in Iran and said she was “struck by how much more open Iran is than I had thought.”
To their credit, Code Pink did express sympathy for the protestors confronting the regime this summer, but called on the U.S. to lift sanctions and end threatening language and supported President Obama’s initial silence. In other words, Code Pink said they supported the Iranian people, but did not want do anything to support the Iranian people.
In January 2006, Evans and other colleagues including Cindy Sheehan met with Venezuela’s President Chavez. Benjamin had previously described Chavez as a “doll,” and said “George Bush—and John Kerry for that matter—could learn a thing or two from Hugo Chavez about winning the hearts and minds of the people.”
Jodie Evans’ reaction to the 9/11 attacks shows a complete ignorance of the ideological element of the terrorists, instead linking the disaster to Middle Eastern anger over U.S. foreign policy. She agreed in an interview that Bin Laden had a valid argument against the U.S., and said, “Why do we have bases in the Middle East? We totally violated the rights of that country,” referring to Saudi Arabia. Apparently, Evans is unaware that those bases were constructed with the permission of the Saudi government and are meant to protect the country from the very people she defends, like Saddam Hussein.
In 2003, Saddam hosted Ee the representatives of the Iraqi people fighting for liberation. They are completely unaware that the insurgents fight not only against American forces, but target Iraqi civilians and want to overthrow Iraq’s elected democratic government.
“We must begin by really standing with the Iraqi people and defending their right to resist. I can remain myself against all forms of violence, and yet I cannot judge what someone has to do when pushed to the wall to protect all they love. The Iraqi people are fighting for their country, to protect their families and to preserve all they love. They are fighting for their lives, and we are fighting for lies,” Evans wrote on June 26, 2005.
When Coalition forces began an offensive into Fallujah when it was the primary safe harbor of the insurgents, Code Pink reacted by delivering tens of thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to its residents. This act sounds noble on the surface, but when you consider the group’s sympathy for the insurgents, it is quite possible that this aid was given to the enemy side. Furthermore, Evans and her delegation met with Iraqi politicians connected to the extremist Iranian-backed militia leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, and other supporters of killing American soldiers.
Evans has even, according to her friend, Jane Fonda, met with members of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Benjamin has tried to paint them as being motivated by lack of employment.
“Everybody we talked to said that most of the Taliban are poor rural people, $10-a-day Taliban, who are doing this for economic reasons. If you want to encourage people to stop fighting, encourage them to work,” Benjamin said.
According to an account posted on the Free Republic forum, a group of counter-protestors were confronted by Evans on August 30, 2004. During the exchange, Evans reportedly said, “We have nothing against communism.” This shouldn’t be surprising considering Medea Benjamin’s ties to the Workers World Party and described her life in Cuba as feeling like she had “died and went to heaven.”
Today, Code Pink is campaigning against President Obama’s decision to send 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan and against the use of drones in Pakistan. Politics seems to pull more weight than principle though, as Code Pink is against an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan for the exact same reasons as such a move would be wrong in Iraq. President Obama can pursue a similar type of policy that Code Pink lambasted under the previous administration, but they aren’t calling for citizens’ arrests of him and his officials like they are doing for members of the Bush Administration.
Code Pink’s embracing of anti-American actors is part of a calculated strategy. Medea wrote in 2003 that members of the movement she belonged to needed to “link up with appropriate local and regional groups” overseas to “channel the bursting anti-American sentiment overseas.” Forces supporting America are left out as part of the equation.
Code Pink is not a group genuinely promoting peace and human rights. The organization links up and supports virtually any anti-American actor, ignoring their oppression of their citizens that can hardly qualify as “peace” and the threat that they pose. In choosing its friends, Code Pink’s leadership has decided that the sole standard is that they must be an enemy of the United States.
S:frontpagemag.com

Amnesty: Cuba courts complicit in stifling dissent

HAVANA – Cuba uses repressive laws, a well-oiled state security apparatus and complicit courts to stifle political dissent as it harasses, spies on and imprisons those who openly oppose its communist system, Amnesty International said in a report released Wednesday.
The 35-page analysis said restrictions on expressing views deviating from the official line are "systematic and entrenched," despite the government's taking "some limited steps to address long-standing suppression of freedom of expression."
Cuba's government did not respond to a request for comment. It routinely dismisses international human rights groups as tools of the United States.
Amnesty found that things have not improved since February 2008, when Cuba signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and it blasted official prohibitions on individual liberties in the name of national security and in response to Washington's 48-year trade sanctions.
"No matter how detrimental its impact, the U.S. embargo is a lame excuse for violating the rights of citizens, as it can in no way diminish the obligation on the Cuban government to protect, respect and fulfill the human rights of all Cubans," the report said.
It was compiled using sources on and off the island but contained no firsthand research since Amnesty has been banned from visiting Cuba since 1990.
Cuba's human rights situation has been tense since the Feb. 23 death of dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, considered by Amnesty International a prisoner of conscience, after a long hunger strike behind bars. Another opposition activist, Guillermo Farinas, has refused to eat or drink since then, though he has received fluids and nutrients intravenously at a hospital near his home in central Cuba.
Both cases drew international condemnation which has softened some since the government reached an agreement with the Roman Catholic Church to transfer political prisoners held far from their families to facilities closer to home, and to give better access to medical care for inmates who need it.
That led to the transfer of seven prisoners and the release for health reasons of Ariel Sigler, who became a paraplegic while imprisoned. All were among 75 activists, community organizers and journalists who defy island controls on media arrested in a crackdown on organized dissent in March 2003.
The Amnesty report noted that through the decades, "hundreds of prisoners of conscience have been imprisoned in Cuba for the peaceful expression of their views."
"The legal, bureaucratic and administrative infrastructure built up over the years to silence government opponents and maintain the one party system remains largely intact," it said, adding that those opponents "continue to be intimidated and harassed, arbitrarily detained or imprisoned after unfair, often summary, trials."
Cuba says it holds no political prisoners and safeguards human rights by providing citizens with free education and health care, as well as heavily subsidized housing, utilities, transportation and food.
Still, Wednesday's report states that even dissidents outside prison face temporary detentions, interrogations and warnings at police stations, concluding that such intimidation has served to "create a climate of fear in Cuban society."
Cuba's criminal code offers an array of charges to limit dissent, according to the report, including pre-criminal dangerousness, enemy propaganda, contempt of authority, rebellion, acts against state security, distribution of false news and, simply, resistance.
"The lack of independence and impartiality of the judiciary means that these vaguely worded offenses have been used to punish the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression," it said.
Cuba can arrest citizens accused of having a "dangerous disposition," the report said. Those convicted of potentially committing a crime can be sentenced to therapy, police surveillance or reeducation.
Authorities also ensure citizens remain cut off from opposition views, Amnesty found, by maintaining a virtual monopoly on media. It noted that the "Law of Security of Information" prohibits Internet access from home for most Cubans, but praised island bloggers who provide uncensored information in defiance of state website filters.