“For the sake of our national security and the peace and security of the world,” diplomacy with Iran must be given a chance to succeed, the White House charged on Thursday, issuing a detailed breakdown of the technical nuclear agreement reached in Geneva this week between Iran and world powers. The Joint Plan of Action— the official name for the interim nuclear deal reached in Geneva in November— will freeze Iran’s enrichment of uranium to levels without civilian energy use, and will halt progress on its production of a plutonium facility in Arak, in exchange for $6-7 billion in sanctions relief.
The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency will be “solely responsible for verifying and confirming all nuclear-related measures,” the White House said, adding that world powers and Iran would establish a joint commission that ensures IAEA is sufficiently enforcing and abiding by the Joint Plan of Action. Iran will begin diluting half of its uranium stockpile already enriched to 20 percent on January 20, the administration announced, a condition that will be fully completed within the six-month timeframe. Under the agreement, Iran is allowed to continue centrifuge production to replace damaged machines in Natanz and Fordow, where limited uranium enrichment will continue at low levels. Iran is also allowed to continue research into advanced centrifuge technology, though the White House noted in the Thursday document that Iran cannot widen its research scope “beyond its current enrichment R&D practices.”More
WARS N RUMORS OF WARS: In what PLA sources are describing as an unusually high figure, China has mobilized 100,000 troops to take part in a border exercise as part of preparations for a Korean Peninsula crisis. “The drill is a normal military exercise to train soldiers to fight in winter and long-range conditions, according to national state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). However, a source from the People’s Liberation Army said that it is very rare to see 100,000 military personnel mobilized for a regular exercise. The 39th Army Group has only just completed its “Iron Flow 134″ exercise in the region late last year, the source added,” reports the Want China Times. The exercises have been launched in response to the execution of Jang Sung-taek, former vice chairman of North Korean National Defense Commission, which caused consternation in Beijing because Jang was seen as a trusted mediator between North Korea and China.
Taking place just 220 kilometers away from North Korea’s Sinuiju Special Administrative Region, the drills are designed to be a show of force to assert China’s influence over the troubled region. As we have highlighted on a number of occasions, Beijing’s aggressive military posturing has intensified over recent months. Earlier this week reports emerged out of state media suggesting that China was set to attack the Filipino-occupied Zhongye Island, with Beijing determined to seize the island by force as part of a skirmish that could enflame the entire South China Sea region. A lengthy editorial which appeared in Chinese state media last month explained how the Chinese military’s current reformation process was part of a move by President Xi Jinping to prepare the People’s Liberation Army for war in response to US aggression in the Asia Pacific, developments which have prompted “major changes” in China’s national security situation. Amidst tensions over the disputed Senkaku Islands, Beijing has also aimed some of its strident rhetoric at the United States, bragging about China’s ability to attack US military bases in the Western Pacific, as well as releasing of a map showing the locations of major U.S. cities and how they would be impacted by a nuclear strike launched from the PLA’s strategic submarine force.INFO WARS
Arson investigators were at the scene of a wildfire near Los Angeles that exploded in size Thursday to more than 1,700 acres and destroyed at least two homes, authorities said. Three people had been arrested in connection with the fast-moving Colby fire, but Glendora police declined to provide further information. L.A. County fire Inspector Scott Miller said the cause of the fire, reported shortly before 6 a.m., was still under investigation, but said arson investigators were on hand and working with Glendora police. “Any time that we can’t immediately identify what happened, we will have them come in,” Miller said of the arson team. “Just to kind of dot our i’s and cross our t’s.” Glendora police Lt. James De Mond confirmed three people had been arrested. He had no other information, including what the allegations against the three people were or where they were taken into custody. “They are persons of interest in this fire,” he said.
Nathan Judy, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, said at about 10 a.m. that more than 1,700 acres had burned. Chris Jeffers, Glendora city manager, said in an email that the city’s emergency operations center was activated and “we have declared a state of emergency so that we can better access resources and coordinate them.” Jeffers said city officials were in the process of assessing the damage. Inspector Tony Akins with the Los Angeles County Fire Department said the “fire is under investigation.” About 550 fire personnel were battling the blaze, which has destroyed at least two homes. Mandatory evacuations were in place for all residents north of Sierra Madre Avenue and east of San Gabriel Canyon Road. The fire was “spreading fairly aggressively” as winds gusted around 25 mph, fire officials said. Los Angeles County fire Inspector Scott Miller told KTLA-TV that the fire was moving aggressively, “especially for this time of year.” He urged residents to follow evacuation orders, saying that although he understood the instinct for people to stand their ground, “their lives are way more important.” More
The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects “pretty much everything it can”, according to GCHQ documents, rather than merely storing the communications of existing surveillance targets. The NSA has made extensive use of its vast text message database to extract information on people’s travel plans, contact books, financial transactions and more – including of individuals under no suspicion of illegal activity. An agency presentation from 2011 – subtitled “SMS Text Messages: A Goldmine to Exploit” – reveals the program collected an average of 194 million text messages a day in April of that year. In addition to storing the messages themselves, a further program known as “Prefer” conducted automated analysis on the untargeted communications. More
FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — A magnitude-4.4 earthquake jolted the inland region about 50 miles east of Los Angeles early Wednesday, but no significant damage or injuries were reported. The quake occurred at 1:35 a.m. and was centered 3 miles north of the San Bernardino County city of Fontana at a depth of 2 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said. A series of very small aftershocks followed. Some businesses had merchandise fall from shelves, according to TV news reports. Off-duty county firefighter Eric Sherwin was awakened by the quake. ”At first I thought it was just a gust of wind,” he told The Sun newspaper. “Then I realized it was more than that.” Most residents posting to the USGS community Internet intensity map reported the quake felt light to weak. Some residents of Fontana and San Bernardino reported the shaking as moderate. More
The Hamas government in Gaza celebrated the graduation on Monday of paramilitary camps geared at training high-school children “to follow in the footsteps of the suicide martyrs. The camps, titled “the pioneers of liberation,” are run by Hamas’s ministries of education and interior. Some 13,000 students in grades 10-12 participated in the one-week training camps this year, compared to 5,000 last year when the program was launched, Israeli sources with knowledge of the program said. The corps of instructors consists mainly of active members of Hamas’s security forces, and the curriculum includes weapons training, first aid, self defense, marching exercises and “security awareness” classes on identifying Israeli spies. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Interior Minister Fathi Hammad and Education Minister Usama Mzeini attended the graduation ceremony on Monday, each delivering fiery speeches stressing the importance of military training in developing a new generation of Palestinian combatants. “Beware this generation,” Haniyeh said, addressing Israel.
“This is a generation which knows no fear. It is the generation of the missile, the tunnel and the suicide operations.” The Hamas prime minister added that female trainers are also on staff “to oversee the training of the young women to follow in the footsteps of the female suicide operatives.” Hammad, the interior minister, said the training was in preparation for the coming war with Israel. “This generation is a sapling from God on earth. It will harvest the enemies of God and be the pride of all nations,” he said. Hamdi Shaqura, deputy director of program affairs at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a Gaza-based watchdog, said that his organization issued no statement on the training. “To the best of my knowledge no other organization in Gaza issued a statement either,” he told The Times of Israel. Omar Dawabha, an eleventh-grader who took part in the training, was quoted on the website of Hamas’s interior ministry saying that “he learned how to safeguard our rights and principles.” Another student, Mohammed Abu Nar, addressed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem at the graduation ceremony. “We are the pioneers of liberation, we are coming to purify you from the Zionists,” he said. The Times of Israel
North Korea has been conducting military exercises of its own in recent weeks. The United States has based troops in the South since the 1950-53 Korean War and the force currently numbers 28,500. The Voice Of Russia
The four-star commander of U.S. Pacific Command says the era when the U.S. military enjoys uncontested control over the Pacific’s blue water and its airspace is coming to an end. Adm. Sam Locklear told a Navy conference in Virginia that the rise of China is a key factor that is putting at risk U.S. Navy ships and service members in the Pacific. “Our historic dominance that most of us in this room have enjoyed is diminishing, no question,” Locklear said at the Surface Navy Association’s annual meeting near the Pentagon. “We need to think about all scenarios, not just the ones we’ve been dealing with over the last several years where we’ve enjoyed basic air superiority and basic sea superiority. There are places in the world where in this century we won’t have them,” Locklear said. Locklear rattled off a string of reasons for the military’s 2012 shift in strategy that calls for a “pivot to Asia.” For one thing, the region “from Hollywood to Bollywood” is “the economic engine that drives the global economy,” he said. The region also is becoming increasingly militarized and has no NATO-like security structure to prevent conflicts. And the rise of China’s military spending and capability is upending the status quo that took root after World War II. Locklear said the focus on the Middle East over the past couple decades has drawn some attention from the military’s needs in the Pacific and its offensive capabilities at sea.
“To be honest with you, the lack of urgency on the development next-generation, surface-launch, over the horizon cruise missile is troubling,” Locklear said. “As the PACOM commander, I need you to be thinking in the offensive: How are you going to show up? How are you going to be dominant? How are you going to be lethal?” It remains unclear what impact China ultimately will have on the U.S role in the Pacific. “China is going to rise, we all know that. [But] how are they behaving? That is really the question,” Locklear said. “The PACOM goal is for China to be a net provider of security, not a net user of security.” Reminders of Chinese military growth are now routine in the Pacific. The Navy recently acknowledged that a U.S. ship narrowly averted a collision with a Chinese ship that was conducting an exercise in international waters. The Pentagon also acknowledged that the Chinese tested a hypersonic strike vehicle that could penetrate the current U.S. missile defense system. “In the end, the bottom-line problem here is that … we operate freely in international waters — period,” he said. Locklear noted that the Chinese will for the first time this year join the annual naval exercise with the U.S. and its Pacific allies, an important step in developing stronger ties with the Chinese navy. Beyond China, Locklear said his most urgent concern is “an unpredictable North Korea,” its nuclear program and the missile development that is extending the reach of those nuclear weapons. Today, North Korea has the capability to trigger a “catastrophic event” in the form of a nuclear assault on South Korea, which would severely impact the world economy and long-term security in Asia, Locklear said. “The ‘flash to bang’ of what can happen to Korea is very short,” Locklear said. Marine Corps Times
United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres said that democracy is a poor political system for fighting global warming. Communist China, she says, is the best model. China may be the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide and struggling with major pollution problems of their own, but the country is “doing it right” when it comes to fighting global warming says Figueres. “They actually want to breathe air that they don’t have to look at,” she said. “They’re not doing this because they want to save the planet. They’re doing it because it’s in their national interest.” Figueres added that the deep partisan divide in the U.S. Congress is “very detrimental” to passing any sort of legislation to fight global warming. The Chinese Communist Party, on the other hand, can push key policies and reforms all on its own. The country’s national legislature largely enforces the decisions made by the party’s Central Committee and other executive offices. Communism was responsible for the deaths of about 94 million people in China, the Soviet Union, North Korea, Afghanistan and Eastern Europe in the 20th Century.
China alone was responsible for 65 million of those deaths under communist rule. Environmentalists often hail China as a model for fighting global warming, since they are a “leader” in renewable energy. The country set a goal of getting 15 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020. In 2012, China got 9 percent of its power from renewables — the U.S. by contrast got 11 percent in 2012. However, the country still gets 90 percent of its power from fossil fuels, mostly from coal. In fact, Chinese coal demand is expected to explode as the country continues to develop. China has approved 100 million metric tons of new coal production capacity in 2013 as part of the government’s plan to bring 860 million metric tons of coal production online by 2015. China has publicly made big efforts to clean up its environment. The country’s booming industrial apparatus has caused so much pollution that the skies have been darkened over major cities and the air quality has heavily deteriorated. The Wall Street Journal notes that China’s air quality was so bad that about “1.2 million people died prematurely in China in 2010 as a result of air pollution” and Chinese government figures show that “lung cancer is now the leading cause of death from malignant tumors. Many of those dying are nonsmokers.” The Soviet bloc’s environmental track record was similarly dismal. The Communist Party’s National Action Plan spent $275 billion to combat rampant pollution through 2017, including reducing particulate matter 2.5 levels in the Beijing region by 25 percent. The Daily Caller
The Air Force’s nuclear force is once again drawing negative attention after 34 launch officers have been stripped of their authority to control and launch nuclear-armed Minuteman III missiles because of their role in a cheating scandal at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. Investigators became aware that cheating was taking place on a monthly proficiency test because of another investigation that has already implicated 11 junior officers in using illegal recreational drugs. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh revealed the cheating scandal in a hastily called Pentagon news conference. “This is absolutely unacceptable behavior and it is completely contrary to our core values in the Air Force,” said James. Welsh characterized the cheating as potentially the largest such incident in the Air Force’s history. The 34 officers, ranging in rank from second lieutenants to captains, have been restricted from missile crew duty and have had their security clearances suspended while the investigation continues. There are 600 launch officers responsible for operating the Air Force’s fleet of 450 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Three bases are responsible for 150 of the missiles each, they are: Malmstrom AFB, in Montana; Minot AFB in North Dakota; and F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming. The launch officers spend 24 hours shifts in underground launch centers where they are responsible for ICBM missiles based in missile silos in the surrounding countryside. Welsh said that the investigation determined that the officers had “electronically shared” answers via text messages for the monthly proficiency test conducted in August and September. Seventeen of the officers were directly involved in the cheating while the others were aware of it but did nothing about it. As a result of the cheating, the Air Force has begun re-testing all 600 of its ICBM officers. The decertification impacts 34 of the 190 nuclear missile officers at Malmstrom. Both James and Welsh said that the episode was counter to the Air Force’s emphasis on integrity.
James said she had confidence in the Air Force’s nuclear force because “this was a failure of some of our airmen. It was not a failure of the nuclear mission.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited F.E. Warren AFB last Thursday to stress the importance of the Air Force’s nuclear mission and praise the force’s professionalism. But his visit was overshadowed by the disclosure that two launch officers at Malmstrom had been implicated in the illegal drug investigation. Thursday’s disclosure of the cheating scandal at Malmstrom was the latest in a string of negative incidents that have taken place in the Air Force nuclear mission. In mid-December, it was revealed that Major General Michael Carey, who commanded the three Air Force wings responsible for the ICBM’s had been disciplined for drinking excessively while attending a nuclear mission conference in Moscow. Carey had been relieved of his command in October after the Air Force Inspector General investigated allegations about his drunken behavior. In November, the Associated Press reported on an internal Air Force report that found low morale and disciplinary problems within the Air Force’s nuclear force. Air Force officials said newer data indicated that negative trendlines had improved over the past year. In October, it was revealed that four Air Force officers had been disciplined for two incidents earlier in the year where they had fallen asleep during their 24 hour shifts in the process leaving open the blast security door intended to keep out intruders. Launch officers are allowed to take naps as long as one of the two officers on duty remains awake, but in each case both were asleep. In April, 17 launch officers at Minot AFB lost their launch authority and had to be retrained after their poor performance during a recent inspection. ABC News
J.C. Penney said Wednesday it will close 33 underperforming stores and lay off 2,000 employees as the venerable but troubled retailer continues a sweeping turnaround effort. The company said the closings will save about $65 million a year beginning in 2014. It will take pretax charges of $26 million in the fourth quarter and $17 million in the first quarter. The stores are expected to be closed by May. ”As we continue to progress toward long-term profitable growth, it is necessary to re-examine the financial performance of our store portfolio and adjust our national footprint accordingly,” says company CEO Myron Ullman III. Penney said the closings are part of its turnaround, which began in April when Ullman returned to lead the company. He’s largely undoing the strategies implemented by former CEO Ron Johnson, who was pushed out after an overhaul that included eliminating sales and promotions in favor of everyday low prices caused revenue to plunge. Sales at stores open at least a year are up in the fourth quarter after falling steadily the past couple of years, notes analyst Kirk Ludtke of CRT Capital Group.
Net sales in the third quarter were $2.78 billion, vs. $2.93 billion in the year-ago period. ”I think he’s done a good job of stabilizing the situation,” Ludtke says. The embattled company’s stock price is near a 52-week low. Penney made its announcement after the close of regular trading Wednesday. Shares edged 0.6% lower in after-hours trading, to $6.97. By shutting poorly performing outlets, Ludtke says Penney is simply catching up to other national chains that have streamlined their store portfolios in recent years. Penney hasn’t closed a large number of locations since 2000 and 2001. Ken Nisch, chairman of JGA retail consultants, says many chains are eliminating stores in sparsely visited malls. Penney’s closings represent 3% of its 1,100 locations. The layoffs will affect 1.7% of the chain’s 116,000 employees. ”If (the company’s performance) was really bad, they would be closing 100 stores,” Nisch says. The company is the latest retailer to retrench. Macy’s, which is considered a strong retailer, said last week it will lay off 2,500 workers, close some stores and open others. And several retailers have cut their fourth-quarter profit forecasts. Nisch is among analysts who say the moves partly reflect broader industry trends. Holiday sales were disappointing for many retailers as cold winter weather and a wait for bargains kept many customers at home. Slow wage growth for low- and moderate-income workers has particularly affected middle-end stores such as Penney. And many customers have shifted their shopping online. More
The Discovery Channel has posted a YouTube video urging its viewers to ignore “trolls” and “fearmongerers” and stop worrying about Fukushima radiation. In the clip, host Trace Dominguez blames a “mob” for trying to make others believe that deadly radiation from the crippled nuclear power plant could be hitting the west coast of the United States and is responsible for killing animals and sea life. Dominguez highlights a viral video showing an individual using a Geiger counter to detect abnormally high levels of radiation on a beach in San Francisco, an act that led public health officials to discover radiation hot spots 1400% normal levels that one expert said posed a health risk to young children and babies. As Infowars reporters who subsequently visited the beach confirmed, authorities have failed to erect warning signs to notify residents that the area is dangerous. Despite experts saying the radiation discovered on the beach was a health risk, the Discovery Channel host blames “conspiracy hawks” for freaking out about the issue, despite admitting that background radiation on the beach is 7 times normal levels. The video concludes with Dominguez claiming that the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, which one scientist recently warned could prompt the the complete evacuation of the west coast of North America, poses no threat whatsoever to Americans or even fish and sea life in the Pacific Ocean. Dominguez’s attitude towards the issue in scoffing at those concerned over Fukushima radiation mirrors the establishment rhetoric. However, while sidelining the matter authorities are simultaneously preparing for radiation threats.
Yesterday it was announced that 19 different government and academic bodies would begin testing sea kelp forests across California in an effort to detect radiation from Fukushima. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also recently ordered 14 million doses of potassium iodide. The DHS is also flying helicopters low over major cities to measure background radiation levels. Experts have concluded that the radioactive plume from the nuclear accident in March 2011 will reach U.S. coastal waters by early 2014. Fish recently caught off the coast of the Fukushima prefecture measured 124 times the radioactive level considered safe for human consumption. Mysterious die-offs of numerous different animals, birds and sea life have also been linked to Fukushima. To claim that the ongoing Fukushima crisis poses no danger whatsoever to the Pacific Ocean is patently ludicrous. When yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen traveled across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to San Francisco, he was shocked to discover that an area he once saw teeming with life was now a dead zone. “After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead,” Macfadyen told the Newcastle Herald. “We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. It was pretty sickening.” “I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen,” he added, concluding, “The ocean is broken.” It would be completely naive to believe that public health authorities in the United States would not, whether deliberately or through incompetence, mislead the American people on major health issues. Aside from TEPCO and Japanese officials continually lying in downplaying the severity of the Fukushima crisis, lest we forget that when the EPA told ground zero workers not to worry about breathing toxic air after 9/11, it resulted in 20,000 of them suffering debilitating and in some cases fatal illnesses.
The false claim that there were no deaths or long-term health effects connected to the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant was also based on deceptive assurances made at the time by authorities that levels of radiation emitted were harmless. In reality, cancer rates in children and infants living in Dauphin County, where Three Mile Island is located, are significantly higher than the national average. It also took scientists 24 years to conclude that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 was responsible for 1 million cancer deaths as well as numerous other diseases amongst both humans and animals. Numerous governments, including the French government, “deliberately suppressed information about the spread of radioactive fallout” as a result of Chernobyl. In parts of France, thyroid cancer surged as the population didn’t take steps to protect itself having believed their government that the radiation cloud was harmless. Le’s not forget either the disgraceful legacy of Project Shad, wherein the US Department of Defense exposed unwitting and unwilling participants to deadly biological and chemical weapons. Similarly, under the atomic soldiers program, US troops were ordered to walk directly into the shockwave of nuclear bombs. According to the logic of Trace Dominguez and the Discovery Channel, those soldiers should also have just learned to stop worrying and love the fallout!
Big-time movie producer Harvey Weinstein revealed Wednesday that he is making an anti-gun movie with actress Meryl Streep that is going to make the National Rifle Association “wish they weren’t alive.” During an interview with Howard Stern on his radio show, Weinstein said the new full feature drama will take the NRA “head on.” He also said he’s never owned a gun and never will. “I don’t think we need guns in this country. And I hate it. I think the NRA is a disaster area,” Weinstein said. After first telling Stern that he shouldn’t reveal too much about his secretive film, the producer spilled the beans. “I’m going to make a movie with Meryl Streep, and we’re going to take this issue head on. And they’re going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them,” he added, referring to the NRA. Weinstein said the film is not a documentary and will be a “big movie like a ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.’” The Hollywood heavyweight was clear that he wants to scare people enough so that they don’t want to be involved with guns. When Stern challenged his anti-gun logic, Weinstein argued that he would “find a gun” if something like the Holocaust were to happen and his “people” were being marched into Auschwitz. However, as the Washington Times’ Emily Miller points out: “Mr. Weinstein has been watching too many movies if he thinks the good guys find fully-loaded firearms in convenient locations to use only when necessary.” Miller also notes that the chairman of the Weinstein Company is one of President Barack Obama’s biggest fundraisers. Listen to Weinstein’s interview with Howard Stern via YouTube (Strong language warning; relevant portion starts at about 51:00):
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WHAT??? NUCLEAR RADIATION PLUME in COLUMBIA, SC: USA!!! NO PLANS TO CONTAIN OR STOP LEAKAGE!!!
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