Saturday, June 21, 2014

Okinawa governor to drop call to kick out U.S. air base

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima will not include a call to kick Futenma air base out of the prefecture at next week’s ceremony commemorating the 69th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, prefectural officials said Thursday.
The move comes six months after the governor approved a landfill project in Nago’s Henoko district needed to build a replacement base for the facility, which angered anti-base activists and a group representing the families of those lost in the battle.
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu NakaimaIt is also likely to increase tensions between Nakaima, who has indicated he wants to run for a third term this autumn, and his potential challenger, Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga, who, although opposed to the Henoko relocation plan, is gaining ground among those who once backed Nakaima.
More than 5,800 people attended last year’s June 23 ceremony, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Since 2012, the ceremony has included a recital of a peace declaration by the governor that calls on Tokyo to move Futenma outside Okinawa and to revise the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement to give local officials more authority over U.S. military personnel.
Last December, in a decision that angered even his close supporters, Nakaima approved the central government’s request for a landfill project to build the Futenma replacement base in Nago’s Henoko district. For this year’s ceremony, the governor will consider the Futenma issue settled, even if others do not.
Naeko Teruya, chairwoman of an association of local bereaved families, said there was no reason to change the declaration, and that Nakaima’s last-minute edit was a betrayal. Hiroji Yamashiro of the Okinawa Peace Movement Center, a collection of anti-base activists, also expressed anger at the decision.
The move could further split Nakaima’s support base. In recent weeks, the anti-Henoko Onaga has been picking up support from business leaders, conservatives and others who backed Nakaima in the 2010 election, creating growing headaches for the prefecture’s pro-base movement and for the Abe administration.

WATCH: Luxury Yacht Destroyed by Fire at San Diego Yard

WATCH: Luxury Yacht Destroyed by Fire at San Diego Yard
Yacht fire

A 102-foot luxury yacht possibly worth $24 million has been completely destroyed after it caught fire while dry docked at a San Diego boat yard, and it was all caught on film.

According to local fire officials, the fire was reported at the at Marine Group Boat Works on the Chula Vista Bayfront at about 9:10 a.m. Thursday.

The yacht is reported to be the 102-foot “Polar Bear”. The owner of the vessel, who is from Minnesota, told local media that he cried when he first saw online video of his yacht completely engulfed in flames because, believe it or not, someone was actually able to get a GoPro up to shoot the fire.

Over 40 fire personnel responded, including help from the Coast Guard and San Diego Harbor Patrol, but intense smoke and flames coming from the vessel kept firefighting crews at bay for hours. Reports indicate that two people have been treated for smoke inhalation.

“Am I angry? No. Anger is not the right word,” said owner Larry Jodsass in a phone interview with local NBC 7. “It was my toy, my wonderful, beautiful piece of equipment. I think it’s the most beautiful boat that ever has been built.”

Jodsass added that the yacht took him five years to build and has been in the water for three. He said that the yacht is valued at $24 million.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but reports say that a welder was working aboard the vessel at the time of the fire.

The incident follows the capsizing of a $10 million adventure yacht during launch at a Washington shipyard. Video of the vessel’s failed launch later went viral.

Located at the southern part of the San Diego Bay, Marine Group Boat Works specializes in refits, repairs and new construction of boats and super yachts up to 220 feet long. The yard is known for its 665-ton travelift, the largest on the U.S. west coast.

The post WATCH: Luxury Yacht Destroyed by Fire at San Diego Yard appeared first ongCaptain Maritime & Offshore News.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ronald E. Baum, USMC, 2nd Marine Division

Remembering the servicemembers who died in the service of their country.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ronald E. Baum

38, of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.
Baum died due to hostile action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Intelligence Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Died on May 3, 2004.

Gunnery Sergeant Ronald E. Baum Memorial Fund
2d Intelligence Battalion would like to honor GySgt Ronald Baum, who was Killed In Action in support of Iraqi Freedom on 3 May 2004. We have established a Memorial Fund in his honor to help provide support to his wife and three young children. We are aware that there are many people who would like to help in that support. If you would like to contribute to the fund, please utilize one of the following options:
Donation with Tax Deduction Benefit
  1. Send check to Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, Inc., PO Box 37, Mountain Lakes NJ 07046. (Please write on Check: For GySgt Ronald Baum Memorial Fund)
  2. Go to Marine Corps -- Law Enforcement Foundation Online Donation Form and you will be allowed to provide a credit card for your donation. (Please designated that this is a donation for the GySgt Baum Memorial Fund)
(NOTE: A letter will be sent to you noting your donation will be sent back to you for your tax records by MCLEF.)
No Tax Deduction Benefit Requested
  1. Send check to: Major Brian Smallwood, Executive Officer, 2d Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina 28542-0139
All contributions will be deposited into an account with Bank of America in the name of Mrs. Baum. She will have sole access to the account. The account will remain open for contributions to be made for a period of approximately a year. Thank you in advance for your support and contributions for one who has given and made the extreme and ultimate sacrifice and the family who has suffered the most through this loss.

"With solemn condolences and deepest empathy to the family of GySgt Ronald Baum I try to capture his legacy. HONESTY-INTEGRITY-FAITHFULNESS was the hallmarks of Ronald's service. HONESTY as an American hero, HONESTY in his dealings with his fellow Marines, HONESTY...ALWAYS. Ron never looked down, never looked back, he mastered his profession and harnessed his temperament with those God given attributes of Righteousness and Restraint. INTEGRITY in his deeds, words and actions in dealing with fellow Marines. FAITHFULNESS to his loving wife and family, FAITHFULNESS to the country he Loved and served so well. Lastly, GySgt Baum stands in my mind as a true Example of the American Marine...serving without complaint, endlessly pursuing victory, Giving all he can give...His inspiration will live in our hearts forever. God Rest his soul and bless his spirit always!"

Obama’s “up to 300 US military advisers” won’t stop ISIS-Sunni entrenchment in Iraq

Obama’s “up to 300 US military advisers” won’t stop ISIS-Sunni entrenchment in Iraq

President Obama announced Thursday, June 19, after meeting his national security team, that the US would send up to 300 military advisers to help, advise and train Iraqi forces, and establish joint operations centers in Baghdad and the North. The US has been conducting “surveillance and reconnaissance missions for a better picture of the locations of ISIS forces,” he said.
US combat troops would not be returning to Iraq, said Obama firmly, but if regimes were in place in Syria and Iraq with inclusive agendas, the US would be willing to establish joint counter-terror platforms for regional partners to fight terrorism. He spoke of "targeted US military action if the situation required it" but only after consulting Congress and regional partners.
We talked to Iranians about their role in Iraq, Obama reported, and told them we hoped it would be constructive – unlike their posture in Syria which was on the side of a sectarian solution.
In its special video report earlier Thursday, debkafile reported: 
By dispatching the USS George W.H. Bush to the northern Gulf this week, Obama recalled his tactics at the outset of the Syrian civil war in 2011. He first piled up a menacing armada opposite Syrian shores and told Bashar Assad he must go. But then, he backed away from intervening in the Syrian crisis after all. Is that fro-and-back pattern being repeated in Iraq?
How to interpret the posting of a US warship opposite Iraq on June 15 and, for that matter, Barack Obama’s comment two days earlier: “We do have a stake in making sure these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Syria or Iraq.”
Has he again developed cold feet? The CIA and Pentagon have explained they have not been able to determine the exact makeup of Al Qaeda’s ISIS  – the Islamist State in Iraq and the Levant which has swallowed up much of Iraq’s Sunni heartland link.
According to DEBKA’s military and intelligence sources, the Islamists advancing on Baghdad are not one, but two armies: The Al Qaeda element has been joined by a hodgepodge of Sufi groups, Saddam Hussein’s old Baath Party guard, and US-trained Sunni Awakening Council tribes.
Iraq Wednesday formally requested US air support, including drone strikes and more surveillance. According to some reports, Washington will hold back anything more substantial that a hundred or so Special Operations personnel as non-combat military instructors for Iraq's army.
Anyway, Al Qaeda lacks the fixed formations of a professional army, making it an elusive target for pinpointed attacks. So the jihadis’ advance may prove unstoppable and even if Baghdad survives, it may be too beleaguered to function as Iraq’s capital.
Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki is hardly posed to meet US expectations for setting up a national unity government to heal the strife. The Obama administration would much prefer to see al Maliki step aside and that may be one of its conditions for substantial military aid.
As the situation is developing now, Iraq is more likely to break up into pseudo states as a result of the Al Qaeda led Sunni revolt against Maliki’s regime. A Kurdish state in the north, a Shiite state in the south, and Al Qaeda and Sunni statelets in western, central and eastern Iraq, up to Baghdad’s outskirts.
ISIS also has plans to send its heavily indoctrinated foreign recruits back to their own countries primed for terror: “The people in that regime, as well as trying to take territory, are also planning to attack us here at home in the United Kingdom.”
Al Qaeda’s success in the face of Obama’s vacillations may infect Iraq’s neighbors with an epidemic of instability..

OPINION Iran Could Outsource Its Nuclear-Weapons Program to North KoreaPyongyang helped Syria build a secret reactor. What's to stop it fromassisting Tehran?

As the Iran nuclear talks grind toward a soft July 20 deadline in Vienna, U.S. negotiators and their partners seem oblivious to a loophole that could render any agreement meaningless. Tehran could outsource the completion of a bomb to its longtime ally, North Korea.
As a venue for secretly completing and testing a nuclear bomb, North Korea would be ideal. North Korea is the only country known to have tested any nuclear bombs since India and Pakistan both performed underground tests in 1998. Despite wide condemnation, it has gotten away with three nuclear tests, in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
Pyongyang threatened to carry out a fourth test in March, which it said would take an unspecified "new form." North Korea's first test was plutonium-based. The composition of the next two remains unconfirmed, but in 2010 North Korea unveiled a uranium-enrichment plant at its Yongbyon nuclear complex. If North Korea's next test is uranium-based, that could be neatly compatible with Iran's refusal at the bargaining table to give up its thousands of centrifuges, which could be used to produce weapons-grade uranium.
Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, center, and a top North Korean leader, Kim Yong Nam, right, at a meeting at the Iranian presidency office in Tehran in August. Associated Press
Citing Pyongyang's proliferation in years past of nuclear materials to Libya and nuclear reactor technology to Syria, the Defense Department noted in a report this March to Congress that "One of our gravest concerns about North Korea's activities in the international arena is its demonstrated willingness to proliferate nuclear technology." The report did not say to whom North Korea might next proliferate.
After North Korea's Feb. 12, 2013, nuclear test, there were a number of media reports that Iranian officials had flown in for the detonation. At a State Department background press briefing following a round of the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna this February, I asked a senior U.S. administration official what is being done to address such issues. That official ducked the question, saying only that the U.S. "is always concerned about reports of shared technology and proliferation of technology and of nuclear weapons technology." Declining to talk about specifics, the official described North Korea as "an ongoing concern all on its own."
But the pieces have long been in place for nuclear collaboration between the two countries. North Korea and Iran are close allies, drawn together by decades of weapons deals and mutual hatred of America and its freedoms. Weapons-hungry Iran has oil; oil-hungry North Korea makes weapons. North Korea has been supplying increasingly sophisticated missiles and missile technology to Iran since the 1980s, when North Korea hosted visits by Hasan Rouhani (now Iran's president) and Ali Khamenei (Iran's supreme leader since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989).
North Korea and Iran were both part of Pakistan's A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network, which spread nuclear blueprints and material among its clients until it was exposed by the U.S. a decade ago. In July 2013, a Pentagon report on global missile threats warned that "North Korea has an ambitious ballistic missile development program and has exported missiles and missile technology to other countries, including Iran and Pakistan." On April 11, 2013, nuclear expert David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, testified to Congress that given the Iranian-North Korean cooperation on missile delivery systems, the lessons for Iran of North Korea's work to deploy nuclear warheads on its missiles are "apparent."
For both countries, versed in dodging sanctions, the illicit networks run through China, Pyongyang's patron and a hub of illicit procurement. In April the U.S. government offered a $5 million reward for help in apprehending a Chinese national, Li Fangwei, accusing him of running a sanctions-violating international procurement network out of China that has sold Iran both missile and nuclear-related materials. The U.S. has asked China to shut down this network since at least 2006, to no avail.
In February of this year, when Iran's chief nuclear negotiator and foreign minister, Javad Zarif, returned to Tehran from the first round of Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, one of his first meetings was with a visiting North Korean deputy foreign minister. Iran's Fars News Agency reported that the meeting was devoted to "bolstering and reinvigorating the two countries' bilateral ties," as well as mutually assuring each other of their right to "peaceful nuclear technology." Less than five weeks later North Korea issued a threat to conduct its fourth test of a nuclear bomb.
North Korea has a record of proliferating nuclear technology even in the midst of its own nuclear climb-down agreements. In February 2007, at the Beijing-hosted six-party talks, North Korea agreed to shut down the plutonium-producing reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear complex. In exchange, it reaped aid and U.S. concessions that greatly eased sanctions.
Meanwhile, North Korea was quietly helping Syria build a secret copy of the Yongbyon reactor, near a remote area called Al Kibar, on the Euphrates River. The project had been going on for years. North Korea helped with the design and by using its networks to help procure materials. The Syrian reactor was nearing completion with no visible purpose except to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons when the Israelis destroyed it with an airstrike in September 2007.
The Bush administration was so eager to salvage a deal to freeze North Korea's nuclear program that it waited until April 24, 2008, to confirm the nature of the Israeli target, finally disclosing that "the Syrians constructed this reactor for the production of plutonium with the assistance of the North Koreans." Instead of penalizing Pyongyang, the U.S. offered further concessions, taking North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
North Korea made a Potemkin gesture of blowing up an irrelevant cooling tower at Yongbyon but refused to provide the promised full access to its nuclear program. The nuclear-freeze deal collapsed entirely by the end of 2008. In May 2009 North Korea carried out its second nuclear test. In 2013 it conducted a third test and restarted its Yongbyon reactor, alongside the uranium-enrichment facility it had divulged in 2010.
Were Iranian officials present at North Korea's 2013 nuclear test, or for that matter the earlier ones? Perhaps. But that may not be the relevant question. According to Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, all they'd need is the resulting data on a thumb drive.
Ms. Rosett is journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and heads its Investigative Reporting Project.

Christian Genocide In Iraq - History

English: Eastern Syriac Cross
English: Eastern Syriac Cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I Christianity was brought to Iraq in the 1st century AD by the Apostles Thomas and Addai (Thaddaeus) and his pupils Aggagiand Mari. Thomas and Thaddeus belonged to the twelve Apostles.[4] Iraq's Eastern Aramaic speaking Chaldean Christian communities are believed to be among the oldest in the world.
The Chaldean people adopted Christianity in the 1st century AD[3] and Assyria became the centre of Eastern Rite Christianity and Syriac literature from the 1st century AD until the Middle Ages. In the early centuries after the Arab Islamic conquest, native Assyrian (known as Ashuriyun by the Arabs) scholars and doctors played an influential role in Iraq, however, from the late 13th century AD through to the present time, Assyrian Christians have suffered both religious and ethnic persecution, including a number of massacres.[5] Northern Iraq remained predominantly ChaldeanEastern Aramaic speaking andChristian until the destructions of Tamerlane at the end of the 14th century. The Assyrian Church of the East has its origin in what is now South East Turkey and Assuristan (Sassanid Assyria). By the end of the 13th century there were twelve Nestoriandioceses in a strip from Peking to Samarkand. When the 14th-century Muslim warlord of Turco-Mongol descent, Timur (Tamerlane), conquered PersiaMesopotamia and Syria, the civilian population was decimated. Timur had 70,000 Assyrian Christians beheaded in Tikrit, and 90,000 more in Baghdad.[6][7] A new epoch began in the 17th century when Emir Afrasiyab of Basra allowed the Portuguese to build a church outside of the city. In the year of Iraq´s formal independence 1932, the Iraqi military carried out large-scale massacres against the Assyrians (Simele massacre) which had supported the British colonial administration before.[3]
In 1987, the last Iraqi census counted 1.4 million Christians.[8] They were tolerated under the secular regime of Saddam Hussein, who even made one of them, Tariq Aziz his deputy. However persecution by Saddam Hussein continued against the Christians on an ethnic, cultural and racial level, as the vast majority are Mesopotamian Aramaic speaking Ethnic Assyrians (a.k.a. Chaldo-Assyrians). The Assyrian -Aramaic language and written script was repressed, the giving of Hebraic/Aramaic Christian names or Akkadian/Assyro-Babylonian names forbidden (Tariq Aziz real name is Michael Youhanna for example), and Saddam exploited religious differences between Assyrian denominations such as Chaldean CatholicsAssyrian Church of the EastSyriac Orthodox and Ancient Church of the East. Many Assyrians were ethnically cleansed from their towns and villages under the al Anfal Campaign in 1988.
Prior to the Gulf War in 1991, Christians numbered one million in Iraq.[3] The Baathist rule under Saddam Hussein kept anti-Christian violence under control but subjected some to "relocation programmes".[3] Under this regime, the predominantly ethnically and linguistically distinct Assyrian Christians were pressured to identify as Arabs. The Christian population fell to an estimated 800,000 during the 2003 Iraq War.[3]

Post-war situationEdit

A church in Baghdad.

Chaldean Catholic Church in Basra2014.
As of 21 June 2007, the UNHCR estimated that 2.2 million Iraqis had been displaced to neighbouring countries, and 2 million were displaced internally, with nearly 100,000 Iraqis fleeing to Syria and Jordan each month.[9][10] A 25 May 2007 article notes that in the past seven months only 69 people from Iraq were granted refugee status in the United States.[11]
After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, violence against Christians rose, with reports of abduction, torture, bombings, and killings.[12] Some Christians were pressured to convert to Islam under threat of death or expulsion, and women were ordered to wear Islamic dress.[12]
In August 2004, International Christian Concern protested an attack by Islamists on Iraqi Christian churches that killed 11 people.[13] In 2006, an Orthodox Christian priest, Boulos Iskander, was beheaded and mutilated despite payment of a ransom, and in 2008, theAssyrian clergyman Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of the Chaldean Catholic church inMosul died after being abducted.[12] In January 2008, bombs exploded outside nine churches.[12]
In 2007, Chaldean Catholic priest Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni and subdeacons Basman Yousef Daud, Wahid Hanna Isho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed were killed in the ancient city ofMosul.[14] Ganni was driving with his three deacons when they were stopped and demanded to convert to Islam, when they refused they were shot.[14] Ganni was the pastor of the Chaldean Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul and a graduate from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome in 2003 with a licentiate inecumenical theology. Six months later, the body of Paulos Faraj Rahho, archbishop ofMosul, was found buried near Mosul. He was kidnapped on 29 February 2008 when his bodyguards and driver were killed.[15]
In 2010, reports emerged in Mosul of people being stopped in the streets, asked for their identity cards, and shot if they had a first or last name indicating Assyrian or Christian origin.[5] On 31 October 2010, 58 people, including 41 hostages and priests, were killed after an attack on an Assyrian Catholic church in Baghdad.[16] See October 2010 Baghdad church attack. A group affiliated to Al-QaedaIslamic State of Iraq, stated that Iraq's indigenous Christians were a "legitimate target."[17] In November, a series of bombings and mortar attacks targeted Assyrian Christian-majority areas of Baghdad.[17]
Half the Christian population has fled, with an estimated 330,000 to Syria and smaller numbers to Jordan.[12] Some fled toIraqi Kurdistan in northern Iraq and to neighboring country Iran. Christians who are too poor or unwilling to leave their ancient homeland have fled mainly to Arbil, particularly its Christian suburb of Ainkawa.[5] 10,000 mainly Assyrian Iraqi Christians live in the UK led by Archbishop Athanasios Dawood, who has called on the government to accept more refugees.[18]
Apart from emigration, the Iraqi Christians are also declining due to lower rates of birth and higher death rates than their Muslim compatriots. Also since the invasion of Iraq, Assyrian and Armenian Christians have been targeted by extreme Islamic organisations and Arab nationalists.[19]

Relations with non-Christians

Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz's (real name Michael Youkhanna) death sentence was not signed by the Iraqi president in 2010 because the president "sympathise[d] with Tariq Aziz because he is an Iraqi Christian."[20] This also came after appeals from the Holy See not to carry out the sentence.--[21]


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