środa, 22 września 2010

Official: CIA-trained force targeting militants in Pakistan

According to the official the paramilitary force is targeting Taliban fighters such as these, pictured earlier this year.

Washington -- The CIA created and controls a paramilitary force of 3,000 Afghans that conducts clandestine missions targeting al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Pakistan, a U.S. official told CNN on Wednesday.

The official described the force as "well-trained" and "effective."

"You're talking about one of the finest Afghan fighting forces, which has made major contributions to security and stability," the official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic.

The Counter terrorism Pursuit Teams were first revealed in a new book by Bob Woodward, associate editor at the Washington Post. "Obama's Wars," which lays out deep divisions in the Obama administration over Afghanistan strategy, will be released Monday.

According to that book, by the end of a 2009 strategy review, Obama concluded that the task in Afghanistan could not succeed without wiping out al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban havens operating with impunity in the border tribal areas of Pakistan, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

"We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan," Obama is quoted as saying in Woodward's book, the Post said.

A CIA spokesman would not comment on the paramilitary force.

But Pakistani officials refuted the claims that CIA-controlled forces are operating within Pakistan.

"Pakistan will never allow boots on its soil," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said, referring to foreign troops. "This is one of our red lines."

A senior Pakistani military official added that there are 954 checkpoints along the border that are manned by Pakistani security forces. He said it would be "next to impossible for a group of people to enter Pakistan to chase al Qaeda and Taliban militants."

The official did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Al Qaeda in Pakistan remains a lethal enemy for the United States, a counter terrorism official said this week.

But with the help of allies, the United States has been able to score "lots of successes" against the group, said the official, who also requested anonymity.

That includes the success of U.S. unmanned predator strikes in Pakistani regions along the border with Afghanistan. Since the Obama administration took office at the beginning of 2009, missile attacks on suspected terrorists in Pakistan have increased dramatically.

The United States has "cut into their ability to plot, plan and train, but they remain very dangerous, and they are still the hub to all spokes, the heart of al Qaeda," the U.S. official said.

"No one's even close to saying it's over in Pakistan. Not at all. In fact, we not only have to keep up the pressure there, we have to spread it to al Qaeda's nodes and affiliates elsewhere."

Source: CNN

poniedziałek, 20 września 2010

Paris Hilton to avoid jail with Las Vegas plea deal

Paris Hilton was arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada, last month and charged with cocaine possession.
Paris Hilton will face a Las Vegas, Nevada, judge Monday morning to accept a plea deal in her cocaine possession case, the prosecutor and a source close to the defense said.

As first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Hilton will avoid jail for last month's cocaine arrest on the Las Vegas strip.

The socialite-actress will enter guilty pleas on two misdemeanor counts, instead of a felony drug charge, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Clark County, Nevada, District Attorney David Roger and a defense source, who asked not to be identified, both confirmed the agreement to CNN on Sunday.

Hilton, 29, will get two six-month jail terms, which would be suspended, according to the agreement, the paper reported. She would serve one year on probation, it said.

The newspaper quoted Roger saying the plea deal "would give us complete control over her future."

"If she does not toe the line and stay out of trouble, she will do one year in the Clark County Detention Center," Roger told the paper.

Hilton was arrested after a traffic stop on the Las Vegas strip on August 27. A motorcycle officer reported smelling the odor of marijuana coming from the Cadillac Escalade driven by her boyfriend, Cy Waits.

A small plastic bag of cocaine fell out of a purse she was holding and into the hand of a police lieutenant while Hilton was being questioned, according to the police report.

The original felony charge of cocaine possession will be dropped, but Hilton will plead guilty to misdemeanor drug possession and obstructing an officer, according to the report.

Source: CNN

4 dead in Germany fire, shooting

Police and fire brigade vehicles park in front of the St. Elisabethen hospital in Loerrach, Germany, on Sunday
Berlin, Germany  -- Authorities in southwest Germany were looking for a motive Monday in an apartment building fire and a hospital shooting that, together, killed four people and are believed to be linked.

Two bodies -- one of a man and another of a 5-year-old boy -- were found inside a burning building in the city of Loerrach, police said Sunday evening.

As authorities responded to the fire, they saw a woman -- armed with weapons -- run from the building toward a hospital.

On the way, the woman -- later identified as a 41-year-old lawyer -- shot two passers-by, severely wounding them, police said.

At the St. Elisabethen hospital, the woman stabbed and shot a male nurse, killing him before police fatally shot her, authorities said.

A police officer was also seriously injured in the attack at the hospital.

Police later said the bodies in the apartment belonged to the woman's ex-husband and their son. Residents heard gunshots in the building shortly before it went up in flames, authorities said.

Firefighters evacuated 19 people from the building. Seventeen suffered mild injuries, officials said.

Source: CNN

British troops hand Afghan district to Americans

Kabul, Afghanistan  -- British forces in southern Afghanistan have handed responsibility for security in Sangin district to American troops, the British and American militaries said Monday.

British forces have been in Sangin since 2006.

The transfer of authority was first announced by the British defense secretary in July.

It follows heavy British losses in the area, a Taliban stronghold.

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox acknowledged that "the level of sacrifice has been high" in praising the British mission in "one of the most challenging areas of Afghanistan."

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said the handover was possible because of the increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

British Royal Marines handed control of Sangin to the U.S. Marines, both sides said.

The switch of command in Sangin is not a defeat for British troops, but simply works well militarily, said Michael Clarke, director of the Royal United Services Institute, an independent defense and security think tank in London.

"It never made much military sense to put troops into the northern areas of Sangin, Musa Qala and Kajacki in the first place," Clarke said in July when Fox announced the plan.

"But in 2006 they were sent there at the insistence of [Afghan] President [Hamid] Karzai, and once established, any pullback would have represented a victory for the Taliban."

With the arrival of some 18,000 U.S. Marines in the region by the end of August, it makes sense for the British troops to reorganize themselves and reinforce their numbers in central Helmand, Clarke said.

It will make the British force more effective and safer, he said.

The political fallout of the move, however, is unpredictable, Clarke said.

When the Brits ended operations in the southern Iraqi city of Basra last year, it was under similar circumstances, but still appeared as a "furtive retreat," he said.

"The image at home that Britain was giving up a job it could no longer handle was impossible to shake off," Clarke said. "The same may attach to Sangin. This war is as much about image and perception as it is about who controls the ground in Afghanistan."

Source: CNN

piątek, 17 września 2010

YouTube testing live streaming

YouTube testing live streaming

Live-streaming video on YouTube, until now a rare novelty, may be getting a lot more common.

The video sharing site on Monday began working with a handful of partners to test a new platform that will let users post live chats and other events on their YouTube channels.

The limited-time trial will run two days and will only feature live video from four partners.

"Based on the results of this initial test, we'll evaluate rolling out the platform more broadly to our partners worldwide," YouTube said in a blog post.

If successful, the new platform would let YouTube -- already the hands-down leader in video sharing -- move in on live-streaming sites like UStream and Livestream. Until now, YouTube has relied on third-party platforms to stream occasional live events.

Howcast, one of the four partners that will be posting live content over the next two days, plans a live tutorial on filmmaking, a magician teaching magic tricks and a cooking session with a New York chef.

The setup will allow viewers to post comments and questions as the presentation is happening.

"Any time you can create a sense of urgency for people to come and consume your content, it's a good thing," said Jason Liebman, co-founder and CEO of Howcast, which has been using YouTube to post how-to videos.

"There's no question that more live video is being consumed on the web. We just want to be out there and get a better understanding of how to use live video to improve our business."

YouTube has experimented with a handful of live-streaming events in the past.

Last October, U2 used the site to broadcast a concert from the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles, California, live in 16 countries.

The E3 video game expo was broadcast live in June, and President Obama held a live question-and-answer session on YouTube in February.

The other partners for the live-streaming test Monday and Tuesday are Next New Networks, Rocketboom and Young Hollywood.

Young Hollywood, which does an online celebrity interview show, kicked off Monday with a segment featuring pro skater Tony Hawk. Other planned segments included comedian Dane Cook and "Jackass" star Steve-O.

Founder and CEO R.J. Williams said staffers would be monitoring viewer comments and questions during the show and relaying them to the interviewer and guests.

"Now, it becomes really a two-way conversation," he said while preparing for Monday's show. "The audience can chime in and ask questions and give feedback. That makes the interviews that much more compelling."

Source: CNN

Poland arrests Chechen separatist leader

Police in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday arrested a Chechen separatist leader wanted in Russia on terrorism charges, the Polish Press Agency reported.

The Polish prosecutor's office warned that Akhmed Zakayev would be arrested on an international warrant if he arrived in Poland to attend the third World Congress of the Chechen People that was being held in the town of Pultusk through Saturday.

Russia previously said it would request Zakayev's extradition if he were apprehended.

"Due to the detention of Akhmed Zakayev in Poland and in accordance with the European convention on extradition, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office is currently preparing material with a Polish translation, which will be sent to the Polish authorities for (Zakayev's) extradition to Russia," the prosecutor's office said Friday.

Zakayev was a brigade general of the Chechen rebel forces during the 1995-1996 war. He later served as culture minister, foreign minister, and deputy prime minister in Chechnya's separatist government in the three years when it enjoyed independence from Russia between 1996 and 1999.

After Russia crushed rebel rule during a second war with Chechnya that started in 1999, Zakayev emigrated to Europe, where has been the head of the Chechen rebel government in exile.

Russia issued an international warrant for Zakayev's arrest in October 2001.

A year later, he was detained in Denmark but the Danish Justice Ministry rejected Russia's demand for Zakayev's extradition.

Then in December 2002 he moved to the United Kingdom, where another Russian extradition request was turned down. Political asylum was granted to Zakayev in November 2003 and he has been living in London ever since.

Source: CNN

The pope's trip to Britain is worth the money

If you invited a friend to dinner would you escort them to the door at the end of the evening and present them with a bill for steak, cake and a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape?

I didn't think so. And neither, it's fair to say, would most British people. But that is precisely what objectors to the pope's state visit to Britain are asking Her Majesty's Government to do.

They want Benedict XVI to foot the full bill of the papal visit -- an estimated £20 million ($31 million) -- even though he was invited to the country on behalf of the British people by the queen and two prime ministers.

You might not know that if you got your news from Protest the Pope, the group co-ordinating opposition to the trip. You might have the impression that Benedict XVI phoned David Cameron last month, told him he was coming and gave him a Mariah Carey-style rider demanding silk bed sheets in Vatican colors and a fridge packed with ice-cold Fanta (the Pontiff's favorite beverage.)

In fact, the pope has insisted that the visit costs the taxpayer as little as possible. Pope Benedict understands that Britons are about to face the harshest austerity measures in a generation and doesn't want their money wasted on traditional head of state courtesies such as the horse-drawn carriage ride with the queen. That is why the church is paying more than half the bill. But, again, you wouldn't know that if you listened only to the protestors.

A good number of British taxpayers happen to be Catholic. Some five million Britons -- about one in 12 of the population -- are baptized Catholics. Many of them object to their tax money being spent on abortion and nuclear weapons, but they accept that living in a modern democratic society means that their taxes are spent on some things they find abhorrent. If only opponents if the state visit were as accepting of the give and take of liberal democracy.

And that is one of the Pope's key messages during this visit: Believers are not a threat to Britain's tolerant, pluralistic society. They are, rather, an essential component of it.

Note that I say "believers" rather than "Catholics," because the pope is not making this point just for the benefit of his followers but for every British person who draws strength from their faith: Anglicans, Baptists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs -- you name it.

Too many people see the relationship between believers and non-believers as a zero-sum game: If one group gains something then it must be at the expense of the other. If the state is not strictly secular, then it must be a theocracy.

Benedict XVI is offering an alternative to this crude way of thinking. He is appealing to the old British instinct for tolerance and fair play. He argues that it is undemocratic to limit public life only to the adherents of atheistic humanism. I suspect that most British people would agree heartily with him.

This does not mean that the pope is seeking to vanquish atheism and deprive those who reject Catholic moral norms of their freedom. He simply wants a truly plural pluralism in which believer and non-believer alike can take a seat in the public square.

The Catholic Church has well thought-out positions on the pressing issues of our time: Immigration, poverty, war, inter-religious relations, sexual responsibility, care of the elderly and the environment. It is not seeking a privileged position from which to proclaim its teaching. It is asking only to be one voice that is heard among many as Britain confronts the moral challenges of the new century.

If the pope's trip enlarges the British public square even a fraction then it will surely have been worth the price of a state visit.

Source: Luke Coppen, Special to CNN