Monday, January 24, 2011

Moscow Airport Explosion: At Least 23 Dead at Domodedovo Airport

Domodedovo airport 300x200 Moscow Airport Explosion: At Least 23 
Dead at Domodedovo Airport  Reposts are coming in of an explosion at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. The number of victims continues to rise. What the Russian goverment initially reported as ten causalities, has now climbed to 23. Another 130 have been reported injured.

The BBC reported that Russia’s Chief investigator has blamed terrorists for the blast. Russia has experienced a string of deadly attacks in recent years. There were many bombings in 2010, including the Moscow Metro bombings which left 40 dead and over 100 injured.

Speculations abound, over the involvement of the Islamist insurgency thriving in the North Caucasus. After  the 2010 metro bombings Dokka Umarov, one of the main leaders of the rebels, claimed responsibility for the attack. He also threatened more attacks, unless Muslim states in the North Caucasus receive independence.
A Briton on the scene told BBC news,
“We were walking out through the exit of the arrivals hall towards the car, and there was this almighty explosion, a huge bang, we didn’t know it was an explosion at the time, and my colleague and I looked at each other and said ‘Christ that sounds like a car bomb or something,’ because the noise was, literally, it shook you,”
Reuters news agency reported another eyewitness account,
The explosion was right near me, I was not hit but I felt the shockwave; people were falling. Smoke started to gather – there was a lot of smoke. Many of the injured went outside on their own in a state of shock. Then they began to announce information about where to exit.
The attack was supposedly carried out by a suicide bomber, and unconfirmed reports say that Russian investigators have recovered the head of the attacker.

It seems that world powers cannot avoid conflict with Islamic insurgencies. Russia has the North Caucasus region, while China deals with attacks hailing from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; America travels the furthest for the fight. These numerous conflicts between modern nation states and Islamic militants, points to a clash of world views. One side sees itself as fighting the threat of terrorism, while the other sees it actions as resistance against foreign imperialists. Each side sees itself in the right. But on both sides civilians pay for the ongoing conflict.

Audio: Detroit Police Station Shooting. 4 Police Officers Shot and Gunman Killed

Police from the east side of the city stop by in support of Detroit's Sixth Precinct where a man entered in the early evening hours and opened fire wounding 3 officers including the Precinct Commander, Sunday, January 23, 2011. 

(KATHLEEN GALLIGAN/Detroit Free Press)
Below is audio from the police station shooting today in Detroit. 4 Police Officers were shot,  all of the officers are expected to survive and were at Sinai Grace Hospital, according to Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr.

FirefighterDispatch uploaded the edited audio.
It was just before 4:30 p.m. Sunday when the gunman came into the police station and started shooting.
A female sergeant in a hallway was hit first. Commander Brian Davis raced out of his office, exchanged fire with the gunman and got shot in the back.

Then the gunman rushed the horseshoe-shaped front desk with his pistol grip shotgun. Sgt. Ray Saati and Officer David Anderson also were shot before the gunman was killed.
Read more: Four police shot in Detroit precinct, gunman killed | | Detroit Free Press

Al Jazeera Blockbuster: PA Gave Away the Store, Israel Still Wasn’t Interested

erekat bigger jerusalem
Al Jazeera and The Guardian are jointly publishing the summary of a treasure trove of documents revealing the extraordinary extent to which the PA was willing to sacrifice a huge chunk of the Palestinian national patrimony and agenda for the sake of peace. While Israel (and to an extent, the Bush administration) essentially said: “That’s nice. But not enough.”
This will literally knock your socks off.  The documents (linked below in discreet articles) reveal:
The scale of confidential concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, including on the highly sensitive issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
• How Israeli leaders privately asked for some Arab citizens to be transferred to a new Palestinian state.
• The intimate level of covert co-operation between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian Authority.
• The central role of British intelligence in drawing up a secret plan to crush Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
• How Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders were privately tipped off about Israel’s 2008-9 war in Gaza.
As well as the annexation of all East Jerusalem settlements except Har Homathe Palestine papers show PLO leaders privately suggested swapping part of the flashpoint East Jerusalem Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah for land elsewhere.
Most controversially, they also proposed a joint committee to take over the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City – the neuralgic issue that helped sink the Camp David talks in 2000 after Yasser Arafat refused to concede sovereignty around the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques.
…The concession in May 2008 by Palestinian leaders [would have] allow[ed] Israel to annex the settlements in East Jerusalem – including Gilo…
abbas hamas
You sure don't, baby. But every other Palestinian and the world now will.
Palestinian negotiators practically bragged to the Israelis about how much they were willing to give up for the sake of peace:
…The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, as giving Israel “the biggest Yerushalayim [the Hebrew name for Jerusalem] in history”
But nothing was enough for Israel.  It apologetically said it appreciated the Palestinian sacrifice but:
…The offer was rejected out of hand by Israel because it did not include a big settlement near the city Ma’ale Adumim as well as Har Homa and several others deeper in the West Bank, including Ariel. “We do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands,” Israel’s then foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, told the Palestinians, “and probably it was not easy for you to think about it, but I really appreciate it“.
Oh and you remember all that hope liberal Zionists (and even me I confess) harbored that Tzipi Livni offered a pragmatic alternative to Bibi and that SHE could and would negotiate a settlement if offered power–all smashed to bits by revelations like this.  Tzipi was no better than Olmert nor Bibi.  She just talked nicer and sounded more reasonable.

Here is the overall summary of the tone of the documents by the Guardian reporters:
The overall impression that emerges from the documents, which stretch from 1999 to 2010, is of the weakness and growing desperation of PA leaders as failure to reach agreement or even halt all settlement temporarily undermines their credibility in relation to their Hamas rivals; the papers also reveal the unyielding confidence of Israeli negotiators and the often dismissive attitude of US politicians towards Palestinian representatives.
So let’s try to assess the meaning of this bombshell.  The PA is toast and this former PLO representative says as much in this Guardian column.  Perhaps it will still retain support in the West Bank, which is its base.  But Fatah leaders were willing to give away the store and get virtually nothing in return.  What’s more, even the huge amount it offered wasn’t enough.  Israel wanted it all.

Israel had a partner all along.  But it was the Palestinians who had no partner.  Israel’s motto: “Peace on our terms, or no terms.”  Israel acted as if it had won WWII and could dictate terms to the vanquished foe.  Olmert and Israelis may live to regret that they didn’t make peace on these unbelievably generous terms.
In terms of Palestinian leadership, these papers prove the bankruptcy of the notion that an unelected rump Palestinian entity can negotiate a satisfactory deal on behalf of the Palestinian people.  The Bush administration and Israeli policy to torpedo the 2006 elections and stand in the way of Hamas-Fatah reconciliation has been a disaster.  The only way to find an accomodation acceptable to the majority of Palestinians is with a representative elected body that ratifies such negotiation results.

If Abbas and his cronies had any honor they’d resign en masse and leave Israel to resume full Occupation of the West Bank (or barring that negotiate a real resolution with real Palestinian leaders).  But the current PA leaders are as survival oriented as Bibi.  They show no devotion to Palestinian national ideals just as Bibi et al show little commitment to anything resembling values or principles.  They just want to keep their fingers in the pie.  For Palestinians an increasingly small, miserly one.  For Israelis an increasingly larger and tastier one.
And can you believe that Israel had the temerity to ask the PA to accept forced transfer of Israeli Palestinian citizens to the new Palestinian state, Avigdor Lieberman’s population transfer (aka expulsion) agenda?
The documents are a boon for Hamas, which has always prided itself on steadfastness to the Palestinian national agenda.  Hamas will appear the only Palestinian movement which hasn’t compromised with Israel, the only one which wasn’t willing to sell its people out for a mess of porridge.  Even if you hate Hamas, you will have to admit it comes out of this smelling like a rose.  And who do we have to blame for this?  Bush and Olmert, no one else.

Olmert is shown to be a total liar when he trumpeted claims that he made the Palestinians a generous offer of 92% of Palestine, which they refused.  Actually, it was Olmert who couldn’t or wouldn’t deliver.

The new development augurs poorly for any serious peace efforts by the Obama administration.  You now have an even more intransigent Israeli government in power than the one to which all these concessions were offered.  And you have a PA which will be mortified that it was exposed with its pants down.  Peace talks are dead.  Dead as a doornail.  Bibi wins big time.  He can now go about building, occupying, assassinating and engaging in war with virtually any party he wishes as long as he wishes.  He holds the cards.  The PA and Obama got bupkis.  And how will the other Arab governments in the Middle East react to American diplomacy used so haphazardly and to such little effect?

But perhaps, just perhaps not all is lost.  There are initiatives that will be strengthened by this failure.  All the alternative peacemaking efforts such as BDS will look even more attractive than ever since they are not tarnished by politicians’ dithering and compromises.  But even more important, I think the idea of an imposed settlement looks not only feasible, but perhaps the only hope.  I can foresee the Quartet, EU and UN Security Council devising a settlement with the input, but not veto power, of the parties and imposing it on them along with provisions that offer security to both sides.  It’s becoming clearer and clearer that this is not an option, but rather a necessity.  The last hope.

For those who like inside baseball, who spilled the beans?  Who leaked these documents?  My money says it was one of the members of the Palestinian negotiation support unit (NSU), a special British-funded entity that provided research, analysis and strategic background for the Palestinian side in its negotiations with Israel.  The Guardian says that many members of this unit have quit, growing disaffected by the sheer magnitude of what their bosses were willing to concede while getting little or nothing in return.  One of these individuals would have a strong motive to embarrass the PA negotiators.  Also, it appears that the bifurcated nature of the NSU (working for the PA but funded by Britain) allowed for mixed allegiances not necessarily fully committed to the PA interests.

In effect, the Guardian may’ve inadvertently blown the cover of the leaker with this statement:
The bulk of the documents are records, contemporaneous notes and sections of verbatim transcripts of meetings drawn up by officials of the Palestinian negotiation support unit (NSU), which has been the main technical and legal backup for the Palestinian side in the negotiations.
Read all the Guardian’s Palestine Papers and an overview of all Guardian stories written about the Papers.  Al Jazeera provides a different lens on the same documents.

Mark Thoma Has a Forecst of Obama's State of the Union Address

Mark Thoma:
Economist's View: SOTU: Obama's Focus on Jobs: This is a year too late, more than that actually, but President Obama's intent to focus on jobs in the State of the Union address is welcome. The abandonment of the recommendations of the bipartisan majority on the debt-reduction commission -- for now anyway -- is also good news. This committee appeared to have Social Security in its sights mostly for ideological reasons rather than as something that would make a meaningful dent in the budget problem...
What puzzles me is what a "focus on jobs" means. At one level, it means neoliberal Democratic business as usual: most of our policies are, after all, aimed at raising the productivity of and the demand for labor. But "focus on jobs" implies policies that the executive branch can do on its own or persuade congress to pass that will have a large bang, and it is not clear to me what the White House thinks those are.

Breaking News: Video: 4 Hurt, Suspect Killed in Mich. Police Shootings

Breaking News: Police: Man kills 2 Fla. officers in shootout

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say two Florida police officers were fatally shot while trying to arrest a suspect hiding in an attic.

St. Petersburg Chief Chuck Harmon confirmed the deaths Monday. He says a U.S. marshal also was wounded and is being treated at a hospital. He says the suspect remains barricaded inside the house where the shooting happened.

The marshal and officers had come to arrest the suspect on aggravated battery charges.
Police had to use a vehicle punch a hole in the wall to pull out one of the officers.

The shooting comes four days after two Miami-Dade County detectives were killed by a murder suspect they were trying to arrest. That suspect was killed by another detective. Their funeral is Monday.

RUSSIA: Suicide Bomber Kills Dozens, Injures Over 100 At Moscow Airport

A reported suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport today has killed dozens and left more than 100 injured.
Russian news agencies, citing witnesses, said airport halls were filled with smoke, so much so that it was difficult to count the number of dead. International arrivals were being diverted to nearby, according to local media reports. The explosion occurred at 4:32 p.m. local time, according to RT television. The airport, southeast of the capital, is Russia’s largest hub for international travelers, with more than 20 million passengers passing through last year.
CNN is currently reporting the death toll at 31. The bomb is said to have gone off in the international arrivals baggage claim area, which is unsecured.

Part 2 Steelers and Packers Headed to Super Bowl XLV

PACKERS 21, BEARS 14: Without Jay Cutler, Bears Fall and Packers Head to Super Bowl
Nearly 70 years had passed since the N.F.L.'s oldest rivals played each other in a postseason game. In 1941, George Halas roamed the sideline for the Chicago Bears. Vince Lombardi was nearly two decades from coaching the Green Bay Packers to a series of championships, including the first two Super Bowls.

B. J. Raji (90) returned an interception for a score to provide the winning margin in Green Bay's 21-14 win over Chicago. Pages D6-7.

On Sunday night, when the relieved and exhausted Packers returned to the visitors' locker room deep under the southern end of Soldier Field, they celebrated around the George S. Halas Trophy. That piece of shiny hardware, given to the champions of the National Football Conference, was soon shepherded away. There is a bigger prize to capture.

Green Bay's 21-14 victory over the Bears, its third straight road victory of the playoffs, sends the Packers to Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Feb. 6. They are searching for their 13th N.F.L. championship, and first in 14 years.

"We always felt we were a very good football team," Green Bay Coach Mike McCarthy said. "Now we have an opportunity to achieve greatness. That's winning the Super Bowl down in Dallas and bringing the Lombardi Trophy back home."

The Packers shot to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter and never trailed, but found themselves scrambling to hold on as darkness descended in the fourth quarter. Jay Cutler, Chicago's starting quarterback, was ineffective before he left the game early in the third quarter with a knee injury. The backup Todd Collins was no better, completing none of his four passes.

The Bears, with zero points and little hope, turned to the third-stringer Caleb Hanie.

He had thrown 14 passes in his three N.F.L. seasons. But he rallied the team like Sid Luckman, the Hall of Fame quarterback who led Chicago to that playoff victory over the Packers in 1941, sparking the Bears to their only two touchdown drives.

Hanie sandwiched those scores around one of his two mistakes -- a short pass into the arms of Green Bay's B. J. Raji, a 337-pound defensive tackle who rumbled 18 yards for what proved the clinching touchdown.

With 47 seconds left and the tying touchdown in reach, on fourth-and-5 at Green Bay's 29, Hanie was intercepted by cornerback Sam Shields at the 12.

One snap later, the Packers (13-6) kneeled to run out the clock and became the second No. 6 seed to reach the Super Bowl, after the 2005 Steelers. They have won three Super Bowls but lost their last time there, at the end of the 1997 season.

Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers completed 17 of 30 passes for 244 yards and was intercepted twice. He led the Packers to touchdowns on their first possession and again early in the second quarter.

Still, Green Bay's 14-0 lead seemed frozen in the 20-degree temperatures for much of the afternoon.

Steelers and Packers Headed to Super Bowl XLV

STEELERS 24, JETS 19: Jets Fall One Win Short of the Super Bowl Again
Throughout this season, the Jets reinforced their status as the most talkative team in football, a boastful bunch who, with a series of last-second victories, backed up their big talk.

Rashard Mendenhall rumbled through the Jets for 121 yards on 27 carries. The Steelers took a 24-0 lead, then held off a second-half rally by the Jets to earn their third Super Bowl trip in six years.
But Sunday, the loudest team in football shuffled around its locker room in silence, stunned, still processing a second straight Jets season that reached the doorstep of the Super Bowl and ended there.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had managed to complete what for most of this season seemed impossible, had pushed the mute button on the Jets with a 24-19 triumph in the American Football Conference championship game. The Jets trudged home, out of words. The Steelers will face the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl on Feb. 6.

"I don't even feel like the bridesmaid," linebacker Bart Scott said. "We're more like the flower girl, I guess. We can't get past that last hurdle. It hurts."

As Coach Rex Ryan stepped behind the lectern for his postgame news conference, his expression -- red-faced and teary-eyed -- said what the Jets struggled to convey.

The Steelers will play for their second Super Bowl title in three years and their third since the 2005 season. The Jets tacked another year onto their own championship drought. Three times since 1998 they have advanced to the game before the Super Bowl, which they last won after the 1968 season. Three times their season has ended there, just as it did Sunday night.

This year, the Jets had insisted with increased frequency, felt different, was different. They had not sneaked into the playoffs, as they did a year ago. They had avenged previous grievances throughout January, beating the team that finished their 2009 season (Indianapolis) and their most bitter rival (New England).

On Sunday, the players said Ryan addressed them with tears in his eyes. He told them he was proud of them, told them they should be proud, too. His words, at least Sunday, gave them little solace.

Several Jets said they did not plan to watch the Super Bowl, not after another season in which they came within the space between thumb and forefinger -- this close -- from their stated goal.

"You know you have the tools," offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said. "You know you have the talent and the team. You can say a lot of good things about us, about our season, but at the end of the day, we lost."
SOURCE: The New York Times
Greg Bishop

Why New Jersey Should Miss Miss America

By Richard A. Lee

For more than 80 years, the Miss America Pageant was synonymous with Atlantic City, but in 2006, the annual event moved to Las Vegas, where it took place again this year.

How ironic that Atlantic City, the East Coast’s answer to Las Vegas, has lost one of its oldest attractions and sources of identity to what once was its only domestic competitor for casino gambling dollars. Even for those of us who love the Garden State, it is another sign that New Jersey is destined to be a second-class state.

As far back as 1876, Benjamin Franklin described New Jersey as “a beer barrel, tapped at both ends, with all the live beer running into Philadelphia and New York.” Over a century later, we are a state of 8.7 million people, yet we have no major television station of our own, so we must rely on network affiliates from New York and Philadelphia.

New York, and to a lesser extent Philadelphia, are the standards by which we judge quality. How many New Jersey businesses use descriptions such as Broadway-quality theater, New York-style pizza and authentic Philly cheese steaks to attract customers? There’s also the matter of the two “New York” NFL teams, both of which have played their home games in New Jersey for over 25 years. Likewise, most of the stars of MTV’s popular Jersey Shore television show do not even hail from the Garden State.

In Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, we have one of the entertainment industry’s biggest attractions. Yet, at Governor Chris Christie's inaugural ball, he had to settle for a Springsteen tribute group called “The B Street Band” because the new Governor and his supporters were unsuccessful in their attempts to get the real Boss to perform.

And when Teresa Scanlan of Nebraska was crowned Miss America on live national television last Saturday, the event once again took place outside of New Jersey (even though the Miss America Organization is headquartered here in Linwood).

As for me, I’ve had two brushes with the pageant in my career. In 1978, my wife’s cousin, Paula Pope, was Miss New York. At the time, I was a young reporter with The Montclair Times, so I obtained press credentials to cover the pageant, hoping to impress all of the relatives who were traveling from New York for the contest. As it turned out, my “press seats” were a few rows behind all of theirs and they graciously made room for me, so I could sit a little closer.

Paula did not win. The crown went to Susan Perkins, Miss Ohio, instead.

A few years later, I had my second encounter with the pageant when I was working for The Aquarian Weekly, a New Jersey music and entertainment publication. Although most of my time was spent interviewing the likes of the Grateful Dead, Pat Benatar and Phil Collins, a publicist friend of mine asked if I would write a story about the current Miss New Jersey, Suzette Charles, who was a singer. In keeping with New Jersey’s stature, she had finished second in the pageant for Miss America 1984. I agreed to do the interview; she and I had a nice conversation, and I wrote a short piece about Suzette for The Aquarian.

Several months later, the reigning Miss America, Vanessa Williams, resigned amidst a controversy over nude photos that were taken of her before the pageant. As the first runner-up, Suzette Charles became the new Miss America. But again New Jersey was short-changed. Because Williams resigned ten months after winning the crown, New Jersey’s Suzette Charles’ reign as Miss America lasted only seven weeks.

# # #

Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute. A former State House reporter and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media, politics and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies. Read more of Rich’s columns at richleeonline and follow him on Twitter.