Source: U.S. Strike on Iran Nearing

Contrary to some claims that the Bush administration will allow diplomacy to handle Iran’s nuclear weapons program, a leading member of America’s Jewish community tells Newsmax that a military strike is not only on the table – but likely.

“Israel is preparing for heavy casualties,” the source said, suggesting that although Israel will not take part in the strike, it is expecting to be the target of Iranian retribution.

“Look at Dick Cheney’s recent trip through the Middle East as preparation for the U.S. attack,” the source said.

Cheney’s hastily arranged 9-day visit to the region, which began on March 16, included stops in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Oman, Turkey, and the Palestinian territories.

Tensions in the region have been rising.

While Israel was conducting the largest homefront military exercises in its history last week, Israel’s National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer warned Tehran about expected attacks on the Jewish state.

“An Iranian attack will prompt a severe reaction from Israel, which will destroy the Iranian nation,” he said.

He predicted that in a future war, “hundreds of missiles will rain on Israel,” but added that Iran “is definitely aware of our strength.”

Read moreSource: U.S. Strike on Iran Nearing

U.S. Foreclosures Jump 57% as Homeowners Walk Away

April 15 (Bloomberg) — U.S. foreclosure filings jumped 57 percent and bank repossessions more than doubled in March from a year earlier as adjustable mortgages increased and more owners lost their homes to lenders.

More than 234,000 properties were in some stage of foreclosure, or one in every 538 U.S. households, Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac Inc., a seller of default data, said today in a statement. Nevada, California and Florida had the highest foreclosure rates. Filings rose 5 percent from February.

About $460 billion of adjustable-rate loans are scheduled to reset this year, according to New York-based analysts at Citigroup Inc. Auction notices rose 32 percent from a year ago, a sign that more defaulting homeowners are “simply walking away and deeding their properties back to the foreclosing lender” rather than letting the home be auctioned, RealtyTrac Chief Executive Officer James Saccacio said in the statement.

Read moreU.S. Foreclosures Jump 57% as Homeowners Walk Away

Mumps found to have made alarming comeback in U.S.

BOSTON – Mumps made an alarming comeback in the United States in 2006 and may take years to completely eradicate, federal health experts reported on Wednesday.

The outbreak of the viral disease came despite the widespread use of a second dose of a mumps vaccine, produced by Merck, beginning in 1990.

Read moreMumps found to have made alarming comeback in U.S.

IMF says US crisis is ‘largest financial shock since Great Depression’


A foreclosure sign in Florida. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

America’s mortgage crisis has spiralled into “the largest financial shock since the Great Depression” and there is now a one-in-four chance of a full-blown global recession over the next 12 months, the International Monetary Fund warned today.

Read moreIMF says US crisis is ‘largest financial shock since Great Depression’

Controversy: Mercenaries Training US Local Police Officers

There are many police and law enforcement officials who are concerned with the growing trend of using military-trained mercenaries to train and work with local police officers in the United States, but there are many who believe the events of September 11, 2001 dictate the need for a new paradigm.

For example, Kentucky’s Lexington Police Department contracted Blackwater Security International to provide what’s described as homeland security training. Meanwhile that city’s Mayor Jim Newberry and its chief of police Anthony Beatty refused free training provided by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement federal program that prepares police officers to enforce immigration and border security as part of their duties.

Lexington is on the nation’s list of so-called Sanctuary Cities in which police officers are prohibited from working with ICE or Border Patrol agents in the United States. Critics are angry over the use of local tax dollars to hire Blackwater personnel to train the police.

But Lexington isn’t the only city using hired guns to help local police officers. In New Orleans, heavily armed operatives from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of that beleaguered city.

Some of the mercenaries were reportedly “deputized” by the Louisiana governor and were issued gold Louisiana State law enforcement badges to wear on their chests and Blackwater photo identification cards to be worn on their arms.

While they are working in Louisiana, Blackwater officials say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority to use lethal force if necessary. Some of the mercenaries assigned to patrol the streets of New Orleans recently returned from Iraq, where they provided personal security details for the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer, and the former US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte.

Read moreControversy: Mercenaries Training US Local Police Officers

Secret plans for US troops to stay in Iraq

A secret draft agreement is being drawn up to allow United States forces to remain in Iraq indefinitely, it has been reported.

  • Iraqi Shia leader wants to disband Mahdi army
  • Watch: Iraq Surge report presented to politicians
  • The document, which was written a month ago and is and marked “secret” and “sensitive”, is intended to replace the United Nations mandate for coalition troops, including British forces, to remain in Iraq, which expires at the end of the year.

    Gen Petraeus
    Watch: Gen Petraeus delivers the Iraq report

    The draft authorisation would allow for the US to “conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security”.

    It does not set a time limit, but describes the arrangement as temporary and points out that the US does not want “permanent bases or a permanent military presence” in the country. It also states that the US does not seek to use Iraq as a base to launch operations against other states.

    The draft agreement is unlikely to emerge unscathed from political scrutiny in Baghdad or Washington. There appears little appetite in the US for a drawn-out occupation of Iraq. In Baghdad, both Shia and Sunni political groups opposed to the American presence are likely to oppose the agreement in its draft form.

    Moqtada al-Sadr, a vocal critic of the occupation, said yesterday that he would consider disbanding his powerful Mahdi army – but only after consulting the ayatollahs, or religious leaders.

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    Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said that if the militia, which has battled American and government forces in Basra and Baghdad for the past two weeks, was not disbanded its political wing would be barred from provincial elections.

    “They no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mahdi army,” said Mr Maliki.

    Sadr said he would consult religious figures, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the moderate Shia leader who is revered as a “source of emulation”.

    By putting the fate of his powerful militia in the hands of the religious hierarchy, the cleric appears to be gambling that he will establish his credentials as a figure capable of unifying Iraq’s majority Shia community under his leadership.

    However, Sadr said ayatollahs in the Iranian city of Qom, home to his spiritual mentor Grand Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, a known hard-liner, would also have a say.

    The cleric’s supporters will tomorrow attempt to mount a “million-strong” march in Baghdad to mark the fifth anniversary of the city’s fall. It will follow a report on Iraq to the US Congress in Washington by General David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the ambassador to Baghdad.

    By Damien McElroy

    Last Updated: 2:10am BST 09/04/2008

    Source: Telegraph

    Homeland Ministry Plans Raytheon “Ray Guns” at Airports

    The DHS, affectionately called the “Ministry” here because it resembles something out of Orwell’s famous novel, wants to fit airports with ray guns. I kid you not. “The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will consider fitting high-power microwave electropulse rayguns at US airports, in order to defend against the threat of terrorists firing portable anti-aircraft missiles at airliners,” reports Lewis Page for The Register. “American defense heavyweight Raytheon would partner with Israel’s Rafael and Kongsberg of Norway to provide the technology, according to a report in Flight International. The proposed kit is known as ‘Vigilant Eagle’, and is competing for DHS securo-dollars with defensive systems that could be fitted to the airliners themselves – for instance BAE Systems’ JetEye.”

    Okay, tell me this does not sound like another “defense industry” scam, yet another scheme to make billions of dollars. Sure, there is the possibility somebody with a rocket launcher may take out an airliner. But if al-Qaeda hates our freedom, why haven’t’ they done this already? Is al-Qaeda conducting a war against the Great Satan, one with battles strung over decades? At this rate, it will take a thousand years to install the Great Caliph/Khalifah.

    Read moreHomeland Ministry Plans Raytheon “Ray Guns” at Airports

    Federal Reserve staff move into offices of investment banks to monitor activities

    The US Federal Reserve has sent staff into some of Wall Street’s biggest firms and its New York branch is gathering evidence on key traders’ activities as America’s central bank raises its scrutiny of risk to an unprecedented level.

    Fed staff have set up shop in Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Bear Stearns to monitor their financial condition just days after Henry Paulson, the US Treasury Secretary, proposed that the Fed become the financial industry’s “risk czar”.

    This is the first time in more than a decade that the Fed has put staff in securities firms and is a response, in part, to its decision to extend to investment banks the “discount window” of cheap loans traditionally offered only to the commercial banks. The Fed argues that if it is to act as lender of last resort to the securities firms, it should keep a closer eye on their activities.

    The move comes as the central bank’s New York branch separately compiles a list of names and numbers of key traders in specific, esoteric securities such as auction rate preferred securities. These obscure instruments can be traded only at auctions and demand for them has virtually evaporated in recent weeks.

    A senior US mutual fund executive, whom the Fed has approached, said: “They are looking in every corner to understand every esoteric financial product – who its traders are, who holds the most, whether its market is liquid and how great the losses could be. They are approaching people like me to find the key players in particular securities and then contacting them to find out the details. I have never heard of that being done before.”

    Read moreFederal Reserve staff move into offices of investment banks to monitor activities

    Ecuador Bans Foreign Military Bases

    Ecuador’s parliament has approved a law banning foreign military bases, a move which could prevent the US from using a key anti-drug smuggling base in the country.

    Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president, whose party controls the assembly, had previously said he would not renew the agreement allowing US forces to operate from the city of Manta.

    At present the US lease on the Pacific coast base expires in 2009.

    US officials say that air surveillance missions from the base have led to more than half of all drug seizures in the region, where most of the world’s cocaine is produced.

    Read moreEcuador Bans Foreign Military Bases

    2003 torture memo released by Pentagon – NOW

    Justice Department document said Bush could ignore torture bans

    WASHINGTON – The Pentagon on Tuesday released a now-defunct legal memo that approved the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects, saying that President Bush’s authority during wartime trumps any international ban on torture.

    The Justice Department memo, dated March 14, 2003, outlines legal justification for military interrogators to use harsh tactics against al-Qaida and Taliban detainees overseas – so long as they did not specifically intend to torture their captors.

    Even so, the memo noted, the president’s wartime power as commander in chief would not be limited by the U.N. treaties against torture.

    Read more2003 torture memo released by Pentagon – NOW