South Korea Vows ‘Enormous Retaliation’ After Brief Clash
President Lee Terms Clash ‘Invasion’
South Korean officials are promising “enormous retaliation” against North Korea after an hour-long clash between the two nations left two South Korean Marines dead and a number of others wounded. Reports of casualties on the North Korean side have yet to be confirmed.
“I think enormous retaliation is going to be necessary to make North Korea incapable of provoking us again,” insisted South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who termed North Korea’s artillery strike on a military base an “invasion of South Korean territory.”
The strikes came after South Korean naval drills simulating an attack on North Korea were taken a bit too seriously, and North Korea fired on an island military base. The two sides traded artillery fire over a brief period.
The Obama Administration has vowed to defend South Korea and US Air Force chief Gen. Schwartz has also offered to “pitch in” in any South Korean strikes against the North in the future. Some 28,000 US troops remain along the border between the two nations, which have remained in a state of war for over half a century.
US aircraft carrier heads to Korean peninsula
2 more bodies found on island, raising death toll to 4; US exercises were planned before exchange of artillery fire between North, South Korea.
US Forces Korea pointed out in a statement that while the exercises were “planned well before yesterday’s unprovoked artillery attack, it demonstrates the strength of the ROK (South Korea)-US alliance and our commitment to regional stability through deterrence,” emphasizing that the exercise was defensive in nature, according to Reuters.
Also on Wednesday, South Korea said it found the burnt bodies of two male civilians on the island attacked by North Korea one day before.
The South Korean Coast Guard said the two construction workers were found Wednesday. They were believed to be in their sixties. The discovery came day after a frightening military skirmish between the Koreas ratcheted tensions on the peninsula to new extremes.
The clash, which sent South Korea’s military on high alert, was one of the rivals’ most dramatic confrontations since the end of the Korean War, and one of the few to put civilians at risk, though no non-military deaths were immediately reported.
Sixteen South Korean soldiers and three civilians were injured; the extent of casualties on the northern side was unknown.
The skirmish began when Pyongyang warned the South to halt military drills in the area, according to South Korean officials. When Seoul refused and began firing artillery into disputed waters, albeit away from the North Korean shore, the North retaliated by bombarding the small island of Yeonpyeong, which houses South Korean military installations and a small civilian population.
Ayalon: Boycott of Israel is boycott of peace process
Deputy FM responds to Norwegian petition by 100 arts, cultural figures accusing Israeli educational institutions of apartheid, “playing a key role in the occupation”; country’s former PM condemns move.
“Those who call for a boycott against Israel are in effect boycotting the peace process by automatically and unequivocally endorsing the Palestinian position and pushing them further away from the negotiating table,” Ayalon said in a statement. “We expect the Norwegian government to condemn this boycott.”
The Norwegians, led by the country’s national soccer coach, signed a petition demanding a cultural and academic boycott of Israel, accusing its educational institutions of “playing a key role in the occupation” and equating it with apartheid.
Egil Drillo Olsen, coach for the national Norwegian soccer team, recently wrote in Aftenposten, the country’s second largest paper, that the call to boycott Israel was “in line with what 90 percent of the world’s population believes. There cannot be many other opinions.”
The petition is the last item in a string of similar and high-profile initiatives to have taken place in Norway over the past two years. It was signed by coach Olsen and 99 other public figures from the arts and culture arena, who stated that a boycott is “necessary” not only to help Palestinians, but also to “support Israelis opposing the occupation.”
Former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said the boycott call was “unhelpful” and “not representative” of the current government’s policy.
Bondevik, who presided over the Norwegian government for seven years over the period 1997 until 2005 on behalf of the Christian Democratic Party, added that he wished to “reassure” Israelis that the “boycott is not an issue in Norway.”
But Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, a senior researcher of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionist trends in Scandinavia, alleges Norway is a “pioneer” in the Western world promoting boycotts and hatred against Israel.
Gerstenfeld, Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, notes some “uniquely Norwegian developments unparalleled elsewhere in the West.”
Among them, he lists praise that Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere wrote last year for a book accusing the IDF of deliberately killing Gazan women and children, and the promotion of a Norwegian diplomat who had compared Operation Cast Lead in Gaza with the action of the Nazis.
That same year the major Norwegian State pension fund divested from Elbit Systems because of the company’s involvement in building the security fence.
Since then, Norwegian shares in several other Israeli companies have been divested. In November 2009, a Norwegian university, NTNU in Trondheim, became the first in the West whose Board openly discussed boycotting Israel. The plan was ultimately unanimously rejected.
“Norway’s case is unique because it is a country dominated by a political, media and cultural elite with deep-rooted anti-Israeli attitudes stemming from their political world view,” Gerstenfeld said. “It poses a threat to Israel because it may be the place where precedents are set in the campaign to delegitimize Israel.”
Afghanistan war: US says violence reaches all-time high
Violence in Afghanistan has reached an all-time high, with clashes up fourfold since 2007, the Pentagon has said.
In a twice-annual report to the US Congress, the Pentagon said progress had been “uneven”, with only modest gains against the Taliban insurgency.
The Pentagon also reported gains in security, governance, and development in key areas.
But it warned the Taliban was exploiting perceptions Nato countries would soon withdraw combat forces.
In a report covering the period between 1 April and 30 September, the Pentagon attributed much of the increase in violence to the growth in the coalition force after US President Barack Obama’s escalation this year.
“Efforts to reduce insurgent capacity, such as safe havens and logistic support originating in Pakistan and Iran, have not produced measurable results,” the report states.
“The insurgency has proven resilient with sustained logistics capacity and command and control.”
In the week when Nato’s political leaders talked up the prospects for an end to combat operations and spoke in terms of winding down – or even winding up – the Western presence in Afghanistan, the Pentagon assessment makes sobering reading.
It depicts an enemy which has the support of Iran and continuing access to safe havens along the Pakistani border. The insurgency emerges from the Pentagon report as resilient, adaptable and sophisticated.
The section which will make the grimmest reading for Nato’s political leaders, and particularly those in Washington, deals with the alliance’s desire to set a timetable for withdrawal within four years while also arguing that the war is winnable.
The report says the Taliban draws strength from a belief among the Afghan people that Nato forces will soon leave the country, clearing the way for a Taliban victory.
The read-out is not entirely negative – there is talk of uneven progress and modest gains in security and development in patches – but overall there is not much to cheer the Obama administration and its allies.
But it cited evidence Nato counter-insurgency efforts had “localised” effects in areas of Helmand and Kandahar provinces, and said the Nato strategy had yielded “cumulative effects”.
“Security is slowly beginning to expand,” the report states.
“Indications of local resistance to insurgents continue to emerge alongside positive indications, such as newly opened schools and police stations.”
The Pentagon also said Taliban fighters were exploiting moves among Nato countries to withdraw combat forces.
Canada is due to pull its combat forces out in 2011, and President Barack Obama has also said he will begin removing US troops in July 2011, with security duties to be turned over to Afghan police and army units.
“The Taliban’s strength lies in the Afghan population’s perception that coalition forces will soon leave, giving credence to the belief that a Taliban victory is inevitable,” the report says.
“The Taliban is not a popular movement, but it exploits a population frustrated by weak governance.”
America would deny it is going to leave, says the BBC’s Mark Mardell in Washington, but a handover by collation forces in four years’ time is exactly what was agreed at the Nato summit last weekend.
Very indirectly, the US defence department is suggesting the strategy of American, British and other politicians is the cause of the Taliban’s success, our correspondent adds.
Approximately 97,000 US troops and 48,800 troops from other countries are in Afghanistan at present.
Since January 2009, when Mr Obama took office, the US has more than tripled the number of civilians in the country, to 1,100, including diplomats, criminal investigators and drug enforcement agents and agricultural experts.
Israel First, America’s National Security Second
(uruknet.de) In one of the United States Congress’ most recent displays of “Israel First” policy, 39 Representatives, all democrats, have requested that President Obama pardon Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of spying for the State of Israel in 1987. Pollard is currently serving a life sentence for his crimes.
According to American Muslims for Palestine:
Pollard, who was a civilian research analyst with high security clearance for the U.S. Navy, had agreed to spy for Israel for 10 years in exchange for more than $500,000. According to a January 1999 article in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh, Pollard “betrayed elements of four major American intelligence systems.” Pollard caused extensive damage to U.S. intelligence and U.S. national security because of the nature of the highly sensitive documents he sold to Israel.
In many cases, Israel bartered top-secret U.S. intelligence documents it received from Pollard with the Soviet Union, in exchange for Soviet Jewish colonial emigration to historic Palestine, Hersh wrote. 
During sentencing the prosecutor, in compliance with an agreement in which Pollard pled guilty, asked for “only a substantial number of years in prison”; Judge Aubrey Robinson, Jr., not being obligated to follow the recommendation of the prosecutor, and after hearing a “damage-assessment memorandum” from the Secretary of Defense, imposed a life sentence. 
In the letter sent to President Obama, the Representatives explain that “such an exercise of the clemency power would not in any way imply doubt about [Pollard’s] guilt, nor cast any aspersions on the process by which he was convicted.”
This seems paradoxical. According these representatives, Pollard is indeed guilty of the charges against him. What’s more, they find nothing to disparage about the proceedings which resulted in his sentence. So why must Obama set him free?
Because, you see, pardoning him would correct the disparity “between the amount of time Mr. Pollard has served and the time that has been served — or not served at all — by many others who were found guilty of similar activity on behalf of nations that, like Israel, are not adversarial to us.”
It is true that Pollard is the only American serving a life sentence for spying on behalf of a neutral country (only 15% of all convicted spies are attempting to transmit information to a neutral country). However, according to a recent study which examined every espionage conviction in the United States from 1947-2001, at least 13% of all spies convicted were sentenced to life in prison, while another 22% were sentenced to between 20 and 40 years.  Could it perhaps be that the damage that resulted from his crimes was severe enough to render the judge’s harsh decision? For the answer, we must look at the methodology judges use to determine sentencing.
The study’s authors reveal: “Prison sentences for espionage or attempted espionage varied depending on factors such as the importance of information lost, the length of time of the spying, the venue of the trial, the then-current policies of the federal government on espionage prosecution, the context of the time (e.g. wartime or peace, chilly Cold War or detente) and the then-current relationship of the United States with the country that received the information.”
Thus, the relationship between Israel and the United States was only one component determining Pollard’s sentence. With the information at hand, namely the fact that as stated above, Israel was at the time handing Pollard’s stolen documents off to the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, and having just heard the damage-assessment memorandum by the Secretary of Defense, Judge Robinson issued his sentence. This sentence was the result of the evidence brought against Pollard as well as his own confession. He was convicted based on the severity of his crime and in the midst of one of the largest resurgences of espionage in American history (see Keeping the Nation’s Secrets by the Stilwell Commission, published in 1985).
In this way, seeking “clemency for Mr. Pollard as an act of compassion justified by the way others have been treated by our justice system” is ridiculous. While the United States is not at war with Israel, Pollard’s sentencing in relation to the severity of his crime per the Secretary of Defense’s testimony rendered him the same sentence as at least 16 other spies.
Do these Representatives offer any evidence, other than comparisons to (what must be) lesser crimes by other individuals, to justify commuting Pollard’s sentence? Do they take issue with the denials of appeal made by appellate courts in the case or the merits thereof? Do they contend that Pollard was harshly sentenced because of some prejudice harbored by the presiding judge? No. They simply think that his incarceration, which has only strengthened his ties to Israel (he became a citizen while in prison), will somehow serve as a deterrent.
Where is the logic in such a stance? In the name of security, the US government will eavesdrop on its own citizens. In the name of security, the US government will torture foreigners, holding them without charge or trial and bomb Pakistani civilians with drones. In the name of security, the US government will grope and prod passengers as they board airplanes if they refuse to be seen naked through scanners. And yet, in the same breath, elected representatives who quietly reauthorized provisions of the PATRIOT act in February 2010 would argue for the rights of a confessed, convicted spy passing intelligence secrets, and do so in the name of justice and compassion!
Do these Representatives know anything about justice at all? If they do, why do they feel compelled to stand up to perceived injustice in the name of an avowed Israeli spy and yet remain utterly mute when it comes to the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay, at least 55% of whom do not have sufficient evidence against them to determine that they have committed any hostile acts against the United States, at least 40% of whom have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda and least 18% of whom have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda or Taliban? 
Is it because they only care about Americans? Then why haven’t any of them stepped up to defend Rachel Corrie, murdered by an IDF bulldozer as she non-violently attempted to block it from destroying a Palestinian home? Why haven’t they petitioned Obama to seek justice for Furkan Doğan, a Turkish American who was shot by the IDF at point blank range while lying on his back? Why hasn’t congress properly investigated the death of 37 American Citizens aboard the USS Liberty which was attacked by Israel in 1967?
Such a request by House democrats is an insult to our justice system, and one that should not be tolerated. The truth of the matter is that Pollard, if granted clemency, will be a benefactor of the United States’ “special relationship” with Israel, a relationship that apparently knows no bounds.
Yet this request is altogether unsurprising in light of Israel’s consistent method of portraying itself in a completely sympathetic light. Israelis are not aggressors, but victims of aggression. They are not bigoted, but victims of anti-semetism. They are not lawbreakers, but victims of the justice system.
Americans suffer every day at the hands of abstract, fleeting “threats to national security” and yet when our national security has been conclusively violated…this is what our congressmen come up with. To buy into such a subversion of moral decency is utterly treacherous.
Brooklyn survivors deal with purported $42m. fraud
Residents talk about the betrayal they feel after 17 people arrested for allegedly faking stories of Holocaust survival to make a profit.
NEW YORK — Walk along the boardwalk on a late autumn day, and Brighton Beach can seem like an old-age home by the sea, where stooped ladies wear rouge like armor and almost everyone lives in the shadow of a difficult past.
Along this Brooklyn outpost’s ocean edge — the heart of much community life here — residents are talking about the betrayal they feel after the arrest of 17 people, mostly from Brighton Beach, on charges that they faked stories of Holocaust survival to profit from money meant for survivors of Nazi persecution.
“I cannot imagine that someone would lie like that; it’s a terrible crime,” says Klara Rakhlin, 72, her bright makeup stark against her black, coiffed hair as she speaks in Russian. “I lost my family in a concentration camp, and it’s disgusting that people would get compensation although they haven’t suffered.”
Rakhlin was little more than a toddler in 1941, when she entered the Pechora concentration camp in what is now Ukraine‘s Vinnitsa region. By the time she left in 1944, she was school-aged.
The arrests don’t close the books on the purported scheme. The organization in charge of awarding the money continues to weed through hundreds more case files to see how much further any deception may have spread. Federal prosecutors say they have already uncovered more than 5,500 fraudulent claims, many of them containing altered birth dates and faked stories of suffering.
Some people — overwhelmingly residents of this neighborhood and elsewhere in Brooklyn — have received letters informing them that they must either appeal or repay tens of thousands of dollars that the nonprofit group, the Conference on the Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, now believes were wrongly awarded.
Already, more than 90 people have told the Claims Conference, as it is commonly known, that they intend to appeal cancellation of their benefits. At least 35 more have returned the money or agreed to repay it on an installment plan.
Still, other recipients are getting letters telling them their quarterly payments will be rationed out by the month, while the Claims Conference asks them to again detail their stories of persecution and re-evaluates their eligibility. Conference employees will work to find records that confirm each qualifying story, says Greg Schneider, the organization’s executive vice president.
“Ninety-nine percent of the cases are clear cases, and there’s no issue, and we won’t be distracted from the fact that helping survivors is our core mission,” Schneider said of the thousands of applications the group receives each year.
Some community leaders worry that requesting more information from some recipients will again turn survivors into victims.
“They are making survivors suffer even more. Why make them prove their status when they’ve gone through so much already?” asks Pavel Vishnevetsky, director of the Council of Jewish Immigrant Community Organizations.
But Schneider contends that asking survivors to pen a description of their ordeal is not too onerous a task. And the Nazis, he says, were meticulous record-keepers — often making it possible to find a paper trail. If someone was on a train transport to a concentration camp, it was recorded. Those trapped in ghettos or who disappeared into hiding can be harder to track down — but if nothing else, records involving someone who witnessed their suffering can usually be found, he said.
Any money claimed wrongly would not have come out of a finite fund for survivors but instead would have come more or less directly from the German government, Schneider said. Lawyers for those accused did not comment. Four of the 17 arrested in the case have pleaded guilty.
For those caught on the other side of the language and cultural divide, the Russian community here can seem closed off.
There are the fairly recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who after decades under Communism are often unwilling to talk to outsiders. There are the aging Jews, like Raisa Volokh, who would rather pull a photograph from her wallet to show off her great-grandchildren than speak of her years of starvation in a Ukraine ghetto, the boy who would become her husband suffering the same indignities alongside her.
“The community of Russians, they stay to themselves,” says 96-year-old Lillian Block, who was one of many American-born Jews living here when she moved in in 1941. Now, she says of her neighbors, “they still have the feeling of when they were in the Soviet Union, when everything was so secretive. … It’s very lonely.”
That perception of concealment has led some, in the aftermath of the fraud accusations, to look on this neighborhood with suspicion. Several residents spoke of hearing talk over the years of small-time scams and believing that such behavior could flourish here.
But Schneider warns against passing judgment on this community. While he believes most or all of the 5,500 allegedly fraudulent claims were made on behalf of real people, he says large numbers of applicants may have been unknowingly involved by unscrupulous middlemen.
There are still 1,000 people each month coming forward to make new claims for payments. Many of those are recent immigrants from former Eastern Bloc countries who are not permitted to claim funds until they leave those nations, Schneider said.
And for Volokh, the roughly $411 per month she receives as reparation for the four years of hunger, of watching people die of starvation and frostbite, can never repay her.
Her children have asked her not to talk too much about those days, fearing that she can’t handle the stress after a pacemaker operation. Sometimes it is too difficult to speak of her memories, she says quietly, a tightness in her throat closing around the words.
“My heart: It cannot,” she says.
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