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Iran Gives Russia Copy Of US ScanEagle Drone As Proof Of Mass Production

Source: Guardian UK

Iran has given Russia a copy of a US spy drone as proof that its elite forces have reverse-engineered and mass produced the American unmanned aerial vehicle they claim to have captured a year ago.

Iranian media reported yesterday that the copy of the ScanEagle drone was provided to Russia on the sidelines of a meeting in Tehran between Farzad Esmayeeli, the air defence commander of Khatam al-Anbia, the Revolutionary Guards' military and industrial base, and Viktor Bondarev, head of the Russian air force.

In December 2012, a guards' commander said his forces had got their hands on a ScanEagle, promising Tehran would mass produce it. The US authorities denied those claims at the time, saying all its drones were fully accounted for.

"The drone built by the Islamic republic's Revolutionary Guards is a symbol of the technical capabilities of the Islamic Iran and today we presented a real model of it as a gift to Russian air force … and the Russian people," Esmayeeli said after meeting with Bondarev, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/21/iran-russia-us-scaneagle-spy-drone-production-capture

Mega-Fire' Fears Grip Australia As Dozens Of Blazes Rage

Source: NBC NEWS

By Alexander Smith, NBC News contributor

Three large wildfires burning in southeastern Australia could merge into one colossal “mega-fire” and threaten the suburbs of Sydney, officials warned Monday.

A state of emergency was put into effect in New South Wales on Sunday after more than 200 homes were destroyed and many more damaged beyond repair by the country's most widespread bushfires for more than a decade.

More than 60 wildfires were burning across the state on Monday, including 14 which were out of control. The largest blaze has a 190-mile front and was burning just a two-hour drive from Australia’s largest city.

“We are worried these fires have the potential to join up and become a mega-fire,” New South Wales Fire Inspector Andrew Luke told NBC News. “We are focusing back-burning operations in an attempt to stop this happening but conditions over the next 48 hours are deteriorating and it’s really going to come down to how these develop.”

Read more: http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/21/21061180-mega-fire-fears-grip-australia-as-dozens-of-blazes-rage?lite

Amnesty International Warns That Saudi Arabia Has ‘Ratcheted Up The Repression’ And Human Rights

Amnesty International Warns That Saudi Arabia Has ‘Ratcheted Up The Repression’ And That Human Rights Are Getting Worse

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, October 21, 2013 9:01 EDT

Amnesty International on Monday said Saudi Arabia had failed to act on UN recommendations and “ratcheted up the repression” since 2009, with the arbitrary detention and torture of activists.

The London-based watchdog’s statement was released ahead of a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Monday to discuss the oil-rich kingdom’s record, and comes after Riyadh rejected a seat on the UN Security Council, citing the international body’s “double standards” and inability to resolve regional conflicts.

“Saudi Arabia’s previous promises to the UN have been proven to be nothing but hot air,” said Amnesty’s MENA director Philip Luther, accusing the kingdom of relying “on its political and economic clout to deter the international community from criticising its dire human rights record.”

In its report titled “Saudi Arabia: Unfulfilled Promises,” Amnesty criticised “an ongoing crackdown including arbitrary arrests and detention, unfair trials, torture and other ill-treatment over the past four years” in the kingdom.

“Not only have the authorities failed to act, but they have ratcheted up the repression” since 2009, said Luther.



Dianne Feinstein Insists NSA’s Massive Snooping Operations Are ‘Not Surveillance’

By Paul Lewis, The Guardian
Monday, October 21, 2013 12:21 EDT

Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the US Senate committee charged with holding the intelligence establishment to account, declared on Monday that the National Security Agency’s mass collection of phone records is “not surveillance” and should be maintained as an essential tool to combat terrorism.

Feinstein made the case for retaining the program, which routinely collects and stores the phone records millions of Americans, in an op-ed for USA Today, in which she wrote that the NSA’s work had been “effective in helping to prevent terrorist plots against the US and our allies”.

Feinstein, a Democrat from California, is introducing legislation that would make superficial alterations to the NSA and the secret courts that are supposed to provide judicial oversight.

But her bill stops short of making any substantial changes to the way the agency conducts its work, despite the string of revelations based on disclosures by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

A host of rival bills being introduced in Washington go much further, including one from Democratic senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate judiciary committee. Leahy is proposing an end to the bulk collection of phone records, which is authorised under an interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act.



Why Exactly Are We So Exceptional?

Hint: It's Not Because We Treat Our Citizens Well

By Leonard Fein
Published October 19, 2013, issue of October 25, 2013.

Several weeks ago, in a New York Times op-ed piece, Vladimir Putin wrote, “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.” It did not take long for President Obama to assert the contrary, in his address to the UN General Assembly: “Some may disagree, but I believe America is exceptional,” Obama said. He believes in American exceptionalism “in part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest but for the interests of all.”

There’s a vast literature on American exceptionalism. Often, the unstated intent is to call attention to America’s “destiny,” to its status as the land of the free and the home of the brave, the shining city on the hill, the nation that early on broke with European tradition and hinged everything on the consent of the governed. “Exceptionalism” becomes a form of self-congratulation.

Yet the empirical truth seems to be that if you bother to parse our exceptionalism, it’s not all that exceptional, especially these days, when the crown jewel of our exceptionalism, the vastness of our middle class, seems rather badly tarnished, in a state of escalating atrophy. “The consent of the governed” is a seductive phrase, but it presumes a broad consent to the current lunacy in Washington — in the House of Representatives in particular — that the polls decisively belie.

Or take the individual components implicitly referenced when American exceptionalism is invoked: A caring society? We are far behind other nations in the supports we offer the down and out. We’re second in childhood poverty, 49th in life expectancy, 16th in manufacturing compensation, 9th in retirement security, 17th in educational performance. Income equality? Dishonored in the breach. Health care? Higher costs and worse outcomes than elsewhere. Pre-school learning opportunities? In Belgium, 99.6% of three year-olds are in pre-school; in the US, 33.3%. And so on down the line.

Nor, after Vietnam and Iraq, can we plausibly claim the high ground in peace-making.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/185856/why-exactly-are-we-so-exceptional/#ixzz2iNaYwLgU

Sanctions Relief Could Come for Iran Before Nuclear Program Is Suspended

Netanyahu Has Cautioned Against Jack Lew's Proposal

Published October 21, 2013.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew suggested that sanctions relief could come before Iran fully suspends its suspected nuclear weapons program — a tactic rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lew, speaking Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said the United States would not ease sanctions until Iran took tangible steps to suspend its nuclear program, but said sanctions could be “proportionate,” suggesting that interim steps might occasion partial sanctions relief.

“We need to see what they’re going to actually do,” Lew said just days after talks renewed between major powers and Iran over its nuclear program, which Iran insists is peaceful.

“We need to see rolling back their nuclear program,” he said. “And I can tell you that when the time comes, when those movements come, any changes will have to be proportionate.”

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/185939/sanctions-relief-could-come-for-iran-before-nuclea/#ixzz2iNZjTiw3

Demanding Answers in Unsolved Murder of Palestinian-American Activist Alex Odeh

By Josh Nathan-Kazis
Published October 16, 2013.

Civil rights groups are demanding that the FBI solve a 28-year-old California murder long thought to be the work of Jewish extremists.

Alex Odeh, the Palestinian-American regional director of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, was killed in October 1985 by a pipe bomb that exploded when he opened his office door. No one has ever been charged in the case.

Now, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee has launched a campaign to draw attention to the unsolved killing, in cooperation with other civil rights groups and members of Congress.

“Twenty-eight years is a long time, and, with all due respect, too long a time,” said Michigan Congressman John Conyers on a conference call announcing the effort.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/185693/demanding-answers-in-unsolved-murder-of-palestinia/?p=all#ixzz2iNYdO8Je

Netanyahu Hopes To Dim World Optimism on Iran

By Reuters
Published October 21, 2013.

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday will seek to dim the optimism after nuclear talks with Iran, cautioning that Tehran is strengthening its strategic regional position by calling the shots in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad’s puppet master.

In talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on Wednesday, Netanyahu is expected to argue against easing Western sanctions on Iran, which hinted at recent Geneva talks it was willing to scale back its nuclear program.

Netanyahu has long warned the West, in a message it has largely embraced, of the danger Iran would pose to the Jewish state, the Middle East and the West if it obtained nuclear arms through the programme which Iran says aims to generate power.

The right-wing prime minister will gauge just how far the United States is ready to consider any let up on sanctions imposed on Iran at the meeting with Kerry.

Reinforcing his warning of the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, Netanyahu has added another twist to his argument, noting that Iran is behind Assad and supplies Shi’ite Muslim fighters for the civil war against Sunni rebels.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/185935/netanyahu-hopes-to-dim-world-optimism-on-iran/#ixzz2iNX3RtGy

France Summons U.S. Envoy on NSA Spying Report in Le Monde

The French government expressed outrage at a report that the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on millions of phone calls inside France and demanded that the U.S. halt the spying.

The Foreign Ministry in Paris summoned the U.S. ambassador after Le Monde, using documents disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, reported that the U.S. intercepted and recorded 70.3 million bits of “telecommunications data” between Dec. 10, 2012, and Jan. 8, 2013.

“This type of practice between partners that intrudes on the private sphere is totally unacceptable,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Luxembourg today. “We have to see to it very quickly that this practice ceases.”

Allegations based on data provided by Snowden, who was granted asylum by Russia as he faces espionage charges in the U.S., have stirred tensions between the U.S. and countries including Germany and Brazil. Mexico’s government condemned the alleged hacking of the e-mail account of then-President Felipe Calderon in 2010, saying such actions are unacceptable and violate international law.

The U.S. embassy in Paris declined to comment through a spokesman that the ambassador, Charles Rivkin, was called in to the French foreign ministry.



Sales of Existing U.S. Homes Fall as Affordability Drops

Source: Bloomberg

By Lorraine Woellert - Oct 21, 2013

Purchases of previously owned U.S. homes fell in September for the first time in three months, retreating from an almost four-year high as rising prices and mortgage rates discouraged would-be buyers.

Sales dropped 1.9 percent to a 5.29 million annual rate, the National Association of Realtors reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 67 economists in a Bloomberg survey called for the pace to slow to 5.3 million. Prices climbed 11.7 percent, pushing affordability to an almost five-year low, the group said.

Higher borrowing costs will probably hold back demand, slowing the housing rebound that’s been a source of strength for the expansion. At the same time, the damage done to fourth-quarter growth by the partial government shutdown raises the odds that the Federal Reserve will delay cutting back on bond purchases, which means interest rates may stabilize around current levels.

“We see a little bit of a bumpy ride,” said Kevin Cummins, an economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut, who correctly projected the drop in sales. “The jury is still out on home sale and how much of a pullback we might see due to higher mortgage rates.”

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-21/sales-of-existing-u-s-homes-decrease-as-affordability-declines.html
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