Swiss close to charging three in nuclear smuggling plot
U.S. tried to derail case against associates of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan
By Michael Isikoff
National investigative correspondent
A Swiss judge is recommending that smuggling charges be brought against three alleged members of the world’s most notorious nuclear trafficking ring, reviving a politically sensitive case that U.S. officials have repeatedly tried to squelch because it might expose sensitive CIA secrets, NBC News has learned.
After more than two years of investigation, Swiss magistrate Andreas Mueller said he plans to announce Thursday that he is recommending that his country’s attorney general criminally charge Swiss engineer Friedrich Tinner and his two sons, Marco and Urs, as middlemen in the nuclear smuggling network of rogue Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan.
Does Santa Claus really exist? Yes, in Indiana
Town named after the Jolly Ol’ Elf celebrates the virtues of Christmas year-round
By Chris Rodell
Do you believe in Santa Claus? Answer no to that in one small midwestern town and you’ll be more than a holiday heretic. You’ll be an obstacle to civic advancement.
Welcome to Santa Claus, Ind., population 2,041, the only town in all America named after the Jolly Ol’ Elf and dedicated to celebrating the evergreen virtues of Christmas.
“It’s year-round, but we really ramp it all up come Christmas,” says Melissa Wilkinson of the Spencer County Visitors Bureau. “There are parades, tree lightings, chestnut roastings and fierce competitions between homes vying to be best decorated.”
Alabama Town’s Failed Pension Is a Warning
By MICHAEL COOPER and MARY WILLIAMS WALSH
Published: December 22, 2010
PRICHARD, Ala. – This struggling small city on the outskirts of Mobile was warned for years that if it did nothing, its pension fund would run out of money by 2009. Right on schedule, its fund ran dry.
Then Prichard did something that pension experts say they have never seen before: it stopped sending monthly pension checks to its 150 retired workers, breaking a state law requiring it to pay its promised retirement benefits in full.
Since then, Nettie Banks, 68, a retired Prichard police and fire dispatcher, has filed for bankruptcy. Alfred Arnold, a 66-year-old retired fire captain, has gone back to work as a shopping mall security guard to try to keep his house. Eddie Ragland, 59, a retired police captain, accepted help from colleagues, bake sales and collection jars after he was shot by a robber, leaving him badly wounded and unable to get to his new job as a police officer at the regional airport.
Stormy but highly productive 111th Congress adjourns
By David A. Fahrenthold, Philip Rucker and Felicia Sonmez
Washington Post Staff Writers
The House and Senate adjourned for the year on Wednesday evening, closing a two-year term that holds the odd distinction of being both historically busy and epically unpopular.
A Congress that was dominated by Democrats passed more landmark legislation than any since the era of Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society.”
Congress approved an $814 billion economic stimulus, a massive health-care overhaul, and new regulations on Wall Street trading and consumer credit cards. The list grew longer during this month’s frenetic lame-duck session: tax cuts, a nuclear arms treaty and a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military.
Albania calls in war crimes team over organ theft claim
Senior officials continue to dismiss claims that Serb captives were smuggled into northern Albania and killed
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 23 December 2010 00.11 GMT
Albania last night invited an international criminal inquiry into claims that organs were taken from murdered Serbs there after the Kosovo war.
The prime minister, Sali Berisha, said EU-sponsored investigators based in Kosovo and officials at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague would be formally invited to open inquiries.
Senior officials in Albania, however, continue to dismiss claims made in a Council of Europe report that Serb captives were smuggled into northern Albania by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and killed.
After a year of despair, Haiti orphans get a fresh start in France
By John Lichfield in Paris Thursday, 23 December 2010
More than 100 Haitian orphans arrived in France yesterday to spend Christmas with their new families, ending nearly a year of intense diplomacy.
The children, from 18 months to two years old, flew into Paris after the French government chartered an aircraft to deliver them to their new homes just in time for Christmas.
Delphine Rivière, an English teacher from Lyon, held sleeping 20-month-old Erika and said: “I haven’t even heard her speak yet. This is a moment of pure joy.”
Iran recruiting nuclear scientists for weapons programme
Iran is operating a worldwide recruitment network for nuclear scientists to lure them to the country to work on its nuclear weapons programme, officials have told the Daily Telegraph.
By Damien McElroy, Geneva
They claim that the country is particularly reliant on North Korean scientists but also recruits people with expertise from African countries to work on developing missiles and nuclear production activities.
North Korea relies on an lucrative financing agreement with Iran to fund its expanding nuclear activities. In return for Iranian money and testing facilities, North Korea sends technology and scientists.
Mohamed Reza Heydari, a former Iranian consul in Oslo, told The Daily Telegraph, that he had personally helped scores of North Koreans enter the country while working for the foreign ministry’s office in Tehran’s Imam Khomenei airport.
Iraq gets an unwieldy coalition government
John Leland and Jack Healy
December 23, 2010
Iraq’s parliament has finally approved a new government, ending nine months of infighting that threatened to throw the nation into a constitutional crisis. Even so, the confirmation of the government under the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, still leaves many festering problems unresolved.
The delay in forming a government led to growing unemployment, worsening services, sporadic attacks from an invigorated insurgency and rising cynicism among voters who had risked their lives to participate in the election in March.
Indonesian army linked to drugs
Philip Dorling and Nick McKenzie
December 23, 2010
THE United States fears Indonesian government neglect, rampant corruption and human rights abuses are stoking unrest in its troubled province of West Papua.
Leaked embassy cables reveal that US diplomats privately blame Jakarta for instability and ”chronic underdevelopment” in West Papua, where military commanders have been accused of drug smuggling and illegal logging rackets across the border with Papua New Guinea. A September 2009 cable from the US embassy in Jakarta says ”the region is politically marginalised and many Papuans harbour separatist aspirations”.
S Korea stages major military drill
South Korea begins massive military exercise involving large-scale firepower and personnel near North Korean border.
Last Modified: 23 Dec 2010
North Korea has criticised major land and sea military exercises staged by the South, but stopped short of threatening a retaliatory strike as tension remained high on the divided peninsula.
In a show of military might, South Korea started a major land drill in the Pocheon region on Thursday (0500 GMT), between Seoul and the heavily armed demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.
It also continues with naval live fire exercises 100km south of the maritime border with North Korea.
The drill, involving a larger scale of firepower and personnel than the usual exercise at the army training ground, is an indication that Lee Myung-bak, South Korea’s president, wants to underscore renewed determination to stand tough with the North.
Civil war looms as foreigners are warned to leave Ivory Coast
By Daniel Howden, Africa Correspondent Thursday, 23 December 2010
Ivory Coast appeared to be sliding back into civil war yesterday as foreign nationals were warned to leave the country, while government-backed “death squads” were reported to be abducting opposition supporters.
The international community stepped up its financial blockade of the regime of Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to concede defeat in last month’s election, with the World Bank and regional leaders freezing loans. The EU and US have already slapped sanctions on Mr Gbagbo and, along with the African Union and regional ECOWAS bloc, have recognised his opponent, Alassane Ouattara, as the rightful President.
Zimbabwe pressed on vote reforms
WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES Dec 23 2010 07:21
“The coming months will determine Zimbabwe’s prospects for the years to come,” the group, known as the Friends of Zimbabwe, said in a statement that praised the African country for progress since its unity government was formed last year.
“However, serious concerns remain relating to the protection of fundamental rights, the rule of law, governance and respect for agreements.”
Mugabe (86) is pushing for a general election to be held by mid-2011. Analysts say his ruling Zanu-PF party may be betting on victory due to infighting in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is struggling to hold on to gains made in Zanu-PF rural strongholds in 2008.