October 21st, 2014
HELSINKI (AP) — NATO scrambled fighter jets twice in two days to intercept Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea, it said Tuesday amid reports that Russian military activity in the region is increasing.
Lt. Col. Robert Gericke said the Russian aircraft were flying in international airspace and had not violated the territory of alliance members.
Two Canadian F-18 Hornet jets were scrambled from the Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania on Monday to intercept a Russian Ilyushin-20 surveillance aircraft, which they shadowed for some 15 minutes, NATO said.
"Once identification was successful, the intercept mission was completed and the two Hornets returned to their base," a NATO statement said.
Earlier, the Latvian military tweeted that NATO F-16 jets were dispatched on Tuesday to intercept a Russian Ilyushin-20 surveillance aircraft over the Baltic Sea. Gericke confirmed that NATO jets had also intercepted a Russian aircraft that day, but could not immediately provide more details.
NATO, which has 16 fighter jets in the region monitoring Baltic airspace, said it regularly launches jets to identify "unknown or potentially hostile aircraft" in the proximity of national airspace.
There were two similar incidents in the region on Oct. 7 and Sept. 11, but on neither occasion did the Russian aircraft constitute a threat to NATO forces, the alliance said.
In the past five days, the Swedish Navy has been combing the Stockholm archipelago for signs of a foreign submarine that officials suspect entered its territorial waters illegally. It hasn't officially linked Russia to the suspected intrusion.
The Finnish military says that Russian military aircraft have violated the small Nordic country's airspace five times this year, and the Environment Institute said Russian military ships had twice intercepted one of its research vessels in international waters.
On Sept. 5 an Estonian security service officer was detained on the Russian border — Estonia and Russia disagree on which side of it — and is still in custody in Moscow.
October 21st, 2014
An Elitist Kay Hagan Claimed she was completely unaware of any connection....despite a multi-million dollar award on behalf of her husband's company.... at about the same exact time the case was settled & the recommendation was made to Obama.
But, nothing to see here, just move along....
(The big question might be --will you see this story in the Kay Hagan Loving Charlotte Observer?)
Washington Free Beacon
Just a week after Sen. Kay Hagan (D., N.C.) recommended a North Carolina judge to President Barack Obama for a seat in the U.S. District Court, the judge ruled in favor of a company partially owned by Hagan’s husband.
The senator’s husband, Charles T. “Chip” Hagan, was a managing member of Hydrodyne Industries LLC when it sued a regional water authority for drawing water out of a river that had one of its hydroelectric dams built on. The lawsuit sought millions of dollars in damages and was carried out by Chip Hagan’s legal firm.
Superior Court Judge Calvin E. Murphy ruled the case in favor of Hydrodyne, setting the table for the Piedmont Triad Regional Water Authority to pay millions in damages to companies including Hydrodyne.
Murphy’s ruling was made on Oct. 23, 2009, just nine days after Sen. Hagan sent his name to Obama to be nominated for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for Western North Carolina.
Hagan withdrew her recommendation to Obama after North Carolina’s News and Record contacted her office about the apparent conflict of interest, telling the paper that she “was not aware that Judge Murphy was hearing a case in which my husband had an interest.”
“To avoid any appearance of favoritism from my office, I am asking the White House to withdraw Judge Murphy’s name from consideration for U.S. District Court Judge for North Carolina’s western district,” Hagan said in a statement at the time.
The water authority appealed the ruling due to the connections between Hagan and Murphy.
During the appeal, Murphy testified that he was in Hagan’s Greensboro office for an interview with the senator just two days before he heard the final hearings for the case in question.
Murphy maintained, however, that he remained unaware of any connection between the Hagans and the case.
“At no point was it brought to my attention that Sen. Hagan’s husband had an interest in the suit or that his law firm had an interest in the case,” Murphy testified.
The Piedmont Triad Regional Water Authority was not convinced that Hagan and Murphy were both oblivious to each other’s connections to the case....
October 21st, 2014
Three months ago, the CEO of Total, Christophe de Margerie, dared utter the phrase heard around the petrodollar world, "There is no reason to pay for oil in dollars," as we noted here. Today, RT reports the dreadful news that he was killed in a business jet crash at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow after the aircraft hit a snow-plough on take-off.
The airport issued a statement confirming "a criminal investigation has been opened into the violation of safety regulations," adding that along with 3 crewmembers on the plane, the snow-plough driver was also killed.
De Margerie, 63, joined Total in 1974 after graduating from the École Supérieure de Commerce in Paris. He served in several positions in the Finance Department and Exploration & Production division.
In 1995, he became President of Total Middle East before joining the Total's Executive Committee as the President of the Exploration & Production division in May 1999. In May 2006, he was appointed a member of the Board of Directors. He was appointed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Total on May 21, 2010.
According to preliminary data, the light aircraft collided with a snow-cleaning machine on takeoff, a source at the capital’s airport told RIA.
The aircraft was sending distress signals while still in the air and reporting an engine fire and fuselage damage, LifeNews reports. Upon crashing on the runway, the aircraft was engulfed in flames, reportedly killing everyone on board.
While initials reports suggested four people died in the tragedy, officials report that five bodies were found at the crash site, one allegedly being the driver of the snow-cleaning vehicle.
Vnukovo Airport has temporarily suspended all flights following the incident.
“A criminal investigation has been opened into the violation of safety regulationsafter a light aircraft crash in the capital's Vnukovo airport,” transport official Tatyana Morozova told RIA.
An investigative group is working at the crash site, Morozova added. In addition to people who were on board the plane, she said, the driver snowplow was killed.
Debris from the aircraft was scattered up to 200 meters from the crash site, according to the rescue services. The engine was found some 50 meters from the crash site, while one of the landing gears was ripped off and discovered nearly 200 meters from the main mass of debris.
The plane he was aboard...
October 20th, 2014
(Reuters) - It has all the makings of a Cold War thriller -- an emergency military deployment with stealth ships and helicopters hunting for a foreign submarine in the Stockholm archipelago. Grainy photographs of a mysterious vessel. Sightings of a black-clad man wading in shallow coastal waters.
Whether it was caused by paranoia or a secret naval mission, Sweden's biggest military mobilization since the Cold War over the last three days has underscored growing concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin's intentions in the Baltic Sea region.
In just over a month, an Estonian intelligence officer has been reported abducted by Russian forces, Finland has complained of Russian interference with one of its research vessels, and Sweden has lodged an official protest over a "serious violation" when Russian warplanes entered its air space.
With shades of Frederick Forsyth, the maritime mystery has fired the imagination of the region. Moscow has denied it has any submarine in mechanical trouble in Sweden's waters, but nervous governments fear that the Baltic Sea could become the next flashpoint with Russia after Ukraine.
"This may become a game-changer for the security in the whole Baltic Sea region," tweeted Edgars Rinkevics, foreign minister of Latvia, where officials say there has been a marked increase in Russian submarines and ships navigating close to their territorial waters.
The search in the Baltic Sea, less than 30 miles (50 km) from Stockholm, began on Friday and reawakened memories of the final years of the Cold War, when Sweden repeatedly chased suspected Soviet submarines along its coast with depth charges.
But there have also been many false alarms. In the 1980s, the military on several occasions thought it had detected submarines, only to find the underwater sounds had been made by minks or otters.
The military say they are now looking for a submarine, a mini-submarine or even divers amid the thousands of islands near Stockholm, many of them popular holiday destinations. On Monday a no-fly zone was declared around the search area.
Growing tensions since the Ukraine crisis have already caused Sweden and Finland, both avowedly neutral before joining the EU in 1994, to openly discuss NATO membership.
Sweden's own military questioned its ability to defend itself for more than a week against a Russian attack after NATO warplanes were scrambled last year to meet Russian bombers rehearsing a bomb run on Sweden.
"This kind of incident deepens the sense of insecurity not only in Sweden but also the rest of the Baltic Sea region," said Anna Wieslander, deputy director at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.
"It is a long-term game that they have been playing," Wieslander said, adding that Russiahas been gradually modernizing its forces under Putin. "Tensions have been building up before the Ukraine crisis but these incidents have now become more frequent."
The Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, citing unidentified sources, said the latest incident had begun when encrypted radio traffic on an emergency frequency was intercepted on Friday from the Stockholm archipelago to the enclave of Kaliningrad, home to the Russian Baltic Fleet.
The Netherlands has denied reports from Russia that the source could be a Dutch naval submarine.
For Swedes, the affair evokes memories of 1981, when a Soviet submarine known by its Swedish designation U137 was stranded near a major naval base deep inside Swedish waters.
Swedes have been reading avidly about reports of a Russian ship with underwater recovery equipment heading to Swedish waters and a tanker circling the seas near Stockholm, adding to a sense of new Cold War espionage on their doorstep.
Swedish media said military intelligence was investigating a report that a man dressed in black had been spotted wading in an inlet between two islands, one of which, Korso, is used by the Swedish military and is off limits to the public.
SPHERE OF INFLUENCE
Russia has long seen the Baltic as part of its sphere of influence, and still smarts at the former Soviet Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania entering NATO and the EU. Finland also reached accommodations with the Soviet Union for decades.
Lithuania suspected a link between the submarine incident and a massive floating liquefiednatural gas (LNG) terminal that is due to sail to Lithuania from Denmark this week.
Named Independence, the terminal is intended to reduce the Baltic region's dependence on Russian energy. Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius called the timing of the Swedish search a "weird coincidence".
Estonia said on Monday that it was boosting surveillance around the islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa islands -- a potential resupply route from the West in the event of conflict with Russia to the east.
One thing that has changed since the Cold War is Sweden's preparedness after years of defense cutbacks. Some observers say the navy lacks the capability to hunt and destroy submarines in its home waters after scrapping anti-submarine helicopters.
If the search finds proof of foreign military activity in Swedish coastal waters, it will represent the first real test of Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's center-left minority government, less than three weeks after it took office.
His government will hope to do better than one incident in the 1992s, when a Swedish corvette fired a torpedo at a suspected submarine only to narrowly miss hitting itself.
"There's no ongoing submarine chase, but an intelligence operation," Lofven told a news conference in Finland on Monday. "We have the capacity for the operation."
(Added reporting by Johan Ahlander and Niklas Pollard in Stockholm; Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Aija Krutaine in Riga, David Mardiste in Tallin and Jussi Rosendhal in Helsinki; Editing by Peter Millership and Kevin Liffey)
October 20th, 2014
Donald and Evelyn Knapp at the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Photo courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom.
Yet another story belonging within our "Signs" category....a clear and present violation of First Amendment Rights, but in fact going well beyond that, and into the Pagan category of wanton Hedonism as being sancified by the State....
America is in very deep trouble....
Catholic News Agency
.- Two Christian ministers in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, could face legal punishment or be forced to sell their nearly 100-year-old wedding chapel for declining to perform same-sex “wedding” ceremonies.
“Many have denied that pastors would ever be forced to perform ceremonies that are completely at odds with their faith, but that’s what is happening here – and it’s happened this quickly,” Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel with the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, said Oct. 18.
“The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines,” he said. “The city cannot erase these fundamental freedoms and replace them with government coercion and intolerance.”
Tedesco responded to the changing legal climate in Idaho, which is threatening the work of David and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
Married for 47 years, the couple has operated the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel since 1989. The 95-year-old chapel sits across the street from the Kootenai County Clerk’s office.
Coeur d’Alene’s city officials have told the Knapps that their refusal to perform a same-sex ceremony at their chapel violates the city’s anti-discrimination policy. For each day they refuse to perform the ceremony, they face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
The city’s application of its anti-discrimination ordinance follows a federal court override of Idaho’s constitutional amendment that defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman....