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gucci315 Putin tops Russian elite rating, Medvedev gets runner-up - poll - Subscribe
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Prime Minister Vladimir Putin leads the 2009 Russian elite rating, with President Medvedev as a runner-up and pop diva Alla Pugachyova in third place, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center said on Tuesday.

More than 67% of those questioned answered "Putin" when asked about the leading figure of the Russian elite, while a half (50.64%) referred to Medvedev, the survey said. According to the poll, the rating of the Russian incumbent president has improved by almost 12% since last year, when only 38.8% of those questioned said he was the elite leader.

Putin's popularity rose after a national televised address in early December, curbing a four-week slide. However, a dip was noted in both Medvedev and Putin's popularity in recent months. The popularity of Pugachyova, one of the most prominent personalities on the domestic pop scene in the 1970s and 1980s, has dropped to 17.76% from almost 23.76 % last year.

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovsky, composer Igor Krutoy, film discount gucci shoes director Nikita Mikhalkov, singer and parliament member Iosif Kobzon, and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov took places from 4 to 10, the research center said.

Lawyer Pavel Astakhov, pop singers Galina Vishnevskaya and Valeria, painter Ilya Glazunov, Vice Premier and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, footballer Roman Pavluchenko, TV host Leonid Parfyonov, as well as head of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, are an the bottom of the list, with popularity sale gucci shoes ratings not exceeding 0.64%.

Some 1,600 people in sale women gucci shoes 140 localities and 42 regions took part in the survey conducted on December 19-20, with a statistical margin of error within 3.4%.

Mood: lovely

gucci315 Northwest flight attack points up a growing menace: Al Qaeda in Yemen Dec 30th, 2009 12:09:44 am - Subscribe
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Reporting from Sana, Yemen - The Al Qaeda wing in Yemen that claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing last week of a Northwest Airlines flight has as many as 2,000 militants and sympathizers exploiting the country's economic and political chaos to create a base for jihad at the edge of the Persian Gulf, according to a Yemeni terrorism expert.

The group, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is the latest reincarnation of Islamist militant cells that have been active in Yemen for years. The country has supplied extremists to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to terrorist networks stretching from North Africa to Europe. But Yemen these days is not only inspiring radicals, it's also attracting them to join an evolving extremist front in the Middle East.

"They were once just a group of radicals in Yemen looking to its mother in Afghanistan for advice," Saeed Ali O. Jemhi, an expert on militant groups, said in a recent interview in the Yemeni capital, Sana. "But the group's leadership in Yemen has improved. They have clear ideological and strategic plans, and they were strengthened early in 2009 by a merger of Saudi and Yemen Al Qaeda branches."

The group gucci women shoes said on its website that it was behind the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a flight en route to Detroit from Amsterdam. It said the plot was retaliation for U.S. assistance to Yemen's military, which in recent weeks has launched airstrikes on training camps and safe houses that killed as many as 60 suspected Al Qaeda members.

The growth of Al Qaeda's wing in Yemen and its selection of high-profile targets are partly the result of militants regrouping in the Arab world's poorest country as the U.S. military pressures Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Yemen's unrest, including a secessionist movement in the south and a civil war in the north, has given Al Qaeda an ideal hub, especially in rural and tribal regions where the government's reach is limited.

The group -- whose aim, analysts say, is to create an Islamic caliphate across the Persian Gulf and build a base from which to attack Western and Israeli interests -- is operating just across the Red Sea from Somalia, where another Al Qaeda branch has taken hold in the lawless Horn of Africa.

That scenario gucci man shoes offers a number of concerns for Washington, and responses could include the possibility that U.S. counter-terrorism agencies will deepen their roles in training Yemeni special forces, or that U.S. intelligence and military hardware will be used to attack militant targets inside Yemen.

Some analysts say the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh reacted too slowly to the emerging strength of Al Qaeda and is now unprepared to crush the organization without significant U.S. involvement.

"The majority of Yemenis sympathize with Al Qaeda, especially over American actions in Iraq and Afghanistan," Jemhi said. "Al Qaeda is a growing threat with an ideology that other extremist groups can build upon."

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula became a more dangerous threat in 2006, when more than 20 militant operatives escaped from a Yemeni prison.

Since then, the organization has joined extremists in Yemen and Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Naser Abdel-Karim Wahishi, a Yemeni with ties to Osama bin Laden.

Wahishi's second in command is Saeed Ali Shehri, a Saudi national who, upon his release from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007, went through a rehabilitation program in the kingdom.

The Yemeni government says the two men may have been killed in a recent airstrike, but there has been no independent confirmation. It is not known how closely they may have coordinated with Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Bin Laden, who has roots in Yemen, is believed to be hiding.

The Yemeni-Saudi extremist alliance -- believed to have a nucleus of about 200 committed operatives and hundreds of sympathizers -- crystallized with the attempted assassination of a top Saudi official in August.

The incident foreshadowed the jetliner plot and revealed the group's focus on using concealed explosives to circumvent security.

In an elaborate ruse, a bomber posing as a repentant extremist tried to assassinate Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia's security chief.

Al Qaeda operatives prepared an explosive device that was inserted into the rectum of the Saudi militant, who flew from Yemen to Jidda, Saudi Arabia, to meet with the prince.

He got through airport and palace security before the explosive was triggered by a call from Yemen, killing him but only wounding the prince.

The explosive was PETN, the same material that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria is accused of concealing in his clothing in the plot to destroy the Detroit-bound Northwest plane.

The Yemen Al Qaeda group has also been blamed for the assassinations this year of three provincial officials in Yemen. In 2008, militants attacked the U.S. Embassy in Sana, leaving 19 dead, including a U.S. citizen.

In 2007, eight Spanish tourists and their guides were killed in a bombing near an architectural site.

Yemen's Al Qaeda wing startled Washington in 2000 when a motorboat packed with explosives slammed into the U.S. destroyer Cole in the port of Aden, killing 17 sailors.

Jemhi said these and other assaults on Western targets indicate that Al Qaeda has operatives or sympathizers in Yemen's security forces and intelligence agencies.

"Globally, Al Qaeda may be hurt militarily, but this is not the case in Yemen," Jemhi said. "There are plenty of weapons and arms here. Yemen is the perfect state for Al Qaeda to grow. The jihadists can benefit from all the country's chaos."
Mood: confuzzled

gucci315 Israel's 10 worst errors of the decade Dec 30th, 2009 7:04:07 pm - Subscribe
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In the Mideast, dreams can only end badly. Not because messianic messages are, in and of themselves, bad dreams, but because of the nature of this place, the history which is as much imagination as it is record, as much sacred hallucination as it is shared memory. And because the dreamers of this place fail again and again because they are under the illusion that they are realists.

The decade just passing is one in which Middle East dreams came to die. It began, appropriately, with an Israeli leader who saw his place in history as dependent on imposing a peace plan on the entire Arab world, and a Palestinian icon who saw his place in history as dependent on saying no.

In no decade of the modern Middle East has the roll of failure been so democratic. The titans Arafat and Sharon fought their battle to the death, and both lost. Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak, Hassan Nasrallah, Ahmed Yassin, hilltop youth, Al Aqsa Martyrs, Yossi Beilin, the Yesha Council, even Jimmy Carter - all dreamed Icarus dreams and realized, only too late, that in the brilliant sun of the Holy Land, wings of feathers and wax reveal their true selves, which is to say, nothing more than feathers and wax.

It was a decade framed by a fundamentalist Palestinian belief in discount gucci shoes salvation through suicide and a fundamentalist Israeli belief in salvation through brutality.

The decade ends as it began, clueless, hopeless, exhausted. For having lived through this, we are, all of us, somehow much more than 10 years older, yet none the wiser. In fact, what passed for our wisdom had died with our dreams. Socialist collectivism, rabid Revisionism, Reagan-Thatcher neo-conservatism, none of them has anything to teach us.

The Palestinians are ideological orphans as well. Ten years ago, they were promised that the armed struggle would cause the Jewish state to collapse like a spider's web. Ten years ago, they might have had a state of their own. Now they can barely breathe.

For both peoples, the lessons of this decade are unbearable. No Greater Israel, no Peace Now, no Wholly Palestinian Palestine, no Two State solution. Perhaps this is truly what the messiah has decided to settle for: a situation in which every single inhabitant of the land is unhappy to the same extent.

In this regard, there is perhaps no better time than this to review Israel's 10 Worst Mistakes of the Last 10 Years:

1. The Siege of Gaza - The stated goal of the siege was to undermine Hamas and to goad Gazans into rejecting Hamas rule. The effect of the siege has been to focus and intensify Palestinian anger against Israel, increase Gazans' dependency on Hamas social welfare arms, enrich Hamas coffers through tunnel taxation and foreign donations, and sap Palestinian support for Fatah, which, through its back-channel encouragement for the siege, is seen as a betrayer and a boot-licker in the sale gucci shoes eyes of many Palestinians.

2. The Siege of Gaza - The blockade was ostensibly a means to stem the influx of weaponry into Gaza. In practice, with shipments the size of automobiles flowing through the tunnels, the Hamas arsenal has grown ever more sophisticated, now believed to include Iranian-manufactured rockets capable of striking Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion Airport from the Strip.

3. The Siege of Gaza - In the eyes of the world community, the overwhelming collective punishment - and the relative silence of Israelis in response - has gutted Israeli claims to the moral high ground. It has undercut sympathy for Israelis living within Qassam range. It has kept open the moral wounds of the Gaza War, cramping rebuilding efforts, enshrining universal unemployment, and ensuring agonizing homelessness as the coastal winter gathers full force. Israeli officials have quietly take steps of astounding insensitivity, arbitrarily barring such goods as school supplies.

4. The Siege of Gaza - The siege has been presented in the past as a means of pressing Hamas to release Gilad Shalit. Not only does he remain captive, the terms of a prospective deal appear not to include lifting the siege. The siege has been presented in the past as a means of pressuring Gazans to end rocket fire. But rocket fire only increased after the siege was put in place. Finally, Cast Lead, the Gaza war a year ago, might have been prevented altogether, had Israel adhered more closely to the Egyptian-brokered Hamas-Israel truce agreement of June, 2008, and sale women gucci shoes lifted the siege more completely in response to a drop in rocket fire.

5. The Siege of Gaza - The siege works to the detriment of U.S. support for Israel. In February, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled anger at Israel over obstacles to humanitarian aid entering the strip. The message came soon after Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, visiting Gaza, learned that Israel had blocked shipments of pasta, ruling it off the list of permitted humanitarian aid items.

6. The Siege of Gaza - The fact that the siege has failed so completely in achieving its stated aims, reinforces the impression that its real purpose is punitive.

7. The Siege of Gaza - The siege places Israeli officials in jeopardy of being charged with violating the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international codes, as outlined in detail in the Goldstone Report. Referring to the siege, paragraph 1335 of the report states that: "From the facts available to it, the Mission is of the view that some of the actions of the Government of Israel might justify a competent court finding that crimes against humanity have been committed."

8. The Siege of Gaza - With the siege under the direct aegis of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his deputy, Matan Vilnai, the moral failings of the siege could prove the coup de grace to an already foundering Labor Party.

9. The Siege of Gaza - The siege threatens to destabilize the rule of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, posing a potential threat to Israeli-Egyptian peace and Israeli security.

10. The Siege of Gaza - The siege corrupts the moral values of all Israelis, who, whether or not they are aware of what is being done to the people of Gaza, bear ultimate responsibility for all acts being carried out in their name.
Mood: desperate