cross-posted from T-Time
Polish leader, wife and staff among dead, 96 total casualties in Russia jet crash
MOSCOW (AP) – Polish President Lech Kaczynski and some of the country’s highest military and civilian leaders died on Saturday when the presidential plane crashed as it came in for a landing in thick fog in western Russia, killing 96, officials said. Russian and Polish officials said there were no survivors on the 26-year-old Tupolev, which was taking the president, his wife and staff to events marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police.
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more: Polish president killed in plane crash: the conspiracy theorists will go crazy
Biography of Poland’s: Lech Kaczynski
UPDATE: Polish president’s body returns to Warsaw
WARSAW, Poland (AP) – The body of President Lech Kaczynski was returned to Poland on Sunday, where it was greeted by grieving dignitaries and thousands of Poles lining the route from Warsaw’s airport to the presidential palace. The plane carrying Kaczynski’s body arrived from the airport in Smolensk, Russia, where he and 95 others had been heading Saturday to honor 22,000 Polish officers slain by the Soviet secret police in 1940 in the western Soviet Union.
Poles grieve over president killed in plane crash
WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Poland’s government moved swiftly Sunday to show that it was staying on course after the deaths of its president and dozens of political, military and religious leaders, even as tens of thousands of Poles expressed their grief over the plane crash in Russia that shocked the country. New acting chiefs of the military were already in place and an interim director of the central bank was named Sunday, with work running as usual, said Pawel Gras, a government spokesman.
cross-posted from T-Time
Two suicide bombings kill dozens in Moscow metro
MOSCOW (AP) — Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up on Moscow’s subway system as it was jam-packed with rush-hour passengers Monday, killing at least 37 people and wounding 102, officials said.
The head of Russia’s main security agency said preliminary investigation places the blame on rebels from the restive Caucasus region that includes Chechnya, where separatists have fought Russian forces since the mid-1990s.
The first explosion took place just before 8 a.m. at the Lubyanka station in central Moscow. The station is underneath the building that houses the main offices of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the KGB’s main successor agency.
A second explosion hit the Park Kultury station about 45 minutes later.
Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu said the toll was 37 killed and 102 injured, but he did not give a breakdown of casualties at each station, according to Russian news agencies. AP
more here: Moscow bombing: who are the Black Widows?
Obama condemns Moscow bombs as heinous terrorism
Posted by: Audiegrl
NYT~President Obama and his Russian counterpart, President Dmitri A. Medvedev, have broken through a logjam in their arms control negotiations and expect to sign a new treaty in Prague next month that would slash American and Russian nuclear arsenals, officials from both nations said Wednesday.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev still need to talk once more to finalize the agreement, but officials were optimistic that the deal was nearly done.
The two sides have discussed a signing ceremony in Prague in early April, marking the anniversary of the first meeting between the two presidents and of Mr. Obama’s speech outlining his vision for eventually eliminating nuclear weapons.
The new pact would replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991, which expired in December, and would require both sides to reduce their warheads and launchers by more than one-quarter. The agreement is the most significant accomplishment so far for Mr. Obama’s policy of trying to “reset” relations with Russia. It is intended to pave the way for another more far-reaching round of reductions later in his term.
Neither the White House nor the Kremlin would formally comment on Wednesday, but officials on both sides confirmed that an agreement was close to done. A Kremlin official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was basic agreement on the text of the pact, although not all the wording had been finalized. He confirmed that Prague would be the likely location of a signing ceremony, although that too needed to be finalized.
blogpost by Ogenec
I am looking forward to hearing Obama’s speech tonight. I do hope, however, that we don’t get the kind of speech he is so adept at giving: the one where he impresses us with his mastery of nuance and ability to understand all sides of a multi-faceted issue. At this point, even his detractors are prepared to concede him that point. The question is not his capacity for reflection, but his capacity for conviction. If he believes the war is worth fighting, he must convince us of that. More to the point, he must convince us we need to sacrifice for the effort. If, however, he does not believe this war is worth fighting in the long term, then he must also convince us of that.
And here I’ll digress to state my own opinion. I think that the term “war” is not the right one, and it just distorts the analysis to look at it from that perspective. We are not at “war” with Afghanistan. But we should do whatever it takes to deny the Taliban and Al Qaeda sanctuary. Not just because of Af-Pak, although Pakistan is tremendously important: ISI, nukes, Kashmir, and all that. In my own opinion, the problem is what a time series would show: that Islamic fundamentalism is spreading and metastizing, from the Middle East into Asia, Europe, and even sub-Saharan Africa. It will take a concerted, global effort to reverse this trend, and it behooves all countries to get involved, and to stop playing geo-political games with the issue. Russia is learning that lesson the hard way. They imagined that they could use Iran as a pawn in their geopolitical chess match with the United States. But the recent terrorist attack in Russia demonstrates the limits of that strategy: Russia can make nice with the Iranian theocrats all it wants, but that will not deter the fundamentalists from their vision of a Caliphate that spans Asia, Europe and Africa. By whatever means necessary.
Similarly, pacifists, progressives, liberals (or whatever they want to call themselves) should recognize the limits of their strategy. Repudiating Bush’s silly pre-emptive war doctrine does not mean that we should end the effort in Afghanistan, and “just bring the troops home.” Again, that view severely misapprehends the existential nature of the threat. That said, I do agree that there is something to the “Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle” argument: that by intervening militarily in Afghanistan, we perpetuate the disaffection that leads to the very fundamentalism we are trying to prevent. I get that. But that does not mean we abandon the endeavor: it means that we transform it. We should not make the mistake with Karzai that Bush made with Musharraf, and prop up a corrupt administration with divided loyalties. Rather, we should help the local populace with economic alternatives: more micro loans, less drones, to coin a phrase. So the focus on troop numbers misses the point in my view. The question is, what is the purpose of the troops? This is what I want to hear from Obama tonight. Tell me that the troops are a means to an end, not the end in and of themselves.
And, while you’re at it, tell me how we are going to pay for it. Make this a national call to action, and Americans will be happy to do their share. But you’ve gotta make the case. My vote: WaPo’s prescription of a gasoline tax.
Tom Ricks C-span interview: What’s next in Afghanistan? 12/1/2009
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The Legacy of 1989 Is Still Up for Debate
New York Times/Steven Erlanger—The historical legacy of 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell and the cold war thawed, is as political as the upheavals of that decisive year.
The events of 1989 spurred a striking transformation of Europe, which is now whole and free, and a reunified Germany, milestones that are being observed with celebrations all over the continent, including a French-German extravaganza Monday evening on the Place de la Concorde.
But 1989 also created new divisions and fierce nationalisms that hobble the European Union today, between East and West, France and Germany, Europe and Russia.
Some of the intensity of those divisions is evident in the tug of war, in both Europe and the United States, over the achievements of 1989 — whether they owe more to the resolute anti-Communism of Ronald Reagan or its inverse, the white-glove embrace of the East by many in Western Europe.
From left, Mikhail Gorbachev, Henry Kissinger and former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher next to a piece of the Berlin Wall.
And while many in the West saw the wheel of history spinning inevitably, causing the rise of democracy and banishing serious rivals to American power, China forestalled its own revolution in 1989 and catapulted itself to prominence through an authoritarian capitalism that the leaders of Russia are now studying.
“The Chinese ended up with a Leninist capitalism, which none of us imagined in 1989, and which is now the main ideological competitor to Western liberal democracy,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a chronicler of 1989 in his book “The Magic Lantern.”
It is a tribute to 1989, not unlike the French Revolution 200 years before it, that its meaning is hotly contested. Different groups in different countries see the anniversary differently, usually from their own ideological points of view.
In general, said James M. Goldgeier of George Washington University, a historian of the period, “the big question out there for 20 years is who gets the credit.”
A group of Russian tourists gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Friday.
For many in the United States, he said, most of the credit now goes to President Ronald Reagan and his aggressive military spending and antagonism toward Communism. That view has largely eclipsed another American perspective, which was that globalization and democratization were so powerful that a Mikhail Gorbachev was inevitable, and that the cold war ended through “soft power” — propaganda, diplomacy and the Helsinki accords.
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“Everybody who participated at the meeting was trying to look to the future not the past, trying to heal the wounds,”
VIENNA – Iranian negotiators on Wednesday agreed to consider a draft deal that — if accepted by the Tehran leadership — would delay its ability to make nuclear weapons by sending most of the material it would need to Russia for processing, diplomats said Wednesday.
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed that representatives of Iran and its three interlocutors — the U.S., Russia and France — had accepted the draft, which still has to be finalized by the four nations’ capitals. ElBaradei said he hoped that would occur by Friday.
“I have circulated a draft agreement that in my judgment reflects a balanced approach to how to move forward,” ElBaradei told reporters, suggesting that all four parties had worked hard to overcome differences exacerbated by suspicions that Iran may be interested in nuclear weapons. Tehran insists its activities are peaceful and meant only to generate energy.
“Everybody who participated at the meeting was trying to look at the future not at the past, trying to heal the wounds,” ElBaradei said. “I very much hope that people see the big picture, see that this agreement could open the way for a complete normalization of relations between Iran and the International community.”
Full story here:
Video: Sec. Clinton: Iran’s Nuke Program of Serious Concern
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Top Iranian negotiator praises plan to ship uranium abroad
Bone with bullet hole found by Russians in 1946 came from an unknown woman, not the German monster
Guardian.co.uk/Uki Goñi—In countless biographies of Adolf Hitler the story of his final hours is recounted in the traditional version: committing suicide with Eva Braun, he took a cyanide pill and then shot himself on 30 April 1945, as the Russians bombarded Berlin.
Research on a skull fragment thought to be Hitler's has cast doubt on the circumstances of his death/ Reuters
Some historians expressed doubt that the Führer had shot himself, speculating that accounts of Hitler’s death had been embellished to present his suicide in a suitably heroic light. But a fragment of skull, complete with bullet hole, which was taken from the bunker by the Russians and displayed in Moscow in 2000, appeared to settle the argument.
Until now. In the wake of new revelations, the histories of Hitler’s death may need to be rewritten – and left open-ended. American researchers claim to have demonstrated that the skull fragment, secretly preserved for decades by Soviet intelligence, belonged to a woman under 40, whose identity is unknown. DNA analyses performed on the bone, now held by the Russian State Archive in Moscow, have been processed at the genetics lab of the University of Connecticut. The results, broadcast in the US by a History Channel documentary, MysteryQuest: Hitler’s Escape, astonished scientists.
According to Connecticut archaeologist and bone specialist Nick Bellantoni, it was clear from the outset that something was amiss. “The bone seemed very thin; male bone tends to be more robust,” he said. “And the sutures where the skull plates come together seemed to correspond to someone under 40.” In April 1945 Hitler turned 56.
History Channel’s Mysteryquest: Hitler’s Escape
Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five
TEHRAN (Reuters) – The head of the U.N. nuclear agency arrived in Iran on Saturday for talks on a timetable for inspectors to visit a newly disclosed unfinished nuclear enrichment plant, state radio reported.
A senior Iranian nuclear official told Reuters that ElBaradei would discuss plans to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to visit the site, as demanded by world powers. He said ElBaradei would not visit any nuclear site.
Iran agreed with six powers in Geneva on Thursday to allow IAEA inspectors unfettered access to the plant, near the Shi’ite holy city of Qom, but did not set a time frame.
posted by GeoT
**44-Update** Iran Agrees To Send Most Of Its Uranium To Russia
Iran’s agreement in principle to export most of its enriched uranium for processing — if it happens — would represent a major accomplishment for the West, reducing Iran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon quickly and buying more time for negotiations to bear fruit.
If Iran has secret stockpiles of enriched uranium, however, the accomplishment would be hollow, a senior American official conceded. Con’t here:
President Barack Obama’s strategy of engaging Iran finally got under way in earnest on Thursday with a positive response from Tehran to at least some of the concerns about its nuclear program. At a meeting in Geneva with officials from Western powers, Russia and China, Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili agreed to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect a hitherto secret uranium-enrichment facility under construction near Qum. President Obama and his allies expressed grave concern last week about the site after revelations of its existence, and they made the demand for its inspection a key benchmark of Iran’s willingness to cooperate in resolving questions about its nuclear intent.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana announced that Iran had agreed to inspections at the site “in the next couple of weeks” and hailed the talks as “the start of what we hope will be an intensive process.” Further talks are expected to be held later this month.
Obama later called the talks a “constructive beginning” but insisted that Iran follow up with “constructive action” to prove its stated commitment to confine itself to peaceful nuclear development. “We’re not interested in talking for the sake of talking,” he said. “Pledges of cooperation must be fulfilled.”
Complete Story: Here
From AP Video: