Sunday, June 10, 2012

Syria Ever Closer to All Out War

The cease fire in Syria is officially over. The UN observer mission to gain peace by their presence is a complete failure.

Rebel forces have spent the weekend launching attacks against government strongholds.

After fifteen months of various levels of violence, the rebels are no longer holding anything back.

Attacks were launched in central parts of Damascus, where civilians risked everything by allowing rebel troops to stage and prepare for these assaults.

During the UN backed cease fire, multiple massacres occurred.

Some were completely blamed on government forces, whereas others were not so clear who had perpetrated them.

UN observers are now left with the roll of reporting violence, massacres, and battles.

Many Arab countries, as well as Syrian rebel forces have called for the use of international troops, to end the violence.

It is extremely unlikely that the UN could ever pass a resolution for troops.

Russia and China have repeatedly blocked UN efforts to even place sanctions against the country.

Countries in the EU and the US have suggested they might go without UN approval, another coalition of the willing.

But such moves would be extremely unpopular with the general public of those countries, whose populations are tired of being stuck in international entanglements, and growing debts.

And in Syria, the sides are confused for many world powers, as the rebels are being aided by terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, whom many countries are at war with.

Texas Highway 130 to Have 85 MPH Speed Limit

Texas State Highway 130 is being constructed between San Antonio and Austin.

Plans are for part of the highway to have a speed limit of eighty-five miles per hour.

Texas is already only one of two states that have a limit of eighty mph, in most places.

Last year the Texas Legislature passed a law allowing for the increased speed limit, on newly constructed roads.

With the new limit, the stretch of 130 would become the highway with the second highest posted speed limit, in the world.

Only parts of Poland have higher ones, with a posted limit of one hundred and forty kilometers an hour, or about eighty-six mph.

Quebec Sues Tobacco Companies for $60 Billion

Quebec has joined several other Canadian provinces in suing tobacco companies.

They accuse the companies of hiding the health risks of smoking, claiming that it's residents were led to believe that tobacco couldn't hurt them.

The $60 billion, law suit covers from 1970-2030, and is supposed to represent the cost of health care that the province has had to and will pay for tobacco related illnesses.

Imperial Tobacco Company is launching a counter suit against the province.

Donald McCarthy vice-president of law for Imperial Tobacco Canada stated: "This lawsuit is a cash grab by a provincial government looking to score political points while conveniently forgetting that it has been a senior partner in the tobacco industry for decades. Governments have licensed us, have taxed us and our consumers, and have regulated us, all in full knowledge of the risks associated with tobacco use."

7-Eleven Exempt From NYC Drink Ban

Sales at 7-Eleven stores in New York City are booming thanks to the drink ban proposed by Mayor Bloomberg.

The ban specifically targets sugary drinks like sodas, but affects many other drink types as well.

Some drinks like unsweetened iced teas, diet sodas, and vitamin waters are exempt from the ban.

However, the ban also exempts grocery and convenience stores, therefore 7-Eleven stores can still sell any and all of their products.

7-Eleven actually has some of the biggest most sugary drinks available, with some as big as fifty ounces.

At the same time, the store chain prides itself on it's healthy alternatives, such as it's new line of sugar free slurpees.

Mr. Bloomberg states it is part of the war on obesity, but this information only adds to the questions regarding the effectiveness of the ban.

Many consider the ban to be an extremely socialistic measure, speaking out against it, across the US.

Metro State Passes Tuition Breaks for Illegal Immigrants

Friday saw Metro State of Denver vote seven to one to allow a special tuition rate for illegal immigrants.

Just two months ago, the state voted against allowing colleges to do so.

The planned breaks will give illegal immigrants a discount of fifty-eight percent, from the normal tuition amount. Regular instate tuition is a little bit less yet.

To be eligible for the lower rate, students will have to prove that they've graduated high school, and lived in Colorado for at least the last three years.

The one member of the board, who voted against the new rates stated that since the state wide bill has failed five times, clearly it's not the board's position to do so.

It is unknown if the state will attempt to block the school from the new rates.

Most likely Colorado will allow the school to go with it's own decision.

Echo Mountain Ski Resort For Sale

Echo Mountain Ski Resort is up for sale.

Consisting of 226 acres, a third of which is developed, the resort is only thirty-five miles from Denver.

Food, liquor, and shopping licenses are included in the ownership.

Operations can be expanded through more leases.

One of the highlights of the resort, is it's sound system that is built in throughout the mountain.

Until the afternoon of August 2 at, prospective owners may bid in an online auction or via mail.

The owners are not releasing their reasons for selling the resort.

US E. Coli Outbreak

Authorities are reporting that at least fourteen people have come down with E. coli.

The ill are spread across six states, causing three to be hospitalized, and killing one.

So far no connection has been found, but federal health officials believe that there is one.

Some doubt a connection, to the wide spread of locations, and times in which people became sick.

This particular strain is not considered deadly to most people, but the old, young children, pregnant women, and people with immune deficiencies are highly susceptible.

The one death was a twenty-one month old child.

Health officials are straining the importance of washing your hands and avoiding food contamination.

Phoenix Dealing With Series of Flashlight Bombs

Over the month of May, the Phoenix metro dealt with three separate flashlight bombs.

In each incident a flashlight was found, and when turned on, it exploded.

The Salvation Army has stopped taking donations of flashlights, over fears for people's safety.

Luckily, no one has been severely injured by the blasts, so far.

The randomness of the bombs has caused confusion among authorities.

So far no threats, demands, or messages of any kind have been received regarding the bombs.

Authorities have responded by placing a series of billboards around the metro area, warning citizens about the bombs.

Police are warning the public to report any flashlights found laying around, and to keep an eye on children to make sure they don't find one.

A reward of $10,000 has been announced for information which ends in a conviction.

Sharapova Gains Career Grand Slam

Maria Sharapova won her first championship in 2004, when she was only seventeen.

Saturday, she won her fourth, and earned a career grand slam.

To gain a career grand slam, a tennis player must win all four of the major tournaments.

Wimbledon and the French, Australian, and US Opens are the four Majors.

For Sharapova, it was thought an impossible feat after under going shoulder surgery four years ago.

But in this French Open she shined, with her first six matches lasting to a combined total of only eight and a half hours.

Sharapova now holds the rank of number one, and as she's playing the best she ever has, it could prove very difficult to take that from her.

Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rallies Cover The Nation

Cities across the US held Stand Up For Religious Freedom rallies, on Friday.

With thousands of protestors at most rallies, it is very possible that they totaled well over 100,000.

Their focus was protesting the section of Obamacare that requires contraception to be covered by most employers.

Many state that such a requirement is against their beliefs, therefore considering it a strike against religious freedom.

Churches have been exempted from the mandate, but faith based hospitals and universities have not.

The mandate goes into effect August 1.

High Park Fire Out of Control

A small blaze started, Saturday morning, northwest of Ft. Collins with smoke easily visible in Denver.

As of 18:30 Sunday, it has already burned 14,000 acres and eighteen structures causing the evacuations of more than 2,000 houses, in that section of Colorado

250 firefighters, two air tankers, and four helicopters, including two National Guard Black Hawks are being used against the flames.

At this point containment is not even possible as dry, hot weather is combining with winds to spread it in every direction at once.

Firefighters are working through rough terrain to reach the fire, which is in dead timber and grasses.

Focus is currently on trying to evacuating people and trying to protect structures, especially communication towers on top of Buckhorn Mountain.

If the towers are lost, fire efforts would only be able to communicate through line of sight gear, making the fight all the more difficult.

On Monday, it will be designated a Type One fire, allowing for national resources to be brought in.

Investigators hope to begin work on determining the cause of the fire over Monday, as well.

The Guns of Nasrallah: Israel vs. Hezbollah’s Rapidly Expanding Weapons Arsenal

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, announced that his terrorist group is capable of striking any target in neighboring Israel. Nasrallah added that "the days when we fled and they did not are over".

"Today we are not only able to hit Tel Aviv as a city but, God willing, we are able to hit specific targets in Tel Aviv and anywhere in occupied Palestine," Nasrallah stated in a televised address. "For every building destroyed in Dahiya, a building will be destroyed in Tel Aviv."

Nasrallah's comments came amid rising tensions between Israel and Hezbollah's main benefactor, Iran. Due to the fact that Hezbollah has been a long-time proxy for Iran and because Israel believes Iran’s nuclear enrichment will lead to the development of an atomic bomb, Israel has warned that a strike on Tehran may be initiated.

A recent report quotes a senior military official in Israel’s northern command explaining that even if Hezbollah is reluctant to engage in another war with Israel, Iran would be the one making that decision, one way or the other. The official said that should Israel make good on its threat to attack, Iran would in turn give the nod to Hezbollah. The official elaborated, adding that this time, the conflict would proceed at a "much faster" pace than did the conflict in 2008 (Second Lebanon War).

Indeed, that war lasted thirty-four days, and resulted in a Hezbollah amazed by the skill demonstrated by Israel's air-force, particularly at the war's onset, when it decimated Hezbollah’s long-range rocket launchers in Beirut.

Nevertheless, in the war's aftermath, Hezbollah still remained in control of southern Lebanon. And the UNIFIL's bolstered efforts in the area were in vain as Hezbollah has been able to not only increase its stronghold over the South, but its power over Lebanon as a whole.

Since then, they've been busy. Hezbollah continues to import Iranian missiles, rockets and other weapons via Syria. They now boast an arsenal of over 50,000 rockets and missiles that presumably can reach any part of Israel.

The Jerusalem Post covered the list of weapons at Hezbollah's disposal. And the Washington Post published declassified maps, released by Israel, that show part of Hezbollah's network of military facilities in southern Lebanon.

Though Hezbollah has the means, according the the Jerusalem Post, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander has given the order that they are not to attack, for fear it could garner sympathy for Israel. "Today, the Zionist regime is in total isolation and is facing a serious legitimacy crisis," Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani said. "Any attack would depict them as victims and us as unjust aggressors, which would mobilize the public sympathy for them. This would harm us."

Despite the fact that the Revolutionary Guards now deny having issued that directive, describing it as a "Zionist lie". Ali Alfoneh, writing for the American Enterprise Institute blog, said that the report was originally seen on the website of Botia News, which is a regional outlet, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards. Alfoneh said that it was also picked up by other news publications affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards.

In any event, should a conflict occur, it would be a brief one, opines a senior military officer in Israel's northern command. The officer said that it would follow a much shorter course than did the 34-day war in 2006. Senior military officials argue that Nasrallah is actually reluctant to engage in another war with Israel and would, as previously stated, attack only upon an order from Tehran.

The senior official also indicated that, "the biggest spending of Iran in 30 years has been on the nuclear program, and Hezbollah is the second." He went on to add that Tehran intends to create "Iranian footprints near the border with Israel. If something would happen in Iran, it's a tool that they can use in all kinds of scenarios," he said.

A couple of other scenarios which could lead to a clash between Israel and Hezbollah include the transfer of chemical weapons from Syria to Hezbollah or attacks on Israeli's abroad.

Significantly, the officer additionally addressed Hezbollah's positioning of weapons throughout civilian areas in approximately one hundred towns and villages, running along the Lebanese border. "In the villages there are three-story houses: on one floor there are rockets, then there is a family on the next floor, then a (military) headquarters then another family. The people that live there are human shields," he said. "Every Shiite village has become such a compound. The great challenge will be to deal with all these compounds."

According to Jihad Watch, Israeli Intelligence estimates that one in every ten houses in south Lebanon serves as a missile storage facility or a launch pad for destructive devices against the Jewish state, Israel's chief of military intelligence, Gen. Aviv Kochavi, warned Thursday at a security conference. "One in every 10 houses in south Lebanon is a storage facility for missiles or rockets or a launch pad for devices that are increasingly accurate and destructive," AFP quoted Kochavi as saying.

And, this is not the first time that a statement such as this has come out of Israel. In the midst of the 2008 July-August war between Lebanon and Israel, it was conveyed that Hezbollah was making use of residences in southern Lebanon for the purpose of launching assaults against the IDF.

To prepare for a potential conflict, Israel has recently completed a major military exercise. Ground forces, using tanks, were trained in rivers and in other bodies of water, that are difficult to navigate. The training involved the neutralizing of missile threats deep within enemy territory. Tanks, combat engineers and a variety of elite commando units participated in the day and night exercise. It was reportedly the largest of its kind in 20 years and took place at the River Jordan, according to Col. Enav Shalev, speaking on an Army Radio security program.

This latest exercise was carried out against a backdrop of escalating friction in the region. Iran recently threatened that foreign military intervention against its ally President Bashar Assad in Syria would result in missile strikes targeting Israel. Then too, Tehran has repeatedly warned that any attempt to strike its nuclear program would also prompt missile attacks on the Jewish state.

The Times of Israel Reports, Shalev said the latest exercise was focused on the kinds of operations the IDF might have to carry out in combating missile threats in enemy territory. He said Israel had an array of defensive systems, including the Iron Dome missile defense system that is deployed to protect southern Israel from missile fire from Gaza. But thwarting enemy missile threats ultimately required sending ground forces deep into the enemy territory from which missiles were launched, he said.

Asked if such major ground force exercises were still really necessary in an era where Israel has been grappling with missile threats to the homefront, Shalev replied, "Absolutely." Asked why the exercise had been carried out now, he referred to the current "complex security environment" in which Israel finds itself and said that "anyone with eyes in their head can see why it was necessary." Threats against Israel, he said, "are not decreasing. They are increasing."

"Think how many rivers and streams there in the countries where we are supposed to prepare on the operational level," Shalev said. "My brigade, like others, is supposed to be able to go very far, very deep, to carry out its activities."

It would be a mistake to believe, however, that Hezbollah poses the biggest threat to Israel, at this time. Hamas boasts an armed force to rival that of Hezbollah. This is according to Shin Bet security services.

"Hamas has military capabilities almost of a state," a spokesman quoted Yoram Cohen as saying while addressing the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense. "Some of its military capabilities are even better than Hezbollah's", he said.

The spokesman went on to say that the terrorist group's armory has expanded and includes advanced weaponry (such as shoulder-fired missiles) which was smuggled into the coastal territory from Libya, following the fall of Moamer Qaddafi. Hamas, according to Cohen, is also utilizing computerized lathes in order to produce rockets of ranges from four to forty kilometers (twenty-five miles). Currently, Hamas is in possession of 8,000 rockets. As is the case with Hezbollah, Hamas also receives support from Iran.

As has always been the case, Israel must remain vigilant as it continues its existence in a region surrounded by those whose goal it is to perpetrate Israel's demise.