Archive for January, 2014

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, February 1, 2014 — Faith gives us the power to remain still through any storm tossed sea

January 31, 2014

Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 322

Reading 1 2 sm 12:1-7a, 10-17

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The LORD sent Nathan to David, and when he came to him, Nathan said: “Judge this case for me! In a certain town there were two men, one rich, the other poor. The rich man had flocks and herds in great numbers. But the poor man had nothing at all except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He nourished her, and she grew up with him and his children. She shared the little food he had and drank from his cup and slept in his bosom. She was like a daughter to him. Now, the rich man received a visitor, but he would not take from his own flocks and herds to prepare a meal for the wayfarer who had come to him. Instead he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and made a meal of it for his visitor.” David grew very angry with that man and said to him: “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this merits death! He shall restore the ewe lamb fourfold because he has done this and has had no pity.”
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Then Nathan said to David: “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD: ‘I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbor. He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.’”
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Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan answered David: “The LORD on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the LORD by this deed, the child born to you must surely die.” Then Nathan returned to his house.
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The LORD struck the child that the wife of Uriah had borne to David, and it became desperately ill. David besought God for the child. He kept a fast, retiring for the night to lie on the ground clothed in sackcloth. The elders of his house stood beside him urging him to rise from the ground; but he would not, nor would he take food with them.
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Responsorial Psalm ps 51:12-13, 14-15, 16-17

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R. (12a) Create a clean heart in me, O God. A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me. R. Create a clean heart in me, O God. Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall return to you. R. Create a clean heart in me, O God. Free me from blood guilt, O God, my saving God; then my tongue shall revel in your justice. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Gospel mk 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
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"Perseverance" by Thomas Kinkade
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Here again we see a version of those most oft repeated words of Jesus: “Do not be afraid!!”
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This time Jesus asks his followers, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” — Two distinct but interrelated questions.
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Often this line is translated, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” — An accusation followed by a question.
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Either way, Jesus is telling us to persevere in our faith. Our faith is not just a “fair weather friend.” Real faith is storm tested. And certainly we all have gone through some storms in life and many potentially lurk ahead.  But not to worry, “Ye of MUCH GREAT Faith.” With God we can survive anything.
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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The Gospel today describes the storm in the lake and Jesus who sleeps in the boat. Sometimes our communities feel like a small boat lost in the sea of life, without much hope of arriving to the port. Jesus seems to be sleeping in our boat, since no divine power seems to appear to save us from the difficulties and the persecution. In view of this desperate situation, Mark puts together several episodes which reveal how Jesus is present in the midst of the community. In the parables the mystery of the Kingdom is revealed which is present in the things of daily life (Mk 4, 1-34). Now he begins to reveal the Mystery of the Kingdom present in the power which Jesus exercises in favour of the disciples, in favour of the people and, above all, in favour of the excluded and marginalized. Jesus overcomes, dominates the sea, a symbol of chaos (Mk 4, 35-41).
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A creating power acts in him! Jesus conquers and drives out the devil (Mk 5, 1-20). The power of life acts in him! ¡He is the victorious Jesus! There is no reason for the communities to be fear (Mk 5, 21-43). This is the reason for this passage of the storm calmed by Jesus on which we are meditating today in the Gospel. • Mark 4, 35-36: The starting point: “Let us cross over to the other side”. It had been a heavy day, with much work. Once the discourse on the parables was finished (Mk 4, 1-34), Jesus said: “Let us cross over to the other side!” They take him on the boat just as he was, the boat from which he had made the discourse of the Parables. Because he was extremely tired, he went to sleep on the stern, his head on the cushion! This is the first picture or image which Mark presents. A beautiful painting, but very human!
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Mark 4, 37-38: The desperate situation: “Do you not care? We are lost!” The Lake of Galilee is surrounded by mountains. Sometimes, through the cracks in the rocks, the wind blows on top of the lake and provokes sudden storms. A very strong wind, the agitated sea, the boat full of water! The disciples were experienced fishermen. If they think that they are going to sink then the situation is really dangerous. Jesus does not even wake up, he continues to sleep. This profound sleep is not only a sign of great fatigue; it is also the expression of a calm peaceful trust which he has in God. The contrast between the attitude of Jesus and that of the disciples is very great!
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Mark 4, 39-40: The reaction of Jesus: “Have you still no faith?” Jesus wakes up, not because of the waves, but because of the desperate cry of the disciples. First, he addresses himself to the sea and says: “Quiet now!” And the wind dropped and there followed great calm. Then he spoke to the disciples and said: “Why are you so frightened? Have you still no faith?”
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The impression that one has is that it is not necessary to calm down the sea, since there was no danger. It is like when you go to a house and the dog, at the side of his master, begins to bark. One should not be afraid because the dog is with the master who controls the situation. The episode of the storm which was calmed recalls Exodus, when the people, without fear, passed through the water of the sea (EX 14, 22). It recalls the Prophet Isaiah who told the people: “If you go across the water I will be with you!” (Is 43, 2) Jesus does the exodus again and carries out the prophecy announced by Psalm 107 (106), 25-30.
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Mark 4, 41: The disciples did not know: “Who can this be?” Jesus calms the sea and says: “Have you still no faith?” The disciples did not know what to respond and they ask themselves: “Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him”. Jesus appears as a stranger to them! In spite of the fact of having been with him for such a long time, they do not know well who he is. Who can this be? With this question in mid, the communities follow the reading of the Gospel. Y even today, this is the same question which leads us to continue reading the Gospel. It is the desire to know always better the significance of Jesus for our life.
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Who is Jesus? Mark begins his Gospel saying: “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk 1, 1). At the end, at the moment of his death, the soldier declared: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk 15, 39). At the beginning and at the end of the Gospel, Jesus is called the Son of God. Between the beginning and the end, there are many other names of Jesus which appear.
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The following is the list: Messiah or Christ (Mk 1, 1; 8, 29; 14, 61; 15, 32); Lord (Mk 1, 3; 5, 19; 11, 3); Beloved Son (Mk 1, 11; 9, 7); the Holy one of God (Mk 1, 24); Nazarene (Mk 1, 24; 10, 47; 14, 67; 16, 6); Son of Man (Mk 2, 10.28; 8, 31.38; 9, 9.12.31; 10, 33.45; 13, 26; 14, 21.21.41.62); Bridegroom (Mk 2, 19); Son of God (Mk 3, 11); Son of the Highest God (Mk 5, 7); Carpenter (Mc 6, 3); Son of Mary (Mk 6, 3); Prophet (Mk 6, 4.15; 8, 28); Teacher (frequent); Son of David (Mk 10, 47.48; 12, 35-37); Blessed (Mk 11, 9); Son (Mc 13, 32); Shepherd (Mk 14, 27); Son of the Blessed One (Mk 14, 61); King of the Jews (Mk 15, 2.9.18. 26); King of Israel (Mk 15, 32),
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Each name, title or attribute is an attempt to express what Jesus signifies for persons. But a name, no matter how beautiful it is, never reveals the mystery of a person, much less of the person of Jesus. Besides this, some of these names given to Jesus, including the more important ones and the more traditional, are questioned, doubted by Mark the Evangelist. Thus, as we advance in the reading of the Gospel, Mark obliges us to revise our ideas and to ask ourselves, once again: “In last instance, who is Jesus for me, for us?” The more we advance in the reading of the Gospel of Mark, the more these titles and criteria fall. Jesus does not fit into anyone of these names, in no schema, in no title. He is the greatest! Little by little, the reader gives up and ceases to want to frame up Jesus in a known concept or in an idea made up beforehand, and accepts him as he is presented. Love seduces, but not the head, NO!
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Personal questions
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The waters of the sea of life, have they threatened you sometimes? Who saved you?
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Which was the agitated sea at the time of Jesus? Which was the agitated sea at the time when Mark wrote his Gospel? Which is, today, the agitated sea for us?
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Concluding prayer
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God, create in me a clean heart, renew within me a resolute spirit, do not thrust me away from your presence, do not take away from me your spirit of holiness. (Ps 51,10-11)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Faith Needs Time To Grow and Mature
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In yesterday’s gospel, we were given two parables of the Kingdom which describe the growth of the Kingdom as a gradual process.  The reign of God is not something that will happen overnight.  It begins small but it will certainly end in a way beyond human expectation because it is the work of God.  Following this message of the imperceptible, slow but sure realization of the Kingdom, the scripture readings today give us two concrete illustrations from the lives of God’s people when they struggled to grow in maturity in their faith.

Indeed, whilst we must walk by faith, not by sight, faith is not a given.  Faith, as Jesus says in the gospel, like a seed that is planted, requires time to grow and come to full maturity.  This is an important reminder and consolation for us, especially those of us who are impatient in wanting to grow in holiness.  Quite often in our struggles to be faithful to God, we continue sinning.  This makes us feel lousy and disappointed with ourselves.  We become discouraged at the slow progress and as a consequence, we give up trying to be good or being active in Church.  Hence, we must take a leaf from King David and the disciples of Jesus.

In the first place, we have the example of King David who grew in faith.  He did not become a great king overnight but went through many trials, mistakes and failures in love and fidelity before he learnt how to be a good and holy king worthy of being the Anointed One of the Lord.  Today’s first reading reveals to us the humility and contrition of King David when confronted by the Prophet Nathan for the sin of adultery he committed by seducing his own army officer’s wife and making her pregnant.  In attempting to save face, he had him killed in battle.  King David paid a heavy price for this sin.  But he accepted the punishment from the Lord with regret, but without resentment.  He repented of his sin and through his mistakes, learnt to be a great and holy king, obedient to the Lord and always leading his people.

Even more telling is the faith of the disciples when their boat was caught in the storm.  We can be certain the situation must have been rather precarious, considering the fact that we are not dealing with those who have no experience at sea.  The fact that the disciples were afraid in spite of the fact that they were fishermen and therefore not unfamiliar with such bad weather, indicates that the storm must have been quite violent and dangerous. They would have met many stormy times before, but this one was life-threatening, so much so they cried out to Jesus in fear, “Master, do you not care? We are going down!”

Such sentiments of abandonment and accusation that God does not care for us are common to us as well.  When times are good, we can praise and thank God, singing marvelous praises of Him, of His majesty and power.  Of course, some forget about Him all together when they are self-sufficient and do not need God’s help.  So long as they can manage on their own, they do not see the need to rely on God.  They live in self-deception, thinking that because they have money and position, they can do without God’s grace.  For this reason, our faith is tested only when we go through the storms of life.  The acid test of whether we have faith in God is not in good times but in bad, turbulent and troubled times.  When we are down and out, when there is no longer anything or anyone we can depend on, especially ourselves, then God is the final answer to all our needs.  However, most do not trust God and come to Him only when all other resorts have failed.  God is always the last hope for proud humanity, who thinks that all problems can be resolved by science, technology, power, money and influence.

In contrast we have Jesus who was apparently quite unperturbed by the storm.  He was “in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep.”  How could he remain so calm when even the fishermen in the face of the raging storm knew that their lives were at stake?  He was so completely at rest in His Father’s bosom that the He did not exhibit any fear at all.  It shows Jesus’ total confidence in His Father’s love and protection for Him.  In other words, it demonstrates the faith of Jesus in His Father’s divine providence.  He trusted in His Father’s care for Him.

It was the same faith that gave Him the power to still the storm.  Upon waking up, with confidence He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Quiet now! Be calm!”  It is significant that He addressed the sea in a similar way He commanded the Evil Spirits as well.  In reprimanding and commanding the sea to be still, it appears that there was an evil force that was causing the storm.  For this reason, we can be confident that whatever storms we are going through in life, whether the problems we are facing are from the outside, such as the loss of our job, a mistake we have to face, a terminal illness we have to embrace or our enemies to contend with;  or the storms within ourselves, such as our anger, hatred, insecurity, fear, anxiety, the Lord will be able to put all these storms to rest if only we learn to trust in Him and place our security in Him.  He can even deal with any evil spirits that oppress us from within or without.

At times, He might appear to be sleeping and not care about us, but He does not abandon us.  When we feel so overwhelmed by our problems and responsibilities in life, we can be certain that He is always with us and waiting for the opportunity to intervene in our lives.  He cares deeply for us and He knows when and how to help us in the most effective way.  He might not calm the storms immediately, for in His wisdom He is not just concerned with our immediate needs but our personal growth and long term destiny as well.  He wants us to grow in faith, in understanding and in maturity through the storms of life.  If He were to rescue us at the onset of the storm, we might never learn anything from our mistakes, or face the challenges of life.  Crises in life are always opportunities for growth, rather than obstacles.

When facing the storms of life, we need to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, His mercy and His love, just as King David did.  Although his son died, he knew the reason for the Lord’s mercy.  Watching his son die was perhaps the conversion experience for David. The responsorial psalm which he composed is certainly expressive of his sentiments, a man who truly repented of his sins and turned to God for mercy.  He did not resent God when his petition for his son to be spared of death was not granted.  He took everything in faith.

The truth is that many of us do not know Jesus intimately enough to have faith in Him, unlike Jesus’ faith in His Father, especially when He was hanging on the cross.  Even in absurdity and complete failure and helplessness, Jesus entrusted His mission to His Father.  Against all hope, Jesus trusted that His Father will vindicate Him.  Jesus could entrust His life to His Father because He knew His Father’s love.  What about us?  Do we know Jesus well enough to trust in His judgment, His mercy and love?  Or do we try to tell Him how to act and what He must do to put things right?  We can only enjoy the same peace that Jesus gave to His disciples provided we too come to know Him.  It is significant that at the end of the miracle, Jesus reproached them saying, “Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?”

The reason of course is given in the next sentence, “They were filled with awe and said to one another, “Who can this be? Even the wind and sea obey him.’”  This question is now addressed to us.  Who is Jesus in your estimation?  Who is Jesus to you in your heart? Do you truly believe that He is the Son of God and the Son of Man?  Do you really believe He died and resurrected?  The truth is that many of us are merely parroting what the Church believes about Jesus but we do not make the Church’s faith our own.   Without a personal conviction of the identity and person of Jesus, we cannot surrender our lives to Him in faith.

Hence, we must seek to grow in faith.  We cannot be complacent in our faith and simply leave everything to chance.  It is true that faith is a gift from God.  But this gift is given only to those who are receptive and desire it.  Through our efforts, making time for personal prayer, worship, reading of the Word of God and celebrating the Eucharist, we make it possible for Jesus to engage us in a relationship with Him.  Through the graces received, we will, as we come to know Jesus in the head, eventually be able to translate doctrines into a relationship with Him in prayer and in life.  We must activate our faith in action, trusting Him and surrendering ourselves to His holy will.  By following His Word and submitting to His divine will, we will begin to see the wisdom and the power of God in arranging everything perfectly for us.  As a consequence, our faith will grow from strength to strength when we see the results and the miracles of what faith can do for us.  We will begin to trust in the Lord more and more.

http://www.csctr.net/01-february-2014-saturday-3rd-week-ordinary-time/

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Ukraine opposition lobbies West for help against Yanukovich

January 31, 2014

“The West is open but Russia has a number of deals with the Ukrainian president and nobody knows the details of these deals.”

By Stephen Brown and Alexandra Hudson

MUNICH          Fri Jan 31, 2014 3:48pm EST

Riot police stand in formation facing anti-government protesters in Kiev, January 31, 2014. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Riot police stand in formation facing anti-government protesters in Kiev, January 31, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Gleb Garanich

MUNICH (Reuters) – The Ukrainian opposition urged Europe and the United States on Friday to go beyond vocal support for their fight for more democracy and demand a halt to violence they blame on President Viktor Yanukovich.

Opposition leaders met in Munich on Friday with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and were due to talk with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday.

“What we need is not just declarations but a very clear action plan – how to fix the problem and fix the violence, how to investigate all these killings and abductions and tortures,” Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of the party of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, told Reuters.

The Ukrainians were in the Bavarian capital to meet western officials at the annual Munich Security Conference.

A few hours earlier Yanukovich, who went on sick leave on Thursday in the midst of a crisis in which at least six people have been killed and hundreds injured, signed into law an amnesty for demonstrators detained during mass unrest and repealed anti-protest legislation.

This looked unlikely to end the protests that began in November when the president accepted a $15 billion Russian loan package instead of signing a trade deal with Europe.

With Prime Minister Mykola Azarov forced to quit and no sign of a successor, the opposition saw a dangerous power vacuum.

“There is no one who can really steer the country,” said Yatsenyuk, due to meet Kerry on Saturday with other opposition leaders including the boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko, lawmaker Petro Poroshenko and pop star Ruslana Lyzhychko.

“We are impressed with the level of solidarity in the last days. The whole world demonstrates with us,” said Poroshenko.

“There was a very clear, transparent and firm position from the United States, from Canada, and I think the European Union is now much closer in a coordinated reaction with the United States than before,” he said before the meeting with Ashton.

“EXTRAORDINARILY COMPLICATED”

Poroshenko said the amnesty and repeal of the anti-protest law “create a background for real negotiation” but what was most urgently needed was “de-escalation – we need to remove all the riot police from the streets of Kiev”.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara, still apparently in his job despite the prime minister’s resignation, was also at the Munich Security Conference, where he too had talks with the German foreign minister.

Steinmeier came out of these talks with the view that the situation in Kiev is “extraordinarily complicated,” a German source said, and he urged Kozhara to get permission for a badly-injured Ukrainian protester to travel to Germany for treatment.

Germany has cranked up its criticisms of the Yanukovich government in the past two weeks, with Chancellor Angela Merkel saying last week she was “outraged to the utmost” by attempts to stop the protests with draconian laws and police violence.

This week, Merkel phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin and Yanukovich urging a peaceful end to the crisis and the resumption of talks with Ukraine’s opposition. She has stressed Ukraine must not be put in the position of having to choose between Russia and the European Union.

“We ask Russia for transparent relations,” said opposition leader Yatsenyuk. “That is the key difference between our Western partners and the Russians: the West is open but Russia has a number of deals with the Ukrainian president and nobody knows the details of these deals.”

(Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford defends Justin Bieber: ‘Think back to when you were 19’

January 31, 2014

The controversial politician responded to a Washington, D.C.-based radio show that called Biebs ‘Canada’s worst export.’

   THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Thursday, January 30, 2014, 5:15 PM

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford  sticking up for another headline-grabbing Canadian, Justin Bieber. Ford said Bieber is only 19 and asked the radio personalities, who called Bieber ‘Canada's worst export,’ to think back to when they were that age.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press/AP

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford  sticking up for another headline-grabbing Canadian, Justin Bieber. Ford said Bieber is only 19 and asked the radio personalities, who called Bieber ‘Canada’s worst export,’ to think back to when they were that age.

Toronto’s favorite black sheep, Mayor Rob Ford, is rising to the defense of fellow Canadian Justin Bieber, who has recently been in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Bieber was charged with assault Wednesday for allegedly hitting a Toronto limousine driver several times in the back of the head in an incident last month. The news broke a mere few hours after the teenage pop star’s attorney entered a separate not guilty plea in Florida to drunken-driving and other charges.

Ford, who has admitted smoking crack while in a drunken stupor and is being sued for supposedly orchestrating the jailhouse beating of his sister’s ex-boyfriend, noted that Bieber is only 19 and defended him when a host on the Washington, D.C.-based radio show “The Sports Junkies” called Bieber “Canada’s worst export.”

PHOTOS: CELEBRITY MUG SHOTS

“Well, you know what, he’s a young guy,” Ford said Thursday. “At 19 years old, I wish I was as successful as he was. He’s 19 years old, guys. Think back to when you were 19.”

Ford added that he’s never met Bieber and said that as a 45-year-old he’s not a fan of his music, preferring The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Ford, a football fan, appears on the sports show weekly.

The mayor’s term has been marred by erratic behavior and confessed drug and alcohol use. His travails – which have included leaked videos showing the mayor in an obviously altered state- have embarrassed Canadians and delighted America’s late-night TV comedians.

PHOTOS: JUSTIN BIEBER ARRESTED: HOW HE WENT FROM TEEN IDOL TO WILD CHILD

The baby-faced Bieber turned himself in to a Toronto police station Wednesday evening, arriving amid a crush of media and screaming fans. He was charged with one count of assault and is scheduled to appear in court in Toronto on March 10.

Police allege Bieber was one of six people who were picked up by a limousine from a nightclub in the early morning hours of Dec. 30, and there was an altercation while en route to a hotel.

Police said during the altercation one of the passengers hit the limo driver in the back of the head several times before fleeing.

PHOTOS: JUSTIN BIEBER ARRESTED: MEET HIS MYSTERY GAL PAL CHANTEL JEFFRIES

Howard Weitzman, Bieber’s attorney in California, said his client is innocent and declined to comment further.

Weitzman said he expects the case to be treated as a summary offense, the equivalent of a misdemeanor in the United States

Earlier on Wednesday, Bieber pleaded not guilty in Florida to charges of driving under the influence after driving nearly twice the speed limit on a street in Miami Beach. He also pleaded not guilty to resisting arrest and driving with an expired license.

The charges stemmed from Bieber’s arrest last week, along with R&B singer Khalil Amir Sharieff, during what police described as an illegal street drag race between a Lamborghini and a Ferrari. Neither has been charged with drag racing, which is a crime in Florida.

A preliminary toxicology report released Thursday showed that Bieber tested positive for marijuana and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. The report shows no presence of other illicit drugs in Bieber’s system, such as cocaine or oxycodone. Bieber told police after the arrest that he had been smoking marijuana and took a prescription drug.

The singer lately has drawn more attention for his brushes with the law than for his music.

Bieber remains under investigation for felony vandalism in Los Angeles County over an egg-tossing episode that damaged his neighbor’s home. Detectives searched his home on Jan. 14, and prosecutors have sought additional information before determining whether to pursue charges.

The cases have overshadowed the recent release of his latest album. Its reception has been far from the chart-topping success Bieber had after he debuted in 2009, with multiple platinum albums.

Includes videos:

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/toronto-mayor-rob-ford-defends-justin-bieber-article-1.1597141#ixzz2s0kBj3Xf

Obama Administration Investigation Concludes Building Keystone XL Pipeline Will Have Little Impact on Global Climate Change

January 31, 2014
By Peter Nicholas, Carol E. Lee and Alicia Mundy
The Wall Street Journal
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Updated Jan. 31, 2014 3:08 p.m. ET
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A sixty-foot section of pipe is lowered into a trench during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Okla., in March 2013. The pipeline is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project. Bloomberg

WASHINGTON—An Obama  administration analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline application shows the project wouldn’t likely change the amount of oil ultimately removed from Canadian oil sands, suggesting that building the pipeline would have little impact on global climate change.

The report found that the “approval or denial of any single project is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction of the oil in the oil sands, or the refining of heavy crude on the U.S. gulf coast,” a State Department official told reporters Friday.

The conclusion that the heavy crude would be extracted and delivered anyway—by rail if not pipeline—left environmentalists disappointed. But the report isn’t the last word on the matter. Now begins a final State Department study to determine whether the pipeline project is in the nation’s broader interests. A total of eight separate agencies have up to three months to weigh in, potentially injecting the pipeline issue into the midterm election season.

The report makes no recommendations on TransCanada Corp.’s permit request, leaving President Barack Obama the space to draw his own conclusions about whether the pipeline should get built.

Under the executive order governing the permit review, Secretary of State John Kerry is empowered to make the final call. But the president’s aides have said he’s told them privately he will make the up-or-down decision on Keystone.

Addressing Keystone at his regular press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said of the report, “when that document is released, it does not, or will not, represent a decision, but rather another step in the process.”

The pipeline, which would carry oil from Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, has been debated for years and is one of the most sensitive issues for Mr. Obama heading into the midterms. Mr. Obama has the option of postponing a decision until after the November elections, but he is already under pressure from the Canadian government and a handful of pro-Keystone Democratic senators not to put off a decision any longer. A few Democratic senators who are up for re-election this year have warned they will push legislation forcing a decision if the review stretches much longer.

TransCanada, which operates oil and natural gas pipelines, first applied for a permit in 2008. In January 2012, the Obama administration rejected the application. Mr. Obama said at the time a deadline imposed by Congress didn’t allow enough time to determine the project’s environmental impact.

TransCanada reapplied in May 2012, after proposing to reroute the line to avoid an environmentally sensitive part of Nebraska, setting in motion the environmental report that was released Friday.

Republicans are also growing impatient with the protracted Keystone review process. Citing Mr. Obama’s pledge to use his executive authority—his “pen”—to boost the economy, Republican lawmakers have urged him to approve the pipeline now.

“Mr. President, no more stalling—no more excuses. Please pick up that pen you’ve been talking so much about and make this happen. Americans need these jobs,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Friday.

Keystone has exposed divisions within the Democratic Party that could reverberate in the midterms.

Labor unions see the project as an engine for job creation. Environmentalists view it as a symbol of U.S. dependence on fossil fuels and worry that extraction of the oil from Canadian oil sands will exacerbate global warming. Both groups are pillars of the Democratic political coalition, which is depending on a large turnout in November.

Dan Weiss of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress said, “Reports indicate that the State Department analysis assumes an increase in tar sands oil production regardless of whether Keystone is built, which ignores evidence to the contrary. It’s like giving up on the interdiction of cocaine traffic into our country, because drugs are going to get in anyway.”

Write to Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com, Carol E. Lee at carol.lee@wsj.com and Alicia Mundy at alicia.mundy@wsj.com

Canada says President Obama seems unable to make a decision on the XL Pipeline that will lead immediately to job growth in the U.S.

Related:

Syrian Peace Talks At Geneva II Close: Assad’s Government Refuses To Agree To Anything (Including a Promise To Meet Again)

January 31, 2014
People gather as they search for survivors amidst rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by government forces in the Al-Ansari neighborhood of Aleppo January 31, 2014. REUTERS-Ammar Abdullah

People gather as they search for survivors amidst rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by government forces in the Al-Ansari neighborhood of Aleppo January 31, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Ammar Abdullah

At least 1,870 people died across Syria during the first nine days Geneva II

Syrian Peace Talks At Geneva : A peace conference on Syria at Geneva close after a week with the regime  refusing to commit to meeting the opposition again

Left: Ahmad Jarba, Syrian National Coalition (SNC) leader. Right: Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem

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Left: Ahmad Jarba, Syrian National Coalition (SNC) leader. Right: Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem  Photo: AP/REUTERS

By , Beirut

The Syrian peace talks at Geneva ended in recrimination last night as the   government and opposition blamed each other for the failure to come to any   agreement.

The week-long conference, which foreign diplomats spent more than a year   trying to convene, achieved no tangible results, and the Syrian government   has refused to commit to continuing the talks.

In the closing speeches, Walid Muallem, Syria’s foreign minister accused the   opposition of being childish, whilst the opposition said Geneva II had felt   like “drinking poison”, blaming the government’s “time wasting”.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations mediator, tried to remain optimistic,   telling reporters: “Progress is very slow indeed, but the sides have engaged   in an acceptable manner. This is a modest beginning on which we can build.”

Mr Brahimi proposed setting February 10 as a date for restarting the talks but   the disgruntled Syrian government delegation deferred to decision of whether   to return to President Bashar al-Assad.

The hand of U.N. Head of Information services Corinne Momal-Vanian (R) points to a journalist next to U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi during a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva January 30, 2014. REUTERS-Denis Balibouse

The hand of U.N. Head of Information services Corinne Momal-Vanian (R) points to a journalist next to U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi during a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva January 30, 2014.  REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Ahmad al-Jarba, the president of the opposition National Coalition said his   side was committed to further negotiations and insisted the only way to   guarantee peace was to set up a transitional ruling council with full   executive powers to run the country.

“What we passed through in Geneva was like a political battle in front of   representatives of a regime that is an expert of wasting time. The process   was not easy and for us it was like drinking poison,” he told reporters.

Mr Muallem refused to discuss a transition of power from Mr Assad’s rule – the   central demand of the opposition, instead trying to use the conference to   focus on the elimination of “terrorists”, a blanket term the regime has used   to describe all opposition rebels.

Omran al-Zohbi, the Syrian information minister told a crowd of government   supporters outside the UN headquarters at Geneva: “Neither in this round,   nor in the next will they obtain any concessions from the Syrian delegation.”

It had been hoped the two sides might come together on the subject of civilian   suffering in parts of the country besieged by conflict, and find a way of   securing aid corridors to these areas, such as in the Old City of Homs.

But by Friday there was still no agreement, and the aid trucks remained parked   outside the besieged area.

At least 1,870 people died across Syria during the first nine days Geneva II,   the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday.

The Britain-based monitoring group said that included 40 civilians who died   from inadequate access to food and medicine in areas besieged by government   forces.

Related:

‘Ukrainian opposition is morally and politically bankrupt’

January 31, 2014

Opposition leaders Klitschko, Tyagnibok and Yatsenyuk attend a rally in Independence square in Kiev

Opposition leaders Klitschko, Tyagnibok and Yatsenyuk attend a  rally in Independence square in Kiev (Reuters / David Mdzinarishvili)

The Ukrainian opposition’s aim is to take over the government, but after that they have no idea what to do and their effort will lead to failure, Nebosja Malic from the R. Archibald Reiss Institute for Serbian Studies told RT.

RT: The opposition wants everyone freed  unconditionally. Why should rioters who injured or even killed  policemen be released, when these actions typically land you in  prison for decades? Is it realistic?

Nebosja Malic: The opposition keeps moving the  goal posts. Obviously they want the government to unconditionally  surrender on all of their demands whatever those demands might  be. Today they are requesting one thing, two days before they  were demanding something else and the week before something else  altogether. If they are given this by the parliament they will  demand even more.

They’ve made it obvious that only unconditional surrender will  do. Releasing these people would send a dangerous message to  everybody in Ukraine that you can get away with murder literally  if you happen to lend in power. And you get there by blackmailing  the government, by occupying the town squares, by resorting to  violence. This is not going to end well if these demands are  appeased. Appeasement usually doesn’t end well anyway.

RT: President Yanukovich has shown he’s  willing to negotiate and compromise. Why isn’t the opposition  making similar efforts to try and end the violence?

NM: They are like a dog chasing cars. They have  no idea what to do when they catch it. Their whole gambit is to  take over the government. Short of taking over the government  their effort will be a failure. They need to capture the  government to be successful. So this is the marching orders they  were given by people financing them. Anything short of  dismantling the government and hanging it over to them would be a  failure; this is why they just cannot compromise even if they  wanted to.

The offer to Yatsenyuk to take over the prime ministership the  other day, I thought at first it was just a sign of weakness, but  it might be a brilliant gambit to expose the bankruptcy of the  opposition because here take exactly what you demand and see what  the response is. If the response is “no – we want even  more.” So they have declared themselves completely morally  and politically bankrupt and yet the government tries to appease  them, which is further definite sign of weakness.

RT: The EU Commission chief said he wants to  see a political solution in Ukraine, US Secretary of State John  Kerry said the same in a phone call with the opposition. Do you  think the West will try to push the opposition towards dialogue  now?

NM: I sincerely doubt it. The European Union  wants to see a client regime in Kiev. I think they want to see a  government that would obey them in every respect like what they  have in Serbia currently. I think that’s the ultimate goal and if  opposition coalition is willing enable to get into power using  any means necessarily and making any demands it sees fit, and the  government is weak enough to let them, then I don’t see why the  European Union would essentially stop them. They want this to  happen, they want these people to take over the government.

RT: The EU and the US have hailed Viktor  Yanukovich’s concessions as a sign of progress. Why are they  basically praising the president’s efforts all of a sudden?

NM: Because he is capitulating. I think the  perception is “OK, we will praise you when you surrender, we  will criticize you when you fight, so sooner or later you’ll be  conditioned to surrender on demand.” I think they’ll be  happiest with Yanukovich if he resigns tomorrow and hands Ukraine  over to Klitschko, Yatsenyuk and Tyagnibok, which if they will  then run things into the ground is completely immaterial to these  foreign backers.

I don’t think trying to appease the protesters and trying to get  into good graces of the EU and the US by essentially  self-destructing the country is a good strategy for any  politician, but I would really like to point to Serbia as an  example of what not to do, for everybody in the world, including  Ukraine.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Related:

China May Be Preparing for a South China Sea ADIZ

January 31, 2014

China reportedly began drawing up plans for a South China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone as early as May 2013.

zachary-keck_q
By Zachary Keck for The Diplomat
January 31, 2014

China has begun drafting plans for an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea, according to a new report from a Japanese newspaper.

On Friday The Asahi Shimbun carried a report that said that “working-level air force officials” in China “have already worked out a draft plan for the prospective” ADIZ for the South China Sea. It also said that the “Air Force Command College, a cadre development and research institution in Beijing that helped draft the East China Sea ADIZ,” has been working on the South China Sea ADIZ for some time now, and submitted an original draft plan to senior military leaders as early as May 2013.

The Asahi Shimbun said that the information came from several Chinese government sources, including “one senior official in a government-affiliated research institution.” Although The Diplomat could not independently confirm the report, The Asahi Shimbun has a strong record of reporting on China and regularly publishes reports on internal Chinese politics and policy.

Moreover, China has strongly implied that it is considering establishing a South China Sea ADIZ, which would presumably be similar to the ADIZ it established over the East China Sea back in November of last year.  Immediately following China’s announcement of the East China Sea ADIZ, a Ministry of Defense spokesperson warned that more ADIZs would follow “at the right moment after necessary preparations are completed.”

Many analysts and foreign policymakers have speculated that the South China Sea would be the next area where Beijing would seek to establish an ADIZ. China lays claim to nearly the entire South China Sea, which puts it at odds with numerous Southeast Asian nations that also claim part of the waters.

The United States has gone so far as to publicly warn China against establishing a South China Sea ADIZ. During a visit to the Philippines in January 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said: “Today, I raised our deep concerns about China’s announcement of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. I told the foreign secretary that the United States does not recognize that zone and does not accept it. The zone should while not be implemented, and China should refrain from taking similar unilateral actions elsewhere in the region, and particularly over the South China Sea.”

Establishing a South China Sea ADIZ would also be consistent with China’s recent increased naval patrols of the South China Sea, as well as the reported expansion of those patrols to places like Malaysia.

The Asahi Shimbun report said that Chinese officials were still discussing what areas the ADIZ in the South China Sea will cover. According to Asahi’s sources, some Chinese officials advocate having it cover the entire South China Sea while others are suggesting it only go as far as the Paracel Islands.

The precise dimensions of the South China Sea ADIZ will be important for at least two reasons. First, a more encompassing ADIZ claim would antagonize more of China’s Southeast Asian neighbors, raising the possibility that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will be able to unite internally in standing up to China in the South China Sea. By contrast, a narrower ADIZ might allow China to continuing isolating certain countries like the Philippines and Vietnam.

Second, the exact size of the ADIZ is also important in terms of China’s ability to enforce the rules it establishes. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) lacks enough aircraft with sufficient range to effectively enforce an ADIZ further out in the South China Sea, making it much easier for even smaller nations to openly defy China’s regulations. By contrast, a smaller ADIZ might give the PLAAF a better chance of making the ADIZ more than just Beijing staking a future claim to the area.

Related:

This chart shows the Air Defense Identification Zone or ADIZ declared by China on Saturday, November 23, 2013.

Above: China says it has sovereignty over all inside the “Nine Dash Line” as seen here.

Map of South China Sea

China claims “indisputable” and “inherent” sovereignty over the South China Sea

The chart below shows the area declared by China on 1 January 2014 as “an area under China’s jurisdiction.” China says “foreign fishing vessels” can only enter and work in this area with prior approval from China. Vietnam, the Philippines and others have said they will not comply with China’s law.

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Beijing considering new South China Sea air defence zone, says Japanese report

AFP

China is considering declaring a new Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea, according to a Japanese report on Friday, a move likely to fan tensions in an area riven by territorial disputes.

The report comes months after Beijing caused consternation with the sudden declaration of an ADIZ above the East China Sea, covering islands at the centre of a sovereignty row with Tokyo.

It also comes as countries in the region grow increasingly concerned about what they see as China’s aggressive territorial claims.

Working level officials in the Chinese airforce have drafted proposals for the new zone, which could set the Paracel islands at its core and spread over much of the sea, the Asahi Shimbun said, citing unnamed sources, including from the Chinese government.

The draft was submitted to senior Chinese military officials by May last year, the respected daily said.

Beijing claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety, even areas a long way from its shoreline.

The countries surrounding the sea have competing and overlapping claims to the area and are in dispute with Beijing, including over the ownership of islands.

Many countries, including the US and Japan, use ADIZs as a form of early warning, allowing them to track aircraft approaching their airspace.

Planes entering the area are frequently asked to identify themselves and to maintain radio contact with local authorities. Any aircraft causing concern can trigger the launch of fighter jets, which are scrambled to intercept it.

The draft says the zone would at a minimum cover the Paracels, and could go as wide as the majority of South China Sea, the Asahi said.

Beijing is still deliberating the extent of the zone and considering the timing of an announcement, the paper said.

Japan, South Korea and others reacted with anger in November when Beijing unilaterally declared an ADIZ in the East China Sea.

China demanded all aircraft provide flight plans when traversing the area, give their nationality and maintain two-way radio communication, or face “emergency defensive measures”.

The US said it would not comply, and, in what was seen as a challenge to Beijing, promptly flew military planes through it.

The zone covers disputed Tokyo-controlled islands – known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China – where ships and aircraft from the two countries already shadow each other.

Its sudden declaration bolstered claims that China is throwing its growing military weight around.

Observers say the establishment of a similar zone in the South China Sea is a likely move for Beijing.

In November the southern Chinese island province of Hainan passed a rule requiring foreign fishing vessels to obtain permission to enter its waters, which it defined as the bulk of the sea.

In December, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned China against any move to declare an air defence zone over the sea, which is a vital transport route through which much regional and global trade passes.

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From the South China Morning Post:

The Air Defense Identification Zone is airspace over land or water in which the ready identification, location, and control of civil aircraft over land or water is required in the interest of national security. China’s Defence Ministry announced its ADIZ over a vast area in the East China Sea on November 23, 2013, which covers the area around the Diaoyu islands, controlled by Japan and known as the Senkaku Islands. The establishment of this zone drew strong opposition from Japan, the US and South Korea, becoming a flashpoint in East Asian politics and security.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1418122/beijing-considering-new-south-china-sea-air-defence-zone-says-japanese

U.S. Director of National Security Clapper provided “inaccurate” testimony to lawmakers

January 31, 2014

President continues to defend James Clapper in the face of calls for his resignation after ‘untruthful’ statement about bulk collection

By Spencer Ackerman
The Guardian

James Clapper testifying.

James Clapper, director of national intelligence, listens as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington this week. Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

US president Barack Obama said his director of national intelligence James Clapper ought to have been “more careful” in Senate testimony about surveillance that Clapper later acknowledged was untruthful following  disclosures by Edward Snowden.

But Obama signaled continued confidence in Clapper in the face of calls for the director to resign from members of Congress who warn of the dangerous precedent set by allowing an intelligence chief to lie to legislative bodies tasked with overseeing the powerful spy agencies.

“Jim Clapper himself would acknowledge, and has acknowledged, that he should have been more careful about how he responded,” Obama told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview that aired Friday.

Clapper has apologized to the Senate intelligence committee for testifying in March 2013 that the US government does “not wittingly” collect data on millions of Americans.

The answer was shown to have been untruthful when the Guardian published a top-secret court order from Snowden that showed the NSA was collecting the phone records of millions of US citizens.

In explaining his answer, the director first said he gave the “least untruthful” answer he could in an unclassified setting. Later he changed his story to say that he had forgotten about an authority claimed by the government under the Patriot Act to collect the records of every phone call sent and received in the United States.

But in his first iteration of his explanation, delivered to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Clapper suggested that he believed the question was an unfair “’when are you going to … stop beating your wife’ kind of question,” suggesting that he gave a deliberate answer to senator Ron Wyden.

Obama suggested he accepted Clapper’s initial explanation as an excuse for untruthful testimony.

“His concern was that he had a classified program that he couldn’t talk about and he was in an open hearing in which he was asked, he was prompted to disclose a program and so he felt that he was caught between a rock and a hard place,” Obama told Tapper.

“Subsequently, I think he’s acknowledged that he could have handled it better.”

Wyden has pushed back hard against the suggestion his question was unfair. His staff has pointed out that they informed Clapper’s office before the hearing that the senator would press the issue about bulk data collection, and asked afterward for Clapper’s staff to correct the record. No correction came.

Additionally, Wyden’s March 2013 question was spurred by a request from the senator for the NSA and Clapper’s office to publicly correct another misleading public statement in an unclassified setting, this one made by NSA director Keith Alexander in July 2012 to the Def Con hacker conference in Las Vegas.

“I will tell you that those who would want to weave the story that we have millions or hundreds of millions of dossiers on people is absolutely false,” Alexander said in response to a moderator question.

For months afterward, in letters to the NSA and to Clapper’s office, Wyden sought a public correction, since as a member of the Senate intelligence committee, Wyden was aware that the NSA was collecting the records of every domestic phone call on a daily basis. Members of the committee are prevented by classification rules from disclosing what they learn in closed session.

At the most recent Senate intelligence committee hearing this week, Wyden again pushed Clapper on the untruthful statements. He said Americans’ trust in the intelligence agencies “has been seriously undermined by senior officials’ reckless reliance on secret interpretations of the law and battered by years of misleading and deceptive statements that senior officials made to the American people. These statements did not protect sources and methods that were useful in fighting terror. Instead, they hid bad policy choices and violations of the liberties of the American people.”

Clapper’s lawyer, Robert Litt, wrote a letter to the New York Times editorial board earlier this month about the incident, denying that Clapper lied.

“I spoke with a staffer for Senator Wyden several days later and told him that although Mr Clapper recognized that his testimony was inaccurate, it could not be corrected publicly because the program involved was classified,” Litt wrote earlier this month.

Although Clapper’s defenders have said the director could not have requested to answer Wyden in closed session, lest he appear to tacitly confirm a classified program, that was the approach Clapper took during his testimony to the intelligence panel this week.

Clapper told Wyden that he would respond in closed session to questions on the NSA’s collection of data in transit across the global communications infrastructure and on whether the agency has ever exercised an authority it “sought and obtained” to conduct warrantless searches on “specific” Americans’ identifying information in its databases of foreign internet communications.

“I think at a threat hearing, I would prefer not to discuss this, and have this as a separate subject,” Clapper said.

“This committee can’t do oversight if we can’t get direct answers,” Wyden said, ultimately receiving a commitment for a public answer from Clapper within 30 days.

While Clapper’s job has been safe for months, six members of the House of Representatives wrote to Obama on Monday calling for the director’s resignation.

Clapper’s continued service is “incompatible with the goal of restoring trust in our security programs and ensuring the highest level of transparency,” wrote the congressmen led by Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican who chairs the oversight and government reform committee, and who is a fervent administration critic.

“I am actually confident that we can continue to have the best intelligence service in the world, but win back the confidence of both the American people, as well as folks overseas,” Obama told Tapper.

Related:

Russian President Vladimir Putin — Satirical spectacle on ice

January 31, 2014

Scott Stump         TODAY contributor

Jan. 30, 2014 at 10:28 AM ET

The cover of the Feb. 3 edition of The New Yorker magazine has some fun with Russian president Vladimir Putin in the midst of controversy over Russian anti-gay laws heading into the Winter Olympics in Sochi next week.
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New Yorker Magazine / The New Yorker
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The cover of the Feb. 3 edition of The New Yorker magazine has some fun with Russian president Vladimir Putin heading into the Winter Olympics in Sochi next week.

Two different magazine covers with strikingly similar concepts combine Russian president Vladimir Putin and figure skating to create a satirical spectacle on ice.

With the Olympics set to begin next week, The New Yorker and The Economist both have some fun with Putin on their latest covers, depicting him as a figure skater striking flamboyant poses. In a cartoon titled “Jury of his Peers” on the cover of the Feb. 3 issue, New Yorker artist Barry Blitt depicts Putin on a skating rink leaping into the air with his arms spread as a panel of identical Putins rate his performance.

In a post about the cover on The New Yorker site, Blitt said: “Mr. Putin is a gift to caricaturists (but to humanity in general, not so much).”

The Feb. 1 issue of The Economist also depicts Putin as a figure skater, leaving the symbolic "Russia" in his wake.
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The Economist / The Economist
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The Feb. 1 issue of The Economist also depicts Putin as a figure skater, leaving the symbolic “Russia” in his wake.

One of the Russian leader’s most notable human-rights controversies has involved an anti-gay law passed last July. It outlaws “propaganda” of “non-traditional sexual relations” around minors. However, in comments to state-run media last week, Putin said: “We are not forbidding anything and nobody is being grabbed off the street, and there is no punishment for such kinds of relations … You can feel relaxed and calm [in Russia], but leave children alone please.”

The cover of the Feb. 1 issue of The Economist shows Putin striking a pose on figure skates while a female skater falls on her backside in his wake. The word “Russia” is on the back of her outfit. The title is “The triumph of Vladimir Putin.”

The government has spent a reported $51 billion to prepare for the Olympics in Sochi and denied numerous allegations of corruption. A 2012 report by the government’s Audit Chamber unearthed $500 million in “unreasonable” expenditures related to the Olympics, according to The Associated Press.

Related:

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Related:

Putin's Russian Mansion

On paper, this mansion in the village of Praskoveyevka, located on the northern coast of Russia’s Black Sea, is owned by Indocopas, a mysterious company without a Web site or even a phone number. The real owner is rumored to be President Vladimir Putin.

On a recent morning, in the village of Praskoveyevka, located on the northern coast of Russia’s Black Sea, a few hours’ drive from Sochi, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, a group of activists—some in bathing suits, others in the nude—went for a swim at a public beach. Their goal: to get a closer look at an extravagant mansion, set in the middle of a nearby forest. The house, with its black, iron gate and Soviet era façade, looked surreal, as if someone had transported it from Moscow and dropped it in the middle of nowhere.

We’ll bet the food and the service are terrific….

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Vladimir Putin found time to spend with his pets in March.

Vladimir Putin isn’t happy there’s no Olympic dog wrestling…..

No Olympic pedophilia event….  The world public is shocked. Nobody can understand why the Russian president did such a strange thing as kissing the stomach of an unfamiliar small boy.

No imprisonment of little girls event…..    Nadezhda Tolokonnikova attending a court session in April this year (EPA)

Putin-russia-gay-crackdown

Bo gay bashing events since Russia and  Putin have been blasted from pretty much everyone on their anti-gay pogrom.

China Seriously Considering the Establishment of a South China Sea Air Defense Zone, Asahi Shimbun Reports

January 31, 2014

AFP

TOKYO – China is considering declaring a new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea, according to a Japanese report Friday, a move likely to fan tensions in an area riven by territorial disputes.

The report comes months after Beijing caused consternation with the sudden declaration of an ADIZ above the East China Sea, covering islands at the center of a sovereignty row with Tokyo.

It also comes as countries in the region grow increasingly concerned about what they see as China’s aggressive territorial claims.

Working level officials in the Chinese airforce have drafted proposals for the new zone, which could set the Paracel islands at its core and spread over much of the sea, the Asahi Shimbun said, citing unnamed sources, including from the Chinese government.

The draft was submitted to senior Chinese military officials by May last year, the respected daily said.

Beijing claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety, even areas a long way from its shoreline.

The countries surrounding the sea have competing and overlapping claims to the area and are in dispute with Beijing, including over the ownership of islands.

Many countries, including the US and Japan, use ADIZs as a form of early warning, allowing them to track aircraft approaching their airspace.

Planes entering the area are frequently asked to identify themselves and to maintain radio contact with local authorities. Any aircraft causing concern can trigger the launch of fighter jets, which are scrambled to intercept it.

The draft says the zone would at a minimum cover the Paracels, and could go as wide as the majority of South China Sea, the Asahi said.

Beijing is still deliberating the extent of the zone and considering the timing of an announcement, the paper said.

Japan, South Korea and others reacted with anger in November when Beijing unilaterally declared an ADIZ in the East China Sea.

China demanded all aircraft provide flight plans when traversing the area, give their nationality and maintain two-way radio communication, or face “emergency defensive measures”.

The US said it would not comply, and, in what was seen as a challenge to Beijing, promptly flew military planes through it.

The zone covers disputed Tokyo-controlled islands — known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China– where ships and aircraft from the two countries already shadow each other.

Its sudden declaration bolstered claims that China is throwing its growing military weight around.

Observers say the establishment of a similar zone in the South China Sea is a likely move for Beijing.

In November the southern Chinese island province of Hainan passed a rule requiring foreign fishing vessels to obtain permission to enter its waters, which it defined as the bulk of the sea.

In December, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned China against any move to declare an air defence zone over the sea, which is a vital transport route through which much regional and global trade passes.

Related:

This chart shows the Air Defense Identification Zone or ADIZ declared by China on Saturday, November 23, 2013.

Above: China says it has sovereignty over all inside the “Nine Dash Line” as seen here.

Map of South China Sea

China claims “indisputable” and “inherent” sovereignty over the South China Sea

The chart below shows the area declared by China on 1 January 2014 as “an area under China’s jurisdiction.” China says “foreign fishing vessels” can only enter and work in this area with prior approval from China. Vietnam, the Philippines and others have said they will not comply with China’s law.