#11 — Forensic findings on Obama’s birth certificate: ‘A 100 percent forgery, no doubt about it’


Special to WorldTribune.com

By Grace Vuoto

There is a problem with President Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate: It’s a forgery, say multiple forensic experts who have examined it. A report detailing the evidence will soon be presented to Congress.

On April 27, 2011 the White House released Mr. Obama’s long-form birth certificate in an attempt to quell a public firestorm over the validity of the shorter version he provided prior to his 2008 election. A group of concerned citizens in Arizona suspected the Certificate of Live Birth produced in 2011 by the administration was fabricated; they asked Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County to investigate.

Lead Investigator Lt. Mike Zullo.

Lead Investigator Lt. Mike Zullo.

“We have obtained an affidavit from a certified document analyzer, Reed Hayes, that states the document is a 100 percent forgery, no doubt about it,� said Cold Case Posse Lead Investigator Lt. Mike Zullo in an exclusive interview with WorldTribune.

This is a key development, asserts Lt. Zullo, because Mr. Hayes is a certified handwriting analyst and forensic document examiner who worked repeatedly for Perkins Coie, a reputable law firm, and was deemed a dependable professional in their legal cases. Moreover, Perkins Coie has defended Mr. Obama in his legal jousts on the birth certificate matter over the past five years.

“Mr. Obama’s operatives cannot discredit him,� said Lt. Zullo. “Mr. Hayes has been used as the firm’s reliable expert. The very firm the president is using to defend him on the birth certificate case has used Mr. Hayes in their cases.� In addition, Mr. Hayes is a Democrat whose business is based in Hawaii. He cannot easily be accused of having a political axe to grind in this matter, explains Lt. Zullo.

Mr. Hayes initially agreed to simply take a cursory look at the document. Yet, within one hour, he called Lt. Zullo. “There is something wrong with this,� said Mr. Hayes.

A few weeks later, the expert, who has over 20 years of experience and has authored five books on his craft, presented a detailed 40-page report with a stark assessment: “…based on my observations and findings, it is clear that the Certificate of Live Birth I examined is not a scan of an original paper birth certificate, but a digitally manufactured document created by utilizing material from various sources,� writes Mr. Hayes. “In over 20 years of examining documentation of various types, I have never seen a document that is so seriously questionable in so many respects. In my opinion, the birth certificate is entirely fabricated,� states Mr. Hayes.

The report by Mr. Hayes is now an affidavit that belongs to the Cold Case Posse and cannot be retracted, regardless of any political or social pressure he encounters, explains Lt. Zullo.

“There has been a very effective media campaign to discredit anyone who tries to work with us,� said Lt. Zullo. “It is impossible to discuss this issue without being lambasted.�

Those who defend Mr. Obama say inquiries into the president’s birth certificate are based on conspiracy theories; these are “birthers,� they insist, who simply refuse to accept the credible evidence presented by Mr. Obama.

As a precaution against others misusing or manipulating Mr. Hayes’s report, Lt. Zullo has copyrighted it.

Mr. Hayes’s report has provided yet another certification — among a resounding 1,200 computer software tests undertaken by Lt. Zullo’s team — that demonstrates, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the long-form birth certificate has been fabricated. Lt. Zullo appointed two reputable computer science professionals, working independently of one another, to examine the long-form birth certificate. Both experts confirmed the document is inauthentic.

“Somebody made this,� said Lt. Zullo, referring to the long-form birth certificate as a nine-layer, computer-generated PDF document. “Someone spent days doing this.�

“The recreation of an official document is a crime,� said Lt. Zullo. “Either there is no original birth certificate or there is something in the original that is being concealed.�

The Maricopa County Cold Case Posse consists of an all-volunteer unit of accomplished individuals with experience in criminal investigations and legal professionals working under the law enforcement authority and direction of Sheriff Arpaio.

Sheriff Arpaio asked Lt. Zullo in August, 2011 to quickly quell the concerns of about 250 citizens who asked for an investigation. Yet, to his dismay, Lt. Zullo was unable to do so, having concluded within five days of his work that the document was compromised. He has since traveled to eleven states in eleven months, relying on public donations, on a grueling campaign to gather information about the certificate.

He filed an affidavit on May 14, 2013 to the Supreme Court of Alabama which chronicles much of the evidence he has compiled thus far. In particular, he depicts a two-day meeting of investigators, attorneys, and information technology professionals, including Mara Zebest, a nationally recognized computer expert.

“All in attendance agreed unanimously that the White House computer image .pdf file contained anomalies that were unexplainable unless the document had been fabricated piecemeal by human intervention, rather than being copied from a genuine paper document,� states the affidavit.

The Cold Case Posse has determined that the certificate of live birth the White House presented is not a photocopy of an original document but one that “was pieced together electronically from multiple sources,� according to the affidavit. The registrar’s signature stamp and date stamp are from different layers of the document and are imports from other sources.

“The fact that the stamps can be picked up and moved about the document leaving a white background…is evidence enough of tampering,� states the affidavit.

During our interview, Lt. Zullo narrated his encounter in Hawaii on May 21, 2012 with Deputy Attorney General Jill Nagamine, who after repeated questions, failed to confirm the document released by the president is the same as any that might exist in their records.

“If you make a copy of your driver’s license and alter it, is it still a copy?� asked Lt. Zullo. She did not directly answer the question, and instead replied: “But you still have a driver’s license.� She agreed to confirm only specific items on a list, not that the document the White House produced is identical to any in the Hawaii archives. This incident “sent all the alarm bells ringing,� said Lt. Zullo.

“If an official document is altered in any way, it must be stated that it is an amended version,� said Lt. Zullo. “Failure to do so is a crime.�

The Cold Case Posse continues to gather evidence. The current report, consisting of 300 pages and likely to balloon to 400, will soon be delivered to Congress.

“We can’t send it to the Department of Justice for obvious reasons,� said Lt. Zullo, referring to the lack of credibility of current Attorney General Eric Holder who has been embroiled in multiple scandals, and is accused by leading Republicans of lying to the American people.

“I am working on this 24/7,� said Lt. Zullo. He has endured long hours on the case, under intense pressure from Obama administration operatives and supporters who seek to discredit Lt. Zullo and anyone who cooperates with the investigation.

When I asked why he persists, he replied, in the terms of a devoted officer of the law:
“I know it’s a felony.�

“The entire United States has been defrauded by a document that is usually automatically issued to every person in America. This is a blatant manipulation. If President Obama can’t be honest about his birth certificate, he can’t be honest about anything,� Lt. Zullo said.

“The original ‘birther’ is President Barack Obama himself,� said former Deputy Sheriff of Florida County and current talk-show host Carl Gallups in an interview with WorldTribune.

“It was Barack Obama who said for 16 years, along with his publisher that he was ‘Kenyan born,’� said Mr. Gallups, referring to the promotional materials for Mr. Obama’s book by his literary agency Dystel & Goderich prior to his presidential election that referred to him as having been “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia.� Mr. Obama’s bio was changed on the agency’s website in April, 2007, stating he was born in Hawaii. When Breitbart News broke this story, Miriam Goderich issued a press release stating that “a fact-checking error� occurred while she worked as an agency assistant. In other words, for sixteen years, the “error� had gone undetected.

Mr. Gallups, host of Freedom Friday, a pastor for 30 years, author of the Amazon best seller The Magic Man in the Sky, is now the premier media reporter covering the investigation. He has been given a unique position of trust and confidentiality in the case due to his extensive law enforcement background. Mr. Gallups also accompanied Lt. Zullo to CPAC and Capitol Hill earlier this year in order to present the evidence to politicians.

“Barack Obama has not been vetted,� said Mr. Gallups. “It is the responsibility of Congress to determine the eligibility of any candidate to hold office. The Senate examined whether Senator John McCain was qualified to run for president and concluded that he was. Yet, no one has done the same for Mr. Obama.�

Mr. Gallups explained that he, like most Americans who first hear about this, assume someone, somewhere has determined that a candidate running for office, especially the highest office in the land, has documents that have been thoroughly examined. “Yet, the procedure to run for office is for a political party to endorse a candidate,� said Mr. Gallups. “The Democratic National Committee determined that Mr. Obama was eligible. Once a party endorses a candidate, the individual states are not required to do any examination. The only other agency required to do the vetting is the Electoral College. But in this case, they did not do so either.�

“Everyone feared a public backlash of some kind,� explains Mr. Gallups of attempts to thoroughly vet Mr. Obama prior to 2008. Yet, based on his expert analysis as a former law enforcement officer, the long-form birth certificate document is indeed a fabrication.

“From the beginning, I have always said, as a law enforcement officer and patriot, if I can be proven wrong, I will back down, will declare my mistake and apologize.� He has issued numerous public challenges for anyone with credible evidence to come forward.

“This is not fun; it is not easy,� he said. “I have been marginalized and insulted simply for stating the truth of the matter. As a patriot, ex-cop, father and grandfather, I know what I know. Please prove me wrong. I will back away.�

Mr. Gallups echoes the sentiment of many who have looked at the evidence: initial dismissal, then shock, disbelief, an assumption that it is all a mistake that will quickly be debunked and then the horror of concluding that the certificate Mr. Obama has presented is fake.

What many in the media fail to grasp is that so-called “birthers� would rather be wrong than right. It is more upsetting for many of them to believe that this kind of crime can be committed than that it was not.

The difference between a conspiracy theory and a crime is that a conspiracy theory cannot stand against the test of forensic evidence. Those who dismiss this investigation as merely “kooky� must answer these questions: Are leading experts in their field who have provided their professional assessment to a criminal investigation merely to be ignored?

Why would these experts risk their reputation and also commit perjury? It is therefore kookier to disregard these assessments summarily than to view them with an unbiased eye.

The evidence currently being accumulated by the Cold Case Posse requires consideration. It is time for Congress to do its constitutional duty and examine all this hard evidence in the clear light of day.

Grace Vuoto is the Editor of Politics and Culture at World Tribune, host of American Heartland with Dr. Grace on WTSB Radio and is the founder of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal.

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Source Article from http://www.worldtribune.com/2014/12/30/11-forensic-findings-obamas-birth-certificate-100-percent-forgery-no-doubt/

Warning to Israel: Ignore the global PR war at your peril

Special to WorldTribune.com

By Norman Bailey

Facing a determined and successful Palestinian propaganda campaign, Israel has one resource so far underused.

A recent commentary in “The Jerusalem Post” made the point that Israel has very effective state instruments to execute defense, security and intelligence policy decisions, but that it completely lacks any similar agency for planning and implementing a communications strategy to create a favorable international atmosphere for Israeli policies.

PRwarNo one can deny that Israel’s image in the world is worse now than it has been at any time since independence in 1948. There are several reasons for this, but the most important is that Israel’s enemies in the Muslim world have been engaging in extensive public relations operations in Europe, North America and elsewhere for decades.

Many years ago the PLO, under Yasser Arafat, began to hire U.S. and European public relations firms to design and carry out propaganda campaigns on behalf of its policy positions and operations.

Israel has never done anything similar. Indeed, the Israeli government has delegated this vital function to its diplomatic missions abroad. But diplomats are not trained to be specialists in public relations, and with honorable exceptions they’re not very good at it.

A case in point is that when the remarkably successful United States Information Agency (USIA) was merged into the State Department, it disappeared without a trace.

There are a few private organizations dedicated to researching and exposing anti-Israeli and anti-semitic operations abroad and designing strategies to counteract them, but they are few and not very well financed.

There is a potential resource, however, that could prove highly valuable in this vital battle, but which is entirely overlooked. I refer to the community of relatively recent olim, immigrants to Israel, particularly those from Europe and North America, who collectively have widespread and significant contacts in their countries of origin and elsewhere and could serve as what the intelligence community refers to as “agents of influence� to disseminate the truth about Muslim and other anti-Israel activities.

If nothing effective is done in this regard, we can expect that the highly effective propaganda of our enemies will continue to create a very hostile atmosphere in precisely those parts of the world that should be most supportive of Israel, the only democratic country in the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with the partial exception of Tunisia.

That, coupled with the outbreak of virulent anti-semitism in several of the Western countries, makes for a toxic combination which we ignore at our peril.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, D.C., and a researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, University of Haifa. This column was also published by Globes, the Israeli business daily.

Source Article from http://www.worldtribune.com/2014/12/30/warning-israel-ignore-global-pr-war-peril/

#12 — Turkey reports Russian missile systems radar-locked on its F-16s near Syria


Special to WorldTribune.com

ANKARA — Turkey has determined that the Syrian military was deploying a range of Russian-origin air defense systems along its border.

The Turkish military said the Syrian military was using at least three surface-to-air missile systems to track the Turkish Air Force.

Turkish Air Force F-16

Turkish Air Force F-16

The military identified the systems as the SA-2, SA-5, SA-11 and SA-17, said to have locked-on to Turkish fighter-jets.

In a statement on April 2, the Turkish military said Syrian air defense systems conducted a radar lock on six U.S.-origin fighter-jets. The military said its F-16 multi-role fighters were patrolling the border with Turkey and the lock-on lasted for more than 16 minutes.

“This was longer than in previous incidents,” the military said.

Officials said the Syrian military was reinforcing its air defense network near the Turkish border in 2014. They cited the Turkish Air Force shooting of a Syrian warplane on March 23.

Since then, the Turkish military said Syrian air defenses placed a radar lock on 45 Turkish fighter-jets. The military did not report any Syrian missile fire.

Over the last two weeks, a recording of a Turkish leadership meeting was
released that contained a discussion of a war with Syria. The opposition had
warned of a Turkish invasion of Syria on the eve of the March 30 municipal
elections. won by the ruling Justice and Development Party.

Source Article from http://www.worldtribune.com/2014/12/30/12-turkey-reports-russian-missile-systems-radar-locked-f-16s-near-syria/

#13 — Trouble in paradise? Beyoncé-Jay Z public sex romp not unprecedented in la-la land


Special to WorldTribune.com

By Grace Vuoto

At this year’s Grammy Awards, married singers Beyoncé and Jay Z performed a racy number onstage that included his fondling of her posterior — right before the prying eyes of a boisterous live audience and millions watching on television.

Beyoncé sang “Drunk In Love� on a spinning chair in a scant black outfit — otherwise known as lingerie — while simulating sex and expressing her carnivorous sexual appetite in the lyrics. Her husband joined her onstage and they continued the raunchy scene by rubbing bodies together. The audience applauded the spectacle uproariously, celebrating the marriage and talents of an American powerhouse couple.

Beyonce and Jay Z at the Grammy Awards on Jan. 26. / Wireimage / NY Post

Beyonce and Jay Z at the Grammy Awards on Jan. 26. / Wireimage / NY Post

Yet, rather than cheering we should be crying. This behavior usually means there is trouble at home; the couple is devouring their marriage right before our eyes.

Consider the pattern of other previous renowned couples who did the same.

In the 1990s, Kim Basinger was widely regarded as one of America’s most beautiful women. In 1993, she married Alec Baldwin, a rising movie star who had made a splash as Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October (1990). The proud husband showcased his wife in a vivid sex scene with him in the movie The Getaway (1994). Both were in fact fully nude during the scene. Yet, all the steam they generated onscreen was not enough: the tabloids were filled with the couple’s frequent public spats — and they divorced bitterly in 2002.

Actors Demi Moore and Bruce Willis were at the peak of their stardom throughout their tumultuous marriage from 1987 to 2000. They often graced the red carpet in tandem and were the talk of Tinseltown for both their talent and good looks. By 1996, Ms. Moore became at the time the highest-paid actress in film history; she won a Golden Globe Award as Best Actress for her work in Ghost (1990) and was acclaimed for her performance in A Few Good Men (1992) and Indecent Proposal (1993). Mr. Willis rose to Hollywood’s A-list with his work in the blockbuster Die Hard series, Twelve Monkeys (1995), The Fifth Element (1997) and Armageddon (1998). Together, for a time, they were Hollywood royalty. Ms. Moore even gave birth to three children, while reigning supreme as one of the nation’s great beauties.

Yet, despite marriage and motherhood, Ms. Moore increasingly advertised her body. In 1991, she appeared nude on the cover of Vanity Fair — while seven months pregnant with daughter Scout. The cover shoot by Annie Leibovitz sparked a national debate. The following year, Ms. Moore replicated the media flurry with another nude cover portrait for Vanity Fair — this time she was painted in a body suit. She bared flesh again in Striptease (1996) while playing a stripper — even appearing totally in the buff in the film promotional poster.

In other words, Ms. Moore’s career increasingly became overshadowed by her scandalous, indecent behavior.

And what did all this heat ultimately generate for the glamorous couple? Divorce in 2000, amid rumors that Mr. Willis had a “zipper problem.� Looks like his wife’s repeated public nudity was an attempt to get his attention more than ours, after all.

A similar pattern occurred for another red-hot Hollywood couple, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. They married in 1990 at the point where Ms. Kidman’s career was just beginning to be noted following her performance in Dead Calm (1989) and Days of Thunder (1990). Mr. Cruise, on the other hand, was already a household name due to his work in successful movies such as Risky Business (1983), Top Gun (1986), The Color of Money (1986) and Rain Man (1988). Together, they had talent and looks galore, starring in films that earned them highest movie honors at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards; they even regularly topped lists of “best dressed� for Ms. Kidman and “sexiest man� for Mr. Cruise.

And what did the couple do with all this success and fame? They starred together in the sexually charged film Eyes Wide Shut (1999), directed by Stanley Kubrick. Ms. Kidman appeared nude, along with dozens of other women and she and her husband also performed an erotic scene together. But much of the controversy the movie generated was drowned out by repeated reports that Mr. Cruise is gay, which he denies amid lawsuits for defamation. In 2001, the couple separated and Mr. Cruise blindsided his wife and mother of two children, by filing for divorce.

Even more recently, the pop music couple who made waves in America, Latin America and across the world — Marc Anthony, the Grammy-Award winning singer-songwriter, and Jennifer Lopez, the actress and singer known for both her beauty and multi-faceted talents — performed together during the American Idol finale in May, 2011. By then, they had been married since 2004 and were the parents of twins.

The American Idol performance was steamy with Marc Anthony singing, while his wife shook her body very suggestively all around him. His facial expressions conveyed he regarded her as irresistible, as she rubbed her body against him. At one point, he crooned in a crescendo as she wiggled her buttocks repeatedly for the audience. He looked on with approval and pride. At the end of the performance, host Ryan Seacrest declared: “Now we know what they do at home!�

Not so fast. Two months later, the couple announced their separation, divorcing in 2012. That year, Ms. Lopez launched her hit single “Dance Again� which features lyrics about re-finding one’s sexual prowess after many years of negligence. Looks like all that shaking and hollering onstage was, again, much ado about nothing.

Hence, we can safely surmise that when famous married couples showcase their sexual potency for the world, it usually means the fire is not burning at home.

Here is some advice for Beyoncé and Jay Z: if you are still married next year, during the 57th annual Grammy Awards, stay home and take care of your private affairs. Otherwise, you will be another statistic in the long list of famous couples cheered by the public for their sex appeal, while lonely in the marital bed.

Grace Vuoto is the Editor of Politics and Culture at World Tribune, host of American Heartland with Dr. Grace on WTSB Radio and is the founder of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal.

Source Article from http://www.worldtribune.com/2014/12/30/13-trouble-paradise-beyonce-jay-z-public-sex-romp-not-unprecedented-la-la-land/

Kenya’s technology push leaves investors cold

By Drazen Jorgic

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s technology rush gave hope that new ideas would help millions of Africans use their mobile phones to circumvent poor infrastructure but local start-ups are failing to draw major investors or create profits.

Lack of talent, problems in attaining seed capital and ideas that cannot be sold to a mass market or easily monetized have so far held back hundreds of Kenyan start ups.

Many were drawn to the tech sector by the Kenyan government’s push for a “digital future”, plentiful Western donor funding and foreign media coverage about “Africa’s Silicon Savannah”.

“From co-founders of Facebook to the biggest tech funds you can find in Silicon Valley, they’ve all been here to look and they have all gone home shaking their heads,” said Nikolai Barnwell, a Nairobi-based director of 88mph, a tech seed fund.

His fund, which has seeded almost 20 companies in east Africa’s biggest economy, is taking a break from investing in Kenyan start-ups to focus on Nigeria where he believes the tech ecosystem is more profit-focused and there is less “fluff”.

At least 70 percent of start-ups in Kenya are “not earning enough to maintain business and living expenses for a small team,” according to a recent “Digital Entrepreneurship” survey by GSMA, a global association of mobile operators. It’s survey contacted more than 230 start-ups across Kenya.

Major exceptions include Wananchi Group, one of east Africa’s biggest cable and internet-based phone companies, which is valued at over $100 million. Another is Craft Silicon, a software firm believed to be worth tens of millions.

Safaricom, Kenya’s biggest telecoms firm, is a model of how technology can be used to financially include millions of people with mobile telephones but without access to traditional infrastructure such as the banks that are available to the wealthy or those living in cities.

Safaricom in 2007 pioneered its M-Pesa mobile money transfer technology, now used across Africa, Asia and Europe. It proved that money can be made from people who earn a few dollars a day. It generated revenues worth 27 billion shillings ($300 million) in the last financial year.

But similar ideas to harness that economic power have been elusive. Safaricom’s chief executive, Bob Collymore, has urged entrepreneurs to innovate to solve Africa’s inherent problems: access to water, healthcare and education.

“There’s no shortage of innovation, there’s just a shortage of useful innovation that meets need,” he said in a recent GE Look Ahead interview.


With mobile phone use nearing 80 percent, cheap data and soaring smartphone uptake, Kenya provides one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most appealing environments for tech entrepreneurs.

Kenyan farmers receive updates on the latest crop prices via text messages, while coffee-sipping urbanites can shop and hail taxis through smartphone apps. Yet critics say only a small percentage of Kenya’s 44 million people use these services.

Forced to play catch up on development issues, engineers hope Africa can jump to the front of the technology revolution.

But Barnwell said talent tends to move into real estate or banking, sectors which offer huge rewards with less risk, particularly since many African investors have little understanding of technology.

“Tech is very risky and there are so many other low lying fruit for investment, why take the risk with tech,” said Dorothy Gordon director general of the Kofi Annan centre of technology excellence in Accra, Ghana.

Jeremy Gordon, founder of Nairobi-based Echo Mobile, said recruiting is tough and tech start-ups spend a large amount of capital on engineering talent.

“Equity is less attractive to engineers in Kenya when weighed against salary, which is not surprising given the nature of the start-up space, availability of funding, and the Kenyan economy,” he said.

Mark Kaigwa, founder of Nairobi-based tech consultancy Nendo, said Kenyan techies broadly focus on the business-to-consumer market that grabs headlines even though most of the profitable start-ups service the business-to-business segment.

“You have a swarm of developers who are looking at business-to-consumer apps but with no roadmap,” said Kaigwa.

Shortage of investment, a perennial African problem, is another impediment. Early seed capital provided by the likes of 88mph and a handful of other funds is scarce. And with interest rates on Kenyan loans often topping 20 percent, bank debt is expensive.

It is a familiar problem to Echo Mobile’s Gordon, who is seeking to raise up to $1 million for his cloud-based mass messaging platform that is used in eight countries, including Sierra Leone, where IBM is conducting Ebola-related community research through it.

Rather than pitching to Kenya’s business elite, Echo Mobile is currently holding talks with U.S. investors.

“East Africa hasn’t seen huge tech acquisitions or other types of exits, the events that make early stage investments truly pay off,” Gordon said.

But there is hope. African economies continue to expand rapidly, Safaricom has launched super-fast 4G internet and 19 million Kenyans are expected to own smartphones by end of 2017.

“We will get another chance. People will come back when real money is ready to be made,” said Barnwell.

Source Article from http://news.yahoo.com/kenyas-technology-push-leaves-investors-cold-062314818–finance.html

Google’s Gmail blocked in China

By Paul Carsten

BEIJING (Reuters) – Google Inc’s Gmail was blocked in China after months of disruptions to the world’s biggest email service, with an anti-censorship advocate suggesting the Great Firewall was to blame.

Large numbers of Gmail Web addresses were cut off in China on Friday, said GreatFire.org, a China-based freedom of speech advocacy group. Users said the service was still down on Monday.

“I think the government is just trying to further eliminate Google’s presence in China and even weaken its market overseas,” said a member of GreatFire.org, who uses a pseudonym.

Google’s own Transparency Report, which shows real-time traffic to Google services, displayed a sharp drop-off in traffic to Gmail from China on Friday.

“We’ve checked and there’s nothing wrong on our end,” a Singapore-based spokesman for Google said in an email.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department expressed concern over China’s actions.

“We encourage China to be transparent in its dealings with international companies and to consider the market signal it sends with such acts,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said.

Almost all of Google’s services have been heavily disrupted in China since June this year, but until last week Gmail users could still access emails downloaded via protocols like IMAP, SMTP and POP3. These had let people communicate using Gmail on apps like the Apple iPhone’s Mail and Microsoft Outlook.

China maintains tight control over the Internet, nipping in the bud any signs of dissent or challenges to the ruling Communist Party’s leadership.

The country is host to the world’s most sophisticated internet censorship mechanism, known as the Great Firewall of China. Critics say China has stepped up its disruption of foreign online services like Google over the past year to create an Internet cut off from the rest of the world.

The Google disruption began in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the government’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

Gmail’s setback could make email communication difficult for companies operating in China, said GreatFire.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she did not know anything about Gmail being blocked, adding that the government was committed to providing a good business environment for foreign investors.

“China has consistently had a welcoming and supportive attitude toward foreign investors doing legitimate business here,” she said. “We will, as always, provide an open, transparent and good environment for foreign companies in China.”

One popular way to get around China’s internet censorship is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which allows unhindered access to blocked sites and services.

“Using a VPN seems to be the only answer to doing anything these days online in China,” said Zach Smith, a Beijing-based digital products manager at City Weekend magazine.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Editing by Nick Macfie and Richard Chang)

Source Article from http://news.yahoo.com/gmail-blocked-china-great-firewall-suspected-065352411–finance.html

AirAsia victim with life jacket raises questions about plane’s last moments

Recovery operations for AirAsia wreckage

Recovery operation for AirAsia flight wreckage

SURABAYA, Indonesia/JAKARTA (Reuters) – A body recovered on Wednesday from the crashed AirAsia plane was wearing a life jacket, an official with Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said, raising questions about how the disaster unfolded.

Rescuers believe they have found the plane on the ocean floor off Borneo, after sonar detected a large, dark object beneath waters near where debris and bodies were found on the surface.

Ships and planes had been scouring the Java Sea for Flight QZ8501 since Sunday, when it lost contact during bad weather about 40 minutes into its flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

Seven bodies have been recovered from the sea, some fully clothed, which could indicate the Airbus A320-200 was intact when it hit the water. That would support a theory that it suffered an aerodynamic stall.

The fact that one person put on a life jacket would appear to indicate those on board had at least some time before the aircraft hit the water, or after it hit the water and before it sank.

And yet the pilots did not issue a distress signal. The plane disappeared after it failed to get permission to fly higher to avoid bad weather because of heavy air traffic.

“This morning, we recovered a total of four bodies and one of them was wearing a life jacket,” Tatang Zaenudin, an official with the search and rescue agency, told Reuters.

He declined to speculate on what the find might mean.

Hernanto, head of the search and rescue agency in Surabaya, said rescuers believed they had found the plane on the sea bed with a sonar scan in water about 30 to 50 meters (100 to 165 feet) deep. The black box flight data and cockpit voice recorder has yet to be found.

Authorities in Surabaya were making preparations to receive and identify bodies, including arranging 130 ambulances to take victims to a police hospital and collecting DNA from relatives.

“We are praying it is the plane so the evacuation can be done quickly,” Hernanto said.

Most of the people on board were Indonesians. No survivors have been found.

Officials said waves two to three meters (six to nine feet) high and winds were hampering the hunt for wreckage and preventing divers from searching the crash zone.

“The fact that the debris appears fairly contained suggests the aircraft broke up when it hit the water, rather than in the air,” said Neil Hansford, a former pilot and chairman of consultancy firm Strategic Aviation Solutions.

Indonesian Navy divers prepare to search for victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia, Dec. 31, 2014.

© Dewi Nurcahyani/AP Photo
Indonesian Navy divers prepare to search for victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia, Dec. 31, 2014.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said his priority was retrieving the bodies.

Widodo, speaking in Surabaya on Tuesday after grim images of the scene in the Java Sea were broadcast on television, said AirAsia would pay an immediate advance of money to relatives, many of whom collapsed in grief when they saw the television pictures from the search.

AirAsia Chief Executive Tony Fernandes has described the crash as his “worst nightmare”.

About 30 ships and 21 aircraft from Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the United States have been involved in the search.

Singapore said it was sending two underwater beacon detectors to try to pick up pings from the black boxes, which contain cockpit voice and flight data recorders.

Family members of passengers onboard missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 cry at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya, December 30, 2014.

© REUTERS/Beawiharta
Family members of passengers onboard missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 cry at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya, December 30, 2014.


The plane was traveling at 32,000 feet (9,753 meters) and had asked to fly at 38,000 feet. When air traffic controllers granted permission for a rise to 34,000 feet a few minutes later, they received no response.

Online discussion among pilots has centered on unconfirmed secondary radar data from Malaysia that suggested the aircraft was climbing at a speed of 353 knots, about 100 knots too slow, and that it might have stalled.

Investigators are focusing initially on whether the crew took too long to request permission to climb, or could have ascended on their own initiative earlier, said a source close to the inquiry, adding that poor weather could have played a part as well.

A Qantas pilot with 25 years of experience flying in the region said the discovery of the debris field relatively close to the last known radar plot of the plane pointed to an aerodynamic stall. One possibility is that the plane’s instruments iced up, giving the pilots inaccurate readings.

The Indonesian captain, a former air force fighter pilot, had 6,100 flying hours under his belt and the plane last underwent maintenance in mid-November, said the airline, which is 49 percent owned by Malaysia-based budget carrier AirAsia.

Three airline disasters involving Malaysian-affiliated carriers in less than a year have dented confidence in the country’s aviation industry and spooked travelers.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing in March on a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew and has not been found. On July 17, the same airline’s Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

On board Flight QZ8501 were 155 Indonesians, three South Koreans, and one person each from Singapore, Malaysia and Britain. The co-pilot was French.

The AirAsia group, including affiliates in Thailand, the Philippines and India, had not suffered a crash since its Malaysian budget operations began in 2002.

(Additional reporting by Cindy Silviana, Charlotte Greenfield and Michael Taylor in JAKARTA/SURABAYA/PANGKALAN BUN, Jane Wardell in SYDNEY; Writing by Mark Bendeich and Robert Birsel; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Sony Attack, First a Nuisance, Swiftly Grew Into a Firestorm

A Hollywood billboard for Sony Pictures’ “The Interview” was removed on Dec. 18, after the studio canceled its theatrical run.

© Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A Hollywood billboard for Sony Pictures’ “The Interview” was removed on Dec. 18, after the studio canceled its theatrical run.

Michael Lynton, the studio’s chief executive, and his colleagues underestimated the potential for trouble the breach represented, and kept a long and damaging silence.

© Toshifumi Kitamura/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Michael Lynton, the studio’s chief executive, and his colleagues underestimated the potential for trouble the breach represented, and kept a long and damaging silence.

LOS ANGELES — It was three days before Thanksgiving, the beginning of a quiet week for Sony Pictures. But Michael Lynton, the studio’s chief executive, was nonetheless driving his Volkswagen GTI toward Sony’s lot at 6 a.m. Final planning for corporate meetings in Tokyo was on his agenda — at least until his cellphone rang.

The studio’s chief financial officer, David C. Hendler, was calling to tell his boss that Sony’s computer system had been compromised in a hacking of unknown proportions. To prevent further damage, technicians were debating whether to take Sony Pictures entirely offline.

Shortly after Mr. Lynton reached his office in the stately Thalberg building at Sony headquarters in Culver City, Calif., it became clear that the situation was much more dire. Some of the studio’s 7,000 employees, arriving at work, turned on their computers to find macabre images of Mr. Lynton’s severed head. Sony shut down all computer systems shortly thereafter, including those in overseas offices, leaving the company in the digital dark ages: no voice mail, no corporate email, no production systems.

A handful of old BlackBerrys, located in a storage room in the Thalberg basement, were given to executives. Staff members began to trade text messages using hastily arranged phone trees. Sony’s already lean technical staff began working around the clock, with some people sleeping in company offices that became littered with stale pizza. Administrators hauled out old machines that allowed them to cut physical payroll checks in lieu of electronic direct deposit.

Still, for days the episode was viewed inside Sony as little more than a colossal annoyance. Though Sony executives were quickly in touch with federal law enforcement officials, the company’s initial focus was on setting up jury-rigged systems to let it limp through what was expected to be a few days or weeks of inconvenience. The company’s initial statement on the breach, made on Nov. 24, seems almost absurdly bland in retrospect: “We are investigating an I.T. matter.”

In fact, less than three weeks later Sony would be the focal point of a global firestorm over a growing digital attack on its corporate identity and data; its movie “The Interview,” about the fictional assassination of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un; and its own handling of the ensuing crisis.

Interviews with over two dozen people involved in the episode suggest that Sony — slow to realize the depths of its peril — let its troubles deepen by mounting a public defense only after enormous damage had been done. The initial decision to treat the attack as largely an internal matter reflected Hollywood habit and the executive sang-froid of Mr. Lynton, who can be cool almost to a fault. As Mr. Lynton discovered, however, at a midpoint in the episode, this predicament required a wholly different approach.

In truth, “There is no playbook for us to turn to,” Mr. Lynton told his staff at one point. Mr. Lynton and his colleagues underestimated the ferocity of the interaction between the news media and the hackers as the drama unfolded in December. Hackers released the information to traffic-hungry websites, which published the most embarrassing details, while Sony mostly stayed publicly silent.

Hurt by a misstep when it announced the cancellation of a Christmas Day release for “The Interview,” Sony was knocked about by criticism by the White House, Hollywood stars and others who accused it of capitulating to extortionist threats. The studio’s ultimate success in showing its film in face of a terror threat came after Mr. Lynton’s natural reserve fell more in line with the passion and grit of the studio’s co-chairwoman, Amy Pascal, who was undermined early in the attack by the disclosure of embarrassing personal emails.

The son of a German Jew who served in British intelligence during World War II, Mr. Lynton, 54, had weathered past corporate crises, including an inherited accounting scandal when he ran the Penguin publishing house and a recent attempt by the activist investor Daniel S. Loeb to force change at Sony. But neither of those episodes matched the complexity and surreal twists of the hacking, which ultimately became a test of national will, a referendum on media behavior and a defense of free expression, even of the crudest sort.

“What it amounted to was criminal extortion,” Mr. Lynton said in an interview.

Rising Sense of Urgency

By Dec. 1, a week after Sony discovered the breach, a sense of urgency and horror had penetrated the studio. More than a dozen F.B.I. investigators were setting up shop on the Culver City lot and in a separate Sony facility near the Los Angeles airport called Corporate Pointe, helping Sony deal with one of the worst cyberattacks ever on an American company.

Mountains of documents had been stolen, internal data centers had been wiped clean, and 75 percent of the servers had been destroyed.

Everything and anything had been taken. Contracts. Salary lists. Film budgets. Medical records. Social Security numbers. Personal emails. Five entire movies, including the yet-to-be-released “Annie.”

Later, it would become apparent through files stolen by the hackers and published online that Mr. Lynton and Ms. Pascal had been given an oblique warning. On Nov. 21, in an email signed by “God’s Apstls,” the studio was told to pay money for an unspecified reason by Nov. 24. If the studio did not comply, the bizarre missive said, “Sony Pictures will be bombarded as a whole.”

But the warning either did not find its way to Mr. Lynton or he missed its importance in the daily flood of messages to his inbox. In the first days of the attack, responsibility for which was claimed by a group calling itself “Guardians of Peace,” the notion of North Korean involvement was little more than a paranoid whisper.

In June, a spokesman for North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement said the country would take “a decisive and merciless countermeasure” if the United States government permitted Sony to make its planned Christmas release of the comedy “The Interview.”

At the time, the threat seemed to many almost as absurd as the film, which was not mentioned in early communications from the hackers.

In the gossipy nexus that quickly connected Hollywood’s trade news media with studio insiders and a growing circuit of information technology experts, talk circulated of a “mole” — a Sony employee who was presumed by many to have been instrumental in penetrating the computer systems and spotting the most sensitive data.

The theory of violation by an ex-employee or disgruntled insider persists among computer security experts who remain unpersuaded by the F.B.I.’s focus on evidence pointing toward North Korea, which the agency made public in a news release on Dec. 19.

But senior Sony executives, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is incomplete, now say the talk of a rogue insider reflects a misunderstanding of the F.B.I.’s initial conclusions about the hacking. Federal investigators, they said, did not strongly suspect an inside job.

Rather, these executives said, the F.B.I. found that the hackers had used digital techniques to steal the credentials and passwords from a systems administrator who had maximum access to Sony’s computer systems. Once in control of the gateways those items opened, theft of information was relatively easy.

Government investigators and Sony’s private security experts traced the hacking through a network of foreign servers and identified malicious software bearing the familiar hallmarks of a hacking gang known as Dark Seoul. Prodded for inside information at a social gathering — long before the F.B.I. announced any conclusions — Doug Belgrad, president of Sony’s motion picture group, responded, “It’s the Koreans.”

Hackers Release Information

As the F.B.I. stepped up its inquiry, the hackers — who still had made no explicit mention of “The Interview” — dropped the first in a series of data bundles that were to prove a feast for websites like Gawker and mainstream services like Bloomberg News for weeks.

"The Interview" opened online and in 331 theaters, like this one in Atlanta, on Christmas Day after its withdrawal by Sony drew wide criticism.

© Marcus Ingram/Getty Images
“The Interview” opened online and in 331 theaters, like this one in Atlanta, on Christmas Day after its withdrawal by Sony drew wide criticism.

And so was set a pattern. Every few days, hackers would dump a vast new group of documents onto anonymous posting sites. Reporters and other parties who had shown an interest in searching the Sony files were then sent email alerts — essentially digital treasure maps from the hackers.

The files seemed to fulfill every Hollywood gossip’s fantasy of what is said behind studio walls. Ms. Pascal was caught swapping racially insensitive jokes about President Obama’s presumed taste in African-American films. A top Sony producer, Scott Rudin, was discovered harshly criticizing Angelina Jolie. Mr. Lynton was revealed to be angling for a job at New York University.

Sony technicians privately started fighting back by moving to disrupt access to the data dumps. But the studio — apart from public apologies by Ms. Pascal — was largely silent on the disclosures.

In this, Mr. Lynton was perhaps betrayed by his own cool. While Ms. Pascal alternately wept and raged about the violation, Mr. Lynton assumed the more detached manner that had served him well in the publishing world. Mr. Lynton engaged in debates with lawyers who rendered conflicting opinions as to whether media outlets could in fact be stopped from trading in goods that were, after all, stolen.

As a tough and seasoned executive in her own right, Ms. Pascal brought badly needed expression to emotions that many, perhaps most, Sony employees were feeling. Hoarse and humbled, she would eventually bring colleagues to her side with an address at an all-hands gathering on the Sony lot in which she said: “I’m so terribly sorry. All I can really do now is apologize and ask for your forgiveness.”

Until shortly before that, Mr. Lynton was hesitant about confronting media outlets with legal action. But the lawyer David Boies persuaded him there was a case to be made against free trade in information that was essentially stolen property. Mr. Boies on Dec. 14 began sending legal warnings to about 40 media outlets using the stolen data.

On Dec. 15, while rallying the troops at that gathering on the Sony lot, Mr. Lynton displayed flashes of anger and words of resolve — fighting spirit he had not shown publicly. “Some of the reporting on this situation has been truly outrageous, and is, quite frankly, disgusting,” he said. He urged employees not to read the anticipated next waves of emails, lest they turn on one another.

“I’m concerned, very concerned, that if people continue to read these emails, relationships will be damaged and hurt here at the studio,” he said.

A Crucial Threat

Shortly before 10 a.m. the next day, Dec. 16, the hackers made good on their promise of a “Christmas gift,” delivering thousands of Mr. Lynton’s emails to the posting sites. With the emails came a message that within minutes converted the hacking from corporate annoyance to national threat and fully jolted Sony from defense to offense.

“Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made,” it said. “The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001.” The message specifically cited “The Interview” and its planned opening.

Unfazed until then by Sony’s problems, exhibitors were instantly galvanized. “When you invoke 9/11, it’s a game changer,” said one theater executive.

Within hours, the National Association of Theater Owners convened a board meeting. Through the day, the exhibitors were briefed by Sony executives (though not by Mr. Lynton), who took a position that infuriated some owners: The studio would not cancel the film, but it would not quarrel with any theater that withdrew it because of security concerns.

“Sony basically punted,” said one theater executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality strictures. “Frankly,” the executive added, “it’s their movie, and their mess.”

Amy Pascal, co-chairwoman of Sony, offered apologies and outrage as executive emails were dumped online.

© Kevork Djansezian/Reuters
Amy Pascal, co-chairwoman of Sony, offered apologies and outrage as executive emails were dumped online.

Carmike Cinemas, one of the country’s four largest chains, was the first to withdraw. By the morning of Dec. 17, owners of about 80 percent of the country’s movie theaters — including Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, and Cinemark, already mired in legal fights over a 2012 theater shooting in Colorado — had pulled out.

At the same time, Mr. Lynton was advised by George Rose, who is in charge of human resources, that employees, for the first time since the initial attack, were showing signs of being deeply shaken by the possibility of violence to themselves and to the audience.

That afternoon, Sony dropped “The Interview” from its schedule. In theory, the studio had gotten its way by putting the onus for cancellation on apprehensive theater owners.

But Sony at that moment made a critical error. In a hasty statement, in some cases delivered orally to reporters, the studio said it had “no further release plan” for “The Interview.” In fact, Mr. Lynton had been talking with Google’s chairman, Eric E. Schmidt, and others about an alternative online release — discussions that Google would later confirm publicly. But Sony’s statement was widely interpreted to mean Sony would shelve the movie for good, leaving an impression that it had caved to the hackers and a terrorist threat.

The reaction was swift and furious. Hollywood stars and free speech advocates sharply criticized the decision. On Friday, Dec. 19, President Obama used his final news briefing of the year to rebuke Sony for its handling of the North Korean threat: “We cannot have a dictator imposing censorship in the U.S.” For Mr. Lynton, the president’s remarks became a personal low point in the entire affair. He had expected support from Mr. Obama — of whom Mr. Lynton and his wife, Jamie, were early and ardent backers in 2007. “I would be fibbing to say I wasn’t disappointed,” Mr. Lynton told a CNN interviewer shortly afterward, understating his reaction. (Mr. Lynton had already agreed to the CNN interview and, in fact, watched the president’s news conference from a TV in a CNN lounge.)

“You know, the president and I haven’t spoken,” Mr. Lynton added. “I don’t know exactly whether he understands the sequence of events that led up to the movies’ not being shown in the movie theaters.”

The president’s decision to specifically — and harshly — criticize Sony was not mapped before the news conference, according to two senior American officials. But it was clear to Mr. Obama’s aides and national security staff that the president felt passionately about the issue and was eager to push for the film’s release, the officials said.

Shortly after the president spoke, shocked Sony executives spoke with senior members of the White House staff, asking whether they had known that the president was going to criticize them. The staff members told the executives that nothing had been planned.

In the end, the exchanges were constructive, as administration officials persuaded Sony that an expanded electronic attack was unlikely; that gave the studio cover to tell the distributors and theaters they were very likely safe to show the film. But Mr. Obama played no direct role in pushing deals that, in less than a week, would put “The Interview” online and in 331 smaller theaters.

Sony’s Christmas Eve triumph in announcing an immediate online release of “The Interview” was more fragile than it looked. While Google had been committed for a week, Microsoft and its Xbox service came aboard only late the night before.

In the end, the film may be seen by more viewers than if it had experienced an unimpeded, conventional release, particularly if, as studio executives suspect, those who paid for the film online were joined by friends and family. Sony said “The Interview” generated roughly $15 million in online sales and rentals during its first four days of availability.

Now, five weeks into the episode, Sony’s internal technology is still impaired. Executives estimate that a return to normal is at least five to seven weeks away.

But the studio’s spirit apparently remains intact. Showing up in the Sony cafeteria for lunch last week, as a theatrical release and the Google and Microsoft deals were announced, Mr. Lynton was surrounded by 30 to 40 employees who told him they were proud to be at Sony and to get the movie out.

“If we put our heads down and focus on our work, I honestly think we can recover from this in short order,” Mr. Lynton said on Sunday.

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Canada police: 9 dead in 3 crime scenes

Police investigate the scene where multiple deaths occurred overnight in Edmonton, Alberta, on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014.

© Jason Franson, The Canadian Press/AP
Police investigate the scene where multiple deaths occurred overnight in Edmonton, Alberta, on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014.

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Nine people, including seven adults and two young children, were found dead at three separate crime scenes in what Edmonton’s police chief on Tuesday called the city’s worst mass murder.

Chief Rod Knecht told a news conference the killings were the result of domestic violence. The victims included a middle-aged woman found Monday night by officers who were responding to a report of a man entering the south-side home, opening fire and fleeing.

Police were later called to a house in a quiet cul de sac in the northeast Monday afternoon to check on reports of a depressed, suicidal male earlier in the evening.

“The male was not located and there was no response, and nothing suspicious was noted at the residence.”

Knecht said police received new information after midnight that prompted officers to return to the house where they found the seven bodies. He didn’t say how the victims died or what prompted police to return.

“It is a tragic day for Edmonton,” he said. “This series of events are not believed to be random acts. … These events do not appear to be gang-related, but rather tragic incidents of domestic violence.”

The police chief didn’t give the ages of the two children, other than to say they were very young. The adult victims were all middle-aged.

The body of a victim is carried out of a north Edmonton home in Edmonton, Alberta, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014.

© The Canadian Press, Jason Franson
The body of a victim is carried out of a north Edmonton home in Edmonton, Alberta, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014.

Neighbor Moe Assiff said he saw officers come out and talk to a woman sitting with a man in a white car outside the house.

“She just let out a hysterical scream. It was eerie,” Assiff said.” She was screaming about her kids: ‘My kids! The kids!,’ grabbing her hair and trying to pull her hair out. The cops then ushered her down the road into a police cruiser.”

About two hours after that, the drama shifted to the VN Express Asian restaurant in the bedroom community of Fort Saskatchewan where a man matching the description of the suicidal male was found dead on Tuesday morning, Knecht said.

“Our homicide investigators have established associations and linkages between these homicides,” he said.

Police would not elaborate on the connection between the deaths.

“It’s a really complex case involving multiple locations and police have yet to identity the suicide victim so police cannot yet say with 100 percent accuracy what the connection is,” said police spokesman Scott Patterson.

In Edmonton, a city of 878,000 people, mass murders are extremely rare. Knecht said the case was the worst mass killing in the city since at least 1956, when six people were murdered.

John Etter Clark, a provincial politician who served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for four years, killed his wife, son, three daughters and an employee of their family farm before taking his own life in 1956. Clark had been suffering from frequent nervous breakdowns in the years before the killings.

Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said in a statement that his thoughts and prayers were with the families and friends of those involved as well as with first responders.

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U.S. sends five Guantanamo prisoners to Kazakhstan for resettlement

The interior of an unoccupied communal cellblock is seen at Camp VI, a prison used to house detainees at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay March 5, 2013.

© REUTERS/Bob Strong
The interior of an unoccupied communal cellblock is seen at Camp VI, a prison used to house detainees at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay March 5, 2013.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three Yemenis and two Tunisians held for more than a decade at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo have been flown to Kazakhstan for resettlement, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, the latest in a series of prisoner transfers aimed at closing the facility.

The transfer of the five men followed a recent pledge by President Barack Obama for a stepped-up push to shut the internationally condemned detention center at the U.S. naval base in Cuba where most prisoners have been held without being charged or tried.

The U.S. government has moved 28 prisoners out of Guantanamo this year – the largest number since 2009 – and a senior U.S. official said the quickened pace would continue with further transfers expected in coming weeks.

Kazakhstan’s acceptance of the five followed extensive negotiations, the official said. Though the oil-rich central Asian state is an ally of Russia, it has cultivated areas of economic and diplomatic cooperation with the West.

The men sent to Kazakhstan, a majority-Muslim country, were identified as low-risk detainees cleared long ago for transfer. With their removal from Guantanamo just before the new year, the detainee population has been whittled down to 127.

More than half of the remaining Guantanamo detainees are from Yemen, but Washington is unable to send them home because of the chaotic security situation there.

Obama continues to face obstacles posed by Congress to the goal of emptying the prison before he leaves office, not least of which is a ban on transfer of prisoners to the U.S. mainland.

All five men were detained on suspicion of links to al Qaeda or allied groups, but the U.S. official said investigations had determined they “could be described as low-level, if even that.”


The Pentagon identified the Yemenis as Asim Thabit Abdullah Al-Khalaqi, Muhammad Ali Husayn Khanayna and Sabri Muhammad Ibrahim Al Qurashi. The Tunisians were named as Adel Al-Hakeemy and Abdullah Bin Ali Al-Lufti.

Other countries that have accepted Guantanamo detainees for resettlement this year include Uruguay, Georgia and Slovakia.

The prison was opened by Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States to house militant suspects rounded up overseas.

“I’m going to be doing everything I can to close it,” Obama told CNN in an interview broadcast on Dec. 21, renewing a pledge he made when he took office in 2008.

A key thrust of the strategy is the administration’s outreach to a range of countries it hopes will take in more of the roughly 60 prisoners already approved for transfer.

Clifford Sloan, Obama’s outgoing State Department envoy on Guantanamo, led negotiations for the Kazakh deal. It was not immediately known whether the Obama played any personal role.

Among the prisoners sent to Kazakhstan, Lufti, 49, was detained in Pakistan and held at Guantanamo for nearly 12 years, according to a database of government documents compiled by the New York Times and National Public Radio.

He was accused of links to Tunisian militants when he lived in Italy in the 1990s, but he denied this. He has heart problems that led authorities to recommend his transfer as early as 2004.

One of the Yemenis, Khalaqi, 46, had been implicated by John Walker Lindh, an American captured in late 2001 working with the Taliban, as having fought with al Qaeda in Afghanistan, according to the documents. But Khalaqi denied any involvement.

(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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