Category: Politics Scene

A dubious anniversary for hydrogen bomb

Anniversary of Bikini Atoll atomic bombing

A remote island was the site of a huge leap in the nuclear arms race 55 years ago.

Friday marks the 55th anniversary of the United States dropping the first airborne hydrogen bomb on the Bikini atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The test was a success and symbolized a huge leap in the nuclear arms race.

According to the History Channel, people who witnessed the test remarked the resulting fireball “measured at least four miles in diameter and was brighter than the light from 500 suns.”

In honor of the anniversary, has published a series of bomb-test photos that are both frightening and beautiful (see the full collection on the website). You can check out the images below, and see not just the fireballs and explosions, but also the bomb’s impact on “test houses” and mannequins that researchers used to measure the bomb’s terrifying power.

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Judge grants bail to WikiLeaks founder

Judge grants bail to WikiLeaks founder

Julian Assange gets a temporary reprieve after high-profile figures push for his release.

Swedish authorities say they will appeal a British judge’s decision to grant bail to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange’s lawyers were told Tuesday that means it will take at least another 48 hours before he can be freed from a London jail. Britain’s High Court will now hear the Swedish appeal.

Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, has been in prison for a week due to a Swedish arrest warrant in a sex-crimes investigation. He denies any wrongdoing and his lawyers say he plans to fight Sweden’s extradition request.

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Ten revelations of secret docs released by WikiLeaks

Ten revelations of secret docs released by WikiLeaks

The covert world of high-level diplomacy gets a rare spotlight in docs released by WikiLeaks.

On Sunday, five international news outlets published a selection of more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, provided by the website WikiLeaks. The disclosure of the cables, most of them from the past three years, offers a rare unfiltered view of the secretive world of high-level diplomacy. As such, it could complicate relations with a host of friendly and unfriendly nations.

But what did we actually learn? Here are 10 key revelations from the cables:

1. Many Middle Eastern nations are far more concerned about Iran’s nuclear program than they’ve publicly admitted. According to one cable, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly asked the U.S. to “cut off the head of the snake” — meaning, it appears, to bomb Iran’s nuclear program. Leaders of Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other Middle Eastern nations expressed similar views.

2. The U.S. ambassador to Seoul told Washington in February that the right business deals might get China to acquiesce to a reunified Korea, if the newly unified power were allied with the United States. American and South Korean officials have discussed such a reunification in the event that North Korea collapses under the weight of its economic and political problems.

3. The Obama administration offered sweeteners to try to get other countries to take Guantanamo detainees, as part of its (as yet unsuccessful) effort to close the prison. Slovenia, for instance, was offered a meeting with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions.
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Where’s former President Bush?

Where's former President Bush?

As election season hits a fever pitch, the former president stays off the campaign trail.

Former President Bill Clinton is busy on the campaign trail, helping candidates in races from Florida to Washington state. His successor, George W. Bush? Holed up in Texas.

Bush left office deeply unpopular and sour on domestic politics. After leaving Washington and returning to Texas, he has kept a low profile, working on his memoir and appearing only occasionally at paid speeches. Aides say he has no plans to be a figure in this year’s elections, which could see major gains for the GOP.

Republicans, who paid electoral costs in 2006 and 2008 for Bush’s unpopularity, are hardly clamoring for the 43rd president to join them on the campaign trail. After all, an Associated Press-GfK poll last month found 55 percent of all Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Bush and 51 percent blame him for the economic crisis that began on his watch.

While he enjoys popularity with base conservatives, Bush is not necessarily an in-demand figure for candidates trying to fault President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats for the economic mess. Republicans across the nation are trying to lay the blame for 15 million out-of-work Americans at Democrats’ feet.

Republican strategists are quick to say they respect the former president but add they are not begging him to join candidates at rallies. Bush’s unpopularity was one of the chief reasons Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008 failed, as then-candidate Obama’s allies painted the Arizona Republican as a mere third term for Bush.

Since leaving office, Bush has written a memoir, set to be published after the Nov. 2 election. “Decision Points” will be released on Nov. 9 with an initial printing of 1.5 million copies — the same run Clinton enjoyed for his memoir.

For his part, Clinton has emerged a popular figure for Democrats. Since leaving office in 2001, the president has repaired his image and used his star power to raise millions of dollars for developing countries and for Democrats. Clinton’s schedule has him visiting Kentucky, Nevada and his home state of Arkansas on behalf of Democrats in tough races.

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Sharron Angle: Muslim law taking hold in parts of US

Sharron Angle: Muslim law taking hold in parts of US

U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle told a crowd of supporters that the country needs to address a “militant terrorist situation” that has allowed Islamic religious law to take hold in some American cities.

Her comments came at a rally of tea party supporters in the Nevada resort town of Mesquite last week after the candidate was asked about Muslims angling to take over the country, and marked the latest of several controversial remarks by the Nevada Republican.

In a recording of the rally provided to The Associated Press by the Mesquite Local News, a man is heard asking Angle : “I keep hearing about Muslims wanting to take over the United States … on a TV program just last night, I saw that they are taking over a city in Michigan and the residents of the city, they want them out. They want them out. So, I want to hear your thoughts about that.”

Angle responds that “we’re talking about a militant terrorist situation, which I believe it isn’t a widespread thing, but it is enough that we need to address, and we have been addressing it.”

“My thoughts are these, first of all, Dearborn, Michigan, and Frankford, Texas are on American soil, and under constitutional law. Not Sharia law. And I don’t know how that happened in the United States,” she said. “It seems to me there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing a foreign system of law to even take hold in any municipality or government situation in our United States.”

Dearborn, Mich., has a thriving Muslim community. It was not immediately clear why Angle singled out Frankford, Texas, a former town that was annexed into Dallas around 1975.

Responding to the same question, she also drew comparisons between the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Nazi Holocaust. She said the property owners behind the proposed Islamic community center near ground zero should move it in deference to the people who died there.

“There was, in Auschwitz, I think it was Auschwitz, it was at least a prisoner of war camp, where the Catholic Church owned some property and they were going to build a church there. They had every right to do it but they stepped aside and said, no, we are going to allow the Jewish people to make a monument because they lost lives,” she said. “They had a responsibility to be sensitive to what had happened there and it is exactly the same thing as 9/11. Ground zero, we have a responsibility to be sensitive to the loss of a nation, to the loss of families, to the loss of life that happened there.”

Angle seemed to be referring to a Roman Catholic convent at the Auschwitz death camp that Pope John Paul II ordered moved in 1993 in response to Jewish protests.

Others, including the Anti-Defamation League, the nation’s leading Jewish civil rights group, have evoked the relocated convent while voicing opposition to the mosque. But the ADL also has stressed that 9/11 and the Holocaust are separate, incomparable events.

Angle’s campaign did not answer questions about her statements.
“I’m pretty sure that she did make it clear that there had been incidents in the news, but there is nothing widespread, and that we have freedom of religion in this country,” said spokesman Jarrod Agen in an e-mail.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based advocacy group, called Angle’s statements “bizarre.”

“This seems to be an example of incoherent bigotry. It is pretty clear that she has something against Islam and Muslims but she is so incoherent you don’t know what she stands for,” Hooper said. “The proper response would have been, ‘American Muslims are citizens like anyone else. They are free to practice their faith,’ not seeming to agree that Muslims are somehow seeking to take over.”

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly called Angle’s comments “shameful.” He said tea party groups inaccurately spread the word that his Detroit suburb was ruled by Islamic law after members of an anti-Islam group were arrested at an Arab cultural festival in June because a Christian volunteer complained of harassment.

“She took it as face value and maligned the city of Dearborn and I consider that totally irresponsible,” he said. “If she wants to come here, I will take her on a tour. I will show her we follow the Constitution just as well as anyone else.”

Angle, a Southern Baptist, has called herself a faith-based politician. Among her positions, she opposes abortion in all circumstances, including rape and incest and doesn’t believe the Constitution requires the separation of church and state.

Angle is in a dead-heat race against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has also said the community center, which would include a mosque, should be built elsewhere. A recent poll showed Reid and Angle tied in the high-profile campaign.

Reid’s campaign said Angle’s comments advances its ongoing campaign to portray her as outside mainstream America.

“The fact that Sharron Angle believes American cities have been taken over by militant terrorist organizations that are ruling our citizens under Sharia law shows a terrifying lack of connection with reality and a willingness to subscribe to conspiracy theories that demonstrates she’s far too extreme and dangerous to represent Nevada in the U.S. Senate,” spokesman Kelly Steele said.

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Russian ‘femme fatale’ spy becomes a cult hero

Russian ‘femme fatale’ spy becomes a cult hero

From photo shoots to song lyrics, former spy Anna Chapman is enjoying fame in her home country.

Anna Chapman, the 28-year-old redheaded Russian who was returned home as part of the largest spy swap with the United States since the Cold War, is evidently enjoying newfound celebrity status in her mother country. Her deal with U.S. authorities prohibits Chapman from selling her story, but the former spy is nonetheless enjoying cultlike fame, according to Matthias Schepp in Der Spiegel.

Chapman said in an interview with Schepp that she has to wear a hat and sunglasses to avoid being recognized in Moscow, where she is the object of adoring attention from fans:

Russia has been consumed by a Chapman cult since her return. The tabloids print page after page of love confessions by her previous boyfriends. … The local newspaper is sponsoring a contest for the most beautiful song written for Anna. The lyrics of the frontrunner are: “America is spying on everyone, and its enemies cannot sleep in peace. They’re looking for bin Laden, but what does our girl have to do with it? Hands off our Anna.”

Schepp speculates that her popularity could be due in part to the Russian public’s dislike of America:

Chapman has become a fetish for a resentful nation, embodying most Russians’ deep dislike of the United States. Most of all, the Anna cult helps to gloss over the severely battered reputation of Russia’s intelligence agencies, which are infected by the same ailments afflicting the entire country: nepotism, corruption and greed.

Chapman has posed in provocative photos for a men’s magazine (below) and says she will soon have a website up where people can contact her public relations team. Her hometown wants to make her an honorary citizen.

Local media reports are speculating that she may run for office next year. A successful campaign would make her a peer of sorts with another famous former spy, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The prime minister greeted her personally when she was repatriated with the other spies involved in the swap. As we reported last month, Chapman’s father was also a KGB spook.

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