same action, different honors

http://news.yahoo.com/obama-awards-medal-honor-young-us-marine-193935264.html WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday bestowed the highest U.S. military honor on Dakota Meyer, a young and humble Marine who defied orders and barreled straight into a ferocious “killing zone” in Afghanistan to save 36 lives … Continue reading

http://news.yahoo.com/obama-awards-medal-honor-young-us-marine-193935264.html

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday bestowed the highest U.S. military honor on Dakota Meyer, a young and humble Marine who defied orders and barreled straight into a ferocious “killing zone” in Afghanistan to save 36 lives at extraordinary risk to himself.

“You did your duty, above and beyond,” Obama told Meyer after reciting his dramatic story. Though the corporal and a fellow Marine were going against orders — commanders considered their effort too dangerous — they were doing what they thought was right, Obama said.

The president placed the Medal of Honor ribbon around Meyer’s neck, patted his back and shook his hand as the audience in the White House East Room applauded.

At age 21, Meyer charged through heavy insurgent gunfire on five death-defying trips in an armored Humvee to save 13 Marines and Army soldiers and an additional 23 Afghan troops pinned down by withering enemy fire.

Meyer killed at least eight insurgents despite suffering a shrapnel wound in his arm as he manned the gun turret of the Humvee and provided covering fire for the soldiers, according to the military.

He had been supporting a patrol on Sept. 8, 2009, into a village in the Ganjgal Valley on the day of the ambush.

Meyer and the other Americans had gone to the area to train Afghan military members when, suddenly, the village lights went out and gunfire erupted. About 50 Taliban insurgents on mountainsides and in the village ambushed the patrol.

As the forward team called for air support that wasn’t coming, Meyer, a corporal at the time, begged his command to let him head into the incoming fire to help.

Four times he was denied his request before Meyer and another Marine, Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, jumped into the Humvee and headed into the fray. For his valor, Rodriguez-Chavez, a 34-year-old who hailed originally from Acuna, Mexico, would be awarded the Navy Cross.

“They told him he couldn’t go in,” said Dwight Meyer, Dakota Meyer’s 81-year-old grandfather, a former Marine who served in the 1950s. “He told them, ‘The hell I’m not,’ and he went in. It’s a one-in-a-million thing” that he survived.

Meyer and Rodriguez-Chavez began evacuating wounded Marines and American and Afghan soldiers to a safe point. Meyer made five trips into the kill zone, each time searching for the forward patrol with his Marine friends — including 1st Lt. Michael Johnson — whom Meyer had heard yelling on the radio for air support.

With Meyer and Rodriguez-Chavez ready to test fate a fifth time, a UH-60 helicopter arrived at last to provide overhead support. Troops aboard the chopper told Meyer they had spotted what appeared to be four bodies. Meyer knew those were his friends and he had to bring them out.

“Dakota, I know you’ve grappled with the grief of that day, that you said your efforts were somehow a failure because your teammates didn’t come home,” the president said. “But as your commander in chief and on behalf of everyone here today and all Americans, I want you to know it’s quite the opposite.”

Meyer and Obama chatted informally Wednesday evening, on a patio outside the Oval Office, over a beer.

In the ceremony, Obama praised Meyer’s humility and work ethic, noting that he would not even take a call from the president during his shift at a construction job because he was working. He is now out of the Marines. So they two arranged to talk over his lunch hour. Obama jokingly kidded him with thanks for taking the call.

Turkey and Israel are each increasingly angry at the other

http://www.euronews.net/2011/09/12/israel-likely-to-become-isolated/ Turkey and Israel are each increasingly angry at the other, after a long period of getting on well. This included trade and military cooperation ever since Turkey recognised Israel in 1948. The US largely encouraged the two countries’ ties … Continue reading

http://www.euronews.net/2011/09/12/israel-likely-to-become-isolated/

Turkey and Israel are each increasingly angry at the other, after a long period of getting on well. This included trade and military cooperation ever since Turkey recognised Israel in 1948. The US largely encouraged the two countries’ ties in the interest of fostering greater regional stability.

But what Israel called ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in late 2008 pushed relations to breaking point. Israel’s attack on Gaza, saying it was to stop rocket fire into Israel and prevent weapons from getting into the Hamas-governed strip, included a heavy Palestinian civilian death toll.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan unleashed a fury on Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Davos forum: “You have a very strong voice,” he said. “I feel that you perhaps feel a bit guilty and that is why perhaps you have been so strong in your words, so loud. Well, you killed people.”

This public incident was the equivalent of a fist in the face in diplomatic terms. And more was to follow.

Turkey’s ambassador to Israel would be kept waiting like an errant student, summoned to explain what was considered an outrage by Israel in a Turkish TV drama portraying Mossad agents in a bad light. The ambassador was given a low seat to sit on, and was further humiliated by the absence in the interview room of the Turkish flag. Ankara took it badly.

Far worse came the following year, when, in May 2010, a group of pro-Palestinian vessels sailed from Istanbul with humanitarian credentials towards Gaza, its activists saying they planned to break the Israeli blockade. Israel responded. Nine Turkish passengers on the Mavi Marmara were killed. Ankara recalled its ambassador and demanded an official apology. It did not get one.

A UN report later said the Israelis had acted in legitimate self-defence but used excessive force. That was just a few days ago.

Erdogan said: “We have downgraded diplomatic relations with Israel to the second secretary level. We have also suspended trade, military and defence industry relations, and different sanctions are to come.”

There was also talk of a military escort for Turkish vessels destined for Gaza. Erdogan said not only does Turkey have a plan ‘B’ but also a plan ‘C’, raising the tension level.

So, in this heightened climate of mutual distrust, is it a good time for the Turkish Prime Minister to travel to the countries in the region touched by the Arab Spring? What, if any, will be the effect on relations between the two countries?

euronews spoke to journalist Mete Çubukçu, from NTV in Turkey, who said, “The Arab Spring has been a period of transformation and restructuring in the Middle East. In the short term, we need to look at Syria, we need to see how Libya will shape its structure. Turkey is working on the long-term, by trying to create a policy that says they care about the needs of the people. Do you think Israel can interpret this . Personally, I doubt it. The government has shown no ability to read the signs. They stay silent. They will not make any efforts with the peace process and now it looks as though they are friendless. Thanks to the Arab Spring, new governments will be elected democratically.

Israel seems to have been more comfortable working with the old-style authoritarian regimes, so it will find things more difficult. I think they will be isolated in the region. I think they will feel more threatened from the outside.”

Copyright © 2011 euronews

the White House rushed approval of a half-billion-dollar loan guarantee for a now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer

  Role of White House Aides Questioned in Solyndra Hearing WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans questioned Wednesday whether the White House rushed approval of a half-billion-dollar loan guarantee for a now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer once cited as the kind of … Continue reading

 

Role of White House Aides Questioned in Solyndra Hearing

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans questioned Wednesday whether the White House rushed approval of a half-billion-dollar loan guarantee for a now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer once cited as the kind of renewable energy company worthy of federal stimulus money.

Solyndra Inc. was a major presence in Washington and spent millions of dollars on lobbying there, particularly about the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program. And its executives raised thousands of dollars for Obama and Democrats in Congress.

The collapse of the Fremont, Calif.-based company once touted by President Barack Obama ultimately left taxpayers on the hook for $528 million, raising questions if the loan was rushed to accommodate a company event in September 2009 that featured Vice President Joe Biden.

The congressional panel examining the loan disclosed emails that appeared to show senior staff at the Office of Management and Budget chafing about having to conduct “rushed approvals” of federal loan guarantees designed to help jumpstart the nation’s renewable energy industry.

“We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews and have the approval set the date for the announcement rather than the other way around,” said one of the emails from an unnamed OMB aide to Biden’s office.

Obama cited Solyndra as an example of how the economic stimulus bill would create jobs. But the company has since filed for bankruptcy and shed 1,100 workers, saying it couldn’t compete with foreign manufacturers of solar panels.

Documents reviewed by The Associated Press show Solyndra spent nearly $2 million lobbying the federal government during the last four years, including on provisions of the Energy Department’s loan program just months before White House officials urged that the funds be approved.

In the first quarter of 2009, Solyndra paid McBee Strategic Consulting $20,000 to lobby on issues related to the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program, records show, and it paid $30,000 in early 2008 to Dutko Worldwide to handle Solyndra’s loan application.

Republican lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigations panel are questioning why there was a rush to approve the loan and whether the entire loan guarantee program is warranted. “Our investigation raises several questions about whether the administration did everything it could to protect taxpayer dollars,” said the committee’s chairman, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the emails don’t suggest that the White House was pushing for the loan to be made.

“What the emails make clear is there was urgency to make a decision on a scheduling matter. It is a big proposition to move the president or to put on an event and that sort of thing so people were simply looking for answers about whether or not people could move forward,” Carney told reporters at the White House.

“It had nothing to — and there is no evidence to the contrary — nothing to do with anything besides the need to get an answer to make a scheduling decision,” he said.

The Obama administration and Democratic lawmakers have aggressively sought to invest in renewable energy projects as a way to create jobs and to reduce the nation’s reliance on oil. They note that other countries are also investing heavily in solar and that the race for solar manufacturing jobs is worth winning because the global market is going to be worth trillions of dollars.

The Solyndra fallout comes at an embarrassing time for the White House, while Obama is traveling the country promoting his jobs plan, which includes more investments in renewable energy.

The subcommittee has been investigating Solyndra for nearly six months as it began to have financial troubles. Shortly after the filing, FBI officials raided the company’s headquarters; the company said the FBI was seeking records on the loans.

An AP review of Federal Election Commission records shows Solyndra executives have given to both Obama and Democratic-aligned groups. Ben Bierman, Solyndra’s executive vice president, and Karen Alter, the firm’s marketing vice president, contributed more than $3,500 to Obama’s campaign. And one of the company’s investors, George Kaiser, was a “bundler” for Obama’s 2008 campaign, raising between $50,000 and $100,000 for the president, records show.

Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee had questioned the basis of the Solyndra investigation and in July had voted against issuing subpoenas for documents from OMB. But after the bankruptcy and FBI raid, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., described the loan Wednesday as a “debacle.”

But Democrats also argued that it’s not clear whether the company’s financial woes were just a result of unforeseen market conditions or sloppy vetting or corporate malfeasance.

Democrats also said that failure to invest in the U.S. solar industry would amount to an economic death sentence that would allow other nations to dominate a growing business.

“If you live in reality, you know the world cannot continue its dependence on fossil fuels and that we are in danger of losing this industry to our competitors, especially China,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Federal officials told lawmakers that Solyndra went through three years of review, beginning with the Bush administration, before any taxpayer money was put at risk. Jonathan Silver, executive director of the Energy Department’s loan program office, said that the company was well positioned to succeed in 2009.

But Chinese companies have flooded the market with inexpensive panels, and Europe’s economy weakened demand from customers. The result has been an unprecedented drop in solar cell prices this year.

Silver said the loan guarantee program is about giving U.S. companies the tools they need to succeed in the world marketplace, and one of those tools, as other countries have learned, is low-cost financing.

“This isn’t picking winners and losers. It is helping ensure that we have winners here at all,” Silver said.

But GOP officials disputed that the Bush administration was willing to go along with a loan guarantee for Solyndra, noting that an Energy Department committee voted against offering a conditional commitment to Solyndra in January 2009. The committee said the deal was premature and questioned its underlying financial support, said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of the House energy panel.

Two Solyndra executives were asked to testify Wednesday but are now expected to appear next week.

Under a loan guarantee, the government will cover a loan in the event of a default. Normally, private banks provide the loans, but in this case, Solyndra borrowed the money from the Federal Financing Bank. The government guaranteed up to $535 million in loans, and Solyndra’s bankruptcy filings showed that it has received almost $528 million in federal loans.

___

Associated Press writer Matt Daly contributed to this report.

The hunger emergency facing the Horn of Africa right now is a reminder that we always need to be prepared for any type of disaster

If you have trouble reading , click here. The hunger emergency facing the Horn of Africa right now is a reminder that we always need to be prepared for any type of disaster, whether it’s a hurricane, earthquake, or flood. Our … Continue reading

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World Food Programme

The hunger emergency facing the Horn of Africa right now is a reminder that we always need to be prepared for any type of disaster, whether it’s a hurricane, earthquake, or flood.

Our Heroes Fighting Hunger — a special group of monthly donors — help us do just that. Thanks to their steady support, we’re able to respond when we’re needed the most.

When a mother can’t feed her baby and doesn’t have a day to spare, Heroes help us make sure both mother and child are fed. When families walk for miles fleeing famine looking for hope, Heroes allow us to greet them with a warm meal.

Will you become a Hero today by making a monthly donation to our Emergency Fund?
Can we count on you to be a Hero?

As long as there are still millions of people in need in the Horn of Africa, that’s where your donation will go. When disaster strikes elsewhere and we need to rapidly respond, we’ll be able to rely on your monthly donation to do so.

By becoming a Hero today, you’ll know that you’re helping the most vulnerable around the world get back on their feet — month after month. WFP doesn’t simply distribute food and move on. We ensure that communities recover and rebuild so that they’re better prepared to weather the next emergency and won’t require food assistance in the long term.

I hope you’ll be a part of this critical emergency response every month. Join the Heroes Fighting Hunger today with a monthly donation.

I’m deeply grateful for your support of WFP. As you read this, your contribution is making a real difference in the Horn of Africa where we’re reaching around 7.4 million drought-affected people and aiming to feed more than 9.6 million. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Nancy

Nancy Roman
Director of Communications and Private Partnerships
World Food Programme

 

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