Politics and Legislation

Obama gay marriage stance could win younger voters, lose independents

By Amie Parnes

President Obama’s unexpected announcement on Wednesday that he supports gay marriage ignited his political base but risks a backlash with independent voters in swing states.

Supporters on the left were particularly fired up by Obama’s shift, but political observers pointed to Tuesday night’s vote in North Carolina, where voters overwhelmingly opted to define marriage as legal only between one man and one woman, as proof the decision could come back to haunt the president.

“Last night’s vote in North Carolina was certainly a warning and a bit of a cautionary tale for the Obama campaign,” said Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University. “They’ve got to be taking notes.”

Obama’s statement doesn’t preface a change in policy for the administration, highlighting the administration’s cautious approach.

Senior administration officials said that Obama won’t push for federal legislation on gay marriage and that his acknowledgement on Wednesday won’t be the launch of some big campaign push.

Read Full Article Here

GOP shies away from offering healthcare reform alternative

By Sam Baker

Republicans might not offer a comprehensive plan to replace President Obama’s healthcare law if the Supreme Court strikes it down this summer.

House Republicans had said they would have a healthcare bill ready to go by the time of the ruling to present a clear alternative to the Democrats’ Affordable Care Act.

But now, with the high court’s ruling just weeks away, some conservatives are urging the party to abandon that strategy, fearing voters will recoil from another sweeping revamp of the healthcare system.

“I don’t want to go that route,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), a doctor and a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide next month whether the healthcare law’s individual mandate is constitutional — and, if not, whether the rest of the law can stand.

A decision striking down all or part of the Affordable Care Act would validate GOP criticism of the law while renewing debate over how to fix a healthcare system that both parties agree is broken and unsustainable.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Health, told reporters early this year that Republicans were already working on a “replacement” plan that would pull together several longstanding GOP priorities.

But some Republicans, including Gingrey, now say a comprehensive bill isn’t the right approach. They argue it would be foolhardy for Republicans to put forward broad healthcare legislation after sharply criticizing the length and scope of Obama’s bill.

“I don’t believe we need to have another big omnibus bill that we’re going to roll out,” Gingrey said. “I don’t think that we need to make the same mistakes that the Obama administration and the Democrat Congress made.”

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is making the same case to Republicans on the other side of the Capitol.

“Whether the courts strike it down or Congress repeals it, Republicans shouldn’t repeat the Democrats’ mistake of rushing through our own big bill,” DeMint said.

Read Full Article Here

Al Jazeera’s Tim Friend on Greece’s political uncertainty

Published on May 11, 2012 by

Stalemate on formation of new government continues after elections ended inconclusively.

House Armed Services vote bans gay marriage on military bases

By Carlo Munoz

On the same day that President Obama threw the weight of the White House in support of gay marriage, defense lawmakers in the House banned the practice from taking place on U.S. military bases.

Members of the House Armed Services committee voted to include the measure by Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.) into the panel’s version of the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill late Wednesday night.

The measure, which prevents “marriage or marriage-like ceremonies” between same-sex couples from taking place at American military bases, was approved by a 37 to 24 vote along party lines.

Republican panel members also approved language to protect military personnel from reprisals for expressing “their moral principles and religious beliefs… concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality.”

That amendment, sponsored by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) was approved by a straight party-line vote of 36 to 25.

Committee members did not specifically mention Wednesday’s White House comments on gay marriage during the debate on the Palazzo and Akin amendments.

However, the shift in the administration’s position on the issue undoubtedly contributed to the spirited exchange between panel members.

Read Full Article Here

Obama’s New Courting of Hollywood Pays Off

Charles Dharapak/Associated Press

President Obama with Jeffrey Katzenberg, the head of DreamWorks Animation, at a 2009 Democratic National Committee fund-raiser. Mr. Katzenberg is a major supporter of Mr. Obama.

By and

George Clooney is hosting a $40,000-a-plate dinner for Mr. Obama.

The fruit of that effort became clear this week as Mr. Obama is scheduled to attend a fund-raiser on Thursday night at the Fryman Canyon home of the actor George Clooney. At last count, organizers said, the event had raised well over $6 million, plus many millions more through an online raffle, record territory. They said they stopped selling $40,000-a-plate tickets last week because there was no room to squeeze in any more tables.

Mr. Obama’s announcement on Wednesday that he now supported same-sex marriage should assure him a warm reception at the Clooney residence. Organizers had expected the president to face tough questions from an audience that had grown increasingly uncomfortable with his tentativeness on an issue of great importance here.

Norman Lear, the television producer, said moments after the announcement that he and his wife, Lyn, who had held back from giving money to Mr. Obama, would now contribute the maximum allowed, $80,000 between them. “This is the kind of leadership we support, and we are happy to max out today to his re-election campaign,” he said.

Read Full Article Here

Vermont Fracking Ban Poised To Become Law

HuffPost Green

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont appears on the verge of enacting the nation’s first statewide ban of a hotly debated natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing.

The House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a conference committee report calling for the ban. It now goes to the desk of Gov. Peter Shumlin, who has said he takes a dim view of hydraulic fracturing and is expected to sign the measure.

The technique involves injecting water and chemicals into the ground to split rock and release gas.

Critics of the ban say it could hurt economic development in the state, or could prompt a lawsuit from the natural gas industry.

Geologists say Vermont doesn’t appear likely to have much natural gas, but there may be some under northwestern Vermont.

Labor: Mofaz sold his soul to the devil

Knesset holds stormy session ahead of Kadima chairman’s induction as Coalition member. Opposition blames party for being a ‘rotten apple that undermines the public’s faith in the House’

Moran Azulay

 Israel News

The Knesset plenum held a heated session Wednesday, ahead of Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz‘s induction as a new minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s government.

Mofaz will become a minister sans portfolio as part of the coalition agreement signed between the Likud and Kadima on Monday night, in a controversial move meant to avoid general elections in September.

The move – kept secret until after the agreement was signed – created an unprecedented coalition numbering 92 Knesset members.

It also left the Opposition virtually powerless, as it now lacks the ability to raise the necessary 40 MK signatures for a nonconfidence vote.

Lapid: New coalition as big as Ceausescu’s in Romania

Rookie politician tells Rabbinical Assembly in Atlanta Bibi-Mofaz unity deal offers his party chance to become sole representative of ‘moderate voting class’

Attila Somfalvi

Latest Update: 05.09.12, 00:45 / Israel News

“Kadima came back to be what it has actually always has been, which is part of the Likud,” Yair Lapid said Tuesday during an address to the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement in Atlanta following the unity agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz.

“They came back home and I want to use this opportunity to congratulate them on this reunification,” he said.

“The last person who had such a coalition was Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania,” the journalist-turned politician said to laughter.

“Not everything that happened in the last 24 hours is bad,” Lapid told the Rabbinical Assembly. “Kadima is returning to Likud and the political map in Israel has now changed in a way that now allows my party (Yesh Atid) to become the sole representation of Israel’s moderate voting class.”

Lapid also referred to the issues of conversion and freedom of prayer, strongly supporting Jewish women to pray at the Western Wall. “Israel cannot be the only country in the Western World that has no freedom of religion to choose. This is just blatantly wrong and it must disappear,” he said. “I will do everything in my power to ensure the equality of all religious movements in Israel.”

Read Full Article Here

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Economy

Banking crisis hits ordinary Spaniards hard

Published on May 11, 2012 by

The Spanish government has announced major reforms to the country’s banking sector. The key measures include requiring banks to set aside more money to protect themselves from bad loans, and an independent audit of the sector’s debts and assets.

Spanish banks are saddled with large amounts of bad debt, after the property market collapsed in 2008. The resulting crisis hit ordinary Spaniards hard, as Sonia Gallego reports from Madrid.

U.S. Gives Green Light to Chinese Banks’ Expansion

Published on May 11, 2012 by

The Federal Reserve approved plans by three Chinese banks on Wednesday to expand in the United States, including the first acquisition of a U.S. retail-banking network by a state-owned Chinese lender.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon: $2 Billion Trading Loss Could Spread to Another Billion or More

Published on May 11, 2012 by

JPMorgan Chase announced on Thursday it suffered a trading loss of at least 2 billion dollars from a failed hedging strategy, a shock disclosure that hit financial stocks and the reputation of the bank and its CEO, Jamie Dimon.

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Wars and Rumors of War

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — The following is being released by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy:

Declassified files from long-running investigations of the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) over alleged illegal diversions of US government-owned weapons-grade uranium to Israel are now available online at http://www.IRmep.org/ila/numec

The 733 pages of information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act for the new book Divert! NUMEC, Zalman Shapiro and the diversion of US weapons-grade uranium into the Israeli nuclear weapons program include:

A 1980 FBI interview of an eyewitness (PDF) of NUMEC executives stuffing U-235 canisters into sealed equipment shipped to Israel.

CIA Director of Operations Carl Duckett’s 1978 testimony about NUMEC (PDF) before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Atomic Energy Commissioner Glenn T. Seaborg’s reaction (PDF) to news that traces of Portsmouth U-235 of the type supplied to NUMEC had been picked up in Israel.

NUMEC corporate correspondence (PDF) with the AEC claiming that undercover Israeli intelligence agents Rafael Eitan and Ephraim Beigun visiting NUMEC in 1968 were merely energy scientists.

National Security Advisor Zbigniew Bresinski’s 1979 order (PDF) that Senator John Glenn not be given direct access to a top secret memorandum about “missing material from the NUMEC plant in Apollo, PA.”

Deputy Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti’s confidential letter (PDF) to President Jimmy Carter to “establish a plan for coordinated interagency action to detect and investigate the theft or diversion of nuclear material in the future.”

A 1978 congressional interview transcript (PDF) with NUMEC President Dr. Zalman Shapiro.

National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger’s 1969 strategy document (PDF) about how the US should respond to Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons program. “There is circumstantial evidence that some fissionable material available for Israel’s weapons development was illegally obtained from the United States by about 1965.”

FBI wiretap (PDF) of a 1969 toxic spill at NUMEC caused by improper storage.

According to a 2001 Department of Energy report, NUMEC lost 269 kilograms of highly enriched uranium between 1957 and 1968–the highest in the US and enough for dozens of atomic weapons. The former NUMEC factory site is currently undergoing a toxic cleanup the US Army Corps of Engineers estimates could cost taxpayers between $250-$500 million. The newly published book Divert! (available in paperback and Kindle) presents additional evidence that NUMEC–unable to complete US government contracts or protect workers and the environment–was originally established as a nuclear smuggling front.

SOURCE Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy

Copyright (C) 2012 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

Supposed Would-Be Underwear Bomber Is CIA Informant

Obama officials tried to present this as some successfully foiled terror attack, while it was anything but

U.S. and Yemeni officials have confirmed that the supposed would-be underwear bomber at the heart of an al-Qaeda airliner plot revealed this week was actually an informant working for the CIA and Saudi intelligence all along.

Members of the Obama administration spent virtually all of yesterday parading throughout major media outlets claiming their intrepid counterterrorism efforts successfully foiled a terrorist plot to blow up an American airliner. But now officials have anonymously confirmed that the plot, like so many other “successfully foiled” terror attacks, was hatched by the CIA from the start.

Instead of showing that the CIA and the counterterrorism policies of the U.S. are keeping Americans safe from harm, or that al-Qaeda is making “inroads,” as former director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter said, all this lauded incident shows is that the CIA can get weapons from shadowy sources and blow up planes, if it wanted to.

Officials say the informant was working for the CIA and Saudi Arabian intelligence when he was given the bomb by alleged terrorists. He then turned the device over to authorities.

This explains what many people had wondered about in the day since this supposed terror plot was revealed. There was so much secrecy about the plot, and zero information about who it was that attempted to bomb an airliner. Officials simply repeated that Americans were in no danger and the would-be bomber was “in no position to harm the United States.”

Farage: We face the prospect of mass civil unrest, even revolution

• Speaker: Nigel Farage MEP, Leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Co-President of the \’Europe of Freedom and Democracy\’ (EFD) Group in the European Parliament

• Debate: Statement by the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz MEP, on the occasion of Europe Day

Transcript:

Well, happy Schuman Day, or Europe Day, as you now call it, although I thought the celebrations were rather muted. The only bit of real passion we had was Mr Schulz slagging off the English but that now appears to be the sort of popular sport in this parliament.

And when people stand up and talk about the great success that the EU has been I\’m not sure that anybody saying it really believes it themselves anymore. I think we are celebrating the wrong day.

We shouldn\’t be celebrating the 9th of May, we should be celebrating the 8th of May, Victory in Europe Day. We should celebrate the last time the Germans tried to smash the continent and they foundered and at least half the continent got its democracy back.

What we are celebrating on the 9th of May is another attempt through different means, to smash democracy across Europe. I don\’t doubt for a minute that Jean Monnet was well intentioned from the start. He thought that if you abolish nation states you would stop there ever being another war. He didn\’t at the time of course have the benefit of seeing that theory as it played out in Yugoslavia.

But like Communism, this has all gone badly wrong. And the EU Titanic has now hit the iceberg. It is a European Union of economic failure, of mass unemployment, of low growth, but worst of all, it\’s an EU with the economic prison of the Euro. And this now poses huge dangers to the continent. We face the prospect of mass civil unrest possibly even revolution in some countries that are being driven into total and utter desperation. But there is perhaps an opportunity. There is perhaps some good news.

That now a democratic rebellion has begun, and it began in Finland last year, with the True Finns getting nearly 20% of the vote. And we\’re seeing in country after country new political movements on the right and the left making big scores.

But that may not all be good news. Because in Greece what we saw, last Sunday, was rather reminiscent of the German election of 1932. We saw the status quo centre collapse the extremes of right and left rise. You know this project could even cause the rebirth of national socialism in Europe. We are headed the wrong way. We must break up the Euro zone. We must set those Mediterranean countries free. We must try to build a Europe, I want a Europe – but a Europe based on trade. A Europe based on co-operation. A Europe based on us sitting around the table and agreeing sensible rules on crime and the environment. We can do all of those things. But we cannot do it if we are asked to rally behind that flag. I owe no allegiance to that flag and nor do most of the people in Europe either!

Watch Video Here

‘Netanyahu forming war government’

Arab newspapers interpret new Netanyahu-Mofaz alliance as preamble for war
Roi Kais

Ynetnews.com

Newspapers across the Arab world could not ignore Israel’s political drama and the declaration of a unity government on Tuesday. Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz were described as conniving war mongers and corrupt politicians as editorials declared war was looming.

“Netanyahu is forming a war government,” al-Quds al-Arabi’s headline cried. “No one knows what goes on through the mind of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on many regional issues these days. One can predict that this man is scheming and planning wars after murdering the peace process with the settlement policy in the occupied Arab territories,” the London-based paper said.

The UAE paper al-Bayan printed an editorial titled “A government challenges peace.” The headline in Saudi Arabia’s al-Madina paper read: “Israel prepares for war.”
מתוך אתר "אל-קודס אל-ערבי"

Al-Quds al-Arabi predicts war

The paper analyzed Netanyahu as a statesman and ruled he was “concerned about his status in Israeli history and wants to be remembered as the leader who destroyed the Iranian nuclear program and solidified Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the region.”

Lebanon’s popular as-Safir newspaper chose to address the political drama from a different perspective. Titled “Israeli recklessness,” its editorial explained that the “news (of early elections) turned out to be random fraud but it captured the attention of the entire world and became the focus of analyses and estimates that war is looming.”

“The country once described as the only democracy in the Middle East is slowly emerging to be nothing more than a yard-sale, not just because some of its Arab neighbors are trying to establish true democratic models but because its current statesmen are behaving like crime bosses.”

China bangs the war drum over South China Sea

Protester Tsang Kin-shing, who supports Chinese sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal, prepares to burn a paper Philippine and a US flag during a protest at the Philippine consulate China has warned that it is ready to take military action to defend what it says is its territory

War talk, it seems, is all the rage in China at the minute.

Yes, there are serious people in serious publications seriously advocating war.

You might have missed it during all the fuss about Chen Guangcheng, but, for a month now, China has been embroiled in an increasingly bellicose dispute with the Philippines.

So what is going on? Well, strange as it may seem, the two stories may be connected.

At the heart of the issue is what is called Scarborough Shoal by the Philippines and Huangyan Island by China, a little more than 100 miles (160km) from the Philippines and 500 miles from China.

The names are a bit misleading because this is a series of rocks, reefs and small islands stretching across an area of about 150sq km (58 sq miles) of the South China Sea, claimed by both the Philippines and China.

You can see what one “island” looks like here, a screenshot taken from a Chinese TV report yesterday – that is the reporter posing on the rock, and then planting the Chinese flag on it, which gives an insight into the way the issue is being played by China’s media.

For a month now, there has been a standoff between Chinese and Philippine fishing and coastguard vessels near the outcrops.

The Global Times, a highly nationalistic English language paper produced by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily Group, has a useful map that shows how far China’s territorial claims extend, on this special page it is now devoting to this ‘conflict’.

Read Full Article Here

A Container-Load Of Onions Will Make Drug Dealers Weep

Published on May 11, 2012 by

Pakistan authorities have seized 125 kilograms of heroin powder and arrested two people in the southern city of Karachi, a customs official said on Friday (May 11).
The shipment was destined for Port Klan, Malaysia and booked from Karachi, said official Mohammad Vigio.

He said the drugs were recovered on Thursday (May 10), during routine inspection of an export consignment of onions, at the Pakistan International Container Terminal.

Vighio said the heroin powder was stuffed in yellow and purple colored pouches shaped like onions which were concealed in the onion bags themselves.

Vighio said the drugs would be worth millions of dollars on the international market.
Two individuals have been arrested and efforts were in hand to arrest the remaining suspects.

Pakistan is a major conduit for drugs flowing out of its western neighbor, Afghanistan, which is the world’s largest producer of heroin and a major hashish producer.

Production has soared to near record levels in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban late in 2001, despite the presence of thousands of U.S.-led troops in the country.

Gun Battle Erupts In Sinaloa Killing at Least Five People

Published on May 11, 2012 by

A shootout between military and an alleged drugs gang left at least five dead on Thursday in Sinaloa located in Northern Mexico. The gunfire took place as military pursued armed men travelling in adapted police vans. As the battle escalated, some of the criminals fled the scene on foot leaving behind one of the two trucks. The second vehicle then caught on fire, with the suspected drugs and criminals still inside. Guns, bullets, communication devices and protective helmets were found inside. There were also signs that the truck has been customized so guns could be fired from the inside. Sinaloa state is home to a cartel run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, one of the government’s most wanted criminals.

U.N. Official Condemns Sudanese Attacks, Calling it ‘International Crime

Published on May 11, 2012 by

The United Nations on Friday (May 11) condemned Sudan’s recent aerial bombardment of civilian areas in South Sudan, and said it could amount to an international crime.

Last month Sudan and South Sudan’s fued over oil flared up into direct armed conflict on their ill-defined border, drawing threats of UN sanctions if the two sides did not immediately cease hostilities.

This week South Sudan, which gained independence in July last year, accused Sudan of breaking the ceasefire by bombing seven locations along their border.

“I am saddened and outraged to learn that such attacks – which place civilians at great risk and have already killed and injured some and caused many thousands of others to flee – have been taking place again in recent days,” UN human rights chief Navanethem Pillay said.

South Sudan accused Sudan on Wednesday (May 9) of bombing and shelling seven areas on the southern side of their disputed border in the last 48 hours, calling the acts a violation of a U.N.-backed ceasefire which should have begun on Saturday (May 5).

“I have seen photographs showing recent huge bomb craters in civilian areas including a market place. Deliberate or reckless attacks on civilian areas can, depending on the circumstances, amount to an international crime,” Pillay added.

The two neighbouring countries disagree on a range of issues relating to partition, particularly how much the South should pay for exporting its oil through Sudan.

Tension between the two old civil war foes, which erupted into border fighting last month, could hamper international efforts to push them to resume negotiations on various outstanding disputes.

Simmering disputes over oil exports, border demarcation and citizenship, stemming from the South’s secession as an independent nation last year, bubbled over into direct clashes between the two rival armies in April.

As the conflict escalated, the United Nations condemned Sudanese air strikes on South Sudan’s territory and international pressure forced South Sudanese forces to withdraw from the oil-rich area of Heglig which they had occupied.

The fighting prompted the Security Council to pass a resolution threatening sanctions if the two sides did not follow the AU roadmap, which stipulates a ceasefire and a return to negotiations.

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Articles of Interest

Michael Allison Case Dismissed By Illinois Atty General! – 7th Circuit Court Bans Eavesdropping Law!

Published on May 9, 2012 by

We are sad to hear that Chris Drew passed away after fighting lung cancer. He fought valiantly for all our rights. His lawyer says she will continue to fight his case in court. Michael Allison now needs an Attorney to represent him in a lawsuit to fight the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute.

U.S. military conducts ‘realistic urban training’ exercise in Miami

By Madison Ruppert

Editor of End the Lie

Miami residents were startled to hear the sound of low-flying military helicopters and explosions emanating from the abandoned Grand Bay Hotel in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

It turns out that the United States military was conducting a “realistic urban training” exercise involving some 100 soldiers organized by the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

This is just one of many military exercises being held on American soil in recent years, including an inter-agency exercise conducted in my local area of Los Angeles. My attempts to obtain any information on that drill were thwarted and/or ignored by the Los Angeles Police Department.

With the many military drills being conducted in urban locales, the legislative frameworks in place, as well as KBR’s “National Quick Response Teams,” the similar solicitation put out by FEMA not long ago, and the recently exposed internment and resettlement operations manual (see below video), I believe that many Americans are likely concerned about what this all means.

Oops! Air Force Drones Can Now (Accidentally) Spy on You

Photo: U.S. Air Force

As long as the Air Force pinky-swears it didn’t mean to, its drone fleet can keep tabs on the movements of Americans, far from the battlefields of Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen. And it can hold data on them for 90 days — studying it to see if the people it accidentally spied upon are actually legitimate targets of domestic surveillance.

The Air Force, like the rest of the military and the CIA, isn’t supposed to conduct “nonconsensual surveillance” on Americans domestically, according to an Apr. 23 instruction from the flying service. But should the drones taking off over American soil accidentally keep their cameras rolling and their sensors engaged, well … that’s a different story.

Collected imagery may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent,” reads the instruction (.pdf), unearthed by the secrecy scholar Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. That kind of “incidental” spying won’t be immediately purged, however. The Air Force has “a period not to exceed 90 days” to get rid of it — while it determines “whether that information may be collected under the provisions” of a Pentagon directive that authorizes limited domestic spying.

Bodies, No Survivors Spotted at Superjet Crash

In this picture released by Indonesian Air Force,  the wreckage of a missing Sukhoi Superjet-100 are scattered on the mountainside in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, Thursday.

Indonesian Air Force / AP

In this picture released by Indonesian Air Force,  the wreckage of a missing Sukhoi Superjet-100 are scattered on the mountainside in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, Thursday.

Search and rescue helicopters and volunteers struggling through thick forest and mountainous terrain spotted bodies but no survivors on the Indonesian mountainside where a Sukhoi Superjet 100 crashed by the time darkness forced an end to the search Thursday night.

The loss of the twin-engine passenger jet, which disappeared from radar screens 21 minutes into a demonstration flight on Wednesday, put a freeze on the planned sale of 48 of the craft to Indonesian carriers, the Jakarta Post reported. But industry watchers are predicting a serious impact on all global sales of the new jet, especially if the accident turns out to be a result of technical failure rather than pilot error.

“We haven’t found survivors,” Gagah Prakoso, a spokesman for the search and rescue team, told Indonesia’s Metro TV on Thursday as he announced the discovery of the first bodies, Reuters reported.

Difficult terrain means rescuers will have to wait for the weather to clear before attempting to recover bodies using nets suspended from helicopters, rescuers said. But reports about the search in a mountainous and heavily forested region of the island of Java were confused, with some saying no one has yet reached the scene.

A Russian blogger who was meant to be on the flight said information about the progress of the recovery operation was confusing and contradictory.

“For especially hasty media: Not one person has been to the crash site yet,” Sergei Dolya, who has published photographs of the plane and its wreckage on his Twitter account, tweeted Thursday afternoon.

Writing from what he called the “headquarters” of the rescue operation, he said paratroopers trying to descend to the crash site by helicopter had been unable to jump, but 350 people were trying to climb an 80-degree slope from below.

“Every 10 minutes there is completely contradictory information. No exact info at all,” Dolya tweeted.

The wreckage was found at an altitude of about 1,768 meters on the slopes of the volcanic Mount Salak, about 64 kilometers from Jakarta, on Thursday morning. The plane apparently slammed into a spur of the mountain, not clearing the sheer face of the volcano only by several dozen meters. The aircraft apparently broke into several pieces.

There were 45 people on board, including eight Russian crew members, representatives of the several Indonesian airlines and local journalists who had been invited to join the demonstration flight.

Both Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have ordered the formation of special groups to ascertain the cause of the crash, but little progress will be made before flight recorders can be recovered.

Air traffic controllers say they lost contact with the aircraft after the pilot and co-pilot asked for permission to drop from 3,000 meters to 1,800 meters — an unusual maneuver so close to the mountain.

The area around Mount Salak has seen seven air crashes in the past decade, the Jakarta Post reported Thursday.

Sukhoi chief test pilot Alexander Yablontsev, with more than 25 years of flying experience, was at the controls. He piloted the jet on its maiden flight in 2008. His co-pilot Alexander Kochetkov, also a test pilot, graduated flight school in 2003. Neither had flown in Indonesia before, the Straights Times reported Thursday.

Magomed Tolboyev, a military test pilot and commander in the Interior Ministry, likened the crash to the crash of a Tu-154 in Katyn in 2010 that killed 96 people, including the Polish prime minister.

“It’s the same situation as with the Polish crew — poor flight planning. There is very difficult terrain in Java, so you need to plan every step of the flight to the centimeter,” he told Kommersant FM radio.

Sukhoi has insisted that all pre-flight preparations were conducted properly and that the plane was in good working order.

Read Full Article Here
The Moscow Times

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