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Minarets are tall spires extending from mosques or built next to them. They help identify a mosque and also serve as a spot where a religious leader can call the faithful to daily prayers.
The move to amend the constitution to ban new construction is part of a campaign by the nationalist Swiss People's Party (SVP).
The party says the minarets are political symbols and therefore go against the the country's constitution.
It designed fliers that feature a veiled woman against a background of a Swiss flag pierced by several minarets resembling missiles.
Swiss voters on Sunday adopted a referendum banning the construction of minarets, seen by some on the far right as a sign of encroaching Islamism.
"The Federal Council respects this decision," said a statement from Switzerland's government. "Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted. The four existing minarets will remain.
"It will also be possible to continue to construct mosques," the government statement said. "Muslims in Switzerland are able to practice their religion alone or in community with others, and live according to their beliefs just as before." Read more.
BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS PROTEST AT IRAQ INQUIRY
What: BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS PROTEST
When: IRAQ INQUIRY TUESDAY 24 NOVEMBER 09.30 - 12.30
Where: QUEEN ELIZABETH II CONFERENCE CENTRE, SW1P 3EE (Near Parliament)
The first public hearings of the Iraq Inquiry begin on Tuesday 24 November and Stop the War has called a protest outside to demand that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are held to account for war crimes which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and 179 British troops.
Joining the protest will be representatives from Military Families Against the War, reminding the inquiry committee of the anger felt by many relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq.
Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the inquiry, insists that it will not be a whitewash but the committee - the five members of which were all hand picked by Gordon Brown - looks like it was set up with exactly that purpose.
Leaked secret government reports that prove Tony Blair's serial lying throughout 2002, as he repeatedly denied there were any preparations for war, will make it difficult for the enquiry to deny that Parliament and the British public were mislead.
But the logical conclusion that Blair or anyone in his government should be indicted on the basis of such evidence has already been discounted by Chilcot, despite the majority of bereaved military families having already told his committee that this is the outcome they expect if war crimes are proven.
Did Rumsfeld Tour KGB Torture Museum to Pick Up Useful Tips?
By Jonathan Schwarz | Tiny Revolution
Where has the CIA tortured people? ABC has just reported that one place was Lithuania:
The CIA built one of its secret European prisons inside an exclusive riding academy outside Vilnius, Lithuania, a current Lithuanian government official and a former U.S. intelligence official told ABC News this week. Where affluent Lithuanians once rode show horses and sipped coffee at a café, the CIA installed a concrete structure where it could use harsh tactics to interrogate up to eight suspected al-Qaeda terrorists at a time.
But here's the lighter side of the CIA-Lithuania torture story, which ABC didn't mention: Donald Rumsfeld visited Vilnius in 2005, where he took the time to tour the KGB torture museum there. Then the U.S. embassy in Vilnius released an "Open Letter to People of Lithuania" from Rumsfeld: Read more.
By Alice Ritchie, AFP
LONDON (AFP) – Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered to host an international conference on Afghanistan in London, which he said could set a timeframe for a handover of security to Afghan forces from 2010.
In a speech here late on Monday, Brown stressed that such a handover was a requirement for the withdrawal of Britain's 9,000 troops deployed in the country.
"I have offered London as a venue in the new year," Brown said in his annual speech to the Lord Mayor's Banquet. A pre-released version of the speech quoted him as offering to host a conference in January.
"I want that conference to chart a comprehensive political framework within which the military strategy can be accomplished.
"It should identify a process for transferring district by district to full Afghan control and if at all possible set a timetable for transfer starting in 2010."
ANTI-WAR SOLDIER ARRESTED: PROTEST NOW
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, the soldier who faces desertion charges for refusing to return to Afghanistan, has been arrested and charged with five further offences for leading Stop the War's demonstration in London on 24 October and for expressing his opposition to the media in defiance of orders.
The new charges carry a maximum of ten years imprisonment in addition to the sentence of three to four years that Joe could get if the desertion charge is upheld.
Joe's mother, Sue Glenton, has spoken out against his arrest: "You've got government ministers, army commanders and MPs speaking every day in support of the war. What's so scary about a Lance Corporal having his say? My son is only speaking out for what he thinks is right."
By David Swanson
The United States of America owes much of the hope it has right now of remaining what John Adams called "a nation of laws, not men" to Italian law enforcement. Were it not for the fact that Italian prosecutors, unlike their American counterparts, answer to the law rather than a president, the enforcement of laws against a massive crime spree by U.S. officials (and their Italian accomplices) would not have begun.
In Europe, most swine flu shots by invitation only
By Maria Cheng, AP Medical Writer | Yahoo! News | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
In Britain, there are no long lines of people seeking swine flu vaccine. Doctor's offices aren't swamped with desperate calls. And there are no cries of injustice that the vaccine is going to wealthy corporations or healthy people who don't really need it.
Here, and across most of Europe, vaccine to protect against the pandemic flu is mostly given by invitation only to those at highest risk for flu complications.
"That is one of the great advantages of the British health system," said Dr. Steve Field, president of the Royal College of General Physicians. "We have a list of all the names of patients who qualify to be vaccinated."
When Britain unrolled its pandemic vaccination program last month, it designed its campaign to ensure that priority groups — including pregnant women, health workers and those with chronic health problems like diabetes, cancer and AIDS — get the shots first.
Instead of advertising that vaccine had arrived and waiting for the lines to form, Britain's National Health Service sent letters, inviting all those who qualify to make an appointment and get the shots first.
Field said Britain's socialized health care system allows the country to target people who need to be vaccinated quickly: "It's not like the U.S., where it's the survival of the fittest and the richest." Read more.
Berlin Wall: From Europe Whole And Free To New World Order
By Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog
"When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, NATO was an Alliance of 16 members and no partners. Today, NATO has 26 members – with 2 new invitees, prospective membership for others, and over 20 partners in Europe and Eurasia, seven in the Mediterranean, four in the Persian Gulf, and others from around the world.
"NATO matched the Partnership for Peace with the establishment of the Mediterranean Dialogue, and...NATO realized the need to reach out to new partners around the world....This included establishing the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative to reach out to nations of the Persian Gulf. In addition, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and now Singapore are making valuable contributions to NATO operations, especially in Afghanistan...."
On November 9 a modest gathering of political figures and at least one long-since-its-prime American rock band will gather at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to make political capital or attempt to revive a flagging career.
The Fall of The Berlin Wall has been enshrined as a mythic event comparable to the parting of the Red Sea, the defeat of Bonaparte at Waterloo, Neil Armstrong hopping over moon craters and the 1985 We Are the World musical extravaganza to eliminate world hunger.
This year's twentieth anniversary ceremony, though, will reflect the West's preoccupation with the after-effects of the new world order that the Berlin events of a generation ago are considered to have ushered in.
The twin offspring of the end of the Cold War, global neoliberalism and the transformation of the North Atlantic Treaty organization into history's first international military bloc, have assuredly both assisted and reflected the domination of the world by the United States and its Western allies. They have also resulted in the near collapse of the American financial sector with reverberations around the world, especially in Europe, and the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression preceding World War II.
1989-2009: Moving The Berlin Wall To Russia’s Borders
By Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site
November 9 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the government of the German Democratic Republic opening crossing points at the wall separating the eastern and western sections of Berlin.
From 1961 to 1989 the wall had been a dividing line in, a symbol of and a metonym for the Cold War.
A generation later events are to be held in Berlin to commemorate the “fall of the Berlin Wall,” the last victory the West can claim over the past two decades. Bogged down in a war in Afghanistan, occupation in Iraq and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the United States, Germany and the West as a whole are eager to cast a fond glance back at what is viewed as their greatest triumph: The collapse of the socialist bloc in Eastern Europe closely followed by the breakup of the Soviet Union.
All the players in that drama and events leading up to it – Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, George H. W. Bush, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa – will be reverently eulogized and lionized.
Gorbachev will attend the anniversary bash at the Brandenburg Gate and the editorial pages of newspapers around the world will dutifully repeat the litany of bromides, pieties, self-congratulatory praises and grandiose claims one can expect on the occasion.
What will not be cited are comments like those from Mikhail Margelov, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, on November 6. To wit, that “The Berlin Wall has been replaced with a sanitary cordon of ex-Soviet nations, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.” 
The British government announced Tuesday that it will break up parts of major financial institutions bailed out by taxpayers, highlighting a growing divide across the Atlantic over how to deal with the massive banks that were partially nationalized during the height of the financial crisis.
The British government -- spurred on by European regulators -- is forcing the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group and Northern Rock to sell off parts of their operations. The Europeans are calling for more and smaller banks to increase competition and eliminate the threat posed by banks so large that they must be rescued by taxpayers, no matter how they conducted their business, in order to avoid damaging the global financial system.
The move to downsize some of Britain's largest banks comes as U.S. politicians are debating whether American banks should also be required to shrink. Read more.
November 4, 2009, New York – In response to news of an Italian court’s conviction of 23 U.S. officials for their role in the extraordinary rendition of a Muslim cleric unlawfully seized from the streets of Milan more than six years ago, Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren issued the statement below. On Monday, an 11-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit here in New York dismissed the case of CCR client and rendition victim, Canadian citizen Maher Arar.
Today the Italian legal system held 23 U.S. officials accountable for unlawfully grabbing a man, Abu Omar, off the streets of Milan and sending him to be tortured in Egypt. In 2006 and 2007, the Canadian government concluded an extensive public inquiry and apologized to our client Maher Arar for its role in his rendition by the U.S. to Syria for torture when he was unlawfully seized while changing planes at JFK on his way home to Canada. On Monday, our own courts threw out his case and told him and the world that our legal system was no place to bring his grievances.
Italian court convicts 23 Americans in CIA rendition case
By Craig Whitlock | Washington Post
An Italian court on Wednesday convicted 22 CIA operatives and a U.S. Air Force colonel of orchestrating the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan in 2003 and flying him to Egypt, where he said he was later tortured.
The judge in the case, Oscar Magi, said three other Americans, including the former Rome station chief for the CIA, were covered by diplomatic immunity.
The Americans were all tried in absentia. A Milan prosecutor said his office would seek to have them extradited from the United States, but a formal decision will be made later by the Italian Justice Ministry.
The case is the only instance in which CIA operatives have faced a criminal trial for the controversial tactic of extraordinary rendition, under which terrorism suspects are seized in one country and forcibly transported to another without judicial oversight. Read more.
SOLDIER DEFIES MILITARY ORDERS TO JOIN DEMONSTRATION
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton is refusing an order from his
regimental commander that he returns to barracks and does not
attend the Stop the War Bring the Troops Home demonstration on
Saturday 24 October.
Lance Cpl Glenton faces court martial because he refuses to
return to fight in Afghanistan. In July he gave his reasons in
a letter to Gordon Brown.
He says, "I am marching tomorrow to send a message to Gordon
Brown. Instead of sending more troops, he must bring them all
home. He cannot sit on his hands and wait while more and more
of my comrades are killed.
"I am proud to be marching again - this time for Stop the
For more details on why Joe is defying the orders of his
military commander, go to: http://bit.ly/CYOUE
Joe Glenton will lead the demonstration tomorrow, together
with ex-soldiers, a number of military families and Peter
Azerbaijan could scuttle the Nabucco pipeline over the Turkey-Armenia rapprochement, Brian Whitmore writes for RFE/RL.
By Brian Whitmore for RFE/RL
Azerbaijan has apparently decided to play its energy card.
As much of the world applauded Turkey's historic rapprochement with Armenia last week, Azerbaijan felt left out in the cold and abandoned by its closest ally.
Baku had argued strenuously that a deal to reestablish relations between Ankara and Yerevan should not be signed while Armenia continued to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh, and it threatened to take unspecified countermeasures if one was.
Speaking at a nationally televised cabinet meeting on October 16, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev revealed one of those steps: "It is not a secret to anyone that for many years Azerbaijan has been selling its gas to Turkey for one-third of market prices."
Aliyev added: "What state would agree to sell its natural resources for 30 percent of world market prices, especially under current conditions? This is illogical."
Aliyev presented the move as a purely commercial decision and did not explicitly link it to the Turkish-Armenian deal. Azerbaijan currently sells Turkey natural gas at the bargain rate of $120 per thousand cubic meters. But the timing of Aliyev's announcement, less than a week after the accord between Yerevan and Ankara was signed, left little doubt.
If Baku follows through on the move, analysts say it could severely undermine - if not completely kill - the Western-backed Nabucco pipeline project to bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe via Turkey.
"Potentially this is very important because it could potentially deliver a knockout blow to Nabucco. Without Azerbaijan it would be even more difficult than it is," says Federico Bordonaro, an energy-security analyst with the Italian-based group equilibre.net. Read more.
SOLDIERS AND THEIR FAMILIES LEAD SATURDAY'S MARCH
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton (http://bit.ly/eO3V0 )will become
the first serving British soldier to openly attend an anti-war
demonstration when he leads marchers from Hyde Park to
Trafalgar square on Saturday 24 October calling for all troops
to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.
Joe, who is currently fighting a court martial for refusing to
return to Afghanistan, will be joined by families of soldiers
who have given their lives during the occupations in Iraq and
Joan Humphries' grandson Kevin Elliott, 24, from Black Watch,
was killed while on on foot patrol in the southern Afghan
province of Helmand on August 31 of this year. She says:
"I have supported CND all my life and have been involved in
Stop the War since the march in 2003 when more than a million
people were on the streets. Kevin knew my feelings. But there
were no jobs, education was poor and the politicians down
Lithuanian President Announces Investigation into CIA Secret Prison
Investigation a result of ABC News.com report on CIA 'Black Site' in Lithuanian Capitol
By Matthew Cole | ABC News
The president of Lithuania called for an official investigation Tuesday into an ABC News.com exclusive report in August that the CIA housed a secret prison for al Qaeda suspects in Lithuania for more than a year beginning in 2004.
"If this is true," President Dalia Grybauskaite said, "Lithuania has to clean up, accept responsibility, apologize, and promise that it will never happen again."
At a press conference with the Council of Europe Human Rights Commission, Grybauskaite announced the investigation after it was clear a previous attempt by the Lithuanian Parliament was insufficient, according to a Council of Europe official. Read more.
The justices above are clearly the most rational group of high level functionaries in the industrialized world. They did what no other court would do in Europe or the United States. They effectively outlawed electronic voting. On March 3, 2009, the German Federal Constitutional Court declared that the electronic voting machines used in the 2005 Bundestag elections for the German national parliament were outside of the bounds of the German Constitution.
They reasoned that electronic voting is not verifiable because citizen votes are counted in secret. It is obscured a technology inaccessible to all but a very few initiates. Most importantly, the German high court noted, electronic voting machines don't allow citizens to "reliably examine, when the vote is cast, whether the vote has been recorded in an unadulterated manner" Mar. 3, 2009.
The written opinion effectively bars electronic voting in future elections based on the complexity of voting machines and the inability of voters to watch their vote being counted. This raises the bar of acceptability well above the meaningless solutions offered by "paper trails" for touch screen voting or the so-called "paper ballots" for computerized optical scan voting machines, the most popular form of voting in the United States.
Germany's 2009 Bundestag elections were conducted with hand counted paper ballots.
In a stunning and refreshing decision, the British High Court has overruled the British government’s attempt to suppress torture evidence on the US and British treatment of Binyam Mohamed. From The Guardian:
David Miliband, the foreign secretary, acted in a way that was harmful to the rule of law by suppressing evidence about what the government knew of the illegal treatment of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who was held in a secret prison in Pakistan, the high court has ruled.
In a devastating judgment, two senior judges roundly dismissed the foreign secretary’s claims that disclosing the evidence would harm national security and threaten the UK’s vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US.
In what they described as an “unprecedented” and “exceptional” case, to which the Guardian is a party, they ordered the release of a seven-paragraph summary of what the CIA told British officials – and maybe ministers – about Ethiopian-born Mohamed before he was secretly interrogated by an MI5 officer in 2002.
“The suppression of reports of wrongdoing by officials in circumstances which cannot in any way affect national security is inimical to the rule of law,” Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled. “Championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, is the cornerstone of democracy.” (emphasis added). Read more.
For the sake of my son, why I refused to shake Blair's blood-covered hands
By Sheena Hastings | Yorkshire Post
"The service was to celebrate the end of the war in Iraq, those who had served and those who lost their lives," says Mr Brierley, who attended the ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral with his wife Christine. "Prince Charles and Camilla were there with Prince William. A lot of positive things were said, and the Archbishop made some very good points in his address. I felt that if this Government listened to his words they would end the war in Aghanistan now."
There were about 1,000 people at the reception afterwards, and someone pointed out that Tony Blair was present, across the room. "I hadn't seen him at the service, and felt that, as the man had taken us to war, who walked away from his job two years ago, it was wrong that he should be there at all at a non-political celebration.
"A while later I looked across and Blair was signing autographs for people, on the cover of the programmes we were given for the service. Suddenly a switch went in my head, and before I knew it I was over there. I said 'Mr Blair...' and he stuck his hand out to me.
"I told him 'I don't want to shake your hand. It has blood on it – the blood of my son, the blood of all the other soldiers who died and of the Iraqi people who also died in the war. You took us to war on a lie and you are responsible for all those deaths in Iraq. One day it will come back on you and you'll have to pay for what you did. I don't think you should be here, but I'm going to leave now.'"
As Mr Brierley turned away, Tony Blair was also ushered away. The bereaved father doesn't regret delivering the dressing down but wishes it had been in different circumstances. "It just happened the way it happened, but I don't really think it was an appropriate place, after such a positive, celebratory service." Read more.
Happy Columbus Day
Columbus sailed the ocean blue in Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two ...
May the spirit of adventure and discovery always be with you.
Wishing you a great Columbus Day
- Columbus Day greeting card
To mark Columbus Day In 2004, the Medieval and Renaissance Center in UCLA published the final volume of a compendium of Columbus-era documents. Its general editor, Geoffrey Symcox, leaves little room for ambivalence when he says, "This is not your grandfather's Columbus.... While giving the brilliant mariner his due, the collection portrays Columbus as an unrelenting social climber and self-promoter who stopped at nothing - not even exploitation, slavery, or twisting biblical scripture - to advance his ambitions.... Many of the unflattering documents have been known for the last century or more, but nobody paid much attention to them until recently. The fact that Columbus brought slavery, enormous exploitation or devastating diseases to the Americas used to be seen as a minor detail - if it was recognized at all - in light of his role as the great bringer of white man's civilization to the benighted idolatrous American continent. But to historians today this information is very important. It changes our whole view of the enterprise."
But does it? Read more.
Mondoweiss today gives us a Youtube clip of Tony Blair dodging a tough question from a University of Buffalo student about the Goldstone report.
The student, Nick Kabat, asked Blair why the US and Israel should be allowed to get away with blocking the Goldstone Report, how (as the "Quartet"'s peace envoy) he could explain that proceeding with Goldstone's recommendations might harm the peace process, and whether he didn't think that the blocade on Gaza also harmed the peace process.
You could see Blair ducking and weaving. (The questions had all been pre-screened by the university; but Kabat submitted a bland dummy question then asked this one instead.)
Blair said he'd been to Gaza "twice-- in the recent period" and that the situation there is difficult... But you also "have to understand" that Israel has received a lot of rockets from there since it withdrew in 2005 and still has its young soldier Gilad Shalit held there as a prisoner...
No mention from Blair that there have been almost no rockets coming out of Gaza since Hamas announced the currently-operant ceasefire there on January 18-- but despite that lack of rocketings, the Israeli siege is harsher even than it was prior to last winter's war.
No mention of the roughly 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners and detainees being held in Israeli jails. Read more.
Former 6-term Member of the House of Representatives Cynthia McKinney wrote:
There were people there from all over Europe. A healthy contingent even took the bus or train from London. Many US ex pats came and heard Annie Machon tell of why she became a whistleblower at MI-5 (the British equivalent of our FBI); I spoke, and then after me, Giulietto Chiesa, former Member of Parliament, Italy, made a movie entitle "Zero," which was played. Then Dr. Nils (I can't remember his last name) [Note: last name is Harrit] who found the nanothermite material in the Ground Zero dust spoke about his research and that was totally fascinating. We are definitely hooked up with the right people in Europe and as a result, our coalition will be strong, diverse, and global.
Here are my remarks made tonight/this afternoon U.S. time:
Vers La Verité, Paris, October 10, 2009
President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was not the only news yesterday. And in my opinion, it’s not even the biggest news. It’s not even the saddest news. But it does provide us with some critical information as we move forward. The three-part question for us, tonight however, is “What are we moving forward TO; is that the place we want to go; and if not, what do we do about it?
In other words, “What is our vision for the future and how do we define success?”
New Missile Plan Would Link Allies' Radar, Other Systems
By Walter Pincus | Washington Post
A breakthrough that enables the early targeting of ballistic missiles by linking radars and other sensors from different parts of the world is key to the Obama administration's new missile defense plans, according to senior administration officials.
The administration announced last month that it would scrap a Bush-era plan to protect European countries and American troops stationed there from any potential Iranian missile attack. Instead of putting 10 interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic to counter intercontinental missiles, officials said, they would focus on containing Iran's ability to fire short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, director of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, defended that decision Wednesday, saying that the linking of U.S. and allied radar systems with satellites and other sensors would allow officials to follow the path of launched missiles throughout their flight.
"This capability did not exist five years ago," O'Reilly said at a symposium sponsored by the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan think tank.
He said the first elements of the system would be operational aboard some warships by 2011. By 2015, he added, the goal is to base additional SM-3 interceptor missiles on land. Read more.
Europe may be perched above the precipice of its first armed conflict since NATO's 78-day bombing war against Yugoslavia in 1999 and the resultant armed invasion of Macedonia from NATO-occupied Kosovo two years later.
With the formal accession of Albania into full NATO membership this April and the subsequent reelection victory (at least formally) of the nation's prime minister Sali Berisha, the stage is set for completing the project of further redrawing the borders of Southeastern Europe in pursuit of a Greater Albania.
Preceding steps in this direction were the U.S.'s and NATO's waging war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia a decade ago on behalf of and in collusion with the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a criminal violation of international law that terminated in the Serbian province of Kosovo being wrested from both Serbia and Yugoslavia.
50,000 NATO troops poured into Kosovo in June of 1999, accompanied by KLA leaders and fighters based in Albania, under the auspices of United Nations Resolution 1244 which among other matters condemned "terrorist acts by any party" and "Reaffirm[ed] the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other States of the region, as set out in the Helsinki Final Act and annex 2."
The U.S. and its NATO allies had no intention of abiding by the provisions of UN Resolution 1244 and demonstrated that contempt for a document they themselves had signed by rearming KLA fighters, who for years had attacked, abducted and murdered civilians of all ethnic backgrounds, and transforming the erstwhile armed secessionist group into the Kosovo Protection Corps.
Not content with expanding from 16 to 28 members over the past decade in a post-Cold War world in which it confronts no military threat from any source, state or non-state, and not sufficiently occupied with its first ground and first Asian war in Afghanistan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - the world's only military bloc - is eager to take on a plethora of new international missions.
With the fragmentation of the Warsaw Pact and the breakup of the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991 NATO, far from scaling back its military might in Europe, not to mention returning the favor and dissolving itself, saw the opportunity to expand throughout the continent and the world.
Beginning with the bombing campaign in Bosnia in 1995, Operation Deliberate Force and its 400 aircraft, and the deployment of 60,000 troops there under Operation Joint Endeavor, the Alliance has steadily and inexorably deployed its military east and south into the Balkans, Northeast Africa, the entire Mediterranean Sea, Central Africa, and South and Central Asia. It has also extended its tentacles into the South Caucasus, throughout Scandinavia including Finland and Sweden, and into the Asia-Pacific region where it has formed individual partnerships with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea along with recruiting troops from Mongolia and Singapore to serve under its command in the eight-year war in Afghanistan.
With the upgrading of its Mediterranean Dialogue program (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia), with the Persian Gulf component of the 2004 Istanbul Cooperation Initiative partnership underway and planned for the Gulf Cooperation Council states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and with the deployment of U.S.-trained Colombian counterinsurgency forces for its Afghan war, a military bloc ostensibly formed to protect the nations of the North Atlantic community now has armed forces and partnerships in all six inhabited continents.
Synchronized announcements on September 17 by President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the U.S. was abandoning plans to station interceptor missiles in Poland and a forward-based missile radar site in the Czech Republic are now ten days ago and information surfacing in the interim indicates that its new plans are more far-reaching than their predecessor.
Two days after the statements by the American president and defense chief the latter, Pentagon head Robert Gates, was granted a column in the New York Times.
The most representative segment of Gates' comments is arguably this:
"I have been a strong supporter of missile defense ever since President Ronald Reagan first proposed it in 1983. But I want to have real capacity as soon as possible, and to take maximum advantage of new technologies....American missile defense on the continent will continue, and not just in Central Europe, the most likely location for future SM-3 sites, but, we hope, in other NATO countries as well....We are strengthening - not scrapping - missile defense in Europe." 
Remarking that the earlier-envisioned system in Poland and the Czech Republic would not have been operative until 2015 and that opposition among both nations' parliamentarians would have delayed the process at least another two years, Gates evinced both impatience with and far grander designs for the European wing of the U.S.'s global missile shield program by asserting, "President Obama...decided to discard that plan in favor of a vastly more suitable approach. In the first phase, to be completed by 2011, we will deploy proven, sea-based SM-3 interceptor missiles - weapons that are growing in capability...."
The new deployments, which will be examined in depth later, are to be more mobile and less capable of being anticipated and defended against; will be implemented, according to Gates' own schedule, at least eight years ahead of the prior plan's timeline; and will extend worldwide missile interceptor networks into far broader swathes of Eurasia, the Middle East and ultimately the planet as a whole.
New revelations about Iran's nuclear ambitions are center stage at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh today, where President Obama, French President Nikolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Iran has until December to reverse course or face stiff international sanctions.
Sarkozy said that "if by December there is not an in-depth change by the Iranian leaders, sanctions will have to be taken."
Obama called evidence of Iran's second, secret underground nuclear fuel plant a "direct challenge" to the principles of nuclear non-proliferation.
"Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear power that meets the energy needs of its people," Obama said. "But Iran is breaking rules all nations must follow… It's time for Iran to act immediately to restore the confidence of the international community by fulfilling its international obligations."
The president said Iran "must be prepared to cooperate fully" at the upcoming Oct. 1 meeting between Iranian officials and representatives of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- the U.S., Russia, China, U.K., and France -- plus Germany.
Obama said at that meeting Iran must "demonstrate that it is committed to establishing its peaceful intentions through meaningful dialogue and concrete actions." Read more.