US contacts allies about WikiLeaks move

The United States has briefed its key allies, including Britain, France, Germany and Saudi Arabia ahead of the mass release of classified documents by WikiLeaks.

Whistleblower website WikiLeaks plans to release around three million leaked documents, including cables sent to Washington from American embassies throughout the world.

The website had previously posted online secret details of US military operations in war-ravaged Iraq and Afghanistan.

United States Department of State Spokesman Philip Crowley says the United States is “gearing up for the worst-case scenario.”

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U.S. says it has 5,113 nuclear warheads

WASHINGTON — The United States has 5,113 nuclear warheads in its stockpile and “several thousand” more retired warheads awaiting the junk pile, the Pentagon said Monday in an unprecedented accounting of a secretive arsenal born in the Cold War and now shrinking rapidly.

The Obama administration disclosed the size of its atomic stockpile going back to 1962 as part of a campaign to get other nuclear nations to be more forthcoming, and to improve its bargaining position against the prospect of a nuclear Iran.

“We think it is in our national security interest to be as transparent as we can be about the nuclear program of the United States,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters at the United Nations, where she addressed a conference on containing the spread of nuclear weapons.

The United States previously has regarded such details as top secret.

The figure includes both “strategic,” or long-range weapons, and those intended for use at shorter range.

The Pentagon said the stockpile of 5,113 as of September 2009 represents a 75 percent reduction since 1989.

A rough count of deployed and reserve warheads has been known for years, so the Pentagon figures do not tell nuclear experts much they did not already know.

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Who Will Hold America Accountable for Its Crimes?

The website WikiLeaks has been garnering attention recently due to its publication of sensitive material that many in government (and elsewhere) would rather be kept private. Information on the site includes secret intelligence documents and studies commissioned by the U.S. government, which does not seem to appreciate the disclosure of such information, for fear of a public outcry over the content.

WikiLeaks was founded by human rights activists, journalists and experts in the intelligence field, with the aim of exposing intelligence agencies and governments that violate international law.

One week ago, the site published the video “Collateral Murder,” a tape whose images have since been shown on television networks around the world. It shows American military personnel in a helicopter carrying out the cold-blooded killing of twelve Iraqi civilians. WikiLeaks states that the incident occurred in 2007.

By publishing the video, the website has exposed the incident as a crime committed by the U.S. military in Iraq, as the camera mounted on a U.S. Apache military helicopter recorded the actions of the crew. Naturally, WikiLeaks has not disclosed the source that provided them with the tape, but the sound and visuals are so clear that there is no possibility of the U.S. Department of Defense refuting the fact of a crime having taken place or making skeptical remarks about the video being a fake.
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Moscow: Exam to be required for firearms

The goal of the exam is to explain to people the correct use of personal arms.

Becoming a gun owner – for hunting, civil use, or self-defense – will now be only possible after passing an examination – a process similar to the one a person undergoes to obtain their driver’s license, for example. The new rule has been designed for those coming to a police station for the first time to apply for a gun: gas or traumatic.

This is the first time such exams are being administered in Moscow. And, that is understandable: the capital – is the most armed city in the country, where 446,000 civil gun owners, who own more than 574,000 varieties of guns are registered. More than 32,000 of these owners possess rifles and 213,000 – smoothbore firearms. In total, there are about 5 million guns registered in Russia.

Their number continues to increase annually by 5-6%. The number of crimes in which these guns are used is also increasing.

Most often, these are spontaneous rather than premeditated crimes – triggered by emotions or simple carelessness – accidents, so to speak. Last year, 32 criminal cases were filed in the capital – three of which included murder.

So as to avoid such “accidents” or “foolishness” in the future, these exams have been introduced for new gun owners.

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Lithuania opens Gulag prison camp for students

Deportation Day website

A recreated Joseph Stalin-era prison camp near Vilnius, a Gulag, has become a peculiar attraction for European Union students. Each day some 40 young people spend the day as prisoners under the surveillance of stern guards.

However, before putting on prisoners’ clothes with numbers, students visit the Genocide Museum and former KGB prison in the Lithuanian capital to learn basic facts about the notorious Gulag system.

The students are then “forced” to travel for one hour in an “authentic Soviet truck ZIL 157 K” to a forest bunker, as the website explaining the Deportation Day program says. Then, for the next two hours, they live through the experience of being “political prisoners”, which includes being interrogated by NKVD (security service) officers, shouted at and insulted by the guards. The roles are performed by professional actors. The “excursion” ends with the announcement of Stalin’s death and subsequent amnesty.

The program will continue until the beginning of March, with four hundred participants from 19 EU countries expected to take part in the role playing. On March 11, 2010, which marks 20 years of Lithuania’s independence, organizers plan to bring together victims of Stalin’s regime and young participants of the program to compare their experiences.

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In the last year 75 people were killed by Neo-Nazi in Russia

In 2009 218 aggressive xenophobia assaults were registered in Russia that resulted in 75 killed and at least 284 injured people, Antiracism.Ru reports.

The most popular targets were Uzbeks (14 murdered and 12 injured), Kyrgyz (8 murdered, 10 injured), Tajiks (7 murdered, 18 injured), Russians (7 murdered, 13 injured); the list of injured victims also includes 5 Kazakhs and 3 Turkmen.

Most of the assaults were registered in Moscow and the Moscow Oblast (33 murdered, 131 injured), St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Oblast (8 murdered, 26 injured), Nizhniy Novgorod (5 murdered and at least 44 injured).

According to Antiracism.Ru, in 2008 belligerent nationals killed at least 128 and injured at least 394 people.

Celebrate 2010 with a Kalashnikov

OK, we don’t mean emptying a full mag into the sky — that would be inconsiderate. This year, we’ll celebrate with a different kind of shot from a Kalashnikov: the 82-proof variety.

That’s right, Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, inventor of the iconic AK-47 assault rifle, has lent his name to a brand of vodka. We don’t know what his licensing fee is, but Kalashnikov hopes that his favorite firewater will, uh, help advance world peace.

“I’ve always thought — and still think — that weapons should serve to promote peace between countries,” he says in a video posted on the Kalashnikov vodka website. “What I’m doing now is promoting this vodka, to strengthen peace and friendship between peoples.”

That’s a nice enough sentiment, so I think I’ll retire the snark for 2009. After the jump, three of Kalashnikov’s high priestesses of peace prepare to usher in 2010. Happy New Year, y’all!