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Archive for August 2017

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The Trump Era

Los Angeles Council Wants Companies To Disclose Work On Trump's Border Wall

August 11th 2017

US/Mex Border fence

The city council of Los Angeles voted this week to draft legislation that would require all companies seeking to do business with the city must reveal whether they are working on the wall along the Mexican border. The law would require companies to reveal whether they are helping to build a wall along the Mexican border, arguing that Angelenos deserve to know.

At a Tuesday meeting, the City Council voted to draft a law that would require companies seeking or doing business with the city to disclose contracts to help design, build, or provide supplies for “any proposed border wall between Mexico and the United States of America.”

Democrat Gil Cedillo said, “We want to know if there are people who do business with the city of Los Angeles ... who wish to profit from building a wall that would divide us from our nearest and dearest neighbor Mexico.” Cedillo proposed the law. He told local media that President Trump’s proposed wall is not only “repugnant,” but also racist and xenophobic. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

UK's Flawed Solution to Prison Radicalization – Terrorist Group Therapy

August 11th 2017

Prison bars

While the most positive news in the war on Islamic terrorism has come from military successes against ISIS in Mosul and Syria, the overlooked recent failures by authorities to effectively deal with home grown Islamists is a cause for growing concern.

Whether it is by downplaying the threat or attempting to come up with snappy-sounding strategies to deal with the growing list of suspected terrorists "known to the authorities," the West is struggling to reverse the tide of radicalization, particularly in the prison system. The latest example is the UK's plan to deal with imprisoned Islamic terrorists by creating "separation centers" that would "...have an individualized care and management plan which sets out realistic, achievable targets, while also taking into account the complex, ideological/political nature of some of the risks that need to be targeted." Read more ..


Inside Books

Amazon’s Buy Box Shake-Up: An Update

August 11th 2017

Amazon box

We wrote in May that Amazon had begun allowing third-party booksellers to win featured status in a book’s “Buy Box.” That’s a problem because authors don’t earn royalties on sales of books by third-party retailers, whose source is often unclear. Since then, we’ve heard from a number of you about how the change affected you as authors and self-publishers, and we’ve spoken to Amazon about the new policy.

David Naggar, Amazon’s VP of Kindle Content, explained that only brand new books—not “like new”—are allowed to win the Buy Box. Vendors are required to describe their books as “new” only if they are in fact new books retailed directly from the publisher. Advanced review copies (“ARCs”) and remaindered copies should not be advertised as “new,” according to Amazon. Naggar explained that it’s unclear how third-party sellers would obtain copies that are not ARCs, remainders, or other second hand books. Those copies, he explained, should only win the Buy Box if the publisher has no copies available through Amazon to allow it to fill the order promptly. The problem lies in part with resellers who label their books as “new” when they are actually secondhand books that look new. Read more ..


The Genetic Edge

One Small Step for Medicine, One Giant Leap for Eugenics

August 10th 2017

walking on beach

On August 2 scientists published the results of the first experiments conducted on human embryos using the gene editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 in the United States [1]. These experiments have shown greater efficacy in editing embryos than previous attempts. At first glance, it might seem like efforts to prevent the inheritance of genetic disease, or treat it at an early stage, are a good thing to pursue. Nonetheless, some elements of these experiments – including both methodology and intentions – raise serious ethical concern.

Reproductive exploitation of women

In order to conceive human embryos for these experiments, the scientists needed human eggs. They therefore recruited healthy women who were paid to undergo ovarian stimulation to produce eggs for the research. Ostensibly these women did not “sell” their eggs but were “compensated” for their “time, effort, and discomfort” and presumably also for risks associated with the process.

Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Iran Trying to Crash US Ships and Aircraft

August 10th 2017

Nimitz

"Despite repeated radio calls to stay clear," the Iranian drone went out of its way to complicate the jet's landing, Eric Pahon, Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement sent to Business Insider. The F/A-18 had to maneuver to avoid the approaching drone, missing it by around 100 feet. 

The drone was unarmed, and remotely piloted. A US aircraft carrier isn't something any pilot worth his salt would not be aware of. As this was the 13th unsafe and unprofessional interaction between the US Navy and Iran's maritime forces this year, it can be assumed Iran meant to do it.

Landing a speeding aircraft on a ship at sea presents plenty of difficulty without having a marauding drone bother the pilot on approach, and this just represents one of the ways Iran tries to harass, and ultimately crash US ships and aircraft. Read more ..


Author Profile

Walid Phares--Foreign Policy Advisor Offers Ideas That Become Action

August 10th 2017

Walid Phares new

Alhough he served as a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign in 2016, Dr. Walid Phares did not join the ranks of the administration in 2017. After election-day, as he returned to the private sector, he told diplomats and journalists, who continued to seek his assessments, that he “remains at the service of the President elect and later his administration, when needed.”

Dr. Phares is a veteran when it comes to advising presidential candidates and lawmakers. Back in 2011, he was appointed as a senior national security advisor to Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who asked Phares to review the Middle East related chapter of his own book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness (March 2010) and who later endorsed the Phares’ book which predicted the Arab Spring before it happened, titled The Coming Revolution, published in October 2010.

The Beirut-born scholar, who immigrated to the United States in 1990, has not only published several books and numerous articles, but has been prolific in national and international media interviews. The impact of his expertise, particularly on Jihadism, Islamism, Iran’s strategies, minorities’ issues and human rights in the Middle East, can clearly be found in number of congressional discourses, European Parliament policy conferences, the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns and the present administration.

Phares had briefed candidate Trump in the fall of 2015 but was not officially appointed until March 2016. Among the many talking points he advanced for the campaign on Fox News, French, British, Asian as well as Arab media was the call for an “Arab Alliance against Terror.” First published back in 2011 on al Arabiya, Phares’ concept of a NATO-like coalition was circulated in several arenas before advocated as a Trump foreign policy component in 2016. The idea, which Phares had discussed with a few Arab leaders early on, materialized when President Trump addressed fifty Arab and Muslim leaders in Riyadh earlier this year. Read more ..


The Race for NatGas

Houston Startup Plans $2 Billion Permian Pipeline

August 9th 2017

Oil Pipes2

Houston pipeline startup Permico Energia hopes to build a $2 billion natural gas liquids pipeline across Texas from the booming Permian Basin to refining and port access near Corpus Christi.

The pipeline project includes building a fractionator near Corpus Christi to separate the NGLs into individual products - ethane, propane and butane - as well as products pipelines to carry the ethane and more to Houston-area markets like Mont Belvieu. The products typically are exported sold to the petrochemical sector and heating markets.

For a privately owned startup without projects under its belt and a massive price tag, full financing could still be quite a ways off. However, Permico co-founder and CEO Jeff Beicker said the company has funding commitments from unnamed South Korean investment banks and pension fund institutions. The company said it has about $800 million committed by Korean pension funds, but Permico isn't naming the funds. Read more ..


North Korea's Nukes

North Korea Threatens Guam

August 9th 2017

NK Military Parade Apr 2012

North Korea said it is 'carefully examining' a plan to strike the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam with missiles, just hours after President Donald Trump told the country that any threat to the U.S. would be met with 'fire and fury.' 

A spokesman for the Korean People's Army, in a statement carried by the North's state-run KCNA news agency, said Wednesday the strike plan will be 'put into practice in a multi-current and consecutive way any moment' once leader Kim Jong Un makes a decision.

Guam, which is roughly 2,128 miles from North Korea, is home to both Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam housing thousands of American service members and their families. 

Roughly 28 percent of the island is occupied by the U.S. military. The base houses bomber assurance and deterrence missions, including six B-52s which the air force says provide 'strategic global strike capability [to] deter potential adversaries and provide reassurance to allies' and that they are ready to go. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Chinese Drones - A Risk to U.S. Army

August 9th 2017

Flying Robot

The U.S. Army has shut down drones made in China and used by the Pentagon.  What took them so long?

As we now have it, the U.S. Army has issued a Memorandum for the Record on August 2nd essentially ordering the discontinuation of the use of DJI (Dajiang Innovation Products) drones. DJI is a Chinese company; its products are commercial UAVs.  The Army, Navy, other services, and other government agencies use these products extensively.

The Army's Memorandum directed the Army to cease all use of DJI items, uninstall all DJI applications and software from Army computers, remove all batteries and storage media from DJI equipment and secure the equipment awaiting further directions from the Army. Read more ..


The Trump Era

More Than 1.1 Million Fewer Americans on Food Stamps Under Trump

August 8th 2017

onions peppers parsley radish

More than 1.1 million Americans dropped off the food stamp rolls since President Trump took office in January 2017, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics on food stamp enrollment.

Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dropped to 41,496,255 in May 2017, the most recent data available from the USDA, from 42,691,363 in January 2017 when Trump took office. According to the latest data, SNAP enrollment during the first few months of Trump’s presidency decreased by 2.79 percent.

Food stamp participation on average in 2017 has dropped to its lowest level since 2010, and the latest numbers show that this trend is continuing. Trump proposed cuts to SNAP in his 2018 budget proposal, suggesting that states match up to 20 percent of federal money allotted for the food stamp program and expand work requirements for able-bodied adults receiving food stamps.

Read more ..

Book Review

Historian Tauber Ends the Myth of Deir Yassin

August 7th 2017

UNRWA Refugee Camp

The battle for Deir Yassin was a milestone in the Israeli-Arab conflict, but exacting historical research reveals that no individuals were killed outside of battle, and that the myth was the result of a hasty Irgun propaganda effort. A review of a new book.

The battle which took place at Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948 should not have been different than any other battle in the War of Independence. For various reasons, the battle went haywire and dozens of Arab citizens were killed (the exact number is disputed), many women were shot, and much property was looted to aid Jews who were in dire straits due to the war.

The events of Deir Yassin became a key symbol in the consciousness of both Arabs and Jews. All those involved, past and present, didn’t hesitate to use demagoguery, half-truths, and unverified data to confirm their prejudices. The claims being made may have declarative value, but certainly no scholarly or factual value. Read more ..


Broken Borders

College Park MD Considers Giving Noncitizens Local Voting Rights

August 7th 2017

Vote Buttons

Officials in College Park are weighing a plan that would make their city the largest in Maryland to give undocumented immigrants a right to vote in local elections, a long-standing practice elsewhere in the state that has drawn new scrutiny amid the simmering national debate over immigration.

The Prince George’s County city, home of the flagship University of Maryland campus and some 30,000 residents, is considering a measure to let noncitizens cast ballots for mayor and City Council — making it the latest target in a movement that has had more success in Maryland than anywhere else in the United States.

College Park officials are debating the charter amendment after a divisive national election in which immigration played a prominent part. Many left-leaning cities, including Baltimore, are now at odds with President Donald J. Trump's initial efforts to fulfill a campaign promise to crack down on immigration violations. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Toyota EV Aims for Solid State Battery Breakthrough

August 7th 2017

Better Place EV charging

Toyota (Aichi Prefecture, Japan) is reportedly working on a new type of battery for electric vehicles (EVs) that it hopes to commercialize by the early 2020s.

Rather than being based on current lithium-ion technology, the new battery is to be solid state . This would offer a host of advantages for electric vehicles so equipped, including improved safety, significantly increased driving range, and reduced charging time.

The company is planning a new electric vehicle - built on an all-new platform - that will use the new batteries. According to reports, the new EV will recharge in "just a few minutes," compared to the usual 20 to 30 minutes recharge time for lithium-ion batteries.

Previously having focused on hybrid electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Toyota late last year announced plans to produce long-range EVs.

Read more ..

Debbigate

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Changes Story about Stolen Laptop

August 6th 2017

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said in an August 3 interview with her hometown newspaper that a laptop computer -- which she closely drilled the chief of the Capitol Police earlier this year -- was not hers, but actually belonged to her former IT assistant Imran Awan. She also claimed that investigators are targeting Awan because of his race and religion. Awan is a Muslim from Pakistan who is a naturalized American citizen.

During the exchange with Chief Matthew R. Verderosa in a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on May 18, Wasserman Schultz said during an annual police budget hearing, “If a Member loses equipment and it is found by your staff and identified as that member’s equipment and the member is not associated with any case, it is supposed to be returned. Yes or no?” Verderosa replied that the laptop is important to “an ongoing investigation,” but Wasserman Schultz pressed on regardless.

Read more ..

The Race for AI

Is Artificial Intelligence an Existential Threat?

August 6th 2017

Terminator Robot

It is not unusual for disrupting technologies to be embraced and feared—and not necessarily in that order. That was and will continue to be true for all technologies that bring both benefit and risk; it is a duality in which many technologies have to exist. Examples throughout history have been the airplane, the automobile, unmanned weapons systems, and now even software – especially the software which powers artificial intelligence (AI).

Last week at a U.S. governors’ conference, Elon Musk, the CEO of the engineering companies SpaceX and Tesla, reportedly told the assembled politicians that “AI is a fundamental existential risk for human civilization,” sounding the alarm bell. This is not the first time Musk has expressed this concern, he’s done so as early as 2014. Many have branded him a Cassandra, and if he is, he’s not a lone-wolf Cassandra; he’s joined in those views by the likes of Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and other experts. It is not surprising there is an equal number of experts who question Musk’s concern and believe his alarm bell is tolling for a non-existent threat.

Read more ..

Media on Edge

Willful Blindness in the Media

August 6th 2017

Paper Stack

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.” That quote is attributed to Mark Twain. It resonates today. A number of newspapers have attacked the parent company of this station.  Here’s an example.

Politico first reported that President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner claimed the campaign “struck a deal” with Sinclair.  That characterization was mindlessly echoed by countless outlets including The New York Times, Washington Post, The Hill, Salon, The Nation and others.

But what they didn’t report was that Sinclair made identical offers to both Trump and Hillary Clinton for campaign coverage.  In fact, nearly 30 offers were made to the Clinton campaign. Shockingly, Politico refused an offer to see correspondence with the two campaigns.  Refused to look at it. What’s that say about Politico’s agenda? Read more ..


The Qatar Crisis

Qatar Crisis: Worst Case Scenarios

August 6th 2017

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani

The crisis between an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on one side, and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member Qatar on the other, shows no signs of abating. Qatar has responded to the list of 13 demands presented to Doha last month. At a meeting in Cairo on July 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE said they regretted Qatar’s “negative” response to their list of demands, and restrictions they had imposed would continue.

The origins of the tensions stretch back decades – probably generations in the minds of the main characters – but it is unclear why they suddenly erupted in May with the breaking of diplomatic relations and the cutting of air, sea, and land links. The alleged cause – that Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani of Qatar made pro-Iranian remarks – is fiercely contested. With hindsight, both sides seem to have been preparing for such a schism for months.

Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

When Female Fighters Lead the Charge

August 6th 2017

Syrian Kurdish protesters

The first battle in northern Syria, which has a Kurdish majority and lies along the Turkish border, broke out in 2012 when several armed opposition groups crossed the border and attacked Syrian regime forces concentrated in Ras al-Ayn. After the groups took control of the city, Kurdish military units formed the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which proclaimed in their founding declaration that their goal “is to defend Kurdish-majority cities.” Another group was also founded: the Women’s Protection Units, or the YPJ, which aimed to use armed battle as a way of liberating women from terrorism and patriarchal thinking as well as alleviating women’s grievances in general.

As the Islamic State group (ISIS) began to emerge in Syria and advance towards Kurdish-majority cities and towns in the north, the YPJ’s reputation began to spread. Fighting alongside the YPG, YPJ fighters were sent to the front lines in every battle against ISIS. Around this time, the media began focusing on the YPJ’s victories as well as the women of various ages who fought fiercely in its ranks and who often lost their lives on the front lines.

Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Iran's Space Program Emerges from Dormancy

August 6th 2017

Iran holy missiles

According to a news report citing a U.S. Strategic Command initial assessment, Iran's attempt to place its first operational satellite into orbit on July 27 using a Simorgh space launch vehicle (SLV) experienced catastrophic failure shortly after liftoff. The case marks the first Iranian acknowledgment of launching the heavy SLV, operating from its new permanent launch site, known as the Imam Khomeini National Space Center (IKNSC), located 220 kilometers southeast of Tehran in Semnan province.

Yet this was not, in fact, Iran's first actual attempt to launch a Simorgh -- a rocket unveiled in 2010 and named for a mythical bird. That first effort took place in April 2016, also out of IKNSC, but was kept a secret and described by U.S. intelligence sources as "partly successful" although not intended for satellite orbital insertion. Russian sources indicated differently, claiming it to be a successful suborbital test of the new rocket. Read more ..


Trump Era on Edge

McMaster’s NSC Coup Against Trump Purges Critics of Islam and Obama

August 5th 2017

Obama White House Chair

Derek Harvey was a man who saw things coming. He had warned of Al Qaeda when most chose to ignore it. He had seen the Sunni insurgency rising when most chose to deny it.

The former Army colonel had made his reputation by learning the lay of the land. In Iraq that meant sleeping on mud floors and digging into documents to figure out where the threat was coming from.

It was hard to imagine anyone better qualified to serve as President Trump’s top Middle East adviser at the National Security Council than a man who had been on the ground in Iraq and who had seen it all.

Just like in Iraq, Harvey began digging at the NSC. He came up with a list of Obama holdovers who were leaking to the press. McMaster, the new head of the NSC, refused to fire any of them. Read more ..


After the Vote

Countermeasures to Russian Disinformation

August 5th 2017

Putin

The mind of society is the battlefield in the current global struggle for geopolitical domination. The uses of soft power dominate in this battle and information warfare is the name of the game-not "cyber war" in all the ways it has been described but the influence and ultimately control of individual minds that, like cells in a body, make up the Mind of Society. Then control is used as leverage to achieve objectives that are often hidden.
The recent illumination of Russian operations in this area has received a great deal of publicity. Russian operations of this kind are by no means new or unique, but the scale is unprecedented. This is thanks to distributed means of communication, which in turn created distributed digital islands of simulated life as a habitat on which more and more people (some of the time) and some of the people, all of the time, live their lives. The fragmented efforts of the United States and her allies to defend our mind-space and respond with equally effective operations have been less than adequate.
Effective countermeasures require unified, coordinated strategies recognized to have a high priority so that they will, in fact, be executed. They require clout, funding, and leadership to succeed. Once executed, they need to be evaluated to determine their efficacy. Offensive strategies must attack enemies as they attack us, by gaining access to the insides of their hives and securing the queen, not easy to do when the control of the information space in authoritarian and dictatorial regimes closes many of the gaps that in our more open society leave us unprotected.
Read more ..

Financing the Flames

Senate Panel Approves Bill to Cut Funds to Palestinians over Terrorism

August 4th 2017

One Million Dollars

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation on Thursday that would restrict funding to the Palestinian Authority until it stops offering rewards to those who commit acts of violence against Israelis and others.

Get Financing the Flames and read the original Edwin Black investigation on the topic

The Taylor Force Act passed the committee in a 16-5 vote and now heads to the Senate floor. 

The bill was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and is named after an American, 28-year-old Taylor Force, who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian last year in a Tel Aviv attack that also wounded 12 others.

The Palestinian Authority regularly offers financial compensation to the families of terrorists. Critics have dubbed it “pay to slay” and say the Palestinian Authority spends as much as $300 million a year on the program.

Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Sophisticated Australian Airplane Bombing Plot a Warning To the West

August 4th 2017

airplanes shadows

Australia's arrest Saturday of four men suspected of plotting a terrorist attack on a commercial airliner signals more than a resurgent terror threat to airplanes. Because the alleged weapon involved smuggling explosives and poison gasses in a standard kitchen utensil – a meat grinder or mincer – it demonstrates, too, the rapidly increasing sophistication of these plots and the development of new means of attack.

It also exposes what international intelligence agencies, but few others, have known for some time: in a recent ranking of countries where radical Islam is a significant security threat, Australia stands in third place.

This may surprise most people, who think of Australia as a land of laid-back surfers and cuddly koalas, but a different side of Australia has emerged in recent years – one where radical Islam is rising. And it's not just among immigrant populations; there, as elsewhere, converts also play a large role. Read more ..


Composer's Story

Hans Zimmer on Scoring "Dunkirk"

August 4th 2017

Piano Keys

The first time most movie-goers heard the music of Hans Zimmer was in the 1988 movie "Rain Man." The composer went on to write the scores of more than 100 films. He has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won for "The Lion King."

Zimmer has also won four Grammys and two Golden Globe awards.

"Dunkirk" has been hailed as a visual masterpiece. But what you hear – the film's sweeping musical score – is the latest genius from the legendary composer, reports CBS News' Mark Strassmann.

"I wrote by going to the beach, picking up the sand, seeing the misery on that beach. You have to get a movie under your fingers. It's as simple as that," Zimmer said. To score "Dunkirk," the German-American Zimmer found inspiration in his own past. "I approached it at first, of course, as somebody who wouldn't be here if my parents had not escaped the Germans," Zimmer said. His Jewish mother escaped the Germans in 1939. Read more ..


Jordan's Shameful Record on the Temple Mount

August 3rd 2017
Jordan's foreign minister blames the "occupation" for the Temple Mount terror, and threatens even more dangerous crises. As recently as the mid-20th century, when Arabs last controlled parts of Jerusalem, they exhibited no respect for the Holy City.

In 1948, when Jordan took control of the eastern part of Jerusalem, including the Old City, it divided the city for the first time in its 3,000-year history. Under the 1949 armistice agreement with Israel, Jordan pledged to allow free access to all holy places but failed to honor that commitment. From 1948 until the Six-Day War in 1967, the part of Jerusalem controlled by the Jordanians again became an isolated and underdeveloped provincial town, and its religious sites the target of religious intolerance. The Old City was rendered void of Jews. Jewish sites such as the Mount of Olives were desecrated. Jordan destroyed more than 50 synagogues, and erased evidence of a Jewish presence. In addition, all Jews were forced out of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City adjacent to the Western Wall, an area where Jews had lived for generations. For 19 years, Jews and Christians residing in Israel (and even Israeli Muslims) were barred from their holy places, despite Jordan's pledge to allow free access. Jews, for example, were unable to pray at the Western Wall; Christian Arabs living in Israel were denied access to churches and other religious sites in the Old City and nearby Bethlehem, also under Jordanian control. During Jordan's reign over eastern Jerusalem, its restrictive laws on Christian institutions led to a dramatic decline in the holy city's Christian population by more than half - from 25,000 to 11,000 - a pattern that characterized Christian Arabs in other Arab countries throughout the Middle East where religious freedom is not honored. It is worth noting that after Jordan annexed the West Bank in the 1950s, it too failed to make Jerusalem - a city that Arabs now claim as 'the third most holy site of Islam' - its capital.

It was only after the Six-Day War that the Jewish Quarter was rebuilt and free access to holy places was reestablished for all religions.


After the Election

Former Obama Aide Ben Rhodes Now "A Person Of Interest" In Unmasking Investigation

August 3rd 2017

NSA
NSA

Former Obama White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes is now emerging as a person of interest in the House Intelligence Committee’s unmasking investigation, according to a letter sent Tuesday by the committee to the National Security Agency (NSA). This adds Rhodes to the growing list of top Obama government officials who may have improperly unmasked Americans in communications intercepted overseas by the NSA, Circa has confirmed.

The House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-CA, sent the letter to the National Security Agency requesting the number of unmaskings made by Rhodes from Jan. 1, 2016 to Jan. 20, 2017, according to congressional sources who spoke with Circa. Rhodes, who worked closely with former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and was a former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications for President Obama, became a focus of the committee during its review of classified information to assess whether laws were broken regarding NSA intercepted communications of President Trump, members of his administration and other Americans before and after the election, according to congressional officials. The committee is requesting that the NSA deliver the information on Rhodes by August, 21. Read more ..


Financing the Flames

How to Sell a Suicide-Bomber Subsidy to Congress

August 3rd 2017

Hamas terrorist with toy Kalashnikov

Husam Zomlot does not have an easy job. He is the Palestinian Liberation Organization's representative in Donald Trump's Washington. And despite Trump's early promise to seek the ultimate deal to bring peace to the Holy Land, his administration is focused on more pressing matters.

Zomlot's biggest problem these days is a piece of legislation named for Taylor Force, a former U.S. army officer who was stabbed to death in 2016 when he was in Tel Aviv on tour with his fellow Vanderbilt University graduate students.

When Republican Senator Lindsey Graham learned that the family of the murderer would be receiving a lifetime stipend as part of a Palestinian program to pay the families of so-called martyrs and inmates in Israeli prisons, he drafted legislation to end U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority until the payments ended. Read more ..


Financing the Flames

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Strengthens Taylor Force Act in Advance of Forthcoming Vote

August 2nd 2017

Sorrow-Pain

Palestinian opposition to ending the policy of “martyr payments” could face a potentially insurmountable obstacle in the form of revised legislation governing American aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) that is expected to be voted on during the fall session of Congress.

Get Financing the Flames and read the original Edwin Black investigation on the topic

A revised version of the Taylor Force Act — amended by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in advance of a vote this Thursday — places even more stringent conditions on aid to the PA as long as it operates a policy dubbed by critics as “pay-to-slay.” Currently, the PA spends more than $300 million of foreign aid money per year on monthly salaries to terrorists and their families that far outstrip the wages paid to Palestinian professionals, including the PA’s own civil servants. Read more ..


The Digital Age

Guaranteeing Positioning, Navigation, and Timing for the United States

August 2nd 2017

RBSPs deploy solar panels

A special amendment to the defense budget for 2018, calls for allocating $10 million to the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation. The funds would be used to develop a plan based on results of an ongoing study, “to devise a demonstration plan for a GPS backup and then actually do the demo.” The lawmakers stressed that “an independent backup is very, very important to U.S. security.” And according to Rep. John Garamendi (D-Ca), and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), the sponsors of the amendment, the new backup is likely to be the eloran.  

Mr. Garamendi mentioned the eloran could be used for a self-driving car in a tunnel.  But the error in eloran is larger than the diameter of a tunnel.  Even current GPS accuracy is not adequate for self-driving cars. Read more ..



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