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The Digital Edge

Comcast to Buy Time Warner in $45.2B Deal, Setting Up Antitrust Fight

February 13th 2014

Television Array

Comcast is buying Time Warner Cable in a $45.2 billion deal that would combine the nation’s biggest cable companies, setting up a lengthy and contentious antitrust review in Washington.

The two companies said the deal would benefit consumers and increase competition, but critics immediately warned it would set up Comcast— which also owns NBC Universal — as too dominant a force in communications.

The deal would bring Comcast’s total number of subscribers to 30 million, with the company gaining 8 million subscribers from Time Warner. But as a part of the deal, Comcast also agreed to sell off systems that serve 3 million subscribers.
Top antitrust lawmakers vowed to examine the acquisition closely.

In a statement, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) — chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce's Subcommittee on Antitrust — said they will hold a hearing on the proposed merger. “This proposed merger could have a significant impact on the cable industry and affect consumers across the country,” Klobuchar said, adding that she will “carefully scrutinize the details of this merger and its potential consequences for both consumers and competition.” Read more ..


Working Government

Senate Approves Debt Hike After McConnell, GOP Leaders Vote Yes

February 12th 2014

McConnell Mitch

The Senate sent a bill hiking the debt ceiling to President Obama’s desk on Wednesday, but only after a dramatic fight that forced GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to cast a tough vote advancing the legislation.

McConnell and top lieutenant Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) reluctantly backed ending debate after it became clear that no one in their conference wanted to cast the deciding 60th vote.

Sixty votes were needed to overcome a filibuster by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who complained that Congress was raising the debt ceiling without demanding any curbs on Washington’s spending. With the upper chamber’s Democrats and Independents all voting yes, Senate Republicans needed to muster five votes to overcome Cruz.

Yet during an hour of tense floor conversations, it appeared they might fail. The vote started late, as Senate Republicans huddled behind closed doors. After meeting for roughly an hour in private, the conference still did not know whether it could conjure up the needed votes.

On the floor, the procedural vote ran on for another hour, with Republicans slow to offer support. Cornyn and McConnell, who is the most vulnerable Senate Republican up for reelection in 2014, then voted to end the debate, making it clear the procedural motion would be approved.

After their dramatic votes, another group of Republicans met in a room off the Senate floor. They returned, and several switched their votes from no to yes. Some members said they switched their votes to give cover to McConnell and Cornyn. Read more ..


The 2016 Race

Republican Investigation Found No Fault in Hillary Clinton's Actions on Benghazi Debacle

February 11th 2014

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA)

The Republican leading the investigation into the Benghazi terror attack said the “failure” didn't lie with Hillary Clinton and that her “legacy” was “mostly intact” for a 2016 presidential run.

The show of support for the former secretary of State by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is among the surprising revelations in the new book “HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton,” by The Hill's Amie Parnes and Politico's Jonathan Allen.

Issa made the comments in a December 2012 interview, at a time when Republicans were still focusing their anger on inaccurate administration talking points they claimed were crafted to help President Obama win re-election. “When the call came in at three o'clock in the morning, the failure wasn't viewed, at least as of today, as Secretary Clinton's. It was really an Obama failure,” Issa said. “Her legacy is mostly intact for 2016, if she chooses.” Read more ..


The 2016 Race

Team Clinton Loses No Time Running for 2016 Election

February 11th 2014

Members of Team Clinton started talking about a 2016 presidential bid months before the former first lady left the State Department. The night President Obama won his second term, Allida Black and Adam Parkhomenko, veterans of Clinton’s 2008 campaign for the White House, exchanged emails about plans to start Ready for Hillary — a super-PAC promoting another run for the White House.

While Clinton didn’t formally approve the political action committee, Black believed she had Clinton’s blessing, according to a book published Tuesday by The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Bloomberg’s Jonathan Allen.

The book, titled HRC, reports that just months after Clinton left the State Department, longtime adviser Cheryl Mills — who functions as Hillary Clinton’s consigliere — met with Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and a candidate to manage Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Read more ..


Broken Government

Congress Faces Scramble to Raise Debt Ceiling

February 10th 2014

Capitol Senate

The coming week will see a return to fiscal drama in the U.S. Capitol with lawmakers scrambling to raise the federal borrowing limit before they adjourn for a week-long recess.

Democrats and Republicans have yet to agree on a formula to boost the debt ceiling, and failure to act would leave the U.S. government unable to pay all its bills by the end of the month.

President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress are demanding a conditions-free increase in the government's debt ceiling.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says prompt action is needed to keep the U.S. solvent. “This is not a matter of negotiation," Pelosi said. "This is the full faith and credit of the United States of America.” Republicans control the House of Representatives and are debating whether to attach items to a debt ceiling bill. Read more ..


The Edge of Healthcare

Endocrine Society Calls for Large-Scale Studies to Evaluate Testosterone Therapy Risks

February 9th 2014

Old guy muscles

According to a statement issued today by the Endocrine Society, the risks and benefits of testosterone therapy for older men with declining levels of the hormone need to be fully evaluated.

The statement comes in response to recent studies that have raised concerns about the safety of testosterone therapy in older men with a history of heart disease. Two retrospective analyses and one randomized trial supported by the Veterans Health Care System, and the National Institutes of Health found a higher rate of cardiovascular events in men who received testosterone and had preexisting heart problems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced it plans to evaluate the safety of testosterone therapy.

Testosterone is approved for the treatment of hypogonadism due to known diseases of the testes, pituitary and hypothalamus. Although the use of testosterone therapy is increasing, the treatment has not been approved for the treatment of age-related symptoms or the age-related decline of testosterone levels.

Important safety data are expected from the NIA's ongoing randomized trial examining testosterone in about 800 older men with unequivocally low testosterone levels and accompanying symptoms, including sexual and physical dysfunction. The trial's structure and careful monitoring of cardiovascular events will help provide important safety information. Read more ..


USA vs Russia

US Apology for EU Insult Comes during Frosty Relations with Russia

February 8th 2014

A senior U.S. State Department official, Victoria Nuland, has apologized to the European Union after using an expletive while discussing the EU's diplomatic role in Ukraine's political conflict. Her controversial comment became public in an Internet video of an intercepted phone call. Assistant Secretary of State Nuland was in Ukraine this week to meet President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition figures, as the standoff there between the government and protesters continues.

In a phone call that was apparently bugged and posted on the Internet, Nuland scoffed at the European Union's position to her colleague, U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama Seeks to Address Income Equality

February 8th 2014

President Obama vowed to take greater steps – with or without Congress – to combat the growing problem of income inequality.

In his weekly radio address, the president lamented that "those at the top are doing better than ever" in the wake of the Great Recession, while "too many Americans are working harder than ever just to get by."

"We’ve got to reverse those trends," Obama said. "We’ve got to build an economy that works for everyone, not just a fortunate few." The president amplified his recent pledge – broadcast during last month's State of the Union address – to work with Congress "where I can," but also to act unilaterally if Republicans put up roadblocks to his economic agenda. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama Accentuates the Positive at Farm Bill Signing

February 7th 2014

Obama

President Obama on Friday signed the $956 billion 2014 farm bill into law at a ceremony at Michigan State University. 

The president touted the bipartisan effort that pushed the bill through Congress after three years of fits and starts at a ceremony skipped by Republicans invited to the event.

Obama's comments focused on the economy, and came the day a disappointing jobs report found the nation added just 113,000 jobs in January.
 
“That's the way Washington should continue to work, because we've got more work to do," he said of the farm bill. "We've got more work to do to potentially make sure that unemployment insurance is put in place for a lot of folks out there who need it. We've got more work to do to pass the minimum wage.”He said that the bill saves money even though its total $16.6 billion in savings, including $8 billion in food stamp cuts, is less than Obama wanted to cut from farm programs in past budgets. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

House Leader Cantor is Point Man for Republican Healthcare Initiative

February 6th 2014

Click to select Image

 House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is taking the lead on crafting the GOP’s Obama-Care replacement proposal.

The extraordinarily tough task faces many obstacles and is complicated by election-year politics and an unruly GOP conference.

But Cantor believes the Republicans must shake their “party of no” reputation, and passing an ObamaCare replacement bill is part of that strategy.
Most, if not all, Democrats will reject whatever Cantor produces. To pass a bill through the House, Republicans will need to keep defections to about 20 or fewer. That will be a tall order.

For years, Republicans have promised a “repeal and replace” strategy on ObamaCare, but have never coalesced behind one plan. President Obama has repeatedly mocked the GOP for not delivering an alternative.

Cantor intends to move a repeal-and-replace bill before the midterm elections in November, according to a source familiar with the situation. He broached the issue at the House GOP retreat in Cambridge, Md., late last week.

“I think it is very likely that we’re going to have it before the election, we’re going to give the people — or at least we are going to try to give the people — a clear distinction of who we are versus who the Democrats are,” Florida Rep. Tom Rooney (R) said.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is on board with that goal, though he has his hands full on putting together an immigration reform bill — another top priority for the year. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Top Obama Aide Confers with Congressional Black Caucus over Judicial Nominees

February 5th 2014

y Mike Lillis - 02/05/14 06:00 AM EST
Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett will meet with members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Wednesday amid intensifying concerns over President Obama’s judicial nominations.

Black lawmakers have been up in arms over a number of Obama’s picks for the federal bench, particularly in southern states, where they contend the process don’t reflect the ethnic diversity of the regions they would serve.

Many think Obama gave up too much to Republican senators, who also have a say in the nominees, and plan to tell Jarrett just that in Wednesday’s meeting. “Win or lose, we’d feel better if there’s a fight,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), a member of the CBC’s judicial nominations working group, said Tuesday. “We have a Herculean task, of course, because of the senators whose conservatism is antithetical to the judicial philosophy of probably anyone who [Obama would prefer]. Read more ..


Broken Government

Republicans Buck Their Base over Immigration

February 4th 2014

House Republican leaders are facing a disconnect on immigration with their grassroots base.

Much of the GOP base sees Republican principles on immigration as granting amnesty to illegal immigrants because they would provide a legal basis for them to stay and work in the country. The grass roots erupted last week even before the principles were floated to rank-and-file members, with anger fueled by talk radio and conservative websites.

GOP lawmakers who want to move forward say their leadership needs to do a better job of communicating, but the disconnect over the meaning of amnesty suggests their differences might be unbridgeable.
As Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his deputies last week attempted to coax their conference to act on immigration, prominent conservatives were making a lot of noise. Read more ..


Broken Government

Obama and Democrats Suffer High Anxiety while Coordinating Agenda

February 4th 2014

A mood of anxiety hangs over President Obama and congressional Democrats as they conduct a series of meetings this week to coordinate their 2014 political and legislative agendas.

While their outlook has improved since last fall, Democrats on Capitol Hill are worried the party is in danger of repeating its disastrous midterm performance of 2010 — and that this time, it could cost them the Senate.

“Let’s face it, not everyone is on the same page,” said one senior Democratic aide.
While the White House and congressional Democrats have sought to present a unified front on raising the minimum wage and extending federal unemployment benefits, divisions over an array of issues including trade, the Keystone XL oil pipeline and how to contain Iran have repeatedly burst to the surface.

That’s made it difficult to calm tempers still hot over the bumbled rollout of ObamaCare. Read more ..


Nature on Edge

Indonesia's Mount Sinabung Volcano Claims 15 Lives

February 3rd 2014

Merapi eruption Indonesia

Mount Sinabung, an active volcano on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, has been spewing ash for months, but a sudden eruption has killed at least 15 people in recent days.

Officials have been cautiously exploring ash-engulfed terrain to recover the victims of Saturday’s blasts, but eruptions Sunday and Monday continue to hamper recovery efforts.

Victims who perished in the consecutive, pyroclastic blasts include a group of students, their teacher, and a reporter. Three local residents believed to be visiting a family grave were also among those killed. The visiting student group was reportedly distributing aid on behalf of the Christian Students Movement.

Officials said the victims ignored the warnings to avoid the designated hazard zone, including the village of Sukameriah, which is located less than three kilometers from Mount Sinabung’s summit. Surono, head of the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation, said his agency has warned local residents to avoid that area for months. Read more ..


The UN and the Ukraine

Rasmussen, Lavrov Spar Over Ukraine, Missile Shield

February 2nd 2014

Ukraine

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have sparred at a major conference on global security over the future of Ukraine and NATO's planned missile shield.

Rasmussen told the annual Munich Security Conference on February 1 that Ukraine must have the freedom to choose its own path, but Lavrov charged European politicians with helping to destabilize Ukraine.

"What does incitement of protests have to do with promoting democracy?" Lavrov asked.

 "Why don't we condemn those who seize and hold government buildings, attack the police, torch the police, use racist and anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans," Lavrov added.

The so-called Euromaidan protests were sparked in late November by a government decision to abandon closer EU ties in favor of Russia, and included the occupation of government buildings.

But the most serious violence came after the enactment of strict laws against protests in mid-January that have since been revoked. The NATO chief also said the alliance and Russia are not meeting their potential for cooperation despite their strategic partnership. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Keystone Pipeline Clears Hurdle

January 31st 2014

Oil Pipes2

The controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline cleared a major hurdle on Friday as the State Department ruled the project wouldn’t significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions.

The finding puts the pipeline one step closer to approval, and sets up a new battle between environmental groups and oil companies over whether the project is in the national interest.

The Environmental Impact Statement on the project reiterates key parts of a draft analysis released early last year, finding that oil sands extraction would continue regardless of whether the pipeline is built.

"Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios," the report said.
The finding could be crucial, as President Obama has said he would only approve the pipeline if he was convinced it would not "significantly exacerbate carbon emissions." Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Majority Leader Reid Stiffs Obama over Expanded Trade Powers

January 29th 2014

Click to select Image

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday suggested he will not bring legislation to the floor that would grant President Obama greater trade powers.

Reid said he is “against” trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation — often called “fast track” — that, if passed, would make it easier for Obama to negotiate trade deals by preventing Congress from amending them.

“I’m against fast track,” said Reid, who told reporters he would not guarantee floor time for legislation by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who is set to leave the Senate upon his confirmation as ambassador to China. “We’ll see,” Reid said of the bill. “Everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now.” Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iranian-American Indicted for Espionage Involving American Fighter Jet

January 29th 2014

F-35b

An engineer who was arrested earlier this month for allegedly attempting to ship stolen documents regarding a high-tech U.S. military fighter jet to the Iranian government was officially indicted by a federal grand jury in Connecticut on Tuesday, according to law enforcement officials.

Mozaffar Khazaee, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen but also retains his Iranian citizenship, is charged with transporting stolen goods after he was arrested attempting to surreptitiously deliver stolen property to Iran's military.

The 59-year-old suspect was arrested on Jan. 9. 2014 for his attempt to smuggle thousands of pages of classified documents regarding the U.S. military's high-tech F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. If convicted, the suspect is facing a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. Khazaee was indicted Tuesday for transporting, transmitting and transferring in interstate commerce goods obtained by theft, conversion or fraud, according to court documents. Read more ..


Ukraine on Edge

Ukraine Repeals Anti-Protest Laws as Dissidents Occupy Government Offices

January 28th 2014

Ukraine's parliament has repealed controversial antiprotest laws in a move aimed at ending two months of antigovernment protests.

A total of 361 lawmakers out of 412 present voted to repeal the legislation at a special session of parliament on January 28.

The laws had sparked violent clashes between antigovernment protesters and riot police when they were enacted earlier this month.

President Viktor Yanukovych agreed to abolish them on January 27 after talks with opposition leaders, who have made their repeal a key demand.

The vote came after Prime Minister Mykola Azarov -- a loyal Yanukovych ally -- announced he was stepping down. Azarov said in a statement that he was resigning to create "an additional possibility for a political compromise to peacefully resolve the conflict." Read more ..


Libya on Edge

Libya Bankruptcy Warning Raises Concerns

January 27th 2014

African refugees from Libya

Libyans like to say their country will one day be seen as “Dubai on the Mediterranean” -- rich, successful and advanced. But as their country struggles with a fitful political transition from autocracy to democracy amid storms of militia violence, political squabbling and lawlessness, they are now hearing for the first time talk that Libya could go bankrupt.

That could happen in four years, according to Revenue Watch Institute, a New York-based think tank.

In a study by its economic analyst, Andrew Bauer, a former member of Canada’s G7 and G20 delegations, Libya has all the oil resources it needs to become the richest country per capita in North Africa but “if current trends continue, the nation of 6.5 million may well go bankrupt by 2018.”

Libyan government officials scrambled to dismiss the forecast but just a few days ago, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Libya, Ali Salem, warned that Libya’s overdependence on oil “could become a nightmare.” Directly addressing the hopes of Libyans of an Emirate-style future, he cautioned at a seminar in Tripoli that Dubai’s enormous wealth comes not just from oil, but is generated by a diversified economy. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

US Military Refocus on Pacific a Work in Progress

January 26th 2014

U.S. Naval Carrier

One of the main features of the global defense strategy laid out by President Barack Obama two years ago, shifting the U.S. military's focus from the Middle East to the Asia Pacific region, is meeting significant challenges from China and its rapidly developing military power.

But U.S. military officials say American dominance of the Asia Pacific is not diminishing.

Recent actions by China, including its imposition of an aircraft identification zone over the East China Sea and a near collision between Chinese and U.S. warships, show that dominance is being challenged.

The Obama administration, in its efforts to shift focus from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the Pacific, where China has been building up its forces, includes strategic placement of a new aircraft carrier and the development of hypersonic missile technology.  Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Supreme Court Hands Victory to Religious Groups over Obamacare Mandate

January 25th 2014

Click to select Image

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that an order of nuns in Colorado is not required to fully comply with ObamaCare’s contraception mandate, in a partial and temporary victory for critics of the contentious provision.

In an order handed down late Friday, the justices concluded that the nuns — and roughly 200 religious nonprofits — do not need to file government forms to exempt themselves from the law’s mandate that workers receive free contraception as part of employee health insurance plans.

Still, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged and other nonprofits “that hold themselves out as religious” and object to the provision must inform the Department of Health and Human Services of that status to avoid paying penalties under the law. Read more ..


The 2016 Race

House Speaker Boehner Favors Jeb Bush for 2016 Presidential Race

January 24th 2014

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Jeb Bush

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the evening of January 23 that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would be a great president if he ran in 2016. However, the Speaker made clear he is not endorsing anyone more than two years before the election.

“Well listen I’m not endorsing anybody, but Jeb Bush is my friend, and I frankly think he would be a great president, I really do,” he said on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Bush was the only potential GOP candidate Boehner mentioned when asked who he liked for president.

In the wide-ranging interview, Boehner also touched on last October’s government shutdown and other presidential prospects.

Boehner said the bridge scandal that has dogged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) would not be going away any time soon — whether or not Christie knew anything about the lane closures. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama's State of the Union Address Will Tackle Income Inequality

January 23rd 2014

Click to select Image

President Barack Obama will try to pump some vitality into a lackluster second term on Tuesday when he delivers his State of the Union address.

The address will include a “healthy dose” of the income inequality message the White House has focused on in recent weeks, according to one senior administration official familiar with the text.

A president who has yet to add to the big legislative accomplishments of his first term will call for raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour and extending federal unemployment benefits that expired last month.

He will also discuss energy and college affordability, two other issues that relate to the economic mobility message that is a major White House theme ahead of this year’s midterm elections. Read more ..


Broken Government

Overwhelming Majority of Americans are Dissatisfied with Government

January 22nd 2014

Nearly two-thirds of the public is dissatisfied with how the U.S. government works, a new poll suggests.

Sixty-five percent say they are dissatisfied, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday. This represents Gallup’s highest recorded percentage in the trend since 2001.

Dissatisfaction with the government has increased 5 percentage points from last year.

Two-thirds also say they’re not satisfied with the size and power of the federal government.
Republicans and independents have become much less satisfied with the government’s effectiveness, the poll indicates, compared to Democrats. Read more ..


Heathcare on Edge

Target Will Drop Part-Time Employees from its Healthcare Plan

January 21st 2014

Retail Sales Target Cashier

Target Corp. announced on Tuesday it would no longer offer healthcare coverage to its part-time employees.

In a blog post on the company’s website, Jodee Kozlak, the executive vice president of human resources, framed it as a positive development for part-time employees of the company.

“The Health Insurance Marketplaces provides new options for healthcare coverage that we believe our part-time members may prefer,” she wrote. “In fact, by offering them insurance, we could actually disqualify many of them from being eligible for newly available subsidies that could reduce their overall health insurance expense.” Kozlak added that at present, fewer than 10 percent of part-time employees that are eligible have actually enrolled in the company’s healthcare plan. Read more ..


The Economic Edge

As Sanctions Are Relaxed, Western Businesses Look To Iran

January 20th 2014

Iran Nuclear Equipment centrifuges

The easing of sanctions on Tehran that has just taken effect is sending Western companies rushing to seek new business opportunities in Iran.

A group of senior French executives, including from the energy and automotive sectors, is heading to Tehran early next month. They follow a delegation of British lawmakers who visited this month.

At the same time, Iran's Trade Promotion Organization says business delegations from Italy, Austria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and many other countries have already visited since late last year, when an interim nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran was announced.

Under the sanctions that were relaxed under the deal, Iran will be allowed to spend some $4.2 billion in previously frozen funds over the next six months. However, the largest part of the international sanctions regime remains in place pending a permanent future solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis. Read more ..


State of Surveillance

Obama Embraces Dubya's Basic Surveillance Structure

January 19th 2014

NSA facility

Former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden said Sunday that President Obama’s speech on the agency’s controversial intelligence-gathering programs revealed that he had “embraced” the basic surveillance structure favored by former President George W. Bush.

“The president has embraced it. He has got a political problem — and I don't mean to trivialize it, because in a democracy, political problems are very serious. He needs consent of the governed,” Hayden said during an interview with Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday.”
“He is willing to shave points off of flexibility, add administrative burdens, add oversight, but the objective, Chris, is to keep on doing what he's doing."

In a speech from the Justice Department on Friday, Obama said he would now require intelligence agencies to obtain judicial approval before reviewing databases of information about telephone calls. Read more ..


Egypt After Morsi

Miracle on the Nile

January 18th 2014

2012 Egyptian Elections

A miracle on the Nile has been accomplished this week. Tens of millions of Egyptian citizens from all walks of life, Muslims and Christians, conservatives and liberals, seculars and religious, young and old, and in some instances, healthy and sick, have come out to cast a vote in the referendum of the century: either to say yes to new moderate constitution, relatively democratic, or to say no and revert to an Islamist constitution adopted by the previous Muslim Brotherhood regime.

Most likely, an overwhelming majority of voters will chose to move away from the 2012 Islamist regime of Mohammed Morsi and select a more liberating draft, one that reinforces fundamental rights to women and minorities. The referendum will seal a popular uprising that exploded almost a year ago, and culminated in two gigantic peaceful demonstrations last summer against the political oppression of the Ikhwan regime. Read more ..


The Edge of terrorism

Congressional Recognition for Terrorism Expert Walid Phares Released

January 17th 2014

Walid and Myrick

After waiting for more than a year, a Congressional letter of recognition for terrorism analyst Walid Phares was finally released. The letter reads:

It is my great privilege to recognize the patriotism and valor of Professor Walid Phares, who has been an advisor to my office and the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus since 2006. During that time, he has also ably served as my academic advisor on the Middle East, Terrorism, jihadi ideologies, Middle East minorities, Muslim reformers and democratic movements.

I found his enlightening book, Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America, to be highly educational. The wisdom and insight I found on every page when I read it in 2005, led me to conclude that the book was a must-read for every American; it would help them to understand the ideological basis of the jihadi threat at home and abroad and enable them to figure out the best strategies against it.  Future Jihad was included on the summer reading list of House Republicans in 2007 and was read by many of them. Dr. Phares’ book, The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy, deepened my understanding of jihadists’ use of propaganda to promote their political ideology, penetrate the West, and recruit members. His third book authored after 9/11, The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad (published in 2008) also enabled me and other global strategists to forge the appropriate alliances and isolate the extremists. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

UNESCO Pulls Jewish Exhibit After Last Minute Protest From Arab League

January 17th 2014

jerusalem from mt of olives

UNESCO (the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) has pulled a Jewish exhibit two years in the making, titled “People, Book, Land -- The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel,” after a zero hour protest from the Arab League.

The exhibit, which was created by Los Angeles-based Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) together with UNESCO, was scheduled to open on January 20th, 2014 at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters. The invitations had already gone out, and the fully prepared exhibition material was already in place. The display was co-sponsored by Israel, Canada, and Montenegro.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean of the SWC, called the move an “absolute outrage.” “The Arabs,” he said, “don’t want the world to know that the Jews have a 3,500-year relationship to the Land of Israel.” Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Network Neutrality Debate May Be Headed Back to FCC

January 16th 2014

computer keyboard woman hands

Despite reports to the contrary, the debate over network neutrality is far from over. An appeals court recently overturned rules that bar broadband providers from blocking or slowing Internet traffic. But the court also suggested that the Federal Communications Commission can take another shot at the issue by reconsidering how it regulates the Internet.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to require broadband providers to treat online content equally -- leaving them free to manipulate online traffic or charge companies such as Netflix Inc. a premium for faster delivery.

If the FCC decides to take up the issue again, it will face some of the most formidable lobbyists in town. Three Internet service providers were among the top 20 lobbying spenders in the first nine months of 2013. Combined they hired more than 350 lobbyists, 14 of whom were former members of Congress. Read more ..


Ukraine on Edge

Ukraine Appears Poised to Revert to Soviet-Style Repression of Catholics

January 15th 2014

Click to select Image

Ukraine’s government is threatening to proscribe one of the country’s historic Christian churches in what appears to be a reversal for democracy in the Eastern European nation. President Viktor Yanukovych has threatened to drop from the government registry the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – which is in communion with Pope Francis and thus a part of the worldwide Catholic Church. This would open up both priests and bishops to civil prosecution for providing spiritual care to the thousands of fellow Ukrainians who are protesting their support for Ukraine’s admission to the European Union which is now opposed by President Yanukovych and his ally, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

A letter from Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture that cited “systematic disregard for the law by some priests” at mass protests held at Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti or Freedom Square, was made public on January 6. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Obama Administration Dismisses Iran's Victory Lap

January 15th 2014

The White House has dismissed a claim by Iranian President Hassan Rohani that the interim nuclear deal Iran reached in Geneva in November marked the 'surrender' of major powers.

President Hassan Rohani has described a nuclear deal reached in Geneva in November as a victory for Iran. Rohani made the claim in Iran's southwestern province of Khuzestan on January 14, saying the interim deal was a "surrender" by major powers to Iranian demands. "The Geneva agreement means acceptance of the Iranian nation's nuclear right and defeat of cruel sanctions [against Iran]," he said.

But in Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "it is not surprising to us...that the Iranians are describing the agreement in a certain way towards their domestic audience." Read more ..


Broken Economy

Detroit Showcases Dramatic Turnaround at Auto Show

January 14th 2014

Tesla Car

U.S. automakers have much to celebrate at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Fueled by growing sales and increased production, the industry has made a dramatic turnaround since hovering on the brink of collapse less than five years ago.

Taking a chance
Facing bankruptcy in 2009, Chrysler was grappling with the fate of its assets, including the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant where Charles Archard worked.

“Me and my wife both worked in the plant," Archard said. "She took the buyout. I stayed there. But there was a 50/50 chance that it could have went bankrupt. I took that chance.”

It paid off. Chrysler not only reversed its decision to close Sterling Heights, but also added another shift. At this year’s North American International Auto Show, the company announced that workers like Archard will soon be building a new mid-size sedan at the plant, which will offer job security for the foreseeable future. “And then we found out a billion dollars is going to be put into the plant for new vehicles and everything, so it was great,” Archard said. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

US, Russia Split Over Inviting Iran to Syria Peace Talks

January 13th 2014

Syrian Dead

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Monday in Paris to plan for Syrian peace talks later this month.  The men could not agree on inviting Iran to join those talks.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has no bigger ally than Iran.  So his government says it expects Iran will be invited to planned peace talks in Geneva "just like any other state."

The international mediator to the conflict, Lakhdar Brahimi, agrees. "Iran is a very important country in the region and they have to be present in a conference like this," he said. But while the United Nations is responsible for sending the invitations, Brahimi says he is working in consensus with the main organizing partners: Russia and the United States. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama to Get His Day in Court for Abuse of Executive Power

January 12th 2014

Nothing less than the boundaries of executive power are at stake Monday as the Supreme Court considers whether President Obama violated the Constitution during his first term.

Oral arguments slated for Monday will center on a trio of recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that were deemed unconstitutional by lower courts.

If they uphold the decision, experts say the justices could endanger hundreds of NLRB decisions. Even more significant are the ramifications for future presidents, with the court poised either to bolster or blunt the chief executive’s appointment powers.

“Rulings like this have implications that last for centuries,” said Michael Lotito, an employment and labor attorney and co-chairman of Littler Mendelson's Workplace Policy Institute. Read more ..


Significant Lives

Israeli Public, World Leaders Pay Tribute to Sharon

January 12th 2014

Sharon lays in state Jan 2014

On Sunday, January 12, thousands gathered to pay their last respects to Israel’s eleventh prime minister and brilliant military strategist, Ariel Sharon, who passed away on Saturday after spending the last eight years of his life in a coma following a stroke in 2006. Sharon’s casket was placed in the Knesset in an area open to the public from morning until evening. Young children and the elderly; religious and secular; right-wingers and left-wingers, were among those that made up the diverse crowd that came to pay tribute tothe leader known by the Israeli public and media as Arik.

“He was the people’s leader,” said Marcelle Romano, a grandmother originally from Sderot. “I remember seeing Arik in Sderot on many occasions. My neighbor, Kochava Haroush worked on his ranch as a cook and housekeeper for many years,” Marcelle recalled. “In Sderot, we loved him -- he was bigger than life.” Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama to Announce Reforms to NSA Surveillance

January 12th 2014

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President Obama is under fire from all sides to announce major reforms to the National Security Agency on Friday.

Privacy and civil liberties groups as well as lawmakers on the left have urged for a wholesale termination of much of the government’s snooping. Silicon Valley, home to some of Obama’s biggest supports, is also pressing for change. So are foreign leaders, rankled by the notion that their ally might be spying on them.

The calls for reforms put Obama in a tough spot give his administration’s insistence that the NSA’s efforts are critical for national security.
While Obama is sure to announce some significant policy changes in his Jan. 17 address, it remains unclear just how far he is willing to go. Read more ..


Significant Lives

Former Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon Dies After Long Coma

January 11th 2014

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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died from complications associated with a massive stroke that he suffered eight years ago. He was 85.

Israeli news reports say Sharon died Saturday at a hospital near Tel Aviv. A week ago, medical officials said his kidneys and other vital organs had begun to fail.

As a soldier, he was known for his daring heroics on the battlefield in the decades following the creation of the State of Israel, most notably during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. In a brilliant tactical display, he led Israeli troops across the Suez Canal, cutting off Egypt's third army. Read more ..



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