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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 ..


Iraq on Edge

Iraq is Turning to Russia for Aid

January 10th 2014

Bye bye Iraq

One week has passed since al-Qaida militants raised their flag over government buildings in Fallujah and declared an independent Islamic state.  The White House has called on Congress to help provide aid to Iraq as soon as possible.  This week, the Iraqi ambassador to the United States told VOA in an interview with the Persian News Network his country is going to Russia for help. 

The recent terrorist takeover in Fallujah and other parts of Anbar province has created a new urgency within the Iraqi government.  And while Iraq appreciates current U.S. counterterrorism support, the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., Lukman Faily, says the government is turning to Russia for military equipment while the U.S. Congress deliberates President Barack Obama's latest request. "We are under no obligation to work with only one partner, whether it's Iranians, or Americans or Russians or French, no," said Faily. Read more ..


South Korea on Edge

South Koreans Show Outrage Over Rodman's Pyongyang Trip

January 9th 2014

Kim Jong Un North Korea basketball

American basketball star Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea is not winning him many friends in South Korea.

South Korean social media sites are filled with sneering comments about the former National Basketball Association All-Star - accusing him of going to North Korea for money and calling him names like “psychopath.”

One Twitter user wrote, “Dear North Korea: Rodman is a gift.  Happy (belated) holidays” @MangJang_chb(01.06).

Comments became especially angry after a video showed him singing “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Rodman, who is on his fourth trip to North Korea, calls Kim his friend.  This time, he brought along a group of former NBA players and others to play basketball with North Korean players, an effort in what Rodman calls sports diplomacy. Read more ..


The Toxic Edge

IBM in Toxic Debacle

January 9th 2014

The findings from a federal study which examined over 34,000 workers who worked at IBM's Endicott plant from 1969 to 2001 have just been released. The study found the total number of deaths from all causes and all cancers combined were lower among the workers than what would be expected.

However, deaths from some types of cancer were more frequent than what would be expected. Several types of cancers were relatively more common in workers who had more potential exposure to specific chemicals or worked longer in certain production buildings.

This, according to a doctor who conducted another study of IBM Endicott workers which pre-dated the federal one, is consistent with his findings.

"It replicated one major finding which was lymphoma. We found that in an earlier look and sure enough the NIOSH study showed it as well. Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma was elevated in the workers in this plant in Endicott," said Dr. Richard Clapp, Professor Emeritus at the Boston University School of Public Health. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama Aides Strike Back at Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates

January 8th 2014

Former White House officials rushed to defend President Obama against scathing criticism from former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. In his new memoir, Gates wrote the president did not believe in his own strategy in Afghanistan, and that for him, it was “all about getting out.”

Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said Gates shouldn’t have released his memoir while the war in Afghanistan is still being fought. “It’s one thing as historians look back on an administration, but in the middle of it, when you’re pursuing a war at the same time, and one that is controversial with the American people and has been very difficult on our military, I think it’s just a disservice to be very frank with you,” Daley said on January 7 on CBS’s “This Morning.”

“I understand while everyone wants to get out there and write a book and get on the circuit, but I think it’s unfortunate,” Daley said, while emphasizing he had respect for the former Defense chief.

In the coming book “Duty: Memories of a Secretary at War,” Gates said that some White House staff took “micromanagement and operational meddling to a new level.” Read more ..


The Battle for Iraq

Iraq city Fallujah Now Fully Under al-Qaida Control

January 7th 2014

Rebel fighters

The city center of Iraq's Fallujah has fallen completely into the hands of fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, police said Saturday, yet another victory for the hardline group that has made waves across the region in recent days. ISIL is also one of the strongest rebel units in Syria, where it has imposed a strict version of Islamic law in territories it holds and kidnapped and killed anyone it deems critical of its rule. Also on Saturday, it claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood in Lebanon.

Hadi Razeij, head of the Anbar province police force, said police had left the city center entirely and had positioned themselves on the edge of town. "The walls of the city are in the hands of the police force, but the people of Fallujah are the prisoners of ISIL," he said, speaking on Arabic language satellite broadcaster al-Arabiya. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

Illegal Weapons Found at Palestinian Embassy in Czech Republic Following Mysterious Death of Ambassador

January 6th 2014

Just days after the death of the Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic in Prague, some 12 illegal weapons were uncovered at the embassy complex on January 5. While local police declined to give further details, Palestine’s deputy foreign minister hastened to say that the weapons were not illegal.

Deputy Palestinian Foreign Minister Taysir Jaradat confirmed on January 5 that in a meeting with his Czech counterpart he was held to account for the firearms. “We told them that these guns have been in the embassy for a long time -- going back to the former regime of Czechoslovakia -- and these guns were either licensed in the embassy or were given as gifts to the ambassador." Speaking to Voice of Palestine, Jaradat affirmed "They are not in use."

During the years of the Cold War, the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization was closely aligned with the former Soviet Union and the communist-controlled countries, including Romania, the Democratic Republic of Germany, and the former Czechoslovakia. The PLO had diplomatic representatives throughout the former Soviet bloc. PLO terrorists, as were other leftists, received training in explosives, espionage and disinformation. In addition, numerous Palestinians received academic training at universities in Soviet-controlled countries. For example, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas holds a doctorate from a Soviet university. Read more ..


The War on Terror

American Weapons Manufacturer Refuses Sale to Pakistan

January 6th 2014

A U.S. gun manufacturer has turned down a multi-million dollar opportunity to sell arms to Pakistan, citing concerns the weapons would be used against American soldiers.

Nick Young, founder of Desert Tech, said on his company's Facebook page that it had been approached to "legally supply" sniper systems to Pakistan. The company was formerly known as Desert Tactical Arms.

Young said the Utah-based company's "greatest fear" was that the equipment might be used against U.S. troops. He said he started the company "to protect Americans, not endanger them." He also said that his company employs several military veterans.

The contract was reported to be worth as much as $15 million.

"I don't feel good about this, and it really got the owner Nick Young to think about it," said Desert Tech Sales Manager Mike Davis. Read more ..


Egypt After Morsi

Dozens Injured or Dead from Recent Cairo Clashes

January 5th 2014

Wounded Egyptian Protester

The death toll from the latest clashes between hard-line Sunni protesters and security forces in Egypt has risen to 17, a security official said Saturday, less than two weeks ahead of a key referendum on an amended constitution. In what were the deadliest street battles in months, Cairo and other heavily populated residential areas on Friday witnessed hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members and their supporters throw firebombs and rocks at security forces, who responded with water cannons and tear gas.

Health Ministry spokesman Mohammed Fathallah said 62 people were injured in the violence.

The security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said police arrested 258 protesters and confiscated homemade bombs, firearms, knives, fireworks and Molotov cocktails. Among the security forces, 17 were injured in the clashes and three vehicles and a traffic office in Egypt's second largest city of Alexandria were set on fire, he said.

Read more ..

Broken Government

Deadlocked Congress Faces Big Job in 2014

January 4th 2014

Statistics show that last year’s session of Congress was the least productive in history, with the Democratic-led Senate and the Republican-led House of Representatives far apart on most critical issues. Now, lawmakers are heading back to Capitol Hill for a fresh start in 2014, with plenty of unfinished business to take care of, including passing a Farm Bill, raising the debt ceiling and dealing with immigration reform.

Activists for immigration reform, like these hunger strikers, are likely to keep the pressure on the House of Representatives to take up the issue. The Senate passed a wide-reaching immigration reform bill last year. House Speaker John Boehner said he realizes reform is necessary. “The only way to make sure immigration reform works this time is to address these complicated issues one step at a time. I think doing so will give the American people confidence that we’re dealing with these issues in a thoughtful way and a deliberative way,” he said. Read more ..


Broken Intelligence

Napolitano: No Clemency for Edward Snowden

January 3rd 2014

Snowden

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday that she “would not put clemency on the table” for NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

“I think Snowden has exacted quite a bit of damage and did it in a way that violated the law,” Napolitano said in an interview airing on "Meet the Press" this Sunday.

She said damage from Snowden’s actions will be seen for years to come.
Asked if the administration should consider a deal that would allow Snowden to avoid jail time in return for unreleased documents, Napolitano said she couldn't judge without knowing what information the former defense contractor still had.

“But from where I sit today, I would not put clemency on the table at all,” she said. The New York Times and another former Obama administration official are among the voices calling for Snowden to be given a break. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Terrorists will not Triumph, says IOC president

January 2nd 2014

Chechen jihadis

Responding to two recent terrorist bombings in Russia, the International Olympic Committee's new president, Thomas Bach of Germany, has insisted "Sochi 2014 is for athletic achievements and terrorism must never triumph" in his New Year's Day message on Wednesday.

Bach, who had succeeded France's Jacques Rogge to become the ninth IOC chief, blasted the terrorists for their suicide bomb attacks which left more than 34 Russians dead. Security experts say that the attacks were a warning of what can be expected as Russia gears up to host the Winter Olympics in less than six weeks.

Despite the terrorist bombings, Bach claimed in his New Year's message that he firmly believes that the Russian government, police and military will "deliver a safe and secure Olympic Winter Games for all athletes and all participants and we must ensure that nothing interferes with them [the athletes] realizing their full potential in the world's biggest sports event."

Read more ..

North Korea on Edge

North Korean Leader Boasts of Unity After Bloody Purge

January 1st 2014

Kim Jong-Un

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country is united following a political purge that included the execution of his uncle. In a New Year's day speech, Kim also called for better relations with South Korea while warning Seoul and Washington that conflict on the peninsula could lead to a nuclear catastrophe.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday about a bloody purge in December of challengers to his political power.

In the high-level upheaval, Kim executed his uncle and one-time mentor, Jang Song Thaek, believed to be Pyongyang's number two in power.

South Korea's spy agency said at least two of Jang's followers were also killed as the young leader sought to consolidate his rule.

The unprecedented publicity of the violent removal of someone so close to the Kim family raised concerns about stability in the nuclear-armed North. But in an annual New Year's Day speech aired by state broadcasters, Kim Jong Un said he removed what he called “factionalist filth” lurking in the party in order to restore unity.

He said the Korean Workers' Party detected and purged the anti-Party, counterrevolutionary factionalists at an opportune time and with a correct decision. He said the party and revolutionary ranks were further consolidated and their single-hearted unity was solidified by 100 times. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Corruption Probe Pummels Turkish Economy

December 31st 2013

Erdogan

Turkey's deepening political crisis between the government and judiciary over corruption allegations is impacting the country's stock market and currency. Concerns are growing about the financial and economic fall out.

The increasingly bitter struggle between the government and judiciary over a graft has pummeled Turkey's financial markets. The stock market has fallen nearly 20 percent while the Turkish lira has hit new lows.

Analyst Atilla Yesilada, of the Istanbul based political consulting firm Global Source Partners, says the full impact of the crisis will only be felt when financial markets return after the New Year's holiday period.

"In January or so, the world banking and investment community will return to their desks, trying to decide what to do with the Turkey conundrum. Unless there is a breakthrough in this crisis, I anticipate a lot of macro funds would sell," he said. "We don’t see a way out, How is it going to end? I mean nobody can speculate a decent scenario." Read more ..


Russia on Edge

International Olympic Committee Reassures World about Terrorism in Russia

December 30th 2013

Chechen Islamist militants

The International Olympic Committee says it remains confident the upcoming Winter Games in Sochi will be “safe and secure” despite terrorist bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd that have killed more than 30 people.

The IOC says its president, Thomas Bach, has written to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing condolences for the Volgograd attacks and stating that he remains "certain that everything will be done to ensure the security of the athletes and all the participants of the Olympic Games."

Monday, a suspected suicide attack demolished a crowded trolley bus in Volgograd, some 650 kilometers northeast of Sochi, which will host the 2014 Winter Olympics in February. The attack came one day after a deadly suicide bombing at the city’s main railway station.

Russian authorities have increased security in and around the southern city. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Muslim Brotherhood Supporters Torch University Buildings During Riot

December 30th 2013

Egypt army protest

An Egyptian university student was killed in Cairo when members and supporters of the radical Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, attacked campus police and torched university buildings on Saturday. Egyptian news organizations are blaming the student protesters for large fires set in two buildings on the campus of Cairo's al-Azhar University. Last week the Muslim Brotherhood was officially designated a "terrorist organization" and banned by the Egyptian government.

The deadly conflict between the Brotherhood and the Egyptian government began just after Egypt's military ousted President Mohammed Morsi, who is a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi was deposed and then arrested in July. The campus fires, which were ignited on Saturday morning, were finally brought under control in the afternoon by campus security police who had to fight the fire while attempting to quell the riot. However, examinations for several classes were rescheduled for a later date by school officials.

Read more ..


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