The Battle for Syria
|Gil Ronen||September 10th 2013|
Russia has transferred several S-300 missile batteries into Syria, Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai reported Tuesday. The transfers took place despite statements by Russian officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, that Russia would not provide Syria with the advanced anti-aircraft system.
Al Rai claimed that Syria has accelerated the rate at which it ships arms into Syria since the current crisis between Russia and the US began, when chemical weapons were allegedly used to kill over 1,000 civilians, on August 21.
The information was picked up by Voice of Israel public radio, which added that Russian ships are due to offload more military aid in the next few days.
The delivery of Russian missile systems to Syria is legal but the contract "has not yet been realized," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in June. Read more ..
The Edge of Hate
|Jacob Kamara||September 10th 2013|
Ron Paul, a former Texas congressman and Republican presidential candidate, has been condemned for plans to speak at a conference hosted by the Fatima Center, an anti-Semitic fringe Catholic group.
“For Ron Paul to associate himself with such a disreputable, hateful religious movement is simply beyond comprehension,” American Jewish Committee (AJC) Executive Director David Harris said in a statement.
According to AJC, the Fatima Center is a fringe Catholic group led by Father Nicholas Gruner, who was suspended by the Catholic Church in 1996. Grunner rejects Nostra Aetate, a Second Vatican Council ruling that disavowed anti-Semitism and ushered in a new era of positive Jewish-Catholic relations. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, has also accused Gruner of anti-Semitism. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Margaret Besheer||September 9th 2013|
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he will urge the Security Council to demand that Syria transfer its chemical weapons stocks to areas in the country where they can be safely stored and destroyed. His call comes as Moscow urges Damascus to put its weapons under international control to avert a possible U.S. military strike.
As the world awaits the report of a U.N. team of experts who visited Syria and took environmental and medical samples from the site of the August 21 suspected chemical weapons attack, the U.N. chief said Monday that he is already considering proposals he can make to the U.N. Security Council when he presents the team’s findings in the coming days. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Terrence Sterling||September 8th 2013|
Rebel groups, including a branch of al-Qaeda, have taken control of Maaloula, one of the few remaining villages where the language spoken by Christ is still in use, residents and activists reported. “Our army, the Syrian army, has failed us,” said Sister Antoinette, a nun from Maaloula. “We called the army, we begged them to come inside Maaloula and save us but they stayed outside. They abandoned us because we are Christians.”
The Syrian regime denied losing control of Maaloula. But footage posted on YouTube showed rebel fighters walking through the streets of the town. A commander pointed out damage to the walls of the ancient St Thecla monastery that he said was caused by government fire. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Carlo Munoz||September 7th 2013|
The majority of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans serving in Congress are lining up against President Obama's plan for military action in Syria. Of the 16 veterans of those two conflicts serving in Congress, only GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) have publicly supported the White House's plan.
Three other members — Iraq War veterans and Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) are undecided. A fourth, Scott Perry (R-Pa.), said he hasn’t made up his mind either, though he told a town hall this week he wasn’t inclined to support a resolution authorizing force.
Ten of the remaining members have announced their opposition to a military strike. Their ranks include Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost both legs during combat operations in Iraq in 2004. She is adamantly opposed to a U.S. strike on Syria.When Washington decides to use military force “it's military families like mine that are the first to bleed,” she said in a statement this week. Read more ..
Egypts Second Revolution
|Elizabeth Arrott||September 6th 2013|
After years of growing influence, Qatar's apparent ambitions as a regional powerhouse have faltered in Tunisia and Syria and with what some experts say is its latest stumble in Egypt.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood may be on the run but fury against them, and their supporters abroad, has yet to abate. A court in recent days ordered the closing of Al Jazeera's Egyptian channel, widely seen as backing the former Islamist-led government.
On the street, it's not just the channel, but the funder that has come under attack. Driver Gamal Abu Seif is angry at both Al Jazeera and Qatar, saying Egypt should severe relations with them both. He says they've turned the whole world against his country.
Coverage by Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite powerhouse, fanned the spirit of revolution from Tunisia to Syria. It reveled in the election last year of Egypt's first Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Mike Lillis||September 5th 2013|
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is highlighting the restrictions of the Senate's use-of-force resolution to drum up support for President Obama's plan to strike Syria. In her third public letter to her caucus this week, Pelosi emphasized that the Senate proposal, passed Wednesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “addresses some of the concerns expressed by many of our House members.”
“Specifically, the resolution prevents boots on the ground, ties the authorization more closely to the use of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction, and has a limited timetable,” Pelosi wrote. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Mike Lillis||September 5th 2013|
The head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has asked members of the group to stay largely silent on Syria until lawmakers receive more information about President Obama's plan for missile strikes against the war-torn nation.
CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) sent an email Tuesday – via CBC staff – to CBC members asking them “to limit public comment on the issue,” Fudge spokeswoman Ayofemi Kirby said Thursday.
“The chair believes Congress and the American public need more information, and she awaits more briefings between now and early next week before commenting further,” Kirby said.
With a growing number of rank-and-file Republicans lining up in opposition to Obama's intervention proposal, the president will likely need a robust show of support from Democrats to get a use-of-force resolution through the House. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Charles Recknagel||September 5th 2013|
Prior to this week, Iran was rarely mentioned in connection with the August 21 chemical-weapons attack around Damascus that Washington says killed 1,429 people.
Instead, Western powers discussed the need to enforce a global "red line" against governments using chemical weapons. The target for the message: the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which Western intelligence agencies say launched the attack.
But now the talk in Washington is about a second "red line" that also needs to be enforced. And this time the government to receive the message is Iran.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry mentioned Iran repeatedly as he sought U.S. Congressional support on September 4 for military action against Syria. "Iran -- I guarantee you -- is hoping we look the other way," he said. "And surely they will interpret America's unwillingness to act against weapons of mass destruction as an unwillingness to act against weapons of mass destruction." Read more ..
|Sam Baker ||September 4th 2013|
Former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday said Republicans have a duty as elected officials to help fix the “glitches” in ObamaCare. Clinton lent his reputation as "explainer in chief" to the healthcare law's rollout, delivering a roughly hourlong speech in which he praised ObamaCare and criticized congressional Republicans for their steadfast opposition.
"It is the law," Clinton said. "We've all got an interest in trying to faithfully execute the law. To get one of these elected jobs, you actually take an oath to do that." In the speech at his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., Clinton said the healthcare law does have problems — and that Republicans should try to solve them. "We all get paid to show up for work, and we need all hands on deck here," Clinton said.
The former president, who unsuccessfully pursued comprehensive healthcare reform in his first years in office, said ObamaCare is "the best chance we've had" to provide near-universal coverage and repair an inefficient healthcare system. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Martin Barillas||September 3rd 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
The Israeli Defense Ministry announced on September 3 it has carried out a joint missile test with the United States in the Mediterranean Sea earlier on the same day. This followed reports by Russia’s defense ministry that it had detected the launch of “ballistic objects” region, which came at a time of increased tensions in the Mideast as President Barack Obama continues to mull the possibility of a military response to a deadly gas attack that killed more than 1,000 people on August 21 in Syria’s ongoing civil war.
For its part, the IDF said that it had launched one Ankor-type (Sparrow) missile that was controlled from a military base “near the center of Israel.” The United States provided no immediate comment on the joint exercise. There were no reports of missile strikes in Syria.
Syrian state sources said the missiles had fallen harmlessly into the sea and there were no explosions in the capital Damascus, Russian news agencies reported. Read more ..
|Kevin Bogardus||September 2nd 2013|
Unions are frustrated the Obama administration hasn’t responded to their calls for changes to ObamaCare. Labor has watched with growing annoyance as the White House has backed ObamaCare changes in response to concerns from business groups, religious organizations and even lawmakers and their staffs.
They say they don’t understand why their concerns so far have fallen of deaf ears. “We are disappointed that the non-profit health plans offered by unions have not been given the same consideration as the Catholic Church, big business and Capitol Hill staffers,” Unite Here President D. Taylor said.
It's an issue that Obama may have to face when he speaks to the AFL-CIO convention a week after Labor Day. Most unions backed ObamaCare’s passage, but labor argues provisions in the law could cut employee hours, unfairly tax their plans and force workers off their union health plans into the law’s potentially more costly insurance exchanges. Read more ..
Japan After Fukushima
|Sam Orez||September 1st 2013|
from Sky and agencies
An operator at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan has said radiation readings are 18 times higher than previously measured. The staff member said they had found highly radioactive water dripping from a pipe used to connect two coolant tanks and that it had been patched up using tape. The discovery of the pipe came a day after Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said it found new radiation hotspots at four sites around coolant tanks, with one reading at 1,800 millisieverts per hour - a dose that would kill a human left exposed to it in four hours.
Last week the plant operator admitted 300 tonnes of toxic water had seeped out of one of the vast containers - one of around 1,000 on the site - before anyone had noticed. The spill sparked fears the toxic water may have seeped into the nearby ocean and was categorised as a Level 3 event, the most serious category since the meltdown itself. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Martin Barillas||August 30th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the United States will continue to seek an international coalition in response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons, despite opposition by British lawmakers to any military action. "Our approach is to continue to find an international coalition that will act together," Hagel said in The Philippines on August 30 while visiting Manila.
Syria's government has denied responsbility for the attack, noting that some of its own soldiers were killed. It blamed the rebels now arrayed against. UN inspectors are now on the scene to ascertain the type of toxic chemical used in an attack that killed hundreds. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Sylvie Corbet and Jamey Keaten||August 29th 2013|
The French military is ready to commit forces to an operation in Syria if President Francois Hollande decides to do so, the defence minister said Thursday. But the chief of state, who met with the head of the Syrian opposition, stopped short of announcing military intervention over a suspected chemical weapons attack.
Hollande offered his political and humanitarian support for the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, but said the group will only be a viable alternative to Syrian President Bashar Assad if it has military credibility — and if the international community can stop the spiral of violence.
The United States, France and Britain are believed to be preparing possible military action against Assad's regime after an apparent poison gas attack in Syria on Aug. 21. U.N. experts are currently in Syria investigating the attack. Read more ..
|Pat Madgal ||August 28th 2013|
Mitchell Klipper, the CEO of Barnes & Noble's retail group, which includes its bookstores but not its Nook unit, sold about 67% of his shares of the company, according to an SEC filing late Monday. Klipper sold a total of about 400,996 shares for between $13.99 and $14.53 per share. He had about 598,371 shares as of July 17, according to FactSet, equivalent to a 1% stake in the company.
The crumbling Barnes & Noble is said to be in "a transition period" following the departure of CEO William Lynch. It is reviewing its strategy related to its Nook e-book readers, which it invested heavily in as consumers increasingly turn online to buy books. In its most recent quarter, its net loss nearly doubled and revenue fell nearly 9% to $1.33 billion. Last week, Barnes & Noble founder Leonard Riggio took his offer to buy the company's retail operations off the table. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Joshua Levitt||August 28th 2013|
Members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, pointed to budget cuts Wednesday as the reason why 40% of the country’s population has been left without access to gas masks, as Israelis scramble to prepare for potential retaliation by Syria if the U.S. moves forward with an expected attack on the regime as a response to its use of chemical weapons.
MK Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Communications Minister, who is responsible for Israel’s postal authority, which distributes the gas mask kits and atropine syringes used as an antidote to some chemical weapons, called a meeting for late Wednesday with representatives of the Home Front Command and the National Emergency Authority for a new assessment of what preparations are still required, Israel’s Channel 10 reported.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Home Front Command call center lines collapsed due to the high number of inquiries for the gas mask kits. In Jerusalem, a distribution center was mobbed, and gas mask kits were looted, while in Sharon, Israelis rioted and the Army requested police to help restore order. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||August 27th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
|Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev|
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov says Ukraine cannot be in the European Union and the Russian-led Customs Union at the same time. Shuvalov made the remark after talks between Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in Moscow.
Earlier, Medvedev urged Azarov to discuss "the legal, organizational, and economic consequences" if Kyiv signs a free-trade agreement with the European Union.
Moscow wants Kyiv to abandon a possible association agreement with the EU and is pushing it to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan instead.
Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Matthew Hilburn||August 26th 2013|
Large parts of China’s Internet went dark this past weekend as the country came under what the Beijing government is calling the “largest ever” hack attack on Chinese sites.
According to The China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), which “operates and administers country code top level domain of .cn and Chinese domain name system,” the denial of service, or DDoS, attacks started at 2:00 a.m. local time Sunday morning. CNNIC said the initial attack was followed two hours later by a larger attack. Both focused on websites with the .cn extension.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Matthew Prince, the chief executive of CloudFlare, a company that provides Web performance and security services for more than a million websites, said China saw a 32 percent drop in Internet traffic for domains in the company’s network during the two-hour attack. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Joshua Levitt||August 25th 2013|
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday tied reports of a mass chemical attack in Syria to “Iran, and Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah,” who, he said, “are there on the ground playing an active role assisting Syria.”
“Assad’s regime has become a full Iranian client” Netanyahu said, while “Syria has become Iran’s testing ground” to assess the world’s “reaction on the use of chemical weapons.”
Netanyahu said that the tragedy in Syria, where more than 100,000 people have died, was minor compared to what might happen if Iran were allowed to acquire even more deadly weapons.
“This demonstrates, yet again, that we simply cannot allow the world’s most dangerous regimes to acquire the world’s most dangerous weapons. In the end, the extremists use these weapons. So we must prevent them from having these weapons,” he said. “I speak here of course in the context of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran must not be allowed to get nuclear weapons. What is happening in Syria, simply demonstrates what will happen if Iran gets even deadlier weapons.” Read more ..
Israel's Next Northern War
|Martin Barillas||August 23rd 2013|
Israel’s air forces conducted a raid on a Palestinian terrorist group in Lebanon on August 23, according to official sources, just a few hours after another organization fired four rockets into Israel. An Israeli military spokesman said after the raid, that Israeli aircraft "targeted a terror site located between Beirut and Sidon in response to a barrage of four rockets launched at northern Israel yesterday.” The spokesman confirmed that the pilots scored direct hits.
According to Lebanon's NNA news agency, the Israelis struck a position of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC), a hardline militant group which claimed it had nothing to do with the August 22 rocket barrage. It was the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is linked to the Al-Qaeda terror organization, that claimed responsibility for the rockets. No Israeli casualties were reported. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades conducted similar rocket attacks in 2009 and 2011.
Israeli Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai said on August 22 that the rockets were "launched by the global jihad terror organization." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened retaliation, saying "Anyone who harms us, or tries to harm us, should know -- we will strike them." Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Margaret Besheer||August 22nd 2013|
The United Nations secretary-general says the U.N. chemical weapons inspection team that is in Syria must be allowed to quickly visit the site of Wednesday’s alleged poison gas attack. Ban Ki-moon’s office says it has made a formal request to the Syrian government and expects a positive response “without delay.”
U.N. Spokesman Eduardo del Buey said the U.N. chief remains “deeply troubled” by the reports of the government's alleged use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb that activists say killed hundreds of people.
“The secretary-general believes that the incidents reported yesterday need to be investigated without delay," he said. "Since yesterday he has been in touch with world leaders on the matter. He has instructed Under-Secretary-General Angela Kane to travel to Damascus.” Read more ..
China on Edge
|William Ide||August 21st 2013|
China is showcasing this week’s trial of disgraced politician Bo Xilai as part of a larger crackdown on corruption. But political analysts see the trial quite differently. They say that although the case addresses some wrongdoing, the build up to the trial has appeared to be more of a political bargaining game than a true effort to stamp out widespread official graft.
The trial of one of China’s most popular and flamboyant politicians, Bo Xilai, begins early Thursday in the eastern coastal city Jinan. It will be held away from China’s political nerve center of Beijing and far from Bo’s last stronghold, the southern metropolis of Chongqing.
Chinese state media say the trial is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “high-voltage” crackdown on corruption, and that it shows that no one is above the law. Political analyst Hu Xingdou says a closer look at the charges against Bo tells a different story. Read more ..
Pakistan on Edge
|Apyaz Gui||August 20th 2013|
An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan Tuesday indicted former military leader Pervez Musharraf on charges of conspiring to murder Benazir Bhutto, the country’s iconic politician who was twice elected as prime minister.
The court hearing took place amid extremely tight security in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, where the powerful military is headquartered. Journalists were not allowed in the court room for a hearing that lasted just 20 minutes.
Prosecutor Chaudhry Mohammad Azhar says former President Musharraf was personally present in the court when the judge read out charges to him. He told VOA the former army chief has been charged with murder, conspiracy to murder and facilitating the crime. “Yes, he [Musharraf] did appear himself and he was read over the charge against him. He pleaded not guilty and opted to be tried in the case,” Azhar said. Read more ..
|Blake Neff||August 19th 2013|
Journalist Glenn Greenwald on Monday said the United Kingdom’s nine-hour detention of his partner was “a failed attempt at intimidation” that has hardened his resolve to reveal more secrets about state-sponsored surveillance.
“[I’m going] to write much more aggressively than before,” the reporter told reporters in Rio de Janeiro, according to The Associated Press. “I have many documents about the system of espionage of England, and now my focus will be there, too. I think they’ll regret what they’ve done.”
David Miranda, Greenwald’s partner, who lives with him in Rio de Janeiro, was detained in Heathrow Airport for nine hours Sunday by London police, who used their authority under the U.K.’s Terrorism Act to detain individuals for long periods without making an arrest. Read more ..
The Battle for Egypt
There are conflicting reports that anti-military marches planned in Cairo have been cancelled over security fears. Sources said that marches planned at Roxi Square in the Egyptian capital had been cancelled as army snipers had been placed on buildings along the planned route. However, others said marches to the Supreme Constitutional Court building would go ahead. Protesters had been preparing to return to the streets on Sunday following calls for fresh demonstrations against the interim, military-backed government. However, the Brotherhood said there were fears about safety.
Sources had told her that the marches were cancelled due to "presence of army snipers on buildings on the routes". The Brotherhood also cancelled a press conference near Roxi that was planned for Sunday evening. Read more ..
|Jim Kouri||August 17th 2013|
In recently obtained documents from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), an "Inside the Beltway" public-interest group reported on Thursday that it discovered that on Feb. 12, 2013, Sarah Gerecke, HUD's assistant secretary for Office of Housing Counseling, may have violated federal law.
According to officials at Judicial Watch, Gerecke requested that more than $200,000 be removed from the coffers of the disbanded Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA), an ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) affiliate, and added to the coffers of HUD intermediary Mission for Peace “to specifically pay for the activities of former AHCOA affiliates.” Read more ..
|Henry Ridgwell||August 17th 2013|
The eurozone has finally emerged from 18 months of recession - posting positive growth after unexpectedly strong consumer spending in the currency bloc’s core economies. Analysts are warning, however, that this is not the end of the euro crisis.
After six consecutive quarters of negative growth, the eurozone is finally recovering. The growth figure of 0.3 percent in the second quarter hardly signals a boom - but it is a milestone, said Daragh Maher, foreign exchange strategist at HSBC in London.
“The very fact that we can talk about growth, politicians can talk about growth, markets can talk about growth again - it’s a significant psychological development,” said Maher. Portugal posted the strongest growth of the quarter - expanding its economy by 1.1 percent. Good news for a country that had been forced to take a $102 billion bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Dan Levin||August 16th 2013|
from VOA and agencies
A sudden influx of thousands of Syrians have poured into Iraq's Kurdistan region after weeks of fighting between Islamist insurgents and Kurds in northern Syria. A reporter in the northern Iraqi city of Dohuk says about 6,000 Syrian Kurds recently crossed a bridge over the Tigris River into the Kurdistan region. He says at least 1,000 are still waiting at the Syrian border to cross into Iraqi Kurdistan.
Speaking in Geneva Friday, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Adrian Edwards says the rush of refugees started when a group of 750 refugees crossed into Peshkhabour in Iraqi Kurdistan on Thursday. Thousands more followed. Read more ..
Nigeria on Edge
|Heather Murdock||August 15th 2013|
Amnesty International says satellite imagery shows 9,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their homes or businesses in a Lagos, Nigeria slum this year. And while residents told the organization that they were forced to leave at gunpoint, the government says the area was a trash dump.
It is an old story, and it is not just in Nigeria. Poor people build makeshift homes on empty land. When the land becomes valuable they are forced out. Amnesty International says in February of this year, an area known Badia East in Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, was demolished with no warning to residents.
The organization's Meghna Abraham said armed officers accompanied construction crews to the demolition, and they told people “If you love your life, move out.” Many of those people, she said, still are homeless and jobless.
“A lot of them had these small businesses and were self-sufficient in the past, but now have lost their sources of income in addition to their homes so are completely dependent on families or friends to give them even basic necessities - clothing, food,” said Abraham. Read more ..
The Edge of Justice
|Terrence Sterling||August 14th 2013|
Lloyd Khemradj, Julian McKnight and Joshua Reddin--the three teens accused of beating a younger student aboard a Pinellas County school bus made a court appearance Tuesday. A recommendation of court-supervised probation was made for two of the 15-tear-old boys, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Those two boys face "juvenile aggravated battery" charges. A recommendation has not been made yet for the third teen, who faces juvenile aggregated battery and robbery charges.
Meanwhile, the father of one of the three boys made an apology today prior to the court appearance. He "just got mixed [up] with bad people, that’s all … He’s sorry,” said Julian McKnight, according to Fox News. The case has gained national publicity since a video of the beating was released and showed the violence of the incident, which resulted in the 13-year-old victim suffering a broken arm.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Assistant State Attorney William F. Schopper told the judge: "It's hard to convey what happened in this case without actually seeing the video." He is arguing for a stricter form of probation for the two. The beating apparently was in retaliation against the younger boy for refusing to buy marijuana from two of the three teenage suspects. Read more ..
Iran on Edge
|Golnaz Esfandiari||August 13th 2013|
Many women who helped vote Hassan Rohani into office as Iran's new president did so in the hope that he would push for equality. Yet, when Rohani released his proposed new cabinet on inauguration day on August 4, his list had the makings of an all-male club.
In an apparent response to the criticism that followed from female voters and rights watchers, the cabinet now has its first woman. Elham Aminzadeh, a former conservative lawmaker who reportedly teaches at several universities, has been named vice president for legal affairs.
Rohani said in an August 11 decree that Aminzadeh was given the job because of her "scientific competence" and "legal qualifications" and also for her "moral virtues," Fars reported.
Susan Tahmasebi, a prominent Iranian women's rights activist, welcomed Aminzadeh's appointment as a positive step. Yet she says it still falls short of her expectations for Rohani's presidency.
"It's women's right to have female ministers appointed as well," Tahmasebi says. "[Former Iranian President Mahmud] Ahmadinejad introduced three female ministers, one of whom was actually approved by the parliament. We expected more from Rohani, especially [since] he came in promising to have a positive view on women's issues, whereas Ahmadinejad's presidency, all eight years, was marked with serious setbacks for women." Read more ..
The Edge of Justice
|Chris Hannas||August 12th 2013|
The Justice Department is taking steps to reduce the number of non-violent drug offenders who face long mandatory prison terms.
U.S. laws dating from the 1980s require long jail terms for anyone convicted of certain drug crimes. But in a speech Monday to the American Bar Association in San Francisco, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he has ordered prosecutors to make sure minor offenders are not charged with crimes that carry sentences appropriate for drug kingpins. Read more ..
|Michael Bowman||August 11th 2013|
U.S. lawmakers continue to slam Russia over Moscow's decision to grant temporary asylum to former federal contractor and surveillance program leaker Edward Snowden.
Long gone are the heady days after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, when Washington and Moscow spoke of each other as budding allies in the post-Cold War era.
Sunday, American lawmakers took to the airwaves to heap scorn on the Russian government, and in particular President Vladimir Putin. Republican Senator John McCain spoke on the Fox News Sunday television program.
“He [Putin] is an old KGB colonel that has no illusions about our relationship, does not care about a relationship with the United States, continues to oppress his people, continues to oppress the media, and continues to act in an autocratic and unhelpful fashion," he said. McCain said the Snowden episode signals “incredibly bad relations between the United States and Russia,” adding that President Putin has “put his thumb right in America’s eye.” Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Sharon Behn||August 9th 2013|
The United States has ordered the evacuation of its consulate in the eastern Pakistani city Lahore because of what it calls “specific threats.” The State Department also issued a new travel warning urging all U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Pakistan. Meghan Gregonis, spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in the Pakistan capital Islamabad, said all non-emergency personnel had been evacuated from the consulate in the eastern city Lahore.
"We have received information regarding a threat to our consulate in Lahore, Pakistan. As a precautionary measure we have undertaken a drawdown for all but emergency personnel in Lahore," she said. "We do not have an announcement at this time on when the consulate will reopen. "
Gregonis said it was not clear if the threats received against the consulate in Lahore were linked to the al-Qaeda threats that forced the extended closure of 19 US embassies and consulates across the Middle East and Africa. "At this time the threat is localized, and the embassy here in Islamabad and other consulates are scheduled to reopen on Monday after the (Muslim) Eid holiday," she said. Read more ..
|Terrence Sterling||August 8th 2013|
Reuters has moved a story which reported that "The U.S. government on Tuesday filed two civil lawsuits against Bank of America that accuse the bank of investor fraud in its sale of $850 million of residential mortgage-backed securities. The lawsuits are the latest legal headache for the second-largest U.S. bank, which has already agreed to pay in excess of $45 billion to settle disputes stemming from the 2008 financial crisis.
"While most of the cases Bank of America has already confronted pertain to its acquisitions of brokerage Merrill Lynch and home lender Countrywide, the lawsuits filed on Tuesday pertain to mortgages the government said were originated, securitized and sold by Bank of America's legacy businesses." Read more ..
The US and Russia
|Dan Robinson||August 7th 2013|
President Barack Obama has canceled a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin that was supposed to take place next month before the G20 summit in Russia.
For a U.S. president who made the "reset" of relations with Russia a major foreign-policy priority, the sharp diplomatic rebuke to Putin marks a pivotal point for his relations with the Russian leader and the overall bilateral relationship.
A White House statement said that after a "careful review" it was determined there was "not enough recent progress" in the bilateral agenda to hold the summit in early September. The statement noted key areas on which Washington and Moscow have cooperated, including the New START [nuclear arms reduction] Treaty, Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea.
But it said that given the lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues and human rights, it would be "more constructive to postpone the summit." Read more ..
The Weather on Edge
|Sharon Behn||August 5th 2013|
Rescue and relief efforts are underway in Pakistan and Afghanistan after flash floods caused by heavy monsoon rains inundated parts the region. More than 100 people were killed in both countries and preparations are underway for more rains in September, the typical monsoon season.
Monsoon rains over the weekend left a trail of destruction. Dozens of people were killed in the flash floods, some electrocuted by fallen power lines, others crushed as their houses collapsed. Whole villages were washed away and cars swept off the roads in northwest Pakistan. In the southern port city of Karachi, water levels along some streets were waist-high.
Before hitting Pakistan, the storm killed at least 58 people in five Afghan provinces, while an estimated 30 others remain missing. In Kabul's Surobi district, authorities say 34 people were killed in a remote and mountainous area. Read more ..
|James Brooke||August 4th 2013|
As former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden settled into exile somewhere in Russia, the United States ambassador here met Friday with a high-ranking Kremlin aide to discuss “the new status” of the fugitive American leaker.
Ambassador Michael McFaul’s meeting with Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov came as the Kremlin sought to downplay Moscow's granting of one-year asylum status to the American, who is wanted in the U.S. for leaking classified documents detailing massive NSA Internet and telephone data surveillance programs. President Vladimir Putin visited an annual youth camp and fielded questions - on every topic, but Snowden.
While Kremlin officials downplayed the Snowden affair, analysts speculated that the U.S. might cancel a meeting Russia's defense and foreign ministers are set to have next week with their American counterparts. The White House did not say whether this meeting - or President Obama’s summit here with President Putin next month - would be canceled. Read more ..
Egypt's Second Revolution
|Elizabeth Arrott||August 2nd 2013|
Egyptian General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has emerged as the key leader in the interim military government. The general rose from obscurity, was chosen by then-President Mohamed Morsi to lead the armed forces last year, and went on to unseat him.
To millions of Egyptians, the savior of the nation, the man who ousted President Mohamed Morsi, checked the threat of unbridled Islamism and steered Egypt back to its true path.
Massive banners of the general dominate rallies, as supporters chant his name. Outside a tent in Tahrir square, woodcarver Ali el-Gazzar turned el-Sissi's image into a sculpture.
“Thanks be to God to General el-Sissi,” he said, adding there would have been a civil war if God hadn't wanted him to exterminate terrorism. Since el-Sissi has come to dominate the political landscape, “terrorism" has become a code word for Morsi and his supporters, hunkered down in encampments in Cairo and around the country. Read more ..
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