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Broken Banking

US Sues Bank of America for Massive Mortgage Fraud

August 8th 2013

Home Foreclosure

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

Obama Cancels Meeting with Russian President

August 7th 2013

Obama Putin

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

Dozens Killed in Pakistan, Afghanistan Floods

August 5th 2013

Pakistan flooding

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 ..


Broken Intelligence

Snowden Drops Out of Sight, Kremlin Changes Subject

August 4th 2013

Snowden

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

Egyptians Polarized Over Top Ruling General

August 2nd 2013

General Al-Sisi

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 ..


Israel Next Northern War

Further Israeli Airstrikes on Syria Weapons Cache Likely

August 1st 2013

Israeli Jet Diving

Further Israeli strikes inside Syria are now expected after American intelligence analysts concluded that a recent attempt to destroy a stockpile of weapons there did not succeed, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

The strike, which allegedly took place July 5th near Latakia, targeted Russian-made anti-ship cruise missiles. While the warehouse containing the missiles was destroyed, American intelligence analysts have concluded that at least some of the Yakhont missiles had been removed from their launchers and moved from the warehouse before the attack.

According to The Times, the Assad government sought to hide the fact that the missiles had been missed by setting fire to launchers and vehicles at the site to create the impression of a devastating blow, according to American intelligence reports. Read more ..


Broken Economy

Obama Offers Corporate Tax Cuts Linked to Jobs

July 31st 2013

PBObama contemplative

U.S. President Barack Obama is proposing a compromise to help break a deadlock with opposition Republicans over his economic plans.

On Tuesday the president went to a giant product distribution center for retailer Amazon.com in the southern city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, to announce his latest proposed “grand bargain” on the U.S. economy.

"So today, I came here to offer a framework that might help break through some of the political logjam in Washington, try to get Congress to start moving on some of these proven ideas," he said.

Obama offered to cut corporate tax rates in exchange for more spending on programs designed to create jobs for the middle class.

"If folks in Washington really want a grand bargain, how about a grand bargain for middle class jobs?" he asked. "How about a grand bargain for middle class jobs?" White House officials have said the president’s proposal will be the first of a series of new economic ideas he will advance in the next few months. He said "serious people" in both parties should accept this deal.

"I am willing to work with Republicans on reforming our corporate tax code, as long as we use the money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle class jobs," he said. "That's the deal." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Taliban Free Fellow Jailed Terrorists from Pakistani Prison

July 30th 2013

Kabul Car Bomb

Security forces have launched a massive manhunt in a city in the northwestern Pakistani province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where more than 200 prisoners have escaped following an overnight militant assault on a prison.

With Taliban-led violence on the rise, the leader of the province's ruling party has warned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that Pakistan could lose its anti-terror war unless a national counter-terrorism policy is quickly devised.

Dozens of suspected Taliban fighters armed with bombs and grenades took part in the Monday night raid on the central prison of Dera Ismail Khan, a remote town in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Eyewitnesses and residents said the attack began with a powerful explosion, which was followed by smaller blasts that blew up electricity lines into the prison and rattled almost every house in the neighborhood. Twelve people, including four policemen, were killed during the attack, which lasted for several hours, according to officials. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Cairo Protesters Divided by Opposing Views

July 29th 2013

Egypt Protests

In polarized Egypt, protesters in Cairo occupy camps divided by fear and barriers made of brick and barbed wire. The military has threatened supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi with orders to disperse while leaders of his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, are calling for marches on security buildings.

In the hot afternoon, Cairo’s Tahrir Square is nearly empty. This was the epicenter of the 2011 demonstrations, which led to what Egyptians proudly refer to as “The Revolution,” that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-reign.

On Friday night, the square was packed with supporters blowing plastic horns as fireworks shot up over the crowds. But now the demonstrators who occupy the square have set up checkpoints on the roads surrounding their camp and some are blocked with sandbags, tires and barbed wire. Read more ..


Broken Government

Anthony Weiner's Campaign Manager Resigns

July 28th 2013

Click to select Image

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) bid for New York City mayor faced another setback Saturday with reports his campaign manager quit the team.

The New York Times reported that Danny Kedem, the head of Weiner’s campaign, resigned following last week’s disclosures that the candidate had continued sending explicit sexual messages to young women on the internet long after the same revelations forced him to resign his House seat in 2011.

Two campaign aides said Kedem informed Weiner of his decision to leave the team in the last 24 hours. Reports said Kedem had previously worked on a New Haven, Conn. mayoral race and on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid.
The news is the latest blow to Weiner’s campaign, which once saw him leading in the polls.

Last week, Weiner publicly admitted that he had sent lewd messages to women as recently as last summer using the online alias “Carlos Danger.”

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed City Council Speaker Christine Quinn now leading the Democratic primary with 25 percent support to Weiner in second place with 16. Weiner has also faced harsh criticism from fellow Democrats, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) calling him “disrespectful of women” and his behavior “reprehensible.” Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Muslim Brotherhood Protesters Refuse to Disperse in Cairo

July 28th 2013

Muslim Brotherhood bus burning 10 2012

Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi are continuing their protest in the Egyptian capital, despite orders from security forces to end their sit-in and disperse. The situation in Cairo's Nasr City was relatively quiet Sunday morning on July 28, after fighting between security forces and Morsi supporters killed at least 74 people in Cairo and Alexandria since Friday. Around a thousand people have been injured.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement said on July 27 that police fired into unarmed demonstrators in Nasr City, where members have been camped for weeks demanding his reinstatement. Egyptian officials deny the accusations, saying police only fired tear gas and that pro-Morsi marchers were responsible for the violence.

In Alexandria, Egyptian authorities said people inside a mosque fired shots into the surrounding neighborhood Saturday, while Morsi supporters say gunmen shot into the mosque. Read more ..


Broken Government

Shutdown Odds Rising as Obama Congress Entrench on Spending

July 27th 2013

Congress-senate

The odds of a government shutdown this autumn are increasing, with the White House and congressional leaders both digging in.

On Capitol Hill, partisans on both sides of the aisle are demanding that the next federal budget include provisions their political opponents will find objectionable.

Twelve Republican senators — including likely 2016 presidential candidates Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — have said they will not sign off on any spending bill that includes funding for the president’s signature health care law. And as of Friday, at least 69 House Republicans had signed on to a yet-to-be-sent letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) demanding that a continuing resolution defund ObamaCare in its entirety. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), meanwhile, vowed to do “everything within my ability” to oppose a budget that maintains sequester-level spending. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Muhammed Morsi Charged with Conspiracy with Hamas Terrorist Group

July 26th 2013

Morsi

An Egyptian judge has ordered the continued detention of ousted President Mohamed Morsi on charges he conspired with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, as the country braces for rival protests on July 26.

The official MENA news agency said Morsi has been detained for 15 days for investigation into the charges. The Islamist leader has been held without charge in secret military detention since July 3, when he was removed by Egypt's army.

Investigators are determining whether Morsi worked with Hamas to help him and dozens of other Islamist leaders escape from prison during the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood has said local residents helped free the prisoners. But a Cairo court has been investigating whether Morsi collaborated with Hamas to carry out attacks on police stations. It is unclear whether he will face the charges in court. Read more ..


China on Edge

China Indicts Bo Xilai for Bribery, Corruption

July 25th 2013

Bo Xilai

A court in China has indicted disgraced politician Bo Xilai on charges of corruption and abuse of power.  Bo was swept from office more than a year ago following one of China’s biggest political scandals and vanished from the public limelight.

Chinese state media reports say Bo will face charges of abuse of office, accepting bribes and embezzling of massive amounts of public funds.

Reports did not initially specify the amount of funds embezzled, bribes received or any other details about the charges. Reports say the indictment was sent to eastern Shandong province’s capital of Jinan, where the trial will be held. Just how soon the trial will begin is unclear. Legal scholar Yang Xuelin says the court has at least two months to bring Bo to trial.

“From the information released, he has been charged with accepting bribes, a particularly large amount of money and also of corruption, of massive funds. For the charge of misuse of power, the circumstances are especially serious. These three charges are very serious and require a long sentence,” Yang said. Read more ..


Belarus on Edge

Many Belarusians Jittery Over Massive Chinese Industrial Park

July 24th 2013

Pollution Made in China

China is pressing ahead with plans to build a vast industrial park in forests outside Minsk, amid growing public anxiety in Belarus.

The $5 billion manufacturing hub, a pet project of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, will specialize in electronics, aircraft-related industry, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnologies.

Dubbed in marketing documents as "a new international city in Eurasia," it will also include research centers, conference halls, a recreation zone, and accommodation for as many as 155,000 people.

Chinese and Belarusian authorities have hailed the future complex as a unique joint venture that will give China its first manufacturing beachhead in Europe while breathing new life into Belarus's deeply depressed economy. Construction work is scheduled to begin in December. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Shutdown Looms Over ObamaCare

July 23rd 2013

Click to select Image

ObamaCare is at the center of a rapidly escalating fight that threatens to shut the government down this fall.

Senate Republicans, including two members of the leadership, are coalescing around a proposal to block any government funding resolution that includes money for the implementation of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

But such a move is a nonstarter for President Obama and congressional Democrats. Republicans have tried this maneuver in Obama’s first term, only to back off later to the chagrin of Tea Party leaders.

This time, GOP lawmakers are emboldened by problems plaguing the administration’s ObamaCare implementation. But that zeal could put Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in a tough spot. Both leaders have downplayed previous talk of shuttering the government. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

North Carolina to Compensate Victims of Forced Sterilization

July 22nd 2013

Twins-Height-Verschuer

After a years-long campaign to provide some semblance of justice to approximately 7600 persons who were victimized by a state program that required "undesirable" citizens to be forcibly sterilized, North Carolina has established a $10 million allocation in its new budget that will provide financial compensation to the victims of that program, which ended in 1974.

As a result of laws encouraged by the racial-purity-inspired eugenics movement, a pseudoscience popularized in the early 20th century by powerful groups like the Carnegie Institute and Rockefeller Foundation, persons deemed by the state to be unworthy of reproduction were compelled by force of law to be surgically sterilized.

Typical of those deemed unworthy were the handicapped, mentally impaired, sexually promiscuous, and others whose behaviors or physical characteristics were judged to be detrimental to the purity of the ideal racial characteristics propounded by the eugenics movement. Given the prevailing legal and political climate of the early 20th century, a very disproportionate number of the victims were either poor, black, or both. State Sen. Earlene Parmon and former state representative Larry Womble were at the vanguard of the movement that has tried for years to address the need to compensate financially the survivors that were victimized by North Carolina's Eugenics Board. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Copts Face Violent Onslaught in Wake of Morsi Ouster

July 22nd 2013

Coptic Girl

Violence by Islamic radicals aimed at Egypt's Coptic Christian minority has increased in the wake of the military's July 3 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters blame Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II for supporting the Egyptian military's removal of Morsi.

"What is disturbing is the failure of the security apparatus to act -- which at times looks like collusion -- to protect citizens and their property who are being targeted on the basis of their religion, Ishak Ibrahim of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) told Agence France Presse (AFP). "Copts are paying the price of the inflammatory rhetoric against them coming from some Islamist leaders and supporters of the former president, who accuse Coptic spiritual leaders of conspiring to foment army intervention to remove Dr Morsi." Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Israel to Free Some Palestinian Prisoners in Exchange for Talks

July 20th 2013

John Kerry

The Middle East peace process is getting a long-awaited boost, after a visit to the region by the American Secretary of State. The deal could give freedom for some Palestinian prisoners.

Israel has agreed to release Palestinian prisoners as part of a framework agreement to renew peace talks brokered by the United States.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said some Palestinians involved in terrorist attacks and jailed for more than 20 years would be freed.

At the same time, Steinitz told Israel Radio that his government did not agree to other key Palestinian demands, such as a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and disputed East Jerusalem. The settlement issue had led to a four-year deadlock in the peace process. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the deal late Friday in Amman, Jordan after four days of marathon talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and officials from the Arab League. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

IDF Deploys Iron Dome Battery Near Eilat as Sinai Tensions Escalate

July 19th 2013

Iron dome

The IDF has deployed an Iron Dome battery near Eilat to guard against rocket attacks from Sinai as the Egyptian army prepares for a large-scale operation to rout out Islamist terror cells. Last weekend, several rockets were reportedly fired at Israel's southernmost city after Islamist groups fleeing the Egyptian military hid out in Sinai. After Israel allowed the Egyptian army into the demilitarized Sinai, the IDF has been concerned the terror groups will turn their attention to attacking Eilat. The Iron Dome system has been able to intercept the Qassam rockets and missiles that terrorists have fired on Israel in the past. Two Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip exploded Thursday in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council. There were no damages or injuries reported.

Earlier this week, the Egyptian army intercepted 19 Grad rockets at a security checkpoint between Suez and Cairo, reportedly heading for Cairo. However, the rockets may have been meant for Gaza. The lawlessness in the Sinai enables terrorists to smuggle arms to Gaza, which have been used to fire on southern Israel.

Read more ..

Israel on Edge

EU Targets Israelis Beyond the Green Line

July 19th 2013

BDS_Israel

The European Union announced new binding rules on Tuesday barring any of its 28 member states from forging agreements with Jewish organizations in the Palestinian territories. Under the guidelines, the EU countries are prohibited from issuing grants, scholarships, and prizes or funding to Israeli organizations operating within the West Bank, Golan Heights, or East Jerusalem.

Despite the outpouring of heated sentiments, the EU's stance against Israel's policies is not especially new. On December 10, the Foreign Affairs Council's conclusions expressed the body's intentions to require EU-Israel contracts to "unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967," thereby setting the framework for this week's announcement. Tuesday's update serves to strengthen the established position of the European states. It is unknown, however, whether the inclusion of the Golan Heights in the official directive advocates Israeli negotiations with the embattled Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Russian Opposition Leader Sentenced to 5 Years

July 18th 2013

Alexei Navalny-Oppostion

A Kirov-based court on Thursday found opposition leader Alexei Navalny guilty of embezzlement and sentenced him to five years in prison.

Russian judge Sergey Blinov convicted the country's leading opposition figure, the country’s first dissident to use the Internet to attain a wide following, of stealing 10,000 tons of timber, estimated at $500,000, from a state company while working as an adviser to a provincial governor in 2009.

Navalny has called the charges politically motivated and said they are intended to silence him. The sentence prevents Navalny, 37, from running in Moscow's September mayoral race, for which he recently registered, and from running for president in 2018. Under a new law, someone convicted of a serious crime, such as major theft, is barred for life from seeking office. Read more ..


Sudan on Edge

Ethnic Cleansing in Sudan Claims Scores of Lives

July 16th 2013

South Sudan soldier

Inter-ethnic clashes in the east of Jonglei state have claimed scores of lives, wounded fighters from the Lou Nuer and Murle communities have said as they sought medical care in Bor, the capital of the state. Humanitarian agencies and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have been unable to confirm the casualty figures, but the head of mission for Doctors without Borders (MSF), Raphael Gorgeu, said an MSF hospital in Bor was treating 144 wounded fighters from both sides, most of whom had firearm injuries and 28 of whom required surgery.

Chuol Dak Ruach, a member of the Lou Nuer community who took part in the fighting last week with the Murle, gave a chilling description of the clashes, which pitted Lou Nuer against Murle. “We started from an area called Tang-nyang and proceeded to overrun their villages. We raided their cattle and children, including girls. Read more ..


Montenegro on Edge

Montenegrin Aluminum Plant's Woes Cast Geopolitical Shadow

July 15th 2013

Aluminum-Plant-Montenegro

When it fired up the smelters in 1971, the massive Podgorica Aluminum Plant (KAP) was supposed to become a pillar of Montenegro's economy. But that dream is now crashing down.

Once the country's leading exporter, KAP entered bankruptcy proceedings last week with debts amounting to 340 million euros ($442 million), about 10 percent of the tiny Balkan country's annual GDP.

Layoffs among the sprawling complex's 1,200-strong workforce began this month. "My name is Radoman Minic. I am a crane operator. I have been working at KAP for 18 years," one of them said "I and many of my colleges lost our health working for this company. The moment I received my layoff notice felt to me like social death. I feel helpless." Read more ..


The Way We Are

Zimmerman Shooting Verdict Prompts Pointed Reactions

July 14th 2013

Martin-Zimmerman

Passionate, but mostly peaceful protests, have erupted in several U.S. cities after a Florida man was acquitted of murder and manslaughter in the highly-publicized shooting death of a black teenager last year.

Verdicts in racially-charged cases have, on occasion, triggered violence and destruction on a massive scale.  The 1992 acquittal of Los Angeles police officers in the beating of a black motorist sparked days of ferocious riots and looting in the city.  Dozens of people were killed, hundreds were wounded, and property damage topped $1 billion.

By comparison, reaction to the acquittal of Florida shooting suspect George Zimmerman has been relatively peaceful. Late Saturday, a six-woman jury arrived at a verdict in one of America’s most closely-watched court cases of recent years. Read more ..


Japan After Fukushima

Fukushima Nuclear Plant Suspected To Be Leaking Radioactive Water Into Pacific Ocean

July 13th 2013

Rad monitor Japan

Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is suspected to be leaking out highly radioactive water into the ground, contaminating the Pacific Ocean, Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said that the recent studies carried out on groundwater samples at the plant have detected high levels of cesium, tritium and other radioactive contamination. The Japan Times reports that Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) has claimed that a pit seeping radioactive water after the nuclear crisis erupted at the plant in April 2011 is the source of contamination.

According to the report, NRA has said that the toxic water in the area may not be the only source of contamination. The NRA also urged Tepco to speed up completion of a deeply sunken coastal containment wall between the plant and the Pacific to keep the increasingly highly radioactive groundwater from reaching the ocean. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

IDF Says All Israel in Range of Hezbollah's 60,000 Rocket Cache

July 12th 2013

hassan nasrallah - hezbollah

On the seventh anniversary of the start of the month-long Second Lebanon War, marked Friday, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that Lebanese terror group Hezbollah has dramatically expanded its arsenal of weapons, exceeding 60,000 rockets and missiles in 1,000 military facilities, making the terrorist group capable of striking any part of Israel with continuous, precise attacks.

The organization’s missiles endanger Israel’s entire population, the IDF said. Hezbollah’s upgraded stockpile can strike at any of Israel’s civilian centers, including its southernmost city of Eilat. Thousands of missiles can strike targets within 40 kilometers, placing Israel’s northern region at risk of a devastating attack. Seven years ago today, Hezbollah terrorists abducted two IDF soldiers in an unprovoked assault on Israel’s northern border. The attack sparked the Second Lebanon War, a month-long conflict in which Hezbollah fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli civilians. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Palestinian Jihadi Group Claims to Set Arizona Fire That Murdered 19

July 11th 2013

Wildfire

In what were mistakenly named "wildfires," 19 heroic Arizona firefighters were apparently murdered by the Palestinian Jihadi group Masada al-Mujahideen, which set the fire as a terror attack upon the United States. The Jihadi group took credit for starting the Yarnell, Arizona fire in a detailed statement posted to jihadist forums online that was obtained and translated by the Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE) Intelligence Group, according to The Clarion Project. The arson-as-terror tactic has been wielded against Israel in recent years, most notably in the horrific 2010 Mount Carmel fire near Haifa that killed 42 and scorched 12,000 acres in three days. Moreover, using the terror-tactic of starting  forest fires in Israel and in NATO countries was the subject of a detailed, 11-page, instructional article in the Summer 2012 issue of Al-Qaeda's Inspire magazine.  Read more ..


Japan after Fukushima

Tritium Soaring in Water at Fukushima No. 1 Plant

July 10th 2013

LAN Lab team-Fukushima

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday that 600,000 becquerels per liter of tritium has been detected in groundwater at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. It’s the first time such a high level of tritium, an isotope of hydrogen, has been measured in the plant’s groundwater, Tepco said. The water, sampled Friday, came from an observation well about 6 meters west of the plant’s port. The well is the closest to the sea of the five wells used for radiation monitoring.

On July 1, the tritium level in the same well was 510,000 becquerels per liter, Tepco said. The utility also said it had measured, on Wednesday, a seawater tritium level of 2,300 becquerels per liter — the highest so far — near the water intakes of reactors 1 to 4. Tritium concentrations in groundwater have become denser on the north side of the intakes, but Tepco also said it has yet to determine whether the tainted water has been leaking into the sea. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

51 Dead, 435 Wounded as Brotherhood Supporters Confront Military

July 9th 2013

Cairo Claashes Dec 2012

After a bloody Monday that saw 51 deaths and another 435 injured as security forces outside the Republican Guard headquarters opened fire on Pro-Morsi demonstrators, the interim Egyptian government headed by Adly Mansour announced an accelerated schedule for parliamentary elections to be held early in 2014. Morsi supporters claimed that the shooting began indiscriminately just as they were starting their morning prayers.

However, according to Amr Taha, a local resident of the Heliopolis neighborhood where the Republican Guard headquarters is located, the pro-Morsi crowd had begun trying to force their way into the military installation at about 4 AM, just before shooting began. Taha said that morning prayers had finished at the local mosque, and that he was returning home when he witnessed protesters throwing stones and metal objects at soldiers who were warning the demonstrators to "keep away."
Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Prosecutor Issues Arrest Warrant for Al Jazeera News Director

July 8th 2013

al-Jazeera

Downtown Cairo prosecutor general Hamdy Mansour issued an arrest warrant for Al Jazeera news channel director Abdel Fattah Fayed.

The director faces charges of threatening public peace and national security through broadcasting incendiary news.

Military and Interior Ministry raided the headquarters of Al Jazeera Mubasher Wednesday evening after an army statement in which Defence Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew President Mohamed Morsy and appointed Supreme Constitutional Court chief Adly Mansour as interim president in his place.
 
The prosecutor accused Al Jazeera had broadcast material that incited violence. Prosecutors have also charged Fattah Fayed with operating without a license, in contravention of Egypt's Investment Law.
Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

US Lawmakers React to Crisis in Egypt

July 7th 2013

Tahrir Square 22 nov 2011

U.S. lawmakers are urging a cautious response to rapidly-unfolding events in Egypt.

Republican Senator Bob Corker says the United States should aim to play a stabilizing role in the face of upheaval and uncertainty in Egypt. He spoke on the Fox News Sunday television program.

“Something has happened [in Egypt] that is going to provoke a lot of unrest for some time. It has implications in other parts of the region. But what we [the United States] should be doing right now is urging calmness, urging the military to move through the civilian process as quickly as possible,” he said.

Senator Corker added that there should be no snap decisions on the future of U.S. aid to Egypt. Also appearing on Fox was Democratic Senator Jack Reed, who urged a speedy resumption of democratic rule in Egypt. “We have to be a force of stability and support for a very quick transition to a fully-elected democratic government. The military has to make clear what their timetable is, and they have to move to be inclusive. One of the problems with [ousted President Mohamed] Morsi, he was increasingly exclusive, increasingly authoritarian,” said Reed. Read more ..


The War on Terror

Britain Ejects Radical Islamist Cleric to Jordan

July 7th 2013

Abu Qatada

Radical Islamic cleric Abu Qatada was deported from Britain to Jordan early on July 7, ending a nearly decade-long legal battle to get him sent back to Jordan to face terrorism charges.

The move comes after Britain and Jordan ratified a treaty on torture aimed at easing the human rights concerns that blocked previous attempts to deport the Palestinian-born Jordanian preacher.

The 53-year-old Abu Qatada, once dubbed Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, is wanted in Jordan to face retrial in several terrorism cases in which he was sentenced in absentia. British governments have tried since 2001 to deport him, but courts have blocked his extradition due to concerns that Jordan might use evidence obtained under torture against him. The treaty ratified last month ensures that will not happen. Read more ..


The Political Edge

Abortion Restrictions in State Legislatures Gaining Ground

July 7th 2013

Click to select Image
Texas Governor Rick Perry

Efforts by conservatives to restrict abortion in several state legislatures are receiving national attention, as Republicans work to pass national versions. In Texas, state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) found herself in the national spotlight after filibustering a proposal that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The legislation would also have toughened requirements for locations offering abortions and required that doctors who perform abortions have admission privileges at a hospital close to their clinics.

Davis's effort caused Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) to call a second special session to try and pass the bill through the Republican-controlled legislature.

Davis received wide praise from the left for the filibuster. Democratic senators and national organizations like the Democratic Governors Association sent out fundraising emails citing Davis. Read more ..


Broken Intelligence

Venezuela and Nicaragua Greenlight Snowden Asylum

July 6th 2013

Snowden

The leaders of Venezuela and Nicaragua said late Friday that they would be willing to grant asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, according to reports. Reuters reported that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said during a speech in Managua that he could accept the bid "if circumstances permit."

"As head of state and government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, I have decided to offer U.S. humanitarian asylum to young Snowden," President Nicolas Maduro said in Caracas, according to Venezuela's state news agency, AVN.

Maduro made the offer to Snowden to "protect from persecution unleashed the most powerful empire in the world, against a young man who has done is tell the truth," AVN reported. Earlier Friday, WikiLeaks, the group that is helping the former contractor, tweeted that Snowden had applied for asylum in six additional countries. WikiLeaks originally said Snowden had applied for asylum in 21 countries. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Muslim Brotherhood Promises More Disturbances in Egypt

July 5th 2013

Jump at Cops

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood called for mass protests on July 5 against the military-backed ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. The Brotherhood is part of an alliance of Islamist parties calling for peaceful protests to follow Friday afternoon prayers at mosques across the country. Until now, the atmosphere on the streets has been largely celebratory since Morsi was forced out by the military following large opposition protests.

Morsi was replaced by Adly Mansour, a top judge who was sworn in on July 4 as interim president -- a move that was quickly rejected by the Brotherhood. Islam Abdel-Rahman, who is on the the foreign affairs committee of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, told the Voice of America that his group will not take part in any military-led political process. Read more ..


Egypt on Edge

Western Nations Tread Carefully in Egypt After the Fall of Morsi

July 4th 2013

Cairo, 2 July 2013

Western states are treading carefully after Egypt's army ousted its popularly elected Islamist president, Muhammad Morsi.

They have generally stopped short of either backing or condemning the move, which was accompanied by a suspension of the constitution and a pledge of early elections.

A handful of Arab states have welcomed the Islamist leader's removal and congratulated Adli Mansour, the head of the country's constitutional court, on his appointment as Egypt's interim leader.

By contrast, Morsi's ouster was strongly denounced by Turkey's Islamist-rooted government and by Syria, whose President Bashar al-Assad is fighting to crush a two-year-old uprising. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Morsi "No Longer President," Army Names Provisional Government

July 3rd 2013

Shouting Muslims in Cairo

After seizing Al Ahram, Egypt's largest state newspaper, spokesmen for the Egyptian Army are reporting therein that President Morsi is "no longer a part of the decision-making process in Egypt." Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) head, General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, announced on state TV that at 5PM GMT, Morsi was told by the Army that he is "no longer President." Al-Sisi announced a suspension of the constitution, a provisional government headed by the Chief Justice of Egypt's high court, Adly Mansour, and the beginning of implementing a government of "national reconciliation."

Witness reports, obtained from social media feeds of various reporters on scene, indicate that tanks and other armored military vehicles have been surrounding the pro-Morsi protest groups in Cairo. Airport officials are reporting that Morsi and a number of key Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been banned from flying anywhere by the Army.

Furthermore, according to the BBC's Jeremy Bowen, troops in full riot gear have begun firing their guns into the air to disperse the Islamist demonstrations in Cairo. However, it is being reported that troops have withdrawn a short distance away at this time, surrounding the pro-Morsi crowd instead of confronting it. Ambulances are futilely trying to pass through the anti-Morsi group in Tahrir Square, as well, due to a huge crowd that's packed in too densely for vehicles to navigate through. Read more ..


Broken Government

Medicare Fraud Outrunning Enforcement Efforts

July 2nd 2013

Health and Human Services Washington D.C.

Citing massive budget and staff cuts, federal officials are set to scale back or drop a host of investigations into Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse — even though cracking down on government waste and cutting health care costs have been top priorities for the Obama administration.

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General is set to lose a total of 400 staffers that are deployed nationwide as a primary defense against health care fraud and abuse. Though agency officials have yet to decide which investigations will be shelved as staff dwindles, the existing staff is already stretched so thin that the agency has failed to act on 1,200 complaints over the past year alleging wrongdoing — and expects that number to rise. The OIG began shedding staff at the beginning of the year. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Another Foreign Reporter Raped in Tahrir Square

July 1st 2013

Flames in Cairo

Egyptian media reported Sunday that a Dutch journalist was raped by several men in Cairo's Tahrir Square a few days ago. Dina Zakaria, a journalist reporting for the "Egypt 25" news channel affiliated with the January 25 revolution, shared the incident on her Facebook page Sunday: "A Dutch journalist in Tahrir was raped by men who dub themselves revolutionists. Her condition is severe and she is hospitalized."

Meanwhile, a state hospital issued a statement that the journalist was admitted after being raped by five men several days ago. She underwent surgery and has been released. It was also reported that Egypt's Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah ordered his staff to go to the hospital to hear the woman's story and reveal the circumstances behind the violent attack.

Read more ..


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