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The War on Terrorism

Women to Enter Key Combat Roles in U.S. Military

June 18th 2013

The U.S. military says that within the next three years, it will put women in key combat roles from which they were previously excluded.

American women have been serving in combat roles and hundreds have been killed on the front lines for years, but they have been excluded from key positions in areas including Special Operations and infantry.

In January, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced changes to regulations banning women from 237,000 positions.

On Tuesday, officials from all four branches of the U.S. military gathered at the Pentagon to announce a timeline for those changes. The Marines already have come up with new gender-neutral physical tests, and by the middle of 2015, the Army will have new standards that will allow women to be part of its elite Ranger regiment. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Turkey's EU Minister Threatens Protesters of Taksim Square

June 17th 2013

Turkish KFOR soldiers riot training

Egemen Bagış, Turkey’s European Union minister, said in an evening televised interview on June 16 that anyone entering Istanbul's Taksim Square will be considered a terrorist. According to Hurriyet Daily News, the Turkish politician said, “I request our citizens who supported the protests until today kindly to return to their homes,” in an interview on broadcast television station A Haber.

“From now on the state will unfortunately have to consider everyone who remains there a supporter or member of a terror organization,” said Bagış. “Our prime minister has already assured [activists] about their aim with the protests. The protests from now on will play into the hands of some separatist organizations that want to break the peace and prioritize vandalism and terrorism.” Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

Canadians Demand Investigation of Firebomb Attacks on Jewish Targets

June 17th 2013

Montreal skyline

Following the latest in a string of firebombing attacks on Jewish targets in Montreal, Canada, a Jewish community group is demanding answers from the police.

The B’nai Brith Canada is “calling on the Montreal Police to get to the bottom of the attacks before people are seriously injured,” wrote the group in an email to reporters.

“The Police must explore every avenue of investigation and put an end to these attacks,” said Steven Slimovitch, the organization’s National Legal Council. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Turkish Labor Unions and Protesters Continue to Rumble

June 17th 2013

Riot Cops 6.2013

Protesters continued to demonstrate in the Turkish capital, Ankara, ahead of a nationwide strike planned for June 17 to express disapproval of the forced evictions of demonstrators from the Gezi Park near Taksim Square in Istanbul over the weekend.

Ankara riot police used tear gas and water cannons to try to disperse thousands of protesters marching into the evening on June 16. Some protesters pointed lasers at the police operating water cannons to get them to stop.

Labor unions have planned a one-day strike for June 17 to support the protesters, though it is not clear how much the strike will affect daily life in Turkey. Read more ..


Hong Kong on Edge

Hong Kongers Rally in Support of Snowden

June 16th 2013

Snowden Protest-Hong-Kong

Hundreds of people rallied in Hong Kong Saturday in support of former U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden, who fled to the semi-autonomous Chinese city last month after confessing to leaking documents on two top secret U.S. surveillance programs.  To many, the case raises questions about Snowden’s choice of Hong Kong as a haven as he fights an expected legal battle against extradition, and the broader implications regarding the secrets he has revealed.

Amid monsoon rains in the city where Snowden remains in hiding, hundreds of Hong Kongers, expatriates and tourists marched on the U.S. Consulate. Participants delivered a letter for Ambassador Stephen Young, condemning U.S. cyber monitoring activities exposed by the former security consultant who fled Hawaii May 20. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Rebels Seize Border Crossing to the Golan Heights

June 14th 2013

Syrian Rebels

Syrian rebels temporarily seized control of the Quneitra crossing between Israel and Syria on June 6, spurring Austria to withdraw all of its 380 peacekeepers stationed in the Golan Heights. Vienna attributed its decision to vacate the buffer zone, where international forces have been stationed since the 1974 armistice, to the escalating regional violence. Last Thursday's rebel attack sent the roughly 1,000 UN forces fleeing for their bunkers and injured two peacekeeping troops before the Syrian army recaptured the area.

The four-week withdrawal of Austrian forces will leave the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) with less than half the troops it possessed a year ago. Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann supported the controversial decision, saying, "We never could have and would never have wanted to take on a military mission to mediate or intervene between the opposition rebels and governmental troops." Japan and Croatia also withdrew their presence as the fighting intensified in recent months, further diminishing the precarious security buffer. Read more ..


Broken Intelligence

Lawmakers See Edward Snowden as a Leaker--Not a Hero

June 13th 2013

Snowden

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), a Republican with a long history of championing whistle-blower protections, said Snowden “surely isn’t a hero” and should be prosecuted for what intelligence experts have said is one of the most serious leaks in U.S. history. “I don’t know exactly the law and I don’t know the extent to which he violated whatever law is there, but he’s got to be prosecuted,” Grassley said.

Some maintained Snowden did the country a favor by publicizing previously unknown domestic spying programs and should not be considered a traitor, though they stopped short of declaring him a hero. “Quite frankly, it helps people like me become aware of a situation that I wasn’t aware of before because I don’t sit on that Intelligence Committee,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told MSNBC Wednesday. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said that while it appears Snowden broke the law, his actions don’t deserve the harsh response from some on Capitol Hill. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Turkish Police Clear Protesters from Taksim Square

June 12th 2013

Istanbul Riots June 2013

An uneasy calm has descended over Istanbul's Taksim Square, the focal point of protests in Turkey, after a night of violent clashes that ended with demonstrators being ejected by the police. Riot police used tear gas and water cannon on Tuesday evening, just hours after Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, demanded an immediate end to almost two weeks of dissent. Fresh squads of police had arrived on Wednesday morning to replace those left exhausted by a night of violence. The square has also been re-opened for traffic.

Taksim Square became the cradle for anti-government protests, which were spawned following heavy-handed police action to end an environmental protest in nearby Gezi Park. Police overnight also fired tear gas on protesters in Gezi Park, despite earlier assurances that police would not try to remove people camped there. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Garry Kasparov: Out Of The Country, But Not Out Of The Picture

June 11th 2013

Gary Kasparov

Garry Kasparov may be staying away from his homeland for a while, but he has no intention of steering clear of Russian politics.

The chess grandmaster turned opposition figure does not mince his words when he speaks of what he calls the "Hitleresque essence" of Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime.

"These days, judges rubber-stamp sentences," he said by telephone from New York. "Police commanders give the order to beat and hound people, to arrest them. Governors in the regions can do whatever they like and act like all-powerful lords in their domains."

In one of his first interviews since announcing last week that he "will refrain from returning" to Russia "for the time being" for fear of a politically motivated prosecution, Kasparov said that he is focusing his efforts on trying to get European countries to adopt sanctions against senior Russian officials implicated in human-rights abuses – similar to the so-called Magnitsky list adopted by the United States in 2012. Read more ..


The Edge of Liberty

Mandela in 'Serious, But Stable' Condition

June 10th 2013

Mandela

Former South African President Nelson Mandela remained hospitalized for the third straight day Monday, as he battles health problems stemming from a lung infection.

Nelson Mandela has been hospitalized since 1:30 a.m. Saturday, when he was taken to a Pretoria hospital after doctors at his home felt he needed more critical care.

Mac Maharaj, spokesman for South African President Jacob Zuma, said Monday morning that Mandela remains in serious, but stable condition.

"Former President Nelson Mandela remains in hospital, and his condition is unchanged. He was admitted for treatment in a Pretoria hospital for a lung infection. And President Jacob Zuma calls upon all in South Africa and abroad to pray for Madiba and the family during this time," said Maharaj.

This is Mandela's fourth hospital admission since December. The Nobel Peace laureate has suffered from lung problems since he was diagnosed with tuberculosis during his 27-year imprisonment on Robben Island for fighting apartheid. Monday morning, the South African newspaper The Star reported that the Mandela family is limiting visitors to just family, barring South African political leaders.Maharaj said those reports are untrue. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria Opposition Boycotts Talks

June 9th 2013

Syrian Fighters w/RPGs

Syria's opposition has reiterated its decision to boycott planned peace talks in Geneva, as rebel fighters reeled from losing a strategic city to forces of President Bashar al-Assad. George Sabra, the interim head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), however, called for urgent military assistance to help rebel forces battle the Syrian army. His statement came days after regime forces seized the key border city of Qusayr and other adjoining areas.

"What is happening in Syria today completely closes the doors on any discussions about international conferences and political initiatives," Sabra told a press conference in Istanbul on Saturday. He was referring to an initiative headed by Washington and Moscow to bring the regime and opposition to peace talks in Geneva. Read more ..


America and China

Obama and Xi Discuss Cyber-Security at California Summit

June 8th 2013

President Barack Obama is calling for a "firm understanding" of how the United States and China will work together to resolve their differences on cybersecurity. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping began two days of meetings Friday at an estate in California.

The president and his Chinese counterpart met for more than two hours, and focused on the contentious issue of cybersecurity. Obama said advances in technology have created a need for clear protocols about what is and is not acceptable for governments to do. The U.S. accuses China of hacking into American government and business computer systems. Read more ..


The War on Terror

NSA Phone Sweeping Ongoing Since 2007

June 7th 2013

Eric Holder gesturing

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday said senators were informed of the administration’s sweeping surveillance practices, which they said have been going on since 2007. “Everyone’s been aware of it for years, every member of the Senate,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Chambliss told reporters that the program has been going on for seven years under the auspices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He said he was not aware of a single citizen filing a complaint about it.

He and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the panel’s chairwoman, also gave a defense of the program. “There have been approximately 100 plots and also arrests made since 2009 by the FBI,” Feinstein said. “I do not know to what extent metadata was used or if it was used, but I do know this, gentlemen, that terrorists will come after us if they can, and the only thing we have to deter this is good intelligence.” Feinstein and Chambliss circulated a Feb. 8, 2011, letter, which both signed, inviting colleagues to read a classified report detailing the electronic surveillance authority granted by the Patriot Act and the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004. Read more ..


Broken Government

Senator Obama Sponsored Legislation Making Verizon Order Illegal

June 6th 2013

Obama serious

President Obama co-sponsored legislation when he was a member of the Senate that would have banned the mass collection of phone records that his administration is now engaged in.

The SAFE Act, introduced by former Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), would have amended the Patriot Act to require that the government have "specific and articulable facts" to show that a person is an "agent of a foreign power" before seizing their phone records.

The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee in 2005, but never received a vote. It had 15 co-sponsors in all, including then-Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who are now members of Obama’s Cabinet.

Experts said the bill that Obama supported in the Senate would have prohibited the sweeping surveillance that has come to light at the National Security Agency (NSA). Read more ..


Germany on Edge

Rabbi Attacked by Anti-Semites in Germany

June 6th 2013

German police

Chabad Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gurewitz (39) was reportedly attacked by a group of young men at the KOMM shopping center in Offenbach, a town near Frankfort, Germany. Six to eight assailants shoved the rabbi as they shouted "shitty Jew."

Local police confirmed that a criminal complaint had been filed, and there is probable cause to investigate the incident as an anti-Semitic hate crime, and for bodily injury and harassment, according to a statement released by the World Jewish Congress (WJC). State security officials are also investigating the incident. Read more ..


Broken Government

Rep. Gillibrand: Military Commanders can't Distinguish Between a 'slap on the ass and a rape'

June 4th 2013

female us soldier

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday said some military commanders can’t “distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape.” Gillibrand made the comment during a hearing where military leaders made public their opposition to Gillibrand's legislation that would strip commanders of the power to decide where sexual assaults are prosecuted.

The New York senator wants prosecutors to decide where such crimes are tried, not commanders.

“While you are all so dedicated and determined, not all commanders are objective,” Gillibrand said. “Not every single commander necessarily wants women in the force. Not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape.” Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Days of Rage in Turkey Reject Islamism

June 4th 2013

Istanbul Riots June 2013

Anti-government protests in Turkey have stretched into a fifth day, with police and demonstrators clashing in both Istanbul and Ankara. As in previous days, police used tear gas to try to break up groups of protesters in Istanbul, while the demonstrators used bricks and other materials to build barricades on some city streets.

A trade union confederation representing nearly 250,000 people is holding a two-day strike beginning today to protest what it calls a police crackdown on the demonstrators. Thousands have marched in Ankara and other cities since May 31, accusing the prime minister of imposing Islamic views on a secular nation. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Japan Prepares to Become World's Largest Solar Revenue Market in 2013

June 3rd 2013

Rising Sun Shinto Island

Japan’s solar installations surged by 270 percent (in gigawatts) in the first quarter of 2013, to surpass Germany to become the world’s largest photovoltaics (PV) market in terms of revenue in 2013. Although Japan is forecast to install fewer GW than China (which is forecast to be the largest market in GW installation terms) in 2013, the high prices of PV systems in Japan will drive it to become the world’s largest market in revenue terms.

A total of 1.5 GW worth of PV systems were installed in Japan in the first quarter of 2013, up from 0.4 GW during the same time last year, according to a new report entitled ‘The Photovoltaic Market in Japan’ from information and analytics provider IHS Inc. The growth that started the year is expected to continue throughout 2013 as demand for solar energy is forecast to double, making Japan the world’s largest market for PV installations on a revenue basis for the first time in a decade. Japan's share of global PV system revenue will rise to 24 percent in 2013, up from 14 percent in 2012 and just 9 percent in 2011, as presented in the attached figure. Read more ..


The War on Terror

WikiLeaks Trial Moves Forward on Espionage Charges against Pvt. Manning

June 3rd 2013

Bradley Manning

U.S. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who is accused of giving secret information to WikiLeaks in the biggest disclosure ever of classified U.S. material, will face a court martial on June 3. The 25-year-old soldier is accused of providing the WikiLeaks organization with hundreds of thousands of U.S. government files, among which are sensitive diplomatic cables of the U.S. Department of State. He faces a possible life sentence if convicted by a judge at the court martial at Fort Meade, near Washington DC.

While Manning has agreed guilty to some charges, he denies the most serious charge of aiding enemies of the United States. Manning has spent the last three years in jail, and has been lionized by the international Left.

The U.S. military and the Obama administration were not satisfied with guilty pleas that may send Manning to prison for 20 years. Prosecutors are seeking to pursue the charge of aiding the enemy. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Three Days of Anti-Government Violence in Turkey

June 3rd 2013

Istanbul Riots June 2013

In Istanbul, Turkey largest city, clashes are continuing near the prime minister’s office as unrest against the government grows. The protests, which are continuing to spread across the country, accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of acting in an increasing authoritarian way and threatening individual freedoms.

Demonstrators in Istanbul clashed with security forces well into the night on June 2, in some of the worst violence since civil unrest broke out here three days ago. There are reports of injuries and mass arrests in the violence, which occurred close to the prime minister’s office.

Confrontations in Ankara also continued into the night after a day of unrest. Demonstrations are spreading across the country. Authorities say 1,700 people have been detained, although most have been released.
Read more ..


The War on Terror

Pakistan's new Prime Minister to Re-Examine use of American UAVs

June 2nd 2013

Pakistan’s Prime Minister-designate Nawaz Sharif will review anti-terrorism cooperation with the United States soon after taking office. A close adviser to Sharif says the incoming government will demand an immediate end to controversial American drone strikes within Pakistani territory for better future ties.

On June 5, the newly-elected National Assembly will formally select Nawaz Sharif as the country’s prime minister for an unprecedented third time because his political party, the Pakistan Muslim League or PML-N, enjoys a majority in the lower house of parliament.

On the home front, the incoming government is expected to look for ways to revive a deteriorating economy by addressing the severe energy crisis facing the country. But critics say Sharif will also have to take urgent steps to ease strains plaguing diplomatic relations with the United States and seek an immediate end to drone strikes on Pakistani soil, a commitment he undertook during the election campaign. Read more ..


The Edge of Weather

Three Tornado Chasers Killed by Storm

June 2nd 2013

Tornado

Three storm chasers have died following Friday's EF3 tornado in El Reno, Okla.

Renowned researcher and storm chaser Tim Samaras, 55, his son Paul Samaras, 24, and his chase partner Carl Young, 45, passed away after they were overtaken by the multiple-vortex tornado, which appeared to be in the midst of a sharp change in direction. Tim Samaras, a native of Lakewood, Colo., holds the Guinness World Record for the greatest pressure drop ever measured inside a tornado. He designed, built, and deployed instrument probes to measure atmospheric variables such as pressure and wind in the path of tornadoes.

He deployed one of these in the path of an F4 tornado that destroyed the small town of Manchester, S.D., on June 24, 2003. This probe registered a world-record 100-millibar drop in pressure inside the twister. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Iranian Activists Welcome U.S. Lifting Of Sanctions On Communications Tools

June 2nd 2013

Tablet Use

The lifting of U.S. sanctions on the export to Iran of communication tools has been welcomed by activists and groups who had pushed for such a move and argued that the sanctions end up hurting ordinary Iranians, not the regime.

On May 30, the U.S. Treasury and the State Department said they were removing sanctions on sales of such devices in order to enhance the ability of the Iranian people to access communication technology and provide them with safer and more sophisticated equipment to help them circumvent Tehran's attempt to disrupt their access to information. They said it would "empower the Iranian people." The U.S. departments also issued a warning to the clerical establishment over human rights abuses and censorship efforts. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Turkey Police Brutally Crack Down on Protests

June 1st 2013

Turkish Flags

Turkish riot police have used tear gas and water cannon during clashes with thousands of protesters in Istanbul, as more people joined the second day of the fiercest anti-government demonstrations for years. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called for an immediate end to the protests, that were triggered by government redevelopment plans of a park in Istanbul's Taksim Square. The protests have since widened into a broader show of defiance against Erdogan and his government and spread to Ankara and other cities.

Interior Minister Muammer Guler said 79 people have been injured in the unrest and hundreds detained. "There have been 939 detentions in various cities. Some of them have already been released," Guler told reporters in comments broadcast by Turkish state television. Read more ..


Obama and the IRS

The IRS slides into Deeper Trouble

June 1st 2013

IRS building

The new acting IRS chief acknowledged Friday that an upcoming audit would find improper spending at an agency conference, opening up a new trouble spot for an agency already embattled over its treatment of Tea Party groups.

Danny Werfel, the acting commissioner, said that the conference occurred in 2010, labeling it an “unfortunate vestige” from a time before the agency tightened its belt. "While there were legitimate reasons for holding the meeting, many of the expenses associated with it were inappropriate and should not have occurred,” Werfel said in a statement.

But House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who is already investigating the agency’s singling out of conservative groups, made clear that he would be taking a deep look at the conference spending as well. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

U.S. and Germany Align Against Russia on Syria Imbroglio

May 31st 2013

Medvedev and Assad
Vladimir Medvedev and Basha al-Assad

The United States and Germany are urging Russia not to provide the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with advanced anti-aircraft missiles. After talks in Washington on May 31, Secretary of State John Kerry and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said any Russian arms supplies to Syria could prolong the country's civil war.

Kerry also said a Russian transfer of the S-300 air defense system to Syria would put Israel's security at risk. "It is not helpful to have the S-300 transferred to the region while you are trying to organize this peace and create peace. It is not helpful to have a lot of other ammunition and other supplies overtly going in - not just from the Russians, and they are supplying that kind of thing, but also from the Iranians and Hezbollah," said Kerry.

Westerwelle called weapons deliveries to the Assad regime "totally wrong." He also said the transfers may hurt chances of getting the Syrian government and the opposition into peace talks that were tentatively planned for Geneva next month. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Elders of Northern Nigeria to Debate Strategy Towards Islamist Terror

May 30th 2013

Nigeria soldiers

The Nigeria’s Northern Elders Forum (NEF) plans to meet Thursday to review a strategy toward the state of emergency recently declared in three northern states by President Goodluck Jonathan. President Jonathan recently declared states of emergency in three northern states following an upsurge in violence carried out by the militant sect, Boko Haram.

Forum spokesman Ango Abdullahi says the government did not consult the northern elders before declaring the states of emergency, despite seeking the group’s help to resolve the country’s internal security crisis. “The proclamation of the state of emergency came to us as a surprise because of the way it came about soon after a change of policy and strategy, which incorporated dialogue and reconciliation,” said Abdullahi. “We thought the proclamation was ill-advised and ill-timed because if really the government was serious about reconciliation and dialogue he won’t declare war on his on people.” Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

EU Nations to Send Weapons to Anti-Assad Rebels

May 28th 2013

Syrian rebels and M-60 antitank gun

The European Union has amended its arms embargo on Syria to allow member nations to send weapons to the Syrian opposition, as the United States and Russia continue to press for a peace conference to try to end the country's crisis.

The 27-member EU agreed after marathon negotiations on May 27 to keep sanctions against the Syrian government, but allow arms to be sent to the main opposition Syrian National Coalition. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said there are no immediate plans to actually send weapons to the fighters trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad. "This is a strong signal to the Assad regime, that it needs to engage on the political process and, as I have always said and as I have said to our parliament last week, we would only take the step of sending arms in company with other nations in carefully controlled circumstances and in compliance with international law," he said. "But this decision [Monday] gives us the flexibility in the future to respond to a worsening situation or to a refusal of the Assad regime to negotiate." Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Lawmakers Press IRS Investigation Despite Recess

May 27th 2013

Obama Bowed Head

Lawmakers may be out of Washington this week, but congressional staffers will be working to ensure that the IRS controversy is teed up for them when they return. Both Democrats and Republicans left the recent string of congressional hearings with plenty of unanswered questions about how and why the IRS targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, and who authorized it. Now, during the Memorial Day recess, lawmakers say that aides will have more freedom to pore over reams of documents that Congress has requested from the IRS and the Treasury inspector general who outlined the targeting – and to further press officials for materials, if need be.

Lawmakers have also been collecting more and more names of IRS staffers they want to interview, with a particular focus on the Cincinnati office where the targeting began.

“Right now, we’re entering this document collection phase, interview phase,” Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee, told reporters on Thursday. “And then there will be more hearings in June when we get back.”

"There’s still a lot of staff interviews that are happening behind the scenes right now, lot of things that are going on," Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), a House Oversight subcommittee chairman, said that same day. "That's all still ongoing next week." Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Dems Want More Time Before Weighing Need for IRS Special Prosecutor

May 26th 2013

Obama

Leading congressional Democrats say they don’t believe the investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups needs a special prosecutor – at least not yet. Democrats on Capitol Hill, like their colleagues across the aisle, have expressed deep anger about how the IRS handled applications from Tea Party groups.

But like Republicans, top Democrats also want to give their own probe into the issue more time, two weeks after news first broke and following three hearings left many questions unanswered. “I think it’s too soon,” said Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), whose committee held one of those three hearings. “I don’t think there’s enough evidence to warrant a special prosecutor.”

Of course, Democrats don’t agree with every reason why Republicans aren’t on board with a special counsel. GOP lawmakers, for instance, are troubled that Attorney General Eric Holder, with whom they’ve sparred on more than a couple occasions, would be in charge of appointing the prosecutor. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Islamic Terrorism increases in Niger--25 killed, 30 wounded

May 25th 2013

Taureg-terrorists

More than 25 people were killed and 30 others were wounded in terrorist attacks on Niger's military base and a uranium plant run by a French company in Niger.

Former police captain Jan Morgenstern said 20 soldiers and five assailants died in an attack on Niger's military barracks in Agadez, the largest city in northern Niger.

In a separate terrorist raid, a factory owned by Somair, a French company also located in the northern region West African country. That attack left 30 people wounded including 16 military personnel and 14 civilians,

"The terrorist attacks launched by kamikazes were contained by the elements of our Armed Forces who, despite the losses, neutralized the assailants including those who exploded themselves, " Niger officials stated in a media release. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Jordan Promised $200 Million to help with Syrian Refugees

May 24th 2013

Syrian Refugees

The United States and the government of Jordan on Monday signed a letter of intent that promises the Arab kingdom an aid package of $200 million. Jordan's Minister of Planning, Ibrahim Seif, told the local news media that the U.S. government's money will help in supporting health care and education, as well as assistance to the mounting Syrian refugee population. For example, Jordan wishes to increase the number of police officers and border guards.

The aid is tied to Jordan now dealing with more than a half-million Syrians fleeing death and violence from the war between the Assad regime and the rebel forces, many of whom are members of al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Network, and Hezbollah. Read more ..


America and Israel

US Lawmakers Pledge to Back Israel Against Iran

May 23rd 2013

Congress-senate

The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a resolution affirming America's firm opposition to Iran's nuclear ambitions, and pledging full support for Israel in the event of an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

The chance to slam Iran’s government and speak up for Israel brought a rare moment of complete bipartisan unity to the Senate. Republican Lindsey Graham was a lead sponsor of the resolution.

“If that day ever comes where Israel has to take military action, to our friends in Israel: we will be there with you every step of the way diplomatically, economically, and, yes, militarily. And to the Iranian people: we would love to have a better relationship with you. To the Iranian regime: you are one of the biggest evils on the planet. And we will stand up to you. We will stand by our friends,” Graham said. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

British PM Cameron Calls Islamic Beheading in Great Britain "Shocking"

May 22nd 2013

London Police

A soldier was apparently beheaded and hacked at with a meat cleaver by two attackers, who were then shot by armed police near the Woolwich Barracks. The young victim, wearing a Help for Heroes T-shirt, was attacked "like a piece of meat" and dumped in the street, according to witness reports.

Whitehall sources say it is "a fair supposition" that the incident was a terrorist incident, according to reports from the BBC, and senior police sources have told Sky News that they are treating the incident as a "politically motivated Islamist terror attack".

One witness, identified as James, told LBC that he and his partner saw two black men attack the victim.

Fighting back tears, James said the men treated their victim as a "piece of meat" after he was dead. "These two guys were crazed," he said on air. They were hacking at this poor guy, literally chopping him, cutting him, like it was a piece of meat. We though they were trying to remove his organs or something. They dragged him from the pavement and dumped his body in the middle of the road and left his body there."

Read more ..

The New Iran

Iran's Process For Vetting Presidential Candidates

May 21st 2013

Ahmadinejad pointing

The official shortlist of candidates that will be bidding to succeed Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in the June 14 election is set to be announced this week.

More than 600 men and women registered their names to become presidential candidates during a five-day registration period that ended on May 11. The task of vetting the nominees and determining a shortlist of approved candidates falls on the Guardians Council, a constitutional watchdog.

Under Iran’s election laws, the powerful council must submit its list to the Interior Ministry by May 21. The ministry, which organizes the poll, then has until May 23 to declare the final names. The handful of candidates who pass the council’s screening will then have three weeks to campaign. Read more ..


Broken Government

White House Was Unaware of IRS Misdeeds

May 19th 2013

IRS building

A senior Obama administration official says the White House had no knowledge of misdeeds being committed by America’s tax collecting agency - one of several scandals engulfing the administration. 

The Internal Revenue Service has admitted to singling out conservative political groups for heightened scrutiny in recent years.  The IRS is a politically-independent agency within the Treasury Department, which is headed by a member of the president’s Cabinet.  And so the question arises: did the White House know of improper IRS behavior before an independent investigator’s report was released earlier this month? 

White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer says no. “The first that the White House was made aware of it was from the Treasury Department a few weeks ago.  And not the details of what happened, not the results of the investigation, but that an independent investigation was about to conclude," he said. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Dem Lawmakers Buoyed by Obama's Response to Trio of Controversies

May 18th 2013

Obama-Limo

House Democrats left Washington on Friday insisting they're not worried about political fallout after one of the most difficult weeks the Obama administration has endured.

Democrats know their fate in the 2014 elections hinges to a large degree on Obama's popularity, and they say the president has responded appropriately to a trio of controversies involving the IRS, the Justice Department and the terrorist attack last year in Benghazi, Libya.

The Democrats are also cheering the aggressive approach Obama used in the latter half of the week, saying the feistiness has quelled criticisms that the president is steering from the back seat of his own administration. "The president's done a good job of stabilizing the situation, working to try and get ahead of the curve so that we can focus on jobs and the economy," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Friday. "When it comes right down to it, those are the issues of the most concern to people." Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Russia Sends Warships to Syria

May 17th 2013

Russia-naval-ship

Russia has sent at least 12 naval warships to patrol its naval base near Syria, an aggressive move warning the U.S. and the west against intervention in Syria's bloody civil war, several news sources reported Friday.

The New York Times reported that Russia has also sent advanced anti-cruise missiles to Syria. Previously, the Russians had delivered missiles called Yakhonts to Syria, but reportedly, this new shipment includes missiles with a more effective advanced radar.

The United States and Russia have been planning an international conference aimed at ending the conflict in Syria, which has resulted in some 70,000 deaths.

Meanwhile, the Times also reported that Israel has warned Syria to stop the transfer of advanced military weapons to Islamic militants. Israel has repeatedly signaled more military strikes will be considered to keep that from happening. Read more ..


The Edge of Juctice

ADA Forces Judge to Slash Jury Award for Disabled Workers

May 16th 2013

judge's gavel

An Iowa federal judge who frequently attends business-friendly judicial education conferences slashed a landmark $240 million verdict to $1.6 million for 32 mentally disabled workers who suffered abuse and discrimination at the hands of their employer.

It might appear that a pro-business judge made a predictably pro-business ruling. Turns out the judge had no choice. The 22-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act — designed to protect the rights of disabled workers — is to blame for the paltry award.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Wolle of the Southern District of Iowa ordered Henry’s Turkey Service to pay $50,000 in damages to each of the workers involved in a discrimination lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In total, the judge ruled, the company must pay the workers $1.6 million.

Wolle’s decision came two weeks after a federal jury awarded each of the workers a total of $7.5 million in damages — $240 million in all. Jurors found that Henry’s, a now-defunct Texas company, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by subjecting the disabled workers to years of unfair treatment and harassment. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

International Community Urges Political Transition in Syria

May 15th 2013

Syrian tankers

In a vote Wednesday at the U.N. General Assembly, support for Syria’s opposition was weaker than previously, with a symbolic resolution garnering less outright support and nearly double the abstentions than a similar vote nine months ago.

Reacting to the continued paralysis in the 15-nation U.N. Security Council, Qatar and several other countries decided several weeks ago to push for a resolution in the U.N. General Assembly on the situation in Syria, which continues to deteriorate.

In the meantime, the United States and Russia put forward an initiative aimed at getting representatives of both the Syrian government and opposition to the negotiating table next month. Despite the objections of Russia, Syria and several other countries that General Assembly action now would be counter-productive, the draft resolution was approved Wednesday with a vote of 107 in favor, 12 against and 59 abstentions. Read more ..



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