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The Battle for Syria

Iran Lurks Behind Washington's 'Red Line' On Syria

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 ..

Broken Healthcare

Bill Clinton Says GOP Has Duty to Help Fix ObamaCare 'Glitches'

September 4th 2013

Obama Clinton

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

U.S./Israeli Missile Test Causes Jitters in Mideast and Affects Markets

September 3rd 2013

Click to select Image

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 ..

Broken Healthcare

Labor Union Frustration Boils Over ObamaCare

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

Fukushima Radiation Readings 18 Times Higher Than Thought

September 1st 2013

Rad monitor Japan

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

US Intervention in Syria May Come over Labor Day Weekend

August 30th 2013

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

French Military Ready for Syria but Hollande Non-committal

August 29th 2013

French troops Mali

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 ..

Broken Bookselling

Barnes & Noble's CEO Dumps Most of His Stock in Failing Retailer

August 28th 2013

Barnes-and-Noble store shot

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

Gas Mask Supply Limited Due to Budget Cuts as Israelis Scramble to Prepare for Syria Attack

August 28th 2013

Syrian Chemical Weapons

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 ..

Inside Ukraine

Russia Stymies Ukraine's Plans to Join the European Union

August 27th 2013

Click to select Image
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.

The Digital Edge

China Hit by 'Largest Ever' Hack Attack

August 26th 2013

Computers/Nerd Silhouette

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

Netanyahu Ties Syria Chemical Attack to Iran, Says Assad is ‘Full Iranian Client’

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

Israeli Air Forces Score Direct Hits on Palestinian Terrorists

August 23rd 2013

Click to select Image

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

UN Demands Access to Syria Attack Site

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

Bo Xilai Trial a Test for China Corruption Crackdown

August 21st 2013

Bo Xilai

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

Pakistan’s Musharraf Indicted For Bhutto Killing

August 20th 2013

Benazir Bhutto

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 ..

Broken Intelligence

Journalist Greenwald Says Authorities Will Come To Regret Detaining His Partner

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

Cairo Marches May Now Be Cancelled

August 18th 2013

Tahrir square at night

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 ..

Broken Government

Did ACORN receive HUD Cash Despite Ban on Federal Funding?

August 17th 2013

One Million Dollars

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 ..

Broken Economy

Eurozone Emerges From Recession

August 17th 2013

Euro Symbol

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

Thousands of Syrians Suddenly Pour into Kurdistan

August 16th 2013

Syrian Refugees

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

Satellites Prove Forced Evictions in Nigeria

August 15th 2013

Nairobi Slum

 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

Lloyd Khemradj, Julian McKnight and Joshua Reddin Face Justice in Beating

August 14th 2013

judge's gavel

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

Perhaps Bowing To Pressure, Rohani Appoints Woman To Iranian Cabinet

August 13th 2013

Iranian women with mobile

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

US to Reform Mandatory Drug Sentencing

August 12th 2013

Kid behind bars

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 ..

Broken Intelligence

US Lawmakers Blast Russia on Snowden, Other Matters

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

US Orders Diplomats Out of Lahore and Eastern Pakistan

August 9th 2013

Consulate General Peshawar Pakistan

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.

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."


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


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


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


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 ..

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