|Ritu Sarin||April 13th 2013|
Read more ..
Two members of India’s Parliament, the world’s largest producer of cut roses and other major business owners are among hundreds from the subcontinent linked to offshore companies revealed in files obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
After The Indian Express published the revelations of dealings in countries commonly used as tax havens, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram announced an investigation. “We have taken note of the names,” he said at a press conference, “and inquiries have been put in motion." The disclosure also shines new light on characters caught up in two local scandals that have been likened to Watergate and Enron.
North Korea's Nukes
|Cameron Joseph||April 13th 2013|
Secretary of State John Kerry is in China, asking the country's leaders for their help in easing tensions with a bellicose North Korea. Kerry is meeting with Chinese leaders, including its president and premier, to ask them to act as a diplomatic bridge with North Korea, which has been ramping up aggressive rhetoric and is threatening to test a mid-range missile any day. After a meeting with China's top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, the two countries agreed that the Korean Peninsula must be denuclearized, according to Reuters.
"We are able, the United States and China, to underscore our joint commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner," Kerry told reporters while standing next to Yang. China is the only country in the world with any real influence over the country, as it supplies much of its food and fuel and is North Korea's only real trade partner. But while China and the U.S. both want to avoid direct conflict, Chinese authorities care more about long-term stability of the North Korean regime and often overlook short-term saber-rattling. They're also suspicious of U.S. military activity in that area. Read more ..
Iran and America
|Golnaz Esfandiari||April 12th 2013|
Until not long ago the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) was on the list of the U.S. State Department's terrorist organizations. On April 11, that seemed like a distant memory as the group celebrated the opening of its Washington office just a block away from the White House, with tea and Iranian snacks.
The opening of the office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella group dominated by the MKO (aka the People's Mujahedin of Iran), was attended by several former U.S. officials, NCRI members, and their legal team, who described it as a "great day" for the Iranian people, for democracy in Iran, and for the values the United States cherishes.
The group's U.S. representative, Soona Samsami, a petite woman wearing a blue head scarf and a blue suit, referred to the NCRI as "Iran's main opposition movement" and said that the opening of the office came at a crucial moment in Iran's history. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Matthew RJ Brodsky and Michael Johnson||April 11th 2013|
Jewish Policy Center
Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) declared a merger with Mohammad al-Julani's Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) or the al-Nusra Front, a Syrian Salafi rebel group. Both groups, with the urging of al-Qaeda central leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, seek to make an Islamic state across the region.
The string of back and forth messaging from the different al-Qaeda affiliates points to an interesting dynamic brewing among them. The first message came from AQI's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who proclaimed the merger of AQI and JN under the name and banner of "The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant." JN's leader, al-Julani, responded via the group's official Twitter account two days later, confirming that AQI was instrumental in setting up JN, but he pledged his group's allegiance directly to the more senior al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. As The Long War Journal suggests, the AQI announcement surprised al-Julani who believed it was premature. Al-Julani further suggested that the "Front's banner will remain as-is, without changing anything." Read more ..
Turkey and Israel
|Chana Ya'ar||April 10th 2013|
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has decided to postpone his much-publicized visit to Gaza, planned for this month.
The Turkish leader reportedly changed his scheduled at the request of the U.S. President Barack Obama, who pressured Erdogan to stay out of the region for the time being.
“I imagine the visit will take place following my meeting with President Obama in Washington next month,” Erdogan told reporters.
The U.S. government politely warned the Turkish prime minister two weeks ago against visiting Gaza, with a statement noting the Obama administration’s “opposition to engagement with Hamas.” State Department acting deputy spokesperson Patrick Ventrell underscored in a briefing at the time that Washington’s stand on Gaza’s terrorist rulers has “not changed.” Read more ..
The Edge of Terror
|Matthew Levitt||April 9th 2013|
The Washington Institute
On March 21, a Cypriot criminal court convicted dual Lebanese Swedish citizen Hossam Taleb Yaacoub of helping to plan attacks against Israeli tourists on the island last July. In their eighty-page decision, the judges rejected Yaacoub's defense that he collected information for Hezbollah but did not know what it would be used for; the court ruled there could be no "innocent explanation" of his actions. The decision is particularly important for European officials because the evidence has undergone full judicial scrutiny and cross-examination; the public airing of the evidence makes the conviction especially compelling. The decision also comes on the heels of Bulgaria's investigation into the July bus bombing that killed five Israelis and a local in Burgas. Authorities concluded that two of the three suspects were men with Canadian and Australian passports who "belonged to the military formation of Hezbollah." Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||April 8th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died "peacefully" at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke, according to her family. Current Prime Minister David Cameron called her a "great Briton," while Queen Elizabeth conveyed her sadness at the death of the former leader. Foreign Minister William Hague spoke of Thatcher as a “remarkable” leader who “saved” the United Kingdom and gave hope to the peoples behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.
Thatcher was born in 1925 in Grantham, Lincolnshire, that daughter of a grocer and local alderman. She was married to businessman Dennis Thatcher with whom she had two children. Read more ..
The Race for Natural Gas
India is urging the United States to green-light natural gas exports to the energy-thirsty nation of 1.2 billion people, arguing it would be an economic benefit to both nations.
Nirupama Rao, India’s ambassador to the U.S., makes the case in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that arrives as the U.S. Energy Department weighs an array of industry export applications.
“For the U.S. it would help create thousands of jobs and an expanded revenue stream for the federal government. For India, it would provide a steady, reliable supply of clean energy that will help reduce our crude oil imports from the Middle East and provide reliable energy to a greater share of our population,” Rao writes.
Proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to nations that lack formal free-trade deals with the U.S. (including India) face extra vetting by regulators. Rao argues the case for exports is strong.
“For both countries, which are committed to environmental sustainability, increasing the use and transport of LNG globally will help put into greater use one of the cleanest energy sources in the world,” her column states. Read more ..
Nigeria on Edge
|Peter Clottey||April 7th 2013|
Possible measures that would grant amnesty to members of the militant group Boko Haram are to be reviewed this week by a commission established by Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan.
Barrister Solomon Dalong, a leading member of the Boko Haram Commission, says Nigeria has granted amnesty to several groups as part of efforts by previous governments to end violence and stabilize the country.
“It is a solution being brought in to assist a perennial problem that escalates on daily basis. Simply put, we are trying to solve the problem in our own way.” Dalong dismissed suggestions that granting amnesty to members of Boko Haram is a bad precedent that will encourage people to take up arms against the government, terrorize citizens, and threaten the country’s investment potential.
“What is the basis of people carrying arms against the Nigerian state? We must go back and look at it. And that is one of the reasons why this committee that is going to handle the issue of amnesty should also be given time, to take a look at some of the remote causes and the fundamental issues that has generated this type of problem,” said Dalong. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
Syrian rebels say they have overrun an army garrison that defends the main southern border crossing with Jordan on Friday and vowed to press on to take control of the major transit route.
Fighters from the Free Syrian Army said on Friday that they captured the Um al-Mayathen post on the main Damascus-Jordan highway in heavy fighting overnight that ended a more than week-long siege. Dozens died in the clashes, they added.
"It [the garrison] is a major defence and now we will lay siege to the border crossing and cut their [the government's] supply lines," Abu Omar, commander of the Lions of the Sunna Brigade, told the Reuters news agency by phone. Confirming the development, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said: "Rebel fighters took control of the Um al-Mayathen military checkpoint ... in Deraa province in clashes with regime forces. Read more ..
|Molly K. Hooper||April 5th 2013|
One of the first political issues negotiators must tackle in crafting an immigration reform bill is among the most important: what to name it. It’s a decision that will bruise egos, create legacies and deeply affect subsequent messaging battles.
“Every time the bill is mentioned in the press, you either have a brand that's positive or a brand that doesn't mean anything or even hurts you,” said Frank Sharry, the executive director of the pro-immigration reform group America’s Voice.
The wrong name, he warned, could doom a good bill. “If there's not a catchy name, it gets defined by others,” he said. “I'm sure there are people on the other side trying to come up with a phrase or a word.” No one knows what the House and Senate bills now being crafted in backrooms by select groups of lawmakers will be called, but it’s possible it could be named after some of the negotiators. They include Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). Read more ..
The Darkest Edge
|Alexander Bolton||April 4th 2013|
Gun control groups say Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) are watering down a bill that expands background checks on gun purchases. The groups say the two Democratic senators are going too far in a bid to win Republican support for gun control legislation expected to hit the Senate floor next week.
“Everyone supports background checks except for NRA leadership,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, one of the advocates alarmed by the changes Schumer and Manchin are suggesting. “I think we should be tough on this deal,” he said. “If the vote fails and a legislator votes down background checks, there’s hell down to pay.”
At issue is whether to exempt private gun sales between friends and acquaintances from record-keeping requirements that now only cover licensed gun dealers. Shortly before the Easter recess, Schumer and Manchin proposed that such transactions be subject to background checks but exempt from the record-keeping rules. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Gadi Golan, Daniel Siryoti and Lilach Shoval||April 3rd 2013|
Terrorists fire two rockets, four mortar shells at southern Israel, no injuries reported • Israel Air Force mounts first strike on Gaza Strip terror sites since Operation Pillar of Defense in November • Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon: Hamas is responsible.
The preschool in Sderot where a rocket fired from Gaza exploded during U.S. President Barack Obama's trip to Israel two weeks ago.
Palestinian terrorists fired two rockets at the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Wednesday morning. The rockets exploded in an open area and no injuries or damage were reported. The attacks followed strikes by the Israel Air Force against two terror targets in Gaza Strip on Tuesday night, which in turn followed mortar fire at Israel's south on Tuesday afternoon.
The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit said, "Israeli aircraft targeted two extensive terror sites in northern Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from Gaza Strip at Israel." The statement further said that the pilots recorded direct hits. Read more ..
|Jeremy Herb||April 3rd 2013|
The biggest defense companies’ share value has soared faster than the stock market since sequester spending cuts began on March 1. While the S&P is up 3.7 percent and the Dow Jones industrial average has risen 4.3 percent, Boeing has jumped 9.6 percent, Lockheed Martin is up 8.3 percent. Northrop Grumman has climbed 6.1 percent and Raytheon is up 6 percent.
The jump in contractors’ shares prices is seen as a relief rally after the protracted uncertainties of the sequester debate, but the longer term impact of the cuts is still controversial. No major defense layoffs tied to the sequester have been announced under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, despite predictions during the heat of the 2012 presidential campaign when companies pressed Congress to turn off the automatic cuts. Read more ..
South America on Edge
|Peter M. Tase and Martin Barillas||April 2nd 2013|
Paraguayan President Federico Franco is visiting Madrid to meet with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Also on hand will be Paraguayan Foreign Minister José Félix Fernández Estigarribia, who is arranging Franco’s second official visit to Europe. This is the third official meeting of the two leaders.
Interviewed for a nationally televised talk show in Spain, Franco told viewers that Paraguay is seeking to expand its trade relations with Spain, which had been the colonial overlord of the South American republic for more years than it has been independent. Franco pointed out ties of language and culture that united the two countries, while he also touted Paraguay as the greatest producer of clean hydroelectric power in the world. Read more ..
The North Korean Threat
|Steve Herman||April 2nd 2013|
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, says she is taking “very seriously” the continuing stream of threats from the North that many fear could lead to hostilities on the peninsula.
“There should be a strong response in initial combat without any political consideration” if North Korea launches a provocation against the South,” said Park during a meeting with her defense minister and senior officials of the Ministry of National Defense.
During a briefing for the president, the ministry outlined a new plan allowing the military to launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea should an imminent nuclear or missile attack on the South be detected, including pushing forward the deployment of a “kill chain” system designed to detect, target and destroy missiles.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to expand his nuclear arsenal.
Speaking to the central committee of the workers' party Sunday, Kim laid down a “new strategic line,” saying that under no circumstances would North Korea's nuclear weapons be a bargaining chip in the political or economic arena. Read more ..
The North Korean Threat
|Dan Robinson||April 2nd 2013|
The White House has renewed its call for North Korea to halt provocative rhetoric, but says the United States has not detected any military mobilizations by Pyongyang to back up threats against the U.S. and South Korea. Tensions remain high amid North Korean threats against South Korea, and South Korean President Park Geun-hye's vow to make a strong military response to any attack by Pyongyang.
In recent days, the United States sent B-2 and F-22 stealth aircraft to South Korea as part of joint military exercises with its Asian ally. On Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said those flights were part of "prudent" and important steps to reassure allies and demonstrate resolve to Pyongyang. But he said the U.S. and its allies look closely at both North Korean rhetoric and the situation on the ground, and so far Washington has not seen any large-scale changes. Read more ..
|Elise Viebeck||April 2nd 2013|
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) doubled down Monday in his opposition to expanding Medicaid under President Obama's healthcare law, even though opposing it could cost his state $90 billion. At a press conference where he was flanked by other conservatives, Perry argued expanding the health insurance program for the poor would make Texas “hostage” to the federal government. “It would benefit no one in our state to see their taxes skyrocket and our economy crushed as our budget crumbled under the weight of oppressive Medicaid costs,” Perry said at the state capitol.
States can choose whether or not to allow the federal expansion of Medicaid under the Supreme Court’s decision last year to uphold ObamaCare. Allowing the expansion, in the case of Texas, would insure 1.5 million low-income Texans and bring $90 billion in federal funding to the state over the first decade, according to estimates. Read more ..
The North Korean Threat
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye has vowed "strong retaliation" to any provocation by North Korea. "If there is any provocation against South Korea and its people, there should be a strong response in initial combat without any political considerations," President Geun-hye told the minister of defence and senior officials at a meeting on Monday after Pyongyang declared it was formally at war with Seoul. In a meeting with senior military officials and Defence Minister Kim Kwan-Jin, Park said she took the near-daily stream of bellicose threats emanating from the North "very seriously".
"I believe that we should make a strong and immediate retaliation without any other political considerations if (the North) stages any provocation against our people," she said. Park, a conservative who had advocated cautious engagement with the North during her election campaign, has taken a more hardline position since assuming office in February, shortly after the North conducted its third nuclear test. Read more ..
|Sabina Castelfranco||March 31st 2013|
Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter Mass in Saint Peter’s Square attended by a huge crowd. In his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message and blessing, he called for peace in the world. Tens of thousands turned out for the first Easter Mass celebrated by Pope Francis, in a square beautifully adorned by multi-colored flowers and shrubs.
A procession of cardinals and priests filed out of Saint Peter's basilica at the start of the service. Pope Francis was among them dressed in simple white vestments. The icon of the resurrected Jesus was unveiled and the pope bowed his head as the Gospel was sung in Latin.
At the end of the Mass, the pope greeted the cardinals one by one. Then he toured Saint Peter's Square in his white open-air jeep as the thousands present cheered and waved flags. Pope Francis stopped to kiss babies. In particular, he hugged a disabled child for a few moments. In his Easter message from the central balcony of the basilica, Pope Francis called for peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who he hoped might willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Kent Klein||March 30th 2013|
President Barack Obama called Friday for $21 billion in public and private investment in roads, bridges and other public projects. The president is aiming to reassure Americans that he remains focused on the economic recovery. President Obama said rebuilding infrastructure, with the help of private investment, is one of the best ways to put more Americans to work.
The president made his appeal at the port of Miami, Florida, where public and private money are paying for $2 billion in upgrades.
“There are few more important things we can do to create jobs right now and strengthen our economy over the long haul than rebuilding the infrastructure that powers our businesses and our economy - our roads, our bridges, our schools, and our ports, just like this one," said President Obama. The president wanted to show that the White House is still concentrating on the economy, despite prominent campaigns for gun control and immigration reform. Read more ..
The North Korea Threat
|Justin Sink||March 29th 2013|
North Korea put its missile units on standby on Friday, and the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, threatened to "settle accounts" after the United States flew nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula as part of South Korean military drills.
Tensions in the region have been on the rise since Pyongyang's nuclear test in February, which led to additional sanctions and penalties from the United Nations.
According to the official North Korean news agency, Jong Un signed a rocket preparation plan at midnight and ordered troops on standby for a potential strike against South Korea or the United States.
The Korean leader "judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation." Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Thursday that the provocations were "very dangerous." "We must make clear that these provocations by the North are taken by us very seriously and we'll respond to that," he told reporters at the Pentagon. Read more ..
|Douglas Birch||March 28th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Department of Energy Inspector General Gregory H. Friedman has told Congress that the agency should launch a program patterned on the military’s BRAC base closure program to streamline, downsize or shut some of the Energy agency's 16 national laboratories.
The agency’s chief internal watchdog is pushing to overhaul some of its nuclear and energy research labs and programs, saying that it is “highly questionable” whether a business-as-usual approach can continue in a time of budget cuts.
In an appearance before the House Science Committee’s subcommittee on oversight March 14, Friedman also called on the DOE to focus its sponsored research programs on those that could yield maximum short-term benefits. And he said the agency should concentrate its $6 billion annual environmental cleanup program on a few high-risk, high-priority sites rather than spread the effort out over dozens of sites in multiple states. Read more ..
South Africa on Edge
|Anita Powell||March 27th 2013|
South Africa’s position as a gateway to Africa is a highlight of this year’s BRICS summit. Members of the BRICS bloc - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - top officials from the African Union and leaders of Africa’s regional economic communities are attending this week’s summit in Durban.
South Africa is the newest and financially weakest member of the BRICS bloc. But its membership, South African officials say, affords nations in the group a coveted gateway into Africa - and access to its economic resources, inexpensive labor and growing consumer base.
To that end, South African President Jacob Zuma said he had invited, in all, 15 African heads of state to the meeting. Among them are the new leaders of East African powerhouse Ethiopia and West Africa's economic and diplomatic hub Senegal - though both of those leaders will be representing regional organizations. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Julien Happich||March 27th 2013|
Apple has acquired a Silicon Valley startup, WiFiSlam, which makes mapping applications for smart phones based on the triangulation of WiFi signals. The Wall Street Journal reported Apple may have paid around $20 million for the company. WiFiSlam develops technology that provides indoor tracking and similar services. Big tech companies such as Apple and Google have been racing to provide more and better map applications for users. Google's application, Google Maps, is widely accessed on Google's Android platform and rival Apple's rival iOS platform.
The startup uses a combination of methods to get better indoor locations, such as using WiFi fingerprinting, or measuring the strength of the signal to get an idea of what the materials and construction of a particular building do to WiFi signals. Read more ..
|Justin Sink||March 26th 2013|
The White House hopes to bolster President Obama’s political standing by shifting attention from the bruising budget battles of the last month to immigration reform and gun control. Democrats welcome the pivot after watching Obama’s standing in polls fall amid fights with Congress over the budget and the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. They see immigration and gun reform as a better playing field for Obama that could provide political wins for the president.
“What the public wants to see right now is him achieving things, leading,” said Tad Devine, a former strategist to John Kerry and Al Gore. “For him, there's real opportunity on all these fronts, and… realistically in the next six months, he can have progress he can bring back to the American people.” Read more ..
The Cyber Edge
|Jennifer Martinez||March 25th 2013|
A draft cybersecurity bill circulating among House Judiciary Committee members would stiffen a computer hacking law used to bring charges against Internet activist Aaron Swartz.
The bill draft would tighten penalties for cyber crimes and establish a standard for when companies would have to notify consumers that their personal data has been hacked. It would also change existing law so that an attempt at a cyber crime can be punished as harshly as an actual offense.
Such measures could spark concern among advocates outraged over the death of Swartz, the 26-year-old Internet activist and computer programmer who killed himself earlier this year while facing a possible 35-year prison term for hacking. Advocates have called on Congress to make changes to what they say is a draconian law that led to too harsh a prosecution of Swartz. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Molly K. Hooper||March 24th 2013|
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on Sunday warned there was “mounting evidence” Syrian President Bashir al-Assad has used chemical weapons and said the red line calling for a U.S. response “has been crossed.”
“When you look at the whole body of information over the last two years, there is mounting evidence that the Assad regime has used at least a small quantity of chemical weapons throughout the course of this conflict," said Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Rogers comments come after reports earlier this week of an unconfirmed chemical attack in Syria. President Obama, who was in Israel earlier this week during a three-day tour of the region, vowed that he would investigate the reports and said that the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” inviting U.S. action. Such an attack would be a “game changer,” Obama added. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
The Pakistani Taliban says it will try to kill former president Pervez Musharraf when he returns to the country to take part in upcoming parliamentary elections.
In a video released Saturday, Taliban representatives said a hit squad has been prepared to assassinate Musharraf, who is expected to return to Karachi on Sunday after more than four years of self-imposed exile in London and Dubai.
While he was president, Musharraf angered the Taliban by maintaining close ties with the United States and backing its efforts to fight terrorism.
In Dubai on Saturday, Musharraf said he was granted bail to avoid being arrested upon his planned return home. He has faced arrest for his alleged involvement in the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. He denies involvement in the plot to kill her.
Musharraf had said several times that he would be returning to Pakistan, but never carried out those plans. On March 1, however, he pledged to return this month, as soon as a caretaker government is in place. Pakistan’s parliament and federal and provincial governments completed their five-year constitutional term earlier this month. A caretaker government will steer the country until the parliamentary elections on May 11. Read more ..
The New Egypt
from Hayom and agencies
Read more ..
Two tourists, an Arab Israeli man and a European woman, were kidnapped Friday in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, several Israeli and foreign media reports indicated.
Armed Bedouin tribesmen in Sinai abducted the two tourists on Friday as they were traveling between beach resorts, police officials told the French news agency AFP.
The gunmen intercepted the tourists' car and forced them into their truck, the officials said. The tourists had been traveling between the southern resort of Taba, on the border with Israel, and Dahab, which is located a few hours drive south of the Egyptian-Israeli border crossing, AFP reported.
According to initial reports on Channel 2, the kidnappers are likely Bedouin who want to trade the hostages for tribesmen jailed in Egypt.
Israel on Edge
|Jacob Kamaras||March 21st 2013|
Four Gaza rockets were fired at Israel on Thursday, with two of them landing in the often rocket-battered city of Sderot, during the second day of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the Jewish state, Reuters reported.
One of the rockets exploded in the courtyard of a home in Sderot, a city Obama had specifically mentioned during a news conference on Wednesday in Jerusalem. He visited Sderot in 2008 as a presidential candidate.
“I’ve stood in Sderot, and met with children who simply want to grow up free from fear,” Obama said Wednesday. “And flying in today, I saw again how Israel’s security can be measured in mere miles and minutes.” The Sderot resident whose home was hit by a rocket, Yossi Haziza, told Israeli Army Radio, “We will get through this. I only hope that Obama sees what the people here are going through. Read more ..
Obama and Israel
|Susan St. Claire||March 20th 2013|
INN reports: Arabs in Bethlehem had a “warm welcome” for American officials who on Monday came to prepare for President Barack H. Obama's visit to the city Friday, by throwing shoes and garbage at the vehicles in an entourage from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. Hundreds of Arabs mobbed the vehicles outside the Church of the Nativity, where Obama is scheduled to visit when he comes to Bethlehem. Sources in the city told Israel Radio that Arab protesters tore down posters with Obama's image, throwing them to the ground and spitting and stepping on them. The protesters threw shoes at other posters that were hung too high for them to easily tear down. The American entourage had entered Bethlehem unannounced, apparently in an effort to avoid such scenes. The entourage was said to be comprised chiefly of security officials who were there to ensure that Obama would be safe during his visit. PA police attempted to stop the crowd from throwing shoes and debris at the American vehicles, and were only partially successful, witnesses said. Sources in the PA said they were examining ways to ensure that Monday's protests were not repeated when Obama came to town. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Julian Pecquet||March 19th 2013|
The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs panel is expected to introduce legislation Monday to arm the Syrian rebels. It's the strongest signal yet that lawmakers are running out of patience with the administration's muted response to a conflict that has left more than 70,000 people dead.
The bill, from Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), calls on the Obama administration to provide up to $150 million in lethal and non-lethal security assistance to “appropriately vetted” groups seeking to overthrow Bashar Assad's regime. The 16-page “Free Syria Act of 2013” is being released ahead of House and Senate hearings this week marking the second anniversary of the uprising. It also comes just before President Obama's trip to Israel, where the Syrian conflict will be high on the agenda.
Read more ..
Cyprus on Edge
|Terrence Sterling||March 18th 2013|
Cyprus banks will remain closed until Thursday to prevent a run on accounts as the Mediterranean island nation considers imposing a first-ever bank deposit tax. The proposed bank levy has rattled investors. Stock markets throughout the world dropped Monday in the aftermath of the bailout for tiny Cyprus. Stocks in Asia plunged two percent or more, with European and U.S. indexes falling by smaller amounts.
The proposed bank tax would hit everyone with money in Cypriot banks, including foreign nationals. Cyprus moved to revamp terms of the bank deposit tax imposed by its international lenders as part of a $13 billion bailout to keep from going bankrupt. Cypriot officials were working with the lenders to cut or eliminate the tax on small investors, while raising it on those with bigger accounts. For the second day in a row, Cyprus's parliament postponed a vote on a new plan and rescheduled it for Tuesday. Read more ..
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has told news organizations that wounded survivors of the bloody Benghazi terrorist attack were told by the Obama minions "to be quiet" about the details of the attack. According to Graham, the survivors, who have never spoken about their experiences in Libya, told him they can't come forward to tell their stories and that the public, including the news media, are not aware of their identities.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney denied the allegation, but Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, complained that the Obama administration failed to provide even one document on the subject of survivors and witnesses.
Top Republicans in both houses of the U.S. Congress are urging the State Department officials to identify those men and women injured by the terrorists on Sept. 11, 2012. However, efforts to make the diplomatic staff available to investigators continues to meet with negative results. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Alexandra Jaffe||March 15th 2013|
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney appealed for the Republican Party to learn from the mistakes of his losing 2012 presidential campaign and, as conservatives chart their course forward, to look to GOP governors for a path to future electoral wins.
Romney received perhaps the most enthusiastic reception yet of any speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference, with a packed auditorium offering him an extended standing ovation before he began. He told the CPAC crowd that while he "left the race disappointed that we didn't win," he remained optimistic for future success — if the party learns from his campaign.
"We've lost races before, in the past, but those setbacks prepared us for larger victories. It's up to us to make sure that we learn from our mistakes, and my mistakes, and that we take advantage of that learning to make sure that we take back the nation, take back the White House, get the Senate and put in place conservative principles," he said. The speech marked a reemergence of sorts for Romney, who has quietly returned to private life following his defeat. Read more ..
|Michael Johnson||March 14th 2013|
The Jewish Policy Center
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party announced a new coalition with the secular Yesh Atid party, the far-right Jewish Home party, and the centrist Hatnua. Just two days before the March 16th deadline to form a new government, Israel's new coalition will control 68 of the Knesset's 120 seats. Yesh Atid, which won the second highest vote total, will lead the Finance and Education Ministries, controlling funding to ultra-orthodox schools and institutions. Jewish Home will lead the Economy and Trade Ministry with Likud retaining the Foreign and Defense Ministries.
For the first time in almost thirty years ultra-Orthodox parties, such as Shas and United Torah Judaism, were left out of the coalition. The exclusion amounts to "the boycott of an entire population," said Moshe Gafni of the United Torah Judaism. Many of the smaller ultra-Orthodox parties have played "kingmaker" in recent governments, and Netanyahu's previous right-of-center coalition achieved a governing majority with their help. Israel's left-leaning Labor Party will also sit on the opposition benches. The makeup of coalition suggests that Netanyahu will be focused more heavily on domestic social and economic issues than was previously the case. Read more ..
Azerbaijani on Edge
|Arifa Kazimova and Daisy Sindelar||March 14th 2013|
Hours before Azerbaijani activists gathered in Baku last weekend for an unsanctioned protest against military violence, blogger Habib Muntezir sent out a word of warning: "Sonic weapons with a horrible acoustic effect may be used to disperse the protests. Use cotton or earplugs to protect your ears."
In the end, riot police did not resort to using the LRAD, or Long-Range Acoustic Device, which can blast a pain-inducing 150-decibel beam of sound to deter unruly crowds. But the presence of the LRAD, a U.S.-manufactured device that is gaining international popularity as a crowd-control tool, still provoked a wave of outrage among the March 10 protesters, who say the West should not be helping to stock the Baku regime’s arsenal.
"Hopefully, this is not a part of U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan," one activist wrote on Facebook in the wake of the protests, which ended with police using tear gas and water cannons -- both manufactured in Israel -- to forcibly break up the crowd. Read more ..
|Bulent Kenes||March 13th 2013|
An investigation conducted by the federal prosecutor's office of Germany has revealed that Iranian front companies based in İstanbul transported 941 items with nuclear applications through Turkey, the Bugün daily reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, in 2012 German police detected that materials with nuclear applications obtained in Germany and India were transported to the Mitech company in Iran through Turkey by an Iranian national, Hossein Tanideh. Mitech is under US and European Union-imposed sanctions.
Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office, which is also the German branch of Interpol, informed its counterpart in Turkey about Tanideh's dealings, and Tanideh was arrested after being referred to the Küçükçekmece Court in İstanbul on Jan. 19, 2013. As part of the investigation, Mesut Atasoy, who is the owner of one the front companies implicated in Turkey, was also taken into custody, while three other Iranian nationals are still on the run. Read more ..
A federal jury in the Eastern District of Michigan convicted a high-ranking Democratic political leader in Detroit, Mich., on Monday following a five-month long criminal trial and a 14-day jury deliberation, according to a federal law enforcement official.
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick, and 44-year-old Bobby W. Ferguson, also of Detroit, were convicted on federal charges that they used Kwame Kilpatrick’s positions as mayor of Detroit and Michigan State House Representative to perpetrate a racketeering conspiracy involving extortion, bribery, and fraud. The 42-year-old Kwame's father, Bernard Kilpatrick, 70, of Detroit, was also convicted of a felony tax offense in a separate trial.
Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted of 24 counts of extortion, mail fraud, tax violations, and racketeering, Bobby Ferguson was convicted on nine counts of extortion and racketeering. Two other co-defendants Victor Mercado, former director of the City of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, and Derrick Miller, former chief administrative officer of the City of Detroit, were also indicted as being part of the criminal conspiracy, and both government officials pleaded guilty to their roles and are awaiting sentencing. Read more ..
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