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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.

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


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


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


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


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."


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


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 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 ..

Israel on Edge

Israeli Government Concludes al Dura Death Was Staged

May 14th 2013

al Dura Death

The Israeli government is set to release a commissioned report on the al Dura affair that will clearly assert that the “death” of the Palestinian Arab youth, Mohamed al Dura, was staged, the Israeli weekly Sof Shavoua reported Friday.

This falls in line with the conclusions reached years ago by the scientist Nahum Shahaf, followed by the late Gérard Huber and media watchdog Philippe Karsenty, who has led the battle to bring out the truth in French courts for more than a decade.

The Algemeiner has also learned that the report advises that international media outlets be held to a more rigorous standard of reporting so as to prevent the dissemination of false information and the construction of false narratives around the Israeli-Arab conflict. Read more ..

Inside Washington

GOP Demands Investigation of IRS Targetting Conservative and Jewish Groups

May 13th 2013

Republican lawmakers have called for a broad investigation of revelations that the Internal Revenue Service and its agents singled out conservative political groups and pro-Israel organizations for heightened scrutiny, while also demanding that President Barack Obama personally apologize for the action.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers, said on May 12 the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) during the 2012 political campaign "is something we cannot let stand. It needs to have a full investigation."

Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine said she does not believe "this was a couple of rogue IRS employees. After all, groups with 'progressive' in their names were not targeted similarly." She called the practice "truly outrageous." Read more ..


Issa Intends to Depose Officials Behind State Dept. Benghazi Review

May 12th 2013

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #2

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wants to take sworn deposition from the officials behind a State Department board which reviewed the Benghazi attack.

Issa said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he planned to request a deposition from former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The two helmed an investigation into the September terrorist attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Issa said the White House "effectively lied" to the public about the nature of the attack, by initially downplaying an terrorist aspects and saying the attack was more spontaneous and mob-oriented. "The real truth is the people who were there in Tripoli and Benghazi knew it was a terror attack from the get-go," he said. "When the wheels come off, when in fact people make a decision to give us something that's false and then that's shown to be false, of course we have an obligation to look at it." Read more ..

Obama Second Term

IRS Apologizes for Targeting Conservative and Tea Party Organizations

May 11th 2013

Obama with baseball bat

The powerful Treasury Department's tax-collecting and enforcement agency, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), conceded on Friday that its agents targeted conservative PACs and Tea Party groups for politically-motivated audits during the 2012 election. The White House has called for a full investigation into the complaints.

According to the director of the IRS' department overseeing tax-exempt organizations, Lois Lerner, employees at an IRS office in Ohio began a probe of organizations using the terms "patriot" or "Tea Party." IRS agents conducted politically-motivated reviews during the 2012 elections, including the presidential race, to see if conservative groups were violating their tax-exempt status.

However, Lerner backed away from her original statement and told reporters that the decision to conduct the probe was not partisan, just an "error in judgment," by low-level employees who were "less sensitive that they should have been about the impact this [harassment] might have on the Obama-Romney race and other elections in November 2012. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Obama and Cameron to Focus on Syria End-Game

May 11th 2013

Corpses in Homs

President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are expected to concentrate on Syria when they meet Monday at the White House. The leaders hope to work with Russia to stop the bloodshed in Syria.

Three days before his Washington trip, Cameron visited Russian President Vladimir Putin. They discussed a U.S. and Russian proposal to hold talks with all parties to the conflict. “Not just bringing the regime and opposition together at one negotiating table, but Britain, Russia, America and other countries, helping shape a transitional government that all Syrians can trust to protect them,” said Cameron.

Obama spoke earlier in the week about the need for a negotiated settlement.

“I think that we have both a moral obligation and a national security interest in, A, ending the slaughter in Syria, but, B, also ensuring that we have got a stable Syria that is representative of all the Syrian people and is not creating chaos for its neighbors,” said Obama. Several conditions are essential for peace talks to succeed, according to Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon, at Washington’s Brookings Institution. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Who Are Syrian Rebels Washington Is Considering Arming?

May 10th 2013

Free Syrian Army

Recent claims that chemical weapons have been used in Syria's civil war have increased the pressure on U.S. President Barack Obama to intervene in the conflict. In addition to considering a no-fly zone, he is said to be weighing whether to provide rebel fighters with weapons. Who are the fighters in Syria's insurgency?

The majority are from the Free Syrian Army, a force of some 70,000 defectors from the Syrian military and volunteers who have taken up arms against the regime. They're part of a loose coalition of 30 armed groups recently brought under a joint military command led by General Salam Idris, a senior Syrian military officer who defected.

Not in the coalition are Islamic militant groups who are also trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad. Many of these fight under the banner of the Syrian Islamic Front, an umbrella group for several hard-line brigades. Taken together, says Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, Syria's opposition fighters are a fractious force with a variety of axes to grind against a regime dominated by Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. Read more ..

Britain on Edge

Britain to Tighten Immigration Rules

May 9th 2013

London Police

The British government has announced plans to tighten immigration rules. The plans were revealed in Queen Elizabeth's annual speech to mark the formal opening of parliament. In a ceremony packed with symbolism, the monarch delivered her 60th consecutive Queen’s Speech to a joint meeting of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The eight-minute speech covered a broad range of issues, focusing on continuing efforts to stimulate economic growth and reform health care and welfare services.

But the lines that received the most attention promised an effort to make it more difficult for immigrants to come to Britain. “My government will bring forward a bill that further reforms Britain’s immigration system," Queen Elizabeth said. "The bill will ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deters those who will not.”

Immigration has been an increasingly prominent issue in Britain, focused particularly on people from new member-nations of the European Union. A growing movement to force a British withdrawal from the Union is based largely on such concerns. Read more ..

Broken Government

TSA: Stop Wasting Money on Unused Scanners and Equipment

May 8th 2013

airport security line

Lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday accused the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of wasting money on unused equipment.

The criticism came after the release of a report from the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) inspector general that showed the agency was spending $800,000 per year on warehouse space.

Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), said the equipment was piling up because the agency was rushing to keep up with the latest trends in airport security.

Hudson cited a 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that he said showed the TSA did not analyze the costs and benefits of its Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) X-ray machines before buying them. "That was nearly four years ago, and to my knowledge, no such comprehensive cost-benefit analysis has been completed," Hudson said Wednesday.  Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Air Force Struggles To Take Off

May 7th 2013

afghan air force l39s

Afghanistan's fledgling air force is scrambling to prepare to take control of the country's airspace. But while expectations are high, the force is having trouble getting off the ground.

Air power has proved crucial in rugged Afghanistan, where road networks are poor and often mined by militants. Afghan and international ground forces have relied heavily on NATO's massive fleet of fighter jets, assault helicopters, and cargo aircraft to attack militants, provide surveillance, and carry personnel to and from the battlefield.

With NATO troops expected to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the alliance has been arming and training its eventual replacement, the Afghan Air Force (AAF), in order to leave behind a force capable of maintaining control of the country's airspace. But development of the 352,000-strong Afghan National Army and National Police has taken the highest priority, stunting the air force's growth. Read more ..

The Boston Massacre

Following Boston Attacks, Uptick In Islamophobia, Gestures Of Tolerance

May 6th 2013

Boston Massacre

WASHINGTON -- Politicians, pundits, and average Americans alike are trying to make sense of the April 15 Boston bombings and how two young ethnic Chechen immigrants were seemingly drawn to terror. Just how the country should respond is a question that looms large.

From some corners, the result has been an uptick in Islamophobic rhetoric. Others, meanwhile, are countering with messages of inclusivity.

Erik Rush was among the first of several conservative commentators who drew criticism for their reactions. In the hours following the attack, days before the suspects' identities were revealed, he implied in a tweet that the perpetrator was from Saudi Arabia. A Saudi national had been declared a "person of interest" by authorities in the immediate aftermath of the bombing but was soon cleared. When asked by another Twitter user if Rush was automatically blaming a Muslim, he responded, "Yes, they’re evil. Let’s kill them all." He later said he was being sarcastic. Read more ..

Israel's Next Northern War

Syria Says Israel Strike a 'Declaration of War'

May 5th 2013

Fighter Jets

Israel attacked a missile depot north of Damascus early Sunday, the second attack on missiles on Syrian soil in the past three days. Media reports indicate a massive bombardment that lasted for hours and lit up the sky. According to Western and Israeli officials, the target was advanced Iranian missiles on their way to Hezbollah, a terror group and Iranian proxy. Israel reportedly hit the same missile depot in a January attack. Early Friday, Israel reportedly hit a convoy of the missiles, known as the Fateh 110, that were on their way to Lebanon.

In response to the Israeli missions, the deputy foreign minister of Syria told CNN that Israel had declared war. In an interview with CNN, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said the attack represented an alliance between Islamic terrorists and Israel. He added that Syria would retaliate against Israel in its own time and way. Read more ..

Broken Banking

Philippine Government to Probe Marcos Daughter’s Offshore Trust

May 4th 2013

Caribbean Sea Shore

Philippine government officials said Friday that they will look into a media organization’s disclosure that the eldest daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was a beneficiary of a secret offshore trust in the British Virgin Islands.

Maria Imelda Marcos Manotoc, more popularly known as Imee Marcos, did not report her offshore trust on asset disclosure statements that she’s required to file every year as a public official, according to a story released Thursday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

She has been governor of Ilocos Norte province, her father’s traditional political bailiwick, since 2010, and was a member of the Philippine’s House of Representatives from 1998 to 2007.

“We are duty bound to investigate and, depending upon informed preliminary findings, decide whether to pursue the matter,” Andres Bautista, the chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, told Agent France-Presse. The commission is tasked with recovering the Marcos family’s alleged ill-gotten wealth. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Political Crackdown Marks Putin’s First Year Back in Kremlin

May 3rd 2013


One year ago, on May 7, Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin to serve another term as president, after a four-year stretch out of the spotlight as Russia’s prime minister.

Angry protests greeted his return, and his inauguration motorcade flew through the empty streets of Moscow, emptied by a five-day holiday and by riot police flown in from as far away as Siberia.
Today, analysts say President Putin spent his first year methodically cracking down on Russia’s opposition. This crackdown goes beyond the symbolic restoration of street patrols by Cossacks, the whip wielding enforcers of Czarist days. “The tactics are destroying the opposition, destroying the protest movement by persecuting, imprisoning, marginalizing, forcing to emigrate - whatever,” says Dmitry Suslov, international affairs professor at the Higher School of Economics. Read more ..

The New Libya

Libyan Islamists Invade Ministries and Other Government Facilities

May 2nd 2013

Lybian Gunmen

In its attempt to bring about a peaceful transition for yet another Islamic nation, the United Nations mission in Libya said it is monitoring the latest conflagration in that war-torn country. A number of gunmen reportedly took control of the ministries of justice and foreign affairs, and other Libyan institutions, according to United Nations officials on Tuesday.

In a statement from Libya's capital, Tripoli, the U.N. Support Mission (UNSMIL) said that it recognizes the basic right of all Libyans to express their demands by peaceful means but “underlines the need for all to abide by the principles and goals of the Libyan revolution, in which the revolutionaries played a historic and decisive role and paid dearly to achieve it.” “These principles revolve around the building of a modern and strong state based on democracy, rule of law and human rights,” the UNSMIL added. Read more ..

The EU on Edge

EU Considers Action Over Bangladesh Factory Collapse

May 1st 2013

Female Workers Protest  Bangladesh

The European Union may make changes to its trade agreement with Bangladesh after last week's factory collapse on the outskirts of Dhaka, which left more than 400 people dead.

The EU says it will take "appropriate action" to encourage improved working conditions in Bangladesh factories. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht made the comments in a joint statement late Tuesday.

“As Bangladesh’s largest trade partner, the European Union is very concerned about the labor conditions, including health and safety provisions, which are established for workers in factories across the country," said Sébastien Brabant, an Ashton spokesperson. The textiles industry in Bangladesh is valued at almost $20 billion a year. Europe is Bangladesh’s largest trade partner and 60 percent of its garments are sent to the continent. Read more ..

South Africa on Edge

South Africa Surprised By UK Decision to End Aid

April 30th 2013

South African Miner Living Conditions

The United Kingdom’s announcement Tuesday that it would stop all direct aid to South Africa by 2015 has provoked consternation and confusion in Pretoria.  An official in the foreign ministry says South Africa was not told in advance of the decision, and that the move could “redefine” the two nations’ relationship. 

British International Development Secretary Justine Greening said Tuesday that the U.K. is ending direct aid to South Africa, worth about $29 million per year. Greening said she had consulted with South African officials ahead of the decision and that they had agreed that “South Africa is now in a position to fund its own development.” However, in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, officials said they were taken by surprise.  Read more ..

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