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Our Darkest Edge

Murder and Beheading of Coptic Orthodox in New Jersey Remains Mysterious

February 27th 2013

A bizarre and gruesome murder case in New Jersey has law officers in the Garden State scratching their heads. Yusuf Ibrahim, a 27-year-old residing in Jersey City , is charged with the murder of two other men from Jersey City on Feb. 5, possibly over a disputed Mercedes Benz automobile. It was on Feb. 7, after responding to a report of suspicious activity in Buena Vista Township, that police uncovered the bodies buried in a shallow grave while their severed hands and heads were nearby. It was on Feb. 11 that New Jersey State Police announced Ibrahim’s arrest. (See video here.)

Police identified one the victims, Hanny F. Tawadros, 25, after notifying his next of kin. A local newspaper identified the second victim as Amgad A. Konds, 27. Both were foreign nationals. The alleged murderer is a native of Indiana. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Bracing for Sequester, US Frees Illegal Immigrants

February 26th 2013

Latino immigration rally

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) says it has released hundreds of detained immigrants in an effort to save money ahead of potential government budget cuts.

ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said Tuesday the agency ordered field officers to examine the number of immigrants in detention facilities to make sure it’s in line with available funding.

"Over the last week, ICE has reviewed several hundred cases and placed these individuals on methods of supervision less costly than detention,” she said. “All of these individuals remain in removal proceedings. Priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety.” Read more ..


Broken Borders

'Earned Citizenship' At Center Of U.S. Immigration Reform Push

February 25th 2013

Stop the Raids immigration protest

WASHINGTON -- "Toma," as he requested to be named, is an illegal immigrant in his early 50s, living in the northeastern United States. He speaks little English. He says he got a tourist visa five years ago and left his native city of Kutaisi, Georgia. He hasn't been back since.

"They have everything here,” he says. “They have jobs -- not like back home. I decided to stay and thought I could somehow get my papers eventually."

Many immigrants from Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics, Toma says, overstay their visas and find work in construction, like he did. He says he did so out of necessity, but has always been thankful for the chance.

"I have a family to feed. I have to do something. Because I am in America my family and my relatives aren't going hungry. I've helped a lot of people survive back home by sending money. I sent money for surgeries that they couldn't pay for. I owe it all to America. I love my country, but I respect this country too. This country is like a second mother," Toma said. Read more ..


Afganistan on Edge

Karzai Orders US Special Forces Out of Eastern Province

February 24th 2013

Navy Seals

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered the removal of all U.S. special forces from an eastern province in response to allegations that those forces or their Afghan allies may have committed rights abuses against civilians.

In a statement Sunday, Karzai's office said a government investigation of security incidents in Wardak province found that armed men suspected of ties to U.S. Special Forces were engaged in "harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people." It said the Afghan defense ministry will take steps to ensure that all U.S. Special Forces are out of the province within two weeks.

It is the first time the Afghan president has issued such an order against the forces of the United States, a key ally which has been helping Kabul to combat a more than decade-long Islamist insurgency by Taliban militants.

A U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesman said he is aware of reports about Mr. Karzai's order. Speaking to VOA by phone from Kabul, Lt. Col. Les Carroll said the U.S. military "takes all allegations of misconduct seriously" and goes to "great lengths to the determine the facts." He said U.S. officers "intend to fully discuss" the issue of alleged rights abuses with their Afghan counterparts. Read more ..


Broken Government

Obama Demands Compromise on Looming Sequester from GOP

February 23rd 2013

Obama with baseball bat

President Obama stepped up his efforts to blame congressional Republicans for looming automatic spending cuts on Saturday, calling on the GOP once again to compromise to undo the sequester. In his weekly address, the president continued to talk up the real-world effects of the sequester, with the $85 billion in cuts set to start going into effect on March 1.

Those cuts, Obama said, would simply throw more obstacles in the way of a recovering economy. “They will eliminate good jobs,” Obama said. “They will leave many families who are already stretched to the limit scrambling to figure out what to do.” The address caps off a week in which Obama held an event with first responders, and in which his Transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, warned that the scheduled cuts could upend air travel. Read more ..


Edge of Hate

Motor City Madman Plotted Attacks on Jews and Black Americans

February 22nd 2013

Neo Nazi Richard Schmidt

A neo-Nazi sympathizer arrested in December by the FBI was plotting attacks against Jewish and African-American leaders in the Detroit area, according reports.

Richard Schmidt the owner of a sporting goods store in Bowling Green, Ohio, was originally reported to have been arrested by the FBI for trafficking counterfeit goods. But the case has become more worrying and bizarre since it was revealed that the former felon, who spent 13 years in Ohio state prison for a homicide after being convicted of killing a man and wounding two others in a shooting during a traffic stop, had a small arsenal at his disposal and a hit-list of Jewish and African-American targets in the Motor City.

When FBI agents last December searched his home and store, they discovered a cache of 18 weapons that included AR-15 assault rifles, 9 mm Ruger and Sig Sauer pistols, shotguns, high-capacity magazines and more than 40,000 rounds of ammunition.

“The FBI averted a catastrophe in this case, there’s no doubt about it,” Steven M. Dettelbach, the U.S. attorney in Cleveland, said in an interview with NBC News. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Spock-Like Obama Gets Emotional about His Agenda

February 22nd 2013

Click to select Image

President Obama is displaying a more emotional side of his personality as he works to sell his second-term agenda to the public. The Spock-like Obama criticized for being aloof has been ditched in favor of a president who tells personal anecdotes about his life, shares locked-away thoughts from his past and on several occasions has wiped away a tear or two in public.

While Obama has more flexibility to be himself now because he doesn’t face reelection, the personal touches are also in tune with a White House effort to enact an agenda that includes gun control, immigration reform and anti-poverty programs by connecting directly with the public and pressuring Congress from the outside. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Car Bombing Kills Scores in Syrian Capital

February 21st 2013

Car Bomb

Syrian state media say at least 53 people have been killed and more than 200 wounded in a car bombing near the headquarters of Syria's ruling Ba'ath Party in central Damascus.

State media called the blast a "terrorist bombing" that struck a densely populated area near the al-Mazraa neighborhood. State television footage showed bloodied and charred bodies lying along the roadside in the aftermath of the attack, which took place near the Russian embassy.

Red Crescent rescue workers picked through the rubble to rescue victims. Commuters at a major bus stop and children at a nearby school were reportedly among those killed and wounded. A young girl, dressed in a scout's uniform and trembling with fear, said she was thrown from her chair from the force of the blast and found herself on the ground. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Al Shabaab Executes Kenyan, French Hostages in Somalia

February 21st 2013

Al Shabaab

Leaders from the al-Qaeda-affliate Al Shabaab in Somalia on Friday reported that they killed a Kenyan soldier who they captured during one of the terrorist group's cross-border raids. The capture and execution of the Kenyan is similar to a previous execution by the radical Islamist organization.

In January 2013, Al Shabaab terrorists killed a French hostage, Dennis Allex, only days after special forces troops from France failed in their rescue attempt, according to the French government.

France's elite French Foreign Legion using helicopters raided an Al Shabaab terrorist base in hopes of retrieving Allex, who is said to be a French security expert. Unfortunately, the rescue operation failed to free Allex and two Legionnaires were killed.

"Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen has reached a unanimous decision to execute the French intelligence officer, Dennis Allex, " said Al-Shabaab. Leaders from the brutal terrorist group said the killing of the Kenyan soldier on Friday was retaliation for Kenya's involvement with the African Union in helping the Somali military in fighting the Islamists. Read more ..


Edge of Justice

Pistorius's Story Challenged, Bail Decision Pending

February 20th 2013

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkam

Lawyers have concluded their arguments in the bail hearing of South African Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, who is charged with murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. The prosecution says Pistorius, a double amputee athlete, committed pre-meditated murder, while the defense maintains he thought he was shooting a burglar. 

The day in court ended with a question from Magistrate Desmond Nair:  Will Oscar Pistorius flee if he grants him bail ahead of his murder trial? Nair will have to decide that in coming days, as he prepares to rule on the athlete's bail application. It was a day of back and forth arguments from the prosecution and defense. The prosecution first called up Hilton Botha, an experienced police investigator who was on the scene shortly after the February 14 shooting at Pistorius' Pretoria home.

Botha said police found model Reeva Steenkamp dead at the scene and fully clothed. Botha noted that Pistorius fired four shots through the closed door to the bathroom, but that the toilet does not line up with the door. Botha also said that police found a stock of unlicensed ammunition at the runner’s home and four mobile phones -- none of which had been used to call police or an ambulance, as Pistorius said he had. Read more ..


Broken Government

Obama Faces Brewing Fundraising Scandal

February 19th 2013

Jim Messina

Government watchdog groups once allied with President Obama warn he could become embroiled in a second-term scandal because of ties to a group set up to collect unlimited donations. The group, Organizing for Action, plans to raise unlimited chunks of funding to promote the president’s agenda. It is chaired by Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, and advised by David Plouffe, who recently served as Obama’s senior adviser.

The creation of this group by Obama’s inner political circle combined with the president’s silence on campaign finance reform during Tuesday’s State of the Union address have alarmed government watchdog groups such as Common Cause and Public Citizen.

"We’re concerned by his Organizing for Action group that’s being set up because it creates a huge potential for government corruption where basically corporations and other wealthy donors can fund this new group that can be a partner organization that is basically working on Obama’s agenda,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, senior vice president for policy and program at Common Cause. Read more ..


Inside Washington

Republicans Propose Millions for School Security

February 18th 2013

Shooter shooting AR15

Freshman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and six other House Republicans have proposed legislation that would spend $30 million a year on federal grants to help put police officers in schools across the country.

The Protect America's Schools Act is a reaction to the December shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 children dead. After that shooting, National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre suggested that children in schools be protected by armed guards, and Meadows's bill would appear to be a step in that direction.

"According to a recent Gallup poll, 53 percent of Americans believe that increasing police presence at schools would be very effective in preventing future tragedies," Meadows said last week. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Arabs Destroy Vineyards in Samaria

February 18th 2013

Vineyard destroyed in Samaria

Some 3,000 vines, situated near Shiloh in Samaria, were destroyed over the past few days. The vineyards are visited every few days during this season, so the vandalism was discovered only this morning. The damage is estimated at 200,000 NIS.
Footprints leading to the Arab village of Kutzrah were discovered by IDF trackers during their initial investigation. About a year ago, a 1/4 of an acre was destroyed in the same vineyard.

Itamar Weiss, a worker at the vineyards, told Tazpit News Agency: "This morning we discovered the difficult scene of some 3,000 destroyed vines. Unfortunately, this is the not the first time we are experiencing such incidents. We expect these crimes to be treated with the same force that crimes throughput the rest of Israel are treated and investigated. This is the fourth time this vineyard has been targeted in the past years, and that testifies to the fact that such crimes against Jewish owned property are not dealt with properly, even though it is known were the perpetrators come from." Read more ..


Broken Government

Former Rep. Jackson to Plead Guilty

February 16th 2013

Jesse jackson jr

Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) will plead guilty to federal charges stemming from the misuse of campaign funds, his lawyer told said Saturday. Jackson's wife, Sandy, will also enter a guilty plea, her lawyer has told media outlets.

The Chicago Democrat and son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson has been charged with using $750,000 in campaign funds to pay for a lavish lifestyle. Purchases allegedly included a $43,000 Rolex watch and a $4,600 Michael Jackson fedora hat. "I can so confirm," Jackson Jr.'s attorney, Brian Heberlig, said when asked about the guilty plea. The guilty plea is for the one count of wire fraud, mail fraud and making false statements listed in the court document. Jackson could be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

US Provides Front-Line Missile Defense for Turkey while Syria Rages

February 16th 2013

Six batteries of U.S. made, but NATO-backed, missile defense systems have been set up in southeastern Turkey to protect against aerial attacks from war-torn Syria.

U.S. soldiers are maintaining Patriot Missiles. Since January, the missiles have been stationed at a Turkish military base outside Gaziantep. The city is 50 kilometers from Syria, where an an increasingly bloody civil war has killed at least 70,000 people.

Syrian government forces appear to be mostly firing at rebels, who are backed by Turkey. But Syrian fire has landed several times in Turkey, in one instance killing five people. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Critics Continue to Press Obama on Targeted Killing Policy

February 15th 2013

 The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

President Barack Obama this week pledged to develop a clear policy framework to guide U.S. counterterrorism operations, including targeted killings of terrorist suspects.  But the promise in his State of the Union address has not satisfied critics. 

Obama chose his words carefully on the methods the administration uses in fighting terrorism, including the use of remote-controlled drones against terrorist suspects. Without using the word drone, he said "a range of capabilities" will be used against terrorists.  And he used his speech to address concerns members of Congress have.

"In our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way," said President Obama. "So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world." Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Hagel Nomination Blocked for Now

February 15th 2013

Chuck Hagel
Chuck Hagel

"Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, it gets worse," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said late Thursday, as Senate Republicans successfully blocked a confirmation vote on Chuck Hagel's nomination for secretary of defense.

The move was unprecedented. Traditionally, the president is granted wide latitude on his choice of cabinet secretaries, but Hagel's controversial history, his opposition to the Iraq surge, his hostile attitude toward Israel, his attacks on fellow Republicans, and a disastrous appearance at a committee hearing all conspired to provoke the Republican move.

Hagel required the support of 60 senators in order to move his nomination to a final vote. In what the New York Times describes as "a result that broke down almost strictly along party lines," the nominee fell two votes short of the required amount. Read more ..


India on Edge

India's Youth Keep Spotlight on Violence Against Women

February 14th 2013

India Gang Rape Protest Placard

Demonstrations against women's violence have not quelled in India since the brutal gang-rape of a woman in the capital, New Delhi, nearly two months ago. Throughout India, thousands of young people are taking part in mass dance protests this Valentine's Day as part of a global campaign.

Nearly a hundred strangers from all over the city have come together here with one message:  "Wake up New Delhi and rise up against violence,” chant the protesters. This flash mob is just one of many gathering Thursday in the Indian capital as part of the worldwide “One Billion Rising” movement - highlighting the number of women who are survivors of abuse.

When the call went out over Facebook, 25-year-old fashion designer Shruti Singh knew she had to take part in order to challenge long-held views about women in Indian society. “If we don’t walk the talk, it’s not going to make any impact, and the patriarchal mindset and the systems that have been in place for thousands of years are not going to change overnight or with one protest," said Singh. "It’s a starting of a revolution, it’s like another struggle for freedom, freedom of women from oppression.” Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Reid Challenges GOP to Filibuster on Hagel Nomination

February 13th 2013

Chuck Hagel

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) challenged Republican senators Wednesday to launch a filibuster against President Obama’s nominee to lead the Pentagon, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). Reid scolded Republicans for making the threat, and set up a vote to end debate on Hagel for Friday. “This is first time in the history of our country that a presidential nominee for secretary of Defense has been filibustered,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “What a shame.”

Republicans said they want to delay an up-or-down vote on Hagel in order to get information on who has compensated him for paid speeches. They also want to see some of Hagel’s speeches, which GOP Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) at a panel hearing on Tuesday said may have been given to “extreme or radical groups.” A few senators are also using Hagel’s nomination to demand answers from the White House about last year’s Benghazi, Libya, attack. It is unclear whether Republicans can maintain a filibuster against Hagel, who appears to have support from the 55 senators caucusing with Democrats. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Countdown to Iran's Nukes and Nuclear Terror

February 12th 2013

Israeli Jet Dive Bombing

Iran could have its first atomic bomb within four to six months of the regime’s decision to assemble one, according to an assessment last Monday by Amos Yadlin, former IDF Director of Military Intelligence. About a week earlier, Tehran declared that it will now use up to three thousand IR-2M centrifuges, which can enrich uranium at about quadruple the speed of Iran’s current enrichment rate. Fred Kagan, Director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), describes the IR-2M installation as “undermin[ing] one of the core assumptions of current U.S. policy”: that U.S. intelligence could detect Iran crossing a key threshold and developing weapons-grade nuclear material. The much faster IR-2M centrifuges could enable Iran to produce one weapon’s worth of highly-enriched uranium in about a week – the amount of time that IAEA inspectors might be absent before their next visit.

Why is Iran boldly defying the international community now, in a way that leaves even less time to address its nuclear ambitions? A perfect storm is motivating Iran’s sudden sprint to nukes.

The U.S. national security team is in its most ineffective state. Gary Samore, a WMD czar and key member of President Obama’s Iran negotiating team, is leaving. John Kerry is in his first days on the job as Secretary of State, and Chuck Hagel – Iran’s preferred pick for Secretary of Defense for his anti-Israel and pro-Tehran views – stands a good chance of being confirmed along partisan lines despite his embarrassing display of waffling and incompetence at last week’s Senate confirmation hearings. Read more ..


North Korea's Nukes

North Korea Defies the World and Launches Third Nuclear Test

February 12th 2013

North Korean launch

North Korea defied international warnings on February 12 and carried out its third nuclear test, drawing immediate condemnation from leaders around the globe. Pyongyang said the "successful" test was in response to what it called the "reckless hostility" of the United States, which has led the global charge toward expanding sanctions against the communist state.

State media said the underground test used a lighter, smaller nuclear bomb with greater explosive force than previous tests - raising fears Pyongyang has achieved a breakthrough in miniaturizing the technology.

Following the test, the North's Foreign Ministry defiantly warned of unspecified additional measures. South Korea has already placed its military on alert and hinted at the possibility of additional North Korean nuclear tests or missile launches on Tuesday. The U.N. Security Council is holding an emergency meeting later today in New York to discuss the test, which prompted an outpouring of global criticism. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon immediately condemned the "deeply destabilizing" test, calling it a "clear and grave violation" of international sanctions. Read more ..


The New Egypt

After Mubarak, Egyptians Struggle to Keep Hope

February 11th 2013

Cairo Violence Dec 2012

There has been so much change in Egypt in the past two years, it is sometimes hard to remember how little there was for so long.  Hosni Mubarak's near 30-year rule was a weight that seemed, to many, impossible to lift. 

The region's aging rulers had been the same for decades. A reminder of the way things were came last week.  At a conference in Cairo, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, referring to Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, let slip the name “Hosni” before hastily correcting himself.  

Such stagnancy made the 18 days of uprising two years ago all the more extraordinary.  And when, on February 11, 2011, Mubarak stepped down, protesters on Tahrir Square and across the country were delirious about the possibilities ahead. Today, that air of promise, for some, has disappeared. One young woman walking through Tahrir summed up her disappointment. "I think nothing changed.  Mubarak go and Morsi came.  He didn't do anything for the people in Egypt," she said. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Pro-Palestine Protesters Seek to Shut Down Imports of Israeli Produce

February 10th 2013

Jaffa Israeli oranges

Protesters in the United Kingdom joined comrades in Europe and the Mideast as they demanded boycotts of Israeli produce and other food products. Nationwide protests in the UK were held on February 10 at some 35 locations of Sainsbury's, a national supermarket chain, according to various pro-Palestine websites. Protesters called on the British supermarket chain to end its trade with "companies accused of operating in illegal Israel settlements and mislabelling goods." A news release from a pressure group, War on Want, called on Sainsbury's to " stop trading with companies profiting from the occupation."

War on Want also called for the British government to ban trade with companies operating in Israeli settlements. The group warned that the British government’s policy of asking retailers to label products from settlements is not working and does not go far enough to tackle the issue. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Nine Killed In Shootings at Nigerian Polio Clinics

February 9th 2013

Nigeria Polio vaccination

Police say nine female health workers were shot and killed in northern Nigeria Friday as they were giving out polio vaccines.  At least one person was reported injured in the attack.  No one has claimed responsibility and police say they have no suspects, but analysts say it was consistent with others by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Police say the women workers were giving out polio vaccines at two community health centers in the city of Kano when men on three-wheeled motorcycles opened fire. Salisu Ibrahim Fagge is a journalist in Kano, a city that was hit by Boko Haram’s largest single attack to date in January 2012 when nearly 200 people were killed in coordinated bombings. 

He says the shootings Friday also appeared to be coordinated, both happening around 9 o'clock Friday morning. The crime scenes are now surrounded by security, he says, and while people are shocked, the rest of the city is open for business. Aid workers say attacks on health clinics could cripple Nigeria's ability to fight polio. Read more ..


Edge of Tolerance

Students Report Efforts to Squelch Dissent at Anti-Israel Brooklyn College Event

February 8th 2013

Karen L Gould
Karen L. Gould

Despite protests and opposition to the Political Science Department at Brooklyn College co-sponsoring a BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) event aimed at Israel on February 7, it took place, in part justified as a matter of free speech and academic freedom. During the event, however, multiple people were removed, according to student accounts, because they were presumed to be hostile to the intentions of the gathering.

Melanie Goldberg, an Israel Campus Coalition intern says she and three other students were escorted out by security because they would not relinquish BDS fact sheets that were in their possession. Read more ..


Electronic Edge

Bush Family Bush-Wacked by Hackers

February 8th 2013

A criminal inquiry was launched on February 8 into an apparent hack of  email accounts belonging to former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, as well as other members of the Bush clan.

"There's a criminal investigation under way," Jim McGrath, according to AFP. McGrath is a spokesman for the elder ex-president Bush (88), who was recently hospitalized. This followed reports that private Bush family communications had been accessed.

"I can't get into the specifics," McGrath added. McGrath compiled Heartbeat: George Bush in his own words, a book the offered selected quotes from the 41st president of the United States. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

A Look Inside the New BlackBerry

February 7th 2013

New blackberry

Building off the momentum of an international product launch in New York that featured not only a corporate re-branding and the naming of a Grammy-award winning artist as its new global creative director, one had to wade through a lot of flash and sizzle to get down to what was really important—the announcement of the first two handsets that would incorporate BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion)'s latest OS–BB10.

BlackBerry hasn’t had much good news lately, as a seemingly endless series of product delays pushed out its latest handsets from an April 2012 release all the way to Jan. 30. In that time, competitors such as Apple and Samsung have continued to erode whatever market share BlackBerry had left. Many analysts wondered if it was “too little, too late” for the Canadian smartphone manufacturer. Read more ..


Islam and Europe

Danish Free Speech Advocate Narrowly Misses Assassination Attempt

February 6th 2013

Lars Hedegaard
Lars Hedegaard

"I live in a government safe house. I wear a bulletproof jacket. I have not walked the streets…in more than seven years. [I am] imprisoned in my own country for the mere fact that I have spoken out against the enemies of the West. — Geert Wilders, MP, Netherlands

Lars Hedegaard, a well-known seventy-year-old free speech activist and critic of Islam, narrowly escaped a murder attempt on February 5 outside his home in Copenhagen, Denmark. An unidentified assailant wielding a handgun fired a shot at Hedegaard, but fled on foot after the bullet missed its intended victim and the gun subsequently jammed.

According to Danish media, the gunman, in a postal service uniform, rang the doorbell of Hedegaard's apartment building on the pretext of delivering a package. When Hedegaard opened the front door, the man pulled out a gun and fired a shot, narrowly missing Hedegaard's head. Read more ..


Seismic Edge

South Pacific Tsunami Scare

February 6th 2013

solomon islands canoe

A powerful earthquake shook islands in the South Pacific on February 6, triggering a regional tsunami that destroyed several homes and killed at least four people. The magnitude-8 quake hit a sparsely populated region near the Solomon Islands. A 1-meter tsunami later washed ashore on the island chain. A region-wide tsunami alert was lifted a short time later.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says four people are reported dead and two are missing in the Santa Cruz Islands of the Solomons, near the epicenter of the quake. It says "many traditional houses" were flattened when the tsunami traveled 500 meters inland.

Seismologist Dale Grant with the U.S. Geological Survey says the initial quake was followed by at least 14 aftershocks of magnitude-5 or bigger. "You can say that these are major quakes in very remote areas. So we're fortunate that there are no great population centers in the nearby area," he said. Read more ..


Japan on Edge

Japanese Premier Warns China over 'Dangerous' Moves

February 6th 2013

Japanese destroyer Asigiri
Japanese destroyer 'Asigiri' visiting Anchorage, Alaska.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says it is "extremely regrettable" that a Chinese warship locked its pre-firing radar on a Japanese navy boat near disputed islands last week. Speaking to a parliamentary session on February 5, Abe called the move "dangerous." He said it could lead to an accidental clash, and he warned China against escalating the situation further. "At a time when it seemed there are signs of improvement towards increasing talks between Japan and China, having this sort of one-sided provocative action taken by the Chinese is extremely regrettable," said Abe.

Tokyo has lodged an official protest with Beijing over the January 30 incident, the latest in a series of dangerous escalations in their long-running dispute over ownership of a group of East China Sea islands. On February 5, Japan's defense ministry said it confirmed that the Chinese navy frigate aimed its weapons-targeting radar at the Japanese vessel. It also said a Japanese military helicopter was targeted with similar radar earlier last month. Read more ..


Broken Government

Congressional Democrats Face Dilemma over Gun Rights

February 6th 2013

NRA shotgun ammunition

Senate Democrats are facing a major dilemma on how hard they should push for an assault weapons ban, a sensitive topic for vulnerable centrists who are running for reelection next year. Gun control advocates are scrutinizing Senate Democrats’ strategy for implementing President Obama’s proposals for reducing gun violence, and a watered-down effort would likely prompt a backlash from the party’s liberal base.

Advocates are watching closely to see whether Senate Democrats will use their two-seat majority on the Judiciary Committee to include an assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity magazines in gun violence legislation moving to the floor. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has promised to give Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the lead sponsor of the assault weapons ban, a chance to offer her proposal on the floor.

But controversial amendments usually need 60 votes on the Senate floor to be added to pending legislation. Experts following the gun violence debate say an assault weapons ban offered as an amendment on the floor would have virtually no chance of passing. Read more ..


Broken Government

Dems Skewer Their Own in Congress over Gun Control

February 5th 2013

Gun control advocates are corralling votes by trying to make life miserable for Democrats they think are too cozy with the National Rifle Association. The advocates are bankrolling a series of ads that attack Democrats wary of new restrictions as the first phase of a two-part strategy intended to help the party enact President Obama’s gun proposals. “The first aim is to make it a liability for any Democrats to be associated with the NRA,” said a Democratic strategist who promotes tougher gun laws but wanted to remain anonymous due to the political sensitivity of the issue. “It’s sort of an order of operation. You’ve got to hold the line on your own guys first.” Read more ..


Broken Government

Embattled Sen. Menendez Blasts 'Right-Wing' Prostitution Smears

February 5th 2013

Click to select Image

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) broke his silence on an alleged prostitution scandal for the first time Monday, dismissing the allegations that he solicited women during trips to the Dominican Republic as “totally unsubstantiated” and “absolutely false.”

“The smears that right wing blogs have been pushing since the election, that is totally unsubstantiated — it's amazing to me that anonymous, nameless, faceless individuals on a website can drive that kind of story into the mainstream,” Menendez told CNN in an interview Monday. “But that's what they've done successfully. Now nobody can find them, nobody ever met them, nobody ever talked to them, but that's where we're at.” Read more ..


Our Darkest Hour

Alabama Bunker Siege Ends: Young Hostage is Alive

February 4th 2013

jimmy lee dykes
Jimmy Lee Dykes

A hostage situation in the rural town of Midland, Georgia, that had captivated the nation for nearly one week, has ended. An armed man identified as Jimmy Lee Dykes, a 65-year-old Vietnam veteran, took a five-year-old boy hostage from a school bus in the rural community and shot to death the driver. The child hostage is “physically unharmed” and now hospitalized for observation.

FBI agent Stephen E. Richardson said in a press conference that at approximately 3:12 pm local time the boy, identified only as Ethan, was rescued by a special team of law enforcement officers. “Within the past 24 hours, negotiations deteriorated and Mr. Dykes was observed holding a gun,” Richardson said. “At this point, F.B.I. agents, fearing the child was in imminent danger, entered the bunker and rescued the child.” Dykes, said Richardson, is deceased. Richardson did not say, however, whether any shots were fired. Law enforcement agencies refused to comment on the details of the failed negotiations or the successful rescue of the child. Read more ..


Broken Government

Senate Leader Dodges on Senator Menendez and Hooker Allegations

February 3rd 2013

Sen. Robert Menendez D-NJ and Capitol

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) fended off questions about Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) at a press conference about immigration reform. The first question out of the gate was from CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, who asked Reid when he learned that Menendez had reimbursed a political donor nearly $60,000 for two trips he took on the donor’s private plane.

Reid defended the Menendez as a “friend” and “outstanding senator” but declined to discuss any details he may have had with the New Jersey lawmaker about media reports of allegations that he had sex with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. “First of all, Bob Menendez is my friend. He’s an outstanding senator. Any questions in this regard, direct to him. I don’t know anything about it,” Reid said. The purpose of the press event was for Democratic leaders to reiterate their call for comprehensive immigration reform, and Reid wanted to discuss his plan for moving the bill through the Judiciary Committee and then to the floor. Read more ..


India's Darkest Edge

Accused Men Plead Not Guilty in India Rape Case

February 3rd 2013

India Rape Protest Dec 2012

Five men accused of the rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in India have pleaded not guilty, in a case that sparked outrage across the country. Defense lawyers say the men professed their innocence on Saturday in a fast-track court in New Delhi for crimes against women. The court will begin hearing testimony from witnesses this Tuesday. The five men could face the death penalty if convicted.

Defense lawyers have said police tortured the defendants to coerce confessions. A sixth suspect is being tried separately as a juvenile.
The defendants are accused of beating the woman and her male companion in December with an iron rod and using the rusty rod during the sexual assault of the woman. She died of her injuries two weeks after the attack in a Singapore hospital, where she had been taken for treatment.
Read more ..


Broken Government

Senator Menendez Becomes a Growing Headache for Fellow Democrats

February 2nd 2013

A cloud of scandalous allegations is rapidly growing over Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), putting Democratic leaders in a difficult position as the integrity of their immigration point man in the Senate falls under question at a critical time.

The bad news keeps coming: a Senate Ethics probe, allegations involving underage prostitutes, an FBI investigation of a key campaign donor, undisclosed flights on the donor’s private plane, and now, reports linking Menendez to an existing multi-million dollar contract he urged officials to enforce for the disgraced donor.
Read more ..


Broken Government

Under Pressure, White House Releases Photo of Skeet-Shooting Obama

February 2nd 2013

obama skeet shooting

The White House has released a photo of President Obama skeet shooting at Camp David from August, 2012, attempting to quell a controversy that arose when Obama said that he sympathized with hunters because he frequently went shooting himself.

“Attn skeet birthers. Make our day - let the photoshop conspiracies begin!,” former White House advisor David Plouffe tweeted in a message containing a link to a photo of Obama brandishing a shot gun and wearing ear muffs and sun glasses.

Conservative critics questioned the veracity of the Obama’s claims of skeet shooting because he had never been seen publicly shooting a gun.

“If he is a skeet shooter, why have we not heard of this,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said in a television interview after Obama’s remarks were made public. Read more ..


Edge of Politics

TV Personality Geraldo Rivera Considers a Run for Senate

February 1st 2013

Geraldo Rivera

Television personality and radio host Geraldo Rivera announced Thursday he’s “truly contemplating” a run for Senate in New Jersey. “I mention this only briefly, fasten your seatbelt,” Rivera said on his radio show. “I mentioned this only briefly to my wife ... but I am and I’ve been in touch with some people in the Republican Party in New Jersey. I am truly contemplating running for Senate against Frank Lautenberg or Cory Booker.”


New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), 89, is up for reelection in 2014 but hasn’t announced whether he plans to seek another term. Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) has announced he is weighing a bid for the seat, a decision that has frustrated New Jersey Democrats, many of whom feel he was their best shot at unseating Gov. Chris Christie (R). Read more ..


Broken Government

DoD Nominee Hagel Proves to be a Shaky Witnesses before the Senate

February 1st 2013

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) delivered a shaky performance at his confirmation hearing to lead the Pentagon while enduring a difficult day of grilling by his former Republican colleagues.

Hagel stumbled over some answers — describing Iran as having a “legitimate, elected government” at one point — and did little to convert critics who have deemed him unfit to serve as Defense secretary because of his past statements and positions.

Conservative groups jumped on several of his answers by releasing videos critical of his comments on Iran and his statement supporting President Obama’s policy of “containment.” Hagel later had to clarify both of those statements. Read more ..



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