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America on Edge

Democrat Barney Frank Hopes Supreme Court will Annul Defense of Marriage Act

January 4th 2013

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Retired U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass)

The Supreme Court could take a narrow approach in upcoming cases on same-sex marriage — and that’s just fine with outgoing Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Frank, along with some other supporters of same-sex marriage, said he hopes the court will strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but doesn’t want the justices to go further. “I do not expect the Supreme Court to find in the near term that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage,” Frank said. “And that’s not what the LGBT groups are asking for. We’re asking for a recognition by the federal government of state marriages.”

Frank, the first openly gay member of Congress, retired at the end of the 112th Congress. The Supreme Court announced shortly beforehand that it would hear two cases on same-sex marriage — one challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and another challenging California’s statewide ban on same-sex marriage. DOMA is a federal law that prohibits states from offering many legal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. Couples can’t, for example, be treated as married when applying for federal aid programs, or for tax purposes, even if they were married in a state that recognizes their marriage. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

Pennsylvania Catholic Priest Sentenced on Federal Child Porn Charges

January 4th 2013

Bartley Sorenson

A suspended Catholic priest in Pennsylvania was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday for violating federal child sexual exploitation laws, according to the FBI.

Bartley Sorensen, who pleaded guilty last year to federal child pornography charges, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. Sorensen was also ordered to pay a $25,000 fine, a police source told the Law Enforcement Examiner.

The 63-year-old former pastor of St. John Fisher Church outside of Pittsburgh, pleaded guilty in May 2012 to receiving and possessing thousands of sexually explicit images of exploited children. Sorensen was arrested in December 2011 after a parish lay employee who had undergone training to identify sexual predators saw him viewing child pornography on his computer and alerted law enforcement. Read more ..


India's Darkest Edge

Five Suspects Charged in Connection with India Gang Rape

January 3rd 2013

India Rape Protest

Police in India have formally charged five of the suspects in last month's gang rape of a 23-year-old woman, an attack that left her with such severe injuries she died two weeks later. The men are accused of gang rape, murder and criminal assault.  Authorities say they will push for the death penalty if they are convicted.  A sixth suspect is believed to be under 18 and is expected to be tried separately in juvenile court.

​​The government has promised quick justice following an outpouring of public anger against the rape.  The hearings for the adults will be held in fast succession in a newly created court.  Some expect the court to conclude the case by the end of next month -- a record in a country where trials can drag on for years.

The government also is expected to appoint attorneys to defend the men after bar association lawyers said they would not take part in their defense. Read more ..


Pakistan on Edge

U.S. Drone Strike Kills Taliban Commander and Militants in Pakistan

January 3rd 2013

 The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

Intelligence officials in Pakistan say U.S. drone strikes have killed more than 14 al-Qaida-linked militants, including an important commander of the Pakistani Taliban in the country’s volatile tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Officials say several missiles were fired before dawn on suspected militant targets in two Pakistani tribal districts, known as South and North Waziristan. They say the deadliest strike was in the South Waziristan village of Angoor Adda, where the region's main militant commander, Mullah Nazir, and his two deputies were among those killed.

The Pakistani tribal warlord had long been accused of harboring Arab al-Qaida operatives and sending fighters for attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces across the border in Afghanistan. He was also an ally of the anti-U.S. Haqqani network of Afghan insurgents entrenched in the area. In May 2011, hundreds of his followers protested against killing of Osama bin Laden. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Orthodox Christian Priest Excommunicated for Support of Israel

January 3rd 2013

church in israel

Last weekend, Father Gabriel Nadaf (39), a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth, challenged a boycott against him and attempted to enter the church there to recite a prayer and light a candle. He was accompanied by Israeli Border Police officers and supporters, who came to ensure his safe passage into the church.

Nadaf was excommunicated by the Orthodox Church Council after he expressed his belief that Christian youth in Israel should fully integrate into Israeli society, serving in the IDF or in the National Service. Since then, he and others, like Father André Alamiya, have been the target of virulent attacks from the opponents to this idea. For example, Father Alamiya's tires were slashed last weekend, and a rag saturated with blood was placed at his doorstep in Nazareth.

Father Nadaf believes Israel serves as an anchor for its Christian minority and cares for its security, and from this he derives his commitment towards Israel. Since his excommunication from the Council, which is headed by Dr. Azmi Hakim, a member of the Israeli Communist party, he has been forced to move around with bodyguards. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Fructose Sugar Makes Maturing Human Fat Cells Fatter, Less Insulin-Sensitive

January 3rd 2013

Childhood Obesity

Fructose, the sugar widely used as high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks and processed foods, often gets some of the blame for the widespread rise in obesity. Now a laboratory study has found that when fructose is present as children's fat cells mature, it makes more of these cells mature into fat cells in belly fat and less able to respond to insulin in both belly fat and fat located below the skin.

The results were presented at The Endocrine Society's 92nd Annual Meeting in San Diego by lead author Georgina Coade, a PhD student at the University of Bristol in the U.K. "Our results suggest that high levels of fructose, which may result from eating a diet high in fructose, throughout childhood may lead to an increase in visceral [abdominal] obesity, which is associated with increased cardiometabolic risk," Coade said. Read more ..


Edge of the Cliff

IMF Displeased by Fiscal Cliff Deal in Congress

January 2nd 2013

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The International Monetary Fund says U.S. actions to avoid the fiscal cliff did not go far enough to address the country's long-term economic problems, including its deficit and overall debt. In a statement issued on January 2, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said more remains to be done to put U.S. public finances back on a sustainable path without harming what it said was the still fragile recovery.

U.S. lawmakers, in a late night session on January 1 passed a measure to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff," with a plan President Barack Obama calls "one step" in a broader effort to strengthen the American economy. Flying back from his Hawaiian vacation, the chief executive said, ​​​​"Today's agreement enshrines, I think, a principle into law that will remain in place as long as I am president: The deficit needs to be reduced in a way that's balanced," said Obama. Read more ..


The Edge of Hate

Arabs Savagely Attack American Rabbinical Student in Italy

January 2nd 2013

Gondolas in Venice

A group of Arabs brutally attacked an American yeshiva student visiting with his family in Venice, Italy, on Tuesday, knocking him unconscious. The incident took place at night as the student strolled the city center. According to Arutz Sheva, 15 Arab youth were involved in the incident.

According to Arutz Sheva the attackers fled when a passerby spotted them and called police and medics. An individual at the Chabad House in Venice who did not wish to be named said that the student was recovering and that such incidents were rare in Venice. The source also indicated how the Jewish community would respond. “We will answer evil with kindness,” the source said. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Nightmare Syrian Air Strike Hits Gas Station, Dozens Killed

January 2nd 2013

Fire big

Opposition activists in Syria say government warplanes bombed a gasoline station near Damascus on Wednesday, reportedly killing dozens of people as they waited for fuel. Amateur video showed bystanders running after the aerial assault in the Damascus suburb of Meliha. Young men clawed through twisted pieces of metal to pull victims from the rubble. One witness told The Associated Press that a government warplane fired a single missile into the station.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that dozens of people were killed or wounded when a long line of vehicles waiting for fuel was attacked from the air. A pro-government journalist reported that the gasoline station was a legitimate target because it was “close to an air defense base under rebel siege.” He said that rebels were seen “carrying shoulder-fired missiles in the area.”

Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syria Begins New Year With More Violence

January 1st 2013

Syrian Rebels in Aleppo

Syrian government troops and rebel forces fought Tuesday on the outskirts of Damascus and near the city of Aleppo. Government aircraft pounded eastern suburbs of the capital and rebel-held areas of Aleppo, the country's commercial hub. Authorities announced the closure of Aleppo airport because of rebel attacks.  The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy fighting around the base of Syrian army Brigade 80, part of the airport protection force.  

Anti-government activists also reported heavy fighting in the Damascus suburb of Daraya, with bombing by Syrian warplanes.  Syria's government-run media said troops killed "tens of terrorists" in Daraya and nearby areas. Read more ..


Over the Fiscal Cliff

Senate Passes Fiscal Cliff Agreement to the House of Representatives

January 1st 2013

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The U.S. Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan agreement to spare most Americans from steep tax hikes and delay across-the-board federal spending cuts imposed by the so-called “fiscal cliff”. The vote of 89-8 early Tuesday came hours after the United States had technically stepped off the fiscal cliff.

The bill still needs approval by the House of Representatives before it can be signed into law. The House plans to convene at noon Tuesday. Senators spent New Year’s Eve preparing to vote on a bill that was the product of months of intensive and often bitter negotiations between Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and the White House.

VP urged compromise

Before the vote, Vice President Joe Biden came to the Capitol to rally Senate Democrats behind closed doors. He emerged with a broad grin, saying, “Happy New Year. I feel very good about how this vote is going to go.” Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Hillary Clinton Making 'Excellent Progress,' Clot Behind Right Ear

January 1st 2013

Hillary Clinton

Doctors for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that the blood clot they discovered during a follow-up exam is located between her brain and skull, behind her right ear. The statement came a day after physicians announced Clinton had been hospitalized because of the blood clot. The clot stems from a concussion the secretary suffered earlier in December.

"In the course of a routine follow-up MRI on Sunday, the scan revealed that a right transverse sinus venous thrombosis had formed. This is a clot in the vein that is situated in the space between the brain and the skull behind the right ear. It did not result in a stroke, or neurological damage," Dr. Lisa Bardack and Dr. Gigi El Bayoumi said in a statement. Clinton is being treated with blood thinners, the doctors said. 

"To help dissolve this clot, her medical team began treating the secretary with blood thinners. She will be released once the medication dose has been established," Bardack and Bayoumi's statement said. "In all other aspects of her recovery, the secretary is making excellent progress and we are confident she will make a full recovery. She is in good spirits, engaging with her doctors, her family, and her staff."
Doctors said on Sunday that Clinton is receiving treatment at Presbyterian Hospital in New York. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Pakistani Taliban Execute 21 Captured policemen

December 31st 2012

Terik i Taliban Pakistan

Government officials say 21 out of 23 tribal policemen believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban have been executed by their captors in northwest Pakistan. Naveed Akbar Khan, a local government official, told the AFP news agency on Sunday: "We found 21 bullet riddled bodies of security personnel a short while ago in an uninhabited area." "One was found alive but wounded and admitted to hospital while another managed to escape unhurt," he added.

Khan said officials found the bodies shortly after midnight on Sunday after being notified by one policeman who had escaped. The victims were from a paramilitary force recruited from members of ethnic Pashtun tribes in northwestern Pakistan, reported the Reuters news agency. The militias support the government in its efforts against fighters battling the state, it added. Read more ..


Benghazigate

New Senate Report Faults Pentagon, State Dept. in Benghazi Fiasco

December 31st 2012

Libyan riot at US consulate Sep 2012 #3

A new bipartisan report from the Senate Homeland Security Committee faults both the State Department and Pentagon for failing to adequately protect the Americans killed in the deadly September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. 

The report, titled “Flashing Red,” comes after a critical independent State Department-ordered review, and widens the blame for the assault, which left four Americans dead, to the Pentagon and White House. The Committee found that the State Department failed to appropriately assess and heighten security measures after intelligence showed that Americans stationed in Benghazi could be threatened by terror groups, according to reports from media groups which obtained an advance copy of the findings. Read more ..


Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff

Geithner Predicts 'Extraordinary Measures' Following Fall from Fiscal Cliff

December 30th 2012

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U.S. leaders are edging closer to an end-of-the-year "fiscal cliff" - sharp, mandated government spending cuts and tax increases for most American workers that could plunge the country into another recession if a compromise is not reached.

Congressional leaders continued to work on January 30 to negotiate a pact that would keep tax rates at their current level for all but the wealthiest wage earners, rather than have them revert on New Year's Day to much higher levels set in the 1990s.

Both the Senate and House scheduled unusual Sunday sessions on December 30 to vote on any compromise legislation their leaders might be able to craft in negotiations with the White House. In his weekly address on December 29, U.S. President Barack Obama pressured Congress to act, saying the country's economy would be damaged if tax rates increase. Read more ..


India on Edge

Murder Charges Filed Against New Dehli Gang Rapists

December 30th 2012

India Rape Protest

India continued to roil and heave in national amguish over the senseless and brutal and sadist gang rape of a young physiotherapist on a public bus.

The Times of India reported: Delhi Police on Saturday invoked murder charges against the six men allegedly involved in the gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus after she died in a Singapore hospital and decided to file the chargesheet in court on January three. Police said it will be their endeavour to ensure the "harshest punishment in the book" to the culprits. "We hope to file the charge sheet by the 3rd of January, 2013. Section 302 of IPC, which is the penal section for murder, has been added in the case," Dharmendra Kumar, special commissioner of police (law and order), said. He said a special public prosecutor of eminence has been appointed to conduct the trial in a fast track court on a day-to-day basis. "It will be our endeavour to ensure the harshest punishment in the book to the culprits," he said. The autopsy of the victim was done by a Singaporean medical team and the report will be made available to investigators at the earliest. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

US Troops Sent To Aid Evacuation Of Diplomats In Central African Republic

December 30th 2012

Special-Ops

President Obama sent approximately 50 U.S. military personnel to Chad earlier this week to aid in the evacuation of U.S. embassy personnel and U.S. citizens from the neighboring Central African Republic. In a letter to congressional leaders on Saturday, Obama cited the “deteriorating security situation” in the Central African Republic and the threat to U.S. citizens. U.S. embassy personnel and several private U.S. citizens were evacuated from the Central African Republic capital of Bangui on Thursday.

Obama said the “stand-by security force” was deployed for the sole purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property. Rebels in the Central African Republic have seized at least 10 northern towns, according to the Associated Press, and on Saturday seized a city 114 miles from Bangui.


Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff

'Milk Cliff' Worries Prompt Pivot To One-Year Farm Bill Extension

December 29th 2012

Cows

Congress is pivoting to a one-year extension of the existing farm bill instead of trying to push through a new five-year bill. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who previously had opposed a one-year extension, told reporters Friday that she was shifting gears and preparing a one-year bill. "That's the only way you can do it, extend all of them," she said.

Stabenow's shift comes amid growing worries about a "milk cliff."

The price of milk is set to rise dramatically at the beginning of the year if the current farm bill expires. The end of the current law would force the government to revert to a 1949 law for setting milk prices, which some analysts say could lead to a doubling of the milk price.  Read more ..


The Darkest Edge

Newtown Massacre Fundraising Fraud Uncovered In New York

December 28th 2012

Sandy Hook Shooting

A resident of New York City faces federal charges in a charity scam that surprised and disgusted investigators and reporters covering the police beat on Thursday, according to a law enforcement source. Nouel Alba, a 37-year old resident of the Bronx, New York, was arrested and charged with lying to FBI agents in connection with their investigation into a fraudulent fundraising scheme related to the Newtown school shooting tragedy. The complaint alleges that Alba used her Facebook account, telephone calls, and text messages to falsely claim to be a relative of one of the shooting victims in the mass-murder at the Newtown, Conn., schoolhouse. The killer's shooting spree left 26 dead at the school including 20 youngsters.

According to the FBI, Alba solicited money from scam victims who wanted to help in some way. Alba claimed that the money was for the child’s “funeral fund.” At Alba's direction, scam victims transferred money into a PayPal account controlled and accessed by Alba.

Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Russia Tells Syria to Hold Talks with Opposition

December 28th 2012

Syria Pro-Assad demonstration

Russia is urging the Syrian government to follow through on its pledge to hold talks with the opposition, as Moscow intensifies diplomatic efforts to bring an end to 21 months of conflict in Syria. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on December 28 that he urged senior Syrian officials during meetings earlier this week to demonstrate they are open to discussing the "widest possible range of issues." Russia has been a staunch defender of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but has in recent weeks seemingly grown impatient with the government's role in the conflict that has left an estimated 45,000 people dead.

Earlier on December 28, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov of Russia told the RIA Novosti news agency Moscow has sent an invitation for talks to the Syrian National Council, the main exiled opposition group recognized by many as the legitimate government of Syria. Bogdanov, the Kremlin's envoy to the region, also said he expects to meet next month with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi about proposals to end Syria's civil war. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Delegation Goes to Russia for Consultations

December 27th 2012

Assad
Syrian President Bashr al-Assad

Russia says it is intensifying its efforts to end bloodshed in Syria, where a 21-month-old uprising has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians. Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich says Moscow is stepping up dialogue with both the Syrian government and opposition groups.

He spoke shortly after a Syrian delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Maqdad, met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Syria's ally, Russia, has reportedly been trying to broker a peaceful transition of power in the country. The meeting between Russian and Syrian officials has come ahead of peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's trip to Russia on December 29. He is due to discuss possible solutions to the crisis. Read more ..


Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff

Obama Seeks to Out-Gun GOP in the Fiscal Cliff Fight

December 27th 2012

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President Obama will strive to retain the political upper hand in negotiations over deficit reduction when he returns to Washington Thursday morning. Obama had been in Hawaii with his family since Saturday but is scheduled to arrive back at the White House just before noon as the nation approaches the year-end fiscal cliff.

There is little sign, at least in public, that Republican leaders in Congress are in meaningful communication with the upper reaches of the administration. A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) acknowledged that key GOP figures were in phone contact with each other over the issue but described the conversations as “routine.”

Administration sources say that most of their focus for the moment is on staff-level discussions with Senate Democrats. Chances of a plan emerging from the House of Representatives withered when Boehner lacked the political strength to bring his “Plan B” proposal to a vote late last week. Read more ..


Broken Government

Geithner Announces 'Extraordinary Measures' for $16.4 Trillion Federal Debt

December 26th 2012

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The United States will reach its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit on Dec. 31, the Treasury Department informed congressional leaders in a letter sent Wednesday.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told policymakers Wednesday that the government will need to begin "extraordinary measures" to free up cash on Monday, once the government reaches the $16.4 trillion borrowing cap.

Geithner said he did not know exactly how much time the "extraordinary measures" would buy, given the uncertainty about the expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts that make up the "fiscal cliff."

Previously, Geithner has been able to give policymakers a rough idea of how much time they would have before the debt ceiling would need to be raised again. The last time the U.S. reached its limit in May, the ceiling did not have to be raised until August. Normally, the $200 billion the Treasury can free up would buy two months, Geithner said. But the "significant uncertainty" about tax and spending policy makes it impossible to predict how long the measures will last, he said. Read more ..


The Media on Edge

David Gregory Investigated on Gun Charges for Meet the Press Interview

December 26th 2012

David Gregory gun magazine

The Washington Metropolitan Police Department is investigating “Meet the Press” host David Gregory for a potential violation of the District of Columbia’s gun laws, a spokesman for the department has confirmed. While interviewing National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre on Sunday, Gregory held up what appeared to be a 30-round magazine to ask if it should be banned. The cartridge is illegal in Washington, D.C., where “Meet the Press” is filmed. Gregory’s interview with LaPierre came in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14. The incident which left 26 dead, including 20 children has sparked new calls for gun control. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Human Rights Watch Report Accuses Hamas of War Crimes

December 25th 2012

Gaza Qasam Rocket

Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending human rights, released a report Monday, condemning the Hamas rulers of Gaza for War Crimes.

During a released statement on their website, the human rights organization condemned not only the launching of some 1500 rockets at Israelis, with 800 hitting Israeli territory, but also for doing so from within Palestinian civilian areas.

During the Operation 'Pillar of Defense', HRW interviewed witnesses, victims and their families, Israeli officials from the communities struck by the rockets and a spokesperson for Israeli emergency services.

“Palestinian armed groups made clear in their statements that harming civilians was their aim,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch. “There is simply no legal justification for launching rockets at populated areas.” Read more ..


India on Edge

India Gripped by anti-Rape Fury

December 24th 2012

India anti-Rape Riots Dec 2012

Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, has vowed to protect women in the wake of violent demonstrations against the "national epidemic" of sex crimes. He spoke after police clashed with hundreds of protesters a day earlier in the Indian capital New Delhi over the gang rape of a medical student in the capital last weekend.

"There is genuine and justified anger and anguish at this ghastly incident," Singh said in a televised statement on Monday, appealing for "peace and calm" as officials shut down roads in the centre of New Delhi - a city home to nearly 14 million people - in a bid to prevent further protests. "I assure you that we will make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety to all women in this country," said Singh. Read more ..


The Darkest Edge

Congressional Republicans Edgy about NRA on Gun Control

December 24th 2012

Shooter shooting AR15

GOP lawmakers are showing caution on what measures they would back to prevent gun violence, as the gun-rights lobby rejects calls for more restrictions on firearms. President Obama is urging the next Congress to take action on legislation to stem gun crime, in a concerted attempt to respond to a series of mass shootings this year. The latest incident, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, which left 26 dead, including 20 children, has renewed debate on gun control.

But on Sunday, National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre rebuffed calls for more gun restrictions, saying that they would not prevent future violence. LaPierre, in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” doubled down on a proposal from the nation’s largest pro-gun lobby to push Congress for legislation that would put armed guards in every school. "If it's crazy to call for putting police in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy," LaPierre said. "That's the one thing that we can do immediately that will immediately make our children safe." Read more ..


The Travel Edge

TSA Prepares for Christmas Rush, and Terrorism

December 23rd 2012

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is preparing for an expected increase in airline travelers as the Christmas holiday approaches. The prep work comes against a backdrop of past holiday attempts to terrorize airplanes. The so-called “underwear bomber” was convicted of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines Flight on Christmas Day in 2009.

A TSA spokeswoman told The Hill that the agency was aware of the potential for holiday copycats. “As the calendar approaches national holidays and terrorist–related anniversary dates (Sept. 11 or Christmas day underwear bomber), TSA is well aware of the symbolism of these dates,” TSA spokesman Lisa Farbstein said in an email. “This holiday season is no different,” Farbstein continued. “Airport checkpoints and baggage rooms are fully staffed as this is a busy time of the year for airline travel.” Read more ..


Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff

Conservatives Urging Congressional Republicans Over the Fiscal Cliff

December 23rd 2012

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Conservative activists who helped doom Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) fiscal Plan B say Republicans must be prepared to go over the fiscal cliff to force President Obama to reach a deal that includes no tax hikes.

The activists say Boehner and other GOP leaders have been too scared about suffering politically if the nation goes over the cliff and $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts are triggered in January.

Now that Boehner’s “Plan B” legislation has failed, they say Republicans should be empowered to make big demands and stop caving to Obama out of fear. They argue it is Obama who has something to fear if the economy slides into a recession because of tax increases and spending cuts, and the GOP that has leverage. Read more ..


Significant Lives

Obama Reminisces About His Own Childhood at Senator Inouye's Funeral

December 23rd 2012

Daniel Inouye
Senator Daniel Inouye

Speaking at a memorial service for Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, President Barack Obama used the occasion to talk largely about himself. In just 1,600 words, the Chief Executive managed to use the word "my" 21 times, "me" 12 times, and "I" 30 times. All the same, Obama credited Senator Inouye for getting the young Kenyan-American interested in politics. Said Obama, "Danny was elected to the U.S. Senate when I was two years old."

The president spoke to mourners at the National Cathedral of the Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. on December 22, reminiscing about his family and their vacations. "Now, even though my mother and grandparents took great pride that they had voted for him, I confess that I wasn't paying much attention to the United States Senate at the age of four or five or six. It wasn't until I was 11 years old that I recall even learning what a U.S. senator was, or it registering, at least. It was during my summer vacation with my family -- my first trip to what those of us in Hawaii call the Mainland," said Obama." Read more ..


Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff

Fearing Primaries, GOP Members Shun Boehner’s 'Plan B'

December 22nd 2012

Cliff Face West Wales

Many House Republicans refused to vote for Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) Plan B bill because they were “gun shy” about drawing primary challengers in the 2014, according to several lawmakers.

A number of members involved in the intense whipping operation that took place over the past two days said that entrenched no votes were more concerned with perception than principle. “I think that there were members that are so gun shy about primaries that they weren't willing to take a risk ... some members told me that it was just too hard to explain how it wasn't a tax increase,” Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) said shortly following Thursday night’s abrupt conference meeting where Boehner told his colleagues they wouldn’t vote on the bill.

Fewer than 24 hours later, Speaker Boehner told reporters that his colleagues were worried about the perception of raising taxes. Read more ..


Benghazigate

House Approves Increased Security at Embassies and Consulates

December 21st 2012

libya-consulate

Despite the Obama administration's evasions and finger-pointing in the aftermath of the Benghazi terrorist attack on the American consulate, the House of Representatives on Thursday approved the annual defense policy bill authorizing $633.3 billion in defense spending for 2013, including an increase in the number of U.S. Marines for embassy and consulate security duty.

The GOP-led House overwhelmingly approved (315-107) the National Defense Authorization Act and now it's being sent to the Senate for their approval followed by the NDAA being submitted to President Barack Obama to be signed into law. The bill calls for an increase of about 1,000 Marines to be deployed as protection for U.S. diplomatic facilities throughout the world. Read more ..


Edge of the Dark Arts

Long in Hiding, a Spy for Latin American Dictators is Uncovered

December 21st 2012

Alberto Conrado Avegno

Conrado Alberto Avegno, who was long alleged to be a spy for Brazil and several Latin American dictatorships from the 1960s through the 1980s, has been found alive and well in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. According to a report by Brazilian daily Folha, Avegno had been hiding some 40 years and used various aliases. Now 85 years old, Avegno was discovered by investigating journalists living and working under a new identity as the pastor of an Evangelical Christian church in the South American capital.

Avegno confessed to reporters that he worked for the Brazilian government and other dictatorships for several decades by infiltrating guerrilla groups and other leftist movements. "My only desire was to fight communism," he said, quoted by the Uruguayan newspaper 'La Republica.' The former spy indicated that for over 14 years he worked under the pseudonyms 'Altair', 'Johnson', 'Nario', 'Zuleika' and 'Carlos Silveira' in Latin American revolutionary groups and passed on information to the governments and military of several governments. It was during those years that governments in the region resorted to torture, extrajudiciary killings and arrests of dissidents and other enemies. Read more ..


The Darkest Edge

NRA Blames Violent Movies and Video Games for School Violence

December 21st 2012

Beretta 90TWO

At a December 21 press conference, interrupted by vociferous pro-gun control protesters, Wayn LaPierre of the National Rifle Association suggested that making U.S. schools free of firearms would actually endanger students and make it easier for mass killings to occur there. This comes one week after the tragedy at Sandy Hook CT, where Adam Lanza shot to death more than two dozen children and adults in a hail of bullets from his Bushmaster assault rifle.

LaPierre, who serves as vice-president of the powerful pro-gun advocacy group, said to the press "Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones, they issue press releases bragging about them ... in doing so they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk."  Read more ..


Broken Government

Speaker Boehner Moves to Plan B for Lack of Support for Original Proposal

December 20th 2012

John Boehner

Speaker John Boehner moved to his "Plan B" proposal on the fiscal cliff because he didn't have support for a plan he offered to the White House, according to a senior adminstration official. The official said Republicans have told the White House that Boehner concluded he could not get enough support for the plan he offered the president over the weekend, and then shifted to Plan B, which would permanently lock in tax rates on annual income under $1 million. Tax rates for individuals and couples on annual income above $1 million would be allowed to expire.

The White House allegation drew a heated response from Boehner's office, which called the claim "stupid and untrue."

“This is stupid and untrue," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. "Once the White House leaked their latest offer, the Speaker’s office immediately briefed reporters to explain how absurdly unbalanced it was. The Speaker was clear that he could not support the president’s plan, let alone recommend it to members of the House.” Read more ..


The Darkest Edge

Democrat Feinstein Gives Up Concealed Weapon Permit

December 20th 2012

Beretta 90TWO

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) no longer has a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Feinstein, who has taken the lead on efforts to renew a federal assault weapons ban, acknowledged during a hearing in 1995 of previously having a concealed weapon permit.

At the time, she said she needed it for security, but she has since dropped the permit.

"The senator does not have a concealed weapon permit," Feinstein spokesman Tom Mentzer said in an email to The Hill on Thursday.

In 1995 a hearing on terrorism after the Oklahoma City bombing, Feinstein recounted how, in the 1970s, she was the target of the New World Liberation Front which first attempted to blow up her home. After the bomb failed to detonate, Feinstein explained, she decided to arm herself. Read more ..


Benghazigate

Critical Benghazi Report Intensifies Pressure for Hillary Clinton to Testify

December 20th 2012

Hillary Clinton in blue

An independent report that faulted the State Department leadership for “systemic failures” leading up to the Benghazi attack is intensifying GOP calls for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify on Capitol Hill. 

The report, by the Accountability Review Board (ARB), led by retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, laid the blame of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on State’s leadership, finding officials relied too much on Libyan guards at the consulate and that security was “grossly inadequate.” The report did not blame Clinton and singled out State leadership at the assistant secretary level, yet Republicans said they’re not satisfied with Clinton’s vow to quickly adopt the report’s 29 recommendations. 

“While I appreciate the board’s hard work, I am deeply concerned that the unclassified report omits important information the public has a right to know. This includes details about the perpetrators of the attack in Libya as well as the less-than-noble reasons contributing to State Department decisions to deny security resources,” Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has subpoena power, said in a statement Wednesday. “At some point Secretary Clinton will need to personally address the remaining issues.” Read more ..


Broken Banking

UBS Pay $1.5 billion to Settle LIBOR Charges--latest Banking Scandal

December 19th 2012

UBS Logo

he Switzerland bank UBS has agreed to pay roughly $1.5 billion to settle charges that its traders conspired to set a benchmark interest rate. The bank announced the settlement Wednesday, reached with American and British regulators including the Department of Justice. The settlement makes UBS the second bank to settle regulatory probes behind manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), a key benchmark that is set by a group of major banks and serves as the basis for a range of financial products, including mortgages and credit cards.

The LIBOR rate is supposed to track the rates at which banks lend to each other across a range of currencies. But in recent months, regulators have been probing a range of banks amidst concerns that traders deliberately manipulated the rate by submitting false reports in an effort to maximize profits. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

The Tablet Generation Is Pushing Networks to the Edge

December 19th 2012

Tablets

With Christmas expected to bring another leap in ownership of tablets, smartphones and other devices, new research from Bell Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent suggests that increasing consumption of video content on such devices will push the wired broadband networks that carry this traffic to their absolute limits over the next decade.

Bell Labs projections suggest that, by 2020, consumers in the United States alone will access seven hours of video each day – as opposed to 4.8 hours today,and will increasingly consume this additional video on tablets, both at home and on the go. Significantly, the research also points to a dramatic shift in viewing habits, as consumers switch from broadcast content to video-on-demand services, which will grow to 70% of daily consumption compared with 33% today. The projections also suggest a twelve times increase in internet video content as cloud services, news sites and social networking applications become more video based, and continuously accessible anywhere, anytime on tablets. Read more ..


Benghazigate

Official Report Concludes Benghazi Consulate Security 'Grossly Inadequate'

December 19th 2012

Amb Chris Stevens in Death

An independent U.S. panel investigating the September 11 attack in Libya that resulted in the deaths of four Americans has concluded that security at the mission in Benghazi was "grossly inadequate."

The Accountability Review Board said senior-level "systematic failures and management deficiencies" within two State Department bureaus led to a security posture that was inadequate to deal with the terrorist attacks at the facilities in the eastern Libyan city.

The board also said the number of diplomatic security staff members in Benghazi at the time of the attack was "inadequate," in spite of repeated requests from diplomats in Libya for additional staffing. The four Americans killed Benghazi included Ambassador Christopher Stephens, in what was the first murder of a U.S. ambassador since 1988. The panel's findings were made public late on December 18. Earlier, the State Department sent a classified version of the report to Congress. Read more ..



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