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The Edge of Terrorism

Terrorists Kill Scores of Pakistanis

January 11th 2013

Terrorist Bombing

Radical Islamists appear to have kicked up the violence a notch against innocent citizens by perpetrating a number of bombings in Pakistan killing at least 120 people on Thursday, including 65 who died in a sectarian attack on a busy pool and billiards hall in the city of Quetta.

According to sources, the bomb blasts have made Jan. 10, 2013, the deadliest day in Pakistan in over a year. Despite having a relatively large, modern military complete with state-of-the-art weaponry, the government continues to experience a bloody terrorism war with the Taliban in the northwest and the Baluch militants in the southwest, the source said.

Patrons in a pool hall in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, experienced two blasts detonated about 10 minutes apart on Thursday night. According to the Middle Eastern news media, about 65 people were and more 160 others were wounded. Read more ..


Broken Labor

Walmart Added to Lawsuit Alleging Wage Theft at California Warehouse

January 11th 2013

Walmart

A federal judge ruled Thursday that Walmart can be added to a lawsuit alleging widespread wage theft at a Southern California warehouse.

Lawyers for contract workers at the Schneider Logistics warehouse in Mira Loma, Calif. – whose sole customer is Walmart – had moved to add the retailer to the case in November.

Monday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder will force Walmart to defend itself against allegations that Schneider, at Walmart’s behest, cheated as many as 1,800 low-wage workers out of millions of dollars.

Walmart fought becoming a late addition to the case, but Snyder wrote that the plaintiffs had a “good faith explanation that they did not seek to name Walmart as a defendant until this stage of the litigation because they only recently uncovered evidence in discovery that justifies a lawsuit against Walmart.”

The lawsuit, filed in October 2011, claims that Schneider and two staffing agencies, Premier Warehousing Ventures LLC and Impact Logistics Inc., failed to keep proper payroll records, falsified time sheets and misled workers about the amount of money they had earned. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Morsi Invites Ahmadinejad to Cairo

January 11th 2013

Ahmadinejad triumphant

During a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi today in Cairo, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi extended an invitation to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attend an Islamic summit scheduled for February 7th in Cairo, Gaza-based Palestine Today reported. The summit is expected to address the “Palestinian cause,” the Syrian crisis, combating poverty, the situations in Afghanistan and Somalia as well as Islamaphobia. Salehi also announced that he had extended an invitation on behalf of Ahmadinejad for Morsi to visit Tehran.

Egypt’s foreign ministry said that the two leaders “exchanged views on the Syrian crisis and means of finding a solution” to the conflict which the UN says has killed more than 60,000 people. On Tuesday Iranian officials threw their support behind a speech made Sunday by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that was rejected by the Syrian opposition and western governments.

The two countries have been cozying up to one another in recent months as relations continue to thaw following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak and the rise of the Islamist government in Cairo. Relations between Iran and Egypt were almost non-existent while Mubarak was in office. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Pakistan Bombs Kills More Than 110

January 10th 2013

Pakistani military brass

Four separate bombings killed more than 110 people across Pakistan Thursday, including 92 deaths in Quetta. Police in the capital of Baluchistan province said a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a crowded billiard hall, followed by a second bomber there minutes later. The twin blasts killed 81 people, including police and rescue workers. More than 100 people were wounded. The billiard hall attacks came just hours after a bomb blast at the Quetta market killed 11 people. Authorities said paramilitary soldiers may have been the target. Baluchistan has grappled with a separatist insurgency, Islamic militancy, and sectarian violence for decades. Elsewhere in Pakistan Thursday, at least 21 people were killed and dozens wounded in a bombing in the city of Mingora, where a crowd had gathered to hear a speech by a religious leader. Read more ..

Edge of the Cliff

Boehner Faces Headwinds for Stance on Defense Spending

January 10th 2013

Congress-senate

House Republican defense hawks are pushing back strongly against Speaker John Boehner’s claim that he has GOP support to allow steep automatic budget cuts to take effect if President Obama does not agree to replace them with other reductions.

Party leaders have for more than a year railed against the Pentagon portion of the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, but in an interview published Monday, Boehner pointed to the reductions as leverage and said he had significant Republican support, including from defense hawks, in his “back pocket.”

Not so fast, two defense-minded House Republicans told The Hill.

“I don’t support that,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a member of the Armed Services Committee whose district includes one of the nation’s largest military installations. “You get into dangerous territory when you talk about using national security as a bargaining chip with the president.” Read more ..


America's Darkest Edge

Curbing Gun Violence Requires 'Urgent' Action

January 9th 2013

Guns for sale

Vice President Joe Biden began three days of meetings with various groups Wednesday to discuss gun violence. The vice president will advise President Barack Obama on ways to tackle the problem. 

Vice President Biden sat down with victims’ groups and gun safety organizations to hear their stories of gun violence. He said the problem requires immediate action. “The president and I are determined to take action.  This is not an exercise in photo opportunities or just getting to ask you all, well, what your opinions are.  We are vitally interested in what you have to say," he said. 

The push for increased gun control came after 20 children and six adults were shot and killed last month at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Days later, President Obama directed Biden to deliver policy proposals by the end of January.  Read more ..


America's Darkest Edge

Giffords Launches New Gun-Control Initiative

January 9th 2013

Guns for sale

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) on Tuesday launched a new effort to promote gun control, on the two-year anniversary of her shooting at a constituent event in Tucson, Ariz. In an op-ed in USA Today, Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, said their new group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, would “raise the funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby, and will line up squarely behind leaders who will stand up for what's right.”

“Until now, the gun lobby's political contributions, advertising and lobbying have dwarfed spending from anti-gun violence groups. No longer,” they added. “With Americans for Responsible Solutions engaging millions of people about ways to reduce gun violence and funding political activity nationwide, legislators will no longer have reason to fear the gun lobby.”

Giffords and Kelly expressed dismay that, even faced with the number of mass shootings over the last two years, Congress had done “nothing at all.” “America has seen an astounding 11 mass shootings since a madman used a semiautomatic pistol with an extended ammunition clip to shoot me and kill six others,” Giffords wrote. Read more ..


The Darkest Edge

Conspiracy Theorist Blows Up on CNN Talk Show

January 8th 2013

CNN Alex Jones and Piers Morgan

A heated on-air confrontation between broadcaster Alex Jones and CNN's Piers Morgan on Monday night capped a day of attention-getting controversy for the conservative radio host, who had earlier complained of being unfairly targeted by the Transportation Security Administration.

Jones's website InfoWars.com accused the TSA of detaining him — as he attempted to board his flight to New York to be interviewed by Morgan — because he refused to remove his shoes at a security checkpoint. Jones later angrily debate Morgan over the CNN host's frequent calls for gun-control measures in the wake of the Newton, Conn., elementary school shootings that stirred national debate last month. Read more ..


The Darkest Edge

V.P. Biden and NRA in 'High Noon' at the White House

January 8th 2013

NRA shotgun ammunition

Vice President Joe Biden will meet this week with the National Rifle Association and a variety of other groups as his task force on guns intensifies its efforts.

Biden will meet Wednesday with gun-safety organizations and shooting victims groups and on Thursday will meet with gun ownership organizations and sportsmen who use guns recreationally, according to the White House.

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the organization accepted an invitation received from the White House late Friday. "We are sending a rep to hear what they have to say," Arulanandam said. Biden will also meet with members of the video game and entertainment industry, which have come under scrutiny in the debate over gun violence. Read more ..


China on Edge

China Free Speech Protests Spread Online

January 8th 2013

China-Internet-Users

Free-speech protesters clashed with Communist party supporters in southern China on Tuesday, as a local dispute about government censorship spilled over into a nationwide online protest. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered Tuesday for a second day outside the progressive Southern Weekly in Guangzhou, where some journalists have gone on strike to protest alleged government editorial interference. Minor scuffles broke out after activists holding signs and chanting slogans calling for media freedom were confronted by a small group of  party loyalists who waved Chinese flags and held posters of Chairman Mao. The protesters are calling for the resignation of the provincial propaganda chief after censors last week allegedly blocked a New Year's editorial urging greater constitutional rights. The article was replaced with another praising the party's achievements. Read more ..


Broken Banking

US Banks to Pay $8.5 Billion Settlement on Foreclosure Abuse

January 7th 2013

JP Morgan Chase

Some of the largest U.S. banks have agreed to an $8.5 billion settlement to resolve claims that they abused financially troubled homeowners as they sought to foreclose on their home purchase loans at the height of the country's financial downturn.

As millions of U.S. homeowners lost their jobs in 2009 and 2010, they often fell behind on their monthly loan payments, prompting their lenders to take ownership of their properties.  But as they moved to foreclose, banks often took shortcuts, automatically signing off on documents, even as they falsely claimed they had individually reviewed each homeowner's loan.

Ten banks agreed to the settlement Monday with the country's central bank, the Federal Reserve, and U.S. financial regulators at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.  Among them are such well-known institutions as Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, PNC and Wells Fargo.  Regulators are still negotiating a settlement with four other financial institutions. The regulators have said they found "critical deficiencies and shortcomings" in the way the banks handled the foreclosures.

For the first time, homeowners affected by the abuse will be compensated, with more than 3.8 million homeowners facing foreclosure in 2009 and 2010 getting payments ranging from hundreds of dollars up to $125,000.
Bank analyst Bert Ely told VOA the affected homeowners fall into several groups of people, including those who still could keep their homes.
Read more ..


India's Darkest Edge

Indian Rape Hearing Closed to the Public

January 7th 2013

India Gang Rape Protest Placard

The court proceedings of five of the six suspects in a brutal gang rape in the Indian capital will be closed to the public. The magistrate hearing the case, Namrita Aggarwal, made the announcement Monday shortly after the suspects arrived at the fast-track court hearing in New Delhi.  She said the next hearing will be on January 10 but did not indicate when the case will go to trial.

Aggarwal also cleared the packed courtroom after noisy protests from lawyers objecting to the suspects being given defense counsel and a mob of local and foreign journalists jostling to hear the proceedings. Six suspects, including a teenager, are accused of attacking a 23-year old woman and her male friend after luring them onto a bus in New Delhi on December 16.  They were both beaten with a rod.  The woman was gang-raped and both victims were thrown from the bus. Read more ..


Israel's Next Northern War

Israel Announces Fence on Syrian Border

January 6th 2013

Bibi

Israel's prime minister has proposed construction of a security fence in the Golan Heights to separate territory controlled by Israel from Syria. Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the weekly Cabinet meeting the new fence is needed because "the Syrian army has backed off and global jihad operatives have taken its place."

The prime minister said he is also concerned about Syria's chemical weapons. It was not immediately clear when the fence along the armistice line in the Golan Heights would be built.  Israel captured the Golan from Syria in 1967 and annexed it in 1981, in a move never recognized by the international community. Israel has a new fortified fence along its border with Egypt that Netanyahu says has stemmed the flow of African migrants into Israel.

The Edge of Space

Milky Way Could Contain 100 Billion Planets

January 6th 2013

protoplanetary disk

It seems like hardly a week goes by without another planet being discovered in some far off stellar system, but a new study, released by the California Institute of Technology, indicates there will likely be many, many more such discoveries.
 
The Caltech team made this conclusion based on analyzing the planets orbiting the Kepler-32 star, which contains five planets and which the scientists say is representative of the vast majority of stars in our galaxy. Kepler-32 is classified as an M dwarf, and scientists say three out of every four stars in the galaxy are M dwarfs, also known as red dwarfs. "There's at least 100 billion planets in the galaxy—just our galaxy," says John Johnson, assistant professor of planetary astronomy at Caltech and coauthor of the study, which was recently accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. "That's mind-boggling."
Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Sen. Graham Blasts Hagel Pick As An ‘In Your Face Nomination’ From Obama

January 5th 2013

Chuck Hagel

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday expressed dismay at reports President Obama would tap former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) for Secretary of Defense, calling it an “in your face” selection.

“I like Chuck Hagel. He served with distinction in Vietnam as an enlisted man -- two Purple Hearts. But quite frankly Chuck Hagel is out of the mainstream of thinking on most issues regarding foreign policy,” said Graham in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“He has long severed his ties with the Republican party. This is an in your face nomination of the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel,” he added. “I don’t know what his management experience is in regards to the Pentagon or global if anyway, so I think it’s an extremely controversial choice.”

Reports Sunday said that Obama had decided to name Hagel to replace current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta as early as Monday.  Read more ..


Venezuela on Edge

Venezuela Faces Life without President Hugo Chavez

January 4th 2013

Hugo Chavez infirm

Venezuela's government says President Hugo Chavez is facing complications from a severe lung infection. Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said on January 3 that the lung infection has caused a "breathing insufficiency" that requires Chavez to strictly comply with medical treatment. He gave no further details.

The Venezuelan leader has not been seen in public since undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba on December 11. Rumors and doubts fill the air in Venezuela since the normally gregarious and outspoken Chavez has been silent. He was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011, but has never disclosed the type or severity. Earlier this week, Vice President Nicolas Maduro described Chavez's condition as "delicate." Venezuelan opposition leaders have been demanding more information about the president's condition Read more ..


America on Edge

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

January 4th 2013

Click to select Image
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

Click to select Image

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

Click to select Image

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

Click to select Image

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 ..



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