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The Darkest Edge

Mournful Obama goes to Connecticut to Remember Victims of Massacre

December 16th 2012

Obama Wipes Tear After CT School Shooting

U.S. President Barack Obama travels on December 16 to Newtown, Connecticut, in an effort to comfort a shattered town reeling from a school shooting that left 20 young children and six adults dead. A White House statement released on December 15 said Obama will meet with the families of those who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and also thank first responders. The statement said the president will speak at an interfaith vigil for families of the victims and families from the school.

The announcement came just hours after Connecticut state police identified the victims and provided more information Saturday about their investigation into the mass shooting. The twenty children killed on December 14 were first-graders, most of them six years old, according to the state medical examiner. Six women at the school, including the principal and several teachers, also were killed as they attempted to shield children after 20-year-old Adam Lanza forced his way into the building and began firing. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Egypt Bans “Romantic” Songs and Music Videos

December 15th 2012

Egyptian hijabi

A new threat to Egypt’s democratic revolution has emerged: “romantic” songs and music videos. On Thursday a state-run newspaper reported that both have been banned from running on Egyptian state television channels, this according to a report in Al-Arabiya.

Only nationalistic tunes “that are worth broadcasting” will be allowed on the country’s 23 state-owned channels the report said, while sarcastic songs mocking public figures will also be banned because of the “sensitiveness of the political situation” in the country. The move comes amid fierce political tension in the country. In the past several weeks tens-of-thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to demonstrate against Egypt’s president, Mohammed Morsi, for what they see as his attempts to consolidate power.

Voting for a controversial referendum on a new constitution in Egypt is set for Saturday. The draft constitution, which was drawn up by an Islamist-led drafting assembly last month, has become the object of criticism among opposition members, made up of secular, liberal, leftwing and Christian groups. They have called for a ‘no’ vote and imposed conditions that could yet result in its boycott.


America After Sandy

Sandy Relief Funds In Danger Warns Rep. King

December 15th 2012

Staten Island house

House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) said Saturday there is a possibility that federal aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy may not pass by year’s end.

Citing strong opposition among colleagues to a supplemental spending bill, King warned that Congress may not approve Sandy relief funds if it fails to act this week.

“Doing all I can, but if Congress doesn’t approve Sandy aid for NY before Christmas, I don’t think it’ll get done. Too many oppose it in DC,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter Saturday. King is stepping down as the Homeland Security panel’s chairman and will be replaced by Texas Rep. Michael McCaul (R).  King’s district on Long Island was hit hard by the storm. Massapequa Park, where his district office is located, was flooded by a six-foot storm surge.

The White House has asked Congress to pass a $60.4 billion emergency spending bill to pay for the damage to New York, New Jersey and other affected areas. It’s substantially less than the more than $80 billion in assistance requested by those states. The Senate Appropriations Committee has assembled a relief package, but conservatives in the House have balked. They are demanding spending cuts to offset its cost. Read more ..


The Darkest Edge

Grief as Mad Gunman Executes Schoolchildren

December 14th 2012

Sandy Hook Shooting

At least 27 people, including children, are reported to have been killed after at least one shooter opened fire at a school in Newtown, Connecticut. Reports say 20 of the 27 people killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14 were children in what is seen as one of the worst school shootings in American history. Police said the suspect was 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who is also reported to have died in the incident. There are reports that he killed his father before going to the school. His mother taught kindergarten there and is among the fatalities. Her students were reportedly also targeted.

Lieutenant Paul Vance from the Newtown police told CNN that the school is now secure. "Newtown police immediately upon arrival entered the school and began a complete active shooter’s search of the building," he said. "That included checking every door, every portion of that school. Our main objective was to evacuate as quickly and efficiently as possible any and all students and faculty in the school." The Sandy Hook Elementary School has children from kindergarten through fourth grade aged between 5 and 10 years. Read more ..


The North Korean Threat

North Korea Warns of More Launches

December 14th 2012

North Korean Missile

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is vowing to send more satellites to space, just days after the country's successful long-range rocket launch provoked international condemnation. The official Korean Central News Agency said that Kim "stressed the need" to continue the satellite launches "to develop the country's science, technology, and economy." The United Nations Security Council condemned Wednesday's launch as a "clear violation" of sanctions barring Pyongyang from carrying out missile or nuclear tests. But it was welcomed in North Korea, where hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers gathered Friday to celebrate the success of the mission.

Standing in tightly organized ranks in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square, the massive crowd cheered as top officials, including Vice Chief of the General Staff of the Army Ro Gwang Chol, praised Kim's "bravery and wisdom." Read more ..


Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff

Both Sides Coming Closer To Deficit Deal

December 13th 2012

Cliff Face West Wales

Congressional Republicans and the White House appear to have edge closer to a deficit-reduction deal that would raise new taxes on the wealthy but also reform entitlement programs. 

The two sides exchanged offers following a face-to-face meeting Sunday between President Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who are negotiating a deal to prevent tax hikes and spending cuts that could trigger a recession early next year. While Boehner took to the House floor to criticize Obama for a failure to get “serious” in the talks, the White House offer and GOP counteroffer suggest the two sides are narrowing the gap over what tax hikes should be part of a deal. 

Sources said the White House lowered its $1.6 trillion request for new tax revenues to $1.4 trillion over 10 years in an offer on Monday. Republicans made a counteroffer Tuesday that remained at $800 billion in new tax revenues. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Assad's Forces Fire Scud Missiles within Syria

December 13th 2012

Darkly ominous missiles

No casualties have yet been confirmed as a result of multiple attacks by the Syrian government, which used Russian-made Scud missiles in recent days. U.S. officials have been quoted that this is a sign of a significant escalation in the deadly fighting in Syria that is pitting Bashr Al-Assad's regime against a hodge-odge of rebel groups, some of which have Iranian backing.

The missiles in question were fired from Damascus into northern Syria. U.S. officials were quoted as saying that the Scuds are capable of being loaded with chemical weapons, but asserted that there is no evidence that dictator Assad is testing the weapons system for that purpose. It is also possible that the Scuds are being used as part of a campaign of psychological warfare against the rebels arrayed against Assad. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Virulent New Strain of Bird Flu Found in Indonesia

December 12th 2012

Research and Development Chemistry

Almost half of those who have died from avian flu have been in Indonesia. And, although it might seem as though bird flu has gone unnoticed, a new virulent strain has been found on the Indonesian island of Java.

In recent weeks, more than 300,000 ducks have died on the densely populated island of Java.

The government has since confirmed the deaths were caused by a new and highly pathogenic strain of H5N1, or bird flu.

Dr. Rita M. Ridwan, the director of disease control at the Indonesian Health Ministry, says the government is working closely with relevant ministries to investigate further. “So we are in close contact by sharing information, sharing the virus lab and even working together in the field to do field investigations," Ridwan explained. "I know there are very alarming deaths in the duck population, mostly in the center of duck production by the traditional farming as well as in central Java and East Java.” Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Gunmen Fire at Protesters in Cairo Ahead of Rallies

December 11th 2012

Egyptian

Masked gunmen have fired at protesters camping in the Egyptian capital, wounding nine people as supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi prepare for rival mass rallies.

Officials and witnesses say the unknown gunmen shot the protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square early Tuesday.  By midday the square was calm, with tents remaining in the center and the number of people in the area slowly growing.

Opposition leaders are pressuring Morsi to cancel a constitutional referendum scheduled for Saturday.

The opposition National Salvation Front, led by liberals including Mohamed ElBaradei and Amr Moussa, has called on its supporters to march on the presidential palace in Cairo Tuesday.  They say the draft constitution does not properly represent the Egyptian people. But Morsi has refused to back down. On Monday, he gave the military authority to arrest civilians as part of a decree to help maintain security for the referendum.  The order tasks the military with supporting police to protect "vital institutions."  There was a heavy military presence in Cairo ahead of the planned rallies. Read more ..


The Afghanistan War

Afghan Intelligence Chief Survives Taliban Assassination Attempt

December 11th 2012

Click to select Image

An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader and one other suspect on Saturday. The detained Taliban leader is believed to be responsible for transporting and distributing homemade explosives and IED-making components to insurgents including those who attempted to kill a top Afghan intelligence official in Kabul on Thursday.

Afghanistan's intelligence director escaped the terrorist assassination attempt with only minor injuries in the Afghan capital, according to an Israeli security official who monitors Islamic terrorism. The initial reports said the Director of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) Assadullah Khalid was wounded in a suicide bombing inside the NDS compound in Taimani neighborhood on Thursday afternoon. A source within the Kabul police agency confirmed to Middle East news organizations that the assassination attempt failed, saying that "the attack is under investigation and the NDS chief was receiving medical treatment in a NDS hospital in Kabul." Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Boy Decapitates Syrian Army Officer as Rebels Jeer

December 10th 2012

Syrian decapitation

The internet and other media are aflame with comment about an unprecedent atrocity commited in Syria that has appeared in a video uploaded to YouTube. The video  shows a young Syrian boy decapitating a man lying on the ground, reportedly in the northern city of Homs. The video captures that barbarity as the boy decapitated an officer of Syria's army in the service of dictator Bashr Al-Assad. Onlookers cheered on the boy, who is reportedly 10 years old, as he killed the man who was lying on the ground with his head resting on a cinder block and his hands tied behind his back.

According to the Deutsche Presse Agentur news service, sources among the rebels fighting the Assad regime said that the deceased Syrian officer had been one among a group of nine others who had been abducted by rebel forces opposed to the regime. Two of them had already been released after their captors were paid a ransom for their lives. Read more ..


Sudan on Edge

Student Protests Continue to Flare in Sudan

December 10th 2012

Sudan President al-Bashir
Omar al-Bashir

Sudanese police have used tear gas and batons against hundreds of people in Khartoum protesting the recent deaths of four students from Darfur. At least 600 people took part in the protest in the Sudanese capital on December 10. Many shouted anti-government slogans like "Revolution Until Victory." Plainclothes security agents were also reported on the scene near Khartoum's main bus station — an area that saw similar unrest on December 9.

The students died amid a crackdown on demonstrations against tuition fees at the University of Gezira, south of Khartoum. Their bodies were found in a canal, and activists say the four were killed by police.

Negotiations with Darfur rebels had called for tuition breaks for those displaced by the conflict in that region.

While protests have erupted recently over soaring food prices and other grievances, there have not been the type of mass protests in Sudan like those that toppled rulers in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. According to an AFP report, Dean of Students Rudwan Ahmed of the University of Gezira said that police came on December 3 when student participants in a sit-in forced lecturers from their classrooms and attacked laboratory technicians. Ahmed said that 52 people were detained and then released. The four later found dead were not among the detainees, Ahmed added. Read more ..


The North Korean Threat

North Korea Extends Window for Rocket Launch

December 10th 2012

Kim Jong-Un

North Korea says it is extending the launch period for a controversial long-range rocket by a week, until December 29. A spokesman for the North's Korean Committee of Space Technology told the official (North) Korean Central News Agency on Monday that scientists found a "technical deficiency in the first stage control engine module of the rocket." The committee said on Saturday that it was considering readjusting the timing of the launch, originally scheduled to take off between December 10 and December 22.

Japan has threatened to shoot down the missile, if it goes off course and has deployed missile interceptors in preparation. Last Week, Japanese television showed three Aegis destroyers armed with SM-3 missile interceptors reported to be headed for the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan.

Patriot missile interceptors later arrived at Okinawa island, which lies under the missile's projected flight path. Patriot missiles were also positioned behind the defense ministry in Tokyo. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Egyptian Opposition Rejects Morsi's Planned Referendum

December 9th 2012

Mohammed Morsi

Egypt's opposition National Salvation Front has announced that it will not participate in a December 15 referendum over a disputed draft constitution. Earlier, President Mohamed Morsi revoked part of a controversial decree giving him sweeping powers but insisted the referendum on the new document would go ahead as planned.

The head of Egypt's Journalists Union, Sameh Ashour, told reporters Sunday that National Salvation Front leaders has decided not to participate in the constitutional referendum due to take place next Saturday. He says the National Salvation Front categorically refuses to take part in the December 15 referendum and will not give its blessing to a vote that will inevitably lead to more divisions and civil strife.

Ashour went on to blast President Morsi and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group for their decision to go ahead with the constitutional referendum. He says that the National Salvation Front insists that what he calls repression, despotism and the hijacking of the state by the president and his (Muslim Brotherhood) group is contributing to the economic woes of all Egyptian families. Read more ..


The Afghanistan War

US Military Rescues American in Afghanistan

December 9th 2012

US 10 MT departing

Military officials said a U.S. citizen was rescued from the Taliban during an operation in eastern Afghanistan. Insurgents abducted Dilip Joseph earlier this week in Kabul Province, according to a brief statement from coalition forces. Gen. John R. Allen, commander of United States Forces – Afghanistan, said he ordered the mission when intelligence showed that Joseph was in imminent danger. “Today’s mission exemplifies our unwavering commitment to defeating the Taliban,” Allen said in the statement.

“I’m proud of the American and Afghan forces that planned, rehearsed and successfully conducted this operation." Allen said Joseph, who is currently undergoing evaluations, will rejoin his family soon.


The Defense Edge

U.S. Navy Sub Warfare Specialist Allegedly Involved In Espionage

December 9th 2012

File Folders

A former U.S. Navy submarine warfare specialist living in Virginia Beach, Va., was indicted on Friday by a federal grand jury for attempting to harm the United States by giving classified information to spies he believed represented the Russian Federation. Robert Patrick Hoffman was charged with attempted espionage, which carries, if he's found guilty, penalties up to and including life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, according to the prosecution. Ironically, Hoffman was indicted on the same day the nation remembers the Japanese surprise attack on the U.S. Naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7. 1941, in which thousands of sailors died or were severely wounded.

According to the indictment, the 39-year-old Hoffman is a U.S. citizen born in Buffalo, N.Y., who served for 20 years in the U.S. Navy until his retirement on Nov. 1, 2011. When he retired he held the rank of petty officer first class. The veteran's speciality was submarine warfare. While serving in the Navy, Hoffman held a security clearance that provided him with access to classified and national defense information regarding defense programs and operations in which he participated, and he repeatedly signed non-disclosure agreements that were legally binding. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Democrats Warm to Medicare Change that Kennedy Opposed

December 8th 2012

Ted Kennedy

Democrats in Congress are changing their tune on means testing in Medicare, an idea the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) resisted for decades.

Leading Democratic lawmakers have suggested that raising premiums for wealthy Medicare beneficiaries could be a matter of common ground with Republicans in the ongoing deficit-reduction talks. "I think that is reasonable and certainly consistent with the Democratic message that those who are better off in our country should be willing to pay a little more," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Thursday.

The idea of affluence testing is not new — wealthy Medicare recipients already pay higher premiums for doctor visits and prescription drug coverage.

But negotiations to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" open the door to new measures that would make Medicare costs more progressive based on income.

Durbin is not the only Democrat who has suggested he would be open to more means testing as part of a final deal. Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) called the idea "somewhat attractive" as a bargaining chip for talks on the so-called fiscal cliff. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Hamas Leader Meshal Vows to 'Liberate' Jerusalem and West Bank

December 7th 2012

Khaled Meshal kisses Gaza

Khaled Meshal, leader of the Hamas islamist terror organization, fell to his knees to kiss the soil of the Gaza Strip on December 7. This was Meshal’s first visit to Gaza, which on December 8 will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his movement. It is the truce mediated by Egypt between Israel and Palestinian militants that allowed Meshal to return from Damascus in safety, according to Hamas sources.

This is his first visit since he went into exile 45 years ago. To celebrate, Meshal promised that he would “liberate” Jerusalem and West Bank. He thanked Palestinians and their armed members for the “liberation” of the Gaza Strip from Israeli occupation. “Without all of you, I would not be here. I owe you and all the members of the militias of the armed Palestinian armed resistance. Today Gaza, tomorrow it will be the West Bank and Jerusalem,” said Meshal in Rafah after crossing the border from Egypt. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

IDF Clashes With Palestinian Police, Rioters As Tensions Rise Following U.N. Vote

December 7th 2012

Soldiers at ready

In what may be an ominous sign of things to come, a riot broke out in the West Bank flashpoint of Hebron on Thursday, as a Palestinian mob attacked an IDF patrol. Just as disturbingly, the riot followed a clash between IDF troops and Palestinian policemen. Reportedly, the patrol attempted to arrest a suspect who had connections with or was actually a member of the Palestinian police.

Other policemen resisted this, and in the ensuing melee a Palestinian policeman punched an IDF soldier. Other Palestinians quickly joined in, throwing stones at the Israeli troops, who used non-lethal methods to fight back. Other incidents of violence were reported in the area as well, also reportedly involving Palestinian policemen. Tensions have apparently been on the rise in the area since the U.N. General Assembly elevated the Palestinian Authority to the status of a non-member state. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Jihadis Stockpiling Weapons on Syrian Border for Future Fight With Jewish State

December 6th 2012

Syrian Jihadis

Islamic radicals battling the regime of Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, have begun stockpiling weapons on Syria's border for a future fight with Israel.

According to Israel Hayom, Israeli officials say the Syrian border may soon become the "most active" facing the Jewish state, as jihadis turn their fight to Israel after the collapse of the Assad regime.

"The main problem is not the local rebel groups but fighters coming from outside Syria. Hundreds of fighters have begun streaming into Syria from Jordan and Iraq. They come from countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya, and many other countries. We're talking about very dangerous people with experience fighting the U.S. army in Iraq as well as fighting the regime in Libya. We estimate that there are between 3,000 to 4,000 rebel fighters belonging to radical Salafist groups who all belong under the al-Qaida umbrella," the official said. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

UN Tells Syria's Assad: WMD Use An Outrageous Crime With Dire Consequences

December 6th 2012

Syria's chemicals

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki- Moon sent a letter to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to describe his concerns with Syria's possible use of chemical weapons, according to a UN spokesman in New York City on Wednesday. Sarin originally was developed in 1938 in Germany as a pesticide. It is a clear, colorless, and tasteless liquid that has no odor in its pure form. However, sarin can evaporate into a vapor (gas) and spread into the environment. Sarin is also known as GB. "[Our] secretary-general has grave concerns about the existence and possible use of chemical weapons," said Martin Nesirky, Ban's press liaison, at the daily UN press briefing. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

President Morsi Brings Out the Tanks to Tahrir Square

December 6th 2012

Cairo Claashes Dec 2012

The Egyptian army has deployed tanks outside the presidential palace in Cairo following clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi that have killed five people. The army has stationed at least five tanks and two other armored vehicles outside the presidential complex on December 6. More than 350 people have been injured in the Egyptian capital during the two days of violence.

Reporting from the scene, VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott said the violence started Wednesday when Morsi's Islamist supporters attacked opposition demonstrators angered by the president's decree issued last month. The mandate granted Morsi sweeping powers that place him above review from the judiciary. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Clashes Outside Egypt Presidential Palace

December 5th 2012

Cairo Protest Dec 2012

Supporters of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi clashed with opposition protesters outside the presidential palace in Cairo on Wednesday, with at least 211 people injured, according to health officials.

A small group of opposition activists have been camped outside the palace since Tuesday night, when tens of thousands rallied against a controversial decree which gives Morsi near-absolute power. Supporters of the president marched to the palace on Wednesday and tore down the opposition's tents; witnesses said they threw stones and used clubs to attack demonstrators, and there were reports of petrol bombs being thrown. Opposition protesters were driven away from the palace and fled down side streets. Read more ..


Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff

GOP Extends House Schedule by a Week

December 5th 2012

Lobbyist

House Republicans announced Wednesday that the chamber will be in session the week of Dec. 17, time that might be used to pass legislation related to the "fiscal cliff." "Though the House's target adjournment set in October of last year was Dec. 14, that is no longer the case," Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said on the House floor.

"Instead, members are advised that the House will now be in session the week of Dec. 17. Exact days will be announced next week."

Cantor did not say specifically that he expects a fiscal-cliff bill to be taken up that week, although the extension of the schedule seems to indicate more time is needed to negotiate a deal. Cantor also reminded members that the House will stay in session until the issue is resolved. "Members are further reminded that the House will not adjourn the 112th Congress until a credible solution to the fiscal cliff has been found," he said. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Retaliation: Top Terrorism Leader, Subordinates Killed in Nigeria

December 5th 2012

Nigeria

A top Boko Haram leader, Abdulkareem Ibrahim, and two of his subordinates were killed in a raid carried out by Nigerian police commandos in Nigeria's Borno State, an Israeli counterterrorist, who monitors North African terrorist groups, said on Monday.

Ibrahim was a notorious terrorist commander who had been responsible for a series of assassinations and suicide bomb attacks.

For example, Suicide bombers had attacked a military barracks in Kaduna, Nigeria, on Sunday killing 15 people and wounding 30 others who were attending a religious service at St. Andrew Military Protestant Church, according to an Israeli counterterrorist who monitors radical Islamists in North Africa countries. While no group has claimed responsibility, Nigerian army officials suspect the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, which is known to target Christian churches in that African nation, according to the Israeli source.

Recently, Boko Haram announced its affiliation with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) since the terror group's goal is the overthrow of the Nigerian government and creation of a Caliphate based on an extreme form of Sharia, or Islamic law. Nigeria is Africa's most populous country. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Muslim Brotherhood Rallies as President Morsi Leaves the Building

December 5th 2012

Egyptian Court Protests Dec 2012

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has called for a support rally for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, as anti-Morsi demonstrators remained camped out at Cairo's Tahrir Square and in front of the presidential palace for nearly two weeks. The Islamist group called for the demonstration later on December 5 outside of the presidential palace. They said the rally was called because opposition protesters were trying to "impose their opinions through force."

Meanwhile, some of the opposition protesters there have vowed not to leave until Morsi abolishes a decree he issued last month granting him sweeping powers that place him above review from the judiciary. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has called for restraint on the part of Egyptians. "We would simply urge that protesters express their views peacefully and that they be given the environment... to protest peacefully," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner. Read more ..


Washington on Edge

Conservative Republican says GOP is Not Punishing Right-Wing Fellow Representatives

December 5th 2012

Click to select Image

A key conservative lawmaker says he does not believe that House Republican leaders are penalizing right-leaning legislators by removing them from high-profile committees.

Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), the incoming chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), said that the removal of GOP Reps. David Schweikert (Ariz.), Justin Amash (Mich.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.) and Walter Jones (N.C.) from plum committee spots had nothing to do with ideology. Scalise pointed to the ascension of conservative Tea Party favorites to top-notch committees. “What they fail to mention is that [Rep.] Mick Mulvaney [R-S.C.] got a seat on Financial Services; [Rep.] Raul Labrador [R-Idaho] was fighting real hard to get elevated to Judiciary Committee so he can be more involved in the debate on immigration, and he got that post, so I don’t think anybody would question the conservative credentials of Mick or Raul,” Scalise said. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Restaurant Chain Says Criticizing 'ObamaCare' May Hurt its Earnings

December 4th 2012

Obama

A major restaurant chain said Tuesday that its complaints about President Obama's healthcare law have been bad for business.

Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster, had previously announced plans to cut its workers' hours so that it wouldn't have to provide health insurance under the law's employer mandate.

Darden is one of several large employers to consider rolling back workers' hours in response to the Affordable Care Act. But the company said Tuesday that negative publicity surrounding that position might be bad for business. The company on Tuesday lowered its earnings estimates for fiscal 2013, and said in a statement that the weaker projections owe in part to concerns over a backlash to its healthcare stance. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

NATO Says Syria Chemical Weapons Warrant Immediate International Reaction

December 4th 2012

Syria's chemicals

The NATO secretary-general says the alliance will authorize Tuesday the deployment of a missile defense system to Turkey "within weeks" in response to the continuing violence in Syria and concern its government might resort to using chemical weapons. Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made the prediction as he went into a series of meetings with alliance foreign ministers, as well as partner nations and Russia.

Secretary-General Rasmussen says the NATO ministers will “demonstrate our determination to deter against any threats” to the alliance's southeastern border. That border is the Turkish-Syrian frontier, with Syria's more than year-long civil war raging on the other side. Turkey asked for NATO help after Syrian government shelling near the border hit some areas inside Turkey. The alliance is expected to deploy American Patriot missile defense batteries in southeastern Turkey, but Rasmussen said specific decisions will be left to individual countries. The Patriot system is designed to intercept incoming missiles, not to strike targets on the ground. Read more ..


The North Korean Threat

Russia Urges N. Korea to Cancel Rocket Launch

December 3rd 2012

North Korean Missile

Russia is urging North Korea not to go ahead with a planned rocket launch later this month.  The statement was issued Monday by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Russia joins an international chorus expressing concern about the North's intentions. Pyongyang says the rocket will carry an earth observation satellite into orbit, but the effort is widely suspected to be a cover for testing North Korea's ballistic missile technology. China, the North's main ally and key benefactor also said Sunday it was concerned at the launch plans. Japan has announced the postponement of two days of talks with North Korea that had been scheduled to begin in Beijing Wednesday because of the impending launch. Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto on Saturday ordered the military to make the necessary defensive preparations for a North Korean missile should it go off course and threaten Japanese territory.  North Korea made a similar launch attempt in April that failed. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

House Members Warn Carbon Tax Would Increase Unemplyment Rate

December 3rd 2012

Smokestacks

A group of Republicans and Democrats in the House has proposed a resolution saying Congress opposes any effort by the federal government to set up a carbon tax on gasoline, coal or natural gas, arguing it would only lead to increased joblessness.

The resolution, from Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), states that a carbon tax on gasoline would have a "dramatic, immediate impact on transportation costs, with the greatest impact being felt by low-income Americans and their families." It also says that the price of electricity derived from coal and natural gas would increase if a carbon tax were applied to those fuels. "With continuing high national joblessness and an unemployment rate exceeding 7.8 percent every month since February 2009, a carbon tax will drive the unemployment rate even higher," the resolution states. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Egypt's Top Court Suspends Work 'Indefinitely'

December 2nd 2012

Egyptian Court Protests Dec 2012

Egypt's top court said it has suspended its work "indefinitely" after Islamist protesters supporting President Mohamed Morsi surrounded the courthouse Sunday.
The Supreme Constitutional Court said the suspension of the court sessions was in protest of what it called "pressures." ​​The court was due to examine the legality of the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly that drafted the country's new constitution. But several hundred Islamists protested outside the court building. In recent days, about 30 Christian, liberal and secular members have boycotted the constituent assembly to protest what they call the hijacking of the process by President Morsi's supporters, who dominate the assembly. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Internet Returns to Syria

December 1st 2012

Syrian security forces

News agencies report that Internet service has returned in Damascus after a two-day blackout. It's not yet clear whether mobile-phone service also returned on December 1 after being cut off during the same period. The blackout of communications has come amid claims that the Syrian government is deliberately looking to deny communication among opposition activists and rebels. Meanwhile, fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels in the vicinity of the Damascus airport has caused several airlines to suspend service to the Syrian capital. Government forces on December 1 shelled the suburban district of Al-Basateen in an attempt to secure areas surrounding the airport. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said November 30 that the 20-month conflict in Syria had reached "new and appalling heights of brutality and violence." The fighting has killed 40,000 people, mostly civilians.

The Iranian Threat

Iranian Cyberpolice Chief Fired Over Blogger's Death

December 1st 2012

Shadowy Computer User

Iran's police have fired the head of their cybercrimes unit over the case of a blogger dying while in police custody. Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency said on December 1 that General Kamal Hadianfar was fired due to "failure and lack of sufficient supervision over the performance of personnel under his command." The authorities confirmed in November that Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti, who was reportedly tortured, died while in police custody. Iranian authorities said Beheshti was detained on October 30 for alleged "cybercrimes" and was taken to Evin prison in northern Tehran the following day. Beheshti, 35, was handed over to police in the cybercrimes unit for interrogation and died on November 3. According to Iranian media, police have made seven arrests in connection with Beheshti's death.

Palestine and Israel

Bi-Partisan Legislation Introduced Urges Closure of Washington PLO Office, Possible Termination of Aid to PA

November 30th 2012

Mahmoud Abbas at parliament

Bi-partisan legislation has been introduced by U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Chuck Schumer (D-New York), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), and Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) which calls for the immediate closure of the PLO’s office in Washington unless the Palestinians enter into peace negotiations with Israel and also eliminates American assistance to the PA if the International Criminal Court ”adjudicates any matter proposed or supported by the Palestinian Authority.”

“Senator Schumer is pushing to get a vote between today and tomorrow and encouraging both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to support it,” Senator Schumer’s Press Secretary Marisa Kaufman stated in an email. Asked about the level of support for the bill in the Senate Kaufman said, “we’re optimistic we’ll get significant support.” Read more ..


The Edge of Climate Change

CIA Finally Closes Multi-billion Dollar Climate Change Unit

November 29th 2012

Hurricane Isabel

More than three years later, and after spending billions of taxpayer dollars, an Inside-the-Beltway watchdog group reported on Tuesday that President Barack Obama ordered the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to quietly shutdown its example of government waste and duplication: the Center on Climate Change and National Security.

The scandal-plagued government agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior U.S. policymakers, the military, homeland security officials and law enforcement operated an insignificant special unit that focused on global warming, according to a watchdog group that's proudly been a thorn in the side of the Obama White House.

Regardless of the fact that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had already possessed a multi-billion dollar intelligence center for global warming, a new report by public-interest group Judicial Watch's blog claims that the Obama administration believed the nation’s intelligence community needed yet another taxpayer-funded entity to better determine the impact of climate change on U.S. national security. Read more ..


The Vote Aftermath

Conservative Activist Threatens to Steer Donors from RNC if Gop Raises Taxes

November 29th 2012

Money Stack

Brent Bozell, a prominent conservative activist and fundraiser, is threatening to steer donors away from the Republican Party if GOP lawmakers sign a deal to raise taxes. Bozell sent a letter to Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus on Wednesday pledging to make it his mission to counsel conservative donors to shun the party if its leaders in Congress agree to raise taxes.

Bozell, the chairman of ForAmerica Inc., has been active in conservative political circles for three decades and estimates he has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for “an alphabet soup of conservative causes.”  “Reince, it pains me to say this, but if the Republican Party breaks its word to the American people and goes along with President Obama with tax increases, it will have betrayed conservatives for the final time,” Bozell wrote.

“I will make it my mission to ensure that every conservative donor to the Republican Party that I have worked with for the last three decades — and there are many and they have given tens of millions to Republican causes — gives not one penny more to the Republican Party or any member of Congress that votes for tax increases,” he warned. Read more ..


The Congo on Edge

M23 to Leave Goma, Rebel Chief Says

November 28th 2012

Congo M23 Rebels

The military chief of Congolese rebel group M23 says his forces have started to withdraw from the town of Masisi and plan to later leave the captured city of Goma. Sultani Makenga said Wednesday the rebels were leaving Masisi, a small town about 50 kilometers northwest of Goma, following an agreement brokered in neighboring Uganda. The group's political chief, Jean-Marie Runiga, told VOA on Tuesday that M23 forces will leave Goma by Friday as a sign of good will.  But he says a withdrawal does not mean the group will back down on its demands for foreign groups and the Congolese army to leave the region. ​​The rebels seized Goma last week and have also taken the town of Sake.

Late Tuesday, United Nations peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told reporters there are indications that the M23 rebels were starting to withdraw from Goma. Ladsous said the withdrawal would be confirmed by the United Nations peacekeeping mission on Wednesday.

Read more ..

The Edge of the Universe

Dark Matter May Soon be Illuminated

November 27th 2012

Dark Matter

The hiding spots for the particles making up dark matter are narrowing, and the answer to this cosmic mystery could come within the next three or four years, scientists sa," this according to Space.com.The website explains, "Dark matter is an elusive substance that is invisible and almost never detected, except by its gravitational pull. Yet astronomers say it likely makes up a quarter of the entire universe and dwarfs the amount of normal matter (galaxies, stars and planets) out there in space."

A science page at the Examiner explains, "This so-called dark matter – coined by Swiss astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky back in the early 1930s – is decidedly different from the normal, light-reflecting and light-producing matter (called, generally, baryonic matter) that makes up the stars, planets and gas between the stars and galaxies." Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Morsi Says Acted Within Rights On Expanded Powers

November 27th 2012

Nov 2012 protests

Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi has told his country's top judges he acted within his rights to grant himself expanded powers, but his office also appeared to climb down slightly from the most contentious aspect of his recent decree.

At a meeting on November 26, Morsi told the judges his decree to put his rulings outside of judicial review would not "infringe" on the workings of Egypt's courts. But his spokesman,Yasser Ali, later said Morsi had agreed that only his decisions on "sovereign matters" would be protected from judicial review.

That appeared to suggest a step back from one of the most heavily criticized elements of the decree, which critics angrily rejected as an attempt to assume the powers of a "pharaoh." The perceived power grab by Morsi has sparked protests by both supporters and opponents of the Islamist president, with at least one person killed and hundreds wounded since protests erupted late on November 22, the day of Morsi's decrees. Read more ..



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