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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 ..


Media on Edge

BBC’s Donnison May Lose Press Credentials After Tweeting Photo of Syrian Child

November 27th 2012

Fake Gaza Child Casualty Picture actually from Syria
Fake Gaza Child Casualty Picture actually from Syria

A BBC correspondent who found himself in hot water after tweeting a picture of a child, who he claimed had been injured during Israel’s operation in Gaza, but who was actually a casualty of Syria’s civil war, may find himself in even more trouble.

Walla News reports that Israel’s Information Ministry is exploring the possibility of denying Jon Donnison press credentials. According to the report Donnison has been invited to a hearing on Wednesday at the Government Press Office.

If denied the press credential, Donnison could possibly lose the ability to work in Gaza and the West Bank as he’d find it difficult to enter each territory from Israel.

Donnison tweeted an apology the day after the initial tweet appeared: “A photo I re-tweeted from another journo yesterday showing children injured was NOT in Gaza as I said but apparently from Syria. Apologies.”

Last week Knesset Member Carmel Shama Hacohen, Chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, said that the apology was not enough and suggested certain sanctions be imposed on channels whose coverage consistently “blackens the face of Israel.” Read more ..


Rwanda on Edge

Rwanda's Military Battles Hutu Rebels

November 27th 2012

Soldiers

Rwandan military officials say Hutu extremists based in eastern Congo crossed into Rwanda on Tuesday and launched attacks in several villages near the border. A military spokesman blamed the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) for the attack, which led to clashes with Rwandan military forces. However, Reuters news agency reports the FDLR, which opposes Rwanda's Tutsi-led government, has denied involvement in any fighting. Rwanda said the attackers numbered at least 100, were repulsed and fled back into the DRC or into Rwanda.

This new unrest in eastern Congo comes a week after Congolese rebel group M23 seized the city of Goma, near the Congolese-Rwandan border. The group, comprised mainly of Tutsi army defectors, defied a Monday deadline to withdraw from Goma that had been set by regional leaders.


Israel on Edge

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak Quits Public Life

November 26th 2012

Ehud Barak
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Long considered a master of the surprise attack, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak delivered one last shocking blow on Monday by suddenly announcing his retirement from politics.

Barak, who has served in numerous high-profile posts over the last three decades, including prime minister and IDF chief of staff, told the media: "I want to dedicate more time to my family. I feel I have exhausted dealing with political life, which has never been a passion of mine, and I feel there is room to allow other people to serve in senior roles in Israel."

"Time with family" is a standard excuse for a politicians retirement, and Barak's decision is likely motivated more by his perilous political position than anything else. Drummed out of his longtime home in the Labor party for his willingness to serve with Right-wing governments, Barak formed his own Independence party last year; but recent polls have shown that it has little electoral support, and might not even enter the next Knesset. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

Mexican Cops Nab Suspect on FBI's Most Wanted List

November 25th 2012

Saenz-criminal-drugs-murder

Mexican federal police announced on Friday that they captured a suspected murderer, kidnapper, rapist and drug gang member who is listed as one of the FBI's 10 most-wanted fugitives, according to a law enforcement official.

Joe Luis Saenz, a U.S. citizen who lived in Los Angeles, California, was arrested on Thursday by federal police officers (Federales) in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico.

Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation said he would be extradited back to Los Angeles this weekend under a U.S. law enforcement escort. The FBI alleges that the 37-year-old Saenz fatally shot two rival gang members in Los Angeles in July 1998 and kidnapped, raped and murdered his estranged girlfriend less than two weeks later. He is also accused of a fourth murder in Los Angeles County in October 2008, according to the FBI. The FBI offered up to $100,000.00 for information leading to Saenz's arrest. Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Gaza Cease-Fire Holds Amid Signs of Normalcy

November 25th 2012

Hamas-Gaza

A cease-fire that ended eight-days of fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip is now in its fifth day.Schools in southern Israel reopened Sunday after a 10-day closure brought on by Palestinian rocket attacks from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Parents were relieved.

“I’m very glad that my children finally can go back to school and start the routine," said a parent. "Routine is very good and it’s very important for our children.” Israeli students were glad to get back, saying school is better than a vacation spent in bomb shelters.

It was a similar scene in Gaza on Saturday. Tens of thousands of Palestinian children returned to school, after sheltering at home during massive Israeli air strikes. Under the terms of the truce, Israel is also easing border restrictions on Gaza. Palestinian fishing boats sailed 10 kilometers out to sea, double the previous limit which Israel says it imposed to prevent weapons smuggling. Palestinians say fishing is better in deeper water. Gaza farmers were also allowed to visit land near the Israeli border fence, in what was previously a closed military zone. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrians Rebels Seize Part of Army Airport Near Damascus

November 25th 2012

Free Syrian Army

Syrian rebels seized a "large part" of a military airport near the capital on Sunday as troops shelled the outskirts of Damascus province, a watchdog and activists said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 31 rebels and 16 soldiers in and around Damascus were among 94 people killed in violence across the country on Saturday.

Rebels took a "large part" of the military airport of Marj al-Sultan, 15 kilometres (nine miles) east of Damascus, and destroyed two helicopters, according to the Britain-based Observatory. A video posted on the Internet by activists appeared to show one wrecked helicopter, while a rebel shoots rockets at the airport, gripped by several fires. The Syrian Revolution General Commission and Local Coordination Committees, two major networks of activists on the ground, meanwhile, reported shelling of several areas near Damascus. Read more ..


Benghazigate

Ambassador Rice Aggressively Defends Herself

November 25th 2012

Susan Rice

The United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has aggressively defended herself and denounced criticism of her role in explaining what caused the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, when she appeared the following Sunday on five morning news shows representing the Obama administration. Amb. Rice continues to claim she had relied on talking points given to her by the intelligence community. In her defense against criticism from U.S. Senator John McCain and other Republican lawmakers, as well as counterterrorism experts, over the issue, Rice claimed that she relied on intelligence reports when she appeared on the Sunday news programs on Sept. 16, 2012, to discuss the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage in Cairo

Egyptian Judges Condemn 'Unprecedented Attack' By President

November 24th 2012

Mohammed Morsi

Egypt's top judges have accused President Muhammad Morsi of staging an "unprecedented attack on the independence of the judiciary." The criticism came in a statement issued on November 24 by the Supreme Judicial Council, which handles administrative affairs and judicial appointments.

It follows Morsi's decree on November 22 which granted him extensive new powers. Meanwhile, in Egypt's second city, Alexandria, judges announced a strike in the provinces of Alexandria and Beheira in protest at the move.

They said the decree violates the principle of separation of power and that they will not return to work until it is reversed. The ruling bars any court from dissolving the constituent assembly, which is preparing a new constitution. It also bans any legal challenges to the president's decisions and new laws until a new parliament is elected. Morsi also sacked his prosecutor-general and gave himself the power to appoint a new one. The president and his supporters say he is acting to protect last year's revolution from being undermined by loyalists of former ruler Hosni Mubarak. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage in Cairo

Egyptian Protesters Assail Muslim Brotherhood Installations

November 24th 2012

Egypt army protest

Egyptian security forces dispersed protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square with rounds of tear gas. Security personnel fired the tear gas Saturday morning on the protesters, many of whom spent the night on the iconic protest hub. On Friday, November 23, protesters in several Egyptian cities attacked the offices of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, as rival pro- and anti-government groups demonstrated in Cairo about a new presidential decree.

The protests came a day after Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi put himself above oversight and declared that his decisions cannot be appealed by the courts or any other authority. In a speech to supporters Friday at the presidential palace, Morsi said he wants to move Egypt forward as a stable and safe nation and does not want sole control of the country. Read more ..


Benghazigate

Republican Sen. Graham Holds Obama Responsible for Benghazi Fiasco

November 23rd 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Friday defended his criticism of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice’s statements in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack and charged President Obama with “stonewalling the American people.”

“I blame the president above all others,” said Graham, speaking on Fox News. Graham said that, compared to the administration's disclosures about other foreign policy issues, the White House has been reluctant to provide insight into their response to Benghazi.

“We have photos of the president in the situation room, a minute-by-minute account of the president's leadership. He deserves great credit for the Bin Laden raid. It was a gutsy call. We have information about how he called the deal on the recent cease-fire between the Israelis and Palestinians,” said Graham. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iranian Agent Indicted in U.S. Military Equipment Conspiracy

November 23rd 2012

Iran Missiles

An Iranian businessman and his company were charged in an indictment unsealed on Tuesday with conspiracy to defraud the United States, violating the Arms Export Control Act and smuggling in federal court in Washington, D.C.

Amin Ravan, a citizen of Iran, and his Iran-based company, IC Market Iran (IMI), were charged in connection with the illegal export of 55 military antennas from the United States to Singapore and Hong Kong.

According to the indictment, which was returned by a grand jury in the nation's capital, Ravan was based in Iran and, at various times, acted as an agent of IMI in Iran and an agent of Corezing International Pte Ltd, a company based in Singapore that also maintained offices in Hong Kong and China. On Oct. 10, 2012, Ravan was arrested by law enforcement officers in Malaysia in connection with a U.S. provisional arrest warrant. The United States is seeking to extradite him from Malaysia to stand trial in the District of Columbia. Read more ..


Benghazigate

Obama Appointee Susan Rice Dismisses Critics' Concerns

November 22nd 2012

Susan Rice

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Wednesday defended her handling of the September attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, calling GOP criticisms “unfounded.” Rice told reporters during a briefing at the U.N. that her initial account of the attack, which killed four Americans, was based on then-current intelligence community assessments. “When discussing the attacks against our facilities in Benghazi, I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community,” said Rice. “I made clear that the information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers.”

Rice initially said the attack was sparked by anti-American anger over a film critical of Islam which was posted to YouTube. The administration later amended that explanation, acknowledging that the assault was a planned terrorist attack. Republicans have questioned whether the White House sought to downplay the terrorist angle to score political points ahead of the election and the controversy could be a stumbling block if President Obama nominates Rice to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State in his second term. Read more ..



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