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Operation Pillar of Defense

Congress Warns Egypt on Gaza Conflict

November 20th 2012

Mohamed Morsi Speaks at Press Conference

Leading members of Congress have warned Egypt of the loss of U.S. aid unless it ends support for Hamas. Senior House and Senate members have determined that Egypt was supporting Hamas' war against Israel in November 2012. They said Egypt could be encouraging Hamas and its Palestinian militia allies to maintain missile and rocket attacks on the Jewish state. "Egypt -- watch what you do and how you do it," Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said. "You're teetering with the Congress on having your aid cut off if you keep inciting violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

Egypt represents the second largest beneficiary of U.S. assistance. For the last 30 years, Cairo has received $1.3 billion in military aid and at least $200 million in economic assistance. Congressional criticism of Egypt's alliance with Hamas has crossed party lines. A leading Senate Democrat said the new Islamist regime of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has yet to demonstrate its commitment to regional peace.

Read more ..

Operation Pillar of Defense

Gaza Conflict Reveals Turkey's Differences with U.S.

November 20th 2012

Turk flags

The deepening crisis over Gaza is straining Turkish-U.S. relations, with Ankara calling on Washington to rein in Israel.

While addressing a conference in Istanbul on November 19, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a strong attack against Israel for its ongoing military operation in Gaza. He says those who associate Islam with terrorism close their eyes in the face of mass killing of Muslims, and turn their heads from the massacre of children in Gaza. The prime minister went on to say "For this reason, I say that Israel is a terrorist state, and its acts are terrorist acts."

Erdogan made similar statements during a visit to Cairo last week. U.S. President Barack Obama has strongly defended Israel in connection with its operations against Gaza, citing its right to self-defense. Some political observers in Turkey say the opposing views of the two leaders could hurt their relationship. Read more ..


Benghazigate

97 Republicans Sign Letter Urging Obama to avoid Rice Nomination for State

November 19th 2012

Obama

Nearly 100 House Republicans on Monday called on President Obama not to nominate Susan Rice as secretary of State. In a letter to Obama, the 97 Republicans said the credibility of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has been gravely wounded by her account of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. “Though Ambassador Rice has been our representative to the U.N., we believe her misleading statements over the days and weeks following the attack on our embassy in Libya that led to the deaths of Ambassador [Christopher] Stevens and three other Americans caused irreparable damage to her credibility both at home and around the world,” Republicans wrote in their letter, which was spearheaded by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and sent to Obama on Monday. Stevens and the three others were killed in the attack on the Benghazi consulate.

The letter says Rice “propagated a falsehood” that the attacks were a spontaneous response to a video that depicted the Prophet Muhammad. The administration then said, more than a week later, that terrorism might have played a role. Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

American Legislators Line Up in Support of Israel

November 19th 2012

Israeli tanks and crews

U.S. congressional lawmakers are rallying behind Israel, reaffirming its right to self-defense in the face of Palestinian rocket attacks. Some legislators’ backing of Israel extends to the possible use of ground forces in Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia said Israel cannot ignore rocket attacks, but faces tough decisions on how best to respond. “The problem the Israelis have is [that] these rockets are being fired on them from places that they cannot reach by flying over them in the air," Chambliss said. "I mean, they [Palestinian militants] are putting them in school yards, surrounded by schoolchildren, and firing them from marketplaces that are crowded with people.” Read more ..


Operation Pillarsof Defense

Obama Defends Israel's Right to be Free of Hamas' Missiles

November 18th 2012

Hamas rocket in Gaza
Hamas rocket fired from Gaza.

President Barack Obama says he continues to work to achieve a negotiated solution to the crisis between Israel, and Hamas in Gaza. Before the president arrived in Southeast Asia, White House officials said he was working the phones with leaders in the region in search of a solution to end Hamas rocket attacks on Israel.

During a news conference in the Thai capital, he was asked if an Israeli military ground operation into Gaza would constitute an escalation of the crisis. The president summarized his message to leaders like President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

"My message to all of them was that Israel had every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory," he said. "If that can be accomplished, without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that is preferable. That is not just preferable for the people of Gaza, it is also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza they are much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded." Read more ..


The Petraeus Scandal

Petraeus Denies Leaking Secrets to his Paramour

November 18th 2012

Petraeus-Kelly

Former CIA director David Petraeus confessed to making some "big mistakes" by having an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, but said he never allowed her access to classified documents or information, according to Fox News Channel's national securitycorrespondent on Saturday.

Catherine Herridge reported that the former four-star general insisted he never passed any classified information to Paula Broadwell, a concern of many in Washington, D.C., since the Obama administration has been plagued with numerous incidents of intelligence leaks, most of them to the news organizations.

Suspicions arose when Ms. Broadwell gave a lecture in Denver in which she claimed the Benghazi attackwas launched in order to rescue two militants who were being detained by the CIA at the U.S. Consulate annex. Read more ..


The Vote Aftermath

Republicans Need to Stop Saying 'Stupid Things'

November 18th 2012

Gov Bobby Jindal

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) criticized Republican candidates on Sunday for making comments he said alienated voters and cost the party the presidency and key Senate seats.

"We don't need to demonize, and we also don't need to be saying stupid things," Jindal, the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said on "Fox News Sunday."

He singled out Republican Senate candidates Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, saying their controversial comments on rape and abortion cost Republicans Senate seats and dragged down the party nationally.

Jindal also denounced Mitt Romney's recent comment to donors that President Obama was able to win reelection by giving "gifts" to key voting groups. "I absolutely reject what he said. Look, we as the Republican Party have to campaign for every single vote," Jindal said. Read more ..


Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff

Only Two Paths Available on 'Fiscal Cliff'

November 18th 2012

Obama

During his weekly address on Saturday, President Obama warned Republicans that there are only two possible outcomes for negotiations over the looming "fiscal cliff."

He said that either they agree to allow tax breaks to expire for the top two percent of American earners, or taxes will go up for everyone."When it comes to taxes, for example, there are two pathways available," Obama said.

"One says, if Congress fails to act by the end of the year, then everybody’s taxes automatically go up – including the 98 percent of Americans who make less than $250,000 a year. Our economy can’t afford that right now. You can’t afford that right now. And nobody wants that to happen," he warned.
Obama said the other path is for Congress to agree to his plan to extend the tax breaks for the first $250,000 of everyone's income. Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Iron Dome Proves an Invaluable Defense System--Hundreds of Rockets Intercepted

November 18th 2012

Iron Dome

Israel's citizens once again came under rocket attack Sunday, as Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip kept up their attacks, despite a reported 1,000 strikes by Israel's military on Hamas infrastructure.

Even so, the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted two rockets aimed at Tel Aviv Sunday and has intercepted a reported 242 since operation Pillar of Cloud began last week.

Hamas has now fired a total of seven rockets at Tel Aviv and Iron Dome has intercepted three. Sources say the Iron Dome battery deployed just Saturday near Tel Aviv is the most advanced system yet. It was scheduled to be ready for use in 2013, but has been pressed into service sooner. There are conflicting reports over diplomatic activity that might produce a ceasefire. Egypt is reportedly attempting to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but Israel's president, Shimon Peres, said he had not received any formal proposal. Hamas has reportedly set conditions for a ceasefire that include Israel lifting its blockade of the Gaza Strip and ending its targeting of Hamas officials. Read more ..


Egypt on Edge

Train-Bus Collision in Egypt Kills Scores of School Children

November 17th 2012

Mohammed Morsi

Egyptian officials say a speeding train has collided with a school bus, killing at least 49 people. Almost all of them were young children. Officials say the accident occurred Saturday about 300 kilometers south of Cairo near the village of Manfalut in Egypt's southern Assiut province. The bus was filled with more than 60 children between the ages of four and six when it was hit by a train while crossing the tracks. Officials say that along with the 49 deaths, another 18 people were injured.

Up to 17 were also wounded in the crash on Saturday as the bus crossed tracks near a village in Manfaloot district in the southern province of Assiut, 300km south of Cairo. The provincial governor, Yahya Keshk, says the railway crossing gate was open when the train hit the bus, and that the crossing worker was asleep at the time. He has been detained. Transport Minister Mohamed Rashad resigned shortly after the accident was announced.  President Mohamed Morsi has ordered other key ministers to offer assistance to the families of the victims.

Read more ..

Operation Pillar of Defense

Israel Destroys Gaza Headquarters while Hamas vows Revenge

November 17th 2012

Hamas headquarters Gaza

The Israeli military has shut down the main roads around the Gaza Strip, a sign that it is poised to launch a ground offensive on the Palestinian enclave that could explode into an all-out war. Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip early Saturday, November17, destroyed the Hamas Cabinet headquarters. Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh was not in the building at the time of the strike. Also on November 17, Israel's missile defense system destroyed a Hamas missile over the skies of Tel Aviv.

The strikes followed an exchange of rocket fire on the previous day between Israel and Palestinian Hamas terrorists in Gaza with one Palestinian rocket landing in a field outside Jerusalem. Hamas claimed responsibility for the unprecedented attack on the holy city. Hamas' rockets also struck in the vicinity of Tel Aviv. Israel responded by calling up thousands more military reserves for a potential force of 75,000 reservists. Overnight on November 16-17, Israel stepped up its airstrikes and destroyed at least 120 missile batteries and 20 tunnels. This brought the total number of targets to 830. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Most-Distant Galaxy Candidate Found-- Light Traveled 8 Billion Years

November 17th 2012

protoplanetary disk

A team of astronomers including Carnegie's Daniel Kelson have set a new distance record for finding the farthest galaxy yet seen in the universe. By combining the power of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and one of nature's own natural "zoom lenses" in space, they found a galaxy whose light traveled 13.3 billion years to reach Earth. Their work will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

The diminutive blob--only a tiny fraction of the size of our Milky Way galaxy--offers a peek back in time to when the universe was 3 percent of its present age (13.7 billion years). The light from this newly discovered galaxy, named MACS0647-JD, is from 420 million years after the Big Bang.

Eight billion years into its journey, this light took a detour along multiple paths around a massive galaxy cluster called MACS J0647+7015. Due to the gravitational lensing, the research team, led by Marc Postman of the Space Telescope Science Institute, observed three magnified images of MACS0647-JD with the Hubble telescope. The cluster's gravity boosted the light from the faraway galaxy, making the images appear brighter than they otherwise would, enabling astronomers to detect them more efficiently and with greater confidence. Without the cluster's magnification powers, astronomers would not have seen this remote galaxy. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Saudi Islamist To Serve Life In Prison For Attempted WMD Attack In Texas

November 17th 2012

jail door closeup

A citizen of Saudi Arabia living in Lubbock, Texas, has been sentenced in a federal courtroom in Amarillo, Texas, to life in prison. Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari had been convicted by a jury on June 27, 2012, for the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Jurors were told that the 22-year-old "lone wolf" Islamic terrorist purchased chemicals and equipment required to build an improvised explosive device (IED). The jury was also told that Aldawsari conducted extensive research in order to choose several U.S. targets including the Texas residence of former-President George W. Bush.

The Saudi national had lawfully entered the United States on a student visa in 2008 and was enrolled at South Plains College near Lubbock. Lisa Monaco, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, stated, “Khalid Aldawsari came to this country intent on carrying out an attack. He then began purchasing ingredients to construct a bomb and was actively researching potential targets in America. Thanks to the hard work of many agents, analysts, and prosecutors, his plot was thwarted before anyone was harmed; he was convicted at trial and at sentencing U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter held the [would-be terrorist] accountable for his actions.” Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Egyptian Pressures Follow Israeli Cease Fire in Gaza

November 16th 2012

Israeli tank IDF photo

Egypt's prime minister has vowed to intensify his country's efforts to stop what he called Israeli "aggression" in Gaza and achieve a truce between Israelis and Palestinians. Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil spoke in Gaza on November 16 after a brief cease-fire that Israel put in place during his visit to the area collapsed.

Israel's military said it had not attacked Gaza during a two hour period, even though Gaza's Hamas militants had fired at least 50 rockets into Israel at that time. However, a Hamas source said Israel had launched a bomb attack on northern Gaza on November 16 that killed two Palestinians. Attacks on both sides this week have killed 20 Palestinians and three Israelis. Even during Kandil's visit, rockets fired from Gaza rained down on Israel. In response, the Israeli Defense Forces are deploying a fifth Iron Dome anti-missile battery from its testing ground to the battlefield, which is set to be operational on November 17. So far, the innovative defense system has destroyed numerous rockets aimed at Israel before they could hit their intended targets. Read more ..


The Petraeus Affair

Attorney General Defends FBI treatment of Petraeus Affair

November 16th 2012

Petraeus-Paula

Attorney General Eric Holder defended the FBI's decision not to release information about former CIA Director David Petraeus’s extramarital affair sooner, saying the investigation turned up no threat to national security.

Holder said if the federal probe had found evidence of a national security threat, he would have contacted the White House and members of Congress. He was made aware of the affair in late summer.

“We made the determination as we were going through the matter that there was not a threat to national security,” Holder told reporters in New Orleans in an unrelated press conference about the BP oil spill. “Had we made the determination that a threat to national security existed, we would of course have made that known to the president and also to the appropriate members on the Hill.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Senators Get an Eyefull of Benghazi Attack Videos

November 15th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

Lawmakers were shown surveillance video and footage from a Predator drone that gave a real-time picture of what happened the night of Sept. 11 in Benghazi, Libya, as the House and Senate Intelligence committees began inquiries into the attack Thursday.

The committees’ highest-profile witness, former CIA Director David Petraeus, isn’t coming to Capitol Hill until Friday. But the committees each held a lengthy hearing on Benghazi Thursday with several senior intelligence officials, including acting CIA Director Michael Morell stepping in for Petraeus.

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said after their hearing concluded that they will hold at least an additional two closed-door Benghazi hearings as well as a public hearing to release their findings. Read more ..


The Vote Aftermath

Carney Slams Romney 'Gifts' Critique as 'At Odds' with Election Results

November 15th 2012

obama and biden

White House press secretary Jay Carney blasted Mitt Romney's statement that the president had prevailed in last week's election because of "gifts" given by the administration to black, Hispanic and young voters, saying that conclusion was "at odds with the truth of what happened last week."

"Making it easier for Americans to go to college — that’s good for America," Carney continued. "It’s good for all Americans. It’s good for the economy. Making healthcare available to young people who can stay on their parents’ plans — that’s good for those families, it’s good for those young people so they aren’t bankrupted in their 20s by an illness. And it’s good for the economy and it’s good for all of us."

In the remarks, made on a Wednesday conference call with donors, Romney said moves like the president's healthcare reform legislation and a decision to suspend deportations of certain illegal immigrants who came to the country as children proved "highly motivational" on Election Day. Romney also said he had "gotten beat up pretty bad" on issues including his immigration stance and personal wealth. Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Hamas Aims For Civilians, Kills 3 In Kiryat Malachi IDF Hits 200 Gaza Targets, Calls Up Reserves

November 15th 2012

Gaza Qasam Rocket

Hamas terrorists committed war crimes against Israeli civilians Thursday, deliberately targeting civilians and killing three in Kiryat Malachi. Two men and a woman were killed Thursday morning when a rocket fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip struck their fourth-floor apartment. Five others were wounded, including two infants. Hamas has fired more than 200 rockets on Israel since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense, which seeks to reinstate Israeli deterrence in the face of incessant rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. Israel lauched the surprise attack on Wednesday by killing Hamas' top military commander and striking at least 20 arms depots. Thousands of Gazans attended the funeral of Ahmed Jabari Thursday, vowing revenge.

U.S. President Barack Obama expressed support for Israel's actions in a Wednesday call with Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. Hamas, Obama said, must stop its rocket fire on Israel. At the same time, Israel should make every effort to avoid civilian casualties, he added. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Hamas Military Leader Killed in Israeli Missile Strike

November 14th 2012

Drone Chopper

Israeli forces have killed the head of the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip. Ahmed Jabri was killed by a missile fired by the Israeli Defense Forces. Both Jabri and a passenger were fatalities on the afternoon of November 14 as they were driving a car in Palestinian-controlled area. Israel called it a "surgical strike." According to the Yediot Achronot news outlet, Jabri's passenger was his son, although this has not been confirmed by other sources.

Israel considered that Jabri was responsible for carrying several terrorist operations against Israel over the last five years. The IDF released a statement saying, "The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure." The statement said, "This was a surgical operation in cooperation with the Israeli Security Agency that was implemented on the basis of concrete intelligence and using advanced capabilities." Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage in Egypt

Thousands of Salafists Stage Rally Demanding Shariah in Egypt

November 14th 2012

Hijab and flag

An estimated 30,000 Salafists, a radical Islamist sect, gathered at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, over the weekend demanding a constitution containing provisions with strict adherence to the Prophet Mohammed's Islamic laws known as Shariah. The country's first civilian president, Mohamed Morsi, took office a mere 100 days ago with the hope of a peaceful and stable Egypt, but is now faced with a conflict over formulating the nation's founding legal document -- a constitution. Gaining absolute power through last year's massive demonstration that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak who reigned for decades, the so-called conservative Muslims are attempting the total Islamization of Egypt.

Some of them, mainly the violence-prone Salafists, are calling for the full application of Shariah, known as regulations and rulings of their Holy Prophet Mohammed, in every political and social area of Egyptian living.

Even Muslims themselves are divided on to what extend they should be governed by the rulings of their Prophet, according to the intelligence source. The Salafists called for a constitution based on the "rulings" of Shariah, which suggest a society abiding by the strict letter of what clerics say is meant in Islamic law. Other Muslims, including some but not all the members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the best organized Islamic organization in Egypt, prefer a constitution based on the "principles" of Shariah, which allows greater leeway and is also favored by some liberals.


After the Election

Lobbyists Already Have their Hooks into New Lawmakers

November 14th 2012

K Street has already made inroads with Congress’s incoming freshman class of lawmakers by helping out with fundraising.

Interest groups and lobbyists have bundled campaign contributions for at least nine lawmakers-elect, raising more than $800,000 overall, according to a review of Federal Election Commission (FEC) records by The Hill. Several incoming freshman members will be on Washington’s fundraising circuit after Election Day as well.

Bundling helps lobbyists and interest groups maximize their political giving. Unlike donations from political action committees (PACs) or individuals, there are no limits on how much can be bundled for a candidate. “The big advantage for us is it allows us to go beyond the $5,000 limit,” said John Isaacs, executive director for the Council for a Livable World. The group supports candidates who are in favor of nuclear arms control and bundles campaign contributions through its website and direct mail. Read more ..


After the Election

Conservatives Return to House of Representatives with Trepidation

November 14th 2012

Lobbyist

House conservatives returned to Washington on Tuesday determined to hang tough on taxes and spending in the face of a new post-election fiscal dynamic.

With President Obama winning reelection handily, Republican lawmakers are viewing the coming negotiations on the fiscal cliff with anxiety, unsure how much party leaders will ask them to give up to strike an agreement.

A Wednesday meeting of the conference will be a pivotal time for them to show solidarity.

Rank-and-file conservatives have thus far stood by House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) approach, but few are willing to commit specifically to immediate revenue increases in a deal that has yet to be brokered. Read more ..


Broken Government

Obama Needs More Money to Overcome Fiscal Cliff

November 14th 2012

Obama

President Obama is taking a tough opening stance in talks over deficit reduction, pushing Republicans to accept a plan that calls for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue over the next ten years, according to reports.

The figure is double the $800 billion last discussed by the White House and House Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) during their 2011 negotiations on raising the debt-ceiling limit.

The president’s plan is based on his most recent budget proposal, which sought the $1.6 in new revenues by targeting the wealthy and corporations.

The president and congressional lawmakers are set to meet at the White House on Friday as both sides begin hammering out a deficit-cutting plan that helps the nation move past the “fiscal cliff” of rising tax rates and automatic spending cuts set to take effect in January 2013. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Oil Companies' Hefty Tax Breaks Endangered by Fiscal Cliff

November 13th 2012

Oil Barrels

The oil industry’s long record of success in defending its tax breaks faces new tests as lawmakers and the White House negotiate to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) won’t rule out targeting oil-industry deductions in a broad deal to avoid the higher income tax rates and deep automatic spending cuts set to take effect in 2013. “The details will have to be negotiated. Not going to speculate on what a final package may look like,” Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith told The Hill. The Speaker is seeking a deal with the White House that would include new tax revenues without raising rates, a stance that has shifted the focus to the deductions and loopholes in the IRS code.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), the industry’s biggest lobbying group, is bracing for fresh attacks against incentives that oil companies say are nourishing the nation’s oil-and-gas production boom. Read more ..


Broken Government

Congress Turns Up the Heat on Petraeus Investigation

November 13th 2012

David Petraeus

Senior lawmakers on Monday sharpened their criticism of the FBI over its handling of the investigation that led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus.

The lawmakers questioned how FBI officials began an investigation into Petraeus and yet did not inform the congressional Intelligence Committee heads — or President Obama — that such a high-level probe was under way.

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said the FBI made a mistake by not alerting Congress or the White House of the investigation, and said her committee would launch an investigation into the FBI’s “puzzling” actions.

The chairwoman also said she was perplexed to learn that other lawmakers outside the Intelligence panels — including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) — learned of the affair and investigation before Obama or the Intelligence heads. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Attorney General Holder Expected to Resign

November 12th 2012

Eric holder

Now that President Barack Obama has successfully garnered four-more years in the White House, attention to his second-term cabinet is increasing with many questioning the future of Obama's controversial U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, according to several police sources.

Over the weekend, several national news organizations pointed to statements Holder made regarding possibly leaving the Obama administration before the start of the president's second-term.

Many believe that if the GOP members of the House and Senate continue to delve into their investigation of an undercover gun-smuggling operation gone wrong, it will force Holder to resign. The Obama "attack dog" has already been found in contempt of congress for failing to comply with requests for documents related to the ATF's Operation Fast & Furious.

Although lawmakers and government watchdog groups are focusing on the Benghazi consulate attack, especially the discovery of more and more information that contradicts what the American people were told by the Obama administration and reelection campaign, many have not forgotten the so-called Operation Fast & Furious debacle and cover-up.

Just prior to Election Day, U.S. lawmakers released part two of their report on the "gun-walking" scheme that contributed to the deaths of more than 200 Mexicans and at least two American law enforcement agents. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) released the second installment of their final report on Operation Fast & Furious. Read more ..


Media on Edge

BBC Director General Quits over False Accusations in Pedophile Investigation

November 11th 2012

BBC behind bars

Chris Patten, a British diplomat who negotiated Hong Kong’s transition to Chinese control who is now the chairman of the BBC governing trust, said on November 11 that unless the state-controlled media dinosaur makes significant changes it could be doomed to extinction. "The basis for the BBC's position in this country is the trust that people have in it," Patten said. "If the BBC loses that, it's over."Patten said that public confidence in the BBC must be restored in order to compete with private media conglomerates such as Rupert Murdoch’s media behemoth. "If you're saying, 'Does the BBC need a thorough structural radical overhaul?', then absolutely it does, and that is what we will have to do," said Patten, who was once a senior member of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party.

Patten’s warning came after the resignation of BBC Director General George Entwhistle on November 10, who had but two months in the job. Entwhistle threw in the towel and took the blame for the airing false child sex abuse allegations against Alistair McAlpine, a former politician. Entwistle said the report, broadcast on November 2, reflected “unacceptable journalistic standards” and should not have been broadcast. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Israel Fires Back at Syrian Artillery Attack

November 11th 2012

Israeli Tank in Sinai

Israel fired a warning shot into Syrian territory on November 11 after a mortar shell hit an Israeli army outpost in the Golan Heights. It was the first time Israel fired on Syria since the end of the 1973 war, in which Syria and Egypt attacked Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

As the Associated Press reports, "A short while ago, a mortar shell targeted an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) post in the Golan Heights," said army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich. "We answered with a warning shot toward Syrian areas. We understand this was a mistake and was not meant to target Israel and then that is why we fired a warning shot in retaliation." The Times of Israel also reports that Syrian troops may have fired on Israeli soldiers across the border. Read more ..


The GOP on Edge

War Opens Inside GOP Over Immigration

November 10th 2012

Border Patrol-Arizona

A war has opened within the GOP over whether to embrace immigration reform in the wake of President Obama’s thumping of Mitt Romney among Hispanic voters.

Conservative hero Sean Hannity said Thursday he had evolved on immigration reform after Romney lost Hispanics by 40 percentage points to Obama, while Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said a “comprehensive approach” on the issue was “long overdue.”

Pundit Charles Krauthammer wrote Friday that Hispanics should be a natural GOP constituency, which means increasing border security while giving amnesty to those already in the United States illegally. “Yes amnesty. Use the word. Shock and awe — full legal normalization (just short of citizenship) in return for full border enforcement,” he wrote. Read more ..


The Vote Aftermath

CIA Director Petraeus Resigns Following Admission of Extramarital Affair

November 9th 2012

David Petraeus

President Barack Obama accepted the resignation of CIA director David Petraeus on November 9, following a meeting they had on the previous day. In a statement, the former top Army general explained the rationale for his departure. “After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair,” Petraeus said in a statement. “Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation.”

Obama’s national security was already expected to have some departures, but Petraeus’s announcement has caused turmoil in the administration. Having taken the position just fourteen months ago, Petraeus had been expected to remain in situ. Obama stated that Petraeus has “provided extraordinary service to the United States for decades,” adding that “through his lifetime of service David Petraeus has made our country safer and stronger.” Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iran Implicitly Confirms Attack on US Drone

November 9th 2012

Click to select Image

Iran has confirmed a Pentagon report that two Iranian warplanes fired on an unarmed U.S. drone in the Persian Gulf last week.

Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi was quoted on the Iranian Students' News Organization website as saying that Iran's armed forces took action against an anonymous plane that entered the country's airspace - countering the Pentagon's contention that the U.S. aircraft was over international waters. Iran also vowed to confront any other aircraft that enters its airspace. According to FARS news agency, Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Massoud Jazayeri said Iran would "give a decisive response to any aerial, ground or sea aggression."

US pondering response

Pentagon spokesman George Little said Thursday that the unmanned Predator was outside Iranian waters on a routine classified surveillance mission on November 1 when an Iranian military plane fired at, and missed, the drone. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

More Smart Phones Connect to Wi-Fi Hotspots Than Laptops

November 8th 2012

I-phone

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) has published a report on the Wi-Fi hotspot market compiled by global research company Informa Telecoms & Media, revealing that smartphone-based hotspot connections now outnumber those from laptops for the first time.

This trend is set to accelerate as the industry moves toward the deployment of Next Generation Hotspots (NGH), based on open industry standards, which will make it even easier for the rapidly increasing number of smartphone owners to use the technology.

The survey revealed that hotspot connections are now led by smartphones (40 percent), followed closely by laptops (39 percent) and then tablets (17 percent) which have seen rapid growth since their recent emergence. The survey also highlighted rapid deployment of NGH, which is based on Passpoint certified equipment, with 19 percent of operator respondents planning to deploy by the end of 2013. NGH dramatically simplifies public Wi-Fi access, especially from smartphones, by allowing secure connections without the need for usernames and passwords, and is seen as a vital tool for offloading busy mobile broadband networks. Read more ..


The Vote Aftermath

House Leader Boehner Pivots on Tax Hikes Following Obama Victory

November 8th 2012

John Boehner
Speaker John Boehner

In the wake of the GOP’s disappointing election, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday signaled a willingness to accept higher tax revenues as part of a deficit cutting deal.

The fast-approaching deadline to stop a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts left Boehner and other leaders with little time to digest Republican Mitt Romney’s defeat on Tuesday.

Leaders on both sides of the Capitol moved swiftly to stake out their positions on the fiscal cliff, with Boehner calling for a “down payment” that would lead to a farther-reaching pact in 2013 and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saying he did not want to see a short-term fix. “I’m not for kicking the can down the road; I think we’ve done that far too much,” Reid told reporters in the Capitol. “I think we should just roll up our sleeves and get it done.” Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Some Surprises in Congressional Races that are Too Close to Call

November 7th 2012

Lobbyist
U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) was locked in tight reelection battle Wednesday morning, with his race too close to call.

He isn't the only incumbent lawmaker facing possible defeat. In one of the most shocking races of the night, longtime Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) was in a tough race with challenger Bill Bloomfield, leading him by less than 100 votes with 39 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday.

Another race too close to call is Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), who was trailing Republican challenger Martha McSally by less than 400 votes with 100 percent of precincts reporting. The losses would result in some of most well-known members of Congress leaving the lower chamber. West is down against Democratic rival Patrick Murphy by less than 3,000 votes, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Florida law requires an automatic recount if the margin stands at 0.5 percent or less of votes cast. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

Yasser Arafat's body to be exhumed by Swiss forensic experts

November 7th 2012

Mahmoud Abbas and Big Bro Arafat

At a press conference, the chief of the group investigating Arafat's death announced that the Swiss forensic professionals first examined Arafat's grave site in Ramallah before actually opening it, exhuming the body and then taking specimen's of the PLO chief's remains. Swiss experts will open the grave and take the samples for examination on Nov. 27, 2012, according to the Israeli source.

The Palestinian committee charged with probing Arafat's death will work with the Swiss forensic team. The Palestinian committee will at the end receive a full report from Swiss regarding their opinion as to what killed the controversial PLO leader, considered one of the fathers of Islamic terrorist tactics such as suicide bombers. The samples of Arafat's bones will be taken to Switzerland for scientific examination since the Palestinian National Authority does not possess the necessary resources for conducting the tests of Arafat's remains. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Prominent Black Democrat Fails to Endorse Obama Candidacy

November 6th 2012

Gov. L. Douglas Wilder
Doug Wilder

A nationally prominent Democrat who endorsed President Barack Obama’s first election bid in 2008 has decided not to endorse the first black American president’s reelection. Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, the first black American state governor in the history of the American union, wrote in a November 5 column that he could not endorse Obama’s reelection bid, citing differences over the Chief Executive’s conduct during the campaign.

While Wilder did not expressly support the candidacy of Republican Mitt Romney, he did say that the former Massachusetts governor "has met the test to be president." Speaking to the conduct of the campaign, Wilder wrote "Democrats counted on using ad hominem attacks to make Romney seem too unworthy and too unsteady to be the country's chief executive because of the rough nominating process. But that has not been 100 percent effective. Will it be effective enough? We'll find out on Tuesday."

A lifelong Democrat, Wilder has been known at times to differ with party colleagues over partisan orthodoxies. Wilder continued to say in his column, "I have campaigned for and supported the president in the past, and many people now want to discuss his job performance with me." Wilder, in an anecdote, mentioned an encounter with he had with a female voter who had supported Obama’s 2008 election bid. The woman told Wilder that this time around she did not want any party to take her vote for granted. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Voting Starts in a Close Presidential Race

November 6th 2012

Obama and Romney dreamin

President Barack Obama is in his home town of Chicago, Illinois to await the results of the presidential election. In closing rallies in battleground states, Obama cast the election as a choice between starkly different visions of the future.

Obama spoke at rallies in Wisconsin, Ohio and finally Iowa, where a political primary victory in 2008 helped propel him to the Democratic presidential nomination. At each stop, he urged voters to show up at the polls to ensure victory over Republican candidate Mitt Romney on on November 6. In Des Moines, Iowa, he urged voters to help him finish what he started when he won the presidency four years before. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Navy SEAL Group Protests that Obama Poses "Clear and Present Danger to U.S."

November 5th 2012

Navy Seal Team 6

The Obama administration poses a clear and present danger to America, according to a former member of elite Naval commandos in a statement released Sunday. U.S. Navy SEALs have been telling anyone who'll listen that President Barack Obama has been a weak leader throughout his term and cannot be trusted.

Senior administration officials recklessly briefed members of the press with operational details that put SEALs, their families and America at risk rather than protecting the secrecy of missions. Now we know more about SEAL Team 6 than we do about our own President's college transcripts, said a group of SEALs opposed to President Barack Obama's handling of counterterrorism.

"These SEALs know the facts. They were silenced by their service. But they refuse to remain quiet any longer. The stakes are simply too high," said a former intelligence officer and police detective M. Shane Duffy.  "The SEALs removed one threat to America, now it's time for the voters to remove the other," added retired Navy SEAL Brad Nagel. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Russia Engages in Diplomatic Offensive with Arab League

November 5th 2012

Contreras

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has held talks in Cairo in a fresh diplomatic effort to end the Syrian crisis. Lavrov met on November 4 with Arab League head Nabil Elaraby and the joint UN-Arab League mediator on the Syrian conflict, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Lavrov stressed all parties needed to agree to negotiate based on the Geneva Declaration, which was agreed in June and calls for a transition administration, but leaves unclear what role, if any, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad would have.
"[Russia] is trying to execute what was agreed upon in Geneva. But, with great regret, the other Western and regional countries who took part are speaking only with the Syrian opposition and are not speaking with the government," Lavrov said at a press conference following the Cairo talks. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Android powers 75% of smartphones in Q3

November 5th 2012

Smart phone running voice recogniton

Google's Android operating systems was found on three of every four smartphones shipped in the third quarter, according to International Data Corp. Four years since the first Android-powered smartphones hit store shelves, Android has risen rapidly to become far-and-away the dominant OS in smartphones. Apple Inc.'s iOS, which runs the company's line of iPhones, was a distant second in the third quarter with 15 percent market share, according to IDC. According to IDC, the number of Android-powered smartphones in the third quarter reached 136 million units, up 92 percent from the third quarter of 2011. Android's market share increased from 58 percent in the third quarter of 2011, IDC said.

"Android has been one of the primary growth engines of the smartphone market since it was launched in 2008," said Ramon Llamas, research manager for mobile phones at IDC, in a statement. "In every year since then, Android has effectively outpaced the market and taken market share from the competition." Read more ..



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