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The Battle for Syria

Car Bomb Rocks Damascus Assad Regime Steps up Airpower

October 29th 2012

Machine Gun Bunker

A car bomb has ripped through the Al-Hajar Al-Aswad district of southern Damascus following heaviest military airstrikes since fighter jets were first deployed to crash the uprising. The escalating violence came amid warnings by the U.N.-Arab league peace envoy on the worsening of the Syria crisis. The blast has caused an unknown number of casualties, according to the Syrian States Television. “A terrorist car bomb attack has hit the district of Al-Hajar Al-Aswad,” the broadcaster said.

Al-Hajar Al-Aswad was the scene of intense mid-summer combat between rebels and the army when fighting broke out in several districts of the Syrian capital. Earlier on Monday, the Syrian military launched the heaviest air strikes seen in the country since warplanes were first deployed over the summer, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Obama Tried to Restablish Diplomatic Ties with Iran

October 29th 2012

Iranian clerics

The Israeli daily Maariv reported on Sunday that, early in his term,U.S. President Barack Obama made a major attempt to reestablish diplomatic ties with Iran. According to the Times of Israel, the attempt took place in 2009, and was initiated by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, undoubtedly with presidential approval.

Obama offered "the opening of interest sections in Washington and Tehran, with the possibility subsequently of expanding to full diplomatic ties." He was also prepared "to hold senior level diplomatic contacts, to agree to reciprocal visits, to approve security cooperation between the countries, direct flights between the US and Iran, and the granting of visas to Iranians wishing to visit the US. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Edges Over Romney in Crucial Ohio

October 29th 2012

Obama

President Obama has stretched out a four-point lead in the crucial battleground of Ohio, Public Policy Polling (PPP) said Sunday. Obama leads Mitt Romney 51 percent to 47 among likely voters, the Democratic-leaning pollster said.

PPP had found Obama with a one-point edge last week, but said the president had consolidated his support among Democrats and narrowed Romney’s lead among independents. Ohio has turned out to be one of – if not the most – closely watched states in this year’s presidential campaign. Both Obama and Romney would appear to have a difficult path to 270 electoral votes without the Buckeye State, and the two campaigns have flooded the state with advertisements and visited frequently. The PPP poll also comes the same day that a poll from a consortium of Ohio newspapers found the president and Romney locked in a tie, at 49 percent apiece. Suffolk and Rasmussen also found the race tied in recent days. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Storm Clouds and a Tight Presidential Race Loom Ahead

October 29th 2012

Obama and Romney road show

Tight polls in a number of battleground states and a monumental storm that could hamper get-out-the-vote efforts have shuffled an already unpredictable presidential race, with eight days remaining before Election Day.

Hurricane Sandy is poised to be this year’s October surprise, forcing both President Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney to rearrange their campaign schedules, cancelling events in important states, with little time left before the election.

Those lost opportunities for the presidential contenders to rally supporters and sway undecided voters in key states could be crucial.

Both candidates scrapped events in battleground Virginia over the weekend to allow local authorities to focus on storm preparations. The Obama campaign also canceled the president's visit to Colorado and the first lady's trip to New Hampshire on Tuesday, as well as Jill Biden's stops to North Carolina and Pennsylvania on Sunday and Monday. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Nigerians Rampage After Suicide Bombing Of Church

October 28th 2012

Nigeria - Jos Unrest

Rioters rampaged through the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna following a suicide-bomb attack on a Catholic church that left three people -- including the bomber -- dead on October 28. Five more people were killed in the subsequent rioting, in which Christian youths targeted people they believed to be Muslims. According to conflicting reports, as many as 145 people were injured in the explosion and rioting.

AFP reported that a mob set a man on fire after dousing him with gasoline. They then prevented rescue workers from saving him. No one has taken responsibility for the church bombing, but the terrorist Boko Haram sect has targeted Christians in the region in the past. The group has conducted an insurgency since 2009 that has left about 2,800 people dead.

The Edge of Terrorism

Indonesia Arrests 11 in Terror Plot to Bomb US Embassy and Other Targets

October 28th 2012

Click to select Image

Indonesian police say 11 people have been arrested in a suspected plot to attack the U.S. embassy in Jakarta and other domestic and foreign targets. National police spokesman Suhardi Alius said Saturday the arrests by a special anti-terror unit took place in four provinces. Alius said the suspects, members of the newly-formed Harakah Sunni Movement for Indonesian Society, were preparing to launch a series of strikes.  He said targets also included a plaza near the Australian embassy in Jakarta, a local office of the American mining giant Freeport-McMoRan and the U.S. consulate in Surabaya.  A police facility in Central Java was also targeted.

Authorities say evidence from arrest sites include bombs, ammunition, detonators, bomb-making manuals and other explosives materials.  Neither the U.S. nor Australian embassies has commented on the arrests, and it was not immediately disclosed how far the attack plans had advanced. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Obama Squandered Big Bucks on Green Jobs: Inspector General

October 28th 2012

Green Jobs

The Obama administration released a disturbing report on Friday that revealed hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars poured into a program that failed to achieve its goals and was discriminatory against women, whereby 84 percent of the beneficiaries were men.

The report regarding an internal investigation conducted by the Inspector General of the Department of Labor increases suspicion of the ineffectiveness of the Obama administration’s Green Jobs Training Program, according to members of the House of Representative.

"As is customary in the nation's capital, bad news is always released on Friday so it gets a minimal amount of news media and public attention," said political strategist Jerry Norstrom.

According to the report, specifically requested by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), the IG confirmed suspicions that the Labor Department has further "squandered taxpayer money since the program was flagged by the IG last year."

“The green jobs training program belongs in the long list of the [Obama] administration’s bad investments including the bankruptcies of Solyndra, Beacon Power, Abound, and just this month, A123,” said Chairman Issa.

“Not only was the program poorly thought-out, mismanaged and dysfunctional, but it served as a slush fund to reward friends of the Obama Administration. Millions of dollars went to groups like the National Council of La Raza, the Blue Green Alliance and the US Steelworkers union,” Issa stated. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Storm Causes Cancellations in US Presidential Campaign

October 27th 2012

Hurricane Isabel

Some U.S. presidential campaign events are being canceled in advance of Tropical Storm Sandy.
Challenger Mitt Romney and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden have both canceled appearances in Virginia Beach, in the southeastern state of Virginia, as the storm moves closer to the U.S. east coast.  Biden has canceled a Saturday appearance there, while Romney has canceled a Sunday rally that was to be held in the same city.

U.S. President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to cast an early ballot in the presidential election, voting earlier in the week at his Chicago polling place.

Tropical Storm Sandy is being closely monitored by U.S. election officials because the storm could disrupt early voting that is going on in several states. Meanwhile, Romney has called for "bold changes" to fix the nation's economy in what his aides have described as his "closing argument." Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Death Toll Rises to 50 Despite Cease-fire

October 27th 2012

Syria Damascus fighting injured baby

The Syrian government and opposition activists have traded blame for a series of deadly attacks that have strained a fragile cease-fire. Activists say Syrian forces launched airstrikes on Saturday to pound targets in areas including the Damascus suburbs.

The government blamed militants for attacks on security forces and several bombings, including a blast near a church in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.

The state-run SANA news agency said "armed terrorist groups" were continuing to breach a truce between the government and rebels that took effect on Friday in observance of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights sid that more than 50 people were killed in anti-government related violence on Saturday, including at least 17 security force members.  Saturday's violence raises the two-day death toll to about 200. Read more ..


After Fukushima

Fukushima 'Running out of Space' to Store Radioactive Water

October 27th 2012

Rad monitor Japan

Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant is struggling to find space to store tens of thousands of tons of highly contaminated water, it emerged today. About 200,000 tons of radioactive water used to cool the broken reactors are being stored in hundreds of gigantic tanks built around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. Operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) has already chopped down trees to make room for more tanks and predicts the volume will more than triple within three years.

"Our land is limited and we could eventually run out of storage space," said water treatment manager Yuichi Okamura. Tepco's tanks are filling up mostly because leaks in reactor facilities are allowing ground water to pour in. Outside experts say that if contaminated water is released, there will be a lasting impact on the environment. And they fear that because of the reactor leaks and water flowing from one part of the plant to another, that may already be happening. Nuclear engineer Masashi Goto said the contaminated water build-up poses a long-term threat.

Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Republican Senator Graham Dismissive of Obama's Account of Benghazi Disaster

October 27th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #2

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called President Obama’s statements on Libya “a lot of B.S.” on Friday after the president said that his administration wasn’t playing politics with its response to the deadly attack.

“In the words of President Obama, this statement sounds like a lot of B.S.,” Graham said in a statement, referencing Obama’s comments in a Rolling Stone article.

“This Administration does play politics with national security,” Graham said. “In an effort to look strong, this Administration has strategically leaked classified information about numerous sensitive national security programs, ranging from the raid on bin Laden, the cyber-attacks on Iran, to disrupting the underwear bomber plot.” Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Expresses 'Surprise' That Climate Change wasn't Discussed at Final Debate

October 27th 2012

Obama-Romney

President Obama said Friday that he presents a “huge contrast” with Mitt Romney on climate change, and noted he is “surprised” the topic didn’t surface in three debates with the GOP nominee. “We are not moving as fast as we need to, and this is an issue that future generations, MTV viewers, are going to have to be dealing with, even more than the older generation is,” Obama said in an interview on MTV Friday afternoon. “And so this is a critical issue. And there is a huge contrast in this campaign between myself and Governor Romney. I am surprised it didn’t come up in one of the debates,” the president said.

However, while there were no questions on the topic, Obama never raised it himself during the debates despite engaging in several exchanges with Romney over energy policy. The silence in the debates disappointed many environmentalists, who wanted a more muscular stance from Obama. CNN’s Candy Crowley said after moderating the Oct. 16 debate that she had a question ready but didn’t get to it. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

UN Election Monitors have Immunity from US Law says State Department

October 26th 2012

us voters

Election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have immunity from U.S. laws, according to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had sent a letter to the OSCE on Tuesday informing the organization that its observers “are not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place,” and that coming within 100 feet of a polling place “may be a criminal offense.” During Friday’s State Department media briefing, Nuland said that the OSCE observers were eligible for full immunity. Nuland also said that she did not anticipate having those immunities invoked, as the OSCE and Texas were in communication.

Nuland dismissed a question about whether authorities in Texas had cause to worry the OSCE efforts were the advance of “some international attempt to assert control of their sovereignty.”  Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Harry Reid Taken to Hospital after Car Crash

October 26th 2012

Harry Reid

The Hill reports: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was taken to a hospital on Friday afternoon after a multiple-car crash in Nevada. His office has not commented on his injuries although Nevada Highway Patrol public information officer Loy Hixson said Reid's injuries did not appear to be life threatening, according to CNN. A source close to Reid's family told the Las Vegas Sun that the majority leader is "OK;" adding there were no visible injuries and that Reid was taken to the hospital as a matter of caution.

A Las Vegas police spokesman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Reid, 72, was the only person taken to the hospital and seemed to only have "minor rib injuries." The crash occurred on Interstate 15, according to Las Vegas's KTNV, which runs near the Las Vegas strip. It happened around 1 p.m. local time and involved multiple cars, including two Metro vehicles, two Capital Police vehicles and two civilian vehicles, according to local Fox affiliate KVVU-TV. Officers on the scene described it as a chain-reaction crash, according to the Associated Press. As a member of the Congressional leadership, Reid gets protection from Capitol Police, some of whose vehicles were involved in the crash. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

CIA Was Denied Military Backup in Benghazi

October 26th 2012

libya-consulate

On Friday, sources in Benghazi during the attack on the U.S. consulate said that Central Intelligence Agency operatives twice asked for permission to help Ambassador Chris Stevens and his staff, and twice were told to 'stand down' -- while a later request for military backup was denied, according to a Fox News Channel alert by Megyn Kelly.

But, during a U.S. Defense Department press conference on Wednesday, when reporters asked about the U.S. failure to respond to a terrorist attack on a U.S. Consulate in Libya, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made short shrift of the confusing -- some say deliberately misleading -- White House statements over the last several weeks.

Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were viciously attacked and murdered during an attack that occurred on Sept. 11, 2012, and began at 10 p.m., Libyan time, at the consulate, which attackers set afire, and spread to the nearby annex during the course of six or more hours. Read more ..


China on Edge

China Blocks NY Times Website Over Story on Wen Jiabao

October 26th 2012

Chinese hackers

Chinese government censors moved quickly to block the New York Times website Friday after it published a blockbuster story detailing the massive wealth accumulated by the family of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

The report threatened to shatter the public image of Wen, who is known as a compassionate, reformist leader with a modest background. The Times says a review of corporate and regulatory records indicate the prime minister's relatives control assets of at least $2.7 billion.

Just hours after the article was posted, access to the paper's English and Chinese-language websites was blocked throughout China. Censors also hurried to delete references to the prime minister and his family on China's Twitter-like Weibo microblog, while the Times' Chinese social media accounts were also deleted.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei condemned the article on Friday, telling reporters that it was meant to "smear China" and had "ulterior motives."

NY Times reacts
Eileen Murphy, the paper's spokeswoman, expressed disappointment and said she hopes full access is restored soon. But she said the Times refuses to compromise its journalistic standards.  Following the June launch of its Chinese-language site, the paper made a similar commitment, vowing not to tailor its content based on "the demands of the Chinese government."
Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Voter Fraud Uncovered in Virginia

October 25th 2012

Election ID Support

The son of an 11-term Democratic congressman was allegedly caught on video providing information on how to commit voter fraud, according to a report and video released on Wednesday. Patrick Moran, the son and campaign worker of U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), when approached by an undercover investigator for advice on how to steal the votes of more than 100 people, Moran advised falsifying documents to satisfy Virginia’s new voter ID law, according to investigative journalist James O'Keefe, who is the founder and director of The Project Veritas.

Patrick Moran is heard saying in a video, “Bank statement obviously would be tough, but they can fake a utility bill with ease.” Moran goes on to say in the video, “You’d have to forge it.” Announcing the release of the video, O’Keefe said, “This is the most damning evidence to date of the scope of voter fraud in this country. Patrick Moran is not only the son of an 11-term Congressman, but is also the Field Director on his father’s re-election campaign." Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

White House Knew of al-Qaeda Link to Benghazi Consulate Attack

October 25th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

White House officials and State Department staff, contrary to original press statements, were informed about the suspected terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2012, just two hours after the assailants invaded the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and that a radical Islamist group claimed responsibility for the consulate invasion and murders of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, according to emails obtained by the news media on Wednesday.

The emails, obtained by the Fox News Channel's national security correspondent Catherine Herridge from an anonymous government source, identified the terrorist group as Ansar al-Sharia as claiming responsibility for the attacks. The first short email revealed how U.S. diplomats, in the midst of the violent and deadly attack, described the attack to Washington.

A second email that was sent stated that the Embassy in Tripoli had reported that "the firing at the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi had stopped and the compound had been cleared." It said a ‘response team’ was at the site attempting to locate missing personnel. A third email sent carried the subject line: "Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack." The message reported: "Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on [the U.S. Embassy in] Tripoli." Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

UN Monitor Denounces Iran's Human Rights Conditions

October 25th 2012

Quds Force

The United Nations expert charged with monitoring the human rights situation in Iran warns that there are “alarming trends” in the country’s human rights situation, including the prosecution of human rights defenders and lawyers, executions in the absence of fair trials, and the detention of journalists and Internet commentators.

U.N. Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed says in his third report to the U.N. General Assembly that the overall human rights situation in Iran is “deeply troubling.”

The country has one of the highest execution rates in the world, often for crimes, such as drug offenses, which are not considered to be among the most serious and deserving of capital punishment under international standards. Just this week, Tehran announced that 10 more persons were executed for alleged drug crimes. Minors also have been subject to the death penalty. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Russia Accuses U.S. of Arming Syrian Rebels

October 25th 2012

Syrian Rebels in Aleppo

Russia’s senior general says that rebels in Syria have acquired shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missiles, including a model made in the United States. General Staff Chief Nikolai Marakov says that officials need to determine who supplied the weapons to Syria’s opposition.

Interfax news agency quotes General Nikolai Marakov as saying "that militants fighting Syrian government forces have portable missile launchers of various states, including American-made Stingers.” He did not make any direct accusation of how the rebels acquired the weapons. In Washington, the Pentagon had no immediate comment. In the past, the U.S. government has denied supplying Syrian rebels with weapons or having any information that American-made weapons are in the hands of rebel forces. Read more ..


Burma on Edge

Violence Between Burmese Buddhists and Muslims Spreads

October 25th 2012

Rohingya Refuge Camp
Muslim Rohingya camp in Myanmar

Renewed sectarian violence between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine is spreading in Burma’s western Rakhine state. At least two people were reported killed and there are concerns the death toll may grow. Authorities say fighting erupted late Tuesday in two more towns, Kyaukpyu and Myebon.

Burma's state media said communal violence has left more than 1,000 homes burned since Sunday. The New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported two people were killed in the fighting, while unconfirmed reports say casualty figures are much higher. Al Haji Nyunt Maung Shein is chairman of Burma's Islamic Religious Affairs Council. He says they received reports as many as 178 Muslims and Buddhists were killed, but were unable to independently confirm the figures. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Rocket War on Israel's South Keeps Children Home as Fighting Intensifies

October 24th 2012

Rocket Damage

Over 60 rockets and mortars were fired at civilian targets from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday night and throughout Wednesday morning. Two foreign workers were critically wounded by a direct rocket hit, while working in chicken coops on a farm in the Eshkol region, which was badly hit. They were evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva, along with a third worker who was lightly wounded. In addition, a woman suffered minor injuries as she stumbled while running for shelter during a siren. Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) claimed responsibility for the attacks.

In Eshkol, located in the northwestern part of the Negev, 30 rockets struck the region, hitting homes and damaging properties. One of the rockets hit a central electricity exchange box, cutting off several of the towns.

Ronit Minaker, the spokesperson for the Eshkol region said that the normal routine of area residents was severely disrupted today. “Schools have been cancelled—children are home and parents have stayed home with them, missing work because of the rocket attacks,” she said.

“Five homes have been hit in the south, and there were children at home in some of them at the time. Families whose homes have been hit are now staying by their neighbors,” Minaker added.

Following this latest escalation, the military has canceled school in many parts of the Negev. The students will learn online, and the teachers are making a special effort to identify students who are suffering from anxiety so that they receive the proper trauma treatments. Nachala, a student at Sapir College, near Sderot told Tazpit News Agency that she arrived for her morning classes, but was sent home. "I heard rocket explosions all night long. This morning, when I got to Sapir, we were told to go home because of the rocket threat. For me it wasn't too bad, because I live nearby, but many of the students traveled from far to get to college classes, and they had to go back home." The IDF Home Front Command has instructed area residents who live within the radius of 10 kilometers of the Gaza border to take shelter and stay indoors. Read more ..


Burma on Edge

Sectarian Violence Spreads in Burma--A Thousand Homes May be Burned

October 24th 2012

Burmese Generals

Renewed sectarian violence between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine is spreading in Burma’s western Rakhine state. At least two people were reported killed and there are concerns the death toll may grow. Authorities say fighting erupted late Tuesday in two more towns, Kyaukpyu and Myebon. Burma's state media said communal violence has left more than 1,000 homes burned since Sunday. The New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported two people were killed in the fighting, while unconfirmed reports say casualty figures are much higher.
 
Al Haji Nyunt Maung Shein is chairman of Burma's Islamic Religious Affairs Council.  He says they received reports as many as 178 Muslims and Buddhists were killed, but were unable to independently confirm the figures. "Still the violence is going on in Rakhine state, especially in Kyaukpyu area and Myinbya area last night.  And recently they are suffering so much.  And almost all, nearly 2,000 houses are burnt," he said.
The council cancelled celebration of the Islamic religious festival Eid al-Adha out of concern for security.
Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Hamas Pummels Israel's South With Dozens of Rockets

October 24th 2012

Hamas celebrating

Hamas terrorists continued their rocket fire on southern Israel Wednesday, injuring five and bringing life in the south to a standstill. The terror group has fired more than 50 rockets since Tuesday night, bringing the total to more than 70 rockets fired since Monday. Hamas's armed wing, the Al-Qassam brigades, took responsibility Wednesday for both a barrage of rockets unleashed against Israel since Tuesday night and the bomb that critically injured an IDF officer along the Gaza border on Tuesday. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) took responsibility for the Gaza border bomb.

Israel's air force retaliated Tuesday and Wednesday, killing four Hamas rocket launchers. According to reports, Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted eight rockets. Of the five injured in Israel, three were foreign workers.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said a Gaza ground operation to stop the rocket fire was a real option. “I trust the IDF’s chief of staff and the head of the Southern Command, and if they believe it’s necessary — and if it’s what the government decides on — then yes, it’s not out of the question,” the defense minister said. Read more ..


China and Japan

China and Japan Begin Talks on Disputed Islands

October 24th 2012

Senkaku Islands

Japan says it is engaged in talks with China to resolve a territorial dispute that has disrupted ties between the two Asian powers. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura on Wednesday confirmed reports that Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai secretly met last week with senior Chinese officials in Shanghai. He said the talks were part of Tokyo's effort to continue to communicate with Beijing "at various levels" regarding the island dispute in the East China Sea. China-Japan relations plummeted last month after Tokyo purchased a group of disputed islands from their private Japanese landowner. The islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are surrounded by potential energy deposits and rich fishing grounds. Read more ..


Broken Labor

Union Members Launch Protest Against their Own Union

October 24th 2012

labor protest

Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have launched a protest against their own union in California over waste and corruption. They rallied outside SEIU headquarters last week and plan to be in Sacramento on on October 24. The protestors are calling for transparency, accountability, and audits of the 2 million member labor union. The group’s website is urging members to hold their representatives accountable: “It is our members that see the waste every day; it is our members that can call it out to the union representatives in their area.”

At the rally last week, SEIU officials asked the gathering protesters, “How much are they paying you?” The protestors replied that they were participating on their own time.

SEIU reacted to the protest outside its offices by closing the doors and videotaping the dissenting members, according to the protesters. The group’s website describes the purpose of videotaping dissenting members as an effort to identify members to add to a “blacklist.” Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Stock Prices Take a Hit as Gasoline Prices Drop

October 23rd 2012

Gas prices

Disappointing corporate earnings and continuing worries about Spain's battered economy cut stock prices on key European and U.S. exchanges on October 23.

Crude oil prices also declined. France's CAC-40 and Germany's DAX were down more than two percent in late trading. At one point during mid-day trading in New York, the Dow and the S&P 500 were off 1.7 percent or more.

Analysts say the declines follow weaker than expected earnings from major companies like IBM, FedEx, and McDonald's. Chemical company DuPont said it will cut 1,500 jobs after profits declined sharply. Traders apparently saw the disappointing earning reports as a sign that the economy will slow down, cutting demand for energy. That perception is one reason that oil prices declined in key markets. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Russia's State Capitalist Empire Aided by BP Sale

October 23rd 2012

Putin Gesticulates

Teymur Huseynov, pf the UK-based Exclusive Analysis firm, said that the “future of Russian oil is dependent on Greenfield projects and Western technology.” This was according to a report released by the political and economic forecasting firm on October 23.

Huseynov said, “At a meeting with President Putin, Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin reported that Russia's state-run oil major was planning to buy out 100% of BP's Russian joint venture TNK-BP. As a result, BP will end up with $12.3 billion in cash and 19.75% of Rosneft stock, factoring in its already existing 1.25% of the company. Sechin also reported on current negotiations with TNK-BP's Russian shareholders (AAR), which is set to sell out of the company for about $28 billion.”

Huseynov continued, “Russia's new arctic fields are also now open for BP investments. There is consensus in the Kremlin that Russia needs to develop its offshore resources quickly in order to keep oil production levels from declining sharply. Despite the government’s efforts at economic diversification, the oil industry will continue to provide the majority of revenues for the Russian budget and be a critical factor in insuring the stability of the Putin system. We expect BP and Rosneft to sign a strategic agreement on the development of offshore acreage held by Rosneft in Russia." Read more ..


Italy on Edge

Italian Scientists Convicted of Not Warning of Earthquake

October 23rd 2012

Italy Quake 2009

An Italian court on Monday convicted seven scientists and experts of manslaughter for underestimating the risks of a killer earthquake and failing to adequately warn citizens before it struck the central Italian town of L'Aquila in 2009. More than 300 people were killed, tens of thousands were left homeless, and the town's historic center and medieval churches were destroyed in the 6.3-magnitude quake. Prosecutors argued that the defendants - members of a national panel that assesses major risks - offered "incomplete, imprecise and contradictory information" to residents. The international scientific community denounced the trial, noting that predicting earthquakes is impossible. Even early warning systems, which rely on a network of sensors to detect surface seismic waves that precede larger quakes, can provide residents only 10 to 60 seconds advance notice, and then, only in areas where those sensors are in place. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney Cuts Obama Lead in Ohio Down to 5 Points

October 22nd 2012

Romney

President Obama still leads Mitt Romney among likely voters in Ohio but the margin has shrunk since September, according to a new Quinnipiac/CBS News poll. The poll, released Monday, found Obama leading Romney 50 percent to 45 among likely Ohio voters. In September, the same poll found Obama leading 53 percent to 43. Three percent of likely voters surveyed said they are undecided. Broken down by gender, Obama holds a double-digit lead among women over Romney, with 55 percent supporting Obama to 40 supporting Romney. But that margin, too, is smaller than in September when the poll found Obama leading Romney among women voters 60 to 35. Among men, 51 percent support Romney, 44 percent Obama, the poll found. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Jordan Arrests 11 in Alleged Al-Qaida Plot

October 22nd 2012

King Abdullah of Jordan

Jordanian officials say state security forces have arrested 11 people in connection with what they call an al-Qaida-linked plot to bomb shopping centers and attack Western diplomatic posts in the capital, Amman. Government spokesman Sameeh Maaytah told reporters Sunday that the group had been working since June, and planned to carry out the attacks with weapons smuggled from Syria, where they had spent time. He also said they had consulted with al-Qaida in Iraq explosives experts. Jordan has been the target of al-Qaida attacks, including triple hotel bombings in November 2005 that killed more than 50 people.

Reuters reported: "Minister of Information Maaytah said the arrests underscored the serious threat posed by radical "terror groups" seeking to undermine the kingdom's long tradition of stability. A key U.S. ally in the Middle East and Israel's peace partner, Jordan enjoys close ties with Western intelligence agencies and has often been targeted by al-Qaeda and other Islamist militants. The cell had targeted two major shopping malls in the capital and was planning a bombing campaign in the capital's affluent Abdoun neighborhood, where many foreign embassies are located." Read more ..


The Drug Wars

Los Zetas Hitman Gets Life Plus 40 Years

October 21st 2012

Narcotics

Two members of a notoriously powerful Mexican organized crime gang may spend the remainder of their lives in a U.S. federal penitentiary, according to a Texas law enforcement source on Friday.

Los Zetas hitman Gerardo Castillo-Chavez, aka “Cachetes” or "Armado Garcia," and Eduardo Carreon-Ibarra, aka “Negro,” have been sent to federal prison for many years following their multiple convictions stemming from a lengthy Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson said in Laredo, Texas.

The 26-year-old Castillo-Chavez, a resident of Tamaulipas, Mexico, was convicted on all counts as charged following five days of trial on Jan. 25, 2012. The Zetas member was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 40 years. Meanwhile, 28-year-old Carreon-Ibarra, a Laredo native, and pleaded guilty on June 1, 2012. On Friday, he was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison to run consecutively to his previous 20-year sentence. Read more ..


Lebanon on Edge

Thousands of Lebanese Mourn Intelligence Official Killed in Blast

October 21st 2012

Lebanon agitatioin

Thousands of Lebanese gathered in Beirut's Martyrs Square for the funeral of police intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan, killed in the explosion of a car bomb on Friday. 

A sea of mourners gathered in Martyrs Square outside the Mohammed al Amin mosque as Lebanon's top political and religious leaders attended prayers inside. The flag-draped coffins of Hassan and an officer who died with him lay in state as the mufti of Tripoli, Malek Sha'ar, delivered the funeral oration.

As the prayers ended, several religious and political figures addressed the crowd, saying that Lebanon and the opposition March 14 coalition have paid “too high a price and suffered too many martyrs” in recent years. ​​The slain police intelligence official was allied with Lebanon's anti-Syrian opposition and seen as a supporter of the mainly Sunni rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syria's civil war has heightened political and sectarian tensions in neighboring Lebanon. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Obama Denies Direct Meeting with Iran

October 21st 2012

Obama

The White House is denying a report in The New York Times on Saturday that said administration officials and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks on Tehran’s nuclear program.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said late Saturday that the White House remains open to discussions in an effort to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. “We continue to work … on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally,” Vietor said in a statement. “It has always been our goal for sanctions to pressure Iran to come in line with its obligations. The onus is on the Iranians to do so, otherwise they will continue to face crippling sanctions and increased pressure,” he said. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

International Monitors at US Polling Places Draw Criticism

October 20th 2012

Detroit voters

United Nations-affiliated election monitors from Europe and central Asia will be at polling places around the U.S. looking for voter suppression activities by conservative groups, a concern raised by civil rights groups during a meeting this week. The intervention has drawn criticism from a prominent conservative-leaning group combating election fraud.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a United Nations partner on democratization and human rights projects, will deploy 44 observers around the county on Election Day to monitor an array of activities, including potential disputes at polling places. Liberal-leaning civil rights groups met with representatives from the OSCE this week to raise their fears about what they say are systematic efforts to suppress minority voters likely to vote for President Obama. Read more ..


Lebanon on Edge

Lebanon PM Links Car Bomb to Syria Crisis

October 20th 2012

Beirut Hizbollah Street Violence

The Lebanese Cabinet is holding an emergency session Saturday, a day after a massive car bomb killed the country's police intelligence chief. Eight people died and more than 80 were wounded in the blast Friday.

The government has declared Saturday a national day of mourning. Demonstrators have closed roads around the country to protest the bombing. Lebanese media report Wissam al-Hassan, chief of police intelligence, was the target of Friday's car bomb. Hassan led the investigation into a recent bomb plot that resulted in the arrest of a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician. He also led the probe that implicated Syria and Hezbollah in the killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. No one has claimed responsibility for Friday's explosion. Some Lebanese officials blame Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for what they call Hassan's assassination. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Quips that the Deaths of Four Americans in Libya was not 'Optimal'

October 19th 2012

Barry yucks it up

President Barack Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney made fun of themselves and each other at a high-profile charity dinner on the evening of October 18 in New York City. The formal event hosted by the city's Catholic archdiocese at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was a chance for the candidates to take a break from an often combative presidential campaign. At the white-tie affair, host Cardinal Timothy Dolan, sat between them as prominent clergymen, journalists, and entrepreneurs looked on.

Romney, a multi-millionaire, began the evening by taking a shot at his own wealth, telling the formally dressed crowd that he was glad he and his wife Ann could slip into clothes they "wear around the house." His speech also poked fun at the media, who many Republicans accuse of favoring Democrats. "Let's just say some in the media have a certain way of looking at things. When I suddenly, pulled ahead in some of the major polls, what was the headline? 'Polls show Obama leading from behind,' Romney joked. "And I have already seen early reports from tonight's dinner. Headline: 'Obama embraced by Catholics,' ' Romney dines with rich people.'" Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Islamist Nabbed in New York City Sting

October 18th 2012

FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force

A Bangladesh national was arrested by federal law enforcement officials in an elaborate sting operation that involved the suspect's alleged plot to bomb the Federal Reserve Bank in Lower Manhattan, New York City, a federal law enforcement said Wednesday.

The suspected Islamic terrorist, later identified as Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, was nabbed by members of the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force when he tried to detonate what he believed 1,000-pound improvised explosive device (IED) -- that was furnished to him by undercover cops -- in front of the Federal Reserve Bank's headquarters on Liberty Street in the middle of New York's busy Wall Street financial center.

The JTTF stated that the general public was never in any danger during the entire undercover operation. Throughout the investigation, FBI agents and NYPD detectives working with the JTTF were able to closely monitor Nafis as he attempted to proceed with his bomb plot. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

New Proof that Moon Was Created in Giant Smashup

October 18th 2012

Moon

It's a big claim, but Washington University in St. Louis planetary scientist Frédéric Moynier says his group has discovered evidence that the Moon was born in a flaming blaze of glory when a body the size of Mars collided with the early Earth.

The evidence might not seem all that impressive to a nonscientist: a tiny excess of a heavier variant of the element zinc in Moon rocks. But the enrichment probably arose because heavier zinc atoms condensed out of the roiling cloud of vaporized rock created by a catastrophic collision faster than lighter zinc atoms, and the remaining vapor escaped before it could condense.

Scientists have been looking for this kind of sorting by mass, called isotopic fractionation, since the Apollo missions first brought Moon rocks to Earth in the 1970s, and Moynier, Randal Paniello, James Day are the first to find it. The Moon rocks, geochemists discovered, while otherwise chemically similar to Earth rocks, were woefully short on volatiles (easily evaporated elements). A giant impact explained this depletion, whereas alternative theories for the Moon's origin did not. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Libyans Oppose Possible U.S. Retaliation for Benghazi Attack

October 18th 2012

Libya protesters

The United States is said to be weighing the option of a military strike against those found responsible for the September 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya that killed four American embassy personnel dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. One of the first hurdles they face is identifying who carried out the attack. The main suspects in the case, the militant Ansar al Sharia, have denied responsibility, despite witness accounts of their involvement.

They are but one of dozens of militias across Libya that lie beyond government control. But some analysts warn of the consequences to the fledgling Libyan state should the United States intervene. The former opposition spokesman during last year's uprising, Mustafa Gheriani, argues any justice must be served by Libya itself. “If you want to be a country of law and not to be like Afghanistan or Pakistan, then we need to take matters through the proper channels," Gheriani said. "It might be later date if there is a question about their strength at the present time, but definitely not to have anything irrational taking place at this moment.” Read more ..



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