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The Obama Edge

Chaffetz Accuses State Department of Revealing Classified Information

October 11th 2012

Obama-Limo

Rep. Jason Chaffetz caused a stir at Wednesday's hearing on security lapses in Libya when he accused the State Department of publicizing classified information by displaying a satellite photograph of the United States consulate in Benghazi. Chaffetz made the comments at the House oversight panel hearing in reference to a photo of the diplomatic mission that came under attack on September 11, 2012. American lives were being putting at risk by making the information public, he alleged.

Democrats on the dais, and observers in the hearing room, reacted to the GOP lawmaker's request with raised eyebrows and guffaws.“You can Google it!” Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the Oversight panel, said of the picture. Patrick Kennedy, the State Department under-secretary for management, said the photo was obtained from a commercial satellite. Chaffetz, the chairman of the committee's panel on national security, replied that Obama administration officials were making documents public that his State Department handlers told him were classified during a visit to Libya over the weekend. Committee chairman Darrell Issa, however, sided with the administration. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Turks Force Syrian Crew to Sign Statement Claiming 'Emergency Landing, No F-16s'

October 11th 2012

Turk flags

Passengers onboard the plane intercepted by Turkish jets said that security forces were making the crew and passengers sign fraudulent papers suggesting that the plane made an emergency landing and no Turkish military were involved in the incident. Hours after Turkish authorities announced that the Syrian Airlines passenger plane intercepted by its F-16s was granted a departure clearance, the aircraft remained on the tarmac in darkness. “Four people onboard have been beaten up, two crew and two passengers, as they tried to force them to sign documents,” Sherin Azis, a hostess on the plane, told RT by phone. “We don’t know what these papers are about. We are scared for the fate of the captain. He was taken away and threatened with arrest if he does not sign an emergency landing paper.”

Fatima al-Saman, a passenger and a mother of three, also told RT that the captain was being forced to sign a release stating that military planes were not involved and the plane just made an emergency landing. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Terrorists Murder U.S. Security Team Leader in Yemen

October 11th 2012

Yemeni terrorists

A Yemeni man who headed a security team at the U.S. embassy in Yemen was shot dead on his way to work Thursday, according to wire reports. Qassem Aqlan had worked at the embassy for two decades and was in charge of the investigation into last month's breach of the embassy walls by protesters angered by a U.S.-made anti-Islam film, the Associated Press reports.

The shooting, Yemeni officials said, bears the hallmarks of past actions by Yemen's al Qaeda offshoot, which is at war with the U.S.-backed Yemeni government.

The shooting comes just a day after House Republicans grilled State Department officials for refusing to provide extra security to the U.S. embassy in Libya in the run-up to the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Remains Confident Despite a 'Bad Night' Debating Romney

October 10th 2012

Obama Bowed Head

President Obama on October 10 said despite his “bad night” at the debate and Mitt Romney’s subsequent spike in the polls, the fundamentals of the presidential race are still in his favor.

“Well it's not the first time I've had a bad night,” Obama will said according to a transcript from a pre-recorded interview set to air on October 10 at night on ABC’s "World News with Diane Sawyer." “But I think what's important is the, the fundamentals of what this race is about haven't changed. You know, Governor Romney went to a lotta trouble to try to hide what his positions are.”

Obama said he intended to “move on” from last week’s debate. The candidate’s will meet again on October next on October 16.

“You know, one thing, you know maybe this is because I played a lotta sports when I was a kid, and still do,” Obama continued. “If you have a bad game, you just move on. You look forward to the next one. And it makes you that much more determined. The difference between this and sports is that the stakes are so high.”

The interview was the second Obama gave on on October 10 in which he conceded he had lost the debate to Romney. Earlier in the day, Obama said in a phone interview with the "Tom Joyner Morning Show” that he had been “too polite” in dealing with the GOP challenger. The first debate between Obama and Romney has significantly shifted momentum in the race.

According to Gallup, 72 percent of viewers said Romney won the debate, compared to only 20 percent who said Obama. It was the biggest margin of victory Gallup has ever recorded. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Obama Administration Denied Requests for Additional Security at Benghazi Consulate

October 10th 2012

libya-consulate

State Department and military officials painted a horrific picture for lawmakers on Wednesday as they detailed a series of refused requests for added security at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Testifying before the House, the officials said they were denied multiple requests for more protection at the consulate, which was attacked last month on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, killing the U.S. ambassador and three others diplomats.

“The takeaway… for me and my staff, was abundantly clear — we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident,” said Eric Nordstrom, a regional security officer overseeing the State Department’s personnel and facilities in Libya.

“And the question that we would ask is: how thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through?” Read more ..


Islam's War Against Women

Doctors Remove Bullet from Pakistani Teen Activist

October 10th 2012

Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousufzai

Doctors in Pakistan have successfully removed a bullet from a 14-year-old girl shot by the Taliban for speaking out against the militant group and promoting education for women.

Malala Yousufzai was in critical condition after gunmen shot her in the head and neck while boarding a school bus in Swat Valley Tuesday. Two other girls were wounded in the attack.

Doctors at a Peshawar military hospital removed a bullet from her neck early Wednesday morning after she developed complications. They say she is improving but remains unconscious. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting.  A spokesman said Yousufzai was "pro-West, speaking out against the Taliban, and calling U.S. President Barack Obama her idol." Yousufzai is internationally recognized for documenting atrocities committed by the Taliban in the area near her home.  She wrote under a pseudonym - Gul Makai - in a blog published by the BBC. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Ultra-slim PCs Will Represent 25% of the Mobile PC Market by 2015

October 9th 2012

Ultra-slim PC shipments will grow from 3.4 million in 2011 to 65.0 million by 2015—a quarter of mobile PC shipments - according to the NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report.

The mobile PC landscape is transforming from a performance-driven market to a convenience-driven market, where easy access to content and usage are the new preferred characteristics.

This fundamental change in preference is most noticeable in the slowing demand for notebook PCs and the increasing demand for tablet PCs. Tablet PC shipments are expected to exceed notebook PC shipment by 2016. Notebook PC players are responding by adopting the features of tablets that consumers have appreciated the most.

“Tablet PCs have offered consumers what they have been requesting from the notebook market for years, instant-on activation, long battery life, and sleeker designs,” said Richard Shim, Senior Analyst with NPD DisplaySearch. “These attributes are the basis for enabling greater and easier accessibility to content and services. Ultra-slim PCs are the notebook market's response to tablets and aim to balance performance and convenience.” Read more ..


Islam's Winter of Rage

Safety Alert Issued to American Nationals in Pakistan

October 9th 2012

Pakistan anti us protest

The diplomatic officials assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, issued a threat alert on Sunday for U.S. nationals, advising them to keep a low profile, avoid traveling at night and taking other safety precautions, according to security source.

The embassy informed hundreds of American nationals that on Sunday the Pakistani Ministry of Interior issued its own threat alert regarding possible terrorist attacks in Islamabad. Besides al-Qaeda, there are radical Islamists from the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani network who all use improvised explosive devices and other weapons against non-Muslims. The Pakistani government believes foreigners risk being killed or injured at key government installations in the downtown area of Islamabad known as the "Red Zone" as well as five-star hotels located in Islamabad. Read more ..


China and the US

Chinese Executives Pose National Security Threat

October 8th 2012

Stealth Jet

In the midst of a tight presidential race in which U.S. relations with China has become a major issue, U.S. lawmakers claim that two Chinese firms pose a serious threat to U.S. national security, according to a congressional panel that concluded their probe into espionage allegations and released a preliminary report on Monday.

The telecom companies, Huawei and ZTE, "should be [banned] from pursuing any mergers and acquisitions in the U.S., according to the House Intelligence Committee's recommendations in its report.

"China's top telecommunications gear makers should be kept [out] of the U.S. marketplace because they cannot be trusted to dodge Chinese state influence and thus pose a security threat," Intelligence Committee leaders said. They claimed the firms had failed to persuade the congressmen that associations between them and the Chinese government and military were not a threat. The China-based companies are listed as two of the world's largest producers of telecommunications networking equipment. Both Huawei and ZTE executives have categorically denied all allegations of espionage or theft of trade secrets. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

SpaceX Begins 1st Cargo Delivery Mission to Space Station

October 8th 2012

Space-X Dragon Capsule

A capsule built by the first private company to fly to the International Space Station is on its way to the orbiting lab on the first official mission to deliver cargo. California-based SpaceX launched its Dragon capsule late Sunday from Cape Canaveral on the U.S. Atlantic Coast.  The capsule is scheduled to dock with the space station early Wednesday as part of a $1.6 billion contract with the U.S. space agency NASA. The mission follows a successful test delivery to the ISS in May.  SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said everyone feels better with each successful launch, but that getting to the space station is still a difficult task and a lot of work remains.

"We will learn from our flights and continue to improve the vehicle. Given that we are looking towards flying crew on these vehicles, we want to make sure that we address any and all items that we find and learn about the vehicle to make it even more reliable," said Shotwell. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

IDF Downs Drone Over Israel, Suspects Hezbollah

October 7th 2012

IAF-Cobras

An unmanned drone shot down over Israeli territory Saturday afternoon may have been launched by the terrorist group Hezbollah.

See video of shoot down here.

The drone entered Israel from the West, passing over the Mediterranean Sea before flying over Israeli air space. The Israeli air force shot down the unmanned vehicle over the Negev. Israel said the drone was not able to collect any vital information on Israeli military installations. According to the Christian Science Monitor: "Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said Israeli ground systems detected the drone, which flew over the Gaza Strip but did not originate there, Saturday morning and alerted the air force, which scrambled the jets to intercept the aircraft. She said Israel was still trying to determine where the drone took off from. Nobody was hurt in the incident. Leibovich said Israeli jets escorted the drone before deciding to bring it down in the northern Negev area, which is largely uninhabited. The drone, which was downed near the Yatir Forest close to the West Bank, had spent about 20 minutes in Israeli air space, an Israeli military official said on condition of anonymity in line with protocol." Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Anti-Terrorist Sweep in France Pulls in Suspects in Firebombing of Jewish Businesses

October 7th 2012

French Muslim protesters

Police in France killed one man and arrested 10 others in an anti-terror sweep in cities across the country on October 6. Authorities have linked the suspects to the firebombing last month of a Jewish grocery store outside the city. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters that the main suspect, 33-year-old Jeremy Sidney, was killed by police as he opened fire on them during a Saturday morning raid in the eastern city of Strasbourg.

The prosecutor described Sidney as a delinquent with ties to radical Islam. Molins said police had linked Sidney to the DNA found on a grenade that exploded in September at a kosher store near Paris. Molins said police were questioning 10 others following raids that also took place in southern France and the Paris region. A couple of other suspects remain at large. The prosecutor said all the suspects were French nationals and at least three have police records. Molins said police had cracked a terror cell - a move that drew praise from French President Francois Hollande. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Asteroid Fragments Could Hint Origins of Solar System

October 6th 2012

Big Bang

The tiny pieces of rock – at 50-100 micrometers smaller than a human hair – have been captured from asteroid Itokawa by the Japanese mission Hayabusa. They were carefully unpacked by experts at the University's School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences.

It is the first time samples from an asteroid have been returned to Earth. Only about 70 samples have been released for international analysis – seven of these are being studied at the University. The Hayabusa mission is part of a continuing effort to understand how asteroids, which are leftovers from the formation of planets like Earth, formed and evolved. It recovered fragments from the 500 metre-long asteroid Itokawa in 2005 and returned them to Earth in 2010. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Obama's U.N. Ambassador Responds to Critics about Benghazi Disaster

October 6th 2012

Click to select Image
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice

America's ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, pushed back hard against Republican attacks on her initial description of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in a letter made public Friday. In her response to three Republican senators' demand for an explanation, Rice was non-apologetic and told them that they had misquoted her and taken her statements out of context. Rice was roundly criticized by conservatives when she appeared on five Sunday news shows days after the attack and said it appeared to have escalated out of a protest sparked by a U.S.-made anti-Islam video posted to YouTube.

“In answering, I relied solely and squarely on the information the intelligence community provided to me and other senior U.S. officials, including through the daily intelligence briefings that present the latest reporting and analysis to policymakers,” Rice wrote to Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). She goes on to point out that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence itself, in a Sept. 28 statement, acknowledged sharing that information with the executive branch. “In the immediate aftermath,” the agency said, “there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo. We provided that initial assessment to Executive Branch officials and members of Congress, who used that information to discuss the attack publicly.”

And she denies using the weak term “expression of hostility” to describe the attack in Libya.

The senators said they weren't impressed. They've argued it was clear from the beginning that heavily armed militants who attacked the compound weren't protesters, and pointed to reports that the administration was told within hours of the attack that al Qaeda might have been involved. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Democrats Accuse Romney of Lying during Debate with Obama

October 6th 2012

Democratic lawmakers say Mitt Romney "was lying" during Wednesday night’s debate, claiming those alleged fabrications will erase any advantage he received from his well-reviewed performance. The legislators argue that the silver lining in President Obama's underwhelming debate showing is that Romney gave Democrats plenty of ammunition to reinforce their case that he is a flip-flopper willing to say anything to get elected. "Romney’s performance featured a rather dramatic departure from his public record and campaign proposals," Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, said Thursday in an email, "and he displayed a reckless disregard for bedrock American values of truth and honesty."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) accused Romney of simply "lying" to appear more centrist than he really is. "We saw a Romney that is clearly an etch-a-sketch," she said in a phone interview Thursday. "He likes bank regulations now? He wants more teachers? No tax cuts for the rich? … He was basically lying." Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, piled on, saying Romney "went off the charts [by] contradicting himself … changing positions and outright fabricating issues." Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Former Nevada Hospital Official Says She Was Fired For Questioning Medicare Bills

October 5th 2012

medicine and money

Paula Sellers suspected the small Nevada hospital where she worked was overcharging Medicare and other health insurers for some emergency room services. Sellers ran Boulder City Hospital’s health information department, which helped apply the complex series of Medicare billing codes doctors and hospitals must use to get paid for treating the sick. But Sellers alleges in a lawsuit that her bosses told her to “back off” when she doubted the accuracy of the coding –and fired her in May when she refused to sign off on it.

“When she tried to complain, she got terminated,” said her lawyer, Jesse Sbaih. The wrongful termination lawsuit, filed in July in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, has been moved to federal court, where it is pending. The hospital and its billing agent deny the allegations.

Every year, hospitals and doctors use the five-digit billing codes, developed by the American Medical Association, to bill Medicare for hundreds of millions of office visits and other services. Hospitals use these “Evaluation and Management” codes to bill for emergency room and outpatient physician charges and other fees. In past years, Medicare has for the most part paid medical bills with few questions asked, even though the coding process can be confusing and subjective.

But billing practices are facing new scrutiny as Medicare officials and other insurers seek ways to put the brakes on escalating health care costs. On Sept. 24, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder notified five groups representing hospitals and medical professionals that they could face criminal prosecutions for padding bills by choosing higher-paying codes even if the services delivered didn’t justify them —a process known as “upcoding.”

Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Texas Pollution Victims Seek Millions From Citgo

October 5th 2012

Citco Refinery

Fifteen residents of Corpus Christi, Texas — so sickened by pollution they have been deemed crime victims — are asking a federal judge to force Citgo Petroleum Corp. to set up multimillion-dollar trust funds to cover medical and relocation costs, in a case with national ramifications. A jury in 2007 convicted Citgo of criminal violations of the Clean Air Act, concluding that the company’s Corpus Christi refinery allowed toxic chemicals to drift from two large, uncovered storage tanks into a nearby neighborhood for a decade. The company was to have been sentenced last month; the Department of Justice has proposed a fine of slightly more than $2 million. Lawyers for the 15 residents, however, asked U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey to grant the residents crime-victim status so they could testify at the sentencing hearing and, perhaps, win compensation from Citgo. Rainey granted that status on Sept. 14 and postponed the hearing.

Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

U.S. Diplomats in Libya Asked for More Security to No Avail--Congress Demands Answers

October 5th 2012

libya-consulate

Prior to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Ambassador Chris Stevens' request for additional security officials was turned down by the Obama administration in order to project a friendly atmosphere to the distrusting Islamic population, an anonymous security official in Washington, D.C., sources informed. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee leaders on Tuesday evening sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking why requests for more protection were denied to the U.S. mission in Libya by Washington officials prior to the violent and deadly terrorist attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.  The denials came after repeated attacks and security threats to U.S. personnel, according to Congressmen Darrell Issa (R-CA), the committee chairman, and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) the subcommittee chairman.

"While the written requests were unemotional and respectful, verbal requests were pleas from American foreign service personnel who were terrified of their surroundings and their vulnerability in a turbulent environment," said the source. “Based on information provided to the Committee by individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya, the attack that claimed the ambassador’s life was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to September 11, 2012. It was clearly never, As Administration officials once insisted, the result of a popular protest,” wrote Issa and Chaffetz. Read more ..


Israel's Looming Attack

Khamenei Representative: Iran Can Destroy Israel in 24 Hours

October 4th 2012

Simurgh booster

In an interview with Iran’s Jahan News, Ali Shirazi, Ayatollah Khamenei’s representative in the Revolutionary Guards’ naval force, said Wednesday that, were Israel to attack the Islamic Republic, it would take only 24 hours for Iran to destroy the country in retaliation.

“If a war with Israel does happen, it wouldn’t be a long one, and it would benefit the entire Muslim world,” Ali Shirazi said. Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, told a group of  “young gifted talents” Wednesday that “The Iranian nation has never bowed to pressure and never will, and this is the cause of enemy’s fury,” according to the Fars News Agency. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Turkish Retaliation for Cross-Border Attack by Syria

October 4th 2012

Turkish Military

Turkish artillery units struck targets near the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad on October 4, killing several Syrian soldiers with a mortar blast in a second day of conflict. Turkey’s government, a NATO ally of the United States, claimed that Syria had engaged in “aggressive action” against its territory and thus explaining the retaliation. The Turkish government has requested parliamentary authorization to deploy its troops beyond its national borders.

“Turkey has not interest in a war with Syria. But Turkey is capable of protecting its borders and will retaliate when necessary,” said Ibrahim Kalin, an advisor to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, in a Twitter statement. “Political, diplomatic initiatives will continue,” he added. This was the most serious spill-over from the 18-month long civil war in Syria, which Turkey called "the last straw" when a mortar round struck a residential neighborhood of the southern border town of Akcakale on October 3. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Plunging Currency Adds to Iran's Woes

October 3rd 2012

Iran Money Changers

The long, steady decline of the Iranian rial took a precipitous turn Monday, with the currency falling more than 17 percent in trading. At one of the lowest points, it took 35,000 rials to buy one U.S. dollar. Less than a year ago, it took only 13,000 rials.

The drop was so steep that popular Iranian currency data websites were no longer providing information about the dollar exchange rate. On Mazanex.com, the dollar rate for the rial was blanked out, and Mesghal.ir was replaced with a message reading, “Account Suspended.”

Alex Vatanka, a scholar at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said the rial’s fall was due to a combination of economic sanctions imposed by Western countries and internal attempts at economic reform. “It has resulted in an interesting and painful cocktail that Iranians are seeing when they go out and buy groceries,” he said. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

U.S. Consulate in Libya was Attacked 13 Times before Fatal Incident

October 3rd 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

Two House Republicans say they have been informed by whistleblowers that the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was attacked and threatened 13 times before the incident last month that killed four Americans.

Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a letter on Tuesday that detailed the whistleblowers’ allegations. “Based on information provided to the Committee by individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya, the attack that claimed the ambassador’s life was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to September 11, 2012,” Issa and Chaffetz wrote. “It was clearly never, as Administration officials once insisted, the result of a popular protest." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Incumbent Senator Kerrey trails Republican Challenger in Nebraska

October 3rd 2012

Sen Bob Kerrey D
Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) of Nebraska

A recent poll from the Omaha World-Herald had Kerrey trailing state Sen. Deb Fischer (R) by 16 points among likely voters. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) spent $1 million in coordinated expenditures with the Nebraska Democratic Party since Kerrey announced he would run, but hasn’t spent a dime there since early August — and has no reservations in the state for this fall.

In contrast, the DSCC recently reserved a half-million dollars in Arizona and has already been on the air in North Dakota and Indiana. Kerrey, who last held elected office in 2001, always faced an uphill battle to hold onto retiring Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb.) seat in the heavily Republican state. And while other Democrats in tough Senate races have had things break their way, a few events hurt his chances. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Ahead of Crucial Debate, Romney Proposes $17K Limit for Tax Deductions

October 3rd 2012

romney buttons

Mitt Romney went on offense Tuesday ahead of his crucial first debate against President Obama, adding fresh details to his policies while capitalizing on a blunder by Vice President Biden.

The GOP nominee proposed limiting individual tax deductions to $17,000, a move that could help rebuff arguments from the Obama campaign that his fiscal policies are both vague and aimed at helping the rich.

He also said he would not revoke waivers issued by the Obama administration allowing certain illegal immigrants to stay in the United States — putting more meat on the bones of his proposed immigration policies. Separately, Romney’s campaign seized on a gaffe by Biden Tuesday that forced Team Obama to engage in damage control on the debate’s eve. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Systematic Slaughter by Islamists Claims Lives of 25 Students in Northern Nigeria

October 2nd 2012

Nigeria Adamawa State college

At least 25 people were killed late Monday in what appears to be a systematic slaughter in Adamawa State in northern Nigeria. Locals say the victims, mostly college students, were individually questioned before being attacked. The day after the killing spree, this student at the Federal Polytechnic College in the town of Mubi, who doesn’t want to be named, says students are fleeing the area, at least those that can find a car or a bus.

On a crackly line from Mubi he says gunshots could be heard around 10 o'clock Monday night and continued for three hours until it started to rain. He says the assailants went from house to house, in a student residential area, asking questions and killing those who gave the wrong answer. Students were asked about their religion, he says. However, not everyone agrees with that account. Another student said that the killers were asking about politics, the day after student elections. Read more ..


The Edge of Climate Change

Climate Change and Technological Innovation Requires a U.S. Weather Commission

October 2nd 2012

Click to select Image

With the U.S. economy vulnerable to weather events costing billions of dollars, an expert panel today asked Congress to create the first U.S. Weather Commission. The commission would provide guidance to policymakers on leveraging weather expertise across government and the private sector to better protect lives and businesses.

"The nation must focus its weather resources on the areas of greatest need in order to keep our economy competitive and provide maximum protection of lives and property," says Thomas Bogdan, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. "Emerging technologies are providing an opportunity to create forecasts that are more accurate and detailed than ever, and to communicate them instantly to key communities and businesses. We need a U.S. Weather Commission to ensure that our entire weather research and technology enterprise provides maximum benefit to the nation." Read more ..


Pakistan on Edge

Pakistani Hindus Charge Muslims with Blasphemy

October 2nd 2012

HIndu temple in Pakistan

Pakistan’s Hindu minority is using the country’s controversial anti-blasphemy laws against a group of Muslims that attacked a Hindu temple. Anti-blasphemy laws here have typically been used against religious minorities. Now, police are applying the same regulations to charge nine Muslims, including a cleric, of rampaging through a temple and destroying Hindu religious items. Some laws carry the death penalty.

Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of the Muslim Pakistan Ulema Council, welcomed the decision. “I think this is a good gesture from Pakistan, and a good gesture of Muslim people from Pakistan,” he said. Read more ..


China on Edge

Hong Kong Ferry Disaster Reaps More than 36 Lives

October 2nd 2012

Hong Kong ferry disaster

Rescuers continue to search in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor for survivors of a ferry boat collision that killed at least 36 people who were headed to watch a holiday fireworks show. Over 100 survivors have been rescued from the sea. The ferry, belonging to the Hong Kong Electric Company, sank within minutes of colliding with another passenger boat late on October 1, leaving little time for passengers to put on life jackets. Distraught family members and friends searched hospitals and morgues on October 2, seeking missing family members who were aboard the ferry, which was carrying around 120 of the company's staff and relatives. The disaster occurred at approximately 8:30 PM local time.

The other vessels involved in the disaster is owned by Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Holdings and suffered a damaged hull but made it safely to shore, with several of its crew and passengers taken to hospital for minor injuries. Read more ..


The Winter of Arab Rage

State and Defense Consider Sending Marines to Libya

October 1st 2012

USMC FAST batallion

Pentagon and State Department officials are considering using the Marine Corps counterterrorism units currently in Libya to provide security for the FBI team investigating the U.S. Consulate attack there. The notion of the Marines units, which are part of the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security (FAST) teams, running security for FBI investigators "is being discussed" within both departments, DOD spokesman Maj. Robert Firman said Monday.

The final call on whether the FAST units will accompany the FBI team into Benghazi will fall to the State Department, he added. The Marine Corps teams have been on the ground in Libya since the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11 that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Shortly after the attack, the Department of Justice sent the FBI team to Libya to investigate the circumstances that lead up to the strike, which administration officials now admit was a coordinated, terrorist attack against the American diplomatic post. However, the FBI team has been stranded in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, unable to visit the site of the attack due to the dangerous security situation in Benghazi. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Following New Obama Guidance, Lockheed Stands Down on Layoffs

October 1st 2012

Robert Stevens CEO Lockheed
Lockheed CEO Robert Stevens

Lockheed Martin said Monday it will not issue employee layoff notices this year, ending an election-year showdown with the Obama administration. The company said it based its decision on new guidance issued Friday by the Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon.

The guidance said the Pentagon did not anticipate killing any contracts on Jan. 2, the day automatic spending cuts are set to begin hitting defense spending. The guidance also said the federal government would cover severance costs that are mandated under a federal layoff notices law. The decision by Lockheed means tens of thousands won't get layoff notices days before Election Day, which might have cast a crucial blow against President Obama's reelection chances. Republicans argue that last week's guidance was a politically motivated effort by the administration to protect Obama ahead of the election. Read more ..


The Winter of Arab Rage

Kenyan Islamists Bomb a Church and Kill a Child

September 30th 2012

Somali Militants2

Kenyan police say a grenade attack at a church in the capital, Nairobi, on September 30 killed a nine-year-old boy and wounded three other children.

Police chief Moses Ombati says he believes sympathizers of al-Shabab Islamic militants were responsible.

Police say the children were at a Sunday school service at Saint Polycarp Church in Nairobi when someone threw a grenade into the building. Authorities also believe al-Shabab supporters shot and killed two officers on patrol in the city of Garissa, near the border with Somalia Sunday. The attackers stole the officers' rifles. Al-Shabab militants are struggling to hold on to the few remaining areas they control in Somalia, where Somali and African Union forces stymied their efforts to set up a conservative Islamic state. Read more ..


Islam and Free Religious Expression

Rioting Bengali Muslims Burn 40 Buddhist Temples over Facebook Photo of Quran

September 30th 2012

Burned temples

Thousands of Muslims in Bangladesh furious over a claim about an unflattering photo of the Quran on Facebook went wild and torched at least 10 Buddhist temples and 40 homes near the southern border with Myanmar. The arson riot began late Saturday and continued until early Sunday, said police authorities in the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar. The polie said the situation was under control Sunday afternoon only after the government banned public gatherings in the riot area. At least 20 people were injured in the attacks that followed the posting of a Facebook photo of a burned copy of the Quran. Muslim rioters blamed the photo on a local Buddhist boy, though who actually posted the photo was uncertain.

The Daily Star newspaper reported that the accused boy claimed innocence and protested that the photo was mistakenly tagged on his Facebook profile without his knowledge.

Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

Defense Contractor's Worker Stole Military Technology for China

September 29th 2012

F-35 Military Plane

A jury on Thursday convicted an employee of a defense contractor for exporting sensitive U.S. military technology to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), stealing military secrets, and making false statements to federal law enforcement.

Sixing Liu, a/k/a “Steve Liu,” a Chinese citizen who lived in Flanders, New Jersey, and in Deerfield, Illinois, was immediately taken into federal custody after the jury announced their verdict. U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler based his decision for Liu to remain in custody after agreeing with the prosecutor that Liu was a flight risk. Sentencing before Judge Chesler is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2013.

The jury convicted 49-year-old Liu of nine of the 11 counts with which he was charged, including six counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, one count of possessing stolen trade secrets in violation of the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, one count of transporting stolen property in interstate commerce, and one count of lying to federal agents. The jury acquitted Liu on two counts of lying to federal agents. Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

South Africa Mining Strikes Spread following Lethal Confrontation with Police

September 29th 2012

Striking mine workers Sep 2012

More strikes have hit South Africa's mining industry, a week after striking workers at a platinum mine won a 22 percent pay raise. Workers walked off their jobs this week at mines run by AngloGold Ashanti, one of the world's largest gold producers. The workers are reportedly demanding a pay raise in line with the workers at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana township.

Meanwhile, gold producer Village Main Reef says 1,700 of its workers failed to report to work for September 27 night shift as well as September 28 day shifts. Also, mining firm Petmin said on September 28 that 345 of its workers at a coal mining subsidiary walked off their jobs. Both companies said they are talking with workers and hoping to end the strikes peacefully. The Lonmin deal followed a clash between police and miners in which police shot dead 46 striking workers. Earlier this month, union leaders said the Lomnin deal set a precedent for other miners. Striking miners have armed themselves with homemade traditional spears and machetes, defying the mineowners to dismiss or dislodge them.

On September 27, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the top producer of platinum, declared that it would begin disciplinary action against strikers and could dismiss them. So far, the strike is considered illegal. Four of Amplats's Rustenburg mines have been idled for over two weeks, thereby costing the company at least 20,000 ounces in lost output to date, or $33 million at current spot prices. Spot prices for platinum were up 1.4 percent, at $1,665.74 an ounce. Read more ..


Somalia on Edge

Kenya has al-Shabab Terrorists on the Run in Somalia

September 29th 2012

al-Shabbab

Somalia’s militant Islamist group, al-Shabab, says it has withdrawn from its last bastion in the country. On September 29, al-Shabab said that it abandoned the port city of Kismayo following an attack by Kenyan military forces. Al-Shabab has vowed revenge. On September 28, the Kenyan military said the attack involved land, sea and air forces and was coordinated forces of the African Union and the Somali government.

According to VOA News, Kenyan and Somali government troops controlled some northern neighborhoods of Kismayo, but that the airport and most of the town are still under the control of al-Shabab hands. Two witnesses said the militants had mounted machine guns on the town's tallest buildings. Kenyan infantry landed a few kilometres away from Kismayo and then advanced in three columns towards the city. Logistical and other support was provided from the air and sea. Read more ..


Media on Edge

Reuters and AP Rapped for Netanyahu Photo

September 28th 2012

Netanyahu at UN

Photos of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu from his speech at the United Nations on Thursday published by two of the world’s largest newswires show him making a gesture eerily similar to the infamous Nazi salute.

The photos capture Netanyahu extending his left arm with his hand in the same formation that was used during the Third Reich to “Heil Hitler”. In Nazi Germany, the right arm was generally used for Nazi salutes, however the left arm was accepted if there was a physical disability.

“Of the hundreds of professional photos taken at this speech, the AP and Reuters decided to push these onto the wire,” wrote Daniel Halper at The Weekly Standard. Reuters photo of Netanyahu from his UN speech. Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti Defamation League, called the the decision by both Reuters and AP “ugly” and “disgusting”. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Russian Police and Russian Muslims Clash

September 28th 2012

Muslims Russian police

Shermamat Suyarov says he will think twice before returning to pray at Moscow's largest mosque. Suyarov, a 52-year-old Russian citizen of Kyrgyz origin, says he was sitting in a parked car waiting to attend prayers on September 17 when police ordered him out and detained him.

He was hauled into a police bus with scores of other would-be worshippers. Later, at a police station he claims he was beaten so severely after he complained about the rough treatment that he had to be hospitalized: "They beat me with their fists, batons and feet," he says. "There were five or six of them beating me and there were some others there too. I wasn't counting. I lost consciousness. I was in shock and broke a rib." Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Assad and Syrian Opposition at a Stalemate at Aleppo

September 28th 2012

Syrian Rebels in Aleppo

Syrian government forces captured several rebel-held districts in the capital Damascus Friday, as the rebels went on the offensive against government troops in the northern city of Aleppo. Rebel fighters clashed with government forces in at least a half dozen districts of Aleppo, on the second day of a rebel offensive. Witnesses say the rebels have been unable to gain much ground, and state TV claims heavy rebel casualties.

Rami Abd al-Rahman of the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that clashes in Aleppo have engulfed much of the city and that government forces are shelling the rebels to prevent them from advancing. Al-Rahman said that parts of Aleppo are being shelled, amid clashes on front lines between rebel-held territory and districts held by the government. He said that especially heavy fighting is reported in a Kurdish district under government control.

In Damascus, government troops stormed three rebel held districts amid heavy exchange of gunfire. Tanks and armored vehicles pushed into the areas as government troops searched houses, making arrests. Heavy street fighting was also reported inside the eastern oasis town of Deir Ezzor for a second straight day. Amateur video showed rebel fighters trading fire with government troops along streets strewn with rubble and burned-out vehicles Read more ..


China on Edge

Chinese Rising Star Bo Xilai Expelled from Chinese Communist Party

September 28th 2012

Bo Xilai

Chinese state media say disgraced politician Bo Xilai, who is at the center of China's biggest political scandal in decades, has been kicked out of the country's Communist Party and will "face justice." The official Xinhua news agency said Bo, once considered a rising star in Chinese politics, will face charges including corruption, abuse of power, bribe taking, and "improper" relations with a number of women. It said Bo's actions "created grave repercussions, and massively damaged the reputation of the party and the state." Bo, who has not been seen or heard from in months, was stripped of his party posts earlier this year when authorities became aware of allegations that his wife, Gu Kailai, was involved in the murder of a British businessman.

In a separate report on 28 September, Xinhua said the 18th Party Congress, which will begin the sensitive process of transferring power to a new generation of Chinese leaders, will convene on November 8. The scandal surrounding Bo has complicated the tightly scripted Communist Party power transfer, since Bo had widely been expected to attain a top position in the new leadership. Read more ..


The Edge of Safety

Enterprise Supports Bill to Get Unsafe Rental Cars Off the Road

September 28th 2012

Enterprise car logo

In a press conference today, Cally Houck joined Senators Barbara Boxer and Charles Schumer and safety advocates, to announce an exciting development in her battle to get dangerous rental cars off the road. Earlier this year, Cally Houck started a popular petition on Change.org calling on Enterprise Rent-A-Car to drop opposition to proposed legislation that would prohibit rental car companies from renting cars that have been recalled due to safety risks. She has worked tirelessly with safety advocates and members of Congress to secure industry support for the legislation.

Enterprise now supports the legislation, named after Cally's daughters Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, who died in 2004 while driving a recalled rental Enterprise car. The legislation would ensure the safety of America’s rental car fleet by preventing rental car companies from renting or selling recalled cars or trucks. The legislation is supported by Senators Chuck Schumer, Barbara Boxer, Claire McCaskill and Representatives Roy Blunt and Lois Capps. Read more ..



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