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Iraq on Edge

Iraqi Extremists Impose Islamic Dress-Code on Women

September 10th 2012

Bagdad Women

There used to be two dress codes for women in Baghdad's predominantly Shi'ite neighborhood of Kadhimiya. On the street, women were free to wear what they wanted in the busy market square -- a market that attracts people from all across the capital.

Only if they decided to enter the shrine complex behind the market did stricter rules apply. There they were required to wear full Islamic dress, including the shoulder to toe "abaya" gown and "hijab" head covering.

Now, things have changed. Vigilantes patrol the major avenues outside the shrine to demand that any women in the area are in full compliance. Nawf al-Falahi, a women's activist, says one of her acquaintances living in the neighborhood was recently stopped by the self-appointed morality police. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Cloud Storage Subscribers Reach Half-Billion Level

September 10th 2012

CG cloud

A total of 500 million personal cloud storage subscriptions are expected this year, up from less than 300 million in 2011, according to insights from the IHS iSuppli Mobile and Wireless Communications Service at information and analytics provider IHS.

The subscriptions are expected to jump to 625 million next year, a solid increase of 25 percent, with uninterrupted double-digit growth anticipated to follow until at least 2017. During that year, subscriptions to cloud storage are projected to hit 1.3 billion, as presented in the figure attached.
“In an environment where mobile devices like smartphones and media tablets handle broadband data on a near-ceaseless basis, businesses are realizing the importance of cloud services in allowing consumers to manage, store and sync content across their devices,” said Jagdish Rebello, Ph.D., director for consumer & communications at IHS. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney Blasts Obama's Iran Policy

September 10th 2012

Romney 2

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney unleashed his harshest criticism yet of President Barack Obama's Iran policy on Sunday. Romney called Obama's policy his "greatest foreign policy failure" and quoted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement that "Iran has not changed its nuclear course one iota by virtue of this president's policies." Appearing on the television show Meet the Press, Romney sought to draw a stark line between Obama and himself on the Iran issue, saying: "President Obama had a policy of engagement... I will have a very different approach... I don't think we live with a nuclear Iran. I think we make it very clear that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable to the United States of America, to civilized nations throughout the world, and that we will maintain every option that's available to us to keep that from happening." Romney made it clear that this would include a military option should it prove necessary. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama's August Haul of Contributions Bests Romney

September 10th 2012

Barack calling

President Barack Obama's campaign raised $114 million in August, the largest monthly haul for either presidential campaign in the 2012 cycle.

Obama's total — raised through a joint account with the Democratic National Committee — bested Mitt Romney, who announced raising $111.6 million in August just minutes before the release from the president's campaign. Romney had beat Obama in each of the prior three months.

"The key to fighting back against the special interests writing limitless checks to support Mitt Romney is growing our donor base, and we did substantially in the month of August," said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina in a statement. "Fueled by contributions from more than 1.1 million Americans donating an average of $58 — more than 317,000 who had never contributed to the campaign before — we raised a total of more than $114 million. That is a critical downpayment on the organization we are building across the country — the largest grassroots campaign in history." Read more ..


Iraq on Edge

Car Bomb Takes Out 50 People in Iraq amid Sectarian Tensions

September 9th 2012

Car bomb and kid Baghdad 2012

A series of attacks across Iraq killed more than 50 people and wounded nearly 250 others on September 9. Sunni insurgents linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network have been blamed for much of the recent deadly violence in Iraq.

The violence hit more than 11 cities and targeted Iraqi security forces, police recruits and markets. There has been no claim of responsibility, but attacks targeting security forces are the hallmark of insurgents in Iraq. The latest violence comes only days after eight people were killed on attacks on Shia places of worship in Kirkuk. Iraq's government is dominated by adherents of Shia Islam, the same form that dominates neighboring Iran.

Authorities say the deadliest attack took place near the southern city of Amara, where two car bombs killed at least 14 people. Meanwhile, a Baghdad court sentenced the nation's Sunni vice president to death in absentia, in a decision likely to inflame political tensions. The court found Tariq al-Hashemi guilty of running death squads against security forces and Shi'ites, a charge the vice president has strongly denied. Hashemi fled Iraq in December 2011 after authorities first charged him. He currently is in Turkey. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Ryan Defends Vote that Set Budget Sequestration in Motion

September 9th 2012

Paul Ryan

GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Sunday defended his vote for the Budget Control Act (BCA) that set sequestration in motion, even as Mitt Romney called it a “big mistake” for Republican leaders to accept the deal.

The sequestration cuts of $109 billion in 2013, including $55 billion to defense, were agreed to in the 2011 Budget Control Act that raised the debt ceiling. The cuts became law after the supercommittee failed to reach a deal on deficit reduction, and will go into effect Jan. 2.

The Romney campaign and Republicans have blamed Obama for sequestration, but a majority of Republicans, including Ryan, voted for it.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Ryan argued that his vote for the BCA was not a vote for the defense cuts under sequestration, but rather a “down payment” on deficit reduction. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Defense Industry Forgoes Lay-Offs Before Elections

September 9th 2012

Robert Stevens CEO Lockheed
Robert Stevens of Lockheed

The major defense contractors are keeping their cards close to the vest on whether to issue mass layoff notices prior to the November elections.

The threat of sequestration, an issue that has morphed from a pressure campaign on Congress into a political fistfight, has the defense industry and its observers in suspense. But sources close to the industry say that when the chips fall, Lockheed Martin may be the only company that sends out layoff notices en masse before Election Day because of potential cuts to the defense budget under sequestration.

Some other companies may still issue notices to a smaller, more targeted group of employees, while yet others may not send out any, particularly after the Labor Department said it would be “inappropriate” for defense contractors to do so in a guidance in July. Read more ..


Iraq on Edge

Attacks Across Iraq Kill Over 50

September 9th 2012

Baghdad bomb
earlier bomb damage

Iraqi authorities said Sunday a series of attacks across the country has killed more than 60 people and left at least 250 others wounded. Officials say the deadliest attack took place near the southern Iraqi city of Amara, where two car bombs killed at least 14 people. Earlier, near Balad north of the capital, Baghdad, gunmen and a bombing killed 11 soldiers and wounded several others. Farther north at a police recruitment center near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, police say a bombing killed at least seven recruits and wounded 17 other people. Various other deadly attacks were also reported across Iraq, including two bombings in the southern city of Nasiriyah.  One of the blasts occurred near the French consulate. There has been no claim of responsibility for any of the attacks.

The Associated Press reports: "Separately, an Iraqi court on Sunday found the nation's Sunni vice president guilty of running death squads against security forces and Shiites, and sentenced him to death in absentia. Tariq al-Hashemi, who has denied the charges, wasn't in court to hear the verdict against him. He fled the country after the terror charges were leveled against him in December and is currently in Turkey. The Baghdad courtroom was silent Sunday as the judge, who said his name couldn't be released for fear of violent reprisals, announced the verdict convicting Mr. al-Hashemi and his son-in-law of the killings of a lawyer and a security official. The two were acquitted in a third case for a lack of evidence, the judge said.

Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Congress Probes Allegations of Obama 'Cooking the Books'

September 9th 2012

Obama

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee will begin its probe of alleged abuse of power by the Obama administration, according to the committee's chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). Among the abuses addressed will be an accusation that President Barack Obama's minions are "cooking the books" in order to achieve a so-called record number of deportations of illegal aliens.

Throughout his reelection campaign, President Obama has touted his administration's "historic number of deportations." But many believe the figures given to backup his assertions are fabricated. In fact, members of the Department of Homeland Security have been critical of Obama and his DHS appointees especially those in charge of border security and immigration enforcement.

“In a campaign season when Administration officials have made a habit of spinning their numbers to ignore their real record, it’s no surprise that they are doing the same to their immigration record. It seems like President Obama is trying to trick the American people into thinking he is enforcing our immigration laws. But no amount of spin can cover up the facts. It’s bad enough that the President has neglected to enforce our immigration laws but it’s even worse that his Administration would distort statistics to deceive the American people,” stated Chairman Smith. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Poor Jobs Report Tests Obama's Re-election Message

September 7th 2012

Obama-Limo

The economy added 96,000 jobs in August, a paltry figure that threatens to undermine President Obama’s case for a second term as he tries to carry forward the momentum from the Democratic National Convention. The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, but only because more people gave up on looking for work. Economists had expected upward of 150,000 new jobs last month.

Friday’s report — one of the final updates on the job market before the November election — is a buzzkill for Democrats after a rousing week in Charlotte, N.C., that seemed to recapture some of the excitement from Obama’s 2008 campaign. The president acknowledged dissatisfaction with the economy during his acceptance speech Thursday night but pleaded with voters for more time, arguing he inherited a mess that couldn’t be solved in one term. "It will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades," he said. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Pakistani Girl Accused of Blasphemy Granted Bail

September 7th 2012

Pakistani Girl

A Pakistani judge has granted bail to a Christian girl accused of blasphemy. Rimsha Masih was arrested last month in Islamabad after angry neighbors accused her of burning pages from the Quran. 

During a hearing on Friday,  Judge Mohammad Azam Khan ordered Masih's release after hearing arguments from lawyers on both sides.  She has been in police custody for three weeks.  Khan set bail at roughly $10,500.  It was unclear when she would be released. Last week, police detained a Muslim cleric, Khalid Jadoon, on suspicion that he planted evidence against the girl.  The arrest was made after members of his mosque alerted authorities. Under Pakistan's blasphemy law, anyone who speaks ill of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad commits a crime and faces the death penalty.  A medical report says the girl is 14 years old and mentally impaired. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Makes Case at DNC for Four More Years

September 7th 2012

Obama

President Barack Obama formally accepted the Democratic Party's presidential nomination Thursday, urging his supporters to rally behind him for the final two months of the U.S. presidential campaign.

It was President Obama's most important campaign speech to date, and Democrats gave him a thunderous ovation in the convention hall as he defended his economic record and asked for a second term in the White House.

“But know this, America. Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I'm asking you to choose that future,” he said.

Obama said this year's election between himself and Republican Mitt Romney offers Americans the clearest choice in a generation, on the economy, taxes, energy and issues of war and peace. ​​He said his policies would bolster the middle class, unlike the Republican approach, which he said would favor wealthy Americans. Obama also defended his record on foreign policy, noting the end of the war in Iraq, the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the special forces mission that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Read more ..


Edge of Human Rights

New Evidence of Bush Administration Torture of Libyan Dissidents

September 6th 2012

waterboard screen grab
Waterboarding - YouTube screen grab

Human Rights Watch claims to have uncovered new evidence that U.S. personnel used torture, including waterboarding, while interrogating Libyan Islamists during the George W. Bush administration.

Released on September 6, the report by the New York-based organization features interviews with 14 Libyan dissidents captured and detained in foreign countries, including Afghanistan.

Human Rights Watch says the Islamists were tortured before U.S. agents handed them over "on a silver platter" to then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Two of the detainees told the group they were either waterboarded or tortured by a technique similar to waterboarding, which causes victims to feel like they are drowning.

The Bush administration claimed that only three terror suspects in U.S. custody (accused al-Qaida members Khalid Shekh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri) - none of them Libyan - had been waterboarded. The Obama administration has condemned waterboarding as torture and has banned the technique's use in interrogations. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Top Syrian Journalist Claims Assad Planning to Flee to Russia

September 6th 2012

Basher Assad

Abdallah Al Omar, the former head of the state-run Aleppo TV in Syria and a member of the Presidential Palace Press Office in Damascus, has fled the country, and according to Israel’s Channel 2 News, Omar claims that Syrian President Bashar Assad is making final preparations for his exit out of the country and into Russia. Omar claims that over 300 apartments have been made available in Russia for Assad and his senior officials if they choose to flee Syria. His claims could not be independently verified. Following an explosion that killed Syria’s defense minister in July, reports began to circulate that Assad’s family was in the process of fleeing to Russia.   However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a report that Bashar Assad’s wife, Asma Assad, was already in Russia, was “a joke”. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

FAA Officials Accused Of Pressuring Staff To Vote For Obama

September 5th 2012

A government accountability group is accusing supervisors at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of urging the agency's employees to vote for President Obama and other Democrats in November.

The Washington, D.C.-based Cause of Action, which identifies itself as nonpartisan, said Wednesday that FAA officials at a Seattle office told employees that the agency’s funding would be more secure if Obama defeats Mitt Romney to win a second term. The allegation, if true, would be a violation of the Hatch Act, a federal law that prohibits government agencies from getting involved in partisan activities. Cause of Action Executive Director Daniel Epstein said in a letter to Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin Scovel that he should investigate the allegations of political pressure being applied to FAA workers. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Democrats Strip Three Pro-Israel Statements From Party Platform

September 5th 2012

Obama and Israel

The Democratic Party has stripped three pro-Israel statements from its party platform, suggesting that important issues in the pro-Israel community are no longer held sacred by the Democratic party.

The first is the status of Jerusalem. The Democratic party's 2008 party platform stated that Jerusalem "is and will remain Israel's capital." This year's platform, however, makes no mention of Jerusalem at all. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

19 Killed in Aleppo Gun Battle

September 5th 2012

Syrian Rebels in Aleppo

Activists say Syrian forces have killed at least 19 people, including seven children, when they shelled rebel-controlled areas of the commercial capital, Aleppo.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday that 10 civilians were killed in the southern neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr while a total of nine bodies, including those of the children, were found in the Marjeh and Hanano areas.

​​Other opposition groups said the death toll in the strategic northern city was as high as 43, including women and children. VOA cannot confirm events on the ground in Syria because the government severely restricts access for international journalists. Rebel fighters on July 20 opened a new front in the Syrian conflict by launching an attack on Aleppo. The army has since dislodged them from several sectors, including one of their main strongholds Salaheddin, but pockets of resistance remain.

Diplomacy
​​Also Wednesday, talks between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese leaders failed to narrow gaps on how to end the crisis in Syria. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Beijing backs a "political transition" in Syria to end worsening bloodshed after 18 months of unrest, but repeated China's opposition to forceful foreign intervention in the crisis. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney Fires Back After DNC Platform Excludes Jerusalem as Israeli Capital

September 5th 2012

Romney in Jerusalem 7-31-12

Unlike the party’s 2008 platform, the Democrats 2012 platform does not specifically mention Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and now Mitt Romney is firing back. “It is unfortunate that the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama’s shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” Romney said in an e-mail to reporters.

In 2008, the Democratic platform stated: “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations.  It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.” Earlier this year, White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated “the capital [of Israel] is something that should be determined in final status negotiations between the parties.  I’d remind you that that’s the position that’s been held by previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican.” Read more ..


Broken Labor

AFL-CIO Head Calls NFL Replacement Referees ‘Scabs,’ and ‘Incompetent’

September 4th 2012

NFL Umpire Garth Defelice

Replacement referees being used by the National Football League (NFL) are incompetent scabs, according to one of the country's most prominent union leaders. Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO and an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan, said he hasn’t watched a game since the NFL has employed replacement referees. The NFL has been using replacement officials during the preseason as it attempts to strike a labor deal with the NFL Referee Association. But those talks have broken off.

“They are scabs ... they’re incompetent,” Trumka said. “I’m worried about the health and safety of a lot of players because these (replacement referees have) never even done college-(level) games.” Trumka made his remarks during an interview on “Convention Lunch Break TV,” a joint venture by The Hill and Reuters. The AFL-CIO head added, “What we need to do is get this thing settled, get those referees back so we can protect the players and the game. “The game doesn’t really play well whenever you have a referee who doesn’t know what to do,” Trumka said. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Eva Longoria ‘100 Percent’ Confident in Obama Victory Over Romney

September 4th 2012

Obama and Romney

Actress Eva Longoria entered the “Are we better off” debate on Tuesday, insisting the country is in better shape now than it was four years ago because of President Obama’s policies.

“Absolutely we are better off,” Longoria, a staunch Obama supporter and bundler, said in a telephone interview with The Hill, adding that the country will be able to have “an honest discussion” about its state of affairs as the Democratic National Convention begins on Tuesday evening. The Desperate Housewives actress said she's “100 percent” confident that Obama will win reelection because she said she feels he has the right vision for the country and for middle class Americans. Read more ..


The New Egypt

US Nears Deal for $1 Billion in Egypt Debt Relief

September 4th 2012

Mohammed Morsi

The United States is close to a deal with Egypt's new government for $1 billion in debt relief as part of a U.S. and international assistance package designed to prop up the country's faltering economy and aid its transition to democracy.

A team of senior U.S. diplomats has spent the last week in Cairo finalizing the agreement, which has been delayed by Egypt's political turmoil and caution in Washington about rewarding its newly elected Islamist leadership. Egypt's debt to the U.S. exceeds $3 billion. Senior American officials said Monday a final announcement is expected later this month. U.S. President Barack Obama first pledged economic help for Cairo last year. Obstacles remained to completing the debt relief deal - which is reported to involve a mix of debt payment waivers and complicated "debt swaps." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Republican Ryan Raps Obama's Carteresque Economy

September 3rd 2012

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan compared President Obama's economic record to Jimmy Carter's on Monday, saying neither president improved people's lives. “Every president since the great depression could run on a record saying you are better off than you were four years ago,” Ryan said. “Except for Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.”

The Republican vice presidential nominee was in Greenville, N.C., only 230 miles from where Democrats are holding their national convention. He repeatedly looked to tie Obama to the one-term Democratic president, who has become a frequent touchstone for Republicans in this campaign cycle. Carter will speak to Democratic delegates via satellite on Tuesday, the first day of the convention.

Ryan said in 1980, under the Carter administration, 330,000 businesses filed for bankruptcy, compared to 1.4 million in 2011 “under President Obama’s failed leadership,” and that mortgage delinquencies have ballooned from 77,000 to 3 million over the same time period. “Simply put, the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are now,” Ryan said. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Use of HIV Treatment Increases in the U.S.

September 3rd 2012

HIV/AIDS

Between 2000 and 2008, the proportion of HIV-infected patients in the U.S. receiving effective treatment known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) increased, and HIV-infected patients appeared to be less infectious and have healthier immune systems at death, according to a study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study was nested in the NA-ACCORD (North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design), which is the largest cohort of HIV-infected adults in North America.

The study included more than 45,000 HIV-infected participants receiving clinical care for HIV. The study population was demographically similar to the U.S. population living with HIV, according to national surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over the study period, the researchers found that the proportion of HIV-infected participants prescribed HAART increased 9 percentage points to 83 percent. During this time, the researchers also observed an increase in viral load suppression among those with HIV, regardless of treatment. Suppression of viral load reduces the likelihood of transmitting HIV to others. Among those taking HAART, the proportion with a suppressed viral load increased from 54 percent to 81 percent. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Holder Abruptly End Investigation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio

September 3rd 2012

Joe Arpaio

Only hours after the U.S. Justice Department dropped their investigation of CIA agents, an Assistant U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Department of Justice announced that President Barack Obama and his Attorney General are ending the lengthy investigation into allegations of criminal conduct by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office in Maricopa County, Arizona.

In addition, the probe of current and former members of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, including former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who was severely disciplined by the state, has been terminated by the Justice Department. The investigating attorneys have advised Maricopa County Attorney William Montgomery of their decision to end their multi-million dollar investigation without charging anyone.

In a letter to Montgomery, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel stated: "Federal prosecutors decided to not prosecute matters tied to alleged misuse of county credit cards by sheriff's officials, alleged misspending of jail-enhancement funds and other matters. The U.S. Attorney's Office had already made public it would not pursue charges on those matters. Law enforcement officials are rightfully afforded a wide swath of discretion in deciding how to conduct investigations and prosecutions. Unfortunately, such discretion can act as a double-edged sword: although it empowers fair-minded prosecutors and investigators to discharge their duties effectively, it also affords potential for abuse. Our limited role is to determine whether criminal charges are supportable. After careful review, we do not believe the allegations presented to us are prosecutable as crimes." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

US Consular Employees Killed and Wounded in Pakistan Suicide Blast

September 3rd 2012

Pakistan protest green flag

A suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into a U.S. government car in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar Monday, killing two people and injuring more than a dozen, including two Americans. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland Monday confirmed in a statement that Americans had been hit in the blast. Referring to the statement, a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, Rian Harris, gave details of the early morning explosion. “We can confirm that a vehicle belonging to the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was hit in an apparent terrorist attack," said Harris. "Two U.S. personnel and two Pakistani staff of the Consulate were injured and are receiving medical treatment. No U.S. Consulate personnel were killed, but we are seeking further information about other victims of this heinous act.”
Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

France Warns Syria on Chemical Weapons Use

September 3rd 2012

Assad

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says Western powers would have a "massive" response to any use of chemical or biological weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Fabius said in broadcast interviews Monday there is broad agreement about such a response, calling chemical weapons "a very big danger."
His comments come as the head of the International Red Cross travels to Syria for a three-day visit that will include meetings with Assad and other officials. The group says the talks will focus on the "rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation" in Syria and the challenges in reaching those impacted by the conflict.

Meanwhile, the new United Nations-Arab League envoy tasked with bringing a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis says he has "no illusions" that his job will be easy.​​Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi said in an interview broadcast Monday by the BBC that he does not yet see any ways around the barriers that blocked the efforts of his predecessor, Kofi Annan, but that he will continue trying. Brahimi says he realizes the difficulty of his task, and that success "should be possible." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Dem Platform Calls for Gun Reform

September 2nd 2012

Guns for sale

The Democrats' approach to gun reform is far too timid and needs a boost of courage to be effective, some leading gun-reformers are charging. The draft language of the Democrats' 2012 platform – set for a final vote this week in Charlotte – argues that current safeguards protecting the public against gun violence are insufficient and urges "an honest and open conversation about firearms."

The document also calls for "reasonable regulation" governing guns, including laws banning assault weapons and requiring all gun sellers – not just licensed dealers – to perform background checks on potential buyers.

But – while the Republicans' 2012 platform addresses such hot-button topics as concealed carry, stand-your-ground laws, high-capacity clips and the reporting of bulk long-arm sales – the Democrats' policy statement makes no mention of those thorny issues. Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a gun-reform group founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, said the Democrats are being far too cautious. Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

South Africa Drops Murder Charges Against Miners

September 2nd 2012

Police miners

A top South African official says a court has provisionally dropped murder charges against 270 miners charged under an little-used law, after police shot dead 34 of their colleagues. South Africa’s decision to charge 270 striking miners with murder prompted a storm of criticism. 

The charge was prompted by a “common purpose” clause used often in the apartheid era against black activists.  It basically accused the illegal strikers of setting the scene for their colleagues’ deaths. 

The charges prompted Justice Minister Jeff Radebe to demand an explanation from prosecutors.  He said the charges had “induced a sense of shock, panic and confusion within the members of the community and the general South African public.” Police said they shot and killed the 34 protesters in self-defense after being shot at first.  No police were killed in the August 16 clash and none have been charged as a government investigation continues. Read more ..


Pakistan on Edge

Pakistan Cleric Arrested for Framing Christian Girl in in Blasphemy Case

September 2nd 2012

Pakistan religious minorities

Pakistani police have arrested a Muslim cleric on suspicion that he planted evidence against fourteen-year-old Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl accused of blasphemy. A police official said the cleric, Khalid Chishti, was arrested Saturday for allegedly placing pages of the Quran in the girl's shopping bag. According to police, members of the mosque where the cleric works came forward saying he tampered with the evidence saying it was a way to expel Christians from the area. Police arrested the girl more than two weeks ago after angry neighbors surrounded her house in Islamabad, accusing her of burning pages inscribed with verses from the Quran. A bail hearing will be held for the girl Monday.

Chishti, who appeared in court Sunday, told reporters that the allegations against him were fabricated. Under Pakistan's blasphemy law, anyone who speaks ill of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed commits a crime and faces the death penalty. There are varying reports of the girl's age, with some saying she is as young as 11 years old.  Others quote police who say she is 16. There are also reports the girl is mentally handicapped.

Read more ..

The Edge of Defense

Chinese Woman Sentenced to Four Years in Federal Prison for Espionage

September 1st 2012

China

In yet another China-connected espionage case, a former software engineer for Motorola Solutions Inc., the new corporate name for Motorola, Inc. based in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, IL, was sentenced Wednesday to four years in federal prison for her theft of trade secrets.

According to an FBI official, Hanjuan Jin, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in China, was secretly working for a company in the People's Republic in China that designed and created telecommunications technology for the Chinese military.

The 41-year old spy was detained by U.S. Customs agents at Chicago's O’Hare International Airport after they stopped her from traveling on a one-way ticket to China in February 2007.

The Customs agents discovered more than 1,000 computers disks and paper Motorola documents in Jin’s possession as she attempted to leave the United States. The federal agents also recovered approximately $30,000 in U.S. currency that was in six different envelopes, each containing $5,000, all in hundred dollar bills according to Justice Department records. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Two Children in Afghanistan Beheaded

September 1st 2012

Taliban

Officials say two children have been beheaded in separate incidents in Afghanistan. In the south, authorities say the Taliban beheaded a 12-year-old boy Thursday in Kandahar province because the child's brother is a police officer. A Taliban spokesman has denied the allegation. A spokesman for Kandahar's governor, Jawid Faisal, said Friday police found the boy's body in the Panjwai district. In the other incident, police say a seven-year-old girl was beheaded and her legs cut off in her home in the eastern province of Kapisa.  Authorities are not sure if the attack is the result of a domestic dispute or involvement by insurgents.

The killings come just days after 17 Afghan civilians were beheaded during a party in the southern province of Helmand.  Afghan officials blamed the Taliban, saying Sunday's killings followed a long-standing feud between two insurgent commanders over two women. The Taliban denied involvement. Also Friday, the U.S. military said a roadside bomb killed two Afghan civilians, including a child, in the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand.  Another roadside bomb severely wounded a civilian in Sangin district.


South Africa on Edge

Justice Minister Demands Explanation for Miners' Charge

August 31st 2012

Police miners

South Africa's justice minister, Jeff Radebe, has demanded that prosecutors explain why striking miners are being charged with the murder of 34 fellow workers who by all accounts were shot and killed by police.

Radebe said the decision by South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority to invoke an apartheid-era legal charge has induced a sense of "shock, panic and confusion."

Prosecutors charged the 270 miners involved at the strike at the Lonmin platinun mine on Thursday, using an obscure statute, known as the "common purpose law," under which people in a crowd where a crime was committed can be charged as accomplices. That law was used most famously in the case of the so-called “Upington 14,” who were sentenced to death for a crowd killing a policeman in 1985.  The black activists were convicted under the clause even though it was acknowledged that they did not commit the act. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Rebels Attack Aleppo Security Compounds

August 31st 2012

Syrian Rebels in Aleppo

Activists say Syrian rebel fighters have attacked several security compounds in the northern city of Aleppo as clashes continued in other areas of the war-torn country. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday that one of the assaults in Aleppo sparked a firefight that killed and wounded a number of government troops. It gave no figures. Last month, rebel forces  took control of parts of Syria's commercial hub, sparking fierce fighting there.

Also Friday, the monitoring group said government troops and rebels were locked in battle north of the capital, Damascus, and in Albu Kamal, on the Iraqi border. Internet video appeared to show fighting in Homs, Daraa and Damascus. ​​On Thursday, Syria's neighbors - seeking to assist more than 200,000 war refugees - asked the United Nations Security Council for urgent help in coping with the growing humanitarian crisis.
Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Republican Platform Outlines Tough China Stance

August 30th 2012

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Mitt Romney

The Republican party has adopted a platform that is strongly critical of China, even as Chinese state media slammed the party's presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, for having what it termed a "Cold War mentality."

The Republican platform, approved Tuesday at the party's national convention in Tampa, promises to get tough on China for the alleged undervaluing of its currency and theft of intellectual property. It also condemns what it calls China’s “destabilizing claims in the South China Sea” and vowed to continue U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, two issues that have riled China in the past.

The tougher rhetoric mirrors that of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has promised to designate China as a currency manipulator on his first day in office, if elected. Beijing, which does not officially take sides in the election, this week lashed out at Romney’s China policies in a series of state media editorials. The official China Daily describes his policies as “pugnacious,” saying they will “poison” U.S.-China relations, if implemented. U.S. political strategists say criticizing the incumbent’s policies toward China is not only common, but can be politically beneficial, especially while the American economy is struggling to recover from a recession. This is something that Chinese officials have been quick to point out, accusing both Obama and Romney of pandering to what they call the “anti-China vote.” Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

UN Chief in Tehran Slams Anti-Israel Remarks

August 30th 2012

ahmadinejad and zion

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking on his first visit to Tehran, has criticized what he described as "outrageous" comments denying the Holocaust and Israel's right to exist. In a speech to the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) summit in the Iranian capital on August 30, Ban said he would condemn a United Nations member threatening to destroy another. "I strongly reject threats by any member states to destroy another or outrageous attempts to deny historical facts such as the Holocaust," he said. Ban also said denying a UN member state's existential rights, or describing it in racist terms is unacceptable.

"Claiming that another UN member state, Israel, does not have the right to exist or describing it in racist terms is not only utterly wrong, but undermines the very principles we have all pledged to uphold."

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly expressed doubt about the Holocaust murders of some 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany in World War II. He has also been quoted as saying that Israel should be "wiped off the map." Recently he also reportedly described the Jewish-led state as a "cancerous tumor" in the Middle East.​​ Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Secret Service Agent Leaves Loaded Gun In Bathroom Of Romney's Charter Plane

August 30th 2012

Beretta 90TWO

A secret service agent accidentally left her loaded handgun in the bathroom of Mitt Romney's charter plane on Wednesday.

A CBS News producer discovered the weapon, the network reported on Wednesday. Romney was flying from Tampa, Fla., where he joined wife Ann Romney for her prime-time address at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night, to Indianapolis for a speech before the American Legion. The CBS producer informed the Secret Service about the forgotten weapon, which was then retrieved by agents. According to The New York Times, the agent was pulled off of Romney's detail to discuss the incident with her supervisors. Romney returned to Tampa on Wednesday night for the remainder of the convention. “We are aware of the incident,” said Ed Donovan, a spokesman for the Secret Service, in a statement obtained by multiple media outlets. “We take the care and custody of our equipment, especially firearms, very seriously. This matter will be dealt with internally and in an appropriate manner.” Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Book Contradicts Administration Account Of Bin Laden Raid

August 29th 2012

Bin Laden with AK

A book written by a Navy SEAL who took part in the Osama bin Laden raid said the al Qaeda leader was unarmed and already shot when the SEALs entered his bedroom, contradicting the Obama administration’s account that he had reached for a gun when he was shot. In the book, No Easy Day, the author wrote that as the SEALs ascended the staircase to bin Laden’s room, the point man saw a man poke his head out the door, according to reports from the Huffington Post and Associated Press, who purchased early copies of the book.

"We were less than five steps from getting to the top when I heard suppressed shots. BOP. BOP,” said the author, who is writing under a pseudonym Mark Owen but has been identified by Fox News and the AP. “I couldn't tell from my position if the rounds hit the target or not. The man disappeared into the dark room." Read more ..

The WikiLeaks Case

In Preview of WikiLeaks Approach, Ecuador Rejects Extradition Request For Belarusian

August 29th 2012

Assange at Ecuadorian Embassy

Ecuador may have foreshadowed its possible approach in any an extradition request regarding WikiLeaks fugiitive Julian Assange now holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London. A judge on Ecuador's highest court has rejected an extradition request from Belarus for a former police investigator who is wanted by Belarus authorities for alleged fraud and extortion. Judge Carlos Ramirez of the National Court of Justice on August 28 concluded that the political-refugee status granted to Alyaksandr Barankou was justified and ordered him freed immediately. The 30-year old Barankou, who was granted asylum in Ecuador in 2010, says he fled Belarus after uncovering an oil-smuggling ring involving senior officials of authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime.
Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Fighter Jets Patrolling Skies over GOP Convention in Tampa

August 28th 2012

F-15E Refuels

During this week's long-anticipated Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL, besides Secret Service agents, Uniformed Secret Service rapid response teams, the FBI, Florida State Police and Tampa Police officers, the skies over the convention site and surrounding areas will be patrolled by Air Force fighter jets. The responsibility for protecting the skies during the convention falls on the shoulders of Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region fighters who are charged with protecting the skies during the Republican National Convention in Tampa regardless of weather conditions. Air Force fighter jets will be on alert during the convention -- which began Monday and runs through Thursday, Aug. 30 -- enforcing the Federal Aviation Administration's temporary flight restriction zone. The commanding officer of the 601st Air and Space Operations Center, USAF Col. Randy Spear stated that special events are part of the Continental U.S. NORAD Region’s air defense mission. Read more ..


The Edge of Hate

Horrific Anti-Semitic Act of Violence at Michigan State University

August 28th 2012

Zachary Tennen

The Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups expressed outrage and horror at an alleged anti-Semitic hate crime against a student at Michigan State University.  The student was knocked unconscious and had his mouth stapled shut by two men at a party, after the men allegedly asked the student if he was Jewish, chanted “Heil Hitler” and gave the Nazi salute. According to an ADL statement, the organization has spoken to the parents of the victim, Zachary Tennen, a sophomore, and has been in contact with local law enforcement and university officials since first learning of the assault, which took place in the early morning hours of August 26 and reportedly was witnessed by other students. Tennen sustained a broken jaw and other injuries and was hospitalized following the assault.

The Detroit Free Press reported: A 19-year-old Michigan State University student is recovering at home in Oakland County today after surgery overnight for a broken jaw his family says stems from a brutal hate crime. Two men at a party early Sunday attacked Zachary Tennen, a journalism sophomore at MSU, after asking whether he was Jewish, his mother, Tina Tennen, said today. They raised their arms in a Nazi salute, chanting “Heil Hitler” and then knocked Tennen unconscious, she said. Read more ..



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