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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

Click to select Image
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 ..


The Edge of Climate Change

Arctic Sea Ice Reaches Lowest Extent Ever Recorded

August 28th 2012

Bering Sea ice

The blanket of sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean melted to its lowest extent ever recorded since satellites began measuring it in 1979, according to the University of Colorado Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center. On Aug. 26, the Arctic sea ice extent fell to 1.58 million square miles, or 4.10 million square kilometers. The number is 27,000 square miles, or 70,000 square kilometers below the record low daily sea ice extent set Sept. 18, 2007. Since the summer Arctic sea ice minimum normally does not occur until the melt season ends in mid- to-late September, the CU-Boulder research team expects the sea ice extent to continue to dwindle for the next two or three weeks, said Walt Meier, an NSID scientist.

"It's a little surprising to see the 2012 Arctic sea ice extent in August dip below the record low 2007 sea ice extent in September," he said. "It's likely we are going to surpass the record decline by a fair amount this year by the time all is said and done." On Sept. 18, 2007, the September minimum extent of Arctic sea ice shattered all satellite records, reaching a five-day running average of 1.61 million square miles, or 4.17 million square kilometers. Compared to the long-term minimum average from 1979 to 2000, the 2007 minimum extent was lower by about a million square miles -- an area about the same as Alaska and Texas combined, or 10 United Kingdoms.

While a large Arctic storm in early August appears to have helped to break up some of the 2012 sea ice and helped it to melt more quickly, the decline seen in in recent years is well outside the range of natural climate variability, said Meier. Most scientists believe the shrinking Arctic sea ice is tied to warming temperatures caused by an increase in human-produced greenhouse gases pumped into Earth's atmosphere. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney Seeks to Rekindle Passion Among Hispanic Voters

August 27th 2012

Gov Luis Fortuno
Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno

Republicans this week will look to push the reset button with Hispanic voters by featuring a slew of prominent Latino GOP speakers in Tampa. The Republicans’ goal, according to a top campaign official, is to win 38 percent of the Hispanic vote on Election Day. Mitt Romney’s campaign has chosen a number of influential Latinos to be the public face of the convention.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a home-state favorite, will introduce Romney on the convention’s final night. And Ann Romney will be preceded by Lucé Vela Gutiérrez, Puerto Rico’s first lady on Tuesday. Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Texas Senate hopeful Ted Cruz will also speak. There are Hispanic-specific events every day at the convention,” said Jose Fuentes, a co-chairman of Romney’s national Hispanic leadership team and former Puerto Rico attorney general. “I don’t think you’ve ever in the past seen a Republican convention where so many primetime speakers are Hispanics.” Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Taliban Beheads 17 Afghan Civilians for Attending a Party

August 27th 2012

Islamist terrorists

Officials in southern Afghanistan say Taliban insurgents have beheaded 17 Afghan civilians. Authorities in Helmand province say the militants killed the 15 men and two women in Musa Qala district late Sunday because the group had organized a mixed-sex party with music and dancing - activities the Taliban disapproves.

Hours after the beheadings, Taliban insurgents overran an Afghan military post in Helmand's Washir district in a pre-dawn attack, killing 10 Afghan troops. A local government spokesman said four soldiers were wounded in the attack.  He said five troops left with the Taliban. It was not immediately clear if the ones who went with the Taliban were kidnapped or went voluntarily. Meanwhile, in eastern Afghanistan, NATO officials say an Afghan National Army soldier turned his weapon on two of the coalition's service members, killing them.  NATO says its troops returned fire, killing the soldier. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Hundreds of Bodies Found Outside Damascus, Activists Charge

August 26th 2012

Machine Gun Bunker

A Syrian watchdog group says hundreds of people were killed across the country Saturday. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the final death toll for the day was 370. Activists say nearly 200 bodies were found in Daraya, a town close to Damascus, the capital. The number of corpses in Daraya and when they died could not be independently confirmed. 

However, video footage reported to be from Daraya showed a huge group of victims. Syrian forces have leveled a five-day onslaught on rebel fighters in the town. The state-run SANA news agency says Daraya had been -as the agency described- "purified of terrorist remnants." President Bashar al-Assad has blamed foreign-backed terrorists for much of the violence that has gripped his nation for nearly the past 18 months. The attack on Daraya was part of an army campaign to regain control of the outskirts of the capital. Read more ..


Greece on Edge

Greece Asks Germany for More Time and More Money

August 25th 2012

Greek and EU flags

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has told German Chancellor Angela Merkel his country needs more time to carry out economic reforms. He spoke Friday after meeting with Merkel in Berlin. Merkel said she is convinced that authorities in Athens are doing everything they can to solve the problems Greece is facing. She also said Germany supports Greece's efforts and wants Greece to remain part of the eurozone.

Samaras said he is not asking for any more aid than already promised, but said Greece needs more "breathing space" to carry out its reforms. He did not say how much more time Greece needs beyond its mid-2014 deadline to carry out reforms. If Greece fails at reform efforts, it will be forced to default on its debts and could be forced out of the eurozone. Samaras' comments echoed similar statements he made to the German newspaper Bild earlier this week. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

US Jury Orders Samsung to Pay Apple $1 Billion

August 25th 2012

I-phone

A U.S. jury has awarded a victory to U.S. technology giant Apple, saying that its South Korean rival, Samsung Electronics, infringed on several patents for mobile devices.

The jury in the state of California awarded Apple more than a billion dollars in damages in its decision Friday.

Samsung is likely to appeal the verdict, which said the South Korean company had illegally used several Apple technologies.

Apple also claimed that Samsung illegally copied the shapes of its popular iPhone and iPad devices and used them to create its own line of Galaxy devices.

Samsung had argued that by 2006 - months before Apple introduced its first iPhone in early 2007 - it was developing a next generation of smartphones with a rounded rectangular body that both companies now use. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Refugee Exodus Swells as Violence Escalates

August 25th 2012

Syria Damascus fighting injured baby

Syrian army bombardments killed at least 21 people in a Damascus suburb Friday and anti-government protests broke out in several other cities. The U.N. says the number of refugees fleeing the conflict is escalating. Opposition activists said the three-day death toll in the suburb Daraya had reached at least 70, mostly civilians. They said Syrian forces continued to shell the area from positions on Mount Qasioun, on the northern edge of the capital. Heavy fighting was also reported in other Sunni Muslim suburbs where rebel fighters are active. And fierce clashes between the rebel Free Syrian Army and government troops were reported in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in London, said 220 people were killed in violence across Syria Thursday - many of them in or around Damascus. The Syrian government says it views the rebels as terrorists who, with foreign help, are seeking to destabilize Syria and topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Famed Chessplayer Dissident Kasparov Acquitted by Russian Court

August 24th 2012

garry kasparov
Garry Kasparov

A Russian court has acquitted opposition leader Garry Kasparov of charges that he participated in an unauthorized rally in support of jailed members of anti-Kremlin punk collective Pussy Riot.

Kasparov, a former chess champion, was detained on August 17 at a rally supporting the feminist group outside the Moscow court where three of its members were sentenced to two-year prison terms.

Kasparov and dozens of others were rounded up violently by police and thrown into a police van. Kasparov was questioned later after one policeman accused him of biting his hand. In the surprise August 24 ruling, the court cleared Kasparov of participating in an unsanctioned rally. Kasparov has said he plans to file a complaint against his detention and to file slander charges against the police officer who accused him of biting his hand.

In a related development, media reports indicate the Russian authorities are pursuing other Pussy Riot band members or supporters. A report in Canada's National Post states: "Russian police are searching for more members of the Pussy Riot punk rock band, a spokeswoman said, signaling further pressure on the group despite an international outcry over jail terms for three women who protested in a church against Vladimir Putin. The Russian president’s critics condemned the court proceeding that yielded the two-year prison sentences on Friday as part of a clampdown on a protest movement and reminiscent of show trials of dissidents in the Soviet era. Police said on Monday they were searching for other members of the group over the February protest at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral, but had not yet identified the suspects." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney tells Fundraisers 'Big Business is doing fine'

August 24th 2012

Romney 2

Mitt Romney told a campaign fundraiser on Thursday that "big business is doing fine."

Romney made the remarks as part of an effort to cast himself as a champion of small businesses, which he says have been held under by President Obama's poor handling of the economy, the threat of higher taxes and heavy regulation. But the remarks are also likely to raise eyebrows, given the Obama campaign's attacks on Romney as a protector of corporations and the wealthy.

Romney's remarks echoed Obama's widely criticized comment earlier this summer that the private sector is doing fine, though Romney drew a distinction between big and small businesses. With unemployment above 8 percent and the nation's economy continuing to struggle, Romney argued that big businesses know how to navigate the tax code to do well despite government. Read more ..



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