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Obama and Israel

Netanyahu Says He Will Not be Drawn into U.S. Presidential Election

September 17th 2012

Bibi arguing

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on September 16 warned Washington that time was running short to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and denied that his increased pressure was motivated by the American presidential election.

Netanyahu last week escalated his criticism of President Obama's Iran policy, blasting the White House for declining to clarify a “red line” they would not allow Iran to cross in its nuclear program. Those comments were fodder for Republicans, including GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who has charged Obama with being a weak ally to Israel and of failing to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Netanyahu on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday was asked what he believed were the "major differences" between Romney and Obama regarding Israel and Iran. The prime minister said he knew that others “are trying to draw me into the American election, and I’m not going to do that." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney Steps Up Attacks on Obama's Foreign Policy

September 17th 2012

Romney 2

Mitt Romney's attacks on President Obama's foreign policy record are intended to set up a broader indictment of Obama on the 2012 election’s central issue: the economy.

Republican political advisers say the Romney campaign hopes the criticism on foreign policy blends into the larger argument that Obama is a weak leader on domestic and foreign issues. “The Romney guys see foreign policy as a part of a larger narrative that President Obama's leadership is lacking,” said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "If they can tag him as leading from behind abroad, they can turn around and tag him with the same thing at home on domestic issues like the economy.” Read more ..


Israel and Iran

Iran Just Months From Nuclear Capability, Must Be Stopped--Netanyahu

September 16th 2012

Obama pointing finger at Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran is just months away from a nuclear-bomb capability, and preemptive military action is preferable to a nuclear-armed Tehran. Meanwhile, U.S. officials continue to insist that existing sanctions may yet convince Iran to change course.

Netanyahu told an American television audience Iran is in a final sprint to nuclear-weapons capability. “They are very close. They are six months away from being about 90 percent of having enriched uranium for an atom bomb.”

The prime minister spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press program, days after chiding the international community for what he perceives as its failure to set a clear “red line” on Iran’s nuclear program that would trigger a military response. Netanyahu again argued for a more aggressive international military posture towards Tehran, saying preemptive action is the lesser of two evils. “A lot of leaders call me, tell me, ‘Do not do it, it is not necessary. The danger of acting is much greater than not acting.’ And I always say the danger of not acting, in time, is much greater. Because Iran with nuclear weapons would mean that the kind of fanaticism you see storming your embassies would have a nuclear weapon.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Moroccan Illegal Alien Sentenced to 30 Years for Planning to Bomb U.S. Capitol

September 16th 2012

DC Capitol police officer

A Moroccan national arrested by law enforcement as he was planning to detonate a bomb in the U.S. Capitol building was sentenced to 30-years in prison by a federal judge. Amine El Khalifi, an illegal immigrant who lived in Alexandria, Virginia, was sentenced on Friday after pleading guilty in June to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. The would be terrorist originally faced a maximum sentence under federal law of life in prison, but prosecutors agreed to the 30-year prison term as part of a plea agreement. The 29-year-old El Khalifi's lawyers asked for a sentence of 25 years, saying that would be enough to deter others from pursuing similar plans, but their request was denied.

U.S. District Judge James Cacheris imposed the sentence in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

The FBI's tactics in the case, including providing El Khalifi with what he thought were working explosives, were legitimate but weighed in favor of the shorter sentence because he never put anyone in actual danger, attorneys stated.

El Khalifi was arrested in the garage adjacent to the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 17, 2012 by FBI agents. At the time he wore a vest he believed was full of explosives supplied by al-Qaeda, federal law enforcement official said. The FBI and the Department of Justice officials involved in the case stated that at no time were innocent people in danger since "the IED (improvised explosive device) was inoperable and did not contain explosive material." The wannabe terrorist believed he was working with al-Qaeda when in fact his contacts were undercover U.S. agents, the officials stated. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

America Pays Tribute to Diplomats Murdered in Libya

September 15th 2012

Amb Chris Stevens
Ambassador Chris Stevens

President Obama hailed the work of four Americans killed in Libya this week, while promising a vigorous and unrelenting effort to bring their killers to justice.

In his weekly address released Saturday, the president said the four killed, including Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, "represented the very best of our country."

"Without people like them, America could not sustain the freedoms we enjoy, the security we demand, and the leadership that the entire world counts on," he said.

Obama also vowed that U.S. would do everything in its power to find and punish their murderers. "As we mourn their loss, we must also send a clear and resolute message to the world: those who attack our people will find no escape from justice," he said. "We will not waver in their pursuit. And we will never allow anyone to shake the resolve of the United States of America." Obama's address comes as U.S. and other Western embassies have become the target of protests, many violent, across a number of nations in the Middle East and Africa. In addition to the violence in Libya, protests have emerged in Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen after clips of a film mocking the Prophet Muhammad were released online. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Eastwood Defends his Empty-Chair Speech

September 15th 2012

Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood stood by his widely-mocked appearance at the Republican national convention in a CNN interview Saturday and said GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney actually enjoyed it.

“He's got a much better sense of humor than people think,” the 82-year-old actor and director told CNN in his first televised interview since the convention. “He actually thought it was quite funny.”

Eastwood's improvised routine on the last night of the Tampa convention had him addressing an empty chair, pretending to ask questions of an invisible President Obama's. While well-received by many convention-goers, the unscripted appearance was roundly criticized as being bizarre and disrespectful.

“What do you want me to tell Romney?” Eastwood said at one point in the act. "I can't tell him to do that to himself.” Eastwood, who is promoting his new movie 'Trouble with the Curve,' told CNN he had no regrets. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Terror Victim Sues Warwick Hotel Seeking Ahmadinejad’s Upscale Rooms-- Lawyer Vows to Go After Others

September 15th 2012

Ahmadinejad speaking at UN

Lawyers for an American terror victim now living in Israel have served Manhattan’s upscale Warwick Hotel with papers demanding the rights to the rooms that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  has booked, for his upcoming visit to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly, according to the New York Post. One of the lawyers told The Algemeiner that she plans to go after others offering services to the Iranian delegation in New York as well.

Stuart Hersh, who is also a US Navy veteran, was badly injured in a 1997 suicide bomber attack at the Ben Yehuda street mall in Jerusalem. A former journalist, his injuries which include a speech impediment, 60 percent hearing loss, back pain, and difficulty walking, left him unable to work. He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, that caused “insomnia, nightmares and flashbacks, and led him to attempt suicide a year later,” writes the Post. The attack killed 5 people and injured close to 200 others. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Parties Trade Blame for 'Least Productive Congress' in Decades

September 14th 2012

Eric Cantor (R)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) had a lengthy argument on the House floor Friday afternoon in which they alternatively blamed each other for the failure of the House to address issues like jobs and the deficit.

The exchange, which could be the last of their weekly colloquies until after the November election, included moments in which Hoyer laughed at Cantor's prescription for job creation. Cantor could occasionally be heard muttering things like "here we go" as Hoyer launched into a new criticism of GOP policies.

The long floor fight highlighted the intensely partisan atmosphere that critics say has undermined Congress's ability to address the nation's biggest challenges. Cantor started his remarks by saying the House would only be in session next week, after which members are expected to be free to return to their districts and campaign until the Nov. 6 elections.

The fight also seems to mark one of the lower points of cooperation between the two leaders. The relationship between Hoyer and Cantor has always had its ups and downs, but it seemed to be on the upswing earlier this year. They found a way to cooperate on a bill extending the Export-Import Bank, and have cooperated famously on the issue of strengthening support for Israel.

None of that cooperation was on display Friday. Hoyer started by pressing Cantor on why there is no sign of a farm bill, and quickly moved to argue that Republicans are refusing to act on a bill that would allow current tax rates to be maintained for 98 percent of Americans. "There is not agreement right now that we ought to raise taxes in this economy," Cantor replied, referring to the Democratic plan to allow rates to rise for high-income earners. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Muslim Protests Flare in a Dozen Countries

September 14th 2012

Cairo burning US embassy

New protests ignited across the Muslim world on September 14 as anger spread over an anti-Islamic video posted on the Internet. The U.S. and other foreign missions have stepped up security following violent attacks that began on September 11. Protests were registered not only in Muslim-majority, countries but also the United Kingdom

On September 14, following Friday prayers in Tunisia's capital, police in Tunis fired tear gas at more than a thousand rock-throwing demonstrators. Some of the protesters breached the wall surrounding the U.S. embassy. Black smoke was seen rising from the embassy parking lot, although it is unclear if the protesters had thrown petrol bombs into the area or had set some cars on fire when they scaled the wall. The violence also spread to Sudan, where witnesses said police clashed with thousands of protesters heading toward the U.S. embassy. Protesters are also reported to have breached the German embassy. Riots greeted Pope Benedict XVI on the day that he arrived in Lebanon. In Tripoli, at least one person was killed in confrotations between police and masses of demonstraters. In addition, hundreds of protesters set a KFC fast-food restaurant as well.. Earlier this week, Israeli Muslims protested against the video 'The Innocence of Muslims' in demonstrations in Tel Aviv. Read more ..


Obama and Libya

Egyptian Leaders Demand U.S. Action Against Filmmaker

September 13th 2012

Libyan riot at US consulate Sep 2012 #3

While U.S. leaders attempt to quell fears that Egypt and Libya have become radicalized, the Egyptian government is calling for action, not against the rioters who attacked the American embassy in Cairo, but against the U.S. citizen who created the controversial Mohammed movie that allegedly sparked the rampages in Cairo and Benghazi on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the American people that the Egyptian government, as well as the Libyan leadership, would work with the United States in the aftermath of the attacks on U.S. embassies and diplomatic staff members located in those two Muslim nations.

While no deaths occurred in the attack on the embassy in Cairo, during the Libyan attack, four members of the U.S. diplomatic staff were murdered by Islamists, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, a popular and highly regarded diplomat. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Israeli Premier Raps Obama for Failure to Declare 'Red Lines'

September 13th 2012

Obama and Netanyau

In an unusually bold attack against the Obama administration's Iran policy, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on September 11 that a refusal to draw "red lines" to stop Iran's nuclear program amounts to an act of commission.

Speaking just hours after U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said the U.S. would not delineate "red lines" over which Iran could not step without risking a military strike, Netanyahu said such a policy essentially invites Iran to build a nuclear bomb.

Speaking in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said:

"The fact is that every day that passes, Iran gets closer and closer to nuclear bombs. If Iran knows that there are no red lines, if Iran knows that there are no deadlines, what will it do? Exactly what it is doing. It is continuing without interference toward nuclear capability and nuclear bombs. Read more ..


The New Arab Spring

Demonstrators Storm U.S. Embassy in Yemen

September 13th 2012

Cairo burning US embassy
Protesters at U.S. embassy in Egypt

Mimicking protests in Egypt, demonstrators shouted “death to America” and stormed the American embassy in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen on September 13. The protesters managed to breach the security at the diplomatic mission and entered the embassy compound but did not enter the main building. There they burned the American flag and replaced it with an Islamic war flag bearing the inscription “There is no God but Allah.” Before entering the compound, the demonstrators pelted the embassy with rocks, set tires alight, and tore down the embassy sign.

Protests in the Muslim world have appeared to mimic a raucous demonstration in Cairo on September 11, protesters entered the U.S. embassy compound in Egypt where they tore down the U.S. flag and scrawled Islamist graffiti on its fortress-like walls. Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

South Africa Mining Unrest Far from Over

September 12th 2012

South African Miner Living Conditions

Labor unrest is threatening to spread across South Africa's mining sector after a firebrand youth leader called for workers across the nation to make the mines "ungovernable." At the Lonmin platinum mine where the strikes started, workers' attendance has plunged to its lowest level yet. Just 1.8 percent of workers turned up at the mine in Marikana township Wednesday - a clear sign that South Africa’s mining woes are far from over.

The company said in a statement it is continuing to seek a negotiated solution after weeks of strikes and violence have led to at least 45 deaths, including that of a man found hacked to death outside the Marikana mine on Tuesday.

The illegal action has caught on at other mining companies in the mineral-rich nation, encouraged in part by ex-youth leader Julius Malema. Malema did not mince words when he spoke to miners on Tuesday.  He called for a national mining strike.  He has repeatedly called on workers to make South Africa’s mining sector “ungovernable” and calls his movement a “revolution.” The workers appear to be listening. Read more ..


The New Libya

Muslim Mob Kills US Ambassador, 3 Others in Libya

September 12th 2012

Libya embassy fire Sep 2012

A Muslim mob stormed the American consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi late Tuesday murdering U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other embassy staffers. The deaths occurred when rioters, angered over an amateur American-made film that insults Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, shot rocket propelled grandes and set fire to the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The short film has been universally panned as a marginal, wooden, amateur production of little value.

The movie came out months ago but the protest occurred on the anniversary of September 11 attacks, leading to speculation that the movie protest was a cover for a political assassination.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had confirmed that only a single U.S. official was killed in the Benghazi attack, which she condemned “in the strongest terms.” Clinton said some have sought to justify “this vicious behavior” as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. She said the U.S. deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, but rejected any “justification for violent acts of this kind.” Read more ..


Broken Economy

Senators Demand for $55 Billion Debt Down Payment

September 12th 2012

Lobbyist

A bipartisan group of senators is negotiating a roughly $55 billion debt “down payment” that would temporarily turn off automatic spending cuts and buy Congress at least six months to work out a bigger deal. The down payment would be linked to a deficit-reduction framework that would bind committees with jurisdiction over spending and taxes to an action plan, say sources familiar with the negotiations. 

If a deal is reached and leaders sign off on it, Congress could approve the plan in a lame-duck session. The goal of the group is to keep Congress from going over the so-called fiscal cliff without simply punting into next year the difficult questions over spending and taxes that have stymied their colleagues. 

All of the George W. Bush-era tax rates are set to expire at the end of the year, and automatic spending cuts to defense and non-defense programs, known as sequestration, are scheduled to begin in January. Congress also faces a decision soon on raising the nation’s debt ceiling.  Read more ..


Pakistan on Edge

Pakistan Factory Fire Death Toll Soars--Windows Barred

September 12th 2012

Pakistani Fire Sept 2012

Pakistani authorities say more than as many as 300 people have been killed and more than 60 injured overnight after a fire in Karachi destroyed a garment factory where they had been locked in as workers. The factory was thought to have employed about 450 people and the death toll was continuing to rise on September 12 as authorities searched through debris after the overnight blaze.

Tariq Kamal Ayubi, head of the emergency department at Karachi's Civil Hospital, said about 30 of the dead were so badly burned that it was impossible to tell whether they were male or female. Many were trapped on the top floor where some could be seen trying in vain to slip through bars placed over the windows. Others on the top floor, unable to reach a fire escape, plunged to their deaths. Firefighters say most of the remaining victims died of smoke inhalation in a basement without any fire exits. They say the doors to the basement were locked. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

White House Rejects Netanyahu’s Request for Meeting on U.S. Trip

September 11th 2012

Obama Netanyahu

The White House has informed the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that President Obama will not be able to meet with Netanyahu later this month when the Israeli leader travels to the United States for the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

According to an Israeli official who spoke with Reuters, Netanyahu’s office reached out to the White House for a meeting between the two leaders, but “the White House has got back to us and said it appears a meeting is not possible. It said that the president’s schedule will not permit that.”

An additional report from the Jerusalem Post states that Netanyahu offered to travel to Washington D.C. during his trip to the U.S., because President Obama will not be in New York during the prime minister’s time there, but the White House “didn’t think that would be possible” to meet. This will mark the first time Obama and Netanyahu will not meet during a trip to the U.S. by the Israeli leader, since the president took office. Read more ..


Faster and More Furious

Huge Weapons Cache Found in Mexico is Linked to Fast and Furious

September 11th 2012

Mexican arms cache

Mexican police officers discovered a large weapons cache that may be linked to the U.S. gun-walking snafu, Operation Fast and Furious, an American drug enforcement official working as an "advisor" in northern Mexico said on Friday.

The anonymous source asserted that the weapons apparently belong to drug traffickers who stored them at a private residence in northern Mexico.

The weapons discovery was a result of a Mexican schoolboy who brought a loaded handgun to class. His classmates observed the gun in the 9-year-old's schoolbag and reported it to their teacher, who in turn reported it to the Hermosillo city police.

According to the law enforcement source, the semiautomatic firearm was fully loaded. It was immediately confiscated and then a police SWAT team raided the boy's house where they found a cache of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition, according to the source. Read more ..


Faster and More Furious

Issa Postpones Pivotal "Fast and Furious" Investigation

September 11th 2012

Click to select Image

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has been forced to postpone a hearing on an inspector general’s investigation of "Operation Fast and Furious" until next week. The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, told Issa in a recent letter that after 17 months of investigating the botched gun-tracking operation, the lengthy report would not be ready for public release until later this week, at the earliest. Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, worried the DOJ would try to delay the report’s release for political reasons, according to an earlier letter to Horowitz sent last month. And the powerful Republican was hoping to use Tuesday, Congress’s first full day back at work after its summer recess, to launch into the report’s findings as soon as possible.

The hearing would also have coincided with the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93. Read more ..


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 ..



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