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The 2012 Vote

Obama and Ryan to Lock Horns in Campaign-Critical Iowa

August 13th 2012

Ryan Obama mashup

GOP vice presidential pick Paul Ryan will make his solo campaign debut in Iowa on August 13, competing with President Obama, who's beginning a three-day trip to the key battleground state. Obama is bringing his wife, popular first lady Michelle Obama, along with him – a sign the campaign is concerned about holding on to Iowa's six electoral votes.

But when Obama begins his tour in the Western part of the state, just up I-80, Ryan will be in Des Moines, visiting the Iowa State Fair. The competing visits show how important the state is to both campaigns, but it has particular resonance for Obama – during his historic 2008 run, it was his victory at Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses that catapulted him into the upper tier of Democratic presidential contenders. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Activists: Communications Down in Flashpoint City of Aleppo

August 12th 2012

Aleppo

Syrian activists say all communications are down in large parts of the countryside and in the flashpoint city of Aleppo, where government forces reportedly have been pushing rebel forces out of position since last week.

It is unclear what caused the cut in communications since early Sunday.  Despite this, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had reports that the army was continuing to shell rebel-held districts in the country's largest city.  There also were reports of violence elsewhere in the country. The Arab League has postponed a meeting of foreign ministers that had been scheduled for Sunday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to discuss the Syrian situation and a replacement for peace envoy Kofi Annan, who resigned earlier this month. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Egypt's Morsi Orders Top Military Officers to Retire

August 12th 2012

Mohammed Morsi

Egypt's new President Mohamed Morsi has forced out the country's top two military officers, announcing the immediate retirement of  Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and Army Chief of Staff Sami Annan. The move comes after growing tensions over military operations in the northern Sinai, following a recent attack by militants that killed 17 Egyptian soldiers.

News that President Morsi had fired Defense Minister Tantawi and Army Chief of Staff Annan struck on a quiet summer afternoon as most Egyptians fasted for Ramadan. The president's spokesman, Yasser Ali, announced replacements for the two top officers on state television. He said Morsi was also annulling constitutional amendments that gave military commanders sweeping powers. He said the president has named Mahmoud Mekki as his vice president, that he is ordering Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi to retire, along with Army Chief of Staff Sami Annan. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Iran Struck by Twin Earthquakes

August 12th 2012

Iran Earthquake 8-12-12

Iranian officials say two strong earthquakes in the northwestern part of the country have killed at least 250 people and left more than 2,000 injured. The 6.4 and 6.3 magnitude quakes struck late Saturday afternoon just 11 minutes apart.

Several villages near the city of Tabriz were leveled, while scores of others sustained serious damage. Dozens of aftershocks have rumbled through the area, prompting thousands of people to spend the night outdoors. Rescue teams are still searching for victims in collapsed buildings. Officials expect the death toll to rise. The Red Crescent aid society says it has given emergency shelter to thousands of people and is sending in more supplies. Earthquakes are common in Iran, but few are significant enough to be noticed. The last major earthquake in Iran was a magnitude 6.6 quake in 2003 in the southeastern city of Bam, where 30,000 of people died.

Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Romney Picks Ryan

August 11th 2012

Romney and Ryan--Virginia Announcement

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney has chosen Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate. Romney made the announcement Saturday before a throng of supporters in front of the retired battleship USS Wisconsin in Norfolk in the eastern state of Virginia. Romney introduced Ryan to kick off a four-day campaign bus tour. Ryan told the crowd that America is on the wrong track and said, "Mitt Romney and I will take the right steps, in the right time, to get us back on the right track."  The 42-year-old Ryan is a long-time congressman from the midwestern state of Wisconsin and has the backing of many influential conservatives.  He now chairs the House Budget Committee and has been a vocal leader in cutting the deficit by slashing the U.S. budget.

Romney's announcement ends weeks of speculation on who his running mate would be.  The most notable names mentioned included Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Wikipedia Locks Down its Pages on Veep Candidates

August 10th 2012

Wikipedia logo color

Wikipedia pages for candidates most likely to appear on Mitt Romney’s shortlist for vice president have been locked down as of August 8.  "This article is protected due to vandalism," reads the Wikipedia page for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Similarly, pages for Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and even CIA Director David Petraeus are in “semi-protected” mode, preventing edits from unregistered users or users who registered within the last few days.

With anticipation high for the expected announcement by Romney’s campaign — which will come sometime this month, ahead of the GOP convention — TechPresident’s Micah L. Sifry on August 6 reported that monitoring the increased number of edits on the Wikipedia entries for various contenders might tip off interested observers.

He based that speculation on the high number of edits made to Wikipedia pages for Sarah Palin and Joe Biden ahead of announcements that they would be the running mates for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), respectively. Palin’s page saw roughly 68 changes and Biden’s about 40 the day before their respective announcements, much higher numbers than other likely VP candidates at the time. Read more ..


Border Wars

Bold Brazil Thumps its Chest with Military Operations on Southern Borders

August 10th 2012

Brazilian firebase

On August 7-8, Brazil began reinforcing its southern borders with about 9,000 more military troops as the fifth part of its war on criminal gangs, according to a U.S. security official who monitors South American organized crime. The security source told the Law Enforcement Examiner that the border reinforcements are part of Operation Agatha 5, which the Brazilian government initiated on July 6 on their country's borders with Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The deployment of troops is aimed at actively assisting Brazil's border security officers who are outgunned and out-manned by the crime groups that include drug cartels, the source said.

Also involved in what's expected to be a month-long operation are the Brazilian Air Force and Navy, who will use attack helicopters, jet fighters, patrol boats and high-tech equipment, he added. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Two Suspects in 2000 Ramallah Lynchings Arrested

August 10th 2012

Dagestan massacre in Ramallah

Two Palestinian men have been charged in Israeli court after they confessed to their involvement in the infamous 2000 Ramallah lynchings of two IDF reservists.
 
The suspects were apprehended in June as part of a larger operation against Hamas terror cells operating in Ramallah and the Binyamin region.  It was following their arrest that the two men confessed to taking part in the barbaric murders nearly 12 years ago.
 
“We notified the families of the victims about the arrests after the investigation, and before publication of it. We acted with sensitivity,” said police spokesman Dudi Asraf.
 
Yossi Avrahami and Vadim Nurzhitz had mistakenly reached a Palestinian checkpoint in October of 2000 and were subsequently taken to the Ramallah police station.  As word spread around the city that Israelis were being held inside the station, a mob approached and proceeded to engage in what British photographer Mark Seager said “was murder of the most barbaric kind.”

Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Government Assault Targets Rebels in Aleppo

August 9th 2012

Free Syrian Army fighters

Syrian government jets and helicopters bombed targets in the besieged northern city of Aleppo on August 8 as tanks launched a ground assault on the rebel-held district of Salaheddin. There were reports of fierce battles with Syrian state television saying rebels were being overrun. Leaders of the rebel Free Syrian Army denied their forces were retreating.

Reports from some foreign journalists in the city, however, say some rebel forces had pulled back from their positions in Salaheddin, while others continue to hold their ground. One rebel commander near the city was quoted as saying that his men were running short of ammunition.

Arab satellite channels showed several buildings in Aleppo that had collapsed after being bombed by fighter jets. Amateur video also showed rocket and bullet-pocked concrete facades and burnt-out flats destroyed by field artillery. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Mitt Romney Wants to Take Women Back to Policies of the '50s--Obama Charges

August 8th 2012

Barack Obama Israel speech

President Obama on Wednesday accused Republicans of wanting to take the nation “back to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century” during a campaign stop aimed at securing support from women.

Stumping on a two-day, four-stop swing through Colorado — a state where Obama needs strong turnout from women in November — the president sought to hammer home the benefits his healthcare law includes for families, such as free mammograms and contraception and cancer screenings with no copay.

But the president also emphasized the differences between him and his opponent, Republican presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who he said would take the Affordable Care Act and “kill it dead” on his first day in office. “The decisions that affect a woman’s health aren’t up to politicians or insurance companies, they’re up to you,” Obama said during a fiery speech before a crowd of nearly all women. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Egypt Bombs Sinai Terrorist Checkpoints As Gaza Blockade Intensifies

August 8th 2012

Apache Helicopters

Egyptian security officials say the military has carried out an assault on suspected Palestinian Gaza terrorists in the Sinai peninsula following new attacks against checkpoints. Officials say the airstrikes Wednesday killed 20 militants. The strikes came hours after an attack against checkpoints in the city of El-Arish, about 50 kilometers from the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian military and President Mohamed Mursi had vowed to assert more control over the border area following an attack Sunday that killed 16 Egyptian border guards. Egypt said Gaza terrorists involved in the attack were trying to cross into Israel.

Egyptian security officials say they used army attack helicopters to fire missiles at suspected Islamic terrorists in Sinai following simultaneous attacks by armed men on three security checkpoints. It was the first time Egypt's army has fired missiles in the area since the 1973 war with Israel to recapture the Sinai Peninsula. The missile strikes came hours after the militant attacks near northern Sinai's main city of Al-Arish, about 50 kilometers from the Gaza-Israel border. Officials say a military officer, two soldiers, two police and a civilian were injured by the militants early on August 8. State media quote Egyptian military sources who say 20 militants were killed by the air strikes. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Senators Voice Concerns over China's purchase of Gulf of Mexico Oil Assets

August 7th 2012

Offshore Oil Rig

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), citing national security concerns, is questioning a Chinese oil company’s planned purchase of the Canadian energy firm Nexen Inc., which holds substantial Gulf of Mexico oil-and-gas assets. Inhofe joins a pair of senior Democrats – Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Rep. Ed Markey (Mass.) – in questioning state-owned CNOOC Ltd.’s proposed $15.1 billion purchase of Nexen.

“I have serious national security concerns with the Chinese government, acting through one of its corporations, purchasing a company that will give it control over significant U.S. oil and gas resources,” Inhofe told MarketWatch in a statement. “This combined with China’s closed economy, its prohibition on direct, full investment in Chinese business operations by U.S. firms, and its blatant disregard to U.S. intellectual property rights make this transaction even more concerning,” adds Inhofe, who is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. Read more ..


The Cyber Edge

Senate Republicans Stymie Obama's Cybersecurity Act

August 6th 2012

Hacker's Hand

The Republican members of the U.S. Senate on August 2-3 blocked the passage of President Barack Obama's priority cyber legislation, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012. A law enforcement source in Washington, D.C. said that there was no formal vote because of several disputes over the amount of power to be given to the Executive Branch over businesses and non-government organizations.

The wide-reaching legislation, if it had passed, would have given government law enforcement and security agencies power to make decisions regarding the digital defense of critical infrastructure companies against cyber attacks. The Republican senators claimed they were uneasy about giving Washington even more power over the private sector. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Sinai Terrorists Kill Egyptian Cops

August 6th 2012

Israeli Tank in Sinai

Heavily armed Islamic terrorists attacked and killed 16 Egyptian police officers on Sunday, seized two military vehicles, and then attempted to attack Israeli police and security officers posted on the Sinai-Israeli border, according to a report from a police source in Israel.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) quickly responded by bombing one of the armored vehicles and killing four of the terrorists, according to the Israel National Police source. Ehud Barak, Israel's Minister of Defense called for Egyptian government officials to increase the security in order to prevent terrorist operations launched from the porous Sinai region.

The problem for Israel is now compounded by the fact that Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi is himself an Islamist member of the radical Muslim Brotherhood who all but took over the government after former U.S. and Israeli ally President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown last year in a rebellion, according to counterterrorism expert and police advisor Saul Dominivitz.

The situation is further complicated because of Egypt's close relationships with terrorists in the Gaza Strip such as Hamas, Palestinian Muslim Jihad, and the Egyptian-based Salafists. Israel is also accusing Palestinian terrorists in Gaza of involvement in terrorist training and in the Sinai region, especially since the Mubarak government was overthrown. President Mursi promised the Israeli government that he would make security in Egypt and on its border with Israel a top priority, but the Israeli police source claims Mursi has little control over the nation's security and military forces. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Sen. Reid Speaks for Himself on Romney Tax Returns Says White House

August 6th 2012

Harry Reid

The White House on Monday distanced President Obama from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s comments that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes in a decade.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Monday that Reid (D-Nev.) “speaks for himself” and had spoken on the issue without any guidance from Team Obama. “He certainly speaks for himself,” Carney said, adding that Obama hasn't expressed an opinion on Reid's recent comments.

But Carney said Reid’s comments speak to a “broader question” about the president’s views on income taxes, saying that a “tradition” which “has been in place since 1968 of candidates for the president releasing multiple years of their tax returns is an important one.”

“You know, it’s not always every candidate’s favorite part of the process, but it’s a tradition that’s important,” Carney said. “It’s valuable to the American people as they decide who should be president. So that’s why the president has put forward his financial information, his tax returns when he was a candidate, and believes that that’s an important tradition.

In an interview last week, Reid claimed a Bain Capitol investor told him Romney had not paid any taxes in 10 years. That’s why, Reid said, Romney has refused to release more than the roughly two years' worth of tax returns he's already shared. Romney and other Republicans have ripped Reid over the remarks, noting that he has no evidence to back up his claims. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called Reid a “dirty liar” for the remarks.

Reid has refused to divulge the name of the businessman he said was a Bain investor. But some Democrats have rushed to Reid’s defense. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday said Reid was telling the truth. Reid’s comments have dominated the news cycle and kept attention on Romney’s tax records, which Democrats see as advantageous for Obama. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Israeli Helicopters Targets Global Jihad Squad in Gaza

August 6th 2012

IAF-Cobras

In a release issued to reporters this morning, the Israel Air Force says it has, “targeted a Global Jihad-affiliated terrorist squad in the southern Gaza Strip.” One of the terrorists, says the release, “Ahmed Sai’d Isma’il, resident of Tufach, was among those responsible for the execution of the terror attack adjacent to the Israel-Egypt border, in which an Israeli civilian was killed, on June 18, 2012.” According to the Jerusalem Post citing Palestinian hospital officials, one person died in the IAF strike, and one other was injured. The IDF also says that the attack was preemptive, as Sai’d and other members of the terror group were planning another attack from Sinai against Israeli citizens. “Achmed Sai’d as well as E’id Nadi Ucaal, resident of Rafah, in addition to several other Global Jihad members were operating in order to execute a terror attack against Israeli civilians via the Israel-Egypt border,” says the release. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria's Prime Minister Defects as State TV Blows Up

August 6th 2012

Syria burning

Syria's prime minister is gone from the job two months after taking the post, amid conflicting reports about the method of his departure. State television said Monday that Riad Hijab was fired and replaced by his deputy, Omar Ghalawanji, while Jordanian officials said Hijab defected to Jordan with his family. The news came hours after state media said a bomb exploded at the state television building in Damascus, wounding several people.The station remained on the air following the blast, which ripped through the third floor of the building. A pro-government, private TV station, which itself was hit with a deadly blast in June, broadcast images of the building's damaged walls, wires dangling from a collapsed ceiling and people walking through smoke-filled hallways. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Sikh Temple in Milwaukee Assaulted by Shooting Spree

August 5th 2012

Sikh Milwaukee Shooting

At least seven people have been killed in a shooting at a Sikh temple in the northern U.S. state of Wisconsin. The gunman is among the dead. Greenfield Police Chief Bradley Wentlandt says four people were found dead inside the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, located outside of Milwaukee, on Sunday morning. Three others, including the gunmen, were killed outside the temple.

He says authorities do not believe a second gunman was involved. Earlier, a police spokesman said an officer responding to the shooting had engaged the suspected gunman, with both sustaining injuries. Police said three bodies were found outside the temple at 7512 S. Howell Ave. and four were inside the building. Among the deceased is the gunman, who apparently acted alone. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Iran Asks for Help to Secure Kidnapped Citizens in Syria As Violence Spreads

August 5th 2012

Ahmadinejad and Assad3

Iranian media said Sunday Tehran has asked Turkey and Qatar to help secure the release of 48 Iranian national kidnapped Saturday in Damascus. Iran has described the victims as religious pilgrims. However, al-Arabiya television says the Syrian rebels have described them as elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Iran backs the Syrian government, while Turkey and Qatar support the Syrian opposition. The U.S. State Department announced Sunday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Turkey Saturday to discuss the deteriorating situation in neighboring Syria where a mass uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has been underway for more than 17 months. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in Malawi, Clinton's latest stop on her African tour, that the U.S. top diplomat is going to Istanbul "for bilateral consultations with the Turkish government on Syria, as well as to cover other timely issues." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama May Lose the Election at the Gas Pump

August 5th 2012

Oil Prices

Gas prices have surged in recent weeks and analysts predict they’ll keep rising, creating fresh openings for GOP attacks against President Obama that had waned when prices dropped sharply. The nationwide average for regular gasoline is $3.60-per-gallon, a 24-cent rise over the past four weeks, according to AAA. Prices are well below the peak of nearly $4 in early April, a run-up that fueled constant GOP criticism of White House energy policies and threw Obama on the defensive. The frequency of political clashes over gas prices have tapered off since prices tumbled. But several analysts have stated that costs at the pump are likely to continue their recent rise through August.

August 3rd brought fresh evidence that pump prices are likely primed for more increases in coming weeks.

U.S. oil futures prices, buoyed in part by the Labor Department report of 163,000 jobs created in July, jumped by over $4-per-barrel to settle at $91.40 in New York trading. Prices for European Brent crude, which some U.S. refiners use, also rose sharply Friday. A continued rise in oil prices, which had fallen below $78-per-barrel for U.S. crude in June, would fuel what analysts say is already going to be some pump price increases on tap. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Assad's Forces Move to Secure Aleppo and Damascus

August 4th 2012

Syrian security forces

Explosions rocked the Syrian capital, Damascus, on August 4, and the northern city of Aleppo as security forces try to push rebels from their remaining strongholds.

The government says it has regained control of all of the capital. The French news agency reports a brigadier general told journalists that rebels had resorted to hit-and-run tactics against security forces.

Activists say an entire district became a battleground in Aleppo on August 4. An army helicopter fired machine gun rounds and ground troops shelled targets in an attempt to oust rebels from their positions.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than two dozen people were killed in anti-government-related violence across Syria on August 4. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Army, Rebels Clash Near Aleppo TV Station

August 4th 2012

Anti Assad insurgents

Syrian security forces clashed again with rebels Saturday, as they fought for control of a state TV station in the northern city of Aleppo and government troops bombarded rebel-held areas of Damascus. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that about two dozen people were killed in unrest Friday. The U.N. General Assembly approved a non-binding resolution Friday that condemned Syria's use of heavy weapons in the fight against rebel forces. The vote also criticized the U.N. Security Council for failing to stem the violence. Syria blasted the General Assembly's action.

The country's U.N. ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari called the resolution a "piece of theater" that would have no impact on the country. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said the Syria conflict is now a "proxy war" and he urged major powers to end the violence. He said "the immediate interests of the Syrian people must be paramount over any larger rivalries of influence." Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Cloud Computing to Boost Global Memory IC market

August 3rd 2012

CG cloud

Despite suffering from significant oversupply problems, the global memory integrated circuits (IC) market will be driven on by data centers and the advent of cloud computing, expects a new report by international business analysts GBI Research. According to the company's latest report, the increased adoption of cloud computing services among various enterprises and customers is leading to the design and development of memory ICs suitable for shared servers and storage devices.

In-memory cloud computing offers large amounts of memory storage through a new storage tier, and is currently in high demand, with applications such as Apple’s iCloud leading the way. Continuing developments will increase the market of memory ICs, which will in turn help cloud computing infrastructure and data centers to deal with issues related to storage and reliability. The main challenge of such cloud computing infrastructure services is to maintain high system performance at low infrastructure costs, even when data size grows continuously. Advances in flash memory, specifically NAND flash, are of key importance as higher density types enable more applications per server. Read more ..


The Edge of Trafficking

Illegal Alien, MS-13 Member Arrested for Allegedly Prostituting Washington-Dc area Teen Girls

August 3rd 2012

Prostitute

A member of a notorious El Salvadorian-based organized crime gang, who was arrested Wednesday by federal agents, was charged on Thursday with prostituting a juvenile in Alexandria, Virginia. Following his arrest and processing, Yimmy Anthony Pineda Penado, a/k/a “Critico” and “Spike,” of Montgomery County, Maryland, made his initial appearance before Judge Theresa C. Buchanan, United States magistrate judge for the Eastern District of Virginia to answer to charges of sex trafficking a juvenile.

According to court documents, Pineda Penado admitted he is an active member of the crime gang Mara Salvatrucha, also known as “MS-13.” He allegedly prostituted at least one teenage girl in Northern Virginia and Maryland. Pineda Penado is accused of "providing juvenile female runaways with alcohol and drugs in an effort to make them more compliant and receptive to being prostituted to older men." Penado is illegally in the United States, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Read more ..


Wolrd Health on Edge

Uganda and America's CDC Cooperate on Ebola

August 2nd 2012

African school kids

Two more deaths were confirmed Wednesday in Uganda’s ongoing Ebola outbreak, raising the total to 16. Officials are fighting to prevent further transmission of the virus. Through a partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the country is uniquely positioned to respond quickly to suspected cases of Ebola and other hemorrhagic viruses. Representatives from the World Health Organization say 36 possible Ebola cases have been reported in Uganda, mostly in the west of the country. At least one death occurred in Kampala, raising concerns that the virus had reached the capital. However, there is no evidence of any transmission within the city.

Ebola is no stranger to Uganda. Last year a 12-year-old girl living an hour outside of Kampala died from the virus. Thirty-nine people died in a 2007 outbreak in an area bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. But unlike other countries in the region that have seen similar outbreaks, Uganda has a team of virus hunters from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on hand to respond quickly to hemorrhagic fevers, like Ebola. Read more ..


The Euro on Edge

Bank of Israel Chief Warns Europe's Economy Could Collapse

August 2nd 2012

Euro money

In a bleak overview of the global economy, Stanley Fischer of the Bank of Israel, told his country’s parliament on Wednesday that Europe’s economy could collapse, a second Lehman Brothers style event could take place, and Israel must be prepare itself to deal with these possibilities.

“Either Europe will deal with it, or it will collapse and countries will begin to quit,” Fischer, who serves as the Governor of Israel’s Central Bank told the Knesset Finance Committee on Wednesday.  “That could happen. We cannot know what will happen in the second case; it may be accompanied by a financial crisis. Some people are talking about Lehman Brothers II. I don’t know. The only thing I do know is that I don’t know. We must therefore prepare. The economy must be ready in advance, not afterwards. We must maintain financial stability, as well as fiscal stability and the budget.”

Fischer cited lackluster U.S. growth forecasts and European financial problems as two reasons why Israeli exports will suffer in the near term. Read more ..


Faster and More Furious

New Report on Fast & Furious Blasts ATF, U.S. Attorney

August 1st 2012

Guns for sale

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday announced the release of the first of three new reports laying out the facts about what Issa termed the reckless Obama/Holder program commonly known as Operation Fast and Furious.

"The [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] ATF and the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office failed to consider and protect the safety of Americans, Mexicans, and fellow law enforcement personnel throughout Operation Fast and Furious," stated Issa upon promulgating his committee's report throughout the nation's capital.

"Testimony and a persistent reluctance to fully cooperate make clear that many officials at ATF and the Department of Justice would have preferred to quietly sweep this matter under the rug. Though they are among the most vocal objectors to oversight by Congress, this investigation has also shown that both agencies are among those most in need of additional scrutiny and attention from Congress," claims Chairman Issa. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Netanyahu tells Israeli TV that Iran Attack Decision his Alone

August 1st 2012

Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck a defiant tone in a series of television interviews on Tuesday night. Speaking to all of Israel's television channels, he stated that whatever his advisors and military staff may think about an attack on Iran's nuclear program, the final decision will be his and his alone. Netanyahu's remarks were in response to a a story published earlier that day by Yediot Aharonot, Israel's best-selling daily.

According to Yediot: "the US administration believes Israel’s top military and intelligence brass – including IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, Air Force Commander Maj.- Gen. Amir Eshel, Head of Military Intelligence Maj.- Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Mossad head Tamir Pardo, and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yoram Cohen – are all opposed to an Israeli attack without US backing." The Israeli media has never much cared for Netanyahu, and the reporters grilled him extensively on his plans for a strike on Iran and his reaction to what is perceived as strong opposition to such a move in the security establishment.

In response, Netanyahu repeatedly emphasized that such fateful decisions must be left to the elected political leadership. “That is the way it has always been, and will always be,” he said. To illustrate the point, Netanyahu said that former prime minister Menachem Begin chose in 1981 to attack the nuclear reactor in Iraq despite opposition at the time from the heads of the Mossad and military intelligence.

In regard to Iran, Netanyahu's message was absolute and unequivocal. "It is working to destroy us," he said, "and is preparing atom bombs to destroy us. As much as it is dependent on me, I will not let that happen." Read more ..


Broken Government

GOP Leaders Yank One-Year Farm Bill

July 31st 2012

wheat fields

House Republicans on Tuesday ended their attempt to vote on a one-year farm bill, opting to move forward with a measure that would only provide drought aid to farmers. The one-year bill was set to come up before the House Rules Commitee on Tuesday night but was removed from the agenda just before the meeting.

The House GOP is planning to take up a standalone drought bill under suspension of rules later this week, according to Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.). House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) urged his colleagues to vote for the limited disaster bill when it comes up for a vote on Thursday.

“My priority remains to get a five-year farm bill on the books and put those policies in place, but the most pressing business before us is to provide disaster assistance to those producers impacted by the drought conditions who are currently exposed," he said. "Beyond that, I will continue to work with my leadership, Ranking Member Peterson and our members to determine the best path forward." Read more ..


Broken Government

Reid, Boehner Announce Deal to Avoid Government Shutdown

July 31st 2012

US Capital Day

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced on Tuesday an agreement to avoid a government shutdown shortly before the November election. Reid said President Obama has also agreed to the deal.

“This agreement reached between the Senate, the House and the White House provides stability for the coming months, when we will have to resolve critical issues that directly affect middle class families," Reid said in a statement. "I hope that we can face the challenges ahead in the same spirit of compromise.”
The continuing resolution will extend government funding for six months after it runs out Oct. 1. The government will be funded at $1.047 trillion, the top-line spending level for 2012. While 2012 spending was set at $1.043 trillion under the August 2011 Budget Control Act, the actual rate is expected to be closer to $1.047 trillion. That also is the number set for 2013 spending. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Lech Walesa All But Endorses Mitt Romney

July 30th 2012

Lech Walesa

Polish human rights icon and former President Lech Walesa all but endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday, urging him to “be successful.” “I wish you to be successful because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was heard telling Romney when the press was allowed in on the tail end of their meeting. “Gov. Romney, get your success – be successful!"

Walesa made the remarks at the start of Romney's two-day trip to Poland, where he also met with Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Monday and was scheduled to visit memorials to the Poles who fought in World War II and the Solidarnosc — or Solidarity — anti-communist trade-union movement that Walesa led in the 1980s. Romney has sought to portray himself as a stronger ally than President Obama when it comes to defending central and eastern Europe against Russia.

Walesa's remarks follow a series of tiffs with Obama. Walesa skipped a meeting of national leaders with Obama organized by Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski during the president's trip to Poland in May 2011.
“I won't meet him,” Walesa told reporters at the time. “It doesn't suit me.”

One year later, the White House refused to allow Walesa to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously honored to Jan Karski, a member of the Polish underground during World War II, deeming Walesa “too political.” While awarding the medal, Obama compounded Polish anger by referring to a “Polish death camp” instead of a Nazi death camp in Poland. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Republican Ad Features Jewish Democrat’s “Buyer’s Remorse” over Obama

July 29th 2012

The GOP has launched a $6.5 million media blitz to convince habitual Democrats in the U.S. Jewish community to cast their ballots this November against President Obama. Targeting key areas of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, the campaign by the Republican Jewish Coalition hopes to garner enough votes from those states to tip the electoral advantage to Republican hopeful Mitt Romney.

The ad campaign features a video and an accompanying website that allows contributors to upload their own videos expressing their concerns about President Obama and his policies towards the state of Israel. A YouTube video appearing on the site features voter Michael Goldstein, who comments on his disillusion with the incumbent president despite having voted for him. Based on a 25-minute interview, the video featuring Goldstein gave him an opportunity to recount his own buyer’s remorse. Goldstein is identified as: “Democrat. Jewish. Voted for Obama.”

Said Goldstein, “I was a big Obama supporter. I had a fundraiser in my home, gave money to his campaign. I really believed in him and believed in what he stood for. When he gave the speech about the ‘67 borders, it was nothing that had come up in his campaign originally. That really changed my mind about him. When he had the prime minister of Israel, [Benjamin] Netanyahu, to the White House … he was disrespectful to him to the point that I’d never seen.” Read more ..


The Olympic Edge

Major Surprises Mark Opening Day of London Olympics

July 28th 2012

Ryan Lochte

The first day of the Summer Olympic Games in London featured some major surprises, Saturday. Superstar swimmer, American Michael Phelps, finished fourth in the 400-meter individual medley, while teammate Ryan Lochte won the gold.

Phelps, who trailed most of the race, came in fourth, more than four seconds behind the victor.  The finish marked the first time since the 2000 Games that Phelps failed to win at least a bronze medal in an Olympic race. Phelps has won 16 Olympic medals and needs three more to break the all-time record. In men's road cycling, Kazakhstan's Alexander Vinokourov won the gold medal, after the favorite, Britain's Mark Cavendish, failed to make a move to the front of the pack.

In archery, the U.S. team shocked South Korea to move into the gold medal match against Italy.  Italy later won the gold, beating the U.S. team by one point on the final shot. And in men's under-60 kilogram judo, Russia's Arsen Galstyan upset the top two seeds, including two-time world champion Rishod Sobirov of Uzbekistan. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

US Approves Portion of Keystone Pipeline

July 28th 2012

Keystone pipe

The larger, controversial segment of the pipeline that would transport oil sands remains under review by the Obama administration. TransCanada Corp., the developer of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, said Friday it has won the final major permit needed for the southern portion of the project that will bring U.S. oil from Oklahoma to Texas refiners.

The roughly 500-mile portion, now dubbed the Gulf Coast Project, has the backing of the White House, which has touted the segment in its efforts to deflect GOP attacks over President Obama's energy policies. But the larger portion of Keystone, which would transport Canadian oil sands from Alberta, remains the center of a political battle as the Obama administration's review of a cross-border permit continues.

TransCanada said Friday it has received a permit from the Forth Worth, Texas, district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the last of the “key” permits needed for the $2.3 billion Gulf Coast Project, the company said. The company hopes to begin construction in coming weeks for the pipeline that segment that starts in Cushing, Okla., and wants to have the pipeline running by mid-to-late 2013.

“The Gulf Coast Project will contribute millions in property taxes to counties in Oklahoma and Texas, money that can be used to build roads, schools and hospitals," said CEO Russ Girling in a statement. The company is pressing for federal cross-border permit that would enable the larger, roughly 1,200 mile portion from Alberta to Nebraska, part of the larger effort to bring oil sands to Gulf Coast markets.

Republicans, industry groups and a number of unions are pressing hard for the Keystone project, which faces bitter opposition from environmentalists and some Democrats due to greenhouse gas emissions and forest damage from oil sands and other concerns. Girling on Friday sought to use the permits for the southern portion to make the case for the overall Alberta-to-Texas project. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Vulnerable House Members Face Tough Votes on Competing Tax bills

July 28th 2012

Tax Protest

Vulnerable House lawmakers will face tough decisions next week when two competing tax bills come to the floor, and some Democrats are indicating they will back a Republican plan to extend all rates for another year.

Democratic leaders are expected to offer the proposal that passed the Senate on Wednesday, which extends the George W. Bush-era tax rates only for family income up to $250,000, as an alternative to the GOP measure.

Two House Democrats — Reps. Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) — said they would vote with Republicans to extend all the tax rates through 2013. A third, Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas), said he was leaning toward supporting a full extension as well. Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, told The Hill that he would likely vote for both plans even though his preference would be to extend all Bush-era rates and then do tax reform in 2013. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Play 'Hardball' on China Oil

July 27th 2012

EarthMovers

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) says the United States should block CNOOC Ltd., a big state-owned Chinese oil company, from buying the Canadian oil company Nexen Inc. until China provides U.S. businesses better access to its markets.

The senior Democrat will make his case in a letter Friday to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, whose department heads the federal panel that vets foreign purchases of U.S. assets, according to accounts in Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

Nexen has U.S. holdings, so Schumer argues the deal provides a chance to win better access to Chinese markets for American companies. His letter to Geithner says that the secretary should “withhold approval of this transaction until China's government has made tangible, enforceable commitments to ensure U.S. companies reciprocal treatment.”

“I believe approval of the Cnooc-Nexen transaction should be a test of these reciprocal commitments, and that concrete progress must be made by both sides simultaneously,” the letter states. Schumer is a frequent critic of China’s trade policies. He tells the Journal that it’s time to play “hardball.”

Treasury heads the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the interagency panel that reviews foreign purchases of U.S. businesses if the transactions could affect national security. Nexen owns substantial acreage in the Gulf of Mexico and has some production there. If the CNOOC deal goes through, it would mark the first time that a Chinese company would be the operator of Gulf of Mexico leases, rather than a minority owner, according to Bloomberg. CNOOC’s proposed $15 billion acquisition of Nexen is attracting political attention in the United States due to the Gulf holdings and because Nexen is a significant player in Canada’s oil sands. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

House Dems: Boost Minimum Wage to $9.80 an Hour

July 27th 2012

Minimum wage protest
Credit: Luz Mercado

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and more than 100 of his House Democratic colleagues proposed legislation Thursday that would boost the minimum wage over three years from $7.25 to just under $10 an hour.

Miller's Fair Minimum Wage Act, H.R. 6211, would increase the minimum wage by 85 cents a year for the next three years, then allow the final $9.80 an hour wage to rise with inflation. It would also boost the minimum wage for waiters and other tipped employees — which has been at $2.13 for more than 20 years — by 85 cents a year until it hits 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.

Miller said these changes are needed because the last minimum wage increase was in 2007, and has not kept pace with the demands of millions of workers since then. "Anyone who works hard and plays by the rules should not live in poverty. Yet 47 million Americans now qualify as the working poor. Raising the minimum wage helps families make ends meet," Miller said in a statement accompanying the bill. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Apple Claims over 2.5 billion in damages from Samsung in Patent Lawsuit

July 26th 2012

I-phone

Apple Inc. made claims that it deserves more than USD 2.5 billion in damages from Samsung Electronics who alledgedly reaped billions of dollars in profits and caused Apple to lose hundreds of millions of dollars through its violation of Apple's intellectual property.

In the 57-page brief, Apple said Samsung should pay USD 2.525 billion, with the bulk of the figure, USD 2 billion, representing the amount of total profits Apple calculates Samsung made with products that it said infringed Apple's patents and designs. The Wall Street Journal recalls that Samsung previously said that Apple's claims "lack merit" and are "unfounded." And in its own 22-page court filing, made early Tuesday, Samsung's lawyers called Apple's damages request "absurd." Apple, according to Samsung's brief, "seeks to collect 'lost profits' despite the fact that no one buys phones because they have 'bounce back' features or other manifestations of Apple's alleged inventions asserted in this case." Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Hezbollah Leader Offers Assad Fighters and Refuge

July 26th 2012

hassan nasrallah - hezbollah

Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary General, has offered refuge in Lebanon and elite military units to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as the latter continues his fight to remain in power.

In a recent conversation between the two leaders, Nasrallah told Assad that “Hezbollah’s elite units will stand at the front and fight the rebels,” according to a report in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Gomhoriih. While Syrian diplomats continue to defect – including reports on Wednesday that officials in Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates have left their posts – and fighting between government backed forces and rebel groups continues in Damascus, Hezbollah has offered safe refuge to Assad in the event that his regime is removed from power. The Al-Gomhoriih report states that Nasrallah has offered Assad a safe haven inside Iran’s embassy in Lebanon. Read more ..


Broken Government

Geithner Defends Actions on Libor Rate

July 25th 2012

Tim Geithner

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told lawmakers Wednesday that he did his part to address concerns over the rigging of a key interest rate, saying enforcement of the matter fell to other regulators.

Geithner was pressed by several Republican lawmakers on why, when he was in charge of the New York Federal Reserve Bank in 2008, he did not do more to press concerns that the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) was being manipulated by banks. Geithner argued the New York Fed played its part when it informed other regulators both in the United States and the United Kingdom of the problem, a point he has made in the past.

"We brought those concerns to their attention and we felt, and I still believe this, that we felt it would be on them to fix this," he told the House Financial Services Committee. "At the New York Fed, I believe ... we did the necessary, appropriate thing very early in the process," he added later.

Regulators are investigating concerns that the rate, which is used as a benchmark for a wide range of lending products, may have been manipulated by the banks responsible for setting it. British bank Barclays paid nearly half a billion dollars earlier this month to settle charges with U.S. and U.K. regulators that it worked to manipulate the rate for years. The Libor is set based on interbank lending reports from a group of 18 banks, including three based in the U.S., and is monitored by the British Bankers Association. Barclays has since indicated that other banks conspired to rig the rate, and lawmakers and regulators are digging in on when the issue first arose and how it continued. Read more ..



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