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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


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


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


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 ..

Mali on Edge

Malian Militias Unite to 'Liberate the North'

July 24th 2012

mali uprising mar 2012

Six armed militias in Mali have joined forces and say they will retake the country's north from Islamist and rebel groups in control of the territory since April.

The Patriotic Forces of Resistance [FPR] says it will fight the Islamist militants and Tuareg separatists who seized control of northern Mali following a chaotic military coup four months ago. The FPR, the force's French initials, includes the northern Ganda Koy militia headed by Harouna Toure.

Toure says the armed movements making up the FPR were born out of the occupation and most are led by northerners. He said the movements decided to join forces to allow them to, in his words, "very rapidly" push out the occupiers. The Malian army is struggling to reorganize following the coup. West African leaders have opened separate negotiations with the two main occupying forces and are preparing a regional military intervention, should talks fail. Read more ..

Nigeria on Edge

Flooding in Nigeria Kills at Least 35

July 24th 2012

Nigera flood

Rescue workers in central Nigeria continue to search for survivors of flooding that has killed at least 35 people and destroyed hundreds of homes. Rescue workers say dozens of residents are missing after a flash flood early Monday left hundreds homeless and at least 35 dead in the central Nigerian city of Jos.

The flood waters are receding, but residents said the tragedy is far from over.  Families searched their homes for salvageable belongings on Tuesday, while others mourned the loss of loved ones.

Abdullhamid Useni lost seven of his children. He says the family was sleeping when the flood waters came.  He says they tried, but could not get everyone out.  He says he has recovered six of the children's bodies, but the house collapsed Monday before he could reach the last one.  The family is hungry, he says, and needs food. He was visibly shaken, but said he must take care of the surviving members of his family before he can mourn his lost children. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

President Obama Will Visit Israel in Second Term

July 23rd 2012

Obama and flags

President Obama will travel to Israel if he's elected to a second term, a campaign aide said Monday. “We can expect him to visit Israel in a second term should he be elected," Colin Kahl, the former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for the Middle East, said on a conference call with reporters.

Obama has been criticized for not visiting the Middle Eastern ally since a trip during the 2008 election. Republican candidate Mitt Romney will visit the country during a trip that will begin later this week, and he plans to meet with Israeli leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Romney has also said, if elected, his first foreign visit would be to Israel.

On Monday, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton blasted the president for not scheduling a trip during his first term. “Obama has been in office three and a half years, and he has had time to do more fundraisers than any other first-term American president, has probably played more rounds of golf than any other president since Dwight Eisenhower, and yet he has not had time to fit into his busy schedule even one trip to Israel," Bolton told WABC Radio's Aaron Klein. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

New Report Reveals Many Red Flags before Fort Hood terrorist attack

July 23rd 2012

Fort Hood putz
US Army Major Nidal Hasan

The U.S. Army officer who emerged as the deadly Fort Hood shooter in 2009 -- killing 12 soldiers and one civilian -- had displayed several "red flags" indicating that he had been proselytized by radical Islamists and posed a threat to his fellow officers and to enlisted men and women wherever he was posted, according to a government report released on July 19.

Major Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, will stand trial in military court on Aug. 20, 2012, for indiscriminately shooting and killing 13 victims and wounding 33 others during his one-man-jihad, according to FBI, Pentagon and news reports.

While at first many believed that the killing spree was the act of a madman, investigators began to discover links between Maj. Hasan and radical Islam as practiced by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Israel's Mossad Hunts Iranian-backed Terrorists Targeting London Olympics

July 22nd 2012

Hamas Terrorists

Iranian agents are planning an attack against Israeli athletes at this summer's Olympic games in London, Israeli officials fear. Agents from Israel’s elite intelligence organisation, Mossad, are hunting Iranian-backed terrorists in Europe, who are allegedly planning an “anniversary” attack 40 years after the Munich massacre, Britain's The Sunday Times reports. Concerns have only grown after an attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last week that left five dead and 32 wounded. Israel has blamed Iranian-backed Hezbollah for the attack. This summer is the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Munich Olympics, where Palestinian terrorists abducted and murdered Israeli athletes during the summer games.

Israel has intelligence indicating that Iran's Quds Force – largely regarded as Tehran's hit squad – was planning to use a suicide bomber against Israeli targets overseas. According to the report, the Mossad agents sent to [Bulgaria] informed both Jerusalem [and] the agency's London station of the discovery. The Israeli Olympic mission has already arrived in London. The past few months has seen Israel detect – and thwart – several terror plots against Israelis, most recently one in Cyprus and one in South Africa. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syrian Troops Bombard Locations Across Country

July 22nd 2012

syrian explosion

A Syrian watchdog group says government troops are bombarding locations across the country. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports Sunday that government bombardments are under way in the capital, Damascus, as well as the provinces of Homs and Deir Izzor.  The Observatory says the "sounds of rockets and heavy vehicles" have been heard in the Mazzah district in Damascus. Clashes between government and rebel forces have also been reported in Aleppo province.

Meanwhile, rebel forces said Sunday they have captured the al-Salam boarder crossing, north of Aleppo, days after taking another crossing along the Turkish border. Turkey has registered more than 43,000 refugees from Syria, but many others are believed to have crossed into Turkish territory without being counted. The United Nations has reported an estimated 30,000 Syrians have crossed into Lebanon since Thursday. Authorities in Iraq say about 1,000 people arrived from Damascus by air, while thousands more people trying to escape the escalating violence arrived from Syria by land. Read more ..

The Violent Edge

Gun Control Calls Follow Colorado Theater Shootings

July 21st 2012

Guns for sale

A handful of Democrats are pressing for tougher gun laws in the wake of the Colorado movie theater shootings that left 12 people dead. Moving such bills has become extraordinarily difficult on Capitol Hill because of powerful gun rights allegiances, however, and Republican strategists predicted the latest gun violence was unlikely to lead to significant changes.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) — whose husband was killed and son seriously injured in a 1993 shooting on a Long Island commuter train — told reporters on Friday that the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other opponents of gun control have a simple but effective strategy following gun violence tragedies.

“They will wait it out, wait it out, wait it out, until people forget about it again, until another tragedy happens like last night,” said McCarthy. “We should be proactive before another tragedy happens. "There are ways of doing this without infringing upon anyone's rights,” she said. Read more ..

The Edge of Crime

Batman Movie-Goers Killed by Crazed Gunman at Colorado theater

July 20th 2012

Batman cinema shooting

A casual night at the movies turned deadly at a theater outside the western U.S. city of Denver, Colorado early Friday morning Police say man opened fire during the premiere of the latest Batman movie, The Dark Night Rises, killing at least 14 people and wounding 50 others. A large audience was watching the debut of the new action adventure film based on the popular Batman comic book character, at a movie theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Police Chief Dan Oates says a man appeared in the front of the theater and released a device filled with gas, then began opening fire on the crowd.

Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates talks to media at Aurora Mall where as many as 14 people were killed and many injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theater, July 20, 2012. ​​"Police officers responded and found the gunman in the back of the theater outside in the parking lot in a car in possession of a gas mask, and at least a rifle and a handgun. At least one additional weapon was found inside. The shooting apparently went on for some time, " Oates said. Read more ..

The Coal Problem

GOP Seeks to Kill Black Lung Reform

July 19th 2012

Black lung

House Republicans inserted language in a budget bill unveiled Tuesday that would kill a proposed rule to protect coal miners from dust that causes black lung.

Democrats on the House Committee on Appropriations objected, saying in a statement, “Recent reporting by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity has highlighted the need for more effective ‘black lung’ disease prevention efforts as there has been a resurgence of the disease among coal miners.”

The Center-NPR investigation found that, after decades of decline, black lung is making a comeback, increasingly afflicting younger miners with a more severe, faster-progressing form of the disease. The system for monitoring miners’ exposure to dust is riddled with loopholes, and regulators have sometimes failed to enforce even these rules. Mining companies have taken advantage of a self-policing system to manipulate dust sampling results for decades.

In 2010, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration proposed a rule that would close some loopholes, though it would still leave much of the sampling in the hands of mining companies. Last December, House Republicans inserted language in a previous budget bill that would have barred any money from being spent to implement the rule until the Government Accountability Office evaluated whether the proposal was necessary. That study is on track to be released in August. The insertion of a paragraph into the new Labor Department’s budget bill goes further, barring the agency from using any money to continue developing the rule, issuing it or enforcing it. Read more ..

Chavez on Edge

Chavez Warns Venezuelans that Civil War will Ensue Should He lose at the Polls

July 18th 2012

Hugo Chavez infirm

Venezuela's avowed socialist President, Hugo Chavez, cautioned voters that should he lose in the upcoming presidential election on the Oct. 7, 2012, a civil war is likely to erupt.

"If the right-wing's presidential candidate gets into (office), it would put an end to the social programs promoted during 14 years of government, and as a result the country would enter into a civil war," Chavez said on Saturday, according to the state-run Venezuelan News Agency (AVN).

AVN interviewed Chavez on television about the upcoming election against his only rival, conservative Henrique Capriles.

A former state governor, Capriles is the candidate of the Venezuelan coalition party made up of moderate, conservative and pro-capitalist groups.

"As occurs in the U.S. with progressives, Chavez labels the pro-business coalition as 'right-wing,'" said geopolitical expert Dr. Saul Bernstein Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Suicide Bombing Kills Syrian Defense Minister

July 18th 2012

Day of Rage in Syria Urged

Syrian state television says a suicide bomber has struck the National Security building in Damascus, killing the country's defense minister Daoud Rajha and seriously wounding several other officials. Reports say the deputy defense minister, Assef Shawkat, was also killed. Shawkat was brother-in-law to President Bashar al-Assad.

Wednesday's attack took place during a meeting of top government officials. The attack Wednesday comes amid days of clashes between rebels and government troops in the capital. It has been the heaviest period of fighting in the city since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began 16 months ago. Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council is expected to vote Wednesday on a resolution that would extend the U.N. observer mission in Syria.

The mission's mandate expires Friday, and the Council has been divided over whether a new resolution should include a threat of sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's government. Britain, France, Germany and the United States are pushing for a 45-day renewal of the U.N. observer mission in Syria along with a threat of sanctions. Read more ..

Obama and Israel

Clinton Meets Israeli, Palestinian Leaders

July 17th 2012

Hilary Clinton

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is wrapping up a 12-day, nine-country tour with a stop in Jerusalem, where on Monday she discussed a broad range of issues with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials. Secretary Clinton held a day of talks with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during her first visit to Jerusalem in nearly two years. Iran’s nuclear program was high on the agenda.  Israeli officials warned that Iran is using talks with the West to buy time to build a nuclear weapon, which Israel sees as a threat to its existence.

Clinton said Israel and the United States agree on Iran's nuclear program. “We all prefer a diplomatic resolution, and Iran’s leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision.  Our own choice is clear.  We will use of all elements of American power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Clinton said. Israel has threatened to attack Iran if diplomacy fails.

Clinton held separate talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on reviving peace talks with Israel that have been stalled for more than three years.  The Palestinians have refused to return to the negotiating table until Israel stops all settlement construction.  Israel says peace talks should resume without preconditions. Speaking at a Jerusalem news conference, Clinton said the United States will continue efforts toward a Mideast peace. "We remain focused on the resumption of direct negotiations since we believe that is the only route to a lasting, stable peace. The United States can help. We stand ready to do so, but it’s up to the parties to do the hard work for peace,” Clintons said.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, who also met with Clinton, agreed. “We should not give up hope. We shouldn’t stop. We should be consistent. We should be determined. The Palestinians don't have a better alternative. We don't have a better alternative,” Peres said. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

US Navy Fires on Suspicious Vessel in Persian Gulf

July 16th 2012

USS Rappahannock
USS Rappahannock

According to news sources in India, an Indian fisherman was killed by U.S. Navy gunfire when his fishing boat drew too close to the USS Rappahannock, a U.S. Navy refueling vessel, on July 16. An official of the United Arab Emirates, which is investigating the incident, said that there were four Indian nationals and two Emirate nationals on board what the U.S. Navy described as a small craft. "The services concerned are now investigating this incident," UAE's official news agency WAM quoted Foreign Ministry official Tareq Amed al-Hidan as saying.

Three Indian fishermen were injured in the incident. They had been working for Dubai fishing companies as day laborers. Lt Greg Raelson, a spokesman for US Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said a security team aboard the USNS Rappahannock fired from a .50-calibre machinegun on the boat after it disregarded verbal warnings and warning shots. "The U.S. crew repeatedly attempted to warn the vessel's operators to turn away from their deliberate approach. When those efforts failed to deter the approaching vessel, the security team on the Rappahannock fired rounds from a .50-caliber machine gun," he said in an emailed response. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Russia Says Push For Syria Sanctions By West Is 'Blackmail'

July 16th 2012

Machine Gun Bunker

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused Western countries of trying to "blackmail" Russia to secure a new UN Security Council resolution that would threaten sanctions against Syria. Speaking at the start of talks with international envoy Kofi Annan, Lavrov told reporters in Moscow that Western countries have threatened to discontinue a 300-strong UN monitoring mission in Syria if Russia does not agree to sanctions.

"To our great regret, we are seeing elements of blackmail," Lavrov said. "We are being told, 'If you do not agree to the passing of [a UN Security Council resolution envisioning sanctions against the Syrian regime] under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, then we shall refuse to extend the mandate of the observer mission. We consider it an absolutely counterproductive and dangerous approach, since it is unacceptable to use observers as a bargaining chip." Lavrov also said it is "unrealistic" for the West to expect Russia to ask its longtime ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to step down. Read more ..

Broken Government

Postal Rescue Bill Stall in Congress

July 15th 2012

Mail Room

The House’s delay in considering a postal reform bill is sparking concerns that the rescue of the U.S. Postal Service could be delayed until after the November elections — or even until the next Congress.

Republicans signaled last week that the House would likely not vote before the August recess on a postal bill from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the Oversight Committee chairman, and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.).

Senators and outside industry observers decried that holdup, saying that any delay reduces the chances of lawmakers coming together on a broad postal reform package. The Senate passed its own postal reform bill in April, and key senators are waiting to negotiate a compromise bill with the House. “The longer the House delays reforming the Postal Service, the more likely it is that nothing happens,” said Art Sackler of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, a group that represents the private-sector mailing industry.  Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Assad's Government Again Denies Killing Civilians in Syria

July 15th 2012


The Syrian government denied July 15 that it used tanks and helicopters to attack the village of Tremseh in Hama province on June 12. Activists reported mass killings in the village, but a government spokesman said only two civilians and 37 armed individuals were killed in what Damascus said was a defensive operation. The U.N. observers were at Tremseh on June 15 investigating events.

U.N. military and civilian observers entered Tremseh for a second consecutive day on Sunday to try to verify reports of a military operation on the village. On Saturday, the U.N. supervision mission, known by its acronym UNSMIS, confirmed an attack had taken place using a variety of weapons, including artillery, mortars and small arms. At a news conference in Damascus Sunday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jihad Makdissi denied the army had used tanks, helicopters and heavy weapons to target the town. He said yes, there was a massacre. What happened, he said, was not an attack by the army on innocent civilians but a clash between regular forces and armed groups. Read more ..

The New Egypt

Clinton to Visit Egypt as Relations Change

July 14th 2012

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Egypt over the weekend to meet the nation's first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood whose Islamist followers want to reassess the previously close relations between Washington and Cairo.

Clinton's visit, scheduled to begin Sunday, comes as many Egyptians are increasingly concerned about what they consider American interference in the domestic affairs of this Arab nation of more than 80 million people. High on the agenda for the secretary of state's meeting with President Morsi are likely to be Egypt's political transition, its struggling economy, its peace treaty with Israel, and U.S. aid totaling more than $1 billion a year. Read more ..

The Climate Edge

Dems Use Wildfires to Call for Hearings on Climate Change

July 13th 2012


Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), a top House Democrat, is urging the Energy and Commerce Committee's Republican majority to hold a hearing that explores links between climate change and extreme weather.

The request, spelled out in a letter Friday, is a sign that Democrats and environmentalists hope to translate the recent record-setting heatwaves into political momentum for efforts to battle global warming.

It asks Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to convene a hearing “on the recent wildfires and extreme weather events the United States has experienced and the role global climate change played in these events.”

Waxman, the committee’s top Democrat, notes that Republicans have declined repeated requests over the past year to hold hearings on climate science. Read more ..

The Iran Threat

US Beefs Up Naval Assets in the Gulf

July 12th 2012

B2 Momber Kitty Hawk

The United States is beefing up its naval presence in the Persian Gulf, an indication perhaps of future military conflict or a clear threat to Iran, which has threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz should economic sanctions bite too hard.

A Washington-state newspaper reports that the USS Stenis, an aircraft carrier, is returning to service much sooner than expected. "The ship came home to Naval Base Kitsap on March 2 after seven months of launching planes into Iraq and Afghanistan. Generally, it wouldn't go back to the Fifth Fleet area of responsibility for four to five years, after a deployment to the Western Pacific and a maintenance period. But with Iran making threats, crew members learned Saturday they'll be leaving again in late August for eight months."

In addition to the Stenis, two U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups are now in the Middle East and the Navy has doubled the number of minesweepers in the region, to eight. The Los Angeles Times reports:  "The Navy is rushing dozens of unmanned underwater craft to the Persian Gulf to help detect and destroy mines in a major military buildup aimed at preventing Iran from closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the event of a crisis, U.S. officials said." Read more ..

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