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The 2012 Vote

President Launches Bus Tour in Key Swing States

July 5th 2012

Obama Campaign 2012

President Obama launches a bus tour Thursday through two battleground states crucial to his reelection bid. Obama’s focus during the trip through Ohio and Pennsylvania is the economy, and it begins a day before a critical monthly report on jobs — an event the White House is awaiting with some anxiety after May's figures fell far short of analysts' predictions.

The “Betting on America" tour is a nod to the near-certainty that November's elections will hinge on jobs, housing and other economic indicators despite the recent fervor from both parties over the Supreme Court's surprise verdict to uphold Obama's healthcare reform law. Rather than sitting on his heels for those employment numbers, Obama's schedule hints at a campaign that wants to get out in front of any bad economic news that might be forthcoming. Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said the president will use the tour both to tout his economic recovery efforts and to attack Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, on his record atop Bain Capital, a private equity firm that's come under fire for buying up struggling companies and streamlining them, often by firing employees. Read more ..

The Climate Edge

Extreme Weather Costs EU’s Transport at Least €15 Billion Annually

July 4th 2012


A study carried out by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland indicates that extreme weather conditions cost EU transport system at least €15 billion a year. Currently, the greatest costs incurred are from road accidents, with the associated material damage and psychological suffering. However, costs arising from accidents are expected to decrease in volume, though time-related costs attributable to delays are projected to increase. In part, this is due to climate change, whose impact on extreme weather phenomena was addressed in the study, and because of consequent costs.

In the study conducted by VTT and EWENT project partners, researchers calculated the costs, caused by extreme weather phenomena for the transport system, its users and customers of freight carriers in the 27 EU member states. This marks the first time calculations have been completed on this scale and scope. The study shows that the mode of traffic most vulnerable to extreme weather is road traffic. It continues to have a higher volume than the other modes, with the additional factor of not being centralised or professionally controlled, in contrast to rail or aviation. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

House GOP Wants Chief of Failed Solar Firm to Testify

July 3rd 2012

Solar panels

House Republicans want the CEO of the bankrupt company Abound Solar to testify at a hearing this month, a sign of GOP plans to continue shining the political spotlight on the struggles of the Energy Department’s loan program.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans have asked CEO Craig Witsoe and his predecessor, Tom Tiller, to appear at a July 18 hearing.

The Colorado-based maker of advanced solar panels, which has drawn $70 million in federal loans, filed for bankruptcy Monday and will liquidate.

Trent Waterhouse, an Abound spokesman, noted Witsoe has appeared before the committee in the past and added, “it would be his intention to cooperate again.” Witsoe appeared at a May 16 hearing of the government spending subcommittee, which will also hold the upcoming hearing. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the panel's chairman, sent Witsoe a July 2 letter asking him to appear. Abound is the second Energy Department-backed manufacturer of solar panels to go belly-up. Solyndra, which had won a $535 million loan guarantee in 2009, collapsed last year.  Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Saudi Student Convicted of Terrorism in Texas

July 2nd 2012

jail door blue

A federal jury in Texas convicted a Saudi Arabian citizen, living in the U.S. on a student visa, of attempting to create a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) as part of his plot to attack various targets in the United States, according to a Justice Department statement released yesterday.

One of the Saudi terrorist's main goals was the bombing of former President George W. Bush's home, according to court testimony. Khalid Aldawsari, a matriculated student at South Plains College in the Lubbock area, in an e-mail referred to President Bush's Dallas home as a "tyrant's house."

Testimony during Aldawsari's trial in Amarillo, revealed to the jurors that the 22-year-old Saudi had been visiting Internet web sites in order to learn how to build an improvised explosive device (IED), using easy-to-obtain chemicals, according to federal law enforcement officials. Courtroom testimony also revealed that Aldawsari conducted research on the Internet regarding targets throughout the United States.

In addition, law enforcement agents stated that Aldawsari had written blog entries about his ambition of "violent jihad and martyrdom." "[Wednesday's] guilty verdict shows how individuals in the Untied States with the intent to do harm can acquire the knowledge and materials necessary to carry out an attack," Special Agent in Charge Diego Rodriguez of the Dallas FBI field office said in a statement.

A diary found at Aldawsari's apartment revealed that he had come to the U.S. in order to commit terrorist acts and he even boasted of how the scholarship he received "will help tremendously in providing me with the support I need for jihad." Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Possible Treatment to Reduce Scarring Discovered

July 1st 2012

Lighting a candle against the darkness

Whether from surgery or battle wounds, ugly scars can affect body and mind. Now a new research report offers a new strategy to reduce or eliminate scars on the skin. Specifically, scientists from NYU describe how agents that block receptors for adenosine (a molecule generated from ATP which is used by the body to provide energy to muscles) can be applied topically to healing wounds to reduce scar size, yielding skin that feels more like the original, unscarred skin.

"Scars can be disfiguring and, if extensive enough, can lead to diminished function and quality of life," said Bruce N. Cronstein, M.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Division of Translational Medicine in the Department of Medicine at New York University School of Medicine in New York, NY. "We hope that our findings may lead to new agents that diminish scarring and disfigurement following burns, wounds, or even illnesses that destroy skin and lead to a better quality of life for victims of these traumas."

When the skin or other tissues are wounded, ATP leaks from the damaged cells and is then converted to adenosine which promotes healing. Scars form when adenosine continues to be produced at the wound site after the injury is healed, leading to larger, thicker scars than what may have otherwise been there. Read more ..

Broken Borders

Sheriff Arpaio: I Will Enforce State Laws

July 1st 2012

Joe Arpaio

Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision on immigration enforcement and the Obama Administration response -- that includes a special hotline for complaints against Arizona law enforcement officers who dare to enforce immigration laws -- controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio gave President Barack Obama and his minions a "virtual raspberry" and defiantly announced, "I'm going to enforce our state laws."

The most controversial provision of the much maligned Arizona immigration law, a provision that requires police check the status of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally, was the only provision to be upheld by the nation's highest court on Monday.

However, the high court's ruling is leaving the door open to additional challenges by the Obama White House and Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been investigating Arpaio for years.

"I'm concerned about whether the federal government will pick up the illegal aliens that law enforcement and my office come in contact with. In fact, I predicted this morning they won't, and I just heard that the Homeland Security said they're not going to pick up illegal aliens that the law enforcement comes in contact with on traffic stops," said Sheriff Arpaio during an appearance on Fox News Channel's Your World with Neil Cavuto on Tuesday. Read more ..

Broken Government

AG Holder denounces 'Political' Vote on Contempt Charges

June 29th 2012

Eric Holder gesturing

Attorney General Eric Holder blasted the House's vote to hold him in contempt and vowed to stay focused on his work at the Department of Justice.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday shortly after the vote concluded, Holder said Republicans and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, held a "politically motivated" vote.

"Today’s vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided — and politically motivated — investigation during an election year. By advancing it over the past year and a half, Congressman Issa and others have focused on politics over public safety," he said. The Republican-controlled House voted 255-67 to hold the attorney general in contempt, the first time in American history that the head of the Justice Department has faced such a sanction. Seventeen Democrats joined the GOP in voting for the resolution. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

The Supremes Validate Obama's Healthcare Reform

June 28th 2012

US Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on June 28 upheld the insurance mandate in President Obama’s healthcare law, a stinging defeat for conservatives who had insisted the law is unconstitutional. The decision vindicates Obama and congressional Democrats, who maintained throughout the legal challenge that even this court, with its conservative majority, would have to break with decades of precedent to overturn the healthcare law.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion for the court in the 5-4 decision on the mandate, ruling that Congress has the authority to enforce the healthcare law’s individual mandate, which will require most U.S. taxpayers to buy insurance or pay a penalty.

Roberts said the mandate could survive as a tax. "Nothing in the Constitution guarantees that individuals may avoid taxation by inactivity," Roberts said from the bench. Roberts tacitly acknowledged the passionate opposition to the healthcare law, but he said policy decisions belong to the elected branches of government, not the court. "It is not our job to save the people from the consequences of their political decisions," he said.

The decision allows Roberts — whose legacy will depend in large part on this case — to avoid the severe repercussions that both sides of the case had feared. The court did not strike down the signature domestic achievement of a sitting president, nor did it give its approval to an expansion of Congress's powers to regulate commerce.

House Republicans, in reaction, announced they would vote on repealing the full law on July 11. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Next Generation WiFi Hotspot Technology Starts Commercial Trials

June 28th 2012

smartphone user

Major operators in Europe are set to carry out advanced tests of a new WiFi standard for easy access hot spots using newly standardized equipment after successful trials using prototype kit over the last six months.

Many of the world’s largest operators and vendors have signed up to test Next Generation Hotspots (NGH) which use the Wi-Fi Passpoint standard approved this week. This allows users to log in without user names and passwords, relying on SIM card and serial number data instead. European operators in the trials include BT, BskyB’s The Cloud, Deutsche Telekom, Everything Everywhere, Orange, Portugal Telecom TMN, Swisscom, Talk Talk, TeliaSonera and Telefónica. Equipment suppliers include Ericsson and Comfone AG as well as Intel, Cisco, HP and Juniper.

The trials will test operator-to-operator billing procedures to ensure that they are compensated when carrying each other’s subscribers and test features that allow users to change their hotspot subscription package or set up a connection. The trials will also test a variety of authentication methods, including SIM-based, for the growing number of smartphones, as well as non-SIM based, for tablets, laptops and legacy phones which cannot support SIM authentication. The methods to be tested are EAP-TLS, EAP-TTLS, EAP-SIM and EAP-AKA. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Obama and Romney in Dead Heat in Battleground States

June 28th 2012

Obama and Romney

A new poll finds President Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney locked in tight races in three key battleground states, but with voters split on the economy.

An NBC News/Marist poll released Thursday shows Obama with a slight edge in Michigan and North Carolina and the two candidates deadlocked in New Hampshire.

But on the central issue for many voters, jobs and the economic recovery, the survey’s findings show openings for both candidates to bolster their support.

In Michigan, voters back Obama on the economy over Romney 44 percent to 42, while Romney holds the edge in New Hampshire, with his policies being favored by 46 percent to the president’s 42. In North Carolina the two are deadlocked with 43 percent backing each contender. "The economy plays both ways in all three states," says Marist College Institute for Public Opinion director Lee Miringoff. Read more ..

Students on Edge

Congress Close to Deal on Student Loan and Transportation Bills

June 27th 2012

College expenses

Congressional leaders on Tuesday moved closer to passing two high-profile bills in what could be the final burst of major legislative activity before the 2012 elections. Senate leaders announced a deal to extend federal subsidies for college loans and floated the possibility of attaching the language to a multiyear transportation authorization measure.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that he is confident the student loan legislation will pass while pegging the chances of the highway bill at better than 50-50.
Both Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled they are open to combining the bills into one package. They also cautioned that the GOP-led House, where the politics are more delicate on these issues, would have to sign off as well.

The boomlet of activity comes a week after the Senate passed a multiyear farm bill. Earlier this year, the House and Senate cleared legislation on helping start-up businesses, banning insider trading for lawmakers and reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. Perhaps not coincidentally, approval ratings for Congress have hit 20 percent — more than double what they were during 2011, a year of multiple partisan showdowns. The emerging dynamic is that Senate Republicans are increasingly eager to show they can work with Democrats, which hampers President Obama’s strategy of running against congressional obstructionism. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Obama Uses Crowd’s Boos to Claim High Road Over Romney

June 27th 2012

Obama Campaign 2012

President Obama is exhorting supporters on the campaign trail to avoid rounds of boos or catcalls directed toward his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. The repeated efforts by Obama — used as recently as Tuesday at an Atlanta fundraiser — are intended to send a signal that he’s heading up a positive campaign even as he runs countless ads excoriating Romney’s business background.

It’s also part of a calculated effort to contrast his handling of the hecklers with Romney’s. The presumptive GOP nominee has witnessed crowds at his events booing Obama but has not sought to quiet them.

And, in an interview on Fox News, Romney would not commit to urging his supporters and staff to stop the heckling. “I can assure you that we do not believe in unilateral disarmament,” he said, echoing earlier comments he made that “if you’re going to be heckling us, why, we’re not going to sit back and play [by] very different rules.”
Like Romney, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the 2008 GOP nominee, faced a slew of belligerent supporters. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Russian Missile Designer and Dissident Flees to the Netherlands

June 27th 2012

Aleksandr Dolmatov
Russian activist Aleksander Dolmatov in Amsterdam.

Russian political activist Aleksander Dolmatov has requested political asylum in the Netherlands, according a report by the Dutch de Volkskrant newspaper and news broadcaster NOS. Dolmatov had been working as a designer for a company that makes tactical missiles for the Russian military. However, Dolmatov claims that his association with a non-registered opposition party led the Russian secret service to persecute and threaten him despite his association with Russia's arms industry.

“A manager at the company where I work told a reporter that they will murder me,” Dolmatov told de Volkskrant via telephone from a government safehouse somewhere in the Netherlands.

According to the Interfax news agency, Alexander Averin - spokesman for the unregistered opposition party "The other Russia" - said "Opposition activist Alexander Dolmatov was forced to leave Russia. He addressed the authorities of the Netherlands with a request of a political asylum."  Read more ..

Islam's War on Christianity

June is the Bloodiest Month: As Promised by Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamists

June 26th 2012

bomb in kaduna nigeria

Nigeria's Christian community was shocked to learn of plans by the Islamic sect known as Boko Haram for an upsurge in the already deadly violence directed at Christians. Boko Haram, which means 'Western learning is un-Islamic,' has issued a threat to make this June "the bloodiest month for Christians." The Islamic sect had already promised to purge northern Nigeria of Christians as part of its effort to eventually impose Muslim religious law over the entire country. Bombs, armed assaults, and directed killings have been used by Boko Haram to rout Christians while also posing an as yet unresolved challenge to the national government.

Boko Haram claims to have trained some three hundred suicide bombers ready to attack Christians at churches in the states of Plateau and Kaduna (southern Nigeria). On June 17, for example, Boko Haram conducted a series of coordinated car bomb attacks at churches as worshippers gathered in Kaduna. Scores of Christians, and Muslims, were killed by the bombings.

Reprisals by Christians ensued in Kaduna, as enraged mobs dragged Muslims from their cars and killed them. Then in the northeastern city of Damaturu, Muslims went on the rampage to avenge the deaths of their co-religionists in Kaduna and elsewhere. The Nigerian army imposed a curfew but fighting continued sporadically, preventing medical teams and emergency personnel from aiding the wounded. Read more ..

Broken Government

Democrats portray Contempt Charges against AG Holder as Assault on Minorities

June 26th 2012

US Capital Day

Democrats are seeking to portray the Republican contempt motion against Attorney General Eric Holder as an assault on minority rights. Republicans have repeatedly accused Holder and the Obama administration of stonewalling Congress, but Democrats are now trying to steer the “Fast and Furious” debate away from transparency and toward voter suppression.

At the front of the push is a group of seven national civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, that is scheduled to hold a press conference on June 26 about the effect that placing Holder in contempt of Congress would have on his ability to protect the rights of black and Hispanic voters, homeowners and immigrants. “I’m not saying that this is because Holder is black, and I’m not calling [Republicans] racists. I’m saying what they’re doing has a racial effect, and that’s what we’re going to talk about [on June 26],” said Sharpton in a phone interview.

“The question one would have to raise is: If he is held in contempt, under that cloud, how does he fight for voter rights? This compromises the Justice Department from being able to do a lot of fighting.” Read more ..

The New Egypt

Gaza Celebrates while Israel is Concerned about Islamist Victory in Egypt

June 25th 2012

Sheikh Ismael Haneiya
Former Hamas Prime Minister Sheikh Ismael Haneiya (c).

The victory by a Muslim Brotherhood candidate in presidential elections in Egypt is raising concern in neighboring Israel.

Israel says it respects the outcome of the democratic process in Egypt, in which Islamist candidate Mohammed Morsi was elected president. A statement by the prime minister’s Office in Jerusalem Sunday said Israel hopes the new Egyptian administration will respect the 33-year-old peace treaty between the two countries, which Israel says “contributes to regional stability.”

But some Israeli analysts and media are warning that the peace treaty is in jeopardy.

“I think they will try to kind of freeze or to minimize the agreement,” said Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Cairo. He says Morsi is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, which traditionally has been hostile toward Israel. “It is an Islamic, extremist movement. They have said they hate Israel; they would like to see Israel wiped off the map.” Read more ..

Human Rights and Arms

U.S. Points Finger, and Arms Exports, at Human Rights Abusers

June 24th 2012

The People Want Human Rights in SA
Saudi protester with sign: 'The people want human rights'

Every May and June, different branches of the State Department paint contrasting portraits of how Washington views dozens of strategically significant countries around the world, in seemingly rivalrous reports by its Human Rights and Political-Military Affairs bureaus.

The former routinely criticizes other nations for a lack of fealty to democratic principles, citing abuses of the right to expression, assembly, speech and political choice. The latter tallies the government’s latest successes in the export of American weaponry, often to the same countries criticized by the former.

This year was no different. The State Department’s Military Assistance Report on June 8 stated that it approved $44.28 billion in arms shipments to 173 nations in the last fiscal year, including some that struggled with human rights problems. These nations include the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Israel, Djibouti, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

Three nations with records of suppressing democratic dissent in the last year — Algeria, Egypt, and Peru — are listed in the report as recently receiving U.S. firearms, armored vehicles, and items from a category that includes chemical and riot control agents like tear gas. The State Department confirmed that U.S. tear gas was delivered to Egypt up to the end of November, but has declined to confirm it was also sent to Algeria and Peru. Read more ..

Broken Government

Norquist Tax Pledge Shouldn't Become 'Trap' to Debt Deal

June 24th 2012

Credit:  Gage Skidmore

Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the only Senate Democrat to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, says he will not let it stop him from backing a deficit-reduction package that raises new taxes. Nelson, who is retiring from Congress at the end of the year, said that signatories of the pledge should not let it become “a trap.”

Democrats say the anti-tax pledge authored by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is the biggest obstacle to reaching a deal to reduce the deficit.
Extension of the Bush tax cuts, avoiding an automatic $1.2 trillion cut to discretionary spending and raising the nation’s debt limit may well hinge on getting a broader deficit deal.

“I look at the pledge as a commitment, not a trap. If it was set as a trap, then it’s unfortunate. I have attempted to, and I think others too, to abide by the spirit of it,” Nelson told The Hill. “I don’t think that it ought to be misused by anyone either.”

The pledge states that those who sign it will oppose “any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses.” It further states that signatories will “oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.” Nelson says cutting spending should be the priority. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran Threatens to 'Collapse' Israel

June 23rd 2012

Iran holy missiles

On June 23, an Iranian general said that any military action by Israel on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program would lead to a collapse of the Jewish state, according to the Fars news agency. This followed the failure of multilateral talks in Moscow, in which Iran and interlocutors such as the U.S. and Russia failed to come to an agreement on the nuclear program.

Fears were thus heightened that Israel might take unilateral military action to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, which is feared to be bent on producing nuclear weapons. However, agreement was reached for a follow-up meeting of technical experts on July 3, saving the process from outright failure.

Iranian Brigadier-General Mostafa Izadi, who serves as Iran’s deputy chief of staff of the armed forces, said of Israel, "They cannot do the slightest harm to the (Iranian) revolution and the system," according to Fars. "If the Zionist regime takes any (military) actions against Iran, it would result in the end of its labors," he added. He also said, "If they act logically, such threats amount to a psychological war but if they want to act illogically, it is they who will be destroyed." Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Secretary Clinton: 'I can absolutely bet' on Arms Race should Iran go Nuclear

June 23rd 2012

Hilary Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cautioned that Iran not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon, not only because of own intentions, but because she believes it would spur a regional arms race.

"Everybody needs to know — most particularly the Iranians — that we are serious that they cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. It’s not only about Iran and about Iran’s intentions, however one tries to discern them. It’s about the arms race that would take place in the region with such unforeseen consequences," Clinton told Charlie Rose in an interview posted online on June 21 and aired on CBS's "This Morning."

Clinton warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would create a "cascade of difficult challenges" for both the United Stated and its ally Israel.

"You name any country with the means, anywhere near Iran that is an Arab country, if Iran has a nuclear weapon — I can absolutely bet on it and know I will win – they will be in the market within hours," she said.

Clinton's remarks came as part of an hour-long interview, during which she spoke alongside former Secretary of State James Baker at the State Department in a special series Wednesday on "Charlie Rose," called "Conversations on Diplomacy."

Baker, free of political office, agreed that every possible avenue should be explored to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, but said if all else fails, "we ought to take them out" — which drew laughter from Clinton. "We're working hard, we're working hard," she added. Read more ..

Egypt on Edge

Egyptians Protest Military Council, Delayed Vote Results

June 22nd 2012

Mohammed Morsi #2

Thousands of demonstrators turned out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square after Friday prayers, heeding an appeal by Islamist parties to protest against the country’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Several secular and youth groups also joined in to denounce recent moves by the council, including the dissolution of parliament.

Protesters braving searing summer heat chanted slogans against Egypt’s ruling military council. Organizers were calling the protest a “million man march,” although webcam images from above the square showed crowds in some areas and empty spaces in others.

A top leader of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood said the sit-in protest at Tahrir Square would continue until the decision to dissolve parliament is reversed. Protest organizers blocked entrances to the square early Friday, preventing traffic from entering.

Anxiety is building, both in Cairo and elsewhere across Egypt, over the delay in announcing the winner of last week’s presidential runoff election. Both the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi and his rival, former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, claim to have won. Read more ..

Broken Banking

Moody's Downgrades 15 of the World's Biggest Banks

June 21st 2012

I Bailed Out a Bank

Moody's Investors Service issued downgrades to 15 of the world's biggest banks Thursday, saying that they all had "significant exposure" to volatility and risk inherent in their global trading activities.

Banks such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America were among the firms downgraded by the rating agency — a move that could require the banks to pony up billions in additional collateral to cover their derivatives transactions, and also make it more expensive for them to borrow.

"All of the banks affected by today’s actions have significant exposure to the volatility and risk of outsized losses inherent to capital markets activities", said Greg Bauer, the firm's global banking managing director. "However, they also engage in other, often market leading business activities that are central to Moody’s assessment of their credit profiles. These activities can provide important ‘shock absorbers’ that mitigate the potential volatility of capital markets operations, but they also present unique risks and challenges." Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Pakistan's Supreme Court Ousts Prime Minister

June 21st 2012

Pakistan PM

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ousted Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani from office, throwing the country into political uncertainty. President Asif Ali Zardari was meeting with the leadership of the ruling People’s Party and coalition partners to discuss the way forward.  Former law minister S.M. Zafar says a political crisis can be avoided if the President and parliament move quickly.

“The solution is easy, which is that the present government has a very good majority in the national assembly and they can elect a new prime minister probably by tomorrow. If they do that, the vacuum or the void that has happened on account of no prime minister being available at this moment in the country will be easily solved.  But if they don’t do that, then suddenly there is a difficulty in the situation,” Zafar said.

The Court based its decision on an earlier ruling that found Gilani in contempt of court when he refused to open a corruption investigation against President Zardari. The prime minister had refused to step down despite the April ruling. Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision came after opposition political parties filed a petition against him.

Lawyer Hamid Kahn, of the opposition party PTI, confirmed the next step would be a parliamentary vote for a new prime minister. “The president has been directed to act according to the constitution by taking further steps under the constitution, naturally for the election of a new prime minister,” Kahn said. Read more ..

Egypt and Israel

IDF Chief Gantz: Terror Bases are Forming in Sinai

June 19th 2012

Hamas Rocket

As rockets continue to fly into Israel on Tuesday, following a deadly attack on Monday in which an Israeli-Arab was killed at the country’s border with Egypt, the IDF’s Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, relayed a message to Egypt, as that country attempts to work through political turmoil and upheaval.

“We expect the Egyptians to exercise their sovereignty in Sinai,” he said.

As Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood claims victory in the nation’s recently finished presidential elections, and calls for protests against the Egyptian military in Cairo become louder, Israel and it’s defense apparatus have made adjustments to try and deal with the persistence of both political instability in Egypt and a recent revival of attacks from the Hamas terror group in Gaza. Read more ..

The Edge of Justice

WikiLeaks Founder Assanges Seeks Asylum in South America

June 19th 2012

Julian Assange

Officials for the leftist government of Ecuador claim that controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has asked for political asylum in the South American republic. Ecuador, which is led by President Rafael Correa, is considering the request. "Ecuador is studying and analyzing the request," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño told reporters in Quito on June 19.

Assange faces extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes against two women there. Assange has denied the allegations. While Assange is not currently charged with any crime, Swedish officials they want to question him over the allegations. On June 14, the British Supreme Court rejected Assange's request to reopen his appeal against extradition to Sweden. The extradition proceedings are scheduled to begin on June 28.

Assange reportedly fears that he should he be extradited to Sweden, he would be one step closer to being sent to the United States to face charges relating to his activities at WikiLeaks. Assange may opt to appeal his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is currently being planned by his attorneys. Swedish authorities have said the ECHR would intervene if Assange faced "inhuman or degrading treatment or an unfair trial" in any potential extradition to the U.S.

Assange published classified materials he allegedly received from U.S. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who allegedly downloaded more than 250,000 classified documents from the State Department, and another 500,000 U.S. Army reports, and provided them to Assange. Manning is facing espionage charges as well as violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for his activities. Read more ..

Egypt and Israel

Israelis Attacked: Egypt Losing Control of Sinai Peninsula to Terrorists

June 19th 2012

Islamic Terrorists

With the Egyptian government in a state of flux due to problems with establishing a civilian government and the military's internal problems, terrorists belonging to various Islamic groups are sneaking into Israel from the Sinai Peninsula and attacking Israeli civilians. The latest such violence occurred on Monday morning, an Israeli police source stated.

The sudden and vicious attack launched by terrorists at the Israel- Egypt border is creating a serious security issue especially for inhabitants of the Sinai Peninsula. Denouncing "in the strongest terms" what she called the " terrorist attacks" on civilians in Israel from Sinai, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said "We remain concerned about the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula and call for restraint on all sides."

But counterterrorism expert Mike Snopes, a former NYPD detective and military intelligence officer, believes Nuland has it all wrong. "I always get a little hot under the collar when some minion from the Obama administration starts with 'all sides' jargon. It's the terrorists who need restraining, not innocent Israeli civilians. And as far as response, the Israeli police or military or both have every right to retaliate," said Snopes. Read more ..

Iran on Edge

Iran Urged to 'Engage Seriously' in Nuclear Talks

June 18th 2012

Ahmadinejad at Iranian nuclear plant

An EU spokesman says six world powers have begun talks with Iran in Moscow with an appeal for the Iranian side to "engage seriously" with an offer to resolve international concerns about the Iranian nuclear program.

Michael Mann said in a phone interview, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) plus Germany hope Iran "finally" will negotiate on the proposals they made in the previous round of talks in Baghdad last month. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is representing the world powers in the talks, which resumed Monday in Moscow. The two sides have made little progress since an April meeting that ended a 15-month break in negotiations.

The world powers have been pressing Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, a level that some see as a short-step from the higher purity needed for nuclear weapons. The six-nation group also has been calling for Iran to remove stockpiles of highly-enriched uranium from its territory and shut down an underground facility at Fordo that has been producing the material. Read more ..

The New Egypt

Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi Claims Win in Egyptian Election

June 18th 2012

Mohammed Morsi #2

The Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi has claimed victory in Egypt's first post-uprising presidential race. But the rival camp of old guard candidate Ahmed Shafiq disputes the unofficial results, while the ruling military council claimed sweeping powers, throwing this major test of the nation's transition into doubt.

Morsi's claim was just one in a stunning series of events in the turmoil that has attended Egypt's historic poll.

Just after the polls closed, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a constitutional declaration, granting itself legislative powers, control of the economy and the right to pick who will draft the next constitution. With presidential powers still unclear and the Islamist-dominated lower parliament dissolved by court order Thursday, any victory Morsi might have when official results are announced later in the week would seem compromised from the start. Read more ..

Obama and Israel

Romney Pledges to Do 'Opposite' of Obama on Israel

June 17th 2012

Obama and Israel

Mitt Romney says Barack Obama has got Israel all wrong.

On Saturday, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee told Pennsylvania voters that his Israel policy will be the exact opposite of Obama's, who has been criticized for being too hard on Israel and too cozy with Arab dictators.

The Washington Post reports: “I think, by and large, you can just look at the things the president has done and do the opposite,” Romney said when asked about Israel. On the issue of Iran, Romney was even more blunt. The former Massachusetts governor said the president seems more intent on preventing Israel from destroying Iran's nuclear facilities than aiding the Jewish state. Read more ..

The Digital Age

ITC to Probe RF Chips Used by Moto, HTC

June 17th 2012

HTC thunderbold droid phone

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) said it voted to institute an investigation into radio frequency ICs and devices containing them made by Motorola Mobility Inc., HTC Corp., and RF Micro Devices Inc.

The investigation, based on a complaint by Peregrine Semiconductor Corp., (San Diego) will focus on products including RF switches that allow users to transmit and/or receive wireless signals more efficiently while consuming less power, the ITC said in a statement. The investigation will also focus on cellular handsets incorporating such RF circuits, the ITC said.

Peregrine's complaint alleges that some of RF Micro Devices' chips infringe on Peregrine's patents related to silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology for RF ICs. According to Peregrine, the ITC investigation involves five Peregrine patents and 38 separate patent claims. Motorola Mobility and HTC market products that incorporate the alleged infringing RF ICs, Peregrine said. Peregrine is seeking, among other remedies, an exclusion order preventing the importation and sale of infringing products in the United States, the company said. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Senate Races Testing Viability of GOP 'Businessman-Candidate'

June 17th 2012

Linda McMahon wrestling

As President Obama and Democrats litigate whether Mitt Romney’s business credentials make him a suitable occupant for the Oval Office, the effects are being felt down-ballot in Senate races across the country.

A half-dozen competitive Senate races this cycle feature a Republican businessman running solely on his or her record of creating jobs and generating revenue. It’s a message that resonated particularly well with voters amid a lagging economy, high unemployment and general disdain for an entrenched class of career politicians. “They feel like the government is broken, and the theory is if you put a businessman or businesswoman in power, they’ll do a better job at cleaning up the mess,” said Chris Perkins, a Republican pollster. An executive resume has automatic appeal in a Republican primary, strategists said, because it suggests fiscal competence and an understanding of the factors that drive prosperity and growth.

For independent and general-election voters, businessmen-candidates can capitalize on anti-incumbency sentiments and the feeling that Washington is fiscally and morally bankrupt, satisfying the hunger of those who want to “throw the bums out.” The only place businessmen don’t play well is in a Democratic primary, said Perkins. “Their base has a distrust of business, because that smells of Wall Street or corporate America” he said. “It doesn’t fit the ideological mode of traditional Democratic voters because they’ve heard about class warfare from the Democrats before.” In Connecticut, Republican Linda McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, has a commanding lead in the GOP primary to replace retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).  Read more ..

The War Next Door

Abducted Journalist Discovered Dead in Eastern Mexico

June 16th 2012

Mexican Drug Police2

A deadly Mexican drug gang abducted and then murdered a crime reporter who covered the drug war and rampant violence in Mexico's Veracruz state. The reporter was later found dead by police. The killing is another in a long string of journalists who have been killed since the war on drugs was initiated by President Felipe Calderon in 2006, according to the source, who frequently travels to Mexico in his capacity as liaison officer for a U.S. law enforcement agency.

The journalist, Victor Baez, worked for Mexican daily newspaper Milenio at the time of his abduction. The suspects kidnapped him as he was leaving his office in the town of Xalapa late Wednesday. Police found his body in the morning in the city center, said the Veracruz state government in a statement. Mexican police said that the reporter's attackers were three armed men but did not give details about how Baez was killed. Usually victims' remains are left dismembered, mutilated or decapitated by cartel members. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Anti-Assad Insurgents Seize Church as Terrified Syrian Christians Flee

June 16th 2012

Christian church closeup

The Greek-Catholic church of St. Elias in Qusayr, near the Syrian city of Homs, has been occupied by a group of insurgents who are fighting against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad's government. The gunmen have established the church as their base of operations. Eyewitnesses reported to the FIDES news service that on June 13, Islamic radicals stormed into the church, forcing the door, ringing bells and carrying out a demonstration of contempt that raised concern among local Christian leaders.

The group is now camped in the worship space and is carrying out its activities from there. The local Church condemns the incident, saying such "behavior unacceptable and disrespectful toward a sacred place," according to remaining members of the Catholic hierarchy in Syria.

Christian authorities in Syria have launched an appeal that the current conflict "does not degenerate into the desecration of temples and sacred places, of all communities. " Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Al-Shabaab-trained Terrorist Pleads Guilty in Manhattan

June 16th 2012

Click to select Image

Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed pled guilty on Wednesday evening to conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist group and for receiving terrorist training such as bomb-making from Somalia's al-Qaeda ally known as Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab is listed as a foreign terrorist organization by both the U.S. Department of State and Treasury Department officials who have placed sanctions on the group as well as certain individuals in Al-Shabaab. The 38-year-old Ahmed pled guilty before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel, who is scheduled to pronounce sentence on Nov. 2, 2012. The convicted terrorist will continue being incarcerated in New York City's Riker's detention center until sentencing.

According to the U.S. Attorney, Preet Bharara, Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed traveled a long way from his home in Sweden to Somalia, where he took up the radical Islamic cause of Al-Shabaab, a deadly terrorist organization and sworn enemy of the United States and its people. On Wednesday, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stated, “This plea is important to the ongoing efforts by the NYPD and federal partners to deter terrorist organizations and their followers, who continue in their attempts to put New York City and the United States at risk.” Read more ..

The War Next Door

Mexican Cops Discover Human Slaughterhouse in Truck

June 14th 2012

Mexican Drug Police2

In yet another grisly find for Mexican authorities, on Tuesday evening police officers discovered at least 14 mutilated and dismembered corpses packed into a large truck abandoned on the median of a highway in Veracruz, a Drug Enforcement Administration source stated. The van was located on the Alamo-Potrero del Llano Highway near the border with Tamaulipas state, the scene of the worst gang wars in northeastern Mexico, according to the DEA source.

The Veracruz General Attorney, Reynaldo Escobar Perez, called in Army and Navy personal to help the police officers remove the bodies and transport them to the federal forensic laboratory. Eventually, the remains were transported to the state capital and Gulf coast port of Veracruz, according to an official statement. According to the local newspapers, the bodies had been hacked and packed in bags, which made it extremely difficult for law enforcement officers and forensic examiners to count the number of bodies involved and the identities of the victims.  Read more ..

Legislative Compromise

Rubio's Support Gets President Obama's Envoy to El Salvador Over the Top

June 14th 2012

Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL)

The Senate on Thursday approved President Obama's envoy to El Salvador despite Republican efforts to derail Mari Carmen Aponte's nomination over her public support for gay rights and allegations that she was romantically involved with a Cuban spy two decades ago.

Obama gave Aponte a recess appointment in 2010, but it ran out at the end of last year after Republicans filibustered her nomination. This time, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), under pressure to approve the Puerto Rican nominee, garnered enough support to get cloture on Aponte's nomination, 62-37.

“Frankly, I have not seen any nominee forced to go through such an arduous and drawn-out confirmation process as Ms. Aponte," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). "As someone who personally reviewed her record, as someone who personally looked at the files, I believe there is nothing to prevent Ambassador Aponte to be confirmed by the Senate." Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said Rubio did not have any qualms about Aponte personally but held her up until the administration made changes to some of its policies in Latin America.  Read more ..

The Environmental Edge

Bush EPA Chief Urges Action on Chemical Hazards

June 14th 2012

BP Texas City after Explosion

Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency chief under George W. Bush, urged the EPA Tuesday to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to impose stricter safety standards on American chemical facilities vulnerable to accidents or terrorist attacks. “I cannot understand why we have not seen some action when the consequences of something happening are so potentially devastating,” Whitman said in a teleconference that included representatives of labor and environmental groups. 

As Bush’s EPA administrator, Whitman was prepared to unveil a proposal requiring chemical plants to use safer processes in the months after 9/11. Under the Clean Air Act’s general duty clause, Whitman said, the EPA had the authority to require hazard reduction at facilities at risk of catastrophic chemical releases. But the plan was scuttled by the White House, which maintained that chemical hazards could be better addressed by legislation, Whitman said. Congress had moved quickly to pass bills on water safety and bioterrorism, and the EPA thought it was “on the right track” to pass a bill on chemical security as well. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Adelson Throws $10 Million Behind Romney’s Super PAC

June 13th 2012

mitt romney

After reports began to circulate earlier this month that billionaire Sheldon Adelson was getting ready to throw his financial weight behind Mitt Romney’s bid for president, the Wall Street Journal and ABC News have confirmed the casino magnate has donated $10 Million to Romney’s super PAC “Restore Our Future”.

The independent political action committee supporting Romney is not allowed, by law, to coordinate its plans with Romney’s campaign, however it can spend an unlimited amount of money in support of the candidate.

Adelson, the chief executive of Las Vegas Sands Corp., and his wife, gave over $20 million to the super PAC which supported Newt Gingrich’s campaign for president, but after Gingrich dropped out of the race, Republican leaders hoped Adelson would provide similar support for Romney. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Feinstein Fires Back at McCain as Parties Battle Over Security Leaks

June 13th 2012

Dianne Feinstein (sen,ca,d)

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was wrong to accuse President Obama of hypocrisy for opposing a special counsel to investigate recent national security leaks. “Senator McCain has his way of saying things,” Feinstein told reporters. “He’s a United States senator — he can certainly say what he wants. I don’t happen to agree with that.”

Feinstein’s pushback against McCain’s hypocrisy charge comes as a major divide has opened between Democrats and Republicans over how to investigate a series of national security leaks, including disclosures about a U.S. cyberattack against Iran, a “kill list” and a double agent in Yemen. Both Feinstein and McCain are in agreement that the recent series of intelligence leaks is the worst cases they have seen as senators — more egregious than the Valerie Plame CIA leak under the George W. Bush administration.

The partisan fight that’s broken out over the leaks this week stems from deep disagreement over the best way to get to the bottom of the security leaks and Republican anger toward perhaps the most contentious figure in the Obama administration, Attorney General Eric Holder. Republicans allege that the leak investigation Holder announced Friday, in which two U.S. attorneys will investigate and possibly prosecute the leaks, will not be an independent investigation.

McCain on Tuesday said it was the “height of hypocrisy” for Obama to oppose a special counsel when Obama called for independent investigations of the Plame and Jack Abramoff scandals during the Bush administration. McCain has introduced a nonbinding resolution demanding a special counsel to investigate the leaks. Read more ..

Broken Economy

JPMorgan CEO Dimon: I Was 'Dead Wrong' on Trading Loss

June 13th 2012

Frantic Wall Street denizen

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon accepted blame Wednesday for the billions of dollars his bank lost on a bad trade while standing firmly behind his criticism of the Wall Street reform law. Appearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Dimon admitted he was “dead wrong” about the complex bet on corporate debt that damaged his bank’s bottom line and reputation.

"Under any name, what you call it, I will not defend it," he said. "It violated common sense." "I'm absolutely responsible; the buck stops with me," he added later.

Dimon said it was "likely" that the executives overseeing the trades out of the bank's London office would see their compensation clawed back. He blamed "complacency" at JPMorgan for allowing such a risky trading position, noting that the London office, and that particular portfolio, had previously reaped revenue. The pool of assets that drove the more than $2 billion in losses was structured to earn large amounts of revenue during a systemic event such as a financial crisis, according to Dimon, who said it performed as advertised during the last meltdown. Read more ..

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