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Iran's Nukes

Tensions Arise with France over U.S. Deal with Iran's Nuclear Program

March 22nd 2015

On orders of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, France might be the one to scuttle a nuclear deal with Iran.

Israel has turned to France in order to prevent what it considers an unfavorable nuclear deal with Iran from emerging, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Top Israeli envoys were sent to Paris to confer with their French counterparts after tensions arose between France and the United States over negotiation strategy, leading the Israelis to find an ally in the leading European power.

According to the report, France seems to be the best hope for Israel at a time when the Jewish state’s relations with the American administration are tense. AFP reports that France’s officials have been stridently opposed to the direction of the current negotiations and are greatly concerned about signing a deal that would grant too much relief to Tehran.

European officials have noted that if Paris has its way, the deal would be signed for 25 years, in contrast to the United States which is only aiming for a deal that would expire in a decade. Read more ..

Israel and Politics

Israeli Premier Netanyahu Wins Decisive Re-Election Victory

March 18th 2015

Bibi Netanyahu with Glasses

With almost all the ballots counted for Israel’s general election held today, the ruling Likud party of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has scored a dramatic and decisive victory over the rival Zionist Union party

99% of votes have been counted from a total of 4,223,057 and Likud is in first place with 23.29 percent. Zionist Union is trailing far behind in second place with 18.76 percent, almost 5 percentage points behind Likud.

The results give Netanyahu 29 seats in Israel’s Knesset, a full 5 more than the Zionist Union with 24. The tally significantly exceeds exit poll results which showed the two parties in a dead heat.

The United Arab List is in third place at 10.95 percent or 14 seats, followed by the centrist Yesh Atid with 8.78 percent or 11 seats and Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu with 7.42 percent or 10 seats. Read more ..

Broken Government

Amid Allegations of Improper Spending, Republican Aaron Schock resigns

March 17th 2015

Embattled Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) will resign his seat in Congress amid a slew of allegations regarding improper spending of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer and campaign dollars.

"I do this with a heavy heart. Serving the people of the 18th District is the highest and greatest honor I have had in my life," the four-term congressman said in a statement Tuesday.

"But the constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself. I have always sought to do what's best for my constituents and I thank them for the opportunity to serve."
He has faced a number of questions since a February story in The Washington Post that showed his lavish congressional office.

Ben Kamisar writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted

The 2016 Vote

Can Rand Paul's Juggernat be Stopped?

February 28th 2015

Rand Paul’s likely White House foes are looking to end his Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll hot streak.

The Kentucky senator is still the frontrunner to win the annual measure of grassroots support after claiming victory for the past two years.

But how deep other potential rivals — most notably Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — cut into his support will show who is on the rise in the 2016 GOP field.
“Every year serious candidates come to CPAC and organize and get people to come here for the specific purpose of voting for them in the straw poll,” said Citizens United President David Bossie. “Does it at the end of the day really mean anything that you can have the money and an organization to bus people in? Probably, because that means you have money and an organization. It's important.”

The establishment-minded Bush bused in hundreds of supporters to show strength in the convention space and at the straw poll ballot box, while rising star Walker had plenty of vocal backers in the building as well. Read more ..

Broken Government

Congress Faces Homeland Security Funding Deadline

February 23rd 2015

Security Against Terrorism

Lawmakers will begin returning to Washington on Monday with only five days left to prevent a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Legislation funding the agency is at an impasse over provisions demanded by House Republicans that would overturn President Obama’s executive actions on immigration shielding millions from deportation.
Over the recess, both sides dug in, with many Republicans arguing that there is no reason for their party to bend now that a federal court has ruled in their favor by blocking Obama’s most recent actions.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Monday evening for the fourth time on a motion to open debate on the House-passed DHS funding bill.

The motion will certainly fail, leaving a decision on what comes next to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Ukrainian Forces Retreat from Key City Controlled by Russian Rebels

February 18th 2015

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Ukraine's president says his government's forces are pulling out of the contested eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve, which has been under siege by pro-Russian rebels and where fighting has continued despite a cease-fire.

In a Feb. 18 video statement, President Petro Poroshenko said "Ukrainian armed forces together with the National Guard completed an operation for a planned and organized withdrawal from Debaltseve."

Poroshenko said that so far 80 percent of Ukrainian units have left the city, adding that another two columns are expected to also pull out soon.

A deputy regional police chief in the besieged city told reporters earlier on the same day that "full-scale street fighting" continued, even as Ukrainian troops were pulling out. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Copenhagen Shooter had Consuming Hatred of Jews

February 16th 2015

Friends of Omar El-Hussein, the Islamist terrorist responsible for dual attacks over the weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark, including one at a synagogue, say he was “consumed with hatred of Jews,” local tabloid Ekstra Bladet reported on Monday.

“It was no coincidence that the 22-year-old presumed terrorist went after a Jewish synagogue when he was on a killing spree in Copenhagen late Saturday night,” the newspaper wrote. “According to several classmates, whom Ekstra Bladet has been in touch with, the 22-year-old harbored an intense hatred of Jews. Although he had Palestinian roots, he was born and raised in Denmark.”

“He was consumed with hatred of Jews and was very aggressive when he talked about the Israel-Palestine conflict, said a 22-year-old former classmate,” according to the paper.

El-Hussein was shot and killed after he was cornered by police in a narrow street near the railway station in Norrebro, about 4 kilometers from the scene of the synagogue attack, The New York Times reported. He had been released two weeks prior from police custody and is reported to have had a history of violence. Read more ..

The Caliphate

Egypt and Libya Launch Air Strikes Against Isis After Militants Post Beheadings Video

February 16th 2015

General Al-Sisi

Egypt reported that its war planes had struck Isis targets in Libya, shortly after President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi vowed revenge for the release by Isis-affiliated militants of a video of a mass killing of Christians. A spokesman for the Armed Forces General Command announced the strikes on state radio Monday, marking the first time Cairo had publicly acknowledged taking military action in neighbouring Libya.

The statement said the warplanes targeted weapons caches and training camps before returning safely. It said the strikes were “to avenge the bloodshed and to seek retribution from the killers”.

“Let those far and near know that Egyptians have a shield that protects them,” it said. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Danish Police Failed to Protect Synagogue from Terrorist Attack

February 15th 2015

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CCTV image of Copenhagen terror suspect

Police failed to protect a synagogue in Copenhagen, despite appeals from the community, in advance of a terrorist attack that claimed the life of a guard during the pre-dawn hours of February 15. An as yet unidentified terrorist shot community guard Dan Uzan in the head outside of the synagogue while members of the Jewish community celebrated a bat mitzva. There were 80 people attending the event at the time of the deadly attack.

The attack at the synagogue came just hours after the terrorist claimed the life of a movie director at a popular café in the Danish capital. At the café, a conference was being held on freedom of expression and Islam that was attended by Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. Vilks has survived attempts on his life and death threats ever since the publication of satirical cartoons of Mohammed. The publication of the cartoons sparked firebombings of Danish diplomatic missions in Muslim countries and boycotts of Danish products by Muslims. Read more ..

The World on Edge

Europeans Conclude Cease-Fire Deal for Ukraine

February 12th 2015

The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France emerged from marathon talks in Belarus Thursday with a cease-fire deal aimed at ending months of fighting that has killed thousands in eastern Ukraine.

The cease-fire, which will begin February 15, was announced following 16 hours of grueling, all-night talks in the Belarussian capital, Minsk.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the parties "have managed to agree on the main issues," including the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the conflict area.

Pro-Russian rebels were also reported to have accepted the deal.

But all sides also stressed, in separate news conferences, that disagreements remain. "We have no illusions," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, adding there is "very, very much work to be done." Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama Calls Putin in an Act of Brinksmanship

February 10th 2015

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Russian troops in Ukraine

The White House says President Barack Obama spoke by phone on February 10 with Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging the Russian leader to back a peace deal for Ukraine set for review Wednesday at a four-nation crisis summit in Belarus.

Obama's call, described in a White House statement, came as Ukraine reported that rocket strikes in the eastern city of Kramatorsk killed at least 12 people and wounded more than 80 others.

The Ukraine Foreign Ministry blamed pro-Russian separatists for the latest violence, calling the rocket barrage "a deliberate massacre of the city's civilians."

The White House statement said Obama "underscored "the rising human toll" of the fighting, as well as the importance of Putin "seizing the opportunity" to back peace proposals when he meets Wednesday with the leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine in Minsk.

Kyiv and a host of Western governments accuse Moscow of backing the nearly yearlong rebellion in Ukraine's east with troops, strategic planning and military hardware. Read more ..

America and Israel

Independent Bernie Sanders Boycotts Netanyahu Speech

February 9th 2015

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Monday he will not attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's March 3 address to Congress. "The idea that the president wasn't consulted? That's wrong," Sanders said Monday during a speech at the Brookings Institution. "I am not going."

Sanders, who is eyeing a run for the White House in 2016, is the first senator to say he will skip the speech, joining a growing group of Democrats who plan to be absent in protest of Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) decision to invite Netanyahu without consulting the White House.

Democrats have questioned having Netanyahu address Congress so close to the Israeli elections, which are held in mid-March. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have said they will not meet with Netanyahu during his visit to avoid the appearance of trying to sway the outcome of that vote. Read more ..

Financing the Flames

Documents Prove Palestinian Authority Studied Details Of Each Terrorist Act Before Issuing Salaries

February 7th 2015

Edwin Black

Congressional legislators were astonished last year to learn that the Palestinian Authority was issuing monthly payouts totaling $3-7 million as salaries and other financial rewards to specific terrorists and their families. The money was channeled, in part, through the Ministry of Prisoners pursuant to the Law of the Prisoner. The law set forth a graduated scale, pegging monthly salaries to the length of Israeli jail sentences, which generally reflects the severity of the crime and the number of people killed and/or injured.

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Thousands of documents, newly obtained by this reporter through a lawsuit to unseal court-protected files, demonstrate that these payouts are not blind automated payments. Rather, senior Palestinian Authority officials as high as President Mahmoud Abbas scrutinize the details of each case, the specific carnage caused, and the personal details of each terrorist act before approving salaries and awarding honorary ranks in either the PA government or the military. Ministry of Prisoners spokesman Amr Nasser has explained, “We are very proud of this program and we have nothing to hide.” Nonetheless, in response to the international furor, the Palestinian Authority announced it would replace the Ministry of Prisoners with an outside PLO commission known as the Higher National Commission for Prisoners and Detainees Affairs.

The PA is dependent upon foreign donor countries to supply much of its budget, which now exceeds $4.2 billion annually. About ten percent of the PA budget, more than $400 million, is contributed annually by United States foreign aid. The US and many other countries have enacted laws forbidding any payments when the monies directly or indirectly support or encourage terrorism. The interdepartmental bureaucratic notations the Palestinian Authority has recorded on each terrorist before approving the level of salaried compensation is extensive. For example, one prominent case involved Ahmad Talab Mustafa Barghouti, who personally coordinated numerous terrorist acts. These included a January 2002 shooting spree on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, killing two and wounding 37; a March 2002 shooting spree at a Tel Aviv restaurant, killing three and wounding 31; and finally a March 27, 2002 attempt to smuggle an explosive suicide belt in an ambulance. The Israel Defense Forces arrested Ahmad. On July 30, 2002, a military court concluded that he was responsible for murdering 12 Israelis, and Barghouti was sentenced to 13 life sentences. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Obama is Poised to Request Authorization for Extended Military Force

February 5th 2015

IS Caliphate victory parade

The White House is poised to send a formal request to Congress asking for a new authorization to use military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The request, expected within the next week, would come days after ISIS released a video showing a caged Jordanian pilot being burned alive — a further display of the group’s brutality that one Republican lawmaker described Wednesday as a “game-changer.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he would be “disappointed” if President Obama did not make the request very soon. “I do think it’s forthcoming,” Corker said in a short interview with The Hill. “I would be very surprised — disappointed actually — if it’s not here by the end of next week. And maybe sooner.” Sending an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) to Congress would open a complicated debate for the White House on war policy. Read more ..

The Edge of Intolerance

UC-Davis Campus Marred by Anti-Semitic Graffitti

February 1st 2015

On January 31, members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity at the University of California-Davis woke up to find swastikas spray painted in red on their frat house. Saturday is the Jewish sabbath and the appearance of the Nazi symbols disturbed the members of Alpha Epsilon Pi, which is a Jewish fraternity on the central California campus.

Members of the fraternity expressed surprise and dismay at the expression of hatred they found. Some said that they had never experienced hatred directed at the Jewish people.

Tensions at the campus have recently peaked because of a resolution that was passed by the student senate on January 29 that urged the university to divest from companies based in Israel or that support Israel. Read more ..

The Caliphate

27 killed in IS Sinai Terror -- Egypt also Blames Hamas

January 30th 2015

Egyptian Mil. Police Alexandria

An IS-affiliated terrorist group launched a deadly attack in several locations in the Sinai Peninsula Thursday evening, killing at least 27 people. Egyptian authorities claimed Hamas is also to blame for this incident.

It is reported that a car bomb was detonated outside a military base and mortars were fired at a police station, a hotel and over a dozen checkpoints. 36 people were injured, one of them a senior military officer. Officials estimated that the death toll may rise due to the fact that many buildings have been shattered and people may still be buried under the ruins. Read more ..

The Caliphate

Nigerian Christians Beg Foreign Military Intervention to avoid 'Catastrophe'

January 28th 2015

Nigerian church bombed by Boko Haram

Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria, warned that a catastrophe awaits the country if the advance of the violent Boko Haram Muslim sect is not halted.

“The situation is very dangerous and very disturbing, because once they capture Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, then you can be sure that all of the areas around will easily fall to them,” said Archbishop Kaigama.

His comments followed a fatal attack in Maiduguri – a city in northeastern Nigeria – where dozens were killed and thousands displaced by a Boko Haram attack on January 25. “I am quite surprised at that because the people are still dying and being displaced so if the government cannot adequately control the violence, I think there is need for international assistance” he added.

Catholic Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri also warned that Boko Haram may soon control the entire northeastern region of Nigeria if international military assistance is not forthcoming. Read more ..

The 2016 Vote

GOP Presidential Hopefuls Seek Congressional Endorsements

January 22nd 2015

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The 2016 GOP primaries don’t start for another year, but potential presidential candidates are already furiously working to lock up support from lawmakers from early- and key-primary states.

Jeb Bush is chatting up members of his home state Florida congressional delegation. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is making personal visits to early primary state lawmakers. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is wooing would-be supporters.

Winning endorsements from popular politicians — and their spouses — in places like Iowa, New Hampshire South Carolina and Florida is crucial to getting a leg up on the competition — particularly with a crowded field.

And the prospective GOP contenders aren’t taking any chances. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Congressional Response to State of the Union Speech is Mixed

January 21st 2015

Democrats and Republicans in Congress expressed a mix of reactions to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, with a particular focus on his economic policies and the ongoing international negotiations on Iran's nuclear program.

After the January 20 speech at the Capitol in Washington, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Obama's speech a "powerful vision of opportunity and prosperity" for American families, and highlighted his plans to help those in the middle class.

But Republicans in the Senate, who reclaimed a majority this year, questioned how the president would fund those initiatives. Senator Cory Gardner expressed opposition to raising money through new taxes. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

In State of the Union, Obama Seeks Congressional Action

January 21st 2015

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As he enters his seventh year at the nation’s helm, President Barack Obama put forward an agenda he said will strengthen national and global security.

Speaking from the U.S. Capitol Tuesday evening, Obama addressed the nation and a Congress in which Republicans control both the Senate and the House of Representatives after winning sweeping victories in the November elections.

At a time of riveting global crises, Obama's speech was mostly about domestic issues, but he touched on several pressing foreign policy challenges.

National security

Obama acknowledged as commander-in-chief his first duty is defending the country.

"We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents," the president said. Read more ..

The Caliphate

ISIS Threatens to Kill Japanese Hostages

January 20th 2015

The Islamic State group has released a video purporting to show two Japanese hostages and threatening to kill them in 72 hours if Japan does not pay the militants $200 million.

The video posted on January 20 on jihadist websites shows a black-clad person with a knife speaking in English along with two kneeling men wearing orange jumpsuits. It identifies the men as Kenji Goto and Haruna Yakawa.

The militant criticizes Japan's support for Western military efforts to battle the group.

Japanese forces are not part of the U.S.-led coalition that has conducted more than 1,700 airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria since August. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged on January 17 to give $200 million in non-military aid to countries fighting the Sunni extremists. Read more ..

The War on Terror

Britain Foils Muslim Terror Attack on Jewish Community

January 20th 2015

Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former British Chief Rabbi, has told the BBC that the greatest threat currently facing British Jews comes from radical Islamists.

“I think so,” Lord Sacks said, when asked whether Islamists presented the greatest security challenge to the community. “Be aware though, just how small a minority that is of the Muslim community.”

Lord Sacks also revealed that a terror plot against the Jewish community in Manchester had been foiled by police.

The plot, he said, “would have targeted synagogues and Jewish schools, and luckily that was thwarted by the police. So this is not just a scare about nothing – this is very real.” Read more ..

The War on Terror

Iranian General Confirmed Dead after Israeli Airstrike in Syria

January 19th 2015

Iran has confirmed that General Mohammed Ali Allahdadi, who had been in Syria while giving “crucial advice” to Syrians fighting terrorists, was killed in an Israeli air strike in Syria that also killed several members of Hezbollah. The latter is a Shiite Muslim terrorist organization that serves as proxy for Iran in Lebanon. Among the dead is the son of a leading Hezbollah official who was assassinated in Damascus in 2008. Israeli television news confirmed that Israel had conducted the raid. Hezbollah has supported the forces of Syrian dictator Bashr al-Assad.

Allahdadi is not the first Iranian general to die in Syria. Iran has accused Israel of complicity in the 2013 death of Gen. Hassan Shateri . Shateri was a commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

According to Hezbollah, the air raid targeted two Hezbollah vehicles on January 18 while combatants were inspecting positions close to the Israeli-controlled frontier on the Golan Heights. Among the dead is Hezbollah commander Mohammad Issa, who had been with the organization since the age of 15. Another casualty is Abbas Hijazi, the son of Kamal Hijazi and a founder of Hezbollah. Read more ..

The War on Terror

Mysterious Death of Prosecutor Alleging Iran's Links to Argentine President

January 19th 2015

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Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Natalio Alberto Nisman, a special prosecutor in Argentina who for ten years had investigated links between Iran and Argentina in the deadly 1994 terrorist bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, was found dead in his apartment on January 18. When family members were unable to contact him, his mother found him dead in the bathroom of his 13th floor apartment in the Puerto Madero area of Buenos Aires.

According to Argentine law enforcement sources, a 22 calibre pistol was found near Nisman’s body. Argentine media is reporting that his death was the result of suicide. So far, the suicide theory has not been independently verified.

One of the investigators of the crime, Viviana Fein, told the press “I will not venture to offer a hypothesis. We now have to find the details of the cause of death. I cannot say whether or not it was a suicide. I am asking you for prudence. I will conduct the investigation. I trust the federal police and the prefecture.” Read more ..

The Caliphate

"We are Muhammed" shout Rioting Salafist Protesters in Algeria

January 16th 2015

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Several thousand people, including women and children, marched in Algiers on January 16 after Friday prayers to "defend the Prophet Mohammed," following appeals that appeared on social media. The protesters were incensed over the January 15 release of the new issue of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine. The cover of the latest edition featured a caricature of Muhammed bearing a sign reading “All is forgiven.” The issue sold out of nearly two million copies. Another issue is expected, while editions in Arabic, Spanish and Italian are expected.

Protesters and media outside of several mosques in the capital of Algeria and also at the May 1st Square and Martyrs square where demonstrations had been banned since 2001. Read more ..

The War on Terror

Secretary Kerry Lays Wreaths While Europe is on High Alert

January 16th 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry laid wreaths at the sites of the two Islamic extremist attacks in Paris that took place last week, as he visits France to show American support for the acts of terrorism that left 17 innocent people dead. Three Muslim terrorists were killed in firefights with police. Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius appeared first at the kosher supermarket in eastern Paris where four people died in a hostage standoff on January 9. A line of wreaths was already propped against police barriers blocking off the site.

Kerry and Fabius later visited the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo magazine, where 12 people were murdered by terrorists on January 7. As at the supermarket, wreaths, flowers and other remembrances were piled high against police barricades, forming an impromptu shrine to the victims.

Earlier, Kerry shared an embrace with French President Francois Hollande in front of the Elysee palace, where the secretary and the French president held talks. Kerry told Hollande that France has "the full and heartfelt condolences of all the American people," and that Americans "share the pain and the horror of everything" the French people went through. Read more ..

Broken Borders

House Passes Measure to Defund Obama’s Immigration Orders

January 14th 2015

Immigration Protest

The House voted Wednesday to block funding for President Obama’s immigration orders, firing the first shot in a high-stakes battle over deferred deportations for the millions of people who are in the country illegally.

The measure passed in a 236-191 vote, with 10 Republicans voting against it and two Democrats voting in favor.

Democrats rallied against the bill, which would fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through September, after Republicans adopted a series of contentious amendments that take aim at facets of Obama’s immigration policy.

One of the amendments would choke off funding for Obama’s executive action announced in November, which would allow some illegal immigrants to stay in the country and obtain work permits. Read more ..

Islam's War Against Christianty

While Paris Mourns, Muslim Terrorists Murder Thousands in Nigeria

January 13th 2015

Helpless Nigerian man

At least five persons were killed on January 11 in a marketplace in Potiskum, a town in northern Nigeria. The victims were killed when explosive vests worn by two 10-year-old girls were detonated by Muslim terrorists associated with Boko Haram – a sect associated with the Al-Qaeda terrorist network that seeks to overthrow Nigeria’s multi-ethnic secular government and impose Islamic law. This was the second such attack on the January 10-11 weekend. On January 10, a 10-year-old girl detonated explosives that killed 19 in nearby Maiduguri
The attack Potiskum happened during the afternoon hours as vendors sold mobile telephones to locals. Potiskum lies in Yobe State – one of the areas most affected by Islamist terror.

The War on Terror

Coalition Forces make 27 Air Strikes on Islamic State Targets

January 13th 2015

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The U.S.-led coalition says it has launched another 27 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq.

The U.S. military said on January 12 that the air attacks hit Islamic State fighting positions and buildings near Kobani, the Syrian town near the Turkish border where Kurdish fighters and insurgents have been battling for control for months. In addition, an oil refinery near Dawr az Zawr was hit.

In Iraq, the coalition said 16 air attacks hit more Islamic State fighting positions, an artillery system, a rocket launcher and buildings. The attacks occurred near Baiji, Taji, Al Qaim, Ramadi, Tal Afar, Al Asad, Sinjar and Mosul.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported a suicide car bomb killed 12 Shi'ite militiamen and Iraqi soldiers in Abasiyat, 130 kilometers north of Baghdad. Authorities said the blast sparked a battle between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State fighters.

Egypt on Edge

Former Egyptian President Mubarak to Get a Retrial

January 13th 2015

An Egyptian appeals court says ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his two sons will get a retrial in the embezzlement case that earned them multi-year sentences last year.

The court in Cairo announced its decision on January 13, a move that rolls back the only remaining conviction against Mubarak. It did not say whether he would be freed on bail pending the new trial.

A lower court found the three men guilty in May 2014, saying they embezzled about $17 million in funds that were due to be used to renovate presidential palaces.

The 86-year-old Mubarak has been serving a three-year sentence in a military hospital, while sons Alaa and Gamal were each given four-year terms.

The former president is also facing a retrial in another case involving the deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended his three decades in power. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

President Obama's 'Terrible Trade-off' with Cuba

January 11th 2015

Sen. Rubio (R-Fla.) criticized President Obama for restoring relations with Cuba after 50 years without extracting democratic reforms from the Castro regime. The U.S. is "going to bestow upon the Cuban government a strong level of legitimacy … And in exchange for all that the only thing the Cubans agreed to do was to release 53 political prisoners whose names, by the way, have yet to be disclosed," Rubio said in an interview on "The Cats Roundtable," host John Catsimatidis's Sunday radio show on New York AM 970.

Last month, the Cuban government freed American aid worker Alan Gross in an exchange involving three Cuban prisoners held in the United States. The Castro regime also pledged to release 53 political prisoners, which drew the ire of Rubio. Read more ..

Edge of Intolerance

After Terror Strikes, France is on the Edge of a "Seething Volcano"

January 9th 2015

For the first time since the Second World War, the Grande Synagogue of Paris - most prominent synagogue in the French capital - was shuttered when Jews would otherwise be attending Friday Sabbath services. On January 9, a Muslim terrorist seized hostages at a Jewish market in the Vincennes neighborhood of the French capital, prompting Jewish shops throughout the city to close their doors as a precaution.

According to Dr. Shimon Samuels, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “The Jewish community feels itself on the edge of a seething volcano.” The rise of anti-Semitism in recent years has prompted French Jews to leave the country, while many have emigrated to Israel.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Samuels said “Hostages in a kosher supermarket held [up] by an African jihadist, who reportedly already killed two victims… The scenes are out of a war movie.”

Islam and the West

Unprecedented Muslim Terrorist Attack puts France on High Alert

January 7th 2015

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French anti-terror police

A journalist's video recorded today’s unprecedented terrorist assault on the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo a leftist satirical newspaper that had been condemned in the past for caricatures of Mohammed, the founder of Islam. In the video, one of the two assailants can be heard crying ‘Allahu akbar’ (Allah is great). According to Spain’s ABC daily, one of the terrorists cried “We are avenging the Prophet!”

Another video recorded the shooting of a Paris police officer by the pair of hooded terrorists. After the officer said "I've had enough," one of the terrorists was seen finishing him off with a blast of gunfire at point-blank range in the head. "Charlie Hebdo is dead!" cried one of the terrorists. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

President Obama is Ready Rumble

January 6th 2015

President Obama is ready to take on the new Republican Congress that will come to power on Tuesday.

White House officials feel emboldened headed into what Obama has described as the “fourth quarter” of his presidency. Promising economic news, declining gas prices, and a flurry of executive actions that energized his liberal base have provided him with his best poll numbers in more than a year.

Aides and strategists believe this provides opportunity for him, even with Republicans taking control of both the House and Senate on Tuesday for the first time since 2006.

“Really for the first time in his time in office, the president has the economic winds at his back — and not in his face,” Democratic strategist Chris Lehane said.

If the winds continue to blow in Obama’s direction — no sure thing, as evidenced by the 300-point drop Monday in the Dow Jones industrial average — Obama’s White House will be able to stay on offense, Lehane said. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Boeing Faces Calls To Re-Design Lithium-Ion Batteries

January 2nd 2015

Boeing 787

Japan's civil aviation authority (JCAB) has called for Boeing to redesign the lithium ion batteries aboard the company's 787 aircraft. The JCAB advised Boeing to adopt proposed design changes and “implement them as soon as possible”. The JCABs call for a second battery redesign goes beyond the recommendations from two previous investigations about the 2013 battery incidents by the Japan Transportation Safety Board (JTSB) and the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The JCABs latest report calls for more action from Boeing.

Lithium ion batteries used on board 787s have been shown to be responsible for three reported cell venting events since January 2013.

The JCAB is calling for the battery redesign despite finding that two of the three protective layers from a May 2013 battery redesign worked as intended, and the safety of the aircraft was never at risk during the incident on 14 January 2014. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama Says 'Never Say Never' to U.S. Embassy in Tehran

December 29th 2014

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

President Obama refused to rule out one day opening an American embassy in Iran in an interview released Monday, but said the nuclear issue remains an obstacle in relations with the country.

In the wake of Obama's announcement of a move to resume diplomacy with Cuba, NPR's Steve Inskeep asked him about opening an embassy in Tehran during his final two years in office.

"I never say never, but I think these things have to go in steps," Obama said.
The U.S. and other world powers are in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, talks that were extended for the second time without a final agreement last month, while Obama faces a restless Congress pushing for more sanctions.

"In order for us to, I think, open that aperture with respect to Iran, we have to get this nuclear issue resolved — and there's a chance to do it and the question's going to be whether or not Iran is willing to seize it," Obama said. Read more ..

Violence in America

Missouri Police Kill Armed Black Teenager

December 24th 2014

A police officer has shot and killed an armed black 18-year-old man in a St. Louis suburb near where an unarmed black teen was killed by a white officer in August.

The shooting took place at approximately 11 PM on December 23 at a gas station in Berkeley, Missouri. The officer reportedly was given a body camera but it was not activated at the time of the shooting, according to officials. The incident took place just three miles away from the scene of the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown. The latter's death sparked weeks of rioting, arrests, and controversy since Brown was unarmed at the time and was shot by a white police officer.

St. Louis County Police Spokesman Jon Belmar says the officer encountered two men during a routine check at a gas station. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Cuba is Still Communist, Says Raul Castro

December 20th 2014

Cuban president Raul Castro thanked President Obama for “a new chapter” in U.S.-Cuban relations on Saturday, but said the resumption of diplomatic relations would not mean abandoning communist governance.

“Every country has the inalienable right to choose its own political systems,” Castro said, according to the New York Times. “No one should believe that improving relations with the United States means Cuba renouncing its ideas.”

Castro said the island nation would begin undertaking gradual economic reforms to allow a system of “prosperous and sustainable communism” to take hold.

He also said that the rapprochement between the two countries was just beginning, saying of the sweeping changes to U.S. trade and travel policies that “the only way to advance is with mutual respect.” Read more ..

Broken Government

Obama Rewards Cuba for 'Brutal Behavior'

December 17th 2014

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Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is slamming President Obama over his trade to release an American held in Cuba. 

"President Obama's actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government," Menendez, known for his tough stance on Cuba, said in a statement. "There is no equivalence between an international aid worker and convicted spies who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage against our nation."

American aid worker Alan Gross, who was held in Cuba for five years for trying to set up Internet for a small Jewish community, was released on Wednesday in exchange for the release of three Cuban agents convicted of spying in the U.S. Read more ..

Broken Borders

Senate Rebukes Cruz's Claims of Unconstitutional Immigration Order

December 14th 2014

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A vast majority of the Senate disagreed with Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) assertion that President Obama’s executive order on immigration is unconstitutional.

Cruz raised a constitutional point of order against the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” — which funds most of the government through September, preventing a government shutdown.

“If you believe President Obama’s executive order was unconstitutional vote yes,” Cruz said ahead of the vote on Saturday. “If you think the president’s executive order is constitutional vote no.”
Only 22 senators voted with Cruz and 74 voted against his point of order.

“The junior senator from Texas is wrong, wrong, wrong,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. Reid said the vote had everything to do with the funding bill and nothing to do with immigration.

Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) agreed to allow a vote on the cromnibus late Saturday night after objecting the day before. Both have taken issue with President Obama’s executive order on immigration. They’ve called it an “illegal amnesty” program.

GOP House members refused to fund the Department of Homeland Security beyond February as protest to Obama’s executive order, but Lee and Cruz said it didn’t go far enough. Read more ..

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