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The 2012 Vote

Rubio Says Obama Admin is undermining his Vision of the DREAM Act

May 10th 2012

Marco Rubio
by: Gage Skidmore

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the White House is trying to sabotage his version of the DREAM Act by “ordering” activists not to work with him so that President Obama can maintain his hold on the Latino vote in the 2012 election.

“One of the things that already been documented is that the White House has been — the articles that have been written, two or three by now, the White House has been calling in DREAM Act advocates and asking them, almost ordering them, not to work with me on this issue,” Rubio said Thursday on the Laura Ingraham radio show. “They have been counting on using this issue as a wedge issue in October to drive up turnout.”

Rubio is considered to be on Mitt Romney's short list of possible vice-presidential choices. Rubio’s proposal, expected to be finalized this week, is a scaled-back version of the Democrat-backed DREAM Act, which offers a pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrants who came to the United States when they were young and then go to college or serve in the military. Rubio’s proposal instead offers non-immigrant visas that would eventually allow them to apply for citizenship. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

House Votes to Replace Pentagon Cuts Mandated by Debt Deal

May 10th 2012

Osprey

The House voted Thursday to override steep cuts to the Pentagon’s budget mandated by last summer's debt deal and replace them with spending reductions to food stamps and other mandatory social programs. While doomed in the Senate and opposed by the White House, the legislation, which would reduce the deficit by $243 billion, is a Republican marker for post-election budget talks with the White House. Members approved the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act in a party-line 218-199 vote. As expected, the bill was supported by nearly all Republicans — only 16 opposed it, and no Democrats supported it.

Republicans voting against the bill were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Roscoe Bartlett (Md.), Charlie Bass (N.H.), John Duncan (Tenn.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Tim Johnson (Ill.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Raul Labrador (Idaho), Steve LaTourette (Ohio), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Todd Platts (Pa.), Ed Whitfield (Ky.) and Frank Wolf (Va.). GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner (Wis.) voted present. Republicans cast the bill as a first step back toward controlling federal spending, after years of allowing spending and deficits to balloon. Read more ..


Broken Government

US Postal Service Trims Hours to Keep Rural Posts Open

May 9th 2012

Click to select Image

The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service announced on May 9 that it will keep small post offices open with shorter hours as it tries to ensure rural access to mail services. Postal officials said the plan would balance the agency’s need to both serve customers and cut costs, and said the proposal would save about $500 million per year. “We think we ended up with a win-win here,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told reporters.

Donahoe had hinted in recent weeks that the USPS was moving away from post office closures, which have been strongly opposed by some lawmakers on Capitol Hill. USPS said last year that it was looking at roughly 3,700 post offices as part of its consolidation plans, and postal officials on May 9 noted that nearly nine in 10 rural post offices lose money.

With mail volume declining, USPS currently loses roughly $25 million per day, and the agency has said it is looking to shave $22.5 billion from its annual costs by 2016. Rural access to postal services has been a key issue in Congress, where lawmakers are working on legislation to overhaul postal operations and put the service on a sounder fiscal path. Read more ..


Environmental Edge

Army Corps of Engineers Finally Moves to Save Great Lakes from Asian Carp

May 9th 2012

Asian carp

According to a news release from U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) and Congressman Dave Camp (R), sponsors of legislation to speed up the creation of a plan to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp, have applauded an announcement by the Army Corps of Engineers that efforts to block the invasive species have been accelerated. Subsequent to the introduction of the bill, Corps of Engineers has announced that it will complete a set of options for permanent barriers to stop Asian carp and other invasive species in 2013, years ahead of schedule. Last week, a power failure and equipment malfunction temporarily shut down the electric barrier at the Chicago Waterway that is the only physical barrier to the entry of the voracious Asian carp into the Great Lakes.

Senator Stabenow said, "I am pleased the Army Corps has agreed that efforts to stop Asian carp must be accelerated. There is still much work to do before permanent barriers are completed, but having action moved years ahead of schedule is a very positive development." Commercial and sport fishermen, environmentalists and others are concerned that the admission of the non-native Asian carp would virtually destroy the native fish population, which includes lake trout, sturgeon, walleye, perch, native carp, and other species. Introduced in the 1980s in Deep South fishfarms, Asian carp have since been naturalized in lakes and streams in the southern U.S. They are known to jump out of the water, especially when disturbed by the noise produced by boat motors. Injuries and deaths of boaters and fishermen have resulted. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

CIA Agents Thwarted al-Qaeda New Body Bombs

May 8th 2012

airport crowd

U.S. counterterrorism officials said CIA intelligence agents thwarted an attempt by al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner one year after the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to a statement released on Monday. What surprised many counterterrorism experts was the sophistication of the so-called upgraded underwear bomb. The White House said that President Barack Obama was made aware in April of an al-Qaeda affiliate's foiled plot to blow up a U.S.-bound passenger airplane.

While no solid indications that the terrorist group al-Qaeda or its allies, such as Al-Shabbab, Boko Haram, and others, are plotting operations of revenge, counterterrorism experts have voiced their concerns and believe "it's better to be safe than sorry."  This thwarted terrorist plot revealed a modernized version of the "underwear bomb" that failed to detonate aboard a plane arriving at Detroit International Airport on Christmas Day 2009. This upgraded bomb was designed to be used in a passenger's underwear, but contained a more a refined detonation system, U.S. law enforcement bomb technicians said. "The 2009 IED [improvised explosive device] was amateurish compared to this upgraded device. It was also designed to pass through airport security screening equipment and metal detectors," said a veteran bomb tech. Read more ..


Israel Elections

Political Bombshell in Israel as Likud and Kadima Form New Government

May 8th 2012

Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu

At the eleventh hour, leading opposition party Kadima joined ruling party Likud to form a new unity government, a move that dispatches early elections and makes way for a universal conscription bill to be passed by the Knesset.

The surprise pairing came just hours before Knesset was set to dissolve itself and set new elections for September 4. According to reports, Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima's new head, Shaul Mofaz, met late into the night, agreeing to a bill that will establish army or national service for Haredi Jews. Mofaz will assume the position of deputy prime minister and will be included in the security cabinet, the body tasked with making decisions regarding peace and war.

Coalition members Avigdor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beitenu and Eli Yishai, head of the religious party Shas, endorsed the deal, according to Netanyahu.

"I didn't want to go to elections," Netanyahu said. "But having detected rifts I decided to go ahead." Mofaz told Kadima members that the unprecedented deal” would allow the government to produce equality in carrying the burden of military service.

“We did a great thing for the sake of the State of Israel,” he said. “I don’t want government portfolios, even for myself.”

Political insiders said both Netanyahu and Kadima benefited from the pact. For his part, Netanyahu will have a coalition comprised of 94 of 120 Knesset seats, the largest in the nation's history. Decisions on universal conscription and stopping Iran's nuclear program will now have the backing of a large legislative majority. For Mofaz, the decision may have been simpler. The new chairman of Kadima knew that polls showed his party was to lose a large number of seats in the next elections. By joining the coalition, Mofaz can build the party's base in time for the next scheduled elections of October 2013. Read more ..


Greece on Edge

Greek Vote Sends Euro, Shares Tumbling

May 7th 2012

Greek riots

The euro has slumped to a three-month low and shares on European markets have fallen after the parliamentary vote in Greece saw the country's two governing pro-austerity parties lose their majority. The New Democracy Party and Socialist PASOK party together took only 32 percent of the vote -- throwing the country into fresh political uncertainty.

Analysts say the result has raised concerns about the future of Greece's international financial bailout and the viability of the government's austerity measures. Greek stocks plunged 7.7 percent on May 7 after the results of the May 6 vote were announced, while the euro fell to its lowest level since January on world markets.

The presidential election in France, which saw Socialist Francois Hollande oust President Nicolas Sarkozy, has fueled further anxiety about the fate of austersity measures designed to end the eurozone's debt crisis. Hollande's antiausterity, pro-growth platform has many in the EU watching to see how he might push back against a German-led austerity drive. Read more ..


America and China

Biden Says US Ready to Give Visa to Chinese Activist

May 7th 2012

joe biden

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng’s future is in the United States, and that he expects China to abide by a deal that would allow the dissident to study in the United States, accompanied by his family. 

Vice President Biden says uncertainty and confusion surrounding the wishes, well-being, and ultimate destination of blind activist Chen Guangcheng could soon be at an end. “I think his future is in America.  His future is that he has an opportunity to go to NYU [New York University].  The Chinese have told us that if he files the papers to be able to go abroad, that will be granted.  We are prepared to give a visa right away.  He is going to be able to take his family.  We expect the Chinese to stick to that commitment," he said.  Biden spoke on the U.S. television program, NBC’s Meet the Press.

Chen escaped house arrest last month, spent several days in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and then departed for a Chinese hospital.  Biden says the United States has worked to honor Chen’s wishes from the start. Read more ..


The Arab Winter in Egypt

Calm Returns to Cairo Following Deadly Clashes

May 6th 2012

Flames in Cairo

Calm returned to Cairo on Saturday after Egypt's military rulers imposed an overnight curfew following clashes Friday that left a soldier dead and about 300 people injured. On Friday, troops clashed with protesters demanding an immediate end to military rule, just three weeks before Egypt's landmark presidential election. Soldiers fired tear gas and water cannons at thousands of demonstrators who massed near the Defense Ministry in Cairo's Abbassiya district.  More clashes erupted in the city late Friday. Islamist protesters had been camping around the Defense Ministry for days. More than 300 people were arrested.

The violence took place two days after fighting in Cairo left at least 11 people dead and prompted the top two Islamist candidates for the presidency to suspend their campaigns. Egypt's presidential election is scheduled for May 23 and 24.  The military rulers have vowed the elections will be fair. The election will be the first since a popular uprising ousted longtime autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak more than a year ago. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Army Soldier Kills NATO trooper

May 6th 2012

Afghanistan Fighters

The U.S.-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan reports that a man dressed in the uniform of the Afghan National Army killed at least one NATO soldier, having opened fire on May 6. The NATO troops immediately returned fire and killed the presumed Afghan soldier.

This is the latest in a series of deadly attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan by shooters dressed in Afghan army uniform. Elsewhere in the embattled Central Asian country, another NATO troop was killed in a bomb explosion in eastern Afghanistan on the same day. So far no details have been released.

On May 4, two Taliban commanders and three troops were killed in fighting with security forces. NATO says one of the men was a senior Taliban commander who planned and organized roadside bombings and other attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout Faryab province. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Soviet-Style Crackdown on Dissidents in Moscow

May 6th 2012

Uldatsov
Sergei Udaltsov

Moscow police have detained opposition leaders Sergei Udaltsov, Aleksei Navalny and Boris Nemtsov during a demonstration in Moscow on May 6. Police clashed with a small group of protesters led by Left Front leader Udaltsov and well-known anticorruption blogger Navalny, which broke off from a 20,000-strong sanctioned demonstration and tried to march on the Kremlin. Opposition leaders Ilya Yashin and Boris Nemtsov reported that police have used tear gas against the protesters.

There were other reports of police using batons against demonstrators who were apparently trying to break through the cordon around the protest. Police officials said that four police officers were injured during the clashes. Police cordons have been thrown up around Red Square and other areas leading to the Kremlin. Police used megaphones to order demonstrators at the sanctioned demonstration to leave the area and return to their homes.

Moscow police have detained opposition leaders Sergei Udaltsov, Aleksei Navalny and Boris Nemtsov during a demonstration in Moscow on May 6. Police clashed with a small group of protesters led by Left Front leader Udaltsov and well-known anticorruption blogger Navalny, which broke off from a 20,000-strong sanctioned demonstration and tried to march on the Kremlin. Opposition leaders Ilya Yashin and Boris Nemtsov reported that police have used tear gas against the protesters.

There were other reports of police using batons against demonstrators who were apparently trying to break through the cordon around the protest. Police officials said that four police officers were injured during the clashes. Police cordons have been thrown up around Red Square and other areas leading to the Kremlin. Police used megaphones to order demonstrators at the sanctioned demonstration to leave the area and return to their homes. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Iran's 'Butcher of the Press' Arrested

May 5th 2012

ali akbar heydarafarid
Ali Akbar Heydarifarid

Former Tehran deputy prosecutor Ali Akbar Heydarifard, who was suspended for ordering the transfer of political detainees to a detention center where they were allegedly brutally tortured, has been arrested.

The torture allegations, however, do not seem to be the reason why Heydarifard has ended up in Tehran's Evin prison. The head of the Tehran Province prison organization, Sohrab Soleimani, said Heydarifard was being held on allegations of "disrupting public order." Iranian media reported in mid-March that Heydarifard had fired a gun in the air at a gas station in Isfahan, apparently to warn other customers who were angry at him for not waiting in line. He was briefly detained by the police, who reportedly released him after confirming his identity. Some of the people at the gasoline station are said to have pursued the matter through Isfahan's Revolutionary Court. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Osama bin Laden Diaries Reveal Crumbling Terrorist Organization

May 4th 2012

Osama bin-Laden preaching

Before being killed last year, Osama bin Laden was advised to halt operations in Muslim countries and start taking the battle to the real enemy -- the Americans, according to newly released documents.

An analysis of 17 de-classified documents captured during the May 1, 2011 U.S. Navy SEAL raid on al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan raid. The documents were released to the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) on the campus of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and are now being posted on the CTC web site. The analyzed documents consist of emails and drafts of letters dated between September 2006 and April 2011.  These internal al-Qaeda communiques were authored by terrorist leaders, especially Osama bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. special forces just days after writing his last letter. The documents revealed to analysts that bin Laden's public statements focused on the injustice of those he believed to be the “enemies” of Muslims, namely corrupt “apostate” Muslim rulers and their American “overseers.”
Read more ..

Broken Airlines

Hated Spirit Airlines Now Charges $100 for Carry-on Bags

May 4th 2012

spirit airlines

Spirit Airlines will begin charging $100 per bag for passengers who bring luggage for stowing in overhead bins. This is the first U.S. carrier to impose such fees for carry-on bags. Currently, the airline charges $45 when passengers show up at a gate with a carry-on bag. The rate hike is scheduled to go into effect on November 6, according to the airline’s website.

The change means that any passenger who comes to a boarding gate without having pre-paid for the privilege of stowing their carry-on will be charged at the new rate. Spirit offers a confusing menu of fees for baggage that are linked to the point during reservations when passengers ‘buy’ the option of taking a carry-on bag. Spirit offers to passengers "ultra low base fares" for airline tickets by paying fees only for "the extras they value," the website says. Read more ..


Mexico's Wars

Mexico's Narco-Terrorists Murder and Dismember Two Journalists

May 4th 2012

Murdered mexican journalists

The dismembered remains of two Mexican photojournalists were discovered in Vera Cruz in Eastern Mexico by federal police (Federales) on May 3, making the total of news people murdered in that nation in the last ten years 70 men and women, according to a U.S. law enforcement official assigned to liaison duty in that war-torn nation. The mutilated bodies of Guillermo Luna and Gabriel Huge were found in pieces inside plastic garbage bags and dumped in a canal in the Vera Cruz town of Boca del Rio, the law enforcement official -- who requires anonymity -- told the Law Enforcement Examiner.

Police officers and crime scene technicians also discovered another two corpses that were dumped in the same canal, but they haven't as yet been identified. The Calderon administration said in a statement that the killings bore the hallmarks of Mexico's drug cartels, and federal investigators are pursuing the case instead of local police.

The violence comes as the ultra-violent Los Zetas gang battles the Sinaloa Cartel over billion-dollar drug trafficking routes up the coast into the United States. Members of Los Zetas are believed to be former Mexican military and police personnel and control the largest territory in Mexico. Read more ..


The Afghanistan War

Karzai Says US Bowed To Many Afghan Demands In New Strategic Partnership Deal

May 3rd 2012

Obama and Flag

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that Washington bowed to many of his demands when it agreed to the deal signed by President Obama and Karzai on Tuesday. In an address at his presidential palace, Karzai said that the United States met several preconditions, such as Afghan control of night raids and detention facilities, the Wall Street Journal reported. He also focused on the fact that the agreement prevents the United States from attacking other countries from Afghan soil. “Our fundamental conditions were that the U.S. forces must not have the permission to run prisons ... they must not be allowed to arrest Afghans, they must not be allowed to enter Afghan homes," Karzai said, according to the Journal. “These were our preconditions in order to enter into this strategic agreement.”

But already, U.S. officials have hinted that the deal might not be as strong as Karzai is making it out to be in his speech directed toward Afghans. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker said that Tuesday’s strategic partnership agreement does not rule out the possibility of the U.S. military continuing drone strikes in Pakistan, because “there is nothing in this agreement that precludes the right of self-defense,” he said. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Black Hole Caught Red-Handed in Stellar Homicide

May 3rd 2012

black hole flare

Astronomers have gathered the most direct evidence yet of a supermassive black hole shredding a star that wandered too close. NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer, a space-based observatory, and the Pan-STARRS1 telescope on the summit of Haleakala in Hawaii were among the first to help identify the stellar remains. This is a single frame of computer simulation showing a star being shredded by the gravity of a massive black hole.

Some of the stellar debris falls into the black hole and some of it is ejected into space at high speeds. The areas in white are regions of highest density, with progressively redder colors corresponding to lower-density regions. The blue dot pinpoints the black hole's location. The elapsed time corresponds to the amount of time it takes for a sun-like star to be ripped apart by a black hole a million times more massive than the sun. Supermassive black holes, weighing millions to billions times more than the sun, lurk in the centers of most galaxies. These hefty monsters lie quietly until an unsuspecting victim, such as a star, wanders close enough to get ripped apart by their powerful gravitational clutches. Read more ..


Broken Government

GOP Lawmaker Says Secret Service 'Ducked A Bullet' In Scandal

May 2nd 2012

Rep Peter T. King
Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.),

The Secret Service has “ducked a bullet” in the Colombia prostitute scandal, according to a Republican committee chairman who warned of potential breaches of national security. Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, on Wednesday said no evidence has turned up suggesting national security was compromised when agents brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms in Colombia last month. "It does not appear that any of the 12 women had any involvement other than prostitution," King told CNN. "They were not working for any narco-terrorist organization, and I think in a way the Secret Service has ducked a bullet."

King has said his main concern after the scandal broke was that the women involved had ties to foreign groups, but no evidence has emerged suggesting that's the case. U.S. officials have interviewed 10 of the 12 women involved in the incident, according to CNN. “It appears that no material was obtained by any of the prostitutes, nothing is missing, all the BlackBerrys are accounted for, there was no president's schedule available," King said Wednesday. He said now that the immediate concern has been alleviated, the investigation gives the agency "the opportunity to clear up what has happened, do all it can to make sure it never happens again or at least minimizes it to make it very, very difficult for it to ever happen again." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Cleveland Bridge Terror Plot Foiled

May 2nd 2012

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Bridge

Five men have been arrested by federal authorities for allegedly plotting to blow up a bridge near the U.S. city of Cleveland, Ohio. Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Cleveland division, Stephen Anthony, says the five were taken into custody late Monday, after they attempted to remotely detonate devices they bought from undercover FBI agents. "The individuals explored the illegal purchase of explosives, as well as the concept of using precursor chemicals and Internet knowledge to make homemade explosives.  They ultimately negotiated with FBI undercover agents and purchased two inert, I say inert, improvised explosive devices, IEDs, which were presented as C-4-based remote-activated IEDs," Anthony said.

A criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland identifies three of the suspects as "self-proclaimed anarchists."  Authorities say the men had considered a series of evolving plots over several months. The complaint says the initial plot involved using smoke grenades to distract law enforcement so that the suspects could topple financial institution signs on top of buildings in downtown Cleveland.  Later, the plot reportedly grew to include remotely detonating C-4 explosives. Read more ..


Broken Government

Senators Urge No More Postal Closings

May 2nd 2012

The four original sponsors of Senate postal legislation are urging the U.S. Postal Service to extend a moratorium on closing facilities until Congress finishes its work on the issue. With the moratorium set to lapse in two weeks, Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) noted that the legislation that passed their chamber included a resolution calling on the Postal Service to push back any plans to close post offices or processing centers.“There is considerable concern in the Senate that this approach will unnecessarily degrade the infrastructure which is one of the Postal Service’s most important assets,” the four senators, senior members of the Homeland Security Committee, told Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in a letter Monday.

“We believe an attempt to proceed with the planned closures — to ‘get in under the wire’ while legislation to the contrary is being considered — would be counterproductive and would violate the clear intent of the Senate.” Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

23 Killed in Syria Attacks as Pressure Mounts on UN Observers

May 1st 2012

Syria Protest

Syrian activists say violence has killed at least 23 people, as more U.N. observers began deploying to back a cease-fire plan that has failed to end more than a year of unrest.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says rebels killed 12 soldiers on Tuesday, in a battle in the northeastern province of Deir Ezzor. It says one civilian was killed when government troops responded with rockets and machine guns. The Observatory also says a mortar shell killed 10 people in a village in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Casualties could not be independently confirmed. The team of U.N. monitors in Syria has grown to 30 people, with more expected to arrive in the coming weeks. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon repeated his call Tuesday for all sides in Syria's 13-month conflict to stop the violence and cooperate with the U.N. observers to implement the April 12 cease-fire agreement. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Google Sued Over 'Jewish' Search Suggestions

May 1st 2012

In a strange twist, Internet giant Google is being sued by a French rights organization for alleged anti-Jewish discrimination over a technology developed in the Jewish state. SOS Racisme claims that Google's "auto-complete" technology is discriminatory because it automatically associates certain famous people with the word "Jewish" -- even though they might not be. The group, along with other French organizations, is suing Google for "overseeing the creation of what is probably the biggest Jewish file in history." By simply associating, for instance, Rupert Murdoch with the word Jewish" (Murdoch is not Jewish) the group says Google is violating a French law that prohibits compiling files on people based on their ethnicity. "Numerous users of the first search engine of France and the world are confronted daily with the association, unsolicited and almost systematically, [of] the word 'Jew' with the names of those most prominent in the world of politics, media or business," SOS Racisme and other organizations state in their lawsuit, according to a translation of an article about the case published by the French-language La Côte newspaper. Read more ..


Broken Borders

No Prosecution for U.S. Border Agent accused of Killing Mexican Teenager

April 30th 2012

US Border Patrol arrest

A U.S. border patrol agent and his family were relieved on April 27 when they were informed that the agent won't be prosecuted for shooting and killing a Mexican teenager on the banks of the Rio Grande on June 7, 2010, according to a press statement from the U.S. Attorney General's office.

Justice Department officials said in a news release that its "comprehensive and thorough investigation" determined there was "insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal charges."

The Justice Department also concluded that no federal civil rights charges could be pursued in this matter. Under the applicable civil rights statutes, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. This is the highest standard of intent imposed by law. Read more ..


Islam's War on Christians

Deadly Terrorist Bombings Strike Nigeria Twice within Two Days

April 30th 2012

Nigeria car bombing

Authorities in eastern Nigeria say a suicide bombing targeting a police official has killed at least five people. Officials said the April 30 explosion in Jalingo, the capital of the largely peaceful Taraba state, was triggered near the state ministry of finance and police headquarters. The police official was not harmed.

The attack comes a day after gunmen in northern Nigeria killed at least 15 people in an assault on a university theater used for church services. Security officials said the gunmen threw small explosives into the site at Bayero University in Kano on Sunday, then fired on worshippers as they ran outside.

A faculty member at the university, Dr. Nasir Fagge, says the killings happened at two locations at the school, and that security had been increased in the days leading up to the attack in light of other deadly incidents in the city. He also said three professors were among those killed. One of at least 22 people wounded in the April 29 attack described the assault as coming just before worship service began. Read more ..


Jordan on Edge

Jordanian Prime Minister Suddenly Resigns

April 30th 2012

Former Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh
Former Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh

Jordanian politics has just taken an unusual and unexpected turn as Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh tendered his resignation while in the middle of an official visit to Turkey. The Royal Palace swiftly announced his successor, former prime minister Fayez Tarawneh.

This surprise move capped a remarkably swift descent for Khasawneh and a U-turn on Jordan's recent efforts to deflect "Arab Spring"-type upheaval through managed reform. Last October, King Abdullah asked Khasawneh, a lawyer and jurist, to leave his position as a judge on the International Court of Justice and return home to lead Jordan's legislative, political, and electoral reform effort. Celebrated as a "Mr. Clean" in a political environment tainted by scandal and corruption, the onetime legal advisor to Jordan's peace delegation was widely viewed as having the king's full confidence to engage the broad range of domestic public opinion and civil society in a dialogue on reform. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Somali Pirate Convicted in U.S. for Abduction, Killing of Americans

April 29th 2012

Mohammad Saaili Shibin
Mohammad Saaili Shibin

A Somali pirate, who acted as the primary negotiator during kidnap-ransom negotiations, was convicted Friday by a federal jury in Norfolk, Virginia,  for his involvement in the abduction of Americans onboard a yacht, the S/V Quest. He and his fellow pirates took four U.S. citizens hostage and ultimately killed them before their release could be secured by U.S. special forces.

Mohammad Saaili Shibin, a/k/a “Khalif Ahmed Shibin,” a/k/a “Shibin,”  was found guilty of all counts of a superseding indictment which charged him with serving as the ransom negotiator for conspirators. Shibin was also found guilty of all counts relating to the attack on the Quest. A full list of the charges and their penalties are provided below:

1) two counts of piracy under the law of nations, which each carry a mandatory penalty of life in prison; 2) two counts of conspiracy to commit hostage taking, which each carry a penalty of up to life in prison; 3) two counts of hostage taking, which each carry a penalty of up to life in prison; 4) two counts of conspiracy to commit violence against maritime navigation, which each carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison; 5) two counts of violence against maritime navigation, which each carry a mandatory penalty of up to 20 years in prison; 6) conspiracy to commit kidnapping, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison; 7) kidnapping, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison; 8) three counts of use, carry, and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, the first count of which carries a mandatory minimum 10 years and a maximum of life in prison, and the latter two counts of which carry mandatory consecutive life sentences. Read more ..


Broken Labor

Fatal Work Injuries Rose in 2010

April 29th 2012

EMS with injured worker.

The Department of Labor reported this week that 4,690 U.S. workers suffered fatal injuries in 2010, a 3 percent increase from 2009. The higher number in part reflects a string of high-profile disasters in 2010: An explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia that killed 29; BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11; and a blast at the Tesoro Corp.’s oil refinery in Washington State that killed seven. Even discounting the 47 deaths from those three events, the toll rose in 2010. In 2009, 4,551 workers died, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The fatality rate rose slightly as well, from 3.5 fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers to 3.6. The number of workers killed in fires or explosions jumped from 113 in 2009 to 191 in 2010. Work-related transportation deaths increased from 1,795 to 1,857, suicides from 263 to 270. The number of construction-related deaths fell from 834 to 774—a probable reflection of a weak housing market and a generally rotten economy in 2010. Read more ..


The Arab Winter in Egypt

Egyptian Presidential Hopeful Promises Islamic, Inclusive Future

April 28th 2012

Mohammed Morsi #2
Dr. Mohammed Morsi, new Muslim Brotherhood presidential canidate
(credit: E. Arnott, VOA)

Mohamed Morsi, the new Muslim Brotherhood candidate, is among the leading contenders to become the nation’s first post-revolution president.

Morsi wasn’t the first choice for president of the Islamist group, Muslim Brotherhood. But with its lead candidate Khairat al-Shater disqualified, Morsi has grasped his role as an accidental front-runner with gusto. Whether working a crowd, or a roomful of politicians, the head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party plays to his audience with seasoned awareness.

To the students at Zagizig University, Morsi encourages questioning and activism. He says even after the election of a new president, even if he’s elected, he wants the revolution to continue. To supporters in his home village of Edwa, the U.S.-educated engineer stresses his humble, country roots. He connects with the crowd by pointing out “we weren’t born with a gold spoon in our mouths.” His father, he recalls, toiled and sweated, and would take him to school on the back of a donkey.

And wherever he speaks, Morsi makes clear Egypt will be transformed—politically, economically, and socially through the principles of Islam. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Veep Joe Biden Avers Obama Wields a 'Big Stick' with Foreign Countries

April 27th 2012

Barack Obama Israel speech

Vice President Biden said on April 26 that President Obama “has a big stick” on foreign policy in an offhand remark during a fiery speech attacking Mitt Romney that highlighted both Biden’s efficacy as a surrogate and his major liability: a propensity for going off script.

Seeking to maximize the gains Obama and Democrats have made with voters on national security issues, Biden presented a greatest-hits compilation of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, with al Qaeda’s former leader front and center.

“If you are looking for a bumper sticker to sum up how President Obama has handled what we inherited, it’s pretty simple: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” Biden said. But Biden, who at one point quipped sarcastically that he’s immune from slips of the tongue, also slipped in a joke about Obama that raised more than a few eyebrows. Read more ..


The North Korean Threat

Analysts: North Korea’s New Missiles “Bad Mock-ups“

April 27th 2012

NK Military Parade Apr 2012

Two German analysts say ballistic missiles unveiled in a North Korean military parade earlier this month were clumsy fakes.

In a paper titled, “A Dog And Pony Show,“ Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker of Germany’s Schmucker Technologie wrote that the six intercontinental ballistic missiles carried on mobile launchers in the April 15 parade were all bad mock-ups.

The paper said the missiles appeared to be a mishmash of liquid-fuel and solid-fuel components that could never fly together. In addition, undulating casings on the missiles suggested the metal is too thin to withstand flight. The two analysts said each missile was slightly different from the others, even though all were supposedly the same make, and they did not even fit the launchers that carried them. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

Rhode Island Cosa Nostra Boss Arrested on Extorsion and Racketeering Charges

April 26th 2012

Anthony L. DiNunzio

The alleged boss of New England's organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (NELCN) was arrested on April 25 on racketeering and extortion charges in Providence, Rhode Island, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police. Anthony L. DiNunzio, 53, of East Boston, Massachusetts, was ordered detained following an appearance in U.S. District Court in Providence. A third superseding indictment returned on April 24, 2012, and unsealed in the District of Rhode Island, alleges, among other things, that DiNunzio and other leaders, members and associates of the NELCN extorted protection payments from pornography businesses throughout Rhode Island.

“According to the indictment unsealed [April 25], as the [acting Capo] of the New England La Cosa Nostra for more than two years, Mr. DiNunzio used fear and intimidation to control the corrupt activities of his criminal enterprise,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer. “Among other charged criminal conduct, he allegedly asked an LCN member to extort a businessman in the adult entertainment industry and told others he would use violence against insubordinates. These charges are another step in our unrelenting efforts to stamp out the Mafia,” Breuer stated during a press conference following the mob boss' arrest.

DiNunzio allegedly took over as leader of the Patriarca crime family in late 2009 or early 2010, shortly after the Rhode Island-based gangster, Luigi “Louie” Manocchio gave up the job. Manocchio, who is in his mid-80s, has already pleaded guilty to federal charges. Read more ..


Korean Peninsula on Edge

North Korea Boasts of Ability to Destroy US Military in “Single Blow”

April 25th 2012

Kim Jong-Un

North Korea’s army marked its 80th anniversary Wednesday with a vow to retaliate against what its chief of staff terms the traitors in the South. The remarks are the latest in a series of harsh threats directed at Seoul in recent weeks. North Korea is boasting of “powerful, modern weapons” that can defeat in a single blow the United States, which it accuses of plotting a war against it.

Chief of general staff, Ri Yong Ho, gave no further details about the weaponry in his speech to mark North Korea’s Army Day. His address, from Pyongyang’s House of Culture, was broadcast later in the day on North Korean television.

Vice Marshal Ri says the blood of North Korea’s military and civilians is boiling in anger with a desire for revenge against South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak. He reiterates a threat of “sacred war,” transmitted earlier in the week, to crush the bases of provocation in the South.

North Korea’s new, young leader Kim Jong Un was in the audience for Ri’s remarks. But Kim—who holds the rank of a four-star general—did not address the gathering.

North Korea’s failed rocket launches

North Korea, on April 13, launched a multi-stage missile which exploded about two minutes into its flight over the Yellow Sea. Pyongyang claimed it was trying to launch a peaceful satellite into space. The international community condemned the launch as a violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions forbidding North Korea from utilizing ballistic missile technology. The failure only intensified fears that North Korea is preparing a third claimed nuclear test.

Pyongyang has made no announcement it is planning such a test. But satellite images from the beginning of this month showed fresh digging at the underground site where North Korea claims to have conducted two previous nuclear detonations. Those tests followed failed long-range rocket launches in 2006 and 2009. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Protest by Catholic Activists May Hamper Obama's Reelection Bid

April 25th 2012

US Conf of Catholic Bishops

President Obama has seen his standing among Catholic voters, a crucial segment of the electorate, slip in recent weeks, and a looming confrontation with Catholic activists could make it worse. Democrats want voters this year to focus on what they have branded a war on women, but the flip side of the debate—the so-called war on religion—is not going away anytime soon.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for two weeks of public protest in June and July against what it sees as growing government encroachment on religious freedom. The protests are expected to include priests and nuns and thousands of Catholic parishioners. Some activists expect civil disobedience, which could lead to powerful images of priests and nuns being led away in hand restraints.

“This is the most dynamic situation I’ve ever seen since I’ve been involved in Catholics and politics,” said Deal Hudson, president of Catholic Advocate, who also headed Catholic outreach for the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign in 2000 and 2004. “I think civil disobedience is almost inevitable. I think that kind of protest is on the way.” Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Brain Surgery For Epilepsy Underutilized

April 24th 2012

Surgeons

Ten years ago, a landmark clinical trial in Canada demonstrated the unequivocal effectiveness of brain surgeries for treating uncontrolled epilepsy, but since then the procedure has not been widely adopted—in fact, it is dramatically underutilized according to a new study from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). The study, showed that the number of Americans having the surgery has not changed in the decade since release of the effectiveness study, though surgical treatment is now uniformly encouraged by neurology and neurosurgery professional societies. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 2 million Americans have epilepsy. Hundreds of thousands of these men, women and children suffer from uncontrolled seizures, but nationally only a few hundred are treated surgically each year with UCSF performing about 50 of the operations. Among people who do have the operation, the study found, there are significant disparities by race and insurance status. Read more ..


France and Turkey on Edge

French Court Overturns French Genocide Denial Law

April 24th 2012

Pro-Genocide Denial Law Protest
Demonstration in favor of Armenian Genocide-denial legislation

France’s Constitutional Council has ruled that a law concerning the mass killings of Armenians a century ago violates the country’s constitution. The law, passed in December, made it a crime to deny that the killings of some 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 constituted genocide. Punishment under the legislation was set at up to one year in prison and a fine of €45,000 (about US$60,000).

But the French high court ruled that the law amounts to an “unconstitutional infringement of the exercise of freedom of expression and communication.” The court said: “It is legitimate for the Parliament to institute indictments on abuse of the exercise of freedom of expression and communication that violate public order and the rights of others. However, the infringement of the exercise of this freedom—which is a prerequisite for democracy and a guarantee of respect for other rights and freedoms—must be necessary, appropriate and proportionate to the aim pursued.”

Turkey promptly welcomed the ruling. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said the French court’s decision “does not indulge political concerns” and that it “averted a potentially serious crisis” in Turkish-French ties. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan President Blocks Visit by Outspoken U.S. Congressman

April 23rd 2012

Dana Rohrbacher (R) Calif
Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-Calif)

U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher's office has confirmed that Afghan President Hamid Karzai forced him to cancel a visit to Kabul, saying he was not welcome in the country. A statement from Rohrabacher’s office said he was to be a late addition to a U.S. delegation that met on April 22 with the ethnic Uzbek former Northern Alliance commander Abdul Rashid Dostum and other Afghan opposition leaders. Rohrabacher, a Republican from California and 23-year veteran of Congress, is an outspoken critic of Karzai. The lawmaker’s office said Karzai threatened to block entrance to the entire U.S. delegation if Rohrabacher was aboard the military plane that was transporting the group from Dubai to Kabul on April 20.

The statement said Karzai's demand was forwarded by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who "personally petitioned Dana not to continue on with the delegation." Rohrabacher stayed behind in Dubai. Earlier media reports said Rohrabacher had been refused an Afghan visa. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai stated that on April 23 that the Foreign Ministry can grant or deny a visa to any foreign national, but he did not comment specifically on Rohrabacher's case. Rohrabacher, who chairs the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, has previously called for investigations into alleged Afghan government corruption. He also angered Kabul in January when he led a small delegation of mainly Republican U.S. lawmakers to Berlin for meetings with Afghan opposition politicians. Read more ..


Islam's War Against Christians

Muslim Mob Destroys Christian Church in Khartoum as Sudan Bombards breakaway South Sudan

April 23rd 2012

South Sudan soldier

A Muslim mob destroyed a Catholic church complex in Khartoum, the capital of the Arab Muslim-dominated country of Sudan on the night of April 21. The church was torched and utterly destroyed by a mob of several hundred Muslims in Khartoum’s Al-Jiraif neighborhood, which had served southerners primarily. Firefigthers were unable to quell the flames, according to bystanders. The Al-Sahafah newspaper reported that Ethiopian refugees living in Khartoum also used the church complex. S

South Sudan, which is inhabited mainly by Christians and animists, broke away from mostly Sunni-Muslim Sudan in 2011 after decades of fratricidal warfare. After a short period of relative calm, fears are growing that open warfare will commence between the two countries. Over the April 21-22 weekend, Sudanese military aircraft flew sorties over the border region dividing the two countries. The Heglig oil fields, which are contestedby the two, received heavy bombardment, and oil wells in the area receieved significant damage. The two countries have differences over the sharing of natural resources (including petroleum), the demarcation of borders, and citizenship. Read more ..


Edge of Geopolitics

Russia and China to Commence Joint Naval Exercises

April 22nd 2012

Chinese cruiser Harbin
Chinese destroyer Harbin, framed by two US seamen.  (DoD)

China and Russia are preparing to launch joint naval exercises on April 22 in the Yellow Sea between the east coast of mainland China and the Korean peninsula. Chinese state media report that 16 Chinese surface vessels and two submarines, as well as four Russian warships, are taking part in the six days of drills scheduled from April 22 through 27.

The Chinese and Russian vessels gathered at the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao, the home of China’s northern fleet, on the previous day. The exercises include maritime air defense, anti-submarine tactics, search-and-rescue and the simulated rescue of hijacked ships, and anti-terrorism drills. Formerly Cold War rivals for leadership of the communist world, China and Russia have conducted four bilateral and multilateral military exercises since 2005.

The two countries are also participants in six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program that also include the two Koreas, Japan and the U.S. Four Russian warships have docked at a Chinese naval base near Qingdao. They are taking a break from guarding vessels in pirate-infested waters near Somalia for joint military drills. Read more ..


Election Edge

France Veers Left as Francois Hollande Takes Lead in First Round Election

April 22nd 2012

Francois Hollande
Francois Hollande

Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande emerged the frontrunner in the first round of presidential voting in France, with initial results giving him 29.3 percent of the vote compared to 26 percent for conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy. The two men face a runoff vote on May 6.

There were no major surprises in the first round of presidential elections in France. Polls have consistently placed French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Socialist challenger, Francois Hollande, as the top vote-getters.

In a speech after the initial results were announced, Hollande said his win reflected the failed policy of France's conservative president.

Mr. Hollande said he was now a candidate of union, who wanted to assemble voters supporting a hodgepodge of leftist parties during the first round. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Israel Ready to Attack This Critical Year--Israel's Army Chief of Staff

April 22nd 2012

Israeli Jet Diving

If Israel is forced to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, the military will be ready, said the army's chief of staff Sunday. "In principle, we are ready to act," Chief of Staff Benny Gantz told Ynet in a special interview ahead of Israel’s upcoming Independence Day. This is a critical year, added Gantz, and Israel is determined to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. However, Gantz said he believes Israel does not face an existential threat at this time. Gantz also hinted that the IDF has been operating far beyond Israel's borders. "I don’t think you will find a point in time where something isn’t happening somewhere in the world," he said. "The level of risk has increased as well. This is not something invented by Benny Gantz. I’m not taking the credit here. I’m simply accelerating all those special operations."

Gantz warned that a regional war will certainly mean rocket strikes on Israel's territory but said that the Jewish state is capable of dealing with any eventuality. "I can’t promise no missiles will be landing here. They will be falling; many of them. It won’t be a simple war, neither on the frontlines nor ion the home front,” he said. “However, I don’t advice anyone to test us on this front." Read more ..



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