|Bernard Banks||June 25th 2015|
Cutting Edge contributor
Eighteen distinguished Iran specialists have signed an opne letter of alarm to Obama administration over the pending nuclear deal with Iran. The eminent list includes some of those who worked with the Administraion closely on the question. The list includes: Robert Einhorn, special advisor for nonproliferation and arms control at State until just before the interim deal, Gary Samore who served as the Administration's lead expert on arms control and WMDs from 2009-2013, and Dennis Ross who held the Persian Gulf portfolio at State, David Petraeus former head of the CIA, and Gen. James Cartwright former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The statement follows:
Over the last three years, members of this bipartisan group have convened regularly under the auspices of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy to discuss the status of the Iran nuclear issue, frequently benefitting from the input of current Administration officials. Last week, at its most recent meeting, the group determined that it could usefully contribute to the public debate on the ongoing negotiations by presenting its consensus view of critical issues.This statement reflects that broad consensus. Read more ..
Behind the Headlines
The State Department Inspector General inspected the agencyâs Diplomatic Security Service, or DSS. The inspection covered the final year of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. More than 1,000 cases of criminal conduct by State Department personnel were investigated by DSS in 2012. A final IG report was issued shortly after Clinton left office.
Reports of pedophilia, sexual abuse, and confrontations among co-workers should've been included in the report. But they were not.
A pair of whistleblowers [Aurelia Fedenisn and Richard Higbie] separately came forward and reported criminal acts allegedly perpetrated by senior State Department personnel had been stripped from the final report.
Some investigations were stopped in-progress. Like the case of a senior official who was alleged to have sexually abused foreign nationals while assigned to several embassies.
The investigation of an ambassador -- accused of pedophilia -- was halted on orders from “someone on the 7th floor,” according to official documents. Read more ..
The Edge of Sport
|Fred Burton||June 18th 2015|
Security professionals make it their business to be unseen. At concerts and sporting events, they are the ones standing unnoticed in corners and doorways, quietly blending into the walls while someone else takes center stage.
So it's no surprise that with all the recent coverage of the FIFA scandal, more attention has been paid to Rolex-clad executives, ostensibly sitting in well-lit offices and allegedly taking bribes ahead of their next golf outing, than to a group that has enormous insight into the day-to-day dealings of FIFA's administration: the security team. Someone from that team knows what meetings are happening when and where and with whom. Someone has access to his or her travel itineraries and hotel room numbers, business and personal schedules, phone records and emails — all vital evidence for the prosecution. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Allan Holmes and Chris Zubak-Skees||June 9th 2015|
Center for Public Integrity
Read more ..
More than a quarter of Americans cannot go online at home to check their children’s grades at school, apply for jobs, pay bills or research health issues. They don’t have what has become a crucial service for participation in modern society: Internet service at home.
The proportion of households with Internet service had been rising steadily for decades, according to the Pew Research Center, until the past few years when the adoption rate slowed.
One reason? The high cost of broadband and the lack of competition that leads to those high prices.
A Center for Public Integrity analysis of Internet prices in five U.S. cities and five comparable French cities found that prices in the U.S. were as much as 3 1/2 times higher than those in France for similar service. The analysis shows that consumers in France have a choice between a far greater number of providers — seven on average — than those in the U.S., where most residents can get service from no more than two companies. The Center’s analysis echoes the findings of several studies on Internet pricing disparities worldwide.
Turkey on Edge
Burak Bekdil||June 8th 2015|
For the first time since his Islamist party won its first election victory in 2002, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was nowhere to be seen on election night. He did not make a victory speech. He did not, in fact, make any speech.
Not only failing to win the two-thirds majority it desired to change the constitution, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its parliamentary majority and the ability to form a single-party government. It won 40.8% of the national vote and 258 seats, 19 short of the simple majority requirement of 276. Erdogan is now the lonely sultan at his $615 million, 1150-room presidential palace. For the first time since 2002, the opposition has more seats in parliament than the AKP: 292 seats to 258. Read more ..
|Omar Lamrani ||June 4th 2015|
In a display of considerable flexibility on the battlefield, the Islamic State managed to take rebel forces in northern Aleppo by surprise with a large-scale offensive aimed at securing more territory along the Syria-Turkey border. After drawing down its forces in the area, the Islamic State's sudden tactical shift resulted in considerable initial gains against the rebels. Islamic State fighters seized Sawran and are advancing near Mare. But thanks to reinforcements from Aleppo city and other provinces, Syrian rebel forces have already begun to mount powerful counterattacks against the Islamic State. For now, the outcome of the battle hangs in the balance as both sides move to bolster their ranks. Read more ..
The Edge of Intolerance
“Violent dispossession.” In an Arabic dialect, the word is Farhud. For decades after it occurred, many thought the nightmare was a sudden and unexpected convulsion that afflicted the Iraqi Jewish community, one that lived in that land for some 2,600 years. But in truth, the wild rape and killing spree of June 1–2, 1941 was not unexpected. For years, the Jew hatred, anti-British rage, and Nazi agitation seethed just below the surface, like a smoking volcano waiting to erupt.
Soon after Hitler took power in 1933, Germany’s chargé d’affaires in Baghdad, German Arab specialist Fritz Grobba, acquired the Christian Iraqi newspaper, Al-Alem Al Arabi, converting it into a Nazi organ that published an Arabic translation of Hitler’s Mein Kampf in installments. Then, Radio Berlin began beaming Arabic programs across the Middle East. The Nazi ideology of Jewish conspiracy and international manipulation was widely adopted in Iraqi society, especially within the framework of the Palestine problem that dominated Iraqi politics.
As Arab Nationalism and Hitlerism fused, numerous Nazi-style youth clubs began springing up in Iraq. One pivotal group known as Futuwwa was nothing less than a clone of the Hitler Youth. In 1938, Futuwwa members were required to attend a candlelight Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg. When the delegation came back from Germany, a common chant in Arabic was, “Long live Hitler, the killer of insects and Jews.” Read more ..
Palestinians on Edge
|Alexander H. Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky||May 18th 2015|
Faced with the suffering of their own people, the Palestinians' leadership recently decided not to help. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas rejected a deal with Israel brokered by the United Nations that would allow Palestinian refugees living in Syria to resettle in the West Bank and Gaza. Abbas stated unequivocally that "we rejected that and said it's better they die in Syria than give up their right of return." The Palestine Liberation Organization has also ruled out any military action to help the 18,000 or more refugees who are trapped in the Yarmouk camp near Damascus. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|George Friedman||May 14th 2015|
The sectarian conflict in the Middle East can neatly be divided into two sides: Sunnis and Shiites. Or so it would seem. The reality, it turns out, is more complicated. Sunni unity is a myth – the countries that constitute the Sunni camp are divided over a variety of issues. And the Shiites, whose power has grown since the early 1990s, nonetheless suffer from the inescapable constraints of being a minority population. Indeed, the single most defining characteristic of the Shiite camp is that it comprises only a fraction of the Muslim population. More than three-fourths of all Muslims practice Sunni Islam.
According to a 2011 study by the Pew Research Center, only four countries have a Shiite majority: Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iraq. But other countries have notable Shiite minority populations as well, including Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman. Shiites also form the largest confessional group in Lebanon and account for as much as 20 percent of the 180 million or so Muslims in India. Read more ..
|David Albright, Paulina Izewicz, and Andrea Stricker||May 5th 2015|
Despite the fact that Iran no longer has a stock of near 20 percent low enriched uranium (LEU) in hexafluoride form, it retains a significant portion of this material in the form of oxide.
Under the July 2014 extension of the interim deal of the Joint Plan of Action, Iran pledged to convert 25 kilograms of LEU oxide into fuel assemblies for the Tehran Research Reactor. The goal of this step was to reduce the ease of reconverting this uranium oxide and using it in a breakout to nuclear weapons. However, only about 5-10 kilograms of this near 20 percent LEU actually ended up in the fuel. In the most recent extension, Iran committed to use another 35 kilograms for that purpose. Although the efficiency rates are expected to be higher this time, Iran will still retain large amounts of near 20 percent LEU in both oxide powder and in scrap, in-process material and in waste. The figure below shows that far more LEU, almost triple the amount, is ending up in scrap and waste than in fuel assemblies. The bulk of this LEU is recoverable and usable in fuel or in a breakout to nuclear weapons. Read more ..
Europe on Edge
|Geroge Friedman||May 2nd 2015|
On April 23, the European Union submitted to pressure from Italy and Malta and held an emergency summit to address the immigration crisis in the Mediterranean. Between January and April, more than 1,750 migrants died in shipwrecks at sea, a death toll 30 times higher than that of the same period in 2014. Over the past year and a half, Italian ships have rescued more than 200,000 people in the Mediterranean Sea.
After the summit concluded, EU leaders decided to triple the financial resources for the bloc's operations in the Mediterranean Sea and to boost cooperation with certain countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger to better control borders and combat human trafficking. They also asked EU Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini to begin preparing for a possible military operation aimed at identifying, capturing and destroying vessels before traffickers could use them. Read more ..
Financing the Flames
|Edwin Black||April 21st 2015|
Lawsuits may soon be coming.
A stunning new Israeli Supreme Court decision has upheld most of a 2011 Israeli law enabling civil recovery actions against those that proliferate Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli individuals, companies, and institutions. Most of the Law Preventing Harm to the State of Israel by Means of Boycott was sustained in a recent ruling — the court's strongly-worded majority opinion, seven concurring opinions and dissent covered 233-pages. The newly enabled addition to Israel Civil Tort Law 62A covers the total Israeli domain, that is, the Jewish State delineated in 1948 and all territory under Israeli control, including the West Bank. As such, those suffering losses by BDS activity can sue for actual damages. Punitive damages are disallowed under the ruling. Critics are predicting litigation against the New Israel Fund (NIF) and its NGO grantees that promote BDS.
For its part, the NIF and its grantees that fought hard against the law during the run-up to the Supreme Court decision have almost universally condemned the decision as an attack against freedom of expression and democracy.
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By way of background, the NIF was pivotal in the early establishment of the international anti-Israel boycott through its funding of the Coalition of Women for Peace and other activities. After widespread criticism, the NIF stopped funding the Coalition of Women for Peace. However, many key NIF grantees, such as Partners for Progressive Israel (PPI), remain vibrantly involved in the BDS movement.
For example, a February 2015 PPI policy statement published on its website, accessed April 20, 2015, states: "PPI supports a selective, targeted boycott of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, not at Israel as a whole. The conception of a selective boycott first adopted by PPI called for a boycott of goods produced by the settlements." However, several PPI web pages devoted to boycotting settlement products were found blanked out when accessed after the Supreme Court ruling. These include such pages as one entitled "boycott-settlement-products." Read more ..
|Omri Ariel||April 17th 2015|
Thousands of Yazidi women are being held captive in the Islamic State's Shariya refugee camp in Iraq, on the border with Syrian Kurdistan. Few of them managed to escape, and now tell the horrifying stories of those who were left behind. These women go through a special kind of hell – being treated like cattle, sold as sex slaves and forcefully married off to abusive, violent husbands. This treatment is part of the jihadists' "big plan" – to establish a radical Islamist nation, a "caliphate", based on Sharia law as it was implemented in the seventeenth century, in the early days of Islam.
In an article on CNN, the women who fled IS describe how they were sent to enslavement warehouses, where they were lined up in groups of 50 and put on display in front of men in order to be chosen as their wives or sex slaves. These stories have been confirmed by doctors who examined them and say they have found evidence of repeated sexual assault. Read more ..
The Edge of the Universe
|Jason Wright||April 14th 2015|
After searching 100,000 galaxies for signs of highly advanced extraterrestrial life, a team of scientists using observations from NASA's WISE orbiting observatory has found no evidence of advanced civilizations in them. "The idea behind our research is that, if an entire galaxy had been colonized by an advanced spacefaring civilization, the energy produced by that civilization's technologies would be detectable in mid-infrared wavelengths -- exactly the radiation that the WISE satellite was designed to detect for other astronomical purposes," said Jason T. Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University, who conceived of and initiated the research.
The research team's first paper about its Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies Survey (G-HAT) is published in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. Also among the team's discoveries are some mysterious new phenomena in our own Milky Way galaxy. Read more ..
Qatar on Edge
|Onn Winckler||April 12th 2015|
Middle East Quarterly
Most states do not divulge all demographic parameters of their population. At times, this data is unavailable due to the weakness of the regime as is the case with many sub-Saharan African countries and, more recently, with Yemen, Syria, and Iraq due to their prolonged civil wars. In other countries, such as the United States, Belgium, and France, there is a lack of data on the religious composition of the population due to official separation of church and state.
While none of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have ever published the religious composition of their indigenous populations, Qatar has lagged further behind: It does not even make public the total size of its indigenous population, considered "a national secret." As the online editor of a Qatari-based business publication was told when approaching the Qatar Statistics Authority (QSA) for the data: "We regret to inform you that the required data is not available." Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Abha Shankar||April 10th 2015|
A year ago, he wanted to join the U.S. Army to kill his fellow soldiers. When that didn't work, 20-year-old John T. Booker repeatedly expressed his desire to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or commit a suicide attack in the United States on the terrorist group's behalf.
Booker, a convert to Islam who changed his name to Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, said American soldiers are enemies to Muslims, and the Quran sanctions killing enemies anywhere.
FBI agents arrested Booker Friday morning just outside Fort Riley, a military base near Manhattan, Kan. He was driving a van loaded with what he thought was 1,000 pounds of explosives. In fact, the bomb was rendered inert by FBI agents and informants. He is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to blow up government property and providing material support to the Islamic State. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Bernard Banks||April 9th 2015|
from AFP and agencies
French television network TV5Monde said Thursday that it had been hacked by individuals claiming to belong to the Islamic State group, who brought television broadcasts to a halt and and hijacked its websites and social networks. The Paris-based company was able to partially resume television broadcasts by 1:00 am (2300 GMT) after a three-hour blackout, the network's director-general Yves Bigot told AFP, but added its systems had been "severely damaged" by an "unprecedented attack".
The hackers posted documents on TV5Monde's Facebook page purporting to be the identity cards and CVs of relatives of French soldiers involved in anti-IS operations, along with threats against the troops. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Abigail Klein Leichman||April 8th 2015|
Read more ..
The Internet of Things, or IoT for short, describes a network of Internet-enabled objects (“things”) capable of transferring data to one another to perform tasks without human intervention. This machine-to-machine connectivity will completely transform our daily lives, according to presenters at Israel’s first ISmart Conference. The February event in Jerusalem presented a window on the future of IoT and how Israeli entrepreneurs, investors, companies, designers and technologists will play a role in it.
“IoT is going to be the biggest wave of the Internet that we’ve ever seen, more than mobile Internet and cloud computing,” declared Inbar Lasser-Raab, the Israel-based vice president of enterprise networks and IoT marketing for the multinational networking equipment maker Cisco.
By 2020, it is expected that 26 billion objects will be connected to the Internet, not including PCs, tablets and smartphones.
We’re talking about vehicles that communicate with each other on the road. Smart home systems that manage power consumption. Smart bracelets to help parents locate children. Wearables that let you and your doctor keep tabs on your health. Drones that can deliver a package for you and come back home automatically.
The Edge of the Universe
|Francis Reddy||April 5th 2015|
Using archival data from the Japan-led Suzaku X-ray satellite, astronomers have determined the pre-explosion mass of a white dwarf star that blew up thousands of years ago. The measurement strongly suggests the explosion involved only a single white dwarf, ruling out a well-established alternative scenario involving a pair of merging white dwarfs.
"Mounting evidence indicates both of these mechanisms produce what we call type Ia supernovae," said lead researcher Hiroya Yamaguchi, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "To understand how these stars explode, we need to study the debris in detail with sensitive instruments like those on Suzaku." Read more ..
|Olli Heinonen||March 30th 2015|
With reports that Washington and its partners may reach a nuclear accord with Iran in the coming days, a former senior IAEA safeguards official answers the most pressing questions about Tehran's program and how the agreement might affect its capabilities.
What is the commonly accepted definition of "breakout time"?
This is the time required to produce enough weapons-grade uranium (WGU) for one nuclear weapon. To produce WGU, uranium needs to be enriched (e.g., with centrifuges) to more than 90 percent of its fissile isotope U-235. The amount of WGU required for one weapon is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as about 27 kg of uranium. This amount is often called a "significant quantity" (SQ). Read more ..
|Martin Matishak||March 28th 2015|
The head of the House Select Committee on Benghazi says former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has erased all information from the personal email server she used while serving as the nation’s top diplomat.
“We learned today, from her attorney, Secretary Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said in a statement Friday.
He said while it’s “not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department.”
Read more ..
Last week, Gowdy sent a letter to Clinton’s attorney asking that the email server be turned over to a third party in the hopes that an investigation could recover about 30,000 emails that her team deleted before turning the rest over to the State Department.
|Edwin Black||March 14th 2015|
The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement is said to have ignited in earnest in 2005. It was propelled by significant funding from the Ford Foundation, which poured millions of dollars into anti-Israel NGOs working in Durban, and later by the New Israel Fund (NIF), which financially backed such pro-boycott groups as the Coalition for Women for Peace.
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Experts say the BDS modus operendi wields systematic distortion of international law, history, and general fact about the Israel-Palestinian conflict to rally public support. While BDS advocates claim to seek political and economic justice, their actions are increasingly trailed by anti-Jewish actions such as swastika graffiti at Jewish locations, challenges to Jewish student based on their religion, and a general air of anti-Semitic hostility on campus. Today, the BDS Movement stands merely as the leading edge of growing anti-Semitic agitation and anti-Israel mobilization, attracting pure hate elements to their message. Read more ..
Financing the Flames
|Edwin Black||March 12th 2015|
The controversial New Israel Fund and its social change and political lobbying organization known as SHATIL, have received more than $1 million from the State Department under a program designed to create political change, reform, and activism in the Middle East. The government program, Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), has extended more than $600 million in grants to political and social activists and reformers in 18 Middle East countries, mainly with unstable or challenged political environments in need of democratic improvement. “MEPI supports organizations and individuals in their efforts to promote political, economic, and social reform in the Middle East and North Africa,” according to the agency's official self-description.
The list of nations in which MEPI operates includes such countries as Algeria, Libya, Lebanon, and Yemen.
However, MEPI’s sphere of engagement includes Israel — ironically the only pluralistic, stable, and democratic nation in the Mideast. Among the leading recipients for MEPI grants in Israel is the New Israel Fund and its SHATIL organization. The NIF is an international, US-based 501(c)(3) charitable organization which has generated intense acrimony within the Jewish community and Israeli establishment for its highly politicized activities.
While MEPI’s involvement with the New Israel Fund has been previously reported in print and online, the million-dollar nature of the partnership has not emerged until now.
Vocal critics in both the US and Israel charge that the New Israel Fund has knowingly financed groups that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement, and worked to get Israeli soldiers prosecuted for so-called "war crimes." Benny Yanay of an Israeli military organization called Consensus, representing some 3,000 members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), stated, "The New Israel Fund acts against Israel—against the soldiers of our country. It is supported by foreign governments and organizations so that Israeli soldiers will be weakened." Other Israel military men and women have alleged that the NIF is trying to "destabilize the IDF." Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Juda Engelmayer||February 23rd 2015|
Cutting Edge News Contributor
|PA head Mahmoud Abbas against backdrop of Yasser Arafat|
The Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization are now being held accountable to a group of terrorism victims as a result of a lawsuit that was decided today. More than $600 million in damages was awarded in Sokolow v. PLO, (04-cv-003970) whihc was tried in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, in Manhattan.
The outcome marks the first time that the Palestinian Authority has been made liable for acts of terror. During the six week trial, internal PA documents that detailed payments to terrorists held in Israeli prisons, and to the families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks were shown to jurors. Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Robert R. Reilly||February 23rd 2015|
On Wednesday and Thursday last week, President Barack Obama gave two speeches at the White House Conference on Violent Extremism, attended by representatives from some 60 nations. His purpose was to focus attention, both domestically and internationally, on fighting the sources of violent extremism. What are those sources? Obama answered, “By ‘violent extremism,’ we don’t just mean the terrorists who are killing innocent people. We also mean the ideologies, the infrastructure of extremists…”
This is exactly right. The terrorists are animated by an ideology, and we cannot understand what Obama called “the nature of the enemy” without knowing this ideology. You cannot go into a war of ideas without understanding the ideas you are at war with. Yet, throughout the two speeches, he never mentions the substance of the enemy’s ideas once. Read more ..
The Water's Edge
|George Friedman||February 19th 2015|
Much like its northern neighbor, Mexico is not water scarce when viewed as a whole. But unequal water distribution has led to significant water stress in several parts of the country. Supply has been further strained by poor infrastructure, pollution and overuse — partly attributable to inefficient management and a growing population. Still, Mexico is positioned to experience significant economic growth because of its proximity to the United States and the likely expansion of its manufacturing sector as the country's population increases.
Recent changes to the constitution to encourage much-needed investment in the country's energy sector will further aid the faltering sector. Asymmetrical distribution and increased competition for limited water resources, however, could temper Mexico's potential for growth. Growth is still possible without addressing the problem, but it must be dealt with if Mexico hopes to fully utilize its geographic advantages, especially in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. In addition to the other obstacles that must be addressed, Mexico will need to make policy and behavioral adjustments to overcome its current water scarcity issues. Read more ..
|Tim Devaney ||February 19th 2015|
Gun rights groups are gearing up for a major push to move concealed-carry legislation through the new Republican Congress.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other Second Amendment advocates are throwing their weight behind the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, a bill introduced in both chambers of Congress that would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.
“The Second Amendment doesn’t end at the border of your state,” said Larry Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “This would enhance the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves when they’re away from home."
Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said the bill is needed to clarify a “patchwork of state and local laws” that is “confusing for even the most conscientious and well-informed concealed carry permit holders.” Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Scott Wong and Mike Lillis ||February 18th 2015|
The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday suspended President Obama’s expansion of deportation deferrals, scrambling a congressional debate over how to prevent a shutdown of the agency late next week.
The DHS put the brakes on Obama’s executive actions after a Texas federal judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the new program, which could shield up to 5 million immigrants from deportation.
How the ruling ultimately affects the Homeland Security debate remains to be seen.
Many conservative Republicans, emboldened by the Texas decision, are doubling down on their argument that the funding bill must include provisions undoing Obama’s executive actions on immigration from both late last year and 2012, when the president offered legal status to millions of young people who entered or stayed in the country illegally. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||February 15th 2015|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Danish police report that they have shot to death a man believed to have attacked a synagogue and a café in Copenhagen. Police say they killed the man in the Norrebro district after he opened fire on them near a rail station at approximately 5 am on February 15. It came hours after one person was killed at a Krudttonden Café where a conference was taking place on free speech rights and the Islamic definition of blasphemy, while another was killed at the Grand Synagogue in the Danish capital. Five police officers were injured during the two affrays. Video surveillance suggested the same man carried out both attacks. However, they do not believe any other people were involved.
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt declared after the synagogue attack, "The Jewish community belong in Denmark." Read more ..
Financing the Flames
|Edwin Black||February 7th 2015|
Times of Israel
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 ..
|Sarah Ferris||February 5th 2015|
Administration officials are refusing to say whether they have an ObamaCare backup plan if the Supreme Court torpedoes the law.
But Republicans don’t believe them.
GOP lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee repeatedly pressed Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on the issue. But Burwell on Wednesday did not budge during a tense back-and-forth, with a half-dozen Republicans claiming that the administration must have a “plan B.”
“I’m asking, is there a contingency plan? Not what is the plan, but is there a plan?” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) asked.
The case, which begins oral arguments next month, could make billions of dollars of healthcare subsidies disappear in 37 states. And with such high stakes, two former HHS officials said they are confident the administration is preparing a backup plan.
“Of course, they have one, they should all resign if they don’t,” said Tom Scully, an HHS official under former President George W. Bush. “And they certainly should not discuss it either.” Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Ben Kamisar||February 1st 2015|
Peyton Manning for president?
While it might seem far-fetched, a number of former NFL players have parlayed their fame on the gridiron into support at the ballot box.
Former NFL players who have been elected to Congress include Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Steve Largent, Washington Redskins quarterback Health Shuler and Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle John Runyan, to name just a few.
With the Super Bowl dominating America’s attention this weekend, here’s a look at five players who could seek public office once they hang up their cleats.
Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver Broncos
A lock for the Hall of Fame, Manning seems to have the perfect platform for entering politics thanks to his affable personality, visibility and history of donating to charities. Read more ..
|Alexander Bolton ||January 28th 2015|
Republican leaders in the House and Senate are boxed in on immigration and searching for a way out.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are struggling to find a way to fund the Department of Homeland Security while meeting conservative demands to unwind President Obama’s executive actions giving legal status to millions of immigrants who would otherwise face deportation.
Congress is only scheduled to be in session for three weeks in February, giving lawmakers little time to craft a funding bill that would prevent an embarrassing shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Feb. 28.
On Tuesday, the two began wiggling their way out of the tight spot:
• Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, pledged at a press conference that Senate Republicans would do “everything we can to persuade at least half a dozen Democrats that they should join us,” adding, “you don’t know how these legislative battles go if you don’t have them, and we intend to have this one.” Read more ..
The Battle for the Ukraine
|George Friedman||January 24th 2015|
Reports of heavy rocket artillery firing on the eastern parts of the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, as well as a statement made by a separatist leader, indicate the potential preparation of an offensive on the city. While this would be a significant escalation and an indicator of Russian intent to push further into Ukraine, potentially forming a much-rumored land connection to the northern border of Crimea, there are also several indicators required for such an offensive that are currently still missing.
Reports of heavy rocket artillery firing on the eastern parts of the city of Mariupol have been widely reported, with the death toll rising to 27 people. Mariupol has been shelled in the past, notably in early September, but as the cease-fire took affect separatist forces generally conducted attacks only outside of the city. It is not clear whether this is simply an intensification of relatively static fighting along the front between Russian and pro-Russian forces on the one side, and Ukrainians, or the beginning of a Russian-led offensive to widen the pocket, or the opening move in a broader strategic offensive to link up with Crimea, 200 miles to the west of the pocket. Read more ..
The 2016 Vote
|Mike Lillis ||January 22nd 2015|
House Democrats think the GOP’s agenda has given them a new opportunity to win over millennials ahead of 2016.
Even though younger voters tend to vote Democratic, the group turned out in low numbers amid the party’s midterm drubbing last November.
But now that new Republican proposals are taking a hard conservative line on the issues of immigration and abortion — bills GOP leaders have prioritized to launch the 114th Congress — Democrats see an opening to motivate younger voters and steer them into their tent.
“It’s almost as though they’re creating the strategy for us, bringing up these bills,” Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday.
A recent poll by The Washington Post and ABC News has fueled the Democrats’ optimism, finding that President Obama’s approval rating among millennials has jumped 19 percentage points since December. Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Doug Bernard||January 19th 2015|
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama is expected to focus on several new cybersecurity and privacy proposals recently announced by the White House. The measures call for greater information sharing between the federal government and private companies, and new security initiatives to prevent high-profile hacks.
At a White House meeting recently with Congressional leaders, President Obama said both parties could agree to strengthen cybersecurity. The recent attack at Sony pictures and a hack of a Pentagon twitter feed by supporters of the Islamic State group, he said, underscore the need to act. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Jonathan Schanzer and David Andrew Weinberg ||January 16th 2015|
Last week, Israel’s Foreign Ministry praised Qatar for purportedly expelling Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal from Doha. The announcement came shortly after CNN cited reports from a Hamas news agency indicating that Meshaal was to be expelled and was probably headed to Turkey. Within hours, however, CNN changed its story, issuing a correction on Twitter that read “sources close to Hamas—not news agency—say Qatar expelled Khaled Meshaal; Hamas official denies it.”
In actuality, Hamas issued multiple denials. Izzat Risheq, Hamas politburo member who reports to Meshaal and is believed to reside in Qatar, declared that “there is no basis of truth to what some news media published about brother Khaled Meshaal leaving Doha.” He even asked CNN for an apology. Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesperson also believed to reside in Qatar, stated that “there is no truth to what some news media published about brother Khaled Meshaal. And his place of residence. This is an attempt to stir up confusion, nothing more.” Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Dave Bender||January 13th 2015|
The four Jewish victims of last Friday’s terror siege in a Paris kosher supermarket were laid to rest in Jerusalem on Tuesday at a state ceremony attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and other dignitaries.
“I stand before you, brokenhearted, shaken and in pain, and with me stands an entire nation,” President Rivlin said in his eulogy at the Har Hamenuchot Cemetery, standing before the four biers upon which lay the bodies, wrapped in prayer shawls, of Yoav Hattab, 21; Yohan Cohen, 22; Philippe Braham, 40; and François-Michel Saada, 55.
“Yoav, Yohan, Philippe, Francois-Michel, this is not how we wanted to welcome you to Israel. This is not how we wanted you to arrive in the Land of Israel, this is not how we wanted to see you come home, to the State of Israel, and to Jerusalem, its capital. We wanted you alive, we wanted for you, life,” Rivlin said. Read more ..
|Alexander Bolton||January 13th 2015|
A push by House Republicans to reverse President Obama’s executive action on immigration has put their vulnerable Senate counterparts in a tough electoral spot.
The GOP faces a much tougher 2016 map, and Hispanic groups are warning of political fallout over the issue of deportations at a time when the party is trying to win the White House and defend its new Senate majority.
Worried about their party’s political fate, centrist Senate Republicans are balking at the prospect of a messy fight with the president.
“I would be concerned if the funding restrictions affected the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to carry out its vital functions,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “Another way to challenge the president might be in court.” Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Elise Viebeck||January 12th 2015|
The Obama administration was criticized on social media Sunday for the lack of high-ranking U.S. officials at the unity rally in Paris, where more than 40 world leaders marched in commemoration of the lives lost to terrorism last week.
Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris for talks on combatting terrorism and was scheduled to attend the rally. He was replaced by U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley, according to reports.
The absence of top American leaders was felt as countries from around the world sent their own premiers. In addition to French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas all took part in the rally. Read more ..
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