|Michael Beckel||August 1st 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Democrats have become the kings of super PACs.
With Congress fighting over gun legislation and immigration, and 2014 midterm races already simmering, many left-leaning donors are eagerly bankrolling these free-spending groups that the party faithful have often criticized for unleashing unlimited money into political races.
Liberal-aligned super PACs combined to raise more than $40 million during the first half of 2013, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of filings submitted to the Federal Election Commission. Their conservative counterparts, meanwhile, collectively raised about $20 million.
That’s a stark contrast with 2011 and 2012, when Republicans rapidly deployed the nascent organizations following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling that led to their creation. During the first six months of 2011, for example, conservative super PACs outraised their liberal rivals more than 4-to-1, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of FEC data. Read more ..
|Erik Wasson and Russell Berman||July 31st 2013|
Long-running Republican tensions over the Ryan budget’s deep spending cuts boiled over Wednesday as the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee accused his party of being unable to support them.
In a blistering statement, Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he was “extremely disappointed” with his leadership’s decision to pull the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development spending bill from the floor.
Leadership said they simply ran out of time, but Rogers charged that wasn’t the real reason. He hinted that a vote on the measure was scrapped because leaders didn’t have the votes to support the deep cuts he was directed to write, and accused Republicans of effectively abandoning Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget. Rogers called for a bipartisan deal that would replace sequestration with something bridging the gap between the House budget and Senate spending measures he said were too costly to pass the lower chamber. Read more ..
|George Friedman||July 30th 2013|
China has become a metaphor. It represents a certain phase of economic development, which is driven by low wages, foreign appetite for investment and a chaotic and disorderly development, magnificent in scale but deeply flawed in many ways. Its magnificence spawned the flaws, and the flaws helped create the magnificence.
The arcs along which nations rise and fall vary in length and slope. China's has been long, as far as these things go, lasting for more than 30 years. The country will continue to exist and perhaps prosper, but this era of Chinese development -- pyramiding on low wages to conquer global markets -- is ending simply because there are now other nations with even lower wages and other advantages. China will have to behave differently from the way it does now, and thus other countries are poised to take its place. Read more ..
Israel and Palestine
|Robert Berger||July 29th 2013|
Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are set to resume late Monday in Washington after a long stalemate. But there are plenty of obstacles ahead.
The new Israeli-Palestinian talks follow nearly five years of paralysis, and skepticism on both sides runs deep. Twenty years of on-again, off-again negotiations have failed to achieve a final peace agreement with the creation of a Palestinian state.
Just hours before the negotiations were to begin, US Secretary of State Kerry named former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk to be his point man for the talks. Indyk played a key role in the 2000 Camp David peace negotiations.
At a State Department briefing Monday with Indyk at his side, Kerry said "reasonable compromises must be the keystone for all efforts towards a negotiated settlement." Israeli and Palestinian chief negotiators will try to hammer out a framework for the talks which will tackle the thorniest issues of the conflict: the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements and final borders. Gaps are wide, but the return to face-to-face talks signals that the parties are prepared to give peace a chance. Read more ..
The Weapon's Edge
|Douglas Birchemail||July 28th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
One of the Navy’s newest warships suddenly found itself immobilized in the South China Sea on July 20, as the failure of one of its four diesel generators caused a shutdown of all its engines during its first operational deployment. It was not the first major glitch since the USS Freedom began to sail in 2008.
The crew was able to restart all of the engines and get the 3,000-ton vessel into Singapore for repairs the following day. But the incident could not have occurred at a worse time for the sea-going service.
The Freedom is part of a planned fleet of 52 fast, agile, modern Navy warships known as Littoral Combat Ships and meant to operate in shallow coastal waters around the globe, combatting everything from pirates to terrorists to small submarines. But it is suddenly under intense scrutiny as Washington debates whether to fund the production of eight more sister ships over the next two years. Read more ..
|Elise Viebeck||July 27th 2013|
The latest fight between Tea Party and establishment Republicans is a familiar one: ObamaCare. The Tea Party is ready to take a stand on defunding the divisive healthcare law and willing to risk a government shutdown in the process.
Establishment Republicans worry the strategy will repeat the Clinton-era government shutdown showdown, which hurt Republicans in the 1996 elections.
Tensions will reach a boiling point after the August recess, when lawmakers start negotiations over how to keep the government open. In the meantime, old-guard Republicans are sending a clear message to conservatives: The shutdown isn’t worth the risk.
On Friday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said that a plan to shut down the government to block funds for ObamaCare would cost the GOP control of the House and could destroy the party. Read more ..
Egypt's Second Revolution
|Julian Pecquet||July 26th 2013|
The State Department on Friday said it will not label the overthrow of Egypt’s democratically-elected government a coup, arguing the law does not require it to make a formal determination. Administration officials notified lawmakers Thursday of the decision, which will allow about $1.5 billion in mostly military aid to Egypt to continue uninterrupted.
“The law does not require us to make a formal determination—that is a review that we have undergone—as to whether a coup took place, and it is not in our national interest to make such a determination,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “We have determined we are not going to make a determination.”
She vehemently denied that the administration was skirting the law with its apparently unprecedented choice to avoid a decision. “Given that our legal team was an important part of this process, certainly, I would refute any notions that we were flouting the law,” Psaki said. U.S. law requires that aid be cut off if the military overthrows a democratically elected government, but the administration wants to be able to continue sending aid to the Arab World’s most populous country despite the toppling of President Mohamed Morsi. Read more ..
|John Hofilena||July 25th 2013|
Japan Daily Press
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear power facility, has admitted for the first time that radioactive groundwater may be seeping out of the nuclear plant area and out into sea. In tests earlier this month, the embattled utility company said that groundwater samples have shown an increase in levels of cancer-causing cesium-134, but that the contaminated groundwater was contained at the current location by concrete foundations and steel sheets. TEPCO has changed its assessment of the situation on Monday.
“We believe that contaminated water has flown out to the sea,” a TEPCO spokesman said on Monday. The spokesman also insisted the impact of the radioactive water on the ocean would be limited, but the citizens of Fukushima have heard TEPCO make the same claims before, only to take them back when they were pressured to reveal damaging information. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Susan St. Claire||July 23rd 2013|
Iraqi security forces locked down areas around the infamous Abu Ghraib prison and another high-security detention facility on Baghdad's outskirts Monday to hunt for escaped inmates and militants after daring insurgent assaults set hundreds of detainees free.
The carefully orchestrated late-night attacks killed dozens Sunday, including at least 25 members of the Iraqi security forces. Insurgents fired dozens of mortar shells and detonated suicide and car bombs, drawing Iraqi forces into firefights that lasted more than an hour.
The prison break of hundreds of prisoners from Abu Ghraib was been helped by guards working with the attackers, according to the Iraqi Interior Ministry. The ministry said in a statement that its senior officials along with senior Ministry of Defense officials had briefed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on the attack on the Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons. More than 50 people, including 26 guards and Iraqi soldiers were killed in gunmen attacks accompanied by suicide bombers late Sunday. Read more ..
Israel and America
|Juda Engelmayer||July 22nd 2013|
Cutting Edge News Correspondent
As has happened since 2006, the largest pro-Israel American gathering comprised largely of non-Jews has once again taken place in the Washington DC Convention Center. Dynamic Christian Evangelist Pastor John Hagee and his million-plus strong organization Christians United for Israel opened the three-day conference on July 22 to an audience that surpassed 5000 supporters. On the heels of Secretary of State John Kerry’s most recent Middle East stint, having been shuttling between DC and Tel Aviv many times over the past four months, CUFI’s founder believes that “Israel's security establishment is in a state of emergency. Israel is surrounded with enemies like never before.” Read more ..
Israel and Palestine
|Robert Berger||July 21st 2013|
Israel and the Palestinians are setting down guidelines for new peace talks brokered by the United States.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the expected resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians after a four-year stalemate. Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said negotiations with the Palestinians are a “vital strategic interest” of Israel.
He said the talks will be difficult and any final agreement would be brought to a national referendum. Israeli and Palestinian chief negotiators are due to meet in Washington soon with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who on Friday announced an agreement had been reached establishing a basis for the resumption of direct final status negotiations. The officials will try to hammer out the framework for resumed peace talks, but disagreements have already emerged over the borders of a future Palestinian state. Read more ..
The Edge of Justice
|Kate Woodsome||July 20th 2013|
A group of journalists and activists are preparing to challenge a U.S. court decision upholding the Obama administration’s ability to indefinitely detain individuals. The ruling, plaintiffs say, deals a blow to civil liberties in the name of national security, and could even be used to detain U.S. citizens without due process.
An appeals court in New York this week ruled the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found the law “says nothing at all about the President’s authority to detain American citizens,” as argued by the plaintiffs. It also said the non-citizen plaintiffs “failed to establish standing because they have not shown a sufficient threat that the government will detain them under Section 1021.” Wednesday’s decision hands a victory to the U.S. government, upholding its ability to indefinitely detain people considered enemy combatants, or individuals considered to have provided support to them. Read more ..
The Edge of Sport
|James M. Dorsey||July 19th 2013|
Economic Warfare Institute
The phones ring continuously at Kurdish football club Dalkurd FF, a hot team for agents and players. In 2009, it signed Bosnian international Nedim Halilovic and upcoming Algerian-Swedish star Nadir Benchenaa. More prominent signings are in the works. Started in 2004 with the support of top Swedish football club IK Brage as a project to create jobs for Kurdish youth, Dalkurd's meteoric rise has put it on the international football map and turned it into a model of how a Middle Eastern immigrant community can address its social and economic problems and project its identity. Dalkurd, one of three Swedish clubs that have fielded Europe's most successful immigrant teams, was founded in Borlänge, a small iron and paper mill workers' town of some 50,000 predominantly ethnically Swedish residents 220 km north of Stockholm.
The club was initially launched as a project to create jobs for the youth. Dalkurd's Swedish identity is clearly identifiable on maps; its minority Kurdish identity is not. That makes Dalkurd as much a product of the social and economic challenges facing immigrants in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe as it is of the carve-up of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century that turned Kurds into the largest nation without a homeland, and scattered them across the Middle East and the globe. Read more ..
|Dave Levinthal||July 18th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Carpetbagging super PACs and nonprofit groups are dominating this year’s special congressional elections in a potential foreshadowing of the 2014 midterms, where even the sleepiest locales aren’t immune from out-of-state, cash-flush special interests.
Take Massachusetts’ U.S. Senate election, which last month propelled veteran Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., to Congress’ upper chamber — and attracted millions of dollars in outside spending from political groups based in California, New York and Florida.
Organizations in Illinois, meanwhile, spent precisely zero dollars to advocate for or against several candidates who vied early this year to replace ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., while outfits from everywhere but collectively burned through more than $2 million. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|David Schenker||July 16th 2013|
The Washington Institute
On July 9, a car bomb detonated in Beirut's Hezbollah-controlled southern suburb of Dahiya, killing one person and injuring dozens of others, mostly Shiites. A day later, the parliamentary speaker announced that retired Christian general Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement would be leaving the Hezbollah-led "March 8" bloc in parliament. Since 2006, the FPM's alliance with Hezbollah has facilitated the Shiite militia's political dominance of Lebanon.
If the new split persists, it will represent a significant shift in the country's political dynamics -- and further isolation of Hezbollah -- at a moment when Lebanese Sunnis are becoming increasingly militant. For more than two years, the war in Syria has been threatening Lebanon's stability. The presence of nearly half a million mostly Sunni refugees from next door has skewed Lebanon's delicate sectarian demographics, and the deaths of thousands of Sunnis at the hands of the nominally Shiite Alawite Assad regime have raised tensions to the boiling point. Read more ..
Egypt’s Second Revolution
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, the first senior US official to visit Cairo since the military coup of July 3, exchanged tough talk with the coup leader, Defense minister Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Monday, after he met interim President Adly Mansour and Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi.
The general frankly advised Washington to be more realistic about the situation in Egypt. Accordingly to debkafile’s Middle East sources, El-Sisi asked Burns bluntly why the Obama administration backed the Muslim Brotherhood and appeared to accept an Egypt plunged in chaos and economic meltdown during Mohamed Morsi’s one-year presidency. Burns said the US remained committed to an Egypt that is "stable, democratic, inclusive and tolerant," stressing Washington understood that "only Egyptians can determine their future.” To this, Gen. El-Sisi replied that in ousting Morsi, the military had obeyed the authentic will of the Egyptian people. He said the army’s role is national not political.
On the question of US military assistance, the general remarked that the “US is more keen than Egypt on keeping up military aid as an assurance of the continuation of military ties between the two countries.” debkafile: Implicit in this comment was a hint that military ties with Washington would suffer if the administration tried to push the Egyptian army around.
Present at the two-hour meeting were Egypt’s chief of staff Sobhi Sidki and US Ambassador Anne Patterson, a known supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood who tried hard to bridge the differences between the Brotherhood and the general and avert the coup. Secretary Burns faces an uphill task in his mission to mend fences between the Obama administration and the caretaker rulers of Egypt – especially when the Egyptian street’s two halves – anti and pro-Morsi - are united on little else but anti-American sentiment. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Amir Mizroch||July 13th 2013|
Read more ..
Iran could develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States by 2015, a new U.S. intelligence report released and declassified for publication on Friday has determined.
The report, the Foreign Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat Assessment, was prepared by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center with significant contributions from the Defense Intelligence Agency Missile and Space Intelligence Center and the Office of Naval Intelligence. The report's authors could not determine how many ICBM's the Iranians currently possess.
The report states that since 2008, Iran has conducted multiple successful launches of the two-stage Safir space launch vehicle and has also revealed the larger two-stage Simorgh SLV, which could serve as a test bed for developing ICBM technologies. Since 2010, Iran has revealed the Qiam-1 SRBM, the fourth generation Fateh-110 SRBM, and claims to be mass-producing anti-ship ballistic missiles. Iran has modified its Shahab 3 medium-range ballistic missile to extend its range and effectiveness and also claims to have deployed the two-stage, solid-propellant Sejjil MRBM.
The Digital Edge
|Junko Yoshida||July 12th 2013|
You might have seen that frightening episode of the CBS series, Person of Interest, in which a fictional social media company's billionaire founder loses control of his car. From the street, the driver appears to be either a total nutcase (well, in this case, he is) or heavily intoxicated. His car weaves through traffic left and right, crossing lanes willy-nilly and clipping other cars. But inside the car, the driver is helpless. Any control he tries, especially the brakes, is overridden, apparently by the car itself. Unbeknownst to the driver, of course, the car is under remote control.
Inevitably, the car blows up (creating an exciting visual). However, the software genius escapes in the nick of time.This, of course, is TV drama. It's fiction. A remotely compromised car is a scenario that makes a good thriller and scares the bejesus out of viewers. But possible in real life? No way.Well, wait a minute.Way. Read more ..
The Edge of Transportation
|George Friedman||July 11th 2013|
The global shipping industry is oversupplied. Because supply far exceeds demand, shipping rates have plummeted, as have the prices of ships. Some shipping companies have sought to capitalize on this trend by purchasing newer, larger ships at lower prices so that they can remain price competitive. But unless demand rebounds by the time these ships become operational, the industry's oversupply problem will only worsen.
It is unclear whether the global shipping industry will normalize before these new ships enter the market. Demand could rise as the global economy recovers, or the supply of ships could somehow fall. But the economy's recovery could just as well be slower than anticipated. Several factors could prevent the industry from righting itself, not the least of which are inaccurate forecasts of future market behavior. Read more ..
|Eric Barton||July 10th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Quietly at first, and now quite publicly, the city of Tampa has courted Cuba in hopes of becoming its future trading partner. Business owners in Tampa talk of how they’ll capitalize when the island opens up, and politicians make trips there and have come out against the embargo.
Things are far different across the state in Miami. Elected officials there favor the trade embargo. Business leaders, fearful of retribution, rarely speak about future trade with the island nation.
Miami may seem poised to benefit most when the embargo ends, with its close proximity and much larger Cuban-American population. There are 982,758 people of Cuban ancestry in the Miami metro area, compared to 81,542 in the Tampa Bay area. Read more ..
The Center for Public Integrity
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, who signed an order requiring Verizon to give the National Security Agency telephone records for tens of millions of American customers, attended an expense-paid judicial seminar sponsored by a libertarian think tank that featured lectures from a vocal proponent of executive branch powers.
Vinson, whose term on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court began in 2006 and expired last month, was the only member of the special court to attend the August 2008 conference sponsored by the Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment, according to disclosure records filed by the federal judge. The Center for Public Integrity collected the disclosure records as part of an investigative report that revealed how large corporations and conservative foundations routinely sponsor ideologically driven educational conferences for state and federal judges. Read more ..
|Cameron Joseph||July 6th 2013|
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) said he smells a "big, fat rat" in the Obama administration's delay on a key part of its healtcare bill. "I smell a big fat rat. Not just a little rat," Gingrey said on Fox News on Friday.
The congressman, a doctor and leading ObamaCare critic who's running for the Senate, said the move to delay a mandate requiring large employers to provide healthcare insurance until 2015, rather than 2014, was done solely to give red-state Democrats cover in the 2014 midterm elections.
"You know, in 2010 the Democrats in Congress pushed the enforcement of the employee mandate back to 2014... conveniently until after the presidential election. So, now under the cover of Independence Day holidays, they're pushing it back again. But this time, out of fear of its disastrous consequences and the impact on the midterm elections. And this decision was not made in the best interest of the people, I can assure you." Read more ..
Egypt’s Second Revolution
|George Friedman||July 5th 2013|
It is unclear what will become of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the wake of the July 3 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. In the short term, the world’s oldest and largest Islamist movement will continue to denounce the coup and engage in protests which, coupled with the security crackdown on the Brotherhood, will likely result in violence. Eventually, however, the group will try to revive itself by re-assimilating into Egypt’s political institutions, though it is in no hurry to attempt to reclaim the presidency.
On July 4, Egyptian security forces continued to hold members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership, particularly those affiliated with its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. In addition to Morsi, who remains in what military authorities are describing as “preventative” detention, many key figures such as supreme guide Mohammed al-Badie. Read more ..
Egypt's Second Revolution
|Russell Grayson||July 4th 2013|
from news agencies
Adly Mansour, tapped by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to hold executive authority in Egypt until the "national reconciliation plan" for a new government is implemented, was sworn in this morning as Egypt's President. Mansour is a relative unknown upon the world political stage, but has a reputation for effective administration and fairness. He became Chief Justice of Egypt's High Constitutional Court a mere two days before being announced as interim President, after spending 21 years as a Justice in that court.
The 67-year-old Mansour was appointed to the court in 1992, and will exercise executive authority as transitional President until new Presidential Elections are held, General Abdel-Fattah Al- Sisi announced in a televised speech to the nation last night. It is as yet unknown exactly how much authority Mansour--a highly regarded jurist--will actually be invested with. Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|Bárbara Ferreira||July 4th 2013|
European Geosciences Union
A new study provides the first conclusive proof of the existence of a space wind first proposed theoretically over 20 years ago. By analysing data from the European Space Agency's Cluster spacecraft, researcher Iannis Dandouras detected this plasmaspheric wind, so-called because it contributes to the loss of material from the plasmasphere, a donut-shaped region extending above the Earth's atmosphere. The results are published today in Annales Geophysicae, a journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
"After long scrutiny of the data, there it was, a slow but steady wind, releasing about 1 kg of plasma every second into the outer magnetosphere: this corresponds to almost 90 tonnes every day. It was definitely one of the nicest surprises I've ever had!" said Dandouras of the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse, France.
The plasmasphere is a region filled with charged particles that takes up the inner part of the Earth's magnetosphere, which is dominated by the planet's magnetic field.
To detect the wind, Dandouras analysed the properties of these charged particles, using information collected in the plasmasphere by ESA's Cluster spacecraft. Further, he developed a filtering technique to eliminate noise sources and to look for plasma motion along the radial direction, either directed at the Earth or outer space. Read more ..
Egypt's Second Revolution
|Russell Grayson||July 3rd 2013|
from news agencies
In an announcement on state TV that caused the Tahrir Square protesters to erupt in jubilation, Army head General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi announced the suspension of the constitution, the removal of President Morsi from office, and the creation of a provisional government headed by Adli Mansour, Egypt's Chief Justice of the High Constitutional Court. General Al-Sisi made it clear that the new government will be inclusive of all sectors of Egypt's national constituency. He announced a "roadmap to national reconciliation," and a plan to include every Egyptian in the planning of the new government, appearing to hold the Army out of a direct role in that government--acting only as its guardian. Read more ..
The New Egypt
|Russell Grayson||July 3rd 2013|
In what has all the earmarks of the start of another Arab-Spring civil war, the most densely populated Sunni Arab country is fracturing along political and sectarian lines, just ahead of the Egyptian Army's deadline for President Mohammed Morsi to accommodate the demands of millions of protesting Egyptians. Emotions in the huge crowds of protesting citizens have run the gamut--from despair to elation and back--after a series of ultimata hurled back and forth amongst the Army, Morsi, the protesters, and Morsi's supporters in the penumbra of the Muslim Brotherhood. Overnight a group of pro-Morsi demonstrators outside Cairo University was fired upon by snipers on nearby rooftops, killing at least 16 and wounding over 200. "There is only one thing we can do: we will stand in between the tanks and the president," said Gehad El-Haddad, official spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Read more ..
The New Egypt
Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi is facing international pressure to engage in "serious national dialogue" hours after he rebuffed an army ultimatum to find a solution to the political crisis.
The UN human rights office called on Morsi's government on Tuesday to listen to the demands of the Egyptian people and engage in a "serious national dialogue" to defuse the crisis.
Rupert Colville, the spokesman of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, also said the role of the Egyptian military was crucial. "Nothing should be done that would undermine democratic processes," he said.
Earlier, the US President, Barack Obama, spoke to the Egyptian leader via phone. A White House statement said he "stressed that democracy is about more than elections; it is also about ensuring that the voices of all Egyptians are heard and represented by their government, including the many Egyptians demonstrating throughout the country." Read more ..
The New Egypt
Opponents of embattled Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi raised the stakes on Monday, telling the Islamist president that he must step down by 5pm Monday. If he does not, the opposition said, chaos will likely follow, as the entire country descends into mass civil disobediance.
It is almost guaranteed that Morsi will not resign as a result of the ultimatum. He is convinced of his legitimacy as a democratic leader, and sees his opponents as part of a secular conspiracy that has long persecuted the Muslim Brotherhood to which he belongs. There is the possibility, however, that the opposition is attempting to force not Morsi's hand but the army's. The army is the ultimate power in Egyptian society, and should they choose to remove their support from Morsi, his fall would be inevitable. The army has already given Morsi a 48-hour window in which to tame the protests or they will restore order on their own. Read more ..
The Mideast on Edge
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has ended his fifth trip to the Middle East as secretary without an accord on resuming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. But he says considerable progress has been made.
Secretary Kerry concluded four days of shuttle diplomacy Sunday, saying some very wide gaps have been narrowed in the positions of Israel and the Palestinians.
“We have made real progress on this trip. And I believe that with a little more work the start of final status negotiations could be within reach,” he said.
He said some specific details remain to worked out but he had been impressed with the seriousness of the parties and remains confident that they are on the right track. Kerry met twice with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and three times with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu later told his Cabinet that he is willing to resume peace talks without preconditions. Read more ..
Russia After Putin
|George Friedman||June 28th 2013|
Russia has undergone a series of fundamental changes over the past year, with more changes on the horizon. Russia's economic model based on energy is being tested, the country's social and demographic make-up is shifting, and its political elites are aging. All this has led the Kremlin to begin asking how the country should be led once its unifying leader, Vladimir Putin, is gone. Already, a restructuring of the political elite is taking place, and hints of succession plans have emerged. Historically, Russia has been plagued by the dilemma of trying to create a succession plan following a strong and autocratic leader. The question now is whether Putin can set a system in place for his own passing out of the Russian leadership (whenever the time may be) without destabilizing the system as a whole.
A Difficult Land to Rule
Without a heavy-handed leader, Russia struggles to maintain stability. Instability is inherent to Russia given its massive, inhospitable territory, indefensible borders, hostile neighboring powers and diverse population. Only when it has had an autocratic leader who set up a system where competing factions are balanced against each other has Russia enjoyed prosperity and stability.
A system of balances under one resolute figure existed during the rule of some of the country's most prominent leaders, such as Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Alexander II, Josef Stalin -- and now Vladimir Putin. Each Russian leader must create and tinker with this system to ensure the governing apparatus does not atrophy, fracture or rise in mutiny. For this reason, Russian leaders have continually had to rearrange the power circles beneath them. Significant adjustments have been necessary as Russia grows and stabilizes or declines and comes under threat. Read more ..
Obama and Israel
|Elad Benari||June 27th 2013|
White House officials met this month with Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, a deputy of radical Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who has been banned from entering the United States, reported the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT).
The June 13 meeting took place on the same day the Obama administration announced plans to arm Syria's rebel forces, the report noted. IPT noted that al-Qaradawi, the founder of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), endorses Palestinian Authority Arab suicide bombers and supports Hamas in its fight against Israel. The report also said that bin Bayyah, like al-Qaradawi, also "refuses to label the acts of groups such as Hamas, Hizbullah or the Islamic Jihad as terrorism." The White House reportedly sought the meeting with bin Bayyah, the IPT report declared. Read more ..
The Race for Nuclear
|Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrery Smith||June 26th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Scattered among the pine forests of this 310-square mile federal reservation are five mothballed nuclear reactors where tens of thousands of workers were once engaged in a grim race to create as much plutonium as they could.
By the time production ended here in 1988, the site was a horrendous mess. Today, about 36 million gallons of radioactive liquid wastes sit in underground tanks, and most federal spending here is devoted to nuclear-related cleanup, not production.
So when U.S. and Russian dignitaries in 2005 helped turn the first shovels of dirt here for a new plant to produce reactor fuel from weapons plutonium, it seemed like an entirely new industry, with a vital international purpose, was coming to Savannah River.
Eight years later, though, that optimism has given way to exasperation. The fuel plant now under construction was the product of a U.S. agreement with Russia for each country to dispose of 34 tons of its own plutonium, an explosive material withdrawn from retired nuclear weapons. The plant was supposed to transform the plutonium into fuel rods to produce electrical power, ensuring it could not be put back in weapons or stolen by terrorists. Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|Komunikazio Bulegoa||June 25th 2013|
We now understand the nature of the giant storms on Saturn. Through the analysis of images sent from the Cassini space probe belonging to the North American and European space agencies (NASA and ESA respectively), as well as the computer models of the storms and the examination of the clouds therein, the Planetary Sciences Group of the University of the Basque Country has managed to explain the behaviour of these storms for the very first time. The article explaining the discovery, the lead author being Enrique García Melendo, researcher at the Fundació Observatori Esteve Duran – Institut de Ciències de l’Espai, of Catalonia, was published in Nature Geosciences.
Approximately once every Saturnian year - equivalent to 30 Earth years - an enormous storm is produced on the ringed planet and which affects the aspect of its atmosphere on a global scale. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Susan St. Claire||June 23rd 2013|
Pakistan's umbrella Taliban movement claimed responsibility for killing nine foreign climbers in the Himalayas, saying it had created a new wing to attack foreigners to avenge US drone strikes. Gunmen had stormed a base camp on Saturday night in a remote part of northern Pakistan and killed nine tourists and one Pakistani guide who were part of a Nanga Parbat mountaineering expedition, police officials said. Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan telephoned the AFP news agency to say that the killings were intended to avenge the death of the second in command of the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) in a US drone strike late last month.
"We did it and we claim responsibility for this attack," Ehsan said in the call from an undisclosed location. "One of our factions, Junood ul-Hifsa, did it. It is to avenge the killing of Maulvi Wali ur-Rehman," he said. "We want to convey to the world that this is our reply to US drone attacks," he added. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Skyler Schmanski||June 21st 2013|
With no end in sight for the Syrian civil war that has already claimed 93,000 lives, Jordan is again hosting a 12-day military exercise designed to train personnel in counter-terrorism and border security tactics. Known officially as Eager Lion 2013, the mid-June collaboration of 8,000 troops includes forces from Britain, Egypt, France, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United States among others. Israeli forces will not be included in the drills, despite having a relatively close relationship with Jordan compared to other Arab countries in the region.
The exact goal of the exercises remains somewhat unclear. The Associated Press reports there is speculation that the training may be preparing the Jordanian forces for an assault on Syria to secure al-Assad's extensive chemical weapon stockpiles in the event rebel forces overthrow the regime. However, a less offensive approach is being advocated by military officials. "These exercises bolster our defense capabilities," said Jordanian army Maj. Gen. Awni Edwan. Read more ..
|Russell Berman, Molly K. Hooper and Erik Wasson||June 20th 2013|
The surprising defeat of the farm bill is the latest setback for Republican leaders, who have struggled for two-and-a-half years to use their majority to pass major legislation out of the House.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had hoped to use the extended farm bill process to demonstrate the wisdom of his commitment to “regular order” – allowing the measure to emerge from the Agriculture Committee and face dozens of amendments on the House floor.
Instead, the rare floor defeat on legislation supported by Boehner and his entire leadership team allowed Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to gleefully call her GOP counterparts amateurs in running the House. It also renewed questions about Boehner's ability to lead his fractious conference. If the House GOP cannot move a farm bill, how will it move immigration reform or a debt ceiling deal? Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Eliana Johnson||June 19th 2013|
National Review Online
Applications of pro-Israel groups for tax-exempt status are routinely routed to an antiterrorism unit within the Internal Revenue Service for additional screening, according to the testimony of a Cincinnati-based IRS agent.
Asked whether Jewish or pro-Israel applications are treated differently from other applications, Gary Muthert told House Oversight Committee investigators that they are considered “specialty cases” and that “probably” all are sent to an IRS unit that examines groups for potential terrorist ties.
Muthert, who served as an application screener before transferring to the agency’s antiterrorism unit, was interviewed in connection with the committee’s investigation into the IRS’s discrimination against conservative groups. As a screener, Muthert flagged tea-party applications and passed them along to specialists for further scrutiny. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
The June 14 Iranian presidential election was won by Hassan Fereidoun Rowhani. With approximately 51 percent of the votes, he was far ahead of the five other candidates.
Rowhani was born in 1948 in the north Iranian city of Sorkheh, Semnan Province. He is a cleric who carries the title Hojjat-ol-Eslam. In 1960 he began studying religion in Semnan Province and then transferred to the religious seminary in the city of Qom. As a young man he was involved in the revolutionary movement against the Shah, for which he was arrested on several occasions by Iran’s security services. In 1978 he joined Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic revolution, who was living in exile in Paris. Read more ..
|Reity O'Brian and Chris Young||June 17th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
At least five and perhaps as many as eight of the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court are millionaires according to recently released financial disclosures, and only two hold any consumer debt.
Assets on the forms are reported in a range making it impossible to say precisely how much each justice is worth, but suffice to say, none of them are hurting financially.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg boasts the highest potential net worth at $18.1 million with Stephen Breyer a close second at $17.1 million. Both were appointed by former President Bill Clinton.
However, Ginsburg’s actual net worth may be as low as $4.4 million and Breyer’s as low as $5 million. Federal officials are also exempt from disclosing the value of their homes, making an accurate calculation even more difficult. After collecting nearly $2 million in book advances, Justice Sonia Sotomayor's assets rose to between $1.7 and $10.3 million, ranking her No. 3 in terms of highest potential net worth. Sotomayor is an appointee of President Barack Obama. Read more ..
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