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Obama and Israel

Obama's Nominee for U.N. Ambassadorship Ignites Concerns over U.S. Support for Israel

June 6th 2013

Samantha Power

Samantha Power, President Barack Obama’s replacement for Susan Rice as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, has a history of controversial comments about Israel, reigniting concerns regarding the Obama administration’s support for the Jewish state that were raised after the nomination of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), told JNS.org on Wednesday that a look at the list of Obama’s nominees and appointments to positions that impact Israel—including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John O. Brennan, and now Power—“makes very clear that President Obama is no friend of Israel, and that he is insensitive to the interests of American Jews and the pro-Israel community, because all of those important posts have been filled with people who have been very hostile to Israel.” Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

NSA Dragnet Seeks Caller Data on All Verizon Subscribers

June 6th 2013

File Folders

In a move that is bound to unleash howls of indignation and protest on Capitol Hill and throughout the country, the NSA has obtained a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Warrant requiring Verizon to provide identification data on all parties making and receiving calls on their mobile network within the United States. Political analysts point out that though the (classified) warrant served upon Verizon--which issued from the FISA court on April 12, 2013--is the only one of which we are aware, it is highly unlikely that the NSA's requests were limited to Verizon's network alone. The warrant gives the NSA unfettered access to the records of millions of subscribers without regard for their lack of any involvement in suspect activities. The White House on Thursday defended the National Security Agency’s use of a secret court order to collect telephone records from millions of Verizon customers.  

An administration official called the phone data a “critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States. It allows counter terrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States,” the official added. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

What is Driving the Violent Protests in Turkey?

June 4th 2013

Turkey Protester 6.13

The rapid escalation of anti-government protests in Turkey in recent days has exposed a number of long-dormant fault lines in the country's complex political landscape. But even as the appeal of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (also known by its Turkish acronym, AKP) is beginning to erode, it will remain a powerful force in Turkish politics for some time to come, with its still-significant base of support throughout the country and the lack of a credible political alternative in the next elections.

The foundation for the current unrest was laid May 28, when a small group of mostly young environmentalists gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square for a sit-in to protest a planned demolition of walls, uprooting of trees and the perceived desecration of historical sites in the square's Gezi Park. The initially peaceful demonstration turned violent the night of May 30, when police tried to break up what had grown to more than 100 protesters.

The environmental protesters were joined the next day by high-level representatives of the Justice and Development Party's main opposition, the secular Republican People's Party (known as CHP). The message of the protests soon evolved from saving Gezi Park's trees to condemning Erdogan and his party for a litany of complaints. Anti-government chants included "Down with the dictator," "Tayyip, resign," and "Unite against fascism."

Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Testing Turkey--Will Syria Bring It Closer to the US?

June 2nd 2013

Obama & Erdogan

For all the talk of Turkey's "zero problems with neighbors," no amount of soft power has been able to protect the country from the protracted civil war in Syria. Now over two years old, that conflict has laid bare Ankara's inability to match Tehran's influence in the region -- or even to secure itself against violence as the conflict has spilled over its borders. After years of trying to go it alone in the Middle East, Turkey's leaders and public must face the fact that their country needs the United States and NATO for security and stability.

Soft power was not supposed to work this way: When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, the conventional wisdom in Ankara was that it was time for Turkey to stop looking to Europe, which continually snubbed it, and instead focus on regaining the regional leadership role it had lost with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. That, the AKP maintained, would best be accomplished not through displays of military force, but by building up soft power. The new style would be an antidote to the traditional way of doing business in the Middle East -- officials believed the 2003 U.S. war in Iraq was a perfect example -- which had resulted in tumult. Read more ..


The Cyber Edge

Hagel Rebukes China on Cyberattacks against the U.S.

June 1st 2013

Chinese hacker at computer

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called out China on Saturday for alleged cyberattacks against the U.S. government and several industries.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Security Dialogue, where Chinese officials were present, Hagel urged China to work with the United States to establish "international norms of responsible behavior in cyberspace."

"The United States has expressed our concerns about the growing threat of cyber intrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military," Hagel said.

The remarks addressed what U.S. officials say is a growing threat from international cyberattacks seeking state and industry secrets that are stored online. The Pentagon has blamed China for many of the attacks, allegations China has denied. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Military Implications of Hezbollah's Declaration of War in Syria

May 31st 2013

Hezbollah

Hezbollah's commitment to the Syrian conflict will likely change the course of the war.

On May 25, Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah made what amounts to a declaration of war against the Syrian revolution. He committed his group to defeating the rebellion and preserving the regime of Bashar al-Assad, declaring that "Syria is the resistance's main supporter, and the resistance cannot stand still and let takfiris [extremist Sunnis] break its backbone."

No one can fault him for lack of clarity; this was not a speech cloaked in ambiguity. Assuming he follows through on his commitment to protect Assad's regime, both the speech and Hezbollah actions already underway in Syria could profoundly affect the war's military course, the security situation in Lebanon, and the group's military contest with Israel.
Read more ..


Iran’s Nukes

Israeli or U.S. Action against Iran: Who Will Do It If It Must Be Done?

May 29th 2013

B-2-Refueling

It is late 2013 and the prime minister of Israel has just received a phone call from the White House relaying the findings of a recent U.S. intelligence assessment: international sanctions and negotiations with Iran have yet to persuade the regime to halt its nuclear drive. Tehran previously rejected a generous U.S. offer that would have allowed it to enrich uranium in exchange for strong nuclear safeguards, and the program continues to advance unabated. After agreeing to convene in Washington in one week to discuss strategy going forward, the prime minister and president each call a meeting with their national security advisors.

The president’s team acknowledges that the United States is war weary, debt laden, and politically gridlocked. With U.S. forces having just withdrawn from Iraq and on a path to end combat operations in Afghanistan by late 2014, many hope that the attendant diversion of resources will spring the country from its financial woes and accelerate its economic recovery. Read more ..


The Arctic Edge

The Growing Importance of the Arctic Council

May 28th 2013

Glacier

The Arctic is expected to become more important in the coming decades as climate change makes natural resources and transport routes more accessible. Reflecting the growing interest in the region, the Arctic Council granted six new countries (China, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Singapore) observer status during a May 15 ministerial meeting in Kiruna, Sweden. By admitting more observers, the Arctic Council -- an organization that promotes cooperation among countries with interests in the Arctic -- will likely become more important as a forum for discussions on Arctic issues. However, this does not necessarily mean it will be able to establish itself as a central decision-making body regarding Arctic matters.

The Arctic Council was established in 1996 by the eight countries that have territory above the Arctic Circle -- the United States, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Its main purpose was to be an intergovernmental forum (also involving Arctic indigenous groups) that promoted cooperation primarily regarding environmental matters and research. The Arctic Council's central focus has remained on environmental issues in the Arctic, and the body has had no meaningful decision-making power.  Read more ..


Broken Banking

Inside the Shell: Drugs, Arms and Tax Scams

May 27th 2013

Indian Currency

On December 11, 2009, a former Soviet air force transport plane flying from North Korea to Iran stopped to refuel in Bangkok. The flight listed its cargo as spare parts for oil-drilling equipment. Instead police found 30 tonnes of explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and components for surface-to-air missiles, all being transported in breach of United Nations sanctions.

Three months later in a Miami courtroom, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed the country's largest money-laundering scheme involving billions of dollars from Mexican drug lords. Then, last April, documents emerged in London concerning Russia's largest tax fraud, an alleged $230 million heist that led to the untimely deaths of four people and threatens to damage the Russian government.

The story behind the three events is many degrees stranger than fiction, but it includes one common element – a number of shell companies associated with 68-year-old Queensland businessman Geoffrey Taylor or members of his family. Shell companies – that is, corporations with no apparent operations, no apparent employees and no apparent physical assets – are used by those who register them for a range of nefarious activities around the world. Read more ..


The Edge of Weather

El Niño Beats out a New Rhythm

May 27th 2013

Hurricane Isabel

El Niño wreaks havoc across the globe, shifting weather patterns that spawn droughts in some regions and floods in others. The impacts of this tropical Pacific climate phenomenon are well known and documented. A mystery, however, has remained despite decades of research: Why does El Niño always peak around Christmas and end quickly by February to April?

Now there is an answer: An unusual wind pattern that straddles the equatorial Pacific during strong El Niño events and swings back and forth with a period of 15 months explains El Niño's close ties to the annual cycle. "This atmospheric pattern peaks in February and triggers some of the well-known El Niño impacts, such as droughts in the Philippines and across Micronesia and heavy rainfall over French Polynesia," says lead report author Malte Stuecker. Read more ..


Great Britain on Edge

One Block in London, Many Secret Owners

May 26th 2013

One-Hyde-Park

Bankrupt Irish developer and the Ukraine’s richest man are among individuals linked to hyper-lux apartments for the super rich.

A single block of flats in central London presents the most blatant case of British Virgin Islands secrecy in Britain. The four towers of One Hyde Park, designed by Richard Rogers and backed by the Qatari ruling family, are aimed at what some would call the obscenely rich.

Almost 80 percent of the 72 hyper-luxury apartments have so far been bought, at prices ranging from £3m to £136m, in the name of anonymous offshore entities – the majority of them registered in the BVI. A possible explanation for offshore secrecy in one case emerged this year, when the alleged true owner of a £3.6m flat, the bankrupt Irish property developer Ray Grehan, was identified and accused of an attempt to cheat his creditors. Read more ..


North Korea's Nukes

Does North Korea Have a Missile-Deliverable Nuclear Weapon?

May 25th 2013

North Korean Missile

A recent unclassified Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report, revealed by Congressman Doug Lamborn (R–CO) on April 11, 2013, stated, “DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.” This is disturbing news.

The North Korean regime is one of the most fanatic, paranoid, and militaristic dictatorships on the planet. The “supreme leader” is virtually worshipped as a god. The population lives in abject poverty while the regime pursues a “military first” policy. North Korea has nuclear, chemical, and perhaps biological weapons and is developing missiles of all ranges.

While North Korea has long made occasional nuclear attack threats, the scope, magnitude, and frequency of these threats have vastly increased in 2013. These have included threats of thermonuclear attack on the U.S. and our allies, a verbal declaration of war, and a statement that the 1953 armistice has been terminated and that launch authority has been given to the military. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Obama Says U.S. Citizenship is No Deterrent for U.S. Drone Strikes

May 23rd 2013

Click to select Image

In a major address at the National Defense University in Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama has given a framework for ongoing counterterrorism efforts, including the use of drones in direct lethal action against terrorists.

The hourlong speech was Mr. Obama's most expansive effort yet to define threats that al-Qaida and "associated forces" pose to the United States, define how the U.S. responds, and outline limitations on such action.

As the U.S. ends its military involvement in Afghanistan, he said al-Qaida's "core" in Afghanistan and Pakistan is "on a path to defeat." He said there have been no large-scale attacks on the United States. Read more ..


israel and Palestine

The Deal the Palestinians Rejected, The History that Was Never Made

May 23rd 2013

Abbas UN

In a stunning development that calls into question the basic willingness of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to accept any peace agreement with the Jewish State,TheTower.org has obtained a hand-drawn map created by Abbas documenting a 2008 peace proposal outlined to him by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert – which Abbas rebuffed – and has confirmed the existence and details of the settlement offer in an exclusive interview with Olmert.

Given the chaos sweeping the Middle East since the September 2008 offer was rejected by Abbas, and the security deterioration on multiple Israeli borders, Olmert’s offer contains elements likely to be seen as essentially incompatible with Israel’s fundamental security requirements. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Cameron Decries Act of Terrorism in Beheading by Muslims

May 22nd 2013

Woolich Beheading

Two men wielding a machete and a cleaver hacked a man believed to be a soldier to death on a busy London street Wednesday while yelling "Allahu Akbar," in an attack that was caught on video and left the nation shocked and horrified. The victim, who some reports said may have been a soldier, was killed at the scene, and the attackers waited at the scene until police arrived and shot both. One attacker, his hands soaked in blood and still holding a machete, delivered an angry jihadist screed as stunned passersby watched, the dead man lying on the street, in the southeast London neighborhood of Woolwich.

"We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day," he said in a video. "This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. "I apologize that women have had to witness this today, but in our land our women have to see the same," the killer continued. "You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don't care about you." British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday that there were “strong indications” that a killing in London was terror-related.

Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Accused Fort Hood Shooter Paid $278,000 While Awaiting Trial

May 21st 2013

Fort Hood shooter

The Department of Defense confirms that accused Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan has now been paid more than $278,000 since the Nov. 5, 2009 shooting that left 13 dead 32 injured. The Army said under the Military Code of Justice, Hasan’s salary cannot be suspended unless he is proven guilty.

If Hasan had been a civilian defense department employee, it has learned, the Army could have suspended his pay after just seven days.

Personnel rules for most civilian government workers allow for "indefinite suspensions" in cases "when the agency has reasonable cause to believe that the employee has committed a crime for which a sentence of imprisonment may be imposed." Read more ..


The Edge of Disaster

Dozens Dead as Massive Tornado Hits Oklahoma

May 20th 2013

Tornado-oklahoma

A tornado with 320 kilometer per hour winds has killed at least 51 people and caused massive destruction in the central U.S. state of Oklahoma, destroying two schools and entire neighborhoods.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office said the death toll was expected to rise as rescue workers move deeper into the hardest-hit areas.

The 1.6 kilometer-wide tornado hit Monday afternoon and destroyed large swaths of Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb, injuring dozens of people, sending debris flying and setting buildings on fire. Rescue workers have pulled several children alive out of the rubble of the schools.  

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin deployed 80 National Guard members to assist with search-and-rescue operations. Fallin also spoke with President Barack Obama, who asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide any assistance she needs. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

A Filmmaker's Effort to Reveal the Power of Money over Ethics

May 20th 2013
 
Jonathan Gruber, a filmmaker who recently toured his touching film Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story, which chronicled the short, tender and heroic life of one of Israel’s great military leaders, is trying to complete a film that has been close to his heart for a long time.  The story of one of the world’s largest companies, I.G. Farben, and how it not only profited from Hitler, but was a major reason that Germany was able to execute its war in the first place, is one that we all need to know.

I.G. Farben was perhaps the first true “multinational corporation”; it was the very model of a modern major conglomerate: brilliant, inventive, diversified—and ruthless in its pursuit of the bottom line. As the largest company in Europe during World War II, its rise and fall provides a shocking example of a profit-driven culture run amok.

We already know about corporate greed and its impact on the Holocaust from bestselling author and historian, Edwin Black. Black’s poignant works exposed how multinational corporations had profited from the Nazi’s genocidal campaign to eradicate Judaism from Europe first, and then if they had been successful, the world over time. Read more ..


Israel's Next Northern War

Iran’s Arms Supply to Hizbullah--An International Game-Changer

May 18th 2013

Missiles on jet

In an exceptional political signal, a senior Israeli official contacted Mark Landler of the New York Times and explained that the Israeli government was determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hizbullah. The official, who remained anonymous throughout the report, added that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reacts to this policy by attacking Israel – either directly or indirectly through a proxy force – he will “risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate.”

Israel’s policy of preventing the supply of advanced weapons to Hizbullah has been in place for some time, but in the past was primarily the responsibility of the Israeli Navy which intercepted Iranian weapons ships in the Mediterranean. According to U.S. sources, Israel has more recently concentrated this effort in Syrian territory. The Syrians may have had an interest in assuring that some of their more advanced weaponry not fall into the hands of the Sunni extremist groups they have been fighting that are linked to al-Qaeda, like Jabhat al-Nusra. Read more ..


The Ancient Edge

Was the Elephant's Tomb in Carmona A Temple to the God Mithras?

May 17th 2013

Rampaging Bull Elephant 500px

The so-called Elephant's Tomb in the Roman necropolis of Carmona (Seville, Spain) was not always used for burials. The original structure of the building and a window through which the sun shines directly in the equinoxes suggest that it was a temple of Mithraism, an unofficial religion in the Roman Empire. The position of Taurus and Scorpio during the equinoxes gives force to the theory.

The Carmona necropolis (Spain) is a collection of funeral structures from between the 1st century B.C. and the 2nd century A.D. One of these is known as the Elephant's Tomb because a statue in the shape of an elephant was found in the interior of the structure.

The origin and function of the construction have been the subject of much debate. Archaeologists from the University of Pablo de Olavide (Seville, Spain) have conducted a detailed analysis of the structure and now suggest that it may originally not have been used for burials but for worshipping the God Mithras. Mithraism was an unofficial religion that was widespread throughout the Roman Empire in the early centuries of our era.

Researchers have identified four stages in which the building was renovated, giving it different uses.

"In some stages, it was used for burial purposes, but its shape and an archaeoastronomical analysis suggest that it was originally designed and built to contain a Mithraeum [temple to Mithras]," as explained to SINC by Inmaculada Carrasco, one of the authors of the study. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrians say Assad Choppers Dropped Poisonous Gas

May 16th 2013

Syrian explosion

Residents of the northern Syrian town of Saraqeb said government helicopters had dropped at least two devices containing poisonous gas, the BBC reported Thursday.
Saraqeb, a town south-west of Aleppo, came under artillery bombardment in April from government positions. Doctors at the local hospital told the BBC's correspondent they had admitted eight people suffering from breathing problems. Some were vomiting and others had constricted pupils, they said. One woman, Maryam Khatib, later died. 

A number of videos passed to the BBC appear to support these claims, but the BBC said it is impossible to independently verify them. Khatib's son Mohammed, the report said, had rushed to the scene to help his mother and was also injured in the attack. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

New Method of Finding Planets Scores its First Discovery

May 15th 2013

protoplanetary disk

Detecting alien worlds presents a significant challenge since they are small, faint, and close to their stars. The two most prolific techniques for finding exoplanets are radial velocity (looking for wobbling stars) and transits (looking for dimming stars). A team at Tel Aviv University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has just discovered an exoplanet using a new method that relies on Einstein's special theory of relativity.

"We are looking for very subtle effects. We needed high quality measurements of stellar brightnesses, accurate to a few parts per million," said team member David Latham of the CfA.

"This was only possible because of the exquisite data NASA is collecting with the Kepler spacecraft," added lead author Simchon Faigler of Tel Aviv University, Israel. Although Kepler was designed to find transiting planets, this planet was not identified using the transit method. Instead, it was discovered using a technique first proposed by Avi Loeb of the CfA and his colleague Scott Gaudi in 2003. (Coincidentally, they developed their theory while visiting the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where Einstein once worked.) Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Water on Moon, Earth Came From Same Primitive Meteorites

May 14th 2013

Moon

The water found on the moon, like that on Earth, came from small meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites in the first 100 million years or so after the solar system formed, researchers from Brown and Case Western Reserve universities and Carnegie Institution of Washington have found. Evidence discovered within samples of moon dust returned by lunar crews of Apollo 15 and 17 dispels the theory that comets delivered the molecules.

The discovery's telltale sign is found in the ratio of an isotopic form of hydrogen, called deuterium, to standard hydrogen. The ratio in the Earth's water and in water from specks of volcanic glass trapped in crystals within moon dust match the ratio found in the chondrites. The proportions are far different from those in comet water. Read more ..


The US and Mexico

The Decline of the Colorado River

May 12th 2013

Colorado River,

An amendment to a standing water treaty between the United States and Mexico has received publicity over the past six months as an example of progress in water sharing agreements. But the amendment, called Minute 319, is simply a glimpse into ongoing mismanagement of the Colorado River on the U.S. side of the border. Over-allocation of the river's waters 90 years ago combined with increasing populations and economic growth in the river basin have created circumstances in which conservation efforts -- no matter how organized -- could be too little to overcome the projected water deficit that the Colorado River Basin will face in the next 20 years.

In 1922, the seven U.S. states in the Colorado River Basin established a compact to distribute the resources of the river. A border between the Upper and Lower basins was defined at Lees Ferry, Ariz. The Upper Basin (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico) was allocated 9.25 billion cubic meters a year, and the Lower Basin (Arizona, California and Nevada) was allotted 10.45 billion cubic meters. Mexico was allowed an unspecified amount, which in 1944 was defined as 1.85 billion cubic meters a year. Read more ..


Broken Banking

Deutsche Bank Helped Customers Maintain Hundreds of Offshore Entities

May 11th 2013

Deutsche Bank

Germany’s largest financial institution, Deutsche Bank, helped its customers maintain more than 300 secretive offshore companies and trusts through its Singapore branch, an investigation by German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, German public broadcaster NDR and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found.

More than 100 customer consultants at Deutsche Bank Singapore helped create or manage 309 offshore entities for its customers in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens, according to secret records obtained by the news organizations. Most of the companies carry fantasy names like “Thrilling Returns Incorporated,” “Amazing Opportunity Limited” or “Market Dollar Group Limited.” Public sources don’t show any business activities for most of these companies. Read more ..


Benghazigate

Obama Administration Denies Misleading Statements about Benghazi

May 11th 2013

Click to select Image

White House press secretary Jay Carney maintained Friday he did not mischaracterize the White House and State Department's role in developing of talking points regarding the attack on the American diplomatic post in Benghazi.

Carney also again accused Republicans of attempting to "politicize" the Benghazi attack, saying Republican leaders on Capitol Hill were fully aware of the process to develop the talking points. "There was a process leading up to that from a variety of agencies, as is always the case and is always appropriate," Carney said at a White House press briefing.
"The overriding concern of everyone involved is that we're not giving to people who speak in public information that can't be confirmed." Read more ..


Benghazigate

Boehner "Complicit'" Benghazi Committee is Blocked--says Wolf

May 9th 2013

Libyan riot at US consulate Sep 2012 #3

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) came under increased pressure Thursday to create a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack.
A day after three State Department whistle-blowers criticized the administration’s response to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) suggested the Speaker risked becoming “complicit” in a cover-up if he doesn't create a special panel.

“The revelations at yesterday’s hearing have raised serious questions about the administration’s efforts to respond to the Americans under fire at the annex in Benghazi,” he said in a letter to Boehner. “What remains to be seen is whether the House will be complicit in that failure, or if we will pursue the truth — wherever it may take us — to ensure that we continue to deserve the sacrifices made by the men and women who serve our country.” Read more ..


Benghazigate

Official Holds Back Tears During Emotional Benghazi Testimony

May 8th 2013

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #2

The State Department’s deputy chief of mission in Libya fought back tears on Wednesday as he delivered a lengthy account of the nighttime terrorist attacks last year that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens. 

The first-hand account is the first the Oversight Committee has heard publicly from a witness during its investigation of possible security and intelligence failures in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. 

Testifying before a packed hearing room, Gregory Hicks gave an emotional account of his attempt to secure the State Department’s staff in Tripoli as he relayed messages to the Washington, D.C., operation center in real-time about reports of attackers storming the Benghazi facility. It began with two missed phone calls from Stevens, said Hicks, who promptly called him back.  Read more ..


France on Edge

François Hollande’s Campaign Treasurer’s Investments in the Cayman Islands

May 5th 2013

French Presiident Francois Hollande

Jean-Jacques Augier says that his actions were fully legal and attributes his participation in these schemes to his “adventurous nature”.

French president François Hollande faces more embarrassment after it emerged that a close friend and treasurer for his presidential election campaign invested in offshore businesses in the Cayman Islands. The revelation comes at the worse possible time, as France is reeling from the Budget Minister Cahuzac scandal.

The name of 59-year-old Jean-Jacques Augier, a businessman and an unobtrusive figure on the French publishing scene who was François Hollande’s treasurer during the 2012 presidential campaign, features in documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and seen by Le Monde. These show that he has shares in two offshore firms in the Cayman Islands through his financial holding company Eurane.  Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Evyatar Borovsky: A Setter With an Actor's Legacy

May 3rd 2013

Evyatar Borovsky

In the recent media coverage of Evyatar Borovsky’s murder, the 31-year-old father of five young children was described in several international reports as a “hardline settler.” Borovsky, who hailed from the community of Yitzhar, was on his way to a theater rehearsal when he was stabbed to death by a Palestinian on the morning of April 30 at the Tapuach Junction, a central point for busses and hitchhiking used by Arabs and Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.

“Even Israelis outside of Judea and Samaria are not familiar with life here,” the spokesman for Yitzhar, Avraham Binyamin told Tazpit News Agency. “There is a rich theater and arts culture in Judea and Samaria, and there are many residents who work in these professions.”  In Yitzhar alone, there are three different acting groups. “It is important for us to give a human face to this tragedy - Evyatar was a story in himself,” says Binyamin.

Borovsky was a popular actor in the Ar El Group, an acting troupe made up of settlers from Judea and Samaria, which performs across Israel. The group incorporates improvisation, psychodrama and other role-playing techniques to help others overcome traumatic experiences through theater. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Palestinians Issue New Ultimatum Despite U.S. Objections

May 2nd 2013

Abbas UN statehood vote

 The Palestinian Authority (PA) will defy U.S. calls and pursue a unilateral diplomatic strategy unless Israel meets a series of preconditions by June 3rd, The Tower has been told. The Palestinian campaign would among other things see the PA seeking membership in a number of U.N. organs.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry began a renewed peace push last month. Israeli media outlets have previously reported that Washington made plain to PA officials that it does not accept a time-frame that would limit Kerry’s activity. The Secretary of State urged the Palestinians to postpone bids for enhanced status at U.N. and international bodies – including in the International Criminal Court – by eight weeks. Read more ..


The Boston Massacre

Three More Suspects Taken into Custody in Boston Bombing Case

May 1st 2013

Bomb-Boston-Marathon

Authorities have taken three more suspects into custody in the investigation of last month's Boston Marathon bombings. The Boston Police Department issued a statement Wednesday saying there was "no threat to public safety" and that more details would be forthcoming.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told CNN the suspects were all college students who would be charged with "disposal of evidence." "It is part of the ongoing investigation. And this basically is I believe going to involve three students who allegedly helped to dispose of evidence or remove evidence," King said on Wednesday. "Two of them had been in custody on visa violations and the other was an American citizen who has been picked up." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

The Worst City in the World

April 30th 2013

Karachi-Bombing

While the United States media was enmeshed in the aftermath of the Boston bombing, on April 26, Karachi, Pakistan's former capital, suffered its own horrific bombing.  An explosion at a street meeting of the Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan's oldest political movement, left ten people killed and more than forty injured.  A bomb using nearly ten pounds of explosives spewed ball bearings and nuts and bolts throughout a crowd massed to hear political speakers. 

It was just the latest atrocity in this massive city. Although a census has not been taken in years, an estimated 18 million inhabitants survive in a 1,362 square mile polity.  Since the recent arrival of a murderous Pashtun Taliban element from the north the city has grown more ungovernable.   Even before the recent arrivals, dozens of people were killed daily.  So many, in fact, that dependable statistics have not been kept.  Read more ..


Israel's Next Northern War

Israeli Aircraft Spotted Over Assad’s Palace

April 29th 2013

Jets vapor trail

A spokesman for the rebel military in Syria has said that Israeli Air Force jets were spotted flying over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s palace in Damascus as well as over security and military installations, according to Israel’s Channel 2. The planes were spotted Sunday morning, the spokesman said. He added that no anti-aircraft shots were fired at the jets. Last week several Western nations, as well as the rebel army, confirmed that evidence suggesting that chemical weapons had been used by Assad’s regime had been gathered. The use of chemical weapons by Assad, considered a “red line” by U.S. President Barack Obama and Israel, have ratcheted up tensions even further in the region.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported: "Lawmakers pressed the Obama administration to intervene in Syria's civil war, citing the regime's alleged chemical-weapons use, as the White House weighed its response against a sobering fact: Damascus has developed a world class air-defense system. That system, built, installed and maintained—largely in secret—by Russia's military complex, presents a formidable deterrent as the White House draws up options for responding to a U.S. intelligence report released last week concluding that Damascus likely used chemical weapons on the battlefield. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Lawmakers Fear of Losing Syrian Chemical Weapons Stockpiles Grow

April 28th 2013

Syria's chemicals

As the Obama administration weighs responding to a possible chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, lawmakers say their chief concern is the weapons stockpiles falling into the wrong hands.

Lawmakers from both parties say they don’t support U.S. boots on the ground in Syria, but are warning that the weapons must be safeguarded from terror groups if Assad’s regime collapses.

There’s been a large outcry for the Obama administration to do more in Syria after the White House said that it believed Assad’s forces used chemical weapons. President Obama has taken a cautious approach, saying that the U.S. must first verify chemical weapons use before taking more aggressive steps. Read more ..


Broken Banking

French Banks Traded in Secrecy

April 27th 2013

International Currency 3

The “Offshore Leaks” files published around the world on April 4 show that, from the late 1990s until the end of the 2000s, two major French banks, BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole, oversaw the creation of a large number of totally opaque offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands, Samoa and Singapore for clients in search of secrecy and lower tax rates.

These are the findings unearthed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which has been researching the story for over a year. According to these secret documents, BNP Paribas channels operations through its Singapore and Hong Kong subsidiaries, whereas Crédit Agricole relies on its Geneva-based Swiss subsidiary.

Both banks have set up companies through their Asian subsidiaries with the help of Portcullis TrustNet, a service provider that specializes in offshore business and turnkey companies (the famous “quick” companies that can be incorporated within 48 hours) for rich clients claiming to be domiciled in Asia and concealed by nominees. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

A Line Has Been Crossed

April 26th 2013

Professor Obama at work

President Obama on Friday said "a line has been crossed” in Syria but cautioned that more “direct evidence” is needed to confirm a chemical weapons attack. Speaking alongside King Abdullah of Jordan in the Oval Office, Obama said that the United States was working with countries like Jordan to obtain more evidence and confirmation of a potential chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

"To use weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations crosses another line in terms of international norms and laws. ... That's going to be a game changer," Obama said. Obama did not say whether his “red line” regarding chemical weapons use had been crossed by the Assad regime, but he said “a line had been crossed” when tens of thousands of Syrians had been killed by government forces in the two-year conflict. "Knowing that there's chemical weapons in Syria doesn't tell us when they were used or how they were used,” he said. “We ourselves will be putting a lot of resources on this.” Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

US Believes Syria Used Chemical Weapons, Crossing 'Red Line'

April 25th 2013

Syria fighting injured baby

The White House on Thursday said the intelligence community believes the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons, crossing a “red line” set by President Obama.

“Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin,” Miguel Rodriguez, director of the White House office of legislative affairs, wrote to senators on Thursday.

But the Obama administration cautioned it still has to “build on these intelligence assessments as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts,” suggesting that the administration is not yet planning any military action against Assad's regime.

“Given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experience, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient — only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making,” the letter says. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Pentagon Claims $757 Million Overbilling by Contractor in Afghanistan

April 24th 2013

US troops in Iraq

The Pentagon allowed a private firm providing food and water to U.S. troops in Afghanistan to overbill taxpayers $757 million and awarded the company no-bid contract extensions worth more than $4 billion over three years, according to the Pentagon’s chief internal watchdog and congressional investigators.

The deal represented one of the largest U.S. military contracts in Afghanistan. But the Defense Logistics Agency, which was overseeing the contract, failed repeatedly to verify that the contractor’s invoices were accurate, an official in the Defense Department inspector general’s office said. "This has to be one of the prime poster childs for a government contract spun out of control," Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said last week.

Mica and other members of the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Subcommittee on National Security expressed outrage at a hearing last week about the Pentagon’s handling of the deal, especially two contract extensions awarded amid a dispute between the government and the company over as much as $1 billion. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Terrorist Attack On U.S. Foiled By Canadian Law Enforcement

April 22nd 2013

Canadian Border
Canadian-US border outpost

Canadian police and security services announced the details of the capture of two terrorism suspects in Toronto on Monday and that they thwarted a "major terrorist attack" targeting the United States. The two accused, Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, who live in the Montreal and Toronto area were conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack against a VIA passenger train. Charges include conspiring to carry out an attack against, and conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group, according to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police statement.

During an afternoon press conference in Toronto today at 3:30 p.m., officials from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police provided the details of a “National Security criminal investigation." The press conference was held in English and French. The RCMP spokesperson said the thwarting of a major terrorist plot aimed at Canada comes amid a rise in concern about home-grown Islamists residing in Canada.

Read more ..


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