The Edge of Disaster
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
|Juda Engelmayer||May 20th 2013|
Cutting Edge News Contributor
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
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
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
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
|David A. Aguilar||May 15th 2013|
Center for Astrophysics
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
|Kevin Mayhood||May 14th 2013|
American Association for the Advancement of Science
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
|George Friedman||May 12th 2013|
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 ..
|Christoph Heinzle, Lena Guertler, Mareike Fuchs, Bastian Brinkmann and Christoph Giesen||May 11th 2013|
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 ..
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 ..
|Julian Pecquet||May 9th 2013|
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 ..
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
|Anne Michel and Raphaelle Bacque||May 5th 2013|
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
|Anav Silverman||May 3rd 2013|
Tazpit News Agency
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
|The Tower.org staff||May 2nd 2013|
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
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
|J. Millard Burr||April 30th 2013|
Economic Warfare Institute
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
|Susan St. Clair||April 29th 2013|
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
|Jeremy Herb||April 28th 2013|
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 ..
|Anne Michel||April 27th 2013|
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
|Jeremy Herb||April 26th 2013|
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
|Jeffery Herb and Julian Pecquet||April 25th 2013|
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
|Richard H.P. Sia||April 24th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
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
|Canadian-US border outpost|
Read more ..
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.
|Mike Lillis||April 21st 2013|
The Boston Marathon tragedy is a reason for Congress to move faster – not slower – to overhaul the nation's immigration system, according to two co-authors of a Senate reform package.
Some conservatives on Capitol Hill have suggested Monday's deadly bombings – allegedly orchestrated by a pair of young immigrants from Russia's volatile Caucasus region – should cause lawmakers to move more deliberately in their approach to immigration reform this year.
But Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) – chief architects of a sweeping bipartisan immigration proposal unveiled last week – argued Sunday that their bill will help prevent future terrorist attacks at home and should be taken up as soon as possible. Read more ..
The Boston Massacre
|Martin Barillas||April 19th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Crowds erupted in cheers and applause as it became evident that a suspect in the deadly Boston Marathon bombing is now under arrest. Following a tense day in the Boston metro area throughout April 19, police went to a neighborhood in suburban Watertown where he was detected using state-of-the-art detection equipment. After engaging in a firefight and a three hour wait, the Chechen Muslim suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev has finally been apprehended. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino tweeted, "We got him."
An alert homeowner in Watertown noticed a tear on a tarp covering a boat in his backyard that showed signs of blood. Police came after being contacted by the concerned homeowner. It was from his hideout in the boat that Tsarnaev shot at officers. The scene was described as a "bloody mess." Apparently wounded, Tsarnaev has been taken from the scene in an ambulance. The Boston Police Department has tweeted "CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody." Following word that the arrest had been made, citizens congratulated law enforcement on the scene as they cheered and wept with joy. Read more ..
The Boston Massacre
|Russell Grayson||April 19th 2013|
Boston and its suburbs were turned into a near-war zone overnight as the two suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombings--brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, purportedly Chechen ethnics--ran amok in the streets in a high-speed pursuit and shootout. The bizarre chase, complete with grenades thrown at pursuing law enforcement, continued through the suburbs of Cambridge and Watertown. Boston and its surrounding suburbs are on full lockdown this morning--residents ordered to stay in their homes, vehicles and pedestrians barred from the streets, all public schools and universities ordered closed, businesses shuttered, and the transit system shut down--because there are unexploded grenades and explosive devices in the streets as a result of the violent chase. There are reports that another pressure-cooker bomb has been found and that the older brother, Tamerlan, had an additional bomb strapped to his body when he charged toward police and was killed at the scene of the huge street-battle in Watertown. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, ran the stolen SUV over Tamerlan's body as he escaped the scene of the battle. Read more ..
The Boston Massacre
|Rachel Quigley, Lydia Warren, Annette Witheridge and James Nye||April 18th 2013|
|Aamir Latif and Marina Walker Guevara||April 17th 2013|
The scandal-buffeted heir to one of Pakistan’s most powerful political dynasties, the Chaudhry family, owned a secret company in the British Virgin Islands he created with the help of Swiss bank UBS, according to documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Moonis Elahi, son of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who has just stepped down as deputy prime minister, was the sole shareholder in an offshore company called Olive Grove Assets Ltd, created in 2006 in the British Virgin Islands according to corporate records reviewed by ICIJ. In 2008 Moonis Elahi won a seat in the Punjab Provincial Assembly.
Elahi was swept up in scandal in 2011 when government prosecutors accused him of obtaining illegal payments in an alleged land scam involving the government-owned National Insurance Company Limited (NICL). Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||April 16th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
The FBI is looking for information from anybody who may have seen someone carrying a very heavy dark bag shortly before Monday's twin bombings at the Boston Marathon. Investigators have found pieces of black nylon which they say may have come from a backpack at the bomb site.
The FBI says the range of suspects is wide open, but that no one has claimed responsibility. It says authorities will "go to the ends of the Earth" to identify those responsible. Maryland Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger said after a security briefing on April 16 it is not likely that al-Qaida or any foreign government was involved because of the lack of prior intelligence.
Security experts in the UK, however, pointed out that the type of device used was very similar to improvised explosive devices traced to al-Qaida and related terrorist organizations. Investigators now theorize that at least one of the bombs that was detonated at the Boston Marathon finish line was contained in pressure cooking that flung pellets and other metal debris into the blast radius, thus causing deadly injuries. Similar bombs have been used in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere against U.S. and allied military targets. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||April 15th 2013|
Two explosions rocked the finish line at the iconic Boston Marathon race, leaving an as yet undetermined number of persons injured. At least one police officer was injured, while one bystander said that injuries were severe. There are reports that there are now at least three fatalities and dozens of injuries. Dave Weigel, who witnessed the carnage, used social media to describe the scene as the smoke cleared. “I saw people’s legs blown off. Horrific. Two explosions. Runners were coming in and saw unspeakable horror,’ he wrote on Twitter. Some reports suggest that at least three persons have died as a result of the two blasts. The blasts took place approximately three hours after the marathon’s winners crossed the line.
Video and photographs from the scene showed emergency personnel going to aid the injured. The sidewalks near the finish line and the north side of Boylston Street were strewn with blood. Bloodied spectators were taken to a medical tent. “There are a lot of people down,” said one witness, according to AP news. His bib No. 17528 identified him as Frank Deruyter of North Carolina. Read more ..
Operation Pillars of Defense
In early February 2013 the IDF deployed the Iron Dome anti-rocket system in northern Israel, to fend off potential threats in the area. This system is truly an impressive technological achievement. It was evaluated as an asset, thanks to the system’s ability not only to save lives but to also afford greater freedom of choice for the political and military echelons regarding when and how to respond to attacks on the home front.
Praise for Iron Dome
Even initial critics have admitted that the system’s ability to intercept some 90 percent of the missiles fired at Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza in November 2012 – which would have otherwise hit populated areas – is beyond the developers’ expectations and a significant contribution to Israeli defensive capabilities. The system saved lives of civilians and troops, which makes it attractive to Israel’s casualty-averse society, particularly in conflicts that do not endanger Israel’s most vital security interests, let alone its survival. Read more ..
The Race for Natural Gas
|David Wurmser||April 13th 2013|
On January 17, 2009, Israel’s economy and even its strategic stature changed. A team led by the Texan firm Noble Energy Inc., drilled under 5,600 feet (1,700 meters) of water and 16,000 feet (5,600 meters) of rock and salt off Israel’s shores in the Matan license to explore a prospect called Tamar. On that day, they struck and flared methane, discovering a field which now is estimated to contain a probable 275 billion cubic meters (9.7 trillion cubic feet, or TCF) of natural gas. To compare the size of the field to consumption measures, the field represents over half of what the European Union’s 27 (EU-27) nations consume annually, which in 2010 peaked at about 522 BCM before declining in 2011 and 2012, of which now about 463 BCM is imported per annum). Moreover, the Tamar well-heads which contain methane gas are rated at a high level of purity, with an energy value of production per well-head over four-fold higher than Saudi oil well-heads. Read more ..
|Joop Bouma and Martijn Roessingh||April 11th 2013|
The Dutch banks ING and ABN Amro registered dozens of companies for their clients in offshore refuges with lovely beaches and low tax rates such as the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and the Malaysian island of Labuan, an investigation by Dutch newspaper Trouw and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found.
Trouw found the information in leaked documents and emails from two companies — Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and British Virgin Islands-based Commonwealth Trust Limited — that specialize in helping customers set up and manage companies in offshore centers known as havens for individuals who want to reduce their taxes. ING and ABN Amro said they have never been party to tax evasion. “The companies were set up for international clients and always in compliance with local and international laws,” ABN Amro said in a statement. Read more ..
Foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States illegally have been known to avoid Border Patrol screening procedures by surreptitiously crossing into areas between these ports of entry, including Indian reservations, many of which have been vulnerable to illicit cross-border threat activity, such as drug smuggling, according to the Department of Homeland Security officials in a report released on Friday. The Government Accountability Office was requested by U.S. lawmakers to investigate DHS's efforts to coordinate border security activities on Indian reservations. In complying with Congress' request, GAO researchers examined DHS's efforts to coordinate with tribal governments to address border security threats and vulnerabilities on Indian reservations. GAO investigators reported that they interviewed DHS officials at headquarters and conducted interviews with eight tribes, selected based on factors such as proximity to the border, and the corresponding DHS field offices that have a role in border security for these Indian reservations. While GAO cannot generalize its results from these interviews to all Indian reservations and field offices along the border, they provide examples of border security coordination issues. Read more ..
The North Korean Threat
|Steve Herman||April 10th 2013|
There is growing concern in Northeast Asia that North Korea is about to conduct another provocative missile launch, possibly firing a number of rockets simultaneously. South Korean and U.S. forces in the country have gone to a higher reconnaissance posture, just one notch below that of wartime.
The status change from Watch Condition (Watchcon) 3 to 2 comes amid indications of the presence of missiles on mobile launchers in North Korea. Watchcon 2 denotes indications of a "vital threat." Domestic South Korean media say the change went into effect Wednesday.
Yun says intelligence obtained by South Korea and the United States has ascertained that “the possibility of a missile launch by North Korea is very high” and could occur “at any time from now.” Yun describes the Musudan, which Pyongyang has never tested, as having a range of about 3,500 kilometers and “it is up to North Korea how far it would fly.” Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Aaron Y. Zelin||April 9th 2013|
The Washington Institute
Early Tuesday morning, Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Husseini al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi -- the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda branch -- released an audio message announcing the extension of its "Islamic State" into al-Sham (the Levant), effectively bringing Syrian jihadist rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) into the fold. This comes on the heels of "al-Qaeda Central" leader Ayman al-Zawahiri releasing a video message two days ago calling for unification of the jihad in Syria. This is no coincidence -- rather, it highlights the continued relevance of al-Qaeda's central command. Although Baghdadi's announcement confirms what many already surmised and what the United States noted in its December designation of JN as a terrorist group, his words offer several important takeaways. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||April 8th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died "peacefully" at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke, according to her family. Current Prime Minister David Cameron called her a "great Briton," while Queen Elizabeth conveyed her sadness at the death of the former leader. Foreign Minister William Hague spoke of Thatcher as a “remarkable” leader who “saved” the United Kingdom and gave hope to the peoples behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.
Thatcher was born in 1925 in Grantham, Lincolnshire, that daughter of a grocer and local alderman. She was married to businessman Dennis Thatcher with whom she had two children. Read more ..
North Korea's Nukes
|Steve Herman||April 8th 2013|
Pyongyang is to pull out all of its 53,000 workers from the only joint complex operated by the two Koreas.
North Korean state media quote the secretary of the Workers Party central committee, Kim Yang Gon, saying all the country's employees in the Kaesong industrial zone will withdraw.
An announcer on Pyongyang radio quotes Kim, who visited Kaesong on Monday, as saying operations there will be temporarily suspended and the fate of the complex will be examined. This depends, Kim is quoted as saying, on the attitude of the South Korean authorities in the coming days whom he characterizes as "military warmongers" seeking to make the joint industrial zone a point of confrontation.
North Korea last week had stopped issuing the daily permits for South Korean managers and cargo to enter the complex, which is just north of the border. Read more ..
Iraq on Edge
|Ron Synovitz||April 7th 2013|
Violence is rising again in parts of Iraq that are dominated by the country's Sunni minority. But whereas disputes between Sunnis and Iraq's Shi'a majority were the underlying cause in years past, experts are attributing the latest violence to a power struggle within the Sunni community.
And this time, the violence includes a wave of political assassinations that are disrupting upcoming local elections and threatens to destabilize the entire country.
So far, 11 candidates -- all of them Sunni Muslims -- have been assassinated in the run-up to the April 20 vote. Six slain candidates were members of Al-Iraqiyah -- the secular, mostly Sunni-backed political bloc within Shi'a Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's governing coalition.
Yahya al-Qubaisi, a political analyst at the Iraqi Center for Strategic Studies in Amman, sees a link between the violence and the disintegration of Al-Iraqiyah -- which has been plagued by defections since Sunnis launched daily mass demonstrations against Maliki's government in late December. Read more ..
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