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The Edge of Terrorism

The Role of Hamas in the Formation of Global Jihadi Networks in Sinai

August 18th 2012

Hamas head

After the Rafah attack, it was noticeable that the Egyptian government refrained from condemning the terrorists’ plan to carry out a mass-casualty attack in Israel. Indeed, senior Muslim Brotherhood figures pointed an accusing finger at Israel, claiming it was behind the attack in an attempt to create a rift between Egypt and Hamas.

Apart from the anti-Israel propaganda line, the investigation of the attack by Egyptian intelligence found tracks leading in the direction of Gaza. Security sources in Egypt told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm al-Saba that the Palestinian organization Army of Islam was responsible for the attack. They said that the day before it occurred, there was a meeting in one of the homes of the Army of Islam’s leader in Rafah; about 35 activists participated, and it was decided to carry out the attack. Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

South African President Orders Probe Into Mine Shootings

August 18th 2012

Police miners

South African President Jacob Zuma has ordered an official inquiry into the police killing of 34 striking miners, the deadliest security operation in the country since the end of apartheid. Zuma said he was "shocked and dismayed" at what he called "senseless violence." The president cut short a visit Friday to a regional summit in Mozambique and traveled to the mine in Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg. Zuma stopped short of saying who was responsible for the killings and urged unions to work with the government to address the situation. South African police say 34 people were killed in a shootout between police and angry miners at a troubled platinum mine. But police, unions and the presidency have stopped short of saying who is at fault.

South Africa’s police commissioner on Friday visited the scene of a deadly shootout between police and strikers at the Lonmin platinum mine in the nation’s northwest. A confrontration Thursday between striking miners and police turned into a gunbattle.
Police spokesman Capt. Dennis Adraio said Friday that in addition to the deaths, 78 people were wounded. Police have arrested 259 people. ​​​​Adraio said police did everything they could to avert a shootout - and have video to prove it. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria's Summer War and the Fate of the Regime

August 17th 2012

Syria Damascus fighting injured baby

Syria's internal war has increased dramatically in intensity and scope over the past three months. Reported clashes between regime forces and the armed opposition doubled in May, then again in June, and yet again in July. Last month was the most violent of the war, with some 552 clashes reported and an estimated 1,100 regime personnel killed or wounded. Although the armed rebels also took casualties (estimated at 624 in July), their strength in men and combat formations appeared to grow. Meanwhile, the dramatic July 18 assassination of four key officials in Damascus, though not a fatal blow, exposed the regime's vulnerability at its innermost core. Similarly, its loss of territory in the northwest along with certain border crossings exposed its weakness on the periphery. These developments demonstrate that the regime's strategy for dealing with the rebellion is failing, despite its decision to employ very high levels of violence, go ever deeper into its arsenal, and rely more heavily on irregular forces. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Speech Recognition On Cell Phones Grow to 68 Percent through 2017

August 16th 2012

Smart phone running voice recogniton

As mobile speech recognition technologies continue to improve in their efficacy, the vendors of the speech technology platforms are making concerted efforts to enable the long tail of mobile application developers with speech recognition capabilities.

ABI Research notes the efforts of companies such as Nuance, AT&T, and iSpeech for exposing their APIs and developer programs as the foremost strategy in reaching the long tail of mobile applications. “Reaching a varied group of developers working on different OS and hardware platforms makes cloud based solutions the optimum approach to enabling the masses,” says mobile devices, content and applications senior analyst Michael Morgan. “It is the approach of using network based solutions that will drive the rapid increase in cloud based revenues.”

Historically, mobile speech recognition was delivered to consumers through relationships between device OEMs and platform vendors. The other route to the consumer came through virtual assistant applications that were often developed by the platform vendors. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Napolitano and Aide Drawn into Lewd Conduct Allegations

August 15th 2012

Janet Napolitano
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano

Suzanne Barr, chief of staff for Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been openly accused of cultivating a "frat-house"-style work environment. Barr "voluntarily placed herself on leave," the Department of Homeland Security has announced. The scandal has been referred for internal investigative review.

According to a Fox News report, which has led the reporting on the subject, "Two more ICE employees came forward this week to complain about "lewd" conduct inside the agency, submitting sworn affidavits that depict graphic comments made by two top officials working under DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. The affidavits were given as part of a discrimination and retaliation suit filed earlier this year by James T. Hayes Jr., the head of the New York office for Immigration and Customs Enforcement." ICE Public Affairs Director Brian Hale confirmed in a statement, "ICE has referred these allegations to the DHS Office of Inspector General and the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility for review. Ms. Barr has voluntarily placed herself on leave pending the outcome of this review." 

A pair of affidavits similarly described incidents in October 2009. In an impromtu discussion of Halloween plans, Barr alledged turned to a senior ICE employee declaring: "You a sexy" (expletive deleted). The affavadit reportedly continues, "She then looked at his crotch and asked, 'How long is it anyway?'" according to the affidavit. "Several employees laughed nervously," the affidavit said. The names of the workers making the claims have been redacted. Fox News reports: "The other account recalled a trip to Colombia in late 2009, attended by ICE Director John Morton, Barr and Ray Parmer, who is ICE special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in New Orleans. The account said Parmer and Barr were "drinking heavily" at the house of the deputy chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy there. It said Parmer took the BlackBerry of another employee, Peter Vincent, and sent "lewd messages" to Barr. The affidavit went on to say: "During this party, Suzanne Barr approached me and offered to" perform oral sex."

Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Israel Confronts the Painful Decision to Attack Iran's Nuclear Weapon Complexes

August 14th 2012

soldiers pray at wailing wall

Israel believes its best interests will be served by an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. That is the logic apparent in a remarkable piece at Ha'aretz, an interview with a top Israeli official who is most likely Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Ari Shavit, one of Israel's top columnists, conducts the far-ranging interview, in which the official calmly describes Israel's rationale for attacking Iran in the near future. Shavit says: “A nuclear Iran is one of the gravest things that could happen to Israel,” the decision maker begins. “If Iran goes nuclear, everything here will be different. Everything. We will shift into a different state of existence. If Iran goes nuclear, down the road Israel will face a threat of existential magnitude. The first aspect of the issue doesn’t only concern us but the international community and the regional alignment. I’m talking about the spread of nuclearization. Up to now the world has found a way to live with two recalcitrant countries: Pakistan and North Korea. If Iran goes nuclear, the world will just lose it. It won’t have any control over the nuclear demon.

"We know this as a virtual certainty because we’ve heard it straight from the horses’ mouths. If Iran detonates a nuclear device, Saudi Arabia will be nuclear. Within a few years Turkey will go nuclear. The new Egypt will acquire nuclear capability within less than a decade. People ask, what’s our rush? We’re not rushing at all. We waited for years. If Iran’s nuclearization is not halted now, before long we’ll find ourselves in a Middle East that has all gone nuclear.” Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran Attack Decision Countdown Begins, Israeli Media Reports

August 12th 2012

IDF F-16s

Israel may be only a short time away from one of the most fateful moments in its history. Friday evening, Israeli television reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak have all but finalized their decision to attack Iran's nuclear program.

The reasons outlined for their decision make for chilling reading. Most importantly, the two men believe that the Obama administration does not and will never consider an Iranian nuke a threat serious enough to justify military action.

"The US," reports the Times of Israel: "has not provided Israel with details of an attack plan. President Obama has not promised to attack Iran if all else fails. Conditions cited by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for an American attack do not calm Israeli concerns. And Obama has a record of seeking UN and Arab League approval before action. Obama does not want to intervene militarily before the presidential elections in November, and it is doubtful that he would act afterwards, runs the Israeli assessment, the TV report said. Obama may believe that the US can live with a nuclear Iran, but Israel cannot." Read more ..


The Edge of Defense

Intel Leaks have 'Absolutely' Damaged National Security, Brennan Confirms

August 12th 2012

Russian computer user

Unauthorized leaks of sensitive information regarding American-led counterterrorism operations have "absolutely" damaged U.S. national security, according to a top administration official. "There have been some devastating leaks," chief White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said Wednesday. "It's unconscionable what has gone out. And the president has made his displeasure abundantly clear to his senior team," he said during a speech at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.

In recent months, a spate of information leaks detailing highly-classified U.S. counterterrorism operations have made their way into U.S. and international media reports. The leaked intelligence included information about a U.S. cyberattack on Iran, a terrorist “kill list” and a double agent operating in Yemen. While refusing to comment on any specific operation that may have been compromised as a result of the leaks, Brennan pointed out their disclosure has done irreparable damage to U.S. efforts to curb terror groups like al Qaeda and others. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Massacred Sunni Syrians Hold Hezbollah Responsible--And Will Remember

August 11th 2012

Syria Damascus fighting injured baby

Earlier this month, 48 Iranian Shiite "pilgrims" were abducted in Damascus. The Free Syrian Army claims they were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, who have been dispatched to Syria to protect one of Tehran's vital interests, Bashar al-Assad's regime. It's not the first time that anti-regime rebels have captured who they claim are Iranian-trained Assad allies. Since May, another armed opposition group called the "Syrian Revolutionaries-Aleppo Province" has been holding eleven Lebanese Shiites who say they are simply making their way back home after a trip to Iran for religious purposes. Initially, at least, these rebels alleged that five of these self-described pilgrims were in reality Hezbollah officials.

In recent weeks, the revolutionaries have tempered their assertions about the Hezbollah association of all the Lebanese captives, but the Syrian opposition is still holding the organization responsible for Assad regime atrocities. In a statement provided to Al Jazeera, the kidnappers indicated that negotiations for the hostages would be predicated on Hezbollah general secretary Hassan Nasrallah apologizing for "assist[ing] in the suppression of the uprising." Nasrallah refused to express contrition for supporting Assad, but Hezbollah's own hostage crisis has just added to his recent woes. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Of Horses and Narco-Kingdoms

August 10th 2012

Horses

Following a two-year investigation, federal prosecutors have submitted a mindboggling 30,000 pages of documentation and 2,000 recorded phone calls that paint an extensive picture of how one of Mexico's most powerful drug-trafficking organizations raises, moves and eventually washes its illicit funds.

The indictment, issued by the Northern District of Texas, charges fifteen people with laundering millions of dollars in drug profits on a sleepy Oklahoma ranch on behalf of the Los Zetas cartel, the most powerful syndicate in Mexico today. In a trial scheduled for October in Austin, Texas, the IRS and other federal authorities will present findings based on thousands of financial records and recorded conversations and dozens of witness interviews that provide information on how the Zetas conduct their business.

The case became public in June when federal agents carried out a sweep of seven locations in several states and seized 200 boxes of evidence. Eight suspects have been arrested, and an additional seven remain at large. It is widely believed that some of the defendants will take plea bargains after providing federal authorities with intelligence. The most notable figure incarcerated is Jose Trevino Morales, the brother of two high-ranking Zetas, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales and Oscar Omar Trevino Morales. Read more ..


Egypt's Blockade of Gaza

Cairo Eases Faza Blockade for 48 Hours to Allow Palestinians to Leave Egypt Amid More Sinai Skimirshes

August 10th 2012

Rafah crossing

Egyptian police have clashed with armed men in the Sinai peninsula, a day after military airstrikes killed 20 suspected militants in the area. State television said the fighting resumed Thursday outside a police station in El-Arish, about 50 kilometers from the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip is the mainly Palestinian  territory of the former now-dissolved Ottoman colony. Israel withdrew from the disputed region in 2005.

There were no immediate reports of casualties. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi fired his intelligence chief and the governor of North Sinai on Wednesday in a major reorganization. The military said it carried out its operation Wednesday to restore peace and regain control after an increase in lawlessness following the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak. Militants launched a bloody attack on the army Sunday, killing 16 Egyptian border guards.

AFP reported that Israel said on Thursday it gave Egypt the go-ahead to deploy helicopters in Sinai, easing the restrictions on military presence in the peninsula set by a 1979 peace treaty between the neighbouring countries. At the same time, Egypt slightly eased its land-sea and air blockade of Gaza for a 48-hour period, one way, to allow Palestinians to exit the country and transit back to Gaza. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Nearly One Phone in Five To Have Facial Recognition Capability by End of 2012

August 10th 2012

Eyeball Surveillance

By the end of 2012, almost 20% of annual smartphone shipments will include facial recognition capabilities, according to new data from ABI Research. In five years' time, shipments of smartphones and tablets with the technology will increase to 665 million annually. Currently, only Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean mobile operating systems support the technology in significant volumes. The Samsung Galaxy SIII is one of the most notable smartphones to feature this technology. Over the next two to three years, many more operating systems and mobile OEMs will incorporate the technology.

Facial recognition has been on the technology radar for some time. It was developed in the 1960s by three scientists: Woody Bledsoe, Helen Chan Wolf, and Charles Bisson. Historically, the major challenge for the technology in mobile devices has been incorporating an accurate enough sensor (camera) and a powerful enough processor to undertake the complex algorithms while limiting power consumption. Thanks to major technology advancements, this has changed, notes ABI Research. “Facial recognition technology has improved drastically over the last 10 years and accuracy is almost always above 90%,” says ABI Research senior analyst Josh Flood. “That said, lighting conditions and facial expressions can sometimes cause problems with the recognition. However, the improvements in camera resolution and processing power utilized by mobile devices has helped greatly.” Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Adelson Fights Back

August 9th 2012

Click to select Image
Sheldon Adelson

Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has had enough, and he let the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) know that Wednesday in a $60 million libel suit against the political organization, reports JTA. In an article on its Web site, the NJDC alleged that Adelson approved of prostitution in his China-based casinos. They further urged presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney to stop taking Adelson’s multi-million dollar donations. Filed in Manhattan federal court, Adelson’s suit alleges that NJDC, its president David Harris, and its chairman Marc Stanley, “crossed the threshold from constitutionally protected speech to defamation of a public figure.”

In response, the NJDC released a statement, noting, “referencing mainstream press accounts examining the conduct of a public figure and his business ventures - as we did - is wholly appropriate. “Indeed, it is both an American and a Jewish obligation to ask hard questions of powerful individuals like Mr. Adelson, just as it is incumbent upon us to praise his wonderful philanthropic endeavors,” the statement continued. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

The Looming War for Syria's Chemical Weapons

August 9th 2012

Syrian Chemical Weapons

Syria’s vast arsenal of operational-level chemical and biological weapons, based on lethal and incapacitating agents, is diverse by any standard. Syria also possesses many sophisticated launch platforms and dispersion equipment, including missiles, rockets, aircraft, artillery shells, cluster warheads, and unitary ammunition – most of which are of high quality. Syria has Scud missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads that can strike anywhere in Israel, even when launched from deep behind Syria’s front lines.

As the regime of Bashar Assad comes to an end, the fate of its non-conventional arsenal is causing growing alarm.

The complexity of the issue has far-reaching ramifications. The transfer – even the possibility of the transfer – of chemical weapons to Hizballah or other terrorist organizations could force Israel to take military steps against Syria, even if this risks escalation to a wider conflict. Such a development is definitely worrisome, especially since it raises the likelihood of the Syrians actually employing chemical or biological weapons.

Read more ..

The Edge of Space

A Blue Whirlpool in The River

August 8th 2012

NGC 1187 in Eridanus via VLT
Spiral galaxy NCG 1187 in Eridanus (credit: ESO)

The galaxy NGC 1187, discovered is seen almost face-on, which gives us a good view of its spiral structure. About half a dozen prominent spiral arms can be seen, each containing large amounts of gas and dust. The bluish features in the spiral arms indicate the presence of young stars born out of clouds of interstellar gas. Looking towards the central regions, we see the bulge of the galaxy glowing yellow. This part of the galaxy is mostly made up of old stars, gas, and dust. In the case of NGC 1187, rather than a round bulge, there is a subtle central bar structure. Such bar features are thought to act as mechanisms that channel gas from the spiral arms to the centre, enhancing star formation there.

Around the outside of the galaxy many much fainter and more distant galaxies can also be seen. Some even shine right through the disc of NGC 1187 itself. Their mostly reddish hues contrast with the pale blue star clusters of the much closer object. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Police Told to Not Arrest Occupy Protesters by Feds

August 8th 2012

Portland occupy

Records from the Homeland Security Department reveal that the scandal-ridden General Services Administration, with the authorization of President Barack Obama's White House, directed law enforcement officers to “stand down” and not arrest “Occupy Portland” protesters who were violating the law, according to a report by Fox News Channel's Steve Doocy Wednesday morning.

The records, obtained by the Inside-the-Beltway watchdog group Judicial Watch as a result of a November 11, 2011, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, include internal Homeland Security Department correspondence, Doocy reported.

Officials at Judicial Watch reported that one November 6, 2011, e-mail exchange between DHS/National Protection and Programs Directorate Chief of Staff Caitlin Durkovich and GSA Public Buildings Service Commissioner Robert Peck (who has since been terminated from employment) is specifically related to Occupy Portland protests taking place on federal property in Portland: Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Supernova Candidate Found?

August 8th 2012

Artist’s conception a white dwarf and companion
Artist’s conception a white dwarf and companion
(credit: Casey Reed/NASA/CXC)

Type Ia supernovae are violent stellar explosions. Observations of their brightness are used to determine distances in the universe and have shown scientists that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. But there is still too little known about the specifics of the processes by which these supernovae form. New research led by Carnegie’s Stella Kafka identifies a star, prior to explosion, which will possibly become a type Ia supernova. The work will be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The widely accepted theory is that type Ia supernovae are thermonuclear explosions of a white dwarf star that’s part of a binary system—two stars that are physically close and orbit around a common center of mass. This white dwarf has mass gradually donated to it by its companion. When the white dwarf mass eventually reaches 1.4 times the sun, it explodes to produce a type Ia supernova. The crucial questions are: What is the nature of the donor star and how does this white dwarf increase its mass. Also, how would that process affect the properties of the explosion? Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Cairo Tightens Egypt's Blockade of Gaza After Sinai Terrorist Attack

August 7th 2012

Egypt Blockade of Gaza

An angry Egypt has tightened its five-year land, sea, and air blockade of Gaza following the spectacular weekend attack on an Egyptian border installation by Islamic terrorists traced to Gaza.

After a recent encouraging meeting in Cairo between newly installed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and Hamas strong man Ismail Haniya, reports suggested that Cairo would keep the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Sinai open for a full 12 hours a day, until 9 pm nightly, The 4-hour increase was expected to allow as many as 1,500 Gazans to cross daily. The Egyptian crossing and checkpoint was Gaza’s transit point to the rest of the world. But the Egyptian government publicly rescinded all such assurances and slammed shut all access points, including tunnels. Moreover, Morsi’s government declared the ramped up blockade strictures were “indefinite.” Read more ..


World Economy on Edge

Global Financial Markets and the New Political Realities in Europe

August 7th 2012

Euro Symbol

Louis M. Bacon is the head of Moore Capital Management, one of the largest and most influential hedge funds in the world. Last week, he announced that he was returning one quarter of his largest fund, about $2 billion, to his investors. The reason he gave to The New York Times was that he had found it difficult to invest given the impossibility of predicting the European situation. He was quoted as saying, "The political involvement is so extreme -- we have not seen this since the postwar era. What they are doing is trying to thwart natural market outcomes. It is amazing how important the decision-making of one person, Angela Merkel, has become to world markets."

The purpose of hedge funds is to make money, and what Bacon essentially said was that it is impossible to make money when there is heavy political involvement, because political involvement introduces unpredictability in the market. Therefore, prudent investment becomes impossible. Hedge funds have become critical to global capital allocation because their actions influence other important actors, and their unwillingness to invest and trade has significant implications for capital availability. If others follow Moore Capital's lead, as they will, there will be greater difficulty in raising the capital needed to address the problem of Europe. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

NASA’s Curiosity Lands Safely on Mars after “Seven Minutes of Terror”

August 6th 2012

Curiosty MSL at work
Curiosity at work (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA, the U.S. space agency, says that its Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) has made a successful landing on the red planet.

There will be several weeks of testing before NASA turns Curiosity loose to roam about the Martian surface, looking for signs that the planet once might have had conditions suitable to support life. But first the scientists and engineers at the Joint Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles did a little celebrating.

NASA described Curiosity’s plunge through the Martian atmosphere as “seven minutes of terror,” but the landing, which engineers said was the most complex ever attempted, proceeded flawlessly. Moments after touchdown the craft sent a picture back to Earth, showing one of its six wheels on the planet’s surface. The first pictures from the craft were received back on Earth almost immediately after confirmation of the landing Monday at about 5:30a.m. UTC. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

The Role of Iranian Security Forces in the Syrian Bloodshed

August 5th 2012

Riot Gear Police

Amid the intensifying crisis in Syria, which in recent weeks has seen massacres of the civilian population in various parts of the country, Iranian military, propaganda, and economic assistance keeps flowing in, and its aim is to help President Bashar al-Assad survive. Iran aided Assad in withstanding the waves of protest as soon as they erupted, and it is now backing him and advising him on how to overcome an existential crisis that put to the test the two countries’ strategic alliance. 

Iran, which has invested great military, economic, and political resources in Syria – a main pillar of the anti-Israel “resistance camp” and the gateway to aiding Hizbullah – now views Syria, amid the rapid changes in the Middle East, as a key battleground to confront the West. How this conflict unfolds will determine the new landscape that is being shaped in the region.

Syria as a Battlefield

The present state of affairs is highly reminiscent of what transpired after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005. Iran backed Hizbullah while Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, and Western states, supported the Lebanese freedom forces. The eventual outcome was Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon at the height of President Bush’s democratization campaign after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi elections of January 2005. Iran then viewed Lebanon as the first line of confrontation with the West, which was trying, unsuccessfully, to impose a rapid democratization there, too, and disarm Hizbullah. At present, Hizbullah weapons are serving as part of Assad’s apparatus of violent repression – under Iran’s command. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Intel Leaks Must Stop, Rep. King Warns FBI Director

August 4th 2012

In the wake of what he termed "two more flagrant leaks of sensitive national security information," Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, urged the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Director Robert Mueller to expand his investigations into the continuing leaks allegedly emanating from the Obama Administration.

In a letter sent to Mueller on Thursday, King wrote: “These reported disclosures represent additional disturbing and irresponsible leaks of potentially classified information from this Administration. Obviously, the ongoing investigations have failed to deter further leaks. The Administration's leaks must stop before they further endanger the lives of men and women sent into harm's way on our Nation's behalf.”

According to the veteran congressman, on Aug. 1, 2012, a Reuters news service report stated that U.S. sources revealed President Barack Obama “signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government.” Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Democrats Apologize to Adelson for 'Chinese Prostitution' Comments After Libel Action Threatened

August 3rd 2012

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued an apology to casino mogul and prominent Republican donor Sheldon Adelson on Thursday, after the billionaire threatened to sue the organization over comments insinuating he profited from prostitution at his Chinese resorts.

"In press statements issued on June 29 and July 2, 2012, the DCCC made unsubstantiated allegations that attacked Sheldon Adelson, a supporter of the opposing party," the DCCC said in an e-mail released Thursday. "This was wrong.  The statements were untrue and unfair and we retract them.  The DCCC extends its sincere apology to Mr. Adelson and his family for any injury we have caused." The June 29 statement released by the DCCC cited an Associated Press story to assert that Adelson "personally approved of prostitution and knew of other improper activity at his company's properties," while the July 2 statement from DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson blasted House Republicans from accepting donations from Adelson. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

The Specter of Syrian Chemical Weapons

August 2nd 2012

Syrian Missiles

The unraveling of the al Assad regime in Syria will produce many geopolitical consequences. One potential consequence has garnered a great deal of media attention in recent days: the possibility of the regime losing control of its chemical weapons stockpile. In an interview aired July 30 on CNN, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said it would be a "disaster to have those chemical weapons fall into the wrong hands -- hands of Hezbollah or other extremists in that area." When he mentioned other extremists, Panetta was referring to local and transnational jihadists, such as members of the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been fighting with other opposition forces against the Syrian regime. He was also referring to the many Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which have long had a presence in Syria and until recently have been supported by the al Assad regime.

The fear is that the jihadists will obtain chemical weapons to use in terrorist attacks against the West. Israel is also concerned that Palestinian groups could use them in terrorist attacks inside Israel or that Hezbollah could use such weapons against the Israelis in a conventional military battle. Read more ..


Destination Israel

Dan Carmel--Unrivalled Majestic Views of Haifa City and Bay

August 1st 2012

Dan Carmel Haifa

When most people travel to Israel, they think of that country’s two major compelling cities—Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Jerusalem is the spiritual epicenter of Israel’s historic legacy. Tel Aviv offers the national mad dash to cosmopolitan nirvana. But, there is a third major city that most tourists often don’t visit. It is, of course, Haifa--Israel’s gleaming maritime city along its northern coast.

Haifa is a paragon of cross-ethnic cohesion where Arab and Jewish citizens have lived together as neighbors. Its great bay vistas and muscular architecture, buttressed by a diverse fabric of cultural and artistic enterprise, are exceeded only by its maddening traffic congestion. This is a city revolving ever faster around a multidimensional axis of technology, shipping and boating, Israel’s mushrooming business sector, and the de facto gateway to the country, Galilee and the northern realm. Here you find the wondrous Baha’i Temple with its hanging gardens and iridescent sheen, a spate of museums devoted to Israel’s historic intersection with the sea, an urban-functional mountain cable car, the pantheon of Israel’s technological magic including the Technion University, and of course the front door to Israel’s Golan and Galilee. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

NASA’s Curiosity Set for Mars Landing

August 1st 2012

Curiosity Rover at work
Mars Rover

The U.S. space agency is preparing for its newest Mars rover, Curiosity, to touch down on the Red Planet on August 6. The rover’s entry and descent will be nerve-wracking for NASA engineers, compounded by a 14-minute delay as the rover’s signals travel to Earth from Mars. If successful, Curiosity will be the sixth NASA spacecraft to land on the Red Planet.

Curiosity is the centerpiece of the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, launched in November aboard an Atlas V rocket. It’s traveled some 560 million kilometers toward its destination.

Curiosity is a “Mars scientist’s dream machine,” said Deputy Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada ahead of its launch. “This rover is not only the most technically capable rover ever sent to another planet, but it’s actually the most capable scientific explorer we’ve ever sent out,” he said. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Uganda Battles to Contain Ebola Outbreak

July 31st 2012

Victims of LRA

 Uganda is battling yet another outbreak of the Ebola virus, with 14 deaths reported so far and a number of people in quarantine. Ugandan newspapers are filled once again with images of hazmat suits and hospital beds, as the country is rocked by a new outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

Addressing journalists on Monday, Minister of Health Christine Ondoa said there was no cause for alarm. She said the ministry, working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, had managed to contain the virus. But in an address to the nation the same day, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni urged people to avoid all physical contact, including shaking hands.

Although most of the cases come from western Uganda, some have also been reported in the capital, Kampala. The city’s main hospital has set up an isolation ward for those suspected of being infected, while a number of people in western Uganda have been placed in quarantine.

This is not the first time Ebola has gripped the country. Thirty-seven people died in the last outbreak in 2007, and an epidemic in 2000 killed nearly 200. Symptoms of the hemorrhagic fever include diarrhea and vomiting.

Denis Lwamafa of the Ministry of Health says Uganda has improved its ability to detect and diagnose Ebola. “Uganda now is probably at the forefront, in terms of handling viral hemorrhagic fevers, on the continent of Africa," says Lwamafa. "So this is now an indigenous local capacity of which we must take note. We’ve been able to elevate the level of proficiency in diagnosing even these highly infectious organisms here in Uganda, and I would like to report that the diagnosis of the Ebola virus was done here.” He adds that although the disease does occur in neighboring countries as well, it is not always detected. Read more ..


The Race for Smart Grid

Half of India Suffers Massive Power Outage

July 31st 2012

India Street Scene

India suffered a second day of a massive power breakdown that affected nearly half the country on Tuesday. India experienced its worst-ever power crisis, leaving more than 650 million people without electricity.  India's transport system screeched to a halt for a second day, as trains stopped and traffic signals stalled -- stranding passengers and drivers.

Three electricity grids failed Tuesday, with power cut from as far north as Kashmir to the eastern state of Assam.  The lights went out in major cities like the capital New Delhi and the eastern city of Kolkata shortly after 1 p.m. local time. It was the second day that India suffered a blackout - but this time it hit a far larger part of the country. On Monday, an outage affected seven northern states, leaving more than 300 million people without electricity for nearly ten hours. On Tuesday, more than a dozen states were hit. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Mitt Romney Captures Jerusalem

July 31st 2012

Romney in Jerusalem 7-31-12

Speaking to an often-cheering group of about 400 people in Jerusalem, Governor Mitt Romney gave a speech less notable for what he said that for the fact that the audience believed he was sincere in saying it. At a beautiful outdoor setting with the Old City in the background, Romney declared his strong support for Israel, using phrases often heard from American presidents. He also proclaimed his view that Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital. The difference, of course, is that those listening were less inclined to think that when President Barack Obama said similar things to AIPAC meetings he was describing his own views and policies.

Clearly, Romney was restrained by the American principle that partisan politics stops at the water’s edge, that no politician should criticize a president or U.S. government while abroad. Thus, Obama’s name—or even his specific policies—was never explicitly mentioned. What Romney did do, however, was to scatter among the assertions of U.S. support for Israel’s security and a strong belief in a U.S.-Israel alliance some subtle references that many viewers and much of the mass media are likely to miss. Here are the key ones, which give some hints about Romney’s future campaign and possibly his presidency: Read more ..


The Safety Edge

Landmark Worker Death Case Continues Against UCLA Chemistry Professor

July 29th 2012

nurse w/stethoscope

Sheri Sangji is on fire.

The 23-year-old research associate, a Pomona College graduate raised in Pakistan, has accidentally pulled the plunger out of a syringe while conducting an experiment in the Molecular Sciences Building at UCLA. The syringe contains a solution that combusts upon contact with air. The solution spills onto Sangji’s hands and torso, and she is instantly aflame. She isn’t wearing a lab coat; no one told her she has to. Her synthetic rubber gloves provide no protection as the fire burns through her hands to the tendons. She inhales toxic, superheated gases given off by her burning polyester sweater, a process that accelerates as she runs and screams.

It’s December 29, 2008, mid-afternoon. The UCLA campus is mostly quiet for the holidays, but chemistry professor Patrick Harran’s team is working. Harran is in his office, one floor up from Room 4221, where at his direction Sheharbano “Sheri” Sangji has been trying to produce a chemical that holds promise as an appetite suppressant. She is unsupervised. Read more ..


Broken Elections

Million-dollar Donation in Indiana Race May Skirt Limits on Corporate Giving

July 27th 2012

Bundles of Cash

The RGA Right Direction PAC is a Washington, D.C.-based super PAC, registered with federal regulators to make independent expenditures supporting or opposing candidates. So what is it doing giving $1 million directly to the Republican running for governor of Indiana?

The donation to Mike Pence, the largest to his campaign, appears to be a way around state laws limiting corporate contributions to candidates. “In one way, it’s legal,” said Andrew Downs of the Center for Indiana Politics, at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. “But if you say this is a way to give in excess of corporate limits, that’s also absolutely true.”

Right Direction is funded entirely by the Republican Governors Association, a so-called 527 organization dedicated to electing as many Republicans to governorships as possible—a mission fueled by contributions from some of the largest corporations in the country. In Indiana, candidates can accept unlimited donations from individuals and political action committees but only $5,000 from corporations and unions. Corporations and unions can also give to PACs, but only in small sums. Whether the check to Pence was drawn on a bank account that contained corporate money is not a matter of public record. Read more ..


The London Olympics

The Cutting Edge News To Blank for One Minute in Tribute to 11 Slain Olympians

July 27th 2012

Munich athletes slain

The Cutting Edge News will blank its entire site today—July 27—for one minute at 4 pm ET in tribute to 11 slain Israeli Olympians. The site will go dark just before the Opening Ceremony in London. TCEN has asked other prominent websites to blank at 4 pm ET as well.

The 11 Israelis were murdered in 1972 by organized Arab terrorists in Munich's Olympic Village. The nightmare played out as the whole world watched. Despite calls by world leaders and waves of mass petitions to observe sixty seconds of silence in tribute to the massacre, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge has ruled such a moment inappropriate.

NBC sportscaster Bob Costas has declared that he will observe a minute on air—regardless of the IOC's reluctance or prohibition.

A number of other tragedies have been commemorated at past opening ceremonies, including at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics where the victims of the September 11 were remembered. At the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics in Norway, a moment of silence was held for the victims of the Siege of Sarajevo.  In Vancouver, at the 2010 Winter Olympics, a minute was observed to memorialize Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili who died in a tragic training accident.

The opening Olympic ceremonies promise to be a celebration of all that is life, but just a minute—one minute—is appropriate for history and the sanctity of life. This crime occured at the Olympics against the Olympics. If not here and now ... where and when? If not us ... who?

The Cutting Edge News goes dark for one minute today to remind all that we cannot understand what is happening in our world unless we can understand what has happened. Just for a minute.


The 2012 Vote

House, Senate Aim to Prevent Shutdown Before Election

July 26th 2012

Capitol Senate

Senior House and Senate leaders voiced optimism that they could reach agreement on a stopgap spending measure that would prevent a government shutdown shortly before the November election.

Congress has more than two months to figure out how to fund the government this fall, but because lawmakers are only in session for less than three weeks during that time, discussions about a continuing resolution have heated up in recent days. The Senate has made little progress passing annual appropriations bills, necessitating a stopgap measure to keep the government’s lights on through the November election.

It could be political suicide to have a government shutdown before voters go to the polls — for both sides of the aisle. Congress's approval rating is a scant 16 percent, according to a July Gallup poll. The central issue has been the length of a stopgap, and both sides appeared to be moving toward a six-month bill, which would keep the government running into 2013. Read more ..


The New Libya

Libya's Uncertain Post-Electoral Direction

July 25th 2012

Libya Voter

The impressive electoral performance of nominally liberal parties in Libya is being widely portrayed as a setback to Islamist political momentum in North Africa, but the reality is more complicated.

Following Libya's first free parliamentary elections since 1965, 60 percent of the members who won seats allocated to individuals rather than parties have yet to declare their party affiliation in the legislature. In a country historically riven by geographical divisions, Libyans voted for regional parties and candidates they knew rather than backing unfamiliar national factions with hastily conceived platforms. In response, Washington has characterized the elections as an "important step" in Libya's "democratic transition," but such optimism may be premature.

BACKGROUND
Libya's new General National Congress consists of 200 seats, 80 elected by party-list balloting and 120 allocated to individual candidates. During the July 7 contest -- in which 62 percent of registered voters participated -- 374 parties vied for the 80 dedicated seats, while 2,639 candidates competed for the individual slots. The National Forces Alliance (NFA), a coalition of about 60 parties, emerged with 39 seats, while the Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Building Party finished a distant second with 17. The National Front, a group led by Libya's leading exiled opposition party, took 3 seats, and the Union for Homeland Party (UH) -- a regional faction based in Libya's third-largest city, Misratah -- captured 2.  Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Egyptian Lawmaker from Terrorist Group Was Thoroughly 'Vetted'

July 25th 2012

Janet Napolitano

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers on Wednesday that a member of an Egyptian militant group labeled by the United States as a terrorist organization was vetted by three U.S. agencies before visiting the White House. Napolitano said the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Secret Service all thoroughly examined the Egyptian man, Hani Nour Eldin, before his visit to Washington, D.C., where he met with members of Congress and senior administration officials.

Eldin is a member of the Gama’a al-Islamiyya, or Islamic Group, which has been designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. But Eldin was also recently elected as a member of Egypt’s parliament in the Islamic Group’s political offshoot, the Building and Development Party.

Napolitano, at a hearing on Wednesday, echoed comments made by the House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.), who said that as the Arab Spring results in reformed governmental structures in the Middle East, the United States — in an effort to maintain diplomatic ties with the revamped countries — may be forced to talk with groups and individuals that it once labeled terrorists, but which have now been democratically elected to office.

“As we move forward, we are going to continue to have visitors to this country that the State Department and others feel are useful to bring to the country, to have discussions moving forward, who say they're members of a political party that in the past has been so designated,” said Napolitano. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Is War With Hezbollah Coming?

July 24th 2012

Israeli Tanks Gaza Strip
Israeli Tanks

Israeli officials warned Tuesday that war with Iranian-backed Hezbollah might break out if the Jewish state learns Syria's chemical weapons cache has been transferred to the terrorist organization. In three separate statements, Israel's president, foreign minister, and army chief of staff all warned of a looming conflict.

Benny Gantz, the Israeli army's chief of staff, told a Knesset committee Tuesday that Syria's chemical weapons cache is secure for the moment. But if Israel is forced to search for the weapons, a war with Hezbollah would be imminent.

"To the best of my knowledge, at this moment there is control over this system…and it has not yet passed to bad hands - that not to say that this will stay this way. It is likely that this will change, and then we will have a dilemma," said Gantz. "There is a possibility that we will find it hard to locate (the shipments of transferred chemical weapons) and if you work broadly you can quite quickly find yourself in a campaign that is broader than you had intended." Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Dealing with Syria's Chemical Weapons: Military Options

July 23rd 2012

Israeli Jet Dive Bombing

Given the complexities of military action, Washington and its partners should pursue a policy of deterrence, assistance, containment, and elimination to prevent the use or diversion of Syria's chemical arsenal.

Growing violence in Syria has raised concerns that the Assad regime might use its massive stockpile of chemical weapons (CW) against the opposition, or that antiregime insurgents, al-Qaeda, Hizballah, or other states might divert some of these arms for their own use. Just yesterday, Nawaf al-Fares -- Syria's former ambassador to Iraq who recently defected to the opposition -- warned that the regime would use CW if cornered. Such concerns have prompted calls for action to deal with this threat. Yet past experience in Iraq and Libya demonstrates the complex nature of this operational and policy problem.

Syria has probably the largest and most advanced chemical warfare program in the Arab world, reportedly including thousands of tube and rocket artillery rounds filled with mustard-type blister agents, thousands of bombs filled with the nerve agents sarin and possibly VX , and binary-type and cluster CW warheads filled with nerve agents for all its major missile systems. Its CW infrastructure is believed to include several production facilities and numerous storage sites, mostly dispersed throughout the western half of the country. (Syria is also believed to have a biological warfare research and development program, though it is not believed to have produced biological weapons.)

Read more ..

Broken Banking

Geithner, Libor Scandal Before Congress

July 22nd 2012

Tim Geithner

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will be mounting a defense of the financial reform law and his own stint running the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as ongoing scandals cast renewed clouds over Wall Street.

The president’s top economic advisor is set to testify this week before banking panels in the House and Senate, just days after the Wall Street overhaul turns two years old, and in the midst of a rate-rigging scandal that could reach far across the financial sector. Geithner’s upcoming testimony has been in the works for weeks, and was intended to address a broad range of issues tied to the financial reform law.

But a burgeoning banking scandal over the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) now will compete for the spotlight. Before becoming Treasury Secretary, Geithner was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York when it first learned potential rigging of the benchmark interest rate was occurring.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), who heads the House panel’s subcommittee on investigations, told The Hill earlier this month that he is confident Geithner will be faced with questions about the scandal during his appearance. Geithner may have gotten a sneak preview from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony before the same two committees this past week. Like Geithner, Bernanke was invited to give his regular testimony on the state of the nation’s monetary policy. And while plenty of lawmakers did press him on the Fed’s plans for the economy, many also took the opportunity to dig into the Libor scandal. Read more ..


America on Edge

Drones over America: Lawmakers Probe Domestic UAVs

July 22nd 2012

The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management, chaired by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), held a hearing titled, “Using Unmanned Aerial Systems Within the Homeland: Security Game Changer?” on Thursday. It was a meeting that received scant media coverage considering the seriousness of the subject, according to several counterterrorism and legal experts. According to some House lawmakers, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have enhanced surveillance capabilities for military operations abroad and have increasingly been used within the continental United States as part of homeland security, such as border security operations. However, as of June 2012, President Barack Obama's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) appointees have authorized about 60 private and government entities to operate UAVs in domestic airspace. The authorized entities include Federal, State and local law enforcement and academic institutions. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

As Syria's Assad Regime Crumbles, al-Qaeda Streams Across Border--Anticipates New Islamist State

July 21st 2012

Free Syrian Army

Officials with the United Nations Mission in Syria reported yesterday that the Assad regime may be close to defeat with the killing and destruction in Damascus reaching an almost apocalyptic level. At the same time, according to a former police trainer who served in Iraq, officials he spoke with said that members of al-Qaeda's terrorist groups (al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) have been pouring across the border into Syria hoping to turn Syria into an Islamist nation complete with a constitution based on Sharia law.

The source's information was later confirmed by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari who said members of the al-Qaeda terrorism network have crossed the border into Syria "Yes indeed, we have solid information and intelligence that members of al-Qaeda terrorist network have gone in the other direction to Syria to help and to liaise to carry out terrorist attacks," Zebari told reporters at a news conference in Baghdad. The foreign minister told reporters that Iraq had warned the Syrian regime that extremist militants were crossing borders into Iraq, but now the terrorists are going back to fight in the Syrian conflict. "This is a fact that the extremist groups have an important role in the level of violence that is going on in Syria," Zebari added. Read more ..



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