|Omri Ariel||April 17th 2015|
Thousands of Yazidi women are being held captive in the Islamic State's Shariya refugee camp in Iraq, on the border with Syrian Kurdistan. Few of them managed to escape, and now tell the horrifying stories of those who were left behind. These women go through a special kind of hell â€“ being treated like cattle, sold as sex slaves and forcefully married off to abusive, violent husbands. This treatment is part of the jihadists' "big plan" â€“ to establish a radical Islamist nation, a "caliphate", based on Sharia law as it was implemented in the seventeenth century, in the early days of Islam.
In an article on CNN, the women who fled IS describe how they were sent to enslavement warehouses, where they were lined up in groups of 50 and put on display in front of men in order to be chosen as their wives or sex slaves. These stories have been confirmed by doctors who examined them and say they have found evidence of repeated sexual assault. Read more ..
The Edge of the Universe
|Jason Wright||April 14th 2015|
After searching 100,000 galaxies for signs of highly advanced extraterrestrial life, a team of scientists using observations from NASA's WISE orbiting observatory has found no evidence of advanced civilizations in them. "The idea behind our research is that, if an entire galaxy had been colonized by an advanced spacefaring civilization, the energy produced by that civilization's technologies would be detectable in mid-infrared wavelengths -- exactly the radiation that the WISE satellite was designed to detect for other astronomical purposes," said Jason T. Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University, who conceived of and initiated the research.
The research team's first paper about its Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies Survey (G-HAT) is published in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. Also among the team's discoveries are some mysterious new phenomena in our own Milky Way galaxy. Read more ..
Qatar on Edge
|Onn Winckler||April 12th 2015|
Middle East Quarterly
Most states do not divulge all demographic parameters of their population. At times, this data is unavailable due to the weakness of the regime as is the case with many sub-Saharan African countries and, more recently, with Yemen, Syria, and Iraq due to their prolonged civil wars. In other countries, such as the United States, Belgium, and France, there is a lack of data on the religious composition of the population due to official separation of church and state.
While none of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have ever published the religious composition of their indigenous populations, Qatar has lagged further behind: It does not even make public the total size of its indigenous population, considered "a national secret." As the online editor of a Qatari-based business publication was told when approaching the Qatar Statistics Authority (QSA) for the data: "We regret to inform you that the required data is not available." Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Abha Shankar||April 10th 2015|
A year ago, he wanted to join the U.S. Army to kill his fellow soldiers. When that didn't work, 20-year-old John T. Booker repeatedly expressed his desire to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or commit a suicide attack in the United States on the terrorist group's behalf.
Booker, a convert to Islam who changed his name to Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, said American soldiers are enemies to Muslims, and the Quran sanctions killing enemies anywhere.
FBI agents arrested Booker Friday morning just outside Fort Riley, a military base near Manhattan, Kan. He was driving a van loaded with what he thought was 1,000 pounds of explosives. In fact, the bomb was rendered inert by FBI agents and informants. He is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to blow up government property and providing material support to the Islamic State. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Bernard Banks||April 9th 2015|
from AFP and agencies
French television network TV5Monde said Thursday that it had been hacked by individuals claiming to belong to the Islamic State group, who brought television broadcasts to a halt and and hijacked its websites and social networks. The Paris-based company was able to partially resume television broadcasts by 1:00 am (2300 GMT) after a three-hour blackout, the network's director-general Yves Bigot told AFP, but added its systems had been "severely damaged" by an "unprecedented attack".
The hackers posted documents on TV5Monde's Facebook page purporting to be the identity cards and CVs of relatives of French soldiers involved in anti-IS operations, along with threats against the troops. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Abigail Klein Leichman||April 8th 2015|
Read more ..
The Internet of Things, or IoT for short, describes a network of Internet-enabled objects (â€œthingsâ€) capable of transferring data to one another to perform tasks without human intervention. This machine-to-machine connectivity will completely transform our daily lives, according to presenters at Israelâ€™s first ISmart Conference. The February event in Jerusalem presented a window on the future of IoT and how Israeli entrepreneurs, investors, companies, designers and technologists will play a role in it.
â€œIoT is going to be the biggest wave of the Internet that weâ€™ve ever seen, more than mobile Internet and cloud computing,â€ declared Inbar Lasser-Raab, the Israel-based vice president of enterprise networks and IoT marketing for the multinational networking equipment maker Cisco.
By 2020, it is expected that 26 billion objects will be connected to the Internet, not including PCs, tablets and smartphones.
Weâ€™re talking about vehicles that communicate with each other on the road. Smart home systems that manage power consumption. Smart bracelets to help parents locate children. Wearables that let you and your doctor keep tabs on your health. Drones that can deliver a package for you and come back home automatically.
The Edge of the Universe
|Francis Reddy||April 5th 2015|
Using archival data from the Japan-led Suzaku X-ray satellite, astronomers have determined the pre-explosion mass of a white dwarf star that blew up thousands of years ago. The measurement strongly suggests the explosion involved only a single white dwarf, ruling out a well-established alternative scenario involving a pair of merging white dwarfs.
"Mounting evidence indicates both of these mechanisms produce what we call type Ia supernovae," said lead researcher Hiroya Yamaguchi, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "To understand how these stars explode, we need to study the debris in detail with sensitive instruments like those on Suzaku." Read more ..
|Olli Heinonen||March 30th 2015|
With reports that Washington and its partners may reach a nuclear accord with Iran in the coming days, a former senior IAEA safeguards official answers the most pressing questions about Tehran's program and how the agreement might affect its capabilities.
What is the commonly accepted definition of "breakout time"?
This is the time required to produce enough weapons-grade uranium (WGU) for one nuclear weapon. To produce WGU, uranium needs to be enriched (e.g., with centrifuges) to more than 90 percent of its fissile isotope U-235. The amount of WGU required for one weapon is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as about 27 kg of uranium. This amount is often called a "significant quantity" (SQ). Read more ..
|Martin Matishak||March 28th 2015|
The head of the House Select Committee on Benghazi says former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has erased all information from the personal email server she used while serving as the nationâ€™s top diplomat.
â€œWe learned today, from her attorney, Secretary Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server,â€ Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said in a statement Friday.
He said while itâ€™s â€œnot clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department.â€
Read more ..
Last week, Gowdy sent a letter to Clintonâ€™s attorney asking that the email server be turned over to a third party in the hopes that an investigation could recover about 30,000 emails that her team deleted before turning the rest over to the State Department.
|Edwin Black||March 14th 2015|
The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement is said to have ignited in earnest in 2005. It was propelled by significant funding from the Ford Foundation, which poured millions of dollars into anti-Israel NGOs working in Durban, and later by the New Israel Fund (NIF), which financially backed such pro-boycott groups as the Coalition for Women for Peace.
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Experts say the BDS modus operendi wields systematic distortion of international law, history, and general fact about the Israel-Palestinian conflict to rally public support. While BDS advocates claim to seek political and economic justice, their actions are increasingly trailed by anti-Jewish actions such as swastika graffiti at Jewish locations, challenges to Jewish student based on their religion, and a general air of anti-Semitic hostility on campus. Today, the BDS Movement stands merely as the leading edge of growing anti-Semitic agitation and anti-Israel mobilization, attracting pure hate elements to their message. Read more ..
Financing the Flames
|Edwin Black||March 12th 2015|
The controversial New Israel Fund and its social change and political lobbying organization known as SHATIL, have received more than $1 million from the State Department under a program designed to create political change, reform, and activism in the Middle East. The government program, Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), has extended more than $600 million in grants to political and social activists and reformers in 18 Middle East countries, mainly with unstable or challenged political environments in need of democratic improvement. â€œMEPI supports organizations and individuals in their efforts to promote political, economic, and social reform in the Middle East and North Africa,â€ according to the agency's official self-description.
The list of nations in which MEPI operates includes such countries as Algeria, Libya, Lebanon, and Yemen.
However, MEPIâ€™s sphere of engagement includes Israel â€” ironically the only pluralistic, stable, and democratic nation in the Mideast. Among the leading recipients for MEPI grants in Israel is the New Israel Fund and its SHATIL organization. The NIF is an international, US-based 501(c)(3) charitable organization which has generated intense acrimony within the Jewish community and Israeli establishment for its highly politicized activities.
While MEPIâ€™s involvement with the New Israel Fund has been previously reported in print and online, the million-dollar nature of the partnership has not emerged until now.
Vocal critics in both the US and Israel charge that the New Israel Fund has knowingly financed groups that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement, and worked to get Israeli soldiers prosecuted for so-called "war crimes." Benny Yanay of an Israeli military organization called Consensus, representing some 3,000 members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), stated, "The New Israel Fund acts against Israelâ€”against the soldiers of our country. It is supported by foreign governments and organizations so that Israeli soldiers will be weakened." Other Israel military men and women have alleged that the NIF is trying to "destabilize the IDF." Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Juda Engelmayer||February 23rd 2015|
Cutting Edge News Contributor
|PA head Mahmoud Abbas against backdrop of Yasser Arafat|
The Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization are now being held accountable to a group of terrorism victims as a result of a lawsuit that was decided today. More than $600 million in damages was awarded in Sokolow v. PLO, (04-cv-003970) whihc was tried in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, in Manhattan.
The outcome marks the first time that the Palestinian Authority has been made liable for acts of terror. During the six week trial, internal PA documents that detailed payments to terrorists held in Israeli prisons, and to the families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks were shown to jurors. Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Robert R. Reilly||February 23rd 2015|
On Wednesday and Thursday last week, President Barack Obama gave two speeches at the White House Conference on Violent Extremism, attended by representatives from some 60 nations. His purpose was to focus attention, both domestically and internationally, on fighting the sources of violent extremism. What are those sources? Obama answered, â€œBy â€˜violent extremism,â€™ we donâ€™t just mean the terrorists who are killing innocent people. We also mean the ideologies, the infrastructure of extremistsâ€¦â€
This is exactly right. The terrorists are animated by an ideology, and we cannot understand what Obama called â€œthe nature of the enemyâ€ without knowing this ideology. You cannot go into a war of ideas without understanding the ideas you are at war with. Yet, throughout the two speeches, he never mentions the substance of the enemyâ€™s ideas once. Read more ..
The Water's Edge
|George Friedman||February 19th 2015|
Much like its northern neighbor, Mexico is not water scarce when viewed as a whole. But unequal water distribution has led to significant water stress in several parts of the country. Supply has been further strained by poor infrastructure, pollution and overuse â€” partly attributable to inefficient management and a growing population. Still, Mexico is positioned to experience significant economic growth because of its proximity to the United States and the likely expansion of its manufacturing sector as the country's population increases.
Recent changes to the constitution to encourage much-needed investment in the country's energy sector will further aid the faltering sector. Asymmetrical distribution and increased competition for limited water resources, however, could temper Mexico's potential for growth. Growth is still possible without addressing the problem, but it must be dealt with if Mexico hopes to fully utilize its geographic advantages, especially in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. In addition to the other obstacles that must be addressed, Mexico will need to make policy and behavioral adjustments to overcome its current water scarcity issues. Read more ..
|Tim Devaney ||February 19th 2015|
Gun rights groups are gearing up for a major push to move concealed-carry legislation through the new Republican Congress.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other Second Amendment advocates are throwing their weight behind the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, a bill introduced in both chambers of Congress that would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.
â€œThe Second Amendment doesnâ€™t end at the border of your state,â€ said Larry Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. â€œThis would enhance the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves when theyâ€™re away from home."
Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said the bill is needed to clarify a â€œpatchwork of state and local lawsâ€ that is â€œconfusing for even the most conscientious and well-informed concealed carry permit holders.â€ Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Scott Wong and Mike Lillis ||February 18th 2015|
The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday suspended President Obamaâ€™s expansion of deportation deferrals, scrambling a congressional debate over how to prevent a shutdown of the agency late next week.
The DHS put the brakes on Obamaâ€™s executive actions after a Texas federal judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the new program, which could shield up to 5 million immigrants from deportation.
How the ruling ultimately affects the Homeland Security debate remains to be seen.
Many conservative Republicans, emboldened by the Texas decision, are doubling down on their argument that the funding bill must include provisions undoing Obamaâ€™s executive actions on immigration from both late last year and 2012, when the president offered legal status to millions of young people who entered or stayed in the country illegally. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||February 15th 2015|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Danish police report that they have shot to death a man believed to have attacked a synagogue and a cafÃ© in Copenhagen. Police say they killed the man in the Norrebro district after he opened fire on them near a rail station at approximately 5 am on February 15. It came hours after one person was killed at a Krudttonden CafÃ© where a conference was taking place on free speech rights and the Islamic definition of blasphemy, while another was killed at the Grand Synagogue in the Danish capital. Five police officers were injured during the two affrays. Video surveillance suggested the same man carried out both attacks. However, they do not believe any other people were involved.
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt declared after the synagogue attack, "The Jewish community belong in Denmark." Read more ..
Financing the Flames
|Edwin Black||February 7th 2015|
Times of Israel
Congressional legislators were astonished last year to learn that the Palestinian Authority was issuing monthly payouts totaling $3-7 million as salaries and other financial rewards to specific terrorists and their families. The money was channeled, in part, through the Ministry of Prisoners pursuant to the Law of the Prisoner. The law set forth a graduated scale, pegging monthly salaries to the length of Israeli jail sentences, which generally reflects the severity of the crime and the number of people killed and/or injured.
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Thousands of documents, newly obtained by this reporter through a lawsuit to unseal court-protected files, demonstrate that these payouts are not blind automated payments. Rather, senior Palestinian Authority officials as high as President Mahmoud Abbas scrutinize the details of each case, the specific carnage caused, and the personal details of each terrorist act before approving salaries and awarding honorary ranks in either the PA government or the military. Ministry of Prisoners spokesman Amr Nasser has explained, â€œWe are very proud of this program and we have nothing to hide.â€ Nonetheless, in response to the international furor, the Palestinian Authority announced it would replace the Ministry of Prisoners with an outside PLO commission known as the Higher National Commission for Prisoners and Detainees Affairs.
The PA is dependent upon foreign donor countries to supply much of its budget, which now exceeds $4.2 billion annually. About ten percent of the PA budget, more than $400 million, is contributed annually by United States foreign aid. The US and many other countries have enacted laws forbidding any payments when the monies directly or indirectly support or encourage terrorism. The interdepartmental bureaucratic notations the Palestinian Authority has recorded on each terrorist before approving the level of salaried compensation is extensive. For example, one prominent case involved Ahmad Talab Mustafa Barghouti, who personally coordinated numerous terrorist acts. These included a January 2002 shooting spree on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, killing two and wounding 37; a March 2002 shooting spree at a Tel Aviv restaurant, killing three and wounding 31; and finally a March 27, 2002 attempt to smuggle an explosive suicide belt in an ambulance. The Israel Defense Forces arrested Ahmad. On July 30, 2002, a military court concluded that he was responsible for murdering 12 Israelis, and Barghouti was sentenced to 13 life sentences. Read more ..
|Sarah Ferris||February 5th 2015|
Administration officials are refusing to say whether they have an ObamaCare backup plan if the Supreme Court torpedoes the law.
But Republicans donâ€™t believe them.
GOP lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee repeatedly pressed Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on the issue. But Burwell on Wednesday did not budge during a tense back-and-forth, with a half-dozen Republicans claiming that the administration must have a â€œplan B.â€
â€œIâ€™m asking, is there a contingency plan? Not what is the plan, but is there a plan?â€ Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) asked.
The case, which begins oral arguments next month, could make billions of dollars of healthcare subsidies disappear in 37 states. And with such high stakes, two former HHS officials said they are confident the administration is preparing a backup plan.
â€œOf course, they have one, they should all resign if they donâ€™t,â€ said Tom Scully, an HHS official under former President George W. Bush. â€œAnd they certainly should not discuss it either.â€ Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Ben Kamisar||February 1st 2015|
Peyton Manning for president?
While it might seem far-fetched, a number of former NFL players have parlayed their fame on the gridiron into support at the ballot box.
Former NFL players who have been elected to Congress include Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Steve Largent, Washington Redskins quarterback Health Shuler and Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle John Runyan, to name just a few.
With the Super Bowl dominating Americaâ€™s attention this weekend, hereâ€™s a look at five players who could seek public office once they hang up their cleats.
Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver Broncos
A lock for the Hall of Fame, Manning seems to have the perfect platform for entering politics thanks to his affable personality, visibility and history of donating to charities. Read more ..
|Alexander Bolton ||January 28th 2015|
Republican leaders in the House and Senate are boxed in on immigration and searching for a way out.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are struggling to find a way to fund the Department of Homeland Security while meeting conservative demands to unwind President Obamaâ€™s executive actions giving legal status to millions of immigrants who would otherwise face deportation.
Congress is only scheduled to be in session for three weeks in February, giving lawmakers little time to craft a funding bill that would prevent an embarrassing shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Feb. 28.
On Tuesday, the two began wiggling their way out of the tight spot:
â€¢ Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, pledged at a press conference that Senate Republicans would do â€œeverything we can to persuade at least half a dozen Democrats that they should join us,â€ adding, â€œyou donâ€™t know how these legislative battles go if you donâ€™t have them, and we intend to have this one.â€ Read more ..
The Battle for the Ukraine
|George Friedman||January 24th 2015|
Reports of heavy rocket artillery firing on the eastern parts of the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, as well as a statement made by a separatist leader, indicate the potential preparation of an offensive on the city. While this would be a significant escalation and an indicator of Russian intent to push further into Ukraine, potentially forming a much-rumored land connection to the northern border of Crimea, there are also several indicators required for such an offensive that are currently still missing.
Reports of heavy rocket artillery firing on the eastern parts of the city of Mariupol have been widely reported, with the death toll rising to 27 people. Mariupol has been shelled in the past, notably in early September, but as the cease-fire took affect separatist forces generally conducted attacks only outside of the city. It is not clear whether this is simply an intensification of relatively static fighting along the front between Russian and pro-Russian forces on the one side, and Ukrainians, or the beginning of a Russian-led offensive to widen the pocket, or the opening move in a broader strategic offensive to link up with Crimea, 200 miles to the west of the pocket. Read more ..
The 2016 Vote
|Mike Lillis ||January 22nd 2015|
House Democrats think the GOPâ€™s agenda has given them a new opportunity to win over millennials ahead of 2016.
Even though younger voters tend to vote Democratic, the group turned out in low numbers amid the partyâ€™s midterm drubbing last November.
But now that new Republican proposals are taking a hard conservative line on the issues of immigration and abortion â€” bills GOP leaders have prioritized to launch the 114th Congress â€” Democrats see an opening to motivate younger voters and steer them into their tent.
â€œItâ€™s almost as though theyâ€™re creating the strategy for us, bringing up these bills,â€ Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday.
A recent poll by The Washington Post and ABC News has fueled the Democratsâ€™ optimism, finding that President Obamaâ€™s approval rating among millennials has jumped 19 percentage points since December. Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Doug Bernard||January 19th 2015|
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama is expected to focus on several new cybersecurity and privacy proposals recently announced by the White House. The measures call for greater information sharing between the federal government and private companies, and new security initiatives to prevent high-profile hacks.
At a White House meeting recently with Congressional leaders, President Obama said both parties could agree to strengthen cybersecurity. The recent attack at Sony pictures and a hack of a Pentagon twitter feed by supporters of the Islamic State group, he said, underscore the need to act. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Jonathan Schanzer and David Andrew Weinberg ||January 16th 2015|
Last week, Israelâ€™s Foreign Ministry praised Qatar for purportedly expelling Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal from Doha. The announcement came shortly after CNN cited reports from a Hamas news agency indicating that Meshaal was to be expelled and was probably headed to Turkey. Within hours, however, CNN changed its story, issuing a correction on Twitter that read â€œsources close to Hamasâ€”not news agencyâ€”say Qatar expelled Khaled Meshaal; Hamas official denies it.â€
In actuality, Hamas issued multiple denials. Izzat Risheq, Hamas politburo member who reports to Meshaal and is believed to reside in Qatar, declared that â€œthere is no basis of truth to what some news media published about brother Khaled Meshaal leaving Doha.â€ He even asked CNN for an apology. Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesperson also believed to reside in Qatar, stated that â€œthere is no truth to what some news media published about brother Khaled Meshaal. And his place of residence. This is an attempt to stir up confusion, nothing more.â€ Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Dave Bender||January 13th 2015|
The four Jewish victims of last Fridayâ€™s terror siege in a Paris kosher supermarket were laid to rest in Jerusalem on Tuesday at a state ceremony attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and other dignitaries.
â€œI stand before you, brokenhearted, shaken and in pain, and with me stands an entire nation,â€ President Rivlin said in his eulogy at the Har Hamenuchot Cemetery, standing before the four biers upon which lay the bodies, wrapped in prayer shawls, of Yoav Hattab, 21; Yohan Cohen, 22; Philippe Braham, 40; and FranÃ§ois-Michel Saada, 55.
â€œYoav, Yohan, Philippe, Francois-Michel, this is not how we wanted to welcome you to Israel. This is not how we wanted you to arrive in the Land of Israel, this is not how we wanted to see you come home, to the State of Israel, and to Jerusalem, its capital. We wanted you alive, we wanted for you, life,â€ Rivlin said. Read more ..
|Alexander Bolton||January 13th 2015|
A push by House Republicans to reverse President Obamaâ€™s executive action on immigration has put their vulnerable Senate counterparts in a tough electoral spot.
The GOP faces a much tougher 2016 map, and Hispanic groups are warning of political fallout over the issue of deportations at a time when the party is trying to win the White House and defend its new Senate majority.
Worried about their partyâ€™s political fate, centrist Senate Republicans are balking at the prospect of a messy fight with the president.
â€œI would be concerned if the funding restrictions affected the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to carry out its vital functions,â€ said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). â€œAnother way to challenge the president might be in court.â€ Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Elise Viebeck||January 12th 2015|
The Obama administration was criticized on social media Sunday for the lack of high-ranking U.S. officials at the unity rally in Paris, where more than 40 world leaders marched in commemoration of the lives lost to terrorism last week.
Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris for talks on combatting terrorism and was scheduled to attend the rally. He was replaced by U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley, according to reports.
The absence of top American leaders was felt as countries from around the world sent their own premiers. In addition to French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas all took part in the rally. Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Julian Hattem||January 11th 2015|
The push to reform the National Security Agency isnâ€™t getting any easier.
After a reform bill was narrowly blocked on the Senate floor late last year, civil libertarians hoped that an upcoming deadline to reauthorize some of the spy agencyâ€™s controversial powers would give them another opportunity to force changes.
But the attacks in Paris last week, where gunmen killed 12 at a satirical newspaper and 4 at a kosher market, is making that job harder, and strengthening the resolve of the NSA's backers. â€œI hope the effect of that is that people realize ... the pendulum has swung way too far after [leaker Edward Snowden],â€ Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters on Thursday.
â€œHopefully people realize that the NSA plays a very, very important role in keeping Americans safe, and my guess there will be less of a desire to hamstring them unnecessarily,â€ he added. Read more ..
Edge of Intolerance
|Martin Barillas||January 9th 2015|
Cutting Edge Contributor
For the first time since the Second World War, the Grande Synagogue of Paris - most prominent synagogue in the French capital - was shuttered when Jews would otherwise be attending Friday Sabbath services. On January 9, a Muslim terrorist seized hostages at a Jewish market in the Vincennes neighborhood of the French capital, prompting Jewish shops throughout the city to close their doors as a precaution.
According to Dr. Shimon Samuels, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, â€œThe Jewish community feels itself on the edge of a seething volcano.â€ The rise of anti-Semitism in recent years has prompted French Jews to leave the country, while many have emigrated to Israel.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Samuels said â€œHostages in a kosher supermarket held [up] by an African jihadist, who reportedly already killed two victimsâ€¦ The scenes are out of a war movie.â€
Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Bernard Banks||January 7th 2015|
French police say at least 12 people are dead after an attack at the Paris headquarters of the satirical weekly paper Charlie Hebdo.
Media reports say at least two gunmen opened fire with automatic rifles and a rocket launcher inside the building housing the newspaper's offices. The suspects are believed to have fled in two vehicles. Local media reports say the newspaper staff was holding an editorial meeting when the shooting occurred.
â€‹â€‹Calling it a terrorist attack, French President Francois Hollande defended the media. "No act of barbarity will ever extinguish freedom of the press," he said.
France has raised its terrorism alert to the highest level following the shooting.
Known for its irreverent tone, the left-wing magazine frequently comments on religion and culture.
It published a satirical cartoon Wednesday on social media depicting Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a new year well-wisher.
Thousands of people took to Facebook and Twitter in support of the publication and the cartoon, saying freedom of expression must be defended.
The newspaper's office was fire bombed in 2011 after it published a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammed on its cover.
The White House has condemned the attack. Read more ..
|Scott Wong||January 6th 2015|
Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday is seeking to stamp out a rebellion from a vocal group of Tea Party insurgents who are determined to deny him a third term with the gavel.
While the conservatives donâ€™t appear to have the numbers they need to force a second ballot for Speaker, they are working to send a message to the Ohio Republican: Donâ€™t count on us.
At least 10 conservative lawmakers have vowed to vote against Boehner when the House convenes at noon, according to a whip count by The Hill, and as many as 20 could ultimately cast their vote for another candidate.
The last revolt against Boehner in 2012 saw 12 Republicans either abstain or vote for someone else. Read more ..
Palestinians on Edge
|Yonah Jeremy Bob||January 5th 2015|
NGO Shurat Hadin went into high gear Sunday preparing war crimes complaints against a range of Palestinians, following the Palestinian Authority's move to join the International Criminal Court last Wednesday.
Israeli officials were widely quoted as saying they would make sure to launch a counterattack of new war crimes complaints against Palestinians using third-party NGOs like Shurat Hadin (though no specific ones were named) as proxies.
This past November, the NGO had already filed a war crimes complaint with the ICC prosecutor against PA President Mahmoud Abbas and in September it similar complaints against Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. Since at the time the PA had not yet signed the Rome Statute, both complaints were filed against Abbas and Mashaal as Jordanian citizens. Read more ..
|Timothy Cama ||January 3rd 2015|
High-profile Republicans converged this year around a new favorite refrain when it comes to climate change: â€œIâ€™m not a scientist.â€ Party leaders and candidates for office repeated variations of the theme throughout the year when asked whether manmade climate change is happening and what should be done about it.
â€œWhat I have said repeatedly is Iâ€™m not a scientist,â€ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) told a Kentucky sports radio show. â€œIâ€™m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,â€ Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) said of the Obama administrationâ€™s climate rule for power plants.
â€œIâ€™d leave it to the scientists to decide how much, what it means, and what the consequences are,â€ Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, considered a contender for the White House in 2016, said when asked how much human activity is changing the planetâ€™s climate. Read more ..
|Ben Kamisar ||December 31st 2014|
Democrats are taking a strikingly cautious approach to the controversy surrounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and his speech to a white supremacist group in 2002.
The vast majority of Democrats are not calling for Scalise to resign, or for leadership to drop him. But they are tying Scalise to other Republicans and arguing the issue is emblematic of a party Democrats argue is at odds with minority groups on a range of policies.
Strategists say the approach reflects a few factors.
Democrats donâ€™t want to get too far in front of the story, particularly since it is unclear whether Scaliseâ€™s 2002 address to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization is an isolated incident. Read more ..
|Ben Cohen||December 30th 2014|
Khadija Lynch, the Brandeis University student whose obscene tweets about the recent murder of two New York City police officers have become a national scandal, won the backing of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP,) a violently anti-Semitic group, when she ran for election as a student senator in 2013.
Lynchâ€™s tweets about the murdered officers were highlighted by Daniel Mael, a leading pro-Israel activist on the Brandeis campus, in an article for the Truth Revolt website that subsequently went viral. Mael, who has energetically countered SJPâ€™s activities on campus, is presently facing harassment and calls for his expulsion from university radicals who have decried him as a â€œwhite supremacistâ€ for the offense of drawing attention to Lynchâ€™s extraordinary online rant, which included such missives as â€œi just really dont have sympathy for the cops who were shot. i hate this racist f**king countryâ€ and â€œamerikkka needs an intifada. enough is enough.â€ Read more ..
The 2016 Vote
|Cameron Joseph||December 29th 2014|
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is suddenly leading the pack of 2016 presidential hopefuls in the Republican Party. A CNN/ORC poll released on Sunday found Bush with the support of 23 percent of Republicans, 10 percentage points higher than his nearest rival, New Jersey Gov. Chris Cristie. The poll provided further evidence of how Bush has shaken up the field since his announcement he's "actively exploring" a presidential bid, an aggressive early move that thrilled the donor class.
The field is in a state of flux, however, with rivals such as Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also raising their profiles and courting support. Hereâ€™s how the candidates stack up as 2014 draws to a close. Read more ..
|Cory Bennett ||December 27th 2014|
Government agencies and congressional offices are vulnerable to the same kind of cyberattack that hit Sony Pictures, experts say.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are well aware of the growing threat online, and many tell staff to act as if everything they write in email could one day become public.
â€œI try to inspire my staff often that when they write an email, they write it as if it should be right on the front page of your newspaper,â€ said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), whose district includes Hollywood, in an interview with The Hill.
The assault on Sony exposed humiliating internal conversations, unveiled secretive plans and caused the studio to temporarily press pause on a multi-million dollar motion picture.
During a recent congressional hearing, an FBI official estimated the tactics used in the Sony hack would have evaded 90 percent of the American governmentâ€™s cyber defenses. Security researchers backed the assessment. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Bernie Becker and Amie Parnes ||December 25th 2014|
Democrats on Tuesday received a gift high on their wish list â€” an invigorated economy that they believe will give President Obama much-needed clout when he faces off with a Republican Congress next year.
Current and former Obama aides say they expect the White House to get a year-end boost from the 5 percent expansion rate of the economy in the third quarter, and expect the president to aggressively talk up the gains in the months to come.
The growth figures also could give the White House new leverage as it seeks common ground with Republicans on a range of policy areas, such as trade and taxes, and as it prepares for battle in others, like changing the healthcare law.
"The proof is in the pudding," one former senior Obama administration official said. "There's really nothing else to say." Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Justin Sink||December 23rd 2014|
President Obamaâ€™s Hawaii vacation had barely begun when the news broke that two New York City police officers had been shot dead by a lone assailant who posted anti-police screeds on social media.
The shocking story returned Obama to the center of a raging national debate over race and police tactics that he has repeatedly sought to manage with care â€” just as that debate had started to cool.
The targeted killings of the two officers also put those who in recent weeks had criticized police tactics on defense, with some politicians blaming the rhetoric by Obama, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and others for inciting violence.
Thatâ€™s made the situation more difficult for Obama.
â€œItâ€™s a tough balance,â€ said Princeton political historian Julian Zelizer. â€œPolitically, itâ€™s very explosive, and there are heated passions on all sides.â€
Obama has taken a cautious approach to the latest story, and has yet to appear on-camera to discuss the killings of the two New York cops. Read more ..
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