Politics and Legislation

House lawmakers return to deficit battle

By Russell Berman

House lawmakers will return to a familiar debate over the deficit when they come back to Washington on Monday following a weeklong recess.

Republican leaders are planning to bring up a $260 billion measure to slash the budget gap and replace across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect in 2013.

The bill, known as a “reconciliation” proposal, is the product of six House committees and will be combined into one piece of legislation by the House Budget Committee. Democrats have already panned it as an extension of the House GOP proposal that “reflects the wrong priorities” by protecting tax cuts for the wealthy and cutting programs for the poor.

Principally, the GOP measure would replace $78 billion in sequestered cuts resulting from the failure of the congressional “supercommittee” to strike a bipartisan deficit deal last fall. Both Republican leaders and the Pentagon have warned against what they say are arbitrary cuts to defense spending.

“Intended as a mechanism to force action, there is bipartisan agreement that the sequester going into place would undercut key responsibilities of the federal government,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders wrote to their members last week in an updated memo describing the reconciliation process.

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Senate Dems modifying cybersecurity bill to pick up GOP votes

By Brendan Sasso

Senate Democrats are quietly revamping cybersecurity legislation in an attempt to pick up Republican votes.

The move is an acknowledgement that they currently lack the 60 votes needed to bring their preferred bill to the floor.

“Undoubtedly we’ll make some changes,” a Senate Democratic aide told The Hill. But he said getting the legislation through the Senate “is not as hard of a lift as some people have made it out to be.”

The aide predicted that the entire Senate Democratic caucus will vote for the bill.

The House passed its own measure, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), last month despite a veto threat from the White House.

The goal of CISPA is to help companies beef up their defenses against hackers who steal business secrets, rob customers’ financial information and wreak havoc on computer systems. The bill would remove legal barriers that discourage companies from sharing information about cyber threats.

But the White House and Senate Democrats argue that CISPA lacks adequate privacy protections and would fail to protect critical infrastructure, such as electrical grids, banks or water supplies.

They have endorsed an alternative bill from Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) that includes tougher privacy protections and would authorize the Homeland Security Department to set mandatory security standards for critical infrastructure.

Supporters of the Senate bill argue that mandatory standards are necessary to ensure that critical systems are safe from a catastrophic cyber attack.

But a group of Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), has slammed the Lieberman-Collins Cybersecurity Act as an example of big government overreach.

At a hearing in February, McCain said if the Lieberman-Collins bill were enacted, “unelected bureaucrats at the DHS could promulgate prescriptive regulations on American businesses” and that the new rules would “stymie job creation, blur the definition of private property rights and divert resources from actual cybersecurity to compliance with government mandates.”

GOP House leaders have also indicated they will not allow a vote on any bill that creates new cybersecurity mandates.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide said the Senate is “on track” to vote on the Lieberman-Collins bill sometime this month.

“The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 has been a priority for [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] for three years, and we’re going to do everything we can to pass a bill that confronts the urgent national security threats we face,” the leadership aide said.

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Obama looks to move ‘forward’ with comparisons to Bush’s policies

By Amie Parnes and Carlo Munoz

RICHMOND, Va. – In order to move “forward,” the Obama campaign reached backward on Saturday, trying to rekindle the magic of the 2008 campaign.

For the second time on Saturday, during his second official campaign rally, President Obama sought to push a new campaign slogan “Forward,” telling those gathered at Virginia Commonwealth University that the country can’t afford to elect Mitt Romney and move backward to the Bush administration’s “failed” policies.

“Virginia, we’ve gotta move forward to the future you imagined in 2008,” Obama said, standing near a large banner that read “Forward,” before a crowd of 8,000 people, who held signs saying “Not Back” in a packed gymnasium. “Virginia, I’m here to say, we were there, we remember and we’re not going back.”

The reelection campaign aimed to remind voters about the winning campaign in 2008.

Like he did at the Columbus, Ohio, rally earlier in the day, Obama reminded voters that he still believes in “hope and change.”

Obama told the crowd that when people ask what this campaign is about, “You tell them it’s still about hope. You tell them it’s still about change.”

During the rally, the campaign also tried to bring back their old rallying cry: “Fired Up, Ready to Go.” And songs like Stevie Wonder’s Sign Sealed Delivered, a staple from Obama’s first campaign, wailed over the loudspeakers.

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RNC responds with video saying country ‘not better off’ now

By Andrew Feinberg

FB PAC, Facebook’s new political action committee, spent its first-ever quarter of activity hewing to a more or less bipartisan donation strategy with emphasis on the House and Senate Judiciary committees, the PAC’s first quarter disclosure form shows.

Facebook’s PAC was formed at the end of 2011, but the company’s strong revenues and high valuation in the run up to its initial public offering allowed executives it raises funds from plenty of resources to donate. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, and several board members including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and Netscape founder and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen contributed the maximum allowable $5,000 to the committee.

Some of Facebook’s Washington-based employees contributed comparatively small amounts, including public policy manager Adam Conner.  Conner, who was an aide to Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) before becoming Facebook’s first D.C. hire, kicked in $300 to help get the PAC off the ground.

But the Washington office’s real contribution to the PAC – strategy – becomes clear after a read of its first quarter disclosure for 2012.

Of the $128,900 the PAC took in, it quickly gave away $119,000, distributing the donations on a mostly bipartisan basis. Uncharacteristic for most tech companies, the final tally of contributions favored Republicans $65,500 to $53,500.

Typical leadership cash magnets like House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority and Minority leaders Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were FB PAC recipients.

But despite the almost bipartisan final breakdown, many of the PAC’s donations seemed to ignore party labels altogether, going instead either to tech favorites like Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) or Judiciary committee veterans like Reps. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Green group marshals top K Street lobbyists to do battle on farm bill

By Kevin Bogardus

An ardent critic of federal agriculture subsidies has enlisted one of K Street’s premier firms to do battle on this year’s farm bill.

The Environmental Working Group Action Fund — the 501(c)4 affiliate of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) — has signed up Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti to lobby on the legislation.

The hire is a departure for the green group, which hadn’t hired an outside lobby firm in more than eight years, according to lobbying disclosure records.

The support of an established K Street shop could lend heft to what has traditionally been an uphill slog to reform federal farm spending. Scott Faber, EWG’s vice president of government affairs, said Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti is “a terrific firm.”

“We have retained them to advocate for programs that support stewardship, support healthy diets and reform subsidy programs,” Faber said. “They are a terrific firm and they are doing a fabulous job in sharing our views with lawmakers.”

Faber said EGW hired the firm because this year’s farm bill could have a lasting impact on the country.

“This is a pivotal year because we stand to lose many of the gains made in 25 plus years,” Faber said. “Part of the ‘why’ is this is one of the farm bills that will shape America’s farmland, diet and environment for generations to come.”

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Landmark Lawsuit by US Home Owners Implicates Obama and Big Banks in Massive Global Laundering Scheme

By Madison Ruppert

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

A new lawsuit, which is bordering on the unbelievable, implicates the Obama administration and some of the world’s largest banks in the largest international money laundering case in history.

This global money laundering network was allegedly formed during the Obama administration and helped banks rob U.S. home owners through offshore affiliates in infamous tax havens and money laundering hubs like the Cayman Island, Isle of Man, Luxembourg and Malaysia.

A press release published by Marketwatch (a website owned by the Wall Street Journal) via Marketwire on April 23, 2012, by America’s Spire Law Group, revealed that a mass tort action on behalf of home owners across the United States has been filed in the Supreme Court of New York, County of Kings.

The release states that the suit implicates every major bank servicer and their subsidiaries, as well as the Obama administration which allegedly was privately ratifying the formation of shell corporations in violation of not only the USA PATRIOT Act, but also State and Federal law as well.

This is all while the administration was very publicly encouraging home owners to modify their loans.

The suit, which has been assigned Index No. 500827 and was filed by the Spire Law Group and their affiliates and partners throughout the United States, also alleges that Bank of America, J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo Bank, Citibank, Citigroup, One West Bank, among other federally chartered banks stole hundreds of millions of dollars from U.S. home owners through little-known offshore companies.

The money was then laundered through offshore corporations, and surprisingly the suit is quite explicit in identifying specific companies as well as the countries they are located in which were used to help defraud huge sums of money from Americans.

These activities are violations of the guidelines of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), New York state law, not to mention other states as well as federal law.

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After Heated Debate, Connecticut Senate Passes Medical Cannabis Bill

After a raucous debate last night that lasted longer than anticipated, the Connecticut senate passed a medical cannabis bill approved by the House earlier in the session that will now head to Governor Dannel Malloy’s willing pen for signature.

With Connecticut passing a medical cannabis bill, approximately one third of the US population now resides in a state that has decided to act in favor of it’s citizens’ will, as compared to the remarkably recalcitrant federal government, which, moronically, still insists cannabis is a dangerous ‘narcotic’ and has no accepted medical value what so ever.

Congratulations to Connecticut NORML and it’s coordinator Erik Williams for leading the charge to write and pass this important and affirming legislation (Erik and company had previously worked the legislature hard in 2011 to pass cannabis decriminalization laws)!

“Today is a day of hope, compassion and dignity and I thank all of the legislators who worked hard on this legislation and who voted to pass this bill,” said Erik Williams, Executive Director of Connecticut NORML. “I am so happy for all the patients who will have another medicinal option to discuss with their doctor and for all of those currently suffering with debilitating conditions who will no longer suffer the indignity of being sick and a criminal.”

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Scott Walker Gets $1.3 Million From Koch Summit Attendees to Fight Recall

Wisconsin’s embattled Republican governor is supported by a who’s who of wealthy right-wing donors.
 

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker has received at least $1.3 million in recall campaign contributions from donors who attended secretive right-wing fundraisers organized by Charles and David Koch, a Center for Media and Democracy analysis shows.

Twice a year for the past nine years, the Koch brothers have held exclusive meetings of businessmen and right-wing activists to, “combat what is now the greatest assault on American freedom and prosperity in our lifetimes,” according to Charles Koch, and raise millions for political causes and candidates.

While the meetings are intentionally kept secret (attendees are warned against speaking with the press), a program from the 2010 summit in Aspen, Colorado was leaked to The New York Times and Think Progress and included a list of attendees. At least twenty of those in attendance have given thousands — and in a few cases, hundreds of thousands — to Scott Walker in recent months as the embattled governor faces a recall election. Overall, these donors have given Walker at least $1.3 million. A full list of Walker contributors known to have attended the Koch donor seminars is below.

Mother Jones obtained audio from the June 2011 meeting, including a segment where Charles Koch personally thanks donors who pledged more than $1 million to the Kochs’ favored causes (a program from the meeting with a full list of attendees was not leaked). Many of those named also gave to Walker and attended the 2010 meeting, including Art Pope (who gave Walker $25,000), John “J.W.” Childs ($100,000), Joseph Craft ($25,000), Richard DeVos ($250,000), Foster Friess ($100,000), and Diane Hendricks ($500,000). John “Jack” Templeton was also given a shout-out at the 2011 meeting, and he and his wife Josephine gave Walker $10,000 each in April.

Wisconsinite and Walker donor Fred Young spoke at the June 2011 meeting and told the crowd, “I attended my first Koch seminar in January of 2004, which I offer as an endorsement of what I think is the effectiveness of this group over the years of doing this.” Like other individuals who attended the Kochs’ donor summits, such as M&I Bank executive Dennis Kuester, Young maxed-out his contributions to Scott Walker in the 2010 election.

Young continued: “Especially now in these times that we’re facing, this is an effective outfit and I hope you’ll stay with us … it’s a well-oiled machine.”

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Au Revoir Sarkozy: Hollande wins French presidency

Published on May 6, 2012 by

Francois Hollande has ousted Nicolas Sarkozy from the French presidency – to become the country’s first Socialist president in 17 years. It was a close call – winning 51 per cent of votes to his rival’s 49. Our correspondent Tesa Arcilla has been witnessing the wild celebrations at Socialist Party headquarters in Paris.

 

Barack Obama accused of treason at Mitt Romney town hall event

An awkward moment occurred at Mitt Romney’s town hall event in Cleveland, Ohio on Monday when an audience member, in the process of asking him a question, asserted that President Barack Obama should be tried for treason.

 

Romney remained silent during the question-and-answer session, only to say that he “of course” did not agree with the sentiment while greeting voters after the event.

 

The incident nevertheless illustrated what seems likely to be a tricky proposition for Romney as the general election season progresses: balancing the anti-Obama sentiments of the party’s base with the need to maintain a civil level of discourse.

 

“We have a president right now that is operating outside the structure of our Constitution,” the audience member said to applause. “And I want to know — yeah, I do agree he should be tried for treason — but I want to know what you would be able to do to restore balance between the three branches of government and what you are going to be able to do to restore our Constitution in this country.”

 

Romney didn’t correct the woman, choosing instead to address the question she posed. Huffington Post

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

The woman did not specify why she believed Obama should be “tried for treason”-a comment that received a huge applause from the audience. And when it was his turn to respond, Romney ignored her suggestion about “treason” and instead spoke about how he would “respect the different branches of government.” abcnews.go.com

 

Afterwards, as he shook hands along the rope line, the New York Times’ Ashley Parker asked Romney if he agreed with the woman’s comment regarding a “treason” sentence for Obama. “No, of course not,” the candidate said. abcnews.go.com

 

Later, Romney told CNN: “I don’t correct all of the questions that get asked of me. Obviously I don’t agree that he should be tried.” Washington Post

 

The Obama campaign characterized the woman’s remark as an out-of-bounds attack and said Romney, though he is Obama’s political adversary, should have stood up for the president. Boston Globe

 

“Time after time in this campaign, Mitt Romney has had the opportunity to show that he has the fortitude to stand up to hateful and over-the-line rhetoric and time after time, he has failed to do so,” campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement. “If this is the ‘leadership’ he has shown on the campaign trail, what can the American people expect of him as commander-in-chief?” Boston Globe

 

SM/KA

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Economy

Poor America – P a n o r a m a [B B C]

Uploaded by on Feb 13, 2012

POOR AMERICA

With one and a half million (1.5 million) American children now homeless, reporter Hilary Andersson meets the school pupils who go hungry in the richest country on Earth. From those living in the storm drains under Las Vegas to the tent cities now springing up around the United States, P a n o r a m a finds out how the poor are surviving in America and asks whatever happened to the supposed ‘government’ and the Real People in charge – those who you ‘don’t see’ pulling on the strings; and their vision and welfare for the country.

Could this be a form of ‘Social cleansing’ without the need of war or disease inflicted by the orchestrators – simply a controlled bout of poverty? Or is this the forced education that only condition children to know only a certain amount of knowledge that can only ever see them progress in working environments such as confined offices within the ‘Human Zoo’ qualities within the desperately overcrowded cities.

Why are our children not educated properly – to be able to survive communally with real craft and building skills? Is the social mobility (as in other ‘rich countries’ such as the UK) only fairing the rich; the wealthy and the ‘clever elite’; the white collar criminal, as per usual?

Take your Money out of the Bank NOW!

Abusive-Banks-Logo

The Credit Crunch is not some natural phenomenon but an all out assault by the Money Power. What is worse: even without the crunch we are paying trillions per year in interest for absolutely nothing.
The solution is simple: quit their banks.

By Anthony Migchels for Henry Makow and Real Currencies
The Money Power’s goals are obvious. It is not just the massive multi trillion wealth transfer that is under way. It is about bringing the West down a few notches. The US seems strong with a nominal $30.000 per capita GDP, but when the dollar devalues against the Brazilian Real and the Chinese Yuan things will quickly look different. It will also end cheap raw materials.

The reason this crisis exists is because the banks, politicians, the media and economists are colluding in fooling the many into believing we need banks for our money supply. Most of them probably even believe this is true themselves.

They say we need the banks, because otherwise the real economy would have no money to trade with.

All this is complete and utter rubbish, of course. If banks can create credit, then anybody can. That’s just common sense.

Just imagine: we are led to believe that we need to cough up trillions just to have a means of exchange. One that is completely paper/computer based. I.e., almost free of cost.

Banking is part of the Babylon Mystery and bankers believe we are still enthralled with their ‘fractional reserve banking’ sleight of hand. And they are right. Although people are waking up, they still don’t get it.

A good example of this is the ‘take your money out of Bank of America’ of last October. Bank of America decides to rake in an extra 60 dollars per year with a silly fee. This upsets people.

While they are paying $300k interest over 30 years on their $200k mortgage. Which the bank created the moment they borrowed it.

Meanwhile, 45% of our disposable income is lost to cost for capital included in the prices we pay for our daily needs.

In other words: Penny wise, pound foolish.
People still don’t understand how badly they are being raped. They still don’t understand how they are fleeced through interest on fictional debt.

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Dozens of Police Evict Georgia Family at Gunpoint at 3am

The eviction might have been another anonymous descent into poverty were it not for Occupy Atlanta activists who tried to help the family stay.
 
Four generations of a Georgia family were evicted at gunpoint by dozens of sheriffs and deputies at 3am last week in an Atlanta suburb. The eyebrow-raising eviction, a foreclosure action, might have been another anonymous descent into poverty were it not for Occupy Atlanta activists who tried to help the family stay in Christine Frazer’s home of 18 years.
The eviction came as Frazer, 63, who lost her husband and then job in 2009, had been challenging the foreclosure in county and federal courts by seeking to restructure the terms of a delinquent mortgage. However, the latest holder of her loan, Investors One Corporation—the fourth company that bought her mortgage in an eight-month period—allowed the eviction to proceed even thought it was “negotiating” new loan terms with her attorney one day before the police raid.
DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown told an Atlanta talk radio show a day after the raid that a dozen squad cars and dozens of deputies were needed for the dead-of-night raid because Occupy Atlanta had set up tents on Frazer’s property, and his perception of the Occupy activists in other cities led him to believe they could be armed. He also said he timed the eviction to avoid media coverage.
“I made the decision that we were going to do this at 3am for a couple of reasons,” he told WAOK’s Derrick Boazman. “Number one, I have seen the various Occupy groups in various cities operate before. It was an ugly scene in Oakland. I have seen them firsthand in Washington. I’ve seen them on Wall Street. I’ve seen them in Atlanta.”
“I will not participate in a mass demonstration arrest with television cameras when I am not sure I can trust the people who say they will offer passive resistance,” Brown said. “Our intelligence told us that there were at least 10 Occupy Atlanta folks there on the property; that turned out not to be the case. Our intelligence told us that the family had vacated the house; that turned out not to be the case… We made the decision to have enough resources there to make sure it would not get out of hand.”
But out-of-hand does not even approach how Christine Frazer described the raid, saying in the days since the eviction she and her family, including her 85-year-old mother, daughter and 3-year-old grandson, have been split up and forced to rely on charity. Frazer also described how she had been exploring every legal avenue to refinance her debt, but the lenders had no intention of doing anything but evict her, presumably to sell the home.
“It has been really unsettling,” Frazer said. “When something like this happens, it breaks up the family. Me and my mom are staying one place. My grandson is someplace. My daughter is staying someplace else. It just feels really strange. I have lived in that home for 18 years. That is where I am used to waking up every morning. It’s just… I am grateful that I am not under a bridge, but I miss home.”
Frazer said that she did not expect the sudden eviction, because she had been challenging the foreclosure in federal court and her attorney had been negotiating with the lenders.
“No, I didn’t, because I currently have a case in federal court for a wrongful foreclosure,” she said. “And also the opposing or foreclosing attorney was in a negotiation process with my attorney. As a matter of fact, that Monday, I talked with them and they had talked about possibly reinstating the loan. But, of course, I was concerned about the principle [amount]. And they previously said they were looking for the eviction. It happened the next morning at 3am.”
Frazer’s descent in home loan hell had been going on for months, she said, but nothing in that arduous effort prepared her for being awakened and evicted at gunpoint.

Is Obama Negotiating A Treaty That Would Essentially Ban All “Buy American” Laws?

69 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have sent Barack Obama a letter expressing their concern that a new international treaty currently being negotiated would essentially ban all “Buy American” laws.  This new treaty is known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it is going to be one of the biggest “free trade” agreements in history.  Critics are referring to it as the “NAFTA of the Pacific“, and it would likely cost the U.S. economy even more jobs than NAFTA did.  At the moment, the Trans-Pacific Partnership includes Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore.  Barack Obama is pushing hard to get the United States into the TPP, and Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, Canada, Japan and South Korea are also reportedly interested in joining.  But quite a few members of Congress have heard that “Buy American” laws will essentially be banned under this agreement, and this has many of them very concerned.  You can read the entire letter that was sent to Obama right here.  Unfortunately, the leaders of both major political parties are overwhelmingly in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, so the objections of these 69 members of Congress are likely to fall on deaf ears.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership will accelerate the flow of American jobs out of this country, and meanwhile our politicians will continue to insist that they are doing everything that they can to “create jobs”.

There is not much protecting American jobs these days.  The “Buy American” laws are one of the last remaining barriers that helps protect against much, much cheaper foreign labor, but now “Buy American” laws are in danger of being banned permanently as a recent article in the Huffington Post explained….

Since the 1930s, the American government has offered preferential treatment to American producers in the awarding of federal contracts. If a domestic producer offers the government a more expensive bid than a foreign producer, it can still be awarded the contract under certain circumstances, but more recent free trade agreements have granted other nations the same negotiating status as domestic firms. The Obama administration is currently pushing to grant the several nations involved in the Trans-Pacific deal the same privileged status, according to the Thursday letter.

 

 

Read Full Article Here

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Wars and Rumors of War

 

 

‘Your victory is not far:’ Turkish PM Erdogan tells Syrian refugees

By Al Arabiya With Agencie

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Syrian refugees near the border town of Kilis that their “victory is not far,” as the regime in Damascus geared for a parliamentary election described by the opposition as a cynical attempt by President Bashar al-Assad to hold on to power.

“You are getting stronger each passing day,” Erdogan told the hundreds of refugees who had fled a bloody crackdown on dissent in Syria.

“Your victory is not far,” added the prime minister who was visiting the Kilis refugee camp.

Turkey, once a strong ally of Syria, is home to some 23,000 refugees who fled the Damascus regime’s deadly crackdown on dissent. It is also playing host to a large Syrian opposition community including rebels defecting from the army.

“Bashar is losing blood each passing day,” said Erdogan, referring to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

“We are on the side of Syrian people but we are never on the side of the Bashar administration,” said Erdogan.

The Kilis refugee camp bordering Syria is one of the largest camps hosting some 9,600 refugees.

The camp was target of controversy when ricocheting bullets from crossfire between Syrian troops and rebel forces wounded four Syrians and two Turks in early April. Two of the wounded Syrians later died, witnesses had told AFP.

 

Read Full Article Here

 

 

Bedouins briefly abduct 10 peacekeepers in Egypt

 

The Multinational Force and Observers is an independent international organization with peacekeeping responsibilities in the Sinai. (File photo)

The Multinational Force and Observers is an independent international organization with peacekeeping responsibilities in the Sinai. (File photo)

By Al Arabiya with Agencies

Bedouin tribesmen in the Sinai peninsula on Monday briefly detained 10 Fijians from the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), which is charged with monitoring peace between Egypt and Israel.

One of the tribesmen told AFP they had seized the men because they were seeking the release of Bedouin prisoners held by Egypt.

“They were patrolling and we seized them by firing in the air,” he told AFP by telephone on condition of anonymity. “They are with us now, and we want the liberation of all Bedouin prisoners.”

He later said the captives were released following assurances their demand would be met.

An Egyptian security source confirmed the 10 had been detained and then released around an hour later.

The MFO is an independent international organization with peacekeeping responsibilities in the Sinai. Its origins lie in the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

It was unclear precisely how long the peacekeepers had been held, however, and why the tribesmen had released them.

The MFO could not be immediately reached for comment, while state TV and the state news agency MENA denied that the incident had taken place.

MENA cited its own security source as saying that the troops had in fact got lost but had later found their way home without any problems.

In March, armed Bedouin surrounded a camp belonging to the MFO mission for eight days before lifting the siege. That incident was also a bid to pressure Egyptian authorities into releasing tribesmen from jail.

In March, Bedouins briefly abducted two Brazilian women tourists in the Sinai before releasing them hours later, in the third kidnapping of foreign tourists in two months as they pressed their demands.

 

Read Full Article Here

 

Israel’s Supreme Court rejects Palestinian hunger strikers’ appeals

 

A hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners against Israel’s jail policies has swollen in weeks from a protest by a handful to a national movement with at least 1,500 participants. (Reuters)

A hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners against Israel’s jail policies has swollen in weeks from a protest by a handful to a national movement with at least 1,500 participants. (Reuters)

By AL ARABIYA WITH AFP

Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by two Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for 69 days in protest at being held without charge, their lawyer told AFP.

“The Supreme Court refused both appeals,” Jamil Khatib said of the move by Bilal Diab, 27, and Thaer Halahla, 34, who had appealed to Israel’s highest court on Thursday to end the administrative detention orders under which they are being held.

“They will continue their strike till the end,” Khatib added.

“Israeli courts do not handle administrative detention in a positive way. It shows that the intelligence services have the final word.”

Halahla was arrested on June 28, 2010 and has been held in administrative detention ever since, while Diab has been held since August 17, 2011.

Both began refusing food on Feb. 29.

Administrative detention is an antiquated procedure that allows suspects to be held without charge for periods of up to six months, which are renewable indefinitely.

 

Read Full Article Here

 

 

Bodies of 23 found in Mexican city near US border

Nine bodies have been found hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico on May 4, 2012.

Nine bodies have been found hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico on May 4, 2012.
Sun May 6, 2012 5:20PM GMT
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The bodies of 23 people have been found hanging from a bridge or decapitated and dumped in northeastern Mexico, where drug gangs are fighting a brutal turf war along the US border.

Police discovered 14 decapitated bodies in a vehicle in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, hours after nine bodies with signs of torture were found hanging from a bridge.

Police said that the heads belonging to the decapitated bodies were found in ice boxes dumped outside the mayor’s office.

Just across the border from the Texas city of Laredo, Nuevo Laredo is the scene of a bloody war between two of Mexico’s biggest drug gangs, the Zetas cartel and the powerful Sinaloa cartel, which has joined forces with the Gulf cartel, over the control of smuggling routes into the US.

A message left with the bodies indicated that the attacks may have been carried out by the Zetas cartel against the rival Gulf cartel.

More than 50,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown on criminal gangs in late 2006.

PG/JR/HGH

Stop killing civilians or strategic pact is off, Karzai tells US

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul on May 3, 2012.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul on May 3, 2012.
Mon May 7, 2012 10:21PM GMT
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the strategic pact signed by Kabul and Washington will be at risk if US-led forces continue to kill Afghan civilians.

On Monday, Karzai summoned the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker to warn them that civilian casualties in military operations threatened the pact, AFP reported.

On May 1, 2012, Washington and Kabul signed an agreement to extend the US military presence in Afghanistan to 2024.

Shortly after arriving in the war-torn country in an unannounced trip late at night on May 1, US President Barack Obama met Karzai, and both signed the deal that authorizes the presence of US troops for a period of 10 years after 2014, which was the original date agreed upon for the departure of all foreign combat troops from Afghanistan.

A statement from Karzai’s office said that since Saturday, dozens of Afghan civilians, including women and children, had been killed in NATO airstrikes in four provinces — Logar and Helmand in the south, Kapisa in the east, and Badghis in the northwest.

The statement said that President Karzai signed the pact with the US to protect the lives of Afghans and if civilian deaths are not prevented, the pact will lose its validity.

“If the lives of Afghans are not protected, the strategic partnership will lose its meaning,” the statement quoted Karzai as saying.

US-led troops have been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001. Their initial offensive removed the Taliban from power, but insecurity continues to rise across the country despite the presence of about 130,000 foreign forces.

GJH/MF/HGL

Hamas PM calls on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh calls on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike to protest their detention, Press TV reports.

Describing the mass hunger strike by Palestinians in Israeli jails as a humanitarian struggle, Haniyeh on Monday called on Islamic and Arab countries to be more engaged in the issues of Palestinian prisoners.

His remarks came after Israel’s Supreme Court turned down an appeal requesting the release of two Palestinian prisoners, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla who have been on hunger strike for more than two months.

Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla began refusing food on February 29 in protest to their administrative detention, a controversial practice used by Tel Aviv, which allows Israeli authorities to hold people, mostly Palestinians, without charge or trial indefinitely.

Meanwhile, political adviser to Haniyeh Yousef Rizqa warned that Israel was trying to use party affiliations to sow discord among the prisoners on hunger strike.

An estimated 1,600 to 2,000 Palestinian prisoners began an open-ended hunger strike on April 17 to protest against Israel’s administrative detention rules, the use of solitary confinement, maltreatment of sick detainees, and difficulty in securing family visits and strip searches that are imposed on visitors.

According to an April 1, 2012 report published by the non-governmental Palestinian prisoner support and human rights association, Addameer, at least 4,610 “political” Palestinian prisoners are held in Israeli jails.

Addameer figures show 322 of the Palestinian prisoners are administrative detainees.

Independent sources, however, put the number of Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails at 11,000.

HM/HGH

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Articles of Interest

Naked body scanners could be soon be in all UK airports after EU ruled they are safe

  • Trials had been halted over fears of harmful radiation
  • New study reveals risk to passengers is ‘close to zero’

By Leon Watson

Controversial ‘naked’ body scanners could be introduced at all UK airports after top scientists declared them safe.

Manchester Airport has been trialling the device – known as back scatter scanner – since 2009, but the European Commission halted new trials last year amid concerns there was a risk to passengers’ health from high levels of radiation.

But an EU study has decided that the risk from the scanners, which use X-rays to scan through clothing to produce images of passengers, is ‘close to zero’ and no greater than other factors.

Scroll down to see the scanners in action

Safe: A security officer poses for photographers in the body scanner at Manchester Airport, ManchesterSafe: A security officer poses for photographers in the body scanner at Manchester Airport, Manchester

A report said the radiation from a single passenger scan is ‘equivalent’ to the natural background radiation received within an hour on the ground or during ten minutes on a flight.

It added that the doses per scan were ‘well below the public dose limit’, although the long-terms effects, such as cancer risks, could not be dismissed entirely.

The European Commission is now expected to approve the technology and the scanners could be rolled out to other UK and European airports.

71 Percent of Top Companies Could Drop Insurance Under Obamacare

Obamacare Whats in a NameHolding a sign saying “We Love ObamaCare” supporters of health care reform rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, as the court continued hearing arguments on the health care law signed by President Barack Obama. Go ahead, call it Obamacare. Obama’s re-election campaign has lifted an unofficial ban on using the opposition’s derisive term for his health care law. Democratic activists have been chanting, “We love Obamacare,” in front of the Supreme Court. And the campaign is selling T-shirts and bumper stickers that proclaim: “I like Obamacare.” (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) – A report from the House Ways and Means Committee finds that 71 of the nation’s top 100 companies would find it far more economical to drop their health care plans and simply pay the penalty for not complying with the Obamacare employer insurance mandate.

The report, published May 1, surveyed 71 of the 100 companies in the Fortune 100 list of large corporations and finds that all of them would save considerable amounts of money by dropping their health care coverage instead of complying with the Obamacare insurance mandate.

“According to data provided by the 71 Fortune 100 companies that responded to the inquiry, they could save a total of $28.6 billion in 2014 alone if they stopped offering health insurance to their U.S. employees and instead paid the employer mandate penalty for not doing so,” the report said.

“In the highly competitive global market in which these Fortune 100 companies operate, it is unrealistic for them not to consider the more economical choice of dumping health coverage and telling their employees to purchase health insurance through the Exchanges.”

During the health care reform debate, Obama famously promised that people would be able to keep the coverage that they currently have – a promise that looks to be in increasing danger.

Read Full Article Here

China farm purchase sparks land grab fears in New Zealand

by Staff Writers
Wellington (AFP) May 6, 2012

The sale of a bankrupt dairy farm group to a Chinese firm has sparked fears of a foreign land grab in New Zealand, as well as revealing what critics label a “dark side” of the national psyche.

After a review process lasting more than 12 months, the government last month approved the sale of the 16-property Crafar Farms group to China’s Shanghai Pengxin in a deal reportedly worth NZ$210 million ($170 million).

On the face of it, the sale was a minor component of the burgeoning NZ$10 billion a year trade relationship between China and New Zealand, which in 2008 became the first developed nation to sign a free trade agreement with Beijing.

But the approval sparked intense controversy in the farm-reliant country, the world biggest exporter of dairy products, with Prime Minister John Key’s conservative government accused of selling out to foreign interests.

The main opposition Labour Party labelled the decision “a massive kick in the guts” for New Zealand farmers, while Winston Peters of the populist New Zealand First Party branded it “economic betrayal”.

“The whole sales process has been a shonky, jack-up job between Prime Minister John Key, his ministers, and the communist government of China,” Peters said.

Opinion polls have showed overwhelming public opposition to the deal, which the Greens say is part of a land grab by foreign investors intent on snapping up productive farmland to shore up security of their own food supplies.

“Food producing farmland with access to water is an increasingly valuable resource in a finite world with growing population and declining water resources,” Greens co-leader Russel Norman said.

“Realising this, the Chinese government has embarked upon a strategy encouraging Chinese companies to purchase farmland throughout the world,” he added, saying it would see profits generated in New Zealand going offshore.

Key, who has previously expressed concern about New Zealanders becoming “tenants in their own land”, has supported the sale, saying New Zealand cannot turn down investors simply because they are Chinese.

He said that all foreign investors, regardless of where they came from, had to be treated equally under the law.

“So if this deal is a yes for an Australian buyer or a yes for an American buyer then it should be a yes for a Chinese buyer,” he said.

“In the end I think it is a pretty good deal for all parties.”

Key said there was no evidence the Crafar sale would open the way for a flood of rural sales to foreign groups, arguing less than two percent of New Zealand farmland was owned by foreigners, mostly from Europe or America.

“I don’t think that’s actually happening at this point, it’s more a perception than a reality,” he said.

With the government hoping to double two-way trade with China to NZ$20 billion by 2015, the foreign affairs ministry warned during the Crafar consultation process that rejecting the deal could have serious implications.

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson has described opposition to the sale as “bordering on racism”, while the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research attributes the backlash to xenophobia and party politics.

It’s an assessment University of Otago politics lecturer Bryce Edwards reluctantly agreed with, saying the ethnicity of the group buying the farms was “the elephant in the room” in the debate.

“Obviously there’s a lot of genuine non-racist criticism but… I think it’s slightly alarming,” he said. “New Zealand’s dark side is coming out, our discomfort with foreigners and Asian investors in particular.

“It’s not something I’ve seen in my lifetime. Normally it’s been about how much goods and services we’re buying from Asia, now it’s moved on to a different level.”

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Wellington, Cheng Lei, was reluctant to address the Crafar issue directly but said New Zealanders should be pleased to welcome foreign investment.

“I think Kiwis should understand that it is a positive signal,” he told reporters after the sale was announced.

“It showcases foreign countries confidence in your country, in your system, in your people and you should be happy about that.”

Related Links
Farming Today – Suppliers and Technology

Unmanned Poison Drones Are The Latest Threat To This Summer’s Olympic Games

In a meeting meant to calm residents fear about hosting missiles on their rooftops during the Olympic games, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Fahy told Londoners it’s possible that drones laden with biological weapons may be used in an attack during the upcoming games.

Yahoo News India reports Fahy is the officer in charge of community relations during the Olympics and he spoke to a group at Leystonstone, East London, close to where one of six surface-to-air missile batteries will be set up during the Olympics.

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