October 31, 2015

U.S. Monitoring Increased Russian Activity Along Undersea Cables That Carry the Lifeblood of Global Electronic Communications and Commerce

Russian Ships Near Data Cables Are Too Close for U.S. Comfort

New York Times - Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict.

The issue goes beyond old worries during the Cold War that the Russians would tap into the cables — a task American intelligence agencies also mastered decades ago. The alarm today is deeper: The ultimate Russian hack on the United States could involve severing the fiber-optic cables at some of their hardest-to-access locations to halt the instant communications on which the West’s governments, economies and citizens have grown dependent.

While there is no evidence yet of any cable cutting, the concern is part of a growing wariness among senior American and allied military and intelligence officials over the accelerated activity by Russian armed forces around the globe. At the same time, the internal debate in Washington illustrates how the United States is increasingly viewing every Russian move through a lens of deep distrust, reminiscent of relations during the Cold War.

Inside the Pentagon and the nation’s spy agencies, the assessments of Russia’s growing naval activities are highly classified and not publicly discussed in detail. American officials are secretive about what they are doing both to monitor the activity and to find ways to recover quickly if cables are cut. But more than a dozen officials confirmed in broad terms that it had become the source of significant attention in the Pentagon.
“I’m worried every day about what the Russians may be doing,” said Rear Adm. Frederick J. Roegge, commander of the Navy’s submarine fleet in the Pacific, who would not answer questions about possible Russian plans for cutting the undersea cables.
Cmdr. William Marks, a Navy spokesman in Washington, said:
“It would be a concern to hear any country was tampering with communication cables; however, due to the classified nature of submarine operations, we do not discuss specifics.”
In private, however, commanders and intelligence officials are far more direct. They report that from the North Sea to Northeast Asia and even in waters closer to American shores, they are monitoring significantly increased Russian activity along the known routes of the cables, which carry the lifeblood of global electronic communications and commerce.

U.S. Military Admits That They’re Scrambling to Catch Up with the Russians Despite Spending $610 Billion on Defense in 2014 Compared to $84.5 Billion for Russia (and $216 Billion for China)

Sophisticated Electronic Warfare Gives Russia The Edge

Russia’s adventures in Ukraine and then in Syria have largely been made possible by Moscow’s unwavering commitment to using electronic warfare (EW) to its advantage.


It is becoming quite a common theme for the drones flown by the international conflict-monitoring group Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to experience problems. Every time they enter the southeastern parts of Ukraine, the drones bump into the same problem: on-the-ground Russian troops jam them into virtual blindness.

However, all this should not come as a huge surprise considering that for years, the Russian army has been performing extensive research on making full use of EW when it comes to having the edge over the enemy. Equipment such as the Krasukha04, which jams radar and aircraft, has been used perfectly during operations in Ukraine and Syria, leading American military officials to admit that they’re scrambling to catch up with the Russians.

According to the commander of U.S. Army units in Europe, Lt. General Ben Hodges, Russia’s EW capabilities in Ukraine are “eye-watering.”
Ronald Pontius, deputy to Army Cyber Command Chief Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, once said, “You can’t but come to the conclusion that we’re not making progress at the pace the threat demands.” 
Supreme electronic warfare capabilities

Russia has shown off its electronic warfare capabilities since the onset of its incursion into Crimea in the spring of 2014. Just hours after Russian EW equipment crossed the Ukrainian border, Ukrainian troops began to find that they could not use their radios and phones for hours at a time. Moreover, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has kept reporting that every single drone that has been observing the conflict in eastern Ukraine, has been “subjected to military grade GPS jamming.”

The U.S., for its part, is trying to bring its electronic warfare capabilities to the forefront under the leadership of Col. Jeffrey Church, who is the Army’s chief of electronic warfare. However, it is not going to be a very easy task considering the fact that falling budgets and a clear lack of EW equipment is a serious challenge. Moreover, Church has revealed that he has only been able to train a few hundred soldiers, which is a very small amount compared to the EW forces boasted by both Russia and China.
“They have companies, they have battalions, they have brigades that are dedicated to the electronic warfare mission,” Church said in an interview with Foreign Policy. Those units are deploying “with specific electronic warfare equipment, with specific electronic warfare chains of command,” he said. 
U.S. coming up short on the EW front

As things stand, the U.S. Army’s EW mission has only 813 soldiers, which isn’t a great number, considering the fact that both Russia and China boast a much bigger force than this. Moreover, other army units are resolute against Church’s attempts to peel away soldiers from their ranks to join his.

EPA Spent Millions on Guns, Ammunition, Camouflage, Radar and Night-vision Equipment, Amphibious Assault Ships, Armament Training Services, Etc.

Why Did the Environmental Protection Agency Spend $1.4 Million on Guns?

October 30, 2015

Washington Times - Even those of us who have worked in Washington for many years and become accustomed to the inner workings of government can still be amazed by what lurks behind the curtain sometimes. Case in point: the Environmental Protection Agency.

Most Americans have at least heard of the EPA, even if they have only a dim notion of what the agency actually does. It tends to skate along under the radar, unless something unusual happens, such as the toxic spill that turned the Colorado’s Animas River orange last August. Of course, what really made the spill unusual is that the EPA itself caused it.

Otherwise, Americans don’t hear much about the agency. So many of them would probably be as unpleasantly surprised as I was by a new report by Open the Books, a nonprofit group that promotes government transparency. Its look into the EPA’s spending habits is alarming, to put it mildly.

The first thing that strikes you is the EPA’s spendthrift ways. Even if times were flush and government coffers were overflowing (which is far from the case), the agency spends money like it’s expecting the Second Coming next week. The Open the Books audit covered tens of thousands of checks the EPA wrote from 2000 to 2014, with hundreds of millions going toward such things as luxury furnishings, sports equipment, and “environmental justice” grants to raise awareness of global warming.

The second thing that hits you is where the rest of the money goes. The headline of an op-ed by economist Stephen Moore in Investor’s Business Daily sums it up well: “Why Does the EPA Need Guns, Ammo, and Armor to Protect the Environment?”

And not just a few weapons. Open the Books found that the agency has spent millions of dollars over the last decade on guns, ammo, body armor, camouflage equipment, unmanned aircraft, amphibious assault ships, radar and night-vision gear, and other military-style weaponry and surveillance activities.
“We were shocked ourselves to find these kinds of pervasive expenditures at an agency that is supposed to be involved in clean air and clean water,” said Open the Books founder Adam Andrzejewski. “Some of these weapons are for full-scale military operations.”
Among the EPA’s purchases:
  • $1.4 million for “guns up to 300mm.”
  • $380,000 for “ammunition.”
  • $210,000 for “camouflage and other deceptive equipment.”
  • $208,000 for “radar and night-vision equipment.”
  • $31,000 for “armament training devices.”
The list goes on. It’s filled with the kind of equipment you’d expect to be purchased by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, not an agency ostensibly designed to protect the environment.

But as it turns out, armed, commando-style raids by the EPA are not unheard of. One such raid occurred in 2013, in a small Alaskan town where armed agents in full body armor reportedly confronted local miners accused of polluting local waters. Perhaps the agency is gearing up for more operations like that one?

If so, the EPA wouldn’t be all that unique. According to the Justice Department, there are now 40 federal agencies with more than 100,000 officers authorized to carry guns and make arrests. They include the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Climate Change Disciples Use the “Language” of Religion, Regardless of Scientific Facts, to Push Their Doctrine

Ted Cruz: ‘Climate Change Is Not Science -- It’s Religion’

October 30, 2015

CNS News - Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who grew up in a scientific household – both of his parents are mathematicians – said a recent exchange he had with the president of the Sierra Club further affirmed that “climate change is not science" but is "religion,” and he added that climate change disciples use the “language” of religion, regardless of scientific facts, to push their doctrine.
“Just a couple weeks ago in the Senate I chaired a hearing where the president of the Sierra Club testified,” said Senator Cruz in an Oct. 28  interview on The Blaze TV. “We had an exchange, where I simply asked him about the data.”
Aaron Mair is president of the Sierra Club.

“He [Mair] simply couldn’t answer the most basic question, starting with the fact -- he couldn’t answer the most basic fact that for the last 18 years the satellite data show no significant warming whatsoever,” said Cruz.

“He had no idea about that,” said Cruz.  “He turned to his aides every minute or two.”

“You know, part of the reason he didn’t know the facts?” said Cruz.  “Because climate change is not science -- it’s religion.”

“Look at the language where they call you a denier,” said the senator.  “Denier is not the language of science.”

Look, I’m the child of two scientists,” he said.  “My parents are both mathematicians, computer programmers. My dad was a self-taught geophysicist. The essence of the scientific method is to start with a hypothesis and then look to evidence to disprove the hypothesis. You’re not trying to prove it. You’re trying to disprove it.”

“Any good scientist is a skeptic,” said the senator.  “If he’s not, he or she should not be a scientist. But yet the language of the global warming alarmists, ‘denier’ is the language of religion. It’s heretic. You are a blasphemer.”

Cruz continued, “The response from the Sierra Club: ‘We have decreed this is the answer, you must accept it.’ And so he didn’t know his facts because he just knew his religion.”

Palestinians Urge Faster ICC Probe into Israel 'War Crimes'

Palestinians urge faster ICC probe into Israel 'war crimes'

October 30, 2015

AFP - Top Palestinian officials Friday urged the world's only permanent war crimes court to speed up a probe into allegations of Israeli abuses amid an upsurge of fresh violence between the two sides.

Meanwhile International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda urged for calm, warning that an escalation of violence could lead to "a large-scale commission of crimes" that may fall within the Hague-based court's jurisdiction.
"It is extremely important to expedite the process... because if Israel feels impunity, what will deter Israel from multiplying the victims?" Palestinian foreign minister Riad al-Malki said.
He was speaking after handing over a new dossier to Bensouda, "making reference to the extra-judicial killings, home demolition and collective punishments."

It also cited examples "in the last 40 days of Israeli aggression."

U.S. Deploys Military Boots on the Ground in Syria

According to Russian news agencies, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow considers the use of U.S. forces without coordination with Syrian President Bashar Assad's government unacceptable. [Source] Lavrov said a U.S. decision to deploy special forces in Syria would make cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries more important. Earlier, U.S. officials disclosed plans to station dozens of special forces troops as advisers in Syria to help in the fight against Islamic State militants. "I am sure that neither the United States nor Russia want (the conflict) to become a so-called proxy war," Lavrov told reporters after multi-lateral talks on the Syrian crisis in Vienna. "But it is obvious for me that the situation makes the task of cooperation between the militaries more relevant." He also said discussions on securing a ceasefire in Syria's four-year civil war would continue, but said the fight against what he called terrorist groups would also not cease. [Reuters]

The United States' decision to send troops into Syria is an act of aggression because it does not have the government's agreement, a Syrian member of parliament said Saturday. "When America sends ground forces into Syrian territories without an agreement with the Syrian government it becomes an intervention and aggression," Shehadeh said by telephone. "Will America allow Russian ground forces to go into America without an agreement? I think the answer is no." [Associated Press]

US escalates involvement in Syria amid talks on Assad future

October 30, 2015

AP - The United States escalated its fight against the Islamic State in Syria on Friday, pledging the first open deployment of military boots on the ground, even as U.S., Russian and other diplomats pressed a new peace effort that America hopes will hasten the departure of Bashar Assad.

Up to 50 special operations troops will be sent to assist Kurdish and Arab forces in northern Syria, American officials said. The move marks a significant departure for President Barack Obama, who for years has resisted putting ground forces in Syria even as he has gradually intensified the U.S. military response to what counterterrorism officials worry is a growing Islamic State threat in Syria and Iraq.

The troop announcement came as diplomats in Vienna representing 17 countries and the European Union agreed to launch a broad new peace attempt to gradually end Syria's long civil war — a declaration that avoided any determination on when President Assad might leave. It is not clear how many rebel groups would agree to a plan that doesn't result in Assad's immediate departure.

Any cease-fire agreement that may come as a result of the peace effort would not include the Islamic State, which controls large parts of northern Syria and has its capital there.

But the participation by Russia and Iran in the attempt could mark a new and promising phase in the diplomacy since those countries have staunchly backed Assad.

The White House has long said that Assad's ouster is essential to its ultimate goal of defeating the Islamic State because the Syrian president's brutal tactics against Sunni rebels have drawn Sunni radicals from all over the world into the militant group's ranks.

Despite killing as many as 12,000 militants, the U.S. bombing campaign has not significantly weakened the Islamic State's capacity to hold territory, and the group's ranks have been replenished by foreign fighters and others.

Military experts say ground troops are essential for the fight. A U.S. program to train Syrians was abandoned as a failure, and the new deployment essentially would replace that program.

Speaking to reporters flying with him on an overseas trip, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said this would probably not be the last significant adjustment to the anti-IS military campaign in Syria and Iraq.
"We are going to continue to innovate, to build up what works," he said.
Friday's developments came as missiles slammed into a crowded suburb of the Syrian capital. The attack killed at least 40 people, activists said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees group said government forces fired more than 11 missiles at a market in the suburb of Douma.

In Washington, officials said the new U.S. forces will work from headquarters locations and won't move to the front lines or be used to call in airstrikes. However, the U.S. has conducted special operations raids into Syria before now and will continue to do more unilateral raids. It helped Iraqi forces rescue hostages last week, and Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed, the first U.S. combat death in that country since 2011.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the new troops will not be on a "combat mission."
"There's no denying the serious risk they will be facing," Earnest said, but their mission will "not be to lead the charge to take the hill."
Russia and Syria are conducting airstrikes in the country, but Earnest said it was unlikely the U.S. troops would be at risk because Russia has not bombed in the area where they will be.

On Capitol Hill, some lawmakers greeted the troop announcement with dismay.

It "marks a major shift in U.S. policy — a shift that is occurring without congressional debate (and) is unlikely to succeed in achieving our objective of defeating IS," said Sen. Brian Schatz.

October 29, 2015

Saudi Prince Says There's a Need for a Saudi-Israel Alliance to Counter the Russia-Iran-Hezbollah Nexus

Billionaire Saudi Prince: We Must Side With Israel in War With Palestine

October 29, 2015

NewsMax - A billionaire Saudi prince is reportedly vowing to side with Israel in any Palestinian uprising — and is making the startling call for a strategy to combat Iran's increasing influence in the region.

The Express Tribune, a Pakistani newspaper that partners with the International New York Times, reports al-Waleed bin Talal is suggesting the Saudi Kingdom should forge a defense pact with Tel Aviv to counter any Iranian moves.

The newspaper notes the news was originally reported by the Kuwaiti Al Qabas daily newspaper on Tuesday as the prince was on a regional tour of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, and then picked up by AWDnews.com.
"I will side with the Jewish nation and its democratic aspirations in case of outbreak of a Palestinian 'intifada' [uprising]," bin Talal was quoted telling the Kuwaiti newspaper.

"I shall exert all my influence to break any ominous Arab initiatives set to condemn Tel Aviv, because I deem the Arab-Israeli entente and future friendship necessary to impede the Iranian dangerous encroachment."
On his tour, the Saudi prince aims to gather support for Saudi-backed rebels in Syria, the Express Tribune notes.
"The whole Middle East dispute is tantamount to matter of life and death for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from my vantage point, and I know that Iranians seek to unseat the Saudi regime by playing the Palestinian card," Kuwaiti News Agency reported him saying Tuesday, according to both the Express Tribune and the Israeli news outlet, I24 News.

"[H]ence to foil their plots Saudi Arabia and Israel must bolster their relations and form a united front to stymie Tehran's ambitious agenda."
According to the Express Tribune, the Saudi prince argues there's a need to a Saudi-Israel alliance to counter the "Russia-Iran-Hezbollah nexus."

Why is Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound a Powder Keg?

Al-Aqsa takes centre stage in Israel-Palestinian unrest

October 23, 2015

AFP - Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, sacred to both Muslims and Jews, is at the heart of diplomatic efforts to defuse more than three weeks of Palestinian-Israeli violence.

Here is a series of questions and answers to describe the role of the flashpoint site in the latest unrest.

- What is the importance of the mosque compound? -

Al-Aqsa mosque compound is a 14-hectare (35-acre) rectangular esplanade at the southeast corner of Jerusalem's Old City.

To Muslims, it is known as Al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and houses the golden Dome of the Rock shrine, from where the Prophet Mohammed is believed to have made his night journey to heaven.

It is Islam's third-holiest site after the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, both in Saudi Arabia.

The esplanade is also considered the holiest site in Judaism and referred to as Temple Mount because it is believed to have housed both the First and Second Temples.

The compound in its current form was built in the seventh century by Islam's second caliph, Omar, on the site of the Second Jewish Temple that was destroyed by the Romans around 70 AD.

- Why is it a powder keg? -

It is situated in east Jerusalem, a majority Palestinian area that was seized by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move never internationally recognised.

To both sides the site is a sacrosanct religious and national symbol.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, but the Palestinians want the eastern sector as capital of their future state.

Clashes at the holy site are not new.

In 1996, an Israeli decision to open a new entrance to the west of the plaza sparked clashes that left more than 80 people dead in three days.

A controversial visit in September 2000 by then rightwing opposition leader Ariel Sharon was one of the main triggers for the second Palestinian intifada, which lasted from 2000 to 2005 and left some 4,700 dead.

- Is the compound the cause for the surge in violence? -

Partly. It has become a crucible for many the tensions in one of the oldest conflicts on earth.

Palestinian anger was already simmering over Israeli occupation, the internationally condemned expansion of settlements, the Gaza blockade and 2014 conflict and loss of hope for a political solution.

Further stoking anger was the death of a Palestinian toddler and his parents when suspected Jewish extremists firebombed his house.

In September the Al-Aqsa compound became the focal point of this anger when an increase in Jewish visitors led Palestinians to fear Israel was plotting a change in the so-called status quo.

- What is the status quo? -

Jews are allowed to visit the compound, but are forbidden from praying there for fear of sparking tensions with Muslim worshippers.

October 28, 2015

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Says Latest Flare-up in the Six-decade-old Conflict Between Israelis and Palestinians is "Dangerous in the Extreme" and is Leading Them Toward "Catastrophe"

UN warns of Israel-Palestinian 'catastrophe' as attacks persist

October 28, 2015

AFP - The United Nations warned Wednesday that a deadly surge in violence between Israelis and Palestinians is leading them toward "catastrophe" as new knife attacks struck the volatile West Bank.

An Israeli woman was moderately wounded in one such attack, while a Palestinian allegedly tried to stab an Israeli soldier and was shot dead in another, the police and army said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the latest flare-up in the six-decade-old conflict was "dangerous in the extreme".
"The violence between Palestinians and the Israelis will draw us ever closer to a catastrophe if not stopped immediately," he said.
In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry said the bloodshed "is yet another indication of the folly of believing that efforts at permanent peace and reconciliation are somehow not worth pursuing."
"The current situation is simply not sustainable over time."
World leaders desperately want to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that collapsed in April 2014, to avoid a deeper slide into violence that many fear could lead to a third Palestinian intifada.

But Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said "it is no longer useful to waste time in negotiations" and warned a continuation of the violence could "kill the last shred of hope for the two-state-solution-based peace."

He urged the UN "to set up a special regime for international protection for the Palestinian people."

- Corpses held -

Abbas accused Israel of "extrajudicial killings of defenceless Palestinian civilians, (and having) detained their corpses, including children."

Abbas Called for International Protection for the Palestinians and Accuses Netanyahu of Blaming Palestinians for Everything — Even the Holocaust

Abbas slams Netanyahu, seeks 'protection' for Palestinians

October 28, 2015

AP - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday called for international protection for the Palestinians, saying the human rights situation under Israeli occupation is the worst it has ever been, and accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of exploiting the Holocaust to attack the Palestinians.

The fiery speech by Abbas to a special session of the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council in Geneva threatened to stir up new tensions with Israel, just as U.S.-led efforts to calm the situation in the region are getting under way.

Abbas criticized Netanyahu for comments a week earlier suggesting that a World War II-era Palestinian religious leader had persuaded the Nazis to carry out a policy that exterminated 6 million Jews. The remarks about Nazi sympathizer Haj Amin al-Husseini, a former grand mufti of Jerusalem, aimed to illustrate Netanyahu's claim that Palestinian incitement at Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site goes back decades. Instead, it set off an uproar as Israeli historians accused him of bending historical facts for political gain.

Abbas said Netanyahu's allegations manipulate the sentiments of Jews about "the most horrendous crime known in modern history committed by the Nazis."
"He prefers to blame Palestinians for everything — even the Holocaust. You all know that this is totally false. It is untrue and baseless," he said.

"When the Israeli prime minister tries to absolve Adolf Hitler from his ugly crimes, against the Jews, and blame Palestinians for these crimes, he is trying thereby to justify the crimes committed against the Palestinian people," he said, according to an official translation of his remarks, which were delivered in Arabic.
The speech came amid new violence between Palestinians and Israelis. In five weeks of violence, 11 Israelis have been killed in attacks by Palestinians, mostly in stabbings, and 55 Palestinians — including 35 labeled by Israel as attackers — have been killed by Israeli fire.

Netanyahu has said the violence is the result of incitement by Palestinian leaders, including Abbas, as well as social media. The Palestinians say it is the result of frustration stemming from nearly 50 years of Israeli occupation, repeated failed peace efforts and a lack of hope in gaining independence anytime soon.

Abbas said the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories is at its "worst and most critical since 1948" — the year of Israel's independence — and insisted "it is no longer useful to waste time in negotiations for the sake of negotiations. What is required is the end of the occupation in accordance with international legitimacy."

October 27, 2015

Netanyahu: I Don't Want a Binational State, But We Need to Control All of the Territory for the Foreseeable Future

Netanyahu: “We Will Forever Live By The Sword”, Indefinitely Control All Palestinian Territory

The prime minister also spoke about possible plans to revoke Israeli citizenship or residency from the Arab residents of east Jerusalem. 

IMEMC News - Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced his plan to control “all of the territory” and “live forever by the sword.”

The remarks were reported in Haa’retz newspaper, according to PNN, in an article by journalist Barak Ravid.

Mr Ravid wrote: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that although he doesn’t want a binational state, 'at this time we need to control all of the territory for the foreseeable future'.”

MKs who took part in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting – today (Monday) – reportedly told Mr Ravid that Netanyahu had turned to the politicians present and said: “You think there is a magic wand here, but I disagree. I’m asked if we will forever live by the sword – yes.”

The prime minister also spoke about possible plans to revoke Israeli citizenship or residency from the Arab residents of east Jerusalem.

He complained that there had not been any “progress” on the matter because of delays at the Justice Ministry, headed by Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi).

Dr Hanan Ashwari, a committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said of the idea:

“This alarming escalation, an inhuman and illegal measure, must be immediately stopped.

“Should this be adopted, such a measure will transform the actual status of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to “non-existence,” and it will deprive them of the most basic rights and services, including shelter, healthcare and education.

“This would also provoke confrontations with serious ramifications throughout the region and beyond.”


Senate Passes Cybersecurity Bill, Which Would Extend the Surveillance Capabilities of Government Intelligence Agencies While Doing Little to Prevent Hacks

The legislation, introduced by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, would enable companies to share data with agencies and other businesses through an information storehouse maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. The Senate on Tuesday ultimately rejected amendments that would both address privacy concerns and potentially create more channels to enable companies to share data directly with agencies besides DHS.

Senate Passes Cybersecurity Threat Sharing Bill That Tech Hates

October 27, 2015

TechCrunch - In a crushing blow to the tech industry and privacy advocates, the Senate today passed the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).

The bill, which passed the Senate on a 74-21 bipartisan vote, is intended to allow companies to share information about cybersecurity threats with the government. However, critics, particularly those in the tech industry, say the bill will extend the surveillance capabilities of government intelligence agencies while doing little to prevent hacks.
The bill has already passed the House of Representatives. The White House backs CISA, and it will likely sign the bill into law.

Prior to the bill’s passage on Tuesday, senators fought for amendments that would reign in CISA and offer more privacy protections. However, all amendments intended to increase the removal of personal information from threats failed. Senators adopted a 10-year sunset clause for the bill, though privacy advocates like Senator Al Franken hoped the bill would expire in six.

Though the bill was expected to pass, today’s vote was a huge setback for tech’s lobbying efforts on surveillance issues. In the wake of the revelations of former government contractor Edward Snowden, large tech companies have pushed the government to curtail surveillance practices, most recently with the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act.

6,000 Israelis Rally for Peace Talks with Palestinians

Amnesty International accused Israel of a series of "unlawful killings of Palestinians using intentional lethal force without justification" in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. The rights group said that, in at least four cases, "Palestinians were deliberately shot dead... when they posed no imminent threat to life, in what appear to have been extrajudicial executions." Israel's legal system had already been dealing with claims of excessive use of force. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein stressed Monday that "using firearms... is permissible only when there is a real threat to the lives or security of police or others, and there is no other way to prevent that damage." [Source]

Thousands of Israelis rally for peace talks with Palestinians

Asked by an interviewer with the Israeli news site, NRG, on March 16, 2015 if it was true that a Palestinian nation would never be formed while he's prime minister, Netanyahu replied, "Indeed." [Source]

October 24, 2015

AFP - Thousands of Israelis rallied Saturday for fresh Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the killing of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The demonstrators chanted "Jews and Arabs don't want to hate each other" and "Israel, Palestine, two states for two peoples" as they came together amid a new upswing in violence which makes prospects for peace in the decades-old conflict look deeply gloomy.

They gathered at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, the site where the Nobel peace laureate was gunned down by a rightwing Jewish extremist at the age of 73 on November 4, 1995.

Activist group Peace Now -- which organised the rally along with the left-wing Meretz party and others -- estimated there were some 6,000 people attending.

Daniel Dojon told AFP he came "because the situation is crazy. I am not talking about safety but the lack of (political) progress, the lack of hope. Israeli politicians are becoming more and more extreme."

Another protester, who identified himself only as Zeev, 67, blamed the lack of a peace process for the current violence.
"It will further deteriorate if we think that being passive is the answer."

Operation Northwoods - Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba, Declassified 1962 U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Memo

U.S. Military Drafted Plans to Terrorize U.S. Cities to Provoke War With Cuba

Originally Published on May 1, 2001 (Four Months Before September 11, 2001)

ABC News - In the early 1960s, America's top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba.

Code named Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.

The plans were developed as ways to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba's then new leader, communist Fidel Castro.

America's top military brass even contemplated causing U.S. military casualties, writing: "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," and, "casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation."

Details of the plans are described in Body of Secrets (Doubleday), a new book by investigative reporter James Bamford about the history of America's largest spy agency, the National Security Agency. However, the plans were not connected to the agency, he notes.

The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy's defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.
"These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing," Bamford told ABCNEWS.com.
"The whole point of a democracy is to have leaders responding to the public will, and here this is the complete reverse, the military trying to trick the American people into a war that they want but that nobody else wants."
Gunning for War

The documents show "the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government," writes Bamford.

South Carolina Sheriff's Deputy Flips Student in Her Desk, Drops Her to the Floor, Drags Her Across the Classroom, Pins Her Down, Handcuffs Her and Arrests Her as Teacher and Assistant Principal (Also on the Public Sector Payroll) Watch and Defend the Brutal Attack

Go Directly to Jail: Typical Teens Face Police Instead of Principals

October 28, 2015

Takepart.com - What started as a typical high school math class ended with two misdemeanor arrests in a South Carolina on Monday. Viral video footage shows a female student being flipped in her desk and slammed to the ground by a school resource officer who then drags her to the classroom door before arresting her. A fellow student was so upset that she began crying and yelling—she was arrested, too.

Both girls were charged with misdemeanors under South Carolina’s “Disturbing Schools Law,” a statute that allows school resource officers to arrest students who disturb or interfere with the school environment. Advocates say the law has since been applied to criminalize kids who violate the adage that children should be seen and not heard.
“[The law] is so vague and broad that it lends itself to subjective and arbitrary application,” Victoria Middleton, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina told TakePart. “It was initially passed because of concerns about outside intruders, and is now being used against kids.”
The disturbing schools law was introduced in the 1970’s in reaction to agitation from anti-war organizers on college campuses during the Vietnam War, according to Mishi Faruqee, a juvenile justice reform advocate who has been working with Middleton to have the law repealed.
“The law has since been used to allow school resource officer in middle and high schools to arrest thousands of mostly African-American students,” Faruqee told TakePart. “It is one of the top charges against youth in South Carolina’s juvenile justice system.”
Disturbing schools is the third most frequent juvenile offense referred to the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice, after assault and battery and shoplifting. While one third of South Carolina’s student population is black, black youth made up 66 percent of admissions to the juvenile justice system between 2013 and 2014.

Faruqee says South Carolina’s law is the most egregious example of laws that effectively funnel disruptive classroom behavior into the criminal justice system. Several other states also have laws that criminalize student misbehavior in the classroom, but the extent to which they are enforced varies. The “disturbing a lawful assembly” law in Massachusetts has repeatedly been used to arrest students who act out since implementation in x-year. A 2012 report on the criminalization of school discipline in Massachusetts cites arrests of students for bringing phones to school, swearing at resource officers, and failing to identify themselves between 2009 and 2012. In South Dakota, a “disturbance of school” law has similarly been applied to emotionally disturbed children and children of color.

Middleton noted that these laws disproportionately impact children of color, and children with disabilities. Students who are arrested at school are three times more likely to drop out than those who aren’t arrested, according to the ACLU, and students who drop out are eight times more likely to wind up in the criminal justice system. These numbers illustrate why it’s critical to avoid a criminal justice response to disruptive behavior when possible.
“Too often, these teachers in these schools are calling on the cops because they have a disruptive student in the classroom,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said at a press conference on Wednesday. “This is not a cop’s job.”

“We don’t need to arrest these students,” Lott continued, “We need to keep them in schools.”

October 26, 2015

Gun Control and Discrimination in Israel

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) published reports documenting racism in Israel, and the 2007 report suggested that anti-Arab racism in the country was increasing. One analysis of the report summarized it thus: "Over two-thirds of Israeli teens believe Arabs to be less intelligent, uncultured and violent. Over a third of Israeli teens fear Arabs all together....The report becomes even grimmer, citing the ACRI's racism poll, taken in March 2007, in which 50% of Israelis taking part said they would not live in the same building as Arabs, will not befriend or let their children befriend Arabs, and would not let Arabs into their homes." The 2008 report from ACRI says the trend of increasing racism is continuing. An October 2010 poll by the Dahaf polling agency found that 36% of Israeli Jews favor eliminating voting rights for non-Jews. In 2003–2009 polling, between 42% and 56% of Israelis agreed that "Israeli Arabs suffer from discrimination as opposed to Jewish citizens;" 80% of Israeli Arabs agreed with that statement in 2009. A 2012 poll revealed widespread support among Israeli Jews for discrimination against Israeli Arabs. [Source]

The Follow-Up Committee for Arab Education notes that the Israeli government spends an average of $192 per year on each Arab student compared to $1,100 per Jewish student. The drop-out rate for Arab citizens of Israel is twice as high as that of their Jewish counterparts (12 percent versus 6 percent). The same group also notes that there is a 5,000-classroom shortage in the Arab sector. In Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education, Nurit Peled-Elhanan, a professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, describes the depiction of Arabs in Israeli schoolbooks as racist. She states that their only representation is as "refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists," claiming that in "hundreds and hundreds" of books, not one photograph depicted an Arab as a "normal person." [Source]

The Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel reported a tenfold increase in racist incidents against Arabs in 2008. Jerusalem reported the highest number of racist incidents against Arabs. The report blamed Israeli leaders for the violence, saying: "These attacks are not the hand of fate, but a direct result of incitement against the Arab citizens of this country by religious, public, and elected officials." The Bedouin claim they face systemic discrimination and have submitted a counter-report to the United Nations that disputes the Israeli government's official state report. They claim they are not treated as equal citizens in Israel and that Bedouin towns are not provided the same level of services or land that Jewish towns of the same size are, and that they are not given fair access to water. The city of Beersheba refused to recognize a Bedouin holy site, despite a High Court recommendation. [Source]

A senior Catholic spokesman, Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land, has claimed that a lack of police action, and an educational culture in which Jewish pupils are encouraged to act with "contempt" towards Christians, has resulted in life becoming increasingly "intolerable" for many Christians. In 2012, pro-settler extremists attacked a Trappist monastery in the town of Latroun, covering walls with anti-Christian graffiti denouncing Christ as a "monkey" and daubing the 11th century Monastery of the Cross with offensive slogans such as "Death to Christians." According to an article in the Telegraph, Christian leaders feel the most important issue that Israel has failed to address is the practice of some ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools, which teach children that it is a religious obligation to abuse anyone in Holy Orders they encounter in public, "including Ultra-Orthodox Jewish children as young as eight spitting at members of the clergy on a daily basis." Incidents of spitting on Christian clergymen in Jerusalem have been common since the 1990s. Ruling on the case of a Greek Orthodox priest who had struck a yeshiva student who spat near him in 2011, a Jerusalem magistrate wrote, "Day after day, clergymen endure spitting by members of those fringe groups — a phenomenon intended to treat other religions with contempt. ... The authorities are not able to eradicate this phenomenon, and they don't catch the spitters, even though this phenomenon has been going on for years." [Source]

October 24, 2015

Trump Loses Lead in Iowa to Ben Carson - Prepare for the Smear Campaign by the Establishment Media

If you want to know who's leading in the Republican campaign, all you have to do is turn on NBC or MSNBC and look for the hatchet-job propaganda articles. Whomever that article is about is doing well. You can no longer trust traditional news reporting.

Good news for GOP elites: Trump's not winning Iowa anymore. Bad news: Ben Carson is.

Vox - Shortly after Donald Trump entered the presidential race at the end of June, he rocketed to the front of presidential polls. This was true both nationally and in the earliest states to vote, Iowa and New Hampshire, and remained true despite a series of gaffes and controversies that many expected would bring Trump down.
It seemed like he could defy gravity.

But two new polls from Iowa are our first clear sign that Trump is indeed mortal — they show that Trump has lost his lead in the state to Ben Carson. One, by Quinnipiac, shows Carson up 8 percentage points, and the other, by Bloomberg and the highly respected Des Moines Register pollster Ann Selzer, shows him up by 9.

Indeed, Carson may have passed Trump weeks ago. The only other poll of Iowa Republicans this month also showed Carson taking the lead, but since it was sponsored by the Club for Growth, a group feuding with Trump, it was interpreted with caution. Now, though, it looks like the first of a trend, as you can see at HuffPost Pollster:

However, Trump still leads in nearly all recent national polls, as well as in the early voting states of Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada. And the prospect of a Carson victory in Iowa isn't too much of a comfort to GOP elites — like Trump, he has never held elected office, makes a lot of controversial statements, and is viewed as likely to lose the general election.

Still, this first indication that Trump can in fact lose his poll lead will reassure elites who were growing increasingly nervous that he could win.

Can Carson lock down the evangelical vote?

The key to winning the Republican Iowa caucuses is winning the evangelical vote. Though evangelical or born-again Christians make up about a quarter of the state's population, they made up 57 percent of GOP caucus attendees in 2012 and 60 percent in 2008, according to entrance polls.

Russia's Sweeping Military Modernization Program Includes Massive Exercises, Engaging Hundreds of Thousands of Troops and Hundreds of State-of-the Art Aircraft Across Vast Areas

New Russian military might on full display in Syria

October 24, 2015

AP - Sleek combat jets loaded with precision bunker-buster bombs roar into the skies as soldiers in desert-style uniforms march past rows of neat housing at this Russian military base at one of Syria's largest airports.

The air campaign in Syria, Russia's first military action outside the former Soviet Union since the war in Afghanistan, shows a revamped Russian military, which sharply differs in both capability and mindset from the old, Soviet-style force.

It is capable of quickly projecting power far from Russian borders, widely uses drones and precision weapons, and cares about soldiers' comfort.

The thunder of Syria's civil war couldn't be heard at Hemeimeem, located in the coastal province of Latakia, which has largely been spared the chaos and destruction of more than 4 1/2 years of fighting in Syria.

A small group of journalists visiting the base this week could see a dozen Su-24 bombers taking off into the night with a deafening roar, piercing the darkness with scarlet flames from their engines.

Such missions were impossible just a few years ago, when the Russian air force had few planes capable of hitting targets at night.

As part of President Vladimir Putin's sweeping military modernization program, the air force received hundreds of new and modernized aircraft, all equipped with state-of-the art electronics on a par with U.S. and NATO jets.
"All aircraft here at the base are equipped with targeting systems that allow hitting targets with pinpoint precision," said Defense Ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov.
He dismissed Syrian opposition claims that the Russian airstrikes killed civilians as "sheer nonsense," saying the aircraft have hit ammunition depots, bunkers and other targets away from populated areas. The ministry has released cockpit video to support its claims, just as the Pentagon did during the two Gulf wars.

The precision strikes differ sharply from Russian operations to quash two separatist insurrections in Chechnya, where the Russian military indiscriminately used obsolete, inaccurate weapons, reducing the Chechen capital of Grozny to rubble.

Latakia, the heartland of Syrian President Bashar Assad's Alawite minority, offers the Russian military a safe environment — and a warm welcome from people blaring car horns and chanting "Thanks!" in Russian.

October 23, 2015

Israel Planned a Daring Commando Raid on Iran's Fordow Nuclear Facility in 2011 or 2012

Here's what an Israel attack on Iran's nuclear facilities might have looked like

October 23, 2015

Business Insider - For the better part of the past decade it was one of the most consequential questions in international affairs, with an answer that could potentially spark a war between two Middle Eastern military powers.

Just how close was Israel to attacking Iran's nuclear program? And if Israel ever launched a preventative strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, what would such an operation actually look like?

A blockbuster report by the Wall Street Journal's Adam Entous provides one possible answer. According to Entous, Israel planned a daring — and, in the US' view, disastrous and even suicidal — commando raid on Iran's Fordow nuclear facility in the early 2010s. Fordow is home to 2,700 uranium enrichment centrifuges and is housed inside a hollowed-out mountain on an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps base.
"Cargo planes would land in Iran with Israeli commandos on board who would 'blow the doors, and go in through the porch entrance' of Fordow, a senior US official said," according to Entous. "The Israelis planned to sabotage the nuclear facility from inside."
At some point in 2011 or 2012, Israel was apparently serious enough about this plan to violate Iranian airspace in the course of its preparations:
"Nerves frayed at the White House after senior officials learned Israeli aircraft had flown in and out of Iran in what some believed was a dry run for a commando raid on the site," Entous reported. 
The "dry run" could have been doubly aimed at signaling the seriousness of Israeli intentions — and Israeli military capabilities — to a US administration that was then in the process of opening backchannel nuclear negotiations with Tehran. But the US took the possibility of an Israeli strike seriously enough to alter its defense posture in the Persian Gulf in response to a possible Israeli attack, sending a second aircraft carrier to region for some unspecified period of time, the Journal reported.

Until the Iran nuclear deal was signed this past July, an Israeli strike on Iran was one of the most intriguing — and perhaps terrifying — hypothetical scenarios in global politics. Israeli officials often argued the country was capable of launching an attack that would destroy or severely disable many of Iran's facilities. At times, Israel pointedly demonstrated its long-range strike capabilities. In October of 2012, Israeli jets destroyed an Iranian-linked weapons facility in Khartoum, Sudan, a city almost exactly as far from Israel's borders as Iran's primary nuclear facilities.

A September 2010 Atlantic Magazine cover story by Jeffrey Goldberg laid out what were believed to be the requirements of a successful Israeli attack on Iran's facilities. Israel has no strategic bombers; its fighters would have to use Saudi airspace in order to make it to Iran while maintaining enough of a fuel load to return to base. Some of its planes might have had to land in Saudi Arabia to refuel, or even use a temporary desert base as a staging area. (One of the intriguing unanswered questions in the Wall Street Journal story is whether Israeli planes crossed into Saudi airspace during the alleged "dry run.")

At Least 10 Israelis and More Than 50 Palestinians Have Been Killed and Scores More Wounded in a Series of Shootings, Riots and Stabbings Since the Final Blood Red Moon of the Tetrad

Violence has been a constant companion in the Holy Land for more than six decades. It has both preserved the status quo and changed it. It cannot be an effective tool to realize Palestinian national aspirations or to guarantee Israel’s security. It is, however, likely to remain a default tool for both sides. Israelis use violence to defend themselves against and to control Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Palestinians use violence as a weapon to remind Israel that they still demand a state. [Source]

The Latest: Israel probes CCTV of troops beating Palestinian

October 22, 2015

AP - The latest developments in a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence (all times local).

3: 40 p.m.

Israel's military says an initial inquiry of security camera footage capturing Israeli troops as they kick and beat a Palestinian man shows they "did not act in accordance with the standards."

The army says it's still investigating. It says the incident took place at a time when Palestinians were throwing rocks and firebombs at troops nearby.

The footage released Friday by the Israeli rights group B'Tselem shows a man carrying a box into a storage room and then standing at the door, looking outside. Soldiers rush toward him, beat and kick him for several minutes while he lies on the ground, then drag him outside.

It's not clear what happened before the footage begins.

B'Tselem says the Oct. 6 incident happened in the West Bank town of el-Bireh.

Ansar Aasi, 25, the man in the video, says he wasn't involved in violence. "I raised my hand and told them I didn't do anything but they beat me everywhere," Aasi told The Associated Press. He said he was detained for five days and only released after his employer showed police the CCTV footage.

2:50 p.m.

Muslim prayers at Jerusalem's holiest site, which has been the epicenter of weeks of unrest, have ended peacefully.

It was the first time since violence erupted in mid-September that Muslims of all ages could attend the weekly Friday prayers at the Muslim-run site.

Jewish Settlers' House-by-house Removal of Arabs is an Attempt to Prevent Arab Areas in Jerusalem from Ever Becoming Part of a Palestinian State

Latest evictions of Arab tenants part of Jewish settlers' house-by-house battle for Jerusalem

The Associated Press

In this Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, photo, an Israeli flag hangs on the wall of a building that was taken over by Israeli settlers after Palestinian families were evicted in the Silwan neighborhood of east Jerusalem. The eviction is part of a house-by-house battle by Jewish settlement organizations, according to some with government backing, to prevent Arab areas in Jerusalem's ancient heart from ever becoming part of a Palestinian state. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

October 22, 2015

AP - On a recent morning, at a time of soaring Israeli-Palestinian tensions and massive police deployment in Jerusalem, security forces carried out an eviction order: Troops sealed off parts of the Arab neighborhood of Silwan and removed two families from their apartments to allow the entry of Jews named by a court as the rightful owners.

The evictions are part of a house-by-house battle waged by Jewish settler groups — at times with government support — to expand their presence in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem's ancient heart, an area the Palestinians seek as the core of a future capital.

Settler-driven displacement ranks high on a list of grievances linked to Israeli rule that Palestinians say helped spark the recent rash of attacks on Israelis, most of them stabbings. Israel mostly blames what it calls Palestinian incitement to violence.

Since mid-September, 10 Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks, while 48 Palestinians — including 27 labeled by Israel as attackers — were shot dead by Israelis.

Israelis "are creating this wave of stabbings because when they pressure human beings repeatedly, then there will be nothing left but to die, to grab that knife and go for them," said Abdullah Abu Nab, 59, who was evicted Monday, along with his wife, 9-year-old twin sons and six other relatives.

Jerusalem settlement groups such as Ateret Cohanim oppose any deal to set up a Palestinian state next to Israel, on lands Israel captured in 1967, including east Jerusalem.

Some settler activists also believe that moving more Jews to east Jerusalem's Old City and adjacent Arab neighborhoods, an area known as the Holy Basin because of its major shrines and archaeological sites, will hasten religious redemption.
"It's basically Zionism unfolding and a redemption process moving forward," said Daniel Luria of Ateret Cohanim, one of the groups active in Silwan.

October 22, 2015

U.S. to Boost Annual Military Aid to Israel By $1 Billion, on Top of the Current $3.1 Billion, While Reducing Annual Economic Aid to Palestinians from $370 Million to $290 Million

The United States is cutting economic aid for the Palestinian Authority, partly because of "unhelpful actions" by the Palestinians, a US diplomat said on Saturday. A specialised news site, al-Monitor, earlier said the US State Department intends to reduce aid for the West Bank and Gaza in fiscal 2016 from $370 million (335 million euros) to $290 million. [AFP]

US Plans $1 Billion Annual Hike In Israel Military Aid

October 22, 2015

Mint Press News - According to reports in the Israeli press, planned talks between Israel and the US on a one-time, multi-billion dollar military aid package in “compensation” for US approval of the Iran nuclear deal remain on hold, with focus on a planned increase in annual military aid to Israel.

The US currently sends Israel $3.1 billion annually in military aid, and the increase is expected to bump this up by roughly another billion dollars. Such plans tend toward 20-year timeframes, meaning the spending will add up to $20 billion more.

US military aid by and large isn’t cash, but rather credits used to purchase weapons from certain well-connected US arms makers, meaning the aid program amounts to a subsidy for both the Israeli military and for major US manufacturers.

Israeli DM Moshe Ya’alon is expected to visit the US next week for discussions on this aid hike, with expectations that a final deal on the bump would be announced during an upcoming visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

White House warns Netanyahu 'infammatory rhetoric' must stop

October 22, 2015

AFP - The White House warned Benjamin Netanyahu against "inflammatory rhetoric" Thursday after the Israeli prime minister claimed a Palestinian religious leader provoked the Holocaust.

Netanyahu on Tuesday suggested Hitler was not planning to exterminate the Jews until he met Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, a Palestinian nationalist, in 1941.

U.N. Says the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Has Again "Entered a Dangerous Phase That Shows No Signs of Abating"

UN move for resolution to end Israeli-Palestinian violence

October 22, 2015

AP - New Zealand plans to circulate a draft U.N. resolution that will call on the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to use their authority to end the current wave of violence, the country's foreign minister said Thursday.

Murray McCully told a ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council that the draft will also reaffirm the council's commitment to a two-state solution and direct Israeli-Palestinian talks to achieve peace.

McCully, whose country is serving a two-year term on the council, said "the events of recent weeks cry out for action."

With little prospect of negotiations amid the escalating conflict on the ground, he said the council should also mandate a course of action for the two parties to prepare for talks in "a realistic but early timeframe."

It has been six years since the council adopted a resolution on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, McCully said, and "this council must take responsibility for the failure of the diplomatic and political process, and move to resolve it."

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson opened the ministerial meeting saying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has again "entered a dangerous phase ... (that) shows no signs of abating."

He pointed to the killing of 47 Palestinians and seven Israelis between Oct. 1-21, with more than 5,000 Palestinians and some 70 Israelis injured.

Eliasson said the crisis is a result of Israel's "stifling and humiliating occupation" of Palestinian territories for almost half a century and diminishing hopes for a viable Palestinian state.

Eliasson told the council the international community must understand Israeli concerns at what they believe are growing attempts at "de-legitimization" of the country, and fears for their personal security.

But he blamed the deteriorating situation mainly on Israel's long occupation and its illegal settlements.

Israel's new U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon urged the council to "stop making excuses for the Palestinians" and hold them accountable for the current wave of violence.

He said the U.N. should end its usual practice of urging both sides to exercise restraint and demand that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "cease his incitement."

Danon reiterated that Israel has not changed the "status quo" at Jerusalem's holiest site as Palestinians claim.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki accused Israel of "feeding the fires of religious racism and hatred" and ignoring a warning that its actions at Jerusalem's holiest site will lead to religious strife.
Malki demanded that Israel explain its claim that the "status quo" at the site is unchanged.

He also warned the council that focusing on short-term measures and treating the symptoms and not the root causes of the current crisis will only "further aggravate the situation."

U.N. Urges All of Those with Influence to Use it to Deescalate the Israel-Palestine Situation

The Latest: UN chief 'pessimistic' on Israel-Palestinians

October 21, 2015

AP - The latest developments in a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence (all times local).

1:30 a.m.

A British diplomat says U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki-moon offered the Security Council a grim assessment of prospects for defusing the violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft says council members were "struck by the pessimistic tone" Ban took during the closed video briefing. Ban spoke to council members after meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders during a surprise trip to the Middle East.

Rycroft says Ban urged "all of those with influence need to use it to deescalate the situation."

But Rycroft said he expected no concrete action to emerge from a Security Council debate on the Middle East on Thursday. He said, "It doesn't look like there is going to be consensus for a significant new step agreed upon tomorrow but we continue to live and hope."

9:20 p.m.

Israel's military says a Palestinian rammed his car into a group of Israelis in the West Bank, injuring four people.

It said that soldiers at the scene Wednesday night opened fire at the assailant.

Channel 2 TV reported that an Israeli car was pelted with rocks prompting the passengers to get out of the vehicle and a Palestinian car drove then into them. The driver of the Palestinian car was also injured but it was not clear if he was shot or hurt in the crash, it said. The military said he was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

It was the latest incident in about a month of violence. Palestinian assailants have killed 10 Israelis, mostly in knife attacks, while 47 Palestinians — including 26 identified by Israel as attackers — have been killed. The others died in clashes with Israeli security forces.

8:50 p.m.

U.N. Does Not Recommend International Protection Force to be Deployed at Jerusalem's Holy Sites

U.N. issues summary of protection forces as Palestinians requested

October 21, 2015

Reuters - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday released a summary of past international protection regimes for disputed territories as requested by the Palestinians, though he made clear he was not recommending one for holy sites in Jerusalem.

The report was issued after Ban held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. After two days of Ban's discussions in the region, there were no signs weeks of Israeli-Palestinian violence were ending.

The 42-page report does not focus on the successes and failures of the various protection regimes but merely describes their structures and legal bases.

It was Abbas who originally requested the report's release. The Palestinians have been calling for an international protection force to be deployed at Jerusalem's holy sites.

In a cover letter accompanying the report, Ban told the 15 Security Council members that "this paper does not propose any particular system ... for the Occupied Palestinian Territory."

Diplomats said on condition of anonymity that the French had suggested that the Security Council ask the United Nations to prepare a report weighing options for a protection regime for Jerusalem's holy sites, but the United States, Israel and others opposed it.

The Feds Want You to Think That the 401(k) Crisis is Getting Worse So They Can Come After Private Retirement Accounts

The 401(k) crisis is getting worse

October 21, 2015

Bloomberg - Tim Egan has been working since he was 14. He’s now 56 and has spent most of his career as a restaurant manager. He has virtually nothing saved for retirement and, until last month, never had a 401(k) account.

Little wonder: Only two of the 20 restaurants where Egan has worked in the past four decades had retirement-savings plans.
“The restaurant business is what I’m good at, but few owners, especially of small places, offer retirement benefits, no matter how much money you help them earn,” says Egan, who worked his way up from dishwasher to waiter to bartender before rising to manager 20 years ago.
Egan’s story isn’t unusual among the legions of Americans who work part time, switch jobs frequently or earn their livings at small companies, which generated two-thirds of all new jobs last year. Even as people live longer and must save more for old age than prior generations, most can not depend on any help from employers. Almost half of U.S. workers didn’t have a company-sponsored retirement plan in 2013, compared with 39 percent in 1999, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School for Social Research in New York.

The lack of plans is fueling a retirement-savings crisis. Few workers save anything outside of employer-sponsored plans. Only 8 percent of taxpayers eligible to set aside money in an IRA or Roth IRA did so in 2010, according to the IRS.

Egan set up an IRA in his 40s. In a bid to make up for the years he hadn’t saved, Egan invested mostly in equities and lost a lot of his savings during the financial crisis. He currently has less than $20,000.

Low-income Americans have long relied mostly on Social Security. Now middle-class professionals and managers are increasingly doing the same. But the average Social Security benefit -- $15,700 a year -- doesn’t come close to replacing the earnings of those with mid-five and six-figure salaries.
“There’s a huge coverage gap that needs to be addressed,” says Debra Whitman, chief public policy officer at AARP, the 37 million-member organization for people 50 and older.
Those most vulnerable include both millennials at startups and managers in their 40s and 50s who’ve gone from corporate jobs with benefits to small businesses without them. Some 58 percent of the 68 million wage-and-salary workers without a company-sponsored retirement plan in 2013 worked for a business with fewer than 100 employees, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
“The current 401(k) system was designed for a workplace that doesn’t exist for most people: lifetime careers at big corporations that offer benefits,” says Teresa Ghilarducci, an economist at the New School who researches retirement policies. “Saving consistently -- which you need to do for just a modest retirement income -- isn’t remotely likely.”
The 401(k) crisis is getting worse With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, concerns are mounting about how to fix a system that excludes so many. There are plenty of ideas but little consensus among government officials, business executives, economists and others.

Small companies are among the most resistant. Many aren’t convinced it’s their responsibility to help employees save for retirement. And owners often balk at the costs and complications of offering a 401(k), even without a matching contribution. Only 45 percent of companies with fewer than 100 employees had 401(k)s in March, according to the Bureau Labor of Statistics.