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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 29,876

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NSA Director: Surveillance Programs Foiled About 50 Terrorist Plots

Washington — The National Security Agency director on Tuesday vigorously defended two formerly secret surveillance programs as having foiled more than 50 terrorist plots, including a plan to blow up the New York Stock Exchange.

The programs are “the best counterterrorism tools that we have to go after these guys,” said NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander, flanked by other top law and intelligence officials. “We can’t lose those capabilities.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Howell, called Alexander a “patriot” Tuesday as he kicked off a rare public hearing by his committee that is charged with oversight of the classified phone and Internet surveillance programs recently leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Before a Senate panel last week, Alexander said the leaked programs foiled “dozens” of terrorist plots. He offered more specifics Tuesday about two more unclassified plots and pledged to release the details of the more than 50 cases in a classified report to the Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.

Internet intelligence identified a Kansas City man talking to an extremist in Yemen and foiled a developing plot to bomb the Wall Street stock exchange, said Sean Joyce, deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In another instance, the phone records program identified a San Diego man who was providing financial support to a terrorist group in Somalia, Joyce told the committee under further questioning.


From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130618/POLITICS03/306180052#ixzz2Wb3wnoLw

I *do* believe in spooks, I *do* believe in spooks. I do, I do, I do, I *do* believe in spooks, I *do* believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do, I *do*!

Israeli Politicians Protect 'Price Tag' Attackers

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his security cabinet have declared that ‘price tag’ perpetrators – thugs who attack Palestinian property in the West Bank, vandalize Christian or Muslim holy sites and private homes of left-wing activists within the Green Line – will not be labelled “terror” groups, but rather as “illegal associations.” The designation is important because it indicates which laws authorities can apply in their effort to crack down on these activities.

Israeli news has been reporting the authorities’ frustration in trying to break into the cells and prevent the attacks; the move is supposed to be part of a stepped-up effort to address the problem. It is hard not to be cynical, though, when military courts and jails are full of Palestinians for every stone thrown, but other crimes – like torching cars and burning mosques – just seem far too complex and sophisticated for a simple Israeli intelligence outfit to solve.

In truth, I don’t think this is worth a lengthy moral or ideological debate about whether the group should be labelled as terrorists in general, since it has not killed civilians, thank god. What matters is that the government stop the violence that indeed terrorizes people and sows lawlessness in the land under Israel’s control, while entrenching the unequal standards of law enforcement for two different populations. To that end, perhaps the most deplorable point in Haaretz‘ coverage of the issue (Hebrew) is the following. Barak Ravid writes:

Prime Minister Netanyahu hesitated from the decision to declare “price tag” activists as a terror organization, especially against the background of political pressure from settler leaders in the West Bank and from the Jewish Home party, as well as figures in his own party. Holding a vote within the government about defining the “price tag” activists as a terror organization could have sparked a coalition crisis. [My translation - DS]



One By One, Israel's Coalition Members Abandon Two-State Rhetoric

Economy Minister and Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett is the latest MK to join a robust list of Israeli government coalition members who have publicly stated that the two-state solution is dead and that the notion of a Palestinian state is a thing of the past. Although it’s no new position for him, Bennett is making it clear that no matter what Prime Minister Netanyahu says or what polls show, the Israel of 2013 is squarely against a two-state solution.

Bennett stated that ”the idea of forming a Palestinian state in Israel has reached a dead end,” speaking at a settler council meeting Monday morning, comparing the “Palestinian problem” to a “piece of shrapnel” lodged in someone’s rear end; that one needs to learn to live with a pain in the ass rather than surgically remove it and risk becoming disabled.

Bennett also asserted there is no occupation, since Israeli Jews cannot be occupiers in their own home (echoing the Netanyahu-commissioned Levy Report from nearly a year ago that concluded there is no occupation) and called on Israel to annex Area C of the West Bank. This is similar to what Likud MK and former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin said last year: “Today, almost 20 years since Oslo, one could clearly argue that the idea of separating between the nations has failed … Between the Jordan River and the sea, there can only be one state, Jewish and democratic, with a solid Jewish majority.”

There are plenty of other coalition members who have publicly come out against the two-state solution and the possibility of a viable Palestinian state, as a Knesset committee meeting on the subject exposed last month. It’s not just fundamentalist Hebron settler Orit Struck from Jewish Home, who said two states are ”not part of the government’s guiding principles, and for good reason.”



Israel Seeks $5 Billion US Loan Guarantees - Report

Israel's Defense Ministry will ask the US to guarantee $5 billion in bridge loans that Israel plans taking from US commercial banks to finance procurement of advanced weapons systems that the Obama administration is offering Israel including the Osprey aircraft-helicopter and smart munitions. In the long term procurement will be financed by US military aid, and the loans will bridge the intermediary period in which annual US military aid to Israel is $3.1 billion not enough to finance the new weaponry, US "Defense News" reports.

One senior US source told the weekly magazine that approving the guarantees would not be dependent on Israeli concessions in the peace process with the Palestinians. The US would see such approval as a confidence building measure. "There won't be conditions but there will be expectations," the source said.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during his visit to Israel in April that Washington, "would be prepared to put at Israel's disposal the new advanced military capabilities to strengthen it qualitative advantage over its military enemies."

Immediately after this announcement, Pentagon sources expressed annoyance over the administration's decision to prematurely make public the planned procurements. Sources said then that there had been no talks between the US and Israel on costs, quantities, payment conditions and delivery dates.



Iran Is Ready to Suspend 20% Uranium Enrichment, Russia Says

Source: Bloomberg

By Henry Meyer and Stepan Kravchenko - Jun 18, 2013
Iran is ready to suspend enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, a key demand of world powers at talks over its disputed nuclear program, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

In return, the Persian Gulf nation must be offered “weighty reciprocal steps,” including a gradual lifting of unilateral and United Nations sanctions, Lavrov said in an interview with the Kuwaiti news service Kuna posted today on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

“This could become a breakthrough agreement that could largely remove the tension surrounding the existing problems, including concern about enrichment rising to weapons level,” he said. “It would be unforgivable not to use this opportunity.”

Progress on an interim proposal by the world powers for Iran to suspend its 20 percent enrichment of uranium in return for limited relief from sanctions was scuttled at the latest round of talks in April by Iran’s insistence on being assured that what it sees as its right to peaceful enrichment of uranium will eventually be recognized.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-18/iran-is-ready-to-suspend-20-uranium-enrichment-russia-says.html

New Voters Loosen Republicans’ Grip on Old Dominion

The downtown in Leesburg, Virginia, offers a portrait of attachment to the past. Federal-style buildings line the streets, and the courthouse square features both a plaque commemorating a reading in 1776 of the Declaration of Independence and a statute honoring Confederate soldiers.

The picture is misleading.

A more accurate rendering reveals a downtown that gives way to suburban growth that has made Loudoun County the wealthiest in the U.S. Technology companies, many with ties to the federal government, and other businesses fueled by the development have stoked an economy attracting higher educated workers and minority populations that have soared since 1990 -- a five-fold increase of Hispanics and seven times the number of Asians.

Located 40 miles from Washington, D.C, Loudoun County is now considered by White House officials to be one of the best bellwethers for presidential elections. President Barack Obama won there in 2008, the first Democrat to do so since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and again in 2012, victories that signaled how shifting economic and population trends are refashioning the politics of Virginia and the nation.

“We are seeing a solidly red state turn blue,” said Dustin Cable, a demographer at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service in Charlottesville. “Virginia is really ground zero for a lot of what we see at the national level.”



US Home Construction Up 6.8 Pct. In May; Permits For More Single-Family Homes Hit 5-Year High

Source: Associated Press

WASHINGTON — U.S. builders stepped up home construction in May and applied for permits to build single-family homes at the fastest pace in five years. The gains show housing remains a key source of growth for the economy.

The overall pace of homes started rose 6.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 914,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That offset part of the 14.8 percent decline in April. May's rate is still below March's pace of more than 1 million — the fastest in five years.

Construction increased in May for both single-family homes and apartments and condos.

And builders sought more permits to build single-family homes, which make up nearly two-third of the market. The seasonally adjusted annual rate rose 1.3 percent to 622,000 — the highest since May 2008. That's a sign that construction will increase further in the coming months.

Read more: http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/f532e1e7b7664a59a648fa155e44172f/US--Housing-Starts/

Obama Says Bernanke Fed Term Lasting ‘Longer Than He Wanted’

Source: Bloomberg

President Barack Obama said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has stayed in his post “longer than he wanted,” one of the clearest signals the central bank chief will leave when his current term expires next year.

“Ben Bernanke’s done an outstanding job,” Obama said in an interview with Charlie Rose that airs tonight, when asked about nominating him for another term subject to Senate approval. “He’s already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to.”

Obama likened Bernanke’s tenure to that of outgoing Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller, who stayed on for two years after his term expired in 2011 and is leaving his post in September. Bernanke’s second four-year stint at the central bank ends Jan. 31.

Bernanke, like Mueller, was initially nominated to the post by former President George W. Bush. Obama asked Bernanke to serve another term as chairman, which he began on Feb. 1, 2010. The 59-year-old former Princeton University professor and Great Depression scholar also served on Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-18/obama-says-bernanke-fed-term-lasting-longer-than-he-wanted-1-.html

Obama Joins G-8 Allies Isolating Putin Over Assad Support

President Barack Obama and European allies moved to further isolate Russian president Vladimir Putin for supporting the regime in Syria even as the leaders sought a way to push both sides in that nation’s civil war into talks.

“Of course, our opinions do not coincide, but all of us have the intention to stop the violence in Syria,” Putin said yesterday after meeting with Obama on the sidelines of a summit in Northern Ireland.

“We do have differing perspectives,” Obama said, adding that “we share an interest in reducing the violence.”

In a public split rare at global summits, some western leaders gathered for the Group of Eight industrial nations publicly rebuked Putin for backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a bloody conflict that has killed more than 93,000 people. A British official, who asked not to be identified, called the event a clarifying moment in differences over Syria.

Even as the White House’s decision last week to send small arms to Syrian rebels deepened differences with Putin, Obama stressed “a careful, calibrated” approach to U.S. involvement in the conflict during an interview aired last night on PBS’s “The Charlie Rose Show.”



"Isolate" Putin at your our peril, indeed. This clusterfuck just seems to be getting started...

Bill Clinton Urges More Forceful U.S. Response On Syria - Report

WASHINGTON | Thu Jun 13, 2013 10:30pm IST
(Reuters) - As the Obama administration considers whether to arm Syrian rebels, former President Bill Clinton increased pressure for a stronger U.S. role in Syria's civil war, short of sending in U.S. troops, according to a report.

"Nobody is asking for American soldiers in Syria," Clinton said, according to the report from the newspaper Politico published late Wednesday.

"The only question is: now that the Russians, the Iranians and the Hezbollah are in there head over heels ... should we try to do something to try to slow their gains and rebalance the power so that these rebel groups have a decent chance, if they're supported by a majority of the people, to prevail?"

Clinton made the remarks at a closed-press event earlier this week with Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, one of the fiercest critics of President Barack Obama's unwillingness so far to provide direct military support to the rebels opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


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