Politics and Legislation
Boehner: Obama should pay back taxpayers for campaign-style trip costs
House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday unleashed one of his harshest denunciations of President Obama since taking control of the House last year.
Boehner (R-Ohio) called on President Obama’s reelection campaign to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of a campaign-style trip to battleground states, accusing the White House of a “pathetic” attempt to stir up an election-year fight over student loans.
“This week the president traveled across the country on taxpayers’ dime at a cost of $179,000 an hour insisting the Congress fix a problem that we were already working on. Frankly, I think this is beneath the dignity of the White House,” Boehner said at the outset of his weekly Capitol press briefing.
The Speaker’s comments came a day after Obama singled out Boehner for criticism over the student loan program during a speech at the University of Iowa.
The president has traveled to college campuses in North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado — three battleground states — and held large rallies to urge Congress to prevent a looming hike in student loan interest rates. The trip was billed as official White House business, but Boehner said that claim “didn’t pass the straight-face test” and that Obama was creating “a fake fight” purely for political purposes. The White House again defended the trip as legitimate on Thursday.
The NSA is Watching You
By Amy Goodman
Three targeted Americans: A career government intelligence official, a filmmaker and a hacker. None of these U.S. citizens was charged with a crime, but they have been tracked, surveilled, detained—sometimes at gunpoint—and interrogated, with no access to a lawyer. Each remains resolute in standing up to the increasing government crackdown on dissent.
The intelligence official: William Binney worked for almost 40 years at the secretive National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. spy agency that dwarfs the CIA. As technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, Binney told me, he was tasked to “see how we could solve collection, analysis and reporting on military and geopolitical issues all around the world, every country in the world.” Throughout the 1990s, the NSA developed a massive eavesdropping system code-named ThinThread, which, Binney says, maintained crucial protections on the privacy of U.S. citizens demanded by the U.S. Constitution. He recalled, “After 9/11, all the wraps came off for NSA,” as massive domestic spying became the norm. He resigned on Oct. 31, 2001.
Along with several other NSA officials, Binney reported his concerns to Congress and to the Department of Defense. Then, in 2007, as then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was being questioned on Capitol Hill about the very domestic spying to which Binney objected, a dozen FBI agents charged into his house, guns drawn. They forced aside his son and found Binney, a diabetic amputee, in the shower. They pointed their guns at his head, then led him to his back porch and interrogated him.
Three others were raided that morning. Binney called the FBI raid “retribution and intimidation so we didn’t go to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate and tell them, ‘Well, here’s what Gonzales didn’t tell you, OK.’ ” Binney was never charged with any crime.
Obama Admin Challenges AZ Anti-Immigrant Law While Pushing Unprecedented Mass Deportations
Published on Apr 26, 2012 by democracynow
DemocracyNow.org – We get an update from Colorlines.com reporter Seth Freed Wessler about hearings Wednesday before the U.S. Supreme Court on Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law known as S.B. 1070. The case could have implications for a half-dozen other states that passed similar measures which are now on hold pending its outcome. “The question on the table in the Court yesterday was what the states are allowed to do, but the question that lots of people have on the ground is, what’s Obama going to do?” says Wessler. “The administration has deported more people than ever before — 400,000 people.” Based on their line of questioning, justices across the ideological spectrum appeared reluctant to strike down the provision. Should the court uphold any part of the law, civil rights groups plan to challenge it on grounds that it discriminates on the basis of race and ethnic background. “The bottom line: They don’t really understand the extent to which this law goes deeper and really impacts the lives of people who are living here, not just those who are undocumented, but those who have been here for three or four generations who are of Latino background who are being stopped and harassed and detained,” says activist Randy Parraz of Citizens for a Better Arizona.
To watch the complete independent, weekday news hour, read the transcript and download the podcast, please visit http://www.democracynow.org.
CISPA Critics: Cybersecurity Act Will Increase Domestic Surveillance, Violate Privacy Rights
Published on Apr 26, 2012 by democracynow
DemocracyNow.org – As it heads toward a House vote, critics say the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) would allow private internet companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft to hand over troves of confidential customer records and communications to the National Security Agency, FBI and Department of Homeland Security, effectively legalizing a secret domestic surveillance program already run by the NSA. Backers say the measure is needed to help private firms crackdown on foreign entities — including the Chinese and Russian governments — committing online economic espionage. The bill has faced widespread opposition from online privacy advocates and even the Obama administration, which has threatened a veto. We speak with Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
To watch the complete independent, weekday news hour, read the transcript and download the podcast, please visit http://www.democracynow.org.
Algerian fatwa threatens voters with NATO
Thursday, 26 April 2012
By Ramadane Belmar
Al Arabiya Algiers
A prominent Algerian preacher warned of the consequences of not going to the ballot box in the upcoming parliamentary elections and predicted a NATO attack on the country in case of a low turnout.
Following statements by Algerian President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika on the necessity of taking part in the election scheduled for May 10, controversial preacher Sheikh Shams al-Din Buroubi said the Libyan scenario is likely to be repeated in Algeria if citizens do not cast their votes.
“Voting in the May 10 elections is a duty as vital as an honest testimony that is bound to make the truth known or to put an end to corruption,” Buroubi said in his fatwa. “Whoever does not perform this duty will have committed a grave sin.”
Buroubi mentioned in his fatwa the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, known for his colonial views on Algeria, and said that the “Algerian Spring” is close.
“Colonial powers are waiting for people to abstain from voting so they can then claim that they want to liberate Algerians from tyranny and allow NATO to interfere as happened in Libya.”
Buroubi denied that his fatwa was aimed at supporting the statements of the president, who warned of “dangers” he did not specify in case Algerians do not take part in the elections.
“Nobody asked me to issue this fatwa and I didn’t issue it to please anyone,” he told Al Arabiya. “This fatwa is based on the rules of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet.”
Read Full Article Here
580 jobs axed at Merck KGaA as it closes Geneva HQ
Merck KGaA has announced the planned closure of its Merck Serono headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of a restructure unveiled earlier this year to maximise the efficiency of its operations.
The drugmaker said that out of 1,250 current positions in Geneva over 750 will be transferred elsewhere, but that 500 will be cut in order to “eliminate duplications and create a leaner, more agile organisation”.
All headquarter functions will be consolidated into one campus in Darmstadt, Germany, while key research and development positions will migrate from Geneva to Darmstadt, Boston (USA) and Beijing (China), “to optimally leverage scientific expertise in the biotech hub of Boston and to ensure state-of-the-art clinical development in all key growth markets”.
CEO Brennan to leave AstraZeneca as profits sink
As it posted disappointing sales and earnings for the first quarter, AstraZeneca has announced that chief executive David Brennan is to retire, amid pressure from disgruntled shareholders.
Mr Brennan (pictured) will be replaced by chief financial officer Simon Lowth from June 1 on an interim basis. It was also revealed that Leif Johansson will succeed Louis Schweitzer as non-executive chairman three months earlier than previously announced, in order to lead the selection process for Mr Brennan’s successor “including both internal and external candidates”.
Mr Brennan’s decision has come as something of a surprise given that just a week ago, he was reported as saying that he was “plugged in” as boss, despite rumours that a number of major shareholders had questioned whether he was the man to lead the company as it battles to deal with several recent pipeline setbacks. However, he now says that “after more than six years as CEO of this great company, I have decided that now is the right time to step down and allow a new leader to take the reins”.
Mr Schweitzer said: “David has led AstraZeneca’s business with skill, integrity and courage during a period of enormous change for the pharmaceutical industry and for the company”. He added that “we fully understand and respect David’s decision to retire and thank him for his selfless leadership”.
Operating profit down 36%
Student loan interest set to skyrocket
Published on Apr 24, 2012 by wish
It’s become the latest political fight in Washington D.C. A subsidy on the interest rate for some student loans is set to expire in July, unless Congress takes action. And right now, Congress isn’t making any moves to renew it.
22 Red Flags That Indicate That Very Serious Doom Is Coming For Global Financial Markets
If you enjoy watching financial doom, then you are quite likely to really enjoy the rest of 2012. Right now, red flags are popping up all over the place. Corporate insiders are selling off stock like there is no tomorrow, major economies all over Europe continue to implode, the IMF is warning that the eurozone could actually break up and there are signs of trouble at major banks all over the planet. Unfortunately, it looks like the period of relative stability that global financial markets have been enjoying is about to come to an end. A whole host of problems that have been festering just below the surface are starting to manifest, and we are beginning to see the ingredients for a “perfect storm” start to come together. The greatest global debt bubble in human history is showing signs that it is getting ready to burst, and when that happens the consequences are going to be absolutely horrific. Hopefully we still have at least a little bit more time before the global financial system implodes, but at this point it doesn’t look like anything is going to be able to stop the chaos that is on the horizon.
The following are 22 red flags that indicate that very serious doom is coming for global financial markets….
Wars and Rumors of War
North Korea Claims Ability To Destroy US Military In ‘Single Blow’
Written by: VOA
April 26, 2012
By Steve Herman
North Korea’s army marked its 80th anniversary Wednesday with a vow to retaliate against what its chief of staff terms the traitors in the South. The remarks are the latest in a series of harsh threats directed at Seoul in recent weeks.
North Korea’s provocations
North Korea is boasting of “powerful, modern weapons” that can defeat in a single blow the United States, which it accuses of plotting a war against it.
Chief of general staff, Ri Yong Ho, gave no further details about the weaponry in his speech to mark the North Korean army’s 80th anniversary.
His address, from Pyongyang’s House of Culture, was broadcast later in the day on North Korean television.
Vice Marshal Ri says the blood of North Korea’s military and civilians is boiling in anger with a desire for revenge against South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak. He reiterates a threat of “sacred war,” transmitted earlier in the week, to crush the bases of provocation in the South.
North Korea’s new, young leader Kim Jong Un was in the audience for Ri’s remarks. But Kim – who holds the rank of a four-star general – did not address the gathering.
Gantz: IDF and other armies ready to strike Iran’s nuclear capabilities
DEBKAfileExclusive Report April 26, 2012, 5:30 PM (GMT+02:00)
Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu acted Thursday, April 26, to correct the damaging impression of divided and uncertain perceptions of the Iranian nuclear threat left by statements delivered in the last two days by himself and Defense Minster Ehud Barak.
Israel’s chief of staff Gen. Benny Gantz rallied to the task with an unambiguous comment that “other countries have readied their armed forces for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear sites to keep Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The military force is ready. Not only our forces but other forces as well,” he said without elaborating.
“We all hope it will not be necessary to use this force, but we are absolutely sure of its existence.”
China steps back from supporting Assad, parts ways with Russia
Beijing has decided to distance itself from the Assad regime of Syria. Notice of this policy shift came about in a secret exchange of messages with the Obama administration, revealed here exclusively by debkafile’s Washington sources. The latest message received in the latter half of last week said: China will no longer be a problem for America in dealing with Assad. That leaves only Russia.
This change of face surfaced at the UN Security Council on Saturday, April 21, when after voting for another 300 observers for Syria, the Chinese delegate Li Baodong made an unusual speech:
“We also call upon the international community to continue its firm support for Mr. Annan’s good offices’ efforts and consolidate the results achieved, and we strongly oppose any word and act aimed at creating difficulties for Mr. Annan’s good offices.”
Li went on to say: “China always maintained that the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the choice and the will of the Syrian people should be respected.”
Western sources stress that, with this speech, the Chinese ambassador stepped aside from Russia’s uncompromising backing for the Syrian ruler. Moscow remained the only world power acting to limit the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s powers and the effectiveness of the UN monitors by denying them proper equipment and authority for overseeing an end to the violence in Syria.
The shift in Chinese policy was noted by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on April 10 when, after visiting Beijing, he remarked: “China is not in the same position as it was before. It is shifting away from full support for Assad’s regime.”
Iran rides high on nuclear concessions, demands end to sanctions
DEBKAfileSpecial Report April 21, 2012, 1:53 PM (GMT+02:00)
Praise for the Iranian negotiating team’s “achievements” at Istanbul along with a demand to end sanctions highlighted the sermon delivered on April 20 by the powerful provisional Friday Prayers Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who is also Chairman of the Guardian Council and Imam of Tehran.
Since the western side had officially accepted “Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear enrichment,” he said, the talks with the six world powers were a success for Iran. However, “if Western hostility continues by the stretch of sanctions and pressures, Iran will leave the negotiating table,” Ayatollah Jannati warned.
debkafile’s Iranian sources say that Tehran is making no secret of its substantial gains on the diplomatic front or its tactics. The US framework proposals submitted in secret, direct talks with Iran, although not yet finalized, are being treated in Tehran as a done deal. Iran is therefore hailing US offers to acknowledge its right to enrich uranium and relieve Iran’s nuclear program of international inspection as concessions already in the bag. Sensing they are on a winning streak against the West, Tehran is now pushing for the lifting of Western sanctions, “to gain the trust of the Iranian people.”
European sources calculate that the Obama administration will soon decide to lift sanctions in stages.
The unfinished, unsigned US-Iranian deal is gaining traction as a done deal in America too.
Friday, April 20, the military historian Prof. Frederick W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, published an article under the heading “P5 plus 1 Ceding Red Lines in Iran Nuclear Talks.”
He said the United States had flouted UN Security Council resolutions and IAEA demands of Iran (to make its military installations transparent) in exchange for an Iranian commitment to stop its nuclear development on the threshold of “breakout capability.”
As Israeli leaders wrangle over Iran, a new US spy agency will deal with Tehran
DEBKAfileExclusive Report April 25, 2012, 5:38 PM (GMT+02:00)
Israeli leaders were harshly criticized on the eve of Israel’s 64th Independence Day for too much speechifying and no real action against a nuclear Iran, whereas the US in contrast finally made a move by establishing a new Pentagon spy agency for gathering intelligence inside Iran. April 24 and 25, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak addressed memorial ceremonies for the fallen, they reiterated the same old “Israel will not permit Iran to acquire nuclear arms” – a remark which the Israeli street has stopped taking seriously. Many members of military and intelligence circles are quoted by debkafile as believing that Israel may have waited too long and, along with the US, lost the initiative.
Jerusalem and Washington are still at odds on Iran, but the theme of their dispute has shifted. It is no longer about Iran’s timeline for building a bomb, but what kind. They agree that Tehran will not possess advanced nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles capable of penetrating the US and Israeli missile defenses any time soon. Israel is now worried about more primitive devices like the ones in the North Korean and Pakistani arsenals which Israeli believes are in the final stages of constructions.
The question in Israeli intelligence circles is this: Why is the impending North Korean nuclear test considered by the US, Japan and South Korea a major menace while no one seems to care about devices identical to the one Pyongyang plans to explode on the way to operational capability.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon said publicly earlier this month that by the end of 2012, Iran would have a dirty bomb.
Articles of Interest
Outrage as Egypt plans ‘farewell intercourse law’ so husbands can have sex with DEAD wives up to six hours after their death
By Lee Moran
PUBLISHED: 04:28 EST, 26 April 2012 | UPDATED: 05:55 EST, 26 April 2012
Egyptian husbands will soon be legally allowed to have sex with their dead wives – for up to six hours after their death.
The controversial new law is part of a raft of measures being introduced by the Islamist-dominated parliament.
It will also see the minimum age of marriage lowered to 14 and the ridding of women’s rights of getting education and employment.
Controversial: The ‘farewell intercourse’ law is part of a raft of measures being introduced by the Islamist-dominated parliament
Egypt’s National Council for Women is campaigning against the changes, saying that ‘marginalising and undermining the status of women would negatively affect the country’s human development’.
Dr Mervat al-Talawi, head of the NCW, wrote to the Egyptian People’s Assembly Speaker Dr Saad al-Katatni addressing her concerns.
Egyptian journalist Amro Abdul Samea reported in the al-Ahram newspaper that Talawi complained about the legislations which are being introduced under ‘alleged religious interpretations’.
Egypt’s women urge MPs not to pass early marriage, sex-after-death laws: report
By Abeer Tayel
Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) has appealed to the Islamist-dominated parliament not to approve two controversial laws on the minimum age of marriage and allowing a husband to have sex with his dead wife within six hours of her death according to a report in an Egyptian newspaper.
The appeal came in a message sent by Dr. Mervat al-Talawi, head of the NCW, to the Egyptian People’s Assembly Speaker, Dr. Saad al-Katatni, addressing the woes of Egyptian women, especially after the popular uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
She was referring to two laws: one that would legalize the marriage of girls starting from the age of 14 and the other that permits a husband to have sex with his dead wife within the six hours following her death.
According to Egyptian columnist Amro Abdul Samea in al-Ahram, Talawi’s message included an appeal to parliament to avoid the controversial legislations that rid women of their rights of getting education and employment, under alleged religious interpretations.
“Talawi tried to underline in her message that marginalizing and undermining the status of women in future development plans would undoubtedly negatively affect the country’s human development, simply because women represent half the population,” Abdul Samea said in his article.
The controversy about a husband having sex with his dead wife came about after a Moroccan cleric spoke about the issue in May 2011.
Zamzami Abdul Bari said that marriage remains valid even after death adding that a woman also too had the same right to engage in sex with her dead husband.
Two years ago, Zamzami incited further controversy in Morocco when he said it was permissible for pregnant women to drink alcohol.
But it seems his view on partners having sex with their deceased partners has found its way to Egypt one year on.
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