Archive for January, 2015


January 28, 2015

NewsMax on January 27, 2015, reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham is a harsh critic of President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, and says his biggest mistake is yet to come: Allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons. Excerpts below:

Appearing on Fox News Channel’s “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren,” the South Carolina Republican said Obama tends to marginalize threats and oversell his successes.

“Bin Laden is dead, but al Qaida is not decimated,” Graham said. “If we continue on the path we are with the Iranians they’ll wind up with a nuclear capability like North Korea and one day have a bomb. He’s about to make the biggest mistake of this presidency.”

Critics such as Graham say Iran’s real aim is a nuclear weapons program, with which it could wipe out Israel and even reach Europe or the United States.

“The only thing between us and a nuclear-capable Iran, the ayatollahs in Iran, will be the U.N.,” Graham said. “That did not work in North Korea. It will not work in Iran.”


January 25, 2015

Daily Telegraph on January 23, 2015, reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) obtained communications between key individuals in London and Moscow from the time that Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive material. Excerpts below:

The National Security Agency (NSA) obtained electronic communications between key individuals in London and Moscow from the time that the former spy was poisoned with radioactive material in central London. The evidence was passed to the British authorities.

A source familiar with the investigation confirmed the existence of American “intelligence material”. They said it would have been “inadmissible” in court, but that the British authorities were “confident that this was a state execution”.

The disclosure comes ahead of the start of the public inquiry into Litvinenko’s death in 2006, which will see hearings, many of which will be held in secret, carried out over a nine-week period in the High Court from Tuesday.

The existence of the American intelligence material offers the first proof that the Russian state was involved in the murder of the dissident and explains why senior British politicians have been so confident in publicly blaming the Kremlin for the murder.

It is revealed as part of a Telegraph investigation which also unearthed an audio recording appearing to capture Litvinenko giving a detailed account of his investigations into links between Vladimir Putin and one of the world’s most dangerous criminals.

The tape will reignite claims that Litvinenko could have been killed as a result of investigative work he carried out in a series of European countries after leaving Russia.

The disclosure of the material is likely to be put pressure on the British government’s relationship with the Kremlin and will renew calls for the UK to toughen its stance.

The start of the inquiry comes after years of campaigning by Marina Litvinenko, the widow of the former KGB spy, for an official verdict on his death.

Mrs Litvinenko has applied to the NSA to disclose telephone intercepts, and says that

Litvinenko was poisoned in November 2006 during a meeting at a Mayfair hotel. He died three weeks later. Tests revealed that he ingested a rare isotope, polonium 210, which is hard to detect.

British prosecutors want two men, Andrei Lugovoy and Dimitri Kovtun, both of whom are former KGB bodyguards, to face murder charges over the murder.

Mr Lugovoy, now a Russian MP, and Mr Kovton, have always maintained their innocence and Moscow have said that they cannot be extradited under Russian law.

An international warrant has been issued for their arrest if they ever leave Russia.

Last October Marina Litvinenko filed a Freedom of Information request to the NSA through an intermediary asking for “NSA intercepts of telephone communications of Mr Andrei Lugovoy and Mr Dimitry Kovtun from London, UK, in the period October 15 to November 1 2006.”

The application stated that the material was “to be used as evidence in the [public] inquiry hearings.”
Paul Blaskowski, a senior NSA official, responded in a letter that it could not comment on the “existence or non-existence” of the transcripts because such material had “to be kept secret in the interest of national defence or foreign relations.”

He said the spy agency was also empowered “to protect certain information concerning its activities” by withholding if from public disclosure.

…Litvinenko had been working for MI6 for several years during his time in London.

As part of this, Litvinenko also began assisting the Spanish security services. It is understood that his work in Spain involved investigating organised crime networks.

Litvinenko’s work in Spain, as well as in Italy and Georgia, after leaving Russia and the KGB, has given rise to competing theories about who might have been behind his death.

The disclosure of the former spy’s verbal account of his investigations of Moscow’s links to criminal networks in Italy will raise fresh questions about the risk involved in his work in the country.

However, Alex Goldfarb, a close friend of Litvinenko who was involved in helping him gain political asylum in Britain, also said that his friend “did not see how dangerous and threatening the Spanish operating was”.

Mr Goldfarb said the individuals Litvinenko investigated in Spain had “good connections in the Kremlin” and the information he was gathering “could have tarnished Putin’s image and more importantly, could have harmed the business interests of his inner circle”.

Litvinenko himself accused Putin of being behind his murder shortly before he died.

“You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life,” Litvinenko wrote in a statement read out by Mr Goldfarb after his death.


January 21, 2015

Fox News on January 20, 2015, reported that Sen. Joni Ernst hammered home the idea of a new Republican Congress ready to champion the middle class in America as well as go after terrorists abroad in the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Excerpts below:

In contrast to Obama’s optimistic tone on the economy, Ernst spoke of the struggle that still exists.
“Americans have been hurting,” she said, and cited concerns over stagnant wages, lost jobs and higher monthly insurance bills.

The freshman senator from Iowa, with less than a month of experience, in Washington, told Americans during her 9-minute rebuttal that the GOP is “working hard to pass the kind of serious job-creation ideas you deserve” that she said includes building the controversial Keystone pipeline.

Ernst also said Republicans will prioritize American concerns and called on Obama to work with her party to simplify the tax code by lowering rates and eliminating unspecified loopholes. She also called on him to ease trade barriers with Europe and Asia.

Ernst also cited the recent terror attacks in France, Nigeria, Canada and Australia in her rebuttal and said lawmakers need to come up with a “comprehensive plan” to defeat terror groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State as well as those radicalized by them.

“We know threats like these can’t just be wished away,” she said.

Ernst, a former colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, won one of the toughest election challenges last year, beating Democrat Bruce Braley. She is the first woman elected to the office from Iowa and the first combat veteran to serve in the Senate.

Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Fla., delivered the official Tea Party response to Obama’s State of the Union speech from the National Press Club in D.C.

Clawson, who won a special election seven months ago by marketing himself as “the outsider for Congress,” drew on his strong conservative grassroots base during his response. He stressed that people were key to achieving the American dream, not the government.

Florida freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo delivered the Republicans’ Spanish-language response.


January 17, 2015

Washington Free Beacon on January 15, 2015, reported that Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) says at least 22 political activists have been charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and “subversion of state power” since May 2014. Excerpts below:

While authorities had begun to issue less politically motivated charges between 2012 and the start of 2014 such as “disrupting” public order—“perhaps to try to avoid both domestic and international criticism of clear political suppression,” CHRD suspects—explicit political prosecutions have returned.

A resurgence in political charges against HRDs has been observed especially with the crackdowns around the 25th June Fourth anniversary and on mainland supporters of the Hong Kong protests.

In addition, Hangzhou police have been holding two individuals affiliated with the banned China Democracy Party—Chen Shuqing and Lü Gengsong—on charges of “subversion of state power” since September 2014.

According to a report in 2014 Shi Genyuan , who posted provocative political comments online, has been forcibly committed in the mental health ward of the Quanzhou City No. 3 Hospital in Fujian Province since being seized from his home on June 3.

Nurses there have said that despite Shi’s lack of consent to his detention, only Quanzhou national security officials can approve his release. After being threatened by national security officers, Shi’s family has stopped actively seeking his release nor allowed his friends to retain a lawyer for Shi. In May 2013, national security officers arrested Shi, a businessman, on a charge of “inciting subversion of state power” in retaliation for his views that he expressed online.

Also, the outspoken human rights lawyer, who has been detained since May 2014, is facing a concocted charge of “inciting separatism,” another serious political offense, among four total charges.


January 14, 2015

NewsMax on January 13, 2015, published an AFP report on eleven Ukrainian civilians killed and nearly 20 injured when a long-range Grad rocket apparently fired by pro-Russian insurgents hit an intercity bus in the separatist east.

Local police said the rocket appeared to have gone astray after being aimed by the gunmen at a checkpoint set up by government soldiers on the main highway connecting the rebel stronghold of Donetsk with Ukraine’s southeastern coast on the Sea of Azov.

The incident, which was condemned by the UN Security Council, was the deadliest attack on civilians since the rival sides signed a much-maligned Sept. 5 ceasefire that only partially stemmed the fighting and did little to resolve the insurgents’ independence claims.

Both Ukrainian military and regional police told AFP that the death toll from the incident included seven women and four men.

The local administration said 17 others had been hospitalized near the town of Volnovakha, where the bus was hit, 22 miles southwest of Donetsk.

Ukrainian General Bogdan Bondar told parliament that the rebels had staged “a provocation” by launching their strike from a residential area in the hope of drawing retaliatory fire from state soldiers that would kill scores of civilians.

The UN Security Council in a unanimous statement of the 15 members, including Russia, called for an investigation into the incident, while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden expressed “regret at the increasing number of ceasefire violations by Russia’s proxies” in a call to Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the White House said.

The latest casualties were reported after the foreign ministers of Germany and France failed to help their counterparts from Moscow and Kiev bridge differences over ways to end a conflict that has claimed more than 4,700 lives.

Kiev accuses the Kremlin of arming the insurgents and refusing to withdraw its own troops from the eastern war zone, soldiers Moscow denies having ever sent.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said an international summit involving both Poroshenko and Putin would now require more preparations and talks with pro-Russian rebels.

“Russia is trying to position itself as a mediator in the conflict, distancing itself from it,” said political analyst Oleksy Melnyk of Kiev’s Ramzukov Centre.

“But conducting negotiations with rebel leaders who are really nothing but Russian puppets is a hopeless task,” he added.

Donetsk, a once bustling city of nearly one million people that now stands half empty and suffers chronic power and water shortages, has been the target of especially heavy rocket and artillery fire in the past week.

Kiev believes the militants may be stepping up their frequency of attacks to undermine the chances of Russia agreeing to a settlement that preserves Ukraine’s eastern border.


January 10, 2015

FoxNews on January 9, 2015, reported that columnist Charles Krauthammer told viewers on Fox TV “Special Report with Bret Baier” that the terror attacks in France are “the third stage of the jihadist war against us.” Excerpts below:

Krauthammer, a syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor, said the first stage “of course is 9/11. All of the attackers were from the Middle East. And then for the last year or two, we have seen the lone wolf attacks, usually home grown but fairly unstable.”

Now, he said, “it’s as if there’s a critical mass of these dissident jihadists in the West who are now in a position rather than act like the single guy in Australia or the single guys acting separately in Canada, as a group, as a cell, and as an organized wave. And that could be what we’re facing right now.”


January 8, 2015

Washington Times on January 7, 2015, reported that Pentagon has spent much efforts during 2014 to produce futuristic weapons systems. Excerpts below:

The U.S. government has spent billions on warfare initiatives over the past five decades, and only last year began to see some of its most intriguing technological investments overcome testing hurdles.

The innovations came as outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued an all-hands-on-deck call for new and creative ways to expand the growth of U.S. military technology as a means to advance and expand “American dominance.”

Mr. Hagel said in a Nov. 15 memorandum that identifying and developing breakthrough technology is also key to preventing the Pentagon’s weapons capabilities from eroding “at a time of constrained and uncertain budgets.”

To maintain superiority in a competitive security environment, the U.S. military has poured money into research and development companies like Boston Engineering, which created the “GhostSwimmer” about six years ago.

But it was only last month that the Navy was able to take the 5-foot-long drone, which weighs 100 pounds and mimics the movements of a shark, for a spin off the coast of Virginia Beach in Virginia.

The drone, which offers a glimpse of where the service will be headed, integrates the biotechnology of whale fins with the rudders on naval ships, said Michael Rufo, the director of Boston Engineering’s Advanced Systems Group.

Boston Engineering hopes to make GhostSwimmer available to the Navy in 2016 so that it can use the technology to surveil the ocean for potential threats, Mr. Rufo said.

Not only are Navy officials capitalizing on biotechnology, but they also made history this year when they tested a high-energy laser weapon system aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf. Navy officials used the electrically charged weapon to destroy speedboats and small drones during a demonstration phase that began in September.

Meanwhile, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which develops new military technologies on behalf of the Defense Department, conducted the first live-fire tests of guided .50-caliber bullets in February and April 2014.

DARPA has made public on its website a video of those demonstrations, which show that the ammunition is capable of weaving away from the projected target of a sniper rifle and striking a target off to the side.

The government agency also made progress with its high-energy technology this summer when it strapped a 360-degree turret system designed to hold a laser weapon onto military aircraft.

Mr. Hagel pointed to the technology as a way to stay ahead militarily of any international threat.

“We have always lived in an inherently competitive security environment, and the past decade has proven no different,” he said. “While we have been engaged in two large landmass wars over the last 13 years, potential adversaries have been modernizing their militaries, developing and proliferating disruptive capabilities across the spectrum of conflict. This represents a clear and growing challenge to our military power.”


January 4, 2015

Washington Free Beacon/Reuters on December 31, 2014, reported that the United States condemned what it called Cuba’s practice of repression following the detention of several activists, in the first major test of President Barack Obama’s policy shift toward normalizing relations with the communist-ruled island. Excerpts below:

The State Department said it was deeply concerned by the detention of several “peaceful civil society members and activists” by the Cuban authorities.

“We strongly condemn the Cuban government’s continued harassment and repeated use of arbitrary detention, at times with violence, to silence critics, disrupt peaceful assembly and freedom expression, and intimidate citizens,” the State Department said in a statement.

“We urge the government of Cuba to end its practice of repressing these and other internationally protected freedoms and to respect the universal human rights of Cuban citizens,” it added.

The arrests marked the most significant crackdown on the opposition since Cuba and the United States agreed on Dec. 17 to restore diplomatic ties and put behind them more than five decades of hostility.

About 12 opponents were taken away by police, including the husband of opposition blogger Yoani Sanchez, while several others were told not to leave their homes as police parked outside, said Elizardo Sanchez, leader of a dissident human rights commission that monitors such detentions.

Other dissident leaders reported multiple detentions or that activists were ordered to stay at home. Yoani Sanchez’s website reported she was under virtual house arrest.

The detentions stopped a planned open microphone event at Havana’s Revolution Square, near the government headquarters.

Event organizer Tania Bruguera, a performance artist, was missing and her associates presumed she, too, had been detained. Bruguera had vowed to go ahead with the event even after Cuban officials denied her a permit.

“The United States will continue to press the Cuban government to uphold its international obligations and to respect the rights of Cubans to peacefully assemble and express their ideas and opinions,” the State Department said.

Yoani Sanchez said on Twitter police detained her husband Reinaldo Escobar and dissident leader Eliecer Avila outside her home in Havana, taking them away in handcuffs.

Escobar is editor-in-chief of the dissident news and opinion website and Avila is the leader of the opposition group Somos Mas (We Are More).