Archive for February, 2015


February 25, 2015

Jerusalem Post on February 23, 2015, reported that a US jury handed down an historic verdict against the Palestinian Authority for involvement in six terrorist attacks from the time of the second intifada, pummeling it with a $655.5 million judgment in wrongful death damages. Excerpts below:

The $655.5m. sum was based on a tripling penalty of the actual $218.5m. verdict under the anti-terrorism laws governing the case.

The suit, brought forward by 10 American families who lost relatives in the terrorist attacks, featured a host of all-star witnesses, including top PLO official Hanan Ashrawi, former top IDF intelligence and military prosecution officials, and the current head of the PA’s “CIA.”

It also featured heart-wrenching testimony from the families of victims, like Chana Goldberg, who brought the jury to tears talking about the breakdown of her family following the murder of her father, Scott.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the verdict is first and foremost a moral victory for Israel and victims of terrorism.

“The court’s decision confirms what anyone who is familiar with the events in Israel in the beginning of the 2000s knows, but many in the world did not want to admit because of hypocrisy, foreign interests, or pure anti-Semitism,” he stated.

Liberman called the verdict a “wake-up call” for the Palestinians and their supporters around the world, who he said should now realize that terrorism is an integral part of the Palestinian Authority’s makeup.

The plaintiffs argued that a large volume of PA employees, including policemen and commanders, were previously convicted by Israel for having part in terrorist attacks in Israel, including the six attacks from 2001 to 2004, and should therefore be found guilty in the civil case in New York.

Thirty-three people were murdered in these attacks, and hundreds were wounded.

The plaintiffs’ lead trial lawyer, Kent Yalowitz of Arnold & Porter, said, “The message is clear. If you kill or injure Americans overseas, you can expect the long arm of American law to follow you and bring you to justice. Justice includes justice against those who send terrorists.”

Yalowitz continued: “The Palestinian Authority and the PLO have been found liable by an American jury for six heinous terrorist attacks that killed and injured hundreds of civilians.”

The plaintiffs said they had “proven to the court that the systematic suicide bombings and shootings were perpetrated pursuant to [PLO leader] Yasser Arafat’s official policy of unleashing criminal violence against civilians in Israel.”

Going forward, Yalowitz said, “The PA and PLO policies of financial inducements and rewards for terrorism that are at the center of this case unfortunately continue today, more than a decade later.”

“I am truly privileged to have had the opportunity to represent these amazing families and join them in their quest for justice against those who have devastated their lives forever,” Yalowitz concluded.

Almost every significant legal issue, including introducing IDF court judgments into evidence, which was not a given, went in the plaintiffs’ direction.

Yalowitz declared that the PA “didn’t have to pay terrorists if it didn’t want to.”

He referred to the Anti-Terrorism Act that was the basis of the civil damages case as created to hit “those who send terrorists where it hurts most – the wallet.”

Yalowitz also addressed the PA claim that it is a separate entity than the PLO, and that they could not be held liable for each other’s actions.

“If you’re a beat cop walking the streets,” Yalowitz said, “You fairly represent the NYPD.”

Yalowitz continued, “If you have a policy that says: If you commit a terrorist act, you keep your job,” get a promotion, and get paid while you’re in jail, “that says something about who you are and what you believe in.”

Regarding whether the PA’s support for the six terrorist attacks met the legal definition of “material support,” Yalowitz said that “the biggest support you can give is money and personnel and these guys gave both.”

The judgment comes around half a year after the first anti-terrorism civil judgment of similar caliber rendered against Jordan’s giant Arab Bank last September.

That case still awaits a trial to set the damages amount, currently set for mid-May.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.


February 24, 2015

Daily Mail, London, on February 23, 2015, reported that Petro Poroshenko says rights of Crimeans are being repressed by Russia and demanded both international and Ukrainian trials for all those responsible. Excerpts below:

Russian officials must stand trial in the Hague over the annexation. President Poroshenko also said that Ukraine will win back the Black Sea peninsula “in time”.

His demands came as Kiev delayed a promised pullback of heavy weapons from the front line in eastern Ukraine, saying continuous attacks from rebel troops means they cannot safely withdraw.

Poroshenko used an address on the first anniversary of the start of the annexation to promise his country will regain control over the peninsula.

‘I am not going to say today that it will happen quickly and easily,’ admitted the pro-Western president.

‘But it will definitely happen, we shall build together a new Crimea, where the rights and interests of the indigenous people of Crimea and all the inhabitants of the peninsula, regardless of their ethnic, language and religious background, will be guaranteed.’

He went on to demand Putin faces international justice over the annexation of Crimea.

‘The time will come, and anyone who has committed and will commit a crime against the Ukrainian state and human rights in Crimea, will face international and Ukrainian trials,’ he said.

Despite pro-Russian rebels making new inroads in eastern Ukraine in the past month, Poroshenko claimed his country ‘will never give up its sovereign rights to Crimea.’

The annexation – which began one year ago – was a ‘vile act carried out contrary to international law’, he said.

With rebels massing near the strategic port of Mariupol, in violation of a ceasefire, Kiev refused to pull back its heavy weapons, claiming its forces were still targeted by separatists.

‘As Ukrainian positions are still being fired upon there can be no talk yet of a withdrawal of arms,’ said military spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov .

If Mariupol falls to the pro-Russian rebels, it would remove a key obstacle to creating a separatist land corridor stretching from Russia’s border with Ukraine to Crimea.


February 19, 2015

Washington Times on February 19, 2015, reported that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said that he is his “own man,” not beholden to the policies of his brother or father — in the same speech where he embraced bulk data collection powers under the Patriot Act, a key program started by his brother. Excerpts below:

In a major speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Mr. Bush — who is laying the groundwork for an all-but-announced presidential run, and is benefiting from the political network built by his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and brother, former President George W. Bush — insisted he won’t be bound by their legacies.

“Just for the record, one more time, I love my brother, I love my dad, I actually love my mother as well; I hope that’s OK,” Mr. Bush said. “And I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions that they had to make. But I am my own man, and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences.”

In his foreign policy address, Mr. Bush directed his sharpest criticism at the Obama administration, saying it has been “inconsistent and indecisive,” but he also said his brother’s administration made some “mistakes” before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and he acknowledged that intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction “turned out not to be accurate.”

For the most part, however, Mr. Bush laid out a foreign view for more military spending and a more muscular approach to global affairs.

“America does not have the luxury of withdrawing from the world — our security, our prosperity and our values demand that we remain engaged and involved in often distant places,” Mr. Bush said. “We have no reason to apologize for our leadership and our interest in serving the cause of global security, global peace and human freedom.”

Mr. Bush also described the 2007 troop “surge” in Iraq as “one of the most heroic acts of courage politically,” making the case that it helped bring stability to the country. He blamed the Obama administration for failing to build on the success.

“We must be prepared for a long-term commitment to fight this battle,” Mr. Bush said. “These attacks require a response on many levels, but most of all we should focus on preventing them. That requires responsible intelligence gathering and analysis,…


February 18, 2015

Fox News on February 18, 2015, reported that Islamic State militants reportedly have burned to death 45 people in the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, just five miles away from an air base staffed by hundreds of U.S. Marines.

The identities of the victims are not clear, the local police chief told the BBC, but some are believed to be among the security forces that have been clashing with ISIS for control of the town. ISIS fighters reportedly captured most of the town last week.

Col. Qasim Obeidi, pleading for help from the Iraqi government and international community, said a compound that houses families of security personnel and officials is now under siege.

The reports come days after ISIS released a video purportedly showing the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians along a beach in Libya, sparking an international outcry, including commendation from Pope Francis, who called the killings “barbaric.”

Earlier this month, ISIS released another video showing a fleet of vehicles flying the black ISIS flag and driving through what is believed to be the streets of Benghazi, Libya. The video shows the vehicles being cheered by men, women and children as they drive by.

The imagery…was similar to the scenes of an execution of a Jordanian pilot. In a video released by ISIS two weeks ago, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh was shown being burned alive in a cage.

Al-Baghdadi, which is about 50 miles northwest of Ramadi in Anbar province, is located about five miles from Ain al-Asad air base, where 400 U.S. military personnel are training Iraqi soldiers and Sunni tribesmen to take on ISIS. The base was raided last week by a small band of fighters, in what some experts believe may have been a probe in preparation for a full-scale attack.

There are currently nearly 2,600 U.S. forces in Iraq, including about 450 who are training Iraqi troops at three bases across the country, including al-Asad. Forces from other coalition countries conduct the training at the fourth site, in the northern city of Irbil.

But even if Islamic State militants close in on the base, taking it would require a massive force, that would present a target for airstrikes, retired Col. Thomas Lynch, a National Defense University fellow, told Fox News.


February 7, 2015

Fox News on February 5, 2015, reported that a firefighting prototype robot was unveiled at the Naval Future Force Science & Technology EXPO in Washington D.C. Excerpts below:

Scientists also revealed details of the technology’s successful trials aboard the USS Shadwell, a decommissioned Navy vessel, last fall. Sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) walked across uneven floors, used thermal imaging technology to identify overheated equipment, and used a hose to extinguish a small fire in a series of experiments.

SAFFiR is part of the Naval Prototype program Damage Control Technologies for the 21st Century or DC-21 – a program that aims to improve shipboard situation awareness and damage control capabilities with new tech.

The two-legged humanoid robot was developed by researchers at Virginia Tech and is helping ONR evaluate the potential uses of unmanned systems on naval vessels. In addition to damage control, scientists are also exploring the possibility of robot-conducted inspections.

Standing 5 feet 10-inches tall and weighing 143 pounds, SAFFiR uses sensors, including infrared stereovision and a rotating laser for light detection and ranging (LIDAR), to see through dense smoke.

The U.S. Navy is no stranger to sophisticated robotics. Last year, for example,GhostSwimmer, a small, unmanned, robotic vehicle, underwent testing at the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Va.


February 5, 2015

NewsMax/Reuters on February 4, 2015, reported that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on NATO states to send weapons to his country, saying in a newspaper interview that civilian deaths and the growing conflict should provide the Western alliance with enough reason to come to Ukraine’s aid. Excerpts below:

The United States is reconsidering whether to provide weapons to Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists, senior administration officials said, but added that no decision had been made.

“The escalation of the conflict that’s happening today, the increasing number of civilian casualties, especially after the terrorist attacks in Volnovakha and Donetsk as well as the bombardment of Mariupol… should move the alliance to provide Ukraine with more support,” Poroshenko said in an advance copy of an interview to be published in Germany’s Die Welt.

“(That) includes, among other things, delivering modern weapons for protection and for resisting the aggressor,” Poroshenko said.

Poroshenko stressed that Ukraine wanted peace but that even peace must be defended so Kiev needed a strong army and new, modern weapons.

He said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was considering replacing Ukraine’s stand-by program with an Extended Fund Facility (EFF).

“We expect a positive decision soon as well as the possibility to get extra support from the European Union and other partners,” Poroshenko said


February 1, 2015

Fox News on January 31, 2015, reported that Ukraine wants the United Nations to brand Russia a terrorism sponsor amid bloody clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government troops. Excerpts below:

The Ukrainian ambassador to the UN told Fox News he plans to submit a draft resolution asking the UN General Assembly to formally label “Russia as a sponsor of terrorism.”

Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev gave no timetable for when he would present the resolution to the UN. He said government officials in Kiev are working on the text.

Sergeyev told Fox News the resolution will mirror the Ukrainian parliament’s declaration this week, designating the Moscow-backed separatists in East Ukraine as a terrorist group.

Kiev believes that by defining the separatists as terrorists it eliminates any notion that it would engage in peace talks with them.

Sergeyev warned of a “huge war” if the separatists take more territory or build a corridor to southern Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed almost a year ago.