Thursday, June 30, 2016
ORTHODOX GROUPS SEEK COURT BAN ON MIXED PRAYERS AT WESTERN WALL.
MUSLIMS IN NB SCHOOLS
A group of Orthodox Jewish organizations filed an urgent petition with the High Court of Justice on Wednesday against a government plan to allow an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall.According to the ultra-Orthodox news site Kol Hazman, the petition claims that the government’s decision earlier this year is illegal and was not made in consultation with the country’s chief rabbis, as required by law. The appellants also claim that the government isn’t authorized to make such a decision, but rather the religious affairs minister.The petition was filed by LIBA, an organization promoting Orthodox Judaism in Israeli society, and several other religious groups.A deal was reached in January to set up a non-Orthodox prayer space at the Western Wall, but since then the plan — which met with vociferous opposition from Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox religious figures but hailed as a symbol of Jewish unity in much of the Jewish Diaspora — has encountered a number of setbacks.In their petition, the appellants said “the government’s avoidance of holding a consultation process as demanded by law undermines the infrastructure on which the government’s decision was apparently based. Failure to consult with the chief rabbis, as mentioned, constitutes another flaw, which also must lead to the cancellation of the decision, and this of course does not diminish the claim that the decision lacks validity because the aforementioned was approved without authority.”Earlier this month, a pluralistic prayer service held at the Western Wall to protest the stalled prayer space deteriorated into scuffles between ultra-Orthodox protesters and progressive worshipers.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Orthodox protesters of seeking to divide the Jewish people.The Western Wall compromise, passed in a January 31 cabinet decision that reflected the work of years of negotiations, calls for a permanent prayer platform to be built along the southern end of the Western Wall in an area of the Davidson Archaeological park, otherwise known as Robinson’s Arch, which was to be used for mixed-gender and non-Orthodox prayer services. There is currently a temporary prayer platform set up there in two distinct areas of the park.Raoul Wootliff and JTA contributed to this report.
Bedlam in Knesset as Arab MK brands IDF soldiers ‘murderers’ for Gaza flotilla raid-Several outraged MKs charge toward podium as Hanin Zoabi speaks out; Zionist Union MK calls for her suspension; Likud MK wants her banned-By Times of Israel staff June 29, 2016, 7:23 pm
MK Hanin Zoabi on Wednesday set off a political firestorm after branding IDF soldiers involved in a May 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla “murderers,” and demanding they apologize.The Joint (Arab) List lawmaker, who took part in the flotilla from Turkey that tried to break the Israeli blockade on the Hamas-run coastal enclave, was vociferously berated in the Knesset plenum by lawmakers who attempted to approach the podium and have her removed.Nine Turkish nationals, including one with American citizenship, were killed in clashes that erupted when IDF commandos were violently attacked by those on board the Mavi Marmara, the final ship in the flotilla, and opened fire. A tenth Turkish national died of his wounds years later. A number of Israeli soldiers were also injured in the raid. Zoabi was on board the Turkish-flagged vessel at the time.“I demand an apology for all the political activists on the Marmara and an apology to MK Hanin Zoabi, for inciting against her for six years and hounding her. You all need to apologize, all of the members of Knesset here,” Zoabi said. “Those who murdered need to apologize, you need to apologize.”Zoabi’s comments came a day after Israel signed a deal with Turkey to restore ties, after years of frosty relations exacerbated by the raid. The deal provides for Israel to pay Turkey $20 million compensation over the Marmara raid, a point objected to by some Israeli politicians.Zoabi’s statements were met by howls from several members of Knesset, including MK Micky Levi (Yesh Atid), who charged toward the podium in outrage and attempted to forcibly remove Zoabi.“Your friends are murderers, you’re a partner to terrorism,” Likud MK Oren Hazan screamed at her. “You’re out of line. Don’t use this podium to speak against IDF soldiers!”“You murdered! Shut up!” Zoabi replied.Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie called on Zoabi to knock it off, to which Zoabi replied: “Come knock me out.”Yisrael Beytenu MK Hamad Amar, who chaired the plenary session, said Zoabi “lied to me.”Zoabi requested permission to speak because she wanted to apologize, said Amar. “She lied.”She was eventually led out of the plenum, escorted by security, along with Levi, Zionist Union MK Micky Rosenthal and Meretz party leader Zehava Galon.But even after her departure Zoabi’s remarks continued to be met with enraged responses by other lawmakers.“IDF soldiers are the children of all of us, to call them murderers is an abomination,” opposition leader Isaac Herzog wrote on Twitter. “Another reason why we ought not to have agreed to compensate those who attacked the soldiers.”Fellow Zionist Union MK Nahman Shai called on the Knesset’s ethics committee to suspend Zoabi.Likud MK and Coalition Chairman David Bitan said he would put forward a law to bar Zoabi from the Knesset.“She creates provocations regularly, and we can’t continue with this ritual,” he told Army Radio. “She should be a martyr, but not in the Knesset. She doesn’t interest us, we are interested in her not sitting in the Knesset and making provocations.”Zoabi has refused to apologize for her comments.
Over 30 gunmen said killed in Egyptian strikes in Sinai-Officials says assault on Islamic State affiliate foiled planned jihadist attacks on soldiers-By Times of Israel staff June 29, 2016, 7:07 pm
The Egyptian military on Tuesday night bombed multiple sites in the northern Sinai Peninsula linked to the Islamic State affiliate in the area, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported Wednesday.The strikes are estimated to have killed some 33 gunmen from Sinai Province, the jihadist group that has sworn allegiance to IS.The five separate airstrikes in the villages of Beit Amira, al-Shalaq and al-Lufitat, south of the town of Sheikh Zuweid, also left as many as 50 injured, Ma’an said.An Egyptian military source told Ma’an that the strikes helped foil attacks that were being planned against Egyptian soldiers in the restive peninsula.They also may have caused a brief disruption in the flow of electricity to Sheikh Zuweid, the Egyptian half of the city of Rafah, and parts of the southern Gaza Strip.There was no separate confirmation of the news Wednesday.The Egyptian military has fought a two-year campaign against Sinai Province since it declared allegiance to Islamic State in 2014.
Putin orders government to start ‘normalizing’ trade with Turkey-Russian, Turkish presidents hold first phone call since rift began over downing of Russian plane, agree to meet-By AFP June 29, 2016, 4:51 pm-the times of israel
MOSCOW, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered his government to begin the process of lifting sanctions imposed against Turkey after Ankara shot down a Russian warplane last year.“I ask that the Russian government begins the process of normalizing general trade and economic ties with Turkey,” Putin said at a cabinet meeting following a telephone conversation with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.First on his list were travel restrictions between the countries.“I want to start with the question of tourism … we are lifting the administrative restrictions in this area,” Putin told government ministers in televised comments.The move came after earlier in the day Putin and Erdogan held their first phone call since Ankara downed one of Moscow’s jets in Syria last year.A statement from the Turkish presidency said Erdogan and Putin “highlighted the importance of the normalization of bilateral relations between Turkey and Russia.”The November incident froze relations between the two nations and saw Moscow slap sanctions on Ankara.Putin also condemned the “heinous” attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport Tuesday that killed at least 41 people and offered condolences to the Turkish people, the statement said.“Reiterating their commitment to reinvigorate bilateral relations and fight terrorism together, the two leaders agreed to remain in contact and meet in person,” Erdogan’s office said.The Kremlin confirmed that the conversation took place and said a statement would be released.The breakthrough phone call by Putin came after Erdogan on Monday sent a letter to the Kremlin leader that Moscow said contained an apology.The downing of the plane in November ruptured relations and saw Moscow impose a raft of sanctions, including an embargo on Turkish food products and a ban on charter flights and the sale of package tours to the country. It also sparked a bitter war of words between the leaders with Putin calling it a “stab in the back” and demanding an apology from Erdogan.Ankara has said Erdogan expressed his “regret” over the incident in Monday’s letter to Putin and asked the family of the pilot who died to “excuse us,” but has not explicitly confirmed he apologized for shooting down the plane.Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday described the letter as an “important step” but warned that “there is no need to think that in several days it will be possible to normalize everything.”Turkey has argued that the Russian plane strayed into its airspace and ignored repeated warnings, but Russia insisted it did not cross the border and accused Turkey of a “planned provocation.”The countries are on opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, with Ankara backing rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad while Moscow is one of his last remaining allies.
Turkey and IS: heading for all-out war?-[AFP]-Sammy Ketz with Fulya Ozerkan in Ankara-June 29, 2016-YAHOONEWS
Beirut (AFP) - The Turkish authorities have accused the Islamic State group of carrying out the attack on Istanbul's international airport that killed 41 people.Long accused of complacency towards IS, Turkey has changed its approach since joining the US-led coalition against the jihadists in August 2015.What was Ankara's policy towards IS? IS has long relied on Turkey as a conduit for reinforcements and weapons bound for Syria to fight the regime of Bashar al-Assad, his armed opponents and Al-Nusra Front, the branch of Al-Qaeda in the war-torn country.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a devout Sunni Muslim, openly advocated the downfall of his old ally, his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad of the Alawite offshoot of Shiite Islam.He therefore supported all components of the rebellion since the start of the conflict in Syria in 2011 that has now killed more than 280,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.Why has it changed? In August 2015, Turkey joined the international military coalition against IS which, along with Russia, is mainly targeting the jihadists' oil facilities, including many fields and wells."Strangely, IS accuses Turkey of lending support to the YPG (Kurdish People's Protection Units) and has blamed Turkey -- and others -- for the loss of territory along the border," says Aron Stein of the Atlantic Council think-tank.For its part, after having condoned IS's activities, police have been "hitting IS in Turkey pretty hard" including raids in Gaziantep and elsewhere. And Ankara announced recently that its forces were shelling IS positions in Syria.Why is Ankara blaming IS? Although no-one has claimed responsibility for the attack on Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said "the evidence points to Daesh", using another name for IS.According to the Soufan Group intelligence consultancy, "Turkey has become a prime target for the Islamic State in the last year. It has been mentioned several times in the group's English-language magazine, Dabiq; President Erdogan was featured on the cover of issue 11."Turkey also believes that IS hit it where it hurts, especially tourism, which brings the country's economy around $30 billion a year.Ege Seckin of IHS Country Risk says that "the attack was most likely conducted by the Islamic State to undermine the Turkish economy by attacking the airport ahead of the summer months, when tourism peaks."Why isn't IS claiming the airport attack? IS, which is normally quick to claim responsibility and reveal gory details of its attacks, has always been discreet when it comes to Turkey.Unlike Kurdish separatists, it has never endorsed attacks in the country except against Syrian citizen journalists."It's unclear why IS doesn't claim credit, but it appears to be part of a broader strategy to exacerbate internal Turkish tensions, ranging from political polarisation to the Kurdish-Turkish conflict," says Stein of the Atlantic Council.Are they heading for all-out war? The airport attack could mark a turning point."If the Islamic State is indeed behind this attack, this would be a declaration of war," says Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Programme at The Washington Institute."Thus far, Turkey has avoided engaging the Islamic State in full war, instead prioritising its battle against the Assad regime and the Syrian Kurds. For Turkey, fighting the Islamic State as a first order battle could now be unavoidable."
Istanbul death toll rises to 41 as Turkey hunts for perpetrators-At least 13 foreigners among those killed in triple suicide bombings at Ataturk airport; 239 hurt, with 130 still hospitalized-By AFP June 29, 2016, 3:57 pm-THE TIMES OF ISRAEL
ISTANBUL — A triple suicide bombing at Istanbul’s international airport left 41 people dead, 13 of them foreign nationals, and 239 wounded, the city governor said in a statement.The governor’s office said 109 of the 239 wounded were discharged from hospital.It said 13 of the dead were foreigners. One of the fatalities has been confirmed as a Palestinian.A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said five of the dead were from Saudi Arabia, two were from Iraq, and one from Tunisia, Uzbekistan, China, Iran, Ukraine and Jordan.No one has claimed Tuesday’s attack yet but Turkish authorities said they suspect Islamic State jihadists.Turkey remains on high security alert after a series of attacks on its soil blamed not only on the IS group but also Kurdish militants.IS has never claimed an attack in Turkey. But authorities have blamed the group for several attacks, including a blast in Ankara in October 2015 that left over 100 people dead and an attack on Istanbul’s busy tourist district Istiklal Street which killed three Israelis and an Iranian in March 2016.Witnesses described scenes of terror and panic on Tuesday evening as the attackers began shooting indiscriminately and then blew themselves up at the entrance to Ataturk airport, one of Europe’s busiest hubs.The assault, at the start of Turkey’s crucial summer tourist season, was the latest in a wave of attacks in Istanbul and the capital Ankara over the past year, putting the country on high alert.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for an international “joint fight” against terror, as Western allies including the United States condemned the “heinous” attack.Yildirim said the three suicide bombers had arrived at the airport in a taxi and opened fire at the entrance to the international terminal before detonating their explosives.Security camera footage widely circulated on social media appeared to capture two of the blasts. In one clip a huge ball of flame erupts at an entrance to the terminal building, scattering terrified passengers.Another video shows a black-clad attacker running inside the building before collapsing to the ground — apparently felled by a police bullet — and blowing himself up.The attack came just as Turkey, which had found itself increasingly friendless on the international stage, begins rebuilding relations with Israel and Russia.It follows coordinated IS suicide bombings at Brussels airport and a city metro station in March that left 32 people dead.An AFP photographer saw bodies covered with sheets at the terminal, where bullet holes peppered the windows and shattered glass was strewn on the floor, along with abandoned luggage.Otfah Mohamed Abdullah was checking her luggage in when she saw one of the attackers pull out a hidden gun.“He’s shooting up, two times, and he’s beginning to shoot people like that, like he was walking like a prophet,” she told AFPTV.“Everybody started running in different directions when the shooting started. I hid under the counter where I was standing and a couple of the ground staff did the same,” South African university administrator Judy Favish told eNCA television in her home country.Favish said she and other travelers were ushered to the basement before emerging about two hours later.“We walked through the airport and saw debris and blood. It was just chaos. It was horrible.”Analyst Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute, described it as a “symbolic attack against the heart of Turkey.”“If this Islamic State is indeed behind this attack, this would be a declaration of war. Turkey’s vengeance will come down like rain from hell on the Islamic State.”The attack prompted the suspension of all flights at the airport, but operations were resuming on Wednesday with some delays.There was chaos at the nearest hospital in Istanbul’s Bakirkoy district, which was inundated with relatives desperate for news of loved ones.Brussels airport, the scene of suicide bombings just months ago, tweeted condolences, saying: “Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks at @istanbulairport.”The US and French consulates warned people to stay away from the area.Erdogan met his prime minister and military chief after news of the carnage broke.“We urge the world, especially Western countries, to take a firm stand against terrorism,” Erdogan said in a statement.“Despite paying a heavy price, Turkey has the power, determination and capacity to continue the fight against terrorism until the end.”Istanbul, a major tourist hub that is home to some 15 million people, has suffered a series of attacks in the past year, including a bombing in the heart of the tourist district that killed a dozen German visitors and was blamed on IS.Two months later, three Israelis and an Iranian were killed in a bomb attack on the city’s main Istiklal shopping street, also blamed on IS.A blast on the tarmac at Istanbul’s other international airport, Sabiha Gokcen, killed a cleaner in December.Turkey has been hit by at least five attacks blamed on IS jihadists, including a blast in Ankara in October 2015 that left over 100 dead, the worst in the country’s modern history.The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) — seen as a splinter group of the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — also claimed a car bombing in Istanbul in June that killed 11, and warned foreign tourists they would not be safe in Turkey.It said its action was to avenge a sustained offensive against the outlawed PKK in southeastern Turkey following the collapse of a ceasefire last year.Hundreds of members of the Turkish security forces have since been killed in PKK attacks.
Horrific Turkey attack shows why airport security worldwide is a deadly farce-Op-ed: What’s the point of stringent checks at the departure gates if anybody can walk into an airport terminal and start killing people?-By David Horovitz June 29, 2016, 3:58 pm-THE TIMES OF ISRAEL
I have stood in a line for well over an hour for the security check at a very busy airport on the US East Coast. A line of hundreds upon hundreds of people that stretched the width of a warehouse-sized hall, that doubled and tripled and quadrupled back on itself — people crowded in together, shuffling to left and to right as they made their painstaking way to the bag-check machines. A line, I was told, that was entirely unremarkable in its length and in the wait it involved. A line, most relevantly, that was accessible to anyone who entered the terminal.I have waited in lines in the departures halls at airports all over Europe to check in luggage. Waited for ages among crowds of passengers and overflowing luggage trolleys at counters, again, freely accessible to anyone who walks into the airport.I have stood with crowds of impatient passengers waiting at the baggage reclaim conveyor belts of airports worldwide. In some airports, the area is off-limits to the wider public. In some, armed police and security staff are on hand. At others, the arrivals halls and baggage reclaim areas are open to the street outside.I have endured the rigors of ostensibly extra-stringent security for various European airlines’ flights to Tel Aviv, had the soles of my shoes double-scanned, watched security staffers agonize over whether a small can of deodorant is going to be allowed on board, seen my young daughter being taken off toward a side room for some unspecified further examination with my outraged wife in hot pursuit.At Newark airport a few weeks ago, I waited behind a family whose pigtailed toddler daughter was being patted down repeatedly and who had collapsed into baffled tears because something on her person kept setting off the metal detector.At another North American airport, I waited in a line that simply didn’t move because the staffer operating the bag-check machine couldn’t get herself comfortable in her chair, kept sliding off it, kept returning the same red bag through her machine for recheck after recheck because she’d been preoccupied with her chair each time it went through, and then, aware of the mounting rumble from the waiting passengers, cleared a long line of bags with only the most cursory of examinations in order to get the line moving again.I’ve flown home from one Mediterranean country in protracted semi-panic because several of the large young men sitting in the rows around me on the flight had set off the metal detectors in security and been waved blithely through.You’ve doubtless had similar experiences. Or worse.On Tuesday night, dozens of people were slaughtered by terrorists at Europe’s third busiest airport, in Istanbul. The specifics of the carnage are still emerging, but the killers apparently made their way into Ataturk Airport’s international terminal and used the guns and explosives they were carrying to devastating effect in the parking area, in the arrivals hall, close to a security checkpoint. Security personnel were on hand, and their actions may have prevented further loss of life.Turkish officials have been quoted saying that the airport has security checks at the entrance to its terminals. The prime minister, Binali Yildirim, says the killers arrived by taxi and, according to the Associated Press, “he ruled out any security failings.”With all due respect to Mr. Yildirim, and with a great deal of empathy for the victims, that’s just not good enough. It’s barely three months since another terrorist outrage at Brussels airport, perpetrated by killers who strolled through the departures hall with explosives in their suitcases before getting down to their murderous business.Israel’s airport security is not perfect. We, too, know what it is like to have people massacred at our airport. But the Israeli authorities have long since recognized that security procedures at the airport, however stringent, can only be partially effective if there’s a great gaping hole of vulnerability before travelers get anywhere near the terminal building. And therefore, at Ben Gurion Airport, all vehicles entering the wider airport area are subject to a first check. It may appear cursory; indeed, it is cursory. But simply asking drivers to lower their windows and lobbing a question or two at them affords the security personnel a first opportunity to register anything suspicious. There’s a second, again relatively cursory check, on everybody entering the terminal — another opportunity to pick up on something untoward. And then there’s the vexing issue of passenger profiling — a sensitive matter; an ordeal for some passengers. But a process that enables Israeli security to focus its attention on potentially more problematic travelers and thus to reduce the risk to all travelers.Diverse factors are at work in Israeli passenger profiling techniques. Thirty years ago, at Heathrow Airport, El Al security found a bomb in the baggage of a young Irish woman traveling to Tel Aviv; it had been hidden in the false bottom of her bag by her Jordanian boyfriend. No amount of questioning would have prompted Anne-Marie Murphy to disclose the bomb’s existence, because Nezar Hindawi hadn’t told her it was there. She was carrying his child and he was sending her, his unborn baby and the rest of the passengers to their deaths. But she merited particularly close inspection because she was traveling alone, had never previously been to Israel, and had purchased the ticket a short time before the flight.The current accelerating pace of international terrorism requires more than the now-standard, routine, unthinking procedures for securing airports and other places where people gather in large numbers. The attacks in Paris last November underline, for instance, how effective even rudimentary security at soccer stadiums can be in deterring terrorists, and how catastrophic can be the absence of such security at concert halls. The bombers failed to get into the Stade de France, where guards had been deployed more to prevent hooliganism than murder. The terrorists killed some 90 people at the Bataclan Theater, where there were no security personnel at the doors.Complacently declaring, hours after a massacre at your airport, that there were no security failures — well, that’s just an invitation to the next group of killers. Unconscionably, it’s an invitation that’s also open at most airports around the world.
CIA chief Brennan looks at Turkish attack and sees a warning for Americans-Daniel Klaidman-Deputy Editor, Yahoo News-June 29, 2016-YAHOONEWS
Four hours after three suicide bombers killed at least 41 people and wounded hundreds more at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, CIA Director John Brennan said the attacks bore the grim hallmarks of ISIS and warned that the fanatically violent Islamic terrorist group wants to conduct similar large-scale attacks in the United States.“I am worried from the standpoint of an intelligence professional who looks at the capabilities of Daesh … and their determination to kill as many as people as possible and to carry out attacks abroad,” Brennan said in an exclusive interview at CIA headquarters with Yahoo News. Brennan credited effective homeland security measures and intelligence for the fact that ISIS has been unable to attack America directly — the Orlando and San Bernardino shootings were carried out by radicals inspired by ISIS but not under its control — but he believes the group will keep trying to penetrate American defenses.“You look at what happened in the Turkish airport, these were suicide vests. It’s not that difficult to actually construct and fabricate a suicide vest … so if you have a determined enemy and individuals who are not concerned about escape, that they are going into it with a sense that they are going to die, that really does complicate your strategy in terms of preventing attacks.”He added: “I’d be surprised if Daesh is not trying to carry out that kind of attack in the United States.” Daesh is an acronym for the Arabic name of the Islamic State, better known as ISIS or ISIL.Without confirming that the airport bombings were carried out by ISIS, which as of Wednesday morning had not claimed responsibility, Brennan indicated that the method of attack — suicide bombers wearing explosives-laden vests — pointed to the Islamic extremist group rather than to Kurdish nationalists, who have been waging a campaign of violence against the Turkish state. “It was a suicide bombing [which] is usually more a Daesh technique,” Brennan said.Moreover, Brennan said that ISIS has a motive to spread its terror to Turkey, which has been targeting ISIS terrorists across the border in Syria. Until recently, Ankara’s failure to police its border with Syria was a sore point with Washington. “Turkey has been cracking down on some of the transit of foreign fighters who are flowing into, as well as out of, Turkey, and they are part of part of the coalition providing support, allowing their territory to be used by coalition aircraft, so there are a lot of reasons why Daesh would want to strike back.”Brennan said ISIS is using terror tactics to “offset” tactical battlefield setbacks and losses of territory in Syria and Iraq. But he was quick to add that the wider offensive in the region and Europe and beyond is “not solely” a reaction to losses in Iraq and Syria. “Over the past year and a half they have made a more determined effort to carry out attacks abroad, and we see in terms of their plans, their preparations, the movement of people as well as propagandizing outside, exhorting, inciting a much more determined effort to carry out these external operations,” Brennan said.In the interview, Brennan was blunt about the slow nature of progress both in the fight against ISIS and efforts to push Syrian President Bashar Assad out of power. He echoed somewhat pessimistic comments he made earlier this month before the Senate Intelligence Committee about the enduring strength of ISIS as a terrorist organization with global reach. “We’ve yet to really thwart Daesh’s ability to reach beyond the Syria-Iraqi borders and put in place some of the plans and preparations to carry out attacks,” Brennan said. He added, “I am very concerned we have not had the success against Daesh in that environment as we’ve had in the core areas of Syria and Iraq.”A key prong of U.S. strategy to defeat ISIS is the removal of Assad, whom Brennan described as a “magnet” for a wide spectrum of extremist groups in Syria. But the CIA chief acknowledged that Assad is getting stronger rather than weaker. “Relative to where he was on the battlefield last year, [Assad] is in a better and stronger position [today],” he said. For that he blames Russia, which intervened last September to prop up its flagging client with thousands of troops and sophisticated weaponry. Frustrated with Moscow, Brennan said, “The Russians sometimes want their cake and eat it too as far as having the cooperation with us against terrorists but not wanting to do anything that’s going to lead to a political settlement that will have a more durable future as a far as a political agreement.”Between the Syrian conflict and Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, Moscow has been a persistent problem for Brennan. More recently, he had to confront his Russian counterparts over evidence that their intelligence operatives have been systematically harassing U.S. diplomats both in Moscow and Europe. According to a Washington Post report, Russian agents have paid journalists to write negative stories about Americans, have followed their kids home from school and, in one case, have even broken into a U.S. defense attache’s home and killed his dog. Brennan says he told his counterparts “in direct terms,” that the behavior was “unacceptable” and “destructive” to the relationship.Another sort of irritant emanating from Moscow is Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor whose unauthorized disclosures of highly classified surveillance programs infuriated and embarrassed the U.S. intelligence community. A polarizing figure, who some see as a whistleblower and others as a traitor, Snowden was granted asylum by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government in 2013 and later charged by U.S. prosecutors with violating the Espionage Act. In the twilight of Barack Obama’s presidency, there are mounting calls for Snowden to receive a pardon. Brennan is having none of it. “He has dishonored his oath,” he said, and should return to the U.S. to face charges. Asked to comment on former Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent comment that Snowden, while harming American interests, “actually performed a public service” by sparking a debate on civil liberties, Brennan bristled a bit and said, “I do not believe that at all. I respectfully but vehemently disagree with the former attorney general.”In the Yahoo News interview, Brennan also weighed in on reports that state-sponsored hackers in Russia penetrated the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in an effort to collect intelligence about the U.S. election — potentially to try to influence it. “There probably are concerns that people might have on this issue in terms of any types of external influences ,” Brennan said carefully about an active FBI investigation into the cyber-intrusion. “If there are efforts to get into different types of networks and databases, there’s absolutely that concern and I will defer to my FBI and Homeland Security and other colleagues to address their concerns in that cyber realm.”Brennan was cautious in his comments about Donald Trump. Asked about Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, Brennan declined to criticize the presumptive nominee directly but mentioned that his fellow spymasters, particularly in the Middle East, are concerned that comments coming from “some political quarters” in the U.S. are feeding extremist narratives. And Brennan sidestepped a question about whether he would be comfortable giving Trump a classified intelligence briefing, as protocol dictates, the day after he becomes the formal Republican nominee. “The agency will carry out its responsibilities as appropriate in the aftermath of the conventions,” Brennan said.Toward the end of the interview, which took place in the director’s private dining room in Langley, overlooking the lush woods surrounding the CIA’s main campus, Brennan contemplated every spymaster’s darkest fear: the possibility, however remote, that a mole has penetrated his service. “If you’re part of an intelligence organization, counter-intelligence needs to pervade everything that you do,” Brennan said. “One should never assume that there is not a mole in your organization.” Lightning flashed across a cloud-darkened sky as Brennan mused on the chances of an enemy spy in his midst.The full transcript of the interview will be posted on Yahoo News next week.
U.S. to rally business for refugees, Obama aims to double global resettlement-[Reuters]-By Michelle Nichols-June 29, 2016-YAHOONEWS
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The White House will on Thursday rally businesses to give jobs to refugees ahead of a September summit where U.S. President Barack Obama will urge world leaders to boost humanitarian funds by a third and double the number of refugees being resettled.U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said on Wednesday that the Obama summit during the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations would also aim to get one million refugee children in school and one million more refugees access to legal work in the neighboring countries they fled to."The summit is by no means a panacea; even if we hit every target, our response will still not match the scale of the crisis," Power told the United States Institute of Peace, adding that it would boost the number of countries trying to help."We need businesses, big and small, to do more too; which is why tomorrow, the White House is launching a private sector call to action, which will rally companies to do their part, from providing jobs to donating services to refugees," Power said.The United Nations refugee agency said last week that a record 65.3 million people were uprooted worldwide last year, many of them fleeing wars only to face walls, tougher laws and xenophobia as they reach borders.Power said the United Nations estimates that some 1.2 million refugees globally need to be resettled elsewhere because they are unsafe or their needs are not being met, but that in 2015 only 107,000 people relocated."Even as the crisis continues to grow – many countries are making no effort at all to do their fair share," Power said."While we often overstate the security threats and economic costs of resettling more refugees, we routinely understate the likely consequences of failing to muster the global response that is needed," Power said.She said groups like Islamic State, al Qaeda and Boko Haram stood to benefit from a failed response to the refugee crisis as a central part of their narrative was that the West is at war with Islam.She said the United States intended to meet its goal of taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees, out of a total 85,000 refugees, this year and slammed calls by some Americans to halt the refugee program following attacks in Paris and Orlando."Ignorance and prejudice make for bad advisors," Power said.(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bernard Orr)
Donald Trump’s lawyer tweets image that claims Hillary Clinton ‘murdered an ambassador’-Dylan Stableford-Senior editor-June 28, 2016-YAHOONEWS
Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer published a tweet on Tuesday that accused Hillary Clinton of selling uranium to Russia through a fake charity, illegally deleting public records and murdering a U.S. ambassador.Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to the presumptive Republican nominee, posted an image of the former secretary of state that included the conspiratorial accusations.“I presided over $6 billion lost at the State Department, sold uranium to the Russians through my faux charity, illegally deleted public records, and murdered an ambassador,” the text above Clinton’s image read. “Elect Me!”NBC/WSJ poll has @realDonaldTrump beating #CrookedHillary on #Honesty & #NationalSecurity. This picture says it all! pic.twitter.com/E9YKIgoqnV— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) June 28, 2016-Cohen did not immediately respond to a request seeking evidence of the accusations. But in an email to the Washington Post, he sought to distance himself from the campaign. Cohen has repeatedly appeared on CNN as a Trump surrogate.“As you are well aware, I am not part of the campaign and do not speak on behalf of Mr. Trump,” he wrote to the Post. “My tweets are mine and mine alone.”Cohen’s Tuesday tweet was published hours before Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi released its final report on the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attacks that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, at a U.S. outpost in Libya.The committee blamed the Obama administration for what it concluded was a slow response to help the Americans under attack. But the report did not find that Clinton, head of the State Department at the time, did anything illegal.Democrats on the Benghazi committee blasted the GOP report as “a conspiracy theory on steroids — bringing back long-debunked allegations with no credible evidence whatsoever.”Trump himself has repeatedly accused Clinton of breaking the law by using a private email server for official State Department business.“What she did is illegal,” Trump said last week. “She shouldn’t have had a server.”And the brash real estate mogul has floated other far-right-wing conspiracy theories about the Clintons. In a May interview with the Washington Post, Trump mused about the “very fishy” circumstances surrounding the 1993 death of Vincent Foster, the former White House aide who both police and federal investigators determined had committed suicide.
Canada, U.S., Mexico want action on excess global steel capacity-[Reuters]-June 29, 2016-YAHOONEWS
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada, the United States and Mexico on Wednesday demanded that all major steel-producing nations make a strong and immediate commitment to address the problem of excess capacity in the industry.A joint statement called for an end to government subsidies and supports that artificially maintain capacity, but did not name any country. The United States has acted several times to counter what it says is dumping of some Chinese steel products.(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by James Dalgleish)
#safetypin campaign emerges against the rise of hate crime in U.K.-[The Daily Buzz]-The Daily Buzz-June 29, 2016-YAHOONEWS
Racial abuse has reportedly skyrocketed across the U.K. in the wake of the country’s decision to leave the European Union last week. On June 23, the day of the Brexit vote, U.K. police say the number of race-related hate crimes had risen 57 per cent compared to a month earlier. The majority of the attacks are aimed at immigrants. Racist slogans like this one, saying “Leave the EU - no more Polish vermin,” are increasingly being displayed in public. these cards have actually been put through letter boxes of Polish families in Huntingdon today. I could weep pic.twitter.com/P3maK1Vasf— fencelt (@howgilb) June 25, 2016 -But one Twitter user, found a way to tackle the hate crimes.Allison, who goes by @cheeahstar11, is a U.S. citizen living in London and came up with a simple initiative to help protect those being abused as a result of the Brexit Referendum.As a way to show solidarity with immigrants in the U.K., Allison suggested wearing an empty safety pin as a badge. “The idea being that anyone against the sort of nationalistic, racist violence we’ve been seeing could identify themselves as a ‘safe’ ally,” Allison wrote.“A safe person to sit next to on a bus, walk next to on a street, even have a conservation with.”Branded as the #safetypin campaign, it quickly gained traction with people sharing their safety pin selfies on Twitter.EU citizens and immigrants: you’re safe around me. #safetypin pic.twitter.com/lAL5JoxQfe— Motörgregg (@clinteldorado) June 28, 2016-I’m wearing my #safetypin to show support for the diverse people around Britain who are always welcome. pic.twitter.com/ioye1k80a5— Adam White (@AdJWhite) June 28, 2016-Wearing a #safetypin to show solidarity with EU citizens and immigrants here in the UK. #youarewelcomehere pic.twitter.com/dQ0sukN9t5— Emma Pass (@EmmaPass) June 28, 2016-Inspired by the #ridewithme campaign against Islamphobia in Australia, Allison told indy100 she came up with the idea after seeing reports of abuse around the U.K.“I’m always having to remind people I’m an immigrant. You know, I’m white and speak English as a first language so I get a pass. They say ‘oh you don’t count, you’re not the kind of person we’re talking about,” she told indy100.It appears the #safetypin campaign even captured the attention of television personality Piers Morgan, who branded it “utterly absurd.”
EU, U.S. urge Bosnia to pass reforms critical for EU bid, IMF funds-[Reuters]-June 29, 2016-YAHOONEWS
SARAJEVO (Reuters) - European Union and U.S. envoys warned Bosnia's leaders on Wednesday that the country risked missing out on closer ties with the EU in the near term and losing 2 billion euros in support due to an impasse over reforms.Bosnia hoped Brussels would consider its EU membership bid at its next ministerial council in mid-July, but without the reforms this may not happen."The window to secure a positive response in the near term to the application of (Bosnia) for membership in the EU is closing fast," Head of EU Delegation and EU Special Representative Lars-Gunnar Wigemark and U.S. Ambassador Maureen Cormack said in a joint statement.Bosnia, an ethnically divided Balkan nation beset by corruption and economic woes, formally applied to join the 28-nation EU in February and was told it must advance economic and social reforms before its bid can be considered.Most of the conditions, such as the adjustment of Bosnia's Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU to reflect changes after Croatia, another ex-Yugoslav republic, joined the bloc, and the approval of an effective coordination mechanism with Brussels, are still on hold due to Bosnian Serb opposition.Since the 1992-95 war, Bosnia has been divided into the Serb-dominated Serb Republic and the Federation shared by Croats and Muslim Bosniaks.The Serb Republic President Milorad Dodik said he feared the SAA adjustment would deprive the region's agriculture sector of an estimated 210 million euros annually and he sought further negotiations."The events over the next few days are likely to have a profound effect on the prosperity and security of the country through the next decade," the diplomats said.They warned a revising of the SAA and Brussels' acceptance of Bosnia's EU membership bid are also critical to keep on track a 550 million euro three-year loan arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), expected to be approved by the lender by mid-July. [L5N18L5UU]-In exchange for reforms the international community has pledged to secure over two billion euros in budget and infrastructure support for the country over the next three to four years, the diplomats said."But all of this is predicated upon [Bosnia] being on a stable political path toward Europe. There is simply no time left... The future of [Bosnia] depends upon it," they said. ($1 = 0.8999 euros)-(Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)
Brazil official says political crisis not a risk at Olympics-[Associated Press]-MAURICIO SAVARESE-June 29, 2016-YAHOONEWS
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — One of Brazil's top security officials says the political turmoil that has brought repeated changes to key government positions will not affect security at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.Andrei Rodrigues, responsible for overseeing Brazil's security at special events, said on Wednesday that there will be no impact on the Games despite staff turnover triggered by impeachment proceedings against suspended President Dilma Rousseff.The Olympics open in just over five weeks.This week acting President Michel Temer replaced the leader of the country's intelligence agency, which is responsible for tracking terrorism threats.Brazilian media is also reporting that the head of the federal police will soon be replaced.
China slams South China Sea case as court set to rule-[Reuters]-By Ben Blanchard and Anthony Deutsch-June 29, 2016-YAHOONEWS
BEIJING/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - An international court said on Wednesday it would deliver a hotly anticipated ruling in the Philippines' case against China over the South China Sea on July 12, drawing an immediate rebuke from Beijing, which rejects the tribunal's jurisdiction.The United States, which is a close ally of the Philippines and is concerned about China's expansive South China Sea claims, reiterated its backing for The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration and urged a peaceful resolution of the dispute.Manila is contesting China's historical claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Several Southeast Asian states have overlapping claims in the sea and the dispute has sparked concerns of a military confrontation that could disrupt global trade.In a lengthy statement after the court's announcement of the July 12 ruling date, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Manila's approach flouted international law."I again stress that the arbitration court has no jurisdiction in the case and on the relevant matter, and should not hold hearings or make a ruling," he said."The Philippines' unilateral lodging of the South China Sea arbitration case is contrary to international law."He said: "On the issue of territory and disputes over maritime delineation, China does not accept any dispute resolution from a third party and does not accept any dispute resolution forced on China."In Manila, presidential communications secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said the Philippines "expects a just and fair ruling that will promote peace and stability in the region".U.S. state department spokeswoman Anna Richey-Allen reiterated U.S. backing for the court. "We support the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea, including the use of international legal mechanisms such as arbitration."China's official Xinhua news agency said the court was a "law-abusing tribunal" that had "widely contested jurisdiction." It said the case would only worsen the dispute."Manila fails to see that such an arbitration will only stir up more trouble in the South China Sea, which doesn't serve the interests of the concerned parties in the least," it said.The case "even threatens to further complicate the issue by giving certain parties in the disputes the false impression they could profit by deliberately creating chaos", Xinhua added.China's bases its South China Sea claim on a so-called "Nine Dash line" stretching deep into the maritime heart of southeast Asia and covering hundreds of disputed islands and reefs, rich fishing grounds and oil and gas deposits.The Philippines argues that China's claim violates the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and restricts its rights to exploit resources and fishing areas within its exclusive economic zone.U.S. officials are worried China may respond to what is widely expected to be a negative ruling for Beijing by declaring an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea, as it did in the East China Sea in 2013, and by stepping up its building and fortification of artificial islands.U.S. officials say that beyond diplomatic pressure, the U.S. response to such moves could include accelerated "freedom-of-navigation" patrols by U.S. warships and overflights by U.S. aircraft as well as increased defense aid to southeast Asian countries.China has accused the United States of "hyping" the issue and warned in May that international complaints about its actions in the South China Sea would snap back on its critics. But it has largely avoided specific threats of how it might respond to the arbitration ruling.(Additional reporting by Manny Mogato in Manila and David Brunnstrom on Washington; Editing by Richard Balmforth)
Mississauga house explosion: Residents disturbed by letters found at site-[CBC]-June 29, 2016-YAHOONEWS
Neighbours who live near a house in Mississauga, Ont., that exploded yesterday, killing a woman, say they've found letters near the scene that they find disturbing.Tuesday's explosion at 4201 Hickory Dr. also wounded several people, and damaged 25 homes in the residential area about 30 kilometres west of Toronto. Fire officials have not said what may have caused the explosion. Ontario's fire marshal is investigating.Some residents told CBC News they found notes among piles of household items, building materials and other debris. The notes were handed over to police.It's not known whether the notes came from the house that exploded. Residents who read them told CBC News the wording is apologetic in tone. They say the writer describes being in pain, asks God for help and, according to at least two different residents, requests forgiveness for the writer's future actions."They were apologizing for what they were about to do and [said] 'dear Jesus please forgive me,'" said Rhonda, who found a shopping bag full of letters in her yard and admits they may have "no bearing" on the investigation. She would only give her first name.One of the letters a neighbour showed to CBC News was addressed to God and mentioned health problems suffered by both the writer and the writer's husband. It also made reference to the writer's faith in God."Why are we still here God?" the letter asks.A second letter shown to CBC News also mentions health challenges and includes an apology for the writer's inability to keep up with home maintenance and cleaning."I trust God to look after me and my husband to take us home," the writer says.Several homeowners found similar handwritten letters, bills and even a man's will mixed among debris from the blast. "This is part of the person's life and I think it needs to be turned in to police," said Rhonda. "It may help the relatives of the deceased and it may help them in their investigation."Peel Regional Police Chief Jennifer Evans said the force is investigating where exactly the papers came from and their significance. "Citizens reported seeing pieces of paper, with possible information that may lead us to the cause ... we're still in the initial stages on that, but we are pursuing that."
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