This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What Think?

If it is true as two writers claim, both Iranians -- Sara Akrami, a political science student at York University, Toronto, and Saeed Ghasseminejad, a finance PhD candidate at city University of New York -- that Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, apart from being the current real tyrant of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a theocracy whose nuclear ambitions is seen as a direct threat to world peace and stability, is also a corrupt multi-billionaire, perhaps there is yet hope.

The two writers claim that the country's nuclear program direction is dependent upon both Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the country, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' top generals' determination to proceed with their intentions to achieve nuclear armaments. That much is clear to any observer of that particular scene. The level of their intransigence relating to the inspections of the International Atomic Energy Agency and international calls on the limitations to Iran's plans is undeniable and indefensible.

All the more so that their intention clearly -- and based on their frank, unabashed admissions in the public sphere -- is also to destroy another country located in the Middle East, alongside which their ambition well enough known to their neighbours is to dominate the entire geography on the strength of their eventual nuclear weapons cache, the country poses a threat both locally and globally to peace and stability.

The religious fervor of the fundamentalist Shia-sectarian Islamists who control Iran is witnessed by its oppression of the minority religious B'hai, by its merciless crackdown on political dissent, its insistence on Sharia law being obeyed in female dress code and male observation, on its rabid hatred of the Sunni sect, the United States, democracy, western culture, and any vestige of revolt from among its oppressed population.

Its adherence to the belief that there will be a return of an earlier imam, called the Hidden Imam, to signal the end of times, that will result in a major upheaval of universal proportions, leaving only pious Shia Muslims to live everlasting in Paradise, while unbelievers will be consigned to the lower levels of spiritual hell, is an advent that the ayatollahs and their believers among the population pine for.

Because they are so spiritually invested in the prospect of Armageddon and delivery of the faithful to Paradise, it is assumed that they would not hesitate to invite a cataclysmic world upheaval of their own devising, as in initiating a nuclear war. Rational judgement that was previously exercised by intelligent, practical humans living in the real world held the world back from nuclear night through 'mutual assured destruction', an understanding of detente between the former USSR and the United States, mortal enemies.

No such assurances exist with the pathology of extremist Islamism that is practised by the Islamic Republic of Iran. On the other hand, according to these two writers, Ayatollah Khamenei controls a huge portion of the Iranian economy through holdings and foundations the heads of which are appointed by the Supreme Leader. Those foundations pay no tax, cannot be audited by the judiciary or parliament, and operate as personal properties of the ayatollah.

They speak of a net worth value of $45-billion in real estate assets, and the ownership in addition of 36 companies on the Tehran stock exchange. The ownership in addition, of the Iran Telecommunication Co., ceding billions more to the private estate of the Supreme Leader. Making the ayatollah both politically and spiritually powerful, but also powerfully wealthy beyond calculation.

The writers contend that it has taken Ayatolla Khamenei decades to acquire this fabulous wealth, and to position himself and his holdings at the very centre of the commercial life of the country. Which makes the current UN- and US-inspired global sanctions that have curtailed the Iranian economy and done great harm to its financial stability, a hindrance to achieving even greater wealth for the ayatollah if such a prospect can even be imagined.

But here's the nub of this new information. If it is true, that this man's financial empire is so incredibly diverse and rich, and he values that status as he must, to have taken such steps to acquire it all, then he must surely wish to retain it, and even build upon it. And it is not just he himself that has been enabled to acquire such wholesale personal gains, but the elite leaders of the Republican Guard as well. Would they not all be particularly invested in maintaining what they have so laboriously gained for themselves?

Would they really be willing to risk it all for the end goal of achieving nuclear arms and instigating a wide retaliatory response if they did indeed proceed as they have intimated they plan to, once they have gained a modest nuclear arsenal, the better to test their prospects for their envisioned future as world rulers? Glumly, perhaps, yes, since they are, after all, delusional to the core.

But then, who really knows? And are we willing to risk it, supposing the world waits long enough to see the eventual -- sooner than we think -- outcome?

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What Now, Dear Leader?

There, the war games -- two long months of them -- between allies, Washington and Seoul, are finally concluded. The allies demonstrated their capabilities, their armoured war machines, their proficiency in the use of advanced technology, their determination to show unequivocally that they are equal to any and all threats of military might and intention emanating from their common and most vexing enemy.
US military vehicles cross Unification bridge, which leads to the demilitarized zone separating North Korea from South Korea near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Tuesday. The US-South Korean annual military drills ended Tuesday without incident.
Ahn Young-joon/AP

An enemy whose persona seems a caricature, and would be viewed as such if it were not that it was in possession of a deadly arsenal of weapons almost as lethally effective as their own.

A half-century and more represents a long time in human memory, but it is not too long, not too distant from the present time to have mellowed the minds of Pyongyang's Little Dictator and his generals. The 1950-53 war between the Koreas was stilled through the effective auspices of an armistice, not a peace treaty. And so, they remain officially at war with one another -- on a perpetual war footing thanks to the cantankerous North Korean paranoia.

Knowing how prickly and cartoonishly given to howling inventive and threats Dear Leader Kim Jong Un tends to be, it would be interesting to know how exactly the U.S. and North Korea defend their decision to prolong the agony of the war games, inciting Dear Leader to ever greater heights of oafish acting out, promising to send long-distance love letters to his tormentors.

On the other hand, these displays of inchoate juvenile rages cannot be left unfettered with no response whatever to leave the illusion that such evidence of moral lunacy is acceptable.

In the meantime, Pyongyang has prettified itself on the occasion of great national celebration in memory of their founder and their Great Leader's births, and the world waits with breath bated to witness the next act of witless bravuro - will it be an even more advanced ballistic missile, or yet another nuclear impact?

And where does the funding come from to allow these brave new creations in advanced military hardware threats? This is an impoverished country, after all, one that even its sponsor China is not eager to fund for fear of its hysterical use of those weapons.

The one assured source of income represented by South Korean technology and manufacturing skills employing 53,000 North Korean workers in the vast Kaesong industrial complex has been shuttered under order of Dear Leader. So that the income generated by that inter-Korean industrial cooperation has vanished.

Curious and curiouser.

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The Gradualism of Infiltration

Raed Jaser, who lived for two decades in Canada, simply was incapable of appreciating Canadian values, of finding comfort and a future within the country. He made a deliberate choice of free will instead to illustrate in a shocking manner his disregard for the country, its laws and security, its government and its people, by making common cause with international jihad, in concert with another individual for whom jihad represented honour.

His father, although born in what was then Palestine and is now Israel, to Sunni Muslim parents and his mother, a Palestinian born in Saudi Arabia, moved with their son to the Gaza Strip. They moved to the United Arab Emirates on a Jordanian passport, until such time as they no longer felt welcome there. When they moved to Germany they felt unwelcome there, as well. And then they turned to Canada which permitted them entry and haven.

The fact that they had found a place in the world that allowed them to live in peace, as equals among others, their rights protected under the laws of the land simply did not stop Raed Jaser from finding violent Islamism a more attractive option than settling down as a Canadian of Arab descent, as countless others had before him, and continue to do. He became fodder for the radical elements who recruit for jihad, instead.

And Tunisian-born Chiheb Esseghaier, in Canada on a student visa originally and given post-graduate permanent status in Canada, as a brilliant nanotechnology engineering researcher made his very conscious decision to credentialize himself as a jihadist, and to act accordingly within a degenerate society that had given him the freedom to pursue his academic and professional career. Under surveillance for over a year, the duo plotted to strike a blow for the fascist ideology of fundamentalist political Islam.

They are now charged with terrorism under Canadian law:
1. Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, between April 1st, 2012 and September 25th, 2012, in the City of Toronto, in the Province of Ontario, and in the City of Montreal, in the Province of Quebec, and elsewhere, did conspire, the one with the other, to interfere with transportation facilities contrary to section 248 of the Criminal Code of Canada, for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group, thereby committing an offence contrary to section 83.2 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
2. Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, between April 1st, 2012 and September 25th, 2012, in the City of Toronto, in the Province of Ontario and in the City of Montreal, in the Province of Quebec and elsewhere, did conspire, the one with the other, to murder persons unknown contrary to section 235(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group, thereby committing an offence contrary to section 83.2 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
And they join other would-be jihadists in the gathering annals of Canadian security and intelligence, apprehension and the meting out of justice. So why is it that we are so loathe to admit to ourselves that we are treading so lightly on the cusp of our share of what has turned out to be a global threat from 'militant' Islam? We have no wish to cause distress to the countless numbers of Muslims who live in peace with their neighbours, and so we tread lightly, as civilized societies are wont to do.

Before she stepped down as secretary of state of the United States of America, Hillary Clinton finally spoke those sentiments that her administration had been carefully avoiding: "We now face a spreading jihadist threat. We have to recognize this is a global movement."  Which makes treading that fine line between separating the threat from the belief, and the sensitivities of the masses all that more difficult.

It is, however, a problem of immense scope, as a 'global threat', for it surfaces everywhere. Everywhere, that is, that Muslims themselves present themselves. As immigrants and refugees, spread out over the globe. Where first-, second- and even third-generation young men of Muslim descent may find themselves disgruntled and dissatisfied, offended and irate, ready to be persuaded that their alienated destiny is to act as the faithful hand of god, delivering death to the kuffar.

The brothers Tsarnaev who enlisted themselves as willing mujahadeen in the jihadist battle against the infidels and whose commitment was finally demonstrated by home-made bombs set off at the Boston Marathon when Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his little brother Dzhokhar casually strolled around among the thousands celebrating a spring day and sunshine, then walked on as people died and were maimed, represented yet another symptom of the Islamist pathology.

The threats become far more virally menacing with the reality that a rogue Islamist state with ambitions to rule both the Middle East and by extension the world community, to hasten a global Caliphate as bidden by Islamic scripture, hovers in the background. Iran, and its strident determination to achieve its goal of nuclear weaponry, cannot be discounted as a source of nuclear weapons to be handed to its acolyte terrorist groups.

As the world's leading contender for primacy in sponsoring global terrorism, a country that doesn't hesitate to brutalize its own -- so why would it care if countless human sacrifices ensue from that global battle, the better to hasten the appearance of the Hidden Imam and the Apocalypse -- why would it not share weapons of mass destruction with Hezbollah and Hamas and Islamic Jihad and any other irregular militias, including al-Qaeda?

Al-Qaeda and its affiliates use modern technology to influence followers, to guide them in the construction and planning of terrorist attacks and the devices that aid their atrocities. From the small, relatively innocuous, albeit shockingly destructive plots that injure mere handfuls, kill slight numbers, to the overall grand plan of a massive turning of the tide in favour of Islamist conquest, the action is set in motion.

By dribs and drabs we see events unfold that horrify and forewarn. But hope springs eternal in the normal human mind, not beset by the pathology of religion-inspired moral lunacy, and we simply cannot believe the depths to which human nature can descend in its downward spiral. And, in fact, we scarcely know how we should react, how we must erect defences to stem that dreadful tide prepared to overwhelm and triumph.

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April 30, 2013
One of the pictures posted on the Fatah Facebook page glorifying Salam Za’al, who stabbed to death 31-year-old father-of-five Evyatar Borovsky. Photo: Fatah Facebook page as reposted by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).

In the wake of the murder of 31-year-old father-of-five Evyatar Borovsky Tuesday by a Palestinian terrorist Tuesday at the Tapuach Junction in Samaria, Fatah has posted pictures of the terrorist and the victim on its Facebook page with wording describing the terrorist as “the hero, the released prisoner, Salam Al-Zaghal.”

Salam Za’al, a resident of Tulkarem, had arrived at the junction armed with a knife and stabbed Borovsky as he was waiting at a hitchhiking stop several times in the chest. He then grabbed Borovsky’s handgun and opened fire at a nearby Border Police patrol. He was eventually subdued and taken into custody.  Media reports stated that Za’al had been released from an Israeli prison, where he served a three-year sentence for throwing rocks, less than six months ago.

Palestinian Media Watch highlighted text and photos that had accompanied the posts on Fatah’s Facebook page. “A picture of the settler who was killed today at the Al-Za’atara military checkpoint, in south Nablus, by the hero, the released prisoner, Salam As’ad Al-Zaghal from Tulkarem,” the Facebook page administrator wrote next to one of the posted photos. “Peace upon you, on the day of your birth, on the day of your arrest, and on the day you will go free,” another photo caption stated.

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April 30, 2013 1:22 am 1 comment
Haj Amin el-Husseini, better known as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, with Nazi SS officers in November 1943. Photo: German Federal Archives.

Nazi Germany’s effort to recruit supporters in the Arab world is attracting new attention among scholars.

With the 70th anniversary of a Palestinian Arab leader’s sabotage of a plan to rescue Jewish children from Europe coming up next month, Israeli scholar Edy Cohen spoke exclusively to JNS.org about his current research on the role of Nazi and Axis propaganda in the Middle East. Cohen, 41, is on the staff of the Israel State Archives.

During the Holocaust years, Haj Amin el-Husseini, better known as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, lived in Berlin, where he recorded pro-Nazi radio broadcasts that were beamed to the Arab world and recruited Bosnian Muslims to join an all-Muslim unit of the SS. Seventy years ago, on May 13, 1943, Husseini caught wind of a plan to permit 4,000 Jewish children, accompanied by 500 adults, to travel to Palestine in exchange for the release of 20,000 German prisoners of war. Both the Germans and the British had agreed to the exchange, but the Germans backed down when the Mufti objected.

The Mufti was the most prominent Arab figure to support the Nazis, but he was not alone. “My research tracks the effort by the Germans, Italians, and Japanese to spread their propaganda and influence in Palestine and various Arab countries,” said Dr. Cohen, who was born and raised in Beirut and immigrated to Israel in 1995. “They worked hard at it and, to a significant extent, they succeeded.” Cohen has been combing through Arabic-language Nazi and Axis leaflets and radio broadcasts that were collected and analyzed by Haganah intelligence in the 1930s and 1940s.

Some of the leaflets found by Cohen feature stark headlines such as “Kill the Jews and the British!” Some were printed on the back of facsimile British pounds or American dollars, so that when they were dropped by German planes over Arab regions of Palestine, they looked like money and immediately attracted attention.
Haj Amin el-Husseini, better known as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Photo: American Colony (Jerusalem), Photo Dept., photographer.

According to Cohen, some of the Arabic-language Nazi propaganda promised that those who attacked Jews would be rewarded by being given “the most beautiful of the Jewish girls” after Palestine’s Jewish community was vanquished. “That sort of language makes one think of the promise that Muslim terrorist leaders today sometimes offer—that those who die while killing Jews will receive seventy virgins in heaven,” Cohen said.

The text of the leaflets and broadcasts were composed by Nazi authors, and then translated into Arabic by members of the Mufti’s entourage in Berlin. Some of the Mufti’s men in Germany were more than writers: several parachuted into Palestine in 1944 with vials of poison that they intended to dump in the Tel Aviv water system. They were intercepted by the British police before they could carry out the attack.

Cohen found an internal memo from British police headquarters in Jerusalem in 1939 reporting, “The Arab population in Palestine are listening to the Berlin Broadcasts in Arabic most attentively, particularly in town and village coffee shops where large crowds gather for the purpose.” The report stated that the “uneducated classes are undoubtedly being influenced” by the Nazi propaganda.
In 1945, the activists known as the Bergson Group successfully lobbied the government of Yugoslavia to indict the Mufti as a war criminal, because of atrocities committed against Allied soldiers and civilians by members of the Bosnian Muslim SS unit, known as “Handschar,” that he helped create. The Yugoslavs never took steps to extradite him, however.

Husseini fled Berlin during the final days of the war but was briefly detained by the French authorities and placed under house arrest in a Paris villa. In response to Arab pressure, the French permitted the Mufti to stage a faux escape, and he found haven in Cairo. Later he moved to Beirut, where he passed away in 1974.

Earlier this year, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas stirred controversy when, in a PA television broadcast, he listed the Mufti’s name among a number of “martyrs and heroes” who have died while fighting Jews or Israelis.

Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, DC. His latest book is “FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,” available from Amazon.

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FBI searches home of Boston bombing suspect’s widow, second suspect gets top defence team

Associated Press | 13/04/30 | Last Updated: 13/04/30 1:16 PM ET
Katherine Russell, right, wife of Boston Marathon bomber suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, leaves the law office of DeLuca and Weizenbaum Monday, April 29, 2013, in Providence, R.I.
APKatherine Russell, right, wife of Boston Marathon bomber suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, leaves the law office of DeLuca and Weizenbaum Monday, April 29, 2013, in Providence, R.I.
NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — FBI agents investigating the Boston Marathon bombings have visited the Rhode Island home of dead suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s in-laws and carried away several bags.

CNN says at least one bag was labelled DNA samples. The New York Times is reporting that the FBI is investigating the possibility that DNA on the pressure cooker belongs to Katherine Russell, Tamerlan’s widow.

FBI spokesman Jason Pack confirms agents went to the North Kingstown home of Katherine Russell’s parents Monday. Russell has been staying there.

Russell didn’t speak as she left her attorneys’ office in Providence. Attorney Amato DeLuca says she’s doing everything she can to assist with the investigation.

Attorneys have said Russell and her family were in shock when they learned of the allegations against her husband and brother-in-law, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a gunbattle with police. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction. Their mother calls the allegations lies.

Tsarnaev’s defence team was revealed Monday.
One lawyer won acquittal for a Saudi man charged with carrying three firecracker-like devices on a plane, arguing he was a victim of hysteria over airport security after the Sept. 11 attacks. Another has managed to avert death sentences for some of the highest-profile criminals of our time, including the Unabomber and the gunman whose rampage injured former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Together, they are staring down what may become their biggest challenge so far: how to defend the man authorities say helped plan and carry out the Boston Marathon bombings, an attack that killed three people, injured more than 260 and virtually shut down the city during an intense manhunt.

The team that will be led by Miriam Conrad, the chief federal public defender for Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, got a major boost Monday with the addition of prominent San Diego lawyer and death penalty opponent Judy Clarke. Not that Conrad is considered any slouch.

“She is as tenacious as they come,” said Joshua Levy, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Boston who has gone up against Conrad in federal court. “I always found her to be very smart and focused on whatever she perceived as chinks in the armor in the government’s case. She would zone in on that.”

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is charged with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, a crime that carries a potential death sentence. He lies in a prison hospital after being wounded in a shootout with police as he and his brother made a getaway attempt. Tamerlan Tsarneav, 26, was killed.
AP Photo/Bob Leonard
AP Photo/Bob Leonard   This Monday, April 15, 2013 file photo provided by Bob Leonard shows bombing suspects Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, center right in black hat, and his brother, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, center left in white hat, approximately 10-20 minutes before the blasts that struck the Boston Marathon. 
Conrad is preparing for what’s expected to be a long and complicated legal process. Although federal law entitles to at least one lawyer with experience in death penalty cases, Conrad asked for two.
She got Clarke but was denied a second – David Bruck, a professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law. He has directed the school’s death penalty defense clinic since 2004.
The suspect’s lawyers could renew their motion to appoint another death penalty expert if he is indicted, the judge said. That’s when prosecutors could add new charges. Prosecutors have 30 days to indict him.

Northampton, Mass., lawyer David Hoose described Clarke as “simply the best.”
“She has an ability to relate to people who are charged with these horrific, horrific crimes and to humanize them, to portray them as human beings to the government and to a jury,” said Hoose, who has represented several people accused of capital crimes, including Kristen Gilbert, a former veterans hospital nurse who killed four patients by overdosing them with medicine. Gilbert was spared the death penalty.

Conrad, 56, is among three federal defenders in her office who will represent Tsarnaev and would not talk about how she will defend him. Lawyers who have handled capital cases say the team’s first priority will likely be to persuade prosecutors to take the death penalty off the table.

Tamar Birckhead, a former federal public defender who represented shoe bomber Richard Reid, said the public safety exception cited by authorities allows investigators to question a suspect on a focused and limited basis when police or the public may be in immediate danger.

“It seems inevitable if the case is going to be litigated and not resolved in a negotiated plea, then (Conrad) will bring a motion to suppress and try to argue that the government went beyond the public safety exception or didn’t craft questions that were limited enough to fit within that exception,” said Birckhead, now an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law.
“Then they’ll see what a judge decides,” she said.

Experts say Conrad is also almost certain to try to suppress statements Tsarnaev allegedly made to investigators before he was advised of his constitutional right to remain silent and seek a lawyer.
Tsarnaev admitted his role in the bombings, saying that he and his brother were angry about the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the killing of Muslims there, officials said.
AP Photo/Ben Thorndike
AP Photo/Ben Thorndike    This Monday April 15, 2013 photo provided by Ben Thorndike shows the scene following an explosion at the 2013 Boston Marathon in Boston.
Conrad has spent her entire legal career as a public defender, first for the state, and for the past 21 years as a federal defender. Before going to Harvard Law School, she worked for the Kansas City Times and as a crime reporter for The Miami Herald.

In court, Conrad is aggressive and feisty without being histrionic. Prosecutors who have gone up against her say she is a fierce advocate who takes advantage of any missteps by her opponents. Judges also respect her.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Smith recalled attending a seminar several years ago when a panel of judges was asked by a lawyer how he should handle himself in federal court.
“One of the judges said, `Do what Miriam does. Watch Miriam; do what she does,’” Smith said.
She won an acquittal in 2004 for a Saudi biomedical engineer who was charged after three sparklers were found in his luggage at Boston’s Logan Airport. She argued he didn’t realize the sparklers were in his luggage. After he was acquitted, Conrad questioned why the case wasn’t resolved by Customs agents.

“Knowing how credible he is, I wonder why it didn’t stop there,” she said. “This guy is no more a terrorist than Pope John Paul.”

In the case of Rezwan Ferdaus, a Massachusetts man accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol and Pentagon with remote-controlled model planes, Conrad suggested his plot was just a fantasy fueled by mental health problems. Ferdaus received a 17-year sentence after pleading guilty to attempting to provide material support to terrorists and other charges.

In a 2006 interview with Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, Conrad said she does not see her clients in one-dimensional terms.
“From a personal standpoint, I would say that there are very few clients I have had who I didn’t like,” she said.

“If you scratch the surface, many have had difficult lives, and, as their lawyer, I sort of see them whole – not just as a person charged with a crime,” she said. “No one has ever stood up for them, and that is a very powerful, emotional thing,” she said.

Clarke’s clients have included the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski; Susan Smith, who drowned her two children; Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph; and most recently Tucson, Ariz., shooter Jared Loughner. All received life sentences instead of the death penalty.

Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz said Clarke understands the divide among Americans over the death penalty, with some opposed to it, others generally supportive of it, and still others who want to see it reserved for only the worst cases.

“She knows how to use those attitudinal differences in the interests of her clients,” he said.
Clarke has rarely spoken publicly about her work and did not return a call seeking comment Monday. However, at a speech Friday at a legal conference in Los Angeles, she talked about how she had been “sucked into the black hole, the vortex” of death penalty cases 18 years ago when she represented Smith.

“I got a dose of understanding human behavior, and I learned what the death penalty does to us,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a secret that I oppose the death penalty.”

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Surprise Israeli military drill on Syrian, Lebanese borders. Reservists mobilized

DEBKAfile Special Report April 30, 2013, 4:01 PM (GMT+02:00)
Israel's Golan border with Syria
Israel's Golan border with Syria
Israel’s armed forces launched a snap division-scale drill along the full length of the Syrian and Lebanese borders Tuesday, April 30, with call-up orders for thousands of reservists, debkafile’s military sources report.
The exercise will last up to week’s end.
It was taken into account that the unannounced exercise would send military tensions shooting up on the volatile Israeli, Jordanian, Syrian and Lebanese borders. Moscow, Tehran, Damascus and Hizballah headquarters would assume that Israel is massing troops in advance of US military intervention in Syria.

Its timing is also connected to the speech Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah is scheduled to deliver Tuesday night in case he announces military steps against Israel.

Our Washington sources report that President Barack Obama is poised for a momentous decision on whether to pursue military action against Syrian military targets, including Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons facilities.

These appear to be his three primary options:

1. An American aerial bombardment of the Syrian military bases and facilities which are the mainstay which keep Bashar Assad in power;

2.  A missile strike on his chemical weapons from the sea and from ground bases in Europe and the Middle East;

3.  The deployment of 20,000 American troops to the Jordanian-Syrian frontier.

Alternatively, Obama may choose to combine elements of all three options and activate them simultaneously.

The surprise Israeli military exercise and concentration of reserve units along the borders of Syria and Lebanon place the IDF including its air and naval branches on the ready for a role in a potential American military operation against Syria.

The Israeli military also stands prepared to repel possible reprisals by Iran, Syria or Hizballah against US, Jordanian or Israeli troops.

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Boston Marathon investigators find woman’s DNA on bomb fragment

FBI image shows the remains of a pressure cooker that the FBI says was part of one of the Boston Marathon bombs (Courtesy: AP /FBI)
Al Arabiya  
Investigators have found traces of female DNA on a fragment from one of the bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon earlier this month, U.S. officials said late Monday.

While it is still unclear who the DNA matches to, the find indicates a female accomplice may have helped the two brothers suspected in the bombings, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, according to officials briefed on the probe speaking to U.S. press.

Investigators will now compare the DNA of Katherine Russell, the widow of accused bomber Tamerlan, against the DNA found on the bomb remnant to determine if she ever came in contact with the device, U.S.-based CBS news reported on Tuesday.
Russell is not a suspect in the bombings.

“FBI agents met with Russell at her parents' Rhode Island home Monday to collect a DNA sample,” the CBS report stated.

Tamerlan died after a shootout with police four days after the April 15 bombings.

"The FBI is there as part of our ongoing investigation, but we aren't permitted to discuss specific aspects of the case," FBI spokesman Jason Pack was widely quoted as saying by the U.S. press.
Boston bombing suspects Tamerlan Tsarnaev (L) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (Al Arabiya)

Russell has remained silent, staying with her three-year-old daughter Zahara at her parents’ house in Rhode Island. Russell's family has issued a statement saying they were shocked by the attack.
Still, investigators want to question Russell to find out if she had any knowledge of her husband's plans.

In 2009, Tamerlan was arrested for assaulting Russell.
Still, investigators want to question Russell to find out if she had any knowledge of her husband's plans.

Her school friends have reportedly said she was “brain-washed by her extremist husband.”

Meanwhile, the Tsarnaevs' parents have denied their sons were involved in terrorism.
The father of the bombing suspects has accused the FBI of “setting up” his sons.

“They just wanted to set up Tamerlan, and Dzhokhar just turned out to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Anzor Tsarnaev told the Russian Komsomolskaya Pravda daily last week.
“Tamerlan was driving him to school when they started shooting at them,” he said. “This is a set-up, a political order, a Hollywood show.”

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the suspects’ mother, has also said she believed her sons have been framed by U.S. authorities

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Child Conscripts

"I was excited to learn the right way to use a weapon. It's important because of the occupation. I feel stronger with the knowledge, which I could use against the occupier."
Izzadine Mohamed, 17, Gaza student
One can just imagine how exciting it must be to a 17-year-old to be given close, authorized exposure to munitions, military hardware, equipment of war that young boys can ordinarily only dream about. And here his dream has become a reality. How extremely fortunate for him. He can anticipate a future -- actually not all that far into the future -- when he can join the forces of the Hamas militias and go to war -- against their neighbour, Israel.

Hamas, in its wisdom, and looking itself to the near future, anticipating new recruits coming down the line, reasons that it makes good sense to train them as soon as possible. Why wait until they're of adult age to begin training? Facilitating ease of use with weapons at an early stage in the development of a young boy into an adult makes reasonable sense. Going into conflict it gives them that much more of an edge.

So Palestinian schoolboys are now learning how to accurately and confidently fire Kalashnikovs, and how to throw grenades. Initially a two-week program operated by the education ministry under Hamas does the trick. But the boys can always sign up for an extended privilege to continue their exposure to war techniques, and get a taste of their exciting future.

The program is called Futuwwa, and it was ushered formally into the state curriculum last September. Boys aged between 15 and 17, an estimated 37,000 Palestinian Gazans, are being introduced to adulthood, initiated into a new generation of Palestinians to struggle against Israel, the occupier. The weekly school classes themselves cover first aid, basic firefighting, and firing a rifle.

An initial five thousand boys across Gaza signed up for a two-week camp at a Hamas military base, aside from the exposure they're getting at school. Military-style uniforms of black T-shirts and trousers are supplied. Training is effected by officers from the Hamas National Guard and militants representing Hamas's armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades.

Does life get any better for teen-age boys, fed the pablum of self-defence and proximity to a deadly neighbour from infancy on?

Young Mohamed explained that along with martial-arts style street fighting, he and the other conscripts were taught how to throw hand grenades and how to react if one should happen to explode nearby -- "drop flat on the ground next to the grenade, it explodes outward". Isn't that magnificently useful?

"We are not conducting military training in our schools, we are providing information", rebuts Mohamed Syam, head of the education ministry in charge of the program.  Oddly enough, an article on the Hamas ministry of education website credits the al-Qassam Brigades in a commendation for its contribution to the course.

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"I don't think you will see a missile coming through here. We have a small military but with the patriots we are playing in the Premier League. It's an improved system that's been tested more than once. I have 100% confidence in our systems."
Col. Martin Buis
"This represents a big opportunity and a big responsibility. To intercept a high velocity TBM is a great achievement. 
"Within one metre of launch our response is traveling at half the speed of sound. The newest Patriot -- the PAC-3 -- is like a bullet hitting a bullet. It destroys the target without using any explosives. It obliterates it with kinetic energy."
1st Lt. Arnd de Ruiter

This is the fall-out of the Syrian conflict. A Netherlands military group now stationed inside the border of Turkey with a Dutch Patriot battery, prepared to launch anti-missile strikes such as a Scud missile that might be fired from Syria over the border. Turkey has called in its NATO membership privileges to ensure that it has protection against any Syrian regime strikes meant to offer payback for its censure against the regime's airstrikes against its own people.

Adana, 140 kilometres from the Syrian border, is now supplied with a defence. The city is one of over two million population. Struck by a rocket capable of carrying chemical weapons, such a scenario would be utterly devastating. But Syrian President al Assad is increasingly seen as unpredictable, and the potential of striking out in rage against Turkey, once a collegial asset to Syria, now harbouring hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, remains a threat.

"I do not have eyes on the ground in Syria to report on things but, every time there is a victim, that is bad enough for me. We can see all the TBMs in Syria from their point of origin to their point of impact. When I see a Scud launch and it is a red dot on the scope, I realize that it is going to kill people. It helps us to realize what we are doing by defending the people of Adana. Protecting two million people here is motivation enough for us", explained Col. Buis, Dutch commander of the NATO anti-ballistic mission in Turkey.

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Canada: Hezbollah; Very Well Organized

"The changes in the Middle East subsequent to the Arab Spring have not delivered a death blow to al-Qaeda or the larger Islamist Extremist movement. Extremists have gained ground over the last few months in North Africa and the Middle East. Extremists see the Arab Spring countries as legitimate theatres for jihad."
Canadian Security Intelligence Service report

Europe and North America have developed internal sieves that trickle through newly recruited operatives anxious and eager to do their part in the global battle launched by fanatical Islamists against the forces of evil represented by the countries that embraced them and their families as immigrants. The flow of citizens from Canada and Europe into Islamic war zones is seen as alarming by national security and intelligence agencies tasked with the protection of their countries and populations.

The Netherlands was recently concerned enough to raise its terrorism threat level to "substantial", arising out of fears that among the one hundred Dutch citizens that have trickled through to Syria to fight as mujahadeen there against the Shia-led regime of Alawite-Baath President Bashar al-Assad will be some who plan to return, bringing their newly-acquired fighting skills with them, to acquaint the Netherlands further with what it feels like to be targeted by jihad.

Funnily enough, in this context, the Netherlands was among a number of disparate countries -- European, Latin American and Middle Eastern -- that took Canada to task on its human rights records before the UN's Human Rights Council a few days earlier, stating its concern over charitable status regulations interfering with the ability of non-governmental organizations to carry out human rights activities in Canada....

The international police organization EUROPOL reported from its perspective this week the appearance of a "distinct rise" in the numbers of EU citizens arming themselves among "groups associated with religiously inspired terrorism". "Syria emerged as the destination of choice for foreign fighters in 2012", states the EUROPOL report.

CSIS's assistant director of intelligence, Michael Peirce, informed a Canadian parliamentary immigration committee last month that it remained "extremely difficult" to fully understand what motivates Canadians leaving for Syria. "I should also point out that we see movement at times. An individual may go over and begin activities with the Free Syrian Army and move over and end up fighting for or with the Al Nustra Front, for example. It's very difficult to track", he said.

Extremist Islamists, skilled in fighting elsewhere, like Iraq or Algeria, Libya or Mali, and well armed, thanks to the proliferation of weapons that resulted from pillaging the weapons caches left behind by the Libyan military when they were routed by their own opposing militias in Libya, have joined the violent free-for-all now raging in Syria. Many under the guidance of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Where they are determined to take advantage of the Syrian armed opposition, disparate militias, uncoordinated, unskilled, in possession of fewer and less potent weaponry. To, in effect, highjack the revolution to make it over into a true Islamist revolution, one where fundamentalist Islam will take charge of the country under strict Sharia law; yet another country to fall to the Sunni Muslim tide of extremism.

"The extent to which the Syrian conflict has mobilized Muslims across the world is significant and may be compared to the conflicts in Iraq in the 2000s, Bosnia in the 1990s and Afghanistan in the 1980s. Based on the sheer scale of recruitment that is currently taking place, European security services are well advised to monitor the situation closely",  informs a recent study by the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalization.

They state that others have also been radicalized; converts to Islam. Reckoning that between 7% to 11% of jihadists, Muslim-born but European-domiciled recruits to jihad have moved into the theatres of conflict in the Middle East.  The Netherlands is well represented with up to 107 citizens fighting; France estimated with up to 90, Belgium up to 80, Denmark up to 78 and Germany up to 40 citizens departed to take part in jihad.

The Syrian regime itself has not been idle in importing fighters from Iraq, Iran and Lebanon. Sectarian divides aid in impulsive declarations of support from either Sunnis or Shia Muslims to join the battle on one side or the other. Hezbollah is a religious, ideological fit for allying itself with Syria under the auspices of its mentoring state, Iran, whose own al Quds portion of the Revolutionary Guard is heavily involved in fighting for the regime. Hamas, another creature of Iran, proved less compliant through sectarian strains.

A Syrian Canadian Council spokesman explains that other than for humanitarian purposes he and his group do not advise anyone to travel to Syria, though he knows personally of two Canadians who have departed to fight, one of whom may be dead. "The whole world is seeing what is happening in Syria and there is this huge sense of desperation. We are being let down, the world is seeing what's happening and they are letting it happen. Red line after red line is being crossed. This is what is drawing people."

As for his estimation of how many Canadians were there, fighting in Syria, he responds: "I don't think it would surpass ten with the rebels. On the other side, it's more doubtful but I know for a fact that Hezbollah has a lot of people in Canada. I know this. I live in Montreal and I see them here and they're very well organized."

Isn't that brilliantly reassuring?

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Disciplining Canada at the UN

"Canada has a track record of being a human rights leader, at home and around the world. Canada will accept these visits.
"Canada has taken steps to ensure all Canadians can contribute to our economic growth and long-term prosperity. This of course includes Canada's aboriginal peoples."
Joseph Lavoie, spokesperson for John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Ah, Canada. Proud of ourselves. Of our national temperament, our narrative as an immigrant collective, respectful of one another, with our proud laws enshrining equality between persons irrespective of gender, ethnic origin, religion, ideology -- and more, much more. We are the proud parts of our sum total. A country offering opportunity and fulfilment of individual aspirations.

What's that old proverb, now? Ah, yes: Pride Goeth Before A Fall. We're about to have a fall, a morale collapse, as it were, courtesy of the United Nations in its great and fulsomely powerful influence on the internal moral corruption that exists in countries such as Canada that fail to practise what we preach: human rights.

Educational opportunities open to all and subsidized handsomely by taxpayers. Health care freely and expertly proffered. Social services second to none. Respect for all minorities, visible and otherwise. Laws that guarantee a full measure of justice. We are not too proud, however, to be humble too, about our national accomplishments in the furtherance of human rights.

And prepared and ready for three visits from UN Special Rapporteurs; one on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, another representing the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Ah, those special rapporteurs tasked by the United Nations to survey compliance among member countries.

Some of them must surely be worthy of the titles naming their purpose. Alas, it has been our misfortune to discover that many are simply disgruntled, inexpert and mean-minded individuals with an agenda of their own, one that fits neatly into the general atmosphere prevailing within the United Nations and its creature committees, poseurs of human rights entitlements.

Canada, most certainly, does not present among the fawners and self-abnegators, the deferential, the groveling, adulatory, bootlicking, cringing, ingratiating, obsequious, scraping, spinelessly submissive delegates who bow and scrape and utter the approved phrases of fealty to the bullying of the UN-approved authorities who set out on their mission of outing the non-compliant for their human rights malfeasances.

Take, for example, Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird's uncivil and unabashed statement of rejection of the stance taken by another UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, placing the blame where he believes it should rest for the Boston Bombings, on the activities of the United States and Israel, offensive to the greater Muslim world communities, hence payback.
"Once again, United Nations official Richard Falk has spewed more mean-spirited, anti-Semitic rhetoric. I respectfully call on the United Nations Human Rights Council -- again -- to remove Mr. Falk from his position."
Uh-oh! Respectfully, or -- certainly not -- Canada is in for it, once again. UN special rapporteur Maina Kiai last year listed Canada, along with Belarus, Ethiopia, Russia and Jordan as representative of countries where "the laws are particularly harsh in terms of restricting the freedom of association."

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Canada's UN Comeuppance

"The continued subversion of the UN human rights system -- whereby thugs, murderers and rapists purport to judge the human rights record of a liberal democracy -- undermines the founding principles and credibility of the United Nations.
"The UN squandered a golden opportunity to contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights in Canada. It's the foxes guarding the chickens, with the world's worst tyrannies abusing a legitimate process ... to deflect attention from their own sordid practices."
Hillel Neuer, UN Watch

The United Kingdom, one of several, made reference to the social/existential plight of First Nations communities living in isolated regions of the country in their preferred ancestral geographies, in reservations where employment is as scarce as nutritional foods having to be shipped in at great expense over long distances, where, unsurprisingly, potable water is a problem, and health professionals would prefer not to locate themselves, and where education for the young is tragically substandard, and youth suicide distressingly prevalent.

An instant response clarifying how easy it is to change all of this, and that the Government of Canada would immediately implement workable solutions, and install all the infrastructure of cities at those remote locations would certainly have gone far to clarify the official response and satisfy the demands of Canada's interlocutors, particularly the past-colonial mother country, Britain.

For its part, Estonia, part of the former USSR, with a blighted WWII past, and a history of active racism, asked Canada to repeal a section of the Criminal Code giving permission to Canadian parents, in effect, the right under law to discipline errant children by spanking them. For its part, that bastion of human rights, Montenegro, asked for an accounting of Canada's efforts in battling human trafficking. Montenegro: Principal human rights problems included police mistreatment of suspects in detention; substandard prison conditions; police impunity; lengthy pretrial detention; inefficient trials; intimidation of journalists; mistreatment of refugees; widespread reports of government corruption; denial of public access to information; discrimination against women; trafficking in persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities; discrimination against ethnic minorities, particularly Roma; intolerance based on sexual identity; and infringement on the rights of workers. U.S. State Department

And the Netherlands, which labours under an Islamist immigrant undercurrent destabilizing their society, expressed its concern about charitable status regulations that might interfere with non-governmental organizations' capacity to carry out their noble human rights activities. All of this a virtual appetizer to the main course of condemnations by the countries of the world truly outstanding in their human rights performance.

The delegation from North Korea stated its concerns: "We have serious concerns about continued violations of the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, torture and other ill-treatment, racism and xenophobia", and they weren't addressing their great good friends in Iran, but rather Canada, and doubtless chuckling evilly all the while.

Iran was vindictively irate about "violations of human rights by Canadian government", inclusive of "child sexual exploitation and trafficking, the right to food, discriminatory law and regulation against indigenous people and minority groups including Muslim, Arab and African communities", an argument that went very far in delighting the Organization of Muslim Cooperation, happy enough to overlook Iran's dismal human rights atrocities.

China, with its vast pool of emigrants who have settled successfully in Canada, establishing communities within the country's largest cities, sending its youth to post-secondary institutions in numbers exceeding any other ethnic group, and establishing careers in medicine, biology, environmental science, musical performance and more, expressed its dismay over "widespread racial discrimination in Canada".

Russia expressed its alarm over Canada's "police actions of torture and cruelty against peaceful demonstrators", and no one in that august gathering fell off their seats, gripping their sides with laughter, while Pakistan uttered its dismay with relation to Canada's "increased poverty and unemployment rate among immigrant communities", and Egypt bemoaned "racial profiling in law-enforcement action"; Cuba bringing up the rear with "racism and xenophobia" in Canada.

It is truly amazing just how well the world at large knows Canada and all its unfortunate and shameful failings as a society. And now that Canadians know that we have failed in so many indices of human development and social relations, perhaps we will be spurred to action - a mass migration, leaving this country for other destinations of greater human potential, like Russia, China, Egypt, Cuba, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea.

We're coooooooming!

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Preferential, fast-lane treatment for Saudi visa applicants should be considered on a reciprocal basis, with verifiable Saudi progress in stopping funding for Wahhabi-Salafist mosque construction; Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated imams; anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and anti-West curriculum materials and jihadi fighters everywhere on Sharia battlefields.
One of the more striking—and worrisome—aspects of the April 2013 Boston Marathon terror attack and the cross-border al-Qa'eda/Iran plot to bomb a passenger railway that runs between New York City and Toronto, Canada is the realization that all four suspects so far identified in the two plots had entered legally into the United States and Canada, respectively. Crossing legally into Western countries targeted for terror attacks, entering immigrant and refugee streams without drawing attention from security services, and blending into existing multicultural communities while establishing personas indistinguishable from those of tens of thousands of other new arrivals, appears to be a tried and true modus operandi for Islamic jihadis. It definitely worked for the fifteen of nineteen 9/11 hijackers who were Saudis.

Given the reality of that threat, brought home yet again to North America with these two latest plots, now is probably not the best time for the current administration to revive the visa program that allowed the Saudi government to help screen visa applicants for fast-track entry into the U.S. And yet, that is exactly what just happened: an agreement between the U.S. and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was reached in January 2013 that would accept Saudi applicants into the Global Entry Trusted Traveler program. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef heads the Saudi Interior Ministry that will screen Saudi applicants when the pilot program begins in 2014. To his credit, bin Nayef has led an internal Saudi crackdown against al-Qa'eda and survived an al-Qa'eda assassination attempt in retaliation. On the other side of the ledger, however, Saudi Arabia is the world's foremost sponsor of both Islamic jihad and Da'wa [Islamic religious outreach], the source of funding and inspiration for promoters of Islamic Sharia law and anti-Western suicide bombers alike across the globe.

As revealed in early stages of the recent plot investigations, none of these latest accused terrorists in the Boston Marathon and passenger train plots sneaked into Canada or the U.S. or paid a coyote to get himself past border controls. Rather, all of them (or their families) worked the legal system, then later (even years later) were activated—or recruited and then activated—to carry out an attack mission. According to The Iconoclast, the Tsarnaev brothers had been admitted to the U.S., along with multiple members of their extended family, under the aegis of the Refugee Act of 1980.

Tamerlan, the elder brother, arrived in 2006 and was granted Permanent Resident status, while Dzhokhar, who arrived on a tourist visa in 2002, was given asylum status as a Chechen refugee from Dagestan, and eventually achieved U.S. citizenship on 11 September 2012.

In the Canada-U.S. railway bombing plot, Tunisian-born Chiheb Esseghaier moved to Canada in 2008 and was "granted permanent residency under Quebec's skilled worker program," according to the Canadian National Post. Accused co-conspirator Raed Jaser, who was born in the United Arab Emirates, arrived in Canada with his parents and two brothers in 1993 on false French passports; although denied a request for asylum based on claims of persecution in Germany, most of the family eventually obtained Canadian citizenship. Jaser might have too, except that he racked up a criminal record while awaiting his final status ruling. However, because Jaser somehow was listed as a "stateless Palestinian" whose father had left the newly-established State of Israel in 1948 (instead of remaining to become an Israeli citizen), there was no place to where Canada could deport him, despite multiple efforts.

Every one of the nineteen 9/11 attack hijackers entered the U.S. on a valid passport and visa, too.
Janice Kephart served as a former counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information; a former immigration counsel to the September 11 Commission; and current National Security Policy Director at the Center for Immigration Studies. She also served as an expert witness in the Havlish case which, in December 2011, resulted in a Federal District Court ruling that Iran was co-responsible with al-Qa'eda for 9/11; and provided testimony for both the 9/11 Commission and the Havlish case. Kephart has emphasized the critical importance of travel documents for terrorists. In the affidavit she wrote for the Havlish case, Kephart discussed how Iranian material support to some of the al-Qa'eda hijackers, in the form of refraining from placing border stamps in their passports, ultimately enabled them to enter the U.S. with "clean passports" that bore no evidence of their having been in Afghanistan, Iran, or other Middle Eastern locations that would have drawn unwanted scrutiny. Although Kephart did not say so specifically, fifteen of those nineteen passports were Saudi passports -- and in at least eight of those cases, Saudi officials at some level would have to have been complicit with the Iranians to arrange a bilateral agreement on the mark in the hijackers' passports that would be seen and recognized by the Iranian border guards.

As Steven Emerson at The Investigative Project on Terrorism points out in an important -- and critical -- review of the new Saudi fast-track visa program, the book has never really been closed on Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, there is a 28-page classified section of the official 9/11 Commission Report that points to the "plausible involvement of possible Saudi government agents in the September 11th attacks," according to former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, and which former Florida Senator Bob Graham asserts would put our understanding of the Saudi role in those attacks in a different light.

Aside from the probable Saudi passport arrangement with Iran, Saudi individuals and entities were key links in the so-called "Golden Chain" of financial benefactors to Usama bin Laden and al-Qa'eda. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, those resources were "put together mainly by financiers in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states." A key list of al-Qa'eda funders was discovered in a 2002 search of the Bosnian offices of the Benevolence International Foundation, a Saudi-based funding mechanism for al-Qa'eda also designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury Department. Saudi donors featured prominently on the handwritten list of 20 names. The so-called "SAAR Network," named after Saudi billionaire Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, was among them; it was raided by the FBI in 2002. The Rabita Trust was also a financial front founded in 1988 by Omar Abdullah Nasseef, who was then Secretary General of the SAAR-linked Muslim World League, and another senior Saudi close to the royal family—as well as to Huma Abedin, Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Clinton from 2009-2013.

Then there is the Saudi student, Abdul Rahman Ali Al-Harbi, who was named "a person of interest" and detained under guard by U.S. federal officials at a hospital after the Boston Marathon attack. Al-Harbi, whose extended family clan includes multiple members identified by the Saudi government as al-Qa'eda terrorists as well as five GITMO detainees, was (or maybe still is) in the U.S. on a student visa to attend college in Ohio -- but was living in the Boston area at the time of the marathon attack. On Tuesday 16 April 2013, the day after the marathon attack, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) created an "event file" on al-Harbi, specifically citing him under a provision (212(a)(3)B) reserved for "proven terrorist activity." In other words, as Diana West reported, al-Harbi was on a no-fly list -- and apparently with good reason. Steve Emerson appeared on the FOX News Hannity show to report that al-Harbi was due to be deported on national security grounds. But then Secretary of State John Kerry met with the Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud al-Faisal; and by Wednesday, 17 April, al-Harbi's event file had been altered and all references to there ever having been a terrorist designation for him had disappeared. Al-Harbi has disappeared, too, at least in terms of coverage by the mainstream media.

The U.S. system for background checks (Security Advisory Opinion or SAR) prior to granting visas in cases that raise or ought to raise security flags obviously has some holes in it that do not seem to have been patched since 9/11. Instead, one of the things that has changed, and significantly, is the number of Saudi students studying in this country: as of 2000, before 9/11, there were around 5,500 enrolled. Today, in 2013, according to West, there are about 35,000, thanks to a "reckless agreement" between President George W. Bush and the Saudi government in April 2005.

Before the U.S. completely turns over security of the chicken coop to the fox, we need to get a solid grip on how many other Saudi students besides al-Harbi may have slipped through the SAAR system. Congressional leaders, who have asked DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano for a briefing on the al-Harbi case, have been stonewalled. The Saudi relationship with al-Qa'eda as well as Iran -- whether past, present, or ever -- needs both clarification and immediate termination. Preferential fast-lane treatment for Saudi visa applicants should be considered on a reciprocal basis, with verifiable Saudi progress in stopping funding for Wahhabi-Salafist mosque construction; Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated imams; antisemitic, anti-Christian, and anti-West curriculum materials; and jihadi fighters everywhere on Shariah battlefields.

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In North Korea, Pyongyang now glitters, while the rest of the country shivers in the dark

Jean H. Lee, Associated Press | 13/04/29 9:31 AM ET
A North Korean soldier hurries along a sidewalk covered in fallen cherry blossoms in Pyongyang on Friday, April 26, 2013.
AP Photo/David GuttenfelderA North Korean soldier hurries along a sidewalk covered in fallen cherry blossoms in Pyongyang on Friday, April 26, 2013.
PYONGYANG, North Korea — The heart of this city, once famous for its Dickensian darkness, now pulsates with neon.
Glossy new construction downtown has altered the Pyongyang skyline. Inside supermarkets where shopgirls wear faux French designer labels, people with money can buy Italian wine, Swiss chocolates, kiwifruit imported from New Zealand and fresh-baked croissants. They can get facials, lie in tanning booths, play a round of mini golf or sip cappuccinos.
Nearly 2 million people are using cell phones. Computer shops can’t keep up with demand for North Korea’s locally distributed tablet computer, popularly known here as “iPads.” A shiny new cancer institute features a $900,000 X-ray machine imported from Europe.
Pyongyang has long been a city apart from the rest of North Korea, the showcase capital dubbed a “socialist fairyland” by state media.

But a year after new leader Kim Jong Un promised publicly to bring an end to the “era of belt-tightening” and economic hardship in North Korea, the gap between the haves and have-nots so far has only grown with Pyongyang’s transformation.
Beyond the paved main streets of the capital, life remains grindingly tough. Food is rationed, electricity is a precious commodity and people get around by walking, cycling or hopping into the backs of trucks. Most homes lack running water or plumbing. Health care is free, but aid workers say medicine is in short supply.
For decades, North Korea seemed a country trapped in time. Rickety streetcars shuddered past concrete-block apartment buildings with broken window panes, chipping pastel paint and crumbling front steps.
But since 2010, as part of the campaign to build a new city for their new leader, Pyongyang has been under construction. Scaffolding covers the fronts of scores of buildings across the city. Red banners painted with slogan “At a breath” – implying breakneck work at a breathless pace – flutter from the skeletons of skyscrapers built by soldiers.
Often, the soldiers are scrawny conscripts in thin canvas sneakers piling bricks onto stretchers or hauling them by hand. In 2011, they set up temporary work camps along the Taedong River, makeshift shantytowns decorated by red flags.
Their work focused on downtown Changjon Street, where ramshackle cottages were torn down to make way for department stores, restaurants and high-rise apartments.
Today, the street would not look out of place in Seoul or Shanghai. Indeed, many of the goods – Hershey’s Kisses, Coca-Cola and Doritos – on sale at the new supermarket were imported from China and Singapore.
“What is a `delicatessen’?” a North Korean asked as a butcher in a white chef’s hat sliced tuna for takeaway sashimi beneath a deli sign written in English. Upstairs, baristas were serving Italian espressos, bakers were churning out baguettes and white wedding cakes.
One new Changjon Street resident, Mun Kang Sun, gave The Associated Press a tour of the apartment she and her husband were granted in recognition for her work at the Kim Jong Suk Textile Factory.
A framed wedding portrait hangs on the wall above their Western-style bed. There’s a washing machine in the bathroom, an IBM computer in the study and a 42-inch widescreen TV. AP was not allowed to visit other apartments to compare whether the furnishings are typical for Pyongyang residents.
Orphaned as a child, Mun said she began working in factories at age 16. She earned the title “hero of the republic” after exceeding her work quota by 200 percent for 13 years. She says she accomplished that by dashing around the factory floor operating four or five machines at once.
“When we heard the news that we’d get a nest where we can rest, and we got the key for our apartment and took a look around, we were totally shocked because the house is so nice,” said her husband, Kim Hyok. “It’s still hard to believe this is my home; it still feels like we’re living in a hotel.”
Though the apartment has faucets, old habits die hard. The bathtub was still filled with water, a bucket bobbing in the tub, as in countless homes across the country where water is pumped from a well, carried in by hand and used sparingly.
AP Photo/Kyodo News)
AP Photo/Kyodo News)North Korean women in traditional dresses gather to offer flowers to statues of their late leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, at Mansu Hill in Pyongyang,Thursday, April 25, 2013, marking the 81st anniversary of the founding of North Korean army.
Elsewhere in the city, aging buildings are getting upgraded. But most are still drafty, the walls poorly insulated, even in the capital. Elevators and heat are rare. North Koreans are accustomed to wearing winter jackets and thermal underwear indoors from October to April.
Power cuts have been less frequent in Pyongyang since the opening of a hydroelectric power station to the northwest, but it’s still common for the lights to go out in the middle of dinner. Most people just carry on drinking and eating.
Outside Pyongyang, nightfall comes early. In Ryonggang, west of the capital, lights were out as soon as the sun set. At one inn, two women stood chatting quietly in a lobby lit with a candle as a shrill voice from a radio broadcast chortled from loudspeakers nearby.
Kim Jong Jin’s farm cottage in Hamhung has a generator, allowing him and his wife to watch DVDs at night on a TV they carefully cover during the day with a frilly lace veil.
Their thimble of a home is simple but spotless, the papered floors clean enough to eat from. Water is piped into a well in the kitchen. Heat comes from the traditional Korean “ondol” system of feeding an underground furnace with wood. Waste is turned into methane gas for cooking. Food for the household comes from the garden outside.
But not everyone lives in such relative comfort as the Kims, whose home government officials are willing to show off. There are stark signs of poverty across the country. A mother huddles over a child as she sits shivering by the side of the road. Barefoot boys in a village destroyed by floods scamper about dressed in little more than underwear. Sharp shoulders and splotchy faces betray the gnawing hunger of young soldiers.
Beyond the paved, pocked highways that radiate from Pyongyang, there are few roads between the denuded mountains, just dirt paths that become dangerously muddy with rainfall and treacherously slippery in winter. Villagers struggle to clear snow with makeshift shovels crafted out of planks of wood.
Private cars are a rarity outside the capital, and gasoline is scarce. In Hamhung, North Korea’s second-largest city, soldiers cram into the backs of trucks powered by wood-burning stoves that send smoke billowing behind them.
Goods are strapped to the back of bicycles, from firewood to dead pigs. Old men sit crouched by the side of the road with bike pumps, offering to fix flats. Oxen, and people, plod past pulling carts.
The closest most may get to the capital in their lifetime is by seeing it on state TV. For them, Pyongyang would truly seem like a fairyland.
AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan
AP Photo/Alexander F. YuanSoldiers stand on a train transporting military supplies in Pyongyang, North Korea, Thursday, April 18, 2013.
Life in the North Korean countryside would be familiar to South Koreans old enough to recall the poverty in their nation just after the Korean War. Indeed, into the 1970s, North Korea was the richer of the two Koreas.
Today, newly affluent South Korea has the world’s 15th-largest economy. In North Korea, meanwhile, two-thirds of people struggle to find their daily meal, according to the World Food Program.
North Koreans acknowledge the devastating economic loss of the Soviet safety net in the early 1990s. But they blame the county’s growing international isolation on the U.S., its Korean War foe, which has led efforts to punish North Korea for developing its nuclear weapons program.
Pyongyang instead has turned to fledgling trade with companies in China, Singapore, Indonesia, Italy, Egypt and elsewhere. These joint ventures keep the shelves in the capital stocked with goods, computer labs filled with PCs, streets crowded with VWs, in spite of sanctions.
For years, foreign goods and customs were regarded with practiced suspicion, even as they were secretly coveted. Kim Jong Un has addressed that curiosity by encouraging trade and by quoting his father in saying North Korea is “looking out onto the world” – a country that must become familiar with international customs even if it continues to prefer its own.
Kim has not made it significantly easier for North Koreans to travel, channel surf or read travelogues posted online, but he is arranging to bring the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben to them in the form of a miniature world park slated to open later this year.
The flow of cash and goods has created a burgeoning middle class in the capital. Pyongyang now has a parade of fashionistas in eye-popping belted jackets, sparkly barrettes clipped to their hair, fingernails painted with a clear gloss. At one European-style restaurant last week, a young couple on a date sipped cocktails topped off with Maraschino cherries and feasted on pizza, their cellphones laid on the table.
At one beauty salon, the rage is for short cuts made popular by singers from the all-girl military Moranbong band who have jazzed up North Korea’s staid performance scene with their bobbed hair, little black dresses and electric guitars.
“There are so many young women asking to get their hair done like them,” hairstylist Chae Cho Yong said.
While the differences between the showcase capital and the hardscrabble countryside are growing starker, one thing remains the same: the authoritarian rule and the intricate web of laws governing life in the Stalinist state.
Even as they laugh, North Koreans calibrate their words. Criticism of the state and leadership is not only taboo but dangerous; when asked for their opinion, most people parrot phrases they’ve heard in state media, still the safest way to answer questions in a country where state security remains tight and terrifying.
Very few have access to the Internet, cable TV, international phone lines. It’s still illegal for them to interact without permission with foreigners, who are kept on a tight leash and discouraged from making impromptu visits to homes, shops, restaurants and offices.
Around Chae, the cavernous barber shop was empty, not a single customer in the brand new swivel seats.
An employee explained that most North Koreans are at weekly ideology study sessions on Saturdays, the only day of the week foreigners are allowed inside.

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