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Issa: IRS' Lerner Waived Her Fifth Amendment Rights

Lois Lerner, the head of the tax-exempt organizations division of the IRS, refused to answer questions before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday, but she waived her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent by making an opening statement, committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told CBS News on Thursday.

Issa told CBS News he feels "obligated" to bring her back to the committee and may do so after the House's Memorial Day recess.

"I have not broken any laws," she said. "I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee."

The whole committee, Issa said -- including Democrats -- were taken aback by her decision to make an opening statement. Indeed, her decision did prompt some outcry at the hearing, with Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., declaring, "That's not the way it works."

By making factual statements about the misconduct at the IRS, Lerner may have technically given the committee the right to ask her further questions, according to some legal analysis. Issa's office has said that after consulting with legal counsel, they have concluded Lerner's Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid. She remains under subpoena, and the committee is looking at recalling her for testimony.



Ronald Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ Project Still Hasn’t Met Original Goal 30 Years Later

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, May 23, 2013 10:43 EDT

Three decades after Ronald Reagan launched his “Star Wars” project, the costly missile defense program has become a pillar of US strategy despite lingering doubts about its technology.

No longer designed to counter a Soviet nuclear attack, the anti-missile network is supposed to thwart a “limited attack” from North Korea or Iran. But numerous experts question if the system even works.

While Reagan’s blueprint provoked bitter debate in the 1980s, today’s program is now firmly entrenched in Washington. The project, however, still requires a daunting technical feat — to hit a ballistic missile travelling outside the atmosphere with another missile.

“We do have confidence in the ability of the ballistic missile defense system to defend the United States against a limited attack from both North Korea and Iran today and in the near future,” Lieutenant General Richard Formica, commander of US Army space and missile defense command, told lawmakers this month.

The US Missile Defense Agency says the SM-3 interceptors — the same weapons used for NATO’s anti-missile shield — have scored hits in 25 of 30 tests, though ground-based interceptors have failed in their last two tests.



Russia Plans Urgent Evacuation Of Arctic Post As Ice Melts

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, May 23, 2013 13:16 ED

Russia has ordered the urgent evacuation of the 16-strong crew of a drifting Arctic research station after the ice floe that hosts the floating laboratory began to disintegrate, officials said Thursday.

Natural Resources and Ecology Minister Sergei Donskoi set a three-day deadline to draft a plan to evacuate the North Pole-40 floating research station.

“The destruction of the ice has put at risk the station’s further work and life of its staff,” the ministry said in a statement.

Scientists point to increasing signs of global warming in the Arctic, which is being significantly affected by climate change.

The UN weather agency said this month that the Arctic’s sea ice melted at a record pace in 2012, the ninth-hottest year on record.



Michelle Malkin On London Attack: British ‘Brought It On Themselves’ By Not Deporting Muslims

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin on Wednesday asserted that the British people “brought it on themselves” after an apparent terrorist used a meat cleaver to hack a soldier to death in London.

Following Wednesday’s horrific slaying, Fox News host Sean Hannity speculated that President Barack Obama would have refused to call the incident a “terrorist attack.”

“What do you need to have? Neon lights that say, ‘Islamic jihad,’ ‘Islamic jihad?’ I mean, duh,” Malkin agreed. “They were screaming at the top of their lungs, ‘Allahu Akbar,’ and repeatedly swore in the name of Allah that they would continue to fight against us.”

“And in large part, unfortunately, in British culture, among the progressives there, they brought it on themselves in some ways because of lax deportation policies, and an unwillingness to screen out and profile Islamic militants who are now doing this in a homegrown manner on British soil,” she added. “It’s tragic.”

Hannity, however, suggested that greater access to guns could have prevented the attack.



Official: Dead Boston bombings suspect involved in 2011 slayings

Source: CNN

(CNN) -- Deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev participated in a 2011 gruesome triple homicide outside Boston along with a Chechen killed early Wednesday during a confrontation with the FBI and Massachusetts State Police in Orlando, Florida, a federal law enforcement official told CNN.

Ibragim Todashev, who died during the interview with authorities, not only confessed to his direct role in slashing the throats of three people in Waltham, Massachusetts, but also fingered Tsarnaev in the deaths, the official said Wednesday.

Todashev was being questioned about the slayings and his acquaintance with Tsarnaev.

Todashev attacked an FBI agent, who shot him dead, a federal law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the case told CNN.

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/22/justice/florida-fbi-shooting-boston/index.html

‘US opened Pandora’s box in Iraq, regional sectarian violence almost impossible to stop now’

Sectarian violence unleashed after the US disintegration of Iraq is linked to the Syrian conflict and the death toll will only climb since extremist elements hijacked the sectarian instability in the region, political analyst Chris Bambery told RT.

“Everyone in Iraq must be terrified that the situation in Syria is spilling over into Iraq” Bambery said as Tuesday’s attacks in the country kill over 40, a day after over 70 people were murdered, escalating fears of all-out sectarian war between minority Sunnis and majority Shiites.

In the biggest incident on Tuesday, a car bomb exploded near a Sunni mosque in Baghdad killing 11 people and injuring 21.

In a separate incident, a bomb outside a cafe in southern Baghdad killed six more and wounded 18.

A decade after the hanging of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is bitterly divided between the Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites and with no power-sharing deal insight, violence is again on the rise.

“It is based on the decision by the Americans when they occupied Iraq to separate Iraq off into these three areas,” Bambery told the viewers.



Likud MK Feiglin: It’s Immoral For Israel To Take US Aid

Israel should not accept US foreign aid because it is immoral and allows Washington to exert political pressure on Jerusalem, a lawmaker from the Knesset’s ruling party said in an interview with an American magazine published Monday.

Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin (Likud) also seemed to suggest that the US was doomed to fall due to its economic woes, but that Israel’s survival was guaranteed because the country “carries moral weight.”

“I’m totally against this aid ,” Feiglin told The New American, a relatively unknown publication affiliated with far-right American politics. “It cannot be when, first of all, the Americans are standing in line like two or three miles in the snow to get a job. To get any kind of aid from America when, economically, we are in a much, much better position doesn’t look moral to me.”

Furthermore, American aid “is not in our favor, not economically, not militarily, not in any way,” the MK told the magazine’s Alex Newman. (He gave the interview last month in the Knesset, but it only appeared on Monday.) “This aid serves psychological purposes, not anything else. We are talking about 1.5 percent of our income, of what Israel is producing — we can definitely deal without it.”

Since World War II, Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid, having received a total of $118 billion, most of it in the form of military assistance. Currently, Washington supports Israel with about $3 billion per year.



Imperialist Powers Go Into Battle For Spoils Of Syria's Revolution

The “chaos” of the Syrian revolution marks a shift in the balance of power in the Middle East. It is not certain which competing imperial and regional powers will win.But it is clear that the Syrian revolution could end up being the loser.

The Arab revolutions exposed the deep crisis of Western and Russian imperialism in the region. The West lost its “strongmen” allies Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. This came on top of the “Iraqi-Afghan syndrome” and its legacy of defeat and failed occupations.

At stake for Russia is the potential loss of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Syria is Russia’s last ally in the Arab world and home to its only Mediterranean naval base.

The top priority for the US remains what is now termed the “permanent war on terror”. The killing of a US ambassador last September by an Islamist brigade in Benghazi, Libya, was a reminder that the US has many enemies in the Arab world.

As one of Barack Obama’s senior officials told the US Senate recently, this war on terror is “going to go on quite a while, at least ten to 20 years.”



Syrian Army Says Captured Israeli Jeep Is Proof Of Aid To Rebels

By HAARETZ (text)

The Syrian army on Monday displayed an Israeli-made Jeep it said was captured from a rebel organization during recent battles for control of Qusayr, a Syrian city near the Lebanese border. Damascus claimed the vehicle was proof of Israeli and U.S. aid to the Syrian opposition.

Israeli officials denied the claims of aiding the rebels. They said the jeep was a model that was retired from Israel Defense Forces service years ago and it is not clear how it reached the rebels.

The Lebanese television station Al Mayadeen, which has ties to Hezbollah, broadcasted video of Syrian army personnel next to the Jeep, which showed bullet damage.

The vehicle is identifiable as a relatively old, armored model of the Sufa Jeep, which is manufactured in Israel under license from Chrysler.



US’ Diminishing Influence In The Middle East

The United States, previously dubbed a key player in shaping events in the region, is displaying weakness and indifference at a time when the Middle East has found itself in turmoil not witnessed in decades, which threatens to alter the Sykes-Picot borders.

Despite efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry to revitalize dormant peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians or engage more positively in the Syrian crisis, it is becoming clear that he lacks the presidential sway to make things happen.

Unlike the conventional belief that second-term presidents are able to take bold decisions in domestic and foreign affairs after conquering re-election pressure, the second Obama term seems far from taking such a stance.

For one thing, the administration is reeling under mounting domestic crises from his first term, from fiscal issues and how to deal with the growing budget deficit, to whether to retain the existing health care program or embark on new initiatives.

In addition, foreign crises, such as the explosion that killed an American ambassador at the US Consulate in Libya, forced the administration to release e-mail correspondence, while the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began targeting conservative groups, going as far as monitoring AP correspondence.


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