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NSA Cites Case As Success Of Phone Data-Collection Program

He was a San Diego cab driver who fled Somalia as a teenager, winning asylum in the United States after he was wounded during fighting among warring tribes. Today, Basaaly Moalin, 36, is awaiting sentencing following his conviction on charges that he sent $8,500 to Somalia in support of the terrorist group al-Shabab.

Moalin’s prosecution, barely noticed when the case was in court, has suddenly come to the fore of a national debate about U.S. surveillance. Under pressure from Congress, senior intelligence officials have offered it as their primary example of the unique value of a National Security Agency program that collects tens of millions of phone records from Americans.

Officials have said that NSA surveillance tools have helped disrupt terrorist plots or identify suspects in 54 cases in the United States and overseas. In many of those cases, an agency program that targets the communication of foreigners, including e-mails, has proved critical.

But the importance of the phone logs in disrupting those plots has been less clear — and also far more controversial since it was revealed in June.

Across a dozen years of records collection, critics say, the government has offered few instances in which the massive storehouse of Americans’ records contained the first crucial lead that cracked a case — and even those, they say, could have been obtained through a less intrusive method.



There now...you see!!!

Speaking Truth To AIPAC's Power

There are several organizations that American Jewry widely believes to be too cute, cuddly and unequivocally well intentioned to be held accountable for their actions. The iconic blue donation boxes in synagogues across the United States suggest the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is one of them. Two years ago, a JNF board member publicly severed all ties with the organization in protest of its role in the eviction of an East Jerusalem Palestinian family. That served as a wakeup call for some American Jews, but most have yet to receive one. I am writing to you as your alarm clock, because another beloved organization has recently betrayed your trust.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) claims to “strongly support a two-state solution and work tirelessly to bring peace to the region,” yet it officially blames the intractability of the conflict on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for “refusing to meet with his counterpart.”

So where is AIPAC when Abbas finally came to the table to join Prime Minister Netanyahu in direct negotiations? Why have they not publicly applauded the Palestinian president and come out in uninhibited support of the new round of peace talks?

I contacted AIPAC’s press office for a statement; it is a proponent of the right to self-defense, after all. Spokesman Marshall Whittman relayed to me that AIPAC, in fact, did put out a statement the day of Kerry’s announcement “welcom[ing] the resumption of direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians.” Curiously, the statement didn’t make it into the mainstream media, which AIPAC – had it been interested – could have easily corrected. Evidently, AIPAC is keeping its support for peace talks under wraps – but why?

The short answer involves two enduring forces: time and money. Although AIPAC was technically brought to life in 1951, its expansion from a blip on the radar to one of the country’s most powerful lobbies began with Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War. It is no coincidence that – with the capture of the Golan Heights, the West Bank, Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula – the Six-Day War also simultaneously indulged the Jewish fantasy of a Greater Israel in the entirety of British Mandate Palestine. With the coming of the settlement movement, one could say AIPAC originally woke up on the ‘Right’ side of the bed.



Moscow ‘Rejects’ Saudi ‘Offer’ To Drop Assad For Rich Arms Deal

Moscow has said “no” to Saudi Arabia’s alleged proposal of a rich arms deal and protection of Russia’s gas interests in the Middle East in exchange for abandoning Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to Arab and European diplomats.

The proposal of $15 billion in weapons contracts was allegedly made during the July 31 meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and influential intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Reuters reported.

Neither Moscow nor Riyadh has officially commented on the agenda of the talks, but a Thursday AFP report revealed new details of the negotiations.

According to an undisclosed European diplomat, Prince Bandar proposed the deal and told Putin that "whatever regime comes after" Assad will be "completely" in Riyadh’s hands. The Prince reportedly stated that if the deal was accepted, Saudi Arabia would not sign any contracts damaging Russian interests by allowing Gulf countries to transport its gas across Syria to Europe.

The terms included Moscow dropping its support of President Bashar Assad, as well as not opposing any future Security Council resolutions on Syria.



Chinese Media On Snowden: Washington 'Ate The Dirt' This Time

Chinese media has described the Kremlin as the “winner” and the White House as the “loser” in the Snowden case, following Barack Obama’s cancellation of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow this autumn.

An unsigned editorial piece in China’s English-language newspaper Global Times said that “Moscow displayed its national characteristics of decisiveness and boldness” and has kept Washington “at bay.” The article suggested that Moscow’s traits are of vital importance in an international climate of US dominance.

“Washington ate the dirt this time,” the article stated.

It goes on to compliment Russia, adding that the US seems to have accepted the fact that Moscow granted asylum to ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden. “Russia has impressed the world, which views the Kremlin as the ‘winner’ and the White House as the ‘loser,’” it said.



Netanyahu Sees Rohani’s Call For Serious Nukes Talks As Ploy


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said new Iranian President Hassan Rohani’s call for serious negotiations over his country’s nuclear program is a ploy to continue enriching uranium.

On Wednesday, a day after Rohani called for direct talks with the United States over his country’s nuclear program, Netanyahu said the Iranian leader knows how to “exploit” the optimism surrounding his recent election.

“Of course he wants more talks. He wants to talk and talk and talk,” Netanyahu said at a meeting with pro-Israel activists headed by U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). “And while everybody is busy talking to him, he’ll be busy enriching uranium. The centrifuges will keep on spinning.”

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, while the West believes it is working toward nuclear weapons.

Rohani at his first news conference as president of Iran said his country is “very seriously determined to solve the nuclear issue.



Israeli Mayor: If I'm Racist, So Is Israel

The recent brouhaha over comments made by Upper Nazareth mayor Shimon Gapso has intensified with a tongue-in-cheek op-ed Gapso published yesterday in Haaretz. Of course, anti-Zionists—for an array of reasons (moral, ethical, hateful or ignorant)—have long charged Israel’s governing ideology with being racist at its core. So is Gapso any more racist than Zionism would predict from a holder of public office in Israel?

Gapso first came under fire for campaign posters declaring that “Upper Nazareth will be Jewish forever; no more shutting our eyes, no more grabbing on to the law allowing every citizen to live where he wants. This is the time to defend our home.” And, "I will not allow the city’s Jewish character to be changed. I will block the establishment of an Arab school and will build neighborhoods for Jewish residents ... Upper Nazareth is a Jewish city!"

Defenders of Israel will be quick to point to the fact that Israel has the kind of vibrant civil society that would lead two human rights organizations to demand that the attorney general investigate Gapso, and that the Israeli media would in turn report on the saga. These Israel defenders would use these facts to try to demonstrate that Israel’s democracy is alive and well. As appealing as that line of argument is to many (full disclosure: I have been the target of such comments on my blog in that same Israeli daily), it’s distracting from the issues.

In some ways, it’s a blogger’s dream when a public figure doesn’t deny a label thrust on him (on charges of racism, Gapso may be all the wiser thanks to the musical Avenue Q), but instead cuts right to the chase: if he’s a racist, so is the entire Zionist project.

In addition to railing against “flaky types,” “hypocrisy and bleeding-heart sanctimoniousness,” Gapso defends his beliefs by breathlessly journeying from supposed divine promises granted to Abraham, to the title of Herzl’s tract, to Balfour, Ben-Gurion and the U.N., to the character of the kibbutz project, to the lyrics of Hatikvah. In a final flourish, he suggests that if “not for all that 'racism,' it’s doubtful we could live here, and doubtful that we could live at all.”



Is Israel’s Government Serious About Peace?

Israel’s latest decision to build hundreds of new apartments in remote settlements in the West Bank is a badly timed blow to the newly resumed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and raises big questions about the government’s true commitment to the peace talks.

Haaretz reported that the Civil Administration, Israel's highest civilian authority in the West Bank, approved construction plans for 878 housing units in isolated settlements. The Defense Ministry must approve the decision before construction can go ahead. The news came after the Israeli Cabinet voted Sunday to establish a new “national priority” list that included a record 90 settlements eligible for state benefits, among them several that had previously been seen as illegal even under Israeli law.

The decision was even more troubling when considered in the light of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s willingness to release over 100 Palestinians convicted of violence and terrorism as part of the agreement that paved the way for a resumption of peace talks.

While he agreed to release the prisoners, Israeli media outlets reported that Netanyahu refused to freeze settlement building or accept that the talks should be conducted on an agreed basis that Israel’s border with a future Palestinian state should be drawn on the basis of the 1967 line plus land swaps.

This raises the question of whether the Netanyahu government values its ability to keep building settlements in areas that the Prime Minister himself has said will have to be evacuated as part of a peace agreement more than it cares about the lives of those potentially put at risk by the release of violent offenders.



Is Congress Getting A Better Deal Than You On Obamacare?

The refrain was common during the 2008 health care debate: "At the end of the day, I figure if it's good enough for Congress, it's good enough for the American people," then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said at an Arizona campaign stop in January 2008, referring to the Democrats' plans for reform.

Members of Congress and their staff currently get their health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. However, to make Democrats eat their words, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, added an amendment to the Affordable Care Act requiring congressmen and their staff to get their insurance the same way many Americans will starting in 2014, thanks to Obamacare -- through the state-based health care exchanges. Democrats embraced the idea, willing to stand by their assertions that the exchanges would offer quality insurance.

The proposal put Congress in a tough spot: The business exchanges starting next year will only cater to small businesses -- an entity as large as Congress wouldn't be able to join the exchange system until 2017 at the earliest. There will also be exchanges next year for people purchasing insurance on the individual market, but it wouldn't make sense for someone with employer-provided insurance (like a congressional staffer) to join that market.

So when Obamacare passed in 2010, the provision raised a number of questions: When would members of Congress and their employees be subject to this new rule? Would staffers purchasing their insurance on the new exchanges still get their coverage subsidized by their employer, the government? On Wednesday, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued new proposed rules. OPM suggested, among other things, that congressional offices should determine for themselves which staffers must abide by the new rule, since some staffers spend more time working for leadership offices (which are exempt from the rule). It also says that employees getting insurance through the exchanges could still get employer contributions to their premiums, as others on the employer-based exchanges would.

The rulings should ease concerns of lawmakers (both Democrat and Republican) who were worried their lower-paid staffers would quit if forced to pay more for health insurance. "I think it is self-evident that it's part of their compensation here is that they would have health care," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said last week.



President Obama To Answer Terror Alert Questions In Friday News Conference

Source: Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says he'll hold a news conference at the White House on Friday.

Obama will answer reporters' questions in the midst of a terror alert that led the government to close nearly two dozen embassies and consulates in the Middle East and North Africa. And just this week, Obama canceled a one-on-one summit next month in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in part because of Russia's decision to grant asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

The news conference also comes a day before Obama leaves Washington for a nine-day vacation on Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

Read more: http://www.wjla.com/articles/2013/08/obama-to-answer-terror-alert-questions-in-friday-news-conference-92498.html

Fox News Host Demands Escalation Of Nuclear Hostilities With Russia Over Snowden

Fox News host Gregg Jarrett on Thursday suggested that President Barack Obama should pull out of nuclear treaties and send missiles to Europe after Russian President Vladimir Putin granted asylum to National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden.

During a discussion about the American president’s decision to cancel a one-on-one meeting with Putin ahead of next month’s G-20 economic summit in Russia, Jarrett asked Republican strategist Brad Blakeman why Obama had not chosen to “do something meaningful.”

“Put the missile defense system back the Czech Republic and Poland,” Jarrett said. “If you want to go really extreme, pull out of START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty].”

Earlier this year, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the U.S. was cancelling plans to put long-range missile defense interceptors in Poland. The system was intended to protect Europe from possible attacks from Iran, but it was seen by Russia as an effort to counter Russian weapons. Moscow had refused to move forward with additional nuclear arms cuts unless the system was scrapped.

In addition, the U.S. Congress had not funded the long-range missiles and the technology was not ready to be deployed.


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