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Al-Qaeda emerges as Bulgaria bomb suspect

Al-Qaeda emerges as Bulgaria bomb suspect
By Kaveh Afrasiabi

As the Israeli government seizes on last week's suicide bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria as an opportunity to discredit Iran and Hezbollah, the on-going investigation in Bulgaria is increasingly pointing the finger at a different culprit - al-Qaeda.

As reported in Lebanese media, an al-Qaeda cell has taken responsibility for the suicide bombing that took the lives of five Israeli vacationers, as well as a bus driver and a suicide bomber. [1] This has been corroborated by Bulgarian media reports that focus on two individuals, an American and a former Guantanamo inmate from Sweden with ties to al-Qaeda.

Although the DNA evidence is still under investigation, on Thursday when Bulgarian media began identifying the suspected suicide bomber as Mehdi Ghezali, US officials quickly rejected this and insisted that "there was no evidence" linking him with the bomb. The same "anonymous" US officials simultaneously told the New York Times that this was a "tit-for-tat" Hezbollah job launched by Iran in revenge for Israel killing Iranian nuclear scientists.


Activists seek increase in federal minimum wage

WASHINGTON — In an election year dominated by socioeconomic themes, it seems logical that raising the federal minimum wage would become a heated campaign issue in the battle for the presidency. Stagnating wages and the increasing concentration of wealth among the nation’s highest earners have prompted calls to boost the purchasing power of American workers. At $7.25 an hour, a full-time federal minimum-wage earner makes about $15,080 a year, which is below the federal poverty level for a two-person family.

But neither President Barack Obama nor Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said much about the minimum wage, though Obama once called for raising it to $9.50 an hour by the end of 2011 and Romney supported indexing it for inflation earlier this year until conservatives cried foul.

In the absence of a prominent push to boost the federal minimum wage, states and local governments have picked up the slack: Eighteen states and the District of Columbia now have minimum wage rates that are higher than the federal level.

In January, eight of those states – Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Washington and Vermont – raised their hourly minimum wages by 28 to 37 cents. Last month, Rhode Island bumped its minimum wage from $7.40 an hour to $7.75, to take effect next year.

More at . . .


Israel’s defense minister wants to remove hundreds of Palestinians from 8 hamlets in West Bank

Source: Washington Post

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Court documents show that Israel’s defense minister wants to remove hundreds of Palestinians from eight hamlets in a West Bank area the military has designated a firing zone, prompting new allegations of an Israeli land grab.

The firing zone spans several thousand acres near Israel.

Israel says most of the people being ordered to leave have permanent homes elsewhere.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s position was presented this week to Israel’s Supreme Court, which is weighing the Palestinians’ fate.

Shlomo Lecker, a lawyer representing some of the Palestinians, said Tuesday that his clients own much of the land in the firing zone. Lecker says the attempt to move them is part of a campaign to solidify Israel’s control over parts of the occupied lands it wants to retain.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/israels-defense-minister-wants-to-remove-hundreds-of-palestinians-from-8-hamlets-in-west-bank/2012/07/24/gJQAnQkO6W_story.html

Syria: Israel considers strike at chemical weapons

Source: The Telegraph

The Pentagon is not advocating military action, particularly while President Bashar al-Assad still clings to power, but US officials told the New York Times that the option had been presented by Israel.

Thomas Donilon, the US national security advisor, was in Israel last weekend to discuss the dramatically developing crisis, which reached a bloody turning point on Wednesday when a rebel bomb killed three of Mr Assad’s closest aides.

An Israeli incursion from the air or by land would be highly sensitive, given that it has officially been in a state of war with Syria for decades.

Israel however has a track record of unilateral action there, having destroyed a facility suspected of being a planned nuclear weapon research and development centre in the eastern Deir ez-Zor region in 2007.

Read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9411483/Syria-Israel-considers-strike-at-chemical-weapons.html

Egyptian police clash with protesters near Syrian embassy

Source: Al Jazeera

Egyptian police fired tear gas at protesters outside the Syrian embassy in Cairo on Wednesday after some demonstrators tried to take down its flag, protesters said.

The protesters later barricaded a main road on the corniche after some of them threw stones with at the riot police, a witness said.

"Three or four threw stones, and the police started firing tear gas," said Mosaab Elshamy.

Ahmed Aggour said the clashes began after some of the protesters tried to tear down the embassy's flag.
"We wanted to take down (President Bashar al-) Assad's flag and raise the independence flag. They started shooting tear gas," the protester said.

Read more: http://blogs.aljazeera.com/topic/syria/egyptian-police-clash-protesters-near-syrian-embassy

Israeli warships to patrol disputed gas fields

Israel is planning to dramatically increase its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean in a bid to maximize control over disputed offshore gas fields.

With extraction of vast reserves of recently-discovered natural gas due to begin next year, Israeli military officials have been putting together a plan for securing oil rigs in areas which Lebanon claims as its own.

Although Israel and Cyprus reached an agreement on naval borders in December 2010, Lebanon disputes the deal and rejects Israel's proposed maritime boundary between the two states that Israel submitted to the United Nations in July 2011.

According to a military map made available to AFP, Israel claims an EEZ that extends 70 nautical miles (129 kilometers) offshore from Rosh HaNikra on the Lebanese border and some 100 nautical miles from Israel's border with Gaza in the south.

Beirut disputes these claims, saying the proposed boundary infringes on Lebanon's EEZ by at least 360 square kilometers, an area in which many of the most valuable gas fields are located.

"Our strategy is to use both presence and deterrence on a huge scale," a senior Israeli naval officer said, indicating that Israel plans to use an aggressive approach.


Beyond lebensraum.

Leftist candidate to challenge Mexico's election

Source: USA Today

MEXICO CITY (AP) – Leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Thursday that he will ask Mexico's electoral court to invalidate the results of the July 1 presidential ballot, charging there was vote buying and campaign overspending by the winner of official vote counts.

He said the formal petition would be filed with the Federal Electoral Tribunal by Thursday night.

The court has until early September to deal with any challenges and determine whether to validate the presidential election in which Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party finished first with just over 38 percent of the votes.

Lopez Obrador, of the Democratic Revolution Party, also said that next week he will reveal what he called "a national plan in defense of democracy and Mexico's dignity. He didn't give any hints on what the plan would entail, but said he and his supporters would act peacefully.

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-07-12/obrador-mexico-election/56182234/1

Take heed fellow Democrats.

Russia Sending Warships on Maneuvers Near Syria

Source: NYT

MOSCOW — Russia said on Tuesday that it had dispatched a flotilla of 11 warships to the eastern Mediterranean, some of which would dock in Syria. It would be the largest display of Russian military power in the region since the Syrian conflict began almost 17 months ago. Nearly half of the ships were capable of carrying hundreds of marines.

The announcement appeared intended to punctuate Russia’s effort to position itself as an increasingly decisive broker in resolving the antigovernment uprising in Syria, Russia’s last ally in the Middle East and home to Tartus, its only foreign military base outside the former Soviet Union. The announcement also came a day after Russia said it was halting new shipments of weapons to the Syrian military until the conflict settled down.

Russia has occasionally sent naval vessels on maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean, and it dispatched an aircraft-carrying battleship, the Admiral Kuznetsov, there for maneuvers with a few other vessels from December 2011 to February 2012. There were rumors in recent weeks that the Russians planned to deploy another naval force near Syria.

But the unusually large size of the force announced on Tuesday was considered a message, not just to the region but also to the United States and other nations supporting the rebels now trying to depose Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

Tartus consists of little more than a floating refueling station and some small barracks. But any strengthened Russian presence there could forestall Western military intervention in Syria.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/11/world/middleeast/russia-sends-warships-on-maneuvers-near-syria.html

Amy Howe's Explanation from SCOTUS blog in plain english

"In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn't comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding."

Health Care up in a few minutes

They are reading First American next and then the Health Care decision.
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