The Citizen, By Bharat Karnad, March 11
New Delhi – It is a devastating turn of events – the indication that the Bharatiya Janata Party government will soon sign the three so-called “foundational” accords with the United States that Washington has been fiercely pushing in the past decade.
The Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) is first in line. The other two agreements are the CISMOA (Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement) and BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for geospatial information and data).
Washington Post, By Carol Morello & Karen DeYoung, January 16
Vienna —Iran reentered the global economy Saturday, as years of crippling international sanctions were lifted in exchange for the verified disabling of much of its nuclear infrastructure.
For Iran, implementation of the landmark deal it finalized with six world powers last summer means immediate access to more than $50 billion in long-frozen assets, and freedom to sell its oil and purchase goods in the international marketplace. Tehran has hailed the deal as vindication of its power and influence in the world.
“Today marks the moment that the Iran nuclear agreement transitions from promises on paper to measurable progress,” said Secretary of State John F. Kerry. “United States’ friends and allies in the Middle East and the entire world are safer, because the threat of nuclear weapons has been reduced.”
Truthout, By Dahr Jamail, January 11
Beginning in mid-January, Navy SEALs will be practicing unannounced and clandestine combat beach landings across Washington State’s Puget Sound and many other coastal areas of that state.
The simulated combat exercises, which will include the use of mini-submarines and other landing craft, will deposit Navy SEALs carrying “simulated weapons” on 68 beach and state park areas in Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Washington’s west coast, unbeknownst to most of the relevant government agencies tasked with overseeing these areas.
Internal Navy emails, two slide shows (which can be viewed in full here and here) and other documents obtained exclusively by Truthout reveal the vast extent of the operations. They also reveal the fact that the Navy labeled the relevant files as “For Official Use Only” and emails as “Attorney-Client privilege,” a move that exempts such documents from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Raw Story, By Bethania Palma Markus, January 15
|When you’ve lost Fox News…
An investigation by the International Business Times has turned up evidence that the campaign of GOP candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has been illegally coordinating campaign stops with a super PAC supporting her — in direct conflict with FEC laws prohibiting such collaborations.
According to IBT, candidates can receive political donations from individuals, but the amount is capped at a few thousands dollars. Super PACs, however, can receive unlimited amounts from donors. Super PACs are thus barred from coordinating with candidates’ campaigns directly.
Representatives with Carly for America say they do not coordinate with her campaign. In September, the New York Times reported that Fiorina’s campaign has aggressively exploited a loophole in elections law by publishing a public Google calendar showing the events she has planned. A representative from the super PAC told the Times that members simply look at Fiorina’s calendar and show up.
Astronomy Now, January 14
Records are made to be broken, as the expression goes, but rarely are records left so thoroughly in the dust. Stunned astronomers have witnessed a cosmic explosion about 200 times more powerful than a typical supernova — events which already rank amongst the mightiest outbursts in the universe — and more than twice as luminous as the previous record-holding supernova.
At its peak intensity, the explosion — called ASASSN-15lh — shone with 570 billion times the brightness of the Sun. If that statistic does not impress, consider that this luminosity level is approximately 20 times the entire output of the 100 billion stars comprising our Milky Way galaxy.
The record-breaking blast is thought to be an outstanding example of a “superluminous supernova,” a recently discovered, supremely rare variety of explosion unleashed by certain stars when they die. Scientists are frankly at a loss, though, regarding what sorts of stars and stellar scenarios might be responsible for these extreme supernovae.
Reuters, By J.R. Wu and Ben Blanchard, January 16
Taipei – Taiwan’s independence-leaning opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen won a convincing victory in presidential elections on Saturday and pledged to maintain peace with giant neighbor China, which warned it would oppose any move towards independence.
Tsai, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will be thrust into one of Asia’s toughest and most dangerous jobs, with China pointing hundreds of missiles at the island it claims, decades after losing Nationalists fled from Mao Zedong’s Communists to Taiwan in the Chinese civil war in 1949.
Tsai said she would establish “consistent, predictable and sustainable” relations with China and not be provocative, to ensure the status quo.
IBT: Taiwan Elections: Opposition Leader Tsai Ing-Wen Elected Country’s First Female President
France24, January 16
Venezuela’s socialist government decreed an “economic emergency” on Friday that will expand its powers and published the first data in a year that shows the depth of a recession fueled by low oil prices and a sputtering state-led model.
The central bank, which has been lambasted by critics of President Nicolas Maduro’s government for hiding statistics since the end of 2014, said the South American OPEC nation’s economy shrank 4.5 percent in the first nine months last year.
Inflation soared in that period to an annual rate of 141.5 percent, the world’s worst. Venezuela’s oil-dependent economy is forecast to perform abysmally again in 2016. Maduro lost control of the National Assembly in a December election due to voter ire over the crisis.
The government’s decree, which the opposition-led assembly says it has the power to approve or reject, sets a 60-day “economic emergency” and would give Maduro wider powers to intervene in companies or limit access to currency.
“We are confronting a true storm,” Maduro said during his state-of-the-nation address to Congress. “This is not Maduro’s storm, as some believe, it is a situation throughout the country that affects every Venezuelan family.”
CNN, By Jeremy Diamond, January 9
Rock Hill, SC – A Muslim woman wearing a hijab was escorted out of Donald Trump’s campaign event on Friday by police after she stood up in silent protest during Trump’s speech.
Rose Hamid, a 56-year-old flight attendant sitting in the stands directly behind Trump, stood up Friday during Trump’s speech when the Republican front-runner suggested that Syrian refugees fleeing war in Syria were affiliated with ISIS.
Major Steven Thompson of the Rock Hill Police Department told CNN Hamid was kicked out of the event because the campaign told him beforehand that “anybody who made any kind of disturbance” should be escorted out.
After Hamid and three others, all wearing stars reminiscent of those worn by Jews during the Holocaust, were escorted out by police and Trump campaign officials, Trump commented on the disturbance.
“There is hatred against us that is unbelievable,” Trump said. “It’s their hatred, it’s not our hatred.”
Auto-start video at the link.
Related…: This Powerful Video Just Released About Donald Trump is Sending Chills Up and Down People’s Spines – very slick.
New York Times, By Alison Smale, January 8
Berlin — At least 231 children who sang in a boys’ choir led for 30 years by the brother of former Pope Benedict XVI were abused over a period of almost four decades, a lawyer investigating reports of wrongdoing said Friday.
The lawyer, Ulrich Weber, who was commissioned by the choir to look into accusations of beatings, torture or sexual abuse, said he thought that the actual abuse was even more widespread.
At a news conference in Regensburg, Bavaria, where the choir traces its roots to the year 975, Mr. Weber estimated that from 1953 to 1992, every third member of the choir and an attached school suffered some kind of physical abuse.
He attributed the beatings and other mistreatment mostly to Johann Meier, director of a lower school attached to the choir from 1953 until his retirement in 1992. Mr. Meier died suddenly later that year, Mr. Weber said. A 1987 investigation of reported abuse did not prompt the choir’s leaders to remove Mr. Meier or take other action, the lawyer said.
Asked whether Benedict’s brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, who conducted the Regensburg choir from 1964 to 1994, had known of the abuse, Mr. Weber said, “After my research, I must assume so.”
Documents show Cardinal Dolan — top U.S. Catholic official — shielded pedophile priests
Dallas Morning News, By Dianne Solís, January 3
Immigration advocates and the Guatemalan and Salvadoran governments are warning people this weekend that raids by federal authorities have begun and are targeting Central Americans who have recently entered the U.S. without authorization.
Officials at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement don’t generally confirm what they consider ongoing operations. But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, reemphasized their priorities in a statement this morning that referred to policy priorities made in November 2014 in this memo.
The Washington Post first reported on Dec. 23 that raids would begin in early January targeting Central Americans who had orders of removal issued by a federal immigration judge. They would focus on those who entered the U.S. after Jan. 1, 2014, in numbers so large it was called a surge.
Los Angeles Times: Families are taken into custody as push to deport immigrants denied refuge begins
ABC News, By Jim Avila, January 3
President Obama plans to announce executive actions he will take on gun control on Tuesday, a source told ABC News.
Obama had announced during his weekly address Friday that he planned to discuss gun control options with Attorney General Loretta Lynch after he returned from his Hawaiian vacation, which ended today.
“A few months ago, I directed my team at the White House to look into any new actions I can take to help reduce gun violence,” he said in the address. “And on Monday, I’ll meet with our Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, to discuss our options.”
ABC News, By Rebecca Santana, January 2
Metairie, LA — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Saturday the idea of religious neutrality is not grounded in the country’s constitutional traditions and that God has been good to the U.S. exactly because Americans honor him.
Scalia was speaking at a Catholic high school in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, Louisiana. Scalia, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 is the court’s longest serving justice. He has consistently been one of the court’s more conservative members.
He told the audience at Archbishop Rummel High School that there is “no place” in the country’s constitutional traditions for the idea that the state must be neutral between religion and its absence.
“To tell you the truth there is no place for that in our constitutional tradition. Where did that come from?” he said. “To be sure, you can’t favor one denomination over another but can’t favor religion over non-religion?”
He also said there is “nothing wrong” with the idea of presidents and others invoking God in speeches. He said God has been good to America because Americans have honored him.
Via Freak Out Nation: Pro-Religion Nut Wants Reintegration
Washington Post, By Liz Sly, January 3
Beirut — Iran’s Supreme Leader warned on Sunday that there would be divine retribution for Saudi Arabia’s rulers after the execution of a renowned Shiite cleric, sustaining the soaring regional tensions that erupted in the wake of the killing.
The warning came hours after crowds of protesters stormed and torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran to vent their anger at the execution of Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, who was among 47 people put to death in the kingdom on Saturday.
In a posting on his website, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the execution “will cause serious troubles for the politicians of this [Saudi] regime in a very short time….The hands of divine vengeance will surely snatch — by their necks — those cruel individuals who took his life.”
ARA News, By Laila Majdalawi, January 3
Damascus – Syrian regime’s air force hit the ancient city of Palmyra with dozens of airstrikes, killing and wounding dozens of civilians, activists reported on Saturday.
Local sources said that Syrian warplanes bombed residential neighborhoods in central Palmyra.
“At least 13 civilians were killed and 20 more wounded in renewed airstrikes by Syrian warplanes,” media activist Samir al-Homsi told ARA News.
“The Syrian regime claims that its warplanes are targeting ISIS positions in Palmyra; however, the strikes mostly hit residential buildings causing civilian casualties and destruction to private property,” al-Homsi said.
AP, January 2
Burns, OR — A peaceful protest Saturday in support of an eastern Oregon ranching family facing jail time for arson was followed shortly afterward by an occupation of a building at a national wildlife refuge.
Ammon Bundy, the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a standoff with the government over grazing rights, told The Oregonian he and two of his brothers were among a group of dozens of people occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Bundy posted a video on his Facebook page asking for people to come help him. Below the video is this statement: “**ALL PATRIOTS ITS TIME TO STAND UP NOT STAND DOWN!!! WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! COME PREPARED.”
Ammon Bundy said the group planned to stay at the refuge indefinitely.
“We’re planning on staying here for years, absolutely,” Ammon Bundy said. “This is not a decision we’ve made at the last minute.”
Related, Charlie Pierce: How Cliven Bundy Changed Our National Politics, Esquire, December 10, 2015
Wikipedia: Malheur Incident.
Twitter: Ammon Bundy – Leave our land alone.