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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Republicans strike back: FCC member invokes Star Wars in net neutrality fight

Republicans strike back: FCC member invokes Star Wars in net neutrality fight

Republicans invoked Star Wars’s evil galactic emperor in their attacks on new broadband regulations on Friday, warning that the public and Silicon Valley were in for an unpleasant surprise.

Quoting Emperor Palpatine, Republican Ajit Pai, a member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), said: “Young fool … Only now, at the end, do you understand.”

Related: Net neutrality activists score landmark victory in fight to govern the internet

Meme wars between the two sides of the debate continued through the day, as internet advocates Fight for the Future, Demand Progress and Free Press flew an airplane towing a 2,000 square foot banner over the towering corporate headquarters of the cable giant Comcast, in Philadelphia.

The victory banner depicted the feline internet star Grumpy Cat and the legend: “Comcast: Don’t Mess With the Internet. #SorryNotSorry.”

Referring to Pai’s comments Evan Greer, campaigns director at Fight for the Future, said: “What they didn’t know is that when they struck down the last rules we would come back more powerful than they could possibly imagine.”

Pai and fellow Republican FCC commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who have been consistent critics of the FCC’s new rules, said once they are published people will realise that they will stifle innovation and lead to taxes and increased rates for the public.

“When you see this document, it’s worse than you imagine,” said O’Rielly at a conference in Washington organised by the think tank TechFreedom.

The FCC on Thursday voted through strict new rules to regulate broadband and protect net neutrality – the principle that all information and services should have equal access to the internet.

The historic vote was cheered by internet activists, President Barack Obama and many in the tech community. However, few people have seen the actual orders. On Friday the FCC was finalising its documentation for publication – it it is not expected to release the orders until next week at the very earliest.

Pai said the new rules would mean “permission-less innovation is a thing of the past”. The new rules will ban broadband providers from creating fast lanes for some or slowing the traffic of others for commercial reasons. They will also give the FCC the power to police conduct by broadband providers on a case-by-case basis.

Internet service providers will not be allowed to “unreasonably interfere with or unreasonably disadvantage” consumers’ access to content and services.

O’Rielly said this would mean that any company looking to start a new service would have to seek permission ahead of time. He said anybody looking for new business opportunities in the document would be best off becoming a “telecoms lawyer”.

Dozens of Christians Abducted by Islamists in Syria


Update at Feb 24, 2015
By: ZEINA KARAM and RYAN LUCAS

BEIRUT (AP) - The Islamic State militants struck before dawn, staging house-to-house raids in a cluster of villages nestled along the Khabur River in northeastern Syria. They abducted at least 70 Christians - many of them women and children - while thousands of others fled to safer areas.
The captives' fate was unclear Tuesday, a day after they were seized, and relatives said mobile phone service was cut off and land lines also were not going through, adding to the fear and uncertainty about their loved ones. Heavy fighting was reported in the area.
The Islamic State group has a history of killing captives, including foreign journalists, Syrian soldiers and Kurdish militiamen. Most recently, militants in Libya affiliated with the extremist group released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians.
The group's bloody campaign in Syria and Iraq, where it seeks to form a self-styled caliphate, has repeatedly targeted religious minorities since it took control of a third of both countries. The United States and coalition of regional partners are conducting a campaign of airstrikes against the group.
The militants struck near the town of Tal Tamr in Hassakeh province, an area predominated by Assyrian Christians. Most of the captives came from Tal Shamiram and some from Tal Hurmiz.
Nuri Kino, the head of a group called A Demand For Action, said between 70 and 100 Assyrians were taken captive. About 3,000 people fled and have sought refuge in the cities of Hassakeh and Qamishli, he said, adding that his activist group based its information on conversations with villagers who fled the attack and their relatives. His group focuses on religious minorities in the Middle East.
"Have they been slaughtered? Are they still alive? We're searching for any news," said an Assyrian Christian woman from Tal Shamiram who now lives in Beirut. The woman said she has been trying to find out what has become of her parents, her brother and his wife and their children, but couldn't reach anyone in the village.
"I feel so helpless, I cannot do anything for them but pray," she said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of endangering relatives believed to be held by the militants.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which also reported the abductions, put the number of Christians held by the Islamic State group at 90. The Observatory relies on a network of activists inside Syria.
Both groups said that most of the captives come from Tal Shamiram, located some 85 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of the provincial capital of Qamishli, and nearby Tal Hurmiz. At least four civilians, including a 17-year-old, were killed in clashes later Monday, a relative of one of the victims said on condition of anonymity.
The extremists could use the Assyrian captives to try to arrange a prisoner swap with the Kurdish militias it is battling in northeastern Syria.
Last year, IS militants abducted more than 150 Kurdish boys and held them in a school in Aleppo province where they subjected them to daily instruction on militant ideology for five months before releasing them in batches. The group has also released Turkish truck drivers and diplomats after holding them for months. It was not known whether a prisoner deal was struck in those instances.
Hassakeh province is strategically important because it borders Turkey and areas controlled by IS in Iraq. Kurdish militiamen from the People's Protection Units, or YPG, backed by the coalition airstrikes, have made advances in the province in a new offensive launched this week.
Heavy fighting broke out in the province Monday as Kurdish fighters and IS militants battled for control of villages near the Iraqi and Turkish borders.
The Kurds have been one of the most effective foes of IS, a reputation they burnished in recent months by repelling an assault by the extremists on the town of Kobani on the Turkish border. The coalition carried out hundreds of airstrikes that helped the Kurds break the siege in January.
On Tuesday, heavy clashes between Kurdish fighters and IS militants raged near Tal Tamr.
The Assyrian woman in Beirut said that before Monday, clashes would occasionally break out near Tal Shamiram, but that IS militants were mostly on Mount Abdulaziz, some 25 kilometers to the south.
"My family visited me last month and returned to Syria. There were clashes, but it was normal, nothing exceptional," she said, her voice breaking with emotion.
The Islamic State group's online radio station, al-Bayan, said Tuesday that IS fighters had detained "tens of crusaders" - the term it frequently uses for Christians - and seized 10 villages around Tal Tamr after clashes with Kurdish militiamen.
It reported an intense movement of coalition planes over Hassakeh.
The U.S. Central Command said the coalition carried out 10 airstrikes near Hassakeh on Monday, striking at nine IS tactical units and destroying two of their vehicles.
The Assyrian Network for Human Rights in Syria said on its Facebook page that the militants had moved the captives to the village of Umm al-Masamir on Mount Abdulaziz, some 25 kilometers south of Tal Shamiram. That raised fears, the network said, that IS could use them as human shields against Kurdish militiamen.
Habib Afram, president of the Syriac League in Lebanon, said he was in contact with Assyrians in Hassakeh and expressed hope that the captives could be freed in some kind of swap, although he added that he didn't know of any formal talks.
___
Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo and Ashraf Khalil in Beirut contributed to this report.

Editorial: Caracas running on empty

Editorial: Caracas running on empty

By Herald Staff9 hours ago

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez may have departed this earth but his legacy of corruption and economic devastation linger on via his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro.

Now the Caracas government headed by the former bus driver is falling apart at the seams and he knows only one way to remain in power - more repression.

The mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, has been jailed and accused of plotting to overthrow Maduro. Opposition leaders are routinely jailed on similar charges. An opposition congressman, Julio Borges, has been stripped of his immunity and, therefore, likely also waits for that knock on the door.

And the good people of Venezuela have indeed taken to the streets in protest not just because of such abuses of power but because out of control inflation has impoverished nearly everyone and even basic commodities are scarce. Yes, this oil rich nation is running on empty.

But now the losses can be measured in lives. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that in San Cristobal in the western part of the country at least 43 people have been killed during street demonstrations, including most recently a 14-year-old boy shot in the head by police with a rubber bullet at point-blank range. The government's own human rights ombudsman, Tarek William Saab, called the killing a "vile assassination."

But a new regulation passed by the Maduro-controlled government permits the use of lethal force against protesters if security forces feel "threatened." And apparently the guys with the guns are feeling very threatened by boys armed with picket signs.

So while protesters are gunned down in the streets and Venezuela burns, President Obama continues to fiddle. He fiddles with the Keystone XL pipeline - why ease the way for oil from Canada when we can buy from thugs like Maduro? And he fiddles with the brothers Castro, which can only give encouragement to their ideological twin now ruling in Caracas.

If you like Obamacare...you're going to love Obamanet!

This week’s vote by the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet like a public utility is already being likened to ObamaCare, i.e., the heavy hand of government intruding on a huge part of the economy. 

We’ll leave it to others to sort out the exact mischief the FCC move invites, such as big companies using the new regulations to keep smaller competitors out. 

Instead, we want to focus on the bigger picture — specifically, what the history tells us about the difference between big government and the free market. 

Almost constantly we’re told to fear the “untrammeled market.” But if there is any industry that fits this description, surely it’s the Internet. 

For the past few decades, the Internet has operated and developed and thrived largely outside government control. 

And what has been the result? Yes, the competition has been fierce, and there are many companies whose business models have been laid to waste. But for consumers, this has been an unprecedented blessing. 

Today, even people from Third World villages walk around with supercomputers — i.e., cell phones — that give them access to all the world’s information. 

Knowledge once limited to the upper reaches of society now spreads instantly. And the costs of communication with the world has dropped to pennies. 

The reason is no mystery: In a free market, businesses prosper by attracting more customers. The constant pressure thus is for lower and lower prices. 

If you believe “smart government” is going to improve this dynamic industry, we’ve got an ObamaCare Web site we’d like you to look at.

Russian opposition leaders see Kremlin links to Nemtsov slaying

Russian opposition leaders see Kremlin links to Nemtsov slaying

People come to lay flowers at the site where Boris Nemtsov was killed. (Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters)

MICHAEL BIRNBAUM 
8:40 AM

MOSCOW — Russian opposition leaders on Saturday accused the Kremlin of being behind the death of a towering figure of post-Soviet politics, Boris Nemtsov, as they struggled to come to grips with the highest-profile assassination of President Vladimir Putin’s 15 years in power.

Nemtsov was gunned down late Friday, steps from the Kremlin and underneath the swirling domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral — the heart of power in Russia and one of the most secure areas in the nation. The slaying of one of Putin’s most biting critics swept a wave of fresh vulnerability over those in the opposition, and some expressed new fears for their lives.

Putin and other allies said that the assassination was a provocation intended to discredit the Kremlin. There were no immediate suspects brought into custody in the drive-by shooting. Authorities said they were working hard to track down a light-colored sedan that was captured on surveillance cameras as Nemtsov crossed a bridge over the Moscow River on an unseasonably warm February night.

GALLERY
View Photo Gallery: Russian opposition leader gunned down in the streets of Moscow: Boris Nemtsov, who was among leaders planning an opposition rally for Sunday, was fatally shot on a bridge in the heart of Moscow.

At the crime scene on a dreary Moscow Saturday, hundreds of people gathered to lay red roses and white carnations. Many of them were in tears.

A Kremlin spokesman said that there were no grounds to fear that other opposition leaders would be killed.

“The murder is monstrous, and, as the president said, it has all the markings of a contract killing,” Dmitry Peskov told the opposition-leaning Dozhd television channel. “But to judge on that basis that this is the beginning of a series of such killings is overly emotional, and it's wrong.”

On Saturday afternoon, state-run news outlets reported that investigators had found a white Lada sedan that they believed was used in the killing. Images that they broadcast showed a car with license plates from Ingushetia, a tumultuous Muslim-majority province in the Caucasus that has long been plagued with extremist violence.

Opposition leaders said they had canceled a Sunday rally that they had hoped would breathe new life into a movement that has struggled under the weight of a wave of nationalism that followed the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula a year ago. The 55-year-old Nemstov had been one of the lead organizers. Instead, his allies said they planned to hold a memorial march for him the same day in central Moscow.

It was unclear whether the slaying would spur new support for the beleaguered opposition movement or whether it would simply be further marginalized, repressed by fear and the silencing of one of its most prominent voices.

“It’s not decided, but it could go both directions. Toward more cruelty or actually some change in the regime, as well, if we figure out how to use this momentum,” said Leonid Volkov, an opposition leader who had been organizing the rally with Nemtsov.

“Of course the personal perception of safety has just been enormously shattered. No one considered that someone could be just shot down. The regime was used to imprisoning people,” Volkov said. “It’s a new era in Russian opposition politics.”

Nemtsov’s death was a bitter bookend to the hopes that had accompanied the dashing, Western-style politician in the heady years after the breakup of the Soviet Union as he took a lead role in plunging Russia into capitalism. Now many of those reforms have been undone, with Putin taking near-absolute, personal control of the country and re-nationalizing broad swathes of the economy.

Although Putin condemned Nemtsov’s death, Russian authorities appeared to be making few concessions to the opposition in its wake. The national Internet watchdog briefly blocked access to the blog of Alexei Navalny, the leader of a younger generation of Kremlin critics. Hours after the assassination, investigators were at Nemtsov’s Moscow apartment, searching his files, confiscating his computer hard drive and questioning his neighbors, the Interfax news service reported.

Navalny, who after vast anti-Putin rallies in 2011 and 2012 had eclipsed Nemtsov as Russia’s preeminent opposition leader, is currently in jail serving a 15-day sentence for distributing fliers promoting the rally. From jail on Saturday, he said: “I am so deeply shocked that I cannot even find words.”

“Boris came here a couple of days ago, he was so lively and energetic, full of plans,” Navalny wrote on his Facebook page, via an associate. “He immediately charmed the policemen, chatted with them cheerfully, explained to them why it is good for them to support the demands of the Spring march, gave them brochures with his report.”

Nemtsov was slain as he was walking home from having late-night drinks at a cafe inside GUM, the glittering department store on Red Square that was in many ways a symbol of the work he did to drag Russia into the capitalist age. The assassination, literally at the doorstep of the Kremlin, was a bitter symbol for those in the opposition movement of their powerful new vulnerability.

Nemtsov allies said that he had been preparing to release a report detailing evidence that Russian soldiers were fighting in Ukraine alongside pro-Russian rebels, an accusation the Kremlin has hotly denied. Two years ago, he prepared an investigation that he said uncovered a vast corruption scheme in the lead-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi — an effort that was said to have particularly irked Putin.

Putin’s rhetoric Saturday was conciliatory, as he sent a condolence telegram to Nemtsov’s mother.

“Boris Nemtsov left his mark on the history of Russia in politics and public life,” Putin said. “Everything will be done so that the organizers and perpetrators of this vile and cynical murder are punished.”

Theories swirled Saturday about who was behind the shooting. Members of the opposition generally agreed that the killing was politically motivated. There were differing opinions as to whether it was actually tied to the Kremlin or whether it was simply the product of a new climate of aggression that Putin has unleashed in the year since the annexation of Crimea.

“There is only one conclusion,” opposition leader and Nemtsov ally Nemtsovally Vladimir Milov wrote on his blog. “The murder of Boris Nemtsov is connected to the authorities.” He said the timing of the killing as well, as its location in the high-security heart of Moscow gave him little doubt.

Other Kremlin critics have been killed over the years, including journalist Anna Politkovskaya and former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 and lawyer Sergey Magnitsky in 2008. But few people have been brought to justice for the deaths.

Authorities discounted any Kremlin link, saying they were examining a wide range of possibilities, including connections to Islamist extremism, to Ukraine, to business dealings or to personal disputes, said Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin.

“The investigation is analyzing several theories, including the murder as an act of provocation to destabilize the political situation in the country,” Markin said in a statement. “Nemtsov could have been a kind of sacrifice for those who stop at nothing to attain their political ends.”

CORRUPT ILLINOIS: NOT A FEW BAD APPLES

CORRUPT ILLINOIS: NOT A FEW BAD APPLES 

rahm-obama.jpg

Despite a huge advantage in name recognition, massively more money, and a lift from President Obama, Rahm Emanuel failed to avoid a run-off Tuesday. It seems many Chicago residents are beginning to realize that our present system – and leaders – are leading us off a precipice.

In the adopted home of a President and the most fabled political machine in the country, the issue here is the factors that drive political decisions. It is increasingly clear that the old political science sense that politicians are less self-interested than regular people – suckers, taxpayers – is dead wrong.  Many American political scientists will claim with enormous conviction that those engaged in the marketplace are more self-interested than those involved in the political process. Liberal scholars and the mainstream media constantly complain about market failure; much less attention is paid to political failure.

Not all academics studying politics have been so na├»ve about the political process. Over 100 year ago FDR’s influential progressive advisor Frederic C. Howe, in his long forgotten book, Confessions of a Monopolistexplained the essence of politics:

This is the story of something for nothing—of making the other fellow pay. This making the other fellow pay, of getting something for nothing, explains the lust for franchises, mining rights, tariff privileges, railway control, tax evasions. All these things mean monopoly, and all monopoly is bottomed on legislation.

Seeking special privileges, Howe reasoned, leads to corruption. By the 1960s this notion was explored by economists Gordon Tullock and Anne Krueger, who developed the concept of “rent-seeking.” They saw how politics represents often merely an investment towards plundering the taxpayers for private gain.

Now we have a modern day examination of this phenomena, particularly in the crony capital of the world, Illinois. Political scholars Thomas Gradel and Dick Simpson have written a path breaking  book  from The University of Illinois Press on corruption in the state of Illinois. This book is the most comprehensive survey of corruption in the state of Illinois ever published. The lessons here are useful well beyond Illinois. You’ll never understand, for example, Barack Obama’s political career unless you read this book. Gradel and Simpson also remind us that Chicago isn’t the only corrupt place in Illinois.  The corrupt politicians, judges, police, and government bureaucrats are catalogued here and backed by empirical evidence.

Illinois’ biggest town was corrupt from the start. Even the incorporation vote to start Chicago was fraudulently conducted. Chicago’s City Council is the epitome of the place’s corruption. Gradel and Simpson present the evidence:

Thirty-three Chicago aldermen and former aldermen have been convicted and gone to jail since 1973. Two others died before they could be tried. Since 1928 there have been only fifty aldermen serving in the council at any one time. Fewer than two hundred men and women have served in the Chicago city council since the 1970’s, so the federal crime rate in the council chamber is higher than in the most dangerous ghetto in the city.

Those Chicago Aldermen who went on to commit crimes represent all elements of society. White, black, college graduates, rich, poor, felonies on the job, felonies off the job, and more. But, Chicago’s city council isn’t the only corrupt place. Chicago’s police department has faced its’ share of negative publicity:

Since 1960, more than three hundred Chicago police officers have been convicted of serious crimes, such as drug dealing, beating civilians, destroying evidence, protecting mobsters, theft, and murder. However, this doesn’t include all the illegal and unethical activities that have gone undetected or were covered up internally by the police department.

The Emanuel administration still has to deal with police behavior from decades ago. Commander Jon Burge, Chicago’s most infamous police torturer, has already costthe city $120 million in settlements and legal fees with the meter still running.  William Hanhardt, who was elevated to Chief of Detectives after joining the police force in 1953, rose through the ranks to be the Chicago Mob’s most important asset on the force.  He was eventually indicted for running a nationwide jewelry theft ring. This was not any ordinary theft ring. As U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar clearly stated: "Hanhardt’s organization surpasses in duration and sophistication -just about any other jewelry theft ring we've seen in federal law enforcement."  Chicago’s City Council never held hearings on who Hanhardt promoted in his long career and the long racketeering enterprise he ran.

This isn’t the fantasy land Barack Obama of  apologist David Maraness, or Jonathan Alter (whose mother was the first woman to be slated for Cook County office by Mayor Richard J. Daley)  concocts.  

The big question: Was Barack Obama separate from the ethical swamp of Illinois politics? Obama was a foot soldier of the Daley machine when Congressman Bobby Rush had the nerve to run against Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1999, Daley needed to send Congressman Rush a message.  The Daley operation “encouraged” Illinois State Senator Barack Obama to challenge Congressman Bobby Rush. Obama lost, but won the loyalty of Mayor Daley.  The Chicago machine pushed Obama for the Illinois State Senate, the U.S. Senate, and then the Presidency.  Barack Obama was there when the chips were down.  As one Obama observer explained, he endorsed Daley last time in 2007 despite the corruption and the many civil rights violations. Daley, for his part, backed Obama in his successful run for the white House.

President Obama previously taught constitutional law classes at one the country’s most prestigious law schools, the University of Chicago. Given President Obama’s civil rights knowledge as a law school professor,  President Obama’s 2007 endorsement of Daley for mayor remains even more perplexing. Recent revelations about a Chicago police “black site” – much along the lines of CIA interrogation centers --- seem to have done little to change his embrace of the machine.

Clearly the cord to the machine has hardly been cut. Just look at who President Obama hired as top staff members. Daley fundraiser Rahm Emanuel served as Chief of Staff. Mayor Daley’s brother William followed him as Chief of Staff.  Another powerful figure is Mayor Daley’s deputyChief of Staff, Valerie Jarret. The head of the less than successful Chicago Public School system, Arne Duncan, got promoted Secretary of Education. Chicago machine donor and housing fraudster Penny Pritzker got appointed to Secretary of Commerce.  

But don’t rely just on me. Read Thomas Gradel and Dick Simpson— you may realize the price we all, not just in Chicago or Illinois pay, for not confronting the culture of corruption.

Steve Bartin is a resident of Cook County and native who blogs regularly about urban affairs. He works in Internet sales. 

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.



















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Friday, February 27, 2015

Former Mossad head urges Israeli voters to oust Binyamin Netanyahu

Former Mossad head urges Israeli voters to oust Binyamin Netanyahu

Meir Dagan says prime minister’s policies are ‘destructive to the future and security of Israel’

Published: 14:09 EST Friday, 27 February 2015

Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin Netanyahu has said he believes that his speech is necessary to strengthen opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran being negotiated by the US and key allies. Photograph: Abir Sultan/AP

A former head of Israel’s foreign intelligence service Mossad is urging voters to oust Binyamin Netanyahu in the next general election, accusing the prime minister of endangering the country’s security with his stance on the Iranian nuclear programme.

Meir Dagan, a vocal critic of Netanyahu’s Iran policysince stepping down as Mossad chief four years ago, is to be a keynote speaker at a rally in Tel Aviv next weekend, calling on the public to turf the prime minister out of office on 17 March.

Netanyahu was due to fly to Washington on Friday. 

In a trenchant critique of Netanyahu’s leadership, delivered in a long interview in Israel’s biggest-selling newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Dagan said the prime minister’s policies were “destructive to the future and security of Israel”.

Netanyahu’s planned speech has brought the already uncomfortable state of relations with the Obama administration to a new low amid suspicion that the speech – at the invitation of Republican house speaker John Boehner – was designed to enhance the Israeli prime minister’s electoral prospects.

Netanyahu has said he believes that his speech is necessary to strengthen opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran being negotiated by the US and key allies. 

The intervention by Dagan – who ended his tenure as the head of Mossad in 2011 – is doubly significant because he shares the prime minister’s view over the risk posed by a nuclear Iran and is regarded as generally hawkish on defence and security matters.

Netanyahu has made security and the Iranian nuclear programme – and the US-led negotiations to contain it – his key election issue. 

Recent days have also seen anonymous criticism of Netanyahu’s speech from serving intelligence officers as well as from former diplomats and political figures in Israel, including Isaac Herzog, the leader of the opposition.

Saying that he was aware that Israel was already “paying a high price” over the confrontation with the Obama administration – albeit in ways he could not disclose – Dagan said: “The person causing the most strategic harm to Israel on the Iranian issue is the prime minister.

“As someone who has served Israel in various security capacities for 45 years, including during the country’s most difficult hours, I feel that we are now at a critical point regarding our existence and our security.

“Our standing in the world is not brilliant right now. The question of Israel’s legitimacy is up for debate. We should not erode our relations with our most important friend. Certainly not in public, certainly not by becoming involved in its domestic politics. This is not proper behaviour for a prime minister.”

Insisting he held no personal animus towards Netanyahu, who had helped him get a liver transplant, he said: “I have no personal issue with the prime minister, his wife, his spending and the way he conducts himself. I’m talking about the country he leads.

“An Israeli prime minister who clashes with the US administration has to ask himself what the risks are. On the matter of settlements, there is no difference between the two [US] parties. And even so, they provide us with a veto umbrella. In a situation of a confrontation, this umbrella is liable to vanish, and within a short time, Israel could find itself facing international sanctions. 

“The risks of such a clash are intolerable. We are already today paying a high price. Some of them I know and cannot elaborate.

“I would not have confronted the United States and its president. Netanyahu may get applause in Congress, but all the power is in the White House. What will Netanyahu gain by addressing Congress? I just don’t understand it. Is his goal to get a standing ovation? This trip to Washington is doomed to failure.”

Dagan’s intervention follows that of fellow former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit and the former head of the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit who are among scores of former commanders involved in a video published on Facebook calling for Israel to replace Netanyahu. 

Netanyahu’s determination to push on with his speech has seen unusually critical remarks from senior US administration officials in the last week who have gone out of their way to express their displeasure.

Among them was John Kerry, the secretary of state, who openly questioned Netanyahu’s judgment on the issue, and Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice who warned that it was “destructive to the fabric” of US-Israeli relations.

Netanyahu’s plans to speak to Congress have also irritated many Democratic party members who view the speech as a partisan intervention in US politics on the side of the Republican party, prompting a number of Democrats to say they would not attend the speech.

The speech is also being snubbed by Obama and Joe Biden, his vice president. 

After leaving Mossad, Dagan went public with his criticism of Netanyahu’s Iran policy, saying a military attack on Iran was “the stupidest thing I have ever heard”.

Republicans attack Clinton from every angle

Republicans attack Clinton from every angle

M.Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

By GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI | 02/27/2015 06:38 PM EST | Updated: 02/27/2015 07:56 PM EST

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Hillary Clinton couldn't make it to the Conservative Political Action Conference because "we couldn't find a foreign nation to foot the bill." Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, insisted Clinton "likes hashtags, but she doesn't know what leadership means." And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush knocked her on conflict of interest claims involving her family's foundation.

It was amply clear at the annual conservative confab this week that Clinton has eclipsed Barack Obama as the Republican residential hopefuls' main punching bag. But it is the sheer number of distinct anti-Clinton attack lines that is raising eyebrows.

Whether onstage or off, Republicans derided Clinton from every angle. They cast the 67-year-old as yesterday's news, brought up her husband Bill Clinton's 1990s scandals, questioned the rationale for her expected run for the White House, criticized her high-dollar speaking fees, and, of course, lashed her over the Benghazi attacks.

Republicans eager to derail a Clinton 2016 campaign, like those flooding the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center here, see the panoply of critiques as a show of force against a candidate they insist is more vulnerable than her allies realize. Watching warily from afar, however, Democrats eager to see a Clinton presidency cast the attacks as a sign of confusion in the GOP, predicting the mish-mash of arguments will fail to jell and dent the former secretary of state's image.

Both sides could agree on one thing: that the brewing questions about the Clinton Foundation's funding -- the theme gaining most attention at CPAC and among national political operatives in recent weeks -- pose special danger for her. "The foundation stuff is real," said a Democrat in Clinton's orbit. "That's hurting."

Clinton has stayed relatively low-key in recent months, appearing in public within the United States for the first time just this week. She is expected to take a formal step toward a presidential run before the end of April, and her allies expect she and her campaign team will engage with such criticisms once she does. Republicans, however, cite her aides' unwillingness to take on the critics now as evidence that Clinton is "hiding" because she doesn't have a good response.

"Hillary barely comes out in public these days," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said on stage. "If there's not a private luxury jet and a quarter million-dollar speaking fee waiting for her, you can forget about it."

Republicans' intense and long-standing focus on Clinton suggest many of them expect her to be a formidable candidate. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, for instance, warned a packed hotel suite of about 100 college students that Clinton has strategic advantages because she is a woman and could make history by winning the White House.

But as White House aspirants paraded through the convention center halls this week and riled up conservative activists from the stage, fellow Republicans brushed off the notion that there were too many arguments against Clinton floating around, pointing out that 2016 hopefuls aren't expected to coordinate their messages.

"Democrats have a real problem if they are complaining about Hillary Clinton having too many vulnerabilities for Republicans to exploit. This is further proof of how flawed their candidate is and why she won't come out of hiding to talk with voters," RNC spokeswoman Allison Moore said.

Democrats pointed out that Clinton, a public figure for decades, has weathered numerous controversies in the past, and that it will be hard for any one issue to change perceptions of her so far ahead of the election, especially when Republicans are hitting her with so many separate criticisms.

"It's more important to get [the campaign launch] right than to be out there to deal with all these one-offs," said former Bill Clinton White House aide Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist.

The anti-Clinton messages were not limited to the main speakers' stage at CPAC: posters trashing the former first lady line the walls; college-age Republicans frequently refer to Clinton as the enemy as they stroll the hallways; and the official schedule included a screening of an anti-Clinton documentary.

Republican 2016 hopefuls speaking at the convention center aren't trying to sway independents; they're trying to excite the GOP base, and a stinger of a line about Clinton is worth the barrage of attention it will get.

Speaking on Friday afternoon, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul fumed over the 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, whose victims included U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. He called on Clinton to "permanently retire."

"Hillary's war made us less safe," Paul said. "As Hillary was declaring victory in Libya, Ambassador Stevens was pleading for more security."

Asked by conservative media personality Sean Hannity for a one-word description of Clinton a few hours later, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said, "foreign fundraising."

Some of the harshest attacks of the week against Clinton have come from Fiorina, the sole woman in the emerging GOP presidential field, who appears to be positioning herself as its top Clinton antagonist.

Fiorina zeroed in on the Clinton Foundation and its relationships with foreign governments: "Please explain why we should accept that the millions and millions of dollars that have flowed into the Clinton Global Initiative from foreign governments doesn't represent a conflict of interest," Fiorina implored an energized crowd on Thursday.

Speaking next that afternoon, Cruz went a similar route, saying Clinton "embodies the corruption of Washington." Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, meanwhile, continued his tactic of painting Clinton as a candidate of "yesterday."

But amid the deluge of anti-Clinton talk, one unexpected argument in particular caught CPAC's attention and set the crowd abuzz.

The notion was offered up by popular conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, who was tasked with helping rouse the sleepy activists on Friday morning.

"Why don't we just call it quits?" she asked. "Jeb and Hillary can run on the same ticket."

Katie Glueck contributed to this report.

Sen. Sessions Hits Bush On His Immigration Plan

Sen. Sessions Hits Bush On His Immigration Plan

Neil Munro 
White House Correspondent 

GOP candidates should pitch their message at voters, not donors, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said in a speech at the CPAC convention.

“The most important thing right now is for candidates not to tailor their message with any idea about what contributions they get, but to tailor messages on what’s right for Americans,” he told his audience at a hotel just outside Washington D.C.

“Voters always trump money… and will attract more money too,” said Sessions, who is urging GOP candidates to win voters support with a promise of lower immigration and higher wages.

Sessions’ pitch, however accidentally or not, was a sharp critique of the primary campaign launched by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is using his wealthy network of funders to grab for market share in the crowded GOP primaries.

Sessions spoke shortly after Bush defended his support for high immigration to the crowded main hall at at CPAC.

But Bush’s plan to legally import millions of foreign workers — both blue-collar and white collar — is widely disliked by the Republican base that will pick the presidential candidate.

“We have to be young, aspirational and dynamic again,” Bush said about his plan to provide work-permits to illegals and to increase the immigration of blue-collar workers and professionals. 

Bush didn’t want to highlight those issues, and sought to shift the focus. “We have to change the subject [from immigration] to high sustained economic growth,” he said.

His plan for large-scale legal immigration can speed annual growth from 2 percent to 4 percent, he argued. The growth will produce jobs and economic gains for all, he said. “We ought to be growing the economic pie, and growing it at the pace like the 1980s… there’s going to be opportunities for all,” Bush claimed.

Bush’s plan is popular among his wealthy donors, partly because the higher growth and cheaper labor will spike returns for Wall Street investors.

Sessions has a very different focus. He wants GOP candidates to offer a low-immigration plan that would increase Americans’ wages and win support from voters who earn less than $50,000 a year.

“We need a presidential candidate who talks to them and gets off his phone calls with donors with the big bucks,” the senator said, perhaps aiming at Bush.

“This needs to be a party for the working American… [we’ve] given enough love to the entrepreneur,” he added.

Sessions delivered some direct, although low-key, criticism of Bush. “He’s a very talented and good person, but I think the policy on immigration is a error and it would deny him the opportunity to appeal to a lot of people,” he said, citing polls which show widespread opposition to companies’ hiring of immigrants in place of Americans.

Attitudes about “immigration transcend party politics and the liberal/conservative typology,” Sessions said. Voters don’t like the “amnesty and open-borders policy that threatens their jobs and wages and that of their children,” he said.

Sessions also slammed wealthy donors who want immigrant labor. “They’ve got their money, they think they’re entitled to have things their way but [average people] have got a vote and it is every bit as valuable” the votes of wealthy people, he said.

Sessions also slammed wealthy donors who want immigrant labor. “They’ve got their money, they think they’re entitled to have things their way but [average people] have got a vote and it is every bit as valuable” the votes of wealthy people, he said.

“The money guys think they got all that counts [in elections], but they don’t,” he said.

GOP candidate will win in 2016, Sessions said, by showing voters that “we care about you more than we care about money.”

Putin Foe Shot Dead on Moscow Street

An outspoken rival of Vladimir Putin was assassinated in the heart of Moscow Friday evening — just two days before he was scheduled to lead a massive protest against the Russian president. 

Former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov was walking with a woman on a busy street near the Kremlin when the gunman jumped out of a white car and pumped four bullets into his chest. The killer then got back inside and sped off. 

Nemtsov had been a vocal critic of Putin and had published a series of reports accusing the president and his inner circle of corruption. 

He said in an interview earlier this month that he was afraid that the president would have him killed, The Guardian reported. 

Hours before he died, Nemtsov had called on his fellow Russians to take part in the march, which in addition to protesting Putin was also a demonstration against the war in the Ukraine. 

The protest had been scheduled for Sunday in a Moscow suburb. 

One of the other organizers, Alexei Navalny, was jailed for 15 days ahead of the march. 

Nemtsov, 55, had served as deputy prime minister under the late President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s. He earned a reputation as an economic reformer while he was mayor of one of the country’s biggest cities, Nizhny Novgorod, the BBC said. 

Although Putin and his pals have been known to harass opposition figures, the murder of Nemtsov was the first assassination of a political figure in Moscow in a decade, the British newspaper The Independent said. 

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, claimed that the murder was merely an attempt at “provocation” — and he would take “personal control” of the investigation, according to The Guardian. 

“Putin noted that this cruel killing has all the signs of a hit, and is a pure provocation,” said Peskov. 

US Sen John McCain (R-Ariz) tweeted that he was “very saddened’’ by the murder. 

McCain had met with Nemtsov in June, 2013, and afterward described him in a tweet as a “friend’’ and “a great champion of human rights.’’ 

https://twitter.com/SenJohnMcCain/status/571436987976179713 

https://twitter.com/SenatorWicker/status/571442715340046336 

Texas Sheriff to ISIS: Rear Your Head Here & We’ll Send You to Hell Read more at http://sonsoflibertymedia.com/2014/09/texas-sheriff-isis-rear-head-well-send-hell/

While many assume wrongly that when we post articles against Islam or informing the public about what Islamists are advancing in or against the US we are pushing a spirit of fear, we are not. We simply put out the information so that people can be aware and alert as to what is going on and respond appropriately. Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter has done just that. He’s heard the information and now he has a message for members of ISIS who wish to cross our borders and engage in terrorism: We’ll send you to hell.

Last week, the Texas sheriff appeared on CNN alongside host Don Lemon and was asked what message he wanted to communicate to the Islamists in ISIS.

“If they rear their ugly head, we’ll send them to hell,” he declared without hesitation.

Painter said that his biggest concern was the ISIS is already inside the US.

Sheriff Painter said that he had worked the border for eight years and knew of many places, just like the one James O’Keefe crossed, where the border was wide open to people coming across (O’Keefe has now demonstrated that the northern border is just as unsecure). He also made mention of the underestimated number of 10-15 million illegal aliens inside our borders currently.


Read more at http://sonsoflibertymedia.com/2014/09/texas-sheriff-isis-rear-head-well-send-hell/