Monday, April 13, 2015

“He basically said, ‘Get a life,’ ” Mr. Graham said of the F.B.I. official, who suggested that the former senator was chasing a dead-end investigation... “One thing that irritates me is that the F.B.I. has gone beyond just covering up, trying to avoid disclosure, into what I call aggressive deception,” Mr. Graham said - Florida Ex-Senator Pursues Claims of Saudi Ties to Sept. 11 Attacks

“He basically said, ‘Get a life,’ ” Mr. Graham said of the F.B.I. official, who suggested that the former senator was chasing a dead-end investigation...
“One thing that irritates me is that the F.B.I. has gone beyond just covering up, trying to avoid disclosure, into what I call aggressive deception,” Mr. Graham said... 
Mr. Graham said he simply wanted to make certain any co-conspirators in the Sept. 11 attacks were made to pay.
“To me, the most simple, unanswered question of 9/11 is, did the 19 hijackers act alone or were they assisted by someone in the United States?” he said. “The official position of the United States government is they acted alone.”

“My motivation is to try to answer that question,” he said. “Did they act alone or did they have a support structure that made 9/11 possible?” 

Florida Ex-Senator Pursues Claims of Saudi Ties to Sept. 11 Attacks

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MIAMI LAKES, Fla. — The episode could have been a chapter from the thriller written by former Senator Bob Graham of Florida about a shadowy Saudi role in the Sept. 11 attacks.
A top F.B.I. official unexpectedly arranges a meeting at Dulles International Airport outside Washington with Mr. Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after he has pressed for information on a bureau terrorism inquiry. Mr. Graham, a Democrat, is then hustled off to a clandestine location, where he hopes for a breakthrough in his long pursuit of ties between leading Saudis and the Sept. 11 hijackers.
This real-life encounter happened in 2011, Mr. Graham said, and it took a startling twist.
“He basically said, ‘Get a life,’ ” Mr. Graham said of the F.B.I. official, who suggested that the former senator was chasing a dead-end investigation.
Mr. Graham, 78, a two-term governor of Florida and three-term senator who left Capitol Hill in 2005, says he will not relent in his efforts to force the government to make public a secret section of a congressional review he helped write — one that, by many accounts, implicates Saudi citizens in helping the hijackers.
“No. 1, I think the American people deserve to know the truth of what has happened in their name,” said Mr. Graham, who was a co-chairman of the 2002 joint congressional inquiry into the terrorist attacks. “No. 2 is justice for these family members who have suffered such loss and thus far have been frustrated largely by the U.S. government in their efforts to get some compensation.”
Mr. Graham’s focus on a possible Saudi connection has received renewed attention because of claims made by victims’ families in a federal court in New York that Saudi Arabia was responsible for aiding the Sept. 11 hijackers and because of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed against the F.B.I. in Florida.
In sworn statements in the two cases, Mr. Graham has said there was evidence of support from the Saudi government for the terrorists. He also says the F.B.I. withheld from his inquiry, as well as a subsequent one, the fact that the bureau had investigated a Saudi family in Sarasota, Fla., and had found multiple contacts between it and the hijackers training nearby until the family fled just before the attacks.
Despite the F.B.I.’s insistence to the contrary, Mr. Graham said there was no evidence that the bureau had ever disclosed that line of investigation to his panel or the national commission that reviewed the attacks and delivered a report in 2004.
“One thing that irritates me is that the F.B.I. has gone beyond just covering up, trying to avoid disclosure, into what I call aggressive deception,” Mr. Graham said during an interview in a family office in this Miami suburb, which rose on what was a sprawling dairy farm operated by Mr. Graham’s father, also political leader in Florida.
The F.B.I. dismisses such criticism. In a new review of the bureau in the aftermath of Sept. 11, a three-person commission issued a blanket declaration that the family in Sarasota had nothing to do with the hijackers or their attacks. The review placed blame for an initial F.B.I. report of “many connections” between the family and terrorists on a special agent who, under bureau questioning, “was unable to provide any basis for the contents of the document or explain why he wrote it as he did.”
Still, a federal judge in South Florida is reviewing an estimated 80,000 documents related to the F.B.I.’s inquiry in Florida to determine what to release. Mr. Graham suggested that those documents could include photographs and records of cars linked to the hijackers entering the gated community where the Sarasota family lived.
“That will be a real smoking gun,” Mr. Graham said.
The case received unexpected attention this year when a former operative for Al Qaeda described prominent members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family as major donors to the terrorist network in the late 1990s. The letter from the Qaeda memberZacarias Moussaoui, prompted a statement from the Saudi Embassy saying that the national Sept. 11 commission had rejected allegations that Saudi officials had funded Al Qaeda.
Mr. Graham’s stature has added weight both to the push for disclosure of the classified 28 pages of the congressional inquiry as well as the legal fight to make public F.B.I. documents about the investigation of the Saudi family in Sarasota.
“He has been behind us all the way in terms of bringing attention to this,” said Dan Christensen, editor and founder of the Florida Bulldog, the online investigative journal that filed the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the F.B.I and the Justice Department. “He brings a lot of credibility. Here is a guy who is one of the ultimate experts on this.”
Mr. Graham’s refusal to drop what many in the intelligence community consider to be long-settled issues has stirred some private criticism that the former senator has been out of the game too long and is chasing imagined conspiracies in an effort to stay relevant as he lectures and writes books. Intelligence officials say the claims in the secret 28 pages were explored and found to be unsubstantiated in a later review by the national commission.
Former colleagues are not so ready to write off a lawmaker they remember for sounding the alarm against the invasion of Iraq, warning that shifting attention to removing Saddam Hussein would debilitate efforts to rid Afghanistan of Al Qaeda, which Mr. Graham said posed a far greater threat to the United States.
“Bob Graham has proven to be prescient about many things,” said Jane Harman, the former California congresswoman who once served as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Never one of the flashiest members of the Senate, Mr. Graham was seen more as a cautious, conscientious lawmaker eager to dig into the dry details of policy. His unglamorous reputation no doubt contributed to his inability to catch on during an abbreviated run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2003. But his colleagues also saw him as a man who would not be easily dissuaded.
“Bob is kind of quiet, but once he is on to something, he is like a dog with a bone,” said Tom Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader.
Noting that his wife, Adele, accuses him of “failing at retirement,” Mr. Graham remains involved in Florida conservation issues and other state causes. He has also written books, including the Sept. 11 suspense novel “Keys to the Kingdom,” and handed down his interest in politics and public service to his four daughters, one of whom, Gwen, was elected to the House from North Florida last year.
Mr. Graham said he simply wanted to make certain any co-conspirators in the Sept. 11 attacks were made to pay.
“To me, the most simple, unanswered question of 9/11 is, did the 19 hijackers act alone or were they assisted by someone in the United States?” he said. “The official position of the United States government is they acted alone.”
“My motivation is to try to answer that question,” he said. “Did they act alone or did they have a support structure that made 9/11 possible?”
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Israel angry as Russia approves missiles for Iran

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Israel responded sharply to the lifting of the ban. Yuval Steinitz, the intelligence and international relations minister, said it was “a direct result of the legitimacy that Iran is receiving from the nuclear deal that is being prepared, and proof that the Iranian economic growth which follows the lifting of sanctions will be exploited for arming itself and not for the welfare of the Iranian people".
Russia and five other world powers including the US agreed a framework pact earlier this month with Tehran to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for ending UN, US and EU sanctions. A final agreement must be reached by June 30.
Moscow signed an $800m deal to provide S-300 missiles to Iran in 2007, provoking heavy criticism from Israel and the US, which believed they could be used to protect nuclear sites.
The deal was never realised because of the Kremlin ban, but Russia’s defence ministry said on Monday that the missiles could be delivered “promptly” if a political decision was made to supply them.
Moscow is thought to be establishing a foothold in Iran with an eye on the economic opportunities if sanctions are cancelled.
Mr Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, told reporters in Moscow that the missiles were an “exclusively defensive weapon”. He said the repealing of the ban “will not hinder the security of any state in the region, including Israel".
Mr Lavrov noted that Russia had voluntarily adopted the S-300 ban five years ago, and said it was no longer necessary in the light of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme made in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 2.
The S-300, also known by its Nato designation, SA-10 Grumble, is a family of Russian long-range surface-to-air missile systems that can be used to shoot down aircraft or missiles.

Memo From Panama: Talks With Cuba Earn U.S. Raves in Latin America

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President Obama’s talk with President Raúl Castro of Cuba drew praise from Latin American leaders and an editorial in El Universal with the headline “A New Era in the Americas.”

Terrorism Case Renews Debate Over Drone Hits

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An American once considered a possible target to be killed in Pakistan is in custody in the United States, bolstering an argument that it is feasible to capture terrorism suspects, even in remote parts of the world.

The Daily Vertical: Putin's Corruption Machine

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The Daily Vertical is a video primer for Russia-watchers that appears Monday through Friday. Viewers can suggest topics via Twitter @PowerVertical or on the Power Vertical Facebook page.

Philosophy Returns to the Real World - New York Times (blog)

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Philosophy Returns to the Real World
New York Times (blog)
Rorty convincingly defended himself against the charge of relativism – I know, having spent hours in his office, trying to make it stick — and yet he maintained that it was useless to talk about the world, or truth. It was ridiculous or impossible, he ...

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The psychiatric ward taught me it can be OK to laugh about mental illness 

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Surrounded by bizarre characters and nonsensical routines, humour became my shield against the stigma and isolation of life as a mental health patient
Ten years ago I spent time in a residential psychiatric ward. Not to visit a friend, or as research, but because I was mentally ill and a danger to myself.
Two things become clear when I read my diary from that period. One is that I was an utter state, and the other is that everyday life on the ward was ridiculous, with a cast of characters to match any sitcom. The diary names a lot of them: the Sleeping Chief, the Knitting Lady, Kid Zombie and “Norman Wisdom”. In the next bed along from mine – and I promise I’m not making this up – was a 6ft 6in Native American man, probably because since One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, all psychiatric wards must be issued a giant Native American as standard. Sadly I never saw him throw a concrete water fountain through a window, though I’m sure the shockwaves from his constant, rumbling flatulence must have caused some structural damage to the building.
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Russia Confirms Arms Deal to Supply China With S-400 Air Defense Systems 

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The chief executive of the Russian state-run arms trader Rosoboronexport has confirmed that China clinched a contract with his company for the purchase of the S-400 air defense systems.
China has signed a contract with the Russian state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport for the purchase of the S-400 air defense systems, the company’s chief executive Anatoly Isaikin said in an interview with the Russian daily Kommersant.
“I will not disclose the details of the contract, but yes, China has indeed become the first buyer of this sophisticated Russian air defense system. It underlines once again the strategic level of our relations,” Isaikin said, when asked whether it was true that Beijing signed a contract for the purchase of four S-400 divisions in September 2014.
Isaykin also said that “many countries” want to buy the S-400 systems, but added that the manufacterer, VKO Almaz-Antey, is obliged to first deliver them to the Russian Defense Ministry.
“Despite the expansion of production capacities, it’s difficult to deliver these air defense systems to several countries. In this regard, China will be the first customer,” Isaikin said.
Asked whether Russian companies are afraid of cooperating with their Chinese partners, Isaikin said that he believes that if Russia works for the benefit of China, it “works for its own benefit as well.”
The S-400 Triumf is a new generation anti-aircraft weapon system capable of engaging any aerial target, including aircraft, helicopters, drones, as well as cruise and tactical ballistic missiles with a maximum speed of 4,800 meters per second. Currently, there are nine Russian anti-aircraft missile regiment equipped with the S-400 systems, which were put on service in April 2007.
        
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Who's Recruiting Young Men From Georgia To Fight In Syria?

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The two teenage boys, 16 and 18, are Kists -- ethnic Chechens from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge were last seen in Pankisi on April 2, and their disappearance has provoked anger and concern among residents of the gorge, who are asking how the two teenagers managed to pass border control and wondering who recruited them in the first place.

Puerto Rico's mainland migration led by young, less educated: Fed

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Puerto Rico's populations loss, primarily to the U.S. mainland, is being led by younger and less educated sections of the population and boosting the proportion of the college educated among those who remain, according to a blog post by the New York Federal Reserve on Monday.
  

Jodi Arias Sentenced To Life Without Parole

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Convicted boyfriend killer Jodi Arias has been sentenced to life in prison without
the possibility of parole.

Russia lifts ban on delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran

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MOSCOW (AP) -- President Vladimir Putin on Monday opened the way for Russia's delivery of a sophisticated air defense missile system to Iran, a move that would significantly bolster the Islamic republic's military capability....
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Why Ukraine Still Can’t Break Ties With Russian ‘Aggressor State’ 

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One afternoon in late February, Gennady Kernes, the mayor of Kharkov, Ukraine’s second largest city, pushed his wheelchair away from the podium at city hall and, with a wince of discomfort, allowed his bodyguards to help him off the stage. The day’s session of the city council had lasted several hours, and the mayor’s pain medication had begun to wear off. It was clear from the grimace on his face how much he still hurt from the sniper’s bullet that nearly killed him last spring. But he collected himself, adjusted his tie and rolled down the aisle to the back of the hall, where the press was waiting to grill him.
“Gennady Adolfovich,” one of the local journalists began, politely addressing the mayor by his name and patronymic. “Do you consider Russia to be an aggressor?” He had seen this loaded question coming. The previous month, Ukraine’s parliament had unanimously voted to declare Russia an “aggressor state,” moving the two nations closer to a formal state of war after nearly a year of armed conflict. Kernes, long known as a shrewd political survivor, was among the only prominent officials in Ukraine to oppose this decision, even though he knew he could be branded a traitor for it. “Personally, I do not consider Russia to be an aggressor,” he said, looking down at his lap.
It was a sign of his allegiance in the new phase of Ukraine’s war. Since February, when a fragile ceasefire began to take hold, the question of the country’s survival has turned to a debate over its reconstitution. Under the conditions of the truce, Russia has demanded that Ukraine embrace “federalization,” a sweeping set of constitutional reforms that would take power away from the capital and redistribute it to the regions. Ukraine now has to decide how to meet this demand without letting its eastern provinces fall deeper into Russia’s grasp.
The state council charged with making this decision convened for the first time on April 6, and President Petro Poroshenko gave it strict instructions. Some autonomy would have to be granted to the regions, he said, but Russia’s idea of federalization was a red line he wouldn’t cross. “It is like an infection, a biological weapon, which is being imposed on Ukraine from abroad,” the President said. “Its bacteria are trying to infect Ukraine and destroy our unity.”
Kernes sees it differently. His city of 1.4 million people is a sprawling industrial powerhouse, a traditional center of trade and culture whose suburbs touch the Russian border. Its economy cannot survive, he says, unless trade and cooperation with the “aggressor state” continue, regardless how much Russia has done in the past year to sow conflict in Ukraine.
“That’s how the Soviet Union built things,” Kernes explains in his office at the mayoralty, which is decorated with an odd collection of gifts and trinkets, such as a stuffed lion, a robotic-looking sculpture of a scorpion, and a statuette of Kernes in the guise of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. “That’s how our factories were set up back in the day,” he continues. “It’s a fact of life. And what will we do if Russia, our main customer, stops buying?” To answer his own question, he uses an old provincialism: “It’ll be cat soup for all of us then,” he said.
Already Ukraine is approaching that point. With most of its scarce resources focused on fighting Russia’s proxies in the east, Ukraine’s leaders have watched their economy fall off a cliff, surviving only by the grace of massive loans from Western institutions like the International Monetary Fund, which approved another $17.5 billion last month to be disbursed over the next four years. But that assistance has not stopped the national currency of Ukraine from losing two-thirds of its value since last winter. In the last three months of 2014, the size of the economy contracted almost 15%, inflation shot up to 40%, and unemployment approached double digits.
But that pain will be just the beginning, says Kernes, unless Ukraine allows its eastern regions to develop economic ties with Russia. As proof he points to the fate of Turboatom, his city’s biggest factory, which produces turbines for both Russian and Ukrainian power stations. Its campus takes up more than five square kilometers near the center of Kharkov, like a city within a city, complete with dormitories and bathhouses for its 6,000 employees. On a recent evening, its deputy director, Alexei Cherkassky, was looking over the factory’s sales list as though it were a dire medical prognosis. About 40% of its orders normally come from Russia, which relies on Turboatom for most of the turbines that run its nuclear power stations.
“Unfortunately, all of our major industries are intertwined with Russia in this way,” Cherkassky says. “So we shouldn’t fool ourselves in thinking we can be independent from Russia. We are totally interdependent.” Over the past year, Russia has started cutting back on orders from Turboatom as part of its broader effort to starve Ukraine’s economy, and the factory has been forced as a result to cut shifts, scrap overtime and push hundreds of workers into retirement.
At least in the foreseeable future, it does not have the option of shifting sales to Europe. “Turbines aren’t iPhones,” says Cherkassky. “You don’t switch them out every few months.” And the ones produced at Turboatom, like nearly all of Ukraine’s heavy industry, still use Soviet means of production that don’t meet the needs of most Western countries. So for all the aid coming from the state-backed institutions in the U.S. and Europe, Cherkassky says, “those markets haven’t exactly met us with open arms.”
Russia knows this. For decades it has used the Soviet legacy of interdependence as leverage in eastern Ukraine. The idea of its “federalization” derives in part from this reality. For two decades, one of the leading proponents of this vision has been the Russian politician Konstantin Zatulin, who heads the Kremlin-connected institute in charge of integrating the former Soviet space. Since at least 2004, he has been trying to turn southeastern Ukraine into a zone of Russian influence – an effort that got him banned from entering the country between 2006 and 2010.
His political plan for controlling Ukraine was put on hold last year, as Russia began using military means to achieve the same ends. But the current ceasefire has brought his vision back to the fore. “If Ukraine accepts federalization, we would have no need to tear Ukraine apart,” Zatulin says in his office in Moscow, which is cluttered with antique weapons and other military bric-a-brac. Russia could simply build ties with the regions of eastern Ukraine that “share the Russian point of view on all the big issues,” he says. “Russia would have its own soloists in the great Ukrainian choir, and they would sing for us. This would be our compromise.”
It is a compromise that Kernes seems prepared to accept, despite everything he has suffered in the past year of political turmoil. Early on in the conflict with Russia, he admits that he flirted with ideas of separatism himself, and he fiercely resisted the revolution that brought Poroshenko’s government to power last winter. In one of its first decisions, that government even brought charges against Kernes for allegedly abducting, threatening and torturing supporters of the revolution in Kharkov. After that, recalls Zatulin, the mayor “simply chickened out.” Facing a long term in prison, Kernes accepted Ukraine’s new leaders and turned his back on the separatist cause, refusing to allow his city to hold a referendum on secession from Ukraine.
“And you know what I got for that,” Kernes says. “I got a bullet.” On April 28, while he was exercising near a city park, an unidentified sniper shot Kernes in the back with a high-caliber rifle. The bullet pierced his lung and shredded part of his liver, but it also seemed to shore up his bona fides as a supporter of Ukrainian unity. The state dropped its charges against him soon after, and he was able to return to his post.
It wasn’t the first time he made such an incredible comeback. In 2007, while he was serving as adviser to his friend and predecessor, Mikhail Dobkin, a video of them trying to film a campaign ad was leaked to the press. It contained such a hilarious mix of bumbling incompetence and backalley obscenity that both of their careers seemed sure to be over. Kernes not only survived that scandal but was elected mayor a few years later.
Now the fight over Ukraine’s federalization is shaping up to be his last. In late March, as he continued demanding more autonomy for Ukraine’s eastern regions, the state re-opened its case against him for alleged kidnapping and torture, which he has always denied. The charges, he says, are part of a campaign against all politicians in Ukraine who support the restoration of civil ties with Russia. “They don’t want to listen to reason,” he says.
But one way or another, the country will still have to let its eastern regions to do business with the enemy next door, “because that’s where the money is,” Kernes says. No matter how much aid Ukraine gets from the IMF and other Western backers, it will not be enough to keep the factories of Kharkov alive. “They’ll just be left to rot without our steady clients in Russia.” Never mind that those clients may have other plans for Ukraine in mind.
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'Polite People' of Russia: Not Who You Might Expect - Newsweek

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Newsweek

'Polite People' of Russia: Not Who You Might Expect
Newsweek
In Russia, the term “polite people” has lately taken on an entirely different meaning than we're familiar with, being used to refer to the masked, heavily armed soldiers who occupied and blockaded Crimea. The usage was coined by Crimean blogger Boris ...
Russia unveils absurd clothing line inspired by the annexation of CrimeaWashington Post (blog) 

The Guardian: Russia's defence ministry unveils clothing line inspired by ...Kyiv Post

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Sanctions-strapped Russia outguns the US in information war - Macon Telegraph (blog)

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Macon Telegraph (blog)

Sanctions-strapped Russia outguns the US in information war
Macon Telegraph (blog)
Russia has engaged in a rather remarkable period of the most overt and extensive propaganda exercise that I've seen since the very height of the Cold War,” Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate subcommittee in late February. It's “spending ...
US-NATO “Defensive” Military Initiatives and War Games Threaten RussiaCenter for Research on Globalization
Russia supplying weapons, troops to Ukraine separatists: reportYahoo News
Ukraine Today: NATO spokesman mocks Russia with geography lesson (VIDEO)Kyiv Post
Press TV
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Moscow Can’t and Won’t Forget or Forgive New Political Emigres 

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Paul Goble


            Staunton, April 13 – Political emigres have long played a much greater role in Russia and especially in Russian thinking than in other countries, the result among other things of the fact that Lenin and a tiny band of emigres returned from abroad in 1917 and in the space of a few months carried out a revolution.


            Now, as a result of Vladimir Putin’s increasing repression at home, ever more Russians are choosing to leave the country not simply for better economic opportunities as was true during the first post-Soviet years but for political reasons. And they are increasingly the focus of Moscow’s concerns and attacks.


            In today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Aleksey Gorbachev, that Moscow paper’s political observer, discusses this unfortunate if not unexpected development and points out that “opposition figures who go abroad are now being accused of organizing color revolutions” and even being charged in absentia in Russian courts (ng.ru/politics/2015-04-13/3_emigranty.html).


            Last Friday, without either the accused or his lawyer being present, Pavel Shekhtman, who has emigrated to Ukraine, was “arrested” in absentia by a Moscow court. Also last week, Finland gave political asylum to Andrey Romanov, formerly of Magnitogorsk. Both were accused of extremism because of their pro-Ukrainian posts on social networks.


            Olga Kurnosova, a leader of the Russian political refugees in Kyiv – and there are now enough of them that one can speak of such a position, told “Nezavisimaya gazeta” that Moscow is seeking to “accuse many of those who have left Russia of making plans for a color revolution” in their homeland.


            Shekhtman, who had been under house arrest in Russia, fled to Ukraine where he sought political asylum because he was threatened with up to five years in Russian prison camps for web posts asserting that Russian soldiers have been “killing Ukrainian prisoners who refuse to make declarations on Russian channels.”


            He says that he “will return to Russia only if the [Putin] regime falls.”


            Romanov faced similar charges and an order for his arrest was issued last December, but before it could be acted upon. The Magnitogorsk internet activist fled together with his family to Finland.  On Friday, a Finnish immigration court informed him that he had been granted political asylum in that country, a status which means he won’t be handed over to Russian officials.


            The increasing number of such political emigres, the “Nezavisimaya gazeta” writer says, has not passed unnoticed by the Russian authorities. Moscow has deployed not only diplomatic and law-like means but also launched media campaigns in the countries to which they have fled, accusing them of fomenting a revolution at home and threatening bilateral ties.


            This campaign is clearly “coordinated,” Kurnosova says from Kyiv. And she notes that when she and others in her status try to speak via internet telephone with their friends in Russia, the connections are jammed with the same kind of “music” that the KGB used against Western radio stations in Soviet times.


            Konstantin Kalachev, head of the Moscow Political Expert Group, told the newspaper that in his view, suggestions that those who have emigrated are plotting a color revolution is “the only argument which the authorities can advance to justify the fact that people who think differently have been forced to leave the country.”


            “If people who think differently did not exist, they would have to be invented to justify the fact that they are being forced to leave the country. The theme of a color revolution in Russia today sounds like unreal science fiction. But the siloviki prefer to protect themselves” by pushing people out and thus justifying what the organs are doing.

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Nobel-winning German Writer Grass Dies at 87

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Guenter Grass, the Nobel-winning German writer who gave voice to the generation that came of age during the horrors of the Nazi era but later ran into controversy over his own World War II past and stance toward Israel, has died. He was 87. Matthias Wegner, spokesman for the Steidl publishing house, confirmed that Grass died Monday morning in a Luebeck hospital. Grass was lauded by Germans for helping to revive their culture in the aftermath of World War II and helping to give voice and support to democratic discourse in the postwar nation. Yet he provoked the ire of many in 2006 when he revealed in his memoir "Skinning the Onion" that, as a teenager, he had served in the Waffen-SS, the combat arm of Adolf Hitler's notorious paramilitary organization. In 2012, Grass drew sharp criticism at home and was declared persona non grata by Israel after publishing a prose poem, "What Must Be Said," in which he criticized what he described as Western hypocrisy over Israel's nuclear program and labeled the country a threat to "already fragile world peace" over its belligerent stance on Iran. A trained sculptor, Grass made his literary reputation with "The Tin Drum," published in 1959. It was followed by "Cat and Mouse" and "Dog Years," which made up what is called the Danzig Trilogy - after the town of his birth, now the Polish city of Gdansk. Reaction to Nazism Combining naturalistic detail with fantastical images, the trilogy captured the German reaction to the rise of Nazism, the horrors of the war and the guilt that lingered after Adolf Hitler's defeat. The books return again and again to Danzig, where Grass was born on Oct. 16, 1927, the son of a grocer. In the trilogy, Grass drew partly on his own experience of military service and his captivity as a prisoner of war held by the Americans until 1946. "The Tin Drum" became an overnight success - a fact that Grass told The Associated Press in 2009 surprised him. Asked to reflect why the book became so popular, he noted that it tackles one of the most daunting periods of German history by focusing on the minutiae in the lives of ordinary people. Then he quipped: "Perhaps because it's a good book." Three decades after its release, in 1999, the Swedish Academy honored Grass with the Nobel Prize for literature, praising him for setting out to revive German literature after the Nazi era. With "The Tin Drum," the Nobel Academy said, "it was as if German literature had been granted a new beginning after decades of linguistic and moral destruction."

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Putin Lifts Ban On Supplies Of S-300 Missiles To Iran

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Russia imposed the ban and scrapped a contract for delivery of S-300s in 2010 under pressure from the West, after backing the last round of UN sanctions imposed on Tehran over nuclear activities the United States and other nations feared were aimed at developing atomic weapons.

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Russia, Iran Start Oil-for-goods Swap

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Russian President Vladimir Putin
lifted a ban on supplying Iran with sophisticated S-300 air defense systems, just days after world powers reached an interim agreement with the Islamic Republic on restricting its nuclear program. Putin signed a decree lifting a September 2010 ban on providing Iran with the advanced surface-to-air missile systems, the Kremlin's website reported Monday. Moscow also announced that is has begun an oil-for-goods swap with Tehran, showing the Kremlin's determination to boost economic ties with the
country. The moves come
less than a week after Iran and the so-called P5+1 reached an interim deal with Iran on curbing its nuclear
program. The sides have until the end of June to work out a detailed technical agreement under which Iran would curb its nuclear program and allow international control in exchange for a lifting of economic sanctions. Russian decision Explaining the decision, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that given the progress reached between Iran and the six world powers - China, France, Russia, Britain, the U.S. and Germany - the rationale for the international embargo on supplying Tehran with S-300s, and Russia's own ban, had "completely disappeared." Also Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow is supplying Iran with grain, equipment and
building materials under an ongoing barter agreement. Sources told Reuters more than a year ago that a deal worth up to $20 billion was being discussed with Tehran and would involve Russia buying up to 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil a day in exchange for Russian equipment and goods. Officials from the two countries have issued contradictory statements since then on whether a barter deal has been signed, but Ryabkov indicated one was already being implemented. “I wanted to draw your attention to the rolling out of the oil-for-goods deal, which is on a very significant scale,”
he told a briefing with members of the upper house of parliament on the talks with Iran. “In exchange for Iranian crude oil supplies, we are delivering certain products. This is not banned or limited under the current sanctions regime.” He declined to give
Reuters any further details. Russia's Agriculture Ministry declined comment and the Energy Ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment. There was no comment from Iran.
Russia, Iran cooperation Ryabkov also suggested Russia had high hopes that its steady support for Iran would pay off in energy cooperation once international sanctions against the Islamic republic are lifted. He also reiterated Moscow's line that an arms embargo on Iran should be lifted once a final nuclear deal is sealed. One upper house lawmaker asked Ryabkov whether lifting sanctions on Tehran could undermine Russia's position on global energy markets, including as the main gas supplier to Europe. “I am not confident as yet that the Iranian side would be ready to carry out supplies of natural gas from its fields quickly and in large quantities to Europe. This requires infrastructure that is difficult to build,” he
said, according to Reuters.  Some material for this report came from Reuters.

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· · ·

Daghestan Now ‘Northern Front of Islamic State’

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Paul Goble


            Staunton, April 13 – Statements by Russian security officials and actions by siloviki including declaring a new counter-terrorism operation against an area of 4500 square kilometers with some 368,000 people show that Daghestan has become “the northern front” of the Islamic State, according to Anton Bredikhin.


            In a study on the Kavkazoved portal, the analyst notes that “the authorities and special services are worried that participants [from the North Caucasus] in the illegal armed formations [of ISIS] will again return to Russia and that the terrorist war [there] will continue with new force (kavkazoved.info/news/2015/04/13/dagestan-severnyj-front-islamskogo-gosudarstva.html).


            Senior FSB officials have identified North Caucasians among the senior commanders of ISIS and have suggested that “no less than” 1700 Russian citizens are now fighting with that force, almost all of whom are from the North Caucasus and especially from Daghestan, the most Muslim of Russia’s southern republics.


            This statistic by itself, Bredikhin says, “means only one thing: the next goal of the Islamic State can be the Caucasus and its most currently unstable part – Daghestan.”


            For the last three weeks, Russian siloviki have been conducting a counter-terrorist operation in six adjoining regions of Daghestan: Buynaksk, Novolak, Kazbek, Khasavyurt, and Kizilyurt, areas that include not only highland rural areas but the cities of Buynaksk, Kizilyurt and Khasavyurt as well.


            The scale of the operation suggests, the analyst says, citing the work of Akhmet Yarlykapov, a scholar at the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, that the Russian force structures have “operational information” about the appearance in Daghestan of former militants of the Islamic State.


            Sergey Melikov, the presidential plenipotentiary for the North Caucasus, adds that “we are receiving information about the recruiters of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ appearing in our higher educational institutions, and this means that that the authorities … must devote close attention to the extra-curricular activities of students.”


            Students because of their stage of life are attractive candidates for recruitment, he suggests. Others, like Aleksandr Perendzhiyev of the Association of Independent Military Political Analysts, say that the Islamic State is quite familiar with the presence of Wahhabism and radicalism in the North Caucasus and Daghestan “above all.”


            Bredikhin says that Russian official figures confirm the increasing activity of militants in Daghestan: between 2010 and 2014, the number of terrorist crimes there went up from 63 to 472, the number of people identified as having committed them from 36 to 251, the number of extremist crimes from five to 50, and the number of people identified as having committed them from one to twelve.


            So far, the ISIS-linked groups are less well-organized and aggressive than the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion which has gained fame for its fight against pro-Moscow forces in Ukraine. But whether this will remain the case is very much an open question, the North Caucasus analyst says.


            But regardless of how limited the threat appears to some in Chechnya and Moscow now, “that ‘a Northern Front’ of ISIS has been opened in Daghestan is a confirmed fact.” And Daghestan is  ultimately only a small part of the problem, Bredikhin says.


            The ISIS returnees have formed “a straight line of instability” between the Islamic State, the Pankisi Gorge, and Daghestan. Whether it will intensify and spread further depends, he suggests, on what Moscow does next. But the center’s task is clear: it must “strengthen its positions in the Caucasus and the Near East” in order to protect Russian territory.

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· · · ·

Трагедия в Хакасии 

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В Хакасии в пожарах, вспыхнувших в воскресенье из-за пала сухой травы, погибли не менее 15 человек, более...
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Мировое пугало 

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Россия несет прямую военную угрозу европейской безопасности. Что заставило министров обороны страны Север...
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Российскому капитану грозит 20 лет за передачу военных секретов Украине - НТВ.ru

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НТВ.ru

Российскому капитану грозит 20 лет за передачу военных секретов Украине
НТВ.ru
В Петербурге по делу о шпионаже в пользу Украины судят капитана 1-го ранга Владислава Никольского. Его могут приговорить к 20 годам тюрьмы. 438. Поделиться ссылкой на выделенное. Twitter · Facebook · Вконтакте · Google+. Прямая ссылка: http://www.ntv.ru/novosti/1392911/ ...
Российского капитана, продавшего на Украину документацию десантного корабля, обвинили в госизменеВести.Ru
Российскому офицеру грозит 20 лет за шпионаж в пользу УкраиныГазета Труд
Отставного офицера ВМФ обвинили в шпионаже в пользу УкраиныLenta.ru
Утро.Ru -Аргументы и факты -Взгляд
Все похожие статьи: 134 »

Iran Says Open To Joint Operations With Afghanistan, Pakistan

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Iran says it is ready to conduct joint counterterrorism operations with eastern neighbors Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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Swedish Admiral Admits 'Russian Submarine' Was Actually Civilian Boat 

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A photo that a retired Swedish naval officer said showed a Russian submarine in Swedish waters last autumn was actually of a much smaller civilian boat, a Swedish admiral told his country's media Monday.

French Parliament Debates Bill to Empower Spies

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French spies could get more powers to bug and track would-be Islamist attackers inside the country and require Internet companies to monitor suspicious behavior under a bill to be debated in parliament on Monday. Web hosting companies have raised concerns the legislation could frighten away clients, while civil liberties advocates say it lacks adequate privacy protections -- concerns dismissed by the government. More than three months after 17 people were killed in attacks by three Islamist gunmen in Paris, the government is pushing measures that will allow spy agencies to tap phones and emails without seeking permission from a judge. Surveillance staff will also be able to bug suspects' flats with microphones and cameras and add “keyloggers” to their computers to track every keystroke. “The measures proposed are not aimed at installing generalized surveillance,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in an interview with the newspaper Liberation on April 11. “On the contrary it aims to target people who we need to monitor to protect the French people.” France is monitoring an estimated 1,200 Islamists and about 200 people who have returned from fighting with militant groups in Syria and Iraq. It has earmarked about 425 million euros [$448 million] to recruit thousands of extra police, spies and investigators to beef up surveillance and boost national security and intelligence. Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden last year disclosed classified details about the breadth of the intelligence gathering, triggering an international outcry. Among those critical of the French bill are web providers who in a column published on April 9 threatened to relocate outside France because the bill would allow intelligence services to place “black boxes” on their infrastructure with algorithms to filter communications. They would be forced to set up systems to monitor metadata and not the content of communications under the legislation. If the activity of specific Internet users looks suspicious, the government could then demand access to their personal information. French web hosts such as the OVH group, which said last December it was looking to invest 400 million euros in its development, say such monitoring would scare customers away to protect their private information. “The draft bill destroys freedoms, but it is also anti-economic and essentially inefficient for the objective it sets out,” read the column signed by it and six other Internet firms. [$1 = 0.9492 euros]

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Vladimir Putin authorises delivery of missile system to Iran

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The Russian president unfreezes ban on delivering $800m contract as Moscow moves ahead with oil-for-goods barter deal with Tehran
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has opened the way for the controversial delivery of a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile system to Iran which had been under embargo for the past five years.
Citing the interim framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme in Lausanne, the move signalled an apparent determination by Moscow to get a head start in the race to benefit from an eventual lifting of sanctions on Tehran.
Continue reading...

Putin Lifts Ban on Russian Missile Sales to Iran

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President Vladimir V. Putin moved swiftly to take advantage of a possible thaw in relations due to a potential deal curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.






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Russia unblocks ban on sending rockets to Iran

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Moscow defends move likely to anger other powers

Moscow’s Russification Policies Not Finnish Revanchism Behind Anger in Karelia 

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Paul Goble


            Staunton, April 12 – Karelian activists say that the recent suggestion by Russian National Security Council chief Nikolay Patrushev that Finnish “revanchism” is behind the upsurge in popular anger and activism in Karelia is absurd and that the real cause lies in Moscow’s heavy-handed Russification policy as carried out by incumbent republic head Aleksandr Khudilaynen.


             On March 20, Patrushev told a Petrozavodsk meeting that there had been “an activation of nationalist and revanchist social-political organizations in Finland and that their influence via a number of domestic NGOs on the population of Karelia had grown” in recent months (newsru.com/russia/19mar2015/patrushev.html).


            Many Moscow media outlets treated subsequent protests in Karelia about the arrest of two Yabloko activists and calls for ouster of Khudilaynin and his team as evidence of this. But Karelian leaders and activists argue that the Finns are not playing the role Patrushev says they are and that Moscow’s policies are to blame (svoboda.org/content/transcript/26949564.html).


            Galina Shirshina, the mayor of Petrozavodsk who won office by defeating a Kremlin candidate in a free election, says that she “cannot remember any Finnish revanchist organizations” but does have good relations with sister cities in Finland and that her contacts work to the benefit of Karelia and Russia.


            The openness that she and her staff practice, she continues, allows them to provide a context to Finns who might otherwise have “a negative attitude” toward “what is going on in Russia.


            Emiliya Slabunova, a Yabloko deputy in the Karelian legislative assembly, agrees. Patrushev’s suggest is “an absolute invention” without any basis in fact.  There are simply too few Finns and Karels in Karelia for anyone to rely on them for the revanchist goals he imputes to Helsinki.  Secession on that basis is “mathematically impossible.”


            She suggests that the Moscow official made his declaration only “in order to distract the attention of people from real problems.”  What should be happening is not a witch hunt for “enemies foreign and domestic” but rather a search for “investors and effective managers” if the republic and the country are going to get out of the current crisis.


            Vadim Shtepa, a leading activist of the Republic Movement of Karelia, has the same view: “When real threats do not exist, they are invented” by the security agencies “to give the impression that their activity is useful.” Given Karelia’s location and links with Finland, it is a convenient target, he suggests.


            He acknowledges that in Finland there are a small number of groups interested in the reintegration of Karelia or at least part of it, but Shtepa points out that they are “marginal” and do not have the support of any political party. The main reason? It would cost Helsinki enormous sums to do so just as it cost Western Germany to reintegrate East Germany.


            The real source of popular anger in Karelia, according to Anatoly Grigoryev, the president of the Karelian Congress, is Moscow’s policies of russification of the population. It has reduced the number of non-Russian language newspapers and journals, cut their frequency and circulation, and eliminated most non-Russian television and radio broadcasting.


            He says that Karels, Finns and other minorities have filed numerous appeals with Putin and others in Moscow, pointing out that the Khudilaynen administration has “inflicted harm on all those who live in Karelia. It turns out that he is here the main russifier even though he has a Finnish last name.”


            Shirshina says that another reason things are heating up is that there may be an electoral challenge to Khudilaynin whose term ends soon. His supporters are using their administrative resources to isolate the opposition, and the opposition in turn is responding with demonstrations that they hope will make the Kremlin insist on his retirement.

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Vladimir Putin's favourite motorcycle club spark protest with plan to ride to Berlin 

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The "Night Wolves" intend to ride from Moscow to Berlin, passing through Poland and Austria but citizens in the former nation have called for the bikers to be turned away









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Influx of Migrants Across Mediterranean Nears Record Levels

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More than 5,600 people were rescued from the sea over the weekend, fueling concerns of a migrant crisis even worse than a year ago.






Самодельный беспилотник в Украине 

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Самодельные беспилотники используют как украинские военные, так и сепаратисты Originally published at - http://www.golos-ameriki...
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Edward Snowden Is Acting Very Strange Inside Russia - Daily Beast

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Daily Beast

Edward Snowden Is Acting Very Strange Inside Russia
Daily Beast
Andrei Soldatov's beat is Russian spies, which is a hot topic for a new cold war. As editor of agentura.ru, an online “watchdog” of Putin's clandestine intelligence agencies, he has spent the last decade reporting on and anatomizing the resurrection of ...

China Buys Powerful Military Weapon From Russia: New S-400 Triumf Air ... - International Business Times

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International Business Times

China Buys Powerful Military Weapon From Russia: New S-400 Triumf Air ...
International Business Times
China has become the first buyer of the S-400 air defense system after signing a contract with the Russian state-run arms dealer Rosoboronexport, the company's chief executive told Russiandaily Kommersant on Monday. The coveted S-400 Triumf is a new ...
China and Russia Sign Contract for S-400 Missile SystemsThe Moscow Times 

Russia To Sell S-400 Anti-Aircraft Missile Systems To ChinaValueWalk

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Russia lifts ban on missile deliveries to Iran, start oil-for-goods swap - Yahoo News

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Yahoo News

Russia lifts ban on missile deliveries to Iran, start oil-for-goods swap
Yahoo News
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday paved the way for long-overdue missile system deliveries to Iran and Moscow started an oil-for-goods swap with Tehran, showing the Kremlin's determination to boost economic ties with the ...
Russia and Iran begin massive oil-for-goods dealBusiness Insider
Russia lifts ban on delivery of S-300 missiles to IranU-T San Diego

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Russia lifts ban on missile deliveries to Iran, start oil-for-goods swap - Reuters

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Reuters

Russia lifts ban on missile deliveries to Iran, start oil-for-goods swap
Reuters
The moves come after world powers, including Russia, reached an interim deal with Iran on curbing its nuclear programme and signal that Moscow may have a head-start in the race to benefit from an eventual lifting of sanctions on Tehran. The Kremlin ...
Russia Lifts Ban On Sending Missiles To Iran, Kremlin SaysHuffington Post
Russia Lifts Its Ban on Delivery of S-300 Missiles to IranWall Street Journal
Russia Lifts Ban on Delivery of S-300 Missiles to IranABC News
Washington Post
all 141 news articles »

Oil rises towards $59, supported by U.S. drilling slowdown

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LONDON (Reuters) - Brent crude rose towards $59 a barrel on Monday as a slowdown in U.S. drilling continued to support prices, offsetting a drop in Chinese oil imports.







  

DHS Ordered to Explain Secret Plan to Shut Down Phone Service 

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dhs-ordered-to-explain-secret-plan-to-shut-down-phone-service
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is questioning the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to keep secret its plan to shut down mobile phone service during “critical emergencies.” The court originally sided with the federal government that the plan should not be disclosed under a Freedom of Information Act request, but has since revisited the ruling and has ordered the DHS to explain the secrecy.

Obama’s One-way Street to Cuban “Normalization”

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obama-s-one-way-street-to-cuban-normalization
Obama's desire to "normalize" relations with Cuba has given Raul Castro, Cuba's leader, the opportunity to lay down his conditions for that normalization.

Obama Set to Remove Castro Terror Regime from U.S. Terror List 

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obama-set-to-remove-castro-terror-regime-from-u-s-terror-list
Despite the fact that the brutal Castro regime enslaving Cuba continues to support terrorism and harbor American fugitives from justice — not to mention its ruthless oppression of the Cuban people — the Obama administration is reportedly plotting to remove the Communist Party dictatorship from the official U.S. government list of state sponsors of terrorism. According to media reports, the John Kerry-led State Department completed a “review” of Havana’s record and recommended that the regime be taken off the list. However, numerous analysts have pointed out that doing so would be a disaster — not least because the Castro regime has never stopped supporting terrorism.

Iran and Three Questions on the Effectiveness of Sanctions

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The April 2 nuclear framework agreement with Iran raises a host of questions about national security strategy, nuclear diplomacy, domestic politics here and in Iran, and the broader politics of the Middle East. The role and efficacy of financial sanctions in curbing Iran’s nuclear-related programs also have been widely debated in the last several weeks. The structure of the talks since 2013 seems to answer questions about the efficacy of sanctions in the Iran context rather clearly. The core question in the talks has always been: What level of sanctions relief would the P5+1 offer in Read on Just Security »
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European Legal (In)Action and the Ukraine Crisis

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While political responses, dispersed with rhetoric flourishes, continue to be dispensed by European leaders reacting to the sustained crises that follow from Russian annexation of Crimea and ongoing Russian support to rebel groups in Eastern Ukraine, some concrete legal action is also being taken through Council of Europe (CoE) and European Union (EU) Read on Just Security »

National Security-Related Congressional Hearings, April 13–17

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Below is a calendar of congressional hearings on national security matters for this week. Tuesday, April 14, 2015 9:30am – Senate Armed Services – U.S. Defense Policy Issues Pertaining to the Asia-Pacific Theater (here) 10:00am – House Armed Services – Member Day: National Defense Priorities from Members for the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (Read on Just Security »

International Drug Control Policy: Background And US Responses ... 

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Major trafficking routes connect drug producers with drug consumers, with often sophisticated drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) controlling various aspects of the supply ...

Authorities Dismantle International Drug Trafficking Network ...

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Rabat - The Moroccan police in coordination with its Spanish counterpart busted on Wednesday a criminal organisation specialising in international drug trafficking. Two members of the crimina...

Feds used anti-drug trafficking program to track Americans ...

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The U.S. government started keeping secret records of international phone calls made by Americans in 1992 in a program intended to combat drug trafficking, USA Today reported on Tuesday, citing current and former ...

A New Emigration: The Best Are Leaving. Part 1

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