Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Argentina/US: Update--Buenos Aires Deposits $161 Million in Banco de la Nación

According to The Latin American Tribune, Argentina President Christina Fernández seems to be in the new virtually daily, but for all the wrong reasons.

The $161 million was deposited in Banco Nación’s Nacion Fideicomisos trust a day after US District Court [Manhattan] Judge Thomas Griesa declared Argentina in contempt for not obeying his ruling to pay the hedge-fund plaintiffs more than $1.3 billion:


On Tuesday (September 30), Argentina deposited $161 million with a new domestic entity established to sidestep a US court ruling prohibiting Buenos Aires from servicing rescheduled debt until it settles with a small group of holdout hedge funds.

The money was placed with Banco Nacion’s Nacion Fideicomisos trust a day after US District Court Judge Thomas Griesa declared Argentina in contempt for not obeying his ruling to pay the hedge-fund plaintiffs more than $1.3 billion.

“From the moment of their deposit, the funds are no longer the property of the Argentine Republic and constitute trust assets...that will be applied by the Fiduciary exclusively to payment of interest on the Bondholders’ Debt Instruments,” the Economy Ministry said in a statement.

Argentina “ratifies once again its unshakeable commitment to fulfill all of its obligations to the Bondholders,” the Ministry said.

Judge Thomas Griesa’s decision to find Argentina in contempt has “no kind of reason, foundation, or impact,” Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich said Tuesday.

COMMENT: Argentina defaulted on roughly $100 billion in debt in December 2001--at the time the largest sovereign default in world history--amid a financial meltdown and economic depression.

Federal courts in the United State rarely known for being rebuffed. It is my suspicion that Judge Griesa will have the last laugh.

More than 92% of Argentina’s creditors accepted steep haircuts in 2005 and 2010 debt restructurings.

But a small group of holdouts that bought Argentine debt in the wake of the 2001 default have refused to accept the swaps and are continuing to seek 100 cents on the dollar for their bonds.

Among the holdouts are several hedge funds, led by Elliott Management Corp.’s NML Capital Ltd unit and Aurelius Capital Management, that sued Buenos Aires in US courts for full payment on bonds they bought at large discounts in 2002.

In 2012, Judge Griesa ordered Buenos Aires to pay the litigants more than $1.3 billion. Argentina’s appeal of the decision reached the US Supreme Court in June, but the justices declined to hear the challenge.

As part of that 2012 judgment, Griesa issued an injunction based on a  clause in the bonds that states that all bondholders must be treated equally--that bars Argentina from paying the exchange bondholders before settling with the holdouts.

Griesa’s injunction prevented Argentina’s US trustees, Bank of New York Mellon and Citibank, from releasing funds deposited by Buenos Aires to meet an interest payment due June 30.

Last week, Judge Griesa allowed Citibank to process its portion of the payments to holders of restructured Argentine-law government bonds, though he set another hearing in 30 days so the hedge funds can seek to reverse the decision and block future payments.

Argentine President Cristina Fernández has refused to settle with the holdouts, saying full payment to the hedge funds would lead other holdout bondholders to demand the same, creating a potential liability of some $15 billion, equivalent to roughly half of Argentina’s foreign-exchange reserves.

The law the Argentine Congress passed earlier this month creates a mechanism for the holders of the restructured debt to receive payments in Argentina or France.

“The decision by Judge Griesa has no practical effects beyond providing new elements in the defamation campaign being waged against Argentina by "vulture funds,” President Fernández said late Monday (September 29) following the contempt citation.

She called Griesa’s action a “violation of international law, the UN Charter and the Charter of the Organization of American States.”

“Griesa holds the sad record of being the first jurist to declare a sovereign state in contempt of court for paying a debt, after failing in his attempt to obstruct Argentina’s external debt restructuring,” she said.

The origins of the debt problem go back to Argentina’s 1976-1983 military regime, which presided over a 465% expansion in public indebtedness. 

Global Impact: For the Best Apples for Gut Health, Choose Granny Smith

According to Yahoo News, non-digestible compounds found in apples promote the growth of friendly gut bacteria, which stabilizes the metabolism and creates satiety. That's according to the results of a new study that singled out Granny Smith apples as your best bet for gut health.
"We know that, in general, apples are a good source of these non-digestible compounds, but there are differences in varieties," says food scientist Giuliana Noratto, the study's lead researcher. "Results from this study will help consumers to discriminate between apple varieties that can aid in the fight against obesity."
In the study, several kinds of apples were examined, but Granny Smith came out on top for having the highest amount of the compounds, besting Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Red Delicious.
COMMENT: Researchers say their discovery could prevent several of the health problems associated with obesity, like the onset of diabetes, which is quelled by the anti-inflammatory components of a healthy bacteria balance in the colon.
"What determines the balance of bacteria in our colon is the food we consume," says Noratto, who noted that the non-digestible compounds in the apples changed the composition of fecal bacteria in obese mice to resemble that of lean mice.
The compounds include dietary fiber and polyphenols and they survive the entire journey through the gut, including stomach acid and digestive enzymes.
The study appeared in THE JOURNAL FOOD CHEMISTRY.

Global Impact: If You Pick One Physical Activity, Pick Walking

According to Reuters, walking may never become as trendy as CrossFit, as sexy as mud runs or as ego-boosting as Ironman races, but for fitness experts who stress daily movement over workouts and an active lifestyle over weekends of warrior games, walking is a super star.
For author and scientist Katy Bowman, walking is a biological imperative like eating. In her book, Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement, she suggests there are movement nutrients, just like dietary nutrients, that the body needs.
“Walking is a superfood. It’s the defining movement of a human,” said Bowman, a biomechanist based in Ventura, CA. “It’s a lot easier to get movement than it is to get exercise.”
Researchers say emerging evidence suggests that combined physical activity and inactivity may be more important for chronic disease risk than physical activity alone.
“Actively sedentary is a new category of people who are fit for one hour but sitting around the rest of the day," Bowman said. “You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.dentary and highly active.
Leslie Sansone, creator of the Walk at Home: Mix & Match Walk Blasters DVD, said too many people believe that spending grueling hours at the gym is the only way to fitness.
“There’s this “Biggest Loser” idea out there that if you’re not throwing up and crying you’re not getting fit,” she said, referring to the popular television weight-loss show.
COMMENT. Sansone added that a small study of non-obese men published in the JOURNAL OF MEDICINE AND SCIENCE IN SPORTS & MEDICINE by scientists at Indiana University suggests that three five-minute walks done throughout three hours of prolonged sitting reverses the harmful effects of prolonged sitting on arteries in the legs.
Three miles (5 kilometers) per hour is a good beginning, gradually working to 4 miles per hour, she said about walking.
Dr. Carol Ewing Garber, president of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), notes that fitness-walking guidelines of 10,000 steps per day may be too much for many.
“About 7,500 steps may be more accurate,” she said, adding that current ACSM recommendations call for at least 150 minutes of activity each week.
Garber, a professor of movement sciences at Columbia University in New York, said research suggests that even one bout of exercise causes beneficial physiological effects.
But she concedes that walking does not do everything. It is less beneficial for bones than running, and for strength, it is better to lift weights.
“Still,” she said, “If you’re going to pick one thing, research says it should be walking.”

Global Impact: Garry Kasparov Views Vladimir Putin as Major Threat to Global Unrest

According to Yahoo News, arguably the world's best chess player ever, Garry Kasparov is on a new mission. He hopes to convince the world that the biggest threat to global unrest is not IS, al-Qaeda or North Korea. Instead it is Vladimir Putin, Russia's president from 2000 to 2008 and then again from 2012 to to date.

In an interview with Yahoo News and Finance Anchor Bianna Golodryga, Kasparov outlined his reasons for believing that Putin should be what keeps the world up at night. 
He chided US President Barack Obama for being too late in addressing Putin's aggression in Ukraine, ultimately resulting in the annexation of Crimea. 
While Kasparov has extremely harsh words for what he views as European indifference to Putin's actions, and he compares the world's complacency with the lead-up to World War II.
Kasparov calls the IS a diversion for the world to focus on. He finds it hypocritical that the US and other Western allies have agreed to supply Syrian rebels opposed to IS, while refusing Ukraine's similar request.
Regarding the current economic sanctions on Russia, Kasparov believes that at some point they will hurt not only the Russian economy, but also Putin and his inner circle. 
Yet, for that to happen, he believes the sanctions will have to be in place through at least March 2015. He adds that Putin will use Russia's vast supply of natural gas as leverage ahead of what he calls the "upcoming cold winter," threatening to shut down supplies to Europe and other former Soviet republics and satellite nations. 
COMMENT: Kasparov believes Putin is telling his inner circle of Russia's richest and most powerful business leaders, who are facing the ramifications of stiff sanctions that the western governments "will blink."  
Kasparov believes that Putin is calling the world's bluff. "He is playing poker while everyone else is playing chess."
Kasparov, who once expressed interest in running in the 2008 presidential race and who has in recent years become an anti-Putin activist, avoided the question of whether or not he would seek public office. 
Instead his response was a sobering one: "We should forget about power in Russia changing hands throughout the election process. I'm afraid it will be not a very lawful process and it may eventually end up with the collapse of the country."
His political views have affected his professional career and aspirations. Just last month Kasparov lost his bid for the presidency of the World Chess Federation, to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a controversial billionaire who had ties to Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gadhafi and Bashar Assad. 
Ilyumzhinov believes that not only was the game invented by aliens, but that he too himself was abducted by alien years ago.
"Of course it was," Kasparov answered when asked if the Russian election was rigged.
As for the future, Kasparov sees dark days ahead as long as Putin is in office. He believes that the 2018 World Cup, now currently scheduled to take place in Russia, should be relocated to another country. 
At the moment, Kasparov he is currently focused on the upcoming "cold winter."

Arkansas: Suspect Arrested in Disappearance of Real Estate Agent Beverly Carter, 49

According to The Associated Press and ReutersArron Michael Lewis, 33, was arrested Monday (September 29) in connection with the disappearance of real estate agent Beverly Carter, 49,  who disappeared last week, police said, while authorities continue to search for her. 

Lewis was seen at a west Little Rock bus stop and called police. He had been named in  an an arrest warrant issued Sunday (September 28) on suspicion of kidnapping Ms. Carter. 
Lewis was being interviewed by sheriff's investigators Monday afternoon, according to Little Rock police Lt. Carl Minden. "He's talking, but we haven't located her yet," Minden said.
COMMENT: Carter had planned to show a house Thursday night (September 25) in Scott, a rural area east of Little Rock, but she never returned from the appointment. 

The search was proceeding Monday (September 29) in the same area, Minden said, in hopes of finding Carter alive.
"Until we know for sure one way or the other we're holding out hope," he said. "Right now our spirits are still high...that we will have a successful outcome."
Minden said authorities had "some obvious reasons" why they were looking in the area, even before speaking to Lewis, but would not give details. He also said authorities are not releasing details about how investigators identified Lewis as a suspect.
Lewis is on parole for previous convictions in Arkansas, Minden said.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

Virginia: Hannah Graham,18, Disappearance Leads to Clue in 2009 Rape Missing Persons Case

According to The Associated Press, a forensic clue uncovered in the investigation of a missing University of Virginia Hannah Graham, 18, has led investigators to believe they have "a significant break" in the unsolved death of another young woman who vanished from UVA five years ago, police said Monday (September 29), and perhaps an unsolved rape from years before.

Leading up to Jesse L. Matthew, Jr., 32,  arrest, police had the arrested man's search of his car and home and removed items, including clothing, that they consider evidence, though they have not been specific. 

On Monday, Virginia State Police said in a statement that the arrest "provided a significant break in this case with a new forensic link for state police investigators to pursue" in the death of Morgan Harrington, 20, who, like Graham, vanished from another VA campus.

Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, was charged last week with abduction with intent to defile in the case of 18-year-old Hannah Graham, who was last seen on September 13 after she attended a party.

Morgan Harrington, 20, disappeared in  Roanoke after she went to John Paul Jones Arena for a Metallica concert on October 17, 2009. A farmer found her remains three months later in an Albemarle County hayfield, which was among the places searched shortly after Graham disappeared, police have said.

The state police statement provided no specifics about what sort of forensic evidence led to the connection in the cases.
COMMENT: VA State Police said they would have no further comment on the new lead, and neither Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo nor Captain Gary Pleasants returned telephone messages. Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman and Matthew's attorney, James Camblos, also did not respond to messages.

The latest development may also help solve a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax City, since the FBI previously said DNA from Harrington's assailant was collected.

Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI profiler, said he was not surprised by the new evidence. "Since this most recent victim disappeared, I said time and time again that if they could find out who was responsible there was a good chance the same person would be responsible for Morgan Harrington and a number of others," he said.

Harrington's mother, Gil Harrington, told Richmond television station WTVR, "We worked five years to get to this point, so we are relieved." She did not immediately return voicemail messages to The Associated Press.

If convicted, Matthew could face up to life in prison. Intent to defile in the law means intent to sexually molest.

Graham was reported missing a day after she was captured by surveillance cameras as she walked or ran unaccompanied past a pub and a service station, then onto Charlottesville's Downtown Mall. Police say that after leaving an off-campus party, Graham had sent friends several texts, including one saying she was lost, and that she was last seen by witnesses with Matthew at a bar.

Van Zandt said he was struck by the similarities between the Harrington and Graham disappearances. He said both women were separated from their friends in areas they apparently did not know well, and perhaps were offered assistance by a predator. "Their looking for help was turned against them," Van Zandt said.

Matthew, a hospital worker, had a taxi license at the time Harrington disappeared.

Matthew was returned from Texas late Friday (September 26) after he was found two days earlier on a beach near Galveston, TX. He had fled on September 20 after police named him a "person of interest" and said they wanted to question him about Graham's disappearance.

Matthew is being held without bond at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail and is scheduled to appear via a video link for a bond hearing in Charlottesville General District Court on Thursday (October 2).

Our readers will be kept abreast of the results of Matthew's bond hearing.

Yemen: US Department of State Urges US Citizens to Defer Travel, Leave Yemen Immediately

According to http://www.travel.state.gov, effective September 25, 2014, the US Department of State is urging US citizens to defer travel to Yemen. If already in Yemen, US citizens are urged to leave the country immediately:


PRC/Hong Kong: Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying Refuses to Meet w/Pro-Democracy Protesters

According to The Associated Press, tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters demanded that Hong Kong's top leader meet with them, threatening wider actions if he refuses, after he said Tuesday (September 30) that China would not budge in its decision to limit voting reforms in the Asian financial hub.
China's government has condemned the student-led protests as illegal, though so far it has not overtly intervened, leaving Hong Kong's semi-autonomous government to handle the crisis. 
Yet, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's rejection of the student demands dashed hopes for a quick resolution of the five-day standoff that has blocked city streets, forcing some schools and offices to close.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has taken a hard line against any perceived threat to the Communist Party's hold on power, meanwhile vowed in a National Day speech to "steadfastly safeguard" Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. He said Beijing believes Hong Kong will "create an even better future in the big family of the motherland."
Leung's statement drew a defiant response from the students.
"If Leung Chun-ying doesn't come out to Civic Square before midnight...then I believe inevitably more people will come out into the streets," said Alex Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, the organizer of the university class boycotts that led to the street protests.
Chow said the students were considering various options, including widening the protests, pushing for a labor strike and possibly occupying a government building.
Despite the hardening rhetoric from both sides, the mood Tuesday night as the crowds of protesters swelled was festive. Few police were evident, and those who were appeared relaxed.
COMMENT: Both sides appeared to be waiting out the standoff, as police continued the light-handed approach to the protests they adopted after their use of tear gas and pepper spray over the weekend failed to drive out tens of thousands of people occupying streets near the government headquarters. The sit-ins instead spread to the financial district and other areas.
View gallery
The crowd had plenty of umbrellas and rain capes on hand, having stockpiled them as a defense in case police might again deploy tear gas and pepper spray.
"We are not afraid of riot police, we are not afraid of tear gas, we are not afraid of pepper spray. We will not leave until Leung Chun-ying resigns. We will not give up, we will persevere until the end," Lester Shum, another student leader, shouted to a crowd at Admiralty, near Hong Kong's waterfront.
Leung's blunt rejection of the demands from the students is not surprising. China's Communist leadership is wary of any conciliatory moves that might embolden dissidents and separatists on the mainland.
The protesters want a reversal of a decision by China's government in August that a pro-Beijing panel will screen all candidates in the territory's first direct elections, scheduled for 2017--a move they view as reneging on a promise that the chief executive will be chosen through "universal suffrage."
Occupy Central, a wider civil disobedience movement, said in a tweet that the deadline set by the pro-democracy protesters includes a demand for genuine democracy and for Leung's resignation. It said it would "announce new civil disobedience plans same day," without elaborating.
China took control of Hong Kong from the British in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" arrangement that guaranteed the former British colony separate legal and economic systems and Western-style civil liberties.
Hong Kong's free press and social media give the protesters exposure that may help prevent China from cracking down in the same way it has on restive minorities and dissidents living in the mainland, where public dissent is often harshly punished.
"The people on the streets are here because we've made the decision ourselves and we will only leave when we have achieved something," said Chloe Cheung, a 20-year-old student at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. "We are waiting for the government to respond to our demands for democracy and a say in what the elections will be like."
The protests have been dubbed the "Umbrella Revolution" by some because the crowds have used umbrellas to block the sun and to deflect police pepper spray.
Many of the protesters were born after an agreement with Britain in 1984 that pledged to give China control of the city of 7 million, and have grown up in an era of affluence and stability, with no experience of past political turmoil in mainland China.
Their calls for a greater say in their futures have widespread support among many in Hong Kong disillusioned by a widening gap between the city's ultra-wealthy tycoons and the rest of the population.

Brazil: Stocks Plummet as Voters Prepare to Cast Their Ballots

According to The Latin American Tribune, the Brazilian stock market has plummeted as the presidential election campaign entered its final stretch.

The market took a hit Monday (September 29) against the backdrop of the latest surveys indicating the re-election of President Dilma Rousseff in the forthcoming polls scheduled for Sunday.

While the chief candidates began to intensify their campaigns in strategic regions, the São Paulo stock market saw its biggest fall in three years and the Brazilian real at its weakest since August 2013.

The Ibovespa index fell by 4.52% and the Brazilian real weakened by 1.65% against the US dollar in what is believed to be a reaction to the latest poll survey results.

COMMENT: According to the latest MDA Institute survey, Rousseff, from the Workers Party, will lead the first round of the elections with 40.4% of the votes, followed by Marina Silva of the Brazilian Socialist Party with 25.2%.

In the second round of polling, which is now almost a surety and is scheduled for October 26, Rousseff is expected to win with 47.7% of the votes against the 38.7% for Silva, the candidate most favored by the market.

On Monday, Rousseff focused her campaign in the state of Minas Gerais, the political fortress of rival candidate Aecio Neves, and São Paulo, where Silva is seen as the favorite.

Meanwhile, Silva campaigned in the northeastern state of Pernambuco.

Neves, from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party and who is in third place in the latest surveys, campaigned in the city of São Bernardo do Campo, near São Paulo.

Secret Service Testimony: ABC NEWS Happening Now

According to Reuters, US lawmakers scolded the head of the US Secret Service Julia Pierson, 55, on Tuesday (September 30) over a security breach that allowed a knife-wielding intruder to run deep into the White House, and Director Julia Pierson promised to make changes to agency procedures to ensure it would never happen again.
"This is unacceptable and I take full responsibility," Pierson told a US House of Representatives committee investigating the September 19 incident in which an intruder jumped the fence, burst through the front door and ran into the East Room of the White House.
"It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly," she said, promising a complete review of procedures. She also said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson had requested an investigation.
The incident is the latest black mark for a heretofore elite agency charged with protecting the president, which has suffered a series of scandals including a lone gunman firing shots at the White House in 2011, a prostitution scandal involving agents in Colombia in 2012 and a night of drinking in March that led to three agents being sent home from a presidential trip to Amsterdam.
Lawmakers from both parties said the incident had damaged the agency's reputation and punctured the image of invulnerability that helps protect President Barack Obama.View gallery
"The White House is supposed to be one of America's most secure facilities," said Republican Committee Chairman Darrell Issa. "How on earth did this happen?"
Issa said there was no guard posted at the front door of the White House that evening and that fence-jumper Omar Gonzalez, a 42-year-old US Army Iraq war retiree, breached five rings of security.
Another Republican, U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz, chided Pierson for the agency's statement that officers exercised "tremendous restraint….Tremendous restraint is not what we're looking for," he said. The message should be overwhelming force.
"Don't let somebody get close to the president, don't let somebody get close to his family, don't let them get into the White House. Ever. And if they have to take action that's lethal, I will have their back," he said.
COMMENT: Pierson failed to provide details in her prepared testimony, deferring some issues to a closed classified session with committee members to follow. But she did acknowledge the problems and missteps that have dogged the Secret Service in recent years.
"Let me also say that I recognize that these events did not occur in a vacuum," she said. "The Secret Service has had its share of challenges in recent years."
President Obama appointed Pierson, 55, a 30-year Secret Service veteran, in March 2013. The first female director in the agency's 148-history, she was given the mission of cleaning up the agency's culture after the 2012 trip to Colombia in which up to a dozen agents were found to have hired prostitutes.
She promised to redouble efforts to bring the service "to a level of performance that lives up to the vital mission we perform."
Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings said the breach had raised more questions about the competency and procedures of the agency, but should not be a political issue. "This is a national security issue," he said.

Secret Service Testimony: ABC News Happening Now


Colombia: Government Urged to Take Action on Threats Against Journalists

According to The Latin American Tribune, national omdbudsman Jorge Otalora requested Monday (September 29) that Colombian authorities take “urgent” measures to protect reporters when it became known that eight of them had been declared “military targets” by a criminal gang.

The threat was announced in a leaflet signed by Los Urabeños against eight reporters working in the southwestern city of Cali and the nearby Pacific port de Buenaventura, as correspondents of Caracol Radio, Q’Hubo Radio, El Tiempo and Telepacifico.

The eight are added to another two journalists threatened days before by the criminal gang Los Rastrojos, a warning that was reported internationally by Reporters Without Borders from the organization’s headquarters in Paris.

Otalora joined that group Monday in requesting an investigation into the dire warnings and also asked for “the measures of protection needed to safeguard the safety and lives of the reporters,” his office said in a statement.

COMMENT: Continued complaints regarding the failure of the Santos government to respond promptly and professionally to death threats against journalists are seemingly falling upon deaf ears. 

As one who has had 20 years experience in protecting threatened persons, it seems clear that the moment that a journalist has a documented threat made, they should be afforded 24/7 protection while the threat is being evaluated.

The ombudsman noted that between January-August 2014 the Santos government was cognizant of 93 cases of journalists being threatened, 51 more than in all of 2013.

Otalora criticized the protection measures provided for many of those threatened, consisting of “mobile phone services and police patrols” which do nothing to guarantee their protection, and said that the period of “30 working days to evaluate the risk level” is much too long.

The threats against journalists came as total death threats reached a high of 150 since early September, and included human-rights activists and political leaders named in a number of leaflets signed by the Aguilas Negras and the Los Rastrojos paramilitary groups.

Colombia is listed 126th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders’ global index of press freedom.

US: Secret Service Director to Face Lawmakers Re: Most Serious Breach to Date

According to The Associated Press, relatively new US Secret Service director Julie Pierson will very soon have to explain how a man armed with a small knife managed to climb over a White House fence, sprint across the north lawn and dash deep into the executive mansion before finally being subdued. 
Pierson is certain to face tough questions about why members of Congress briefed by the agency apparently weren't told of the full extent of the breach when she appears before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Pierson will face lawmakers Tuesday (September 30) for the first public accounting of the details surrounding an embarrassing and worrisome security breach at the White House earlier this month that, according to a congressman, was worse than the Secret Service has publicly acknowledged. 
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said Monday night that whistleblowers told his committee that the intruder ran through the White House, into the East Room and near the doors to the Green Room before being apprehended. They also reported to lawmakers that accused intruder Omar J. González made it past a female guard stationed inside the White House, Chaffetz said.
"I'm worried that over the last several years, security has gotten worse--not better," Chaffetz said.
In the hours after the September 19 fence-jumper incident, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told the AP that González had been apprehended just inside the North Portico doors of the White House. The Service also said that night the Army veteran had been unarmed--an assertion that was revealed to be false the next day, when officials acknowledged González had a knife with him when he was apprehended.
The US Secret Service declined to comment on the latest details to trickle out of the investigation of the embarrassing security breach.
It remains unclear what DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson was told about the breech.
Senate Judiciary Committee staffers were were briefed about the investigation by the Obama Administration were never told just how far into the White House González actually reached.
ting."Pierson's predecessor, Mark J. Sullivan, apologized to lawmakers in 2012 after details emerged of a night of debauchery involving 13 Secret Service agents and officers in advance of the president's arrival at a summit in Colombia. Sullivan retired ten months later.
COMMENT: Citing unnamed sources, THE WASHINGTON POST reported that González ran past a guard at the front door, past a staircase leading up to the Obamas living quarters and into the East Room, which is about halfway across the first floor of the building. Gonzalez was eventually "tackled" by a counter-assault agent, the POST said.
Getting so far into the building would have required González to dash through the main entrance hall, turn a corner, then run through the center hallway halfway across the first floor of the building, which spans 168 feet in total, according to the White House Historical Association.
Since the incident, the White House has treaded carefully. Although White House spokesman Josh Earnest acknowledged the president was "obviously concerned" about the intrusion, he expressed confidence in the Secret Service as recently as Monday.
It would be untenable for any president, not just Obama, to pointedly criticize the men and women who put themselves at risk to protect his life and family. That inherent conflict of interest means Congress, not the executive branch, is the most effective oversight authority for the Secret Service, its agents and officers.
We will update our readers at such time as Secret Service director Julie Pierson briefs lawmakers.

Ukraine/Russia: Prosecutors Open Up Case Against Body That Answers Only to Putin

According to Reuters, Ukrainian state prosecutors said on Tuesday (September 30) that they had opened a criminal investigation against a Russian law enforcement agency, accusing it of supporting separatist and "terrorist" groups in their sovereign country. 
The two legal investigations will ratchet up tensions between the nations and put pressure on a cease-fire agreed to on September 5 between Kiev's forces and pro-Russian separatists that has been marred by daily skirmishes and artillery shelling.
The move appeared to be a tit-for-tat response to a criminal case launched on Monday by Russia against "unidentified representatives of Ukraine's senior political and military leadership," National Guard and nationalist organizations, in which it accused them of committing "genocide."
In a statement, the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said it had opened a criminal investigation against officials of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, a law enforcement body that answers only to President Vladimir Putin.
The statement accused the Russian officials of "carrying out illegal interference" in the work of Ukraine's law enforcement bodies and armed forces.
COMMENT: "(This interference) is aimed at aiding the terrorist organizations 'Donetsk People's Republic' and 'Luhansk People's Republic' in their criminal activities and obstructing the performance of duties by government officials," it said.
The separatists have declared two "states" in mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine centered on the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk and say they refuse to return to Kiev's rule.
President Petro Poroshenko has offered the regions broad autonomy but says they must remain part of Ukraine.
In its statement on Monday announcing legal action against Ukraine, Russia accused the Kiev leadership of committing "genocide" against Russian-speaking citizens when their forces used heavy weapons to crush the separatists.
A UN human rights official recently put the total death toll in Ukraine's conflict since April 2014 at around 3,500 and also accused the pro-Russian separatists of human rights abuses, including murder, abduction and torture.
Russia, which opposes Kiev's pro-Western policies, has long accused Ukraine of using violence against citizens in the east.
Moscow has denied sending weapons and troops to help the pro-Russian rebels, despite what Kiev and the West say is incontrovertible proof.

Tip of the Day: Muslim Parents Should Ensure Their Children "Stay Close"

In light of the increasing frequency with which Westerners are being beheaded, even in the United States, Muslim parents should ensure that their children "stay close at all times," to prevent them from being targeted in retaliatory actions. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Global Impact: Netanyahu Characterizes IS and Hamas as "Coming from Branches of the Same Poisonous Tree"

According to Reuters, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday (September 29) attempted to shift the spotlight away from Islamic State (IS) fighters and back to Iran, warning the United Nations that a nuclear-armed Tehran would pose a far greater threat than "militant Islamists on pickup trucks."
It was the fifth day of speeches at the annual gathering of the 193-nation General Assembly in New York City, where IS's seizure of large swaths of Syria and Iraq and its alleged massacres of civilians and soldiers have dominated discussions at the UN podium and on the sidelines.
Describing Iran, IS and the militant group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip as part of a single team, Netanyahu compared them all to Germany's Nazis, who killed six million Jews in World War II.
"The Nazis believed in a master race, the militant Islamists believe in a master faith," Netanyahu said. "They just disagree who among them will be the master of the master faith."
"Make no mistake, IS (Islamic State) must be defeated," Netanyahu added. "But to defeat IS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war."
"It's one thing to confront militant Islamists on pickup trucks armed with Kalashnikov rifles, it's another thing to confront militant Islamists armed with weapons of mass destruction," he warned.
Iran rejects allegations by Western powers and their allies that it is developing the capability to produce atomic weapons and wants economic sanctions lifted as part of any nuclear deal.
By describing Iran, IS and Hamas as part of the same team, Netanyahu appeared to be playing on already existing doubts among US lawmakers about the wisdom of President Barack Obama's decision to engage with Tehran after the 2013 election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a soft-spoken pragmatist, to resolve the 12-year-old nuclear standoff between Iran and the West.
"You know, to say that Iran doesn't practice terrorism, is like saying Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees," he said.
These issues will undoubtedly come up during Obama's meeting with Netanyahu in Washington on Wednesday (October 1).
COMMENT: "Iran's nuclear military capabilities must be fully dismantled," Netanyahu said. He added that the goal of a charm offensive by Iran's "smooth talking president and foreign minister" was to get international sanctions lifted "and remove the obstacles to Iran's path to the bomb."
"The question before us is whether militant Islam will have the power to realize its unbridled ambitions," he said. "There is one place where that could soon happen--the Islamic State of Iran."
He twice referred to the "Islamic State of Iran," which would appear to be a deliberate play on the country's official name--the Islamic Republic of Iran-- and Islamic State, which is often referred to as ISIL or ISIS.
Netanyahu referred mockingly to Rouhani's speech to the 193-nation General Assembly last week, in which he accused the West and its allies of nurturing the group.
"Iran's President Rouhani stood here last week and shed crocodile tears over what he called the globalization of terrorism. Maybe he should spare us these phony tears and have a word instead with Iran's Revolutionary Guards," he said.
Rouhani said he supported efforts to combat IS, a Sunni militant group that views the predominantly Shi'ite Iran as heretical, though he said it should be handled by the region, not countries outside the Middle East.
Iran and six world powers held 10 days of talks on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at UN headquarters in New York City, but made little progress in overcoming deep disagreements on issues such as the future scope of Tehran's nuclear program and the speed of lifting sanctions.
The talks involve Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. They are aimed at getting a long-term agreement that would gradually lift sanctions against Tehran in exchange for curbs on its atomic program.
The two sides are expected to meet again in Europe in the next two weeks, Iranian and Western officials say. Speaking about the talks, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns told reporters in Washington: "It's no secret that the gaps that remain in the negotiations are quite significant right now."
Netanyahu's strident critique of Iran may be a preview of the hard line he will take in Washington. He has repeatedly warned Obama not to make concessions in the nuclear talks.
Netanyahu, on the topic of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, expressed his support for a "historic compromise" with the Palestinians that would bring peace and stability for the Israeli people and the region. But he offered no new details of what such a compromise would envisage.
An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in late August ended a 50-day war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas that controls Gaza. Israel began an offensive on July 8 with the aim of halting cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas and other militants.
Netanyahu repeated his position that "IS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree."
The conflict devastated some Gaza districts and killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were also killed.

Japan: Update--Death Toll from Mt. Ontake Now Stands at 36, 45 Missing

According to http://www.bloomberg.com, at least 36 people are believed to have died from this weekend’s eruption at Mt. Ontake in central Japan, as dangerous gases emitting from the country’s second-highest volcano hampered efforts to recover victims.

Twelve bodies have been retrieved from the mountain since yesterday and were declared dead, public broadcaster NHK reported. Crews were forced to suspend operations yesterday and this afternoon to avoid being overtaken by sulphurous gases emitting from the volcano’s vent, said Soshi Shiotani, an official at the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
Smoke and ash have billowed from Ontake since the eruption shortly before noon on September 27, as efforts continued to find missing hikers and bring down the injured. The Japan Meteorological Agency said in a statement that the eruption could be a precursor to further bursts of volcanic activity.
COMMENT: “The rescuers would have stopped due to high levels of gas,” Shane Cronin, an earth science professor who specializes in volcanoes at New Zealand’s Massey University, said in an e-mail. “With gas in the eyes and acid impacts on the skin, it rapidly becomes a very unpleasant and dangerous environment to work in.”
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said this morning it was in the process of revising the number of people unaccounted for. The agency put that number at 45 on Sunday. 

Brazil: Rousseff Describes Petrobras Corruption as Fruitless, Yet Refuses to Order an Investigation

According to The Latin American Tribune, in a televised debate just one week before Brazil’s presidential October 5 election, candidates have strongly attacked President Dilma Rousseff who is seeking another term.

In her debate appearance on Sunday (September 28), Rousseff herself focused her attacks on her chief rival, the environmentalist Marina Silva.

The six presidential hopefuls attacked the president and her government on corruption in the state oil company Petrobras, the crisis in the energy sector, high inflation, crime, high interest rates and the lack of investment in the Brazilian military.

The motive of the attacks during the debate was to reduce the 40% of the votes the latest surveys predict for the president, who on several occasions interrupted the others to defend herself.

At one point, Rousseff struck back at Silva who was the favorite to win the elections until a few days ago, asking her to be more “consistent.”

“You switched parties four times. You changed your opinion on fundamental matters of the country, such as same-sex marriage, which your platform first endorsed and then went on to reject,” Rousseff said.

“Attitudes such as this generate insecurity and to govern Brazil requires consistency and strongly held positions,” she said, highlighting the contradictions made by the former environment minister and former senator.

According to the latest surveys, Rousseff is projected to win next Sunday’s elections, but will not receive more than 50% of the votes, thus triggering a second round of polling on October 26.

In the second round, surveys reveal, Rousseff would be reelected with 47% of the votes against 43% for Silva.

In her attempt to reduce support for her chief opponent, Rousseff attacked Silva for saying that she had voted for a tax to finance public health, whereas in reality she rejected it, and for saying she would reduce credit to public banks, before retracting it.

“One cannot take a decision today and change it tomorrow. One cannot have double standards,” said Rousseff, who spent more time defending herself than presenting her proposals.

COMMENT: One of Rousseff’s severest critics was the Social Democratic Senator Aecio Neves, in third place in polling, who sought responses to Petrobras scandals and even accused the government of urging dialogue with terrorists.

“Rousseff was responsible for one of the saddest episodes in the history of Brazilian foreign affairs on using the UN forum to praise her own government and propose a dialogue with the Islamic State (IS) which is beheading people,” he said, highlighting her rejection of the international coalition’s decision to bomb the jihadists in Syria.

Neves also criticized Rousseff for having invested in wind-power plants that were rendered useless due to faulty transmission lines.

“Our (state) companies were taken over by a political group which used it to remain in power. In each debate there is a new criticism of Petrobras. This is what has to be changed in Brazil,” he said.

Neves denied having plans to privatize the petroleum sector.

“On the contrary, I want to re-nationalize it; take it back from a group who took over it and is doing business with it for 12 years.”

Silva criticized the government policy in the ethanol sector, which, she claimed, caused 70 plants to close down and 60,000 employees to lose their jobs.

Other participants in the debate were Luciana Genro from the Socialism and Freedom Party, Eduardo Jorge from the Green Party, Everaldo Pereira from the Social Christian Party and Levy Fidelix from the Brazilian Labor Renewal Party.

However, their vote share is not expected to exceed 1%.