Posts Tagged ‘Israel grossman attorney Articles’

Sierra Leone: Where Colin Powell Felt His Roots

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 20 2014

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Braima Bangura, a caretaker, stands amid the ruins of Bunce Island’s slave castle. Africans destined for slavery in the rice fields of the American South were held here.

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Braima Bangura, a caretaker, stands amid the ruins of Bunce Island's slave castle. Africans destined for slavery in the rice fields of the American South were held here.

Braima Bangura, a caretaker, stands amid the ruins of Bunce Island’s slave castle. Africans destined for slavery in the rice fields of the American South were held here.

Katrina Manson/Reuters/Corbis

The media are focused on Sierra Leone this weekend, as the Ebola-embattled nation has set up a three-day lockdown to help control the disease.

Aid will be coming from the United Kingdom, which once ruled the West African nation. But the country also played a painful role in U.S. history, dating back to the dark days of slavery. Thousands from that part of Africa were captured, enslaved and sent to the sprawling rice plantations of Georgia and South Carolina.

Sierra Leone was first charted by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century. In 1462, Pedro de Sintra gave the country its name — which means “Lion Mountain” in Portuguese — after the lion-shaped mountains above what was to become the harbor in Freetown, now the country’s capital. By the mid-1700s, this whole stretch of West Africa had become known as the Rice Coast because of the quantities of rice cultivated in steamy lowland paddies.

That drew the interest of American slave owners. They, too, were growing rice, but it’s tricky to cultivate. And the agricultural workers of Sierra Leone were skilled at planting, growing and harvesting the crop. Consequently a slave from Sierra Leone commanded a premium in the markets of Charleston and Savannah.

A fortress at Bunce Island, 20 miles from Freetown, quickly became the site of one of West Africa’s major slave trading operations.

Bunce Island continued to be a major slave exporting center until 1807, when Britain abolished the slave trade. Sierra Leone itself remained a British colony until April 27, 1961, when it gained independence. The United States formally recognized it as a sovereign nation that same day and has maintained diplomatic relations ever since.

As for the slave trading fortress on Bunce Island, it long ago fell into disrepair. In 1989, the U.S. National Park Service announced a preservation plan for the fortress, but those efforts fell through when Sierra Leone erupted in a brutal civil war. By 2008, the World Monuments Fund listed the rapidly crumbling ruins, along with other Freetown monuments, among the world’s top endangered historic sites. Since then, Sierra Leone has proposed Bunce Island for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The site still has deep evocative power. Gen. Colin Powell visited Bunce Island while serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1992. That afternoon, he spoke at a departure ceremony at the Freetown airport: “I am an American. I am the son of Jamaicans who emigrated from the island to the United States. But today, I am something more. I am an African, too. I feel my roots, here in this continent.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/09/19/349880188/sierra-leone-where-colin-powell-felt-his-roots?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

British Ambassador To U.S. Says Scottish Vote Is ‘Decisive’

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 20 2014

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Peter Westmacott is Britain’s Ambassador to the United States. Welcome. And the news is you’ll continue to speak for Scotland. Good to see you.

PETER WESTMACOTT: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: Is a 55 percent majority against independence a ringing endorsement of the constitutional status quo in Britain? Or is 45 percent for independence an alarming measure of how many Scots think life would be better outside of the U.K.?

WESTMACOTT: I think 55 45 is a pretty decisive result. It’s certainly a clearer one than a number of people thought or feared, depending on your point of view – even just a few days beforehand. So I think there’s a clear message there. And what we now look forward to doing, I think – across all the political parties in the United Kingdom – is working together now that the referendum has taken place. To try to ensure that the U.K. continues to agree effectively together. But with, interestingly, a greater say in their future. And greater powers devolved, not only to the Scots, but also to the English and the Welsh and Northern Island. Although Northern Ireland is in a rather special category.

SIEGEL: This isn’t a bargaining position that’s designed to talk down the Scott’s a bit. Do you think we’re likely to see this?

WESTMACOTT: Doesn’t seem to me that it’s a bargaining position. I think what is is a position based on equity. And the fact that if you are going to go down the route of devolution, greater devolved powers for people in Scotland, then it’s only right to do so for people elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

SIEGEL: The yes for independence campaign ran against the continued basing of the Trident nuclear submarine system in Scotland. That’s Britain’s nuclear deterrent force. In the coming discussions, is removal of Trident from Scotland completely off the table?

WESTMACOTT: It seems to me that in talking about devolved powers, we’re not talking about the defense of the United Kingdom or our commitment to a NATO alliance. So it seems to me, at the moment, that is not an issue which is on anyone’s agenda at the moment.

SIEGEL: If an independent Scotland had become part of the European Union, independence would’ve been a lot less daunting than it used to be. That is, EU members can travel, live, work anywhere in other member countries. I just wonder whether deepening European integration in the future is likely to inspire – who knows, Catalans, Walloons, Lombards – all sorts of people to tell their national governments give us a better deal, you know. Give us more autonomy or we’ll walk.

WESTMACOTT: The referendum that we’ve just held over Scotland was the direct result of the election back in 2011, which gave the Scottish National Party a majority in those local elections. And the Prime Minister…

SIEGEL: In their regional parliament?

WESTMACOTT: In their regional parliament, in the local election. So there’s a very, you know, clear link to a vote that was cast in the United Kingdom. And then the decision was taken by the government to address that in a democratic manner, and to give the people of Scotland a say about what they wanted for their future. I think we – you need to be careful about how you extrapolate from the Scottish example to other parts of the European Union, which have got different constitutional arrangements. And I think each country will look at this question from its own perspective.

SIEGEL: Earlier this week, had you been thinking about the message you would be delivering here this afternoon if independence had won in Scotland? And how to put some brave face on that outcome?

WESTMACOTT: (Laughter) I was certainly concerned during the week about where things were going. You know, I wasn’t thinking solely about what I might say on National Public Radio…

SIEGEL: Yes, I realize that.

WESTMACOTT: A few days earlier – but of course it was a very prominent thing in my mind.

(LAUGHTER)

WESTMACOTT: I will let you into a little secret. My role as a government servant was, of course, to inform and explain, not to campaign. My private view – which of course I was obliged to keep to myself – was that I very much hoped that my country that the United Kingdom, that I have the honor to represent, was going to remain intact. So I am pleased that that is the outcome. I certainly was thinking about what were the different options? And where would we be going from here? I was thinking about a number of the implications. You mentioned defense. You mentioned the European Union. I was also a bit concerned about where Scotland would find itself. Given that Scotland, by being a part of the United Kingdom does have a seat at all the top tables around the world. I personally think that’s very good for Scotland. It’s part of the EU, it’s part of the single market, and so on. So yeah, I was thinking about that, but fortunately I didn’t have to get to the stage of working out exactly how I was going to put a brave face on the news.

SIEGEL: Ambassador Westmacott, thank you very much for talking with us.

WESTMACOTT: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: That’s Peter Westmacott, who is Britain’s ambassador to the United States.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR’s prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/09/19/349908416/british-ambassador-to-u-s-says-scottish-vote-is-decisive?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Social Media Get The Right Stuff To India’s Flood Victims

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 20 2014

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An Indian Kashmiri man in Srinagar uses a rope to cross over floodwaters in early September.

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An Indian Kashmiri man in Srinagar uses a rope to cross over floodwaters in early September.

An Indian Kashmiri man in Srinagar uses a rope to cross over floodwaters in early September.

Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

When the floods hit the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the first week of September, Delhi resident Raheel Khursheed was preparing to visit his hometown, Anantnag.

“By the middle of the week I realized that it’s not going to stop raining through most of the week, and I started to put my plans on hold,” says the 31-year-old New Delhi resident, who directs news, politics and government at Twitter India. “By Friday, Anantnag was flooded.”

Luckily, his family was safe. But as he followed the story from afar, it became clear the flooding was unprecedented.

The water in the capital city of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar, was two or three stories high. Tens of thousands were reported to be trapped, unable to escape from the rising waters. The official number of deaths rose to 277 Friday, and more than 200,000 people have reportedly been rescued.

“It was clear that the problem was way bigger than anyone expected,” recalls Khursheed.

So he started a social media campaign to organize a nationwide relief effort to aid the flood victims in his home state.

Together with a colleague and a few friends, he created a website called JKFloodRelief, a Twitter handle and the hashtag #jkfloodrelief. Then they put out calls for people to donate. They reached out to people in Kashmir to list the items they needed most. Food, medicine, insulin, sanitary napkins, baby formula, and blankets were among them.

By using social media, they were able to regularly update their list. Once the Indian company Emami donated a large number of sanitary pads, Khursheed says, “We didn’t need pads anymore, so we took it off the list.”

People from around the country responded to the request for aid. They reached out to the JKFloodRelief team on Twitter and set up collection points across major cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai. The team in Delhi had already set up collection centers in the city with the help of a growing number of volunteers, many of whom found the team through social media, says Khursheed.

But it wasn’t all about social media, he admits. He and his friends had to tap into their personal network, as well. Khursheed reached out to someone he knew at the Indian airline Indigo to seek help shipping the donations to Kashmir. His friend Vidya Krishnan, a health reporter for the newspaper Mint, reached out to people she knew at the biomedical company Cipla for medical supplies.

Similarly, the group worked with nonprofit organizations like Goonj and Sajid Iqbal Foundation, which have previously shepherded distribution of relief aid. “So there, social [media] didn’t come into effect that much because [cellphone] networks were down,” says Khursheed.

Still, it’s a groundbreaking effort that used crowdsourced information to create what Krishnan and Khursheed describe as a “humanitarian FedEx.” And that’s not just self-promotion. Basharat Peer, a Kashmiri journalist just returned to Delhi after working as a volunteer in his hometown, agrees: The group, he says, effectively used “social media for raising awareness, getting people and corporations to donate relief materials.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/09/19/349868432/social-media-gets-the-right-stuff-to-indias-flood-victims?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Rebel General Defends Assault In Eastern Congo

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 19 2014

When asked what quality he valued above all others in a general, Napoleon said he liked the lucky ones. And Monday, at a military base in a remote village in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gen. Laurent Nkunda was feeling his luck.

The general was in a good mood: His rebel army now controls more ground than ever in the region, and his hand is stronger than ever in determining the future of eastern Congo, and perhaps even Congo itself.

Nkunda’s eyes were shining behind his spectacles. “Today we are strong because the international community understands that we are a cry for freedom,” he said. “We are, that is, spiritual, we are not physical.”

Longstanding tensions between Congo and neighboring Rwanda have fueled the destabilization of eastern Congo, where a humanitarian crisis is now brewing. Nkunda is said to have Rwandan backing.

Sitting in his upholstered chair, the tall and wiry rebel leader was expansive in his remarks. Nkunda, who is a Congolese Tutsi, says he fights to protect other Tutsis in eastern Congo from extremist Hutu militias bent on killing. But he also says he speaks for all Congolese people who have suffered through civil wars, poverty and neglect.

Nkunda blamed his nation’s leaders — from the Belgians to current president Joseph Kabila — for the suffering. The general’s territorial advancements have killed an untold number of civilians and pushed an estimated 250,000 Congolese to the point of desperation. But Nkunda saw no connection between the suffering then and the suffering now.

“That’s the cost of freedom,” he said. “I accept Congolese to suffer for one year, two years, three years, four years — but be free forever. Freedom is not a gift. You have to suffer for it and fight for it. And we are ready to suffer, but be free forever.”

Good luck selling that idea to Bibiyana, who goes by only one name. She was about 60 miles away from the rebel base, walking to the Kibati camp for internally displaced people outside Goma. The strap of a huge plastic bag was digging into her forehead. The bag was on her back, a baby was on her breast, she was pulling another child with one hand, and she had another bag in the other. Bibiyana hadn’t eaten in days.

“We are missing water. We are suffering,” she said. “We don’t have medicine to treat us. Maybe God will have to help us.”

Aid organizations are now moving to feed the people who have reached the outermost edge of desperation.

At the governor’s office in Goma, a kind of political desperation is sinking in. This Nkunda rebellion, if not resolved quickly, is potentially career-killing for Julien Paluku, the governor of North Kivu province in eastern Congo and part of the nation’s new, democratically elected leadership. Paluku is up for re-election in two years, and he says all of Congo’s current leadership will be judged by what happens in eastern Congo.

“We must do efforts to solve the problem,” Paluku said. “We can’t maintain the population in this condition, because after two years, it will be a problem for us. Because people will ask us, ‘Why you didn’t bring peace for us?’ “

Sitting in his upholstered chair in an immaculate blue suit and shiny black shoes, Paluku says the people will also blame Nkunda, who has aspirations to one day be in government. The general will then really have to be lucky — because everyone knows that a political campaign is one of the hardest fights of all.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96536508&ft=1&f=1004

Politics Undercut Mortgages For Illegal Workers

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 19 2014

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

In this country, the housing boom of recent years helped create a new group of homeowners: illegal immigrants. Tens of thousands of people bought their own piece of the American dream over the past few years. In fact, some banks who issued these mortgages say they performed better than the national average. Illegal immigrants may be doing a better job of paying their mortgages than the rest of us, on average. But the economic downturn and political reaction to these loans has affected this corner of the market. And we have more from Nancy Mullane.

NANCY MULLANE: Pedro Morlett(ph) is a successful real estate broker in the northern California city of Danville. One way he’s been able to build his clientele is by cooking for them.

Mr. PEDRO MORLETT (Real Estate Broker): Mole, or I will make a green enchiladas or red enchiladas. So it’s traditional Mexican food. I’m from Mexico City. It’s just a way to connect.

MULLANE: Four years ago, the bilingual real estate broker began connecting with a new clientele, undocumented immigrants, when he found out they could qualify for mortgages using their nine-digit ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The IRS gives ITINs to undocumented immigrants in place of Social Security numbers, so the federal government can collect and keep track of their taxes.

Mr. MORLET: They’re illegal, but they’re paying their taxes. They’re looking forward to paying their taxes because that makes them feel part of society.

MULLANE: Morlett(ph) bought ads in the local paper and visited nearby factories. Since then, 10 percent of the homes he sold have gone to undocumented immigrants. ITIN mortgages have been good business for real estate brokers and banks. These homebuyers put cash down, get 20 to 30-year fixed mortgages, and pay their bills.

Mr. TIM SANDOS (President, National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals): What they found, indeed, was that the performance was outstanding.

MULLANE: Tim Sandos is president of the National Association of Real Estate Professionals, or NAREP. Since 2000, he estimates undocumented immigrants have taken out more than a billion dollars in mortgages. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Tim Sandos is president of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.]

Mr. SANDOS: They had pent-up cash. They just had not had a vehicle with which to be able to utilize it to purchase a home in the past. The ITIN now provided the opportunity for them to make that home purchase.

MULLANE: Every single person interviewed for this story – including real estate brokers, bankers, and mortgage insurers – reported that ITIN mortgages have performed surprisingly well, even better than conventional loans. Sandos says across the country ITIN mortgages have had a delinquency rate of a half of one percent. Compare that to the recently reported 6.4 percent delinquency rate for all home loans. One of the largest ITIN lenders in the U.S. has been Second Federal Savings in Chicago. Mark Doyle is president and CEO. He says they’ve originated more than $120 million in ITIN mortgages.

Mr. MARK DOYLE (President, Second Federal Savings Loan Association, Chicago): People are feeling the pressure of the federal government now, and many municipalities are giving police departments the authority to pull people over and arrest them. That’s causing a problem for a lot of our borrowers as well.

MULLANE: Tim Sandos, now president of NAHREP, says when he was working with Citigroup and developing their ITIN mortgage program, he received calls, even death threats, because he was working with undocumented immigrants.

Mr. SANDOS: Until a new president is elected and there is a final solution on immigration reform, most financial institutions are going to shun the political risk and reputational risk that comes with providing these types of loans.

MULLANE: That’s on top of credit tightening all around. Immigrants, like everyone else, are being hit hard by the erosion of the economy. Sandos and others say even these ITIN mortgages are now showing signs of faltering. For NPR News, I’m Nancy Mullane.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR’s prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96557544&ft=1&f=1004

Effects Of Global Financial Crisis Emerge In Senegal

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 19 2014

Moustapha Diouf says he thinks the world’s financial troubles will spread to Senegal and the rest of Africa.

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Street vendors, known as “bana bana,” hawk goods in downtown Dakar, Senegal.

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Street vendors in Dakar

Street vendors, known as “bana bana,” hawk goods in downtown Dakar, Senegal.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton/NPR

Not much has been heard from Africa about the impact of the global financial crisis that has sent markets tumbling, banks collapsing and homeowners fearing foreclosure. But there is concern on the world’s poorest continent that the financial fever and fallout will be contagious.

In dusty downtown Dakar, the bustling capital of Senegal, many residents may not fully follow the complexities of the recent financial turmoil on Wall Street and beyond. But the Senegalese are no strangers to the word “crisis.” They face a crisis of survival daily.

As night falls in Dakar, street vendors desperately try to offload a few more items before the close of business. Many are too busy to talk.

But Moustapha Diouf was keen to share his views about the impact of the global financial crisis on Africa.

“I saw one … an interview of one director of one bank here in Senegal,” Diouf says. “He said the financial crisis would not affect the bank here in Senegal — in Africa in general. But … I know very well that this will affect Africa, this will affect Senegal in general. For sure … this will affect people like me — people who are here downtown selling things in order to go back to their home and feed their families.”

Ndeye Sow, 26, hawks trinkets and traditional dolls up and down the streets of Dakar. She said she had been following news of the growing financial mess on the radio — then burst out with a litany of complaints about her immediate concern: the high cost of living in Senegal.

“What isn’t expensive here in Senegal? Life is tough,” says Sow, who has a 5-year-old son. She says fish is expensive; rice, too — even salt. “Everything has gone up in price in the market. Plus school fees, transport — you name it. Everything is expensive, yet no one has a proper job. We just can’t afford to feed our families or send our children to school anymore. Every single day is a struggle.”

Sow’s concerns are mirrored all over Africa. She may not have a bank account, a mortgage, or stocks and shares, but that does not diminish her worries about trying to make ends meet. Crucial remittances are already down from Africans working abroad. They keep many families back home afloat.

The big question now for Africa is how badly it will be bruised by the global financial meltdown.

“It’s becoming clear that many developing countries — African countries — will not be immune to the spillover effects of this global financial crisis,” says former Nigerian finance minister and now World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. So, we consider that … particularly poor people within these countries are now in a kind of danger zone. And the danger for them lies in the fact that they’re taking a hit from what I call the “Four Fs” — the fuel crisis, food crisis, the fertilizer crisis and now the financial crisis.”

Okonjo-Iweala is referring to the massive rise in the price of the three commodities — fuel, food and fertilizer — over the past year or so that has prompted riots in several African countries, including Senegal. She warns that the current global turbulence could certainly have a knock-on effect on the continent.

“In terms of the liquidity crunch, and in terms of the impact of exports, this could be the medium through which this is transmitted to developing countries — African countries,” Okonjo-Iweala says. “And so, what we need to pay attention to is this quadruple whammy — food, fuel, fertilizer and finance — so that they begin to prepare how to bolster themselves to take care of these. And we can help.”

But will that World Bank pledge make a difference to the lives of people like Ndeye Sow, the Senegalese street vendor?

Sow’s priority right now is just to be able to put food on her table. She says nothing is going right in Senegal, and life is just too pricey. Looking beyond individual cases, there’s also the issue of foreign aid — if donors are feeling the financial pinch, won’t they be inclined to reduce aid to Africa?

“There is fear and uncertainty about that, but we … hope that even though developed countries are struggling right now with their own crisis, that they will not cut back on what they have promised to the developing countries, because a 1 percent reduction in growth could trap 20 million more people into poverty,” Okonjo-Iweala says.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96503476&ft=1&f=1004

Here’s What Tomorrow’s U.K. Newspapers Are Saying About Scotland’s Vote

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 18 2014

Scotland votes tomorrow on whether to become an independent country. The polls show the two sides are neck and neck. British newspapers, as expected, are leading with the story.

Here’s what some of them are saying (courtesy of the BBC’s Nick Sutton‘s Twitter feed).

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/09/17/349348953/heres-what-u-k-newspapers-are-saying-about-scotlands-vote?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Doctor Says Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Has ‘Rare … Difficult’ Cancer

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 18 2014

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in December 2013.

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in December 2013.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in December 2013.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who made international news after he admitted to smoking crack, has cancer.

That’s according to his doctor, a colorectal surgeon, who confirmed the diagnosis during a press conference on Wednesday.

The Toronto Star reports:

“Dr. Zane Cohen, the renowned colorectal surgeon, said Wednesday that Ford has a malignant liposarcoma. He will be treated with chemotherapy, Cohen said.

“Cohen would not say what the chances are of a full recovery. He said he is ‘optimistic,’ but he also said Ford has a ‘very rare tumour and a very difficult tumour.’

“The tumour is ‘fairly aggressive,’ he said, and has likely been present for two or three years. It is about 12 centimetres by 12 centimetres. The cancer is not in the colon or liver.”

As we reported, after a long and sometimes bizarre year, Ford gave up on his re-election bid. His brother Doug will run in his place.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/09/17/349366924/doctor-says-toronto-mayor-rob-ford-has-rare-difficult-cancer?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Islamic State Planned Killing In Australia, PM Says After Raids

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 18 2014

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New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, right, and Australian Federal Police Acting Commissioner Andrew Colvin describe how 800 federal and state police officers raided more than two dozen properties as part of the operation Sept. 18 in Sydney.

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New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, right, and Australian Federal Police Acting Commissioner Andrew Colvin describe how 800 federal and state police officers raided more than two dozen properties as part of the operation Sept. 18 in Sydney.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, right, and Australian Federal Police Acting Commissioner Andrew Colvin describe how 800 federal and state police officers raided more than two dozen properties as part of the operation Sept. 18 in Sydney.

Rick Rycroft/AP

Australia’s prime minister says intelligence that Islamic State supporters were planning to carry out a killing to demonstrate its abilities led to counterterrorism raids in Sydney.

Australian police detained 15 people Thursday in a major counterterrorism operation, saying intelligence indicated a random, violent attack was being planned on Australian soil.

About 800 federal and state police officers raided more than a dozen properties across Sydney as part of the operation — the largest in Australian history, Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Andrew Colvin said. Separate raids in the eastern cities of Brisbane and Logan were also conducted.

One person was charged with serious terrorism-related offenses and was scheduled to appear in court later Thursday. Colvin declined to detail the exact nature of the charges.

The arrests come just days after the country raised its terror warning to the second-highest level in response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group.

“Police believe that this group that we have executed this operation on today had the intention and had started to carry out planning to commit violent acts here in Australia,” Colvin said. “Those violent acts particularly related to random acts against members of the public. So what we saw today and the operation that continues was very much about police disrupting the potential for violence against the Australian community at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Police declined to reveal exact details of the attack they believe was being plotted. New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said only that it was to be carried out against a member of the public on the street and was at “a very high level.”

“Right now is a time for calm,” Scipione said. “We need to let people know that they are safe, and certainly from our perspective, we know that the work this morning will ensure that all of those plans that may have been on foot have been thwarted.”

Last week, Australian police arrested two men in Brisbane for allegedly preparing to fight in Syria, recruiting jihadists and raising money for the al-Qaida offshoot group Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the Nusra Front.

Colvin said the raids conducted in Brisbane on Thursday were a follow-up to that operation. It was not yet clear how the investigations in Sydney and Brisbane were linked, he said.

Police said raids were conducted in a dozen suburbs of Sydney and in three suburbs across Brisbane and adjoining Logan.

A Muslim book shop and community center in Logan was at the center of counterterrorism raids on several properties last week.

Police said at the time there was no terrorist threat to the Group of 20 leaders’ summit to be hosted by Brisbane in November, which will bring President Obama and other leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies to the Queensland state capital.

Australia has estimated that about 60 of its citizens are fighting for the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front in Iraq and Syria. Another 15 Australian fighters have been killed, including two young suicide bombers.

The government also has said it believes that about 100 Australians are actively supporting extremist groups from within Australia, recruiting fighters and grooming suicide bomber candidates as well as providing funds and equipment.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/09/17/349399468/islamic-state-planned-killing-in-australia-pm-says-after-raids?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Rep. Gowdy To Lead New Benghazi Committee In First Public Hearing

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 17 2014

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Rep. Trey Gowdy

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Rep. Trey Gowdy

Rep. Trey Gowdy

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The Sept. 11 attacks two years ago on an outpost in Benghazi, Libya, will get a fresh look by House lawmakers Wednesday. The attacks took the lives of four Americans including a U.S. ambassador.

It will be the first public hearing since Speaker John Boehner announced the formation of the Select Committee on Benghazi and named Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the chairman in May.

Gowdy is a Tea Party Republican who has made a name for himself as a hard-charging conservative, but he’s promised to take the politics out of his Benghazi committee and simply focus on how the deaths could have been prevented. Wednesday’s hearing is expected to focus on U.S. preparedness and how safety has improved since for diplomats.

The two-term congressman’s quirky, and ever-changing, hairdos have also gotten him noticed. Now that Gowdy can add chairman to his title, his fellow conservatives have some playful advice for him.

“Well, the first thing he needs to do is he needs to get a haircut and stay with it. That’s going to be the key. He changes his hair so much nobody can recognize him,” says his fellow Republican representative Devin Nunes of California.

Gowdy is aware people poke fun, but when it comes to his committee, he’s laser-focused on convincing the public it will be run fairly — without bias or personal ambition.

“Hair, suit, whether I shave or not, it’s got nothing to do with me. Just watch the process,” said Gowdy.

Gowdy already sits on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has had several briefings and hearings of its own on Benghazi. That’s one reason Nunes says this new committee is a perfect fit for Gowdy.

“I think he’s a good choice because he’s a junior member that has a solid professional background and he’s been doing the work. Not only on the oversight committee but also on this Benghazi working group, so he’s very well aware of what’s left to be done,” Nunes said.

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Gowdy questions a witness during a May 2013 House committee hearing on Benghazi.

Cliff Owen/AP


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Cliff Owen/AP

Gowdy questions a witness during a May 2013 House committee hearing on Benghazi.

Gowdy questions a witness during a May 2013 House committee hearing on Benghazi.

Cliff Owen/AP

Gowdy had a stellar law career before coming to Congress. He was a federal prosecutor in the 1990s. He was elected three times as South Carolina’s 7th Circuit solicitor in the 2000s. He then rode the Republican Tea Party wave of 2010 into Congress.

Gowdy has a habit of slipping into that prosecutor mode often, like when he told reporters what he hopes to hear from witnesses who testify before his panel.

“If they have knowledge about the pre-, during, or after they would be on the list. I would be committing legal malpractice if I didn’t talk to a witness who had knowledge,” said Gowdy.

He’s built a reputation on railing against the Obama administration on everything from its health care law to the IRS’s treatment of conservative groups. This has prompted some of Gowdy’s critics to raise concerns that he’s more interested in running the panel like a trial rather than focusing on how future attacks can be prevented.

South Carolina Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney is a friend of Gowdy’s and says if the truth exonerates the Obama administration, Gowdy will be its “largest cheerleader.” But he warns witnesses to be forthcoming with all the information.

“I think Trey will be very fair with people and very evenhanded with people until he starts to get that sense that maybe they’re not telling him the whole answer. And when that happens then, yeah, I don’t want to be on the other side of that conversation from him,” says Mulvaney.

Like many Democrats, Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia is willing to give Gowdy the benefit of the doubt — at least for now — when it comes to the Benghazi hearings. But he says the chairman has an important choice to make.

“He can be nothing more than a demagogic attack dog for partisan purposes, or he can actually elevate the conversation and try to illuminate what happened in Benghazi and how best we can prevent that from recurring. That’s really his existential truth in accepting this role,” Connolly says.

Gowdy, though, says he wants to leave the country with only one impression when his work is complete.

“I care very much about the process; you are welcome to draw different conclusions, but I don’t want there to be any ambiguity about whether the process was fair,” he says.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/09/16/349033835/rep-gowdy-to-lead-new-benghazi-committee-in-first-public-hearing?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world