Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

Monday, 6 April 2015

Rolling Stone rebuked by independent review of campus rape story

Rolling Stone magazine failed to follow basic journalistic safeguards in publishing a since-retracted story about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house, according to an outside review of the matter released on Sunday.
"Rolling Stone's repudiation of the main narrative in 'A Rape on Campus' is a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable," the Columbia Journalism Review said in its lengthy critique of the article, conducted at the request of the magazine. "The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking."
Led by the dean of the Columbia Journalism School, the review examined the editorial process behind the explosive story, which failed to hold up under a barrage of questions raised by other media after its publication in November.
The article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, gave a detailed account of a 2012 gang rape that a woman identified as "Jackie" said had endured at a fraternity house as a first-year student, and accused the university of tolerating a culture that ignored sexual violence against women.

In December, Rolling Stone apologized for "discrepancies" in the account and admitted that it never sought comment from seven men accused of the alleged rape.
The Columbia Journalism Review has previously cited the article at the top of its list of "The Worst Journalism of 2014," faulting Erdely for failing to check Jackie's account against other sources, including her alleged attackers and three friends who were depicted as unsympathetic to her.

The debacle was expected to badly mar the credibility of the magazine, founded in 1967 and best known for its pop music coverage. The publication also was a pioneer in the "New Journalism" of the 1960s and '70s, an approach characterized by a reporter's immersion in the subject matter.
Others have expressed concern that the sense of deception surrounding the story might create a cry-wolf backlash that would diminish the chances of future sexual assault complaints being taken seriously.
Source Reuters
Read more ...

Netanyahu seeks better deal on Iran; Obama says it is best hope on nuclear issue

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the United States on Sunday to seek a better deal to curb Iran's nuclear program and said he would press American lawmakers not to give Tehran "a free path to the bomb."

President Barack Obama, hoping to sway skeptics at home and abroad to get behind the framework agreement struck on Thursday between world powers and Iran, defended the deal as the best hope to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Obama, whose relations with Netanyahu have frayed badly over the Iran issue, sought to assure Israelis he understands their concerns. They should know "there is no formula, there is no option, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon that will be more effective than the diplomatic initiative and framework that we put forward - and that’s demonstrable," he said in an interview with The New York Times published on Sunday. (nyti.ms/1IhMLSS)

The Israeli prime minister has been strongly critical of the deal struck on Thursday in Switzerland, saying it threatens the survival of Israel. Netanyahu said he has spoken with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress - nearly two thirds of House of Representatives members and a similar number in the U.S. Senate - about the Iran nuclear issue.

In appearances on U.S. television on Sunday, Netanyahu did not repeat his assertion on Friday that any final agreement should include a commitment by Iran recognizing Israel's right to exist.

But, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" program, he said of the deal, "This is not a partisan issue. This is not solely an Israeli issue. This is a world issue because everyone is going to be threatened by the pre-eminent terrorist state of our time, keeping the infrastructure to produce not one nuclear bomb but many, many nuclear bombs down the line."

Netanyahu angered the White House and alienated some of Obama's Democrats when he accepted a Republican invitation to address Congress and speak out against the looming agreement on March 3, two weeks before the Israeli elections that returned him to office.

Netanyahu denied he was coordinating with House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, who visited Israel last week, and with other Republicans to block the Iran deal.

But he denounced the framework agreement between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, saying, "There's still time to get a better deal and apply pressure to Iran to roll back its nuclear program."

Israel, which is believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, says it believes Iran is committed to its destruction.

LEGISLATION IN THE WORKS

Obama told Netanyahu in a telephone call soon after the deal was reached that it represented progress toward a lasting solution that cuts off Iran's path to a nuclear weapon. Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes.

Republicans, who control both chambers in Congress, and some Democrats are preparing legislation that would entail a vote in Congress on any Iran deal. Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was waiting to learn more details about the framework agreement.

"I don't know how someone can ascertain whether this is something good or bad," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

Obama has said he would veto legislation demanding an up-or-down vote in Congress on any final deal worked out with Iran by the deadline of the end of June that has been agreed by Iran and the six powers.

Corker said it was unclear whether opponents of the deal would be able to muster the votes to override such a veto.

Netanyahu said he had an hourlong conversation with Obama. Asked on CNN if he trusted Obama, Netanyahu said he was sure the president was doing what he thought was good for his country, but they disagreed about the best policy on Iran.

In his interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Obama sought to assure Israel of firm U.S. support.

"Not only am I absolutely committed to making sure that they maintain their qualitative military edge, and that they can deter any potential future attacks, but what I'm willing to do is to make the kinds of commitments that would give everybody in the neighborhood, including Iran, a clarity that if Israel were to be attacked by any state, that we would stand by them."

He said he was troubled by being perceived as less than supportive of Israel, telling Friedman, "It has been personally difficult for me to hear ... expressions that somehow ... this administration has not done everything it could to look out for Israel’s interest."

While he was upbeat about the nuclear deal, Obama said the issue was not the only division between Washington and Tehran. The nuclear deal should be a single issue, and the United States at the same time wanted to send "a clear message to the Iranians that you have to change your behavior more broadly and that we are going to protect our allies if you continue to engage in destabilizing aggressive activity," Obama said.

Source Reuters
Read more ...

Friday, 3 April 2015

Iranians celebrate, Obama hails 'historic' nuclear framework

Barrack Obama Latest
Iranians celebrated in the streets after negotiators reached a framework for a nuclear deal that could bring their country in from the cold, hailed by U.S. President BarackObama as an "historic understanding" with an old adversary.
The tentative agreement, struck on Thursday after eight days of talks in Switzerland, clears the way for negotiations on a settlement aimed at allaying Western fears that Iran was seeking to build an atomic bomb and in return lift economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
It marks the most significant step toward rapprochement between Iran and the United States since they became enemies with the 1979 Iranian revolution. But the deal still requires experts to work out difficult details over three months.

Obama and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, who both took risks to open the dialogue, will each have to sell the deal to skeptical conservatives at home.
With many details still up in the air, France cautioned on Friday against overoptimism. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has the ear of U.S. opposition Republicans, fumed against an arrangement he said could lead to nuclear proliferation and war in the Middle East.
"We are not completely at the end of the road and the end of the road should be in June,” said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. "Nothing is signed until everything is signed, but things are going in the right direction," he told French radio station Europe 1.
The framework is contingent on settling the 12-year dispute by June 30. All sanctions onIran remain in place until a final settlement.
Celebrations erupted in the Iranian capital after the deal was reached. Videos and pictures posted on social media showed cars in Tehran honking horns as passengers clapped. In one video posted on Facebook, a group of women can be heard clapping and chanting "Thank you, Rouhani."
Among the six powers, France has taken a consistently tough line with Tehran. Fabius said Iran's economy stood to gain $150 billion in relief from the sanctions.
"You will have seen that there was a lot of positive reaction in the streets in Iran, and I think it’s real, not fabricated. The Iranians, the people, the youth are expecting something and that should be noted,” he said.
Obama described the agreement as a "historic understanding with Iran". He compared it to nuclear arms control deals struck by his predecessors with the Soviet Union that "made our world safer" during the Cold War. He also cautioned, however, that "success is not guaranteed."
Netanyahu was to convene his security cabinet on Friday after telling Obama in a phone call that he "vehemently opposed" the agreement. In a statement released after the conversation, Netanyahu said a deal based on the framework announced in Lausanne "would threaten the survival of Israel".
"This deal would legitimize Iran's nuclear program, bolster Iran's economy and increase Iran's aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond," he said. "It would increase the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region and the risks of a horrific war."
Israel is believed to be the only Middle Eastern country that has nuclear weapons.
Many details still need to be worked out. Diplomats close to the negotiations said the deal was fragile and the understandings reached could still collapse between now and June 30. Experts believe it will be much harder to reach a final deal than it was to agree the framework accord.
The deal is also opposed by Sunni Arab states which consider Iran, the leading Shi'ite Muslim country, to be a threat.
Under the outline deal, Iran would shut more than two-thirds of its installed centrifuges capable of producing uranium that could be used to build a bomb, dismantle a reactor that could produce plutonium and accept intrusive verification.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday there was a "very good" chance of a final settlement.
IRANIAN CAUTION
The framework includes limits on Iran's enrichment of uranium for 10 years.
Iran agreed to reduce the number of installed uranium enrichment centrifuges to 6,104 from 19,000, and will operate only 5,060 for 10 years, according to a U.S. fact sheet.
One of the most sensitive issues during the negotiations, Iran's research and development work, will also be limited.
"Iran has agreed to not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years," the U.S. fact sheet said. It also noted Iran will remove the 1,000 more advanced second-generation centrifuges currently installed at Natanz and place them in International Atomic Energy Agency-monitored storage for 10 years.
High enriched uranium can be used to make a weapon, while low enriched uranium is used in power plants. Iran has insisted it wants it only for a peaceful nuclear energy program and denies it aimed to build an atomic bomb.
Iran's "breakout" timeline – the time that it would take for it acquire enough fissile material for one weapon - would be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least 10 years, under this framework. It is currently assessed to be two to three months, the U.S. fact sheet said.
Iran would gradually receive relief from U.S. and European Union economic sanctions if it complies with the terms of a final deal. Some U.N. Security Council sanctions would be gradually lifted, though others would remain in place.
"We're still some time away from reaching where we want to be," said Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Failure to comply with terms of the deal will cause the U.S. and EU sanctions to "snap back into place", the U.S. fact sheet said. It was less specific on U.N. sanctions, one of the main sticking points in the negotiations, saying only that they could be reimposed in the event of Iranian non-compliance.

Source Reuters
Read more ...

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Bald first lady? Michelle Obama’s 'Jeopardy!' appearance raises questions


An appearance by Michelle Obama on “Jeopardy!” had fans on Twitter scratching their heads, wondering whether Michelle Obama was sporting a new, hairless look on hers.
The first lady popped up on the long-running quiz show on Tuesday to promote her “Let’s Move!” anti-childhood obesity initiative.
In one clue, FLOTUS talked about rinsing canned vegetables to reduce sodium and how much Vitamin A could be found in sweet potatoes. But what many on social media up in arms appeared to not be nutrition, but an apparent lack of follicles.


Obama had also delivered a “Jeopardy!” clue in 2012. The White House and “Jeopardy!” reps didn’t return ITK’s request for more information about the latest appearance.
But ITK is surmising this mane mystery is more a case of a quirky camera angle and lighting than Obama opting to be the first first lady to debut a chrome dome.
The White House provided additional information on Obama's "Jeopardy!" segment, but didn't respond to a question about the "bald" buzz.
Source The Hill
Read more ...

Friday, 6 February 2015

Obama seeks $14 billion to boost U.S. cybersecurity defenses

President Barack Obama's budget proposal for the 2016 fiscal year seeks $14 billion (9 billion pounds) for cybersecurity efforts across the U.S. government to better protect federal and private networks from hacking threats.

Federal cybersecurity funding has steadily increased in recent years, reflecting the intensity of threats U.S. companies and government agencies are facing from cyber intruders, both domestic and foreign.

The budget, released on Monday, calls for deployment of more intrusion detection and prevention capabilities, greater sharing of data with the private sector and other countries and more funding to beef up the government's ability to respond to attacks.

The funding would support several specific programs, such as monitoring and diagnostics of federal computer networks, the EINSTEIN intrusion detection and prevention system and government-wide testing and incident-response training.

"Cyber threats targeting the private sector, critical infrastructure and the federal government demonstrate that no sector, network or system is immune to infiltration by those seeking to steal commercial or government secrets and property or perpetrate malicious and disruptive activity," the White House summary said.

It is unclear how much funding the Republican-controlled Congress will dedicate to cybersecurity efforts during the next fiscal year.

Among various requests, the White House sought $227 million for construction of a Civilian Cyber Campus, meant to spur public-private partnerships, and $160 million for information technology and cybersecurity of the weapons programme at the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Pentagon's budget alone called for $5.5 billion in funding for cybersecurity. The agency's chief weapons tester last month told Congress that nearly every U.S. weapons programme showed "significant vulnerabilities" to cyber attacks, including misconfigured, unpatched and outdated software.

Increased funding for protection of government networks would be good news for big weapons makers like Lockheed Martin Corp, General Dynamics Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp and Raytheon, which already play a big role in cybersecurity, encryption and analysis for defences and intelligence agencies.

A range of medium-sized and smaller companies is also poised to benefit, including Science Applications International Corp, Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI International and Computer Sciences Corp.

In the private sector, where companies have grown increasingly concerned in the wake of attacks on retailers, banks and others, higher spending is likely to boost companies like Hewlett Packard, which offers cybersecurity services.

The White House's budget for most agencies referenced their cybersecurity efforts, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Personnel Management. Obama also asked for at least $28 million for the Agriculture Department's Chief Information Officer to improve the agency's cybersecurity and $15 million for the FBI's grants, training, and technical assistance programme that helps local law enforcement fight economic, high-technology and Internet crimes.

Source Reuters
Read more ...

USA putting pressure on Cuba to reinstate diplomatoc relations before April

A man stands near the national flags of the U.S. and Cuba (R) on the balcony of a hotel being used by the first U.S. congressional delegation to Cuba since the change of policy announced by U.S. President Barack Obama on December 17, in Havana, January 19, 2015.
he United States is pressing Cuba to allow the opening of its embassy in Havana by April, U.S. officials told Reuters, despite the Communist island's demand that it first be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

A refusal by Cuba to allow the United States to quickly establish an official embassy for the first time in half a century could complicate talks between the Cold War foes, reflecting enduring mistrust as they move to end decades of confrontation.

Striking Cuba from the terrorism list could take until June or longer, although the White House is pushing officials to move quickly, said two U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the State Department's review to take Cuba off the list.

Washington is eager to re-establish diplomatic ties before a regional summit in Panama in April, when President Barack Obama will meet Cuban leader Raul Castro for the first time since 2013, the officials said.

The two leaders announced a historic deal on Dec. 17 to restore relations. U.S. and Cuban diplomats will meet this month or in early March in Washington for a second round of talks.

While renewing diplomatic relations could happen quickly, the process to normalize, including removing the U.S. trade embargo, will take far longer.

Cuba has not made removal from the list a condition for restoring ties, U.S. officials said. But Havana made clear during the first round of talks last month that it first wants to be removed from the terrorism list.

GETTING OFF THE LIST

For Cuba, which considers its designation an injustice, getting removed from the list would be a long-coveted propaganda victory at home and abroad.

Washington placed Cuba on the list in 1982, citing then President Fidel Castro's training and arming of Communist rebels in Africa and Latin America. The list is short: just Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba.

But Cuba's presence on the list has been questioned in recent years. The State Department's latest annual "Country Reports on Terrorism" says Cuba has long provided a safe haven for members of the Basque separatist group ETA and Colombia's left-wing FARC guerrillas.

But ETA, severely weakened by Spanish and French police, called a ceasefire in 2011 and has pledged to disarm. And the FARC has been in peace talks with the Colombian government for the past two years, with Cuba as host.

Even the State Department acknowledged in its report that Cuba has made progress. "There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups," it said.

Cuba raised this issue before January's talks in Havana. A senior official from Cuba’s foreign ministry told reporters on Jan. 20 that it was "unfair" to keep Cuba on the State Department's list.

"We cannot conceive of re-establishing diplomatic relations while Cuba continues to be included on the list," the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It doesn't make any sense that we re-establish diplomatic relations and Cuba continues (on the list)."

It is rare, though not unheard of, for the United States to remove entities or countries from its list of terrorist supporters. One entity which was removed following a lengthy and intense lobbying campaign was the Mujahiddin e Khalq, a controversial and cult-like Iranian group.

The designation also comes with economic sanctions, and can result in fines for companies that do business with countries on the list, such as a record $8.9 billion penalty that French bank BNP Paribas paid last year for doing business with Sudan, Iran and Cuba.

As part of the U.S. shift in policy toward Cuba, the White House ordered a State Department review of Cuba's listing as a state sponsor of terrorism, the U.S. officials said.

A U.S. national security official said intelligence agencies were under pressure from senior Obama administration officials to complete their role in the removal process by March.

"The process is under way," said the official.

To finalize Cuba's removal, Obama would need to submit to Congress a report stating Havana had not supported terrorism-related activities for six months, and that Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support terrorism in the future. Cuba would be automatically dropped from the list 45 days later.

Getting the embassy open is also tricky.

Converting the six-story U.S. interests sections in Havana into a full-fledged embassy after 53 years would require ending restrictions on the number of U.S. personnel in Havana, limits on diplomats' movements and appointing an ambassador. It would allow the U.S. to renovate the building and have U.S. security posted around the building, replacing Cuban police.

Cuba also wants the United States to scale back its support for Cuban dissidents when the sides meet again. U.S. administration officials have stood firm both publicly and privately that they intend to keep supporting the dissidents.

"I can't imagine that we would go to the next stage of our diplomatic relationship with an agreement not to see democracy activists," U.S. negotiator Roberta Jacobson told a hearing chaired by Sen. Marco Rubio, a vocal Republican opponent of Obama's new Cuba policy.

Source Reuters
Read more ...

Friday, 24 October 2014

Putin accuses United States of damaging world order

Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends the closing ceremony of Europe-Asia summit in Milan, October 17, 2014.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Friday of endangering global security by imposing a "unilateral diktat" on the rest of the world and shifted blame for the Ukraine crisis onto the West.

In a 40-minute diatribe against the West that was reminiscent of the Cold War and underlined the depth of the rift between Moscow and the West, Putin also denied trying to rebuild the Soviet empire at the expense of Russia's neighbors.

"We did not start this," Putin told an informal group of experts on Russia that includes many Western specialists critical of him, warning that Washington was trying to "remake the whole world" based on its own interests.



"Statements that Russia is trying to reinstate some sort of empire, that it is encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbors, are groundless," the former KGB spy declared in a speech delivered standing at a podium, without a smile, in a ski resort in mountains above the Black Sea city of Sochi.

Listing a series of conflicts in which he faulted U.S. actions, including Libya, Syria and Iraq, Putin asked whether Washington's policies had strengthened peace and democracy.

"No," he declared. "The unilateral diktat and the imposing of schemes (on others) have exactly the opposite effect."

Putin, 62, has stepped up anti-Western rhetoric since returning to the Kremlin as president in 2012, helping push up his popularity ratings since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March.

Even so, the speech was one of the most hostile Putin has delivered against the West and it appeared partly intended to show Russian voters he will stand up to the rest of the world and defend their interests.

The criticisms of a world order dominated by Washington, more than two decades after the Cold War, recalled a 2007 speech in Munich in which Putin shocked the West by lambasting Washington's "unipolar" world view. The speech prompted many Western leaders to reassess their view of Putin.

SHIFTING THE BLAME

The annual meetings of what is known as the Valdai Club have rarely featured such open, direct and tough language in their debates on Russian policy.

Critics say the meetings have become a showcase for Kremlin policy, with the session attended by Putin shown live on state television and little discussion of Russia's record on human rights and democracy, which is criticized in the West.

Putin rejected criticism over the Ukraine crisis, in which Moscow has sided with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, and threw the West's criticisms of Moscow back in its face.

Repeating accusations that Western governments helped pro-Western groups stage a coup d'etat that ousted a pro-Moscow president in Kiev in February, Putin said: "No one wanted to listen to us and no one wanted to talk to us."

"Instead of a difficult but, I underline, civilized dialogue they brought about a state coup. They pushed the country into chaos, economic and social collapse, and civil war with huge losses," he said.

Dismissing U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed on Moscow as a mistake, he said: "Russia will not be posturing, get offended, ask someone for anything. Russia is self-sufficient."

He made only passing references to the decline of Russia's $2 trillion economy, which is in danger of sliding into recession as its currency tumbles along with the price of oil, its main export item.

But he said in a question and answer session after his speech that Russia would not burn though its gold and foreign currency reserves thoughtlessly to prop up the economy.

Putin has increasingly sought to shift blame for the economic crisis onto global problems, the sanctions and the oil price. He and other Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have also used increasingly tough language to blame the West for the Ukraine crisis.

A ceasefire has been in force in Ukraine since Sept. 5, but it has been violated daily and the West says Moscow continues to have troops and weapons in east Ukraine. Russia denies this.
Source Reuters
Read more ...

Alabama man gets $1,000 in police settlement, his lawyers get $459,000

An Alabama man who sued over being hit and kicked by police after leading them on a high-speed chase will get $1,000 in a settlement with the city of Birmingham, while his attorneys will take in $459,000, officials said Wednesday.

The incident gained public attention with the release of a 2008 video of police officers punching and kicking Anthony Warren as he lay on the ground after leading them on a roughly 20-minute high-speed chase.

Warren is serving a 20-year sentence for attempted murder stemming from his running over a police officer during the chase, in which he also hit a school bus and a patrol car before crashing and being ejected from his vehicle.

Under the terms of the settlement of Warren's 2009 federal suit, in which he accused five Birmingham police officers of excessive force, his attorneys will receive $100,000 for expenses and $359,000 in fees, said Michael Choy, an attorney representing the officers on behalf of the city.



The agreement was reached last month and approved on Tuesday by the Birmingham City Council.

The city settled to avoid further litigation and the risk of a higher payout, Choy said.

Warren's attorneys, Wendy Brooks Crew, Alyson Hood Rains and Cameron Hogan, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Source Reuters
Read more ...

Police in Ferguson committed human rights abuses: Amnesty report

Protesters rally during a demonstration outside the Ferguson police department in Ferguson, Missouri October 13, 2014.
 Police in Ferguson, Missouri, committed human rights abuses as they sought to quell mostly peaceful protests that erupted after an officer killed an unarmed black teenager, an international human rights organization said in a report released on Friday.

The Amnesty International report said law enforcement officers should be investigated by U.S. authorities for the abuses, which occurred during weeks of racially charged protests that erupted after white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, 18, on Aug. 9.

The use by law enforcement of rubber bullets, tear gas and heavy military equipment and restrictions placed on peaceful protesters all violated international standards, the group said.

Amnesty said it sent a delegation to Ferguson from Aug. 14-22 to monitor the situation.

When asked about the allegations, Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department, which helped oversee law enforcement operations in Ferguson, said police "had one mission, and that was the preservation of life."

The report also criticizes a Missouri law that the group said may be unconstitutional because it allows police to use deadly force against someone even if there is no imminent threat of harm.

The report calls on state lawmakers to make Missouri law comply with international standards making lethal force by police a last resort, said Rachel Ward, director of research at Amnesty International.

"Lethal force is only to be used to protect life when there is an immediate threat," Ward said. "The Missouri statute goes far beyond that. It is of grave concern."

Amnesty cited a Missouri statute that says a police officer may use deadly force "in effecting an arrest or in preventing an escape from custody" when that officer "reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest and also reasonably believes that the person to be arrested ... has committed or attempted to commit a felony."

A grand jury in St. Louis County is weighing whether or not Wilson should be charged in Brown's death. Wilson has not spoken publicly about the incident.

The Justice Department is investigating Brown's killing and the Ferguson Police Department.

Witnesses and law enforcement officials have said Brown and Wilson got into an altercation after Wilson told Brown to stop walking down the middle of a street. Wilson shot Brown six times. Some witnesses have said Brown had his hands up in surrender when the last shots were fired.

"Michael Brown was unarmed and thus unlikely to have presented a serious threat to the life of the police officer," the report said.

Source Reuters
Read more ...

Thursday, 16 October 2014

American country singer Aldean tops Billboard chart for second time

Country singer Jason Aldean performs on the main stage during the second day of the Stagecoach country music festival in Indio, California April 26, 2014.
Country singer Jason Aldean landed his second No. 1 record on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart on Wednesday, leading a slew of new debuts.

"Old Boots, New Dirt," the sixth album from Aldean, sold 278,000 copies in its first week, according to sales figures compiled by Nielsen SoundScan. It is the third-largest opening sales week this year, behind Coldplay's "Ghost Stories" and Eric Church's "The Outsiders."

It was also streamed more than 3 million times in its first day on online streaming platform Spotify, the biggest first day for a country album, the service said.

Aldean's album sold more than four times more copies than Irish indie artist Hozier, who came in at No. 2 on the chart this week with his self-titled album selling 58,000 copies.

Last week's chart-topper, country singer Blake Shelton's "Bringing Back the Sunshine," dropped to No. 6 this week.

Other new debuts in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart, which measures physical and digital album sales, include alt-rockers Weezer at No. 5 with "Everything Will Be Alright in the End."

Veteran singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks entered the chart at No. 7 with "24 Karat Gold - Songs from the Vault," a collection of her early recordings. "X Factor" pop couple Alex & Sierra came in at No. 8 with "It's About Us," and R&B singer Keyshia Cole's "Point of No Return" debuted at No. 9.

For the week ending Oct. 12, total album sales clocked in at 4.47 million units, down 15 percent from the comparable week in 2013. Year-to-date sales figures stand at 883.54 million, down 13 percent from last year when sales topped the 1 billion mark in October, Billboard said.
Source rEUTERS
Read more ...

Fidelity's Rossi says to buy U.S. stocks despite rout

A trader gestures at his screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York October 15, 2014.
The underlying strength of the U.S. economy should enable U.S. stocks to recover from this week's sell-off, said Fidelity Worldwide Investments' Dominic Rossi, which he said had been made worse by hedge funds' "poor" trades.

Stocks in Europe and U.S. equity futures extended their losses on Thursday, after Wednesday's global market rout, mainly caused by mounting concerns over the strength of the global economy.

The triggers for the equity sell-off had been a rise in the U.S. dollar and expectations of an eventual U.S. rate rise, said Rossi, global chief investment officer for equities at Fidelity Worldwide Investments, which manages $290 billion in assets, though he also blamed other funds' trading strategies.

"The structural factor that has triggered this relates to U.S. dollar and tightening financial conditions, but the market correction has been exaggerated by poor positioning," said Rossi.

"Long-only funds have not moved much but the hedge fund industry has been caught on the wrong side of the trade. And when hedge funds get caught they tend to sell first and ask questions later."

U.S. OUTLOOK STRONG, EUROPE MIXED

Rossi described the equity market slump of the last two weeks, which has seen the U.S S&P 500 index .SPX fall around 7 percent from record highs on Sept. 18, as a "mid-market correction" within a longer-term bull market.

"I'm looking to buy markets at current levels, particularly U.S. securities," said Rossi, adding he expected U.S. stock markets to beat their 2014 highs next year, and for the U.S. equity market to offer double-digit returns in 2015.

Rossi said developed economy stock markets would outperform emerging markets' equities, although he added that European equities were "stuck in the middle."

However, Rossi said a fall in the euro EUR=, oil prices and European stock market valuations would prop up European equities over the next year.

"At these levels, I'm not nearly as pessimistic about European markets as I was a few months ago."
Source Reuters
Read more ...

Wall Street set for sharply lower open as selloff continues

A trader watches the screen at his terminal on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York October 15, 2014.
 U.S. stocks index futures were poised to open sharply lower on Thursday, after the S&P 500 closed at its lowest in six months, amid concerns about weak global demand and its potential impact on the U.S. economy and businesses.

The S&P 500 .SPX and Nasdaq .IXIC briefly fell into negative territory for the year on Wednesday, as the S&P tumbled more than 3 percent to a session low before rallying late in the session. The drop also came on worries over the spread of Ebola and its possible impact on the travel industry.

The benchmark S&P index has dropped in six of the past eight sessions and is down 7.4 percent from a record closing high Sept. 18. The CBOE Volatility index .VIX is up 118 percent since the S&P record, and closed Wednesday at its highest since June 2012. The VelocityShares Daily 2x VIX Short Term (TVIX.O) exchange-traded note jumped 28.7 percent to $6.28 in premarket.



Recent earnings reports have done little to stem the tide of the equity rout. Netflix shares (NFLX.O) plunged 26.1 percent to $331.52 in premarket after it reported quarterly results and said it signed up fewer video-streaming subscribers than forecast for the quarter.

Goldman Sachs (GS.N) shares were off 3.7 percent to $173.25 in premarket after posting quarterly results.

Futures briefly pared losses after labor market data showed initial jobless claims data dropped 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 264,000, its lowest since 2000, but the market quickly moved back to prior levels.

"The challenge with earnings is it's all backward looking and the market is always forward looking," said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

"When you get in a mode like we are in now, where the market is clearly bearish, investors are somewhat fearful, they tend to focus more on the negatives than the positives, which is why they are ignoring this jobless claims number."

S&P 500 e-mini futures ESc1 were down 20.75 points and fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract, indicated a sharply lower open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures 1YMc1 fell 138 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures NQc1 lost 44.75 points.

The earnings of S&P 500 companies are expected to grow 6.7 percent in the third quarter, according to Thomson Reuters data through Wednesday, on revenue growth of 4 percent. Google (GOOGL.O) is expected to report earnings after the closing bell on Thursday.

Shortly after the open, at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT), the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market index and Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing business outlook for October are due.

Baker Hughes (BHI.N) shares tumbled 10.6 percent to $47.95 after the world's No.3 oilfield services provider reported a lower-than-expected profit for the first time in five quarters.
Source Reuters
Read more ...

Moynihan reshapes Bank of America for an era without big legal costs

Bank of America Chairman and Chief Executive Brian Moynihan speaks during the Institute of International Finance Annual Meeting in Washington October 10, 2014.
 While Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) Chairman and Chief Executive Brian Moynihan has been working to end legal problems, he has also been quietly retooling the bank for a post-crisis world.

He has taken more direct control over the bank's retail business and shifted executives into new positions, sources familiar with the matter said. He has ordered officials at every level of the bank to think harder about how to sell more products to existing customers, a practice that many banks have tried but few have successfully executed.

Moynihan has also helped reshape the board, and his sway with directors only increased when he became chairman earlier this month, the sources said.

The broad changes that he has made signal that he is planning to remain at the bank for the long haul, a minimum of five years, they said.

Some investors have speculated that once Moynihan, a lawyer by training, was done with legal settlements linked to the 2008-2009 housing and financial crisis, he would head for the exits.

Sources at the bank said that notion was false. Key investors fully support Moynihan as well.

    "Brian has done a superb job of taking the B of A back to basics and clearing up the problems from the past," Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N), wrote in an email to Reuters. "He is exactly the right CEO to move the company forward and has the ingredients in place to do so." Berkshire Hathaway owns Bank of America preferred stock and warrants to buy 700 million common shares.

Some media outlets have speculated that when Moynihan does leave, Tom Montag, chief operating officer, will be in pole position to take the CEO spot. The sources at the bank dismissed that speculation, noting that Montag, 57, is older than Moynihan, 55, and that Moynihan is inclined to groom younger successors.          

Results the bank posted on Wednesday underscore how much work Moynihan still has to do. The bank posted a $70 million loss for common shareholders, after setting aside an extra $5.6 billion to cover a settlement with the Department of Justice over shoddy bond mortgage underwriting.

That settlement is only the latest in a string: since 2010, Bank of America has agreed to pay more than $70 billion to resolve legal disputes and buy back bad mortgages linked to the financial crisis. The bank's total tally of settlements seems to rise every quarter, to the chagrin of investors.

While the bank is hopeful that the worst of the settlements is behind it, its latest results show that its challenges extend beyond legal costs. Its revenue is stagnant, having hovered around $21 billion per quarter since 2012.

Moynihan is trying to boost the top line by selling more products to existing customers. The bank is pitching credit cards and home equity loans to its checking account holders, and is talking to its corporate borrowers about treasury and retirement-planning services.

These are standard moves for the head of a retail bank, but Bank of America is trying to take them a little further. In early October, it began offering a rewards program nationally to customers who do more business with the bank. Some of the perks include discounted rates on mortgages and home equity loans and greater benefits on credit cards. That program was launched in a few markets in June in a pilot program.

BIGGEST PROFIT ENGINE

To help ensure that his strategy is being properly implemented, Moynihan began directly overseeing retail banking - Bank of America's biggest profit engine - earlier this year.

The heads of the retail banking group, Dean Athanasia and Thong Nguyen, had been reporting to David Darnell, a co-chief operating officer who oversaw all retail-facing businesses. In August, the bank said Darnell was becoming a vice chairman, and Athanasia and Nguyen, would instead report directly to the CEO.

Athanasia is co-leading the retail bank from Boston, a change for a group that had long been based in Charlotte, where Nguyen works.

Moynihan sees younger executives like Athanasia and Nguyen as among his possible successors, sources said, although there is no front-runner for that role.

Moynihan worked with Athanasia and Nguyen at FleetBoston, which Bank of America bought in 2004. Other FleetBoston executives have also been given top roles, including Terry Laughlin, who was chief risk officer until his appointment as president of strategic initiatives in April; Anne Finucane, the global chief strategy and marketing officer; and Christine Katziff, the bank's chief auditor.

While Moynihan has reshaped the executive ranks, he has also helped shape the board: Eight of the 14 current directors, including Moynihan, have joined since he became CEO in 2010. A ninth, Charles Gifford, was chairman and chief executive of FleetBoston.
Source Reuters
Read more ...

U.S. jobless claims fall to lowest level in 14 years

A man grabs his briefcase as he waits in line to speak with employers at the UJA-Federation Connect to Care job fair in New York, March 21, 2012.
The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell to a 14-year low last week, a positive signal that could counter doubts over whether the economy is shifting into a higher gear.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 264,000, the lowest level since 2000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

The decline suggests the labor market is gaining steam even as worries grow that the economy will not be strong enough for the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates around the middle of next year.

Weak retail sales data on Wednesday shook investor convictions over the path of Fed policy and helped fuel a global sell-off in financial markets that continued on Thursday. U.S. stock futures declined even after the claims data.

The report nonetheless reinforces expectations that slack in the labor market is being reduced, which would push the Fed closer to raising rates.

"Have we achieved full employment? Not yet. Are we getting closer? Absolutely," said Stephen Stanley, an economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities.

U.S. stock futures were pointing to a lower open on Thursday. The S&P 500 index .SPX on Wednesday closed at its lowest level in six months.

While the spike in layoffs during the 2007-2009 recession is decidedly in America's rear-view mirror, the pace of hiring has only increased modestly over the last year and the jobless rate remains elevated at 5.9 percent.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 290,000 for the week ended Oct. 11.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 4,250 to 283,500, also its lowest level since 2000.

The Labor Department said there were no special factors influencing the state level claims data.

The report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid rose 7,000 to 2.39 million in the week ended October 4.
Source Reuters
Read more ...

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Ferguson Police's '5 Second Rule' Is Unconstitutional, Court Finds

A protester holds up a sign as police try to keep protesters and media moving by not allowing anyone to congregate Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.


Ferguson's protesters no longer have to keep moving if told to do so by police.

A federal judge decided on Monday that a so-called "five-second rule" imposed by police on Ferguson's protesters is unconstitutional.


The judge, Catherine D. Perry of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, wrote in granting a preliminary injunction that "the practice of requiring peaceful demonstrators and others to walk, rather than stand still, violated the Constitution."

The rule refers to a tactic adopted August 18th by St. Louis area law enforcement, when officers at a roll call were instructed to tell protesters they had to keep moving, or face arrest. The tactic was used by top officials in the Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police, and St. Louis City Police in the days and weeks that followed to disperse protesters who had gathered to protest the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

Many of those encounters were captured on video and shared on Twitter. (Hover over each Vine video below and click the speaker icon in the corner of the frame to hear audio.)

It was named the "five-second rule" by the ACLU, because protesters were told they had five seconds to move along — or else.

Judge Perry took pains to point out the ruling wasn't intended to restrict law enforcement's ability to break up a rowdy protest. Rather, she writes, the injunction is meant to prevent enforcement of an "ad hoc rule" made up by Ferguson's police during the protests.

    "Law enforcement must be able to use the full range of lawful means to control crowds and protest people and property from acts of violence and vandalism, including ordering a crowd to move or disperse if law enforcement officers believe the crowd is assembled for the purpose of violence or rioting. Nor does this order prevent authorities from restricting protesting in certain areas or making other reasonable restrictions on the protests' time, place and manner. This injunction prevents only the enforcement of an ad hoc rule developed for the Ferguson protests that directed police officers, if they felt like it, to order peaceful, law-abiding protesters to keep moving rather than standing still."

The decision is binding effective immediately.

While it isn't clear how many protesters were arrested over the ad-hoc rule, Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU's Missouri division, tells Mashable it directly affects hundreds of people who "gave up the right to protest by leaving the scene, or kept moving to obey the rule."

"We're thrilled with the court's decision," Rothert said in a phone interview with Mashable shortly after the ruling was issued.

"When we're talking to protesters we always suggest they be polite and do what the police say — even if you think they are violating the constitution — and let us go to court and press the constitutional problem for you rather than you get arrested," he said.

But that advice only works if the courts actually step in and enforce the constitution.

"And that's what the court did here," said Rothert. "So we're very pleased with that.

    We think this will help bring a lot of peace and calm to the protests in Ferguson.

We think this will help bring a lot of peace and calm to the protests in Ferguson."

A spokesperson for the St. Louis County Police said the department supported the judge's decision.

"The police department understands, respects, and will fully comply with Judge Perry's decision," said Sergeant Brian Schellman, Public Information Coordinator at the St. Louis County Police Department. "It will not affect our plans as we were not going to use it going forward."

The Missouri State Highway Patrol praised the ruling, too: "From the outset, the overriding goal of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Unified Command has been to allow citizens to speak while keeping the community safe," it said in a statement. "Today’s ruling is consistent with these principles because it allows protesters to exercise their constitutional rights to peaceably assemble but also allows law enforcement to impose appropriate restrictions to protect the public from violence."

The Ferguson Police Department, where the officer who shot Michael Brown is an officer, issued no comment following the ruling.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Source Mashable
Read more ...

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The FBI Is Now Involved in Hunt for the Celebrity Nude Photo Hacker

Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead, one of the celebrities whose photos were taken, at the Independent Spirit Awards on Feb. 23, 2013, in Santa Monica, California.


The FBI is looking into the iCloud celebrity photos hack, though it did not say whether it has opened an investigation.

Anonymous users began posting nude photos of actors and celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Mary E. Winstead on the image-sharing websites AnonIB and 4Chan over the past week after the photos were allegedly stolen from the stars' iCloud accounts. As the images began to spread, an anonymous 4Chan user posted a list of dozens of other celebrities he or she claims to have photos and videos of. Some photos have been verified by the subjects, while the authenticity of others has been contested.

“The FBI is aware of the allegations concerning computer intrusions and the unlawful release of material involving high-profile individuals, and is addressing the matter," FBI public affairs officer Christopher Allen said in a statement provided to Mashable. "Any further comment would be inappropriate at this time.”

    A representative from the Los Angeles Police Department told Mashable that it is "not investigating any hacking incidents."

A representative from the Los Angeles Police Department told Mashable that it is "not investigating any hacking incidents."

Representatives for Jennifer Lawrence told Mashable they had gotten in touch with "authorities" soon after nude pictures of Lawrence began appearing online Sunday.

“This is a flagrant violation of privacy," a spokesperson for Lawrence said. "The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.”

Apple also told Mashable that it is looking into the hack.

"We take user privacy very seriously and are actively investigating this report," Apple representatives said.

Mashable has also learned that Apple is working directly with celebrities and their publicists to investigate the breach.

Though the culprit or culprits remain unidentified, the allegedly enormous cache of nude celebrity photos likely comes from the work of several hackers who have been involved in a deep-web celebrity image-trading network that may have existed for years, according to Gawker.

A member of the network may have begun to leak the photos in recent weeks, which led to the images surfacing on more public websites on Sunday. Other leakers may have joined in once some images went public.

One AnonIB user, whom other users have dubbed the "original leaker," seemed to confirm that the stash of photos is the result of multiple hackers.

"Guys, I didn't do this by myself," he or she wrote. "There were several other people who were in on it and I needed to count on them to make this happen."

The user also claimed to be changing location to avoid authorities.

One 4Chan user, Bryan Hamade, was thought to be an original leaker after he asked for bitcoin donations from 4Chan users in exchange for more photos. He offered proof of more images by uploading a screenshot of his hard drive, but didn't scrub the name of his hard drive or the name of the hard drive network from that screenshot, allowing Reddit users to quickly dig up his identity.

Hamade, a server administrator for Southern Digital Media, adamantly denied that he was involved in the hacking in a response to questions by several media outlets. He said he was just trying to make out with some bitcoin donations, though Gawker reports that some photos have appeared on Hamade's posts and nowhere else, meaning he may be more than just a copycat.

Though no legal authority has confirmed opening a criminal case investigating the privacy breach, recent precedent shows that the hacker could face serious time behind bars.

Christopher Chaney was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2012 after he was convicted of hacking into celebrity email accounts, stealing nude images of stars such as Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis, and posting those photos online.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.
Topics: Celebrities, Dev & Design, Entertainment, FBI, Film, hack, jennifer lawrence, Music, Photos, Television, U.S.
Source Mashable
Read more ...

Islamic State Releases Video Showing Beheading of U.S. Journalist Steven Sotloff

American journalist Steven Sotloff (center with black helmet) talks to Libyan rebels on the Al Dafniya front line in June 2011 in Misrata, Libya.
The radical group the Islamic State released a video on Tuesday showing the beheading of a second American journalist.


In the two-camera video, titled "A Second Message to America," Steven Sotloff, wearing an orange jumpsuit, can be seen kneeling in the desert in front of a man dressed in black, holding a serrated knife.
Sotloff, who appears remarkably composed, then says, "I am Steven Joel Sotloff. I am sure that by now you know exactly who I am and why I am appearing before you." He then recites a propaganda message seemingly prepared for him by his captors. Afterward, his captor says, "I'm back, Obama, and I'm back because of your arrogant foreign policy against the Islamic State," in what sounds like a London accent.

The footage closely resembles a video depicting the beheading of American journalist James Foley two weeks ago. The executioner in that video also appeared to have a London accent, though it was unclear if this was the same man.

In the Foley video, Sotloff was dragged before the camera toward the end. The masked man said Sotloff’s life depended in part on whether the United States would stop bombing Islamic State militants in Iraq.

The Islamic State threatened to kill a third man in the video released Tuesday. He was identified as David Cawthorne Haines, from Britain.

The news was first confirmed by the SITE Intel Group, which monitors extremist networks.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. had not yet confirmed the video, but intelligence officials will analyze it to determine its authenticity. He added that the U.S. had tried to rescue Sotloff.

"This is something that the administration has obviously been watching very carefully since this threat against Mr. Sotloff's life was originally made a few weeks ago," Earnest said. "The United States, as you know, has dedicated significant time and resources to try and rescue Mr. Sotloff."

Earnest also expressed his condolences to Sotloff's family.

"Our thoughts and prayers, first and foremost, are with Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Sotloff's family and those who worked with him."

Sotloff’s mother released a video of her own last week pleading for her son’s life. In it, she addressed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by his self-proclaimed title, caliph.

“I ask you please to release my child,” Shirley Sotloff said. “I ask you to use your authority to spare his life.”

Sotloff, a 31-year-old journalist who has worked for several media publications including Time, vanished in Syria around one year ago. He’s written about the life of Syrian refugees in a tent city, the violent assault on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya and attacks on Benghazi police.

Eliot Higgins, a blogger better known for his online alias Brown Moses, claimed to have identified the location where the Islamic State executed James Foley by looking at the position of the shadows of the journalist and his murderer, as well as details visible in the video that he was able to match with satellite images. After looking at the video of Sotloff's beheading, Higgins told Mashable that it doesn't appear to have been filmed in the same area.

On Twitter, Higgins added that it took him a couple of days to narrow down the location of Foley's execution, and that based on what he has seen so far, Sotloff's video appears to have been shot in a "different location."

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.
Topics: beheading, IS, Islamic State, Steven Sotloff, US & World, World
Source Mashable
Read more ...

Thursday, 28 August 2014

NASA Is Building 'World’s Most Powerful Rocket'



NASA is one step closer to building its next spaceship.

Officials approved the Space Launch System’s transition from the formula phase to the development phase on Wednesday.


NASA administrator Charles Bolden called it a "journey of scientific and human exploration that leads to Mars."

The Space Launch System, or SLS, is the first exploration-class vehicle designed to get beyond low Earth orbit since the Apollo program. NASA says it will be the world's most powerful rocket.

With a lift capacity of as much as 130 metric tons, the SLS could carry between two and six astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft, plus all the equipment and fuel needed to support missions to the moon, an asteroid or Mars.

"We’re firmly committed to building the launch vehicle and other supporting systems that will take us on that journey," Bolden said.

From inception to first launch, the SLS program is expected to cost a little more than $7 billion. If all goes according to plan, NASA will send its first crewed flight in 2021. This gets the space agency one step closer to its goal of sending a manned mission to Mars by 2030.

NASA engineers are already gathering the parts SLS will need, including RS-25 thrusters, the same main engines that the space shuttle used. Other assembly facilities are turning out entirely new pieces of flight hardware as the development phase gets underway.

NASA is calling the SLS the world's "most capable" rocket. The next phase for the spaceship is the Critical Design Review. If everything goes according to plan, an unmanned test launch should happen no later than 2018.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.
Topics: Mars, NASA, Space, US & World

Source Mashable
Read more ...

Why Are Armed Drones Not Being Used in Iraq?

A Predator B drone taxis at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas on Nov. 8, 2011.


For years, the Obama administration's favored method to combat Al Qaeda-affiliated extremists in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia has been controversial drone programs, operated by the CIA and the Pentagon.

But when it comes to fighting the radical Islamic State in Iraq, the administration has seemed less reliant on missile-firing drones.

See also: Why the Islamic State Is Scarier Than al-Qaeda in Iraq

Experts say that one reason why the U.S. military hasn't used armed drones more widely in Iraq this time around may be because drones are no longer an effective weapon, given the size and scope of the Islamic State.

“The nature of [the Islamic State] has grown to such an extent that it’s no longer just pinpoint strikes that drones can take out," said Phillip Lohaus, a former analyst with the U.S. military in Iraq, told Mashable.

    "It requires more."

"It requires more."

Lohaus, who is now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, said that while drones can be effective when targeting individuals for assassination, conventional airstrikes are more effective for larger strategic targets such as artillery positions.

(The Obama administration has long been criticized for its the use of drones for such assassination campaigns, which have exerted high civilian tolls.)

Predator, Iraq

A Predator drone sits on the Bravo South parking ramp at Balad Air Base, Iraq on June 3, 2006.

Image: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tony R. Tolley/Associated Press

Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official, echoed Lohaus' assessment on the efficacy of unmanned drones. "It would be much harder to get that same effect," said Lewis, who is now a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Furthermore,

    airstrikes also have a symbolic importance.

airstrikes also have a symbolic importance.

“It’s a little bit different in this case because they want to send the message that the United States is doing something," he said. “The public airstrikes send a message...that we’re still involved in [Iraq's] security.”

In recent weeks, there has been a growing debate in Washington about whether the U.S. should get involved in Syria, where the Islamic State has set up a de facto capital in Raqqa.

But strikes inside Syria — be they from drones or conventional airstrikes — are complicated by other strategic considerations, including whether such strikes would help the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, which has committed atrocities against the civilian population during a long war there.

The U.S. has said it will not coordinate airstrikes with the Assad regime, meaning any attacks inside Syria will be forced to evade Syrian air defenses.

Furthermore, the Syrian regime this week warned the U.S. that airstrikes on Syrian soil would be considered an aggressive act, unless they were cleared with Damascus first.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.
Topics: Drones, iraq, ISIL, Isis, Islamic State, Syria, united states, U.S., US & World, World

Source Mashable
Read more ...

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...