January 15, 2018

USA: Islamist Militant Group Hezbollah Funded By Iranian Mullahs Exploded Into A Major Cocaine Trafficker For The U.S. Under Former President Obama's Watch To Help Score A Nuclear Deal With Iran.

Newsweek
written by Robert Valencia
December 18, 2017

The Islamist militant group Hezbollah exploded into a major cocaine trafficker for the United States over the past decade—and it happened under former President Barack Obama's watch to help score a nuclear deal with Iran, a report revealed Monday.

Project Cassandra, a campaign launched by the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2008, found that the Iran-backed military and political organization collected $1 billion a year from money laundering, criminal activities, and drug and weapons trade, according to Politico. Over the following eight years, the agency found that Hezbollah was involved in cocaine shipments from Latin America to West Africa, as well as through Venezuela and Mexico to the United States.

The Obama administration halted Project Cassandra as it was approaching the upper echelons of Hezbollah’s conspiracy in order to seal a nuclear deal with Iran, even though Hezbollah was still funneling cocaine into America. Officials at the U.S. Justice and Treasury departments delayed the project’s requests to conduct relevant investigations, prosecutions and arrests. Obama eventually helped strike the Iran deal with several other nations in 2015.

Because of the project's sudden end, it is hard to determine how much cocaine has come into the U.S. from Hezbollah-affiliated networks. But through Venezuela alone, Hezbollah sent thousands of tons to the United States in a matter of years.

The Obama administration also did not move forward to extradite two Venezuelan citizens who were deeply involved between the South American country, Hezbollah, Iran and drug trafficking: businessman Walid Makled and former chief of intelligence Hugo Carvajal.

In the years after the 9/11 attacks, Iran and Hezbollah’s influence in Latin America thrived with the help of populist leaders. Venezuela's then-President Hugo Chávez worked alongside Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah on drug trade and other activities to weaken the U.S. clout in the region. Within a few years, cocaine trafficking from Venezuela to the U.S. soared from 50 tons a year to 250 tons, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Statistics.

The findings corroborate that the rise of populism in Latin America was fertile ground for Iran and Hezbollah’s intentions. Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department found that Hezbollah strengthened its relationship with Mexican and Colombian cartels and established operations in Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela’s island of Margarita.

In February, the Trump administration sanctioned Venezuelan officials, including acting Vice President Tareck El Aissami, due to his alleged role in Hezbollah’s money laundering. El Aissami "facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela … He oversaw or partially owned narcotic shipments of over 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including those with final destinations of Mexico and the United States,” the Treasury Department said.

Hezbollah’s activities in Latin America potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security. “Though U.S. authorities know that Hezbollah’s terror finance operations in Latin America are a growing threat, to date they have not been able to estimate its value accurately,” Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Hill.
Politico
written by Josh Meyer
December 18, 2017

PART I
A GLOBAL THREAT EMERGES
How Hezbollah turned to trafficking cocaine and laundering money through used cars to finance its expansion.

n its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States, according to a POLITICO investigation.

The campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.

Over the next eight years, agents working out of a top-secret DEA facility in Chantilly, Virginia, used wiretaps, undercover operations and informants to map Hezbollah’s illicit networks, with the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies.

They followed cocaine shipments, some from Latin America to West Africa and on to Europe and the Middle East, and others through Venezuela and Mexico to the United States. They tracked the river of dirty cash as it was laundered by, among other tactics, buying American used cars and shipping them to Africa. And with the help of some key cooperating witnesses, the agents traced the conspiracy, they believed, to the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.

They followed cocaine shipments, tracked a river of dirty cash, and traced what they believed to be the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.

But as Project Cassandra reached higher into the hierarchy of the conspiracy, Obama administration officials threw an increasingly insurmountable series of roadblocks in its way, according to interviews with dozens of participants who in many cases spoke for the first time about events shrouded in secrecy, and a review of government documents and court records. When Project Cassandra leaders sought approval for some significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, officials at the Justice and Treasury departments delayed, hindered or rejected their requests.

The Justice Department declined requests by Project Cassandra and other authorities to file criminal charges against major players such as Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits, and a central player in a U.S.-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force. And the State Department rejected requests to lure high-value targets to countries where they could be arrested.

December 15, 2011
The money, allegedly laundered through the Lebanese Canadian Bank and two exchange houses, involved approximately 30 U.S. car buyers.
“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said David Asher, who helped establish and oversee Project Cassandra as a Defense Department illicit finance analyst. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”

The untold story of Project Cassandra illustrates the immense difficulty in mapping and countering illicit networks in an age where global terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime have merged, but also the extent to which competing agendas among government agencies — and shifting priorities at the highest levels — can set back years of progress.

And while the pursuit may be shadowed in secrecy, from Latin American luxury hotels to car parks in Africa to the banks and battlefields of the Middle East, the impact is not: In this case, multi-ton loads of cocaine entering the United States, and hundreds of millions of dollars going to a U.S.-designated terrorist organization with vast reach.

Obama had entered office in 2009 promising to improve relations with Iran as part of a broader rapprochement with the Muslim world. On the campaign trail, he had asserted repeatedly that the Bush administration’s policy of pressuring Iran to stop its illicit nuclear program wasn’t working, and that he would reach out to Tehran to reduce tensions.

The man who would become Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and then CIA director, John Brennan, went further. He recommended in a policy paper that “the next president has the opportunity to set a new course for relations between the two countries” through not only a direct dialogue, but “greater assimilation of Hezbollah into Lebanon’s political system.”

By May 2010, Brennan, then assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, confirmed in a speech that the administration was looking for ways to build up “moderate elements” within Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah is a very interesting organization,” Brennan told a Washington conference, saying it had evolved from “purely a terrorist organization” to a militia and, ultimately, a political party with representatives in the Lebanese Parliament and Cabinet, according to a Reuters report.

“There is certainly the elements of Hezbollah that are truly a concern to us what they’re doing,” Brennan said. “And what we need to do is to find ways to diminish their influence within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate elements.”

In practice, the administration’s willingness to envision a new role for Hezbollah in the Middle East, combined with its desire for a negotiated settlement to Iran’s nuclear program, translated into a reluctance to move aggressively against the top Hezbollah operatives, according to Project Cassandra members and others.


Lebanese arms dealer Ali Fayad , a suspected top Hezbollah operative whom agents believed reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a key supplier of weapons to Syria and Iraq, was arrested in Prague in the spring of 2014. But for the nearly two years Fayad was in custody, top Obama administration officials declined to apply serious pressure on the Czech government to extradite him to the United States, even as Putin was lobbying aggressively against it.

Fayad, who had been indicted in U.S. courts on charges of planning the murders of U.S. government employees, attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization and attempting to acquire, transfer and use anti-aircraft missiles, was ultimately sent to Beirut. He is now believed by U.S. officials to be back in business, and helping to arm militants in Syria and elsewhere with Russian heavy weapons.

Please CLICK HERE to read the entire long very detailed article...

USA: MLK's Niece Alveda King Said It's 'Outrageous' That Critics Are 'Unjustly' Calling Trump Racist.


FOX News
written by Staff
Saturday January 13, 2018

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s niece ripped accusations that President Trump is a "racist" for speaking in an off-color manner about third world countries.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin claimed Trump referred to Haiti and the African continent as a "s**thole," prompting critics to label the president a racist.

Dr. Alveda King said Saturday on "Fox & Friends" such claims about Trump are "outrageous."
She said that Trump has done excellent work in highlighting the important accomplishments of her uncle, including officially declaring his Georgia birthplace a national historic park.

"Racism is just a word that is being bandied about and thrown... at the president unjustly," she said. "President Trump is not a racist."

King said that, in his reported remarks, Trump was not disparaging Africans or Haitians but instead calling attention to the fact many of their governments are inadequate and corrupt.

"Some of their own leaders have taken advantage of them," she said.

She also criticized American Urban Radio Networks correspondent April Ryan, who repeatedly shouted "are you a racist" at the president during the King Birthplace park signing ceremony.

USA: President Trump Signed Official Proclamation Making This Monday, January 15, The “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday."

The White House, 1600 Daily
January 12, 2018

Today, President Donald J. Trump will sign the official proclamation making this Monday, January 15, the “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday.” This year marks the first time in more than a decade that the federal holiday falls on King’s actual birthday.

Here is an advance look at what the President will tell Americans today:
  • Reverend King preached love throughout his life—love for each other, for our fellow Americans, and for humanity. That is what drove his work.
  • We celebrate King first and foremost for standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear: No matter the color of our skin, or the place of our birth, we are ALL created equal by God.
This April will mark half a century since King was cruelly taken from us by an assassin’s bullet. As we mourn his loss, we also pledge to fight for his dream of equality, freedom, justice, and peace.

The White House Published on Jan 12, 2018:
President Trump Signs a Proclamation to Honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day making this Monday, January 15, the “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday.”

This is President Trump's full speech.

FOX News

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s niece ripped accusations that President Trump is a "racist" for speaking in an off-color manner about third world countries.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin claimed Trump referred to Haiti and the African continent as a "s**thole," prompting critics to label the president a racist.

Dr. Alveda King said Saturday on "Fox & Friends" such claims about Trump are "outrageous."

USA: Sharing Great Words Of Wisdom By Martin Luther King Jr. On This Special Day. ♥

"The function of education
is to teach one to think intensively
and to think critically.
Intelligence plus character
- that is the goal of true education."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr. ♥
"A nation or civilization that
continues to produce soft-minded men
purchases its own spiritual death
on the installment plan."
~ by Martin Luther King, Jr. ♥

January 14, 2018

Keep Your Eyes On God...♥

This was the message I woke up with this morning. God said to keep our eyes on Him. Just as a child taking their first footsteps. God says, "Keep your eyes on me, not your surroundings." A child totally trust their father or mother who is holding out their hands waiting to receive them or catch them if they were to fall. We are all children of the Most High God, our Creator, and He wants us to feel the same trust as we surrender ourselves, surrender our lives to Him and step forward in His divine grace and divine purpose. God sees us as His little child no matter how old we are in this material world. God loves you sooooo much... ♥ Nothing on earth can be compared to His love, His mercy and His amazing grace.
Hold on to God's hand and don't let go. Trust and believe.

The (Holy) Spirit you received does not make you slaves,
so that you live in fear again;
rather, the (Holy) Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.
And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Communicate And Trust God Like A Child ♥

Knocked at Heaven's door this morning. God asked me, My child what can I do for you? I said: Father, please protect and bless the person reading this. God smiled and answered, request granted!

"Therefore I tell you,
whatever you ask for in prayer,
believe that you have received it,
and it will be yours."

Be kinder than necessary ~ for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. ♥

You Will Always Be God's Precious Little Child

Just know that God is keeping you
safe in the palm of His hands

This is how God see's you,
His precious little child
I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
Before you were born I set you apart
and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.
(Jeremiah 1:5)

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
“I am the Lord, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself,
(Isaiah 44:24)

Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
(Isaiah 49:15)

Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother's womb.
My praise is continually of you.
(Psalm 71:6)

But when he who had set me apart before I was born,
and who called me by his grace,
(Galatians 1:15)

Lord seeth not as man seeth;
for man looketh on the outward appearance
but the Lord looketh on the HEART.
(1 Samuel 16:7)

Jesus said, "Truly I tell you,
anyone who will not receive
the kingdom of God like a little child
will never enter it."

And Jesus said: “Truly I tell you,
unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

10 Confidence Quotes To Stregthen Your Spirit...❤

10 Confidence Quotes To Stregthen Your Spirit
by Various Extra-Ordinary People
  1. There comes a time when you have to stand up and shout: This is me damn it! I look the way I look, think the way I think, feel the way I feel, love the way I love! I am a whole complex package. Take me... or leave me. Accept me - or walk away! Do not try to make me feel like less of a person, just because I don't fit your idea of who I should be and don't try to change me to fit your mold. If I need to change, I alone will make that decision. When you are strong enough to love yourself 100%, good and bad - you will be amazed at the opportunities that life presents you. ~ by Stacey Charter

  2. The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. ~ by Epictetus ♥

  3. Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. ~ by Dr. Seuss

  4. Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you can't do this or that. That's nonsense. Make up your mind, you'll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything. Go to school, join in all the games you can. Go anywhere you want to. But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible. ~ by Douglas Bader

  5. The only opinion about your dream that really counts is yours. The negative comments of others merely reflect their limitations - not yours. ~ by Cynthia Kersey

  6. Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. ~ by Dale Carnegie

  7. The last person one wants to be is themselves. Sadly, that is the best person to be. ~ by Unknown Author

  8. To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are. ~ by Unknown Author

  9. Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions. ~ by Earl Gray Stevens

  10. Even when I was in the orphanage, when I was roaming the street trying to find enough to eat, even then I thought of myself as the greatest actor in the world. I had to feel the exuberance that comes from utter confidence in yourself. Without it, you go down to defeat. ~ by Charlie Chaplin
BONUS

Somehow I can't believe that there are any heights that can't be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably. ~ by Walt Disney

BONUS BONUS

Circumstances don't dictate your life, the choices you make do! ♥ - by Unknown author

HAPPY Sunday Everybody! Don't Worry About A Thing... ❤


Life is a mixture of sunshine and rain, teardrops and laughter, pleasure and pain. Just remember, there was never a cloud that the sun couldn't shine through. :)

This is where it's at... May you FEEL INSPIRED right now! ❤
Look forward to a terrific week ahead.
Yes, I said terrific. Claim it now. :D

"Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty.
Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old."
~ by Franz Kafka

"May my heart always be open to little birds
who are the secrets of living."
~ by e.e. cummings

"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,
but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy."
~ by Thich Nhat Hanh

"Once we believe in ourselves,
we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight,
or any experience that reveals the human spirit."
~ by e.e. cummings

Three Little Birds
~ by the Legend Bob Marley

Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', ("This is my message to you-ou-ou:")

Singin': "Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry (don't worry) 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', "This is my message to you-ou-ou:"

Singin': "Don't worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh!
Every little thing gonna be all right. Don't worry!"
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing" - I won't worry!
"'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."

Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right" - I won't worry!
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing, oh no!
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!

January 11, 2018

ENGLAND: Half Of All British Muslims Think Homosexuality Should Be illegal In The UK And 23% Favour Sharia Law In The UK.

The Guardian, UK
written by Frances Perraudin
Monday April 11, 2016

British Muslims are more likely to feel a stronger connection to Britain than the population at large, according to polling, which also found that more than half think that homosexuality should be illegal.

Extensive polling conducted by ICM suggests that in most cases attitudes held by the British Muslim population do not broadly differ from those held by the population at large, but there are significant differences when it comes to some issues such as homosexuality and women’s rights.

Trevor Phillips, the former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the findings were “extremely worrying” as they suggested on many issues Muslims were “nation within a nation”.

He called for a more “muscular approach” to integration.

The research suggests that 86% of British Muslims feel a strong sense of belonging in Britain, which is higher than the national average of 83%. A large majority (91%) of the British Muslims who took part in the survey said they felt a strong sense of belonging in their local area, which is higher than the national average of 76%.

Of those questioned, 88% said Britain was a good place for Muslims to live in, and 78% said they would like to integrate into British life on most things apart from Islamic schooling and some laws.

However, when asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed that homosexuality should be legal in Britain, 18% said they agreed and 52% said they disagreed, compared with 5% among the public at large who disagreed. Almost half (47%) said they did not agree that it was acceptable for a gay person to become a teacher, compared with 14% of the general population.

In a series of questions on the terror threat in Britain, 4% said they sympathised with people who took part in suicide bombings (1% said they completely sympathised and 3% said they sympathised to some extent), and 4% said they sympathised with people who committed terrorist actions as a form of political protest generally.

Nearly a quarter (23%) supported the introduction of sharia law in some areas of Britain, and 39% agreed that “wives should always obey their husbands”, compared with 5% of the country as a whole. Two-thirds (66%) said they completely condemned people who took part in stoning adulterers, and a further 13% condemned them to some extent. Nearly a third (31%) thought it was acceptable for a British Muslim man to have more than one wife, compared with 8% of the wider population.

ICM conducted face-to-face, at-home interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 Muslims across the UK between 25 April and 31 May 2015. A control sample of 1,008 people representative of the country as a whole were interviewed over the phone to provide a comparison.

The polling was commissioned by Channel 4 for a documentary, What British Muslims Really Think, which is due to be broadcast on Wednesday presented by Phillips.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “On specific issues – families, sexuality, gender, attitudes towards Jews and on questions of violence and terrorism – the centre of gravity of British Muslim opinion is some distance away from the centre of gravity of everyone else’s opinion.

“One in six Muslims say they would like to live more separately, a quarter would like to live under sharia law. It means that as a society we have a group of people who basically do not want to participate in the way that other people [do].

“What we also found is that there is a correspondence between this desire to live separately and sympathy for terrorism. People who want to live separately are about twice as likely to say that they have sympathy for terrorist acts. Anybody, including most people in the Muslim community, would find that extremely worrying.”

Phillips said we should not be afraid of challenging Muslims on the core values of British society.

He said: “We are more nervous about Muslims because we feel people will be offended. But my view is that looking at the results of this survey, which have surprised me, that we have gone beyond the situation where we can say: ‘OK, don’t worry; they will come round in time,’ because that is not going to happen we have to make things change now.

Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr, welcomed the fact that the polling had highlighted that the vast majority of Muslims had a strong attachment to Britain, but added: “I think the real issue is that their participation in British society needs to increase.”

“What this [polling] highlights is that the community hasn’t progressed from what was happening in the 80s and ... that they have been isolated without being able to have further integration,” he said. Mahmood argued that this was in large part due to a shortage of housing, which had led to overcrowding in British Asian areas. “It’s not for the want of trying,” he added.

Shaista Gohir, the chair of the Muslim Women’s Network UK, said interviews with other religious groups such as devout Jews and Christians would probably reveal similar social attitudes to those thrown up by the polling. She said that although any prejudice against gay people was unacceptable, the fact that nearly 50% of Muslims did not think homosexuality should be illegal was a sign that attitudes were shifting.

“Although they may not accept it from a religious point of view, [Muslims] accept that people should be able to have the freedom and right not be discriminated against and and live their lives,” said Gohir, adding that LGBT Muslims were beginning to speak out publicly and increasing numbers of Muslim families were having to come to terms with family members coming out as gay.

She said the findings on women’s issues did not reflect changing attitudes among younger generations of British Muslims, arguing that younger Muslim women were coming to better understand what their rights were according to the teachings of Islam.

Gohir said the findings went against the portrayal in the media of Muslims not feeling proud to be British. “These stereotypes do not reflect the reality of Muslims in Britain,” she said. “It is important to also display these positive attitudes … because that represents the British Muslim majority.”

January 10, 2018

USA: Unfunded Liabilities of State Public Pensions Top $6 Trillion in 2017 😦

The Washington Free Beacon
written by Ali Meyer
December 14, 2017

Unfunded liabilities of state public pension plans now tops $6 trillion, an increase of $433 billion from the previous year, according to a report from the American Legislative Exchange Council.

"Unfunded liabilities of public pension plans continue to loom over state governments nationwide," the report states. "Absent significant reforms, unfunded liabilities of state-administered pension plans will continue to grow and threaten the financial security of state retirees and taxpayers alike."

Taxpayers are impacted by this pension crisis since they are the ones funding the wages of government employees. The report notes, however, that all residents are impacted because the funds that go to pensions take away resources from government services such as public safety, education, and roads.

The report finds that state pension liabilities average about $18,676 for every American in the United States. In some states, the liabilities average is much higher. For example, in Alaska, each resident is responsible for $45,689 in pension liability—the highest cost in the nation.

Along with Alaska, the states of Illinois, Connecticut, New Mexico, and Ohio rank as the worst in the nation for unfunded pension liabilities per person. When looking at unfunded liabilities as a whole, the states of California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, and Texas rank as the worst five states in the nation.

Some states, such as Utah, Arizona, Alaska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Michigan have made attempts to solve their liability crisis by implementing reforms. For example, Arizona governor Doug Ducey implemented reforms focusing on cost-of-living adjustments. The reform is expected to save taxpayers $1.5 billion over the next three decades. Pennsylvania also made reforms such as creating a defined-contribution component for every school district and state employee, giving employees more retirement options such as a 401(k) style plan.

"Absent fundamental reform, broken pension systems threaten the financial sustainability of state budgets and the financial future of public servants," said Jonathan Williams, chief economist at ALEC. "Taxpayers, workers, and retirees will all share in the burden unless policymakers make significant changes."

The report says that lawmakers and officials should be held responsible, and one way to do this is by ensuring that all financial information be made transparent to the public online in an accessible format.

"Transparency enables voters, taxpayers and all stakeholders to access, research and understand the operations of the government and hold lawmakers and officials accountable for their actions," the report states. "For more than a decade, ALEC has called on state and local governments to put their budgets online, in an accessible format for all taxpayers to see."

USA: A former Maryland HIV-Positive Middle School Aide And Track Coach Pleads Guilty To Multiple Child Sex Abuse Charges. 😦

New York Post
written by Samuel Chamberlain
Saturday January 6, 2018

A former Maryland middle school aide and track coach accused of sexually assaulting 42 juveniles pleaded guilty Friday to more than two dozen charges of child sex abuse, officials said.

The Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office says 30-year-old Carlos Bell entered the guilty plea to 27 counts. His trial on 206 child abuse offenses had been set to begin Monday.

Prosecutors say Bell abused boys at his Waldorf home as well as at his workplace, Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, between May 2015 and June 2017. The state’s attorney’s office said the ages of the alleged victims ranged from 11 to 17 years old.

Police said Bell allegedly assaulted students without wearing protection, but investigators said they were not aware of any of the victims testing positive for HIV.

Authorities began investigating Bell in December 2016 after a parent found inappropriate text messages on her child’s phone. At that time, Bell was removed from his position as track coach at La Plata High School.

In addition to the alleged assaults, police said child pornography was found on Bell’s home computer and electronic devices. After Bell was arrested in June, Charles County Sheriff Troy Berry said some of the “graphic images” showed Bell having sex with students.

Bell is scheduled to be sentenced March 28. He faces up to 190 years in prison.

Charles County State’s Attorney Anthony Covington told Fox5 that prosecutors wanted to reach a plea deal with Bell in order to spare the alleged victims from testifying against him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

January 9, 2018

NORTH KOREA: South Korea Proposes High-Level Talks With North Korea On Jan 9. Seoul SeizeD Panama Vessel For Alleged North Korea Ties.

Straits Times, Singapore
written by Reuters staff
Wednesday January 3, 2018

SEOUL (REUTERS) – South Korea on Tuesday (Jan 2) offered talks with North Korea amid a standoff over its weapons programmes, a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he was open to negotiations but that his country would push ahead with “mass producing” nuclear warheads.

The offer for high-level talks next Tuesday had been discussed with the United States, the South’s unification minister said, while a decision on whether to push back a massive joint military drill between South Korea and the United States until after the Winter Olympics was pending.

Tension has been rising over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, which it pursues in defiance of years of UN Security Council resolutions, with bellicose rhetoric coming from both Pyongyang and the White House. The North sees the regular war drills between the South and the United States as preparations for war.

“We look forward to candidly discussing interests from both sides face-to-face with North Korea along with the North’s participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics,” Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon told reporters.

“I repeat: The government is open to talking with North Korea, regardless of time, location and form.”

Cho said he expects the dialogue at the border village of Panmunjom, if it happens, to be focused on North Korea’s participation at the Olympics in February, but other issues would likely arise, including the denuclearisation of North Korea.

Should the talks be held on Jan 9, it would be the first such dialogue since a vice-ministerial meeting in December 2015.

The offer landed after a New Year’s Day speech by Kim who said he was “open to dialogue” with Seoul, and for North Korean athletes to possibly take part in the Winter Games, but he persistently declared North Korea a nuclear power.

After welcoming Kim’s address, South Korean President Moon Jae-in had asked his government earlier in the day to move as quickly as possible to bring North Korea to the Olympics.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the recent positive comments from both sides about improving relations, and Kim’s remarks about participating in the upcoming Olympics, were a “good thing”.

“China welcomes and supports North Korea and South Korea taking earnest efforts to treat this as an opportunity to improve mutual relations, promote the alleviation of the situation on the Korean peninsula and realise denuclearisation on the peninsula.”

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that sanctions and other pressures were starting to have a big impact on North Korea but he withheld judgment on Pyongyang’s offer to talk.

“Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time,” Trump wrote in a Twitter post, using his nickname for Kim. “Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not – we will see!”

Analysts said Kim’s address was an attempt to weaken the US- South Korean alliance.

Chun Yung-woo, a former South Korean national security adviser, said Seoul should have taken more time before reacting to Kim’s comments.

“I regret the government had even lost the flexibility to spend one day or two taking a deep breath and meticulously analysing Kim Jong Un’s ulterior motive before hastily issuing a welcoming statement,” he said.

“The government will have to strive more to come up with a countermeasure not to get caught in a trap set by Kim Jong Un.”

Choi Moon-soon, governor of Gangwon Province where the Olympics are to be held next month, has proposed South Korea send cruise ships to bring North Korean athletes and officials to Pyeongchang, according to South Korean media.

Choi met North Korean sports official Mun Woong in China on Dec 18 on the sidelines of a international youth football tournament where North and South Korea soccer teams competed, the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper reported.

The governor did not immediately respond to a request by Reuters for comment.

This week’s exchanges follow a year dominated by fiery threats from Kim and Trump, who vowed to destroy North Korea if threatened, even as US diplomats pushed for a diplomatic solution.

North Korea, which regularly threatens to destroy the United States, South Korea and Japan, tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile in November, which it said was capable of delivering a warhead to anywhere in the United States.

Kim said in a New Year’s Day speech on Monday he would consider sending a delegation to the Olympics.

“North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to showcase the national pride and we wish the Games will be a success. Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility,” Kim said.

North Korea would focus in 2018 on “mass-producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment”.

“The whole territory of the US is within the range of our nuclear strike and a nuclear button is always on the desk of my office and this is just a reality, not a threat,” he said, while emphasising that the weapons would only be used if North Korea was threatened.

The Commerce Ministry in China, North Korea’s lone major ally, also said it would continue to fully implement United Nations sanctions on North Korea.

Trump said on Twitter last week that China has been “caught” allowing oil into North Korea and said such moves would prevent “a friendly solution” to the crisis.
South China Morning Post
written by Staff
Sunday December 31, 2017

The 5,100-tonne KOTI was detained two weeks ago at the South’s port of Pyeongtaek-Dangjin and its crew are being investigated over the alleged ship-to-ship transfers, Yonhap news agency cited local maritime officials as saying.

It was the second such seizure to be reported in days. The South Korean government announced on Friday that it briefly seized and inspected a Hong Kong-registered ship in November after accusing it of transferring oil products to a North Korean vessel.

The Panamanian tanker was banned from leaving port following a government meeting on December 21, the report said. Its crew – mostly from Myanmar and China – were being questioned by the customs office and the intelligence agency.

“The vessel is under inspection for alleged ties with North Korea,” a government official said, according to Yonhap.

Authorities were not immediately available for confirmation of the report.

The Hong Kong-registered Lighthouse Winmore, which was chartered by a Taiwanese company, was seized at the South’s port of Yeosu in November for allegedly transferring refined petroleum products to the North’s Sam Jong 2.

The UN Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on the North this year to try to stop its nuclear and missile tests.

One on August 5 targeted the iron, coal and fishing industries, another set on September 11 was aimed at textiles and restricting oil supplies, and the most recent on December 22 focused on refined petroleum products.

The Lighthouse Winmore visited Yeosu on October 11 and loaded some 14,000 tonnes of Japanese refined oil before heading towards its purported destination in Taiwan.

Instead of going to Taiwan, however, it transferred 600 tonnes of oil to the North’s Sam Jong 2 in international waters off China, South Korean customs service officials claim.

Four ships – three North Korean vessels and a Palau-flagged oil tanker – were blocked from international ports by the UN Security Council on Thursday on suspicion of carrying or transporting goods banned by the sanctions.

China has rejected accusations that it helped Pyongyang circumvent sanctions after US President Donald Trump claimed on Twitter that Beijing was turning a blind eye to oil transfers to North Korea.

CHINA: Iranian Oil Tanker Collided With A Chinese Freight Ship In The East China Sea On Saturday Evening; 32 Still Missing. Oil Tanker Is Still Burning 3 Days Later.



Reuters News
Iranian oil tanker burns for third day after collision off China coast
written by Staff
Monday January 8, 2018

BEIJING - A tanker carrying Iranian oil that collided with a Chinese freight ship in the East China Sea was still on fire on Tuesday morning, the Chinese government said, as dozens of rescue boats struggled to control the blaze for a third day.

Poor conditions, with heavy winds, rain and high waves, continue to hamper efforts to tame the fire and search for the 31 remaining crew members on the tanker, the Ministry of Transport said in a statement.

The body of a crew member was found on Monday in the water near the tanker, the ministry said. It had been handed over to the civil affairs bureau.

Concerns were growing that the tanker may explode and sink while a flotilla of 13 search and rescue vessels comb a 900-square-nautical-mile area around the ship for the crew. The tanker hit a freight ship on Saturday night in the East China Sea and burst into flames after spilling oil.

(For a graphic on ship collision off China's coast click tmsnrt.rs/2CBgqai)

The tanker Sanchi (IMO:9356608), run by Iran’s top oil shipping operator, National Iranian Tanker Co, collided with the CF Crystal (IMO:9497050), carrying grain from the United States, about 160 nautical miles off China’s coast near Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta.

The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate, an ultra-light crude oil that becomes highly volatile when exposed to air and water, to South Korea.

The size of the oil spill from the ship and the extent of the environmental harm were not known, but the disaster has the potential to be the worst since 1991 when 260,000 tonnes of oil leaked off the Angolan coast.

Chinese state media CCTV showed footage on Monday of boats dousing the flames with water as plumes of thick dark smoke continued to billow from the tanker.
Dhaka Tribune
written by AFP staff
Sunday January 7, 2018

Chinese maritime authorities have dispatched eight ships for the search and rescue operation and South Korea has sent a plane and coastguard ship to help

Two Bangladeshis were missing on Sunday after an oil tanker collided with a cargo ship off the coast of east China, the transport ministry said.

The tanker, carrying 136,000 tonnes of oil condensate, caught fire following the collision Saturday night and its crew of 32, including 30 Iranians, were missing.

The ministry said the above in a statement, adding that the crew of the second ship had been rescued.

The other vessel had been damaged but “without jeopardising the safety of the ship” and all its 21 Chinese crew had been rescued, it added.

The tanker was still ablaze Sunday, with images broadcast by state television channel CCTV showing the ship in the grip of an intense fire, enveloped in clouds of black smoke.

The Panamanian-flagged 274-metre tanker “Sanchi” was operated by Iran’s Glory Shipping and was heading to South Korea with its cargo, the ministry said.

The accident occurred in waters about 160 nautical miles east of Shanghai.

The second vessel involved was a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship carrying 64,000 tonnes of grain.

Chinese maritime authorities have dispatched eight ships for the search and rescue operation and South Korea has sent a plane and coastguard ship to help, the official Xinhua news agency said.

January 8, 2018

WORLD: Hundreds Of Iranians And Friends Held Rallies On Saturday In Several Nations To Show Solidarity With Anti-Government Protesters In Iran

Yahoo News
written by Staff
Saturday January 6, 2018

Hundreds of Iranians held rallies on Saturday in support of the anti-government protests in Iran, in cities including Washington, D.C., Stockholm, London, Paris and Berlin.

About 400 people gathered in central Paris, and several hundred held a rally in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate with Iranian flags, drums and banners calling for a change of government.

CHINA: North Korean Restaurants In China Ordered To Close Down.

UPI News
written by Jennie Oh
Sunday January 7, 2018

SEOUL, South Korea - Scores of North Korean restaurants in China may close down by the end of the week, as Beijing enforces international sanctions targeting Pyongyang's nuclear and missile program.

The Chinese government late last year ordered North Korean restaurants in the country to shut down their businesses within 50 days, Yonhap reported, citing a source in China.

More than 100 restaurants are believed to have received the order.

"North Korean restaurants were thriving at one point in the three provinces (Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang) that border the North but due to the strict orders for closure, it seems they will sharply decline," the source said.

Visa extensions for North Korean workers and the crackdown on businesses that hire them have intensified as of late, according to the source.

Restaurant owners are said to be seeking new ways to curb the measure such as transferring the business ownership to a Chinese or Korean-Chinese national.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2375, passed in September, requires North Korean companies in member states including joint ventures with local entities to close down within 120 days.

A new resolution was approved after the North's missile launch on November 29, introducing further restrictions on the regime's oil imports and North Korean laborers.

In line with the latest sanctions, China on Saturday enforced a ban on exports of steel and machinery. It also restricted Chinese firms from shipping more than 4 million barrels of oil and 500,000 barrels of refined petroleum products per year.

Previous restrictions didn't apply to crude oil which makes up a large portion of China's energy exports to Pyongyang.

China is North Korea's largest energy supplier and trade partner, making its enforcement of sanctions crucial to global efforts to clamp down on the North's nuclear weapons program.

However, the commerce ministry said the exports of crude oil that affects the lives of ordinary North Koreans will be excluded from the restrictions, SBS reported.

Imports of fabrics, timber, minerals, grains and agricultural products from the North were also banned.

INDIA: ‘Cow Smuggler’ Arrested In Bharatpur.

The Indian Express
written by Staff
Tuesday January 9, 2018

Police in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district arrested an alleged cow smuggler on Monday morning and rescued 13 bovines that were being transported in a pick-up truck.

According to the police, the incident happened around 5 am in Kaithwara area of the district.

“We had received information that bovines were being smuggled and had put up a barricade. When the pick-up truck came near, the men inside opened fire on us,” said Kaithwara station house officer Yogendra Singh.

He added that the truck could not go far as the police had managed to puncture its tyres.

“Two of the men in the vehicle managed to escape through kuccha lanes in the village, using the forest cover. We found 13 animals in the vehicle, including two bulls, four calves and seven cows,” said Singh.

The police said that one of the men in the truck had been arrested.

“The arrested man has been identified as Irshad, a resident of Utawar village in Haryana. Preliminary investigation revealed that the men had bought the animals from nomads in Dausa district,” said the SHO.

The police have lodged cases against the men under the Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter & Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 1995 and section 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC.

A similar incident happened in Alwar district on Monday morning during which the police had rescued 20 bovines that were being transported in a truck.

“The driver of the vehicle and other associates managed to escape after we chased them for around 2 kilometres. The animals were being brought from Haryana to Mewat area for the purpose of slaughter,” claimed sub-inspector Sunil Jangir from the Chupanki police station, Alwar.