Friday, January 31, 2014

Pakistan Poised to Make Death Penalty Compulsory for 'Blasphemy'

Pakistan’s government faces a looming deadline to either comply with a court ruling to amend the country’s penal code to make the death penalty the only lawful punishment for “blasphemy,” or to appeal the order. And with just four days to go, its failure to respond is worrying religious freedom campaigners. Read

Syria Misses Chemical Weapons Deadlines, But No Talk of Consequences

The Assad regime looks set to miss a second consecutive deadline in a meticulously-negotiated timetable for surrendering its chemical weapons stocks for destruction, prompting protests by the Obama administration that it is “dragging its feet” but no talk of any steps to enforce compliance. Read

Thursday, January 30, 2014

European Lawmakers Want Snowden to Take Part in Debate on Surveillance

A multinational group of European lawmakers has invited the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to take part in a debate – by video link if necessary – with U.S. officials on the twin themes of mass surveillance and whistleblowing. Read

No Mention of North Korea in SOTU, But Nuclear Threat Advances

Hours after President Obama delivered a State of the Union address devoid of any reference to North Korea, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reported to lawmakers Wednesday on the recent progress the Kim Jong-un regime has made in advancing a nuclear weapons capability, which he said poses “a serious threat” to the U.S. Read

Friday, January 10, 2014

Majority of Senators Now Support Deferred-Action Iran Sanctions Bill Opposed by Obama

Showing no sign of having been swayed by the administration’s arguments, a majority of senators have now signed on to a bipartisan bill threatening toughened sanctions against Iran in case a negotiated agreement on its nuclear program fails. Read

UNESCO Says U.S. Funding Freeze Won’t Hurt ‘World Heritage’ Applications, But Some Lawmakers Worry

The U.N. cultural agency UNESCO says that the fact the United States is in arrears with its contributions – the result of a funding cutoff in response to its admission of “Palestine” – will have no bearing on pending applications to have several historical sites in the U.S. declared World Heritage sites next year. Read

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Biden in Feb. 2013 Said U.S. Would Not Hold Secret Talks With Iran ...

Back channel, bilateral talks between U.S. and Iranian officials in 2012-13 took place despite a pledge by Vice President Joe Biden last February that the administration would not hold such talks in secret. Read

N. Korea Tops Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan as Worst Place to Be Christian

On the day former NBA star Dennis Rodman sang “happy birthday” to Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang, a religious freedom advocacy group named North Korea the world’s worst country to be a Christian for the 12th consecutive year. Read

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Heavy Security As Egypt’s Copts Mark Christmas

Egypt’s Copts celebrated Coptic Christmas on Tuesday in an atmosphere of cautious optimism, five months after the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood government triggered a surge of Islamist attacks against churches. Read

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

State Dep’t Won’t Offer 'Analysis' on Rodman’s North Korea Trip

Beyond saying that he wasn't speaking on behalf of the U.S., the State Department on Tuesday declined to offer any “analysis” on former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea or his provocative comments on an American citizen jailed by the regime. Read

Iran’s President Skipping Another Opportunity to Meet With Top US Officials

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani this month will once again miss the chance to rub shoulders with senior American officials, as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word on foreign policy, evidently tolerates only lower-level encounters with the “global arrogance.” Read

Monday, January 06, 2014

Rodman: Kim Jong-un is Trying to Change North Korea ‘in a Great Way'

Former American basketball star Dennis Rodman, who arrived in Pyongyang Monday on his fourth visit to the reclusive Stalinist state, said North Korea was “not bad,” and that Kim Jong-un “is actually trying to change this country in a great way.” Read

Policy Shift? Kerry Indicates a Possible Role for Iran at Syria Conference

Secretary of State John Kerry has raised the possibility that Iran could have some role at the upcoming Syria peace conference even if it does not accept the 2012 agreement which the gathering is meant to implement. Read

Kerry’s Vision of Peace: No More Rockets; Islamic States Endorsing Israel

Outlining his vision of a Middle East transformed by a future peace deal, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke Sunday of Israeli children being able to play without fearing rocket attacks from Gaza or Lebanon – yet the threat in each case comes from a terrorist organization that opposes any peace agreement with Israel and would not be bound by one even if it were to materialize. Read

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Kerry: We’ll Help Iraq Fight al-Qaeda, But No ‘Boots on The Ground’

Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday the U.S. will help Iraqi authorities fight al-Qaeda terrorists who have seized parts of two cities in western Iraq, but will not send troops. Read

Friday, January 03, 2014

Americans Spent $7.45B in 3 Years Helping Other Countries Deal With ‘Climate Change’

American taxpayers spent $7.45 billion to help developing countries cope with climate change in fiscal years 2010 through 2012, according to a federal government report submitted to the United Nations on a subject that Secretary of State John Kerry described as “a truly life-and-death challenge.” Read

Kerry, State Dep’t Silent on ‘Heroes’ Welcome’ for Released Palestinian Killers

Secretary of State John Kerry and a State Department spokeswoman on Thursday both sidestepped opportunities to criticize the warm reception Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas gave to a group of prisoners, most convicted of murder, freed by Israel this week as part of U.S.-brokered peace negotiations. Read

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Chinese Tycoon Wants to Buy The New York Times

The New York Times Company says it’s not for sale, but a high-profile Chinese businessman and philanthropist eager to buy what he views as the world’s most influential newspaper plans to fly to New York City this week to push ahead with his bid. Read

Iran Steps Up Its Campaign Against Christians

One of the few Iranian churches still serving Christians who are not from minority ethnic groups – and are therefore more likely to be converts from Islam –reportedly has told these Farsi-speaking believers that they are no longer welcome. Read