Friday, May 30, 2014

Hagel to Meet With Chinese General Amid Bilateral Chill

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was heading Friday for an encounter in Asia with a senior Chinese general at a time when relations between the U.S. and China are even chillier than usual, the result of sensitive territorial disputes in the South China Sea and mutual accusations of cyber espionage. Read

State Dept. Condemns ‘Honor Killings,’ But No Mention of Religion As a Factor

The State Department on Thursday condemned the stoning of death of a Pakistani woman and other violence against women “in the name of tradition and honor,” but made no reference to religion as a factor. Read

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kerry Gets Testy During Syria ‘Red Line’ Discussion: ‘Don’t Put Words in My Mouth’

Secretary of State John Kerry got testy with an interviewer Wednesday while discussing the relative merits of the agreement struck last fall to remove the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons, and the punitive military strikes which President Obama had threatened but then did not carry out. Read

E.U. Commission Shuts Down Citizens’ Pro-Life Initiative

Just days after euroskeptic parties won large gains in European elections, the E.U.’s executive commission on Wednesday vetoed a citizens’ initiative – dubbed “the largest petition in European history” – which sought an end to E.U. funding for any practice that terminates human life before birth, including abortion and research that destroys human embryos. Read

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Americans Urged to Leave Libya After Group Linked to Benghazi Attack Threatens U.S.

The State Department on Tuesday warned American citizens not to travel to Libya and urged those there to leave immediately. Read

Conservatives Rip Obama’s Afghanistan Timetable: ‘Act of Personal Narcissism’

President Obama’s Afghanistan troop drawdown announcement Tuesday drew strong criticism from some conservatives, who view it as a timetable tied not to military conditions on the ground but to a personal agenda: the president’s legacy. Read

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Troubles Dog Iran Nuclear Talks as Deadline for Deal Draws Nearer

As President Obama prepares to deliver a speech Wednesday expected to push back against criticism of his foreign policy, the negotiations for a nuclear deal with Iran that are a centerpiece of that policy are showing signs of strain. Read

Murder of American Doctor Underlines Plight of Pakistan’s Religious Minorities

Just days before the State Department is expected to release its annual report on international religious freedom, the dire situation in Pakistan was underscored Monday when a Pakistan-born American physician belonging to a widely-loathed religious minority was gunned down in front of his wife and young son. Read

Friday, May 23, 2014

Kerry Says--Wrongly--Some Temps This Week Broke ‘Every Record That’s Ever Been Seen’

Secretary of State John Kerry told an audience in Mexico on Wednesday that temperatures in Europe and in Vietnam were “unprecedented” and broke “every record that’s ever been seen.” However, although it was hot that day, he was off the mark. Read

The Palestinian Jesus: Propaganda 'Art' Prepared for the Pope

On the eve of Pope Francis’ first visit to the Holy Land, the Palestinian Authority has instructed the placement of banner poster at venues he will visit that meld classic paintings of biblical scenes with news photographs depicting interactions between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. Read

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Apostasy Death Sentence: Khartoum Tells Protesting Countries ‘Respect Laws and Legislations of Sudan’

After taking flak for days from Western governments, U.N. human rights officials and others over the sentencing to death of a pregnant Christian mother convicted of apostasy, the Islamist government in Khartoum on Wednesday gave its reaction: “respect the laws and legislations of Sudan.” Read

Chinese President in Veiled Warning to the US: Don’t Try to ‘Monopolize Regional Affairs’

Buoyed by the signing of a massive deal to buy Russian natural gas for the next 30 years, Chinese President Xi Jinping called Wednesday for a new security framework for Asia, in a speech which Chinese state media said contained veiled warnings to the United States. Read

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sudan Mother on Death Row: State Dept. Can’t Say Whether Senators’ Asylum Appeal Has Been Received

Four days after two Republican senators appealed to Secretary of State John Kerry for “immediate action and full diplomatic engagement” in the case of the Sudanese Christian woman on death row for apostasy, Kerry’s spokes- woman said Tuesday she did not know whether the letter had been received. Read

Pakistani TV Program Ignites Blasphemy Charges Over Perceived Insult to Mohammed's Daughter

Pakistani Muslim fundamentalists’ fixation with blasphemy has found a new target, with one of the country’s most popular private television networks under fire after airing a clip that its critics say insulted Mohammed’s daughter. Read

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

China, Furious About US Cyber-Theft Indictments, Points to Snowden, Wikileaks

Angry about the indictments against five Chinese military officers accused of stealing trade secrets from American companies, China’s foreign ministry said Tuesday it has summoned the U.S. ambassador for a formal protest while the defense ministry accused the U.S. of “hypocrisy and double standards.” Read

Kerry Mocks Climate Skeptics: ‘Flat Earth Society’

If he and “97 percent” of scientists are wrong on climate change, efforts to mitigate it will at worst have brought millions of jobs, better health and energy security, Secretary of State John Kerry told Boston College graduates Monday. Read

Monday, May 19, 2014

French Foreign Minister: It’s Not Climate Change, It’s ‘Climate Chaos’

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, gearing up to host a major U.N. climate conference at the end of next year, wants to start referring to “climate disruption” or “climate chaos” rather than “climate change” – since, he says, “change” can be seen as a positive thing. Read

Islamic Bloc Silent on Apostasy Death Sentence for Christian Mother in Sudan

The sentencing to death of a pregnant Sudanese Christian mother convicted of “apostasy” has drawn sharp condemnation from a number of Western countries – but no word from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a number of whose member-states have apostasy laws on their books. Read

Friday, May 16, 2014

Kerry Says Chlorine Gas May Have Been Used in Syria; Vague About Consequences if Proven

Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday he has seen “raw data” indicating several chlorine gas attacks by the Assad regime in recent months, which if proven would be a violation of Syria’s agreements with the international community and lead to “consequences.” Read

Chinese General on Territorial Disputes: Not One ‘Inch’

Amid serious tensions in the South China Sea, China’s top military officer brought to Washington Thursday a message to neighboring countries – and to the U.S. – that his country could not afford to “lose an inch” of territory it claims as its own. Read

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Turning History on its Head, Iran’s Supreme Leader Calls Israel a ‘Fabricated’ Nation

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday lashed out at the U.S. for supporting Israel – which he labeled a “terrorist” state – and charged that the modern-day state of Israel established in 1948 was a “fake nation” made up of people from Europe and America. Read

9/11 Museum Video Controversy: ‘Al-Qaeda Came Out of Thin Air’?

Ahead of the 9/11 Museum’s dedication ceremony Thursday, an anti-Islamist Muslim advocate said a bid by Islamic groups to have a video display edited to remove words like “Islamist extremism” was designed to send the message that “al-Qaeda came out of thin air.” Read

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

US, Russia At Odds Over Syria’s Planned ‘Election’

Differences among U.N. Security Council members over the Syrian civil war looked as stark as ever Tuesday, with Russia and the U.S. differing over presidential elections planned for next month, and Russia and France putting forward rival resolutions. Read

French Foreign Minister: ‘We Have 500 Days to Avoid Climate Chaos’

The world has “500 days to avoid climate chaos,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said alongside Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department on Tuesday. Read

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

CAIR: Remove ‘Islamist Extremism,’ ‘Jihadism’ From 9/11 Museum Video

Days before the National September 11 Memorial Museum opens in New York, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is stepping up its campaign to urge organizers to edit a video presentation on al-Qaeda, to remove terms such as “Islamist extremism” and “jihadism.” Read

Boko Haram Video Showing Captured Schoolgirls Features al-Qaeda Banner

A new Boko Haram propaganda video released Monday, showing some of the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls it abducted last month wearing Islamic garb and chanting the Islamic declaration of faith, also features an al-Qaeda banner. Read

Monday, May 12, 2014

Iran Says It ‘Will Not Accept Nuclear Apartheid’

On the eve of another round of international talks on its nuclear program, Iran’s leaders are sounding a defiant tone, with the supreme leader describing Western calls for limiting missile development as “stupid” and the president saying that Iran “will not accept nuclear apartheid.” Read

Robert Gates: Syria ‘One of The Sad Stories of The President’s Foreign Policy’

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered a bleak assessment Sunday of the outlook for a positive outcome in Syria, saying President Bashar Assad is winning and calling the U.S. handling of the civil war “one of the sad stories of the president’s foreign policy.” Read

Pakistan a Fixture on UN Human Rights Council Despite Its Poor Record

The United Nations’ human rights office condemned last week’s killing of a Pakistani human rights lawyer who was defending a blasphemy case, yet despite its much-criticized record, Pakistan has been a member of the U.N.’s top human rights body for almost its entire lifespan. Read

Friday, May 09, 2014

Kerry’s Mideast Peace Envoy Says Israelis Set Out to Sabotage Talks

Announcements of Israeli settlement expansion made during the U.S.-led Mideast peace effort that ended inconclusively last month were designed to sabotage the talks, according to the administration’s point man in the negotiations. Read

U.S. Complains About U.N. Appointment to Which It Had ‘Agreed Without a Peep’ Hours Earlier

For the second time in a two weeks, the Obama administration on Thursday criticized a decision by a United Nations Human Rights Council to fill a post with a candidate it deems unsuitable – after not objecting publicly when given the opportunity to do so. Read

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Boko Haram Recruitment: Kerry Blames Poverty

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday underlined the issue of poverty as a recruitment tool for extremist groups like Boko Haram, although analysts and Nigerian officials have for months been reporting that the organization is forcibly conscripting civilians, including children, into its ranks. Read

Another ‘Blasphemy’-Related Killing in Pakistan as Human Rights Lawyer Shot Dead

A deadly campaign by Pakistani radicals hypersensitive about insults to Islam’s prophet claimed another prominent victim late on Wednesday night, when a human rights lawyer defending a man accused of “blasphemy” was gunned down. Read

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Corker Slams Obama’s Ukraine Policy: Just ‘People Trying to Sound Tough’

A Republican senator on Tuesday slammed the administration’s approach to the crisis in Ukraine, saying it appeared at times its only strategy was “trying to sound tough” with Russia. Read

State Dep’t on Putin’s Planned Trip to Crimea: ‘Hope He Enjoys His Visit to Ukraine’

Asked for a reaction to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to visit Crimea this week, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday, “I hope he enjoys his visit to Ukraine.” Read

Kerry Says He’ll Cooperate With Benghazi Subpoena: ‘Absolutely Nothing to Hide’

Secretary of State John Kerry indicated Tuesday that he would cooperate with a new congressional oversight committee hearing on Benghazi, but indirectly criticized its chairman for issuing a subpoena rather than simply inviting him to appear. Read

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Iran’s Supreme Leader Spreads the Message of IRA Hunger Striker Bobby Sands--33 Years Later

Iran may be presenting a more benign face to the world as it negotiates an end to sanctions relating to its nuclear programs, but its supreme leader marked Monday’s 33rd anniversary of the death of an Irish republican hunger-striker to attack “tyrannical imperialists” and “global domineering empires.” Read

WH Touts Boko Haram’s Terror Designation; No Mention of How Long That Took

Fielding questions about what help the U.S. can offer Nigeria in its effort to locate and rescue hundreds of schoolgirls held by Boko Haram, White House press secretary Jay Carney on Monday noted that the U.S. has designated the group a foreign terrorist organization. Read

Monday, May 05, 2014

Kerry Rails Against Terrorists: 'They Don’t Offer a Health Care Plan

Amid a swelling international outcry over the kidnapping of scores of Nigerian schoolgirls by Islamist terrorists, Secretary of State John Kerry at the weekend again pledged U.S. support for efforts to locate and rescue them. Read

Benghazi: State Dept. Criticizes Issa for Subpoenaing Kerry Rather Than ‘Reaching Out’

A State Department spokeswoman criticized a congressional panel for issuing a subpoena Friday for Secretary of State John Kerry to testify on the Benghazi affair on May 21, saying if the committee had “reached out” instead it would have known that Kerry would be out of the country on that day. Read

Friday, May 02, 2014

Former CIA Chief: Syria ‘Red Line’ Episode ‘Cost in So Many Ways’

President Obama’s decision to hold off on military action against the Assad regime after signaling that it was on the cards in response to last summer’s chemical weapons attack made the U.S. “appear weak,” former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden said on Thursday. Read

WH Dismissively Refers to Putin As ‘Senior Gov’t Official’

On Thursday, almost six hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly called on Ukraine to withdraw its armed forces from southeastern Ukraine, White House press secretary Jay Carney described the call as “preposterous” – but attributed it to “a senior Russian government official,” instead of to Putin himself. Read

US Offers Help to ‘Find and Free’ Nigerian Schoolgirls, Many of Them Christian

The U.S. is discussing with Nigeria ways to support its efforts to find more than 200 schoolgirls, many of them Christians, abducted by Boko Haram 18 days ago. The terrorist group’s leader in video in March made reference to the seizing of “infidel women” to serve as “slaves.” Read

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Religious Freedom Watchdog: U.S. Should Double Number of Blacklisted Countries

The State Department should double the number of countries blacklisted for violating religious freedom, with Pakistan named as the most egregious offender among those not currently designated, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said Wednesday. Read

U.N. Takes Abbas ‘At His Word’ on Hamas’ Recognition of Israel

A United Nations spokesman on Wednesday played down statements by Hamas that its decision to join a Palestinian unity government does not mean it will recognize Israel, saying the U.N. had no reason not to take Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas “at his word” on the matter. Read