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Monday, February 29, 2016

Iran Announces Election Results for Assembly of Experts.

Iran Announces Election Results for Assembly of Experts.(Fars).

The Interior Ministry on Monday released the final results of the Assembly of Experts elections with Chairman of the Expediency Council and former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, at the helm.

The results of the Assembly of Experts vote, which is composed of mostly elder and senior clerics, in Tehran province released by the Interior Ministry show that Tehran's interim Friday Prayers leader Mohammad Aqa Emami Kashani and President Hassan Rouhani also stand in the second and third places.

Current members of the Assembly, Mohsen Qomi and Mohammad Ali Movahhedi Kermani stand in the fourth to fifth places.

They are followed closely by other Assembly members Qorbanali Dorri Najafabadi, Abolfazl Mirmohammadi, Mohammad Mohammadi Nik, Ebrahim Haj Amini Najafabadi, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, Nasrollah Shahabadi, Mohammad Ali Taskhiri, Mohsen Esmaeili, Mohammad Hassan Zali, and Guardians Council Secretary Ahmad Jannati.

Over 35,000,000 eligible voters participated in the twin elections. Read the full story here.

Iran needs ‘no permission’ to develop missile program: Zarif

Iran needs ‘no permission’ to develop missile program: Zarif. (IranFrontpage).

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the Islamic Republic will continue to develop its missile program and that Tehran needs “no permission” to enhance the country’s defense capabilities.

We have announced that we will not ask permission from anyone to [strengthen] our defense and missile capability,” Zarif said in an interview with Iranian Students’ News Agency, ISNA, on Sunday.

The top Iranian diplomat went on to say that the country’s missile program does not breach the July nuclear agreement struck between Tehran and six world powers and that the deal does not ban Iran from boosting its defense capabilities.

Zarif said that Iran’s missile program will continue apace and will be provided with all necessary materials and equipment.

He further dismissed as “unacceptable” claims by US officials that the Islamic Republic’s missile tests are in breach of the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, saying none of the Iranian missiles have been designed to carry “nuclear warheads.”

On October 11, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) successfully test-fired its first guided ballistic missile dubbed Emad. Washington slammed the test, claiming the projectile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

In January, the US Treasury Department said in a statement that it had imposed new sanctions on several individuals and firms over Iran’s ballistic missile program, claiming that the program “poses a significant threat to regional and global security.”

The statement said five Iranian citizens and a network of companies based in the United Arab Emirates and China were added to a US blacklist.

Iranian officials say none of the country’s missiles, including ballistic ones, have been “designed to carry nuclear warheads,” and thus their production and test are not in contravention of Resolution 2231.

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly said that its defense doctrine is based on deterrence and Iran’s military power poses no threat to other countries.

Touching upon Iran’s relations with the United States, Zarif told ISNA that the US should abandon its “mentality of sanctions.”

“We are still waiting to see whether the US is serious in its commitments” concerning the lifting of sanctions, he noted.

Zarif further criticized Washington’s “wrong” policies in the Middle East region. “US policies even harm their own interests in the region since they have caused unrest and created Daesh [terrorist group],” he noted.

Zarif said that Iranian officials have reached no agreement with US officials on regional issues, saying Tehran would take a decision on extending talks with the US should Americans “correct their policies.”

Quoting materials from Iran Front Page is permitted only if the source is mentioned by name.

Video - Russian TV crew films 'Neo Ottoman conqueror' Turkey's fortifications, tanks on Syrian border.

Video - Russian TV crew films 'Neo Ottoman conqueror' Turkish fortifications, tanks on Syrian border. (RT).

A Russian TV crew has managed to obtain video proof of Turkey’s increased military presence on the Syrian border, as it filmed fortifications and tanks on the frontier.

The lodgments are heavily fortified by tanks and self-propelled guns, REN-TV crew reported from the scene.

Shells and other ammunition are being delivered to the Turkish positions, which are shelling Kurdish forces in Syrian territory, according to the report.

The barrels of the tanks and self-propelled guns are pointed in the direction of the mainly Kurdish Syrian city of Kobane,” the journalist said.

There were at least six or seven tanks in the area and the Turkish forces on the border can be deployed in Syria “in an instant,” according to REN-TV.

Meanwhile, the area appeared to be very active, as Turkey continued to transport various supplies to the border.

The REN-TV journalists spoke to the mostly Kurdish locals, who openly accused Turkey of being “friends” with the Islamic State fighters that had earlier raided nearby houses. The extremist fighters took the most expensive things from the homes, including “money and jewelry,” they said.

The residents also provided evidence proving that various military crimes had taken place and described how Turkey and Islamic State forces had opened fire on locals trying to flee the area – and then stolen their cars. Hmmm......It seems like 'sometimes NATO Ally' Turkey has no intention of respecting the UN Brokered peace plan.Read the full story here.

Israel Quietly Debates Flying the flawed 'White Elephant' F-35.

Israel Quietly Debates Flying the flawed'White Elephant' F-35. (IMRA).

Israel has been quietly debating the feasibility of the Joint Strike Fighter.

Israeli sources said the military and government were discussing the future of the F-35 project. They said members of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have been warning that Israel could become increasingly dependent on a flawed fighter-jet rejected by most NATO air forces.

"JSF could be a great aircraft, but it will take years to reach that level," a source close to the debate said.

"Meanwhile, we will have dozens of very expensive aircraft with limited capabilities." The sources said the Defense Ministry, responsible for procurement, shares the concerns over JSF. The ministry ordered 33 F-35As in two batches, with the first aircraft expected to arrive by 2017.

So far, a Cabinet panel stopped a recommendation by the Israel Air Force to acquire up to 23 JSF aircraft from prime contractor Lockheed Martin in 2015. The panel, then headed by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, cut the order to 14.

Still, the air force has lobbied for a third order of JSF -- this time for 17 aircraft. The sources said the air force wanted a fleet of two squadrons or 50 F-35s by 2020.

The Cabinet panel has been briefed by aerospace specialists on the flaws of JSF, including inadequate range, weapons payload and stealth capability.
The panel was also warned that the United States would not share the source code of JSF, thereby preventing the air force from modifying the fifth-generation platform. Under the project, Israel must send JSF engines to either Turkey or the United States for repairs.
The sources said the Netanyahu government has urged Washington to sell Israel the advanced F-15 fighter-jet approved for Saudi Arabia. But the administration of President Barack Obama has presented JSF as the only platform available for use with U.S. military aid to Israel of more than $3 billion a year.

"The overall feeling is that Israel can't continue on this path and needs proven combat platforms," another source said. "The price that Israel would pay for procuring and operating and training for 50 inadequate aircraft would be strategic."

So far, the Israel Air Force has sought to reassure the Cabinet that JSF was far more reliable than portrayed by investigations by the U.S. Defense Department and JSF office. The sources cited U.S. restrictions on initial purchases of such aircraft as the F-15 and F-16 in the 1980s and 1990s, later lifted by Washington.

"There is a subtext to the air force argument that we've gone too far and can't start all over again," the second source said. "That would mean a delay of a decade." Hmmm......The only good thing is that Turkey would be flying these 'Death traps'.

Video - Palestinians interviewed oppose children's terrorism and blame TV for inciting.

Palestinians interviewed oppose children's terrorism and blame TV for inciting.  HT PalWatch. by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

The majority of Palestinians interviewed in the street by Fatah-run Awdah TV said they were against children participating in stabbing and other terror attacks. Most opposed child-terror in principle, while a few opposed it because they view it as ineffective.

Palestinian Media Watch has reported that Palestinian schools also incite children to kill. Children in "many schools from the Ramallah and El-Bireh district" were presented with a terrorist stabber as a role model when they participated in a football tournament named after 13-year-old terrorist Ahmad Manasrah, who stabbed a 13-year-old Israeli and nearly killed him. [Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 23, 2015]

The current terror campaign has witnessed 13, 14 and 15-year-old terrorists stabbing and attempting to stab people to death. Many of them have been killed while carrying out their attacks. According to Israeli army statistics, about half of the terrorists in the current terror campaign have been under age 20. At least 21 terrorists (10%) were under age 16. [IDF, Feb. 17, 2016]. Read and see the full story here.

Israel Requests US Bunker-Busting Bombs with Increased Power.

Israel Requests US Bunker-Busting Bombs with Increased Power. (IMRA).

On Monday, Joe Biden will land at Ben Gurion Airport, for his last visit as Vice President of the United States. Ostensibly, this is one of the more boring visits: current Democratic administration is in his last year, and Biden himself had decided not to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, as many vice presidents have done before him.

Still, the visit arouses huge interest, especially in the Israeli defense establishment. The reason: the discussions with the United States regarding a new framework agreement for defense aid entered the final straight, and Biden might bring about some news on the matter, or at least a hint.

Anyway, shortly after Biden's visit, the defense minister will visit Washington, after which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will also visit the United States. Therefore, the aid agreement is expected to be signed by the end of March, at the latest. Israel is counting on the American administration to be generous towards Israel's defense needs at this time, in order to win the support of the Jewish vote (and mostly the Jewish donors) prior to the presidential elections.

Aid or "Compensation"?

To understand how the coming month will be crucial in terms of the Israeli defense ministry, we need to understand the context: the US elections will be held in November 2016, whereas the previous defense aid agreement between Israel and the United States will expire in 2017. The 10-years-long agreement set the extent of the defense aid back in 2007. According to the soon to be expired agreement, Israel received each year $ 3.1 billion. This is a huge sum, which constitutes more than 20 percent of Israel's defense budget. Under the terms of the aid, the Ministry of Defense has received permission to convert half a billion dollars each year into NIS, to use the money for local acquisitions. The remainder is used as the primary budget source, to finance IDF equipment of central combat platforms such as fighter jets and helicopters.

Beyond the generous annual aid, Israel receives additional aid from the United States for special projects. For example, the US has funded the equipping of seven of the nine Iron Dome batteries. In addition, the US DoD had collaborated with the Israeli defense establishments in the development and funding of other major missile defense projects - "Arrow 3" and "David's Sling".

It was recently reported that the Americans will also deliver funds for projects that will assist the fight against underground tunnels built by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, the IDF and the US military has an agreement in which Israel could use American military equipment, kept in storages in Israel, in emergencies. To top that, the US Army also operates an innovative and classified radar system in the Har-keren mountaintop in the Negev region. Israelis are not allowed to see it firsthand (the closed US area on Israeli soil generates considerable resentment in the defense establishments).

Harming the Israeli national honor or not, the new aid agreement on the agenda is also considered as compensation for the nuclear deal with Iran in summer 2015. The truth is that the compensation is not for the nuclear deal, but for the massive arms sales of American companies in the Persian Gulf.

Not many are aware, but the entire region is in an intense arms race, as Iran plans to spend no less than $ 20 billion of its funds, which were frozen during the economic sanctions, in order to finance the procurement of advanced weapons systems, primarily from Russia. Iran's neighboring countries fear its massive procurement and its transformation to a nuclear power, sooner or later (no leader in the Persian Gulf believes that the agreement will prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear bomb). For this reason, they also acquire weapons, mainly from France and the United States (including many squadrons of modern fighter aircraft, made by the two countries).

This massive equipping is a great celebration for the US defense companies, but these weapons may one day be directed against Israel. Because the United States is committed to maintaining Israel's qualitative edge (under a law passed years ago in Congress) - Israel is expected to receive increased aid, to allegedly ensure this advantage.

Aid Talks

Sources very involved in the defense and diplomatic relations between Israel and the United States, are confident that Israel had already missed an excellent opportunity to boost the "compensation". It was near the time the agreement with Iran was signed. "Before signing the agreement, the American government was willing to give Israel almost everything it had wanted, to "silence" the criticism of the agreement. But because the Prime Minister has decided to fight Obama, the Americans have taught him a lesson and did not promise any compensation," said a source close the subject.

Now, as mentioned, Israel hopes that the Democrats' electoral considerations prevail over the US administration's hostility towards the current Israeli government. But what Israel really wants and what would be the extent of the new aid? Talks over the subject between Israeli and American teams began last fall, as part of negotiations between the Israeli Defense Ministry and the Pentagon. During those conversations, Head of the IDF Planning Directorate, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, presented the IDF's needs to his US colleagues.

During the past few weeks, the aid negotiations was intensified and the reins were passed to PM Netanyahu's hands, who deals with the issue closely. The person who coordinates for the subject is the acting Head of the National Security Council, Ya'akov Nagel, who works regularly with the head of the US National Security Council, Dr. Susan Rice. Originally, Nagel started in the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure (MAFAT) in IMOD, and is currently a candidate for Heading MAFAT. Other major candidates mentioned, were Brig. Gen. (Res.) Dr. Danny Gold, who is considered as the father of "Iron Dome"; Maj. Gen. (Res.) Ami Shafran; and Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Eytan Eshel and Brig. Gen. (Res.) Shmuel Yachin. The four of them served as Heads of the IDF's R&D department.

Meanwhile, a new Head of the National Security Council was appointed this week, instead of Yossi Cohen, who has been appointed as Head of Mossad in early January: Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Avriel Bar-Yosef, originally a Navy officer, received the prestigious appointment.

Back to the US aid: the two main questions on the agenda are concerning the sum of the annual aid, in the decade between 2017 and 2027, and the quality of weapons that Israel will receive. Israel expects a significant boost in the annual aid, as part of "compensation" for the nuclear deal. Sums of even 4 and 5 billion dollars were heard. The second question, which depends on the actual sum of the defense aid, is what weapons systems Israel could purchase with that money.

Israel is already planning on at least two squadrons of the future F-35 fighter (the first aircraft of this model will land on Israeli soil this December), but in the Air Force they fantasize about no less than four squadrons by the end of the next decade. In addition, they desire an additional F-15 squadron, a modern array of transport helicopters and refueling aircraft, as well as an aircraft which is half helicopter and half fighter, the V-22.

In addition to aircraft, Israel-US talks involve advanced air-to-ground missiles and much-needed weapons, should it turn out that Iran has been fooling the world and continues to strive for a nuclear bomb. These weapons include, mainly, bunker-busting bombs, more advanced and heavier than the "Lite" version of bunker-busting bombs that the air force received five years ago.

Some of the systems discussed between Israel and the United States are highly classified. In many cases, it is expected that the Americans would agree to include such systems in the weapons arsenal supplied to Israel, only if they know that Israeli defense industries are already developing similar systems in parallel.

Not all interests of Israel and the US are overlapping, but from Israel's perspective, the aid agreement shall determine Israel's military power for many decades. Thus, this month will bring about crucial decisions, and all negotiation tricks will come into play, by both sides.

Turkish trans-border strikes on Syria, They (Turkey) should be fully aware of their responsibility — Ryabkov.

Turkish trans-border strikes on Syria, They (Turkey) should be fully aware of their responsibility — Ryabkov. (Tass).

Turkey’s activity on the border with Syria can be a delayed-action mine under the ceasefire agreements, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Monday.

"The Turkish colleagues have not abandoned the idea of trans-border strikes, an idea to form certain zones on the Syrian territory along the Turkish border," he said, noting that it is "a very dangerous situation from the point of view of how Ankara can behave".

According to Ryabkov, the use of force in Syria by outside players, particularly Turkey, could undermine the political settlement in this country.

"We cannot but be concerned about military preparations, intensifying activity along the perimeter of the Syrian border. If the governments of the countries that are engaged in these activities, have plans to use force to achieve some goals, this would be a fatal blow to everything that has been achieved to date," he said.

"These governments, including Turkey, should be fully aware of their responsibility," Ryabkov said. Hmmm......As long as Erdogan and his minions are running Turkey there will be no peace in the Middle East.

Dutch authorities identified about 30 war crimes suspects, a third of them Syrians.

Dutch authorities identified about 30 war crimes suspects, a third of them Syrians. (JPost).

Dutch authorities identified about 30 war crimes suspects, a third of them Syrians, among the 59,000 people who applied for asylum last year, the immigration minister said on Monday.

Klaas Dijkhoff released the data in a letter amid an increasingly heated debate over immigration, stoked by an increase in arrivals from war zones across the Middle East.

He was responding to questions from members of parliament, many of whom have been calling on the government to start sending back migrants who are suspected of atrocities, or break Dutch laws.

Ten of the suspects were from Syria and the rest from Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria, Georgia and other countries, he added, without going into further details. Read the full story here.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen endorses Trump.

French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen endorses Trump. (TOI).

French far-right patriarch Jean-Marie Le Pen, kicked out of his own party for racist and anti-Semitic comments, has given controversial Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump the thumbs up.

If I was American I would vote for Donald Trump… may God protect him,” tweeted the fiery 87-year-old founder of the National Front, now led by his daughter Marine.

Trump’s unlikely juggernaut in the US presidential primaries on the back of comments tinged by racism and veering towards demagoguery, has stunned observers and shaken the American political establishment to its core.

Le Pen’s endorsement comes after former Mexican president Felipe Calderon compared the real estate mogul to Adolf Hitler and said he was “frankly racist.” Read the full story here.

Shahindokht Molaverdi, VP for women and family affairs: "We have a village where every single man has been executed".

Shahindokht Molaverdi, VP for women and family affairs: "We have a village where every single man has been executed". (AlArabia).

An Iranian village has seen every one of its men executed for drug offences, according to a leading Iranian official.

The unnamed village in the east of the country was used as an example of how Tehran is taking a tough line against drug smugglers.

Shahindokht Molaverdi, vice-president for women and family affairs, made the comments to Iranian news agency Mehr.

"We have a village in Sistan and Baluchistan province where every single man has been executed," she said.

"Their children are potential drug traffickers as they would want to seek revenge and provide money for their families. There is no support for these people."

Molaverdi did not name the village, but said that welfare support programmes are providing financial assistance to those who might be otherwise induced into the drugs trade.

Iran is one of the world's leading executioners and capital offences include drug smuggling, homosexuality and adultery.

Tehran put to death more than 289 people in 2014 according to Amnesty International. The condemned are usually hung by cranes in public, although stoning to death remains on the stature books.

Iran is also grappling with a problem of widespread drug addiction. Read the full story here. More here.

Russian Center for reconciling turns to US for explanations over Turkey’s shelling of Syrian territory.

Russian Center for reconciling turns to US for explanations over Turkey’s shelling of Syrian territory. (Tass).

The Russian Center for Truce in Syria has turned to the US Reconciliation Center for explanations over the shelling of the Syrian territory by Turkey, which is a member of the US-led anti-terror coalition, Russian Center Head Lieutenant-General Sergei Kuralenko said on Sunday.

"Overnight to February 28, the Russian Center for reconciling the warring sides in Syria received information on an attack from the Turkish territory on the Syrian town of Et Tell el-Abyad by armed units with the support of large-caliber artillery. This information was subsequently verified and confirmed through several channels, including representatives of the Syrian Democratic Forces," the Russian general said.

"The Russian Center has turned to the US Reconciliation Center in Amman for explanations over the shelling of the Syrian territory by Turkey, which is a member of the US-led anti-IS [Islamic State] coalition," he said. Hmmm......As long as Erdogan and his minions are running Turkey there will be no peace in the Middle East. Read the full story here.

Video - "We're taking over this Country": 'Ottoman Germania' threatens Germans in music video.

While many artists in the German Rap scene show hostility towards German culture and Germans in general, this music video by the German - Turkish boxing gang "Osmanen Germania" (freely translated Ottoman German Empire) released last year takes the absurdity to another level. It combines elements of biker-culture and German folk elements with Muslim faith and the self-proclaimed goal of a hostile takeover of the entire country - all while being proud to claim some traditional German culture as their own as a trophy.

In the video, the lead rapper claims Germans are weak and know nothing about brotherhood, while (as Allah is willing) Muslims will take over the country. He claims they are stronger, know how to fight, are ready to die in battle in a martyrs death and will "rob the last shirt" of Germans. Hmmm.......The odds of them being pro AKP are probably very high.HT To InfidelBloggers for spotting this 'hate speech'.

Erdogan says he does not obey or respect top courts authority in freed journalist case.

Erdogan says he does not obey or respect top courts authority in freed journalist case. (TZ).

"The Constitutional Court may have reached such a verdict. I would only remain silent. I am not in a position to accept it," Erdoğan told reporters before departing for a visit to African countries. "I do not obey it nor do I respect it."

Dündar and Gül were arrested on charges of espionage and aiding a terrorist organization in November after the publication of video footage purporting to show the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) helping to send weapons to Syria when they were intercepted in 2014 by gendarmerie forces. The arrest drew international condemnation and revived concern about media freedom in Turkey.

Erdoğan, who described the interception of the MİT trucks as an act of espionage aimed at undermining Turkey internationally, vowed that Dündar would pay a "heavy price" for reporting on the incident. "I will not let him go [unpunished]," he said back in November.

"The media cannot have unlimited freedom. These reports are an attack on the current president of this country," Erdoğan said on Sunday. "This has nothing to do with freedom of expression at all. This is an espionage case." Hmmm......'L'Etat c'est Moi'. Read the full story here.

Zika - Predicted distribution of of A. aegypti and A. albopictus, February 23.

Source and Download here

This does not bode well for much of the southern and eastern US, or for much of the Midwest and central California. Or, for that matter, for the most densely populated region of Canada, from Windsor, Ontario to Montreal. We're not on the map, yet, but we'll have our hands full even if we have to deal only with imported cases of Zika, dengue, and chikungunya. HT & Source: Crof.

Based on the Agency's Rapid Risk Assessment, the overall risk to Canadians, in Canada, is very low, as mosquitoes known to transmit the virus are not established in Canada and are not well-suited to our climate.

The primary risk of autochthonous transmission in Canada would arise from Aedes albopictus mosquitoes becoming established here. Our knowledge of its current whereabouts is based on informal surveillance. More field research is needed in North America to better understand and predict the climatic limits of this species Footnote 10.

Several factors could alter this assessment. Temperatures suitable for chikungunya virus transmission are achieved at times in many parts of Canada during the summer Footnote 9, and it is possible that in some circumstances housing conditions and densities of uninfected people would be sufficient to sustain limited outbreaks. Furthermore, it is possible that genetic plasticity of mosquito species could improve their capacity to survive in cooler, more northerly climates, although this is difficult to predict Footnote 10. Finally, viral mutations could theoretically result in viruses becoming transmissible by other vectors that are established in Canada Footnote 2.
In conclusion, our observations suggest that the current risk of autochthonous spread of chikungunya virus in Canada is very low, but there are gaps in our knowledge and several factors could alter this risk assessment. 
This suggests the need for ongoing risk assessment, consideration of the projected effects of climate change, surveillance for human cases of chikungunya, enhanced surveillance for mosquito vectors, and the development of plans for prevention and control of outbreaks of this and other exotic vector-borne diseases that may threaten the health of Canadians in the coming decades.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Refugee Crisis Disunity: Greece ultimately ending up as one giant Refugee center.

Refugee Crisis Disunity: Greece ultimately ending up as one giant Refugee center. (Spiegel).

It has been a week of solo measures and heightened tensions within a deeply fractured Europe. On March 7, the EU will once again attempt to find a solution to the refugee crisis at a special summit meeting in Brussels.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to place her hopes on Turkey, with her plan calling for the country to stop the flow of refugees and even take some of them back. But at the same time, countries along the Balkan Route have begun taking measures of their own, with Austria leading the way.

Now that Vienna is only accepting 80 asylum applications per day at the Spielfeld border crossing with Slovenia -- and now that other Balkan countries have constricted the refugee flow in response -- migrants have begun backing up in Greece.

In his interview, Defense Minister Doskozil makes no attempt to contradict the impression that exactly that outcome was intended. Currently, he says, his ministry is examining whether and how many soldiers should be sent to Macedonia to help the country secure its border with Greece. 

That border has been closed to Afghans since Monday, with only Syrians and Iraqis allowed to pass. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, a total of only 150 refugees entered Macedonian territory. On Thursday morning, another 100 were allowed to pass, before Macedonia completely sealed off its border. When and whether it will be reopened is unclear.

Greece has now de facto become the collecting point for the vast majority of refugees heading north. The country, says one EU diplomat candidly, "is turning into a single enormous hotspot," referring to the plan to establish central refugee registration points on Europe's periphery. 

Greece has been in the throes of a deep economic crisis for years and is now completely overwhelmed by the task of providing food and shelter to tens of thousands of refugees. Some 12,000 migrants are currently stranded in the country and the four official camps are hopelessly overcrowded.

A spokeswoman from Doctors without Borders says that if Afghans continue to be blocked from continuing northward, the system will collapse "in just eight days." Because there is "no realistic emergency plan," she says, her organization is preparing for the worst.

The European Commission is likewise developing emergency aid so as to prevent the collapse of the state on the Turkish border.

Dozens of buses with around 5,000 refugees on board were stopped on the highway by police earlier this week in Greece because the camps in Idomeni, on the Greek-Macedonian border, were already filled beyond capacity. Some 500 people continued on foot, walking along the highway and spending the night alongside angry farmers who have been blocking traffic with their tractors in recent weeks to protest against Tsipras' austerity policies. They are shameful scenes that played out across the country -- all symbolic of European failure. Hmmm.....A month ago i already predicted that Greece would end up with all the refugees. Read the full story here.

Germany deems passports issued from within ISIS territory invalid.

Germany deems passports issued from within ISIS territory invalid. (DS).

Germany has declared Syrian and Iraqi passports issued in territory controlled by ISIS invalid.

The Interior Ministry confirmed a report Saturday by the weekly Der Spiegel that German authorities stopped recognizing the passports Dec. 10. The measure was taken less than a month after French police found Syrian passports on the bodies of two men involved in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in Paris.

Security services believe ISIS seized large numbers of blank passports and passport-making equipment when they captured Deir el-Zor, Raqqa and Hassakeh in Syria, and Mosul and Anbar province in Iraq.

The Interior Ministry said all documents issued from those cities since Jan. 1, 2015, are invalid in Germany and their bearers' identities are considered unconfirmed unless they can provide other documents.

Iran - Interior Min to Announce Final Elections Results on Tuesday, partial results Saturday evening

Iran - Interior Min to Announce Final Elections Results on Tuesday, partial results Saturday evening.(Fars).

Iran's Interior Ministry said the final results of the Friday parliamentary and Assembly of Experts Elections will be declared on Tuesday, although results of final vote counts in smaller towns and cities will be declared on Saturday and Sunday.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told a press conference in Tehran on Saturday that the results of 70% to 80% of polling stations will be announced by Saturday night.

"We will start announcing the (partial) results of the Tehran electorate tonight," he said, but stressed that nationwide vote counting and declaration of the final results will take place on Tuesday as final elections results in Tehran will not end any sooner than Monday.

Ramani Fazli noted that over 60% of all eligible voters took part in the elections, and over 53,000 polling stations were set up for some 54,915,024 eligible people to vote.

According to the interior ministry, a sum of 6,229 candidates were cleared to compete for the 290-seat legislature but 729 of them withdrew from candidacy. More than 5,500 carried out the final registration to run in the race. Candidates from all the three major camps, the Principlists, Moderates and Reformists were present in the race.

The winning candidates of the Assembly of Experts' next term, lasting until 2024, possibly might have to choose the next Supreme Leader of Iran, or at the very least plan for it

Friday, February 26, 2016

MLNF: 'NO negotiations for the IS western (Canadian) hostages in the Philippines in Five months'

MLNF confirms NO negotiations for the IS western (Canadian) hostages in the Philippines. (MB).

Amid the election fever, a senior leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has raised concern over the welfare of at least five foreigners and some Filipinos still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)  in Sulu.

I don’t really know for sure, but it seems the government has forgotten the foreign and local hostages,” the MNLF leader, who asked not to be named, asserted.

He said the case of the hostages still being held by the ASG may have been lost in “the ongoing election campaign and the military offensive in Sulu.”

The foreign hostages he was referring to include three foreigners – Canadians John Ridsel and Robert Hall, and Canadian Kjartan Sekkingtad – and a Filipina, Maritess Flor.

A Dutch bird watcher, Ewold Horn, is also among the foreign hostages after he and Filipino colleague, Lorenzo Vinciguerra were abducted in Tawi-Tawi four years ago. Vinciguerra has since been able to escape from their captors.

There, too, is Italian Rolando del Torchio, a former priest who now owns a pizza parlor in Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte. He was kidnapped in October last year.

The MNLF leader said he believed that the foreign captives were all with various ASG sub-groups scattered in Sulu and are being dragged around in the jungles as the bandits try to elude relentless military offensives.

ASG sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, whose group is holding the four Samal Island captives, had earlier demanded a P3-billion ransom for the three foreigners, which he later reduced to P900 million.

He said he spoke with them and asked if there was any ongoing negotiation or effort to secure the hostages’ freedom.“My friends told me that, at present, there was no negotiation,” the MNLF leader in Sulu said. Hmmm......It seems saving Canadian hostages is not on Trudeau's priority list. Read the full story here.

Militants in Philippines demand huge ransom for kidnapped Canadians

HT And Source:

Bilal Erdoğan allegedly pledges $20 million to 'Islamist' Turkish-Bulgarian party leader.

Bilal Erdoğan allegedly pledges $20 million to 'Islamist' Turkish-Bulgarian party leader. (FOT).

Bulgarian weekly Yukegh’s edition for Feb. 20-26 claimed that Mestan, who founded the Democrats for Responsibility, Freedom and Tolerance (DOST) party after his dismissal from the HÖH, was pledged by Bilal Erdoğan a monthly release of $1 million for the coming 20 months.

Mestan was dismissed from his position in the party after he voiced support for Turkey’s downing of a Russian Su-24 jet near the Syrian border in defense of its air space in late November.

According to the weekly, Mestan will receive money from the Turkish Presidency’s discretionary fund. Calling the meeting between Mestan and Erdoğan a “scandal,” the weekly also claimed that Mestan was promised 50,000 votes from Turkey for his party, DOST. Turkish Ambassador to Bulgaria Süleyman Gökçe acts as intermediary in the transaction of money to Mestan, according the Yukegh.

The Bulgarian weekly’s claim came on the heels of the declaration of Uğur Emiroğlu, a religious attaché at the Turkish Consulate General in Burgas, as “persona non grata” due to his activities interfering in Bulgaria’s internal matters, according to Bulgarian press reports.

Bulgarian Focus News Agency reported on Sunday that Bulgaria had been disturbed by Emiroğlu’s relations with the Muslim minority in the country, especially as he is accused of pressuring ethnic Turks to support Mestan. There are about 300,000 ethnic Turks living in Bulgaria.

The Sofia News Agency reported over the weekend that Emiroğlu left Bulgaria after the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry sent a complaint to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

Bulgaria 'Declares Turkish Consulate "religious affairs" attache Persona Non Grata'.

Gazprom cutting gas supplies to Turkey by nearly a quarter.

Gazprom cutting gas supplies to Turkey by nearly a quarter. (RT).

The already strained relations between Moscow and Ankara have taken a turn for the worse. Gazprom has cut gas supplies by nearly a quarter after failing to reach an agreement with Turkish importers on discounts for Russian natural gas.

Delivery is down 23 percent, compared to the same period last year, Interfax reports, quoting data from Bulgarian gas operator Bulgartransgaz that processes about 50 percent of Russian gas going to Turkey.

According to the news agency sources, the reduction is linked to a price dispute between Gazprom and Turkey's private gas importers.

Business daily Kommersant’s sources say Gazprom stopped giving the discount at the beginning of the year. For January deliveries, Turkish companies had to pay at a higher price, but on the payment date of February 21 they only paid the discounted price.

As a result, Gazprom has cut the volume delivered by the size of the underpayment. Read the full story here.

Head of Hezbollah Special Forces in Syria Ali Fay'yad, aka, Alaa al-Bosni, killed during clashes with ISIS

Head of Hezbollah Special Forces in Syria Ali Fay'yad, aka, Alaa al-Bosni, killed during clashes with ISIS. HT and Source: Chief International Correspondent Al Rai,  @Elijah J. Magnier.

Update 2:

Iranian navy ships arrived in Tanzania.

Iranian navy ships arrived in Tanzania. (Taz).

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said that the Islamic Republic’s navy fleet reached Tanzania.

"The warships would harbor in Dar es Salaam port in coming says," Fars news agency quoted him on Feb.25.

Last year, in April, Sayyari also said that Iran's 34th fleet has started a journey to the Gulf of Aden and Bab el-Mandeb.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last November that “the advances in the Navy could not have been as outstanding as it is now; before the Revolution [1979], the sea had been downplayed in its prestige, grandeur, and strategic role in international politics; now however, the Navy have walked a long road, yet many miles should be covered to reach the optimal place”.

Related: Iran looking to lease land in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to grow rice, wheat.

Video - Kuwaiti Writer Ahmad Sarraf: We Refuse to Acknowledge Our Crimes; ISIS Has Always Been Here.

Video - Kuwaiti Writer Ahmad Sarraf: We Refuse to Acknowledge Our Crimes; ISIS Has Always Been Here. (MEMRI).

In a recent TV interview, Kuwaiti writer and businessman Ahmad Sarraf said that the West had acknowledged its Colonialist crimes and had made reparations for the crimes of Nazism, and posed the question "whether we, as Arabs and Muslims, are also ready to acknowledge that we had committed atrocities."

"We call these atrocities 'conquests' or 'raids.' We give them a religious title," he said. In the Sky News Arabia interview, which aired on January 29,
Sarraf further said that while ISIS is "a new name on the scene, there have been dozens or hundreds of Islamic movements... All these groups were considered to be the ISIS of their times." He said that while he has "no sympathy whatsoever" for the Iranian regime, he did not think that the danger today lies in Shiite terrorism. "We have Sunni terrorism, and the Shiite terrorism is like the icing on the cake," he said.

India - Punjab: 12-year-old girl set on fire after week long rape, dies.

India - Punjab: 12-year-old girl set on fire after week long rape, dies. (Indian express).

A 12-year-old girl died on Thursday morning after being allegedly set on fire by a 19-year old man, who is also accused of repeatedly raping her in the last eight days.

Sunil, 19, allegedly poured kerosene on the girl last night at her residence in Balwinder Singh ka vehra (one-room houses) in Sherpur area following which she was rushed to Ludhiana Civil Hospital with more than 95 percent burns.

The girl named Sunil in her statement before a magistrate and said that he threatened to kill her if she revealed anything to her parents.

Speaking to Indian Express, RS Cheema, Assistant commissioner of police (ACP) south, said, “The girl used to stay at home and the accused was teasing her for days. She was being repeatedly raped since 8-10 days and she did not reveal it to her parents. Yesterday, she decided to tell to her parents but before that Sunil poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze.”

The gynecologist, who performed a medical check up before her death, confirmed to the police that the girl was brutally raped.

She was referred to PGIMER Chandigarh after her condition became extremely critical, but succumbed to burn injuries on her way.

Tension gripped Sherpur area after her family blocked traffic and staged protest with the dead body demanding Sunil’s arrest.

An FIR has been registered at Focal Point police station in which police has booked the father and two brothers of the accused under section 120-B (conspiracy) of IPC. His father Harish and two brothers, Anil and Laxman (aged 19 and 22), have now been arrested. The main accused, Sunil, is still absconding.

India - Rape[Istan] - Women were pulled out of cars and gang-raped. (NDtv)
A popular pit-stop for travelers just 50 km from Delhi, gave a chilling face to allegations that women were pulled out of cars and gang-raped here a week ago, at the height of violence during Jat quota protests.

The police say no one has been able to confirm the mass rapes that allegedly took place late on Sunday night; no witnesses have come forward, no complaints have been made and villagers have said nothing.

"We appeal to people to provide any information. We are very serious about the case...we will investigate and make sure that the guilty are punished," said Haryana police chief Yash Pal Singal.

"The clothes that have been found have been collected. We are trying to ascertain if a crime was committed," he added,

Three women officers have been tasked with receiving any rape complaint during the Jat protests.

A newspaper report had said that cars were stopped by a mob of 30 and at least 10 women were dragged out and raped in the fields. The cars were allegedly set on fire.

The report quoted eyewitnesses as saying that the women lay in the fields almost till dawn until their families came looking for them. Witnesses are quoted as saying the women were persuaded by the police not to press charges.

An NGO has said that its members spoke to witnesses who confirmed the rapes.

Taking note of the allegations, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday asked Haryana's Chief Secretary and the police chief to submit a report on the alleged rapes in Murthal.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Egypt sentences 4 Coptic students to 5 years in jail for mocking Islam and the 'Islamic State' .

Egypt sentences 4 Coptic students to 5 years in jail for mocking Islam and 'Islamic State' .   (AlAhram).

Four Coptic Christian school students ages 15 and 16, have been sentenced to five years in jail on charges of contempt of religion.

Minya's Juvenile Misdemeanor Court sentenced Mueller Atef, Albert Ashraf, and Bassem Amgad to five years in jail and Clinton Magdy to juvenile custody, also for five years.

The story goes back to April 2015, when a group of Muslims in Nasiriyah village in Minya governorate filed a complaint accusing a Coptic teacher named Gad Youssef Younan, a 22-year-old, and five of his students of insulting Islam.

The insults allegedly came in a short video with a scene mocking the Islamic State group during a journey with the Evangelical church in Minya on February 2015.

The 30-second video showed the students pretending to pray, with one kneeling on the floor while reciting Qur'anic verses and two others standing behind him and laughing. One waved his hand under a second's neck in a sign of beheading. The video was filmed during a students' picnic to mock Islamic State group it beheaded Coptic Christians in Libya last year.

Defence lawyer Maher Naguib said the four had not intended to insult Islam in the video, but merely to mock the beheadings carried out by jihadists of the Islamic State group.

In the video, one teenager can be seen kneeling on the ground and reciting Muslim prayers while others stand behind him, laughing.

Later one of them is seen making a sign with his thumb to indicate the beheading of the one who is kneeling.

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, an independent rights group, said ahead of Thursday's judgement that it watched the video and found that the four teenagers were performing scenes "imitating slaughter carried out by terrorist groups".

The group warned that there was a return "of using contempt of religion as accusations against writers and religious minorities".

On 30 January 2016, Younan was sentenced to three years in prison for contempt of religion.

Coptic Christians only make up roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 90 million. Hmmm.....Once again proof that ISIS has everything to do with Islam. Read the full story here. More here.

PKK Leader Cemil Bayik: 'Turkish state aims to destroy all Kurds, Kurds are not property of the Turkish state'.

PKK Leader Cemil Bayik: 'Turkish state aims to destroy all Kurds, Kurds are not property of the Turkish state'. (ANF).

KCK Executive Council Co-President Cemil Bayık described the Turkish state’s attacks as illegitimate and inhumane, and noted that Kurdish people would not acknowledge the government and the state as long as the state does not acknowledge Kurdish people’s self-administration and Turkey does not democratize.

In his article published in Yeni Özgür Politika and Azadiya Welat newspapers, which has been translated from Kurdish by ANF English service, Cemil Bayık wrote the following:

Whatever AKP officials and suck-ups may say, the AKP government is hostile towards Kurdish people. The AKP government expressed it hostility when Erdoğan said “Kobanê is about to fall” and this hostility is at its peak in the form of enmity towards the PYD. The state shows its hostility through its destruction of civilian areas in North Kurdistan, massacres, and attacks on the HDP.

We can say that no political power has been as anti-Kurdish as the AKP government. Such enmity has not existed in Iraq, Iran or Syria. The attacks of the AKP are beyond human comprehension.
For the AKP, Kurds have no value. Speaking of the Kurds is an objection to the strategy of the Turkish state that aims to destroy all Kurds. For these policy makers, Kurds should either suck up to the state or face brutality and torture. If a Kurd defends her identity and wants a free and democratic life, she will receive the worst insults and treatment for her act.
The Turkish state views Kurds as its property, a cadaver that can be treated in any way. This is why Kurds may be treated brutally. This mentality and policy is at the root of the Kurdish issue.

This approach will not change as long as Kurds’ free and democratic life is not accepted. Of course, Kurds do not accept the Turkish state’s insult. The western world speaks of democracy and the values of humanity, but does not object to the Turkish state’s policies towards Kurds. Turkey, an ally of the west, is normalizing the policies of insulting and brutalizing Kurds!

Turkey now directs its policy of insulting and crushing Kurdish people to the parliamentarians of the party that these people voted for. Turkey thinks that these parliamentarians are not people’s representatives but paid civil servants of the state! Turkish politicians and AKP officials say that ‘these parliamentarians are paid by the state, so they should implement the state’s policies and accept whatever the state dictates.’ 

Turkey should know that HDP parliamentarians are not paid civil servants; they are the representatives of Kurdish people. The salaries they mention come from the taxes that Kurdish people are forced to pay. If they say that HDP parliamentarians should betray Kurdish people because of their salaries, why should Kurdish people pay taxes? Why should the people acknowledge the courts, when the courts are institutions of brutality? Why should the people acknowledge governors, when governors give massacre orders targeting the people? Why should the people acknowledge the state, when the state arrests the mayors elected by the people? Nothing can be as legitimate as the Kurdish people’s decision to declare self-administration in the face of state policies.

The Turkish state’s attacks are illegitimate and inhumane. Kurdish people will not acknowledge the government and the state as long as the state does not acknowledge Kurdish people’s self-administration and Turkey does not democratize. This is the right of Kurdish people and nobody can question why the Kurds do not acknowledge the state. Nobody can legitimize the policies, discourse and applications of the Turkish state.

The Turkish state now disrespects the pain and attacks the condolence tents of Kurdish mothers and fathers. All political actors including the President and the Prime Minister go to the funerals of soldiers and police officers that massacre hundreds of Kurdish people, but other people are not supposed to go to the condolence tent of the young person who carried out the event in Ankara. If people can go to the funeral of soldiers and police officers that destroy Kurdish towns and kill civilians including babies and old people, everyone can go to the funeral of a Kurdish youth. Whether it is a soldier-police officer or a Kurdish youth that dies, even if one does not like their ideologies, one cannot attack a funeral. Parents mourn the death of their children, but the state prohibits Kurdish mothers and fathers from mourning. They even arrest Kurdish parents for mourning. Their goal is to make parents curse their deceased child, just like the state does.

The AKP government has gone mad, it does not have any humane, moral or conscientious values. AKP does not respect the traditions and values of Kurdish people. The most basic cultural values of parents who mourn the death of their children are ignored. Is it up to the state to decide which families can mourn the death of its children? This is the tyrant state that Kurds resist. This is a state that does not tolerate the will and culture of a society. This is the mentality at the root of the Kurdish issue.

It is not surprising for those that rip apart and desecrate dead bodies for revenge to attack parents that are mourning the death of their children. It is a duty of neighbors to visit the funeral of a neighbor, and it is shameful if neighbors fail to fulfill this duty. Someone from HDP can visit the family of a person that voted for the HDP, and nobody can prevent this visit. It is not up to the state to decide who can go to a funeral and who can mourn for their deceased relatives.

In fact, the pressures on HDP parliamentarian Tuğba Hezer have nothing to do with her visit to a funeral. The AKP state wants to silence everyone on the dirty war it is waging against Kurdish people. The pressures on the HDP aim to silence the only opposition in the country.

Hmmm......The Same AKP government that considers the terrorist group HAMAS as 'freedom fighters' names Kurdish fighters 'Terrorists' .....

Russian foreign Min. accuses Turkey of hiding illegal activity near border.

Russian foreign Min. accuses Turkey of hiding illegal activity near border. (Tass).

Turkey is trying to hide illegal activities near the border with Syria by denying a Russian observation flight over its territory, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

"Ankara had no right to deny the observation mission over its territory," she said. "Its refusal indicates the Turkish side’s intention to hide some kind of activity that takes place in the areas over which a Russian aircraft was to fly."

The diplomat drew attention to the fact that Ankara argues that Moscow’s statements on illegal activities near the Turkish-Syrian border were groundless. "It was a great chance to dot the i’s and close the issue," Zakharova said.

"The fact that we were refused means that there is something to hide and we know what is hidden," she said. "We constantly talk about it."

Video - Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon: Iran Will Give $7,000 to the Family of Every "Martyr of the Jerusalem Intifada"

Hungarian PM Orban says EU-Turkey migrant deal an ‘illusion’.

Hungarian PM Orban says EU-Turkey migrant deal an ‘illusion’. (HD).

"We are begging Mr (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan submissively for security on our borders, in exchange for money and promises, because we can't protect them ourselves," Orban told Thursday's mass-selling German daily Bild.
"This is making Europe's future and security dependent on the goodwill of Turkey."
"Brussels is making promises to the Turks that we can't keep - or don't want to keep. The plan to take in hundreds of thousands of refugees from Turkey and distribute them across Europe is an illusion," he said.

If Hungary agreed to this, he said, "they would tie me up on the flagpole here in Budapest". Read the full story here.

'Islamist' Turkey welcomes appointment of Turk as OSCE executive for efforts against intolerance.

'Islamist' Turkey welcomes appointment of Turk as OSCE executive for efforts against intolerance.(HU).

Turkey has welcomed the appointment of a Turkish academic as a senior representative in charge of combating intolerance and discrimination against Muslims under the roof of Europe’s top security body.

Bülent Şenay, an associate professor, was last week appointed by German chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims.

“Our country has been attaching a special importance to supporting work by international organizations in regards to preventing tendencies such as intolerance, xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia which have been rising within the context of today’s challenges such as regional instabilities, irregular migration flows and increasing terror threats,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a written statement released on Feb. 23.

Turkish academic Bülent Şenay oversaw the conference declaration drafting. In a 2010 presentation to the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Senay deemed “Islamophobia” as “today…the strongest form of hate crime,” extending to the “psychological terror” of “cultural terrorists.”

Şenay condemned “hate speech…targeting all the tenets and adherents of Islam…under the banner of the freedom of expression.” Additionally, “hate crimes originate from hate speeches,” Şenay argued in another 2010 OSCE presentation. Şenay is the founder of the European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion (EMISCO), an entity prominent in the past for seeking OSCE opposition to “Islamophobia” speech (see herehere, and here).  Read the full story here

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

House Judiciary Cmte Approves Bill (17-0) Regarding Muslim Brotherhood Designation as a terrorist organization

House Judiciary Cmte Approves Bill (17-0) Regarding Muslim Brotherhood Designation as a terrorist organization. (House).

The House Judiciary Committee today approved by a vote of 17-10 the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2015 (H.R. 3892), which calls on the State Department to recognize the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization in order to better protect national security.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, remains headquartered in Egypt but operates throughout the world. The Muslim Brotherhood’s strategic goal “in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” It has supported Islamist terrorism directly through fundraising and extortion, and has been designated as a terrorist organization by several U.S. allies in the Middle East.

H.R. 3892 would have a threefold effect:

  1. the Administration would actually have to deny admittance to aliens tied to the Muslim Brotherhood; 
  2. persons who provide material support to the Muslim Brotherhood would be subject to federal criminal penalties; 
  3. and the Treasury Department would be able to require U.S. financial institutions possessing or controlling any assets of the Muslim Brotherhood to block all financial transactions involving those assets.

Below is a statement from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), the author of this legislation, on today’s Committee vote. Read the full story here.
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