Saturday, January 31, 2015

"VENEZUELAN SECURITY HEAD DEFECTS, BLOWS WHISTLE ON REGIME. It is noteworthy that “eight other members of President Maduro’s personal security force have deserted Venezuela and defected to the United States, according to reports in Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.”"


Leamsy Salazar was the head of security for Hugo Chavez and, after Chavez’s death, for Diosdado Cabello, the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly and second-in-command of the Socialist Party. Salazar has defected to the United States and unleashed some explosive allegations against his former bosses.
Salazar says that Hugo Chavez died in December 2012, not March 2013 as was claimed by his successor, Nicolás Maduro. Salazar says that Maduro and his cronies covered up Chavez’s death for three months so they could sign decrees under his name. Latin American politics has the reputation of being surreal, but maybe this represents, rather, the around-the-bend craziness of a socialist state. Think North Korea.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kisses Chavez's casket at his funeral in March 2013
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kisses Chavez’s casket at his funeral in March 2013
Salazar also says that Cabello is the head of an international drug cartel that includes other leading members of Venezuela’s Socialist Party, and that receives assistance from Cuba’s Communist government. Is this claim true? I don’t know, but Salazar reportedly is assisting law enforcement in New York with drafting a criminal complaint against Cabello.
It is hard to imagine that Venezuela’s socialist regime can last much longer. The Chavez/Maduro government has wrecked the economy by controlling prices, so everything is either in short supply or non-existent. The IMF says Venezuela’s economy will shrink by seven percent this year; that is undoubtedly an optimistic figure. And, of course, the price of the country’s only export, oil, has plummeted.
It is noteworthy that “eight other members of President Maduro’s personal security force have deserted Venezuela and defected to the United States, according to reports in Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.” These particular rats are well-positioned to know when the ship is about to sink. It can’t happen too soon.

The ruthless and continuous lying by this administration has reached levels of absurdity. But, for the true believers it's all okay. "Story that Boehner blindsided Obama on Netanyahu invitation was manufactured agitprop"

Story that Boehner blindsided Obama on Netanyahu invitation was manufactured agitprop
By Ed Lasky

A correction appearing in the New York Times quietly unravels what has become a major story as phony agitprop, intended to discredit the leaders of Israel and the House of Representatives. Of course, the story is still believed by many, and has well served those in the White House and media who created and disseminated it. Omri Ceren spotted the correction and explained on Twitter:
NYT tries to promote anti-Netanyahu talking point that #Israel blindsided Obama. They got just 1 tiny detail wrong. democrats-to-little-effect-so-far.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=2
Correction: January 30, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel accepted Speaker John A. Boehner’s invitation to address Congress. He accepted after the administration had been informed of the invitation, not before.
In 2011, Boehner sent a notice to the WH stating his intention to invite Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress. The White House never responded (spite? incompetence?) and Boehner proceeded to extend the invitation to Netanyahu. Netanyahu accepted the invitation and spoke. The White House did not express any outrage in 2011. That was before the 2012 reelection, of course, so Obama did not want to run the risk of losing any support.
But that was then and this is now. And as Barack Obama has reminded us, he will never be on a ballot again so he can do whatever he wants now and go “full Bulworth,” as he told close aides he wanted to do in his second term.
Boehner clearly assumed the same series of events was occurring when the White House failed to respond this time to the notice given to the White House before he sent an invite to Netanyahu. (Hat Tip: CJL and LR).
The White House deliberately created this “crisis” to impugn Netanyahu and undercut support for him and Israel. No less than Senator Harry Reid blamed this diplomatic faux paus entirely on Boehner and Netanyahu for undercutting support for Israel among Democrats . The media, or much of it, has been relentlessly attacking Israel over a lie promoted by people in the administration.
By the way, this is the White House again employing what they call the theory of “stray voltage.” The politicos at the White House used the same underhanded tactic when they created controversy over the purported wage gap between men and women.
From the Weekly Standard:
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This is the White House theory of “Stray Voltage.” It is the brainchild of former White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe, whose methods loom large long after his departure. The theory goes like this: Controversy sparks attention, attention provokes conversation, and conversation embeds previously unknown or marginalized ideas in the public consciousness. This happens, Plouffe theorizes, even when—and sometimes especially when—the White House appears defensive, besieged, or off-guard.
While the moniker “stray voltage” may make the concept sound exciting to political reporters, let’s call this what it is: agitprop to advance an agenda. If the “pay gap” was a previously unknown or marginalized idea, that’s because

The practice is abhorrent (ask Mitt Romney) especially when used against a beleaguered ally of America that faces promises that it will be destroyed once Iran has nuclear weapons.
Barack Obama once said before a pro-Israel crowd before the election that he had “Israel’s back.” Yes. He does. He has it alright, just where he wants it: up against a wall.
Hat tip: Lauri Regan
it deserves to be marginalized. In this regard, we’re sure that “if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep your health insurance plan” was just another example of “stray voltage.” Can you blame the president? How else was he supposed to convince people a federal takeover of health care shouldn’ 

Another Obama scheme that will make health care tougher to get and distorted by government bureaucrats. Another bit of outcome based theory.

The Barack Obama administration has announced plans to tie 90 percent of all Medicare fee-for-service payments to some sort of quality or value measure by 2018. Sounds exciting! Who wouldn't like to ensure that their doctors are paid for delivering value, rather than just randomly sticking needles into us?
Unfortunately, as both the Official Blog Spouse and Aaron Carroll of the Incidental Economist have noted, there is less to this announcement than meets the eye. Saying you want to pay for quality instead of procedures is quite easy to say; indeed, many an administration has said so, because "paying for outcomes instead of treatment" is the holy grail of health-care economists everywhere. But actually doing this, rather than just saying it, turns out to be really hard. I think it's fair to say that the Official Blog Spouse is one of the few journalists in the nation who has extensively reported on the history of Medicare payment reforms, all of which were supposed to move the system toward paying for valuable health care rather than cardiologists' greens fees. As he details, they mostly failed. Medicare payments turn out to be a lot like one of those gel stress balls: You can squeeze them very small in one place, but the spending just pops out somewhere else.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Health-care lobbies are powerful, and Congress is almost uniquely easy to lobby, so ideas like controlling the growth rate of physician payments fell by the wayside once those payments actually had to be cut. The larger problem, however, is finding what to measure -- and making sure that your measurement doesn't introduce perverse incentives into the system. The fundamental problem is that while we want to pay for "health" or "outcomes," we can't really measure those very well. 
Here's a little exercise that will illustrate the problems of measurement that confound attempts to pay for "outcomes" or "health" instead of treatment: Tell me how healthy you are on a scale of 1 to 10.
Now before you blurt out an answer, stop and think. You're probably already pondering some questions: What's on the scale? What does a 1 look like, and what is a 10?
Let's say that 1 is a terminal cancer patient in the ICU; 10 is an 18-year-old athlete in the prime of his physical powers. But you're probably neither of these things. So where do you fall in between? Maybe you're pretty healthy for a 47-year-old accountant, but your back gives you frequent trouble and you've got some acid reflux you need to watch, and, of course, there's your blood pressure pills, or maybe in your case it's a statin ...
If you rate yourself compared to your neighbors, or other 47-year-old accountants, you might give yourself an 8 -- 9 if you're the cheery sort, 7 if you're a perpetual grump. But if you compare yourself to that 18-year-old athlete, you're probably more of a 5 or a 6.
And that's only the stuff you know about. What about the stuff you don't know about? How likely are you to die in the next five years? Or have a heart attack or a stroke or lose a limb?
The answer is "you have no idea." If we had 50,000 of you, actuaries could predict these things pretty accurately: how many heart attacks, strokes, deaths, car accidents and so forth. But unless you are that terminal cancer patient in the ICU, no one can predict how likely you, personally, are to die in the next five years. We can say something about the expected life and health of large groups of people very like you. But not you personally.
Unfortunately, doctors don't treat statistical universes; they treat individual patients. Those patients may unpredictably die, or just as unpredictably survive against incredible odds. Some of that is due to the skill of the doctor, some to the innate characteristics of the patient. How much of which? Hard to tell unless the doctor does something obviously completely wrong and stupid, like leaving an instrument inside the patient he's operating on.
You can look at the whole pool of patients that the doctor treats, of course, but the more complicated and expensive the treatment, the fewer patients the doctor will be treating, which means that your data is prone to being swamped by a few outliers. Moreover, doctors do not treat identical patient pools. A good doctor who treats really sick patients may look worse than a bad doctor who confines their treatment to the relatively young and healthy.
Of course, we can attempt to correct for this by adjusting the measurement for risk. The problem is that we don't know all the risk factors; we know some risk factors that we can measure. There are a lot of risk factors we can't, which means that this adjustment will be far from perfect.
If the adjustment is too imperfect, providers have recourse even beyond lobbying: They can stop taking patients covered by your program. That limits your ability to shrug your shoulders and say, "Gosh, well, the world's imperfect, so I'm afraid that yes, some of you are going to get unfairly penalized under the new system. It's the best we can do." 
Medical systems are not the only systems that encounter these problems. Just ask any organization that has tried to implement a new sales compensation scheme to better align sales incentives with "customer value." As one veteran of such attempts told me, suddenly salesmen who majored in beer pong are "like Aristotle" -- they can explain exactly why their sales territory is special and your new, complicated system fundamentally mismeasures the value of their efforts. Within six months, you'll have lost a few top performers who hate the new system. Within a year, your burgeoning philosophers have probably figured out how to game the new metrics.
Gaming -- "juking the stats," as it was called on "The Wire" -- is the other major reason that these sorts of systems are hard to implement. Let me illustrate with a little example. The town of Beachy Head, England, had a big problem with suicide; people threw themselves off its dramatic cliffs. In 1975, however, it managed to cut the rate of suicide in half in a single year. An improvement in the national mood? Or a dramatic triumph of public policy?
A new medical examiner. The new chap decided to test the blood alcohol level of bodies found at the base of the cliffs. Those with alcohol in their blood were ruled to be accidents, rather than suicides.
You might argue that people bent on suicide could be taking a drink to fortify their courage before attempting to take their own lives -- and you'd probably be right. Which is exactly the point. There is some true rate of suicides at Beachy Head, but that's not information we have. All we know is the suicide rate, which is dependent on things like the assumptions of the medical examiner.
This is always a big problem, but it is particularly problematic when you give the person taking the measurements strong incentives to see things one way, rather than the other. On "The Wire," cops made their crime rate look good by reclassifying serious crimes as less serious, or as accidents, which did nothing about the underlying problem but made the cops look much better. Unfortunately, we see the same behavior in doctors and hospitals. It's called "upcoding": rating conditions as more serious than they are in order to increase the reimbursement, or to improve their performance on those risk-adjusted mortality measures.
This can go beyond just massaging a few figures and do active harm. For example, consider what happened when New York state started measuring cardiology outcomes.
The idea was that they were "ending years of private, clubby surgeon culture." The public report cards "were intended to shine a light on poor surgeons and encourage a kind of best-practices ethic across the state. If the system worked, mortality rates would fall everywhere from Oswego to NYU." And at first glance, the system worked beautifully: Risk-adjusted mortality rates dropped by an astonishing two-thirds. But as New York magazine reports, it rapidly became clear that one way surgeons were achieving these advances was simply by refusing to treat the sickest patients:
This isn’t just about high-risk patients. It’s about doctors playing games with practically any patient to get better scores. Some surgeons look for ways to make their easy cases seem harder. Others make their hard cases appear so difficult that they place out of the state reporting system. When it comes to the sickest patients, some surgeons simply turn them away, asserting that they’re better off getting drug treatments, or waiting in the ICU. “The cardiac surgeons refer their patients to the cardiologists, and the cardiologists refer them to the intensive-care unit,” says Joshua Burack, a SUNY–Downstate surgeon in Brooklyn who in 1999 released a study revealing that nearly two-thirds of all heart-bypass surgeons in the state anonymously admitted to refusing at least one patient for fear of tainting their mortality rates. “Everyone’s going to pass along the hot potato to the person who’s not vulnerable to reporting.”
In the past five years, no fewer than five studies have been published in reputable journals raising the possibility that New York heart surgeons are not operating on certain cases for fear of spoiling their mortality rates. The clincher came in January, when, in an anonymous survey sent out to every doctor who does angioplasty in the state, an astonishing 79 percent of the responders agreed that the public mortality statistics have discouraged them from taking on a risky patient. If you’re a hard case, in other words, four out of five doctors would think twice before operating on you.
The Cleveland Clinic started getting a lot more referrals from New York -- and their patients were sicker than the patients referred from other states.
Now, you can make an argument that maybe this is all to the good -- that maybe the money we spent doing heart surgery on very sick people was wasted, and it's better to concentrate our money on the relatively healthy. But that's not the purpose of the report cards, which are supposed to help patients make informed choices about their surgeons -- not to help surgeons better choose their patients. The doctor profiled in the article, who had New York's lowest cardiac mortality rate at the time, told the reporter that he achieved that rate by not operating on people who were "already dead." But what does that mean? Refusing to operate on hopeless cases, or refusing to operate on people who have a 40 percent chance of living with surgery and no chance at all without it? If that were me, I'd probably want to gamble -- and I'd probably be pretty angry if surgeons were too afraid that a failure would show up on their report card.
In some cases, surgeons code their patients as sicker than they used to, even if doing so means doing additional, unnecessary treatment. This can range from putting a patient on nitroglycerin to, the article alleges, actually putting a little ring around someone's mitral valve, which the surgeon who recalled the incident describes as "assault." These measures either improve the risk adjustment or take the patient out of the report card sample entirely, because they're deemed special cases.
You get the point: A measure that was supposed to make patients healthier and encourage the spread of best practices has instead kept doctors from treating sick patients and encouraged unnecessary treatments. Don't get me wrong: It may well have encouraged some better treatment, too. But we always need to be mindful of the perverse incentives by which even a simple, obvious solution like "more transparency!" could actually make the system worse. 
More broadly, when money is on the line, assume that people will act against any system you come up with to preserve their income, even to the detriment of patients -- like Medicare's plan to reduce hospital readmission rates, which completely succeeded in reducing those numbers and also apparently resulted in a lot more patients being put on observation status rather than being admitted to the hospital. That meant they didn't count as "readmissions" if they came back. It also potentially left the patients on the hook for bigger bills.  
I'm not saying that no payment reform program can ever work. I am saying that most of the significant attempts to reform the way we pay for health care haven't, and for similar reasons. Reformers have the basic idea right: You'll get more of what you'll pay for, and less of what you don't, so you should pay for what you want. Unfortunately, in fields like health care and education, we can't pay for what we want; we can only pay for what we can measure. And it's usually a lot easier for people to play with the measurements than it is to change their behavior or give up a big hunk of income.

Why Obama Needs to Pretend the Taliban Aren’t Terrorists

Why Obama Needs to Pretend the Taliban Aren’t Terrorists
The administration makes a desperate and indefensible claim.
By Andrew C. McCarthy 

Islamists in Sinai....

Egypt attack: Profile of Sinai Province militant group

Sinai Province is a militant group that has put its name to a string of deadly attacks in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, and has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS).
On 29 January a series of strikes against military targets in North Sinai left more than 30 people dead, attacks which analysts said showed a new level of co-ordination.
The attacks were carried out despite efforts by the Egyptian military to quell unrest in Sinai through a military crackdown. 
Attacks against Israel 
Sinai Province was previously called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Champions of Jerusalem), but announced a name change in November 2014 when it pledged allegiance to IS, the militant organisation that had made rapid advances in Iraq and Syria.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis was an Al-Qaeda-inspired group that started its operations immediately after the January 2011 uprising that led to the fall of Egypt's long-running ruler Hosni Mubarak. 
The group was initially known for launching attacks on Israeli targets and interests. 
It first gained attention in July 2012 when it assumed responsibility for the blowing up of a pipeline that exports gas to Israel and Jordan, and a month later, it said it had fired rockets from Sinai into the southern Israeli resort of Eilat. 
In September 2012 the group claimed responsibility for attacking an Israeli border patrol in response to a US-produced film widely condemned in the Muslim world as having insulted the Prophet Muhammad. 
Assassination attempt
It was after Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was forced from power in 2013 and the security forces cracked down on his Muslim Brotherhood supporters that the group started directing its violence against the Egyptian army and police. 
The group has been involved in suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, assassinations and beheadings.
In one of its most high-profile attacks, the group tried to assassinate Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim in September 2013, when his motorcade in Cairo was targeted by a car bomb. 
A month later there were attacks on South Sinai's Security Directorate and on the military intelligence building in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya.
On 24 January 2014, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis once again targeted the capital, saying it had carried out an apparent suicide truck bombing outside the police headquarters in Cairo.
A day later, on the anniversary of Egypt's revolution against Mr Mubarak, the group claimed to have downed a military helicopter in northern Sinai, killing five soldiers.
It staged its first attack on foreign travellers in February of the same year, bombing a bus waiting to cross into Israel, and killing three South Koreans and the Egyptian bus-driver.
Then in August 2014, the group broadcast a brutal video showing the beheading of four military servicemen they accused of spying for Israel's security service, Mossad. Another six army personnel were killed the following month.
It was in October 2014, shortly before the group pledged allegiance to IS that it said it was behind two attacks on Egyptian military positions in the Sinai, that killed more than 30 soldiers - the biggest loss of life in decades for Egypt's army.
Outside backing?
The group has rebranded its media and its Twitter account to reflect its new IS affiliation. 
But even months before its declaration of allegiance to IS, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis had shown signs of affinity with the group through official leadership statements and its increasingly violent tactics in its attacks, which were then shown in its media output. 
Some observers believe the group has links to the Muslim Brotherhood, and there have even been allegations that it is the Brotherhood's "military wing". 
But the group has criticised the Brotherhood, and the Brotherhood has itself condemned attacks by the militants, including those in North Sinai on 29 January. 
The group's alleged use of tunnels along the Gaza border to get weapons has also been cited as indicating a link with Palestinian militant group Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip. However, there is no solid evidence or confirmation of such a link.

Illegal immigrants released from custody committed 1,000 new crimes

One thousand of the 36,000 illegal immigrant criminals the government released in 2013 have gone on to commit other crimes, including child sex abuse, hit-and-run and child cruelty, according to new data released Friday evening by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley.
The information, which the Homeland Security Department provided to Mr. Grassley, details all 1,000 convictions including dozens of drunk-driving convictions, drug offenses and weapons convictions. But the more serious crimes include domestic abuse, carjacking and aggravated assault.

Read more: 

Democrat retreat: Reporters escorted to bathroom. The totalitarian impulse of the left again.

At retreat, Dem staffers escort reporters to restroom

By HADAS GOLD | 1/30/15 

Reporters covering the House Democrats' retreat in Philadelphia this week are having a much different experience than when they’re on their home turf on Capitol Hill.
Reporters are being escorted to and from the restroom and lobby and are being barred from entering the hotel outside of scheduled events, even if they've been invited by a member of Congress.
During Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks at the retreat Friday, reporters were required to have a staff member, usually a junior member of the press team, escort them when going to the bathroom or to the lobby. The filing center for reporters was at a separate hotel from where the retreat was taking place, so access was limited to members of Congress specifically made available to the press.
(Also on POLITICO: Jeb 'put me through Hell' ( schiavo-114730.html) )
“It was a police state. It was absurd how heavy handed the capitol police and Democratic staff were in trying to control everywhere the press went,” New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters said in an interview.
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Peters said at one point he was also barred from entering the hotel where the retreat was taking place, despite the fact he had an invitation to eat breakfast with a member of Congress.
“I was an invited guest into this hotel, into the restaurant of the hotel. The staff from the Democratic caucus refused to let me into the hotel, and the Capitol Police told me to leave, even after the congressman went to them and said 'no, he is my invited guest,'" Peters said.
Peters said he was told by a staffer they were being escorted to prevent them from talking to members of Congress. (Also on POLITICO: Obama veers left (
114745.html) )
At a press conference with Democratic leadership, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said they were not aware reporters

were being followed.
“We were not aware they were following you. We had to have the security in the hotel that we were in because it was expected by Capitol Police that we would be secure. This hotel, where the press was located, we did not have those types of requirements. If you want to give me some names, I’m willing to talk to them. That was not at the direction of the caucus,” Becerra said.
The incident is reminiscent of the Clinton Global Initiative conference in September, where reporters were
escorted by staff right up to ( close-watch-on-reporters/) the bathroom stall. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

"Suddenly, all Afghan reconstruction data made secret"...anything and everything to protect Dear Leader.

Suddenly, all Afghan reconstruction data made secret

For the first time in the long history of American military action in Afghanistan, a presidential administration has classified virtually all of the information that could be used to judge U.S. involvement and the use and effectiveness of some $65 billion in taxpayer money.
In its first quarterly report since President Obama proclaimed the end of U.S. combat involvement in that perpetually war-torn land, James F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) wrote:
"After six years of being publicly reported, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) data is now classified. The decision leaves SIGAR unable to publicly report on most of the $65 billion U.S.-taxpayer-funded efforts to build, train, equip, and sustain the ANSF. This includes Afghan troop numbers, salaries, training, equipment (including planes and helicopters), and infrastructure projects."
Gen. John Campbell, commander of coalition forces, said he could not explain the previous lack of secrecy.
But Campbell added: "I am compelled to also protect the lives of those individuals who could be put at risk by the release of sensitive information.” Presumably, some information could highlight weak spots in the Afghan military. Of course, the secrecy also covers up failed programs, corruption and poor planning and follow-ups.
A Pentagon spokesman described one concern as "unnecessarily highlighting possible vulnerabilities and capability gaps."
The IG wrote: "The classification of this volume of data is unprecedented." He also said the military had retroactively reclassified as secret some previously-provided data.
Classifying so much information theoretically denies it to the enemy and all but a few members of Congress and the military given access to the classified appendix.
But the darkness also conveniently removes any means for American taxpayers to independently judge the effectiveness of billions of dollars in aid and equipment ($39 billion more is in the pipeline) as well as of the training of Afghan troops by allies and some 9,500 remaining U.S. military in-country. 
Obama has touted this training as proof that the U.S. is winding down the war "in a responsible fashion" and not just leaving, as he did from Iraq in 2011 after failing to negotiate a status of forces agreement.
In the six years of previous unclassified SIGAR reports, we learned that the national police force totaled about 150,000, the military around 180,000 and that some 35,000 had been dropped from Army rolls for a variety of reasons, including death, disability and desertion.
"This is the most transparent administration in history," Obama has claimed. "...It’s not sufficient for citizens to just take my word for it that we’re doing the right thing.”
Such an Obama claim is frequently disputed. You may recall, for instance, he often promised that all hearings on his ObamaCare legislation would be open to the public. Not. Then, there was the day in 2010 when VP Joe Biden met for a progress report with the administration's chief of transparency. But that meeting was closed.

Boko Haram to use goats, cows, donkeys and camels as suicide bombers. The Islamist death cult spares not humans or animals.

Boko Haram to use goats, cows, donkeys and camels as suicide bombers

  • Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram is plotting to use cattle as suicide bombers, officials have said.
    Nigerian authorities also suspect that the extremist group, which aims at establishing an Islamic caliphate in the country, is preparing dozens of suicide bombers to carry out large-scale attacks.
    Mike Omer, coordinator of the National Information Centre, said: "Available intelligence reports indicate a plan by Boko Haram to use young male suicide bombers disguised as cobblers to hide explosives in their tool boxes and detonate them on soft target areas such as markets, restaurants, ATM locations, political rallies, worship centres as well as other public places," according to Nigeria's Vanguard daily.
    "Also, there is indication of a plan by this group to use livestock such as, goats, cows, donkeys and camels laden with explosives to attack chosen targets."
    The extremist group is on a rampage killing thousands of people in Nigeria and neighbouring countries over the past several years as the armed insurgency has risen sharply in the recent months.
    "The general public, including all persons operating within and around the aforementioned places, are advised to be vigilant and mindful of suspicious activities in their environment," continued the Nigerian authority, warning that those who take their livestock for grazing may also be probed.
    African nations including the regional alliance African Union (AU) are attempting to stop the advances made by Boko Haram fighters, yet the group continues to gain more foothold.
    The terror group recently released pictures showing child soldiers being trained to wage war against security forces.

Is the US State Department playing footsie with the Muslim Brotherhood?

Open Jihad Declared in Egypt Following State Dept. Meeting with Muslim Brotherhood-Aligned Leaders

Muslim Brotherhood call for ‘long, uncompromising jihad 
The Muslim Brotherhood called for “a long, uncompromising jihad” in Egypt just days after a delegation of the Islamist group’s key leaders and allies met with the State Department, according to an official statement released this week.
Just days after a delegation that included two top Brotherhood leaders was hosted at the State Department, the organization released an official statement calling on its supporters to “prepare” for jihad, according to an independent translation of the statement first posted on Tuesday.
The State Department meeting was attended by a deputy assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor and other State Department officials.
The Muslim Brotherhood statement also was issued just two days before a major terror attackThursday in Egypt’s lawless Sinai region that killed at least 25.
“It is incumbent upon everyone to be aware that we are in the process of a new phase, where we summon what is latent in our strength, where we recall the meanings of jihad and prepare ourselves, our wives, our sons, our daughters, and whoever marched on our path to a long, uncompromising jihad, and during this stage we ask for martyrdom,” it states.
Preparation for jihad is a key theme of the Brotherhood’s latest call for jihad.
An image posted with the statement shows two crossing swords and the word “prepare!” between them. Below the swords it reads, “the voice of truth, strength, and freedom.” According to the statement, “that is the motto of the Dawa of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The statement also invokes the well-known Muslim cleric Imam al-Bana, who founded the Brotherhood and has called for the death of Jews.
Imam al-Bana prepared the jihad brigades that he sent to Palestine to kill the Zionist usurpers and the second [Supreme] Guide Hassan al-Hudaybi reconstructed the ‘secret apparatus’ to bleed the British occupiers,” the statement says.
The Brotherhood’s renewed call for jihad comes at a time when current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is cracking down on the group and imprisoning many of its supporters, who notoriously engaged in violence following the ouster of Brotherhood-ally Mohamed Morsi.
Egypt experts said the timing of this declaration is an embarrassment for the State Department.
“The fact that the Brotherhood issued its call to jihad two days after its meeting at the State Department will be grist for endless anti-American conspiracy theories about a supposed partnership between Washington and the Brotherhood,” said Eric Trager, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). “The State Department should have foreseen what an embarrassment this would be.”
One member of that U.S. delegation, a Brotherhood-aligned judge in Egypt, posed for a picture while at Foggy Bottom in which he held up the Islamic group’s notorious four-finger Rabia symbol, according to his Facebook page.
“Now in the U.S. State Department. Your steadfastness impresses everyone,” reads an Arabic caption posted along with the photo.
Other members of that group included Gamal Heshmat, a leading member of the Brotherhood, and Abdel Mawgoud al-Dardery, a Brotherhood member who served as a parliamentarian from Luxor.
When asked on Tuesday evening to comment on the meeting, a State Department official told the Washington Free Beacon, “We meet with representatives from across the political spectrum in Egypt.”
The official declined to elaborate on who may have been hosted or on any details about the timing and substance of any talks.
The meeting was described by a member of the delegation, Maha Azzam as “fruitful,” according to one person who attended a public event in Washington earlier this week hosted by the group.
The call for jihad, while surprising in light of the Brotherhood’s attempts to appear moderate, is part and parcel of organization’s longstanding beliefs, Trager said.
“Muslim Brothers have been committing violent acts for a very long time,” Trager explained. “Under Morsi, Muslim Brothers tortured protesters outside the presidential palace. After Morsi’s ouster, they have frequently attacked security forces and state property. “
“But until now, the official line from the Brotherhood was to support this implicitly by justifying its causes, without justifying the acts themselves,” he added. “ So the Brotherhood’s open call to jihad doesn’t necessarily mean a tactical shift, but a rhetorical one.”
Terrorism expert and national security reporter Patrick Poole said he was struck by the clarity of the Brotherhood’s call.
“It invokes the Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorist past, specifically mentioning the ‘special apparatus’ that waged terror in the 1940s and 1950s until the Nasser government cracked down on the group, as well as the troops sent by founder Hassan al-Banna to fight against Israel in 1948,” he said.
“It concludes saying that the Brotherhood has entered a new stage, warns of a long jihad ahead, and to prepare for martyrdom,” Poole said. “Not sure how much more clear they could be.”
Poole wondered if the call for jihad would convince Brotherhood apologists that the group still backs violence.
“What remains to be seen is how this announcement will be received inside the Beltway, where the vast majority of the ‘experts’ have repeatedly said that the Brotherhood had abandoned its terrorist past, which it is now clearly reviving, and had renounced violence,” Poole said. “Will this development be met with contrition, or silence? And what says the State Department who met with these guys this week?”
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment before press time.

At root of Argentina spy intrigue: a deal with Iran. Another Left-Islamist link.

At root of Argentina spy intrigue: a deal with Iran

Thu, Jan 29 2015
By Brian Winter and Nicolás Misculin
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - President Cristina Fernandez has portrayed Argentina's spy agency as sinister, accountable to no one, and possibly responsible for the mysterious death of a prominent prosecutor in his Buenos Aires apartment.
As a result, Fernandez declared this week, the Intelligence Secretariat needs to be totally shut down - and a new agency built from scratch.
"You can't extort me. You can't intimidate me. I'm not afraid of you," she said, speaking directly to the agency's leaders, in a nationally televised address on Monday. 
But the underlying story of the dispute, sources close to both the agency and Fernandez's leftist government tell Reuters, is more complicated, with roots in Iran and a terrorist attack two decades ago that has never been fully solved.
They say Fernandez has been in open conflict with her own spy agency for two years, following a deal in which she enlisted Iran's help to investigate the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.
Fernandez has portrayed the agreement as the only way to confirm whether Iran's government was behind the attack, as Argentine prosecutors have alleged.
Without Tehran's cooperation, the investigation would have remained stalled and it would have been impossible to question Iranian suspects, Fernandez has said. 
Iran has vigorously denied any role in the bombing. 
However, some of the spy agency's leaders felt betrayed by the deal, a source with knowledge of the agency's affairs said on condition of anonymity. They had spent many years helping prosecutors build the case against Iran, and saw Fernandez's agreement as an attempt to whitewash their investigation.
"It was like she switched sides ... and was suddenly friends with Iran," the source said. "That's what this (dispute) is all about."
A government official confirmed the Iran deal was the origin of the conflict, which he described as a grave threat to Fernandez. "When (the spy agency) stops supporting you, you're screwed," the official said.
Repeated efforts to contact the Intelligence Secretariat, or SI, were unsuccessful. No one answered a doorbell this week at the mirrored entrance to its headquarters in a stately building across the street from Fernandez's palace in Buenos Aires.
The conflict exploded into public view on Jan. 18, when Alberto Nisman, the chief prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, or AMIA, was found dead in his bathroom with a bullet in his head.
Nisman had been due the next day to present new findings to Congress regarding Fernandez's deal with Iran.
His death horrified many Argentines, as well as Jewish groups around the world, denting Fernandez's popularity at a time when she is already dealing with an economy on the verge of recession and a long-running battle with foreign creditors over defaulted debt.
Fernandez has said she believes Nisman was murdered, although she has not detailed how, and no one has been arrested in connection with the case. Officials admit privately the truth may never be known.
Meanwhile, the depth and complexity of her dispute with the spy agency suggests the case could drag on for months or longer, with unpredictable consequences for all parties.
"This will go on and on and on, and we won't stop asking questions, no matter who is involved," Patricia Bullrich, an opposition legislator who was Nisman's main contact in Congress, said in an interview. 
"The roots are very deep."
The SI and its 3,000 or so employees report, in theory, to the president. But in practice, it has long operated in a murky world of its own, critics say.
The agency played an important role in the military government's "dirty war" against suspected leftists in the 1970s. As many as 30,000 died at the hands of the state during the dictatorship, human rights groups say. 
Many of the agency's junior officers then are its leaders now, according to Gerardo Young, a journalist who wrote a book titled "The Secret Argentina" on the intelligence community.
Today, the agency still enjoys "unacceptable autonomy" and has continued to spy on politicians, leaders of social movements and others in recent years while resisting attempts at greater oversight, according to a recent report by the Association for Civil Law, a local non-profit group.
Nonetheless, Fernandez once believed she could use the SI in constructive fashion.
When her late husband Nestor Kirchner became president in 2003, he ordered the agency to help prosecutors uncover who bombed the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, or AMIA, the worst attack on a Jewish institution since World War Two.
The collaboration produced results. With the SI's help, Nisman published a report in 2006 saying Hezbollah agents had carried out the attack with financial and logistical support from Iran. 
Nisman cited witness testimony, information from wire taps and the bank records of Iranians, and a photo that allegedly showed a then-official at the Iranian embassy in Buenos Aires looking for the kind of truck eventually used in the bombing. 
In 2007, at Argentina's request, Interpol put five Iranians and a Lebanese national on its most-wanted list in connection with the bombing. Many in Argentina's Jewish community, Latin America's largest, believed that justice was finally at hand.
"It seemed like the government was finally on our side," said Eliana Hoel, 43, at an event to commemorate AMIA victims this week. "There was so much hope in those years." 
And then, on January 27, 2013 - International Holocaust Remembrance Day - an unexpected announcement changed everything.
Fernandez, who by then had replaced her husband as president, said Argentina had signed a deal with Iran to create a joint "truth commission" made up of five independent judges from third-party countries to investigate the AMIA bombing.
Why she did so remains disputed.
Fernandez has said that, because of Argentine laws that forbid trying suspects in absentia, and Iranian laws that block extradition, the agreement was the only feasible way that Iranian suspects might ever be questioned in the case. 
Yet many Jewish groups and others believed the deal signaled the end of Argentina's willingness to pursue the AMIA case. The American Jewish Committee compared it to "asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht."
The agreement coincided with a major diplomatic push by Iran in search of South American allies, at a time when it was locked in a confrontation with Europe and the United States over its nuclear program. Leftist governments in Brazil and Venezuela also expanded trade and other ties with Iran.
In practice, the truth commission was never implemented, because an Argentine court ruled it unconstitutional - but SI leaders remained furious, the source close to the agency said.
In a report published days before his death, Nisman accused Fernandez of cutting the deal in the hope of pleasing Iran and receiving its oil, which he said would be a valuable lifeline at a time of increasing economic trouble for Argentina.
Fernandez has called that allegation absurd, and publicly accused rogue SI agents of planting false information that Nisman then used in his report. 
In a Jan. 22 letter posted on her Facebook page, Fernandez suggested that after using Nisman to embarrass her, the spies arranged for his death.
"They used him alive and then they needed him dead. It's just that sad and terrible," she wrote.
The government official that spoke to Reuters said the SI's leaders were also lashing out at Fernandez because they were loyal to U.S. and Israeli intelligence.
Some observers believe the confrontation with the spy agency is a red herring - and that Nisman died for other reasons. Despite Fernandez's public accusations, none of the SI's leaders or agents are known to have been detained so far. 
Crime scene investigators still have not ruled out suicide, and other theories abound.
But Bullrich, the opposition legislator, said that in a case with so few iron-clad facts, the intrigue over Iran is, at least, a place to start.
"You had agents who were in conflict with the president. That is very serious," she said. "We'll pursue that. We don't know where it will lead. 
(Editing by Kieran Murray and Alix Freedman)