L-R: Uganda's Museveni, Congo's Kabila, Rwanda's Kagame
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—Western envoys in Kinshasa have urged the Senate of the Democratic Republic of Congo to rethink electoral law changes after three days of deadly protests. Rights groups put the toll at 42 killed; the government says 12, according to Deutsche Welle (DW) news.
DW reports that a Congolese electoral law change seen by critics as a bid by President Joseph Kabila to extend his term beyond 2016 ran into foreign objections on Thursday as the nation’s Senate prepared to vote on the bill.
Diplomats said the envoys of the United States, France, Britain and former colonial power Belgium had met Senate President Leon Kengo Wa Dondo in Kinshasa on Wednesday. FULL STORY>>
President Barack Obama--Photo by Joseph Earnest
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama has asked the U.S. Congress to refrain from imposing fresh sanctions against Iran while negotiations on a permanent nuclear deal are underway.
Obama said he will veto a bill on more sanctions against Iran if it comes to his desk while negotiations are continuing between Tehran and six world powers.
But Obama said if Iran ultimately refuses to “say yes” and provide assurance that they are not secretly developing nuclear weapons, he would go to the U.S. Congress and ask them to “tighten the screws.”
Speaking at a joint press conference at the White House with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Obama said there is probably less than a 50 percent chance of a diplomatic deal with Iran.
But he said the likelihood of talks with Iran collapsing would be high if Congress passes a bill for more sanctions against Tehran.
Cameron said there is a prospect of success in talks with Iran, and that he has contacted U.S. senators about the issue.
Source: Radio Free Europe
Newscast Media HOUSTON—Just as Barack Obama was unveiling a series of bills whose aim is to improve cybersecurity and curb identity theft, the identity of the U.S. Central Command Twitter and YouTube accounts were allegedly hijacked by Islamic State operatives.
The operatives posted a series of tweets on the CENTCOM feed, and also released information that appeared to be private. One of the messages posts read:
“You’ll see no mercy infidels. ISIS is already here, we are in your PCs, in each military base, with Allah’s permission we are in CENTCOM now.” CONTINUE TO FULL STORY>>
Newscast Media TEHRAN—Iran’s official IRNA news agency says the country’s judiciary has ordered three personal-communication software applications to be blocked, in a move that has long been opposed by President Hassan Rohani’s administration.
The report says the judiciary ordered that the LINE, WhatsApp, and Tango apps all be shut down, and that the order would go into effect later on January 7.
The apps are popular among Iranians because they provide telephone and messaging services that circumvent the state-controlled Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) and allow inexpensive or free communication with people across Iran and outside of the country.
Rohani and fellow moderates have opposed the blocking of websites and social-networking applications, saying authorities should only target illegal content.
Iranian censors have previously blocked social websites including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
But many young and Internet-savvy Iranians use proxy servers or other methods to bypass the controls.
Source: Radio Free Europe
LINE, Tango, WhatsApp
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama has drawn the battle lines as his rival Republicans assumed full control in Congress. Obama said he would veto a key Republican bill approving the building of an oil pipeline from Canada.
The White House said on Tuesday that Obama would veto the legislation to approve the long-stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alaska, one of the major first tests for the Republicans in their new congress.
CONTINUE TO FULL STORY>>
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—Two individuals will face criminal charges for their alleged roles in an attempted coup in Gambia, the U.S. Department of Justice announced January 5.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy to violate the Neutrality Act by making an expedition against a friendly nation from the United States and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence. They are alleged to have participated in a December 30, 2014, unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government of the West African nation. CONTINUE TO FULL STORY>>
The American Flag—Photo by Joseph Earnest
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama says Washington is not yet
ready to reopen an embassy in Iran, but he is not entirely ruling out the possibility
during the last two years of his presidency.
Asked on December 29 about reopening the U.S. embassy in Tehran, which has been
closed since it was seized by Iranian students in 1979, Obama said: “I never say
never, but I think these things have to go in steps.”
Obama said Iran is different from Cuba, where Washington recently announced it
would reopen its embassy after 53 years.
He said Cuba is small and poses no major threat to the United States, while Iran is
large, has sponsored terrorism, and has tried to develop nuclear weapons.
Obama said he still hopes a permanent nuclear deal with Iran will pave the way for
Tehran to rejoin the world community.
Source: Radio Free Europe
Newscast Media NEW YORK—A Palestinian resolution calling for the end of Israeli
occupation within three years, was submitted to the United Nations Security Council
on Tuesday evening for a vote.
According to the Hindu Times, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, told
reporters who asked why the Palestinians were pressing for a vote in the face of a
U.S. veto that it was time for the Security Council “to shoulder its responsibility and
to adopt this resolution.”
“If one party decides for whatever reason that they do not want to go along with
this massive support by the international community to find a just solution to this
conflict, to try to save the two—state solution by asking for the end of the
occupation that started in 1967 … then nobody should blame us as Arabs and
Palestinians and Muslims … and so many others for not opening a door a responsible
door for peace through the Security Council,” Mansour said.
The resolution has since been rejected after key countries abstained from taking
part, according to the Times of Israel.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called on the Security Council members to
vote down the resolution and focus on encouraging negotiations instead, the Times
of Israel reported.
President Barack Obama—Photo by Joseph Earnest
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama signed a bill authorizing new
sanctions against Russia on December 18 but said that he would not impose them “at
The Ukraine Freedom Support Act authorizes—but does not technically require—
defensive lethal aid for Kyiv and sanctions against Russian defense and energy
Obama said in a statement that the signing of the legislation “does not signal a
change in the administration’s sanctions policy.”
Sanctions, along with plummeting oil prices, have contributed to Russia’s economic
turmoil, as well as the fall of its currency.
The bill passed the divided U.S. Congress unanimously.
The bill also authorizes more loan guarantees for Ukraine and additional funds to
address the country’s energy shortage, for U.S. international broadcasting, and for
Russian democracy and civil society organizations.
Source: Radio Free Europe
Newscast Media HOUSTON—More than 70 years after a 14-year-old Black American
boy was executed by the electric chair in South Carolina, a judge has now thrown
out the dead boy’s conviction. The teenager was unfortunate to find himself in the
category of those considered guilty until proven innocent.
George Stinney was found guilty in 1944 of killing two white girls, in a one-day trial
before an all-white jury.
Stinney was subsequently electrocuted in the same year, becoming the youngest
person executed in the United States in the 20th century. The 95-pound boy was so
small he had to sit on a book when he was strapped to the electric chair.
The only evidence against the boy was a confession he allegedly made to police
officers after hours of questioning, away from his parents and without a lawyer.
Stinney’s parents had been threatened that they would be lynched if they remained
in the segregated mill town of Acolu, where their son was arrested.
The girls, 11-year-old Betty June Binnicker and 7-year-old Mary Emma Thames,
disappeared on March 23, 1944, when they went for a bike ride together in search of
flowers. The girls’ bodies were found the following morning behind a church, badly
beaten with their skulls crushed in.
Stinney was arrested after witnesses said they saw him picking flowers with the girls.
On Wednesday, Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen found “fundamental, constitutional
violations of due process” in Stinney’s speedy trial.
“Given the particularized circumstances of Stinney’s case, I find by a preponderance
of the evidence standard, that a violation of the defendant’s procedural due process
rights tainted his prosecution,” Mullen said.
The ruling gave relief to Stinney’s brother, sisters and civil rights activists, who have
been trying to reopen the case for years.
Source: Press TV
Newscast Media HOUSTON—Today, President Barack Obama is announcing his intentions to improve relations with Cuba, and the possibility of lifting sanctions from the island nation.
The White House has acknowledged that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish its enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.
CONTINUE TO FULL STORY>>
Newscast Media HOUSTON—The stage has been set. The die have been rolled. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush will gamble on winning the presidency in 2016 amidst a crowded Republican field. Should he run and win, he will be the third Bush to become president in our generation.
The Democrats are nervous about the new development because their candidate, Hillary Clinton will bring the baggage of her tenure in the State Department and past political history, including convincing struggling Americans that corporations and business do not create jobs, a statement that baffled even her fellow liberals.
CONTINUE TO FULL ARTICLE>>
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—The White House says President Barack Obama is
expected to sign legislation implementing new sanctions on Russia over its activities in
Ukraine by the end of the week. Press Secretary Josh Earnest made the
announcement on December 16 in Washington.
Congress passed the bill on December 13, authorizing new sanctions against Russia’s
defense and energy industries, including the arms exporter Rosoboroneksport, and
investors in its high-tech oil projects.
It also authorizes—but does not technically require—$350 million of defense articles
for Ukraine’s military, including antitank and antiarmor weapons, ammunition, and
surveillance drones. CONTINUE TO FULL STORY>>
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—The House of Representatives approved a $1.1 trillion spending package late on December 11, avoiding an impending government shutdown due to the nature of the bill.
Republicans opposed the bill because it did not block spending based on recent Obama executive actions, while Democrats opposed it because, it was a little too soft on banks and fat cat campaign donors.
The measure passed 219-206 after Obama convinced some House Democrats it was better to pass the bill than face a government showdown.
The bill will fund federal agencies until September 2015, and also sets aside funds for Ebola containment and treatment.
Click here to read or download the trillion-dollar spending bill.
The U.S Senate will be next to vote on the bill before it reaches Obama’s desk for him to put ink on the bottom line.
by Stoyan Zaymov
Newscast Media RICHMOND—An ex-gay group has erected a billboard in Richmond,
Virginia, claiming that a study on twins shows that “nobody is born gay.” The ad has
sparked controversy among some local residents.
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays, which provides a voice “for ex-gays and help
for families of children with same-sex attraction,” put up the billboard earlier this week
in downtown Richmond on Interstate 95.
The group acknowledged on its blog that some people have complained about the
billboard and have criticized the Lamar Advertising company for putting up the ads.
“We find it interesting that the attacks against the billboard and ex-gay community
have nothing to do with the facts,” PFOX stated in a message.
It noted that research on identical twins has shown that homosexuality cannot be
The group linked to a study from earlier this year by Dr. Neil Whitehead, a scientific
researcher who worked for the New Zealand government for over 24 years.
A number of news sources, including CBS6 and ABC8 News, reported that residents
have complained about the message of the billboard, and disagreed with its
Jamie Machut, vice president of Lamar of Richmond, said that the ads are scheduled
to stay up until early January.
“We support the First Amendment right of advertisers. Please keep in mind that the
advertisement is a message from PFOX and not Lamar Advertising Company,” Machut
said in a statement.
“We support the First Amendment right of advertisers and believe that it is in the best
interest of our company and the communities we serve to accept advertising copy
openly. We do not accept or reject copy based upon agreement or disagreement with
the views presented. We are firmly committed to our policy.”
The ex-gay group has spoken out on social issues before, and in April 2013 offered
Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman to join its organization, after Portman announced
his decision to embrace same-sex marriage because of his gay son.
Newscast Media HOUSTON—After the much-anticipated report was released by the
United States Senate, several countries, led by China were quick to accuse the US of
hypocrisy as the human rights police. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) also
released a response to the report within hours of it being declassified.
Chinese state-owned media outlet Xinhua said, “Ironically, the report, which included
a list of the ten major interrogation techniques used by the CIA, was released on the
eve of Dec. 10, Human Rights Day—the day the world honors the United Nations’ (UN)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).” CONTINUE TO FULL STORY>>
Newscast Media MOSCOW—Russia’s chief of General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, said on
December 10 that the United States had provided financial and technical assistance
to the Islamic State (IS) militant group in Syria in the past.
Speaking at a meeting of foreign military attaches Gerasimov set out Russia’s position
on a variety of issues relating to international security, including the situation in Syria
Gerasimov painted a picture of the rise of the Islamic State group against a backdrop
of what he said was Western interference in the region. He blamed the United States
and “leading Western countries” for causing “disastrous consequences” in a number of
countries, including Libya and Syria, by involving themselves in what he called “the
overthrow of the legitimate authorities” in those states. CONTINUE TO FULL STORY>>
IS, ISIL, Islamic State
Newscast Media WASHINGTON—While more than 130 countries have recognized
Palestine as a sovereign state, the United States says the issue of recognizing
Palestine as an independent state is conceivable “only” through “direct” talks with
“The U.S. position is clear, that we support Palestinian statehood but believe it can
only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties that resolve the
final status issues,” said deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on
The U.S. reaffirmed its “crystal clear” stance on Palestine as a sovereign state after
French lawmakers on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a motion to recognize
Palestine as an independent state. CONTINUE TO FULL STORY>>
Newscast Media NEW YORK—The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, George Venizelos, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), William J. Bratton, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and Thomas O’Donnell, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Department of Health and Human Services, announced today the unsealing of an indictment charging ten defendants with operating a massive health care fraud scheme.
The defendants, who had settled in New York from the former Soviet Union, recruited financially disadvantaged and homeless people insured by Medicare and/or Medicaid (the “Phony Patients”) to undergo unnecessary medical tests, typically performed by unlicensed personnel, at the clinics in exchange for cash, and then billed the insurers for administering those unnecessary tests. CONTINUE TO FULL STORY>>
Newscast Media LOS ANGELES—Comedian Chris Rock writes an essay about racist
attitudes in Hollywood and the entertainment industry, including the challenges he
and other Blacks have had to overcome.
I was probably 19 when I first came to Hollywood. Eddie Murphy brought me out to
do Beverly Hills Cop II and he had a deal at Paramount, so I remember going through
the gates of the Paramount lot. He’s in a Rolls-Royce, and he’s not just a star, he’s
the biggest star in the world. Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer’s office was in the
same building as Eddie’s office, and they would come to work every day with
matching cars. Some days it would be the Porsches, and the next day it would be
Ferraris. I was like the kid in A Bronx Tale. CONTINUE TO FULL ESSAY>>