Government

  • Israel-Hamas war, Day 17Israel destroys al-Wafa hospital in Gaza City; cabinet considering expansion of Gaza operations

    Seven days ago, on 17 July 2014, we reported that one of the first targets on the first day of the attack was al-Wafa hospital in eastern Gaza City. As is the case with other hospitals in Gaza, Hamas used the facility to store rockets and other arms and shelter Hamas fighters, who also use the hospitals’ upper floors for snipers to shoot at IDF soldiers and for rocket launching – some witnessed by a Financial Times reporter. In the case of al-Wafa, the hospital also served Hamas as a command-and-control center. Yesterday (Wednesday), Israel decided that enough was enough, and that allowing Hamas fighters the freedom to operate behind the patients and staff at the hospital, located in central Gaza City, posed too much of a risk for Israeli forces, and Israel Air Force (IAF) planes finished the destruction of the hospital. A series of powerful secondary explosions proved that the hospital served Hamas for arms storage. The Israeli cabinet is meeting this morning to consider the expansion of the ground war.

  • ImmigrationWave of illegal children immigrants shifts debate on use of executive powers

    After several immigration bills stalled in Congress, President Barack Obama, in 2012 and 2013, issued a series of executive orders to limit the number of deportations of illegal immigrants. Many who advocated a tougher stance on immigration have charged Obama with failure to consult with Congress. The Obama administration is now trying to find a way to deport Central American illegal immigrants, many of them unaccompanied children, without running afoul of a George W. Bush 2008 law which makes such deportation difficult – and some of his immigration criticswant him to take executive action on the issue, a shift from their usual criticism that he has abused his executive powers.

  • State, Political Community and Foreign Relations in Modern and Contemporary Syria
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  • TerrorismAzamat Tazhayakov, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friend, guilty of conspiracy charges

    Azamat Tazhayakov, who removed a backpack from the dorm room of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has been found guilty by a Boston jury of impeding an investigation and conspiracy. Tazhayakov was one of three college friends of Tsarnaev charged following the bombing. Tazhayakov could face up to five years in jail and a fine of $250,000.

  • BiolabsThe number of labs handling deadly germs grows, and so do calls for regulating lab safety

    The number of labs handling dangerous pathogens continues to grow, and so does the number of accidents involving dangerous pathogens. The number of reported accidents involving dangerous microbes grew rapidly from just sixteen in 2004 to 128 in 2008, and 269 in 2010, the last year reported.Experts note that currently there is no single federal agency responsible for assessing overall laboratory needs — instead, departments and agencies only assess the needs for labs relative to their respective missions.

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  • ImmigrationNYC forms a task force to coordinate accommodation for migrant children

    New York City officials have formed a task force to help coordinate accommodation for Central American children who have arrived in the city in recent months after weeks and months of living under the care of immigration and border officials near the Southwest border. Since October 2013, federal officials have sent more than 3,200 children to New York City and elsewhere in the state to live with relatives or guardians, and about 7,000 more are expected to arrive in the coming months, according to officials who have been briefed by federal authorities.

  • Driverless carsFBI: driverless cars could be used as bombs-on-wheels

    Whether or not a driverless car, from Google or any other company, ever makes it to market, the FBI thinks it may be a “game changing” vehicle which could dramatically change high-speed car chases so that the pursued vehicle would have an advantage over the pursuing car. An agency report also warned that such cars may be used as “lethal weapons.”

  • Israel-Hamas war, Day 14After eight years under siege, Hamas is fighting to stave off a slow death

    By Fawaz Gerges

    Hamas and Egypt are currently testing each other’s nerve. Hamas wants to engage the Egyptian government and press the point that they have nothing to do with the Islamist insurgency there, in an effort to get the border crossings open and re-engage with the new al-Sissi administration. But regardless of whether this round of conflict is resolved sooner rather than later, or whether Egypt softens its stance on Hamas, the fundamental challenge facing both Palestinians and Israelis remains the same: to reach a political settlement for a viable Palestinian state where both Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace and security.

  • TerrorismCanadian “sha’hid” used by ISIS in Jihadi recruitment video

    The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) strategy to use English-speaking Westerns and social media to recruit militants is unprecedented. ISIS has used World Cup hashtags on Twitterand Facebookto spread propaganda and generate death threats. The group’s adoption of new media could be seen as a move better to compete with rival militant groups. One of the more popular YouTube ISI video featuring a Canadian of was killed in an attack on a Syrian military airport.

  • ContractsDHS urged to investigate use of DHS grants for Motorola emergency comm. devices

    Three senior House Democrats have requested DHS’s Office of Inspector Generalto investigate allegations claiming Motorola’s contracting tactics have led state and local governments unnecessarily to spend millions of dollars on the company’s proprietary devices, including its two-way emergency radio systems.

  • Terror insuranceAs TRIA is set to expire in December, reauthorization by Congress is not a sure thing

    After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. insurance industry sustained an estimated $32.5 billion in total losses. In 2002, to encourage insurance companies to continue covering terrorism as part of commercial policies after many dropped the coverage for fear of more financial loss should another terror attack occur, Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act(TRIA).There has yet to be a TRIA payout due to the absence of a large-scale terrorist attack since the law went into effect. With TRIA expected to expire on 17 December 2014, businesses and some members of Congress are advocating the extension of the legislation, but two pending proposals in Congress have yet to gather the needed support to reauthorize TRIA.

  • Israel-Hamas war, Day 10 (cont.)Israel launches ground war against Hamas; Egypt blames Hamas

    Israel forty-five minutes ago launched a land incursion into the Gaza Strip. The ground move is being accompanied by the heaviest Israeli bombardment to date – from land, sea, and the air — of targets throughout the Gaza Strip. The IDF spokesman said that large infantry and armored units have entered Gaza in the north, center, and south simultaneously. The Prime Minister’s office issues a statement saying that one of the goals of the ground operation is the destruction of the system of tunnels Hamas has built close to Israel’s borders. Egypt blames Hamas for any Palestinian casualties resulting from Israel’s operation.

  • CongressFive House Homeland Security top policy staffers fired

    Brendan Shields, the new staff director for House Homeland Security Committeechairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), fired five top policy staffers on 20 June, including McCaul’s top advisers on border security and counterterrorism.Observers note that without his own cadre of policy experts, McCaul may have less influence on legislation, especially if subcommittee heads with opposing views become more involved in drafting policies.

  • ImmigrationDHS IG: manual processing faster than Electronic Immigration System (ELIS)

    A new reportby DHS Office of Inspector Generalconcludes that the department’s $1.7 billion Electronic Immigration System(ELIS), used to process forms for benefits, VISAs, and refugee requests, is inefficient as it takes twice as long as processing the applications manually.Currently, workers spend roughly 125 clicks per application, a more time-consuming process than processing the forms manually.

  • PrivacyPeople in leadership positions more willing to sacrifice privacy for security

    People with higher job status may be more willing to compromise privacy for security reasons and also be more determined to carry out those decisions, according to researchers. This preoccupation with security may shape policy and decision-making in areas ranging from terrorism to investing, and perhaps cloud other options, said the author of the new study, adding: “What may get lost in the decision-making process is that one can enhance security without the negative impact on privacy.”

  • ImmigrationNo extra funding for increased Pentagon presence on southern border

    Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), has stated that illegal immigration and its effects are threatening to destabilize the region and are a national security threat to the United States. President Barack Obama’s $3.7 billion supplemental request to congress, however,, does not include any additional funding for military operations.