Egypt seizes Bab el Mandeb ahead of Iran (5)

Riyadh intends following up its air action with a ground invasion across the border into Yemen to crush the revolt in its backyard.

In a surprise step, Egyptian naval and marine forces Thursday morning, March 26, seized control of the strategic Bab El-Mandeb Straits to foil Tehran’s plans to grab this important energy shipping gateway between the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal, DEBKAfile’s military sources report from the Gulf.

Egypt disguised the raid as a counter-piracy operation. It rounded off the Saudi-led air strikes launched the same morning against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. These operations signaled the start of a major Sunni Arab revolt against Iran’s approaching takeover of Yemen, through its Houthi proxy, and advances in other strategic positions in the Middle East, with Washington’s support.

Thursday morning too, the US launched its first air strikes against Islamic State positions in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, rallying to the aid of the Iranian-commanded Iraqi operation, which had failed to dislodge the jihadis in two weeks of fighting.

The separate operations in Yemen and Iraq attested to the widening breach between the Sunni Arab camp and the Obama administration and the former’s resolve to thwart US strategy for buying a nuclear deal with Tehran by empowering Iran to attain the rank of leading Middle East power.

[More]

See Also:

#1 — US Declassifies Document Revealing Israel’s Nuclear Program

#2 — U.S. Caves to Key Iranian Demands as Nuke Deal Comes Together

#3 — Menendez: U.S. ‘Leaping with Both Feet’ Toward Iran Demands, ‘Any Deal for a Deal’s Sake’

#4 — Turkey supports Saudi mission in Yemen, says Iran must withdraw

Watch!

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Afternoon Update March 27th, 2015 (10)

CANADA

#1 — CNews | Quebec Liberals cut spending, table first balanced budget in six years

QUEBEC CITY — Quebec Liberals cut $729 million in spending to table the province’s first balanced budget in six years on Thursday.

[…]

#2 — CTV | Alberta government increases taxes, but still plans to run record deficit

EDMONTON — Albertans will pay more to get married, go camping, have a drink, go for a drive or do pretty much anything else as the province fights to get out from under the collapse in oil prices.

[…]

#3 — Globe | Pay of judge, former Tory minister Toews’ withheld over back rent

The paycheque of former federal justice minister Vic Toews, who is now a judge in Manitoba, has been garnisheed in a dispute over back rent in which he says he did not understand a Quebec tribunal’s order to pay the money because it was written in French.

[…]

#4 — Postmedia | N.B. education minister angry after learning French and English students have been sharing a school bus

In a sign of how touchy bilingualism issues can get in New Brunswick, the province’s education minister has vowed to take action after learning French- and English-speaking students have been travelling on the same school bus.

[…]

#5 — Global | CBC News slashing 144 positions from local services, Radio-Canada cuts 100

TORONTO – CBC is slashing 244 jobs from local news services across the country as its plans to shift some of its limited resources to its digital operations.

[…]

WORLD

#6 — BBC | President Hadi leaves Yemen as Saudi-led raids continue

Yemen’s President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi has arrived in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, officials say, as a Saudi-led coalition continues to launch air strikes against Shia Houthi rebels.

[…]

CNS | Eyeing Yemen Operation, Syrian Rebels Urge Arab States to ‘Finish Off’ Assad Too

#7 — CNN | Saudi Ambassador to U.S. won’t rule out building nukes

Washington (CNN)The Saudi Ambassador to the United States would not rule out the possibility of the Saudis creating their own nuclear bomb to counterbalance a nuclear-armed Iran in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday.

[…]

#8 — Fox | At least 19 injured, 4 critically, in NYC building explosion

At least 19 people were injured, four of them critically, when an explosion and seven-alarm fire destroyed an apartment building and burned three other structures in New York City’s East Village Thursday.

[…]

#9 — DM | Had killer Alps pilot just been dumped?

Pilot Andreas Lubitz might have been suffering a ‘personal crisis’ at the time of the fatal Germanwings crash, it was claimed last night.

[…]

#10 — WT | Police put yellow tape around Wisconsin Amish home

Law-enforcement officers strung yellow police tape across the door of a Wisconsin Amish home and declared it unfit for habitation Thursday in a dispute over the family’s refusal to comply with county rules on modern appliances such as smoke alarms.

[…]

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Greece confident it can reach EU debt deal as cash crisis worsens (10)

Greece’s already perilous cash crisis worsened this week after the Athens government learned that it had no legal claim on €1.2bn in disputed funds from its bank rescue programme. The Greek government thought the funds had been incorrectly transferred to the European Financial Stability Faciltiy last month amid pressure from Berlin.

Athens learned on a conference call involving eurozone finance ministers that the cash was returned correctly and would stay in the fund.

“There was agreement that, legally, there was no overpayment from the (Greek recapitalisation fund) to the EFSF,” said a spokesman for the bailout fund, as quoted by the Financial Times newspaper. The funds were part of the initial €48.2bn in bonds that the eurozone pumped into a fund to recapitalise Greek banks in 2012.

Greece’s liquidity crisis could see the government run out of cash next month when it is due to pay back a part of its bailout loan. Athens has said it would present a list of economic reforms to eurozone finance ministers by Monday, 30 March, in a bid to satisfy creditors that it was on the right track. Greece will only receive the next part of its financial aid package if the eurozone ministers approve its reforms.

[More]

See Also:

#1 — New movement launched to ‘bring back the stolen money’

#2 — Fed’s Bullard: Grexit would be a Greek issue, not a euro issue

#3 — Deposits in Greek banks fell by 7.8 bln eur in Feb, according to ECB data

#4 — Germany bans extremist Islamist group ‘Tauhid Germany’

#5 — EU to probe cross-border e-commerce barriers

Afternoon Update:

#6 — Soaring world oil price sends London stocks into red

#7 — Bundestag ratifies EU association agreement with Ukraine

#8 — EU migrants can be refused benefits

#9 — Cash concerns keep Athens bourse action tight

#10 — EU says end of milk quotas mean opportunities in Asia

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Hispanic activists organizing In support of tougher immigration laws

HOUSTON (FOX 26) – Pedro Rivera is 53 years old, Hispanic, and a retired military man. He’s also part of a growing number of Hispanic Texans pushing for stronger immigration enforcement, including the passage of SB 185, which would stop cities from implementing policies banning local cops from asking immigration-related questions.

“I’m an American citizen and I believe in the rule of law,” Rivera said. “And being Hispanic, I should not be granted special privilege in avoiding the law. We need officers to have all the tools available to them to keep us safe. That includes asking the question, when you’re being detained for a crime or being arrested for an offense, ‘ are you here illegally? Are you a US citizen?’”

Rivera is working with Maria Espinoza, director of the Remembrance Project. Espinoza’s Houston-based organization works with families of Americans killed by people in the United States illegally.

“This is a new initiative,” Espinoza said, of an effort to recruit Hispanic conservatives to speak out in support of SB 185.

Espinoza’s new group, which isn’t exclusive to people of Hispanic origin, traveled to Austin last week and asked lawmakers to stop Texas cities, like Houston , from adopting their own immigration related policies. It’s not a new fight. The Texas Senate actually passed a similar measure in 2011. It prompted protests, then stalled before becoming state law. Espinoza says a lot has changed in four years.

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Yousef: Everything The White House Told You About Bowe Bergdahl Was Wrong

His release was supposed to be the political masterstroke in the last days of the war. But the war is still going, and Bergdahl is going to court.

In the space of nine months, he went from being heralded at the White House to facing prison for life.

On Wednesday, the U.S. military charged Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the former Taliban captive who was freed in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, with desertion and misbehaving before the enemy.

His capture, release and now charge became a parable of how narratives about the war in Afghanistan did not pan out. The soldier whose service Susan Rice, U.S. national security adviser, once characterized as “honorable” and whose release came at the price of five prisoners could now himself end up in an American prison for life. The prison exchange that some political operatives thought would be heralded was instead widely condemned. And the war that was supposed to be ending with no soldier left behind has now been extended for five months.

[More]

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Sandy: On Siddiqui column that “PM’s flip flop on war fits pattern of deceit

I don’t very often recommend reading a Toronto Star editorial but conservatives (small c and capital C) really need to read what Haroon Siddiqui wrote yesterday. Such vitriol! The title of the column is what caught my attention: “Stephen Harper’s flip-flop on war fits pattern of deceit.”

Pattern of deceit? Flip flop? Isn’t that what Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has been doing regarding the Iraq mission? Surely not PM Stephen Harper. I mean, when and how did the Prime Minister flip-flop?

Re-evaluating Canada’s involvement in the Iraq mission

Siddiqui writes in his first paragraph: “As with just about everything else, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said one thing about the war on the Islamic State but is doing another. The non-combat mission featured combat. The short-term commitment has become long. No involvement in Syria has evolved into a war in Syria.”

A “war in Syria?” Good heavens, what does Siddiqui not understand about leadership and decision-making? All along, the PM has said the Iraqi coalition mission would be re-evaluated in six months and that in the first instance, Canadian jets and troops would not be entering Syria. Now, given they are at the end of that six months, isn’t it appropriate to evaluate: (1) what has worked, (2) what needs changing in the mandate, or (3) whether the mandate should be renewed?

That is not flip-flopping or deceit! That is simply doing what any good leader does. Isn’t it? Would Siddiqui make the same judgement if either Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair were Prime Minister? Is he so blinded by partisan bias that he just can’t see that, no matter what political party is in power, it is not flip-flopping to re-evaluate? It most certainly does not represent a pattern of deceit.

[More at Crux of the Matter]

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‘Putin is behaving like a terrorist': Cabinet minister’s speech on Ukraine sparks social media battle with Russia

Conservative cabinet minister Chris Alexander says the situation in Ukraine is the biggest security issue facing the world today, even as his government debates expanding its military actions in the Middle East.

Alexander’s comments, made to Ukrainian Canadians during a speech in Toronto Feb. 22, are being shared on the internet as the Conservative government prepares to extend its Iraq military mission and expand it into Syria.

The video of the immigration minister’s speech has also sparked a twitter argument between Alexander and the Russian Embassy in Ottawa.

In his speech, Alexander denounced Russia’s Vladimir Putin as behaving like a terrorist and warned the situation in Ukraine affects all countries.

[More]

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‘Bold’ Toronto judge to preside over Mike Duffy’s trial

A Toronto-based judge will take over a courtroom in Ottawa to hear the Mike Duffy trial, where the veteran of the Ontario Court of Justice will be expected to bring a neutral eye to what has been a heated political saga.

The court confirmed on Wednesday that Justice Charles Vaillancourt has been assigned to the case that has attracted national attention and could shine a negative light on the Conservative government ahead of the election scheduled for October.

Appointed to the bench in 1990 by the NDP government of Bob Rae, Justice Vaillancourt will need to keep a tight grip on the proceedings. The trial is scheduled to last 41 days, but sources have told The Globe and Mail that the defence has already raised the possibility of seeking an extension in preliminary discussions with the Crown.

Mr. Duffy, a former television journalist who became a senator in 2008, was charged by the RCMP last July with 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. The charges were related to living and travel expenses claimed, contracts awarded by his office and a deal in which he received $90,000 from the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff to reimburse the government for his controversial expenses.

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Reduced staff at Veterans Affairs struggle with caseload

The number of Veterans Affairs Canada case managers fell by almost one-fifth over the past three years as employees warned of cripplingly high caseloads.

Case managers deal individually with veterans who have faced severe physical or psychological trauma. Their numbers had remained stable for several years until 2011.

Between then and 2014, their ranks dropped 18 per cent from 309 staff to 254, said documents newly tabled in Parliament.

Their caseloads are a matter of dispute. The department said the average caseload worker has 35 clients, which is below the target range of 40. But the head of the union that represents workers said that number is “not reality” and the actual caseload is around 50 veterans per worker.

“They’re struggling right now,” said Carl Gannon, president of the Union of Veterans Employees.

“They’re trying to manage an amount of files that is not manageable.”

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Dickson: A Much-Needed Conversation – Liberal Policies and Race (2)

The recent events in Ferguson have ignited racial flames to the point that everywhere we look someone is talking about the need for a conversation about race. Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz launched a cheesy initiative (that has now been dropped) to harass their customers into a discussion about race by writing “race together” on the side of coffee cups. What specifically are Americans supposed to discuss about race? If liberals want to use the disparity between the rich and the poor (the haves and the have-nots) to start the conversation about race, I would suggest we begin with how their policies have affected black Americans.

If Americans want to see racism on display, walk through our inner cities. Many of our inner cities are and have been run by compassionate Democrats (many who are black) for decades. Writer Jim Quinn outlined in his article “30 Blocks of Racism, Incompetence & Collapse” published on the blog The Burning Platform, the horrible living conditions that poor blacks endure in West Philadelphia where the majority of the leaders are black:

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See Also:

#1 — Obama Regime is Precisely What it Accuses America of Being

#2 — Blacks Get Pilloried for Speaking Truth about Ferguson

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Calabrese: Iran talks stalled, which means those 47 ‘treasonous’ Republican senators might have saved the day

It’s way too early to start celebrating, of course. I would never underestimate the willingness of Barack Obama and John Kerry to agree to a bunch of foolishness that compromises America and its allies in the quest for a “legacy.” But the self-imposed deadline of March 31 is fast approaching, and it doesn’t appear the U.S. and its European allies are anywhere near nuclear deal with Iran.

Reuters reports that it all comes down to economic sanctions, which the Iranians insist must be lifted completely as a pre-condition for any deal whatsoever:

“This is the position that the government has insisted on from the start,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying. The United Nations, United States and European Union have imposed a wide array of sanctions on Iran to try to curtail its nuclear programme as they fear Tehran wants to develop an atomic weapon. Iran insists its aims are peaceful. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last word on all matters of state in the Islamic Republic, said in a speech last week that the immediate lifting of sanctions must be a part of any nuclear deal. Western officials have consistently rejected that demand, and a senior European negotiator last week said the immediate lifting of all sanctions was “out of the question”.

I’d actually be surprised if this is the only sticking point. It’s unimaginable that they’ve really worked out all the inspection and enforcement questions to both sides’ satisfaction. And if they have, then the U.S. delegation is an even bigger bunch of fools than I thought, because that would require them to either trust Iran implicitly (which would be insane), or convince the Iranians to submit to an inspection regime beyond anything the world has ever seen (which is not going to happen).

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