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More Madness from Boko Haram

The 12 Nigerian states with Sharia law

The 12 Nigerian states with Sharia law (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(CNN)

Fears for the fate of more than 200 Nigerian girls turned even more nightmarish Monday when the leader of the Islamist group that kidnapped them announced plans to sell them.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video first obtained by Agence France-Presse.

“There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women,” he continued, according to a CNN translation from the local Hausa language.

Boko Haram means “Western education is sin.” In his nearly hourlong, rambling video, Shekau repeatedly called for Western education to end.

“Girls, you should go and get married,” he said.

The outrageous threat means the girls’ parents worst fears could be realized. Parents have been avoiding speaking to the media for fear their daughters may be singled out for reprisals.

“Wherever these girls are, we’ll get them out,” Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowed Sunday.

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The Seven Year Snitch

Come the 10th of June 2007, it will be seven years since the public last set eyes on the painting A Cavalier (self portrait). Its place on the wall in a small enclave of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which forms part of the James Fairfax Galleries, has long since been claimed by another artwork, Mars and the Vestal Virgin (1638) by Jacques Blanchard. Sadly, with the investigation into the theft of A Cavalier at a standstill and with little attention given to its continued disappearance, those unfamiliar with the case will be unaware that A Cavalier once held pride of place in that collection. It is as if it never existed – and all because somebody (or bodies), decided to pinch, nick, steal, nab, rob, pilfer, purloin, take, snitch the painting…and now in 2014 we will have The Seven Year Snitch. Sound familiar? The name is borrowed from the 1955 film directed by Billy Wilder, The Seven Year Itch. You know the one, even if you haven’t seen it. Just picture Marilyn Monroe in a white pleated halter-neck dress standing on a subway grate to get the breeze, her pleats take flight and an iconic image is born! While the title of that movie refers to the suggestion that after seven years of marriage spouses may want to stray from home (and their marriage), in the case of A Cavalier, we’d much prefer that it hadn’t strayed at all but was still home, safe and sound, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Actually, the original meaning of the phrase is more relevant here where the “seven-year itch wasn’t a condition that supposedly began after seven years, but one that supposedly lasted for seven years” (http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/seven-year-itch.html). Indeed, one could say that after seven years, we are itching to get A Cavalier back!

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Terrorists Given ‘Full Sight’ of Spy Methods by Snowden Leak, Warns Counter-Terrorism Official (Telegraph)

By Tom Whitehead

Stephen Phipson of the British Office for Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT) says that the leaks by National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden have given terrorists knowledge of government surveillance techniques–information he says they have used to alter their communications methods. Phipson added that terrorists have substantially reduced their use of traditional communication methods that can be monitored by mass surveillance methods in aftermath of the leaks. “The leaks we have seen in the press have made the work of the OSCT, intelligence agencies and other apparatus of government much, much, much more difficult,” Phipson said at a recent counterterrorism conference. In the same talk, Phipson called Syria the “front line of terrorism” and said that fighters returning from the conflict in that country pose as much of a threat to the U.K. as extremists from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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The Clarion Project: Saudi King Holds Daughters Prisoners

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has kept four of his daughters locked in a royal compound in Jeddah for the last 13 years. Their mother, his second wife who fled to London after the couple’s divorce, broke the silence and told Britain’s Channel Four about their plight. She has not seen her children for 10 years.

Princess Alanoud Al Fayez married then Prince Abdullah in an arranged marriage when she as just 15. She bore him four daughters: Sahar, Maha, Hala and Jawaher. 

The four have been kept in a compound in the eastern port city of Jeddah, which they cannot leave without armed guards. Their passports have been taken away, and they are barred from leaving the country. Their villa is dilapidated and falling apart, far from the living quarters of the princesses’ privileged childhood.

Princess Sahar, the oldest of the four, was in email contact with Channel Four’s Fatima Manji. She sent pictures and descriptions of their life in the compound and explained the treatment that they are suffering.

Read more HERE

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Long War Journal: Boko Haram attacks Borno and threatens the Niger Delta

The maniacal Boko Haram is alive and, unfortunately, well…

As if to ridicule the Nigerian government’s claims that it has security in the north under control and that it is winning the war, Boko Haram fighters have been on a rampage in Borno state over the past week. And while their Feb. 18 assault on the country home of Major General Tukur Buratai, Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta was meant as an insult, the following day the group carried out another high-profile attack on the town of Bama.

At approximately 4 a.m. on Feb. 19, Boko Haram gunmen armed with heavy weapons and explosives stormed the town. Residents fled the violence and destruction which, according to a Nigerian senator, lasted for seven hours. At least 98 people have been killed in the attack, Reuters reported, and many buildings, including the palace of the Emir of Bama, were burned to the ground.

According to Borno state’s chief of police Lawal Tanko, Boko Haram fighters were finally chased off when the air force was scrambled jets from Maiduguri, resulting in heavy losses for the insurgents as they fled. This is reminiscent of Boko Haram’s previous attack on Bama in December 2013, when the group attacked a base belonging to the 202 Tank Battalion, killing an unknown number of soldiers as well as their families who lived with them at the barracks.

 

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Stratfor: The American Public’s Indifference to Foreign Affairs

Excellent commentary on how we are increasingly insular when it comes to world events.

By George Friedman

Last week, several events took place that were important to their respective regions and potentially to the world. Russian government officials suggested turning Ukraine into a federation, following weeks of renewed demonstrations in Kiev. The Venezuelan government was confronted with violent and deadly protests. Kazakhstan experienced a financial crisis that could have destabilized the economies of Central Asia. Russia and Egypt inked a significant arms deal. Right-wing groups in Europe continued their political gains

Any of these events had the potential to affect the United States. At different times, lesser events have transfixed Americans. This week, Americans seemed to be indifferent to all of them. This may be part of a cycle that shapes American interest in public affairs. The decision to raise the debt ceiling, which in the last cycle gripped public attention, seemed to elicit a shrug.

The Primacy of Private Affairs

The United States was founded as a place where private affairs were intended to supersede public life. Public service was intended less as a profession than as a burden to be assumed as a matter of duty — hence the word “service.” There is a feeling that Americans ought to be more involved in public affairs, and people in other countries are frequently shocked by how little Americans know about international affairs or even their own politics.

Read more: The American Public’s Indifference to Foreign Affairs | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

 

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My latest for the Huffington Post

CHILDREN VERSUS BRIDGES

Jeremiah Oliver is a 5-year old boy from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, who hasn’t been seen since September of last year. The boy was supposed to be under the supervision of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, but, it has since been learned, DCF social workers not only were negligent in their oversight of Jeremiah, they also misrepresented their work to keep that fact hidden. Little Jeremiah is now feared dead.

Still, Governor Deval Patrick had the temerity to say yesterday that the problems at the DCF are “not systemic.” Is that a fact, Governor? Why is it, then, that your own independent investigation into the DCF found that nearly 20 percent of required home visits to check on children like Jeremiah were not made by your DCF’s social workers? How is it that more than one-third of the social workers employed by the DCF are not licensed to practice in their field? And what of the evidence unearthed by the Office of the Child Advocate showing that 249 allegations of physical and sexual abuse and poor care involving youngsters in state-watched settings were made last year?

While a normal person recoils in horror upon hearing about the consequences of the incompetence at his DCF, Governor Patrick sees them as “a great opportunity… to rethink and reinvigorate the department.” So, the cruelties that Jeremiah and hundreds of other children suffered are tolerable because they present an opportunity to for the Governor to fix the DCF? No, the problem is that the Patrick administration has been at the helm for more than six years now. He was supposed to make sure the DCF was doing their job before these things happened. Jeremiah Oliver is a person, he’s not an “opportunity” for a bureaucrat to do what he should have done years ago.

Nevertheless, the governor presses on, determined to distance himself from the problem. “It’s troubling to me too, but the question is, is it troubling to people who actually know what is engaged, what is involved in being a social worker in a child’s welfare agency?” he told the media yesterday, as if he was a randomly-chosen pedestrian doing a man-on-the-street interview. Perhaps his penchant for being out of his office, nestled in his mansion in the Berkshires or traveling the world, is what gives the Governor the sense of detachment from the waste, fraud, and abuse for which he is responsible at the DCF.

Is there a person outside of Massachusetts who is aware of this scandal? Of course not, because all of the attention is focused on a Republican governor from another state who may or may not have had a hand in creating a traffic jam. But Deval Patrick is a Democrat with presidential aspirations and a close friend of President Obama. So, where’s the national media on this one? As the legendary Boston talk show host Howie Carr likes to say, “there’s nothing to see here, folks. Move along.”

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Court Backs Airlines in Reporting Possible Threats (Washington Post)

Glad to see the courts were on the right side in this one. –AA

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that because Congress has given airline employees broad leeway to report potentially dangerous individuals to security officials, those employees cannot be sued for defamation provided that their reports are substantially true. The ruling was made Monday in Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. v. Hoeper, which involved a former Air Wisconsin pilot whose supervisor reported him to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as a potential security threat. The report to the TSA was made after Hoeper had failed to pass a test on a new aircraft for the third time, angrily said that the testers were sabotaging him, swore at the testers and threatened to contact a union lawyer. His supervisor had booked him on a flight back to Denver, but then called TSA saying Hoeper was “unstable” and expressed concern about the whereabouts of Hoeper’s authorized firearm. Hoeper was ultimately taken off the flight because he was seen as being a security risk. The concerns were unfounded and Hoeper sued, earning a $1.2 billion award, which the Supreme Court ruling says that he was not entitled to. The three dissenting judges felt that the lower court got the right legal standard, but that the majority should not have applied it in this case.

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Russia not sharing Sochi threat information, US says

In my estimation, this can only mean that the threat information received by the Russians in especially daunting. –AA

by Stephen Collinson with the American Foreign Press

Washington — Russia has balked at sharing specific information on terror threats made against the Sochi Olympics with Washington, a US official said amid mounting fears over security at the Games.

The Obama administration meanwhile publicly stopped short of expressing full confidence in a massive Russian security operation ahead of the sporting spectacular opening next month in the Black Sea resort and nearby mountains.

Signs of increasing US concern followed a telephone discussion on security at the Sochi Olympics between Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

A senior US official told AFP on condition of anonymity that Russia “has not been forthcoming in sharing specific threat information.”

Extremist insurgents based in North Caucasus republics such as Dagestan who are seeking their own independent state have vowed to disrupt the Sochi Games in an effort to undermine Putin.

Washington, which has sophisticated intelligence and counterterrorism capabilities that have been deployed in previous Olympics, has offered Russia security assistance as it places a ring of steel around the host city and venues shortly to welcome thousands of athletes and spectators.

White House spokesman Jay Carney admitted earlier that there was “concern” in Washington about an uptick in reporting of threats by Islamic extremists relating to the Sochi Games.

He said the United States would send diplomatic security and FBI agents who would liaise with Russian security officials to protect American athletes and spectators.

But he did not take several opportunities offered by journalists to express full confidence in Russia’s preparations.

“I wouldn’t be qualified or wouldn’t want to venture to assess overall,” Carney said.

“These kinds of major events around the world obviously present security challenges,” he said, without confirming whether Russia had accepted US offers of help.

“The president spoke with President Putin about this. We have offered any assistance that they might want to avail themselves of.”

At the State Department, deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf deflected a query as to whether the United States had full confidence in the Russian effort, but added that Washington knew Moscow was “committed to doing everything they can in terms of security.”

The careful public tone adopted by the administration could signal a desire to avoid offending or antagonizing Russia in the run-up to the Games while concerns are expressed privately with top Russian officials.

The Games are seen as hugely important to Putin’s personal prestige and to his project of restoring stability and honor to Russia as it emerges from the post-Cold War period that saw the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Ties between Moscow and Washington are currently as tense as they have been for many years, with the case of fugitive US intelligence leader Edward Snowden — granted temporary asylum by Russia — and the Kremlin’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, fraying tempers.

The call between Putin and Obama came amid signs of subtle but rising pressure on Russia over securing the Games from Washington.

On Monday, the Pentagon said it was ready to deploy air and naval assets — including two ships — to help secure the Olympics, which begin on February 7.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had already offered American support during a January 4 phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.

Security fears were exacerbated by two suicide bombings in the southern city of Volgograd last month — Russia’s deadliest in three years — that killed 34 people.

The State Department has warned Americans headed to Sochi to be vigilant.

On Sunday, several prominent US lawmakers raised new concerns about Russia’s security efforts to protect the Games, despite Moscow’s effort to encircle the host city in a ring of steel.

Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said there had been good cooperation between Russian authorities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

But “it could be a lot better,” he told ABC News in an interview from Moscow.

Another Republican lawmaker, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, said US officials were not getting all the information they needed to protect athletes at the Games.

“What we’re finding is they aren’t giving us the full story about what are the threat streams, who do we need to worry about,” he said.

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Black Widow Terrorists In Sochi?

(CNN) — New details fueled debate Monday over security at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi: Wanted posters of a terrorism suspect on the loose, warships at the ready and a video threat from beyond the grave.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that his country has stepped up security and is prepared to handle any threats.

But some U.S. lawmakers — and at least one Olympic athlete — have said they’re worried about the situation.

Hotels warned about terror suspect

Police in Sochi have handed out fliers at area hotels warning of a woman they believe could be a terrorist and who may currently be in the city.

One flier, obtained by CNN, asks workers to be on the lookout for Ruzanna “Salima” Ibragimova, described as the widow of a member of a militant group from the Caucasus region.

The woman, according to the flier, may be involved in organizing “a terrorist act within the 2014 Olympic region.”

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