Al Qaeda: ‘Kill more Americans’

American al Qaeda militant Adam Gadahn (IntelCenter/Handout)
American al Qaeda militant Adam Gadahn (IntelCenter/Handout)

An American al Qaeda militant has called for more attacks on Western diplomats in the Arab world, praising the killers of the U.S. ambassador to Libya on September 11 last year, a U.S.-based monitoring group said on Sunday.

Western nations shut embassies across the Middle East and North Africa early this month, after a warning of a possible militant attack. Many have reopened, and Britain said its Yemen embassy would open on Sunday after being closed for 12 days.

Adam Gadahn, a California-born convert to Islam with a $1 million U.S. price on his head, appealed to wealthy Muslims to offer militants rewards to kill ambassadors in the region, citing bounty set for killing the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Washington-based SITE monitoring group said.

“These prizes have a great effect in instilling fear in the hearts of our cowardly enemies,” Gadahn said in the 39-minute video recording in Arabic posted on websites used by Islamist militants, according to SITE.

“They also encourage hesitant individuals to carry out important and great deeds in the path of Allah,” he said, in an English transcript on SITE.

The Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda last year offered 3 kg (106 ounces) of gold for the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Sanaa or 5 million rials ($23,350) for an American soldier in the impoverished Arab state.

U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in Libya’s Benghazi in 2012 when Islamist gunmen attacked the U.S. consulate during a protest by a mob angry over a film they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad.

Gadahn has called for attacks on U.S. diplomats before. In August 2007, he said al Qaeda would target diplomats and embassies in retaliation for U.S.-led military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The FBI has been trying to question Gadahn – believed to be in Pakistan – since 2004 and the U.S. government has offered up to $1 million in cash for information leading to his arrest.
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Copyright  © 2013 Thomson Reuters All rights reserved.

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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Gas prices could be lower in 2013, but other costs will rise

 Luis Cuevas changes the gas prices at the Shell station off California State Route 99. Forecasters say that ample oil supplies and weak U.S. gasoline demand will keep a lid on prices in 2103. The lows will be lower, the highs won’t be so high, and the average price of a gallon of gasoline will fall 5 percent to $3.44, according to the Energy Department. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian, File)
Luis Cuevas changes the gas prices at the Shell station off California State Route 99. Forecasters say that ample oil supplies and weak U.S. gasoline demand will keep a lid on prices in 2103. The lows will be lower, the highs won’t be so high, and the average price of a gallon of gasoline will fall 5 percent to $3.44, according to the Energy Department.
(AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian, File)

At least gasoline should cost you less in 2013.

Hamburger, health care and taxes are all set to take a bigger bite out of the family budget this year. But drivers’ annual gas bills are expected to drop for the first time in four years.

Forecasters say ample oil supplies and weak U.S. demand will keep a lid on prices. The lows will be lower and the highs won’t be so high compared with a year ago. The average price of a gallon of gasoline will fall 5 percent to $3.44, according to the Energy Department.

“Everything is lining up to lead to softer prices this year,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.

That would still be the third-highest average price ever. But a discount of 19 cents per gallon from 2012 would save the typical household $205 this year and free up $25 billion that could go instead to restaurants, malls or movie theaters — the kind of consumer spending that accounts for 70 percent of American economic activity.

“It’s a little benefit to the economy, and it’s a little more reason the Fed doesn’t have to worry about inflation,” said James Hamilton, an economist at the University of California at San Diego who studies energy prices.

Forecasters caution that they can’t predict other factors like Middle East tensions, refinery problems or hurricanes along the U.S. Gulf Coast — in other words, the same events that caused gasoline prices to spike in 2011 and 2012. Any or all of those troubles could crop up again in 2013 and push pump prices above last year’s record average of $3.63 a gallon.

The government expected gas to average about $3 during 2011. Then came the Arab Spring, which included the shutdown of Libya‘s oil production. Oil prices shot up, and gasoline averaged $3.53 for the year. The government’s forecast for last year also turned out to be too low, by 18 cents per gallon.

And, Hamilton said, consumer spending might not see a boost from lower gasoline prices because most Americans will be paying higher taxes. The expiration of last year’s payroll tax reduction will cost an extra $579 for households making $40,000 to $50,000 in 2013, according to the Tax Policy Center, a non-partisan Washington research group.

But after average gas prices rose in 2010, 2011, and 2012, a little relief will be welcome in 2013.

Gas prices set records each of the past two years for a few reasons. Global demand has risen as the developing economies of Asia, Latin America and the Middle East burn more gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. At the same time, unrest in the Middle East has sparked fears of widespread supply disruptions in a region that produces a quarter of the world’s oil. That makes traders willing to pay higher prices up front for oil as a way to protect against possible dramatic price spikes in the future.

In the U.S. last year, several refineries and pipelines had problems that reduced gasoline supplies, especially on the West Coast and in the Midwest, helping to push pump prices even higher.

This year, global oil demand is expected to rise slightly again, but increased production, especially in the U.S., should keep supplies ample. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said this week that American production will grow next year by 900,000 barrels per day, the nation’s biggest single-year increase ever. By 2014, U.S. production will reach its highest level since 1988.

At the same time, U.S. gasoline consumption is back down to 2002 levels because of more fuel-efficient cars and the tepid economy. It isn’t expected to rise this year or next, according to the Energy Department.

That means the U.S. will need to import less oil, which will increase global supplies and help tamp down prices somewhat.

The current average retail price of gasoline is $3.31 per gallon, 6 cents lower than last year, according to AAA, OPIS and Wright Express. AAA predicts gas won’t surpass $3.80 a gallon this year.

The peak last year was $3.94, reached in April. The auto club also says average pump prices could drop as low as $3.20, a level that the country hasn’t seen since February 2011.

Tom Kloza of OPIS expects price differences between regions of the country will remain large, and local prices could be volatile as supplies build and dwindle. In Utah, drivers are paying $2.88 per gallon on average, while in New York drivers are paying $3.75. Just in the last four months, gasoline supplies on the West Coast fell to their lowest level in a generation, then rose to where they are now, their highest level in a generation.

AAA forecasts the national average will peak between $3.60 and $3.80 in the spring, then drop to between $3.20 and $3.40 by mid-summer. It will rise again during the hurricane season along the Gulf Coast, the nation’s oil-refining hub, before moving lower toward the end of the year.

It’s that up-and-down movement that will dictate drivers’ moods. Drivers tend to remember what they paid for their last fill-up — not that they may have paid a little less a year ago, Hamilton said.

“People have a short reference point,” he said.

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Jonathan Fahey can be reached at http://twitter.com/JonathanFahey .

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Copyright © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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Romney urges more assertive foreign policy

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney steps off his campaign plane in Weyers Cave, Va., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012.
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

 

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is proposing the U.S. take a more assertive role in Syria, put conditions on aid to Egypt and tighten sanctions on Iran as he looks to use a planned foreign policy address to paint President Barack Obama as a weak leader who has limited America’s influence on global affairs.

Declaring that “it’s time to change course in the Middle East” and accusing Obama of “passivity,” Romney plans to call Monday for the U.S. to work with other countries to arm rebels in Syria with weapons that can defeat the “tanks, helicopters and fighter jets” that make up President Bashar Assad‘s army.

Romney also plans to call for tougher sanctions on Iran than those already in place, and plans to say he will condition aid to Egypt on continued support for its peace treaty with neighboring Israel. He will emphasize his commitment to a two-state solution for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, a process he dismissed during a secretly videotaped fundraiser in May.

Romney plans to make the comments at a major foreign policy speech at Virginia Military Institute. His campaign released excerpts of his prepared speech in advance. Aides previewing the speech in a conference call with reporters emphasized that the Republican, who took a hawkish tone throughout the GOP primary, would outline a “mainstream” foreign policy vision.

“Hope is not a strategy. We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds,” Romney plans to say in the address, adding that the U.S. should use its influence “wisely, with solemnity and without false pride, but also firmly and actively.”

Romney’s attempt to outline his approach as commander in chief comes amid turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa. Iran is believed to be pursuing a nuclear weapon, Syria is locked in a civil war, peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are moribund, and anti-American protests have erupted in several countries. Attackers linked to al-Qaida killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, last month, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The Republican has given several foreign policy speeches throughout the campaign, including one in Reno, Nev., ahead of a weeklong trip abroad in the summer. That trip was fraught, with Romney offending his British hosts by questioning their security preparations for the Olympic Games and raising hackles among Palestinians who charged him with racism after he said culture was part of the reason Israelis were more economically successful than the neighboring Palestinians.

In the fall, Romney faced criticism for his hurried and harsh reaction to news of protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and the near-simultaneous attacks in Libya. Before the administration knew of Stevens’ death, Romney criticized Obama for sympathizing with the attackers. In the aftermath, top Republicans — including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 presidential nominee — urged Romney to give a speech laying out his vision for U.S. foreign policy.

The Obama campaign dismissed Romney’s planned Monday address as a rehashed attempt to fix past blunders.

“We are not going to be lectured by someone who’s been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy every time he sticks his toe in the foreign policy waters,” campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One on Sunday. The campaign prepared a TV ad calling Romney “reckless” and “amateurish” on foreign policy questions. Obama’s aides also insisted Romney’s speech included few specifics that were markedly different from the president’s own record.

While Obama has held an edge in polls on handling foreign policy issues, Republican aides say the Benghazi attack — and ensuing questions about possible intelligence failures and lax security at the Libya consulate — has given Romney a new opportunity to criticize the president.

Now, following a strong debate performance, Romney will give the speech at the alma mater of former Secretary of State George Marshall, the architect of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe in the wake of World War II. In the conference call previewing the speech, aides pointed to that connection to illustrate Romney’s vision of leadership and engagement on the world stage. The advisers cast Romney as part of a long tradition of statesmen beginning with former President Harry Truman; adviser Rich Williamson said Romney would offer a “bipartisan” approach while aide Eliot Cohen referred to Romney as “very much in the mainstream of foreign policy.”

Romney’s outline of an approach to Syria comes at a critical time in part because the violence there has spilled over their border with Turkey. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Saturday the conflict between those neighboring countries could embroil the broader region.

Romney aides said the candidate would not call for direct U.S. aid to arm the Syrian rebels, but said he would support providing them with enough force to force Assad from power. In the speech, Romney plans to emphasize Iran’s ties to the Syrian government and insist the U.S., through allies, should “support the many Syrians who would deliver that defeat to Iran rather than sitting on the sidelines.” That would allow the U.S. to “develop influence with those forces in Syria that will one day lead a country that sits at the heart of the Middle East.”

Obama’s administration still seeks a peaceful political transition, even though the president acknowledged in August that the likelihood of a soft landing for Syria’s civil war “seems pretty distant.”

Obama called on Assad to step down more than a year ago and has sought consensus at the United Nations on a diplomatic power-transfer plan, but has been stymied repeatedly by Russia and China. Obama has stepped up U.S. humanitarian aid and nonlethal assistance, now at a combined $175 million, to the political opposition.

But he has opposed directly providing weapons to the rebels or using U.S. air power to prevent Syrian jets from flying.

The administration says U.S. arms assistance would further militarize Syria and make it even harder to stabilize the country after Assad’s downfall, which it insists is inevitable. And it says it still doesn’t know the different fighting groups well enough to provide them guns, considering the small but growing influence of Islamist extremists among their ranks.

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Associated Press writer Steve Peoples in Lexington, Va., White House Correspondent Ben Feller and writer Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Foreign crisis could be bad news for Romney

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

With protests at U.S. embassies and four Americans dead, Mitt Romney is suddenly facing a presidential election focused on a foreign policy crisis he gambled wouldn’t happen.

But it did happen — and at a bad time for the GOP hopeful.

Momentum in the race is on President Barack Obama’s side and Republicans are fretting over the state of their nominee’s campaign.

To shift the trajectory, Romney’s plan boils down to this: Spend big money on TV and work harder.

It’s unclear how long this bout of Middle East unrest will last, and the Republican’s aides concede that the former businessman may struggle to gain a political advantage should anti-American violence continue deep into the fall.

© 2012 The Associated Press

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Obama widens poll lead but Mideast crisis hovers as wild card

(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

President Barack Obama is pulling away from rival Mitt Romney in polls in what might be a turning point in the U.S. presidential campaign, but volatility in the Middle East is allowing Republicans to cast the Democrat as weak on foreign policy and could threaten his momentum.

In the latest survey to show Obama ahead, a Reuters/Ipsos online poll on Thursday gave the Democrat a 7 percentage point lead, 48 percent to 41 percent, among likely voters.

Survey aggregator Real Clear Politics’ average of national polls gives Obama a 3.3-point advantage while Gallup’s seven-day tracking poll of registered voters has Obama leading by 6 points, one more than a Fox News survey of likely voters.

After months of a neck-and-neck race for the November 6 election, the recent data has stirred speculation that Obama may have reached a breakaway moment helped by the Democrats’ convention in North Carolina last week when they laid out a case for his re-election.

“This election is far from over, and we’re not inclined to make a final call until the first debate on October 3, but this seems clear: the election is slipping away from Romney,” said Greg Valliere of Potomac Research Group which analyzes Washington for investors.

But in a reminder of how campaigns can shift easily, Republicans began building a strong argument against Obama for failing to stop the rise of Islamists in Egypt and Libya, where the U.S. ambassador was killed in an attack this week.

It is unclear whether Obama’s lead in the polls is a residue of positive feeling from the convention, or due to more specific reasons like voter concern at the Republican ticket’s plans for Medicare or Democratic ads attacking Romney’s business record.

Poll leads at this stage in the race can evaporate quickly, as Republican Senator John McCain’s did in the 2008 campaign.

But Obama seems to be doing something right to be able to stay ahead despite high unemployment, underscored by poor jobless figures last week. The Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Obama with a slight lead of 38 percent over 35 percent on which candidate has a better plan on jobs.

“You’d rather be in Obama’s shoes today than Romney’s,” said Peter Brown, a pollster for Quinnipiac University.

In key states, the numbers looked grim for Romney this week too.

An EPIC-MRA poll showed Obama up 10 points in Michigan, Romney’s birthplace and a state where conservative groups supporting him pulled back advertising dollars this week.

A poll released on Tuesday showed Obama up 4 points in Ohio, one of the top three battleground states.

MIDDLE EAST CLOUDS GATHER

With the home front reasonably stable for him, Obama now has one eye on the Middle East as Republicans accuse him of weakness in the face of protests at U.S. diplomatic missions over a film many Muslims consider blasphemous.

The region has a history of upsetting U.S. presidential races as in 1980 when the Iran hostage crisis played a part in the defeat of Democratic President Jimmy Carter.

Although the current crisis is nowhere near as serious, demonstrators attacked the U.S. embassies in Yemen and Egypt on Thursday and American warships headed toward Libya after the U.S. ambassador there was killed in related violence.

Obama appeared to slip up by saying that Egypt, which receives $1.3 billion a year in military assistance from the United States, is not an ally.

“I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy,” Obama told Spanish-language network Telemundo on Wednesday.

Former election opponent McCain appeared on a series of morning television shows to accuse Obama of lacking resolve.

“The fact is the United States in the Middle East is weak,” the senator told MSNBC. “We are seen as withdrawing, and we are paying a price for that weakness, whether it be unraveling in Iraq, the tragedy in Syria, the tensions with Israel, the Afghan situation unraveling. There is a lack of leadership there.”

Obama vowed that those responsible for killing the ambassador in Libya and three other Americans would be brought to justice.

“No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America,” Obama told an audience of 8,400 in Golden, Colorado.

Romney was accused earlier this week of being too hasty to criticize the president in the middle of a foreign crisis, as well as giving wrong information about the Obama administration’s reaction to the storming of the embassy in Egypt.

He recalibrated his argument against Obama on Thursday, stopping short of repeating charges that Obama is apologizing to America’s enemies.

“As we watch the world today, sometimes it seems that we’re at the mercy of events, instead of shaping events, and a strong America is essential to shape events,” he told supporters at a rally in Fairfax, a Washington suburb.

Although foreign policy dominated headlines this week, the Federal Reserve’s decision to launch another aggressive stimulus program on Thursday presented a further opportunity for Romney to return the presidential campaign to economic issues, long considered the former private equity executive’s strong suit.

(Additional reporting by Margaret Chabourn in Washington, Steve Holland in Fairfax, Virginia, and Andy Sullivan in Golden, Colorado; editing by Alistair Bell and Mohammad Zargham)

© 2012 Thomson Reuters

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McCain calls Obama’s foreign policy ‘feckless’ at best

Sen. John McCain

Sen. John McCain, who lost to  President Barack Obama four years ago, is accusing his formal rival of pursuing “a feckless foreign policy” that compromises American influence around the world.

Speaking on NBC’s “Today,” McCain said: “I’d like to see the president of the United States speak up once for the 20,000 people that are being massacred in Syria.”

McCain said the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was fresh evidence of “a belief in the Middle East that the United States is withdrawing” from the world.

He also noted that Obama administration’s response to unrest in Libya was “a very weak statement.”

McCain declined comment when asked whether Mitt Romney was wrong to criticize Obama so quickly in the wake of the attack.

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Call your cable or dish company.

Who would have suspected that “American Exceptionalism” really meant that everyone in the world would have access to decent, serious, in depth news coverage Except for America?

Let’s face it. American news sucks, regardless of which medium you point to.

The state of the news reporting within the US is disgusting.

Paper based journalism. Surprisingly, there are some decent sources still in print.

I do not mean WaPo, which remains useful on a camping trip in which all your toilet paper has run out, nor even the Grey Lady, who appears ever more senile with each new hire of a new conservative voice.

ChiTrib? Sam Zell should be drawn & quartered,  Tarred & Feathered, hung in effigy, covered with honey and tied down over an African Fire Ant nest.

After that, he should be really punished.

The Tribune, admittedly a conservative paper, used to report real news, in depth, and with serious research. It had foreign correspondents, experts, and great writers on staff. It was financially stable until Sam Zell leveraged with with millions in loans, and stole it blind. Since then, USA Toady has more news than the Trib. It’s not just Chicago. LA and other cities that had Trib company papers all suffered.

There are some news sources, just not many. The Economist is still solid. The Nation kicks butt on a few important subjects. Most science magazines provide news and great reporting. There are even a few small, regional papers that serve their local readership quite well.

Unfortunately, these are the exceptions, not the rule.

Radio?

Most radio outlets are forced to rely on AP. Few of them can support reporters on the street anymore. Here in Chicago, WBBM 780 AM has a handful, ready to cover fires, weather, a new arrest of some politician, etc, but for real reporting, their hands are tied. If you want traffic, sports, a business break, or the headlines, it is fine. But there is no breaking story on radio. Not like it used to do.

The problem is AP. They made a deliberate change from serious news to something weird.

Local TV? In my yute, I remember being barely old enough to walk, yet, watching a black and white news program was truly awesome. 15 minutes of the outside world, brought to me, using some words that I might not get, but that I would learn. Today’s local news may be 30 minutes, but in real time, the time spent on actual news is shorter than 45-50 years ago. Sports, some besotted blond bimbette reading the weather, and a local fire take the vast majority of time.

National news?  Quick! Gag me before I lose another keyboard to vomit.
I don’t understand how they have the nerve to call themselves news programs. News consists of someone reading something, without having a clue about the content. When there is a serious story, instead of reporting on it, you are forced to see one or two opposing “experts” (usually the same stale, politicized players taking opposing roles) blather about the subject without adding any fact or background.

National boredcast news is an embarrassment.

Cable News?
Today’s Huffpost hits the nail on the head. Ryan Grim’s story about the sad state of affairs in cable news is timely and scary.

CNN? Pathetic. How a formerly proud and serious news gatherer turned into a mere shadow of itself, has to be one of the saddest stories in the business. CNN used to cover hot spots, their reporters looked into backgrounds, and informed America. Hell, they informed the world. Until the bean counters took over and turned it into an entertainment center. Simply by firing Wolf Blitzer, I suspect that the average IQ of the remaining 2000 CNN employes  would increase by 10%.

Until and unless they do a massive restructuring of that station, it is doomed to irrelevance, something actually worse than failure.

FOX?  The Rude Pundit once described Fox so accurately, that I still smile at his description.

MSNBC? Also someplace between poor and worthless. Sure, Rachel Maddow and O’Donnell actually give us news and background, but two shows hardly make a cable news station. Take a serious look at their programing. Mourning Joe, Andrea Mitchell, and more – that’s not news, that’s entertainment! And not very good entertainment, either.

There has been one company that has kicked ass on coverage, and here in the colonies, the only place to see them is on the intertubes. Al Jazeera.

I suggest that you contact your cable provider (if you have one, and ask them to add Al Jazeera to your program menu.

Somehow, I suspect that the added competition would serve us better than any girl or boycott. Existing news providers would realize that news really is important to us.

Here is ATT’s number. I will edit and add other providers if you give me that information.800 288 2020

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