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Older News Archivescom0116
NEWS     THURSDAY, JUlY 24, 2014     NEWS

President Obama’s Latest Boast: I Don’t Learn Anything From Watching The News
In scandal after scandal in the Obama administration, President Obama has said he didn’t know about the problems until he heard it on the news. But the president changed his tune about his supposed ignorance at a Democratic fundraiser near Seattle on Tuesday night. Mr. Obama told supporters that he doesn’t watch the news because, “Whatever they’re reporting about, usually I know.” That contrasts with the explanations that the president and his aides have given from scandals in the past few years ranging from long wait times and deaths at the VA, to the IRS targeting tea party groups, to the Fast and Furious gun-running operation, and the Department of Justice spying on news reporters. Washington Times
VOA VIEW: Obama is a joke.

Agents Able To Get Obamacare Subsidies Using Fake IDs
Undercover investigators using fake identities were able to secure taxpayer-subsidized health insurance under President Barack Obama's health care law. The weak link in the system seemed to be call centers that handled applications for thousands of consumers unable to get through online. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office was to tell a House committee on Wednesday that its investigators were able to get subsidized health care under fake names in 11 out of 18 attempts. CBS

Government Cracks Down On "Made In USA" Claims
It's hard to manufacture goods in the United States. Raw materials are costly and employee wages are comparatively high. You have to deal with stringent regulations, labor rights, health care and business taxes. Or you can just pay a couple thousand bucks for a license to use the "Made in USA" label. And that's what federal regulators say happened. The Federal Trade Commission says that the company that issues the "Made in USA" certification seal let partners use the seal without checking that the products were in fact made in the U.S. The agency claims that some products with the Made in USA mark contained "significant imported content." Regulators add that the company has never rejected an application to use its certification seal. CBS

Air Algerie Plane With 116 Aboard Disappears From Radar
Authorities say a flight operated by Air Algerie carrying 110 passengers and a crew of six has disappeared from the radar on a flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers. The official Algerian news agency said air navigation services lost track of the Swiftair plane 50 minutes after takeoff — at 0155 GMT Thursday. Flight AH5017 had been missing for hours before news was made public. Swiftair, the private Spanish airline, confirmed that 116 people were aboard. “In keeping with procedures, Air Algerie has launched its emergency plan,” the news agency quoted the airline as saying. Detroit News
VOA VIEW: Avoiding terror and securing the people of the world from terror is next to impossible - the sign of the times.

Gang Violence, Fears For Children Fuel Rush To US
Many immigrants flooding across the southern border of the U.S. say they're fleeing violent gangs in Central America. Experts, however, say those gangs are actually a byproduct of U.S. policies in the 1990s that sent many immigrants back to Central America after they had been indoctrinated into gang culture in this country. The violence they took with them easily took hold and flourished in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala - countries with weak, dysfunctional governments. Philadelphia Inquirer

Dutch Furious After Putin’s Daughter Is Found Living In Holland
Vladimir Putin’s daughter lives, in all places, the Netherlands — and disgusted locals now want her deported because it was her dad who provided the missile that shot 193 of their countrymen out of the sky over Ukraine. Maria Putin’s presence in the grieving nation sparked outrage during a national day of mourning, with the arrival of the first wave of coffins carrying victims from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Ukrainians living in the Netherlands were planning to protest outside Maria’s swanky apartment, and Dutch Twitter users targeted the pretty blonde, with one fuming, “Its time you leave B*TCH” over her photo. NY Post

Social Security Spent $300M On 'IT Boondoggle'
Six years ago the Social Security Administration embarked on an aggressive plan to replace outdated computer systems overwhelmed by a growing flood of disability claims. Nearly $300 million later, the new system is nowhere near ready and agency officials are struggling to salvage a project racked by delays and mismanagement, according to an internal report commissioned by the agency. In 2008, Social Security said the project was about two to three years from completion. Five years later, it was still two to three years from being done, according to the report by McKinsey and Co., a management consulting firm. Today, with the project still in the testing phase, the agency can't say when it will be completed or how much it will cost. San Diego Union

Living Smart: How Landscaping Can Deter Intruders, Pests
Done right, landscaping can do much more than attract compliments and boost your property value. It can help you repel intruders, both human and natural. Landscaping experts who've earned high marks from Angie's List members say overgrown bushes and shrubs are like welcome mats to burglars. Keep plants and trees trimmed. Place thorny but attractive bougainvillea or barberry bushes under windows, sending would-be thieves a sharp message to go elsewhere. Other ideas for enlisting your landscaping as part of your home security system: Kansas City Star

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No Trans-Pacific Partnership Would Be A Setback For U.S., Latin America
A new Atlantic Council study says that failure to win approval for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership would be a “serious geopolitical and commercial setback” for the United States and Latin America. The United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries, which represent 40 percent of the world’s economy, are currently negotiating the trade and investment liberalization pact. But its prospects are unclear. Chief negotiators for the member nations — the U.S., Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam — are currently trying to iron out market access and rules. Miami Herald

Poland Violated Human Rights In CIA Case
Europe's top human rights court ruled Thursday that Poland violated the rights of two terror suspects by allowing the CIA to secretly imprison them on Polish soil from 2002-2003 and facilitating the conditions under which they were subject to torture. The ruling by the European Court of Human Rights marked the first time any court has passed judgment on the so-called "renditions program" that President George W. Bush launched after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The court, based in Strasbourg, France, said Poland violated the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to stop the "torture and inhuman or degrading treatment" of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, who were transported to Poland in 2002. SF Gate

If Hamas Had Weapons Israel Has, 'Israel Would Cease To Exist'
Conservative talk-radio host Mark Levin strongly criticized comedian and quasi-news commentator Jon Stewart for his acerbic jokes and comments concerning Hamas's ongoing missile attacks against Israel, stating that "if Hamas had the weaponry that Israel had," then "Israel would cease to exist." Levin also stressed in remarks aimed at Stewart that Hamas "is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood," it was part of the PLO, and the "PLO's history goes back to the Mufti, goes back to the Third Reich, the Final Solution." CNS News
VOA VIEW: Hamas would have to know how to use sophisticated weapons.

ISIS No Longer A Terrorist Group But ‘A Full-Blown Army’
A State Department official who just returned from a seven-week trip to Iraq, said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) - or the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) – is no longer just a terrorist group. “ISIL is no longer simply a terrorist organization,” Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran at the U.S. Department of State, said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday. “It is now a full-blown army seeking to establish a self-governing state through the Tigress and Euphrates Valley in what is now Syria and Iraq.” CNS News

U.S. Moves To Enhance Safety Of Oil-By-Rail Shipments
The U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday proposed new safety rules for hauling crude oil by rail after a string of explosive accidents, in a move that could impact railroads, drillers, refiners and railcar makers amid an energy boom. The draft rules, which are subject to a 60-day public comment period, come as regulators respond to a 50-fold hike in crude-by-rail cargoes since 2008, and more than a dozen accidents that have tarnished the lucrative new shipping trend. Among the proposed rules released by the DOT are new speed limits for trains carrying oil, enhanced safety features for new railcars to carry oil and ethanol, and a quick phasing-out of older cars deemed unsafe. Other measures include advanced braking systems for trains, and expanded oil flammability testing before cargoes are shipped. Reuters

U.S. Senate Democrats Cut $1 Billion From Obama Border Request
U.S. Senate Democrats on Tuesday proposed cutting $1 billion from President Barack Obama's $3.7 billion emergency funding request to deal with a surge of some 57,000 undocumented Central American children across the southern border. Obama on July 8 asked lawmakers to approve $3.7 billion to bolster border security and speed deportation proceedings, but Congress has yet to take action on the request. At a luncheon on Tuesday, Senate Democrats discussed what their response should be. "Based on a review of what is needed...to meet needs at the border, the bill reduces the president’s request by $1 billion," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski. Reuters

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Fourth Bacterial Infection Death Reported At South Carolina Hospital
A patient who contracted a rare bacterial infection during surgery at a South Carolina hospital died last week, bringing the total deaths to four since the outbreak was first suspected in May, a hospital spokeswoman said on Tuesday. The four dead are among 15 patients infected by Mycobacterium abscessus during surgery at Greenville Memorial Hospital, spokeswoman Sandy Dees said. Hospital officials cited tap water as the likely origin of the bacteria. Fox News

U.S. Extends Ban On Flights Into Israel's Ben Gurion Airport
The Federal Aviation Administration extended its ban Wednesday on U.S. airlines' flights to and from Tel Aviv, Israel, for another 24 hours. The ban now runs through 12:15 p.m. ET Thursday. "The agency is working closely with the government of Israel to review the significant new information they have provided and determine whether potential risks to U.S. civil aviation are mitigated so the agency can resolve concerns as quickly as possible," the FAA said in a statement. The FAA did not detail what the "significant new information" is. But the Israeli government told CNN that Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport is safe from any rocket attack by militants in Gaza. CNN

Obama's Numbers Not Great But Holding Steady
President Barack Obama's poll numbers are nothing to brag about, but there's little evidence he has suffered so far this year a "Katrina moment" that caused his predecessor's numbers to plummet. A new CNN/ORC International survey indicates that public opinion of the President has barely budged in the wake of new challenges that Obama has faced this year. According to the poll, which was released Wednesday, the President's approval rating among Americans stands at 42%. That's not great, but it's basically unchanged since March. CNN
VOA VIEW: The liberal poll is skewed high.

Can the Cops Cuff You For Filming An Arrest?
A number of recent arrests have highlighted the role citizen smartphones can play in documenting police action, and while courts have sided with camera-wielding observers in the past, civilians who tape police making a bust may still face their own arrest, legal experts and activists say. Several court rulings have upheld a civilian’s First Amendment rights to videotape cops performing their jobs in public places, legal experts say. Those same federal courts, however, also found “this federal constitutional right is not absolute, particularly when it comes to filming traffic stops,” said Professor Clay Calvert, director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida. “The precise contours of the right have yet to be fully fleshed out.” MSNBC

Arizona Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began
A condemned Arizona inmate gasped and snorted for more than an hour and a half during his execution Wednesday before he died in an episode sure to add to the scrutiny surrounding the death penalty in the U.S.  Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started. Wood’s lawyers had filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court while the execution was underway, demanding that it be stopped. The appeal said Wood was ‘‘gasping and snorting for more than an hour.’’ Boston Globe

Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts
Israeli tanks and warplanes bombarded the Gaza Strip on Thursday, as Hamas militants stuck to their demand for the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade amid international efforts to broker a cease-fire. Six members of the same family and an 18-month-old infant boy were killed when an Israeli airstrike hit the Jebaliya refugee camp in the early morning hours, according to Gaza police and health officials. Twenty others were injured in the strike, they said, and rescuers were digging through the rubble of flattened homes, looking for survivors. Houston Chronicle

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Doctor Leading Ebola Fight Gets Infected
The head doctor fighting the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone has himself caught the disease, the government says. Sheik Umar Khan, 39, is only the latest health care worker to be felled by the out-of-control outbreak of Ebola virus, which has infected more than 1,000 people and killed more than 600 of them in three West African countries. The crisis is a “wake-up call,” warning of how budget cuts at global health organizations are weakening the ability to find, and fight, disease outbreaks in time, top health experts say. “This is an unusually difficult outbreak. It’s the largest and most complex outbreak that we have ever seen,” Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general of the World Health Organization, said in an interview last week. MSNBC

Glitch Crashes Global US Passport, Visa Operations
The State Department's global database for issuing travel documents has crashed, resulting in major delays for potentially millions of people around the world waiting for U.S. passports and visas, officials said Wednesday. Unspecified glitches in the department's Consular Consolidated Database have resulted in "significant performance issues, including outages" in the processing of applications for passports, visas and reports of Americans born abroad since Saturday, spokeswoman Marie Harf said. She said the problem is worldwide and not specific to any particular country, citizenship document, or visa category. Seattle Times

‘We’re Coming For You, Barack Obama’
High-ranking U.S. officials said Wednesday that not only are Sunni radicals with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant “worse than al Qaeda,” but that the group has a message for the president: “We’re coming for you, Barack Obama.” Brett McGurk, the deputy assistant secretary of state, told lawmakers at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that ISIL may have “changed its name,” but that it’s still al Qaeda. “In fact, it is worse than al Qaeda,” he said, The Hill reported. Washington Times
VOA VIEW: While this commentator has no respect for this president, threats against a U.S. president must be responded with force against those who make it.

5 Things That Make You A Mosquito Magnet
Hot and humid summers mean mosquitoes. And the annoying insects spread more than just itchy welts – they can transmit painful and sometimes deadly diseases. At least 497 people in the continental U.S. as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have contracted the chikungunya virus so far this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- 140 of them in the past week alone. For most of us, mosquito bites are just a nuisance. And some people have it worse than others. What makes a person a mosquito magnet? Read on to learn how some seemingly harmless habits like a daily run or a backyard beer could make you a more appetizing target. ABC

GM Profit 2Q Falls 85 Pct. On Recall Costs
General Motors says second-quarter profit fell 85 percent as recall costs chopped $1.5 billion from the bottom line. The automaker posted a net profit of $190 million, or 11 cents per share, including restructuring and recall-related expenses. A year ago GM made $1.26 billion, or 75 cents per share. So far this year GM has recalled almost 30 million vehicles, a company record. GM took a number of pretax charges tied to the recalls. They Include $400 million to compensate victims of ignition-switch related crashes; $874 million to account for recall expenses during the next 10 years; and $1.2 billion for recalls announced during the quarter. The after-tax impact of those items was $1.5 billion. Atlanta Journal

Texas Governor's Startup Fund Is Not All It Seems
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has distributed $205 million in taxpayer money to scores of technology startups using a pet program designed to bring high-paying jobs and innovation to the nation's second most-populous state. But a closer look at the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, one of Perry's signature initiatives in his 14 years as governor, reveals that some of the businesses that received money are not all they seem. One actually operates in California. Some have stagnated trying to find more capital. Others have listed out-of-state employees and short-term hires as being among the jobs they created. Charlotte Observer

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IRS Head Confirms Investigators Have Found Backup Tapes In Lerner Probe
The head of the IRS confirmed Wednesday that investigators looking into missing emails from ex-agency official Lois Lerner have found and are reviewing "backup tapes" -- despite earlier IRS claims that the tapes had been recycled. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, testifying before a House oversight subcommittee, stressed that he does not know "how they found them" or "whether there's anything on them or not." But he said the inspector general's office advised him the investigators are reviewing tapes to see if they contain any "recoverable" material. Fox News

People Keep Trying To Sneak Guns Into The US Capitol
A man was arrested this morning attempting to enter the Cannon House Office Building with a loaded firearm concealed inside a bag, U.S. Capitol Police said. “A firearm was recovered as a result of an administrative search at the rotunda door of the Cannon House Office Building,” police spokesman Shennell Antrobus confirmed, adding that the incident occurred at about 9:20 a.m. Today’s action follows a similar incident Friday when a congressional staffer attempted to enter the same building and was charged with carrying a pistol without a license. Last week’s event occurred at the South East Door of the Cannon House Office Building at about the same time in the morning. ABC

GM Recalls Continue With Newer Model Camaros, Cadillacs
General Motors Co. (GM), which has already called back almost 29 million vehicles in North America for various fixes this year, recalled almost 718,000 more today in the U.S., many of them recent models. In the largest of six recalls, GM is calling back more than 414,000 vehicles, including Chevrolet Camaros, Buick Regals and LaCrosses from model years 2011-2012. It also flagged Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX models from 2010-2012. The bolt for seat-height adjustments may become loose or fall out, the company said in a e-mailed statement. The automaker said it knows of three injuries and no fatalities related to this action. Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg Flies To Israel To Protest FAA Ban
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew to Tel Aviv Tuesday to protest the FAA ban on U.S. flights to Israel, arguing that it is perfectly safe. Flying the Israeli airline El Al to circumvent the U.S. and European airlines, he stopped at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to speak to reporters. "I'm not trying to prove anything. I'm just trying to show that it's safe, and a great place to visit, and Israel has a right to defend its people, and they're doing exactly what they should be doing," Bloomberg said. UPI

Norway Warns Of 'Concrete Threat' Linked To Syria
Norway's intelligence service says it has been warned of an imminent "concrete threat" against the nation from people with links to Islamic fighters in Syria.
Benedicte Bjoernland, the head of Norwegian security service PST, said Thursday the agency had received "reliable information" from a foreign partner about some kind of attack "within days." Bjoernland said there was no indication of a specific target. She said the information involved people who have been fighters in Syria.
 According to PST's assessment last month, about 50 people have traveled to Syria from Norway as foreign fighters, half of whom have returned to Norway. Bjoernland declined to give further details. Tampa Tribune

Health Care Jobs Lift Less-Educated Workers
The boom in health care jobs is skewed toward positions requiring less education, providing lower-paid workers a potential pathway to better careers, a new Brookings Institution report says. From 2000 to 2011, the number of workers in 10 large health care occupations who had less than a bachelor's degree surged 46%, vs. 39% growth for all health care jobs, the study says. Health care workers with less than a four-year degree make up 61% of the industry's 12.1 million employees. Their growth can partly be traced to the need to more quickly turn out health workers to serve an aging population, says Brookings fellow and study co-author Martha Ross.
The findings have significant implications for a U.S. labor force that has grown increasingly polarized between high-wage and low-wage jobs, with the number of middle-income jobs shrinking in recent years. USA Today

Do 10,000 Baby Boomers Retire Every Day?
A reader asked about this line in Sen. Portman’s article, which warned of a looming budget crisis because of growth in entitlements. Could this figure possibly be true?
The Facts. Ten thousand people a day is certainly a big number. Over 365 days, that’s almost 4 million people. But then everything about the “Baby Boom” generation is pretty big. There were 76 million people born between the years 1946 and 1964, the traditional window for the baby boom generation. That means that they will retire over a 19-year period. Simple math shows that 76 divided by 19 is 4 million, or almost 11,000 people a day. While a certain percentage will die before they reach retirement age, analysts say that  immigrants will actually boost the number of potential baby-boomer retirees to nearly 80 million —and not everyone retires exactly at 65 or 66. Some baby boomers likely retired at 62. So let’s say it’s 80 million over 20 years—which still yields 4 million a year. Washington Post

Iraq’s Kurds Want U.S. Help To Hold Off Islamic State Extremists
Each day, Kurdish security forces­ in northern Iraq skirmish with fearsomely armed Islamic State militants along their new, nearly 650-mile border. The Kurds have held their own so far. But without fresh arms supplies or financial assistance their fight is unsustainable, a senior Kurdish official said. Masrour Barzani, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s intelligence and security chief, described his forces as “overstretched.” In an interview this week, he called on the United States to provide direct military assistance to his semi­autonomous region, which he complained has been left to fight the extremists unaided. Washington Post

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U.S. Stops Short Of Finding Russian Role In MH17 Crash
Almost a week after the downing of a Malaysian airliner in Ukraine, U.S. officials still can’t say they’re certain who did it and whether Russia was involved. Three American intelligence officials who briefed reporters yesterday said U.S. technical intelligence and overhead satellite images bolster the case that a surface-to-air missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine shot down the civilian plane. One of the officials described as solid the theory that a Russian-made SA-11 missile hit the plane and said it happened under conditions that Russia helped create. All three, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence findings, stopped short of claiming Russia played a direct role. Bloomberg

John Kerry Cites Progress In Gaza Cease-Fire Talks
Offering the first glimmer of hope for a Gaza cease-fire, the United States on Wednesday said negotiations to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas militants are making some progress even if an end to more than two weeks of bloodshed is nowhere near. "We certainly have made steps forward," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Jerusalem, where he met for the second time this week with United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon. "There's still work to be done," Kerry said. He did not offer any specifics about the progress he cited in his third day of talks with Mideast leaders. He flew to Israel on an Air Force jet — one day after the FAA banned commercial flights into Ben-Gurion Airport because of a Hamas rocket attack nearby. Las Vegas Sun

Biden Decries Voting Restrictions In Las Vegas NAACP Address
Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday called on members of the NAACP to spread the word about what he called "a hailstorm" of measures to restrict citizens' ability to vote, trying to rally the Democratic Party's base before the midterm elections. In a 31-minute speech to the civil rights group's annual convention in Las Vegas, Biden said that there have been 83 attempts this year alone in 29 states to restrict voting rights. The measures stiffen requirements on identification needed to vote, or limit or end early voting. "These moves to limit the right to vote are nothing more than pure politics, masquerading as attempts to combat corruption where there is none," Biden said. Las Vegas Sun

GAO Undercover Sting Signs Up Fake People On Obamacare
A report that found it possible to use fake information to register and qualify for subsidized insurance on the federal healthcare exchange has sparked a new wave of criticism from Republicans. The Government Accountability Office released preliminary findings of an investigation in which it was able to use false documents to sign up to qualify for insurance and income-based tax credits in 11 of 12 attempts. The single denied applicant was rejected because it did not list a social security number. UPI

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UN Launches Inquiry Into Possible Israeli Human Rights Violations In Gaza
The United Nations Human Rights Council agreed on Wednesday to launch an international inquiry into human rights violations that it says may have been committed during Israel's ongoing military operation in Gaza. At the end of an emergency session, the 47-member Geneva state forum adopted a resolution presented by Palestinians by a vote of 29 states in favor, 1 against (the United States) with 17 abstentions (including some European Union members). Justice Minister Tzipi Livni condemned the UNHRC decision as "applauding terror" and stressed that Israel would continue to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of its citizens. Jerusalem Post

Israel Denounces UNHRC As ‘Kangaroo Court’
Israel attacked as a “travesty” a UN decision on Wednesday to probe its actions against Hamas in Gaza on the same day that the terrorist organization launched 80 rockets against it, targeting civilian areas. “This investigation by a kangaroo court is a foregone conclusion,” the Prime Minister’s Office said. The United Nations Human Rights Council ordered the probe after holding a special emergency session in Geneva on the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. The US was the only one of 47-member states to oppose the probe, while 29 countries approved it. Another 17 states abstained, including Israel’s European allies – the UK, Germany and France – who have verbally backed Israel against Hamas. Jerusalem Post

Hamas Says Gaza Blockade Must End Before Ceasefire
The leader of Islamic militant group Hamas has said there can be no ceasefire to ease the conflict in Gaza without an end to Israel's blockade. Khaled Meshaal said Hamas would continue to reject a lasting ceasefire until its conditions were met. It follows further Israeli air strikes and ground operations in Gaza, as Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel. Israel launched its military offensive on 8 July with the declared objective of stopping rocket fire from Gaza. At least 649 Palestinians and 32 Israeli soldiers, plus three Israeli civilians, have been killed in the past 15 days of fighting, officials say. Earlier, the UN's top human rights official, Navi Pillay, condemned Israel's military actions in Gaza. BBC

IMF Says US Growth Will Be A "Disappointing" 1.7%
The International Monetary Fund has lowered its forecast for US economic growth for the second time this year. It also called for measures to help the poorest, suggesting a boost to the minimum wage and an expansion of tax credits. In its annual report card, the IMF said overall growth for this year would be "disappointing" at 1.7%, blaming the contraction at the start of the year. In June it had predicted growth of 2% for the year. The report concluded the country was therefore likely to remain with below full employment until 2018. BBC

Surveillance Reform Hinges On Change To Reagan Executive Order
John Napier Tye is not Edward Snowden. He says he has no surveillance documents to disclose to journalists. He takes a nuanced position on Snowden's disclosures.
Yet the 38-year old former State Department official has raised a Snowden-like alarm that Americans' communication data remains highly vulnerable to surreptitious collection by the National Security Agency – and will remain vulnerable despite the legislative fixes wending through Congress to redress the bulk domestic phone data collection Snowden revealed. Guardian

US Subjects The World To The Most Spam Of Any Country
The US sends more spam than any other country in the world by a considerable margin, with France and China a distant second and third. A report by security company Sophos, which tracks the locations of computers that send spam emails filling inboxes globally, reveals that the UK does not rank in the top 12 “spam-relaying” countries in the world. “The vast majority of spam is sent unsuspectingly from computers infected with malware, so that if you aren't careful, you may end up being part of the problem,” said Paul Ducklin, security expert for Sophos, in a blog post. Guaridan

Bill Clinton Calls For Tough Response On MH17 And Pays Tribute To Lost HIV Researchers
Bill Clinton has paid tribute to the HIV researchers and campaigners who died aboard MH17, telling a global AIDS summit in Australia that the world must take a firm stand against those responsible. The former United States president painted a stark contrast between the brutality of those who attacked the Malaysia Airlines plane and the pioneering work of AIDS researcher Joep Lange and his wife and four other campaigners who were aboard. "He [Dr Lange] and the five other colleagues we lost lived lives which are overpowering in their contribution to a shared future," Mr Clinton told the summit in Melbourne. Telegraph

Pain Relief During Childbirth Can Reduce Risk Of Post-Natal Depression
Mothers-to-be who use pain relief during childbirth may have a lower risk of depression after their babies are born, a leading psychiatrist has said. The NHS says that around one in 10 women suffer from post-natal depression. Now new research from China has found that those who have an epidural for pain relief during labour during a normal birth have a lower rate of depression than those who go without. Those who had the pain relief had a 14% rate of depression at six weeks postpartum compared to nearly 35% for those who did not have an epidural. Telegraph

In Jerusalem, Ban Meets With Israeli, US Officials, Reiterates Call For Mid-East Ceasefire
The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met in Jerusalem today with Israeli and United States officials today in Jerusalem and called for an immediate ceasefire as the crisis in the Gaza Strip enters its 16th day. The Secretary-General met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and United States Secretary of State John Kerry. Mr. Ban continued his mission to press Israelis and Palestinians for an immediate end to the hostilities and a return to dialogue. Mr. Ban, who is on a regional visit, arrived in Israel from Egypt, where he met yesterday with President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and thanked him for his leadership role in the current efforts to establish a ceasefire in Gaza. His tour also included stops in Qatar and Kuwait and will also take him to Jordan and Saudi Arabia. UN News

Iraq: UN Envoy Demands Islamist Forces End ‘Horrific Terrorist Acts’
The top United Nations official in Iraq called today on the Security Council to demand that the Islamist forces – in control of more than a third of the country's territory – cease all hostilities and to ensure that those responsible for "horrific terrorist acts" are held to account. "From a splinter group of Al-Qaida, ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] today has grown to be a complex threat to peace and security in Iraq, the entire region and beyond," Nickolay Mladenov told the Council via video-teleconference from Baghdad. UN News

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