11/26/12: Reuters reports a new Israeli air shield designed to intercept rockets more powerful than those blocked by Iron Dome recently passed its first field test last week after being rushed through development. Officers said Sunday that David’s Sling, billed as Israel’s answer to the longer-range missiles of Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and Syria, shot down a target rocket in a secret desert test November 20. Worried about deteriorating security on the fronts with Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, and the international showdown over the disputed nuclear program of arch-foe Iran, Israel has been accelerating work on its multi-tier missile shield, with extensive help from the United States. David’s Sling uses technology similar to that of the Iron Dome system, which Israel says had a 90 percent success rate intercepting rockets from Gaza last week.
11/26/12: The New York Times features an op-ed by former Israeli diplomat Yossi Beilin arguing that the United States and Israel should support the Palestinian Authority's expected bid for recognition by the United Nations General Assembly, and ultimately their drive for statehood. Beilin points out that Palestinian President Mahmous Abbas' Fatah faction, which governs the West Bank, favors the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel - ostensibly Israel's goal - and that opposing him will only strengthen the extremist group Hamas, which rules Gaza and aims to destroy Israel. "It is paradoxical that Israel’s current government is so vehemently opposed to Mr. Abbas’s bid for recognition," Beilin says. "After all, it was 65 years ago this week that the Palestinians and their friends in the Arab world expressly rejected United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, which recognized the need to establish a Jewish state alongside an Arab state in the former British Mandate territory of Palestine. Now, the Palestinians are admitting their mistake and asking the same assembly to recognize a state of Palestine alongside Israel." Supporting that bid will serve the interests of both Israel and the United States.
11/26/12: Reuters reports a judge involved in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor says Taylor have walked free and not been jailed for war crimes because there was not enough evidence to prove he was guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Justice Malick Sow’s criticism of the trial is likely to be seized on by Taylor’s defense lawyers as part of his appeal. Taylor was the first head of state convicted by an international court since the trials of Nazis after World War II. He was sentenced in May to fifty years in prison for helping Sierra Leonean rebels commit what the United Nations-backed court in The Hague called some of the worst war crimes in history. Sow was an alternate judge at the tribunal that tried Taylor and dissented from the guilty verdict.
11/25/12: NPR reports the Department of Homeland Security is examining its policy on deadly force along the US-Mexico border. In less than two years, US Border Patrol agents have killed eighteen Mexican citizens there, including eight people who were throwing rocks. Last month, Border Patrol agents responded to a report of two drug smugglers jumping the fence between the twin cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico. As the agents approached, a group of people on the Mexican side began throwing rocks. The Border Patrol says the agents told the people to stop. When they didn’t, one agent opened fire and killed a teenager on Mexican soil who wasn’t one of the smugglers. Since 2010, six of the eight rock-throwers killed by Border Patrol agents were on the Mexican side of the border.
11/25/12: The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that in the event the President lost his bid for reelection, his successor would inherit clear standards and procedures. Despite Obama’s victory, the Administration is still pushing to make the rules formal and resolve internal uncertainty and disagreement about exactly when lethal action is justified. Though publicly the Executive Branch presents a united front on the use of drones, behind the scenes there is longstanding tension. The Defense Department and the CIA continue to press for greater latitude to carry out strikes; Justice Department and State Department officials, as well as White House counterterrorism chief John O. Brennan, have argued for restraint.
11/25/12: The Miami Herald reports Syrian rebels have captured a helicopter base near the capital city of Damascus. Rami Abdul-Rahman, the director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said rebels seized control of the Marj al-Sultan base on the outskirts of Damascus on Sunday morning; at least fifteen rebels and eight soldiers were killed in the fighting that started a day earlier. Abdul-Rahman and Damascus-based activist Maath al-Shami said rebels destroyed two helicopters with rocket propelled grenades and captured a tank. They also claim the base houses several radar installations.
11/25/12: Haaretz reports Lebanon’s Army on Saturday arrested five Syrian men found with explosives and suspected of planning an attack on a Shi‘ite Muslim procession Sunday. The war in neighboring Syria, pitting majority Sunni Muslim rebels against President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle of Shi‘ite Alawaites has widened rifts in Lebanon, still politically divided along sectarian lines deepened by its own 15-year civil war. Shi‘ite Hezbollah has sided with its old ally Assad, and anger is growing among Sunnis and other groups sympathetic to the Syrian opposition. The arrests, in the southern town of Nabatieh, followed an army raid on a house where 450 grams of explosives were discovered, the Lebanese Army said. The men were believed to have been planning to attack a procession in the town to mark the Shi‘ite festival of Ashura.
11/25/12: The Hill reports government officials from around the world will arrive in Dubai next month to revise a treaty that could have a major effect on the future of the Internet. The 193 member nations of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will meet in Dubai to update the International Telecommunications Regulations treaty for the first time since 1988. The treaty governs how telephone calls and other communications traffic are exchanged internationally. The negotiations will take place over a two-week period December 3-14. Ambassador Terry Kramer will lead the 95-person US delegation during the conference. Kramer has made clear in a series of public appearances that the US is committed to maintaining liberalized markets in the telecom industry and upholding human rights and free speech principles during the treaty negotiations.
11/25/12: Reuters reports Iran said Saturday that Turkey’s plans to deploy Patriot defensive missiles near its border with Syria will add to the region’s problems, as fears grow of the Syrian civil war spilling across frontiers. Turkey asked NATO for the Patriot system, designed to intercept aircraft or missiles, last week after talks about how to shore up security on its 500-mile border. “The installation of such systems in the region has negative effects and will intensify problems in the region,” Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said. Syria has called Turkey's request for the Patriot missiles “provocative,” and Russia said the move could increase risks in the conflict. Iran has steadfastly supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout the 20-month uprising against his rule.
11/25/12: Al Jazeera reports Egypt’s highest judicial authority has criticized President Mohamed Morsi’s move to grant himself sweeping new powers that would protect his decisions from being challenged. In an emergency meeting on Saturday, the Supreme Judicial Council urged Morsi “to distance this decree from everything that violates the judicial authority.” Morsi has also given himself sweeping powers that allowed him to sack the unpopular prosecutor-general and opened the door for a retrial for former President Hosni Mubarak and his aides. Former prosecutor-general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud said Saturday he is willing to go to court to dispute Morsi’s decision and warned “against any attempt to disrupt the work of the judicial system.” The judges also called for a “suspension of work all in courts and prosecution administrations” in protest against the decree.
11/24/12: This week's technology updates:
11/23/12: The New York Times reports they have eavesdropped on the enemy for decades, tracking messages from Hitler’s high command and the Soviet KGB and on to the murky, modern world of satellites and cyberspace. But a lowly and yet mysterious carrier pigeon may have them baffled. Britain’s code-breakers acknowledged on Friday that an encrypted handwritten message from World War II, found on the leg of a long-dead carrier pigeon in a household chimney in southern England, has thwarted all their efforts to decode it since it was sent to them last month.
11/21/12: The Miami Herald reports Egyptian protesters firebombed one of the offices of satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera on Wednesday and attacked a police chief who tried to negotiate an end to three days of violent protests in central Cairo. The protesters hit the studio overlooking Tahrir Square with Molotov cocktails, engulfing it in flames. Reporter Ahmed el-Dassouki said around 300 protesters approached the building before noon, shouting obscenities, and set the place on fire, stormed the building, and looted the studio. “They accuse our network of being biased and not objective,” he said. Many protesters have accused the channel of supporting the country’s most powerful political force, the Muslim Brotherhood. After the attack, a crowd beat up Cairo Police Chief Osama el-Saghir, who had traveled to Tahrir Square to diffuse the situation.
11/21/12: BBC News reports the UN Security Council has passed a resolution calling for sanctions against leaders of rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The resolution, adopted unanimously, came hours after the so-called M23 rebels seized the strategic eastern city of Goma, meeting with little resistance from the army or UN peacekeepers. The Security Council demanded an end to foreign support for the rebels and expressed readiness to take appropriate measures. After M23 fighters entered Goma, the leaders of Congo and Rwanda, Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame, flew to Kampala for talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, amid claims that Rwanda was backing the rebels. Meetings are expected to continue on Wednesday.