Mississippi governor threatens to block transport of undocumented children

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (Photo from Wikipedia.org)

“To the extent permitted by law, I intend to prohibit the federal government or its agents from housing large numbers of new illegal immigrants in the state of Mississippi,” Bryant wrote, according to the Associated Press.

“Illegal immigration imposes real and substantial costs on the states, and it is unfair to expect the states to bear the costs of a problem created by the federal government’s failure to enforce the law.”

Bryant’s letter comes as demonstrations unfold in numerous states. Last week, about 50 people came together in Vassar, Michigan to express their outrage over a proposal to house undocumented minors at a local shelter, while similar events occurred in other states.

In Murrieta, California, anti-immigrant advocates were challenged by pro-immigrant supporters who believe the border situation is a humanitarian crisis – not an invitation to increase deportations. More than 150 activists engaged in the demonstration.

Obama will reportedly take “very significant” executive action to deal with the burgeoning immigration crisis, but he told Central American leaders on Friday that most undocumented minors will be sent back to their native countries.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told reporters that executive action on immigration will occur after the summer, and that President Obama will risk the ire of Republicans – some of which have called for impeachment – by going alone in order to deal with the situation.

Meanwhile, Obama met with the leaders of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador on Friday to discuss how the four countries could work together to resolve the situation. Tens of thousands of undocumented children have entered the United States illegally since October of last year, the majority of which are believed to have traveled from these three Central American nations.

As reported by Reuters, Obama said that while he understands many children have crossed into the US to escape violence and poverty at home, many will not be eligible to stay as refugees.

“There may be some narrow circumstances in which there is a humanitarian or refugee status that a family might be eligible for,” Obama said, as quoted by the news service. “But I think it’s important to recognize that that would not necessarily accommodate a large number.”

One thing Obama would like to do is remove the belief that families must send their children to the US through smugglers. A possible solution detailed by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest could be allowing children to apply for refugee status in the US while living in their native country.

“The idea here is that in order to deter them from making that dangerous journey, we’d set up a system in coordination with these host countries to allow those claims to be filed in that country without them having to make that dangerous journey,” Earnest said.

Still, Honduran President Juan Orlando told reporters that children who have now entered the United States seeking a parent “have rights, and we want them to be respected.”

The fate of these children has become a political minefield, with anti-immigrant advocates across the US protesting the possibility that children may be sheltered temporarily while their cases unfold.

Congress alarmed by possible CIA access to confidential whistleblower emails

Reuters/Jason Reed

It is unclear how the CIA got hold of the email and other unspecified communications between Daniel Meyer – the intelligence community’s top official for whistleblower cases – and lawmakers, people familiar with the matter told McClatchy.

The email was about allegations that the CIA’s inspector general, David Buckley, failed to properly investigate potential agency retaliation against an official who was cooperating with the Senate Intelligence Committee on an investigationpertaining to the ‘The Company’s’ use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques during the George W. Bush administration.

In December 2013, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who led calls for the swift publication of the report, revealed that the Intelligence Committee had become aware of an internal CIA report, which he said was “consistent with the Intelligence Committee’s report” and “conflicts with the official CIA response to the committee’s report.” The report was not shared with the Committee investigators.

The CIA downplayed the importance of the internal report, calling it a collection of summaries of classified documents rather than an analytical document. But apparently the agency also conducted an investigation into how the existence of the internal review was revealed and eventually alleged that the Committee gained unauthorized access to CIA databases.

The back-and-forth between the agency and the Senate led to an accusation by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that the CIA secretly removed classified documents from a computer system used by Congress.

The CIA reportedly retaliated against agency officials who cooperated with the Senate probe by delaying payment of their legal fees. An indemnification agreement required the agency to cover those costs – which it eventually did – as long as the officers weren’t found to have committed any wrongdoing.

According to McClatchy’s sources, Buckley ‒ the same man accused of improperly investigating the retaliation ‒ got hold of the email between Meyer and the office of Sen. Chuck Grassley. The Iowa Republican is a leading whistleblower-protection advocate. Buckley then reportedly approached Meyer’s boss, I. Charles McCullough III, the inspector general for the entire 17-agency U.S. intelligence community. The sources believe this was a violation of the confidentiality of the whistleblowing process.

There could be several explanations of how Buckley obtained Meyer’s email, experts familiar with insider threat monitoring told McClatchy.

“If whistleblower communications with Inspectors General or with Congress are routinely monitored and conveyed to agency leadership, it would defeat the ability to make protected disclosures confidentially, which is especially important in an intelligence community context,” Grassley and Sen Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote in a June 19 letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The letter raised concerns over plans to implement a policy of continuous monitoring of security clearance holders, and asked Clapper to make sure any such plan “takes into account the need to ensure the ability of whistleblowers to report waste, fraud, and abuse, including anonymously if they so choose.”

Clapper responded on Friday with a letter of his own, suggesting a need for tighter technical controls to differentiate between whistleblower-related communications and genuine threats of unlawful disclosures of classified materials. He did not elaborate on how, nor did he directly address the Meyer email.

“In the event a protected disclosure by a whistleblower somehow comes to the attention of personnel responsible for monitoring user activity, there is no intention for such disclosures to be reported to agency leadership under an insider threat program,” Clapper wrote.

He also said there are safeguards in place to maintain the confidentiality of whistleblowers.

Famous US cyclist dies in car accident in Russia

Photo from facebook.com/pages/BikerOnTheRoad

Ron McGerity, a 60-year-old American who has been living in Geneva, traveled at least 120,000 kilometers (75,000 miles) over the past 15 years, visiting 61 countries along the way.

The cyclist died on Thursday in a hit-and-run accident in Russia’s central Ivanovo region, located some 254 kilometers (157 miles) from Moscow.

He was fatally hit by a truck driver who fled the scene. Police were able to detain the driver afterwards, who, according to a preliminary investigation, was driving under the influence of alcohol. Local authorities opened up a criminal case into the matter.

McGerity used a Swiss bicycle with a unique reclining design. His future travel plans included biking through Russia’s Golden Ring – a number of historic towns surrounding Moscow.

On the day of his accident, McGerity visited Kostroma, a city located northeast of Moscow and known for its monasteries.

Since 1995, the cyclist has biked for charities, promoting messages of peace, according to his website.

This year’s travels took him through Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic before arriving in Russia.

One of McGerity’s last pictures posted on Facebook showed him in front of the Lenin Mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square.

During his visit to Russia, McGerity said he was enjoying the country. “Today everything is booked in advanced. There is nothing unexpected, and the unexpected is very important to me,” he said on a Russian radio show in Novgorod earlier in July, AFP reported. “I need no planning, I leave everything open.”

NSA partnering with Saudi regime ‒ Snowden leak

The Saudi interior ministry building in Riyadh (AFP Photo/Bilal Qabalan)

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden sent a top secret memorandum to The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald that describes the secretive US agency’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. The NSA primarily works with the Saudi Ministry of Interior (MOI) and Ministry of Defense (MOD).

After the first Gulf War in 1991, the document says, the NSA had “a very limited [signals intelligence (SIGINT)] relationship” with the Saudi government, but is now “experiencing a period of rejuvenation.” The increased cooperation came after Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper approved an expansion of the SIGINT relationship in December 2012.

Even before that authorization, however, the NSA was collaborating with the Saudi Defense Ministry on a “sensitive access initiative” that began in 2011, and focused on “internal security and terrorist activity on the Arabian Peninsula.” It was conducted “under the auspices of CIA’s relationship with the MOI’s Mabahith (General Directorate for Investigations, equivalent to FBI).”

Now the NSA offers “technical advice on SIGINT topics such as data exploitation and target development” to the MOI’s Technical Affairs Directorate, “as well as a sensitive source collection capability,” and analytical and technical support. The US agency also provides “a sensitive decryption service to the Ministry of Interior against terrorist targets of mutual interest.”

The NSA shares threat warning and terrorist lead information ‒ generated in conjunction with the CIA station in the Saudi capital of Riyadh ‒ with Mabahith. It also provides the Interior Ministry with highly advanced surveillance technology.

The collaboration is a two-way street, the memo says, with the MOD giving the NSA access to remote geography in the gulf region, and providing information about Iran’s military and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

This secretive spy partnership between the two US intelligence agencies and their Saudi counterparts may come at the expense of human rights. Organizations around the world, including the US State Department and Human Rights Watch, have condemned the kingdom’s escalating crackdown on activists, dissidents and government critics over the past year.

Despite MOI rules prohibiting the use of torture, there have been ongoing reports that “Ministry of Interior officials sometimes subjected prisoners and detainees to torture and other physical abuse, particularly during the investigation phase when interrogating suspects,” the State Department’s 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices said. The US diplomacy agency also cited the MOI’s use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents, according to The Intercept.

At the end of June, Human Rights Watch called out Saudi authorities for deploying surveillance software reportedly created by the Italian firm, Hacking Team. The rights group says it has evidence the government is using the software to stamp out political dissidence in the Gulf country.

“We have documented how Saudi authorities routinely crack down on online activists who have embraced social media to call out human rights abuses,” said Cynthia Wong, senior internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It seems that authorities may now be hacking into mobile phones, turning digital tools into just another way for the government to intimidate and silence independent voices.”

When asked if the US takes human rights records into account before collaborating with foreign security agencies, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told The Intercept: “Yes. We cannot comment on specific intelligence matters but, as a general principle, human rights considerations inform our decisions on intelligence sharing with foreign governments.”

There is no mention of human rights in the leaked memo.

Legislation allowing US consumers to unlock their cell phones clears Congress

Reuters/Andrea Comas

Following Congress’ approval of the bill, President Obama said he is looking forward to signing it into law.

“The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget,” he added in a statement.

Titled the ‘Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act,’ the bill orders the Library of Congress to permit mobile phone owners to legally unlock their phones from a specific wireless carrier. Typically, a service provider such as Verizon or AT&T ties its smartphones to its own network in the hopes that customers will remain with the company when their initial contracts expire. Unlocking a phone allows an individual to switch service providers regardless.

In 2012, however, the Library of Congress made performing this activity without a service provider’s permission illegal – even in cases where contracts had expired. Those who did so were left vulnerable to legal action and, potentially, time in prison. Congress’ action on Friday reverses that ruling.

“The cell phone unlocking bill has a direct impact on Americans as we become more reliant on our wireless devices,” Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill is pro-consumer and pro-competition and allows for greater ease in the portability of devices. It will provide greater competition and more consumer choice.”

Lawmakers were spurred into action shortly after the Library of Congress made its original decision and opponents were galvanized by a Whitehouse.gov petition that quickly earned more than 114,000 signatures. The petition’s rapid success prompted a response by President Obama, who said he supported congressional action to make phone unlocking legal again.

Sina Khanifar, one of the cause’s advocates and the petition’s author, welcomed the bill’s passage, which he said occurred after 19 months of activism and lobbying “against powerful, entrenched interests.”

While Congress has voted to permit unlocking phones, it did not do so permanently. The Library of Congress will have to reconsider the rule in 2015 and again every three years unless further action is taken by lawmakers. Khanifar told RT that the underlying problem is with the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act – which bans the “circumvention of technological measures” – and that further changes to copyright law are needed.

“People are asking, ‘if it’s illegal for me to unlock my phone, what else can’t I do?’” he said. “Increasingly, things like repairing, jailbreaking or modifying software on devices is being viewed as illegal because of antiquated and over-broad copyright laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).”

“Today we won a battle in that larger war: you’re now free to unlock your cell phone no matter what your carrier or the phone’s manufacturer might want. Hopefully in the near future we’ll see Congress reaffirm that consumers have the right to unlock, repair and modify the electronics they buy.”

Despite the bill’s slow authorization, Khanifar said the process has shown that persistent engagement with the issues can push lawmakers to take action. He added that he would continue to push for changes to the DMCA.

“Many people are disillusioned with Congress and think that our political system is broken,” he said. “And it can definitely be a really, really slow and frustrating process. But advocating for this law has shown me that the process can, in fact, work. It may have taken 19 months, but we finally have a new law in place that fixes the problem I originally got wound up about.”

‘He had a gun to my head’: Released RT contributor tells of 3-day Ukraine captivity

Graham Phillips (Photo from grahamwphilips.com)

“I am in Poland. I am not exactly sure where I am. I just got to the border by the SBU (Ukrainian Security Service) quite recently, so I am getting my bearings,” Phillips told RT, which contacted the journalist via Skype after his release.

Phillips said he was deported from Ukraine and banned for three years on the grounds that he works for RT. “The reason they gave [me] that was simply that I work for RT, that was all it said in the form. They wouldn’t let me take it or copy it. Just said that ‘you work for RT, it’s the enemy.’ I wasn’t given the chance to defend myself. I was just taken to the border.”

The journalist said it all started three days ago when he was on his way to film fire exchanges between government forces and militants just a few hundred meters away from the airport in Donetsk. He was with Vadim Aksyonov, a stringer for ANNA News agency.

“RT told me not to go in strong terms, but I went anyway with the local journalist Vadim. And we were taken by Ukrainian soldiers and Vadim was pretty badly beaten right in front of me by Ukrainian soldiers. He was on the ground, his head in the ground, just a young guy punching him and kicking him,” Phillips said.

“Then they took him away and then I was left with the soldier, who had a gun to my head and I was told that if my details didn’t check out, he would not guarantee that I was going to live…We just went in there to film. I had a PRESS vest on, cameras, and it got pretty heated.”

Shelling forced the soldiers to bring Phillips inside the building.

“I was blindfolded. I was pushed around a little bit, sat down and then interrogated, asked a lot of questions about the Donetsk Republic. I would not give any information. They took all my things off me.”

After Phillips’ possessions were searched, he was taken to a prison cell.

“They put me in the cell with Vadim, we spent the night in a cell together. We had no water, no toilet, we were in a dark cell, it was completely pitch black, could not see a thing. The next day they drove me out, they left Vadim there.”

At one point during his captivity, Phillips found himself in a room that was being bombed.

“They [Ukrainian soldiers] put me in a room next to their artillery position, where they were firing from. And they started firing pretty heavily from the next room, so the room I was in was getting fired on. I was there for the day. By the end of the day they put me in a military vehicle, blindfolded me and took me off to a base in a forest,” he described.

“I was on my knees in the middle of a forest and there were soldiers around me, shouting at me.”

After several interrogations, Philips was taken to Kiev and then to the Polish border, where he was “dumped out.”

Philips’ Facebook, Twitter and other accounts were hacked following interrogations by the SBU.

“I’ve got a few of my things, but I’ve found that all of my accounts have been hacked. SBU deleted every single file from my computer. My car has been taken, my money, my bullet proof vest. The main thing is that I am alright.”

He describes himself as being “a little bit shell shocked” after spending three days in captivity.

Thank you so so much for all the support and nice messages. I’m a bit shaken but ok, and really want to get back to work again asap.

— GrahamWPhillips (@GrahamWP_UK) July 25, 2014

Lloyds in ‘late stage’ of Libor settlement talks, victims remain unaddressed

Lloyds could pay up to £300m in Libor settlement.<br /> (Reuters/Stefan Wermuth)”> </p>
<p> In a <a href=statement issued on Friday, the bailed-out bank admitted it was in the “late stage” of settlement talks, but claimed a final figure had not been reached.

The settlement – comprised of fines payable to the US Department of Justice, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) – could be up to £300 million (US$509 million).

The on-going settlement talks relate to alleged misconduct concerning the manipulation of benchmarks used to set specific interest rates for an array of financial products such as mortgages and complex derivatives. The mammoth bank, 25 percent of which the UK government owns, will be the seventh financial institution to be targeted and fined by US and UK authorities following their joint investigation of the manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor).

A Victimless crime?

The 21st century has been littered with contentious accounting and financial scandals, but Libor rigging has been dubbed the most flagrant and nefarious in recent history. In 2012, US journalist Robert Scheer coined it the “the crime of the century.”

Joel Benjamin, a leading researcher and campaigner based at UK ethical finance group Move Your Money, is currently engaged in an investigative research project examining the impact of Libor rigging on UK citizens and actors whose victimhood in the scandal has largely been ignored.

Commenting on Lloyds’ upcoming settlement, Benjamin argues that the full extent of Libor rigging is yet to be revealed, and those who have suffered most severely as a result of the alleged misconduct have not been identified in Britain.

“Lloyds 300m LIBOR penalty is a reminder that 2 years after the LIBOR scandal broke with Barclays, many banks including HSBC are yet to be fined, and victims of this global fraud are yet to be identified”, Benjamin said.

Lloyds is only one of many UK banks implicated in the scandal. “Even whilst negotiating taxpayer funded bailouts in 2008, Lloyds, HBOS, and RBS were busy fiddling the LIBOR interest rates,” Benjamin continued.

A cross-border investigation comprising of at least 10 global authorities is currently probing roughly 20 financial institutions over allegations related to Libor rigging. Central to the investigation is the possibility traders colluded and influenced submitters in order to benefit their respective trading books, while banks lowballed rate submissions during the turbulent economic tides that accompanied the global financial crisis so they could appear healthier than they were.

An array of US and UK banks are implicated in the scandal, but Barclays was the first to settle – doling out £290 million ($492 million) worth of fines in 2012. The allegations of misconduct surrounding Barclays culminated in the departure of the bank’s then-chief executive, Bob Diamond, at the behest of regulators.

Lloyds was a member of the powerful panel that regularly submitted benchmark rates for yen Libor, while Lloyds and HBOS – the troubled bank it bought in the depths of the financial crisis – were both members of sterling Libor, dollar Libor, and a group of euro related Libor panels.

US and UK authorities have collaboratively issued charges against 17 former brokers and traders for criminal conduct with respect to Libor rigging. The majority of the financiers worked in London. The first jury-related trial will commence in London in January 2015. Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, HSBC, and JPMorgan are still currently being probed as part of the investigation.

The FCA’s chief executive, Martin Wheatley, said at a public meeting last week that the City regulator has already dealt with the most serious cases of Libor rigging.“The remaining cases weren’t as serious as the cases we took first,” he claimed.

Those fines already issued were accompanied by the release of swathes of electronic chats and emails illustrating damning collusion between brokers and traders involved in the rate rigging scandal. The Lloyds settlement will most likely prompt the release of a similar series of documents.

As a result of this cross-border Libor investigation – spanning three separate continents – financial regulators, the European Commission, and prosecutors have thus far issued in excess of £3.4 billion ($5.8 billion) worth of fines to 10 separate financial institutions.

Six of those – Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, Barclays, RP Martin, Rabobank, and ICAP – have opted to settle allegations of rate rigging with European and American authorities. But the proceeds generated from Libor fines are being misallocated, according to Benjamin, who says the victims of Libor rigging have yet to be recompensed.

“LIBOR fines are again being directed to armed forces charities – rather than to victims of the LIBOR rate-rigging cartel,” he observed.

Britain’s biggest banks “prove time and time again they are too big to be reformed and refuse to change their ways,” the researcher and campaigner emphasized.

Citizens who have lost faith in Britain’s opaque realm of high finance as a result of“constant mis-selling and fraud” should move their money elsewhere, according to Benjamin.

Brit accused of hacking the Fed hit with new charges by the FBI

Reuters/Kacper Pempel

On Thursday this week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia has indicted Love on new charges of conspiracy, causing damage to a protected computer, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft; he faces a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison if found guilty of the latest counts.

Love was the subject of a criminal complaint filed in that district last October, and in the months since has been indicted by federal prosecutors in the states of New Jersey and New York over related accusations, including his alleged participation in computer intrusions waged by the hacktivist group Anonymous against the US Federal Reserve and others.

In recent weeks, UK officials said they had released Love from his local bail conditions and would not be pursuing further charges against him there, the BBC reported. Love’s UK attorney, Karen Todner, previously told reporters that she was “vehemently opposed” to any efforts to extradite her client to the US, and said, “If Mr. Love is to face charges that they should be, and will be, in the UK.”

According to the indictment unsealed this week, federal prosecutors in the States believe that Love and unnamed coconspirators accessed without authorization the computer networks of the US Department of Energy and the Department of Health and Human Services, along with the US Sentencing Commission, the FBI’s Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory and two private companies — Deltek, Inc. and Forte Interactive, Inc. of Virginia and Florida, respectively — as well as four unnamed residents of the Eastern District of Virginia whose credit card information was allegedly compromised during the hacking campaign along with that of “thousands” of others. To do as much, authorities say, Love and his alleged coconspirators exploited a vulnerability in ColdFusion, an Adobe-sold product designed to administer websites and databases.

“After gaining unauthorized access to the protected servers, Love and his conspirators obtained administrator-level access to the networks using custom file managers, which allowed the conspirators to upload and download files, as well as create, edit, remove and search for data,” the FBI’s Washington Field Office alleged in a press release that announced this week’s indictment. “Love unlawfully obtained massive amounts of sensitive and confidential information stored on those computers, including more than 100,000 employee records with names, Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers and salary information, along with more than 100,000 financial records, including credit card numbers and names.” Prosecutors say the hacks caused total losses in excess of $5 million.

The latest indictment piles further charges on top of the counts already lobbed against Love in that district last October when authorities first accused him of hacking the DOE, HHS, Sentencing Commission and FBI lab. On Friday, a representative for the Eastern District of Virginia told RT that the new charge sheet containing Deltek, Forte and four unknown individuals as victims supersedes the charges contained in the original complaint.

According to the latest allegations, Love hacked into Deltek’s network on or around July 3, 2013, then pilfered “confidential and sensitive data and property” including the “financial information included approximately 23,000 credit card numbers and the associated names, and the employee access information included approximately 80,000 usernames and passwords.” One month later, authorities say, Love took “names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and credit card numbers with expiration dates and items purchased” from Forte’s servers.

However, Deltek — an enterprise software company that largely serves federal contractors — did not acknowledge the breach until April 2014, nine months after the FBI believes Love and his coconspirators compromised the network. It was only then three months ago that Michael Corkery, Deltek’s CEO, confirmed that the company’s servers had been breached in late 2013 but remained undetected until March 13 of this year.

“We have remedied the security vulnerability that we believe the hacker exploited in order to gain unauthorized access to our GovWin IQ system,” Corkery wrote at the time. “We have increased the overall security of GovWin IQ, including by reviewing and improving our data security procedures and changing our practices for handling personal information.”

When Deltek disclosed news of the breach, a former employee told NextGov that he believed hackers had hit the company “in tandem with a series of strikes on government agencies and financial institutions.” As RT reported previously, the Anonymous-led attack against the Federal Reserve and Sentencing Commission in which Love is alleged to have participated in during early 2013 were explained by hacktivists at the time of the hack as being responses to the prosecution of Aaron Swartz, a computer prodigy who committed suicide in January 2013 while awaiting trial to face hacking charges of his own.

FreeAnons, a group that fundraises on behalf of alleged members of Anonymous and aims to assist with their legal defenses, said in a statement on Friday that “it would be reasonable to assume” that US authorities are now championing to have Love extradited to America. Love’s attorney, Todner, did not respond immediately to RT’s request for comment on Friday about the potential for extradition.

“It is our policy not to comment on matters of extradition unless they are completed,” a spokesperson for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia added to RT.

But Irish hacker Darren Martyn, a former member of the notorious Anonymous offshoot LulzSec who has eluded charges in the US for more than two years, told RT’s Andrew Blake on Friday that he believes any attempt by the feds to bring Love to America would prove unsuccessful.

“US indictments mean nothing outside the US,” said Martyn, who served no time in Ireland for hacking but believes he is still under indictment in the States. “Free Love,” he added.

Israel, Hamas agree to 12-hour pause in Gaza hostilities

An Israeli soldier rides in an APC after coming out of duty inside the Gaza Strip, on the Israeli side of the border July 25, 2014. (Reuters/Nir Elias)

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, commented on US Secretary of State John Kerry’s earlier statement which he made at a press conference in Cairo.

Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri confirmed that Hamas, along with all militant groups in Gaza, have agreed to the temporary ceasefire. He stressed that the move was put forward by the United Nations.

Earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry told a press conference in Cairo that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears willing to resolve the escalating crisis between Gaza and Israel.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has indicated his willingness to do that as a good face down payment and to move forward,” Kerry said and then added that “serious progress” had been made on a truce but there was more work to do, Reuters reports.

According to a statement by US Secretary of State earlier on Friday, a deal was being sought for a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas during the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday beginning next week.

“We are working toward a brief seven days of peace. Seven days of a humanitarian ceasefire in honor of Eid in order to be able to bring people together to try to work to create a more durable, sustainable ceasefire for the long (term),” Kerry told a news conference in Cairo, which has served as host to contact between Hamas and Israel’s government.

The upcoming pause in the Gaza operation at least seems to indicate that progress has been made towards arriving at a longer humanitarian ceasefire.

Kerry indicated that a draft truce proposal had not yet been produced. “We still have some terminology … to work through, but we are confident that we have a fundamental framework that can and will ultimately work,” Kerry said.

Friday’s announcement was made during a news conference by Kerry, with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon standing alongside him.

Israel’s Defense Minister hints Gaza operation to be broadened

At the same time, the announced pause in the IDF’s Gaza campaign came just as Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned that the country might broaden its ground operation “significantly.”

Yaalon was quoted by his office as telling troops deployed in the field that “you need to be ready for the possibility that very soon we will instruct the military to significantly broaden the ground operation in Gaza.”

The IDF posted on its Twitter account that despite the “humanitarian window in Gaza,” it will still continue to locate and neutralize terror tunnels.

From 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, there will be a humanitarian window in Gaza. During this time, we’ll continue to locate & neutralize terror tunnels

— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 25, 2014

The IDF also warned that it will “respond if terrorists choose to exploit this time to attack.”

According to Israel of 31 Hamas military tunnels discovered so far half have been destroyed. The IDF maintains that such tunnels pose a strategic threat to Israel, and are used by Hamas to penetrate its territory.

Even without further escalation, Israel has dealt a heavy hand upon Gaza, with more than 820 Palestinians reported dead and over 5,200 wounded as a result of bombardment and the use of ground forces. Some three-fourths of the dead and a majority of the wounded are civilians according to the UN.

In Israel, meanwhile, 38 people have been killed so far since hostilities erupted on July 8. That number includes 35 soldiers, two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker, according to the AP.

Protests take place in West Bank and around the world

As the Gaza operation has dragged on, protests have been mounting around the world, both in support of Israel and to decry alleged human rights violations by the IDF in the Palestinian territories. In particular, the deaths of 16 Palestinians killed during an Israeli attack on an elementary school in Gaza under UN protection seemed to further exacerbate the situation. More than 100 were wounded during that attack, including women, children and infants.

Thousands of Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces at a West Bank checkpoint in east Jerusalem on Thursday, marking the beginning of the largest protests in years in the West Bank.

On Friday incidents were reported from the northern village of Hawara near Nablus to the southern village of Beit Omar, near Hebron. In Hawara hundreds of villagers demonstrated after Friday prayers. Four people were hurt during those protests, one of whom, a 19-year-old, died at Rafidiyeh Hospital in Nablus, according to Hawara’s mayor.

Also in Hawara a 22-year-old was killed after Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators. According to a spokesman for Israeli police, Mickey Rosenfeld, border officers had opened fire to disperse the crowd, which were reportedly throwing firebombs at police.

Protests in support of Gaza and its civilian Palestinian community have been taking place in cities around the world. Though largely peaceful, in France police have banned planned pro-Palestinian protests after prior demonstrations resulted in violence. On Wednesday thousands had gathered in Paris to express solidarity with Gazans, and were dispersed when police fired tear gas and arrested some 16 people. Organizers of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations have reportedly filed lawsuit against the ban.

Legal pot use vs. homeowners’ associations: Sowing the weeds of discontent

Reuters/Blair Gable

“Marijuana and hemp have joined wacky paint colors and unsightly fences as common neighborhood disputes facing homeowners’ associations,” the Associated Press reported.

HOAs can’t prevent their residents from growing or smoking pot inside their homes, but they do have jurisdiction outside of the home. Neighborhood boards have every right to regulate the drug as a nuisance or a threat to children, along the lines of a swimming pool with no fence.

Jerry Orten, an HOA legal analyst and spokesman for the Community Associations Institute, told the Denver Post that, when nuisances occur, HOAs can take some internal measures, from suspending certain privileges to seeking a court injunction.

“The fact that people may be legally entitled to smoke doesn’t mean they can do it wherever they want, any more than they could walk into a restaurant and light up a cigarette,” Richard Thompson, who owns a management consulting company that specializes in condominium and homeowner associations, told AP.

“What we’re really seeing more now is regulating the associations’ common areas,” such as smoke wafting onto playgrounds or others’ porches, Erin McManis, an attorney in Phoenix whose firm represents hundreds of Arizona HOAs, said.

At Breckenridge’s River Mountain Lodge in Colorado, where condos are mostly rented out to vacationers, the board banned growing pot and distributing it, regardless of whether it’s for medicinal or recreational purposes, the Post reported.

All it takes is a two-thirds vote by the association’s homeowners to ban the use or cultivation of cannabis, Orten said.

“People can agree to things which waive their constitutional rights. That’s the essence of covenants,” he added. “An association can have a covenant precluding use of marijuana.”

In February, the HOA at Carillo Ranch, in the Arizona town of Chandler, proposed that residents could not smoke marijuana ‒ medical or otherwise ‒ outdoors on their property. Pot is legal only for medicinal use in the Grand Canyon State. The board withdrew its proposal in March after many of the subdivision’s residents opposed the ban as too harsh.

But, if such a ban were to occur, there could be a legal loophole that overrules such a board decision, but only in regards to medicinal use of the plant.

“Here’s the elephant in the room when it comes to medical marijuana: A homeowners association is subject to federal and state fair-housing laws,” attorney Augustus Shaw said to AZ Central in February. “In order to get a medical-marijuana prescription, you must have some type of ailment or disability. If you have a prescription, … you are most likely covered by the Fair Housing Act.”

The battle between HOAs and pot proponents is not a new one. In 2010, HOAleader.com, which touts itself as “the practical guide to homeowner association management,” wrote about the issue of medical marijuana regulation by neighborhood and condo boards.

They suggested that it may not be worth the potential disputes to ban pot.

“Many condo associations have outlawed smoking [cigarettes] altogether,” Elizabeth White, a shareholder and head of the community associations practice at the law firm of LeClairRyan in Williamsburg, Va., said. “Many associations have encountered a lot of issues with enforcing the no-smoking ban. This issue will be somewhat analogous to that issue.”

White said that, when it comes to enforcement of a pot ban, “We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.” She, like Shaw, referred to state and federal fair housing laws covering the use of medical marijuana.

Jim Denny, of Brighton, Colo., came up against his HOA when he grew hemp against his community’s bylaws. He ended up selling his plants for about $3 each, a good price for a plant whose seeds can cost up to $10 each because it can’t be imported. Hemp activists offered to pay the up to $600 a day in fines that Denny could have faced from the association, but he declined.

“I had people calling up and saying, `It’s just a shame; we’ll pay your fines all the way through to the end.’ But I decided in the end not to fight it,” Denny, a technical writer and former software engineer, told AP. “At the end of the day, I live here.”