Dispatches > News

NATO rescue

"NATO rescue" Continued...

Issue: "The brain trust," June 30, 2012

In contempt?

A House committee is scheduled to vote June 20 on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for the Justice Department's unwillingness to hand over numerous documents relating to the Operation Fast and Furious program.

California Republican Darrell Issa, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the documents pertain to the claims of whistleblowers and why it took the Department nearly a year to "retract false denials of reckless tactics."

Operation Fast and Furious was a bungled program by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that distributed more than 2,000 guns to a Mexican drug-trafficking network. Agents used taxpayer funds to purchase the semi-automatic weapons and then sold them to at least one cartel. The guns later turned up at numerous violent crime scenes in both Mexico and the United States, including one attack that killed a U.S. border agent.

Congress has been investigating the operation since last year. The Justice Department admitted it was a "botched" operation during which agents had "lost track" of the weapons.

Holder, in testimony given in May 2011, said, "I'm not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks." But several memos released since then "raise significant questions about the truthfulness of the Attorney General's testimony," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama last fall.

A contempt vote by the full House would likely follow the committee vote unless the Justice Department turns over the requested information. The Justice Department called the vote unwarranted.

Bryson takes leave

Authorities in Los Angeles are investigating Commerce Secretary John Bryson's involvement in two hit-and-run crashes in the Los Angeles area on June 9. The Obama administration said Bryson, 68, suffered a seizure, but did not elaborate. On June 11, Bryson announced that he would take a medical leave of absence from the Commerce Department.

According to the police report, Bryson rear-ended a Buick, got out and talked to the Buick passengers, then got back in his car and crashed into the Buick again. He drove off and hit another car, and police found him unconscious behind the wheel, according to the report. Police said they didn't find any indication that Bryson had used drugs or alcohol and a local hospital treated him for "non-life-threatening" injuries. "We're still in the process of gathering information," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. "There's more that needs to be learned."

Attacks in Nigeria

Two attacks on Christians in Nigeria continued a pattern of strikes by Islamic terror groups against churches in central and northern states of the most populous country in Africa. On June 10 an Islamic extremist ran a car full of explosives at a Pentecostal church in Jos, the capital of Plateau state, killing two-or three, according to some reports-Christians and injuring more than 40 others. In Borno state the same day, gunmen reportedly killed at least two Christians during church worship. Boko Haram, a terrorist organization now linked to al-Qaeda, took responsibility for both assaults.

The attack in Jos on Christ's Chosen Church of God was the second suicide bombing of a church in two Sundays and the third church bombing in Jos in the past six months. The death toll was expected to increase, reported Compass Direct News, "as injuries were severe." It also spawned reprisal attacks in Jos that killed six motorcycle taxi drivers who reportedly were Muslims. "It does not help anybody to attack people because of an attack on a place of worship," said the Anglican archbishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi, warning that it would lead to more violence.

Full-scale in Syria

On June 12 the UN peacekeeping chief in Syria made official what many observers already knew: that Syria is now in a full-scale civil war. "Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory, several cities to the opposition, and wants to retake control," Herve Ladsous, the UN chief, told reporters.

A UN monitoring team near Homs, the center of months of sporadic fighting between Syrian forces and rebels, caught on video fresh shelling of houses with blood in the entryways. As helicopter gunships hovered overhead and billows of black smoke rose across the city skyline, residents described continual shelling and showed peacekeepers through destroyed homes: "What is this? We are people ... nobody help us, why? We are people, not animals," one Homs resident told the UN team.


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