Category Archives: Gov, Politics & Regulation

Hot Topic for 2014: ‘Independence’ of AML Audits

In the wake of some major anti-money laundering and sanctions actions, the OCC, Fed and NYSDFS are looking more closely at the relationship between financial firms and their ‘independent’ auditors. JohnWalshSightSpan

The OCC and NYSDFS both released guidance on the topic in 2014 and firms should take note.   How serious can it get?  NYSDFS nearly stopped Standard Charter from doing business in its state after misconduct was uncovered with its auditor, Deloitte.  In today’s regulatory environment, with outside pressures from Congress and others, there are likely other agencies looking to make examples of offenders.

So, going forward, what does the OCC, Fed and NYSDFS expect from financial institutions when picking auditors?

First is better documentation detailing the independence of your auditors.  Banks will be required to proactively disclose and document any personal or financial relationship with independent auditors and failure to do so could result in regulatory sanctions.

Secondly, and as always, the audits should be high quality and truthful.  Not all programs will be perfect all the time.  Firms and independent auditors have a responsibility to document blemishes and detail plans to fix any major issues.

We recommend doing an independent audit of AML and compliance programs every 12 to 18 months.  Some firms have a regulatory requirement to do them more frequently, but most can proactively set their own schedule.

Independence is obviously a key area regulators are looking at right now, but don’t lose sight of three other critical components when selecting an auditor:

  1. Confirm the auditor uses standard, global industry best practices and thoroughly documents each step in the process.  Regulators expect documented answers to any questions they may have.
  2. Verify the auditor will provide experts in AML and compliance to work on your project, not that they claim to have them on staff.  Mistakes and misinterpretations of rules won’t work well in this environment of heightened regulatory and legislative pressure.
  3. Make sure your organization has input into the final work product.  It will not do your firm any good if auditor conclusions are inaccurate or their recommendations are not realistic for your firm.

So, while auditor ‘independence’ will be the hot AML topic for regulators in 2014, firms should not forget the other core components when measuring the success of their compliance programs.


About the Author: John Walsh, CEO of SightSpan

An industry leader in financial crime risk management, financial institution and corporate security, anti-money laundering and combating terrorist financing, he founded SightSpan Inc, in 2007, and serves as CEO. He has held several high-level positions in the financial services industry, including leadership roles at Wachovia Bank, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and international trading entities. With more than 25 years of experience in the financial services sector in the US and the Middle East, Europe and Latin America, his expertise and insight into international business management, compliance, security and overall operational risk management distinguish him as a leader in financial crime detection and control.

Financial Services Anti-Money Laundering & Compliance Training by SightSpan

Heather Finlay talks about SightSpan’s online training programs, which are an important part of SightSpan’s overall options of specialized training programs for the financial services industry.

SightSpan customizes training programs using classroom, eLearning (via customized web-based applications) and a blend of both methods depending on client needs. SightSpan provides a complete program to clients, allowing for client training program ownership for future usage and internal modifications. Its experts design training classes for Governments and Private Sector Institutions throughout the world, including Southeast Asia, the United States and the Middle East Regions. The programs are offered in multiple languages, providing both an international and local perspective.

Anti Money Laundering/ Combating Terrorist Financing/Compliance Training
SightSpan subject matter experts design AML/CTF, Sanctions and Compliance ACAMS recognized training classes prepare AML Professionals worldwide for CAMS Certification Exams and Advanced AML Training. SightSpan is experienced in training financial firm executives and government officials in international and local Anti-Money Laundering Rules and Regulations, and Investigation Processes using real life cases and examples. The SightSpan AML training team averages 25 years of experience within the AML profession. Its trainers make all the difference, separating SightSpan from all others.

Counter Terrorist and Security Training
Hands-on training is part of the implementation process of any security design, and every risk analysis will have recommendations of key person training to uphold the standard emergency procedures. Proper security training will ensure that prompt action is taken and nothing is left to guess work, making sure everything possible is done to minimize loss and manage risk.

Cultural Awareness Programs
Studies indicate that cross cultural training and relocation services have a major impact on the success or failure of an international assignment or venture. SightSpan provides in person training to individuals and teams being re-located and prepares expatriates to deal with changing employment and social situations, overall cultural awareness and known security issues. SightSpan programs are complete packages including: initial training, follow up/on-going remote training, and on location classes across multiple global regions.

Business Process Improvement Training — Six Sigma and Lean BPI
SightSpan provides affordable Six Sigma Training and Six Sigma Certification for individuals and organizations that are looking to achieve overall Six Sigma business performance improvement success. SightSpan offers Six Sigma Black Belt Training, Six Sigma Green Belt Training and introduction level Yellow Belt Training. Certification options available for Six Sigma Black Belt and Six Sigma Green Belt Training, both simulated project certification and project certification. Lean workshops focus on senior business leaders and address the basics of Lean Six Sigma used as a metric, methodology and management system. The training sessions offer the essential steps for implementing this proven process improvement methodology and link it to the organization’s business strategy. Additional classes are available for front line

For more information, go to

SightSpan Offers One Week of Free Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Training to New IAFCI Conference Registrants

For a limited time, SightSpan, a global risk management and compliance service provider for the financial services industry, is offering one week of free online AML training (through the month of November) to anyone that registers for the upcoming International Association of

 Financial Crimes Investigators (IAFCI) show November 18-19 at Myrtle Beach, SC.

Financial crime professionals that attend the IAFCI show will learn the latest on Social Media investigations, Bitcoin risk management, threat financing and much more.  The regional training seminar is also valuable networking event for those in the financial services industry.

To view the full agenda or register for the event, go to

To take advantage of SightSpan’s free training offer, registrants should send their IAFCI confirmation code to  One week of AML training will be available to you through Nov 30, 2013 and you’ll have an opportunity to take a final exam and receive a completion certificate at the end of the process.

SightSpan subject matter experts design AML/CTF, Sanctions and Compliance training classes for governments and private sector institutions throughout the world including Southeast Asia, The United States and the GCC Region. SightSpan is experienced in training financial firm executives and government officials in international and local Anti-Money Laundering rules and regulations, and investigation processes using real life cases and examples.  The SightSpan AML training team averages 25 years of experience within the AML profession. SightSpan is a recognized ACAMS Trainer and prepares AML professionals worldwide for CAMS Certification Exams and Advanced AML Training.


CEO Talks about SightSpan’s Expertise

John Walsh, CEO talks about SightSpan’s expertise in financial services compliance and why banks choose to work with its experts over those at larger consulting firms. SightSpan provides anti-fraud, AML and compliance products and services to the financial services industry – to both private firms and public agencies and governments. SightSpan works with most of the large global banks and even more small and mid-sized organizations. They are unmatched when it comes to cost-efficiency, financial crimes expertise and managing complex and sensitive projects in a quick and quiet manner.

You can learn more about SightSpan at

ACFCS confronts global issue of ‘Threat Finance’ by launching Special Task Force

Task Force led by PwC Forensics director, Marissa Michel, a former US intelligence officer

The Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists today announced the launch of a Task Force on Threat Finance to be chaired by Marissa O. Michel, a Forensics Services director in PwC’s Advisory practice. She previously served as an intelligence officer for a United States agency focused on counter narcotics and money laundering.

The term “threat finance” encompasses all of the means and methods used by worldwide organizations to finance activities that threaten the national security of the US and other countries. It includes the illicit finances of foreign corruption, human trafficking, drug trafficking, trafficking in nuclear materials, weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons, foreign corruption, organized crime and, of course, terrorism. 

“Threat finance is the crystallization of the decade-long evolution of the attack by legitimate society, including government agencies, financial institutions and commercial corporations, against the many menaces that plague nations and their people today,” said Charles A. Intriago, president of ACFCS and a former US federal prosecutor. “By launching its first Task Force devoted to one of mankind’s most important challenges, ACFCS makes clear that setting standards of knowledge and skill for persons devoted to fighting financial crime is its primary mission.”

PwC director Marissa Michel said, “Effective threat management happens at the strategy level, as the interconnectedness of threats and the ability to prevent companies from achieving their goals, requires a cross-company response. Threat finance is a perfect example of this – it crosses threat areas like organized crime, corruption, and cyber, and can impact your company’s financial records and reporting, supply chain integrity, physical security, and information security controls – all of which leads to financial, reputational, and safety risks. It is not a threat limited to the government space, nor to financial institutions only.

“The ACFCS Task Force on Threat Finance will serve as a resource to the global private and public sector financial crime control community in its combat of these grave national security threats,” Intriago ended. “We are privileged to have such an experienced professional as Marissa Michel leading this important effort alongside an all-star team of ACFCS Task Force members, who each possess great expertise in combating threat finance in diverse private and public sector organizations.”

ACFCS Task Force on Threat Finance

Marissa O. Michel, PwC’s Advisory Forensic Services, Washington, DC

A Forensics Services director in PwC’s Advisory practice , her work in Threat Finance helps companies uncover illicit money flows, identify third parties or insiders who may be exploiting corporate systems, and facilitate remediation if illicit funds or actors are found. She also advises clients on organizational changes that can be made to shore against threat finance and money laundering vulnerabilities. She has led engagements that helped uncover gaps in client preparedness and compliance; assisted clients in conducting research on third parties; and assisted clients in assessing risks to help clients identify where they should focus their limited resources. She joined PwC from a global investment bank, where she was the deputy global head of an operational risk management team. Previously, she served as an intelligence officer for the US Government for six years, focusing on counter narcotics and money laundering analysis.

Joseph ‘JR’ Helmig, Leveraged Outcomes LLC, Washington, DC
Founder of Leveraged Outcomes LLC, he is a thought leader in the financial, analytical, and intelligence fields with expertise in big data, high-speed high-volume operations, and illicit finance. He has successfully identified, created and delivered solutions to Fortune 50 executives, as well as to the senior executive service, senior leader/technical and director levels of the US Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury and intelligence agencies. Previously, he was a principal at Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems and Global Solutions practice where he designed an entity resolution and financial intelligence capability. He has also served as a senior adviser for program planning and coordination at the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), where he was a key part of the multiyear modernization of the agency’s technology, data, and analytical capabilities.

Donald C. Semesky, Financial Operations Consultants, Baltimore
The widely-acclaimed architect of pursuit structures and procedures to attack money laundering, he conceived and developed the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Office of Financial Operations where he launched initiatives that led to the forfeiture of more than $1.7 billion from drug trafficking organizations worldwide. He boasts decades of law enforcement experience, including service as a Special Agent of the US Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division. Now a private sector consultant and advisor, he is the principal of Financial Operations Consultants, LLC in Washington DC, and often testifies as an expert witness in federal courtrooms throughout the United States.

Delena D. Spann, US Secret Service, Chicago
A Special Agent of the US Secret Service, she is a senior member of the Electronic and Financial Crimes Task Force. A financial analysis expert in commodity flow and net worth analysis, she often serves in high impact financial crime cases involving the analysis of voluminous transactions and use of a wide range of other sources and data to establish patterns of crime. Her expertise includes processing complicated sources of information and interpreting it clearly and concisely to enhance the prosecution of criminal cases. She is the author of Fraud Analytics: Strategies and Methods for Detection & Prevention.

John F. Walsh, SightSpan Inc., Charlotte 
An industry leader in financial crime risk management, financial institution and corporate security, anti-money laundering and combating terrorist financing, he founded SightSpan Inc, in 2007, and serves as CEO. He has held several high-level positions in the financial services industry, including leadership roles at Wachovia Bank, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and international trading entities. With more than 25 years of experience in the financial services sector in the US and the Middle East, Europe and Latin America, his expertise and insight into international business management, compliance, security and overall operational risk management distinguish him as a leader in financial crime detection and control.


 ACFCS awards the Certified Financial Crime Specialist (CFCS) certification to qualified specialists who pass a rigorous examination offered at some 700 authorized testing centers worldwide. ACFCS provides its worldwide members and other financial crime specialists with training, including an annual conference, news, analysis and networking. The CFCS certification is the first professional credential that tests competence and skill across the financial crime spectrum, including money laundering, corruption, tax evasion-FATCA and other fields. Persons in 56 countries have earned the certification or are registered to take the CFCS certification examination.

Visit for more information.

Insight: FBI relies on secret U.S. surveillance law, records show

 An illustration picture shows the logo of the U.S. National Security Agency on the display of an iPhone in Berlin, June 7, 2013. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

By John Shiffman, Kristina Cooke and Mark Hosenball


(Reuters) – The FBI has used secret evidence obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to prosecute at least 27 accused terrorists since 2007, according to a Reuters review of public records.

While the recent spotlight has been on the use of the FISA law by the U.S. National Security Agency for surveillance programs following disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the FBI also makes extensive use of the law for domestic counterterrorism.

The Reuters review highlights the extent to which the FBI has come to rely on FISA to investigate or thwart domestic attacks. It involved searching the national court docket using the database of Westlaw, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, and includes only cases where prosecutors are required to file a notice under FISA. Other cases where FISA was used may be sealed.

The 27 cases in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation has used FISA evidence include both well-publicized and less-known investigations. They range from mass murder charges against Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan for the shootings of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, to the arrest in April of an 18-year-old in Chicago accused of planning to join an al Qaeda-linked group fighting in Syria. Both men await trial.

In an effort to shore up support for the NSA program, U.S. spy agencies may disclose publicly, as early as Tuesday, for the first time a list of at least 25 terrorist attacks they say were thwarted by the agency’s once-secret surveillance operations. Many, if not all, of those NSA operations also used FISA for intelligence gathering.

When the FBI uses FISA, it seeks approval from judges at the secret U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for phone, email and electronic surveillance and for searches of property, including “sneak-and-peak” search warrants in which agents covertly enter a businessor home when the occupants are away, and try to leave no trail of their visit.

The public court records, often little more than a one-page notification by a Justice Department attorney, provide no specific details of these covert operations. Some case files include defense challenges to the FISA law; none have been successful.

The court files show that the FBI used FISA warrants in recent cases against an Oregon man charged with aiding a Pakistani suicide bomber; a Philadelphia man accused of joining an Uzbekistan terrorist organization; and two Somali-born Minnesota women convicted of raising funds for al Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab rebels.

They also include FBI investigations of the New York founder of a radical Islamic website and a Moroccan man convicted of plotting a suicide attack at the U.S. Capitol.

An FBI spokeswoman referred questions about the bureau’s use of FISA to the Justice Department, and a spokesman there declined to comment.


FISA warrants are issued by the FISC in Washington. It was created in 1978 following congressional hearings that exposed illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens – without court-authorized warrants. The court includes 11 judges, all of whom are veteran federal judges at the trial court level. They are appointed by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court to seven-year terms.

Applications to the judges for FISA warrants are presented by U.S. prosecutors. While FISA warrants are issued in secret, once an arrest is made by the FBI, U.S. law requires prosecutors to file a short notice to the court if they intend to use classified evidence at trial.

In addition to terrorism cases, the FBI has used FISA warrants in at least nine espionage and arms and military technology smuggling investigations since 2007.

The 27 alleged terrorism cases identified by Reuters in which the FBI used FISA evidence, and later disclosed that fact, represent only a small sampling of warrants issued by the secret court. Last year alone, the government applied for 1,856 FISA warrants and – except for one that was withdrawn – all were granted.

The public records only identify cases in which the FBI used FISA evidence to make terrorism arrests inside the United States.


In some cases where prosecutors filed a public court notice that the FBI used FISA, the NSA is also involved but the authorities are not required to disclose that in court.

For instance, U.S. officials have since the Snowden disclosures identified two such cases – a U.S. man implicated in the 2009 attack by armed Pakistani militants in Mumbai, India, that killed 166 people, and an attempted plot against the New York City subway the same year.

In the New York case, the alleged plot leader, Najibullah Zazi, pleaded guilty to terrorism charges and is awaiting sentencing. An alleged co-conspirator, Adis Medunjanin, was sentenced to life in prison.

In a paper circulated to Congress on Saturday, U.S. intelligence agencies said that broad NSA email monitoring under a program made public by Snowden, called Prism, played a critical role in leading U.S. investigators to Zazi, while sweeping NSA telephone data collection produced leads that led investigators to Medunjanin.

According to court records, the FBI also used FISA warrants to make cases against:

– Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, 18, of Aurora, Illinois, who was arrested in April for allegedly trying to join al Qaeda-linked fighters in Syria. He is awaiting trial. U.S. officials say he was a friend of Adel Daoud, an American accused of trying to set off a bomb outside a downtown Chicago bar last year.

– Jesse Curtis Morton, a Muslim convert from Brooklyn who founded the Revolution Muslim website, which is linked to a half dozen other terrorism cases inside the United States, according to court documents. Morton is serving a 12-year sentence for posting online threats against the founders of the South Park television program.

– Amine El Khalifi, a Moroccan sentenced last year to 30 years in prison for plotting a suicide attack on the U.S. Capitol.

– Reaz Qadir Khan, a Portland, Oregon, municipal worker charged in April with conspiring to provide material support to a fatal 2009 suicide bombing at a regional Pakistani intelligence headquarters in Lahore. He awaits trial.

– Betim Kaziu, a Brooklyn man convicted of conspiracy to kill U.S. soldiers overseas and sentenced to 27 years in prison.

– Bakhityor Jumaev, a Philadelphia man arrested last year in Denver and charged with being a member of an Islamic terrorist group allegedly seeking to overthrow the government of Uzbekistan. He awaits trial.

– Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, Somali-born Minnesota women convicted of raising funds for al Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab rebels. Ali was sentenced to 20 years and Hassan was sentenced to 10 years.

(Additional reporting by Matthew Haldane; Editing by Warren Strobel and Martin Howell)

This originally appeared here.

President Obama: The Best Chance We’ve Had in Years to Fix Our Broken Immigration System | The White House

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on immigration reformPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on immigration reform in the East Room of the White House, June 11, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, President Obama spoke about the need for the Senate to pass bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform. A broad, bipartisan and diverse coalition of business, labor, religious and faith leaders as well as law enforcement and other community leaders from across the country joined the President in his call for action on this critical legislation.

Standing behind the President was a diverse, bipartisan group of leaders who don’t always see eye-to-eye on every issue, but nevertheless agree on the need for immigration reform. They see the harmful consequences of a broken immigration system for our businesses and communities and understand why Congress needs to act.

From Tom Donohue, the President and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce to Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, to San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, these participants demonstrated the wide-ranging support across the country and political spectrum for commonsense immigration reform.

Tolu Olubunmi, a DREAMer originally from Lagos, Nigeria who has lived in the United States since age 14, introduced the President at today’s event. Tolu exemplifies the very core of why commonsense immigration reform is so critical. Throughout her life, Tolu has shown exceptional promise, earning high school honors and graduating at the top of her class from a prestigious university with a chemistry and engineering degree.

Tolu Olubunmi introduces President Barack Obama before his remarks on immigration reformTolu Olubunmi introduces President Barack Obama before his remarks on immigration reform in the East Room of the White House, June 11, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

But because of our broken immigration system, she has spent years hiding in the shadows. It’s time to help DREAMers like Tolu find a permanent pathway to earned citizenship.

“This week, the Senate will consider a common-sense, bipartisan bill that is the best chance we’ve had in years to fix our broken immigration system,” President Obama explained today.

It will build on what we’ve done and continue to strengthen our borders. It will make sure that businesses and workers are all playing by the same set of rules, and it includes tough penalties for those who don’t. It’s fair for middle-class families, by making sure that those who are brought into the system pay their fair share in taxes and for services. And it’s fair for those who try to immigrate legally by stopping those who try to skip the line. It’s the right thing to do.

“That’s what immigration reform looks like,” the President said. “Smarter enforcement. A pathway to earned citizenship. Improvements to the legal system. They’re all commonsense steps. They’ve got bipartisan support.”

The President looks forward to a robust debate in the Senate and hopes Congress will finish work on bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform legislation as soon as possible. This is our moment to fix what’s broken and make sure we have an immigration policy worthy of our heritage as a nation of laws and as a nation of immigrants.

This originally appeared here.

FACT CHECK: On drones, climate change and more, Kerry dishes some iffy claims on foreign trip

Associated Press

  • d984ab5ea250f611320f6a706700394b.jpg

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the audience at the start of a town hall meeting with students in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday May 26, 2013. Kerry visited Ethiopia to mark the 50th anniversary of the African Union. (AP Photo/Pool, Jim Young) (The Associated Press)

  • 1e7644cda3d9fd11320f6a706700b90a.jpg

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the King Hussein Convention Centre, at the Dead Sea Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Jim Young, Pool) (The Associated Press)

  • f548a040a24df611320f6a706700fff8.jpg

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, third from right, enjoys a coffee ceremony is performed by Getenesh Abush, left, during his visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday May 26, 2013. Kerry visited Ethiopia to mark the 50th anniversary of the African Union. The other men in the photo are unidentified. (AP Photo/Pool, Jim Young) (The Associated Press)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia –  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry straddled the diplomatic boundary this weekend between presenting the best face of America and a misleading one.

In a question-and-answer session with young Ethiopians on Sunday, Kerry exaggerated the U.S. record on climate change, appeared to conflate past U.S. policy on drones with President Barack Obama’s new policy and gave an incomplete account of how he opposed the Iraq war. A day earlier, he struggled with economic data as well as the contents of his own department’s terrorism blacklist.

Here’s a look at how some of his statements measured up against the facts:


KERRY on drones: “The only people that we are going after are confirmed terrorist targets, at the highest level. … We will not fire when we know there are children or collateral damage. … I am convinced that we have one of the strictest, most accountable and fairest programs.”

THE FACTS: President Barack Obama’s recently amended drone policy includes some of these elements, but that was not always the case. According to the New America Foundation, the CIA and U.S. military have killed 3,364 militants and civilians with drones over the last decade. Although the number of noncombatants killed is not known, the dead have not all been “highest level” terrorists.

The New America Foundation maintains a database of the strikes and compiles its numbers from reports in major news media that rely on local officials and eyewitness accounts. It estimates that one in five of those killed by drones is a noncombatant. The Obama administration says the number of civilians killed is in the single digits. As for comparisons, no other country is known to use armed drones to kill individuals in foreign lands.


KERRY: “I opposed the president’s decision to go into Iraq.”

THE FACTS: This is a simpler account of his complex position on the Iraq war than the one that caused him grief in his 2004 Democratic presidential campaign against President George W. Bush. Speaking during the campaign about money for the war, Kerry declared, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” Critics shorthanded this comment to “I was for it before I was against it,” painting him as a flip-flopper. Although Kerry turned against the war, two years earlier he had voted to give Bush, in his words, “the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein.”


KERRY on climate change: “We’re below the Kyoto levels now.”

THE FACTS: The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which the Clinton administration signed but never won ratification for, called on the U.S. to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 6 percent from 1990 levels. Although a natural gas surge and economic woes have helped the U.S. lower emissions, they were still up some 9.5 percent from 1990 to 2011, the last year for which full data is available. Kerry also said the country met a target to cut emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. Government data shows about a 7 percent reduction from 2005 to 2011.


KERRY on talking with terrorists: “The requirement for the Taliban to come to the table was that they agree that they will not engage in violence against other people and violence against other countries; they won’t engage in terrorism and they will not threaten the Afghanistan constitution and so forth.”

THE FACTS: Those are the conditions the U.S. laid out for any peace agreement with the Taliban. But it held talks with the Taliban in 2011 without ever securing an agreement from their militants to drop their fight or endorse Afghanistan’s constitution.


KERRY on what legacy he might leave in Africa: “I’m here to try to help. President Obama wants to try to help. And maybe our legacy will be what we do to try to help. I think of what we’ve done with PEPFAR. I was proud. I wrote that legislation.”

THE FACTS: To be clear, the $48 billion President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, started in 2003 under Bush and therefore is part of his legacy. Obama also has embraced the effort. Then-Sens. Kerry and Bill Frist laid the groundwork for the program. So in speaking about what “we’ve done” to expand AIDS prevention, treatment and support programs in countries hit by the epidemic, Kerry meant the U.S. over two administrations, not the Obama administration alone.


KERRY (on Saturday): “Boko Haram is a terrorist organization.”

THE FACTS: The State Department hasn’t designated the Nigeria-based, al-Qaida-linked extremist group as a foreign terrorist organization. It has set sanctions against several of Boko Haram’s leaders.


KERRY: “Ethiopia’s … up in the double digits in growth.”

THE FACTS: Ethiopia’s economic growth was 7 percent last year, following several other years of growth in the mid to high single digits.

Read more:
This originally appeared here.

What does Ariel Castro’s past reveal?

I’m on the back to have.
— — DNA tests have confirmed that aerial Castro the monster is indeed the father of — — to — six year old daughter and after being charged with kidnapping and rape for holding.
Three Ohio women captive in his home for nearly a decade.
Castro’s relatives are beginning to break their silence on one of his daughters told ABC news that her father deserves the death penalty and that’s not all.
Other relatives are now saying that he terrorized his former wife beat her and pushed him down — — and one shoved her into a cardboard box.
Joining me now with reaction to these disturbing new details are psychiatrist doctor — Varma.
And psychotherapist doctor — — wig is with — all right so that this is a pattern of behavior yes yes — And you know I wonder sometimes.
I we have the whole law enforcement issue of it a wonder if we’re just maybe people are just — believing that people will change.
Right once you see that behavior is it likely they’re gonna change — It’s it’s not — not to the extent that these events have occurred with his wife.
That some of the torture that we see that happen later on a lot of it was sort of foreshadowing earlier on and that’s why it’s it bothers me that these cases get dropped on a technicality when you say like.
This is a pattern of behavior when he was talking about child abuse and happening to him early Iran and sexual — it’s sort of like true true but I’m related yes you have all these horrible things happen — but there.
Additionally don’t turn into sexual — is you don’t kidnap people you know I wonder if once this man’s wife left him.
You know she was the target of all this abuse.
If that contributed to him creating this pseudo family they also say with some of these kind sexual.
You know status.
That they they not only want power over the women that they kidnapped but they also want the company they want to control.
But that’s I think keep them around this guy didn’t kill the winning he kept them around he pro creating and we sent — — — but that — this to go on for ten years.
You don’t have assault.
You got me so was pretty and you know it’s like people don’t kill people not.
— — and that’s zero.
— that’s right and that’s what makes somebody evil him when you have no ability to feel when another person is feeling cool car but doesn’t slump I treat.
Not recognize.
Evil today — — I think oh yeah I mean we’re now that it’s all biochemical let me give me a pill candy but some diagnostic — it like when you look at psychopaths and — the hallmark is.
Lack of — my lack of remorse lack of responsibility look at can somebody develop that.

This originally appeared here.

Russia slams EU decision to arm Syrian rebels

Published May 28, 2013

May 28, 2013: This image from amateur video obtained by a group which calls itself Ugarit News, which is consistent with AP reporting, shows rebel fighters in Daraa, Syria. Europe’s decision to allow member states to arm Syrian rebels and Russia’s renewed pledge to send advanced missiles to the Syria regime could spur an arms race in an already brutal civil war and increasingly turn it into a East-West proxy fight.
Russia on Tuesday harshly criticized Europe’s decision to allow the arming of Syrian rebels, saying it undercuts international efforts to negotiate an end to the civil war, and a rebel general said he’s “very disappointed” weapons won’t come fast enough to help opposition fighters defend a strategic Syrian town.

The European Union decision, coupled with a Russia’s renewed pledge to supply Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s regime with advanced missiles, could transform an already brutal civil war into an East-West proxy fight. Israel, meanwhile, threatened to strike such air defense missiles systems if delivered to Syria, portraying them as a threat to the Jewish state and raising the risk of regional conflagration.

The possibility of an arms race in Syria overshadowed attempts by the U.S. and Russia to bring representatives of the Assad regime and Syria’s political opposition to peace talks at an international conference in Geneva, possibly next month.

The talks, though seen as a long shot, constitute the international community’s only plan for ending the conflict that began more than two years ago and has killed more than 70,000 people.

In Syria, the commander of the main Western-backed umbrella group of rebel brigades told The Associated Press he urgently needs Western anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to prevent further regime gains on the battlefield. The rebels’ weapons are no match for the Syrian regime’s modern tanks and warplanes, he said.

“We are very disappointed,” Gen. Salim Idris, military chief of the Free Syrian Army, said of the European Union’s apparent decision not to send weapons, if at all, until after the Geneva conference. “We don’t have any patience (any) more.”

In any case, Europe might think twice about sending such weapons into a chaotic war zone where they could quickly be seized by Islamic militant rebels, some of whom have pledged allegiance to the al-Qaida terror network.

Britain, which along with France had pushed for ending the EU arms embargo, wants to use the threat of arming the rebels as leverage to ensure that Assad negotiates in good faith.

Syria’s fractured opposition, which has not yet committed to the Geneva talks, could also be lured to the table if attendance is linked to receiving weapons in the event that talks fail. Opposition leaders have said they will only participate in talks if Assad’s departure from power tops the agenda, a demand Assad and his Russian backers have rejected.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said peace talks are a priority and that “as we work for the Geneva conference, we are not taking any decision to send arms to anyone.”

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that recent actions by the West “willingly or unwillingly are undermining the idea of the conference.” He denounced the lifting of the EU arms embargo as an “illegitimate decision,” saying that supplying weapons to non-governmental groups “goes against all norms of international law.”

At the same time, Lavrov’s deputy affirmed Tuesday that Russia won’t abandon plans to send long-range S-300 air defense missile systems to Syria, despite strong Western and Israeli criticism. It is not clear if Russia has already sent some of the missiles, which would be a major boost for Syria’s air defense capabilities, including against neighboring countries that oppose Assad’s regime.

Britain and Russia traded allegation of hypocrisy over potential weapons shipments.

U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Washington welcomes the EU decision as a show of support for the Syrian opposition and as a message to the Assad regime that such support will only grow. He said the Obama administration will continue to provide non-lethal assistance to the rebels, and hasn’t made a decision on whether to arm them.

He condemned Moscow’s decision not to drop plans to sell S-300 missiles to Syria. “We’re talking about a regime that’s willing to go to enormous lengths to use massive force against civilians, including Scud missiles and other types,” he said. “We condemn all support of arms to the regime.”

Further raising the risk of a regional war, Israel warned that it would be prepared to attack any such missile shipments. Israeli Defense Moshe Yaalon said Israel believes the Russian missiles have not yet been shipped, but that the Israeli military “will know what to do” if they are delivered.

Earlier this month, Israeli airstrikes hit suspected shipments of advanced Iranian missiles near the Syrian capital of Damascus that were purportedly intended for Assad ally Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia that is fighting alongside Syrian regime forces.

Israel has said it would not hesitate to attack again to disrupt the flow of game-changing weapons threatening its security.

France and Britain so far have not specified what weapons they might send. But the strategy of threatening to arm the rebels as a way of bolstering diplomacy could easily fail.

Assad’s regime has provided no sign of any intent to cede power in Syria, a key opposition demand before entering any talks. Meanwhile, the opposition could try to make a public show of willingness to attend the talks, only to demand that weapons deliveries from Europe start right away if the hoped-for Geneva process breaks down.

The regime and the opposition are both still trying to win militarily. The two sides remain largely deadlocked, but in recent weeks the regime has scored a number of battlefield successes that might make it less inclined to negotiate.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the EU decision exposes the “mockery” of European claims to be supporting a political solution to the crisis based on national dialogue, while “encouraging terrorists and extending them arms.”

On the other hand, Idris, the rebel commander, said his fighters could lose control of a strategic town in western Syrian in the coming days unless he gets weapons quickly.

He said thousands of Hezbollah fighters are participating in an offensive against Qusair that began May 19, and that his fighters are outnumbered by more than 3-to-1.

“Time is a very important factor now in the battle in Qusair,” he said. “When they wait for a week (to send weapons), maybe Qusair will be under the control of Hezbollah. Then we don’t need their (the West’s) help, we don’t need their support.”

If Assad retakes the town, he would shore up his hold on the land corridor linking his stronghold in Damascus with loyalist areas along the Mediterranean coast. For the rebels, losing Qusair would mean losing a supply line to nearby Lebanon.

On Monday, Idris accompanied U.S. Sen. John McCain into a rebel-held area in northern Syria for a meeting with about a dozen local commanders. In a comment on Twitter, the Arizona Republican on Tuesday praised the “brave fighters” battling Assad and renewed his call for the Obama administration to move aggressively militarily to aid the opposition.

Michael Clarke, director of London’s Royal United Services Institute think tank, said the EU decision will mean little on the ground for now. He said it is a message to Assad that “the Geneva process is the last good chance you’re ever going to have of getting out of this situation without the civil war getting considerably worse — and in one piece.”

He said it’s also telling the Russians that “we are not going to be intimidated by a lot of Russian huffing and puffing at the moment.”

This originally appeared here.

Enhanced by Zemanta