News from North America, Tuesday 19th March 2013

Bloomberg: “Hearkening back to Cold War anxieties, growing signs of spying on U.S. universities are alarming national security officials. As schools become more global in their locations and student populations, their culture of openness and international collaboration makes them increasingly vulnerable to theft of research conducted for the government and industry.”

New York Times: Syria’s main exile opposition coalition elected a naturalized Syrian-born American citizen early Tuesday to be the first prime minister of an interim Syrian government, charged with funneling aid to rebels inside Syria and offering an alternative to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

By choosing Ghassan Hitto, 50, an information technology executive who lived in Texas until recently, the Syrian opposition coalition concluded months of contentious efforts to unite behind a leader, under pressure from the United States and its allies, which demanded that the opposition set up clear chains of command as a condition of increasing aid to the rebels.”

Reuters: “China and the United States put trade and economic issues at the top of their diplomatic agenda as President Xi Jinping met U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Tuesday and called for the two sides to focus on shared interests rather than differences.”

NPR: “Steve Inskeep talks to Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Palestinian Observer to the United Nations, about President Obama’s upcoming visit to the Middle East and hopes for the peace process.”

Orlando Sentinel: “A former University of Central Florida student still living on campus drafted plans to kill others in his dormitory but changed his mind early Monday and took only his own life, police said. James Oliver Seevakumaran, 30, was found in his dorm room in Tower 1, a seven-story structure near the UCF Arena. He died from a single shot to the head fired by one of his newly purchased guns, police said.

UCF Police Chief Richard Beary said writings found in his dorm room indicated “there was a planned attack.” When they searched his room, officers found an assault weapon, a handgun, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and, in a backpack, handmade explosives. The assault rifle had a magazine capable of holding 28 bullets, officials said.”

SPLC: “In recent years, globetrotting white supremacist financier and organizer Preston Wiginton has appeared at racist skinhead gatherings; co-sponsored lectures with hate groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens and the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom; rallied racist skinheads in Russia and been denied entry to the UK to address a festival put on by the neo-fascist British National Party.

He’s a busy guy on the white supremacist circuit, so it’s no surprise that he’s organized yet another event. This time, Wiginton has called in racist filmmaker Craig Bodeker to show his film, A Conversation about Race, on the Texas A&M campus on March 20.”

Knox News: “James Beavers and his wife, Beverly Beavers, are standing trial in U.S. District Court on charges they plotted to file false tax returns to garner $1 million in refunds. Federal prosecutors say they tricked the IRS out of nearly $600,000 before the agency wised up to the scheme. The Beavers are representing themselves and using a defense strategy common among those who claim to be “sovereign citizens” out of the government’s reach.”

MSNBC: “As if like clockwork, the right-wing has launched into attacks against President Obama’s latest nominee, Justice Department Lawyer Tom Perez. Perez has been tapped to replace Hilda Solis as head of the Labor Department. Rush Limbaugh led the charge barely an hour after Perez’s nomination Monday, comparing the new pick to lead the Labor Department to the recently deceased Venezuelan socialist Hugo Chavez and even the Ku Klux Klan. ‘This guy’s name is Tom Perez and he may as well be Hugo Chavez,” he said. “And that’s not an exaggeration.’”

Comment: Huffington Post: ‘Secretary Kerry Must Stop U.S. Support for Islamic Extremism’ by Azeem Ibrahim. “Secretary of State John Kerry began his first official world trip on February 24, 2013. A notable stop will be in Saudi Arabia, and one wonders what sort of lavish gifts he will receive along with the red carpet and the military band. Beyond the diplomatic niceties however, Kerry is on record as saying that he has concerns that the Kingdom’s ‘officially sanctioned bigotry breeds terrorism’ but that ‘the truth is that we have deep, and for the moment, inescapable ties.’”

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