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Suspects Roused by Jihadist Thought ~ Brother Says They Were Motivated by Muslim Anger at U.S.; Fireworks May Be Source of Explosives The investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing yielded two revelations Tuesday: The surviving suspect said he and his brother were inspired by jihadists online, and the brothers bought two large pyrotechnic devices that could shed light on how they built their explosives.
Authorities have been trying to piece together how and why the brothers accused of the April 15 bombing carried out their plans. In limited communication with federal investigators, including handwritten answers, surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said he and his older brother acted alone and without the help of any terrorist group, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The two were acting as jihadists, motivated by Muslim religious anger at the U.S., the surviving brother told interrogators, these officials said.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told investigators that the brothers were self-trained and self-indoctrinated, and were striking back at the U.S. for killing Muslims. His statements and other evidence have led U.S. authorities so far to believe that the bombers weren't part of a larger terror group, though no firm conclusions have been made. (Wall Street Journal)
HAGEL EMPHASIZES NEED FOR CLOSE US-ISRAEL TIES U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that the U.S. and Israel need to ensure that their alliance remains close, as Mideast security challenges grow more complicated.
"This is a difficult and dangerous time," Hagel said before starting a closed-door meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "This is a time when friends and allies must remain close, closer than ever."
In his remarks, Netanyahu thanked the Obama administration for deepening ties over the past four years. He said the U.S. and Israel's shared interests and values are especially challenged by "the arming of terrorist groups by Iran with sophisticated weapons, and equally, Iran's attempt to arm itself with nuclear weapons. (Wall Street Journal)
Turn to Religion Split Suspects' Home After last week's Boston Marathon bombings, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva phoned her son Tamerlan in Massachusetts to make sure he was safe.
"Mama, why are you worrying?" Tamerlan replied from Boston, laughing.
Days later, it was the son who phoned his mother. The two, in recent years, had shared a powerful transformation to a more intense brand of Islam.
A turn toward radical Islam by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bombing suspect killed by police, forced a split in the family and shattered his relationship with his parents. Jennifer Smith and Alan Cullison explain. Photo: AP Images.
"The police, they have started shooting at us, they are chasing us," Mrs. Tsarnaeva says Tamerlan told her. "Mama, I love you." Then the phone went silent. (Wall Street Journal)
Details Emerge of Alleged Carjacking by Bomber Suspects New details emerged Sunday of the accused marathon bombers' alleged theft of a sport-utility vehicle before a chaotic gunfight in the city's suburbs.
About 40 minutes after they allegedly shot and killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer in Cambridge, Mass., Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the brothers accused of the bombing, crossed the Charles River into Boston and stole a Mercedes SUV at gunpoint, briefly holding the driver hostage, according to an excerpt from the Cambridge Police Department report filed by the driver and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The alleged carjacking occurred at about 11 p.m. in Boston's Brighton neighborhood on Brighton Avenue, said the excerpt, which didn't name the victim. - The victim told police he was driven to a Shell Gas Station on Memorial Drive in Watertown. Inside the car, the brothers "declared to [the victim] that they were the Boston Marathon bombers and would not kill him because he wasn't American," the report said. (Wall Street Journal)
No Need to Panic About Global Warming -- There's no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to 'decarbonize' the world's economy. Editor's Note: The following has been signed by the 16 scientists listed at the end of the article:
A candidate for public office in any contemporary democracy may have to consider what, if anything, to do about "global warming." Candidates should understand that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming is not true. In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.
In September, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever, a supporter of President Obama in the last election, publicly resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) with a letter that begins: "I did not renew [my membership] because I cannot live with the [APS policy] statement: 'The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.' In the APS it is OK to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?"
In spite of a multidecade international campaign to enforce the message that increasing amounts of the "pollutant" carbon dioxide will destroy civilization, large numbers of scientists, many very prominent, share the opinions of Dr. Giaever. And the number of scientific "heretics" is growing with each passing year. The reason is a collection of stubborn scientific facts. (Wall Street Journal)
A Real Debate About Drug Policy: George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker on why the 'war on drugs' has failed--and what to do next "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world."
That is the opening sentence of a report issued last week by the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Both of us have signed on to this report. Why?
We believe that drug addiction is harmful to individuals, impairs health and has adverse societal effects. So we want an effective program to deal with this problem.
The question is: What is the best way to go about it? For 40 years now, our nation's approach has been to criminalize the entire process of producing, transporting, selling and using drugs, with the exception of tobacco and alcohol. Our judgment, shared by other members of the commission, is that this approach has not worked, just as our national experiment with the prohibition of alcohol failed. Drugs are still readily available, and crime rates remain high. But drug use in the U.S. is no lower than, and sometimes surpasses, drug use in countries with very different approaches to the problem. (Wall Street Journal)
Scientists: Japan Fallout Won't Rival Chernobyl's Even if the Japanese nuclear plant damaged in the earthquake goes into full meltdown, it is unlikely to cause environmental fallout anything on the scale seen after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, scientists said.
"As long as there's no meltdown of the fuel rods, you're in good shape," said Kirby Kemper, a nuclear physicist at Florida State University. But if pressure from gases in the nuclear core builds up, "a crack could appear in the containment vessel and release radiation," he said.
Thousands of evacuees from areas around Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant were scanned for radiation exposure, though the Japanese government insists radiation levels are low. Video courtesy of Reuters
Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (9501.TO) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, situated about 150 miles north of Tokyo, was shaken by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake Friday. A tsunami and aftershocks also hit the area. (Wall Street Journal)
Why the Dollar's Reign Is Near an End For decades the dollar has served as the world's main reserve currency, but, argues Barry Eichengreen, it will soon have to share that role. Here's why--and what it will mean for international markets and companies. - The single most astonishing fact about foreign exchange is not the high volume of transactions, as incredible as that growth has been. Nor is it the volatility of currency rates, as wild as the markets are these days.
Instead, it's the extent to which the market remains dollar-centric.
Consider this: When a South Korean wine wholesaler wants to import Chilean cabernet, the Korean importer buys U.S. dollars, not pesos, with which to pay the Chilean exporter. Indeed, the dollar is virtually the exclusive vehicle for foreign-exchange transactions between Chile and Korea, despite the fact that less than 20% of the merchandise trade of both countries is with the U.S.
Chile and Korea are hardly an anomaly: Fully 85% of foreign-exchange transactions world-wide are trades of other currencies for dollars. What's more, what is true of foreign-exchange transactions is true of other international business. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries sets the price of oil in dollars. The dollar is the currency of denomination of half of all international debt securities. More than 60% of the foreign reserves of central banks and governments are in dollars. (Wall Street Journal)
Cyber Attack Strikes FreedomWorks A mysterious cyber attack apparently struck the computer servers at the pro-tea party group FreedomWorks this morning, just as it launched a major fund-raising drive.
FreedomWorks officials are investigating, but they suspect they were attacked deliberately, perhaps by a political opponent seeking the thwart its fund-raising efforts.
The attack crippled the site at about 9:45 a.m. just when the fund-raising drive was publicized on the radio by conservative talk show host Glenn Beck. The group estimates it lost about $80,000 in potential donations as it struggled to bring its site back online.
An “autopsy” showed a highly sophisticated hacker struck at 6:55 a.m., the group said, setting the stage for the eventual meltdown. The server was wiped out, though group officials said no data was lost or stolen. (Wall Street Journal)
Cyber Attacks Test Pentagon, Allies and Foes Cyber espionage has surged against governments and companies around the world in the past year, and cyber attacks have become a staple of conflict among states.
U.S. military and civilian networks are probed thousands of times a day, and the systems of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters are attacked at least 100 times a day, according to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO's secretary-general. "It's no exaggeration to say that cyber attacks have become a new form of permanent, low-level warfare," he said.
More than 100 countries are currently trying to break into U.S. networks, defense officials say. China and Russia are home to the greatest concentration of attacks.
The Pentagon's Cyber Command is scheduled to be up and running next month, but much of the rest of the U.S. government is lagging behind, debating the responsibilities of different agencies, cyber-security experts say. The White House is considering whether the Pentagon needs more authority to help fend off cyber attacks within the U.S. (Wall Street Journal)
Virus Attacks Siemens Plant-Control Systems Computer hackers have designed a virus that targets industrial control systems built by German engineering giant Siemens AG, activating a kind of malicious software that analysts say represents a growing corporate-espionage threat.
The virus, dubbed Stuxnet, is spread by devices plugged into USB computer ports. It is programmed to try to steal data from computer systems that are used to monitor large automated plants built for anything from manufacturing to power generation to water treatment. Siemens is one of the world’s largest makers of such industrial automated systems, though it doesn’t break out its annual revenue from such sales. (Wall Street Journal)
Mexico To Limit US Dollar Cash Transactions To Combat Crime Mexico's Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero said Tuesday the government will seek to limit cash transactions in U.S. dollars as an anti-money laundering measure aimed at fighting organized crime. Mexico receives more than $10 billion a year in suspicious dollar flows, Cordero said at a press conference. The new rules, some of which will take effect during the next 90 days, will limit dollar bank deposits, the payment of loans and services, as well as foreign exchange transactions to between $1,500 and $7,000 a month, depending on the profile of the client, he said. (Wall Street Journal)
Data Show Big Exposure for Banks in Euro Zone French and German banks continued to hold the greatest exposure to euro-zone countries facing market pressures at the end of last year, underscoring their interest in restoring investor confidence in the region. - Data released Sunday by the Bank for International Settlements showed that banks based in the 16 countries that use the euro accounted for $1.58 trillion, or 62%, of all internationally active banks' exposures to residents of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. - That included $727 billion of exposure to Spain, $402 billion to Ireland, $244 billion to Portugal and $206 billion to Greece, with about half of the Greek ... (Wall Street Journal)
Boots & Coots Reports First Quarter Results "One event was the mobilization cost for the new ONGC secure and salvage project. By the end of the quarter we had mobilized and expect to realize the positive financial impact of the project in the second quarter. In addition there were costs associated with a higher than expected currency devaluation expense in Venezuela and expenses incurred relating to our announced merger agreement with Halliburton, both non-operational items." (Wall Street Journal)
BP's Worsening Spill Crisis Undermines CEO's Reforms When Mr. Hayward took over BP's leadership from John Browne three years ago this week, the company was at one of the lowest points in its history: badly run, accident-prone and accused in the aftermath of a deadly explosion at its Texas City refinery of putting profits before safety. Mr. Hayward turned BP around, boosting production, cutting costs and significantly reducing on-the-job injuries. Last month, he was confident enough to talk of an irreversible "change of culture" at BP. (Wall Street Journal)
It’s Now the ‘BP Spill’ In the last couple of days, the administration has shifted from calling the spill at a British Petroleum well the “Deepwater Horizon incident” to the BP spill. And President Barack Obama said again today that “BP is ultimately responsible under the law for paying the costs of response and cleanup operations.” (Wall Street Journal)
Police Let Terrorist Slip Through But Port Authority and FBI officials with knowledge of the investigation said there were factors that made the search of Mr. Zazi's car a touchy proposition. The Port Authority stopped Mr. Zazi at the behest of the FBI, which had tracked him nearly 1,800 miles from Colorado. To avoid tipping him off, they pretended the stop was a random drug checkpoint. (Wall Street Journal)
Details of “Einstein” Cyber Shield Disclosed by White House The Obama administration lifted the veil Tuesday on a highly-secretive set of policies to defend the U.S. from cyber attacks.
It was an open secret that the National Security Agency was bolstering a Homeland Security program to detect and respond to cyber attacks on government systems, but a summary of that program declassified Tuesday provides more details of NSA’s role in a Homeland program known as Einstein.
The current version of the program is widely seen as providing meager protection against attack, but a new version being built will be more robust–largely because it’s rooted in NSA technology. The program is designed to look for indicators of cyber attacks by digging into all Internet communications, including the contents of emails, according to the declassified summary.
Homeland Security will then strip out identifying information and pass along data on new threats to NSA. It will also use threat information from NSA to better identify emerging cyber attacks. (Wall Street Journal)
Details Set for Remake of Financial Regulations At the center of the plan, which administration officials are referring to as a "white paper," is a move to remake powers of the Federal Reserve to oversee the biggest financial players, give the government the power to unwind and break up systemically important companies -- much like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. does with failed banks -- and create a new regulator for consumer-oriented financial products (Wall Street Journal)
China's Yuan Ambitions: Currency swap agreements are part of a larger plan to extend the Chinese currency's role in global trade. China is playing a growing role in discussions over solutions to current economic problems. Much of the talk has focused on money -- whether Premier Wen Jiabao's concerns about the value of China's U.S. treasury investments, or the People's Bank of China's paper floating the idea of a de-dollarized international monetary system. Up to now, one limit to China's ability to contribute to global monetary reform has been its own currency policy, particularly the fact that the yuan is not convertible. However, now there are tentative signs that's starting to change.
Beijing has signed currency swap agreements with six central banks: Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Belarus and most recently Argentina. These swaps permit those central banks to sell yuan to local importers in those countries who want to buy Chinese goods. This is particularly useful for importers struggling to obtain trade finance as a result of the financial crisis. As such, it's consistent with China's desire to participate in the Group of 20's efforts to support trade financing.
China has long wanted its currency to play a more important role in the global financial system. These swap arrangements come in the context of that broader policy aim. The broader policy goal also has a more practical function in reducing currency exposure and transaction costs for Chinese exporters. The rise in the yuan's value relative to the dollar in early 2008 was a reason why some Chinese exporters went bankrupt. The ability to settle trade in yuan would reduce this risk in the future. (Wall Street Journal)
Cybersecurity Chief Resigns The government's coordinator for cybersecurity programs has quit, criticizing what he described as the National Security Agency's grip on cybersecurity.
Rod Beckstrom, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, said in his resignation letter that the NSA's central role in cybersecurity is "a bad strategy" because it is important to have a civilian agency taking a key role in the issue. The NSA is part of the Department of Defense. (Wall Street Journal)
How realistic is a North American currency? Commentary: Uniting U.S., Canada, Mexico money could result from crisis - Canadian economist Herbert Grubel first introduced a potential manifestation of this concept in 1999. The North American Currency -- called the "Amero" in select circles -- would effectively comingle the Canadian dollar, U.S. dollar and Mexican peso. (Wall Street Journal)
How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas Surveying the wreckage of a neighbor's bungalow hit by a Palestinian rocket, retired Israeli official Avner Cohen traces the missile's trajectory back to an "enormous, stupid mistake" made 30 years ago.
"Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel's creation," says Mr. Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades. Responsible for religious affairs in the region until 1994, Mr. Cohen watched the Islamist movement take shape, muscle aside secular Palestinian rivals and then morph into what is today Hamas, a militant group that is sworn to Israel's destruction.
Instead of trying to curb Gaza's Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat's Fatah. Israel cooperated with a crippled, half-blind cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, even as he was laying the foundations for what would become Hamas. Sheikh Yassin continues to inspire militants today; during the recent war in Gaza, Hamas fighters confronted Israeli troops with "Yassins," primitive rocket-propelled grenades named in honor of the cleric. (Wall Street Journal)
Exxon CEO Advocates Emissions Tax The chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp. for the first time called on Congress to enact a tax on greenhouse-gas emissions in order to fight global warming.
In a speech in Washington, Rex Tillerson said that a tax was a "more direct, a more transparent and a more effective approach" to curtailing greenhouse gases than other plans popular in Congress and with the incoming Obama administration.
"My greatest concern is that policy makers will attempt to mandate or ordain solutions that are doomed to fail," Mr. Tillerson said.
The policy he is advocating is often called a carbon tax because it would be imposed on emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common man-made greenhouse gas. By backing it, Mr. Tillerson has become an unlikely member of a club that includes former Vice President Al Gore, consumer advocate Ralph Nader and President-elect Barack Obama's designated head of the National Economic Council, Larry Summers. (Wall Street Journal)
We Need a Global Carbon Tax The cap-and-trade approach won't stop global warming - If President Barack Obama wants to stop the descent toward dangerous global climate change, and avoid the trade anarchy that current approaches to this problem will invite, he should take Al Gore's proposal for a carbon tax and make it global. A tax on CO2 emissions -- not a cap-and-trade system -- offers the best prospect of meaningfully engaging China and the U.S., while avoiding the prospect of unhinged environmental protectionism. - A global carbon tax levied on a relatively small number of large sources can be monitored by satellite and checked against the annual surveillance of fiscal and economic polices already carried out by IMF staff. Thus, the accounting involved is much more precise and much less subject to the vagaries of corruption and conflict over which industries and companies get their free handouts of carbon credits -- carbon pork -- than in a cap-and-trade system. (Wall Street Journal)
Paulson changes tack on financial rescue Consumer-finance sector will get help, but mortgage asset plan's shelved - But in a striking admission, Paulson said that buying up mortgage assets "is not the most effective way" to use government funding. Purchasing these so-called "toxic" assets was once the cornerstone of the rescue plan for financial markets and was almost the entire focus of Congress when the package was being debated before its enactment. But almost as soon as Treasury received the money, it decided that giving capital to banks in return for preferred stock was a better use of the funds. (Wall Street Journal)
Democrats Mull $300 Billion Stimulus House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is mulling recommendations from several economists that Congress act on an economic-recovery package that would cost taxpayers $300 billion, according to congressional aides, equivalent to about 2% of the country's gross domestic product (Wall Street Journal)
Fed to lend billions more to AIG Under the program, the New York Federal Reserve Bank will provide $37.8 billion in additional cash to certain domestic life insurance subsidiaries of AIG in return for investment-grade, fixed-income securities (Wall Street Journal)
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