Daily Archives: December 20, 2014

FBI mishandled evidence throughout United States, report says

FBI agents all over the United States have mishandled, wrongly labeled and even lost evidence pertaining to criminal investigations, a critical internal review has found. The Bureau is even storing more weapons and drugs than it has documented.

According to the internal report, obtained and first reported on by theNew York Times, many of the problems could be traced back to the transition to a computer storage system dubbed Sentinel. When that system went online in 2012, it was meant to make searching through evidence much more efficient – particularly compared to sifting through paper files – but problems with the technology have caused setbacks.

More seriously, however, were issues concerning missing evidence. In fact, some 1,600 pieces of evidence have been signed out for four months or more before they were returned. In one case, a piece of evidence has been out since 2003.

“A majority of the errors identified were due in large part to human error, attributable to a lack of training and program management oversight,” the report reads, as quoted by the Times.

Out of the 41,000 pieces of evidence reviewed by auditors, there were errors with almost half of them. This could potentially have a big impact on future criminal cases, the newspaper reported, since “lawyers can use even minor record-keeping discrepancies to get evidence thrown out of court.”

Already, the FBI is telling prosecutors across the US that defendants might need to know about the errors detailed in the review.

Among these mistakes, the review stated that the FBI was holding on to more weapons than previously believed, as well as two tons of drugs more than records stated.

“The FBI identified issues primarily related to the migration of its earlier record-keeping process to its updated case management system,” said FBI spokesman Michael Kortan to the Times. “The bureau is now strengthening procedures in field offices across the country to improve administrative consistency and record-keeping.”

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Egyptian president to visit China On Dec 22

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks at the UN headquarters in New York, Sept. 24. File photo/

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks at the UN headquarters in New York, Sept. 24. File photo/

“We are looking forward to developing our strategic relations with our friends in China,” said Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to Chinese state media on Thursday at the presidential palace in Cairo.

Ahead of his official four-day visit to Beijing, which is scheduled to kick off on Dec. 22, the Egyptian president described Chinese-Egyptian ties as “very special, strong and stable” and commended China’s balanced policies toward other countries.

“China has balanced policies and does not interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs, which is one of the reasons for China’s success,” Sisi said.

Egypt has recently established a cabinet task force specifically for China led by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, including a number of key ministers as members, to study fields of cooperation with China. “I hope cooperation with China will be at the highest level,” Sisi said. “Cooperation between Egypt and China is not new and the purpose of the visit is to confirm and develop this cooperation and discuss Chinese investment opportunities in Egypt,” the president said.

“Egypt’s geographic location is strategic and distinguished and China has relations with the whole world. So, both Egypt and China have the right to cooperate, using the Chinese industrial and investment capabilities and the Egyptian distinguished locations,” Sisi added.

“We should work on benefiting from the depth and size of relations between Egypt and China,” Sisi told the Chinese reporters, adding that the Egypt-China cooperation is not targeted against any other countries.

Sisi said Egypt supports and encourages China’s initiative to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, adding that it represents a great chance to enhance cooperation between the two countries and that Egypt will have an important role in implementing this initiative.

“Egypt is the portal for the Arab world, for Europe through the Mediterranean Sea and for Africa, and we want the Chinese side to approach Egypt strongly,” the president continued. “The Egyptian people are ready to cooperate with the Chinese people for development, progress and peace.”

Over the past four years, Egypt has gone through two uprisings that led to the ouster of two heads of state. The political turmoil then dramatically affected the country’s economy and Sisi’s administration is struggling to put it back on track.

“It has cost us dearly,” Sisi said referring to the 2011 and 2013 uprising that led to deteriorating tourism, prevailing chaos and growing terrorist activities.

“But now the course of security and stability is noticeably increasing, so we are on the right track,” Sisi said.

In August, President Sisi gave the go-ahead for digging a 72-km expansion of the original Suez Canal as a national project to boost the country’s ailing economy, ordering “the New Suez Canal” to be open for ship navigation in early August 2015.

The Egyptian president said that the Chinese companies have great opportunities to invest in the Suez Canal Corridor projects.

Navigation for trade ships coming from China and Southeast Asia will be a lot easier, Sisi continued. “We are developing projects around the Suez Canal Corridor to provide ships with services like fuel and food etc.”

“Egypt is currently establishing a huge road network of 3,400 km within one year, besides the new Suez Canal project,” said Sisi, adding that Egypt is taking the necessary measures to facilitate a friendly investment environment to reassure foreign investors.

“We are trying to restore trust in Egyptian, Arab and foreign investors and send them a reassuring message that investment in Egypt is safe and stable and that the state is committed to its obligations with investors,” the president said.

The trade volume between Egypt and China exceeded US$10 billion for the first time in 2013, more than 80% of which is represented in Chinese exports to the North African country.

Sisi, who will soon make his first visit to China since his election in June, said that China has achieved tremendous progress over the past 40 years, adding that Egypt needs to benefit from the Chinese development experience.

“The Chinese experience is very fruitful and wonderful. It is not only us but I believe the whole world looks at China with respect and pride,” the president added. “You proved to the world that a Chinese person can accomplish what’s impossible.”

“We invite our brothers in China to come and join us quickly to put our hands together and work together for the best of our two peoples,” Sisi said.

ISIS reportedly selling Christian artifacts, turning churches into torture chambers

The Islamic State is turning Christian churches in Iraq and Syria into dungeons and torture chambers after stripping them of priceless artifacts to sell on the black market, according to reports.

Ancient relics and even entire murals are being torn from the houses of worship and smuggled out through the same routes previously established for moving oil and weapons in and out of the so-called caliphate, a vast region the jihadist army has claimed as sovereign under Sharia law.

“ISIS has a stated goal to wipe out Christianity,” Jay Sekulow, of the American Center for Law and Justice and the author of “Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore,” told FoxNews.com. “This why they are crucifying Christians — including children — destroying churches and selling artifacts. The fact is, this group will stop at nothing to raise funds for its terrorist mission.”

It’s not clear what items have been stolen, but the terrorist group has sought to destroy religious groups that don’t embrace its twisted and violent interpretation of Islam, and has already blown up several revered Christian sites and monuments.

Last July, ISIS militants used sledgehammers to destroy the tomb of Jonah in Mosul. Around the same time, they were destroying Sunni shrines and mosques in the northern province of Ninevah, including the Shia Saad bin Aqeel Husseiniya shrine in the city of Tal Afar and the al-Qubba Husseiniya, as well as Christian churches in Syria. The group follows a strict interpretation of the Sunni faith which is against idolatry of anything other than God. ISIS has also threatened to destroy the holy sight of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Christianity, like Judaism and Islam, have powerful historical ties to the region, and some of its most treasured sites and relics are in Iraq and Syria, according to experts. Their destruction or dispersal is tragic, said Shaul Gabbay, senior scholar at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

“The Middle East is where the three monotheistic religions begun and anything that can inform us about the history and chronology of the development of religion is of unparalleled significance to the core identity of anyone who is Christian,” Gabbay told FoxNews.com. “This is where Abraham, the forefather of the three monotheistic religions, came from, where Moses led the Hebrews to the Promised Land and where Jesus Christ was born, walked, died and was resurrected.

“Anything physical part that exists from the past including more modern artifacts is of extreme value to Christianity both at the informative and educational level as well as the spiritual/faith level,” he said.

Experts believe Islamic State’s trafficking in religious artifacts is both to make money and to culturally cleanse the region. The Islamic militants have converted churches in Qaraqosh and other Iraqi cities into torture chambers, according to the Sunday Times. One priest from the region, who gave his name as Abu Aasi from Mosul, told the newspaper earlier this month that prisoners were being held in the Bahnam Wa Sara and Al Kiama churches.

“These two churches are being used as prisons and for torture,” he said while in hiding. “Most inside are Christians and they are being forced to convert to Islam. Isis has been breaking all the crosses and statues of Mary.”

Christianity is believed to be practiced by just three percent of the population of Iraq. They lived in relative religious freedom while under Saddam Hussein’s rule, but have faced persecution from Islamic State in the last two years. In particular, the Yazidi, a Kurdish Christian people, have been hounded and murdered by the extremist group, leaving many of them becoming refugees trying to escape the region.

“We know that ISIS considers several groups — including Christians — as ‘infidels without human rights,'” Sekulow said. “ISIS jihadists commit violence against fellow Muslims in violation of Islamic law. They routinely commit war crimes and engage in torture in violation of international law; and they also kill and threaten Christian, Jewish, and other religious communities.”

“In short, ISIS is composed of religiously motivated psychopaths,” he said.

 

Million mummy mystery: Egyptian cemetery with 1mn bodies stumps scientists

A mummy of a 18 months old girl

An ancient cemetery in Egypt contains 1 million bodies, according to a team of archeologists who discovered the burial ground. What the site represents remains a mystery, as the scientists are still puzzled about where exactly all the people came from.

“We are fairly certain we have over a million burials within this cemetery. It’s large, and it’s dense,” said Project Director Kerry Muhlestein, an associate professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University (BYU). Muhlestein presented his findings at the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities Scholars Colloquium, held in Toronto in November, Live Science reported.

Archaeologists from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, have been exploring a mysterious cemetery in Egypt for about 30 years. They excavated about 1,700 mummies within the project in Egypt so far. But there is still much work to do.

The archaeologists say that many of the mummies date back to the times when Egypt was a Roman province, from the 1st century BC onward.

Scientists say a nearby village seems too small to produce all these large burial sites. A small pyramid is situated near the cemetery. But it was built more than 4,500 years ago, about 2 millennia before these million mummies were buried.

People buried at the cemetery, which is now called Fag el-Gamous (Way of the Water Buffalo), did not belong to royalty, concluded the researchers. There were no coffins. And the internal organs of the deceased were rarely removed.

“I don’t think you would term what happens to these burials as true mummification. If we want to use the term loosely, then they were mummified,” Muhlestein said, adding that they were in fact mummified by the arid natural environment.

According to Muhlestein, “the burials are not in tombs, but rather in a field of sand.”

“The people in the cemetery represent the common man,” he said in an email to RT. “They are the average people who are usually hard to learn about because they are not very visible in written sources.”

However, researchers still found some beautiful items at the burial site. The objects include linen, glass and even colorful booties for a child.

“A lot of their wealth, or the little that they had, was poured into these burials,” Muhlestein said.

The scientists said it is a large burial site and is densely populated.

“In a square that is 5 x 5 meters across and usually just over 2 meters deep, we will typically find about 40 burials. The cemetery is very large, and so far seems to maintain that kind of burial density throughout,” he added to RT.

Giants and blondes

During excavation the archeologists discovered a mummy of a 18 months old girl which was “beautifully wrapped in a tunic and with other nice wrappings,” the scientists wrote on BYU in Egypt Facebook page.

The researchers say there was evidence that they tried “much of the full mummification process.”

“The toes and toenails and brain and tongue were amazingly preserved. We found a wonderful necklace and two bracelets on each arm. The jewelry makes us think it was a girl, but we cannot tell.”

“She was buried with great care as someone who obviously loved her very much did all they could to take care of this little girl in burial. Very sad. But they succeeded, it was a beautiful burial.“

The scientists found one mummy with a height of more than 2 meters, Muhlestein told the audience in Toronto. The mummy was discovered long before Muhlestein became the project director.

“We once found a male who was over 7 feet (2.1 meters) tall, who was far too tall to fit into the shaft, so they bent him in half and tossed him in,” he said.

The researcher later told Live Science that “even with great nutrition, it’s really unusual” as generally common people didn’t have enough food at that time.

One more mystery of the mummy burials was the large number of blonde and red-headed mummies.

According to Muhlestein, the researchers can use the database to “show us all of the blonde burials, and [it shows] they are clustered in one area, or all of the red-headed burials, and [it shows] they’re clustered in another area.”

‘Perhaps we have family areas or genetic groups [in certain areas], but we’re still trying to explore that,” he added.

Turkish court issues warrant for Erdogan rival Fethullah Gulen

Order follows arrests of journalists and police officers amid growing European Union concern about media freedom under Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey has issued an arrest warrant for Fethullah-Gulen who lives in self-imposed exile in the US

The court agreed an earlier request by prosecutors for the arrest notice but it remains to be seen if the United States will agree to extradite him to face trial on terrorism charges in Turkey.

The warrant was issued after the court earlier remanded in custody the head of a national TV network and three former police officers – all of whom are deemed linked to Mr Gulen – on terrorism charges.

Hidayet Karaca, head of Samanyolu TV, was arrested on charges of forming a terrorist group, after being detained with more than two dozen others in weekend raids on journalists, scriptwriters and police accused of plotting to overthrow Mr Erdogan.

The court however ordered the release of Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily, which has repeatedly accused the president of running a corrupt regime and who was arrested in the same raids last Sunday.

Both the Zaman newspaper and the STV channel are linked to Mr Gulen, a one-time ally of Erdogan whom the Turkish strongman has now vowed to crush without mercy.

Mr Dumanli defiantly told hundreds of supporters outside the court after his release that, “The press cannot be silenced, media will never succumb to intimidations.”

Seven other suspects in the case were ordered released by the court in Istanbul while three more – all ex-police officers – were also remanded in custody.

Mr Erdogan accuses his rival of running a “parallel state” and being behind sensational corruption allegations against his inner circle that broke on December 17 last year.

Mr Gulen, who is believed to have millions of followers in Turkey and runs private crammer schools around the world through his Hizmet (Service) group, has vehemently denied all the allegations against him.

Prosecutors asked the court for the warrant to arrest Mr Gulen for leading a “criminal” group acting against the “rules and laws in media, economy and bureaucracy”, the state Anatolia news agency reported.

According to a copy of the request published in Turkish media, he is charged with setting up and directing an “armed terrorist organisation” as well as using intimidation to deprive a person of their freedom.

The United States has so far paid little attention to repeated requests from Turkey for Mr Gulen’s extradition from his secluded compound in the state of Pennsylvania.

Jen Pskai, US State Department spokeswoman, said Washington did not comment on extradition cases.

The European Union had condemned the arrests as running contrary to European values but Mr Erdogan has refused to back down, telling the bloc to “mind their own business” in a row that risks damaging relations.

The arrests have also amplified concerns about media freedoms in Turkey under Mr Erdogan, who has dominated the country for 12 years and in August moved from the post of prime minister to president.