Recent News from ACT! for America

 TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Several IHOP locations are re-opening after seven IHOP locations in Ohio and Indiana were raided early Tuesday morning by the FBI, Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and local police.

Officials with Homeland Security tell us the investigation is currently sealed and cannot release any additional information. 

A well-placed source with Toledo Police Department tells WTOL 11 the investigation surrounds allegations of money laundering and possibly undocumented workers. This source also told us there may be allegations of terrorism, but a spokesperson with IHOP's corporate office says they have been told there are no terrorism links.

Locations that were raided:

- Talmadge Road in west Toledo

- Fremont-Pike location in Perrysburg

- Airport Highway in Springfield Township

- Central Avenue in Sylvania Township near McCord road

- An IHOP in Lima, Ohio

- An IHOP in Findlay, Ohio

- An IHOP in Evansville, Indiana

Homeland Security confirms search warrants were executed at 6 a.m.

All seven of the restaurants are owned by Terry Elk. Elk is from our area and WFIE, our sister station in Evansville, Indiana, confirmed Terry Elk's real name is Tarek Elkafrawi.

The FBI told WTOL they raided two homes and two storage units have also been searched. A source tells us the storage units were rented by Maazen Kadir. According to the Better Business Bureau website, Kadir is the primary contact for the Talmadge Road location and is listed as the area managerWTOL reporters witnessed FBI agents removing many boxes from the locations. It is unknown what the boxes contain.

Elkafrawi was at a national meeting of IHOP store owners this morning and is now on his way back to our area.

IHOP also said they have been in contact with the FBI and the other authorities and, again, IHOP is saying they have been told this investigation is not related to terrorism.

Copyright 2011 WTOL. All rights reserved. Link: http://www.wtol.com/story/15503721/police-raid-ihop 

 
Mon, Sep 19 2011

By Ali Sawafta and John Irish

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Abbas told the United Nations' top official on Monday he would seek full U.N. membership for a Palestinian state, a move the United States and Israel warn could deal a devastating blow to hopes for resuming peace negotiations.

Abbas told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon he would press ahead with plans to ask on Friday for a Security Council vote on Palestinian membership. Washington has threatened to veto any such move.

Ban told Abbas he would forward on to the Security Council any application submitted, and called for the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume talks "within a legitimate and balanced framework," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

The Palestinian crisis has overshadowed this week's meeting of the U.N. General Assembly and sparked hectic talks aimed at averting a confrontation which carries risks for the Palestinians, Israel and the United States.

Senior diplomats from the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- the so-called Quartet of Middle East mediators -- are meeting throughout the week in hopes of finding a way forward.

The Quartet has for months been trying to put together guidelines for future peace talks, thus far without result.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to launch direct negotiations, but has not made any concession on key issues that the Palestinians say prevent the talks from resuming.

RISKY MOVES

Abbas, speaking to reporters on his plane to New York, acknowledged it could have repercussions for his Palestinian Authority, the fragile government-in-waiting which depends on international financial aid for its survival in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

"We decided to take this step and all hell has broken out against us," he said, adding that he would not be swayed.

"From now until I give the speech, we have only one choice: going to the Security Council. Afterwards, we will sit and decide," he said.

The White House underscored its threat to veto any Palestinian move at the Security Council, and said it would focus on trying to nudge the two sides back to negotiations.

"We've made our position clear, which is that we oppose actions to achieve a Palestinian state through the United Nations," Obama's deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters.

Rhodes said Obama had no meeting planned with Abbas while they are both in New York, but said there was always the possibility of a change in the schedule.

TALKING ABOUT TALKS

U.S.-backed talks between Abbas and Netanyahu collapsed nearly a year ago when the Palestinians pulled out after Israel declined to extend a partial moratorium on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.

The two sides remain divided on borders, the status of Jerusalem, the future of Palestinian refugees and whether Israel should be acknowledged as a Jewish state.

The Palestinians say they will not resume talks unless the moratorium is reinstated. Israel says talks should resume without preconditions with the aim of producing two states.

The Palestinian decision to go to the United Nations has caused consternation in Washington, where some U.S. lawmakers say they will try to cut the roughly $500 million in U.S. aid per year to the Palestinians if they refuse to back down.

The Palestinian Authority's central bank chief warned this could doom current efforts at self-government. "Really, the risk of PA collapse is very real under the financial strain," Jihad al-Wazir told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia on Monday said it would pay the Palestinian Authority $200 million, which could help in the short term but would not fully replace lost U.S. funding.

A SECOND ROUTE

With little hope of success in the Security Council, the Palestinians may ask the U.N. General Assembly to upgrade their standing from an "entity" to "a non-member state" -- a move they believe is likely to pass with support from at least 126 members of the 193-member body.

Abbas is scheduled to meet French President Nicholas Sakrozy on Tuesday, and met on Monday with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who warned that both Israel and the Palestinians were courting disaster.

"The only solution is to resume talks," Juppe said in remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in comments also echoed by Britain.

A U.S. Security Council veto would carry diplomatic risks for Washington, which could find itself isolated alongside its longtime ally Israel during a period of unprecedented political turmoil across the Middle East.

It would also likely boost tensions between the Palestinians and Netanyahu's government, which has already seen traditionally steady ties with key neighbors Egypt and Turkey deteriorate quickly, adding to regional uncertainty.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday urged Turkey's foreign minister not to do anything to worsen Ankara's ties to Jerusalem, which lurched into crisis after a deadly 2010 Israeli raid on a Turkish aid flotilla.

Clinton, asked if there was any progress on the broader Palestinian impasse, said work continued.

"It's early in the week. A lot of people are not even here yet and there's been an enormous number of meetings ... But I think that everyone knows our position, and obviously our goal is a two-state solution and that's what we're going to keep working toward," she said.

(Additional reporting by Daniel BasesTom PerryMatt SpetalnickArshad Mohammed; writing byAndrew Quinn; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/19/us-palestinians-israel-un-idUSTRE78H28J20110919

 
Mon, Sep 19 2011

By Tom Perry

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia will pay $200 million to the Palestinian Authority, the official Palestinian news agency said on Monday, funds that will ease a financial crisis faced by the authority as it prepares to apply for full U.N. membership this week.

Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Alassaf called Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to tell him his government would transfer the funds, the WAFA agency reported.

A shortfall in funding from Arab states including Saudi Arabia had been identified as the cause of the crisis which has highlighted the authority's vulnerability as President Mahmoud Abbas prepares to press the Palestinians' statehood agenda at the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.

Last week, both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank identified the authority's financial crisis as a danger to the state-building program which Fayyad's administration has led over the last two years.

In the last three months, the authority has twice failed to pay salaries to its 150,000 employees on time and in full.

The success of the state-building plan was one of the reasons cited by Palestinian officials for their decision to go to the United Nations, despite U.S. and Israeli opposition.

The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self government in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, remains reliant on foreign aid to fill a deficit projected at $900 million this year.

WAFA said Alassaf called Fayyad while the Palestinian prime minister was on his way back to the Middle East from New York, where he had attended a meeting of international donors which support the Palestinian Authority.

The Fayyad plan aimed to ready the Palestinians for the establishment of an independent state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem -- territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

But the U.S.-backed peace process which they hoped would yield their independence has ground to a halt -- another reason Palestinian officials give for pursuing their diplomatic step at the United Nations.

Abbas has said he will on Friday submit an application for full membership for a state of Palestine. The United States, another major donor to his administration, has said it will block such a move.

Washington says only direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians can advance the cause of peace.

Last month, Abbas appealed for Arab financial support to help the Palestinians deal with "pressures and threats" from Israel and its allies which he said were a risk to the plan to seek U.N. recognition of Palestinian statehood.

(Writing by Tom Perry)

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/19/us-palestinians-funds-saudi-idUSTRE78I61E20110919 

 
Published: September 12

SAN FRANCISCO — Anonymous is not so anonymous anymore.

The computer hackers, chat-room denizens and young people who make up the loosely affiliated Internet collective have drawn the attention of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and other federal investigators.

What was once a small group of pranksters has become a potential national security threat, federal officials say.

The FBI has carried out more than 75 raids and arrested 16 people this year in connection with illegal hacking claimed by Anonymous.

Since June, Homeland Security has issued three “bulletins” warning cybersecurity professionals of hacking successes and future threats by Anonymous and related groups — including a call in Manhattan to physically occupy Wall Street on Sept. 17 to protest various U.S. government policies.

San Francisco police arrested more than 40 protesters last month during a rowdy demonstration organized by Anonymous that disrupted the evening commute. The group called for the demonstration after the Bay Area Rapid Transit system blocked cellphone service in San Francisco stations to quell a planned protest over a police shooting on a subway platform.

“Anonymous’ activities increased throughout 2011 with a number of high-profile attacks targeting both public- and private-sector entities,” one of the bulletins issued last month said.

Some members of the group have called for shutting down Facebook in November over privacy issues, though other Anonymous followers are disavowing such an attack, underscoring just how loosely organized the group is and how problematic it is to police.

“Anonymous insist they have no centralized operational leadership, which has been a significant hurdle for government and law enforcement entities attempting to curb their actions,” an Aug. 1 Homeland Security bulletin noted. “With that being said, we assess with high confidence that Anonymous and associated groups will continue to exploit vulnerable publicly available Web servers, Web sites, computer networks and other digital information mediums for the foreseeable future.”

Followers posting to Twitter and conversing on Internet Relay Chat insist there are no defined leaders of Anonymous and that it’s more of a philosophy than a formal club, though a small group of members do the most organizing online.

“Anonymous is not a group, it does not have leaders, people can do ANYTHING under the flag of their country,” wrote one of the more vocal members who asked not to be identified.

“Anything can be a threat to National Security, really,” the member said in an e-mail interview. “Any hacker group can be.”

Some members ‘dangerous’

The member said that the group as a whole is not a national security threat but conceded that some individuals acting under Anonynous’s banner may be considered dangerous.

DHS’s latest bulletin, issued Sept. 3, warned that the group has been using social-media networks to urge followers working in the financial industry to sabotage their employers’ computer systems.

The DHS warning comes on the heels of several Anonymous-led protests of the San Francisco Bay area’s transit agency that led to FBI raids of 35 homes and dozens of arrests, as well as to the indictment of 14 followers in July on felony computer hacking charges in connection with a coordinated “denial-of-service attack” against PayPal’s Web site last year.

Security officials said the “DoS” attacks occur when a Web site is overwhelmed by malicious messages from thousands of followers, usually with easily downloadable software.

“Anonymous has shown through recently reported incidents that it has members who have relatively more advanced technical capabilities who can also marshal large numbers of willing, but less technical, participants for DDoS [distributed denial of service] activities,” the August DHS bulletin said.

Anonymous orchestrated the crashing of PayPal late last year after the online financial service suspended WikiLeaks’ account after the Web site published confidential diplomatic cables and other sensitive U.S. government intelligence. The group also targeted Visa, MasterCard and others for the same reason and has carried out several other hacks during the year. Last month, for example, the group claimed responsibility for hacking a Web site belonging to the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency and releasing the personal information of 2,000 passengers.

Investigators suspect a splinter Anonymous group known as LulzSec was responsible for a June 15 denial of service attack on the CIA’s public Web site.

This summer, Anonymous claimed credit for hacking into a Booz Allen Hamilton Web site and leaking the e-mail addresses of 90,000 U.S. military personnel and hacking a Monsanto Web site and releasing the personal data of 2,500 employees.

On July 19, the FBI fanned out across the United States and raided more than 35 homes, seizing dozens of computers and arresting 16 on charges that they participated in the PayPal attack.

In response, Anonymous said it hacked a Web site on Sept. 1 belonging to police chiefs in Texas. The group posted personal information such as e-mails about internal investigations before the site was shut down.

FBI investigators in court filings said that the raids and arrests were made from a list of 1,000 computer users that PayPal cybersecurity workers identified as the most active attackers. The 14 who appeared in San Jose federal court pleaded not guilty and were released on bail after promising not to access Twitter, Facebook or other social-media sites.

— Associated Press
Credit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal-authorities-take-on-anonymous-hackers/2011/09/11/gIQAYrhgMK_print.html 

 

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