By Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty and National Security Producer Jamie Crawford
The State Department Wednesday defended its purchases of books authored by President Obama for gift-giving abroad and for placement in U.S. embassy libraries around the world.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters it is "longstanding practice" to allow embassies to buy books, "to put them out in libraries ... give them to contacts, which they think will help deepen understanding of the U.S. political system, of U.S. political figures and leaders of U.S. history, U.S. culture."
The purchases, she added are "done in strict accordance with government procurement standards."
By Mick B. Krever
It's no surprise that a movie, "Lord of War," has already been made based on the story of Viktor Bout, the alleged Russian arms trafficker currently on trial in Manhattan federal court.
On Monday and Tuesday, a confidential informant known as "Carlos" - who in the past was paid $7 million dollars by the State Department for a single job - took the stand. He had posed as a Colombian rebel trying to buy rocket launchers and AK-47s from Bout.
Wednesday, a decades-long Bout confidant testified against his (presumably) former friend, in an attempt to reduce the charges leveled against him.
A new Pentagon investigation found a "stunning" rise in attempts to steal U.S. military secrets. CNN's Barbara Starr reports.
By Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes
The mystery of $6 billion that seemed to go missing in the early days of the Iraq war has been resolved, according to a new report.
New evidence shows most of that money, $6.6 billion, did not go astray in that chaotic period, but ended up where it was supposed to be, under the control of the Iraqi government, according to a report from the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction or SIGIR.
The report details the transfer of cash from the U.S. to the Central Bank of Iraq. Much of it was originally assets of Iraq, some was part of the Oil for Food program imposed during the regime of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and some was funneled through the United Nations for relief and reconstruction projects, according to the report. FULL POST
By Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy reporting from Seoul
The closer U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gets to North Korea, the harsher his tone about the communist regime becomes.
Wednesday, even before he arrived in Seoul for three days of meetings with military leaders, he wrote an op-ed piece for one of South Korea's largest daily newspapers calling North Korea a "serious threat."
"Pyongyang has demonstrated its willingness to conduct provocations that target innocent lives. The North continues to defy the international community as it enhances its nuclear weapons and missile capabilities," Panetta wrote in the opinion piece published in Chosun Ilbo.
Recalling the start of the Korean War when he was a child, Panetta wrote, "Thanks to the heroism of the U.S. and Korean forces, however, the North's invasion was repelled." He neglected to mention smaller contributions by 15 other members of the United Nations, including Great Britain, Canada and Turkey, and ignored Communist China's role in preventing the U.N. forces from overrunning the North completely, leading to the current division of the peninsula. FULL POST
By CNN's Joe Vaccarello reporting from the United Nations
A Libyan ambassador told the United Nations Security Council Wednesday that his country would like the NATO no-fly zone to be terminated by the end of this month, but he added that Libya's security concerns would need to be evaluated before a final decision could be made.
Libyan Deputy Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told the 15-member council Tuesday the Libyan people are "looking forward to terminating the no-fly zone over Libya."
"In accordance with the initial assessments, the date of October 31 is the logical date to terminate this mandate," he continued, but said further evaluation of the security situation and Libya's ability to monitor its borders was needed before a final date could be given.
Dabbashi said Libya was also keen to terminate the mandate accorded by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 to protect Libyan civilians, under which the NATO mission was authorized, as soon as possible. FULL POST
By CNN's Laurie Ure
A hip and edgy comedy show is rapidly gaining popularity in - of all places - Iran, much to the chagrin of that country's leaders, who are often the butt of the program's jokes.
"Parazit," Voice of America's satirical Farsi-language television broadcast, takes jabs at Iranian culture, politics, leadership. Everything is fair game, much in the style of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" in the United States.
The program's reach is such that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will tape an interview on the show Wednesday.
Funded by the U.S. government and produced from VOA's Persian News Network studios in Washington, the program's no-holds-barred, in-your-face approach aims to "tickle the foundation of power," according to the "Parazit" producers.
Co-creators Saman Arbabi, 38, and Kambiz Hosseini, 35, hatched the idea to help fill what they say is a void created by Iran's lack of government transparency and free press.
Two of the show's biggest targets are Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and religious Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. FULL POST
The world's biggest nuclear weapon - the infamous minivan-sized megaton B53 - died Tuesday, of old age. The five-ton bomb was about 50 years old. The Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration announced its passing at the Pantex nuclear plant outside Amarillo, Texas.
Mark Thompson at Battleland blog notes the dismantling is being hailed by the Obama administration as proof of commitment to arms control.
Read the story on Time's Battleland blog.
By Sr. National Security Producer Charley Keyes
Bits of information - not just bullets and bombs - are in the thick of the fighting in Afghanistan.
U.S. forces feared they were losing the information war to the Taliban and now are fighting back with Twitter - using those brisk 140-character messages to get out the other side of the story.
"The Taliban were just constantly putting out false information and propaganda," said Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings. "Some of it was so wrong we finally had to start engaging, and backing up our information with the facts"
This new reliance on all social media is quick and cheap.
"It allows us to keep our followers dynamically informed while also keeping the enemy's statements in check," Cummings said in an e-mail exchange with CNN.
It is easy to see this play out on any day. A Twitter account that frequently puts out news reports favoring the Taliban, , trumpets information of a major battlefield success. "Mujahideen bring down US helicopter in Kunar," says the tweet.
But over at International Security Assistance Force headquarters, the social media experts are on the case on the ISAF Twitter account. "We have no reports of any missing helos. Take any Taliban reports with a block of salt," their tweet answers. And later, "Reports of a shoot-down are false."
Cummings jokes that the Taliban keep up a steady stream of wildly inflated reports. "The usual is every day we lose 20 tanks and 30 people, if you follow the Taliban. We pick and choose what we come back with." FULL POST