The Envoy
  • U.S. hikers’ release underway in Iran

    Two American hikers held for over two years in Iran were in the process of being released on Wednesday, Iran's state media reported.

    Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29, were handed over to an Omani official, CNN reported. Swiss and Omani diplomatic vehicles had been waiting for them outside Tehran's Evin prison Wednesday as their release paperwork was being processed, the BBC reported. See the Associated Press video below reportedly showing the Swiss ambassador's convoy driving Bauer and Fattal from the prison grounds.

    The Iranian Judiciary "has confirmed the release of two U.S. nationals, who had been convicted of illegal entry and espionage in Iran, on bail," Iranian State TV reported, according to USA Today.

    Earlier Wednesday, the two men's Iranian defense lawyer said the paperwork for their release was being processed but he had not yet seen them. "Maybe five minutes, maybe three hours. I have done my job," Masoud Shafiee told journalists Wednesday, Reuters reported. (See the AP video report on their lawyer's comments below the jump).

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  • President Barack Obama's re-election campaign began aggressively defending Obama's record of protecting the state of Israel and pro-Israel policies on Tuesday, unveiling a new website and dispatching surrogates to talk to Jewish activists.

    The new website--Jewish Americans for Obama--was disclosed Tuesday in a call to Jewish community activists. It features a video testimonial from Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon saying Israel "has never had a better friend than President Obama."

    Two key Obama campaign surrogates--Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) and former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Florida)--joined the call to Jewish activists.

    Obama "believes that pursuing a two-state solution--a Jewish state of Israel and a viable, demilitarized Palestinian state, are in the best interest of all of the parties and the United States," Wexler, now president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, told the Envoy in a telephone interview. "And he is going to pursue that objective."

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  • Last week, Wired's Danger Room blog uncovered FBI training materials that espouse anti-Muslim views, including portraying Islamic charity as a "funding mechanism for combat," and suggesting that "mainstream" Muslims are likely to be violent. The views were presented by FBI counterterrorism analyst William Gawthrop in his April lecture to FBI agents, Wired's Spencer Ackerman reported.

    The FBI, in response to the report, issued a statement saying the presentation was a one-time only affair, and that the analyst no longer did training sessions for the bureau.

    "This particular training segment was conducted six months ago, one time only, at Quantico and was quickly discontinued," FBI spokesman Christopher Allen told Yahoo News in an emailed statement on September 15th. "The instructor who conducted that training block no longer provides training on behalf of the FBI."

    However, on Tuesday, Wired published a video of a June 8 presentation given by Gawthrop to the New York City chapter of

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