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Obama's Second Term

The Dilemma of Obama's Mid-Term

October 19th 2014

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President Obama will make the first public campaign appearance of the 2014 cycle Sunday in Maryland — just 16 days before voters head to the polls.

But the event — like almost every rally on the president’s schedule over the next two weeks — will be for the state's Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Anthony Brown.

In the biggest game in town - whether or not Democrats hold the Senate - the president is virtually absent from the campaign trail to help his party hold the upper chamber. He's fundraised to help Senate Democrats for months. But just over two weeks out the White House seems to have come to a sober reality - even though he has a ton to lose if Republicans take back the Senate, the president is more of a liability than an asset for Democrats locked in tough races. Read more ..


Ebola Pandemic

White House and Congress Clash over Ebola Response

October 16th 2014

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Debate over banning travel from West Africa dominated a House hearing on Ebola Thursday as Republicans clashed with federal health officials on the need to suspend flights.

"Administration officials still refuse to consider any travel restrictions for the more than 1,000 travelers a week entering the U.S. from Ebola hot zones," said Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

"Screening and self-reporting at airports have been a demonstrated failure, yet the administration continues to advance a contradictory reason for this failed policy that frankly doesn't make sense." Read more ..


Oil Addiction

World Oil Addiction Continues to Define Geo-Politics

October 16th 2014

Oil prices dropped steeply Oct. 14, with crude oil futures falling 4.6 percent to $81.84 per barrel -- the biggest decrease in more than two years. Brent crude dropped by more than $4 a barrel at one stage in the day, dipping below $85 for the first time since 2010. While these are relatively substantial drops, they are just one part of a continuing trend Stratfor has been tracking over the past few months. Factors behind the slump include weak demand, a surfeit of supply and the fact that many large Middle Eastern producers are reluctant to reduce their output.

In light of today's developments, we are republishing the following diary from Oct. 2, which details the reasons behind the falling prices and how the drops could affect oil-dependent countries around the world. Read more ..


The Ebola Pandemic

World Health Organization Makes Dire Prediction for Ebola in West Africa

October 15th 2014

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The World Health Organization has warned that as many as 10,000 new cases a week of Ebola could develop in the three hardest-hit West African countries by early December. President Obama Tuesday said the world is not doing enough to fight the deadly virus, which a U.N. official said has far outpaced efforts to contain it:

WHO assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward told a Geneva news conference Tuesday the Ebola death toll exceeds 4400 and the number of confirmed cases is more than 8900 since March. And, Aylward said, the number of Ebola cases could reach 5,000 to 10,000 per week in the three hardest-hit West African countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia by December 1.

The WHO official said that while there are encouraging signs, including fewer cases in some of the worst affected areas, more burial teams and a ramped up international response, the ambitious goal set to contain the deadly virus, called "70-70-60," remains elusive. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Did ISIS Use Chemical Weapons Against the Kurds in Kobani?

October 13th 2014

Kobani Chemical Attack Victim

*** WARNING:  This post contains images which some readers may find disturbing.  Caution is advised.  Please scroll down to view these images.

The fate of Kobani city now hangs in the balance, as around 9000 fighters of the Islamic State organization close in on the Kurdish held area.  The current IS assault on the Kobani enclave was not the first attempt by the jihadis to destroy the Kurdish-controlled area.

 
The Kobani enclave, most of which is now in the hands of the IS, at one time extended to Tel Abyad in the east, and Jarabulus in the west.  It constituted a major hindrance to the desire of the jihadis to maintain free passage for their fighters from Raqqa city up to the Turkish border and westwards towards the front lines in Aleppo province.  IS has therefore long sought to destroy it. Prior to the current campaign, the most serious (but unsuccessful) attempt to conquer Kobani came in July 2014, shortly following the dramatic IS advance into Iraq.
Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Democrats Increasingly Uneasy with White House Leadership

October 12th 2014

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President Obama needs to shake up his White House staff to give new life to his presidency, top Democratic strategists and former White House veterans say.

They argue Obama needs an infusion of talent if he hopes to recover over his final two years in office.

One prominent party strategist said Obama “should take a flamethrower to his office.”

“He needs dramatic change — it’s not even a debatable point,” the strategist said. “The general consensus that the president is surrounded by people who do him more harm than good because they are more focused on pleasing him than they are challenging him or proposing a different course.” Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

White House Condemns Panetta as 'Dishonorable' and 'Sad'

October 8th 2014

Obama speechifying

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s criticism of President Obama is “dishonorable” and “sad,” former deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton charged Tuesday.

“He is a guy who has had a long and storied career in Washington and has really served his country well,” Burton said during an interview with CNN. “And it is kind of sad that in its twilight he's done such a dishonorable thing by — at a time — by going after the president that he served at a time of a lot of different instabilities around the world.” Panetta has generated a slew of headlines during his recent book tour with his stinging critique of Obama, saying the president has been too willing to “step back and give up” when facing leadership challenges. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Massive Explosion Rocks Iranian Nuke Site on Eve of Inspectors' Visit

October 6th 2014

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The Iranian Students News Agency reported today that detonations were witnessed at an explosive material production unit at the Parchin nuclear facility near Tehran. The facility is not far from the Iranian capital. According to Sahamnews – a news site opposed to the Islamist regime – the explosion occurred on the evening of October 5, and was so intense that windows of buildings nine miles away were shattered. According to the BBC, "The glare from the blast could also be seen from a great distance." ISNA, quoting defense sources, reported that two workers lost their lives in the incident.

For a number of years, Israel has alleged that the Parchin military base is used by Iran for testing technology to be used for detonating a nuclear weapon. Israel has frequently criticized negotiations conducted by the U.S. and other major powers, citing fears that the Islamic Republic is merely trying to buy time in order to develop enough nuclear know-how to develop a weapon and thus obviate the need for negotiation. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Eric Holder is at a Cross-Roads as He Departs the Obama Administration

October 5th 2014

Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder will leave office with his signature civil rights agenda still a work in progress, and whether his unfinished business remains a top priority for the Justice Department depends largely on his yet-unnamed successor.

Holder has championed a broad array of initiatives to promote civil rights, from the administration’s support for same-sex marriage to changes in federal prosecutorial policies meant to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

He has signaled an aggressive agenda in his remaining time on the job, with plans to roll out new regulations against racial profiling and complete a national death penalty review that includes an examination of potential racial bias in executions.
But his fight for expanded voting rights is still being waged, and a series of initiatives launched in response to this summer’s fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teen in Missouri are in their early stages. Read more ..


The Ebola Outbreak

NBC News Freelancer in Africa Diagnosed With Ebola

October 3rd 2014

Ebola Virus

NBC News released the following:

An American freelance cameraman working for NBC News in Liberia has tested positive for Ebola and will be flown back to the U.S. for treatment. The freelancer, Ashoka Mukpo, 33, was hired Tuesday to be a second cameraman for NBC News Chief Medical Editor and Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman. Snyderman is with three other NBC News employees on assignment in Monrovia, reporting on the Ebola outbreak.

Mukpo came down with symptoms on Wednesday, feeling tired and achy. As part of a routine temperature check, he discovered he was running a slight fever. He immediately quarantined himself and sought medical advice. On Thursday morning, Mukpo went to a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) treatment center to be tested for the virus. The positive result came back just under 12 hours later. Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

Republicans Seek to Cast Hillary Clinton as a Third-Term Obama

September 30th 2014

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Republicans are working hard to define a Hillary Clinton presidency as a third term for President Obama’s White House.

Seizing on Obama’s low approval ratings, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and outside GOP spending groups are casting the president’s former secretary of State as being in lockstep with his agenda.

It is a strategy Republicans say they unveiled just in time for the midterm elections, as Clinton prepares to campaign for Democrats in tight races across the country.  America Rising, a super-PAC targeting Clinton, released a memo to supporters last week titled “Stop Hillary 2016, Obama’s 3rd Term.” In the memo, officials seek to make the case that Obama’s policies are Clinton policies. “No matter how many of her advisers whisper to reporters that she’s different from Barack Obama, Americans still know who she is: Barack Obama Part Deux,” the memo says. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Obama shows Self-Assurance of Democrat Wins in Mid-Term Elections

September 29th 2014

President Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday night that he thinks the Democrats can hold the Senate.

The president told “60 Minutes” that he will spend the next six weeks campaigning on his economic record.

“The country is definitely better off than we were when I came into office,” Obama said, offering to put his record “against any leader around the world in terms of digging ourselves out of a terrible, almost unprecedented financial crisis.”
“Ronald Reagan used to ask the question, ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’ In this case, are you better off than you were in six?’” Obama asked. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Obama Blames U.S. Intelligence Community for Islamic State fracas

September 28th 2014

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President Obama largely blamed the United States' intelligence community in an interview broadcast Sunday for giving an incorrect assessment of the capabilities of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"Our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that, I think, they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria," Obama said on CBS’s'"60 Minutes."

Obama said ISIS, also known as ISIL, went "underground" when United States forces fought al Qaeda in Iraq in the last decade.
That, along with Syria's civil war, allowed ISIS to regroup and recruit fighters from all over the world, including Europe, the United States, Australia and the Muslim world, Obama said in an excerpt from the interview. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Republicans Caution Obama over Replacement for Attorney General Holder

September 26th 2014

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Conservatives are warning President Obama against using a lame-duck session of Congress to push through Attorney General Eric Holder's replacement, even as the White House signals its intention to fill the post quickly.

Holder’s announcement that he will resign as the nation’s top law enforcement officer reverberated Thursday around Washington, where speculation has already begun to mount about who might fill the Cabinet position.

Republican lawmakers quickly vowed that whomever Obama taps would be subject to intense scrutiny following an era when the GOP was often at odds with the Justice Department. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Republican Sen. John McCain is Running for his Life

September 25th 2014

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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has begun to have serious conversations with state officials and local powerbrokers about running for a sixth term in the Senate.

The longtime Republican senator is expected to face a tougher challenger and would be a major target for Tea Party groups given his support for a Senate immigration bill granting a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

And McCain, who turned 78 last month, has at times suggested he’s willing to hang it up, telling the entertainment website The Wrap earlier this year that he didn’t “want to be one of these old guys that should’ve shoved off.” But more recently, McCain has given every indication that he wants to stay in the upper chamber, even after three decades as a senator.

“I’m leaning toward it,” McCain told The Hill when asked about running for re-election. “I’m doing all the things necessary to do so,” McCain says of a reelection bid. “A good fundraising quarter. A lot of meetings and talking to a lot of people in the state, the usual preparations in the state.”

The 2008 GOP presidential candidate met Friday in Phoenix with “key supporters” to plan his re-election race, a McCain aide said. And McCain says whether Republicans win a Senate majority in November won’t “particularly” make a difference in his decision. McCain faced a primary challenger in 2010, just two years after Barack Obama defeated him for the White House. He easily fought off former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, defeating him by 25 points after pouring $25 million into the face.

But Hayworth was seen by many as a weak candidate, and McCain could face a much tougher challenger in 2018. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) is flirting with a run against McCain. He is hosting a breakfast Thursday in Scottsdale for local Republican candidates, including Mark Brnovich, the candidate for state attorney general. Read more ..


The Caliphate

U.S. and Allies Bomb Multiple Islamic State Targets in Syria

September 23rd 2014

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The United States and a group of five Arab countries have carried out air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria.

In a September 23 statement, U.S. Central Command said 14 air strikes overnight damaged or destroyed targets in four areas of eastern Syria, including in the Islamic State group's main stronghold of Raqqa.

It said Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates either participated in or supported the attacks, which hit training compounds, militant headquarters and a finance center.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the airstrikes killed or wounding tens of militants.

According to Voice of America, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Pool said on the evening of September 22 that the strikes involved fighter planes, bombers and ships at sea firing cruise missiles. Read more ..


Terror at Home

White House is Concerned about Home-Grown Muslim Terrorists in America

September 22nd 2014

Douglas M McCain, American who died fighting for Islamic State

Some of an estimated 100 Americans who have traveled to the Middle East and joined terrorist organizations like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have returned to the United States, a senior administration official said Monday.

At a Monday briefing previewing an administration push for a United Nations resolution to prevent the flow of foreign citizens into conflict zones to join terrorist groups, a senior administration official said that an estimated 15,000 individuals had entered Iraq and Syria to join groups like ISIS and the al Nusra Front. The official said that 2,000 of those foreign fighters were European, and that 100 were Americans. Read more ..


Britain on Edge

Scotland Rejects Independence: the United Kingdom is Preserved

September 19th 2014

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British Prime Minister David Cameron said he is "delighted" with the result of Scotland’s referendum on independence as the majority of Scots voted to stay in the union.

It was a sleepless night for many across Scotland as the results of the referendum on independence slowly trickled in early Friday.

A "No" vote was expected early on, as several constituencies predicted to turn up a "Y" majority instead delivered support for the union.

At 7 a.m. London time, David Cameron said the referendum delivered " clear result" rejecting full independence.

"So there can be no disputes, no re-runs, we have heard the settled will of the Scottish people. Scotland voted for a stronger Scottish parliament backed by the strength and security of the United Kingdom and I want to congratulate the 'No' campaign for that, for showing people that our nations really are 'Better Together,'" said Cameron. Read more ..


The Oil Addiction

PUMP: The Movie that Can Kick the Oil Addiction

September 15th 2014

ISIS has trebled its forces within recent months and in large measure finances its expansion with $10 million to $20 million per week in illicit oil sales from as many as 70 captured oil wells.

Iran now has multiplied its centrifuges to almost 20,000, enabling it to convert its 5 percent and 20 percent enriched uranium to 90 percent weapons grade HEU within a 7-week breakout period. With sanctions lifted, Tehran’s monthly oil revenues have soared to almost 3 million barrels per day, generating billions of dollars per month.

Tiny Qatar, with only about 280,000 citizens, provides Hamas with some $400 million annually. Qatar exports more than 600,000 barrels of oil per day helping to establish an estimated $200 billion petrodollar reserve.

Oil is driving it all —and more.

American petroleum use accounts for about one-quarter of global consumption, depending upon whose numbers you’re refining. Kicking our oil addiction is an old mantra that is preached daily from the sidelines by an army of expert energy analysts and security insiders.

A slick, kinetic new Hollywood movie, PUMP, is breaking out of the wooden oil documentary mold to help power a concerted national effort to get off of oil. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Arab Muslim Countries Say They will do 'Their Share' to Defeat Islamic State terror

September 14th 2014

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As Washington vows to put together a broad coalition to fight Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, the outlines of the new alliance are beginning to take shape.

Much of the emphasis has been upon finding partners among the Arab states. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on September 11 that 10 Arab states had agreed to "do their share" in the fight. They are Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and six Gulf states: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Israeli Arabs Rally Against the Islamic State

September 13th 2014

Thousands of Israeli Arabs convened in Umm el-Fahm on Septemer 12 for a rally organized by the Islamic Movement in Israel to express their opposition to the radical Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or Caliphate. Israel Radio cited the leader of the Islamic Movement's hardline northern branch, Sheikh Raed Salah, as stating that he is dead set against the extremist Islamist group that has conquered parts of Syria and Iraq and aims to overun the entire Middle East.

However, Salah noted that he also opposes the coalition led by President Barack Obama, who has pledged to "destroy" the Islamic State with military action, including air strikes in Iraq and Syria. The Arab Muslim leader said that such military action against Islamic State fighters threatens the Arab world. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

US 'at War' With Islamic State Militants

September 12th 2014

John Kerry

United States officials declared on Friday that the country "is at war with ISIL, in the same way that we are at war with al-Qaida and its al-Qaida affiliates all across the globe."

The statements, from spokepersons for the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department, mark the first time that top American officials used the word war to describe the U.S.-led offensive against the militants, also known as the Islamic State.

In a televised speech on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said the United States would fight the Islamic extremists with a coalition, but would not put soldiers on the ground. He refrained, however, from using the term "war" to describe a four-pronged strategy based on airstrikes, counterintelligence, humanitarian aid, and support for forces in Syria and Iraq currently fighting the militants.

Also Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced nearly $500 million in additional U.S. aid for those affected by Syria's civil war. The new funding is designated for civilians displaced inside Syria and the more than 3 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt. More than half of Syria's population has been displaced by conflict. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Obama Says He Will Eradicate Caliphate 'Cancer' in Iraq

September 11th 2014

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President Obama vowed to “destroy” Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terrorists in a prime-time address Wednesday that sought to restore eroding public confidence in his leadership and ability to safeguard national security.

The president announced a “systematic campaign of airstrikes” against fighters with the ISIS “wherever they exist,” signaling U.S. targets will expand from Iraq to Syria.

“I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country wherever they are,” Obama said during the 15-minute address from the White House. “That means I will not hesitate to take action against [ISIS] in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
Read more ..


Islam's War Against Christianity

Nigerian Muslim Terrorists Kill 1,000 Christians in One Day

September 9th 2014

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Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram

Tens of thousands of Christians are fleeing northeastern Nigeria, in the wake of mass killings and the destruction of several churches by the Boko Haram Muslim sect. According to Fr . Patrick Tor Alumuku, Social Communications officer of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, "I spoke to priests in Maiduguri (Ed. note: the capital of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria where Boko Haram is most active) who speak of terrifying happenings." According to the priest, "Boko Haram is determined to eliminate every sign of Christian presence and many churches have been destroyed or torched. Last week in a village in the area of Maiduguri, Boko Haram took over the parish for its local headquarters."

Catholic Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri, "in areas where Boko Haram is active Christians are fleeing by the thousands." He reported that at least 90,000 Catholics are now displaced by the Islamist rebels who are challenging the sovereignty of the Nigerian government. Read more ..


Israelis and Palestinians

Abbas Rejects Egyptian President Offer of Adjacent Land in Sinai for Future Palestinian State

September 8th 2014

Abbas UN

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has reportedly offered to give PA President Mahmoud Abbas part of the Sinai Peninsula adjacent to Gaza to establish a contiguous Palestinian state in those areas.  United States President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were also notified of the plan, according to a report today (Monday, August 9) on Galei Tzahal (IDF Radio). Although there has been no official confirmation of the proposal, news of the initiative met with approval from Israeli leaders.

Abbas, meanwhile, is reported to have categorically rejected the plan, which entails a demilitarized PA state located on lands encompassing five times the current area of the Gaza Strip. The state, referred to as "Greater Gaza," would contain PA citizens and Palestinian refugees living in other countries. The offer would also enable Arab cities in Judea and Samaria to retain PA autonomy, on condition that Abbas maintains a viable administration in those areas. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

The Return of Terror as a Political Football in Mid-Term Elections

September 8th 2014

The politics of terrorism have returned with a vengeance for the midterm elections. National security dominated the first election cycles after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with Democrats fearful of being labeled unpatriotic if they criticized then-President George W. Bush.

The Republican advantage eroded years later as public opinion soured against the Iraq War. By the time President Obama sought reelection in 2012, he was able to tout the killing of Osama bin Laden to portray Democrats as the party of strength in foreign policy. But now, with the 13th anniversary of 9/11 just days away, Obama and the Democrats are back on the defensive. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Obama to Address Fellow Americans about Offensive Against Islamic State terror

September 7th 2014

Map of planned Islamic State

President Barack Obama says he will soon outline his "game plan" for dealing with the threat posed by Islamic State militants.

In an interview with NBC's Meet the Press, Obama said in a speech later this week he will lay out to the American people the need to "go on the offense" against the extremist group that has taken control of parts of Iraq and Syria.

Obama made clear in the NBC interview that aired Sunday that the United States would not act alone but would be part of an international coalition to carry out airstrikes and support Iraqi and Kurdish troops fighting Islamic State (also known as ISIL) militants on the ground. Read more ..


Border Crisis

Obama: 'Politics Did Shift Midsummer' and Delayed Executive Action on Border

September 7th 2014

President Obama said "politics did shift midsummer" because of the ongoing border crisis, forcing him to delay any executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections.

"The truth of the matter is-- is that the politics did shift midsummer because" of the "surge in kids who were showing up at the border, got a lot of attention," Obama said in an interview with NBC's Meet the Press, which is set to air Sunday.

Obama's comments come after the White House announced that the president decided against taking action "soon" on immigration, citing the "political season" and "Republican's extreme politicization of the issue."
Read more ..


War on Terror

A Sigh of Relief as Mysterious Unresponsive Aircraft Leaves U.S. Airspace

September 5th 2014

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A Socata aircraft similar to the unresponsive aircraft

NORAD and the Federal Aviation Administration are still tracking a small, fixed-wing, private airplane that had been escorted by two U.S. Air Force F-15 fighters over the Atlantic Ocean. The pilot continues to be unresponsive, even after entering Cuban airspace. The plane is now being followed by Cuban military aircraft after being handed off by the American jets. Earlier on September 5, the Socata TBM 700 had risen to an altitude of 25,000 feet: a higher than usual height for the plane. The plane was manufactured by Socata/Daher, a division of the Daher Group: a French industrial conglomerate.

The U. S. Coast Guard is updating Cuban authorities with information about the plane. As of 11:30 a.m. today there was no response from the airplane, when the fighters were scrambled. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Qatar's role as US Ally at Odds with Claims it Sponsors Terror

September 5th 2014

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani

If the Middle East were one big room, Qatar would be the elephant, according to a growing number of regional experts who believe the oil rich emirate is propping up violent jihadists around the globe even as it poses as a U.S. ally and would-be broker of peace.

Israel has long complained of Qatar's alleged duplicity, accusing it of meddling, bankrolling Hamas in Gaza, exporting radical Islamic terrorism through its tight links to the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Nusra. And a German official recently suggested that Qatar may also play a role in funding Islamic State, the savage extremist group behind the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley.

"You have to ask who is arming, who is financing ISIS troops? The key word there is Qatar - and how do we deal with these people and states politically?" German Development Minister Gerd Muller said last week.

In response, Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah unequivocally denied funding the Islamic State group. Read more ..


China Rising

Urbanization and Demographics Could Skew China's Economic Rebalancing

September 4th 2014

Chinese smoker

China's urban population may grow by as many as 230 million people in the next 15 years. But most growth will take place not in metropolises like Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing but in the myriad small- and medium-sized satellite cities around them. And as residents flock to these cities, China's working-age population will begin to decline, and its elderly population will grow dramatically.

Together, these processes will underpin major changes not only in China's overall economic structure, but also in the financial, fiscal and political relationship between central and local government. The added burdens facing small- and medium-sized cities, especially those located deep inside China that are sequestered from mainstream global trade, will be substantial and perhaps socially and politically destabilizing. 

Read more ..

The Caliphate

Obama Vows to 'Degrade and Destroy' the Islamic State

September 3rd 2014

President Obama on Wednesday pledged that the U.S. would “degrade and destroy” the Islamist terrorist group responsible for the beheading of two American journalists, saying the U.S. was “repulsed” by the slayings.

"We will not be intimidated," Obama said during a joint press conference in Estonia. "Our reach is long and justice will be served."

The president’s comments came the morning after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released a video depicting the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff, and two weeks after the terror group released a video similarly depicting the death of American journalist James Foley. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Islamic State Terrorists Behead Another American

September 2nd 2014

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Members of the Islamic State or Caliphate, also known as ISIS and ISIL, have reportedly beheaded another American. The latest victim is believed to be U.S. reporter Steven Sotloff. A video that emerged on September 2 on the internet appears to show Sotloff's beheading by the Muslim group.

When asked by the press corps, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that he had no information about the incident. The mutiliation is believed to have turned up the pressure for President Barack Obama to take more military action in the Mideast where, in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State holds sway.

Before his mutilation by the knife-wielding masked man in the video, Sotloff was heard to address Obama directly. In the video, Sotloff said, "I’m sure you know exactly who I am by now and why I am appearing. Obama, your foreign policy of intervention in Iraq was supposed to be for preservation of American lives and interests, so why is it that I am paying the price of your interference with my life?" He had been missing since August 2013. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Video Purports To Show Beheading Of Second U.S. Journalist

ISIL execution victims

A video released online purports to show the beheading of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff by Islamic State (IS) militants.

The video, which emerged on September 2, shows 31-year-old Sotloff dressed in orange and on his knees in a desert landscape. A masked militant condemns U.S. attacks on the IS and cuts Sotloff's throat.

The militant then introduces a second captive, identified as David Haines and said to be British, and warned governments to back off from U.S. alliance against Islamic State.

The White House said U.S. officials were checking the reports. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "If the video is genuine, we are sickened by this brutal act."

British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the apparent beheading as an "absolutely disgusting, despicable act." Sotloff would be the second U.S. journalist to be shown being beheaded with a knife by IS militants. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Russian Armored Units Battle Ukrainian Forces for Control of Eastern Ukraine

September 1st 2014

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Troops loyal to the Ukrainian government battled Russian tanks in Lugansk, a city in the eastern part of the country that is the apple of discord between Ukraine and Russia. Ukrainian military spokesman Leonid Matyukhin declared on his Facebook page on September 1, "The battle between Ukrainian paratroopers and a reinforced tank battalion of the Russian armed forces is continuing with the goal of controlling the Lugansk airfield.”

Defense Ministery Valeriy Geletey said that Russian troops are advancing towards other towns and cities in the disputed region, including Donetsk. "We are fighting Russia and it is Russia which is deciding what will happen in Donbass," he said on television on the evening of August 31. Donbass is the informal name of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. "We are holding talks not with terrorists but with representatives of the Kremlin," he added. Read more ..


The Caliphate

The Islamic State's Terror Laptop of Doom

August 30th 2014

ISIS

Abu Ali, a commander of a moderate Syrian rebel group in northern Syria, proudly shows a black laptop partly covered in dust. "We took it this year from an ISIS hideout," he says.

Abu Ali says the fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which have since rebranded themselves as the Islamic State, all fled before he and his men attacked the building. The attack occurred in January in a village in the Syrian province of Idlib, close to the border with Turkey, as part of a larger anti-ISIS offensive occurring at the time. "We found the laptop and the power cord in a room," he continued, "I took it with me. But I have no clue if it still works or if it contains anything interesting."

As we switched on the Dell laptop, it indeed still worked. Nor was it password-protected. But then came a huge disappointment: After we clicked on "My Computer," all the drives appeared empty. Read more ..


Broken Borders

White House Refuses to Set Deadline for Immigration Action

August 29th 2014

Immigration Protest

The White House refused Friday to commit to executive actions on immigration by the end of summer, stirring speculation that President Obama might be planning to delay some of the more controversial steps until after the November elections.

"I just don’t have any additional information to share with you about what that time frame is," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

Earlier this year, Obama told reporters he expected recommendations "before the end of summer" and, after receiving them, planned to adopt them "without further delay." But asked Thursday whether the timeline for executive actions could be pushed back, the president pointedly did not repeat that pledge. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Russia Invades Ukraine and Establishes New Front along Shared Border

August 28th 2014

Russian heavy weaponry has reportedly crossed the border into southern Ukraine, U.S. and Ukrainian officials said Wednesday, aiding rebels in what appeared to be a major counteroffensive in a new front along the border with Russia.

With battles raging to the north – near the rebel-held city of Luhansk, and southeast of the city of Donetsk — the fighting near Novoazovsk, a southern town along the Sea of Azov, appeared to be the most blatant incursion by Russian forces to date.

Western reporters around Novoazovsk said Ukrainian forces were abandoning vehicles and ammunition as they retreated from the advancing forces. The U.S. State Department said Russian military hardware crossing the border included tanks and rocket launchers and there were reports of separatists shelling residential areas in the port city of Mariupol, west of Novoazovsk. Heavy fighting had also erupted at the Donetsk airport. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Another Hamas Ceasefire -- Cement and War

August 27th 2014

Tunnel  Access Point

Amid a shaky and uncertain ceasefire with Hamas, Israelis did not celebrate in the streets as Hamas and the people in the Gaza Strip did with fireworks and rifles shot in the air. As long as the force behind the rocket fire and a massive underground tunnel terror network remains in power and is backed by Qatari funds, Israelis remain wary.
 
An article published in the Institute for Palestine Studies two years ago by The Economist reporter, Nicolas Pelham, thoroughly examines the development of Gaza’s tunnel phenomenon over the past 10 years – a network described as “an underground city,” according to an Israeli military spokesman, Capt. Eytan Buchman in July.
 
“Much to the misfortune of the people of Gaza, Hamas has invested far more resources in “underground Gaza” than in “upper Gaza” wrote Shlomi Eldar in an article for news source Al-Monitor. “The change and reform that Hamas offered its voters was invested in its tunnels at the expense of the people of Gaza.”
Read more ..

The Battle for Damascus

'Humble, Caring' American Jihadi Terrorist Succumbs in Syria

August 27th 2014

Victor McArthur McCain

An American, identified as 33-year old Douglas McArthur McCain, has been killed while fighting alongside militants in Syria. Concerns about foreign fighters joining the ranks of radical groups comes as an American journalist returned to the United States after nearly two years of captivity by militants in Syria.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday U.S. officials are aware of reports of McCain’s death in Syria and made contact with the family.

"As you know, there’s typically a process that needs to be gone through before any confirmation can be made. And, certainly, out of respect for the family, we’re not going to be adding any more comment at this time,” said Psaki.

However, in a statement, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said, “We were aware of U.S. citizen Douglas McArthur McCain’s presence in Syria and can confirm his death.” Read more ..



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