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The Battle for Ukraine

NATO Chief Demands Cessation of Russian Activity in Ukraine

August 29th 2014

Russian tank in Ukraine

NATO has called on Russia to cease its "illegal military operations" in eastern Ukraine, which it says are aimed at destabilizing the country.

The comments by NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Friday followed an emergency meeting in Brussels to discuss the worsening crisis.

Rasmussen, referencing satellite images released by his organization Thursday, said it is now clear that Russian troops and equipment have illegally crossed the border into eastern Ukraine. He said this is not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern over many months to destabilize Ukraine as a sovereign nation. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Paycheck for Terrorism: $5,300 for Suicide Attack

August 29th 2014

Money Bands=Happiness

For the first time, startling details are being made public about the millions of dollars funneled from Middle East charities to Islamic terrorists and their families. The money was used to reward terrorists and their families after attacks on Israelis and U.S. nationals visiting Israel between 2000 and 2005 during the second intifada or Palestinian uprising.

The evidence was presented today in a landmark case in New York federal court. Three hundred U.S. nationals claim Arab Bank knowingly provided financial services to terrorists and their financiers in violation of the U.S. anti-terrorism law. Arab Bank contends it did not knowingly serve terrorists.

Bank documents reveal an elaborate system for which Amman, Jordan-based Arab Bank served as the center point. Some Israelis refer to the bank as the “Grand Central Station of terrorist financing.” Read more ..


The Battle for Baghdad

U.S. Forms Coalition Against the Islamic State and Investigates Reports of Second American KIA

August 28th 2014

The United States Wednesday said it is seeking to build an international coalition to confront the threat posed by Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and Iraq. U.S. officials are also trying to determine whether a second American fighting alongside jihadists in Syria has been killed.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States is working to put together a coalition of countries in Europe, the Arab world and beyond who might contribute to taking on the threat posed by IS Sunni militants. She said there are many ways for nations to contribute. Read more ..


Ebola Outbreak

CDC Director Friedan Says Ebola Outbreak is Getting Worse

August 28th 2014

According to Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa will get worse before it gets better, needing an "unprecedented" response to bring it under control.

Dr. Frieden met Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on August 27 to discuss ways to fight the disease. "The cases are increasing. I wish I did not have to say this, but it is going to get worse before it gets better," he admitted.

"The world has never seen an outbreak of Ebola like this. Consequently, not only are the numbers large, but we know there are many more cases than has been diagnosed and reported," he said. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Bus Fever is Spreading

August 27th 2014

On the bus

Until recently, John Alday either drove or flew the 200-mile trip between his company’s headquarters in Dallas and its satellite office in Austin.

But too many times, he said, when he flew it ended up taking far longer than he planned, whether it was a problem in getting to the airport or checking in, or a weather delay. Now he has switched to a simpler and, he says, more reliable means of transportation — a bus, specifically an executive coach.

“It’s more luxurious than any first-class seat I’ve ever been in,” said Mr. Alday, the chief executive of the Cima Solutions Group, an information technology company. The Vonlane bus Mr. Alday rides has 16 reclining leather seats, Wi-Fi, an attendant who serves meals and beverages, a wireless printer, office supplies and a conference table with additional seating. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Israel and Hamas Trade Blows on 50th Day of Operation Protective Edge

August 26th 2014

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Israeli missiles hit one of the tallest buildings in Gaza early Tuesday, wounding at least 20 Palestinians.

The missiles struck the 13-story office and apartment tower after dark following Israeli warnings that an attack was coming.

Israeli airstrikes killed at least eight people Monday while the army said 80 Hamas rockets fell on Israeli territory, causing no casualties.

Egypt, which led failed peace talks earlier this month, is again appealing to Israel and Hamas to call a truce and reopen negotiations.

Cairo is proposing opening key crossings into Gaza to let in humanitarian aid and material to repair damaged buildings.

On Monday, Palestinian officials appeared to accept the Egyptian proposal. There was no word from the Israelis.

Nearly two months of Israeli airstrikes in response to Hamas has killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including close to 500 children. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and four civilians have been killed. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Obama Authorizes Drone Flights over Syria

August 26th 2014

A senior White House official says President Barack Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria.

The official said late on August 25 that Obama has not approved any military action, but that the U.S. is preparing military options for combating the Islamic State fighters who have taken over large areas in eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq.

U.S. planes have been carrying out airstrikes in Iraq, helping Iraqi and Kurdish forces take back territory from the militants, including a dam in Mosul that is key to providing power to many in Iraq.

Pentagon officials have expressed the need to go after the Islamic State group on both sides of the border. Read more ..


The Shaking Earth

California Declares Disaster Following Worst Quake in 25 Years

August 24th 2014

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for portions of the state, following the biggest earthquake to shake the San Francisco Bay area in 25 years.

The 6.0 magnitude quake struck in the middle of the night Sunday, jolting people out of bed and knocking merchandise off store shelves.

More than 100 people were reported injured.

The quake was centered between San Francisco and Sacramento. Most of the damage is in and around the town of Napa, in northern California's picturesque wine-making region.

The quake was centered between San Francisco and Sacramento. Most of the damage is in and around the town of Napa, in northern California's picturesque wine-making region. Read more ..


The Battle for Libya

Amidst Renewed Turmoil, Libyan Rebels Claim International Airport

August 24th 2014

Libya is engulfed in new political turmoil, with an Islamist militia openly challenging the legitimacy of the country's elected parliament, after its fighters took control of Tripoli's battered international airport.

After seizing the airport in the Libyan capital, the militia from the coastal city of Misrata called Sunday for the old General National Congress to be reinstated.

It alleged the parliament elected in June was complicit in mysterious airstrikes on Misrati positions at the airport as its militiamen fought rival fighters from the mountainous region of Zintan for six weeks for control of the key facility. Read more ..


The Battle for Baghdad

Suicide Bombings Leave Dozens Dead in Iraq

August 23rd 2014

Bombings across Iraq have left at least 30 people dead, a day after an assault on a Sunni mosque killed at least 60 worshipers as they attended weekly prayers, in the government-controlled village of Bani Wais in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad.

Officials say a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into an Interior Ministry building in Baghdad on August 23, killing at least eight people and wounding several others. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on the ministry's intelligence headquarters.

Iraqi officials say three bombs erupted in Kirkuk, killing at least 18 and wounding more than 100 others. Another bomb rattled the normally quiet city of Irbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region.

The Reuters news agency also reports a deadly bombing in Tikrit. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Biden: ISIS Can be Defeated Without US Boots on the Ground

August 23rd 2014

Iraq ISIL double file of militants

Vice President Biden expressed confidence that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria could be defeated without U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq, calling the militant group "far from invincible."

In a Washington Post op-ed published Friday, Biden described the threat as a "long-term challenge" but said the United States is prepared to increase its support in the fight.

"ISIL has no legitimate cause or grievance to espouse,” he said, using an alternate name for the group. "And as we saw at the Mosul dam, when its fighting strength is eroded, it can be routed by local forces without U.S. boots on the ground."

The United States launched 60 airstrikes — two-thirds of all U.S. operations — in helping Iraqi and Kurdish forces retake the Mosul dam, which the adminisration said could have been catastrophic if it was breached. Biden called the mission last week the first operation where the Kurdish pesh merga and Iraq security forces worked together. Read more ..


Department of State Denies Partnership with Syrian Dictator Bashr al-Assad

August 22nd 2014

The United States would not consider partnering with the Assad regime to address the threat posed by Islamist militants who have seized areas within Syria and Iraq, the State Department said Friday.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a radical militant group operating across the border, has been fighting both the Syrian and Iraqi governments in a bid to create a radical caliphate carved out of those two countries.

The U.S. has joined with Iraqi and Kurdish forces to target ISIS fighters in Iraq, and vowed to pursue the group more vigorously following the taped execution of American photojournalist James Foley.

But those efforts will not include partnering with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Nearly 200,000 Syrians are estimated to have died in that country's civil war, and the administration has previously said that Assad should be removed from power over his role in that conflict. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Russian Incursion into Ukraine--Fires Artillery without Resistance

August 22nd 2014

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Russian convoy

Russia has emplaced army artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukraine and is firing at Ukrainian military units. NATO officials averred the report on August 22. This is the first time NATO has announced that it had evidence of the direct involvement of the Russian military in the fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists. Currently, Ukraine is fighting a pitched battle with the separatists in the eastern cities of Luhansk and Donetsk.

The former has been without water, electricity or phone services for nearly two weeks. This report came on the same day that a convoy of Russian trucks, ostensibly carrying only humanitarian supplies, crossed from Russia into Ukraine without official permission from the government in Kyiv. A statement from the Ukrainian government concurred that Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

American and European Diplomats Working on UN Security Council Resolution on Gaza War

August 22nd 2014

Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations

U.N. diplomats say the United States and European nations are working on a Security Council resolution to end fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

A two-page document circulated Thursday calls for an immediate end to Hamas rocket attacks and Israeli military operations that have killed over 2,050 Palestinians and 67 Israelis in the past six weeks.

The document also calls for lifting the long-standing Israeli blockade of Gaza, opening all border crossings into the coastal enclave, and returning the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority to control there.

An international monitoring mechanism would be established in order to verify those steps, as well as to ensure the flow of goods entering Gaza does not include weapons or tunnel-building materials for Hamas. Read more ..


Terrorism at Home

Defense Department is Increasingly Worried about Radicalized Muslim Americans and Europeans

August 21st 2014

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel briefed reporters on August 21 at the Pentagon on the major threat that the Islamic State poses to the United States. "They are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it's in Iraq or anywhere else," Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon. When asked if the Islamic State, which is dominated by Sunni Muslims, poses a threat comparable to that of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hagel said it was "as sophisticated and well-funded as any group we have seen." He added, "They are beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of ... military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded. This is beyond anything we've seen."

This assessment of Islamic State, whose strength has snowballed throughout the year as it moved from Syria to northern Iraq, came just days after the group posted a video on social media showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Hamas Admits to the Kidnapping and Murder of 3 Teens, Calling it "a Blessed Heroic Act"

August 21st 2014

Sorrow-Pain

A senior Hamas official indicated on Wednesday that Hamas was responsible for the June 12 kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens near Hebron. The three were picked up while hitchhiking at a junction in Judea south of Jerusalem, sparking a nationwide manhunt that ended when their bodies were discovered several weeks later.

The admission by Sheikh Saleh al-Arouri came during a conference of Muslim scholars. In a recording of the conference, al-Arouri is heard praising the "kidnapping to Hebron of the three settlers," describing it as “blessed heroic action” which was “carried out by the al-Qassam Brigades,” Hamas's military wing.

The terror group has a large political and military presence throughout Judea and Samaria. Hebron has long been a Hamas stronghold, leading Israeli intelligence to suspect Hamas operatives located in the vicinity of the attack, and to the subsequent roundup of hundreds of Hamas members throughout the region. Hamas retaliated to the arrests with a continuous barrage of rocket fire from the Gaza strip aimed at Israeli civilians throughout the country, compelling Israel to launch Operation Protective Edge to defend its population. Read more ..


Broken Government

AG Holder Meets with Parents of Michael Brown of Ferguson MO

August 21st 2014

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Attorney General Eric Holder met with the parents of Michael Brown Wednesday afternoon at the Eagleton federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis.

They met at the office of the U.S. attorney investigating the Aug. 9 shooting of the African-American teenager, whose death at the hands of police has sparked riots.

Holder also met with Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has huddled in recent days with community leaders in Ferguson, where the shooting took place. Reps. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) joined the meeting along with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Blunt has pressed Holder to allow state and local officials to complete their investigation of the shooting. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama's Failed Attempt to Free American Journalist Beheaded by Islamic State

August 21st 2014

U.S. special forces attempted an unsuccessful rescue operation in Syria earlier this summer to free American journalist James Foley and other hostages being held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), administration officials said Wednesday.

The administration disclosed the mission one day after ISIS released a video showing a member of the extremist group beheading Foley. The group is threatening to kill another U.S. journalist in captivity, unless the U.S. halts airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq.

“The President authorized action at this time because it was the national security team’s assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in ISIL custody,” said Obama Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco in a statement, using an alternate name for the terror group. Read more ..


Bordering on Crisis

Catholic Bishop Condemns Mexico's Treatment of Migrants

August 20th 2014

"Human trafficking is modern-day slavery that affects mainly women and children", said Catholic Bishop Raúl Vera of Saltillo, the capital of the Mexican state of Coahila. He denounced that the number of people who are victims of human trafficking and exploitation is on the rise while Mexican authorities do little about it. This comes while thousands of Central American migrants, fearful of narcotics-fuelled violence, lackadaisical govrenment, and poverty continue to seek refuge in the United States. Relying on smugglers, migrants cross the border into the U.S. while many fall victim to violent smugglers and drug gangs, or succumb to the heat of the desert.

"Migrants are the sector that suffers the most in Coahuila, and they are part of the population who are completely unprotected." said Bishop Vera López on August 19. He noted that the problem of human trafficking stems from the migration of people (especially El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) who are seeking a better life or reunion with family members in the U.S.  Read more ..


The Battle for Baghdad

White House is 'Appalled' by ISIS Murder of American Journalist

August 20th 2014

James Foley, RIP

The Islamic State militant group has released a video purportedly showing the beheading of a American journalist. The video, titled "A Message To America," was posted on social media sites on August 19. A man dressed in black, with a covered face, demanded in the video to a cessation of the current air strikes against IS positions by the United States.

The victim was identified by the militants as James Foley, a freelancer who was kidnapped in Syria in November 2012. In the five-minute video, a masked militant who speaks with a British accent says Foley was killed in revenge for recent U.S. air strikes against IS positions in northern Iraq. Moments before his death, Foley was heard to say on the video "I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope for freedom to see my family once again." Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Israel Strikes at the Heart of Hamas as Ceasefire Breaks Down

August 20th 2014

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Israel attempted to assassinate Hamas commander Muhammed Deif in an airstrike on Gaza following a series of rocket volleys originating in Gaza. Deif’s wife and child were killed, while a third unidentified body was found. Israel, however, Israel has not confirmed that the body is Deif’s. He had survived an earlier attempt on his life by Israeli defense forces. Deif has topped Israel's wanted lists for years, as mastermind of deadly suicide bombings more than a decade ago. He is currently believed to be a behind-the-scenes leader of Hamas's campaign against Israel.

Palestinian health officials said the strike on a house in Gaza City killed three people but did not provide any details about the third victim. Palestinian medical sources claim that at least 16 Gazans have been killed since August 19.

The air strike was one of a series of responses by the Israeli air force to renewed attacks from Gaza. The strikes have killed 11 Palestinians, according to Hamas. For its part, Israel has recalled 2,000 reservists who had been sent home during a truce between the sides. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Gazan Terrorists Kill Ceasefire - Rockets Fired at Beer Sheva Area

August 19th 2014

Close-up Hamas terrorist balaclava bullets AK-47

Terrorists from Gaza fired three long-range rockets at the Beer Sheva area this afternoon, thus ending the 8 day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. No terror organization has yet to claim responsibility for the attack.

An IDF spokesman confirmed that the three rockets fell in open areas, causing no damage or injuries. Reports indicate that no warning sirens were sounded when the rockets exploded in Israel. Further initial reports indicate that Israel's government has ordered the IDF to resume its strikes against terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. 

Shai Hajaj, Head of the Merchavim Municipal Council in the Negev, voiced concern and disappointment on the current situation: "The terrorist organizations lead by Hamas do not respect agreements time after time. We will not accept fire on our communities and the government must care for the safety of its citizens. The school year is scheduled to commence in the coming days and the buildings are not properly fortified. There are only a few bomb shelters which cannot properly facilitate the student population, and they are too far away to reach in time," he said. Read more ..


Broken Government

Despite the Missouri National Guard, Disturbances Still Wrack Ferguson

August 19th 2014

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Protesters and police engaged in fresh clashes late on August 18 in Ferguson, Missouri, amid tensions linked to the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.

Police in riot gear fired stun grenades and tear gas at protesters who gathered on the streets of Ferguson, which had descended into chaos following peaceful protests. Molotov cocktails were thrown in the direction of heavily armored police, and gunshots were fired.

A police official, Captain Ron Johnson, told reporters early on August 18 that police came under heavy attack but did not fire a shot. He said two people were wounded by shots fired from within the crowd of protesters. Many protesters seemed to be defying orders from police to disperse, and Johnson said 31 people were arrested. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama is Sending Attorney General Holder to Ferguson MO

August 18th 2014

Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday as part of the Justice Department’s investigation of the shooting by police of an unarmed black teenager.

Holder will meet with law enforcement and other officials about the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer, President Obama announced Monday.

The shooting has set off two weeks of demonstrations, as well as rioting and looting, in the St. Louis suburb. Police and witnesses have given different stories about how Brown was killed. An initial autopsy by Brown’s family revealed he had been shot six times. Read more ..


Broken Government

Missouri Governor Cancels Midnight Curfew for Ferguson but Sends in Troops

August 18th 2014

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In a statement released today, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) rescinded a midnight curfew in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, which entered its second week of rioting with two consecutive nights of chaos. Governor Nixon spelled the reasons for sending the Missouri National Guard to beleaguered Ferguson. The Guard is coming, said the governor, to "provide protection" and ensure the safety of the police command center that was attacked on the night of August 17.

The St Louis suburb has been sundered by protests and arson and other acts violence ever since the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown (18) by police officer Darren Wilson. Read more ..


Broken Government

House Speaker Boehner admits Obama 'Not Prepared for the Job'

August 18th 2014

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) blasted President Obama’s domestic and foreign policies in a recent radio interview, saying Obama was “not prepared for the job.”

“While the president thinks that giving a speech is leadership, it really isn’t,” Boehner told Scott Hennen of KTGO in North Dakota.

Boehner, who’s in the middle of a multi-state bus tour appearing at events for members and candidates, said the president’s policies have not worked, but “he won’t admit that.“
He said people still asking, ”Where are the jobs?” Read more ..


America on Edge

Curfew and State of Emegency Declared in Ferguson

August 17th 2014

Paramilitary police Ferguson Missouri

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) declared a state of emergency and a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m., in Ferguson, Mo., on Saturday. Protests erupted over the past week after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. As looters attacked local businesses Friday night and others guarded stores to protect them from theft, Nixon imposed a curvew to "maintain peace.”

"We will not allow a handful of looters to endanger the rest of this community,” Nixon said at a news conference in Ferguson. “If we're going to achieve justice, we must first have and maintain peace.”

Nixon earlier in the week replaced the St. Louis County police, who had been criticized for using tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters, with the Missouri Highway Patrol, who took a more hands-off approach. Read more ..


Broken Government

Perry Calls Indictment 'Abuse Of Power,' Vows To Fight Charges

August 16th 2014

Rick Perry - Texas 2014

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) forcefully stood behind his actions after he was indicted on Friday, and called the decision to charge him "an abuse of power."

Perry was indicted on felony charges by a grand jury in Austin for allegedly abusing his veto power to force the resignation of a Democratic prosecutor. The charges point to a threat Perry made to veto funding for the public corruption unit under Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, unless she resigned after a drunk driving arrest. She did not resign and Perry vetoed the funding.

Prosecutors say the threat was abuse of his official capacity and coercion of a public servant, but Perry stands by his actions.

"I exercised this authority to veto funding for an office whose leadership had lost the public's confidence," he said at a press conference Saturday in Austin, the state capital. "I wholeheartedly and unequivocally stand behind my veto." 

Perry ran for president in 2012 and appears to be considering another run, having made high profile visits to Iowa.

He said the indictment was politically motivated. "We don’t settle political differences with indictments in this country," he said. The governor went on rhetorical offense, setting up a situation where both Perry and the prosecution accuse each other of abusing power. Read more ..


Financing the Flames

UN Funds Organization Seeking to Prosecute IDF soldiers

August 15th 2014

Chinese currency

Read more ..

Broken Government

Pressure Mounts on Congress to Address Militarized Cops Nationwide

August 15th 2014

Groups on the left and right are uniting behind calls to end what they say is the rise of a "militarized" police force in the United States.

They say the controversial police tactics seen this week in Ferguson, Mo., are not isolated to the St. Louis County police department and warn the rise of heavily armed law enforcement agencies has become an imminent threat to civil liberties.
“What we're seeing today in Ferguson is a reflection of the excessive militarization of police that has been happening in towns across America for decades,” said Kara Dansky, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Read more ..


America and Israel

U.S./Israel Relations Reach New Low over Weapons Transfer Delay

August 15th 2014

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Deputy State Department spokesperson Marie Harf denied Thursday night a Wall Street Journal's report claiming a change in US policy regarding arms supplies to Israel.

Harf said that the US was concerned about civilian deaths in Gaza. "We thought Israel could do more to prevent civilian casualties," she said. "Due to the crisis in Gaza we took additional care like we would take in any crisis. We took steps to look at (munitions) deliveries. … We wanted to look at things a little bit harder."

There was "no change in policy" regarding the US supply of arms to Israel, she said, adding, "The additional care we are taking is not permanent. …The US commitment to Israel's security is unshakable."

Despite the American assurances, according to Israeli daily Haaretz, Israeli senior officials have been holding discussions with the American administration in attempt also to remove any limitations placed by Washington on weapon shipments to Israel as a result of the fighting in Gaza. "We are speaking with them to try and return the situation to its previous [state]," one of the senior officials said. Read more ..


Obama's 'Unhelpful' Remarks about Police Tactics in Ferguson, Missouri

August 14th 2014

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The executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police criticized President Obama Thursday for his remarks about law enforcement in Ferguson, Mo.

"I would contend that discussing police tactics from Martha's Vineyard is not helpful to ultimately calming the situation," director Jim Pasco said in an interview with The Hill.

"I think what he has to do as president and as a constitutional lawyer is remember that there is a process in the United States and the process is being followed, for good or for ill, by the police and by the county and by the city and by the prosecutors’ office," Pasco added. Read more ..


Ukraine on Edge

Russia's Putin Promises More Action in Ukraine

August 14th 2014

President Vladimir Putin says Russia will do its utmost to stop the bloodshed in Ukraine, where government forces are fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east. Putin was speaking at an August 14 meeting with Russian lawmakers in Crimea, which Russia annexed in March.

He said Ukraine "has sunk into bloody chaos, in a fratricidal conflict," and that the situation was deteriorating with each passing day. However, the Russian leader did not spell out how Russia intended to help end the conflict in eastern Ukraine. He also said that Russia must not "fence itself off from the outside world" and should not break ties with partners. "But we should also not let them treat us with disdain," he said. Read more ..


Gaza on Edge

In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

August 13th 2014

Gaza violence Jun 2012

By day, except for the high hum of surveillance drones or bursts of bombs and artillery fire, parts of the Gaza Strip seem unnaturally quiet. 

Few pedestrians or vehicles move along Gaza City’s once-bustling commercial streets, with residents preferring to hunker down at home – if they have one. Donkeys and camels wander along the Israeli-Gaza buffer zone, stirring when armored tanks roll through.

Routine has been upended here since Israel began its July 8 offensive to halt Hamas militants from firing rockets at it from Gaza. Now the busiest gathering spots are the 85 sites where nearly 200,000 displaced Palestinians have taken refuge.   

By evening, anxiety rises throughout Gaza, residents say, noting Israeli airstrikes intensify at night and into the early morning.

A case in point: Just before daybreak Wednesday, Israeli artillery shells pummeled a United Nations-run school compound where as many as 3,000 had sought shelter. At least 19 people were killed and scores were wounded at the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

Several hours later, we surveyed the devastation. A wall had caved in on the classroom where most of the victims had bedded down, and blankets littered the floor along with traces of flesh and blood. Some refugees accused the West of complicity for supplying funding that armed the Israelis. Their comments echoed those of other Gaza Palestinians, who say the weapons being used to destroy their homes and their lives come from the United States, other Western powers and multinationals. On Wednesday, U.S. defense officials said they would resupply Israeli’s military with ammunition, including grenade launchers. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama Concentrates on Golf at Martha's Vineyard

August 12th 2014

Obama gesticulates

President Obama is wasting no time hitting the links on his two-week vacation. The commander in chief went to the golf course his first two days in Martha’s Vineyard.

After spending just half an hour on Saturday at his rental digs (a $12 million, seven-bedroom abode), Obama teed up for his first game of golf, according to White House press pool reports. One of his partners on the golf course was basketball star Ray Allen.

Obama also ventured back to the course the next day, accompanied by three golfing partners.

The putting green has been a staple of the first family’s vacation plans, which have included a visit to the Massachusetts island every year except 2012, when it would have fallen smack in the middle of the presidential election campaign season. Picking up a club was also one of the first moves Obama made during his August stay last year.

Read more ..

The Battle for Baghdad

SecState Kerry Vows No More Boots on the Ground in Iraq

August 12th 2014

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Secretary of State John Kerry has ruled out sending combat troops to Iraq, and urged Iraqi prime minister-designate Haidar al-Abadi to quickly form an inclusive government. Kerry was in Sydney, along with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, for annual U.S.-Australian ministerial talks.

While the United States has conducted air strikes against extremist Islamic State militants in northern Iraq, John Kerry said that American combat troops would not be sent to join the fight.

Kerry said the solution to the crisis in Iraq was a “unified and inclusive” government in Baghdad that embraced all Iraqis. The Americans are supporting the nomination of Haider al-Abadi as Iraq's prime minister-designate in place of the incumbent Nouri Maliki. Read more ..


The Edge of Hate

Miami Fears that Murdered Rabbi was Victim of Hate-Crime

August 11th 2014

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The Jewish community of Miami, Florida, is offering a reward in the amount of $50,000 for information leading to arrests of the alleged perpetrators of a murder that has frightened a city otherwise accustomed to violent crime. On August 9, Rabbi Joseph Raksin hy''d, 60, was shot to death as he walked to a local synagogue, Bais Menachem Chabad. According to the Miami Herald, there are reports that he was shot by two young African-American males who then fled after committing the deed.

Family members, friends, and other members of the Crown Heights Jewish community of New York had arrived in Florida last week to visit his daughter for one week. Elehana Giezinsky, 56, told the New York Post that her community is not accepting the current theory bruited about by Miami police that this was an ordinary robbery attempt and murder. "It was not a robbery. The criminal element in Miami and New York knows that the Orthodox (Jews) don’t carry money on the Sabbath," she said. She added that the murder has left the rabbi's wife and six children "shocked and devastated." Lieb Ezagui, the rabbi's son-in-law, fears that "he was targeted because he was Jewish. They walked up and shot him and just walked away cold. They didn’t even try to rob him." Read more ..


The Battle for Baghdad

Iraqi President Maliki Battles Political Opponents while Islamic State Advances

August 11th 2014

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Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he will file a lawsuit on August 11 against President Fouad Massoum, alleging violations of the country's constitution as he tries to stay in the post he has held since 2006. Maliki, whose coalition won the most seats in April elections, says the president violated the constitution by failing to name a new prime minister from the country's largest parliamentary bloc by an August 10 deadline.

The United Nations and United States have expressed support for Massoum and the selection of a prime minister who will lead an inclusive new Iraqi government.

Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special representative for Iraq, said on August 11 that President Massoum is acting in line with the constitution and called on Iraqi security forces to refrain from actions that could be seen at interfering in the political process. His statement came as police officials reported large deployments of special forces in key sections of Baghdad, including the so-called Green Zone that houses Iraq's major institutions.

Secretary of State John Kerry said forming a government is critical for Iraq's stability and urged Maliki to avoid inflaming the situation. Read more ..


Aviation on Edge

Passenger Plane Crashes at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport --40 Feared Dead

August 10th 2014

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An airplane carrying 40 passengers crashed in a residential area after taking off from Tehran's Mehrabad airport on Sunday morning, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported, citing a spokesman for the Iranian Red Crescent Society and its own reporter. Initial reports were that 40 passengers, including seven children, were killed in the crash, IRNA reported. No information was available on whether anyone on the ground was injured. The plane was bound for Tabas in northeastern Iran and crashed into the Azad residential block on Mina 6 Boulevard, it reported.

IRNA reported that an engine shutdown caused the crash. Iran's aviation sector has suffered repeated crashes which have been blamed by Iranian politicians on international sanctions. Those sanctions have restricted Iranian carriers from buying new aircraft. For years, planes have been kept in service through parts imported on the black market, cannibalised from other planes or reproduced locally, aviation sources say. Read more ..


The Battle for Baghdad

U.S. Aid for Stranded Iraqi Refugees Trickles In

August 10th 2014

The U.S. military continues to drop humanitarian aid to refugees stranded in the mountains of northern Iraq, about 200 kilometers from the Kurdish capital of Irbil.

Three airdrops have delivered more than 52,000 meals and more than 10,600 gallons of fresh drinking water to the displaced Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities who fled to the hills in fear of the violent advance by Islamic State fighters.

The U.S. military says it also has carried out four more airstrikes against Islamic State militants who were firing on civilians in northern Iraq.

The U.S. Central Command said Saturday's strikes involved jet fighters and drones and targeted armored carriers and a truck. It described the strikes near Sinjar as successful. Read more ..



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