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Obama's Second Term

The United States and Cuba Begin Restoring Relations

December 18th 2014

Cuban Capitol

The United States and Cuba on Dec. 17 took their most assertive step in several decades toward normalizing relations. The most important announcements concerned the resumption of high-level political discussions focused on renewing formal diplomatic ties between the countries, which have been nonexistent since 1961. Cuban and U.S. officials will hold high-level meetings in the coming months, and the two countries will work toward establishing embassies in Havana and Washington. The United States will also immediately relax some sanctions on trade and travel to Cuba. President Barack Obama announced that the United States would loosen certain restrictions on financial transactions with Cuba, remove some restrictions on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, and authorize the export of certain goods to the Cuban private sector.

Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

U.S.-Cuba Rapprochement in the Offing

December 17th 2014

Alan Gross and Judy Gross

President Obama will announce Wednesday that the U.S. is beginning talks with Havana to normalize full diplomatic relations with Cuba following the release of a U.S. prisoner jailed for five years by the country. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in a press release hailed the decision to seek a normalization of relations with Cuba, while The Associated Press reported the U.S. would use the talks to open an embassy in the island nation. “Opening the door with Cuba for trade, travel, and the exchange of ideas will create a force for positive change in Cuba that more than 50 years of our current policy of exclusion could not achieve,” Durbin said in his release.

Obama is expected to deliver a statement at noon from the White House. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

White House insists that Relations Between Obama and Warren are Still Good

December 15th 2014

The White House says President Obama has a good relationship with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is battling Obama on a host of high-profile issues.

Warren, picked by Obama to be a special assistant to the president in his first term, led a liberal insurrection to the Obama-backed $1.1 trillion government-funding bill last week.

Warren has also rallied opposition to Obama’s nomination of Antonio Weiss to the Treasury Department. Warren has slammed Weiss, the head of global investment banking firm Lazard, for his company’s role in facilitating so-called “inversions,” where companies merge with international partners in a bid to avoid U.S. taxes. Read more ..


Broken Government

Senate Passes $1.1 Stopgap Spending Bill in the Nick of Time

December 14th 2014

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The Senate voted 56-40 late Saturday evening to pass a $1.1 trillion spending package that funds most of the government through next September.

The vote culminates a week of acrimonious sniping and sends the spending bill to President Obama’s desk for a signature.

The debate exposed divisions within the Democratic and Republican caucuses on both sides of the Capitol and sets the stage for what could be a year of internecine squabbling in 2015.
Twenty-one Senate Democrats voted against the bill while 24 Republicans voted for it, including every member of the Senate GOP leadership.

Democratic opponents included several senators rumored to have presidential ambitions such as Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) Read more ..


Broken Government

Senate Democratic Leader foresees Government Shutdown

December 13th 2014

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) accused a small group of Senate Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), of risking a government shutdown by playing politics with the year-end spending omnibus.

“Regrettably a small group of Senate republicans has determined it’s in their political interests to hold this legislation hostage,” Reid fumed on the Senate floor shortly after noon Saturday.

Reid warned that a government shutdown is looming because Republicans objected to passing a five-day stopgap funding measure by unanimous consent on Friday.
Government funding expires at midnight Saturday unless the Senate approves with unanimous consent a House-passed measure to keep federal agencies open through Wednesday. Read more ..


Broken Government

House Approves $1.1 Trillion Budget and Avoids Government Shutdown

December 12th 2014

The House on Thursday approved a $1.1 trillion bill funding most of the government through September despite an outcry from Democrats and significant defections in both parties.

By a vote of 219-206, the House sent the bill to the Senate, where a similar debate may break out between liberal Democrats and the White House.

The vote split Democratic leaders, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opposing the bill and criticizing the White House, but Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) backing it. Fifty-seven Democrats voted for the bill, while 139 opposed it. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Obama Won't Stop for a Government Shut-Down to Move on Immigration

December 11th 2014

Even if Republicans shut down the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) next year, President Obama could still carry out his executive actions giving legal status to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders have punted the funding fight over Obama’s immigration action to February, arguing their new majority will have more leverage to stop the plan dead in its tracks.

But it’s unclear how much weight the threat of withholding funding would carry. Eighty-five percent of DHS employees continued to work during last year’s 16-day shutdown because they were funded with mandatory funds or deemed “essential” to national security or public safety, according to figures the Congressional Research Service (CRS) tracked down for GOP lawmakers. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

The Surprises Coming in the $1.014 Trillion Federal Spending Bill

December 8th 2014

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Outside groups are bracing for surprises in the massive government-funding bill the Congress is expected to consider next week.

The $1.014 trillion bill funding most of the government through September 2015 is one of the last trains out of the station, as the 113th Congress is set to close shop on Friday.

That means it could be a final chance for lobbyists and lawmakers alike to find a vehicle for their priorities. “We’re ready to be surprised,” said Steve Ellis, vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense, which regularly highlights hidden measures included in funding bills.

Appropriators preparing the bill are keeping a tight lid on its contents. They are expected to release the legislation on Monday. The government will shutdown on Dec. 12 if Congress does not approve a new funding measure by then. Read more ..


After Ferguson

'Racism is Deeply Rooted' says Obama before Television Interview Tonight

December 7th 2014

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President Obama will sit down with BET Networks to discuss calls for criminal justice reform after two controversial grand jury decisions cleared white officers in the death of black men.

In a special segment, "BET News Presents: A Conversation with President Barack Obama," the president will help find meaningful solutions to unrest after the deaths of Michael and Eric Garner sparked nationwide protests.

"This isn't going to be solved overnight," Obama said in an excerpt of the interview to air Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. The interview, hosted by BET host and TV journalist Jeff Johnson, marks the president's first network discussion outlining his strategy to investigate the incidents and ways the country can unify during this time. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Obama is Upset about Decapitation in Yemen

December 6th 2014

President Obama on Saturday condemned the "barbaric murder" by al Qaeda of U.S. hostage Luke Somers in Yemen during a rescue attempt by U.S. forces. "On behalf of the American people, I offer my deepest condolences to Luke’s family and to his loved ones," he said in a statement.

"As this and previous hostage rescue operations demonstrate, the United States will spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence, and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located. And terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice," he continued. The president said he authorized a raid Friday to rescue Somers and other U.S. hostages held in the same location as the photojournalist, who was captured 15 months ago in Yemen's capital Sanaa. Read more ..


Ukraine on Edge

Ukraine Not Worried about Nuclear Accident and Blackouts

December 4th 2014

Ukraine's new energy minister says an accident at a nuclear power plant in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhya last week did not involve a nuclear reactor and caused no radiation leakage.

Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn told reporters in Kyiv on December 3 that the accident on November 28 occurred in the energy transfer system of the plant's No. 3 power-generating unit, not a reactor.

"There is no radiation leakage," he said, and nobody was hurt.

Demchyshyn's statement followed reports that Ukraine had introduced rolling blackouts across the country -- including in Crimea, which Russia annexed in March -- due to shortages in the power grid.

Media reports said the shortages were caused in part by the shutdown of the 1,000-megawatt power generating unit at the Zaporizhzhya plant. Demchyshyn says it is expected to resume operations by December 5.  Read more ..


Broken Borders

Today is the Day for Republican Immigration Reform

December 2nd 2014

When Speaker John Boehner steps before House GOP lawmakers in a private meeting Tuesday, he’ll try to rally his conference to both fight President Obama’s immigration order and stave off another government shutdown.

But the Ohio Republican will also have to contend with another threat: a handful of conservative rebels who have refused to commit to backing the Speaker in a formal vote on the House floor in January.

In a closed-door election last month, Boehner easily won another two years as Speaker. And no one on Capitol Hill believes he will have trouble securing the 218 Republican votes he needs to hang onto his gavel — especially given the GOP’s historic gains at the ballot box in the November midterm elections. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Republicans in a Muddle over Alternatives to Obama Immigration Initiative

December 1st 2014

Republicans in and out of Congress are urging GOP leaders to move quickly on immigration reform in response to President Obama’s executive actions.

The GOP voices say Republican lawmakers should take the reins of the immigration debate with new legislation, both to bolster their party ahead of the 2016 elections and to push back against Obama. “The best way to criticize governing through fiat is to offer an alternative,” said Republican activist Grover Norquist.

“What appears to be the smart move, and what they’re going to do, is do immigration reform through normal legislative [channels],” said Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. “Do it in a way that Republicans find acceptable, meaning take the border seriously [and] think of America’s economic needs. Move forward on that and let him [Obama] be over in the corner stamping his feet.” Read more ..


America on Edge

UN Committee Against Torture Condemns American Police Brutality

November 29th 2014

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The U.N. Committee Against Torture has condemned reported police brutality and excessive use of force in the United States, especially against minority groups.

The 10-member watchdog committee's report, released Friday, urged U.S. authorities to crack down on perpetrators and punish those suspected of torture or ill treatment.

The Committee Against Torture did not examine the August killing of Michael Brown, the black teenager shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. While calling Brown’s death a tragedy, the panel said it could not comment on the case because it had to respect the judicial decision that exonerated the officer, Darren Wilson. Read more ..


America on Edge

What to Watch as the Ferguson Drama Continues to Unfold

November 27th 2014

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The long Thanksgiving holiday weekend is going to be dominated by one story: Ferguson and its aftermath.

Protests are likely to quiet as families gather around the table to celebrate the holiday - with many discussing the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson, Mo., to not bring an indictment against police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American. The political world has taken notice of Ferguson, particularly with demonstrations spreading across the country. The degree to which the story continues to dominate discussions may depend on five factors.

Will President Obama go to Ferguson?

Obama, the nation’s first black president, has already addressed the racially-charged Ferguson decision twice. The president is unlikely to make a trip on Thanksgiving, and the Secret Service would surely want to make sure any presidential visit is safe. Read more ..


Supreme Leader says Iran will continue Support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad

November 26th 2014

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that his country will continue to support the Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza as well as rival Hamas and Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

The three terror organizations have collectively fired many thousands of rockets at Israel.

“We are not bound by religious differences; we equally supported Shiite #Hezbollah along w/#Hamas & #IslamicJihad and will keep doing that,” he posted on a Twitter account widely believed to be operated by his office, adding, “We strengthened our Palestinian brothers’ fist in #Gaza & other areas & will do so. As I already said #WestBank should also be armed like Gaza.” Read more ..


America on Edge

Ferguson Verdict means 'Black Lives hold no Value' says Congressional Black Caucus Leader

November 25th 2014

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)

The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus said a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed a black teenager last summer sends the message that "black lives hold no value."

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the CBC's leader, called the decision a "miscarriage of justice" in a written statement.

"It is a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail," she added. "This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions. This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America," Fudge said. Read more ..


I'm No Lame Duck, Says President Obama

November 24th 2014

President Obama is governing like a man with nothing left to lose.

After being dealt a stinging midterm rebuke at the ballot box, Obama has gone on offense — most notably with executive action on immigration that could shield 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation.

The White House is winning news cycles and setting the national agenda, despite a Republican Congress that felt emboldened after their electoral gains. And the shift is infusing confidence into the White House and a Democratic base disheartened after the midterms. “We feel good on how the last two and a half weeks have gone here,” senior presidential adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Friday at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama Reforms Immigration on His Own and Tells GOP to 'Pass a Bill'

November 21st 2014

President Obama announced an expansive new set of executive actions in a prime-time address Thursday that the White House says will give legal status and work permits to 5 million illegal immigrants.

Obama hailed the moves as leading to a “more fair and more just” system in an address that lambasted Congress for not approving legislation and warned Republicans against triggering a government shutdown.

In a sharp rebuke to Republican critics, Obama challenged his political opposition to “pass a bill” if they did not like his actions, and argued his approach could not be dismissed as “amnesty.” Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Jordanian Parliament Honors Terrorists who Murdered Synagogue Worshippers

November 20th 2014

In an unprecedented gesture of hostility towards Israel, the Jordanian Parliament on Wednesday opened a cabinet meeting with a moment of silence for the two Palestinian terrorists who slaughtered five Israelis in a Jerusalem synagogue a day earlier, Israel’s NRG News reported.

Lower House Speaker, Atef Tarawneh, then went on to recite a prayer in memory of the “martyrs,” Uday and Rassan Abu-Jamal, killed by Israeli police as they shot and hacked to death four rabbis at prayer and a police officer who later succumbed to his wounds.

Along with the sixty second memorial, one MP demanded the governing body compose a letter condemning what he called “the Zionist attacks on Jerusalem and its inhabitants after a ‘heroic act’ committed by the two east Jerusalem residents.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Palestinian Terrorists Murder Four Worshippers at Jerusalem Synagogue

November 18th 2014

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At least four Jewish worshipers are dead, with at least four in critical or serious condition, in the wake of a terror attack at a crowded Jerusalem synagogue Tuesday morning, according to Israeli media reports.

Rabbi Moshe Twersky, 60, dean of the local Torat Moshe Yeshiva was the first victim named by Israel Radio. Twersky was the son of Rabbi Isadore Twersky, the founder of the New Harvard Center for Jewish Studies, and a scion of a noted rabbinic family.

The three other victims were named as Rabbi Avraham Goldberg, 68, Rabbi Arye Kupinsky, 43, and Rabbi Kalmen Levin, 55. One policeman is in critical condition, and is fighting for his life, according to medical officials.

Three of the victims, including Twersky, hold American citizenship, and the FBI has reportedly entered the investigation. Goldberg was British, and emigrated to Israel in 1991, according to friends. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obamacare Health Insurance Marketplace is Two Years Old and Counting

November 15th 2014

ObamaCare's health insurance marketplaces opened for general enrollment Saturday, a pivotal moment for the administration as it seeks to extend coverage to more uninsured Americans and avoid another disaster at HealthCare.gov.

The online portal to 37 states exchanges will be under close scrutiny for any signs of the problems that appeared last fall, when HealthCare.gov crashed and was almost unusable for weeks.

Federal health officials say the site is significantly stronger than it was on Oct. 1, 2013, and have promised that the process for signing up will be more consumer-friendly. Still, they acknowledge that some technical problems might arise as users log on to the system. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

New Voter 'Stupidity' Remarks Hands GOP New Ammunition against Obamacare

November 12th 2014

By - 11/12/14 06:55 PM EST
Comments about voter stupidity made by an ally of the Obama administration are turning into conservatives’ newest weapon against the president’s healthcare law.

A series of unearthed videos of ObamaCare consultant Jonathan Gruber insulting U.S. voters while saying a “lack of transparency” helped Congress pass the healthcare law are attracting serious attention on the right just as Republicans prepare to take control of the Senate.

The newly discovered remarks — revealed so far in three videos circulated by conservative media — add fuel to the GOP’s claim that Democrats were deliberately obscuring pieces of the law to assure its passage. Read more ..


Obamacare Architect Walks Back from Comment on 'Stupidity' of Voters

November 11th 2014

An architect of ObamaCare on Tuesday said he regretted his 2013 comment that a "lack of transparency" and the "stupidity of the American voter" helped Congress pass the healthcare law.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Jonathan Gruber made his first public comments on MSNBC after conservative media unearthed a video clip over the weekend of him discussing the healthcare law.

"The comments in the video were made at an academic conference," Gruber said on "Ronan Farrow Daily." "I was speaking off the cuff. I basically spoke inappropriately. I regret having made those comments." Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Republicans Reveal Strategy to Repeal Obamacare

November 10th 2014

Conservatives in Washington are adamant that Senate Republicans should pass a full repeal of the healthcare law next year, even it if means a certain veto from President Obama.

With Senate Democrats likely to filibuster any stand-alone repeal bill, conservatives say incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should use a procedural maneuver known as reconciliation to muscle through a bill with 51 votes. “Republicans should use reconciliation to fully repeal ObamaCare,” said Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “Voters know that nothing is a bigger threat to the budget and our economy than ObamaCare. Senator McConnell is on record saying that the law can be repealed with 51 votes and Republican voters expect him to keep his word." Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

The Shape and Design of Iran's Nuke

November 7th 2014

Iran Long-Range Missile

November 24, 2014 is a looming deadline for Iran, Israel, the United States and the world over its nuclear weapons program. Just hours ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] released a report summarized by its conclusion: “The Agency is not in a position to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities. Iran has not provided any explanations that enable the Agency to clarify the outstanding practical measures, nor has it proposed any new practical measures in the next step of the Framework for cooperation.”

Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, leading the international negotiations, has described the back and forth as “a forest of distrust.” At the same time, she declares, “Our bottom line is unambiguous … Iran will not, shall not obtain a nuclear weapon.” In the background, media revelations disclose secret correspondence between the Obama White House to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — kept even from Congressional leaders and America’s closest allies and Israel. Washington is struggling to enlist Tehran in the faltering campaign against the Islamic State. This process has juggled agreed numbers of centrifuges — a limit of 4,000 … or is it 10,000 … or is it something in between? Centrifuges are a critical component because each vertical cylinder slowly but steadily distills uranium into a highly enriched weapon-ready state. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Jubilant Republicans Ready for Senate Takeover

November 6th 2014

For Republicans, now comes the hard part: governing.

Fresh off its historic gains on Election Day, the GOP will soon have control of both the Senate and the House for the first time since 2007. Republicans are promising to fix Congress, knowing that they — for better or worse — will run a historically unpopular institution ahead of the 2016 elections.

Republican leaders know the mandate they received Tuesday will be short-lived if they cannot enact laws to boost what many voters see as a sluggish economy.
In a rare phone call with President Obama Wednesday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) identified two major areas of possible compromise: trade agreements and tax reform. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Democrats Shocked by Mid-Term Defeat

November 5th 2014

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Democrats on Wednesday morning began sorting through the wreckage of disastrous midterm elections in which losses eclipsed even their worst fears.

The scale of the defeats, taken together, was breathtaking: a Senate majority lost, over a dozen House seats swept away, and Democrats ousted from governors’ mansions across the country. The drubbing is sure to spark a round of soul-searching as Democrats ponder whether President Obama is to blame — or whether something deeper has gone wrong in the party that could threaten its chances of retaining the White House in 2016.

“This is where the administration has to take a real honest look at its decision-making and its management. Between the Veterans Administration, the health care website…it was a lot of things for the last two years that kept feeding this concern that Democrats aren’t able to manage this government,” said one Democratic strategist who requested anonymity to speak freely. Read more ..


Ukraine on Edge

Russia Confirms Separatist Elections in Eastern Ukraine with Troops and Tanks

November 3rd 2014

While Russian-led separatists in eastern Ukraine held elections on November 2, the Ukrainian government announced that "intensive" troop movements crossing over from Russia have cast doubt over a possible truce. Russia had backed the controversial balloting despite criticism from the West. The vote in the so-called Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic was condemned by authorities in Kiev and the West. The election was intended to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the pro-Russian authorities already in control of the two main rebel-held cities. The truce that was agreed by authorities in Kiev and the rebels appears seriously in doubt.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced the ballot in eastern Ukraine as a "farce that is being conducted under the threat of tanks and guns," while warning Russia not to recognize the result of the ballot. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Islamic State Militants Seize Stronghold of Rebels Backed by U.S. and Saudi Arabia

November 1st 2014

The terrorist forces affiliated to Al-Qaida seized the last stronghold of rebels back by Saudi Arabia and Western powers in Idlib – a province in northwestern Syria. This came on November 1 after days of intense fighting. With backing from similarly-minded Islamist groups, the Al-Nusra Front is seeking to exterminate the Syria Revolutionaries’ Front led by a Jamal Maarouf. The latter has been key to armed opposition to Syria’s dictator Bashr al-Assad and has received significant support from the United States and other Western countries. Islamist groups have accused him of corruption, as well as collaboration with the West.

Al-Nusra is the official affiliate of Al-Qaida in the war that has pitted various forces against the Assad regime. Once one of the strongest of the groupings opposed to Assad, it is now overshadowed by the Islamic State which now controls large extents of northern and eastern Syria. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Latinos No Longer Thrilled by Democrats

October 30th 2014

Democrats have lost their grip on Hispanic voters heading into Election Day—and in turn could lose the Senate because of them.

Even though Latinos split heavily for their party in 2012, mounting evidence suggests Hispanics could sit the midterms out after immigration reform has fallen from the White House agenda.

"There's no question it's going to affect Democrats in this midterm. There's no one to blame but Democrats themselves," said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Hispanic engagement group Presente Action.

A Pew poll out Wednesday revealed Democrats suffered an eight-point drop in support from Hispanic voters nationwide since 2010, down to 57 percent. Meanwhile, Republicans gained six points over the past four years, with 28 percent now saying they support a generic Republican House candidate. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Senate Democrats Sense the Ground Shifting Beneath Them

October 29th 2014

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Democrats’ path to holding their Senate majority has narrowed, with Republicans pulling ahead in critical states and on the cusp of upsets in several others.

Even some within the party are starting to say their midterm prognosis isn’t good.

“Democrats are, as we’ve talked about before, going to have a bad Election Day, no matter how you slice it,” former White House press secretary Jay Carney told CNN on Tuesday evening.

With wins in West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana all but certain, the GOP feels increasingly optimistic about its chances of flipping Arkansas, Alaska and Louisiana, and nabbing at least one of the two most competitive swing states, Iowa and Colorado. Now, the party is eyeing tightening races in New Hampshire and North Carolina —races Republicans promised all along would be competitive in the end — as signs a GOP wave is building, giving it more options in its pursuit of Senate control. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

How Hamas Instigated Operation Protective Edge

October 25th 2014

Tunnel  Access Point

Writing in Vanity Fair in an article published Tuesday, Adam Ciralsky offers a definitive account of the threats Israel faced this past summer; especially the threat of Hamas’ attack tunnels.

The threat portrayed by Ciralsky was provided by Israeli intelligence officials who put things together “through electronic intercepts, informants, interrogations of Hamas operatives, as well as computers and satellite imagery obtained from Hamas compounds during the war.” What the intelligence officials determined was “a surprise assault in which scores of heavily armed Hamas insurgents were supposedly set to emerge from more than a dozen cross-border tunnels and proceed to kill as many Israelis as possible.” Given these threats Israel was forced to launch Operation Protective Edge to defend its population.

Read more ..

The Edge of Terror

Canada on Lock-Down Following Terrorist Attack in Ottawa

October 23rd 2014

Canada's premier said his country will never be intimidated by terrorists, after a gunman killed a soldier in Ottawa and then stormed Parliament before he was shot dead. In a televised address on the evening of October 22, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the attack committed that day in Ottawa, along with another incident this week in Quebec that led to a soldier's death, are grim reminders that Canada is not immune to terrorism.

The prime minister spoke hours after dozens of gunshots rang out in Canada's parliament buildings in Ottawa when a gunman shot and killed a soldier guarding the nearby Canadian National War Memorial. The fallen soldier has been identified as Army Corporal Nathan Cirillo. The diseased was armed with a ceremonial weapon, which was not loaded, as he guarded the memorial to the fallen Canadians of the First World War. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Obama Diminishes Democrats' Mid-Term Election Prospects

October 22nd 2014

Political missteps by President Obama are unnerving Democrats just two weeks before the midterm elections.

The GOP could hardly contain its glee at what it viewed as Obama’s latest mistake: his comments that voters should support red-state Democrats who “vote with me” and “have supported my agenda in Congress.”

While the remarks on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show were intended to move black voters to the polls, they bolstered GOP attacks that a vote for Michelle Nunn in Georgia or Sen. Mark Pryor in Arkansas is essentially a vote for Obama. “Democrats running in the midterms have continually tried to distance themselves from Obama to no avail,” noted Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski, who said Democratic candidates should “be straight with voters about their relationship with Obama.” Read more ..


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 ..


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