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TODAY
Friday January 23rd, 2015

"It Is Not A Question of Who Is Right Or Wrong But What Is Right Or Wrong That Counts."
--Geoff Metctalf


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World & National     

Saudi King Abdullah, dead at 90
He was a gradual modernizer
              

His changes looked minute to the outside world. But in a kingdom where ultra-conservative Muslim clerics long have held a lock on all aspects of society, King Abdullah's incremental reforms echoed mightily.

When Abdullah took the unprecedented step of opening a new university where men and women could mix in classrooms, part of his gradual campaign to modernize Saudi Arabia, grumbling arose among the hard-liners who form the bedrock of the powerful relgious establishment. One sheikh dared to openly say that the mingling of genders at the king's university was "a great sin and a great evil."
Nudged Saudi Arabia Forward...
Sets up complex succession process...
Crown Prince Salman Said to Take Throne...
Oil surges...
Planned flogging of Saudi blogger postponed again...
Queen Elizabeth now world's oldest monarch...


White House officials say, Netanyahu 'spat in our face'?
PM ‘will pay price’ for spat over Congress address

               US President Barack Obama, November 13, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Christophe Archambault)

The White House’s outrage over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to speak before Congress in March — a move he failed to coordinate with the administration — began to seep through the diplomatic cracks on Friday, with officials telling Haaretz the Israeli leader had “spat” in President Barack Obama’s face.

“We thought we’ve seen everything,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed senior US official as saying. “But Bibi managed to surprise even us.

“There are things you simply don’t do. He spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price,” he said.




Partial list of Japanese hostage crises


The deadline set by Islamic militants threatening to kill two Japanese hostages unless Tokyo pays a $200 million ransom passed Friday with no news of their fate.

Here are some key hostage crises that have embroiled Japanese nationals abroad in the past.



Protests across Yemen a day after president, Cabinet resigns
                Houthi Shiite Yemeni wearing army uniforms stand atop an armored vehicle, which was seized from the army during recent clashes, outside the house of Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Heavily armed Shiite rebels remain stationed outside the Yemeni president's house and the palace in Sanaa, despite a deal calling for their immediate withdrawal to end a violent standoff. Photo: Hani Mohammed, AP / AP

Thousands of protesters demonstrated Friday across Yemen, some supporting the Shiite rebels who seized the capital and others demanding the country's south secede after the nation's president and Cabinet resigned.

President Abed Rabbo Hadi, a U.S. ally in its campaign against Yemen's local al-Qaida branch, stepped down Thursday with his Cabinet over the pressures by Houthi rebels who demanded a bigger share of government power. A faction of southerners, who oppose the Shiite power grab and live in what was a separate country until 1990, have seized the opportunity to press their case for independence.



Tax Evasion, Avoidance Costs United States $100 Billion A Year
'Activity appears to have increased substantially in recent years'

Companies and U.S. citizens shifting profits and income offshore are bilking the U.S. government out of $100 billion in tax revenue a year, according to a new analysis by a congressional research group.

Those using offshore tax havens to skirt paying taxes cost the U.S. government “around $100 billion per year,” according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which examined in a new report the many ways in which people cheat the government.



Davos bosses fret over threats to Internet free trade

Business leaders pushing for frictionless free trade have something new to worry about: the potential break-up of the Internet, which today forms the backbone of the global economy.

The issue is a hot topic at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, and the forum is seeking to provide a platform for debate over ways to maintain an open, cross-border Web in the face of pressures for national regulation.



Zogby says: Rubio Smart to Move on 2016


Florida Sen. Marco Rubio couldn’t have planned better timing for the announcement that he is preparing to seek the White House in 2016, news that hit at the same time a new poll shows Rubio taking a major leap in the polls, pollster John Zogby said Friday.

"It's huge and it's right at the moment where he's declaring that he's forming an exploratory committee," Zogby said. "He can't get a better one-two punch kickoff than that.

"Last month, he was at 6 percent and now he's at 13 percent, but it also puts him in the top tier with two very big names: Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. It means he's a player, at least for now."



'Profound Differences' Mark First Round of US-Cuba Talks

The takeaway from the first round of diplomatic talks between the United States and Cuba in 38 years was that "profound differences" remain between the two nations, according to The Washington Post.

"What you have to recognize is that we have ... to overcome more than 50 years of a relationship that was not based on confidence or trust," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said after the first session, held in Havana.

Josefina Vidal of Cuba’s Foreign Ministry told the press that the talks were "respectful, professional and constructive climate," while warning that Havana would not allow the U.S. to have any say in its internal affairs, according to



Wait! What? FCC ponders plan to route U.S. 911 calls through Russian sastellites?

Here's a disturbing idea whose time is about to come:

Emergency first responders across the United States may soon be relying on Russian satellites to plot the location of the mobile American distress call.

This is not an Onion story.

The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to deliberate next week on a plan to use Russian satellites over other competing satellite systems for tracking the exact location of U.S. emergency 911 calls from mobile phones, the source of most emergency calls.



Iran Has Ballistic Missile That Poses Threat to United States

Iran has produced an intercontinental ballistic missile  — an act that poses a threat to the United States due to its expanded range, according to a report.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Iran has a missile measuring 27 meters in length (88.5 feet) on a launch pad just outside its capital city of Tehran. The missile had never before been seen in public, reports the Post.

"The missile and the launch pad indicate that Iran's ballistic missile program, which is an integral part of its nuclear weapons program, is moving forward at full throttle," the Post writes.



Obama lives in ignorance of Islamic threat


President Obama has a happy and untroubled life on Fantasy Island, where he lives in splendid isolation from the world where the rest of us live. He is never troubled by terrorists, whether Islamic, Jewish or Episcopalian. All rough places have been made plain, manna falls right on time every morning, the water is pure, clear and cold, and golf courses where everybody breaks par stretch to a happy oblivion. The ants never get into his pants.

If something bad happens, as something frequently does, he deals with it by imaginative denial. “What? Me worry?” When an Islamic radical shoots up an Army base, dispensing wholesale death in the name of Allah, the president sees only “workplace violence.” Trouble in Syria? He’ll draw a red line around that. Nuclear weapons in Iran? He’s on that, too.



Getting serious about cybersecurity

The Sony attack, courtesy of North Korean-sponsored cyberterrorists, was one of the biggest media stories to end 2014. Salacious information pulled from private emails was leaked to the press, who dutifully reported the embarrassing details of individuals’ private correspondence, not to mention various trade secrets, business plans and valuable intellectual property.

As a former newspaper reporter, I found this behavior extremely disappointing, not just because the media aided and abetted a serious crime against an American business, but also for the journalistically negligent act of burying the lead. Last year saw a series of massive data breaches to JP Morgan, Target and Home Depot, to name a few of the more prominent victims. Indeed, the most recent victim was none other than the U.S. Central Command, which had its social media accounts compromised, as well as some internal documents.



Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.
GeneTrerally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
The first award of the Medal of Honor was made March 25, 1863 to Private JACOB PARROTT.The last award of the Medal of Honor was made September 15, 2011 to Sergeant DAKOTA MEYER.

Since then there have been:  • 3458 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
    • Today there are 85 Living Recipients of the Medal of Honor.


BENAVIDEZ, ROY P.
Rank: Master Sergeant
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Detachment B-56
Division: 5th Special Forces Group


 
BENAVIDEZ, ROY P.
 
Citation

Master Sergeant (then Staff Sergeant) Roy P. Benavidez United States Army, who distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely valorous actions on 2 May 1968 while assigned to Detachment B56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam. On the morning of 2 May 1968, a 12-man Special Forces Reconnaissance Team was inserted by helicopters in a dense jungle area west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam to gather intelligence information about confirmed large-scale enemy activity. This area was controlled and routinely patrolled by the North Vietnamese Army. After a short period of time on the ground, the team met heavy enemy resistance, and requested emergency extraction. Three helicopters attempted extraction, but were unable to land due to intense enemy small arms and anti-aircraft fire. Sergeant Benavidez was at the Forward Operating Base in Loc Ninh monitoring the operation by radio when these helicopters returned to off-load wounded crewmembers and to assess aircraft damage. Sergeant Benavidez voluntarily boarded a returning aircraft to assist in another extraction attempt. Realizing that all the team members were either dead or wounded and unable to move to the pickup zone, he directed the aircraft to a nearby clearing where he jumped from the hovering helicopter, and ran approximately 75 meters under withering small arms fire to the crippled team. Prior to reaching the team's position he was wounded in his right leg, face, and head. Despite these painful injuries, he took charge, repositioning the team members and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of an extraction aircraft, and the loading of wounded and dead team members. He then threw smoke canisters to direct the aircraft to the team's position. Despite his severe wounds and under intense enemy fire, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the awaiting aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the aircraft as it moved to pick up the remaining team members. As the enemy's fire intensified, he hurried to recover the body and classified documents on the dead team leader. When he reached the leader's body, Sergeant Benavidez was severely wounded by small arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At nearly the same moment, the aircraft pilot was mortally wounded, and his helicopter crashed. Although in extremely critical condition due to his multiple wounds, Sergeant Benavidez secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he aided the wounded out of the overturned aircraft, and gathered the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter. Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter distributing water and ammunition to his weary men, reinstilling in them a will to live and fight. Facing a buildup of enemy opposition with a beleaguered team, Sergeant Benavidez mustered his strength, began calling in tactical air strikes and directed the fire from supporting gunships to suppress the enemy's fire and so permit another extraction attempt. He was wounded again in his thigh by small arms fire while administering first aid to a wounded team member just before another extraction helicopter was able to land. His indomitable spirit kept him going as he began to ferry his comrades to the craft. On his second trip with the wounded, he was clubbed from additional wounds to his head and arms before killing his adversary. He then continued under devastating fire to carry the wounded to the helicopter. Upon reaching the aircraft, he spotted and killed two enemy soldiers who were rushing the craft from an angle that prevented the aircraft door gunner from firing upon them. With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the perimeter to ensure that all classified material had been collected or destroyed, and to bring in the remaining wounded. Only then, in extremely serious condition from numerous wounds and loss of blood, did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft. Sergeant Benavidez' gallant choice to join voluntarily his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to withering enemy fire, and his refusal to be stopped despite numerous severe wounds, saved the lives of at least eight men. His fearless personal leadership, tenacious devotion to duty, and extremely valorous actions in the face of overwhelming odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army.




From the Archives

American Fairness to a Fault — a Deadly One
Tuesday, 10 Nov 2009 02:28 PM

American’s tragic flaw is our unbridled fairness, which has been corrupted ever more by the cancer of political correctness to the point we put ourselves at risk rather than create even the perception of prejudice.

Sometime after the VOLAR (all volunteer) Army, the military veered from the “yes sir, yes sir, three bags full” blind adherence to all orders to the concept of refusing “unlawful orders” and that was ostensibly a good thing.

However, the uniformed services do not set or get to pick and choose foreign policy. The civilian leadership sets foreign policy, and the U.S. military enforces it — with a big, honking combined arms stick.

Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters has been one of the rare pundits with the courage to target the “culture of political correctness” in leadership of the military. In at least two interviews on Fox, Peters (correctly) blamed the culture of political correctness for the Army’s diffidence in taking action against Nidal Malik Hasan in the wake of knowledge of the problem.

Many mechanisms exist for dealing with matters of deep conscience — all without killing those one might think disagree with in principle.

However, it is not prejudice to discriminate based on threat facts in evidence. Refusal to act judiciously for fear of a tainted perception is just plain dumb.

Notwithstanding the articulated fears of the Army chief of staff and the secretary of Homeland Security, officials made an epic mistake in handling suspicions about Hasan. A mistake founded on political correctness and sustained by diffidence that cost the lives of innocents.

Reportedly, U.S. intelligence agencies were aware (months ago) that Hasan was attempting to make contact with people associated with al-Qaida. He spoke openly to too many people about his angst and misdirected sympathies. He was apparently a poster child for suspicion, and the Army failed bigtime to intervene.

“It is not known whether the intelligence agencies informed the Army that one of its officers was seeking to connect with suspected al-Qaida figures," the officials said.

But you damnbetcha they SHOULD have done so.

Investigators want to know whether Hasan maintained contact with a radical mosque leader from Virginia, Anwar al Awlaki, who now lives in Yemen and runs a Web site that promotes jihad around the world against the United States.

In a recent blog posting titled "Nidal Hassan Did the Right Thing," Awlaki calls Hasan a "hero" and a "man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people."

Increasingly we are told people who knew or worked with Hasan say he seemed to become gradually more radical in his condemnation of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Subordinates and superiors had a responsibility to flag the inappropriate rhetoric, and they apparently did not.

The fear to speak out is a symptom of the PC disease fueled by recriminations and implied threats of discrimination — a fear that indirectly resulted in mayhem.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman said, "If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have a zero tolerance," and despite the echo of shutting the barn door after the horse got out, he is right.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr. is concerned that speculation about the religious beliefs of Hasan could “cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers.” He’s right, but such a backlash would be a direct result of the failure of command — not prejudice.

When confronted about whether he thought the Army “dropped the ball” in not responding to warning signs, Casey replied that the Army needs to be careful not to jump to conclusions based on early tidbits of information.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.-S.C., and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., both of whom are veterans, took pains to say that Muslims have served honorably in the military and at risk to their lives.

“At the end of the day, this is not about his religion — the fact that this man was a Muslim,” Graham said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

But, hey, it is (kinda/sorta) about religion (when the FBI says 10 percent of American Mosques preach jihad) — at least from a risk analysis perspective.


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