Friday March 20, 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     

Obama to Iranians: Hardlines in Both Our Countries 'Oppose a Diplomatic Resolution'
             
Image result for obama

President Obama uses his Nowruz statement to speak directly to the Iranian people. In doing so, he compares Iranian hardliners to those Americans who are skeptical the president's deal with Iran will prevent the rogue nation from getting nuclear weapons capability.

"The days and weeks ahead will be critical. Our negotiations have made progress, but gaps remain. And there are people, in both our countries and beyond, who oppose a diplomatic resolution. My message to you—the people of Iran—is that, together, we have to speak up for the future we seek," says the president.
PODHORETZ: U.S.-Israel 'crisis has exploded'...
Obama to Iranians: Hardliners in Both Our Countries 'Oppose a Diplomatic Resolution'...
PETRAEUS: Iran more of a threat than ISIS...



Eclipses Sun as Spring Comes to Northern Hemisphere
              

At 6:47 p.m. in New York, the sun will cross the celestial equator and spring will begin in the Northern Hemisphere. The big moment will occur at 10:47 p.m. in London, 7:47 a.m. Saturday in Tokyo.

In Wellington, New Zealand, and Sydney, as well as Sao Paulo and the rest of the Southern Hemisphere, autumn will descend at the same time.

Aside from its annual trip north across the equator, the sun has been busy this week. It may not be quite right to anthropomorphize the nearest star, but this week it seems to fit.

As the U.S. was waking up Friday, a supermoon -- so called because it’s at its closest point to the Earth, and therefore looks larger than usual -- was drifting in front of the sun.



ISIS Strikes Again
137 killed, 345 injured in suicide attacks on Yemen mosques


A television network owned by Yemen's Shiite rebels says a total of 137 people were killed and 345 injured in quadruple suicide bombings that hit a pair of mosques controlled by the rebels in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital.

Al-Masirah TV raised the death toll on Friday hours after the attacks, making it the deadliest violence to hit the fragile war-torn country.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the rebels, known as Houthis, are sworn enemies of Yemen's powerful al-Qaida branch — which is regarded by Washington as the world's most dangerous and active al-Qaida affiliate. Supporters of the rival Islamic State group in Yemen also cheered for the attack on Twitter.



Martin O'Malley hopes years of political investment in Iowa pays off
                


Over the past two years, as Martin O’Malley has mulled a run for president, he has poured hefty resources into Iowa, appearing at 24 campaign events and fundraisers, lending 14 staffers to Democratic candidates and the state party, and donating more than $40,000.

On Friday, the former Maryland governor returns to the home of the nation’s first presidential caucuses for the first time since last fall’s election, hoping to start reaping the reward of that investment.

Remarkably, as the 2016 presidential race launches in earnest, very few of the candidates and party leaders O’Malley helped in Iowa have committed — to him, to presumed front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton or to anyone else. Many of these Democrats say it is too early to decide whom they will support, creating hope for the long shot from Maryland but also leaving it unclear whether his considerable efforts will generate anything more than goodwill.



FTC Bully Tactics

Key FTC staff wanted to sue Internet giant after finding ‘real harm to consumers and to innovation’

Officials at the Federal Trade Commission concluded in 2012 that Google Inc. used anticompetitive tactics and abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed Internet users and rivals, a far harsher analysis of Google’s business than was previously known.

The staff report from the agency’s bureau of competition recommended the commission bring a lawsuit challenging three Google practices. The move would have triggered one of the highest-profile antitrust cases since the Justice Department sued Microsoft Corp. in the 1990s.



Amtrak employees get lavish bonuses for only losing $214 million last year


Employees of Amtrak, the publically-funded railroad service, earned themselves a round of bonuses because their agency only lost $214 million last year.

A second set of bonuses was scrapped after Amtrak fell far short of its customer satisfaction goals, according to the agency's inspector general.

Amtrak handed out $11.2 million in bonuses as part of a short-term incentive program, which was designed to reward staff if they managed to keep operating losses under $305 million in 2014.

The other half of the incentive program would have seen millions in additional bonuses showered on employees had they been able to satisfy 84.25 percent of their customers.



Senator Presses for Info on Huma's Special Gov't Status--and Her Emails
                      Image result for huma abedin

Senator Chuck Grassley has sent two letters to the State Department to ask about Huma Abedin's special government status when she was a government employee--and for information on Abedin's email use while working for the government. Abedin is a close aide to Hillary Clinton, and worked for the consulting firm Teneo (under a special government employee status) while working for Clinton.

"I am writing to follow up on inquiries I have been making since June 13, 2013 and August 15, 2013 regarding the State Department’s use of Special Government Employee (SGE) designations, and in particular, what steps the Department took to ensure that Ms. Huma Abedin’s outside employment with a political intelligence and corporate advisory firm did not conflict with her simultaneous employment at the State Department. I thank the Department for its responses to my inquiries made June 13, 2013 and August 15, 2013. However, to date, the Department’s answers have been largely unresponsive," writes Grassley to Secretary of State John Kerry.



Michelle Obama sticks taxpayers with monster $80,000 car rentals in Japan

First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to a Buddhist Temple in Kyoto is costing taxpayers nearly $80,000 for rental cars, according to a government contract. Mrs. Obama, who is travelling to Japan and Cambodia for a girls’ education initiative, will arrive in Kyoto, Japan, on Friday.

According to the White House press office, “The First Lady will travel to Kyoto on March 20 and visit the Kiyomizu-Dera Buddhist Temple and the Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine. She will also greet staff from the U.S. Consulate in Osaka.”

The cost for “Rental Vehicles for Flotus in Kyoto” is $78,741, according to a contract signed last week. Mrs. Obama is promoting “Let Girls Learn,” an initiative by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that is spending $231.6 million for education programs in Nigeria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Jordan, and Guatemala.



Republican budget eproposals a tough sell within increasingly polarized GOP

They’ve written their budgets, but now Republican leaders must try to round up the votes to pass them amid an ever-more polarized GOP riven with disputes over defense spending and the pace of cutting entitlements.

GOP leaders added a new wrinkle Thursday when they announced a deal with top Democrats to scrap an 18-year-old tool designed to cut Medicare spending, drawing fierce opposition from conservative groups that said permanently ending the “doc-fix” walks back on a promise from the 1994 “Republican Revolution.”

The spending fights will make it tough for House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to cobble a coalition able to pass a budget, and they are unlikely to get any help from Democrats, who have slammed the twin GOP proposals released this week — one for the House and one for the Senate — as “warmed-over stew.”



Integrating women into combat reduces effectiveness, harms unit cohesion

                        Female soldiers test body armor while training in Fort Campbell, Ky. According to a review of statements, the military may be lowering some physical standards for male and female troops on the argument that certain tasks are outdated or irrelevant. (Associated Press)

As the American military prepares to open all combat positions to women by 2016, a British report found that integrating women into combat would reduce effectiveness in battle and could harm unit cohesion.

The British report, released in December, found that physiological differences put women at a disadvantage in both strength-based and aerobic fitness tests. Even women who are able to overcome the physiological disadvantage will likely get injured more easily or get tired quicker, making them easier targets and poorer marksmen in combat.

“These are about biology rather than character,” the report states.

The report found that some of these disadvantages could be mitigated. For example, a lack of physical strength or negative effect on unit cohesion could be cancelled out by excellent leadership or increased training.

The Center for Military Readiness said Thursday, however, that even the report’s solutions to problems of women serving in combat were just attempts to “soft-peddle inconvenient facts.”



The Crisis Has Exploded

Today, the president of the United States told the prime minister of Israel he was reassessing America’s “options” with regard to Israel in light of remarks Benjamin Netanyahu made about potential Palestinian statehood and an election-day Facebook post urging Israeli right-wingers to go to the polls on Monday to counter a surge in Israeli Arab voters.

The crisis in the relationship we discuss in our new editorial statement has entered a new and potentially unprecedented phase.

It may well be that the president is going to present American Jews with a choice over the coming months no American president should ask us to make—to become parties to and participants in his effort to create what, in 2009, he called “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel.
[UPDATE: In response to this piece, some have claimed I distorted Netanyahu’s view because he replied “indeed” when an interviewer asked whether he was saying there would be no Palestinian state during his premiership. But that “indeed” is entirely of a piece with the “today” comment—one can support the two-state solution as the only theoretical answer to the problem and still be pretty sure no such solution is in the cards for another four years. It was the Palestinians who walked away from the table in 2013, not Israel; and Gaza’s ruling Hamas party wasn’t even involved in the talks. Netanyahu’s own stated principles for a Palestinian state—that it renounce terror, recognize the Jewish state as a Jewish, forego the so-called “right of return”—would have been the basis for any negotiation, even by the Center-Left coalition, and the Palestinians are so far away from any such acknowledgments the issue of statehood was barely raised during the Israeli election campaign.]


America's time for atonement

Tense relations between the White House and Congress aren’t unusual, and certainly not new. Yet over the past month they’ve hit lows not seen since President Clinton’s impeachment trial.

Are congressional Republicans really “traitors,” as the New York Daily News screamed in all capitals on the front page? Should President Obama be “embarrassed” for them, as he told Vice News?

I don’t think so.

Here’s why:



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.