Friday January 16, 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     

Dozens held across Wurope in Islamist suspect sweeps
          Belgian police investigators arrive outside an apartment in central Verviers, a town between Liege and the German border, in the east of Belgium January 16, 2015. REUTERS-Yves Herman

Belgian, French and German police interrogated dozens of Islamist suspects on Friday as much of Europe remained on heightened security alert after last week's killings in Paris and raids in Belgium in which two gunmen were killed.

In Paris there was a fresh scare when a gunman took several people hostage at a post office in a northwestern suburb. A siege ended when he gave himself up to police. No one was hurt. Authorities said they could not confirm whether the incident was related to terrorism.



Obama to Senate Dems: 'I'm going to play offense'
The president said he’s prepared to veto hostile legislation, including an Iran sanctions package.
                    President Barack Obama is pictured. | AP Photo

President Barack Obama made clear Thursday in a closed-door session with Senate Democrats that he’s prepared to veto hostile legislation from the GOP-controlled Congress, including an Iran sanctions package on the front-burner of Capitol Hill.

According to several sources at the Thursday summit in Baltimore, Obama vowed to defend his agenda against Republicans in Congress, promised to stand firm against GOP efforts to dismantle his agenda and called on his Democratic colleagues to help sustain his expected vetoes. The president also was explicit over his administration’s opposition to an Iran sanctions bill, promising to veto legislation with his administration in the midst of multilateral nuclear negotiations with the Middle Eastern regime.

Even though Obama’s position on Iran sanctions differs from a number of powerful Democrats, the session, several sources said, was more of a pep rally than confrontation. Despite his lame-duck status, the president promised that he would not sit on the sidelines in the next two years. He vowed more executive actions to implement his agenda, something bound to prompt anger from Republicans who have called the president’s unilateral moves, particularly on immigration, an unconstitutional power grab.
Senate GOP leaders may abandon House effort to defund amnesty...
McConnell: 'We're going to try to pass it'...
Republican lawmaker details secret effort for broad immigration bill...
GOP RETREAT! 'There is no exit strategy'...


Arizona passes law requiring students to pass civics test

Arizona became the first state in the nation on Thursday to enact a law requiring high school students to pass the U.S. citizenship test on civics before graduation, giving a boost to a growing nationwide effort to boost civics education.

Both the Arizona House and Senate quickly passed the legislation on just the fourth day of the legislative session, and newly elected Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed it into law Thursday evening.



Kerry Pledges 'To Share A Big Hug With Paris'
              U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged “to share a big hug with Paris” and express American solidarity with the French people following last week’s deadly terrorist attacks.  (credit: Dan Himbrechts - Pool/Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged “to share a big hug with Paris” and express American solidarity with the French people following last week’s deadly terrorist attacks.

Kerry arrived in Paris on Thursday from Sofia, Bulgaria, where he said his trip to France is not an apology for the Obama administration’s failure to send a senior official to last weekend’s unity march. Instead, he explained it is to express the “affection” Americans have for France, which has been on edge since the attacks on the satire publication Charlie Hebdo among other attacks across France.



Belgium arrests 15 over foiled plot to 'kill police'

Belgian investigators said a plot to murder police officers across the country had been foiled "within hours or days" of being launched by raids in which two Islamist gunmen were killed.

Fifteen suspects were in custody on Friday, they said, after a dozen raids around Brussels and in Verviers, the eastern town where two men believed to have fought in Syria were shot dead on Thursday after opening fire on police with assault weapons.

Two of those under arrest were seized in France, but state prosecutors said they still had no evidence of a link between the Belgians and Islamists who killed 17 people in Paris last week at a Jewish store and satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.



Top ObamaCare official stepping down

The leader of the agency charged with the ObamaCare rollout is stepping down after five years on the job.

Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), announced her departure Friday, which will take effect next month.

"It is with sadness and mixed emotions that I write to tell you that February will be my last month serving as the administrator for CMS," Tavenner wrote in an email to staff.



Just 37% approve of Obama in week markekd by Paris MIA

President Obama’s public approval rating has dropped to just 37 percent, with 55 percent disapproving of his job performance, according to the first Reuters/Ipsos political tracking poll of the year.

The poll clashes with Gallup, which last had Obama at a 46 percent approval rate. During the period, the president was hit for not sending an important member of his team to the protests in Paris over recent al Qaeda terrorist killings.

Worse, with the GOP in charge of Congress, more say that the Republicans “have better plans on the economy, taxes and foreign policy than do Democrats,” said the newly released poll.



Global Warming Spin

For the third time in a decade, the globe sizzled to the hottest year on record, federal scientists announced Friday.

Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA calculated that in 2014 the world had its hottest year in 135 years of record-keeping. Earlier, the Japanese weather agency and an independent group out of University of California Berkeley also measured 2014 as the hottest on record.

NOAA said 2014 averaged 58.24 degrees Fahrenheit, 1.24 degrees above the 20th-century average.

Scientists balk at 'hottest year' claims...
'14 was only 34th warmest year on record for USA?
Human activity has pushed Earth beyond 'planetary boundaries'...
Ocean Life Faces 'Mass Extinction Event'...


    
Saudi delays more flogging of bloggger until wounds heal...

The King of Saudi Arabia is to refer the case of blogger and activist Raif Badawi's to the Supreme Court, his wife has told BBC News.

His wife Ensaf Haidar - who is living in Canada with their three children - said the decision has given him hope that the authorities want to withdraw his punshiment, following an international outcry.

Her comments come after Saudi authorities postponed Badawi's second round of public flogging for a week, citing medical reasons, according to a leading human rights group Amnesty International, the Associated Press reported.



Obama amnesty to qualify 2-million illegal immigrants for tax breaks
CBO estimate released as White House defends non-deportation order from states’ lawsuit

More than 2 million illegal immigrants will be approved for President Obama’s deportation amnesty over the next few years, and they will be eligible to collect Social Security and Medicare benefits as well as claim a special tax break for low-income families, the Congressional Budget Office said in an analysis Thursday.

Mr. Obama predicted that up to 5 million illegal immigrants could be eligible for his amnesties, but the CBO numbers predict only 2.25 million will have signed up and been approved by 2017.



VA desteroyed records, punished whistleblower in patient death?

Staff at the VA’s Cleveland medical center destroyed records into the death of a patient to avoid unwanted publicity, then punished a whistleblower and put her under surveillance after she revealed lapses in the patient’s care, the woman charged in a recent complaint.

Patricia Leligdon said superiors began retaliating against her in 2010 after she reported that VA medical staff could have done more to prevent the death of a veteran who died after an “altercation” with another veteran at a VA outpatient mental health clinic, according to a federal whistleblower lawsuit she recently filed against the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The accusations come as the VA tries to assure its own employees and Congress that whistleblowers won’t be retaliated against for reporting on patient safety and management problems.



Why Hillary Clinton won't run for president


Hillary can’t win, and that’s why she won’t run. She may not know that yet herself, but a lot of Democrats want her because she’s all they’ve got. The Republicans are counting on her to run because they think she’s the candidate they can beat in what looks from here like it could be a Republican year.

Lady Macbeth has the resume that makes her plausible, which a lot of pundits and normal other people confuse with “inevitable.” Everybody recognizes her name. She doesn’t hear the music but she recognizes the words and knows policy, and likes to talk about it. She’s a woman, and that should help with the ladies. (It might hurt, too).



The challenge raised by the Paris slaughter
Avoiding religious terrorism requires rebuilding the civil public square

Out of the myriad of horrified responses to the monstrous terrorist carnage in Paris, very few have pointed the way forward for the world. But that surely is the supreme need of the hour. The core issue at stake for the world is simple: How do 7 billion people on a tiny blue ball of a planet live with their differences when the deepest of those differences are religious and ideological? And when diversity can be found not only between but within single societies? In short, how do we respect diversity, and still promote liberty and maintain harmony?

First, we must face up to the factors that have made the problem urgent: the global resurgence of religion, often with a political dimension; the countering of a sometimes aggressive secularism, often seeking to drive all religion from public life; the floundering of the traditional settlements for negotiating religion and public life; and the emergence of a rudimentary global public square created by the Internet. Today, even when we are not talking to the world, we can be heard by the world, and the world can organize its response, frequently violent.





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.