Friday May 15th, 2015

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World & National     

ISIS seizes government compound after "vicious attack" in Ramadi

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants on Friday captured the main government compound in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's western Anbar province, after fierce clashes with security forces.

Ramadi's Mayor Dalaf al-Kubaisi says the militants raised the black flag of ISIS over the area after troops were forced to withdraw from the compound, which houses most of the city's government offices.

He said the ISIS militants, who also seized other parts of the city, are now attacking the Anbar Operation Command, the military headquarters for the province.

Stephanopoulos Caught in Clinton Cash Trap
The ABC anchor has admitted he donated the money to the Clinton Foundation. Republicans do not want to let the matter die.


ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, who for 15 years expertly navigated his re-invention from tough Clinton operative to respected television journalist, has finally—and perhaps inevitably—slipped up.
His mistake, by any definition, is a beaut—no doubt prompting a blush of shame and putting the network news division on the defensive.

It turns out that the 54-year-old Stephanopoulos—who served as a top aide in Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and first White House term before leaving to teach, write an acclaimed memoir and join ABC—failed to disclose to his ABC News bosses $75,000 in contributions he made to the Clinton Foundation.
Worse, he didn’t tell viewers, keeping silent about the potential conflict of interest even as he conducted a contentious interview  April 26 on his Sunday panel show, This Week With George Stephanopoulos, with Clinton Foundation critic Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash.

U.S.,  China set for high-stakes rivalry in skies above South China Sea

                          An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged on-going land reclamation by China on mischief reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool

When the U.S. navy sent a littoral combat ship on its first patrol of the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea during the past week, it was watching the skies as well.

The USS Fort Worth, one of the most modern ships in the U.S. navy, dispatched a reconnaissance drone and a Seahawk helicopter to patrol the airspace, according to a little-noticed statement on the navy's website.

While the navy didn't mention China's rapid land reclamation in the Spratlys, the ship's actions were a demonstration of U.S. capabilities in the event Beijing declares an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area - a move experts and some U.S. military officials see as increasingly likely.

Obama Trade Agenda Overcomes Opposition From Elizabeth Warren, Other Democrats

Barack Obama won a battle Thursday in his trade war as legislation to give him larger authority to negotiate international trade deals cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate. Just two days earlier, Democrats voted against giving their own president more flexibility, but several Democrats switched positions after Republican leadership allowed votes on two additional compromise measures, including legislation aimed at preventing currency manipulation. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has been an outspoken opponent of the deal that Obama is pursuing, voted no.

The bill received 65 votes, more than the needed 60 votes to clear “cloture,” the process of avoiding a filibuster. Only 33 voted in opposition, with two senators absent. On Tuesday, a vote on the same motion had failed 52-45, with Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., as the only Democrat to support it. 

House passes $612 Billion defense bill opposed by Obama

The House has passed a nearly $612 billion defense policy bill despite a veto threat by President Barack Obama.

Democrats oppose it because they say the measure paves the way to cutting domestic programs later this year.

Friday’s vote was 269-151 for the bill, which maps next year’s military and national security programs.

Cameron Considers More Powers for Scotland--but Not Fiscal

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday he would consider handing over more power to Scotland, but stopped short of agreeing to demands from Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to grant the territory full fiscal autonomy.

Cameron and Sturgeon met in Edinburgh for their first talks since Britain's national election last week, in which Sturgeon's pro-independence Scottish National Party gained unprecedented national influence.

Sturgeon called the talks "constructive," and said the two agreed that previously drawn up plans to transfer greater governing powers from London to Scotland should be implemented as soon as possible. But she said she and Cameron disagreed on whether Scotland should control all of its tax and spending policies.

Marine Gen. James Mattis' assessment of Obama
U.S. suffering 'strategic atrophy'

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis said the U.S. is suffering “strategic atrophy” that will threaten the long-term security of the nation.

The retired general and former Central Command (CENTCOM) commander made the remarks while speaking at the Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

“The perception [among allies] is we’re pulling back,” Gen. Mattis said, the U.S. Naval Institute reported Thursday.

Senate crackdown on China currency manipulation complicates Obama trade deal

Brushing aside President Obama’s objections, the Senate voted overwhelming Thursday to push back against China and other countries deemed guilty of depressing their own currencies to win a trade advantage versus the U.S., potentially complicating the White House’s push for fast-track trade negotiating powers.

Currency manipulation has emerged as a linchpin of the trade debate, with top Democrats saying if Mr. Obama were to accede to pressure from Congress to investigate other countries’ currency behavior, Mr. Obama could win the votes he’ll need to secure the trade promotion authority (TPA) powers he is seeking.

Amtrak spends millions on fancy high-speed cars, little on basic maintenance

Dozens of federal watchdog reports over the past decade have revealed a culture of financial irresponsibility and mismanagement at Amtrak that has led to billions of wasted taxpayer dollars over the years and may have put travelers at risk.

Amtrak has consumed almost $40 billion in federal subsidies since 1971, but has never earned a profit, and most of its routes lose money running empty trains. In addition, federal reports reveal that Amtrak regularly loses tens of millions of dollars on food sales and improper payments.

Defense bill shows Pelosi's power waning in House

A whopping 41 Democrats bucked Rep. Nancy Pelosi, one the most powerful Democrat in the House, and voted Friday for the defense authorization Friday — even though she demanded her colleagues oppose the measure.

House Minority Leader Pelosi led the charge to vote down an increase in Pentagon funding, pushing a Democratic plan to hold spending to limits set in the 2011 budget “sequestration” deal. Herr coalition broke apart and more than three dozen abandoned her.

Speaker John Boehner said the 142 Democrats who opposed the legislation are “letting politics come before national security. With all the threats our troops face and the sacrifices they make, Democrats’ opposition to this defense bill is in fact indefensible,” he said.

B.B. King, 'King of the Blues' guitar legend, dies at age 89

B.B. King, whose scorching guitar licks and heartfelt vocals made him the idol of generations of musicians and fans while earning him the nickname King of the Blues, died late Thursday at home in Las Vegas. He was 89.

His attorney, Brent Bryson, told The Associated Press that King died peacefully in his sleep at 9:40 p.m. PDT. He said funeral arrangements were underway.

Marco Rubio fires an impressive opening shot

No presidential campaign guru ever posted a sign in headquarters warning the warriors that “it’s foreign policy, Stupid.” Americans are so pleased to be where they are they have little interest in what’s going on anywhere else. Americans had zero interest in the gathering storm in the Pacific on Dec. 6, 1941, and on Sept. 10, 2001, nobody gave the Muslims, angry or otherwise, a second (or even third) thought.

This makes it tough sometimes for candidates who shun the provincial and the shortsighted. “Foreign policy” just doesn’t compute in the brains of most voters, who typically have more important things to worry about: Can Tom Brady and the New England Patriots inflate anew the respect of football fans? Will Don Draper die in the final installment of “Mad Men?”

A Chinese-Russian alliance that complicates the Middle East

Though on a very small scale, Russian and Chinese navies have engaged in their first joint exercises in the Mediterranean. On the one hand, it shows a level of cooperation and the expanding horizons of Chinese maritime interests in the Middle East. On the other hand, Russian and Chinese interests in the region are divergent.

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has been eager to restore its naval presence in the Mediterranean. Russia retains a foothold in the Syrian port of Tartus, albeit the future of Russian interests is tied to the future of President Bashar Assad.

China has, until recently, been uninvolved in the Middle East, delegating responsibility for the maintenance of regional stability to the United States. With the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the continued Chinese reliance on Middle East oil, the military equation has shifted with the Chinese keen on securing shipping lanes for trade. As a consequence, the Chinese have been caught up in the region’s upheavals, picking up several hundred Chinese workers from Yemen and Libya who were in perilous positions.

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.

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


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.