Thursday December 18th, 2014

"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 tries to normalize relations with Cuba
        U.S. President Barack Obama announced a shift in policy toward Cuba in an address to the nation from the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, on Wednesday, December 17

President Barack Obama declared the end of America's 'outdated approach' to Cuba Wednesday, announcing the re-establishment of diplomatic relations as well as economic and travel ties with the communist island – a historic shift in U.S. policy that aims to bring an end to a half-century of Cold War enmity.

'Isolation has not worked,' Obama said in remarks from the White House. 'It's time for a new approach.'

'We will begin to normalize relations' between the U.S. and Cuba, he added.

'We will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests.'
USA to release three Cuban spies...
'Normalize' relationship with Castro...
KERRY: Policy Has 'Isolated the United States' Instead of Cuba for Fifty-Five Years...
Jimmy Carter 'Proud'...
Obama Doesn't Rule Out Visit...
Shockwaves through Miami exile community...
Protest In Little Havana...
'Traitor, traitor'...
Move opens new front in political wars at home...
Travel Industry Eyeing Cuba Tourism...
RUBIO: 'Terrible setback for the oppressed'...
US intel raised concerns...
Pope Heavily Involved...
Secret talks in Canada, Vatican City...


Sony Cancels Theatrical Release for 'The Interview'
                 The Interview James Franco Lizzy Caplan

With theater chains defecting en masse, Sony Pictures Entertainment has pulled the planned Christmas Day release of “The Interview.”

U.S. officials have reportedly linked a massive cyber attack against Sony to North Korea, which is at the center of the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy.

“We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” Sony said in a statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”



North Korea Ordered Cyberattack on Sony

American officials have concluded that North Korea was “centrally involved” in the hacking of Sony Pictures computers, even as the studio canceled the release of a far-fetched comedy about the assassination of the North’s leader that is believed to have led to the cyberattack.

Senior administration officials, who would not speak on the record about the intelligence findings, said the White House was debating whether to publicly accuse North Korea of what amounts to a cyberterrorism attack. Sony capitulated after the hackers threatened additional attacks, perhaps on theaters themselves, if the movie, “The Interview,” was released.



Boston Bombing Suspect Arrives in Boston Federal Court

Accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev arrived Thursday for his first court appearance in 17 months. Security was tight around the federal courthouse in Boston for a hearing at 10 a.m. ET — the last before jury selection begins Jan. 5. The trial is expected to last several months. Seating a jury could take as long as a month.

On Thursday, prosecutors and defense attorneys are expected to discuss jury selection with the judge. Both sides have submitted proposed questions for potential jurors, who will be selected from a pool of at least 1,200. The defense has tried unsuccessfully to have the case moved outside of Boston, citing public sentiment.



Putin Strikes Uncompromising Stance Over Russian Crisis

             Image: Putin Strikes Uncompromising Stance Over Crisis Gripping Russia

President Vladimir Putin vowed Thursday to fix Russia's economic woes within two years by diversifying away from its heavy reliance on oil and gas and voiced confidence that the plummeting ruble will soon recover.

He also promised never to let the West chain or defang his proud nation, evoking the symbolic Russian bear.

Speaking with strong emotion during a live news conference that lasted more than three hours, Putin displayed his traditional defiant stance toward the West, which he insisted is trying to destroy Russia to grab Siberia's great natural resources.



Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnap nearly 200 in Nigeria, including women & children

Suspected Boko Haram gunmen have kidnapped almost 200 people, including women and children during a raid on Nigeria's north-east, security officials and residents say.

The attack was believed to have occured in the remote village of Gumsuri on Sunday.

News of the abduction took four days to emerge because the mobile phone network in the region has completely collapsed and many roads are impassable.



China Tests ICBM With Multiple Warheads

Clinton-era tech transfer aided multi-warhead program

China carried out a long-range missile flight test on Saturday using multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, according to U.S. defense officials.

The flight test Saturday of a new DF-41 missile, China’s longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile, marks the first test of multiple warhead capabilities for China, officials told the Washington Free Beacon.

China has been known to be developing multiple-warhead technology, which it obtained from the United States illegally in the 1990s.



Republican wins Arizona House seat after recount
 
Republicans will have their largest U.S. House majority in 83 years when the new Congress convenes next month after a recount in Arizona gave the final unresolved midterm race to a Republican challenger.

Retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally won a House seat over Democratic incumbent Ron Barber by 167 votes out of nearly 220,000 cast, according to results released Wednesday.

Barber was district director for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords when he and the congresswoman were wounded in a mass shooting at apolitical event in Tucson in January 2011. Barber then won a special election to fill out the remainder of Giffords' term after she stepped down in early 2012. He went on to defeat McSally in that year's general election to win a full term in Congress, in a race separated by fewer than 2,500 votes.



Bogus stories abound in our pathetic press

Will Rogers, the late American humorist and cornpone philosopher, once said, “All I know is what I read in the papers.” That statement earned him a place in “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.” Were he alive today, it would most likely be inviting widespread derision. Today’s newspapers abound with bogus stories. Most of us know only of the stories that are soon exposed. Doubtless, there are many more. For instance, news stories of gross domestic product growth or inflation rates usually have to be revised but are taken at face value when they first appear.

Are there any newspaper readers in America who do not know about the humbug of Rolling Stone’s story about alleged rape at the University of Virginia? The story was based solely on the word of the alleged victim without any further sourcing. University officials and local police now have yet to find a trace of the seven rapists. The fraternity at which the alleged rape took place has no record of a party there — two years ago, as it happens! And one more thing, it appears three of the victim’s original supporters now think they were given a bogus email address. They are beginning to doubt her elaborate story, which features no witnesses other than her.



President and Congress heedless to the limits of their power

When the government is waving at us with its right hand, so to speak, it is the government’s left hand that we should be watching. Just as a magician draws your attention to what he wants you to see so you will not observe how his trick is performed, last week presented a textbook example of public disputes masking hidden deceptions. Here is what happened.

Last week was dominated by two huge news stories. One was the revelation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about torture committed by CIA agents and contractors on 119 detainees in the post-Sept. 11 era — 26 of whom were tortured for months by mistake. In that revelation of anguish and error were the conclusions by CIA agents themselves that their torture had not produced helpful information. President Obama acknowledged that the CIA had tortured, yet he directed the Department of Justice not to prosecute those who tortured and those who authorized it.





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.