Thursday April 23rd, 2015

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World & National     

Obama Takes 'Full Responsibility' for Operation That Killed American, Italian Hostages
           Image: Obama Takes 'Full Responsibility' for Jan. Operation That Killed American, Italian Hostages

An American and an Italian held hostage by al-Qaida, as well as two Americans working with the terror group, were inadvertently killed by U.S. drone strikes earlier this year, the government revealed Thursday.

President Barack Obama said he took "full responsibility" for the counterterror missions and offered his "grief and condolences" to the families of the hostages.

Obama defended the legality of the January drone strike that killed the hostages and said there had been no evidence that the two men were present at what the U.S. had determined was an al-Qaida compound.




U.S. Drone Killed Warren Weinstein

Warren Weinstein, 72, was accidentally killed by a U.S. airstrike on an Al Qaeda compound in Pakistan.

Editor’s Note: The U.S. announced on April 23, 2015 that Weinstein was killed in a drone strike on Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

It was before dawn the morning of Aug. 13, 2011, when a group of men armed with assault rifles knocked on Warren Weinstein's front gate in the Lahore suburb of Model Town, an upscale neighborhood where Benazir Bhutto is said to have had a house. Weinstein was working as country director for J.E. Austin Associates, a consulting firm based in Arlington, Va., that contracts with the Pakistani government. The 70-year-old was helping to create small businesses in tumultuous regions in conjunction with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).



Marco Rubio emerges as top GOP contender, Hillary Clinton favorables drop in poll
            
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., discusses the recently released tax reform plan, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)


Sen. Marco Rubio has emerged as the strongest candidate in the GOP presidential field, topping the rest of his announced and potential rivals for the nomination and running best against top Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to a new Quinnipiac University Poll Thursday.

Mrs. Clinton still leads Mr. Rubio in a national head-to-head match-up, 45 percent to 43 percent, but the 2-point margin is down from the 5-point lead she held over him a month ago in the same survey.

Mr. Rubio announced his candidacy earlier this month and has shot to the top of the GOP field nationally, garnering 15 percent of support among likely GOP primary voters — up from just 5 percent support a month ago. He has surmounted Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was first in the March poll but who slipped to third place in this survey. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, meanwhile, remains in second place, with 13 percent of GOP support.

REPORT: Winning 'Sheldon Adelson primary'...
Talks immigration reform with big donors...
Rand: 'Our Founding Fathers Would Be Mortified' By NSA...
Rookies stumble out of gate...



Man-made earthquakes increasing in central and eastern U.S. study finds
                 

For the first time, the U.S. Geological Survey has unveiled a map of earthquakes thought to be triggered by human activity in the eastern and central United States.

Oklahoma is by far the worst-hit state recently, according to the USGS study released Thursday. The state last year had more earthquakes magnitude 3 or higher than California, part of a huge increase recorded in recent years.

Seismic activity in Texas near the Dallas-Fort Worth area has also increased substantially recently. Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Ohio have all experienced more frequent quakes in the last year.



Calbuco volcano erupts anew; ash causing conern
                       The Calbuco volcano erupts near Puerto Varas, Chile, Thursday, April 23, 2015. The volcano erupted Wednesday for the first time in more than 42 years, billowing a huge ash cloud over a sparsely populated, mountainous area in southern Chile, and is considered one of the top three most potentially dangerous among Chile's 90 active volcanos.(AP Photo/David Cortes Serey/ Agencia Uno) CHILE OUT - NO USAR EN CHILE

Twin blasts from the Calbuco volcano in southern Chile have sent vast clouds of ash into the sky, increasing concerns that it could contaminate water, cause respiratory illnesses and ground flights.

The volcano erupted Wednesday afternoon for the first time in more than four decades, then had another outburst early Thursday.

Authorities have evacuated 4,000 people and closed access to the area around the volcano, which lies near the cities of Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt, some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) south of Santiago.



Obama Flip Flops on Netanyahu to Limit Damage to Dems

President Barack Obama is making overtures to repair his long-strained relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the efforts have more to do with currying favor with pro-Israel members of Congress and American Jews than with the Jewish State, according to The New York Times.

"The White House is engaged in an aggressive effort to assuage the concerns of American Jewish groups and pro-Israel members of Congress over the nuclear agreement with Iran, and to limit the potential political fallout for Democrats of what has become a bitter rift in the American and Israeli relationship," according to the Times.



Majority of voters think Hillary is Untrustworthy


A majority of US voters — 54 percent — say Hillary Clinton is not honest or trustworthy according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

Only 38 percent said they trust the Democratic frontrunner.



Wall Street analyst uncovers Clinton Foundation fraud
Hillary's charity already under scrutiny for foreign donations

The Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation – already under scrutiny for foreign donations – is now being accused of fraudulent and possibly criminal mismanagement.

Over the past six weeks, Wall Street financial analyst and investor Charles Ortel has shared with WND, prior to publication, the results of his six-month, in-depth investigation into what he characterizes as an elaborate scheme devised by the Clintons to enrich themselves.

Through their foundation, Ortel contends, the Clintons have defrauded an unsuspecting international public of hundreds of millions of dollars for personal gain.



Year Later, Few Officials Have Been Held to Account in VA Scandal

More than a year after it was learned that the veterans seeking medical care experienced lengthy wait times and that the Department of Veteran Affairs had falsified records in order to hide the delays, only three officials have been fired as a result of their actions, reports The New York Times.

In the wake of reports of manipulation of wait time records, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki submitted his resignation, but documents provided to The New York Times show that only one official was terminated, another chose to retire and a third individual is waiting on a decision from the VA.Aging

The Times reports that of the 280,000 employees who were involved in the largest scandal in the VA's history, just eight have received some form of reprimand or suspension.



Pentagon chief seeks to woo Silicon Valley

Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in California's Silicon Valley on Wednesday at the start of a three-day trip aiming to draw in America's tech innovators despite major challenges, including making the Pentagon attractive to cyber-savvy youth.

Carter plans to make several announcements during the visit, defense officials say, including establishing an outreach office in Silicon Valley focused on scouting new and emerging breakthrough technologies and building industry ties to the Pentagon.

"We don't live in an era where all of the technology of importance to national security is going to come out of the Pentagon. Those days are gone," Carter told reporters before landing in California.

The move is also the latest example of the U.S. government's efforts to smooth relationships with tech companies in the wake of damaging revelations over digital surveillance by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.



Spy shocker: CIA cooperated with Chinese intelligence to target Russia

A recently published book by former Pentagon official Michael Pillsbury has shed light on one of the U.S. government’s darkest secrets: cooperation between the CIA and communist Chinese intelligence services.

The book “The Hundred Year Marathon” was cleared for publication by the FBI, CIA and Pentagon, thus giving many of its eye-opening disclosures an official cast.

China has not responded to the book’s disclosures nor denied past cooperation, although one intelligence-linked Chinese commentator stated that the book’s author, now a consultant, does not represent “mainstream” U.S. views on China.



Clinton vs. Clinton: Hillary's family is vulneerable on her core campaign issues


Hillary Clinton apparently plans to base her presidential campaign on the noble goals of greater fairness and shared sacrifice.

She already has lambasted vast differences in compensation. “The average CEO makes about 300 times what the average worker makes,” Mrs. Clinton warned.

She is right — but she can best appreciate that fact from her own career and family.

Recently, Mrs. Clinton demanded up to $300,000 for 30-minute speeches. She apparently believes in the free market theory that on the lecture circuit, speakers — like CEOs — should be paid as much as the market can bear.



Iran, like North Korea, makes harsh demands that suggest intent to walk away from nuke talks


As a final nuclear agreement with Iran is pending, there are valuable lessons learned from decades of negotiations with North Korea. Ignoring these lessons would be unfortunate.

In September 2005, the United States sanctioned Banco Delta Asia of Macao as a primary money-laundering institution, pursuant to the Patriot Act, freezing North Korea’s $25 million of accounts, most acquired from illicit sources. North Korea’s response was swift and clear: It refused to implement a recently negotiated six-party talks joint statement on an equitable resolution of the nuclear issue with North Korea. To emphasize this point, on July 4, 2006, North Korea launched seven missiles, including a long-range Taepodong 2, followed by a nuclear test that October. In discussions, North Korea was clear in stating that further escalation would follow if the United States did not restore its frozen accounts. The United States complied and in June 2007, the Federal Reserve Bank arranged with the Russian Central Bank to transfer these funds to the Russian Far Eastern Bank, where North Korea had an active account.



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.