Thursday July 2nd, 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     

Hillary emails reveal Blumenthal influential in crafting diplomacy
The State Department said two dozen of the emails exchanged on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private server included classified information — potentially undercutting the former first lady’s claims that she did not handle classified information on the secret account.
            

A cache of 3,000 pages of emails released by the State Department revealed that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s off-the-books adviser Sidney Blumenthal was more deeply involved in crafting diplomacy at the agency than previously disclosed, while top White House officials knew early on that she was using a private email account to conduct business as secretary of state.

Perhaps most damaging for Mrs. Clinton, the State Department said two dozen of the emails included classified information — potentially undercutting the former first lady’s claims that she did not handle classified information on the secret account.

The revelations were unearthed as part of the first in a series of emails that the State Department has been forced to release under a federal court order.



House panel's 'Terror Threat Snapshot' shows sharp uptick in ISIS plots

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul on Thursday circulated a “Terror Threat Snapshot” that highlighted the growing menace by Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

The graphic depiction of the current level of terrorist activity showed that this year the rate of terror plots worldwide doubled and the number of homegrown terror plots in the U.S. tripled.

The Islamic State’s deadly plots against western targets spiked to 28 in 2015 — a significant increase over the 19 terror attacks the group attempted to implement in 2014, according to House Committee on Homeland Security data.



Has Hillary Sent Oppo Researchers to Sanders Archive?

Librarians at the University of Vermont's special collections say interest is spiking in the "Bernard Sanders papers" — 30 boxes of meticulously organized material documenting Sanders' eight years as mayor of Burlington.

That should come as no surprise, given the independent senator's rapid rise in the polls in New Hampshire and Iowa, which hold the nation's first presidential nominating contests.



Carly Fiorina winning over skeptics
           


When it was Carly Fiorina’s turn to take the stage at a presidential forum in Oklahoma City, Noah Wolff was thinking of heading outside for a break.

“I thought of all the people, why is she here?” said Wolff, 19, a Republican and political science major at the University of Oklahoma.

But as Fiorina started speaking, Wolff was captivated by her message. While other candidates in the convention hall spent their time spewing standard conservative talking points and criticizing the current Democratic administration, he said, Fiorina outlined solutions, such as how she would negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran.



US blocks attempts by Arab alllies to fly heavy weapons directly to Kurds to fight Islamic State
Middle East allies accuse Barack Obama and David Cameron of failing to show strategic leadership in fight against Isil, as MPs could be given vote on whether to bomb Syria

The United States has blocked attempts by its Middle East allies to fly heavy weapons directly to the Kurds fighting Islamic State jihadists in Iraq, The Telegraph has learnt.

Some of America’s closest allies say President Barack Obama and other Western leaders, including David Cameron, are failing to show strategic leadership over the world’s gravest security crisis for decades.

They now say they are willing to “go it alone” in supplying heavy weapons to the Kurds, even if means defying the Iraqi authorities and their American backers, who demand all weapons be channelled through Baghdad.



U.S. unprepared for chemical attack as Islamic State nears Syria's stockpile


The U.S. government is unprepared for a chemical attack against the homeland, a new report shows, even as the Islamic State takes responsibility for more terror attacks around the world and inches closer to gaining access to Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

America is ill-equipped to handle the spread of a deadly virus, much less the exposure of U.S. citizens to biochemical weapons, said Ellen Carlin, one of the participants of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, which will release a final report this fall.

The spread of Ebola from a sick Liberian national to Texas nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson last year shows the government needs to reconfigure — and possibly replace — the leadership and management structure surrounding its biodefense enterprise, Ms. Carlin said.



Oabma to reopen Cuba embassy, renew ties over bipartisan opposition

Reversing more than a half-century of U.S. policy, President Obama announced Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba have agreed to reopen their embassies this summer and restore full diplomatic ties over vehement objections from lawmakers in both parties of Congress.

“This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas,” Mr. Obama said at the White House. “This is what change looks like.”

The president also called on Congress to lift the U.S. embargo against Cuba, a move that many lawmakers in both parties are resisting. He said public opinion in both countries favors such a move.



Keystone pipeline divides Congress as deadline nears


With a decision looming, both sides of the Keystone XL pipeline debate are making last-ditch appeals to President Obama, with opponents saying the project fails the White House’s climate test and supporters arguing it’s a no-brainer that will spur U.S. energy independence and economic growth.

TransCanada, the company proposing the massive Canada-to-Texas oil sands project, this week sent a letter to Secretary of State John F. Kerry, urging the administration to approve the project. The State Department now is undertaking its final review of Keystone and then will make a recommendation to Mr. Obama, who ultimately will render the final decision.



As Fares Drop, U.S. Surprises Airlines in Seat-Supply Probe


Amid a drop in airfares and a surge in seating, U.S. antitrust officials surprised airline investors with an investigation into whether carriers are colluding to maintain pricing power.

The Justice Department seeks airline documents that would reveal the “need for, or the desirability of, capacity reductions or growth limitations by the company or any other airline,” according to the government’s request for the information.

Fares and capacity are closely linked, because having too many seats can dent carriers’ ability to charge more. While executives have mused publicly about wanting to rein in new flying to help prop up prices, the U.S. is jumping into the fray when the stock market is signaling that airlines have actually done too little to curb their seat supply.



The Greeks Should Vote 'No!'


Greeks should vote “No!” in Sunday’s referendum.

Hellenic voters are being asked whether they accept the terms offered by the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund to extend the bailout for Athens’ troubled finances or give Prime Minister Tsipras a mandate to insist on a better deal.

Those conditions include more cuts in government supported pensions, higher taxes and labor market reforms other European governments’ are often not inclined to accept in the conduct of their own affairs.



Gulf States Reach $18.7B Settlement with BP Over Oil Spill


Officials in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana have announced an $18.7 billion settlement with BP that resolves years of litigation over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Thursday's settlement announcement comes as a federal judge was preparing to rule on how much BP owed in federal Clean Water Act penalties after well over 125 million gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf.

BP has said its spill-related costs already exceed $42 billion — even without the Clean Water Act fine. It's also unclear how much BP will end up paying under a 2012 settlement with individuals and businesses claiming spill-related losses.



We are all Californians now

California keeps reminding us what has gone astray with America in recent years.

The state is in the midst of a crippling four-year-old drought. Yet California has built almost no major northern or central mountain reservoirs since the New Melones Dam of 1979. That added nearly 3 million acre-feet to the state’s storage reserves — a critical project that was almost canceled by endless environmental lawsuits and protests.

Although California has almost doubled in population since the dam’s construction, its politicians apparently decided that completing more northern and Sierra Nevada water projects was passe. So the parched state now prays for rain and snow rather than building reservoirs to ensure that the next drought won’t shut down the state.



Repeating myself on an Iran nuclear deal

Am I allowed to repeat myself when it comes to the negotiations over the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal?

Why not, since that is what Iran’s leaders are doing. They are repeating themselves by refusing inspections of some of their facilities where only a fool would believe nuclear weapons are not under construction. They are repeating themselves when they demand all sanctions be lifted on the day any deal is signed. And let’s not forget Iran’s weekly “Death to America” chants at Friday prayer services, though publicly politicians in Tehran are said to denounce them. Why would anyone in his right diplomatic mind believe anything these subsidizers of terrorism say, especially when they appear to believe their religion requires them to build a bomb, obliterate Israel, eliminate America and subject the world to Sharia law?

U.S. officials, from President Obama, to Secretary of State John Kerry, repeat themselves with empty assurances that the deal, if it comes after the latest “deadline” has passed, will be a good one for America and the world. Trust them, they repeatedly say. Yet each time Iran stands up to the U.S., American officials appear to back down.



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.