Thursday May 21st, 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     

China warns U.S. surveillance plane
            


The Chinese navy issued warnings eight times as a U.S. surveillance plane on Wednesday swooped over islands that Beijing is using to extend its zone of influence.

The series of man-made islands and the massive Chinese military build-up on them have alarmed the Pentagon, which is carrying out the surveillance flights in order to make clear the U.S. does not recognize China's territorial claims. The militarized islands have also alarmed America's regional allies.

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell told CNN's Erin Burnett Wednesday night that the confrontation indicates there is "absolutely" a risk of the U.S. and China going to war sometime in the future.



ISIS is 'everywhere,' in full control of ancient Syrian city of Palmyrah
           
PALMYRA

"They are everywhere."

That is the stark observation about ISIS fighters in Palmyra from a 26-year-old resident there, detailing the terrorist group's swift, destructive takeover of yet another city in its quest to brutally expand its caliphate.

This capture threatens a UNESCO World Heritage Site described as having "stood at the crossroads of several civilizations," with its art and architecture mixing Greek, Roman and Persian influences, according to that U.N. group. U.N. and Syrian officials have expressed fears that ISIS plans to destroy the ruins, just as it flattened the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud and smashed statues in Iraq's Mosul Museum.

But Palmyra, which is also known as Tadmur, isn't just a matter of history. Today, it's also home to tens of thousands of people -- many of whom, if they haven't already fled, cower in fear they'll meet the same grisly fate of so many others conquered by ISIS.



Emails reportedly show confidant told Hillary Benghazi attack planned by AQ-tied fighters
                
A longtime Clinton confidant reportedly advised then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton two days after the 2012 Benghazi terror attack that an Al Qaeda-tied group had planned the deadly assault and used a protest as cover -- but despite this warning, Clinton's U.N. ambassador went on to publicly claim the attack was simply "spontaneous."

The guidance from ex-Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal was contained in a memo sent Sept. 13, according to The New York Times. It is the latest documentation effectively contradicting the administration's early narrative that the attack was driven by protests over an anti-Islam Internet video -- and raising questions over why officials stuck to that story for days.



Teamsters spend big on politics while preparing to cut pensions?

Union tosses cash at lobbying despite retirement shortfalls

The Teamsters have begun informing retirees and current workers that their pension benefits may soon be cut, the final ironic twist to a lobbying campaign that saw the union spend its own members’ dollars to win the right to shrink their retirement pay.

The somber notifications began going out from the Teamsters Central States Health and Welfare Pension Fund this spring, a decision that could ultimately affect 410,000 current pension participants and a total of more than 10 million U.S. workers nationwide. Cuts could begin as early as next year.

The cuts were made possible after the lame-duck Congress late last year passed the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA), enabling any multiemployer pension fund to cut benefits to workers and current retirees if the plan is underfunded by at least 20 percent.



Pentagon: No major review underway on strategy to defeat ISIS

Despite the fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State, the Pentagon has not been asked by the White House to conduct a wholesale review of the strategy to defeat ISIS, multiple defense officials told Fox News.

"Why would there be? It was one battle," one official said. A separate official said the Pentagon "continuously" reviews its strategy and said a major review was "not necessary."

A senior military official confirmed that the Obama administration is looking into arming Sunni tribes to help retake Ramadi, taking a page from the "Anbar Awakening" when 30 tribes united in 2006 to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq with support from the U.S. military.

But multiple defense officials said these arms would not go to the Sunni tribes directly.



Senate averts trade filibuster, delivers big win to Obama in fast-track fight

Pro-trade Democrats bucked their party’s liberal wing and helped head off a filibuster Thursday, putting the Senate on course to approve fast-track trade negotiating powers and delivering President Obama’s biggest second-term domestic priority.

The 62-38 vote barely topped the 60 votes needed to surmount the filibuster, and only after a half-hour’s worth of deal-making on the Senate floor.

“Our nation’s economic health and prestige are on the line today,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chairman of the Finance Committee, who led the floor debate on passing the bill, known as Trade Promotion Authority, which will allow Mr. Obama to conclude trade deals he’s been trying to negotiate.



Texas demands Obama prove he's halted deportation amnesety


Texas asked a federal judge Wednesday to consider imposing a fine on the Obama administration lawyers who misled the court over President Obama’s amnesty, filing papers saying the Justice Department is still trying to hide details of how Homeland Security botched the rollout of the program.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the lawsuit trying to stop Mr. Obama’s amnesty, also said the misleading and other errors — including approving 2,000 amnesty applications even after Judge Andrew S. Hanen issued an injunction — cry out for the court to babysit the administration, including making them prove that the illegal immigrants really are sending back their wrongly-issued works permits.

The filings came in the case that has halted Mr. Obama’s deportation amnesty, where the administration is pleading with Judge Hanen not to punish them despite having admitted they broke his injunction — inadvertently, they say.



Barack Obama could duck fight over U.S. ambassador to Cuba

President Barack Obama may be able to quickly remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list, restore some trade with the communist-led island and even establish a U.S. Embassy in Havana. But when it comes to appointing an ambassador to Cuba, at least one top Democrat says the president should bide his time.

Ambassadors require Senate confirmation and a nomination could trigger a potentially bitter fight with 2016 overtones: Two of the senators most opposed to Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba — Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — are running for president. It’s also an unnecessary battle, some argue, because the U.S. mission in Havana can be run without an official ambassador, and the lead American envoy there now is well-regarded.



Obama tells Coast Guard grads climate change  threatens U.S.

Rising seas and thawing permafrost caused by warmer global temperatures threaten U.S. military bases and will change the way the U.S. armed services defend the country, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday.

In a commencement address at the United States Coast Guard Academy, Obama underscored the risks to national security posed by climate change, one of his top priorities for action in his remaining 19 months in office.

"The threat of a changing climate cuts to the very core of your service," Obama told the 224 graduating cadets, who studied the impacts of global warming as part of their curriculum.



How Republicans can capture the millennial vote


The Republican party has a problem when it comes to millennials. What’s the use in ignoring it?

In 2012, young voters overwhelmingly turned out for Democrats. But there was also another dynamic at work: During that election cycle, most millennials wanted to avoid being labeled as a Republican. To align oneself with the “R word” was, in their minds, to support a party that was out of touch with the young, cosmopolitan and intellectually curious population.

But that’s the past. What about the future?



A 'safety valve' for mandatory minimum sentences

In the waning days of Maryland’s legislative session, casual observers were probably surprised to see a freshman, conservative Republican from Western Maryland leading the fight on the Senate floor to reform our state’s harsh mandatory minimum laws. In fact, I was joined by a majority of Republicans in the Senate in voting for this important reform.

Just as society is ill-served when a violent offender receives a light sentence, we should also acknowledge we are ill-served when people are punished too harshly. Criminal sentences should match the crime. That’s why it’s time for Maryland to reform our one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach to drug crimes and address the often unjust consequences that arise from mandatory minimum sentences.










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.