Thursday January 29th, 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     

Administration Offical Criticizes Israeli Ambassador Over Netanyahu Visit
            

The Obama administration, after days of mounting tension, signaled on Wednesday how angry it is with Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted Republican leaders’ invitation to address Congress on Iran without consulting the White House.

The outrage the episode has incited within President Obama’s inner circle became clear in unusually sharp criticism by a senior administration official who said that the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, who helped orchestrate the invitation, had repeatedly placed Mr. Netanyahu’s political fortunes above the relationship between Israel and the United States.



Secret tapes undermind Hillary on Libyan war
First of three parts

             Echoes of the past: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recalled the Rwanda genocide in making her case for U.S. intervention in Libya. (Associated Press Photographs)

Top Pentagon officials and a senior Democrat in Congress so distrusted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2011 march to war in Libya that they opened their own diplomatic channels with the Gadhafi regime in an effort to halt the escalating crisis, according to secret audio recordings recovered from Tripoli.

The tapes, reviewed by The Washington Times and authenticated by the participants, chronicle U.S. officials’ unfiltered conversations with Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s son and a top Libyan leader, including criticisms that Mrs. Clinton had developed tunnel vision and led the U.S. into an unnecessary war without adequately weighing the intelligence community’s concerns.

“You should see these internal State Department reports that are produced in the State Department that go out to the Congress. They’re just full of stupid, stupid facts,” an American intermediary specifically dispatched by the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Gadhafi regime in July 2011, saying the State Department was controlling what intelligence would be reported to U.S. officials.



Ash Carter tells senators he's unlikely to keep Obama promise to close Gitmo

Ash Carter, President Obama’s pick to be the new defense secretary, has told senators he doesn’t see any way to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay over the next two years, putting a major dent in Mr. Obama’s hopes to shut it down before he leaves office.

With no way to quantify how much risk a terrorism suspect would pose to the U.S. if released, it comes down to the personal judgment of the Pentagon’s top civilian, and senators said Mr. Carter — whom Mr. Obama has tapped to replace outgoing Secretary Chuck Hagel — isn’t inclined to approve enough applications to shutter the prison.

“He told me that basically he agrees with the president on the goal, but he doesn’t see how it can happen,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and has met with Mr. Carter as part of his effort to win confirmation to the secretary’s post.



Jordan Seeks Proof Captive Pilot Alive Before Any IS Trade

Jordan on Thursday demanded proof from Islamic State militants that a Jordanian pilot they are holding is still alive, despite purported threats by the group to kill the airman at sunset unless an al-Qaida prisoner is freed from death row in Jordan.

The militants' deadline passed without word on the fate of the pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, and a fellow hostage, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.

Goto's wife Rinko, who had kept silent up to now, made a desperate plea for her husband's life Thursday and revealed that she has exchanged emails with his captors.



California measles cases still increasing


California health officials said Wednesday there are 79 confirmed measles cases in the state, as federal health authorities reported that the number of U.S. cases in 2014 more than tripled any total in recent years.

According to the California Department of Public Health website, 52 of those cases are linked to an outbreak at Disneyland.

There are four confirmed cases in Riverside County, where the Desert Sands Unified School District told 66 students -- who have either not been vaccinated for measles or can't show proof -- that they need to stay home.



Investigators declare MH370 disappearance an accident

More than 10 months — precisely 328 days — after it went missing with 239 passengers and crew on board, Malaysian investigators on Thursday declared the disappearance of Flight MH370 an accident, clearing the way for families to pursue compensation claims.

Investigators with Malaysia's Civil Aviation authority concluded the aircraft exhausted its fuel supply over the southern Indian Ocean and is on the sea floor. Everyone on the flight is presumed dead. An underwater search continues west of Perth, Australia.Investigators declare MH370 disappearance an accident
ary 29, 2015

The 239 passengers and crew on board Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 have been declared dead, their disappearance formally declared an accident. This clears the way for families to seek compensation, as the plane remains missing.



Hezbollah, Israel, and a Fragmenting Middle East

On Wednesday, it looked like an old battle in Lebanon and Israel might be reignited. By Thursday, it looked like tensions had declined. In a statement labelled Communiqué No. 1 (implying that there would be others tied to the event), the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah claimed responsibility for an attack on an Israeli convoy on Wednesday morning, in the Shebaa Farms area, a disputed Israeli-occupied tract of land at the junction of Israel, Syria, and Lebanon. The attack left at least two Israelis dead, and seven wounded. Ensuing clashes between the two sides also killed a U.N. peacekeeper and threatened to blow open a front that had largely been dormant since the devastating war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.

Hezbollah said that the ambush was retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria on January 18th, which killed an Iranian general and six Hezbollah men, including Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of Hezbollah’s revered strategic mastermind, Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in Syria, in 2008, in an attack widely blamed on Israel. If this sounds confusing and circuitous, that’s because it is. The Middle East today is ever more a molten mess of conflicts spreading across borders that increasingly mean little on the ground. Although the Israeli-Arab conflict is as old as Israel itself, history will likely record that it lately has been exacerbated by Syria, the great hemorrhaging wound of the Middle East. It is what Afghanistan was in the eighties, importing and exporting troubles.



Obama 'In Denial' on Iran, Taliban, Islamic Terror

A White House's characterization Wednesday of the Taliban as an "armed insurgency" rather radical Islamic terrorists is another example of the Obama administration's failure to grasp the gravity of the situation, retired Army Col. Derek Harvey said Thursday on Newsmax TV's "America's Forum."

"It is very dangerous because it continues to show that there's intellectual dishonesty by the administration," said Harvey, who was joined by former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik to discuss the Obama administration's paralysis in dealing with terror groups.

"They refuse to define the threat and importantly, it seems that they don't understand the threat. Words do matter.
 


Chinese Cybersecurity Rules Put Squeeze on US Tech Companies

American companies are protesting intrusive new rules requiring them to turn over proprietary data, including computer source codes, that China says are intended to protect its cybersecurity and make it less dependent on foreign technology, The New York Times reported.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several trade associations have written to Communist Party authorities responsible for cybersecurity, urgently requesting discussions.



Up to 30 Milion Taxpayers to claim Obamacare Execmption


Up to 30 million taxpayers will claim an exemption from Obamacare on their tax forms this year, the administration predicted Wednesday as officials tried to prepare the country and a skeptical Congress for the first wave of tax penalties under the Affordable Care Act.

Most Americans get insurance through their jobs or from a government program such as Medicaid, and will only have to check a box on their tax forms.

But up to 5 percent of taxpayers bought insurance using government subsidies and will have to go through a complicated reconciliation process on their tax forms. As much as 4 percent of taxpayers ignored the law and will end up paying a penalty, and perhaps 20 percent — or 30 million taxpayers — will be granted an exemption from the law, meaning they will escape the tax penalty altogether.



Memo to Congress: Don't Skip 2015


Judging by headlines over the past week, 2015 doesn’t actually matter—2016 is the only thing worth discussing. From the presidential field to the President’s State of the Union, pundits are describing everything in terms of its effect on next November. But that’s not why voters overwhelmingly rejected the President’s agenda last November.

The American people gave Republicans full control of Congress because they want to see real reforms—maybe even real hope and real change. They want Washington to deliver economic relief to the millions of Americans who are still missing out.



Scared of robots: Bill Gates voices concern about the future of AI

Robot overlords incoming
Scared of robots Bill Gates voices concern about future of AI

Scared of robots Bill Gates voices concern about future of AI

Bill Gates has joined Stephen Hawking in talking about the future dangers of AI, during a Reddit AskMeAnything Q&A discussion.

In late 2014, Stephen Hawking suggested advanced AI could mean the end of the human race, and now former Microsoft head Bill Gates has raised similar concerns.

During a Reddit Q&A, Gates was asked: "How much of an existential threat do you think machine superintelligence will be?"

He admitted: "I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence." He took a somewhat more measured stance than Hawking, but sees AI as a real concern.



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.