Tuesday January 20, 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     

Islamic State threatens to kill Japanese hostages
             


On the heels of Japan's pledge to donate $200 million in non-military aid to countries fighting ISIS, a new video posted online depicts an Islamic State terrorist threatening the lives of two Japanese hostages. VPC
Islamic State

The Islamic State threatened to kill two Japanese hostages Tuesday unless the militants receive a $200 million ransom in the next 72 hours.

In a video posted online Tuesday, a black-clad, masked man with a British accent is shown standing between two hostages in orange jumpsuits who are identified as Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa.



After Paris attacks, EU leaders call for more hsaring of info, intel

In the wake of this month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, European leaders are calling for significant changes to what has long been a paradox of their borderless continent: Their citizens can move freely, but information about them does not.

There is no European no-fly list, because there is no European data­base of air travelers. People inside a 26-nation zone can speed from the tip of Portugal to the border with Russia without once having their passports scrutinized. Many E.U. citizens enter and exit Europe without ever being checked against police databases.



Iran and Hezbollah are planning 'imminent' joint invasion of Israel's northern Galilee region?
    Israel carried out airstrike on convoy in Syria on Sunday killing 11 people
    Among them were commanders from Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah
    Today Israeli general warns they were likely planning attack on Galilee
    Israel moving troops to region after Tehran warned of 'crushing response'

Senior Iranian and Hezbollah figures killed in an airstrike in Syria this weekend were likely planning an 'imminent' attack on Israel, security sources have claimed.

Six Iranian army chiefs died alongside five Hezbollah militants after an Israeli helicopter fired rockets at a convoy in the Golan Heights region on Sunday.

Among those killed was Iranian General Mohammed Allahdadi, as well as commander Abu Ali Tabatabai, who is known to have worked with both Hezbollah and Iran.

Today Major General Eyal Ben Reuven, a former deputy head in the Israeli Defense Forces, accused the senior military figures of meeting to plot an attack on Israel.



Snowden documents show UK spies stored journalists' emails...

GCHQ’s bulk surveillance of electronic communications has scooped up emails to and from journalists working for some of the US and UK’s largest media organisations, analysis of documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Emails from the BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, the Sun, NBC and the Washington Post were saved by GCHQ and shared on the agency’s intranet as part of a test exercise by the signals intelligence agency.

The disclosure comes as the British government faces intense pressure to protect the confidential communications of reporters, MPs and lawyers from snooping.



Loretta Lynch's Secret Docket
There are allegations her U.S. Attorney’s Office is keeping cases quiet.
          

It should go without saying that the U.S. attorney general, as our nation’s chief law-enforcement officer, is expected to wield the Justice Department’s full powers to fight for those victimized by crime. It should also go without saying that federal prosecutors routinely make deals with criminals to secure convictions for other, larger crimes, or to save themselves time and the taxpayers’ money — and that those criminals’ victims sometimes come out the losers in such deals. Yet new evidence suggests that Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s pick to take DOJ’s reins from Eric Holder, may have gone beyond the accepted norms of prosecutorial conduct in her time in charge of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Lynch’s office appears to have let self-professed criminals walk free in exchange for their cooperation with her office, watched impassively as they committed further crimes, and intentionally kept the victims of those crimes in the dark — denying them their chance to seek tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in restitution in direct contravention of federal law.



Orrin Hatch Accuses Obama of 'Class Warfare'

The Senate's top tax law writer accused President Barack Obama on Tuesday of undertaking "class warfare" with his plan to raise taxes on wealthier Americans to help the middle class.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the proposals Obama is expected to set out in his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening would violate principles of simplicity and "revenue neutrality" that Hatch said are key to any real tax reform.

"This plan that we'll hear about tonight appears to be more about redistribution, with added complexity, and class warfare, directed at job-creating small businesses, than about tax reform," Hatch said in remarks prepared for delivery in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.




At State of the Union...political theater

President Obama speaks to the nation Tuesday night. And few Americans will actually recall what he said.

This is not Obama’s fault. The president will deliver important, acutely aspirational rhetoric about income inequality, fiscal policy, education initiatives, national security and maybe even a few lines about fighting ISIS. But by Wednesday morning, most of Obama’s remarks will dissolve into the political brume.

What people will remember is the sideshow.



Obama Plans to Announce Massive Tax Hike
               Image: Obama Plans to Announce Massive Tax Hike in SOTU

President Barack Obama on Tuesday is expected to propose billions of dollars in tax increases and government spending in his State of the Union address, igniting the ire of the Republican Party and a debate about how best to address the needs of the middle class, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Tax reform has been a top issue that the new Congress planned to tackle, with expectations that there would be bipartisan cooperation for an overhaul to the tax system. But Obama's plan for a hike may have derailed hopes of a constructive working relationship.



WSJ to Congress: Ignore Obama's Bluster, Pass Iran Sanctions Bill

At the start of nuclear negotiations with Iran more than a year ago, President Barack Obama vowed that Iran would not be permitted to play for time while wringing economic concessions out of the West.

If Iran fails to meet its commitments, "we will turn off" the promised relief from Western sanctions and "ratchet up the pressure," Obama said in November 2013.

But, according to The Wall Street Journal, Obama has made it clear that he is determined to loosen sanctions on Tehran regardless of its behavior.



HHS Executives Spent $31M on 7,000 Luxury Flights?

Hundreds of Department of Health and Human Services executives are flying the friendly skies first class at great cost to the taxpayers.

They spent a staggering $31 million on 7,000 first class and business class flights between 2009 and 2013, including 253 trips with a one-way ticket costing $15,000, according to The Washington Examiner.

Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that although supervisors could have traveled economy on many of the trips, they instead preferred to fly in style and luxury.



IMF Cuts Growth Forcasts

The International Monetary Fund lowered its forecasts for global growth over the next two years, warning Tuesday that weakness in most major economies will trump gains from lower oil prices. The IMF's report was released as China reported its slowest growth in 24 years.

The IMF downgraded projections it issued in October by 0.3 percentage point each, predicting global growth at 3.5 percent this year and 3.7 percent in 2016.

But even with those reductions, the world economy will be growing faster than in 2014, when the IMF estimates it expanded 3.3 percent. Much of the momentum is coming from an accelerating recovery in the U.S., the world's largest economy.



Obama's tax riot will make a memorable State of the Union

The annual State of the Union might not be an occasion for the president to preach to the choir, but it’s an opportunity for the choir to catch 40 winks. Neither the soprano nor tenor will miss anything.

President Obama doesn’t have a choice. The Constitution requires him to “give to Congress information about the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The Founders didn’t anticipate Barack Obama. If they had they would have commanded him to move tonight’s State of the Union to Halloween.
 
The president has been leaking dribs and drabs of this year’s “information” for days, and some of the dribs and drabs would be enough to frighten ghosts and scare goblins out of their sepulchers if anyone took any of it seriously, but no one does.



'American Snoper' hits close to home
Real heroes like Chris Kyle bleed red, white and blue
Former Navy SEAL and author of the book "American Sniper" Chris Kyle poses in Midlothian, Texas. (AP Photo/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Paul Moseley)

From the Alamo to Audie Murphy, Texans revere our war heroes. As the closing credits for “American Sniper” rolled across the screen last weekend, a packed audience lingered in the dark silence, reverent and maybe stunned by what they had just seen. The reason: The movie depiction of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s heroic life of service provided an increasingly rare glimpse of what were once unquestioned American truths.

It begins with the bedrock values imparted by a loving, two-parent family who believed their first obligation was training their young sons to be honorable men. Raise your children in the way they should go, Proverbs says, and when they are old, they will not depart from it. That truth holds even when their country is attacked, and only 1 percent of their countrymen feel any personal obligation to defend it. Even then, though, America’s sons will step forward, volunteering to join that increasingly endangered species of patriots who put themselves in harm’s way.



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.