Wednesday December 17th, 2014

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World & National     

U.S. and Cuba to Start Talks on Normalizing Relations
              Alan Gross

The United States will open talks with Cuba aimed at restoring full diplomatic relations and opening an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, American officials said Wednesday.

President Obama plans to make a televised statement from the White House at noon about the breakthrough, which opens the door to a major international initiative that could help shape his legacy heading into his final two years in office.

Mr. Gross, who has been serving a 15-year sentence in a Cuban prison for trying to bring Internet services to Cuba, was released and put on an American government airplane bound for the United States, officials said. His captivity has been a longstanding obstacle to Mr. Obama’s desire to transform relations with the island nation.

Will make surprise announcement at White House today...
Seeks to 'normalize' relationship...
RUBIO: 'Terrible setback for the oppressed'...
Dem: Rewards 'brutal behavior'...
Pope Heavily Involved...



Anger and grief as Pakistan buries students massacred at school


A shocked Pakistan on Wednesday began burying 132 students killed in a grisly attack on their school by Taliban militants that has heaped pressure on the government to do more to tackle the insurgency.

People across the country lit candles and staged vigils as parents bade final farewells to their children during mass funerals in and around Peshawar, the volatile city on the edge of Pakistan's lawless tribal belt where the school was located.



Federal Judge Rules Obama's Amnesty Edict is Unconstitutional

A federal district court judge in Pennsylvania has ruled parts of President Barack Obama's executive immigration orders unconstitutional, accusing him of bypassing Congress in granting deportation relief and work permits to as many as 6 million illegal immigrants.

The decision on Tuesday by Judge Arthur Schwab in Pittsburgh dismisses the White House's legal reasoning in granting the orders, which Obama announced in a prime-time speech on cable television on Nov. 20.

Schwab's ruling, described by The Washington Times as "scathing," said that the president had the authority to issue executive orders and interpret the law.  But "Obama’s unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution ... and therefore is unconstitutional," Schwab said in his 38-page opinion.



Obamas on Race: We've Been Treated Like the Help

President and Michelle Obama personally identify with everyday experiences of racial bias in America that have underpinned recent protests across the country, they told People magazine in an interview to be released Friday.

“Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs," Michelle Obama told the magazine.

On one occasion, she said, her husband “was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee.”



Consumer Prices in U.S. Decline by Most in Six Years on Fuel
             
The cost of living in the U.S. fell in November by the most in almost six years, depressed by falling energy prices that signal inflation will stay below the Federal Reserve’s goal well into 2015.

The consumer-price index dropped 0.3 percent, the most since December 2008, after being little changed the prior month, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 84 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.1 percent fall. Costs rose 1.3 percent over the past year, the least since February. Excluding volatile food and fuel, the so-called core measure rose at a slower pace than in October.



What did Hillary say about the torture report?
               

Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday she's proud to have been part of an administration that "banned illegal renditions and brutal interrogations" and said the U.S. should never be involved in torture anywhere in the world.

Clinton spoke about the importance of the nation acting in accordance with its values after receiving an award from The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights at a gala in New York.

"Today we can say again in a loud and clear voice that the United States should never condone or practice torture anywhere in the world," Clinton told the audience. "That should be absolutely clear as a matter of both policy and law, including our international treaty obligations."



Hillary Could Be Called to Defend Embassy Security


Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could be called to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the next Congress, said the incoming committee chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

According to The Hill, the committee intends to investigate the issue of embassy security in the coming congressional session, and the Utah Republican said that Clinton's record in managing it as secretary of state will be examined.

He said Clinton, "changed the way we do embassy security and how we build the infrastructure there and she created a mess. It's a disaster!" The Hill reported.



Ruble Slide Resumes as Russian Govt Purchases Fail to Halt Decline

The dramatic fall in Russia's ruble slowed on Wednesday, with the government selling foreign currency to prop it up after a 50 percent fall against the dollar this year.

Losses were partly contained by exporters selling dollars in preparation for paying their monthly tax bills but the slide was less precipitous than in the past two days when it fell about 20 percent against the dollar.

At 1008 GMT, the ruble was down around 1.6 percent against the dollar at 68.58 rubles per dollar and was 0.3 percent weaker versus the euro at 85.40.



Israel suffers sharp rebuffs from Europe

Israel suffered back-to-back diplomatic setbacks in Europe on Wednesday as Palestinians headed to the United Nations to try to set a two-year deadline for an Israeli withdrawal.

In Geneva, the international community delivered a stinging rebuke to Israel's settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, saying the practice violates Israel's responsibilities as an occupying power.

"This is a signal and we can hope that words count," said Swiss ambassador Paul Fivat, who chaired the conference of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the rules of war and military occupation. The U.S. and Israel did not take part in the one-day meeting.



The truth about the CIA, torture, and congressional ingratitude

The only unconscionable torture in Senator Diane Feinstein’s Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee Report is to the public forced to hear of this shameless betrayal of those who, following explicit orders from these same members of Congress, bravely did their bidding and served the country post-9/11 after the death of more than 3,000 Americans.

More than a decade later the overthrown Democratic Congress has decided to give parting shots at those it deems responsible for being tossed out of office. The Senate CIA Torture Report was picked up worldwide — unblinkingly swallowed whole – and handed to a gullible public who sees the spectacle as Pin the Blame on Another Government Scapegoat…the latest episode of the program they saw last year when it was the National Security Agency (NSA) which Congress and the White House betrayed and pilloried.



Democrats' wasteful torture report
Blind Partisanship

The recent release of a Senate report commissioned by Democrats regarding torture of terrorism suspects in order to obtain vital information was, in my opinion, a waste of $40 million of taxpayer money.

It already had been documented extensively that three suspects were waterboarded and that techniques such as sleep deprivation were used to extract vital information from terrorists. That information played a part in the apprehension or annihilation of many upper-echelon terrorist leaders, including Osama bin Laden. The high-profile release of this information at a time when we are engaged in war with various terrorist groups demonstrates a profound lack of wisdom, since this information will be undoubtedly used as an effective recruitment tool by our enemies.


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.