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Belmont Club

You’ve Got To Fend

January 19th, 2015 - 2:46 am

What thread could possibly connect the following four apparently unrelated events?

  1. An Israeli airstrike which just killed six top Hezbollah commanders (including the son of the deceased super terrorist Imad Mugniyeh) in Syria;
  2. Breaking reports that the  Shi’ite Houthi militia, believed to be controlled by Iran has just launched a major  attack on the Yemeni presidential palace, in what is viewed as a Tehran vs Riyadh battle;
  3. The administration’s threat to veto any new sanctions against Iran, even though, as the Washington Post’s editorial board notes, it would “mandate new sanctions only if Iran failed to accept an agreement by the June 30 deadline established in the ongoing talks”;
  4. The death of an Argentinian prosecutor the night before he was to reveal explosive details on alleged cover-up deal between Argentina and Iran of 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center.

They are developments within Barack Obama’s foreign policy universe, that’s what.  What they mean we will get to in a moment.

Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution described the chief executive’s security strategy as essentially a full-scale, covert participation in the Islamic and Middle Eastern civil wars.  America hasn’t withdrawn from the Middle East.  It’s right up to its elbows in it. The four events enumerated above are events within that civil war in which America is an active participant and whose outcome and aftermath the administration hopes to influence. In his  Assessing the Obama Administration’s Iraq-Syria Strategy, Pollack writes that we are backing proxies across the length and breadth of the region:

In both countries, the Administration hopes to empower moderate forces—both Sunni and Shi’a to the extent possible—to fight against all of the extremists, both Sunni and Shi’a. Indeed, to the extent that there is an overarching theme to the strategy, it is one of empowering moderate forces, an idea that ought to be applied more broadly across the Middle East.

Backing the different sides because it’s a whole lot more nuanced and more effective than invading a country and trying to turn it into postwar Germany. All across the Middle East the president is playing a balance of power game. In Yemen, which the president himself called his “model” for operations against the Islamic state, the idea is apparently to pit the Houthi against al-Qaeda so that the moderates can triumph.  Therefore the attack on the presidential palace is a win for Iran.

Obama hopes to make a nuclear weapons deal with Iran. In that context the Israeli attack on Hezbollah is probably a loss for Obama because it complicates his diplomacy, as does Congress’ plan to impose more sanctions on Tehran.  The death of the Argentinian prosecutor might be all for the best as there’s no use upsetting the applecart now.

See? It’s not senseless after all.  OK the administration’s losing across the board unfortunately, but that’s a detail.

He’s playing both sides of the fence everywhere. Pollock says, that in Iraq “the Administration has reconciled itself to the need to build, in effect, two separate militaries: a revamped Shi’a-dominated Iraqi Army and a new Sunni national guard” joined together by some kind of inclusive power-sharing arrangement. In Syria he is patiently looking for a force he can back with drones, confident that any proxy can be ushered into office by backing it with airpower and the running the resulting show from behind the scenes at arms length. Pollock explains:

It is worth noting that these ground forces do not have to be first-rate. They simply need to be good enough that, with the addition of American air power, they can defeat both Asad’s forces and those of ISIS and the other Sunni militants. That isn’t a very high standard. In its grandest moments, the Syrian armed forces never rose beyond a rigid mediocrity, and while ISIS has certainly shown both some strategic acumen and tactical ability, it faces both quantitative and qualitative problems of its own. By comparison, in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance could not defeat the Taliban until 2001 when it was backed by U.S. air power, and the Libyan opposition was a joke in 2001, but it defeated the remnants of Qadhafi’s military with NATO air support ten years later. Thus, the historical record demonstrates that indigenous ground forces too week to win without American air support can win handily with it.


Addition and Subtraction

January 18th, 2015 - 4:59 am

Readers may remember French economist Thomas Piketty from an earlier Belmont Club post.  He’s the intellectual I heard being interviewed on the radio by a journalist who admired his economic views. Wikipedia has a summary his main beliefs:

He is the author of the best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2013), which emphasizes the themes of his work on wealth concentrations and distribution over the past 250 years. The book argues that the rate of capital return in developed countries is persistently greater than the rate of economic growth, and that this will cause wealth inequality to increase in the future. To address this problem, he proposes redistribution through a progressive global tax on wealth.

Today Matt O’Brien of the Washington  is happy to announce that president Obama has finally decided to put Piketty’s ideas into action in his proposal to raise taxes. “President Obama finally has his Piketty moment,” O’Brien writes.

The state of the union is pretty good, actually, but President Obama has an idea to make it better: taxing Wall Street and the super-rich to make middle-class work even more worthwhile. It’s Piketty with an American accent.

Okay, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but not a huge one. Obama’s State of the Union, you see, will call for $320 billion of new taxes on rentiers, their heirs, and the big banks to pay for $175 billion of tax credits that will reward work.

Wait a minute, you might say. “I don’t work for the government, so why is the administration giving me a raise through the tax system?” Well, the answer O’Brien says, is to make amends for wage stagnation. The president wants to “subsidize middle-class work” because “wages still aren’t rising and people are still dropping out of the workforce.”

So the answer wage stagnation is to raise taxes and send all deserving individuals a check.  It’s genius, O’Brien says, “helping people who are already helping themselves, either by going to school, working, or saving for retirement. It’s just acknowledging that growth alone hasn’t been enough to do that for a long time now.”

Wage stagnation according to both the Heritage Foundation and the World Socialist Website  is the side effect of all the underemployment the administration has been piling up. As Heritage puts it, “millions of Americans no longer count as unemployed because they have become so discouraged, they’ve stopped looking for work. Analysts have paid much less attention to another problem—anemic wage growth.”

Growth, according to the World Socialists, draws on this “reserve army of the unemployed” which is willing to work for cheap.  So when jobs are added, they just pick up the people who’ll work for peanuts.

How did the undermployment build up? Heritage names three factors, Reduced Labor Demand, Increased Labor Supply and Obamacare . Think the 29ers. All three are to a greater or lesser extent, of the administration’s doing. It’s only fair that having caused the problem the administration should try to fix it. So to the question: why is the president subsidizing work the answer is “because he previously penalized it”.


The Coming of the Serpent

January 17th, 2015 - 4:15 am

There is something seemingly sad about Pluto’s demotion from the status of planet, possibly because it shatters the story arc of Clyde Tombaugh, the observatory assistant who believed he found the long-sought “Planet X”.  The romance of that narrative, beginning with search for the predicted Planet “X”, the arduous labors of the young assistant laboring nearly forgotten among thousands of photographic plates using a blink comparator to identify it; the selection of its name from the god of the underworld by an 11 year old British schoolgirl and finally its ascent to the crown of fame as Mickey’s Dog when Walt Disney chose to ride the wave of publicity, all make for a god movie.

If Pluto’s not a really planet it should have been.  With a backstory like that it should at least have been famous for something.

But the recalculation of orbital perturbations now suggests there was never a “Planet X” beyond Neptune. So Pluto must content itself with being not the last of the ancient Wanderers but the first of a new class of mysteries: the world of the outer solar system. Instead of being a planet, it is now classed as largest body in the Kuiper Belt, a region extending from 30 to 50 astronomical units (1 au= the distance from earth to the sun). One can think of the Kuiper Belt as the beginning — but only the beginning — of the wider interstellar world.  Pluto might even have greater fame potential as the greatest of the Kuiper Belt than as the least of the planets.

Josh Worth’s site, If the Moon Were Only a Pixel, graphically illustrates just how little a way humanity has gone in its own neighborhood when the New Horizons probe makes its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015.  We are like children wandering only but a little way from our birthplace. On the scale of the Solar System the Kuiper Belt is as near as the local Seven Eleven. Go a little further and you’ll get to the first corner: the bow wave of the sun as it plunges, like a comet through intersteller space.

Even further out, at about 80-200 AU is the termination shock. This is the point where the Sun’s solar wind, traveling outward at 400 kilometers per second collides with the interstellar medium – the background material of the galaxy. This material piles up into a comet-like tail that can extend 230 AU from the Sun.

Beyond that is the Oort cloud, an astonishing 100,000 AU distant — two thousand times further than Pluto. We don’t really have much data yet on what’s out there, nor will we for some time.  A spacecraft like Voyager might reach it after some thousand of years yet still be in the Solar System; it will be coasting uphill out of Sol’s gravity well for 126,000 AU before it begins to slide downhill into the gravity of Proxima Centauri.


The Right Reverend Rambo

January 15th, 2015 - 6:39 am

What happens when the state can’t — or won’t — protect you?  In that eventuality individuals tend to arm and shift for themselves.  For those who believe such a thing could never happen in Europe, there’s this from Newsweek:

A prominent Jewish leader has written to the governments of all the EU countries, calling on them to pass legislation giving special licence for Jewish people to carry guns.

In a letter sent to interior ministries around Europe and obtained by Newsweek, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director general of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE) and the European Jewish Association (EJA) – the largest federation of Jewish organizations and communities in Europe – writes: “We hereby ask that gun licensing laws are reviewed with immediate effect to allow designated people in the Jewish communities and institutions to own weapons for the essential protection of their communities, as well as receiving the necessary training to protect their members from potential terror attacks.”

Speaking to Newsweek, Rabbi Margolin added that he believes that “as many people within the Jewish community as possible” should carry weapons.

To some extent the massive French police deployments were meant to send a message to the public.  We can still protect you.  But not everyone is convinced. Nearly half of British Jews, responding to a survey taken before the Paris terror attacks, believe the country’s Jewish community has no future. “The figure rises to 58% when asked if there is a future for Jews in Europe.”

You can argue the point in Europe, but to northern Nigerians, any expectation that the state will protect them from the Boko Haram is a cruel joke.  The jury on that is already in. Barbara Nadeau in the Daily Beast writes: “Remember the #bringbackourgirls campaign? The girls are still gone and as the body count rises in Nigeria, the country’s leaders are almost as silent as the global community.”

They’re just letting them die and they’ll keep dying unless they defend themselves. The reason for state inaction is that defending a few thousand poor rural people isn’t worth a war against powerful, multinational Islam — and the leaders of OPEC — to which Nigeria belongs.

Carl Levan, a professor at the school of International Service at American University in Washington and author of Dictators and Democracy in African Development … says that the reluctance to pursue Boko Haram, which flies the jihadi black flag and publicly supports ISIS, stems from the fact that sitting President Jonathan, who is from southern Nigeria, risks an electoral backlash if he comes down hard on his military’s ineffectiveness. “There’s never been much of an attempt to pursue Boko Haram within the criminal justice system,” Levan told The Daily Beast.

Not worth it to the Nigerians, just as confronting so-called Islamic terrorism isn’t worth going to the mat against the so-called Saudis.  There is too much trouble and too little money in it. And like the Jews in Europe who’ve discovered that when moments count, the flics are only minutes away, if the Nigerian villagers expect to be defended they’re going to have to do it themselves.


Twenty Eight Pages of Oil

January 14th, 2015 - 5:13 am

The fall in oil prices has so far saved American consumers nearly $2 billion per week on gas.  But there’s a dark side to paradise.  The drop in oil prices, caused by a simultaneous fall in economic demand and the sudden arrival of new supplies, has upset the status quo everywhere.  The New York Times  describe how we got to where we are:  ”United States domestic production has nearly doubled over the last six years, pushing out oil imports that need to find another home. Saudi, Nigerian and Algerian oil that once found a home in the United States is suddenly competing for Asian markets, and the producers are forced to drop prices.  On the demand side, the economies of Europe and developing countries are weakening and vehicles are becoming more energy-efficient. So demand for fuel is lagging a bit.”

If this trend continues, a number of countries will be beggared, some of them quite important.  The World Bank has predicted that Russia’s economy will contract by 3 percent.  Yet for some strange reason the fall in energy prices isn’t boosting other countries. The World Bank “cut its global growth forecast for 2015 and next year due to poor economic prospects in the euro zone, Japan and some major emerging economies that offset the benefit of lower oil prices.”

They’re sick of something that cheap gas can’t cure.  At all events Venezuela will be among the first over the cliff. According to Stratfor, a coup may even be in the offing. Frances Coppola at Forbes predicts “impending collapse” based on arithmetical certainties.  ”Venezuela needs an oil price of $100 per barrel to balance its external accounts, but oil is falling rapidly towards $40 per barrel.”  Maduro is behind by sixty bucks on every barrel and can’t hold on for much longer.

China didn’t want to lend him any money, and oil producers didn’t want to cut production. However, he does seem to have swung some sort of financing deal with Qatar to soften the balance of payments problem. But in his absence, his opponents seized the opportunity to liven things up. Claiming that the country was “in a state of emergency”, the opposition leader Henrique Capriles called for people to “mobilize in the streets”. It is all too easy to see where this is headed.

It’s headed for the boneyard. But Venezuela is small potatoes.  The recent focus on France has temporarily obscured  momentous events in China. The Chinese Communist Party is purging its security apparatus, arresting one of the country’s top “spy chiefs”. China is in the midst of a life and death struggle among the men at the top.  It would be as if president Obama were arresting the leadership of US intelligence and intelligence agencies and all his political rivals.


The Daze of the Jackals

January 13th, 2015 - 7:08 am

Conspiracies are for many, a good replacement for religion.  The idea that “someone is behind mysterious events” of the world provides the comforting reassurance of a pilot in the cockpit.  It suggests a public policy universe which makes sense, even if we ourselves fail to see what on earth it could be.  Conspiracy at least for some is infinitely preferable to the alternative: that nobody is in charge and a chasm yawns beneath our feet.

Jimmy Carter, asked about the Paris attacks, has a comforting explanation for it: Israel.

Appearing on “The Daily Show” Monday, Carter was asked by host Jon Stewart whether the violence the world saw on the streets of Paris was actually fueled by something else other than Islamic extremism.

“Well, one of the origins for it is the Palestinian problem,” Carter replied. “And this aggravates people who are affiliated in any way with the Arab people who live in the West Bank and Gaza, what they are doing now — what’s being done to them. So I think that’s part of it.”

Doubtless Jimmy has a theory about why oil is nearing $45 a barrel and why Vladimir Putin is canceling his attendance of the Auschwitz memorial ceremony. Perhaps Carter can also shed some light on why president Obama refused to attend the solidarity march in Paris, when nearly the entire Western alliance was in attendance. It’s a puzzle that has the punditry stumped. Maybe it’s Israel’s fault too.


Mental Security Theater

January 12th, 2015 - 4:59 am

Tom Wolfe once observed how curious it was “that the dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe”.  That maxim must have been on Jonah Goldberg’s mind when he Tweeted, following the attack on a supermarket in Paris, that “the anti-Muslim backlash in France that many people were expecting this week seems to have somehow resulted in the murder of Jews.”

But as anyone who remembers the Three Stooges will know, retaliating against an innocent party is perfectly natural. When Curley Joe wants to hit back at Moe, he swats Larry instead.  To strike Moe would be too dangerous because Moe would hit back.  When you’re not with the one you long to strike, strike the one you’re with.

The resolute determination of Western leaders to stifle at the wellsprings of terror are apparently going to result on restrictions in the West.  ”U.S. President Barack Obama will invite allies to a Feb. 18 security summit in Washington to try and prevent violent extremism, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Sunday after meeting his European counterparts in Paris.”

Among the measures proposed by the Europeans are a Passenger Name Record database and tighter control of the Internet to prevent Hate Speech.  ”We need to work more closely with Internet companies to guarantee the reporting and if possible removal of all content that amounts to an apology of terrorism or calls for violence and hatred,” the French interior minister said.

Perhaps the reason why the Attorney General, not a General, was sent to Paris solidarity march is because the planned response to the recent attacks will be heightened internal security, the defenses pointed in, not out.

It is still not known what new measures Obama will propose. But Michael Crowley, writing in Politico, says the administration has gradually come to the conclusion that their past countermeasures are inadequate. Nobody knows what the administration’s Plan B will be. All that is certain is their old Plan A didn’t work.

In early 2011, White House officials realized they had a problem on their hands: the threat of homegrown Islamic radicalism. …

Denis McDonough, a top Obama aide who is now White House chief of staff, took charge of the problem, overseeing a strategy to prevent violent extremism. Released that summer, the plan focused on creating closer partnerships with community leaders to help identify budding radicals and steer them to a peaceful path. …

But after a recent string of attacks on their fellow citizens by Islamic radicals, including Wednesday’s massacre in Paris by a pair of French nationals, critics complain that the plan has been halfheartedly implemented, produced bureaucratic turf fights, lacks funding, and does little to make Americans safer at a moment when the Islamic extremist message is more prevalent than ever.



January 11th, 2015 - 5:34 am

When Henry David Thoreau observed in 1854 that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” he anticipated James Thurber by 85 years.  Walter Mitty, perhaps Thurber’s greatest creation, outwardly lives a normal man’s life in Waterbury, Connecticut,  no different from “the mass of men”. But in inwardly Walter dreams of saving the world.  In the course of the story Mitty has “five heroic daydream episodes.”

The first is as a pilot of a U.S. Navy flying boat in a storm, then he is a magnificent surgeon performing a one-of-a-kind surgery, then as a deadly assassin testifying in a courtroom, and then as a Royal Air Force pilot volunteering for a daring, secret suicide mission to bomb an ammunition dump. As the story ends, Mitty imagines himself facing a firing squad, “inscrutable to the last.”

Walter Mitty imagined himself as one of the popular action stereotypes of the late 1930s. Martin Gurri notes that human nature has not changed much since  1939.  What’s changed are the action figures which people dream of becoming.

Look on the images of the killers, pouring out of Paris. They seem straight out of an action film: black-clad, ninja-looking, gun-toting, full of self-conscious swagger and mysterious hand signs. Virginia Postrel has written of the “glamour” of the Islamic State’s recruiting imagery:

Videos, magazine features and Twitter memes mirror the glamour of action movies, shooter video games and gangsta rap. They make killing look effortless, righteous and triumphant. They promise to make the jihadist manly and important.

The audience for the Paris terrorists’ message is among young people, mostly but not exclusively male and Muslim, in the Middle East but also in the West, who find the cinematic costumes and poses and clichés difficult to resist. The slaughter of unarmed journalists translates, for this group, into an exhilarating adventure. Brutality is never excused or explained: it’s central to the seductiveness of the message.

Running around shooting people might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but the illusion of saving the world is, at least in part, an affirmation of one’s significance. It must be exhilarating, to say the least for young men from modest backgrounds to set a great Western capital trembling in anticipation of their actions. In the aftermath of the recent attacks the Daily Mail reported”a city on edge: Euro Disney evacuated and armed police sent to synagogue and pharmacy to false reports of shootings as fear of fresh terror attacks grips Paris.”

It’s worth pointing out that a lot of people would like nothing better than to dissolve themselves into the “mass of men”, like a drop of water in an endless sea, and besides  why we can’t leave things to our betters? Perhaps the most psychologically revealing of  the reader comments in the Mail was one which made an impassioned plea for more impotence. “Anyone caught with a knife or a gun now should be locked up under anti terrorism laws …and I mean ANYONE.”  Gun-control and now knife-control are the keys to combating terrorism.

We must control our emotions too, perhaps above all. One website dedicated to “bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society” explained without a trace or irony why “I unfriended my childhood pal over #JeSuisCharlie”.

The answer to terrorism is tolerance, not fear. … A childhood friend, a sweet woman and kind mother, replied that this is not the time for tolerance—because Islam was a faith and community of violence. I replied:

“My friend, serious? There’s all kinds of killy-y stuff in the Bible. Doesn’t mean that followers take that stuff seriously. Only extremists do. They killed a Muslim cop. They’re full of hate, not faith. “While not all Muslims are terrorists…”…big of you.

PS you’re right. MLK was wrong. Tolerance and love are losing strategies! Let’s go with hate vs. hate, I’ve heard fire defeats fire!”

Then, I unfriended her. I am all for mindful discussions and agreeing to disagree. I am not all for blaming a generalized population for something. That’s pre-judice–pre-judging. I am all for making up and being friends again. I have zero tolerance for prejudice.


It’s Funny That Way

January 10th, 2015 - 2:36 am

Many classic comic acts featured contrasting personalities. Laurel and Hardy, Mutt and Jeff come to mind, because it sets up an absurd juxtaposition. The news is no different. Even Karl Marx understood this. He said, “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

The farce is supplied by New York Times editor Dean Baquet calling USC law professor Marc Cooper an “asshole” on Facebook for daring to criticize his decision “not to publish any of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting Mohammad.” The tragedy is provided by the Boko Haram, which, oblivious to the inside baseball games of Western intellectuals has gone and randomly killed thousands of elderly men, women and children in northern Nigeria. CNN reports on the drive-by shooting to end all drive-by shootings.

Boko Haram militants opened fire on northern Nigerian villages at dawn, leaving as many as 2,000 people feared dead and bodies scattered everywhere, officials said.

Islamist militants sprayed bullets as they stormed in driving trucks and armored vehicles last weekend, local authorities said Friday.

The Business Insider calls it “one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in history”. That might be true, but it won’t matter because it’s only happening in Africa.

According to Musa Alhaji Bukar, a senior government official who spoke to the BBC, Baga, which once had a population of about 10,000 people, is now “virtually non-existent.”

The multi-day rampage focused on Baga and the surrounding towns and villages. The militants razed an estimated 16 towns around Baga, according to the BBC.

“These towns are just gone, burned down,” Borno State Senator Ahmed Zanna told NBC News. “The whole area is covered in bodies.”

Venezuela, for those who have been following its misfortunes, is just about done. That worker’s paradise has been improved to the point where the country has put the grocery stores under martial law. “Shoppers thronged grocery stores across Caracas today as deepening shortages led the government to put Venezuela’s food distribution under military protection.”

Long lines, some stretching for blocks, formed outside grocery stores in the South American country’s capital as residents search for scarce basic items such as detergent and chicken.

“I’ve visited six stores already today looking for detergent — I can’t find it anywhere,” said Lisbeth Elsa, a 27-year-old janitor, waiting in line outside a supermarket in eastern Caracas. “We’re wearing our dirty clothes again because we can’t find it. At this point I’ll buy whatever I can find.”



January 9th, 2015 - 1:23 am

“French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says an operation is now under way to detain the two suspects” believed to have been involved in the Charlie Hebdo massacre according to the BBC.  Helicopters are circling the suspected location and the men are believed to have a hostage.  But one way or the other the endgame has begun.

Michael Scheuer, the former CIA man once tasked with finding Osama bin Laden appears to have gotten one of two things right.   He predicted they would try to survive.   He also predicted they might succeed. But it looks like the French cops have tracked them down.

Say what you will about these hares, but they’ve been game. After being reported in a wood they apparently managed to steal a car and led the cops on a second chase. The Belfast Telegraph says:

Police Swat teams are swarming a region north of Paris, fearing a second strike by the Charlie Hebdo massacre suspects, who are described in a nationwide notice as “armed and dangerous”. A large convoy of police vehicles are headiing en masse to the area amid fears that the fugitive Kouachi brothers have taken hostages.

It’s been customary for the media and even Western leaders to refer to the suspects as cowards but that characterization is self-deception. They are a tough enemy: daring, skilled relative to their likely opposition. They’ve tied up the French security apparatus for days.  The owner of the car they stole told Europe 1 they were from al-Qaeda in Yemen.

The man described the two men as being “very calm, very determined, very poised and very professional. Real commandos.” He said: “He never raised his voice, they never ran, they never seemed agitated. They weren’t sweating. Nothing at all like that. They gave the impression of being real operators. As they left they said to me: ‘If the media ask you anything, tell them that it’s Al-Qaida in Yemen.’

That bit about al-Qaeda in Yemen took on additional significance as the French press reported that the second shooting incident, resulting in the death of a policewoman in Montrouge, is linked to the Hedbo Jihadi group. That means there are at least two cells out there.  Make that three cells or maybe one that’s moving around. “Reports suggest that several hostages, including women and children, may have been taken in a Jewish shop in eastern Paris.”  The establishment in question is a kosher supermarket.  If them al-Qaeda boys is on the run, they’re not showing it. The second siege site is:

The supermarket where the second siege is understood to be taking place is Rue Albert Willemetz, a side street off the main intersection of porte de Vincennes and Boulevard de la Peripherique.

The latest news suggests 5 women and children are being held hostage at the Jewish store.

According to the Guardian the Hebdo suspects are holed up in a small printing business named CTD in a little town called Dammartin-en-Goële. Le Figaro is reporting that the French security forces are trying to negotiate a release of the hostage(s). Les négociations avec les fugitifs auraient commencé. The cops will win in the end, but these boys are dying hard. “ A local MP, Yves Albarello has reportedly said the gunmen indicated to negotiators that they wanted to ‘die as martyrs’”