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Bridget Johnson

Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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Armed Services Chairman: Leak on Unsuccessful Rescue Op Puts Hostages, Informants, Troops at Risk

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee today called for an investigation into the leak that led the Obama administration to say that it attempted a rescue of ISIS hostages earlier this summer.

The Pentagon and White House released details of the operation reportedly to beat some news stories that were expected on it.

“Earlier this summer the president authorized an operation to attempt the rescue of American citizens who were kidnapped and held by ISIL against their will in Syria,” Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “The president authorized action at this time because it was the national security team’s assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in ISIL custody.”

“The U.S. Government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens,” Monaco said in the statement. “Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present.”

Armed Services chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement this afternoon that he, “like all Americans,” continues to be “shocked and outraged at the brutal execution of James Foley at the hands of ISIS terrorists.”

“I commend the bravery of our forces who attempted to rescue him and other American captives earlier this summer. They put their lives on the line for people they’d probably never met, and we are forever blessed to have such men and women in service to our country,” McKeon said.

“Successful or not, such operations are incredibly sensitive, even after they have concluded. Disclosure of these missions puts our troops at risk, reduces the likelihood that future missions will succeed, and risks the lives of hostages and informants alike.”

The chairman said while he found it “unwise for the White House and Department of Defense to formally acknowledge this operation, it is outrageous that someone would be so selfish and short sighted to leak it to the media.”

“Secretary Hagel should investigate this matter immediately and thoroughly to determine who, if anyone, at the Department of Defense was the source of this damaging leak,” McKeon said. “Likewise, the heads of the other agencies involved should take similar steps.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to address the media at 3:30 p.m. EST.

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Cheney Rips Obama: ‘It’s Hard to Believe That This President Is as Ineffective as He Clearly Is’

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Americans need to take the “terrible development” of the beheading of journalist James Foley and “magnify that a million times over because that’s what’s in store for the rest of the world if we don’t deal effectively with this crisis.”

“There’s no question what with the developments of Iraq and Syria, the development of a caliphate, that the ISIS organization in charge is very much a threat to the United States, to our friends and allies not only in the Middle East but in Europe,” Cheney told Fox last night.

The veep said he’s still wrestling with the question of whether Obama is operating from “naivete or lack of experience or because that’s the way he wants things to work.”

“I’ve just about reached the point where I’ve concluded that what he is discovering fairly late in his administration is that his basic world view is fundamentally flawed, that the world is a mean, nasty place on occasion, that you need a very strong America, you need superior American military forces to deal with it,” Cheney said.

“And I think every single day that goes by, he’s finding that there’s a bigger and bigger gulf between his hoped-for view of the world and reality. He’s not up to speed and does not want to believe all that’s going on out there. But every day, we find new evidence that he’d rather be on the golf course than he would be dealing with the crisis that’s developing rapidly in the Middle East.”

Obama headed straight for a game with Alonzo Mourning and others after yesterday’s statement at Martha’s Vineyard about Foley’s murder.

Cheney compared this with the reaction of British Prime Minister David Cameron. Foley’s killer had a Londoner accent.

“He wanted to immediately leave his vacation spot, head back to London and go to work, trying to deal with the problems that that represents. And of course, our president headed for the golf course as soon as he made his relatively, I thought, ineffective statement,” he said.

“I think the danger is enormous. I don’t think the president understands it… The intelligence is there for all to see. There’s no question about what’s happening. But this president and the people around him refuse to recognize it and certainly refuse to deal with it.”

Cheney maintained that Obama is making the situation even worse with military cuts.

“They’re taking our Army down below levels we haven’t seen since Pearl Harbor. They’ve made major reductions in the Air Force and the Navy. There was a recent excellent study done by a commission, bipartisan commission, Republican and Democrat alike, studying the long-term trends of the defense budget that basically concludes that there’s no way under current circumstances we can execute the national strategy,” he said. “So it’s a train wreck. And there’s one more train wreck every day. It’s hard to believe that this president is as ineffective as he clearly is.”

The former VP acknowledged the “lack of appetite” among many Americans to declare war on ISIS after Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Of course, it’s difficult to persuade the American people that we ought to send our sons and daughters off to fight a war. But sometimes, it’s absolutely necessary. And that’s why we have presidents. And that’s why they have the authority as commander-in-chief to make those decisions and why those of us who are involved need to do everything we can to support them and support our troops in the field,” Cheney said.

“Now, is there a great threat coming? Absolutely. Remember what happened on 9/11, when 19 guys armed with airline tickets and box cutters came here and killed 3,000 of us, took down the World Trade Center, blew a big hole in the Pentagon. I’m absolutely certain that some day, there will be another mass casualty attack against the United States. Only next time, they’ll have far deadlier weapons.”

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McCain: ‘Failures of Policies Have Consequences, and We’re Paying Those in Human Blood’

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) stressed that “failures of policies have consequences, and we’re paying those consequences in enormous… cost of human blood.”

“The president wanted out of Iraq. We predicted — many of us predicted that this chaos would ensue. We did not predict the rapidity of the collapse of collapse of the Iraqi military, but certainly this was all predictable when the president of the United States — and he — he’s not telling the truth when he says that he wanted to leave a residual force behind. He did not. And that’s a huge mistake,” McCain said this morning on Fox.

“These things are not like earthquakes or hurricanes… And he still doesn’t get it.”

“He gave a very moving statement about Mr. Foley which all touched us. And then what? He said we have to contain ISIS. We don’t have to contain ISIS. We have to defeat ISIS. And we have to do whatever is necessary. And ISIS is in Syria. And they have obliterated the — the boundary between Iraq and Syria. And we have to go in, and it’s more than pinprick air strikes. And we’re going to need more boots on the ground. And that does not mean combat troops, but it does mean a significant increase,” McCain continued.

“And rather the incrementalism that we are — that they are now practicing, we need a comprehensive strategy that can be explained to the American people, which is designed to defeat ISIS wherever they are. And I hope that this tragic thing that happened with — with Foley will serve to — as a — as a strong message to the United States of America that these people are going to attack us, and they’re going to attack us in the United States of America.”

He reminded all of the words Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — now the self-styled caliph — said when he left U.S. custody at Camp Bucca in 2004: “See you in New York.”

McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued their first statement on the execution of journalist James Foley after President Obama’s statement yesterday.

“We agree with the President that America must take the necessary actions against ISIS to protect our people, but ISIS is not just a threat to our personnel serving in Iraq. It is a threat to our nation, as all of our top military, national security, and intelligence leaders have clearly stated. America and our allies and partners will only be secure when ISIS is defeated. That means we must get beyond half-measures, tactical responses, and defensive actions. We need to develop a comprehensive strategy – political, economic, and military – to go on the offensive against ISIS, both in Iraq and Syria,” they said.

The senators noted that Obama “did not articulate a commitment to the comprehensive strategy necessary to defeat ISIS.”

“We cannot allow the darkness to spread, and we must accept our share of the responsibility to stop it, for the sake of our people and the entire civilized world,” McCain and Graham added.

McCain reminded viewers on Fox that Obama previously said, ”It’s not a question of whether Bashar Assad will go, it’s a matter of when.”

“Another debacle, which is the 170,000 dead, 150,000 Syrians still in Bashar Assad’s prison. And the barrel bombs that are so horrendous are continuing to be dropped on innocent men, women and children,” the senator said. “This is an abject failure. And I get emotional about it, because I know these people, and what they’re going through is horrendous.”

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‘War Is Deceit’: Tipsheet Tells Jihadists How to Shake Off Intel Agencies During Online Ops

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

ISIS members and supporters took over not just land in Syria and Iraq but a lot of Internet territory in their push to expand the Islamic State, advertise their operations, threaten the West and recruit new members.

Many of the accounts that spread like wildfire across Twitter, though, came under suspension Tuesday for tweeting photos or video of the beheading of journalist James Foley. Other Islamic State tweeters announced that they were voluntarily turning off their accounts for a few days until the storm passed, or resurfaced with altered account names.

A document posted on JustPaste.it, where ISIS has placed previous announcements such as photos posted Wednesday of its presence dangerously close to Aleppo, tells supporters and jihadists how to lay low online for the most effectiveness — including deceptively tweeting that they don’t support the bloody jihad of ISIS.

“The intelligence agencies specifically monitor the internet with the intention of dismantling anti-colonial narratives and attacking those who postulate them. Whether Muslim, radical socialist, anarchist, or anti-government activist, they want you. They want to know what you send, when you send it, to whom you send it to, why, and how to use it against you. They monitor your social media. Even if you never use your real name, post a picture, or leave any hints, they can track your IP address, know your identity, and jail you for a few online posts. They search for keywords such as ‘kafir’ in order to find specific individuals,” warns the paper, which begins with the verse, ”And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows.”

It stresses that the dangers posed online for jihadists aren’t a big deal in “South Africa or Sham [Syria],” but in the West, where the terror group wants to quietly maintain and grow its influence, “kafir intelligence agencies are particularly interested in entrapping young Muslims.”

“Is it lying to trick the kufar into thinking we live in different locations than we actually do, through words or otherwise, even if other Muslims may hear or see this?” the paper asks as a “minor issue,” before stressing that “war is deceit.”

“The people we are fooling are ones who have an open war with Allah, his messenger, our khilafah, and just about every sincere Muslim on this planet. You are engaging in war tactics so that you can spread the true dawah and discuss matters of jihad, to uncover news about your mujahid brothers, to dismiss lies. You are entering into a sort of psychological warfare with them, they do not take it lightly, and we do not take it lightly. Therefore, we can trick them and it is totally permissible.”

The paper was posted and pinned in a tweet by a user named Amreeki Witness, who is “dedicated to raising awareness about the upcoming conquest of the Americas, and the benefits it has upon the American people.” His avatar uses a State Department symbol and his Twitter cover photo is the White House with an Islamic State flag perched on top. He also posted the tips on remaining anonymous on a WordPress blog.

First, the tipsheet advises using a ghost VPN so “if the agencies attempt to track you, their search will lead them to a dead end,” and an Internet browser named TOR so “instead of simply placing you in one location, it sends you internet signal through nodes, or servers, across dozens of countries. That way, any searches will come up inconclusive.”

Users are then walked through how to create an encrypted email address “to confuse any spies who wish to uncover who sent what email to who” and install a TAILS operating system that runs off a flash drive instead of a hard drive. Instant messaging is encouraged only on Cryptocat or ChatSecure.

“One might be asking themselves if they can continue using their old social media on these. The answer is yes, but I do not recommend it whatsoever,” the paper continues. “If one feels they post things in which they would need this security, which is most Muslims upon haqq who are active online, then they should make a disclaimer saying something similar to, ‘I recant all opinions deemed dangerous or violent expressed on this page. This page was run for educational and analytic purposes only, to study the radical Muslim community for recreational purposes. I invite all those who follow this page to leave such corrupt ideology. I am not affiliated with any groups or organizations deemed terrorist or dangerous otherwise by any Western government or union of governments. I am a law abiding citizen in every regard.’”

“And then proceed to delete all other tweets/posts on the page and after leaving this up for a few minutes, simply delete the page. Make no indication that you have done this based on instructions. You are in a war with these people, we have discussed this earlier. Now, once you are on either TOR with a VPN, TOR, and/or TAILS OS, make a new bitmessage email. Make an alias. Sign-up for Twitter on TOR. Do not post pictures or any indication of who you are explicitly. If you feel the need to alter your writing style a bit, if you were a popular page, do so. You can make subtle indications that this is so and so, however, nothing that can be proven in a court of law. Allah’u must’a'n, may we never see inside one of those rooms for such a purpose.”

The writer asks Allah ”to hasten our venturing to the lands of jihad and hijrah, the lands in which there is no worry about people spying on private matters, in which the justice of Allah is supreme over the paranoia of men.”

A new Twitter account named @KhilafaHackers — Caliphate Hackers — also appeared online today, indicating that the Islamic State doesn’t plan on just playing defense against intelligence agencies trying to track them down.

“When it comes to Muslims in America i Quote Yasser Fazaga: The Less you Talk the more you Walk,” tweeted a user called @TheArabWitness today. “Too many informants. Keep it down.”

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Obama Admin Says It Tried to Rescue Americans from ISIS ‘Earlier This Summer’

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House said that it attempted to rescue U.S. hostages held by ISIS, including James Foley, who was beheaded in a video distributed by the terror group yesterday.

“Earlier this summer the president authorized an operation to attempt the rescue of American citizens who were kidnapped and held by ISIL against their will in Syria,” Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco said in a statement. “The president authorized action at this time because it was the national security team’s assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in ISIL custody.”

“The U.S. Government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens,” Monaco said in the statement. “Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present.”

She added that “given the need to protect our military’s operational capabilities, we will not be able to reveal the details of this operation.”

“But the president could not be prouder of the U.S. forces who carried out this mission and the dedicated intelligence and diplomatic professionals who supported their efforts. Their effort should serve as another signal to those who would do us harm that  the United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable.”

Foley’s news outlet, the Global Post, received an email a week ago from ISIS stating their intentions to execute the photojournalist.

“We received an email from the captors on Wednesday night of last week stating their intention to execute Jim,” Philip Balboni, president of the online news service, told a Boston Fox affiliate.

“The email was full of rage. We pleaded (to his captors) for mercy, but to no avail,” he added.

The White House knew of the email. It released the statement about the attempted rescue op hours after the news that ISIS gave warning of Foley’s execution.

In a Pentagon statement, press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the operation “involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL.”

“As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is committed to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity. In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harms’ way to try and bring our citizens home,” Kirby said.

“The United States government uses the full breadth of our military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring people home whenever we can. The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will work tirelessly to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable.”

It has not been revealed exactly how many Western hostages are being held by ISIS, including journalists and aid workers.

At the end of the gruesome video of Foley’s murder, his executioner held journalist Steve Sotloff by the shirt and threatened to kill him next if Obama didn’t stop airstrikes against the caliphate.

At the State Department today, spokeswoman Marie Harf said they ”remain very deeply concerned” about Sotloff’s “safety and whereabouts.”

“Obviously, the intelligence community is looking to get anything they can to possibly use from this video,” Harf said. “Obviously I’m not going to outline what tactical military or intelligence options are at our disposal to respond here and don’t want to get ahead of any discussions in that regard. But we have the ability to hold people accountable for what they’ve done. We have reserved the right to take action to protect our people, including when our people have been harmed. The principle will guide what we do going forward.”

The U.S. military conducted an additional 14 strikes around Mosul dam today, she said.

When asked if any sort of rescue operation was in the works to get Sotloff, Harf replied, “I’m not ruling anything in or out specifically. I don’t — I’m not going to have more specifics to share with you right now on that.”

“But I just want to be very clear that we — no effort is spared in trying to bring our people home. While we can’t always talk about it publicly for obvious security and safety reasons of the remaining people being held, I just want to make very clear that we are taking and will continue taking steps.”

Foley’s parents appeared outside of their Rochester, N.H., home today to speak of their son — and the cruelty of his death.

“It’s horrific,” said John Foley. “People can die in lots of different ways but this was the most horrific and it haunts me how much pain he was in and how cruel this method of execution is.”

His parents learned of their son’s beheading at the same time everyone else did — when ISIS posted the video on YouTube and distributed the link widely on social media.

“It testified to his courage. He was courageous to the end and I think he accepted his situation and I think he accepted God’s faith in him and his faith in God,” John Foley said.

James Foley’s mother, Diane, stressed that her son was ”a great American and he believed in the very best of this country.”

She said they pleaded with Obama to rescue Sotloff, and she asked people to pray for the president.

“How long are we going to tolerate this?” John Foley said of the terrorists’ crimes.

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Obama: ‘ISIL Speaks for No Religion,’ Global Effort Should ‘Extract This Cancer So That It Does Not Spread’

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama condemned the beheading of journalist James Foley and ISIS in a strongly worded statement to reporters moments ago, but didn’t offer specifics on how the U.S. would react policy-wise to ISIS killing Americans.

“Today, the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group, ISIL. Jim was a journalist, a son, a brother, and a friend. He reported from difficult and dangerous places, bearing witness to the lives of people a world away,” Obama said from Martha’s Vineyard.

“…Earlier today, I spoke to the Foleys and told them that we are all heartbroken at their loss, and join them in honoring Jim and all that he did.”

He added that “Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers.”

“Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages, killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can, for no other reason than they practice a different religion. They declare their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people,” Obama said.

“So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim, out of expediency, that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is, they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.”

The president said “people like this ultimately fail.”

“They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy, and the world is shaped by people like Jim Foley and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him,” Obama continued. “The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done.”

“And we act against ISIL standing alongside others. The people of Iraq who, with our support, are taking the fight to ISIL, must continue coming together to expel these terrorists from their communities. The people of Syria, whose story Jim Foley told, do not deserve to live under the shadow of a tyrant or terrorists. They have our support in their pursuit of a future rooted in dignity.”

He stressed that among “governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so that it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of these kind of nihilistic ideologies.”

“One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century,” said Obama. “Friends and allies around the world, we share a common security and a common set of values that are rooted in the opposite of what we saw yesterday, and we will continue to confront this hateful terrorism and replace it with a sense of hope and civility.”

“That’s what Jim Foley stood for, a man who lived his work, who courageously told the stories of his fellow human beings and who was liked and loved by friends and family. Today, the American people will all say a prayer for those who loved Jim. All of us feel the ache of his absence. All of us mourn his loss.”

Obama, who did not take questions from reporters, did not mention the specific threat in the beheading video to kill journalist Steve Sotloff if strikes continue. “We keep in our prayers those other Americans who are separated from their families. We will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for,” he said. “Maybe God bless and keep Jim’s memory and may God bless the United States of America.”

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Syrian Town Pays Tribute to James Foley, Digs at Obama’s ‘Vague Vision’

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

It’s not the first time the northwestern Syrian fig-and-olive-producing town of Kafranbel has cited President Obama in its famous signs — see Obama as Pinocchio and a genocide enabler — but it’s especially poignant in their touching tribute to slain journalist James Foley:

 

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‘It Didn’t Make Sense, But Faith Did’: James Foley on the Power of Prayer in Captivity

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

After being held for 45 days by pro-Gadhafi forces in Libya in April 2011, journalist James Foley told the magazine of his alma mater, Marquette University, how prayer had gotten him through the time in captivity:

Myself and two colleagues had been captured and were being held in a military detention center in Tripoli. Each day brought increasing worry that our moms would begin to panic. My colleague, Clare, was supposed to call her mom on her birthday, which was the day after we were captured. I had still not fully admitted to myself that my mom knew what had happened. But I kept telling Clare my mom had a strong faith.

I prayed she’d know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her.

I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. 
I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.

Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.

Finally, 18 days into his captivity, Foley was allowed to call his mom, Diane.

I replayed that call hundreds of times in my head — my mother’s voice, the names of my friends, her knowledge of our situation, her absolute belief in the power of prayer. She told me my friends had gathered to do anything they could to help. I knew I wasn’t alone.

My last night in Tripoli, I had my first Internet connection in 44 days and was able to listen to a speech Tom Durkin gave for me at the Marquette vigil. To a church full of friends, alums, priests, students and faculty, I watched the best speech a brother could give for another. It felt like a best man speech and a eulogy in one. It showed tremendous heart and was just a glimpse of the efforts and prayers people were pouring forth. If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn’t make sense, but faith did.

Foley was held captive for two years after being taken in Syria. Yesterday, ISIS released the barbaric video of his beheading. Foley closed his eyes during the terrorist’s speech, as if concentrating on prayer before he was murdered.

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Dem Congressman Stresses to MSNBC: ISIS ‘Personification of Evil,’ Wants Fight Against ‘Infidels’

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee stressed to MSNBC last night that what ISIS wants is “a fight against the infidels” — us.

“It’s hard to imagine a more apt description than evil for what this group represents. They’re beheading people. They’re forcing people to convert. They’re victimizing women and children, starving whole population centers,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said. “They are the personification of evil. And we see this most graphically in this latest barbarous act.”

MSNBC host Chris Hayes then asked, “Is ISIS, ISIL evil?” — adding that there seems to be “a widespread feeling what they’re doing is just monstrous and evil.”

Hayes then said “the situation seems to have gotten better” around Mount Sinjar, where ISIS laid siege to fleeing Yazidis, and questioned whether we’re now at war with ISIS.

“The mission has broadened. It began to protect American citizens as well as the humanitarian crisis you mentioned. It then expanded to protecting critical information, the Mosul dam,” Schiff said. “And it’s a very treacherous and slippery slope, particularly when you talk about a long-term strategic plan of aiding the Iraqis and helping to defeat ISIL. We may not have declared it a war, but when we’re dropping bombs and they’re apparently beheading our citizens, it certainly looks like war.”

“So this is, you know, a very precarious situation. America doesn’t want to be dragged back in. At the same time, this is a group if left to its own device has made it clear they intend to attack us in the homeland.”

“Is this an attempt to bait America into war? Or is it an attempt to warn America away from continued airstrikes?” Hayes asked of the beheading of journalist James Foley.

“I think it may be at a bit of both. This is their way of trying to deter, on the one hand, America from engaging these airstrikes which have really set ISIL back for the first time,” Schiff said. ”At the same time, part of what al-Qaeda has done, part of what ISIL wants to do, is they want to pull us in. These are conflicting objectives. Maybe they see it as a win either way for them. But part of what they’re trying to get is the reaction, part of what they want is a fight against the infidels, and we are apparently the greatest infidel of all.”

“So, I think they have those twin objectives. Maybe most immediately, they want to halt the airstrikes, but that’s simply no going to happen.”

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Congress Reacts with ‘Fear that James Foley Will Not be the Only American to Die’ by ISIS Hands

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A Congress in recess began to react late Tuesday to the horrific beheading of journalist James Foley, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) stressing that Foley won’t be the last American to die at the hands of ISIS unless the Islamic State is stopped.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who represents Foley’s native state and where his parents live, said in a statement that ”our hearts are broken for the Foley family.”

“James was an innocent civilian who was bravely performing his job as a journalist,” Ayotte said. “This barbaric and heinous act shocks the conscience and highlights the truly evil nature of the terrorists we confront, who must be defeated. My thoughts and prayers are with James Foley’s family at this extremely difficult time.”

Ayotte replaced Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) as the third senator in the powerful national-security trio including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Neither McCain nor Graham has yet spoken on the Foley murder, but they have been the loudest voices in the upper chamber for some time warning that President Obama let ISIS get out of hand. “Our senior military, intelligence, and national security leaders have all stated that ISIS is a direct threat to the United States, and we should delay no further in taking the necessary actions to counter it,” they said in a joint statement the day before the gruesome execution video was released by ISIS.

Five days ago, an MSNBC piece accused Graham of “fear-mongering” on the Islamic State.

Foley’s other home-state senator, Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), noted that Foley “was a respected and accomplished journalist who devoted his life to one of our most important freedoms – the freedom of press.”

“Everyone who knew him recognized his dedication to his work and his commitment to sharing his eye-witness reporting of world events,” she said in a statement late Tuesday on her Facebook page. “His murder was a cowardly act of terrorism and underscores the threat that ISIL poses to the freedoms we hold dear. My thoughts are with the Foley family and everyone who knew and loved James, both in New Hampshire and around the world.”

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R-N.H.), who’s aiming to unseat Shaheen this November, quickly issued a one-sentence statement after the devastating news: ”If anyone needed further evidence of the utter inhumanity of Islamic terrorism, this is it. ISIS is pure evil, and they must be stopped.”

Rubio issued a lengthy statement around midnight calling the murder “the latest example of the evil and barbarism of these terrorists.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with the Foley family and with other Western hostages who at this hour are still being held.”

The Daily Beast reported in January that terrorists hold a cache of journalists and aid workers, and moved them east and away from the reach of the Free Syrian Army when they expanded the Islamic State.

“Just as Al Qaeda’s initial killings of Americans abroad foretold the carnage they would unleash within our borders, this barbaric beheading of a defenseless hostage is the clearest indication to date that ISIL has declared war on the United States, on the American people, and on freedom loving people everywhere,” Rubio said. “For more than a year, ISIL has been murdering civilians, raping women and young girls and enslaving them, and carrying out a systematic genocide of anyone who does not share their warped and extremist Islamist views. ISIL cannot be reasoned with, they can’t be negotiated with, and their view of the world is irreconcilable with civilized society.”

Rubio added that he remains “deeply concerned that despite the preponderance of evidence that proves ISIL is a fundamentally evil and dangerous terrorist threat to the United States, President Obama continues to appear unwilling to do what is necessary to confront ISIL and communicate clearly to the American people about the threat ISIL poses to our country and to our way of life.”

“ISIL is not a problem for only Iraqis or Syrians to solve. A piecemeal approach will not eliminate the growing threat to the United States and our allies. If we do not do more to assist our Iraqi partners and those moderate Syrians who are fighting ISIL and directly target ISIL’s leadership and networks in Iraq and Syria, I fear that James Foley will not be the only American to die at their hands.”

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Pentagon Not Taking a ‘Position’ on How Police Departments Use Surplus Military Equipment

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Pentagon leaders are informally studying how surplus military equipment is distributed to police departments, though a Defense spokesman stressed that after it leaves their hands it’s up to law enforcement to use it as they wish.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “has not ordered a review of this program,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters this afternoon. “He’s simply asked for some more information so that he can have a more informed opinion about it.”

Hagel “has been mindful of the public debate and discussion” about police militarization in Ferguson, Mo.

“He has been given an information paper that provides some more detail to it, and he’s consuming that now,”  Kirby said.

“It’s important to understand this is a program legislated by Congress which allows the secretary to transfer some excess military property to local law enforcement. This has been on the books since 1991,” he added. “And many, many law enforcement agencies have benefited from it. In fact, many citizens of many towns and cities all over the country have benefited from it. But it — but how, as I said before, how and where and under what circumstances the equipment actually gets used is up to the local law enforcement agencies to determine.”

Since 2007 the Defense Logistics Agency has transferred to the Ferguson police department two Humvees, one generator, and one cargo trailer, Kirby said. “In all of St. Louis County, over that same period of time, which includes Ferguson, six pistols, 12 rifles, 15 weapon sites, an EOD robot, three helicopters, seven Humvees, as I said, two of which are being used by Ferguson, and two night-vision devices. That’s what they got,” he said.

When asked if the Pentagon thinks Ferguson “misused” their equipment, Kirby stressed, “We don’t take a position on the way the equipment is being used.”

“That is up to local law enforcement to determine. I will tell you, though, that we have rigorous compliance and accountability standards, and biannually, the Defense Logistics Agency spot-checks many of these local law enforcement agencies in the states to make sure that they’re keeping proper accountability inventorying — keeping an inventory of the equipment. But we do not legislate, we don’t dictate, we don’t — we don’t mandate any kind of certain use. That is up to local law enforcement,” he said.

“And many of the equipment finds use in counterdrug and counterterrorism-type activities that, of course, get right to the protection of the homeland. So we’re not — the — as I said at the outset, how and when and where and under what circumstances the equipment gets used is up to local law enforcement agencies to speak to.”

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Sanders: Don’t Ignore Problem of Black Unemployment in Ferguson Response

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the high unemployment rate among African-Americans should not be overlooked in the outrage over Ferguson.

The overall unemployment rate for July was fairly steady at 6.2 percent, but the rate for blacks edged up to 11.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobless rate for teenagers was 20.2 percent.

Sanders told MSNBC that “if there’s any silver lining in the tragedy of Ferguson is that I hope we learn some very important lessons.”

“When I was a mayor of Burlington, Vermont and all over this country, what mayors are trying to do is develop community-based policing, where police officers are seen as part of the neighborhood, they know people in the neighborhood, they are trusted by people in the neighborhood,” he said.

“When you see the kind of force that’s been used in Ferguson, it really does make an appeal that the police department there is an occupying army in a hostile territory and that is absolutely not what we want to see in the United States. So, I think we’ve got to rethink a lot of this heavy equipment that police departments around the country are utilizing.”

The senator said he hopes “that what Ferguson teaches us is that not only the violence being perpetrated against young black men but also the economic crises facing black youth in this country.”

“Youth unemployment in America is tragically high, it is 20 percent. African-American youth unemployment is 35 percent. In the St. Louis area, it is significantly higher than that. And if we are going to address the issue of crime in low-income areas and in African-American areas, it might be a good idea that instead of putting heavy equipment into police departments on those areas, we start creating jobs for the kids there who desperately need them,” Sanders said.

He added that “we want to make sure that our police department has the effective tools and equipment to combat those threats.”

“But on the other hand, I do not think you need tanks and heavy military looking equipment in low income communities in America. I think that it essentially makes a difficult situation, a dangerous situation much more provocative and much more difficult,” he said. “…I think this is an issue along with the economic issue of having to create jobs for our young people that Congress should be addressing when we return.”

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said last week that Congress would review how the Pentagon transfers surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies.

The promise from Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) came after criticism, including from Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), that the SWAT reaction to the protests and rioting in Ferguson, Mo., resembled a police state more than a suburb.

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Border Patrol Catching Convicted Sex Offenders Trying to Re-Enter U.S.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

In the midst of concerns about the safety of minors sent to illegally cross the border both alone and accompanied, the Border Patrol reported that it recently caught two convicted sex offenders trying to cross in Texas.

For the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1, the Del Rio sector alone, which covers 210 miles of the border and reaches 300 miles into Texas,  reports capturing a total of 26 sex offenders — convicted in the U.S., deported, and now trying to cross back into the States.

On Aug. 9 near noon, Border Patrol agents arrested Franklin Alexander Rodriguez-Diaz, 36, near railroad tracks in Eagle Pass.

“During processing it was determined that Rodriguez-Diaz has several convictions including a sex offense against a child – rape – in Cherokee, Oklahoma. He was ordered removed in 1999 by an immigration judge and was subsequently deported from the United States via Houston on March 11, 2004 to his native country of Honduras,” the Border Patrol said in a statement.

On Aug. 11 around 4 a.m., the Border Patrol said, an agent apprehended a group of six illegal immigrants.

“During processing, record checks revealed that Marcelino Argueta-Amaya, 59, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador was a registered sex offender,” the agency said.

“Argueta-Amaya has two previous arrests involving sexual offenses. In 1987 he was convicted by the Los Angeles Superior Court for molestation of a child and sentenced to three years of probation. In 1996 he was arrested by the Huntington, California Park Police for Indecent Exposure. An immigration judge ordered Argueta-Amaya deported in 2004 and he was subsequently removed from the United States via Houston on Oct. 8, 2004 to his native country of El Salvador.”

Both suspects face charges of illegal re-entry, the Border Patrol said.

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Portraits of Brave People Defending Families, Homes from ISIS

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

 

 

 

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Think-Tank Tweet Tells Amnesty to ‘Suck It’ Over Ferguson Dig

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

I have to say, think tanks in D.C. usually don’t get this exciting. But the centrist Center for Strategic and International Studies mixed it up on Twitter last night with Amnesty International — then apologized for the incident.

It started when Amnesty plunged into the Ferguson debate on Monday, announcing that it sent a 13-person “human rights delegation,” to the Missouri town, “which included observers who monitored police and protester activity and sought meetings with officials. Other members of the delegation trained local activists in methods of non-violent protest.”

“Amnesty International has a long and tested history of monitoring and investigating police conduct, not just in foreign countries, but right here at home in the United States,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA, in a statement. “Our delegation traveled to Missouri to let the authorities in Ferguson know that the world is watching. We want a thorough investigation into Michael Brown’s death and the series of events that followed.”

Amnesty called for a “prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown,” along with investigation of “any human rights abuses in connection with the policing of protests” and a “thorough review of all trainings, policies and procedures with regards to the use of force and the policing of protests.”

“Moving forward, we must seize this moment to bring about a wide-ranging review of all trainings, policies and procedures with regard to the use of force and the policing of protests in Ferguson and around the country,” said Hawkins. “This is a moment for people around the country – and around the world – to join the Ferguson community in raising concerns about race and policing, and about the impact of militarization on our fundamental right to peacefully assemble.”

Amnesty tweeted last night, “US can’t tell other countries to improve their records on policing and peaceful assembly if it won’t clean up its own human rights record.”

Then came the CSIS response in the wee hours, which has since been removed:

csisamnesty

The think tank pulled the tweet and issued this response:

Famous names at CSIS include former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Henry Kissinger.

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Obama on Ferguson: ‘I Have to be Very Careful About Not Prejudging These Events’

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Back from his weeklong vacation, President Obama told a late afternoon press conference that he has to be “very careful about not prejudging these events” like the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown “before investigations are completed.”

Obama met with Attorney General Eric Holder in the Oval Office after lunch, and said he spoke with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) and Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) by phone.

Holder, Obama said, “will be traveling to Ferguson on Wednesday to meet with the FBI agents and DOJ personnel conducting the federal criminal investigation and he will receive an update from them on their progress.”

“He will also be meeting with other leaders in the community who’s support is so critical to bringing about peace and calm in Ferguson,” the president added.

Holder will be joined by Ronald Davis, the director of the DOJ’s Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services. DOJ community relations officials have been “working in Ferguson since the days after the shooting to foster conversations among the local stakeholders and reduce tensions among the community.”

“We have all seen images of protesters and law enforcement in the streets. It’s clear that the vast majority of people are peacefully protesting. What’s also clear is that a small minority of individuals are not,” Obama said. “While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos. It undermines rather than advancing justice.”

Giving another nod to the recent arrests of reporters in Ferguson, he added, “Let me also be clear that our constitutional rights to speak freely, to assemble, and to report in the press must be vigilantly safeguarded: especially in moments like these.”

“Ours is a nation of laws: of citizens who live under them and for the citizens who enforce them. So, to a community in Ferguson that is rightly hurting and looking for answers, let me call once again for us to seek some understanding rather than simply holler at each other. Let’s seek to heal rather than to wound each other,” Obama continued. “As Americans, we’ve got to use this moment to seek out our shared humanity that’s been laid bare by this moment. The potential of a young man and the sorrows of parents, the frustrations of a community, the ideals that we hold as one united American family.”

The president gave a pitch for his My Brother’s Keeper initiative, an administration program focused on the challenges faced by young men of color. “In too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement. In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear.”

Obama said the chasm between the community and law enforcement is nothing new, but “it’s always tragic when it involves the death of someone so young.”

“I have to be very careful about not prejudging these events before investigations are completed. Because, although these are, you know, issues of local jurisdiction — you know, the DOJ works for me. And then when they’re conducting an investigation, I’ve got to make sure that I don’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other,” he said.

Obama said his job is getting at the “root causes” of why young men of color are “more likely to end up in jail or in the criminal justice system than they are in a good job or in college.”

“There are young black men that commit crime. And — and — and we can argue about why that happens because of the poverty they were born into or the lack of opportunity or the school systems that failed them or what have you, but if they commit a crime, then they need to be prosecuted because every community has an interest in public safety,” he said. “And if you go into the African American community or the Latino community, some of the folks who are most intent on making sure that criminals are dealt with are people that have been preyed upon by them.”

“So, this is not an argument that there isn’t real crime out there and that law enforcement doesn’t have a difficult job…  But what is also true is that given the history of this country, where we can make progress in building up more confidence, more trust, making sure that our criminal justice system is acutely aware of the possibilities of disparities in treatment, there are safeguards in place to avoid those disparities where, you know, training and assistance is provided to local law enforcement who, you know, may just need more information in order to avoid potential disparity.”

Obama did not directly responded to the main question of retiring ABC News Radio correspondent Ann Compton, who asked about Ferguson, “Has anyone there asked you, or have you considered going yourself?”

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Private Autopsy: Brown Shot ‘at Least’ Six Times, One Wound ‘Could Be’ from Back

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

badenautopsy

A renowned forensic pathologist who conducted a second autopsy on the body of 18-year-old Michael Brown said the teen was shot multiple times with “survivable” wounds but was felled by a shot to the top of the head.

“There weren’t signs of a struggle. In talking about a struggle, one of the things that the attorneys have also asked for is the medical examination of the officer who was in a struggle. So signs of injury to the officer, to Michael Brown, are both needed,” Dr. Michael Baden said a press conference with the attorneys for the Brown family.

Baden, who was chief medical examiner in New York City for 25 years, conducted the autopsy with the assistance of Shawn Parcells, a professor and pathologist assistant based in Kansas.

Baden said he agreed to do the autopsy before Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government would do its own autopsy, a move he acknowledged was rare. “The only time the president got involved I remember was Charles Manson did his thing and you guys weren’t born in those times and he was very upset by it,” he said. “But not in a civil rights way.”

“Dr. Baden and I concluded that he was shot at least six times. We’ve got one to the very top of the head, the apex. We’ve got one that entered just above the right eyebrow. We’ve got one that entered the top part of the right arm. We’ve got a graze wound, a superficial graze wound, to the middle part of the right arm. We’ve got a wound that entered the medial aspect of the right arm, and we’ve got a deep graze wound that produced a laceration to the palm of the right hand,” Parcells said while pointing out the location of the wounds on a diagram.

Parcells said one of the arm wounds, a graze on the side, was “consistent” with witness statements that Brown was walking away before he turned toward the officer after the first shots. Baden said there was no gunpowder residue on the body, but he didn’t get to examine the clothes.

Baden said the wounds “could be consistent with his going forward or going backward. But they’re from the front, and if he was shot going forward, he would collapse right away.”

He stressed that they need to see the x-rays that were taken before the bullets were removed, which “should be available at some time.”

“The autopsy itself counted as consistent with police or witnesses. There are many different witness testimonies. Many of them seem to line up in one direction, some in another direction. Right now, till we get more information, till we get from a forensic science point of view, can’t distinguish — can’t make a definite judgment,” Baden said.

They wouldn’t speculate on the order of the gunshot wounds, but had an idea. “Dr. Baden and I do feel that, because of the two gunshot wounds to the head, indicating that Mr. Brown was bending over as they were coming down, that those two shots were most likely the last two to occur to him,” Parcells said.

Baden stressed that he didn’t have access to toxicology samples. An anonymous source told the Washington Post that the county’s autopsy will reveal that Brown had marijuana in his system, but didn’t elaborate how much.

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Dem Iraq Vet: If Our Mission Isn’t to Take Out ISIS, ‘We’ve Got a Real Problem Here’

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A congressional Democrat and Iraq veteran cautioned that the U.S. has a “real problem” if the current mission in Iraq isn’t to take out ISIS.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who in 2004 chose to serve in Iraq with the Hawaii National Guard over running for a second term in the state’s House of Representatives, appeared on ABC News on Sunday with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Air Force veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I think it’s important as we talk about whether or not there should be troops or exactly what tactical strategy should be used moving forward we’re missing a critical question here, which is what is our mission? What is the United States’ mission. What are we trying to accomplish here?” Gabbard said.

“You know, Adam and I both enlisted, joined the military after 9/11 because we heard our nation’s leaders say after that attack that we would go and take out these Islamic extremists wherever they are. We would fight against those who are waging war against the United States,” she said. “That stated mission after 9/11 has been lost… and as we heard from White House officials last week, they said, and I quote, these airstrikes are not an authorization of a broad based counter terrorism campaign against ISIS, end of quote.”

“So if our mission is not to take out the Islamic extremists who continue to threaten and wage war against us, then I think we’ve got a real problem here. If we focus on that mission, which I think we should, then we can look at what are the tactics that we need to take them out.”

Gabbard stressed that “we need to arm the Kurds with heavy weapons, because they are doing the hard work on the ground, they are fighting against ISIS. And we can augment that and support that wit hour targeted air strikes.”

Kinzinger called the situation on the ground “the worst-case scenario.”

“Back in January I called for air strikes against ISIS, in fact, on this show. When they were just about 1,000 or 2,000 people. Today we see them in the tens of thousands and they are only continue to metastasize,” he said.

“I think what we begun doing is very good, but I think we have to get even bigger and realize that the crushing and the pushing back of ISIS, not just in Iraq, but also in Syria, is utmost priority. And allowing the Free Syrian Army who now finds itself in Syria surrounded by both the regime in Syria, al Nusra, and ISIS, has got to be emboldened to be able to fight them back. They need the equipment and the weapons.”

The congressman added, “At the end of the day I think the defeating of ISIS is the mission. And so I think everything has to be on the table for that end result.”

“The reality is they have made it very clear that they want to strike us in the United States of America. They’ve made it clear that they want to strike Europe. And they have the means to do it,” Kinzinger said. “So they have the intention and they have the means, the means being, you know, passports and westerns fighting with ISIS with the ability to get back into the United States or to get back in Europe. I think we have to have a goal of saying, we need to crush ISIS.”

“…I understand that the American people are war weary. I mean, I hear it a lot. But the reality is, is after World War II, Harry Truman didn’t look at the American people and say I know you’re war weary, so Russia is Europe’s problem. He talked about the bigger issue of what American strength means and what it means for security of our land. And he said we’re going to leave troops in Europe.”

Obama, the congressman stressed, “has got to stand up in front of the American people and say, look you may be war weary, but in five or 10 years we don’t want to look back and say that we missed all the signs, all the signals of the intention of these extremists and this is — it’s definitely there and it’s very serious.”

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Yazidis Held as Sex Slaves by ISIS Plead for Help

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

As the White House declared mission accomplished for saving the Yazidis under siege by ISIS fighters on Mount Sinjar, activists and leaders from the sect tell Kurdish news outlet Rudaw that about 2,000 Yazidis remain unaccounted for — in the hands of ISIS.

Rudaw reported today that one of its writers received a call from a Yazidi girl being held in a group of 200 others by the Islamic State in a prison hall in Mosul province.

The chilling details:

Every day, IS fighters visit the prison hall to pick out the prettiest for their emirs, said the girl, who is 24 and whose name is being withheld by Rudaw for her safety.

“Three to four times a day they visit the hall.  The girls plead with them for a bullet in the head to put them out of their misery,” she said in between sobs in a secret phone call to a Rudaw reporter.

…“We were in Gir Azair district where IS fighters appeared so suddenly that we were unable to flee. They started arresting everyone — men, women and children. Later, they took us to Shingal county, where they separated women from men.”

“We were about 200 girls together. Later, we were taken by pick-up trucks to another location close to Baaj district,” she added.

In weeping tones, the girl repeatedly gave the location of their prison, pleading for fighter jets to pound the place so they could all rest in peace.

…“Every day the fighters come and look among us,” she said, hardly able to control her emotions. “They pick two or three pretty girls. When the girls return they are in tears, exhausted and humiliated. The fighters take the girls to their emirs, and the emirs assault them sexually.

One phone conversation was suddenly interrupted when she hurriedly whispered, “Hang up, hang up, they are coming.”

In another call she said that conditions, including the food, were bad. “So far, a number of girls have committed suicide. Today, one girl hanged herself with her headscarf and died,” she recounted, pleading for help.

“Rescue us, rescue us,” she begged. “Anyone who can hear our voice — US, Europe, anyone — please help; rescue us.”

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Obama to Congress: Mosul Dam Strikes Necessary Because Break Could Endanger U.S. Lives Downstream

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama sent to congressional leaders on Sunday a notification under the War Powers Resolution that his original operation to protect Irbil and provide aid to refugees on Mount Sinjar had been extended to fighting around a key dam along the Tigris taken by ISIS.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces said today that the Mosul Dam is now back in their hands. The Islamic State said it still had control of the key water and power facility.

“On August 14, 2014, I authorized the U.S. Armed Forces to conduct targeted air strikes to support operations by Iraqi forces to recapture the Mosul Dam. These military operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to support the Iraqi forces in their efforts to retake and establish control of this critical infrastructure site, as part of their ongoing campaign against the terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” Obama said in the letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate President Pro Tempore Pat Leahy (D-Vt.).

“The failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger U.S. personnel and facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace. Pursuant to this authorization, on the evening of August 15, 2014, U.S. military forces commenced targeted airstrike operations in Iraq,” Obama continued.

“I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. These actions are being undertaken in coordination with the Iraqi government.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said reiterated that the strikes were “limited in their nature, duration, and scope and are being undertaken in coordination with and at the request of the Government of Iraq.”

“The Administration will continue to consult with the Congress on the way forward in Iraq and our efforts against ISIL, and we will continue to provide appropriate reports to the Congress consistent with the War Powers Resolution,” Hayden added.

Tweets indicated that the battle was still continuing Monday morning.

 

 

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Ayatollah Khamenei Jumps on Ferguson, Goes on Twitter Tear About Racism in the U.S.

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Ayaytollah Ali Khamenei has jumped into the Ferguson fray on his official Twitter account:

 

 

 

 

 

It seems those rapprochement talks between Iran and the U.S. under the four-month extension are going… well.

 

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Russia ‘Guarantees’ Hagel That Convoy Really Wasn’t a Little Invasion

Friday, August 15th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hopped on the phone with his Russian counterpart today after Ukraine military forces took out part of a column of Russian armored vehicles that crossed into their country.

Hagel spoke with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu “to discuss the ongoing situation in Ukraine,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a readout of the call late Friday afternoon. “Specifically, Secretary Hagel requested clarification regarding the Russian humanitarian convoy. Minister Shoygu ‘guaranteed’ that there were no Russian military personnel involved in the humanitarian convoy, nor was the convoy to be used as a pretext to further intervene in Ukraine.”

“He acknowledged that the goods would be delivered and distributed under the International Committee of the Red Cross,” Kirby continued. “Minister Shoygu assured Secretary Hagel that Russia was meeting Ukraine’s conditions.”

The Guardian’s Moscow correspondent tweeted last night that he and the Telegraph’s correspondent “just saw a column of APCs and vehicles with official Russian military plates cross border into Ukraine.”

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen confirmed to reporters on Friday that a “Russian incursion” had taken place overnight.

“It just confirms the fact that we see a continuous flow of weapons and fighters from Russia into eastern Ukraine and it is a clear demonstration of continued Russian involvement in the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine,” Rasmussen said.

“Russia’s continued unlawful incursions into Ukraine are further evidence of Vladimir Putin’s malicious plan for usurping large portions of Ukrainian territory. Russia continues to provide illicit arms and other lethal material to separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine, and recent attempts to utilize ‘humanitarian convoys’ to transport troops and military supplies into Ukraine have only escalated this conflict. This slow motion invasion of Ukraine by Russia is abhorrent and the United States and Europe need to renew our support for the Ukrainian government,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

“The president’s approach to this situation has failed to deter Putin from once again invading a sovereign country. The Obama administration should stop dithering and immediately deliver lethal assistance that has long been requested by the Ukrainian government,” Rubio continued.

“Along with our European allies, the U.S. should quickly impose additional sanctions to effect the Russian economy, targeting all transactions with key Russian sectors, including energy. Finally, Europe and America need to move expeditiously to begin to stem Europe’s energy dependence on Russia. This is a long term project, but Putin’s goals are now more clear than ever and drastic action will be necessary to strip Putin of his ability to intimidate Europe.”

Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked President Obama yesterday to share intelligence with Ukraine and send weapons.

“President Putin, undeterred by international condemnation, has provided heavy weapons to separatists, including tracked and armored vehicles and the advanced missile and radar systems that took down MH-17. In light of these developments, we should supply the Ukrainian military with appropriate defensive weapons such as anti-tank weapons to help them reclaim their territory,” McCain and Donnelly wrote.

“…We must stand decisively in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The future of Ukraine should be determined in Kiev, not Moscow. Our enhanced support will send a strong message to President Putin that efforts to expand or cement Russia’s influence through foreign aggression will not succeed and that Russian-backed rebels must resolve their political differences through the peaceful means offered in good faith by their democratic government.”

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Dem Lawmakers Talking About Upping ‘Participation in the Electoral Process’ After Ferguson

Friday, August 15th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The No. 3 Democrat in the House said that lawmakers are discussing how to use the community outrage in Ferguson, Mo., as a springboard for get-out-the-vote efforts.

Assistant Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told MSNBC today that he’s been discussing the events in Ferguson, Mo., with Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio).

“We are going to really look into what the Congressional Black Caucus can do at the local level, going in there with our Congressional Black Caucus Institute, and probably having some discussions with local communities, helping them to get organized, helping them to understand the relationship between the treatment they get from elected officials and their participation in the electoral process. That participation — participation seems to be very low in that area,” Clyburn said.

“The people are there. But for some strange reason, they are not participating. And we’ve got to do something about that, because we are not going to solve these problems if we stay out of the arena.”

Clyburn said he was “thinking this morning about all of this rhetoric about being tough on crime.”

“It’s one thing to be tough on crime. I’m tough on crime. But it’s something else to be death on blacks. And that’s what seems to be happening,” he said.

“When I think about the chokehold up in New York — a guy crying out for 10 or 11 times that ‘I can’t breathe,’ and with three or four other people piled on top of him, the police officer could not find the wisdom to stop choking the guy until he could not breathe anymore — to me, that’s deliberate. And we have to look at this — a lot of bad people carrying badges. Most of them are good people. And I support police officers. But we’ve got to find a way to weed these people out.”

The lawmaker added that “hopefully, this will jump-start a movement that will have people all over this country taking a hard look at their communities, the treatment they are getting from elected officials, and whether or not that is going to start them to participating at a greater level as we go forward.”

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GOP Lt. Gov. in Missouri Says Holder’s Ferguson Response Thus Far ‘Praiseworthy’

Friday, August 15th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Republican lieutenant governor stressed to Fox News that he has seen nothing from the Justice Department’s involvement yet in the Michael Brown shooting case to give him cause for concern.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who has come under fire from members of the Congressional Black Caucus for not expanding their investigation to the entire police department in Ferguson, Mo., met yesterday morning with President Obama in Massachusetts, where Obama is on vacation, to discuss the case.

“The federal civil rights investigation into the shooting incident itself continues, in parallel with the local investigation into state law violations,” Holder said in a statement Thursday. “Our investigators from the Civil Rights Division and U.S. attorney’s office in Missouri have already conducted interviews with eyewitnesses on the scene at the time of the shooting incident on Saturday. Our review will take time to conduct, but it will be thorough and fair.”

Holder spoke by phone with the parents of the slain teenager this morning.

“I think it’s entirely praiseworthy that he would speak to the parents. I don’t find any basis for criticism there,” Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R-Mo.) said.

“We know that the Department of Justice has in the past, in some previous cases, put their thumb on the scales of justice,” Kinder added. “I, to this point so far, I have not seen that, and I hope we don’t see that as this process goes forward.”

“People have the right, a right we will defend, to peaceably assemble in the streets, but we do not decide these questions in the streets. This is America. We have legal processes.”

Kinder stressed he was “delighted” to hear the county prosecutor announce yesterday that the Brown shooting will be taken to a grand jury.

“Missouri is different than many other states in that prosecutors have the option of charging on what we call their own information, that is, their own decision. or they can charge by taking to a grand jury,” he said. “And in that case, it is not the prosecutor doing the charging, but it is the people empaneled in a grand jury. The people of St. Louis county, therefore, will be heard from in the grand jury process. And I applaud the prosecutor for announcing that he will take this to a grand jury.”

Kinder didn’t object to the police releasing the name of the shooter, six-year police veteran Officer Darren Wilson.

“We all knew that the officer’s name would have to be released. The only question was when,” the lieutenant governor said.

“And what we have here is a necessity to protect him and his family. He has not been charged with a crime as we is sit here and discuss this. He may be down the road,” Kinder said. “If he is, he is entitled to all the protections that our jurisprudence system offers any criminal defendant, should he be charged as a criminal defendant, and that includes the presumption of innocence and the right to a defense and counsel and everything else.”

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Armed Services Chairman Promises to Review If Military Equipment ‘Being Used as Intended’ by Cops

Friday, August 15th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Congress would review how the Pentagon transfers surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies.

The statement from Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) comes after criticism, including from Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), that the SWAT reaction to the protests and rioting in Ferguson, Mo., resembled a police state more than a suburb.

“Congress established this program out of real concern that local law enforcement agencies were literally outgunned by drug criminals,” Levin said today. “We intended this equipment to keep police officers and their communities safe from heavily armed drug gangs and terrorist incidents.”

“Before the defense authorization bill comes to the Senate floor, we will review this program to determine if equipment provided by the Defense Department is being used as intended,” he added.

At yesterday’s Pentagon briefing, press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby was asked whether the concern over increased militarization of domestic police forces would give the Defense Department pause about the oversight of the program or its future.

“There is a law enforcement support program that the Defense Department administers which provides to law enforcement agencies around the country surplus military equipment, gear, arms, ammunition, vehicles. This is a useful program that allows for the reuse of military equipment that otherwise would be disposed of that can be used, again, by law enforcement agencies to serve their citizens,” Kirby replied.

“So it’s a — so the program serves a purpose. That said, it is up to law enforcement agencies to speak to how and what they gain through this system. And I’m not going to inject the Pentagon into this discussion. How this equipment is used to serve local citizens, again, is up for local law enforcement agencies to speak to.”

More: 

GOP Lt. Gov. in Missouri Says Holder’s Ferguson Response Thus Far ‘Praiseworthy’

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Pentagon on N. Korea Missiles: ‘Pope Worries About a Higher Authority Than Kim Jong-un’

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Pentagon today brushed off North Korea’s latest saber-rattling just before Pope Francis touched down in South Korea for a five-day visit.

Pyongyang fired five short-range missiles into the sea east of the Korean peninsula.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said he wouldn’t “speak to North Korean intentions,” such as whether it’s a precursor to the firing of longer-range missiles.

“I think it’s an exercise in futility to try to figure out what it is Kim Jong-un does and why. Some people are saying that these five rockets were fired in conjunction with the pope’s visit,” Kirby said. “My guess is the pope worries about a higher authority than Kim Jong-un.”

“So I’m not going to speculate about what they did or why. What I’ll say is what I’ve continued to say almost every week. North Korea needs to meet its international obligations. It needs to pay more attention to feeding its own people and educating its own citizens than further destabilizing the peninsula.”

Kirby added that “regardless, our commitment, our treaty commitments, one of the five of seven treaty alliances we have is to the South Korean government.”

“We take very seriously our treaty commitment there on the peninsula and to security on the peninsula,” he said. “Nothing’s going to change about that, and it’s not going to affect our desire, ability and intent to continue to exercise and work on interoperability with our South Korean counterparts.”

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Conyers: Ferguson ‘Reminiscent of the Violent Altercations That Took Place During the Civil Rights Movement’

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee said the expected removal of local police from handling the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., is “an important step towards restoring peace and allowing for an independent, thorough investigation to take place.”

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) charged that “serious and sweeping civil rights violations may have taken place” in the St. Louis suburb.

“The tragic killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the events that have transpired since the shooting in Ferguson are reminiscent of the violent altercations that took place during the Civil Rights Movement. Countless African Americans endured unwarranted hostility and excessive force from law enforcement while exercising their right to peaceful assembly and civil resistance,” Conyers said in a statement.

“It is a great travesty to find ourselves again witnessing the blatant violation of our right to peaceably assemble in Ferguson.”

Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) told Bloomberg that Gov. Jay Nixon (D) would announce once he arrived to the city that the St. Louis County police would be removed from the situation.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said it was time to “de-militarize this situation — this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution.”

“I obviously respect law enforcement’s work to provide public safety, but my constituents are allowed to have peaceful protests, and the police need to respect that right and protect that right,” McCaskill said.

Her GOP counterpart, Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), said in a statement that he spoke with Attorney General Eric Holder about “the continued investigation in Ferguson, and I continue to monitor what I believe is close coordination between county and federal authorities.”

“It’s important to remember that this tragedy began when a young man lost his life, and I support local and federal officials in their efforts to conduct open, transparent, and parallel investigations into what happened here,” Blunt said in reference to the police shooting of an 18-year-old last weekend. “Michael Brown’s memory, his family, and his community are not well-served by more violence.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) even weighed in, with a reference to the arrest of two journalists in a McDonald’s last night. “In the wake of this terrible tragedy, my thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Michael Brown,” he said. “I strongly support a full and thorough investigation of the events surrounding his death, and subsequent actions, including the detention of journalists covering this heartbreaking situation.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said it’s “crucial” that the House and Senate Judiciary Committees hold hearings when Congress returns from recess “on the continued incidents of the killing of African American males by law enforcement.”

“The killing of African American young males is becoming an epidemic in America. We have seen this story before with Eric Garner, Oscar Grant and now Michael Brown and these are just some of the names who have fallen victim of excessive policing,” Jackson Lee said. “…Added to that should be continued questions on the overall killing of African American young males such as the cases of Trayvon Martin and Alfred Wright.”

“I will be reviewing the President’s initiative of My Brother’s Keeper which will lay the framework dealing with omnibus legislation I plan on introducing that will deal with the epidemic of the killing of so many African American males,” she added. “This must stop now. Mothers and fathers are crying too often.”

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Paul: Militarization of Law Enforcement at ‘Near-Crisis Point in Our Country’

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote in a TIME op-ed today that the crisis in Ferguson, Mo., after a police shooting underscores the need to demilitarize the police.

“If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot,” Paul wrote of the “awful tragedy” that took the life of 18-year-old Michael Brown. “The outrage in Ferguson is understandable—though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.”

“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action.”

Paul cited a Glenn Reynolds piece in Popular Mechanics five years ago, stressing that our fears about police militarization are becoming reality.

“Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement,” the senator wrote, adding it’s “usually done in the name of fighting the war on drugs or terrorism.”

When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

“Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them,” Paul continued.

“This is part of the anguish we are seeing in the tragic events outside of St. Louis, Missouri. It is what the citizens of Ferguson feel when there is an unfortunate and heartbreaking shooting like the incident with Michael Brown.”

The senator stressed that “anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention.”

“Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth,” Paul wrote. “The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. It is one thing for federal officials to work in conjunction with local authorities to reduce or solve crime. It is quite another for them to subsidize it.”

“Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.”

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Obama: ‘Now’s the Time for Peace and Calm on the Streets of Ferguson’

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama stepped up to the microphone early this afternoon during his Massachusetts vacation to express support for Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) in dealing with the police shooting and ensuing protests just outside of St. Louis.

“I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we’ve seen in the heartland of our country as police have clashed with people protesting,” Obama said. “Today, I’d like us all to take a step back and think about how we’re going to be moving forward. This morning I received a thorough update on the situation from Attorney General Eric Holder, who’s been following it and been in communication with his team.”

The DOJ and the FBI are already investigating the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, he noted.

“The Department of Justice is also consulting with local authorities about ways that they can maintain public safety without restricting the right of peaceful protest and while avoiding unnecessary escalation,” Obama said. “I made clear to the attorney general that we should do what is necessary to help determine exactly what happened and to see that justice is done.”

“I also just spoke with Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri. I expressed my concern over the violent turn that events have taken on the ground and underscored that now is the time for all of us to reflect on what’s happened and to find a way to come together going forward.”

Obama said the governor, whose presence in the crisis has thus far been minimal, will be traveling to Ferguson. “He is a good man, and a fine governor. And I’m confident that, working together, he’s gonna be able to communicate his desire to make sure that justice is done and his desire to make sure that public safety is maintained in an appropriate way,” he said.

“Of course, it’s important to remember how this started. We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances. He was 18 years old. His family will never hold Michael in their arms again,” the president continued. “And when something like this happens, the local authorities, including the police, have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death and how they are protecting the people in their communities.”

“There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting.”

And, Obama added in reference to the Huffington Post and Washington Post reporters arrested last night, “There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.”

“And here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground. Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority,” he continued. “I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened. There are going to be different accounts of how this tragedy occurred.”

“There’re going to be differences in terms of what needs to happen going forward. That’s part of our democracy. But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family. We are united in common values and that includes belief in equality under the law and basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest, a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.”

Obama added that “now’s the time for healing” and “now’s the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.”

“Now is the time for an open and transparent process to see that justice is done and I’ve asked that the attorney general and the U.S. attorney on the scene continue to work with local officials to move that process forward,” the president said. “They will be reporting to me in the coming days about what’s being done to make sure that happens.”

Obama left without taking questions from the media and quickly departed for a nearby golf course.

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Ferguson Cops Arrest Two Reporters Working at a McDonald’s

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Two reporters were arrested at a McDonald’s last night in Ferguson, Mo., while filing their stories of the day’s protests and police action, leading to charges that authorities are violating the First Amendment rights of journalists on the scene.

Huffington Post Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim said Justice Department reporter Ryan Reilly was working on his laptop in the restaurant “when police barged in, armed with high-powered weapons, and began clearing the restaurant.”

“Ryan photographed the intrusion, and police demanded his ID in response. Ryan, as is his right, declined to provide it. He proceeded to pack up his belongings, but was subsequently arrested for not packing up fast enough. Both Ryan and Wesley were assaulted,” Grim said in the statement.

“Compared to some others who have come into contact with the police department, they came out relatively unscathed, but that in no way excuses the false arrest or the militant aggression toward these journalists. Ryan, who has reported multiple times from Guantanamo Bay, said that the police resembled soldiers more than officers, and treated those inside the McDonald’s as ‘enemy combatants.’ Police militarization has been among the most consequential and unnoticed developments of our time, and it is now beginning to affect press freedom.”

The other reporter arrested, Wesley Lowrey of the Washington Post, posted his account and video on the paper’s website.

The McDonald’s, Lowrey explained, is located a few blocks from where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by police over the weekend, sparking the current unrest. Reporters have used the restaurant for its food, WiFi, and outlets to recharge phones and other equipment.

Wrote Lowrey of the encounter with the officers who came into the restaurant:

I was wearing my lanyard, but Ryan asked why he had to show his ID. They didn’t press the point, but one added that if we called 911, no one would answer.

Then they walked away.

Moments later, the police reemerged, telling us that we had to leave. I pulled my phone out and began recording video.

An officer with a large weapon came up to me and said, “Stop recording.”

I said, “Officer, do I not have the right to record you?”

He backed off but told me to hurry up. So I gathered my notebook and pens with one hand while recording him with the other hand.

As I exited, I saw Ryan to my left, having a similar argument with two officers. I recorded him, too, and that angered the officer. As I made my way toward the door, the officers gave me conflicting information.

One instructed me to exit to my left. As I turned left, another officer emerged, blocking my path.

“Go another way,” he said.

As I turned, my backpack, which was slung over one shoulder, began to slip. I said, “Officers, let me just gather my bag.” As I did, one of them said, “Okay, let’s take him.”

Multiple officers grabbed me. I tried to turn my back to them to assist them in arresting me. I dropped the things from my hands.

“My hands are behind my back,” I said. “I’m not resisting. I’m not resisting.” At which point one officer said: “You’re resisting. Stop resisting.”

That was when I was most afraid — more afraid than of the tear gas and rubber bullets.

As they took me into custody, the officers slammed me into a soda machine, at one point setting off the Coke dispenser. They put plastic cuffs on me, then they led me out the door.

I could see Ryan still talking to an officer. I said: “Ryan, tweet that they’re arresting me, tweet that they’re arresting me.”

He didn’t have an opportunity, because he was arrested as well.

When they were released at the station after about 15 minutes in a holding cell, Lowrey said they asked for and were denied the opportunity to speak to a commanding officer. “The chief thought he was doing you two a favor,” they were reportedly told.

Reilly later wrote that their apparent “crime” was “not packing up our gear quickly enough after a heavily armed SWAT team shut down the McDonald’s where we were working.”

“A Saint Louis County police officer in full riot gear, who refused to identify himself despite my repeated requests, purposefully banged my head against the window on the way out and sarcastically apologized,” Reilly wrote. “I’m fine. But if this is the way these officers treat a white reporter working on a laptop who moved a little too slowly for their liking, I can’t imagine how horribly they treat others.”

“And if anyone thinks that the militarization of our police force isn’t a huge issue in this country, I’ve got a story to tell you.”

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Jindal Says He Supports Educational Standards, But Common Core Mutated from Original Intent

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told MSNBC this morning that he was originally thought classroom standards were “a great idea,” and is “still for rigor in the classroom,” but wants Common Core out of his state because  ”it has become something very different than than what it started.”

“Now it’s become driven by the federal government, the federal bureaucracy. It was never intended to be a top-down approach. And the federal government has never made curriculum decisions in our local schools. I think it’s a mistake to do that,” Jindal said.

“A lot of times people who are for Common Core try to say, well, if you’re against this, you’re against standards. That’s simply not true. I’m for tests. I’m for standards. I just don’t want the federal government driving these standards,” he added.

“As a parent, I look at the math standards. I look at some of the reading text, and I’m very worried about my kids doing these things. I think it would have been better if they had slowed down, let the teachers, let the parents have more involvement, have more transparency. I think they have rushed to do this. So I think the idea of standards is good.”

Jindal acknowledged that “historically Louisiana has not done well, but recently we’ve implemented very aggressive reform, so that, for example, in New Orleans, 90 percent of our kids are now in charter schools.”

“We have doubled the percentage doing reading and math on grade level in five years. We have got the highest ever graduation rate in our high schools,” he said. “…We’ve still got work to do. I’m not saying that we’re where we want to be, but we’re doing better than we’ve done before because we’ve done things like charter schools. We’ve done things like high- stakes testing. We do merit evaluations of our teachers. We do school choice. We empower parents.”

“I’m all for reforms, and I’m all for accountability. I think it’s important…. My problem with Common Core is, again, the Federal Department of Education, Arne Duncan, through Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind waivers, through funding threats has made this into a federal takeover of our local curriculum. That’s what’s not acceptable.”

Education reform will likely be a top issue if Jindal decides to run for president.

The governor said he’s “thinking and praying about it, won’t make a decision until after November.”

“If I were to decide to run, I certainly think that our country is hungry for a big change in direction, not incremental change, especially when it comes to restoring the American dream for our children and grandchildren,” he said. “…We need to fix those things. We need a stronger foreign policy. But there will be time after November to make those decisions.”

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Lee: ‘We Can’t Just Cut Obamacare, or Even Repeal It and Go Back to the Old System’

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) argued in a speech yesterday at the Reagan Ranch that “the similarities between the late 1970s and today seem to grow by the hour” and it’s time to do a realignment of the GOP like President Reagan did back then.

Lee gave the address to mark the 33rd anniversary of Reagan signing into law the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981.

“A chasm of distrust is opening between the American people and their government. Both parties are seen as incapable of producing innovative solutions to growing problems, or uninterested in even trying. Reagan’s ‘forgotten Americans’ are once again being left behind,” the senator said. “Once again, the left has betrayed the trust of the American people. But the right has not won it back.”

“So it seems to me that conservatives today need to do what Reagan did in the late 1970s: identify the great challenges holding back America’s working families, and propose concrete, innovative solutions to help overcome them,” he said. “Just like Reagan did, as conservatives today we need to re-apply our principles to the challenges of the moment. We need to offer the country a new, positive reform agenda that remembers America’s forgotten families and puts the federal government back on their side.”

Lee stressed that “a real conservative reform agenda has to do more than just cut big government.”

“It has to fix broken government. Reagan did just that a generation ago. Since then, new challenges have emerged, demanding repair – and conservative principles can once again point us toward exciting, innovative solutions,” he said.

Areas for reform include a level regulatory playing field for all businesses, transportation growth that would “cut out those Beltway middle-men,” and education reform that focuses on “fixing the system so college doesn’t cost so much in the first place,” the senator argued.

“A conservative reform agenda must confront a welfare system that isolates the less fortunate.  A reformed system would start to bring the poor back into our economy and civil society,” he said. “…We can’t just cut Obamacare, or even repeal it and go back to the old system we had before. Instead, we need to move forward with real healthcare reforms that empower patients and doctors, not big government and big insurance companies.”

“A renewed commitment to reform can not only put America on the path to recovery, but reunite our nation after too many years of bitter division… and empower our people after too many years of falling behind.”

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Rubio to Erdoğan: Knock Off the Anti-Israel Incitement

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and potential 2016 presidential contender has asked the prime minister of Turkey to stop inciting violence against Israel.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday “with great concern about your comments regarding Israel’s recent actions in Gaza, and reports that organizations operating in Turkey are planning to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

“In response to thousands of rocket attacks on Israel launched by Hamas and other terrorist organizations from Gaza, Israel instituted a naval blockade to prevent items that could be used to support these attacks from entering Gaza by sea. The intent of the measures is to protect Israel, while still allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza. I encourage you to take all appropriate measures to keep these organizations from provoking a confrontation with Israeli forces and violating this blockade. A publicity stunt by Turkish organizations in 2010 led to the regrettable loss of life, and it would be irresponsible for your government not to take measures to avoid a similar outcome this time,” Rubio wrote.

The senator referred to the Mavi Marmara, which ended in a raid of the flotilla by Israeli forces in which 10 activists were killed and 10 commandos were wounded.

“The United States has not forgotten how a centuries-old legacy of tolerance led to Turkey being the first Muslim-majority country to recognize the State of Israel in 1949. Your nation led the region, and much of the world, in acknowledging the right of the Jewish people to live in peace and security. The relationship between Turkey and Israel has historically been strong, and mutually advantageous. Although strained on the political level in recent years, economic interaction remains robust,” Rubio continued. “I was thus deeply troubled by your comments at a campaign event on August 3rd comparing Israel’s recent actions to Nazi Germany’s genocidal campaign against Jews and other minorities.”

Erdoğan, who just won the presidency in what many predict will result in a saturation of executive power, said, “Just like Hitler, who sought to establish a race free of all faults, Israel is chasing after the same target.”

“Such deplorable comments and anti-Israel views have become increasingly common among senior Turkish officials and severely undermine our mutual interest in collaboration to address the common challenges our nations face,” Rubio wrote.

“Given our nations’ long-standing partnership, and Turkey’s significant role in NATO, I urge you to halt this incendiary rhetoric regarding Israel. Additionally, I request that you take all appropriate measures to keep organizations operating in Turkey from provoking a confrontation with Israeli forces by attempting to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

President Obama and Erdoğan have been close, and Erdoğan even ripped off the styling of Obama’s campaign logo for his own campaign.

Obama called Erdoğan on Tuesday to congratulate him, according to the White House, and highlighted the Islamist leader’s (in a secular republic) “historic opportunity to further move Turkey forward.”

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Pentagon: Evacuation of Yazidis ‘Far Less Likely’ After Assessment by ‘Less Than 20′ U.S. Personnel

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Pentagon said its reconnaissance team that checked out the plight of Yazidi refugees under siege from ISIS fighters on Mount Sinjar is not as dire as officials there believed.

“As part of the ongoing humanitarian efforts ordered by President Obama, today a team of U.S. military personnel, accompanied by USAID, conducted an assessment of the situation on Mt. Sinjar and the impact of U.S. military actions to date,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement. “The team, which consisted of less than twenty personnel, did not engage in combat operations and all personnel have returned safely to Irbil by military air.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced yesterday that he had asked Obama for and received permission to send 130 extra “advisers” to Iraq, but stressed to Marines at Camp Pendleton that this didn’t mean “boots on the ground.”

“The team has assessed that there are far fewer Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar than previously feared, in part because of the success of humanitarian air drops, air strikes on ISIL targets, the efforts of the Peshmerga and the ability of thousands of Yazidis to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days,” Kirby continued.

“The Yazidis who remain are in better condition than previously believed and continue to have access to the food and water that we have dropped. Based on this assessment the interagency has determined that an evacuation mission is far less likely,” he said. “Additionally, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance as needed and will protect U.S. personnel and facilities.”

The Pentagon did not release their estimate on the number of Yazidis still on Mount Sinjar.

On Tuesday, UN officials warned of an imminent atrocity with an estimate of 40,000 Yazidis trying to hide from ISIS on Mount Sinjar. “All possible measures must be taken urgently to avoid a mass atrocity and potential genocide within days or hours – civilians need to be protected on the ground and escorted out of situations of extreme peril,” said Rita Izsák, Special Rapporteur on minority issues.

“We are witnessing a tragedy of huge proportions unfolding in which thousands of people are at immediate risk of death by violence or by hunger and thirst,” said Chaloka Beyani, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons. “Humanitarian aid must be delivered quickly and no efforts should be spared to protect all groups forcefully displaced by this conflict.”

Additionally, the UN noted that ISIS is hunting down religious minorities in all areas under its control.

“We cannot stand by in the face of such atrocities,” said Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “International actors must do all in their power to support those on the ground with the capacity to protect lives.”

At a Tuesday press conference, UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon called the plight of the Yazidis and others on Mount Sinjar “especially harrowing.”

“UN humanitarian personnel are in the area, doing what we can. Air drops of food and water are reaching some of the trapped people. But the situation on the mountain is dire. And even when people manage to find a way out, they remain exposed to searing heat and a perilous odyssey,” Ban said.

The White House said in a briefing earlier today that it was still assessing what to do about the trapped Yazidis.

“The Iraqis and the Kurdish forces in particular have been engaged. They have a presence on the mountain and they will certainly be cooperating with us in this effort,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters in Massachusetts.

“We have offers of support from a number of allies like France, Australia, Canada,” Rhodes said. “We will be in discussions with them about what they can do, both as it relates to helping the Yazidi population that has been trapped on the mountain but also more broadly helping bring relief to the displaced persons in Northern Iraq, which includes not just Yazidis but an enormous number of Iraqi Christians and others who have been driven from their homes by ISIL.”

“…The people who are on the ground fighting ISIL are the Kurdish forces and the Iraqi security forces. We are taking action from the air on the objectives of protecting our people and providing humanitarian space for the Yazidis, in particular on the mountain. If there’s additional things that we can do as part of an effort to move them off the mountain, [Obama will] certainly review those — those options.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today stressed “the United States is not the only country on Earth with an air force.”

“While I support President Obama’s decision to use airstrikes to protect the lives of thousands of innocent people of the Yazidi minority, the U.S. should not have to act alone militarily in this crisis,” Sanders said. “ISIS is a danger to the entire region and to the world. The international community must work with the U.S.”

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Hagel Says Service Reviews Progressing for Women in Combat Roles

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Queried by Marines at Camp Pendleton yesterday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the review to consider how women can serve in combat roles is continuing.

The Pentagon announced in January 2013 that it would lift the ban on women serving in combat, and proceeded to open a formal review process to gain input from the different service branches.

“Well, as you know, we are — we, the Defense Department, are all of us in the process, each of the services, for working through the last very small group of positions that have been restricted to men only,” Hagel told the Marines. “And I was just talking with the commandant the other day about this. The Marines are working exactly in the direction they should be working, are working to get these directives and requirements met on time.”

“Each service is different, as you know. And requirements are different. Combat is a different world. I served a year in Vietnam in 1968 as an infantryman, and I know a little something about that business, your business. And so we want to make sure that as we work through all of this and we open up more opportunities for women in every service, in every MOS, that we give everybody as much assurance as we can that this will be successful, that they can be successful,” the Defense secretary continued.

“At the same time, everyone agrees that we’re not going to lower our standards, and whether it’s a male or a female in any occupation, no one wants to do that. And we are not doing that, and we won’t do that.”

Hagel stressed, though, that “there are ways that we can explore and we are and adjust to making sure that we continue to move forward and assure that these occupations that have been closed to women get opened up and get opened up on the timelines that are now in process.”

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