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Rick Moran

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.
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Official Ebola Toll at 5,000 With Real Number Closer to 15,000

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Wednesday that the official death toll of Ebola cases around the world stood at 4877 as of October 19, with nearly 10,000 cases recorded.

But the WHO noted that the real death toll was at least 3 times higher.

The WHO has said real numbers of cases are believed to be much higher than reported: by a factor of 1.5 in Guinea, 2 in Sierra Leone and 2.5 in Liberia, while the death rate is thought to be about 70 percent of all cases. That would suggest a toll of almost 15,000.

Liberia has been worst hit, with 4,665 recorded cases and 2,705 deaths, followed by Sierra Leone with 3,706 cases and 1,259 deaths. Guinea, where the outbreak originated, has had 1,540 cases and 904 deaths.

On Friday the WHO put the toll about 300 lower with more than 745 fewer cases.

In the past week, transmission of the disease was most intense in the capital cities of Monrovia and Freetown, while Guinea’s capital Conakry reported 18 confirmed cases, its second highest weekly total since the outbreak began.

Although Ebola has been contained in Nigeria and Senegal, the disease is spreading towards Ivory Coast in both Liberia and Guinea, including in Guinea’s Kankan district on a major trade route with Mali. Kankan saw its first case in the past week.

However, the WHO said the Liberian district of Lofa had seen a third consecutive week of decline in the number of cases, which reports from observers suggested was a result of disease control measures.

Among the thousands of cases are 443 health care workers, 244 of whom have died. The WHO said it was undertaking extensive investigations to determine why so many had caught the disease.

“Early indications are that a substantial proportion of infections occurred outside the context of Ebola treatment and care,” it said.

The reason for the vast difference between the official death toll and what is probably the real count is that more deaths are occurring in areas where there are fewer health care facilities than in population zones. That, and the lack of beds means that people are contracting the disease and being treated at home. Since authorities in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are doing a poor job so far of tracking those who comes in contact with infected people, many of those patients will die with health authorities not being aware of the casualty.

The world got a late start in addressing the crisis, fell way behind, and now faces the daunting prospect of racing a deadline set by WHO of December 1:

A U.N. plan to stop the epidemic, known as 70-70-60, involves isolating at least 70 percent of cases and safely burying at least 70 percent of those who die by Dec. 1, a 60-day deadline from the start of the plan. That is supposed to rise to 100 percent by the 90-day deadline on Jan. 1.

The number of isolation beds had increased substantially to 1,126 but remained only 25 percent of the 4,388 expected to be needed in 50 Ebola treatment units. There were also firm commitments from foreign medical teams to staff only 30 units.

Without those beds in those units, families have to care for sick relatives at home and risk infection.

The WHO also estimates 28 laboratories are needed in the three worst-hit countries, with 12 now in place, and 20,000 staff will be needed to keep track of people who have had contact with Ebola patients and may be at risk.

The three worst-hit countries will also need 230 dead-body-management teams by Dec. 1, it said. They have 140.

Can the international community create this kind of massive medical and health infrastructure in a few weeks? It’s 40 days until December 1 and it doesn’t seem likely that any of those goals will be met. And now that the virus has spread to large cities like Monrovia and Freetown, it is likely that many more people will be exposed to the virus, straining the capability of these third world government to track them all.

Part of the reason some African countries like Nigeria and Senegal have been able to avoid large outbreaks was a determined public education program about the disease. But in desperately poor countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone, communications are poor and getting the word out to most of the population has proved to be a challenge.

And what information gets out to the people is not always welcome:

Even as Liberians fall ill and die of Ebola, more than half the beds in treatment centers in the capital remain empty, an unintended consequence of the government’s order that the bodies of all suspected Ebola victims in Monrovia be cremated.

Cremation violates Liberians’ values and cultural practices and the order has so disturbed people in the West African nation that the sick are often kept at home and, if they die, are secretly buried, increasing the risk of more infections

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf issued the cremation decree for Monrovia and the surrounding area in August, and the government has brought in a crematorium and hired experts. The order came after people in neighborhoods of the capital resisted burials of hundreds of Ebola victims near their homes.

Since then, a recent analysis of space at Ebola treatment centers shows that of 742 beds available, more than half — 391 — were vacant, said Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah, who heads the government’s Ebola response.

“For fear of cremation, do not stay home to die,” Nyenswah admonished Liberians at a news conference last week.

In her statement declaring the state of emergency and the cremation order, Sirleaf acknowledged the edict runs contrary to national tradition. “Ebola has attacked our way of life,” she said.

That way of life includes honoring deceased ancestors.

On the second Wednesday of March each year, Liberians flock to cemeteries to honor their deceased loved ones on a public holiday known as National Decoration Day, scrubbing the headstones of relatives, clearing away brush from graves and decorating them with flowers and other mementoes.

In many parts of Liberia, tradition has also called for relatives to handle the bodies of loved ones before burial. Bodies are kept in the home for days or weeks, during which time people honor their loved ones by dancing around the corpse, washing it and cutting and braiding the hair. Before burial, church congregations also pray over the body.

Since the latest outbreak of Ebola, these burial customs have been ordered halted when it comes to victims of the deadly virus because of the dangers they pose. The Ebola virus is spread through the body fluids of an infected person and can endure in corpses, posing a danger to those who handle them.

A million Ebola cases by the end of January, is what the WHO is saying unless they meet their goals. With that many infections, the math becomes grim, indeed, and the chances of the virus breaking out of Africa increase substantially.

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Nigeria Declared ‘Ebola-Free’

Monday, October 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The World Health Organization has declared Nigeria “Ebola-free” after 42 days elapsed without a new case being diagnosed.

WHO announced that Senegal was Ebola-free on Friday.

Neither country experienced the kind of outbreak of the disease seen in other West African countries. But the reason for that has a lot to do with how they handled the crisis in the first few days after diagnosing the first patient.

In the case of Nigeria, the country immediately declared an emergency, and set out to identify all the people who had come in contact with the patient. The early detection of the disease, the swift emergency response, and a massive public education effort all combined to limit the spread of the virus to 20 people, eight of whom died.

“This is a spectacular success story that shows to the world that Ebola can be contained but we must be clear that we have only won a battle, the war will only end when West Africa is also declared free of Ebola.”

The outbreak there began when Patrick Sawyer, an American-Liberian citizen, was diagnosed with the illness in July.

Nigeria declared a national public health emergency and Mr Sawyer later died of the disease, followed by seven Nigerians.

These included Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, who diagnosed Mr Sawyer and is credited with helping to contain the outbreak at its source.

Dr Adadevoh’s son, Bankole Cardoso, told the BBC that because Mr Sawyer had been so quickly diagnosed, Nigeria was able to trace all those who could possibly have contracted the disease from him.

“That was probably the difference between us and our West African neighbours,” he said.

John Vertefeuille, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that Nigeria had taken the right steps to contain the outbreak.

“Nigeria acted quickly and early and on a large scale,” he told AFP news agency.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., authorities have released 43 people from quarantine when they failed to show symptoms of the disease after 21 days. All 43 had come in contact with the first Ebola patient, Thomas Duncan. Authorities say that 120 people who came in contact with the other two Ebola patients are still being monitored in Texas with dozens more in Ohio, and up to 800 more across the country who had flown on the plane taken by Amber Vinson, the third Ebola patient.

Vinson’s family is pushing back from the CDC’s contention that the nurse was told not to use public transportation, including flying in commercial aircraft, prior to her trip to Cleveland.

LA Times:

Health officials gave Texas nurse Amber Vinson permission to fly to Ohio and back even though she voiced concern about Ebola, her relatives said Sunday, adding that they have retained a high-profile attorney.

Their statement contradicted a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention account of what took place before the nurse was diagnosed with the virus.

CDC officials said last week that Vinson had been told to avoid public transportation, including commercial airlines, while monitoring herself for symptoms. CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said her trip to Ohio, which began before fellow nurse Nina Pham had been diagnosed with Ebola, violated that restriction. The agency has acknowledged approving Vinson’s return flight.

“In no way was Amber careless prior to or after her exposure to Mr. Thomas Eric Duncan,” the Ebola patient she treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Vinson’s family said Sunday in a statement detailing her interactions with health officials.

The family also said they have retained attorney Billy Martin, a veteran of numerous high-profile cases. He represented NFL star Michael Vick during his dogfighting case, actor Wesley Snipes during his tax case, the parents of federal intern Chandra Levy after her disappearance and the mother of former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky during the sex-and-perjury investigation of President Clinton.

Vinson’s family said that before the nurse flew to Cleveland on Oct. 10, she contacted the CDC through her work supervisor “and was fully cleared for travel.”

Say it isn’t so! The CDC tried to blame the victim for the agency’s own stupidity? I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that a government agency would lie to cover its own behind.

In a Politico poll concluded before the 3rd case of Ebola was diagnosed, just 22% of voters in swing states said they had a lot of confidence that the government could contain the disease while 33% said they didn’t. Those numbers may change as days pass and no more new cases of Ebola are diagnosed in the U.S. But the glaring, nearly incomprehensible missteps made by the government in their efforts to contain the virus in the first days of the crisis is a warning that in the months ahead, as the outbreak worsens in West Africa, the U.S. may again be challenged and found wanting in its response. No “czar,” no smooth assurances from health bureaucrats can mask the fundamental truth that we’re not ready to face an outbreak here.

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Chicago Sun-Times Endorses Republican Bruce Rauner for Governor

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Someone check the weather forecast for hell and see if it calls for falling temps because the liberal Chicago Sun-times newspaper just endorsed Republican Bruce Rauner for governor.

The other Chicago paper, the Tribune, endorsed Rauner earlier this month.

Incumbent Governor Pat Quinn, who calls himself the “jobs governor,” has presided over the worst economy in the Midwest. He forced the state legislature to pass ruinous tax increases in 2011, promising that the measure would only be temporary.

Last April, he proposed making the increases permanent. His own party shot him down.

His opponent, Bruce Rauner, is a private equity fund manager worth billions. He’s a political novice who promises to “reform” state government. Illinois residents shrug their shoulders and yawn at that kind of talk. They’ve heard it all before and nothing ever changes.

The race isn’t quite as dirty as the Florida governor’s race, but it’s rancid enough for any oppo researcher’s taste. Quinn is portrayed as a crook, a clown, and part of the culture of corruption in Springfield. Rauner is your typical evil businessman who got his wealth illegally, tries to kill poor people and old folks, and wants to get into office so he can cut his own taxes.

The pick of the crop of Illinois politicians.

The Sun-Times endorsement is interesting because the newspaper swore off endorsement two years ago.

This one contest, the race for governor, is simply too important to the future of Illinois for us to stay silent. It may well be the most important election in our state’s modern history. On Nov. 4, voters will decide if Illinois is to grow and charge ahead, reclaiming its place as one of the great states in the Union, or to settle — once and for all — for defeat and decline.

We do not exaggerate. The stakes are that high, and Illinois has just about run out of time for a comeback. We cannot stand on the sidelines.

Today we are endorsing Bruce Rauner for governor. Today we are putting our chips — we’re all in — on an extraordinarily capable businessman who just might have what it takes to break the stranglehold of uninspired, self-serving, one-party rule in Springfield.

We look across Illinois and we despair. We see struggling small towns and an antiquated tax structure, monstrous pension debt and population decline, government incompetence and public corruption.

We see an entrenched political class bereft of fresh ideas, basic business acumen, and independence from unions and other special interests. We see professional politicians, beginning with Gov. Pat Quinn and House Speaker Mike Madigan, who have failed to do what must be done before all else — promote economic growth and help create many more new jobs. We see a political status quo that is ruining Illinois.

Then there is Bruce Rauner. In him, we see everything the current occupant of the Governor’s Mansion is not — a smart businessman, skilled executive and born leader beholden to nobody but those of us smart enough to vote him into office. We see that rare candidate who has but one agenda, to get Illinois roaring again for the sake of us all. It’s not like the man needs the money.

That’s a pretty serious indictment of the Democratic party in Illinois. And it’s deserved. The IRS published a study that showed one person left Illinois every ten minutes. People, businesses, jobs, and wealth are all fleeing the state:

“I thought it was going to be a lifetime thing — living in the Chicago area,” said Ciaburri, 28. “But I just don’t see us getting ahead by staying here.”

Sky-high property taxes make homeownership a pipe dream, she explained. And the job market — terrible. It seems there are always more headlines about companies leaving Illinois than moving in. She and her husband both have jobs now, but what about in five years when there might be kids in the picture?

As Ciaburri laid out all the reasons why it made sense to move, my heart ached.

I was born in Chicago, raised on Superdawg and Portillo’s. In my early 20s, I made a hard pitch for Illinois to my then-boyfriend-now-husband.

“It’s better here,” I told him.

It should be. But thousands of people just like Ciaburri have decided it’s not.

A startling pair of Gallup polls recently suggested that Illinoisans are an unhappy lot. Half of us would move elsewhere if we could. One in 4 says Illinois is the worst possible place to live in the entire U.S.

Naysayers claim it’s all talk. It isn’t.

Not long after the Gallup polls came out, the Internal Revenue Service released fresh numbers showing which states people are moving to and which states people are fleeing.

Spoiler: Illinois didn’t earn any positive marks in this report, either.

According to the IRS, Illinoisans don’t just want to move; they are moving. And they’ve been moving for a long time.

From 1995 to 2010, Illinois lost more than 850,000 people to other states. That’s after you offset the number of people who actually moved in.

That Gallup poll showed that one in four Illinoisans would rather live somewhere else.

Rauner would have to be a miracle worker to turn this around. And he will be fighting against the most entrenched, the most corrupt political system in the country. It won’t just be Democrats he’ll be battling. Republicans, too, benefit from and lustily take part in the shenanigans that allow politicians to line their own pockets and feed the special interests that warp, twist, fold, spindle, and mutilate politics in the state.

Illinois residents have resigned themselves to their fate, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when the politicians carry on with business as usual. Where pitchforks and tar and feathers is called for, residents just throw up their hands and walk away.

Apathy aside, if Rauner wins — the race is virtually tied 2 weeks out — it will be interesting to see what he can do. If history is any guide, it won’t be much. But perhaps he can start something that the next governor can build on and finally bring some hope to the long suffering citizens of the state that Abraham Lincoln called home.

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Idaho City Threatens to Jail Ministers for Not Performing Gay Weddings

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Officials in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, are threatening an elderly couple who run a wedding chapel with jail time unless they perform wedding ceremonies for gay couples.

Donald Knapp and his wife, Evelyn, both ordained ministers who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, have declined to host gay weddings based on their religious beliefs. The city is basing its claims on their “non-discrimination” statute now that the courts have cleared the way for same sex marriages in the state.

Alliance Defending Freedom has filed suit against the city and is asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent authorities from carrying out their threat.

“The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Many have denied that pastors would ever be forced to perform ceremonies that are completely at odds with their faith, but that’s what is happening here – and it’s happened this quickly. The city is on seriously flawed legal ground, and our lawsuit intends to ensure that this couple’s freedom to adhere to their own faith as pastors is protected just as the First Amendment intended.”

“The government exists to protect and respect our freedoms, not attack them,” Tedesco added. “The city cannot erase these fundamental freedoms and replace them with government coercion and intolerance.”

The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel is across the street from the Kootenai County Clerk’s office, which issues marriage licenses. The Knapps, both in their 60s and who themselves have been married for 47 years, began operating the wedding chapel in 1989 as a ministry. They perform religious wedding ceremonies, which include references to God, the invocation of God’s blessing on the union, brief remarks drawn from the Bible designed to encourage the couple and help them to have a successful marriage, and more. They also provide each couple they marry with a CD that includes two sermons about marriage, and they recommend numerous Christian books on the subject. The Knapps charge a small fee for their services.

Coeur d’Alene officials told the Knapps privately and also publicly stated that the couple would violate the city’s public accommodations statute once same-sex marriage became legal in Idaho if they declined to perform a same-sex ceremony at their chapel. On Friday, the Knapps respectfully declined such a ceremony and now face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines for each day they decline to perform that ceremony.

“The city somehow expects ordained pastors to flip a switch and turn off all faithfulness to their God and their vows,” explained ADF Legal Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “The U.S. Constitution as well as federal and state law clearly stand against that. The city cannot mandate across-the-board conformity to its interpretation of a city ordinance in utter disregard for the guaranteed freedoms Americans treasure in our society.”

There is little likelihood that any judge in America would uphold the city’s interpretation of the non-discrimination statute. In their eagerness to bend over backwards and show how tolerant they are, city fathers have trampled on the Constitution and threatened to severely curtail religious freedom.

This story comes on the heels of news from North Carolina that several magistrates who can legally perform weddings have resigned rather than marry a gay couple.

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Islamic State Renews Assault on Kobani

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

After a week-long lull in the fighting, Islamic State forces have renewed their assault on the Syrian border town of Kobani, attacking the Kurdish defenders from three sides.

Dozens of mortars were fired into the city and two car bombs exploded near Kurdish positions. US-led air strikes bombed targets outside of the city, according to eyewitnesses watching from the Turkish border.

Islamic State doesn’t appear to be able to mass troops for a final assault because of coalition air power. But it is believed they already have about 9,000 fighters in the city itself.

Reuters:

Raids on Islamic State around Kobani have been stepped up, with the fate of the town seen as an important test for U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign against the Islamists.

NATO member Turkey, whose forces are ranged along the border overlooking Kobani, is reluctant to intervene. It insists the allies should also confront Assad to end Syria’s civil war, which has killed close to 200,000 people since March 2011.

“We had the most intense clashes in days, perhaps a week, last night. (Islamic State) attacked from three different sides including the municipality building and the market place,” said Abdulrahman Gok, a journalist in Kobani.

“Clashes did not stop until the morning. We have had an early morning walk inside the city and have seen lots of damaged cars on the streets and unexploded mortar shells,” he said.

CAR BOMBS

The Observatory reported two Islamic State car bombs hit Kurdish positions on Saturday evening, leading to casualties. A cloud of black smoke towered over Kobani on Sunday.

A fighter from one of the female units of the main Syrian Kurdish militia in Kobani, YPG, said Kurdish fighters were able to detonate the car bombs before they reached their targets.

“Last night there were clashes all across Kobani … this morning the clashes are still ongoing,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Observatory said 70 Islamic State fighters had been killed in the past two days, according to sources at the hospital in the nearby town of Tel Abyab, where Islamic State bodies are taken. Reuters cannot independently confirm the reports due to security restrictions.

The Observatory said some Syrian Arab fighters from the Revolutionaries of Raqqa Brigade, who are fighting alongside Kurdish fighters, had executed two Islamic State captives.

“One was a child of around 15 years old. They shot them in the head,” he said.

Islamic State have also used executions throughout their campaigns in Syria and Iraq, killing hundreds of enemy combatants and civilians who oppose their cause, according to Islamic State videos and statements.

Seventy dead in two days is a high casualty total and it raises the question what price IS is willing to pay to capture the town. The month long siege has cost them several thousand casualties and with coalition air power proving to be a powerful obstacle to success, they are already engaged in a conflict of diminishing returns.

But the propaganda value of capturing Kobani would be great. It would maintain an aura of invincibility with jihadists around the world as well as exposing the Obama policy in Syria as a hollow reed. That alone is probably worth the cost of continuing the assault.

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Speculation Runs Rampant About Mission of X-37B Space Plane

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Air Force’s X-37B space plane has just returned from a two year mission and speculation about what that mission was is running wild.

The aircraft — a mini version of the Space Shuttle at 29 feet long and 15 foot wingspan — officially says the craft carried out experiments in advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, and aircraft electronic systems, which is about as general as you can get.

But specifics have been lacking which has set off an internet storm that includes conspiracy theories about top secret surveillance programs, developing bombing capabilities, and even anti-satellite warfare. That last is an area the US lags behind China and Russia as it is thought that both countries have carried out experiments in crippling communications and surveillance satellites from the ground.

ABC News:

Weeden, now a technical advisor for the Secure World Foundation, said speculation seemed to run rampant specifically because so little has been disclosed.

“Because it is a secret military space plane, there is tons and tons of speculation about what it’s doing in orbit,” Weeden said.

Popular online theories included that “it’s testing the ability to drop bombs in orbit or covertly going up and disabling satellites,” he said.

Weeden said looking at past instances of American spacecraft, he believes the spacecraft is more likely involved in something less shocking.

“What I think is more practical is that it’s setting up technology for surveillance,” said Weeden, who pointed out the military has relied heavily on satellite surveillance for decades.

Weeden also said the fact that the spacecraft can be reused and can return unmanned can allow faster turnaround on experiments.

Weeden said the ship might provide a kind of fast-track space for the military to try out new equipment in orbit before it is sent via satellite. If new equipment breaks on a satellite in orbit, it can be difficult to fix. However, if it breaks in on a returnable spacecraft, engineers can make changes before it returns to orbit.

Of course, the question that would be uppermost in everyone’s mind is just who the government wants to surveil.  Since the NSA and affiliated agencies don’t appear to be slacking off in their mania for our communications, you have to believe they are inventing more and better ways to keep track of us.

But whatever the X-37B was up to out there, it’s still a cool piece of technology.

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Obamacare Deductibles Forcing Patients to Forgo Preventive Care

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

One notable problem with Obamacare insurance policies that has been commented on extensively is the higher-than-average deductibles that make seeking routine health care an expensive proposition.

In fact, according to this New York Times story, the sky-high deductibles — double what many consumers carried in their old policies — is preventing them from getting preventive care that could lead to serious health issues later.

About 7.3 million Americans are enrolled in private coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, and more than 80 percent qualified for federal subsidies to help with the cost of their monthly premiums. But many are still on the hook for deductibles that can top $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for families — the trade-off, insurers say, for keeping premiums for the marketplace plans relatively low. The result is that some people — no firm data exists on how many — say they hesitate to use their new insurance because of the high out-of-pocket costs.

Insurers must cover certain preventive services, like immunizations, cholesterol checks and screening for breast and colon cancer, at no cost to the consumer if the provider is in their network. But for other services and items, like prescription drugs, marketplace customers often have to meet their deductible before insurance starts to help.

While high-deductible plans cover most of the costs of severe illnesses and lengthy hospital stays, protecting against catastrophic debt, those plans may compel people to forgo routine care that could prevent bigger, longer-term health issues, according to experts and research.

“They will cause some people to not get care they should get,” Katherine Hempstead, who directs research on health insurance coverage at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said of high-deductible marketplace plans. “Unfortunately, the people who are attracted to the lower premiums tend to be the ones who are going to have the most trouble coming up with all the cost-sharing if in fact they want to use their health insurance.”

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Islamic State Training Pilots to Fly MIGs

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Reuters is reporting that Islamic State is training pilots to fly captured MIG 21 fighters in Syria.

IS overran the huge Syrian airbase in Taqba last August. The base contained more than 100 MIG 21′s along with a few MIG 29′s. MIG 21s are 1970′s-era aircraft and no match for the US air force, although they may eventually prove a challenge for the Syrians.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that IS is using Iraqis who were in the Iraqi air force during the Saddam Hussein regime to train the pilots.

Iraqi pilots who have joined Islamic State in Syria are training members of the group to fly in three captured fighter jets, a group monitoring the war said on Friday, saying it was the first time the militant group had taken to the air.

The group, which has seized swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, has been flying the planes over the captured al-Jarrah military airport east of Aleppo, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the report and U.S. Central Command said it was not aware of Islamic State flying jets in Syria.

U.S-led forces are bombing Islamic State bases in Syria and Iraq. The group has regularly used weaponry captured from the Syrian and Iraqi armies and has overrun several military bases but, if the report is confirmed, this would be the first time it has been able to pilot warplanes.

“They have trainers, Iraqi officers who were pilots before for (former Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein,” Abdulrahman said.

“People saw the flights, they went up many times from the airport and they are flying in the skies outside the airport and coming back,” he said, citing witnesses in northern Aleppo province near the base, which is 70 km (45 miles) south of the Turkish border.

Witnesses reported the flights were at a low altitude and only lasted five to 10 minutes before landing, the Observatory said. It was not possible to reach the Syrian government for comment and state media did not mention the report.

It was not clear whether the jets were equipped with weaponry or whether the pilots could fly longer distances in the planes, which witnesses said appeared to be MiG 21 or MiG 23 models captured from the Syrian military.

The short duration flights could very well be a deliberate tactic to avoid detection by our satellites, although our AWAC coverage in the area should be able to see them. US Central Command is saying this is the first they’ve heard of the flights, which could be misdirection as they plan an attack on the base where the pilots are being trained.

As long as we have a couple of hundred planes in the region, any IS air force will not present a threat to us or our coalition partners. And it remains to be seen whether they could realistically challenge the Syrian air force. Knowing how to fly a plane is one thing. Becoming an effective combat pilot is quite another.

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We Are All Preppers Now

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Earlier this week, the UN issued a statement on the Ebola crisis that should set off alarms in every household in America.

In his briefing, Mr. Banbury told the 15-nation UN Security Council that he is “deeply worried” that the steps implemented by the international community were “not nearly enough” to halt the advance of the fatal disease.

“Ebola got a head start on us,” he said.

“It is far ahead of us, it is running faster than us, and it is winning the race. We either stop Ebola now or we face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we do not have a plan,” Mr. Banbury told the council on Tuesday via video link from the operation’s headquarters in Ghana.

Mr. Banbury recalled the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation that, within 60 days of October 1, 70 per cent of all those infected must be in the hospital and 70 per cent of the victims safely buried, to arrest the outbreak.

“This is what we are fighting for now; we are fighting to prevent unavoidable deaths. We are fighting for people who are alive and healthy today, but will become infected and die if we do not put in place the necessary emergency response.”

In its most recent situation report on the disease, WHO, which is leading the wider UN response, reported 8,376 cases and 4,024 deaths from Ebola based on information provided by the Ministries of Health of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

The agency notes that the upward epidemic trend continues in Sierra Leone and also in Liberia. By contrast, the situation in Guinea appears to be more stable but a pattern of transmission is still of very grave concern.

“With every day that passes, the number of sick people increases,” Mr. Banbury added.

“Time is our biggest enemy. We must use every minute of every day to our advantage and that is what UNMEER is doing.”

In particular, Mr. Banbury called for an increase in the number of diagnostic laboratories, transport support and funding to help with operation logistics which would help aid the UN response to a crisis so vast in scope and magnitude.

Moreover, with the number of infected growing exponentially each day, he cautioned that UNMEER could expect new caseloads of approximately 10,000 people per week by December 1, meaning that 7,000 beds for treatment were needed.

The good news is that we know what has to be done to stop the virus in its tracks. The bad news is that we’re not even close to catching up because the international response to the crisis has been pathetic.

More than a million cases of Ebola by the end of January? Each passing day makes that scenario more likely and the spread of the disease worldwide a near certainty. Individual countries like the U.S. may initially be able to contain the outbreak, but what of our neighbors to the south?

Jonathan Last gives us “Six Reasons to Panic”:

And by the way, things could get worse. All of those worst-case projections assume that the virus stays contained in a relatively small area of West Africa, which, with a million people infected, would be highly unlikely. What happens if and when the virus starts leaking out to other parts of the world?

Marine Corps General John F. Kelly talked about Ebola at the National Defense University two weeks ago and mused about what would happen if Ebola reached Haiti or Central America, which have relatively easy access to America. “If it breaks out, it’s literally ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States,” Kelly said. “They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment.”

Taking center stage for the foreseeable future will be a much-maligned group of citizens who call themselves “preppers.” They are portrayed as wild-eyed paranoids, or religious nuts, hiding in a cabin in the woods waiting for the Second Coming, or a race war, or an alien invasion.

In truth, they are normal citizens who have decided to take prudent, reasonable, logical precautions in case of natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

Or, in the case of Ebola, a pandemic that threatens the breakdown of civil society. That scenario is still very remote. But six months ago, the chances of such a breakdown were zero. What will the chances be six months from now?

For preppers, who find their ranks growing by the week as the Ebola crisis spreads, the bottom line is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

From the Daily Beast:

The website is run by Joe Alton, a retired OB-GYN and fellow at the American College of Surgeons, and his wife, Amy, a nurse. They’re the authors of The Survival Medicine Handbook, a guide for post-apocalyptic wellness.

On Thursday morning, Joe flew from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Texas—home to America’s three Ebola cases—to talk prepping on Glenn Beck’s television show. On his way there, he said he was more careful than usual, wiping down the plane’s seat armrests with bleach wipes for the first time ever, and scrubbing his hands with strong sanitizer half a dozen times.

There are some fanatics in what Alton calls the “preparedness community,” but when it comes to Ebola, he’s tempered, saying it’s unlikely the virus will hit communities in the U.S. much more widely.

[...]

But the benefit of a slow-moving virus like Ebola, Joe Alton says, is there will be a warning, just like a hurricane, and time to get ready. At home, the Altons have been outfitting a designated “sick room,” for the possibility of a family member coming down with something, most likely influenza, but perhaps Ebola. He chose a corner spare room with good ventilation, and put aside a spare set of sheets and silverware, just in case.

“There’s no harm for everyone in the general public to prepare for disaster,” he says. “We should plan that room out and designate which it’s going to be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean if I visited your house it would look like an intensive-care unit.”

Right now, the ratio of preppers to regular Americans is dramatic: Joe cites 3 percent as the accepted number. A few months of Ebola fear could give the community a bump. “We’re not going to see millions of people in audition calls for [National Geographic Channel show] Doomsday Preppers, but I’m hoping 3 percent one day gets to 4 percent,” he says.

“As long as we’re prepared and have plan of action, we’re going to keep it together even if everything else falls apart.”

We’ve already seen signs of panic with only three cases in the U.S. What happens if there are several hundred infected people? With a combination of lack of faith in government pronouncements about the disease and scare mongers who will use the crisis to advance their own interests and agendas, it won’t take much to panic the entire nation.

Can you really prepare for that? It’s always a good idea to have extra food, batteries, potable water, and even weapons and ammunition. But we are creatures of civilization and without power, running water, and other accoutrements of civil society, few of us will have truly prepared to come face to face with civilization’s end.

Nevertheless, basic preparedness is a must. And if you haven’t thought about it before, it’s time to take the blinders off. Remote though the worst case scenario might be, your chances of survival are a lot better even with a little advance planning than if you didn’t plan at all.

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NIH Official: ‘The System Worked’ on Ebola

Sunday, October 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I think it’s pretty obvious by now that everyone in the executive branch who is going to go before the media and talk about Ebola has been instructed to deliver nothing but happy-talk pronouncements and soothing bromides about how the government has everything under control.

The confidence may or may not be justified. But the infection of a second American in Texas wasn’t supposed to happen. The unidentified health care worker who was infected with the Ebola virus took every precaution a modern 21st century health care system could take. And yet the virus found a way.

So it is ridiculous for a representative of the National Institutes of Health to go on camera and say something silly like this:

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said on Sunday the system put into place to slow the spread of Ebola transmission in the United States was working.

“The system worked,” Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.”

On Sunday, officials in Texas announced that a second person in Dallas had tested positive for the deadly virus — a health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who cared for Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week.

“She was on voluntary self-monitoring,” he said about the latest victim. “She found she got infected, and she immediately did what she was supposed to have done.”

“So even in this troublesome situation, the system is working,” Fauci said.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Fauci argued against shutting down international travel from Africa, saying it could actually do more harm than good

First of all, if the system “worked,” we wouldn’t have another case of Ebola. The protocols set up to prevent transmission of the disease failed. “Failed” is not the same as working. In fact, outside of Washington, “failed” means “not working,” so who is this jamoke trying to kid?

Secondly, we don’t truly know if the system “worked” or not. How many others might the health care worker have infected? She thinks she exposed only one other person. That’s comforting, if true. But voluntary self-monitoring is fine — until the self-monitor is infected. Then what?

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Kobani Becomes ‘Must Win’ for Islamic State

Sunday, October 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Islamic State forces have besieged the Kurdish border town of Kobani for nearly a month, but have yet to crack the stout defenses put up by the lightly armed Kurdish militia.

The Kurds have bent but not broke. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that ISIS controls about 40% of the town, including the militia’s headquarters. But a combination of US air strikes and intelligent defense by the Kurds have stymied the IS army, calling into question its “invincibility.”

Indeed, the propaganda importance of the town has now outstripped its strategic value. Islamic State has invested so much time and effort in trying to capture Kobani, that nothing short of total victory will allow it to maintain its reputation among jihadists. To that end, they are pouring reinforcements into the fight, hoping for a quick end to the campaign.

AFP:

The Islamic State group poured in reinforcements Sunday for its nearly month-long siege of Kobane as the Syrian town’s Kurdish defenders kept up their high-profile resistance.

IS has sustained serious losses in the battle for the town despite their superior armour, with at least 36 of its fighters killed on Saturday alone, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

With the world’s press massed just across the nearby border with Turkey, the fight for the town has become one the jihadists cannot afford to lose, the Britain-based monitoring group said.

“It’s a decisive battle for them,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

“If they don’t pull it off, it will damage their image among jihadists around the world.”

Abdel Rahman said that IS was sending additional fighters from other areas it controls in Syria, including its Euphrates Valley stronghold of Raqa, after its Friday capture of the Kurdish command headquarters in Kobane failed to deliver a decisive blow.

“They are sending fighters without much combat experience,” said Abdel Rahman, whose group has a wide network of sources inside Syria.

“They are attacking on multiple fronts but they keep being repulsed, then countering and being pushed back again.”

The Kurds doing the pushing are led by a woman fighter.

A Kurdish woman fighter is leading the battle against Islamic State jihadists in the Syrian battleground town of Kobane, a monitoring group and activists said Sunday.

“Mayssa Abdo, known by the nom-de-guerre of Narin Afrin, is commanding the YPG in Kobane along with Mahmud Barkhodan,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The secular and left-leaning Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) group has been defending Kobane, on the border with Turkey, since Islamic State (IS) fighters launched an assault on September 16.

The group, the de facto army of the Kurdish regions of north and northeast Syria, is the armed wing of the powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

As is the custom for Kurdish fighters, Mayssa, 40, uses a pseudonym, with hers coming from the Afrin region where she was born that is located like Kobane in Aleppo province.

“Those who know her say she is cultivated, intelligent and phlegmatic,” said Mustefa Ebdi, a Kurdish activist from Kobane.

“She cares for the mental state of the fighters and takes interest in their problems,” he said.

She must be doing something right given the heroic defense her people are conducting.

In Iraq, things aren’t going very well. The US air dropped tons of supplies to Iraqi army units protecting an oil refinery south of Mosul. IS forces have cut them off by taking the surrounding towns and villages, so at the request of the Iraqi government, the we air dropped food, water, and ammunition.

And the psychological war by ISIS continues as well. Car bombs targeting Kurds in the north killed 26 and the Anbar police chief was assassinated. IS is softening up the civilian population of Baghdad as they are within 8 miles of the Baghdad airport.

That IS continues to advance in Syria and Iraq shows that US policy is fraying. The fall of Kobani could unravel it entirely, exposing the futility of the administration’s plans.

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Second Ebola Case Confirmed in Texas

Sunday, October 12th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A Texas health care worker who was part of the team that treated America’s first Ebola case has tested positive for the virus, a state health official said today.

Reuters:

A Texas health worker who provided care for the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States has tested positive for the deadly virus in a preliminary examination, a state health official said on Sunday.

The health care worker at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital reported a low-grade fever Friday night and was isolated and referred for testing, the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement.

“We knew a second case could be a reality, and we’ve been preparing for this possibility,” said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the health service.

The first person in the United States diagnosed with Ebola, Liberia citizen Thomas Eric Duncan, died in an isolation ward of the Dallas hospital on Oct. 8, 11 days after being admitted.

The U.S. government has since ordered five airports to start screening passengers from West Africa for fever.

No word on how the worker contracted the virus, although it’s remarkable that with all the precautions, all the protective gear, the worker was still exposed.

AFP is reporting:

Health officials have interviewed the patient and are identifying any contacts or potential exposures. People who had contact with the health care worker after symptoms emerged will be monitored based on the nature of their interactions and the potential they were exposed to the virus.

Health care workers see a lot of patients every day so you would hope that part of the monitoring that went on following the death of Thomas Duncan was limiting the number of hospital patients seen by the people who treated him.

Dare we point out that this wasn’t supposed to happen? That we were told that all the protective clothing, isolation wards, and hi-tech care would make the spread of the disease unlikely?

It may be unlikely, but it’s happened.

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Michigan High School Cancels Remaining Football Games for ‘Safety Reasons’

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Caro High School in Caro, Michigan, has cancelled the there remaining games on its schedule citing safety concerns for its players.

A school of only 524 students. the Caro team suffered numerous injuries over the course of the season, forcing the coach to promote junior varsity players to the varsity. Four players also quit over the last two weeks which meant the coach was faced with a decision on whether to play freshmen. The freshmen team had already had their season canceled due to lack of players, so rather than play undersized players against the varsity from other teams, the coach and school principle, after a vote from the players and school board, canceled the last 3 games.

New York Times:

“It’s a difficult decision because our players were out there battling hard, but we’re an educational institution, and with our students, safety comes first,” Joslyn said in a telephone interview Friday. “These kids have long lives ahead of them, and we need to keep the brains in their heads intact.”

At a vigil for Tom Cutinella on Thursday at Shoreham-Wading River High School, players from Mount Sinai High School paid their respects.

Caro’s decision followed a tumultuous two weeks for the sport nationally — at least three high school football players died, two after on-field collisions.

Joslyn said Caro’s roster was so depleted that eight sophomores had been called up from the junior varsity. Because so many freshmen had been moved up to the junior varsity, the freshman season had already been canceled. Todd Topham, the varsity coach, then began to worry that his players would be so overmatched by older players on opposing teams that the games could become more dangerous for them.

Caro, with an enrollment of 524 students, plays in the Class B Tri-Valley Conference East and had gone 4-29 in the past four seasons. It was 1-5 this season.

Joslyn, who played football at Caro High School and in college, said the reaction from the community was mixed.

“I would say the response has been about 50-50,” Joslyn said. “Half have thanked us for making a courageous decision. The other people say you don’t ever quit, that kids are soft these days and need to get out there and battle. I understand all of that, but our kids were out there battling. We made the best decision we could.”

Sports are important to kids. They build confidence, instill discipline, and teach kids about the importance of teamwork.

But they’re not worth their health. The alarming statistics about concussions in all sports, but especially football, are causing a re-evaluation of the rules, as well as a bigger emphasis on good health care at all levels of the sport.

Young, growing bodies, not fully developed, are far more prone to serious injuries than adults. While “playing hurt” is part of football, that shouldn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your future health for the team or the sport.

There’s a movement in Little League baseball to make it illegal for a kid to throw a breaking ball. The strain and stress on young arms and the pressure to succeed is so great, that kids as young as 10 are having “Tommy John surgery.” The idea to ban curves and sliders in Little League has several prominent proponents, including some Hall of Famers.

The drive to compete and succeed is what sports are all about. But the frightening consequences of playing the game to the long term health of children should be weighed against the benefits that team sports give them.

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Authorities in Sierra Leone Tell Families to Care For Ebola Patients at Home

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

They’re out of Ebola beds in Sierra Leone and it appears that the outbreak is about to get a lot worse.

Authorities are advising families to keep their loved ones who have contracted Ebola at home. About all they can do is give out painkillers, re-hydrating solution, and gloves.

No masks. No gowns. No faceguards. No isolation. The chances that thousands of family members will contract the disease are very high. But there’s nothing the government can do about it until more help arrives.

New York Times:

“It’s basically admitting defeat,” said Dr. Peter H. Kilmarx, the leader of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s team in Sierra Leone, adding that it was “now national policy that we should take care of these people at home.”

“For the clinicians it’s admitting failure, but we are responding to the need,” Dr. Kilmarx said. “There are hundreds of people with Ebola that we are not able to bring into a facility.”

The effort to prop up a family’s attempts to care for ailing relatives at home does not mean that officials have abandoned plans to increase the number of beds in hospitals and clinics. But before the beds can be added and doctors can be trained, experts warn, the epidemic will continue to grow.

C.D.C. officials acknowledged that the risks of dying from the disease and passing it to loved ones at home were serious under the new policy — “You push some Tylenol to them, and back away,” Dr. Kilmarx said, describing its obvious limits.

But many patients with Ebola are already dying slowly at home, untreated and with no place to go. There are 304 beds for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone now, but 1,148 are needed, the World Health Organization reported this week. So officials here said there was little choice but to try the new approach as well.

“For the first time, the nation is accepting the possibility of home care, out of necessity,” said Jonathan Mermin, another C.D.C. official and physician here. “It is a policy out of necessity.”

Faced with similar circumstances in neighboring Liberia, where even more people are dying from the disease, the American government said last month that it would ship 400,000 kits with gloves and disinfectant.

“The home kits are no substitute for getting people” to a treatment facility, said Sheldon Yett, the Unicef director for Liberia. “But the idea is to ensure that if somebody has to take care of somebody at home, they’re able to do so.”

The international response to this crisis has been pathetic. The US has stepped up and we will almost certainly continue to increase our efforts.

But other industrialized nations have failed in their responsibility. US Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has called for an astonishing 20-fold increase in assistance. Where is the rest of the world?

Africa’s biggest trading partner, China, has said it would provide $1 million in cash, $2 million in food and specialists each to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The Asian giant is also sending 170 medical workers to Liberia, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. Currently, 58 Chinese are staffing an Ebola-treatment ward and blood-testing lab off the side of a Chinese-built clinic. Of these, 35 are drivers, handymen and chefs, said Guo Tongshing, the clinic’s chief doctor.

India, with deep trade links and air connections to West Africa, recently pledged to contribute $12.5 million, but no medical personnel. Brazil, which has spent a decade wooing African nations across the Atlantic, has contributed about $413,000.

Russia, which has also sought to rekindle Cold War allies here, sent a team of eight virologists to Guinea, once a Soviet outpost, and protective clothing.

South Africa—a country eager to cement its leadership role on the continent—has sent a mobile lab to Sierra Leone. There is no record of any monetary contribution from the country.

African health workers are part of the crisis response, though. The African Union has sent about 75 medical workers, and Uganda, which has extensive experience with Ebola, has sent 15.

Meanwhile, Japan, the world’s third-richest economy after the U.S. and China, is sending $40 million to the cause, but no personnel. Toyota Motor Corp. plans to donate cars to help transport patients.

Even France, the European country with the most military bases in Africa, has been slow to send in army medics. The former colonial power will construct and operate a 50-bed clinic in Guinea, staffed with 15 French medics at a given time, in addition to Red Cross volunteers, the state agency managing medical reservists said.

In another three months, there may be more than a million cases of Ebola in West Africa. By that time, no amount of aid will make a difference. The disease will run its course and probably spill over borders to western Europe and the US.

Now is the time when a maximum effort might save thousands of lives — including citizens in the west. For surely, it is far better to fight it over there, than have to fight it over here.

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How We’re Not Degrading and Destroying ISIS in One Chart

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Despite weeks of air strikes against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist army continues to advance with little sign that they have been slowed down.

Fox News reports that ISIS is making steady progress in conquering Anbar province in Iraq — the same province America shed a lot of blood and treasure in pacifying during the Iraq War. There are reports that IS is closing in on Baghdad, as their forces are just a few miles from the airport.

And in Syria, the Kurdish border town of Kobani is being overrun, as defenders continue to issue pleas for assistance. Here, too, American air strikes have been ineffective in halting the IS advance.

Waves of U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State fighters appear to have done little to stem the terrorist army’s advance in Syria, and now the militants are close to overrunning key positions on the outskirts of Baghdad.

With the world’s eyes on the terrorist army’s siege of the Syrian border city of Kobani, where U.S.-led airstrikes are backing Kurdish fighters, some 500 miles southeast, Islamic State fighters are within eight miles of the Iraqi metropolis. The Islamic militants have reportedly infiltrated the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib, not far from the runway perimeter of Baghdad’s international airport. The suburb is perhaps best known to the west as the site of an infamous prison operated by the U.S. military during the Iraq war.

“Daash is openly operating inside Abu Ghraib,” an Iraqi soldier told McClatchy news service, using a common Arabic term for the Islamic State. “I was at the 10th Division base there two days ago, and the soldiers cannot leave or patrol,” he said. “Daash controls the streets.”

Islamic State’s proximity to the airport is especially worrisome, because they are now armed with shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles with a 20-mile range, according to the Iraqi Defense Ministry. The weapons, which Islamic State has grabbed up along with tanks, helicopters and fighter planes as it has seized up vast territory in northern Syria and Iraq, could allow the militants to shut down the airport.

Baghdad is guarded by some 60,000 Iraqi soldiers, but the much smaller and extended Islamic State army has sent them scurrying in the past, raising questions about their discipline and U.S. training. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf expressed rare confidence in Iraq’s military on Friday, saying it is capable of defending Baghdad.

“There are places where [the Islamic State] continues to make gains in Iraq,” said Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, press secretary to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “We talked about Hit. We talked about Ramadi. We talked about Fallujah, which is still in contention right now. That’s worrisome, because it’s close to Baghdad.”

The buffer zone that protects Baghdad for now includes much of Anbar province, a key region between Baghdad and Syria. But the Iraqi army’s performance under fire has done little to build confidence.

“The situation in Anbar is really critical,” Falih Al Essawi, deputy head of the Anbar provincial council told the Wall Street Journal, adding that Iraq’s military in Anbar is “continuously losing.”

It is believed (hoped?) that Baghdad itself is in little danger at the moment. Even if Iraq’s army collapses there are several hundred thousand Shia militiamen and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards who would fight to the bitter end to save the Shia regime’s capital.

But it raises the question why air strikes are so ineffective? Maybe this chart from BBC compiled from CENTCOM daily reports will shed a little light on the matter:

0000000Two months of air strikes and this is all we have to show for it? Those “armed vehicles” include the ubiquitous “Technicals” — pick-up trucks with machine guns mounted in the truck bed. How smart is it to use a $3 million smart bomb to destroy a used Toyota Tacoma?

In fact, air force pilots are complaining that targets to shoot at are hard to come by:

Within the U.S. Air Force, there’s mounting frustration that the air campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is moving far more slowly than expected. Instead of a fast-moving operation with hundreds of sorties flown in a single day—the kind favored by many in the air service—American warplanes are hitting small numbers of targets after a painstaking and cumbersome process.

The single biggest problem, current and former Air Force officers say, is the so-called kill-chain of properly identifying and making sure the right target is being attacked. At the moment, that process is very complicated and painfully slow.

“The kill-chain is very convoluted,” one combat-experienced Air Force A-10 Warthog pilot told The Daily Beast. “Nobody really has the control in the tactical environment.”

Does this sound like an Obama operation or what? No one in control, half measures, slow and deliberate when speed and overwhelming power is called for.

Sounds like the rollout of Obamacare.

Call it a “Sham War” or a “Phony War,” it’s not working. If we’re really set on degrading and destroying Islamic State, we’re going about it in a strange way.

 

 

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No Sign of Increased Turnout for Dems on Election Day

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

At the beginning of the summer, the White House and Democrats on the Hill promised to highlight issues that were near and dear to the hearts of their core constituencies of single women, minorities, and young people.

To that end, they launched a series of attacks on Republicans: “war on women,” income inequality, exploiting racial tensions in Ferguson, and a promise from the president to take executive action on immigration.

None of those issues have resonated with their targets. The needle has hardly moved and it appears that Senate Democratic incumbents, as well as other Democratic congressional candidates, are going to pay the price for this miscalculation.

Recent polling suggests that the turnout for traditional Democratic groups for midterms will be even lower than it was in 2010 — an ominous sign that the party will suffer another humiliating defeat.

The Hill:

If the numbers hold, it could mean a rout for Democrats similar to the 2010 “shellacking” — President Obama’s description — that swept away their House majority.

“We cannot have 2010 turnout. If we have 2010 turnout among our key constituencies, we’re going to have 2010 all over again. It’s math,” said Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, who served as a pollster for President Obama’s election campaigns.

Overall voter participation in midterm elections has hovered around 40 percent in recent years, compared to a 56 percent average for presidential years. But turnout levels are more resilient among older, richer and white voters — all of which is good news for Republicans.

According to the nonpartisan Voter Participation Center, nearly 21 million fewer African Americans, Hispanics, unmarried women and young people voted in 2010 compared to 2008. That’s exactly the situation Democrats want to avoid this time around.

Some Democrats think the party hasn’t done enough to pep up the groups that form its main pillars of support. Veteran Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told The Hill last week that Hispanic voters would largely be unmotivated to vote in this year’s elections due to President Obama’s decision to delay an executive action on immigration.

“I think if we’d done something, it would have energized the Latino vote and drawn a clear distinction with the Republicans,” Lake said.

Polling has further shown that young people are generally disengaged with this year’s elections. A Pew Research poll this month found that only five percent of adults ages 18-29 were following the 2014 midterms very closely.

That could spell disaster for Democrats. National exit polls from the last midterm elections in 2010 indicated that voters aged 18-29 favored Democratic candidates over Republicans by 55 percent to 42 percent. Those figures were roughly reversed among voters aged 65 and older, who voted Republican 59 percent to 38 percent.

Tellingly, those voters who were 65 and older accounted for 21 percent of the votes cast in 2010, while only about 12 percent of the total voters came from the 18-29 cohort.

Turnout should be higher in states with high-profile competitive races. Michael McDonald, an associate professor at the University of Florida who specializes in elections, said that turnout may be low nationally simply because most of the county’s largest states — such as California and Texas — don’t have major competitive races.

Driving the point home is the fact that Dems are pulling ads from races they originally targeted for takeover, and moving money into the campaigns of House incumbents who are looking shakier all the time.

As for the Republicans, they are pouring money into Senate races, looking to put their candidates over the top:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is increasing television ad buys by $7.4 million in six of the tightest races, raising efforts to regain Senate control in the final weeks before Election Day.

The GOP Senate campaign arm will up ad buys by $1.5 million in Colorado, $1.45 million in Georgia, 1.25 million in Iowa, $1.2 million in New Hampshire and $1.0 million in both South Dakota and Alaska.

“These additional investments are part of our overall strategy to win and build a new Senate Republican majority,”  Ron Bonjean, a consultant for the party’s finance arm, said in a statement.

The move comes as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced this week it will drop $1 million into the South Dakota Senate race.

With Senator Roberts looking a little better in Kansas, and other Republican challengers staying close or maintaining a lead, the stage is set for a blowout GOP win. But in addition to battling their opponents, Republicans are fighting complacency . So far, the enthusiasm — what little there is for this race — appears to be on the GOP’s side. That doesn’t always translate into higher turnout, but given the historical advantage Republican constituencies show over Democrats in off-year elections, GOP confidence should be growing just 3 weeks from election day.

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Obama Mulls Closing Gitmo, Moving Inmates to Mainland

Friday, October 10th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In 2010, a bipartisan Congress passed a bill preventing the administration from transferring prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the mainland. Every year since, Congress has reauthorized the measure, attaching the restriction to the National Defense Authorization Act.

The will of Congress in this matter is clear. But when did the will of the people’s representatives stop this president from getting his way?

Barack Obama entered the presidency promising to close the Guantanamo prison camp. Apparently stung by his inability to persuade even members of his own party to pass legislation that would accomplish that goal, the president is once again thinking about using his executive authority to go around Congress and unilaterally change the policy.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

White House officials have concluded Mr. Obama likely has two options for closing Guantanamo, should Congress extend the restrictions, which it could do after the midterm elections.

He could veto the annual bill setting military policy, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, in which the ban on transferring detainees to the U.S. is written. While the veto wouldn’t directly affect military funding, such a high-stakes confrontation with Congress carries significant political risks.

A second option would be for Mr. Obama to sign the bill while declaring restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners an infringement of his powers as commander in chief, as he has done previously. Presidents of both parties have used such signing statements to clarify their understanding of legislative measures or put Congress on notice that they wouldn’t comply with provisions they consider infringements of executive power.

The core obstacle standing in the White House’s way is Congress’s move in 2010 to ban the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. That legislation was passed after the administration sparked a backlash when it proposed relocating detainees to a maximum-security prison in Thomson, Ill.

The administration hopes to tamp down controversy by reducing the inmate population by at least half through quickly transferring Guantanamo detainees cleared for release.

On Thursday, Estonia, which Mr. Obama visited last month, announced it would accept one detainee. Officials said additional transfers are in the works.

“We are very pleased with the support from our friends and allies, and we are very grateful to them,” said Clifford Sloan, the State Department envoy for Guantanamo closure.

Nonetheless, administration officials say the detention center can’t be closed without sending at least some of the remaining inmates to the U.S. mainland.

Mr. Obama said in his 2014 State of the Union address that “this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.” The president now expects to miss that deadline, administration officials say, a departure from earlier this summer when White House aides were still saying it was possible.

Mr. Obama’s decision in May to exchange Guantanamo detainees for an American prisoner of war, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, without the required 30-day advance congressional notice drew a backlash on the Hill. The start of a U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State militant group has similarly overshadowed any appetite for a repeal of the ban.

What can Congress do? They can deny the president funds to transfer the prisoners, although Obama has shown himself to be creative in this regard. He took monies from HHS earmarked for other uses to fund his Obamacare rollout. There’s nothing stopping him from dipping into one Pentagon fund or the other to finance his congressional workaround.

How many detainees would be housed on American soil? That depends on how effective the administration is in convincing other countries to willingly take accused terrorists into their midst. The fact is, there are still 179 inmates held at the prison because few countries are enthusiastic about taking their nationals back after they were accused of being terrorists. Repatriation of the terrorists has come to a standstill.

Of the 149 who remain, 79 have been approved for transfer by national-security officials but remain because of political or diplomatic obstacles in repatriating them.

Another 37 have been designated for continued detention without trial. These are men considered too dangerous to release, yet against whom the government lacks usable evidence. A further 23 have been referred for prosecution by military commission, where 10 detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks, are in pretrial hearings.

It appears that at least 60 hardened terrorists will be placed in mainland prisons without the consent of Congress or the people.

It’s been said before but it bears repeating. We’re in uncharted waters. Separation of powers as envisioned by the Founders doesn’t work unless all branches of government recognize that there are limits to what they can do. There may be disagreement on where those limits are, but at the very least, all must agree that limits exist.

It is troubling in the extreme that President Obama refuses to accept limits on his power. He claims to be reluctant about using his executive authority but who believes that? He will do anything and everything to effect his kind of “transformation” of America. And until Congress and the courts make up their mind to stop him, he will continue to do so.

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Cop Killer Commencement Speaker Urges Students to Make America a Better Place

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The left’s fascination and, indeed, idolization of the worst kinds of thugs and killers is one of the signature aspects of modern liberalism. Those who repel normal human beings attracts them. What disgusts decent people brings out their admiration.

It would be inexplicable except there doesn’t need to be an explanation. Anti-Americanism doesn’t explain it, although it certainly is part of the attraction. Perhaps the students at tiny Goddard College in Plainfield, VT, who invited convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal to speak at one of their commencement ceremonies, give the best answer to the question, “what were they thinking”?

The school, which has about 600 students between the ages of 18 and 18 (sic), says the graduates chose Abu-Jamal as a way to “engage and think radically and critically.”

Goddard students design their own curriculums with faculty advisers and do not take tests or receive grades.

Obviously, they utterly failed to think “critically” in the academic sense of the word. But it is an absolute imperative of today’s left to be able to think “radically.” And that means supporting what normal, decent people consider repugnant while embracing radicals who put their beliefs to the test in the bloodiest, cruelest way imaginable.

So what does a convicted cop killer have to say to young people starting off in life?

Mumia Abu-Jamal spoke by video to 20 students receiving bachelor degrees from Goddard College in Plainfield. He earned a degree from the college in 1996.

“Think about the myriad of problems that beset this land and strive to make it better,” Abu-Jamal said in the video.

He said his studies at Goddard allowed him to learn about important figures in distant lands.

“Goddard reawakened in me my love of learning,” he said. “In my mind, I left death row.”

The former Black Panther did not address the crime for which he was convicted. He originally was sentenced to death for killing white police Officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981, but he was resentenced to life in 2012.

His claims that he’s been victimized by a racist justice system have attracted international support. A radio show, documentaries and books have helped publicize his case. Goddard College describes him as “an award winning journalist who chronicles the human condition.”

But the decision to allow Abu-Jamal to speak angered police and corrections officials in Vermont and Pennsylvania. The Vermont Troopers Association said it showed a disregard for the victim’s family at a time when the nation is seeking solutions to gun violence.

The case against Abu-Jamal is airtight. It was airtight then and it is airtight now. The murder of Officer Faulkner was a cold blooded, brutal execution — a cowardly act for which Abu-Jamal rightly received the death penalty. The sentence was overturned on a technicality after dozens of appeals and entreaties by leftists all over the world.

Michael Smerconish describes Abu-Jamal’s crime:

On Dec. 9, 1981, at about 4 a.m., 25-year-old Police Officer Daniel Faulkner was executed while making what seemed like a routine traffic stop.

Faulkner pulled over the brother of Mumia Abu-Jamal, William Cook, who was driving his Volkswagen the wrong way on a one-way street in the city’s red-light district.

Abu-Jamal was then an out-of-work journalist who was driving a cab. His revolutionary ideas were well-documented.

He saw the police stop from across the street.

Four eyewitnesses testified at trial as to what happened next. Their testimony portrayed a horrific sequence:

Abu-Jamal ran across the street, shot Faulkner in the back, and finally between the eyes. Before that final fatal shot, Faulkner had discharged his gun, hitting Abu-Jamal in the stomach. With that bullet, you could say he confirmed the identity of his executioner.

When police arrived quickly on the scene, Abu-Jamal was still wearing his shoulder holster.

The murder weapon was registered to Abu-Jamal. He’d purchased it at a local sporting-goods store. The five-shot Charter Arms revolver contained five spent shells. Ballistics tests verified that the shells found in Abu-Jamal’s gun were the same caliber, brand, and type as the fatal bullet removed from Faulkner’s brain.

Both men where taken to a local ER. Faulkner was pronounced dead. Abu-Jamal was heard by witnesses to say, “I shot the motherf- and I hope the motherf- dies.”

So the case had eyewitnesses, a ballistics match, and a confession.

Wikipedia summarizes his “defense”:

The defense maintained that Abu-Jamal was innocent and that the prosecution witnesses were unreliable. The defense presented nine character witnesses, including poet Sonia Sanchez, who testified that Abu-Jamal was “viewed by the black community as a creative, articulate, peaceful, genial man”.[40] Another defense witness, Dessie Hightower, testified that he saw a man running along the street shortly after the shooting although he did not see the actual shooting itself.[41] His testimony contributed to the development of a “running man theory”, based on the possibility that a “running man” may have been the actual shooter. Veronica Jones also testified for the defense, but she did not see anyone running.[42] Other potential defense witnesses refused to appear in court.[43] Abu-Jamal did not testify in his own defense. Nor did his brother, William Cook, who told investigators at the crime scene: “I ain’t got nothing to do with this.”[44]

His own brother, the proximate cause of the incident, refused to back Abu-Jamal up. There just isn’t any credible evidence to counter the overwhelming case made by the prosection.

So, of course, Abu-Jamal is a hero:

Labor unions,[100][101][102] politicians,[7][103] advocates,[104] educators,[105] the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund,[25] and human rights advocacy organizations such as Human Rights Watch[106] and Amnesty International have expressed concern about the impartiality of the trial of Abu-Jamal,[5] though Amnesty International neither takes a position on the guilt or innocence of Abu-Jamal nor classifies him as a political prisoner.[5] They are opposed by the family of Daniel Faulkner, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia,[107] Republican politicians,[107][108] and the Fraternal Order of Police.[109] In August 1999, the Fraternal Order of Police called for an economic boycott against all individuals and organizations that support Abu-Jamal.[110]

Abu-Jamal has been made an honorary citizen of about 25 cities around the world, including Copenhagen, Montreal, Palermo and Paris.[107][111] In 2001, he received the sixth biennial Erich Mühsam Prize, named after an anarcho-communist essayist, which recognizes activism in line with that of its namesake.[112] In October 2002, he was made an honorary member of the German political organization Society of People Persecuted by the Nazi Regime – Federation of Anti-Fascists (VVN-BdA)[113] which Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has considered to be influenced by left-wing extremism.[114]

Incredible.

Abu-Jamal is celebrated because he acted on his radical beliefs and executed his “oppressor.” Perhaps the students of Goddard College could be given a lesson in “critical thinking” by weighing the relative merits of the prosecution and defense cases. Their conclusions would reveal much about their education — or lack thereof.

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Suit Seeks to Give Chimpanzees Some Human Rights

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Chimpanzees are human’s closest genetic relatives, possessing 97% of the human genome. Research — some of it controversial — has determined that many of the Great Apes (chimps, gorillas, orangutangs, bonobos, and humans) have most of the cognitive abilities of humans. Their family and social life is similar to ours. Dawn-Prince Hughes, a noted anthropologist and a leader in the Great Ape Personhood movement, claims that “great apes meet all the standards set out for personhood: self-awareness; comprehension of past, present, and future; the ability to understand complex rules and their consequences on emotional levels; the ability to choose to risk those consequences, a capacity for empathy, and the ability to think abstractly.”

Some of those conclusions are in dispute in the scientific community. One argument made by critics is that researchers tend to anthropomorphize some behaviors of chimps which may compromise some experiments. But recent research strongly suggests that chimpanzees have complex minds capable of great subtlety.

This is important to keep in mind when contemplating the Great Ape Personhood initiatives that are being pushed in many western countries. Do Great Apes deserve to be treated more like humans? Should they be given human rights, especially the right to be free from captivity?

Next week, a New York appeals court will hear the case of Tommy, a chimpanzee in his 20′s, who has been kept in a small cage for most of his life. The suit seeks to free Tommy from his cage and bring him to Florida to live out his life in an animal preserve.

New York Post:

Steven Wise, part of the Nonhuman Rights Project, which is leading the effort, will have to convince a panel of Albany appellate judges that a chimp name Tommy is a “legal person” to get him moved from a cage in an upstate farm to a sanctuary in Florida.

“It’s a morally wrong thing to do,” said Wise of Tommy’s longtime captivity as a pet in Gloversville. “As a matter of both liberty and equality, Tommy should be seen as a person.”

Research by cognitive experts says chimps have autonomous and self-determining qualities akin to human beings, Wise said.

In December, a Montgomery County Supreme Court judge tossed Wise’s writ of habeas corpus that tried to get Tommy, who’s in his mid-20s, sprung from his tiny cage.

Three similar suits filed on behalf of other chimps living in New York state were also thrown out.

But some of the judges remained sympathetic.

“You make a very strong argument. However, I do not agree with the argument only insofar as (habeas corpus) applies to chimpanzees,” said Justice Joseph Sise of Tommy’s case.

“Good luck with your venture. I’m sorry I can’t sign the order, but I hope you continue. As an animal lover, I appreciate your work,” the judge added.

Wise appealed and will take the case to the state Appellate Division in Albany on Wednesday. The ground-breaking case — the first of its kind in the nation — has been years in the making.

It culminated last November when Wise visited Tommy.

“Tommy did not look happy. Chimps are extraordinarily social beings. Keeping him in solitary confinement is essentially the equivalent of putting me in solitary confinement,” said Wise.

Tommy’s owner, Patrick Lavery, didn’t return messages.

But he told the Albany Times Union last year that the chimp’s “really got it good.”

“He’s got a lot of enrichment. He’s got color TV, cable and a stereo,” Lavery said. “He likes being by himself.”

The ignorant owner aside, this would be a hugely consequential decision if the case is decided in Tommy’s favor. It could mean that medical and other testing on live Great Apes would come to an end, complicating — and making more expensive — the process of bringing consumer products to market. It may even make it impossible to keep chimps in captivity in zoos and circuses.

The argument that you can’t give Great Apes human rights because they are unable to understand the very concept of rights falls apart when you consider that there are developmentally disabled humans who are also incapable of understanding their rights. In their cases, a guardian or court-appointed advocate speaks for them. Is that not the case with Tommy?

Some opponents of giving apes rights might make the argument that apes have no souls, and are therefore undeserving of being treated like a human being. Given the limited ability of the two species to communicate, the inner lives of chimps are a mystery. Do they have an understanding of the sacred? Of a supreme being? Given all the surprising information we’ve discovered about Great Apes over the last 50 years, it wouldn’t be shocking if we found out they did.

Certainly we should be cautious and prudent in what rights we grant animals. But what is the ultimate goal? If you believe that how we treat the least of us tells the rest of the world a great deal about our society, then perhaps the goal is simply to affirm our own humanity by demonstrating our capacity to expand freedom beyond the boundaries of our own species.

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Are Administration Critics ‘Panicking’ Over Ebola?

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Are those of us questioning the administration’s Ebola policies and plans panicking about the disease? Are we trying to spread panic?

It’s a legitimate question, largely because everything the administration is saying about the virus and how it spreads is the truth — at least, as far as we understand it. The problem isn’t so much that the White House has their facts wrong. The problem is that because they have little credibility, their reassurances about having everything under control and that it could never happen here ring hollow.

That, and the fact that the few common-sense precautions recommended by those critics are dismissed with claims that the proposals will only make things worse — a dubious assertion given the circumstances.

This is a gang that can’t shoot straight, whose demonstrated incompetence in dealing with big public policy issues, both foreign and domestic, worries those of us who have heard this recording about having a handle on things before.

It doesn’t matter if they think they know what to do. It matters that they have shown in the past that facts are of little value when incompetent execution of policy, or developing the wrong policy, leads to disaster.

In a brilliant essay, Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon fleshes out the context of the administration’s pronouncements on Ebola:

Over the last few years the divergence between what the government promises and what it delivers, between what it says is happening or will happen and what actually is happening and does happen, between what it determines to be important and what the public wishes to be important—this gap has become abysmal, unavoidable, inescapable. We hear of “lone-wolf” terrorism, of “workplace violence,” that if you like your plan you can keep your plan. We are told that Benghazi was a spontaneous demonstration, that al Qaeda is on the run, that the border is secure as it has ever been, that Assad must go, that I didn’t draw a red line, the world drew a red line, that the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups involved not a smidgen of corruption, that the Islamic State is not Islamic. We see the government spend billions on websites that do not function, and the VA consign patients to death by waiting list and then cover it up. We are assured that Putin won’t invade; that the Islamic State is the jayvee team of terrorism; that Bowe Bergdahl served with honor and distinction; that there is a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia.

While the public remains pro-Israel, our government negotiates with Israel’s enemies. While the public wants to reduce immigration, the preeminent legislative objective of both parties is a bill that would increase it. While the public is uninterested in global warming, while costly regulations could not pass a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate, while the scientific consensus behind the green agenda is, at the very least, fraying, the president says that climate change is the greatest threat to the United States. While Americans tell pollsters their economic situation has not improved, and that things are headed in the wrong direction—while even Democratic economists acknowledge the despondent state of the middle class—the president travels to Chicago to celebrate his economic recovery.

These disjunctions and confusions, these missteps, scandals, and miscalculations, have hurt Obama’s approval numbers. They endanger the Democratic Senate majority, contribute to the widespread sense of disorder and decay, shatter trust in government and in public institutions. They have put into stark relief a political class dominated by liberal partisans, captured by ideas and interests removed from those of ordinary Americans. The stories of ineptitude or malfeasance that appear in the daily newspaper are more than examples of high ideals executed poorly. They are examples of the pursuit of ideas—of equality and diversity and progress and centralization and environmentalism and globalization—to absurd and self-destructive limits.

It is not “panicking” nor is to an attempt to spread panic when legitimate questions about public policy — and the ability of those whose responsibility it is to implement that policy — are asked. But apparently, recommending precautions that the administration says are unnecessary (regarding a disease with a mortality rate of over 50%) is grounds for some to accuse critics of trying to spread hysteria.

Here’s David Nather writing in Politico:

For once, President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are on the same page. At separate briefings on the Ebola crisis, Obama administration officials and Perry have delivered the same message: Don’t panic — the health authorities know what they’re doing.

But for other Republicans — and conservative media outlets — it’s time for panic.

The likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates — except for Perry — are practically lining up to warn that the Obama administration isn’t doing enough to keep Ebola out of the United States, now that Dallas is dealing with the nation’s first confirmed case.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky declared on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that “this could get beyond our control” and worried, “Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers catch Ebola?”

Sen. Ted Cruz — Perry’s Texas colleague — raised the prospect of restricting or banning flights to the West African countries that are hardest hit by the disease, noting in a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration that some African nations and certain airlines have already imposed their own flight bans.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin floated the idea of quarantining airline passengers in the affected African countries before they could fly out. “We’re learning a lot about how it’s spread but the question is ‘How can a person just jump on a plane and get here without a quarantine period of 21 days,’ which I believe is recommended,” he said on a radio talk show Wednesday. A spokesman for Ryan says the congressman misspoke and was referencing a recommendation to be monitored for 21 days.

And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says the United States should cut off flights from those countries. “President Obama said it was ‘unlikely’ that Ebola would reach the U.S. Well, it has, and we need to protect our people,” he said in a statement Friday.

In fact, of the 2016 Republican hopefuls who have commented on the Ebola crisis, Perry is the only one who has been a reassuring voice.

In other words, Perry is the only potential candidate who hasn’t ripped the Obama administration for their inexplicable policy of carrying on with travel from Ebola-afflicted countries almost as if there was nothing to worry about. None of the policy recommendations by Republicans are off base or out of line. They are sensible, reasonable, and may end up being necessary. How this demonstrates “panic” or spreads hysteria is beyond me.

Perhaps Nather should look to his colleagues as the panic-spreaders in this situation:

But while it’s fine for the media to tell us not to panic about Ebola, let’s bear in mind that the people most likely to panic about Ebola are the media. Everyday citizens tend to keep their heads in situations like this. As I wrote half a decade ago, when the purported panic on the horizon involved swine flu, “It’s easy to find examples of public anxiety, with every hypochondriac in the country fretting that the cold his kid always catches this time of year was actually the killer flu. But panic? Where’s the evidence of that?” Going through a series of stories that were supposed to show flu hysteria, I was underwhelmed. A Time feature, for example, had a headline that said a “swine flu panic” had hit Mexico, but the actual article didn’t demonstrate that.

Of course, the press has a built in motive to spread panic. Panicked people voraciously consume information, and who better to stoke that panic by creating a vicious circle of fear than the media?

Continetti tells us just what it is we should be afraid of:

Not only do I disagree with the constant stream of soothing and complacent rhetoric from Dr. Zeke’s friends in government and media. I also believe it is entirely rational to fear the possibility of a major Ebola outbreak, of a threat to the president and his family, of jihadists crossing the border, of a large-scale European or Asian war, of nuclear proliferation, of terrorists detonating a weapon of mass destruction. These dangers are real, and pressing, and though the probability of their occurrence is not high, it is amplified by the staggering incompetence and failure and misplaced priorities of the U.S. government. It is not Ebola I am afraid of. It is our government’s ability to deal with Ebola.

Given all that we’ve seen in nearly six years from these government managers, it is only acting as a responsible citizen to question whether this White House can deal with a serious public health crisis that has the potential — if managed incorrectly or incompetently — to kill thousands of citizens.

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Screening Procedures at Monrovia Airport ‘Completely Useless’ Says Virologist

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

In their latest attempt to tamp down any panic from the Ebola crisis, administration officials pointed out that screening procedures at airports in West Africa had prevented “dozens and dozens” of people from boarding flights to the U.S.

Monaco stressed that the air screenings have been almost entirely effective in preventing the spread of Ebola onto U.S. soil.

“Dozens and dozens of people have been stopped from getting onto planes,” she said. “We have now seen tens of thousands of people [arrive in the U.S.] since March to the current day, and we now have this one isolated case.”

But according to a top virologist working on a vaccine for Ebola, those screening procedures in Liberia leave a lot to be desired.

Breitbart reports:

Virologist Heinz Feldmann, who has studied Ebola for 20 years and is currently working on one of several experimental vaccines for the virus, warned in a September interview that the airport was the place in Monrovia where he felt the most unsafe, and that screening for Ebola at the airport was a “disaster.”

In an interview with Science Magazine in September, Feldmann, who had recently returned from three weeks in Monrovia, explains that the front lines in west Africa against the Ebola virus are by far the most dangerous; those working for organizations like Doctors Without Borders live under the constant threat of contracting the virus. Feldmann notes that he himself did not feel unsafe working in Liberia because his work was academic, and thus enclosed with the virus, rather than the patients:

Patients are like virus factories producing up to a hundred million virus particles per milliliter of blood, and a patient is unpredictable; a patient could cough, could spit at you, vomit on you, or even become aggressive and attack you. So these people really have the highest risk and have the highest burden.

Feldmann confesses that the place at which he felt the least safe was the airport, calling it the place of “highest risk.” For example, screening occurs in areas confined enough that those being screened are likely to come into contact with the virus should an Ebola patient be among them. Furthermore, screeners are so poorly trained that they often cannot even properly measure temperature.

“They are checking your temperature three times before you get into the airport, but if you look at the people that do this kind of work, they don’t really know how to use the devices,” Feldmann explains. “They are writing down temperatures of 32°C, which everybody should know is impossible for a living person.” Feldmann calls for major overhauls in the system, as he asserts that the checks are “completely useless” and “just a disaster.”

You would expect such incompetence from a third world country like Liberia. And that makes it even more puzzling why we haven’t pulled the plug on flights out of that country where passengers end up in the U.S.

Do authorities really believe that Liberian screening procedures are adequate? Or are they just whistling past the graveyard, hoping that any sick people they miss at Monrovia will be caught somewhere else?

It sounds to me like we are extremely lucky to have only this one case so far. The White House is rolling the dice with American lives and keeping their fingers crossed that their absurd policies won’t blow up in their face.

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Biden Tries to Blame Turkey for Administration ISIS Failures

Saturday, October 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The most gafftastic vice president in history has struck again.

Joe Biden is an international name dropper, never failing to mention some world leader or another he has met with and who he says he’s good friends with.

On Thursday, Biden took the ploy a little too far. Speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Biden told the audience of a private conversation he had with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan where the Islamist leader admitted he had given arms and money to terrorist groups in Syria. “He (Erdogan) said: ‘You were right. We let too many people through,’” said Biden.

The vice president was trying to show that it’s not the administration’s fault that ISIS became powerful; it’s the fault of our allies.

“The Turks, who are great friends – I have a great relationship with Erdogan, whom I spend a lot of time with – the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war,” Biden said.

“What did they do?” Biden continued. “They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaida and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world…. Now they’re trying to seal their border.”

Mr. Erdogan emphatically denies Biden’s assertion that the Turkish President acknowledged his country’s mistake in allowing foreign fighters to cross into Syria, and on Saturday he demanded that Biden apologize.

“Foreign fighters have never entered Syria from our country. They may come to our country as tourists and cross into Syria, but no one can say that they cross in with their arms,” Erdogan said. “I have never said to him that we had made a mistake, never. If he did say this at Harvard then he has to apologize to us.”

Otherwise, Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, Biden “will be history for me if he has indeed used such expressions.” No word yet whether Biden will apologize to Erdogan.

Biden did apologize, although you wonder whether Erdogan thinks his former friend is, indeed, “history”:

Biden spoke with Erdogan by phone on Saturday, the White House said.

“The vice president apologized for any implication that Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL or other violent extremists in Syria,” the White House said, referring to an acronym for the Islamic State group.

The spat comes as Turkey, a NATO ally, is expected to define the role it will play in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic state militants who have captured a swath of Iraq and Syria, in some cases right up to the Turkish border.

While Biden is correct to some extent — most of the original funding for ISIS came from another US ally, Qatar — you don’t go around 1) revealing private conversations with other government’s leaders; and 2) accuse an ally of breaking international law by knowingly giving material support to terrorists.

In Biden’s eagerness to brag about how important he is by revealing conversations with a foreign leader, the hapless veep damaged relations with a NATO ally and weakened NATO itself.  Erdogan hardly deserves our sympathy, but Biden’s latest gaffe is one a first year international relations major would know not to make.

 

 

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White House, CDC Can’t Get their Stories Straight on Ebola Preparedness

Saturday, October 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Here’s something that’s sure to fill your heart with gladness and soul with confidence.

First, the White House says it has the Ebola virus “under control” and that we needn’t worry because the “U.S. has the most capable healthcare system and the most capable doctors in the world, bar none.”

Good to know, yes?

“We know how to do this, and we will do it again,” Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said at a press briefing.

“It’s very important to remind the American people that U.S. has the most capable healthcare system and the most capable doctors in the world, bar none,” Monaco said.

The press conference appeared to be aimed at calming a public worried about a possible outbreak in the United States of the disease, which has killed more than 3,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

[...]

Monaco said the U.S. healthcare system “could not be more opposite” than those in countries most affected by Ebola.

Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stressed the U.S. healthcare care is “very, very, very well-established.”

While he acknowledged that the disease has spurred “a lot of fear” across the country, he reiterated that an outbreak is extremely unlikely.

The officials outlined a long list of precautions taken to control the disease since it was first diagnosed in March. The first humanitarian workers were deployed to the region that same month and continued to escalate their presence throughout the summer.

The HHS sent its first Ebola-related guidance to hospitals on July 28, and has since provided six more. The department has also strengthened surveillance and lab testing, as well as advising staff on how to properly screen airline passengers in the U.S.

Monaco stressed that the air screenings have been almost entirely effective in preventing the spread of Ebola onto U.S. soil.

“Dozens and dozens of people have been stopped from getting onto planes,” she said. “We have now seen tens of thousands of people [arrive in the U.S.] since March to the current day, and we now have this one isolated case.”

I feel better already. But let’s hear what the CDC has to say about our “capable” health care system and the “long list” of precautions sent to hospitals:

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Rumors Swirling about Fate of North Korean Leader

Saturday, October 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Where is North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un?

The last time Kim was seen in public was precisely a month ago — by far his longest absence from the public eye since he took power. State TV ran a documentary where they mentioned that Kim was not feeling well.

But speculation that there may have been a coup was given credence yesterday by a former propaganda official for the regime who claims that Kim was overthrown in a coup last year and has become a “puppet leader.”

Jang Jin-sung told a security conference in Holland that Kim was deposed by the powerful Organization and Guidance Department in 2013 and that they are pulling the strings at the moment. There has also been a report that the North Korean capital Pyongyang was in “lockdown” with even the elites being unable to enter or exit the city.

The Daily Mail reports:

He told Vice News: ‘On one hand, it’s people who want to maintain a regime monopoly. On the other hand, it’s not like people are fighting against the regime, but in a policy sense they want to take advantage to get influence. It’s not actually consciously civil war, but there are these two incompatible forces at play.’

Remco Breuker, a professor of Korean Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, which hosted the conference, backs-up Jin-sung’s statements.

He told the news site: ‘The real power resides within that one department, the OGD, that was groomed to bureaucratic perfection by Kim Jong-il. It serves him [Kim Jong-Un], but it more serves the legacy of Kim Jong-il. Those don’t always coincide.’

Jin-sung believes that the current North Korean regime will collapse in the near future and that Kim Jong-Un could be replaced by one of his brothers, either Kim Jong-nam, 43, or Kim Jong-chul, 33.

Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University and an authority on North Korean affairs, told The Telegraph that the current lockdown in the capital – revealed by the New Focus International news web site this week – could mean that the regime has become dangerously unstable.

He said: ‘This sort of action suggests there has either been an attempted coup or that the authorities there have uncovered some sort of plot against the leadership.

‘If it is a military-backed coup, then the situation in Pyongyang will be very dangerous and I have heard reports that Kim has been moved out of the capital.’

State media acknowledged for the first time last month that Kim Jong-Un, who assumed power in North Korea when his father died in 2011, was suffering from ‘discomfort’ due to unspecified health reasons, prompting speculation over what ails him.

How much credence should we give this story? North Korea is a wild and wacky place with all sorts of intrigue and factionalism. But the most credible explanation is, as with all things, usually the simplest: Kim is sick.

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Ebola: PJ Media’s J. Christian Adams on The Kelly File

Saturday, October 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

PJ Media’s legal editor J. Christian Adams appeared on the Fox News Channel with Megyn Kelly last night. He talked about President Obama’s authority to stop flights from Liberia from coming into the U.S.

Adams referenced his PJ Media column where he makes it plain the president has all the legal authority he needs to act, but has failed to do so:

As the Ebola epidemic has spread through West Africa over the last several months, President Obama has not used legal powers he possesses to help prevent the deadly virus from entering the United States.

Federal law gives the president the power to issue a proclamation to seal the borders to any class of aliens who pose a threat to the United States. The law is broad enough that Obama could have issued a proclamation months ago denying entry to any foreign national from the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria or Liberia. Under the law, such a proclamation could have also included any passport holder who visited those countries as evidenced by visas or entry/exit stamps on the passport.

Section 1182 (f) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act gives the president this power, which the Obama administration has refused to use even as Ebola threatens Americans.

“Why does this president not protect the American people?” asks Adams. So far, no answer has been forthcoming from the White House.


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Obama: U.S. Intelligence Agencies Underestimated ISIS

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Not his fault. How was he supposed to know that ISIS was a growing threat?

In fact, U.S. intelligence agencies received information from Kurdish officials early this year that ISIS was on the march.

Kurdish officials on Tuesday revealed more details about the warnings they gave to U.S. officials about the threat from Sunni militants now rampaging across Iraq with their eyes on Baghdad.

As far back as six months ago, Kurdish intelligence operatives were receiving troubling reports from along the border between Syria and Iraq, officials told NBC News.

There was a suspiciously large amount of men gathering in makeshift camps and staging areas that were accumulating weapons and vehicles. They appeared, according to Kurdish intelligence, to be preparing for battle.

The men were made up of mostly fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), which has taken control of several cities in Iraq in the past couple of weeks — but Kurdish Intelligence operatives also noticed the fighters’ ranks had grown.

Joining were young men from local Iraqi tribes not known to have previous affiliation with ISIS, an organization aimed at establishing an Islamic caliphate militarily and imposing their strict interpretation of Islamic Law, or ‘Sharia’ in Iraq and greater Syria. Kurdish intelligence also learned that former officials from Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party and ex-military officers were communicating with the fighters.

Then, in April, large convoys of vehicles carrying militants were spotted moving across the Syria-Iraq border. Only this time, after years of moving to the Syrian battlefield, they were now returning to Iraq.

The intelligence, according to Kurdish security sources, also revealed that ISIS had shifted its sights away from Syria and onto Iraq to tap into a groundswell of resentment among Sunni communities in the west of the country — who are underrepresented by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad.

As was their job, the intelligence agencies passed this information along to senior officials at the White House:

The U.S. intelligence community warned about the “growing threat” from Sunni militants in Iraq since the beginning of the year, a senior intelligence official said Tuesday — a claim that challenges assertions by top administration officials that they were caught off guard by the capture of key Iraqi cities.

Earlier Tuesday, in an interview with Fox News, Secretary of State John Kerry said “nobody expected” Iraqi security forces to be decisively driven out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, as they were earlier this month in Mosul.

But in a separate briefing with reporters Tuesday afternoon, the senior intelligence official said the intelligence community had warned about the ISIS threat.

“During the past year, the intelligence community has provided strategic warning of Iraq’s deteriorating security situation,” the official said. “We routinely highlighted (ISIS’) growing threat in Iraq, the increasing difficulties Iraq’s security forced faced in combating (ISIS), and the political strains that were contributing to Iraq’s declining stability.”

Asked who failed to act, the official did not explain.

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Former Vatican Archbishop Stored 100,00 Child Porn Videos and Pictures

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The highest-ranking Vatican official ever to be investigated for sex abuse is now accused of storing tens of thousands of child porn videos and images on his computer.

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who served as a papal envoy in the Dominican Republic, had been arrested earlier this week at the Vatican and will be charged with sexually abusing minors and child porn possession. He may spend up to 7 years in the Vatican prison.

International Business Times:

Vatican detectives analysed the PC Wesolowski used in his office in Santo Domingo, where he served as Holy See envoy from 2008 to 2012 as part of an investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of underage boys.

The probe reportedly revealed a collection of horrors. The Polish native held more than 100,000 sexually-explicit files, Il Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.

ome 160 videos showing teenage boys forced to perform sexual acts on themselves and on adults and more than 86,000 pornographic photos were meticulously archived in several category-based folders, the paper said.

Investigators said that at least another 45,000 pictures were deleted, while a second stash of material was found on a laptop Wesolowski used during his trips abroad.

The former clergyman was placed under house arrest in a pre-trial detention at the Vatican earlier this week. He has been detained in a small room in the basement of the Collegio dei Penitenzieri, a convent located in the same building hosting the Vatican’s court and military police in the famous Santa Marta square.

Investigators are also probing whether there was a network of people who helped him to set up sexual encounters and if he committed other abuse during his previous posts around the world.

Before arriving in Santo Domingo, Wesolowski served as apostolic nuncio in Bolivia and Central Asia – covering Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kirghizstan and Uzbekistan – after holding less prominent roles in Southern African, Costa Rica, Japan, Switzerland, India and Denmark.

He was recalled to Rome last year, after Dominican Republic media alleged he hired “rent boys” and was subsequently banished from the clergy, after a canonical court found him guilty of sex abuse.

His trial is expected to start in January.

This may be the apex of the sex scandals that have done so much to damage the Catholic Church. The loss of trust among ordinary Catholics because of an organized effort at the highest levels of the church hierarchy to sweep even the most egregious sex abuse cases by priests under the rug has angered and saddened tens of millions around the globe.

It may be that only 3% or so of priests are guilty, although how many priests have gotten away with their crimes is unknown. But beyond the numbers of abused children, there stands the dioceses, the archdioceses, and the Holy See itself who knew of the abuse and quietly paid off victims and covered up the criminal activity by transferring offending priests from parish to parish, thus giving them new children to victimize.

Many Catholics have left the church in disgust over the sex scandals. Many others have had their faith tested. Pope Francis appears to acknowledge the errors, but it will take more than one good-hearted pope to restore the people’s faith in this 2000 year old institution.

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Calling Hillary Clinton: Russia Says It’s Time for Another Reset

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Russian Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov was present at the first “reset” between the US and Russia when then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously presented him with a button that said “Reset” in English but something less friendly in Russian:

Clinton presented Lavrov with a gift-wrapped red button, which said “Reset” in English and “Peregruzka” in Russian. The problem was, “peregruzka” doesn’t mean reset. It means overcharged, or overloaded.

And Lavrov called her out on it.

“We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” Clinton asked Lavrov.

“You got it wrong,” Lavrov said. “This says ‘peregruzka,’ which means overcharged.”

There’s a YouTube clip of this unforced error. Do you think the GOP will use it against her in 2016?

Not likely. Hillary got a pass from the media then for this towering stupidity in 2009 and the entire incident has gone down the rabbit hole never to be brought up again.

But Lavrov may be tweaking Hillary a bit with this call for a “reset” of US-Russia relations, putting the onus squarely on the United States to improve ties.

BBC:

Sergei Lavrov, who was minister during the 2010 “reset” of relations, said the current US administration had “wrecked much of the co-operation structures”.

“It is absolutely in our interests to normalise relations but we didn’t wreck them,” he told a Russian TV channel.

The US led sanctions against Russia this year over its actions in Ukraine.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March and has since been accused of fuelling the bloody insurrection in its eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, a charge it denies.

It has also differed sharply with the US and its Western allies over the conflict in Syria.
Reset ‘likely’

In June 2010, US President Barack Obama cemented the original “reset” at a summit when the then Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, visited the White House.

That initiative came after years of poor relations, notably after Russia’s summer war with Georgia, an aspiring Nato member, in 2008, when George W Bush was president.

“Now there’s a need for what the Americans might call a ‘reset’,” Mr Lavrov told Russia’s Channel Five (in Russian).

“The current US administration is today wrecking much of the co-operation structures that it created itself along with us. Most likely, something more will come up – a reset No 2 or a reset 2.0.”

Mr Lavrov said the situation was improving on the ground in Ukraine, where a shaky ceasefire has been in place for several weeks.

Nato reported this week that there had been a significant withdrawal of Russian conventional troops from inside eastern Ukraine, although many thousands remained just over the border.

Moscow has never acknowledged the presence of any Russian troops in Ukraine.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, President Obama accused Russia of pouring arms into the region but he also praised the recent ceasefire agreement between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels.

He promised to lift sanctions if Moscow worked through diplomatic means to secure a lasting peace.

It’s clear the Russians have given up on Obama. He never panned out to be quite the pushover they hoped and expected — and probably would have been if they hadn’t gone off half cocked and annexed Crimea. Their naked aggression forced Obama to reluctantly cancel the reset and treat them as an opponent rather than a partner.

That “reset” gimmick was probably forced on Hillary. She’s one of the few Democrats who never had any illusions about Putin or the Russians. What worries Lavrov — and American liberals — is that Clinton possesses a harder edge to her foreign policy outlook than most leftists, and that a Clinton presidency wouldn’t be burdened by Obama’s nonsensical naivete that led to the belief that America’s enemies can be our friends.

Clinton will almost certainly position herself to the right of Obama on foreign policy if she runs. Lavrov’s offer of a “reset” can be seen in the context that the next American president won’t have much of an opportunity to improve relations unless they accept the new Russian sphere of influence that includes the Ukraine as well as the Baltic states and former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe.

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Latest from the Fever Swamps: U.S. Defense Department Responsible for Ebola Outbreak

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

An article appearing in a Liberian newspaper by an American professor teaching at a taxpayer-funded university accuses the U.S. Department of Defense of deliberately infecting Africans with the Ebola virus.

Cyril Broderick, a Liberian-born professor teaching at Delaware State University, believes that the Ebola outbreak was an international plot that included the injection of the Ebola virus into human test subjects just weeks before the outbreak began in Africa.

The Daily Caller reports:

Broderick’s conspiracy-laden Sept. 9 article is entitled “Ebola, AIDS Manufactured By Western Pharmaceuticals, US DoD?”

“Reports narrate stories of the US Department of Defense (DoD) funding Ebola trials on humans, trials which started just weeks before the Ebola outbreak in Guinea and Sierra Leone,” Broderick claims. “The reports continue and state that the DoD gave a contract worth $140 million dollars to Tekmira, a Canadian pharmaceutical company, to conduct Ebola research. This research work involved injecting and infusing healthy humans with the deadly Ebola virus.”

In addition to the American military and the Canadian pharmaceutical industry, the nutty professor also implicates the United Kingdom, France, Tulane University, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders.

Richard Preston’s epidemiological thriller “The Hot Zone” rates a mention in Broderick’s rant as well.

The Washington Post describes the professor’s potboiler of an article as “semi-intelligible” and interviewed Broderick.

“There are many references to what was contained in my letter,” Broderick told the Post. “You may read the letter and double-check the sources listed. They are available and legitimate.”

ut actually the sources are questionable. They include several conspiracy websites such as Global Research, which seeks to counter “media disinformation” with “unspoken truth.”

As the Post also notes, Western government leaders, philanthropic givers and medical professionals who seek to fight against Ebola face a massive obstacle in the pervasive amount of misinformation that continues to spread in West African communities ravaged by (and soon-to-be ravaged by) the virus.

Bizarro rumors “become strengthened through mass dissemination and the credibility gained through publication,” explained international affairs blog Ramen IR, according to the Post.

Many conspiracy-loving readers who have found Broderick’s article believe the nonsense, at least to judge from the over 500 comments below it.

A fairly representative commenter charges that AIDS and Ebola are “biological weapons designed to ‘cull’ Africa’s populations.”

Meanwhile, the Post also notes that administrators at Delaware State have no plans to restrict Broderick’s ability to spew crackpot theories using his job as a credential.

“The university is not going to abridge his First Amendment rights to give his opinion about the issues of the day,” Carlos Holmes, a spokesman for the school, told the paper.

Broderick could be dismissed as a kook — except he won’t be by far too many people in Africa and here at home. For Africans, it’s much easier to accept the “hidden hand” theory of history that takes away their free will and mysteriously controls their lives. This way, nothing is ever their fault. They can blame anything and everything from natural disasters to political oppression on forces they can’t control.

There are plenty of Americans who suffer from the same paranoia. The black community seems particularly susceptible to these wild conspiracy theories, largely because there have been real conspiracies carried out against them over the centuries. The government really did carry out experiments with syphilis on poor blacks in Mississippi, deliberately not treating infected patients to measure the progress of the disease over 40 years. There really was a conspiracy by the FBI to not only monitor civil rights leaders, but place them in compromising positions to discredit them.

Perhaps the most pervasive conspiracy — supported by notable blacks like Dick Gregory and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — is that the U.S. government created the AIDS virus to kill black people. Given the impossibility of any lab in the world creating a retrovirus — especially in the late 1970s when the disease first presented –i t’s amazing that this theory is still being touted.

Sadly, Broderick is only contributing to the spread of the disease in Africa. And the fact that his university won’t shut him up in the interest of saving lives makes his transgressions against rationality all the more tragic.

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Still No Statement from White House on First Islamic Terrorist Beheading in U.S.

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

It’s been 48 hours since Jah’Keem Yisrael — AKA Alton Noel — perpetrated a horrific terrorist attack on 54 year old co-worker Colleen Hufford, stabbing her repeatedly and then sawing her head off with a knife, and we have yet to hear any acknowledgment from President Obama of this worrisome incident.

Why not? All the elements of an Islamic act of terror are present: the savagery, the shouting of Islamic verses during the act, the stated determination to carry out jihad, and a fanatical belief in Islam that, in his mind, justified everything.

From a political standpoint, it’s a bad idea to bring attention to the attack. But we don’t pay presidents to do what is politically expedient. We pay them to lead. And leadership — so sorely lacking in this and many other incidences — is what President Obama is unable to give.

Instead, our president could be found, for the 198th time, playing golf today.

Keith Koffler:

Sometimes President Obama makes the right choice, and I think we try to note that here at White House Dossier.

Today was one of those times.

Obama analyzed the facts – 80 degrees, no humidity, and endless sunshine – and made the decision to go golfing.

He’s playing today at Fort Belvoir in Virginia with two junior White House aides and sports columnist Tony Kornheiser. It’s the 198th time he’s played as president and his 41st trip to the links this year.

Meanwhile, authorities continue to insist there is “no connection” to terrorism. It’s a useful fiction, but hardly the point.

Fox News:

Colin Clarke, a Rand Corp. terrorism expert, told Fox & Friends Saturday that the beheading was an act of terrorism and should be characterized as such.

“Calling it workplace violence is counterproductive,” he said.

Chad Sweet, CEO of the Chertoff Group and a former Department of Homeland Security Chief of Staff and CIA official, also appeared on Saturday’s Fox & Friends program. He said he expected the Obama administration to change its tune quickly and call it terrorism.

“You’ll see this change very shortly,” he said Saturday. “The only thing that is causing a pause I think is the fact that the triggering event was the termination of his employment.”

The police department issued a statement saying, “After conducting interviews with Nolen’s co-workers, information was obtained that he recently started trying to convert several employees to the Muslim religion. Due to the manner of death and the initial statements of co-workers and other initial information, the Moore Police Department requested the assistance of the FBI in conducting a background investigation on Nolan.”

Nolen, according to state corrections records, was convicted in January 2011 of multiple felony drug offenses, assault and battery on a police officer and escape from detention. He was released from prison in March 2013.

Incredibly, the FBI is refusing to call this terrorist act an act of terror, and they also say that there is “no indication that Nolen was copying the beheadings of journalists in Syria by the Islamic State,” and “that they are treating this as an incident of workplace violence.”

Where else would Yisrael have gotten the idea to behead people? And “workplace violence”? I suppose if a Christian beheads a Muslim, we’ll get around to calling it “terrorism.”

It’s this kind of politically correct obtuseness that will only get more Americans killed. Trying to spare the sensibilities of American Muslims by refusing to state the obvious and connect this terror attack to the thousands of others carried out by Islamic terrorists since 9/11 is dangerous myopia.

No doubt authorities worry about a violent response against Muslims for this act of terror. And this is an excuse to hide the truth from the American people? We are not to be treated as frightened children, with adults telling us soothing fairy tales to mask the horrors of the world. If we are really going to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, it’s not going to be accomplished by sticking our head in the sand and ignoring the reality of what’s happening in the world.

How many more of these lone wolf terrorist attacks will occur before our leaders begin to treat Islamic terrorism with the seriousness it deserves?

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Flight Delays Continue After Bizarre Fire at Chicago Air Traffic Control Center

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

More than 2,000 flights across the country were canceled on Friday and another 700 on Saturday after a contractor set a busy air traffic control center outside of Chicago on fire and tried to take his own life.

Brian Howard, a 36 year old resident of Naperville, IL left his intentions on his Facebook page:

“Take a hard look in the mirror, I have. And this is why I am about to take out ZAU and my life,” Howard posted, using the call letters for the Aurora center, the FBI said. “April, Pop, love you guys and I am sorry. Leaving you with a big mess. Do your best to move on quickly from me please. Feel like I give (expletive) for the first time in a long time again … but not for too long (haha!) So I’m gonna smoke this blunt and move on, take care everyone.”

That was posted at 5:36 a.m. Friday, about 30 minutes after Howard entered the center, the FBI said.

At 5:42 a.m., a control center employee called 911 to say the center was on fire.

It was the responding paramedics from the Aurora Fire Department who found Howard, the FBI said.

After sabotaging the center, Howard tried to slit his own throat:

In federal court documents, investigators say they found Howard at the Aurora center Friday morning, not far from a gas can and lighter, burned towels and exposed telecommunications cables and wires that had been set on fire.

A floor panel had been pulled away to reach the wires, officials said.

Paramedics followed a blood trail near the fire and found a knife and a lighter on the floor. Another knife was found on the blood trail — and then a pair of feet were seen sticking out from under a table, authorities said.

It was Howard, they alleged, in the process of slitting his throat with another knife. He also had knife wounds on his arms, authorities said.

A paramedic pulled the knife away from him and set it on the table. Howard told the paramedics to “leave me alone,” the FBI said.

The FBI said the investigation revealed Howard posted to Facebook just before the fire was set:

Since Chicago is a major air hub, the flight disruptions rippled across the country on Friday, bringing some airports to a standstill:

Lines remained long on Saturday at O’Hare, a major hub for the nation’s air network. Many travelers stranded overnight slept on cots provided by the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration facility in Aurora, about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago, handles planes cruising at high altitudes through the airspace as well as those just beginning to approach or completing a departure from airports in the Chicago area. During the shutdown, its responsibilities have been transferred to centers in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Minneapolis.

The widespread disruption left some aviation analysts, travelers and politicians calling for a smoother backup plan and wondering how one person could be in a position to wreak so much havoc.

“As the busiest airport in the world, Chicago O’Hare International Airport cannot be brought to a screeching halt,” said Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, of Illinois. “I want to see not only an immediate review by the FAA of the screening process at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, but also a report within 30 days outlining changes the FAA will make to prevent any one individual from having this type of impact on the heart of the United States economy.”

An FAA spokeswoman didn’t immediately have a response, but an agency statement on Friday’s fire emphasized that airspace management was immediately transferred to other facilities.

It’s not like these air traffic control sites are top secret. You can probably find the address in the phone book. Unless you believe terrorists like ISIS are complete idiots, you have to wonder what lessons were drawn from Howard’s sabotage by those who seek to strike America any way they can.

Imagine if the entire facility had been blown up or a better job done of destroying equipment? Then imagine multiple similar targets all attacked at the same time. How long would air travel be disrupted? The 9/11 attacks forced the closure of US airspace for 2 days, with the fallout from the hijackings costing the industry $22 billion in lost revenue. It’s easy to see what would happen if several of these FAA facilities were to go offline at the same time; mass cancellations and chaos.

While we have no idea how secure these facilities were before the fire, you would hope that they will be improved in the aftermath.

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More Information Emerging About Oklahoma Terrorist

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Both authorities in More, Oklahoma, and legions of social media watchers have been busy ferreting out information on the man accused of stabbing and beheading Colleen Hufford, a 54-year-old grandmother, at a food distribution warehouse.

The picture that is emerging of Alton Noel, who took the Islamic name Jah’Keem Yisrael, is of a violent criminal with no history of mental illness, who converted to Islam in prison and wished to bring Sharia law to America.

The American Thinker’s Jeannie DeAngelis looked at Yisrael’s Facebook page:

Judging from things he says on his Facebook page, Jah’Keem Yisrael was raised in a Christian home where, while getting ready to go to church, his mama sang along with the O’Jays to “Stairway to Heaven” (no, not that “Stairway to Heaven”).

Since coming out of prison, he spent his time offering Dawah to kids in Old Navy t-shirts and proselytizing on behalf of Islam while working at Vaughan Foods.

Nolen’s Facebook rants include preaching against non-Muslims, especially Jews, and features gun-toting Taliban fighters as his cover photo and a picture justifying beheading infidels, complete with a severed head. In addition, Jah’Keem lauds Osama Bin Laden, displays the smoking Twin Towers, and has numerous photos starring himself as was a proud member of the Islamic Mosque community in Oklahoma City.

According to Breitbart, that Oklahoma City mosque attended by Yisrael had connections to terrorist imam Anwar al-Awlaki, a former leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula:

Suhaib Webb, an Imam with ties to former Al Qaeda mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki, had also previously been the leader of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, which had been attended by Alton Nolen — the man who on Thursday beheaded a former coworker after recently converting to Islam, Breitbart News has learned. Webb now serves as Imam of the sister organization of the mosque attended by Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Imam Suhaib Webb has a history of ties to radicalism. FBI surveillance documents found that he was a known confidant of Al Qaeda mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki. Just two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks on America, Webb spoke at a fundraiser with Awlaki with hopes to raise funds for Atlanta-based H. Rap Brown, a man that shot and killed two police officers. The FBI documents also found that “Webb and Awlaki may be associated with the Muslim American Society,” which is a group described by the Investigative Project on Terrorism as being “founded as the United States Chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Nolen took a picture of himself (above) September 5th, just three weeks before he brutally murdered an innocent woman, standing in front of the gates of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City.

The caption read: “At The Masjid (Mosque)Today For Jumar 9/5/2014 & Peforming Wudu!!!”

[...]

Writing in the Jewish Advocate last year, columnist Charles Jacobs described Imam Webb as someone who “teaches vicious hatred and calls for young Muslims to engage in Jihad against non-Muslims in order to establish a global Islamic state.”

Ben Shapiro’s Truth Revolt blog has been extensively reporting on Yisrael, and tracked down a story in the terrorist’s hometown newspaper (no online edition) that sheds more light on his termination from Vaughan Foods:

A classmate of Nolen’s, who didn’t wish to be identified, told this newspaper that he spoke to a close family member of Nolen’s today.

He told this newspaper that according to the family member, Nolen was telling coworkers Thursday of an Islamic teaching that said women should be stoned for an offense, and that an argument followed the mark, Nolen was later fired and returned later Thursday, when he beheaded Colleen Hufford, the family member said.

Truth Revolt also delved into Yisrael’s police record:

The Gazette reports that Nolen has a long history with the local police department. He has been arrested at least 10 times by Idabel police between 2004 and 2009, on “allegations ranging from assault, burglary, obstructing an officer, resisting arrest, drug possession, and larceny,” among other unlisted charges.

Nolan’s classmates state that he converted to Islam while in prison in 2011. Records indicate he was incarcerated for, among other things, assaulting a police officer.

The website also reports on the violent friends Yisrael hung out with growing up:

Tucker points out that Nolen is not the only person accused of murder from their childhood circle of friends. Mutual friend Eric Blandon was found guilty of murder in 2013, having killed his boss at a Sonic restaurant in nearby Broken Bow. He shot her multiple times, starting with a point blank shot to the back of her head, and then stole the day’s deposits she was carrying with her. He plead guilty and was sentenced to life.

Tucker saw Blandon after he was convicted, when Tucker was working as a corrections officer at the country jail in Idabel, where they reminisced about their childhood days playing football and baseball together in the neighborhood.

Another mutual friend, Corey Lewis, murdered a woman in her bathtub. He and an accomplice stabbed her multiple times. Tucker reports that Lewis, too, was from the same neighborhood and grew up in the same situation.

Members of Yisrael’s mosque say that the recent convert apparently was fairly ignorant of some Islamic protocols:

A man accused of beheading a woman and stabbing another after he was fired from a food-processing plant “exhibited odd and bizarre behaviour” at a local mosque, according to a religious leader.

Imad Enchassi, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, told local media that Alton Nolen’s conduct had raised eyebrows among worshippers.

He said the 30-year-old had improperly handled Islam’s holy book, the Quran, slept on the prayer floor, and worshipped in an unconventional manner.

The imam said mosque members had been shocked by Thursday’s attack at Vaughan Foods.

Mr Enchassi told the Oklahoman newspaper: “He’s as far away from Islam as he could be.”

Yisrael was yelled at by several worshipers when he placed the Koran on his prayer rug. Muslims believe that to be a serious transgression against the sacredness of the Koran.

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Mystery Virus Causing Paralysis in Children Has CDC Stumped

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Nine Colorado children have experienced “muscle weakness” and paralysis after becoming ill with a mystery virus that may be connected to a respiratory infection that has been detected in 19 states. The paralyzed children all carry the enterovirus 68 — a virus first detected in 1962 — and experienced respiratory sickness within a couple of weeks of falling victim to the paralyzing disease. The CDC is investigating the virus, but doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Associated Press:

The virus can cause paralysis but other germs can, too. Health officials don’t know whether the virus caused any of the children’s arm and leg weaknesses or whether it’s just a germ they coincidentally picked up. “That’s why we want more information,” and for doctors to report similar cases, said the CDC’s Dr. Jane Seward. The cases occurred within the last two months. All nine children are being treated at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, and most are from the Denver area. A hospital spokeswoman said the patients’ families didn’t want to talk to the media. The nine children had fever and respiratory illness about two weeks before developing varying degrees of limb weakness. None seems to have a weak immune system or other conditions that might predispose them to severe illness, but the cases are still being investigated, Seward said. Investigators don’t think it’s polio – eight of the nine children are up to date on polio vaccinations. It’s not known whether the limb weakness or paralysis is temporary or will be long-lasting. The cases come amid an unusual wave of severe respiratory illness from enterovirus 68. The germ is not new – it was first identified in 1962 and has caused clusters of illness before, including in Georgia and Pennsylvania in 2009 and Arizona in 2010. Because it’s not routinely tested for, it’s possible the bug spread in previous years but was never distinguished from colds caused by other germs. This year, the virus has gotten more attention because it has been linked to hundreds of severe illnesses. Beginning last month, a flood of sick children began to hit hospitals in Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago – kids with trouble breathing, some needing oxygen or more extreme care such as a breathing machine. Many – but not all – had asthma before the infection. The CDC has been testing a limited number of specimens from very sick children around the country, and as of Thursday reported 277 people in 40 states and the District of Columbia with enterovirus 68. So far no deaths have been attributed to the virus, but Seward said 15 still are being investigated.

There have been efforts to tie the virus to illegal aliens flowing into the country from Central America, but that’s clearly not the case. Since the virus has been in the US since 1962, it may be that better detection methods are responsible for the spike in cases this year. The CDC also points to similar outbreaks in the past. As for the paralysis, the CDC says that enterovirus 68 has been the suspected culprit in other cases of limb weakness and paralysis. What they don’t know is why there has been an apparent increase in the number of cases involving paralyzed children. The CDC’s medical detectives are the best in the world, so they are likely to eventually come up with some answers.

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Chinese Response to Obama Climate Speech: Go Climb a Tree

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Speaking at the UN Climate Summit, President Obama made it clear he expected China to help the US lead the way on fighting global warming:

Just a few minutes ago, I met with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, and reiterated my belief that as the two largest economies and emitters in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead. That’s what big nations have to do. (Applause.)

And today, I call on all countries to join us -– not next year, or the year after, but right now, because no nation can meet this global threat alone.

Today, China gave their response to the president. It came in the form of a paper submitted to the Geneva-based U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in advance of a planned meeting next month.

Basically, the Chinese took 9 pages to tell the president to stuff it.

Fox News:

Carbon emission cutbacks by China and other developing countries, the document says, will be “dependent on the adequate finance and technology support provided by developed country parties” to any new climate accord.

In other words, only if Western nations pay for it.

More specifically, only if Western taxpayers ante up. Among other things, the Chinese communist regime insists that the incentive payments it demands must come from “new, additional, adequate, predictable and sustained public funds” — rather than mostly private financing, as the U.S. hopes.

In addition, the Chinese state:

– A promised $100 billion in annual climate financing that Western nations have already pledged to developing countries for carbon emission control and other actions by 2020 is only the “starting point” for additional Western financial commitments that must be laid out in a “clear road map,” which includes “specific targets, timelines and identified sources;”

–In the longer run, developed countries should be committing “at least 1 percent” of their Gross Domestic Product — much more than they spend on easing global poverty” into a U.N.-administered Green Carbon Fund to pay for the developing country changes;

–In the meantime, the $100 billion pledge to the same fund should be reached by $10 billion increments, starting from a $40 billion floor this year;

–Western countries also need to remove “obstacles such as IPRs [intellectual property rights]” to “promote, facilitate and finance the transfer” of “technologies and know-how” to developing countries in advance of any future climate deal;

China will fight climate change to the very last American taxpayer dollar.

Chinese recalcitrance to participate in a global climate convention is matched by India, whose new Prime Minister Narendra Modi just announced a major new campaign to bring massive numbers of factories to his country. Both countries rely on coal for a large percentage of their power generation and neither country is willing to stifle its economic growth when most countries in the west failed to reach the emission goals spelled out in the Kyoto accord.

Kyoto’s strictures expire in 2020, but there is already a move to replace it with even more draconian protocols. How about a climate mitigation fund — opening amount to be $100 billion — to be made available to some of the biggest kleptocrats in the third world? I’m sure bankers in Switzerland and the Caymans are salivating at the ill gotten gains that will be flowing into their coffers from various presidents-for-life in Africa and Asia.

Meanwhile, China’s communist dictatorship continues to build coal fired electric plants, whose particulate emissions are suffocating millions of people.

Photographs of a smog-wreathed Tiananmen Square and the iconic headquarters of China Central Television dominated reports of Chinese pollution last year, but analysis shows nine other Chinese cities suffered more days of severe smog than the capital in 2013.

The worst was Xingtai, a city of more than 7 million people south-west of Beijing, which was hit by 129 days of “unhealthy air” or worse – the threshold at which pollution is considered at emergency levels – and more than twice as many days as the capital experienced.

Beijing suffered 60 days of pollution above emergency levels, sparking reports of an “airpocalypse”, a boom in sales of air purifiers and masks and measures to tackle the problem including the destruction of open-air barbecues and a crackdown on fireworks for Chinese new year.

Last week, the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, “declared war” on pollution, saying it was “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”

Do the Chinese really need a “red-light warning” from nature?

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China is now the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Coal is the culprit and the Chinese burn almost 3 times as much as the US.

A few more stats on Chinese coal use:

Coal, the most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels, accounts for 70 percent of energy used in China today and is responsible for about three quarters of electricity generation.

  • In just 5 years, from 2005 through 2009, China added the equivalent of the entire U.S. fleet of coal-fired power plants, or 510 new 600-megawatt coal plants.
  • From 2010 through 2013, it added half the coal generation of the entire U.S. again.
  • At the peak, from 2005 through 2011, China added roughly two 600-megawatt coal plants a week, for 7 straight years.
  • And according to U.S. government projections, China will add yet another U.S. worth of coal plants over the next 10 years, or the equivalent of a new 600-megawatt plant every 10 days for 10 years.

China also leads the world in the production of renewable energy. But despite fantastic growth in that energy sector, the Chinese use of coal will continue to skyrocket. Filling the boilers of 3 new coal fired electric plants a month will increase China’s coal use by up to 15% by 2020.

All of this means that any reduction in emissions by western industrialized nations will be futile. It won’t reduce worldwide CO2 emissions by one, single, molecule.

All of the speechifying by Obama and the other delegates to the climate summit amounted to a lot of unnecessary CO2 being emitted by blowhards who care less about saving the world than they do enhancing their power over the citizens of the world.

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IRS Surprise for Some Obamacare Subsidy Recipients Next Year

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

USA Today sums up the situation for hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who may owe the IRS for overpayment of subsidies for Obamacare policies: “Sadly, it’s fair to say some people will see some unexpected, unpleasant surprises on their tax returns next year.”

If you’re receiving an Obamacare subsidy and you had certain “life changes” over the past year — marriage, divorce, a raise, a new child — chances are, you are going to owe Uncle Sam some cash.

When you file that 2014 tax return next year, the Internal Revenue Service will compare your actual income for the year with the amount you estimated when applying for exchange-based health insurance under the health insurance law.

The next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15. But notices were sent this week to some consumers whose incomes don’t match up to such things as 2012 tax return information.

On Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said at least 279,000 households reported incomes that still don’t match what the government has on record. Supporting documents are needed by Sept. 30.

What can you do to avoid tax-time problems?

Experts say people need to realize early on that they should report changes in income and other changes in one’s life, such as a marriage, throughout the year. See HealthCare.gov to report “income and life changes.”

Of course, many people may have no idea that they’d need to report changes.

The IRS put out some more details on the issue mid-month.

What should you report? A move, an increase or decrease in income, a marriage or divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, whether you started a job that offers health insurance and whether you gained or lost eligibility for other health care coverage.

Best spots for information: HealthCare.gov and IRS.gov/aca.

Karen Pollitz, senior fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation, said many people who qualify for these tax credits aren’t working 9-to-5 jobs with regular salaries. So guesstimating one’s income for the coming year can be very tough.

“It’s people in transition. Maybe they’re in and out of work,” she said. Or maybe they’re self-employed.

People who lose a job would want to report that change during the year, as well, because that change can lead to a higher advance payment for the credit.

“Life changes can drive tax changes,” said Mark Steber, chief tax officer for Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.

Steber stressed that people need to make sure to update information via HealthCare.gov or their state insurance exchanges.

If your income ends up below 400% of the poverty line, you would owe a maximum of $600 for a single filer, and $2500 for a family.

But if your income is over 400% of the poverty line, there is no limit. You will have to repay the entire amount of the difference between what you received as a subsidy and what you actually deserved.

There are already going to be millions of taxpayers who get a nasty surprise when the IRS withholds part or all of their refund to pay the fine for not having insurance — and then bills them if that’s not enough.

Welcome to the Brave New Tax World of Obamacare.

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