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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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Landrieu Abandoned While GOP Rolls out the Big Guns for Unity Rally

Saturday, November 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A tale of one election, two parties. The Democrats, reeling from massive losses at every level of government, are approaching the Louisiana run-off election on December 6 as a lost cause. They’ve pulled party money from the contest and pretty much left Senator Mary Landrieu, one of the party’s most loyal soldiers, on her own.

Their pathetic excuse, via Politico:

“Mary Landrieu is a proven runoff winner, and we support her 100 percent,” said DSCC spokesman Justin Barasky. “We are going to make ongoing determinations on how best to invest in the race. We made the initial reservation when there were concerns that the rates would skyrocket, but they have stabilized, giving us more flexibility to make week-to-week decisions.”

They support her “100%” but won’t give her any money? You go, girl — we’re behind you all the way!

Contrast that response to the GOP’s plans:

Louisiana Republican Rob Maness, the tea party upstart who finished third in this week’s Louisiana Senate primary, is getting behind GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy ahead of his December runoff with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will headline a unity rally — during which Maness will endorse Cassidy — on Monday afternoon at Huey’s Bar in Baton Rouge. Also attending will be Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. David Vitter and state Rep. Paul Hollis, who briefly threw his hat into the U.S. Senate race before dropping out.

Maness earned 14 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s jungle primary. Since no candidate achieved a majority of the vote, the top two finishers face off on Dec. 6. Cassidy, who was supported by 41 percent of voters, is now the heavy favorite against Landrieu, who pulled just 42 percent of the vote.

The endorsement follows a Friday dinner at Ye Olde College Inn in New Orleans with Cassidy, his wife Laura, Maness and his wife Candy.

The RNC is going to pour $2.3 million into the race. Also,

Republicans still have $7.2 million in broadcast reservations for the next four weeks in the Bayou State. Cassidy has reserved $1.3 million; Ending Spending and its Super PAC, $1.6 million; the National Rifle Association, $1.1 million; and Freedom Partners, $822,000.

The only Democratic outside group with broadcast reservations for the runoff right now is the Humane Society Legislative Fund, which reserved just $101,000 for the final two weeks of the runoff.

Maybe they can auction off kittens and puppies to raise some money for Landrieu.

Landrieu only polled 42% on election night and I don’t think there are going to be too many Maness supporters who are going to vote for her. Depending on what is going to happen in Alaska, where Democratic Senator Mark Begich trails Republican Daniel Sullivan by 8,000 votes with about 50,000 votes left to count, the GOP could add two more senators to their caucus by Christmas.

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Bin Laden ‘Died Like a Pussy’ Says SEAL Who Claims Fatal Shot

Saturday, November 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The unseemly row among our special operators precipitated by former SEAL Team Six member Robert O’Neil’s claims that he fired the fatal shot that killed Osama Bin Laden continued to play out in the press as other SEALs disputed his claims and criticized him for going public.

The Daily Beast is reporting that other special operators who took part in the raid say that O’Neil is “misstating key facts” and “wrongly taking credit” for killing Bin Laden.

Sources who know and worked with O’Neill, who was first identified by the special operations blog SOFREP, said his version of events showed cracks almost from the night of the raid itself. One former special operations official said that O’Neill didn’t identify himself as the main shooter in the “hot wash” debriefing that operators conducted immediately after the raid at an air base in Afghanistan. But upon his return stateside, O’Neill identified himself as the trigger-man to members of the public while drinking in some favorite SEAL bars in Virginia Beach, VA. (This account was independently verified by a second source.) O’Neill’s behavior prompted his superiors to counsel him that the operation was classified, the former official said.

This much seems beyond dispute. O’Neill was one of three men who fired at the fugitive terrorist in the moments before he died. The two others SEALs were Bissonnette and a third shooter whom multiple sources referred to as the “point man,” because he was standing at the front of the team of SEALs as they climbed a staircase and approached bin Laden’s bedroom on the upper floor of his safe house.

The lure of celebrity and book advances is apparently too strong to overcome for some. Leaders of the Naval Special Warfare Command released a letter asking their men to remember who they are and what they’re about:

“We will not abide willful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety and financial gain, which only diminishes otherwise honorable service, courage and sacrifice,” said the letter signed by Rear Adm. Brian Losey and Force Master Chief Michael Magaraci on Oct. 31.

Analysts and former Navy SEALs say some are seduced by the celebrity status that has been conferred on them in recent years. The SEALs have been the subject of Hollywood films, video games and books.

A group of SEALs was recently disciplined for consulting on the computer game Medal of Honor: Warfighter.

Hollywood has produced a string of movies portraying SEALs in a heroic light, including Zero Dark Thirty, which chronicled the bin Laden mission, and Captain Phillips, which portrayed their role in killing pirates and rescuing a ship captain.

Their celebrity status has overshadowed other special operations forces within the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force, Couch said. It wasn’t always the case. During Vietnam, few people had heard of the Navy SEALs. It was the Green Berets who captured the public’s imagination, helped by John Wayne’s starring role in the 1968 movie about the Army special forces.

Today’s tsunami of coverage on SEALs presents a far greater temptation to cash out or otherwise capitalize on the public interest.

The Pentagon said they are expected to resist the urge. Revelations from the special operations forces risks exposing classified information, given much of what they do is secret, said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.

“There is an expectation inside that community, a code, that they ascribe to that they will not seek recognition for what they do, they will not seek financial gain from what they do,” Kirby said Friday.

In an unpublished audio tape of interviews conducted between O’Neil and freelance writer Alex Quade, O’Neill gave a colorful description of how Bin Laden died and why he decided to go public:

Osama bin Laden “died like a pussy” who “knew we were there to kill him,” says ex-Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill, who claims to have fired the lethal shots.

“You can quote me on this bull***t,” O’Neill said in previously-unreleased audio that aired on CNN Friday evening. The tape was recorded by freelance journalist Alex Quade.

O’Neill, who will give a tell-all interview to Fox News next week, claimed to have used details of the terrorist mastermind’s death to provide comfort to 9/11 families: “I tell them, ‘Alright, Osama bin Laden died like a pussy. That’s all I’m telling you. Just so you know. He died afraid. And he knew that we were there to kill him. And that’s closure.’”

“Regardless of the negativity that comes with it,” O’Neill added, “I don’t give a f**k. We got him.”

A decade ago I wrote a post on my blog paying homage to the SEALs following what is believed to be the worst day in their history: the loss of 11 SEALs on a mission in Afghanistan (another 8 “Nightstalker” members were also killed). At that time, few details of the operation were available. Nevertheless, I was awestruck by the courage and sacrifice displayed by the SEALs — something I learned was commonplace in the special operations community.

I also admired the fact that they eschewed public acclaim, even though many of their operations have been memorialized on TV and in films. It should be noted that most SEALs maintain their silence and anonymity. But those few who don’t — who seek the exposure and Klieg lights of celebrity — bring shame on their comrades and the entire special operations community.

O’Neil may be a charlatan. But beyond that, he is a cynic. He is motivated by some very unSEAL-like attributes — greed and glory. My hero worship of SEALs was probably misplaced. But it’s still a downer to realize that for all their gifts, they’re human after all.

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North Korea Releases Two Americans

Saturday, November 8th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller, two Americans held for an extended period in North Korean prisons, have been released.

The announcement came from the office of the Director of National Intelligence. DNI James Clapper apparently carried out the negotiations in secret. It isn’t known who he negotiated with or whether there was a Quid Pro Quo of some kind that facilitated their release.

Reuters:

Bae and Miller were being accompanied home by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, his office said. Their release comes less than three weeks after another American was freed by Pyongyang.

Bae, a missionary, was arrested in North Korea in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for crimes against the state. Miller, who reportedly was tried on an espionage charge, had been in custody since April this year and sentenced to six years of hard labor.

The United States had frequently called for their release for humanitarian reasons, especially since Bae was said to have health problems.

“We are grateful to Director of National Intelligence Clapper, who engaged on behalf of the United States in discussions with DPRK authorities about the release of two citizens,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement after the men were freed.

“We also want to thank our international partners, especially our Protecting Power, the government of Sweden, for their tireless efforts to help secure the freedom of Mr. Bae and Mr. Miller.”

Sweden serves as a diplomatic intermediary for the United States in North Korea, as Washington has no diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.

The U.S. government gave no other details yet of how the release came about, and Clapper’s role was unexpected.

In late October North Korea freed Jeffrey Fowle, 56, a street repair worker from Miamisburg, Ohio, who had been arrested in May for leaving a Bible in a sailor’s club in the North Korean city of Chongjin, where he was traveling as a tourist.

In September, the authoritarian North Korean government allowed Bae, Miller and Fowle to be interviewed by CNN and the Associated Press. The men said they were being treated humanely and appealed to the U.S. government to push for their release.

These releases may be a sign of Kim’s desperation. It’s no secret that North Korea can’t feed itself and that conditions for everyone except the army have been deteriorating. The economy is thought to be in shambles and no one knows for sure just how secure Kim Jong-Un is in his position.

Is this truly a kind of olive branch to the US? Prudence and caution demands that we proceed slowly. Kim, himself, may be unsure about how far he can go, given the factionalized nature of the North Korean leadership.

If this is a genuine effort at some kind of rapprochement by Kim, the US should take it seriously and work for the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear program. That will be the test of just how serious this overture is.

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Study: 50% of Today’s Jobs Won’t Exist in 10 Years

Friday, November 7th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I usually look in askance at futuristic predictions mostly because the older I get, the more I realize how utterly impossible it is to see what is to come. The forces of change are both fickle and unknowable, and can only be seen in hindsight. We can’t even predict the weather more than a few days out, and like the weather, there are uncountable variables that go into creating the future, making seeing it more akin to a crap shoot than a scientific endeavor.

No flying cars, no living on the moon, no Back to the Future-like Hoverboards — all predicted when I was a kid. The track record of futurists leaves much to be desired.

“Fast Forward 2030: The Future of Work and the Workplace” is a report by realty consulting firm CBRE and China-based Genesis, a property developer. It envisions the workplace a decade from now that is a lot different than the one today.

Some key findings:

1. Artificial intelligence will transform businesses and the work that people do

  • Process work, customer work and vast swathes of middle management will simply disappear:50% of occupations today will no longer exist in 2025
  • New jobs will require creative intelligence, social and emotional intelligence and the ability to leverage artificial intelligence. Those jobs will be immensely more fulfilling than today’s jobs
  • Workspaces with row of desks as we know them today will be completely redundant.Not because they are not fit for purpose, but simply because that purpose no longer exists

2. For employees, purpose is more important than financial success

  • There is a significant and global trend amongst all people, but particularly the youth, towards happiness, purpose and meaning being as or more important than financial success
  • Corporations will not only need to be lean and agile they must be authentic to attract talent: authentic in their values and in making a real contribution to the social good
  • As the nature of work changes we expect to see more social entrepreneurship

3. Emergence of online trading for real estate

  • By 2030 the majority of real estate transactions may be made online, and the majority of transactions will be made by the users of the space using real time marketplaces (similar to Uber) that help the find the best and most effective place to work
  • Real estate traditionally changes slowly but these new emerging aggregators could revolutionize the market, allowing tenants and many types of building owners in cities to contribute wasted and unused space back into an eco-system of available space

4. Landlords to focus more on delivering services

  • Buildings will be much healthier environments, and landlords will need to create partnerships with providers who can help create services and experiences in addition to basic lease tenancies
  • As landlords start delivering more complete solutions they will rate their building’s value not by the cash flow of rent but in the cash flow from the services.

Sounds fascinating, but strangely out of kilter. Like this:

Young people interviewed for the report clearly indicated that the workplaces of 2030 will contrast starkly to the workplaces of today and will offer a wide variety of quiet retreat and collaborative settings, each ideal for a specific kind of job or task or designed to suit a specific personal work style. In particular, young interviewees suggested that workplaces of the future will need to support worker health and wellbeing—as did all industry experts and business leaders interviewed for the study. The budding industry of wellness in buildings will grow rapidly in the coming decade.

Sounds like paradise — if I were someone in their 20′s and had a completely unsophisticated view of business. It’s like Occupy Wall Street meets Dr. Phil. No matter how “authentic” a business may be, they still have to make money to survive. The future worker who is not interested in financial success won’t be working very long.

If anything, the competition for these kinds of jobs will be even more intense than such competition today. Are we to believe that employees will be in a position to demand more emotionally satisfying jobs at companies who put “social good” over profit? That will be a tough sell.

It very well may be that robots and artificial intelligence devices will revolutionize the workplace.  And it could be true that 50% of all jobs today will be gone by 2025.

But it is also likely that millions of jobs will be created in industries that don’t even exist yet, or are flying below the radar.  The only thing rock solid certain about the future is that it will surprise us. And studies like this one will be forgotten long before they’re proved wrong.

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Republicans Now Control 67 of 98 State Legislative Chambers

Thursday, November 6th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Republican victory on Tuesday night extended beyond taking the US Senate, several big blue state governorships, and picking up a net of at least 13 House seats.

Overshadowed by all the news from Washington and the statehouses was the historic wave that gave Republicans an unprecedented number of state legislative seats. The GOP now has control of both house and senate chambers in 24 states. They took control of an additional 6 state legislative chambers by capturing the Colorado and Maine Senates and state House chambers in Minnesota, New Mexico, West Virginia and New Hampshire.

To add insult to injury, they reduced the number of states where Democrats controlled both the senate and the house from 14 to 7.

It was truly a slaughter. The Washington Post reports:

Republican gains extended to state legislative chambers as well. Before Election Day, the GOP controlled 59 of 98 partisan legislative chambers across the country. On Tuesday, preliminary results showed Republicans had won control of both the Nevada Assembly and Senate, the Colorado and Maine Senates and state House chambers in Minnesota, New Mexico, West Virginia and New Hampshire.

That would give the party control of 67 chambers, five more than their previous record in the modern era, set after special elections in 2011 and 2012.

It also would give Republicans total control of 24 states, in which they hold the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state legislature (Nebraska’s unicameral legislature is technically nonpartisan, but in practice Republicans control the chamber by a wide margin). Democrats, by contrast, are likely to control all three legs of the governing stool in only six states.

Many Republican majorities got bigger on Tuesday night. The GOP won outright control of state Senates in Washington and New York, which they had controlled under coalition agreements with centrist Democrats. By the early morning hours on Wednesday, Republicans claimed supermajority status in 16 legislative chambers. Republicans won four lieutenant governorships previously held by Democrats — in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts.

There are still several dozen state legislative races too close to call, so the GOP could pick up a couple of other state legislative chambers if those contests break in their direction. But it seems clear that Republicans will set a party record for the number of GOP state legislative office holders, eclipsing the old record of 4001 seats.

Libby Nelson, writing at Vox, points out the the long term consequences of Republican control of so many state legislatures:

One of the most-discussed consequences of Republicans’ state legislative takeovers in 2010 was for Congress. Republicans drew the electoral maps in the majority of states, and in the 2012 elections, took back the House majority despite getting fewer votes than Democratic candidates. Democrats also tend to be packed into urban districts, where Democratic candidates win large majorities. But redistricting sharply cut the number of competitive House districts, from around 100 in 2010 to about 39 this year.

The next redistricting isn’t until after the 2020 Census. But the overwhelming Republican control of state legislatures already matters for elections down the line in at least one key way: by weakening the Democrats’ legislative bench.

Statehouses are fertile ground for candidates for higher office from both parties. Nearly half of all members of Congress started out in statehouses. Forty-three Senators were once state legislators, including 27 Democrats. So were 217 voting House members, the majority of them Republicans. And, of course, there’s a former Democratic state senator from Illinois with a pretty important elected office right now.

There are still plenty of Democratic state legislators out there. But the fewer statehouses there are under Democratic control, the fewer opportunities those legislators have to make policy, become visible, and rise through the ranks. That’s a loss with ramifications that could last a generation.

The same thing happened to Republicans in the 1970′s. State legislatures were dominated by Democrats, thus preventing new leaders from gaining valuable experience at the state level before trying for a congressional seat. The answer was Pete DuPont’s GOPAC which sought out community leaders for public offices in the state legislature. Within a generation, GOPAC and other candidate schools would turn out the leaders who took control of the House of Representatives in 1994.

The Democrat’s problem isn’t bad candidates, although this time around, they had some doozies. Wendy Davis proved that running as a pro-abortion candidate in Texas doesn’t work. Martha Coakley proved she can be just as boring as a gubernatorial candidate as she was when she ran for the Senate. But generally speaking, the Democrats put up enough attractive, intelligent candidates to do well.

Their problem is that those candidates have to run on a platform that promises more tax increases, more government overreach, and less local control. It’s no accident that Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts lost. Fiscal problems in all three states doomed the two candidates looking to succeed Democratic governors in Maryland and Massachusetts and incumbent Pat Quinn in Illinois. It didn’t help that the Obamacare websites in Maryland and Massachusetts were botched from the beginning, thus lending credence to the incompetence narrative.

What happened Tuesday was a wave of revulsion against the state of the country and it’s management by Democrats. Republicans are not very well thought of either. And by 2016, the roles may be switched and it will be Republicans who will be punished. But at least, the GOP has an opportunity to make their case for governance by implementing a positive agenda for change.

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Holder Sending Poll Watchers to 18 States to Prevent ‘Intimidation’

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Irony alert! Attorney General Eric Holder is sending dozens of poll watchers to 18 states to guarantee an election that’s “fair” and “nonpartisan.”

Lay aside the fact that Holder is considered by many to be the most partisan AG in history, the question of what is “fair” needs to be addressed. Holder is sending the poll watchers to ensure that the election is free of “intimidation, discrimination or obstruction.”

The Hill:

This is the first major federal election since the Supreme Court overturned parts of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder.

The Court ruled that the formula used to determine which states needed to clear voting rights changes by the Justice Department was unconstitutional. That allowed nine states, as well as some counties in other states, to change voting laws without checking with the Justice Department to ensure that the changes aren’t discriminatory.

Holder used his statement to slam voter ID laws in a number of states. He called those laws “restrictive,” “burdensome” and “out of step with history.” But he emphasized that the Justice Department has to protect existing laws.

What a crock. Holder didn’t like DOMA and refused to enforce it. Why should we believe him when he absolutely loathes Voter ID laws and piously proclaims his intent to enforce all the laws?

The mission of these poll watchers is not to ensure a “fair” election. It is to intimidate those who do. If a Republican poll watcher challenges someone’s credentials for voting, will that be considered “intimidation” or “obstruction”? Of course it will.

Also out in the hinterlands will be poll watchers for Common Cause, the Soros-backed group that thinks itself a guardian of the ballot:

A group funded by billionaire George Soros has joined forces with a civil rights law organization in Washington, D.C., to take up poll watching duties in 16 states on Election Day.

Common Cause staffers and volunteers are poised to spend Tuesday “assisting voters and monitoring the process at polling places” in 16 states, the group said in an email to supporters, The Daily Caller reported. “Three of our staff attorneys will be working at Election Protection headquarters in Washington, D.C., to help field calls to the … hotline … from voters and election monitors across the country.”

“Assisting” voters? No doubt part of their mission is to see that every single possible voter is allowed to cast a ballot — even if they’re not eligible to do so.

It’s nice that these liberals want to be so helpful on election day, but if they put half the energy into sniffing out voter fraud as they do in trying to muck up the works, the country would be better for it.

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Nigerian Government Swindled by Boko Haram Impersonator

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Here’s something you don’t see every day. A sovereign government taken in by someone who claimed to be negotiating for an armed terrorist group, announcing that a cease fire had been agreed upon, and then after realizing they had been fooled, tried to keep the public from finding out about it.

The Nigerian government has some explaining to do. Two weeks ago, they announced a cease fire agreement with the terrorist group Boko Haram along with the return of the more than 200 young girls who had been kidnapped by the terrorists more than 6 months ago.

Boko Haram continuously denied that they had struck any deal with the government with their leader, Abubakar Shekau, actually making a video in which he sneeringly taunted the parents of the girls, informing them that their daughters had all converted to Islam and been married off.

There are indications that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan discovered the deception but continued to insist that the deal was valid.

In a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the party said Nigerians will like to know how the Jonathan Administration got swindled by an impostor, who the major players were and what the government plans to do to address what has now become a monumental national and international embarrassment.

”President Jonathan owes Nigerians an explanation on what has now turned to be an unprecedented global faux pas. Engaging in cheap damage control by insisting on the genuineness of the deal will only amount to taking Nigerians for a ride,” it said.

The APC said the saddest part of what has now turned out to be a fake deal is that it gave false hopes to the parents of the 218 school girls who remain in Boko Haram captivity that their children’s release was imminent, especially as the government even announced a specific date for the release of the girls.

”Now the parents and indeed all Nigerians have been victimized for the umpteenth time by the same government that has failed in its main reason for existence, which is the security and welfare of the citizenry,” the party said, recalling its earlier warning to the Jonathan Administration not to use the girls as pawns on its political chess board.

It wondered whether the government sought to buy time and gain political mileage by knowingly negotiating with a man who has no authority to do so on behalf of Boko Haram, as claimed by the sect’s leadership, in which case the government will be guilty of political fraud, or whether the government was not competent enough to know who to negotiate with, which will only reinforce the perception of the federal government as being blatantly incompetent.

”The ceasefire deal with Boko Haram was announced at the highest level of the military and supported by the political authority on October 17th. Now that it has been described as a fluke, there is every indication that the Jonathan Administration was swindled by someone masquerading as a Boko Haram negotiator, while the Administration itself went ahead to fool Nigerians as well as the international community. Whatever happens, the sole responsibility falls on the Administration.

Even more incredible, the Nigerian government had been snookered before:

n July 2013,one Imam Muhammadu Marwana, who claimed to represent Boko Haram gleefully announced a ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram.

On the Hausa Service of Radio France International where the agreement was unveiled, Marwana not only sought Nigerians forgiveness for the sect’s past murderous activities, he absolved the sect from the attack on Government Secondary School, Maudo, Yobe state. Described as an influential Boko haram member, Marwana said:

“WE are seeking forgiveness from the people over the number of people killed in the country.
I appeal to those who lost their loved ones to our activities to forgive us and on our side we have forgiven all those who committed atrocities against us. I want to state clearly that we have no hands in the unfortunate attack on the secondary school (Government Secondary School, Mamudo, Yobe State).”

The so-called agreement came exactly 82 days after the Federal Government raised a 25-man committee to work out modalities for granting the amnesty to the sect.

The ‘agreement’ was signed on behalf of the Jonathan government by Minister of Special Duties and Chairman of the Peace and Dialogue Committee in the North, Alhaji Tanimu Turaki. It was the eve of Ramadan and Nigerians wanted peace.

“We have sat down and agreed that Jama’atu Ahlul Sunnah Lidda’awati wal Jihad, known as Boko Haram will lay down their arms as part of the agreement so as to end the insurgency. Government agreed with ceasefire and will look into ways to ensure that the troops relax their activities till the final take off of the ceasefire,” Turaki told his interviewers.

As it turned out, the agreement was not worth the piece of paper it was written upon.

One ironic thought: Considering how much email I get from purported Nigerian sources trying to scam me, it somehow seems like justice that the Nigerian government themselves got hoodwinked.

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Both Sides Lawyer Up for Election

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The election is upon us and there’s one thing certain: there are going to be close races. And close races mean that armies of lawyers for both sides will descend on courtrooms across the country to challenge the results.

There will also be the usual accusations of voter fraud, voter suppression, voter intimidation, balky voting machines, and violations of one or more of the dizzying array of laws governing the way we choose our leaders. And standing in line, waiting to pounce, are the attorneys — many of them upaid — who will zealously guard their party’s interests in any dispute.

The Hill reports:

With six of the GOP’s top-targeted races down to margins of less than a point, both parties say any state is ripe for a post-election legal battle. Marc Elias, national Democrats’ go-to election lawyer, said he’s gearing up for issues everywhere.

“I am prepared for any of the competitive states. I don’t have the luxury of knowing whether it’s gonna be a good night for the Democrats and therefore Kentucky and Georgia are close or a bad night and the close races are in Colorado and Iowa,” he said.

The most pressing concerns for the parties are potential Election Day legal violations.

Rumors of planned voting fraud abound in the week leading up to it—Trading hamburgers for votes in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race; poll watchers challenging the eligibility of every voter in Louisiana to cause huge lines; party operatives filling out and turning in mail ballots for dead voters in Colorado; misinformation intended to steer people to the wrong polling places in North Carolina and elsewhere.

While little, if any, tangible proof those misdeeds are underway has yet cropped up, both parties are preparing for all that and worse.

The Democratic National Committee has already deployed two dozen staffers to around two dozen states as part of its “Voter Expansion Project,” an effort to ease access to the polls in part by trouble-shooting any last-minute issues on Election Day.

The party can alert voters via text message or email if issues crop up with their local polling places. It has data tools to monitor whether wait times and turnout are at their expected levels, and can dispatch staffers to investigate any irregularities. All of Democrats’ poll watching volunteers and staffers nationwide can share data with each other through a DNC tool meant to track issues and highlight potential trends.

“From here, and on the ground in the states’ boiler rooms, we can monitor in real-time what’s happening at the polls,” said DNC spokesman Michael Czin. “We have as close to a 360-degree view of the electorate as possible.”

On the GOP side, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been gathering information concerning polling places, recount provisions and voting rules in 11 of its top battleground states. The Republican National Lawyers Association is training an army of 1,000 lawyers nationwide to tackle potential legal issues on Election Day and beyond.

In addition to the national armies, the state parties are gearing up.

There have always been lawyers, of course. But ever since the Bush-Gore donnybrook in 2000, the parties have made sure they have lawyers ready to respond at a moment’s notice to deal with issues that arise on election day — and after.

“Since 2000, when the parties felt, especially Democrats, they were caught flatfooted, they send lawyers to places where they expect close races,” Hasen said. “Campaigns now have boiler rooms where they sit and watch the polls. The most important thing is to have a (legal) infrastructure in place.”

And some legal maneuvering already has begun. In Iowa, Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst’s campaign filed open records requests last week in at least eight counties asking for information on satellite voting locations, names of precinct ballot counters, recount procedures and any communications sent to her Democratic challenger, Rep. Bruce Braley.

“I think they’re gearing up for a recount,” Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert told The Gazette newspaper of Cedar Rapids.

National Democratic and Republican officials won’t divulge their Election Day legal strategies. Still, some available numbers show the emphasis that the parties and outside groups are putting on possible legal action.

The Republican National Lawyers Association has conducted 60 election law training sessions nationwide. From those sessions, more than 1,000 lawyers and volunteers will be prepared to work in their states on Tuesday, according to Michael Thielen, the association’s executive director.

“Efforts to ensure open, fair and honest elections are state-based,” Thielen said in an email to McClatchy. “We will try to help out in the event of canvases, recounts, etc., if called upon to ensure only legal votes are counted.”

Democrats declined to say how many lawyers they have on call for Tuesday.

“We have the resources to contest anything,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Michael Czin. “We’re ready.”

Groups such as the NAACP and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School say they’re ready, too. They’re among the liberal-leaning organizations partnering with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which says it will have between 1,000 to 2,000 volunteer attorneys and non-attorneys in 18 states and on telephone hotlines on Tuesday prowling for problems at the polls.

It appears that you won’t be able to go to the voting booth without tripping over a couple of lawyers. That will be especially true in states that are implementing voter ID laws for the first time. Liberals are going to do everything they can to gum up the works to allow their voters to cast ballots. Expect the sabotaging of voter ID by Democrats wherever possible.

The real drama will come if any recounts occur. All states have established thresholds for automatic recounts, but many states allow a candidate to request a recount — as long as he/she pays for it. Anyone who remembers the high drama and low comedy of the Bush-Gore recount (immortalized in a pretty good HBO film, Recount) knows that in situations like that, you can never have too many lawyers.

You can bet before it’s all over and the winners certified, we’re going to be lawyered out. Is this any way to run an election? Party attorneys wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Ernst Leads by 7 in Latest Des Moines Register Poll

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The well respected Des Moines Register poll published today gives GOP state Senator Joni Ernst a solid 7 point lead over her Democratic opponent, Rep. Bruce Braley.

Ernst has enjoyed a small lead in 7 out of the last 9 polls , so the fact that she’s ahead is not surprising. But Ernst’s margin may raise questions about whether the poll is an outlier or not.

Be that as it may, Ernst is almost certainly ahead. The poll found Braley trailing her by 3 points in his own congressional district. Voters also saw Ernst with more ability to work across the aisle with Democrats in Congress.

Then there’s this little tidbit:

3. Although Ernst could become the first woman Iowa sends to Congress, few of her supporters (just 5 percent) say that’s one of the strongest reasons to vote for her. In contrast, about a quarter (24 percent) of Braley voters say it’s one of the strongest reasons to vote for Ernst — they’re just not going to do so.

GOP voters are apparently less likely to indulge in identity politics than Democrats.

The poll is not only good news for Ernst, it’s horrible news for Harry Reid, who said yesterday that if the GOP wins Iowa, they will take the Senate.

The Nevada Democrat said if Braley wins in Iowa, Democrats will do “just fine.” And if they lose? Say hello to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Reid said in a conference call Saturday with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

“Joni Ernst would mean — coming to the United States Senate — that Mitch McConnell would be leader of the United States Senate, who agrees with her on everything. Think of what would mean for our country,” Reid said of Ernst, repeatedly attacking her positions against raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Caitlin Conant, a spokeswoman for Ernst, replied: “Reid says Democrats will be ‘just fine’ if Braley wins, but Iowa can do better. Reid is only backing Braley because he supports Obama’s agenda of higher taxes, more debt and Obamacare.”

The Hawkeye State is being viewed increasingly as a national bellwether in the battle for the Senate, and Ernst has maintained a narrow but stubborn edge in recent polling. Reid said he was confident that Democrats could pull out tight races in New Hampshire and North Carolina but left Iowa as the “critical” question mark in Democrats’ hopes.

In typical fashion, Reid laid into Ernst and tied her to the billionaire Koch brothers. He laid out Democrats’ defense of Braley as essential to “protecting the people of America from these insidious groups,” then attacked Ernst for skipping out on an editorial board meeting with the Des Moines Register, which endorsed Braley.

Harry would be smart to get a head start on packing up his belongings and measuring the drapes in the minority leader’s office.

In another good sign for Republicans, a new NBC-Marist poll shows Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lengthening his lead to 9 points over Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky. And in Georgia, David Perdue has jumped out to a 4 point lead over Michelle Nunn. But neither candidate has yet to crack 50% and with Libertarian Amanda Swafford pulling 3%, it’s entirely possible this race is headed for a January 6 runoff next year.

Louisiana looks increasingly like it’s headed for a runoff too:

In a three way contest, incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu gets 44 percent, while Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy gets 36 percent and Tea Party ally Rob Maness gets 15 percent.

In head-to-head matchups pitting Landrieu against either GOP candidate, both Cassidy and Maness receive 50 percent support, while Landrieu performs almost identically against either Republican – at 45 and 46 percent, respectively.

Partly because he’s less well known in the state, Cassidy enjoys a better favorable rating (45 percent favorable/ 41 percent unfavorable) than Landrieu (44 percent favorable / 50 percent unfavorable). Landrieu was first elected in 1996 and has survived two competitive elections since.

Republicans can afford to lose either Georgia or Kansas, where incumbent GOP Senator Pat Roberts is tied with Democrat/independent Greg Orman. Losing them both would put them in the awkward position of probably having to win at least one of the close races they currently trail in — North Carolina, New Hampshire, or Alaska.

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Back to Anbar

Saturday, November 1st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Anbar Province in Iraq, scene of some of the most bitter fighting of the Iraq War, is inundated with Islamic State fighters. CNN reports that the Obama administration is going to send an unknown number of US troops back to Anbar to “advise” Iraqi security forces.

The administration claims no change in mission for the US military, but the chances are pretty good that some of our people will come under fire from IS terrorists. Anbar is reportedly on the knife’s edge of falling to Islamic State so you have to wonder that if there’s no change in mission now, there appears to be one on the horizon.

“From the beginning of the campaign, we have said that we would expand this type of support to the Iraqi government should they act in a manner that was representative of the security interests of all Iraqis,” Thomas said.

U.S. officials maintain that Iraqi support for Sunni tribes going on the offensive against ISIS will be a necessary part in the effort to defeat the militants, who are also called ISIL and refer to themselves as the Islamic State.

In a news conference with reporters Thursday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, signaled the possibility of the new role when he said the Iraqi government had not yet requested U.S. military support in efforts to defend a Sunni tribe that has suffered mass executions at the hands of ISIS militants.

“That’s why we need to expand the train-advise-and-assist mission into the Al- Anbar Province,” Dempsey said. “But the precondition for that is that the government of Iraq is willing to arm the tribes.”

Dempsey said the United States had “positive indications” the Iraqi government was prepared to do that, but had not yet acted.

Thomas said such a mission would hopefully open the door to the establishment of an Iraqi National Guard while also helping to push back ISIS control of the province.

There is no indication from Pentagon officials on when such a mission could begin.

Islamic State terrorists just executed 50 Sunni tribal chieftains and some women in a small town near Ramadi, apparently because they grumbled about being evicted from their homes by the terrorists. This massacre occurred on the heels of another mass slaughter on Thursday where 48 Sunnis were gunned down. And the 600 Shiites who were massacred early in the week barely made the papers so commonplace this sort of thing has become.

Into this maelstrom of violence and savagery, we are going to drop a few dozen or hundred US soldiers — targets all — and hope they can put some backbone into Iraqi forces who have a nasty habit of running away whenever IS shows itself. It will take a minor miracle for our advisors to succeed.

Arming the Sunni tribes worked before, but that was against al-Qaeda’s hit and run terrorists. It’s quite another thing to stand up against artillery and armor in combat. No doubt the tribesmen are brave, but will they fight for a government that has yet to prove it is interested in their welfare?

Another half measure by the Obama administration.

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#futilityofhashtagdiplomacy

Saturday, November 1st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The more than 270 girls kidnapped by the Nigerian Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram have all been converted to Islam and married off, says their leader.

AP reports that Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s thug in chief, gave a “a malevolent laugh” when he informed the world of this unspeakable act of barbarism:

“If you knew the state your daughters are in today, it might lead some of you … to die from grief,” Abubakar Shekau sneers, addressing the parents of the girls and young women kidnapped from a remote boarding school more than six months ago.

In a new video released late Friday night, the Boko Haram leader also denies there is a cease-fire with the Nigerian government and threatens to kill an unidentified German hostage.

“Don’t you know we are still holding your German hostage (who is) always crying,” he taunts. “If we want, we will hack him or slaughter him or shoot him.”

A German development worker was kidnapped at gunpoint in Gombi, a town in Nigeria’s northeast Gombi in July. Police reported he was ambushed as he drove to work.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier last week told reporters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, that he had no new information about a German abductee.

In the new video, Shekau wears a camouflage tunic and pants and the black and white flag of al-Qaida is by his side. He is flanked by masked and armed fighters standing in front of four military pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns. Boko Haram has looted many weapons and vehicles including armored cars from Nigeria’s military.

The military has several times claimed to have killed Shekau, and says any new videos are made by a look-alike. But the United States has not removed a $7 million ransom on the head of the extremist leader.

On Oct. 17, Nigeria’s military chief, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, announced that Boko Haram had agreed to an immediate cease-fire to end a 5-year insurgency in which thousands have died and hundreds of thousands have been driven from homes in northeast Nigeria. And government officials said they expected the Chibok girls to be released any day.

But Shekau denies in the video that he has agreed to any truce and says he is dedicated to fighting and dying a martyr’s death to guarantee him a place in paradise.

“You people should understand that we only obey Allah, we tread the path of the Prophet. We hope to die on this path … Our goal is the garden of eternal bliss,” he says.

Yeah, well…whatever. You can imagine this guy as a young boy tearing the wings off of flies and zapping ants with a magnifying glass. Of all the sociopaths running terrorist outfits around the world, Shekau occupies the privileged position of being the craziest and most evil.

All those celebrities and politicians who bravely displayed their concern by tweeting using the hashtag #bringbackourgirls will, I’m sure, come up with something equally suitable — and banal — now that these little girls are suffering unspeakable indignities at the hands of decrepit old men. Yes, but at least they did something about the situation, right? They didn’t sit idly by and watch this tragedy unfold. They girded their loins, gathered their courage, took a deep breath…

And gurgled their emotions via Twitter in 140 characters or less.

There is a wild disconnect between the grim reality of Boko Haram and the simpering treacle that the hashtag diplomats displayed when the girls first went missing. It reminds us that pure evil exists because, like Kaiser Soza and the devil, so many don’t believe it exists.

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GOP Voters on a Mission

Saturday, November 1st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting on Tuesday than Democrats and have two primary issues — the Ebola outbreak and Obamacare — that are motivating them to vote at a higher rate than the opposition, according to the latest Reuters-Ipsos poll.

Reuters/Ipsos polling data shows Republicans are more certain they will vote, and see their ballot as a way to voice disapproval of Obama’s handling of the Ebola outbreak and his health insurance reform law.

The expectation of robust Republican turnout is why many forecasters see strong odds that the party will take over the Senate and expand its majority in the House of Representatives.

“It looks good for the Republicans,” said Robert Erikson, a political scientist at Columbia University. “The Democrats are at a disadvantage when it comes to turnout.”

About 55 percent of Republicans are certain they will vote, compared with 47 percent of Democrats, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling data for an online survey of 1,725 voters conducted Oct. 25-30. The poll had a credibility interval of 4.2 percentage points for Democrats and 4.8 points for Republicans.

While Republican turnout tends to be higher than Democrats’, fewer Americans identify as Republicans, which means contests are tightly fought.

Tuesday’s elections play to Republican strengths. While most voters are less interested in non-presidential contests, Republicans’ older, higher-income voters are more politically engaged.

Also helping to galvanize Republicans is their frustration over six years of Democratic control of the White House. The president’s party has lost seats in Congress in nearly every midterm since 1934.

James Campbell, a political scientist at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, said parties have bucked this trend only when their president enjoyed high approval ratings, as with Bill Clinton in 1998 and George W. Bush in 2002.

Obama’s approval rating is just 38 percent, according to other Reuters/Ipsos polling data, and he is a lightning rod for Republicans.

“If there’s a unifying theme here, it’s a lack of confidence in the administration’s management,” Campbell said.

Fifty-four percent of Republicans polled said Obama’s handling of Ebola would be very important for them when they vote, versus 40 percent of Democrats.

Some 63 percent of Republicans are similarly focused on Islamic State, a militant group America is bombing in Iraq and Syria. That’s 20 points higher than among Democrats, and a sizable spread also holds regarding Obama’s healthcare overhaul.

The “National Security Gap” relating to Islamic State is playing a role in New Hampshire, where former Massachusetts GOP Senator Scott Brown is looking to unseat incumbent Democrat Senator Jeanne Shaheen. Brown has hammered Shaheen in debates, tying the president’s weak response to IS around Shaheen’s neck and it’s been a factor in giving Brown some momentum.

Otherwise, GOP efforts to make Obama an issue seem to be paying off. The president appeared with his very first Democratic Senate candidate today when he attended a rally at Wayne State University in Detroit with Rep. Gary Peters, who has a comfortable lead over Republican Terri Lynn Land.

Obama has been spending the final week before Election Day campaigning in support of candidates for governor across the Northeast and Midwest. Peters is the only Senate candidate welcoming the president’s embrace, and polling gives the Democrat a comfortable lead in the race.

Also, Obama was visiting the U.S. city with the largest concentration of black residents. Black voters view Obama’s presidency much more favorably than do white voters, and they are seen as the key to determining Democrats’ performance.

Democratic senators in tight races have distanced themselves from their party’s head by criticizing his leadership and avoiding appearing with him. Peters, however, has welcomed Obama’s help and appeared with the president last spring as he was trying to build support.

More than 90% of Detroit voters supported Obama in the 2012 election.

No other Democrat will touch the toxic president, with many stating explicitly that they don’t want him in their state. Neither Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Allison Lundergan Grimes or Georgia’s Democrat Michelle Nunn will say whether they voted for the president. Nunn nearly had apoplexy when her Republican opponent, David Perdue, ran an ad featuring a picture of her with the president. Perdue’s team did some creative editing with the photo, failing to show that former president George H.W. Bush was also in frame. But the vociferous response by Nunn shows just how worried she is to be tainted by any association with President Obama.

As “enthusiastic” as the GOP may be to vote, it would be well to remember that Democrats have the most advanced, technologically sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation in electoral history. They hold the lead in most states that allow early voting where half the votes expected to be cast have already been realized. Complacency would seem to be as much of an enemy as the Democrats.

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. And lately, the Republican party has consistently blown opportunities like the one that is going to present itself on Tuesday.

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Dems Second-Guessing ‘War on Women’ Campaign Theme

Saturday, November 1st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

On second thought, some Democrats are saying, maybe that “War on Women” attack theme didn’t quite work out the way we planned it.

At least, that’s what the New York Times is reporting. As the all but official mouthpiece of the Democratic Party, the Times is helping to form the circular firing squad that will commence shooting the day after the election.

Democrats are nervously counting on an enduring edge among female voters in most states to prevent a Republican rout in Tuesday’s elections. Yet so great is the uncertainty that even before the returns are in, some are second-guessing the party’s strategy of focusing more on issues like abortion and birth control than on jobs and the economy.

The danger for Democratic candidates is that their advantage among women could be so reduced by dissatisfaction with President Obama and the country’s course that it is not enough to offset Republicans’ usual edge among the smaller population of male voters. Should that happen, a party pollster, Geoff Garin, acknowledged, “They’ll lose.”

But he and other Democratic strategists professed optimism, however tempered, for the party’s imperiled Senate majority, among other things. Mr. Garin pointed to surveys of states with the most competitive Senate contests showing that on average Democratic candidates lead among women by about 12 points, while men favor the Republican by an average of nine points. Since women account for more than half the electorate, Democrats theoretically can withstand some erosion of support.

As for the party’s emphasis on women’s issues, he said, “If Democrats weren’t running on these issues, the situation would be much worse.”

“The headwinds that you get from Obama and other factors affect everybody — they don’t only blow in the faces of men,” Mr. Garin added. “Even in the face of those headwinds, Democrats are still much better able to succeed with women voters than with men voters.”

In Kentucky and Louisiana, new polls grabbed attention for suggesting that Republican Senate candidates had made inroads with women. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate’s Republican leader, was essentially tied among women with the Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, in a Bluegrass Poll taken Oct. 25-29. But the poll, by SurveyUSA, does not meet polling standards of The New York Times because it was partly conducted using automated phone calls.

Is that whistling past the graveyard or what? “Does not meet the polling standards” of the Times? I suppose that’s one way to dismiss bad news. They could have done what they usually do; ignore it.

In truth, large Democratic margins among women are due to the potential vote of single women. The edge is much narrower among married females, who tend to vote in bigger numbers than single women in mid term elections.

Was it a horrible idea to begin with, to try and tar Republicans as unfriendly to women:

Tuesday’s results, Mr. McInturff added, would tell “whether it is possible that the single-minded focus that most Democratic candidates attached to the ‘war on women’ meant they never conveyed an economic and jobs message that might have led a higher chunk of the persuadable male vote to vote Democrat.”

Republicans increasingly make that argument that Democrats miscalculated in their zeal to galvanize women who otherwise would not vote in a midterm election — especially since The Denver Post this month endorsed Mr. Gardner, the Republican candidate, for Senate, criticizing the Democratic senator, Mark Udall, for an “obnoxious one-issue campaign” about contraceptives.

The Democrats’ real problem is that they apparently think most women support the radical feminist agenda and care more about their sex lives than who can best lead the country. Trying to sell the idea that most Republicans oppose contraceptives was never going to fly and only made their candidates sound ridiculous. And abortion is not an issue uppermost in most women’s minds — especially married women. But the issues were secondary to finding a way to scare women into going to the polls by painting the Republicans as misogynistic Lotharians who don’t care about women being raped or assaulted, and who prefer women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

To paraphrase Lincoln: “You can fool all women some of the time, and some women all the time. But you can’t fool all women all the time.”

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Double Digit GOP Gains in House Now Possible: Cook

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Cook Political Report, a subscriber-only newsletter closely followed by Washington insiders, is now predicting that Republicans have an opportunity to score double digit gains in the mid term election next Tuesday.

Via Andrew Clark of the National Republican Campaign Committee, 26 districts from Hawaii to New York — 19 of them Democratic — are now classified as “toss-ups.” This is forcing the Democrats to pour increasing amounts of cash into districts that as recently as a few months ago were believed to be safe.

Overall, we are adjusting our outlook from a GOP gain of four to ten seats to a GOP gain of six to 12 seats, with slightly larger GOP gains not out of the question. With ten ratings changes today, there are 19 Democratic seats and just seven GOP seats in Toss Up or worse. If Republicans were to pick up 13 seats, they would win their largest majority since 1928, when Herbert Hoover was elected president.

Of particular concern for Democrats are several races in DCCC Chair Rep. Steve Israel’s New York backyard, where there is no competitive statewide race driving turnout. Although Reps. Tim Bishop (NY-01), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), and Dan Maffei (NY-24) are all very much still in contention, their leads are no longer large enough to keep them out of the Toss Up column.

Of the three, Maffei occupies the most Democratic district, yet he has never established a strong personal brand in Syracuse and took just 49 percent of the vote in 2012 while President Obama was winning 57 percent. Bishop and Maloney may have the opposite challenge: both won with 52 percent in 2012, but they occupy more GOP-leaning seats and could lose in the event of a big Republican night.

There are also places where problematic statewide races are reverberating negatively for down-ballot Democrats. Now that GOP nominee Joni Ernst has the momentum in Iowa’s Senate race, both parties view the race for Democratic nominee Bruce Braley’s open IA-01 as a pure Toss Up. “Bruce Braley is almost a bigger drag than President Obama,” said one consultant familiar with polling in the race.

It appears that the enemy of the Republicans now is not so much the Democratic party is it is complacency. All the close Senate races as well as contests involving this handful of House districts will depend on a maximum effort to turn out core GOP voters — even if many of them have to hold their nose to vote for someone less ideologically pure than they might prefer. Conversely, RINO’s who may not be enthusiastic about a Tea Party candidate are going to have to bury their doubts and pull the lever for the Republican.

Some in the Tea Party might feel the GOP has the Senate in the bag and registering a protest by not voting won’t matter. Others may think their vote isn’t needed, for what ever reason. With so many races that will be decided by one or two percent of the total vote, it doesn’t take a lot of people with those attitudes to turn victory into defeat.

If that kind of scenario were to unfold, it wouldn’t be for lack of money. The GOP has poured more than $100 million into building a sophisticated voter identification infrastructure that is being used to target their voters in key battleground states. They’re still playing catch-up to the Democrats in this regard, but it’s light years beyond what was available to Republicans in 2012. The army of volunteers has also grown, impressing even long time Republican operatives.

In the end, it will come down to the individual voter motivating themselves to get to the polls. With the state of the economy, the nation, and the world the way it is, most will have all the motivation they need.

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Slight Overkill: Authorities Send Armored Car and 24 Deputies to Collect Civil Judgment From 75 -Year-Old Man

Monday, October 27th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I guess it always pays to be careful. Real careful. Obsessively careful. Over-the-top careful.

At least, that’s what civil authorities in the tiny town of Stettin, Wisconsin, in Marathon County believe. To enforce a civil judgment, they sent 24 deputies and the county’s pride and joy — an armored vehicle — to collect $80,000 from a 75-year-old man.

This account of the “police action” will have your jaw dropping.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

When officials in the tiny Town of Stettin in Marathon County went to collect a civil judgment from 75-year-old Roger Hoeppner this month, they sent 24 armed officers.

And an armored military vehicle.

Among other issues, the recent unrest in Ferguson, Mo., focused attention on the growing militarization of local law enforcement, particularly the use by even very small police departments of surplus armored military vehicles.

Marathon County sheriff’s officials aren’t apologizing for their tactics. Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Bean said officials expected to have to seize and remove tractors and wooden pallets to pay the judgment — hence the cadre of deputies. He also said what while Hoeppner was never considered dangerous, he was known to be argumentative.

Hoeppner said when he noticed deputies outside his house, he called his attorney, Ryan Lister of Wausau. Lister said he quickly left for Hoeppner’s house but was stopped by a roadblock that was kept up until after his client had been taken away in handcuffs. “Rather than provide Mr. Hoeppner or his counsel notice…and attempt to collect without spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on the military-style maneuvers, the town unilaterally decided to enforce its civil judgment” with a show of force, Lister said.

Bean said deputies had to handcuff Hoeppner because he was not following all their instructions, but did eventually agree to pay the $80,000 judgment after a visit to a bank — accompanied by deputies.

Bean also said the armored truck was summoned only after Hoeppner initially refused to come out of his house. Once the truck appeared, so did Hoeppner.

“I’ve been involved in about five standoff situations where, as soon as the MARV showed up, the person gives up,” saving time, money and increasing safety, Bean said.

Madison’s police recently made a similar endorsement after officers used one to carry out the safe arrest of a man who had fired at police from a window of his home.

MARV stands for Marathon County Response Vehicle, which his department obtained in 2011. It’s the only one in the county and gets used 10 to 20 times a year, Bean said.

“People may not always understand why, but an armored vehicle is almost a necessity now,” Bean said.

Hoeppner’s wife was so upset about the raid that she had to be taken to the hospital.

There are two sides to every story, but even if you accept the version offered by Stettin authorities, you have to wonder about their motives in siccing an armored car on the old guy.

The judgment is the result of a six-year court battle in which the town won a suit against Mr. Hoeppner for zoning violations and violations of other nuisance laws. Three years ago, the court ordered Hoeppnner to pay and when he didn’t, the town got a final judgment in 2013 that slapped him with a $500 a day fine and payment of the town’s legal fees. The judge also allowed authorities to collect the judgment without informing Hoeppner or his attorney.

Hoeppner seems like a cantankerous old coot, but he wasn’t a threat. What is perhaps most chilling is that authorities thought nothing of calling for an armored car to intimidate him. The MARV is the lazy man’s way of dealing with a situation like this, so rather than doing actual police work and negotiate, or wait him out, they took the shortcut of rolling a two-ton vehicle more appropriate for the battlefield than a pastoral setting into Mr. Hoeppner’s driveway.

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New Polls Give Democrats a Sliver of Hope for Keeping the Senate

Sunday, October 26th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

New polls released on Sunday show that while the Republicans still hold a slight advantage and remain favorites to take control of the Senate, several races have either narrowed or seen the Democrat take a slight lead.

More problematic for Republicans, Georgia, Kentucky, and Kansas — all three states held by the GOP — are now considered genuine toss-ups.

The fact that so many races are so close and we’re nine days away from the election means that the GOP has failed to close the sale in many races and now may find themselves in an uphill battle for control of the Senate.

There is good news. Governor Mike Rounds of South Dakota has forged ahead by double digits in the YouGov.com poll after seeing his lead vanish earlier this month. Nate Silver gives Rounds a 96% chance of holding the seat for the GOP.

Elsewhere, things are not quite as rosy. Here are some results from the NBC/Marist poll that give the Democrats some hope:

  • In Colorado’s Senate contest, Republican challenger Cory Gardner holds a one-point lead among likely voters over incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., 46 percent to 45 percent. Back in September’s NBC/Marist poll, Udall was ahead by six points, 48 percent to 42 percent.
  • In Iowa, Republican Joni Ernst edges Democrat Bruce Braley by three points, 49 percent to 46 percent. Earlier this month, Ernst’s lead was two points, 46 percent to 44 percent.
  • In Kansas, independent Greg Orman has a one-point advantage over Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, 45 percent to 44 percent – down from Orman’s 10-point lead earlier this month in the NBC/Marist poll.
  • In Arkansas, Republican challenger Tom Cotton gets the support of 45 percent of likely voters, versus incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., at 43 percent. In September, Cotton’s lead was five points.
  • And in North Carolina, incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and GOP opponent Thom Tillis are tied at 43 percent each. That’s down from Hagan’s four-point lead earlier this month. Libertarian Sean Haugh gets 7 percent of the vote.

Gardner has the lead in other recent polls by a larger margin, and Republicans in the state are encouraged about early voting results.  And Joni Ernst in Iowa has maintained a consistent lead over her opponent, Rep. Bruce Braley, since late September.

But Mark Pryor appears to be hanging tough in Arkansas as Cotton can’t seem to open up much daylight. And a senator considered one of the most vulnerable at the start of the campaign, Kay Hagan, has shown a lot of resiliency in a state where President Obama’s popularity is less than 40%.

Alaska is another state where the Republican candidate should probably be farther ahead. The Yougov.com poll shows incumbent Democrat Mark Begich within 4 points of challenger Daniel Sullivan. Sullivan is another candidate who has been ahead in most of the polls over the last month but can’t seem to separate himself from his opponent.

Where the GOP might win or lose the Senate, however, is in states they are trying to hold against stiff Democratic challengers. Georgia, Kentucky, and Kansas are all too close to call at this point, which should worry Republicans given the tight races elsewhere.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the only incumbent in this group, has recently opened a small lead over Alison Lundergan Grimes. But the six-point lead given him by the YouGov.com poll is the largest he’s had for months and you have to wonder if it’s an outlier of sorts. Other surveys have had the race much closer.

In Georgia, what was once a small lead for Republican David Perdue has become a statistical dead heat. Negative ads targeting Perdue’s supposed outsourcing of jobs have apparently narrowed the race there.

In Kansas, Democrat (independent) Greg Orman has lost his big lead and incumbent GOP Senator Pat Roberts may have some momentum. But the race is still far from decided.

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CA Suspect in Deputy Shootings Was Twice Deported

Sunday, October 26th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A man suspected of killing two California sheriff’s deputies in a shooting rampage is an illegal alien who had been deported back to Mexico twice previously.

Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte was convicted on a drug charge in 1997 and sent back to Mexico. He was picked up in 2001 and deported again.

Bracamonte and his wife are being held without bail on numerous charges, including two counts of murder and attempted murder. The charges stem from a chaotic chase that began when Barcamonte gunned down a deputy in the parking lot of a motel outside of Sacramento and ended six hours later when the suspect was found in a house 30 miles away.

From the Associated Press:

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said that the fingerprints of the suspected shooter match those of a man named Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte. Monroy-Bracamonte was initially deported to Mexico in 1997 after being convicted of drug possession in Arizona. Four years later, he was arrested and deported again for an unspecified offense.

“The fingerprints were the basis for our request for an immigration detainer,” ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice told The Associated Press. The detainer requests that local authorities transfer him to federal custody after his case is adjudicated so ICE can purse his deportation, Kice said.

The suspect initially identified himself as Marcelo Marquez, 34, of Salt Lake City. He is charged with two counts each of murder, attempted murder and carjacking. The suspect’s wife, Janelle Marquez-Monroy, was also arrested Friday and charged with carjacking and attempted murder.

Investigators spent Saturday at the multiple crime scenes “trying to kind of sort through the chaos so we can methodically rebuild this,” Placer County Sheriff Ed Bonner said.

The shootings began when Sacramento County sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver, 47, was shot in the forehead with an assault rifle at close range as he checked out a suspicious car in a motel parking lot.

The suspects have talked to investigators, Bonner said, but what sparked the shootings remained unclear.

“‘Why,’ I guess, will remain a question for a long time,” he said. “Why was his reaction so violent?”

It was also unclear what brought the heavily armed suspects from Utah to California, Bonner said. There were no indications they had been sought by authorities.

Why was his reaction so violent? Could be…I don’t know, just guessing…maybe he didn’t want to get deported again?

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J. Chrstian Adams on The Kelly File Talking About Ferguson Leaks

Sunday, October 26th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

PJ Media’s Legal Editor J. Christian Adams appeared on the Fox News show The Kelly File to talk about leaks in the grand jury investigating the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.

Adams took Attorney General Eric Holder to task for accusing the leakers of trying to shape public opinion when Holder himself has spent months using the Justice Department to do just that.

“This is a Justice Department that has done nothing but leak,” in the Ferguson case said Adams. Chris also pointed out that Holder had no business in criticizing the leaks because it was a state matter, not a federal case.

Adams is author of the book, Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department that exposed the left wing agenda of Holder and the Justice Department.

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Nurse in Quarantine Whines About the Way She Was Treated

Sunday, October 26th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

I read this account of Kaci Hickox, a nurse for Doctors without Borders who returned from West Africa and was placed in quarantine as a result of the new policy adopted by New Jersey, with a growing sense of outrage and disgust.

She says there’s “disorganization” and “fear.” She says people treated her “like a criminal.” She says she worries that other health workers returning from Africa will also be put upon.

The fact that all four cases of Ebola in America are directly connected to returning health care workers from Africa doesn’t seem to penetrate; that the routine screening done at the airport didn’t detect Ebola in either Thomas Duncan or Dr. Spencer. Hickox seems perfectly willing to take a chance that health care workers returning from Africa don’t have the disease and should be able to walk around freely while “self-monitoring” their condition.

What a brave woman — who takes chances with other people’s lives. I don’t care how small the chance of contagion is — it is the responsibility of authorities to bring the chance of anyone else getting sick as close to zero as humanly possible.

I arrived at the Newark Liberty International Airport around 1 p.m. on Friday, after a grueling two-day journey from Sierra Leone. I walked up to the immigration official at the airport and was greeted with a big smile and a “hello.”

I told him that I have traveled from Sierra Leone and he replied, a little less enthusiastically: “No problem. They are probably going to ask you a few questions.”

He put on gloves and a mask and called someone. Then he escorted me to the quarantine office a few yards away. I was told to sit down. Everyone that came out of the offices was hurrying from room to room in white protective coveralls, gloves, masks, and a disposable face shield.

One after another, people asked me questions. Some introduced themselves, some didn’t. One man who must have been an immigration officer because he was wearing a weapon belt that I could see protruding from his white coveralls barked questions at me as if I was a criminal.

Imagine that! One of her big complaints is that some of the airport screeners didn’t introduce themselves to her. Sheesh.

Two other officials asked about my work in Sierra Leone. One of them was from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They scribbled notes in the margins of their form, a form that appeared to be inadequate for the many details they are collecting.

I was tired, hungry and confused, but I tried to remain calm. My temperature was taken using a forehead scanner and it read a temperature of 98. I was feeling physically healthy but emotionally exhausted.

Three hours passed. No one seemed to be in charge. No one would tell me what was going on or what would happen to me.

I called my family to let them know that I was OK. I was hungry and thirsty and asked for something to eat and drink. I was given a granola bar and some water. I wondered what I had done wrong.

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Shameless Race Baiting by Dems Down the Stretch

Saturday, October 25th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Democrats from the White House on down are getting so desperate about the midterm elections that a flood of racial dog whistles have been unleashed in order to goose black turnout and give Democrats a chance in several elections.

What makes the tactic so rancid is that there is no attempt whatsoever to mask the direct appeal to fear and racial solidarity. Subtlety is not in their playbook.

Deneen Borelli, writing in the Washington Times, catalogs some of the most egregious examples:

Because her husband’s unpopularity makes his presence politically toxic for liberal candidates, first lady Michelle Obama is traveling the country stumping for Democrats. In what is a new low for a first lady, her get-out-the-vote speeches are laced with race-baiting terms.

In Pennsylvania, in an effort to urge attendees to vote, Mrs. Obama reminded the crowd that voter turnout was responsible for her husband’s election. To make sure the blacks in the audiences got the racial message, she used the phrases “us versus them,” “folks like us,” and “too many of our people.” Mrs. Obama repeated the same terms in her addresses in Minnesota and Iowa.

The Georgia Democratic Party stoked racial fears as well, by exploiting the death of Ferguson, Mo., teen Michael Brown. In a mailer targeting black voters, the party used a picture of a man kneeling in the street with his hands up, surrounded by smoke, flames and police car headlights. This was clearly designed to evoke emotions surrounding the shooting of Brown and the subsequent protests.

In another flier, the Georgia Democratic Party shamelessly used an image of innocent young black children holding signs with little handprints and the words “Don’t Shoot.” The headline: “If You Want To Prevent Another Ferguson In Their Future .”

Shockingly, a spokesman for the Georgia Democratic Party defended the mailers saying, “Our state and our democracy is [sic] stronger when more people participate. And we have seen what happens in places like Ferguson, Mo., when voices are silenced.”

Finally, Mr. Sharpton, a race-card hustler, is heading to Ferguson for the final days leading up to the election. Mr. Sharpton played a high-profile role in Ferguson following Brown’s death. During that period, it was reported he had a direct link to the White House and was, in fact, serving as an adviser to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Given the close relationship between President Obama and Mr. Sharpton, as well as the need to drum up black turnout, it’s certainly not a stretch of the imagination to conclude that the White House dispatched Mr. Sharpton to Ferguson with the primary purpose of whipping up emotions and generating national news.

Grand juries are not above politics, so it is likely that a determination about whether to indict Officer Wilson in the Michael Brown shooting won’t come until after the election. This will give Rev. Sharpton ample time to ramp up his racialist rhetoric with regard to the situation in Ferguson. Of course, the media will dote on Sharpton as they always do. You have to admit the guy is a walking soundbite machine. And the coming attempts to provoke a violent response from police will garner sympathy from blacks across America.

The problem for Republicans is that in states like Georgia and North Carolina, even a small increase in average black turnout of 1-2% in off-year elections  might tip the race to the Democrats. In short, the racial strategy may very well succeed.

The Democrats’ river card is the race card and it may very well give them the winning hand.

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Voting by ‘Non-Citizens’ May Decide Election

Saturday, October 25th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A massive study of 2 recent elections reveals that hundreds of thousands of votes were cast illegally by “non-citizens.” And while it is not possible to say with any certainty that the illegal votes cost Republicans elections, the evidence strongly suggests that at least one Senate race was decided by the illegal votes.

The study appears in the journal of Electoral Studies and looked at 32,800 votes in 2008 and 55,400 votes in 2010.

Washington Post:

Our data comes from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Its large number of observations (32,800 in 2008 and 55,400 in 2010) provide sufficient samples of the non-immigrant sub-population, with 339 non-citizen respondents in 2008 and 489 in 2010. For the 2008 CCES, we also attempted to match respondents to voter files so that we could verify whether they actually voted.

How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.

Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80 percent of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 CCES sample), we find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections. Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) won election in 2008 with a victory margin of 312 votes. Votes cast by just 0.65 percent of Minnesota non-citizens could account for this margin. It is also possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1 percent of North Carolina’s adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.

We also find that one of the favorite policies advocated by conservatives to prevent voter fraud appears strikingly ineffective. Nearly three quarters of the non-citizens who indicated they were asked to provide photo identification at the polls claimed to have subsequently voted.

An alternative approach to reducing non-citizen turnout might emphasize public information. Unlike other populations, including naturalized citizens, education is not associated with higher participation among non-citizens. In 2008, non-citizens with less than a college degree were significantly more likely to cast a validated vote, and no non-citizens with a college degree or higher cast a validated vote. This hints at a link between non-citizen voting and lack of awareness about legal barriers.

There are obvious limitations to our research, which one should take account of when interpreting the results. Although the CCES sample is large, the non-citizen portion of the sample is modest, with the attendant uncertainty associated with sampling error. We analyze only 828 self-reported non-citizens. Self-reports of citizen status might also be a source of error, although the appendix of our paper shows that the racial, geographic, and attitudinal characteristics of non-citizens (and non-citizen voters) are consistent with their self-reported status.

Another possible limitation is the matching process conducted by Catalyst to verify registration and turnout drops many non-citizen respondents who cannot be matched. Our adjusted estimate assumes the implication of a “registered” or “voted” response among those who Catalyst could not match is the same as for those whom it could.

It’s not possible to differentiate in the study between the votes of legal residents with Green Cards and other documentation and illegal aliens. Hence, the term “non-citizen.” For electoral purposes, it hardly matters. Both groups are ineligible to vote and the fact that fully 80% of these illegal voters vote for Democrats gives the other party a huge incentive to drive these people to the polls.

The study’s authors claims that voter ID is useless in preventing this kind of illegal voting and they’re probably correct. The problem is illegal voters registering to vote in the first place, something that voter ID wouldn’t prevent. Clearly, Democrat-supporting voter registration groups don’t care if someone can legally vote or not. If it can be proven that they target these voters for registration, a massive fraud on the voter will be revealed.

This was another issue that anti-voter ID advocates said was a miniscule problem. Even if the study overstates the number of illegal votes by 50%, it is still a massive problem that needs to be addressed if the integrity of the ballot box is to be maintained.

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FEC Continues Push to Censor Political Speech on the Net

Saturday, October 25th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The three Democrats on the Federal Election Commission have failed once again to impose draconian new rules that would stifle political speech on the internet. In a 3-3 vote — with the three Republicans voting against the new rules — Democrats were thwarted in their efforts to impose strict reporting requirements on certain kinds of political speech.

The issue involves political ads that are posted free on YouTube and other internet venues. The problem comes when other sites, large and small, seek to disseminate the ads. The act of placing the ad on their site might open the blogger or website owner up to the same reporting requirements that the ad maker is responsible for.

Listen to this justification by FEC Vice Chairman Ann Ravel:

“Some of my colleagues seem to believe that the same political message that would require disclosure if run on television should be categorically exempt from the same requirements when placed in the Internet alone,” said FEC Vice Chair Ann M. Ravel in a statement. “As a matter of policy, this simply does not make sense.”

She said the FEC should no longer “turn a blind eye to the Internet’s growing force in the political arena,” and she vowed to force a conversation next year on what changes to make.

Oooh…we can’t have a “growing force in the political arena.” How else would the powers that be manage to control political thought?

The three Republican-backed commissioners, though, said in a joint statement that Ms. Ravel’s plans would stifle what’s become the “virtual free marketplace of political ideas and democratic debate.”

FEC Chairman Lee E. Goodman said what Ms. Ravel is proposing would require a massive bureaucracy digging into the corners of the web to police what’s posted about politics.

“I cannot imagine a regulatory regime that would put government censors on the Internet daily, culling YouTube video posts for violations of law — nothing short of a Chinese censorship board,” Mr. Goodman said.

The case disclosed Friday involved a group Checks and Balances for Economic Growth, which produced two advertisements it ran online in 2012 accusing President Obama of lying about a Mitt Romney campaign event, and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown of lying about the “war on coal.”

Initially, news reports had said the group was paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to broadcast the ads on television, but the group says they were only shown on the Internet.

FEC lawyers said the ads don’t expressly push for the election or defeat of a candidate, and said the commission’s own rules say the costs of posting videos to the Internet doesn’t trigger disclosure requirements. Meanwhile, an FEC precedent from 2008 says the costs of producing an Internet-only video also don’t trigger disclosure.

Get that? The FEC’s own general counsel said an investigation wasn’t necessary, but the Democrats on the commission wanted to go ahead and start one.

What is it about freedom of speech that drives some people nuts? The manifest benefits of a free, open, unfettered internet should convince even the most rabid regulator that putting a chill on political speech only benefits those who can afford it.

Cyber bullying a problem? Don’t read what’s written about you. If it’s so painful that it threatens your mental health, you have other issues besides being told you’re fat, or worthless by anonymous trolls. This notion that we need to criminalize speech that offends is directly contrary to the idea of the First Amendment.

Freedom is about choice. And limiting choices is what the FEC proposed regulatory ideas are all about. In fact, the free internet is under attack from many sides. Taxing sales through the internet will probably become a reality next year. The independence of the internet is being threatened as the US withdraws from its management. There is an effort by big internet service providers to create a “fast track” internet for their paying customers while slowing down the net for the rest of us.

So far, internet users have been able to band together to resist these assaults. But powerful national and international forces are at work to control internet content, internet ideas, and internet speech. Unless we remain vigilant, these forces will overwhelm our collective efforts to safeguard liberty and the internet will change forever.

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New York, New Jersey to Begin Quarantine of High-Risk Travelers

Saturday, October 25th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

New York Governor Mario Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced on Friday a mandatory quarantine policy for travelers from West Africa who have been exposed to the Ebola virus.

The announcement comes as the White House mulls imposing a quarantine on health workers who treated Ebola patients in West Africa and travel to the U.S.

Both governors are bucking the White House, which has resisted quarantines as a measure to stop the spread of Ebola in its tracks. Such a quarantine would almost certainly have applied to Dr. Craig Spencer, who contracted the virus treating patients in Africa.

The Hill reports:

Anyone considered “high-risk” for Ebola flying into New York or New Jersey will be quarantined for three weeks, the states’ governors announced Friday.

“A voluntary Ebola quarantine is not enough. This is too serious a public health situation,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said during a late afternoon press conference with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

The federal government already stipulates that passengers arriving from Ebola-affected areas self-monitor their temperature every day for three weeks.

Under the new policy in the two states, all travelers from high-risk areas will be interviewed about any contact with Ebola patients. If they have been exposed to the virus, they will be quarantined, and possibly medically monitored, until the incubation period has ended.

“There is no more ‘voluntary quarantine’ in New Jersey because you can’t count on people to do it,” said Christie, a possible presidential contender in 2016. Cuomo agreed, adding that a voluntary quarantine is “almost an oxymoron to me.”

“This is not the time to take chances,” Cuomo said.

The announcement could preempt a move by the federal government to require quarantines for healthcare workers returning from countries with Ebola outbreaks. The White House said it is considering all options, but has not expressly supported a quarantine policy.

Lawmakers from both parties praised the idea at a House Oversight Committee hearing Friday. Members noted that the latest U.S. Ebola patient, doctor Craig Spencer, failed to self-quarantine as he developed Ebola symptoms.

The briefing by Cuomo and Christie, which was announced just minutes before the governors spoke, came shortly after New Jersey officials quarantined a woman who reportedly cared for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. She has not presented symptoms.

Under federal law, states are given wide leeway in how they decide to respond to public health threats like Ebola. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have pledged to support states with whatever procedures they put into place.

Christie slammed existing federal protocols, which he said are too lax.

“We are no longer relying on CDC standards,” Christie said.

Cuomo said both states had received a greenlight to “establish their own guidelines” for Ebola.

A triumph for common sense over political correctness.

Dr. Spencer arrived at JFK Airport on October 17 from Guinea. Between the time of his arrival, when he was screened for the disease, and when he entered the hospital on October 23, Spencer came into contact with hundreds of people, although it is believed that since he was not symptomatic until Thursday morning, no one was in any danger of becoming infected. His fiancee and two friends are currently being quarantined as a result of their close contact with him after he became sick.

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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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