The grand jury considering whether to charge Officer Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown case is coming under pressure from politicians and residents of Ferguson, Missouri to do the “right” thing and indict the policeman for murder.
Otherwise…? The unspoken threat that violence would erupt if no indictment is returned isn’t very subtle.
Conditions calmed this week in Ferguson after nights of sometimes violent unrest stemming from the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer. But a delicate and crucial question lingers: What happens if the grand jury now considering the case doesn’t return a charge against the officer?
The fear among some local residents and officials trying to maintain peace in Ferguson is that failure to charge the officer could stoke new anger among a community profoundly mistrustful of the legal system. Many say they just hope the grand jury’s decision, whatever it is, has irrefutable facts to back it up.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill told The Associated Press she’s pushing for federal and local investigations to be completed around the same time so that all evidence in the case can be made public — a step many consider important should prosecutors decide not to charge the officer. Her office said Friday that the Department of Justice hasn’t given a timeline for the federal investigation, which centers on whether a civil rights violation occurred when officer Darren Wilson fatally shot the unarmed Michael Brown on Aug. 9.
McCaskill, a former prosecutor in Missouri, said she’s hopeful the physical evidence in the case — including blood spatter patterns, clothing and shell casings — will provide “incontrovertible facts” about what happened during the shooting. She said whatever local prosecutors decide, it will be important to explain the decision by providing that physical evidence, and that won’t be possible if the federal investigation is ongoing.
McCaskill said she urged Attorney General Eric Holder during a meeting earlier this week to speed up what is typically a lengthier federal process.
“What we want to avoid is a decision being made without all the information being available to the public also,” McCaskill said, adding that not being able to do so could “create more stress and certainly much more fear that we would be back to worrying about people being able to protest safely.”
It is not likely that the facts will be “incontrovertible.” They rarely are. It is reasonable to assume that some of the evidence will be ambiguous. Some of it may even be contradictory. Judging by the wild disparity in eye witness reports we’ve seen already, it is doubtful that a clear picture of guilt or innocence will be forthcoming.
And what’s the point of conducting a “secret” grand jury proceeding if you’re going to make their deliberations public? It’s another layer of intimidation that is being brought to bear on the grand jurors to do what the mob wants and indict Officer Wilson.
Residents of Ferguson made it clear what the grand jury must do:
“This officer has to be indicted. I’d hate to see what happens if he isn’t. The rioting, the looting, man …,” said resident Larry Loveless, 29, as he stopped at the memorial for Brown where he was killed.
The racial make up of the grand jury is another potential flash point. There are only 3 blacks on the 12-person panel, allowing a decision not to prosecute Wilson to play directly into the racialist’s hands.
The streets of Ferguson may be calm, but the pressure being placed on the grand jury to give into the mob will be hard to resist.
Another ethnic minority is on the verge of being slaughtered by forces of Islamic State. And the UN is asking the international community for help.
The town of Amerli has been besieged for 70 days by IS forces. The 20,000 residents are of the Shiite Turkmen minority and are without power, food, or medicine. The UN’s Special Representative to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, is asking the international community to intervene, “to prevent a human rights tragedy.”
BBC reports the victims are part of the Turkmen ethnic group, who comprise roughly 4 percent of Iraq’s population. But as Shia, they are considered apostates by the jihadist group.
“After the attack of Mosul, all the Shia Turkmen villages around Amerli were captured by Islamic State,” resident Ali Albayati said. “They killed the people and displayed their bodies outside the village.”
Albayati said the town has been trying to fend off the militants for 70 days and are now left without electricity and drinking water. And unlike recent U.S. intervention to save members of the Yazidi religious trapped who were trapped on Mount Sinjar in northwestern Iraq, there are currently no plans for a rescue operation.
“The situation of the people in Amerli is desperate and demands immediate action to prevent the possible massacre of its citizens,” UN Iraq envoy Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement.
“I urge the Iraqi government to do all it can to relieve the siege and to ensure that the residents receive lifesaving humanitarian assistance or are evacuated in a dignified manner,” he said.
Most of the town’s residents work as farmers, but male workers have been neglecting crops to fight the militants, BBC reports. As a result, the only food supplies arriving in town come via Iraqi Army helicopters.
“It is a humanitarian disaster,” Albayati said. “Twenty-thousand people in Amerli are fighting off death. There are children who are only eating once every three days. I can’t describe the situation. I just don’t know what to say.”
Prime minister designate Haidar al-Abadi promised aid for the town on Saturday, calling for provision of “all times of military and logistical support for Amerli,” AFP reported.
Iraq’s most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayotollah Ali al-Sistani, also called for efforts to free the village and “save its people from the dangers of terrorists.”
There are no Americans to protect in Amerli, so if the president decides to intervene there, he will have expanded the parameters of our involvement once again. Talk about mission creep — that would be it.
It’s clear that the Iraqi government cannot protect its own people from the bloodlust of IS. And when the UN rep calls on the “international community” to intervene, he’s not talking about France, or Russia. He’s talking about America.
So, do we accept the challenge and expand the war in order to protect Iraqi religious and ethnic minorities? Or do we decline to intervene and watch as thousands are massacred or starve to death in Amerli?
There is something to the argument that we can’t protect everyone — that limiting the mission as the president has done is the smart move. In Iraq on Friday, gunmen burst into a mosque and opened fire with automatic weapons, killing 70 Sunnis. Are we expected to prevent those kinds of massacres as well?
Iraq is de-evolving. It’s the right move not to get trapped by its death throes. But confronting Islamic State and destroying them is a separate issue from saving Iraqi civilians because their own government can’t act. Somebody, somewhere is going to have to put boots on the ground and do the dirty work of grinding IS forces to dust, and destroying the administrative infrastructure they’ve already set up. Killing an entire nation state is going to take time, and will be an extremely bloody affair.
The alternative is to “contain” IS — a dangerous and completely unsatisfactory course of action. But given the reluctance of leaders in both American political parties to intervene by using ground troops, and the even greater reluctance of Europe to offer more than token assistance in any effort to destroy IS, it may be the only course open to us.
British Muslims are blaming a subculture of “jihadi-cool’ for seducing many of their young men into joining the Islamic State camp. The issue arose when James Foley’s executioner surprised the world by speaking in the clipped accent of a Londoner.
Everything trendy starts in London and eventually crosses the ocean, so the chances are pretty good we’re going to see it here. But how can terrorism be “cool”?
An adviser to the Muslim Council of Britain said Thursday that a “jihadi-cool” subculture is inspiring young British men to join the Islamic State group in its quest to create an Islamic caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.
Iqbal Sacranie told BBC radio that the “jihadi-cool” subculture “is the real challenge,” Retuters reported Thursday. “This is a problem that affects all of us, and it will only be dealt with more effectively if all of us are working together on this.”
The United Kingdom has roughly 2.7 million Muslims, and the Muslim Council of Britain that Mr. Sacranie advises has over 500 affiliated national, regional and local organizations, mosques, charities and schools at its disposal to help handle Muslim affairs in the United Kingdom.
During his interview with BBC radio, the adviser went on to say that the majority of Muslims in the community believed that what the Islamic State group preaches is “totally alien to Islam.” He also asserted that families were reporting to the authorities when they discovered their sons had traveled to the Middle East to fight, Reuters reported.
Ghaffar Hussain, managing director of the counter-extremism Quilliam Foundation, talked to Reuters about the United Kingdom’s predicament, saying that it was only a matter of time before men who fought in Iraq and Syria started planning attacks for Europe.
“It is disturbing that people born and raised in Britain and who have gone to the same schools as us could have been essentially indoctrinated to the extent where they can justify raping women and chopping heads off,” he said, BBC reported. The Quilliam Foundation bills itself as “the world’s first counter-extremism think tank.”
Alienated youth will seek out cliques and groups that make them feel powerful. Islamic State appears unstoppable at the moment and that’s got to be attractive to lost boys.
It is believed that there are several dozen American citizens attached to Islamic State forces. Like Great Britain, authorities here are worried that radicalized Americans will arrive home and wreak havoc with terrorist attacks. While law enforcement has been very good at breaking up potential terrorist attacks — except for those of the “lone wolf” variety — the terrorists only have to be successful once to cause a lot of damage.
That’s why it’s better to kill them over there.
Not really, of course. But, as the Obama administration contemplates conducting air strikes on Islamic State positions in Syria, you might recall what several leading Democrats have said about the dictator that has hekped kill 191,000 of his own people.
In a recent column, the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens recounted some of the paeans to Assad: In a March 2011 interview, Hillary Clinton implied that Assad was a “reformer.” In 2007, Nancy Pelosi, over strong objections from the State Department, visited Syria, and said, “The road to Damascus is a road to peace.” Senator John Kerry predicted that “Syria will change as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States.”
Several other prominent Democrats made fools of themselves when visiting Syria, falling all over themselves to praise Assad. Nancy Pelosi actually thought Assad was a key to peace in the region. He is — but not quite the way that Nancy was thinking. Assad’s idea of peace would require the mapmakers of the world to make a slight change on the world’s charts; remove the State of Israel.
So perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that President Obama wants to go after IS in Syria, thus benefiting a man who gassed his own people.
The Obama administration is debating a more robust intervention in Syria, including possible American airstrikes, in a significant escalation of its weeks-long military assault on the Islamic extremist group that has destabilized neighboring Iraq and killed an American journalist, officials said Friday.
While President Obama has long resisted being drawn into Syria’s bloody civil war, officials said recent advances by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria had made clear that it represents a threat to the interests of the United States and its allies. The beheading of James Foley, the American journalist, has contributed to what officials called a “new context” for a challenge that has long divided the president’s team.
Officials said the options include speeding up and intensifying limited American efforts to train and arm moderate Syrian rebel forces that have been fighting both ISIS as well as the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Another option would be to bolster other partners on the ground to take on ISIS, including the Syrian Kurds.
But American officials said they would also take a look at airstrikes by fighter jets and bombers as well as potentially sending Special Operations forces into Syria, like those who tried to rescue Mr. Foley and other hostages on a mission in July. One possibility officials have discussed for Iraq that could be translated to Syria would be a series of unmanned drone strikes targeting ISIS leaders, much like those conducted in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.
Whether Mr. Obama would actually authorize a new strategy remained unclear and aides said he has not yet been presented with recommendations. The president has long expressed skepticism that more assertive action by the United States, including arming Syrian rebels as urged in 2011 by Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state, would change the course of the civil war there. But he sent out a top adviser on Friday to publicly hint at the possibility a day after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said ISIS could not be defeated without going after it in Syria.
Wait a minute, Mr. President. Aren’t you forgetting something? No, not your golf clubs. I’m talking about deferring to Congress to authorize the expanded military action.
As a former constitutional law professor, you probably remember that it’s Congress that declares war in this country. I know such details aggravate you, and I know how much Congress irritates you. But really, Mr. President. Couldn’t we just this once do things by the book — or rather our founding document — and not wing it like you always do?
Saying we’re not assisting Assad by bombing IS in Syria is like saying you didn’t cheat on your wife because the woman you had sex with didn’t mean anything to you. It may be true but it’s not the point. I’m sure the Syrian rebels will appreciate our splitting hairs on this one.
The thrust of these “workarounds” and “fixes” is that the administration is trying to give devout people an “out” on contraception coverage, ostensibly to assuage their consciences.
Isn’t that insulting? You would think that objections to paying for contraception for employees is a black and white issue — either you do (no matter who pays for it), and violate your beliefs or you don’t and keep faith with God.
But these guys don’t get it. Is it because many on the left are used to compromising with their own moral precepts — that they can rationalize away moral dilemmas by finding their own “out” to satisfy their consciences?
The Obama administration has issued a new set of rules to provide contraceptive access to women whose employers object to their insurance plans covering birth control, which is required under the Affordable Care Act.
The new policies are intended to fill gaps left by two Supreme Court moves: The landmark Hobby Lobby decision saying contraceptive coverage violated the religious liberty of a for-profit corporation, and a preliminary order in Wheaton College v. Burwell. With today’s regulations, employees of for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby will be able to access an “accommodation” where the insurer directly provides the cost-free coverage with no financial involvement by the employer. That accommodation was originally limited to religiously-affiliated nonprofits like Little Sisters of the Poor; houses of worship are fully exempt.
For nonprofits like Wheaton College that object to even that accommodation – which involves them signing a form to their insurer – the Obama administration has created a new accommodation to the accommodation. (Yes, it gets complicated.)
“The rules, which are in response to recent court decisions, balance our commitment to helping ensure women have continued access to coverage for preventive services important to their health, with the Administration’s goal of respecting religious beliefs,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said.
For the non-profits that object to the form – arguing that signing it triggers the very birth control coverage they oppose – the new rule allows those employers to write to HHS directly, instead of filling out the form. The Supreme Court first suggested the letter-writing option, and so far the litigants have accepted it. But there was some dispute among legal scholars before about whether the letter would result in actual coverage for the women who worked at those companies. The new rule clarifies that it does.
HHS is also seeking comment on exactly how to structure its accommodation for for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby, which is only one of 193 corporations that have sued for an exemption from covering contraception.
The more the administration tries to satisfy those who don’t want to compromise their religious beliefs, the more they appear out of touch with the main issue; religious freedom. While we should “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” when such collisions take place between the state and religion, it would seem logical that the 1st Amendment trumps any effort to force people to violate their beliefs.
It’s a self-evident position for the Godly. And since the exemption touches only a tiny number of all insureds, you would hope the administration would stop fighting and start accommodating.
As long as Hobby Lobby and others continue to win in court, the administration is tilting at windmills trying find a “solution” for the insoluble.
The Sunni bloc in Iraq joined talks to form a new government last week following the selection of Shiite Prime Minister-designate Haidar al-Abadi. There was hope that a more inclusive government would emerge, taking away one of Islamic State’s primary recruiting tools; Shiite oppression of Sunnis.
It is not to be. Yesterday, Shiite gunmen burst into a crowded mosque north of Baghdad and slaughtered at least 73 worshipers, and wounded dozens more.
There were reports that authorities prevented help from reaching the stricken mosque. This prompted the Sunni bloc to walk out of talks to form a new government.
Basem al-Samarraei, deputy governor of Diyala province, said the mosque attack in the village of Bani Wais that killed at least 73 people was carried out by members of a Shiite militia after a gathering of Shiites was targeted by roadside bombs.
The casualties at the mosque included the local imam, women and children who were killed as they tried to save relatives from the gunfire, eyewitness Mahmoud al-Shimmary said in a telephone interview.
Hours later, Sunni politicians withdrew from the talks with Shiite Prime Minister-designate Haidar al-Abadi, lawmaker Talal al-Zuba’ay said by phone, in a major blow to reconciliation efforts. He said security forces had barred rescue teams attempting to reach the mosque.
“These Shiite militias are massing across the country and killing people based on their identity,” Zuba’ay said. “What is happening will create a volcano that once it explodes, no one will be able to stop.”
The offensive by Islamist State, a former offshoot of al-Qaeda, combined with political instability in Baghdad, has heightened concerns that Iraq may descend into the sectarian warfare that flared after the removal of autocrat Saddam Hussein after the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Today’s strike took place after three roadside bombs targeted a Shiite political gathering 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the Musab bin Omair mosque, killing four bodyguards of local official Sadiq al-Zargoushi, Deputy Governor Samarraei said. Shiite militias then attacked the mosque, with four gunmen opening fire, he said.
The mosque, about 120 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, is in an area under government control but close to territory held by Islamic State, the Associated Press reported.
Whether this was an emotional response to the attack on Sunni politicians or a planned attack carried out to stir the religious pot is unknown. The Iraqi government has responded by ordering an investigation:
The speaker of Iraq’s parliament says an investigation is under way into an attack on a Sunni Muslim mosque that killed scores of people and escalated sectarian violence.
Salim al-Jabouri told reporters Saturday in Baghdad an investigative team has been given two days to find out who is responsible for what he called “the vicious crime and massacre.”
Friday’s attacks on a Sunni mosque northeast of Baghdad appeared to undermine the Shi’ite-led central government’s effort to bridge Iraq’s sectarian divides and forge a united front against Islamic State militants. At least 60 people were killed as they attended weekly prayers.
Witnesses and Sunni religious officials blamed members of a hardline Shi’ite militia for the attack, but some government military commanders said they suspect Islamic State militants were responsible for the carnage.
I doubt that any “official” Iraq investigation will satisfy the Sunnis. Mistrust runs too deep. But Sunnis have a stake in a united Iraq and their self-preservation may eventually overcome their anger at the massacre, bringing them back to the table. They don’t want to live under the heel of IS terror any more than other Iraqis. But time is working against the politicians in Baghdad and the longer they delay in creating a new government, the more the threat from IS grows.
Two more journalists were arrested last night in Ferguson and briefly detained before being released. Three others were detained without being arrested. Media organizations have expressed growing alarm at the detentions, pointing out that the police are interfering with the ability of reporters to do their job.
In response to the arrest of two journalists last week, 48 media organizations sent a letter to law enforcement authorities expressing “deep concern over the unwarranted detention” of the reporters and “other reports of police intimidation and harassment of journalists in Ferguson.” Last week, the ACLU obtained a court agreement, signed by the city, St. Louis County and the Missouri Highway Patrol chief, stating that ‘the media and members of the public have a right to record public events without abridgment unless it obstructs the activity or threatens the safety of others, or physically interferes with the ability of law enforcement officers to perform their duties.”
Pancho Bernasconi, the vice president of news for Getty Images, similarly condemned Olson’s detention on Monday: “We at Getty Images stand firmly behind our colleague Scott Olson and the right to report from Ferguson,” Bernasconi said in a statement. Olson was released after a few hours.
Meanwhile, all three cable networks ditched their regular programming for breaking news from Ferguson late into the night on Monday and early Tuesday morning. MSNBC hosts Chris Hayes and Craig Melvin had rocks thrown at them while reporting on air, and CNN’s Don Lemon was pushed back by police while reporting from the front lines of the protests.
Despite appearances that the police are trying to smother the story by targeting reporters, the reality is far more prosaic:
In a news conference late Monday night, Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said authorities would continue to arrest journalists due to the chaotic nature of the protests.
“I’m going to tell you in the midst of chaos, when officers are running around, we’re not sure who’s a journalist and who’s not,” Johnson said, according to an audio recording. “Yes, if I see somebody with a $50,000 camera on their shoulder, I’m pretty sure. But some journalists are walking around, and all you have is a cellphone because you’re from a small media outlet. Some of you may just have a camera around your neck.”
“So yes, we may take some of you into custody,” he continued. “But when we do take you into custody, and we have found out you’re a journalist, we’ve taken the proper action. But in the midst of it, we cannot — in the midst of it, in the midst of chaos, and trying to move people on, we have to be safe. … And we are providing protection for journalists. We had, we had a journalist who was trapped in the midst of that gunfire, in the midst of that chaos. And we’re providing protection for them. We took journalists back to their trucks.”
Reporters are trying to cover a riot where there are no battle lines. By definition, it’s a melee — a free for all, with people running around coming in contact with the police who, themselves, have lost formation. There’s gunfire, tear gas, sound canon — total chaos.
It is unrealistic for reporters to think that police approach anyone not wearing blue during a riot with anything but suspicion. This is especially true when they are under gun fire, and Molotov Cocktails and rocks are being thrown at them. It appears that many of the detentions have occurred when reporters either got in the way or were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
On the other hand, there have been some questionable actions by police directed at reporters, like the incident mentioned above at the McDonald’s last week where two reporters were roughed up and dragged off to jail.
I’m not sure what it is that reporters want. Do they want the police to protect them when they wander into a free fire zone? The police have a lot more important things to deal with than act as bodyguards for reporters. Do reporters think they should have free rein to run around a riot ignorantly, putting themselves and the police who try to assist them in danger? The desire to cover the story under such trying circumstances is admirable, but it’s clear that there are many reporters in the streets who haven’t a clue what they’re doing.
That ignorance is going to get one of them killed unless they’re more careful.
In a highly unusual move, Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a federal medical examiner to perform a second autopsy on Michael Brown, the unarmed man who was shot by police officer Darren Wilson.
The media reports I’ve read about this announcement have been strikingly incurious about the obvious — something Jazz Shaw points out:
Their own spokesperson is using the phrase “extraordinary circumstances” here, so that seems to be an acknowledgement that the normal protocols are in flux. I’m not suggesting that this is illegal – unless somebody can cite a specific instance to make that case – but what is there about the death of Michael Brown that makes this a federal case? If you sweep aside the wall to wall media coverage and celebrities flocking to Ferguson, this is a case of one person who was shot during a confrontation with a local police officer, allegedly on the heels of a low dollar value robbery at a convenience store. Nobody crossed state lines that I’m aware of. And when you look at it in that perspective, there are many such cases around the country every year. (Many more than we would like to see, it should go without saying.)
No federal crime has been committed so how can there be a federal investigation? There’s no way the feds would step on St. Louis County’s toes and file federal civil rights violations against Officer Wilson. They would allow the murder investigation and prosecution to go forward before stepping in.
This is a blatantly political move by Obama/Holder, capitalizing on a racially explosive situation to score points with the black community — a constituency they believe is vital to Democrats if they are to hold the Senate.
Here’s part of DoJ’s statement announcing the additional autopsy:
“Due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family, Attorney General Holder has instructed Justice Department officials to arrange for an additional autopsy to be performed by a federal medical examiner. This independent examination will take place as soon as possible,” the statement said.
The first autopsy was conducted by the state of Missouri and the justice department release said it would take that investigation into account.
“Even after it is complete, Justice Department officials still plan to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of their investigation,” the release said.
I’m sure we all sympathize with the Brown family in wishing for an impartial and disinterested look at the evidence. But just because they ask for federal assistance, does that mean they get it? If other families in similar circumstances asked, would Holder comply?
That’s why the Justice Department involvement smacks of partisan politics to me. In this, the most politicized DoJ since Nixon, we’ve come to expect this kind of cynical manipulation of the law for political purposes.
This is really, really, stupid. And a shocking disregard for someone’s safety.
Jim Hoft is reporting that several news media outlets are brazenly broadcasting in front of the house of accused Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
CNN broadcast a report Friday that showed the house, including the street number, of the Ferguson police officer who police say shot Mike Brown. The officer has been in hiding due to death threats since the shooting last Saturday. His name, Darren Wilson, was just released Friday morning.
Another news outlet apologized for broadcasting video of Wilson’s home while others have virtually drawn a map to Wilson’s house for those bent on vengeance.
Yahoo News named the community Wilson where Wilson resides and published a photograph of the officer.
The UK Daily Mail also named the community, posted photos of the officer and gave a description of the house.
USA Today also named the community and reported a local police presence.
The Washington Post named the street where Wilson lives.
In the video report, CNN reporter Ed Lavandera is seen walking in the street where Wilson lives. The CNN video shows a wide view of Wilson’s house and then pans around the street to show its relative position in the neighborhood. While Lavandera does not name the street, he gives its approximate location.
Every news report says neighbors told them Wilson has not been home for several days.
A version of the video being aired by CNN affiliate Newschannel 13 in Orlando, Florida (and likely other affiliates around the country including the St. Louis market) shows a brief close-up of the house number by the front door such that someone could freeze and enlarge the image to get the address.
The version of the report available online at CNN has that footage edited and replaced with a close-up of a front window of Wilson’s house.
What are these people thinking? If you saw that raucous press conference given by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon yesterday, and heard the tenor of the black community in Ferguson, you know what residents are screaming about when they chant for “justice.”
And yet, the media, with sublime idiocy, makes it fairly easy for someone familiar with the town of Ferguson to find Officer Wilson’s residence.
While it’s true that Wilson was not at home at the time, eventually he is going to be back. Residents of Ferguson have demonstrated over the last few nights that some of them may be crazy enough to practice a little vigilantism, and deal out their own version of “justice” for Michael Brown.
You’ve got to hand it to the anti-gun nuts in this country. Despite their minority status, they are winning.
The latest example of that is this Fox News story of a Marine who thought he’d spend a relaxing day at Six Flags in New Jersey with his family. Upon his arrival at the gate, he was told he could not enter the park.
The problem? He was wearing an “offensive” T-shirt. Here’s a pic of the illegal piece of clothing:
Apparently, the image of a gun proved too much for Six Flags to endure. They can’t go around allowing their patrons to see a picture of a gun. Who knows? It may give impressionable children the idea that guns are OK, instead of evil fire sticks that turn people into homicidal maniacs.
The account is hard to believe:
A marine was denied entrance to a New Jersey amusement park last weekend – all because of his T-shirt.
Mario Alejandro planned a trip to the amusement park with his wife and children, but was turned away at the security gate because of his shirt.
The shirt says, “Keep calm and return fire,” and has an image of a red, white and blue M-16. Alejandro is a marine, and was part of the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“When we got through the metal detector, the guy stopped me. You can’t come in with that shirt,” said Alejandro. “I started laughing. ‘You are joking, right?’ He said, ‘no, that shirt is offensive.’”
Alejandro, a marine who was part of the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, said the shirt was a Father’s Day gift, purchased from a non-profit group that supports the Marines. He said he refused to take it off on principle.
The amusement park would not budge on its policy and although Alejandro’s family went in, Mario chose not to.
In a statement, Six Flags said it does not “allow guests to wear t-shirts with images of assault rifles in our parks.”
“We apologize for any inconvenience we caused this guest, however we stand by our policy, which does not permit clothing with vulgar, offensive or violent language or images. our goal is to maintain a fun, safe and family-friendly environment,” it said.
Six Flags has every right to deny entry to anyone they wish. Now, if it were me, I would ban people wearing T-shirts with the image of broccoli on it. I think broccoli is offensive. Its taste, smell, texture — ick. Then again, I wouldn’t impose my personal feeling of what is “offensive” on everybody else. That’s sorta how it works in America — at least the America I remember. Now? Who knows?
Yep — it’s that silly. Is the gun shown firing? No. In fact, it isn’t even a realistic picture of a gun. The idea that a picture of anything is “offensive” is bat guano crazy — which is a pretty good description of the owners of Six Flags
The ousting of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears to have energized the Iraqi government and finally forced the factions to face reality and unite.
A joint Kurdish, Iraqi army, and US operation to retake the Mosul Dam from Islamic State is the most visible manifestation of this newfound drive for more unity. And there is news that Sunni tribesmen have pledged to support the new government of Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi, and say they will join the fight against Islamic State.
I suspect the Sunnis will have very little patience with the new government, but recognize the threat to them from Islamic State is as grave as the danger the terrorists pose to Bagdhdad.
Tribal leaders and clerics from Iraq’s Sunni heartland offered their conditional backing on Friday for a new government that hopes to contain sectarian bloodshed and an offensive by Islamic State militants that threatens to tear the country apart.
One of the most influential tribal leaders said he was willing to work with Shi’ite prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi provided a new administration respected the rights of the Sunni Muslim minority that dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
Ali Hatem Suleiman left open a possibility that Sunnis would take up arms against the Islamic State fighters in the same way as he and others joined U.S. and Shi’ite-led government forces to thwart an al Qaeda insurgency in Iraq between 2006 and 2009.
Yet amid the signs that political accords were possible in the fractious nation, some 80 members of Iraq’s Yazidi minority were “massacred” by Islamic State insurgents, a Yazidi lawmaker and two Kurdish officials said on Friday.
Abadi faces the daunting task of pacifying Iraq and particularly the vast desert province of Anbar. It forms much of the border with Syria, where the Islamist fighters also control swathes of territory.
Sunni alienation under outgoing Shi’ite premier Nuri al-Maliki goaded some in Anbar to join an Islamic State revolt that is now drawing the United States and European allies back into varying degrees of military involvement in Iraq to contain what they see as a militant threat that goes well beyond its borders.
The United Nations Security Council blacklisted the Islamic State spokesman and five other militants on Friday and threatened sanctions against those backing the insurgents, giving U.N. experts 90 days to report on who those people are.
While Abadi continues to bring the fractious Baghdad politicians together and form a government, the joint mission to retake Mosul Dam is in full swing. In what are described as “massive” air strikes, US planes attacked dozens of Islamic State positions near the dam.
“The attack has started from the eastern side of the dam,” said Mahmood Haji, an official with the Kurdish ministry of interior, who said that the nearby villages of Telskuf and Batnaya were back under Kurdish control. He said Kurdish forces, known as pesh merga, and Iraqi counterterrorism forces, had reached the “borders” of the dam, but roadside bombs planted by the militants were slowing their progress. Brig. Gen. Azad Jalil, a pesh merga commander based near Mosul, confirmed that the ground offensive had begun. Mobile phone networks in the area were down.
Kurdish forces have gone on the offensive since U.S. airstrikes began in the area on Aug. 8, following a major rout of their forces, including at the dam. However, they have still struggled to maintain control of the more than 600-mile-long border they share with the extremists, with Islamic State seizing Jalula from Kurdish forces last week.
U.S. jets and drones carried out a total of nine airstrikes near the dam and the Kurdish city of Irbil on Saturday night, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. The strikes destroyed or damaged four armored personnel carriers, seven armed vehicles, two Humvees and an armored vehicle, it said.
Al-Abadi has his work cut out for him, but with Sunnis and Kurds offering their support, there’s a real chance he will succeed in setting up a unity government that can face the challenges posed by Islamic State.
As for America, make no mistake; we are back in another Iraq War. We may debate whether this action was inevitable or not. But President Obama appears to have ordered an escalation of our involvement, as the Navy and Air Force carry out nearly 100 missions a day. Special Operators are almost certainly on the ground already, lasing targets and offering counsel to the Peshmerga.
The big question mark is what will the Islamic State do if they’re about to lose the dam? Will their nihilistic, bloodthirsty mindset unleash a humanitarian and economic catastrophe with the destruction of the dam? Are they that crazy?
Yes, they are. But the destruction of the dam would also mean the destruction of much of the territory they already control. Whether their bloodlust is more powerful than their self-interest will be revealed soon.
The Daily Signal asked several Iraq War vets their feelings about what’s going on in that country recently. Needless to say, most of them were not very happy with President Obama’s policies — past and present.
Chief Warrant Officer Amber Barno served two tours in Iraq:
I think Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq was completely botched. He left behind a weak government and an Iraqi military that was unable to defend itself. Obama’s decision to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq almost instantaneously with no sort of residual force to help them defend their own nation has consequences. There are real-world consequences to messing up the withdrawal as we’re now seeing with the [terrorist group] Islamic State, with their ability to have such significant advances into Iraq.
It is disappointing. Thousands of American soldiers who served in Iraq made life-altering sacrifices. Some came home with physical or invisible wounds that they still have to deal with. It’s disheartening, and now we’re having to deal with the consequences of an early, too soon, withdrawal. The withdrawal was not managed properly.
The president was more concerned with a rapid withdrawal than ensuring all we fought for in Iraq was preserved. To see that and almost a decade of work, lives, and sacrifices put into Iraq be swept away in a few months of ISIS coming in and grasping control, it is extremely frustrating to watch that.
Sergeant Dennis Joslyn served two tours:
When ISIS first rolled in, the United States should have taken action, and it would have ended the uprising. Now, thanks to Washington’s inability to act, that time has passed. Airstrikes can aid, drops are too little too late.
I am not advocating redeploying American soldiers. I think this is a problem that should be handled by the Arab League as we have no [Status of Forces Agreement] with Iraq at this time. It is my belief that had the president ordered these air missions sooner, none of this would have happened.
Sergeant Ryan served one tour in the army and 3 as a civilian:
I think we left too early and for political reasons. I support the airstrikes. I don’t want to go back, but if the [Islamic State] isn’t eliminated, they’ll eventually come to the U.S.
ISIS is a real threat. I put most of the blame on the Iraqi government and its corruption and tribally/ethnically/religiously fractured society for the current mess. But blame doesn’t get anything done. ISIS has the money, manpower and resources to attack the U.S. and are making their intentions known.
If we don’t handle it now, I think we’ll regret it later. Leaving a stabilization force like we did in Germany, Japan and Korea would have helped, but the withdrawal was politically motivated and political decisions in wartime don’t always work out so well.
You’ve probably read reactions of other Iraq War veterans who are remarkably uniform in their criticism of the president and belief that only a comprehensive policy will stabilize the situation.
Some, like Special Operations Master Sergeant Jason Beardsley, express frustration with the administration for a preventable situation:
It’s frustrating to watch because we had the mechanisms in place to prevent that. And, of course, the withdrawal just allowed for that [power] vacuum to overwhelm those mechanisms. This is a tough thing to watch, and it is frustrating for service members to process that. We’ve spent multiple deployments facing some of the same threats on the ground, and now we see those threats strategically expanding because we just left the area.
While a a majority of civilians — and, admittedly, many soldiers who served in Iraq — believe the effort we made was in vain, there are many like the veterans above who disagree and want to see the US make a bigger effort to retrieve the situation.
For their sake, and all those who served, let’s hope we do.
I think anyone in America with an ounce of political acumen knows that the indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry was motivated by politics. This is especially true when you consider the source of the indictment: the office of the Travis County district attorney whose Public Integrity Unit was the target of Perry’s veto.
You would hope — but not really expect — that even Democrats would recognize the injustice being perpetrated. That’s why when President Obama’s former chief political advisor, David Axelrod, tweets that the indictment appears to him to be “sketchy,” it is a pleasant surprise.
Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry after being indicted this weekend got support Saturday from one of the country’s most powerful Democrats– former President Obama political adviser David Axelrod– who tweeted that the charge seems “sketchy.”
Perry, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate with potential 2016 aspirations, was indicted Friday for allegedly abusing his veto power during a dispute with a public-corruption prosecutor over her drunken driving arrest.
The indictment claims Perry broke the law when he threatened to veto $7.5 million over two years for the public integrity unit run by the office of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, after she pleaded guilty to drunken driving in April 2013 and refused to resign.
“Unless he was demonstrably trying to scrap the ethics unit for other than his stated reason, Perry indictment seems pretty sketchy,” Axelrod tweeted.
Alexrod joined Texas’ junior Sen. Ted Cruz on Saturday in giving his support to Perry, while other high-profile lawmakers have largely remained silent on the politically-charge issue.
The outspoken first-term senator defended his fellow Republican’s integrity. He also called the indictment “highly-questionable” and argued that the Travis County District Attorney’s Office that indicted Perry has a “sad history” of engaging in politically-motivated prosecutions.
“Rick Perry is a friend, he’s a man of integrity,” said Cruz, who also appears to have 2016 White House aspirations. “I am proud to stand with Rick Perry. The Texas Constitution gives the governor the power to veto legislation. And a criminal indictment predicated on the exercise of his constitutional authority is, on its face, highly suspect.”
Perry vetoed the money after Lehmberg, a Democrat, refused to resign.
With the video of Lehmberg’s drunken misbehavior and disrespecting of police during her drunk driving arrest in mind, here’s what some Texas Democrats are saying when they call on Perry to resign:
The Texas Democratic Party has already called on Perry to resign, calling the situation “unbecoming” of a Texas governor.
“Governor Rick Perry has brought dishonor to his office, his family and the state of Texas. Texans deserve to have leaders that stand up for what is right and work to help families across Texas,” party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.
How “becoming” was Lehmberg’s behavior during her arrest? Did she bring “honor” to her office by trying to bully the police? Did she stand up for “what is right” when she had to be restrained during her rant-filled booking where she threatened police officers?
Congratulations, Texas Democrats. You are defending a falling-down drunk who disgraced herself, her office, and the state of Texas during an arrest that may have saved her own life as well as others. How, in good conscience, could any governor of either party not try and force her to do the right thing and resign? How could anyone take the office of Public Integrity Unit in the state seriously when it was headed up by such a creature as Rosemary Lehmberg?
The questions answer themselves.
Any other Democrats out there willing to show a little courage and stand up to the bullying of your fellow Democrats in Travis County?
Bryan Preston reported yesterday on the claim by the Ukraine government that it had destroyed part of an Russian armored column that had crossed the border. The White House says it cannot confirm the incident occurred, but NATO says it has proof of the Russian incursion and subsequent artillery barrage by Ukraine.
Skirmishing between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists continued near the border today, but it doesn’t appear to be a widening of the conflict. Instead, a tense situation continued at the border post where more than 260 Russian military trucks (painted white with all insignia removed) filled with humanitarian aid awaits the outcome of talks in Berlin between the two country’s foreign ministers.
Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists skirmished near the Russian border Saturday but there was no sign of the conflict widening a day after Kyiv said it partially destroyed an armored column that had crossed the border from Russia.
The report of the attack on the column Friday triggered a sell-off in the U.S. dollar and on European stocks, with markets fearful it could change the Ukraine conflict into an open confrontation between Moscow and Western-backed Kyiv.
But Moscow made no threat of retaliation, instead saying it was a “fantasy” that its armored vehicles entered Ukraine. In Washington the White House said it could not confirm that Russian vehicles had been attacked on Ukrainian soil.
Meanwhile, hundreds of trucks in a Russian aid convoy remained idled near the Ukrainian border, The Associated Press reported, as complicated procedures drag on for allowing them into eastern Ukraine to help civilians suffering amid fighting.
On the ground Saturday, the conflict returned to the pattern it has been following for several weeks. Kyiv said military equipment was entering from Russia, and the rebels said they had attacked Ukrainian troops.
A Reuters reporter in Donetsk, one of two rebel strongholds in the east, said the sound of explosions was audible in the city center.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto was to arrive in Kyiv later Saturday for talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, aimed at finding a negotiated solution. Niinisto met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday and afterwards spoke of the possibility of a truce, although it was not immediately clear how that would happen.
Ukraine is adamant that no Russian vehicles or people will be allowed to cross the border. The Red Cross has offered to transport the aid in their own vehicles, but Putin is stalling. A meeting between the two sides in Berlin today probably won’t move the needle on the conflict very much.
Ukraine’s Pavlo Klimkin and Russia’s Sergei Lavrov will hold talks with their German and French counterparts to ease the standoff. The former Soviet neighbors are also trading accusations over a stalled humanitarian convoy from Moscow amid fighting in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Any breakthrough on the humanitarian convoy of about 275 trucks, now waiting about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the border in the Rostov region, might help ease tension over the separatist conflict, which Ukraine says is being fueled by Russia. Talks between the two sides and the international Red Cross, which has been asked to oversee the delivery, will continue today, spokeswoman Galina Balzamova said by phone.
“A quick resolution of the crisis remains unlikely,” Otilia Dhand, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London, who specializes in eastern Europe, said by e-mail. “The new round of talks in Berlin might at best bring a slight detente and potentially avert a further escalation over the next days.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it’s deploying additional staff to Russia and Ukraine in preparation for aid delivery. Both sides asked the Geneva-based organization to assist.
“We still need assurances from all parties to the conflict staff will be allowed to perform tasks safely, with due respect for humanitarian principles,” Laurent Corbaz, the Red Cross’s head of operations for Europe, said in an e-mailed statement. “Given complex logistics, security challenges involved, this aid operation will take some time, we call on authorities of both countries to do all they can to resolve outstanding issues quickly.”
An aid shipment sent by the Ukrainian government was handed to the Red Cross, said Iryna Herashchenko, Poroshenko’s envoy to eastern Ukraine.
Those trucks can’t sit on the side of the road forever. Putin is unlikely to force a crossing, although there are many in NATO who believe the trucks are a ruse anyway — a pretext for Putin to invade. A denial of entry by Ukraine would give Putin all the excuse he needs to go in.
Bryan Preston reported earlier today on the 130 US military personnel who have been dispatched to Erbil. Their mission, according to the Obama administration, is to come up with military options to get 30,000 Yazidis off of Mount Sinjar to safety.
The logistics of such an operation would be a nightmare. The Yazidis are spread out over 35 miles on the crest of Mount Sinjar. Any kind of an airlift would have to be accomplished with helicopters — the largest of which could only carry a couple of dozen refugees at a time. The Marines have about 4 V-22 V/STOL Ospreys in Erbil itself, which might also take part in an airlift. But the Ospreys can only carry about 25 passengers. We would almost certainly need the assistance of other nations with V/STOL aircraft and heavy-lift helicopters to get the refugees off the mountain quickly.
Another option is creating a “humanitarian corridor” to take the refugees to safety. The Yazidis would be guided to embarkation areas where they would be transported off the mountain via buses and autos.
But many of the children and oldsters are very weak from hunger and disease. Helping them walk miles across the barren expanse of Mount Sinjar to reach an embarkation point would be a huge operation itself.
The New York Times speculates on how the rescue might play out:
No matter how it is done, getting tens of thousands of Yazidis off Mount Sinjar would be a complicated and dangerous endeavor, Pentagon officials said.
The most direct route off the mountain would be to head south into greater Iraq, but that would take the refugees and any troops protecting them through ISIS territory, increasing the potential for combat and casualties. Passing through the ISIS-held area, one senior military official warned, would also allow the militants to blend into the refugee population, making it more difficult to target them for American airstrikes.
The far more viable option, administration officials and humanitarian experts said, would be to establish a corridor northwest through Syria, following the paths established by the few refugees who have escaped. The refugees would then cross back over the border into Kurdistan.
The route through Syria would require Kurdish pesh merga fighters to make up the bulk of the troop escort, but a second military official said that American Special Operations forces and perhaps even Marines would have to reinforce that effort.
“We would have to thicken our advisory presence in a significant way,” said Hardin Lang, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress and a former senior adviser to the United Nations special representative to Iraq. But American troops would be unlikely to go into Syria, making that route more complicated.
Another major drawback to the corridor idea is that it would take too long to implement. The Yazidis are hanging on by their fingernails at this point, and the humanitarian aide that’s flowing now is only a stop-gap solution.
Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK has suggested the Great Britain would take part in a rescue operation. Cameron was facing fierce criticism for not doing enough to support the US in its effort to save the refugees. He actually cut short his vacation to come back to deal with the crisis, saying, “I can confirm that detailed plans are now being put in place and are under way and that Britain will play a role in delivering them.”
The Washington Post explains why some US troops would be needed in an evacuation:
Evacuating civilians from the mountainside would likely require at least some U.S. troops on the ground, however. A security perimeter for the aircraft to land would be required, and troops would likely be needed at a nearby airfield, perhaps in Irbil, to coordinate the multiple trips it would take. Additional attack helicopters like the AH-1W Super Cobra also would likely escort the Osprey, which can carry about 24 passengers.
Time Magazine points out some of the drawbacks to a land operation:
Without U.S. boots on the ground, that means any land-rescue effort would probably require at least some non-U.S. military ground forces to keep the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) away from the rescue operation while it takes place. U.S. airstrikes in recent days have kept ISIS forces at bay, but a massive rescue operation is likely to require ground forces.
But allies won’t go where the U.S. fears to tread, which means only local troops—the Iraqi army or the Kurdish Peshmerga forces—will be available. The Iraqi army collapsed when ISIS stormed Mosul in June, and there is little evidence it has improved since. The Peshmerga are a more likely candidate, but their small arms can’t defeat the U.S.-supplied armor and artillery that ISIS units captured from Iraqi forces in recent months.
Plus, mounting a land-rescue operation may take more time than the stranded Yazidi have. They are being kept alive by airdrops of food and water by the U.S. and other nations. Continuing reports and video footage of dying civilians are likely to compel the Obama Administration to seek a faster rescue option, which would be by air. The U.S. would seek help from other nations in carrying out the risky endeavor.
Once again, such an operation would require allied ground forces to ensure the security of pickup zones, and to help suppress ISIS’s limited, but lethal, anti-aircraft capability.
The Islamic State may decide that they can inflict a blow to US prestige by mounting a major attack against any forces we send to Mount Sinjar. Killing a bunch of Americans and other westerners would be a big propaganda victory for them. Air power would be crucial in protecting our troops and the transports that are carrying refugees off the mountain.
While President Obama has finally bestirred himself to act, there is a danger that he will split the difference and fail to fully support the mission. That, and his historic penchant for taking forever to make a decision does not bode well for the operation. If he is going to act, he must do it decisively and commit himself to the success of the mission, regardless of the political consequences.
I am not confident he is capable of doing that.
How desperate is Hillary Clinton to separate herself from her former boss?
Clinton told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic that it’s President Obama’s fault that ISIS arose in Syria. She also belittled his oft-quoted foreign policy philosophy, “Don’t do stupid stuff.”
Key foreign policy decisions under President Obama have allowed Islamic terrorists to gain a better footing in the Middle East, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this week.
Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential contender, told The Atlantic in an interview published Sunday that the failure to build up Syrian rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad “left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.”
Some have criticized Obama for not helping Syrian rebels early on in the rebellion in order to combat al Qaeda-inspired terrorist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has since taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria.
“It is striking, however, that you have more than 170,000 people dead in Syria. You have the vacuum that has been created by the relentless assault by Assad on his own population, an assault that has bred these extremist groups, the most well-known of which, ISIS—or ISIL—is now literally expanding its territory inside Syria and inside Iraq,” Clinton said.
On nuclear talks with Iran, which Obama has approached carefully, Clinton said “it’s important to send a signal to everybody who is there that there cannot be a deal unless there is a clear set of restrictions on Iran,” adding, “little or no enrichment has always been my position.”
The U.S. has hoped to punish Russia with sanctions, but Clinton compared President Vladimir Putin’s push for resurgent nationalism to “jihadi Islam.”
“You have Russia massing battalions—Russia, that actually annexed and is occupying part of a UN member state—and I fear that it will do even more to prevent the incremental success of the Ukrainian government to take back its own territory, other than Crimea,” she said.
She also highlighted the foreign policy work of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and herself in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Clinton said Obama’s political message on foreign policy may be different from his worldview, noting, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
Did Obama’s minimalist response to the civil war in Syria really contribute to the rise of ISIS? Far be it for me to defend the president, but I think Clinton is off-base. ISIS, or something like it, was bound to arise in the hothouse atmosphere of a sectarian civil war. The bloodier and more intense the fighting got, the more extreme sorts of warriors and groups were thrown up to meet it.
Also, the only way the rebels can win is if we give them weapons that would allow them to match President Assad’s forces on the battlefield. We’re not going to give potential enemies — even “secular” Syrians” — anti-aircraft missiles, armor, or other heavy weapons that they could turn around and use on our friends after the war is over. In that sense, President Obama was correct in resisting pleas from the Gulf states and the rebels for heavier weapons. And it’s unlikely that even if we had, ISIS would not have arisen.
But Clinton is right about the president’s philosophy. “Don’t do stupid stuff” invites timidity and indecision. It leads to weakness and half measures that sometimes make a situation worse. No one is saying that President Obama should run off half-cocked. But sometimes taking a risk is its own reward. We don’t pay the president to sit in the Big Chair, cross his fingers, and hope for the best. Risk comes with the job, and risking further involvement in Iraq to save the Yazidis or help the Kurds push ISIS out of their territory seems a chance worth taking.
There was a horrific murder on Saturday in North Miami. An orthodox rabbi visiting family in Miami was gunned down in broad daylight in a heavily Jewish section of the city. Joseph Raksin was approached by two young males and shot. He was airlifted to a hospital but died a few hours later.
Both the Miami-Dade police and the local Anti-Defamation League say that the murder was more likely a robbery gone bad than a hate crime. But police are still investigating. And a recent spate of vandalism directed against the Orthodox community has many residents questioning whether the rabbi’s murder was an act of anti-Semitism.
The Miami Herald reports:
The shooting took place in an area of unincorporated Northeast Miami-Dade near North Miami Beach, where swastikas found painted on a local synagogue last month have worried local Jewish leaders.
“At this time there is no indication of this being a hate crime,” said Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Elena Hernandez in a statement.
She said police are searching for two young male suspects, one of whom may have fled on a bicycle. The other may have run from the area.
Late Saturday, Hava Holzhauer, the Anti-Defamation League Florida Regional Director, whose organization has been in close contact with Miami-Dade homicide investigators, said the crime “appears to be a robbery that went badly.”
“Currently no evidence has been brought to light that it was motivated by anti-Semitism,” Holzhauer said.
Said Holzhauer: “This is a terrible tragedy. While the motivation for this crime is still being investigated, nothing can justify the killing of an innocent man walking to his place of worship to pray on his holy day.”
Miami-Dade police have not commented on whether the shooting was connected to a robbery attempt on Raksin.
Yona Lunger, a local Jewish community activist and member of the Shmira Patrol — a neighborhood watch group — confirmed to the Miami Herald late Saturday that Raksin was an Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn who was in South Florida to visit his granddaughter and other relatives.
Efforts to reach the relatives were unsuccessful.
Raksin was on his way to Bais Menachem, 1005 NE 172nd Ter., when he was shot, said Lunger, who spoke to one witness who told him that — contrary to what Miami-Dade police reported — Raksin had no altercation with the two young men. He said the witness, whom he did not identify, told him that Raksin was shot immediately after the two approached him on Northeast 175th Street.
Another local Jewish community leader, Brian Siegal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Miami and Broward Regional Office, said he believes Raksin’s shooting may be connected to the recent act of vandalism at the nearby Torah V’Emunah, an Orthodox synagogue, 1000 NE 174th St.
On July 28, police reported that swastikas were spray-painted on the front pillars of a Northeast Miami-Dade synagogue, which has left the local Jewish community on edge, especially amid the heightened tension between Israel and Palestinians over the conflict in Gaza.
There may be “no evidence” that this was a hate crime, but how the shooting went down is certainly suspicious:
Raksin was on his way to Bais Menachem, 1005 NE 172nd Ter., when he was shot, said Lunger, who spoke to one witness who told him that — contrary to what Miami-Dade police reported — Raksin had no altercation with the two young men. He said the witness, whom he did not identify, told him that Raksin was shot immediately after the two approached him on Northeast 175th Street.
Raskin was walking ahead of his grandsons and son-in-law when he was shot, said Rabbi Moshe Druin.
“We are in utter shock,” Druin said.
Druin said community members ruled out a possibility of robbery because Orthodox Jewish do not carry any money or possession on Saturdays, the community’s Sabbath day.
“There hasn’t been a robbery on Sabbath for the past 35 years,” Druin said.
If the murder was an anti-Semitic act — and judging by these eyewitness reports, it certainly can’t be ruled out — you have to wonder if the coverage of the anti-Semitic rallies here and in Europe might have had something to do with it.
Hamas has accepted an Egyptian proposal for another 72-hour cease fire with Israel. Renewed negotiations for a more permanent cessation of hostilities, including the demilitarization of Gaza, are planned.
Israel walked out of the talks when Hamas broke the last truce, saying it would not negotiate under fire. They have reiterated that position as rockets continue to hit targets inside Israel.
Heavy fighting between Israel and Gaza militants has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, as well as 67 people on the Israeli side.
Hamas has refused to extend a temporary truce that helped launch the Cairo talks last week, saying it wants guarantees from Israel first that Gaza’s borders will open. Israel and Egypt have enforced the blockade, to varying degrees, since Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.
Since the truce expired Friday, smaller Gaza militant groups — though not Hamas, according to claims of responsibility — have fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells at Israel, including two on Sunday. Israel has responded with dozens of airstrikes on Gaza, including at least 20 on Sunday. Gaza officials said Sunday’s strikes killed at least two Palestinians.
Israel has said it will not open Gaza’s borders unless militant groups, including Hamas, disarm. Hamas has said handing over its weapons arsenal, which is believed to include several thousand remaining rockets, is inconceivable.
Various ideas have been raised to end Gaza’s isolation, including deploying international inspectors at all crossings to address Israeli security concerns about smuggling weapons and militants. Europe has floated the idea of a link between ports in Gaza and Cyprus, with inspectors at both ends checking people and cargo.
Palestinian officials have said that Israel has so far rejected such proposals.
Instead, one proposal circulated by the Egyptian mediators over the weekend offered an easing of some of the restrictions, according to Palestinian negotiators who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss internal deliberations with journalists. It was not clear if this was an Egyptian or an Israeli proposal.
Palestinian negotiators said they rejected the ideas, insisting on a complete end to the blockade. The Palestinian team includes Hamas officials and representatives of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, from whom Hamas took Gaza in 2007.
You might remember what happened following the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, where the UN International Force in Lebanon was charged with preventing Syria and Iran from rearming the terrorists.
So far, the UNIFIL “inspectors” have missed about 40,000 rockets flowing into Lebanon, among other arms. But Israel is to trust the UN to keep Hamas from being resupplied?
As for lifting the Gaza “blockade,” Egypt has as much to lose as Israel, which is why they have mostly maintained the restrictions on weapons and material that could be used for war on their side of the border. Hamas is not going to get a complete lifting of the restrictions, nor is Israel likely to get a complete demilitarization of Gaza — unless they choose to impose it via force of arms.
Prime Minister Netanyahu seems determined that this will be the last time that Israeli defense forces will be sent into Gaza to stop the intolerable hail of rockets being launched by the terrorists. How he achieves that goal — either at the negotiating table or on the battlefield — will dictate how much longer Israel will continue Operation Protective Edge.
Sounding positively Reaganesque at times, Senator Ted Crux lit up the crowd at the Iowa State Fair — a traditional sounding board for presidential candidates — by giving a barn burner of a speech that alternated between heavy criticism of the president and offering a vision of a bright future once conservatives take back the country.
Oh…did I mention he spoke coherently and passionately for 20 minutes — without the use of a teleprompter?
To regain the majority in Washington, Cruz said conservatives needed to champion economic growth and contrast their proposals with Obama’s economic record; protect constitutional liberties, from First Amendment protections of speech to Fourth Amendment protections of privacy; and stand up more to foreign leaders like President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
“It reminds you of a new diet that’s really quite popular in Washington these days. It’s called the Obama diet,” Cruz said after mentioning both the butter cow and a pork chop on a stick. “You just let Putin eat your lunch every day.”
Like other leading Republicans, Cruz cast his economic pitch as positive for minorities and the working poor – those he said have been hurt the most by the economy over the last five years.
Cruz, for instance, said that work requirements in ObamaCare were making it harder for people to find full-time work, and pushed back once more on the blame the GOP has received for last October’s government shutdown.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has also sought to offer a more inclusive message with a new anti-poverty plan, ahead of the 2016 campaign.
Still, Cruz wasn’t shy in knocking the president for a variety of issues, including the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups and National Security Agency surveillance techniques.
He also placed the blame for the recent border crisis on Obama, called for a repeal of the Common Core education curriculum and even found a way to get in a shot at the rumored front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2016 – former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“We are seeing the consequences of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy playing out across the globe,” Cruz said. “It seems like the whole world is on fire right now.”
Cruz will also speak at the Family Leadership Summit this weekend.
Judging by the number of Republican politicians that have designs on the White House in 2016 who have decided to visit Iowa this weekend, you’d think the state played a major role in the nomination fight, or something.
Well, it does. And as much as many in the GOP wish that Iowa did not have such an outsized influence on the race, they can’t escape the fact that the Iowa caucuses, for better or worse, are the first test for candidates during the long primary season.
The big draw this weekend in Iowa is the Family Leadership Summit in Ames. Scheduled to speak during the event are Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and 2012 candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
In his speech at the summit, Santorum called for GOP outreach to working class voters:
Rick Santorum challenged the Republican Party to “realign” itself to attract working class voters in a speech to Iowa social conservatives here on Saturday.
Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and the 2012 Iowa caucuses winner, said the party erred in the 2012 presidential race by focusing too much on entrepreneurs and business owners rather than workers. If the party does so again in 2016, he said, the results will be disastrous.
“If you look at the map for president, if we don’t see a realignment of the Republican Party, if we don’t see this party reaching out and bringing in new people, then the demographics don’t look very good for us,” Santorum said.
The answer, he said, is to create new manufacturing jobs in the United States by reducing taxes and regulatory requirements and to build stronger families by encouraging marriage. Republicans can win over working-class voters by proving a commitment to jobs and support for families.
Another key to attracting new voters and ensuring economic success for Americans, Santorum said, is reducing immigration – both legal and illegal. America’s labor market has been “distressed” and wages have been held back because of immigration, he said.
“We need a policy that puts Americans first, an American immigration policy that says no to amnesty, that says yes to securing the border and then says we need to dial back on chain immigration in this country that results in over a million people a year coming here to suppress our labor markets.”
Meanwhile, Rand Paul was in the midst of a 9-city tour of the state:
As Paul blitzed across the Hawkeye State this week, holding events at Iowa GOP offices and campaigning for local candidates, he hardly played coy to the question of whether he was running for President. After all, his nine-city trip marked his fourth visit to the state since the 2012 election.
“I don’t know why Iowa keeps popping up on my calendar, but it seems to be pretty frequent,” he said Monday, clearly with sarcasm.
His itinerary this time included a campaign-style schedule where he continued testing his 2016 message on the road.
From reducing the federal deficit to defending civil liberties and reforming the criminal justice system, Paul mostly stayed on his talking points.
But the trip was not without controversy.
His combative answer to a reporter’s question — combined with video of Paul appearing to avoid an immigration activist — absorbed most of the attention surrounding his visit.
Experts say it’s unlikely those story lines will derail any progress Paul has made in the state with voters, but his comments could underscore questions some Republicans have about his foreign policy, especially as he seeks to broaden his appeal.
And just to liven up this blog post a bit, consider that South Carolina Senator Tim Scott will also be speaking at the Family Leadership Summit. Scott, who is heavily favored in the fall to win a full term following his appointment to the Senate to fill out the term of Jim DeMint, is probably not angling for the top spot.
But how about a Cruz/Scott or Paul/Scott ticket? Even a Bush/Scott pairing sounds sexy. Defanging a major Democratic attack on Republicans — that the GOP is anti-black — makes Scott, at the very least, a valuable ally.
Seventeen months from the Iowa caucuses and it already feels like the campaign is in full swing.
There’s a vast difference between the number of “Notice to Appear” receipts in government files and the number of illegal alien children who have been apprehended since 2013.
National Review Online reports that only about 4 in 10 illegal children have apparently been given a notice to appear for a deportation hearing.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection data show more than 85,000 total apprehensions of unaccompanied alien children during fiscal year 2013 and fiscal year 2014 through June. Information from the same time period provided to National Review Online by the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review shows 41,592 total receipts marked as juvenile in immigration courts. Kathryn Mattingly, spokesperson for EOIR, tells NRO the receipts refer to new Notices to Appear (NTA) — the document the Department of Homeland Security uses to charge an illegal immigrant with being removable from the United States.
EOIR has recorded 20,814 receipts marked as juvenile in fiscal year 2014 as of June 30, but Border Patrol recorded 57,525 apprehensions of unaccompanied alien children during the same time frame. This means immigration courts have receipts for fewer than four out of every ten unaccompanied alien children apprehended by Border Patrol this fiscal year. Mattingly said EOIR stands behind the numbers of receipts it has recorded, but would not speak about the difference between the number of juvenile receipts and CBP’s apprehension data.
Within DHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have the authority to charge unaccompanied alien children. An ICE spokesperson declined to comment on this story, and a USCIS spokesperson referred questions to DHS, which did not respond to requests for comment. A CBP spokesperson responded to NRO’s requests in an e-mail with a link to apprehension data publicly available on CBP’s website but did not provide comment about the number of NTAs issued to illegal-immigrant children.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, tells NRO it is difficult to determine how much of the discrepancy in apprehensions and receipts appears deliberate and how much resulted because federal officials were overwhelmed with work. “But I think it’s really willful negligence on the part of DHS leadership to allow this already dysfunctional system to become even more overwhelmed,” she says. “It’s just like deliberate chaos.”
Given the crush at the border for the last two years, it is more likely a product of agents being too busy to fill out the paperwork, rather than a deliberate effort to lose track of these kids.
Regardless, the effect is the same. Tens of thousands of children will now be able to disappear into our communities and the federal government will never know where they are.
I guess that’s one way to lighten the judicial load on immigration judges.
The president stopped by the South Lawn of the White House before boarding his helicopter for a trip to Martha’s Vineyard and the start of his vacation to make a statement on the situation in Iraq and take a few questions from friendly reporters.
U.S. airstrikes have “successfully destroyed arms and equipment” that terrorists with ISIS could have used against the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil in Iraq, U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday.
“We feel confident” that military efforts can prevent ISIS from slaughtering people on Mount Sinjar, where ISIS has been killing many members of the Yazidi minority, Obama said in remarks at the White House.
He declined to give a timetable for U.S. airstrikes and humanitarian air drops in Iraq. “Wherever and whenever (U.S.) personnel are facilities are threatened, it is my obligation … to make sure they’re protected,” he said.
The Iraqi government and military will need to take a series of steps to improve the security situation, Obama said. “I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks. I think this is going to take some time.”
There’s a lesson in this situation for Afghanistan, the president said: If leadership wants a new government to work, then people of different factions and ethnicities have “got to accommodate each other.”
While the U.S. can assist Iraqi security forces in fighting ISIS with airstrikes, ultimately it’s up to Iraqis to secure their country, the president said. That will take an inclusive government, he said. “All Iraqi communities need to unite to defend their country,” Obama said.
Obama said he spoke with French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron about the situation in Iraq, and that both have agreed to join the United States in providing humanitarian assistance to Iraqis endangered by ISIS.
In a scathing editorial, the Washington Post said the president’s Iraq policy “isn’t connected to a coherent strategy” and that it’s “minimalist” and “unrealistic”:
While U.S. airstrikes and drops of supplies may prevent the terrorist forces from massacring the Yazidi sect or toppling the pro-Western regime in Kurdistan, Mr. Obama lacks a plausible plan for addressing the larger threat posed by the Islamic State. In recent weeks, senior U.S. officials have described the danger in hair-curling terms: The Islamic State forces, which have captured large numbers of U.S.-supplied heavy weapons, threaten not only the Iraqi and Kurdish governments, but also Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. With hundreds of Western recruits, they have the ambition and capability to launch attacks against targets in Europe and the United States.
Yet by the White House’s own account, the measures ordered by Mr. Obama are not intended to defeat the Islamic State or even to stop its bloody advances in most of the region. Instead they are limited to protecting two cities where U.S. personnel are stationed and one mass of refugees. The hundreds of thousands of people in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere threatened by the al-Qaeda forces will receive no U.S. protection. Nor will the terrorists’ hold over the areas they already control, including the large city of Mosul and nearby oil fields, be tested by U.S. airpower.
U.S. officials say that Mr. Obama has refrained from a broader campaign because he believes the Islamic State is “an Iraqi responsibility,” as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel put it. The administration is pushing Iraq’s political factions, sharply divided along sectarian lines, to join in forming a new government; once such a government is formed, Mr. Obama said, “the United States will work with it and other countries in the region to provide increased support.”
The president is probably correct that Iraqi forces will have to take the lead in battling the Islamic State. But can they unify before it’s literally too late?
If the president’s policy is to buy time for the Iraqi government to get their act together by keeping the Islamic State away from Baghdad and Irbil, the Kurdish capital, he may be in for a long wait. The deep-seated resentments of the Sunnis is what’s driving the Islamic State forward, as the terrorist militia is actually quite small. It is augmented by Sunni militias and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party. Prime Minister Maliki has shown absolutely no sign so far that he is willing to share power with either the Sunnis or the Kurds. Not even the immense threat from the Islamic State has convinced him to change.
Given that reality, the president’s pinpricks on the Islamic State forces aren’t likely to stop them from continuing their rampage.
The terrorists who call themselves Islamic State sure aren’t shy about displaying their prowess in mowing down defenseless prisoners. The Daily Mail has several pictures the terrorist posted online detailing one such mass execution. After the prisoners had been murdered — and apparently, in some cases where the poor unfortunates were still alive — fighters could be seen smiling as they beheaded their victims.
I’m not going to post any of the photos. Death porn has become ubiquitous on the web and I have no intention of adding to the desensitizing experience of viewing the horrific death of human beings.
That said, even writing about the horror is nauseating. Not since Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes tore across Asia in the 13th century massacring hundreds of thousands, has a terrorist organization become so effective that the very mention of their name sends people flying. The Islamic State controls a territory larger than some Middle East nations. Their sacking of Iraqi banks has brought them immense wealth, as has their capture of several oil fields. They have a 50,000 man fighting force armed with sophisticated American weapons. Their very existence threatens the stability of the entire region.
So, should we dispatch the FBI to Tikrit and arrest the perpetrators of this massacre? Perhaps Scotland Yard would like to take on the terrorists in Mosul? Maybe the Surete can relieve the suffering of the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar by breaking the ISIS siege?
What do you do when terrorists no longer operate out of secretive, urban cells, but perform their atrocities in the full light of day and proudly record their butchery for all the world to see?
What should be done to wipe this scourge from the earth?
Fahad Nazer, a Saudi terrorism consultant, writes in CNN:
The world grew accustomed to Osama bin Laden’s audio and video messages from undisclosed locations in which he railed about Western “crusaders” and their “agents” in the Arab and Muslim worlds and vowed to bring death and destruction to both. Although what appears to be Baghdadi’s first audio message after the declaration of the caliphate still hit on those themes, war against the West doesn’t seem to be his focus.
His sermon in a mosque in Mosul was startling. The image of Baghdadi preaching in public — mostly about the implications of the establishment of his caliphate and his responsibility to Muslims and theirs to him — was a game changer. It was a stark contrast to bin Laden’s — and his successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri’s — messages, which are recorded in makeshift studios with no audience and remain largely reflective of an organization engaged in a covert, asymmetrical war whose aim is to weaken its adversaries and their “patrons” before it can establish its ultimate goal. Baghdadi portrays al-Zawahiri’s dream as his current reality.
In addition to controlling more territory than any al Qaeda branch ever has, ISIS has commandeered heavy weaponry from Iraqi security forces that have failed to defend Sunni-majority areas. Its total assets in cash and weapons are estimated at about $2 billion.
Its rapid advances in Iraq also indicate that it has learned from other al Qaeda affiliates’ mistakes, as it has forged tentative alliances with some Sunni tribes and ex-Baathists. Its propaganda makes clear that the group is committed to presenting itself as an entity that can actually govern and that can provide the public goods and services — including security — that weak or oppressive states fail to provide. In short, it is adopting the Hamas and Hezbollah model.
This is not “state sponsored terrorism.” Nor is it a faction in a government that supports terrorism, like the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI.
The Islamic State is terrorism personified. Terror is not an element of policy, but the embodiment of a governing philosophy. “Join us or die” is not a slogan, it is an expression of national will.
It is too early to talk about anyone, much less America, going to war to destroy them. The Iraqi government may yet get its act together, and confront the menace. The Iraqi army may perform above expectations and push the terrorists back.
But if none of that happens, then what? Do we accept a full-blown terrorist state in the most unstable region of the world — a military and economic power with sophisticated weapons and nearly unlimited funding thanks to captured oil wealth?
At that point, we can retire the notion that fighting terrorism is best left to law enforcement, and start working on a means to destroy an entity that threatens to set back human civilization more than a thousand years. It could take a coalition of the willing — with or without the US — to confront the evil. But whatever the price, the civilized part of the world must be willing to pay it.
It took the dire plight of 150,000 Yazidis to bestir our president over the out and out butchery that the Islamic State is carrying out on ethnic and religious minorities who happen to get in their way. About 40,000 followers of that ancient religion had been trapped on a mountain with no food or water, and little ammunition to continue the fight against advancing ISIS barbarians.
Now, Kurdish TV is reporting that US planes bombed ISIS positions, trying to relieve the pressure on the Yazidis.
American military forces bombed at least two targets in northern Iraq on Thursday night to rout Islamist insurgents who have trapped tens of thousands of religious minorities in Kurdish areas, Kurdish officials said.
Word of the bombings, reported on Kurdish television from the city of Erbil, came as President Obama was preparing to make a statement in Washington.
Kurdish officials said the bombings targeted fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria who had seized two towns, Gwer and Mahmour. Residents who had fled those areas by car were heard honking their horns in approval. But Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said on Twitter that the reports of the bombings were false.
Obama administration officials had said earlier in the day that Mr. Obama was considering airstrikes or airdrops of food and medicine to address a humanitarian crisis among as many as 40,000 members of religious minorities in Iraq, who have been dying of heat and thirst on a mountaintop where they took shelter after death threats from ISIS.
It wouldn’t be unusual for the Pentagon to deny the bombings took place — especially since the operation may still be ongoing.
As Bridget Johnson wrote earlier, Turkey has been the only country active in trying to save the Yazidis. But Turkey has very little interest in helping the Kurds fight off ISIS, because of the long rebellion by Turkish Kurds against the government.
The US has an interest in a strong, independent Kurdish state. Perhaps while we’re bombing ISIS positions to help the Yazidis, while we’re in the neighborhood, maybe we should take a few shots at ISIS forces who are bedeviling the Peshmerga, the tough little Kurdish army that has been reeling in the last fortnight from ISIS attacks.
We wouldn’t want to interrupt the president’s golf game or fundraising schedule, but if he can squeeze it in, perhaps he can devote some time to dealing with this growing threat from the Islamic State.
John Kerry reporting for duty. John Kerry windsurfing. John Kerry riding a pink girl’s bicycle?
The photo was snapped by a Nantucket local and published in the Boston Herald. Howie Carr supplies the snark:
Has Vladimir Putin seen this photo of John Kerry yet? Has Benjamin Netanyahu?
When they do, I think one of them will be laughing and the other — well, no, even Bibi will be cracking up when he sees Hamas’ best buddy wobbling on a bicycle on Nantucket last weekend.
A girl’s bike.
A girl’s pink bike.
As usual with these annual summer photos on Nantucket, Kerry looks surprised that someone just walking along happens to have a cellphone camera. It’s happened to Liveshot how many times now, just on Nantucket, and he’s still astounded that it’s happened again.
Apparently, he still believes it’s 1984, and the only photographers are from the Globe, and if they take another embarrassing shot, he can just call Mr. Winship or Mrs. Winship and get it killed.
Now, embarrassing photos go around the world when the Globe is Photoshopping tomorrow’s halo above Liveshot’s exquisitely coiffed mane.
Behind him, you can see his new white dog — could his name be Surrender? I don’t see a baggie in Mr. Secretary’s hand, nor do I see Glenn Johnson trailing behind him. That’s a job his aide Johnson is well-suited for — following behind, cleaning up messes left by a clueless Democrat and his pup. After all, Glenn was Kerry’s head cheerleader at the Globe.
I just got back from Dallas, where I went to the museums for George W. Bush and JFK. They have some amazing photos at both locations, but after seeing this last photo of the secretary of state, I have an idea for where John Kerry’s “museum” should go.
On Nantucket, where his greatest photos have been taken.
Last year, it was the Herald’s photo of him climbing onto his $7.5-million yacht, the Isabella, the one he tried to avoid paying taxes on, as Egypt was convulsed in revolution.
Then there was the late-night photo of him with some female teenyboppers, one of them sipping a cold one out of a red Solo cup with a penis straw.
And speaking of Nantucket, don’t forget the famous video from the 2004 election, of Kerry windsurfing — a man of the people, all right, as long as the people are gigolos.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has been seen tramping through the brush, bare chested, with a hunting rifle, as you’ll see in the photo on the next page.
The Daily Caller is reporting that the IRS is abolishing the mandatory expiration date for illegal aliens’ Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Previously, the number had to be renewed every 5 years and the illegal alien had to file a tax return in at least one of those years.
The rule was changed in 2013 because of widespread fraud and abuse. Now the IRS has changed it back to where it used to be?
The agency claims it needs “time to adjust and allow the IRS to reprogram its systems” and will begin to cancel ITIN’s again in 2016.
Somehow, I get the feeling that that deadline is going to magically slip.
The ITIN program is primarily used by undocumented workers to follow the law and file income taxes in the United States. Reports came out during the IRS scandal linking ITIN fraud to billions in lost taxpayer dollars. The IRS was forced to reform the ITIN program at the start of 2013 – but this new regulation undoes that reform.
“The IRS will not deactivate an ITIN that has been used on at least one tax return in the past five years,” the IRS said in an explainer of the new policy. “To give all interested parties time to adjust and allow the IRS to reprogram its systems, the IRS will not begin deactivating ITINs until 2016…The new, more uniform policy applies to any ITIN, regardless of when it was issued.”
“Developed in consultation with taxpayers, their representatives and other stakeholders, the new policy replaces the existing one that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2013,” the IRS stated. “Under the old policy, announced in November 2012, ITINs issued after Jan. 1, 2013 would have automatically expired after five years, even if used properly and regularly by taxpayers.”
Republican Texas Rep. Sam Johnson grilled the acting commissioner of the IRS on ITIN fraud at a hearing as recent as June 27, 2013. (RELATED: How To Destroy A Hard Drive: IRS Edition)
“Last summer the IG issued a damning report in which it found that IRS management ‘discouraged’ IRS workers from ‘detecting fraudulent [ITIN] applications.’ The IG’s report led me to call on then-Commissioner Shulman to resign,” Johnson said to then-acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel.
“On the screen, I’ve got figure 6 from the 2012 IG report showing most frequently used addresses for ITIN tax refunds. As you can see, nearly 24,000 tax refunds totaling $46.4 million were issued to the same address in Atlanta,” Johnson said. “Bottom-line these ITINs are costing taxpayers dearly because they can be used to fraudulently get tax refunds…Look at figure 3 on the screen. Over 1,000 ITINs were assigned to individuals using the same address in Atlanta. You agree that there’s still a problem?”
“Also the IG found that IRS workers handling ITIN applications ‘remain concerned’ that management will basically pressure them to rubberstamp applications instead of ensuring that ‘only qualified individuals receive an ITIN,’” Johnson pointed out.
Absolutely remarkable. The IRS apparently doesn’t mind paying out fraudulent refunds to illegal aliens, and balks at using one of the tools the agency needs to prevent that fraud.
The concept of an ITIN isn’t a bad one. Getting illegals to pay their share of taxes is fine — especially since the government shows no interest in going after them. If they’re going to be here, they may as well contribute.
But somebody has to figure out a way to identify the frauds. Is the IRS saying their computers don’t red flag a return that features an address shared by 1000 other people? My old Tandy 1000 could probably have done that.
Is this another example of the IRS tailoring it’s policies to benefit favored constituencies? It sure looks that way, although you could probably never prove it. It’s a reminder that the entire executive branch of the government has been enlisted in President Obama’s quest to change America.
America’s ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, attended the annual memorial service, remembering that day 69 years ago when the US dropped an atomic bomb on the city.
It’s unusual for the American ambassador to attend the memorial. Kennedy’s appearance marks only the 4th time a US ambassador has taken part.
Ms. Kennedy did not give a speech or lay a wreath at the ceremony, according to the city of Hiroshima. “This is a day for somber reflection and a renewed commitment to building a more peaceful world,” the ambassador said in a statement released by the U.S. Embassy.
As the only country to have suffered atomic bomb attacks, Japan “has the obligation to realize a world without nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in his speech during the ceremony in Hiroshima. Mr. Abe also pledged that Japan will continue to ban production, possession or permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons in the country.
Although Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui did not touch on Mr. Abe’s efforts to revise Japan’s constitution, he kept the government in check by mentioning in his speech that the country has enjoyed 69 years of peace thanks to the document’s “sublime pacifism.”
Following the ceremony, representatives of atomic bombing victims met with Mr. Abe and requested that his cabinet withdraw its decision to pursue the right to collective self-defense.
The prime minister replied that the government’s intention is to provide peace and protect the lives of the Japanese public. He explained that the change is not meant to enable Japan to participate in war.
Click here to view a related photo gallery
The ceremony, attended by approximately 45,000 people, began at 8 a.m. An additional 5,507 people were added to the registers of names of fallen atomic bomb victims, bringing the total number to 292,325.
Those present at the ceremony held a minute of silence at 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb was dropped on the city. The attack caused the deaths of approximately 140,000 people in Hiroshima by the end of 1945. Another 70,000 people died in Nagasaki three days later due to the second U.S. atomic bombing on Japan.
Ms. Kennedy is also expected to attend the ceremony of the atomic bombings in Nagasaki on Aug. 9.
Abe’s decision to revise the Japanese constitution isn’t as controversial as it would have been a few years ago. Many Japanese realize that their nation cannot put total reliance on America for its defense anymore. The point was driven home by China’s recent aggressiveness in the South China Sea and America’s tepid response.
The Hiroshima ceremony is non-political, but Kennedy’s presence has made waves both here and in Japan. Many Japanese believe it inappropriate that a representative from the country that inflicted mass destruction on their homeland should attend the memorial. Some Americans believe that a high ranking US official attending the ceremony is tantamount to endorsing the Japanese view that dropping the bombs were unnecessary.
Perhaps it’s time to move on for both countries. Japanese vets regularly attend the Pearl Harbor memorial service every December 7, as our vets return the gesture on August 6 in Hiroshima. If the war’s fighting men can reconcile over the two great horrors of that war, perhaps both countries can as well.
There’s a new leaker in town, says the federal government, and he’s handing over more sensitive national security documents to selected press outlets.
Specifically, whoever is doing the leaking has taken the secret documents to Glenn Greenwald — the same writer who aided Edward Snowden in his efforts to expose NSA snooping.
The federal government has concluded there’s a new leaker exposing national security documents in the aftermath of surveillance disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, U.S. officials tell CNN.
Proof of the newest leak comes from national security documents that formed the basis of a news story published Tuesday by the Intercept, the news site launched by Glenn Greenwald, who also published Snowden’s leaks.
NSA leaker Edward Snowden asks to extend Russia asylum
The Intercept article focuses on the growth in U.S. government databases of known or suspected terrorist names during the Obama administration.
The article cites documents prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center dated August 2013, which is after Snowden flew to Russia to avoid U.S. criminal charges.
Greenwald has suggested there was another leaker. In July, he said on Twitter “it seems clear at this point” that there was another. Government officials have been investigating to find out who.
In a February interview with CNN’s Reliable Sources, Greenwald said: “I definitely think it’s fair to say that there are people who have been inspired by Edward Snowden’s courage and by the great good and virtue that it has achieved.”
He added, “I have no doubt there will be other sources inside the government who see extreme wrongdoing who are inspired by Edward Snowden.”
There’s a fascinating twist to this story.
As expected, such a pithy observation has elicited howls of outrage from the left. The comment was made by Alabama Republican Congressman Mo Brooks, who used the phrase in a purely political context — that the GOP’s immigration stance wouldn’t hurt the party, while the Democrats’ push for immigration reform was politically stupid.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) doesn’t think that the hardline stance Republicans have taken on immigration could hurt the party’s standing with Hispanic voters. Instead, he thinks Democrats are hurting their prospects with white voters.
“This is a part of the war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party. And the way in which they’re launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else,” he said during an interview Monday with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. “It’s part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, greed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things. Well that’s not true.”
Brooks was responding to comments made by National Journal’s Ron Fournier, who told Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday that “the fastest growing voting bloc in this country thinks the Republican Party hates them. This party, your party, cannot be the party of the future beyond November if you’re seen as the party of white people.”
Brooks responded by saying that all demographic groups in America support securing the nation’s border and a wide range of Americans would be affected by an influx of undocumented immigration.
“It doesn’t make any difference if you’re a white American, a black American, a Hispanic American, an Asian American or if you’re a woman or a man. Every single demographic group is hurt by falling wages and lost jobs,” he said.
“Democrats, they have to demagogue on this and try and turn it into a racial issue, which is an emotional issue, rather than a thoughtful issue,” he added. “If it becomes a thoughtful issue, then we win and we win big. And they lose and they lose big.”
Ingraham didn’t seem to be on board with Brooks’ “war on whites” remark, telling him it was “a little out there.”
I’m not sure the comment is “out there” at all. The exaggeration comes when trying to describe the Democrats’ identity politics: slice and dice the electorate into nice, neat little boxes and target them with ads and talking points demonizing Republicans for each group. Blacks are told the GOP wants to return to the days of Jim Crow. Hispanics, that Republicans want to deport them even if they’re legal. Single women, that the GOP wants to take away their birth control pills and make life miserable for them. Even if those specific charges aren’t used by Democrats, they are broadly hinted at.
And Republicans play right into the stereotypes. Rep. Brooks is mostly correct in his analysis of the immigration issue, although Hispanics support the DREAMers and an end to deportation that would break up families among other parts of the immigration reform legislation. But he exaggerates when he says Democrats claim all whites hate everyone else. And the administration’s border and immigration strategy constitutes a war on anyone who values the rule of law and the belief in our sovereignty. In that respect, race, creed, or sex doesn’t matter. Otherwise, the record is clear that President Obama has won two straight elections using a particularly vulgar form of identity politics that includes turning the middle class against those Americans who are successful by portraying the rich as greedy plutocrats who don’t deserve what they’ve achieved.
The irony is that Brooks will be vilified for racially dividing America when it’s the Democrats whose deliberate political strategy of cleaving the electorate by skin color has done more to damage and divide America than anything this back bench Republican could ever do.
And those are the ones we’ve caught. If one were to speculate on how many from countries dealing with the ebola crisis were able to successfully elude the Border Patrol, the number would be two or three times that, or up to more than 200.
The chance that any of these border jumpers who managed to make it into the interior of the US are afflicted with ebola is not zero. And when you’re dealing with a disease that claims an 80% mortality rate, nothing less than zero is acceptable.
The number of illegals from ebola-afflicted countries comes from a secret report obtained by Breitbart from the Customs and Border Protection agency.
The report reveals the apprehension numbers ranging from 2010 through July 2014. It shows that most of the human smuggling from Syria and Albania into the U.S. comes through Central America. The report also indicates the routes individuals from North Africa and the Middle East take into the European Union, either to illegally migrate there or as a possible stop in their journey to the United States. The data are broken down further into the specific U.S. border sectors where the apprehensions and contact occurred.
Among the significant revelations are that individuals from nations currently suffering from the world’s largest Ebola outbreak have been caught attempting to sneak across the porous U.S. border into the interior of the United States. At least 71 individuals from the three nations affected by the current Ebola outbreak have either turned themselves in or been caught attempting to illegally enter the U.S. by U.S. authorities between January 2014 and July 2014.
As of July 20, 2014, 1,443 individuals from China were caught sneaking across the porous U.S. border this year alone, with another 1,803 individuals either turning themselves in to U.S. authorities at official ports of entry, or being caught attempting to illegally enter at the ports of entry. This comes amid a massive crackdown by Chinese authorities of Islamic terrorists in the Communist nation.
Twenty-eight individuals from Pakistan were caught attempting to sneak into the U.S. this year alone, with another 211 individuals either turning themselves in or being caught at official ports of entry.
Thirteen Egyptians were caught trying to sneak into the U.S. this year alone, with another 168 either turning themselves in or being caught at official ports of entry.
As the Breitbart article points out, most of the world appears to be taking advantage of our porous borders.
Bridget Johnson’s Tatler post on CDC director Thomas Friedan’s comment — “I do not think it’s in the cards that we would have widespread Ebola in this country” — is reassuring only if you take into account that only those who enter the country legally from afflicted nations would put us at risk.
In fact, sick illegals crossing the border would be far more dangerous than someone showing up at an airport with the virus. The number of potential victims would be far greater and it would be harder to keep the virus from spreading given the distances traveled by the illegal.
All it takes is one or two sick people to successfully cross the border to set off a panic.
A shocking admission — and job description — from the attorney general that sent a chill down my spine when I first read it.
Holder was interviewed by Juan Williams for The Hill and had this to say about how he views himself and his job:
Holder remains indifferent to conservative protests that he is an ‘activist’ looking for trouble by digging into what he calls “policies [with] disproportionate impact on communities of color.”
“If you want to call me an activist attorney general, I will proudly accept that label,” he said. “Any attorney general who is not an activist is not doing his or her job. The responsibility of the attorney general is to change things [and] bring us closer to the ideals expressed in our founding documents.”
Later, he defiantly added that critics who say his department includes an “activist civil rights division and this is an activist attorney general — I’d say I agree with you 1000 percent and [I am] proud of it.”
Holder famously stirred white conservative anger when he said America is a “nation of cowards,” for its reluctance to engage in serious conversations about racial disparities. In a recent speech at historically black Morgan State University, he reiterated that position.
Disparate racial outcomes “are not only shameful and unacceptable – they impede our ability to see that justice is done,” Holder said. “And they perpetuate cycles of poverty, crime and incarceration that trap individuals, destroy communities and decimate minority neighborhoods.”
Holder’s bitter divide with conservatives about racial issues has its roots in the city in which we conducted our interview. In the 2008 election, the presence of two members of the New Black Panther Party at a polling station in Philadelphia led Republican prosecutors to bring charges of voter intimidation.
House Republicans claimed Holder’s Justice Department treated the case lightly and used a double standard, going easy on blacks when whites charged with the same crime would have faced harsh prosecution.
This is wrong on so many levels as to be beyond belief. The job of an attorney general is not to be an activist, but to be the chief law enforcement officer of the U.S. Putting an activist in that job is like throwing a match into a gasoline dump. The possibility of abuses of power is astounding and this is exactly what we’ve seen in Holder’s Justice Department over the years.
Further, it is not the “responsibility of the attorney general… to change things [and] bring us closer to the ideals expressed in our founding documents.” Being ignorant of one’s constitutional responsibilities is one thing. Making up an alternate job description is quite another. The AG does not pass legislation, nor does he decide what is constitutional and what isn’t. Holder is confusing himself with both Congress and the Supreme Court.
Finally, basing public policy on “outcomes” of any kind — disparate or not — violates the spirit of the Constitution and sound public policy. Racism there still is in America — few would deny that. But to base policy decisions on outcomes that may be due to factors other than racisim — cultural differences, geographical issues — is wrongheaded and imprudent.
Holder’s words remind us: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
The UN is going bonkers because they say another one of their schools in Gaza was shelled. Ten people were killed and dozens injured, but read this account carefully from The Guardian:
A deadly attack on a school in the city of Rafah in the south of Gaza has been denounced as a “moral outrage” and “criminal act” by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.
At least 10 people were killed and dozens more wounded after a projectile struck a street outside the school gates on Sunday morning.
The school was sheltering more than 3,000 people displaced by fighting in the area. It has been the scene of heavy bombardment by the Israeli military and fierce clashes following the suspected capture by Hamas fighters of an Israeli soldier, later declared killed in action.
In a statement, Ban called on those responsible for the “gross violation of international humanitarian law” to be held accountable. He said the “Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have been repeatedly informed of the location of these sites.”
At the time of the strike – about 10.50am local time – dozens of children and adults were clustered around the gates buying biscuits and sweets from stalls set up by locals.
The missile struck the ground eight to 10 metres from the open gates. Witnesses at the scene less than an hour after the explosion claimed it had been fired from one of the many unmanned Israeli drones in the air above Rafah.
United Nations officials in Gaza described a “shelling incident” or an air strike.
The attack was not on the school. The bomb hit the street outside the gates of the school and killed and injured people standing at the gate — not in the school itself which was being used as a shelter.
In fact, look at the background of this Guardian video and note that the school appears to be untouched by the explosion:
No, I am not trying minimize the deaths of civilians. But if you’re going to charge Israel with a war crime, don’t you think it would behoove those doing the charging that they get the facts right?
General Secretary Moon could have at least waited for an explanation from the IDF:
The Israeli army said it had targeted three members of Islamic Jihad on a motorbike near the school – contradicting witnesses who said they saw no vehicles – but was investigating the effects of the attack.
To my untrained ear, it sounds like a pinpoint attack. It was a tragedy that people were at the gate buying sweets, but unless the IDF had real time intelligence indicating there were civilians present, why should they expect people to be outside of the shelter?
I think the UN and the press should stop calling this an “attack” on a school and accurately describe it as a strike near a school. Unless there was damage to the school itself or casualties inside the building, it is inaccurate to portray the strike in that way.
The Telegraph reports:
The school had been providing shelter to more than 3,000 people – the same number that had been seeking refuge at a girl’s school in Jabaliya last Wednesday when it came under attack from a hail of Israeli shells.
In contrast to that strike, which wrecked a classroom full of sleeping woman and children, the physical destruction this time appeared minimal: just a small but deep hole in the road where the missile had landed.
As I suspected, the school was untouched.
Does it really matter? I suppose if you want to charge Israel with a war crime for bombing a street, they can try that. It probably works for those already predisposed to hate Israel.
But for the few objective observers out there, it is wholly unacceptable to continue the fiction that a school was bombed when no such event occurred.
Thank goodness the pictures of dead IDF soldiers posted by Hamas to their Twitter account aren’t of bloody and mangled bodies. They are pictures of how parents and loved ones would like to remember them in life — which makes this Hamas PR campaign even more barbaric and revolting.
We killed 150 Zionist soldiers. Here’s photo of killed soldiers which the Zionist Enemy, Israel officially recognized pic.twitter.com/uqI1Otg10y
— Al-Qassam Brigades (@Qassam_English) August 2, 2014
As you might expect, the comments are a treat:
— Salim Mez (privé) (@salim85Mez) August 2, 2014
@Qassam_English all gone to hell fu**ing zionists
— hasan78628 (@hasan78628) August 2, 2014
Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit reminds us that Nancy Pelosi referred to Hamas last week as a “humanitarian organization.”
Yeah…real humanitarians that Hamas.
A report from Spiegel Online says that calls made by US Secretary of State John Kerry last year during the Middle East peace talks were intercepted by Israeli intelligence and at least one other intelligence service. The calls were not made on encrypted equipment, but rather ordinary phones using regular satellite communications.
SPIEGEL has learned from reliable sources that Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on US Secretary of State John Kerry during Middle East peace negotiations. In addition to the Israelis, at least one other intelligence service also listened in as Kerry mediated last year between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states, several intelligence service sources told SPIEGEL. Revelations of the eavesdropping could further damage already tense relations between the US government and Israel.
During the peak stage of peace talks last year, Kerry spoke regularly with high-ranking negotiating partners in the Middle East. At the time, some of these calls were not made on encrypted equipment, but instead on normal telephones, with the conversations transmitted by satellite. Intelligence agencies intercepted some of those calls. The government in Jerusalem then used the information obtained in international negotiations aiming to reach a diplomatic solution in the Middle East.
In the current Gaza conflict, the Israelis have massively criticized Kerry, with a few ministers indirectly calling on him to withdraw from peace talks. Both the US State Department and the Israeli authorities declined to comment.
Only one week ago, Kerry flew to Israel to mediate between the conflict parties, but the Israelis brusquely rejected a draft proposal for a cease-fire. The plan reportedly didn’t include any language demanding that Hamas abandon its rocket arsenal and destroy its tunnel system. Last year, Kerry undertook intensive diplomatic efforts to seek a solution in the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but they ultimately failed. Since those talks, relations between Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been tense.
Anything noteworthy said by Kerry over a non-encrypted device would represent negligence on his part. That’s why I just can’t imagine those intercepts containing anything of real value. Perhaps the calls contained hints of Kerry’s state of mind, and maybe even his characterizations of some of the principles involved. But anything concrete, like revealing negotiating positions or fall back positions probably didn’t happen.
Still, the idea of an ally listening in to conversations by a high ranking American official is unsettling, if not surprising. The outrage over American spying on Germany, for instance, is a lot of hot air. To think that a foreign intelligence service, friend or foe, would forgo the opportunity to listen in to unencrypted phone conversations of a national leader is hard to imagine. Can you imagine a SIGINT agency of a foreign government saying “We can’t eavesdrop on these conversations from our ally because it would be unethical”?
Lord Palmerston famously said, “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” That may be taking realpolitik to its extreme, but its a valid concept up to a point. There’s a lot of information floating around out there and intel agencies wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t try to grab it.
As far as we know, Israel did not try to crack any of the encrypted calls Kerry made during his diplomacy. And it’s an open question what advantage, if any, Israel got by listening in to Kerry’s cellphone calls. The US government should complain about the breach but any protests should be pro forma.
It’s hard to see how this is a big deal, despite Spiegel’s efforts to make a splash.
Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was presumed to have been captured by Hamas on Friday, was declared dead by the IDF early Sunday morning.
Goldin’s unit was investigating a Hamas tunnel on Friday when terrorists emerged and engaged the IDF troops in a fierce firefight. It is unclear whether Goldin was killed by the Hamas suicide bomber whose body was found near where Goldin was last seen, or by an Israeli strike.
A special panel headed by Chief Military Rabbi Brig. Gen. Rafi Peretz announced Goldin’s death, saying the conclusion was reached “based on forensic evidence from the scene of the attack.”
Two other Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack. The incident occurred during a breach of the humanitarian ceasefire declared a few hours earlier between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza.
On Friday morning, soldiers from the Givati Brigade’s special forces company advanced toward a tunnel opening near the outskirts of Rafah, 2.5 kilometers from Israeli territory. The tunnel was buttressed by reinforced concrete on both sides; defense officials said it had been dug into Israel with the intent of carrying out a terror attack.
Some members of the company, including the commander, Maj. Benaya Sarel, his radioman Staff Sgt. Liel Gidoni and squad leader Goldin approached the structure housing the tunnel opening. As the rest of the soldiers went around the other side of an adjacent building, combatants opened fire on Sarel, Gidoni and Goldin.
The other soldiers reported that this was “heavy fire.” A few minutes later, additional forces arrived and discovered that Sarel and Gidoni had been killed, and that next to their bodies was the body of a militant who had presumably detonated an explosive belt.
Later, the soldiers realized that squad leader Goldin was missing and the deputy company commander decided to advance toward the building and enter the tunnel. The tunnel included corridors, one of them leading to a mosque to the east. Another shaft was found leading to a Hamas bunker.
While there is sorrow over the death of the young IDF reservist, many Israelis are relieved that Hamas has been denied a valuable bargaining chip. You may recall the incident involving another young reservist, Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in 2006 and was held for five excruciating years. Finally, in 2011, Israel struck a deal — Shalit for 1027 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails. Many of those released had participated in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.
The war against Hamas continues with Israel refusing to talk a cease-fire until it’s good and ready. That may not be for a while as the IDF pummels Hamas positions in Gaza. They have redeployed some forces on the border, but there appears to be no let-up in Israel’s attacks.