Dog Brothers Public Forum


Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 19, 2017, 06:48:09 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
105372 Posts in 2392 Topics by 1093 Members
Latest Member: Cruces
* Home Help Search Login Register
  Show Posts
Pages: 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 ... 827
151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Let's all agree not to visit Turkey on: October 08, 2017, 07:16:43 AM
152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah escalates threats as Syria becomes Iranian base on: October 08, 2017, 07:10:10 AM
Hizballah's Nasrallah Escalates Threats as Syria Turns Into Iranian Base
by Yaakov Lappin
Special to IPT News
October 8, 2017
153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah escalates threats as Syria becomes Iranian base on: October 08, 2017, 07:09:40 AM
Hizballah's Nasrallah Escalates Threats as Syria Turns Into Iranian Base
by Yaakov Lappin
Special to IPT News
October 8, 2017
154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Ukraine- intrigue and corruption on: October 08, 2017, 06:46:03 AM

POLTAVA, Ukraine — After four years of investigation by the German police, the F.B.I. and other crime-fighting agencies around the world, heavily armed security officers stormed an apartment in the central Ukrainian town of Poltava. After a brief exchange of gunfire, they captured their prey: the man suspected of leading a cybercrime gang accused of stealing more than $100 million.

The arrest of Gennadi Kapkanov, 33, a Russian-born Ukrainian hacker, and the takedown of Avalanche, a vast network of computers he and his confederates were accused of hijacking through malware and turning into a global criminal enterprise, won a rare round of applause for Ukraine from its frequently dispirited Western backers.
By the following day, however, Mr. Kapkanov had disappeared.

A judge in a district court in Poltava turned down a prosecution request that he be held in preventive custody for 40 days, and ordered him set free. Mr. Kapkanov has not been seen since.

Whether Mr. Kapkanov’s flight was the result of corruption, incompetence or a mix of the two has not been clearly established. The prosecutor general in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, threatened to fire the local prosecutor but backed off when it became clear that the case had been handled by one of his own deputies.
The Poltava debacle helps explain why Ukraine, a land of so much promise thanks to its educated population, fertile farmland and vibrant civil society, has a tendency instead to generate so many headline-grabbing scandals.

Over the past year, Ukraine has been battered by revelations: off-the-books payments to President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort; the creation in Ukraine of malware used in hacking attacks by Russia during the 2016 American presidential election; and speculation that its Soviet-era missile technology may have been smuggled to North Korea.

The sagas are unrelated in their substance and timing. Mr. Manafort’s activities in Ukraine predate Ukraine’s 2014 revolution, while the others follow it. But they all flow in part from the same dysfunctions of a weak state gnawed by corruption and thrown off balance by constant Russian pressure, and the open vistas of opportunity for skulduggery that these have offered.

“Why is there so much noise around Ukraine? Because Ukraine is the epicenter of the confrontation between the Western democratic world and authoritarian, totalitarian states,” Oleksandr Turchynov, the head of Ukraine’s national security and defense council, said in an interview. He denounced reports of Ukraine providing missiles to North Korea as Russian disinformation aimed at undermining Western support.

But while Russia has worked steadily since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union to weaken Ukraine and keep it within Moscow’s orbit of influence — first through economic pressure and political meddling and then military aggression — Ukraine has also enfeebled itself.

“The thread that ties strange things together in Ukraine is nearly always corruption,” said Serhiy A. Leshchenko, an opposition member of the Ukrainian Parliament and vociferous critic of President Petro O. Poroshenko.

Mr. Poroshenko, he conceded, is better than his predecessor, the kleptocratic, pro-Russian leader — and former Manafort client — Viktor F. Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in February 2014 after months of street protests in Kiev. “But that is only because he is weaker, and society is much stronger,” Mr. Leshchenko said.

President Petro O. Poroshenko in 2014. He is better than his predecessor, a critic says, “only because he is weaker and society is much stronger.” Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Mr. Poroshenko, unlike his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir V. Putin, also has to contend with a lively free press that delights in probing and exposing government stumbles and the maneuvers of self-dealing insiders.

“Ukraine, with the exception of the Baltic States, is the only post-Soviet republic which is not authoritarian,” said Serhii Plokhii, a Harvard professor and the author of a history of Ukraine. And unlike the three Baltic States, which enjoyed brief periods of independence between the First and Second World Wars, Ukraine has only an acute awareness of centuries of subjugation by outside powers, among them Poland, Austria and Russia, that left its people inherently wary of authority.

“What is Ukraine’s national idea? It is resistance to authority,” said Taras Chornovil, a former adviser to Mr. Yanukovych.

Ukraine’s painful history as a put-upon appendage has left it ill-equipped to curb unruly habits at odds with the rule-based, scandal-shy order of the European Union, which it aspires to join.

“Its attempts to stay democratic while building a nation are often messy, its oligarchs all powerful and, given the virtual absence of state control over media and oligarchic competition, post-Soviet corruption is out in the open,” Mr. Plokhii said.

Ukraine’s domestic intelligence service, or S.B.U., its powers of surveillance greatly enhanced by monitoring equipment provided by the United States after Mr. Yanukovych
decamped to Russia, has added its own highly selective and distorted form of transparency by leaking information about alleged wrongdoing, often for political or financial gain.

Controlled by Mr. Poroshenko, the S.B.U. has become a tool in domestic political and business battles, with anti-corruption activists accusing it of working to undermine, not help, their cause.

While still politically influenced, Ukrainian law enforcement is no longer the swamp of incompetence and corruption it once was. It has been able to monitor Mr. Manafort’s former business associates and turn up evidence of Russian hacking in the 2016 United States election, in part owing to American technical support.

The Central Intelligence Agency tore out a Russian-provided cellphone surveillance system, and put in American-supplied computers, said Viktoria Gorbuz, a former head of a liaison office at the S.B.U. that worked with foreign governments.

Ms. Gorbuz’s department translated telephone intercepts from the new system and forwarded them to the Americans. “This team would translate and immediately, 24 hours a day, be in full cooperation with our American colleagues,” she said.

It is unclear whether any phone intercepts relevant to the election meddling investigation have gone to the American authorities. But a Ukrainian law enforcement official has given journalists partial phone records of former associates of Mr. Manafort.

Dismantling Russian spy gear, however, proved far easier than purging Russian power, which has shadowed Ukraine constantly since it declared independence in 1991 but became far more aggressive in recent years.

Since March 2014 Ukraine has lost Crimea to Russian annexation and large chunks of its industrial heartland in the east to rebels backed by fighters and weapons from Russia. It has also been used as a testing ground by Moscow for disinformation and hacking techniques later deployed during presidential election campaigns in the United States and France.

A pro-Russian rally in Feodosia, Crimea, in 2014. Russia annexed Crimea and aided separatists in eastern Ukraine, contributing to the chaos that keeps Ukraine unstable. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Ukrainian officials invariably cite Russian meddling to explain why anti-corruption and other steps demanded by the West have often faltered. While Russia is a convenient excuse, it is also a very real menace.

In Poltava, the center of town is dominated by a czarist-era monument to Russia’s victory over Sweden in a 1709 battle that sealed Russia’s rise as the region’s pre-eminent power and ended Ukrainians’ early aspirations for their own state.

Now draped in Ukrainian flags, the monument nonetheless stands as a powerful reminder of Russia’s looming presence in a country that has struggled to create a functioning independent state on the fragile foundations left by more than 70 years of communism and centuries of subjugation by Russian czars.

Igor Gavrilenko, a lecturer in Ukrainian history at the Poltava National Technical University, said the release of Mr. Kapkanov, the man accused of being a cybercrime kingpin, was typical of the dysfunction that has plagued Ukraine.

“The whole situation is absurd, but nothing in my country really surprises me anymore,” he said, sitting in a park near the Poltava battle monument. “Ukraine is a country where anything is possible if you have money.”

It was to Ukraine that Mr. Manafort looked for new business horizons after doing work for despots in Africa and Asia. Setting up shop in Kiev, he became entangled in a murky constellation of Russian and Ukrainian business tycoons and politicians, notably Mr. Yanukovych, the president ousted in 2014.

Mr. Chornovil, who worked as Mr. Yanukovych’s campaign manager in 2004, remembers Mr. Manafort as “arrogant and full of self-confidence,” a showman who liked to organize big, splashy events that required lavish spending.

A secret ledger recording payments to Mr. Manafort and others, he said, was part of a crude effort to keep track of all the money sloshing through Mr. Yanukovych’s administration.

“Everyone was stealing, and the party wanted a record of who got what,” Mr. Chornovil. “They never imagined that they might lose power one day and the accounts would come to light.”

Mr. Manafort, he said, often clashed with members of the president’s entourage but “had a colossal influence on Yanukovych for some reason.”
He added: “He was not here out of any ideology but to make money. He was here exclusively for the money.”

A rally in Independence Square in Kiev in 2013. Ukraine has been too fragmented to impose either Russian-style authoritarianism or a modern democratic order. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

The end of Mr. Yanukovych’s rule in 2014 upended Mr. Manafort’s business in Kiev and brought in Mr. Poroshenko on a wave of reformist fervor.

Left in place, however, was what has for years been Ukraine’s strength as a pluralistic society and also its fundamental flaw: a fragile state that is too fragmented by competing economic and regional interests to impose either Russian-style authoritarianism or European-style rule of law.

“There was never a strong state on this land. Medieval feudal mosaics, fragile kingdoms and early-modern Cossack republics had nothing in common with European absolutism or Russian authoritarianism,” said Valerii Pekar, a lecturer at the Kiev-Mohyla Business School, in a recent article. “This is a country of balance, not of leadership. Nobody can rule Ukraine like a king.”

The West, fed up with the dysfunction, has been pushing Mr. Poroshenko with only partial success to tip the balance away from the corruption-tainted oligarchs and Russian proxies who often held sway under Mr. Yanukovych.

He did establish an independent anti-corruption agency and introduce a mandatory declaration of assets for officials and members of Parliament. But he has so far stalled on setting up a tribunal outside the existing court system to try corruption cases.

Larissa Kulishova, the judge in Poltava who let the hacker go, denied that she had erred. In a brief interview, the judge said she had made her ruling “in full accordance with Ukrainian and European law.” She disputed an appeals court judgment issued after the hacker had fled that overturned her decision and said she had been wrong: “I don’t think I made a mistake.”

Larissa Golnyk, a judge in the same courthouse, said she could not speculate on what prompted her fellow judge to free Mr. Kapkanov but expressed dismay at the decision.  Ms. Golnyk has bitter experience of the pressures put on judges. Equipped with a secret camera by anti-corruption investigators, she filmed a representative of Poltava’s mayor offering her a $5,000 bribe to close a case. Posted online, the video produced a public uproar but no action against the mayor or his emissary.

“Every time something clearly wrong happens I ask, ‘How can this be happening?’” Ms. Golnyk said. “I am always told, ‘Come on, you must be used to such things by now.’”

155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gabe Suarez Conspiracy on: October 07, 2017, 10:39:11 PM
Islamic State insists Las Vegas was jihad

This from Spencer's Jihad Watch.

Islamic State insists Las Vegas was jihad, says shooter converted to Islam

"Most people believe the Islamic State is lying in claiming any connection to this, and that Paddock was not a convert to Islam. But ISIS continues to claim the attack anyway, and does not have a history of claiming credit for attacks for which they were not responsible.
Maybe they’ve started doing so now. Maybe not. They don’t seem to be afraid that Stephen Paddock will turn out to be a white supremacist neo-Nazi or some such. They don’t seem to be worried about being definitively exposed as grandiose liars."

This information coupled with the following -

1). The clearly secretive way the investigation is being handled.
2). The between the lines statements of Lombardo (listen to the interview)
3). The application of the Concept of Who Benefits by the confirming or denying it was a Jihad attack.
4). The absolute inconsistency between Paddock and all other "Lone Crazed Angry White Old Guy" mass murders.
5). Lack of published motives (which they have had for so many other "crazy guys" so very quickly).

I have more but out of respect for those who shared it I will not post it. There are apparent OCONUS connections here and the trickle of information coupled with what they have specifically not said leads an educated modern man to arrive at certain conclusions.

Yes, at some point a full report will be the Warren Commission did, and like the 911 Commission Report (that the Saudis tried to quash). But that something like this would be needed it self speaks of possible skullduggery does it not? And by the time something like this is available to the public...the potential victims of the jihadist, how much time will have passed?

I believe it is in the Government's interest for this to NOT be a terror attack. It is better for everyone if this is a crazy guy with a gun. Better politically, socially, economically, and any other way I can think of. They tried to do this with the Orlando Attack even though Mateen had clear philosophical ties to ISIS and said so on the 911 recording. They attempted to make it about something else and ultimately failed.

This may be an understandable deny it was a Jihad Attack even though it was. Its kind of like the old joke "I blocked that punch with my face". Who controls the information controls the narrative.

But that doesn't do those of us on the ground any good. If there is an enemy that can strike at any moment, at a time of his choosing, and who looks like us, knows all our customs, and is in fact one of us. Such an enemy is impossible to detect and extremely difficult to interdict beforehand. How would the American public behave if such a thing was publicly stated by those in authority?

So, I might be totally wrong, but based on the information at hand, until conflicting and compelling information is revealed my position is that Passock was an Islamic Convert Jihadist. And until a conflicting and compelling motive presented, the Las vegas Attack was a Jihad Attack.

In our day and age it is the only prudent position to take.

156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Cheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage on: October 07, 2017, 06:22:47 PM

Cheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage

Why is marriage in retreat among young Americans? Because it is now much easier for men to find sexual satisfaction outside marriage, argues Mark Regnerus
Mark Regnerus
Sept. 29, 2017 9:07 a.m. ET

Kevin, a 24-year-old recent college graduate from Denver, wants to get married someday and is “almost 100% positive” that he will. But not soon, he says, “because I am not done being stupid yet. I still want to go out and have sex with a million girls.” He believes that he’s figured out how to do that:

“Girls are easier to mislead than guys just by lying or just not really caring. If you know what girls want, then you know you should not give that to them until the proper time. If you do that strategically, then you can really have anything you want…whether it’s a relationship, sex, or whatever. You have the control.”

Kevin (not his real name) was one of 100 men and women, from a cross-section of American communities, that my team and I interviewed five years ago as we sought to understand how adults in their 20s and early 30s think about their relationships. He sounds like a jerk. But it’s hard to convince him that his strategy won’t work—because it has, for him and countless other men.

Marriage in the U.S. is in open retreat. As recently as 2000, married 25- to 34-year-olds outnumbered their never-married peers by a margin of 55% to 34%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, those estimates had almost reversed, with never-marrieds outnumbering marrieds by 53% to 40%. Young Americans have quickly become wary of marriage.

Many economists and sociologists argue that this flight from marriage is about men’s low wages. If they were higher, the argument goes, young men would have the confidence to marry. But recent research doesn’t support this view. A May 2017 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, focusing on regions enriched by the fracking boom, found that increased wages in those places did nothing to boost marriage rates.

Another hypothesis blames the decline of marriage on men’s fear of commitment. Maybe they just perceive marriage as a bad deal. But most men, including cads such as Kevin, still expect to marry. They eventually want to fall in love and have children, when their independence becomes less valuable to them. They are waiting longer, however, which is why the median age at marriage for American men has risen steadily and is now approaching 30.

My own research points to a more straightforward and primal explanation for the slowed pace toward marriage: For American men, sex has become rather cheap. As compared to the past, many women today expect little in return for sex, in terms of time, attention, commitment or fidelity. Men, in turn, do not feel compelled to supply these goods as they once did. It is the new sexual norm for Americans, men and women alike, of every age.

This transformation was driven in part by birth control. Its widespread adoption by women in recent decades not only boosted their educational and economic fortunes but also reduced their dependence on men. As the risk of pregnancy radically declined, sex shed many of the social and personal costs that once encouraged women to wait.

These forces have been at work for more than a half-century, since the birth-control pill was invented in 1960, but it seems that our norms and narratives about sexual relationships have finally caught up with the technology. Data collected in 2014 for the “Relationships in America” project—a national survey of over 15,000 adults, ages 18 to 60, that I oversaw for the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture—asked respondents when they first had sex in their current or most recent relationship. After six months of dating? After two? The most common experience—reported by 32% of men under 40—was having sex with their current partner before the relationship had begun. This is sooner than most women we interviewed would prefer.

The birth-control pill is not the only sexual technology that has altered expectations. Online porn has made sexual experience more widely and easily available too. A laptop never says no, and for many men, virtual women are now genuine competition for real partners. In the same survey, 46% of men (and 16% of women) under 40 reported watching pornography at some point in the past week—and 27% in the past day.

Many young men and women still aspire to marriage as it has long been conventionally understood—faithful, enduring, focused on raising children. But they no longer seem to think that this aspiration requires their discernment, prudence or self-control.

When I asked Kristin, a 29-year-old from Austin, whether men should make sacrifices to get sex, she offered a confusing prescription: “Yes. Sometimes. Not always. I mean, I don’t think it should necessarily be given out by women, but I do think it’s OK if a woman does just give it out. Just not all the time.”

Kristin rightly wants the men whom she dates to treat her well and to respect her interests, but the choices that she and other women have made unwittingly teach the men in their lives that such behavior is noble and nice but not required in order to sleep with them. They are hoping to find good men without supporting the sexual norms that would actually make men better.

For many men, the transition away from a mercenary attitude toward relationships can be difficult. The psychologist and relationship specialist Scott Stanley of the University of Denver sees visible daily sacrifices, such as accepting inconveniences in order to see a woman, as the way that men typically show their developing commitment. It signals the expectation of a future together. Such small instances of self-sacrificing love may sound simple, but they are less likely to develop when past and present relationships are founded on the expectation of cheap sex.

Young people in the U.S. continue to marry, even if later in life, but the number of those who never marry is poised to increase. In a 2015 article in the journal Demography, Steven Ruggles of the University of Minnesota predicted that a third of Americans now in their 20s will never wed, well above the historical norm of just below 10%.

Most young Americans still seek the many personal and social benefits that come from marriage, even as the dynamics of today’s mating market conspire against them. It turns out that a world in which it is possible to satisfy our sexual desires much more immediately carries with it a number of unhappy and unintended consequences.

—Dr. Regnerus is associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. This essay is adapted from his new book, “Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage and Monogamy” (Oxford University Press).
157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PR's looming health care crisis on: October 07, 2017, 06:12:21 PM
158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Ken Burns' Vietnam Documentary on: October 07, 2017, 03:39:48 PM
159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US cuts off funds to Iraqi Kurds on: October 07, 2017, 03:34:07 PM
second post

A very good map will not post here:

As the consequences of last week's Kurdish independence referendum unfold in Iraq, the U.S. role in the conflict is under the spotlight. Over the past two years, the U.S. government has helped pay Kurdish peshmerga salaries in exchange for their support against Islamic militants in Iraq. But peshmerga officials recently told media, including Al Monitor, that there are no plans to renew direct U.S. military aid to the group. (The last round of aid expired in early September.) If Washington does, in fact, pull its direct financial aid to the Kurdish fighters, it would mark a distinct change in approach. The peshmerga have formed a critical part of the U.S. fight against the Islamic State.

Yet, that fight has changed considerably since the United States first began supporting the Kurdish forces, shifting geographically and leaving a significantly weakened Islamic State. Though the peshmerga remain key U.S. allies, they are no longer on the front lines. Kurdish fighters played a key role in clearing and securing the eastern front of Mosul in 2015, and they have fought in Nineveh, Kirkuk and Diyala provinces over the past year. But they are not active in Anbar province, where most Islamic State militants are now based. Moreover, Iraqi security forces — which have much fewer Kurdish fighters than Arab ones — have taken a more prominent role in the last two major operations against the Islamic State, in Tal Afar and Hawijah. Shiite popular mobilization forces have also figured more prominently in the most recent fighting.

It's also worth noting that, though it would be a financial blow to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), a non-renewal of direct U.S. aid to the peshmerga would not preclude the United States from supporting the Kurds in other ways, such as through the provision of training and equipment. Furthermore, if the United States does decide to pull direct aid to the peshmerga it could minimally help the KRG by giving it an easy scapegoat for any future inability to pay government salaries. And, no matter the timing, Washington's decision likely does not directly stem from its opposition to the Kurdish referendum. Still, the KRG is undoubtedly disappointed by U.S. support for the Iraqi federal government's stance against the referendum on the grounds that it will destabilize Iraq at a critical time for the country. General elections are planned for next year, and the fight against the Islamic State, though evolved, is not over.
160  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Dan Bilzerian on: October 07, 2017, 03:30:28 PM

OTOH former SEAL and Iraq War badass Ben "Mookie" Thomas speaks well of him and his actions in LV.
161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Pakistani Awan Connection on: October 07, 2017, 03:27:02 PM
This reads like the noose is tightening on him.  Let's see who and what he coughs up.
162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Turkey ready to roll into Syria? on: October 07, 2017, 03:25:59 PM
A very good map in this article will not post here:

Weeks after Turkish forces started to deploy in large numbers along the border with Syria, adjacent to the province of Idlib, Ankara appears to be on the verge of launching yet another significant military operation into the war-torn country. Unlike Operation Euphrates Shield, which targeted lands occupied by the Islamic State, the upcoming operation into Idlib will be directed toward lands occupied by Syrian rebels. As befitting a convoluted conflict such as Syria, Turkey's advance into Idlib will be assisted by other Syrian rebel groups trained over time by Turkey in neighboring Aleppo province. And according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's latest statements, they will be supported by Russian aviation.

Given that Turkey has for years directly supported rebel factions in Idlib in their fight against Russian- and Iranian-backed loyalist forces, the prospect of Turkish forces advancing into Syria under Russian air cover appears jarring at face value. The signs of a significant shift in direction by Turkey on Syria, however, have been visible for some time. The first indication was the Turkish abandonment of the rebel defense of Aleppo in favor of Operation Euphrates Shield in late 2016. This occurred amid steadily improving ties between Ankara and Moscow despite both sides maintaining opposite positions on the Syrian civil war, at least in principle. There were also increasing signs throughout 2017 of a significant drop in the flow of Turkish supplies to key rebel factions in northern Syria, particularly in Idlib. Turkey instead focused its resources on developing the capabilities of its Syrian rebel proxies that were directly under its management as part of Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Aleppo province.

The biggest shift in Turkey's stance, however, came through the Astana process, where Turkey negotiated at length with Russia and Iran in a number of negotiation rounds in the Kazakh capital on the setup of "de-escalation" zones in Syria. These talks enabled the establishment of a "de-escalation" zone in Idlib, on whose borders Turkish troops are now poised alongside their rebel allies from Operation Euphrates Shield.
A map of Syria showing de-escalation zones and zones of influence

Turkey's shifting position over the past 18 months that is now culminating with a military operation into rebel-held lands can be explained by three overarching factors. The first is the dawning realization in Ankara that the rebels it supported were on the losing end of a conflict with Iran- and Russia-backed loyalist forces. Every major loyalist victory that bolstered Syrian government control in northern Syria, in turn, diminished Turkey's ability to influence events in the country.

The second factor was the growing power of independently minded rebel groups such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in northern Syria, particularly in Idlib province. As rebel forces suffered successive defeats and despaired from ever receiving enough external support to match the level of direct backing Iran and Russia gave loyalist forces on the battlefield, they became increasingly prone to defect and turn to the better resourced and organized hardline groups such as the al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. This trend has only accelerated in recent months with the end of the CIA program that supplied rebel groups in Syria with key weaponry such as anti-tank guided missiles. Unlike the Syrian groups supported by Turkey — and previously by the United States — in northern Syria, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has no compunction in upholding its own interests over Ankara's. Indeed, in recent months, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has even monopolized control over Idlib province by cracking down on Turkish-backed rebel groups. For Turkey, the rise of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in Idlib threatens to entirely remove what little influence it has remaining in the province.

Finally, and most important, Turkey has consistently prioritized its goal of undermining and pushing back against Kurdish empowerment in Syria over its desire for regime change in Damascus. Before the United States started to provide significant support to the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces in 2015, and before the loyalists started to regain momentum in the conflict that same year, Turkey could undermine the Kurds and pursue regime change in Damascus through its support of rebel forces. However, as the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces spread their control over northern Syria and as the rebel hold was reduced through consecutive loyalist offensives, Turkey could no longer rely on weakened and distracted rebel forces to act as a bulwark against the Kurds, much less topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. To that end, Ankara has increasingly prioritized an improved relationship with Moscow in the hopes that the influence leveraged through that relationship would allow it to counter the emboldened Kurds. For instance, Turkey still can hope to translate a cooperative mission in Idlib with the Russians into an opening for a subsequent operation against the Kurdish forces of the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin canton, which are thus far insulated by a Russian presence.

A Turkish operation into Idlib province is nevertheless not without considerable risk. Indeed, there is even a possibility that it could backfire on Ankara. First, there is still no guarantee that such an operation would translate into increased Russian assistance against the YPG and predominantly Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces. Moscow, after all, has maintained its ties with the Syrian Kurds and has even blocked Turkish operations against the Kurds in the past. Further, Turkey and its local rebel allies may find themselves going up against very determined resistance from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham fighters, many of whom are locals, and operating in terrain that is geographically more challenging than that faced by Turkey and its proxies during Operation Euphrates Shield. Turkey, however, appears determined to tolerate the risks as it seeks to expand its presence and control in Syria in pursuit of its greater objectives.
163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CNN at it again, this time with bump stocks on: October 07, 2017, 01:02:32 PM
164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Massive ISIS surrender on: October 07, 2017, 01:00:55 PM
165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Trump, Iran, and Iranian Expansionism in the Middle East on: October 07, 2017, 12:56:01 PM
The author here is no fool, but IMHO she fails to note:

a) Trump ran on no more endless wars-- public support for going heavy back into the ME on the ground is near zero-- no to mention that American military bandwidth is mightily stretched already with various other BFD problems requiring attention (Norks, South China Sea, and more)

b) IMHO as he wisely did with DACA, there is wisdom is putting this on Congress.  Congress needs to man the fk up and do its job instead of what we now have-- pissing and moaning after the fact no matter what is done.  The country needs to make a unified decision on this.
166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Pakistani Awan Connection on: October 07, 2017, 12:30:36 PM
167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gay owner throws Christians out on: October 07, 2017, 12:29:26 PM
As is his natural right:
168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan: The Culture of Death and Disdain on: October 07, 2017, 07:15:50 AM
The Culture of Death—and of Disdain
Why do Americans own so many guns? Because they don’t trust the protected elites to protect them.
Photo: Chad Crowe
By Peggy Noonan
Oct. 5, 2017 6:56 p.m. ET

When news broke at Christmastime five years ago of what had happened at Newtown a friend, a news anchor, called and said with a broken voice: “What is the word for what we feel?” I thought for a moment. “Shattered,” I said. “We are shattered, all of us.” When people in ensuing days spoke of what had been done to the little children in the classrooms, I’d put up my hands and say no, we can’t keep putting those words in the air, we can’t afford it. When terrible images enter our heads and settle in, they become too real, and what is real is soon, by the unstable, imitated, repeated.

When Columbine happened in the spring of 1999, it hit me like a wave of sickness. I wrote a piece about the culture of death that produced the teenage shooters: “Think of it this way. Your child is an intelligent little fish. He swims in deep water. Waves of sound and sight, of thought and fact, come invisibly through that water, like radar. . . . The sound from the television is a wave, and the sound from the radio; the headlines on the newsstand, on the magazines, on the ad on the bus as it whizzes by—all are waves. The fish—your child—is bombarded and barely knows it. But the waves contain words like this, which I’ll limit to only one source, the news:

“. . . was found strangled and is believed to have been sexually molested . . . had her breast implants removed . . . took the stand to say the killer was smiling the day the show aired . . . said the procedure is, in fact, legal infanticide . . . is thought to be connected to earlier sexual activity among teens . . . court battle over who owns the frozen sperm . . . contains songs that call for dominating and even imprisoning women . . . died of lethal injection . . . had threatened to kill her children . . . had asked Kevorkian for help in killing himself . . . protested the game, which they said has gone beyond violence to sadism . . . showed no remorse . . . which is about a wager over whether he could sleep with another student . . .

“This is the ocean in which our children swim. This is the sound of our culture. It comes from all parts of our culture and reaches all parts of our culture, and all the people in it, which is everybody.”

We were bringing up our children in an unwell atmosphere. It would enter and distort them. Could we turn this around?

And here is the horror for me of Las Vegas: I was not shattered. That shatters me.

It was just another terrible story. It is not the new normal it is the new abnormal and deep down we know it’s not going to stop. There is too much instability in our country, too much rage and lovelessness, too many weapons.

On television, the terrible sameness. We all know the postmassacre drill now. The shocked witness knows exactly what the anchor needs and speaks in rounded, 20-second bursts. Activists have their bullet-point arguments ready because they used them last time and then saved them in a file called “Aurora,” “Virginia Tech” or “Giffords, Gabby.”

We are stuck, the debate frozen. The right honestly doesn’t understand why the left keeps insisting on reforms that won’t help. The left honestly doesn’t understand how much yearning there is among so many conservatives to do something, try something, make it better. They don’t want their kids growing up in a world where madmen have guns that shoot nine rounds a second. Many this week at least agreed bump stocks can be banned. It probably won’t help much. But if it helps just a little, for God’s sake, do it.

But: Why do so many Americans have guns? I don’t mean those who like to hunt and shoot or live far out and need protection. I don’t mean those who’ve been handed down the guns of their grandfather or father. Why do a significant number of Americans have so many guns?

Wouldn’t it help if we thought about that?

I think a lot of Americans have guns because they’re fearful—and for damn good reason. They fear a coming chaos, and know that when it happens it will be coming to a nation that no longer coheres. They think it’s all collapsing—our society, our culture, the baseline competence of our leadership class. They see the cultural infrastructure giving way—illegitimacy, abused children, neglect, racial tensions, kids on opioids staring at screens—and, unlike their cultural superiors, they understand the implications.

Nuts with nukes, terrorists bent on a mission. The grid will go down. One of our foes will hit us, suddenly and hard. In the end it could be hand to hand, door to door. I said some of this six years ago to a famously liberal journalist, who blinked in surprise. If that’s true, he said, they won’t have a chance! But they are Americans, I said. They won’t go down without a fight.

Americans have so many guns because drug gangs roam the streets, because they have less trust in their neighbors, because they read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” Because all of their personal and financial information got hacked in the latest breach, because our country’s real overlords are in Silicon Valley and appear to be moral Martians who operate on some weird new postmodern ethical wavelength. And they’ll be the ones programming the robots that’ll soon take all the jobs! Maybe the robots will all look like Mark Zuckerberg, like those eyeless busts of Roman Emperors. Our leaders don’t even think about this technological revolution. They’re too busy with transgender rights.

Americans have so many guns because they know the water their children swim in hasn’t gotten cleaner since Columbine, but more polluted and lethal.

The establishments and elites that create our political and entertainment culture have no idea how fragile it all is—how fragile it seems to people living normal, less privileged lives. That is because nothing is fragile for them. They’re barricaded behind the things the influential have, from good neighborhoods to security alarms, doormen and gates. They’re not dark in their imagining of the future because history has never been dark for them; it’s been sunshine, which they expect to continue. They sail on, oblivious to the legitimate anxieties of their countrymen who live near the edge.

Those who create our culture feel free to lecture normal Americans—on news shows, on late night comedy shows. Why do they have such a propensity for violence? What is their love for guns? Why do they join the National Rifle Association? The influential grind away with their disdain for their fellow Americans, whom they seem less to want to help than to dominate: Give up your gun, bake my cake, free speech isn’t free if what you’re saying triggers us.

Would it help if we tried less censure and more cultural affiliation? Might it help if we started working on problems that are real? Sure. But why lower the temperature when there’s such easy pleasure to be had in ridiculing your mindless and benighted countrymen?
169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russians penetrate NSA! on: October 06, 2017, 01:52:20 PM
By Gordon Lubold and
Shane Harris
Updated Oct. 5, 2017 7:31 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Hackers working for the Russian government stole details of how the U.S. penetrates foreign computer networks and defends against cyberattacks after a National Security Agency contractor removed the highly classified material and put it on his home computer, according to multiple people with knowledge of the matter.

The hackers appear to have targeted the contractor after identifying the files through the contractor’s use of a popular antivirus software made by Russia-based Kaspersky Lab, these people said.

The theft, which hasn’t been disclosed, is considered by experts to be one of the most significant security breaches in recent years. It offers a rare glimpse into how the intelligence community thinks Russian intelligence exploits a widely available commercial software product to spy on the U.S.

The incident occurred in 2015 but wasn’t discovered until spring of last year, said the people familiar with the matter.

The stolen material included details about how the NSA penetrates foreign computer networks, the computer code it uses for such spying and how it defends networks inside the U.S., these people said.

Having such information could give the Russian government information on how to protect its own networks, making it more difficult for the NSA to conduct its work. It also could give the Russians methods to infiltrate the networks of the U.S. and other nations, these people said.

The breach is the first known incident in which Kaspersky software is believed to have been exploited by Russian hackers to conduct espionage against the U.S. government. The company, which sells its antivirus products in the U.S., had revenue of more than half a billion dollars in Western Europe and the Americas in 2016, according to International Data Corp. Kaspersky says it has more than 400 million users world-wide.

The revelation comes as concern over Russian infiltration of American computer networks and social media platforms is growing amid a U.S. special counsel’s investigation into whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign sought or received assistance from the Russian government. Mr. Trump denies any impropriety and has called the matter a “witch hunt.”

Intelligence officials have concluded that a campaign authorized by the highest levels of the Russian government hacked into state election-board systems and the email networks of political organizations to damage the candidacy of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

A spokesman for the NSA didn’t comment on the security breach. “Whether the information is credible or not, NSA’s policy is never to comment on affiliate or personnel matters,” he said. He noted that the Defense Department, of which the NSA is a part, has a contract for antivirus software with another company, not Kaspersky.

In a statement, Kaspersky Lab said it “has not been provided any information or evidence substantiating this alleged incident, and as a result, we must assume that this is another example of a false accusation.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in a statement didn’t address whether the Russian government stole NSA materials using Kaspersky software. But he criticized the U.S. government’s decision to ban the software from use by U.S. agencies as “undermining the competitive positions of Russian companies on the world arena.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, (D., N.H.) on Thursday asked the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold hearings on the issue. “As you are aware, I have been concerned about the serious dangers of using Kaspersky software due to the company’s strong ties to the Kremlin,” she wrote in a letter to Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), the committee chairman.

She urged Mr. McCain to “expeditiously” schedule a hearing with the NSA’s director, Adm. Michael Rogers, and other administration officials.

The Kaspersky incident is the third publicly known breach at the NSA involving a contractor’s access to a huge trove of highly classified materials. It prompted an official letter of reprimand to Adm. Rogers by his superiors, people familiar with the situation said.

Adm. Rogers came into his post in 2014 promising to staunch leaks after the disclosure that NSA contractor Edward Snowden the year before gave classified documents to journalists that revealed surveillance programs run by the U.S. and allied nations.

The Kaspersky-linked incident predates the arrest last year of another NSA contractor, Harold Martin, who allegedly removed massive amounts of classified information from the agency’s headquarters and kept it at his home, but wasn’t thought to have shared the data.

Mr. Martin pleaded not guilty to charges that include stealing classified information. His lawyer has said he took the information home only to get better at his job and never intended to reveal secrets.

The name of the NSA contractor in the Kaspersky-related incident and the company he worked for aren’t publicly known. People familiar with the matter said he is thought to have purposely taken home numerous documents and other materials from NSA headquarters, possibly to continue working beyond his normal office hours.

The man isn’t believed to have wittingly aided a foreign government, but knew that removing classified information without authorization is a violation of NSA policies and potentially a criminal act, said people with knowledge of the breach. It is unclear whether he has been dismissed from his job or faces charges. The incident remains under federal investigation, said people familiar with the matter.

Kaspersky software once was authorized for use by nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies, including the Army, Navy and Air Force, and the departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, Energy, Veterans Affairs, Justice and Treasury.

NSA employees and contractors never had been authorized to use Kaspersky software at work. While there was no prohibition against these employees or contractors using it at home, they were advised not to before the 2015 incident, said people with knowledge of the guidance the agency gave.

For years, U.S. national security officials have suspected that Kaspersky Lab, founded by a computer scientist who was trained at a KGB-sponsored technical school, is a proxy of the Russian government, which under Russian law can compel the company’s assistance in intercepting communications as they move through Russian computer networks.

Kaspersky said in its statement: “As a private company, Kaspersky Lab does not have inappropriate ties to any government, including Russia, and the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts.”

Suspicions about the company prompted the Department of Homeland Security last month to take the extraordinary step of banning all U.S. government departments and agencies from using Kaspersky products and services. Officials determined that “malicious cyber actors” could use the company’s antivirus software to gain access to a computer’s files, said people familiar with the matter.

The government’s decision came after months of intensive discussions inside the intelligence community, as well as a study of how the software works and the company’s suspected connections to the Russian government, said people familiar with the events.

They said intelligence officials also were concerned that given the prevalence of Kaspersky on the commercial market, countless people could be targeted, including family members of senior government officials, or that Russia could use the software to steal information for competitive economic advantage.

“The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security,” the DHS said Sept. 13 in announcing the government ban.

All antivirus software scans computers looking for malicious code, comparing what is on the machine to a master list housed at the software company. But that scanning also gives makers of the software an inventory of what is on the computer, experts say.

“It’s basically the equivalent of digital dumpster diving,” said Blake Darché, a former NSA employee who worked in the agency’s elite hacking group that targets foreign computer systems.

Kaspersky is “aggressive” in its methods of hunting for malware, Mr. Darché said, “in that they will make copies of files on a computer, anything that they think is interesting.” He said the product’s user license agreement, which few customers probably read, allows this.

“You’re basically surrendering your right to privacy by using Kaspersky software,” said Mr. Darché, who is chief security officer for Area 1, a computer security company.

“We aggressively detect and mitigate malware infections no matter the source and we have been proudly doing it for 20 years,” the company said in its statement. “We make no apologies for being aggressive in the battle against malware and cybercriminals.”

U.S. investigators believe the contractor’s use of the software alerted Russian hackers to the presence of files that may have been taken from the NSA, according to people with knowledge of the investigation. Experts said the software, in searching for malicious code, may have found samples of it in the data the contractor removed from the NSA.

But how the antivirus system made that determination is unclear, such as whether Kaspersky technicians programed the software to look for specific parameters that indicated NSA material. Also unclear is whether Kaspersky employees alerted the Russian government to the finding.

Investigators did determine that, armed with the knowledge that Kaspersky’s software provided of what files were suspected on the contractor’s PC, hackers working for Russia homed in on the machine and obtained a large amount of information, said the people familiar with the matter.

The breach illustrates the chronic problem the NSA has had with keeping highly classified secrets from spilling out, former intelligence personnel say. They say they were rarely searched while entering or leaving their workplaces to see if they were carrying classified documents or removable storage media, such as a thumb drive.

Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter and then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper pushed President Barack Obama to remove Adm. Rogers as NSA head, due in part to the number of data breaches on his watch, according to several officials familiar with the matter.

The NSA director had fallen out of White House favor when he traveled to Bedminster, N.J., last November to meet with president-elect Donald Trump about taking a job in his administration, said people familiar with the matter. Adm. Rogers didn’t notify his superiors, an extraordinary step for a senior military officer, U.S. officials said.

Adm. Rogers wasn’t fired for a number of reasons, including a pending restructuring of the NSA that would have been further complicated by his departure, according to people with knowledge of internal deliberations. An NSA spokesman didn’t comment on efforts to remove Adm. Rogers.

Write to Gordon Lubold at and Shane Harris at

Appeared in the October 6, 2017, print edition as 'Russian Hackers Stole NSA Spy Secrets.'
170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IRS targeted border security groups on: October 06, 2017, 01:48:19 PM
171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / DC decides not to appeal decision striking down "good cause" requirement on: October 06, 2017, 01:47:32 PM
172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Thoughts on the Vegas shooting on: October 06, 2017, 01:30:18 PM
I could do without some of the comments on guns, but the rest has some merit
173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NATO needs to admit Turkey is shredding democratic values on: October 06, 2017, 01:13:03 PM
174  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / WSJ: Life of the Las Vegas Killer on: October 06, 2017, 01:02:24 PM

From Broken Home to Real-Estate Riches: The Life of the Las Vegas Shooter
Stephen Paddock did not fit the profile of a typical mass killer, a problem confounding authorities seeking a motive
Stephen Paddock, top center, in a Francis Polytechnic High School Varsity Tennis Team photo in the 1970 yearbook. Francis Polytechnic High School
Link copied…
By Valerie Bauerlein,
Ian Lovett and
Cameron McWhirter
Oct. 5, 2017 5:29 p.m. ET

LAS VEGAS—More than a half century ago, a bank robber held authorities in an armed stand-off in downtown Las Vegas until federal agents shot out the windows of his car.

Benjamin Paddock, who was later described on his FBI “Most Wanted” flier as a psychopath with suicidal tendencies, surrendered a few miles from the high-rise hotel where last weekend his oldest son became one of America’s deadliest killers.

Stephen Paddock was 7 years old at the time of his father’s capture in 1960. It was unclear whether he ever saw him again.

Paddock’s mother moved her four boys to Southern California and, like many before them, began a new life. Stephen played on his high school tennis team in the San Fernando Valley and graduated from a Cal State campus with a business degree. He had steady jobs and later made his fortune in real estate—he was a multimillionaire, one of his brothers said—which afforded him a comfortable retirement as a high-stakes gambler.

His life after that traumatic start was by most appearances a Golden State success, leaving authorities to untangle the confounding profile of a killer responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. in at least 50 years.

At 64 years old, Paddock didn’t have the usual profile of a mass shooter. He left virtually no footprint on social media, had no criminal record and, his youngest brother Eric Paddock said, revealed no particular ideology. Interviews with law-enforcement officials, casino employees he encountered and two of his brothers, reveal an intensely private, self-contained man.

After his father’s arrest, he grew up in Sun Valley, a largely working-class Los Angeles suburb. He was married as a young man and twice divorced. He began buying rental properties around Los Angeles in the 1990s, records show, a decade that sent prices soaring.

Though Paddock had few social ties, he maintained relationships with a small set of people, who described him as loyal and generous. He sent cookies to his 89-year-old mother in Florida, and he treated his youngest brother and nephew to $1,000 dinners in Las Vegas, the brother said.

Yet he moved often, to look-alike houses, one after another, in a string of retirement communities in sunny places. He wore gloves when he drove and kept his window shades drawn.

Nearly 60 years after his father’s arrest, Paddock wired tens of thousands of dollars to his long-term girlfriend, authorities said, and checked into one of his regular haunts, the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, with $20,000 worth of weapons.

A few minutes after 10 p.m. Sunday, he broke through the window of his room and began firing at concertgoers below, killing 58 people and wounding nearly 500 others. Paddock killed himself before police could arrest him, officials say. Leaked crime-scene photos show him laid out with a blast to the forehead.

Law-enforcement officials, family members and his girlfriend have said they are struggling to figure out what drove Paddock to kill, including what, if any role, his father’s life played. Investigators are examining his mental-health history, finances and whether he had any help in the massacre.

Authorities have seized computers from his home in Mesquite, Nev., 90 miles from Las Vegas, and are combing through his communications and travel history. A federal official said Thursday that Paddock’s girlfriend expressed concerns about his mental health, especially in recent months.

“This is a horror story in every possible way,” said Eric Paddock, of Orlando, Fla. “How the hell does this happen?”

A new start

When Stephen Paddock’s father was arrested in 1960, federal agents raided the family’s new one-story home in a middle-class Tucson, Ariz., neighborhood. Two of his brothers were toddlers; Eric was an infant. Neighbors worried Stephen was old enough to understand, so they took him swimming as a distraction, according to newspaper stories at the time.

Their mother, Irene Hudson, soon moved the family to Southern California, telling her sons their dad died in a car accident. It was a story that two of the brothers said they believed for decades.

By the early 1960s, the family had settled in the east San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, and Ms. Paddock worked as a secretary.

“We were never close as a family,” said Patrick Paddock, the second oldest son. “I wasn’t close to any of my brothers, even growing up.”

While their mother was at work, the boys fended for themselves. They all grew big, said Patrick Paddock, who is 6’5” and 250 pounds. Their mother gave them chores around the house, including some cooking and cleaning. For fun, he said, the brothers would slide their dogs down a well-waxed hall.

Eric Paddock said his older brother Stephen was “like a dad surrogate,” who sometimes took him camping.

In school, Stephen Paddock showed an aptitude for math and “engineering-type things,” said Richard Alarcon, a classmate at Francis Polytechnic High School in the 1970s, who became a Los Angeles city councilman.

As a high school junior, Paddock played on the varsity tennis team and appears, straight-faced and shaggy-haired, in “The Student,” the school yearbook.

Stewart Kops, 65, who appeared next to Paddock in the yearbook’s team photo, said he didn’t remember him: “He was either not a good tennis player, or very quiet.”

The Paddock brothers for years accepted that their father was dead, said Patrick Paddock. But Benjamin Paddock was alive, all 6’4” of him, escaping from prison before he was recaptured in 1978. Their mother finally told them the truth about him when they were in their 20s, Patrick Paddock said.

It was a jarring revelation. Their father died years later, in 1998, after eventually serving his time and starting a new life in Texas. His sons still fume at the mention of his name.

“I hate my dad,” Eric Paddock said. Patrick Paddock said he never spoke with his father: “I was angry. I wanted nothing to do with him.” Bruce Paddock, the third-oldest brother, couldn’t be reached for comment. Patrick and Eric Paddock said they haven’t heard from Bruce in years.

Patrick said he hadn’t spoken to Stephen Paddock for about 20 years: “I had no reason to keep in touch. I’m not particularly social.”

Of all the brothers, Stephen Paddock seemed to get off to a fast start. He graduated from high school in 1971 and then from California State University, Northridge. He worked at the U.S. Postal Service, and in the 1980s, he worked as an agent for the Internal Revenue Service. He later audited defense contracts for Lockheed Corp. , which became Lockheed Martin Corp.

Paddock married twice, first in 1977, the year he graduated from college, and a second time in 1985, when he wed Peggy Okamoto, a high-school classmate. Neither one lasted.

In the early 1990s, Paddock began investing in California real estate, according to property records and his brothers. Paddock purchased rental properties and arranged some purchases through a trust set up in his mother’s name, including a Temecula, Calif., ranch house where she lived from the early 1990s to mid-2000s.
Stephen Paddock's houses in Mesquite, Nev., Reno, Nev., and Melbourne, Fla. Photos: REUTERS; Associated Press; Zuma Press

It wasn’t clear how much money Paddock netted from real estate, or how much accrued to his partners, which included his youngest brother. Eric Paddock said his brother moved their mother into a comfortable Florida home.

“Steve took care of the people he loved,” Eric Paddock said, sobbing outside his home this week. “The people he loved, he took care of.”

In 2014, Paddock and his partners sold a Dallas apartment complex for more than $8 million, according to the buyer, in what appeared his largest real-estate deal.
Poker play

Paddock began gambling at the Wynn casino not long after it opened in 2005, according to a person familiar with his gambling. He also frequented The Cosmopolitan, as well as casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp. , the Atlantis in Reno, Nev., and others, according to people familiar with the matter.

He mostly played video poker. “It was like a job for him,” said his brother Eric. “He did it mathematically.”

Paddock gambled enough that casinos provided him complimentary suites, sushi and poolside services. At least one casino later cut back on the perks after his playing skills seemed to protect him from losing enough money to compensate for the freebies, several people familiar with the matter said.

He met Marilou Danley, a Filipina immigrant with Australian citizenship, around five years ago, and they soon became a couple. She was working as a hostess in the high-limit gambling room at the Atlantis in Reno.

Ms. Danley and Paddock moved from Reno to Florida, near his brother Eric and his mother in Orlando, then to a retirement community in Mesquite, Nev. “It was fun to hang out with Steve because he was a rich guy,” Eric Paddock said. “I’d get to partake of a bunch of thousands of dollars of comps on the hotel, but Steve would say, ‘Could you go get me a sandwich?’”

In Reno, Paddock liked to gamble late at night and off to the side, so as to avoid smokers. His hotel room at the casino would sometimes be outfitted with special air purifiers, a former casino employee says. He told people he moved to Mesquite because the dry weather was good for his health; he told his brother Eric he was leaving Florida in 2015 because of the humidity.

How Las Vegas Police Scrambled to Find the Gunman

In June, a doctor prescribed Paddock the antianxiety medication diazepam—better known by the brand name Valium—according to a report published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which cited records obtained from Nevada’s prescription monitoring program. The state pharmaceutical board said it couldn’t confirm the news report.

For the past several years, Paddock split time between a home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Mesquite and hotels in Las Vegas, about a 90-minute drive. He went to karaoke night some Tuesdays at Peggy Sue’s diner. His neighbors say they hardly knew him. His home backed up to a golf course, but he wasn’t known there, either.

In late 2016, Paddock began buying dozens of weapons that were later found in his homes and at the shooting scene, law-enforcement officials said. He never used them at the only shooting range within 20 miles of his home.

“It’s almost like he was trying to avoid people,” said Jason Shaw, part-owner of the nearby Smokin Gun Club shooting range.

Ms. Danley said in a statement through her lawyer that Paddock never “took any action that I was aware of, that I understood in any way to be a warning that something horrible like this was going to happen.”

Eric Paddock said he was in regular touch with Paddock, who had sent a text asking about his mother after Hurricane Irma hit Florida last month. The brothers, though, hadn’t spoken in about six months, he said.

“If I’d just called him back instead of texting, would I have heard something in his voice?” he said. “Would he have given up something?”
175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chamber of Commerce weighs in on NAFTA renegotiation on: October 06, 2017, 12:55:54 PM
y Jacob M. Schlesinger
Updated Oct. 6, 2017 12:48 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday outlined a long list of objections to the Trump administration’s proposals for rewriting the North American Free Trade Agreement and said it was launching an effort to try to keep the ideas from advancing in talks with Mexico and Canada.

“We see these proposals as highly dangerous,” John Murphy, the top trade official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told reporters Friday morning at a press briefing.

“We’re at a crossroads here,” Mr. Murphy added. “It’s very worrying.”

Mr. Murphy cited as objectionable a number of proposals that the administration has either already submitted or told business groups and members of Congress that it plans to submit during the continuing talks. These include proposals to impose new requirements for U.S. content in all cars qualifying for Nafta’s special treatment; weaken or scrap provisions for arbitrating disputes among governments and companies in the three countries; create new limits on Canadian and Mexican access to U.S. government procurement; create a new “sunset” clause in the pact that would make it expire unless the countries regularly agree to renew it.

What Impact Could a Remade Nafta Have On You?

Representatives of the U.S., Canada and Mexico are kicking off talks to renegotiate the North American free trade agreement on Wednesday. The WSJ’s Shelby Holiday looks at how that could change the prices of the cars, tacos and clothes you buy. Photo: Evan Engel

“Even one of them could be sufficient to move the business and agriculture communities to oppose an agreement that included them,” Mr. Murphy said.

The chamber’s senior vice president for international policy said that the business lobby would ramp up coordination with other trade groups in the coming days to amplify their concerns to administration officials, lawmakers, and the general public, particularly in states that Donald Trump carried in the 2016 election and depend heavily on exports to Nafta countries. He didn’t elaborate.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is leading the negotiations for the Trump administration and has crafted many of the proposals, said the president’s objectives in the Nafta talks are aimed at creating jobs and reducing the trade deficit.

“The president has been clear that Nafta has been a disaster for many Americans, and achieving his objectives requires substantial change,” said USTR spokeswoman Emily Davis. “These changes, of course, will be opposed by entrenched Washington lobbyists and trade associations. We have always understood that draining the swamp would be controversial in Washington.”

The chamber and other groups have worked closely with the administration on policies like deregulation and the effort to implement big tax cuts. And, as Mr. Trump regularly notes in speeches and on Twitter, business confidence gauges, and stock market indexes, have hit new highs during his administration.

However, there have been tensions in other areas. Prominent executives have tangled with Mr. Trump on a number of fronts. Business leaders in August disbanded two CEO councils created by the White House, protesting what they said was the president’s failure to sufficiently condemn racism after the violent Charlottesville, Va., protests.

The chamber openly attacked Mr. Trump over his pledges during the campaign to rip up Nafta and other trade agreements. Mr. Trump threatened to withdraw from Nafta in April but the tensions eased after the administration agreed instead to renegotiate, and, in the early rounds, put forth modest proposals that business supported.

Mr. Trump has long said he disagreed with the trade policies fixed over the past half-century, in cooperation with big business, and was prepared to listen more to ideas embraced by labor unions and other free-trade critics.

Mr. Murphy said that the chamber and other business groups have repeatedly voiced their objections to emerging Trump Nafta proposals and “the expert analysis and the views of industry have too often been brushed aside.”

The chamber and others are “urging the administration to recalibrate its approach,” he said. “They should stop and listen to the business community.”
176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Looks like Tillerson is getting his way on Qatar on: October 06, 2017, 12:49:52 PM
fourth post

The U.S. military said on Oct. 6 that it would be halting some of its joint exercises with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in an effort to encourage a resolution to the countries' monthslong dispute with Qatar, AP reported. GCC members Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates began economically boycotting Qatar on June 5, citing Qatar's alleged support for extremists and its relationship with Iran.
177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on VP Pence's proposals on: October 06, 2017, 11:42:43 AM

Stratfor has previously highlighted the importance of commercial and military applications of space travel and space technology. Although the strategies employed change over time and between administrations, maintaining its role as a leader in such technologies is an imperative for the United States — especially as space becomes increasingly crowded.

The new U.S. presidential administration is rolling out a new, but familiar, approach to space exploration and related policy. On Oct. 5, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence led the inaugural session of the National Space Council's latest iteration. The meeting was the council's first in more than 20 years, enabled by U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to reinstate the long-dormant program in June. Although the council directs U.S. space policy, it can't set budgets or pass laws. At today's meeting, key stakeholders from the civil, commercial and military spheres presented testimony advocating their goals and interests regarding space development and exploration. Pence, for his part, outlined the administration's aims in an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal earlier in the day that focused on, among other things, a shift in focus from conquering Mars to returning to the moon.

The shift was not a secret or a surprise. Many private space companies have already unveiled programs geared toward returning to the moon. Many of the technologies used to return to the moon will also be applicable for a mission to Mars. Travelling to the much nearer celestial body will enable the development of new technologies and the redevelopment of existing ones that will be necessary to explore targets farther away, such as a trip to Mars or even interstellar travel. Although some challenges are unique to interplanetary travel, developing lunar travel could enable fledgling private space companies to be better prepared for an eventual trip to Mars.

The list of entities with viable space programs has changed substantially since the United States made its first trips to the moon in 1969 and in the 1970s. The moon has been deemed a strategic asset by the Trump administration, but it's also become the focus of other nations such as China. The United States is just one of many nations for which a competitive space program remains an important strategic goal. International and the national regulations were among the topics discussed at the Oct. 5 council session. As more countries become involved in space exploration, international regulations and laws will need to adapt. 

But it's not just national programs that can influence space exploration and development. In his op-ed, the vice president also alluded to continued reliance on private space companies to maintain U.S. dominance in space. The commercial space sector will be vital to the United States reaching its targets, whether they're focused on the moon or on Mars.
178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on VP Pence's proposals on: October 06, 2017, 11:41:25 AM

Stratfor has previously highlighted the importance of commercial and military applications of space travel and space technology. Although the strategies employed change over time and between administrations, maintaining its role as a leader in such technologies is an imperative for the United States — especially as space becomes increasingly crowded.

The new U.S. presidential administration is rolling out a new, but familiar, approach to space exploration and related policy. On Oct. 5, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence led the inaugural session of the National Space Council's latest iteration. The meeting was the council's first in more than 20 years, enabled by U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to reinstate the long-dormant program in June. Although the council directs U.S. space policy, it can't set budgets or pass laws. At today's meeting, key stakeholders from the civil, commercial and military spheres presented testimony advocating their goals and interests regarding space development and exploration. Pence, for his part, outlined the administration's aims in an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal earlier in the day that focused on, among other things, a shift in focus from conquering Mars to returning to the moon.

The shift was not a secret or a surprise. Many private space companies have already unveiled programs geared toward returning to the moon. Many of the technologies used to return to the moon will also be applicable for a mission to Mars. Travelling to the much nearer celestial body will enable the development of new technologies and the redevelopment of existing ones that will be necessary to explore targets farther away, such as a trip to Mars or even interstellar travel. Although some challenges are unique to interplanetary travel, developing lunar travel could enable fledgling private space companies to be better prepared for an eventual trip to Mars.

The list of entities with viable space programs has changed substantially since the United States made its first trips to the moon in 1969 and in the 1970s. The moon has been deemed a strategic asset by the Trump administration, but it's also become the focus of other nations such as China. The United States is just one of many nations for which a competitive space program remains an important strategic goal. International and the national regulations were among the topics discussed at the Oct. 5 council session. As more countries become involved in space exploration, international regulations and laws will need to adapt. 

But it's not just national programs that can influence space exploration and development. In his op-ed, the vice president also alluded to continued reliance on private space companies to maintain U.S. dominance in space. The commercial space sector will be vital to the United States reaching its targets, whether they're focused on the moon or on Mars.
179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia-Saudi meeting on: October 06, 2017, 11:31:45 AM
third post

Saudi King Salman just made history as the first-ever Saudi king to visit Russia. Saudi Arabia and Russia aren't on the friendliest of terms, but circumstances have aligned in such a way that each needs the other. King Salman will spend four days in Moscow, meeting with high-ranking Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, mainly on energy and the economy. But the two sides will also try to find common ground on other more contentious issues, including Russia's involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts and Saudi Arabia's ties to Muslim regions in Russia.

Saudi Arabia cut ties with the Soviet Union during the Cold War over divisions that have not completely mended. Moscow accuses Saudi Arabia of financing Muslim separatism in Russia in the 1990s, leading to two brutal wars in the Northern Caucasus. So it can hardly be blamed for worrying about Saudi Arabia's current ties to Russia's Muslim republics. The Kremlin is concerned that Muslim separatism could rise again, given that many Muslim regions, including Tatarstan, have vocally criticized the Russian government recently, and that regions, such as Chechnya, have independent, powerful military forces. Both Tatarstan and Chechnya have looked to Saudi Arabia for investment and financing in recent years. Moscow hopes that by opening a line of communication with Saudi Arabia it can curb any covert support to its Muslim regions and avoid instability.

Meanwhile, Russia is a visible and powerful force in many of the Middle Eastern conflicts on which Saudi Arabia is keenly focused, including those in Syria, Yemen and Libya. Russia and Saudi Arabia often find themselves on opposite sides in these conflicts, but sometimes there is utility in being on different sides of the same table. Saudi Arabia's chief adversary, Iran, has a complex relationship with Russia that the Saudi government could be hoping to exploit. Despite Russia's significant collaboration with Iran over the past few years, their interests don't always line up, and Saudi Arabia could use this to its advantage as it works to counter Iranian expansion in the Middle East.

Their differences aside, when it comes to energy and the economy, Russia's and Saudi Arabia's interests are overlapping more than ever. The economic yield of this week's visit is expected to be substantial: State-run energy company Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Saudi Aramco, and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) will reportedly be announcing a $1 billion fund for oil-services projects in Russia, and Saudi Arabia and the RDIF will set up a $1 billion technology fund; the Saudi government is expected to announce a $150 million investment into Eurasia Drilling Company; Saudi Aramco is expected to discuss a potential investment into Novatek's Arctic liquid natural gas project and to talk about a joint venture with Sibur Holding to build a synthetic-rubber manufacturing plant; memorandums of understanding will be signed, such as one planned between Saudi Arabia and Rosatom; and Saudi Arabia Military Industries has already agreed to begin negotiating the potential purchase of a significant number of Russian weapons and military equipment.

As two of the three largest oil producers in the world, Russia and Saudi Arabia are vital to any globally coordinated action on oil markets, and right now their interests align. Energy ministers Khalid al-Falih and Alexander Novak met Oct. 5 to discuss oil markets and the effort to extend a deal to reduce global oil production. Neither minister admitted they were working jointly on an extension deal, but both will certainly be closely monitoring energy markets over the next few months and, if needed, will work together on an extension. A day before the energy meeting, Putin said that he would be open to extending the deal to the end of 2018 but that a decision would not be made until around March of next year. One thing is clear: Neither country can afford for the oil market to crater because of a disorderly exit from the deal. If an extension is not negotiated, Saudi Arabia and Russia need to organize what that exit would look like.

The mutual benefits of the trip attest to the fact that the visit is mostly about Saudi-Russian economic and energy collaboration. Saudi Arabia has the hard cash that Russia needs for the myriad projects it's developing. For its part, Saudi Arabia needs Russian buy-in on its energy plans, which are vital to its broader Vision 2030 economic plan. Collaborative Russian-Saudi projects, such as the synthetic-rubber plant that would be built in Saudi Arabia, help achieve Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 aims. Any political benefit from the visit will be less immediate, but it's clear that Saudi Arabia and Russia have an interest in building closer ties for both political and economic reasons.
180  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Stratfor: Copycats coming on: October 06, 2017, 11:29:25 AM
As the closing act of the three-day, open-air Route 91 Harvest Music Festival took the stage the evening of Oct. 1 on the Las Vegas Strip, a 64-year-old man used a sledgehammer to smash out two windows in his suite at the adjacent Mandalay Bay hotel. His perch on the 32nd floor gave him a clear field of fire on the 22,000 or so concertgoers below. He took aim with one in the arsenal of guns in his room and opened fire. The shooter's intent was clear – he wanted to create as much carnage as possible. The crowd below remained oblivious to the threat 100 meters (328 feet) above and 400 meters away until bullets began raining down.

The attack, which left 59 people dead and more than 500 hurt, was certainly well-planned. The shooter, who had occupied the suite on Sept. 28, had methodically ferried in weapons concealed in luggage until he had amassed 23 guns, including several rifles with high-capacity magazines, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Photographs from the scene indicate that at least two of the rifles were semi-automatic AR-platform guns that had been equipped with legal "bump fire" stocks that allowed them to operate at a rate mimicking automatic gunfire.

The massed crowd offered an easy target. Indeed, recruits in the armed forces are trained to shoot at human-size targets at 400 meters using iron sights, so targeting the throng below at that distance did not require advanced marksmanship. Given his elevated position, unobstructed view of the crowd and large arsenal, it is not surprising that the attacker was able to inflict such mayhem, whatever his motive for doing so might have been. Moreover, the bloodbath that followed provided a blueprint for other killers to follow, providing many important lessons for security professionals and ordinary citizens alike to heed.
Expect Copycat Attacks to Follow

Given the high death toll in Las Vegas, copycat attacks are bound to follow. One of the factors that drives terrorism, after all, is the success of past attacks.

Early anarchist ideologues saw terrorism as a form of propaganda. In 1885, Johann Most famously declared, "we preach not only action in and for itself, but also action as propaganda." Indeed, in many ways, it seems as if successful attacks are able to influence future attacks more than simple propaganda does. For instance, even though al Qaeda began calling for grassroots jihadists to conduct vehicular assaults in the second edition of its Inspire magazine, published in 2010, and despite the ease of conducting such attacks, only six were recorded outside Israel between 2010 and 2016. However, since the deadly and well-publicized Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, in 2016, at least 10 vehicular assaults have been committed by jihadists in North America and Europe (as well as two others not connected with jihadists). Success, and the heavy media coverage that accompanies it, clearly breeds imitation.

Because of this, we can expect to see more attempts to shoot at crowds from elevated positions. The tactic does not pose a threat just to music festivals like the one in Las Vegas, but rather to any large crowd, whether gathered for parades, sporting events, rallies, protests or celebrations — or even at a tourist site. Indeed in many cities, even everyday commutes create a large, vulnerable crowd at major intersections and travel hubs.
Can the Threat be Mitigated?

Security planners for large events, especially official high-profile ones designated national security events because they are at high risk of being targeted by terrorists or criminals, may have the resources to conduct extensive pre-event preparations, including sweeping for potential threats and positioning countersniper teams. However, even the federal agencies in charge of securing such events will have to rethink some of their standard assumptions to now account for snipers inside buildings with windows not designed to open. Furthermore, the concert attack presented a wrinkle that even one standard protective method probably would have missed. A review of the Mandalay Bay's guest registry in a search for potential threats likely would not have flagged the shooter, as there was little in his history to indicate he might take such an action.

But outside major events, most security managers simply do not have the resources to devote to those kinds of arrangements. In the Las Vegas case, the crowd, and not the concert itself, was the target. In similar situations, there may be absolutely no link, such as a previous threat, between an attacker and an event, increasing the difficulty of anticipating that kind of trouble. In a typical city, there are simply too many events during an average week for law enforcement at the local, or even state, level to cover with enhanced security. Even if tight security can be provided at some events, a determined attacker could simply shift to a softer target.

This reality puts even more emphasis on the need for the authorities to focus on the terrorist attack cycle, giving them the opportunity to detect when a would-be attacker is conducting surveillance on a target, acquiring weapons or getting ready to act, all points at which a plot is vulnerable to disruption before an attack proceeds. Further, the Las Vegas shooter, a white, 64-year-old millionaire, does not fit the profile most people picture when thinking about a terrorist or mass murderer. Therefore, this case presents a prime example of why counterterrorism efforts should focus on the "how" rather than the "who."
What Can Ordinary People Do?

Two weeks ago, I discussed how people can help protect themselves when they are in a crowd that is targeted for an attack. If you are in a vulnerable location, to increase your odds of escaping if an attack erupts, it is critical to remain aware of your surroundings, stay alert for trouble and quickly recognize if an assault is unfolding. But most important, you should already have mentally prepared yourself to take immediate action to get out of the kill zone once you are aware of the danger. Reviewing some of the videos of the Las Vegas attack, it was easy to see the difference between people who took immediate action after they recognized the threat and those who simply froze. Indeed, instead of running for cover, some people just stood there, shooting video with their cell phones. One person was shown actually jumping up and waving his arms as if to taunt the shooter. In another widely circulated video, a man made an obscene gesture at the attacker. Don't be these people: Get out of the kill zone immediately and find cover.

Even in media interviews of the survivors, there is a marked difference between the accounts of those who simply dropped to the ground immobile and those who ran to find cover — and those who repeatedly ran back into danger to grab the immobile or wounded and move them to cover.

Besides shock, first responders and others who came to the aid of the wounded had to deal with extensive bleeding. In fact, bleeding is the primary cause of death when people are hurt by gunshots or shrapnel in bombings. Beyond knowing how to administer basic first aid, it is important to have materials with which to effectively do so. I carry a tourniquet, hemostatic bandage and chest seal in a small bag in my briefcase every day. I also carry kits equipped with those items in each of my vehicles. While it is certainly possible to create an improvised tourniquet using shoelaces or a belt, why rely on makeshift methods when genuine emergency supplies are so inexpensive and light to carry? Being prepared will not only allow you to treat yourself or a member of your family if needed, but it will also perhaps save a life in the aftermath of an attack.

We do live in a dangerous world, but honestly, at no time in history has civilization been free of those who would hurt or kill others. It's a fact of life today that just as automobile accidents and disease pose a threat to life, terrorists and mass murderers will target innocents. Recognizing that these attacks are possible, however, does not mean that you must live in fear. In fact, paranoia is counterproductive to a healthy and sustainable level of personal security. However, by understanding the threats and developing the proper mindset, people can remain resilient in the face of them.
181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia wends its way to an exit from Syria on: October 06, 2017, 11:25:50 AM
second post

Since it first entered the conflict in 2015, Russia has changed the course of the Syrian civil war. The country managed, along with Iran, to turn the tides of battle back in the Syrian government's favor. And now that it has, it is looking for a way off the battlefield. Moscow doesn't want to be stuck in the Syrian conflict, but neither does it want to lose gains it has made there in solidifying its presence in the country and establishing itself as a critical influence in the region.

To that end, Russia has advocated a divide and conquer strategy with its Iranian and Syrian allies. First, it will draw down the rebellion against the Syrian government by offering the rebels and their backers "de-escalation zones" to freeze key sectors of the battlefield. Once the de-escalation zones have freed up enough manpower, Russia will then go after hard-line extremist groups in the country such as the Islamic State. The strategy has so far enabled Russian and Iranian-backed loyalist forces to switch their focus from fighting rebels in western Syria to claiming as much territory as possible in the eastern part of the country in the Islamic State's wake. But as Moscow is finding out, achieving its goals in Syria will be far more complicated than it anticipated.

Despite Russia's apparent advantages in Syria, the flaws in its exit plan are starting to show. The de-escalation zones the country set up during earlier peace talks in Kazakhstan have all but collapsed. Part of the problem is that independent rebel groups in the regions have shown no sign of acceding to outside pressure. The militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, for example, has refused to recognize the ceasefire negotiations and has launched offensive operations on loyalist positions in Hama province from its stronghold in nearby Idlib. Russia's own allies have also undermined its plan. Though Iran and the Syrian government understand the logic of the Russian strategy, they are reluctant to give up their claim to rebel-held territory by suspending hostilities there. Tehran and Damascus, unlike Moscow, are in the war for the long haul and won't back down until they achieve complete victory. Consequently, Syrian loyalist forces have continued their assaults on rebel positions in the west, particularly in Jobar and in the eastern Ghouta region.

Beyond the de-escalation zones' failings, Russia is also facing setbacks as the loyalist troops under its aegis push east toward the Iraqi border. Moscow is frustrated, for instance, that the U.S.-backed Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC) may block the loyalists' advance toward Deir el-Zour with its own march down the Khabur River. While the SAC has made headway, the loyalists have run up against counterattacks from the Islamic State that have caused considerable casualties across the broad battle zone in the east. These strikes have cost Russia high-ranking officers, including a lieutenant general. In addition, on Oct. 3 the Islamic State released video footage showing two captured Russians, likely private military contractors, whom the group claims to have seized in a recent raid.

Complicating matters for Moscow is the decreasing popularity of its intervention in Syria back home. According to a survey in early September from the Levada Center, an independent pollster, less than one-third of Russians support their country's involvement in the Syrian civil war, down from two-thirds in 2015. Protesters across Russia have turned out at demonstrations with signs calling on the government to end the expensive operation and to focus its spending on feeding its people instead. To shore up their positions before elections in 2018, Russian leaders have highlighted the value of the Syrian mission by pointing out that it has enabled the Federal Security Services to find and arrest Islamic State operatives planning attacks in Russia.

Yet notwithstanding the challenges that have impeded — and will continue to impede — its exit plan in Syria, Moscow is unlikely to give up on the strategy anytime soon. Russia will continue to use a combination of military pressure on rebel forces and diplomatic outreach to their supporters, and to its own allies, to influence the conflict. Even if it can't end the war in Syria, Moscow can at least try to get the conflict to a point that won't require such a big military commitment on its part.
182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick: Obama's Third Term on: October 06, 2017, 11:11:07 AM
COLUMN ONE: Trump and Obama’s third term

Column one: Burying Obama’s legacy 
Israeli minister: Relations with Trump are more important than calling out Nazis 
By Caroline B. Glick
October 5, 2017 20:42
The problem is that substantively, there is no real difference between Obama and Trump, not in the Middle East and not anywhere.

In an interview with Walla news site Tuesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that “the more active the US is [in the Middle East], the better it will be for Israel.”

On paper, Liberman’s sentiments seem reasonable enough. President Donald Trump is far friendlier than his predecessor Barack Obama was. The tone of US-Israel relations has vastly improved since Trump took office.  The problem is that substantively, there is no real difference between the two administrations – not in the Middle East and not anywhere.

Take Iran’s nuclear program for example.

In accordance with the US Nuclear Agreement Review Act (2015), on October 15, Trump is obligated to make his quarterly report to Congress certifying or decertifying Iranian compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal it concluded with Obama two years ago.

The issue of whether or not to certify Iranian compliance has been the beginning, middle and end of all US policy discussions on Iran’s nuclear program since Trump entered office.

Despite Trump’s stated opposition to the deal, his top advisers Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have pressured him into twice certifying Iranian compliance.

On the face of it, the debate about Iranian compliance ought to be about competing interpretations of Iran’s behavior. In practice, though, facts play little role in the discourse.

The Iranians announced as soon as the deal was concluded that they would not permit UN inspectors to enter any nuclear site they define as a “military installation.”

This hollowed out the entire inspections regime.

After all, if Iran can bar inspectors from its nuclear installations, there is no way for inspectors to know if Iran’s nuclear operations accord with or breach of the restrictions it agreed to in the agreement.  In other words, neither Obama nor Trump has had any way to credibly certify Iranian compliance, because the US has no idea what Iran is doing.  And everyone knows this.  Since everyone knows this, the debate about presidential certification of Iranian compliance clearly is not about Iranian compliance.

Instead, the debate has been about one thing only: reality.

Specifically, does reality have a place in US policy regarding the nuclear deal with Iran? Because if reality does have a role to play, obviously, Trump cannot certify Iranian compliance.

To date, proponents of barring reality have won the debate. In testimony Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mattis said that in his opinion, maintaining the nuclear deal is the US interest. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen.

Joseph Dunford told lawmakers that “Iran is not in material breach” of the accord.

According to an AP report Tuesday, national security officials involved in the recertification process now aim to change the Nuclear Agreement Review Act in a manner that would deny Trump the power to determine whether or not Iran is complying with the deal.  According to AP, the issue is being framed as a way to free Trump from the embarrassment of having to certify the deal every three months.

The worst thing about the entire debate about certifying Iranian compliance is not that it is delusional.  It is that it is irrelevant.

Obama’s nuclear pact is yesterday’s news.

Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran gave the Iranians all the benefits up front. In exchange for a handshake, Iran received a $100 billion in cold hard cash and foreign direct investment. The international arms markets opened to them. The international financial markets opened to them.

Non-certification won’t bring back the money.

More important than the financial advantages Iran has already won, and will not lose if the US decertifies, is the fact that due to the deal, Iran has had two years to freely advance its nuclear program without meaningful inspections and without sanctions.  And again, while the Iranians have advanced, the US has debated the two-year old deal over and over again as if it matters. This instead of constructing a strategy to block Iran’s entrance into the nuclear club.

This brings us to Iran’s ally North Korea, which thanks to feckless US policy-makers of previous administrations, is already a member of the nuclear club.

During Mattis’s testimony Tuesday he said that despite the fact that he and Trump are threatening to annihilate North Korea and Tillerson is trying to appease North Korea, there is no contradiction in the administration’s policy.

Substantively he is right. Since both of the policies being discussed are imaginary, whether the administration talks about military action or diplomacy, its statements are meaningless.

The fact is that unless the US is willing to see tens of thousands of South Koreans vaporized in a North Korean artillery assault on Seoul in response to a US military strike on Pyongyang, the US has no viable military option for dealing with North Korea. Since the Trump administration has given no indication that it is willing to see that sort of destruction in South Korea to achieve the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, its threats to annihilate North Korea are not credible.

As for Tillerson’s search for a diplomatic solution, this too is futile. For 24 years, three US administrations reached “historic deal” after “historic deal” with Pyongyang, and Pyongyang breached all of them as it raced to the finishing line of its nuclear weapons program.

Now, with Kim Jung Un testing hydrogen bombs and ICBMs and threatening to nuke Guam, there is no chance that US diplomacy will fare any better than it did in the past.

And so the US is back where it has always been. It has one card to play with North Korea: China.

China is the only actor that can end North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship without war. But to compel China to act the US requires far more leverage over the Chinese than it has presently mustered or brought to bear.  So the only way for the US to avert war with North Korea is to escalate its competition with China on America’s terms.

Unfortunately, once Trump’s senior strategist Stephen Bannon left the White House in August, no senior administration official has been working on building leverage over China.

Back to Iran. As bad as North Korea is, at least it’s a Chinese client state. If Trump can make China an offer it can’t refuse, he can achieve the US’s strategic goals without a devastating war. 

Iran on the other hand is no one’s client. Iran has its own client states.

And just as the Trump administration is unable to extricate itself from Obama’s legacy of delusion and failure with respect to Iran’s nuclear weapons program and North Korea, so it cannot – or will not – shift away from Obama’s delusional policies toward Iran’s client states.

Consider Syria.

In Syria the Trump administration has maintained Obama’s policy of pretending that the most dangerous actor and gravest threat to the US and its interests in Syria is Islamic State.  Although under pressure by Israel, the administration has begun to talk about the threat of Iranian expansionism in Syria, it has no policy for blocking Iran’s empowerment. The same is the case with relation to Russia’s rise as a regional power broker – at the US’s expense – through its deployment in Syria.

As bad as the US’s Syria policy is, its Lebanon policy is even worse.

In Syria the US is simply pretending its enemies do not exist, or if they exist, that they do not threaten the US.  In Lebanon, the US is collaborating with its enemies.

In June Liberman told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, “Today the Lebanese army is a subsidiary unit of Hezbollah and [Lebanese President] Michel Aoun is another [Hezbollah chief Hassan] Nasrallah operative.”

Liberman’s assertions were not a theory. They were grounded in statements made by Aoun himself and by Lebanese military commanders.  But the Americans will not listen to what the Lebanese say or see what they are doing.  Instead, they remain devoted to their fantasy that the Lebanese government is independent and the Lebanese Armed Forces is not a subsidiary of Hezbollah. In support of this lie, this year the US pledged and delivered the bulk of $100 million worth of sophisticated weapons to the Hezbollah- controlled LAF.

In August, the US delivered eight M1-A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. According to US Ambassador Elizabeth Richard, they were the first of 32 set for delivery by the end of the year. The US had also delivered M-4 assault rifles, howitzers, grenade launchers, machine guns, mortars, hellfire missiles, night vision devices and thermal sight technology to Hezbollah’s proxy force.

As Middle East analyst Tony Badran noted, the weapons the US supplied to the LAF “have been on Hezbollah’s shopping list consistently for almost a decade.”

And the US is not only arming Hezbollah through its surrogate. It is also fighting alongside Hezbollah through its surrogate.  In August, US special forces fought alongside LAF forces to wrest control of the Lebanese border with Syria from Islamic State-associated Sunni militia.  The battle was a joint LAF-Hezbollah operation – commanded by Hezbollah.

Quoting a source “close to Hezbollah and the LAF,” Al-Monitor’s Nour Samaha wrote, “US Central Command called the Lebanese army chief and asked him to deny any cooperation [with Hezbollah], telling him that while they are aware of cooperation, it has to be denied publicly.”

In other words, it isn’t that the Pentagon isn’t aware it is empowering Hezbollah. It knows what it is doing. It just doesn’t want the American public to know what it is doing.

This brings us finally to the Palestinians. On Tuesday Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin was the first senior minister to publicly criticize the Trump administration’s policy toward Israel and the Palestinians.  Elkin told Yediot Aharonot that despite the friendly tone of administration officials and the fruitful cooperation Israel enjoys with the administration on a host of other issues, on the issue of Jewish property rights in Judea and Samaria, “they are walking on the same path as the Obama administration.”

The same of course can be said of the Trump administration’s policy toward Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. No matter how open PA President Mahmoud Abbas is about his cooperation with Hamas and no matter how many hundreds of millions of dollars he transfers to the bank accounts of terrorists, the Trump administration continues to treat Abbas and the PA as moderates and peace partners. Even worse, the administration is coercing Israel to do the same.

No matter where you look around the globe, in the Middle East, in Asia, in South America and in Europe, you see the same thing. The Trump administration has changed America’s tone in foreign affairs.

But substantively, there has been little change.

Trump may be the anti-Obama. But his policies indicate that all the same, he is the second Obama.
183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: October 06, 2017, 10:42:01 AM
184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Trump Admin eliminates Obamacare birth control mandate on: October 06, 2017, 10:38:10 AM
185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Brilliant game by Bobby Fisher on: October 06, 2017, 10:31:57 AM
186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy, Sedition, and Treason? on: October 06, 2017, 09:55:33 AM
Mark Steyn was wondering this morning if he was a contract killer, which sounds like an idea  worthy of further explanation to me:

a) Apart from the general notion of evil, I've yet to hear a more plausible explanation;
b) It is congruent with his scouting various locations that also overlooked a large crowd in Boston, Chicago, etc.;
c) it is congruent with the long time accumulation with guns and apparent familiarity with a large range of guns, how to run them, and modifications for them.  The situation presented is about the only practical application of a bump stock.
d) it is congruent with what we know about his life.
187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Las Vegas Tin Foil 2.0 on: October 05, 2017, 09:10:34 PM
Posted purely as food for thought.


 From the Facebook page of Lloyd Acree.......Take it from 8 years' professional Marine Corps machine gunnery and marksmanship expertise:

 Having trained to pro military "expert"-grade skill sets on rifle marksmanship and multiple machine guns in the Marine Corps infantry, I quickly started noticing a fowl odor in the news narrative on this Vegas massacre. The following are the weapons I am tired of shooting copious rounds through on both known and unknown distance ranges, running, hiking and training with, disassembling and reassembling, etc. Notice they all shoot automatic or can if switched over.

 - M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (full automatic)
 - M4/M16 (3-round auto)
 - M240G/B (full automatic)
 - IAR M27 (full automatic, top-dollar M16 variant)

 I spent 8+ years training and shooting to military specs, not only with these machine guns but also pistols, shotguns and explosive weapons, not counting heavier machine guns and robotic mounting equipment used in private contracting overseas after my military service.

 Now the distance shot from the Vegas hotel to the "Village" concert of about 400-500 yards would be too familiar with a single-shot AR15 to any Marine, but that is our **farthest** distance that we qualify with in the Marine Corps (people look like tiny letter i's in the distance at this point). We never shoot full automatic at this range unless we are using an imprecise burst to keep the enemy pinned, and that is only if your weapon is heavily secured to mitigate all the recoil. You just can't expect many kills at 500 yards even with a properly sighted slow fire rifle. But I will get back to this.

 Now as a former point man, machine gunner, team leader, and assistant patrol leader, my ability to plan and implement these weapons is comparable with what we saw occur there in Las Vegas. Notice I did not say that the shooting was better than my abilities, but neither am I saying I could do a lot better - what I have observed as video/audio evidence is simply run-of-the-mill shooting. For Marines in the infantry, that is, IF they have professionally adjusted optics sighted to their preferred distance for engagement AND high quality vise-like stabilization. I knew something wasn't right when I kept hearing survivors say that their friends had received multiple bullets to the same body part. For example, one guy said his friend took three bullets to the chest--all while he was standing next to his friend! This means the man was shot three times all at once in the same burst, OR he was shot near-simultaneously by multiple shooters (that tends to happen if you are in the open wearing a red shirt or stand out for some similar reason). Then, another witness said he saw a man with four bullets in his head. I doubt it was actually four but obviously there were multiple holes there. These shot groupings at that distance from the hotel, considering this is a real-life killing, are already professional rate even with just a semi-automatic. But this is also full auto?

 You might have already guessed, yes I knew right away the shooter was using a tripod or similar gear to stabilize the gun(s). But that alone is not enough to achieve both the high rate of fire and precision accuracy that occurred in Vegas. Only a precision-sighted rifle with a quality optic can drill those kinds of groupings at such a distance, but there's more--the longevity and redundancy of machine gun fire. This accuracy was no trick of a semi-auto trigger, as using a bump stock requires extra manipulation of the foregrip to slap the trigger against the finger (which would entail pulling against the tripod instead of leaning into it), instead of squeezing it smoothly as should be done for precise shot groups. In any case there was no accuracy to be had here in conventional light-weight full automatic gunfire, no matter how good the scope was, because a light-weight rifle such as the AR15 will rock and "climb" in direct proportion to the recoil of the rounds being fired. In other words, you can't stabilize your shots if your weapon isn't heavy, or at least locked down to something heavy, and if he was using a bump stock then we have to rule out that necessary stability.

 Further, this man in his mid-60s who has sat for years in the seat of an accountant's desk, supposedly carried all these long-barreled weapons, ammo, and gear through the hotel by himself? He always kept his guns hidden from room service and his hefty logistics never tipped off the security guards?

 This would all just be a conspiracy theory except that we also have footage proving that it was indeed multiple shooters from different locations around the building (see link below).

 Who would conspire to sell this false story and cover up the real shooters?

 We know that the leftist institutions, mainstream media (operation mockingbird), and the military industrial Congressional complex, funded and manipulated by deep state non-elected officials with immense power (aka "the swamp"), are all in cahoots to paint Donald Trump in a bad light no matter what happens. We know they want him impeached for the desperate, unsubstantiated accusation that he used Russian support to be elected (yet the Saudis are hand-in-glove with these accusers just as they funded our DNC candidates' campaigns). Do you really think that they would be so far from slaughtering a hundred country music fans if it meant they regained the helm of the entire US government? And now you see they are ramping up their push to take away America's guns. Why? Once we are under the boot, no one can stop a kangaroo court of corrupt officials from indicting Trump on baseless lies. At that point, there will be no bill of rights left, either. As if we still even have one after all the damage inflicted by the far-reaching patriot act.

 These conspirators know they have to use a dramatic shooting like this one if they are to gain further ground: the public must receive a traumatic sensory immersion that scars our memory and thus eclipses the factual myriad stories we have of mom-and-pop locals stopping crime with their concealed carry pistols or home owners' shotguns. Law-abiding gun owners across the nation save lives in vastly variegated situations which is easy to read about if you simply keep in the know, but if you are informed only by the opinionated Hollywood celebs then, by all means, "big brother" is the only one who should have all the firepower. Because, you know, absolute power tends to soothe the bureaucratic soul into absolute moderation, or something like that.

 This is not a legality problem: it's mass hysteria deliberately triggered by national terrorism to achieve population controls. This is precisely the definition of terrorism: to achieve political agendas by the use of violence and the fear of it! The bravest thing we can do is assert our rights and our human dignity, keep our minds sharp, and maintain our weapons to always war against true fascism--the very darkness this country was founded to fight.

Fear-driven abandonment is not the answer, just as big brother is never your friend.
- Lloyd Acree
188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tin foil conspiracy theory for Las Vegas on: October 05, 2017, 07:34:29 PM
189  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Something rotten in Las Vegas? on: October 05, 2017, 07:32:21 PM
190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: TPP withdrawal hurts US on: October 05, 2017, 07:20:17 PM
The Editorial Board
Oct. 5, 2017 7:26 p.m. ET

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact is regaining momentum despite the Trump Administration’s January decision to withdraw. Representatives of the remaining 11 TPP members met last month in Japan to push for ratification as early as November in the hope that Washington will rejoin. But even without the U.S., members stand to make significant gains.

A January study by Tokyo’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies makes the economic case for the smaller pact. Vietnam, originally expecting a 30% increase in exports under TPP by 2030, would still get a bump in textiles and apparel, as trade in those products is expected to grow $3 billion among the 11 member states. Malaysia would see a 20% increase in GDP due to reductions in nontariff barriers. Brunei would diversify its oil-dependent economy into biotech and agribusiness. New Zealand, Australia and Canada would actually enjoy bigger GDP boosts if the U.S. stays on the TPP sidelines. Their beef producers would secure preferential access to Japan’s market and take market share from American ranchers.

That shows how the Trump Administration has set back U.S. exporters by withdrawing from TPP. The U.S. is now seeking to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement to obtain market-opening provisions that are part of the TPP. But Mexico and Canada don’t want to make concessions that were given in return for the broader benefits of TPP.

Keeping TPP alive hasn’t been easy. The lack of a U.S. market carrot led members to backtrack on some commitments. Vietnam, the only nonmarket economy in the pact, wants to freeze provisions on labor standards and intellectual property. But one positive surprise has been Japan’s leadership in the new negotiations. Tokyo is pushing members to reduce the number of provisions they want suspended to single digits by November.

Leaders seem to recognize that TPP is even more important in the Trump era. The common goal of the 11 nations is to convince the U.S. that TPP is essential to its influence in Asia. While Mr. Trump is unlikely to have a free-trade epiphany, the deal offers benefits to American exporters that the U.S. will struggle to secure on a bilateral basis. If the 11 remaining members hold out for a U.S. return, it’s possible that rational American self-interest will prevail over protectionist bluster.

Appeared in the October 6, 2017, print edition.
191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Takedowns of drones on: October 05, 2017, 07:19:02 PM
second post

192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bold eagles killing drones on: October 05, 2017, 07:12:08 PM

Bold Eagles: Angry Birds Are Ripping $80,000 Drones Out of the Sky
Australia’s wedge-tailed eagle uses sharp talons, crack aerial combat skills to attack and destroy pricey flying machines
Daniel Parfitt’s crashed $80,000 drone after an attack by a wedge-tailed eagle.
By Mike Cherney
Sept. 29, 2017 12:10 p.m. ET

Daniel Parfitt thought he’d found the perfect drone for a two-day mapping job in a remote patch of the Australian Outback. The roughly $80,000 machine had a wingspan of 7 feet and resembled a stealth bomber.

There was just one problem. His machine raised the hackles of one prominent local resident: a wedge-tailed eagle.

Swooping down from above, the eagle used its talons to punch a hole in the carbon fiber and Kevlar fuselage of Mr. Parfitt’s drone, which lost control and plummeted to the ground.

“I had 15 minutes to go on my last flight on my last day, and one of these wedge-tailed eagles just dive-bombed the drone and punched it out of the sky,” said Mr. Parfitt, who believed the drone was too big for a bird to damage. “It ended up being a pile of splinters.”

Weighing up to nine pounds with a wingspan that can approach eight feet, the wedge-tailed eagle is Australia’s largest bird of prey. Once vilified for killing sheep and targeted by bounty hunters, it is now legally protected. Though a subspecies is still endangered in Tasmania, it is again dominating the skies across much of the continent.

These highly territorial raptors, which eat kangaroos, have no interest in yielding their apex-predator status to the increasing number of drones flying around the bush. They’ve even been known to harass the occasional human in a hang glider.

Birds all over the world have attacked drones, but the wedge-tailed eagle is particularly eager to engage in dogfights, operators say. Some try to evade these avian enemies by sending their drones into loops or steep climbs, or just mashing the throttle to outrun them.

A long-term solution remains up in the air. Camouflage techniques, like putting fake eyes on the drones, don’t appear to be fully effective, and some pilots have even considered arming drones with pepper spray or noise devices to ward off eagles.

They are the “ultimate angry birds,” said James Rennie, who started a drone-mapping and inspection business in Melbourne called Australian UAV. He figures that 20% of drone flights in rural areas get attacked by the eagles. On one occasion, he was forced to evade nine birds all gunning for his machine.

The birds are considered bigger bullies than their more-docile relatives, such as the bald and golden eagles in the U.S. Wedge-tailed eagles are the undisputed alpha birds in parts of Australia’s interior but it’s not entirely clear why they’re so unusually aggressive towards drones. Scientists say they go after drones probably because they view them as potential prey or a new competitor.

“They’re really the kings of the air in Australia,” said Todd Katzner, a biologist and eagle expert at the U.S. Geological Survey in Boise, Idaho. “There’s nothing out there that can compete with them.”

The problem is growing more acute as Australia makes a push to become a hot spot for drones. One state, Queensland, recently hosted the “World of Drones Congress” and last year gave about $780,000 to Boeing  Co. for drone testing. is expanding in Australia and could try using drones for deliveries, and the machines are increasingly favored by big landowners such as miners and cattle ranchers.

The eagles will often attack in male-female pairs, and they aren’t always deterred if their first foray fails. Sometimes they will come from behind, attack in tandem from above, or even stagger their assault. A drone operator may evade one diving eagle with an upward climb, but the second eagle can then snatch it, Mr. Rennie said.

“If you take your eye off that aircraft even for a couple of minutes, the likelihood is it will end up in pieces on the ground,” he said.​

In late 2015, Andrew Chapman, a co-owner at Australian UAV, was mapping a quarry and landfill site near Melbourne, and figured it was close enough to the city that an eagle attack was unlikely. But when the drone was about half a mile away, an eagle “materialized out of thin air and knocked out the drone,” Mr. Chapman said. He spent two days looking for the machine, worth about $35,000 at today’s retail price, and had to ship it to the manufacturer in Switzerland for repairs.

More exotic defenses have been considered. Mr. Chapman said arming drones with pepper spray was discussed but quickly discarded, out of concern it could harm the birds.

“It’s a relief to be planning for jobs overseas because we know the wedgies aren’t there,” said Mr. Chapman, using the local nickname for the bird.

Rick Steven, a survey superintendent at the St. Ives gold mine in Western Australia, who uses drones to survey the pits, debated using something like a ShuRoo—a device mounted on cars that makes noise, which humans can’t hear, to keep kangaroos off the road. But he was concerned it would be cumbersome on the drone and may not ward off eagles anyway.



A YouTube video of an eagle knocking a drone out of the sky.

Instead, Mr. Steven and other drone operators make use of another weapon: time. The eagles are less active in the early morning, because the thermals—columns of rising air—they use to fly don’t develop until later in the day after the sun has warmed the ground.

In his first 2½ years flying drones at the mine, Mr. Steven said he lost 12 drones to eagle attacks, which cost his employer, South Africa-based Gold Fields  Ltd. , some $210,000. During the past year, when he focused his flying in the morning, he has lost two—with two more close calls.

​​Any successes at deterring wedge-tailed eagle attacks in Australia could provide clues in how to minimize avian obstacles in other regions.

“Every time I go to a conference on birds and they’re having a workshop on drones, somebody tells me about this problem in Australia, about these wedge-tailed eagles,” said David Bird, a retired wildlife biology professor in Canada and founding editor of the Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems.

Mr. Parfitt, who began his drone business Aerial Image Works about three years ago, remains vigilant. Each of his last three jobs attracted an eagle attack.

Other birds will “fly at the drone and they’ll act in a very aggressive manner, but they don’t actually touch you,” he said. “I’m not scared of anything else attacking my drone except the wedge-tailed eagle.”

Write to Mike Cherney at
193  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Federalist: Dems have no clue how to prevent mass shootings on: October 05, 2017, 07:06:06 PM
194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Media needs to stop inspiring copycats on: October 05, 2017, 07:04:40 PM
Not sure I agree with some of this, but a subject worth considering

The Media Needs to Stop Inspiring Copycat Murders. Here's How.
After a wave of teen suicides in the 1980s, news outlets began reporting on these deaths more cautiously. Similar guidelines could help prevent more shooting sprees.

After the Newtown shootings, newspapers printed detailed information about the killer and his methods. (McClatchy Papers)

You might not have noticed, but the mass media rarely reports on suicides, particularly teen suicides. When it does, the coverage is careful, understated, and dampened. This is no accident: Following guidelines endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Mental Health, the media carefully and voluntarily avoids sensationalizing such deaths especially among teenagers. They almost never make the news unless the person is a public figure; methods of suicide are rarely mentioned; suicide pacts are not reported upon.

This is for good reason: Suicide, especially among teens, is contagious. It's a morbidly attractive idea that offers an established path of action for a troubled youngster. And we know from research in many fields that establishing a path of action -- a complete narrative in which you can visualize your steps and their effects -- is important in enabling follow-through.

This, for example, is exactly why political campaigns ask people about where and how they plan to vote -- imagined events are more likely to be carried out in real life. If you have a full story in your head, you are more likely to enact it, step by step. We also know such "contagion" effects are especially strong in adolescence and young adulthood -- an especially turbulent time for mental health.

In the Middle Ages, psychosis may have involved visions of the devil. Today, it can involve dressing in pseudo-combat gear and walking through a public place in a blaze of violence.

As a sociologist, I am increasingly concerned that the tornado of media coverage that swirls around each such mass killing, and the acute interest in the identity and characteristics of the shooter -- as well as the detailed and sensationalist reporting of the killer's steps just before and during the shootings -- may be creating a vicious cycle of copycat effects similar to those found in teen and other suicides.

Indeed, the rate of mass public shootings in the United States has been accelerating. In 2012 alone, there were at least a dozen of them. Seven dead at an Oakland college in April. Five killed at a Seattle coffee shop in May. Twelve killed in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in July. Six murdered at a Wisconsin Sikh temple in August, and six more killed in Minneapolis in September. Three dead in the Milwaukee spa shootings in October. And most recently, and unimaginably, 20 children as young as six, along with six adults, murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The trend is disturbingly clear.

As many have pointed out, these mass public rampages are inextricably linked with the availability of high-capacity guns and ammunition, as well as with lack of strong mental health infrastructure -- especially for those in late adolescence and early adulthood, the typical onset period for major psychotic disorder.

But it's also important to recognize that while mental illness plagues every society, the ways people express it are heavily influenced by the norms, heroes, anti-heroes, and spectacles of their own places and times. In the Middle Ages, psychosis may have involved visions of the devil, snakes, or witches. In the 21st century, it can involve dressing in pseudo-combat gear, donning numerous high-powered rifles, and walking through a public place in a blaze of violence. The shock value is part of the goal -- and the higher the shock value, predictably, the higher the ensuing media coverage, which fuels interest in the shooter and creates a whirlwind of attention and spectacle.

My aim here is not to blame the media: such events have undeniable news value, and there is intense public interest in uncovering their details. But it's important to recognize that such incidents are not mono-causal, and sensational news coverage is, increasingly, part of the mix of events that contributes to these rampages.

We need to figure out how to balance the public interest in learning about a mass shooting with the public interest in reducing copycat crime. The guidelines on reporting on teen suicides were established after a spate of teenage suicides in the United States, some through suicide pacts, in the 1980s. Those who created the guidelines looked at examples from other countries -- for example, the subway suicides in Vienna in the 1980s, which decreased after the media changed its coverage -- and provided specific recommendations: Don't refer to the word suicide in the headline. Don't report the method of the suicide. Don't present it as an inexplicable act of an otherwise healthy person.

With that as a model, here are some initial recommendations.

1. Law enforcement should not release details of the methods and manner of the killings, and those who learn those details should not share them. In other words, there should be no immediate stories about which guns exactly were used or how much robo-cop gear was utilized. There should be no extensive timelines -- no details about which room was entered first or which victim was killed second. In particular, there should be no reporting of the killer's words, or actions before or during the shooting.

Yes, I am a scholar of social media and I understand that these things will leak. But there is a big difference between information that can only be found if you really look for it and news stories that are blasted by every television station and paper in the country. At a minimum, we can and should greatly delay the release of these details by weeks, if not months.

2. If and when social media accounts of the killers are located, law enforcement should work with the platforms to immediately pull them. Yes, there will be screenshots, and again, I am not proposing that such information can be entirely shut out. But by making it harder to find, we can dampen the impact of the spectacle.

3- The name of the killer should not be revealed immediately. If possible, law enforcement and media sources should agree to withhold it for weeks. The identity can be released later during trial (if there is one) or during the release of the investigative report. Once again, merely delaying the release of information may greatly reduce the spectacle effect. The name may "leak," but that is very different from the full blast of attention that currently surrounds the perpetrators immediately after each incident.

Similarly, the killer should not be profiled extensively, at least not at first. There should not be an intense search for clues or reasoning beyond "troubled person commits unspeakable act; wish he had gotten help earlier," in as flat a reporting style as possible. We know that the killers tend to be young men, and they tend to have mental health issues. We do not need to know which exact video games they played, what they wore, or what their favorite bands were.

4. The intense push to interview survivors and loved ones in their most vulnerable moments should be stopped. This, too, may help reduce the sense of spectacle and trauma.

I don't claim that these are the only and best ways to deal with this issue. but I offer them as fodder for a conversation that I hoped will be taken up by media and mental health experts. And we shouldn't be concerned that such guidelines will be impossible to follow. Just yesterday, news outlets revealed that Richard Engel of NBC had been kidnapped in Syria -- and released. The information about his capture, though obviously newsworthy, was held back in order to aid the negotiations and rescue efforts.

There are many such cases of media voluntarily acting to dampen coverage of certain events, especially when it involves one of their own. Let's entreat them to do it for the sake of potential shooting victims as well.
195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo hides/underplays Amazon fine on: October 05, 2017, 12:11:46 PM
196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New ROE in Afpakia on: October 05, 2017, 12:09:58 PM
197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New ROE on: October 05, 2017, 12:09:25 PM
198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Amb. Stevens last words on: October 05, 2017, 12:07:30 PM
199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Guard Wounded in Jihadi Attack at Cartoon Contest Sues FBI on: October 05, 2017, 11:27:59 AM
200  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Football on: October 05, 2017, 07:43:34 AM
Matthew Futterman
Oct. 2, 2017 4:03 p.m. ET

The National Football League’s more muted approach in recent days to responding to attacks from President Donald Trump followed a tense meeting last week in which several owners argued the league’s combative stance was unproductive, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

Those owners argued that taking on a sitting president over whether players should be required to stand for the national anthem was bad for business, while others thought the league should continue to stand up to the criticism, these people said.

The disagreement is a contrast to the message of unity that NFL owners and players have tried to project over the previous eight days, as Trump took on the league over the protests and repeatedly disparaged the state of the game.

There were various demonstrations among players and teams on Sunday but they were fewer in number and generally more subdued than they had been the previous week. League officials also dialed down their criticism of the president in the days leading up to the weekend’s games, even as Trump continued tweeting about the issue.


Anthem Protests Continue Across the NFL

A number of players and teams protested in some fashion before games on Sunday, though the demonstrations were fewer and more muted than last weekend.

Some Buffalo Bills players take a knee during the national anthem before a game against the Atlanta Falcons.John Bazemore/Associated Press

1 of 11


“We made our point,” said league spokesman Joe Lockhart. “There was no point in responding to every tweet or every statement.”

The debate among owners came at a previously scheduled committee meeting in New York. It wasn’t clear how many owners argued the league should be less assertive, or which ones.

After Trump reignited the debate over the protests, at a Sept. 22 speech in Alabama in which the president called an NFL player a “son of a bitch” and ripped into owners for not punishing those who demonstrated, the league responded quickly. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell the next day issued a statement supporting the players and Lockhart on Sept. 25 said the league “fundamentally could not disagree more” with Trump. He said the resounding response from players, owners and coaches, many of whom linked arms with kneeling players on the first game day after Trump’s remarks, represented the result of thoughtful discussion and “real locker-room talk.”

Regarding Trump’s comments that safety rules had softened the game, Lockhart said last Monday, “These remarks represent someone who is out of touch.”

However, multiple owners at the meeting said they needed to avoid the likely repercussions of a lingering feud with the president over an issue that resonated with many fans. While the league didn’t issue a directive and there were no reports of owners forbidding players from protesting, several clubs took steps to reduce tensions in the days that followed the meeting. Detroit Lions players said team owner Martha Ford asked them not to kneel for the anthem, saying she would support causes related to racial injustice in return.

Trump has received significant support from NFL owners in the past.

Shahid Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins, Bob McNair of the Houston Texans, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots, Woody Johnson of the New York Jets and Stan Kroenke of the Los Angeles Rams each donated $1 million to his inaugural committee, as did a company Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones controls. Ed Glazer, chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, gave $250,000.

Ahead of Sunday’s games, Lockhart said the league had made its point that it was unified against the attacks on its personnel. He said no one can question its viability, as well as its value to the country and in local communities.

With strong feelings on both sides about how best to deal with Trump, the league decided players could be far more effective in carrying the message forward than he could be.

“On Saturday, Sunday and Monday we made clear what our position was,” Lockhart said. “I don’t see some need to validate it Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.”
Pages: 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 ... 827
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!