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151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Stratfor: Evaluating Ebola as a weapon on: October 23, 2014, 10:16:20 PM
 Evaluating Ebola as a Biological Weapon
Security Weekly
Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size

By Scott Stewart

Over the past few weeks, I've had people at speaking engagements ask me if I thought the Islamic State or some other militant group is using Ebola as a biological weapon, or if such a group could do so in the future. Such questions and concerns are not surprising given the intense media hype that surrounds the disease, even though only one person has died from Ebola out of the three confirmed cases in the United States. The media hype about the threat posed by the Islamic State to the United States and the West is almost as bad. Both subjects of all this hype were combined into a tidy package on Oct. 20, when the Washington Post published an editorial by columnist Mark Thiessen in which he claimed it would be easy for a group such as the Islamic State to use Ebola in a terrorist attack. Despite Thiessen's claims, using Ebola as a biological warfare agent is much more difficult than it might appear at first blush.
The 2014 Outbreak

In the past, there have been several outbreaks of Ebola in Africa. Countries included Sudan, Uganda, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and several comparatively small outbreaks occurred in Gabon as well. In most cases, people who handled or ate animals infected with the disease started the outbreaks. "Bushmeat," or portions of roasted meat from a variety of wild animals, is considered by many to be a delicacy in Africa, and in a continent where hunger is widespread, it is also a necessity for many hungry people. After several months of medical investigations, epidemiologists believe the current outbreak most likely began when a two-year-old child in Guinea touched or perhaps ate part of an infected animal such as a bat or monkey.

The source of the disease means it is highly unlikely that some malevolent actor intentionally caused the latest outbreak. Besides the fact that the current outbreak's cause has been identified as a natural one, even if a transnational militant group such as the Islamic State was able to somehow develop an Ebola weapon, it would have chosen to deploy the weapon against a far more desirable target than a small village in Guinea. We would have seen the militants use their weapon in a location such as New York, Paris or London, or against their local enemies in Syria and Iraq.

As far as intent goes, there is very little doubt that such a group would employ a biological weapon. As we noted last month when there was increased talk about the Islamic State possibly weaponizing plague for a biological attack, terrorist attacks are intended to have a psychological impact that outweighs the physical damage they cause. The Islamic State itself has a long history of conducting brutal actions to foster panic.

In 2006 and 2007, the Islamic State's predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, included large quantities of chlorine in vehicle bombs deployed against U.S. and Iraqi troops in an attempt to produce mass casualties. The explosives in the vehicle bombs killed more people than the chlorine did, and after several unsuccessful attempts, al Qaeda in Iraq gave up on its chlorine bombings because the results were not worth the effort. Al Qaeda in Iraq also included chemical artillery rounds in improvised explosive devices used in attacks against American troops in Iraq on several occasions. Again, these attacks failed to produce mass casualties. Finally, according to human rights organizations, the Islamic State appears to have recently used some artillery rounds containing mustard gas against its enemies in Syria; the group presumably recovered the rounds from a former Saddam-era chemical weapons facility in Iraq or from Syrian stockpiles.

The problem, then, lies not with the Islamic State's intent but instead with its capability to obtain and weaponize the Ebola virus. Creating a biological weapon is far more difficult than using a chemical such as chlorine or manufactured chemical munitions. Contrary to how the media frequently portrays them, biological weapons are not easy to obtain, they are not easy to deploy effectively and they do not always cause mass casualties.
The Difficulty of Weaponization

Ebola and terrorism are not new. Nor is the possibility of terrorist groups using the Ebola virus in an attack. As we have previously noted, the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo attempted to obtain the Ebola virus as part of its biological warfare program. The group sent a medical team to Africa under the pretext of being aid workers with the intent of obtaining samples of the virus. It failed in that mission, but even if it had succeeded, the group would have faced the challenge of getting the sample back to its biological warfare laboratory in Japan. The Ebola virus is relatively fragile. Its lifetime on dry surfaces outside of a host is only a couple of hours, and while some studies have shown that the virus can survive on surfaces for days when still in bodily fluids, this requires ideal conditions that would be difficult to replicate during transport.

If the group had been able to get the virus back to its laboratory, it would have then faced the challenge of reproducing the Ebola virus with enough volume to be used in a large-scale biological warfare attack, similar to its failed attacks on Tokyo and other Japanese cities in which the group sprayed thousands of gallons of botulinum toxin and Anthrax spores. Reproducing the Ebola virus would present additional challenges because it is an extremely dangerous virus to work with. It has infected researchers, even when they were working in laboratories with advanced biosafety measures in place. Although Aum Shinrikyo had a large staff of trained scientists and a state-of-the-art biological weapons laboratory, it was still unable to effectively weaponize the virus.

The challenges Aum Shinrikyo's biological weapons program faced would be multiplied for the Islamic State. Aum Shinrikyo operatives were given a great deal of operational freedom until their plans were discovered after the 1995 sarin attacks on the Tokyo subway. (The group's previous biological weapons attacks were so unsuccessful that nobody knew they had been carried out until after its members were arrested and its chemical and biological weapons factories were raided.) Unlike the Japanese cult, the Islamic State's every move is under heavy scrutiny by most of the world's intelligence and security agencies. This means jihadist operatives would have far more difficulty assembling the personnel and equipment needed to construct a biological weapons laboratory. Since randomly encountering an infected Ebola patient would be unreliable, the group would have to travel to a country impacted by the outbreak. This would be a difficult task for the group to complete without drawing attention to itself. Furthermore, once group members reached the infected countries, they would have to enter quarantined areas of medical facilities, retrieve the samples and then escape the country unnoticed, since they could not count on randomly encountering an infected Ebola patient.

Even if Islamic State operatives were somehow able to accomplish all of this -- without killing themselves in the process -- Ebola is not an ideal biological warfare vector. The virus is hard to pass from person to person. In fact, on average, its basic reproductive rate (the average amount of people that are infected by an Ebola patient) is only between one and two people. There are far more infectious diseases such as measles, which has a basic reproductive rate of 12-18, or smallpox, which has a basic reproductive rate of five to seven. Even HIV, which is only passed via sexual contact or intravenous blood transmission, has a basic reproductive rate of two to five.
Ebola's Weakness as a Weapon

The Ebola disease is also somewhat slow to take effect, and infected individuals do not become symptomatic and contagious for an average of 8-10 days. The disease's full incubation period can last anywhere from two to 21 days. As a comparison, influenza, which can be transmitted as quickly as three days after being contracted, can be spread before symptoms begin showing. This means that an Ebola attack would take longer to spread and would be easier to contain because infected people would be easier to identify.

Besides the fact that Ebola can only be passed through the bodily fluids of a person showing symptoms at the time, the virus in those bodily fluids must also somehow bypass the protection of a person's skin. The infectious fluid must enter the body through a cut or abrasion, or come into contact with the mucus membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth. This is different from more contagious viruses like measles and smallpox, which are airborne viruses and do not require any direct contact or transfer of bodily fluids. Additionally, the Ebola virus is quite fragile and sensitive to light, heat and low-humidity environments, and bleach and other common disinfectants can kill it. This means it is difficult to spread the virus by contaminating surfaces with it. The only way to infect a large amount of people with Ebola would be to spray them with a fluid containing the virus, something that would be difficult to do and easily detectable.

Thiessen's piece suggested that the Islamic State might implement an attack strategy of infecting suicide operatives with Ebola and then having them blow themselves up in a crowded place, spraying people with infected bodily fluids. One problem with this scenario is that it would be extremely difficult to get an infected operative from the group's laboratory to the United States without being detected. As we have discussed elsewhere, jihadist groups have struggled to get operatives to the West to conduct conventional terrorist attacks using guns and bombs, a constraint that would also affect their ability to deploy a biological weapon.

Even if a hostile group did mange to get an operative in place, it would still face several important obstacles. By the time Ebola patients are highly contagious, they are normally very ill and bedridden with high fever, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea, meaning they are not strong enough to walk into a crowded area. The heat and shock of the suicide device's explosion would likely kill most of the virus. Anyone close enough to be exposed to the virus would also likely be injured by the blast and taken to a hospital, where they would then be quarantined and treated for the virus.

Biological weapons look great in the movies, but they are difficult and expensive to develop in real life. That is why we have rarely seen them used in terrorist attacks. As we have noted for a decade now, jihadists can kill far more people with far less expense and effort by utilizing traditional terrorist tactics, which makes the threat of a successful attack using the Ebola virus extremely unlikely.

Read more: Evaluating Ebola as a Biological Weapon | Stratfor
152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Water Market would fight Drought on: October 23, 2014, 07:10:02 PM
The West Needs a Water Market to Fight Drought
Outdated laws are wasting the region’s scarcest resource. Water should be tradable so it finds its most urgent uses.
By Robert Glennon and Gary Libecap
Oct. 23, 2014 7:23 p.m. ET

The drought in the Western U.S. from California to Texas has generated gloomy editorials and op-eds predicting dire consequences and even water wars. But the West is not running out of water, nor are prolonged fights over water inevitable. Modest changes in water use could have big results: A reduction of just 4% in agricultural consumption would increase the water available for residential, commercial and industrial uses by roughly 50%, according to our analysis of U.S. Geological Survey data.

Yet even after the current drought ends, the West will continue to suffer water shortages thanks to population growth, economic development and the effects of climate change. When engineers designed the water infrastructure in arid states in the West, they assumed that future droughts and floods would follow historical patterns. But precipitation patterns have changed.

Traditional solutions—diverting more water from rivers, building new reservoirs or drilling additional groundwater wells—are no longer ways to substantially increase the water supply. In a new report for The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, we, along with co-author Peter W. Culp, propose that states use market tools to promote water trading. That is, farmers or other users who reduce their consumption should be allowed to lease or sell the conserved water.

A major overhaul of Western water law is overdue, but implementing such reform would take years. In the near term, states should authorize short-term leases of water, build basic market institutions, deploy risk-mitigation tools such as dry-year options, and implement basic controls such as regulating how much water can be pumped. The current absence of viable market opportunities and incentives is producing perverse results.

In 2014 the worst drought in memory caused California farmers to fallow almost 500,000 acres of land, including some that produced high-value fruit and nut trees. Meanwhile, Western growers of alfalfa—a low-value and high-water-use crop—are on pace this year to export two million tons of alfalfa to China, South Korea and Japan—produced with enough water to supply several million U.S. families for a year or to irrigate hundreds of thousands of acres of high-value almond trees. If there were ways to trade water, some farmers could cut back on the production of more water-intensive, lower-value crops and lease or sell the conserved water to desperate fruit and nut growers or thirsty cities.

Most farmers don’t have that option. Even though federal and state policy fosters the export of agricultural commodities, Western water law generally inhibits trade in the water used to grow the commodities. States should open up the market by eliminating or streamlining legal barriers that effectively block transfers of water.

A market in water would encourage efficiency by stimulating innovation, promoting specialization and allowing water to move from lower-value to higher-value uses. Farmers who have an opportunity to trade a portion of their water have an incentive to take measures, such as installing more efficient irrigation systems, to free up water for trade. It would also create opportunities to deploy market-based tools, such as dry-year options, to help mitigate water risks to farms and cities.

For example, under a dry-year option, a water user with a low tolerance for water shortages—such as an almond farmer whose trees would quickly die without water—can contract with a seasonal agricultural user, such as a broccoli grower. In dry years, the almond producer would have the right to use the broccoli grower’s water. The almond producer pays a yearly premium to guard against times when water shortages would result in the loss of his orchard. The proceeds from the option give the broccoli grower a guaranteed revenue stream and thereby provide a hedge against a drought that might destroy his annual crop—mitigating risk for both parties.

The U.S. has a national interest in encouraging more efficient use of water everywhere. While Americans used to fret about running out of oil, water also fuels the American economy. A 2013 survey of the world’s largest companies by Deloitte Consulting found that 70% of respondents identified water as a substantial business risk, either in direct operations or supply chains. Companies with water challenges include obvious ones, such as Coca-Cola , and surprising ones, such as Intel , which needs large quantities of water to produce its processors.

The Western water crisis is basically an imbalance between supply and demand. Opening water resources to trade has the potential to reduce the imbalance by rewarding water conservation, ensuring that water goes toward the highest-value and most-efficient uses, and providing the financial tools to mitigate fluctuations in water availability.

Mr. Glennon, a law professor at the University of Arizona, is the author, most recently, of “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do about It” (Island Press, 2009). Mr. Libecap, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, is co-author of “Environmental Markets: A Property Rights Approach” (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: An Affair to Remember on: October 23, 2014, 07:02:45 PM
An Affair to Remember
As Hillary gears up to run, look for attempts to rewrite 1990s history.
Hillary and Bill Clinton in New York in 1998 ENLARGE
Hillary and Bill Clinton in New York in 1998 Getty Images
Oct. 22, 2014 7:00 p.m. ET

As Hillary and Bill Clinton prepare for another White House ramble, the country is fated to endure more than a few 1990s flashbacks, often including attempts to whitewash the real history. The latest character to re-emerge is Monica Lewinsky, the former intern who is doffing her beret to reinvent herself as an anti-cyberbullying activist.

In a speech this week at a Forbes magazine conference that went viral on the Web, Ms. Lewinsky describes herself as a “survivor” of online abuse—she became “the creature from the media lagoon.” As the worst abusers, she cited Matt Drudge and the New York Post, which gave Ms. Lewinsky a term of tabloid endearment as “the portly pepperpot.” Another culprit was “a politically motivated independent prosecutor,” or Ken Starr.

The problem is that Ms. Lewinsky was actually the victim of the Clinton lagoon, as White House operatives tried to destroy her reputation when the scandal broke. The real bullies weren’t online but in the West Wing.

On Jan. 21, 1998, Mr. Clinton told his aide Sidney Blumenthal that Ms. Lewinsky “came on to me and made a sexual demand on me,” according to Mr. Blumenthal’s deposition to Mr. Starr. Mr. Clinton added that he “rebuffed her” and then she “threatened him. She said that she would tell people they’d had an affair, that she was known as the stalker among her peers, and that she hated it and if she had an affair or said she had an affair then she wouldn’t be the stalker any more.”

Mr. Blumenthal then repeated this tale to anyone in the press corps who would listen, and the “stalker” smear soon made it into multiple media reports under the authority of “a White House source.” Mrs. Clinton for her part described Ms. Lewinsky as “a narcissistic loony toon,” as the first lady’s friend Diane Blair recounted in the personal papers archive opened in 2010 by the University of Arkansas library.

Meanwhile, Mr. Clinton fanned out across the talk shows to deny that he had any romantic or otherwise improper relationship, which he continued to insist until he was forced to admit his lies by the blue DNA dress. Then the Clintons flipped to attacking the respected jurist Mr. Starr as a rabid partisan. Mr. Clinton was impeached for obstruction of justice and lying under oath, and he later was stripped of his law license.

We correct the record not least to point out that the Clintons weren’t above falsely smearing a young woman not much older than their daughter as an oversexed psycho blackmailer. Since Ms. Lewinsky brought it up, we also wonder what the modern feminists applauding her address think about men in positions of power publicly shaming a female subordinate without her consent.

But the story is especially instructive for what it reveals about the Clinton family mores of saying or doing whatever it takes to win. Mr. Blumenthal and the rest of the Clinton menagerie are rested and ready for another run at political power. As the 2016 election nears, Americans should be prepared for more attempts to rewrite 1990s history.
154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Not sure what to make of this , , , on: October 23, 2014, 07:01:43 PM*Editors%20Picks&utm_campaign=2014_EditorsPicks23%2F10Rs
155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America on: October 23, 2014, 06:56:16 PM
My thought is this: We search for Truth.  If that includes that some Imans did the right thing, we should acknowledge that.
156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: October 23, 2014, 06:52:03 PM
1) There is the matter at what level the various rates kick in-- adjusted for inflation.  My understanding is that the 90% rate of the Eisenhower years kicked in at a much higher level than today when adjusted for inflation;

2) The Kennedy supply side tax rate cuts increased revenues.  Is the argument then that we should have higher rates and lower revenues?!?

3) Higher rates enable tax shelter games-- thus increasing both the unaccountable power of the Congress and its corruption by special interests;

4) the attendant misallocation of capital hits the entire economy to the detriment of all.
157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson on Equality 1791 on: October 23, 2014, 12:59:12 PM
"When we say, that all men are equal; we mean not to apply this equality to their virtues, their talents, their dispositions, or their acquirements." --James Wilson, Man as a Member of Society, 1791
158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Father helps stone daughter to death on: October 23, 2014, 12:55:46 PM
159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Canadian imans do the right thing on: October 23, 2014, 10:33:36 AM
FOX reported this morning that several Muslim Imans in Canada notified authorities concerning members of their congregation who troubled them.

160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Techno vote fraud in Illinois-- guess to whose benefit , , , on: October 22, 2014, 07:39:01 PM
161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Monroe's First Inagural 1817 on: October 22, 2014, 07:30:31 PM
"Let us by wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of preserving our liberties." --James Monroe, First Inaugural Address, 1817
162  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Michael Brown autopsy results are in on: October 22, 2014, 07:25:29 PM
Not necessarily a reliable site, but they seem to have it right: 
163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Blackwater 4 found guilty on: October 22, 2014, 07:13:54 PM
164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NSA's Alexander and some serious insider trading on: October 22, 2014, 06:42:26 PM

On so many levels, the mind boggles , , ,*Editors%20Picks&utm_campaign=2014_EditorsPicks22%2F10RS
165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gigolo John at it again on: October 22, 2014, 06:37:55 PM

Kerry Links ISIS Recruiting Success to Israel
by IPT News  •  Oct 17, 2014 at 12:29 pm

  Be the first of your friends to like this.
Israeli government officials are fuming over remarks made by Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday which connected the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict to waves of international recruits flocking to the terrorist group ISIS.
"As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the ISIL coalition," Kerry said, "the truth is we – there wasn't a leader I met with in the region who didn't raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that they felt – and I see a lot of heads nodding – they had to respond to."
In a Facebook post written in Hebrew, Israeli Communications Minister Gilad Erdan wrote, "I actually respect Kerry and his efforts, but every time he breaks new records of showing a lack of understanding of our region and the essence of the conflict in the Middle East I have trouble respecting what he says."
Naftali Bennett, the Israeli economy minister, blasted Kerry for linking ISIS, which seeks an Islamic caliphate in Syria, Iraq and beyond, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it "gives a boost to global terrorism."
"It turns out that even when a British Muslim beheads a British Christian, there will always be those who blame the Jews," Bennett said, alluding to the beheading earlier this month of British aid worker Alan Henning. The killer, believed to be the same man who beheaded American journalists James Foley and Steven Satloff, speaks with a British accent.
Kerry's statement, made at a State Department reception celebrating the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, is a bit of a contradiction to President Obama's statement during a speech to the United Nations last month. While also calling for peace talks to resume, Obama acknowledged that "the situation in Iraq and Syria and Libya should cure anybody of the illusion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the main source of problems in the region."
And there's another obvious point Kerry doesn't seem to understand. The radical Islamists in ISIS, like radical Islamists in Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hizballah and others, absolutely reject any peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. It is codified in their founding charters and repeated statements. Their only acceptable outcome is Israel's destruction. Given that, it's difficult to understand how a peaceful resolution guaranteeing and Jewish homeland in Israel and a Palestinian state, would do anything but ignite new fury and spike the number of recruits seeking to join the jihad.
166  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Active Shooter problems on: October 22, 2014, 05:57:22 PM
Prayers for our Canadian friends today  cry 

Question presented here-- this is your situation:

What do you do?
167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY demands FB profile and password for permit applications on: October 22, 2014, 02:10:33 PM
168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sit reps on: October 22, 2014, 01:31:40 PM
Second post

Before we get to today's news, KP's Kate Brannen has an interesting tidbit on how the air campaign against the Islamic State is being fought. When the Obama administration announced the start of a U.S.-led air campaign against Islamic State targets in Syria last month, much was made of the five Arab states recruited to confront the group. According to Kate, the role these nations are playing in the coalition is now less transparent.   

"In fact, the Pentagon won't be talking about allied contributions anymore at all: On Tuesday, in a quiet change, the Defense Department said it would no longer provide daily information on what its coalition partners were doing in the fight against the Islamic State.

"U.S. Central Command announced the shift Tuesday in its daily update about airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. 'Beginning with this news release, out of respect for participating nations, U.S. Central Command will defer to partner nations to publicly comment on their airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq,' the release said.

"The policy change comes after a week's gone by without any mention of participation by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan or Bahrain in airstrikes in Syria. The last day it noted help from coalition partners was Oct. 14."

Now, on to the news.

A report in the Washington Post indicates that the United States and Iraq are planning an offensive to take back territory won by the Islamic State. From WaPo's Karen DeYoung: "The plan, described as methodical and time-consuming, will not begin in earnest for several months and is designed to ensure that Iraqi forces¬ do not overextend themselves before they are capable of taking and holding territory controlled by the militants." More here.

The devil is in the details. According to the Post, this new campaign might require "U.S. advisers in the field with the Iraqis, should that be recommended by American military commanders." This could represent an escalation of the American role in the conflict, as well as a potentially explosive political issue for the White House; President Obama has consistently maintained that no American boots would be on the ground in Iraq. But there is growing doubt that this promise will be kept: a new survey of readers show that 54 percent believe American troops will return to Iraq.

Iraq's new defense minister has strong words for the Islamic State. Al Awsat's story: "In his first televised speech following his appointment on Saturday, Iraq's new Defense Minister Khalid Al-Obeidi pledged that Iraqi forces would retake all areas of the country that have been taken over by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 'We are committed to the liberation of the provinces that have fallen under ISIS control and securing the return of refugees to their homes, securing peace and stability for our country,' the new defense minister pledged on Tuesday." More here.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the Arab spring continues. Four year ago, the Arab Spring was celebrated in the west as the potential birth of new democracies across the Middle East. Now, it's clear that the protests-and the issues that drove them-are much more complex that Western media made them out to be at the time. Tunisia is the latest example.

Tunisia is among the Arab world's most educated countries, but militants are recruiting heavily there. The NYT's David Kirkpatrick: "Nearly four years after the Arab Spring revolt, Tunisia remains its lone success as chaos engulfs much of the region. But that is not its only distinction: Tunisia has sent more foreign fighters than any other country to Iraq and Syria to join the extremist group that calls itself the Islamic State.

"nstead of sapping the appeal of militant extremism, the new freedom that came with the Arab Spring revolt has allowed militants to preach and recruit more openly than ever before. At the same time, many young Tunisians say that the new freedoms and elections have done little to improve their daily lives, create jobs or rein in a brutal police force that many here still refer to as 'the ruler,' or, among ultraconservative Islamists, 'the tyrant.'" More here.

Not only is it wrong to blame the Islamic State's rise on the U.S. failure to secure a two-state solution-it's also flat-out dangerous. Aaron David Miller for FP: "In any conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian problem, I'd be the first to concede that failure to resolve it damages U.S. interests in the Middle East and undermines American credibility. But what has become even more stunningly clear in recent years is that even if the United States could fix the Palestinian issue and produce a two-state solution, that accomplishment alone would not stabilize the angry, broken and dysfunctional Middle East. The region is already in the process of melting down for a tsunami of reasons that have nothing to do with the Palestinians. But talking about the consequences of not fixing the Palestinian issue, particularly in Chicken Little the 'sky is falling' terms, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been wont to do, doesn't help matters-it makes them worse." More here.

One of the most influential Army officers of the Iraq theater on why the United States seems destined to repeat the mistakes of the past. For FP, John Nagl reflects on his experiences during the 2003 Iraq War: "The United States is now at war in Iraq for the third time in my lifetime, and after being in the middle of the first two I'm planning to sit this one out...Although it's too soon to say how it will turn out, it is not too early to say that unless we get the endgame right, the United States will fight yet another war in Iraq before too long.

"...With luck, we have learned a few things from these decades of war in Iraq: that the enemy has a say about when wars end, that in the absence of American leadership such evil forces will rise to power that we get dragged back in to fix things again, that wars are messy and slow and last a long, long time. Unless we finally get it right, I expect a fourth war in Iraq. I'm not optimistic." More here.

Kobani has become the focal point of the fight against the Islamic State. This Syrian border town has emerged as the most important battle of the American campaign. Whether or not it's strategically important-and DOD officials insist it isn't-the optics of the fight have elevated it in the eyes of the international press.

If Kobani wasn't strategically important to begin with, it is now. FP's Brannen and Gopal Ratnam: "The Obama administration's rapidly intensifying efforts to prevent Kobani from falling into the hands of the Islamic State have backed the United States into a corner. While Pentagon officials maintain that the town isn't strategically significant, the United States has invested so much in saving Kobani that its fall would hand the Islamic State a publicity win and deal a symbolic blow to the U.S.-led war effort.

Shashank Joshi, a senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London to FP: "I think the U.S. was caught between trying to discount the significance of Kobani and then realizing that it had no choice but to be drawn in, because Kobani has become a token for the campaign's ability to succeed with airpower alone... I think against their better judgment the U.S. found itself compelled to provide greater and greater airpower, even when that came at the expense of more consequential areas like Anbar province." More here.

From WSJ, U.S. Cooperated Secretly with Syrian Kurds in Battle For Kobani. More here.

Turkey has been a reluctant participant in the fight against the Islamic State. But with Kobani on the brink, there are new signs that Ankara might be forced to do more. Here's the latest evidence: A kidnapping in Turkey shows the Islamic State's broad reach. More from WaPo here.   
169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anti-gun MO state senator arrested , , , with gun on: October 22, 2014, 01:26:23 PM
170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / General Nagl: Coming soon Iraq War 4 on: October 22, 2014, 01:22:56 PM
One of the most influential Army officers of the Iraq theater on why the United States seems destined to repeat the mistakes of the past.
•   BY John A. Nagl
•   OCTOBER 21, 2014
The United States is now at war in Iraq for the third time in my lifetime, and after being in the middle of the first two I'm planning to sit this one out.

The first Iraq war was necessary and conducted well, as wars go; the second was unnecessary and conducted poorly at first, but ended up in a reasonable place given what a fiasco it had been at the start. This third war was entirely preventable, caused by a premature departure of U.S. troops after the second. Although it's too soon to say how it will turn out, it is not too early to say that unless we get the endgame right, the United States will fight yet another war in Iraq before too long.

My first Iraq war was Operation Desert Storm, when half a million U.S. troops joined an international coalition to expel Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait in 1991.

Although that war appeared to settle some things at the time, within months of the cease-fire it became clear that Saddam had survived the thrashing we had given his army and was not going to fall to indigenous rebel forces as we had hoped. Instead, we began a decade of containment called Operation Southern Watch, with American war planes flying combat missions around the clock to deter Saddam from further adventurism.

Southern Watch continued until March 2003, when the tempo of combat operations increased sharply during the second Iraq war. Operation Iraqi Freedom began in an air of national panic after al Qaeda's attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the unrelated but frightening anthrax attacks on the U.S. capital. Saddam was working to develop weapons of mass destruction, we were told, and the United States did not want to discover that he had completed them only after seeing a mushroom cloud over Washington or New York. Throwing aside generations of deterrence theory -- which predicts correctly that states will not deploy weapons of mass destruction against another state that possesses them for fear of reprisal -- we invaded Iraq again, this time unnecessarily.

(MARC: He is correct that “States will will not deploy weapons of mass destruction against another state that possesses them for fear of reprisal” but this misses the point with regard to NON-state actors to whom chem, radioactive, and bio weapons could be handed off—as we were seeing for example with the anthrax attacks.  The author apparently has fallen here into the mistaken meme that Iraq War-2 was purely about WMD.  This is not right, the list of reasons was quite wrong; WMD was simply the one of them used to seek legal cover/approval from the UN)

Not just unnecessarily, but also poorly. Iraq was three nations inside a single state, held together by a brutal dictatorship. Although there were prewar warnings that hundreds of thousands of troops would be required to police Iraq after the government collapsed, we invaded with a fraction of that number. We had no plan to create a new order in postwar Iraq or even to secure the weapons-storage depots that were the supposed reason we were invading. Decisions made in the immediate aftermath of the invasion to disband the Iraqi Army and forbid any former members of the ruling Baath Party from again holding positions of influence poured fuel on the embers of a Sunni insurgency that burst into flames.

(MARC:  True enough, but completely fails to address the concerns of the Shia—whom along with the Kurds Bush-1 had left to be brutalized by Saddam after encouraging them to rise up.  Understandably the Shia wondered as to our intentions this time around—seeing that the Sunnis would not continue to oppress them in a new form was a logical concern on their part and one which we had to address.)

Rather than coming home by Christmas, the invasion force called for reinforcements, including my tank battalion.
We arrived in Anbar province in September 2003, right in the heart of the insurgency, and immediately discovered that our prewar training to fight other armies would be of little help. We were fighting insurgents who, in Mao's clever phrase, were fish swimming among the sea of the people -- Sunnis who hated us and their new Shiite overlords in Baghdad, whom they saw as collaborators with the occupiers.

It got worse. We had been told that Saddam was collaborating with al Qaeda, which was not true, but in the power vacuum that followed his demise, radical Islamists found a toehold. They named themselves al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and increased the sophistication of the weapons they deployed against U.S. troops. Simple improvised explosive devices made of the artillery rounds that literally littered the desert were replaced by sophisticated AQI car bombs like the one that destroyed the Khalidiya police station one Sunday morning, killing 34 Iraqi police officers we had trained and equipped. When my tank battalion left Anbar after a year of fighting, we made coffee cups that said "Iraq 2003-2004: We Were Winning When I Left."

We weren't, and we knew it. I went to work in the Pentagon and became reacquainted with my former West Point professor David Petraeus, who was then a lieutenant general returning from his own second combat tour in Iraq. In 2006, I helped him write an Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual that suggested fighting a very different kind of war from the one we were then waging. Appointed to command the whole Iraq war effort shortly thereafter, General Petraeus put the new counterinsurgency doctrine into practice, building an Iraqi Army and eventually persuading the Sunnis who had been our enemies to switch sides and fight with us against the increasingly brutal AQI. Within 18 months, violence dropped by two-thirds, and we put Iraq on a path to stability (if not perfect democracy).

We seized defeat from the jaws of not-quite victory by not leaving behind a force of some 20,000 American advisors to stiffen the spine of the Iraqi Army and, perhaps more importantly, moderate the anti-Sunni tendencies of the Shiite politicians. But once he came into office, U.S. President Barack Obama overruled the advice of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Petraeus, who had since become director of the CIA. Obama's advisors urged him to keep troops in Iraq. Instead, the president chose to fulfill a campaign promise that he would end the war in Iraq during his first term. He abandoned a country in which Americans had been working and fighting continuously for more than 20 years in an effort to build a stable state.

In our absence, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave in to his worst sectarian tendencies, firing Sunni leaders of the Iraqi Army and replacing them with incompetent Shiite cronies. Al Qaeda in Iraq staged a comeback across the border in Syria, where another civil war raged without American involvement to moderate it. And this year, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham came roaring to life, seizing most of the Sunni territory in Iraq. Maliki's stooges abandoned their units under fire, and the Iraqi Army, built with billions of U.S. dollars and at the cost of many American soldiers' lives and limbs, crumbled in the absence of American air power and advisory support. Two years without Americans engaged in combat in Iraq ended in tragedy, and last month the president announced that U.S. combat troops were returning to Iraq to fight yet another war there, this time against the Islamic State.

With luck, we have learned a few things from these decades of war in Iraq: that the enemy has a say about when wars end, that in the absence of American leadership such evil forces will rise to power that we get dragged back in to fix things again, that wars are messy and slow and last a long, long time. Unless we finally get it right, I expect a fourth war in Iraq. I'm not optimistic.
171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The war on the rule of law on: October 22, 2014, 01:01:05 PM

"The question remains, how do you stop these guys?  From Fast and Furious, to IRS election process theft, to lying to the nation about Benghazi, to taking unconstitutional executive actions, how do we stop them?"
172  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Boxing Thread on: October 22, 2014, 10:52:21 AM
That is a VERY nice find.  What happened in his career?
173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The war on the rule of law on: October 22, 2014, 10:20:55 AM
As this thread all too eloquently testifies, there is much more here than felonious fellatio. 

Fundamentally transforming America via the profoundly unconstitutional act of mass amnesty is something that MUST be stopped and IS something, especially on top of all the illegal postponements of Obamacare and all the rest of it, that DOES rise to the level of impeachment. 

Whether the impeachment succeeds or not, it seems to me it should succeed in not letting the purported mass amnesty to stand.

174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Met Opera House playing Saudi funded Wahabbi Opera on: October 22, 2014, 10:16:53 AM

Meanwhile, this thread hits 100,000 reads , , ,
175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The fog of war at Kobani on: October 21, 2014, 11:10:52 PM
U.S. Cooperated Secretly with Syrian Kurds in Battle Against Islamic State
Kobani Became too Symbolically Important to Lose
Kurds at a cemetery Tuesday mourn three fighters who died in clashes with Islamic State in Suruc, Turkey, near the Syrian border. ENLARGE
Kurds at a cemetery Tuesday mourn three fighters who died in clashes with Islamic State in Suruc, Turkey, near the Syrian border. Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Adam Entous,
Joe Parkinson and
Julian E. Barnes
Updated Oct. 21, 2014 9:35 p.m. ET

In public, the Obama administration argued for weeks that Kobani wasn’t strategically vital to the air campaign against Islamic State extremists. Behind the scenes, however, top officials concluded the Syrian city had become too symbolically important to lose and they raced to save it.

As the U.S. role rapidly evolved, U.S. and Syrian Kurdish commanders began to coordinate air and ground operations far more closely than previously disclosed. A Syrian Kurdish general in a joint operations center in northern Iraq delivered daily battlefield intelligence reports to U.S. military planners, and helped spot targets for airstrikes on Islamic State positions.

In contrast to the lengthy legal debate over U.S. aid to rebels fighting the Syrian regime, U.S. airdrops of weapons to Kobani got a swift nod from administration lawyers—a sign of its importance to the administration.

    Syrian Kurdish Forces Assess Air-Dropped Supplies
    Cost of War Against ISIS So Far: $424 Million

The change in thinking over the fate of one city, described by U.S., Kurdish, Turkish and Syrian opposition officials, shows how dramatically U.S. war aims are shifting. After Islamic State made Kobani a test of its ability to defy U.S. air power, Washington intervened more forcefully than it had initially intended to try to stem the group’s momentum.

In doing so, the U.S. crossed a Rubicon that could herald a more hands-on role in other towns and cities under siege by Islamic State at a time when some U.S. lawmakers question the direction of American strategy and warn of mission creep.

“This is a war of flags. And Kobani was the next place Islamic State wanted to plant its flag,” a senior U.S. official said. “Kobani became strategic.”

The U.S. now is relying on two separate, stateless Kurdish groups in Iraq and Syria as ground forces to back up its air campaign against the extremists.

This has strained U.S. relations with another strategically important ally, Turkey. The U.S. has conferred newfound legitimacy on the Syrian Kurdish militia fighting in Kobani, which is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in neighboring Turkey. The U.S. and Turkey both list the PKK as a terrorist group.

Washington’s decision to send in supplies by air to fighters loyal to the Democratic Union Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PYD, followed a U.S. assessment that the Syrian Kurdish defenders would run out of ammunition in as little as three days.

Iraqi Kurdish leaders told American officials they were considering sending reinforcements from their region to Kobani. To reach the town, they would have to pass through other parts of Syria. U.S. defense officials looked at the route and told the Kurds it would be a suicide mission.

The U.S. asked the Turkish government to let Iraqi Kurdish fighters cross through Turkish territory to reinforce Kobani. U.S. officials said Turkey agreed in principal and that Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, proposed sending a specially trained force of Syrian Kurdish refugees.

But events on the ground forced Washington’s hand. U.S. contacts in Kobani sent out an urgent SOS.

“We needed weaponry and fast,” said Idris Nassan, the deputy foreign minister of the Kobani regional government.

To tide the Kurds over until Turkey opens a land corridor, U.S. Gen. Lloyd Austin, who runs the air campaign against Islamic State, decided on a delicate plan: dropping supplies using C-130 cargo planes.

The U.S. didn’t think Islamic State fighters had sophisticated antiaircraft weapons, but the Pentagon decided out of caution to fly under cover of darkness.

Gen. Austin presented the proposal to the White House on Friday. President Barack Obama approved it immediately, U.S. officials said.

Until recently, the White House wouldn’t even acknowledge U.S. contacts with the PYD because of its close ties to the PKK and the diplomatic sensitivities over that in Turkey.

At the White House, Gen. Austin argued last week for resupplying Kobani without Turkey’s consent, U.S. officials said. He warned that the city’s fall would be a recruitment bonanza for Islamic State, leading to an infusion of fresh fighters and newfound momentum while reinforcing its narrative of inevitable expansion.

Resupplying fighters in Kobani wouldn’t normally be a quick decision, both for logistical and political reasons. But administration officials said they saw few alternatives. The U.S. had long kept the Syrian Kurds at arm’s length out of deference to Turkey.

But officials were desperate for partners on the ground on the Syrian side of the border. In recent days, the Kurdish fighters had made gains.

U.S. contacts with the Syrian Kurdish leadership began as indirect and secret.

Then-U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, during stops in Paris, started meeting in early 2013 with an intermediary there of the PYD. After each contact, U.S. officials briefed Turkish counterparts. Daniel Rubinstein, Mr. Ford’s successor, and other officials expanded the dialogue.
Embattled Kobani DigitalGlobe/UNITAR/UNOSAT

The Syrian Kurdish group’s objective during the talks was to persuade the Americans to provide them with military support to fight Islamic State.

“If there is one moderate force in Syria, that’s us,” said Khaled Saleh, the group’s representative in France who took part in many of the preliminary discussions.

For the Syrian Kurdish leaders, progress at first was frustratingly slow.

The U.S. became more responsive over the summer, after Islamic State seized Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.

U.S. intelligence officers were impressed with the Syrian Kurdish fighters’ track record in combating Islamic State. When the fighters crossed the border into Iraq to help save members of the Yazidi religious minority, policy makers in Washington took note, U.S. officials said. Some Syrian Kurdish commanders are Yazidis by religion.

The Syrian Kurds had other appeal to U.S. policy makers. The fighting force is avowedly secular and pro-Western. It fields female fighters and is committed to combating Islamic State. Kurdish officials say several Americans, including two ex-marines, and dozens of European volunteers, have enlisted to fight alongside the Kurds in Kobani.

Impressed by its military performance, the U.S. decided to invite a representative of the group to sit in the coalition’s joint operations center in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, to liaise with special military units in Kobani collecting battlefield intelligence and coordinates for airstrikes.

Kurdish officials said Islamic State turned its sights on Kobani to make an example of the Syrian Kurdish fighters, whose battlefield successes in Iraq had embarrassed the group.

When the U.S. first started bombing Islamic State targets near Kobani, the goal was to kill as many Islamic State fighters as possible.

“When we see them in great numbers, we take them out,” a senior U.S. official said, adding that extremists “kept coming, so we kept hitting them.”

As Islamic State poured resources into the battle, views in Washington of Kobani’s importance began to change.

Mr. Obama’s special envoys in the campaign against Islamic State, Gen. John Allen and Brett McGurk, arrived in Ankara Oct. 9 for talks. By then, the U.S. already had planned to step up the pace of airstrikes in Kobani, but also knew that wouldn’t be enough.

Turkish officials made clear to the U.S. delegation that they didn’t want Kobani to fall—but they didn’t want to inadvertently empower Kurdish fighters close to the PKK. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the PKK and the Syrian Kurdish fighters as one in the same.

The Turkish and American officials agreed broadly that the Iraqi Kurdish forces known as Peshmerga should play a significant role in Kobani’s defense, but the details about how to bring Kurdish reinforcement to Kobani still needed to be worked out.

After the talks in Ankara, Secretary of State John Kerry called Mr. Barzani, who proposed sending the special security force made up of Syrian Kurdish refugees who had been trained in northern Iraq.

The U.S. and Turkey disagreed about how long Kurdish forces in Kobani could hold out, with the U.S. assessing it would be only a few days while the Turks thought it could be longer.

When Kurdish commanders sent out their urgent appeal, Gen. Austin decided the U.S. couldn’t afford to wait, officials said.

He saw an opportunity, defense officials said.

“By stopping them, and by doing tremendous damage to them, you begin to blunt the sense of momentum, particularly in Syria,” a senior administration official said.

The proposal drew legal scrutiny from lawyers at the White House, State Department and Pentagon. Technically, the Syrian Kurdish leadership wasn’t on the terror list, as was the PKK, they said.

The lawyers also found that the legal bar was lower in this case because the U.S. would be sending Mr. Barzani’s arms, rather than delivering U.S. weapons. There was little debate, meeting participants said.

In the final White House meeting, National Security Adviser Susan Rice laid out the potential diplomatic and legal implications of the airdrop. She didn’t say ‘no’ but she wanted concerns to be raised, a senior U.S. official said. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Mr. Obama the operation was urgently needed.

The equipment that was to be delivered beginning on Sunday was shipped from Erbil to Kuwait, the major U.S. logistics hub in the Middle East. There, soldiers prepared packages for the airdrop, defense officials said.

Medical supplies were rigged to drop with high velocity parachutes that are accurate, but that hit the ground with force. Ammunition, however, would be at risk of exploding if dropped with a high velocity chute. So soldiers in Kuwait rigged the ammunition packages with equipment known as the Joint Precision Airdrop System, or JPAD. The JPADs are guided by GPS, making them highly accurate despite the fact they drop slowly from over 10,000 feet.

As planes crossed over Kobani, nearly all of the high velocity parachutes hit their mark.

At least one of the JPADs sustained a malfunction in its parachute, drifting away from its target zone and into an area controlled by Islamic State.

Turkey on Monday confirmed it would allow the Peshmerga to cross its territory but as of Tuesday, no forces had reached Kobani and talks on the parameters of their mission were ongoing, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

U.S. officials said the outcome in Kobani remains far from certain but the operation could have implications for fighters in other towns facing Islamic State.

“Given where we are now, we’re there to help the people who are able to resist,” a senior U.S. official said.
176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The war on the rule of law on: October 21, 2014, 08:48:08 PM
If the Reps take the Senate and IF IF IF this turns out to be as it appears, I am game for impeachment.

What I am NOT game for is quitting.

Our Founding Fathers gave us a Republic.  It is up to us to keep it.
177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 21, 2014, 08:45:09 PM
I allowed myself to get suckered into clicking on that girlfriend meme.  There's nothing there as far as I can tell.  30 seconds of my life I won't ever get back.
178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mass Amnesty appears to be under way. on: October 21, 2014, 05:47:03 PM
Don’t Be Fooled: Obama’s Agenda for Amnesty Has Already Begun

It would be refreshing if the Obama administration would do something right on the issue of immigration. Unfortunately for America, some hopes never result in change. Lawlessness continues to dominate White House policy.

To be clear, Barack Obama continues to completely disregard Rule of Law when it comes to immigration. He has usurped authority in order to keep our borders open to whoever wants to enter. He has refused to pressure the agencies tasked with enforcing laws on immigration to find and deport those who are here illegally. He has not only allowed tens of thousands of children from Central America to be transported into America illegally, but he has then redistributed them to cities throughout the U.S.
Last month, we reported that Obama, at the request of several prominent Democrats, delayed action on immigration reform (read: amnesty) because too many congressional seats might be lost over the issue come November. For the moment, it's on the backburner with the timer set to ring after the election. Yet the issue of immigration, specifically illegal immigration, is on the minds of voters who love this country enough to try and save it from a rogue administration bent on permanently changing the demographics of the nation in order to ensure a permanent Democrat voting bloc.

The president has every intention to move forward with his agenda of allowing illegal immigrants to flood the country. A new report highlights actions the Obama administration has already undertaken.

Recently, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) started soliciting bids for a contractor to produce nine million identification cards in one year -- five million more than the annual requirement so as to meet a possible “surge” scenario of new immigrants. The new ID cards will consist of Permanent Residency Cards (also known as green cards) or Employment Authorization Documentation cards, which, according to the report, “have been used to implement President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.”

The request for so many new ID cards to accommodate the “surge” indicates Obama is planning executive action. But the immigration reform policies he wants to impose on the nation will be overwhelming for our struggling economy, as well as schools and medical facilities across the nation. This, however, is just part of the path to amnesty for illegals.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also quietly announced last Friday that, as National Review's Mark Krikorian puts it, "Certain illegal aliens from Honduras and Nicaragua are having their amnesty extended, and USCIS is establishing the 'Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program.'” These illegal immigrants, estimated to number 90,000, have already had Temporary Protected Status since 1999, which was granted to them following Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Fifteen years of “Temporary Protected Status?” Sounds more like Permanent Protected Status, which is exactly what the new parole program will allow. It’s another frequently deployed deceitful Obama tactic -- just change the meaning of words in order to accommodate the agenda.

To make matters worse, another recent report from the Center for Immigration Studies reveals, “[D]eportations from within the United States dropped 34 percent from last year and the number of criminal alien deportations declined by 23 percent.” Further, of the 900,000 immigrants who received a final order of removal, “167,000 are convicted criminals who were released by ICE.” Why aren’t the agencies tasked with enforcing the law on illegal immigration doing their job?

The answer is simple: When a president has an agenda to fundamentally transform America, he will do whatever it takes to accomplish it. He must be stopped. But who will stop him? The current Congress has done little because Democrats control the Senate, and they continue to appropriate money for Obama's agenda. That must change on Election Day, or amnesty will steamroll ahead, to the peril of our already fragile Republic.
179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Liberal Fascism vs. The First Amendment on: October 21, 2014, 05:40:25 PM
Liberals attack First Amendment in Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas and Idaho
Published by: Dan Calabrese
Speech isn't free if politicians don't like it.

The Wall Street Journal has lately been performing a real public service by chronicling the efforts of Wisconsin lawmakers, prosecutors and some judges to basically obliterate the First Amendment as it pertains to political speech. No one has passed a law saying you can be arrested for what you say. The usurpation of liberty never works like that. Rather, a complicated web of bureaucracies and legal authorities have established regulations in the name of "fairness" or "good goverment" or "transparency" or what-have-you.

The real-life impact is set traps for advocacy groups who aren't trying to do anything but speak and be heard, and in the process are liable to find themselves in trouble with the law because they failed to follow a Byzantine set of rules and restrictions established by the very politicians who don't want them speaking too effectively - or spending too much of their own money to advocate things that might not be in these politicians' best interests.

The particular rules in play here concern "collaboration" between independent advocacy groups and political candidates. To a normal person, that's the simple exercise of your free-speech rights. To the political class, that's cause for a jailin':

It’s important to understand that this political attack on “coordination” is part of a larger liberal campaign. The Brennan Center—the George Soros-funded brains of the movement to restrict political speech—issued a report this month that urges regulators to police coordination between individuals and candidates as if it were a crime.
The report raises alarms that independent expenditures have exploded since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, as if trying to influence elections isn’t normal in a democracy. The political left wants to treat independent expenditures as a “contribution” to candidates limited under campaign-finance law to $2,600 per election. That would essentially ban independent issue advocacy, since you can’t buy much air time for $2,600.

Such regulation is also an assault on freedom of association. If like-minded people can’t pool resources to influence elections, they are essentially shut out of modern political debate.

All the more so if citizens who do join together can be harassed by regulators or prosecutors. That’s clearly the intention of the Brennan speech enforcers, who survey state efforts to regulate speech and urge others to pick up the truncheon.

By the way, lest you try to blame Gov. Scott Walker for this, be aware that his allies have been the fattest targets for Democrat prosecutors trying to use these regulations to control who can say what in Wisconsin.

But Wisconsin is far from the only state where politicians are trying this gambit. reports that politicians in their state are taking direct aim at the First Amendment, under the guise of limiting evil corporate spending on political races:

On Thursday, the Illinois Senate’s Executive Committee passed a resolution by a vote of 11-4 that calls for a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The Citizens United decision simply held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting anyone’s independent political speech. The court held that, although the government can place certain limits on campaign contributions, it cannot limit how much someone spends independently to speak (or write) about a candidate or political issues.

And that makes perfect sense. If the right to free speech means anything, it must mean that you are free to speak as much as you want, as long as you’re spending your own money.

Incumbent officeholders don’t like that, though, because they would rather not face unlimited criticism.

This sentiment is shared by party leaders on both sides of the aisle in Illinois. This week alone, Senate President John Cullerton co-sponsored the Senate resolution, while House Minority Leader Jim Durkin lashed out against independent groups and said they should face greater legal restrictions.

It’s not surprising that Cullerton and Durkin in particular would feel that way. Along with House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, they are the only people in the state who are legally allowed to direct as much money as they want to the political campaigns of their choosing, through the political parties and “legislative caucus committees” they control. Everyone else in Illinois is limited in how much they can give by the campaign-contribution caps the General Assembly passed in 2009.

Meanwhile, as we told you yesterday, Christian pastors in C'oeur D'Aline, Idaho are being threatened with fines and jail time unless they agree to perform gay "weddings." Once again, no one is going to pass a law outlawing Christianity. They know they can't get away with that. Instead, they impose requirements - ostensibly in opposition to "discrimination" or whatever - that threaten you with sanctions if you run your business in a way that actually adheres to your faith. The impact is the same. You have freedom to practice religion in theory, but in reality you can only practice it to the extent that the state deems acceptable.

And of course, in Houston, the city is attempting to subpoena the sermons of local pastorslest they find they criticized the lesbian mayor or a "human rights ordinance" the mayor favored. This is ostensibly about enforcing election laws in relation to churches' tax exemptions, but that's a crock. It's about outlawing speech politicians don't like.
All of this is the inevitable result of a government that grows in scope and influence because a majority of the electorate expects it to solve every problem that ever existed, even if the problems only affect politicians.

If politicians don't like others spending money to criticize them, too bad. If a Christian wedding chapel doesn't want to perform a gay "wedding," then the homosexuals need to go ask someone else. (And the same applies to bakers, florists, photographers, etc.) We don't need a system in which they react to such a rebuke by complaining to authorities. If pastors encourage people to vote in a certain way, then they do. No one needs to do anything about it.

Of course, the tax code becomes an issue here. The tax code is so onerous that organizations like churches can't hope to survive unless they get an exemption, and applying for the exemption gives the IRS de facto control over how they operate. The solution is not to change the rules governing exemptions. It's to throw out the entire tax code and adopt a new, simple, non-oppressive one that doesn't require anyone to get an exemption.

The bottom line is this: A government so big that it can provide you with everything puts you in a position where you need things from government, and then you're at the mercy of your provider to set rules you can live with. A government that thinks it's responsible for solving every problem will go ahead and "solve" the "problem" presented by your exercise of your rights.

It used to be that liberals claimed to love the First Amendment, but that was before it threatened their power. People of faith especially threaten their power because we answer to a power higher than them, so they try to use their rule-making authority to bring us under control.

If the First Amendment is a casualty, well, that was only valuable to them when it was useful to them. And when you think about it, the same is true of you.

You know, you just might like Dan's books too! Go here to get his series of Christian spiritual thrillers - Powers and Principalities, Pharmakeia and Dark Matter - in print or e-book form, or read his teaching on spiritual matters. You can follow all of Dan's work by liking his page on Facebook.

180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 21, 2014, 03:15:05 PM
Awesome find-- what is the date? Is there a URL?
181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: October 21, 2014, 03:12:56 PM
Oy , , ,  tongue angry rolleyes cry
182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH Surprise! Too many being swept up on mental health no guns list in NY on: October 21, 2014, 01:37:38 PM
Maybe my friend Dr. Donald Miller, with whom I have discussed variations of this, can chime in:
183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kobani ensnares ISIS on: October 21, 2014, 01:18:14 PM


Kurdish People's Protection Units and Free Syrian Army forces continue to battle Islamic State fighters in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The United States announced Oct. 19 that U.S. Air Force C-130 transport aircraft dropped containers of weapons, ammunition and medical aid to the town’s defenders. Washington reportedly informed Turkey of the move in advance. Now, Ankara has said it will allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters to cross Turkish borders and move into Kobani to bolster the town's defenses.

Given Turkey’s previous reluctance to support Kurdish fighters, Ankara appears to be altering its approach following considerable pressure from Washington and other allies. Turkey is keen to maintain strong ties with the United States and is willing to make compromises, which will also help preserve the integrity of its alliances in Europe and the Middle East. Despite this shift, however, Ankara remains wary of directly aiding the People's Protection Units, commonly viewed by the government as terrorists and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK. Regardless, allowing Kurdish fighters to cross the border will only make it harder and costlier for the Islamic State to take Kobani.

The Islamic State arguably accomplished its objectives in Kobani weeks ago when it seized virtually all of the area except for the town itself. This allowed Islamic State fighters to shorten the route between the captured border crossing towns of Jarabulus and Tal Abyad by not having to circumvent Kobani. Stratfor previously noted that Kobani is of very little strategic or even operational value to the Islamic State, and the taking of the town will have extremely little effect on the direction of the conflict in Syria. Numerous Islamic State fighters apparently recognized this fact early on and reportedly sought to prioritize other battlefronts, but were overruled by top Islamic State commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Nevertheless, it is clear by now that the Islamic State -- perhaps for symbolic reasons or because of operational momentum -- has greatly prioritized the seizure of Kobani and has devoted significant resources and manpower to the effort.
Kobani's Fatal Lure
Click to Enlarge
Echoing Germany's disastrous obsession with Stalingrad in 1942, despite having already isolated and reduced the city, the Islamic State's leaders have elected to continue pouring hundreds of fighters into Kobani. They now face a difficult urban battle against determined fighters who are entrenched in prepared positions and supported by coalition air power. By assembling large numbers of fighters and equipment, the Islamic State has created a target-rich environment for the U.S.-led coalition. From the start of the battle, weeks ago, surveillance and reconnaissance overflights have progressively improved the coalition's situational awareness, leading to airstrikes of more damaging accuracy and intensity. Over the last four days alone the United States and its Arab allies executed more than 60 airstrikes in Kobani.

The strikes have been disastrous for the Islamic State, which has lost hundreds of experienced fighters. Reports indicate that the group is doubling down on its flawed strategy by sending further reinforcements from its bastions of Raqaa and Tabqa to continue the assault. Ankara's decision to open a route for Kurdish reinforcements into Kobani further hinders the Islamic State's mission, but it is not as damning for the extremists as a Turkish committal of ground forces. Such a move appears unlikely for the time being. Although Turkey has significant amounts of men and materiel amassed on the border, there is no political will to become embroiled in the Syrian conflict. Ankara will make limited concessions, stopping short of full engagement against the Islamic State. With a coalition willing to maintain air operations and facilitate training for select rebels, Turkey can afford to bide its time for now while dealing with more pressing domestic issues.
A Risky Strategy

The Islamic State has mired itself in a foolhardy frontal assault against a marginal objective, and in doing so it has failed to address ominous developments in more vital Islamic State-controlled areas of Syria. In particular, Syrian forces have capitalized on a weak extremist presence in the critical and far larger city of Deir el-Zour, launching attacks against a reduced enemy. These attacks have enjoyed considerable success, driving Islamic State fighters from several neighborhoods in the city and destroying a number of bridges critical to the jihadists' logistical operations.

The Islamic State continues to make gains in Iraq's Anbar province, mainly because of its superior tactical skill and operational acumen against Iraq's security forces. Had the Islamic State elected to send hundreds or thousands of fighters to Anbar instead of exposing them to the concentrated attacks in Kobani, it is highly likely that the jihadist organization would have been able to achieve considerably more success in a far more vital region.

The battle for Kobani is not yet over, and there remains the possibility that the Islamic State could prevail and seize the town. Were that to happen, however, the damaging truth is that the Islamic State’s obsession with Kobani has already set the group back considerably. With world media focused on the defensive Kurdish and Free Syrian Army fighters holding out against repeated Islamic State attacks, the extremists are handing a propaganda victory to their enemies. Even when the Islamic State does take ground, any success turns into a rallying cry for its opponents. Most important, replacing the severe losses it has already suffered will be difficult for the Islamic State. By devoting disproportionate resources and personnel to seize a town of marginal importance, the Islamic State has distracted itself from more pressing issues in Syria, thereby missing opportunities to achieve further success in Iraq.

Read more: Kobani Ensnares the Islamic State | Stratfor
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184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jerusalem anarchy on: October 21, 2014, 12:37:19 PM
Click here to watch: Netanyahu Furious over Jerusalem Anarchy, Demands Crackdown

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has spelled out his plan for restoring order to neighborhoods in Jerusalem where Arab attacks on Jews have become daily occurrences, and said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also forcefully demanded action by the security forces in a recent high-level discussion. Barkat enumerated the neighborhoods currently under attack – from Armon Hanatziv, Har Homa, and Gilo in southern Jerusalem, through the Mount of Olives area, Issawiya and Silwan, northward to Shuafat and Beit Hanina, where the Light Rail has repeatedly come under brutal attack. He commended Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who he said took very seriously the letter Barkat sent him earlier this month, demanding action against the riots in Jerusalem. Netanyahu gathered the Public Security Minister and top police commanders, he said, for a discussion immediately after Yom Kippur. "I have to tell you,” Barkat said, “that I saw the prime minister banging angrily on the table, and committed to make the necessary change, so that the residents of Jerusalem and visitors to Jerusalem, in the seam line neighborhoods, including the Arab neighborhoods, will feel safer than they do at the moment.” In an interview on Galei Yisrael Radio, Barkat said police special forces units in Jerusalem need to be “doubled” in size – at one point, he said 100 Yassam policemen need to be added to the force – and to adopt a more aggressive posture. Instead of waiting inside the Jewish neighborhoods for Arabs to attack – the forces should enter the Arab neighborhoods and use their intelligence gathering abilities to nip attacks in the bud, he explained

Watch Here

Drones and balloons will start to be used by police in Jerusalem for intelligence gathering against the rioters in the coming days, he revealed. In order for the steps to be effective, however, punishment also needs to be made more severe, according to the mayor. Barkat admitted in an interview with Kalman Libeskind that municipal vehicles no longer enter certain neighborhoods because doing so requires a police escort and such escorts are not available. He denied that the Jerusalem Municipality is trying to cover up the seriousness of the attacks on the Light Rail, and the security situation in Jerusalem in general. However, the mayor appears to have made an about face on this matter from his earlier position, which blamed the Light Rail for reporting attacks against it to the press, and preferred to hush-up the "silent intifada" because the reports about it were bad for business. Barkat accused Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovich of laxness in the face of the challenge in Jerusalem. "Unfortunately,” Barkat wrote in his letter to Netanyahu, “the Public Security Minister isn't providing Jerusalem police with the needed means so that it can defeat the rioters." Barkat said he had seen a video shot recently by residents of Armon Hanatziv, showing them being attacked brazenly by Arab youths who appeared to control the streets, and who were hurling rocks at the residents' homes.
185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VP Cheney's son discharged from military for cocaine! Media in frenzy! on: October 17, 2014, 12:55:30 PM
Navy Discharges Biden's Son for Drug Use
This has got to be awkward for Joe Biden. For years, he has championed a tough "inherent resolve" in the war on drugs. When he was a young whippersnapper senator during the Reagan years, Biden advocated for a "drug czar" to lead the charge against Colombian snow, Mexican brown and Mary Jane. And when Biden made it to the White House, even when other Democrats fell away and admitted the war on drugs was too draconian, the number two Democrat still pushed the Obama administration towards tougher drug policy. But now, the U.S. Navy has discharged Joe Biden's son, Hunter, because he tested positive for cocaine use. Biden's office is refusing to comment, saying Hunter is a private citizen. We wonder what Joe thinks of his policies now -- of the tough incarceration rates, of the SWAT teams -- since his own son has fallen into the net Biden helped weave. And then imagine for a moment Biden was a Republican.
186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism, socialism: on: October 17, 2014, 12:52:14 PM
And here is a follow up to the preceding:

Texas AG to Houston: Stop Assaulting Religious Liberty
The city of Houston recently subpoenaed five pastors for all sermons and correspondence dealing with gender disorientation pathology, or mentioning Houston Mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian. The city was effectively targeting any religious objection to its recent Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). The city poked the bear, however, provoking a groundswell of opposition to this constitutional abuse. That now includes a harshly worded letter from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor. “Whether you intend it to be so or not, your action is a direct assault on the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Abbott wrote to Houston City Attorney David Feldman. “You should immediately instruct your lawyers to withdraw the city’s subpoenas." Mayor Parker implied the city would back off, but it has yet to do so
187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 17, 2014, 12:43:03 PM
Off to Mex City in 90 minutes.  Back Monday night.  Don't know how much internet I will have while there.
188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 17, 2014, 12:42:08 PM
URL for the Wiki entry please?
189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ayatollah said "No Nukes!" on: October 17, 2014, 12:03:38 PM
190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FSA? Who? Never heard of them , , , on: October 17, 2014, 11:36:10 AM

Arm the moderate Syrian rebels, they said. Then we'll be able to counter ISIL effectively, they said. Well, say goodbye to the Free Syrian Army as an American ally. "John Allen, the retired Marine general in charge of coordinating the U.S.-led coalition's response to the Islamic State, confirmed Wednesday what Syrian rebel commanders have complained about for months: that the United States is ditching the old Free Syrian Army and building its own local ground force to use primarily in the fight against the Islamist extremists," reports Stars and Stripes. The reasons are simple and entirely predictable. The FSA suffered from "a lack of cohesion, uneven fighting skills and frequent battlefield coordination with the al-Qaida loyalists of the Nusra Front." The Obama administration is going to have a tough time explaining how, without American boots on the ground, we're going to select, form and train an army to oppose ISIL in Syria
191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Six Reasons to Panic on: October 17, 2014, 10:01:59 AM
Third post

Six Reasons to Panic
Jonathan V. Last - The Weekly Standard
October 27, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 07

As a rule, one should not panic at whatever crisis has momentarily fixed the attention of cable news producers. But the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has migrated to both Europe and America, may be the exception that proves the rule. There are at least six reasons that a controlled, informed panic might be in order.

(1) Start with what we know, and don’t know, about the virus. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other government agencies claim that contracting Ebola is relatively difficult because the virus is only transmittable by direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person who has become symptomatic. Which means that, in theory, you can’t get Ebola by riding in the elevator with someone who is carrying the virus, because Ebola is not airborne.

This sounds reassuring. Except that it might not be true. There are four strains of the Ebola virus that have caused outbreaks in human populations. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the current outbreak (known as Guinean EBOV, because it originated in Meliandou, Guinea, in late November 2013) is a separate clade “in a sister relationship with other known EBOV strains.” Meaning that this Ebola is related to, but genetically distinct from, previous known strains, and thus may have distinct mechanisms of transmission.

Not everyone is convinced that this Ebola isn’t airborne. Last month, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy published an article arguing that the current Ebola has “unclear modes of transmission” and that “there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks.”

And even if this Ebola isn’t airborne right now, it might become so in the future. Viruses mutate and evolve in the wild, and the population of infected Ebola carriers is now bigger than it has been at any point in history—meaning that the pool for potential mutations is larger than it has ever been. As Dr. Philip K. Russell, a virologist who oversaw Ebola research while heading the U.S. Army’s Medical Research and Development Command, explained to the Los Angeles Times last week,

I see the reasons to dampen down public fears. But scientifically, we’re in the middle of the first experiment of multiple, serial passages of Ebola virus in man. .  .  . God knows what this virus is going to look like. I don’t.

In August, Science magazine published a survey conducted by 58 medical professionals working in African epidemiology. They traced the origin and spread of the virus with remarkable precision—for instance, they discovered that it crossed the border from Guinea into Sierra Leone at the funeral of a “traditional healer” who had treated Ebola victims. In just the first six months of tracking the virus, the team identified more than 100 mutated forms of it.

Yet what’s really scary is how robust the already-established transmission mechanisms are. Have you ever wondered why Ebola protocols call for washing down infected surfaces with chlorine? Because the virus can survive for up to three weeks on a dry surface.

How robust is transmission? Look at the health care workers who have contracted it. When Nina Pham, the Dallas nurse who was part of the team caring for Liberian national Thomas Duncan, contracted Ebola, the CDC quickly blamed her for “breaching protocol.” But to the extent that we have effective protocols for shielding people from Ebola, they’re so complex that even trained professionals, who are keenly aware that their lives are on the line, can make mistakes.

By the by, that Science article written by 58 medical professionals tracing the emergence of Ebola—5 of them died from Ebola before it was published.

(2) General infection rates are terrifying, too. In epidemiology, you measure the “R0,” or “reproduction number” of a virus; that is, how many new infections each infected person causes. When R0 is greater than 1, the virus is spreading through a population. When it’s below 1, the contamination is receding. In September the World Health Organization’s Ebola Response Team estimated the R0 to be at 1.71 in Guinea and 2.02 in Sierra Leone. Since then, it seems to have risen so that the average in West Africa is about 2.0. In September the WHO estimated that by October 20, there would be 3,000 total cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As of October 7, the count was 8,376.

In other words, rather than catching up with Ebola, we’re falling further behind. And we’re likely to continue falling behind, because physical and human resources do not scale virally. In order to stop the spread of Ebola, the reproduction number needs to be more than halved from its current rate. Yet reducing the reproduction number only gets harder as the total number of cases increases, because each case requires resources—facilities, beds, doctors, nurses, decontamination, and secure burials—which are already lagging well behind need. The latest WHO projections suggest that by December 1 we are likely to see 10,000 new cases in West Africa per week, at which point the virus could begin spreading geographically within the continent as it nears the border with Ivory Coast.

Thus far, officials have insisted that it will be different in America. On September 30, CDC director Thomas Frieden confirmed the first case of Ebola in the United States, the aforementioned Thomas Duncan. Frieden then declared, “We will stop Ebola in its tracks in the U.S. .  .  . The bottom line here is that I have no doubt that we will control this importation, or this case of Ebola, so that it does not spread widely in this country.”

The word “widely” is key. Because despite the fact that Duncan was a lone man under scrupulous, first-world care, with the eyes of the entire nation on him, his R0 was 2, just like that of your average Liberian Ebola victim. One carrier; two infections. He passed the virus to nurse Pham and to another hospital worker, Amber Joy Vinson, who flew from Cleveland to Dallas with a low-grade fever before being diagnosed.

(3) Do you really want to be scared? What’s to stop a jihadist from going to Liberia, getting himself infected, and then flying to New York and riding the subway until he keels over? This is just the biological warfare version of a suicide bomb. Can you imagine the consequences if someone with Ebola vomited in a New York City subway car? A flight from Roberts International in Monrovia to JFK in New York is less than $2,000, meaning that the planning and infrastructure needed for such an attack is relatively trivial. This scenario may be highly unlikely. But so were the September 11 attacks and the Richard Reid attempted shoe bombing, both of which resulted in the creation of a permanent security apparatus around airports. We take drastic precautions all the time, if the potential losses are serious enough, so long as officials are paying attention to the threat.

(4) Let’s put aside the Ebola-as-weapon scenario—some things are too depressing to contemplate at length—and look at the range of scenarios for what we have in front of us, from best-case to worst-case. The epidemiological protocols for containing Ebola rest on four pillars: contact tracing, case isolation, safe burial, and effective public information. On October 14, the New York Times reported that in Liberia, with “only” 4,000 cases, “Schools have shut down, elections have been postponed, mining and logging companies have withdrawn, farmers have abandoned their fields.” Which means that the baseline for “best-case” is already awful.

In September, the CDC ran a series of models on the spread of the virus and came up with a best-case scenario in which, by January 2015, Liberia alone would have a cumulative 11,000 to 27,000 cases. That’s in a world where all of the aid and personnel gets where it needs to be, the resident population behaves rationally, and everything breaks their way. The worst-case scenario envisioned by the model is anywhere from 537,000 to 1,367,000 cases by January. Just in Liberia. With the fever still raging out of control.

By which point, all might well be lost. Anthony Banbury is coordinating the response from the United Nations, which, whatever its many shortcomings, is probably the ideal organization to take the lead on Ebola. Banbury’s view is chilling: “The WHO advises within 60 days we must ensure 70 percent of infected people are in a care facility and 70 percent of burials are done without causing further infection. .  .  . We either stop Ebola now or we face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we do not have a plan [emphasis added]”.

What’s terrifying about the worst-case scenario isn’t just the scale of human devastation and misery. It’s that the various state actors and the official health establishment have already been overwhelmed with infections in only the four-digit range. And if the four pillars—contact tracing, case isolation, safe burial, and effective public information—fail, no one seems to have even a theoretical plan for what to do.
(5) And by the way, things could get worse. All of those worst-case projections assume that the virus stays contained in a relatively small area of West Africa, which, with a million people infected, would be highly unlikely. What happens if and when the virus starts leaking out to other parts of the world?

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

It isn’t crazy to see how a health crisis could beget all sorts of other crises, from humanitarian, to economic, to political, to existential. If you think about Ebola and mutation and aerosolization and R0 for too long, you start to get visions of Mad Max cruising the postapocalyptic landscape with Katniss Everdeen at his side.

(6) While we’re on the subject of political crisis, it’s worth noting that the politics of Ebola are uncertain and dangerous to everyone involved. Thus far, there’s been only one serious political clash over Ebola, and that’s concerning the banning of flights to and from the infected countries in West Africa. The Obama administration refuses to countenance such a move, with the CDC’s Frieden flatly calling it “wrong”:

A travel ban is not the right answer. It’s simply not feasible to build a wall—virtual or real—around a community, city, or country. A travel ban would essentially quarantine the more than 22 million people that make up the combined populations of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

When a wildfire breaks out we don’t fence it off. We go in to extinguish it before one of the random sparks sets off another outbreak somewhere else.

We don’t want to isolate parts of the world, or people who aren’t sick, because that’s going to drive patients with Ebola underground, making it infinitely more difficult to address the outbreak. .  .  .

Importantly, isolating countries won’t keep Ebola contained and away from American shores. Paradoxically, it will increase the risk that Ebola will spread in those countries and to other countries, and that we will have more patients who develop Ebola in the U.S.

Not terribly convincing, is it? Wildfires, in fact, are often fought by using controlled burns and trench digging to establish perimeters. And it’s a straw-man argument to say that a flight ban wouldn’t keep Ebola fully contained. No one says it would. But by definition, it would help slow the spread of the virus. If there had been a travel ban in place, Thomas Duncan would have likely reached the same sad fate—but without infecting two Americans and setting the virus loose in North America. And it’s difficult to follow the logic by which banning travel from infected countries would create more infections in the United States, as Frieden insists. This is not a paradox; it’s magical thinking.
Frieden’s entire argument is so strange—and so at odds with what other epidemiologists prescribe—that it can only be explained by one of two causes: catastrophic incompetence or a prior ideological commitment. The latter, in this case, might well be the larger issue of immigration.

Ebola has the potential to reshuffle American attitudes to immigration. If you agree to seal the borders to mitigate the risks from Ebola, you’re implicitly rejecting the “open borders” mindset and admitting that there are cases in which government has a duty to protect citizens from outsiders. Some people on the left admit to seeing this as the thin end of the wedge. Writing in the New Yorker, Michael Specter lamented, “Several politicians, like Governor Bobby Jindal, of Louisiana, have turned the epidemic into fodder for their campaign to halt immigration.” And that sort of thing just can’t be allowed.

What would happen in the event of an Ebola outbreak in Latin America? Then America would have to worry about masses of uninfected immigrants surging across the border—not to mention carriers of the virus. And if we had decided it was okay to cut off flights from West Africa, would we decide it was okay to try to seal the Southern border too? You can see how the entire immigration project might start to come apart.

So for now, the Obama administration will insist on keeping travel open between infected countries and the West and hope that they, and we, get lucky.

At a deeper level, the Ebola outbreak is a crisis not for Obama and his administration, but for elite institutions. Because once more they have been exposed as either corrupt, incompetent, or both. On September 16, as he was trying to downplay the threat posed by Ebola, President Obama insisted that “the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low.” Less then two weeks later, there was an Ebola outbreak in the United States.

The CDC’s Frieden—who is an Obama appointee—has been almost comically oafish. On September 30, -Frieden declared, “We’re stopping it in its tracks in this country.” On October 13, he said, “We’re concerned, and unfortunately would not be surprised if we did see additional cases.” The next day he admitted that the CDC hadn’t taken the first infection seriously enough: “I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the patient, the first patient, was diagnosed,” he said. “That might have prevented this infection. But we will do that from today onward with any case, anywhere in the U.S. .  .  . We could have sent a more robust hospital infection-control team and been more hands-on with the hospital from Day One.”

The day after that Frieden was asked during a press conference if you could contract Ebola by sitting next to someone on a bus—a question prompted by a statement from President Obama the week before, when he declared that you can’t get Ebola “through casual contact, like sitting next to someone on a bus.”

Frieden answered: “I think there are two different parts of that equation. The first is, if you’re a member of the traveling public and are healthy, should you be worried that you might have gotten it by sitting next to someone? And the answer is no. Second, if you are sick and you may have Ebola, should you get on a bus? And the answer to that is also no. You might become ill, you might have a problem that exposes someone around you.”

Go ahead and read that again.

We have arrived at a moment with our elite institutions where it is impossible to distinguish incompetence from willful misdirection. This can only compound an already dangerous situation.
192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / CBP testimony on: October 17, 2014, 08:02:47 AM
second post

193  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: Groups splinter as bosses fall on: October 17, 2014, 07:48:17 AM
ditor's Note: This week's Security Weekly summarizes our quarterly Mexico drug cartel report, in which we assess the most significant developments of the third quarter of 2014 and provide a forecast for the fourth quarter. The report is a product of the coverage we maintain through our Mexico Security Memo, quarterly updates and other analyses that we produce throughout the year as part of the Mexico Security Monitor service.

By Tristan Reed
Mexico Security Analyst

The Mexican government continued its string of arrests of high-level crime bosses during the third quarter of 2014. Since Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in 2012, leaders of crime syndicates from across Mexico have been falling to federal troops with unusual frequency, including top-tier bosses from Sinaloa, Michoacan and Tamaulipas states, beginning with the arrest of Los Zetas top leader Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales in July 2013. It has become clear that the Pena Nieto administration is leaving no organized crime group free from government pressure. This trend will dominate the evolution of Mexico's organized crime landscape in the fourth quarter.
Significant Arrests

With the exception of Trevino, troops focused primarily on northwestern crime bosses operating under the Sinaloa Federation's umbrella in the last half of 2013 and well into the first half of this year, most notably with the February arrest of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera. Over the past three months, federal forces turned their sights to an alliance consisting of the Juarez cartel, Los Zetas and remnants of the Beltran Leyva Organization, a grouping poised to supplant the declining Sinaloa Federation.

On Aug. 9, federal troops captured Enrique Hernandez Garcia, a Beltran Leyva Organization operator and the reported point of contact for the three allied cartels. Hernandez's brother, Francisco (aka "El 2000") is a high-level Beltran Leyva member who played an integral role in providing support to Beltran Leyva Organization remnant groups in Sonora state using gunmen from Los Zetas and the Juarez cartel. Federal troops in northern Sinaloa state also aggressively pursued the Beltran Leyva Organization successor group Los Mazatlecos in the third quarter.

But the alliance's most noteworthy leaders, such as top boss Fausto "El Chapo Isidro" Meza Flores, managed to evade capture until Hector "El H" Beltran Leyva was arrested Oct. 1 in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato state. Hector, the brother of Beltran Leyva Organization founders Alfredo and Arturo Beltran Leyva, was the most senior Beltran Leyva Organization operator to be captured or killed since the December 2009 death of Arturo during a firefight with Mexican marines. Federal forces built on this success by capturing Juarez cartel chief Vicente Carrillo Fuentes on Oct. 9 in Torreon, Coahuila state.

Federal forces also proceeded with operations in Tamaulipas state during the past quarter, where they continued to find substantial success in targeting leaders of the various Gulf cartel-aligned gangs. Farther south, federal troops are actively pursuing the Knights Templar in Michoacan state, though that group is a shadow of what it once was, with Servando "La Tuta" Gomez Martinez its sole remaining top leader.

Each time a high-level leader is captured or killed, the question of succession naturally arises. The consequences of each succession vary widely from group to group. For example, the arrest of Trevino had a low organizational impact on Los Zetas, while massive, violent organizational splits occurred within the Beltran Leyva Organization and the Sinaloa Federation after the January 2008 arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva. Since the arrests of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes and Hector Beltran Leyva happened less than a month ago, the extent of the fallout from each remains to be seen. Regardless of how things play out, the typically cohesive structures of Mexican cartels will continue to dissolve, creating a balkanized organized criminal landscape.
The Gulf Cartel Splinters

The Gulf cartel is perhaps the most obvious example of this devolution. Before 2010, the cartel was one of the two most powerful criminal organizations in Mexico, along with the Sinaloa Federation. Either directly or through alliances, it controlled nearly half of Mexico.

In 2010, however, Los Zetas split from the Gulf cartel, leaving the latter with just a portion of its former territory. By 2011, the Gulf cartel had split into two competing factions: Los Rojos and Los Metros. The following year, after several leadership losses at the hands of federal troops, the cartel broke down further into at least three factions in Tamaulipas, while a Los Zetas splinter group known as the Velazquez network emerged, rebranding itself as the "Gulf cartel."

The original Gulf cartel has continued to fragment to the extent that numerous, oft-competing groups -- all of them largely referred to as factions of the Gulf cartel -- sometimes can be found operating in the same neighborhood of a given city. Despite this decentralization, under the management of these various factions, organized criminal activity in Tamaulipas state has continued apace.

In the second and third quarters of 2014, two of the factions collapsed into subfactions. The Gulf cartel faction in Tampico fell apart between April and May, sparking a sharp increase in violence in southern Tamaulipas state prior to the start of sweeping security operations in May. Later, after several leadership losses, the Rio Bravo faction -- one of two factions competing for control of Reynosa -- effectively collapsed. Its rival, which operated in towns just west of Reynosa with ties to the Velazquez network, also suffered several leadership losses at the hands of rival groups and the authorities. Now, organized crime-related violence in Tampico and Reynosa resemble conflicts between powerful street gangs more than past conflicts between Mexican transnational criminal organizations.

If government pressure persists, Mexico's other criminal organizations -- even cartels such as Los Zetas that have retained considerable power and a cohesive structure -- will meet the same splintered fate as the Gulf cartel. For these groups, fragmentation is a natural result of prolonged and consistent government pressure. Not all splits will spark new conflicts, however, since newly independent subgroups may decide to cooperate, as has been the case with some Beltran Leyva Organization subgroups and Gulf cartel factions like those in Matamoros and Tampico. Moreover, even though Tamaulipas state now contains numerous distinct criminal groups, the opportunities for illicit profit that gave rise to the Gulf cartel in the first place will remain. The successor groups will continue the criminal operations.
Setbacks for Sinaloa, Opportunities for Rivals

Though the Sinaloa Federation's current woes began to emerge in 2012, the decentralization of the cartel did not become obvious until 2014. The cartel has not devolved into competing crime groups in the same fashion as the Gulf cartel, but Sinaloa's regional crime bosses have increasingly demonstrated their autonomy from top-tier leaders in areas such as Sonora and Baja California states, particularly Tijuana.

As Stratfor predicted in an Aug. 12 Mexico Security Weekly, the breakdown of the Sinaloa Federation has created opportunities for crime bosses under the Juarez-Los Zetas-Beltran Leyva Organization alliance to absorb territories or criminal operations, through either violent takeovers or business deals with individual Sinaloa lieutenants. Such was the case in southern Sonora state in 2012, when Sinaloa lieutenant Sajid Emilio "El Cadete" Quintero Navidad waged war on another Sinaloa lieutenant, Gonzalo "El Macho Prieto" Inzunza Inzunza, before then allying with Trinidad "El Chapo Trini" Olivas Valenzuela, the leader of a Beltran Leyva Organization remnant group.
Fourth-Quarter Forecast

The Juarez-Beltran Leyva Organization-Los Zetas alliance will begin adjusting to the arrests of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes and Hector Beltran Leyva in the fourth quarter. Possible reactions include withdrawal from the alliance or further splits within its constituent parts. Rather than substantial adjustments like these during the fourth quarter, however, the members of the alliance are more likely to work to hold together. This could see subgroups such as La Linea of the Juarez cartel and Los Mazatlecos of the Beltran Leyva Organization become the alliance's points of contact for their respective groups. Should the arrests of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes and Hector Beltran Leyva diminish the overall capabilities of their respective criminal organizations, Los Zetas may take charge of the general direction of the alliance given that the cartel has, by far, the widest reach of any of the three members.

The likelihood of increased violence resulting from the third-quarter arrests alone is slim. While there is a small chance that these captures will weaken the alliance -- or create that perception among its rivals -- no rival organizations are currently capable of mounting an interregional offensive. The Sinaloa Federation, for example, is too fragmented. Northwest Mexico, Chihuahua state and the Bajio region are the areas most likely to see a deterioration of security related to the shift in alliance dynamics this quarter. But any resulting violence probably will be isolated to areas where regional crime bosses operating under an umbrella group like the Sinaloa Federation will face off with alliance-affiliated bosses for control of relatively small territories. Any such fighting in the fourth quarter is unlikely to draw in Mexico's larger entities.

The Mexican government will continue pursuing criminal leaders throughout the country in the fourth quarter. It has become increasingly apparent that the Pena Nieto administration is intent upon continuing to flatten the structure of organized crime as a whole in Mexico. This means that more, albeit much less powerful, criminal bosses will emerge nationwide. New security concerns can arise with such a trend, since there will be more leaders fighting one another and participating in criminal activities targeting business interests and bystanders. But the crime bosses behind such violence will be far more vulnerable to government pressure than their predecessors, given the relative weakness of the new crop -- though to keep them in check the government will need to help Mexican states strengthen their public safety institutions.

Editor's Note: The full version of our quarterly cartel update is available to clients of our Mexico Security Monitor service.

Read more: Mexico's Drug War: Criminal Groups Splinter as Bosses Fall | Stratfor
194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Coulter on Ebola on: October 17, 2014, 07:29:58 AM
195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 17, 2014, 07:25:19 AM
I confess myself being surprised that everyone, including POTH is surprised.  I'm not sure how, but I certainly knew of these finds of stuff from the 80s.

Tangentially, I note it is a  bit discouraging to see some on "our side" think this proves "Bush was right" for it does not.  The claim was of an active WMD program and stuff sitting around degrading since the 80s does not do that at all.
196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares on: October 17, 2014, 07:21:02 AM
 Against Russia's New Military Strategy, NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares
October 16, 2014 | 0415 Print Text Size
Lithuania Prepares
Members of the U.S. Army 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, unload Stryker Armored Vehicles at the railway station near the Rukla military base in Lithuania, on Oct. 4, 2014. (PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)


Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Oct. 15 that she would push to limit Russian television broadcasts inside the country. The statement came only two days after Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Jonas Vytautas Zukas announced plans to form a new rapid reaction force in Lithuania. These moves highlight Lithuania's mounting concerns over the threat Russia poses to the small but strategic country, particularly in light of Moscow's recent actions in Ukraine.

The Lithuanian president's plan to limit Russian media follows similar trends emerging in other Baltic states. The creation of the rapid reaction force, however, represents a new strategy. Zukas said that Lithuania must be ready for "unconventional attacks by unmarked combatants" -- a thinly veiled reference to Russia's actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Vilnius' plan will not be sufficient to counter potential Russian moves against Lithuania. It is instead an initial response to an evolving security environment in which the conventional Russian military threat to the Baltic states is overshadowed by that of hybrid warfare, which includes the use of proxies, special forces and information campaigns.


In his statement, Zukas said Lithuania's rapid reaction forces would consist of 2,500 troops from Lithuania's 7,000-person military. These troops would be placed on high alert beginning in November and would have the capacity to mobilize within two to 24 hours. Their mission would be to counter unconventional security threats such as attacks by unofficial armed groups, illegal border crossings and the foreign manipulation of national minorities.

Lithuania formulated this rapid reaction plan within the context of the ongoing standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine -- a conflict that has spread throughout the former Soviet periphery. The Baltic states are on the front lines of this broader conflict and are particularly concerned about Russian encroachment into their territory because of their small size and close proximity to the Russian heartland. This is especially concerning because the Baltic states, particularly Lithuania, have been strong supporters of Ukraine's efforts to integrate with the West, putting them squarely in Moscow's sights.

There has already been a great deal of Russian activity inside the Baltic states and the area surrounding them. Russia has built up its forces near St. Petersburg and in the exclave of Kaliningrad, both of which border Baltic states. Moscow has also increased the scale of its military exercises in both areas, while the Russian minorities in several Baltic states have held pro-Russia demonstrations. The rallies are of particular concern because of the size of the Russian minority populations: 24.8 percent of the population in Estonia, 26.9 percent in Latvia, and 5.8 percent in Lithuania. Cross-border incidents between the Baltic states and Russia have also been on the rise in recent months. The Russian coast guard detained a Lithuanian fishing boat, and Russian officials held an Estonian official in custody for allegedly crossing the border on a spying mission, a charge Estonia denied.

The Baltic states see these recent actions in the context of the events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, where Moscow's support for demonstrations eventually led to the deployment of Russian military and unofficial militant forces. This has given way to concerns that the Baltics could be the next target for hybrid warfare. As NATO members protected by the Article 5 collective defense clause, the Baltics are somewhat insulated from a Russian conventional military threat. The classification of a threat as subject to Article 5, however, requires a unanimous NATO council vote. This leaves effective defense of the Baltics subject to Western Europe's political will to intervene. A rapid NATO response would be even more doubtful in the case of hybrid or asymmetrical warfare. The Baltic states have called for a permanent NATO military presence within their territory. Instead, NATO and the United States have only stepped up troop rotations for joint exercises and military training to a semi-permanent basis.

Lithuania's decision to organize its own rapid reaction force is an effort to build the capacity to preemptively counter or contain Russian actions and reassure the public that the government is taking concrete action. Given Russia's larger security forces and broader financial resources, however, Lithuania's new force is unlikely to fully neutralize the threat. Maintaining more than a third of Lithuania's forces at that level of readiness will require substantial resources, raising questions about the initiative's long-term sustainability. At best, the plan supplements NATO's efforts, which include launching the bloc's own rapid reaction forces that can be deployed to the Baltics, Poland or Romania. Lithuania will continue to call for a greater U.S. and NATO commitment to regional security.

For its part, Russia will likely continue to use the same methods of hybrid warfare it implemented in Ukraine to project power regionally. Lithuania's creation of a rapid reaction force is simply an acknowledgement of this reality and the need to confront it in a more flexible and creative manner.

Read more: Against Russia's New Military Strategy, NATO Wavers as Lithuania Prepares | Stratfor

197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Tiny Minority within Islam on: October 16, 2014, 05:19:07 PM
Some of the numbers seem a bit glib, but overall the gist of this seems on target:
198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Al-Houthi Rebles seize strategic port on: October 16, 2014, 03:55:30 PM
 Yemen's al-Houthi Rebels Seize a Strategic Port


October 16, 2014 | 0430
Armed supporters of the al-Houthi movement gather against al Qaeda militants on Aug. 17. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)


Yemen's Zaidi al-Houthi rebels have gained control of the strategic Red Sea port city of al-Hudaydah, further strengthening their negotiating position in back-channel talks with the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi. Seizing Yemen's second-largest port is a dramatic move intended to pressure Sanaa into making concessions on key points of disagreement between the government and the rebels. The move also signals that the al-Houthis still retain key levers with which to threaten Hadi's economic interests -- and legitimacy -- if the government continues to stall in reaching a political settlement.

It is likely that the fall of al-Hudaydah and the threat of further rebel aggression will force Hadi to accommodate al-Houthi demands. If he fails to do so, the rebels could respond with attempts to expand their territory or disrupt the country's vital oil industry.


A number of local Yemeni news outlets reported Oct. 14 that several thousand al-Houthi militants had rapidly -- and facing seemingly little resistance -- established control over a majority of al-Hudaydah, Yemen's fourth-largest city. The al-Houthis and their allies now control (or are in the process of gaining control of) al-Hudaydah's port complex and international airport, as well as several administrative buildings, a local armory and a military base. The rebels have also established checkpoints and have begun conducting armed patrols throughout most of the city. Reports conflict as to whether al-Hudaydah Gov. Sakhr al-Wajeeh -- a former finance minister with reported links to Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood branch, the al-Islah party -- has submitted his resignation or is mediating between locals and al-Houthi commanders. Initial indications show that local security forces were ordered to stand down as the al-Houthis entered the city. Rumors that elements of Yemen's 10th Brigade, made up of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh's elite Republican Guard units, may have facilitated the takeover once again raise questions about Saleh's potential involvement in the conflict.
The Importance of al-Hudaydah

The port city of al-Hudaydah, once labeled by the World Bank as the "agro-industrial capital of Yemen," is a central node for Yemen's non-oil economy and handles the bulk of the country's total cargo imports. The city is an important transportation hub both domestically, with major highways running north and south along the coast and east to Sanaa, and internationally, with Red Sea shipping lanes. Al-Hudaydah is also surrounded by Yemen's most important agricultural region, the Tihama plain. Notably, reports indicate that the port city has long served as a critical smuggling hub for al-Islah leaders, particularly former Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar. The al-Houthis have long perceived al-Islah, a party with Sunni tribal, Islamist and Salafist links, as their principal rival in northern Yemen.

Al-Hudaydah, Yemen
Click to Enlarge

Perhaps more important is the city's location a mere 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the Ras Isa floating terminal, which exports oil produced in the vast Marib fields via the 435-kilometer Marib-Ras Isa pipeline. The pipeline transports between 70,000 and 110,000 barrels per day of the nation's average production of 125,000 barrels per day. Ras Isa and the nearby Saleef port complex have not yet fallen under al-Houthi control, but the threat of additional disruptions to an already troubled oil sector is certainly disconcerting for Yemeni leaders. With the country's oil revenues fluctuating wildly and the central bank severely strapped for cash, the al-Houthi occupation of such a critical economic hub would pose a serious threat to the government. It would also present an opportunity for the al-Houthis, who have long sought to control a major Red Sea port through which they could generate revenues and gain access to global transportation lanes.
Rebels' Motives and Next Steps

The al-Houthis are well aware of the panic their occupation of al-Hudaydah will cause in Sanaa, and they are likely expecting the move to spur progress in their negotiations with Hadi, as the al-Houthi occupation of Sanaa did. But since the Sept. 21 announcement of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire in the capital, Hadi has been slow to meet the demands of al-Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi. These demands include greater political representation, a larger share of the national wealth, restructuring proposed federalization boundaries and potentially incorporating Zaidi militants into state security forces. While the al-Houthis have managed to successfully install a neutral prime minister (over Hadi's objections), the decision took weeks of behind-the-scenes political jockeying.

As al-Houthi leaders look toward the next step in the movement's political re-emergence -- the formation of a new Cabinet in Sanaa -- the militants will seek to gain control of several ministries and access powerful deputy positions within key security, financial and energy posts. Doing so will enable the al-Houthis to manage the government from behind the scenes without being seen as the face of the new administration -- a role not unlike that of Lebanon's Hezbollah or Iraq's influential Shiite militias.

Yemen's Looming Water Crisis
Click to Enlarge

To achieve this goal, al-Houthi understands that he will need to strike at or threaten the regime's vulnerable points: the ports along the western coast and the oil fields in the country's center. By imposing a new military reality on the ground, the al-Houthi militants are hoping to avoid the deadlock they encountered with the prime ministerial selection process. In fact, there are rumors the group is preparing for a new offensive across the northwestern border of Marib province, home to a large share of Yemen's oil reserves. Meanwhile, militias aligned with the al-Houthis have begun to expand their security presence south of Sanaa in the mountainous Dhamar province, which lies at the southernmost tip of traditional Zaidi territory, occupying the provincial capital -- again reportedly with the help of Saleh-linked elements -- and forcing the governor to resign. Early reports also indicate that dozens of al-Houthi fighters seized the nearby city of Ibb on Oct. 15 and have begun advancing tentatively on Bayda and Taiz provinces.
Challenges Ahead

These strategies to gain leverage will increasingly draw the militants out of their traditional mountainous strongholds and into Sunni-majority territories. For example, the western coastline, though sparsely populated, is home to a Sunni Arab majority. The city of al-Hudaydah itself is overwhelmingly Sunni, and there are already reports of local resistance forming under the Tahami Movement, a Sunni organization based along Yemen's northwestern coast. Looking elsewhere, the al-Houthis risk encroaching on the heartland of the country's southern separatist movement by extending too far south of Dhamar province, into predominantly Sunni territory with a history of activity by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Likewise, if the al-Houthi militants attempt to seize the oil fields in eastern Marib province in Yemen's central interior, they would have to cross arid land that is home to some of Yemen's most notoriously territorial and fiercely autonomous Sunni tribes and an AQAP stronghold. In fact, Oct. 14 reports claim that tribesmen in Marib province have begun welcoming AQAP fighters from the nearby Hadramawt, Shabwa and Abyan provinces, perhaps seeking to bolster their defenses against a potential al-Houthi incursion. The risks of attacking these alternative targets likely contributed to al-Houthi's ultimate decision to target the coastline.

The Sectarian Divide in Northern Yemen
Click to Enlarge

Al-Houthi militants also face the danger of overextending their manpower and resources by expanding too far, too fast. The rebels are currently engaged in heavy fighting against al-Islah supporters and tribesmen in the northern al-Jawf province while simultaneously occupying Sanaa, a city of nearly 2 million people. Expanding too far beyond their current territory could also open up a new front against heavier concentrations of state military forces. Marib province alone is home to some three battalions -- an organized force larger than the force the militants encountered on the road to Sanaa. Meanwhile, AQAP has announced that it will begin targeting the Zaidi rebels more regularly; an Oct. 9 suicide bombing targeted an al-Houthi checkpoint in the capital and left more than 50 dead.

These challenges will likely constrain al-Houthi territorial ambitions for the time being, as their leaders focus on political negotiations and capitalize on the newfound leverage gained by the occupation of al-Hudaydah. Hadi cannot afford to let the Ras Isa export terminal, one of his country's most important economic lifelines, fall to the rebels. The president is also aware that the longer his government appears to be held hostage by the northern Zaidis, the further his credibility and legitimacy will decline and the more emboldened regional entities will become. The Southern Secessionist Movement already held demonstrations in Aden on Oct. 14, the 51st anniversary of southern Yemen's insurgency against British occupation. The demonstrations took place amid rumors that exiled southern leaders are beginning to return to the country to launch a new bid for independence, as well as reports of the secessionists demanding that all oil and natural gas firms halt exports immediately until they agree to operate under southern jurisdiction.

Hadi is likely to cave in the face of such overwhelming pressure, but the al-Houthis will be ready to respond should he choose to stand firm in negotiations. If the need arises, al-Houthi will likely choose to pursue the less risky option of asserting control south of the capital near Dhamar province and possibly in the crucial coastal port cities of Ras Isa and Saleef. The al-Houthis' ability to solidify their territorial control highlights their re-emergence in northern Yemen as a regional power broker and underscores Sanaa's rapidly declining ability to maintain its authority in the country's hinterlands.

199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Muffie the Mayor goes after Houston Church's Free Speech on: October 16, 2014, 02:23:15 PM
Houston Gay Mafia Goes After Pastors

In a move eerily similar to that of fascist regimes, the city of Houston demanded that pastors hand over their sermons to the city for a review of teachings that might speak out against homosexuality or transgenderism. After an outcry, the city is partially backing off, but make no mistake: This is a shot across the bow for any who oppose the homosexual agenda.

Last year, Houston voters elected the city’s first openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker. It wasn’t long before the city passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which granted "equal rights" (read: preferred status as those with whom no one may disagree) to individuals with gender disorientation pathology. Under the ordinance, men can use ladies’ restrooms, ladies can use men’s restrooms, and, in short, anything goes -- except orthodox Christianity. Texans don’t take too well to folks messing with their manhood, and it wasn’t long before a petition drive opposing the ordinance drew more than 50,000 signatures -- more than double the number needed to get the issue on the ballot.

Imagine the shock when the mayor and city attorney announced the petition was invalid due to "irregularities." Specifically, City Attorney David Feldman announced, “With respect to the referendum petition filed to repeal the ‘HERO’ ordinance, there are simply too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook. The petition is simply invalid. There is no other conclusion.” Actually, there is another conclusion -- at least 50,000 Houston residents oppose HERO. Imagine that. But in a suspension of disbelief, the city expects folks to believe that, of 50,000 signatures, more than 32,000 were invalid. Sure, and we have oceanfront property in Dallas to sell them.

In response, opponents of the ordinance filed a lawsuit against the city. Houston now has a coalition of about 400 area churches that oppose the new ordinance, as they actually believe that X and Y chromosomes were designed for a reason. (It's called science, which the Left supposedly champions.) The churches were not party to the lawsuit, but it just so happens that some of the 50,000 signatures were reportedly gathered at churches (which, incidentally, is fully legal).

In retribution, the city claimed the churches' sermons were fair game as a political target because petition signatures were gathered inside a church. Several pastors were delivered a subpoena demanding they yield “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession” as well as “all communications with members of your congregations” about HERO and the petition drive.

Seems that the tolerant crowd Mayor Parker runs with isn’t so tolerant after all. Unable to abide the idea that Christian pastors may actually be preaching what the Bible says, she tried to intimidate them. Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the pastors, noted, “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

Now, the city appears to be backing off -- somewhat. "Mayor Parker agrees with those who are concerned about the city legal department’s subpoenas for pastor’s sermons,” according to Janice Evans, chief policy officer for the City of Houston. “The city will move to narrow the scope [of the subpoenas] during an upcoming court hearing." As if that will smooth things over.

Mayor Parker said, "There’s no question the wording was overly broad. But I also think there was some misinterpretation on the other side.” In other words, they're still going after HERO opponents -- after they adjust the wording a bit.

And then she had the temerity to complain about being "vilified coast to coast."

Pastor Dave Welch, one of the subpoenaed pastors, said, "What they did by issuing these subpoenas was to punish any pastor in the city of Houston who participated in gathering signatures against the HERO ordinance." He added that even the revised subpoenas are clearly “an effort to both punish and intimidate those who dared to step-up and oppose this city council.”

It’s no secret that across the nation, efforts are multiplying to silence Christians, censor pastors and eliminate discourse in opposition to the homosexual agenda. The Houston Council’s actions are not the first attempt but are among the most brazen. The Council, however, has no idea what -- or whom -- it’s up against. Religious Liberty is the bedrock of our Republic, and government review of sermons has no place in the Land of the Free. Parker and her cohorts may think they messed only with a few Texas pastors, but when it comes to defending our God-given and constitutionally protected rights, she messed with all of us.
200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FP: Gen. Heftar and Egypt working together against AQ in Benghazi on: October 16, 2014, 08:22:51 AM

Libyan army troops aligned with former General Khalifa Heftar have intensified a ground assault and airstrikes against a coalition of Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi. The offensive has come a day after Heftar vowed to "liberate" Benghazi in a televised address following an attack by militants from Ansar al-Sharia on one of the last army bases controlled by government forces in the city. The Associated Press reported two Egyptian officials said Egyptian warplanes were attacking Islamist militias in Libya, though Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi denied the report. Egypt has pledged to train Libyan soldiers, and in Heftar's address Tuesday, he thanked countries that had helped in his fight against what he referred to as "terrorism."

Egotistically I note that this was something I discussed in my proffered strategy.
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