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51  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Grannis: Yield curve says no recession on: January 30, 2016, 11:02:50 PM
http://scottgrannis.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-yield-curve-says-no-recession.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FtMBeq+%28Calafia+Beach+Pundit%29
52  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Welcome to the age of the Commando on: January 30, 2016, 10:57:14 PM
Welcome to the Age of the Commando
By MATT GALLAGHERJAN. 30, 2016


A FEW months ago, my wife and I had dinner with a couple we didn’t know very well. It was awkward at first, but there was wine, and conversation soon followed. At one point, the wife asked about my tour in Iraq, where I served four years as a cavalry officer. I began talking about the desert, the tribal politics and the day-to-day travails of counterinsurgency. “That’s all fine,” the husband interrupted. “But tell us about the super-soldiers. The Special-Ops guys. That’s what people care about.”

He had no time for “G.I. Joe.” He wanted “American Sniper.”

He is not alone. The mythos of Special Operations has seized our nation’s popular imagination, and has proved to be the one prism through which the public will engage with America’s wars. From the box office to bookstores, the Special Ops commando — quiet and professional, stoic and square-jawed — thrives. That he works in the shadows, where missions are classified and enemy combatants come in silhouettes of night-vision green, is all for the better — details only complicate. We like our heroes sanitized, perhaps especially in murky times like these.

The age of the commando, though, is more than pop cultural fantasy emanating from Hollywood. It’s now a significant part of our military strategy.

Last month the White House announced the nomination of Gen. Joseph L. Votel to lead United States Central Command, which is responsible for military operations in 20 countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria and Saudi Arabia — in other words, the hotbed of our geopolitical conflicts. General Votel has been the head of the military’s Special Operations Command since 2014. His Central Command nomination represents a break in tradition; it has almost always gone to generals of more conventional backgrounds. Military analysts hailed it as a sign of the Obama administration’s trust in, and reliance on, Special Operations.

Special Operations Command, or Socom, oversees all Special Operations Forces — our Delta Force operators, Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Army Rangers, among others. Special Operations personnel deployed to approximately 139 nations in 2015 — about 70 percent of the countries on the planet. While a vast majority of those missions involve training the defense forces of partner countries, a few involve direct combat.

In December, Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter announced at a House hearing that an “expeditionary targeting force” will be sent to Iraq to conduct raids on top Islamic State targets. They’ll be joining the roughly 3,500 troops already there working as advisers and trainers. President Obama seems desperate to strike a balance between doing nothing in the region and not reneging on his “no boots on the ground” promises.

Clearly, commandos have boots, and those boots touch the ground. But White House officials have taken to what a report in this newspaper recently called “linguistic contortions” to obscure the forces’ combat roles.

As the military as a whole downsizes, Special Ops recruitment continues to rise. There are approximately 70,000 Special Ops personnel today, a number that includes soldiers, civilians, National Guard and Reservists, as well. This number is up from 45,600 in 2001 and 61,400 in 2011. Still, Adm. William H. McRaven — then the head of Socom — told Congress in 2014 that “the force has continued to fray” from the endless deployment cycles. In response, the Army alone last year put out a call for 5,000 new Special Ops candidates.

In the political sense, the policy works. The secrecy surrounding Special Ops keeps the heavy human costs of war off the front pages. But in doing so, it also keeps the nonmilitary public wholly disconnected from the armed violence carried out in our name. It enables our state of perpetual warfare, and ensures that as little as we care and understand today, we’ll care and understand even less tomorrow.

Special Operations are not a panacea. Just as SWAT teams can’t fulfill their purpose without everyday beat cops on corners, operators can’t and don’t function in a vacuum. Many a military analyst has compared our current “counterterror” approach to a Band-Aid; while effective, that effectiveness has no clear end state. And recent history suggests an overreliance on our commandos can lead to tragedy. In 1993, in Somalia, Special Operations seemed a cure-all, too. Then came the battle of Mogadishu. Same with 1980 and Operation Eagle Claw, as we desperately tried to end the Iran hostage crisis. The former led to a short-lived retreat from international intervention, the latter to the very creation of Socom.

Further, like a postmodern Praetorian Guard, our operators don’t serve at the will of the American people. Though Congress holds the purse strings for Special Operations, decisions about individual missions are not generally put before them for approval. Individual force commanders overwhelmingly make those calls. While Mr. Obama has proved cautious in authorizing their use, the next commander in chief might not be so prudent.

Clear away the smoke and romance, and Special Ops often function as highly trained kill squads sent out into the beyond in the name of country. They are the best there is at that. But this strategy ensures a recurring cycle of armed conflict, a decision of such significance that all citizens need to be weighing it and considering it, not just a select few.

My own experience with Special Ops is mixed. I didn’t have many positive encounters with them overseas. As part of the fabled surge in Iraq, my scout platoon and I patrolled a rural town north of Baghdad for 15 months on a counterinsurgency mission that often seemed to conflict with that of the operators.

IN early 2008 we were called to a farm to help pick up the pieces after a commando raid. A tribal leader claimed that two of his lieutenants had been taken by mistake by “the other Americans, the ones with helicopters.” Those other Americans, the tribal leader told me, said that the two Iraqis were brothers, and members of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Now we were left to explain to the men’s family why they were gone, why their house had been cycloned, and why a placard of Mecca had been torn from a wall, and receive the hard stares from those men’s children as we stood over a dead pet dog that had been shot during the raid.

I didn’t tell that story to our dinner companions, though. Instead I talked about a visit I made to Tacoma, Wash., in 2011, when I got to know the other side of these other Americans. I’d left the military and was now a writer, or trying to be one. A college friend and his Ranger unit were returning from Afghanistan, and I had visions of writing a tale of young men constantly at war but in between battles.

The Rangers, the Special Ops unit that Pat Tillman left his N.F.L. career in 2002 to join, is a proving ground of sorts, and attracts many younger soldiers. Though designed in part as an elite light infantry for airfield seizures, the Rangers have seen their purpose morph: More than ever, kill-or-capture raids are their raison d’être. They’re the fullbacks of the Special Ops world, all brute force and power, as memorialized in the film “Black Hawk Down”: “We get on the five-yard line,” a Ranger officer tells a dismissive Delta soldier, “you’re going to need my Rangers.”

The days in Tacoma were spent trying (and failing) to get the Rangers’ public affairs office to approve on-post access. The nights in Tacoma were mostly spent in bars with young Rangers looking to unwind from their last tour while also prepping for the next one. They described the routine: three to six months deployed, three to six months stateside, rinse and repeat. Elizabeth Samet, who teaches English at West Point, calls these service members “war commuters.” More than one observer in Tacoma, including some partners and spouses, termed it an addiction.

If that was true — and it didn’t apply to many, in my estimation — they’d have their reasons.

A number of Rangers I met joked that vampires saw more light than they did during their deployments. I came to see these young men in a way I hadn’t when I’d worn the uniform myself, because of the way they embraced the endlessness of it all. They weren’t fighting for resolution, as we’d been in Iraq, or how we thought we’d been. Peace over there wasn’t their goal. Calm back here was.

I didn’t agree with that worldview, not at all. But I still appreciated it.

On Super Bowl Sunday, my friend and I were invited to watch the game with a group of older sergeants. It seemed that most had already settled into their stateside lives, sharing diaper responsibilities with their wives, swapping war stories with one another in between.

While the adults watched the game, kids ran around with Nerf guns as big as they were. This was no Cowboys and Indians. They were playing “Rangers and Rangers.” They all wanted to be like Daddy, and none were willing to play the role of an Al Qaeda jihadist, even in pretend.

The baby-faced Ranger privates I helped sneak into bars in 2011 are hardened sergeants by now. The sergeants I met are either in charge of entire Ranger companies or have moved into the so-called black units of Socom, like Delta Force. They remain anonymous silhouettes to the country they serve, not just because their bosses at the Pentagon want it that way, but because we do, too.

The other Americans, indeed.
53  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New Yor Magazine on Donald over the decades on: January 30, 2016, 10:45:44 PM
Remarkable article   shocked

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/01/donald-trump-timeline.html
54  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: January 30, 2016, 09:56:15 PM
In English yes, but here the language is Washington Legalese.  I KNOW someone (me?) posted the article I am describing , , ,
55  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Erdogan goes after free speech on: January 30, 2016, 09:26:48 PM
Turkey's Free Speech Assault is Beyond 'Worrying'
by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
January 27, 2016
http://www.meforum.org/5817/turkey-free-speech
 
 

 
A criminal indictment was filed against Sedat Ergin (left), editor-in-chief of the country's most influential newspaper, Hurriyet, for allegedly insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right).

Defending his quest for an executive presidential system Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited Hitler's Germany as an effective form of government. Yes, he said, you can have the presidential system in a unitary state as in Hitler's Germany. His office later claimed that the president's "Hitler's Germany" metaphor had been "distorted" by the media. Erdogan's words on Hitler's Germany may or may not have been distorted, but the way he rules Turkey reminds one powerfully of how Hitler ruled the Third Reich.

With or without a distortion of Erdogan's words, a criminal indictment was filed against Sedat Ergin, editor-in-chief of the country's most influential newspaper, Hurriyet. Prosecutors demanded up to five years in prison for Ergin, for allegedly insulting Erdogan. The indictment claims that Hurriyet insulted the president by paraphrasing his Sept. 6, 2015 remarks about an attack by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on the Iraqi border, which killed 16 Turkish soldiers.

Such insane charges are no longer news in Erdogan's Turkey. On Jan. 11, prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into the host and the producer of a popular talk show on charges of "terrorist propaganda." The move came after a caller, identifying herself as a schoolteacher, protested the civilian casualties during recent security operations against the PKK. The caller was urging the public to raise its voice against the deaths of "unborn children, babies and mothers." She did not even mention the PKK.

500 journalists were reportedly fired in Turkey last year, while 70 others were subjected to physical violence.

According to a report by the Turkish Journalists Association, 500 journalists were fired in Turkey in 2015, while 70 others were subjected to physical violence. Thirty journalists remain in prison, mostly on terrorism charges. Needless to say, the unfortunate journalists invariably are known to be critical of Erdogan.

Journalists are not the only ones threatened by a judiciary and law enforcement apparatus staunchly loyal to Erdogan. On Jan. 15, police detained scores of academics whom Erdogan had labeled "dark people" for signing a declaration that denounced military operations against the PKK.

Over 1,100 Turkish and 300 foreign academics signed the declaration that Turkish prosecutors think "insulted the state and engaged in terrorist propaganda on behalf of the PKK." Just before the arrests, Erdogan decried the signatories and called on the judiciary to act against the "treachery."
"Just because they have titles such as professor, doctor in front of their names does not make them enlightened. These are dark people," Erdogan said. "They are villains and vile because those who side with the villains are villains themselves."

In their declaration, these "traitors" said they refused to be "a party to the crime" and called on the government to halt what they called a "massacre."
One convicted mafia leader, a notoriously nationalistic man, publicly threatened the signatories that "we will take a shower in their blood." Unlike the "terrorist" academics, he has not so far been indicted for that threat.

"For Turkish democracy (whatever that is) this is yet another low. It confirms that this is a 'democracy' with rapidly diminishing freedom of speech. It is 'democracy' where the 'voice of the nation,' which practically is the voice of the political majority and its glorified leader, intimidates and silences dissenting voices," wrote Hurriyet columnist Mustafa Akyol.

The Turkish Justice Ministry's statistics perhaps best explain the huge democracy deficit in the Turkey of Erdogan. Turkey's prisons have a total capacity to house 180,176 inmates. As of January 13, Turkey had a total of 179,611 inmates, meaning that there will not be any space if Turkish prosecutors detain just 565 more.
 
Europe, cherishing its "transactional" relations with Turkey, prefers to look the other way.  All of this is happening not in Germany of the late 1930s but in Turkey of the 21st century.  Meanwhile, Europe, cherishing its "transactional" relations with Turkey, prefers to look the other way and whistle.  All the European Union could say about the prosecution of the academics who signed the declaration was that it is "extremely worrying." Brussels cannot see that Turkish affairs passed the threshold of "extremely worrying" a long time ago.

Prominent journalist Can Dundar, who has been in jail on terrorism charges since Nov. 26, was right when he wrote in an open letter to Italy's prime minister, Matteo Renzi, that "the rapprochement between Turkey and the European Union over refugees should not overshadow violations of fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey during the country's EU accession process."

In reality, Turkey's irregularities are too big to be hidden behind the usual diplomatic words such as "concern" and "worrying." Ahead of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's meeting in London with Britain's David Cameron, more than two dozen prominent writers, including David Hare, Tom Stoppard, Hari Kunzru, William Boyd, Ali Smith, Sarah Waters and Monica Ali, called on the British prime minister to urge the Turkish government to halt its crackdown on freedom of speech.

The English, Welsh and Scottish branches of PEN put it in plain language: "Over the past five months, intimidation, threats and even physical assaults against journalists, writers and publishers have become the norm [in Turkey]."
Turkey is now more than "worrying."

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
56  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: January 30, 2016, 02:35:49 PM
Third post:

http://20committee.com/
57  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / William Saffire 1996 on Hillary's lies on: January 30, 2016, 12:31:48 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/1996/01/08/opinion/essay-blizzard-of-lies.html
58  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: January 30, 2016, 12:25:25 PM
Looking for the post of an article on why technically speaking Hillary is not "being investigated"  (roughly FBI needs DOJ on board for it to be called such)
59  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mystery Sniper on: January 30, 2016, 12:03:53 PM
http://twitchy.com/2016/01/29/feel-good-story-of-the-day-a-mystery-sniper-is-assassinating-isis-leaders-in-libya/?utm_content=buffer0c152&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
60  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: January 30, 2016, 11:40:10 AM
http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/01/29/halperin-on-hillary-fbi-investigation/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social

61  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coyotes evading DEA on: January 30, 2016, 11:35:54 AM
http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2016/01/27/coyotes-high-on-mushrooms-possibly-to-blame-for-strange-incidents-on-highway/
62  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW2 Ukrainians working with Nazis on: January 30, 2016, 11:33:44 AM
http://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1065461
63  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Malkin takes on Rubio over immigration on: January 30, 2016, 11:14:52 AM
http://www.ammoland.com/2016/01/a-national-security-history-lesson-for-marco-rubio/#ixzz3ykOinytg
64  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / California most segregated state for Latinos, third for blacks on: January 30, 2016, 12:27:45 AM
http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/california-the-most-segregated-state-for-latino-students-third-worst-for-blacks/
65  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IDF preparing for arrival of ISIS on Syrian Border on: January 30, 2016, 12:12:49 AM
IDF Preparing for Arrival of ISIS on Syrian Border
by Yaakov Lappin
Special to IPT News
January 29, 2016
http://www.investigativeproject.org/5143/idf-preparing-for-arrival-of-isis-on-syrian-border

 
 As conflict and mayhem continue to rage across Syria, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is preparing to encounter the threat of ISIS and al-Qaida forces right on its borders, and could encounter such threats in the coming months.

The preparations come as the Syrian civil war shows no sign of letting up. This is a conflict that has led to the violent deaths of 300,000 Syrians, and the displacement of more than 10 million others, 4.5 million of whom have fled the country.

Today, the IDF's Military Intelligence Directorate views Syria as a former state that has broken apart into multiple 'Syrias.' The Assad regime controls barely 30 percent of Syria and is fully reliant on the foreign assistance of Russia, Hizballah, and Iran. Sunnis and Shi'ites wage daily war on one another.

It is worth examining the wider recent events in the multifaceted Syrian conflict, and place the IDF's preparations in their broader regional perspective.
In Syria's murderous kill-or-be-killed environment, Salafi-jihadist doctrines flourish, in the form of ISIS, which views Shi'ites (including the Assad regime and Hizballah) as infidels who must be destroyed.

ISIS cells have operated recently in Lebanon too, targeting Shi'ite Hizballah's home turf of Dahiya in southern Beirut with two large bombings in November that claimed over 40 lives, while ISIS in Iraq continues to target Shi'ites.

Today, ISIS has between 30,000-50,000 members who are dedicated to expanding their caliphate and killing all those who disagree with their doctrine, including even fellow Sunni jihadi members of al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Al-Nusra Front, which has 8,000-12,000 members.

ISIS continues to use its territory in Syria and Iraq to plot major, mass-casualty terrorist attacks in Western cities. At the same time, its budgetary future looks uncertain, as oil funds have decreased significantly following allied air strikes on oil facilities. In the past year, 45 percent of ISIS's $1.3 billion budget came from oil, far less than the oil revenue in 2014.

Unlike ISIS, al-Qaida believes in following a phased, slower plan in setting up a caliphate, and the two jihadist organizations have been at war with each other for more than two years in Syria.

Shi'ites led by Iran are fighting to stop the Salafi-jihadis' spread. Under the command of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Quds Force unit commander, Qassem Suleimani, Iranian fighting forces and advisers moved into Syria. Iran has sustained more than 300 casualties there thus far.
Hizballah, too, is heavily involved in Syria's battles, losing an estimated 1,300 fighters and sustaining 10,000 injuries – meaning more than half of its conscripted fighting force has been killed or wounded. Iran and its proxies are using the mayhem to try to spread their own influence in Syria.
Near Israel's border with Syria, the Al-Yarmouk Martyrs Battalions, which is affiliated with ISIS, has set up many posts.

An estimated 600 members of the group control a population of around 40,000 Syrians. Al-Yarmouk is at war with al-Qaida's Jabhat Al-Nusra, which maintains a few thousand members in the Syrian Golan near Israel.

Jabhat Al-Nusra's membership is mostly derived of local Syrians, who tend to be more hesitant to start a war with Israel that would result in their areas, and relatives, being badly affected. Yet 10 to 15 percent of its membership comes from abroad, and have no commitment to the area. These foreign fighters have no qualms about precipitating attacks on Israel. At the moment, however, Jabhat Al-Nusra is bogged down by its fight with Al-Yarmouk.
ISIS has officially put Israel in its sights, and its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, declared his intention at the end of December to attack Israel.

The IDF is taking the threat seriously and is preparing for a range of possible attacks, including strategic terror attacks, cross-border raids, the sending of bomb-laden armored vehicles into Israel, and rocket, missile, small-arms, and mortar fire on the Israeli Golan Heights.

One possibility is that the heavily armed Al-Yarmouk group, which is facing the southern Golan Heights, might follow an Islamic State directive to attack Israel.
In 2014, Al-Yarmouk became an ISIS representative, swearing allegiance to it, though it is not fully subordinate to it.

Al-Yarmouk's late leader, known as Al Khal ("the uncle"), was killed in November in an attack by Jabhat Al-Nusra. Before his violent end, Al Khal only partially committed himself to ISIS, and turned down ISIS requests to send fighters to Iraq.

Al-Yarmouk's response to Jabhat Al-Nusra's attacks came in December, when it assassinated a Jabhat Al-Nusra commander in his armored vehicle, just 400 meters from the Israeli border.  Al-Yarmouk subscribes to the Salafi jihadist ideology and has shoulder-held missiles, tanks, and other weapons looted during raids on the Assad regime military bases.

But Israel is also preparing for the possibility of encountering ISIS itself, not just an affiliate group.

ISIS proper is currently situated 40 kilometers from the Israeli border in southern Syria. One possibility is that Russian airstrikes will cause ISIS forces to ricochet southwards, towards Israel.

The IDF is gathering intelligence on all armed groups near its border, exhausting many resources to assess their capabilities, and intentions.

Israel watched as Shi'ite Hizballah came from Lebanon to block Sunni jihadist advances towards Lebanon in recent months, and as Russian airstrikes blocked the advance of the rebels northwards, to Damascus.

The IDF remains in a heightened state of alert along the Syrian border, though it is also working to avoid the creation of easy targets for the array of predatory forces on the other side.   As part of its preparations, the IDF's Northern Command has given more autonomy to regional field commanders to enable faster responses to surprise attacks by reducing the initial chain of command during emergencies.  Inter-branch cooperation between intelligence, ground forces, and the air force has also been tightened.

Additionally, the IDF has fortified its border fence with Syria, adding electronic sensors to better be able to detect and respond to a potential attack in time.
The underlying assumption within military circles is that, sooner or later, ISIS will turn its guns on Israel, and the IDF does not intend to be caught off guard when that happens. 

Yaakov Lappin is the Jerusalem Post's military and national security affairs correspondent, and author of The Virtual Caliphate (Potomac Books), which proposes that jihadis on the internet have established a virtual Islamist state.
66  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Norway better than America on: January 29, 2016, 11:59:16 PM
http://www.thenation.com/article/after-i-lived-in-norway-america-felt-backward-heres-why/
67  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Major Drug Shortages hid from patients on: January 29, 2016, 11:54:56 PM
Not much word on why herein , , ,

================

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/29/us/drug-shortages-forcing-hard-decisions-on-rationing-treatments.html?emc=edit_na_20160129&nl=bna&nlid=49641193&te=1&_r=0

Drug Shortages Forcing
Hard Decisions on
Rationing Treatments

Such shortages are the new normal in American medicine. But the
rationing that results has been largely hidden from patients and the public.

By SHERI FINKJAN. 29, 2016

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CLEVELAND — In the operating room at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Brian Fitzsimons has long relied on a decades-old drug to prevent hemorrhages in patients undergoing open-heart surgery. The drug, aminocaproic acid, is widely used, cheap and safe. “It never hurt,” he said. “It only helps.”
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Then manufacturing issues caused a national shortage. “We essentially did military-style triage,” said Dr. Fitzsimons, an anesthesiologist, restricting the limited supply to patients at the highest risk of bleeding complications. Those who do not get the once-standard treatment at the clinic, the nation’s largest cardiac center, are not told. “The patient is asleep,” he said. “The family never knows about it.”
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In recent years, shortages of all sorts of drugs — anesthetics, painkillers, antibiotics, cancer treatments — have become the new normal in American medicine. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists currently lists inadequate supplies of more than 150 drugs and therapeutics, for reasons ranging from manufacturing problems to federal safety crackdowns to drugmakers abandoning low-profit products. But while such shortages have periodically drawn attention, the rationing that results from them has been largely hidden from patients and the public.
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When a shortage developed for a decades-old drug to prevent hemorrhages in patients undergoing open-heart surgery, “We essentially did military-style triage,” said Dr. Brian Fitzsimons, an anesthesiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, restricting the limited supply to patients at the highest risk of bleeding complications. Credit T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

At medical institutions across the country, choices about who gets drugs have often been made in ad hoc ways that have resulted in contradictory conclusions, murky ethical reasoning and medically questionable practices, according to interviews with dozens of doctors, hospital officials and government regulators.

Some institutions have formal committees that include ethicists and patient representatives; in other places, individual physicians, pharmacists and even drug company executives decide which patients receive a needed drug — and which do not.

An international group of pediatric cancer specialists was so troubled about the profession’s unsystematic approach to distributing scarce medicine that it developed rationing guidelines that are being released Friday in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“It was painful,” said Dr. Yoram Unguru, an oncologist at the Children’s Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore and a faculty member at the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University. “We kept coming back to wow, we’ve got that tragic choice: two kids in front of you, you only have enough for one. How do you choose?”
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“Two kids in front of you,
you only have enough for
one. How do you choose?”
Dr. Yoram Unguru

At the Cleveland Clinic, which has been unusually proactive in dealing with shortages and allowed a reporter access to personnel making decisions about them, one scarce leukemia drug, daunorubicin, was saved for patients in clinical trials, to avoid making the results invalid by substituting another drug. But when a different drug, methotrexate, was in short supply, pediatricians stopped giving it to all patients who required high doses, including those in research trials. “We didn’t want to say just because you’re on a clinical trial you get an advantage,” Dr. Rabi Hanna said.

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Patients’ weight can be taken into account. Obese patients, who researchers found needed up to three times the amount of an antibiotic before surgery than average-size patients, were given only the standard dose at the Cleveland hospital until a shortage subsided.

Some institutions prioritize based on age; others do not. Marc Earl, a Cleveland Clinic pharmacist, said children were not favored over adults during chemotherapy shortages. But at other hospitals, they have been, because of their potentially longer life span or because they sometimes require smaller doses of a drug.

“We do play the pediatric card for sure,” said Alix Dabb, a pharmacy specialist in pediatric oncology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Kenneth Cohen, director of pediatric neuro-oncology there, and his colleagues were close to being forced into making “very, very hard decisions,” he said. “The discussions became, ‘Why are two kids more important than one adult?’”

Ning-Tsu Kuo, a pharmacist at the Cleveland hospital’s home infusion pharmacy, said children came first during shortages of nutritional products such as intravenous vitamins and fats for patients who cannot absorb food. The logic was that adults have more reserve. But after one man pleaded not to have his dose cut, Dr. Kuo agreed. When reprimanded by colleagues, she recalled saying: “Patients are not equally the same. You need to look case by case.”
‘Downright Scary’

Such decisions have real consequences. For some shortages, doctors can soon see the effects of rationing, such as increased pain or nausea when drugs typically used to control symptoms are withheld, or patients who have to undergo invasive surgery to control cancer when anti-tumor medications are delayed.

Studies have associated alternative treatments during drug shortages with higher rates of medication errors, side effects, disease progression and deaths. For example, children with Hodgkin’s lymphoma who received a substitute to the preferred drug had a higher rate of relapse, researchers found, and adults with a genetic disorder called Fabry disease had decreased kidney function when their medication was cut by two-thirds. One alternative guideline adopted during a shortage of intravenous nitroglycerin “was downright scary from a clinical perspective,” according to Dr. Nicole Lurie, a senior federal health official.
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“Patients are not equally
the same. You need
to look case by case.”
Ning-Tsu Kuo

Physicians say that many of the changes they are compelled to make appear to do no harm. But, they acknowledge, typically no one is tracking outcomes in patients who get a drug and others who get a substitute or delayed treatment.

Doctors and hospitals often do not tell patients about shortages and the resulting rationing because they do not want them to worry, especially when alternative drugs are available, or because they feel it would stir up too much anger.

Dr. Ivan Hsia, an anesthesiologist in Ontario, Canada, said many physicians in his field adopt what he called “the paternalistic model — like I’ll inform them when I think it’s unsafe enough to inform them.”

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When he and his colleagues surveyed hundreds of patients at the Mayo Clinics in Arizona and Florida and others in Canada about their preferences, the results surprised him. Most wanted to know about a drug shortage that might affect their care during elective surgery, even if there was only a minor difference in potential side effects, and many said they would delay surgery.

When the study was published last year in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia, an accompanying editorial urged health professionals to disclose shortages and their implications. “Patients want to know and they should know,” the editorial said. “There is no ethical ambiguity.”

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Beverly Smith, a Cleveland Clinic patient who has Crohn’s disease, said she had no idea that an important ingredient had been removed from the daily intravenous nutritional treatments she depends on until she developed side effects from the deficiency. “Why didn’t anybody tell me?” she asked. Credit Andrea Bruce for The New York Times

Dr. Eric Kodish, a children’s cancer doctor who heads the Cleveland Clinic’s center for ethics, humanities and spiritual care, said patients should be told. “It’s their bodies and their lives that are on the line.”

Indeed, Beverly Smith, a Cleveland patient who has Crohn’s disease, said she had no idea that an important ingredient had been removed from the daily intravenous nutritional treatments she depends on until she developed side effects from the deficiency. “Why didn’t anybody tell me?” she asked.
Who Gets Preference?

In a basement storeroom filled with plastic crates and cardboard boxes, Chris Snyder, a Cleveland Clinic pharmacist and the point man for drug shortages, spends part of each workday poring over the hospital’s drug orders.

He tracks a list of shortages that included more than 75 drugs the first week of January. Dr. Snyder moves stocks among the hospital’s campuses, identifies alternatives, and — in the most dire situations — helps devise and enforce restrictions on which drugs can be ordered for which types of patients.
Photo
Top, Chris Snyder, a pharmacist at the Cleveland Clinic, tracks a list of shortages that included more than 75 drugs the first week of January. Bottom, pharmacy technicians in a compounding clean room that is used to prepare drugs for use within the clinic. Credit T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Many drugs are made by only one manufacturer, so production or safety problems at a single plant can have big effects. For another company to begin making the products and getting them approved by regulators requires the right combination of manufacturing capabilities and economic incentives.

The chances of getting a drug also depend in part on where a patient happens to live, how adept the local hospital is at finding — and hoarding — scarce drugs, or a patient’s access to a major medical center.

The Cleveland Clinic, for example, has an advanced compounding room where workers swaddled in disposable gowns, bouffant caps and blue gloves mix up remedies from raw ingredients. During a shortage of papaverine, a drug used for surgery on blood vessels, the clinic produced its own version. When other hospitals began asking about it, Dr. Snyder said he had to tell them, “It’s a franchised recipe we can’t give out.”

At Cleveland, decisions about conserving, substituting and allocating scarce drugs typically are made by small groups of doctors and pharmacists; Dr. Kodish’s ethics committee is not involved. But such decisions are not always made by doctors or hospitals. One company, Janssen, chose to ration its ovarian cancer and multiple myeloma drug Doxil on a first-come-first-served basis during a prolonged shortage.
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“We’ve been forced into
what we think is a
highly unethical corner.”
Dr. Peter Adamson

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Another company, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, recently consulted a small group of oncologists to recommend how to allocate its cancer drug, Erwinase, if it ever became necessary. “Who deserves the drug more than anyone else?” said Dr. Wendy Stock, a leukemia specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine, who participated in the discussion. “We gave them some guidelines on that. ”
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Recent Comments
Grossness54 15 minutes ago

This is exactly what to expect when profits are considered more important than people's lives. And to think we actually hanged people who...
Science Teacher 15 minutes ago

This isn't the sole fault of the Republicans although many will try to pin all the blame on them - put a lot of the fault in Obamacare -...
Jeff Byrne 15 minutes ago

Any supply chain expert (and there are loads of them in the pharm industry) could tell you that these shortages are a direct result of...

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In a survey of cancer doctors conducted in 2012 and 2013, 83 percent of respondents who regularly prescribed cancer drugs reported having been unable to provide the preferred chemotherapy agent at least once during the previous six months. More than a third of them said they had to delay treatment “and make difficult choices about which patients to exclude,” according to a letter published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The threat of future shortages in children’s treatments is serious enough that Dr. Peter Adamson, who leads the Children’s Oncology Group, the largest international group of children’s cancer researchers, assigned his organization to set priorities. “We’ve been forced into what we think is a highly unethical corner,” he said in an interview.

The effort, led by Dr. Unguru, the Baltimore oncologist, recommended that the drugs be rationed based on the ability to save lives or years of life, including curability of a child’s cancer and the importance of the drug in improving the chances. It also recommended that children participating in clinical research should not get priority over those who are not, because of concerns about coercing families into trials. The group also advised that allocation decisions be public.
Photo
Dr. Yoram Unguru, an oncologist at the Children’s Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore, said that developing rationing guidelines for scarce medicines “was painful.” Credit Matt Roth for The New York Times

A recent shortage of a therapy for bladder cancer, BCG, demonstrates how the lack of national guidance can lead to very different decisions. One Cleveland Clinic urologist, Dr. Andrew Stephenson, said he came up with BCG rationing guidelines that were used with dozens of patients after being shared with colleagues. “We tried to reserve the BCG for those patients who needed it the most,” he said.

Merck, the manufacturer, said it filled requests from a waiting list in the order received, and left rationing decisions to doctors. Some cancer centers reduced the length of BCG treatment from three years to one, because the benefit may be smaller after the first year. Others restricted BCG to patients whose tumors were mostly likely to spread or recur. And still others decided to reduce the typical dose so that each vial could be used for three patients instead of one, which some experts say raises questions about efficacy. Some outpatient clinics just ran out.

In interviews and comments on a support website, Inspire, patients seemed confused about why they were or were not getting BCG. “I found out people were getting it in different parts of the country,” said Don Keating, whose bladder cancer was diagnosed in 2014. He was told by his doctor in Boston that he needed BCG, but that it was not available.
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“I believe if I had gotten it
when it was first prescribed,
I wouldn’t have had to go
through those operations.”
Don Keating, a cancer patient

Mr. Keating had to wait about six months before obtaining the drug, during which time his cancer recurred. “I believe if I had gotten it when it was first prescribed, I wouldn’t have had to go through those operations,” he said.

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Many urologists said they saw similar recurrences possibly due to the shortage, and that some patients underwent high-risk bladder removal surgery that probably would have been avoided if BCG had been fully available.

Dr. Kamal Pohar, a urologist at Ohio State University’s cancer hospital, said he remembered driving home, wondering if he was making the right calls for his patients. “I can still feel the stress,” he said. “I’ve never been faced with this.” Supplies of BCG are again adequate, Merck and doctors report.

The vagaries in distribution and inconsistencies in rationing have led to calls for change. Doctors and others have suggested the creation of a clearinghouse of scarce drugs and voluntary sharing to promote equitable access for patients. Others argue that there should be a registry of patients given nonstandard treatments so the results can be tracked.

Dr. Lurie, the federal health official in charge of emergency preparedness and response, said that the government was working to encourage hospitals to conserve and substitute drugs to avoid a crisis and trying to fill gaps in manufacturing. Steps taken by the Food and Drug Administration have also helped reduce the number of shortages, she said.

Still, she argued that tools developed for disaster response, including ethical and procedural guidelines, should be applied. “Different places around the country are each doing their best to patch together their own guidelines,” she said, adding, “if they’re doing anything at all.”
68  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Justice Obama? on: January 29, 2016, 11:31:35 PM
 


Supreme Court Justice Obama?
Originally published at the Washington Times

As the Republican primaries have become increasingly contentious in recent weeks, various factions have threatened not to support the others should their preferred candidate fail to win the nomination. But if the prospect of Hillary Clinton as president is not frightening enough to unite Republicans behind their eventual nominee, perhaps something Secretary Clinton said in Iowa this week will be.

Asked at one of her town hall meetings if she would consider appointing Barack Obama to the Supreme Court after his term as president, Hillary appeared as if she had just heard the best idea of her life.

“Wow, what a great idea!” she gushed. “Nobody has ever SUGGESTED that to me! WOW. I love that! Wow.”

For the full, chilling effect, you will have to watch the video. It must be seen to be believed. It’s uncanny.

If--despite our history with her--we are to take Hillary at her word, it seems there is a chance she would appoint the most anti-Constitutional president in American history to the Supreme Court of the United States, where he could remain for decades as the most anti-Constitutional Supreme Court justice in American history.

From the point of view of Democrat primary voters (if not from Clinton’s), the idea isn’t insane.

The party openly celebrates President Obama’s illegal actions--from suspending immigration law by executive fiat, to modifying Obamacare (“the law of the land”) at whim, to using the IRS to target conservative opponents, to making “recess appointments” when the Senate was not in recess. Democrats would like to protect as many such overreaches as they can. Undoubtedly, they could trust President Obama to give his illegal innovations--and the many others sure to be committed by a Clinton administration--the stamp of Constitutionality.

The idea of appointing a former chief executive to the bench is not without precedent. In 1921, Warren Harding nominated former President William Howard Taft to be chief justice of the Supreme Court. Taft went on to hold the position for more than eight years, and regarded it as the greatest honor of his life.

Somewhat like Taft, President Obama has exactly the “right” background for the job. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where six out of the nine current justices went to school. And before he ran for office, Obama was a Constitutional law professor, which is all the experience that many other justices required to begin pronouncing law from nation’s highest court. (Obama has certainly had plenty of practice pronouncing it from the presidency.)
If the thought of Justice Obama is not frightening enough by itself, consider that Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. served on the Court until he was 90 years old. By that measure, President Obama, who is 54 today, could be on the bench until 2052--or even longer, if the miracles of medicine are able to keep him issuing opinions into his ninth decade.

Imagine the damage he might do from a perch of 30 or 40 years on the Supreme Court. Or consider just a few of the questions that today hang by a 5-4 majority of the conservatives: whether the free speech clause of the First Amendment protects speech about political matters (Citizens United v. FEC), whether the religious liberty protections in the Constitution apply to Americans who own businesses (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby), and whether there are any limits at all to what the federal government can justify under the Commerce Clause (NFIB V. Sebelius).

Whether or not President Hillary would in fact appoint Barack Obama to a retirement job on the Supreme Court, we can be absolutely certain about one thing: she would surely appoint justices who would eagerly overturn all of those 5-4 cases, and sanction almost any abuses of power she could think up.
In other words, no matter whom she nominated, Hillary’s lifetime appointees would decide cases as if they were Justice Barack Obama. That specter alone should be terrifying enough to end any talk within the GOP about not supporting the eventual Republican nominee.

Your Friend,
Newt
 





 











69  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Senator Marco Rubio on: January 29, 2016, 04:18:32 PM
When is the FL primary?
70  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cultural Marxism explained in 7 Minutes on: January 29, 2016, 04:17:56 PM
https://www.mises.org/blog/cultural-marxism-explained-7-minutes
71  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Senator Marco Rubio on: January 29, 2016, 11:07:09 AM
I thought Rubio did the best last night. 

Ultimately I think his current position on border defense, immigration, and what to do about those here already (discuss it with the American people once we have shown them we have control of borders/immigration) positions him AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY well.

While I have great sympathy for Cruz's "just enforce the fg law" position, it will cost the Reps HEAVILY for decades to come with the Latino vote.  Rubio is a great hope for the Reps to become competitive for the Latino vote.

Here in CA there probably is no greater single factor to explain the one party state we have become than the initiatives (Prop 187 was it?) that we the people passed but the Dems parlayed into universal and unconditional Latino support for the Dem party.

Rubio has far superior ability to Ted in calling to the middle, independents, Latinos, and women.  Apparently not only young, single women are a MAJOR voting block this time around but the female demographic tends to respond not so well to Ted.  For example, my wife can't stand him.
72  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen.Ted Cruz on: January 29, 2016, 10:58:18 AM
Frankie's recommendation does a nice job of fleshing him out as a man.  I too liked it, but a tough night for Ted last night.  The "likability" factor has always been a weak link for him and he did not do himself any favors last night.  Even Chris Wallace smacked him back a couple of times.

A question to him included Rubio's attack about the three defense appropriation bills against which Cruz voted and he ran out of time (deliberately I suspect) addressing other aspects of the question first.  Rubio was able to get in the additional point that the only defense spending bill that Cruz has voted for was Rand Paul's bill of big cuts.   I suspect Rubio will continue to make hay with this.

I thought Cruz's discussion of ethanol was nothing less than masterful.   Though likely to go over the head of the national audience, the Iowa audience, which is intensely interested in this and extremely well informed about it, I think will appreciate the nuance and how deftly he answered accusations of having flip flopped.

For those who can follow legalistic parliamentary nuance closely, I think Cruz did answer the question about having flip flopped on legalization (and Megyn Kelly acknowledged this to Ted in a quickie post debate interview) Ultimately, for those inclined to support Cruz his invocation of Sen. Sessions will suffice as far as this point goes, but I suspect many people are going to sum it up as described by Chris Christie. 

Great opening statement by Ted.  Humorous, likable, alpha mode in setting the tone.
73  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Footage of the FBI shoot in Oregon on: January 28, 2016, 10:40:35 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAGxDWKrjPQ
74  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Clip on Cruz recommended by Frankie McRae on: January 28, 2016, 10:38:06 PM
http://www.mrconservative.com/2016/01/68912-ted-cruzs-secret-history-was-just-leaked-this-changes-everything/
75  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: January 28, 2016, 06:19:07 PM
WWWOOOFFF!!!
76  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Corporate Purge on: January 28, 2016, 03:43:39 PM

Jan. 26, 2016 7:40 p.m. ET
352 COMMENTS

Here we go again. A major U.S. company merges with a foreign firm in part to avoid America’s punishing corporate tax code, and the politicians who refuse to reform the code denounce the company for trying to stay competitive. The gullible in the media then dutifully play along. Sigh.

Let’s try to explain one more time why it makes perfect business—and moral—sense for Johnson Controls to merge with Tyco, as it announced Monday it would do. Tyco has a U.S. headquarters in New Jersey but is legally domiciled in Cork, Ireland. Johnson Controls will own roughly 56% of the combined company and its legal headquarters will move to Cork from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where it has been based for more than a century.

To simplify for Democratic presidential candidates: The U.S. federal corporate income tax rate is 35%. The Irish rate is 12.5%. Johnson Controls says the tax savings from its move to Cork will be roughly $150 million a year.

A CEO obliged to act in the best interests of shareholders cannot ignore this competitive reality. The merger means that Johnson Controls will have more money to invest back in the U.S. because the income it earns overseas would not be subject to the U.S. tax rate. Only if Johnson kept its headquarters in the U.S. would its foreign earnings be double-taxed upon repatriation. If Johnson Controls refuses to do such a deal now, a foreign competitor might end up buying Johnson Controls anyway to achieve the same savings.

As with other such tax “inversions,” there are also non-tax strategic reasons for the merger. The new company will have under one roof much of the equipment and services desired by the owners of large commercial buildings, from air conditioning to fire suppression.

But none of this business logic impresses Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, who helped to write the U.S. tax code as Senators but are now competing as presidential candidates to see who can demagogue more ferociously against American employers. Mrs. Clinton called the merger “outrageous” and Mr. Sanders is calling the executives “corporate deserters.”

Neither one wants to reform the tax code to make U.S. tax rates more competitive with the rest of the world. Instead they want to raise the costs of doing business even further. Mrs. Clinton’s solution is to raise taxes on investors with higher capital-gains taxes, block inversion deals, and apply an “exit tax” to businesses that manage to escape.

Mr. Sanders would go further and perform an immediate $620 billion cashectomy on U.S. companies. The Vermonter would tax the money U.S. firms have earned overseas, even though that income has already been taxed in foreign jurisdictions and even if the companies aren’t bringing it into the U.S.

Mr. Sanders’s campaign website says that after the big revenue grab in year one, his change would increase federal revenue by perhaps $90 billion a year thereafter. And he would limit future corporate inversions by taxing many inverting companies as if they never left. His revenue goal is a fantasy, because the practical effect would be to encourage many more companies to flee American shores.

Never mind the lost tax revenue, this kind of punishing tax policy is immoral. Multinational corporations with global customers can always relocate to wherever it makes the most business sense. Their American employees aren’t so lucky because their livelihoods depend on thriving and competitive U.S. companies. If the employees can’t move, or their companies can’t compete, they’re the ones who lose their jobs or don’t get raises. Has the Democratic Party moved so far left that it doesn’t understand even this most basic of business realities?
77  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Europe's closing borders on: January 28, 2016, 03:41:32 PM
second post


Jan. 27, 2016 7:21 p.m. ET
26 COMMENTS

Europe’s system of passport-free travel is on the way to history’s dustbin. The latest sign came Wednesday after the European Union issued a report faulting Greece for its handling of the refugee crisis. Greece now has three months to rectify its migrant-processing shortcomings or face suspension from Schengen, the treaty that facilitates visa-free travel across European frontiers.

The report followed Monday’s warning from EU interior ministers that they could move the EU’s external border up to Central Europe, effectively fencing Greece outside Schengen. Border controls have already been erected by Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway and Sweden, while Britain and Ireland were never in the Schengen area. Expect other borders to close as the next wave of migrants moves in with warmer weather.

We don’t usually sympathize with Greece’s left-wing government, but it’s hard to see what Brussels expected in the face of the human tide. Most of the million refugees who arrived in Europe last year came by way of Greece’s Aegean islands. The EU has provided Greece a paltry €28 million ($30.4 million) in emergency funding to field five “hotspot” processing centers on the Greek isles, of which only one is in operation. That’s in addition to the €474 million in routine migration-management assistance the EU pledged to Greece from 2014 to 2020. By comparison, the EU donates some €100 million a year to Myanmar.

Europe’s real problem is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refusal to set a ceiling on the number of refugees Germany is willing to accept, combined with Europe’s failure to create safe zones in Syria, Libya and other failed states to stop the refugee flow. Migrants will continue to take desperate risks to get to Europe as long as they are fleeing chaos—and Germany continues to promise shelter, welfare and eventual citizenship.

Mrs. Merkel has sought to get other European countries to take in migrants on a quota system, but Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia have vowed to veto the plan. An effort last fall by Mrs. Merkel to persuade Ankara to do a better job of policing its own borders in exchange for European money and visa-free travel for Turks has yielded no results.

Meantime, the risk that the refugee crisis will become a security one continues to grow, with French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve warning Monday that Islamic State has “set up a true industry of fake passports.” A Paris-style attack perpetrated by terrorists masquerading as refugees would be a tragedy and cause a political backlash that could favor Europe’s far-right typified by France’s Marine Le Pen.

A borderless Europe is still an ideal worth fighting for—assuming Europe can police its external borders and intervene abroad to prevent the tragedies of the Middle East from becoming its own. If Europe’s centrist leaders can’t do it, they will pave the way for the rise of their own Donald Trumps.
78  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iranians blow off lunch with Hollande because wine was on the menu on: January 28, 2016, 03:32:23 PM
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3419814/Lunch-French-Iranians-CANCELLED-President-Hollande-refused-wine-menu-meeting-Muslim-counterpart-Rouhani.html?ito=social-twitter_mailonline
79  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A zen koan for Sen. Bernie Sanders on: January 28, 2016, 03:30:29 PM
What is whiter?  A Sanders rally or the Oscars?
80  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NC Barber Shop customer drops armed robber. on: January 28, 2016, 03:06:18 PM
https://www.facebook.com/NYPost/videos/10157083489025206/
81  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Judicial Watch releases new White Water info on: January 28, 2016, 12:55:55 PM
http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-releases-office-of-independent-counsel-oic-memoranda-laying-out-criminal-case-against-hillary-clinton-in-whitewatercastle-grande-land-scandal/
82  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Locals fighting ISIS in Syria on: January 28, 2016, 12:44:59 PM
In Syria, Locals Take the Fight Back to Islamic State
by Jonathan Spyer
The Australian
January 23, 2016
http://www.meforum.org/5807/taking-the-fight-back-to-is
 
 

Excerpt of an article originally published under the title "Striking a Winning Formula as Locals Take the Fight Back to Islamic State."
 
In late December, I travelled to northern Syria to take a closer look at how things were working out. Is Islamic State being contained and eroded? And if it is, who are the forces on the ground that are achieving this?

Kobane is a good place to start. This once anonymous Kurdish town on the Syrian-Turkish border was the subject in 2014 of Islamic State's predatory intentions. The jihadists wanted to remove the logistical irritation of a Kurdish enclave poking into their domain. Abu Omar al-Shishani, the most feared of the Islamic State commanders, declared that he would "drink tea in Ayn al-Islam" (the name Islamic State gave the town). He came close to achieving his objective.

By October 2014, the nearly surrounded Kurdish forces were preparing for a last stand. The fighters of the YPG (the People's Protection Units of the de facto Kurdish ¬autonomous region in northern Syria) were determined, but outgunned.

Then something changed. The intervention of US power, partnering with the lightly armed but determined Kurds, turned the tide and proved the formula for success against Islamic State. More than 2000 jihadists died inside the ruins of Kobane, under the relentless US air attacks and the determined assaults of the YPG. In January, the group abandoned the attack. Kobane had survived.

Western air power is partnering with local ground forces across a broad front stretching from the Syrian-Turkish border to Iraq.

This formula for success — Western air power in partnership with carefully selected and directed local ground partners — is now being applied across a broad front stretching from Jarabulus on Syria's Turkish border all the way to deep inside Iraq.

Kobane today bears fearful testimony to the awesome destructive capacity of modern war. There is hardly a building that is not damaged. Roads are ploughed up. Craters made by the bombs, filled with rainwater, offer mute testimony to the fierceness of the fight. Once residential streets are now just lines of damaged structures — rubble and masonry and foundation walls rising like outstretched hands towards the sky.

But, importantly, the war is now far from here. Once the assault on Kobane ended in January last year, the YPG and its US allies continued to push the jihadists back: 196 villages and an area of 1362 sq km were liberated from the jihadists. As of now, since the capture of Ain Issa, the front lines at their most forward point are situated just 30km from Islamic State's "capital" in Raqqa City.

196 villages have been liberated by Syrian Kurdish forces in the past year.

This has enabled life to begin tentatively to return to Kobane. About 40,000 people are now living in the town, although its reconstruction remains in the opening stages. It has also set the stage for the current phase of the war in which Islamic State is often no longer on the attack. Rather, it is being slowly pushed back. What comes next, I asked Colonel Talal Silu, spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, at a facility in al-Hasakah city. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose existence was announced in October last year, is the 40,000-strong military alliance with which Western air power and special forces are partnering in the war against Islamic State.

Silu, an ethnic Turkmen from northern Syria and a member of the Jaysh al-Thuwar (Army of Revolutionaries), is a living example of the purpose of the SDF.
The victories against Islamic State at Kobane and to its east were won by the combination of determined Kurdish ground forces and US air power. This partnership works militarily. Politi¬cally, however, it is problematic.

The US is committed to the maintenance of Syria as a territorial unit. The PYD (Democratic Union Party) in Syrian Kurdistan is a franchise of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which is based in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan and is engaged in an armed conflict with Turkey. The PYD is widely believed by Syrian Arabs to be seeking to secede from Syria. Yet, more problematically, the PKK remains on the US and EU lists of terrorist organisations. And the secular, leftist YPG in Syria is clearly the creation of the PKK, though spokesmen deny formal links.
 
Syrian Kurds have taken the initiative in the war with Islamic State.

The SDF, which brings in non-Kurdish organisations and fighters around the nucleus of the 30,000-strong YPG, is intended to remedy this situation. It serves a purpose for both Kurds and Americans. It enables the YPG to present itself as an integral part of Syria. The US, meanwhile, can claim to be working with a multi-ethnic alliance rather than a Kurdish nationalist force.

This latter aspect is of particular importance because of Turkish concerns. The Turks have warned the YPG not to cross west of the Euphrates River. Ankara is concerned at Kurdish ambitions to acquire control of the entire long border between Syria and Turkey. At present, an isolated Kurdish canton in the area of Afrin in northwest Syria remains cut off from the main area of Kurdish control. Areas of rebel and Islamic State control separate the two.

Silu, however, is not interested in discussing the intricacies of ¬Levantine power politics on the morning that we met. What needs to come next, he tells me, is heavy weapons. On October 14, the US dropped 50 tonnes of ammunition to the SDF. This, the colonel says, is not enough. "What they dropped was only enough to fight for two or three days. Not so useful."

So, what would be useful? "Heavy weapons, tow missiles, anti-tank missiles ... The Americans gave million to people who did nothing. Saudi Arabia is supporting forces and providing high-quality weapons. But we are the only force that is fighting Islamic State seriously."
 
YPG and YPJ fighters at the funeral of three comrades killed fighting Islamic State.

This sentiment is repeated again and again as we follow the SDF front lines down south of al-Hasakah to the last forward positions before the town of al- Shaddadah. The SDF liberated al-Hawl on November 16 and is now pushing beyond it.

The remnants of Islamic State rule are plainly visible as we drive through the town. "The Islamic Court in al-Hawl", one painted structure proclaims grandly. But the building is ransacked and deserted, and someone has painted a livid red YPG emblem above that of the former Islamist rulers. Islamic State is on the retreat.

"If we had effective weapons, we could take Raqqa in a month," says Kemal Amuda, a short and energetic YPG commander on the front line south of al-Hawl. "But the area is very large. And the airstrikes are of limited use."

'If we had effective weapons, we could take Raqqa in a month,' says YPG commander Kemal Amuda.

What would help? Once again: "Anti-tank weapons, tanks, armoured vehicles."

The reason the heavy weapons these commanders desire have not been forthcoming may relate to the provisional nature of the alliance underpinning the SDF.

The Western forces want to use this force as a battering ram against Islamic State. But the Kurdish core of the force has other ambitions, which include the unification of the cantons and acquiring control of the border. The Western coalition may well prefer to neutralise Islamic State advantage in heavy weapons by employing air power, rather than afford the Kurds an independent capacity in this regard.

But despite the absence of such weapons and the political complications, the SDF is proving a serviceable tool in the battle against Islamic State. The strategy appears to be to slowly chip away at the areas surrounding Raqqa City in order to weaken the jihadists' ability to mount a determined defence of the city. The loss of al-Hawl meant Islamic State also lost control of the Syrian section of Highway 47 from Raqqa City across the Iraqi border to Mosul, Iraq's second city and the other jewel in the Islamic State crown.

The SDF captured the Tishrin Dam on December 27.

The conquest of the Tishrin Dam by the SDF on December 27 further isolates Raqqa. The dam was the last bridge across the Euphrates controlled by Islamic State. Its loss significantly increases the time it would take for the ¬jihadists to bring forces from Aleppo province on the western side of the river to the aid of the city.

So the SDF, partnering with US air power, appears to be aiming to split Islamic State in two, before attacking its most significant points.

The YPG component, which accounts for most of the SDF's fighting strength, is an irregular force. It lacks the resources and the structure of a regular army. The fighters have only the simplest of equipment. No body armour. No helmets. Night vision equipment also appears to be absent. Medical knowledge and supplies are basic.

Concerns have been raised regarding the high rate of attrition in this force, including fighters who suffered wounds that ought not to have been fatal had skilled medical attention been close at hand.

But despite all this, they appear to get results, and morale was clearly high among the young combatants that I interviewed in the frontline areas south of al-Hawl and al-Hasakah.

A particularly striking element was the constantly repeated refrain that Islamic State fighters suffered from severe attrition and noticeably declining motivation.

Islamic State fighters reportedly suffer from severe attrition and declining motivation.

As we pass through an eerily silent and seemingly deserted frontline area close to al-Bassel Dam, 30km east of Shaddadah, I come across a group of YPG men defending a position about 3km from the jihadists.

The officer commanding this group refuses to give his name or to be recorded. "Journalists aren't really supposed to be around here," he remarks with a smile. Nevertheless, in the conversation that follows, the commander gives a precise description of the changing tactics used by the jihadists, and what in his view this portends for the fight against Islamic State.

Once, the jihadists attacked en masse. The order, as described by the commander, was that a number of "suicide cars" — vehicles filled with explosives and intended to spread panic among the defenders — would appear first, followed by suicide bombers on foot, who would try to enter the positions of the defenders and detonate themselves. Then a mass of ground fighters would follow behind, with the intention of breaking through the shocked defenders.
These methods had been effective, but also very costly in terms of manpower. Now, however, the jihadists are evidently seeking to preserve the lives of their force. Their tactics have changed accordingly. They move in smaller groups, preferring to leave only token forces to defend areas subjected to determined attack.

The change, suggests the commander, derives from a dwindling flow of eager recruits in comparison with mid-2014. "Formerly, they were attractive as conquerors. Their power derived from intimidation and imposing terror," he says. "This has now gone."

This decline in the stream of recruits for Islamic State probably explains an amnesty for deserters announced last October, as revealed in a recent trove of Islamic State documents leaked to British researcher Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi. The announcement suggests Islamic State can no longer maintain in their entirety the ruthless and draconian methods that characterised its early stages. The need for manpower precludes this.

The turn to international terrorism by Islamic State in recent months is probably also explained by its loss of momentum in Iraq and Syria. The group needs "achievements" to maintain its "brand". Its slogan is "baqiya wa tatamaddad" (remaining and expanding). But expansion of its territorial holdings is no longer taking place. The downing of the Russian Metrojet passenger airliner on October 31, the coordinated attacks in Paris on November 13 and a series of attacks in Turkey suggest action on the global stage may be a substitute for gains on the battlefield closer to home.

What is most striking about the large swath of northern Syria now administered by the Kurds is its atmosphere of near normality. This was not always the case. This reporter first visited "Rojava", as the Kurds call Syrian Kurdistan, in early 2013 — just a few months after the Assad regime pulled out of most of northeast Syria. At that time, the security structures put in place by the Kurds were rudimentary and somewhat chaotic. And the remaining regime presence in the cities of al-Qamishli and al-Hasakah was far more extensive.

By the end of last year, however, the rule of the PYD and its allies had taken on a look of solidity. Pictures of martyrs are everywhere, testimony to the high cost the maintenance of the enclave continues to exact. But the YPG checkpoints and the presence of both the Asayish (paramilitary police) and the "blue" police force established by the Kurds leaves no doubt as to who is in control here.

Syrian Kurds have carved out an enclave constituting more than 20 per cent of the country's territory.

The US decision to partner with the Kurdish de facto force in this area is an acknowledgment of this achievement. Finding physical evidence of the American presence, however, is a challenge. YPG commanders interviewed by me insisted the process of calling in airstrikes was handled by the YPG alone, via a control room that was in contact with US forces. The Americans, in this telling, were responsible only for advising and some training of forces.

Yet it seems likely that the small complement of US special forces committed to Syria (up to 50 operators, according to the official announcement) are doing more than simply training and advising.

In neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan, evidence has already emerged of the ground involvement of US special forces in operations against Islamic State. Similar events are likely taking place in Syria, too.

According to a recent report in the regional newspaper al-Hayat, plans are afoot to broaden the US presence, with the construction of a base in which, according to a Western official quoted by the paper, "US experts will reside and from which they will travel to battle lines". The base, according to al-Hayat, is set to be built outside the town of Derik (al-Malikiyah), deep in the heart of the Kurdish-controlled area in northeast Syria. These reports, if they have substance, suggest a deepening of the military alliance between the US and the Kurds of Syria.
...
But this war, in truth, looks nowhere close to conclusion. In the meantime, the Syrian Kurds have carved out an enclave constituting more than 20 per cent of the country's territory of the country and established at least a semblance of normal life.

The jihadists are far from a spent force. On January 15, they launched a ferocious counterattack against Assad regime forces in the Deir ez-Zor area. A massacre of civilians followed. Islamic State's capacity for mass murder should not be underestimated.

Still, as we crossed the Tigris River from northern Syria into Iraq, two memories remained particularly vivid.

The first was of Kobane. As we entered the ruined city, a celebration was taking place. About 100 young Kurds were dancing in an open area, Kurdish music blaring from a primitive sound system, with the ruined, macabre buildings casting their shapes all around.

The second was of a clump of strange mounds that we found by the roadside in the desert south of al-Hawl. These, on closer inspection, turned out to be the torn corpses of a group of Islamic State fighters — killed perhaps in an airstrike. Their foes had covered them lightly with earth before continuing south. The sightless eyes stared skyward.

The war against Islamic State and the larger war of which it is a part are far from over. But on this front at least, the direction is clear. The SDF is moving forward.

Jonathan Spyer is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
83  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 10,000 illegal overstays from Terror Countries on: January 28, 2016, 12:40:29 PM
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84  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 10,000 illegal overstays from Terror Countries on: January 28, 2016, 12:39:56 PM
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85  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The leap of Trump on: January 28, 2016, 09:26:29 AM
The Leap of Trump
As the GOP nominee or President, he would be a political ‘black swan.’
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on January 26 in Marshalltown, Iowa. ENLARGE
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on January 26 in Marshalltown, Iowa. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Jan. 27, 2016 7:06 p.m. ET
711 COMMENTS

Financial analyst and our contributor Donald Luskin has described Donald Trump as a “black swan” over the political economy. He’s referring to an outlier event that few anticipated and whose impact is impossible to predict. As the voting season begins in Iowa, this strikes us as a useful way for Republicans to think about the Trump candidacy.

We’ve been critical of Mr. Trump on many grounds and our views have not changed. But we also respect the American public, and the brash New Yorker hasn’t stayed atop the GOP polls for six months because of his charm. Democracies sometimes elect poor leaders—see the last eight years—but their choices can’t be dismissed as mindless unless you want to give up on democracy itself.

The most hopeful way to interpret Mr. Trump’s support is that the American people aren’t taking decline lying down. They know the damage that has been done to them over the last decade—in lower incomes, diminished economic prospects, and a far more dangerous world. But they aren’t about to accept this as their fate.

Americans aren’t Japanese or Europeans—at least not yet. Mr. Trump’s promise to “make America great again” is for many patriotic voters a rallying cry for U.S. revival. In that sense it is motivated more by hope than by the “anger” so commonly described in the media.
***

The problem is that Mr. Trump is an imperfect vessel for this populism, to say the least. On politics and policy he is a leap into the known unknown. That so many voters seem willing to take this leap suggests how far confidence in American political leaders has fallen. We can debate another day how the U.S. got here, but with the voting nigh it’s important to address what a Trump nomination could mean for the GOP and the country.

Pundits on the right are stressing the obvious that Mr. Trump is no conservative, but he’s also no liberal. He has no consistent political philosophy that we can detect beyond a kind of relentless pragmatism that is common in businessmen. Mr. Trump calls it “the art of the deal.” The President he may most resemble in that populist pragmatism, if not in manners, is another business success who turned to politics, Herbert Hoover.

Can Mr. Trump win the Presidency if he is the nominee? Who knows? We’ve argued that the GOP nominee should be the favorite this year, and perhaps Mr. Trump can mobilize middle-class voters in Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania and win more states than Mitt Romney did. We certainly know he wouldn’t shrink from flaying Hillary Clinton.

But there’s no guarantee that Mr. Trump would win the mainstream, college-educated Republican voters he would also need to win. His net negative rating with the public is the highest in the presidential field in the latest WSJ/NBC poll at minus-29. Jeb Bush is minus-27, Mrs. Clinton minus-nine.

Mr. Trump might be able to repair this image if he ran a more sober campaign as the nominee than he has run so far, but he could also blow up under months of intense media scrutiny. His biggest test would be showing he has the temperament to be President, and his tantrum this week over Megyn Kelly and Fox News isn’t reassuring.

All of which means that Mr. Trump has the widest electoral variability as a candidate. He could win, but he also could lose 60% to 40%, taking the GOP’s Senate majority down and threatening House control. A Clinton Presidency with Speaker Nancy Pelosi would usher in an era of antigrowth policies worse than even 2009-2010. This is the killer black swan.

And how would Mr. Trump govern as President? Flip a coin. Maybe he would surround himself with astute advisers, work closely with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, and craft a reform agenda to revive the economy a la Reagan. His tax reform outline is close enough to sensible that Mr. Ryan could knock it into shape. He would not want to be a “loser” in office.

But history teaches that Presidents try to do what they say they will during a campaign, and Mr. Trump is threatening a trade war with China, Mexico and Japan, among others. He sometimes says he merely wants to start a negotiation with China that will end happily when it bows to his wishes. China may have other ideas. A bad sign is that Mr. Trump has hired as his campaign policy adviser Stephen Miller, who worked for Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), the most antitrade, anti-immigration Senator.

Foreign policy would also be a leap in the dark. Mr. Trump has said he respects former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, and so do we. But Mr. Trump also admires Vladimir Putin—enough so that even after a British judge found last week that Mr. Putin had “probably” ordered the murder in London of a Russian defector, Mr. Trump defended Mr. Putin because he wasn’t found “guilty.”
***

Mr. Trump has shown great staying power in the polls, and perhaps his campaign organizing talents will be as strong as his social-media skills. But Iowa and New Hampshire are only the beginning of primaries that have weeks or months to run, and a huge chunk of voters haven’t made up their minds.

Ted Cruz has his own electoral and governing issues and he isn’t the only alternative to Mr. Trump, despite what both men would like Americans to believe. Voters could still elevate one of the other candidates. Republicans should look closely before they leap.
86  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Does the enemy really need to know this? on: January 28, 2016, 09:21:11 AM
Second post

US troops to Libya? In a briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday, spokesman Peter Cook said that the United States is “looking at military options” for dealing with the rise of the Islamic State in Libya. His remarks follow those made by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, who recently said that the U.S. is looking at ways to "take decisive military action" to "check" the expansion of ISIS in Libya. Cook was quick to say that military action is not forthcoming, but he confirmed that U.S. forces have been on the ground there. Their mission has been to get “a clearer picture of what’s happening there, and they’ve made contact with people on the ground to try and get a better sense not only of the threat” ISIS poses, but also to understand “the dynamic on the ground in terms of the security situation.”

They’re already there. A “small group” of American forces have already made contact with Libyan militias, “simply to get a sense of who the players are”, Cook said. But things have been happening in Libya for some time. French authorities have reported that they’ve flown at least two surveillance flights over Libyan towns controlled by ISIS in recent months, and in December, a Facebook page belonging to the Libyan air force posted photographs of a group of American commandos who landed at the wrong Libyan airport on a mission to talk to local leaders.

What do you think Gen. Votel has to say about all this?
87  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Backed by US, Turkey to invade Syria? on: January 28, 2016, 09:17:26 AM

How the U.S. Would Assist Turkey in Syria
Analysis
January 26, 2016 | 20:48 GMT Print
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(Stratfor)

Editor's Note: Stratfor closely monitors conflict zones from a geopolitical perspective. What is perhaps the most volatile conflict today can be found in the territories of Iraq and Syria that are controlled by the Islamic State. Though these areas are cartographically distinct, they are functionally linked: Sunni tribal structures, rebel operations, Kurdish interests, external influences and the suzerainty of the Islamic State bind them together as a single, coherent theater.

The Islamic State capitalized on the chaos of the Syrian civil war and the inadequacy of Iraqi security forces to take over a large swath of the Middle East. After making some impressive gains, including the taking of the Iraqi city of Mosul, the Islamic State now finds itself in an increasingly difficult position, against which a wide array of opponents are aligned. Nonetheless, the group is uniquely resilient and, as such, remains extremely dangerous and unpredictable.

In addition to examining the combatants inside the Syria-Iraq battlespace, Stratfor also tracks the political machinations, negotiations and goals of outside the battlespace, including Iran, Russia, the Gulf monarchies and the United States. For the first time, in one place, Stratfor is providing routine updates covering the gains, losses and extent of the Islamic State's so-called caliphate. For previous updates, read Retaking Ramadi Is Only a Small Victory.
Jan. 27: How the U.S. Would Assist Turkey in Syria

Stratfor has received new information that points toward an understanding between the United States and Turkey and opens the way for a Turkish incursion into northern Syria. Though Stratfor has not been able to fully verify the veracity of the information, Turkey has made no secret of its desire for the United States to help it drive the Islamic State out of northern Aleppo province. Moreover, Turkey would then be able to bolster its rebel proxies and prevent the Kurdish People's Protection Units from controlling the area from Afrin to Kobani.

Our sources note that the United States will mostly assist with air support. Turkey has its own powerful air force, but it is probably hesitant to give Russia an excuse to shoot down its aircraft over Syria in retaliation for its downing of a Russian Su-24 warplane that allegedly crossed into Turkish airspace. The precaution will not necessarily prevent the Russians from carrying out airstrikes and potentially hitting Turkish forces on the ground. Still, the lack of Turkish planes would be one less point of potential conflict.

In preparation for U.S. air support for Turkey, the United States will allegedly use Turkish air bases in Batman, Diyarbakir and Malatya, even though most U.S. combat jets will continue to take off from Incirlik air base in Adana. The United States has also reportedly told the Syrian Democratic Forces to halt their advance toward Manbij to pave the way for the operation. To that end, Stratfor is looking for any further deployments of additional U.S. aircraft, troop movements, logistics buildup, and any additional signs of a pending U.S.-backed Turkish incursion into Syria. Furthermore, we are monitoring the Syrian Democratic Forces close to Manbij to see if their activity over the following weeks matches the information we have received.
Jan. 26: In Syria, Russia Courts the Kurds

According to pro-Syrian government media, Russian officers have met with Syrian Kurdish officials in northeastern Syria to hold preliminary talks on military coordination. These talks include a Russian proposal to aid the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in taking Jarabulus, a town on the Turkish border that the militia desires.

The reports come after multiple sources, including the United States and Turkey, confirmed Russia's presence in al-Hasaka. The province is of secondary importance for Damascus and, by extension, the Russians in their fight against the rebels and the Islamic State. Thus, the Russian mission to these Kurdish areas only reinforces the narrative that Russia is enhancing ties with the YPG and other armed groups, such as Assyrian and Arab militias, in the north.

The YPG will undoubtedly take advantage of Russia's courtship but will be careful not to fall completely into Moscow's embrace. The YPG can certainly benefit from Russian arms and funding. The Kurdish militia can also use Russian influence with the Syrian government to promote its ambitions for Kurdish autonomy in Syria. But the YPG recognizes that Russian support cannot match that of the United States, even if the United States has been hesitant in supplying direct aid because of its relationship with Turkey.

Of course, the United States does provide considerable political backing to the YPG that protects the group from Turkey. Operating under the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces shields the YPG from direct Turkish hostility, and Ankara also wishes to avoid directly clashing with a group closely tied to Washington. Furthermore, while the United States has thus far not delivered considerable material aid to the Syrian Democratic Forces, let alone the YPG, it has provided critical air support. Russia cannot match the United States in this regard, since all U.S. airstrikes in Syria use precision-guided munitions, while the Russians primarily use unguided munitions.

More important, Russia's pursuit of Kurdish cooperation threatens to strain the country's already delicate relations with Turkey over the Syrian conflict. The YPG and the Kurdish autonomy it seeks is a sensitive issue for Turkey, and one it considers of vital national interest. Russia also reportedly continues to build up forces, including surface-to-air missiles, in Aleppo province, which would conflict with any direct Turkish involvement in the conflict, the prospects of which continues to be evaluated. U.S. military officials are busy talking with their Turkish counterparts on the best way to fight the Islamic State, with Lt. Gen. Charles Brown scheduled to visit Ankara and southeastern Diyarbakir on Feb. 1-2. The meeting could extend to a joint U.S.-Turkish operation in Syria. It could also simply expand Turkish logistical support for an enhanced U.S. campaign. Either way, the outcome will dictate the likelihood of a clash with Russia.
Jan. 19: Turkey May Be Planning a Syrian Invasion

The Islamic State is fending off attacks from all sides in Syria, and there are growing indications that a Turkish ground invasion could add to the group's list of concerns. The Turks are determined to clear the Islamic State from a corridor of land stretching along the Syrian side of the Turkey-Syria border. In what could be a sign of this intent, Turkish minesweeping vehicles have started clearing mines along a section of the border near the Syrian town of Jarabulus, which the Islamic State controls. According to Stratfor sources, Russia and the United States have discussed the plan, and Russia has agreed not to obstruct Turkey's efforts so long as Ankara does not try to expand the buffer zone to the Mediterranean Sea — a stipulation Turkey has reportedly acquiesced to. Our sources also said liaison officers from Turkey, Russia and the United States will coordinate with one another to prevent cases of accidental fire or, in the event that they do occur, to avoid any escalation between Turkish and Russian forces.

As Stratfor has noted, Turkey has long wanted an international operation to clear the Islamic State from northern Aleppo, and its plan to establish a buffer zone along the border may be the first step toward achieving its goal. If such an operation occurred, it would deal a heavy blow to the Islamic State, which recently launched a suicide bombing against the Turkish capital. It would also strengthen the rebels in northern Syria, in turn preventing the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from expanding their reach westward. Finally, an international operation would likely draw the United States deeper into the Syrian conflict — a boon for Turkey, which does not want to go it alone.

Until now, though, Turkey's plans for Syria have been greatly complicated by Russia's intervention in the conflict, and Moscow has continued to frustrate Ankara's ambitions since Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 warplane in November 2015. For instance, the Russians have reinforced their air defense assets in Syria, and in a Dec. 17 interview Russian President Vladimir Putin dared Turkey to fly over Syrian airspace, implying that the aircraft would be shot down if it did.

Despite the considerable risks, Turkey may decide to move forward with its operation anyway. Assaults by Russia-backed loyalists have stretched thin the Syrian rebels allied with Turkey, and the Islamic State has turned its gaze toward Turkey's cities. Meanwhile, the Kurdish YPG is making headway in the territory west of the Euphrates River. Each of these developments could encourage Turkey to take a more active role in the Syrian conflict, even it means risking a clash with Russia.

Still, that does not mean that Ankara, with Washington's help, is not trying to reach an understanding with Moscow, at least in terms of setting up deconfliction procedures to avoid clashing with each other in the Syrian warzone, which is rapidly becoming crowded. On Jan. 22, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland plan to travel to Istanbul for high-level talks with Turkish officials. The United States could use this opportunity to try to bring Turkey back into talks with Russia over the Syrian conflict. However, even if both sides set up deconfliction procedures, they cannot guarantee that miscalculation and escalation will not take place in an atmosphere rife with mistrust and suspicion.

Turkey has already begun to ramp up its artillery strikes along its border with Syria to help its rebel allies and to destroy Islamic State targets. This could indicate an effort to soften enemy defenses ahead of a Turkish ground incursion once minesweeping operations have been completed. An invasion could theoretically occur at any point along the Islamic State-controlled portion of Turkey's border with Syria, but if it begins at Jarabulus, where Turkey is clearing mines, it would have to be mostly carried out by Turkish forces. The nearest Syrian rebel lines are nearly 100 kilometers (62 miles) away, and no coalition ground troops are present in Turkey to offer support.

The threat of an impending Turkish ground offensive is only one of many confronting the Islamic State in northern Aleppo at the moment. The group is already grappling with a three-pronged assault on its territory in the area. From the east, the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces have crossed the Euphrates River, despite Turkey's opposition to the move, and they are now advancing westward toward the Islamic State-held town of Manbij. From the south, Syrian loyalist forces backed by Russian airstrikes are advancing toward the city of al-Bab. And from the west, rebel forces predominantly from the Turkey-backed Mare Operations Room are advancing eastward along the Turkey-Syria border, looking to gain ground held by the Islamic State. The possibility of a ground invasion by Turkey could make the Islamic State's fight for territory even more difficult, albeit at the risk of also complicating the operations of the other parties involved in Syria's civil war.
Jan. 5: In Syria, Loyalist Forces Push South

As the Russians and Iranians ramped up their support for the Syrian government over the last three months of 2015, they focused on counterattacking the largely Islamist rebel forces in northern Syria. However, during the past week the Syrian loyalist forces, with significant aid from their allies, have begun major operations in southern Syria, particularly in Daraa and Quneitra provinces.

The new loyalist offensives in the south focus on Sheikh Miskin, a strategically located crossroads town located just west of the M5 highway. Rebels successfully seized the town in January 2015 and from there have continued to seriously threaten the loyalists' narrow logistical corridor that runs from Damascus to the their embattled forces in Daraa city.

The initial loyalist offensive managed to retake the northern parts of the town and its outlying bases, but a rebel counterattack led to difficult urban fighting and continuous back-and-forth advances by both sides. The loyalists have lost a considerable number of tanks and vehicles in the town but have also inflicted heavy casualties on the rebels with their heavy artillery and airstrikes. There is also a loyalist effort to reach the town of Nawa, located west of Sheikh Miskin.

The battle also involves an expanded Russian air campaign that is targeting the Free Syrian Army Southern Front. This breaks the alleged accord, which has largely held until now, between the Russians and the Jordanians to avoid increasing attacks on their preferred proxies. With loyalist offensives currently taking place in both northern and southern Syria, the Syrian government is rallying once again after its recent losses. However, the intensification in fighting is undermining the international effort to push through the cease-fire that was originally planned for this month.
88  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Europe's Great Experiment Failing on: January 28, 2016, 09:15:31 AM


By Ian Morris

The slow-motion crisis of the European Union finally seems to be coming to a head. "Europe could lose its historical footing and the project could die quickly," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned in a speech at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "Things could fall apart within months," which, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble added, "would be a tragedy."

The catalyst for these fears is Britain's upcoming referendum on its EU membership, due by the end of 2017. I am writing this column having just left Congress Hall in Davos after British Prime Minister David Cameron's own speech on "Britain in the World." At least, that was what the speech was supposed to be about; in fact, it might have been better titled "Britain in the European Union (and What I Don't Like About It)." There are, to be sure, bits of Europe that Cameron does like, particularly its potential to create a single market for goods and services, but there is much more of which he disapproves. The core issue, he insisted, is that "if Europe is about ever-deepening political union, with ever-deepening political institutions, then it's not the organization for us."

What is Global Affairs?

Pressed on this point in the Q&A session, Cameron accepted that "you [can] never forget that this is a group of countries that used to fight each other and kill each other, and have actually now come together in a common endeavor"; but that coming together, he suggested, was the result less of the movement toward political union than of "some values that we in Britain are very proud of, in terms of committing to democracy and freedom and rights and all the rest of it."

Much ink has been spilled over whether David Cameron's speeches about the European Union represent his own views, those of his party, or a subtle attempt to manage the British nation's political mood. Yet whatever the prime minister's motives, seeing the 70-year process of European integration as part of a much longer history of state formation casts an interesting new light on the arguments Cameron offered at Davos.
Forging a New Path to Peace?

When I was a teenager growing up in 1970s Britain, no topic seemed quite as dull as the European Community (as it was called until it rebranded itself as the European Union in 1993). Nothing could get me to turn the TV off quite as quickly as yet another announcement from the bureaucrats in Brussels about what I was allowed to eat or drink and what size container it could come in. But I — and the millions of others who shared my lack of interest in all things European — was very wrong to react this way.

For 5,000 years, since the first states were created in what is now southern Iraq, governments have been using violence to create political unity and then using politics (and, when necessary, more violence) to create economic and cultural unity everywhere that their power reached. From 3000 B.C. through the late 1940s, it is hard to find a single example of a state formed in any other way. Since the late 1940s, though, Western Europeans have been turning history's most successful formula on its head.

The European Union has arguably been the most extraordinary experiment in the history of political institutions, but the reason its accomplishments seemed so boring was that dullness was the bloc's whole point. In committee meeting after committee meeting, unsung bureaucratic heroes spun a web of rules and regulations that bound the Continent's formerly sovereign states into an economic and cultural unit and then began using economics and culture to create a political unit. "The final goal," Helmut Schlesinger, the head of the German Bundesbank, explained in 1994, "is a political one … to reach any type of political unification in Europe, a federation of states, an association of states or even a stronger form of union." In this agenda, "the economic union is [merely] an important vehicle to reach this target."

For the first time in history, huge numbers of people — 500 million so far — have come together to form a bigger society without anyone using force to make them to do so. The consequences have been extraordinary: Between 1914 and 1945, Europeans killed more than 60 million people in two world wars, but by 2015 the European Union had become the safest place on Earth. Its citizens murdered each other less often than any other people on earth, its governments had abolished the death penalty, and it had renounced war within its borders (and almost renounced it outside them, too).

In 2003, opinion pollsters found that only 12 percent of French and German people thought that war was ever justified, as opposed to 55 percent of Americans. "On major strategic and international questions today," U.S. strategist Robert Kagan concluded that same year, "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus."

The contrast with the lands beyond the European Union's eastern border, where Russian leaders have not hesitated to assassinate their critics and use force against weaker neighbors, could hardly be starker. Small wonder that the Nobel Committee decided in 2012 to award its Peace Prize to the European Union as a whole.
The Drawbacks of Europe's Experiment

Why, then, Cameron's insistence that "Britain has never been happy with the idea that we are part of an ever-closer political union?" My own (admittedly unsystematic) survey of the discussions makes me think that there are three main arguments. The first is tribal: as Cameron put it in Davos, "We're a proud, independent country, with proud, independent democratic traditions." Britons have not been persuaded that the gains from surrendering their independent traditions and identity outweigh the costs.

The second argument, and the one least spoken about, is geostrategic. Since the 17th century, British grand strategy has consistently revolved around engaging with the wider world while preventing any single power from dominating continental Europe. "We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual friends," Lord Palmerston, the foreign secretary, famously observed in 1848; only "our interests are eternal and perpetual." Between 1689 and 1945, Britain built and broke alliances and paid huge costs in blood and gold to prevent the political unification of Europe; and as I have discussed before, since 1945 it has carried on a delicate diplomatic dance to remain engaged with the Continent while undermining any ever-deepening political union.

Third is what seems to be the most powerful argument of all: that Europe's novel path of coercion-free state formation is just not working. For nearly 15 years after the signing of the crucial treaty at Maastricht in 1992, the opposite had seemed to be the case. From Ireland to Estonia, most Europeans began sharing a single currency and central bank, accepting rulings from a European court and parliament, and crossing borders without passports. Since 2010, however, the tedious path of consensus building has increasingly broken down.

As the countries that had adopted the euro as their currency plunged into a debt crisis (or, more accurately, a balance-of-payments crisis between the highly productive North and the less productive South), they discovered the limits of a rules-based union that lacked the centralized coercive powers of a traditional state. An old-style empire could have used force to solve the problems, as Britain did when it sent gunboats to extract debt payments from Greece in 1850; but in the new Europe, no German tanks would be rolling through the streets of Athens to restore fiscal discipline.

Having chosen a path of state formation that denied it the very possibility of enforcing its rules with violence, the European Union has been teetering on the brink of an abyss for the last five years. By late 2011, the Swiss bank UBS was even worrying that the absence of central coercive power would unleash violence of a different kind: "Almost no modern fiat currency monetary unions," its analysts observed, "have broken up without some form of authoritarian or military government, or civil war." However, as of early 2016, the much-criticized policy of masterly inactivity — doing just enough to keep indebted countries afloat, but no more — does seem to be averting disaster. Despite eye-watering unemployment, occasionally violent street protests and regularly recurring political crises, Greece has hung on within the eurozone; and despite mounting pressure on Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and even France, none has collapsed.

Since 2014, however, a second problem has emerged for the European path toward state formation. Nearly 2 million refugees — less than half of one percent of the European Union's population, but a formidable number nonetheless — have flooded into Europe from the south and east. The borderless Schengen area, which will eventually comprise 26 of the 28 EU countries plus Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, has struggled to cope since it was constructed in 1985. Amid scenes of misery and even violence, internal borders are returning. State formation is going into reverse.
The Problem of Governing Without Power

For more than 60 years after its beginnings in the late 1940s, the European Union's revolutionary path of state formation without centralized coercive power gradually mastered its members' tribalism and local strategic interests. In many ways, this has been an inspirational story, challenging head-on Thomas Hobbes' assertion in Leviathan that the only force strong enough to prevent people from using violence to pursue self-interest is a government that has more violence at its disposal than any of its subjects.

Since 2010, however, evidence has been mounting that the European path toward state formation only really works in the best-case scenario. Confronted by genuinely Hobbesian challenges of greed and desperate refugees, the limitations of Brussels' rules and committees have become clear.

If correct, this seems to leave just two options. The first is that the champions of political union will turn the crisis of state formation into an opportunity, persuading the bloc's members to strengthen central institutions at the expense of local ones and thereby giving Brussels the powers it needs to tackle the forces of dissolution. Right now, however, that does not seem to be the direction Europe is moving in.

The second option is the one that Cameron championed at Davos: rejecting "ever-deepening political union, with ever-deepening political institutions" as Europe's goal. Cameron's claim that the pacification of Europe since 1945 has been a product of the Continent's shared democratic values rather than of political integration sweetens the pill, but rests on an unstated counterfactual assumption — that even if European nations had not surrendered so much of their sovereignty since the late 1940s, pacification would have happened anyway. In favor of Cameron's counterfactual is the point that violence has declined across most of the world in the last 70 years even though the number of independent nation-states has grown; against it, perhaps, the fact that violence has declined more inside the European Union than anywhere else.

No one has a crystal ball, and because Europe's experiment in state formation without violence is unique in the annals of history, we cannot even appeal to arguments from analogy to see where it might lead. One of the clearest trends of the last 10,000 years has been the creation of larger and larger political units, which might mean that Cameron is wrong and that the European Union will somehow muddle through. On the other hand, because these larger units have always been formed by governments monopolizing the use of legitimate violence within their territories and because this is the one strategy that the European Union has always rejected, perhaps we should conclude that Cameron is right, and that ever-deepening political union is a dead letter.

Back in 1651, Hobbes speculated that Leviathan — an awe-inspiring government controlling sufficient force to deter its subjects from using violence in their own interests — could be created in more than one way. The most common route, he surmised, was what he called "commonwealth by acquisition," which depended on threats and coercion, "as when a man maketh his children, to submit themselves, and their children to his government, as being able to destroy them if they refuse; or by war subdueth his enemies to his will, giving them their lives on that condition." However, Hobbes argued, it was also possible for there to be "commonwealth by institution … when men agree amongst themselves, to submit to some man, or assembly of men, voluntarily."

More than three centuries on from Leviathan, the European Union has been giving commonwealth by institution the most serious test it has ever had. It has been a noble and inspiring experiment in solving collective action problems without the threat of coercion. But if Cameron was right in Davos, the experiment is failing.
89  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Humpty Dumpty in Libya on: January 28, 2016, 09:07:16 AM


By Scott Stewart

Many indicators suggest that European and regional powers along with the United States are once again gearing up for an intervention in Libya. These signs include increased surveillance activity over the North African country, reports of U.S., British and French soldiers already on the ground, and leaks that countries in the region are being approached to provide assistance.

Libya is mired in a period of protracted chaos. Jihadists aligned with al Qaeda and the Islamic State now control substantial portions of the country. Thanks to their connections with other militant groups in the region, there is a network that provides training and weapons reaching from the Sinai Peninsula to West Africa.

It is understandable that the United States and its allies feel compelled to intervene in Libya to degrade the power of these jihadist groups. However, given the divisive and fractious nature of Libya, putting together a viable and sustainable political system after the military intervention will remain the greatest challenge.

Unshackling the Jihadists

In February 2011, a month before the NATO-led international coalition intervened in the Libyan civil war, I wrote that overthrowing Gadhafi could plunge Libya into chaos that would allow jihadists to flourish. I based this assessment on the continued involvement of Libyans in global jihadist activities from the 1980s in Afghanistan through Chechnya, Bosnia and Iraq. This was exacerbated by Moammar Gadhafi's policy of keeping his security and military forces weak, fractured and dependent on him. Throughout its own history, al Qaeda has had a disproportionate number of Libyan leaders, considering the population of Libya compared to the rest of the Muslim world. Senior al Qaeda figures hailing from Libya have included Abu Yahya al-Libi, Anas al-Libi, Abu Faraj al-Libi and Abu Laith al-Libi.

The degree of Libyan involvement in Iraq was perhaps best documented in a batch of personnel files captured by U.S. troops from an al Qaeda safe house in the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar in 2007. These documents, often referred to as "the Sinjar files," contained the details of 595 jihadists who had traveled to Iraq to fight. Of these 595, 112 were Libyans. The number of Libyans in this sample was smaller than the 244 Saudis, but when compared against the populations of their respective countries, the Libyans had a higher per capita participation rate than the Saudis. The Libyans also appeared to be more radical than the Saudis: 85 percent of the Libyans asked to be suicide bombers complied, compared to only 50 percent of the Saudis.

Of the Libyan jihadists represented in the Sinjar files, 60 percent of them had listed their home city as Darnah and around 24 percent had come from Benghazi. Gadhafi's security apparatus kept a close eye on returning jihadists and used a strong carrot-and-stick approach to keep them under control prior to the outbreak of the civil war in early 2011. On reflection, the pro-jihadist sentiment in Libya's east helps explain why those cities were hotbeds of anti-Gadhafi revolutionary sentiment and why jihadists remain a powerful force in Darnah and Benghazi today.

I believed back in 2011 that this strong jihadist current, combined with literally tons of loose weapons, was a potentially deadly combination for Western interests in Libya, writing that:

    This bodes ill for foreign interests in Libya, where they have not had the same security concerns in recent years that they have had in Algeria or Yemen. If the Libyans truly buy into the concept of targeting the far enemy that supports the state, it would not be out of the realm of possibility for them to begin to attack multinational oil companies, foreign diplomatic facilities and even foreign companies and hotels.

This forecast was proved tragically correct on Sept. 11, 2012, when the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi was attacked. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and State Department communicator Sean Smith were killed, along with two CIA contractors later that night when a CIA annex was attacked. Since then, jihadists have continued to attack hotels and kill or kidnap foreigners.
Other Fractures

But the jihadist ideology is not the only divisive factor in Libya. Indeed, there are a number of significant ethnic, tribal and regional fault lines inside Libya. I was referencing these divisions in August 2011 (two months before the death of Gadhafi) when I wrote the following:

    As the experiences of recent years in Iraq and Afghanistan have vividly illustrated, it is far easier to depose a regime than it is to govern a country. It has also proved to be very difficult to build a stable government from the remnants of a long-established dictatorial regime. History is replete with examples of coalition fronts that united to overthrow an oppressive regime but then splintered and fell into internal fighting once the regime they fought against was toppled. In some cases, the power struggle resulted in a civil war more brutal than the one that brought down the regime. In other cases, this factional strife resulted in anarchy that lasted for years as the iron fist that kept ethnic and sectarian tensions in check was suddenly removed, allowing those issues to re-emerge.

The country's fractures were clearly on display during the recent attempts to create a unity government sanctioned by both the Tripoli-based General National Council government and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives. But even if the United Nations and the international community are able to pressure the rival Tripoli and Tobruk governments to overcome their differences and work together, that divide only represents one of the fault lines in Libya today. And each of these two competing governments represent only a fraction of Libya. A number of other powerful political groups and militias — such as Ibrahim Jadhran's Petroleum Facilities Guard — will have to be persuaded to join the new unity government, or in the case of the jihadist groups, defeated militarily.

The worst-case scenario we foresaw in 2011 has come to pass: Several jihadist groups are flourishing in Libya and are negatively impacting the country's internal security. And, through their training camps and transfers of weapons, the security of places from Sinai to Senegal is also in question. If there is one silver lining in this bleak situation, it is that the proliferation of Libyan man-portable air-defense systems and anti-tank guided missiles has not had the regional terrorist impact we feared. There were a few Libyan missiles used in the Sinai Peninsula, but these projectiles have not yet been used to attack a civilian airliner, attack an embassy or assassinate a public official.

As the United States and its European and regional allies prepare to intervene in Libya, they should be able to reduce the jihadist's ability to openly control territory. However, they will face the same challenge they did in 2011: building a stable political system from the shattered remains of what was once a country. Now, Libya is a patchwork of territories controlled by a variety of ethnic, tribal and regional warlords. The last five years of fighting has led to significant hatred and blood feuds between these competing factions, which will only compound the challenges ahead.

Clearly the Humpty Dumpty that was Libya is shattered. Putting him back together again will be a long and onerous task.
90  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anti-Drone "gun" on: January 28, 2016, 08:20:37 AM
https://www.minds.com/blog/view/538487741193658368?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=fb&utm_campaign=marchagainstmonsanto
91  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / STFU on: January 28, 2016, 08:17:36 AM
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

Loose lips. The general in charge of the nation’s special operations forces recently sent a memo to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, demanding that Pentagon officials stop talking about what his elite troops are doing, FP’s Dan De Luce reports in an exclusive get. Gen. Joseph Votel, who currently runs the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and was nominated earlier this month to take over U.S. Central Command, issued the complaint in a Dec. 8 memo that arrived just days after Carter and White House officials announced that a force of about 200 Special Operations Forces (SOF) would be deployed to Iraq to target Islamic State militants.

“I am concerned with increased public exposure of SOF activities and operations, and I assess that it is time to get our forces back into the shadows,” Votel wrote, according to an excerpt provided to FP by a defense official. Votel knows something about secrecy, as he ran the Joint Special Operations Command from June 2011 to August 2014. He isn’t the first official to be angered over too much talk about commando ops, however. Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other Pentagon officials privately admonished their White House counterparts for publicizing key details about the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, according to Gates’ memoir.
92  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bill Clinton's Labor Secretary says Bernie can win on: January 27, 2016, 11:36:10 PM
https://www.facebook.com/RBReich/videos/1142259599119968/
93  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Henning: The Humbling of the West on: January 27, 2016, 11:29:58 PM
 By Daniel Henninger
Jan. 27, 2016 7:00 p.m. ET

Some wonder how history will treat Barack Obama’s presidency. That depends on who writes the histories.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s account will fist-pump the Iran nuclear deal as the central foreign-policy event of the Obama presidency, a triumph for Western diplomacy.

But news photographs in recent weeks are producing a different history. These photos document the abject humiliation of the West by Iran. Americans who plan to vote in their presidential election should look hard at these photos, because the West’s direction after this will turn on the decisions they make.

The first photo is of a hallway in Rome’s Capitoline Museums, a repository of art dating to Western antiquity. Out of what the government of Italy called “respect” for the sensibilities of visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the museum placed large white boxes over several nude sculptures, including a Venus created in the second century B.C.

Then, because Mr. Rouhani will not attend a meal that serves alcohol to anyone, the nominally Italian government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi declined to serve wine.

They did so for the same reason that beggars grub change in front of Rome’s churches. Freed by the Obama nuclear deal with Iran, Italy’s tin-cup businesses signed about a dozen deals with Mr. Rouhani this week, totaling $18 billion.
Members of the U.S. Navy recently detained by Iran before being released, in an image from Iran’s state-run media. ENLARGE
Members of the U.S. Navy recently detained by Iran before being released, in an image from Iran’s state-run media. Photo: Associated Press

The bowing and scraping to Mr. Rouhani continues this week as France and Germany sign more deals. This is not economic re-normalization. Rather than reform its weak, politically unstable economies, Europe is content to make itself a dependency of the aborning Iranian empire.

The second photo of Western submission depicts what appears to be a glee-filled meeting between the president of Iran and the leader of the world’s Catholics, Pope Francis, who gave Mr. Rouhani 40 minutes of his time.

The Vatican argues this is realpolitik by a pope trying to protect Christians in the Middle East by inducing Iran to play an “important role” in the peace process.

Set aside the “role” Iran has played in the death of a quarter-million Syrians and the refugees now destabilizing Europe. One still may ask: Why such public and jolly photo-ops with this person?

The U.S. State Department’s religious-freedom report says in 2014 Iran executed at least 24 individuals for the crime of moharebeh (enmity against God). And surely that understates the total killed.

The persecuted in Iran include Bahais, Sunni Muslims, Christians (notably evangelicals), Jews, Yarsanis and even Shia groups.

Mr. Rouhani is grinning in this photo because he knows these people can’t move Iran’s culture out of the 16th century.

The third photograph is of 10 sailors from the U.S. Navy who are kneeling in rows, hands on their heads, on the deck of an Iranian boat.

The Obama administration hasn’t provided an explanation for how this “deviation” and capture by Iran in the Persian Gulf happened.

Instead of outrage over Iran’s treatment of the sailors, Sec. Kerry praised the Iranians’ “cooperation and quick response.”

Cooperation? Iran humiliated the sailors by making them kneel in the style of an Islamic State execution ceremony and then humiliated the U.S. by releasing that photo.

Meeting in a congratulatory ceremony with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members who took the sailors, Iranian supremo Ayatollah Khamenei said, “This event should be considered God’s work.”

One is tempted to tip one’s hat to the Khamenei-Rouhani strategy team. Iran took the West’s measure with its nuclear brinkmanship and the West bent.

Some may say the Italians are the Italians, the pope has his reasons, and Barack Obama and John Kerry are just finishing their apology tour. But that understates the long series of political compromises and cultural surrenders that have brought the U.S. and Europe to this point.

Italy’s repudiation of its own heritage to accommodate Iran’s president is a significant symbolic event. The Capitoline’s Venus isn’t just a naked lady carved out of marble. Just as the naked man and woman in Masaccio’s “Expulsion from the Garden of Eden,” painted in 1423 at the dawn of the Renaissance, are hardly figure studies.

In her recently published book arguing a relationship between the Western artistic legacy and democratic evolution, “David’s Sling,” Victoria Gardner Coates says these works “are not isolated aesthetic objects; part of their value as historical evidence derives from their role in the public life of the communities that produced them.”

Unless that public life is forgotten. Western schools may no longer teach the Battle of Thermopylae, but one may assume Hassan Rouhani knows the details of Persia’s historic loss to brave Greece in 480 B.C. as if it were yesterday.

Putting a white box over a Venus to placate a Rouhani is a loss in the Persians’ return trip to the West.
94  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Henninger on: January 27, 2016, 11:28:51 PM
 By Daniel Henninger
Jan. 27, 2016 7:00 p.m. ET

Some wonder how history will treat Barack Obama’s presidency. That depends on who writes the histories.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s account will fist-pump the Iran nuclear deal as the central foreign-policy event of the Obama presidency, a triumph for Western diplomacy.

But news photographs in recent weeks are producing a different history. These photos document the abject humiliation of the West by Iran. Americans who plan to vote in their presidential election should look hard at these photos, because the West’s direction after this will turn on the decisions they make.

The first photo is of a hallway in Rome’s Capitoline Museums, a repository of art dating to Western antiquity. Out of what the government of Italy called “respect” for the sensibilities of visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the museum placed large white boxes over several nude sculptures, including a Venus created in the second century B.C.

Then, because Mr. Rouhani will not attend a meal that serves alcohol to anyone, the nominally Italian government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi declined to serve wine.

They did so for the same reason that beggars grub change in front of Rome’s churches. Freed by the Obama nuclear deal with Iran, Italy’s tin-cup businesses signed about a dozen deals with Mr. Rouhani this week, totaling $18 billion.
Members of the U.S. Navy recently detained by Iran before being released, in an image from Iran’s state-run media. ENLARGE
Members of the U.S. Navy recently detained by Iran before being released, in an image from Iran’s state-run media. Photo: Associated Press

The bowing and scraping to Mr. Rouhani continues this week as France and Germany sign more deals. This is not economic re-normalization. Rather than reform its weak, politically unstable economies, Europe is content to make itself a dependency of the aborning Iranian empire.

The second photo of Western submission depicts what appears to be a glee-filled meeting between the president of Iran and the leader of the world’s Catholics, Pope Francis, who gave Mr. Rouhani 40 minutes of his time.

The Vatican argues this is realpolitik by a pope trying to protect Christians in the Middle East by inducing Iran to play an “important role” in the peace process.

Set aside the “role” Iran has played in the death of a quarter-million Syrians and the refugees now destabilizing Europe. One still may ask: Why such public and jolly photo-ops with this person?

The U.S. State Department’s religious-freedom report says in 2014 Iran executed at least 24 individuals for the crime of moharebeh (enmity against God). And surely that understates the total killed.

The persecuted in Iran include Bahais, Sunni Muslims, Christians (notably evangelicals), Jews, Yarsanis and even Shia groups.

Mr. Rouhani is grinning in this photo because he knows these people can’t move Iran’s culture out of the 16th century.

The third photograph is of 10 sailors from the U.S. Navy who are kneeling in rows, hands on their heads, on the deck of an Iranian boat.

The Obama administration hasn’t provided an explanation for how this “deviation” and capture by Iran in the Persian Gulf happened.

Instead of outrage over Iran’s treatment of the sailors, Sec. Kerry praised the Iranians’ “cooperation and quick response.”

Cooperation? Iran humiliated the sailors by making them kneel in the style of an Islamic State execution ceremony and then humiliated the U.S. by releasing that photo.

Meeting in a congratulatory ceremony with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members who took the sailors, Iranian supremo Ayatollah Khamenei said, “This event should be considered God’s work.”

One is tempted to tip one’s hat to the Khamenei-Rouhani strategy team. Iran took the West’s measure with its nuclear brinkmanship and the West bent.

Some may say the Italians are the Italians, the pope has his reasons, and Barack Obama and John Kerry are just finishing their apology tour. But that understates the long series of political compromises and cultural surrenders that have brought the U.S. and Europe to this point.

Italy’s repudiation of its own heritage to accommodate Iran’s president is a significant symbolic event. The Capitoline’s Venus isn’t just a naked lady carved out of marble. Just as the naked man and woman in Masaccio’s “Expulsion from the Garden of Eden,” painted in 1423 at the dawn of the Renaissance, are hardly figure studies.

In her recently published book arguing a relationship between the Western artistic legacy and democratic evolution, “David’s Sling,” Victoria Gardner Coates says these works “are not isolated aesthetic objects; part of their value as historical evidence derives from their role in the public life of the communities that produced them.”

Unless that public life is forgotten. Western schools may no longer teach the Battle of Thermopylae, but one may assume Hassan Rouhani knows the details of Persia’s historic loss to brave Greece in 480 B.C. as if it were yesterday.

Putting a white box over a Venus to placate a Rouhani is a loss in the Persians’ return trip to the West.
95  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: January 27, 2016, 10:22:33 PM
http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/01/27/fbi-meeting-with-intelligence-agencies-about-classification-of-hillary-clintons-emails/
96  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Time to leave says Bundy on: January 27, 2016, 08:25:30 PM
second post

Leader Seeks End to Oregon Refuge Occupation
After arrest, Bundy says remaining protesters should leave wildlife refuge
Oregonian/Associated Press
By Tamara Audi,
Jim Carlton and
Alejandro Lazo
Updated Jan. 27, 2016 6:59 p.m. ET
187 COMMENTS

BURNS, Ore.—The leader of a four-week armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge here on Wednesday called for the remaining protesters to end the occupation, a day after he was arrested in a deadly confrontation with authorities.

“To those remaining at the refuge: I love you. Let us take the fight from here,” Ammon Bundy said in a statement released by his lawyer.

“Please stand down. Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. This fight is ours in the courts. Please go home,” the lawyer, Mike Arnold, read in the statement from Mr. Bundy after his court hearing Wednesday.

Mr. Bundy also asked law-enforcement officials to allow the protesters to leave without being prosecuted.



“Let me be clear—it is the actions and choices of the armed occupiers of the refuge that has led us to where we are today,” said Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation office in Oregon.

Since the armed group took over the refuge Jan. 2 to protest federal land-management policies, they have insisted they want a peaceful outcome. But some said they were willing to die for their cause.

LaVoy Finicum, who served as the occupiers’ spokesman, indicated in a video interview a week ago that he hoped the protest wouldn’t turn violent. On Tuesday, Mr. Finicum was killed in the roadside confrontation with FBI agents.

The circumstances of Mr. Finicum’s death were being debated Wednesday: Supporters and a witness said he was surrendering when he was shot; authorities said he brandished a weapon.
Eight people linked to the Oregon occupation were arrested Tuesday: top row from left, Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Brian Cavalier and Shawna Cox; bottom row from left, Joseph Donald O'Shaughnessy, Ryan Payne, Jon Eric Ritzheimer and Peter Santilli. ENLARGE
Eight people linked to the Oregon occupation were arrested Tuesday: top row from left, Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Brian Cavalier and Shawna Cox; bottom row from left, Joseph Donald O'Shaughnessy, Ryan Payne, Jon Eric Ritzheimer and Peter Santilli. Photo: Multnomah County Sheriff

Either way, it was clear that his death changed the tone of the occupation from what had become a media sideshow to the tense standoff locals had long feared—raising the stakes both for law enforcement and the remaining protesters.

“Certainly we’re at a dangerous point,” said Mike German, a former FBI agent who worked undercover infiltrating militia and white supremacist groups in the 1990s.

Federal law-enforcement officials have been under rising pressure from state and local officials to end the standoff. The protesters, meanwhile, received a torrent of social media response from supporters who consider themselves part of a “liberty movement” seeking to resist what they see as an overreach of federal power. Some pointed to Mr. Finicum’s death as proof of their argument, a rallying cry to draw protesters to the scene.

“The resolve for principled liberty must go on,” Mr. Bundy’s supporters said in a statement on the Bundy Ranch Facebook page. “It appears that America was fired upon by our government. One of America’s finest patriots is fallen. We will not go silent into eternity. Our appeal is to heaven.”

In Burns, a town of about 2,700 people, some residents predicted the standoff was nearing its end. Sitting in the Central Pastime Tavern, Melvin Dixon said that he had his 8-year-old son, Dilbert James, call one of the men involved in the standoff, his brother-in-law Danny Williams.

“My 8-year-old son called his uncle crying and they are right there in a meeting” discussing whether to surrender or not, Mr. Dixon said. “They are not going to fight no more.”

For weeks, Mr. Bundy—the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who engaged in a similar standoff with authorities in 2014 over grazing fees—moved in and out of the refuge as he wished, with law-enforcement officials making few overt moves to force an end to the standoff.

That changed Tuesday when agents arrested Mr. Bundy, 40 years old, his brother, Ryan Bundy, 43, and three other supporters as they were driving to a nearby county for a community meeting. Three others were later arrested in connection with the protest.

The eight suspects were arrested on the felony charge of conspiracy to impede officers of the U.S. from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats.

According to the criminal complaint against Mr. Bundy and the others, the protesters “had explosives, night vision goggles and weapons” and “if they didn’t get the fight they wanted out there they would bring the fight to town.”

Nathan Catura, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, applauded the arrests—but criticized federal officials for not making them so sooner. “Had the situation been resolved more quickly via the federal government acting rather than reacting, this conclusion may have been prevented,’’ Mr. Catura said. “We now hope that with the sustained federal-law enforcement presence, the remaining criminals at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge will surrender peacefully.’’

Federal authorities generally have been reluctant to engage with armed protesters like the Oregon group, mindful of past violent outcomes like those at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and Waco, Texas, in 1993.

Darrell Kerby, a former mayor of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, who served on a county emergency committee during the Ruby Ridge standoff, said he worried that political pressure might compel authorities to act rashly. “Time is really on the side of the people in authority,” Mr. Kerby said. “Use of force should be avoided at all costs.” Once there is a death in such fraught situations tension “just escalates off the scale,” he said.

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward on Wednesday said authorities had to arrest Mr. Bundy and the protest’s leaders to help put an end to what he called the disruption of life in the rural area.

Mr. Bundy and his supporters had made numerous trips into Burns, openly carrying guns including at a community meeting in a high school.

“This has been tearing our community apart,” said a visibly distraught Mr. Ward. “It’s time for everyone in this illegal occupation to move on.”

—Devlin Barrett contributed to this article.
97  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Donald Trump "gets" Rev. Al Sharpton on: January 27, 2016, 08:14:57 PM
http://therightscoop.com/im-just-gonna-put-this-2014-donald-trump-tweet-right-here/
98  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 400,000 to Italy in coming weeks? on: January 27, 2016, 07:51:02 PM
https://www.facebook.com/varneyco/videos/1110873758946057/
99  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What a curious coincidence on: January 27, 2016, 07:48:13 PM
http://www.lifenews.com/2016/01/26/planned-parenthood-board-member-works-in-office-of-d-a-who-indicted-david-daleiden/?utm_content=buffer0c73b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Gentiles who act like Jews: Noahdeism on: January 27, 2016, 07:36:50 PM
http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/196588/the-gentiles-who-act-like-jews?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=a3a37d04e4-Tuesday_January_26_20161_26_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c308bf8edb-a3a37d04e4-207090153
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