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 21 
 on: April 18, 2014, 08:11:36 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
http://pjmedia.com/spengler/2014/04/17/putin-isnt-a-genius-we-are-complete-idiots/?singlepage=true

 22 
 on: April 17, 2014, 09:17:52 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Editor's Note: This week's Security Weekly summarizes our quarterly Mexico drug cartel report, in which we assess the most significant developments of the first quarter of 2014 and provide a forecast for the second quarter of the year. The report is a product of the coverage we maintain through our Mexico Security Memo, quarterly updates and other analyses that we produce throughout the year as part of the Mexico Security Monitor service.

By Tristan Reed
Mexico Security Analyst

During the first quarter of 2014, Mexican authorities managed to kill or capture a substantial number of high-level leaders of Mexican organized criminal groups, including top Sinaloa Federation leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera on Feb. 22 at a hotel in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state. In an unusually high tempo of operations, the Mexican military managed to capture several other Sinaloa leaders who operated under Guzman or Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada Garcia, another top-tier Sinaloa Federation leader. By the beginning of 2014, the Sinaloa Federation was already struggling to adapt to a series of significant leadership losses during the last quarter of 2013. Its losses during the first quarter of 2014 thus compound its pre-existing problems.

Meanwhile, the efforts of federal troops and the self-defense militias in Michoacan resulted in the death or capture of the bulk of the Knights Templar's top-tier leaders. Since the second half of January 2014, three out of four of the most prominent Knights Templar leaders have been eliminated, as have many of their lieutenants.

The arrest of Guzman is not likely to alter any of the trends during the second quarter addressed in our 2014 annual cartel report. By contrast, the massive losses for the Knights Templar in such a short period will likely trigger substantial shifts in organized crime dynamics in Michoacan, including the expansion of old or the creation of new, smaller criminal groups into the void left by the Knights Templar. Given that the Knights Templar were expanding domestically and internationally up to the end of 2013, the impact of successful federal operations against the group could be felt beyond southwestern Mexico. This is particularly likely in northeastern Mexico, where the Knights Templar helped the Gulf cartel defend its territory from Los Zetas. If this evolution does not occur during the second quarter, it probably will later in 2014.
Michoacan

Federal authorities could not have racked up such rapid successes against Knights Templar leaders during the first quarter were it not for the presence of self-defense militias in Michoacan state. The self-defense militias first emerged in February 2013 and have since expanded their operations to more than 26 of Michoacan's 113 municipalities (and over half the state's geographic area). Even so, Mexico City has decided it cannot tolerate the existence of well-armed and widely operating militias willing to supplant government authority.

At the end of 2013, self-defense militias in Michoacan had already expanded into nearly a dozen municipalities as part of a strategy of ejecting the Knights Templar from specific areas and then holding onto the newly won territory. With the expansion, the militias challenged government authority in many towns by taking charge of public safety, often detaining local law enforcement authorities whom the militias viewed as having links to the Knights Templar. The growing presence of the militias presented yet another substantial security challenge for Mexico City in the state, particularly as the militias expanded around the transportation routes surrounding the port city of Lazaro Cardenas. Rising levels of organized crime-related violence, the continued expansion of well-armed militias into much of the state and disruptive violence such as the Oct. 27 attacks on Federal Electricity Commission installations in Michoacan prompted several deployments of federal police and the Mexican military to Michoacan throughout 2013 (in addition to drawing international media coverage of Michoacan's security woes).
Cities With Self-Defense Groups
Click to Enlarge

In January 2014, Mexico City created the Commission for Security and Integral Development in Michoacan, led by Alfredo Castillo, to oversee its security strategy in Michoacan, coordinate federal and state security forces and purportedly address political, social and economic issues in the state. One of the commission's first actions was to bring the various militias, operating in a coordinated manner, into an agreement with the federal and state government Jan. 27. Among other things, the self-defense groups agreed to integrate with federal troops by joining the Rural Defense Corps, a longtime auxiliary force of the Mexican army. In addition, the agreement provided Mexico City with greater oversight over the inner workings of the militias and their leadership. However, no substantial integration of militia members into the Rural Defense Corps had occurred by the end of the first quarter.

By contrast, the agreement did succeed in fostering a great deal of cooperation between the militias and federal troops with regard to targeting the Knights Templar. The combined efforts of the self-defense militias and federal troops against the Knights Templar yielded substantial gains. The day of the agreement, federal troops captured Dionisio "El Tio" Loya Plancarte, the first of the top Knights Templar leaders to fall in the first quarter. On March 9, the Mexican military killed Nazario "El Chayo" Moreno Gonzalez, the founder of the Knights Templar, in Tumbiscatio, Michoacan state. Moreno's death occurred as a result of substantial militia operations in the city just days before. On March 31, top leader Enrique "El Kike" Plancarte Solis was killed during a military operation in Colon, Queretaro state. Of the Knights Templar's best-known leaders, only Servando "La Tuta" Gomez Martinez remains at large.
Municipalities With Self Defense Groups
Click to Enlarge

Significantly, the spread of the militias in Michoacan has greatly hindered the group's mobility in the state. This greatly diminished the operational capabilities of the Knights Templar during the first quarter, lessening its hold over profitable criminal activities in the state. And this in turn has created a power vacuum, allowing smaller independent crime groups, including the remnants of the Knights Templar, to emerge. (The second quarter will likely see these lower-tier groups continue to emerge.)

In the weeks following the March 31 death of Plancarte, the federal commission overseeing Michoacan's security developments called for the disarmament of the militias because, the commission said, the Knights Templar had largely been defeated. Self-defense militia movement spokesman Jose Mireles rejected calls to disarm, citing the persistence of the Knights Templar under Gomez and other lower-level bosses.

The federal government then set a deadline of May 10 for the militias to voluntarily disarm or face forced disarmament. In response, the militia movement threatened blockades. Various militias could erect these, presumably on major roads in Michoacan, should the federal government not satisfy militia demands. These include the release of 100 incarcerated militia members, the killing or capture of remaining Knights Templar members in the state, the restoration of the rule of law in Michoacan and the recognition of the self-defense militias' right to exist.

The commission and militia leaders from 20 municipalities struck a new deal April 14. Though the agreement followed a recent ultimatum by the federal government that the militias voluntarily disarm by May 10 or have federal troops forcibly disarm them, the new deal's 11 points do not call for a total disarmament. Instead, the militias accepted an offer to be incorporated into a Rural State Police body beginning May 11. Under the terms of the deal, self-defense militias will turn in "high-caliber" weapons. The deal calls for all remaining militia arms to be registered with the federal government. The April 14 agreement also allows militia members to join the Rural Defense Corps, just as the agreement signed Jan. 27 did.

According to Security and Integral Development Commissioner Alfredo Castillo, the agreement means that self-defense militias in Michoacan will disappear by May 11. Whether the agreement will actually produce that outcome remains unclear, given that it allows the self-defense militia members to continue to bear arms and does not specify just how the militias will be formally integrated into government-controlled security forces. Moreover, divisions within the militia movement could threaten the viability of the April 14 agreement.

The April 14 agreement highlights the federal government's intent to halt the expansion of vigilante groups in Mexico. The challenge to governmental authority apparently has been deemed greater than the benefits the militias bring of reducing the need for military involvement in the fight against drug-trafficking organizations.

To this end, Mexico City has sought to bring the militias to the bargaining table. But implementing any deal will face a challenge from increased divisions among the militias. Although at present the militias mostly act in concert, the movement comprises various militias operating in towns among dozens of municipalities.

Internal discord has already emerged, albeit currently isolated to a few personalities within the militias. Since the beginning of 2014, various self-defense militia leaders have accused one another of belonging to organized crime and have said that organized crime is infiltrating their groups. Though such claims are impossible to verify, their existence underscores concerns among self-defense militias that their members may be interested in taking over criminal enterprises left by the power vacuum that emerged from the Knights Templar's decline. If these concerns become reality, the government will face an even more fractured militia landscape during negotiations for their incorporation into federal forces.

If the broader movement fractures during the second quarter, the likelihood of any negotiated settlement between the militias and the government greatly diminishes, given the lack of any coordinated leadership. However, divisions within the militia movement would pose a diminished threat to Mexico City. If the movement remains largely intact yet fails to honor the April 14 agreement, it is possible that Mexico City would still delay any efforts to disarm the militias during the second quarter. This would provide more time for the militias to fragment, thus reducing their collective ability to challenge state authority while obviating the need for any military confrontation. However, such a decision would risk further proliferation of the militias, bringing in more weaponry and bolstering their ranks. The longer Mexico City allows the militias to expand without any permanent resolution that brings the militias fully into the fold or disarms them, the greater the threat militias will pose to government authority.

In the second quarter, the fracturing of organized crime in Michoacan will likely lead to more organized crime-related violence as these smaller groups move, hampering federal and state government bids to improve security in the state. And although Knights Templar operational capabilities in Michoacan have declined, the group will still retain a substantial presence in the state during the second quarter. Violence between rival criminal organizations and between criminal organizations and the self-defense militias will combine with the continued presence of the Knights Templar to keep the state unstable.

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

Read more: Mexico's Drug War: Substantial Changes Seen in Michoacan | Stratfor
===============================
elf-Defense Groups in Mexico's Michoacan State
Media Center, Image
April 17, 2014 | 1057 Print Text Size
Self-Defense Groups in Mexico's Michoacan State
Click to Enlarge

Since the second half of January 2014, three out of four of the most prominent Knights Templar leaders have been eliminated, as have many of their lieutenants. Federal authorities could not have racked up such rapid successes against Knights Templar leaders during the first quarter were it not for the presence of self-defense militias in Michoacan state. The self-defense militias first emerged in February 2013 and have since expanded their operations to more than 26 of Michoacan's 113 municipalities (and over half the state's geographic area). With the expansion, the militias challenged government authority in many towns by taking charge of public safety, often detaining local law enforcement authorities whom the militias viewed as having links to the Knights Templar.

Mexico City has decided it cannot tolerate the existence of well-armed and widely operating militias willing to supplant government authority, which led to the government and militia leaders from 20 municipalities striking a new deal April 14 to resolve their status. Though the agreement followed a recent ultimatum by the federal government that the militias voluntarily disarm by May 10 or have federal troops forcibly disarm them, the new deal's 11 points do not call for a total disarmament. Instead, the militias accepted an offer to be incorporated into a Rural State Police body beginning May 11. Under the terms of the deal, self-defense militias will turn in "high-caliber" weapons. The deal calls for all remaining militia arms to be registered with the federal government. The April 14 agreement also allows militia members to join the Rural Defense Corps, just as a previous agreement reached Jan. 27 did.

According to Security and Integral Development Commissioner Alfredo Castillo, the agreement means that self-defense militias in Michoacan will disappear by May 11. Whether the agreement will actually produce that outcome remains unclear, given that it allows the self-defense militia members to continue to bear arms and does not specify just how the militias will be formally integrated into government-controlled security forces. Moreover, divisions within the militia movement could threaten the viability of the April 14 agreement.



 23 
 on: April 17, 2014, 09:17:09 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Editor's Note: This week's Security Weekly summarizes our quarterly Mexico drug cartel report, in which we assess the most significant developments of the first quarter of 2014 and provide a forecast for the second quarter of the year. The report is a product of the coverage we maintain through our Mexico Security Memo, quarterly updates and other analyses that we produce throughout the year as part of the Mexico Security Monitor service.

By Tristan Reed
Mexico Security Analyst

During the first quarter of 2014, Mexican authorities managed to kill or capture a substantial number of high-level leaders of Mexican organized criminal groups, including top Sinaloa Federation leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera on Feb. 22 at a hotel in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state. In an unusually high tempo of operations, the Mexican military managed to capture several other Sinaloa leaders who operated under Guzman or Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada Garcia, another top-tier Sinaloa Federation leader. By the beginning of 2014, the Sinaloa Federation was already struggling to adapt to a series of significant leadership losses during the last quarter of 2013. Its losses during the first quarter of 2014 thus compound its pre-existing problems.

Meanwhile, the efforts of federal troops and the self-defense militias in Michoacan resulted in the death or capture of the bulk of the Knights Templar's top-tier leaders. Since the second half of January 2014, three out of four of the most prominent Knights Templar leaders have been eliminated, as have many of their lieutenants.

The arrest of Guzman is not likely to alter any of the trends during the second quarter addressed in our 2014 annual cartel report. By contrast, the massive losses for the Knights Templar in such a short period will likely trigger substantial shifts in organized crime dynamics in Michoacan, including the expansion of old or the creation of new, smaller criminal groups into the void left by the Knights Templar. Given that the Knights Templar were expanding domestically and internationally up to the end of 2013, the impact of successful federal operations against the group could be felt beyond southwestern Mexico. This is particularly likely in northeastern Mexico, where the Knights Templar helped the Gulf cartel defend its territory from Los Zetas. If this evolution does not occur during the second quarter, it probably will later in 2014.
Michoacan

Federal authorities could not have racked up such rapid successes against Knights Templar leaders during the first quarter were it not for the presence of self-defense militias in Michoacan state. The self-defense militias first emerged in February 2013 and have since expanded their operations to more than 26 of Michoacan's 113 municipalities (and over half the state's geographic area). Even so, Mexico City has decided it cannot tolerate the existence of well-armed and widely operating militias willing to supplant government authority.

At the end of 2013, self-defense militias in Michoacan had already expanded into nearly a dozen municipalities as part of a strategy of ejecting the Knights Templar from specific areas and then holding onto the newly won territory. With the expansion, the militias challenged government authority in many towns by taking charge of public safety, often detaining local law enforcement authorities whom the militias viewed as having links to the Knights Templar. The growing presence of the militias presented yet another substantial security challenge for Mexico City in the state, particularly as the militias expanded around the transportation routes surrounding the port city of Lazaro Cardenas. Rising levels of organized crime-related violence, the continued expansion of well-armed militias into much of the state and disruptive violence such as the Oct. 27 attacks on Federal Electricity Commission installations in Michoacan prompted several deployments of federal police and the Mexican military to Michoacan throughout 2013 (in addition to drawing international media coverage of Michoacan's security woes).
Cities With Self-Defense Groups
Click to Enlarge

In January 2014, Mexico City created the Commission for Security and Integral Development in Michoacan, led by Alfredo Castillo, to oversee its security strategy in Michoacan, coordinate federal and state security forces and purportedly address political, social and economic issues in the state. One of the commission's first actions was to bring the various militias, operating in a coordinated manner, into an agreement with the federal and state government Jan. 27. Among other things, the self-defense groups agreed to integrate with federal troops by joining the Rural Defense Corps, a longtime auxiliary force of the Mexican army. In addition, the agreement provided Mexico City with greater oversight over the inner workings of the militias and their leadership. However, no substantial integration of militia members into the Rural Defense Corps had occurred by the end of the first quarter.

By contrast, the agreement did succeed in fostering a great deal of cooperation between the militias and federal troops with regard to targeting the Knights Templar. The combined efforts of the self-defense militias and federal troops against the Knights Templar yielded substantial gains. The day of the agreement, federal troops captured Dionisio "El Tio" Loya Plancarte, the first of the top Knights Templar leaders to fall in the first quarter. On March 9, the Mexican military killed Nazario "El Chayo" Moreno Gonzalez, the founder of the Knights Templar, in Tumbiscatio, Michoacan state. Moreno's death occurred as a result of substantial militia operations in the city just days before. On March 31, top leader Enrique "El Kike" Plancarte Solis was killed during a military operation in Colon, Queretaro state. Of the Knights Templar's best-known leaders, only Servando "La Tuta" Gomez Martinez remains at large.
Municipalities With Self Defense Groups
Click to Enlarge

Significantly, the spread of the militias in Michoacan has greatly hindered the group's mobility in the state. This greatly diminished the operational capabilities of the Knights Templar during the first quarter, lessening its hold over profitable criminal activities in the state. And this in turn has created a power vacuum, allowing smaller independent crime groups, including the remnants of the Knights Templar, to emerge. (The second quarter will likely see these lower-tier groups continue to emerge.)

In the weeks following the March 31 death of Plancarte, the federal commission overseeing Michoacan's security developments called for the disarmament of the militias because, the commission said, the Knights Templar had largely been defeated. Self-defense militia movement spokesman Jose Mireles rejected calls to disarm, citing the persistence of the Knights Templar under Gomez and other lower-level bosses.

The federal government then set a deadline of May 10 for the militias to voluntarily disarm or face forced disarmament. In response, the militia movement threatened blockades. Various militias could erect these, presumably on major roads in Michoacan, should the federal government not satisfy militia demands. These include the release of 100 incarcerated militia members, the killing or capture of remaining Knights Templar members in the state, the restoration of the rule of law in Michoacan and the recognition of the self-defense militias' right to exist.

The commission and militia leaders from 20 municipalities struck a new deal April 14. Though the agreement followed a recent ultimatum by the federal government that the militias voluntarily disarm by May 10 or have federal troops forcibly disarm them, the new deal's 11 points do not call for a total disarmament. Instead, the militias accepted an offer to be incorporated into a Rural State Police body beginning May 11. Under the terms of the deal, self-defense militias will turn in "high-caliber" weapons. The deal calls for all remaining militia arms to be registered with the federal government. The April 14 agreement also allows militia members to join the Rural Defense Corps, just as the agreement signed Jan. 27 did.

According to Security and Integral Development Commissioner Alfredo Castillo, the agreement means that self-defense militias in Michoacan will disappear by May 11. Whether the agreement will actually produce that outcome remains unclear, given that it allows the self-defense militia members to continue to bear arms and does not specify just how the militias will be formally integrated into government-controlled security forces. Moreover, divisions within the militia movement could threaten the viability of the April 14 agreement.

The April 14 agreement highlights the federal government's intent to halt the expansion of vigilante groups in Mexico. The challenge to governmental authority apparently has been deemed greater than the benefits the militias bring of reducing the need for military involvement in the fight against drug-trafficking organizations.

To this end, Mexico City has sought to bring the militias to the bargaining table. But implementing any deal will face a challenge from increased divisions among the militias. Although at present the militias mostly act in concert, the movement comprises various militias operating in towns among dozens of municipalities.

Internal discord has already emerged, albeit currently isolated to a few personalities within the militias. Since the beginning of 2014, various self-defense militia leaders have accused one another of belonging to organized crime and have said that organized crime is infiltrating their groups. Though such claims are impossible to verify, their existence underscores concerns among self-defense militias that their members may be interested in taking over criminal enterprises left by the power vacuum that emerged from the Knights Templar's decline. If these concerns become reality, the government will face an even more fractured militia landscape during negotiations for their incorporation into federal forces.

If the broader movement fractures during the second quarter, the likelihood of any negotiated settlement between the militias and the government greatly diminishes, given the lack of any coordinated leadership. However, divisions within the militia movement would pose a diminished threat to Mexico City. If the movement remains largely intact yet fails to honor the April 14 agreement, it is possible that Mexico City would still delay any efforts to disarm the militias during the second quarter. This would provide more time for the militias to fragment, thus reducing their collective ability to challenge state authority while obviating the need for any military confrontation. However, such a decision would risk further proliferation of the militias, bringing in more weaponry and bolstering their ranks. The longer Mexico City allows the militias to expand without any permanent resolution that brings the militias fully into the fold or disarms them, the greater the threat militias will pose to government authority.

In the second quarter, the fracturing of organized crime in Michoacan will likely lead to more organized crime-related violence as these smaller groups move, hampering federal and state government bids to improve security in the state. And although Knights Templar operational capabilities in Michoacan have declined, the group will still retain a substantial presence in the state during the second quarter. Violence between rival criminal organizations and between criminal organizations and the self-defense militias will combine with the continued presence of the Knights Templar to keep the state unstable.

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

Read more: Mexico's Drug War: Substantial Changes Seen in Michoacan | Stratfor
=====================
elf-Defense Groups in Mexico's Michoacan State
Media Center, Image
April 17, 2014 | 1057 Print Text Size
Self-Defense Groups in Mexico's Michoacan State
Click to Enlarge

Since the second half of January 2014, three out of four of the most prominent Knights Templar leaders have been eliminated, as have many of their lieutenants. Federal authorities could not have racked up such rapid successes against Knights Templar leaders during the first quarter were it not for the presence of self-defense militias in Michoacan state. The self-defense militias first emerged in February 2013 and have since expanded their operations to more than 26 of Michoacan's 113 municipalities (and over half the state's geographic area). With the expansion, the militias challenged government authority in many towns by taking charge of public safety, often detaining local law enforcement authorities whom the militias viewed as having links to the Knights Templar.

Mexico City has decided it cannot tolerate the existence of well-armed and widely operating militias willing to supplant government authority, which led to the government and militia leaders from 20 municipalities striking a new deal April 14 to resolve their status. Though the agreement followed a recent ultimatum by the federal government that the militias voluntarily disarm by May 10 or have federal troops forcibly disarm them, the new deal's 11 points do not call for a total disarmament. Instead, the militias accepted an offer to be incorporated into a Rural State Police body beginning May 11. Under the terms of the deal, self-defense militias will turn in "high-caliber" weapons. The deal calls for all remaining militia arms to be registered with the federal government. The April 14 agreement also allows militia members to join the Rural Defense Corps, just as a previous agreement reached Jan. 27 did.

According to Security and Integral Development Commissioner Alfredo Castillo, the agreement means that self-defense militias in Michoacan will disappear by May 11. Whether the agreement will actually produce that outcome remains unclear, given that it allows the self-defense militia members to continue to bear arms and does not specify just how the militias will be formally integrated into government-controlled security forces. Moreover, divisions within the militia movement could threaten the viability of the April 14 agreement.


 24 
 on: April 17, 2014, 09:13:17 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog


 Why Obama Can't Explain Himself
Global Affairs
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 16:28 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
Stratfor

By Robert D. Kaplan

Secretary of State John Kerry evidently runs a tight ship, given the paucity of leaks that emerge from his office. So we know he is organized and disciplined. He is also an energetic risk-taker, jumping into high-wire negotiations with Iran, and forcing the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table -- enterprises that could likely end in failure and ruin his reputation. This is a man with character. By contrast, his predecessor at State, Hillary Clinton, appeared to take few risks and has been accused of using the position of secretary of state merely to burnish her resume in preparation for a presidential run.

But there is one thing that Kerry has not been good at: explaining what he is doing and why to the public. How do these high-wire negotiations fit into a larger strategic plan? What do the Iran talks have to do with those between Israel and Palestine? What is the relationship between the two sets of Middle East negotiations and American strategy in Asia and Europe? The Obama administration has provided the public with little insight on any of these matters.

Why can't the administration explain better what it is doing? I believe the reason is that the administration cannot own up to the philosophical implications of the very policy direction it has chosen. It is as though top officials are embarrassed by their own choices.

The administration has refused to intervene in Syria in a pivotal way, and it has very awkwardly still not managed to make its peace with Egypt's new military dictatorship -- though it does not oppose the new regime in Cairo outright. But it is embarrassed that it has done these things. The Obama team wants to pursue a foreign policy of liberal internationalism, in the tradition of previous Democratic administrations. It wants to topple a murderous dictatorship in Syria. It wants democracy in Egypt. But instead, it finds itself pursuing a foreign policy of conservative realism, in the tradition of previous Republican administrations, like those of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush. It is doing so because realism is about dealing with the facts as they exist on the ground with the goal of preserving American power, whereas liberal internationalism is about taking risks with the facts on the ground in order to seek a better world.

President Barack Obama and Secretary Kerry are afraid that if they intervene militarily in Syria they will help bring to power a jihadist-trending regime there -- or conversely, Syria will disintegrate into even worse anarchy, with echoes of Afghanistan in the 1990s. So they do little. Obama and Kerry must know that the choice in Egypt is not simply between dictatorship and democracy, but between military authoritarianism that can be indirectly helpful to Western interests and an Islamist regime that would be hostile to Western interests. So they quietly, albeit angrily, accept the new order in Cairo. The administration knows that if it wants to pivot toward the Pacific, it must also attempt to put America's diplomatic house in order in the Middle East: thus, it seeks a rapprochement with Iran and a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.

All of this is reasonable, if uninspiring. But the Obama team has been relatively tongue-tied because it cannot admit to being a liberal Democratic administration pursuing a moderate Republican foreign policy. It is a shame because publicly explaining some of these actions should be relatively easy. In regards to Egypt, all the administration needs to say is, We support democracy where we can and stability where we must. In regards to Syria, it can warn about the unpredictable dangers that come with serious military intervention. It can explain Iran and Israel-Palestine in terms of America's larger goals in the Middle East and Asia. The more peace there is in the Middle East, the more that America can concentrate on Asia -- the geographic center of the world economy.

Though Hillary Clinton was risk averse, unlike Kerry, she did explain what she was doing. Her "pivot" to Asia may have been sniped at by some experts and pundits. But it was a strategic conception that was somewhat original, and she did, in fact, explain it better than Kerry has explained anything. In fact, she authored a long essay about the Asia pivot in the magazine Foreign Policy. That was rare, since original ideas ordinarily do not come out of government.

Obama has good realistic instincts, but thus far he doesn't have a strategy that he has been able to explain to the public. And without a strategy he loses influence, since power in the media age is not only about deeds and capabilities, but about what you rhetorically stand for. Ronald Reagan was a powerful president in significant part because of his soaring rhetoric. (After Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea, Reagan would have flown to Poland or the Baltic states and declared, "Mr. Putin, I am standing on hallowed NATO ground!") George W. Bush was a weaker president than he might have been because he was perceived to be inarticulate. Obama is a fine speaker, but he has explained little in the foreign policy realm, and even when he does so he appears to lack passion, as if he is merely reading his lines. This makes his foreign policy weaker, regardless of the inherent strengths of it. And it makes his opponents overseas have less respect for him.

Once again, in a media age, presentation and branding can be 50 percent of everything -- especially if one is on the world stage. If this were not the case, political leaders in both democracies and dictatorships would never give speeches, but would confine their activities strictly to behind-the-scenes meetings.

Obama certainly has material with which to work. Just look at the world today. China and Russia, with all of their problems and limitations, have emerged as major geopolitical rivals of the United States in their respective regions. The Middle East is fundamentally more unstable than it has been in decades, with several state collapses having provided fertile breeding grounds for the most extremist groups. Of course, the United States cannot dominate the world. It cannot kick China out of Asia and Russia out of Europe. And it cannot fix societies like Syria and Libya. But it can intelligently maneuver, affecting power balances everywhere more often than not to its advantage. And one of the ways it can do this is by -- to repeat -- supporting democracy where we can and stability where we must. It can also do this by preserving a measure of global stability through air and sea deployments in the Pacific and Indian oceans. The United States can be the organizing principle for working with Europe against a revanchist Russia. All of these parts fit together. This and much more can be explained to the American people. And doing so would certainly enhance U.S. power, making it less likely to be tested in the first place.

Read more: Why Obama Can't Explain Himself | Stratfor


 25 
 on: April 17, 2014, 09:08:52 PM 
Started by Quijote - Last post by Crafty_Dog
 Finland and Sweden Debate NATO Membership
Analysis
April 17, 2014 | 0435 Print Text Size
Primary tabs View(active tab) Edit MailChimp campaigns Revisions Nodequeue Share Finland and Sweden Debate NATO Membership Read more: Finland and Sweden Debate NATO Membership
Swedish soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force outside Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. (KAZIM EBRAHIMKHIL/AFP/Getty Images)
Summary

The West's standoff with Russia over Ukraine is triggering debate over the adequacy of defense spending and cooperation to confront a more assertive Russia across Europe. In Finland and Sweden, an important element in this debate is whether the two countries should join NATO.

While the events in Ukraine strengthen the argument for NATO membership, general support for the idea is still lacking in both countries -- such a step would represent a big shift from Finland's and Sweden's strategy of avoiding too strong a military alignment with the West in order to prevent any conflict with Russia.

Only if the crisis in Ukraine persists, and if Russia grows more assertive in the Baltics, might public opinion in Sweden and Finland shift strongly enough to make NATO membership likely. Before joining NATO, the two countries would try to strengthen regional collaboration and bolster their own national defenses.
Analysis

The standoff between the West and Russia is increasingly affecting Nordic Europe. On April 15, the Barents Observer reported that politicians in Norway are debating whether plans to cooperate with Russia on hydrocarbons exploration along the countries' shared border should be put on hold in light of the events in Ukraine. In Finland and Sweden, the crisis is fueling the debate over eventual NATO membership. Finland and Sweden are both members of the European Union, and thus have tight economic and institutional bonds with the West, but both have stayed out of NATO.

Sweden, after suffering great territorial losses to Russia in the early 19th century, has abided by a neutrality policy since the end of the Napoleonic wars. It maintained that policy at least nominally throughout the two world wars, though it did provide economic and logistical assistance to the Germans, the Allies and the Finns in World War II. Neutrality was meant as a way to minimize the risk of further defeats comparable to the ones Sweden was dealt in the early 1800s.
The Nordic Countries and Russia
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Finland, the only Nordic eurozone member and a country that shares a long border with Russia, was once absorbed by the Russian Empire, remaining Russian territory for more than a century before declaring independence in 1917. Finland aligned with Germany during World War II to fight the Soviets but ultimately could not recover the territory it lost during the Winter War in 1939 and 1940.

These experiences strongly influenced the Finns' strategy in dealing with their eastern neighbor. During the Cold War, Finland and the Soviet Union had an understanding that Moscow would accept Finland's independence as long as Helsinki abstained from stronger military integration with the West. Finland, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, has integrated institutionally with Western Europe and has procured a growing proportion of its weapons from the West. Much like Stockholm, Helsinki has established strong ties with NATO through joint missions and training. Still, unwilling to sour its relationship with Russia, Finland has abstained from formally joining the military alliance.

As a result of the past decades of European integration and collaboration with NATO -- for example in Afghanistan -- the nonalignment policy in both countries has been a constant issue of debate and is drawing renewed attention as a consequence of the tensions with Russia.
Lacking Support

The Finnish and Swedish political elite has been split over the question of NATO membership for a long time. Governments, including those run by parties that advocate NATO membership, have refrained from holding a referendum on the question due to general public opposition in both countries to joining the military alliance.

In a poll carried out in late 2013, about one-third of Swedes supported NATO membership. In Finland, a poll carried out online of members of the Finnish Reservists' Association (conscripts who have finished their military service) in early April indicated that more than 40 percent would like Finland to join NATO within a few years. According to Finnish media, this is a 10 percentage point jump from a similar poll conducted a year ago. The increase was probably strongly influenced by the events in Ukraine. Polls from the general public give far lower numbers. A February poll, commissioned before Russia annexed Crimea, showed that less than 20 percent of Finns favored NATO membership, a percentage comparable to the levels in 2002, Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported.

A number of factors explain the middling support for NATO membership in Finland and Sweden. Russia is Finland's greatest security concern, but it is also an important economic partner -- one with which Helsinki hopes to maintain a stable relationship. According to Trade Map, Russia was Finland's second-largest import and export market in 2013, behind Sweden. Russia would not likely use its military to keep Finland from joining NATO, but Moscow would probably implement policies that would hurt Finland economically. With Europe going through a structural economic crisis and Finland itself caught in the midst of an economic crisis, keeping good economic ties with Russia is of particular importance. Sweden would face fewer repercussions than Finland, because it does not share a border with Russia. Sweden and Finland would likely coordinate efforts to join NATO, but membership remains unlikely until other revisions in defense policy have been made.

Debates over Swedish and Finnish defense policy are gaining more attention because of the crisis in Ukraine, but NATO membership is just one element. The core question under debate is whether the Swedish and Finnish governments should focus more on protecting their own borders after years of defense spending cuts and foreign engagement. While there is growing support for higher defense spending, this does not necessarily translate into greater enthusiasm to join NATO because it is debatable whether formal accession would add much in terms of national security.

The current status of Finland's and Sweden's relationships with NATO allows both to show their commitment to certain Western allies without having obligations toward all NATO members. Sweden and Finland, despite their nonalignment, could also likely count on material assistance from NATO and European partner countries in case of a military conflict because of their geographic position. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Sweden or Finland were attacked and the NATO members surrounding it simply stood by. Seeing security in the Baltic Sea region threatened, NATO member states would probably be drawn into any such conflict.

Before formally considering NATO membership, Sweden and Finland will seek stronger regional defense collaboration. The five Nordic countries -- Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland -- have a relatively long history of collaboration since they share similar geopolitical concerns. In the late 1940s, the Nordic countries considered forming a defense union, but differences among the countries, the presence of NATO and the strengthening of the European institutions weakened Nordic collaboration. However, in recent years, the will for stronger regional defense collaboration has seen somewhat of a revival through the establishment of the Nordic Defense Cooperation.

This collaboration could strengthen, but its growth will depend on how NATO evolves as a consequence of the current crisis in Ukraine. The difficulty for Sweden and Finland will be to get the other Nordic countries to commit to further regional collaboration. Norway, Iceland and Denmark already are NATO members and hence see less urgency to build an additional alliance. Such an alliance would be particularly de-emphasized if the United States made moves to strengthen NATO. Other regional defense cooperation initiatives, such as the cooperation among the Visegrad states, are dealing with similar issues -- countries see that NATO's weaknesses could be corrected through regional cooperation platforms, but the countries have different national security concerns, slowing efforts to build alliance mechanisms. Stalling collaboration among the Nordic countries would perhaps increase the support for NATO membership in Sweden and Finland.

Moscow is watching events in Nordic Europe with worry, although the debate over Finnish and Swedish NATO membership could quickly die down if the crisis in Ukraine does not escalate further. Russia knows there is a great risk that the more aggressive it is in its periphery, the more a rationale will exist for stronger U.S. military involvement in Eastern Europe, or for a strengthening of military alliances among European countries.

Read more: Finland and Sweden Debate NATO Membership | Stratfor


 26 
 on: April 17, 2014, 09:06:53 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
http://www.myfoxny.com/story/25266957/portland-plans-reservoir-flush-after-teen-cited

 27 
 on: April 17, 2014, 08:40:30 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
http://www.katu.com/news/local/Portland-Police-officer-shot-in-SW-Portland-255467781.html

 28 
 on: April 17, 2014, 07:39:34 PM 
Started by The Tao - Last post by Crafty_Dog
http://www.glennbeck.com/2014/04/17/you-wont-believe-the-advice-a-nebraska-elementary-school-gave-students-about-bullying/

 29 
 on: April 17, 2014, 06:13:25 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog


http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304512504579491860052683176?mod=Opinion_newsreel_2
Review & Outlook
Opinion of the Year

You won't believe how the EEOC tried to prove racial bias.

April 16, 2014 7:19 p.m. ET

A big story of President Obama's second term is how federal courts are overturning executive abuses. But sometimes the prosecution is so outrageous, and the legal smackdown so sublime, that the episode deserves special recognition.

Such is the case with last week's hilariously caustic rebuke of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The EEOC had sued Kaplan, the for-profit education company, for using "the same type of background check that the EEOC itself uses," as Judge Raymond Kethledge cheekily put it in the first sentence of his ruling in EEOC v. Kaplan.

Despite its own practices, the Obama EEOC has made a cause of suing private companies because it claims that credit and criminal background checks discriminate against minorities. In 2012 the agency issued "guidance" to get companies to think twice before using criminal checks but stopped short of doing the same for credit checks.
That didn't stop it from suing Kaplan for using credit checks, which the EEOC claimed had no business necessity and resulted in a "disparate impact" on blacks. A federal judge tossed the case, but the EEOC is so convinced of its virtue that it appealed. Bad idea.

Judge Kethledge eviscerated the EEOC like a first-day law student, writing that Kaplan had good reason to conduct credit checks on "applicants for positions that provide access to students' financial-loan information" because employees had "stolen payments" and "engaged in self-dealing."

As for proving disparate racial impact, Judge Kethledge noted that "the credit-check process is racially blind; the [credit-check] vendor does not report the applicant's race with her other information." But the EEOC had relied entirely on Kevin Murphy, a consultant who assembled a team of five "race raters" to look at the drivers' licenses of a sample of applicants and then classify them by race. If four of the five agreed on the race of the individual, the applicant was classified by that race.

The district court had found that Mr. Murphy's methodology lacked, to put it mildly, "standards controlling the technique's operation." The EEOC "responds that the relevant standard was Murphy's requirement that four of five raters agree on an applicant's race," wrote Judge Kethledge. "But that response overlooks Murphy's own concession that the raters themselves had no particular standard in classifying each applicant; instead they just eyeballed the DMV photos."

Thus do President Obama's enforcement police attempt to prove discrimination—by pointing at photo IDs and guessing. As Judge Kethledge put it in closing: "We need not belabor the issue further. The EEOC brought this case on the basis of a homemade methodology, crafted by a witness with no particular expertise to craft it, administered by persons with no particular expertise to administer it, tested by no one, and accepted only by the witness himself."

The unanimous opinion was joined by Damon Keith, one of the most liberal judges on the entire federal bench. If government officials were accountable, EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez would be fired for losing in such humiliating fashion. But instead he wrote us in an email via a spokeswoman that while he is "disappointed" by the decision, it is "an evidentiary ruling that does not go to the merits of the underlying discrimination allegation made by the EEOC." He must be a glutton for legal punishment.

 30 
 on: April 17, 2014, 04:39:01 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by G M

If they can't get the law right, then the discussion on the elements of the law is also suspect. The law in question is HIPAA.


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