Thursday, July 31, 2014

ISIS is starting to face resistance from Iraqi citizens. -Business Insider.

An ISIS militant. Business Insider/Reuters

Residents in Mosul are starting to resist the harsh rule of ISIS militants. -Business Insider. ISIS and it's campaign to destroy Iraqi cultural sites, like the Tomb of Jonah, have alienated the citizens of Mosul. When ISIS tried to destroy Mosul's famous leaning minaret, crowds of citizens prevented its destruction. Armed gangs have killed 4 ISIS militants and some Baathist militias are no longer supporting ISIS in Mosul. 

My Comment:
If it's true this is very good news. ISIS has very little in the way of actual fighters. It is very dependent on the support of Baathist and Sunni militias in their fight against the government of Iraq. If a resistance movement starts up ISIS will have to shift their forces around to keep their supply lines protected. This should hurt their drive to Baghdad. And it could also break the carefully constructed air of invincibility that ISIS has. 

It also does not bode well for the long term survival of the Islamic State Caliphate. Baghdad might fall, and Iraq might be split in three, but in the long term I don't see the Caliphate surviving. Blowing up treasured cultural landmarks, killing anyone that does anything against their strict interpretation of Islam and their campaign of genocide are not things that are going to popular with regular Iraqi's. The Sunni and Baathist militias will support ISIS for now but as soon as their common enemy is defeated, expect them to take up arms against them. 

CIA proven to have spied on Senate oversight committee. Yahoo/AP

I promise to never post this woman's picture again... Yahoo/AP

A CIA internal watchdog group has revealed that the CIA has spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee. -Yahoo/AP Three computer specialists and two lawyers accessed computers belonging to the Intelligence Committee. The CIA was looking for information about interrogation techniques that had been accidentally leaked to the oversight committee. Before the report had been released the CIA denied any wrongdoing. 

My Comment:
The CIA obviously wanted to cover up their interrogation techniques. The rumor is that waterboarding and other so called "enhanced interrogation techniques" never ended. As serious as that is, it's nothing compared to the CIA spying on the very organization that is in charge of checking the CIA's power. I don't have to point out why that is a problem and it absolutely can not stand. Hopefully, heads roll over this. 

As for Senator Feinstein, talk about a hypocrite. She had no problem spying on literally everyone else in the world with the NSA, but as soon as someone else spies on her it's a major scandal. Same thing when someone used a drone to pester her. She can dish it out but not take it. 

Sierra Leone finally declares a state of emergency over Ebola. -Yahoo/Reuters

President Koroma of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has finally declared a state of an emergency over the Ebola crisis. -Yahoo/Reuters. Troops are being called to quarantine areas where the disease has broken out. Soldiers will assist doctors in keeping order and will go house to house to round up Ebola victims. All public meetings in the country, excluding those about how to fight Ebola, are banned. Sierra Leone also has joined Liberia in creating strict new air travel protocols including body temperature checks and other restrictions. 

My Comment:
Too little too late? Let's hope not. Ebola is completely out of control, so hopefully these new measures slow the spread of the disease. Unfortunately, "state of emergency" translates to "day of the jackboot" for Africans, and to be fair it's going to look a lot like a totalitarian takeover for the people in the hot-zones. Africans in these countries have plenty of experience with government abuse and most likely fear their governments more then Ebola, with some justification to be sure. Expect these harsh, but necessary, measures to drive people with the disease underground and for there to be even more distrust of the government and medical personnel. People might even die because of it, not just from the disease but from violence either from the state or from people who will resist these measures.

EDIT: AFP is reporting that the death toll has risen to 729 and the total number of infections is 1,323.

5,000 Hellfire missiles for Iraq. -CNN

The United States has approved an order for $700 million in military supplies for Iraq, including 5,000 Hellfire missiles. -CNN The air to ground missiles can be fired from helicopters and are effective anti-tank and anti-personnel weapons. 780 of the missiles were delivered so far this year with 366 more due next month. The Iraqi government is desperate for these missiles for their fight against ISIS. Congress still has to approve the sale.

My Comment:
This seems like a bad idea for a lot of different reasons. The most obvious one is that I have zero confidence in the Iraqi Government and Military right now. Iraq has very limited air support capabilities. They have few helicopters and even fewer attack fighters that are even capable of using these weapons. Even if they did they would have a limited effect on the battlefield. Hellfires did not turn the tide in Afghanistan against a determined Taliban enemy, and that was with the full might of America's military. Iraq's Air Force is tiny, and will have even less of an impact.

Also, there is a very good chance that these weapons could end up in the hands of ISIS. The Iraqi government has a very good chance of losing Baghdad and perhaps the whole country to ISIS. If that happens these weapons will be captured. Now I don't think ISIS would be able to field them in any way but they could sell them to third parties for use/reverse engineering.

I just had another thought. Rumors are that Iranian (or Russian) pilots are currently flying the SU-25's Iraq ordered from Russia. Should that be true, we could have Iranian pilots flying Russian planes shooting American missiles at European Muslim extremists. What an interesting world we live in.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Back and forth sanctions between Russia and the EU. Yahoo/Reuters

Putin at a government meeting. Yahoo/Reuters

Russia fires back at EU sanctions with sanctions of their own. Yahoo/Reuters. The European Union has imposed sanctions on the Russian oil and weapons as well as banning Russian banks from raising capital in EU markets. Eight Russian civilians had their overseas assets frozen. Russia has, in response, banned some fruit and vegetable imports from Poland and may extend the ban to all of the EU. The EU has been reluctant to impose sanctions on the Russians due to the importance of trade and the dependence of Russian natural gas.

My Comment:
Russia is far more able to absorb these sanctions then the EU is. The fruit ban on Poland is really going to hurt them because over half of their exports are to Russia. And all Putin has to do cut off natural gas supplies to bring the EU to their knees. This is a dangerous game for the EU since Putin has all the cards. American sanctions are probably less effective, but cost America little to nothing. Either way, Putin isn't going to care too much. 

Thousands of Libyans flee renewed fighting. -Yahoo/AP

Tripoli is burning. Yahoo/AP

Over 6000 people a day are fleeing Libya for Tunisia. -Yahoo/AP. Local militias have been fighting each other in the capital of Tripoli. The airport has largely been destroyed and an oil storage building there continues to burn. Over 100 people have died in the fighting. Regular civilians are starting to protest against the various militia groups. Meanwhile, Tunisa is threatening to close its borders. 

My Comment:
Libya continues its downward spiral. This is the problem when you overthrow a strong dictatorial government and replace it with nothing. If you create such a huge power vacuum something else will rise to fill it. In this case it is militias and warlords. In Iraq it was ISIS. 

The good news is that it looks like the Libyan civilians have had enough of the militias and are starting to protest them. They want the government to be in control, not warlords. The more support the government gets the more legitimacy it has. A stronger government means that the chances of the militias surviving long term go down, which is good news for everyone. Still it is going to take a long time and a lot of bloody fighting. 

A sad update to another post: Top Ebola doctor dies from the disease. Yahoo/AP

A map of the outbreak. -Yahoo News

Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, the lead doctor in Sierra Leon, has died from the very disease he was fighting. Yahoo/AP The doctor has been called a nation hero for his efforts. Health workers have been especially vulnerable to catching Ebola due to prolonged contact with carriers. In related news Liberia and certain airlines are taking more measures to contain the disease after an american citizen died after flying to Nigeria. 

My Comment:
Not a whole lot of new info in this article that i haven't already covered but the death of Khan is tragic. I posted about him before and I was pulling for him. He truly was heroic and the doctors and nurses risking their lives to fight this disease should be commended. 

As for the other major news in this story, the new restrictions seems more like a public relations stunt that anything else. Yes they should be stopping people that have obvious symptoms, but Ebola has a long incubation period. The American that took the disease with him to Nigeria had no symptoms until he was already in the air. These new polices won't stop cases like that. Only a full quarantine will. And that is not going to happen until it's too late since as of right now the breakout isn't threatening enough to wreck the African economy. 

Reporter writes about Pentagon plan to develop new handgun, gets EVERYTHING wrong. Fiscal Times

The scary black M9 Reddit(really!?!)/Fiscal Times

I'm going to skip the normal format for this post. As you may know the Defense Department is looking to replace the venerable M9 pistol. It's out of date, inaccurate, not particularly reliable and most of them are beat to hell. You would expect an article about the replacement of the M9 would go into detail of what the problems are and what the potential replacements would be. Not so for this Fiscal Times article.

The article, titled "The Army's New Handgun: A Weapon For Criminals?" is ludicrously misinformed. First of all it makes the bizarre claim that military firearms would somehow drown hospitals in gunshot victims. An amazing claim for a gun that either does not exist, or like the M9 before it, exists in the civilian market ALREADY! To continue the article claims that when the M9 was adapted in 1985 was somehow responsible for the increase in the number of bullet injuries per shooting in DC through a period between 1980-1983. See the problem? The authors are blaming a gun that did not exist as a U.S. military firearm for a supposed rise in gunshot wounds! And the so called "high capacity" 9mm's like the Beretta 92, the M9's ancestor made in 1972 were not a result of military development, they were sporting and police pistols, some of which were modified for military service. The innovation came from the civilian market, not the military! Anyone who has even the most basic knowledge of firearms should know this. 

The M9 is most likely going to be replaced because there have been many advancements in handgun technology and safety since it was adapted. They aren't going to make it more deadly (unless they do decide to go to a heavier caliber which is extremely unlikely due to NATO treaty regulations) they are going to make it more safe, more reliable and more usable for soldiers. The fact of the matter is that there are better civilian arms on the market then what the military is currently equipped with. The Pentagon wants to correct that (in theory at least, arms procurement is incredibly complex. They might just stick with the M9). 

That's it. No deadly bullets. No massive technical innovations and no change to the firearms that are already available on the civilian market. How anyone could come to that conclusion is beyond me. So that leaves two options. Either the author had no idea what she was talking about or she had an agenda. My guess is the second option considering some of the other posts on The Fiscal Times, and the irrelevant paragraphs at the end that claim that gun ownership is down. 

I could post dozens of examples of gun control advocates either getting basic facts wrong or deliberately lying but this post is getting a bit long. The point is that just because you read something about firearms on the internet, even at an otherwise reputable site (I don't know about The Fiscal Times but I first saw the article on Yahoo. It disappeared before I could post this) it's usually better to listen to someone who has even the most basic knowledge of firearms. At least the comment section called her out on it... 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BREAKING NEWS! Terror attack in China leaves dozens dead, more injured. -CNN

Chinese anti-terror troops. -CNN

A gang of knife and ax wielding people attacked civilians and killed dozens of people. -CNN China describes the act as terrorism. In addition to the attacks on civilians, a police station and government offices were attacked as well. Police responded by firing into the mob killing dozens. This is just the latest in a series of attacks in the region. The attacks are due to ethnic and religious tensions between Chinese Han people and Muslim Uyghur.

My Comment:
I'm sure we will be getting more details about this case as they become available. I don't know if these Uyghur people are inspired by Al-Qaeda or if they are just upset with their treatment by a Chinese government that doesn't particularly like any religion. It could be both. The mass knife mob seems like a strange way to commit terror attacks but it seems these extremists have made it work. 

Of course I am sure people will forget all about this when they say "you need a gun to commit a mass killing". All you need is the will to kill people. If a bunch of pissed off Uyghurs can kill with just knives and axes then anyone else can too.  

Fierce fighting continues in Ukraine. -Yahoo/Reuters.

Rebel fighters in Donetsk. Yahoo/Reuters. 

Heavy fighting continues in Eastern Ukraine as loyalist forces attempt to encircle the rebel strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk.  -Yahoo/Reuters. Both cities have come under artillery fire, killing rebels and civilians alike. The fighting is also occurring near the site of the Flight 17 crash, hindering recovery efforts and investigation. Meanwhile, the EU is considering more sanctions against Russia for continuing to support the rebels. 

My Comment:
Expect more of the same in the coming weeks. Ukraine absolutely has to cut off these cities now in order to have any chance at winning this war. Should they surround and encircle Donetsk and Luhansk, they can settle into siege warfare and starve the rebels out. It will be a humanitarian disaster with thousands of civilian casualties but at this point I doubt Ukraine cares. It's either victory here or complete economic collapse. Of course that assumes that Putin and Russia allows siege warfare in an ethnically Russian area...    

Psychological warfare in Iraq. -Yahoo/Reuters.

ISIS has released a new propaganda film in a continued recruitment and psychological warfare campaign. -Yahoo/Reuters. The video details the ISIS mission to take Samarra in north-central Iraq. It details drive by shootings, sniper attacks, lighting fast raids and the execution of prisoners. It also shows Mosques and other buildings being destroyed.

My Comment:
I haven't seen this video and refuse to link to it on this blog or post any pictures, but I did watch an earlier video in this series that was released before ISIS took Mosul last month. It was without a doubt the most horrifying thing I have ever seen. The violence was, of course deplorable, but that wasn't the disturbing part. It was how well made they were. I took a few film courses in college and I know great production when I see it. It was glorifying killing in a way that made me feel extremely dirty to have watched what was, essentially, a snuff film. I'd recommend not watching any of these films in an uncensored state.

That said, as propaganda it rates up there with Triumph of the Will. The creators of the films do an excellent job of making ISIS look invincible. The message is clear. Keep fighting and you will receive no quarter. You will end up dead in a ditch with a bullet in the back of your head along with all your friends. It could backfire though. If I was a member of the Iraqi security forces and I had seen these videos, not only would I be incredibly angry, I would make sure to fight to the last bullet. I'm not sure the average 18 year old Iraqi soldier would feel the same way though...

ISIS has proven itself to be very savvy at propaganda. They make professional videos and have a strong presence on social media. Like I have said before, the main reason they were able to accomplish so much is because people think fighting them is pointless and will only lead to death. That wasn't true back then and it isn't true right now but so often in warfare and politics perception trumps reality every time.

If the 2012 election were held today Romney would blow Obama out of the water. -CNN


According to a CNN/ORC poll if the 2012 election were held today Obama would lose by nine points. -CNN. Obama won in 2012 51% to 47%, but in the new poll he would only get 44% of the vote. The same poll found that Hillary Clinton would beat Romney by a wide margin, 55% to 42%, largely due to female voters. 

My Comment:
I'm shocked that Obama did as well as he did. If his first term was bad his second term has been an absolute disaster and it isn't even over yet. If you add that to the general hangover effect all 2nd term incumbents get I would be expecting around a third of the vote to go Obama. The country is incredibly polarized though and I get the feeling that Obama could eat a puppy on live tv and still have support of 25% of the electorate. It's not about who is right anymore, it's about who is "one of us" and Obama is still "one of us" for many Democrats. 

I'd like to say that I am surprised that Clinton would beat Romney, but I am not. The poll numbers in the Obama/Romney race have a lot more to do with Obama failing hard in his 2nd term then any strength Romney had as a candidate. Clinton also has the female vote locked up so far, which infuriates me to no end. I know that somehow, someway, there are women who like Clinton and her policies, and if that's the case i can't blame them, but I know that some of her supporters only like her because she is a woman. To be fair though Clinton was the heir apparent back in 2008 but was usurped by Obama. Is there anyone in the 2016 class that could do that to her again? It sure doesn't look like it. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Iraq is falling apart, does the world notice? Yahoo News

An Iraqi soldier fighting ISIS in Ramadi. Yahoo/Reuters

The situation in Iraq is so dire that Iraqi military leaders in Iraq have "their bags packed". -Yahoo News. Political deadlock continues as Nouri al-Maliki fights for his political life. The article predicts Iraq being split into three parts, a Shia south, Kurdish north and a ISIS caliphate in the west. 

My Comment:
Very misleading title by Yahoo, but a good article anyways. Read it if you need to get up to speed on the situation in Iraq. I was hoping for more about the media coverage of the Iraq War though. No question it has been overshadowed by current events in Ukraine and Gaza. Is that justified though? I think it is in the case of the Ukrainian Civil War it is justified. The war has global implications and may very well spread into a wider European war. That's huge news, and as important as Iraq is, it's understandable that it would get more coverage.  

As for Gaza though, any commentary on the war is completely wasted, including this. Everything that can be said about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been said dozens of times. Only the combat has changed. And there is very little chance of the conflict having any new impact on anything outside of the borders of Israel and Gaza. That's in contrast to a shocking war with a resurgent Al-Qaeda splinter group rolling over Iraqi security forces, crucifying people, and blowing up historical treasures. In a hundred years the current Gaza conflict will just be another historical footnote in a long war war that will probably still be going on. People won't be talking about it. They will be talking about ISIS and the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars. 

U.S. surveillance programs have a chilling effect on journalism. Yahoo/Reuters

A NSA listening post in Bluffdale. Yahoo/Reuters

In a joint report the ACLU and Human Rights Watch claims that U.S. surveillance is a direct threat to journalism. -Yahoo/Reuters  Journalists are having trouble securing sources due to the justified fear of their conversation being intercepted. Sources are even unwilling to discuss unclassified issues due to fear. In addition to NSA surveillance, the Obama administration has been cracking down on leakers and whistleblowers. The Department of Justice disputes the report.

My Comment:
Investigative reporting was probably already dead in this country but if it wasn't before it is now. Assuming the media ever actually tried to do a report that is hostile or critical to the government, they won't be able to get any sources. The Obama administration is incredibly hostile to any government employee that talks to the media without permission. They have also been caught red handed spying on journalists on several occasions and has even named journalists as criminal co-conspirators to leakers.  Generally speaking, if you are in the media and aren't a brainless government mouthpiece, and even if you are, you are almost certainly being watched. 

I shouldn't have to explain why this is a bad thing, but I will anyways. The role of the press is to inform the public and act as a check against government power. It can't do either of these things if they can't secure sources. And there is the so called "chilling effect" on the media. Journalists are afraid to cover certain stories due to legitimate concerns for their safety and the safety of their sources. I don't know if this blog counts as journalism or not but one of the things I consider before I post anything here is "will I end up on a watchlist if I post this"? I usually end up posting it anyways, but there a few stories I have held back on. This can't be the way a so-called free country is run. 

North Korea threatens to nuke the White House. -Yahoo/AFP

Look at how happy he is! Kim Jong Un via Yahoo/AFP

North Korea has threatened to fire nuclear missiles at the White House and Pentagon. Yahoo/AFP The threats come after yet another missile test and complaints from North Korea about joint U.S. and South Korean military drills. North Korea has nuclear weapons but are not thought to have the ability to strike the United States. 

My Comment:
More sound and fury signifying nothing. Kim Jong Un and his band of psychopaths do not have the technology to strike anything other then the local region, including South Korea and Japan. And they know to do so would be suicide. These threats are for domestic purposes and for the desperate need the regime has for western aid. They won't do anything other then raise a stink. I've been following North Korea for years and they almost never follow through with their threats, and when they do it is in a restrained manner. People still die, but full scale war hasn't broken out, and unless things go completely insane in the region, it won't. 

China is still pushing it's territorial boundaries, The Philippines resists. -CNN

Believe it or not, The Philippines has marines stationed aboard this hulk to counter Chinese claims to a reef in the middle of the Pacific. -CNN

The conflict between China and its neighbors continues. In this investigation by CNN, a reporter profiles the Filipino marines stationed aboard the hulk of the Sierra Madre.  The marines face difficult conditions, bad weather and constant Chinese harassment on board the derelict ship that was beached to legitimize the Filipino claim to the Second Thomas Shoal . The reef is part of the Spratly islands, which are claimed by both The Philippines and China. China has grown increasingly aggressive to its neighbors based on this and other maritime claims. 

My Comment:
A very interesting piece by CNN with some great photographs. Read it all. I wouldn't mind visiting this ship but it must be a horrible place to live. As for the dispute, it is nothing new. China has been increasingly aggressive with it's maritime claims for a very simple reason. Gas, oil and other natural resources. China has a huge energy problem and it desperately needs domestic sources of oil and natural gas. And these islands and shoals not only have energy, they are rich fishing areas and control some of the most traveled trade routes in the world. 

For the rest of the world it might seem insane for China to be willing to go to war over these islands, but the chances of war in the region are greater then people would like to admit. Nations go to war over resources all the time, and I don't see this being any different. China, and everyone else in the region for that matter, are working themselves into a nationalistic frenzy over these claims and it only takes one nervous gunner on one of these ships or a spooked pilot to start a war. China might even think that these islands, and the resources they contain are worth going to war for deliberately. Yes, they risk a confrontation with America, but the presidency of the United States is undoubtedly weak right now, and the American public has no apatite for war. They might be thinking that they could pull off a war with one of their neighbors with minimal consequences. That is bad news for everyone.   

France offers asylum to Christians displaced by ISIS. Yahoo/Reuters.

Iraqi Christian refugees rest in a church. -Yahoo/Reuters

France has offered asylum to Iraqi Christians fleeing persecution and death from ISIS militants. Yahoo/Reuters Christians in Mosul, Iraq were given an ultimatum to either convert to Islam, pay heavy punitive taxes or die. The French Government has committed itself to protecting and accommodating Iraqi Christians in a joint statement by their foreign and interior ministries. 

My Comment:
I've got mixed feelings about this one. I am glad that these people will have a place to go where they will be able to live relatively decent lives. I don't think it will be easy for them in France. No migrant population has been able to assimilate instantly and they will compete with native French and other immigrants for jobs and resources, but at least they won't be exterminated.   

My criticism is the same that I have for any group of migrants; why are you leaving instead of staying at home and fighting for a better life? Someone is going to have to fight ISIS and if they aren't stopped they will probably follow these Christians right to France. You can't run from your problems. Sooner or later they catch up with you. I know that "stand and fight" is an easy thing to say from my comfortable life in America but it just isn't in my psychology to understand running. I'd rather fight and die then flee and lose everything that made me who I am. Maybe it's just me.   

Ukraine's economy is falling apart. Yahoo/Reuters.

A coal mine in Donestk, Ukraine. Yahoo/Reuters

The civil war in Ukraine is having a major impact on the Ukrainian economy. A combination of the fighting and a lack of explosives for coal mines have crippled heavy industry in the east. Many workers have fled and the ones that remain are much less productive. Sanctions from Russia, combined with the loss of tax base and industry from Crimea, have also crippled the Ukrainian economy, which was in dire straits before the war. Currently wages for workers and military units are being partially paid by Ukrainian Oligarchs.

My Comment:
Ukrainians are already feeling the economic pain of this war. The article downplays how significant the issue is. Ukraine is desperate for cash and if they don't get it soon there is a very good chance of losing the war, even without Russian interference. Once they run out of cash they won't be able to pay their troops and pensioners or keep the lights on. That would lead to chaos and perhaps even another revolution. The IMF has loaned some money, but not nearly enough, and I doubt any foreign investors will pony up the cash when the security situation is so poor. The EU has their own economic problems and I doubt there is much domestic support in the United States for giving Ukraine money. 

Of course this plays right into Putin's hands. I have mentioned many times on this blog that Putin is playing the long game. He knows that every day the Ukrainians are fighting this war they go deeper in debt. And once winter hits he can cut off their natural gas supplies, which would be a disaster. The Ukrainians would either have to negotiate or change governments yet again. I am sure the Ukrainians know this, which is why they are pushing so hard to capture Donetsk. They need to end this war in victory before the end of fall if they expect any chance of their economy surviving.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

U.S. claims that Russia has fired rockets into Ukraine. -Yahoo/AP


The U.S. claims that Russia has fired heavy rockets into Ukraine and provided satellite evidence. -Yahoo/AP According to the Obama administration, scorch marks near the launch site and craters in Ukraine prove that Russia fired. They also claim that Russian separatists have been provided with self propelled artillery only found in Russia's military. Obama is planning on giving targeting data to the Ukrainians so they can destroy anti-air sites. 

My Comment:
No mention of the cross border shelling by Ukraine? Not surprising, we all know which side the western media is on. And nobody else is going to point out the hypocrisy of criticizing Russia for helping the rebels when Obama is doing the same thing with the Ukrainian government. Sharing intelligence is the exact same thing as giving weapons. I don't want to come off as a pro-Russian apologist, as far as I am concerned both sides are in the wrong, but I'll continue to criticize hypocrisy when I see it. 

Federal Judge rules D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional. Yahoo/Reuters.


A federal judge has tossed the ban on carrying handguns outside of the home in Washington D.C. -Yahoo/Reuters. The ruling in the case of PALMER et al v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al clears the way for people to carry firearms in the district. The ban was ruled "clearly unconstitutional" and comes after the 2008 DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA vs HELLER case which had completely banned handguns. 

My Comment:
As far as i can tell D.C was the last place in the country that completely banned both open and concealed carry, so this is a clear victory for gun rights supporters. Unfortunately, D.C. is incredibly hostile to gun rights so even after this ruling expect any concealed carry permits to be on a Shall Issue basis. That's as good as a de facto ban. Much like Chicago, the leaders of Washington D.C. have an irrational hatred of firearms, so I doubt they will be issuing any permits. 

I do think that the laws will eventually catch up to what the constitution intended. Other then a few outliers, like New York, New Jersey, California and Colorado, the trend is for loosening and repealing gun laws. And the Democrats in Colorado paid a high price for the laws they did pass. 

Worst case scenario? Man on international flight with Ebola. -Yahoo/AP

Appernetly they still read newspapers in Nigera. Yahoo/AP

A man has died from Ebola after flying to Nigeria from Libera on Friday. -Yahoo/AP. All passengers were screened for Ebola before boarding, but the victim did not show symptoms until the flight was in the air. Nigerian officials are on high alert for new cases and so are medical authorities  in Togo where the man had a stopover. The passengers on the plane are being monitored but are not in isolation. 

My Comment:
This is the worst case scenario for the disease. Ebola tends to not spread through air but if the man was throwing up and having diarrhea like the report said there is a very good chance that someone could have been exposed. The whole plane should be disinfected and any janitors working at all three airports should be monitored as well. I'm sure people throw up on airplanes all the time but I doubt the airport workers understand the threat. Hopefully, Nigeria and Togo are able to mobilize their health system to properly react to this case. If they don't...

It's not all bad news though. Ebola does seem to have a hard time spreading through the air so most of the passengers should, in theory, be safe. And since the incubation period of the disease is so long in many cases and does not spread before symptoms start to show, there is little chance of the disease spreading rapidly. Still, I'd feel a lot better about it if the other passengers on this plane were in an isolation unit. Nigeria isn't immune to the suspicions and conspiracy theories that are spreading throughout Africa. I'm worried that some of these people might flee when they start to see symptoms, risking further exposure.  

And I am hoping that the American doctor survives. One of the saddest things about this is that so many doctors and nurses have been infected as well. They must be incredibly brave to face such a horrible disease knowing they risk catching it as well. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ukraine will try and take Donetsk -Washington Post

Washington Post/AFP

Ukraine has laid siege to the rebel stronghold of Donetsk. -Washington Post. Ukrainian troops are currently battling in Horlivka, and if they win they will control all entrances to the city. Heavy fighting is occurring in the area and the Ukrainian forces are dealing with traps and sabotage. Meanwhile border tensions are increasing with Russia. Both sides accuse each other of cross border shelling. Russia has 15,000 troops based on the border and are rumored to be delivering heavy artillery rockets to the rebels. 

My Comment:
Big news if it is true. I doubt it will be a true assault. Donetsk is a rather large city with about 1 million people, with even more people in the towns and villages around it, so if they assault it they will be in for brutal urban combat. Of course, if they try to starve and shell them out through siege warfare they will face repercussions. Putin may actually attack if there is a city of 1 million people starving to death. And international opinion may shift. Either way it's do or die time for the Ukrainians. If they manage to win, only Luhansk will remain. 

As for Putin, this is bad news for him. He needs Donetsk to hold out until winter. Once winter hits he can cut off Ukraine's natural gas supplies and bring them to the negotiating table. If Donetsk falls Luhansk will probably go as well, and the Ukrainian civil war will stop being a conventional war and will degrade into terrorism and insurgency. That's bad for everyone, including Putin. Either way, I don't see much chance for peace in the region for some time. 

Also AFP has a great picture of a separatist next to a destroyed Ukrainian tank. Tell me that guy hasn't seen hell. Hat tip to warnewsupdates since I saw it there first. 


U.S. evacuates embassy in Tripoli, Libya. -Yahoo/AP

From . Their website is still up at least.

The United States shut down the embassy in Tripoli, the capital of Libya this morning. -Yahoo/AP Heavy fighting has broken out between various Libyan militias, leaving the embassy at risk. The staff has evacuated to neighboring Tunisia. The State Department is recommending no travel to Libya by Americans and that for anyone there right now to leave immediately. There was also a specific warning about anti-aircraft weapons being a threat to aviation in Libya. Other nations, including Turkey, have closed down their embassies as well. 

My Comment:
I'm surprised it took them this long to leave. I posted last week that there was heavy fighting in Tripoli, and it certainly hasn't gotten any better since then. The security situation in Libya is nothing less then appalling and anyone who is there is in danger. At least they avoided another Benghazi. 

Speaking of Benghazi, I posted quite some time ago about what the mission was at the CIA annez that was destroyed. Securing MANPADS and other anti-aircraft weapons. And then, allegedly, sending them to the rebels fighting in Syrian Civil war. When the Benghazi attack happened, the operation ceased. Why is that important? Because there was a specific warning about the possibility of anti-aircraft weapons, presumably MANPADS, being used against civilian aircraft. Like I said, Benghazi was important, but not for the reason everyone thinks. 

House votes to block any sustained combat role in Iraq. -Guardian

A soldier heading back from Iraq in 2011. -Guardian

The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a resolution of a bill baring further combat operations in Iraq. -Guardian  The vote passed 370-40 in a rare bipartisan show of unity. The vote is largely symbolic since the Senate would need to confirm it. The vote is seen as both a rejection of any new Iraq combat missions as well as an attempt to reign in executive power. 

My Comment:
I am betting this will play pretty well back home for these members of congress come election season. America is sick of war and there is very little desire for any combat operations anywhere in the world. The massive negative response to the proposed Syrian War is proof enough of that. Sure congress has their own agenda here, and to be fair their objection to executive power is spot on, but for once I4 think they are accurately reflecting their constituents desires. 

This is of course dire news for Iraq. There is a very good chance they will lose Baghdad and cease to exist as a united country if they don't get foreign help. It is not going to come from the United States, so expect them to fall further into the influence of Iran and Russia. 

That's probably a negative for the United States but the military desperately needs time to rest, rebuild, rearm and recuperate after more then a decade of constant war. America just doesn't have the money right now either. America desperately needs a period without overseas deployments even if it means the world burns around it... 

Ukraine and Russia are trading low scale artillery fire. -Yahoo/AP

Russian separatists in Donetsk. Yahoo/AP

Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of firing artillery across the border. -Yahoo/AP Ukraine claims that the area near the town of Kolesnikov came under heavy rocket fire and a border post near Marynovka came under mortar fire. They also claim to have shot down three Russian drones. Russia claims that it's forces in the village of Primussky came under mortar fire. For its part the United States backs Ukraine's claims while dismissing Russia's. 

My Comment:
Talk about a pro-Ukraine article! The Ukrainian allegations took up most of the article while Russia's only got a couple of sentences. Russia has complained about Ukrainian cross border shelling before, so it's not like this is a new issue. Given the amount of propaganda going around and the fact that both sides in this conflict aren't exactly known for honesty, it's hard to figure out the truth. Given how pro-Ukraine western media and how RT and other Russian news sites are all but officially Russian propaganda it is very hard to find an unbiased source. 

What's my take? Both sides have most likely shelled across the border, either by mistake or on purpose. I don't think there is any question of that at this point, and both sides are guilty of it. The fog of war is a real thing and mistakes are bound to happen on both sides, especially with a para-military group like the pro-Russian rebels running around. But it is very possible that both sides are doing it on purpose. And these cross border shellings are great propaganda for each side since if they convince their supporters that they are being attacked it's harder to criticize them.

Expect these shellings to continue at their current low intensity. It's not likely to get any worse then this, but it will continue. Remember, Putin is playing the long game. He doesn't want to risk his own forces. Instead, he wants the rebels to survive until winter so he can cripple Ukraine economically through sanctions, cutting off their gas supplies and the cumulative effect of the incredible costs of running anti-insurgency campaign. For Ukraine, this is a temper tantrum. They know that any real attack would result in Putin crushing them (he doesn't want to use his military but if Ukraine starts killing Russian civilians in Russia he will face immense domestic pressure to respond in kind), but they can use it as a way to defy Moscow. They won't accomplish any actual military goals but their pride is wounded and they want to do something. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

33% of Americans want Obama impeached. -CNN


33% of Americans now believe that Obama should be removed from office. -CNN 57% of republicans, 35% of independents and 13% of democrats say Obama should go. Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin called for impeachment over Obama's handling of the border crisis and Rep. John Boehner (R) is suing Obama for executive overreach. A Senior adviser for Obama concedes that an impeachment attempt may happen. 

My Comment:
Once again, Sarah Palin is an idiot. I completely agree that Obama should be impeached, but not for something as stupid as the border issue. The president needs to have committed high crimes or misdemeanors in relation to the issue for him to be removed and no such thing has happened in the border. That being said I do think Obama very likely did break the law in several scandals that he should answer for. First there was the gun running case that everyone conveniently forgot about, Fast and Furious. Secondly there is the ongoing IRS scandal. Third, there was the targeting of reporters for surveillance. And finally, the NSA scandal

As much as i would love to see Obama go, it's probably the wrong thing to do politically for republicans. The effort to remove Bill Clinton backfired horribly, and that was with a media that was still at least pretended to not be for the president. The media would spin it as petty revenge and if Republicans use Sarah Palin's suggestion, they would actually have a point. Republicans would be wise to focus on winning the mid-term elections and finding good presidential candidates.   

Ebola patients are fleeing from hospitals. Yahoo/Reuters

A health worker in a HAZMAT suit carrying disinfectant. Yahoo/Reuters

The first patient diagnosed with Ebola in Freetown, Sierra Leone, was abducted by her family from the hospital. Yahoo/Reuters Officials are using radio and every other available means to try and convince her family to return her to the hospital. Dozens of other patients are missing in Sierra Leone as well. 

My Comment:
The article doesn't really say why the family abducted the woman, but it's clear why to me. The people there fear doctors and are incredibly suspicious of their governments. I've been hearing that there are conspiracy theories going around in Africa that Ebola doesn't exist and the whole thing is just a plot so white people can harvest organs. That's obviously not true but the disease has a 60% mortality rate so it's easy to see why the rumors spread. People see that when you go into the hospital there is a very good chance of you not coming out, so at best the perception is that the doctors can do nothing. At worst they are the enemy. People aren't getting treatment, aid workers are getting attacked and every day the disease spreads more. 

Of course not getting treatment is the absolute worst thing anyone could do in this situation. The people that abducted this woman have most likely signed her and their own death warrants. Ignorance and stupidity are Ebola's best friends and unfortunately both are in no short supply. The whole thing reminds me of the movie Contagion, right on down to Jude Law's character spreading lies and disinformation. Let's hope things don't get that bad but as of right now, it is not looking good. 

Nuri al-Maliki no longer has support from Iran, the U.S. or his own people. -Reuters.

The embattled Prime Minster. -Reuters

Nuri al-Maliki faces political opposition from all fronts. -Reuters His own party believes that his removal is necessary to form a government. Washington is widely believed to be very disappointed in Maliki after the stunning success of ISIS this year. Even Iran has publicly stated that they won't support Maliki if the people of Iraq do not. 

In another report, Reuters states that the top cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said that leaders should not cling to there posts.  Sistani said that politicians, again coyly referring to Malki, should put Iraq first and not themselves. Sistani has considerable influence and signals fairly strong opposition to the politician. 

My Comment:
It's very clear that it's time for Maliki to go. As much credit as ISIS gets for their recent victories, none of it would have happened if not for the incompetence and corruption of the Maliki government. The walls are closing in on Maliki, and it's only a matter of time before he is gone. The question is whether he will step down peacefully or if he will be overthrown. He doesn't have a friend in the world right now so if he does decided to fight, he will lose and lose hard. 

UPDATE: Norway terror alert continues, Syrian militants reportedly on their way. Yahoo/Reuters.

Norwegian officials announce the original threat. Yahoo/Reuters 

Norwegian officials believe that a group of Islamic militants from Syria are heading to Europe, possibly Norway, to commit a terror attack. Yahoo/Reuters The officials refuse to comment if they were Norwegian citizens or other Europeans. The threat was first announced Thursday and heightened security continues in Oslo and other Norwegian cites.

My Comment:
I posted about this yesterday and I mentioned how extremely rare this kind of warning is. This second story is, as far as I can tell, unprecedented. Norway must have some very specific and credible information about a plot for this kind of reaction. Let's hope that their national security is up to snuff. 

It's also worth noting that the article stated that Norway has arrested ISIS operatives before. It's possible that ISIS is expanding their operations into Europe, which is of course the worst case scenario. We will all have to see how this one plays out...   

Thursday, July 24, 2014

ISIS blows up the tomb of Biblical prophet Jonah. -CNN

Isis militants destroy a tomb. Conflicting reports say that this is the same one that was blown up. -Youtube

ISIS has reportedly destroyed the tomb of the Biblical prophet Jonah. -CNN Jonah is an important figure in both Christianity and Islam and is the prophet who was according to tradition, swallowed by a whale or giant fish. ISIS has been destroying anything they consider un-Islamic and accuse tombs, all tombs, to be idolatry. ISIS has also been destroying churches and mosques. 

My Comment:
I'm not sure how credible the claim that this is the tomb of Jonah but it is clear that ISIS is destroying history. Considering the massive archaeological value of the area and the importance it holds in each of the Abraham regions every tomb, mosque and church they destroy is a huge loss for humanity. Iraq was the cradle of civilization and has thousands of years of history and all of it is at risk. With the ethnic cleansing of Christians in the area, and the destruction of Shiite Mosques, it's clear that religious history is in danger as well. 

On a more personal note this is extremely disturbing to me personally. I studied both history and archaeology in college, so the deliberate destruction of history is incredibly offensive to me. This isn't just artifacts and buildings they are destroying, it's history and culture itself. 

A doctor in Philadelphia stops an attempted mass shooting with his own firearm. -Yahoo/AP

Police respond to the scene. -Yahoo/AP

A psychiatrist returned fire at an active shooter with his own personal weapon. -Yahoo/AP The gunman and the doctor were both wounded in the shootout. A 53 year old caseworker was killed. Another doctor and a caseworker tackled the shooter after he was shot. The hospital has a no gun policy and it is unknown if the doctor had a permit.

My Comment:
Well there you have it, another mass shooting prevented by a good guy with a gun. I'm sure people will conveniently forget about this case when they talk about new gun regulations. It's still a tragedy that someone died and it's sad that the doctor got hurt as well but it could have been much worse. As far as the doctor goes he may have been carrying his firearm illegally, but i would hope the police would be smart enough to use some discretion in this case. Same goes for the hospital. But the way things are going in this country he will probably end up in prison and/or lose his job.

Washington sells $11 billion worth of weapons to Qatar. -War is Boring

The signing of the deal. Defense Dept/War is Boring

America has signed an $11 billion weapons deal with the tiny Middle East kingdom of Qatar. -War is Boring The deal includes 24 Apache attack helicopters, 358 Patriot air defense missiles and 500 Javelin anti-tank missiles. This purchase follows a purchase in 2012 of even more weapons including billions on air defense systems. Qatar has a small population of natives, most of the countries 2 million people are foreign workers. This purchase is seen as both a deterrent to Iran and an effort to boost Qatar's internal security.

My Comment:
I'm guessing those weapons are more about internal security then Iran, at least for the Qataris. Qatar is a very segregated and stratified society with most of the oil wealth concentrated in a small group of very wealthy people. That combined with the fact that the majority of Qatar's people are not from the nation could spell disaster, especially considering the fact that there have been abuses in the past directed at the majority. How importing so many people into your country until you are a minority in your own homeland makes any sense at all is beyond me but Qatar seems determined to pull it off, and to do that they need the ability to put down any rebellions. These weapons should be a huge deterrence. 

Of course Washington isn't really concerned about the internal politics of Qatar, as long as it is an ally against Iran, they will look the other way. Plus they are making money on this deal, which is always a bonus. Should a war break out against Iran, and at this point it seems less likely, Qatar will play a major role, so this can also be seen as an investment for America. Should Obama ever decide to do something about ISIS in Syria and Iraq it might play a role as well. 

Norway under terror alert. Yahoo/AFP

Armed police patrol the Oslo Airport. -Yahoo/AFP

Norway is on high alert after "credible threats" of a terrorist attack by extremists who fought in Syria. -Yahoo/AFP The target and timing of any attack remains unknown but Norway was specifically mentioned as a possible target. Such alerts are rare and this one is probably an attempt to both discourage the attack and warn civilians of the danger. 

My Comment:
Time will tell if this was just a false alarm or a legitimate threat. Norway has some recent experience with terrorism, with the three year anniversary of the bombing and massacre by Anders Breivik being just two days ago. Breivik, of course, couldn't be further then the Islamic radicals that are probably behind this alleged threat ideologically, but the tactics are the same. Hopefully it is nothing, but this kind of alert is extremely rare. 

If it turns out to be legit it could be the first case that i have heard of where an EU citizen has returned from the battlefields of the middle east to attempt a terror attack. After the Boston Marathon bombing, it's a major fear of western governments. With so many western Muslims getting battle experience in Syria and Iraq, and the stunning success of ISIS, the worst case scenario might be coming true. 

Contact lost with an Air Algiers flight in Mali. Yahoo/Reuters


Air traffic controllers have lost contact with a Air Algiers flight flying over Mali. -Yahoo/Reuters The plane was flying from Burkina Faso to Algiers with 110 passengers and 6 crew aboard. The last contact with the plane was at 4:30 AM local time. A powerful sandstorm hit near the flight plan of the plane, but it is currently unknown if that had any impact.

My Comment:
More bad news for the airline industry. I'm not sure if it there is just more coverage of plane accidents lately or if it has been a string of bad luck but by any standard it sure seems like a bad month to be flying. Hopefully this has a happy ending but i am not holding my breath. I will try to update this post if new information becomes available this morning.

EDIT: Reuters is now reporting that the plane has crashed. What a horrible couple of weeks for aviation. I haven't even covered the crash in Taiwan yesterday... 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Europe continues to sell weapons to Russia. Yahoo/AFP

"Do as I say, not as I do" David Cameron. -Yahoo/AFP

Britain is still selling weapons to Russia despite promises to stop selling arms to the country. Yahoo/AFP The items being sold include sniper rifles, body armor, small arms ammunition, communications equipment and cryptography equipment. This comes after Prime Minster David Cameron criticized France for not canceling the sale of a Minstral-class aircraft carrier to Russia. 

My Comment:
Fairly hypocritical  of the UK government. You can't criticize France for doing the same thing that they are doing themselves. It's just another example of money trumping ideology. Canceling these contracts would cost British companies money, so nothing will happen. It also shows me that neither France or Britain are all that concerned about those weapons being  turned against NATO. 

These sanctions are a joke anyways. Europe and Russia are dependent on each other and any sanctions that did major damage to Russia would hurt Europe just as much, if not more. 

Islamic fundamentalist take over schools in UK. Yahoo/AP

A number of schools were essentially taken over by Islamic fundamentalists in Birmingham, England. Yahoo/AP Teachers and staff at these schools are accused of discriminating against non-Muslims, homophobia, and segregating the school. There are now fears that the students at these schools are vulnerable to being or already have been, radicalized. Birmingham has a large number of Muslim immigrants.

AFP has further reporting on this subject.  In addition to the actions reported in the other article, teachers and a principal expressed anti-western viewpoints and claimed that the Boston Marathon bombing and the murder of solider Lee Rigby were both false flags or hoaxes. The plot to take over the schools has been described as a "Trojan horse". Teachers with similar views were promoted and non-radicals were bullied and harassed. They also controlled the governing bodies of the school.

My Comment:
Scary stuff. I am sure it will play into the hands of those who support the Eurabia conspiracy theory. I'm not a proponent of that theory myself but this is still a very disturbing case of a relatively small minority population doing things they really shouldn't be doing. It's probably worst for the non-radical Muslims in the U.K. who will have to suffer for the actions of others.

The immigration of Muslims into Europe in recent times is probably one of the more important global issues in the world today that most Americans are completely ignorant about. Much like American immigration policy interconnects with many of the domestic issues that the United States, this wave of immigration in Europe has implications to virtually every aspect of European life. It's an extremely complex issue that I'll admit that I am not informed enough on, but it may very well be the issue of 21st century Europe.

Chief Ebola doctor in Sierra Leone catches the disease. Yahoo/Reuters

Ebola screening in Sierra Leone. Yahoo/AP

"National Hero" Sheik Umar Khan, who has led the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone, has contracted the deadly disease. Yahoo/AP He has been credited with treating 100 of the diseases victims in his country. He was afraid of catching the disease, saying that "I cherish my life" but still continued to help. Ebola has killed 206 people in Sierra Leone and roughly 600 total in the region so far. 

My Comment:
I'm hoping that Khan is among the 40% of people in this outbreak that survives. He clearly showed heroism, despite his completely justified fear of the disease he continued to see patients. He must have either gotten very unlucky or made an understandable mistake under considerable pressure to catch the disease. Ebola doesn't really spread through the air, for the most part, so he must have had an accident where he had contact with bodily fluids. Either way I really hope he survives.

 Africa needs dedicated doctors like Khan to get this outbreak under control. I've been keeping track of this outbreak since it was first reported and it scares me about as much as all the wars going on right now combined. Ebola is about the worst, in terms of suffering and the sickening effect it has on the human body, viral disease I have read about and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I know that the chances of Ebola becoming a global pandemic are very, very low, and that the situation in Africa is worse due to cultural traditions, poor health care systems and a lack of supplies, but it is still very concerning. Even though the chances of Ebola mutating into an airborne or otherwise more easily spread form are low the longer this outbreak continues the more generations of evolution it gets through. I'm probably just being paranoid, but any disease that kills 60-90% of its victims makes me nervous. 

Two Ukrainian Su-25's shot down. Yahoo/AP

Two Su-25's were shot down today in Ukraine at 1:30 pm local time. Yahoo/AP They were downed over Savur Moglia in Eastern Ukraine. Each plane had up to two pilots.

My Comment:
As far as I can tell these are the first air kills since the loss of Malaysia Flight 17. Apparently the rebels are confident enough in their fire control capabilities that they are no longer worried about shooting down passenger planes, or they are certain that there are no civilian aircraft in the area. At least I hope so. I can't imagine that they would be so stupid not to learn anything form the Flight 17 disaster. I can't even begin to imagine the outrage if they shot down another one...

EDIT: Here is a more in depth article about the engagement. -IBT Sounds like this happened in the same area as Flight 17. The pilots were reported to have ejected but their fate is unknown. Pro-Russian rebels have reportedly taken credit for shooting down one of the planes.