Sunday, August 31, 2014

Putin calls for a new state in eastern Ukraine. -Yahoo/AFP

Vladimir Putin. Yahoo/AFP

For the first time Vladimir Putin has openly called for statehood for the breakaway eastern part of Ukraine. --Yahoo/AFP. He called for talks to determine the fate of eastern Ukraine and spoke of protecting the rights of the people that lived in the region. This is a major change in policy for Putin, who previously only called for federalization and greater rights for the Russian speaking residents of the Ukraine. Putin also placed the blame on the war squarely on Ukraine for removing former president Viktor Yanukovych, Putin's man in Ukraine. Russia still officially denies any state sanctioned use of troops in Ukraine but admits that many Russian "volunteers" are there fighting while on "vacation".

My Comment:
Putin is right about one thing here. None of this would have happened if the people of Ukraine, with western backing, hadn't tossed out a democratically elected leader. Even after that happened the conflict could have been avoided at several steps. First the Ultra-Nationalists should have not passed discriminatory laws against Russian seeking citizens. That was wrong and it should have never happened. Second, if they had repealed those laws and accepted more autonomy from the eastern provinces they could have probably avoided war. Third, if they hadn't been so gung ho on a military solution then war would at least be less likely, and even if it wasn't it would be fully on the rebels and Russia.

As for Putin's demands, I think he will get what he wants. Putin has more then enough military power to get what he wants and there is no way the west will go to war with him over Ukraine. His initial plan went to hell when it was clear that both Donetsk and Luhansk were going to fall to Ukrainian forces. That won't happen now, so he has to push for the new state solution.

As for these Russian "volunteers" fighting on "vacation", well, if you believe that then i got a bridge to sell you. It's obvious to everyone that these are regular army fighters and the deception isn't going to fool anyone except maybe domestically in Russia. I understand why Putin has to try the deception but it isn't going to work. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Editor's note

Blogging will be light this weekend. I'm doing two fantasy football drafts so I won't have much time to blog. I probably won't have any more posts today and I'm not sure about tomorrow yet. I'll play it by ear!

The insane story of a wannabe Japanese mercenary fighting ISIS in Syria. -War is Boring

Haruna Yukawa with an AK while in either Syria or Iraq. War is Boring/Yukawa

War is Boring has the story of Haruna Yukawa, a Japanese man who had dreams of being a mercenary and was captured, and possibly executed, by ISIS. Yukawa was the head of his own private military contractor company and the only employee of said company. Yukawa had no military training other then running a military surplus store. The loss of his store, along with a botched suicide attempt, self castration, the debt incurred in the suicide attempt, and the death of his wife seems to be the motivation for his actions. Yukawa claimed to be a journalist and was selling pictures he took to various wire services, but several pictures show him with rifles and military equipment. When ISIS captured him they accused him of being a spy and of fighting with the Free Syrian Army. For its sake Japan is treating the issue as a national embarrassment and are debating if they should even try to get him back, if he is even still alive. 

My Comment: 
"Transgender Japanese Mercenary" is not a phrase I ever expected to write... Anyways, this whole story is insane, read it all. As usual, very good reporting by War is Boring. It's pretty clear that Yukawa needed some help long before he went to Syria. I'm not sure what could have been done but his story should have ended in a different way. If he turns up to be alive, Japan should try and get him back. Nobody deserves to be held or executed by ISIS, even if what Yukawa did was a crime.  He's still a citizen of Japan though and they should try and help him, even if they end up charging him later. 

This of course brings up the question if any other foreigners are fighting in Syria and Iraq. I know that plenty are fighting for ISIS, including an American that just got killed, but I wonder how many are fighting for the FSA or any of the other non-ISIS factions in both Syria and Iraq? And are any real PMC's being contracted to fight as well?

Military coup in Lesotho? USA Today/AP

Prime Minster of Lesotho, Tom Thabane. USA Today/AP

Police and Soldiers clashed in Lesotho as rumors of a coup against Prime Minster Tom Thabane run rampant. -USA Today/AP.  Lesotho is a tiny country that is completely surrounded by South Africa.The conflict comes after Thabane suspended the parliament. The military seized two police stations and disrupted radio stations. The military claims that the police were going to provide arms to protesters and deny any coup attempt. They claim that everything is back to normal.

My Comment:
I posted this for two reasons:
1. It's fairly rare in this day and age to have military coups. They just don't happen that often anymore.
2. It's probably going to be the only time I would ever have anything to say about Lesotho. And it gives me the opportunity to say how dumb I think it is to have a country completely surrounded by another one.

In all seriousness though, this is yet another example of a dysfunctional African Government. I've heard rumors that Thabane has fled the country but given my lack of knowledge in the area I have no idea if it is true or not.

UPDATE: BBC has confirmed that Thabane has fled the country. Sounds like Thabane thinks he's dead meat if he returns. 

The high cost of political correctness. 1400 children molested and trafficked in UK. -Yahoo/AP

Rotherham, England. Yahoo/AP.

Over the past 16 years 1400 children were molested and trafficked in Rotherham, England. -Yahoo/AP. Only a few convictions happened as the reports were largely dismissed due to concerns that doing anything about the problem would lead to calls or racism. The children were raped, abused and, in some cases, trafficked.  The vast majority of the perpetrators were Pakistani while the majority of victims were white girls with a few Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Roma as well. Rotherham isn't the only city that has had these kinds of problems with Pakistani immigrants but this is the largest case by far. The revelation boosts support for far right anti-immigration politicians. 

 My Comment:
This is why political correctness is wrong. Somebody said once that political correctness is a war on noticing and that is what happened here. People knew what was going on and that an investigation was required but they didn't do their jobs because they were too afraid to speak out. They knew that if they accused the Pakistani community of having a problem they would face cries of racism. And cries of racism has ended many careers. So instead of making the hard, but right choice, more then a thousand girls got raped. Allegedly.  

As far as I am concerned it's not racist to point out a problem. Saying that "the Pakistani community in the UK has a problem with child molestation" is not racist if it is factually true. Saying that "because the Pakistani community has a problem with child molestation, all Muslims are pedophiles and should be killed" is racist. See the difference? Unfortunately the difference is no longer recognized in any significant way. Any criticism of any group, no matter how valid, is considered a racist, sexist or homophobic attack. Even criticizing political parties can get you labeled a bigot. That is not how we improve as a society.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Vatican denies ISIS threat against Pope Francis. CBS/AP

Pope Francis. CBS/AP.

The Vatican denies reports of an ISIS threat against Pope Francis. CBS/AP. An Italian Newspaper, Il Tempo, claims that ISIS is targeting the Pope due to being a major leader in Christianity and a "proponent of false truth". Italy, along with Britain, raised a terror alert in both countries but do not have any claims of a specific threat. The Vatican denounces these threats and claim there is no special danger. 

My Comment:
Out of all people, my Mom told me about this story. Anyways, Pope Francis would be wise to take these reports seriously. Even if there isn't a specific threat the Pope is very vulnerable to assassination. And from what I understand he doesn't take as many precautions as a head of state should (he is technically). I also know that he understands the threat but he takes the risk anyways to be closer to his people. That's admirable but dangerous. Still, with ISIS being incredibly hostile to any religion that isn't their particular brand of Sunni Islam, I wouldn't be surprised if they took a shot at him. 

If the Pope were killed or injured by ISIS I can't imagine what would happen. There would be millions of very angry Catholics. I'd be pretty upset about it as well. I'm not particularly religious and I don't agree with all or even most of Pope Francis's opinions but it's clear to me that he is a good person who deeply cares about the common man. In other words he is the opposite of ISIS...

Ebola has spread to another country. Senegal. -Yahoo/AP

A man sprays chemicals in an attempt to control Ebola. Yahoo/AP

A confirmed case of Ebola has been found in the capital of Senegal, Dakar. -Yahoo/AP. The man had contact with Ebola patients in Guinea and then fled the country. Senegal had closed its border with Guinea but somehow the man evaded attempts to quarantine him and crossed the border. Dakar is an international tourist hub and important logistical city. Doctors in the region are pleading for more money and more supplies.

My Comment:
That brings the number of countries with Ebola up to six, five from this outbreak and the Democratic Republic of Congo with its own outbreak. I don't know much about Senegal, but this is terrible news for them. It's possible that the victim in this case spread the disease as he fled. If he did infect people during his journey the disease could spread. It's also possible that his doctors and nurses could be infected as well. Hopefully the country's health care system is up to snuff otherwise the situation could be dire.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What are the people of Ukraine and Russia saying about the war? Yahoo/CSM

Video showing alleged Russian tanks in Ukraine. -Ukraine Today

The governments of Ukraine and Russia face opposition to their war from there own people. Yahoo/CSM. As Russia sends troops into Ukraine support for the rebels remain high in Russia. 55% of Russians support the use of volunteers in Ukraine but that support evaporates when asked if they want Russian troops openly fighting in Ukraine. Only 16% support the involvement of Russian troops, down from 28% in April. Russians are also concerned about secrecy surrounding casualties and harassment of journalists trying to cover the issue. 

Ukraine is having its own problems. Pro Ukraine militias feel abandoned by the government in Kiev. Support for the war as plummeted after it became clear that victory would not be achieved quickly. People are upset about conscription and corruption of the government. Most civilians can be described as "exhausted" of the war. 

My Comment:
I am somewhat surprised that 55% of Russians support the use of "volunteers" but only 16% of them support actual troops being deployed. I've got news for them. Any "volunteers" fighting in Ukraine are Russian troops and I doubt they actually volunteered for it.  Still, it seems from this article that support for the war is stronger in Russia then it is in Ukraine. That does not bode well for the Ukrainians. If they can't get any support for the war when they are being actively invaded then there is almost no chance of victory. Not like there was much of one at this point anyways, if Russia decides to use the full force of it's military there isn't much Ukraine can do. They are completely outclassed. 

Ukraine claims that Russia has invaded. -Reuters

Ukrainian forces fighting rebels. -Reuters

Ukraine is claiming that Russian forces have crossed the border. Reuters. NATO officials claim that well over 1000 Russian troops are both in a support role for the rebels and are actively involved in the fighting. The accusation comes after a major counter-offensive has broken out in southeastern Ukraine, forcing troops to withdraw from the important port of Novoazovsk. Reuters reporters confirm seeing troops dressed in uniforms and using equipment consistent with the Russian military. NATO and the European Union are weighing their options. 

For their part the Russians are denying everything. -RT. The Russians claim to have zero troops in Ukraine and claim there is no evidence otherwise. They also claim that Novoazovsk was abandoned after a ten shell artillery barrage. 

My Comment:
I tend to trust the Reuters report then the Russian one. Obviously RT is propaganda, and while the same could be said for western media the fact of the matter is that the conditions are right for Putin to move. The last strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk were about to fall, the humanitarian conditions were deteriorating and the chances of Ukraine finally winning were higher then they had ever been before. Putin probably felt he had to act. 

As for the war itself, if it is legit then I don't see Ukraine winning. Russia has a much larger military, local support and very little chance of any outside interference. They will end up winning in the long run, but the cost in lives and money will be high. Sanctions will be coming as well and there is a very good chance that U.S.- Russian relations will deteriorate even further.

I'll have an update on this situation later tonight.  

Suspected LA serial killer arrested. -LA Times

City officials announce the arrest. -LA Times.

 A man arrested in Los Angeles in connection to a shooting spree has been described as a serial killer. -LA Times. The police recovered a shotgun from the suspect, Alexander Hernandez, that linked a murder to an additional three other killings. In addition he wounded and shot at several other people. Hernandez was also charged for animal cruelty for shooting three dogs, killing two of them. Hernandez has a long criminal record and was under an order of protection for his ex-girlfriend. Prosecutors may seek the death penalty. 

My Comment:
So much for gun control keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals. California has some of the most severe gun control in the nation. Despite that this guy most likely was able to obtain a shotgun despite being a dangerous, mentally ill and abusive person. He got his shotgun somehow and I doubt any gun control would have stopped him from killing (if indeed they have the right guy).

As for the crimes itself, it's obviously a tragedy. The victims seem totally random. Maybe a criminal profiler could find some rhyme or reason to these crimes, but i can't. I don't think there is any political statement like there were for the DC sniper shootings though. Hernandez must have had some other motivation. 

WHO says that the Ebola virus could infect 20,000 people, new casualty figures released. Yahoo/AFP

Nurses help a man with Ebola to the hospital. Yahoo/AFP.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 20,000 could be infected with the disease before the crisis ends. Yahoo/AFP. New figures released by WHO show that 3062 people have been infected while 1552 have died from Ebola in four countries. Hopes that the virus had been contained in Nigeria were shown to be premature after the virus escaped the capital of Lagos. A doctor who had treated the index case in Nigeria died in the countries oil heartland. 

My Comment:
Grim news out of Africa. I think the WHO is a bit optimistic here. The situation is completely out of control in Liberia and the other three countries aren't that much better off. The fact that Nigeria has been unable to contain Ebola has failed does not bode well. But the situation in the West Point slum in Liberia is completely out of control. The situation is so dire there that government troops are shooting people to sustain the quarantine. There is a slight, though real, possibility that 20,000 infections could happen in West Point alone. That's about the worst case scenario but it seems that these governments are completely incapable of containing the outbreak. Of course the virus has also broken out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, so this is now a war on two fronts. 

Also, I don't know why it took so long to release the updated figures. There was an 8 day gap between the last report and the numbers released today. The info was for the 26th but that still leaves a 6 day gap. I am guessing that the WHO isn't clear about these numbers and given how chaotic and dysfunctional things are. Treat them as a "best guess" and not a clear accounting of the issue.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chaos in Liberia as troops fire on Ebola protesters. Yahoo/Reuters

The standard Ebola picture. Wikipedia/CDC

Chaos erupted in the West Point slum in Liberia as protesters and government troops clashed over the quarantine for Ebola. -Yahoo/Reuters. The protesters were trying to break the quarantine and the soldiers opened fire with live ammunition. At least four people were injured, including a young boy who had most of his leg shot off. Liberia is running out of supplies and medicine while the West Point slum is running out of everything, including food. Costs of even the most basic goods in the slum have skyrocketed. 

My Comment:
For the sake of clarity, West Point is the slum where looters attacked an Ebola clinic and stole infected blankets and other goods. And this is exactly what I was worried about. Ebola is terrible enough on its own but the economic and social conflicts that the disease is causing are the real threat. But what else can they do? West Point is most likely doomed and to let free travel from the slum could kill even more people. Of course shooting a bunch of people will just turn more people against the government and make it harder for those people to believe the governments line on Ebola. No matter what happens Ebola wins. This situation is horrible. 

As a side note I'm not sure where Reuters is getting the 1350 number for the death toll. The last number i saw was 1427 and those numbers are a week old. And even those numbers are optimistic because many cases and deaths have not been reported yet. And I doubt it counts the people who died in the Democratic Republic of Congo, though that may be a separate outbreak. 

American killed in Syria fighting for ISIS. -Yahoo/Reuters.

Douglass McAurthur McCain. Yahoo/AP

An American was killed in Syria while allegedly fighting for ISIS. -Yahoo/Reuters. The United States government confirmed that Douglass McAurthur McCain has died while in Syria. Reports are that McCain was a convert to Islam and had publicly shown support for ISIS on social media and in person. If the allegations are true McCain would be counted on the roughly 100 Americans who are fighting for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Last may one of these men committed a suicide bombing in Syria.

My Comment:
I can't imagine what McCain's family is feeling right now. I know that if I had a relative fighting for ISIS I would probably blame myself and wonder if there was anything I could have done to prevent it. Hopefully they can get through it ok. 

This is one of the largest dangers to the West from ISIS. McCain died before he could come home and cause trouble but how many more like him are there? The problem is bad enough for the estimated 100 fighters from America, but Europe and Australia have the same problem but have a much large population of citizens working for ISIS. Sooner or later one of these American or European fighters will come home. I purposely choose this photo instead of a later dated one after he radicalized to show how easy it would be for someone like McCain to blend in with the population. He looks like a normal black man, and it goes to show that it isn't just Arabs that are caught up in radical Islam. The Boston Marathon suspects where white and there are radical Muslims of every race. This is a threat that is bigger then most people realize and it isn't going away anytime soon... 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ukraine has captured 10 Russian paratroopers as Putin and Poroshenko sit down to talk. -Reuters

Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko meet in Minsk. -Reuters.

Ukraine claims to have captured 10 Russian paratroopers as the leaders of Ukraine and Russia meet. -Reuters. Ukraine claims that the troops were on a specific mission and that they were not in the area by mistake. They released a video to their facebook page offering proof. Russia is claiming that these troops entered the area by accident. The troops were captured near the fighting in Donetsk. 

Ukraine Today.

My Comment:
More proof that Russia is deeply involved in the Ukrainian civil war. That's nothing new of course but until this point they didn't have solid proof of Russian troops. My question is whether these troops were mistreated or tortured by the Ukrainians. It seems odd to me that would talk so freely. Especially if they were elite paratroopers. I don't know if these soldiers would be covered under the Geneva conventions or not, but I would think that all they would be required to say is their name, rank and serial number. 

As for the talks, I am not optimistic that they will result in a breakthrough. Putin holds all the cards and Poroshenko has no reason to give up just yet. I think it is possible that Putin will try to strong arm Poroshenko and threaten war. Any actual peace coming from these talks seems very unlikely. 

Obama authorizes surveillance flights over Syria. Yahoo/AP

An ISIS member. Yahoo/Reuters

Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria in an effort to contain ISIS. Yahoo/AP. The move comes after the Obama administration mulls sending airstrikes to target ISIS militants. Surveillance would be needed to find targets and collect intelligence. The administration has not confirmed any airstrikes in Syria, but has said they will act if American lives were endangered. 

My Comment:
For any proposed airstrikes to be effective they are going to need more intelligence then these surveillance flights will provide. I know the NSA is involved as well but what they really need is human intelligence. For that they will probably have to work with Syria. Of course, that is what should happen, but I doubt it will. One of the major problems with this administration, and the past one, is far too much reliance on electronic surveillance. That isn't going to help much when targeting an army that blends in with the locals.

As for actually using airstrikes in Syria, I'm not completely opposed to it. ISIS deserves to get a few bombs dropped on them. But I want Obama to at least try and work with Syria. We don't need to get into a shooting war with them and if we were to lose a plane it would be nice to have a 2nd semi-friendly group in the area to help recover pilots. I seriously doubt he will do so. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

My thoughts on the funeral of Michael Brown. Yahoo/AP

Al Sharpton and the Brown family. Yahoo/AP

The funeral of Michael Brown occurred today.  Yahoo/AP. The event resembled a civil rights rally rather then a mourning event. People in attendance included Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Spike Lee and Sean Combs. The White House also sent a delegation. The funeral portrayed Brown as a college bound "gentle giant".

My Comment:
I know that a funeral is probably the wrong place to point this out but no mention of the fact that he robbed a store? An accusation of racism without any evidence whatsoever? I know the narrative is that Brown was brutally gunned down by a racist cop but that narrative lasted about a week before the questions overcame the story. And at the very least it has been proven that Brown was not an innocent young man. Far from a gentle giant, the surveillance video proves that he was capable of violence.  

So why is Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the rest of the black leadership pushing this case so hard? You could argue that they are being pushed by events, and to some degree this is true. The case would have never been anything other then a local issue if it wasn't for twitter. But I have a more cynical explanation. Why this case or the Trayvon Martin case? It was clear in both incidences that there was a massive amount of ambiguity in both cases and in both cases it was fairly obvious from the start that any trial would end in a acquittal. So why not pick a case where there was no ambiguity? Surly there has been at least one case where a white racist killed a black man with no ambiguity, right?  

I think the real reason they chose this case to push their agenda in a particularly cynical way. They know that a decent portion of Americans won't support the prosecution of Darren Wilson due to the fact that many people actually still care about the presumption of innocence. They also know that their supporters tend to dismiss evidence that sheds light on the "victims" in these cases. This allows leaders like Sharpton and Jackson to portray white America as racist and allow them to play the victim card. After all why else would a jury fail to convict a man in an incredibly ambiguous situation in a country where the standard is beyond a reasonable doubt? It has to be racists right? 

I'm not saying there shouldn't be an investigation. And I am not saying that there isn't still problems with race in this country. But the so called black "leadership" in this country is nothing but a bunch of cynical parasites. They depend on these kinds of ambiguous cases to paint a picture of America that, for the most part, isn't true so they can stay relevant.  

BREAKING NEWS! Active shooter at Fort Lee, Virgina. Army Base on lock down.

This is a breaking news story. I'll update as i go. Not much to go on right now.

AP story:
LA Times

CNN is reporting that the 5020 building of the Combined Arms Headquarters is the one being locked down. Looks like the only info they have is from the bases twitter feed.

The Fort Lee facebook account is saying that an all clear has been sounded.

Just heard on Fox News that the shooter is in custody. They said it was a woman who was disgruntled about something.

I'm starting to see on social media that the only person hurt in this attack was the shooter herself. If that ends up being true that is good news.

The Fort Lee facebook account is making this look like a suicide attempt and nothing else. Not a good situation but not nearly as bad as I thought.

What happens when ISIS retreats? Entire town rigged with explosives and destroyed. War is Boring.

The devastation in Talesskef. -War is Boring

When ISIS retreated from the Christian village of Talesskef, they rigged the town with explosives and destroyed most of it. -War is Boring. Militants attempted to destroy almost all of the buildings in Talesskef but were unable to set off all of the explosives. Some residents have returned to sift through the rubble along with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, but most are too afraid of ISIS to return. The Peshmerga fighters, made up of Yezidi, Christians and Muslims, are eager to continue the fight but want more heavy weapons.

My Comment:
An excellent report from War is Boring. There are also some fairly impressive photos in the post. Read it all, it's not very long. 

Add this to the long list of crimes ISIS has committed in its war against humanity. This wanton destruction serves no purpose other then spite and hate. It seems that even if we defeat ISIS many of the people they have displaced will have no homes to go back too. So how do we defeat them? The Peshmerga have the right idea. They have Christians, Muslims and Yezidi all working together to fight a common enemy. The rest of the region, and indeed the world, need to do the same thing. ISIS is everyone's enemy. 

Can America and Syria work together to defeat ISIS? -Yahoo/Reuters

Purported airstrike on ISIS forces in Iraq. Could the same happen in Syria? Via Youtube

Syria wants to work with the United States to defeat ISIS. -Yahoo/Reuters. Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem said that any state serious about fighting ISIS will work with Syria. He said his government is ready to work with any country to fight ISIS. However, any attacks not authorized by Syria would be considered an act of aggression. For it's part, the White House is considering striking ISIS militants in Syria, though it is not clear at all if they will work with the Syrian government. The Obama administration almost launched a war with Syria last year and has sent support to Free Syrian Army rebels.

My Comment:
 I first posted about this story here. I stand by my comments that even though ISIS is partially the fault of Bashar al-Assad, it's probably better to work with him then against him. It's possible that we already are. ISIS is everyone's problem. Radical Islam is everyone's problem. Like i said before, this is a world war that affects most countries on earth. It is also an opportunity. The threat from ISIS is so severe that countries that would normally hate each other are at least considering working together to fight them. These alliances of convince may have no lasting impact, but hopefully people might learn to trust each other a little bit. Of course America and Russia (and to a lesser degree) China all have problems with radical Islam as well, but tensions are higher then ever.

The other thing to point out is that the fact that such diverse and otherwise belligerent nations are even considering working together is a clear sign how bad the situation in Syria and Iraq is. Their success this summer has been nothing short of amazing and more fighters are joining up from the Middle East and Europe everyday. This isn't going to be a war that will be easy to win and it won't stay contained to Iraq and Syria...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ebola has spread to a 5th country, Democratic Republic of Congo. Yahoo/AFP

Ebola hospital in Liberia. Yahoo/AFP

Laboratory tests confirmed that at least two people who had died in a mysterious viral outbreak had Ebola. Yahoo/AFP. Ebola was first discovered in The Democratic Republic of Congo and this is the 7th outbreak. They have experience fighting the disease and claim that this outbreak is contained to the area around Jera. It is unclear if this outbreak is related to the outbreak in West Africa. 

My Comment:
It doesn't really matter if this is a new outbreak or connected to the old one. Ebola has surfaced in a 5th country. Nothing good will come from this. At least Congo has a lot of experience fighting the disease. This outbreak should be much more like previous Ebola outbreaks that burn out quickly then the one happening in West Africa since it has not spread to any major cities. The conditions in West African cities are much more optimal for the spread of the disease then the isolated area in the Congo that this outbreak is contained too. 

I'm somewhat surprised at this report. I had heard about this outbreak (but didn't cover it here) and previous reports had this as some other hemorrhagic fever and not Ebola. I'm assuming that if the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo is saying it is Ebola, then it is probably Ebola. Still, I wonder what the source was for the other explanation? 

RAW VIDEO. Israeli airstrike collapses building. -Telegraph


My Comment:
I'm going to go ahead and keep my policy of not discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I just want to share the video because it isn't every day that you see a 12 story building collapse during an airstrike. 

Is Iran sending tanks into fight in Iraq? -War is Boring

Purported Iranian tanks entering Iraq. -War is Boring

According to Kurdish social media activists, Iran has sent elements of the 81st armored division, along with their contingent of old American-made tanks, over the border with Iraq. -War is Boring. ISIS had struck at an Iranian border post in the area before and it would mark a huge change in policy for all countries involved. The tanks are generally old and out of date, but Kurdish Peshmerga forces have a distinct lack of heavy weapons. The tanks could be used to support the Kurdish infantry and counter ISIS's reliance on captured vehicles and lighting raids via technical (improvised fighting vehicles made from pickup trucks). 

My Comment:
This report seems dubious to me. I usually trust War is Boring but I have been unable to find any other source reporting this. I have also been unable to find the tweets the report is mentioning, though to be fair my expertise in twitter is greatly lacking. It's worth discussing though because it certainly is possible. I would just like a little more proof. At this point it's probably more wishful thinking on the part of the blogger and/or the social media activists. 

I do know that Iran is probably operating in some kind of military capacity in Iraq. Much like in Syria, Iran is very concerned with ISIS and is willing to fight them. ISIS, after all, hates everyone that isn't their specific brand of Sunni Muslim and if Iran (and the world for that matter) doesn't deal with them in Iraq they might have to deal with them at home. I'm sure the Kurdish Peshmerga would welcome Iranian tanks with open arms, despite their bad blood with Iran. They desperately need heavy weapons to fight ISIS. U.S. airstrikes aren't enough. If Iran wants to help they will probably be allowed to do so. ISIS is as much their concern as it is ours. They are a global problem... 

Obama orders review of military surplus being given to cops. Yahoo/Reuters

Riot police in Ferguson armed with some decent equipment. Yahoo/Reuters

Obama has ordered a review into the federal program that sends money to police departments to buy military hardware. Yahoo/Reuters. The response comes after widespread outrage at the equipment to cops in Ferguson Missouri during the riots. The review will involve several federal agencies and will be overseen by the White House. The so called 1033 program has requirements for police to use their equipment and does not mandate training in things like crowd control. 

My Comment:
Talk about some selective outrage by the Obama administration and the public in general. Back when the Boston bombing/manhunt happened only a few people, mostly libertarians and anarchists, complained about pictures of heavily armed and armored cops pointing their weapons at civilians. When the Cliven Bundy standoff happened, even fewer complained and some liberal commentators called for the Obama administration to bomb the whole protest, either tongue in check or legitimately. If the police using military style equipment was ok then, why is not ok in Ferguson? I hate to bring race into it but if you look at the demographics of the protesters, they are for the most part in the demographics that support the Democratic Party. The Cliven Bundy protesters were almost exclusively not in those demographics. Once again, it's not about who is wrong or right, but which team is getting screwed over. 

As for my take on the militarization of police, I'm against it. I have no problem with cops having military style weapons because I believe everyone should be able to have them. I do have a problem when the cops have better guns then the general public. If we can't have fully automatic weapons then the cops shouldn't either. As for the body armor and MRAPs, these should be reserved for big city swat teams and not backwater towns with 4 cops. I don't see this review going that far, or doing much of anything really. Obama doesn't want demilitarized police. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

More money is being raised for the defense of Officer Darren Wilson then for the family of Michael Brown. -CNN

Officer Darren Wilson. -CNN/Facebook

More money is being raised for Officer Darren Wilson then for the family of Michael Brown on charity website -CNN. At the time of the report, Wilson had raised over $235,000 while Brown's family raised only $165,000. Messages for support for both sides were posted on each of the fund raisers. 

My Comment:
As of this posting, Brown's gofundme account is at $192,805, just shy of its $200,000 goal. Officer Wilson's page exceed it's goal of $234,910 and has started a second page that has collected an additional $49,221. CNN forgot to mention (or didn't know) that a certain imageboard, known for stirring up trouble and that will not be named on this blog under any circumstances, was a large part of getting the word out for Officer Wilson's page. They legitimately support Wilson though, in their own demented way, along with many thousands of cops and regular people as well.

What's my take on it? People have way more disposable income then I do. I understand wanting to correct a perceived injustice, but I don't understand how people have the money. I wish I was rich enough to spend money on charity. Oh well. Either way though it shows that this case is important. Passions are running high on this case and it really isn't about who is right or wrong, but that your team is winning. And, for now at least, Wilson's side is winning.

 If someone pointed a gun at my head and said donate to one side or the other, I would vote for Wilson. Why? Brown's family has more then enough money to bury their son. Wilson is going to need all he needs and more to attempt to defend himself. I'm a strong believer in the presumption of innocence, and these kinds of media trials rub me the wrong way. Even if he is 100% guilty he still deserves a fair trial, and the sad truth of the matter is in this kind of case you need thousands or even millions of dollars to get one. Even if he is acquitted, he will end up just like George Zimmerman did. Broke and unemployable. I don't think that is justice. 

And just in case you want to donate to either party for some reason, I will link to both...

Looks like Russia's "aid" convoy went off without a hitch. -Yahoo/AP

Russian trucks returning after delivering their cargo. -Yahoo/AP

According to the Associated Press, 225 trucks from Russia's aid convoy have returned home after delivering their cargo. The rest of the 260 vehicle convoy are expected back soon. It appears that fears that the convoy would be attacked or destroyed were unfounded. Reporters were able to confirm that at least some of these trucks were loaded with humanitarian aid. For their part Ukraine continued to voice it's outrage over the violation of its borders. Ukraine and its EU and American allies are claiming that Russia has troops operating in the country and that the convoy was just a ruse to send supplies to the rebels. 

My Comment:
Fairly impressive operation by the Russians here. Regardless of the actual intentions of this convoy, the fact is that it was a logistical miracle that they pulled this off. Unloading 260 vehicles in a day in an active war zone is no small feat and the Russians in charge of this operation deserve our respect if nothing else. Hopefully, at least some of these supplies work there way down to the civilians trapped in the crossfire between Ukraine and Russia... 

I'm personally kind of shocked that the operation went off without a hitch. I thought there was a real chance that Ukraine would destroy these trucks, or at least try to. The must have figured out that even if the convoy was a sham, and I am not convinced that it was a complete one, blowing up a convoy of trucks marked as humanitarian aid would not play well. Either that or they weren't willing to further antagonize Putin and decided to just suck it up and deal with it. It's even possible that they did not have the military strength to pull off such an operation. Either way this is probably the best possible outcome for everyone in terms of avoiding a wider war. 

Weekend Movie Night: Rambo: First Blood Part II.

Via IMDb

Welcome again to my occasional movie review series, Weekend Movie Night. I tend to review films that I see for the first time that somehow relate to this blog and I guess this qualifies. Barely. I finally saw Rambo: First Blood Part II. Yep, it took me long enough. I had watched the original Rambo aka First Blood and had really enjoyed it. It was a tense thriller and not an over the top action story. Sure it was still a bit over the top, but it was at least believable. And a fairly good story as well. So how does part two stack up?

Let me be frank. I think I have been spoiled by modern action movies. This movie was almost laughable when you compare it to modern films. The gratuitous hip-firing, bottomless magazines, the fireball explosions, the complete and utter lack of trigger discipline, it all screams 1980's action movie. I'm so used to not seeing those things in a movie when I see it, it's impossible to take the film seriously. This felt like a parody of cheesy action flicks and felt more like a live action cartoon then a serious film. Comparing this to the last movie I reviewed for this blog, Lone Survivor, is like comparing the original Battlestar Galactica to the reboot. The world has changed so much since it was made that it's just not possible to not laugh a bit.

Having said all that the film isn't completely without merit. The story was at least serviceable, even though historically it was extremely unlikely that the central plot could have happened. By 1985, if there were any POW's left in Vietnam, they were there by choice. But again, for an excuse plot for a cheesy 80's action movie it was adequate. Some of the action scenes, though completely over the top, are genuinely fun to watch, and not even on an ironic level. I'm such a sucker for aviation combat that I'll forgive the fact that the helicopters involved in the climax were obvious knock-offs. Obviously, due to the cold war, they didn't happen to have Russian helicopters sitting around and to be completely honest they did a great job with their mockups. Even though there was very little tension in the film because you knew Rambo was going to win, it was at least fun.

So would I recommend it? Depends how willing you are to shut your brain off. There are better Vietnam movies, better cheesy action movies and at least two better Rambo films. First Blood was actually a completely watchable movie and the 4th film, Rambo (getting confused yet?) was at least bloody fun. To be fair to the 4th film I only caught the end of it, but it was still fun. Better then this movie at least. I can't say i recommend it as a good film, but I just might recommend it for ironic viewing or if you really like big dumb action flicks and want to see the mother of them all. Otherwise stay away. 

One final complaint for the DVD version (yes I still watch movies on DVD's) that nobody else will probably care about besides me. It did not have closed captioning! I live in an apartment and watch movies late at night so I have to keep my tv moderately quiet, so I usually always have CC on. But even if I could have cranked it, I still would have had trouble understanding ol' mush mouth Stalone. The female lead was somewhat heavily accented as well, so it did hurt my enjoyment of the film. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Chinese fighter harasses a U.S. spy plane. -Yahoo/Reuters.

Navy P-8 Poseidon. Yahoo/Reuters

The United States is furious after a Chinese fighter plane harassed a U.S. spy plane. Yahoo/Reuters. The fighter came within yards of the P-8 Poseidon and preformed aerobatic maneuvers like barrel rolls. The incident took place in international waters but near a secret Chinese submarine base on Hainan Island. A similar incident in 2001 ended up with the fighter jet being destroyed and the spy plane being damaged in a mid-air collision. The incident occurs amid high tensions in the region but also during a period of slightly better relations with China.

My Comment:
I'm guessing that pilot was having the time of his life. Nothing more fun for a fighter pilot then upstaging a international rival and that's what happened here. I'm not saying that the Chinese aren't playing a very dangerous game here. Nobody wants a repeat of the 2001 incident. But that pilot was probably pretty happy he got to do what he did. Fighter pilots are pretty much always daredevils, regardless of what country they serve. 

These kind of bloodless skirmishes happen all the time. I've posted about an incident with the Russians we had recently.  It's nothing new and it's a way for countries to saber rattle without too much risk. Unfortunately, the risk isn't zero. Sooner or later one of these hot shot fighter pilots will push himself to hard and end up hitting one of these spy planes. That most likely wouldn't start a war or anything, but it would be a needless tragedy and could increase tensions. 

More information is coming out about the murder of James Foley. -Reuters

A tribute to the Foley family in Rochester, New Hampshire. Reuters

More information is coming out about the beheading of U.S. reporter James Foley by ISIS. -Reuters. Foley was executed in a gruesome video posted on youtube last Tuesday. ISIS had originally offered to ransom Foley for $100 million or for a prisoner exchange. America refused to pay. When U.S. airstrikes targeting ISIS happened this month the terrorists sent an e-mail to the family claiming that they were no longer interested in negotiation. They carried through with their threats to kill Foley. More details about the conditions of Foley's captivity were revealed as well as the fact that many other western journalists are being held in Iraq or Syria. Two French journalists that were held with Foley claimed that he had suffered worse treatment then everyone else because it was discovered that he had a brother in the Air Force and because he was an American. 

My Comment:
I can't imagine what Foley had to go through. Not to mention his family as well. Having to be an American with a relative in the military and captured by ISIS... it must have been terrible. 

As for why the government didn't pay the $100 million ransom, it seems obvious to me that they could not in good conscious do it. That money would have gone directly to an organization responsible for terrorism, genocide and countless atrocities. It might have even gone to fund an operation designed to attack America or her allies. No disrespect to Foley or his family, but no one persons life is worth that cost. Plus, paying the ransom would just encourage more hostage taking. Having said all that, I am glad that it wasn't my call. That's the kind of decision that you regret for the rest of your life even if it is completely justified and correct.

As much as I criticize Obama, and for good reason I might add, I can't fault him for this issue. His speech he gave the other day was good and he didn't downplay the horror of what happened. He also tried to rescue Foley and the others that were being held captive. You can question the results, but at least he tired. And most importantly, he didn't cave to terrorist demands. Again, I'm no fan of Obama, but I believe in giving credit when credit is due. 

The Russian "humanitarian" convoy has entered Ukraine. Yahoo/AP

The convoy entering Ukraine. Yahoo/AP

Russia has sent it's "humanitarian" convoy over the border without Ukraine's permission. Yahoo/AP. Ukraine calls this a "direct invasion". The supplies are intended for the besieged city of Luhansk, where Ukraine has been making gains in the past few days. However, fears are high that the aid convoy is just a cover for a military operation. The International Red Cross wanted to escort the convoy to alleviate those fears but had to back out when neither side could guarantee their safety. Ukraine had agreed to allow a few trucks to cross the border but many more are coming over. Russia accused Ukraine of deliberately stalling and claimed they had to act because if they waited there wouldn't be anyone left to help.

My Comment:
I've said before that this is a win-win scenario for Putin. If anything happens to these trucks, he can use it as an excuse to invade. If they succeed with their mission, the rebels will be able to survive longer. I've said it a million times, the longer the war goes on the better Putin's position will be at the bargaining table. It also has propaganda value. Some of these supplies will go to civilians who do in fact desperately need help. 

I do have to say that I am honestly surprised that it took this long. When the story first broke I figured the trucks wouldn't even stop at the border. To say I was surprised that Russia and Ukraine actually tried to talk this out is an understatement. It's disappointing that they couldn't come to some mutually beneficial agreement but at least the lines of communication are still open. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Clearing up some misconceptions about the Michael Brown case and self defense in general.

Riot police in Ferguson. NBC.

I've been closely following the reporting and public reaction to the Ferguson. Now, I am the first to admit that the case brings up some important issues. The militarization of the police, for example, is an issue that deserves to be discussed. This isn't going to be about that though. The topic of this post deals with the issues and opinions that are either illogical or wrong. I'm not here to comment on who is guilty and who is not, I have other posts for that. This one is going to be about things people should already know due to common sense and basic education, but somehow don't. The question is when is it ok to use lethal force. I will offer a disclaimer, I'm not a lawyer so I take no responsibility if you misinterpret my words and do something stupid. Educate yourself on your state laws. And of course, this is an American perspective, so if you are in a different country I won't claim to understand how your laws work.

"Shooting an unarmed person is never ok! It's not self defense if they don't have a weapon!"
This one came up in the George Zimmerman case, and it is, without a doubt, completely and utterly wrong. You don't need a weapon to kill someone. You can kill someone with your bare hands. You can kill someone with a single punch. You can be choked out, kicked to death or thrown down onto the pavement. In short it is very easy to kill someone without using a weapon. The standard for self defense isn't about whether or not someone is armed or not but if the person claiming self defense fears for there life. Since it is so pathetically easy to die in a fist fight, even accidentally, it is not unreasonable to shoot someone who is actively attacking you without a weapon. It would be unreasonable to not shoot someone who is beating the hell out of you. 

"Well then, the cop should have just shot him in the leg then!"
If the officer had done that then there would be no ambiguity about whether or not he was going to prison. The first rule of gun safety is that you never point your gun at something that you aren't willing to destroy. A leg shot can easily kill someone and isn't a guaranteed way to save someones life. It's also much harder to hit then the center mass of a person. But most importantly a purposeful leg shot is never justified (unless it's the only shot you have). If the situation isn't so dire to require deadly force then you aren't allowed to shoot someone. Period. Even if you aren't trying to kills someone, even if you are trying to save a life, it is NOT justified under the law. Again, you can't use a deadly weapon to purposefully inflict a non-lethal wound if you expect to have a claim of self-defense. Cops and civilians who care about self defense all know this. Real life isn't a movie.

"He still could have used a tazer/mace/baton/bare hands!"
First of all, see above for why deadly force can be justified against someone with no weapon. Second, for the sake of argument, lets say the police account of the incident is true. Here's the recap just in case you haven't heard it before. Brown punches officer Wilson in the face, injuring him. He then walks away. Wilson, having already been attacked and injured takes out his handgun. Brown then charges and gets shot. Again, for the sake of argument assume this is true. I said before that punch to the face could have very well killed Wilson. He already almost died once so lethal force would be called for. The other options, like Tazers, mace or melee weapons aren't designed to be used when your life is on the line. They are for when people are resisting arrest. So if the police account was true using a less then lethal weapon when you are fighting for your life is stupid. The gun was the right weapon to use, if you believe the police account.

"But Brown was shot SIX TIMES! No way is that justified!"
How many of those shots were lethal? From what I understand 4 of the 6 shots were in the arm and upper chest and some of them were grazes. Only the last two, to the face and head, were the kind of hits that were likely to end a threat immediately. People can and have fought on with serious injuries. Only a shot to the spine, heart, brain or lungs are likely to disable a person quickly. Getting shot four times in the arm, while potentially lethal, will not end the threat immediately. There is no such thing as overkill when you are being charged or attacked, you shoot until the person can't fight anymore.

Also, people tend to underestimate how hard it is to shoot accurately with a pistol. I have some experience with firearms and let me tell you, it is hard enough to hit a stationary target with any degree of accuracy. Try doing it in a combat situation, while injured, and with a hostile and moving target. It is not easy. You will take as many shots as you can because you will miss. If that means someones sensibilities are hurt because they watch to many movies and don't understand how guns work then so be it. 

So why post this? I care about self defense. People should know the standards for the use of force. It should be taught in schools. And by doing so we could prevent things like the Michael Brown case from happening. Even if the police are completely wrong about the case and even if Darren Wilson is a cold blooded killer, the version of events they portray is a valid case of self defense. The question is whether or not the evidence supports the defense. I'll leave that up to you. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

US failed in an attempt to rescue hostages held by ISIS. CNN

James Foley. Yahoo/AFP

The United States attempted to rescue hostages held in Syria by the terror group ISIS this summer. -CNN. The mission failed because the hostages were not where they were suspected to be. It is unknown is journalist James Foley was among those to be rescued. More detail is coming out about his case as well. The family was in contact with ISIS and attempted to secure his release. Last week ISIS informed the family that Foley was to be executed. 

My Comment:
Pity that this rescue mission didn't succeed. As for ISIS, I don't believe they were being needlessly sadistic in contacting the family. They certainly were at the end, but remember, kidnapping is a major source of funding for ISIS. When the airstrikes happened, James Foley stopped being a potential source of money and became a political statement. 

Also, I am surprised at how much media attention this is getting. I'm not saying that this isn't a tragedy, just that there has been a ton of tragedy in the Iraq and Syrian wars. Foley is far from the first person to be executed or beheaded by ISIS, he is just the first western person to die. It's like how nobody cared about the mass genocide of Christians by ISIS, but when they started to do it to a more mysterious religious group, the Yazidi, all of a sudden there was media firestorm and airstrikes. I'm sure part of the coverage is due to the fact the media considers Foley to be one of there own. Of course, I'm not saying that the story shouldn't be covered or that the coverage is a bad thing, I just wish the media cared when it was non-westerners being decapitated. 

Bloomberg is up to his old tricks. Kroger is being pressured to ban firearms in its stores. Yahoo/Reuters.

Michael Bloomberg. Via Flicker

Michael Bloomberg's group, Mom's Demand Action, is putting pressure on the nations largest grocery store chain, Kroger, to ban firearms in their stores. Yahoo/Reuters. Kroger insists that the correct action is to follow state and federal laws. Kroger trusts both sides of the issue to be reasonable in their stores. Several other stores, including Chili's and Starbucks have changed their policies after facing pressure from MDA and Bloomberg.

My Comment:
Why can't Bloomberg just go away? We don't have Krogers in my neck of the woods but if we did I wouldn't shop there if they had this policy. My policy is whenever I see a no weapon sign to turn around and take my business elsewhere with only a couple of exceptions. I know that most, if not all, gun rights supporters feel the same way so it would be wise for Kroger to ignore Bloombergs various groups.

Speaking of Bloomberg, he IS the modern gun control movement. Sure there are quite a few people that don't support gun rights, but they are apathetic and they have no where near the dedication of pro-gun people. I have heard many pro-gun people say that they were literally willing to go to war and die over the issue. I have never heard Bloomberg or any pro gun control people say the same thing. The only reason that gun control is still even an issue is because the insane amount of money that Bloomberg is putting into the issue. 

Liberia imposes quarantine on slum where Ebola clinic was attacked. -Yahoo/AP.

Children surround a man that collapsed in Liberia. Yahoo/AP

Liberia has deployed troops to quarantine the entire West Point slum, where an Ebola clinic was raided over the weekend. Yahoo/AP. The looters stole blood soaked sheets and other items possibly infested with the disease and forcing the patients there to flee. This obviously creates a huge risk of a greater outbreak. The troops, riot police, and coast guard forces will attempt to keep people from moving into and out of the slum and suppress any unrest that results from the order. The people in the West Point slum are highly suspicious of their government and justifiably upset at the failure to control Ebola. 

My Comment:
I talked about this incident on Sunday and I am not too surprised at Liberia's actions now. Given the fact that people literally took items covered in blood and other bodily fluids, the outbreak will soon spiral out of control in West Point. This is the only chance they have at containing the disease. The looters sealed their fate when they did what they did. It does look like Liberia is writing off this whole area, but given that it was a slum in the first place they probably did that years ago. 

As for the greater Ebola outbreak the article seemed optimistic for Nigeria and Guinea. I think it's still to early to tell. Remember Ebola can have a long incubation period, so I believe we can't say the tide is turning until twice as long as that incubation period with no new infections. Sierra Leone is in dire straits and it looks like the outbreak in Liberia is going to be apocalyptic, if not for the whole country, then certainly for the West Point slum.  

As for the rest of the world, the media is blowing things out of proportion. Every time someone sneezes after coming back from Africa and gets tested for the disease the media makes it out like that it has been confirmed that Ebola has arrived. It may very well happen but it hasn't happened yet. Only Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria have confirmed active transmission cases as of this writing. I go into more detail about this issue here

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ISIS beheads an American journalist, holds another captive. -Yahoo/Reuters

ISIS has beheaded one American journalist and holds another captive. -Yahoo/Reuters. Video was released of the execution of Journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria two years ago. Another journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff, is being held by ISIS. ISIS claims they executed Foley in response to U.S. airstrikes and will kill Sotloff if the airstrikes continue. The video has not been authenticated as of yet.

My Comment:
Again, I'm not going to link to the video. I don't particularly want to watch it and I don't need that kind of thing on this blog. If you really want to see this for some reason you know how to find it. That being said, my thoughts go out to the families of these journalists. 

I've said many times that ISIS is pretty much evil incarnate. Beheading journalists is about as low as you can get. These men were completely innocent and were not legitimate targets in any way. Even if they were soldiers, executing a man in cold blood, without a trial, for a political statement is not the action of an actual state. Only terrorists would do such a thing. Obviously Obama is going to continue his airstrikes. As tragic as this situation is one life does not outweigh the life of all the people we can save by continuing airstrikes.