Sunday, November 30, 2014

World Health Organization fails to meet its goals in fighting Ebola. Yahoo/AP

Health workers disinfecting a body in Liberia. Yahoo/AP.

The World Health Organization has failed to meet its goals for containing the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. Yahoo/AP. Their goal was to isolate 70% of cases and to safely bury 70% of dead bodies by December 1st. In Guinea, they are on track to meet their goal, but they are not even close in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Liberia only has 23% of cases isolated and 26% of burial teams are up and running while Sierra Leone has 40% of cases isolated and 27% of burial teams active. The spread of Ebola has lessened in recent weeks in Liberia and Guinea but in Sierra Leone the disease is still out of control, especially near the capital and in a border district as well. The WHO's next goal is 100% isolation by January 1st. 

My Comment:
The original goal was completely unrealistic in the first place and did not account for the diseases spread to Mali. If the international community had taken the disease more seriously months ago it would have been achievable. But with so many sick it is already too late. The disease seems to be slowing down in Guinea and Liberia but as long as the infection rate is greater then one, the disease will continue to spread. 

There are, of course, reasons why the disease is doing so well in Sierra Leone. Chief among them is the traditional burial practices that people are still doing. That accounts for many of the new cases and it is amazing to me that people are still doing it. They also don't have enough burial teams, and the ones they do have are overworked and underpaid. And too many of them are men, which causes problems with Sierra Leone's traditional burials that require women to be buried by women. 

So will the disease be contained anytime soon? It seems fairly unlikely. The news out of Liberia and Guinea are encouraging, but the news from Mali and especially Sierra Leone are concerning. With the disease out of control in  Sierra Leone it seems possible that they could reinfect old areas that have had success in fighting the disease. Also, if you look at the raw numbers, it seems clear that Liberia still has a problem with Ebola. They are still seeing many new cases a week, which is reason for concern. I doubt the WHO will meet their January 1st goal, but hopefully the disease will be contained at some point. 

The conversation we should be having about killing in war. Quartz.

We train our soldiers to kill but not to deal with killing. Quartz/Reuters.

Quartz has an excellent post about the conversation we aren't having when it comes to our nations military. I'll skip the normal format for this one because I want you to read it all. But in short, it says we don't spend nearly enough time talking about what it means to kill someone in the military. I didn't serve and I have never even come close to killing anyone, and I hope I never do, but I do know some people that have. None of them really wanted to talk about it, and I was too smart to ask them. It is an incredibly private thing and I always thought the question "Did you kill anyone in the war" was in very bad taste. 

That being said, more needs to be done to talk about this issue. PTSD effects thousands of troops and even the ones it doesn't effect need to have their countries support. And we always need to stop and think about what effect the war will have on the soldiers before we deploy troops. That doesn't mean it should be the only consideration, but it does need to be addressed.

Also, a tip of the hat to War News Updates, since I saw this story there first. 

America is conducting close air support for Iranian troops in Iraq. War is Boring.

An Iranian SU-25 in Baghdad. War is Boring/Aviashots

American airplanes are conducting airstrikes in support for Iranian ground troops in Iraq. War is Boring. Originally, Iranian SU-25 Frogfoots were stationed in Iraq as close air support for the Iranian Shia militias fighting in Iraq. The Iranian planes, as well as an order for a squadron of SU-25's and HIND attack helicopters were supposed to make up a reformed Iraqi Air Force but technical problems and general poor performance resulted in Iran withdrawing their jets. Without the Iranian fighters, Shia militias are now completely dependent on the United States for air support. In several battles, including the battle for Jalawlah, the militias have been observed calling in air support by the press. 

My Comment:
This is a major sign of cooperation between Iran and the United States. When it comes to close air support, effective communication is critical. There has to be someone on the ground directing the strikes or it is incredibly easy for the airplanes to hit the wrong targets. It is possible that the CIA or special forces are on the ground working with the Iranian militias. It isn't very likely though. The more plausible situation is that a Iraqi forward air controller is calling in the strikes. Either way the United States and Iran are working together to fight ISIS. 

And that is the most amazing part of this. If you had told me in 2011 that in three years that Iran and the United States would be working together in battle against a common foe I probably would have laughed in your face. If you had told me that the Turks and the Kurds were working together as well I would laugh even harder. And if you told me that President Obama had been as close as he could possibly get to bombing Assad in Syria without actually doing it, only to go into Syria anyways to target Islamic militants while leaving Assad alone I would have been speechless. And if you told me that the enemy in all of these scenarios was the reborn Al-Qaeda in Iraq, long thought defeated, who had managed to take over half of both Syria and Iraq, become the richest terror group in the world, created a semi-functional state and declared a Caliphate, well, I probably would have believed it. In other words, I am not an optimist. This whole situation is insane. Who knows what the world will look like by 2017?

The Catholic Pope and Orthodox Patriarch demand an end to ISIS attacks in Iraq and Syria. Yahoo/AP

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I speak in Turkey.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I demanded an end to the ISIS campaign against Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq as well as more dialogue between Christians and Muslims. Yahoo/AP. The two leaders issued a joint declaration urging international action to help displaced Christians and allowing them to stay in their native lands. The declaration took place in Turkey, where Pope Francis met with both refugees from Syria and Iraq as well as the Islamic Grand Mufti of Turkey, Rahmi Yaran. In addition to the remarks about Islam, Francis was trying to repair relations with the Orthodox Church, which separated from Catholicism in 1054. The strong relationship between Francis and Bartholomew gives hope that the schism will end at some point. 

My Comment:
The treatment of Christians by ISIS is something that doesn't get enough press. I'll take any opportunity to cover it, even though I am not particularly religious myself. It always angers me when I hear things like "Christians can't be oppressed" when it is very clear that there are plenty of them being martyred overseas. As always, it isn't just ISIS that is doing this, there are many other groups that are targeting Christians as well. It is a major problem that isn't getting enough coverage. So I am always glad to hear when the Pope (and the Orthodox Patriarch) speak out against it. They have a captive audience of more then one billion people, so if they can't bring attention to the issue.

As for the schism in the church, I hope it does end someday. I have no stake in it either way because I am not a member of either church, but if the Catholic and Orthodox churches can overcome a thousand years of schism, botched crusades and political maneuvering then there is hope for us all.  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Another terror attack in China kills 15 people. Yahoo/Reuters.

15 are dead in China's Xinjiang province after a group of people threw bombs in a crowded street marketplace. Yahoo/Reuters. 11 of the dead were the attackers, who were killed by the police. The attackers also stabbed people with knives and used axes as well. The Xinjiang province has a history of terror attacks from the  Uighur Muslim separatists, who are treated as second class citizens in China. Hundreds have died in recent attacks, including one in October that killed 38 people, but media coverage has been sparse due to heavy censorship and restriction by the Chinese government. China has also passed more laws restricting what people can wear and banning any logos and clothing associated with extremism.

My Comment:
The conflict between the Chinese government and the Uighur Muslims is one of the most under-reported and mysterious conflicts in the world today. To be perfectly frank, nobody really knows all that much about what is going on in the region. China is restricting travel to and press coverage of the region so it is hard to determine details. Of course this plays into the hands of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, who have both tried to make inroads into China. Al-Qaeda even went so far as to declare war on China. Either way though the treatment of the Uighur Muslims is something that comes up from time to time in both ISIS and Al-Qaeda propaganda.

As for the attacks themselves, they are crude but effective. China has no real civilian ownership of guns so a shooting spree is out. But time and again these Uighur Muslims have shown that all it takes to kill a lot of people is a crowd of dedicated people with knives and axes. (and yes I will use that as an argument against gun control in the United States) Their side is taking tremendous causalities, both from the police response and the inevitable death penalties for anyone who is captured, but if their main goal is to spread terror and chaos, it seems to be succeeding. The fact that they were using explosives in this particular attack seems to indicate that they might be getting a bit more complicated. Granted, it doesn't take a whole lot of knowledge to make explosives, or find the components for that matter, but it does take more skill then just grabbing an ax and chopping people. Perhaps they are getting help from Al-Qaeda or ISIS?

Of course all of this is speculation because the only source we have for these incidents is the Chinese government..,

Friday, November 28, 2014

BREAKING NEWS! Shooting in Austin with suspected explosives found. -CNN

Police on the scene. WISN 12/ABC

An armed man fired shots at the police headquarters, and possibly the Mexican Consulate and a federal courthouse as well, before being shot and killed by the police in Austin, Texas. -CNN. Police called in the bomb squad after they found a suspected improvised explosive device (IED) in the suspects vehicle. The suspect was wearing a vest that may have been an IED as well. No one was hurt except the suspect. Police evacuated their headquarters and have also executed a search of the suspects house. 

My Comment:
First of all, there isn't a whole lot to go on yet. The situation does not appear to be over yet even though it started rather early in the morning. If the suspect did have IED's it makes sense for the police and the bomb squad to be very cautious. It is lucky that nobody was hurt besides the shooter. If the video posted on the CNN article is accurate this person might have had a car bomb and a suicide vest. There isn't enough proof yet to say that is what happened, but if facts in this case come to support that then the cop who shot this person may have prevented a major terror attack. 

As for who could be responsible take your pick. Of course ISIS inspired Islamic radicals are the easy choice but it could be something else as well. Considering the FBI just foiled a terror attack by the New Black Panthers in St. Louis, it is possible that this is related to the Michael Brown case. It is also possible that this was some right wing terrorist mad about immigration, since the Mexican Consulate may have been a target as well. Or it could be some random crazy person doing it for reasons that only makes sense to him. I'd say the first two possibilities are the most likely. Right now it is just too soon to tell. No matter what though it seems that Texas dodged a bullet.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

UK websites hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army. Yahoo/Reuters.

The SEA's last tweet. Via twitter.

The pro-Bashar Al-Assad hacker group known as the Syrian Electronic Army, has hacked several UK websites. Yahoo/Reuters. The media outlets included newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph, the Independent and the Evening Standard. Other news organizations were targeted as well. Users found the following message when they accessed the webpages: "You've been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)". The new hacks are the most recent in a long line of attacks by the group. 

My Comment:
I can confirm personally that was one of the sites that was hacked. I was checking the site at work tonight on my break and when I loaded up Forbes I got the same message described in the article. I didn't see any of the other things described in the article because I immediately ctrl-alt-deleted and shut down my web browser. I wasn't going to take any risks but it seems that this was fairly harmless. Still, it is kind of weird to post about something I experienced personally. 

As for the SEA, this is a pretty good propaganda coup for them. They are certainly drawing attention to their cause, which is supporting the Syrian regime. At the very least it lead me to poking around their twitter page. Most of it is either technical posts that are beyond me or are in Arabic but there was a post about #gamergate of all things. They are for it, I guess. Somehow I doubt they actually care either way and are just riding on the coattails of a popular twitter hashtag. Either way it is hilarious. The internet is a strange, wonderful place sometimes. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Japan is considering arms exports in defiance of their pacifist past. Yahoo/Reuters.

Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe. Yahoo/Reuters

Japan is considering creating a financing arm to support defense industries that want to export arms to other countries. Yahoo/Reuters. The new financing arm will facilitate and fund arms sales as well as collaborative efforts between Japan and other countries. Some of the weapons systems that could be sold include submarines to Australia, and patrol seaplanes to India. Japan's defense industry is highly fractured and does not take action on defense issues without permission from the government. 

My Comment:
Much like my last post about Germany, another supposedly pacifist country, Japan is getting involved in the arms trade. Of course the article points out that none of this is set in stone but my guess is that it is legit. Arms sales have some very obvious benefits for Japan. First they obviously help the economy. Second it strengthens Japan's defense industry which is useful if you are expecting war. Third, it strengthens international relationships with countries that may end up as allies.

So there are some obvious reasons for Japan to get involved in the international arms trade. But I doubt they would be doing this if China wasn't such a huge threat to Japan. China has been threatening all of its neighbors and Japan has a rather large maritime dispute with them over the Senkaku islands. Everyone in that part of the world is expecting war, which explains why Japan is moving away from their pacifist past. Of course any war between Japan and China would be a worldwide disaster so hopeful nothing comes from it. 

Germany had a secret arms deal with the Kurdish Peshmerga. War is Boring

A Milan anti-tank author. War is Boring/Till Rimmele

Germany has secretly, and without approval of their Parliament, given hundreds of rifles, machine guns and anti-tank weapons to the Iraqi Kurds. -War is Boring. The weapons include 8000 G36 rifles and 200 Panzerfaust 3 anti-tank weapons. In addition they are giving the Peshmerga 30 Milan anti-tank launcher systems, which are highly sophisticated and effective against enemy armor. Trainers traveled to Iraq to train the Kurds on the weapons. The arms deal is politically controversial because Germany has a policy against selling weapons to states involved in war. Germany got around this restriction by simply giving the arms to the Kurds. 

My Comment:
Yet another excellent report by War is Boring. They are a great website and I highly recommend reading them. They tend to cover issues that the mainstream media ignores and they do it with amazing pictures and great style. 

As for the article itself, it isn't too surprising that Germany is doing this. They have a huge motivation to fight ISIS and help the Kurds. All of Europe is under threat from ISIS so giving the Kurds some surplus arms is a good idea. The question is if the German people will accept it. I have to admit, I don't know enough about the domestic politics of Germany to know for sure if the public will go along with these sales. If I was in their position I would be in favor of these sales but I'd be upset that they were secret about it. Of course it isn't like my country hasn't done clandestine arms sales...

For the Kurds this will be a huge boon. Prior to this they did not really have any way to deal with heavy tanks that ISIS has captured. ISIS may still have some M1 Abrams tanks and they shrug off RPG's like they are nothing. I'm assuming that the Milan missiles could do more damage.

And just for fun here is a video of a Milan being fired. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

France postpones delivery of aircraft carrier to Russia. Reuters.

The Mistral class aircraft carrier Vladivostok. -Reuters

France has suspended delivery of the first Mistral class helicopter carrier to Russia. -Reuters. France cites Russia's involvement in the Ukraine civil war as the reason the delivery has been delayed. Russia is understandably upset at the decision and may file claims against France for non-delivery. Other European countries have put massive pressure on France to cancel the deal, which is worth more then $1.58 billion. The suspension of the contract may have an impact on other French arms exports.

My Comment:
Calling this ship an aircraft carrier is a bit of an exaggeration since it can't handle fixed wing jets. It is a helicopter carrier and command and control ship. It can not project power like an actual carrier and its role will be limited to support and humanitarian missions. Still France refusing to deliver this ship is a huge problem for Russia. It will also hurt France. $1.58 billion is a lot of money to lose over politics. 

As for the argument that it is unethical to sell to Russia when they are so involved in Ukraine, I don't buy it. It would be one thing if France was selling deadly weapons or larger warships, but this is just a helicopter carrier. Plus the whole Ukraine issue shouldn't trump a major arms contract. I know if I was going to buy weapons from France I'd be reconsidering it right now. 

Last night in Ferguson was utter chaos. Yahoo/Reuters

Protesters on top of a car. Yahoo/Reuters.

Riots and arson marked protests in Ferguson after Darren Wilson was no-billed in a grand jury decision. Yahoo/Reuters. Shortly after the announcement protesters started to throw rocks and bottles at the police. Gunshots were heard and shortly after police cars and businesses were burning. Police responded with smoke bombs and tear gas that broke up most of the crowds. Across the country other protests occurred, which remained peaceful. That was not the case in Ferguson despite monitors from Amnesty International and pleas from the non-violent protesters. 

My Comment:
Looks like my hopes from last night that the protests would remain peaceful were not to be. At least nobody died but it is utterly disgusting to me that so many businesses were burned and reporters were attacked. 

As for the protesters I really don't understand where they are coming from. I just can't relate to them because I can't relate to Michael Brown. I would never rob a store and rough up a shop-keep. I would never walk in the middle of the street when there is a sidewalk available. If a cop gave me a lawful order, even if he was a jerk about it, I would comply. I would NEVER start a fight with someone who is armed, especially if that person is a cop. Ignoring the morality of those actions, from a purely pragmatic viewpoint none of those things make any sense unless you do not value your life at all. The best case scenario for Brown was getting arrested. Even if he had won in the fight against Wilson the cops would have been over him in seconds anyways. The much more likely scenario is exactly what happened. Dead by gunshot in the street. 

Of course the protesters don't believe any of that happened. To them Michael Brown was a perfect angel that did no wrong ever and that Darren Wilson was a card carrying member of the Klu Klux Klan. All the evidence presented is just a conspiracy to them. I don't know how you reach people like that. It is like trying to argue with 9/11 "truthers". No matter the evidence or how utterly their theories get debunked they just hold onto them harder. 

There were many groups that used the whole incident to push agendas. Of course there are the Jessie Jackson's and Al Sharpton's of the world that must portray the world in a certain way. Then there are all the various political groups that have their own agendas to push as well. The media had to get their ratings and even the right side of the political spectrum had to get their digs in. The whole situation is disgusting. 

As for the rioting, I'm hoping it is over. There is a good chance that it isn't so if something else happens, I will report it. For now though, let's hope that I have nothing to report and this whole situation can fade into the history books. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

My thoughts on the Darren Wilson/Michael Brown grand jury decision.

As you know by now Darren Wilson has not been indicted. It was clear from the start that this was going to be the outcome. Some will say this is because of racism. I say it was because of lack of evidence. It was clear that there was, at the very least, reasonable doubt in the case. I watched the announcement on CNN and the fact that the prosecutor said that many witnesses changed their stories was a huge blow to getting an indictment. It was clear that the forensics never matched the "brutal execution" theory. Even the medical examiner hired by the Brown family disproved that. And, as always, when there is doubt the justice system must err on the side of caution.

So why did this case blow up if it was clear from the start that there would be no indictment? Two factors above all else contributed. The first factor is social media. Twitter and Facebook were the means that the false narrative of this being a brutal race based execution spread. Even though social media is notoriously unreliable as a source of information, people believed rumors spread there before any information came out. Once these rumors and, lets face it, propaganda came out, peoples minds were made up. When information showing that the "hands up don't shoot" narrative was unsupported by evidence, nobody believed it because everyone "knew" what had happened already. 

The second factor was the regular mainstream media. They love this kind of thing. When the George Zimmerman case happened, the cable news networks covered it 24/7 and saw a huge boost in ratings. A racial issue that presses every single hot button issue on both the left and the right is a boon for the media since they can have their talking heads pontificate and speculate and sow outrage. There was very little objective, responsible reporting. The main problem was that the media had to give credence to both sides of the debate when it was fairly clear that the evidence only really supported Darren Wilson. Well, they didn't have to but they did anyways. 

As for any riots and civil unrest so far it seems pretty calm. I saw a few people throwing garbage at the cops and a few people yelling at cameras on CNN. Other then that it seems calm for the moment. We shall see if the peace holds. I'm not holding out hope but it is important to remember that everyone thought that people were going freak out after the Zimmerman trial, but other then a few isolated incidents, nothing much happened. I'll continue to monitor this story through the night and if something does happen I'll post about it. Either way I'll have a round up of information in the morning. 

China is building an island in the disputed Spratly Islands. -IHS Janes

An aerial view of the island. CNES/Distribution Airbus/Spot Image/IHS.

China is building an artificial island in the disputed Spratly Islands capable of handling aircraft. IHS Janes. The new airfield is at Fiery Cross reef and the new land is 3000 meters long and 200 to 300 meters wide. The Chinese are also creating a harbor that could house major warships and supply vessels. China is also working to connect the new land to an existing structure. The move may be seen as aggressive by the five other countries that claim the Spratly Islands. The Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei all claim the island as their own and all of the claimants except for China and Brunei have airfields on various islands. A large military presence on this artificial island may allow China to bully other countries into giving up their claims, or at the very least, give them a strong position at the bargaining table. 

My Comment:
A fairly disturbing report from Jane's. If China is willing to spend what I am presuming to be millions of dollars on this operation, then they are probably willing to fight for the Spratly Islands. This has to be an expensive undertaking, creating an island in the middle of the ocean is no small undertaking, so I can't imagine them giving this up when it is finished. If Jane's is right and the Island will be able to handle aircraft and surface ships then this will be a major deterrent to the other claimants. China's claim to these islands are about as valid as anyone else in the region (ie, not solid at all) but since they are the biggest power in the region they may very well get what they want.

Of course if it wasn't for the resources contained in these islands, nobody would want them. In addition to rich fishing, the islands may have substantial oil and natural gas reserves. China has a huge economy but the one thing they lack is oil. Controlling these islands would give them access to a vital natural resource with the bonus of great fishing. Of course every other power in the region thinks the same thing. The thing is, I don't think all the other claimants combined could beat China in a war unless they had help from the United States or perhaps Japan. If China is willing to go to war over these islands, they will win. They will have a fight on their hands, but there is very little chance of the United States intervening. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Editors note: Thanksgiving edition

A combination of a slow news weekend and an exhausted blog editor means that there wasn't much posting recently. I've been looking for something to comment on all morning and have found nothing. Sure there is a lot of stuff going on, but none of it warrants a post... yet. I might post something about the suicide bombing in Afghanistan at a volleyball tournament, of all things, later this evening, but for now there isn't enough to go on. And everything else is just stories about people waiting for something big to happen. Ferguson is still a mess but there is no word yet on when the news will break. Ebola is still spreading in Mali but not so much that it is showing that they can't handle it yet. And Iraq, Ukraine, Syria, and Russia are still all messes, but no big news about any of them have broken over the weekend, at least not that I have seen.

The big story over the weekend seems to be the Bill Cosby story and I couldn't care less about that.

Blogging was slow this weekend because I was celebrating Thanksgiving a bit early. I'm working on the actual holiday... and getting double time and a half for it. Waking up early and driving for about an hour each way to see my folks was a bit much after a busy and stressful week. This week should be a bit more low key and blogging should pick up as the week goes on, especially if one of the "big stories" finally breaks.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Somali terror group hijacks bus and kills every non-Muslim on board. Yahoo/AP

Al-Shabab fighters in training. 

The radical Islamic group Al-Shabab has killed 28 non-Muslims in a bus hijacking in Kenya. Yahoo/AP. Nineteen men and nine women were killed out of the sixty people on the bus. The bus was hijacked on the way to Kenya's capital Nairobi. The terrorists used rifle fire and an RPG to stop the bus before the executions. The attack is just one of a series of attacks by the terror group in Kenya, the most famous of which was the Westgate Mall attack. These attacks are in response to Kenya's military action against the Al-Shabab group in Somalia. 

My Comment:
Al-Shabab (also sometimes spelled Al-Shabaab for some reason that is beyond me) is one of the smaller terror groups but an important one none the less. The Westgate Mall attack was one of the larger terror attacks in recent history and their campaign against Kenya and any non-Muslim that happens to be there shows no sign of slowing down. It isn't surprising that a failed state like Somalia should spawn such a brutal terror group. There is nothing in Somalia save ideology and piracy. There isn't a way to make a legitimate living there and their government does not function. Plus it has been in a state of civil war for as long as I remember. 

Also, it seems to me that these guys aren't quite as brutal as ISIS is. If they had done this operation I doubt they would have spared the Muslims. Still, killing everyone that isn't your religion is a terrible crime. Hopefully this group gets destroyed soon. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

FBI arrests two Black Panthers for purchasing explosives to use in Ferguson. CBS News

Protesters in Ferguson. CBS News via twitter.

Two Black Panther members have been arrested by the FBI for purchasing explosives to use in the Ferguson protests. -CBS News. The men were caught in a FBI sting and had outstanding warrants. The men were members of the New Black Panther party. The FBI has over 100 agents in the area ahead of the Michael Brown grand jury decision which could be coming any day. Everyone, including the president himself, is calling for calm in the decision. Most people believe that officer Darren Wilson will not be indicted.

My Comment:
Looks like everyone dodged a bullet here. Had these Black Panthers used their explosives, cops could have died and so could have protesters. I'm assuming that they would have used these explosives in pipe bombs for use as crude grenades. I doubt the cops are prepared for that level of resistance, and they would probably fire into the crowd in response, turning a riot into a slaughter. Hopefully this was an isolated incident and not an indication of how the riots will go or this will make the LA riots look like joke.

As for the announcement itself, I haven't heard anything concrete. Twitter seems to be convinced that it will be Sunday but I have no idea where they got that number from. It is possible that it could still be announced tonight, and given the massive preparation of both protesters and police. Given the way the media has been hyping this case though, I am definitely expecting an announcement this weekend. If it happens when I am at home I will write something up the second it happens.

Separate Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo declared over by WHO. -Reuters.

Health workers training in the Congo. Reuters

The 2nd outbreak of Ebola virus has officially been declared to be over by the World Health Organization. -Reuters. No new cases of Ebola have been detected in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the past 42 days, twice as many as the diseases incubation period. The seventh outbreak of the disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo killed 49 people and infected a total of 66. The outbreak had occurred in the remote province of Equateur and did not spread beyond the local area. Though the same species of Ebola virus, the Congo outbreak is considered separate from the West African outbreak which has spread to eight countries and killed thousands. 

My Comment:
Great news out of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It wasn't really unexpected though. After the initial outbreak I had heard almost nothing about this since it was first reported. The Democratic Republic of Congo did very well to stop the outbreak in its tracks. It had some factors in its favor though. 

1. They had dealt with Ebola before. Like the article said this is the seventh time they have had to deal with this disease. They had plenty of trained doctors, some with experience with the disease. 

2. The outbreak was in the middle of nowhere. A major reason that the outbreak in West Africa was so severe was because they reached major cities including capital cities. With the area being so isolated there was little chance of that happening. 

3. Everyone was on edge from the second Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Everyone was on their game so isolation and contact tracing was much easier.

Either way this is great news. News about Ebola has been pretty up and down lately. The disease spreading even faster in Sierra Leone and spreading to yet another country, Mali. Greater outbreaks were avoided in the United States and Spain and it seems that the virus may be loosing steam in Liberia. Time will tell if we have reached the turning point or not. I'm not yet to the point where I'm at all optimistic about the disease but there is at least hope now. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A few thoughts on Barack Obama's action on Immigration.

Just in case you missed it Barack Obama went off on his own and is going to end deportations on about 5 million illegal immigrants. Here's an article if you missed it.  What's my take on it? To be honest it is mostly apathetic. Unlike most people immigration isn't a priority for me. With ISIS, Ebola and the Ukraine conflict there are bigger issues. But I might have a few insights.

1. This is going to be extremely unpopular in middle America. This is a stereotype below but it is true.

And of course there is some truth to that as well. Illegal immigrants take jobs that other people could have. And they also take those jobs even if they pay terribly, artificially lowering wages for everyone else. People always say that other Americans won't do the kind of jobs that illegals take but I'm betting they would if those jobs paid a competitive wage. Businesses won't pay a competitive wage if they have a source of workers who will work for practically nothing. That hurts everyone in the economy.

2. Black people should be more upset then they are since they elected Obama to help them and this action will probably hurt them due to point #1.

3. Both Democrats and Republicans are trapped by this issue. Large majorities in both parties are opposed to illegal immigration. Both parties have influential groups that want reform, big business on the right and bleeding heart liberals (and big business) on the left. Both sides of the debate want to court the Hispanic vote. No matter what anyone does on the issue they will enrage an important core part of their party. It is a lose-lose situation all around.

4. It's a slap in the face to anyone who came here legally.

5. Nobody ever mentions the most important aspect of immigration in the United States. The Mexican Drug war. Of course nobody ever talks about the Mexican Drug war. Even though Mexico is on the edge of a revolution because of it... 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Russia relaxes its gun laws. Business Insider

Putin at a shooting range. Business Insider/Reuters

Russia has relaxed its gun laws and has allowed Russians to carry their guns openly. -Business Insider. The policy allows for self defense but not against woman and children unless they attack in a group or with arms. Russians are now allowed to carry pistols, long barreled rifles and even odder weapons like home made guns and electric weapons. Licensed gun owners are not allowed to carry their weapons at political or religious rallies, with certain exceptions. Many people in Russia are afraid to walk alone at night, with only 46% feeling safe. Gun ownership in Russia pales in comparison to the United States but there are roughly 9 guns for every 100 people. America has 101.5 guns per 100 people. 

My Comment:
Sorry for the obviously biased source but finding info on this that isn't either completely biased or in Russian was incredibly hard. Of course any western media source is going to vilify this decision because western media is completely pro-gun control. And the only thing western media hates more then guns is Russia and Vladimir Putin. Even if this turns out to be the best thing Russia ever did the western media will still hate it. In short there was no chance of this story getting a fair shake. 

It is unfortunate because this particular article is fairly unclear. Is this new law based on a permit system? Is there concealed carry as well or only open carry? Does the law extend to minorities and/or religious minorities? And, most importantly, did people vote for this and do they approve of it? I have my hunches of course but I have no way to really answer these questions. If anyone reading does have a good link, let me know! 

And of course it is very sad that Russia is the only country to be loosening its gun control laws while the rest of the world is clamping down. Most countries don't even have gun rights in any meaningful sense, especially in Europe. In America our rights are under attack. And since everyone thinks that Russia is some kind of despotic hellhole, it is sad that a country with a very poor history of civil rights is the only country in Europe to fight for the right of self defense. 

Editor's note

Blogging will be light today and tomorrow. I got sucked into some mandatory training at work. I won't have much time to post in the morning today and tomorrow. I might have something up during the evenings, especially if there is a big news story. No promises though. Things should be back to normal, whatever that means, by Friday.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Missouri Governor activates National Guard in anticipation of the Michael Brown grand jury decision. Yahoo/Reuters.

Protesters in Clayton Missouri. Yahoo/Reuters

The Governor of Missouri has declared a state of emergency and has activated the National Guard in anticipation of violence after the Michael Brown grand jury decision. -Yahoo/Reuters. The order also places the county police in charge of any riot response instead of the city of Ferguson police. Intermittent protests have continued ever since the violence that occurred this summer. According to ABC news, the FBI has sent a memo telling police forces across the United States to prepare for violence if Darren Wilson is not indicted. Protesters are especially upset that Wilson will get his job back if he is not indicted. 

My Comment:
Looks like this is serious if they are calling out the national guard before the decision has even been read. I said before that this may be a self fulfilling prophecy. The media is hyping the possibility of riots and so is the government. The more people that think that a huge riot is coming then the more people will participate in those riots. And to be fair to the protesters, part of their argument is that they are treated like criminals even if they have done nothing wrong. The most recent protests have been largely peaceful so it might be understandable if people get mad at all these preparations. Of course if they riot because of that then they are proving the various stereotypes about protesters right...

And I must say again that I have very little respect for the supporters of Michael Brown. They don't seem to understand what justice is. Justice doesn't mean that everyone you don't like gets arrested and convicted without due process. Michael Brown is getting justice. Darren Wilson was subject to an investigation and had the case go to grand jury, just like he is owed. If the grand jury declines to charge Wilson then he will go free. That is justice. It's not perfect at all but it is much better then mob rule. Our entire system of government is set up to prevent people from being arrested and convicted without due process. If we ignore it then everything falls apart. Threatening to riot if you don't get what you want is terrorism, especially if what you want is revenge. 

The last American held by ISIS is a 26 year old woman. The Daily Beast.

ISIS fighters. Reuters. 

The last American held by ISIS is a 26 year old woman who was captured in 2013 while trying to help Syrian children. -The Daily Beast. The woman's name has not been released by the media due to her family requesting it be kept secret. It is unclear what her fate will be. In previous executions, ISIS showed the next victim to be executed after every beheading. The woman has not been shown, though ISIS has had no trouble executing women and children before. All of those women and children have been Iraqi or Syrian, none of them have been from a Western country. ISIS is demanding the absurd amount of $6 million dollars for her release. Even if her family could pay, they would likely be charged with a crime because the United States has a no-ransom policy. 

My Comment:
Should ISIS decide to execute this woman the backlash would be immense. As horrible as the other beheadings were, people have become somewhat desensitized by them. It is probably very sexist to say so, but people would care more about the death of a woman then they do about the deaths of  multiple men. That isn't to say that they wouldn't be right to be upset, but in a perfect world the reaction should be the same no matter what the sex of the victim is. I'm fully aware that my opinion is a minority one though, and to be perfectly honest, all my musing on equality might go out the window if I were to watch the execution. I don't like seeing women getting hurt. Period. 

Of course ISIS has no problem whatsoever killing and enslaving women. I've heard stories about what happens to female Kurds who have picked up rifles to join the fight against ISIS who were then captured. Needless to say ISIS did not treat them well. And of course there is the campaign against the Yazidi and Christians in Iraq, where hundreds of women and girls were enslaved

These atrocities have largely gone under the radar in the western media. You would think that a world that is overrun with Feminists and other social justice types would have more to say about the brutal deaths and sexual enslavement of hundreds of women, but right now people are more concerned about what kind of shirt a scientist wears. I wish I was joking, but it seems clear that our priorities are completely out of whack. ISIS can degrade, brutalize and rape hundreds of women and the world doesn't care. One guy wears a shirt that has a woman on it and people go nuts. In the grand scheme of things one of those things should outweigh the other.

Here is hoping that somehow, someway this woman, and all the other hostages ISIS has, are saved.  

Westerners may have been involved in the execution of Peter Kassig. Yahoo/Reuters

Syrian prisoners about to be executed. Yahoo/AP

A British medical student and a French man are accused of participating in the murder of Peter Kassig and many Syrian prisoners. Yahoo/Reuters. A father in the United Kingdom claims that it is very possible that one of the executioners may have been his son. France also claims that one of the executioners was a Maxime Hauchard, who had left France to become a Jihadi in August of 2013. French judges had opened an investigation into Hauchard after he arrived in Syria. French media had interviewed Hauchard and he was quoted as saying his goal was to become a "martyr". The British suspect is a different person then "Jihadi John", the man with a British accent who has carried out the executions of 4 additional western hostages. The man, Nasser Muthana, is a 20 year old medical student who has appeared in propaganda for ISIS before. 

My Comment:
First of all, I didn't want to post a picture from the video but I did for two reason. 1. The actual photo wasn't graphic in anyway and 2. it shows that a bunch of other people got executed by ISIS as well. The nameless Syrian soldiers deserve to have their deaths paid attention to as well. Say what you want about the Syrian regime but these soldiers were still people and nobody deserves to die like they did. The focus is on Kassig, but it is important to note that ISIS is killing everyone in the region. 

As for the story itself, it is more confirmation that Europe has a huge problem with its citizens fighting abroad in Iraq and Syria. ISIS is the main destination for these fighters but the Al-Nusra front and other extremist groups are getting recruits as well. The fear is of course that these fighters could return someday and wreak havoc. Even if they didn't commit terror attacks themselves, they could train others and teach a new generation of home grown terrorists. The problem isn't with people like Hauchard and Muthana, it is with people the various intelligence agencies have missed. There are bound to be dozens of fighters who are in Syria and Iraq now who come from countries that have no idea they are there. 

I'd also like to point out that Reuters was quoting the Daily Mail as a source. Now I do trust Reuters so if they are saying the Daily Mail report is legitimate then I don't feel bad about passing that information along. Still, the Daily Mail doesn't have a whole lot of credibility as far as I am concerned. The case for Muthana's involvement in this murder isn't as strong as it is for Hauchard. He still probably is involved, and his father would have no reason to lie, but just keep in mind that the Daily Mail has been wrong  before.

UPDATE: Father of British man takes back statement claiming that his son was involved in Kassig's murder. -AFP. Like I said, the Daily Mail has been wrong before... The source for this current claim is the BBC which, while biased in its own way, is more credible then the Daily Mail. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

ISIS decapitates yet another American hostage. Reuters.

The Kassig Family begged ISIS for the release of their son. They didn't listen.

ISIS is claiming to have decapitated yet another American hostage, aid worker Abdul Rahman, better known as Peter Kassig. Reuters. A video was posted online and through Jihadi twitter feeds with a decapitated head and a masked man with a British accent.  The man in the video claimed the dead man was Kassig, though the media has not been able to confirm this yet. Kassig was a ex-soldier and had gone to Syria for humanitarian work in an organization he founded. Kassig had converted to Islam while in captivity in Syria. In addition to Kassig, several local prisoners, believed to be Syrian soldiers and airmen, were beheaded as well. 

My Comment:
I wasn't sure if it would be appropriate to post the video made by the Kassig family knowing that their pleas for mercy would be for nothing, but I does show what kind of person Kassig was in life. By my reasoning anyone that founds their own charity to help those displaced by war is one of the good guys. This is of course a terrible tragedy and my thoughts are with the Kassig family. As always, I won't post the video or pictures here.  

As for ISIS, it is painfully clear that they are evil incarnate. They are making war on anyone who isn't them. Kassig converted to Islam while in captivity. It may have been genuine and it may have been in duress, but any group with any kind of mercy at all would have spared him just for making the effort. Not that ISIS has been particularly kind to Muslims anyways, but out of all people you would think they would have spared someone who took up their religion. 

ISIS still has a few western hostages so I won't be surprised if and when this happens again. They have made it abundantly clear that any westerners that are captured by this group will be executed graphically. The other concern is that ISIS will inspire more lone wolf attacks in the west. We have had a spate of home grown, low scale and mostly random terror attacks in the west in the past couple of months and no doubt more will be inspired now. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The fight to save the A-10 continues. Yahoo/Reuters


Senator John McCain is leading the fight in congress to prevent the Pentagon from retiring the venerable A-10 Thunderbolt II, more commonly known as the Warthog. Yahoo/Reuters.  The Pentagon wants to cut the strike plane to save $3.7 billion in operating and maintenance costs as well as $500 million in upgrades. Several Senators, including McCain, want to save the aircraft due to how effective it is in combat. The A-10 is armed with a massive and effective 30mm cannon, missiles, and bombs and is capable of long flights on station. The aircraft is also extremely durable. The aircraft is extremely popular among ground troops due to the amount of firepower it can deliver. The Pentagon has offered to retire only some squadrons but this plan was also rejected by Republican senators. The budget shortfall that cutting the A-10 is supposed to fix is due to Sequestration.

My Comment:
I have to admit some bias here, I love the A-10. It's my second favorite American aircraft right after the F-86 Saber. I've had the pleasure of seeing them in flight a few times and up close at an airshow. As much as people think they are ugly, I think they are awesome. And they are a frighteningly effective aircraft as well. I recently read a book about the A-10 in the first Gulf War. It's called Warthog: Flying the A-10 in the Gulf War, and it was a great look at how it was a key reason why we had such an easy time in that war. I recommend it if you are interested in military history or aviation. 

I'm obviously happy about this move. One of the good things about the Republicans gaining the senate is that they will most likely be able to save this airplane. They may be able to reverse the Sequester or force the Pentagon to cut something else. I know that other aircraft can take the A-10's roles. The F-15/16/35 can do air support, helicopter aviation can destroy tanks and drones can do everything, but none of them can do it as well as the A-10. 

 And the A-10 can have a huge effect on morale, both for our soldiers on the ground and for the enemy. Just look at this and tell me that it wouldn't scare you half to death if it was directed at you. And tell me our soldiers wouldn't be happy to see this coming down on our enemies. 

That's just what the main gun can do.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The preparation for the Michael Brown grand jury decision resembles the preparation for a hurricane. Yahoo News

Yahoo News/

As the Michael Brown grand jury comes closer to a decision surrounding communities are warning residents to prepare for disaster. -Yahoo News. Residents of the city of Berkeley had the above mailer sent to them warning of possible danger and disruption. Some of the suggestions, which resemble those for a hurricane or other major storm, suggest the situation will be dire if and when Darren Wilson is released. Berkeley may be especially effected due to its geographical location and the fact that most Berkeley residents do their shopping in Ferguson. The suggestions include stocking up on food, water, gasoline, and medicine as well as having plans in place for contacting loved ones.

My Comment:
I've already posted about how the residents in the area are buying guns. I said there that I thought further violence would be unlikely, or at least wouldn't be much more serious then it has been already. The fact that the City of Berkeley is taking this so seriously is making me change my mind a bit. This could be a self fulfilling prophecy though. The media and pundits are saying that there will be violence, and that may convince people that they should be violent. 

If there is any large scale violence in response the grand jury's decision, any support for Michael Brown's family will evaporate, at least in middle America. Widespread civil unrest and revenge attacks would terrify pretty much everyone. Still, I'm holding up hope that this will be another George Zimmerman case and not another Rodney King. If it is another Rodney King, then expect this to spill outside of Missouri. 

Just in case you forgot, the Ebola epidemic is still raging in West Africa. Yahoo/Reuters

Health workers taking a body away in Sierra Leone. Yahoo/Reuters.

Over 5000 people have died in the Ebola epidemic and over 14,000 cases have been reported. Yahoo/Reuters. The rate of infection is still surging in Sierra Leone, though cases have leveled up somewhat in Liberia and Guiana. The official numbers are thought to be unreported. The capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown, is a major hotzone for the virus. Mali is now reporting a new outbreak with 3 new people dead and 90 people in quarantine. Liberia has had fewer cases lately, but most of the new cases are in Montserrado district, which is where the capital city, Monrovia, is located. Only 19 of a planned 53 clinics are in operation in the three worst effected countries. More burial teams are needed as well. 

My Comment:
Once again, Ebola has fallen out of the U.S. news recently, but that does not mean that the disease is under control. While the news out of Liberia and Guiana is encouraging, it is important to note that back in spring people thought this outbreak was all but defeated. It came roaring back with a vengeance this summer and is still out of control this fall. And if Mali can't control the outbreak it has and keep any more infected people from crossing the border then we will have a new nation for Ebola to flare up in as it recedes in Liberia and Guiana, if indeed those countries see fewer cases long term. 

I also heard some rumors that one of the victims in Mali was given a traditional burial that involves washing of the body. This tells me two things:
1. Mali has the same cultural practices that helped the disease spread so effectively in the other West African countries. 
2. Many more people were exposed and could very well die from the disease. 

I've also heard that doctors in the effected countries will start treating patients with unproven and possibly unsafe treatments to help contain the spread of the virus. Here's an article from AFP with more information.  The fact that these doctors are throwing out the usual medical tests and safety regulations shows how dire the situation really is. 

Still, it is important to remember that we have had some successes in the fight against Ebola. Senegal and Nigeria are currently Ebola free. Spain and the United States should be soon as well. The virus can be defeated and its starting to look like we might just be able to stop it. A lot of people are going to die before we do, and it is always possible that it may still find a way to spread outside of Africa again. Still, at least there is some hope now. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A must read post on the conflict in Ukraine.

More pictures of the battle in Ukraine. War News Updates/Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev

War News Updates: My Analysis On The Ukraine Conflict 

My Comment: 

War News Updates is a military/political blog and the editor is an Russian expat living in Canada. The editor has a ton of sources in both Ukraine and Russia, including people in both governments. I've been following him throughout the conflict, even back during the protests in Ukraine, and he has always been spot on in his analysis. The fact that Ukrainian retirees in the conflict zone have been completely cut off from social services is a huge story that isn't being reported in Western Media. Most of us have heard that Ukraine is upset about the elections the rebels held but very few of us have heard that these elections resulted in sanctions

Once again, Ukraine is being incredibly stupid and nobody in the west is hearing about it. It is going to be a humanitarian crisis if nothing is done. Russia will not allow its supporters to starve. Expect military action in the next few days/weeks.

Also, War News Updates is a highly recommended blog to follow. He puts out a ton of content and is a good resource for anyone looking for news articles and analysis.

Mali has two more Ebola deaths unrelated to the first imported case. Washington Post

Health workers in Mali. Washington Post/AP

The African country of Mali is reporting two more deaths due to Ebola unrelated to their first case earlier this year. -Washington Post. The two new cases involved a patient who had traveled from the Ebola ravaged country of Guinea and the nurse who treated him or her. Very little else is being released about these people other then the nurse was 25 and the patient was around 50 years of age. The new cases come on the heels of the earlier case, a two year old who also came from Guinea and died from the virus. Contact tracing for that case has been done and out of 108 contacts, 25 have completed the 21 day incubation period and have been released. The process of contact tracing and isolation will have to begin again with the new cases.

My Comment:
There is bad news here and good news. The bad news is that people died, of course, and the fact a second index patient has arrived in Mali. This means people will have to start the whole process of contact tracing again. There wasn't much info about who the index patient was and what he or she did before he or she sought treatment. The good news is that there were only two deaths and, as far as we know, only two new cases total. It is possible that Mali has more cases and isn't saying anything, but that seems unlikely. If they aren't then it is only two people's worth of contacts to trace. That's much easier to contain.

Ebola has fallen out of the news somewhat lately. Part of that is that the feared outbreak in America tapered out. Everyone who has been treated here, except Thomas Duncan, has survived and there are currently no Ebola cases in the United States. Liberia is also apparently having some success with the disease, though as I have mentioned before part of that might be due to the sick staying at home and not seeking treatment. That being said, the outbreak is still a major threat. If Mali isn't able to contain this second imported outbreak, or the first one for that matter since there are still people in the incubation period, then things will be bad. We are having enough problems trying to contain the disease in three countries, four might be too much to handle. Hopefully this outbreak is contained and Mali gets no new imported cases. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Residents of Ferguson prepare for grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case by buying guns. CNN

Residents of Ferguson Missouri are preparing  for the worst as the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown shooting looms. -CNN. People are purchasing firearms at an increased rate and businesses are boarding up their windows in preparation for possible riots and civil unrest. At one gun store in the area residents purchased 100 firearms over the weekend, which is 70 more then a typical weekend. Another gun store saw a 50% rise in sales as well as more people signing up for training. The firearm buyers are from all racial and ethnic groups as even black people are worried about possible unrest. Businesses are also being effected, with many of them boarding up their windows, drawing comparisons to hurricane preparation. Police are exhausted and on edge and even protesters are concerned about what will happen.

My Comment:
This isn't the first time gun sales in Ferguson have spiked. During the first days of the protest gun sales increased as well.  It makes sense of course. When people are rioting and the police are too busy or to apathetic to respond to crime then it makes sense to take steps to protect yourself. A good gun is the best way to do so. Having a gun is a good idea if you are expecting civil unrest or widespread violence.

But will the violence happen? I'd bet money on Darren Wilson not being charged with anything. Stranger things have happened, but unless there is some kind of irrefutable proof of his guilt that we haven't seen yet, he should go free. No matter what you think of the case, if you understand the concept of reasonable doubt then you have to admit that there isn't much of a case here. I'd give it a 75% chance of the grand jury not charging Wilson with anything.

Will there be protests? Of course. Will there be violence? Well there has already been violence and outside groups are in the area just looking to cause trouble. That being said it is important to remember the George Zimmerman case. When Zimmerman went free there were a few small incidents and a few retaliation attacks, but overall nothing much happened. I think this situation is a bit worse but I think the worst case scenario is a return to the rioting and protests that Ferguson has already had. It shouldn't last too long and should not spread and it won't be significantly worse then what has happened already.

Veterans Day

A World War 1 veteran holding the flag of his son who died in Korea back in 1982. Via Wikipedia

As everyone should be aware, today is Veterans Day in the United States and Armistice Day in many parts of Europe. Although the holiday was originally meant to celebrate World War I, in the United States is is one of two "thank you" holidays. Veterans Day is all about thanking everyone who wore the uniform and fought and sacrificed for their country. The other, Memorial Day is for all those that didn't make it back. Obviously, I'm going to use this blog to thank all those who have served and all those that are serving. 

Back in high school, I was seriously considering a military career for myself, but it didn't work out. I have always respected and admired soldiers and I really wanted to be one myself. To the point that I took the ASVAB tests that determine your qualifications and I talked to both the Army and Navy recruiters on several occasions. Unfortunately, a bum knee and general bad health kept me out. To this day it is one of my biggest regrets that I wasn't able to get in somehow. Especially after the 9/11 attacks, the war in Afghanistan and the 2nd war in Iraq. Although going to war would have been dangerous, especially since I wanted to either be a medic/corpsman or a regular infantryman, I would be able to say that I did something for my country. 

As far as veterans I know, some of my best memories were talking to vets about their experiences in war. My grandfather was an engineer in the Pacific during World War II. He served in New Guinea among other places and he occasionally told me stories about Kamakazis and encounters with the headhunters that called New Guinea home. He died before I was old enough to have a serious discussion with him about the war. My uncle was a soldier in Vietnam and in High School I interviewed him about his experiences in Vietnam. It was a fairly serious conversation and I won't go into details here. But needless to say it was an eye-opener. 

A few of my friends are Vets too. If any of them happen to read this, I just want to say thanks for your service. And that goes to any of my readers as well, even if they are from other countries. I've got respect for all soldiers, regardless of uniform, as long as they serve with honor. Defending your country, regardless if you country is right or wrong, is noble. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sucide bomber kills 48 students at a school in Nigeria. Boko Haram are the primary suspects. Yahoo/AP

The location of the blast. Yahoo/AFP

A suicide bombing in Nigeria killed 48 students and injured many more in a terrorist attack on a school. Yahoo/AP. The bomber was dressed in a school uniform and wore a backpack like many of the students at the school. The radical Islamic group, Boko Haram are the most likely suspect. Their five year long insurgency has killed thousands and driven even more from their homes. 2000 students were gathered for an assembly at the Government Technical Service College when the bomb went off. All or almost all of the victims were children or young adults under the age of 20. The citizens of Yobe State, where the attack occurred, are upset that Nigeria hasn't done enough to protect schools from Boko Harem. Some were so upset at the scene of the bombing that they threw rocks at soldiers responding to the attack. 

My Comment:
Some might wonder how anyone could attack a school full of children and young adults. True this was a brutal attack but it is par for the course for Boko Haram. The group is literally named "education is forbidden/sinful", so it is no surprise that they would attack a school. Their radical interpretation of Islam teaches that western education is evil, more evil then killing a school full of kids. Why they did it makes sense, but how they are able to justify it is beyond me. 

Also, I mention this every time I post something about Boko Haram but just because ISIS grabs all the headlines doesn't mean that Boko Haram isn't a threat. They are two heads of the same hydra, along with the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and all the other various Sunni terror groups. The fight against radical Islam is a global one and just because ISIS grabs the headlines doesn't mean we should ignore other groups when they pop up. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fighting flares up in Ukraine. Donetsk under heavy shelling. Yahoo/Reuters

Shelling targets the airport in Donetsk. Yahoo/Reuters

The two month old cease fire in Ukraine seems all but dead as new shelling in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk in the worst fighting since the cease fire was signed. Yahoo/Reuters. The shelling seems to be targeting the government held airport, which has been under siege for quite sometime. Ukraine claims that any attempt by the rebels to take any new territory would violate the terms of the cease fire. Troop movements, including a report that Russian troops have sent an armored column over the border, indicate that an offensive is possibly coming. The OSCE, a neutral organization, confirmed that the column did enter Ukraine. Russia has long denied that any of its troops are fighting in Ukraine officially. 

My Comment:
Looks like the war in Ukraine is heating up again. Like I said in a previous post this has a lot to do with the elections the rebel held east. The elections were a slap in the face to the Ukrainian government and show how determined the rebels are to form their own country. As for the airport, the rebels have been fighting for that for the entire cease fire. The article wasn't clear which side was being shelled, fog of war yet again, but the size and duration of the strikes indicate to me that one side or the other was desperate and risked losing the battle. Time will tell if it was the rebels or the Ukrainian military. 

As for Russia, they are doubling down on Ukraine. They have invested too much in the rebels to give up now. But they are paying a huge price for it. The sanctions are bad for them but what is really killing them right now is lower oil prices. I don't know enough about economics to determine if these low oil prices are natural due to market conditions or if they are due to some kind of economic warfare from the west. Either way Russia is hurting. It is truly a dangerous game for all involved.