Predictable Catastrophe: Money Squandered as Confusing and Lenient Policies Encourage Border Crossings
Stephen Dinan reports: The U.S. government paid for a classroom full of computers in El Salvador, but the Salvadoran government never bothered to hire a teacher, investigators said Wednesday — one of a series of bungles in the Obama administration’s plan to flood Central America with U.S. money to try to stem another surge of illegal immigration.
“Carrying out ineffective campaigns could lead to higher levels of migration to the United States, which is not only potentially costly in terms of U.S. taxpayer resources but costly and dangerous to the migrants and their families.”
In an expansive report on last summer’s surge, the Government Accountability Office said confusing and lenient U.S. policies pushed illegal immigrants to make the crossing, and even cited administration officials who said President Obama’s 2012 deportation amnesty for so-called Dreamers did entice some of the surge.
President Barack Obama attempts to respond to Ju Hong (lower left), who began to heckle him about anti-deportation policies at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center in San Francisco. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
“Initially officials blamed dangerous and economically depressed conditions in three key Central American nations for pushing illegal immigrants north, but eventually Homeland Security officials admitted that confusing and lenient policies — at least as far as illegal immigrants were concerned — were serving as a magnet to draw illegal immigrants.”
Trying to get a handle on the flood, Mr. Obama has requested hundreds of millions of dollars to try to bolster society in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the three countries chiefly responsible for the surge, but GAO investigators said corruption or incompetence among the Central American governments may hinder those efforts.
In the U.S., meanwhile, Homeland Security officials poured money into public relations campaigns to try to warn would-be crossers against attempting it, but the government has no idea if those efforts worked, the GAO said.
“The surge, which totaled nearly 70,000 children traveling without a parent in fiscal year 2014, plus more than 60,000 children and parents traveling together, overwhelmed the Obama administration, which was left struggling for answers.”
“Carrying out ineffective campaigns could lead to higher levels of migration to the United States, which is not only potentially costly in terms of U.S. taxpayer resources but costly and dangerous to the migrants and their families,” the GAO said in its report.
Both the State Department and Homeland Security admitted they need to do a better job collecting information and evaluating what they’re doing.
The report comes a year after the surge of illegal immigrant children and families reshaped the immigration debate, drawing attention to a still-porous border and helping sidetrack President Obama’s hopes of getting Congress to approve a bill legalizing illegal immigrants already in the country.
The surge, which totaled nearly 70,000 children traveling without a parent in fiscal year 2014, plus more than 60,000 children and parents traveling together, overwhelmed the Obama administration, which was left struggling for answers. Read the rest of this entry »
…my colleague Charlie Cooke offered a perfectly clear and depressing summary of the young, low-information, progressive-by-default mindset. (I’m paraphrasing here; refer to his columns for his precise words.)
A significant number of young people now conclude, ‘The government will pay for and take care of all the big things in life – health care, college education, retirement income, day care. This will require higher taxes, but all of those taxes cover all the important things. I’ll get to keep what’s left over. That’s my allowance.’
Does that make you want to punch someone in the face?
First, even if you think that’s a good idea and better than the liberty-minded free market we’ve had for most of our history… what makes you think the federal government is good at taking care of people? The VA scandal? How about the federal government’s program for the disabled?
The nation’s premier federal program that provides work for people who are severely disabled is mired in widespread corruption, financial fraud and violations of the law, numerous sources tell CNN. And instead of helping the severely disabled find work, the taxpayer-funded agency is at times allowing jobs to be taken away from the disabled, the sources say.
The government will legally require you to purchase health insurance, and then send you to a site that doesn’t work to buy it. More importantly, government is not our father and not our mother…(read more)
Alexander Hendrie continues: The House Oversight Committee report cites an officially transcribed
interview with John Minsek, senior investigative analyst with the IRS Criminal Investigations (CI) unit. Minsek examined the Lerner hard drive in 2011. In the transcribed interview, he notes Lerner’s hard drive contained “well-defined scoring creating a concentric circle in the proximity of the center of the disk.” The Oversight Committee report states:
Detail from amber-shred.com product website
“Using the CI unit’s digital forensic facilities, Minsek opened the hard drive and conducted additional tests. Once he opened the hard drive, Minsek noticed “well-defined scoring creating a concentric circle in the proximity of the center of the disk.”
Ameri-Shred’s AMS-750HD hard drive shredder will shred 900 to 1800 hard drives per hour, depending on your voltage and shred width. It can be plant based or placed in a truck for mobile hard drive shredding.
So how did the scoring get there?
Last month, testimony from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) revealed that Lois Lerner’s hard drive had “scoring on the top platter of the drive.” The testimony also noted that the IRS technician that inspected the hard drive believed that additional steps could have been taken to recover data, although this did not occur and the hard drive was later destroyed by an industrial strength AMERI-SHRED AMS-750 HD shredder.
Given these facts, it is logical to question how the “scoring” occurred and whether there was foul play involved. Here it what is known thus far:
– According to TIGTA testimony submitted to the Oversight Committee on June 25, 2014, Lerner’s laptop stopped communicating with the IRS server on Saturday June 11, 2011, between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Hard Drive Shredding Truck AMS-750 HD – AMERI-SHRED
– According to the same testimony,the laptop was likely physically located in Lerner’s office the moment it stopped communicating with the server: Read the rest of this entry »
“He has a blonde, busty mistress, and she’s been code named Energizer by agents. This is unofficially, but that is what they call her…She comes in to the Chappaqua [New York] home whenever Hillary leaves,” Kessler told Talk Radio 1210 WPHT.
“The details coordinate to make sure they don’t cross paths. She, unlike Hillary, is very nice to the agents. She’ll bring cookies.”
In the book’s official Amazon description, it says that the woman “shows up to be with Bill every day while the likely future presidential candidate is away.”
Kessler alleges that the marriage between Bill Clinton and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is a “scam.”
“Agents say that it’s a business relationship,” he told the talk radio station. “It’s not a marriage at all.”
Most Americans think that the federal government is incompetent and wasteful. What causes all the failures? A new study from Cato scholar Chris Edwards examines views on government failure, and outlines five key sources of federal failure. Edwards concludes that the only way to substantially reduce failure is to downsize the federal government: “Political and bureaucratic incentives and the huge size of the federal government are causing endemic failure. The causes of federal failure are deeply structural, and they will not be solved by appointing more competent officials or putting a different party in charge.”
Daniel Halper writes: Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Capitol Hill today the U.S. government will not be revealing the contents of secret side deals with Iran to the American people. Senator Tom Cotton wanted to know why it can’t be made public.
“Why can’t we confirm or deny the content of these agreements in public? Why is this classified? It’s not a sensitive U.S. government document.”
— Senator Tom Cotton
“We don’t have their authorization to reveal what is a confidential agreement…”
— Secretary of State, recreational windsurfer, John Kerry
Watch the exchange:
“So the ayatollahs will know what they agreed to but not the American people?”
Following major, end-of-term rulings on the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage, unfavorable opinions of the Supreme Court have reached a 30-year high. And opinions about the court and its ideology have never been more politically divided.
“Seven-in-ten Americans (70%) say that in deciding cases, the justices of the Supreme Court ‘are often influenced by their own political views.’ Just 24% say they ‘generally put their political views aside. when deciding cases.”
Currently, 48% of Americans have a favorable impression of the Supreme Court, while 43% view the court unfavorably. Unfavorable opinions of the court, while up only modestly since March (39%), are the highest recorded since 1985.
The latest national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted July 14-20 among 2,002 adults, finds that most of the increase in unfavorable views of the Supreme Court has come among Republicans.
“Most Americans (54%) say that the Supreme Court has the right amount of power, while 36% say it is too powerful.”
Just 33% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of the court, while 61% have an unfavorable view. Since March, the share of Republicans viewing the court favorably has fallen 17 percentage points (from 50% to 33%), while the share with an unfavorable impression has jumped 21 percentage points (from 40% to 61%). Republicans’ views of the Supreme Court are now more negative than at any point in the past three decades.
“Only about one-in-ten (7%) thinks the court has too little power”
In contrast, Democrats’ views of the Supreme Court have become more positive since March, though the change has not been as dramatic. Currently, 62% of Democrats have a favorable impression of the court, up from 54% four months ago.
There also has been a major shift in how Americans, especially those at either end of the ideological spectrum, view the Supreme Court’s ideology. The share of the public saying the current Supreme Court is liberal has doubled since March, driven by changing attitudes among Republicans, particularly conservative Republicans.
Overall, 39% of the public views the court as middle-of-the-road, 36% as liberal and 18% as conservative. The share saying the court is liberal has increased from 26% to 36% over the past few months and stands at its highest point in surveys dating to 2007. There has been a ten-point decline in the number saying the court is conservative (18% today, 28% in March), while the share saying it is middle-of-the-road is little changed (39% now, 38% then).
Opinions about the court and its ideology have never been more politically divided
Currently, 68% of conservative Republicans say the current Supreme Court is liberal – up 20 points since March and by far the highest percentage since 2007. About a quarter of conservative Republicans (24%) say the court has a middle-of-the-road approach and 5% see it as conservative.
Liberal Democrats now generally view the current Supreme Court as middle-of-the-road; in March, most saw the court as conservative. Currently, 49% of liberal Democrats say it is middle-of-the-road (up from 31% in March). Three-in-ten (30%) say it is conservative, down from 56% in March. And 17% say the court is liberal, about double the share who said this in March (8%).
Perceptions of the court’s ideology have changed less among those closer to the middle of the ideological spectrum. Moderate and liberal Republicans’ continue to be divided: 42% see the Supreme Court as middle-of-the-road; 40% say it is liberal and 13% say it is conservative. A plurality of conservative and moderate Democrats (43%) continue to say it is middle-of-the-road.
The change in independents’ views of the Supreme Court’s ideology mirrors the shift among the public: 41% say it is middle-of-the-road, little changed from 38% in March; 36% see it as liberal (up 11 points) and 18% say it is conservative (down 10 points). The share of Republican-leaning independents who say the court is liberal has risen from 38% to 54%. Just 23% of independents who lean toward the Democratic Party say the same, up a modest seven percentage points since March.
Little Change in Views of Same-Sex Marriage, Affordable Care Act. In contrast to opinions about the Supreme Court, views on two issues that were the subject of its high-profile rulings – same-sex marriage and the 2010 health care law – have shown little change. Currently, 54% of Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, while 39% are opposed. In May, before the Court’s ruling that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide, 57% favored and 39% opposed same-sex marriage. The public is divided over the 2010 health care law: 48% approve of the law and 49% disapprove. In February, 45% approved of the health care law and 53% disapproved.
Few Think Supreme Court Justices Set Aside Their Political Views. Seven-in-ten Americans (70%) say that in deciding cases, the justices of the Supreme Court “are often influenced by their own political views.” Just 24% say they “generally put their political views aside” when deciding cases. The belief that justices are swayed by their own political views spans partisan and demographic groups. The survey also finds that a majority of the public (56%) says the court should consider the views of most Americans when deciding cases; 39% say they should not be influenced by public opinion.
Supreme Court Not Viewed as ‘Too Powerful.’ A majority (54%) says the Supreme Court has the right amount of power, while 36% think it has too much power; 7% say it has too little power. Republicans (45%) are more likely than Democrats (32%) or independents (33%) to view the court as too powerful.
Supreme Court Favorability
Partisanship, ideology and religious affiliation are all factors in views of the Supreme Court. In addition, supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage and the 2010 health care law have starkly different opinions about the Supreme Court.
By a 63% to 28% margin, those who favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally have a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court. By almost an identical margin (63% to 30%), those who oppose same-sex marriage have an unfavorable impression of the court. The association between views of the court and opinions on same-sex marriage is far stronger than in the past.
Opinions of the court among those who approve and disapprove of the 2010 health care law are similarly divided (61% of those who approve of the law have a favorable opinion of the court, compared with just 33% of those who disapprove). Supporters and opponents of the law were less divided last year, but were similarly split following the court’s 2012 term, in which it ruled the law was constitutional.
Since March, the plunge in the Supreme Court’s favorability among Republicans has largely come among conservatives. Just 27% of conservative Republicans have a favorable impression of the Supreme Court. Four months ago, nearly half (48%) did so. Among moderate and liberal Republicans, there has been a smaller, nine-point decline in positive views of the court (45% now, 54% then). Read the rest of this entry »
“If you break it, you own it. That’s the supposed rule that Democrats imposed on the Bush administration as it allowed Iraq to descend into bloody chaos. If George W. Bush owned the Iraqi disaster, Barack Obama owns the implosion of America’s position in the Middle East.”
Security is one thing; a sense of moderation is another. They are not incompatible values.
President Obama just shattered another long-standing tradition: he didn’t stay at the Waldorf-Astoria during his visit to New York City this past weekend, and is apparently not planning to use the venerable Park Avenue tower during September’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Every president since Herbert Hoover has either lived or stayed at the Waldorf—though Jimmy Carter says he never actually spent the night—and it was for many years the official residence of the United States’ permanent representative to the U.N. The list of overnight guests includes Mr. Obama who stayed at the hotel during previous General Assembly sessions.
“He might do well to take a page from the British. Both Prime Minister David Cameron and the heir to the British thrown, Prince William, were recently photographed traveling (heaven forbid) economy class.”
But no more. The State Department announced that it was moving its headquarters during the U.N. session. Apparently, the sale of the Waldorf to China’s Anbang Insurance Group triggered either pique over the recent hacking of 4.2 million U.S. government personnel records—where China is the main suspect—or real fears about security.
As part of the $1.95 billion sale, there will be a major renovation of the hotel, and some are concerned that the new owners will implant new bugging equipment.
“Similarly, Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton managed to stay chic flying to the French Alps for a ski vacation also on Easyjet.”
So the State Department has decamped to the New York Palace Hotel, which was recently purchased by South Korea’s Lotte Group. According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, South Korea regularly spies on the United States, but we don’t much care.
“When Mr. Obama and his daughters took a not-so-impromptu walk through Central Park, a caravan of 31 vehicles delivered them, at least 10 secret service agents, almost all wearing not-quite-matching blue and gray short-sleeve shirts, surrounded them, and a giant Cadillac Escalade followed closely behind—on the sidewalk.”
With all of this Spy vs. Spy activity, finding a decent hotel room is apparently getting tougher and tougher. Alas, payback is a bitch. Read the rest of this entry »
When it was revealed in 2013 that the IRS had targeted conservative groups for exercising their First Amendment rights, President Obama correctly called the policy “inexcusable” and pledged accountability. He even fired the then-acting IRS commissioner because he said it was necessary to have “new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.”
“A taxpayer would never get away with treating an IRS audit the way that IRS officials have treated the congressional investigation.”
Unfortunately, Commissioner Koskinen, who took over in the wake of the IRS targeting scandal, has failed the American people by frustrating Congress’s attempts to ascertain the truth. A taxpayer would never get away with treating an IRS audit the way that IRS officials have treated the congressional investigation. Civil officers like Mr. Koskinen have historically been held to a higher standard than private citizens because they have fiduciary obligations to the public. The IRS and Mr. Koskinen have breached these basic fiduciary duties:
• Destruction of evidence. Lois Lerner, at the time the director of the IRS’s exempt-organizations unit, invoked the Fifth Amendment on May 22, 2013, when appearing before Congress; her refusal to testify put a premium on obtaining and reviewing her email communications. On the same day the IRS’s chief technology officer issued a preservation order that instructed IRS employees “not to destroy/wipe/reuse any of the existing backup tapes for email, or archiving of other information from IRS personal computers.”
“John Koskinen has violated the public trust, breached his fiduciary obligations and demonstrated his unfitness to serve. Mr. President, it’s time for Commissioner Koskinen to go. If you don’t act, we will.”
Foley & Lardner LLP Partner Cleta Mitchell on presidential evasions about the targeting of conservative groups, and the status of Congress’s investigation. Photo: Getty Images
Several weeks later, on Aug. 2, the House Oversight Committee issued its first subpoena for IRS documents, including all of Ms. Lerner’s emails. On Feb. 2, 2014, Kate Duval, the IRS commissioner’s counsel, identified a gap in the Lerner emails that were being collected. Days later, Ms. Duval learned that the gap had been caused in 2011 when the hard drive of Ms. Lerner’s computer crashed.
Despite all this—an internal IRS preservation order, a congressional subpoena, and knowledge about Ms. Lerner’s hard-drive and email problems—the Treasury inspector general for tax administration discovered that the agency on March 4, 2014, erased 422 backup tapes containing as many as 24,000 emails. (Congress learned of the discovery only last month.)
Ms. Duval has since left the IRS and now works at the State Department, where she is responsible for vetting Hillary Clinton’s emails sought by congressional investigations of the Benghazi attacks.
• Failure to inform Congress. Mr. Koskinen was made aware of the problems associated with Ms. Lerner’s emails the same month Ms. Duval discovered the gap. Yet the IRS withheld the information from Congress for four months, until June 13, 2014, when the agency used a Friday news dump to admit—on page seven of the third attachment to a letter sent to the Senate Finance Committee—that it had lost many of Ms. Lerner’s emails. Read the rest of this entry »
Mission: Control online discourse, reduce U.S. influence
SHANGHAI— James T. Areddy writes: As social media helped topple regimes in the Middle East and northern Africa, a senior colonel in the People’s Liberation Army publicly warned that an Internet dominated by the U.S. threatened to overthrow China’s Communist Party.
Ye Zheng and a Chinese researcher, writing in the state-run China Youth Daily, said the Internet represented a new form of global control, and the U.S. was a “shadow” present during some of those popular uprisings. Beijing had better pay attention.
Four years after they sounded that alarm, China is paying a lot of attention. Its government is pushing to rewrite the rules of the global Internet, aiming to draw the world’s largest group of Internet users away from an interconnected global commons and to increasingly run parts of the Internet on China’s terms.
“Many Western companies are surrendering to Beijing’s rules so they can build a position in China, with an online population nearing 700 million.”
It envisions a future in which governments patrol online discourse like border-control agents, rather than let the U.S., long the world’s digital leader, dictate the rules.
“Ye Zheng and a Chinese researcher, writing in the state-run China Youth Daily, said the Internet represented a new form of global control, and the U.S. was a “shadow” present during some of those popular uprisings.”
President Xi Jinping—with the help of conservatives in government, academia, military and the technology industry—is moving to exert influence over virtually every part of the digital world in China, from semiconductors to social media. In doing so, Mr. Xi is trying to fracture the international system that makes the Internet basically the same everywhere, and is pressuring foreign companies to help.
“Four years after they sounded that alarm, China is paying a lot of attention.”
On July 1, China’s legislature passed a new security law asserting the nation’s sovereignty extends into cyberspace and calling for network technology to be “controllable.” A week later, China released a draft law to tighten controls over the domestic Internet, including codifying the power to cut access during public-security emergencies.
Other draft laws under consideration would encourage Chinese companies to find local replacements for technology equipment purchased abroad and force foreign vendors to give local authorities encryption keys that would let them control the equipment.
Chinese officials referred questions about Internet policy to the Cyberspace Administration of China, a recently formed government body. That agency declined to make an official available to comment for this article. Read the rest of this entry »
Why New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attempt to protect a government-enforced cartel ran out of gas
L. Gordon Crovitz writes: Progressive New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Socialist Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgofound common cause on a shared threat while attending a recent climate-change conference at the Vatican. “The people of our cities don’t like the notion of those who are particularly wealthy and powerful dictating the terms to a government elected by the people,” Mr. de Blasio declared. “As a multibillion-dollar company, Uber thinks it can dictate to government.”
“Uber made the fight personal by adding a ‘de Blasio’ mode to its app, estimating how long the wait would be under the proposed law. Model Kate Upton tweeted in Uber’s support.”
But before Mr. de Blasio could return from Rome, he learned that people really don’t like when politicians try to take away their favorite app for getting around the government’s taxi cartel. The mayor was forced to drop his plan to limit Uber to a 1% annual increase in cars, far below the current rate.
“Errol Louis wrote in the Daily News that ‘Mayor de Blasio is leaving N.Y.ers stranded—like a black man trying to hail a cab uptown.’”
It’s hard to see why Mr. de Blasio thought that would be good politics. Two million New Yorkers have downloaded the Uber app onto their mobile devices—a quarter of the city’s population and more than twice the number of citizens who voted for Mr. de Blasio. But it’s easy to understand why he views Uber as an ideological threat. A tipping point is in sight where big-government politicians can no longer deprive consumers of new choice made possible by technology—whether for car rides, car sharing or home rentals. Mr. de Blasio’s experience should encourage other politicians to sign up for innovation.
“You are dealing with a huge economic force which is consumer choice, and the taxi trade needs to recognize that…I’m afraid it is a tragic fact that there are now more than a million people in this city who have the Uber app.’”
— The Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson
Uber has become a wedge issue. The Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson, took the opposite approach from Mr. de Blasio. “You are dealing with a huge economic force which is consumer choice, and the taxi trade needs to recognize that,” he said recently. He told a gathering of taxi drivers in London: “I’m afraid it is a tragic fact that there are now more than a million people in this city who have the Uber app.” When cabbies objected that Uber drivers were undercutting their prices, Mr. Johnson replied: “Yes, they are. It’s called the free market.”
“Government-enforced cartels fall faster and harder to disruptive innovation than most businesses. When change comes, it is more dramatic than in industries that already have competition.”
Presidential candidates are divided as well. Hillary Clinton implicitly criticized Uber in her campaign speech on economic policy, saying the “so-called ‘gig economy’ ” is “raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like.” Read the rest of this entry »
Historical analogies most popular with the administration reveal precisely why this deal is so fraught with risk.
Analogies, Sigmund Freud once wrote, decide nothing, but they can make one feel more at home. President Obama is explicitly comparing his diplomatic triumph with Iran to President Nixon’s opening to China in 1972. Nixon, the president explained in a July 14 interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, “understood there was the prospect, the possibility, that China could take a different path” of “very important strategic benefit to the United States” — a point repeated in supportive commentary by Fareed Zakaria, and others. Meanwhile, former Obama National Security Council official Phil Gordon has cast the president’s breakthrough with Iran as a noble contrast to the George W. Bush administration’s alleged rejection of diplomacy with North Korea, claiming that Pyongyang developed nuclear weapons because Bush refused to implement a similar disarmament framework with North Korea negotiated by President Bill Clinton.
It is not surprising that an administration that came into office rejecting geopolitics and poo-pooing strategy in favor of “don’t do stupid [stuff]” would treat history as a plaything for twitter-sized talking points. But the historical analogies most popular with the administration reveal precisely why this deal is so fraught with risk.
Chairman Mao Tse-tung, left, welcomes US President Richard Nixon at his house in Beijing (AFP)
Nixon was right to play the China card against the Soviets in 1971 — but for reasons that simply do not apply to Iran. First, in 1971, China already had nuclear weapons and Nixon never asked Mao to abandon them. Second, the Soviet threat to Washington and Beijing, which ultimately drove the two countries together, was incalculably graver than the threat posed by the Islamic State to either Iran or the United States (the president and National Security Adviser Susan Rice have dismissed the Islamic State as “the JV team” and “not an existential threat” so perhaps they do not even really believe their own Nixon analogies). Third, the more militant, pro-Soviet faction in China led by Lin Biao had been purged by 1971, whereas Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Quds Force are on the ascendance and, in fact, will gain billions of dollars as a result of being delisted from the sanctions list. Read the rest of this entry »
Planned Parenthood has come under congressional scrutiny after the release of two stealthily recorded videos that showed officials discussing how they provide aborted fetal organs for research. Read the rest of this entry »
Aryn Baker reports: Despite longstanding family ties to Kenya, U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Nairobi—the first by a serving U.S. President—has been largely an official affair, defined by bilateral meetings and entrepreneurship conferences.
That all changed on Sunday, when he addressed Kenyan youth at a sports stadium and spoke from the heart. As his convoy turned into Nairobi’s SafariCom Arena, he finally received the exuberant welcome that security precautions had all but denied him since his arrival two nights prior.
Crowds of men, women and children, some waving flags and banners welcoming him back to his father’s homeland, thronged the highway. Inside the arena, some 4,500 students, government officials and civil society leaders jumped to their feet as Obama’s half sister, Auma Obama, introduced a man who really had no need for introduction. By the time Obama took the podium, the crowd was ecstatic. “I love you!” shouted a member of the audience. “I love you too,” Obama said to the crowd.
Part state address, part commencement speech, Obama’s 40-minute talk started with a personal reminiscence of his first trip to Kenya in 1998, when he was a young law student seeking to learn more about his roots.
A nuclear power station in France. In October and November, French security officials were investigation a wave of drones that illegally flew over more than a dozen nuclear plants across France.Photo: Reuters
That’s the unofficial motto for this year’s edition of the military exercise Black Dart, a two-week test of tactics and technologies to combat hostile drones that begins Monday on the Point Mugu range at Naval Base Ventura County in California.
The military categorizes Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) by size and capability, from Group 5 drones that weigh more than 1,320 pounds and can fly above 18,000 feet like the Reaper, down to Group 1, mini- and micro-drones less than 20 pounds that fly lower than 1,200 feet. Previous Black Darts have covered threats to troops overseas and targets at home posed by drones of all sizes.
But small drones are this year’s focus, said the director of this 14th edition of Black Dart, Air Force Maj. Scott Gregg, because of worrisome incidents since the last exercise.
Gregg cited the quadcopter that a drunk crashed onto the White House lawn in the wee hours of Jan. 26 and sightings of unidentified small drones flying over nuclear reactors in France. In the wake of those events, he said, “Even though we’ve been looking at [the small drone threat], it’s taken on a new sense of urgency.”
Gregg also could have mentioned how, to protest government surveillance, the Pirate Party of Germany flew a small drone right up to the podium as Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in Dresden two years ago. Or how in Japan last April, a nuclear-energy foe landed a drone carrying radioactive sand on the roof of the prime minister’s residence. And there was a report last week that British officials are worried ISIS may try to bomb festival crowds using small drones.
The drones that Black Dart participants will attempt to shoot down.Photo: Post Illustration
The United States enjoyed a near-monopoly on armed drones for much of the past 15 years, but with more than 80 countries now buying or building drones of their own, and with terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and ISIS known to have used unarmed drones in the Middle East, that advantage has evaporated.
Few countries and no terrorist groups are likely to emulate the complex and costly US system of undersea fiber-optic cables and satellite earth terminals in Europe that allows crews in the United States to fly drones carrying missiles and bombs over Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
The 30-kilowatt Laser Weapon System was successful at Black Dart 2011.Photo: U.S. Navy
But anyone can buy a Group 1 drone for a couple of hundred dollars and put it to nefarious use. Arm it with plastic explosives, radioactive material, biological or chemical agents, and it can be crashed, kamikaze-style, into a target.
“I’d say for the Department of Homeland Security, it’s one of the biggest concerns,” Gregg said.
The threat isn’t imaginary. Former Northeastern University student Rezwan Ferdaus is now serving 17 years in prison for plotting to pack C-4 plastic explosives into 1/10 scale radio controlled models of F-4 and F-86 fighter jets and fly them into the Capitol and Pentagon. Ferdaus also supplied cellphone detonators for IEDs to people he thought were agents of al Qaeda but turned out to be working for the FBI….(read more)
Innovations that have previously found success at Black Dart.Photo: Post Illustration
This year the surrogate threats will include three Group 1 drones — a Hawkeye 400 hexacopter, a Flanker and a Scout II — and one Twin Hawk drone from the Group 2 category (21 to 55 lbs., slower than 250 knots, lower than 3,500 feet). Six Group 3 drones, all of them 13.5-foot wingspan Outlaw G2s made by Griffon Aerospace, also will be targets. Read the rest of this entry »
Tehran (AFP) – Iran hit out Friday against US Secretary of State John Kerry, accusing him of threatening military action against Tehran if it fails to respect a historic nuclear deal sealed on July 14.
“Unfortunately the US Secretary of State once again talked about the rotten rope of ‘the ability of the US for using military force’,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a statement.
Zarif decried what he called the “uselessness of such empty threats against the nation of Iran and the resistance of the nation of Iran”, and said such remarks should be consigned “to the last century”.
“Unfortunately the US Secretary of State once again talked about the rotten rope of ‘the ability of the US for using military force’.”
Despite the agreement reached with Iran on putting the nuclear bomb out of Tehran’s reach, several US officials, including Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, have signalled that military force remains on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Read the rest of this entry »
“Constantly shifting alliances in the region mean the PKK’s rise isn’t certain to continue. But the guerrilla group’s growing stature has alarmed Turkey, a crucial North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally of the U.S., with whom the PKK has fought a three-decade war costing some 40,000 lives.”
Ms. Ruken’s journey provides a glimpse behind the remarkable rise of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, the cultlike Marxist-inspired group she fights for and whose triumphs against Islamic State have helped it evolve from ragtag militia to regional power player.
The PKK and its Syrian affiliate have emerged as Washington’s most effective battlefield partners against Islamic State, also known as ISIS, even though the U.S. and its allies have for decades listed the PKK as a terrorist group. The movement in the past has been accused of kidnappings, murder and narcotics trafficking, but fighters like Ms. Ruken have presented the world an appealing face of the guerrillas—an image of women battling as equals with male comrades against an appallingly misogynist enemy.
“Obama administration officials acknowledged the PKK and YPG have links and coordinate with each other in the fight against Islamic State, but they said the U.S. continues to formally shun the PKK while dealing directly with YPG.”
U.S. war planners have been coordinating with the Syrian affiliate—the People’s Defense Units, or YPG—on air and ground operations through a joint command center in northern Iraq. And in two new centers in Syria’s Kobani and Jazeera regions, YPG commanders are in direct contact with U.S. commanders, senior Syrian Kurdish officials said.
“There’s no reason to pretend anymore,” said a senior Kurdish official from Kobani. “We’re working together, and it’s working.”
Clinton’s spokesman said there was a deal, but the committee’s representative said no agreement had been reached
Zeke J Miller reports: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the House Benghazi Committee remain at loggerheads over the conditions under which she would testify before the committee, probing the killing of four Americans in the September 2012 attack in Libya.
“Earlier this week we were pleased for Secretary Clinton to receive an offer from Congressman Gowdy to appear before the committee in a public hearing in October, and yesterday accepted his invitation.”
— Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill, in a statement
Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill announced Saturday that Clinton had agreed to testify before the committee in a public hearing in October, but the committee’s communications director, Jamal Ware, said no agreement had in fact been reached.
“Secretary Clinton’s campaign may want to reach out to her lawyer, Mr. David Kendall, with whom the Committee has had ongoing conversations. As of last night, Mr. Kendall was still negotiating conditions for her appearance.”
— House Benghazi Committee communications director Jamal Ware
“Earlier this week we were pleased for Secretary Clinton to receive an offer from Congressman Gowdy to appear before the committee in a public hearing in October, and yesterday accepted his invitation,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement.
“Her email arrangement clearly falls within the scope of the Select Committee’s jurisdiction, which is charged by the House under the Resolution to look at Executive Branch efforts to comply with congressional oversight as well as the administration’s response in the aftermath of the tragic attacks in Benghazi.”
— Jamal Ware
“Secretary Clinton’s campaign may want to reach out to her lawyer, Mr. David Kendall, with whom the Committee has had ongoing conversations,” Ware said. “As of last night, Mr. Kendall was still negotiating conditions for her appearance.” Read the rest of this entry »
Chun Han Wong reports: Is Beijing doubling down on its longstanding threat to reclaim Taiwan by force? That’s a concern for some Taiwanese after China’s state broadcaster showcased a recent military drill that featured soldiers storming an apparent replica of the island’s presidential palace.
“The Chinese Communist Party hasn’t given up on armed assault on Taiwan, and their military preparations are still geared toward the use of force against Taiwan.”
— Major Gen. David Lo, spokesman for Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense
Officials in Taipei have denounced the drill as harmful to the rapprochement of recent years between Taiwan and China, after decades of hostility following a civil war in the middle of the last century. Political and military experts, meanwhile, say the apparent targeting of an important political symbol for Taiwan marks Beijing’s latest bid to sway Taiwanese voters ahead of a key presidential poll next January.
“Militaries routinely practice fighting in combat scenarios based on their operational priorities and strategic realities. For the PLA, this would mean missions in the South China Sea, in the East Sea, and of course Taiwan.”
— Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military scholar
The newsreel in question, first aired by China Central Television on July 5, featured dramatic footage of an annual military exercise in northern China—spanning fiery artillery barrages, imposing armored columns and infantry assaults on a mock-up city. The video went largely unnoticed until Wednesday, when a Shanghai-based media outlet said it demonstrated how Beijing “would use force to solve the Taiwan issue.”
A screenshot of the CCTV report, which shows soldiers storming a structure that bears a resemblance to Taiwan’s presidential palace. youtube.com
The CCTV report swiftly struck a nerve in Taiwan, where President Ma Ying-jeou’s engagement policies with China have proved divisive, compounding the declining public support his ruling Nationalist Party is experiencing over economic and social fairness issues.
Many commentators on Taiwanese media directed their ire on segments from the newsreel that appeared to show Chinese troops advancing toward a red-and-white structure that closely resembled Taiwan’s Presidential Office—built in a distinctive European-style in the 1910s by Japanese colonial administrators.
A photo of the actual presidential palace. Bloomberg News
“By making the threat more recognizable and immediate than missiles fired off Taiwan’s northern and southern tips, or drills simulating an amphibious assault, Beijing may hope to engage ordinary Taiwanese not at the intellectual and abstract level, but on an emotional one.”
— J. Michael Cole, a Taipei-based senior fellow with the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute
Islamic preaching and radicalization is fast becoming one of the impending danger for the free world- for peace loving citizens it is a menace, the various vested quarter are motivating and preaching - brainwahing with their ill conceived islamic religious ideology to the unsuspecting Muslim youngsters,ladies,older generations and trying to appeal to the rest of the world. Which they are later on using to persue their dreams by indoctrinationg these innocent people to turn them inro terroriata, suicide bombers, islamic extremists. Our quest is to help people understand these pepople's idelogoy and make everyone aware of these manicas groups and their intentions & help them keep away from this concocted ideology.We would like to let the world know that, These microscopic fundamentalist minority is allowed to use the name of Islam to fulfil their agenda.