Associated Press Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee offered eight ways that the Obama administration is “blocking information” at a recent joint meeting of news editors.
1) As the United States ramps up its fight against Islamic militants, the public can’t see any of it. News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off — there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the S. bombers fly from.
2) The White House once fought to get cameramen, photographers and reporters into meetings the president had with foreign leaders overseas. That access has become much rarer. Think about the message that sends other nations about how the world’s leading democracy deals with the media: Keep them out and let them use handout photos.
3) Guantanamo: The big important 9/11 trial is finally coming up. But we aren’t allowed to see most court filings in real time — even of nonclassified material. So at hearings, we can’t follow what’s happening. We don’t know what prosecutors are asking for, or what defense attorneys are arguing.
4) Information about Guantanamo that was routinely released under President George W. Bush is now kept secret. The military won’t release the number of prisoners on hunger strike or the number of assaults on guards. Photo and video coverage is virtually nonexistent.
5) Day-to-day intimidation of sources is chilling. AP’s transportation reporter’s sources say that if they are caught talking to her, they will be fired. Even if they just give her facts, about safety, for example. Government press officials say their orders are to squelch anything controversial or that makes the administration look bad.
Buzbee also criticized the current administration for making Freedom of Information Act requests “slow and expensive.” Journalists are then forced to sue the government to force officials to respond, she said. Read the rest of this entry »
Weakness Invites Aggression. Putin’s Only Responding to Passive U.S. Leadership, Happily Accepting the Invitation
Update 5:50 P.M.: This story has been updated to include developing information about the Russian incursion off the coast of Alaska
Bill Gertz reports: Russian strategic nuclear bombers carried out air defense zone incursions near Alaska and across Northern Europe this week in the latest nuclear saber rattling by Moscow.
“They are having a very aggressive nuclear readiness exercise now as a show of force. Whereas the U.S. has been on a path of nuclear zero which they think is ridiculous.”
Six Russian aircraft, including two Bear H nuclear bombers, two MiG-31 fighter jets and two IL-78 refueling tankers were intercepted by F-22 fighters on Wednesday west and north of Alaska in air defense identification zones, said Navy Capt. Jeff A. Davis, a spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. Two other Bears were intercepted by Canadian jets on Thursday.
Russia, under Putin, is engaged in a large-scale nuclear buildup that includes new missiles, submarines, and a new bomber.
A day later two more Bear bombers were intercepted by Canadian CF-18 jets in the western area of the Canadian air defense identification zone near the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska, he said. Read the rest of this entry »
“It’s part of our mission to expand beyond our own borders.”
– John Cooper, director of the Sundance Film Festival
Dean Napolitano writes:
Movie lovers in Hong Kong won’t have to travel all the way
to Park City, Utah, to catch the best in American independent films. The Sundance Film Festival is coming to Hong Kong in an abridged edition that will screen eight films from this year’s film bash.
The festival kicks off on Friday with “Whiplash,” which grabbed the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic competition, about a young drumming prodigy and his overbearing teacher. Other highlights include “The Skeleton Twins,” a comedy-drama about a suicidal man that’s won rave reviews, and Mark Ruffalo as a manic-depressive family man in “Infinitely Polar Bear.” Read the rest of this entry »
Michelle Malkin writes: Fresh terror busts in Australia expose a common Achilles’ heel of the West: Indiscriminate refugee policies turn free countries into breeding grounds for jihad. It’s the same game in America. Soldiers of Islam have weaponized our blind generosity against us.
“Instead of slowing down refugee admissions from terror-sponsoring and terror-supporting states, the Obama administration has jacked them up.”
In Sydney this week, authorities detained a half-dozen Muslim plotters and arrested a top collaborator in an alleged conspiracy to kidnap and behead a random Australian citizen. The accused mastermind? Afghan refugee turned Aussie Islamic State recruiter Mohammad Ali Baryalei. He and his aristocratic family were welcomed Down Under decades ago. Baryalei returned the favor by taking to the streets of Sydney to recruit and radicalize dozens of fellow Muslim immigrants or their children.
“Sharrouf is now based in Syria, where he infamously tweeted a photo of his elementary school-age son brandishing a severed human head.”
Baryalei’s minions include Australian jihadist Khaled Sharrouf, the homicidal son of Lebanese immigrants. Sharrouf is now based in Syria, where he infamously tweeted a photo of his elementary school-age son brandishing a severed human head.
“In our heartland, Minneapolis has become ‘Little Mogadishu’— a haven for Somali refugees targeted by Islamic supremacists.”
The Sydney Beheading Bust comes on the heels of a separate outbreak of violence by Afghan refugees aligned with the terror group Hezbollah. In late August, Aussie police broke up a bloody riot involving members of the “420 gang” — Muslim teenage boys and young men who post sword-wielding, AK-47-toting selfies on social media. The self-described “Shia soldiers” quote Hezbollah militant imam Hassan Nasrallah online, while wreaking havoc in Sydney slums offline. Read the rest of this entry »
The White House and Pentagon have scurried this week to insist there is no hint of dissent in the ranks, though in some cases their efforts have focused only more attention on the issue.
“Half-hearted or tentative efforts, or airstrikes alone, can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foes’ credibility. We may not wish to reassure our enemies in advance that they will not see American boots on the ground.”
– Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis
WaPo‘s Craig Whitlock reports: Flashes of disagreement over how to fight the Islamic State are mounting between President Obama and U.S. military leaders, the latest sign of strain in what often has been an awkward and uneasy relationship.
“I think it’s very important that he does follow the advice and counsel that he receives, the professional advice of the military. They are the ones best suited to do that.”
– Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Even as the administration has received congressional backing for its strategy, with the Senate voting Thursday to approve a plan to arm and train Syrian rebels, a series of military leaders have criticized the president’s approach against the Islamic State militant group.
“There will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy.”
– Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, who served under Obama until last year, became the latest high-profile skeptic on Thursday, telling the House Intelligence Committee that a blanket prohibition on ground combat was tying the military’s hands. “Half-hearted or tentative efforts, or airstrikes alone, can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foes’ credibility,” he said. “We may not wish to reassure our enemies in advance that they will not see American boots on the ground.” Read the rest of this entry »
Mysterious “interceptor” cellphone towers that can listen in someone’s phone call despite not being part of any phone networks have turned up near the White House and Senate.
“It’s highly unlikely that federal law enforcement would be using mobile interceptors near the Senate.”
A company that specializes in selling secure mobile phones discovered the existence of several of the towers in and around the nation’s capitol.
“My suspicion is that it is a foreign entity.”
– ESD America CEO Les Goldsmith
“It’s highly unlikely that federal law enforcement would be using mobile interceptors near the Senate,” ESD America CEO Les Goldsmith told the technology website Venture Beat on Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »
— ABC News (@ABC) September 18, 2014
ABCNews.com reports: A British citizen captured in Syria two years ago has resurfaced today in a new ISIS propaganda video released on YouTube. But unlike the previous gruesome beheading videos of three westerners, journalist Cantlie is seen alive, seated alone at a desk in a darkened room, delivering what he says is the first of a series of “messages” about ISIS.
Cantlie was abducted in November 2012 along with slain American journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by his ISIS captors, according to a former law enforcement official and others familiar with the journalists’ kidnapping. Read the rest of this entry »
The Madison Paradox and Obama’s Constitution Day Stealth Comment: Referring to Our Constitutional Rights as ‘Privileges’Posted: September 18, 2014
Maybe James Madison was right. Maybe the Bill of Rights wasn’t just unnecessary, it was a bad idea, destined to be viewed in the distant future exactly the wrong way
For United Liberty, Jason Pye catches Obama’s shaded wording, and writes a welcome blast of corrective historical clarity. Though I can’t resist including my own comments in the margins, the piece stands as testament to the power of word choices. Pye writes:
…In his presidential proclamation marking Constitution Day, President Barack Obama offered some insight into how he views the Bill of Rights. “Our Constitution reflects the values we cherish as a people and the ideals we strive for as a society,” Obama said in the release. “It secures the privileges we enjoy as citizens, but also demands participation, responsibility, and service to our country and to one another.”
“It secures the
rights privileges we enjoy as citizens, but also demands participation, responsibility, and service to our country and to one another.”
Given that this White House is known for its expansive view of executive power, the assertion that the rights guaranteed and protected under the Bill of Rights, the fact that President Obama views these fundamental liberties to be “privileges” isn’t too terribly surprising. After all, President Obama treats the legislative branch — which, again, is supposed to be a co-equal branch of the federal government — as an afterthought as it arbitrarily changes statues and even refuses to enforce laws.
But words matter. To say the rights secured by the Constitution are “privileges” implies that they can be revoked. Let’s put this another way: a high school-aged kid is given the privilege of taking their father’s car out to go hang out with friends, that is until they abuse it by getting caught speeding or into a car accident. The disappointed father would, no doubt, take away the privilege.
Rights and liberties, however, are based on a solid foundation. They can’t be taken away by some paternalistic president. The view of the framers was that the rights protected under the Bill of Rights existed before the formation of the federal government under the Constitution. In short, they were natural rights.
In fact, James Madison believed that a list of specific rights was unnecessary.
Though we celebrate the ratification of the Bill of Rights, I can’t help but interrupt to expand on Jason Pye‘s oversimplification — Madison didn’t believe that a list of specific rights was unnecessary, Madison and others believed listing individual rights would set a dangerous precedent. As illustrated in my half-remembered reading of Joseph J. Ellis’ “Founding Brothers” the dissenters wisely understood that making a special top-ten list of rights could lead to a troubling misperception that individual rights are limited, reducible to a specific list. Which could then be used to mislead future generations into accepting false limits.
It’s federal powers that are finite, narrow, and limited. So limited you could number them. (enumerated powers) Individual rights, as conceived by the founders–aren’t limited, they’re virtually infinite. Not reducible to a list. Enshrining some of them in a list would lead to, well, exactly the misunderstanding that persists to this day. The argument resisting an enumerated “Bill of Rights” wasn’t perfect, but it had merit. It showed foresight.
Jason Pye continues:
Thankfully, George Mason and others, to ensure ratification, convinced Madison to come up with proposals, ten of which were passed by Congress and approved by at least three-fifths of the states. Read the rest of this entry »
The combined wealth of the world’s billionaires increased by 12 percent to $7.3 trillion, higher than the combined market capitalization of all the companies that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average
“The fastest growing segment of the billionaire population, in terms of wealth source, are those who inherited only part of their fortunes and became billionaires through their own entrepreneurial endeavors.”
A new survey shows that 155 new billionaires were minted this year, pushing the total population to a record 2,325 – a 7 percent increase from 2013.
Credit goes to the United States – home to the most billionaires globally – where 57 new billionaires were recorded this year, according to the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census 2014 released on Wednesday.
Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean were also large contributors, with 52 and 42 new entrants, respectively.
“The fastest growing segment of the billionaire population, in terms of wealth source, are those who inherited only part of their fortunes and became billionaires through their own entrepreneurial endeavors,” the report said, noting that 63 percent of all billionaires’ primary companies are privately held. Read the rest of this entry »
TRADECRAFT: Seductive spies aren’t simply James Bond fantasies – femmes fatales have been a key feature of espionage for centuries
For The Telegraph, Olivia Goldhill writes: The best security and military training in the world is no match for the charms of a femme fatale. Using feminine wiles to access state secrets sounds like hackneyed fiction – surely anyone with a secret worth keeping would run at the sight of a beautiful lady in red lipstick? But the oldest trick in the book never stops working, and spy agencies continue to use seduction as an effective method of espionage.
“In America, in the West, occasionally you ask your men to stand up for their country. In Russia, we just ask our young women to lay down.”
– Oleg Kalugin, a former KGB general
Stefan Wolff, professor of international security at Birmingham University, says that few governments would consider seduction an off-limit technique. “If you’re in the spying business, any opportunity that you have to get information, you will use,” he says. “Especially given what we’ve learnt from Wikileaks and Snowden, not much is considered to be beyond the pale when it comes to key issues of national security. I would argue, maybe that’s the right approach. If you want to save lives then a honey trap is a much more palatable approach than waterboarding.”
“I’d see a German officer on the train or somewhere, sometimes dressed in civvies, but you could pick ‘em. So, instead of raising suspicions I’d flirt with them, ask for a light and say my lighter was out of fuel…. ‘Do you want to search me?’ God, what a flirtatious little bastard I was.”
– Nancy Wake, a British agent during the Second World War
National Archives have revealed that special agent “Fifi”, a stunning blonde woman, was used to test the trustworthiness of young British spies during the Second World War. And there’s no signs that the technique has gone out of fashion. But how do you set a honey trap? Here are some of the secrets of seduction gleaned from the great femme fatales of history.
The most revealing part of the Op-Ed isn’t the Op-Ed, it’s this:
“The comments section is closed.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) blasted pro-amnesty billionaires whose fondness for open borders ends at the doors of their “gated compounds and fenced-off communities,” noting how Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg bought other four houses surrounding his own just because he wanted “a little privacy.”
“Well, the ‘masters of the universe’ are very fond of open borders as long as these open borders don’t extend to their gated compounds and fenced-off estates.”
Sessions began by rebuking Zuckerberg – one of the billionaire elites he has dubbed “Masters of the Universe” – for going to Mexico City and giving a speech claiming that America’s immigration policy is “strange” and “unfit for today’s world.”
“Well, the ‘masters of the universe’ are very fond of open borders as long as these open borders don’t extend to their gated compounds and fenced-off estates,” Sessions said.
As an example of the hypocrisy of these “Masters,” Sessions then recalled how Zuckerberg bought four houses surrounding his own to keep people from crossing his borders and secure “a little privacy”: Read the rest of this entry »
The public is getting a broader glimpse at the still-secretive world of government data collection
Yahoo said Thursday it won release of 1,500 pages of documents filed in a secretive surveillance court. It said the documents stem from an unsuccessful lawsuit it brought in 2008 challenging the government’s right to demand user information.
“At one point, the U.S. Government threatened the imposition of $250,000 in fines per day if we refused to comply.”
– Ron Bell, Yahoo’s lawyer
The company won a victory last year when portions of previously-closed documents were ordered public. As it noted Thursday, disclosures from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are “extremely rare.”
The documents are a public relations victory for Yahoo: They show it resisting orders to comply with the surveillance programs.
“Yahoo has not complied with the directives because of concerns that the directives require Yahoo to assist in conducting warrantless surveillance that is likely to capture private communications of United States citizens located in the U.S. and abroad,” Yahoo wrote in a legal document, arguing the orders violated “the privacy of U.S. citizens.”
The government put great pressure on Yahoo to comply with its order, the company said. Read the rest of this entry »
CHICAGO — Senator Barack Obama writes: The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.
The differences on Iraq in this campaign are deep. Unlike Senator John McCain, I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president. I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Since then, more than 4,000 Americans have died and we have spent nearly $1 trillion. Our military is overstretched. Nearly every threat we face — from Afghanistan to Al Qaeda to Iran — has grown.
In the 18 months since President Bush announced the surge, our troops have performed heroically in bringing down the level of violence. New tactics have protected the Iraqi population, and the Sunni tribes have rejected Al Qaeda — greatly weakening its effectiveness.
But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we’ve spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq’s leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.
The good news is that Iraq’s leaders want to take responsibility for their country by negotiating a timetable for the removal of American troops. Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the American officer in charge of training Iraq’s security forces, estimates that the Iraqi Army and police will be ready to assume responsibility for security in 2009.
Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition — despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government. Read the rest of this entry »
“…I think what you could conclude from this is the United States is at war with ISIL..”
From The Corner, Brendan Bordelon: It looks as though Pentagon spokesman John Kirby was on-message Friday when he contradicted secretary of state John Kerry by saying ”we are at war” with the Islamic State, since White House press secretary Josh Earnest echoed his remarks almost word-for-word just minutes later.
“…in the same way that we’re at war with al-Qaeda and its al-Qaeda affiliates all around the globe.”
Americans haven’t suddenly turned interventionist. They’re moved by the Islamic State’s particular evil.
Peggy Noonan writes: President Obama would have been rocked the past few months by five things. One is the building criticism from left and right about his high need for relaxation—playing golf while the world burns. Another is that he misread the significance and public power of the beheadings of American journalists. Third, he has been way out of sync with American public opinion on Islamic State, which must be all the more galling because he thought he knew where Americans stood on the use of military force. Fourth, with his poll numbers declining (32% approval for his handling of foreign policy, according to The Wall Street Journal and NBC), it has probably occurred to him that he is damaging not only his own but his party’s brand in foreign affairs. (Yes, George W. Bush did the same to his party, but Mr. Obama was supposed to reverse, not follow, that trend.) Fifth, he surely expects he is about to take a pounding from the antiwar left.
“Evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics who would normally back strong military action were relatively silent in 2013. Why? I think because they were becoming broadly aware, for the first time, of what was happening to Christians in the Middle East.”
Most immediately interesting to me is the apparent change of mind by Americans toward military action in the Mideast. The president’s long-reigning assumption is that a war-weary public has grown more isolationist. But, again according to the WSJ/NBC poll, more than 6 in 10 back moving militarily against Islamic State. Politicians and pundits believe that this is due to the gruesome, public and taunting murders of the U.S. journalists—that Americans saw the pictures and freaked out, that their backing of force is merely emotional.
I think they’re missing a big aspect of this story. Read the rest of this entry »
In 2011, Erwan Rambourg was a six-year veteran of the luxury industry as an analyst for HSBC, based in Paris, a city that many high-end brands call home.
“The balance is story-telling. Luxury consumers are like kids. Brands are a dream, an aspiration.”
That year, he moved to Hong. While the brands were European, the consumption was shifting eastward toward China. “The reason I moved to Hong Kong was to try to understand better the trend and how the Chinese were consuming,” he said.
After three years of observation, the 41-year-old Mr. Rambourg, who continues to cover the sector for HSBC, has put together his insights into the industry in a new book, “Bling Dynasty: Why the Reign of the Chinese Luxury Shoppers Has Only Begun.”
“If you get the impression that you’re the only one, that you’re unique and being the only one told the story, you’ll pay up. If you feel like everyone else, you won’t.”
He recently spoke with China Real Time about how China’s luxury consumption is different, why the corruption crackdown is a good thing and how Chinese and American consumers are becoming more alike.
“You have to develop the illusion or reality of scarcity.”
Take us back to when you first arrived in Asia. What was the luxury landscape like?
The luxury sector 20 years ago was driven by European consumers. Ten years ago, it was driven Japanese consumers, with the hope that Chinese consumers would eventually take over. Today, the Chinese are the key driver. In 2015, Chinese consumers will become 35% of luxury consumes.
The development of the Chinese luxury market is often compared to that of Japan. But you see vast differences.
They’re considered similar by investors but the differences lie in culture and how the markets are built. First, gender: The Japanese market was centered on the office lady. These are secretary-types who were living with parents, allocating most of their income to their next handbag.
The Chinese market was built by men. The core consumer was male, businessman, a lot of corporate gifting, instead of self-purchasing.
Today, the core consumer in Japan is female and aging. The core consumer in China is diverse. You still have the businessmen, but you have the emergence of young, female shoppers and a whole diversity of consumer profiles you don’t see in Japan.
Currently in Japan, there’s a move away from luxury and brands. They’re looking for more holistic experiences: Instead of a handbag, they’re going to a spa. Read the rest of this entry »
— Avi Mayer (@AviMayer) September 11, 2014
The drop in confidence in Mr. Obama’s oversight of foreign policy has reached into his core supporters
For WSJ, Janet Hook and Colleen Nelson write: Foreign policy has catapulted to the center of the U.S. political stage just two months before the 2014 midterm elections, raising fresh questions of whether President Barack Obama‘s perceived weakness on the issue will hurt his party’s electoral chances.
“That’s going to be a drag on Democrats, there’s no way around that.”
– Former aide to President Clinton
Mr. Obama’s approval rating has been at or near record low for months, a concern for many Democrats in the final weeks of the campaign season as presidents with low approval ratings typically see big losses for their parties in midterm elections.
“Right now Democrats are in tough shape to hold the Senate, and the events of the next seven weeks could be quite important. This could be the defining moment.”
– Peter Fenn, Democratic political consultant.
The dynamic put added pressure on Mr. Obama’s Wednesday speech detailing his strategy for confronting Islamic State, the militant group also known as ISIS and ISIL. The prime-time speech was designed not just to explain Mr. Obama’s goals but also to reclaim the mantle of authority after months of being buffeted by world events. Read the rest of this entry »