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[VIDEO] Pence Went To The DMZ Just To Stare Down North Korean Soldiers 

Vice President Mike Pence broke from his schedule Monday morning and took an unannounced trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

Though other top ranking U.S. officials have visited the DMZ in the past, Pence actually ventured outside and stared down North Korean troops.

Mike Pence (CNN)

Mike Pence (CNN)

“Yeah, you better keep walking.”

In addition to his visit to the DMZ, Pence sent North Korea a warning statement Monday morning … (read more)

Source: The Daily Caller

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NBC’s Report Of Preemptive Strikes On North Korea Contested, Declared ‘Wildly Wrong’

Ryan Pickrell reports: Senior defense officials and administration officials are refuting NBC’s story that the U.S. will launch a preemptive strike on North Korea if it anticipates a sixth nuclear test.

“The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test,” NBC reported Thursday evening. The news outlet, citing multiple intelligence sources, claimed that the U.S. would use destroyers stationed nearby to launch the attack.

Citing multiple high-level sources, several journalists are saying that the report is “wildly wrong,” “crazy,” and “extremely dangerous.” VOA claims that the a “preemptive strike is NOT planned.” … (read more)

Source: The Daily Caller


Terror in Lille as Hooded Gunman Shoots 3 People Outside Metro Station in French City

Jon Lockett and Peter Allen report: Armed police have now sealed off all roads leading into the city centre as they try to contain the situation and catch the gunman.

French reports say there were several shots fired near the Porte d’Arras metro station at around 9.50pm.

It’s said a 14-year-old boy had been shot in leg and at least two others youths had been injured.

Two of the wounded were found at the scene, while the third made their way to a nearby hospital.

Those injured are said to have been shot several times, reports respected French news site La Voix Du Nord.

One of the victims is reported to have suffered a neck injury.

Although anti-terrorist police were called to the scene, there were later reports the shooting was a ‘revenge attack’.

“A car pulled up outside the station and targeted the three youths,” said a police source. Read the rest of this entry »


In Era of Journalism Cutbacks, a Chinese ‘Robot Reporter’ 

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More Chinese newsrooms are starting to use so-called “robot reporters,” but developers say their capabilities remain limited.

Te-Ping Chen reports: China has found itself in the midst of a full-blown robot obsession in recent years, with everything from robot monks to robot waiters grabbing headlines.

Now, the robots are writing the actual headlines, too — in certain newsrooms, anyway.

Last week, the Southern Metropolis Daily published its first-ever report written by what the newspaper describes as a “robot reporter.” The story, clocking in at just over 300 words, summarizes what train tickets are most in demand bn-rt602_robot_cv_20170124041448over the Lunar New Year holiday, during which millions of Chinese workers travel home to see their families. It discusses which routes are selling out fast and advises travelers to buy tickets soon, cautioning that for certain routes, all seats are sold out.

“You’ll have to stand the whole way, the route will be more exhausting,” it advises. The Southern Metropolis Daily story is bylined “Xiao Nan Robot,” or ‘Little South’ robot and accompanied with a picture of a white, rotund robot riding atop a thick black pen.

So far, though, the scope of robot reporters is limited, says Wan Xiaojun, a computer-science professor at Peking University who worked to develop the newspaper’s program.

Mr. Wan explains that Xiao Nan is currently programmed only to analyze train-ticket sales, which accounts for the somewhat monotonous nature of its reporting. “There Are Still High-Speed Rail Tickets From Guangzhou to Numerous Destinations for Lunar New Year’s Eve,” ran one robot-produced headline today. “Hard-Seat Tickets on the 26th From Guangzhou to Zhengzhou Are Still Available,” ran another yesterday.

[Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

Sports are another fertile area for robot coverage: another robot-reporter program Mr. Wan worked on was used by news publisher Toutiao during the Rio Olympics last year, producing more than 400 news briefs, he said. Those briefs were built off published game statistics or summarized the transcribed narration of sports broadcasters, seeking out keywords such as “goal,” “red card” and more. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong and China Stocks Decline in Monday Morning Trading 

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The Hang Seng Index was down 0.77 per cent or 168.87 points to 21,851.88 on Monday morning session close.

Shares in Hong Kong and mainland China declined at the mi-day trading pause, following retreats in most Asian equity markets as rate increases announced last week by the US Federal Reserve and Hong Kong Monetary Authority lead to capital outflow back to American shores.

The Hang Seng Index fell 168.87 points, or by 0.8 per cent, to 21,851.88, while the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index dropped 1 per cent to 9,374.09. The CSI 300 Index fell 0.2 per cent to 3,339.42.

“With the higher rates in US,Hong Kong stocks could be under pressure as capital could flow out of Hong Kong ,” said Ben Kwong Man-bun, executive director of KGI Asia.

China bond-market selloff shows risks of Beijing’s efforts to restrain credit

China bond-market selloff shows risks of Beijing’s efforts to restrain credit

Insurers led losses among Chinese companies on the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, amid concerns that mainland regulators will further place their market investments under scrutiny.

Ping An Insurance Group Co. fell 1.7 per cent to a four-month low of HK$39.75 while AIA Group Ltd fell 1.5 per cent to HK$43.75.

China Vanke Co. fell in Shenzhen and Hong Kong after the country’s largest property developer scrapped a white knight rescue plan involving Shenzhen Metro, which was intended to help defend it from a hostile takeover.

[Read the full story here, at South China Morning Post]

Vanke shares fell by as much as 6.3 per cent, closing 4.5 per cent lower at HK$18.48 during the lunch pause. In Shenzhen, Vanke’s shares fell as much as 5.3 per cent, dropping 4.7 per cent to 21.40 yuan.

The Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.1 per cent to 3,119.65. The Shenzhen Component index dropped 0.26 to 10,307.48, while the Shenzhen Composite Index declined 0.21 per cent to 1,987.49.

The Nasdaq style ChiNext closed 0.60 per cent lower at 1,986.22.

China’s monetary policy will be pursued in a “neutral” manner in the coming year, a departure from last year’s “flexible” stance, according to an analysis by Macquarie Capital’s Larry Hu, parsing the Communist Party’s Central Economic Work Conference last Friday. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Thomas Sowell: What People Get Wrong About Poverty

Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author. He is currently Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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France Marks First Anniversary of Paris Massacre

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Paris (AFP) – France on Sunday marked the first anniversary of the Paris attacks with sombre ceremonies and painful memories for the relatives of the 130 people killed.

The day of sorrow began under grey morning skies as President Francois Hollande led commemorations at the sites where jihadist killers unleashed a bloodbath.

It ended after dark as a fleet of tiny lanterns floated eerily on a branch of the Seine, each emblazoned with a message to those whose lives had been obliterated.

Hollande’s first duty was to unveil a plaque outside the Stade de France, to commemorate Manuel Dias, 63, killed by a suicide bomber outside the national stadium as France played Germany at football that fateful evening.

Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo then unveiled plaques outside bars and restaurants in the trendy neighbourhood where gunmen sprayed bullets at people enjoying a Friday evening out.

The final ceremony took place outside the Bataclan, the revered Paris concert hall where 90 people were slain by three Islamic State attackers during a rock gig. The killers ruthlessly picked off young people lying defenceless, injured or cowering in fear.

The names of those killed at the Bataclan were read out as hundreds of people gathered in silence under rainy skies.

Rock star Sting reopened the refurbished Bataclan on Saturday night with an emotionally-charged show held amid tight security.

“We will not forget them,” the British singer told the crowd in French after a minute’s silence. Many wept during his first song, “Fragile”.

The Bataclan management said they had prevented two members of the US group Eagles of Death Metal — who were on stage when the bloodshed started — from entering the Sting concert, including lead singer Jesse Hughes.

Hughes had previously sparked outrage by suggesting that Muslim staff at the Bataclan may have cooperated with the attackers. Read the rest of this entry »


Modern Socialist Success Story: Venezuelans Celebrate Spectacular Economic Abundance, Party Hard in the Streets of Caracas

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A forceful repudiation of the leftist politics that are falling out of favor across Latin America.

…The demonstration, aimed at speeding up a recall campaign against the 53-year-old president, was also a forceful repudiation of the leftist politics that are falling out of favor across Latin America.

At its peak in 2008, the left held the presidencies of eight of the 10 most populous countries in South and Central America. But those regimes have lost popularity as steep drops in commodity prices badly damaged their economies and left less money to spend on the poor.

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Candidates from the right recently won the presidencies of Argentina and Peru, and just this week, Dilma Rousseff was permanently ousted from the presidency in Brazil in an impeachment trial engineered by opponents from the right who now control the government.

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But nowhere in Latin America has the rise and fall of the left been as dramatic as in Venezuela, a country that has been on the brink of collapse for the last several months.

Venezuela had its own brand of socialism, known as Chauvismo for Hugo Chavez, the charismatic leader who was elected president in 1998 in a rejection of free-market policies that were encouraged by the United States but failed to deliver on their promise of wider prosperity. Read the rest of this entry »


How Russia Often Benefits When Julian Assange Reveals the West’s Secrets

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American officials say Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks probably have no direct ties to Russian intelligence services. But the agendas of WikiLeaks and the Kremlin have often dovetailed.

Julian Assange was in classic didactic form, holding forth on the topic that consumes him — the perfidy of big government and especially of the United States.

Mr. Assange, the editor of WikiLeaks, rose to global fame in 2010 for releasing huge caches of highly classified American government communications that exposed the underbelly of its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and its sometimes cynical diplomatic maneuvering around the world. But in a televised interview last September, it was clear that he still had plenty to say about “The World According to US Empire,” the subtitle of his latest book, “The WikiLeaks Files.”

From the cramped confines of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he was granted asylum four years ago amid a legal imbroglio, Mr. Assange proffered a vision of America as superbully: a nation that has achieved imperial power by proclaiming allegiance to principles of human rights while deploying its military-intelligence apparatus in “pincer” formation to “push” countries into doing its bidding, and punishing people like him who dare to speak the truth.

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Notably absent from Mr. Assange’s analysis, however, was criticism of another world power, Russia, or its president, Vladimir V. Putin, who has hardly lived up to WikiLeaks’ ideal of transparency. Mr. Putin’s government has cracked down hard on dissent — spying on, jailing, and, critics charge, sometimes assassinating opponents while consolidating control over the news media and internet. If Mr. Assange appreciated the irony of the moment — denouncing censorship in an interview on Russia Today, the Kremlin-controlled English-language propaganda channel — it was not readily apparent.

Now, Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks are back in the spotlight, roiling the geopolitical landscape with new disclosures and a promise of more to come.

[Read the full story here, at The New York Times]

In July, the organization released nearly 20,000 Democratic National Committee emails suggesting that the party had conspired with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to undermine her primary opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders. Mr. Assange — who has been openly critical of Mrs. Clinton — has promised further disclosures that could upend her campaign against the Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump. Separately, WikiLeaks announced that it would soon release some of the crown jewels of American intelligence: a “pristine” set of cyberspying codes.

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United States officials say they believe with a high degree of confidence that the Democratic Party material was hacked by the Russian government, and suspect that the codes may have been stolen by the Russians as well. That raises a question: Has WikiLeaks become a laundering machine for compromising material gathered by Russian spies? And more broadly, what precisely is the relationship between Mr. Assange and Mr. Putin’s Kremlin?

Those questions are made all the more pointed by Russia’s prominent place in the American presidential election campaign. Mr. Putin, who clashed repeatedly with Mrs. Clinton when she was secretary of state, has publicly praised Mr. Trump, who has returned the compliment, calling for closer ties to Russia and speaking favorably of Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea. Read the rest of this entry »


Sacré Bleu! Wine Floods Streets of French Town after ‘Act of Sabotage’ 

With 200,000–400,000 French expatriates, London has become France’s sixth-largest city.

A town in southern France saw its streets running red last night but this was not about revelry.

The town of Sete, near Montpellier was drenched in red wine on Tuesday night after the contents of five huge vats of wine were spilled onto the streets.

The plonk flooded into local basements, car parks, and even some people’s homes, reported the local Midi Libre newspaper.frenchman

Up to 50,000 litres of the tipple belonging to the Biron distributors were spilled, according to reports.

Emergency services were quick to the scene and had the mess cleared up in 30 minutes, the paper reported.

On Wednesday afternoon, the radical group of wine producers CRAV (Comité régional d’action viticole) claimed responsibility for the move, reported France 3.

The group has infamously carried out numerous wine-related attacks in France, irate at foreign cheap wine making its way onto the shelves of French stores and supermarkets.

French farmers' wine dumping sparks anger in Spain Read the rest of this entry »


At Least 3 Killed, 7 Wounded in Shooting Attack at Food & Retail Center in Tel Aviv

At least three people were killed and seven people were wounded in a shooting attack at a food and shopping center in Tel Aviv, after two gunmen, said to be disguised as ultra-Orthodox Jews, opened fire on passersby.

All of the wounded were evacuated to nearby hospitals. One of the shooters was captured by police and taken in for questioning, and the other was taken to Ichilov Hospital in serious condition.

Netanyahu, who arrived on Wednesday from Moscow, is convening a security briefing in Tel Aviv.

Seven of the wounded have been evacuated to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital and another was taken to Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. One of the wounded was said to be in critical condition, four in serious condition currently and two are in light condition. The casualty at Sheba is in moderate condition.

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The attack took place at Sarona Market, an upscale food and retail center located opposite to the military headquarters in central Tel Aviv and near government buildings. Police said they received a call at 9:30 P.M. regarding shootings heard at Sharon. As emergency forces were making their way to the scene, there was another of a shooting incident at near the food and shopping center.

Tel Aviv district police chief Moshe Edri said there was no prior terror alert before the shooting occured and there was no information about an additional terrorist at large.

According to initial reports, two armed man opened fire at passersby near the Benedict restaurant. The shooter then reportedly opened fire at the nearby Ha’arbaa Street. Read the rest of this entry »


As Hunger Mounts, Venezuelans Turn to Trash for Food

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Until recently, Julio Noguera worked at a bakery. Now he spends his evenings searching through the garbage for food.

“I come here looking for food because if I didn’t, I’d starve to death,” Noguera said as he sorted through a pile of moldy potatoes. “With things like they are, no one helps anyone and no one gives away meals.”

“We’re seeing terrible sacrifices across many sections of society. A few years ago, Venezuela didn’t have the kind of extreme poverty that would drive people to eat garbage.”

— Carlos Aponte, a sociology professor at the Central University of Venezuela.

Across town, unemployed people converge every dusk at a trash heap on a downtown Caracas sidewalk to pick through rotten fruit and vegetables tossed out by nearby shops. They are frequently joined by small business owners, college students and pensioners — people who consider themselves middle class even though their living standards have long ago been pulverized by triple-digit inflation, food shortages and a collapsing currency.

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Venezuela’s poverty had eased during the administration of the late President Hugo Chavez. But a study by three leading Caracas universities found that 76 percent of Venezuelans are now under the poverty line, compared with 52 percent in 2014.

Staples such as corn flour and cooking oil are subsidized, costing pennies at the strongest of two official exchange rates. But fruit and vegetables have become an unaffordable luxury for many Venezuelan families.

“We’re seeing terrible sacrifices across many sections of society,” said Carlos Aponte, a sociology professor at the Central University of Venezuela. “A few years ago, Venezuela didn’t have the kind of extreme poverty that would drive people to eat garbage.”

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While some search through the garbage piles for food they can eat, many more are drawn by the opportunity to fetch a few bolivar bills by rescuing and reselling bruised produce.

On a recent evening, Noguera managed to retrieve a dozen potatoes.

“I’m a trained baker, but right now there’s no work anywhere here. So I make do with this,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »


Former Miss Turkey Convicted of ‘Insulting’ Islamist President Erdogan

Turkey retreats further into dictatorship.

Welcome to the New Turkey, where people can get locked up for saying something critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turkish President Erdogan doesn't take 'insults' lightly. And by insults I mean 'any form of criticism.' Thomas Koch / Shutterstock.com

Turkish President Erdogan (Thomas Koch / Shutterstock.com)

When the AKP came to power in the early 2000s, Western liberals claimed the party’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was pro-democracy. He was supposed to be enlightened; an innocent Islamic version of a Christian Democrat.

Well, not so much:forbidden-turk

An Istanbul court convicts a former Miss Turkey of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan through social media postings and gives her a 14-month suspended sentence.The court finds 27-year-old model Merve Buyuksarac guilty of insulting a public official but immediately suspends the sentence on condition that she does not re-offend within the next five years.

Back in 2014, Buyuksarac (who now goes by her married name of Ciner) shared a satirical poem on her…(read more)

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Source: PJ Media


Venezuela Isn’t Special, It’s a Perfectly Normal Example of Successful Socialism

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Caracas (AFP) – Marc Burleigh reports: If a visitor to Venezuela is unfortunate enough to pay for anything with a foreign credit card, the eye-watering cost might suggest they were in a city pricier than Tokyo or Zurich.

A hamburger sold for 1,700 Venezuelan bolivares is $170, or a 69,000-bolivar hotel room is $6,900 a night, based on the official rate of 10 bolivares for $1.

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But of course no merchant is pricing at the official rate imposed under currency controls. It’s the black market rate of 1,000 bolivares per dollar that’s applied.

But for Venezuelans paid in hyperinflation-hit bolivares, and living in an economy relying on mostly imported goods or raw materials, conditions are unthinkably expensive.

Even for the middle class, most of it sliding into poverty, hamburgers and hotels are out-of-reach excesses.

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“Everybody is knocked low,” Michael Leal, a 34-year-old manager of an eyewear store in Caracas, told AFP. “We can’t breathe.”

In Chacao, a middle-class neighborhood in the capital, office workers lined up outside a nut store to buy the cheapest lunch they could afford. Nearby restaurants were all but empty.

Superficially it looked like the of any other major Latin American city: skyscrapers, dense traffic, pedestrians in short sleeves bustling along the sidewalks.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (C) poses for a picture with his family while recovering in La Habana March 13, 2012. Chavez said he will return home from Cuba where he is recovering from cancer surgery next Sunday, to head up a re-election campaign. REUTERS/Handout/Miraflores Palace (CUBA -Tags: - Tags: POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR2ZAC6

Hugo Chavez poses for a picture with his family in La Habana March 13, 2012. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace

But look closely and you can see the economic malaise. Many stores, particularly those that sold electronics, were shuttered.

“It’s horrible now,” said Marta Gonzalez, the 69-year-old manager of a corner beauty products store.

“Nobody is buying anything really. Just food,” she said as a male customer used a debit card to pay for a couple of razor blades. Read the rest of this entry »


Cuban-Born American Warns: The U.S. Is Morphing Into Communist Country

Be Like Barack The Pros and Cons of a Career in Community Organizing

Agustin Blazquez: America Is Turning Into Communist State

Filmmaker and American citizen Agustin Blazquez never thought his native Cuba would
become a communist country, but now he sees the same radical shift happening in America.

In this exclusive video interview for The Daily Caller News Foundation, he says the left has been clever by Marx-TVusing “very non-threatening words,” like liberal, progressive and concerned citizens, for advancing government control of American lives

“Watching President Barack Obama travel to Cuba, he says, made him ‘want to throw up.’ This was a ‘betrayal to victims of communism.'”

The truth about Cuban politics is hard to find because of media spin and propaganda dominating American discourse.

For Blazquez, watching American youth embrace avowed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, strikes him as “absurd.” It is the end result, he says, of the cultural marxist education and media propaganda that has anesthetized too many Americans who do not defend the values that made America exceptional.

Watching President Barack Obama travel to Cuba, he says, made him “want to throw up.” This was a “betrayal to victims of communism,” the filmmaker of “Covering Cuba” says. Blazquez adds there are “so many [Nelson] Mandelas” in Cuban prisons, who are tortured, denied medical attention and abused.

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Yet, prominent black elites from America, including most incredibly to him, the Congressional Black Caucus, are wined and dined by the political elites but are blind to their “betrayal of blacks in Cuba.” Read the rest of this entry »


Dutch Newspaper Publishes Cartoon Depicting Erdogan as an Ape Crushing Free Speech 

The cartoon appeared on the front page after a Dutch journalist was detained in Turkey.

After a Dutch journalist was arrested in Turkey this weekend for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the most-read newspaper in the Netherlands on Monday published a front-page editorial cartoon that shows Erdogan as an ape, apparently crushing Europe’s free speech.

The cartoon, published by the populist daily De Telegraaf, has an ape with Erdogan’s face squashing a woman who appears to be Ebru Umar, the Dutch writer with a Turkish background who was arrested in Turkey on Sunday. In the cartoon, the Turkish president is standing on a rock labeled “Apenrots” — a Dutch term meaning “monkey rocks” that is used to refer to the Dutch Foreign Ministry but can also refer to a place where one dominant individual holds power.

The cartoon is titled “the long arm of Erdogan.”

Ebru Umar, the Dutch writer with a Turkish background who was arrested in Turkey on Sunday.

Ebru Umar, the Dutch writer with a Turkish background who was arrested in Turkey on Sunday.

Umar, a columnist for the newspaper Metro, had been detained by Turkish authorities who were investigating tweets she had sent about Erdogan. Umar was released Sunday, but she says she has been ordered to remain in the country as the investigation proceeds.

[read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

The detention of Umar has added another layer to what many in the Netherlands think is a growing crackdown on free speech within Turkey — and outside its borders, too. Last week, the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam came under fire after appearing to send an email that called for Turkish organizations in the Netherlands to report insults against Erdogan to it. The Turkish Embassy later said that the email had been poorly phrased and misunderstood, but it sparked controversy within the Netherlands, which is one of many European countries that still has “lèse-majesté” laws that prohibit insults against friendly heads of state. Read the rest of this entry »


Hiroshima: Wrong to Drop the Bomb?

Here we are, 70 years after the nuclear obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I’m wondering if we’ve come even one step closer to a moral reckoning with our status as the world’s only country to use atomic weapons to slaughter human beings. Will an American president ever offer a formal apology? Will our country ever regret the dropping of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” those two bombs that burned hotter than the sun? Will it absorb the way they instantly vaporized thousands of victims, incinerated tens of thousands more, and created unimaginably powerful shockwaves and firestorms that ravaged everything for miles beyond ground zero? Will it finally come to grips with the “black rain” that spread radiation and killed even more people — slowly and painfully — leading in the end to a death toll for the two cities conservatively estimated at more than 250,000?

Yet Americans still view the bombings as an act of mercy

BULLSHIT

First of all, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were legitimate military targets; important industrial and port cities- the heart of Japan’s war machine. And even after Hiroshima, they still were unwilling to surrender.

There’s also the fact that the conventional firebombing of Tokyo by 330 B-29 Superfortresses killed the same number of people as the Hiroshima bomb with plain old firebombs. Is this somehow morally superior to Hiroshima? 100,000 people dying in one bombing s perfectly acceptable as long as uranium and plutonium aren’t bombed, eh, @salon??? How about millions, @salon???

If you can’t tell me which of the below cities is Hiroshima and which one is Tokyo, you really should stop talking.

Look at this. Look at it. We did this without any fucking atom bombs and they still didn’t surrender.

But that’s not important.

Do you have any fucking clue what the alternative was, @salon???

It’s blood chilling.

Put simply, that above is the alternative, but no mere map can drive home the horror that would have been the aptly named Operation Downfall. D-Day would have been PEANUTS in comparison

It would have consisted of two phases: Operation Coronet and Operation Olympic. Olympic was scheduled for November 1st, 1945, with the goal of invading the southernmost Japanese home island of Kyushu. It would have been spearheaded by forty two aircraft carriers, twenty four battleships and over four hundred assorted cruisers, destroyers and destroyer escorts. By comparison, today’s US Navy only has 271 deployable combat ships.

Fourteen Army and Marine Corps divisions would have fought and bled and died on those beaches, with the Fifth, Seventh and Thirteenth Air Forces providing tactical close air support. The Twentieth Air Force would have continued the job of strategic bombing, pummeling Japanese infrastructure in the hopes of slowing down the inevitable Japanese main counterattack. Thirty-five landing beaches would have been concentrated around the cities of Miyazaki, Ariake and Kushikino, most of which were as heavily defended if not more so than Omaha Beach in Normandy. For the record, as can be clearly seen on the maps below, we weren’t even planning on taking the whole island, just the southern third of it because casualty rates would have been that FUCKING high.

Here’s a close-up map of Olympic:

Operation Coronet was scheduled for March 1, 1946- no, that date is not wrong; this would have extended World War II into the fifties- and was supposed to march on Tokyo, the heart and soul of the Japanese empire. Twenty five Army and Marine divisions would have landed that day on two opposing beaches with the plan being to take the city in the largest pincer movement since Operation Barbarossa. For comparison, the entirety of all American, Canadian and British forces landing on D-Day amounted to twelve divisions.

Here’s Coronet:

It wasn’t hard at all for the Japanese to figure out where we’d be landing and they had some plans of their own. Operation Ketsu-Go aim was not to win Japan the war; they knew that was impossible at this point in the game. No, their entire goal was to kill as many Allied troops as possible before going down.

They had five thousand aircraft, just for use as kamikazes. During the Battle of Okinawa just months prior, they had launched fifteen hundred kamikazes, causing more than 10,000 casualties; with more favorable terrain on Kyushu their kill rates would only have risen. They also planned to target troop carriers as they ferried men to the beaches; this alone could have destroyed one third of the invasion force before it even arrived.

They also had a little over a thousand suicide submarines and suicide boats- literally motorboats filled with explosives- to ram Allied shipping. They also planned on using “human mines”- just men in diving gear who would swim out and detonate bombs as the American transports passed overhead.

On the beaches, the Japanese moved one million soldiers to Kyushu. They also forced civilians into the fight, training women, schoolchildren and old men to kill Americans with goddamn muskets, longbows and bamboo spears! Anything they had they were told to kill Americans with. They were strapping explosives to schoolchildren as suicide bombers- eerily similar to what US soldiers are facing right now in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

But that’s barely scratching the surface. What’s truly chilling is the predicted casualty rates. The very best estimate for Allied forces was in the hundreds of thousands, more likely in the millions; up to that point the US had lost “only” 240,000 men in combat; we would have doubled and then tripled that in the first week of the invasion alone. The Japanese, on the other hand, were facing upwards of nine million to ALL OF THEM. Civilians would be dying left and right from starvation, the bombings, the blockade; even the atrocities their own military would have committed against them. This is the same military that forced parents on Okinawa to kill their children and then themselves, this is the same military that in Nanking raped and killed upwards of three hundred thousand people; this is the same military that did shit that puts your worst nightmares to shame.

Of course, the truest irony of it all is that even if we had gone with Operation Downfall, wasting another fifteen million innocent lives in a war that had already cost us eighty million, is that some plans for Downfall called for the usage of atomic bombs anyway! Numbers vary from seven to twenty; seven is most likely. So even if we had invaded, Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been destroyed anyway!

We were also planning on nuking the beaches to soften up Japanese defenses too. But think about that. Nobody knew about radiation at the time. We would have been marching our troops through the still glowing impact zone. We were this close to killing EVERYONE in BOTH armies. Compared to the 250,000 dead at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this seems like a blessing!

However, for me, the most thought-provoking reminder of how many people almost died is the fact that in the leadup to the invasion that ultimately never was, the USA manufactured over 500,000 Purple Hearts. These have been used in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else brave men have been injured or died defending our freedom…. and we still to this day have one hundred thousand of them left.

Sources:

Source: why-we-cant-have-nice-thing.tumblr.com


Sacré Bleu! France Aims To Enshrine Emergency Anti-Terror Law In Constitution

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President Francois Hollande called for the emergency powers to be protected from litigation by placing them in the constitution.

(AFP) – The French cabinet backed reform proposals Wednesday that could see the state of emergency called after last month’s Paris attacks enshrined in the constitution.

“The threat has never been higher. We must face up to a war, a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam.”

— Prime Minister Manuel Valls

Special policing powers used under the state of emergency — such as house arrests and the right to raid houses without judicial oversight — are currently based on an ordinary law which can be challenged at the constitutional court.

In the wake of the Paris attacks that left 130 dead, President Francois Hollande called for the emergency powers to be protected from litigation by placing them in the constitution.

“The threat has never been higher,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told reporters following a meeting of government ministers on Wednesday.

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“We must face up to a war, a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam,” he said.

The constitutional reforms must now be passed by a three-fifths majority in the upper and lower houses of parliament, where debates will start on February 3.

Valls said the latest figures showed more than 1,000 people had left France to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq, of which an estimated 148 had died and 250 returned.

“Radicalised individuals from numerous countries join Daesh (the Arab acronym for the Islamic State group). There are many French speakers and we know that fighters group themselves according to language, to train and prepare terrorist actions on our soil,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Scare Bleu! French Far-Right Fails to Win a Single Region in Elections

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Paris (AFP) – France’s far-right National Front (FN) failed to win a single region in elections on Sunday despite record results in the first round, early estimates showed, as voters flocked to traditional parties to keep it out of power.

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The leader of the anti-immigration FN, Marine Le Pen, lost out to the centre-right alliance in her northern region after the ruling Socialists pulled out of the race ahead of the second round.

A reminder for Trump supporters?

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Source: AFP/Yahoo News


OH YES HE DID: Putin Raises Possibility of Using Nuclear Weapons Against Terrorists 

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But hopes they ‘will never need’ them

Serina Sandhu reports: Vladimir Putin has said he hopes nuclear warheads will not be needed to deal with terrorists, after Russia launched cruise missiles from its submarine at Syria.

“With regard to strikes from a submarine. We certainly need to analyse everything that is happening on the battlefield, how the weapons work. Both the [Kalibr] missiles and the Kh-101 rockets are generally showing very good results. We now see that these are new, modern and highly effective high-precision weapons that can be equipped either with conventional or special nuclear warheads.”

— Vladimir Putin

During a meeting in the Kremlin, Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told the President that Kalibr cruise missiles had been fired by the submerged Rostov-on-Don submarine from the Mediterranean Sea for the first time.

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He said TU-22 bombers also took part in the latest raids and that “significant damage” had been done to a munitions depot, a factory manufacturing mortar rounds and oil facilities. Two major targets in Raqqa, the defacto capital of Isis, had been hit, said Mr Shoigu.

President Putin said the new cruise missiles could also be equipped with nuclear warheads – but that he hoped they would never need them.

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He said: “With regard to strikes from a submarine. We certainly need to analyse everything that is happening on the battlefield, how the weapons work. Both the [Kalibr] missiles and the Kh-101 rockets are generally showing very good results. We now see that these are new, modern and highly effective high-precision weapons that can be equipped either with conventional or special nuclear warheads.”

President Putin said the new cruise missiles could also be equipped with nuclear warheads – but that he hoped they would never need them. Read the rest of this entry »


France Shuts Down 3 Mosques During Crackdown On Terrorists 

PARIS (AP) — The latest on the recovery from and investigation into the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. All times local: 2:35 p.m.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says three mosques have been shut down in France since the Paris attacks as part of a crackdown on extremist activities.

Cazeneuve told reporters it was the first time mosques are being closed in France “on grounds of radicalization.”

One of the mosques, 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Paris in Lagny-sur-Marne, was targeted by raids early Wednesday, with police seizing a 9mm revolver, a computer hard disc and jihadist propaganda. Cazeneuve said the mosque also had a non-authorized Quranic school….(read more)

Source: Weasel Zippers


China’s Renminbi Is Approved as a Main World Currency 

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The I.M.F. decision will help pave the way for broader use of the renminbi in trade and finance, securing China’s standing as a global economic power.

HONG KONG — Keith Brasher reports: The International Monetary Fund on Monday approved the Chinese renminbi as one of the world’s main central bank reserve currencies, a major acknowledgment of the country’s rising financial and economic heft.

The I.M.F. decision will help pave the way for broader use of the renminbi in trade and finance, securing China’s standing as a global economic power. But it also introduces new uncertainty into China’s economy and financial system, as the country was forced to relax many currency controls to meet the I.M.F. requirements.

NYT China-Espionage

The changes could inject volatility into the Chinese economy, since large flows of money surge into the country and recede based on its prospects. This could make it difficult for China to maintain its record of strong, steady growth, especially at a time when its economy is already slowing.

The I.M.F. will start including the renminbi in the fund’s unit of accounting, the so-called special drawing rights, at the end of September. The renminbi will take its place alongside the dollar, the euro, the yen and the pound.

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Many central banks follow this benchmark in building their reserves, so countries could start holding more renminbi as a result. China will also gain more influence in international bailouts denominated in the fund’s accounting unit, like Greece’s debt deal. Read the rest of this entry »


UPDATE: Jewish Teacher Stabbed in Marseilles by Purported ISIS Supporters

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MARSEILLES – A teacher at a Jewish school in the southern French city of Marseilles was stabbed on Wednesday by three people professing support for Islamic State, but his life was not in danger, prosecutors said.

The three men who assailed the teacher uttered anti-Semitic remarks during the incident, AFP reported…(read more)

Source: jpost.com


Cover of Latest Edition of Charlie Hebdo

This handout image obtained from French Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on November 17, 2015 shows the cover of the latest edition of the magazine which features its satirical take on the November 13, 2015 terror attack in Paris in which at least 129 people were killed, and a headline which translates as "They are armed, Fuck them, We have Champagne". ì RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT " AFP PHOTO / CHARLIE HEBDO" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS î

This handout image obtained from French Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on November 17, 2015 shows the cover of the latest edition of the magazine which features its satirical take on the November 13, 2015 terror attack in Paris in which at least 129 people were killed, and a headline which translates as “They are armed,  Fuck them, We have Champagne”.


House Republicans Seek to Cut Off Funding for Syrian Resettlement Program

The growing momentum behind new legislation, still being drafted, sets up a future clash between the White House and Congress.

John Hudson reports: Following the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, House Republicans are proposing to block federal funding for resettling Syrian refugees until a series of new conditions are met, Foreign Policy has learned.

 “Currently, 60 million people worldwide have been forced from their homes or are otherwise considered refugees — higher than at any other time in recorded history.”

The growing momentum behind new legislation, still being drafted, sets up a future clash between the White House and Congress as the Obama administration seeks to offer residency to 10,000 Syrian refugees who currently live outside the conflict zone. Currently, 60 million people worldwide have been forced from their homes or are otherwise considered refugees — higher than at any other time in recorded history. An estimated six million to eight million displaced people are still in Syria, and more than four million Syrian refugees are in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon.

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“The 15 Republican lawmakers pushing the legislation aren’t the only politicians looking to slam the brakes on Obama’s resettlement program. The governors of 15 U.S. states have already said they would not allow Syrian refugees to live in their states.”

The draft legislation, a copy of which was obtained by FP, is backed by Reps. Brian Babin, Lou Barletta, Diane Black, Mo Brooks, Jeff Duncan, John Duncan, Blake Farenthold, Louie Gohmert, Frank Guinta, Gregg Harper, Walter Jones, Steve King, Mike Pompeo, Mark Meadows, and Bill Posey. It would prevent funding for the resettlement of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa until authorities adopt “processes to ensure that refugee and related programs are not able to be co-opted by would-be terrorists.” Once those processes are in place, details of the security checks must be given to Congress in both classified and public forums, and the administration must establish a “longer-term monitoring process” to track refugees in the U.S.

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“Additionally, House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul plans to raise the issue of blocking Syrian refugee resettlement at a Tuesday meeting with fellow Republicans, according to two congressional sources.”

The 15 Republican lawmakers pushing the legislation aren’t the only politicians looking to slam the brakes on Obama’s resettlement program. The governors of 15 U.S. states have already said they would not allow Syrian refugees to live in their states. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R) has proposed legislation to restrict U.S. funding for refugee resettlement and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R) has said he will introduce legislation to prevent Syrian refugees from obtaining U.S. visas. Read the rest of this entry »


Aaron MacLean: Degrading and Ultimately Dishonest: Obama Changes Nothing After Paris

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 writes: Twice during his train wreck of a press conference this morning in Turkey, President Obama cited the prospect of American military casualties as a major part of his reason for not using U.S. ground troops against the Islamic State. Lecturing an openly skeptical press corps—and, by extension, critics he accused of “popping off” and trying to “sound tough” without actually proposing anything serious—he condescendingly pointed out that ground combat is a serious business. Troops “get killed, they get injured, they are away from their families.”

“From the very outset, Obama has been dishonest about his goals. The biggest take-away of his embarrassing assertion to ABC News just before the Paris attacks that the Islamic State had been contained was indicative of this, and went largely unnoticed by the press.”

As it happens, I talk to Marines I served with in Afghanistan all the time. I am sure there must be a few out there who don’t want to take time “away from their families” in order to annihilate the Islamic State, risking death to do so, but I haven’t heard from them.

[Read the full text here, at Washington Free Beacon]

Marines have a word for this kind of thing. They call it their “job.” (In fact, I know more than a few who have left the Corps because they concluded they weren’t going to deploy to fight while Obama was still in office.)

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” He has a vision for the future, of a United States that is no longer the primary enforcer of world order, but a responsible partner among other nations combating a wide array of challenges, most critically climate change. He has accepted as a risk that the citizens of Paris, or of Washington, might be murdered in large numbers as he sees his strategy through.”

In the press conference, Obama also said his top military advisers oppose ground action against the Islamic State. This might even be true: Obama fires military commanders who are too hawkish for him. It stands to reason that he appoints those who are going to be sympathetic to his views—officers who in some cases then suppress intelligence showing that the fight against the terrorists is failing.

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“But as the Islamic State continues to metastasize, and Americans begin to reject Obama’s rhetoric, the president will find himself in a political dilemma.”

Regardless, after a performance like today’s, who would tell the president that ground action is needed? The man clearly doesn’t want to hear it, just as he clearly doesn’t want to entertain the possibility that there might be a middle course between his own demonstrably ineffective word-salad of a strategy and a re-enactment of the counterinsurgency campaigns of the last decade.

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“Even if Hillary tacks to the right on national security after her primary challenge is concluded, Obama’s fecklessness could empower Republicans in 2016, thus risking his entire legacy. That, for Obama, would be a disaster.”

How embarrassing for editors who headlined stories over the weekend saying that Obama faces a “crossroads” or a “dilemma” after the Paris attacks. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Breeding Ground for Violence’: Belgium’s Islamist ‘Airbase’ 

Security services face difficulties due to Belgium’s local devolution and tensions between the country’s French-and Dutch-speaking halves; the country has long been open to fundamentalist preachers from the Gulf; and it has a thriving black market in automatic rifles of the kind used in Paris.

Jan Bartunek and Alastair MacDonald report: “A breeding ground for violence” the mayor of Molenbeek called her borough on Sunday, speaking of unemployment and overcrowding among Arab immigrant families, of youthful despair finding refuge in radical Islam.

“Belgium is a federal state and that’s always an advantage for terrorists. Having several layers of government hampers the flow of information between investigators.”

— Edwin Bakker, professor at the Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands

But as the Brussels district on the wrong side of the city’s post-industrial canal becomes a focus for police pursuing those behind Friday’s mass attacks in Paris, Belgian authorities are asking what makes the narrow, terraced streets of Molenbeek different from a thousand similar neighborhoods across Europe.

“In such a case it’s very difficult to get feedback from the community. That means while the neighbors may have seen something going on, they’re not passing it to the police. Then it becomes very tough for intelligence agencies as only relying on them and not local police is not sufficient.”

Three themes emerge as Molenbeek is again in a spotlight of Islamist violence, home not just to militants among Belgium’s own half a million Muslims but, it seems, for French radicals seeking a convenient, discreet base to lie low, plan and arm before striking their homeland across the border:

Security services face difficulties due to Belgium’s local devolution and tensions between the country’s French- and Dutch-speaking halves; the country has long been open to fundamentalist preachers from the Gulf; and it has a thriving black market in automatic rifles of the kind used in Paris.

People shop at a market in the neighbourhood of Molenbeek, where Belgian police staged a raid following the attacks in Paris, at Brussels, Belgium November 15, 2015. Reuters/Yves Herman

People shop at a market in the neighbourhood of Molenbeek, where Belgian police staged a raid following the attacks in Paris, at Brussels, Belgium November 15, 2015.
Reuters/Yves Herman

“With 500-1,000 euros you can get a military weapon in half an hour,” said Bilal Benyaich, senior fellow at Brussels think-tank the Itinera Institute, who has studied the spread of radical Islam in Belgium. “That makes Brussels more like a big U.S. city” in mostly gun-free Europe, he said.

[Read the full story here, at Reuters]

Two of the attackers who killed over 130 people, 170 miles away in Paris on Friday night were Frenchmen resident in Belgium. Belgian police raided Molenbeek addresses and seven people have been arrested in Belgium over the Paris attacks.

“Almost every time, there is a link to Molenbeek,” said 39-year-old centrist prime minister Charles Michel, whose year-old coalition is battling radical recruiters who have tempted more than 350 Belgians to fight in Syria – relative to Belgium’s 11 million population, easily the biggest contingent from Europe. Read the rest of this entry »


Transportation Officials Assess France’s Newly Imposed Border Controls

President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency Friday and announced border restrictions for the country. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Robert Wall and Andy Pastor report: Transportation officials scrambled to determine what France’s decision to implement border controls would mean for travel to and from the country.

France’s foreign minister said the country would implement border controls across road, rail, sea and aviation entry points. Airline and rail links would continue to operate, with airports remaining open. France has open borders with many of its European neighbors, though the government’s announcement suggests some checks would be restored. Early Saturday, travel officials were still trying to figure out what the additional security measures would entail, but the steps could include ID checks at borders that previously weren’t required.

his is an aerial view of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on VE Day, May 7, 1945, shows thousands of French people celebrating the announcement of Germany's unconditional surrender to the Allies. British, American and French servicemen mingled with the crowds who sang and danced throughout the night. (AP Photo/Griffin)

This is an aerial view of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on VE Day, May 7, 1945, shows thousands of French people celebrating the announcement of Germany’s unconditional surrender to the Allies. British, American and French servicemen mingled with the crowds who sang and danced throughout the night. (AP Photo/Griffin)

A French aviation official said that while airports would be open, enhanced security procedures would go into force.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

Most international train and ferry services had already halted for the night.

Eurostar, the operator of high-speed international train service into Paris, said it was working with authorities to understand the implications to how border restrictions might impact service. Read the rest of this entry »


Paris Attacks: President Francois Hollande: ‘We Will Lead the Fight. It Will Be Ruthless’

President Hollande spoke in front of the Bataclan concert venue shortly after police ended a siege on the building that officials say left around 100 people dead.

French President Francois Hollande (C), flanked by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (Rear L), French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (R) and President of the French National Assembly Claude Bartolone (2nd R), addresses reporters near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, early on November 14, 2015. A number of people were killed in an 'unprecedented' series of bombings and shootings across Paris and at the Stade de France stadium on November 13, and the death toll looked likely to rise as sources said dozens had been killed at the Bataclan popular music venue. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

French President Francois Hollande (C), flanked by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (Rear L), French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (R) and President of the French National Assembly Claude Bartolone (2nd R), addresses reporters near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, early on November 14, 2015. A number of people were killed in an ‘unprecedented’ series of bombings and shootings across Paris and at the Stade de France stadium on November 13, and the death toll looked likely to rise as sources said dozens had been killed at the Bataclan popular music venue. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Reports from survivors indicate that the attackers may have mentioned Hollande during the attack.

Les Monde journalist Elise Barthet said several survivors were being interviewed by police in a bar near the Bataclan venue. According to Barthet, two witness said one of the shooters said “everything is the fault of your president.” (more)

Source: Live updates: mashable.com


New York Times: ‘Paris Attacks Kill Dozens in Night of Deadly Terror’

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PARIS — Adam Nosier  and Rick Gladstone report: The Paris area reeled Friday night from a shooting rampage, explosions and mass hostage-taking that President François Hollande called an unprecedented terrorist attack on France. He closed the borders and mobilized the military in a national emergency.

“As I speak, terrorist attacks of an unprecedented scale are taking place in the Paris region. There are several dozen dead, lots more wounded, it’s horrific.”

— President Francois Hollande, in a nationally televised address.

French television and news services quoted the police as saying at least 100 people had been killed at a concert hall alone, and dozens more in apparently coordinated attacks outside the country’s main sports stadium and at least five other popular locations in the city.

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Witnesses on French television said the scene at the rock concert was a massacre.

The casualties eclipsed the deaths and mayhem that roiled Paris in the Charlie Hebdo massacre and related assaults around the French capital by Islamic militant extremists less than a year ago.

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An explosion near the sports stadium, which French news services said may have been a suicide bombing, came as Germany and France were playing a soccer match, forcing a hasty evacuation of Mr. Hollande. As the scope of the assaults quickly became clear, he convened an emergency cabinet meeting and announced that France was closing its borders.

[Read the full story here, at The New York Times]

“As I speak, terrorist attacks of an unprecedented scale are taking place in the Paris region,” he said in a nationally televised address. “There are several dozen dead, lots more wounded, it’s horrific.”

Mr. Hollande said that on his orders the government had “mobilized all the forces we can muster to neutralize the threats and secure all of the areas.” Read the rest of this entry »


Victor Davis Hanson: Is Trump Our Napoleon? 

Doesn’t America already have one Napoleon already? (Actual Newsweek cover from November of 2012 on left.)

What are Trump’s politics? Like Napoleon’s, no one quite knows, beyond an equally burning desire to make his nation ‘great again.’

victor-davis-HVictor Davis Hanson writes: Comparing great things to smaller ones, is Donald Trump, in spirit, becoming our version of Napoleon Bonaparte?

For a decade and a half Napoleon wrecked Europe. He hijacked the platitudes of the French Revolution to mask his own dictatorship at home and imperialism abroad. Yet today, two centuries after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, he remains an icon for many in, and a few outside, France. Why? How could geniuses like the novelists Victor Hugo and Stendhal acknowledge Napoleon’s pathologies and the damage that he did to the early 19th century European world, and yet enthuse that he made the French feel both politically and morally “great”? Most French even today believe that he did.

“Donald Trump is not going to invade Russia, but he is starting to sound a lot like Bonaparte, well aside from a similarly narcissistic convergence of America’s future with his own Napoleonic persona.”

Of course, for a while at least, Napoleon really did “make France great again,” at least in terms of territory and power.  At its pinnacle between 1806-11, Imperial France ruled the continent in a way not seen again until the Third Reich’s briefer rule between 1940 and 1942 from the Atlantic Ocean to the Volga River. It threatened to do away with the incompetent and reactionary regimes in every European country and replace them with a supposedly meritocratic class of social reformers, beholden to a natural Napoleonic hierarchy.

[Read the full story here, at Works and Days]

Moreover, Napoleon’s own political agenda was a mishmash of conservative authoritarianism and populist social justice. So effective was the strange brew that even to this day scholars fight over whether Napoleon was a proto-Hitler whose unhinged ambitions led to millions of innocent European, Russian, Caribbean and North Africa dead, or a loyal defender of the French Revolution, whose eleventh-hour iron hand alone kept alive the threatened ideals of fraternity and egalitarianism. Read the rest of this entry »


Dutch Probe: Soviet-Made Surface-to-Air Buk Missile Downed Malaysian Jet in Ukraine

Also see [GRAPHIC PHOTOS] Live Updates: Passenger Jet Downed in Ukraine, Buk Missile Attack Suspected, 23 American Passengers Suspected Dead

The missile shot skyward from war-ravaged eastern Ukraine. With deadly accuracy more than six miles up, it detonated just in front of the Malaysia Airlines jetliner, sending hundreds of jagged steel shards ripping through its aluminum skin at up to 5,600 mph and shearing the cockpit from the rest of the plane.

“The 15-month Dutch investigation blamed a Soviet-made surface-to-air Buk missile for downing the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight, but it did not explicitly say who had fired it.”

The two pilots and purser in the cockpit died instantly, and the Boeing 777 disintegrated and fell to earth, killing the rest of the 298 men, women and children aboard Flight 17 on July 17, 2014, Dutch investigators said Tuesday in a long-awaited report.

“The Dutch Safety Board also found that the tragedy wouldn’t have happened if the airspace of eastern Ukraine had been totally closed to passenger planes as fighting raged below.”

Some of the victims may have been conscious for 60 to 90 seconds, the Dutch Safety Board said, but they probably were not fully aware of what was happening in the oxygen-starved, freezing chaos. The tornado-like airflow surging through the doomed jet as it came apart was powerful enough to tear off people’s clothes and leave naked corpses amid the fields of sunflowers.

“Our investigation showed that all parties regarded the conflict in eastern part of Ukraine from a military perspective. Nobody gave any thought of a possible threat to civil aviation.”

— Safety Board chairman Tjibbe Joustra

The 15-month Dutch investigation blamed a Soviet-made surface-to-air Buk missile for downing the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight, but it did not explicitly say who had fired it. It identified an area of 320 square kilometers (120 square miles) where it said the launch must have taken place, and all of the land was in the hands of pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian forces at the time of the disaster, according to daily maps of fighting released by the Ukrainian National Security Council.

The Dutch Safety Board also found that the tragedy wouldn’t have happened if the airspace of eastern Ukraine had been totally closed to passenger planes as fighting raged below.

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“Our investigation showed that all parties regarded the conflict in eastern part of Ukraine from a military perspective. Nobody gave any thought of a possible threat to civil aviation,” Safety Board chairman Tjibbe Joustra said in releasing the report at a military base in the southern Netherlands.

He spoke in front of the partially reassembled red, white and blue Malaysian jetliner, much of the left side of its mangled fuselage front riddled with shrapnel holes.

Russian officials were prompt to dismiss the Dutch report, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov calling it an obvious “attempt to make a biased conclusion, in essence to carry out a political order.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Buk’s manufacturer presented its own report trying to clear the separatists, and Russia itself, of any involvement.

[Read the full text here, at ABC News]

The Russian state-controlled consortium Almaz-Antey said it conducted experiments, including one in which a Buk missile was detonated near the nose of an airplane similar to a 777, and it contended they contradicted the conclusion that a Buk missile of the kind used by the Russians destroyed Flight 17. Almaz-Antey had earlier suggested that it could have been a model of Buk that is no longer in service with the Russian military but is part of Ukraine’s arsenal.

It said the experiments also rebutted claims the missile was fired from Snizhne, a village that was under rebel control. An Associated Press reporter saw a Buk missile system in that vicinity on the same day.

Despite the moves by Moscow, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands called on Russia to fully cooperate with a separate criminal investigation that Dutch prosecutors are conducting into the downing of the plane, in which 196 Dutch nationals died. Read the rest of this entry »


Pew Research Center: Gun Homicide Rate Down 49% Since 1993 Peak; Public Unaware 

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Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew.

By  and 

Chapter 1: Overview

National rates of gun homicide and other violent gun crimes are strikingly lower now than during their peak in the mid-1990s, paralleling a general decline in violent crime, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data. Beneath the long-term trend, though, are big differences by decade: Violence plunged through the 1990s, but has declined less dramatically since 2000.

SDT-2013-05-gun-crime-1-1

Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew. The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm—assaults, robberies and sex crimes—was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall (with or without a firearm) also is down markedly (72%) over two decades.

Nearly all the decline in the firearm homicide rate took place in the 1990s; the downward trend stopped in 2001 and resumed slowly in 2007. The victimization rate for other gun crimes plunged in the 1990s, then declined more slowly from 2000 to 2008. The rate appears to be higher in 2011 compared with 2008, but the increase is not statistically significant. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall also dropped in the 1990s before declining more slowly from 2000 to 2010, then ticked up in 2011.

Despite national attention to the issue of firearm violence, most Americans are unaware that gun crime is lower today than it was two decades ago. According to a new Pew Research Center survey, today 56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher than 20 years ago and only 12% think it is lower.

SDT-2013-05-gun-crime-1-2

Looking back 50 years, the U.S. gun homicide rate began rising in the 1960s, surged in the 1970s, and hit peaks in 1980 and the early 1990s. (The number of homicides peaked in the early 1990s.) The plunge in homicides after that meant that firearm homicide rates inmust-think-hardthe late 2000s were equal to those not seen since the early 1960s.The sharp decline in the U.S. gun homicide rate, combined with a slower decrease in the gun suicide
rate, means that gun suicides now account for six-in-ten firearms deaths, the highest share since at least 1981.

Trends for robberies followed a similar long-term trajectory as homicides (National Research Council, 2004), hitting a peak in the early 1990s before declining.

This report examines trends in firearm homicide, non-fatal violent gun crime victimization and non-fatal violent crime victimization overall since 1993. Its findings on firearm crime are based mainly on analysis of data from two federal agencies. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using information from death certificates, are the source of rates, counts and trends for all firearm deaths, homicide and suicide, unless otherwise specified. The Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, a household survey conducted by the Census Bureau, supplies annual estimates of non-fatal crime victimization, including those where firearms are used, regardless of whether the crimes were reported to police. Where relevant, this report also quotes from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (see text box at the end of this chapter and the Methodology appendix for more discussion about data sources).

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Researchers have studied the decline in firearm crime and violent crime for many years, and though there are theories to explain the decline, there is no consensus among those who study the issue as to why it happened.

There also is debate about the extent of gun ownership in the U.S., although no disagreement that the U.S. has more civilian firearms, both total and per capita, than other nations. Compared with other developed nations, the U.S. has a higher homicide rate and higher rates of gun ownership, but not higher rates for all other crimes. (See Chapter 5 for more details.)

In the months since the mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school in December, the public is paying close attention to the topic of firearms; according to a recent Pew Research Center survey (Pew Research Center, April 2013) no story received more public attention from mid-March to early April than the debate over gun control. Reducing crime has moved up as a priority for the public in polling this year.

Mass shootings are a matter of great public interest and concern. They also are a relatively small share of shootings overall. According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics review, homicides that claimed at least three lives accounted for less than 1% of all homicide deaths from 1980 to 2008. These homicides, most of which are shootings, increased as a share of all homicides from 0.5% in 1980 to 0.8% in 2008, according to the bureau’s data. A Congressional Research Service report, using a definition of four deaths or more, counted 547 deaths from mass shootings in the U.S. from 1983 to 2012.

Looking at the larger topic of firearm deaths, there were 31,672 deaths from guns in the U.S. in 2010. Most (19,392) were suicides; the gun suicide rate has been higher than the gun homicide rate since at least 1981, and the gap is wider than it was in 1981.

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Knowledge About Crime

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Despite the attention to gun violence in recent months, most Americans are unaware that gun crime is markedly lower than it was two decades ago. A new Pew Research Center survey (March 14-17) found that 56% of Americans believe the number of crimes involving a gun is higher than it was 20 years ago; only 12% say it is lower and 26% say it stayed the same. (An additional 6% did not know or did not answer.)

Men (46%) are less likely than women (65%) to say long-term gun crime is up. Young adults, ages 18 to 29, are markedly less likely than other adults to say long-term crime is up—44% do, compared with more than half of other adults. Minority adults are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to say that long-term gun crime is up, 62% compared with 53%.

Asked about trends in the number of gun crimes “in recent years,” a plurality of 45% believe the number has gone up, 39% say it is about the same and 10% say it has gone down. (An additional 5% did not know or did not answer.) As with long-term crime, women (57%) are more likely than men (32%) to say that gun crime has increased in recent years. So are non-white adults (54%) compared with whites (41%). Adults ages 50 and older (51%) are more likely than those ages 18-49 (42%) to believe gun crime is up.

What is Behind the Crime Decline?

Researchers continue to debate the key factors behind changing crime rates, which is part of a larger discussion about the predictors of crime. There is consensus that demographics played some role: The outsized post-World War II baby boom, which produced a large number of people in the high-crime ages of 15 to 20 in the 1960s and 1970s, helped drive crime up in those years.

A review by the National Academy of Sciences of factors driving recent crime trends (Blumstein and Rosenfeld, 2008) cited a decline in rates in the early 1980s as the young boomers got older, then a flare-up by mid-decade in conjunction with a rising street market for crack cocaine, especially in big cities. It noted recruitment of a younger cohort of drug seller with greater willingness to use guns. By the early 1990s, crack markets withered in part because of lessened demand, and the vibrant national economy made it easier for even low-skilled young people to find jobs rather than get involved in crime.

At the same time, a rising number of people ages 30 and older were incarcerated, due in part to stricter laws, which helped restrain violence among this age group. It is less clear, researchers say, that innovative policing strategies and police crackdowns on use of guns by younger adults played a significant role in reducing crime.

Some researchers have proposed additional explanations as to why crime levels plunged so suddenly, including increased access to abortion and lessened exposure to lead. According to one hypothesis, legalization of abortion after the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision resulted in fewer unwanted births, and unwanted children have an increased risk of growing up to become criminals. Another theory links reduced crime to 1970s-era reductions in lead in gasoline; children’s exposure to lead causes brain damage that could be associated with violent behavior. The National Academy of Sciences review said it was unlikely that either played a major role, but researchers continue to explore both factors.

Homicide-Johnny

The plateau in national violent crime rates has raised interest in the topic of how local differences might influence crime levels and trends. Crime reductions took place across the country in the 1990s, but since 2000, patterns have varied more by metropolitan area or city.

One focus of interest is that gun ownership varies widely by region and locality. The National Academy of Sciences review of possible influences on crime trends said there is good evidence of a link between firearm ownership and firearm homicide at the local level; “the causal direction of this relationship remains in dispute, however, with some researchers maintaining that firearm violence elevates rates of gun ownership, but not the reverse.” Read the rest of this entry »