While the U.S. Senate Clears the Way for Homeland Security Funding and as the World Continues to Struggle with ISIS, Ukraine and Russia Continue to Struggle with Another Ceasefire

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Reuters reported on Thursday that the Senate moved Wednesday to advert a shutdown of U.S. domestic security agency this weekend by voting to clear the way for funding a funding bill that does not include the immigration issue. The vote came shortly after an appeal from the current and two former Security secretaries appealed to Congress to avoid the shutdown and give full funding for the department of Homeland Security this year. The final hurdle for passage will fall to the conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives who still oppose the bill and procedural negotiations that could delay the final vote beyond Friday’s funding deadline for the department. The agency set up after 9/11 coordinates domestic efforts to combat security threats like the recent Somali based Islamic militants against U.S. shopping malls and encompasses the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration as well as border, immigration and several other federal agencies. The original bill would of funded the agency with $39.7 billion until Republicans against Democratic President Barack Obama’s executive order lifted deportation threats of undocumented immigrants got in the way causing Republicans to approve the bill adding a provision to ban spending on the order. This in turn caused a deadlock that lasted weeks between Republicans and Democrats leading up to Wednesday’s vote. The 98-2 vote cleared the way to take out the House’s immigration provisions and leave the vote on immigration orders for a later date under the plan designed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to end the deadlock. The overwhelming bipartisan support for McConnell’s approach means there is strong support for drama free funding for Homeland Security. Democrats have called for a clean Homeland bill all along without any immigration restrictions as Obama had threatened to veto the House passed measure. House Speaker John Boehner declined to tell Reuters if he would put the bill to a House vote even thought the deadline ends at midnight Friday. If no deal is reached, then Homeland Security would be forced to furlough about 30,000 employees or 15 percent of its workforce. This translate to many of the essential personnel such as airport and border security agents would have to wait to be paid until new funding is approved. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and some of his predecessors pleaded at a news conference for Congress to swiftly pass the funding bill. A cut-off in funds also would suspend grants to states to support local counter-terrorism activities.

As security issues at home become increasingly worrisome, the White House has said President Barack Obama would be open to negotiating with Congress for new authorization for military force against Islamic State militants including a three year limit on U.S. military action and use of American troops, according to the AP’s Nedra Pickler, Obama open to changes to military authority against IS. After a weeklong holiday break, lawmakers returned to Washington Monday and have started to consider the proposal with some Republicans saying it is too restrictive for the mission to succeed and some Democrats wanting more limitations on Obama’s authority so the U.S. doesn’t sign on for another open ended war. Obama is open to discussing every aspect of his proposal but firmly opposed to any geographic restriction on where the U.S. military pursues ISIS with strongholds in Iraq and Syria but have been operating across international boundaries. White House press secretary Josh Earnest stated, “I’m not at all going to be surprised if there are members of Congress who take a look at this legislation and decide, ‘Well, I think there are some things that we should tweak here, and if we do, we might be able to build some more support for. So I think it is fair for you to assume that this reflects a starting point in conversations.” Obama argues he doesn’t need new authority to legally pursue the militant group as he has been launching strikes based on authorizations given to President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. However, critics say Obama’s use of this authority is a stretch and the White House has taken a new position making it clear it doesn’t see reliance on this authorization as ideal. Once new authority is signed into law, the White House says Obama will mot longer rely on the 2001 approved authority to purse the group and rely solely on the new powers. The White House added that Congress could make that clear in the new authorization. The change also prevents any future president from interpreting the law the way Obama has since last year. On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced the arrest of three men accused of planning or supporting ISIS in Syria, AP’s Deepti Hajela reports, Feds: 3 accused in Islamic State plot vocal about beliefs. Two men are charged with plotting to help the Islamic State group as evident by both online and personal conversations about their commitment and desire to join the extremists, federal authorities reported. Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, was arrested at Kennedy Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul, with plans to head to Syria, authorities said. Another man, 24-year-old Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, had a ticket to travel to Istanbul next month and was arrested in Brooklyn, federal prosecutors said. The two were held without bail after a brief court appearance. A third defendant, Abror Habibov, 30, is accused of helping fund Saidakhmetov’s efforts. He was ordered held without bail in Florida. If convicted, each faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton said this was the first public case in New York involving possible fighters going to the Islamic State, but he hinted at other ongoing investigations. According to the federal complaint, Saidakhmetov said he intended to shoot police officers and FBI agents if his plan to join the IS group in Syria was thwarted. Loretta Lynch, who is Obama’s choice to be U.S. attorney general, said “The flow of foreign fighters to Syria represents an evolving threat to our country and to our allies.” The Islamic State group largely consists of Sunni militants from Iraq and Syria but has also drawn fighters from across the Muslim world and Europe.

While the U.S. fights to thwart and contain the Islamic State, the rest of the world has not been so lucky in keeping ISIS as bay. On Tuesday, AP’s Zeina Karam reported, Dozens of Christians abducted by Islamic militants in Syria, the Islamic State militants before dawn raided homes in a cluster of villages along the Khabur River in northeastern Syria abducting at least 70 Christians as thousands fled to safer areas. The captives’, mostly women and children, fate was unclear Tuesday as relatives said mobile phone service was cut off and land lines were not working and heavy fighting in the area was reported. The Islamic State group has a history of killing captives, including foreign journalists, Syrian soldiers and Kurdish militiamen. Most recently, militants in Libya affiliated with the extremist group released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians. While the U.S. and coalition of regional partners conduct airstrikes against the group, the group has repeatedly targeted religious minorities since taking a third of both Syria and Iraq. The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights working with a network of activist in Syria have reported the number of Christians held by the group at 90. The extremists could use the Assyrian captives to try to arrange a prisoner swap with the Kurdish militias it is battling in northeastern Syria. Hassakeh province, where a majority of the captives come from, is strategically important due to sharing a border with Turkey and areas controlled by IS in Iraq. Kurdish militiamen from the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, backed by the coalition airstrikes, have made advances in the province in a new offensive launched this week. Heavy fighting broke out in the province Monday as Kurdish fighters and IS militants battled for control of villages near the Iraqi and Turkish borders. The Kurds have been one of the most effective foes of IS, a reputation they burnished in recent months by repelling an assault by the extremists on the town of Kobani on the Turkish border. The coalition carried out hundreds of airstrikes that helped the Kurds break the siege in January.

As the world tries to get a grip on the seemingly phantom group called ISIS, the ongoing ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia seems once again to have fallen apart as fighting continues to rage and Russia refuses to loosen its grip on Ukraine. On Wednesday, AP reported Russian courts refused to release Ukrainian prisoners whose fate has attracted global attention as Moscow’s City Court turned down an appeal by Nadezhda Savchenko’s lawyers leaving her to remain behind bars pending an investigation, according to the article, Russian court refuses to release Ukrainian prisoner. Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer captured by Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine in June and put in custody in Russia, is awaiting trial on charges of involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine. She denies the accusations. Russia claims Savchenko voluntarily crossed the border into Russia before she was detained, but she said she was dragged across the border into the Russian custody. Savchenko has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 13 demanding her release, and her lawyers on Wednesday voiced concern about her condition. More than 11,000 people including prominent cultural figures have petitioned Russian President Vladimir Putin urging Savchenko’s release. Even while in jail, Savchenko was elected to the Ukrainian parliament and named a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The European Union and the United States have urged her release. Pavel Polityuk and Anton Zverev reported, Kiev Says It Can’t Withdraw Weaponry As Attacks On Ukrainian Troops Persist, the Ukrainian military said Monday it could not leave the front line in the east as required by the ceasefire due to pro-Russian separatists who advanced last week were attacking its position making it difficult to withdraw heavy weaponry. A truce to end fighting that has killed more than 5,600 people appeared stillborn last week after rebels ignored it to capture the strategic town of Debaltseve in a punishing defeat for Kiev. Nevertheless, the peace deal’s European sponsors still hold out hope it can be salvaged, now that the Moscow-backed separatists have achieved that objective. Spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said in a televised briefing: “Given that the positions of Ukrainian servicemen continue to be shelled, there can not yet be any talk of pulling back weapons.” Anatoly Stelmakh, another military spokesman, said rebel forces had attacked the village of Shyrokyne overnight, along the coast on the road to Mariupol, a port of half a million that Kiev fears could be the next big rebel target. Rebel commander Eduard Basurin denied the fighters had launched any such attack, and said the situation was calm. Nearly a million people have been driven from their homes by the war between pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine and government forces. Last week’s ceasefire was reached after the rebels abandoned a previous truce to launch their advance, arguing that previous battle lines had left their civilians vulnerable to government shelling. Kiev says the rebels are reinforcing near Mariupol for a possible assault on the port, the biggest city in the two rebellious provinces still in government hands. Defense analyst Dmytro Tymchuk, who has close ties to the military, said rebels had brought 350 fighters and 20 armored vehicles including six tanks to the area.

Ebola Continues to Spread Across the Globe as ISIS Continues its Reign of Terror Across the Middle East and Beyond

Luckovich cartoon: Ebola and cable news

As the spread of Ebola continues outside of West Africa to the United States and Europe, the death toll continues to increase and more cases arise forcing areas outside thew outbreak zone to take preventative measures and contain the virus. On Friday, the infected nursing assistant, Teresa Romero who tested positive Monday for Ebola, according to a spokeswoman for Madrid’s regional health agency said on conditions of anonymity, was scheduled to start a round of the experimental anti-Ebola drug ZMapp after Spain obtained some of the drug, the Associated Press reports, Spain: Ebola nurse “stable” after serious downturn. Spanish Prime Minister Marian Rajoy visited the Madrid hospital where the nurse is being treated on Friday despite harsh criticism from unions and oppositions politicians claiming that the nation’s health system provided substandard high risk disease training and protective gear to doctors, nurses and ambulance personnel. Rajoy did announce Spain will set up a high level special commission to prevent an outbreak of Ebola that will meet daily, additionally he praised Spanish health care workers and said the World Health Organization thinks “the risk is very low that this disease will spread in the future” in Spain and Europe. Romero, 44, is the first person known to have caught the disease outside West Africa in the current Ebola outbreak. She was helping to care for a Spanish priest infected in West Africa who died at the hospital on Sept. 25. Health authorities suspect she may have been infected after touching her gloved hand to her face while taking off protective gear. Romero’s husband is also quarantined, along with a nurse who displayed possible symptoms but tested negative for Ebola in a first test and will undergo a second one. Ten people who came into contact with Romero checked themselves into the hospital voluntarily for observation for 21 days instead of staying at home. On Wednesday, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. died despite intense but delayed treatment, forcing the government to expand airport examinations to guard against the spread of Ebola, the Associated Press reports, US Ebola patient dies; airport screening expanded. The checks will include taking the temperatures of hundreds of travelers arriving from West Africa at five major American airports. The new screenings will begin Saturday at New York’s JFK International Airport and then expand to Washington Dulles and the international airports in Atlanta, Chicago and Newark. An estimated 150 people per day will be checked, using high-tech thermometers that don’t touch the skin. The White House said the fever checks would reach more than 9 of 10 travelers to the U.S. from the three heaviest-hit countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. A delay in diagnosis and treatment for Duncan and the infection of a Spanish nurse have raised worries about Western nations’ ability to stop the disease. Obama via teleconference with mayors and local officials said: “As we saw in Dallas, we don’t have a lot of margin for error. If we don’t follow protocols and procedures that are put in place, then we’re putting folks in our communities at risk.” AP reports that health authorities scrambled to respond to the disease Wednesday:

– “In Spain, doctors said they may have figured out how a nurse became the first person infected outside of West Africa in this outbreak. Teresa Romero said she remembered once touching her face with her glove after leaving the quarantine room where an Ebola victim was being treated. Romero’s condition was stable.

-A social media campaign and a protest by Spanish animal rights activists failed to save Romero’s dog, Excalibur. The pet was euthanized under court order out of fear it might harbor the Ebola virus.

– In Sierra Leone, burial teams returned to their work of picking up the bodies of Ebola victims, after a one-day strike to demand overdue hazard pay.

– Health workers in neighboring Liberia also were threatening a strike if their demands for more money and personal protective gear are not met by the end of the week. The average health worker salary is currently below $500 per month, even for the most highly trained staff.

-The World Bank estimated that the economic toll of the largest Ebola outbreak in history could reach $32.6 billion if the disease continues to spread through next year.

In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry made a plea for more nations to contribute to the effort to stop the disease ravaging West Africa, saying the international effort was $300 million short of what’s needed. He said nations must step up quickly with a wide range of support, from doctors and mobile medical labs to basic humanitarian aid such as food.”

Meanwhile, the hardest hit countries have seen a dramatic increase in casualties due to the Ebola outbreak and children orphaned by the deadly virus are now struggling more than ever before to survive. Liberia, a country with large, deeply religious, families, an aunty or relative usually takes in a child who lost a parent, but Ebola has changed that bond for fear of contagion and death, Krista Larson reports, How Children Orphaned By Ebola Fight For Survival. According to the U.N. children’s agency, at least 3,700 children across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have lost one or more parents to Ebola and the figure is expected to double by mid-October with many children left to fend for themselves and continue to live in infected homes. ON Friday, the U.N. special envoy on Ebola said the number of cases is probably doubling every three to four weeks and without a mass global mobilization “the world will have to live with the Ebola virus forever,” Edith M. Lederer reports, UN envoy: Ebola cases doubling every 3-4 weeks. David Nabarro told the U.N. General Assembly the response needed to be 20 times greater. U.N. Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said in order to counteract the exponential growth of the virus, a massive scale up of financial resources, medical staff and equipment is needed. Unfortunately, only one quarter of the $1 billion the U.N. agencies have appealed for to tackle the disease has been funded. Eliasson told diplomats from most of the 193 U.N. member states, “I now appeal to all member states to act generously and swiftly. Speed is of the essence. A contribution within days is more important than a larger contribution within weeks.” Nabarro, a 35 year public heath veteran dealing with disease outbreaks and pandemics, has never encountered the challenge of such an outbreak that has moved from rural areas into towns and cities that is now “affecting a whole region and … impacting on the whole world.” Anthony Banbury, head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, warned that a failure to help Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – the three worst affected countries – “while we have the chance could lead to unpredictable but very dire consequences for the people of the countries and well beyond.” He added, “As long as there is one case of Ebola in any one of these countries, no country is safe from the dangers posed by this deadly virus.” Both Nabarro and Banbury cited the importance of traditional burial practices in the West African countries, noting that this is a time when the bodies of Ebola victims are most toxic and any touching can transmit the disease. Banbury said, “To defeat the virus we will have to change behavior. We are late, but it is not too late to fight and win this battle.” According to the Geneva based U.N. agency, the World Health Organization, reports 4,033 confirmed, probable or suspected Ebola deaths have been recorded. All but nine are int he three hardest hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea with eight of those in Nigeria and one in the United States. The defeat of Sirleaf’s proposal in the House of Representatives came as U.S. military forces worked on building a hospital for stricken health workers in Liberia, the country that has been hit hardest by the epidemic. Liberian Lawmakers rejected the president’s proposal to give her further power to restrict movement and public gatherings and the authority to appropriate property “without payment of any kind or any further judicial process” to combat Ebola. Liberia has 2,316 recorded deaths due to Ebola, which is the most of any country as the WHO reports. Sirleaf’s government imposed a three-month state of emergency beginning Aug. 6, but critics have accused the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s approach to fighting Ebola since then as ineffective and heavy handed. In August, a quarantine of Monrovia’s largest shantytown sparked unrest and was derided as counterproductive before being lifted. The Committee to Protect Journalists has accused Sirleaf’s government of trying to silence media outlets criticizing its conduct. Meanwhile, the U.S. military was rushing to set up a 25-bed hospital to treat health workers who may contract Ebola. The arrival of 100 U.S. Marines on Thursday brings to just over 300 the total number of American troops in Liberia. The Marines and their aircraft will help with air transportation and ferrying of supplies, overcoming road congestion in Monrovia and bad roads outside the capital, said Capt. R. Carter Langston, spokesman for the U.S. mission. A priority will be transporting building materials to treatment unit sites. The U.S. has said it will oversee construction of 17 treatment units with 100 beds each. The 101st Airborne Division is expected to deploy 700 troops by late October and the U.S. may send up to 4,000 soldiers to help with the Ebola crisis, depending on what is needed. In Mali, a health ministry spokesman said two more people had begun participating in the first phase of a study for a possible Ebola vaccine. Mali has not had any cases of Ebola, but it borders the outbreak zone. University of Maryland researchers announced Thursday that the first study of a possible vaccine was underway, and that three health care workers in Mali had received the experimental shots developed by the U.S. government. Health ministry spokesman Markatie Daou said, “Today, we are at five people vaccinated. We envision vaccinating between 20 and 40 people for this first phase and the results are expected next month.”

While the world battles and struggles to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, ISIS also known as the Islamic State continues to besiege strategic towns on the border of Syria raising concern and criticism over Turkey’s lack of action and the effectiveness of the U.S. coalition. According to Akbar Shahid Ahmed, 3 New Findings On ISIS Weapons That You Should Know About, the Islamic State militants are wielding arms manufactured in 21 different countries including the U.S. a new report released Monday reports. Ahmed reports: “The study of ammunition captured during the Islamic State’s battles with Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and Syria in July and August highlights the diverse array of arms sources fueling the extremist group, also known as ISIS. Investigators from the arms monitoring group Conflict Armament Research cataloged more than 1,700 bullet cartridges by their country of origin and their date of manufacture. The report says most of the related arms appear to have been seized by ISIS from opposing forces — from national armies to foreign-backed rebel groups across Syria and Iraq.” James Bevan, Director of the European Union funded Conflict Armament Research, told the New York Times, “The lesson learned here is that the defense and security forces that have been supplied ammunition by external nations really don’t have the capacity to maintain custody of that ammunition.” As the article states, three key takeaways from the report are as follows:

1. Most of the Islamic State’s arms ultimately came from China, Russia and the U.S.

“Two of the biggest sources of the militants’ weaponry, the report says, are supplies wrested from the Syrian army, which possesses a significant stock of Soviet- and Russian-made arms that is still being replenished, and supplies captured in Iraq, many of which were made in America.

Between them, China, Russia, the now-defunct Soviet Union, the U.S. and Serbia provided more than 80 percent of the ammunition in the sample collected, according to a New York Times analysis of the report.”

2. Some militants in Syria are learning how to make weapons more difficult to trace.

“Numerous former U.S. officials told the Center for Public Integrity that they are already skeptical that the new supplies of U.S. weapons heading to certain Syrian rebel groups — whose arming was approved by Congress last month — will be safe from the Islamic State’s hands.

Keeping track of weaponry is unlikely to be easier this time around, one investigator indicated to the Center for Public Integrity. The investigator said that militants within Syria — he did not specify which group — are now using oxyacetylene torches to remove the serial numbers from some foreign weapons. They have even added new serial numbers. That makes it more difficult to trace the arms back to their original provider and to attempt to control their flow, the investigator said.”

3. Arms are constantly passed between various fighting groups.

“The many foreign weapons within Syria and Iraq are not only ending up with the Islamic State, the report explains. It describes how Kurdish forces have used battles against the militants to restore their own supplies of ammunition.

As if all that bad news weren’t bad enough, here’s a bonus from one of Conflict Armament Research’s earlier reports: The Islamic State appears to possess anti-tank rocket launchers, made in the former Yugoslavia, that it seized from other Syrian rebels.

The Islamic State’s weaponry — particularly heavy armaments not documented in the new report — has been a key factor in campaigns like the group’s ongoing assault on the Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria.”

On Wednesday night, Islamic State fighters launched a renewed assault on the Syrian city of Kobani as at least 21 people were killed amid riots in neighboring Turkey where Kurds rose up against the government for doing nothing to protect their kin, according to Reuters, Renewed assault on Kobani; 21 dead in Turkey as Kurds rise. Heavily outgunned defenders said Islamic Sate militants pushed into two districts of the Kurdish town, despite U.S.led air strikes that the Pentagon acknowledge would not be enough. In Istanbul and Ankara, street battles erupted between Kurdish protestors and police as fallout from the Iraq and Syrian war threatened to unravel the Kurdish peace process. Washington said its war planes hit nine Syrian targets along with coalition ally the United Arab Emirates included six near Kobani and struck five ISIS positions in Iraq. Nevertheless, Kobani remained under intense bombardment from Islamic State emplacements, within sight of Turkish tanks at the nearby frontier that have so far done nothing to help. Asya Abdullah, co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Reuters from inside the town, “Tonight, (Islamic State) has entered two districts with heavy weapons including tanks. Civilians may have died because there are very intense clashes.” U.S. officials were quoted voicing impatience with the Turks for refusing to join the coalition against Islamic State fighters who have seized wide areas of Syria and Iraq. Turkey says it could join only if Washington agrees to use force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Sunni Muslim jihadists fighting him in a three-year-old civil war. Turkey’s own Kurds, who make up the majority in the southeast of the country, say President Tayyip Erdogan is stalling while their brethren are killed in Kobani. Others died in clashes between protesters and police in the eastern provinces of Mus, Siirt and Batman. Thirty people were wounded in Istanbul, including eight police officers. Disturbances spread to other countries with Kurdish and Turkish populations. Police in Germany said 14 people were hurt in clashes there between Kurds and radical Islamists. In Turkey, parliament voted last week to authorize cross-border intervention, but Erdogan and his government have so far held back, saying they will join military action only as part of an alliance that also confronts Assad. Erdogan wants the alliance to enforce a “no-fly zone” to prevent Assad’s air force flying over Syrian territory near the Turkish border and create a safe area for an estimated 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to return. While Turkey has taken in the wounded and displaced from Kobani, Turkey has deep reservations about deploying its own army in Syria and beyond being a target for ISIS, Turkey fears being sucked into Syria’s three year civil war.

On Friday, the AP reported, Islamic State group shells Syrian border crossing, that the Islamic State group shelled a Syrian border crossing with Turkey to try and capture it and cut off Kobani, a local Kurdish official and Syrian activists said. The official, Idriss Nassan, said Islamic State fighters aim to seize the crossing in order to close the noose around the town’s Kurdish defenders and prevent anyone from entering or leaving Kobani. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the militants shelled several areas in Kobani, including the border crossing, which is the town’s only gateway to Turkey. Nassan, referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic acronym, said: “Daesh is doing all it can to take the border crossing point through the farmlands east of the city. They think there might be help (for the Kurdish militia) coming through the crossing so they want to control the border.” Meanwhile, Ryan Gorman reports, Iraqi journalist among more than a dozen people executed by ISIS terrorists, a dozens people on Friday evening were executed by ISIS terrorists including an Iraqi journalist and his brother. Raad al-Azzawi, 37, and an Iraqi citizen, was reportedly killed Friday evening near Tikrit for refusing to work for the terror group, according to AFP. His brother and two other civilians were also executed. The cameraman was among about 20 people captured last month in an ISIS raid on Samara, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The execution of an Iraqi journalist is proof ISIS is no longer waging war on just the West, but on anyone who they fear may oppose their attempt to put a stranglehold on the region, according to RSF. U.S. journalists James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, along with a Briton and a French citizen, are among the Westerners also executed by the insurgents. In a statement, U.S. Central Command said the U.S. military conducted on Friday and Saturday six airstrikes against Islamic State militants near Kobani as well as three airstrikes with Dutch militaries against targets in Iraq near Tal Afar and Hit. In multiple airdrops near Baiji, U.S. aircraft delivered 8 tons of ammunition, more than 2,000 gallons (7,800 liters) of water and more than 7,300 halal meals, the statement said. It said Iraqi forces control Baiji, 110 miles (180 km) north of Baghdad, but Islamic State “continues to conduct operations” in the area.

Palestinian Israeli Ceasefire , Russia and Ukraine Push Their Boundaries and the Islamic State Militia Continues to Expand Its Middle Eastern Territory

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Israel withdrew most of its troops from Gaza on Sunday which could be a sign that Israel is winding down its month long offensive against Hamas leaving 1,800 Palestinians and 60 Israelis dead. AOL reports, Israel withdraws most troops from Gaza, even though Israel is close to completing its mission, heavy fighting continued with 10 Palestinians being killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike near a U.N. school, according to U.N. and Palestinians officials. The U.S. and United Nations condemned the attack. It is uncertain whether Israel would unilaterally end the war since Hamas officials vowed to continue their fight. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, confirmed most of the ground troops have pulled out of Gaza after destroying a majority of the Hamas tunnel network. He said Israel detected 30 tunnels dug along the border for what he called a “synchronized attack” on Israel. However, Lerner said the operation was not over and Israel will continue to target Hamas’ rocket firing capabilities as well as its ability to infiltrate Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voes to continue his assault against Hamas, but has come under international pressure to halt the fighting due to a high civilian death toll. U.N. officials say more than three quarters of the dead are civilians including the 10 killed on Sunday at a U.N. school in Rafah. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the attack a “moral outrage and a criminal act” and demanded a quick investigation, while the U.S. State Department said Washington was “appalled” by the “disgraceful” attack. Israel Cabinet minister Amir Peretz told channel 10: “It’s not a withdrawal. It’s setting up a new line that is a more controlled line with the air force doing its work.” One senior officials, under conditions of anonymity because he was discussing internal Hamas deliberations, said: “If Israel stops unilaterally, Hamas will declare victory and will not grant any security or truce to Israel. In this case, we are going to live under a war of attrition until a political solution is found.”

Unfortunately, a seven hour truce went into effect Monday after Israel agreed it would unilaterally hold fire in Gaza, but Palestinians immediately accused Israel of breaking the ceasefire agreement by bombing a house in Gaza, Reuters reports, Palestinians accuse Israel of immediately breaking 7-hour ceasefire that began Monday at 3am EST. An Israel military spokeswoman said she was checking into it, while Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said 15 people were wounded in the strike on a house in Shati camp of mostly women and children. An Israeli defense officials said the ceasefire would apply to all areas except Rafah where ground forces have intensified assaults after three soldiers died in a Hamas ambush Friday. While a Hamas envoy in Egypt negotiates a truce that Israel has shunned in anger, Sami Abu Zuhri, the group’s spokesman said: “The calm Israel declared is unilateral and aims to divert attention away from the Israeli massacres. We do not trust such a calm and we urge our people to exercise caution.” Meanwhile, Israeli Brigadier General Motti Almoz told Army Radio: “Redeployment lets us work on the tunnels, provides defense (of Israeli communities nearby) and lets the forces set up for further activity. There is no ending here, perhaps an interim phase.” According to Ibrahim Barzak and Peter Enav, Cease-fire slows Gaza war as Israeli bus attacked, while Israel declared the temporary ceasefire and troops withdrawals slowed violence on Monday in Gaza, an Israeli bus was attacked killing one person in Jerusalem which symbolizes the tensions simmering in the region. For the moment though, violence seems to be waning as Hamas rocket fire tapers off and Israel’s ground operation in Gaza winds down. According to the article: “Israel’s Channel 10 TV showed cellphone video of what it said was the attack, with the yellow excavator slamming its large shovel into the bus. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a police officer in the area opened fire and killed the attacker. A pedestrian also was killed, said Jerusalem district police chief Yossi Piranti.” Before the attacks, the seven hour Israeli ceasefire in Gaza was in effect , even though Israel continued to hit selected Palestinians target, the level of fighting was lower than previous days.

Fortunately, on Monday, as Josef Federman reports, Israel accepts Egyptian cease-fire plan, the Israeli government has finally accepted an Egyptian ceasefire deal to halt the month long war against Hamas militants in Gaza signaling the end of one of the bloodiest rounds of fighting, according to a senior Israeli official said. In addition, the official said a preliminary truce would begin at 8am Tuesday as the Israeli delegation would head to Egypt to work out a long term truce over the next three days. A delegation of Palestinian officials has negotiated with Egypt in recent days and representative have accept the proposal, while Hamas had no comment but has delegate presents at the time. Bassam Salhi, a member of the Palestinian delegation, said, “It’s clear now that the interest of all parties is to have a cease-fire. It’s going to be tough negotiations because Israel has demands too.” Under conditions of anonymity, the Israeli official said Israel will be watching the negotiation “with a certain amount of skepticism” given the previous failures.

Meanwhile, the Russian military is exercising their power as a show of their strength near the border with Ukraine, while Ukrainian troops cross over into Russia. Reuters reports, Russia Conducts Military Exercises With More Than 100 Aircraft Near Ukraine, Igor Kilmov quoted by Interfax news agency said it was the first session in a series to increase the unity of the air force this year as well as conduct missile practice with some of Russia’s newest frontline bombers and did not mention Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels are fighting the Ukrainian government. While, Laura Mills reports, Ukrainian soldiers cross border into Russia, a Russian border security official said 400 Ukrainian soldiers crossed into Russia, an Interfax news agency report said. There were conflicting reports on both sides of why the soldiers were there. The Russian official said the soldiers deserted the Kiev governments and the Russian side opened the corridor, however, a Ukrainian military official said the soldiers were forced into Russian territory by rebel fire after running out of ammunition. Vasily Malayev, head of the Federal Security Service’s border patrol in the Rostov region, told Interfax 438 soldiers on Monday were allowed to safely enter the country. A spokesman for the Ukrainian military operation in the east, Oleksiy Dmitrashkovsky, said the 72nd brigade army was pinned into their position due to a sustained barrage of fire from separatists forcing the brigade to split up into two sections. The battle in eastern Ukraine has been raging since April and claimed at least 1,129 civilians, according to a U.N. estimate. Though Russia denies any involvement, Ukraine and Western countries have accused Russia of providing the rebels with equipment and expertise.

On Sunday, Islamic State fighters claimed control of Iraq’s biggest dam, an oilfield and three more towns on Sunday inflicting their first major defeat on Kurdish forces since moving across norther Iraq in June, Ahmed Rasheed and Raheem Salman report, Islamic State Seizes Small Towns In Iraq’s North. Capturing the electricity generating Mosul Dam could allow Sunni militants to flood major Iraqi cities or withhold water in a bid to topple Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government. In addition, the Islamic state has seized the Ain Zalah pil field, adding to the four others it controls providing funding for their operation, and three towns. The group poses the biggest threat to OPEC member Iraq since Saddam Hussein fell in 2003 as it has already declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria to rule over Muslims. On Sunday, the group also fought in a border town far away in Lebanon symbolizing its ambition to spread across the Middle East. So far, it controls cities in Iraq’s Tigris and Euphrates valley s north and west of Baghdad and a large portion of Syria stretching from the Iraqi border in the east to Aleppo in the northwest. In a statement, the Islamic State said, “Hundreds fled leaving vehicles and a huge number of weapons and munitions and the brothers control many areas. The fighters arrived in the border triangle between Iraq, Syria and Turkey.” The Islamic State has tried to consolidate its gains by setting its sights on strategic towns near oil fields as well as border crossing with Syria so it can move supplies back and forth. Maliki’s opponents say the prime minister, a Shi’ite Islamist who is trying to stat in power for a third term after an inconclusive parliamentary election in April, is to blame for the insurgency due to excluding Sunnis from power. Additionally, Kurdish leaders call for Maliki to step down to create a more inclusive government in Baghdad. After Sunday’s withdrawal of Kurdish troops, the Kurdish region is pressing Washington for sophisticated weapons to help their fighters to push back the Islamist militants, according to U.S. and Kurdish officials. The Islamic State’s ambitions have caused other Arab states to take notice and fear their success will embolden militants region wide. Meanwhile, in Lebanon on Monday, thousands of civilians and Syrian refugees fled in packed cars and pickup trucks from an eastern border town where militants from Syria have overrun, Bassem Mroue reports, Thousands flee as Lebanese battle Syrian militants. The fleeing comes as Lebanese troops struggle to rid Arsal of the Syrian extremists marking the most serious spillover of violence from Syria’s cavil war into Lebanon and increasing fears that Lebanon is becoming a new front for Syria;s conflict, now in its third year. In all, at least 11 Lebanese troops have been killed and 13 missing in the Arsal clashes that erupted Saturday after Syrian militants crossed the border and overran army positions in the area.

Israel Ignores Any Talks of a Ceasefire, While Other Bloody Civil War continues and Putin Talks Ukraine with Obama

The short video above posted by several news outlets on YouTube sums up the human tragedy that is the Palestinian Israeli conflict and for that matter tells of the toll such violence takes on people who have to see it every day. As Charlotte Alfred explains the incident, UN Official Chris Gunness Breaks Down On Air After School Bombing, the breakdown happened on camera with Al Jazeera Arabic on Wednesday of last week when UN official Chris Gunness could not contain his grief after a U.N. run school sheltering 3,000 Palestinians was shelled. Gunness, spokesman for the UN Agency for Palestinians Refugees (UNRWA), told Al Jazeera Arabic from Jerusalem: “The rights of Palestinians, and even their children, are wholesale denied… and it’s appalling.” Soon after the interviewer thanked him appearing, Gunness broke down and wept. Gaza’s Ministry of Health said 17 people died and 90 were wounded by the school shelling, while the Israeli military spokesman told the New York Times that Israeli troops did not target the UN facility, but did respond to militants firing near the school in Jabaliya refugee camp. According to Alfred, in an official statement last Wednesday, the UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Kranhenbuhl wrote: “Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.”

Meanwhile on Friday, President Barack Obama during a White House briefing addressed the situation in Israel. Obama again voiced his support for Israeli’s right to defend itself, while condemning Hamas and Palestinian militants after a ceasefire unraveled and calling for the release of a captive Israeli soldier. Paige Lavender reports, Obama Calls For Unconditional Release Of Captured Israeli Soldier, Obama said: “I think it’s important to note that we have, and I have, unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third almost minutes after a cease-fire had been announced. I want to make sure that they are listening. If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that solider needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible.” In addition, the U.S. will continue to work on a ceasefire deal even though Friday’s violation will make it difficult since the ceasefire deal brokered by the U.N. and U.S. only lasted two hours.

Back in Israel, on Saturday, Israel launched dozens of airstrikes in southern Gaza as part of a large scale search fro a captive Israeli soldier, Karin Laub and Hamza Hendawi report, Israel pounds Gaza as it searches for soldier. At least 35 Palestinians were killed in and around the city of Rafah where the bombardment and shelling took place forcing the area’s main hospital to evacuate, according to a Palestinians health official. The Israeli military said the soldier was grabbed in a Hamas ambush about an hour after the ceasefire started on Friday morning causing international condemnation and calls for immediate release by President Barack Obama and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. The Hamas military wing in a statement on its website said it was “not aware until this moment of a missing soldier or his whereabouts or the circumstances of his disappearance.” Israel and Hams accuse each other of violating the humanitarian pause. more than 1,650 Palestinians most civilians have been killed and 8,000 wounded, according to health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians. al-Kidra added that since Friday morning more than 100 Palestinians were killed in the Rafah area including 35 on Saturday. The police operations room reported 77 airstrikes on the area and heavy shelling. Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, blamed Hamas for violating the ceasefire and demanded the release of Goldin, the 23 year old captured Israeli solider. In a statement from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office, Netanyahu told Secretary of State John Kerry via phone that the Palestinian militants had violated the ceasefire and attack Israeli solder after 9am: “Israel will take all necessary steps against those who call for our destruction and perpetrate terrorism against our citizens.” Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hams’ deputy leader, denied Hamas violated the truce telling Al-Arabiya news channel from Cairo that the movement’s military wing carried out no operations after 8 am. In a statement to reporters outside his home, Goldin’s father said: “We want to support the military in the fighting against Hamas in Gaza. We are sure the military will not stop before it turns over every stone in Gaza and returns Hadar home safe and sound.”

As for now, Israeli officials and media reports on Saturday said Israel won’t participate in cease fire talks with Hamas and will scale back its 26 day military operation in Gaza on its own terms. Ian Deitch and Ibrahim Barzak report, Israel signals scaling back Gaza war on its terms, cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel will not send a delegation to truce talks in Cairo, according to Israel’s Channel 10, alleging that Hamas has repeatedly violated ceasefire deals and this “leads us to the conclusion that with this organization there is no point speaking” about any deal. Under conditions of anonymity, an Israeli official told The Associated Press that troops will finish demolishing tunnels under the Gaza Israel border since they are close to completing their mission. Referring to Friday’s 72 hour truce, Steinitz said: “We are currently not sending any representative to Cairo because we agreed to several cease-fires and the Egyptian proposal and time after time, and the last time was yesterday. That leads us to the conclusion that with this organization there is no point in speaking about an agreement or a cease-fire because we have tried it too many times.” The Israeli officials said the army announced that the town of Beit Lahiya, where previous fighting took place and now is safe for residence to return, is “a signal that things are pretty much being wrapped up.” In addition, on Saturday, Israeli troops and tanks began to redeploy away from the area east of the south central Gaza town of Khan Younis to the border with Israel, according to residents and police officials. One resident, Assad Ghanam said of the Israel army that: “We are afraid to go back, simply because we cannot trust them. My uncle and his wife went back to the area to feed their chickens and animals after an earlier cease-fire. They both got killed.” Elsewhere in Gaza, Palestinian officials on Saturday reported more than 150 Israeli airstrikes and heavy shelling continued along the border areas. The Israeli military said 200 targets were hit over 24 hours, while Gaza militants fired 74 rockets at Israel since midnight and seven were intercepted by Israel’s rocket defense system.

Following the collapse of a ceasefire deal in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the White House not to force a ceasefire with Hamas on Israel advising the Obama administration “not to ever second guess me again” on the matter, according to sources familiar with conversation between Netanyahu and senior U.S. officials including Secretary of State John Kerry. The condemnation of Hamas by Obama came as top Israeli officials questioned the ceasefire efforts accusing the U.S. and United Nations of being naive to Hamas adhering to the terms, Matthew Lee reports, Netanyahu Tells U.S. ‘Not To Ever Second Guess Me Again’ On Hamas. Obama told reporters that until the captive’s release, a cease fire deal could be difficult: “If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible. It’s going to be very hard to put a cease-fire back together again if Israelis and the international community can’t feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a cease-fire commitment.” After the latest truce was violated, an Israeli official said the Netanyahu government viewed both Hams and Qatar as violating the commitment given to the U.S. and the U.N. and expected the international community to take practical steps as part of a strong and swift response especially regarding the captive soldier’s return. IN a phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Netanyahu told Shapiro the Obama administration was “not to ever second-guess me again” and Washington should trust his judgement regarding Hamas. In addition, Netanyahu expects the U.S. and other countries full support in Israel’s offensive in Gazas, according to people familiar with the call, who spoke under conditions of anonymity.

While the world focuses on the Ukraine Crisis and the Israeli Palestine Conflict with their rising death tolls, other conflicts with massive death tolls have been largely ignored. Sophia Jones reports, While The World Watched Gaza Crumble, Syria Had One Of Its Bloodiest Weeks Yet, at least 1,496 Palestinians have been killed and more than 60 Israelis have been killed, while in Ukraine 800 civilians have been killed since April as the United States and the European Union beef up sanctions against Russia. In Syria, ripped apart by a three year war and counting, last week saw more than 1,700 people killed in their country making it one of the bloodiest weeks yet, reports the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch reported that the Syrian regime is using barrel bombs, something that the U.N. Security Council banned in February, in full force against civilians and in Aleppo the civilian population is bearing the brunt of these bombs. On Thursday, for the first time, the U.N. using nine trucks supplied shelter, food and water purification supplies upon entering Syria without the consent of thr regime which usually denied access. In Libya, heavy clashes between Islamist militants and government forces wreaked havoc on civilian populations. On Monday, Islamist led militants took a special forces base in Benghazi and local medical workers said 75 bodies were recover from the area, while the U.S.Canadian and French embassies among other were evacuated from the country this week and foreign nationals were told to leave immediately. On Sunday, Tripoli’s airport lay in ruins as a rocket fired near the airport prompted a massive blaze that has burned for days eating through millions of gallons of scarce oil reserves. The Los Angeles Times reported the countries oil productions dropped by 20 percent since the fighting broke out. In Iraq, militants from the Islamic State destroy half a dozen holy sites in Mosul, has taken over a large piece of the country in June with the aim of creating its own Islamic caliphate and claimed responsibility for killing dozens of people in recent bombings. On Friday, the United Nations said more than 1,700 people were killed in Iraq in July. In Afghanistan, civilians in the Helmand province celebrated Eid al-Fitr in fear due to fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces continued. Since the 2001 U.S. led invasion in Afghanistan, 2,197 soldiers have been killed. Meanwhile in Nigeria, more than a dozen people were killed and injured in Tuesday’s mosques explosions with many blaming Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group seeking to impose Shariah law, for carrying out the bomb attacks. Multiple female suicide bombers this week, suspected of working for Boko Haram, have killed dozens as well with the Nigerian government announcing on Thursday that two men belonging to the group were traveling with a10 year old girl with explosives strapped to her chest. And in the Central African Republic, Christians and Muslim militias signed a fragile ceasefire last week after violence killed thousands and uprooted millions since late 2012. In Southern Sudan, planned peace talks have been delayed this week between warring parties and the civil war has killed 10,000 people since December with one third of the population risking starvation. On Friday, the Associated Press reported, Obama, Putin Discuss Ukraine Crisis, President Barack Obama, on Friday via phone, spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about Russia’s support of separatists in Ukraine and Russia complying with a 1987 nuclear missile treaty that the U.S. says Moscow breached. The same day, the White said Vice President Joe Biden called Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to announced $8 million in new assistance to Ukraine to improve border security including transportation, small boats and better surveillance equipment, but does not including armaments.

Repubs Fight Obamacare, Botched Executions, Firing Squads, Obama Limits Business Mergers, Failed VA Reform and the End of a Dream

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According to federal data released Wednesday to ProPublica, nearly one million transactions on the federal exchange have occurred following more than 5 million people who signed up using Healthcare.gov before April 19, the end of the open enrollment period, according to Charles Ornstein, Obamacare Website Getting So Much Traffic It’s Surprising Experts. All told, between federal exchange and 14 state exchanges, more than 8 million signed up fro coverage. The data covers the 36 states using the exchange including Texas, Florida, Illinois, Georgia and Michigan. Charles Gaba, who runs the site acasignups.net tracks enrollment numbers estimating that between 6,000 and 7,000 people sign up for coverage reach day on the exchange after the official enrollment period ended. About 86 percent of those sign ups are eligible for government subsidies to help lower their monthly payments, whole those subsidies are being challenge by lawsuits in federal court contenting that they aren’t allowed by the Affordable Care Act. Two federal appeals courts came to conflicting decisions Tuesday on the permissibility of subsidies with one saying no and one saying yes. The Obama administration said they will remain in effect as the cases proceed in court. The next time that the general public can sign up fro coverage through the exchanges is November 15 to February 15, 2015. On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters: “You know, the discussions about Obamacare and what the replacement bill would look like continue. We’re trying to build consensus around one plan. Not there yet.” According to Igor Bobic, Don’t Worry, Republicans Are Still Working On A Plan To Replace Obamacare, the remarks were made following an April decision by the party to delay a promised alternative to the exchange. However, Boehner is intent on keeping his focus on Obamacare by trying to sue the Obama administration for failing to implement a portion of the law in a timely manner.

While healthcare seems to continue to be a hot button issue, another issue has taken the spotlight recently due to botched executions. An influential federal appeal court judge on Thursday said that the nation’s third botched lethal injection in six months reinforces his call to bring back firing squads, according to the Associated Press, Judge argues for return of firing squad executions. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. circuit Court of Appeals, said lethal injection was a dishonest way to disguise the brutal nature of capital punishment, the AP reported. Kozinski wrote unfavorably about lethal injection in his decision Monday and while arguing against delaying the execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood III in Phoenix, who gasped for more than 90 minutes for breath taking nearly two hours to die Wednesday. According to Kozinski, a properly trained firing squad would be foolproof and quick in executing an inmate and avoid complications surrounding lethal injection. He told the AP: “I’ve always thought executions should be executions not medical procedures.” Kozinski said he supports capital punishment but states and federal government should stop lethal injections for a foolproof plan such as firing squads or the guillotine, however, he doubted that the public would accept the latter form.

From botched executions to bad business practices, President Obama is addressing misgivings about tax driven overseas mergers of U.S. corporations by issuing a new call to end the practice now and questions the patriotism and citizenship of those companies, the Associated Press explains, Obama wants limits on US company mergers abroad. The push comes as many companies try to reorganize with foreign entities partly to reduce their tax payments to the U.S. Though Obama did include a proposal to rein in such mergers and acquisitions in his 2015 budget, his administration brought more attention to these transactions last week with a letter from Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to House and Senate leaders saying such deals known as inversion “hollow out the U.S. corporate income tax base.” Obama is urging Congress to enact legislation retroactive to May in order to stop companies from rushing into deals to avoid the law. However, Republicans and some Democrats prefer to make these changes as part of a comprehensive overhaul of corporate tax code that would also lower corporate tax rates and reduce incentives for companies to seek out countries with lower taxes. Administration officials estimate the deals if continued will cost the U.S. Treasury $17 billion in lost revenue over the next decade. Lew in the letter said: “We should not be providing support for corporations that seek to shift their profits overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”

Meanwhile, while the tax code has failed to regulate the way it should, the VA continues to suffer from fallout of scandals and Congress failing to do its part. In an interview Wednesday night with Larry King, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) criticized President Obama for underestimating the Republican opposition causing them to spin their wheels waiting for a legislative compromise. Sam Stein reports,
How VA Reform Fell Apart In Less Than 4 Days, on Thursday Sanders told reporters he may have also been victimized by the oppositions, announcing that after weeks of negotiations with House Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) over reform legislation aimed at the Department of Veterans Affairs and his Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that negotiations have ground to a halt. The two men spoke on Monday for an hour via phone conference with acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson on the costs of the VA reform bill that the Congressional Budget Office valued at $50 billion for the Senate bill and $54 billion for the House bill. The money was meant to allow vets without a VA facility the option of going outside the system for medical treatment, however, the discussion moved to funding needed to repair facilities, build new ones, hire personnel and update records systems totaling $17.6 billion according to Gibson. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he was worried on Tuesday that VA reform would not get done before the recess in August. Sanders said that Gibsons request can be reduced and the cost for veterans to find care outside the VA could be lowered as well in an effort to find middle ground. However, Sanders and miller have not talked again since their Monday phone call. On Wednesday, Sanders upped the public pressure by going to the Senate floor to warn about the possibility of Congress leaving for recess without solving the issue that lawmakers deem a must fix crisis followed by a press conference to brief reporters. On Wednesday, Jessica Eggimann, Chief clerk of Miller’s committee, sent an email to a top staffer on Sanders’ committee, asking her to forward the notice that Miller was hosting an open conference committee meeting the next day to discuss the legislation. However, Sanders’ office took the move as inconsiderate and a political stunt. The worst offense for Democrats was a line asking Sanders to join Miller in convening a conference on July 28 “for a formal vote on this proposal.” Sanders organized a press conference with fellow Senate Democrats criticizing Miller for demanding a vote on a proposal that did not adhere to the outlines of earlier discussion, according to an aide. A Senate Democratic aide said that by ratcheting up the politics of VA reform, the party increased the possibility of passage. By the end of the day Thursday, both Sanders and Miller paved the way to restart talks saying that they would work through the weekend to finalize a deal.

Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Thursday demanded in a statement that the Obama administration needed to “wind down” a policy helping more than 550,000 undocumented workers who came to the U.S. as children which could restart deportation of young people who lived here for years. Elise Foley reports, Marco Rubio: End Relief For Dreamers, Rubio’s statement outlined suggestions to deal with the crisis of more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors who cross the U.S. border illegally since October. According to the statement, Rubio believes: “Because the recent wave from Central America spiked after DACA was announced, it is in our interest to wind down this program. If you are not currently in it, you should not be eligible for it.” New immigrants aren’t eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama administration policy that allows undocumented immigrants called Dreamers who enter the country as children before June 15, 2007 to apply for temporary authorization to stay and work legally. Most Republicans have opposed the policy since its introduction in 2012, but the GOP’s calls to end the policy have gotten louder. All 24 Republican House members and both senators in the Texas congressional delegation sent a letter to Obama on Thursday calling for suspension of efforts to expand deportation relief. The letter reads: “Your Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Executive Order has shielded over half a million illegal immigrants from current law. And it has sent the regrettable message that illegal immigration will not be punished in the United States.” Last month, according to Foley, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was joined by 32 House Republicans calling for Obama to end DACA and in a letter Issa accused Obama of selectively enforcing the law. The letter reads: “DACA rewards families and individuals who have broken our laws, further encouraging others to seek similar benefits.” Lawmakers have been vague about what to do with these undocumented young people who are eligible for DACA. Cruz’s bill would apply to future relief, while Rubio said relief should not be given out in the future meaning current DACA recipients could keep their temporary status. However, ending the policy could mean that undocumented young people could risk deportation and those current under the policy would eventually have to reapply. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) explained earlier this month that if the administration ends DACA and similar policies protecting Dreamers from deportation: “They should not be under a process created that the president doesn’t have the authority to do, and they would be in the status that they were in prior to this program being established.”

International Conflicts Rage On As Russia Sparks Gun Buying in the U.S. and More Planes Meet Disaster

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No one can deny the fact that this year have been the worst in the history of aviation especially the past week with a cluster of disaster spanning three continents including 300 passengers killed on a plane shot out of the sky, suspension of flights to Israel’s largest airport due to rocket attacks, and airliner crashing in a storm and another disappears. According to the AOL article, Very bad week: Airline disasters come in a cluster, industry analysts and safety experts have concluded their is no common theme with these disasters as they all seem random tragedies and do not think the events indicate that flying is suddenly becoming less safe. The International Air Transportation Association reported that less than one in 2 million flights last year ended in an accident where the plane was damaged. John Beatty, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation in Alexandria, Virginia, a non-profit promoting global aviation safety, said: “One of the things that makes me feel better when we look at these events is that if they all were the same type event or same root cause then you would say there’s a systemic problem here, but each event is unique in its own way.” Beatty added that because of the growth in the industry especially in the developing world that more accidents could potentially happen. Malaysia Flight 17 shot down on July 18 in Eastern Ukraine killed 298 people and Malaysia Flight 370 disappeared with 239 people in March adding up to more than twice the total global airline fatalities in all of last year which was the safest year on record with 163 fatalities in 2013. ON Wednesday, seven days after Flight 17 met disaster, a TransAsia plane crashed in Taiwan due to stormy weather killing 48 people injuring 10 others and crew and injuring five more people on the ground. The next day an Air Algerie flight with 116 people disappeared in a rainstorm which the wreckage was later found in Mali, a Burkina Faso official said late Thursday. Together, the disasters may push the fatalities over 700 for this year, the most since 2010, and 2014 is still only half over. According to Robert W. Mann Jr., an aviation industry analyst: “They’re all tragic, but the global air travel consumer has a very short memory and it’s highly localized to their home markets where they fly. The places where these things are happening, 99 percent of passengers never go to or fly to. … This isn’t a headline issue for most people, and that’s why people continue to fly despite the headlines.”

While aviation industry faces a tough year, Russia and Pro-Russian separatists face new accusations regarding Ukraine. According to Catherine Taibi, CNN Freelancer Abducted By Pro-Russian Separatists In Ukraine, a CNN freelance journalist has been detained in eastern Ukraine since Tuesday after being abducted by pro-Russian separatists as reported by the network Thursday. Anton Skiba was taken from his hotel in Donetsk after covering days of the MH17 crash site and the network chose not to report the incident for safety concerns. CNN reports that several press freedom groups and organizations including the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have called for Skiba’s immediate release. Skiba was accused of “terrorism” and “of posting cash rewards for the killing of separatist fighters on his Facebook page.” The Unites States on Thursday accused Russia of firing artillery across the border in to Ukraine to target Ukrainian military positions, Reuters reports Russia Fired On Ukraine, U.S. Says. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf explained: “We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions.” Ukraine’s Security Council said on Wednesday that preliminary information indicated that missiles were fired from Russia that took down two government fighter jets over Eastern Ukraine. Russia’s Defense Ministry on Thursday dismissed this saying it is an attempt to mislead the public, according to Interfax news agency reports citing a defense ministry official. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., after new sanction imposed by the Obama administration last week against Russia included several companies such as Kalashnikov Concern, who makes the most popular weapon in the world, the Ak-47. As Hunter Stuart reports, Russian Sanctions Spark AK-47 Buying Frenzy In U.S., the move has sent Americans in to a buying frenzy seeking to buy AK-47s that are already for sale in the U.S. Gun sellers around the country say they are seeing big business in AK-47s and other Russian firearms. The Treasury Department says people and businesses who own Kalashnikov guns can still sell them in the U.S. as the Kalashnikov company does not benefit.

While Russia and the pro-Russian rebels deal with the fallout of the alleged allegations, Israel elected a new president amid the violence and destruction. Newly elected president Reuven Rivlin, a legislator from the hawkish Likud Party, took over the reigns from Nobel Prize Laureate Shimon Peres whose presidency ended on Thursday, according to the Associated Press report Israel swears in new president amid Gaza war. During his handover ceremony, Peres, 90, said: “I did not imagine that in the last days of my presidency I would be called upon, once more, to comfort bereaved families” and blaming the Islamic militant group Hamas for starting the war by firing at Israel, but emphasized that “Israel is not the enemy of the people of Gaza.” Rivlin’s speech was similar saying: “We are not fighting against the Palestinian people, and we are not at war with Islam. We are fighting against terrorism.” However, unlike Peres, Rivlin has long been an opponent of efforts to establish a Palestinian state, the Associated Press reports. Peres spent his last days of his seven year term dealing with grieving families of soldiers killed din the two weeks of fighting. So far, 30 have died and three civilians on the Israeli side, while more than 700 Palestinians with most being civilians have died. Israel’s president is meant to be a unifying figure and moral compass, while executive power rest with the prime minister who is currently the conservative Benjamin Netanyahu. This week, Peres met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to try and broker a ceasefire. Rivlin, 74, a stalwart in Netanyahu’s Likud Party, said he will turn his priorities inward focusing on domestic issue such as rising living costs and affordable housing, while Peres said ,once out of office, he will facilitate investments in education, health care, agriculture and technology throughout the Middle East.

Human Tragedies Around the World Today

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On Wednesday, military planes carried the first bodies of victims of the Malaysian Airlines crash left eastern Ukraine giving some relief to the grieving relatives who must still wait for positive IDs and answers to who caused the disaster, according to the Associated Press, Two military aircraft carrying the first bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines left eastern Ukraine Wednesday. In the afternoon, the Dutch government declared a national day of mourning as the first bodies are due to arrive from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash that killed 298 people most who were Dutch citizens. Though U.S. officials are confident that a missile brought down the plan, they have yet to determine Russia’s role if any in the tragedy. On July 23, 2014, at Kharkiv airport in Ukraine, Ukrainian soldiers carry coffins during a sombre ceremony followed by the first plane carrying these coffins left for the Netherlands. The other military plane, Australian, left as well midday headed for Eindhoven air base to be met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and hundreds of relatives. Dutch government spokesman Lodewijk Hekkin said 60 coffins were expected but not sure, while Jan Tinder the Dutch official in charge of the international team dealing with the dead said 200 bodies were aboard the train and more remains may be found once the body bags are examined. According to Air Accidents Investigation Branch in Britain, on Wednesday Dutch authorities delivered the black boxes to the agency in Farnborugh, south England, where information from the data and voice recorder will be downloaded. On Tuesday, the European Union imposed sanctions against Russian individuals again, but did not target entire sectors of Russian economy until Moscow’s role is known in the disaster.

While loved ones deal with the loss of loved ones who died tragically on Flight 17, Israel and Gaza continue to fight costing not only innocent lives but may also cost both groups their support. On Tuesday, the United Nations said Palestinian civilians in densely populated areas in Gaza have no where to hide from Israel’s military offensive and children are paying the heaviest price, Stephanie Nebehay reported In Gaza, No Safe Place For Civilians: UN. Israel continued to bombard targets across the Gaza Strip as no ceasefire deal was near. Meanwhile, U.S. and U.N. diplomats are urging talks to end the fighting that has killed 600 lives in the three week conflict. Jens Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a news briefing in Geneva that the death toll is rising in the coastal enclave with a density of 4,500 people per square kilometer. Nearly 5000 homes have been destroyed by Israeli air strikes and 100,000 people have sough shelter in schools of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), where they need food, water and mattresses, he said. The UNRWA in a statement Tuesday said it was raising its emergency funding appeal to $115 from $60 million. As Juliette Touma of the U.N. Children’s Fund reports, an overwhelming majority of people being killed are Palestinians including 121 Gaza children under 18 and 900 Palestinian children have been injured. Laerke said: “According to an assessment by aid workers on ground at least 107,000 children need psycho-social support for the trauma they are experiencing such as death, injury or loss of their homes.” Meanwhile, more than 1.2 million out of 1.8 million have no water or limited access to water as power networks are damaged or no fuel for generators. In addition, Laerke remarked, “we do have reports of sewage flooding which is a threat to public health.” Spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs of the U.N. World Food Program states emergency food rations and vouchers have been given to 90,000 people adding: “Ready to eat food stocks are running low in Gaza given the conflict has lasted two weeks and the needs are increasing.” The World Health Organization said 18 health facilities have been damages including hospitals. In a statement on Tuesday after WHO visited sites, they found that hospitals in northern Gaza are overwhelmed by high number of trauma cases with little supplies. The International Committee of thr Red Cross, guardian of the rules of war, stated on late Monday that warring parties are obliged under international humanitarian law to protect medical personnel, ambulance and facilities condemning the attack on the Al-Aqsa hospital which have been in direct fire four times. The Associated Press reports that since the U.N. top human rights official warned all sides in the Gaza Strip not to indiscriminately attack civilians and was ignore that violations may amount to warm crimes. On Wednesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said around three quarters of those killed in Gaza Strip were civilians and thousands more injured totaling 657 Palestinians and 31 Israelis killed. Among the Palestinian dead, Pillay said at least 147 were children and 74 were women. At the session, Palestinian Foreign Minster Riad Malki accused Israel of committing crimes against humanity and violating international human rights laws, while Israeli Ambassador Eviatar Manor accused Hamas of committing war crimes.

Meanwhile in Europe, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy on Tuesday said they would combat the rising anti-Semitic protests and violence over the conflict in Gaza in their own countries, according to Kirsten Grieshaber article European Politicians Condemn Anti-Semitic Demonstrations. In a joint statement issued in Brussels, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, France’s Laurent Fabius and Italy’s Federica Mogherini said: “Anti-Semitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies.” In addition, they said that they will respect demonstrators right to assemble and freedom of speech, however, will fight against “acts and statements that cross the line to anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia.” On Tuesday afternoon in Berlin, 500 pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched chanting slogans like “Israel is murder” and “Israel bombs, Germany finances.” In France, pro-Palestinian youth clashed with police on Sunday setting fire to cars, pillaging stores and attacking two synagogues in the Paris suburbs. Italy as well has seen non-violent demonstrations. Jewish groups have expressed shock and discuss about the growing anti-Semitism. Stephan Kramer, director of the European office on anti-Semitism of the American Jewish Committee in Brussels said: “We have reached a new level of hatred and violence in all of Europe that cannot even be compared to the anti-Semitism seen during previous conflicts in Israel.”

Europe and the Middle East see their fair share of conflict and clashes with militants, Nigeria is still reeling from a different type of tragedy. It has now been three months since Islamic extremists have kidnapped more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls and according to residents of Chibok, where the girls were kidnapped from, 11 of their parents have died as well. Michelle Faul explains in her article, 11 parents of Nigeria’s abducted girls die, that the town has been cut off my militants who have been attacking villages in the region. This month, seven of the fathers were among the 51 bodies brought to the Chibok hospital after an attack on Kautakari, a village nearby. In addition, four more parents have died from heart failure, high blood pressure and other illness the community believes was induced by the mass abduction 100 days ago, said community leader Pogu Bitrus and provided the names. He explained, “One father of two of the girls kidnapped just went into a kind of coma and kept repeating the names of his daughters, until life left him.” President Goodluck Jonathan met with parents Tuesday pledging to continue working to see the girls are brought back alive, according to his spokesman. Danger is on the horizon though as Boko Haram is closing in on Chibok by attacking the villages that surround it. Community leader Bitrus siad a food crisis looms along with money and fuel shortages as villager swarm into the town from towns close by straining resource. Many girls who escaped are recovering said a health worker, under conditions of anonymity for fear of retaliation from Boko Haram, and many are now talking about their experience even considering how to continue their education. Boko Haram filmed a video threatening to sell the students into slavery and as child brides. Additionally, the video showed two girls describing their conversion from Christianity to Islam. Most of the girls are believed to be held in the Sambisa forest that borders on sand dunes marking the edge of the Sahara, while sightings of the girls and their captors have been reported in Cameroon and Chad. Local leader Bitrus warns of a famine coming soon due to the fact families are putting up four and five other families arriving with nothing since livestock has been looted by Boko Haram. The town and nearby villages are targets due to the fact they follow Christianity in a predominantly Muslim north Nigeria. The number of soldiers guarding Chibok increased from 15 to 200 following the kidnapping but does little to secure the town since soldiers refuse to deploy to villages under attack even with advance warning 90 percent of the time. Residents feel abandoned after a plea was made this month to the United Nations to send troops and the U.N. told the Nigerian government to live up to its international responsibility. The Defense Ministry says it knows where the girls are but fears any campaign could lead to their deaths. This week, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau released a new video demanding that President Goodluck Jonathan release detained extremists in exchange for the girls. After three months. the residents have little hope that the girls will return.