The Brutal Gaza War Continues, Ukrainian Troops Advance, Shocking Details Involving the Islamic State and Deported Children Face Certain Death

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On Friday, 18 alleged spies include seven shot behind a mosque after midday prayers were killed by Gaza gunmen in response to Israel’s deadly airstrikes against top Hamas leaders, the Associate Press reports, Hamas kills 18 suspected informers for Israel. Two killed were women, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, who also called for an immediate end to the “extra-judicial executions.” Al Majd website which is close to the Hamas security services said suspects will no now be dealt with “in the field” not in the courts in order to create deterrence. One witness to the executions behind the mosque, 42-year-old Ayman Sharif, said masked gunman lined up the seven against the wall along with a piece of paper above each explaining his crime and his initials. One of the gunmen said that the seven “had sold their souls to the enemy for a cheap price” and had caused killing and destruction. The bodies were collected by an ambulance and the gunmen left after shooting each one with their automatic rifles. According to Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell, Gaza War Rages On As Israeli Airstrikes Kill 11 Palestinians, Including Hamas Leader’s Wife And Son, more than a 180 rockets were launched by Palestinians on Tuesday and Wednesday at southern Israel with some intercepted by the Iron Dome system, the military sad with no casualties reported on the Israeli side. Since the failure attempted at a ceasefire on Tuesday by Egypt that collapse into violence, Israeli aircraft has carried out more than 100 strikes in Gaza Strip, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said adding it was “targeting terror sites”. Hamas an medical officials said 23 people died in the latest Israeli raids. Netanyahu, speaking at a news conference in Tel Aviv, said Israel’s Gaza campaign will last a while and described its goal as seeking calm and safety for Israeli citizens. Ya’alon, his defense chief said “all options are open, including renewed ground operations” in Gaza. Gaza health officials report that five children were killed in separate airstrikes and the Israeli military said it had targeted four gunmen in norther Gaza. In total, the Palestinian Health Ministry said 2,040 people mostly civilians have been killed din Gaza, while Israel says it killed hundreds of Palestinian militants in fighting that the United Nations says has displaced 425,000 people. A diplomatic source said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas whose Fatah party participated in the Cairo talks, was due to meet the emir of Qatar, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Doha on Wednesday. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement he was “gravely disappointed by the return to hostilities” and urged the sides not to allow matters to escalate.

On Friday, Ukraine alleged that Russia has launched a “direct invasion” of its territory after Moscow sent a convoy of aid trucks across the border into eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels are fighting government forces, Dmitry Madorsky, Russian aid convoy drives into Ukraine. Kiev said Ukrainian forces would not attack the convoy allowing it to pass to avoid “provocation” as thousands of Russian troops are stationed at the border. The Ukraine conflict has cause the deepest rift between Moscow and the West since the Cold War with Western states imposing sanctions on Moscow and the Kremlin retaliating causing NATO to deploy additional troops in member states bordering Russia. Regarding Russian aid convoys, Ukrainian Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists:”They passed into Ukraine without clearance or participation of the International Red Cross or (Ukrainian) border guards.” Ukrainian state security chief Valentyn Nalivaychenko in a statement to journalists added: “We consider this a direct invasion by Russia of Ukraine.” However, Ukrainian authorities said the convoy would pass through the area where the rebels were firing and security could not be guaranteed. In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry said: “All excuses to delay sending aid have been exhausted. The Russian side has taken the decision to act. We warn against any attempts to disrupt this purely humanitarian mission. Responsibility for any possible consequences of provocations … will lie, completely and entirely, with those who are prepared to further sacrifice human lives for the sake of their ambitions and geo-political ploys.” The International Committee for the Red Cross has decided “due to the volatile security situation” not to supervise the convoy. The last few weeks of fighting has seen a string of rebel defeats in the conflict that has claimed 2,000 lives. Russia says the trucks contain food, medical supplies, water and some clothing amid fears by many western countries that the aid convoy is a cover for a Russian invasion. After four months of fighting in Russian speaking eastern Ukraine, the area faces a humanitarian crisis, lacking food, medicine and clean water. Meanwhile, fierce fighting continued in eastern Ukraine as government troops try to take back territory from pro-Russian rebels before the arrival of the Russian aid convoy overseen by the Red Cross, according to Nataliya Vasilyeva, Deadly Fighting In Ukraine As Government Troops Advance Into Rebel-Held Territory. Trucks loaded with water, generators and sleeping bags for civilians in the rebel city of Luhansk have begun to move through Ukrainian customs after being held for a week at the border. The trucks are expected to cross into Ukraine Friday morning on their way to Luhansk, a city with a war reduced population of a quarter of a million people 20 miles from the Russian border. At Russia’s urging, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a ceasefire during the humanitarian mission. Fighting on Thursday was reported in Luhansk, a day after the government said it had retaken the city which has been under siege fro 19 days and lacking the basics of running water and electricity.

Even more concerning, the United Nations human rights office on Friday reported that at least 191,369 people have been killed in the Syria conflict through April, Stephanie Nebehay reports, UN: Death toll from Syrian civil war tops 191,000. The U.N. report included cross-checked data from four groups and the government and according to U.N> high Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reflects a reality of killing and torture while the civil war has “dropped off the international radar.” In a statement, Pillay explained: “With additional killings reported from earlier periods, in addition to the new killings that have taken place, the total is more than double the number documented a year ago. Nevertheless, as the report explains, tragically it is probably an underestimate of the real total number of people killed during the first three years of this murderous conflict.” An additional 51,953 killings were not included due to a lack of information, according to the report issued in Geneva. Nebehay reports: “The highest number of documented killings were recorded in Rural Damascus province(39,393), followed by Aleppo (31,932), Homs (28,186), Idlib (20,040), Daraa (18,539) and Hama (14,690).” Pillay repeated her call for referring alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all sides in Syria’s conflict to the International Criminal Court: “The killers, destroyers and torturers in Syria have been empowered and emboldened by the international paralysis. It is essential governments take serious measures to halt the fighting and deter the crimes, and above all stop fueling this monumental, and wholly avoidable, human catastrophe through the provision of arms and other military supplies.”

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at a Pentagon news conference said the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq has helped Iraqi and Kurdish forces regain footing, however, well resourced Islamic State militants are expected to regroup and stage a new offensive, Robert Burns reports, Pentagon: Islamic state militants will regroup. Army. Gen. Martin Dempsey added that although the Islamic State can be contained it cannot be defeated unless it is attacked in Syria. Hagel said, “Overall, these operations have stalled ISIL’s momentum and enabled Iraqi and Kurdish forces to regain their footing and take the initiative.” Dempsy said,”They can be contained, not in perpetuity. This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated. To your question, can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria? The answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border. And that will come when we have a coalition in the region that takes on the task of defeating ISIS over time. ISIS will only truly be defeated when it’s rejected by the 20 million disenfranchised Sunni that happen to reside between Damascus and Baghdad.” A new report states that hundred of American citizens are among the roughly 12,000 ruthless fighters backing the ISIS led Islamic State’s reign of terror in the Middle East, according to Ryan Gorman, Hundreds of Americans have joined the brutal ISIS militia. The National Journal reports American and European officials are concerned about the growing number of citizens taking up the mujahedeen cause: “ISIS today represents a direct and growing threat to the United States… including hundreds of Europeans and Americans who can travel freely with Western passports.” Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, outgoing director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Journal: “Some have both the intention and some capability to attack the United States homeland… we’re doing all we can to understand the outflow of foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq, many of them with Western passports.”

Meanwhile, back in the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported that minors deported to Honduras over the last month are being killed, according to a morgue director in the city of San Pedro Sula, who said “at least five, perhaps as many as 10” children killed there since February had been deported from the United States. Hector Hernandez, of the San Pedro Sula morgue, told Times reporter Cindy Carcamo: “There are many youngsters who only three days after they’ve been deported are killed, shot by a firearm. They return just to die.” Rogue Planas reports, Children Deported To Honduras Are Getting Killed: Report: “Almost 63,000 unaccompanied minors — the vast majority from the violence-plagued Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — have crossed illegally into the United States since October. Many are fleeing the gang violence, poverty and political instability that has made the so-called ‘Northern Triangle’ countries some of the most dangerous in the world.” House Republicans joined by four Democrats last month to do away with the president’s policy of deferring deportations for undocumented immigrants who arrive as children despite little evidence that the policy caused the crisis. According to a Public Religion Research Institute poll last month, most Americans see young migrants as refugees with 70 percent of Americans thinking the country should provide temporary support while their cases proceed in court as a majority say that hose facing the threat of violence should not be immediately deported. The White House has responded by pushing to expedite the deportation process for Central American minors and families traveling together in order to send the message to other migrants that they won’t be able to stay. On Wednesday, eleven undocumented immigrants are pleading with Obama to protect them and others in similar circumstances from being deported as the administration considers a broad executive action on immigration enforcement, Elise Foley reports, Jose Antonio Vargas Among Undocumented Immigrants Making Urgent Plea To Obama. Wednesday morning, the undocumented immigrants including journalist-activist Jose Antonio Vargas announced the initiative at a press conference organized by Vargas’ organization, Define American, and in partnership with the National Immigration Law Center. They are applying for deferred actions that would allow them to stay in the U.S. temporarily, while urging President Barack Obama to halt deportations. Vargas in an interview with HuffPost about the 1 of 11 Million campaign said, “This is our way to insist on the urgency and the humanity of the 11 million people like us. For us, it’s really important to ask the question of how inclusive is the Obama administration’s relief going to be?. Who is going to get left out, and why? This is our effort to get in front of that and make sure that people understand that we’re talking about human beings here with families.” Besides Vargas, the other documented immigrants asking for deferred action on Wednesday have been int he U.S. for years and include people ages 22 to 55 from Mexico, Senegal, South Korea, Honduras, Germany and the Philippines with some already in deportation proceedings. Vargas said he hopes the White House will meet the group and undocumented immigrants in general to discuss any executive action taken.

White House and Congress: The Great Economic Divide

On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden called for Republican and Democratic governors to lead the nation out of the mess that has crippled Washington and insist that Congress approve billions of dollars to repair the country’s aging infrastructure. The Associate Press reports (Vice President Joe Biden calls on governors to lead nation), during a meeting of the National Governors Association, Biden explained: “The way things have gotten today, and I’m not singling out any party or any group of people – the politics, the culture in Washington, it’s become too personal, it’s too corrosive. I think you’ve got to lead us out of this mess we’re in.” The three day conference held this year in Nashville gathers state leaders from both parties to collaborate despite partisan differences on immigration, health care and education. Even with the bipartisan tone, many governors face midterm election in a season where the balance of power in the statehouses could potentially be decided and ending some presidential campaigns before they begin. Biden, a potential presidential contender himself, said the political climate in Washington was less divisive when he began serving in the Senate three decades ago at a time when white segregationists served openly in Congress. In addition, he said Republicans and Democrats have long agreed on the need to reinvest in the nation’s infrastructure and workforce development, however the current climate even with needed spending has been bogged down by politics. The main concern for governors right now is the deadline for Congress to pay for the federal Highway Trust Fund that allows states to maintain their transportation infrastructure. While a short term bill will most likely pass in Congress, governors want a long term plan. Unfortunately, many governors are reluctant to give any suggestion on how to fund their infrastructure in the long term. As for right now, fuel taxes are the main revenue source, but they have not been raised in 21 years and aren’t keeping pace with spending. In addition, the bipartisan Senate proposal to increase the federal gas tax has failed. It is hard to say whether infrastructure issues will play a role in the coming elections, although Washington’s struggles with what was long a bipartisan issues is emblematic of voters’ overall view of Congress, which as the Associate Press puts it is at an all time low.

Meanwhile back in Washington, the Treasury Department on Friday said the June surplus totaled $71 billion, following a $130 billion deficit in May, putting it on course to record the lowest annual deficit since 2008. The Associate Press reports that the government also ran a surplus in June 2013 due in part to dividends from Fannie Mae, the mortgage giant under federal conservatorship for the past six years. For the first nine months of this budget year, the deficit totals $366 billion, down 28 percent from the same period last year 2013, while tax receipts are up 8 percent compared to the prior year and spending increased 1 percent. The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting a deficit of $492 billion for the full budget year ending Sept. 30.

While strides are being made to cut the deficit, Congress still struggles to get their act together. On Friday, as Michael McAuliff reports, House Votes For Tax Breaks To Add $287 Billion More To Deficit, the GOP led House of Representatives voted to make a former stimulus measure permanent along with another related tax cut adding $287 billion to the deficit over the next 10 year. The largest part worth $263 billion is making permanent so called bonus depreciation which allows businesses to write off the cost of capital investments and improvements much quicker. The stimulus was used twice during the Bush Administration and expired last year. The idea is that if lawmakers give businesses a break during tough times then they will speed up major equipment purchases and stimulate the economy. Those who support it believe it would allow business to plan their investments, while opponents mock the idea stating that the Congressional Research Service reports found the break to be a weak stimulus and the stimulus effect will likely fall further if it becomes permanent. According to Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a member of the Ways and Means Committee: “Even as a stimulus, the analysis shows that for every dollar that is invested we get 20 cents of growth.  A fellow could go bankrupt with that kind of economics, and that’s exactly what they would have the country doing and not meeting its other needs while funding something that doesn’t work.” In addition, Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) added: “Yesterday, the Ways and Means Committee was working on a markup of legislation for another short-term extension of the highway trust fund — you know, the transportation infrastructure investment we desperately need in this country. We were scratching and clawing to try to find an additional $10 billion over the next 10 months to try to keep some of these projects moving forward, and yet here today, we have another permanent change to the tax code at a cost of $287 billion over the next 10 years and not a nickel of it paid for.” Kind noted that his committee passed 14 permanent tax cut bills at a cost of $900 billion. Unfortunately, Friday’s full house vote allowed for two thirds of the committee’s cuts to pass. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), the sponsor of the cuts, said that bonus depreciation has been going on since 2002 off and on without being paid for, so it might as well be permanent. He added, “Bad policy. Even though we are giving for the first time certainty, predictability to people who actually create jobs in America, who must have a business plan and must make those big purchases. Amazing.” The White House has threatened to veto the bill along with permanent cuts and additionally the Senate will weight the cuts, but only plan for short term extensions.

While Congress and the White House try to find common ground, three of the world’s richest men are calling for Congress to pass legislation to overhaul the immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Igor Bobic article, Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett, And Bill Gates Chastise House GOP On Immigration, explains the Casino magnate and conservative donor Sheldon Adselson along with Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates criticized the House Republicans for their failure to address the current policy. In a New York Times op-ed piece published Thursday, they wrote: “Whatever the precise provisions of a law, it’s time for the House to draft and pass a bill that reflects both our country’s humanity and its self-interest.” However, the chance of any immigration reform bill moving through the House is unlikely with the unwillingness of conservative members and Speaker John Boehner to bring to the floor without overwhelming support from his caucus. Despite the obstacles, Bobic reports the three men are unphased urging Republicans to listen to reason. They added: “A Congress that does nothing about these problems is extending an irrational policy by default; that is, if lawmakers don’t act to change it, it stays the way it is, irrational. The current stalemate — in which greater pride is attached to thwarting the opposition than to advancing the nation’s interests — is depressing to most Americans and virtually all of its business managers. The impasse certainly depresses the three of us…Signs of a more productive attitude in Washington — which passage of a well-designed immigration bill would provide — might well lift spirits and thereby stimulate the economy. It’s time for 535 of America’s citizens to remember what they owe to the 318 million who employ them.”

GOP Hopes For Better Ties With Minority Voters

GOP Hopes For Better Ties With Minority Voters.

Well they have tried everything else so why not try something new to them but not new to the rest of us. The Republican party has struggles to get the minority vote since November and even before that as far as I remember. The problem could potentially get worse, but as an optimist myself the glass is half full and GOP-minority relations can always improve. Republican leaders, according to campaign consultants, need to make some timely decision and get a few breaks in order to regain some trust. The party need to draw more of the Latino vote and supports as it is a fast growing sector which if you remember gave Barack Obama 71 percent of the vote last fall. There are two potential opportunities coming: the first is by allowing the immigration changes to become law, the party could ease the anti-GOP feeling among Hispanics and the issue will fade from headlines and the second would be to nominate a Republican Latino, let’s say Marco Rubio of Florida, for president in 2016 possibly gaining millions of Hispanic voters. Another important group would be the black voters who support the Democratic party in overwhelming numbers, but even a slight inroad could swing one or two states in the 2016 election. Some strategists believe that the Republicans will make the situation worse among minorities if Congress blocks Obama’s bid to grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants. Democratic strategist Doug Thornell says for the Republicans to attract more Hispanic and black voters, they need to do more than nominate a Cuban-American for president and overhaul immigration. He believes they also need to get rid of the hostile language used toward these groups as well as get rid of behaviors that target these groups as in the last presidential election where they tried to limit voting in Florida and other states. Even Rubio, the potential “Republican Savior,” has said that it is delusional for the party to believe their Hispanic voters will double because of reform to immigration as the party has already made them feel unwelcome and reinforced the idea with words and actions.