Obama and Congress Facing New Challenges, While the Auto Industry is Dealt Another Blow

https://i2.wp.com/media.cagle.com/50/2010/11/03/85188_600.jpg

Officials on Tuesday said the Obama administration is trying to find ways to sidestep Congress in order to prevent American companies from reincorporating overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes, Josh Lederman reports, Obama Seeks Executive Ways To Limit Tax Inversions. President Barack Obama has condemned so called tax inversions as unpatriotic and urged Congress to stop them, but Republicans and Democrats disagree about the best solution making congressional action unlikely. Messing with inversions without Congressional approval would further open up Obama to charges he’s unilaterally rewriting tax codes as House Republicans are already suing Obama for exceeding his authorities. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, last month, stated that the administration had examined the tax code and without new laws its option were limited. However, on Tuesday, the Treasury Department said in a statement: “Treasury is reviewing a broad range of authorities for possible administrative actions that could limit the ability of companies to engage in inversions, as well as approaches that could meaningfully reduce the tax benefits after inversions take place.” As Lederman explains it, “In an inversion, a U.S. business merges with or is acquired by a foreign company in a country with a lower tax rate, allowing the company to lower its tax bill. Frequently the companies maintain their U.S. headquarters and operations, and the U.S. entity often maintains control of the company. Obama argues that amounts to companies attempting to choose which tax laws they want to follow — a luxury not granted to individual taxpayers.” Both parties generally agree that inversions are a problem, but do not agree on the causes and the solutions. While Democrats want to make it harder for U.S. firms to reincorporate overseas, Republicans argue that Congress needs to lower the corporate tax rate to keep businesses in the U.S. The united States has the highest corporate tax rate at 35 percent in the industrialized world and taxes income that’s earned overseas and brought back to the U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., one of the three Senator Democrats who wrote to Obama Tuesday urging him to take immediate executive action on inversions, stated, “It would be an important first step toward treating companies that renounce America the same way we treat people who renounce America — as freeloaders who get cut off from other benefits.” A House Speaker John Boehner spokesman said Tuesday that Obama should work with Congress on adding inversions rather than action on his own, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned that actions taken by Obama could make the situation worse. The Congressional Research Service confirmed that 50 U.S. based companies have merged with or acquired foreign businesses over the past decade in inversions.

Meanwhile, Congress according to a Washington Post/ ABC News poll released Tuesday, found that 51 percent of Americans disapprove of their own congressional representative, Ariel Edwards Levy reports, A Record Number Of Americans Don’t Like Their Own Member Of Congress. This is the first time in a quarter century that the poll has had a disapproval rating higher than 50 percent and even higher than the 47 percent disapproval rating of last year’s government shutdown. Terrible ratings are nothing new since Congress has an average approval rating of under 12 percent, however, in the past, Americans approved more of their district’s representative than the legislative branch as a whole, but that number took a dive as well. In June before Republicans took back the House in 2010, 40 percent of Americans told Gallup their represented didn’t deserve to be re-elected, yet 85 percent of members seeking re-election held their seat. The poll also found among the 1,029 adults from both parties surveyed via phone between July 30 and Aug. 3 disapproved of their representative equally at 46 Democrats and 44 percent Republicans. This also differs from the past two midterms as polls found higher anti-incumbent sentiments among the party that would go on to win the House.

An even bigger threat to Congress and the White House, according to what U.S. officials told CNN, is a new leaker that exposed national security documents in the aftermath of surveillance disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Evan Perez reports, New leaker disclosing U.S. secrets, government concludes. The Intercept, a news site launched by Glenn Greenwald who also published Snowden’s leaks, published Tuesday a news story based on national security documents shows proof of the newest leak. The article focuses on the growth in the U.S. government databases of known or suspected terrorist names during the Obama administration citing documents prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center dated August 2013 which was after Snowden left the U.S. to avoid criminal charges. Government officials are trying to find out the identity of the person, while Greenwald, in a February interview with CNN’s Reliable Sources, said: “I definitely think it’s fair to say that there are people who have been inspired by Edward Snowden’s courage and by the great good and virtue that it has achieved. I have no doubt there will be other sources inside the government who see extreme wrongdoing who are inspired by Edward Snowden.” It is not clear how many documents the new leakers shared or how much damage it caused as the documents shard are labeled “Secret” and “NOFORN” which means it was not shared with foreign government. That’s a lower classification than most of the documents leaked by Snowden. Government officials said he stole 1.7 million classified documents many of which were labeled “Top Secret” a higher classification for most important government secrets.

On Tuesday, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri has proposed a new bill called the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Enhancement Act aimed to improve automotive safety following the high profile recalls of General Motors and Toyota, Autoblog reports, Senator Pushes For Up To Life Sentence For Auto Execs Found To Delay Recalls. The plan includes doubling the budget for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the next six years, removing the $35-million limit for fining automakers, and most importantly a provision to punish auto executives who knowingly delay recalls with a life sentence. McCaskill’s office told the Detroit News: “(The bill) gives federal prosecutors greater discretion to bring criminal prosecutions for auto safety violations and increases the possible penalties, including up to life in prison for violations that result in death.” If a delayed recall ends in serous injuries, execs could face a 15 year stint behind bars. By removing the limit on per-vehicle fines, the fine structure can be increased from $5,000 to $25,000 e.g. GM could have been hooked for $55 billion in fines for its ignition switch recall rather than just $35 million. According to The News, McCaskill said: “With millions of Americans behind the wheel every day, and more than 33,000 killed on our roads each year, we’ve got to do more to keep our cars and the roads we drive them on safe. Painful recent examples at Toyota and GM have shown us we also must make it easier to hold accountable those who jeopardize consumers’ safety. For too long, auto safety resources have remained virtually stagnant while cars and the safety challenges they present have become more complex.”

Eboal Crisis Deepens Further, Immigration Problem Worsens, Environmental Disasters in Ohio, California and the Gulf of Mexico

On Tuesday, two American aid workers infected with Ebola are receiving an experimental drug that has never been tested for safety in humans and was only identified earlier this year as a potential treatment due to research programs by the U.S. government and military, Marilynn Marchione reports, U.S. gov’t had role in Ebola drug given to aid workers. Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly are improving even though ti is not know if the treatment is the reason for the recovery or they are recovering on their own as other victims have done. Both are being treated at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital in a special isolation unit. They were both infected in Liberia, one of four West African countries crippled by the disease outbreak which is the largest on record. On Monday, the World Health Organization estimated the death toll at 887 from 729 in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria with more than 1,600 people infected. The Nigerian Health Minister said a doctor who helped treat Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian American who died July 25 after reaching Nigeria, has contracted the disease. Tests are pending for three other people who treated Sawyer and are showing symptoms. There is no cure or current treatment for Ebola, while several are under development including the treatment the U.S. aid workers are getting called ZMapp made by Mapp Biopharmaceuticals Inc. of San Diego. The drug aims at boosting the immune response to fight off Ebola and is made from antibodies produced in lab animals exposed to parts of the virus. Kentucky BioProcessing complied with a request from Emory and the international relief group Samaritan’s Purse to provide a limited amount of ZMapp to Emory, even though it will take several months. The United States Food and Drug Administration granted permission to use the drug in the U.S., but the FDA does not have the authority over its use in other countries where the aid workers were first treated in Liberia. In the meantime, dozens of African heads of state met in Washington for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit for a three day gathering hosted by President Barack Obama. On Monday, U.S. health officials spoke with Guinean President Alpha Conde and senior officials form Liberia and Sierra Leone about the outbreak. Ann Flaherty reports, Feds watch airplane passengers for ebola symptoms, as the delegations from 50 countries arrive in the nation’s capital for the leadership summit this week, officials said Monday that federal agents at U.S. airports especially Washington’s Dulles International and New York’s JFK airport are watching travelers from Africa for flu-like symptoms tied to the Ebola outbreak. If passengers are suspected of carry the virus then they must be quarantined immediately and evacuated by medical personnel, according to the CDC which provided the training to local airports. A person exposed to the virus can take up to 21days to exhibit symptoms making it possible for infected travelers to enter the U.S. without knowing it.

Meanwhile the U.S. on Monday closed three emergency shelters established on military bases to temporarily house children crossing the Mexican border alone explaining that fewer children are being caught and other shelters area adequate, Alicia Caldwell reports, Gov’t closing emergency child immigrant shelters. According to Kenneth Wolfe, a Health and Human Services Department spokesman, a shelter in Oklahoma at Fort Sill is expected to close as early as Friday, Shelters in Texas at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and in California at Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme will wrap up operations in the next two to eight weeks. About 7,700 children have been housed at these three bases since the shelters opened in May and early June with stays averaging 35 days. Since Oct. 1 more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, have been caught crossing the Mexican border illegally. Just before leaving for summer recess, the House approved a pair of bills to provide the administration with $694 million and end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation up to two years. The Senate blocked its version of the border bill and left the problem unresolved before leaving Washington for its five week recess. Last month, Homeland Security Department said the number of child immigrants crossing the border alone declined from 2,000 per week in June to 500 per week in mid-July. Administration officials said as many as 90,000 child immigrants could cross the border by the end of the budget year in September. Wolf said the military may reopen the shelters if the numbers spike again.

While the U.S. deals with some pressing international crisis, California, Ohio and the area around the Gulf of Mexico suffered ecological disasters affecting thousands of peoples. On Tuesday, firefighters fought two wildfires near each other in Northern California that has consumed more than a 100 square miles of terrain threatening a small town and prompting the evacuation of a long term care hospital, according to the Associate Press, State Of Emergency Declared Over California Wildfires. On Saturday, Shasta County sheriff had Burney on evacuation watch after ordering residents of three small neighboring communities to leave. The state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said more than 700 residences were threatened. The two out of 14 currently burning in the state started within a day of each other in Lassen National Forest expanding into private property. In all, 102 square miles have been burned as of late Sunday. In Burney, officials at Mayer Memorial Hospital were forced to evacuate their 49 bed annex for patients with dementia and other conditions that need nursing care. the patients were taken to Redding about 55 miles away. Officials said evacuations also remain in effect for a community on the edge of the second fire which was sparked by lightning. State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Dennis Mathisen said Sunday: “Today we are looking at slightly cooler temperatures, but Northern California continues to be hot and dry and breezy in some areas, and in fact we are looking at a fire weather watch going into effect Monday morning for a large portion of Northern and northeast California and possible thunderstorms, which could mean more lightning.” On Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to the circumstances and magnitude of the wildfires beyond the control of any single local government. Siskiyou County, across the border in Oregon, was contending with two fires started by lightning last week threatening 58 square miles in both states late Sunday. A fire in Ellensburg, Washington, started during a lightning storm Saturday night burned 3 square miles and evacuation notices were going out to the residents of the 180 homes in the area. In Ohio’s fourth largest city, two days after warning 400,000 people in Ohio and Michigan not to drink their tap water, the mayor declared Monday that the water was safe and took a sip, John Seewer reports, Ohio Water Ban Lifted; Toledo Mayor Says City’s Water Is Safe. The city lifted the advisory after dozens of tests over the weekend showed an algae induced toxin contaminating Lake Erie dropped to safe levels following chemical treatment. Ohio Gov. John Kasich said the state will conduct a full review of what happened and look at Toledo’s aging water system to figure out how to reduce pollution feeding algae in the western end of the lake. The weekend warning led Kasich to declare a state of emergency in three counties forcing the Ohio National Guard to deliver bottled water and operate purification systems to produce drinkable water. After the ban was lifted, city officials told the residents to flush their systems if they had not used their water since Saturday. The Gulf of Mexico, as Melodi Smith reports, Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ is the size of Connecticut, has a dead zone the size of Connecticut. Environmental Protection Agency scientists and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that 5,052 square miles of low oxygen water or hypoxia in their annual survey caused by nutrients washing into the Gulf’s waters allowing algae blooms to suck up all the oxygen. According to both agencies, these nutrients are from “human activities, such as agriculture and wastewater.” The survey taken from July 27 to August 2 found this year’s dead zone is right in line with predictions and is smaller than the five year average at 5,500 square miles. Nancy Rabalais with the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium said, “The number of Dead Zones throughout the world has been increasing in the last several decades and currently totals over 550.” With the dead zone marine life struggling to find enough oxygen to grow e.g. crabs, mussels and other crustaceans on the ocean floor who cannot leave, the lack of oxygen causes them to die. NOAA estimates the annual cost of algae blooms to U.S. seafood and tourism industries at $82 million or more.

Flight 17 Possible War Crimes Amid Intensified Fighting in Ukraine, While Israel Strains Its Relationships with Allies

https://i1.wp.com/media.cagle.com/95/2014/02/20/144690_600.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/www.toonpool.com/user/1631/files/war_crimes_in_gaza_582295.jpg
Officials on Monday in Eastern Ukraine said at least eight civilians have been killed by fighting and shelling in two Ukrainian cities held by pro-Russian militants. Peter Leonard reports, Death toll mounts as clashes intensify in Ukraine, authorities in Luhansk that five people were killed and 15 injured by artillery strikes overnight, while three were killed in Donetsk as a result of clashes, according to the city’s government. The territory between the cities has seen intense fighting as government troops try to regain control of the area where a Malaysia Airlines plane was show down earlier this month. On Monday morning, Dutch and Australian police set off fir the crash site in a convoy of 20 cars to secure the areas so investigations can continue and recover bodies. Both sides have accused each other regarding the rising civilian death toll, while the armed conflict has displaced more than 200,000 people over more than three months. Rebels accuse government troops of deploying artillery against residential areas, meanwhile authorities complain insurgents use apartment blocks as firing positions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expecting OSCE observers to arrive at the Russian Ukrainian border in the coming days and prove that rebels traveling freely into Ukraine from Russia is false. Ukrainian officials said the mission is largely pointless since only two dozen observers monitor the 1,240 mile border between the two countries.

The fighting in Eastern Ukraine, while serious and concerning, has taken a back burner to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site and the possibility, according to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, of war crime charges. John Heilprin reports, UN rights chief: Flight 17 possible war crime, Pillay, the U.N’s top human right official, wants a thorough investigation into the violation of international law when the flight was shot down with a surface to air missile over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatist on July 17 that killed all 298 on board. At the same time, a new report by her office says that at least 1,129 people have been killed and 3,442 wounded in Ukraine’s fighting as of Saturday and more than 100,000 have fled the violence since April. She said, “This violation of international law, given the prevailing circumstances, may amount to a war crime. It is imperative that a prompt, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigation be conducted into this event.” Fighting over the weekend prevented the Dutch and Australian police officers from visiting the crash site to search for bodies and evidence. The report by the U.N.’steam of 39 field monitors in Ukraine says there has been an alarming buildup of heavy weaponry in civilians areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. The report says an attack could amount to violations of international humanitarian law. Gianni Magazzeni, head of the U.N. office’s branch that oversees Ukraine, told reporters in Geneva: “There is an increase in the use of heavy weaponry in areas that are basically surrounded by public buildings. All international law needs to be applied and fully respected.” Peter Leonard reports, Police team turns back from Ukraine crash site, Ukraine accused rebels of tampering with evidence at the crash site and are trying to cover up their role in bringing the Malaysia Airlines jet down with anti-aircraft missile. On Monday, Ukrainian security spokesman that data recovered from the flight recorders shows the plane crashed due to a massive, explosive loss of pressure after being punctured multiple times by shrapnel. The data recorders were sent to experts in Britain for examination, while Russia and Ukraine trade accusations and the death toll rises.

While tensions rises between Ukraine and Russia, Israel continues to strain its relationships with the rest of the world especially the United States as it tries to mediate an end to the three week old war in Gaza. On Monday, as tensions rise between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and Washington over U.S. mediation of the situation, an Israeli official was quotes as saying Israel sees no need for another Gaza ceasefire, Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams report U.S. – Israeli Tensions Rise Over Gaza Conflict. Fighting has quieted over the weekend as Hamas endorsed a U.N. call for a 24 halt ahead of Monday’s Eid al-Fitr festival. However, Israel abandoned an offer to extend a 12 hour truce from Saturday after Palestinian rocket launched persisted. In the early hours of Monday, Netanyahu’s security cabinet met to debate whether to escalate the Gaza offensive that has killed 1,100 people. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited last week to try and halt the violence with assistance from contacts with Hamas facilitated by Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. U.S. President Barack Obama via phone on Sunday talked with Netanyahu about Israel holding fire unconditionally and appeared to link its core demand to disarm Hamas and destroy infiltration tunnels to a peace accord with the Palestinians that is nowhere on the diplomatic horizon. The White said: “The President stressed the U.S. view that, ultimately, any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza.” Israel radio quoted an unidentified government official saying: “There is no need for any more ceasefires. Let Hamas stop firing first.” On Sunday, Netanyahu told CNN: “I think you can’t get social and economic relief for the people of Gaza without having an assured demilitarization.” A poll published by Israel’s Channel 10 on Sunday said 87 percent of respondents wanted Israel to continue until Hamas was toppled, while another poll, published in the Jerusalem Post found 86.5 percent of Israel’s majority Jews oppose calling a truce while rocket fire continues and Gaza retains any cross border tunnels. On Monday, Karin Laub and Tia Goldenberg report, Strike hits Gaza park, killing at least 10, a strike on a Gaza park killed 10 people including nine being children as Israeli and Palestinian authorities blamed each other over the attack and fighting in the Gaza war raging on despite a major Muslim holiday. The United Nations called for an immediate ceasefire in fighting that has killed 1,040 Palestinians, 43 Israeli soldiers and three civilians on the Israeli side. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, according to his office, in which Netanyahu voiced his dismay at the announcement saying: “It does not include a response to Israel’s security needs and the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip.”

Obama Impeachment, Addressing the Border Crisis and What to Do with Iraq

https://i2.wp.com/www.dailydiscord.com/resources/cartoonObamacare.jpg
https://i2.wp.com/www.dailydiscord.com/resources/cartoonNSA.jpg

On Friday, One of President Obama’s top advisers said that he expects House Republicans will file articles of impeachment against the president, according to Sam Stein, Dan Pfeiffer: White House Expects John Boehner To Try For Impeachment. Dan Pfeiffer, a senior aide with Obama since he first took office, told reporters he anticipated that a lawsuit filed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) over executive actions taken by the president on health care would not be enough to satisfy some vocal conservative in Congress. Pfeiffer added that coming executive actions surrounding immigration will only help to stoke the impeachment fires. Speaking at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast, he said, “I think a lot of people in this town laugh that off. I would not discount that possibility. I think that Speaker Boehner, by going down this path of this lawsuit, has opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some point in the future. I think impeachment is a very serious thing that has been bandied about by the recent Republican vice presidential nominee and others in a very unserious way. And no one has even made any allegation of anything that would be within six universes from what is generally considered in that space.” Boehner has said he has no interest in drafting articles of impeachment against the president. However Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel email this response to Pfeiffer: “We have a humanitarian crisis at our border, and the White House is making matters worse with inattention and mixed signals. It is telling, and sad, that a senior White House official is focused on political games, rather than helping these kids and securing the border.” While Pfeiffer did talk about impeachment possibilities, he did discuss the crisis at the border during Friday’s breakfast. Joe Miller, running in the Republican primary for a chance to challenge Sen, Mark Begich (D-Alaska), called for the impeachment of Obama in his campaign this week, according to David McCabe, Senate Hopeful Joe Miller Calls For Obama’s Impeachment, Blasts Mark Begich Over Border. In a press release, Miller said: “Sarah Palin is right; it’s time to impeach this President for dereliction of duty, selectively enforcing the law, and usurping powers that the Constitution does not authorize. He is willfully undermining the rule of law and creating chaos.” Palin, the Alaskan governor who rose to fame as Sen. john McCain’s presidential running mate in 2008, has repeatedly called for Obama’s impeachment this summer.

With a week to go before the August recess, House Republicans have yet to offer a bill to address the border crisis while Obama address South American leaders on the crisis. Elise Foley reports, House Republicans Still Hashing Out Details Of Border Crisis Plan, on Friday that members hope to take up legislation next week providing less than $1 billion, down from $1.5 billion earlier this week, to deal with the more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have been apprehended crossing the U.S. border illegally since October. However, the funding is far below Obama’s $3.7 billion requested and thr Senate proposal for $2.7 billion. While most members agree something needs to be done, they haven’t finalized it yet. As Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) puts it: “There’s a lot of nervousness among a lot of the members about a lot of things. Some are nervous that we won’t do anything, some are nervous that we’ll do too much. … These conversations are always fascinating because you’ll start with a range of opinions about this far apart, and eventually you begin to see what the consensus is. We are not at that point yet.” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) told reporters, “The problem is DACA. There’s a perception out there that’s it’s OK to do this and to pay someone money to take your child to America. And it’s just a wrong perception.” Rep. John Fleming (R-Fla.) said, “Let’s say theoretically it makes it all the way to the president’s desk and he signs it. It’ll be yet another law that the president will ignore and not enforce.” Rep. Charlie Dent (D-Pa.) said, “I believe there is consensus that we need to move a legislative package out of here before we leave next week. What’s going to be in that package, we’re going to be debating.” While Republicans try to come to some sort of resolution, President Obama met with Central American leaders Friday to urge them to slow the exodus of unaccompanied children from their countries, the Associated Press reports Obama to urge Central American leaders for help. Unfortunately with Senate Democrats opposed to policy changes to return kids quickly without judicial hearings, it looks unlikely that a deal will be agreed upon and sent to Obama’s desk in August. Friday’s White House meeting with the president of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador coincided with the administration possibly crating a pilot program to give young people from Honduras refugee status.

While the border crisis seems to be a hot button issue because of the August recess, the House has agreed upon one thing that the President cannot send more troops to Iraq without congressional approval. On Friday, the House passed a resolution to bar President Barack Obama from sending forces into Iraq in a sustained combat role without congress approving it first. The measure must still pass the Senate to force a shutdown with the president and risks opening up several questions related to the Constitution’s separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said, “This resolution makes one clear statement. If the president decides we should further involve our military in Iraq, he needs to work with Congress to authorize it. The time to debate our re-engagement in Iraq, should it come to that, is before we are caught in the heat of the moment. Not when the first body bags come home. Not when the first bombs start to fall. Not when the worst-case scenario is playing out on our TV screens.” More than 800 U.S. forces are in Iraq with more than half providing security for the embassy and U.S. personnel. In addition, American service members are involved in improving U.S. intelligence, providing security cooperation and conducting assessments of Iraqi capabilities. U.S. officials, according to the Washington Post, say the Sunni extremist calling themselves the Islamic State pose a threat to the American homeland as the group has expanded its base in Syria and seized a series of towns and cities in Iraq in recent months.

Palestinian Israeli Conflict Deepens as Lebanon Strikes

http://thehigherlearning.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/israel-palestine.png?w=1038&h=576&crop=1

Courtesy of Higher Learning

On Friday, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says he will not give in to international pressure to stop a military offensive in Gaza and will continue until rocket fire out of Gaza ceases. According to Aron Heller, Israel leader: World pressure won’t stop military offensive, the Prime Minister had a good conversation with many world leaders in recent days including President Barack Obama and has decided to continue with his plans. So far, Netanyahu has attacked more than 1,000 targets in Gaza during the four day operation using twice the force used in a similar 2012 offensive. The death toll after the four day offensive comes to 100 Palestinians with no word how many Israelis have died so far.

However, as the death toll from Israel’s massive air campaign in Gaza topped 100 Friday, militants in neighboring Lebanon fired rockets at Israel as Gaza militants continued rocket fire reaching deeper into Israel. According to Heller, Gaza militants have fired 550 rockets against Israel in the offensive with Israeli military hitting more than 1,100 targets identified as launch sites and bombarding the territory every 5 minutes on average. In Gaza, an Israeli Airstrike on Friday and overnight strikes has killed eight people raising the death toll to at least 98 with a later strike pushing the total over 100 along with 670 wounded, the Associated Press reports. Hamas says it intends to fire rockets at the airport and warned foreign airlines to stop flying to Israel. However, Israel has shot down at least 110 incoming rockets so far with its “Iron Dome” defense system. In northern Israel, rocket fire struck near the Lebanese border causing the military to respond with artillery fire toward southern Lebanon, according to military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. The Lebanese military stated that militants fired three rockets toward Israel around 6 am and the Israelis retaliated by firing 25 artillery shells on the area. Lebanon’s state run National News Agency confirmed one militant firing the rockets was wounded and taken to the hospital, while the Lebanese’s military said troops found the two rocket launchers and dismantled them. The recent rocket fire from Lebanon was blamed on radical Palestinian factions in the area and Hezbollah, a Shiite militant stronghold in Southern Lebanon, was not involved. The  Associated Press reports that a pair of Lebanon based al-Qaida groups, the Battalions of Ziad Jarrah and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, in the past have claimed responsibility for similar rocket attacks on Israel.

The recent conflict between Israel and Gaza came after the death of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank and a Palestinian teenager was abducted and burned to death as retaliation. Lerner states that the military was trying to prevent civilian causalities calling residents ahead of time to warn of imminent attacks and using “non-explosive munitions” to warn people to leave before the attack. Lerner blames Hamas for the deaths of innocent bystanders by firing into heavily populated areas. Israeli leaders are considering a ground assault in Gaza to target Hamas, even though, this would most likely increase Palestinian civilian casualties and put Israeli troops at risk. Israel has mobilized more than 30,000 reservists to aid in the possible ground invasion. In the past, the Associated Press reports, a ground incursions in 2009 left hundreds of civilians dead and both sides drew war crimes accusations in a United Nations report. Middle East envoy Tony Blair said that efforts to reach a truce were being made. According to the Associated Press, Blair state, “We are in a critical point. I think we have got to do everything we can to … create a situation in which the people in Gaza and the West Bank and in Israel feel that this is not then going to recur and there is some genuine plan in place.”

Casualties of Reform: The Children of Illegal Immigrants

(Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Immigration reform seems to be the hot topic of the moment as thousands of people including men, women and children flood the country from across the border begging the question: What to do with all these illegal immigrants? Well let us not forget that at one point in this countries past, everyone except the Native Americans came to this country to pursue a better life either through legal means i.e green cards or settled here and never left (some called it illegal). Unfortunately, the issues is not so cut and dry when you look at all aspects of the immigration debate mostly due to the fact that you have those who choose to settle here and those who are born here or don’t remember anything of their past life. As Christopher Sherman and Astrid Galvan state in their article published June 18, 2014, Sights, smells of holding cells for immigrant kids, there has been a surge in minors mostly from South America into the United States and even the President has called the 47,000 unaccompanied children who enter the country illegally an “urgent humanitarian situation.” Unfortunately, President Barack Obama has struggled to get any action from House Republicans as they have no reason to move on legislation to address the millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States. In addition, despite calls from supporters of immigration overhaul, the president has refused to move ahead unilaterally on limited changes he can make on his own.

However as of June 20, 2014, the White House has decided to step up efforts to slow the flow of illegal children into the country by expanding the government’s ability to process and deport people even announcing new funding to boost security in crime plagued Central American countries, reports Reuters’ Mark Felsenthal. The plan would be to increase the ranks of immigration judges, lawyers and asylum officers to quickly decide what happens to people at the border and to return them home. According to the article, White House announces steps to address illegal children in the country, officials also granted $9.6 million in support to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to help them receive and reintegrate people who are sent back. The administation has also pledged $40 million to improve security in Guatemala and $25 million to provide services for youth in El Salvador vunerable to organized crime.

East Meets West: The Struggle for Peace and Compromise

Iraqi insurgents wave their flag. Courtesy of CNN.com

As the world seems to head into a downward spiral of blaming and shaming, the United States struggles to keep its grip on the rest of the world and hold on to the power and respect it may of once had. No one event can be pinpointed in its illustrious and not soon forgotten contemptible past as many countries if not all have committed crimes against their own people including these so called superpowers. As of lately though, the POTUS seems to be dealing with many volatile situation involving our not so friendly sometimes outright hostile neighbors from across the sea even the world. The conflicts of Syria, Ukraine, North Korea, Iraq and Russia are just a few that have made headlines in the past year, however this article will only discuss the most recent conflicts and the involvement. whether warranted or not, of the United States, U.N. and other so called aggressors. This year alone, Obama and let’s not forget a lackadaisical Congress have had to determine whether these crises and conflicts warrant the attention of the military or require a more gentle hand  in order to prevent a much bigger catastrophe some call a war. With increasing tension around the world between neighboring countries, it is more important than ever for not just the United States but the world to take note that the solutions are many and war should not be the first. Of course, these problems are not all rooted in this presidency but left overs from decades long ago.

Iraq Conflict: Sunni Militants Capture Northern Iraqi Town, Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra explains the deepening Iraqi crisis has lead to an all out war between the Shiite militias and the Sunni insurgency across the country according to officials. Iran has decided to help the Iraqi government fight against the insurgency which is something unheard just a few weeks ago and with this the United States has decided to help as well. The United States will deploy 275 military troops to protect the U.S. Embassy and other American interests, however the White House insists that no more combat troops would be sent. The insurgents has seized the strategic city of Tal Afar never the Syrian border as part of its goal to link both sides of the Iraq and Syrian frontier. According to Iraqi officials, Tehran’s Quds Force commander, Iranian General Ghasem Soleimani, has been advising in Iraq on how to push back the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaida breakaway group. The U.S. has been notified of his presence, but his presence in Iraq has led to Sunni suspicions about the Shiite led government’s close ties to Tehran, according to the Associate Press. Since the U.S. troops left in 2011, the Islamic State has vowed to march to Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf threatening the stability of Iraq. The Friday before this article was published, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, orginally from Iran, call on the people to defend the holy shrines. The call to arms has lead to armed Shiite militiamen parading on the streets and volunteers joining the security forces chanting Shiite religious slogans. This new mobilization has lead to further allegations of a sectarian slant adding to increased tensions before and after the incursions of this last week with thousands killed since late last year. Soleimani, a powerful figure in Iran’s security establishment, and his Quds Force a secretive branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard were also involved in the mid 2000s with organizing Shiite militias against U.S. troops in Iraq and more recently involved in helping Syrian President Bashar Assad against Sunni rebels, according to U.S. officials. His visit and subsequent training of the Shiite militias by his Quds Force means Iran could take a role similar to the one it played in Syria which has been crucial to the survival of Assad.