Islamic State Hits Syria Hard As U.S. and Allies Ramp up Offensive, Ukraine and Russia Make Progress and Catalonia Looks For Independence Following Scotland’s Vote

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On Thursday, Islamic State fighters besieged a Kurdish city in northern Syria after seizing 21 villages forcing neighboring Kurds in Turkey to call to arms followers to resist the group’s advance, Tom Perry and Laila Bassam report, Islamic State Seizes Syrian And Kurdish Villages In Major Assault. The attack on Ayn al-Arab, Kobani in Kurdish, came two days after U.S. military officials said the Syrian opposition would be needed in order for the Syrian Kurds to defeat the Islamic State. U.S. President Barack Obama last week said he would strike the radical Islamist group that used Syria as a base to advance its pan to reshape the Middle East according to the radical views of Sunni Islam. The United States is conducting air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and now Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria. Ocalan Iso, deputy head of the Kurdish forces in Kobani, told Reuters via Skype, “We’ve lost touch with many of the residents living in the villages that ISIS (Islamic State) seized.” The Kurds appealed for military aid from other Kurdish group including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party who issued a call for young men in Turkey’s southeast to join the fight in norther Syria. On their website, in a statement, PKK said, “The youth of northern Kurdistan (southeast Turkey) should go to Kobani and take part in the historic, honorable resistance.” As night fell, a Reuters witness said 3,000 men, women and children waited at the Turkish border 6 miles from Kobani as Turkish forces stopped the crowd from crossing. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara: “We’re ready to help our brothers who are building up at the borders regardless of their ethnicity, religion and sect. But our priority is to deliver aid within Syria’s borders.” Redur Xelil, spokesman for the YPG, said Islamic State had encircled Kobani, telling Reuters via Skype.: “We call on world powers to move to halt this barbaric assault by ISIS.” Obama’s plan to expand support for groups fighting Islamic State in Syria focus on Sunni Muslim insurgents deemed moderate by Washington. On Friday, several thousand Syrians mostly Kurds crossed into Turkey finding refuge from the Islamic State militants who took over villages in northern Syria in the past 28 hours, the Associated Press reported, Syrian Kurds fleeing IS group cross into Turkey. In a statement on his website, Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s largely autonomous Kurdish region, said the Islamic State’s “barbaric and terrorist acts” on the Kobani area in northern Syria “threaten the whole entirety of the Kurdish nation and it has targeted the honor, dignity and existence of our people.” He also said, “The ISIS terrorists perpetrate crimes and tragedies wherever they are, therefore they have to be hit and defeated wherever they are.” The main Kurdish forces in Syria called the People’s Protection Unit or YPK have been battling the Islamic State for more than a year, but is viewed with suspicion by mainstream Syrian rebels and there Western supporters due to their supposed link to President Bashar Assad’s government. Meanwhile, France on Friday conducted its first airstrikes against the Islamic State group destroying a logistics depot that it controlled, Iraqi and French officials said, according to Jamey Keaten, France strikes Islamic State group’s depot in Iraq. President Francois Hollande confirmed the hit in northern Iraq, saying, “Other operations will follow in the coming days with the same goal – to weaken this terrorist organization and come to the aid of the Iraqi authorities. There are always risks in taking up a responsibility. I reduced the risks to a minimum.” Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman for the Iraqi military, said four French airstrikes hit the town of Zumar, killing dozens of extremist fighters. France has become the first foreign country to publicly add military aid to the United Stated airstrikes against the group. In Washington, Congress approved with a vote of 78-22 in the Senate, a bill already approved by the House 273-156 Wednesday, to allow funding for the government after the end of the budget year on Sept. 30 and allow the U.S. military to train and equip Syrian rebels for a war against ISIS on Thursday night, the Associated Press reported, Strong Senate vote for Obama on Syria rebel aid. In the Senate, 44 Democrats, 33 Republicans and one independent voted for the bill, while 9 Democrats, 12 Republicans and one independent opposed it. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told one House committee that Obama “is not going to order American combat ground forces into that area.” Obama’s general plan is to have U.S. troops train Syrian rebels at camps in Saudi Arabia, a process that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said could take a year. Kathleen Miles reports, Iranian Foreign Minister: America Helped Create ISIS And Is Taking The Wrong Approach … Again, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday that the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the U.S created ISIS and foreign military presence will only create new terrorists. During a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations, Zarif said: “If you look at the essence of ISIS, it’s the product of foreign invasion. Foreign presence in any territory creates a dynamic for demagogues like ISIS to use the resentment in the population of being occupied.” He noted that the Islamic State began with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an Islamist leader of the anti-American insurgency in Iraq after the 2003 U.S. invasion. He continued on to say: “As a principle, we do not believe that injection of foreign forces, either air or ground, solves our problem. We continue to have serious doubts about the willingness and ability of the U.S. to seriously engage this menace across the board –- and not just pick and choose where to engage. People need to be realistic. The so-called Syrians moderates — look at what’s happening on the ground — they control no territory. They can have no influence in fighting against either ISIS or the Syrian government. Syria is either controlled by the government or by ISIS. The U.S. cannot effectively fight against both at the same time.” Referring to the meeting in Paris and the U.S. led coalistion to fight ISIS, Zarif said: “Most participants in that meeting in one form or another provided support to ISIS … at the end of the day, creating a Frankenstein that came to haunt its creators. [Extremists] do not fly into Iraq. They come on foot from somewhere, and they don’t come from Iran. You can look at the addresses, and I believe every location was [represented] around the table in Paris.”

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Poroshenko renewed his call for American weaponry during his address to a joint meeting of Congress, expressing his appreciation for non lethal assistance from the U.S. but saying it was not enough to quell the violence in eastern Ukraine. the Associated Press reports, Ukraine’s pleas for lethal aid from US go unmet. Poroshenko, before heading to the White House to meet with Obama, said, “Blankets and night vision goggles are important, but one cannot win a war with a blanket.” The White House announced a new $46 million security package for Ukraine’s military that included counter mortar radar to detect incoming artillery fire, vehicles and patrol boats, body armor and heavy engineering equipment. In addition, $7 million will go to humanitarian organizations to assist people affected by the violence. Regarding his discussion with Obama and the desire for lethal American military assistance, Poroshenko told reporters: “I am satisfied with the level of our cooperation with the United States of America in the defense and security sector. I cannot say more, but I am satisfied.” In the Oval Office, Obama sat side by side with Poroshenko declaring, “The people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine.” Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists agreed to a cease-fire on Sept. 5, but the deal has been violated repeatedly. Both sides have promised to regroup and continue fighting, if required. Poroshenko came to Washington seeking lethal military assistance to help push back the Russian forces. His request has support from some members of the Obama administration, as well as lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously Thursday to advance legislation that would authorize $350 million for military assistance including anti-tank weapons. Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who chairs the committee, said, “President Putin has upended the international order, and a slap on the wrist will not deter future Russian provocations. In the face of Russian aggression, Ukraine needs our steadfast and determined support, not an ambiguous response. ” Obama has argued more weapons into the conflict will not de-escalate the situation. However, Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said, “The more costly the Ukrainians can make any fighting for the Russians, the less Moscow’s interest in resuming the conflict.” While sanction from both the European Union and the United States have had a negative impact on Russia’s economy, they have done little to detour PUtin’s tactics. Meanwhile, back in Ukraine, Yuras Karmanau and Mstyslav Chernov report, Ukraine, Russia, Rebels Agree To Buffer Zone In Peace Talks, Saturday that sporadic artillery fire hit part of eastern Ukraine hours after negotiators agreed to create a buffer zone between government troops and pro-Russian militants by halting their advances, pulling back heavy weapons and withdrawing foreign fighters. Despite a ceasefire agreement that has been in place since Sept. 5, the fighting between the two sides has been deadly. Shelling could be heard in Donetsk and rebels opened fire on the village of Stakhanovets in the Luhansk region, according to the Interior Ministry. Ukrainian national security council spokesman Volodymyr Polyoviy said Saturday that about 20 rebels and one soldier had been killed in clashes but did not specify if those took place after the negotiators agreed on the buffer zone around 4 a.m. The deal reached by representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the Moscow-backed rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says the two sides should stay where they were Friday and make no attempt to advance. According to the report: “Under the deal, each party must pull back artillery of 100 millimeters (about 4 inches) or larger at least 15 kilometers (9 miles), setting up a buffer zone that would be 30 kilometers (19 miles) wide. The longer-range artillery systems are to be pulled even farther back to make sure the parties can’t reach one another. The deal also specifically bans flights by combat aircraft over the area of conflict and setting up new minefields.” NATO’s top general, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, hopes the agreement announced Saturday to create a buffer zone between Ukrainian government troops and the pro-Russian militants will succeed in stabilizing the situation. On Friday, Reuters reports, US, Canada send jets to intercept Russian aircraft, that U.S. and Canadian fighter jets intercepted Russian aircraft flying near U.S. and Canadian air space this week, a military spokesman confirmed. On Wednesday, six Russian aircraft entered the United States’ air defense identification zone (ADIZ), an area beyond sovereign U.S. airspace, according to a statement from NORAD, a U.S. and Canadian aerospace command, and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM). In response, “two Alaskan-based F-22 fighter jets acting under the authority of NORAD identified and intercepted two Russian IL-78 refueling tankers, two Russian Mig-31 fighter jets and two Russian Bear long-range bombers in the ADIZ, west of Alaska,” the statement said. On Thursday, Canadian fighter jets intercepted two Russian Bear long-range bombers in the Canadian ADIZ. John Cornelio, a spokesman for NORAD and NORTHCOM, said that such intercepts had happened over 50 times in the last five years as Russian aircraft conducted exercises.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s vote for independence from Britain ended with voters resoundingly rejecting independence, but helped pave the way for a possible vote for Catalonia who wants independence from Spain, Jil Lawless and Danica Kirka report, Scots reject independence in historic vote. The historic vote and referendum ultimately prevented the rupture of a 307 year old union with England and brought a sigh of relief to Britain’s political establishment including Prime Minister David Cameron, who faced demands for his resignation if Scotland broke away. The vote on Thursday saw an unprecedented turn out of 85 percent with 55 percent against independence and 45 percent in favor. Alistair Darling, head of the no campaign, said Friday from Glasgow: “We have chosen unity over division. Today is a momentous day for Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole.” Cameron from his Downing Street office lived up to his promise to Scotland to give new powers on taxes, spending and welfare and the new plans will be agreed upon by November with draft legislation by January. He added, “We will ensure that those commitments are honored in full. We have heard the voice of Scotland, now the voices of millions in England must be heard.” Cameron also said people in other parts of the U.K. should also have more rights to govern their own affairs, particularly in England. The No campaign won the capital city, Edinburgh, by a margin of 61 percent to 38 percent and triumphed by 59 percent to 41 percent in Aberdeen, the country’s oil center. The Yes campaign won Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, but it was not enough. The vote to keep the U.K. together helps it avoid substantial loses to its territory and oil reserves and prevents it from having to find an new base for its nuclear arsenal housed in Scotland. The no vote also allowed the United Kingdom to keep its influence within international institutions including 28 nation European Union, NATO and the United Nations. Additionally, Britain avoids a prolonged period of financial insecurity that were predicted by Scotland’s independence. AOL reports, Catalonia pushes for independence following Scottish vote, hours after the vote on Friday, Spain’s Catalonia region took steps toward holding their own independence referendum. Catalonia’s regional parliament authorized a consultation vote on independence for the region with a presumptive November 9 date. However, the Spanish government condemned the possible vote as illegal. Due to Spain’s painful financial crisis, nearly two million people lined the streets of Barcelona a week earlier in support of independence. The decades-old independence movement has also been bolstered by Scotland’s referendum. Catalonia’s President Artur Mas told reporters he admired the U.K.’s commitment to a democratic referendum and expected the same process from Madrid. “It is more important to hold the referendum than the independence. … This represents high-quality democracy.” But Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who opposes Catalan independence, has been quick to congratulate Scotland for choosing not to break with the U.K. Catalan independence faces a battle due to the Spanish constitution that requires the authorization by Spanish parliament for any referendum. Spain will most likely take the Catalan parliament’s new law to the country’s constitutional court that favors Madrid over Barcelona. If held, Catalonia’s planned referendum would not result in legal separation from Spain, but provide President Mas with a political mandate to pressure Madrid for independence.

The Ebola Crisis Keeps Getting Worse, Battling ISIS Around the World, The War On Drugs and America’s Wealth Gap Unsustainable

https://i0.wp.com/www.cartoonaday.com/images/cartoons/2014/08/Ebola-virus-cartoon-598x400.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/tulsaworld.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/8a/a8a87a88-0574-504a-85ba-4ab3d8439553/54068e0f8a7e4.image.jpghttp://danieljmitchell.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/drug-war-cartoon.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/m5.paperblog.com/i/61/615103/the-income-gap-is-still-growing-L-w6Xtui.jpegThe Ebola epidemic sweeping across Western Africa this summer shows no signs of slowing down as researchers say it’s about to get worse. According to AOL, Health officials say Ebola outbreak about to get worse, Frieden, the director of the Center for Disease Control, said: “It is the world’s first Ebola epidemic and it’s spiraling out of control. It’s bad now, it’s going to get worse in the very near future.” The World Health Organization told officials to “prepare for an ‘exponential increase’ in Ebola cases in countries currently experiencing intense virus transmission.” The Who suspects that normal containment measures aren’t working due to Ebola victims and their communities mistrust of medical experts. The New York Times: “Now, armed gangs chase health workers away from villages while the sick hide.” As of Monday, The World Health Organization reports the virus has killed 2,105 people with half from Liberia and the rest from Guinea and Sierra Leone mostly. According to WHO: “The whole world is responsible and accountable to bring the Ebola threat under control. Let’s do it. Action, action, and action.” President Obama on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” announced the U.S. military would deploy its resources and logistical expertise to help aid workers on the ground. NBC’s “Meet The Press”: “If we don’t make that effort now, and this spreads … there is the prospect then that the virus mutates … and then it could be a serious danger to the United States.” Currently, 53 percent of the people diagnosed with Ebola die as there is no cure for it. On Sunday, the Guardian reported a potential breakthrough saying the human trials were underway for a vaccine that worked on monkeys. However, best case scenario if a vaccine works it will take months to deliver it to victims while victims and people try to help them are on their own. Eleanor Goldberg reports, More Women Than Men Are Dying From Ebola, the current Ebola outbreak may infect as many ads 20,000 people with a disproportionate number being women, experts say. According to UNICEF, more women than men are contracting the disease as they traditionally serve as health care workers and are the ones who take care of the sick in their families. Women account for 55 to 60 percent of the victims who die from Ebola in the current epidemic in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The Washington Post reported, health teams in Liberia recently reported that women made up 75 percent of victims infected with Ebola. Irin News reports the outbreak can be attributed to the consumption of infected bushmeat of wild animals which many rely on for their livelihood and main source of protein. Sia Nyama Koroma, first lady of Sierra Leone, told the Washington Post: “Women are the caregivers — if a kid is sick, they say, ‘Go to your mom. Most of the time when there is a death in the family, it’s the woman who prepares the funeral, usually an aunt or older female relative.” Marpue Spear, executive director of the Women’s NGO Secretariat of Liberia, told Foreign Policy: “If a man is sick, the woman can easily bathe him but the man cannot do so. Traditionally, women will take care of the men as compared to them taking care of the women.” Because of the confrontation associated with the disease due to military surrounding homes and healthcare workers not respecting a patient’s traditions, Ebola victims do not go to treatment centers. However, if these relationships can be mended, then these epidemics could be stopped before they spread to this level. Frankfurter wrote in a blog for Wellbody Alliance: “Health workers should acknowledge, publicly, how frightening this disease will be for affected communities and how difficult it is for families to part with loved ones to likely die in isolation wards. Such sympathetic gestures would serve to align the priorities of communities and the public health response.”

While the world fights to contain and stop the Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa, the U.S. and other world leaders are discussing plans to rid the world of another political and social disease, ISIS. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told members of the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance at a conference on defense innovation Wednesday that unsophisticated militaries and terrorist groups are acquiring destructive weapons and Moscow and Beijing are modernizing their armed services including electronic warfare and special operations capabilities, Lolita C. Baldor reports, Chuck Hagel: U.S. Needs To Maintain Military Superiority. Hagel said: “We are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies, and in space — not to mention cyberspace — can no longer be taken for granted. And while the United States continues to maintain a decisive military and technological edge over any potential adversary, our continued superiority is not a given. We must take this challenge seriously, and do everything necessary to sustain and renew our military superiority. This will not only require active investment by both government and industry — it will require us to once again embrace a spirit of innovation” in how American buys and develops new technologies. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad Wednesday to press Iraq’s Shiite Leader to give more power to Sunnis or jeopardize any hope of defeating the Islamic State group as Iraq’s new government has finally been put in place and the threat of ISIS increases, the Associate Press reports, Kerry to meet with new Iraqi Prime Minister. Kerry’s arrival happened just two days after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was sworn in and seated his top government ministers. The trip marks the first high level U.S. meeting with the new prime minister and symbolizes the Obama administration’s support for Iraq three years after the U.S. left. However, it also signals to the Shiite Muslim leader that the U.S. is watching to make sure he gives Iraqi Sunnis more control over local power structures and security forces. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry will “meet with Iraqi government officials to welcome them on the successful formation of a new government” and “discuss how the United States can increase its support to Iraq’s new government in our common effort to defeat ISIL and the threat that it poses to Iraq, the region, and the world.” Kerry’s trip comes on the eve of a meeting win Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he and Arab leaders across the Mideast will discuss what nations can contribute to the fight against ISIS. Officials hope to have a strategic blueprint against ISIS with specific steps nations are willing to take by the opening of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York at the end of the month. White House official said Tuesday that Obama will ask Congress to authorize the arming and training of Syrian opposition forces but will press forward without formal sign off from lawmaker on a broader military and political effort to combat the Islamic State. The president’s broader strategy could include more wide ranging airstrikes against Iraq and Syria and hinges on military and political commitment from allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere. A senior U.S. official said the conference participants will discuss how to dry up foreign funding for the Islamic State and counter propaganda used to recruit people into the extremist group. In addition, al-Abadi promised to create a national guard of local fighters to secure Iraq’s 18 provinces run by a governor. This would ensure the Iraqi army and its mostly Shiite forces would not be in charge of security in Sunni regions along for salaried jobs, government pensions and other benefits to areas of Iraq where al-Maliki, the former prime minister, denied for years. Zeina Karam reports, UN Aid Reaches Record Number Of Syrians, the World Food Program has assisted 4.1 million Syrians in the last month reaching more of those in need with shipments traversing borders and front lines on Tuesday. Syria’s civil war has touched off a massive humanitarian crisis, with some 10.8 million people in need of assistance, including 4.7 million in hard-to-reach areas, according to the U.N. Previously, humanitarian aid was block without Syrian government approval first ensuring the rebel held areas remained off limits, but in July, the U.N. Security Council authorized movement of humanitarian aid to Syrians in opposition areas without government approval. IN a statement Tuesday, the World Food Program said over the last six weeks it and its partners have reached more than 580,000 people with deliveries crossing battle lines. The August figures include five cross-border convoys that delivered rice, lentils, oil, pasta and other staples for 69,500 in difficult zones to reach in Aleppo, Idlib, Quneitra and Daraa provinces. Muhannad Hadi, WFP’s Regional Emergency Coordinator for Syria, said: “We are reaching more people every day with urgently needed food assistance — many of them have been going hungry for months. We will build on these gains in the coming weeks and months and hope that all parties to the conflict will continue to facilitate our access to the women, children and families that remain out of our reach behind conflict lines.” The U.N. agency said fighting and security concerns continue to hamper access to many areas, particularly in Hassakeh, Deir el-Zour and Raqqa provinces.

Meanwhile, the war on drugs, which has had little if any success, has left hundreds of thousands dead and fleeing, leading to demands to completely overhaul the drug policies around the world including legalization of psychoactive substances like marijuana. Matt Ferner reports, World Leaders Condemn Failed Drug War, Call For Global Reform, on Tuesday in New York City, 10 members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy urged all governments to embrace models that include decriminalization of consumption, legal regulation of drug markets and strategic refocusing of criminal enforcement. Sound policy, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said, “does not allow human rights to be put aside in order to extend the repression of drugs.” The commission consists of 21 former presidents and other prominent individuals who are trying to advance “humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs to people and societies.” Its members include Cardoso; former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss; former Colombian President César Gaviria; former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo; Louise Arbour, former United Nations high commissioner for human rights; and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. Cardoso believes the new approach should stress public health and ensure drug users have access to health care. Gaviria argues the legalization of marijuana and other illicit substances “strengthens the fight against cartels.” Cardoso said the world’s governments must put pressure on the Untied Nations before the United Nations before the 2016 U.N. General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) to begin incremental change in the “inadequate” strategies of the “war on drugs” found in current international conventions. Zedillo points out the current U.N. system of prohibition has led to increase in consumption and “created a disaster, not a world free of drugs.” Cardoso said: “We cannot abolish the use of drugs. So we need cultural modification.” Zedillo accuses the U.N. of straitjacketing the effort to adopt new policies, adding: “2016 is an opportunity to start a new international regime where governments can really control this drug problem. Our objective is to have a framework that empowers governments to pursue more rational policies. The specifics of those policies are to be defined by those governments and their civil societies.” The report comes as punished for drug oriented crimes around the world are already being reconsidered and in some countries reshaped. Cardoso said there were experiments going on all around the world with great reform success in the United States, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain and Uruguay. he said: “We have experiences in Portugal since 1991, where they have decriminalized the use of drugs. Users get treatment assistance but are not put in jail. It has been very effective in Portugal; the results are quite clear.” In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to approve legal regulation of the production, distribution and sale of marijuana. While the U.S. government bans the use, some states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the recreational use of the drug and 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical use. Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, in an interview with The Huffington Post, said: “These world leaders have seen, from their own experience, how the failed war on drugs harms countries and populations. I have no doubt that President Obama will evolve and join this group and the majority of Americans in at least endorsing the legalization of marijuana, just as he did with marriage equality. The only question is if this evolution will occur before or after his term as president ends. I’m sure the global commission’s members would welcome him to their ranks as one more former head of state on the record for legalization, but it’ll be a lot more impactful if he undergoes this transformation while he still has the power to change failed policies that harm people every day.”

While the war on drugs seems to be making some headway in the world, the socioeconomic war being fought between classes, namely the wealthy and poor, has grown. Reuters reports, America’s Wealth Gap ‘Unsustainable’ According To Harvard Study, Harvard Business School released a study Monday titled “An Economy Doing Half its Job” said American companies were showing signs of recovering their competitive edge in the world market since the financial crisis, but workers keep struggling to demand better pay and benefits. The report says “such a divergence is unsustainable” based on a survey of 1,947 Harvard Business School alumni around the world highlighting the problem with the U.S. education system, transport infrastructure, and the effectiveness of the political system. Some 47 percent said the next three years they expect U.S. companies to be both less competitive internationally and less able to pay higher wages and benefits versus 33 percent who though the opposite. According to the survey, the results are an improvement from a 2012 Harvard Business School survey of its alumni showing 58 percent expected a decline in U.S. competitiveness. However, Harvard wrote the respondents of the 2014 survey “were much more hopeful about the future competitive success of America’s firms than they were about the future pay of America’s workers.” Harvard called on corporate leaders to help solve America’s wealth gap by working to buttress the kindergarten-to-12th-grade education system, skills-training programs, and transportation infrastructure, among other things. The report said: “Shortsighted executives may be satisfied with an American economy whose firms win in global markets without lifting U.S. living standards. But any leader with a long view understands that business has a profound stake in the prosperity of the average American. Thriving citizens become more productive employees, more willing consumers, and stronger supporters of pro-business policies. Struggling citizens are disgruntled at work, frugal at the cash register, and anti-business at the ballot box.” Meanwhile, in a speech given at the Urban Institute Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew put U.S. companies using tax inversion on notice, according to CNBC: “This practice allows the corporation to avoid their civic responsibilities, while continuing to benefit from everything that makes America the best place in the world to do business. … This may be legal, but it’s wrong. And our laws should change.” Lew urged Congress to address the problem through comprehensive tax reform, but also warned the Treasury would act independently to crack down on inversions in the very near future. Tax inversion, which involves a company relocating its headquarters to a low tax nation while still maintaining their U.S. operations, has become common practice over the last year with Burger King being the latest corporation accused of inversion after merging with Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons. Bloomberg’s Peter Cook says the Treasury’s options are limited: “They have several ideas on the table, I’m told, at the Treasury Department. They haven’t decided on one single fix. But Lew’s message this morning was: we can only do this at the margins. Only Congress can have a real, long-term fix here.” The Obama adminsitration estimates there are dozens of inversion in the works which have not been announced, but Lew urges Congress to make any legislative fix for inversion retroactive to all deals since May including the Burger King-Tim Hortons merger. According to Ryan Gorman, Amid tax backlash, Burger King acquires Tim Horton’s but keeps US HQ, Berger King announced Tuesday it purchased Tim Hortons but will keep its headquarters in the U.S. after speculation that the it would move north to avoid taxes. In a Facebook post, Burger King said: “We hear you. We’re not moving, we’re just growing and finding ways to serve you better. Our headquarters will remain in Miami where we were founded more than 60 years ago and… BKC will continue to pay all of our federal, state and local U.S. taxes.” According to Congressional Research Service data complied by the Post earlier this year, Burger King would have been the 48th company to immigrate abroad with more than 70 making the move since 1983.

The Death Tolls Rise in Israel, Eastern Ukraine and Syria, While the West Levies Heavier Sanctions on Russia

On Tuesday, Israel unleashed its heaviest attack against Hamas in the three week war striking symbols of the militant group’s control in Gaza and firing tank shells that shut down the only power plant, according to Palestinian officials. Karin Laub and Peter Enav report, Israel hits symbols of Hamas rule; scores killed, the station’s shutdown disrupted power and water to 1.7 million people in the narrow Palestinian coastal territory. On Tuesday evening, Palestinian health officials reported that 10 members of an extended family were killed and 50 others wounded in Jebaliya refugee camp in norther Gaza due to intense tank shelling. Mousa al-Mabhouh, a volunteer for Gaza’s Civil Defense, described the shelling: “It was like an earthquake. Roofs collapsed, walls cracked and wounded people everywhere.” The strikes came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday warned of a prolonged campaign against Hamas dealing a significant blow to plans of a sustainable truce in fighting. Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 1,175 Palestinians have been killed since July 8 including 100 on Tuesday, while Israel reports 53 soldiers and three civilians killed. Fathi Sheik Khalil of the Gaza Energy Authority said: “We need at least one year to repair the power plant, the turbines, the fuel tanks and the control room. Everything was burned.” Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, did not comment on the plant explosion, but told the Associate Press that Israel’s latest strikes signal “a gradual increase in the pressure” on Hamas, while Israel is “determined to strike this organization and relieve us of this threat.” International calls for a ceasefire have increased in recent days as the extent of the destruction in Gaza becomes apparent with tens of thousands of Gazans have been displaced by fighting in the border areas. Despite appeals, both sides are holding out for bigger gains, The military said Palestinian militants fired at least 64 rockets Tuesday at Israeli cities. Since the the war began, the U.N. has found weapons hidden it its schools. Agency spokesman Chris Gunness said: “We condemn the group or groups who endangered civilians by placing these munitions in our school. This is yet another flagrant violation of the neutrality of our premises.”

While Israel continues unabated in its efforts to crumble Hamas, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu continues to criticize the U.S. specifically Secretary of State John Kerry on the handling of a ceasefire deal. On Monday, Netanyahu defended the Gaza air and ground offensive in a televised speech saying, “there is no war more just than this.” Karin Laub and Tia Goldenberg report, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu warns of prolonged campaign in Gaza war, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry keep pressuring Israel to accept an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire amid a torrent of criticism from Israel over Kerry’s latest bid to secure a ceasefire with Hamas. The Obama administration pushed back Monday accusing Israel of launching a misinformation campaign against Kerry. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “It’s simply not the way partners and allies treat each other.” The White House agreed by saying it was disappointed by Israeli reports that cast Kerry’s efforts to negotiate a cease fire more favorable to Hamas. Kerry’s response, according to Matthew Lee’s article Kerry shrugs off Israeli criticism, “I have taken hits before in politics, I am not worried about it. This is not about me. I am not going to worry about personal attacks,” adding that he and President Barack Obama are convinced “it is more appropriate to try to resolve the underlying issues at a negotiating table than to continue a tit-for-tat of violence that will invite more violence and perhaps a greater downward spiral which would be much more difficult to recover from.” In regards to Netanyahu and the push for a ceasefire: “Prime Minister Netanyahu himself said to me, ‘Can you try to get a humanitarian cease-fire for this period of time?’ And if it weren’t for his commitment to it, obviously the president of the United States and I would not be trying to make this effort. Now either I take his commitment at face value or someone is playing a different game here, and I hope that’s not the fact.” At the National Pres Club, House Speaker John Boehner on Monday remarked as Donna Cassata reports, Boehner urges US solidarity with Israel: “At times like this, people try to isolate Israel – but we are here to stand with Israel. Not just as a broker or observer – but as a strong partner and a trusted ally. Well, it doesn’t mean issuing vague, on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand statements. No, it means backing up our words, and showing solidarity with our friend. We will not equate professional militaries with terrorist organizations that use human shields and seek to maximize civilian casualties. And we insist that the demilitarization of Gaza be not just a House goal but a shared, uncompromising U.S. and international objective.”

Examining the U.S. Israeli relationship deeper, Stephen M. Walt, professor of International Affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, believes that Israel’s power over the U.S. comes in the forms of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee which holds major political clout along with other hardline elements of the Israel lobby. In his article, AIPAC Is the Only Explanation for America’s Morally Bankrupt Israel Policy, Walt explains that in every occasion where the death toll exceeds 500, Israel has used weapons provided by U.S. taxpayers to attack the captive and impoverished Palestinians in Gaza. As usual, according to Walt, the U.S. government is siding with Israel, even though most American leaders know Israel instigated the latest round of violence, is not acting with restrain, and makes Washington look callous and hypocritical in the eyes of the world. Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis groups points out that the latest round of fighting is neither vengeance for the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli hikers in the West Bank nor to protect Israel from Hamas’ rockets, Netanyahu’s real purpose is to undermine the power share agreement between Hamas and Fatah that could lead to a unified Palestinian leadership and result in a two state solution. Therefore, he want to isolate and damage Hamas and drive a wedge between the two factions. Two weeks ago, Netanyahu confirmed that he is dead set against a two state solution and will never allow it while in office. According to Walt: “Worst of all, the deaths of hundreds more Palestinians and a small number of Israelis will change almost nothing. Hamas is not going to disband. When this latest round of fighting ends, the 4.4 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza will still be Israel’s de facto prisoners and still be denied basic human rights. But they are not going to leave, mainly because Palestine is their homeland, but also because they have nowhere to go, especially given the turmoil in other parts of the Middle East. Eventually another ceasefire will be negotiated. The dead will be buried, the wounded will recover, the tunnels now being destroyed will be rebuilt, and Hamas will replenish its stockpile of missiles and rockets. The stage will then be set for another round of fighting, and Israel will have moved further down the road to becoming a full-fledged apartheid state.” Walt points out that as soon as fighting starts and even if Israel instigates it, AIPAC will demands that Washington stands with Tel Aviv and Congress will pass a resolution endorsing Israel. Even if the lobby cannot get everything it wants when it wants it, the lobby is still able to keep $3 billion in U.S. aid to Israel flowing each year, prevent U.S. presidents from pressuring Israel and can get U.S. to wield its veto power when a resolution criticizing Israel’s actions is floated in the U.N. Security Council, according to Walt. This situation has allowed Israel to ignore requests from Washington for “two states for two peoples” since Israel gets generous support no matter what it does. Walt sums up the situation best: “Historians will one day look back and ask how U.S. Middle East policy could be so ineffectual and so at odds with its professed values — not to mention its strategic interests. The answer lies in the basic nature of the American political system, which permits well-organized and well-funded special interest groups to wield significant power on Capitol Hill and in the White House. In this case, the result is a policy that is bad for all concerned: for the Palestinians most of all, but also for the U.S. and Israel as well. Until the lobby’s clout is weakened or politicians grow stiffer spines, Americans looking for better outcomes in the Middle East had better get used to disappointment and prepared for more trouble.”

While Israel contends with the world and criticizes its closest allies, fighting continues uncontrolled in Eastern Ukraine as the West agrees to wider sanctions on Russia and the U.S. accuses Russia of treaty violations. Mstyslav Chernov reports, 22 Civilian Deaths Reported After One Day Of Shelling In East Ukraine, at least one person killed after three shells hit an apartment block in Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine and around 50 people took refuge in an underground car park amid the smell of household gas. Rebels accuse the government of using heavy artillery against residential neighborhoods, while Ukraine’s government accuses separatist of targeting civilians to discredit the army. On Monday U.S. and European leaders agreed to impose wider sanctions on Russia’s financial, defense and energy sectors as Ukraine said its forced move toward the crash site of Malaysian flight 17, Gabriela Baczynska and Aleksandar Vasovic report, The West Agrees To Wider Sanctions On Russia Over The Crisis In Ukraine. The new sanctions, discussed via phone with U.S. President Barack Obama, Germany, Britain, France and Italy, aim at increasing the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin after Malaysian airliner was shot down over territory held by pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine. Tony Blinken, a national security advisor to Obama, said: “It’s precisely because we’ve not yet seen a strategic turn from Putin that we believe it’s absolutely essential to take additional measures and that’s what the Europeans and the United States intend to do this week.” In Brussels, EU sources said diplomats reached a preliminary agreement on a new list of companies and people, including Putin associates, to be targeted by asset freezes. EU member states are expected to reach a final deal on Tuesday on measures including closing the bloc’s capital markets to Russian state banks, an embargo on future arms sales and restrictions on energy technology and technology that could be used for defense. After the leaders’ call, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The latest information from the region suggests that even since MH17 was shot down, Russia continues to transfer weapons across the border and to provide practical support to the separatists. Leaders agreed that the international community should therefore impose further costs on Russia and specifically that ambassadors from across the EU should agree a strong package of sectoral sanctions as swiftly as possible.” Earlier in thr day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters at a news conference: “We will overcome any difficulties that may arise in certain areas of the economy, and maybe we will become more independent and more confident in our own strength.” One pro-government militia said 23 of its men has been killed in fighting in 24 hours, while a rebel commander said 30 of his soldiers had been killed. The United Nations in their report said 1,100 people have died in the three months of fighting between government forces and separatist rebels who have set up a pro-Russian republic in the east.

While Gaza continues to incur heavy fighting during a major Muslim holiday, Syrian President Bashar Assad prayed at a Damascus mosque on Monday as his own country battles Islamic extremists and reports unprecedented high death tolls. Zeina Karam reports, Syria Suffers Record Death Toll, the military causalities come as fighting intensified in the past two weeks with al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State group trying to eliminate all opponents and the government as well as the rebels deal with a series of setbacks. The Britain based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 1,240 soldiers and other Assad loyalists have died in the past 10 days in northern Syria. The director, Rami Abdurrahman, said they are among 1,800 deaths in the same period which is a record number since the uprising against Assad in March 2011. According to activists, Syria’s three year civil war has already killed more than 170,000 people. Despite the raging civil war, Assad was re-elected last month in a vote confined to government controlled areas which his oppositions and Western allies dismiss as a sham. He was sworn in a third term and confidently declared victory, in his inauguration speech, and praised his supporters for “defeating the dirty war” against Syria. Shortly after his speech, government losses began due to the Islamic state group fighter launching attacks against army positions in northern and central Syria. Beyond Syria, the Islamic State fighters have taken large expanses of land in northern and western Iraq in a blitz offensive beginning last month and declared a self-styled caliphate across their territory on the Iraq-Syria border.

Possible Peace Between Palestine-Israel, While ISIS Hits Hard in Iraq and Clashes in Libya Cause Evacuations

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On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry continued to work on a deal between Hamas and Israel for a seven day truce in Gaza as Israel’s defense minister earned that the military may soon broaden its ground offensive significantly, Karin Laub and Ian Deitch reports, John Kerry says no deal yet on 7-day Gaza truce. The total causalities amid the endless fighting on Friday were at 820 Palestinians and 38 people in Israel killed. After days of Kerry moving between the Egyptian capital, the West Bank and Jerusalem talking to official from Qatar who are in contact with Hamas, Kerry so far has been able to get Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu to consider a 12 hour halt to fighting proposed by U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. Kerry said, Netanyahu “has indicated his willingness to do that as a good faith down payment to move forward.” Kerry said the parties are closer than ever to reaching an agreement for a seven day humanitarian truce starting with Muslim Eid holiday Monday, ending the holy month of Ramadan. Alongside the U.N. secretary general and the Egyptian foreign minister, he explained: “Gaps have been significantly narrowed. It can be achieved, if we work through some of the issues that are important for the parties.” The fighting in Gaza continued while talks of a truce continued, while unrest intensified in the West Bank over the conflict where five Palestinians were killed during protests against the Israeli operation in Gaza. The U.S. top diplomat said the goal for the seven day truce was to provide time to address the demands of each side.

On Saturday, Israel agreed to extend the 12 hour humanitarian truce in Gaza by four hours, according to a Cabinet minister as the death toll surpassed 1,000 Palestinians, according to a heath official, Laub and Deitch report, Israel agrees to extend Gaza war truce by 4 hours. In Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with European foreign ministers to find a way to build on Saturday’s lull which is the longest since the fighting erupted on July 8. Top United Nations envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, called for both sides to halt their fighting an additional 24 hours. The Israeli Cabinet voted by phone to agree to the four hour extension and will consider the U.N. request for a 24 delay in fighting at a Cabinet meeting later Saturday. According to Laub and Deitch, under a gradual extension of a humanitarian truce, Israel did not have to discuss new border arrangements with Gaza and could continue to destroy Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border. A Hamas spokesman, Mushir al-Masri, speaking before Israel’s decision, said the group would consider an extension if “it does not mean that we retreat from our known demands.” During Saturday’s humanitarian truce, Palestinian health official Asraf al-Kidra said an additional 132 bodies were retrieved from rubble surpassing 1,000 casualties. In the 19 days of fighting, 6,000 Palestinians have been wounded, hundreds of homes destroyed and tens of thousands displaced in Gaza. Israel lost 40 soldiers and 2 civilians so far. During the truce on Saturday, thousands of Gaza residents returned to devastated border areas after fleeing the violence. The U.N. said more than 160,000 Palestinians have sought shelter at dozens of U.N. schools, an eight fold increase since the start of Israel’s ground offensive more than a week ago. Unfortunately, late Saturday Hamas said it fired five rockets at Israel after rejecting Israel’s offer to extend a 12 hour humanitarian ceasefire by four hours making it more difficult to broker a deal to end the 19 days of fighting. Hamas said it fired two rockets aimed at Tel Aviv, While a spokesman said Police in Israel’s second largest city dispersed a peace rally attend by several thousand people because of the threat.

While Israel and Gaza continue to butt heads, two Hunter college students decided to start a social media campaign to spread love rather than hate, Mashable reports. Abraham Gutman, Israeli, and Dania Darwish, Syrian, posted photos of themselves with the hashtag #JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies and launched a Facebook page under the same name. In the Christian Science Monitor, Gutman wrote: “With tempers only rising both on the ground and in social media platforms, we thought it would be productive to remind people that they are allowed to refuse to join the hateful discourse.” The campaign has proven to work as it has gone viral inviting Jews and Arabs around the world to share their stories. Sulome Anderson, a half Lebanese journalist, posted a photo of herself kissing her Jewish boyfriend that went viral getting thousands of re-tweets and favorites making her the face of the campaign. In New York Magazine, Anderson said: “He had seen that violence from the other side. As the region exploded into war, we started to come closer together in our opinions given the fact that we both share critical values: respect and concern for human life.”

While Israel and Gaza are taking steps to find common ground, the militant group ISIS continues to wreak havoc on Iraq by destroying the tomb of Jonah, a place thought to be the site of the prophet’s tomb who was swallowed by a whale or fish in Abrahamic faiths. On Thursday, civil defense officials in Mosul, Iraq, told CNN that ISIS operatives planted explosives around the mosque containing the tomb and detonated it remotely, according to Yasmine Hafiz, ISIS Destroys Jonah’s Tomb In Mosul, Iraq, As Militant Violence Continues. Though ISIS claims to follow the Sunni branch of Islam, they have targeted multiple Sunni shrines that they deem “unIslamic” and blow them up or bulldoze them. In addition, the Imam Aoun Bin al-Hassan mosque was destroyed on Thursday. Al-Arabiy reports that Zuhair al-Chalabi, a local Mosul official told Al-Samaria News that “ISIS implanted explosives around Prophet Daniel’s tomb in Mosul and blasted it, leading to its destruction.” AFP reports that an anonymous official said, “Islamic State completely destroyed the shrine of Nabi Yunus after telling local families to stay away and closing the roads to a distance of 500 metres from the shrine.” Sam hardy, a professor at the American University of Rome, told the Washington Post that ISIS will destroy, “basically pretty much anything in the Bible. It indicates they are going for total eradication not just of their enemies but even of the possibility of people living together under their rule.” Leila Fadel of NPR believes that ISIS’s destruction of shrines may be a big mistake since they establish the “Islamic caliphate” and “it may cause a deep rift in the uneasy alliances the Sunni extremist group has made with other Sunni fighting groups marginalized.”

Meanwhile in Libya on Saturday, the United States closed up and evacuated its diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Libya to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias, Matthew Lee and Lara Lakes reports, US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes. The withdrawal reinforces the Obama administration’s concern over risks to American diplomats overseas especially in Libya where a deadly attack in 2012 took place in Benghazi. The State Department issued a new travel warning for Libya urging Americans not to enter and to leave immediately. It read: “The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security. Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including anti-aircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation.” The State Department said embassy operations will be suspended until the security situation improves. Tripoli has for weeks been under siege by inter-militia violence that killed and wounded dozens on both sides. Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., the House Armed Services Committee chairman, expressed gratitude toward U.S. forces who helped in the evacuation. Libya is experiencing one of the worst spans of violence since Gadhafi’s ouster. The U.S. is the latest country to close its embassy as Turkey on Friday shut its embassy and militia clashes in Benghazi prompted the United Nations, aid groups and foreign envoys to leave. The battle in Tripoli began this month when Islamist led militias launched an attack on the airport under the control of rival militias. The rival militia made up of former anti-Gadhafi rebels forced a weeklong closure of gas stations and government offices. In recent days, armed men have attacked vehicles carrying money from the Central Bank to local banks, forcing them to close as well. Libyan government officials and activist have been targeted in the violence recently with gunmen kidnapping two lawmakers in Tripoli a weak ago and on Friday abducted a well known Libyan political activist in Tripoli, Abdel Moaz Banoun.