ecretary of State John Kerry is getting bashed from all sides these days — Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. media, the Israeli media, Egypt and even ex-advisers. As chaotic as the Obama administration’s foreign policy may be — actually, because it is so chaotic — Kerry should consider resigning.
We face multiple threats, ranging from the rise of the Islamic State to the bloodbath in Syria to Russian aggression to the Iran talks, which seem to be going Iran’s way. On the merits, Kerry has shown himself to be unfit, and as a practical matter he is now a handicap to the president.
And I love this:
He doesn’t know when he’s out of sync with allies and is a poor judge of our foes’ intentions. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has pointed out that Kerry failed in Russia negotiations, Syria negotiations and “peace talks” between Israel and the Palestinians. Even worse, Kerry doesn’t know or accept that he has failed. A secretary of state this out of touch with reality can’t perform his job.
Now, now. Kerry is moving the process forward and/or keeping it alive, so he is scoring Big Wins among the Washington elites that think the process is the point.
The Times recounts Congressional skepticism about Team Obama's latest Iranian deal, and includes this smile:
Asked whether he could assure Congress that the more than $2 million in assets held outside the United States that Iran will have access to under the extension agreement would not be used to aid Hamas, David S. Cohen, the under secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said he could not “give you that guarantee.”
Geez, we are unfreezing two million dollars. Where is the evil chortle?
Ransoming Citizens, Europe Becomes Al Qaeda’s Patron
Kidnapping Europeans for ransom has become a global business for Al Qaeda, bankrolling its operations across the globe.
While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have earned at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just in the past year.
In various news releases and statements, the United States Treasury Department has cited ransom amounts that, taken together, put the total at around $165 million over the same period.
These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments, who funnel the money through a network of proxies, sometimes masking it as development aid, according to interviews conducted for this article with former hostages, negotiators, diplomats and government officials in 10 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The inner workings of the kidnapping business were also revealed in thousands of pages of internal Qaeda documents found by this reporter while on assignment for The Associated Press in northern Mali last year.
In its early years Al Qaeda received most of its money from deep-pocketed donors, but counterterrorism officials now believe the group finances the bulk of its recruitment, training and arms purchases from ransoms paid to free Europeans.
Is that a lot of money? I would have thought so, but ISIS reportedlypicked up around $400 million when they conquered Mosul, so who knows? And I suspect there are still plenty of oil sheiks who toss protection money at Al Qaeda. That said:
And business is booming: While in 2003 the kidnappers received around $200,000 per hostage, now they are netting up to $10 million, money that the second in command of Al Qaeda’s central leadership recently described as accounting for as much as half of his operating revenue.
“Kidnapping hostages is an easy spoil,” wrote Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, “which I may describe as a profitable trade and a precious treasure.”
Meanwhile, in a "Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute" echo:
Only a handful of countries have resisted paying, led by the United States and Britain. Although both these countries have negotiated with extremist groups — evidenced most recently by the United States’ trade of Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — they have drawn the line when it comes to ransoms.
It is a decision that has had dire consequences. While dozens of Europeans have been released unharmed, few American or British nationals have gotten out alive. A lucky few ran away, or were rescued by special forces. The rest were executed or are being held indefinitely.
Negotiators believe that the Qaeda branches have now determined which governments pay.
Of the 53 hostages known to have been taken by Qaeda’s official branches in the past five years, a third were French. And small nations like Austria, Switzerland and Spain, which do not have large expatriate communities in the countries where the kidnappings occur, account for over 20 percent of the victims.
By contrast, only three Americans are known to have been kidnapped by Al Qaeda or its direct affiliates, representing just 5 percent of the total.
“For me, it’s obvious that Al Qaeda is targeting them by nationality,” said Jean-Paul Rouiller, the director of the Geneva Center for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, who helped set up Switzerland’s counterterrorism program. “Hostages are an investment, and you are not going to invest unless you are pretty sure of a payout.”
So European nations are financing terror groups with the hope that they can pay for the lives of Europeans today and put at risk the prospective local/native victims of terror tomorrow. Possible hashtag: #BringBackOurGirls(KillTheirs)
Annual gun deaths peaked in 1993. The following year, Congress adopted an assault-weapons ban that capped magazines at 10 rounds. Since the ban expired in 2004, handguns with 15-round capacity or greater have been used in several mass shootings, including the Virginia Tech massacre (55 victims); the attempted assassination of Representative Gabby Giffords (19 victims); and the 2009 Fort Hood massacre (45 victims). Over the past decade, annual gun deaths have crept gradually upward.
If I am following the logic, the lapse of the assault weapons ban, specifically the lapse of a limitation on magazine capacity, has led to an increase in gun deaths. The link is to a Violence Policy Center study showing that, yes, gun deaths have drifted up and now exceed automobile fatalities in 14 states.
And yes, we have been around this track before. When the topic is gun control as expounded by the gun controllers, "Gun deaths" includes suicides. Well, unless the topic is the intersection of mental health and gun control in which case (remembering that in prog-world the mentally ill are victims of the oppressive white patriarchy) the topic shifts to homicides only.
So the VPC delivers a chart noting roughly 30,000 annual gun deaths, of which about 2/3 are suicide. I admit that there may be a link between suicide and access to guns because a suicidal impulse can be transitory but guns are quick and conclusive [links in this post]. However, I am unaware of any study linking the suicide rate to magazine capacity; if we are having an epidemic of people shooting themselves fiftten times and bleeding out, I've missed it.
The reliably partisan Greg Sargent of the WaPo ponders the possible scope as well as the legal and political landscape around Obama's impending executive action on immigration. He delivers this punchline:
Morning Plum: How far can Obama go to ease deportations?
But in the end, I hope the administration makes its decision based solely on what it genuinely determines is legally, rather than politically, possible.
My goodness. With this level of detachment from reality I marvel that Mr. Sargent can find his keyboard in the morning.
OF COURSE the final decision will be determined by the politics. And as to legality, by way of contrast Obama could pardon every person ever convicted junder federal law of marijuana possession, or cocaine trafficking, or human trafficking by late this afternoon. That would surely be legal - does Mr. Sargent hope Obama does it simply because it is legal? Or would it be OK for Obama to weigh political factors in that context?
Yes, Mr. Sargent is talking about prosecutorial discretion frather than executive pardons but the point is the same - the primary constraint on the executive is political rather than legal, which means the politics can not be ignored.
Two federal marshals and one New York City police detective were shot on Monday in Greenwich Village when they went to arrest a man accused of molesting a child in California, the authorities said.
The suspect, whom the authorities identified as Charles Mozdir, was shot and killed in a gun battle that erupted in a smoke shop in the normally placid neighborhood in Manhattan.
Mr. Bratton said the three law enforcement officers were rushed to Bellevue Hospital, where one was in surgery and the others were being treated for their injuries.
The detective was shot twice in the torso, one marshal was shot in the buttocks and the other was shot in the shoulder, said Stephen Davis, a spokesman for the New York Police Department.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who joined Mr. Bratton at a previously scheduled news conference, said that initial reports indicated that the wounds were not life-threatening.
I am not sure how the one marhsall got shot in the buttocks while facing his assailant, but I expect he will have many opportunities to explain this to his colleagues.
The NYPD detective was shot in the chest, where his vest protected him, and in his stomach:
Dong Hwan, who works at Moon Sheen Tattoo, said he saw a flurry of police activity outside his shop.
“One guy was holding his belly,” he said, noting that the man appeared to be shot. Mr. Hwan said that the man emerged from a building, surrounded by police, one of whom with his hands on the man’s stomach.
The fugitive was firing a .32, per the dead-tree Times I read this morning. Here is the WSJ:
As authorities entered the small shop, the suspect pulled out a .32 caliber revolver and fired at the detective and three marshals, New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton said.
"Immediately upon entering, a gunbattle ensued," Mr. Bratton said, after visiting the officers at Bellevue Hospital.
The officers returned fire, killing Mr. Mozdir, officials said. The detective and the two marshals who were shot were listed in stable condition Monday night.
One of the marshals suffered a graze wound to elbow, the second suffered a gunshot wound to the buttocks, and the detective was struck in the abdomen, officials said. The detective, identified by police as 45-year-old Mario Muniz, is a 20-year member of the force.
Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, the union that represents the detective, said one bullet entered an opening to the right of his bulletproof vest, striking his body.
Another bullet was stopped by the vest, police said. "Obviously the vest saved the officer," Mr. Bratton said.
I'VE BEEN LITT UP! The Times leadership on marijuana reform is classic - here is their editorial calling for Federal legalization, and a piece with this polling data on the changing American attitude:
Seventy-eight percent of Americans thought marijuana should be illegal in 1991. That figure fell to 57 percent in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2013, for the first time in over four decades of polling on the issue, prohibition was a minority position. Fifty-two percent said they favored legalizing marijuana use; 45 percent were opposed.
So the Times editors boldly waited until the bandwagon was rolling before jumping on?
Back in 2012, the Sun erupted with a powerful solar storm that just missed the Earth but was big enough to “knock modern civilization back to the 18th century,” NASA said.
The extreme space weather that tore through Earth’s orbit on July 23, 2012, was the most powerful in 150 years, according to a statement posted on the US space agency website Wednesday.
Scientists have analyzed the treasure trove of data it collected and concluded that it would have been comparable to the largest known space storm in 1859, known as the Carrington event.
It also would have been twice as bad as the 1989 solar storm that knocked out power across Quebec, scientists said.
“I have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did,” said Baker.
The National Academy of Sciences has said the economic impact of a storm like the one in 1859 could cost the modern economy more than two trillion dollars and cause damage that might take years to repair.
Experts say solar storms can cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything from radio to GPS communications to water supplies — most of which rely on electric pumps.
Real Old Testament stuff. And a lifestyle to match. But when life hands you lemons, keep in mind - this would have solved our carbon emissions problem.
This has me scratching my head. Every article I have seen on password security says that including upper case and lower case letters makes for greater security. OK, that is common sense since there are more possible combinations for a brute force approach to attack.
But how many more combinations? One might say that 26 lowercase letters plus their capitalized counterparts doubles the available symbols.
On the other hand, as a practical matter an uppercase letter is achieved by hitting the "Shift" key prior to the target letter. So one might argue that adding upper case letters really only adds one more symbol, namely, the ocassional insertion of a "Shift" into the password keystroke combination.
That represents more security since passwords are now longer and the length is less predictable. For example, suppose a site requires a six letter password. "abcdef" would qualify. However '[Shift]abcdef' (which would appear as Abcdef) would also qualify even though it is seven keystrokes.
I suppose I should unearth a question here. Let's start with 6 letter passwords, all lowercase. There should be 26^6 combinations, from aaaaaa to zzzzzz.
Adding caps might be modeled as creating 52 possible six-character combinations, so the total available is 52^6, which is 2^6 or 64 times more possibilities than lower case only.
But suppose we model the possibilities as the sum of:
(1) all six letter lower case combos;
(2) all seven stroke combos (six letters plus a shift);
(3) all eight stroke combos (six letters, two shift):
and so on to
(7) all twelve stroke combos (six letters, six shifts)
My common sense is telling me that if the second approach exhausts the possibilities for mingling upper- and lower-case letters it must give the same answer as the first approach, i.e., 52^6.
Hmmph. Normally this sort of problem holds my attention when the alternative is finalizing my taxes; I don't know why I am locked up on this now.
In 2012, Obamacare's Architect Agreed With 'Right-Wing' Strategy To 'Gut' Obamacare
And more from Michael Cannon, who was instrumental in promoting the legal interpretation of the ACA that Gruber once backed and now calls "nutty".
SAY ANYTHING: It was a "speak-o"! I expect lefties will fall in behind this while righties fall down laughing. And speaking of speak-os, John Sexton of Breitbart catches Gruber on tape making the same claim in a talk on Jan 10, 2012. What's next - these were hostage tapes and Evil Righties later released Gruber's kids?