- The 10 Most Important Things In The World Right Now
(Politics - September 15 2014 - 7:10 AM:)<>
Good morning! Here's what people will be chatting about on Monday.
1. More than 30 countries will convene in Paris on Monday to discuss a strategy for defeating Islamic State militants. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will try to gather support to carry out airstrikes against the Jihadist group.
2. Ten Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt, will attend the Paris conference. A source told The Guardian that Saudi Arabia feels threatened enough by the Islamic State to consider joining US-led military action against the group: "There is a very real possibility that we could have the Saudi air force bombing targets inside Syria. That is a remarkable development, and something the US would be very pleased to see."
3. British Prime Minister David Cameron reacted on Sunday to the killing of British aid worker David Haines saying "we will hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice." Britain has not yet agreed to join the U.S. in launching air strikes on the militant group in Syria and Iraq.
4. With just 3 days to go before the Scottish independence referendum, Cameron will also be sending out last-minute warnings in Scotland about the ramifications of severing ties with the U.K.
5. The Queen gave No voters in the Scottish independence debate a subtle boost on Sunday, telling one person outside church after services to "think carefully about the future," The Guardian said. This is the first time the Queen has publicly spoken on the independence referendum, as Buckingham Palace has been trying to keep her out of the debate.
6. The leader of Sweden's center-left Social Democrats, Stefan Lofven, defeated prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in Sunday night's election. According to the Times: "Mr. Reinfeldt’s departure is a serious blow for Mr. Cameron, who needs every ally he can get to achieve the meaningful reforms he has promised should he win next year’s election and call a referendum on EU membership."
7. The whole world might be focused on Scotland on right now, but BI's Joe Weisenthal says a "potentially more explosive situation is unfolding in Spain," where Catalan activists are preparing for a Nov. 9 vote to decide whether the region will secede from Spain.
8. President Barack Obama is expected to outline a strategy for fighting the Ebola outbreak in a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reports. "Mr. Obama also is expected to urge Congress to approve the request he made last week for an additional $88 million to fund his proposal," the Journal said.
9. Hurricane Odile made landfall on the southern Baja California peninsula Sunday night. "Forecasters predicted a dangerous storm surge with large waves as well as drenching rains capable of causing landslides and flash floods," The Los Angeles Times reported.
10. Heineken rejected a takeover bid from SABMiller, Bloomberg News reported. "Heineken family members are resistant to any sale because they want to keep control of the 34 billion-euro ($44 billion) Amsterdam-based brewer," sources told Bloomberg.
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev is super-excited after being crowned the winner of the 2015 Miss America Competition by in Atlantic City.
- David Beckham Has Been Brought In To Save Great Britain
(Politics - September 14 2014 - 11:36 PM:)<>
David Beckham has been brought in to save the United Kingdom, with a new open letter urging Scots to vote NO on independence.
Here's the letter, via @alanroden:
- 'WE HAVE TO VOTE' -- Dem Congressman Worried Obama Will 'Violate The Constitution' To Fight ISIS
(Politics - September 14 2014 - 6:24 PM:)<>
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York) issued a statement on Friday expressing his fear President Barack Obama will "violate the Constitution" by expanding military operations against the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in Syria and Iraq without asking Congress for authorization. In an interview with Business Insider, Nadler said he understood the need to take on ISIS, but does not believe the group is poses enough of an "imminent threat" on American soil that there is no time for the president to seek congressional authorization for the use of military force.
"There's nothing so urgent that Congress can't take a day, or two, or three to debate it. ... It's not an obvious, imminent threat," Nadler said. "The degree or how much of a threat it is and how immediate a threat it is, that's for Congress to debate, decide what to do about it."
Nadler stressed he is not dismissing ISIS as a "real threat" and does not necessarily oppose the plan Obama laid out to fight the group last week. However, Nadler thinks the Constitution requires the president to seek authorization for military force or to ask Congress to declare war.
"I don't have any great objection to what the president is proposing to do," said Nadler. "In fact, I think he's right, but Congress has to authorize it. That's my concern."
Nadler had similar concerns about U.S. military operations in Libya in 2011, which were conducted with congressional authorization. He said he doesn't know what the Obama administration plans to do this time, but wanted to raise the issue to generate discussion among his fellow members of Congress.
"There's a lot of discussion about our voting on something next week, I don't know what that's going to be or if it's going to be. I don't know," said Nadler.
Obama has suggested he could have the authority to mount a war with ISIS without congressional authorization, but the legality of that strategy has been called into question. The president also has indicated he might ask Congress for funding for some aspects of his strategy against ISIS. Nadler said requesting funding from Congress does not replace getting authorization.
"We may be asked to fund, but that is not the same thing. ... It may have a similar practical thing, but that's not what we should do," Nadler explained. "We should do what were supposed to do, which is vote for a declaration of war or authorize use of military force, which is the functional equivalent. Why not?"
Reportedly, some members of Congress are reluctant to vote for military operations against ISIS as it could become politically controversial or a liability, particularly in an election year. Nadler said he understands and even shares that concern, but does not think what he described as the "political thing" overrides the importance of having potential military operations approved through the proper congressional channels.
"There clearly are a number of members who don't want to vote and I understand the politics. I'm not sure I want to vote for my political thing, but I don't think we can deal with it like that," said Nadler. "It's a matter of protecting the interests of the country. We have to vote."
- The 19 Most Impressive Students At Harvard
(Politics - September 14 2014 - 4:57 PM:)<>
- Lindsey Graham Freaks Out At Obama's ISIS Strategy
(Politics - September 14 2014 - 4:01 PM:)<>
US Sen Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday said the idea that the US will never have ground troops in Syria is a "fantasy," while ripping President Barack Obama's strategy to defeat the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State (ISIS).
Graham, one of the most prominent foreign-policy hawks in the Republican Party, said on "Fox News Sunday" that Obama's strategy of ramped-up airstrikes with support of shaky ground forces in both Iraq and Syria was "delusional."
"This idea that we're never going to have boots on the ground in Syria is fantasy. All this has come home to roost after the last three years of incompetent decisions," said Graham, who added that Obama's strategy has undoubtedly "encouraged" ISIS.
As ISIS has directly escalated the fight against the West with executions of two American journalists and, most recently on Saturday, a British aid worker, Graham said it was a "turning point in the war on terror."
Earlier in the program, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough urged Congress to pass the authorization to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels fighting ISIS on the ground in Syria.
But Graham said there's "no way in hell you can form an army on the ground to go into Syria to destroy" ISIS without a "substantial American component.
Graham also took issue with Obama's definition of his strategy on ISIS as a "counterterrorism operation" — language the administration has clarified over the past few days — as well as his comparison of the mission to those in Yemen and Somalia.
"This is not Somalia. This is not Yemen. This is a turning point in the 'war on terror,'" Graham said. "Our strategy will fail yet again. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home."
- North Korea Sentences 24-Year-Old American To 6 Years Hard Labor
(Politics - September 14 2014 - 4:00 PM:)<>
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea's Supreme Court on Sunday convicted a 24-year-old American man of entering the country illegally to commit espionage and sentenced him to six years of hard labor.
At a trial that lasted about 90 minutes, the court said Matthew Miller, of Bakersfield, California, tore up his tourist visa at Pyongyang's airport upon arrival on April 10 and admitted to having the "wild ambition" of experiencing prison life so that he could secretly investigate North Korea's human rights situation.
Miller, who looked thin and pale at the trial and was dressed completely in black, is one of three Americans being held in North Korea.
Showing no emotion throughout the proceedings, Miller waived the right to a lawyer and was handcuffed before being led from the courtroom after his sentencing. The court, comprising a chief judge flanked by two "people's assessors," ruled it would not hear any appeals to its decision.
Earlier, it had been believed that Miller had sought asylum when he entered North Korea. During the trial, however, the prosecution argued that was a ruse and that Miller also falsely claimed to have secret information about the U.S. military in South Korea on his iPad and iPod.
Miller was charged under Article 64 of the North Korean criminal code, which is for espionage and can carry a sentence of five to 10 years, though harsher punishments can be given for more serious cases.
The Associated Press was allowed to attend the trial.
A trial is expected soon for one of the other Americans being held, Jeffrey Fowle, who entered the North as a tourist and was arrested in May for leaving a Bible at a sailor's club in the city of Chongjin. The third American, Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, is serving out a 15-year sentence for alleged "hostile acts."
All three have appealed to the U.S. government to send a senior statesman to Pyongyang to intervene on their behalf.
During a brief interview with The Associated Press in Pyongyang last week, Miller said he had written a letter to President Barack Obama but had not received a reply.
Following Sunday's court verdict, the U.S. State Department urged North Korea to release Miller, as well as Bae and Fowle.
"Now that Mr. Miller has gone through a legal process, we urge the DPRK to grant him amnesty and immediate release," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, using North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Fowle, a 56-year-old equipment operator for the city of Moraine, Ohio, said his wife, a hairstylist from Russia, made a written appeal on his behalf to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said the Russian government responded that it was watching the situation.
The U.S. has repeatedly offered to send its envoy for North Korean human rights issues, Robert King, to Pyongyang to seek the freedom of the detainees, but without success.
Former President Bill Clinton came in 2009 to free a couple of jailed journalists. Jimmy Carter made the trip in 2010 to secure the release of Aijalon Gomes, who had been sentenced to eight years of hard labor for illegally crossing into the country to do missionary work.
In 2011, the State Department's envoy for North Korean human rights managed to successfully intervene in the case of Korean-American businessman Eddie Yong Su Jun.
The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea and strongly warns American citizens against traveling to the country.
Uri Tours, a New Jersey-based travel agency specializing in North Korea tourism that handled the arrangements for Miller, said in an email Sunday that it was working to have Miller returned to his parents in the United States.
"Although we ask a series of tailored questions on our application form designed to get to know a traveler and his/her interests, it's not always possible for us to foresee how a tourist may behave during a DPRK tour," the travel agency said in a statement on Friday. "Unfortunately, there was nothing specific in Mr. Miller's tour application that would have helped us anticipate this unfortunate outcome."
The agency said that as a result of the incident, it now routinely requests a secondary contact and reserves the right to contact those references to confirm facts about a potential tourist. It has also added advice warning tourists not to rip up any officially issued documents and "to refrain from any type of proselytizing."
Associated Press National Security Writer Lara Jakes contributed to this report from Paris.
Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
- Obama May Have Just Dealt A Crushing Blow To Russia's Oil Exploration
(Politics - September 14 2014 - 3:19 PM:)<>
New U.S. sanctions handed down on Friday are designed to effectively "shut off" Russian oil conglomerates from oil exploration projects, U.S. officials said, in a move aimed squarely at Russia's $425 billion-a-year petroleum industry.
The measures are "designed to effectively shut down this type of oil exploration and production activity by depriving these Russian companies of the goods, technology, and services that they need to do this work," a senior Obama administration official said Friday.
The official added the intention of the new sanctions was to ensure that "we have effectively shut off the capacity" of Russian oil companies to draw on U.S. expertise for deepwater, Arctic offshore, and/or shale oil exploration projects. The official stressed this was an important step because Russia's companies did not possess the kind of technology needed to undertake the operations.
The new sanctions prohibit U.S. companies from exporting goods, services, or technology to support five Russian energy companies in exploration or production for Russian deepwater, Arctic offshore, or shale projects that have the potential to produce oil. The U.S. Treasury Department said companies have until Sept. 26 to wind down existing transactions affected by the new sanctions.
The Russian energy companies hit by the sanctions include Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegas, and Rosneft. European companies will have similar prohibitions, under mirroring sanctions handed down by the European Union.
Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on previous sanctions leveled against countries like Iran, told Business Insider it was a smart escalation in sanctions.
"The new sanctions are smart and targeted and will impact Russia's access to Western technology and services that are needed to develop Moscow's medium to long-term oil exploration and production capacity," Dubowitz said.
"There will be winners and losers, including companies like Exxon and BP, but Western companies will adjust as they have to past energy sanctions against countries like Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and others. The real pain will be borne by Moscow, for whom energy is their economic lifeblood."
Indeed, Exxon could be set to take a hit from the sanctions. In 2011, it agreed to a $500 billion joint venture to explore for oil in the Russian portion of the Arctic Ocean. And the new sanctions come just weeks after Exxon and Rosneft began drilling in Russia’s Kara Sea.
"We are assessing the sanctions. It is our policy to comply with all laws," Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for Exxon, told Business Insider in an email.
London-based BP, meanwhile, holds a near-20% stake in Rosneft, which is the largest direct foreign investment in Russia.
The new sanctions are designed to further punish the Russian economy in an attempt to change the calculus of Russian President Vladimir Putin with respect to the situation in Ukraine. U.S. officials painted the targeting of Russia's oil industry as a significant escalatory step, because each of the companies has either direct or close ties to the Kremlin.
For the West — and Europe especially — the move is risky, because it could ignite retaliatory measures from a government that provides a steady stream of natural gas across the continent.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday that the sanctions were being imposed in response to Russia's "actions to further destabilize Ukraine over the last month," including an incursion of at least 1,000 Russian forces into eastern Ukraine to fight with pro-Russian separatists in eastern regions of the country. Obama also said a cease-fire reached last week has not produced "conclusive evidence" Russia has worked to de-escalate the crisis.
Here's a map of the oil and gas fields in the Arctic Ocean on which Russia has its eyes:
- The Obama Administration Has A Brand New Line On ISIS
(Politics - September 14 2014 - 2:15 PM:)<>
US Secretary of State John Kerry and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough both said Sunday the US is "at war" with the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in the same way it is "at war" with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
"In terms of al-Qaeda, which we have used the word 'war' with, yeah...we are at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates. And in the same context if you want to use it, yes, we are at war with ISIL in that sense," Kerry said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Kerry's statement completed a transformation and an escalation in rhetoric from just three days ago, when he rejected the term "war." Kerry refused to call the campaign a "war" in an interview with CNN Thursday, going along with other administration officials in calling it a "significant counterterrorism operation.
Kerry said the operation would require "many different things that one doesn't think of normally in context of war."
"What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counterterrorism operation," Kerry told CNN's Elise Labott in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. "It's going to go on for some period of time. If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with ISIL, they can do so, but the fact is it's a major counterterrorism operation that will have many different moving parts."
By Friday, after the White House had received mounting criticism for refusing to use the term "war," both the Pentagon and White House press secretary Josh Earnest shifted their language.
Only Congress can declare war under the U.S. Constitution. The Obama administration has in the past few days cited the 2001 congressional authorization of military force that came in the wake of the post-Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as justification, a position with which some legal scholars have disagreed.
Obama told congressional leaders earlier this week that he has the authority he needs to carry out his current mission against ISIS. But his administration's shift will likely increase calls from those in Congress who want a vote on congressional authorization of the mission.
"It's Congress that declares war. It's Congress that initiates war," Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday.
For his part, Kerry said he thought the focus on the term "war" was a waste of time.
"But I think it's waste of time to focus on that," Kerry said on CBS Sunday. "Frankly, lets consider what we have to do to degrade and defeat ISIL."
- Obama: Assad Shooting At American Planes Would Lead To His Overthrow
(Politics - September 14 2014 - 2:12 PM:)<>
President Barack Obama would seek to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad if American planes were attacked upon entering Syrian air space, Peter Baker of The New York Times reports.
If Assad's troops fired at American planes entering Syrian airspace, "Obama said he would order American forces to wipe out Syria’s air defense system," Baker reports. "He went on to say that such an action by Mr. Assad would lead to his overthrow, according to one account."
On Wednesday, Obama announced that he had authorized US airstrikes in Syria while laying out a four-part strategy to "destroy" and "eradicate" radical ISIS militants who have captured roughly a third of Syria and a third of Iraq.
Since August, US warplanes have backed Iraqi soldiers, Kurdish peshmerga fighters, and Iranian-backed Shia militiamen as they attempt to roll back ISIS gains in Iraq.
Baker, who spoke with 10 people who spoke to the president leading up to his speech on Wednesday, writes that Obama "struck his guests as less certain about the endgame on the Syrian side, where he has called for Mr. Assad to step down and must now rely on the same moderate Syrian rebels he refused to arm in the past."
Syrian rebels associated with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) have scoffed at Obama's plan, saying that it rushes to target ISIS while ignoring Assad.
"I don't really understand this sudden fuss about ISIS," one FSA fighter told The Guardian. "They killed people, but Bashar has been killing for the last three years. But nobody seems to be interested in that anymore."
Opposition fighters note that simply bombing ISIS will not stop the criminal army and that a comprehensive plan is needed to deal with both ISIS and Assad.
"Instead of bombing ISIS from the air, we need support inside Syria to fight. It's the only way," Mohammed Al Bakhour, 31, a senior commander of an Aleppo-based FSA battalion, told the Guardian. "Once Assad is gone, we'll deal with ISIS ourselves."
It's unclear if the US would protect what it calls "the legitimate opposition" near Aleppo, Syria's largest city and the last place that the FSA has a significant foothold. FSA-aligned revolutionaries are currently fighting for their survival as ISIS and Assad attack them from all sides.
Helping FSA rebels against Assad's warplanes would force Obama to get involved in "somebody else's civil war" while putting American planes in the sights of Syrian planes and air defense systems.
"From everything the administration has said and leaked to the press, we know that it will not offer the FSA any meaningful protection from the Syrian Air Force’s punishing aerial assaults, either in the form of a no-fly zone or shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles," journalist Michael Weiss writes in Now. "This means that the same rebels who ... were already fighting six different enemies in Syria will only be equipped to carry on fighting one. So what happens if Assad continues to bomb America’s half-a-billion-dollar counterterrorism proxy force?"
The New York Times editorial board argues that without significant strengthening of Syrian rebels, "there is no chance the fight against ISIS can be successful."
And then there is the hovering question of Assad.
The Obama administration has argued that US airstrikes on ISIS positions wouldn't help Assad because he has lost legitimacy in the areas currently under ISIS control. But without a strong nationalist opposition — which both Assad and ISIS are trying to destroy — the Syrian regime stands to gain from airstrikes on ISIS.
"Assad is the far stronger player in Syria; hitting ISIS necessarily helps him consolidate power," geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer told Business Insider in an email. "That’s a cause and effect that the US is trying to avoid, but it’s the reality."
SEE ALSO: Obama Now Owns A War He Helped Create
- Goldman Is Now Saying That Q2 GDP Growth Was Absolutely Massive
(Politics - September 14 2014 - 1:58 PM:)<>
Goldman Sachs revised its estimate of second-quarter GDP growth to 4.7% on Thursday, based on new data from the Census Bureau's Quarterly Services Survey (QSS).
Stronger-than-expected healthcare spending growth led to the revised Goldman estimate of 4.7%, which was up 0.5% from the Bureau of Economic Analysis' second advance estimate of 4.2%.
In the second quarter, the QSS forecast a healthcare spending growth of 3% annually from the first quarter and increase of 3.7% year-over-year. That was a rebound from a 2% drop in the first three months of the year. Through the first two quarters of 2014, spending on healthcare and social assistance has increased 3.3% year-over-year, according to the Census Bureau's data.
Goldman made particular note of growth in nominal spending at hospitals, which increased at a 10.6% annual clip.
The report "showed a strong bounce-back in healthcare spending in Q2, following weakness in Q1," Goldman said in a research note Thursday.
"In particular, nominal spending at hospitals rose at a 10.6% annualized rate, quite a bit faster than the Commerce Department assumed in their first two estimates of Q2 GDP. Other aspects of the QSS were more similar to Commerce's assumptions."
Goldman also maintained its estimate of a 3.1% GDP growth in the third quarter.
- SARAH PALIN: 'I Owe America A Global Apology'
(Politics - September 14 2014 - 1:46 AM:)<>
Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said she owes America "a global apology" for her and John McCain's 2008 loss in the presidential race against then-Sen. Barack Obama.
In an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity which aired after President Obama announced his four-part strategy to fight against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, Palin said as she watched the speech "the thought going through my mind is ‘I owe America a global apology.' Because John McCain, through all of this, John McCain should be our president."
Palin, a Fox News contributor and former governor of Alaska, went on to criticize the president for failing to leave behind residual forces in Iraq to "secure the peace ... we had fought so hard for."
"So when Barack Obama, like the rest of us, hear these bad guys, these terrorists, promising that they will raise the flag of Allah over our White House, for the life of me I don't know why he does not take this serious, the threat," Palin said. "Because yes, it's more than a vision. They're telling — just like Hitler did all those years ago — when a war could've been avoided, because Hitler, too, did not hide his intentions. Well ISIS, these guys aren't hiding their intentions either."
Here's the video:
- Obama Condemns ISIS' 'Barbaric Murder' Of David Haines
(Politics - September 14 2014 - 12:37 AM:)<>
US President Barack Obama said the country "strongly condemns the barbaric murder" of UK citizen David Haines at the hands of the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL).
"The United States strongly condemns the barbaric murder of UK citizen David Haines by the terrorist group ISIL," Obama said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to the family of Mr. Haines and to the people of the United Kingdom. The United States stands shoulder to shoulder tonight with our close friend and ally in grief and resolve."
ISIS released a video late Saturday evening claiming to show the beheading of Haines, the third Westerner the group has brutally murdered over the past month. The other two executions, of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, led Obama to expand a military campaign against the group.
Obama promised the US, UK, and a budding coalition of nations would work to "degrade and destroy" the extremist group.
"We will work with the United Kingdom and a broad coalition of nations from the region and around the world to bring the perpetrators of this outrageous act to justice, and to degrade and destroy this threat to the people of our countries, the region and the world," he said.
In a primetime speech from the White House on Wednesday night, Obama laid out an expanded, four-pronged strategy to "degrade and destroy" the group in a sustained counterterrorism operation he said would take multiple years. It will include an expansion of airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria.
Haines' beheading appeared to come at the hands of the militant known as "Jihadi John," who speaks English in a British accent and was featured in the two previous execution videos. Haines had been working in Syria for the French aid humanitarian aid agency ACTED when he was kidnapped after only three days in Syria.
"This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground," he said.
- DAVID CAMERON: 'The Murder Of David Haines Is An Act Of Pure Evil'
(Politics - September 13 2014 - 11:15 PM:)<>
UK Prime Minister David Cameron late Saturday appeared to confirm the execution of British aid worker David Haines by the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), calling it an "act of pure evil" and vowing justice.
"The murder of David Haines is an act of pure evil. My heart goes out to his family who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude," Cameron said in a statement.
"We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes."
ISIS released a video late Saturday evening claiming to show the beheading of Haines, the third Westerner the group has brutally murdered over the past month. The other two executions, of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, led US President Barack Obama to expand a military campaign against the group.
Haines' beheading appeared to come at the hands of the militant known as "Jihadi John," who speaks English in a British accent and was featured in the two previous execution videos.
The British Foreign Office has said it is "working urgently" to verify the video. It said that if authenticated, it would prove to be another "disgusting murder" by the group.
Haines was working in Syria for the French aid humanitarian aid agency ACTED. He was kidnapped after only three days in Syria, and was reportedly later sold to ISIS.
After ISIS revealed it was holding Haines hostage in the video showing the execution of Sotloff, ACTED said it "strongly condemns the violence and threats against David. A man’s life should never be threatened on account of his humanitarian commitment."
- ISIS Kills British Aid Worker David Haines [Report]
(Politics - September 13 2014 - 10:07 PM:)<>
ISIS claimed Saturday it had killed British aid worker David Haines, in similar fashion as two American journalists, in a new video message aimed directly at the government of the United Kingdom.
A married father of two, the 44-year-old Haines was in Syria for only three days before he was kidnapped, The Guardian reported. He had been held since last year, but his captivity was a closely guarded secret until he appeared at the end of a video release that showed the beheading of Steven Sotloff, an American freelance journalist.
ISIS released a video of Haines' purported death — apparently at the hands of the same English-speaking militant known as "Jihadi John" from two previous execution videos — which showed another British hostage at the end which would be next, the executioner said, "if you, [David] Cameron, persist in fighting the Islamic State."
The murder of David Haines is an act of pure evil. My heart goes out to his family who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude.— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) September 13, 2014
We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes.— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) September 13, 2014
According to The Telegraph, Haines was believed to have been kidnapped by a gang who later sold him to ISIS.
Haines was working in Syria for the Paris-based ACTED, a humanitarian aid agency which he had worked with since 1999. He had previously helped conflict victims in the Balkans, Africa, and the Middle East.
"He's our life. He's a fantastic man and father," his wife Dragana Haines told The Guardian. "Nobody can understand how we are feeling. My daughter keeps asking about him every day."
After he was revealed in a previous video, ACTED released a statement saying, "ACTED strongly condemns the violence and threats against David. A man’s life should never be threatened on account of his humanitarian commitment."
We've reached out to ACTED for comment and will update if we hear back.
The hostage shown at the end of the latest video was identified as British citizen Alan Henning, according to J.M. Berger.
- Women May Finally Go Through One Of The US Army's Most Grueling Training Courses
(Politics - September 13 2014 - 9:23 PM:)<>
The US Army is seeking female volunteers for its grueling two-month Ranger School for an integrated assessment to take place next spring, reports Michelle Tan at The Army Times.
“Right now we’re going through the deliberate planning process, identifying volunteers, and selecting them over the next few months,” Lt. Col. Alayne Conway, an Army spokeswoman, told The Times. “In January, we’ll determine the feasibility of conducting an assessment of the Ranger course in the spring of 2015.”
The possible move to integrate an all-male training course — one that often leads soldiers into special operations units — could be an opening for women to not only serve in direct combat roles, but highly-specialized fields such as Army Rangers or Special Forces.
From The State:
If a woman soldier is selected, she’ll have to take a pregnancy test, according to the Army order inviting female candidates to apply for the school. She’ll also have to demonstrate that she can do 49 pushups, 59 sit-ups, six chin-ups and complete a five-mile run in 40 minutes. She’ll also have to finish a 12-mile march in less than three hours.
“If a female thinks she’s physically strong enough to get through the school to get the tab, she should be able to go,” said Staff Sgt. Marscha Boydston, a supply specialist in Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s I Corps.
Ranger School is among the toughest training in the U.S. military. On the school's official website, it posts grim statistics for those seeking the coveted Ranger Tab, including a graduation rate just barely over 50% and a note that 60% of failures occur within the first four days (training is 62 days total).
The debate over sending women to Ranger school has been ongoing for quite some time, and has stirred up stark divisions on both sides. Some argue integration could to lead to lowered standards, while others cite standards being upheld by the Air Force and Navy even as those services put women into fighter jets and submarines.
- Russia Sends Second Humanitarian Convoy Into Ukraine — And No One Said A Word About It
(Politics - September 13 2014 - 6:05 PM:)<>
The first 35 vehicles in a second Russian aid convoy heading for rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine have crossed the border, Russian news agencies reported late Friday.
"Russian customs officers and border guards completed processing the first group of trucks... Now all 35 trucks have left the border crossing point towards Ukraine," Rayan Farukshin, spokesman for the southern customs office, told the RIA Novosti news agency.
Rossiya 24 television reported from the Rostov region of southern Russia that the latest convoy of trucks is carrying a total of 2,000 tonnes of goods including cereals, pasta, sugar, medicines, diesel, electricity generators and blankets.
Rossiya 24 television reported that the whole convoy of more than 300 trucks was due to reach the border by Saturday morning.
Moscow said the convoy moved in without Kiev's permission because civilians within the area are in urgent need of food, water, and other supplies.
The second convoy comes after the U.S. and EU announced a new round of sanctions targeted at Moscow's financial sectors as well as defense and energy industries.
On August 22nd, Russia sent an aid convoy of more than 200 trucks without the final agreement of Ukraine and its Western allies.
The Minsk accord signed a week ago specified the provision of humanitarian aid to east Ukraine where hundreds of thousands of residents are suffering from shortages of basic supplies as well as a lack of running water and power amid widespread destruction from heavy shelling.
Copyright (2014) AFP. All rights reserved.
- "No" Vote Pulls Ahead In New Scottish Independence Poll
(Politics - September 13 2014 - 2:00 PM:)<>
A new poll has dealt a blow to the Scottish independence campaign.
The Survation poll, which was conducted by phone from Sept. 10-12, saw 54% of respondents saying they'll vote "no" and just 46% saying they'll vote "yes." The numbers exclude people who said they were undecided.
The poll comes from the pro-union Better Together campaign, according to Reuters.
This poll comes less than a week before the Sept. 18 referendum for independence. Scots will vote whether to leave the UK and become an independent country.
The last YouGov poll put "no" votes at 52% and "yes" votes at 48%.
The "yes" campaign gained ground last week when a YouGov poll showed the "yes" vote taking the lead, but it seems that the "no" vote has now seen a resurgence.
Up until last weekend, polls consistently came out on the "no" side, but the "yes" vote has been steadily growing, as this graphic shows:
- NANCY PELOSI: 'Civilization As We Know It Would Be In Jeopardy' If The GOP Wins The Senate
(Politics - September 13 2014 - 12:44 PM:)<>
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned Friday that "civilization as we know it would be in jeopardy" if the Republican Party recaptures control of the US Senate later this year.
Pelosi appeared on HBO's "Real Time" Friday, when host Bill Maher asked her why he should "care" what happens in the election because of Washington's perpetual, never-ending gridlock.
"What do I care if they lose the Senate?" Maher said.
"It would be very important for the Democrats to retain control of the Senate. Civilization as we know it today would be in jeopardy if Republicans win the Senate," Pelosi said, smiling.
"This and ISIS are threatening civilization. Oh, no," Maher said, referring to the extremist militant group.
"Yeah, it is really important," Pelosi said, laughing. "But let's not put ourselves to the stipulation that we're not going to win the Senate. Let's instead work really hard. The fact is that it's all about turnout and many people want to support the Democrats. We just have to make sure that they turn out for the election."
Republicans need to flip six seats currently held by Democrats — while holding all of their own seats — to regain control of the Senate. Republicans are almost certain to retain a significant majority in the House.
Most models project Republicans to net the six seats, though many of those models have been shifting in Democrats' favor more recently.
Here's the video of Pelosi's appearance on "Real Time," via Real Clear Politics:
- Family Of Reported British Hostage Issues Public Plea To ISIS
(Politics - September 13 2014 - 12:30 PM:)<>
LONDON (AP) — The family of a British aid worker believed to be held by Islamic militants in Syria has issued a public plea urging his captors to contact them.
Extremists from the Islamic State group have threatened to kill 44-year-old David Haines, and his family said they have not received any reply from the group after repeated messages.
In a short statement released through Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office late Friday, the family said: "We are asking those holding David to make contact with us."
Islamic State militants have beheaded two American journalists and posted the evidence online in videos. At the end of the last video, they threaten to kill Haines next.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said the British government is doing everything it can to protect Haines.
Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
- 'He Wants To Eliminate Ukraine'
(Politics - September 13 2014 - 10:39 AM:)<>
KIEV (AFP) — Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Saturday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of wanting to wipe out Ukraine as an independent country despite a truce deal.
"His aim is not just to take Donetsk and Lugansk," Yatsenyuk said at a conference in Kiev, referring to the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine where fighting has been raging for five months.
"His goal is to take the entire Ukraine... he wants to eliminate Ukraine as an independent country," Yatsenyuk said in English.
He described the truce signed on September 5 in Minsk between Kiev, pro-Russian rebels, Moscow and the European security body the OSCE as just a "first step" to "stop a massacre" in eastern Ukraine.
He said that having a bilateral accord with Russia was "not the best" idea and called on the United States and the European Union to play a direct role in peace talks, and to guarantee Ukraine's sovereignty and independence.
"They (the Russians) will outplay us," he said. "Putin wants to get another frozen conflict and get his hands on our belly fat."
He said the conflict had made it impossible for the Kiev authorities to embark on real change, to tackle political reforms, the economic crisis and endemic corruption.
He denied however that the unrest in the east, which erupted after pro-Russian separatists launched an uprising against Kiev's rule, was a "civil conflict."
"The only person who is destabilising the situation is Putin," he said. "We are in a state of war and the key aggressor is the Russian Federation."
Yatsenyuk's warning came amid reports that Russia had sent another convoy of what it said was humanitarian "aid" into the war-torn city of Luhansk. Russia refused to have most of convoy inspected by Ukraine's border services or by the Red Cross, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said.
"The first group of 40 trucks were quickly checked by the Russian border guard and customs services," the OSCE said in a statement.
"The 180 other vehicles were not inspected. All vehicles crossed into Ukraine without being inspected by Ukrainian border guard and customs officers or the International Committee of the Red Cross."
The U.S. and European Union on Friday leveled a new round of sanctionstargeted at Moscow's energy, defense, and financial sectors. Among the new targets is Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank of Russia, as well as the major defense conglomerate Rostec.
The sanctions prohibit US and EU citizens or companies from providing new financing to Sberbank, thereby cutting off its access to US capital markets. The sanctions also shorten the maturity threshold for the debt prohibition to 30 days from 90 days — meaning US and EU persons cannot provide equity or debt financing of longer than 30 days.
The new measures "will significantly increase the pressure on these institutions by constraining the financing options available to them," a senior Obama administration official said Friday.
Copyright (2014) AFP. All rights reserved.