Saturday, December 6, 2014

Russian historians left baffled by Putin's Crimean claims

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow will never give up Crimea.Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow will never give up Crimea. Photo: Reuters
Russian historians are left baffled by Putin's Crimean claims
Ilya Arkhipov 12/6/14

Moscow - President Vladimir Putin's elevation of Crimea to the status of Russia's Holy Land has prompted puzzlement and scorn from historians and commentators in Russia and abroad.
Crimea for Russians was like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for Muslims and Jews, Mr Putin told Parliament and senior officials in the Kremlin in his annual address on Thursday, adding that the strategically important peninsula would be regarded this way from now on.
Defending Russia's annexation of Crimea, he called "the reunification" of Russia and Crimea a historic event, turning to ancient history to bolster his argument.
"For our country, for our people, this event has a special meaning, because our people live in Crimea and the territory itself is strategically important," he said. "It was here in Crimea in ancient Khersones, or Korsun as the chroniclers called it, that Count Vladimir was baptised (in the 10th century), to then baptise the rest of Russia."

It is widely accepted that Vladimir the Great was baptised in Kherson, Crimea, an event in 988 that is considered to be the beginning of the Christianisation of Kievan Rus, a precursor state to Russia and Ukraine. Yet there are doubts concerning the event's relevancy to current events.
"Prince Vladimir was Kievan, not Muscovite, and this probably only underlines the right of Kiev and not Moscow to Crimea," Andrei Zubov, a Russian historian and political scientist, said. Historians argue over whether Vladimir was baptised in Vasilev, near Kiev, rather than Kherson, said Dr Zubov, who lost his post at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in March, after he compared Mr Putin's takeover of Crimea to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's annexation of Austria in 1938.
Mr Putin's interpretation of Crimean history adds a religious aspect to Russia's confrontation with the United States and the European Union after it annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in March. In his speech, Mr Putin called Crimea's March referendum, which backed breaking away from Ukraine, and its Parliament's decision to join Russia "absolutely legitimate", though thousands of Russian troops in unmarked uniforms had taken control of most of the territory earlier in the month and were in effect blocking all Ukrainian army and naval bases.
Since then, EU and US sanctions have helped push the Russian economy to the brink of recession  as it wrestles with a 39 per cent slump in the value of the rouble against the dollar this year and a one-third decline in the oil price. Russia depends on oil and gas revenue for about half of its federal budget.
Mr Putin's speech has sparked religious as well as historical debate in Russia. From a religious viewpoint, Kiev was a much more important place for Russian Orthodox pilgrims than Crimea, Deacon Andrei Kuraev, a theologian and a popular Russian blogger, said. It was incorrect to compare Crimea with the Temple Mount, the world's holiest place for Jews, he said.
Igor Danilevsky, head of historical research methods at Moscow's Higher School of Economics, also said Mr Putin's comparison of Crimea with Jerusalem was not a very successful move to justify Russia's actions.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday hundreds of Russian soldiers had been fighting and dying inside Ukraine. It was the first time he had spoken so pointedly about the Russian military's casualty toll in the east. His comments, at a meeting of the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe, appeared calculated to puncture the Kremlin's carefully crafted narrative that Russian forces have not intervened in the conflict.
Kerry repeated longstanding Western allegations that Russia has continued to funnel weapons to separatists in eastern Ukraine and failed to honour the peace agreement it negotiated and signed in Minsk, Belarus, in September. He went on to discuss the cost to Russia in terms of Russian lives lost.
"The result is damage to its credibility, and its own citizens wind up paying a steep economic and human price, including the price of hundreds of Russian soldiers who fight and die in a country where they had and have no right to be," he said.
Mr Kerry did not give a number for Russian military deaths in Ukraine, but senior US officials have estimated that at least 400 Russian soldiers have died there. Russia has refused to acknowledge that it has ordered forces into Ukraine or that its military has suffered significant casualties in the peninsula.

Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, New York Times,

KEY WORDS: Putin, Crimea, Temple Mount, Jews, Christiana Russia, Kremlin

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Japanese Surprise Attack, Dec. 7, 1941 -- Emotions Still Vivid for Pearl Harbor Survivor

via Verne Strickland usadotcom 12/5/2014  

Emotions still vivid for Pearl Harbor survivor

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Leo Priest turned 21 the day before the attack.  Now, he cries when describing the sight of dead sailors floating in the water the morning Pearl Harbor was attacked.
"The flesh was just coming off of their burned bodies — it was horrible," Priest, 93, said between soft sobs about that day 72 years ago.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan unleashed a furious air assault on the Hawaiian harbor, home to the U.S. Pacific fleet.
Japanese aircraft hit their mark that Sunday morning — sinking three battleships, causing one to capsize, and severely damaging four others.
The attack claimed the lives of more than 2,400 servicemembers and 1,000 civilians — and led to the U.S. entry into World War II.
Priest, who turned 21 the day before the attack, was stationed at Camp Malakole with the 251st Coast Artillery Regiment of the California National Guard.
When his regiment arrived on the island in September 1940, the men lived in tents while they built the infrastructure of the camp.
"We were breaking up coral rock with rock crushers to make gravel and rock for roads and build foundations for the barracks. We finished the barracks a few months before the attack."
STORY: Pearl Harbor memories fading with time
RELATED: Iconic quotes from Pearl Harbor, World War II
A typical day at Camp Malakole included four hours of building and four hours of anti-aircraft gun practice.
"The morale was really high," he said. "We really turned into a nice family."
But four or five months before the attack, they started an island patrol.
"We were waiting for something," he said.
He spent the night of his 21st birthday on guard duty at Hickam Field, an air base adjacent to Pearl Harbor.
On the morning of Dec. 7, Priest and a group of buddies were returning from chow when they heard "big gun" sounds across the island.
"Our anti-aircraft guns were firing away," he said. "Japanese aircraft were all over the sky."
The barracks, airfield and battleships were ablaze as the enemy pummeled Pearl Harbor with bombs and machine gun fire.
Priest's job was mapmaking, which included plotting gun positions around the island. Since he was familiar with the locations, he was called to pick up his skipper and drive him around to check on these sites.
Within 10 minutes, he and the skipper were on their way to Pearl Harbor, about a 6-mile drive.
Enemy aircraft "flew over us and missed us," he said. "The coral rock was flying up from the bullets."
By the time they reached the harbor, the second wave of enemy bombers had arrived.

"We pulled up by the dock — I had a view across the bay of about 200 yards. Crews were abandoning ship.
"We saw the skies filled with aircraft, dive bombers and torpedo planes diving on and torpedoing our ships. The harbor was ablaze with thick oil burning all around the ships."
While idling in the car for a moment, the men watched the USS Nevada trying to use the only escape route out of the harbor.
"(That's) when a dive-bomber exploded a bomb on her and about the same time a torpedo bomber sent a fish (torpedo) into her side, just below her water line. The brave skipper quickly gave her a right-rudder and beached her on a shoal out of the way of the harbor," Priest said.
The USS Arizona sank before their arrival, "but we saw the rest of our battleships that were tied up right close to her all ablaze," he said.
There were small boats in the water, with men reaching out with boat hooks to pull sailors from the burning oil.
"Some were burned severely, others burned to death," he said.
Priest said it feels "like a another lifetime" since the attack, but 72 years later, vivid, visceral memories still haunt him.
Priest and other local survivors planned to meet for lunch Saturday.
The Palm Springs/Yucca Valley chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association officially closed down earlier this year, following on the heels of the disbanding of the National Pearl Harbor Survivors Association on Dec. 31, 2011.
The number of survivors who were able to attend meetings and serve on the board had grown too small to continue running the organization.
A Desert Sun story dated Dec. 7, 2001, listed the names of 29 local survivors. Only six remain.


From Pearl Habor to Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Hell Comes Full Circle

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 "A date that will live in infamy". Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- Payback.

By Verne Strickland, December 7, 2012
*First posting of this feature.

I had the great fortune during my sixteen years on the air at WRAL-TV in Raleigh to get in a considerable amount of international travel, visiting over thirty countries on U.S, trade and reverse investment missions.

A favorite destination was Japan, which I visited a dozen times or more during that period. I personally enjoyed the Japanese experience, studied the Japanese language at N.C. State, and produced some films through the auspices of the NC/Japan Society on campus.

Unfortunately, my ardor has cooled toward that society and culture in the intervening years.

One damper has been by virtue of a great opportunity which has come my way -- to collaborate on a project with an extraordinary friend and documentary film producer at Research Triangle Park -- Scott Long.

Scott has won the rights to co-produce a full-length docu-drama on the exploits of the legendary Flying Tigers, aerial aces in China's war against the invading Japanese in the late years of World War II. Scott asked me to help out with the script for this film, but my personal bout with cancer at the time prevented that.

Accounts of the savagery with which Japan's military attacked Chinese civilians in Hunan Province is at first hard to comprehend. Then we Americans remember Pearl Harbor -- a date "that will live in infamy."

The December 7 sneak attack on the peaceful Hawaiian islands brought America into the war against Japan, and that bloody conflict cost the lives of countless Americans and our allies, and of the Japanese aggressors.

During my trips to Japan, I was asked on a number of occasions if I wished to visit Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Each time I declined -- for patriotic reasons. I refused to be brought into a situation where misty-eyed Japanese -- yes, and cynical, arrogant American expatriates -- would attempt to shame me over our use of the atomic bombs employed by American bombers to force the Japanese into unconditional surrender, essentially ending hostilities in the Pacific theater.


I did not -- and do not -- feel shame or regret over that supreme victory over the Japanese. To me, Hiroshima and Nakasaki are merely exclamation points that ended a war that Japan triggered by its own disgraceful actions. Our bombs snuffed out two big Japanese cities in a heartbeat, but spared an estimated one million American lives that surely would have been sacrificed by taking that country using conventional forces.

That not only is a fair trade-off as far as I am concerned -- it is clear and convincing payback. And no nation could deserve it more than Japan.

As the legendary Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto intoned with dread during that onerous attack: "I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant." Boy did he have that right.

So, in my mind, Pearl Harbor was the fire that started the Pacific war, but the all-consuming flames from our atomic explosions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended it.

I hate to say it so bluntly -- but in those by-gone days when America found itself in harm's way due to powerful foreign enemies, we put on big boots and kicked the hell out of the attackers. Would that we had such a no-nonsense philosophy today. And no malevolent and belligerent United Nations to tell us how to manage our own affairs.

As December 7, approached this week, I spotted a related story about Japan's attempt to assign guilt over "the bomb" incident. It relates the experience of Clifton Truman Daniel, 55, eldest grandson of former president Harry Truman -- Give 'em hell Harry -- who gave the fateful nod that loosed the atomic age over Japan in 1945. I admire the President's courageous decision, which he made apparently with no second-guesses.

In August of this year (2012)Truman Daniel made a personal visit to Japan -- and to the two cities whose fates intersected with the most powerful weapon ever utilized to this date in history. His trip to Japan was not welcomed by all, he said.

“There are those in Japan who are still very angry about the bombings,” Daniel said. “Most people would tell me ‘We appreciate your coming.’ But some of the meetings with survivors were very emotional.”

Following the Nagasaki ceremony, a French journalist asked Daniel, again, why he had come.

“I said the trip was about reconciliation and healing,” he said. “I didn’t try to duck anything, but neither was I going apologize for my grandfather. He never did, first of all, and the country has not. “But I can still reach out to these people.”

Read more here:

And the Truman family spokesman disclosed another reaction -- this from Americans who were awaiting an amphibious assault on the Japanese mainland.

Said Clifton Daniel, "Over the years I have shaken the hands of dozens of American survivors of World War II, veterans who have told me, ‘I wouldn’t be alive if your grandfather had not dropped that bomb,’ ”

Give 'em  hell, Harry -- and thank you Mr. President. 

Read more here:

Read more here:“Over the years I have shaken the hands of dozens of American survivors of World War II, veterans who have told me ‘I wouldn’t be alive if your grandfather had not dropped that bomb,’ ” he said.

Read more here:

The Real Racist Conspiracy in Ferguson -- Shapiro's Take

via Verne Strickland usadotcom

The Real Racist Conspiracy In Ferguson

December 4, 2014 - 8:47 AM

After a grand jury in St. Louis, Missouri, voted against the indictment of Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of 18-year-old black man Michael Brown, President Obama gave a short address to the nation. In it, he said he understood why some would feel disappointed at the verdict — an odd statement, given that all available evidence showed that Brown had robbed a convenience store, attacked Wilson in his vehicle, attempted to grab his gun and charged Wilson before Wilson shot him.

Then Obama dropped a doozy: "We need to recognize that this is not just an issue in Ferguson, this is an issue for America ... there are problems and communities of color aren't just making these problems up."

Obama did not specify what problems he wanted to discuss. Nor did he explain why Ferguson's issues were America's. But the largest lie was the notion that "communities of color" don't make problems up.

Because in Ferguson, that's precisely what a community of color did.

In the immediate aftermath of the Brown shooting, grand jury documents show, witness intimidation and lying became the order of the day. Witness after witness told police that local thugs were intimidating those who had seen the events.

One witness told police, according to the St. Louis Police Investigative Report, that threats "had been made to the residents of Canfield Green Apartment Complex." This witness said that "notes had been posted on various apartment buildings threatening people not to talk to the police, and gunshots were still being fired every night."

The witness wasn't alone. Other witnesses stated that supposed witnesses were lying to the media about events, that others who had seen the events were "embellishing their stories" in order to convict Wilson.

One witness stated, "You have to understand the mentality of some of these young guys they have nothing to do. When they can latch on the something they embellish it because they want something to do."

Some 16 witnesses testified that Brown's hands were up when he was shot, which was factually false according to the autopsy. Another 12 witnesses said that Wilson shot Brown from behind — again, false according to the autopsy. One witness testified that Wilson used both a Taser and a gun — false. Another said that Brown had kneeled before Wilson shot him. When confronted with the fact that the physical evidence made such an account impossible, the witness acknowledged he hadn't seen the event, and then asked if he could leave the grand jury because he was "uncomfortable."

In 1964, Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death outside her apartment complex in New York. The entire nation gasped in horror when it learned that supposed witnesses had not called the police.

Fifty years later, the nation completely ignores the fact that an entire community apparently lied, facilitated lying or intimidated witnesses in order to put an innocent man behind bars, because he happened to be white. At least Kitty Genovese's neighbors didn't actually murder her. Members of the Ferguson community tried to murder Darren Wilson by putting him on death row.

Meanwhile, President Obama and those in the media who played up the original narrative cheered them on.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sen. Kay Hagan says President Obama should have praised economy during campaign

Sen. Kay Hagan says President Obama should have praised economy during campaign

December 3, 2014 Updated 4 hours ago
Obama Hagan
President Barack Obama is greeted by Sen. Kay Hagan as he arrives at North Carolina Air National Guard Base in Charlotte in August. Obama was in Charlotte to address the American Legion’s 96th National Convention. 

— President Barack Obama could have done more to help Senate Democrats in last month’s elections if he’d spoken out about the nation’s healthy economy and its positive impact on middle-class families, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina said Wednesday in her first interview since her narrow defeat.
“You look at the economy right now,” she said, and ticked off a list of developments that Obama could have trumpeted during the recent campaign: gas prices are low; the stock market is at an all-time high and jobs continue to grow, unlike the situation in 2009 when she first came into office, Hagan said.
“The president hasn’t used the bully pulpit to get that message out in a way that resonates with people,” Hagan said during an interview in her Capitol Hill office, which she will have to vacate this month after a single six-year term. “And I think that’s an issue that the Democrats should not cede.”
She lost her bid for a second term to Thom Tillis, the Republican speaker of the North Carolina state House of Representatives. It was largely a neck-and-neck race that Hagan lost by 2 percentage points. It was also the most expensive Senate contest in the country, with the total bill somewhere north of $110 million, though the final numbers aren’t yet available.
“Obviously I was disappointed with the outcome of the election, because there was so much I wanted to get done in a second term,” she said.
Hagan ran on the need to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, which Tillis opposed. A higher minimum wage has a lot of popular support, she said, noting that voters in four states passed increases to state-level minimum wages.
But she didn’t campaign on those national economic gains.
“If you saw the tidal wave,” she said, referring to losses her party suffered around the country and up and down the ballot, “it’s obvious it needed to be a national message.”
Yet Hagan also distanced herself from Obama, as did the other Senate Democrats who lost as Republicans won control of the chamber. She met with him at the airport when he visited North Carolina to give a speech. But with his public approval ratings low, she didn’t want him campaigning for her.
As for her future, the 61-year-old lawmaker from Greensboro said she hadn’t decided on her plans.
Predictably, as the state’s most prominent Democrat and a fundraising veteran, her name is at the top of the list of potential challengers to her Republican colleague, Sen. Richard Burr, whose seat is up in 2016.
“I am not making any decisions right now,” she said.
Instead, she said she’s thinking about her second grandchild, whose birth is expected any day, and her first one, 1-year-old Harrison. Also in the plans: “Definitely spending time with my family, who I haven’t seen a lot of in the last two years.”
First, though, there’s a busy Senate schedule through much of December. One bill expected to clear both the House of Representatives and the Senate is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015. The legislation includes a Hagan amendment to halt the inactivation of the 440th Airlift Wing at Fort Bragg. Inactivation of the unit was part of the president’s 2015 budget proposal and would result in the loss of 1,100 full-time and part-time jobs.
Saving 440th Airlift Wing
The amendment would require the Air Force to issue a report outlining its justification for the decision. In the meantime, the Air Force would have to stop C-130H and C-130J aircraft transfers until 60 days after the report is submitted. The Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan agency that investigates how the government spends money, would review the report, and then there would be time for congressional review.
Hagan’s amendment was included in the Senate version of the legislation in May, but not in the bill passed by the House of Representatives. Negotiators from both chambers had to reconcile differences and her measure made the final bill. It is expected to pass both chambers this month.
“I’m really pleased, because I don’t think the Air Force can justify what they’ve said,” Hagan said.
Loss of the 440th Airlift Wing would mean that the 82nd Airborne Division, the infantry division of the Army that specializes in parachute landings, would have no planes at Pope Army Airbase, the runway for Fort Bragg, she said.
Looking back, Hagan said the partisan gridlock was “very disappointing to have to fight and work around.” She said she’s proud of her five field offices, which she said solved 36,875 constituent cases, and her Washington staff, who kept her up to speed on the issues.
“And obviously, when I look back, the Camp Lejeune water issue – the fact that when we got in office we immediately hit the trail hard on that,” she said.
The legislation, passed in 2012 with support from Hagan and Burr, provided health care for veterans and reimbursement for family members who suffered from cancer and other diseases due to contaminated water at the Marine Corps base.
One bill she’d like to see clear Congress in the weeks ahead is the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act, which she introduced with Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. The bill would improve programs that screen newborn babies for conditions that could cause disabilities, illness or death if left untreated.
Some Republican senators reportedly have held up the legislation over privacy concerns over the use of newborns’ DNA. Hagan said that the problem is close to being resolved and that she expects the bill will pass.
Need for more talk
Hagan said she’d like to see Republicans and Democrats sit down together more often. The senators separate into their party caucuses once a week for lunches, but she suggested that every other week members of both parties should eat together and talk.
The 20 women in the Senate are already doing it. Their get-togethers have been coordinated by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. Hagan hosted a dinner for the Senate’s women in September at the Library of Congress. At those gatherings, she said, “everything’s on the table, and it stays in the room.”
The benefit is camaraderie, Hagan said, adding that a little more of that in the Senate can only be helpful.

'Soap Opera' Ambassador's Confirmation Spurs Political Drama

via Verne Strickland usadotcom 12/3/14

'Soap Opera' Ambassador's Confirmation Spurs Political Drama

What does $2.1 million and "The Bold and the Beautiful" have to do with diplomatic relations with Hungary?
In a narrow vote Tuesday, the United States Senate confirmed Colleen Bradley Bell as the next ambassador to the European nation - but not until after a scathing Senate floor critique by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who argued that Bell's qualifications for the job weren't exactly impeccable.
"I am not against political appointees," McCain said. "I understand how the game is played, but here we are, a nation that's on the verge of ceding its sovereignty to a neofacist dictator and we're going to send the producer of "The Bold and Beautiful?" I urge my colleagues to stop this foolishness."
Bell, a television producer for the long-running soap opera, notably bundled an estimated $2.1 million for President Barack Obama's reelection race, according to a 2012 review by the New York Times. Another appointee confirmed Tuesday, Noah Bryson Mamet, raised about $1.4 million for Obama but admitted that he's never visited Argentina, where he'll serve as ambassador.
Asked why the president has confidence in Bell's ability to serve in the job, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday that she "has had her own distinguished private sector career" and that she "obviously has succeeded in the business world."
Awarding big donors with ambassadorships is far from unusual. Plum posts - like those in Western Europe and the Caribbean -- have frequently gone to campaign moneymakers or presidential friends. To name only a few: President George W. Bush named a Yale fraternity brother for a diplomatic post in Sweden; President Bill Clinton picked former Washington football linebacker Sidney Williams - who told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that football helped him develop "strategic thinking and negotiating skills" -- for the Bahamas.
According to the American Foreign Service Association, which tracks diplomatic nominations, 35 percent of Obama's ambassadorial appointments while in office have been "political" picks, versus 65 percent of nominees from foreign service career backgrounds. (In his second term only, over 40 percent of his picks have been political in nature.)
Compare that to data from past administrations: Thirty-eight percent of Ronald Reagan's appointments throughout his presidency were political, per AFSA, as were 31 percent of George H.W. Bush's, 28 percent of Bill Clinton's and 30 percent of George W. Bush's.
Bell's nomination is picking up additional steam because of her stumbling responses to basic questions during her confirmation hearing in January.
Asked by McCain to enumerate America's strategic interests in Hungary, Bell offered this reply: "Our strategic interests are to work collaboratively as NATO allies, to work to promote and protect the security, both - for both countries and for - and for the world, to continue working together on the cause of human rights around the world, to build that side of our relationship while also maintaining and pursuing some difficult conversations that might be necessary in the coming years."
To which McCain responded with trademark sarcasm: "Great answer." 

First published December 3rd 2014, 3:01 pm

Monday, December 1, 2014


 via Verne Strickland usadotcom

(Internet Post: Dec. 1, 2014)
And we're back to talk politics and the busy agenda facing the new Republican-controlled Congress.
Joining me now are two incoming senators-elect.
Republican Thom Tillis of North Carolina is with me here in studio. And Democrat Gary Peters of Michigan joins us from Detroit.
First of all, congratulations to both of you on your wins. Thank you for being here.
O'DONNELL: Senator-elect Tillis, I was there in North Carolina with you. You won what was called the most expensive Senate race in the country, more than $100 million. What do you think the people of your state got for that?
TILLIS: I think what they got is a chance to see different leadership try to get things done in Washington, to get Washington functioning again, working across the aisle, getting the economy back on track, worried about our safety and security.
I think that the American people did not give Republicans a mandate. They gave us a chance. They gave us a chance to lead. And I'm glad to be a part of that.
O'DONNELL: And they didn't give you -- if they didn't give you mandate and you have got to show compromise, what issue can you work with Democrats on?
TILLIS: Well, I think there's any number of things.
In fact, senator-elect Peters, I know he's got a passion around Michigan like I have a passion around North Carolina. We have seen a lot of manufacturing jobs go overseas. We have seen our economies not quite get back on track in terms of job creation. I think there is a number of opportunities for Republicans and Democrats to work together.
O'DONNELL: Senator-elect Peters, are you also hopeful you can compromise with Republicans?
PETERS: Well, I think we have to.
I think that certainly was the clear message that we got from this last election was about people wanting to see Washington work, having people come together and find that kind of middle ground to deal with the very tough problems that we're facing as a country. So, I certainly am encouraged, with senator-elect Tillis, in talking manufacturing, something that is very, very important to the state of Michigan, as it is North Carolina.
And I'm sure that we can find ways to make sure we're getting people back to work and really creating the good-paying middle-class jobs which are just so essential. And right now we have got a middle class that feels squeezed, that is falling behind. And we have to deal with it in Washington. And the only way we're going to deal with it is if we come together and find common ground.
O'DONNELL: I know there are some issues that you say you want to find common ground.
But, unfortunately, I think the Congress is going to start probably with the confirmation battles. The president now has two open posts in his Cabinet, not only for the attorney general, but also for defense secretary. Do you think there will be a confirmation battle over President Obama's new choice for defense secretary?
TILLIS: Well, I hope that the president puts forth someone that will work for both sides. I think it's a great opportunity out of the gate for the president to identify consensus nominees that we can all get around and support. Those are very important jobs. They need to be filled.
But they need to be filled with someone who can take in to account both sides of the equation, both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
O'DONNELL: Senator-elect Peters, as it appeared this week that Defense Secretary Hagel was pretty much fired from the Defense Department, are you concerned about how the Pentagon is being led and the fight against ISIS?
PETERS: Well, certainly ISIS is a significant threat that we have to deal with. We have got to make sure that we have leadership at the Department of Defense that is focused on that, and that the White House can work with. And so I look forward in the confirmation process to find that right secretary who is going to be focused on that issue.
Also, I'm also concerned about the nuclear ambitions of Iran. It is becoming a very, very dangerous world. We have got to have a Defense Department that is focused on these new threats and understand the significance of it. And that's why I think this confirmation process is going to be so important, because we have to stand together, Congress and the president.
This country is stronger when we are all united as one, and certainly the Department of Defense has to have the ability to work with everybody in a unified fashion.
O'DONNELL: To be specific, do you think -- and let me start with you, senator-elect Tillis, first. Do you think the president needs a new use of force authorization in order to fight ISIS? TILLIS: I think it would probably be wise so that you move forward again.
The president and the Congress need to find opportunities to show some way of coming together, and I think that would be a show of good faith from the president, and I think it would give Congress more confidence that they're a part of the process.
O'DONNELL: You would support one?
O'DONNELL: And senator-elect Peters, would you support a new authorization of force against ISIS?
PETERS: I think it's essential that Congress come to the table.
We have not had a classified briefing as Congress for quite some time now. I look forward when we get back into Washington to have those kinds of briefings. Congress needs to be intimately involved in these decisions. It's certainly a constitutional requirement.
And I think it is absolutely essential that we come together to show strength in the world community. And we are stronger as a country when the president and Congress are united, and I believe that we have to be a key player in that process.
O'DONNELL: Let's talk about the issue of immigration because of the president's executive action on immigration.
Senator-elect Tillis, your party has opposed the president's actions. Will -- then do you expect Congress to act? Do you expect now a Republican-led Senate will act and that the Republican-led House will finally act on issue that can work together with the Senate?
TILLIS: Yes, I'm afraid that the president's unilateral action is going to set us back.
I believe that what we should do first and foremost is seal the border. The Republicans and Democrats have both failed on this issue for decades. And one of the reasons why is I don't think we have stabilized the problem by taking credible steps to seal the border. Then let's discuss what we do with the population who is illegally present.
I think we're going to complicate it. We could end up having a contentious debate that could be avoided.
O'DONNELL: Senator-elect Peters, you are a member of the House, and difficulty getting some agreement with the Senate on the issue of immigration.
PETERS: Well, it is a source of constant frustration to me, because we do have bipartisan agreement. I support the Senate immigration reform bill, which passed on a bipartisan basis. We have organizations like United States Chamber of Commerce that support the immigration reform bill; 17 Republicans, including folks like Mr. Rubio, Mr. McCain in states that are obviously intimately involved in the immigration issue, we have a comprehensive approach.
We have an approach that invests nearly $40 billion in border protection, where you got the parties to come together. The Congress needs to act. Instead of wringing our hands about the presidential action, Congress needs to pass a bill. We have a bill that's been on the table for a year-and-a-half in the House.
I believe that if the speaker would put it on the floor, it would actually pass. We would deal with this issue in a comprehensive way. We need to move forward. If my Republican friends want to work in a bipartisan way and find common ground, we're already almost there with the comprehensive immigration reform. All we have to do is pass it.
O'DONNELL: All right, we will all be watching.
Senator-elect Tillis, senator-elect Peters, good to have both of you here.
We will be right back.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The physical evidence in the Michael Brown case supported the officer [updated with DNA evidence] Gotta See This!

The physical evidence in the Michael Brown case supported the officer [updated with DNA evidence]

November 28
In the wake of the Michael Brown grand jury decision, several blog posts (including one by me Wednesday) have dissected Officer Darren Wilson’s testimony.  Read by itself, different people can draw differing conclusions about whether it is accurate or not.  But what hasn’t been widely discussed is whether the physical evidence confirms or contradicts his story.
Perhaps the reason for this disinterest in the ballistics report, autopsies and other similar information is that for at least some of Brown’s supporters the facts are, apparently, largely irrelevant because Brown is a metaphorical “symbol” of injustice regardless of what actually happened.  A related reason may be that working through this information is time-consuming — and thus beyond the capacity of many commentators.  In contrast, the grand jury painstakingly heard sworn testimony from more than 60 witnesses, which is now collected in several thousand pages of transcripts. Reviewing these transcripts reveals some important and essentially indisputable facts.  And those facts confirm many critical aspects of Wilson’s account.
The Washington Post has this extremely helpful graphical presentation of what happened during the shooting, with links to some of the physical evidence in the case.  What follows is my discussion of what appears to be some of the most significant.  To be clear, I do not purport here to completely describe all the forensic evidence and related testimony.  But I will commit to carefully reviewing all of the comments to this post and if anyone points to a significant omission in what I’m describing about the physical evidence — and provides a citation to the volume and page number of the grand jury testimony for that omission — I’ll be glad to consider adding discussion of it.  This post is limited to discussing the physical evidence, as witness testimony cuts in many different directions.
 As those who have been following the case closely are aware, Wilson testified before the grand jury that Brown reached for his (Wilson’s) gun and a struggle for the gun followed, during which Wilson fired two shots.  Later, Wilson pursued Brown and, after he turned and then charged toward Wilson, fired multiple shots bringing him to the ground about 8 to 10 feet away from him.
The physical evidence is consistent with his testimony.  The County Medical Examiner was one of the first witnesses to testify before the grand jury.  He explained the autopsy he conducted on Brown. It will be useful to show the injuries discussed and, for these purposes, I insert a chart prepared by an examiner hired by Brown’s family.  (The parallel chart from the ME has not been publicly released, although the ME’s testimony has been released).

The ME found a tangential injury on Brown’s right thumb that traveled along the surface of the thumb — grand jury testimony Volume 3 (Sept. 9), page 114, line 12 etc. (hereafter cited by just page and line number).  The ME further explained that he saw what appeared to be “soot” in the wound, which was consistent with a shot from close range (116:22).  Indeed, based on his training and expertise, the ME thought that the soot would be indicative of the gun that fired the bullet causing the wound having been only 6 to 9 inches away (118:12). The soot was consistent with that discharged from a gun (122:13).  The official report from the Office of Medical Examiner later confirmed that “the previously described particles of foreign particulate matter are consistent with products that are discharged from the barrel of a firearm.”
The significance of this wound and related physical evidence is that it places Brown’s right hand within 6 to 9 inches of the barrel of Wilson’s firearm.  This physical evidence is thus quite consistent with Wilson’s testimony that Brown was trying to get hold of Wilson’s weapon, creating a fear in Wilson that he was going to get shot.  It also creates a problem for those who view Brown as having been somehow accosted by Wilson and was just trying to escape.  At least in the theories that I have seen sketched out, no explanation is offered for why Brown (who weighed around 300 pounds) had been forced by Wilson to have his right hand in a position where it was close to the gun  and inside Wilson’s police car.
At some point in the altercation, it appears undisputed that Brown (and his friend Dorian Johnson) ran away from Wilson.  Wilson pursued on foot and, according to Wilson, Brown eventually paused, turned around, and then charged at him.
The ME’s testimony also aligns with Wilson’s testimony on this point.  The ME found various wounds to Brown’s arms, upper torso, and head. Focusing on the head wounds, a detailed report and summary report from the Office of the Medical Examiner indicated that one wound with an entrance to the vertex of Brown’s  head was “downward and rightward” (detailed report at p. 2) and the wound with an entrance to central forehead was “downward, slightly backward, and rightward” (summary p. 1).  The report also describes the entrance to the wounds on Michael Brown’s chest as “downward” or “slightly downward” (id.).  
The ME explicated these findings at great length to the grand jurors.  He explained that the entry direction for the head wounds, for example, was “slightly downward” (157:6).  The earlier wounds would not have been disabling (151:1) and would not have been disabling in combination, until the final wound to the top of the head (159:15).  In the ME’s opinion, the first wound was the wound to the thumb, the last was the wound to the top of Brown’s head (197:7).  The ME specifically testified that if Brown was bent over, that would be consistent with the entry to the head wounds, although he cautioned that he could not say for certain what position Brown was in at the time he received the wound (166:11).
Perhaps most important, the ME carefully explained how he was able to identify entry points and exit points for the wounds to Brown.  With regard to the wounds on the torso and head, there  were no wounds from the back (197:18).  With regard to the arms, there was only one injury that was from the back — an injury to “the posterior portion of the right forearm” (198:25).  The ME indicated that it is extremely difficult to identify, from bullet wounds, the position of the arms at the time of a shot because “you’ve got . . . an elbow joint, you have a shoulder joint and then the wrist, you have a lot of mobility within that arm and it can be in a lot of scenarios” (133:11).

Optimism Greets New Round of UN Climate Talks -- Oh Really? Ask U.S. Conservatives How We Feel

Amid the soot covered stalks of last year's corn, a farmer prepares for spring near a power plant in Shanxi Province.
Amid soot-covered stalks of last year's corn, a farmer prepares for spring near a power plant in China's Shanxi Province.
Photograph by Robb Kendrick, National Geographic Creative
Brian Clark Howard
Published November 26, 2014
Buoyed by new climate pledges from the United States, China, and Europe, diplomats from 195 countries will begin meeting in Lima, Peru, on Monday to draft a new accord to curb global warming.

Organized by the United Nations, the conference aims to lay the groundwork for an agreement to be finalized by December 2015, when world leaders will meet in Paris. Called COP 20, the 12-day gathering marks the 20th time countries will have met to discuss climate change since 1992. The agreement is hoped to be a successor to 1997's Kyoto Protocol, which expired in 2012 but was never adopted by the U.S. or China, and so had limited impact.
President Barack Obama and other top leaders are not expected to attend the Lima talks but are sending environment officials and climate negotiators.
David Waskow of the World Resources Institute says he hopes the delegates will be able to "build on the good momentum we've seen over the past few weeks." Waskow, who directs the think tank's climate initiative, adds that he is optimistic that "an effective agreement" will be reached by the end of 2015.
What's driving that momentum? On November 12, the U.S. and China, the world's top emitters of greenhouse gases, announced an agreement to slash their emissions. In October the European Union pledged to reduce its emissions 40 percent by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. And the UN's Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries address climate change, is on track to meet its ten-billion-dollar initial target.
"We're in far better shape a year ahead of Paris than at any stage leading up to Copenhagen," where world leaders tried but failed to reach a climate deal in 2009, says Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a nonprofit Virginia-based group formerly known as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
Now, he says, he sees greater "confidence and realism" about what can be accomplished through the UN and "less drama and vitriol than in previous rounds."
Refinement of Climate Policy
Pete Ogden of the Center for American Progress, a think tank with close ties to the Obama Administration, agrees. He says he doesn't expect any "fundamental breakthroughs" in Lima, but rather important refinement of ongoing international talks.
Ogden says those discussions have shifted since 2009. Instead of a top-down treaty that mandates the amount of greenhouse gases each country can emit—which has proved unpopular—negotiators are now developing a framework in which each country makes voluntary commitments.
The Peru summit will help countries hammer out those commitments, which are slated to be finalized in Paris next December. Ogden says the recent announcements by the U.S., China, and Europe signal some of what people can expect.
The sum total of the commitments, Ogden says, won't necessarily put the world on an easy path to limit global warming to 2°C (3.6°F) above preindustrial levels—a goal leaders previously agreed would help avoid the most dangerous consequences of climate change, such as melting ice sheets. In April the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that limiting a rise in global temperatures to 2°C would require cutting greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent to 70 percent by 2050.
Still, Ogden says, the types of cuts likely to be proposed will be significant and will go a long way toward reducing the greatest risk. And perhaps most important, he says, because the climate system is a moving target, the new agreement will probably have "built-in periods of review and revisiting."
Future of Cooperation
Another issue likely to be covered in Lima is how long the new agreement should extend. In Copenhagen, Denmark, leaders had discussed a treaty that would remain in effect until 2020. But Ogden would like to see something that lasts longer and has more flexibility to respond to change.
Waskow adds that he hopes to see some consideration of the larger question of eventually transitioning away from fossil fuels entirely, perhaps by the end of the century. He says concrete commitments to renewable energy are needed.
A major topic will also be how countries track and report their actions. Transparency and accountability will be key to trust and success, says Ogden.
Developing countries are also likely to push for more discussion of how the world is going to adapt to the already evident impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels, along with more intense droughts, floods, and heat waves.
Also under discussion will be how to coordinate the work of non-national actors such as cities, states, and corporations, many of which have been at the forefront of reducing emissions—from New York to California to Walmart.
"It's not clear if negotiators will be able to connect all these efforts up directly, but they are clearly related," says Waskow. "So it's a matter of making sure you have all your horses pointed in the same direction."
Waskow likens such international meetings to a five-ring circus. "There is the ring in the center, which is the main negotiation between states," he says. "Then there are side rings for various nonstate actors, which give them a chance to profile their work and galvanize energy."
Expect new announcements from cities, companies, and nonprofits, he says, adding: "The Lima meeting is very much a stepping-stone on the way to an outcome in December 2015."
Robert Kunzig contributed reporting to this story.
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Green Socialists’ Top Five Wish List Items For Obama’s Dangerous Last Two Years

Green Socialists’ Top Five Wish List Items For Obama’s Dangerous Last Two Years

Using the environment as an excuse, Obama and the green socialists seem determined to take America back to the 1700’s in terms of our energy capacity and economic vitality.
While professing that the most critical issue facing the United States is the fairy tale of climate change, John Kerry, Hussein Obama and company have been globetrotting, working to install the United Nations as America’s ruler and donate the contents of our national treasury to the “more deserving, underprivileged” nations of the world.
Obama just completed his successful one-sided deal, a success from the Chinese point of view, in which he exchanged real economic concessions for Chinese support and participation in the deception. He also made his case at the G20 in advance of the true sellout scheduled for Paris next year. All developing nations have to do to qualify for American taxpayer dollars is to agree that the hoax is real. Obama will then provide them with mountains of foreign aid in order to help them “deal with” the supposed dire impact.
EPA Chief Gina McCarthy just announced new, draconian restrictions on ozone, a plan which has been estimated to cost up to $270 billion and would likely be the death of American industry.
Turning the population of America into bark-gnawing herbivores is not enough; for the green Nazis there is no such thing as enough. They have their eyes on five other goals that they expect their puppet in the White House to mandate to them over the course of the last two years of this national nightmare.
Those agenda items include:
  1. Defend and protect climate rule – Restrictions on what eco-terrorists like to incorrectly refer to as “carbon pollution,” the existence of life-giving Co2 have not yet been finalized. These restrictions would be a major step in the war on coal and would significantly reduce America’s ability to generate sufficient amounts of relatively low cost energy.
The associate director of government affairs for the green fascist lobby group the “Natural Resources Defense Council,” Franz Matzner, cites the Co2 and ozone restrictions as top priority items, saying,” We want to ensure that Sen. [Mitch] McConnell’s (R-Ky.) big polluter agenda doesn’t happen. We want to make sure that the ‘president’ is able to deliver the Clean Power Plan (or carbon rule) on time and to make it as strong [destructive] as possible.”
  1. Reject Keystone XL – Jamie Henn, the co-founder and communications director of the climate extremist group recognizes the employment and energy opportunities that go along with approval of the Keystone Canada to Texas oil pipeline. Oil produces actual energy at a cheap price that competes with expensive and undependable windmills and solar. Naturally a benefit such as that is high on the target list of energy independence foes such as Obama and the green leftists.
Henn said, “The ‘president’ will do himself a favor by taking a few more bold steps like rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.”
  1. An end to drilling – Lease approvals for the period from 2017 thru 2022 are currently under consideration for off-shore drilling. Both the Atlantic and Arctic are said to be being given serious consideration for development by the Department of Interior.
  1. Regulate methane emissions – The newest gas in the environmentalist hot seat is methane, particularly releases as a byproduct of drilling for oil and gas. The same climate change argument that has been relatively successful in the vilification of coal and Co2 is now being applied to methane.
  1. Be a ‘real player’ in the Paris talks – There’s nothing Obama likes better or needs more than the adoration of his weak-minded fans. Recognizing his vanity, the green fascists are urging Obama to be assertive at the upcoming UN expansion summit in Paris. With the UN acting as a force multiplier, the job of sending America back to the stone ages and preserving our resources for the personal enrichment of the elites will be much easier.
The UN climate change convention in Paris will gather 180 nations with the stated objective of signing a global accord on emissions which will be enforced by our new international masters, the United Nations.
Although the regime has repeated the lie often enough that it is likely becoming believed as truth by a sufficient number of the stupid people, they hadn’t counted on the smart people regaining control of the Senate. They now have to argue their nonsense against thinking, rational, objective people who already know their positions are flawed, deliberately so.
This top five list serves as a good starting point for Republicans as well from the opposite perspective; to defeat the green fascist agenda.
Rick Wells is a conservative writer who recognizes that our nation, our Constitution and our traditions are under a full scale assault from multiple threats. Please “Like” him on Facebook, “Follow” him on Twitter or visit