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Obama Wants $500M For Syrian Rebels

Via BBC:

President Barack Obama has asked the US Congress to approve $500m (£294m) to train and equip what he described as “moderate” Syrian opposition forces.

The funds would help Syrians defend against forces aligned with President Bashar al-Assad, the White House said.

The aid would also counter Islamist militants such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis), it added.

Isis’s advance in neighbouring Iraq has led some in Congress to press Mr Obama to take action.

Tens of thousands of people have died and millions more have been displaced in three years of civil war in Syria, as rebels fight troops loyal to Mr Assad. . .

Or they could use the money to buy the IRS an email system. - Greg Pollowitz

Kim Jong Un Threatens War Over Seth Rogen, James Franco Film

Via AP:

orth Korea is warning that the release of a new American comedy about a plot to assassinate leader Kim Jong Un would be an “act of war.”

If the U.S. government doesn’t block the movie’s release, it will face “stern” and “merciless” retaliation, an unidentified spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in state media Wednesday.

He didn’t mention the movie by name but was clearly referring to “The Interview,” which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as a producer and talk-show host who land an exclusive interview with the North Korean dictator and are then asked by the CIA to assassinate him.

The “reckless U.S. provocative insanity” of mobilizing a “gangster filmmaker” to challenge the North’s leadership is triggering “a gust of hatred and rage” among North Korean people and soldiers, the spokesman said, in typically heated propaganda language. . .

What a lunatic. - Greg Pollowitz
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Katy Perry Wants to Write Hillary’s Campaign Theme Song

Via Twitter:
Maybe Hillary means how Bill held her back? An excerpt from the lyrics of "Roar": "You held me down, but I got up (HEY!), Already brushing off the dust, You hear my voice, you hear that sound, Like thunder gonna shake the ground, You held me down, but I got up (HEY!), Get ready 'cause I’ve had enough, I see it all, I see it now." - Greg Pollowitz

Florida Teen Kills Grandmother at Nudist Colony

Via AP:

A teenager killed his grandmother in a bloody struggle inside her home at a nudist community and then drove around with her body in a minivan for nearly five hours, authorities said.

Brandon Machetto, 18, had been living with his grandmother, 74-year-old Sylvia Schmitt, for the past several weeks and they apparently fought frequently, said Pasco County sheriff’s spokeswoman Melanie Snow.

A neighbor called authorities after seeing Machetto drag a wrapped bag with feet dangling out into his grandmother’s minivan early Monday, police said.

Machetto drove around with his grandmother’s body in the back and when deputies tried to pull him over, he refused, police said. He eventually drove back to the Paradise Lakes community and was arrested.

Machetto was charged with first-degree murder and is being held in jail without bond. It’s unclear if he has an attorney. . .

The new normal in Florida. - Greg Pollowitz

Queen Elizabeth II Visits Westeros

Via People:

For Queen Elizabeth II, one throne is enough. 

The United Kingdom’s 88-year-old monarch toured the Belfast sets of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones and met many of its stars Tuesday beside the show’s sword-covered seat of power, the Iron Throne. 

Unlike many visitors to Belfast’s Titanic Studios, the monarch declined to try out the throne created for the ruler of the mythical Seven Kingdoms. Instead, she received a miniature model as a gift.

Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss escorted the monarch through the show’s armory, costume design and storage, and sprawling sets used to shoot the program’s interior scenes and perilous ice-cliff ascents – all part of the biggest TV production ever mounted in Europe. . .

Cersei is a punk. - Greg Pollowitz

Tags: Game of Thrones

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John Kerry: ‘Nobody’ Expeted Mosul to Fall

Via Fox News:

Secretary of State John Kerry, in an interview with Fox News, claimed “nobody expected” Iraqi security forces to be decisively driven out by Sunni militants, as they were earlier this month in Mosul — despite reports that Kurdish officials warned Washington and London well in advance about this threat. 

Kerry spoke with Fox News on Tuesday in the middle of a multi-country swing through the Middle East and Europe as he tries to calm the sectarian crisis in Iraq. 

Pressed on whether the takeover of Mosul and other northern cities and towns by Sunni militants marks an intelligence failure, Kerry said nobody could have predicted Iraqi security forces would have deserted. 

“We don’t have people embedded in those units, and so obviously nobody knew that. I think everybody in Iraq was surprised. People were surprised everywhere,” he said. . .

By "nobody" he means everybody but the United States maybe. - Greg Pollowitz

Tags: ISIS , Obama , Iraq

Sudan Re-Arrests Christian Mother at the Airport

Via Telegraph U.K.:

Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman released from prison on Monday after worldwide protests at her death sentence for apostasy, has been arrested at Khartoum airport – after less than 24 hours of freedom.

The 27-year-old was arrested along with her American husband, Daniel Wani, and their two children, Martin, almost two, and Maya, two weeks old.

Their lawyer, Elshareef Ali Mohammed, was with them at the time, and said they were given no reason for their detention. The arrest comes just hours after photos emerged of Ms Ibrahim smiling as she was reunited with her family.

A human rights group that has been working with Ms Ibrahim’s lawyers said the family had been detained by National Security officials, apparently in relation to their travel plans.

“They are being held at the airport by National Security officials over documentation issues and the US Embassy is trying to work it out,” Tina Ramirez, director of Hardwired, told The Telegraph. . .

-

Boko Haram Kidnapped 60 Women, 30 Boys

Via Los Angeles Times:

At least 91 people – more than 60 women and girls, and 31 schoolboys – were abducted last week by suspected Boko Haram militants, two months after the terror group kidnapped more than 300 schoolgirls in northeastern Nigeria, according to witnesses.

Local media reported about 60 people were abducted in attacks on villages south of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, between Thursday and Saturday.

The attack comes as more than 270 schoolgirls are still being held by Boko Haram more than two months after their abductions from a school in Chibok town in April. Several dozen of the girls managed to escape.

About 30 people were reported to have been killed by the extremists in the latest attack. Elderly residents fled their homes, trekking 15 miles to seek help.

Among those abducted by gunmen were women with young children and babies – a common occurrence in Borno state since last year, Nigeria’s Premium Times reported. . .

Maybe we need some more hashtags? - Greg Pollowitz

The Secret to ISIS Success: Bureaucracy and Middle-Managers

Via McClatchy DC:

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria sprang from a largely self-funded, corporation-style prototype whose resilience to counterterrorism operations was proven by the time Abu Bakr al Baghdadi assumed command in 2010.

The militant group Baghdadi inherited had in place a sophisticated bureaucracy that was almost obsessive about record-keeping. Its middle-managers detailed, for example, the number of wives and children each fighter had, to gauge compensation rates upon death or capture, and listed expenditures in neat Excel spreadsheets that noted payments to an “assassination platoon” and “Al Mustafa Explosives Company.” Income from the Sunni Muslim militants’ looting of Shiite Muslim-owned property was recorded as “spoils.”

By the time Baghdadi took charge, the group even had begun siphoning a share of Iraq’s oil wealth, opening gas stations in the north, smuggling oil and extorting money from industry contractors _ enterprises that Baghdadi would build on and replicate as he expanded operations across the border into Syria, ultimately breaking from his al Qaida roots and declaring himself emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

 

This is bad news for President Obama and anyone else who thinks a unified Iraq is still a possibility. There are functioning governments in Iraq, but they are in Kuridstan and now Sunnistan. Maliki and the Shiites are the ones who need to catch up. -

President Obama’s Disregard for the Law on Display at Chipotle

Via Pete Souza:
This is also the reason why they don't have salad bars at elementary schools. - Greg Pollowitz

Science: ‘Trophy Wives’ Are a Myth

Via Fox News:

Here’s some bad news for men with highly successful careers and fat wallets: You probably will not end up with a “trophy wife,” a new study suggests.

When researchers compared qualities such as level of attractiveness and socioeconomic status within couples, they found almost no evidence of the trophy wife stereotype, which suggests attractive, young women tend to marry rich and successful men.

Instead, couples are far more likely to end up together because they share similar traits. For example, attractive, wealthy or highly educated people are more likely to choose a partner with the same qualities. The same is true for less attractive, low-earning or less educated people. Trophy wife marriages still happen, but not nearly as often as expected, the study revealed. . .

It's science so it must be true. - Greg Pollowitz

Great News: Sudan Frees Christian Woman Sentenced to Death

Via Fox News:

Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman who gave birth in a Khartoum prison after being sentenced to death in May for allegedly converting from Islam to Christianity, has been freed, FoxNews.com has confirmed.

Ibrahim, 27, refused to renounce her Christian faith in court in May, prompting a judge to sentence her to hang for apostasy. The case became an international cause, with several U.S. lawmakers and the State Department blasting the decision as barbaric. Sudan’s national news service SUNA said the Court of Cassation in Khartoum on Monday canceled the death sentence after defense lawyers presented their case, and that the court ordered her release.

“We have confirmed through her attorney that she has been released from prison today,” Tina Ramirez, executive director for the Christian advocacy group Hardwired, told FoxNews.com. Hardwired has worked closely with Ibrahim’s family and lawyer. . .

We're applauding Sudan for doing what they should have done all along, however. I wonder how many other cases there are like this that never had the benefit of the media spotlight? - Greg Pollowitz

Poland’s Foreign Minister: The Polish-US alliance Isn’t Worth Anything

Via Guardian:

A Polish news magazine said on Sunday it had obtained a secret recording of Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, in contention for a senior European Union job, saying that Poland’s relationship with the United States was worthless.

The Wprost news magazine said the recording was of a private conversation earlier this year between Sikorski and Jacek Rostowski, a member of parliament with the ruling Civic Platform who until last year was finance minister.

The magazine did not say who recorded the conversation, or how it obtained the recording.

Aides to Sikorski and Rostowski said they had no immediate comment. A government spokeswoman said it was hard to form a view based on a few excerpts of a conversation, but there might be a comment later.

According to a transcript of excerpts of the conversation that was published by Wprost on its Internet site, Sikorski told Rostowski: “You know that the Polish-US alliance isn’t worth anything.”

“It is downright harmful, because it creates a false sense of security … Complete bullshit. We’ll get in conflict with the Germans, Russians and we’ll think that everything is super, because we gave the Americans a blow job. Losers. Complete losers.”. . .

Yes, but how do you "really" feel? - Greg Pollowitz

Palestinians Accuse Abbas of Collaborating with Israel

Via Jerusalem Post:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ condemnation of the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in Judea and Samaria and his subsequent pledge to assist Israel in locating them has made him the object of scorn from Palestinians on social media who have accused him of “collaborating” with the sworn enemy, Israel.

Palestinians posted cartoons on Facebook and Twitter showing depicting Abbas as a “puppy” of Israel. Another cartoon that is making the rounds online shows Abbas dressed as a settler, with a Jewish skullcap and a rifle. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

State Dept.: ISIS Forces Seize ‘Unusable’ Chemical Weapons

Via Washington Post:

Islamist insurgents continued to bear down on Iraqi forces Friday, seizing a former chemical weapons facility and battling for control of the country’s largest oil refinery, as the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority called for the formation of a new “effective” government with broad support.

The al-Qaeda-inspired militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who launched a lightning offensive across northern Iraq last week, seized the former chemical weapons complex, which contains stockpiles of chemical munitions that are not considered usable, a State Department spokeswoman said. The destroyed facility was once part of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein’s arsenal. [. . .]

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that ISIS, a radical Sunni Muslim group formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, “has occupied the Al Muthanna complex,” a former chemical weapons facility about 36 miles northwest of Baghdad.

“We remain concerned about the seizure of any military site” by the group, she said in a statement. “We do not believe that the complex contains CW [chemical weapons] materials of military value and it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to safely move the materials.”

According to the CIA, the facility was bombed extensively during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, ending its ability to produce chemical weapons. U.N. weapons inspectors subsequently destroyed equipment and stockpiles there, most of the complex was razed by the Iraqis, and the remainder was extensively looted, the agency said in a 2007 report.

However, the CIA report said: “Stockpiles of chemical munitions are still stored there. The most dangerous ones have been declared to the UN and are sealed in bunkers. Although declared, the bunkers contents have yet to be confirmed. These areas of the compound pose a hazard to civilians and potential blackmarketers.” Among the chemical agents once produced at the Muthanna complex were mustard gas, sarin and VX, it said.

What, exactly, makes them "unusable?" I bet the ISIS figures out a way to give them new life. - Greg Pollowitz

Genius: Miami Food Truck Invents a Taco Shell Made of Bacon

Via BC Tacos:
This could be the best idea ever. I wonder if there's a mold available to make these at home? - Greg Pollowitz

Unexpected: Obamacare Premiums Set To Rise in 2015

Via Kaiser Health News:

The Wall Street Journal notes that, as rates for the upcoming season shake out, consumers will make choices between paying higher premiums to stay on their current plans or switching coverage to save cash. Meanwhile, news outlets detail recent reports that analyze these costs, as well as the impact of federal subsidies, and offer regional takes on the rates.

The Wall Street Journal: Premiums Rise At Big Insurers, Fall At Small Rivals Under Health Law
Hundreds of thousands of consumers nationwide who bought insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act will face a choice this fall: swallow higher premiums to stay in their plan, or save money by switching. That is the picture emerging from proposed 2015 insurance rates in the 10 states that have completed their filings, which stretch from Rhode Island to Washington state. In all but one of them, the largest health insurer in the state is proposing to increase premiums between 8.5% and 22.8% for next year, according to a Wall Street Journal review of the filings. That percentage represents the average rate increases for all individual health plans offered by that carrier (Radnofsky, 6/18).

CQ Healthbeat: Premium Increases Forecast in 2015 for Health Law Exchange Plans
Monthly premiums for insurance in the new health law marketplaces will rise in eight of nine states studied in a new analysis released Wednesday by the Avalere Health consulting firm. Oregon was the only state to see a decrease. Average prices there will fall by 1.4 percent, or $3 per month. Among the nine states analyzed, Oregon has the lowest premium filed at $197 per month. Oregon’s average costs are lower, too: The average premium for popular silver-tier plans in 2015 will be $272 per month, compared to $466 per month in Vermont, which has the highest average costs (Adams, 6/19). . .

Who could have predicted this? - Greg Pollowitz

Must See: Bergdahl’s Platoon-Mate Cody Full vs. Rep. Sherman (D, CA-30)

Via The Right Scoop:

One thing to note is the poor attendance in the hearing room from both parties. Shameful. 

- Greg Pollowitz

Report: ISIS Trying To Win the Hearts and Minds (of Sunnis) in Mosul

Via Al Bawaba:

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is seeking to win over the residents of Iraq’s second city, Mosul, by offering them greater security and cheap power and water.

While many Iraqi families initially fled after the militant group and its allies took the city, reports from the ground indicate that some are returning as Mosul returns to a state of relative calm in comparison to the situation further south, where fears of a sectarian civil war continue to escalate.

ISIS has sought to win over Mosul residents by putting forward a number of popular initiatives, including offering cheap gas and water. The extremist movement’s “liberation” of prisons in areas it has occupied has also proved popular with local residents who believe many of the Sunni prisoners freed were unfairly detained.

ISIS fighters also removed unpopular concrete security barricades that had become a feature of Mosul’s roads in recent years and which had significantly lengthened commutes. Despite these populist measures, local and international media are reporting that it is only Sunni Arab residents who are returning to the city. . .

Do Shiites get cheap water and gas too or just a beheading? - Greg Pollowitz

Iraqi Helicopter Gunships Fail To Stop ISIS

Via New York Times:

Iraq’s biggest oil refinery fell to Islamic extremists Wednesday morning, after army helicopter gunships failed to beat back an attack on the facility 130 miles north of Baghdad, according to refinery workers, eyewitnesses and an Iraqi army officer who fled the scene.

The facility at Baiji is the first operating refinery to fall to the fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, who have swept through much of northern Iraq and had surrounded the refinery in Baiji for the past week, battling with a battalion of the Iraqi Army that had been backed up by air support. The capture of the refinery would provide a potentially rich source of income for ISIS, which already profits from its control of oil resources in eastern Syria.

An Iraqi military spokesman, Gen. Qassim Atta, flatly denied that the Baiji refinery had fallen in a televised statement that he made hours after ISIS fighters had apparently taken over the refinery.

“Baiji is now under control of our security forces, completely,” General Atta said, appearing on Iraqiya, the state television channel.

Reports from Baiji sharply contradicted that assessment. A refinery worker who gave only his first name, Mohammad, reached by telephone, said that the refinery had been attacked at 4 a.m. and that workers had taken refuge in underground bunkers. In the course of the fighting, 17 gas storage tanks were set ablaze, although it was not clear by which side. After taking heavy losses, the troops guarding the facility surrendered and at least 70 were taken prisoner, he said.

Refinery workers were sent home unharmed by the extremists, Mohammad said. . .

If American-trained Iraqi air assets can't stop the ISIS, then American drones won't either. - Greg Pollowitz

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