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Sec. Kerry: If the Taliban 5 Return to the Battlefield, We Can Kill Them with Drones

Via The Guardian:

Secretary of state John Kerry has indicated that five Guantánamo Bay detainees released in exchange for an American soldier could be killed by drone strike if they return to the battlefield in Afghanistan.

Kerry’s implied threat to the five Taliban fighters came as Republicans ramped-up their criticism of the deal to release Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a prisoner of the Taliban for five years until he was freed last week.

The 28-year-old soldier has reportedly told medical staff at a base in Germany he was tortured and beaten by his captors, and once locked in a metal cage in total darkness as punishment for an attempted escape.

On Sunday, it emerged that the FBI is investigating death threats against Bergdahl’s parents, who have not reacted publicly to the intense political debate raging over the wisdom of trading five Guantánamo detainees for their son.

Republicans highlight the possibility that the Taliban fighters, some of whom were senior commanders, are likely to return to the Afghan conflict after the year they are compelled to stay in Qatar, which brokered the prisoner swap and has promised to monitor the five men. . .

We can't waterboard a terrorist, but we can set them free and kill them with missiles whenever we want, regardless of the collateral damage? We really don't make any sense. - Greg Pollowitz

Karachi Airport Under Attack

Via the BBC:

Heavily armed gunmen have attacked Karachi’s international airport, killing at least five people and hurling grenades, reports say.

Pakistani media reported between four and 10 gunmen had attacked Jinnah International Airport’s old terminal.

Security personnel have surrounded the airport and sealed off roads, and army commandos have been called in.

All operations at the terminal have been suspended and all flights to the airport are being diverted.

Staff are being evacuated.

Billowing smoke

The dead were said to be security guards from the Airport Security Force (ASF) and airline workers.

A doctor at Jinnah Hospital told Associated Press five bodies had been brought there, as well as one wounded person. . .

- Greg Pollowitz
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Report: Bergdahl Told Medical Staff ‘Don’t Call Me’ Sergeant; ‘I Didn’t Earn It’

Via the NYT:

. . .This week, the doctors have been treating Sergeant Bergdahl for possible abuse at the hands of his captors, first the Taliban and later the Haqqani network, a Taliban-aligned militant group that held him at one or more locations in the mountainous tribal areas of neighboring Pakistan, American intelligence officials have said.

“He’s said that they kept him in a shark cage in total darkness for weeks, possibly months,” said one American official. CNN reported Friday that Sergeant Bergdahl said he was held in a metal box or cage, but the officials on Saturday offered new details. He was kept there apparently as punishment for one or possibly two attempted escapes, as first reported by the Daily Beast website last week and confirmed by an American official.

“It’s safe to assume” that Sergeant Bergdahl was “held in harsh conditions,” a senior Defense Department official said Saturday. “These are Taliban, not wet nurses.” Details of other mistreatment were not released.

When the medical specialists deem Sergeant Bergdahl ready, his next step will be longer-term therapy and counseling at a military medical center in San Antonio before a carefully managed homecoming in Hailey, Idaho. At some point, he will speak by phone with his family, and be reunited with them.

Officials would not disclose if Sergeant Bergdahl has made any special requests. One thing, however, that does rub him wrong is when hospital staff call him “sergeant,” the result of two automatic promotions while a captive.

“He says, ‘Don’t call me that,’ ” said one American official. “ ‘I didn’t go before the boards. I didn’t earn it.’ ”

- Greg Pollowitz

Koch Brothers Donate $25M to New Tea Party Group the United Negro College Fund

Via the Washington Post:

The billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, known best for shepherding big money to conservative causes and candidates, have given a $25 million grant to the United Negro College Fund, the organization announced Friday.

The money will come from Koch Industries Inc. and the Charles Koch Foundation, which are headed by the brothers. Most of the money ($18.5 million) will go toward a scholarship program. The other $6.5 million is provided for general support to historically black colleges and universities and the UNCF, with $4 million set aside for loan assistance.

The UNCF is the nation’s largest minority education group.

Such a highly-publicized gift is unusual for Charles Koch. His foundation routinely gives away lots of money, but typically with little fanfare.

“Increasing well-being by helping people improve their lives has long been our focus,” Charles Koch said in a statement. . .

Over to you Senator Reid. - Greg Pollowitz

Science: Filthy Babies Are Healthy Babies

Via NBC News:

Want a healthy baby? You may want to roll her around in dirt.

For decades, parents have shielded infants from bacteria and other possible triggers for illness, allergies and asthma.

But a surprising new study suggests that exposure to cat dander, a wide variety of household bacteria — and even rodent and roach allergens — may help protect infants against future allergies and wheezing.

Interestingly, contact with bacteria and dander after age 1 was not protective — it actually increased the risk.

“It was the opposite of what we expected,” said Dr. Robert Wood, chief of the division of allergy and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and co-author of the study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. “We’re not promoting bringing rodents and cockroaches into the home, but this data does suggest that being too clean may not be good.”

The new findings may help explain some contradictions in research on the so-called hygiene hypothesis, which suggested that kids growing up in a super clean environment were more likely to develop allergies.

“This doesn’t completely resolve the controversy, but it does add a big piece of the puzzle,” said Dr. Jonathan Spergel, a professor of pediatrics and chief of allergy at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. . .

The hygiene hypothesis was developed after researchers noticed that farm kids were less likely to have allergies. Dirty environments, experts suggested, might be protective. The hypothesis seemed to explain why developed countries had skyrocketing rates of allergies and asthma. . .

I believe it. - Greg Pollowitz
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2016: A Hillary Clinton - Stanley McChrystal Ticket?

Via Yahoo! News:

Retired General Stanley McChrystal, in an exclusive interview with Yahoo News, reflected in unusually personal terms on the controversy that cost him his command of the Afghan war and praised Hillary Clinton as “great to work with.”

Would Clinton make a good president? “I know she made a good secretary of state,” he replied.

“I found her great to work with, and so I have huge regard for her,” the former general said during a wide-ranging conversation in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. “I don’t handicap the presidential race, but I certainly enjoyed working with her.”

McChrystal also weighed in on President Obama’s decision to win Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom by exchanging him for five Taliban detainees, his plan for winding down the war in Afghanistan, and the widespread failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The former general sat down with Yahoo News on the sidelines of the Franklin Project’s summit on national service at Gettysburg, where the tide of the Civil War turned in the Union’s favor after three bloody days of fighting in 1863. . .

I kid, I kid. . . I think. -

NBC Reports Bergdahl Was ‘Cursing His Countrymen’ When Captured

Via NBC News:

The Taliban found Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl walking alone, acting abnormally and cursing his countrymen before they captured him in Afghanistan in 2009, two men who were Taliban commanders at the time told NBC News on Thursday.

They said that Afghan locals first informed fighters about the soldier, and then the fighters rushed to capture him.

“Our people at the time couldn’t understand his language, but it was after he was shifted to a safe location, he said he wasn’t happy with his countrymen, but he didn’t intend to convert to Islam or join mujahideen (holy warriors),” one of the commanders said.

The commanders said that Taliban officers first thought it was a trick — perhaps an American soldier sent out alone to spy on the enemy.

“As we never saw their soldier patrolling alone … we would ask him how he managed to walk out of his base,” one of the commanders said. “He would tell us that it was personal issue.”. . .

The Taliban are going to need a daily press briefing if this keeps up. - Greg Pollowitz

Taliban Claim U.S. Drone Strikes Almost Killed Bergdahl ‘Several’ Times

Via the WSJ:

The Taliban warned the U.S. during prisoner-exchange negotiations that led to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl that U.S. drone strikes had come close on several occasions to killing the soldier while he was in captivity, U.S. officials said.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe Sgt. Bergdahl was being held at the time in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where the Central Intelligence Agency carried out an estimated 27 drone strikes in 2013, according to the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank that tracks the drone program. The CIA hasn’t conducted any drone strikes in the tribal areas since Dec. 25, the foundation said.

American officials weren’t sure what to make of the Taliban’s assertions, which the group relayed to Qatari mediators during the indirect negotiations. Those negotiations picked up pace in January after the Taliban provided the U.S. with a so-called “proof of life” video showing that Sgt. Bergdahl was still alive but in deteriorating health. . .

We really are a confusing people at times. - Greg Pollowitz

Boko Haram Attacks Continue in Nigeria

Via BBC Africa:

Suspected Boko Haram militants have killed dozens of villagers in fresh attacks in Borno state in north-eastern Nigeria, the BBC has learnt.

In one attack, gunmen disguised as soldiers fired on a crowd in a church compound, local MP Peter Biye said.

He said he had warned the army that the area was at risk after troops stationed nearby were withdrawn three months ago.

The latest attacks come as the army denied that several generals had been found guilty of aiding the militants.

Nigerian media reported on Tuesday that 10 generals and five other senior military officers had been tried before a court martial for supplying arms and information to the Islamist militant group.

However, a military spokesman called the reports “falsehoods”.

This contradicted Interior Minister Abba Moro who in a BBC interview on Tuesday said it was “good news” that the army had identified soldiers who were undermining the fight against the insurgents, and that it sent a strong message to other serving officers. . .

I guess the hashtag didn't work. Plan B is? - Greg Pollowitz

George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice Series Might Be 8, Not 7 Books

Via New York Magazine:

Earlier this week, George R.R. Martin’s editor Anne Groell admitted that she thought Martin’sA Song of Ice and Fire series might run for eight books instead of the currently contracted seven. And it looks like Martin kind of agrees with the sentiment: He’s trying to finish in seven books, but, well … famous last words, etc., etc. “My plan is to finish in seven,” Martin tells EW, “but my original plan was to finish in three.” And we all know how that worked out. . .

I don't think he'll ever finish. -

Moroccan Man Accidentally Buried His Blind Date Alive

Via Daily Mail:

A man was in custody in Morocco today after burying alive a new girlfriend he met online and causing her death.

In a chilling example of the dangers of web dating, 25-year-old French woman Mina El Houari travelled to the North African country to see her new romance.

The man, who has not been named, had sent her his picture and the pair had exchanged numerous messages via email and social media.

But when Miss El Houari, who came from Cadenet, in south-east France, got to his home in the city of Fez she fell seriously ill.

Not knowing she was a diabetic, the man said he ‘watched her fall unconscious’ and ‘thinking she was dead’ buried her.

Put it there, bear! Long-lost cubs greet each other with a handshake as they spot each other afar
Hang on tight kid! Courteous Iranian bikers lend their one helmet to the goat passenger

In fact she was still conscious, according to police reports, but suffocated and died once covered in mounds of earth. . .

 

I don't buy his story. - Greg Pollowitz

Team Obama Apologizes For Not Alerting Senate Oversight Committee; Calls it an ‘Oversight’

Via The Hill :

The White House has apologized to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for failing to alert her in advance of a decision to release Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay.

Feinstein told reporters that she received a call from Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken on Monday evening apologizing for what the administration is calling an “oversight.”

“I had a call from the White House last night, from Tony Blinken, apologizing for it,” she said.

“He apologized and said it was an oversight,” she added.

Feinstein also said leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence panels were almost unanimously against a prisoner trade when it came up in 2011.

She said the chairmen and ranking Republicans of the “connected committees” spent a lot of time in 2011 reviewing the possibility of a prisoner swap and came out firmly opposed to releasing senior militants from the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

“There were very strong views and they were virtually unanimous against the trade,” she said.

“I certainly want to know more about whether this man was a deserter,” she said of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released to American special forces in return for the freedom of five senior Taliban commanders. . .

How many different stories are they going to give? - Greg Pollowitz

Obama Defends Prisoner Swap; Says Congress Was ‘Consulted’

Via Washington Post:

President Obama on Tuesday strongly defended his administration’s decision to return five detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to the Taliban in exchange for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after five years of captivity, though he acknowledged that some of the released detainees could once again try to harm the United States.

“We have consulted with Congress for quite some time about the possibility that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange in order to recover Bergdahl,” Obama said on a trip to Poland to discuss Eastern European security. “We saw an opportunity, and we were concerned about Bergdahl’s health. We had the cooperation of the Qataris to execute an exchange and we seized that opportunity.” He added that “the process was truncated because we wanted to make sure we would not miss that window.”

Amid mounting congressional criticism about the operation, Obama said both the United States and authorities in the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, who helped organize the trade, would closely monitor the released Guantanamo detainees.

“Is there the possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely,” Obama said in a news conference with Poland’s president. “There’s a certain recidivism rate that takes place.”

But Obama added that he would not have authorized the trade if he “thought it was contrary to U.S. national security.”. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Nigerian Government Bans #BringBackOurGirls Support Rallies

Via BBC:

Nigerian police have banned public protests in the capital, Abuja, for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls seized by Islamist militants in April.

Abuja police commissioner Joseph Mbu said the rallies were “now posing a serious security threat”.

Nigeria has seen almost daily rallies calling for the government to take firmer action to rescue the girls.

Boko Haram militants snatched the girls from the remote Chibok village near the Cameroon border on 14 April.

The ban comes after scuffles broke out last week between the demonstrators organised under the #BringBackOurGirls and a new government-sponsored group called #ReleaseOurGirls.

In a statement, Mr Mbu said that public protests had “degenerated” and were now a security threat.

He was also quoted by the state-run Agency of Nigeria as saying that “dangerous elements” could join the demonstrations.

Nigeria’s government has been facing growing pressure both at home and abroad to do more to tackle the group and bring about the girls’ release. . .

And the incompotent government of Nigeria strikes again. - Greg Pollowitz

Parents of Officer Killed While Searching for Bergdahl Say They Were Lied To

Via Daily Mail:

The furious parents of an officer who they claim was killed while searching for freed Taliban prisoner Bowe Bergdahl today said that they have been lied to as part of a ‘cover up just like Benghazi’.

The mother and father of Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews are angry that they have been told different stories about how their son died.

First his commanders said that their son was blown up while hunting a Taliban commander – but only now that Bergdahl has been freed after five years in captivity are they learning the truth. . .

The Pentagon just needs to come clean. - Greg Pollowitz

#YesAllChicagoans: 7 Dead, 23 Others Wounded in Weekend Shootings

Via Sun-Times:

Seven people were killed and at least 23 others have been wounded in separate shootings across the city since Friday evening, including eight shot within the first 30 minutes of June. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

GOP Candidate Changes Name to ‘Cesar Chavez’; Now Running as a Dem

Via Fusion:

A twice-failed Arizona Republican political candidate is going to extreme lengths to get elected this year; he legally changed his name to share one with famed Hispanic labor leader Cesar Chavez.

The office-seeker, Scott Fistler, lost a write-in bid against Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.) in 2012. Victory escaped him last year too in a race for a Phoenix city council seat now occupied by Pastor’s daughter, Laura. Fistler is gunning for the elder Pastor’s seat yet again, but under his new name. The Arizona Capitol Times reported Monday that Fistler successfully petitioned a state court last November to change his name, and he switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

Pastor is retiring from his seat in Arizona’s 7th congressional district, where more than six in ten residents are Hispanic, according to census data. The district is deep blue, and the winner of the Democratic primary is expected to win the general election. . .

Note: Real Cesar Chavez pictured above. -

DoD Source: Bergdahl May Have Collaborated with the Enemy

Via Fox News:

A senior official confirms to Fox News that the conduct of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — both in his final stretch of active duty in Afghanistan and then, too, during his time when he lived among the Taliban — has been thoroughly investigated by the U.S. intelligence community and is the subject of “a major classified file.”

In conveying as much, the Defense Department source confirmed to Fox News that many within the intelligence community harbor serious outstanding concerns not only that Bergdahl may have been a deserter but that he may have been an active collaborator with the enemy.

The Pentagon official added pointedly that no relevant congressional committee has sought access to the classified file, but that if such a request were made, key committee chairs would, under previous precedent, likely be granted access to it. Separately, the Pentagon confirmed Monday that it is looking into claims Americans died during the search for Bergdahl. 

The administration announced over the weekend that Bergdahl’s release had been secured, in exchange for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. President Obama was joined by the soldier’s parents in making a public statement on the release Saturday evening from the Rose Garden. 

Sources told Fox News that many officials in the Executive Branch are “quite baffled” by the White House’s decision to allow the president to stand alongside Bergdahl’s father this past weekend, given the father’s history of controversial statements, emails and online posts. . .

How does the Pentagon now know if soldiers died searching for him? - Greg Pollowitz

NRA Not Happy with Open Carry Advocates in Texas

Via NRA-ILA:

Good Citizens and Good Neighbors: The Gun Owners’ Role

. . .The second example comes to us from the Lone Star State, which is second to none for its robust gun culture.  We applaud Texans for that, but a small number have recently crossed the line from enthusiasm to downright foolishness.

Now we love AR-15s and AKs as much as anybody, and we know that these sorts of semiautomatic carbines are among the most popular, fastest selling firearms in America today.  Texas, independent-minded and liberty-loving place that it is, doesn’t ban the carrying of loaded long guns in public, nor does it require a permit for this activity.  Yet some so-called firearm advocates seem determined to change this.

Recently, demonstrators have been showing up in various public places, including coffee shops and fast food restaurants, openly toting a variety of tactical long guns. Unlicensed open carry of handguns is legal in about half the U.S. states, and it is relatively common and uncontroversial in some places. 

Yet while unlicensed open carry of long guns is also typically legal in most places, it is a rare sight to see someone sidle up next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 rifle slung across his chest, much less a whole gaggle of folks descending on the same public venue with similar arms.  

Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary.  It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.

As a result of these hijinx, two popular fast food outlets have recently requested patrons to keep guns off the premises (more information can be found here and here).  In other words, the freedom and goodwill these businesses had previously extended to gun owners has been curtailed because of the actions of an attention-hungry few who thought only of themselves and not of those who might be affected by their behavior. To state the obvious, that’s counterproductive for the gun owning community.

More to the point, it’s just not neighborly, which is out of character for the big-hearted residents of Texas. Using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners.  That’s not the Texas way.  And that’s certainly not the NRA way.

In summary, NRA certainly does not support bans on personalized guns or on carrying firearms in public, including in restaurants.  We think people are intelligent enough to resolve these issues in a reasonable way for themselves. But when people act without thinking, or without consideration for others – especially when it comes to firearms – they set the stage for further restrictions on our rights. Firearm owners face enough challenges these days; we don’t need to be victims of friendly fire.

- Greg Pollowitz

The WKRP Moment of the Ukraine Separatist Movement Has Arrived

Via Washington Post:

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has been fought in recent days with bullets, bombs and mortars. But Sunday, the weapons of choice were chocolate, caramel and lemon-lime.

What started as a separatist publicity stunt ended in one angry, gooey mess.

First, the PR stunt: The rebel government staged a rally for children in Donetsk’s Lenin Square to highlight what it claims are indiscriminate Ukrainian army attacks on civilians. Under sunny skies, mothers and fathers flocked to the square, kids in tow, to hear speakers rail against the “bloodthirsty Kiev junta.”

At the end, there was a special surprise: A white van pulled up and militants dressed in green camouflage hopped out. But rather than their usual assault rifles, the fighters were bearing candy. Big brown boxes of candy that they said had been plundered from a local warehouse.

Kids squealed with delight. Parents rushed to claim their share. There was applause as happy children walked off bearing bags of sweets wrapped in blue, yellow and red plastic. It seemed the Donetsk People’s Republic, as the separatist movement here is known, had won a victory in the all-important battle for hearts and minds.

But in Ukraine these days, even candy is political.

Some in the crowd noticed that the sweets were made by Roshen, the company owned by the Ukrainian tycoon known as the Chocolate King, Petro Poroshenko. He became the country’s president-elect last month in an overwhelming vote, but rebel supporters here blame him for the violence that has engulfed the country’s southeast.

The mood turned in a flash from exultant to furious. The carnival became a mob.

“It’s a provocation!” some in the crowd began to yell.

“The candy is poisoned!” screamed others.

“No to blood candy!” they chanted. . .

The turkey drop is next I think. - Greg Pollowitz

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