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Kurds Take Kirkuk; ISIS Advances Toward Baghdad

Via Washington Post:

Iraq was on the brink of disintegration Thursday as al-Qaeda-inspired fighters swept through northern Iraq toward Baghdad and Kurdish soldiers seized the city of Kirkuk without a fight.

Lawmakers gathered at the Iraqi parliament to discuss the declaration of a state of emergency, a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki assured Iraqis that the insurgents’ gains were temporary and would soon be reversed by the Iraqi army.

But after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured fresh territory and set its sights on Baghdad, Iraq seemed to be fast slipping out of government control.

In Washington, President Obama expressed concern about the situation and said Iraq is “going to need more help from us” and from the international community. He said his administration was trying to determine the most effective type of assistance.

“I don’t rule out anything, because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria,” Obama told reporters after a White House meeting with visiting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. . .

Exit question: Will President Obama ask them to give it back? - Greg Pollowitz

Hillary’s Gaffe-of-the-Day: Gay Marriage

Via Real Clear Politics :

After six minutes of questioning on gay marriage, Hillary Clinton gets testy with NPR’s Terry Gross after the “Fresh Air” host asked if the former secretary of State changed her mind on gay marriage or she publicly stated something she had always believed.

GROSS: “So you mention that you believe in state by state for gay marriage. But it’s a Supreme Court too. The Supreme Court struck down part of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented the federal government from recognizing gay marriage. That part is now struck down. And DOMA was actually signed by your husband when he was president. In spite of the fact that he signed it, were you glad at this point that the Supreme Court struck some of it down?”

CLINTON: “Of course. And you know, again, lets…we are living at a time when this extraordinary change is occurring and I’m proud of our country, I’m proud of the people who have been on the front lines of advocacy, but in 1993, that was not the case. And there was a very concerted effort in the Congress to make it even more difficult and greater discrimination and what DOMA did is at least allow the States to act. It wasn’t going to yet be recognized by the federal government but at the state level there was the opportunity. And my husband was the first to say, that you know, the political circumstances, the threats that were trying to be alleviated by the passage of DOMA, thankfully, were no longer so preeminent and we could keep moving forward and that’s what we’re doing.”

GROSS: “So, just to clarify, just one more question on this, would you say your view evolved since the 90s or that the American public evolved allowing you to state your real view.”

CLINTON: “I think I’m an American, I think that we have all evolved, and it’s been one of the fastest, most sweeping transformations that I’m aware of.”

GROSS: “I understand but a lot of people believed in it already back in the nineties. They supported gay marriage.”

CLINTON: “To be fair Terry, not that many. Were there activists who were ahead of their time, well that was every true in every human rights and civil rights movement but the vast majority of Americans, were just waking up to this issue, and beginning to think about it, and grasp it for the first time, and think about their neighbor down the street who deserved to have the same rights as they did, or their son, or their daughter. It has been an extraordinarily fast, by historic terms social, political and legal transformation and we ought to celebrate that instead of plowing old ground when in fact a lot of people, the vast majority of people, have been moving forward. Maybe slowly, maybe tentatively, maybe not as quickly and extensively as many would have hoped but nevertheless, we are at a point now where equality, including marriage equality, in our country is solidly established although there where be places, Texas just to name one, where that is still going to be an ongoing struggle.”

GROSS: “I’m pretty sure you didn’t answer my question about whether you evolved or was the America public the change –”

CLINTON: “Because I said I’m an American so of course we all evolved and I think that’s a fair conclusion –”

GROSS: “So you’re saying your opinion on gay marriage changed”

She's getting into a tiff with NPR? - Greg Pollowitz
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U.S. Caught ‘Off Guard’ by Collapse of Iraqi Security Forces

Via the WSJ:

At a closed-door gathering of Gulf states in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in May, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his Arab counterparts all signaled agreement on one thing for the first time: Islamist forces seizing territory in Syria and Iraq had become a regionwide menace that can’t be ignored.

What they didn’t agree on was what to do about it, U.S. officials said.The fall this week of the Iraqi cities Mosul and Tikrit to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham rebel group shows how the insurgent threat is outpacing the response and posing a challenge to President Barack Obama’s approach of limiting U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts.

The quickly unfolding drama prompted a White House meeting Wednesday of top policy makers and military leaders who were caught off guard by the swift collapse of Iraqi security forces, officials acknowledged.

State Department and Pentagon officials have long warned about ISIS’s desire to create an Islamic state based in the Sunni-dominated parts of Iraq and Syria.

Now, current and former officials say Washington’s options for helping the Iraqi army fight back are limited—both because the threat in Iraq is so entrenched and because the U.S. hasn’t invested in building up moderate allies on the Syrian side of the border. . .

If Iraq isn't ready, what does the admin think is going to happen in Afghanistan? - Greg Pollowitz

UK Announces No Military Involvement in Iraq

Via the BBC:

The UK will not be getting militarily involved in Iraq, despite Islamist militants gaining control of more of the country, William Hague has said.

The Foreign Secretary said the UK was considering sending humanitarian aid from “our very large” budget.

But militarily “it is for the Iraqi leadership primarily to respond”.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg also opposes action, referring to the 2003 war: “I don’t think having made one mistake you repeat it by making a second one.”

Mr Hague told the BBC: “We’re very concerned about the hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced, and with our very large humanitarian budget we may be in a position to assist with that, and we’re looking at that now.

“But we will not be getting involved militarily. We will support the United States in anything that they decide to do, we’re in consultation with them. But I stress again it is for the Iraqi leadership primarily to respond to this.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband said UK military intervention in Iraq was “not on the table” and said he did not think it would be right.

“We have got to give all the non-military support we can to the Iraqi government to help them, but I don’t think there is any question of going back into Iraq militarily,” he told the BBC. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Another Gaffe: No, Hillary, Abe Lincoln Was Never a Senator

Via the Washington Times:

. . .Mrs. Clinton mistakenly suggested Wednesday that Abraham Lincoln was a senator during his earlier political career, an ABC affiliate in Chicago reported.

“I actually write about Rahm [Emanuel] in the book,” she said during an event with Mr. Emanuel to promote her book. “I asked him not to read it before we sat and did our interview. But it was in the very first chapter, the chapter I rightly call ‘Team of Rivals,’ because that’s what it was in the beginning. A senator from Illinois ran against a senator from New York, just as had happened way back with a senator from Illinois named Lincoln and a senator from New York named Seward. And it turned out the same way.”

Abraham Lincoln was never a senator. He lost that election to Stephen A. Douglas after the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858. 

Concussions cause memory loss. . . - Greg Pollowitz
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VA-07: Meet Dave Brat, Ph.D.

Via Dave Brat for Congress:

Dave Brat presents a major problem for liberals who try to continue increased government spending by discrediting conservatives and claiming the budget is “too complicated” for conservatives to understand.

For years in Virginia, everyone from the media to Governors have come to Dave Brat for insights on the budget, knowing that he tested his rural values against the intellectual elite while at Princeton and against the powerful elite at American University. That experience continues to give Dave the ability to make the case for new budgets that are based on the fact that a free and robust economy is necessary for a free society to thrive.

With Dave Brat representing us in Congress, hard-working Virginians will have a champion fighting for them every day.

A product of the rural Midwest, he learned the value of faith, family, and a strong work ethic at a young age. Dave was determined to get an education that would empower him to help others reach their economic dreams.

Dave’s journey led him to Princeton where he obtained a Masters in Divinity and on to American University where he earned a Ph.D. in Economics. That education has led him to a career serving the Commonwealth.

In 1996, Dave and Laura moved to Henrico and he began teaching Economics and Ethics at Randolph-Macon College, and he chaired the Economics and Business department for the past 6 years.

He has served the Commonwealth in numerous capacities. Dave served two Governors on the Joint Advisory Board of Economists. He was president of the Virginia Association of Economists. Dave has been honored to serve the Commonwealth in numerous capacities including: serving two Governor’s on the Joint Advisory Board of Economists and serving on the Richmond Metropolitan Authority, the Great Aspirations Scholarship Program, and the VACO OPEB Investment Board.

His economic expertise has also been recognized by his peers who elected him as president of the Virginia Association of Economists, and the Governor also appointed him to the Virginia Board of Accountancy.

Dave is also regularly called upon by regional TV Stations and Newspapers to offer understandable insights into current economic issues and to provide ethical insights on the public policy issues of the day.

An active member in the Henrico Republican Party, Dave has been a consistent conservative voice in his community.

Dave has spoken on ethics and economics and worked with a diverse range of groups including most of the regional Rotary Clubs, many Churches, businesses, academic institutions, political groups, the Asian Chamber, the Richmond Federal Reserve, and a host of business associations.

A man of deep faith, Dave attends St. Mary’s Catholic Church with his wife Laura and their two children: Jonathan, 15 and Sophia, 11.

Dave is running because the political and economic systems are broken. We live in an era of inter-generational theft; we are racking up bills only to hand them off to our children. Dave Brat is committed to getting our fiscal house in order.

Our Founders knew that good government required wise leaders with good character. Dave promises to make the hard decisions because it’s the right thing to do – regardless of political expediency.

A proven leader, Dave Brat brings the right experience, the right convictions, and the right background to provide Virginia with the leadership it deserves. He is the voice we can trust, and the leader we need.

We do have a say in our political system. We do have the power to work together to change course. Dave Brat is that change. . .

Since we refer to her as Dr. Jill Biden, I think it's only fair for the MSM to use the same standard for Dr. Brat. - Greg Pollowitz

De Blasio’s NYPD: Shootings ‘Spike’ in NYC

Via New York Post:

The number of shooting victims has skyrocketed across the city this year — up 43 percent in just the last month — while fewer guns are coming off the streets, NYPD statistics reveal.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has repeatedly shifted the focus from shootings to a steep decline in homicides, and claims he is not worried about the gun violence.

But sources told The Post it will only get worse in the hotter summer months, and that the alarming trend is the result of a more “reactive” police force handicapped by the inability to use tactics like stop-and-frisk. . .

Stop-and-frisk frisk has stopped though. That's good news, right? - Greg Pollowitz

al-Qaeda Linked Group Now Controlling Mosul in Iraq

Via Washington Post:

Insurgents seized control early Tuesday of most of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, including the provincial government headquarters, offering a powerful demonstration of the mounting threat posed by extremists to Iraq’s teetering stability.

Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the entire western bank of the city overnight after Iraqi soldiers and police apparently fled their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the militants.

In Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced a “general mobilization” and asked parliament to declare a state of emergency, saying the government would not allow the area to fall “under the shadows of terror and terrorists.”. . .

Is this a victory or defeat of Obama's "don't do stupid s***" foreign policy?

- Greg Pollowitz

Boko Haram Kidnapped More Girls

Via Guardian:

Suspected Boko Haram gunmen have reportedly kidnapped 20 women from a nomadic settlement in north-east Nigeria near the town of Chibok, where the Islamic militants abducted nearly 300 girls in April, most of whom are still missing.

Alhaji Tar, a member of one of the vigilante groups set up to resist Boko Haram’s attacks, said the men arrived in Garkin Fulani at midday on Thursday and forced the women to enter their vehicles at gunpoint.

The group also kidnapped three young men who tried to stop the abduction, and drove to an unknown location in the remote stretch of Borno state, he said.

News of the latest kidnapping came as the people of Maiduguri buried more than 100 bodies almost a week after a Boko Haram attack. Local leaders said many more victims of the attacks had yet to be found.

Lawan Abba Kaka and John Gulla, from Attagara in Borno state, said nearly 110 people had now been interred after Islamist militants stormed the village and at least three others nearby on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. . .

Maybe try the hashtag, #PrettyPleaseBringBackOurGirls? -

Game On: Tabasco Introduces New Sriracha Sauce to Compete with Huy Foods

Via New York Magazine:

The hot sauce kings at Tabasco have recently been flooding the market with all kinds of spicy, populist flavors, so it was only a matter of time before they set their sights on that seminal condiment of the neo-hipster, post-gourmet dining era: sriracha. Like Huy Fong’s iconic green-capped model, the new beta version of Tabasco’s “Premium Sriracha Thai Chili Sauce” comes in a squirt bottle, although the Tabasco bottle is squatter than the original and not nearly as fun to look at. There’s a little bit of Thai script stenciled along the bottom of the Tabasco version, but there’s no puff-chested rooster on the front, no runic messages written in Chinese characters, and no boisterous operating instructions on the back, translated into English, Spanish, and French.

To examine the other, more subtle differences between the two hot sauce titans, we assembled an intrepid panel of Grub Street experts over lunch the other day. As card-carrying members of the new Sriracha Generation, we weren’t interested in seeing how these mongrel American formulas compared to the ancient Thai versions of the sauce. We only wanted to know how the latest entry to this increasingly trendy, crowded field stacked up against the reigning champ from Irwindale.

Our tasters sniffed the two chili sauces, eyeballed them for color, and probed their texture with plastic forks. We paired them with a variety of carefully selected Sriracha-friendly delivery systems, including chicken wings, bok choy, Momofuku pork buns, and even carry-out pizza. We debated our findings exhaustively, or at least until all the pork buns were gone.

We’ve compiled our tasting notes below, along with a grading system for each category from numbers 1 (not so good) to 5 (great), and tallied the final score below.  

No. No. No. I won't even try the new Tabasco version. Tabasco is Tabasco and Huy Foods Sriracha "is" the only sriracha sauce as far as I'm concerned. - Greg Pollowitz

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

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

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. -

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