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The Search for MH370 Exposes China’s Naval Vulnerabilities

Via Reuters:

When Chinese naval supply vessel Qiandaohu entered Australia’s Albany Port this month to replenish Chinese warships helping search for a missing Malaysian airliner, it highlighted a strategic headache for Beijing – its lack of offshore bases and friendly ports to call on.

China’s deployment for the search – 18 warships, smaller coastguard vessels, a civilian cargo ship and an Antarctic icebreaker – has stretched the supply lines and logistics of its rapidly expanding navy, Chinese analysts and regional military attaches say.

China’s naval planners know they will have to fill this strategic gap to meet Beijing’s desire for a fully operational blue-water navy by 2050 – especially if access around Southeast Asia or beyond is needed in times of tension. . .

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Florida Insurance Company Sees Higher Premiums in 2015

Via the Miami Herald:

Most of the consumers who bought a private health plan from Florida Blue through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges between October and April were previously uninsured — one of many factors potentially leading to higher premium rates in 2015, according to a senior executive.

Jason Altmire, a former Pennsylvania congressman and now senior vice president of public policy for Florida Blue, cited familiar reasons for a likely rise in rates next year, including the requirement that insurers no longer exclude those with pre-existing conditions, charge equal rates regardless of gender and charge older members no more than three times the amount paid by younger ones.

Other reasons consumers may see higher premiums in 2015, he said, include the Obama administration’s decision to allow Americans to keep their health insurance plans for an additional year even if the plans did not meet the coverage requirements of the health law.

Altmire said that most consumers signed up through the exchange were previously uninsured Americans who may have delayed seeking medical care, making them potentially more costly to insure.

“A lot of them aren’t in the best of health,” he said, noting that consumers who signed up at the outset of open enrollment were likely the ones who needed it most. “We expect it to cost more to insure them because of deferred health needs.”. . .

The premium increases should come right before the midterm elections. Get the popcorn. . . -
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The Debate is Over: SCOTUS Upholds Affirmative Action Ban

Via Fox News:

The Supreme Court has upheld Michigan’s affirmative action ban, ruling that the state has the right to determine whether racial preferences can be considered in college admissions. 

In a 6-2 ruling on Tuesday, the justices said that a lower federal court was wrong to set aside the change as discriminatory. The Supreme Court ruled that Michigan voters had the right to change their state constitution to bar public colleges and universities from using race as a factor in admissions. 

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, suggested that right extends even beyond college policies. 

“There is no authority in the federal constitution or in the [courts'] precedents for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit to the voters the determination whether racial preferences may be considered in governmental decisions, in particular with respect to school admissions,” he wrote. . .

Or does President Obama apply a different standard re. debate to this decision than he does to Obamacare? - Greg Pollowitz

Report: Number of Abducted Schoolgirls in Nigeria Rises to 190

Via BBC Africa:

Some 190 Nigerian schoolgirls remain missing after being abducted last week, their head teacher has told the BBC – far more than the official figure.

Asabe Kwambura said the parents of 230 girls had reported them missing but 40 had managed to escape.

Earlier, a local state governor said that about 77 of the teenagers had not been accounted for.

Islamist group Boko Haram is suspected to be behind the kidnapping but has not issued any statement.

Some 1,500 people are believed to have been killed in attacks blamed on Boko Haram this year alone. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Al Qaeda in Yemen Shocked by Drone Strikes After Taunting the U.S. on YouTube

Via Fox News:

A suspected U.S. drone strike in southern Yemen killed 55 militants Monday, in the third deadly attack on an Al Qaeda training camp in the area in several days.

Yemen’s interior ministry says among those killed in an hours-long campaign of strikes on the camp in the rugged mountains of Mahfad between Abyan, Shabwa and al-Bayda provinces were three senior members of Al Qaeda. The ministry said the identification process for those killed is ongoing.

The operation kicked off Sunday and is believed to have involved U.S. drones. Security officials said the camp’s infrastructure was destroyed.

Unidentified Yemen tribal leaders earlier said one of the killed commanders was Munnaser al-Anbouri.

Unidentified Yemen tribal leaders has earlier identified one of the  killed commanders as Munnaser al-Anbouri. . .

Let's hope they got some of the big-shots. - Greg Pollowitz
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Easter in Chicago: 8 Dead, 37 Injured

Via the Chicago Sun Times:

Easter weekend was no holiday from violence, with shootings claiming the lives of eight across Chicago and leaving 37 wounded.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel addressed the weekend’s violence Monday at a graduation ceremony for the newest class of Chicago Police Department recruits. Emanuel told the graduates he had spoken by phone to the mother of one of Sunday night’s victims of gun violence.

He said she told him she wanted the violence to stop, and that the community needs to speak and stand up.

“For a community to be safe, it’s not just about policing, it’s not just about summer jobs, it’s not just about afterschool, which is necessary, it is also about not living by a code of silence but living by a moral code,” Emanuel said. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Nigeria: 77 Schoolgirls Still Missing

Via BBC Africa:

Seven of the 85 Nigerian schoolgirls still missing after being abducted last week have escaped, the local state governor says.

Another girl had run home on the day of the attack, meaning 77 are still missing, said Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima.

About 130 girls were seized from their school hostel by gunmen last Monday.

Islamist group Boko Haram is suspected to be behind the kidnapping but has not issued any statement.

Some 1,500 people are believed to have been killed in attacks blamed on Boko Haram this year alone.

The group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden”, is fighting to establish Islamic law in Nigeria. It often targets educational establishments.

Mr Shettima did not give details of how the girls had escaped, for security reasons. . .

Prayers. - Greg Pollowitz

Obama Votes Present on Deporting Justin Bieber

Via the NY Daily News:

Maybe the Obamas just like the Bieb.

The White House is refusing to answer an online petition seeking to have Justin Bieber deported, claiming the imploding pop star is a “terrible influence on our nation’s youth.”

“Sorry to disappoint, but we won’t be commenting on this one,” the White House responded to the nearly 274,000 petitioners who requested that Bieber be sent back to his native Canada and his green card revoked. “We’ll leave it to others to comment on Mr. Bieber’s case.”. . .

Not only does he vote present, he uses it to make an pitch for his immigration policies. - Greg Pollowitz

One Year Ago: Remembering the West, Texas Fertilizer Blast

Via the Dallas Morning News:

With a congregation of more than 1,500 people torn apart by loss before him, the Rev. John Crowder spoke Thursday of hope and renewal.

“We won’t let our disaster define us,” said the First Baptist Church of West pastor. “We won’t let our past confine us.” The message of strength came during an event marking the first anniversary of the deadly 2013 fertilizer plant explosion that unleashed emotional and physical carnage West is still struggling to overcome.

The ceremony capped a bittersweet milestone in this Central Texas town’s path to recovery. Thursday’s service, “West 4-17 Forever Forward,” began at 7:30 p.m., about the same time a fire broke out last year at West Fertilizer Co. on the northern edge of town.

A moment of silence came at 7:51 p.m., one year to the minute that the blaze caused a stockpile of ammonium nitrate to explode. In seconds, the fiery explosion killed 15 and injured more than 300 people. It damaged or destroyed more than 200 houses, three schools, a nursing home and an apartment complex.

The blast site is now cleared. Gone Thursday were the mangled remains of the fertilizer plant’s buildings that sat for months while state and federal agencies investigated the explosion. The state fire marshal hasn’t determined what caused the fire.

Across the street from where the plant once stood, a white cross memorialized fallen firefighter Cyrus Reed.

“Cyrus, miss you … love you always,” his parents wrote on it. . .

 

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Harry Reid Calls Bundy Supporters ‘Domestic Terrorists’

Via Twitter -- Jon Ralston:

This won't go over well. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Contrary To Earlier Reports, Nigerian Schoolgirls Still Missing

Via the WSJ:

The fate of nearly 100 kidnapped schoolgirls believed by authorities to be in the hands of a militant Islamist sect in northern Nigeria remained uncertain Thursday, as President Goodluck Jonathan moved to rebut criticism that he’d been insensitive to the recent violence that has convulsed the West African nation.

Since armed men burst into a girls’ boarding school in the northern state of Borno on Monday and seized 129 students, 30 have escaped captivity, the state’s education commissioner, Musa Inuwa Kubo, said.

A military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, said in an email on Wednesday, however, that all but eight of the 121 captured girls were safely accounted for. He cited Asabel Kwambura, the school principal, as the source of his information. A day later, Mr. Kwambura denied making the claim.

“The military are not giving the right information,” he said Thursday, adding that he was in regular contact with local officials and the girls’ parents. Some of the parents, he said, were journeying to the northern forests where Boko Haram is known to hide, in an attempt to locate their children and negotiate their release.

Maj. Gen. Olukolade didn’t respond Thursday to requests for comment about the discrepancy.

The Nigerian military’s accounting was the latest in a series of disputed declarations about Boko Haram that have undermined public confidence in the government’s ability to deal with the sect, whose fighters carry out almost daily attacks across the north of the country. . . 

Updates to follow. - Greg Pollowitz

Video: Jay Carney Says Jon Stewart Was Obama’s Toughest Interview in ‘12

Via Real Clear Politics:

I wonder what the White House press corps thinks about that. - Greg Pollowitz

America to Ukraine: Here, Have a Helmet

Via Fox News:

The U.S. is sending helmets, sleeping bags and generators to support the Ukrainian military — but stopped short of approving other items the interim government reportedly says it needs to stand up to the might of Moscow, saber-rattling on its doorstep. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Thursday that the U.S. will send the additional non-lethal military aid. The additional aid was announced as fighting between Ukraine’s military and pro-Russian factions intensified in the eastern part of the country. 

Hagel, speaking at a press conference at the Pentagon with his Polish counterpart, said the approved aid would include medical supplies, helmets, sleeping mats, water purification units, hand-fuel pumps and small power generators. . .

What's worse is that Team Obama seems like this is a big deal. - Greg Pollowitz

Mitt in 2012: I Don’t Know Why the Government Owns So Much of Nevada

Via Think Progress:

In an interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal last night, Mitt Romney expressed his ignorance of why the United States owns and manages approximately 80 percent of Nevada‘s land, most of it uninhabitable mountains and desert.  In response to a question about whether he would sell public lands back to the state, Romney stated that that “I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land”:

I don’t know the reason that the federal government owns such a large share of Nevada.  And when I was in Utah at the Olympics there I heard a similar refrain there.  What they were concerned about was that the government would step in and say, “We’re taking this” — which by the way has extraordinary coal reserves — “and we’re not going to let you develop these coal reserves.”  I mean, it drove the people nuts.  Unless there’s a valid, and legitimate, and compelling governmental purpose, I don’t know why the government owns so much of this land.

So I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land, so I don’t want to say, “Oh, I’m about to hand it over.” But where government ownership of land is designed to satisfy, let’s say, the most extreme environmentalists, from keeping a population from developing their coal, their gold, their other resources for the benefit of the state, I would find that to be unacceptable.

Exit question: With Obama winning Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico in 2012, will Federal ownership of land in those states be a winning issues for the GOP? -

S. Korean Ferry Captain Was One of the First Off the Sinking Ship

Via New York Times:

. . .It is unclear why the Sewol leaned so far to the left before sinking, and why so many aboard the ship had been unable to escape, even though it took nearly two and a half hours for the vessel to capsize and all but disappear underwater. A series of interviews Thursday with survivors, relatives, crew members and investigators offered a vivid picture of how the trip turned into a catastrophe, and possibly into South Korea’s worst disaster in decades. [. . .]

Investigators who questioned the ferry’s captain, Lee Jun-seok, 69, on Thursday said the vessel had made a sharp turn to the left around the time it began to tilt. The Sewol had been sailing slightly off its usual course, they said, and Mr. Lee had apparently tried to steer it back. But it was unclear why he had attempted such a turn in waters known for their strong currents, or why the turn had caused the ship to lean to one side.

The captain, in a brief appearance before reporters Thursday, provided little clarity. “I can’t raise my face before the passengers and family members of the missing,” he said. Officials have said Mr. Lee, who has been criticized for being among the first to leave the ship, could face criminal charges. . .

Not a single person had to die in this accident. The captain should have been on board coordinating the evacuation. - Greg Pollowitz

Nevada Cattlemen’s Association: Matter is Between Bundy and the Federal Courts

Via Nevada Cattlemen's Association:

(Elko, NV) April 16, 2014 – The Nevada Cattlemen’s Association believes that private
property rights are at the foundation of our country and our liberty, and we know that the rule of
law protects those property rights. Our policy supports private property interests that exist on
public lands, including water rights and grazing rights. We also support the continued multiple use
of public lands, as authorized by law and confirmed by the courts. It is under this framework of
the rule of law that our property rights and multiple uses are protected.
The multiple-use statutes allow timber, grazing, wildlife, recreation and other uses to carry
on side-by-side in a way that, as the statute reads “will best meet the needs of the American
people.” Increasingly, we see the federal government placing higher priority on uses other than
grazing. This not only violates the multiple-­use statutes, it violates the grazing and water rights
that are also protected by laws such as the Taylor Grazing Act (TGA). Under the TGA, ranchers
have a right to graze livestock on federal lands based on historical utilization. While this property
interest is complex by nature – given that it exists on surfaces owned by the federal government –
it is nonetheless a real property interest that is taxed and saleable. It must be protected. On the
same token, ranchers who exercise their grazing rights are obligated to pay a grazing fee as
established by law.
Ranchers such as Mr. Bundy have found themselves with their backs against the wall as,
increasingly, federal regulations have infringed on their public land grazing rights and the
multiple use management principle. This is not only devastating to individual ranching families; it
is also causing rural communities in the west to whither on the vine. In the west, one in every two
acres is owned by the federal government. Therefore, the integrity of the laws protecting
productive multiple use is paramount to the communities that exist there.
The situation in Nevada stands as an example the federal agencies’ steady trend toward
elevating environmental and wildlife issues over livestock grazing – in violation of the
above mentioned laws and principles. Well-intentioned laws such as the Endangered Species
Act—which are factors in Mr. Bundy’s case-­‐-­‐are being implemented in a way that are damaging
to our rights and to our western families and communities. In Bundy’s case the designation of his
grazing area as a critical habitat for the endangered desert tortoise gave the BLM the rationale
they needed to order a 500% decrease in his cattle numbers. There never was any scientific proof
that cattle had historically harmed the desert tortoise.
However, in accordance with the rule of law, we must use the system set forth in our
Constitution to change those laws and regulations. Nevada Cattlemen’s Association does not
condone actions that are outside the law in which citizens take the law into their own hands.
Nevada Cattlemen’s Association (NCA) works hard to change regulations detrimental to
the sound management of public lands in a lawful manner and supports the concept of multiple
uses on federally managed lands and encourages members of the livestock industry to abide by
regulations governing federal lands.
Furthermore, Nevada Cattlemen’s Association supports effective range management
through collaboration with resource management agencies and interested parties to achieve
rangeland management goals for economically viable ranch operations and the conservation of
wildlife species.
With the above stated this case was reviewed by a federal judge and a decision was
rendered to remove the cattle. Nevada Cattlemen’s Association does not feel it is our place to
interfere in the process of adjudication in this matter. Additionally, NCA believes the matter is
between Mr. Bundy and the Federal Courts.
We regret that this entire situation was not avoided through more local government
involvement and better implementation of federal regulations, laws, and court decisions. While we
cannot advocate operating outside the law to solve problems, we also sympathize with Mr.
Bundy’s dilemma. With good faith negotiations from both sides, we believe a result can be
achieved which recognizes the balance that must be struck between private property rights and
resource sustainability.

- Greg Pollowitz

Huckabee Leads in Iowa

Via McClatchy DC:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is the top choice at the moment for potential Iowa Republican caucus voters, according to a new Loras College poll.

The Dubuque, Iowa-based college’s inaugural survey showed Huckabee with 14.7 percent. Trailing were former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 10.7 percent; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, 8.5 percent; House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, 8.3 percent; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 8 percent; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, 6.2 percent and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with 4.7 percent each. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has 3 percent.

“As of right now, the Republican presidential caucus field is wide open,” said Christopher Budzisz, associate professor of politics and director of the Loras College Poll, in a press release. “It is not too surprising to see potential candidates who have performed well in Iowa before, such as Governor Huckabee, at the top of the poll.”. . .

 

Uh-oh. - Greg Pollowitz

Ukrainian Soldiers Switching Sides to Russia

Via New York Post:

A column of armored personnel carriers flying Russian flags drove into a Ukrainian city controlled by pro-Russia demonstrators on Wednesday. Some of the troops aboard said they were Ukrainian soldiers who had switched allegiance.

An Associated Press reporter saw the six vehicles, with troops in camouflage sitting on top, enter the city of Slovyansk, a hotbed of unrest against Ukraine’s acting government. Insurgents in Slovyansk have seized the local police headquarters and administration building, demanding broader autonomy for their eastern Ukraine region and closer ties with Russia.

Eastern Ukraine was the support base for Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of protests in the capital, Kiev, that were ignited by his decision to back away from closer relations with the European Union and turn toward Russia. Opponents of the government that replaced him alleged the new authorities will repress eastern Ukraine’s large Russian-speaking population. . .

Maybe at this point the best outcome is to split Ukraine into two separate countries. - Greg Pollowitz

Paging Brandeis: Anti-Western-Education Islamists Behind Abduction of Girls in Nigeria

Via CNN:

Nigeria’s military combed the woods in search of more than 100 school girls who were abducted earlier this week by Boko Haram Islamists, authorities said Wednesday.

Vigilantes and volunteers aided in the search near the northeastern town of Chibok, where heavily armed men descended on the Government Secondary School Monday night as the girls slept in their dormitories. After a long gun battle with soldiers guarding the school, the militants herded the girls onto buses, vans and trucks and drove off, flanked by motorcycles.

“They took away my daughter and my niece… and we fear for their safety in the hands of these merciless people that take delight in killing and destruction,” said the mother of one of the abducted girls. “I don’t know what to do. The whole family is confused and we have turned to prayers which is all we have.”

[. . .]

Boko Haram, which translates as “western education is sin,” is known to have carried out deadly attacks on other schools in the northeast. In a clip released by the group March 23, leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to launch raids and abduct girls from schools.

Horrific. - Greg Pollowitz

Report: Islamic Extremists Kidnap 100 Schoolgirls in Nigeria

Via AP:

Suspected Islamic extremists abducted about 100 female students from a school in northeast Nigeria before dawn Tuesday, but some of the teens managed to escape from the back of an open truck, officials said.

The girls were abducted after midnight from a school in Chibok, on the edge of the Sambisa Forest that is an insurgent hideout, said Borno state police commissioner Tanko Lawan.

Gunmen killed a soldier and police officer guarding the school, then took off with at least 100 students, a State Security Service official said.

A local government official said he did not know how many of the girls have escaped but that “many” have walked through the bushes and back to Chibok. The girls were piled into the back of an open truck and, as it was traveling, some grabbed at low-hanging branches to swing off while others jumped off the slow-moving vehicle, he said. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to give information to reporters. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

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