Archive for category Disaster

Iraq Update – Depends On Who You Believe

ISIS truck column

The Iraqi Army is either locked in a stalemate in the battle for Tikrit and surrounding areas about 100 miles northwest of Baghdad, or (according to a claim by ISIS) has completely lost the city and Camp Speicher, a nearby military post and helicopter base.

Here’s the story according to The Long War Journal:

The Iraqi military made its first effort to retake Tikrit in late June, when it airlifted commandos into Tikrit University in an effort to gain a toehold north of the city. An advance on the city from the south was defeated. Then, on July 16, the Iraqi military launched Operation Decisive Sword. A large column of military and militia units entered southern Tikrit and thought they liberated the city, but as they celebrated they were ambushed with suicide bombers, IEDs, and conventional attacks. The Iraqi forces then withdrew from the city.

After the Iraqi military withdrew from southern Tikrit on July 16, the Islamic State immediately began its assault on Camp Speicher, as the base was the last remaining holdout of Iraqi forces near the city (Iraqi forces were withdrawn from Tikrit University sometime before the second offensive was launched).

The loss of Camp Speicher, and perhaps more importantly, the loss of the helicopters and its pilots if the Islamic State’s claims are true, is a serious blow to both the morale and the operational capabilities of the Iraqi military. The Iraqi military, which has failed to retake major cities and towns from the Islamic State and its allies, now may find it more difficult to support and defend the Bayji oil refinery just to the north, which has been largely resupplied by helicopters.

The Daily Beast cast doubt on the ISIS claim of victory in Tikrit:

On Friday, multiple news reports claimed that ISIS had won a major victory, seizing control of a vital army base outside of Tikrit and killing or capturing the hundreds of soldiers stationed there. If true, ISIS’s capture of Camp Speicher would signal a crucial turning point in the battle for the city and a humiliating setback for the Iraqi Army.

But the reports are false according to multiple Iraqi sources, who say Speicher was attacked on Friday but that ISIS never entered the base. According to an Iraqi Army soldier, who said he is currently stationed at the base: “Ten suicide bombers tried to blow themselves up at the gate so 15 more ISIS fighters in support could enter the base but we killed all of them. Only one Iraqi soldier was killed.”

Even if neither side is in control of Tikrit, the Iraqi government remains in deep serious trouble. A week ago The Long War Journal estimated that half of Iraq’s 15 army divisions have become ineffective or have completely disappeared.

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Kerry Caught On Hot Mic Mocking Precision Of Israeli Strikes As Gaza Operation Intensifies

Air strike on Gaza

Via FDL:

Secretary of State John Kerry, who was on every network political show over the weekend justifying Israel’s actions in Gaza, was caught on a hot mic giving a very different assessment. Kerry said “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” while talking to an aide on the phone, mocking the accuracy of Israel’s weapons strikes which Israel claims are limited and precise.

Precision is of course one thing, while accuracy is another thing. A bomb, missile, or tank round can precisely hit the wrong target. Which is what is happening, inevitably, in Gaza. Israeli air strikes and artillery fire have hit civilian homes, mosques, and hospitals. Ambulances have been destroyed.

More info:
In Gaza, whatever the target, children often the victims
Panicked residents flee Gaza City neighborhood hit by tank fire as Israel widens offensive
CNN: Israeli Airstrike Hits Cafe Packed With People Watching World Cup
Four dead at Gaza hospital hit by Israeli strike
Three More Children Killed in Latest Air Strike on Gaza
More than 30 members of two Palestinian families are killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza
Israeli Airstrikes Injure Three Journalists in Gaza

UPDATES:
Hamas Offers Reasonable Truce, Greeted by Deafening Silence

The 7-year Israeli/Egyptian blockade of Gaza is a violation of international law, an act of war, and a crime against humanity.

Graphic Photos From The Gaza Strip Show Destruction And Death
“This is not war, this is annihilation”
US Only Country To Vote No On UN Resolution Against Killing Civilians In Gaza

The result of the resolution – which passed despite the US’ no vote – will be a UN probe into how Israel is using force in Gaza, particularly against civilians. Of the 732 Palestinians now reported killed from Operation Protective Edge an estimated 80% have been civilians.

Gaza Death Toll Over 1,000

More than 1,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed and more than 6,000 have been wounded over the past 19 days, al-Kidra said. Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.

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Raise Your Silent Voice By A Notch

As a young child, I remember taking my first look at a telephone book. Close to the first listing there was a number you could call to get information. As a twelve year old, I was stunned that such a thing existed and imediatedly called to ask a scientific question I had. I can’t remember what the question I had was, but the answer was very dissapointing. “I’m sorry, (polite laughter), but I can only find a phone number for you”.

That was 1964. Somehow, Al Gore and Google happened in America.

You had to sift through piles of crap, designed to throw you off, but my original dream of being able to have questions answered had actually happened, just decades later.

And now, I refer you to a plea from Howard Dean. Please, just send your feelings about this to the FCC.

Try to protect your freedom to speak here.

UPDATE: The FCC’s site crashed because there were so many comments coming in opposing the former public advocate’s terrible proposal, that they were forced to extend the comment deadline until Friday. Please tell them how much they suck nowadays – in a nice way, if you can.

Here’s the best argument I’ve seen for “net neutrality”!

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ISIS Declares Caliphate In Syria And Iraq

ISIS caliphate
ISIS declares caliphate – those little derrick symbols represent oil fields.

Osama bin Laden’s vision of a Muslim caliphate in the Middle East is now a reality, thanks in large part to the USA. On Sunday morning, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) pronounced the reformation of the caliphate—the historical Islamic state that once stretched over much of the modern-day Muslim world—with ISIS emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as the man in charge.

DSWright on FDL:

Al Qaeda’s strategy of trying to force a US overreaction with the 9/11 attack has proved considerably successful in destabilizing the regional regimes that opposed establishing a caliphate and promulgating fundamentalist Islamic law. …12 million people are estimated to live under the control of ISIS already and if the now declared caliphate continues its expansion it could be considerably more.

…Apparently using the US military to topple secular leaders did little to thwart the rise of Islamic extremism. In fact, it seems to have had the opposite effect.

Add to the “no one could have anticipated…” file. Which is getting pretty thick by now.

More info:
ISIS Declares Themselves an Islamic State
The Beginning of a Caliphate: The Spread of ISIS, in Five Maps

UPDATES:
According to Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal, the proclamation of a caliphate was “a controversial move that is sure to send shockwaves throughout the jihadist world.”

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Calculated Risk Blog Retires The Scary Jobs Graph

Scary jobs graph

With the May jobs report, the U.S. economy is now back to pre-recession levels of employment. It took more than six years to climb out of the hole George W. Bush put us in (by “us” I mean everyone except the Wall Street millionaires and billionaires who are guilty of precipitating the collapse of the financial sector). That’s nearly as long as it took to recover from the Great Depression in the 1930s. On the Calculated Risk Blog, Bill McBride says, “I’ll be retiring the graph many called the ‘scariest jobs chart ever’.”

Although employment numbers have come back, (1) That only gets us to the same number of jobs we had in 2007, not to where we would have been without Bush’s Great Recession; (2) Unemployment would be higher than 6.3% if we counted the discouraged workers; and (3) Our economy has replaced too many living-wage jobs with low-wage jobs.

Jim Hightower, on AlterNet:

Employment rose by 217,000 jobs in the month of May, according to the latest jobs report — and that brought us up to 8.7 million. That is how many new jobs the American economy has generated since the “Great Recession” officially ended in 2009 — and it also happens to be the number of jobs that were lost because of that recession. You can break out the champagne, for the American economy is back, baby — all of the lost jobs have been recovered!

…Now, let’s move on to the value of those jobs that have economists doing a happy dance. As a worker, you don’t merely want to know that 217,000 new jobs are on the market; you want to know what they’re worth — do they pay living wages, do they come with benefits, are they just part-time and temporary, do they include union rights, what are the working conditions, etc.? In other words, are these jobs … or scams?

So, it’s interesting that the recent news of job market “improvement” doesn’t mention that of the 10 occupation categories projecting the greatest growth in the next eight years, only one pays a middle-class wage. Four pay barely above poverty level and five pay beneath it, including fast-food workers, retail sales staff, health aids and janitors.

…To measure the job market by quantity — with no regard for quality — is to devalue workers themselves. Creating 217,000 new jobs is not a sign of economic health if each worker needs two or three of those jobs to patch together a barebones living — and millions more are left with no work at all.

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Insurgents Seize Iraqi City of Mosul as Security Forces Flee

Map of northern Iraq

I’ve been watching cable TV news for any sign of this story. Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran most of Mosul yesterday. Iraqi soldiers and police officers abandoned their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the insurgents.

Mosul is Iraq’s third-largest city. ISIS already controls Fallujah and part of Ramadi in Anbar Province. The same group has taken over several cities in eastern Syria. Today it is being reported that a half million people have fled Mosul and ISIS has seized Iraq’s biggest oil refinery in Baiji. Other advances have been reported in areas west and south of the city of Kirkuk.

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced a “general mobilization” of the country’s security forces and asked parliament to declare a state of emergency. He is asking the Kurdish Peshmerga forces for help. Meanwhile, reports indicate that ISIS has captured helicopters and significant stocks of U.S. – made weapons.

It would take a long time to list all of the errors that led to this point. Sunni insurgents, bought off by U.S. taxpayers in the so-called “surge” during the Bush administration, are back because the al-Maliki regime didn’t give them any concessions. Last year, they raided Abu Ghraib prison and liberated up to a thousand fighters. In January, they took Fallujah. Iraqi Army counter-attacks have failed thus far.

More info:
One Of The World’s Scariest Terrorist Groups Now Controls Major City In Iraq
ISIS: The group too extreme for al-Qaida that is taking over Iraq
ISIS Now Controls A Shocking Percentage Of Iraq And Syria

UPDATE:
ISIS Militants Seize Iraqi City Of Tikrit

BAGHDAD (AP) — Al-Qaida-inspired militants seized effective control Wednesday of Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, expanding their offensive closer to the Iraqi capital as soldiers and security forces abandoned their posts following clashes with the insurgents.

UPDATE:
Iraq Asked The White House For Air Support Against Militants — But They Said No

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked last month for the U.S. to consider carrying out air strikes against its growing insurgency and the White House turned him down, The New York Times reports.

UPDATE:
Iraqi Kurds ‘fully control Kirkuk’ as army flees

“The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga,” Kurdish spokesman Jabbar Yawar told Reuters. “No Iraq army remains in Kirkuk now.”

UPDATE:
President Obama Puts Military Option on the Table With Iraq

64 Comments

Less Than A Quarter Of The Unemployed From Bush’s Great Recession Had Steady Jobs 5 Years Later

Unemployed pie chart

Via Think Progress:

Just 22 percent of those who ended up unemployed for six months or longer during the 2008 recession found steady, full-time work by the beginning of 2013, according to a new analysis from Princeton professor Alan Krueger as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Looking at a Census Bureau survey of households between 2008 and 2013, he found that the rest of the long-term unemployed weren’t faring very well. The largest share, 35 percent, had dropped out of the labor force altogether, either giving up on finding a job, going back to school, retiring, or choosing some option other than job hunting. While 28 percent had found some employment, it wasn’t steady or full time. Another 14 percent were still unsuccessfully job hunting five years after they lost their jobs.

Republican economic sabotage is working. They killed public sector jobs. They cut off unemployment benefits six months ago. They are constantly crying about “The Obama Economy” (if only Dems knew how to frame issues that effectively!) Most of the new jobs being created are low-wage jobs with no benefits. It’s been 7 years since the last time Congress raised the minimum wage. President Obama has to go beyond giving speeches about job growth, and hoping corporations will do the right thing.

That said, let’s remember that the Obama administration has created more than 8.7 million jobs, compared to 1.1 million during Bush’s entire two terms. Bush was the first President since Herbert Hoover to have a net loss of jobs. GDP was going down when Bush left office. Republicans in Congress have prevented the Obama administration from doing enough to repair the economic devastation left by Bush.

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Bill Maher To Democrats: Stand Your Ground, Stop Being Wimps And Embrace Jimmy Carter

Via HuffPo:

Bill Maher points out the obvious- Democrats are mostly political invertebrates, and they are headed for a disaster this November if they don’t find some courage.

“When a Tea Partyer says Obamacare is a government takeover, say ‘I wish!’ Because that would mean Medicare for All. And you know, Medicare is hugely popular in America. So let’s see — getting behind something that’s hugely popular, for all… No, too hard a sell.”

Also, Jimmy Carter was right about energy and so much else. Why are Dems ashamed of him?

UPDATE:
Let’s recall that President Obama dragged his feet for more than four years before putting solar panels back on the White House — because he didn’t want Faux News Channel to compare him to President Carter.

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What Happened To Gary Care?

Gary Herbert is the governor of Utah. Many fast food workers are moments away from having to spend more then they can afford to get any healthcare. Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t seen our governor out there every day to promote his plan to give them the Medicaid plan that might save their lives.

It’s probably too late to prevent the fast-food workers from signing up for the plan, even if Herbert came clean and rejected the Republican plan to oppose Obama at any cost.

Americans shouldn’t have to give up everything they have if they get sick. We should care for our fellow veterans and people by paying taxes. Grover Norquist can go to hell.

We need single-payer healthcare; NOT something that was dreamed up by the “Heritage Foundation”, or the “Americans For Tax Reform”. We need REAL organizations in our country, but who has time?

Update: I changed the post a little, because I have procrastinated on signing up for Obamacare, and it actually looks pretty darn good. I would still prefer single-payer, of course.

Update: I take it back! They are saying that Obamacare is working now, but I can tell you it isn’t! I have spent ten hours listening to music that fades out and skips like a broken record. Maybe I should have told them I was 22 instead of 62, but I can’t get through.

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Ed Schultz: ‘I Was Wrong’ On Keystone XL Pipeline

MSNBC’s Ed Schultz reversed his support for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on Wednesday and said the United States shouldn’t allow it to be built. Last month he called the pipeline “a step in the right direction when it comes to energy independence.”

Of course, Keystone XL won’t be a pipeline TO the USA. It’s a pipeline THROUGH the USA to overseas export. It’s likely to cause a gasoline price hike in this country. What do we get from this pipeline? More groundwater pollution, and more climate change.

President Obama could stop this pipeline all by himself. The right-wing is clearly worried, and the Faux News crowd is even claiming that Keystone XL approval would be the answer to the crisis in the Ukraine!

h/t to HuffPo

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Kerry to Russia: ‘You Just Don’t Invade Another Country on Phony Pretext’

Russia invades Crimea

Having a late breakfast this morning, I just about choked on my toast when I heard this. Interviewed on “Meet the Press,” Secretary of State John Kerry said (emphasis added):

“…Russia is inviting opprobrium on the international stage. There could even be ultimately asset freezes, visa bans. There could be certainly a disruption of any of the normal trade routine, and there could be business drawback on investment in the country. The ruble is already going down and feeling the impact of this.”

“And the reason for this…is because you just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests. There are ways to deal with this.”

Really? Does the USA have the right to lecture anybody about an illegal invasion on a phony pretext?

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Keystone XL: The Biggest Mistake of Obama’s Presidency?

Keystone XL PipelineKeystone XL is a “go.” Count on Secretary of State Kerry to do the right thing – for the industry. The planet will have to take its chances.

h/t Roots Action:

It’s classic. Wait till late on a Friday to announce a reprehensible decision in hopes of minimizing the uproar in response. But the climate crisis doesn’t take weekends off.

…”Significant impacts to most resources are not expected along the proposed Project route assuming the following,” reads the State Department report, before listing a series of improbable assumptions.

They say it’s just one pipeline. But the point is we have to say no to ALL the pipelines and leave fossil fuels in the ground.

UPDATE:

The Central Flaw of the Keystone XL Economic Analysis (It’s status quo bias)

UPDATE:
Sam Stein: So What Exactly Is Obama’s Red Line On Keystone XL?

UPDATE: As Keystone Decision Looms, Buried Report Cites TransCanada’s ‘Inadequate’ Pipeline Inspections

UPDATE: Environmentalists Continue To Question Keystone Analysts’ Ties To TransCanada

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