Archive for category Disaster

Add This to the “No One Could Have Predicted” File

ISIS map

It’s a meme made famous by Bush administration officials who failed to do their jobs. Over and over again, following each Bush catastrophe from the 9/11 attacks to Hurricane Katrina to the 2008 collapse of the financial sector (causing a near depression), they told us, “no one could have predicted” what would happen.

Now we learn, via a newly declassified document from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), that in 2012 intelligence analysts predicted the rise of ISIS and the founding of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. This would be a direct consequence of the intervention of U.S. allies and the U.S. itself in the Syrian civil war, according to the report.

Just like the 9/11 attacks, we saw it coming and did nothing to prevent it. At the very least, top government officials underestimated the ISIS threat to the region and to our own national security.

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Yemen: ‘Somalia is in better shape than us’

Yemen
Protest against Saudi air strikes, March 26 in Sanaa

The news from Yemen is that a humanitarian disaster is rapidly overtaking the Arab world’s poorest country, which the USA helped to destabilize with drone strikes against Islamic militants. The Saudis are poised to finish the job, committing war crimes with U.S. – made weapon systems.

“It is a terrible situation and it is moving so fast,” Julien Harneis, the Yemen representative of the United Nations Children Fund, told The Associated Press. “We are heading toward a humanitarian disaster.”

…In the southern city of Aden, medical supplies are running out. Doctors Without Borders, which operates in the city, said it has received over 500 wounded, including more than 110 on the first day of airstrikes. UNICEF is giving out midwife kits to treat injured civilians because of lack of supplies.

…In al-Houta, a city north of Aden, people are fleeing fighting to nearby villages for safety and to find goods and produce, said 28-year old resident Ahmed Rageh. The local gas station has been closed for nearly three weeks. “It is a disastrous situation. Somalia is now in a better shape than us,” he said.

It’s heartbreaking to see catastrophe overtake a beautiful country with such a rich history and friendly people. I lived there for two years in the early 1990s, traveled to visit ancient ruins and poor but architecturally fascinating villages. There was virtually no crime. But many problems were waiting to surface, particularly the disenfranchisement of Shiites and the uneasy relationship with Saudi Arabia – which has invaded Yemen in the past.

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Why Are Republicans Legislating From The Bench?

Because they never cared about legislating from the bench anyway, if their side could win by doing that. I didn’t pose that as a question because it’s a fact.

This ACA in the supreme court challenge is a very interesting one and it puts Republican lawmakers right on the hot seat. They have been doing everything they could to kill the legislation that almost everybody seems to like, including hospitals, patients and insurance companies. Nobody’s been complaining; surely not me, who for the first time in eight years, actually has health care.

This never had to get to the supreme court and even if the supreme court decision results in millions of people losing their health care and sending the entire health system into chaos, it will be because the Republicans refuse to clarify four words in the law either before OR after the decision comes down.

Although this is going to directly effect me in a profound way, I’m going to be pulling up a chair and getting the popcorn ready.

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Rudy Giuliani: ‘I do not believe that the President loves America’

Dog whistle

Via Politico:

NEW YORK — Rudy Giuliani went straight for the jugular Wednesday night during a private group dinner here featuring Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by openly questioning whether President Barack Obama “loves America.”

…“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during the dinner at the 21 Club, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

When you start out with, “I know this is a horrible thing to say…” maybe you should not say it?

I think it’s time to question whether the Tea-GOP “loves America.” The Bush administration failed to defend us from the single worst terrorist attack in history. They sent millions of Americans to fight unwinnable wars halfway around the world. They ruined America’s reputation as a defender of human rights, replacing it with wars of aggression and torture. They put the NSA to work spying on all of us. They abandoned New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They topped themselves by crashing our economy, causing millions of Americans to lose jobs, homes, and retirement savings. Then they waged a years-long campaign of economic sabotage in a failed attempt to stop the Obama administration from helping America recover from Bush’s Great Recession, including a government shutdown, a near-default on the National Debt, and the so-called “sequester” (aka austerity budgeting). Now they are trying to take away health insurance from 13 million Americans, and prevent millions more from getting any in the first place.

I am NOT feeling the love!

UPDATES:
Congressman Defends Outrageous Giuliani Remarks: Obama ‘Views America Differently’
Gov. Scott Walker: ‘I don’t know’ whether Obama is a Christian

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2014 Was The Hottest Year on Record


Time series of five-year global temperature averages, mapped from 1880 to 2014, as estimated by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to two separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists.

The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000. This trend continues a long-term warming of the planet, according to an analysis of surface temperature measurements by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

In an independent analysis of the raw data, also released Friday, NOAA scientists also found 2014 to be the warmest on record.

While scientists expect temperatures to fluctuate from year to year, the average temperature of the planet as a whole has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) since 1880. This trend is largely driven by increasing human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

More info:
NASA, NOAA Find 2014 Warmest Year in Modern Record

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More Awfulness From Congress

Hell no we won't go
Hell no, we won’t go!!

The must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains a 449-page package of public lands riders. As you might expect from this Congress, it’s a stinker full of corporate giveaways. It transfers 110,000 acres of our public lands into private ownership. Part of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona will be given to Rio Tinto for a copper mine, including sacred Apache lands. Coal reserves in the Bull Mountains of Montana will be given to Great Northern Properties, a Houston-based coal company. Sealaska Corporation gets 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest for clear-cutting timber that used to belong to all Americans.

There’s a stealth provision removing existing Wilderness Study Area (WSA) protections for two areas in eastern Montana, without any public input whatsoever.

The legislation also mandates automatic renewals of livestock grazing on our public lands, even where grazing operations are degrading wildlife habitat and fouling streams and rivers — without the evaluation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that’s currently required. The so-called “Grazing Improvement Act” also automatically extends grazing permits on public lands from 10 to 20 years. The exemption of grazing permits from NEPA basically puts public land management agencies out of business with regard to ecosystem management. That is a heavy hit with far-reaching consequences.

Ten right-wing Tea-GOPers including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma had objected to including parks and wilderness bills in a defense bill. They were joined by Democratic Senators Jeff Merkeley (OR), Ron Wyden (OR), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Independent Bernie Sanders (VT). On December 11, the Senate voted 85-14 to break the filibuster.

As a “Christmas tree” bill enjoying widespread bipartisan support, the NDAA passed the House by a vote of 300-119 last Thursday and the Senate by 89-11 yesterday. The package of legislation is expected to be signed by the President soon.

On the plus side, the NDAA riders would add 250,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, establish or expand national parks, and designate more than 100 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. But the losses far outweigh the wins.

More info:
Some Context on the Defense Bill Riders: Public Lands Losses Far Outweigh Any Wins
Top 5 Offensive Provisions of the Public Lands Rider
Defense bill with wilderness & parks plus land giveaways beats cloture 85-14. 3 Dems & Sanders no
Congress Protects New National Parks And Wilderness Areas For The First Time In 5 Years
Defense Bill Passes, Giving Sacred Native American Sites To Mining Company

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Media Fail: New Climate Change Report Ignored

Superstorm Sandy global view
NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite captured this image of the massive Superstorm Sandy on October 28, 2012.

Ari Phillips on Think Progress:

[O]n Sunday, the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change released a Synthesis Report detailing the dangers of climate change. Hundreds of scientists spent the last five years preparing this final report, which says that carbon pollution must be slashed now or risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

None of the network Sunday shows mentioned this latest report or its stark findings.

It’s not just a media fail. Has any candidate in tomorrow’s election mentioned climate change as a campaign issue?

Take a look at the damage from Superstorm Sandy in the before-and-after aerial imagery. This one storm two years ago impacted more than a dozen states along the eastern seaboard, causing $65 billion in damage. A major factor in the disaster was the higher sea level. Climate models predict that sea level will rise an additional two to three feet over the next century.

More info:
New UN Climate Report Calls For End Of Fossil Fuel Use By 2100

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Fourth Generation Wars Don’t End Unilaterally

ISIS Abrams
Iraqi Army M-1 Abrams tank captured by ISIS

Here’s a military and foreign policy lesson that is being driven home by recent events in Iraq. In fourth-generation warfare (4GW), it’s not over when the USA says it’s over. Remember that whole populations are involved, and unlike foreign expeditionary forces from halfway around the world the local populace isn’t going anywhere. There is no nation state to be defeated, and no peace treaty will ever be signed.

The American military is nevertheless engaged in 4GW in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this means we are faced with the decision to (1) stay committed to an open-ended conflict without any hope of a decisive result, or (2) let the war we started (or got into while in progress) go on without us, possibly with results counter to our foreign policy goals.

There was a third option, (3) spend tens of billions of dollars to train and equip friendly(?) local government(?) forces to take over for U.S. soldiers. That was tried in Iraq and Afghanistan, and failed (most spectacularly in Iraq). Somebody please tell the Obama administration, because they are planning to try this again.

DSWright on FDL comments on the Pentagon’s latest plans:

A multiyear campaign that requires more assistance – in other words, the US is back in the nation building business in Iraq. Of course we just saw the results of a multiyear campaign to provide military assistance – total capitulation. So why not do it again? It’s only the age of austerity for domestic spending.

…The American people gave Barack Obama the presidency largely based on his promise to get out of Iraq – the more we learn how worthless our actions are in Iraq the clearer it is that that’s a promise worth keeping.

Apparently the Washington politicians of both major parties are up for another round of war in the Middle East, only this time we’re fighting in Syria too. Does anybody think this is a good idea?

More info:
Too much money spent in Iraq for too few results
Veterans not surprised Iraq’s Army collapsed
Economic Costs Summary: $4.4 Trillion and Counting
Everyone in America Could Go to College for Free for the Amount of Money Spent on Mideast Wars

UPDATE:

U.S.: Ground Offensive Against Islamic State Still Months Away

“Until the Abadi government can get on its feet and kind of deliver some small successes, I don’t think, I don’t think we’re in a position to make any promises on behalf of that government,” the official said.

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‘Thomas Eric Duncan was a victim of a broken system’

A guy shows up in the ER, has symptoms of Ebola, and says he just came from Liberia. But from the hospital’s point of view, the most important fact about this patient is he has no health insurance!

Josephus Weeks:

On Friday, Sept. 25, 2014, my uncle Thomas Eric Duncan went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. He had a high fever and stomach pains. He told the nurse he had recently been in Liberia. But he was a man of color with no health insurance and no means to pay for treatment, so within hours he was released with some antibiotics and Tylenol.

…Thomas Eric Duncan was a victim of a broken system.

Of course, we know how this story ends. Mr. Duncan became the first person to die from Ebola in America. The whole letter is worth reading.

Isn’t it astounding to learn that 13 years after the 9/11 attacks and Anthrax, out of all the hospitals in the entire USA there are just four level 4 biohazard facilities with a combined capacity to handle nine (9) Ebola patients at a time? Right now four of those beds are occupied, and there are five available. Didn’t anybody see “Contagion” (2011)?

Why don’t the cable news channels report that the Tea-GOP cut NIH funding, delaying the development of an Ebola vaccine? This is not something Big Pharma cares about, because they make their biggest profits from drugs that treat long-term chronic diseases, not epidemics that kill people (especially poor people in Africa).

Finally, where is our nation’s Surgeon General during all this? Oh that’s right, we don’t have one because the Tea-GOP has been blocking the nomination of Vivek Murthy for the past year.

More info:
I’m a Hazmat-Trained Hospital Worker: Here’s What No One Is Telling You About Ebola
11 People Who Should Really Shut Up About Ebola
The Smoking Ebola Gun: Rand Paul’s Senate Hold Is Why The Nation Has No Surgeon General

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Tom Engelhardt: ISIS Can Thank Washington

ISIS

At this point, I think everyone has finally realized that following the al-Qaeda game plan post-9/11 didn’t turn out well. The aim of strategy is to force the enemy to conform to your will. Al-Qaeda had a strategy, and we really didn’t. The Bush administration sent our military to chase after who-knows-who in some 60 countries. When President Obama says, “we don’t have a strategy yet” to avoid spending more trillions and more American lives to give ISIS exactly what they want, he is stating a fact.

Tom Engelhardt (emphasis added):

Though the militants of ISIS would undoubtedly be horrified to think so, they are the spawn of Washington. Thirteen years of regional war, occupation, and intervention played a major role in clearing the ground for them. They may be our worst nightmare (thus far), but they are also our legacy — and not just because so many of their leaders came from the Iraqi army we disbanded, had their beliefs and skills honed in the prisons we set up (Camp Bucca seems to have been the West Point of Iraqi extremism), and gained experience facing U.S. counterterror operations in the “surge” years of the occupation. In fact, just about everything done in the war on terror has facilitated their rise. After all, we dismantled the Iraqi army and rebuilt one that would flee at the first signs of ISIS’s fighters, abandoning vast stores of Washington’s weaponry to them. We essentially destroyed the Iraqi state, while fostering a Shia leader who would oppress enough Sunnis in enough ways to create a situation in which ISIS would be welcomed or tolerated throughout significant areas of the country.

“Blowback” can’t even begin to describe a strategic failure of this magnitude. It would be nice to think that the Obama administration has the intelligence and fortitude to design a new strategy that goes beyond “don’t do stupid shit.” I don’t think that. Nobody in Washington is prepared to call the Global War on Terror an utter failure, or admit that ISIS could not have triumphed without our help. It’s reasonable to predict the USA will keep doing the same thing (if only for lack of a better idea), hoping for different results.

UPDATE:
ISIS Is Beheading Journalists to Lure America Into Another Ground War. Remember the Iraq War’s Lessons

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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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