|8:43 AM, Oct 17, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
A new ad from Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis of North Carolina targets his Democratic opponent, Kay Hagan, for voting for the federal stimulus bill that awarded a grant to a company owned by Hagan's husband. Watch the video below:
"Days after Kay Hagan took office, she pushed Obama's stimulus bill," says the ad's voiceover. "Grants tucked away in Obama's stimulus paid the Hagans. She's 96 percent for Obama, 100 percent for herself."
Hagan's conflict of interest was first reported by the Carolina Journal, a publication of the conservative John Locke Foundation in Raleigh. The Journal noted Hagan's husband's company revised down their stimulus project's cost but did not return the difference to the federal government.
The first-term Democrat leads Tillis, the state house speaker, by just 1.4 points in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. The two candidates are locked in what may be the closest Senate fight of the midterm elections.
8:04 AM, Oct 17, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Some American and Iranian diplomats have been spending so much time together lately that they're beginning to crack jokes with one another. Even though the subject matter of the talks, Iran's nuclear ambitions, is quite serious, a senior state department official shared a lighter moment with reporters who had gathered for a background briefing at the P5+1 talks in Vienna, Austria:
I just told Deputy Foreign Minister Araghchi that that I was coming down to do a backgrounder, and I said, you know, “You’ll know what I’m going to say.” And his suggestion was that I simply hand you the transcript from the last one, and that would probably do the trick. (Laughter.) So we thought that was pretty funny. Obviously, you don’t think that’s so funny, but we all thought it was pretty funny.
Further into the briefing, the official expanded on the state of the relationship that has developed between the Iranian and American negotiators:
In terms of mood, in a professional way, we all know each other pretty well now. You can tell when the [Iranian] Deputy Foreign Minister jokes. He reads the transcripts of these backgrounders, and when he can joke, “Why don’t you just hand over the last one? You’re going to say the same thing,” it’s reached a level of we know each other well enough to make jokes.
The current round of talks has a November 24 deadline to reach a complete agreement. The official said there has been progress, but a lot of work remains. The talks have been extended in the past when an agreement could not be reached, but the official said to keep the pressure on, an extension has not been discussed this time around.
7:53 AM, Oct 17, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
One health insurer in Minnesota, once the top seller on the state' s Obamacare-mandated exchange, is expected to raise its premiums between 40 and 60 percent. Small-business health insurance rates are also expected to go up in Minnesota. KSTP-TV reports the story:
PreferredOne, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune explains, was a small player in the individual health insurance market before the introduction of Obamacare and MNSure, the state exchange. Last year, PreferredOne became the top seller of insurance policies for 2014. The company will not sell 2015 policies on the exchange.
7:24 AM, Oct 17, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Rear Admiral John Kirby appeared at a joint press briefing with spokesperson Jen Psaki at the State Department Thursday and addressed the ongoing airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. As a number of Pentagon officials have done in recent weeks, Admiral Kirby downplayed the impact that airstrikes alone can have on stopping ISIL, with particular emphasis on Kobani, Syria, which borders Turkey:
What makes Kobani significant is the fact that ISIL wants it. And the more they want it, the more forces and resources they apply to it, the more targets that are available for us to hit there. I said it yesterday, keep saying it: Kobani could still fall. Our military participation is from the air and the air only right now, and we’ve all been honest about the fact that air power alone is not going to be able to save any town in particular.
Kirby said that ISIL is likely to continue to gain territory in spite of the coalition air campaign, and that Kobani is not the only city likely to fall:
I think we’ve been pretty consistent about the fact that we need to all be prepared for other towns and other cities to fall too. This group wants ground. They want territory, they want infrastructure. We all need to be prepared for them to continue to try to grab that, and succeed in taking it.
The extra emphasis placed on strikes against ISIL forces around Kobani, Kirby said, is not only a matter of strategy, but also simply a matter of weather:
One of the reasons you’ve seen additional strikes in the last couple of days is because we haven’t been able to strike quite as much, quite as aggressively inside Iraq. There’s been terrible weather there, sandstorms this time of year. It’s made it very hard for us to get intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms up over to see what we’re trying to do in Iraq. So we’ve had resources available that we might not have otherwise had available to strike them there in Kobani.
Under persistent question from reporters at the briefing, Admiral Kirby used some colorful language to further explain what the overall strategy of the air campaign is and what it is not:
Airstrikes are dynamic, they’re exciting, you can count them, you can get great video of them. I understand the drama around airstrikes, but we’ve said (a) airstrikes alone are not going to do this, military power alone is not going to do this, and it’s going to take some time...
So this isn’t – I hate to use this phrase, but it’s not whack-a-mole. We’re not going after this – the idea isn’t to just put a warhead on a forehead every single day. The idea is to try to get at their ability to sustain themselves and to disrupt their strategy.
On the question of ground troops, the admiral made clear there are no plans for combat roles for U.S. forces in Iraq or Syria:
12:09 AM, Oct 17, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Iowa's Democratic senatorial candidate Bruce Braley said during a debate Thursday: "I have always stated, contrary to what Senator Ernst said, that I oppose all late-term abortions that aren't necessary to save the life or health of a mother."
But in 2013, Congressman Braley voted against a bill that would have banned abortions later than 20 weeks after conception, with exceptions for the cases of rape, incest, and when a physical health issue endangered the life of the mother.
Braley also cosponsored a new bill in 2013--the "Women's Health Protection Act"--that would strike down almost all limits on abortion, including the 1989 Pennsylvania law used to convict the notorious murderer Kermit Gosnell:
[The bill] would invalidate state laws passed in more than a dozen states, most recently in Texas, that would ban most abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy--laws that garner strong support in national polling. It would abolish laws requiring a 24-hour waiting period prior to obtaining an abortion--measures that Americans back nationally by a 41-point margin, according to Gallup. It would strike down laws requiring that abortionists inform women of alternatives to abortion, measures that Americans support by a 77-point margin, according to Gallup.
In fact, the Democrats' new abortion bill is so radical it would lead to the invalidation of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act--a law, which has been on the books since 1989, that was used to convict Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell earlier this year. In addition to being convicted on three counts of murder for killing infants after they had been born, Gosnell was convicted under the Abortion Control Act for successfully killing 21 infants in utero past Pennsylvania’s gestational limit on abortion (a limit that's just two weeks later in pregnancy than the limit established recently by Texas).
Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee told THE WEEKLY STANDARD in an email that Blumenthal's bill "would invalidate nearly every provision of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act, including the prohibition on performing abortion after 24 weeks except in acute medical circumstances, which was used to prosecute Gosnell. Abortion until birth would be explicitly protected, as long as a single physician asserts that it would protect 'health,' including emotional health."
But the president insisted that he has no "philosophical objection necessarily to a travel ban."8:10 PM, Oct 16, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama discussed the proposal to institute a travel ban to protect America from the grown Ebola crisis, but suggested he wasn't in favor of it because it might make Americans less safe:
"I want to make sure that everybody is clear about the issue," Obama said. "I don't have a philosophical objection necessarily to a travel ban, if that is the thing that is going to keep the American people safe. But the problem is is that in all of the discussions I've had thus far with experts in the field, experts in infectious disease, is that say travel ban is less effective than the measures that we are currently instituting--that involve screening passengers coming from West Africa."
The president warned, "If we institute a travel ban instead of the protocols that we put in place now, history shows that there is a likelihood of increased avoidance. People do not readily disclose their information. They may engage in something called broken travel, essentially breaking up their trip so that they can hide the fact that they have been to one of these countries where there is a disease in place. And as a result, we may end up getting less information about who has the disease, they are less likely to get treated properly, screened properly, quarantined properly, and as a consequence we could end up having more cases rather than less."
7:21 PM, Oct 16, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Vice President Joe Biden's son was kicked out of the Navy after a drug test "after testing positive for cocaine." The Wall Street Journal reported the news.
"Hunter Biden, a lawyer by training who is now a managing partner at an investment company, had been commissioned as an ensign in the Navy Reserve, a part-time position. But after failing a drug test last year, his brief military career ended," reads the report.
Mr. Biden, 44 years old, decided to pursue military service relatively late, beginning the direct-commission process to become a public-affairs officer in the Navy Reserve in 2012. Because of his age—43 when he was to be commissioned—he needed a waiver to join the Navy. He received a second Navy waiver because of a drug-related incident when he was a young man, according to people familiar with the matter. Military officials say such drug waivers aren’t uncommon.
Mr. Biden was commissioned as an ensign on May 7, 2013, and assigned to Navy Public Affairs Support Element East in Norfolk, Va., a reserve unit, according to the Navy. In June 2013, after reporting to his unit in Norfolk, he was given a drug test, which turned up positive for cocaine, according to people familiar with the situation. Mr. Biden was discharged in February, the Navy said.
Mr. Biden said in a statement that it was “the honor of my life to serve in the U.S. Navy, and I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge. I respect the Navy’s decision. With the love and support of my family, I’m moving forward.”
The vice president’s office declined to comment. The Navy said Mr. Biden met all of the criteria for a direct commission, but declined to provide any details of why he was discharged. “Like other junior officers, the details of Ens. Biden’s discharge are not releasable due to the Privacy Act,” Cmdr. Ryan Perry, a Navy spokesman, said.
5:51 PM, Oct 16, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The boss, with former Obama aide Stephanie Cutter, earlier today on CNN:
No mention of 'Innocence of Muslims' Internet video in indictment of Benghazi suspect.5:05 PM, Oct 16, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The Justice Department has released a new, superseding indictment in the government’s case against Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the only suspect held by the U.S. in connection with the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
The indictment, of course, doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. But we do learn a few new facts, and the indictment raises, again, a key question: What happened to the computers and documents captured by jihadists during the raid on the U.S. Mission and Annex?
There is nothing about the trailer for the video Innocence of Muslims in the indictment. Instead, the “objects and purposes” of the conspiracy to attack the compound included: forcing the U.S. to leave Benghazi “through the use of force and the threat of force,” killing American citizens, and ransacking the property.
The indictment includes another reason for the attack that has received little attention. The jihadists wanted to “plunder property from the Mission and Annex, including documents, maps and computers containing sensitive information.”
At some point, Khatallah learned that there was an “American facility in Benghazi posing as a diplomatic post” and “he believed the facility was actually being used to collect intelligence.” Khatallah “viewed U.S. intelligence actions in Benghazi as illegal” and “he was therefore going to do something about this facility.”
This is, of course, a very different story than the one initially told by the Obama administration. Khatallah and his men were not spontaneously motivated to act because of an obscure Internet video. They knew U.S. intelligence – the CIA – was operating in Benghazi and they wanted to force America’s spooks out. They went hunting.
What was the CIA doing in Benghazi, exactly? There are various theories, some conspiratorial, others based on informed guesswork. But according to U.S. officials contacted by THE WEEKLY STANDARD the CIA was tracking the jihadists, including especially al Qaeda’s men, who had turned eastern Libya into a safehaven. At a minimum, they were collecting intelligence on the terrorists and compiling reports on their activities.
Some of these analyses were referenced in a report prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee that was published in January of this year. One CIA analysis, entitled “Libya: Al-Qa’ida Establishing Sanctuary,” was dated July 6, 2012 and detailed the presence of several al Qaeda groups in Libya. Those same groups overran the U.S. compound in Benghazi just over two months later.
Khatallah was especially interested in the intelligence the Americans were collecting.
After the initial assault on the compound, “at approximately 11:54 p.m.,” Khatallah “entered the Mission compound and supervised the plunder of material from the Mission’s Office, including documents, maps and computers containing sensitive information about the location of the Annex.”
The Kansas City Royals are not a team of destiny—they just execute team fundamentals.
4:14 PM, Oct 16, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
The Kansas City Royals are hot. With eight straight wins in the postseason, the Royals have the air of a team of destiny. The reality of course is much less magical. The Kansas City club moved on to the World Series for the first time in 29 years not because of divine intervention but because they’re executing team fundamentals. They’re playing superior baseball. The Royals’ 2-1 victory Tuesday night was made possible by twice scoring runners from third with less than two outs. Last night’s 2-1 clincher was won in the first inning with a sacrifice bunt and a grounder to the right side of the infield.
“The teams that are flowing, that are a little bit hot, are playing good fundamental ball. That’s why they’re hot,” says Gregg Ritchie, head baseball coach at George Washington University.
Ritchie and I were teammates at GW years ago. He was drafted by the Giants, and played in the Rangers organization, too, before he became one of organized baseball’s most successful hitting instructors. He won a World Series ring with the White Sox in 2005 and then joined the Pirates organization for eight years, most recently two years with the big league club in Pittsburgh from 2011-2012, before coming back to GW as the head coach in 2013. He’s got one of Andrew McCutchen’s bats in a glass case next to the chalkboard where he’s drawing a chart to explain what he means by team fundamentals.
“Sacrifice bunts, advancing runners, putting the ball in play,” he says, hardly exhausting the list of offensive team fundamentals. One the Royals have capitalized on this postseason is getting runners home from third with less than two outs—which is not easy, since, as Ritchie explains, the overall success rate in that situation is only 59 percent.
There are plenty of defensive team fundamentals, too, says Ritchie, including “pick-offs, relays, run-downs, 1st and 3rd defenses, pitcher-fielder plays.” Failure to execute team fundamentals is often the difference between winning and losing. For instance, Randy Choate’s throwing error on a sacrifice bunt Tuesday night cost the Cardinals game three of the National League Championship Series.
Team fundamentals are especially important come October due to the nature of the pitching staffs, which are by definition excellent or else their clubs wouldn’t have gotten to the postseason after 162 games. “There are lots of one-run games in October because good pitching shuts down good hitting, so fundamentals become even more vital,” says Ritchie. “The pitching is so good, and you’re just not going to get a lot of chances against a Cy Young candidate, so if he makes a mistake, you have to jump on it. You’re not going to score six runs, but one run here, two runs there. These so-called little things are not little things, but the big things, which you have to execute one after the other.”
3:17 PM, Oct 16, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Vice President Joe Biden talked about the trouble the middle class is having during the Barack Obama presidency at an event earlier today in Philadelphia:
"The middle class is getting killed," Biden said.
"In the last ten years, average salary of the middle class in America according to Standard & Poor's has gone up 14 cents."
Biden's event was "on the Importance of Investing in our Nation's Infrastructure," according to the White House.
3:14 PM, Oct 16, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana says the federal government should add people attempting to fly to and from Ebola-stricken countries to the no-fly list to stop them from entering the United States. Jindal, a Republican, released a statement reiterating his support for a travel ban from those countries in West Africa affected by the Ebola outbreak.
"Even though it makes common sense to do this [institute the travel ban], the White House has refused to do it," Jindal said. “At the very least, we need to place more travel restrictions on who can travel to and from Ebola-stricken countries. That’s why I am calling on the federal government to block people – except first-responders, health care professionals, and relief workers – from traveling to and from countries with Ebola. The no-fly list should be temporarily expanded to include non-U.S. citizens in the United States or in West African countries who are not first-responders, health care professionals, or relief workers, and American citizens who want to travel to Ebola-stricken countries for pleasure."
Jindal, who is serving his second term as Louisiana's governor, has previous experience in areas of public health. He served as Louisiana's secretary of health and hospitals and later as an assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush administration.
2:16 PM, Oct 16, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
There is no one war and the struggle does not respect borders. The AP is reporting that:
Suspected al-Qaida militants on Thursday overran a security base south of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, killing three policemen before fleeing to nearby mountains, security officials said.
While most of the world has been paying attention to other fights in other nations:
Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen, formally known as the Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and considered by Washington to be the terror network's most active offshoot, has been trying to gain a foothold in the al-Adeen area, a rugged and mountainous region south of the Yemeni capital.
War is not new to Yemen which:
... has for years endured attacks by the Sunni militant group on its army, security forces and state facilities.
Recently, the country has also been grappling with a revolt by Shiite rebels known as the Houthis who have in the past weeks overrun Sanaa and two northern provinces.
… the Shiite rebels made another stunning sweep, taking control of the key Red Sea port city of Hodeida and the province of Damar south of the capital.
No news on whether the rebels were jayvee or varsity; affiliates or core.
12:12 PM, Oct 16, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Lost in the excitement over ISIS, the battle for Khobani, and the possible threat to Baghdad is news of the nation’s longest war, the one in Afghanistan, which the President once called a “war of necessity.”
Now, Senator Carl Levin, who is retiring, believes the that morale on the home front might cancel out what he sees as success on the battlefield. As reported by Travis Tritten in Stars and Stripes, Levin recently warned that
“If the public continues to believe that Afghanistan is a lost cause, it may become a self-fulfilling prophesy.”
The senator added that:
pessimism over the war has surged due to a “constant almost totally negative portrayal of events in the press.” But he said reasons for hope exist on the ground, including a power-sharing agreement brokered last month among the two presidential candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, following an election dispute.
The fragile transition period following its national election will require years of support from the United States — and Congress — to realize its promise and cement some stability for the country.
Which, given the example of Iraq, is exceedingly problematic.
11:23 AM, Oct 16, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Floyd Abrams writing in the Wall Street Journal:
The Metropolitan Opera in New York on Monday will present John Adams ’s opera “The Death of Klinghoffer. ” The organization’s decision to mount the production has already spurred protests, with more to come.
A too-brief summary: In 1985 Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old disabled man, and his wife, Marilyn, were passengers on an Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro. The ship was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists, who shot Klinghoffer in the head and threw him overboard in his wheelchair.
John Adams is a serious artist, recognized as a leading creator of modern operas. “The Death of Klinghoffer,” first produced in 1991, contains a running debate between the killers—who voice a number of undisguisedly anti-Semitic slurs in the course of justifying their conduct—and their victim. Protesters are demanding that the opera be canceled; defenders couch their position, as has the New York Times , in terms of artistic freedom or—as one letter-writer to the Times put it—of helping us “understand the anger, frustration and grievances of other people.” ...
But the controversy over the Adams opera cannot be dealt with by simple reference to the First Amendment or artistic freedom. Those who direct the Metropolitan Opera made a choice when they decided to offer Mr. Adams’s opera, and it is altogether fitting that they be publicly judged by that choice.
Suppose the opera had been about a different murder and the Met offered an intense, two-sided operatic discussion of the desirability of the murder of, say, President Kennedy in a work called “The Death of JFK. ” Or a production about the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in which singers on the “side” of that assassination offer racist views in support of the murder. Or how about one on the death of one of the thousands of victims of the 9/11 attack that contained an extended operatic debate between her killers and herself about whether her death was justified.
Surely we recoil at all of these. They all would be protected by the First Amendment. The First Amendment is basically—and gloriously—content-neutral. It protects not only enduring works of art but also the dregs of human imagination, ranging from films of animals being tortured and killed to the publication of “Mein Kampf.” But it is inconceivable that the Metropolitan Opera would have chosen to offer the public any of the operas I have just hypothesized.
Whole thing here.
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