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Tuesday :: September 02, 2014

Tuesday Night Open Thread

I'm obviously still focused on ISIS and the Middle East. And, it's almost time for Senor de los Cielos, which is in its final weeks.

For those of you following other news (or entertainment), here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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U.S. Increases Military Personnel in Baghdad

The Pentagon announced today Obama has authorized sending 350 more military personnel to Baghdad to secure the embassy.

This builds upon previous embassy security deployments announced on June 15 and June 30 and will bring the total forces responsible for augmenting diplomatic security in Iraq up to approximately 820.

The additional joint forces will come from within the U.S. Central Command area of operations and will include a headquarters element, medical personnel, associated helicopters, and an air liaison team.

In all, 405 U.S. military personnel will be sent to Baghdad to provide a more robust and sustainable security presence to help the Department of State continue their critical mission.

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British Hostage David Cawthorne Haines

British hostage David Cawthorne Haines, threatened by ISIS in the execution video of Steven Soltoff, is a foreign aid worker and former soldier.

He reportedly was kidnapped on March 12, 2013 near the Atmeh refugee camp in Idlib, Syria. It has been reported he was kidnapped with an Italian aid worker, Federico Motka. Motka was released in May, 2014, after negotiations with the Italian Government and a private security company. Motka had been working for the French non-governmental organisation ACTED. Here is ACTED's statement on his release. According to a spokesperson for a former aid group Haines worked for, he was also working for ACTED at the time of his abduction.

After his release, Motka told a Turkish news agency he had seen the ISIS flag during his captivity. He said he had been tortured and that he was moved six times.

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ISIS Executes Steven Sotloff

ISIS has released a video (no link here please) that shows Steven Sotloff in the beheading position. It says he has been executed, and a British hostage, David Cawthorne Haines, will be next.

Update: I don't think the video was made at the same time as the Foley video. The executioner mentions the continued bombings "at Amerli, Zumar and the Mosul Dam." Amerli and Zumar hadn't happened when Foley was killed. Also, Sotloff had a shaved head and no beard in the Foley video. In today's video, he has hair and a beard.

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Monday :: September 01, 2014

Obama's Latest War Authorization Letter and ISIS Update

President Obama has written Congress explaining his decision to conduct airstrikes on Amerli:

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

As I reported on August 8 and 17, 2014, U.S. Armed Forces have conducted targeted airstrikes in Iraq for the limited purposes of stopping the advance on Erbil by the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), supporting civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar, and supporting operations by Iraqi forces to recapture the Mosul Dam. U.S. Armed Forces have also provided humanitarian assistance to the civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar.

On August 28, 2014, I further authorized U.S. Armed Forces to conduct targeted airstrikes in support of an operation to deliver humanitarian assistance to civilians in the town of Amirli, Iraq, which is surrounded and besieged by ISIL. Pursuant to this authorization, on August 30, 2014, U.S. military forces commenced targeted airstrike operations in the vicinity of Amirli, Iraq. These additional operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli.

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Labor Day Open Thread

Happy Labor Day. (Version with Axl Rose here.)

Lets drink to the hard working people
Lets drink to the lowly of birth
Raise your glass to the good and the evil
Lets drink to the salt of the earth

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NY Times: Guantanamo Decaying

The New York Times has some new articles on the decaying of Guantanamo. Camp X-Ray is now a "ghost prison." Here are the photos.

The original complex, Camp X-Ray — with kennel-like cages that were used for about four months in 2002 while Delta was built — is a ghost prison, overrun by vegetation and banana rats, tropical rodents the size of opossums.

There's also a "FAQ" section on the future of Gitmo. Gitmo costs $443 million a year to operate -- $3 million per inmate (currently there are 143 inmates.) [More...]

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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's Army Lawyer Resigns, Alleges "Show Trial"

Maj. Jason Wright, one of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's lawyers in his military commission trial, has resigned from the Army, which terminates his representation. In an interview, he says the U.S. is guilty of human rights violations and creating a "show trial."

Wright, who served in Iraq and is a Judge Advocate General (JAG), has spent the last 3 years defending Mohammed. Among his complaints:

Wright says Mohammed in particular has faced a level of torture "beyond comprehension." He says his client was waterboarded by the CIA 183 times and subjected to over a week of sleep deprivation; there were threats that his family would be killed. "And those are just the declassified facts that I'm able to actually speak about," Wright says.

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Friday :: August 29, 2014

Friday Night Open Thread

It's the last weekend of summer. Sure went by fast.

President Obama visited Westchester, NY today and the Secret Service reported they are investigating a threat against him and searching for a 2014 Volkswagon Jetta. Obama then went to Rhode Island and is expected to leave there tonight. Some news reports say the person is armed. Some say the car is blue, others say it is silver.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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AQAP's New Magazine Urges Attacks in U.S. and Britain

Is AQAP (al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula) getting jealous of ISIS? Its new magazine, an offshoot of Inspire by Al-Malahem English Production, is called Palestine: Betrayal of the Guilty Conscience. It urges lone wolf attacks in the U.S. and Britain and some other places. There are photos of the Tsarnaev brothers and the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad (background here).

It also provides a pictorial with instructions and a shopping list for ingredients for pressure cooker bombs and car bombs (which I'm not re-publishing, but you can read the magazine for yourself here, courtesy of Jihadology. See pages 14 to 18.)

Here is its pitch, and the list of suggested targets: [More...]

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Pentagon Says Cost of Current Iraqi Operations is $7.5 Mil a Day

Via Reuters, we have been spending $7.5 million a day in Iraq since mid-June. That's a total to date of about $532 million.

U.S. military operations against Islamic State in Iraq have cost an average of $7.5 million per day since they began in mid-June, the Pentagon said on Friday, a figure that means the department has spent more than $500 million on the conflict.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told a briefing the expense of U.S. operations against Islamic State in Iraq had varied since U.S. forces became involved on June 16 but on average "it's costing us about $7.5 million per day."

Reuters says according to analysts, the U.S. has been spending $1.3 billion per week on Afghanistan.

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ISIS Explains Killing of Foley and al-Sheitaat Tribe Members

ISIS has released the third edition of its Dabiq Magazine. This issue addresses the killing of journalist James Foley and the al-Sheitaat tribe members. You can read it here.

On the tribe members:

These clans were left armed after they agreed to submit to the rule of the Sharī’ah with the condition they hand over all heavy weaponry. They then betrayed their covenant by rebelling against the Islamic State. They ambushed Islamic State soldiers, and then tortured, amputated, and executed prisoners taken from the ambushes. All these crimes were carried out in opposition to the enforcement of the Sharī’ah.

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Thursday :: August 28, 2014

Thursday Open Thread

Here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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ISIS: Frogmarch, Killings and Beheadings of Soldiers

Yesterday, ISIS posted photos of captured Syrian soldiers being forced to march across the desert in their underwear, presumably to their deaths. A video (non-violent) is here. Today Reuters reports ISIS released another video showing they were all killed.

Also today, ISIS issued another "blood message" to the U.S. warning it about helping the Kurds. In the video, now gone from You Tube but available elswhere (no links please) it shows a bunch of captured Kurdish soldiers in orange jumpsuits (likely to mimic Guantanamo.) One soldier is then beheaded on camera, while a warning to the U.S. is made about helping the Kurds. This took place in Mosul, in front of the Rahman Mosque.

ISIS also posted a video of it beheading a Lebanese soldier.

CENTCOM announces today it has struck a tank, a humvee, 4 armed vehicles, a construction vehicle and damaged a checkpoint.

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Wednesday :: August 27, 2014

Tech Talk

My iPhone 5s died yesterday. It just wouldn't turn on. I ended up having to plug it into my computer and restore the factory settings, and then an old backup. It took hours, and it worked -- until this morning. Dead as a doornail again.

I took it to the Apple store, and without my even asking, they offered me a brand new phone, same model. They set it up in 5 minutes. (Now I have to sync it and get all my music and apps back on it, but at least I won't have to keep doing it tomorrow and the next day.) Thank you Apple!

Apple is coming out with a 13" iPad. I still have the original iPad, which doesn't work with a lot of more advanced video apps, so maybe it will be time for a new one. I really like the big screen -- but then, I'm one of the few people I know who still prefer a desktop to a laptop. Anyone else tempted to buy it? [More...]

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