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Friday :: October 17, 2014

Saddam's Pilots Teach ISIS to Fly

Former pilots for Saddam's air force are reportedly teaching ISIS to fly. Among the aircraft: MI-G fighter planes they got from Syria in battle. The fighter jets have been spotted over Aleppo in Syria.

Islamic State (Isis) is takings its first steps towards building an air force by training pilots to fly captured fighter planes, according to a group monitoring the conflict in Syria.

Isis is using lots of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery and Jeeps taken from the Syrian and Iraqi armies but this is the first report that it has planes in the air.

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Pistorius Sentence Expected Tuesday

Closing arguments are over in the Oscar Pistorius case. The judge is expected to rule Tuesday. Prosecutors asked for 10 years. The defense asks for house arrest and community service. From the defense closing:

Roux said there was also "no conscious unlawfulness" from Pistorius. He described Pistorius' suffering, both emotional and financial, since the Feb. 14, 2013 shooting.
"He's lost everything," Roux said of Pistorius, once an inspirational figure who became the first amputee to run at the Olympics in 2012. "He was an icon in the eyes of South Africans."

...."He's not only broke, but he's broken. There is nothing left of this man," Roux said. He said that Pistorius "hasn't even the money to pay for legal expenses. He has nothing left."

[More...]

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Thursday :: October 16, 2014

Thursday News and Open Thread

The House held a hearing on Ebola today. Several advocated for a travel ban. Here is the National Institute of Health's Ebola page. The Center for Disease Control's page is here.

James Cole, #2 at the Justice Department, is resigning. I like this quote of his:

“We have to stop filling our jails,” Cole said. “The only way you’re going to do that is to take people who are addicted and start dealing with addictions, dealing with their mental health issues, instead of just throwing them in jail.”

British ISIS hostage John Cantlie released episode four of his video messages today. You Tube took it down, but it's available on Daily Motion. More of the same, with a focus on how the media and government feed each other and ramp up fear. [More...]

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Saudi Arabia Sentences Cleric to Crucifixion

These kinds of headlines make me find 3 confirming reports before writing about them, in case there's a language difference as to the use of some words, like "crucifixion. In this case, it means what we think it means.

Nimr Baqer al-Nimr, a reformist cleric, has been sentenced to death by crucifixiton , the country's harshest punishment. He will be beaheaded and his body will be tied to two perpendicular pieces of wood. He'll be strung up and his severed head will be by him. This barbarity will take place in the public square severed head will be place by him. The event takes place in town square, with the public watching.

What was al-Nimr's sin? He preached against the Saudi King, arguing for civil rights. and an end to corruption and discrimination against minorities. [More...]

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Wednesday :: October 15, 2014

U.S. Ditches Free Syrian Army Rebels: Iraq Comes First

Ret. Gen. John Allen, who is in charge of the U.S. response to ISIS, confirmed today that the U.S. will not be training and equipping the Free Syrian Army rebels. He said the U.S. will start from scratch, vetting and then training Syrian opposition fighters. He also made it clear Iraq comes first.

The Syrian arena is important, Allen said, but to the U.S., “the emergency in Iraq right now is foremost in our thinking.” There will be a simultaneous training-and-equipping campaign for Iraq, where the U.S.-trained military collapsed during the Islamic State’s summer offensive.

Allen said the new training program is “for those elements of the Iraqi national security forces that will have to be refurbished and then put back into the field,” with the ultimate goal of reclaiming Iraqi territories seized by the Islamic State. [More...]

The FSA has suspected as much for months. The FSA is interested in overthrowing Assad, not fighting ISIS. It has teamed up with Jabhat al Nusra (al Qaida in Syria) when it suits them, and fighters switch allegiances. In addition, the FSA is angry about the U.S. airstrikes and its targeting of al Nusrah leaders. [More...]

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Wednesday Open Thread

No ruling yet in Oscar Pistorius sentencing. The judge wants the parties to finish by the end of the week.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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U.S. Gives Name to War Against ISIS, ISIS Baits U.S. in Video

The U.S. today announced the name for the war against ISIS. It's called "Operation Resolve."

The operation name applies retroactively to all U.S. military actions conducted against ISIL in Iraq and Syria since airstrikes against ISIL began Aug. 8 in Iraq, officials said.

The name Inherent Resolve is intended to reflect the unwavering resolve and deep commitment of the U.S. and partner nations in the region and around the globe to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community, Centcom officials explained.

100 U.S. military advisors arrived in Anbar today to train Iraqi forces and tribe members.

ISIS has released a new video of three foreign fighters challenging the U.S. to send ground troops, titled "Wait, We Also Are Waiting." SITE has the transcript and a description. Or, you can watch it here.

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New Reports on Old Chemical Weapons

Here's the New York Times report on chemical weapons in Iraq at the long abandoned al Muthanna weapons plant, now under ISIS control.

The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.

Here's the 2007 CIA report on the long abandoned chemical weapons plant. [More...]

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Tuesday :: October 14, 2014

Oscar Pistorius Sentencing Day 2

Oscar Pistorius' lawyers presented more witnesses today, including his manager.

The prosecutor, Gerry Nel, was his usually bombastic self. He has a real attitude, and it has not been lost on the judge in this trial.

Mr Nel described Mr Maringa's suggestions as "shockingly inappropriate", adding that they would amount to "no sentence". He questioned whether Mr Maringa understood the gravity of Pistorius's crime.

Even if she decides to give Oscar some jail time, I highly doubt she will give as anywhere close to what the prosecutor is asking for. . [More...]

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Monday :: October 13, 2014

Monday Night Open Thread

This is a very funny video (and unfortunately, very accurate) about civil asset forfeiture from John Oliver's HBO show.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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ISIS Gains in Iraq

ISIS is making gains around Baghdad. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno today said he is "somewhat confident" the Iraqi Army can resist.

The army withdrew from Hit in the Anbar province following an attack on a military training camp.

Here's a photo by ISIS of its fighters being prepped for battle in the Diyala province.

Reuters says 180,000 have fled Iraq.

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Oscar Pistorius Sentencing Hearing Begins

Oscar Pistorius's sentencing hearing began today. It's expected to take three days. The defense says it will call four witnesses. The prosecutor says he will call at least one witness.

The defense will likely focus on Oscar's mental condition, physical disability, contribution to society and professional achievements.

The first witness is Dr Lore Hartzenberg, Oscar's psychologist. She testified Oscar is now a broken man who has lost everything -- his moral and professional reputation and career. She says he is he’s respectful, caring and well-mannered.

South Africa's prisons are notoriously unsanitary and overcrowded. The disabled are at a considerable disadvantage because of a lack of adequate medical services. Inmate on inmate violence is rampant.

Hopefully, the judge will resist public pressure and and impose an alternative sentence. Oscar was acquitted of murder. The judge ruled he did not intend to kill Reeva. He's suffered enough for his negligence. [More...]

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Sunday :: October 12, 2014

Sunday Night Open Thread

On my agenda: Homeland and the Good Wife. Here's a new open thread, all topics welcome.

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ISIS Releases Dabiq No. 4 : Yazidis, Sotloff and Attacks on the West

ISIS has released the 4th issue of its Dabiq magazine, available here. It's more than 50 pages, and aside from the written statement by John Cantlie which I write about here, I think the three most interesting parts are the call for recruits to launch lone wolf attacks in their Western home countries and credit ISIS for any killings, an attempted justification for enslaving Yazidi women and turning them over as concubines to Islamic soldiers, and a letter it purports was written by deceased hostage Steven Sotloff to his mother. I'll summarize these in turn, and more briefly describe other topics addressed in the issue.

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Two New Messages From ISIS Hostage John Cantlie

ISIS hostage John Cantlie has a new video message (Episode 3 of "Lend Me Your Ears") available on You Tube here. It's much the same message as prior videos. More interesting is a new written statement by Cantlie addressing media claims that his video messages are scripted or written by ISIS.

Cantlie's new written statement is contained in the final pages of the just released Issue 4 of ISIS's Dabiq Magazine, available here in English. [More...]

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