23 Apr

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

The Guardian

Rival Palestinian factions sign landmark unity pact

Mahmoud Abbas

Deal between PLO and Hamas has aim of forming unity government within five weeks

Associated Press at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington

US army soldiers in Iraq in 2006. Photograph: US Army Photo/Alamy

The two unarmed Iraqi brothers posed no threat as they herded cattle in a grove where a US army reconnaissance team was hidden one day seven years ago. But Michael Barbera, then a staff sergeant, took a knee, leveled his rifle and killed them anyway, a prosecutor said Wednesday as a preliminary hearing opened in the soldier’s case.

The first boy was shot in the back, the prosecutor, Captain Ben Hillner, told an investigating officer considering whether Barbera should face a court martial in the March 2007 slayings. The second boy was shot in the chest as he raised his hands in the air, he said.


supreme court affirmative action

Class-based college admissions are no magic wand for keeping schools diverse

Julianne Hing: The court sparks the future of affirmative action. Race policies may be imperfect, but they can’t be forgotten

Every blow to affirmative action sends people casting about desperately for alternatives. With the particular hostility of the Roberts Court to race-conscious admissions policies, the blows are coming faster and faster these days. And Tuesday’s US supreme court ruling in Schuette v Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action was no different: socioeconomic-based affirmative action is now the impending – but seriously flawed – substitute to which universities are turning as they anticipate a day, perhaps in the not-so-distant future, when they can no longer consider race in the application process.

Class-centric approaches to diversity are already making headway at US colleges, but they’re not the substitute for race that income- or wealth-focused proponents imagine. Even the most fervent supporters of class-based admissions are quick to acknowledge the dilemma: the sudden ascendance of socioeconomic affirmative action has been made possible by American courts with a waning appetite for racial remedies to racial discrimination – not because it’s the best solution.


23 Apr

Afghanistan & Iraq Occupation Casualties & News


Other Occupation News:

04/23/14 WNA: Car-bomb injures 2 civilians in Nangarhar

04/23/14 abcnewsradioonline: White House Mulls Leaving Less than 10,000 Troops in Afghanistan

04/23/14 LATimes: Attacks in Pakistan kill 9 after militant cease-fire expires

04/23/14 LATimes: In Afghanistan, childhood is often a


U. S. Casualties Total To Date:Killed: 2317

Recently IdentifiedColor denotes today’s confirmation:

Spc. Kerry M. G. Danyluk, 27, of Cuero, Texas, died April 15 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, of injuries sustained April 12 when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire in Pul-e-Alam, Logar province, Afghanistan

.Capt. James E. Chaffin III, 27, of West Columbia, S.C., died April 1, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of a non-combat related incident. The incident is under investigation. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C

.Master Sgt. David L. Poirier, 52, of North Smithfield, R.I., died Feb. 28, from a non-combat related incident currently under investigation. He was assigned to the 157th Operations Support Squadron, Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H

.Lance Cpl. Caleb L. Erickson, 20, of Waseca, Minn., died Feb. 28, while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Master Sgt. Aaron C. Torian, 36, of Paducah, Ky., died Feb. 15, while conducting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2d Marine Special Operations Battalion, Marine Special Operations Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune,N.C.

Sgt. First Class Roberto C. Skelt, 41, of York, Fla…assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C….died Feb. 12, in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when they were struck by enemy small arms fire.

Spc. John A. Pelham, 22, of Portland, Ore…assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C….died Feb. 12, in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when they were struck by enemy small arms fire.

Spc. Christopher A. Landis, 27, of Independence, Ky., died Feb. 10, on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, from wounds received when the enemy attacked his dismounted patrol with a rocket propelled grenade in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C

Pfc. Joshua A. Gray, 21, of Van Lear, Ky.,died Feb. 10, in Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident currently under investigation.

.Deaths in Afghanistan: A look at the faces of American lives lost 


 Afghanistan Occupation Confirmed U.S Casualties – Since June 1, 2009

Iraq Occupation Casualties, Exclusive of Civilians

U. S. Casualties Total To Date:Killed: 4486

Recently IdentifiedColor denotes today’s confirmation



Deaths in Iraq: A look at the faces of American lives lost 

IIraq Occupation Confirmed U.S Casualties – Since June 1, 2009  

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted by dialing 1-800-273-TALK1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by visiting their website at .The Military Crisis Line offers free and confidential support to service members in crisis or anyone who knows a service member who is. The service is staffed by caring, qualified responders from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), many who have served in the military themselves. Support is offered through the crisis line, online chat, and text-messaging services for all service members (active, National Guard and reserve) and veterans 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year by visiting the Military Crisis Line website at ; Online Chat at: ; sending a text to: 838255 or calling toll free at: 1-800-273-82551-800-273-8255, Press 1; in Europe Dial: 00800 1273 8255 or DSN 118. Services are available even if members are not registered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or enrolled in VA health care.The Army’s comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at . Information about the Army’s Ready and Resilient campaign is located at . Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in the revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: and in Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at .Suicide prevention training resources for soldiers, leaders, Department of the Army civilians and family members can be accessed at (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials). Information about Military OneSource is located at or by dialing the toll-free number 1-800-342-96471-800-342-9647 for those residing in the continental U.S. Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource web site for dialing instructions for their specific location. Information about the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Program (CSF2) is located at .The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-10201-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at . The website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is , and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is found at

23 Apr

Ukraine crisis: Russia ‘to respond if its interests’ attacked

An elderly woman walks past the security service (SBU) regional building seized by the separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk on April 23

From the BBC 23/04/14

Residents at the centre of the crisis in Sloviansk are trying to live normally

Russia will respond if its interests in Ukraine are attacked, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said, drawing a parallel with the 2008 Georgian war.

Speaking to Russian state TV channel RT, Mr Lavrov also accused the US of “running the show” in Ukraine.

It was “quite telling” that Kiev had re-launched its “anti-terrorist” operation during a visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden, he said.

Ukraine’s government is struggling with an armed revolt in the country’s east.

Kiev and the West say Moscow commands gunmen there – a charge denied by Russia.

In recent weeks, pro-Russian militants have seized administrative buildings in at least a dozen towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

They have installed their own officials, in similar tactics to those used to take over the Ukrainian region of Crimea earlier this year.

22 Apr

The Class War Inside the Republic Party

© ALEX ROARTY (Reuters)

Even as its candidates remain dependent on wealthy donors, the GOP’s base is built on blue-collar votes and sentiments.

It took David Perdue about 20 seconds of speechifying to expose a tension roiling the Republican Party. Speaking in January, the former business executive turned Georgia candidate for U.S. Senate asked a group of local Republicans to parse the resumes of his primary foes.
“There’s a high-school graduate in this race, okay?” said Perdue, referring to his opponent, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. “I’m sorry, these issues are so much broader, so complex. There’s only one candidate in this race who’s ever lived outside the United States. How can you bring value to a debate about the economy unless you have any understanding about the free-enterprise system and what it takes to compete in the global economy?”

The two-pronged swipe elicited cries of condescension and elitism that eventually forced Perdue to apologize. And it revealed a vital reality about the state of the Republican Party as its members prepare to select a standard-bearer for the 2016 presidential primary: The GOP has long ago shed its stereotype of being the party catering to the wealthy.

These days, the GOP tone and agenda are set by a voting bloc of mostly white, blue-collar workers whose sensibilities skew more toward NASCAR than golf. In a general election, the party’s most reliable supporters are white voters without college degrees. And they increasingly control the contest for the White House nod: In 2008, according to a tabulation of exit-poll data acquired by the National Journal, blue-collar workers made up 51 percent of all GOP primary voters.

It’s why Perdue’s remark was so costly. He wasn’t just mocking Handel; he was mocking many of the very voters whose support he wants during the May primary. Sarah Palin, whose anti-elitist message best personifies the party’s working-class turn, summed up the feelings of many Republican voters when she campaigned for Handel last month: “There are a lot of good, hard-working Americans who have more common sense in their pinky finger than a lot of those Ivy League pieces of paper up on a wall.”

The problem for some Republican candidates like Perdue, the former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General, is that many of them still hail from the party’s managerial ranks. And that leaves them on unsure footing as they try to communicate with a base whose experiences and outlook are fundamentally different than their own.

That tension is one its White House hopefuls will have to navigate carefully ahead of the 2016 primary.

“Ten years ago a Republican primary was decided by who has the best resume,” said Joel McElhannon, an Atlanta-based GOP strategist. “Having broader experience was considered a big plus, but we’ve seen this shift over the last several years. There is this populist strain going through the Republican primary electorate, and now it’s less about experience and it’s more about being an outsider. It’s less about being qualified than who is more angry and more likely to ruffle feathers.”

The two political parties have essentially traded places over the last few decades. Democrats, who once depended heavily on blue-collar workers, have become increasingly the party of white-collar workers, at least among whites. And as downscale whites leave the Democratic Party, they’ve joined the GOP, whose cultural values often align with their own.

“Blue-collar whites have been migrating to the Republican Party ever since Ronald Reagan called them Reagan Democrats,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “It’s a culture that is heavily family based, more small-town and rural. It’s very pro-gun, and very patriotic. We’re talking about a group of folks who see Democratic efforts at gun control as a cultural assault, an attack on their values.”

They played a pivotal role in the 2012 Republican primary, prolonging Mitt Romney’s ascendancy to the nomination long after most of his backers would have liked. In the critical early state of South Carolina (where Newt Gingrich won), voters without a college degree made up 53 percent of the electorate, according to exit polls. In Ohio (where Romney barely held off Rick Santorum), they constituted 55 percent of the electorate. Iowa’s caucus was 48 percent blue-collar.

“It’s less about being qualified than who is more angry and more likely to ruffle feathers.”

Romney won the nomination despite his private-equity background and numerous cringe-inducing gaffes—like saying his friends were NASCAR team owners or challenging Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet. But in 2016, the competition among potential candidates like Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and Marco Rubio will be stiffer for every vote.

And they’re not just competing for base voters, either. They’re also trying to win over well-heeled donors to fund their campaigns. And that’s where the tension between the two sides of the Republican Party settles in.

“There’s a complete lack of understanding of what primary voters are all about,” said one GOP strategist involved in a potential presidential candidate’s campaign, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “You go around and hang out with big Republican donors, and if you were to take all their advice on how to win, you’d be screwed beyond belief, particularly in a primary.



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