The terrorist group ISIS has allegedly beheaded American journalist James Wright Foley on video in Iraq in order to send a message to the United States. I'm not going to dignify the terrorists by posting the video here, you can look it up on your own if you'd like. A warning, extremely violent and difficult to watch.
Do not watch the video. Honor James Foley's memory. He was a good damn reporter. The world is less good without him.— Jeb Boone (@JebBoone) August 19, 2014
Wright's fellow journalist Ihan Tanir gave some background on the situation on Twitter.
I was w/ James Foley in Aleppo, August 2012 for a day in #Selahaddin. Syrian opposition members were adoring him. He was a kind, brave man— ilhan tanir (@WashingtonPoint) August 19, 2014
James Foley and another freelancer were the last foreign journos left in near Aleppo city as Assad regime were taking over, August 2012. ++— ilhan tanir (@WashingtonPoint) August 19, 2014
They were last 2 foreign journos left. Rebels w/me went there to rescue these 2, then ventured to Selahaddin neighborhood, Aleppo that day— ilhan tanir (@WashingtonPoint) August 19, 2014
More from Noah Rothman:
The American photojournalist James Wright Foley was working for Agence France Presse when he was captured crossing the Syria-Turkish border in 2012. The American war reporter had previously been held for six weeks by pro-Gaddafi forces in Libya while covering that conflict. Some believed that his capture would be similarly short-lived. Tragically, that would not be the case.
“On November 22, 2012, James Wright Foley, a freelance photo journalist, was taken by an organized gang after departing from an internet café in Binesh, Syria,” the FBI noted in November, 2012. “Foley had employed a translator to help him travel across the Syrian-Turkish border. The translator was also taken, but later released.”
Swift justice is in order. Immediately. May his family find peace in this extremely difficult time.
Meanwhile the JV terror team, I mean ISIS, is threatening to kill American journalist Steven Sotloff next.
IS: "The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision" pic.twitter.com/tFZyBGN9YN— Michael van Poppel (@mpoppel) August 19, 2014
By the way, where is President Obama right now? On Air Force One headed back to vacation.
Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen is declaring its support for the Sunni extremist group that has taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria, creating the potential for a new alliance against the United States.
“We announce solidarity with our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the crusade. Their blood and injuries are ours and we will surely support them,” said a statement published by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemen Times reported Tuesday.
“We assert to the Islamic Nation [all Muslims worldwide] that we stand by the side of our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the American and Iranian conspiracy and their agents of the apostate Gulf rulers," the statement continued.
AQAP is believed to pose the most dangerous threat to the U.S. of all the al Qaeda affiliates, because it has tried to stage attacks against the United States several times.
Was this not bound to happen at some point? Both al Qaeda and ISIS share the same goal of killing Americans and waging war against the U.S. This is beyond dispute. Meanwhile, ISIS has publicly taunted the president, vowing to "raise the flag of Allah in the White House” while al Qaeda, everybody knows, masterminded the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
I suspect, also, that al Qaeda operatives aren't universally opposed to ISIS’ decision to slaughter young Christians and ethnic minorities and sell the rest of their victims into slavery. Though perhaps, for now, maybe some are:
One expert, Saeed Al-Jamhi, head of the Al-Jamhi Center for Strategic Studies, told the Yemen Times that there were ISIS gunmen training fighters in Yemen, and some AQAP members fighting in Iraq.
Al-Jamhi also said there were divisions within AQAP over whether to support ISIS, but predicted that division would fade as ISIS increases its stature.
And its stature is indeed increasing. President Obama once dismissed them as “jayvee,” but their military capabilities, coupled with their bloodthirsty tactics, makes them a serious national security threat. President Obama himself has already said explicitly that they pose a danger to the Middle East and our diplomatic and military personnel stationed there. Now, apparently, AQAP is advising ISIS on how best to avoid US airstrikes, and maximize their influence in the region.
Worse, ISIS just released a video pledging to “drown all [Americans] in blood”:
The Islamic State militant group that has seized large parts of Iraq and drawn the first American air strikes since the end of the occupation in 2011 has warned the United States it will attack Americans "in any place" if the raids hit its militants.
The video, which shows a photograph of an American who was beheaded during the U.S. occupation of Iraq and victims of snipers, featured a statement which said in English "we will drown all of you in blood".
Parting question: Two terrorist organizations have apparently joined forces to wage jihad against the United States. So what, if anything, will be the administration's response?
If neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) nor Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are allowed to claim victor over the coveted Senate Chamber gavel come election day, Vice President Joe Biden will play tie-breaker.
In the event a 50-50 Senate is the outcome this November of an already polarized Washington, Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution has the Vice President as the president of the Senate. Though it has only happened twice, the VP would then give the gavel to his or her party.
Biden would be in high-heaven if this were to happen says Senator Ted Kaufmen (D-Pa.), Biden's long time chief of staff.
“He’d like two years of being the deciding vote, back in the cloakroom, in the Senate gym...I think he would revel in that.”
If this were to become a reality, Biden would be back in the spotlight and would hope to be seen as the savior of Obama's last two years in office where the loss of a Democratic-controlled Senate means further trouble for the Obama administration.
Politico breaks it down this way:
To hit a tie, Democrats would need a net loss of five seats, and most of them have already written off the seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. That leaves two, and between the races they’re facing in Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina, Democrats say losing two seems a pretty safe bet. They’re not counting on pickups in either Kentucky or Georgia, where their prospects are best.
There are Democratic strategists that say this situation is realistic, which means the only way for Republicans to take the Senate is to win fair and square this November.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is simply living in an alternate universe. While yelling into the clouds over the Koch Brothers’ evil plot to destroy America, he said today that Democrats “are doing really well in Montana.” And is optimistic that they'll maintain control of the Senate (via the Hill):
Reid predicted Democrats would lose a seat in South Dakota, but was optimistic about Montana despite Sen. John Walsh's (D-Mt.) recent decision to drop out of the race after a plagiarism scandal. We are doing really well in Montana," Reid told reporters on Monday.
If the election were held today, we'd be in the majority without any question, but the election is not today," said Reid, who argued "it's not going to be easy" for Republicans to win the Senate.
Democrats hope to take GOP seats in Georgia and Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing a difficult challenge.
Of those two races, Reid added, “we are holding our own.”
In both Georgia and Kentucky, Republicans David Perdue and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are leading. Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn had the unfortunate mishap of having campaign memos leaked, which described her as a “lightweight, too liberal, and not a real “Georgian.” Oh, and those critiques are by her own staff. Her Republican opponent, David Perdue, leads with a comfortable seven-point lead, according to Insider Advantage’s poll.
In Kentucky, the race is going to be a tight one for Mitch McConnell, who’s battling for his political life, but even Huffington Post pollsters give him the advantage in that contest against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who infamously said that Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system protects Israelis from Hamas’ underground tunnels.
McConnell’s campaign has worked hard to define Ms. Grimes, flooding the Bluegrass state with negative ads calling her “Barack Obama’s Kentucky candidate” and saying she supports “Barack Obama's anti-coal environmental platform,” according to the Wall Street Journal. And, they're working:
Those ads are having an impact. In a July poll sponsored by local media outlets, 33% of voters viewed her negatively, up from 27% in May, while the share of voters who view her positively, which was higher, stayed relatively flat.
In an interview, Ms. Grimes said she has attempted to spend time with people in Kentucky, not "pandering to the press."
"We are no better off for having Mitch McConnell there," she said, referring to his seniority in Washington. "It's not about the lines on a résumé. It is about the passion that you have to work in a bipartisan manner to put the people of this state first."
At the same time, McConnell isn’t doing too badly in the latest Bluegrass poll. He’s virtually tied with Grimes amongst women voters (46/47) and he’s winning the youth vote–those between the ages of 18 and 34–(49/44) over Grimes. Additionally, the poll finds that 27% of likely African-American voters would vote for Mitch McConnell.
As for Ms. Grimes slamming of McConnell’s service in the Senate, She does know that Democrats have been in the majority for the past eight years, right?. And since 2008, the working class of America has seen their average incomes drop by 6.5%, African-American median incomes falling by 9.5%, and Hispanic income dropping consistently every year since the 2008 presidential election, according to WPA Research.
That’s not a shining statistic if you’re running as a Democrat.
Over at FiveThirtyEight, Harry Enten threw cold water on Democratic hopes in Georgia and Kentucky last month:
In Georgia, the FiveThirtyEight projection is far more pessimistic about Democratic prospects than the polls. Here’s why: No Democrat holds an elected statewide office in Georgia. No Democrat has won a U.S. Senate race in the state in 14 years. No Democrat has won a presidential race in the state in 22 years. The Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn, is probably benefitting from name recognition; her father, Sam Nunn, was a well-regarded senator from the Peach State. That edge may disappear once voters realize Michelle is not Sam. Moreover, Republicans may coalesce around the winner of the contentious GOP primary between Jack Kingston and David Perdue.
Kentucky is a similar case — the polls show a Democrat holding her own a in a deeply red state. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has all the fundamentals going for him: President Obama is deeply unpopular in Kentucky, McConnell is an incumbent, and Democrats haven’t won a statewide federal race in Kentucky in 18 years. They haven’t won a Senate race in 22 years. In May, I estimated that these factors knocked down Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes’s chances of winning by nearly 30 percentage points, from the low 40s into the teens.
Enten described Senate Democrats’ position in the 2014 elections as “perilous,” saying, “A tiny shift could tip the canoe and spill a lot of Democrats overboard.”
As for Colorado, need I say more about the candidate who even Montana Democrats say doesn’t “have a chance in hell?”
Republicans need to win six seats; they’re probably going to pick up Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota. Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s re-election bid is a bellwether for Arkansas and North Carolina. If she goes, most likely incumbent Democratic Senators Mark Pryor and Kay Hagan go as well. There’s also Jodi Ernst in Iowa, who could possibly fill retiring Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat. And don’t forget about Rep. Cory Gardner in Colorado. Plenty of room for Republicans to maneuver and create upsets.
Election 2014 is 77 days away.
Granted, Reid is part of the Democratic leadership going into an election cycle hostile to his party. He needs to be Mr. Positive, the guy who keeps the liberal base at ease. In 2010, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi filled this role when she said Democrats would maintain their majority in the House, despite the red tsunami that washed 63 of them out of office that November.
Nevertheless, it still makes Reid’s optimism look as insane as the alleged Koch Brothers' double secret probation plan to overthrow the country.
Add the New York Times editorial board to the growing list of constitutional scholars, journalists, and political operatives who find the curious indictment against Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) to be a farce. The board doesn’t go as far as defending his tenure or his policies (in fact, they do the opposite) but they do nevertheless feel as if he is the victim of an “overzealous prosecution”:
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is one of the least thoughtful and most damaging state leaders in America, having done great harm to immigrants, abortion clinics and people without health insurance during his 14 years in office. But bad political judgment is not necessarily a felony, and the indictment handed up against him on Friday — given the facts so far — appears to be the product of an overzealous prosecution.
For more than a year, Mr. Perry has been seeking the resignation of the Travis County district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg. He had good reason to do so: Ms. Lehmberg was arrested in April 2013 for driving with a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit, and she verbally abused the officers who found her with an open bottle of vodka. She ranted and raved at the local jail, threatening sheriff’s deputies, and she had to be restrained in a chair with a hood over her head. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. In addition to endangering people’s lives, she instantly lost her credibility as a prosecutor of drunken-driving cases.
Yes, one wonders how the county’s district attorney -- who herself served time for drunk driving -- can reasonably be expected to effectively prosecute other loaded drivers. Meanwhile, her refusal to resign after overtures from the governor's delegates prompted the whole lawsuit in the first place. Now it’s no secret that Perry tried to entice her to resign the only way he knew how (cutting funding to her department) but did he also break the law? Even the NYT editorial board doesn’t think so:
But his ill-advised veto still doesn’t seem to rise to the level of a criminal act. After a complaint was filed by a liberal group, a judge appointed a special prosecutor, Michael McCrum, a San Antonio lawyer and former federal prosecutor, to take the case. A Travis County grand jury indicted Mr. Perry on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. The indictment says he exceeded his veto power by combining it with a threat to Ms. Lehmberg if she didn’t quit.
Governors and presidents threaten vetoes and engage in horse-trading all the time to get what they want, but for that kind of political activity to become criminal requires far more evidence than has been revealed in the Perry case so far. Perhaps Mr. McCrum will have some solid proof to show once the case heads to trial. But, for now, Texas voters should be more furious at Mr. Perry for refusing to expand Medicaid, and for all the favors he has done for big donors, than for a budget veto.
In other words, there’s no evidence at present that suggests Perry is guilty of criminal wrongdoing. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t. Still, as former Clinton advisor Lanny Davis argues in a recent Newsweek op-ed, the indictment itself doesn’t really mean a whole lot:
It is even more outrageous to anyone who cares about due process and civil liberties to read the comments from local and state Democrats in the state Texas Democratic Party about the Perry indictment. Most of the comments I read used language of guilt or a presumption of wrongdoing because of the fact of the indictment. …
In fact, an indictment is evidence of nothing. It is literally just an accusation, not even close to proven facts. Yet I read some Texas Democrats calling for Perry to resign — resign!
These cannot be Democrats who care about civil liberties or due process, much less the credibility of our party, which has always denounced those who presume guilt or even suggest wrongdoing after an indictment alone.
In my opinion, silence by Democrats about the Perry indictment and Democratic comments rushing to assume wrongdoing isn't acceptable.
Indeed, calls for Perry to resign are misplaced and premature at this point in time – as even prominent Democrats (and the New York Times editorial board) are more than willing to concede.
Sometimes reporters just tell it like it is. Nevada reporter Jon Ralston offered an epic rant to viewers Monday when he spared no insults against Hillary Clinton and her “royal” speaking demands:
“We don’t have kings and queens in America, or at least we shouldn’t. But when I see the red carpet UNLV is rolling out for Hillary Clinton in two months I start to wonder. Unless you’re a mindless partisan, the details of that contract with the UNLV Foundation should disturb you.”
In case you weren't familiar with the revelation, The Las Vegas Review-Journal obtained documents detailing Clinton's speaking demands ahead of her appearance at a University of Nevada, Las Vegas Foundation fundraiser. Here were a few of her totally normal requests:
She insists on staying in the “presidential suite” of luxury hotels that she chooses anywhere in the world, including Las Vegas.
She usually requires those who pay her six-figure fees for speeches to also provide a private jet for transportation — only a $39 million, 16-passenger Gulfstream G450 or larger will do.
And she doesn’t travel alone, relying on an entourage of a couple of “travel aides,” and a couple of advance staffers who check out her speech site in the days leading up to her appearance, much like a White House trip.
In the 2012 presidential election, it's safe to say former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's wealth was a handicap. Liberals accused him of being a one percenter who couldn't relate to the average American. A clever and relevant piece, “ Yes, Hillary Clinton Has a Mitt Romney Problem” suggests Clinton may face the same issue were she to run in 2016. The difference, however, is that the mainstream media will likely fail to make the same connection:
In many ways Hillary is the perfect embodiment of this liberal mindset. She’s committed to fighting poverty and income inequality one charity gala at a time, growing increasingly confident in her moral superiority over her ideological opponents. Her multiple mansions are her just reward for being a good person. She has earned the presidency. Her multiple mansions are her just reward for being a good person. She has earned the presidency.
Come 2016, will voters distance themselves from Clinton for her red carpet treatment? Who knows. Until then, have a bit of fun watching all of Ralston’s stellar report:
Jerusalem - The terrorist organization Hamas has violated yet another ceasefire just hours before an extended 24-hour ceasefire agreement was scheduled to end. Israel is responding accordingly.
BREAKING: Moments ago, 3 rockets fired from Gaza hit Be'er Sheva and Netivot. Terrorists have violated the ceasefire.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 19, 2014
In response to today's rocket fire, we have begun striking terror targets in the Gaza Strip.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 19, 2014
Before the violation, an Israeli official talked about a push to demilitarize Hamas. You can read more about that here.
The feud between Democrats and Republicans in Alaska's heated Senate race has potential make-it-or-break it consequences in the fight to control the Senate.
Nearly $4 million in attack ads mudslinging GOP front-runner Dan Sullivan have been spent by supporters of Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, a ploy Republicans call "meddling" the Republican primary for an easier win in the general election.
The Begich campaign and their supporters deny these claims, as Sullivan and his allies fire back with ads calling out Sen. Begich and his coercive tactics to beat Sullivan in November.
Recent polls show that Sullivan is in the lead against opponents Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller. Art Hackney, an Alaska Republican operative who has been running a pro-Sullivan super PAC, told Politico that these attacks could have an impact on Tuesday's primary:
“They’re trying simply to make sure Dan Sullivan is damaged goods,” said Hackney. “They’ve put a lot of money behind it, and, frankly, they’ve turned it into a primary that’s possible to go almost any way."
Part of the human condition is experiencing profound tragedy and anguish. It’s inevitable. And yet at the same time it’s also impossible to understand how Pope Francis must be feeling today after learning that three of his relatives (two of whom were just babies) died in a traffic accident in his home country of Argentina. The Associated Press reports:
The Vatican says a road accident in Argentina has killed two young great-nephews of Pope Francis as well as their mother, the wife of the pope’s nephew.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the accident occurred Tuesday morning in the area of Cordoba, a major Argentine city. One nephew was 2, the other was 8 months. The age of their mother wasn’t immediately available. Lombardi said the nephew survived; local news reports said he was injured. Lombardi didn’t have the victims’ names.
The cause of the crash is unknown. All we know, at this point, is that there was some sort of rear-end collision early this morning, and that the pontiff’s nephew is alive, but in serious condition:
For reasons that are under investigation the car hit a truck from behind.
The pope's nephew has been hospitalized with multiple injuries. Official details of his condition have not been released.
He is the son of Alberto, the pope's late brother.
The pope is now urging those who “ share in his grief” to pray for him:
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said "the pope was informed about the tragic accident. He is deeply pained." He added the pope asks "all who share in his grief to unite with him in prayer."
In the Catholic tradition, like many traditions, life is a precious and inviolable gift from God that must be cherished. But at the same time, tragedies befall families all the time for no discernible or logical reason. It’s especially heartbreaking to learn that Pope Francis’s great nephews were so young; they were barely children and had their whole lives ahead of them. I therefore share in his grief today, and hope that through the power of prayer and human solidarity he will find some solace.
Incidentally, Pope Francis isn’t blind to the preciousness of life, either. Reflecting on his own mortality recently, he stated that he believes he himself has only “ two or three years” to live:
Pope Francis on Monday publicly broached the prospect of his own death for the first time, giving himself "two or three years" but not ruling out retirement before then.
Talking to reporters on a flight back to the Vatican from South Korea, the 77-year-old pontiff, who seemed in good spirits, was asked about his global popularity, which was evident again during his five-day visit.
"I see it as the generosity of the people of God. I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, not to become proud. Because I know it will last only a short time. Two or three years and then I'll be off to the Father's House," he replied light-heartedly.
The Argentine pope said he could handle the popularity "more naturally" these days, though at first it had "scared me a little".
The crushing burden of responsibility must take its toll on any world leader over time. That's especially true for Pope Francis today.
So let us pray for him, and his family, as they cope with this profound tragedy and loss in the days and years ahead.
Jerusalem - As a midnight ceasefire deadline looms with just hours to go, Israeli officials and their allies are pushing for the demilitarization of Hamas in a final attempt to avoid future conflict with the terror organization.
"What we're hoping to have is a situation where Hamas is demilitarized and we have allies, the American administration, the American Congress, the Europeans, the Egyptians and even the official Palestinian government in the West Bank [in agreement], but is Hamas going to voluntarily going to turn in their weapons? It's tough," Mark Regev, chief spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview Tuesday. "Ronald Reagan once said about the old Soviet Union, and I'm old enough to remember, he said, 'Trust but verify.' When dealing with Hamas in contrast you have to verify and you have to verify again and Hamas has broken ceasefires as recently as last week."
On the issue of a preemptive decrease in militarization of Hamas, officials are happy to report while not all Hamas weapons resources have been destroyed, they have been heavily depleted over the past two months.
"First we took out a lot of it, secondly they shot a lot of it at us and what's left is a residual capacity still there that's much less than what they had two months ago," Regev said. "Part of our challenge in this ceasefire is to make sure they [Hamas] don't rebuild tunnels and don't replenish their supply of rockets."
According to a report from Haartz, a Hamas spokesman said the latest 24-hour ceasefire extension, will be the last. As a reminder, the Hamas charter states, "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”
Negotiations for a long term peace deal are ongoing in Egypt.
UPDATE: Immediately after I filed this story, this happened.
BREAKING: Moments ago, 3 rockets fired from Gaza hit Be'er Sheva and Netivot. Terrorists have violated the ceasefire.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 19, 2014
Editor's note: I am in Israel on a trip being sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters and hosted by the Israel's Ministry of Tourism.