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Sarah Jean Seman - Who Was Journalist James Wright Foley?
Posted: 8/20/2014 12:40:00 PM EST

The Islamic terrorist group ISIS boorishly murdered American freelance photojournalist  James Wright Foley, decapitating him on camera in an attempt to shock the United States and President Obama into military stagnance in Iraq. Foley, a native of New Hampshire, lost his life to the very type of primitive and sadistic people he was attempting to expose.

This was not the first time Foley had been captured while working in the Islamic world. He was  abducted previously in 2011 by Qaddafi loyalists and held in Libya. After 45 days, he was released and sent a letter to his alma mater, Marquette University, a Roman Catholic institution in Wisconsin. He thanked the school for challenging him to “do more and be better.” After taking a volunteer trip to South Dakota and Mississippi with Marquette, Foley said he realized he was a “sheltered kid and the world had real problems.” 

During his imprisonment, Foley wrote that he prayed every day and even said prayers out loud with his imprisoned colleague, Clare. Here is a portion of the letter:

One night, 18 days into our captivity, some guards brought me out of the cell. In the hall I saw Manu, another colleague, for the first time in a week. We were haggard but overjoyed to see each other. Upstairs in the warden’s office, a distinguished man in a suit stood and said, “We felt you might want to call your families.”

I said a final prayer and dialed the number. My mom answered the phone. “Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.”

“Jimmy, where are you?”

“I’m still in Libya, Mom. I’m sorry about this. So sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, Jim,” she pleaded. “Oh, Daddy just left. Oh … He so wants to talk to you.

How are you, Jim?” I told her I was being fed, that I was getting the best bed and being treated like a guest.

“Are they making you say these things, Jim?”

“No, the Libyans are beautiful people,” I told her. “I’ve been praying for you to know that I’m OK,” I said. “Haven’t you felt my prayers?”

“Oh, Jimmy, so many people are praying for you. All your friends, Donnie, Michael Joyce, Dan Hanrahan, Suree, Tom Durkin, Sarah Fang have been calling. Your brother Michael loves you so much.” She started to cry. “The Turkish embassy is trying to see you and also Human Rights Watch. Did you see them?” I said I hadn’t.

“They’re having a prayer vigil for you at Marquette. Don’t you feel our prayers?” she asked.

“I do, Mom, I feel them,” and I thought about this for a second. Maybe it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat.

The official made a motion. I started to say goodbye. Mom started to cry. “Mom, I’m strong. I’m OK. I should be home by Katie’s graduation,” which was a month away.

“We love you, Jim!” she said. Then I hung up.

I replayed that call hundreds of times in my head — my mother’s voice, the names of my friends, her knowledge of our situation, her absolute belief in the power of prayer. She told me my friends had gathered to do anything they could to help. I knew I wasn’t alone.

James Foley chose to continue exposing the problems in the Islamic world after his initial release and was  captured again in Syria in November 2012. The Committee to Protect Journalists began a petition for his freedom after his second abduction. Sixty-six journalists have died covering the conflict in Syria and seven have been murdered, according to CPJ’s site. It is the most dangerous country for the media. 

In a Facebook post Tuesday,  Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, said she has never been more proud of her son:

We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.

We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.

We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.

President Obama was briefed about Foley’s murder while flying back on Air Force One to his vacation spot at Martha’s Vineyard. He is expected to address Foley’s death during a press conference at 12:45 PM EST Wednesday. 

Daniel Doherty - FBI: We Think the Foley Video Might Be Genuine
Posted: 8/20/2014 12:20:00 PM EST

The video in question has already been taken down from YouTube. Nevertheless, after analyzing and appraising its authenticity, the FBI has reportedly reached this tragic conclusion: it’s real.

Reuters has the details:

The FBI believes the Islamic State video purporting to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley is authentic, GlobalPost reported on Wednesday.

"The FBI on Wednesday morning told the Foley family they believe the video is authentic," according to GlobalPost, a Boston-based online publication that employed Foley as a freelancer.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is on vacation on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard, is likely to comment on the video later in the day, a U.S. official told Reuters.

U.S. authorities had previously said they were trying to verify the contents of the video, which was released on Tuesday.

Remember, we haven’t received any official confirmation that the man executed in the video is James Foley. But if the FBI is supposedly already telling Foley’s family the rumors are true, that’s an ominous sign. Presumably, too, when the president updates the nation today at 12:45 PM EST (or, perhaps more realistically, 1:15 PM or later) we’ll know more about what happened.

Sit tight for our write-up.

UPDATE: U.S. intelligence has confirmed the video is genuine.

Christine Rousselle - Contrast: David Cameron Suspends Vacation Over Foley Killing; Obama Heads Back To Vineyard
Posted: 8/20/2014 12:10:00 PM EST

Yesterday, a video depicting the beheading of American journalist James Wright Foley was posted on YouTube. The jihadist in the video spoke with a London accent, prompting questions about whether the man was in fact a British national.

In response to these questions, British Prime Minister David Cameron suspended his vacation and vowed to get to the bottom of the situation. Obama, on the other hand, returned to Martha's Vineyard late Tuesday evening to rejoin his family on vacation. A statement was released through a spokesman late last night that said Obama was "appalled" by the gruesome beheading.

Compare:

The Prime Minister has broken off his holiday in Cornwall after just a day, having previously said that he would return "immediately" if the situation in Iraq deteriorated.

He made the announcement after Philip Hammond said that it appeared that the Islamic State extremist who beheaded Mr Foley is British.

Meanwhile:

President Obama went back to his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard Tuesday evening following less than 48 hours in Washington, leaving people puzzled over why he came back in the first place.

Obama’s two days in Washington were mostly quiet, and concluded with the president receiving his daily national security briefing in the morning, and joining Vice President Biden to huddle with members of his economic team in the afternoon.

Administration officials have insisted for weeks that the president just wanted to return to the White House for a series of meetings, but the explanation was met with a healthy dose of skepticism, since Obama rarely interrupts his vacations.

This is unacceptable behavior from the president, and he should look to Cameron for guidance on how to handle a situation like this. It isn't even confirmed that the man in question is British (for all we know, he could have been taught English by a Londoner or is a heck of an impressionist), yet Cameron recognized the gravity of the situation and did the appropriate thing by suspending his vacation.

It's no wonder ISIS thinks they can walk all over us.

Cortney O'Brien - McDonnell's Sister-in-Law Calls His Wife A "Vitamin Nut" During Corruption Trial
Posted: 8/20/2014 11:30:00 AM EST

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's (R) corruption trial became a testy family affair Tuesday when his sister-in-law had nothing but harsh words for her brother's wife. The former First Family has been charged with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from business executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in exchange for promoting his company, Star Scientific, which sells dietary supplements, and offering him access to the governor's office. On the witness stand this week, McDonnell's sister tried to  place the blame for the unethical relationship on her sister-in-law:

“There are two sides to Maureen,” she testified. “You’re not sure which one you’re going to get — which one will show up.”

One, she said, was “very sweet, very tender.” She recalled how the former first lady sat with her husband’s mother as she lay dying, rubbing lotion on the elderly woman’s legs and head.

But, Maureen C. McDonnell added: “She could be very manipulative. She could be very unpredictable. She could be very deceptive.”

McDonnell's sister also referred to his wife as a "vitamin nut," suggesting she is the likely culprit in wanting to promote Williams' products. She isn't the only who had an unflattering description of the First Lady. On Monday, one of Governor McDonnell's longtime aides accused his wife of being so "diva-ish" that her staff once threatened to quit. 

So, why is McDonnell's defense team employing a strategy that is so critical of his spouse? Well, if they make the case that McDonnell was simply a victim of his wife promoting Williams' company behind his back, it could earn him some sympathy from the jury.

Whether or not the jury takes the bait remains to be seen. Until then, this is one Family Feud that will not end in cheers from a studio audience.

Daniel Doherty - Rubio: It's Clear ISIS Has Already Declared War on the U.S.
Posted: 8/20/2014 10:40:00 AM EST

The horrible barbarism of ISIS is just starting to impact and affect Americans directly. Katie wrote up the grisly news yesterday that 40-year-old American journalist, James Wright Foley, was allegedly beheaded by the terrorist group. (I haven’t seen the video, nor do I intend to, but the carnage speaks for itself).

As of this writing, ISIS' savage claims cannot be substantiated -- but the administration is nonetheless "appalled" by these recent developments. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda’s newest ally now claims to have another American in captivity, and is threatening to kill him too if the U.S. doesn’t stop their ongoing and effective airstrike campaign against ISIS in northern Iraq.

Even so, former CIA Director Mike Morell argued that even if he is assassinated, “we cannot let something like this stop us” from taking the fight to the enemy (via Noah Rothman):

In fact, we should pick up the pace here. The definition of terrorism is political violence…so we should mark this date down because this is ISIS’ first terrorist attack against the United States.

Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a presumed presidential hopeful himself, condemned ISIS today in clear and unequivocal terms. Here is what he said:

“The brutal execution of American journalist James Foley by ISIL is the latest example of the evil and barbarism of these terrorists. My thoughts and prayers are with the Foley family and with other Western hostages who at this hour are still being held.

“Just as Al Qaeda’s initial killings of Americans abroad foretold the carnage they would unleash within our borders, this barbaric beheading of a defenseless hostage is the clearest indication to date that ISIL has declared war on the United States, on the American people, and on freedom loving people everywhere.

“For more than a year, ISIL has been murdering civilians, raping women and young girls and enslaving them, and carrying out a systematic genocide of anyone who does not share their warped and extremist Islamist views. ISIL cannot be reasoned with, they can’t be negotiated with, and their view of the world is irreconcilable with civilized society.

“I remain deeply concerned that despite the preponderance of evidence that proves ISIL is a fundamentally evil and dangerous terrorist threat to the United States, President Obama continues to appear unwilling to do what is necessary to confront ISIL and communicate clearly to the American people about the threat ISIL poses to our country and to our way of life.

The president will convene a press conference today to address the alleged beheading of James Wright Foley, and its implications. Stay tuned.

Katie Pavlich - Obama Administration "Appalled" at Beheading of American Journalist "If True"
Posted: 8/20/2014 10:00:00 AM EST

Late yesterday news broke that the terrorist group ISIS beheaded American photojournalist James Wright Foley and issued a challenge directly to President Obama. ISIS has also threatened to execute American journalist Steven Sotloff, who is still in their custody. 

When news broke last night, President Obama was on his way back to Martha's Vineyard. In a statement this morning, the Obama administration has said that "if" Foley was killed then they are "appalled." More from the Washington Examiner:

“If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will provide more information when it is available,” National Security Council spokesman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
We still have not heard directly from President Obama about the gruesome, savage murder of Foley. Foley's family has asked for privacy during this difficult time.

UPDATE: The White House knew ISIS was threatening to execute Foley. From ABC News: 

ISIS had recently threatened to kill U.S. journalist James Foley to avenge airstrikes the United States has conducted in Iraq, a senior U.S. official told ABC News.

The White House had been aware of the threat prior to the release of a video Tuesday night that appears to show the beheading of Foley and warns that militants will carry out a similar act against U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, who went missing in August, the official said.
Conn Carroll - Townhall Magazine's September Issue Preview: The Case Against Common Core
Posted: 8/20/2014 9:56:00 AM EST

Townhall Magazine's September issue is hitting subscriber mailboxes now! If you want to get the latest original content from Townhall's conservative talent weeks before it goes online, subscribe here now!

Below is an excerpt from Sarah Jean Seman's September feature story, "The Case Against Common Core."

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was supposedly developed with one goal in mind: to strengthen the United States’ global competitive advantage by rigorously educating the next generation.

It is unquestioned that Americans are falling behind their foreign counterparts in academics. U.S. students tested below average in math and only nudged in close to average in reading and science when compared to 34 other developed countries, according to the 2012 Program for International Students Assessment.

“To maintain America’s competitive edge, we need all of our students to be prepared and ready to compete with students from around the world,” then-Vermont Gov. and National Governors Association vice chair Jim Douglas (D) said at the announcement of Common Core in 2009.

Unfortunately, this visionary overhaul has burgeoned into a federal government power grab. In its current capacity, the standards may end up hurting our already failing education system and overlooking our children’s unique needs and the diversity of the country at large.

WHAT IS COMMON CORE?
The Common Core lobbying push began in 2006, when NGA chair and then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) launched her Innovation America campaign. Napolitano’s goal was to “give governors the tools they need to improve math and science education, better align postsecondary education systems with state economies, and develop regional innovation strategies.”

An ensuing task force composed of the NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the progressive educational group Achieve Inc. produced a 2008 report titled “Benchmarking Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World Class Education.” The writers urged state leaders to “upgrade state standards by adopting a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts for grades K-12 to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be globally competitive.”

This same advisory group proceeded to jointly develop the standards known today as Common Core State Standards.

The testing rubric sets K-12 grade-specific goals for English, language arts, and math. In theory, these standards would ensure that students in every state are reaching the same academic level. At the same time, teachers still have the freedom to craft lessons at will, as long as they include the material needed for students to pass the national benchmark. Regardless of where a family relocates, or what school system they transfer into, a student should be able to enter the academic setting with confidence that they can keep up with their peers. 

Microsoft guru Bill Gates eventually became one of Common Core’s biggest champions after activists sold him on the idea in 2008. Gates then heavily funded the organizations that pushed the Common Core standards and those same organizations are now set to use Microsoft products for their digital learning programs.

“I want to explain why Common Core is among the most important education ideas in years,” Gates wrote in a February 12, 2014 USA Today op-ed.

“The standards are just that: standards, similar to those that have guided teachers in all states for years, except these standards are inspired by a simple and powerful idea: Every American student should leave high school with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and in the job market.”

Initially, 45 states agreed to join the initiative in 2009. And in many respects, the program started off on the correct foot. It did not take long, however, for states to recognize the product’s false packaging and the potentially detrimental effects it would bring to their state.

FOLLOW THE MONEY
“If you look at the history of Common Core, how it came to be, the pressure and the incentive that were put on states to adopt it, I think it’s easy to conclude that this was federally driven,” 

Daniel Doherty - "Establishment" Candidate Dan Sullivan Secures GOP Senate Nod in Alaska
Posted: 8/20/2014 9:00:00 AM EST

Former Natural Resources Commissioner, Bush administration official, and state Attorney General Dan Sullivan won the Republican U.S. Senate primary last night in Alaska, the Associated Press reports. The AP notes that the Karl Rove-backed outside spending group, American Crossroads -- and the conservative Club for Growth, both endorsed him.

He also won, in part, because he crushed his two GOP rivals in the fundraising game:

A tea party attempt to overcome a mainstream Republican came up short in Alaska as former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan won the GOP primary to become his party’s candidate to take on U.S. Sen. Mark Begich in the fall.

Sullivan entered the primary the presumed front-runner, with the backing of national GOP powerbrokers and a huge cash advantage over his rivals.

Sullivan won by a rather comfortable margin:

With 80% of precincts reporting, the Associated Press projected that Mr. Sullivan would top the Republican primary field. He had 40.2% of the vote, compared with 31.8% for tea party candidate Joe Miller and 25.1% for Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.

Mr. Sullivan said in a statement that he looks "forward to painting a clear contrast between Mark Begich's inability to move our state forward and my vision for a brighter and better Alaska."

Speaking of Begich, a SuperPAC supporting him spent roughly $4 million during the late primary campaign attacking Dan Sullivan. At the same time, some of the attack lines used against him sound eerily familiar:

“Alaska’s bitter and divisive Republican primary exposed that Dan Sullivan does not look out for what’s in the best interests of Alaskans,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee deputy executive director Matt Canter in a statement from Washington early Wednesday. “After carrying water for Sarah Palin and trying to restrict access to public lands for hunters and fishers, Sullivan is now hoping to do the Koch brothers’ bidding in the U.S. Senate.”

Begich attacked Sullivan and Treadwell over women’s health issues — a recurring theme in races across the country this year, driven in part by the ongoing Obamacare debate — and joined the other Republicans in attacking Sullivan over his Alaska roots. (Sullivan is originally from Ohio and worked for the George W. Bush administration.)

Par for the course for Democrats these days, I suppose. But the goods news is -- and unlike, say, in Missouri -- there doesn’t seem to be any lasting ill-will between the Republican candidates. Both of Sullivan’s rivals called to congratulate him after he was declared the winner.

Hopefully now Republicans can unite in preparation for the general election campaign, and therefore pick up a seat they are more than capable of winning:

Alaska is a red-leaning state that could become one of the six Republicans need to net in order to win control of the Senate. John McCain defeated Barack Obama there by almost 22 percentage points in 2008. Begich, a former mayor of Anchorage, that year unseated GOP Sen. Ted Stevens, who had just been convicted in an ethics case that was later thrown out. Obama lost by a narrower but still large margin, 14 points, to Mitt Romney in 2012.

That's to say, it would be a painful loss to swallow if Republicans don't unseat Begich; after all, their chances of recapturing the upper chamber would be seriously diminished.

Hence why party elders (and grassroots activists alike) will be monitoring this race very closely through Election Day.

Leah Barkoukis - Islamic State Is Not a Terrorist Group, It's an Army
Posted: 8/20/2014 8:20:00 AM EST

Earlier this month, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that inaction toward the radical Islamic State “is no longer an option.” She also appropriately called them what they are: an army.

“It takes an army to defeat and army, and I believe that we either confront ISIL now or we will be forced to deal with an even stronger enemy in the future,” she said in a statement. The Islamic State is “operating with military expertise, advancing across Iraq, and rapidly consolidating its position.”

According to a monitoring group's estimates, we now have numbers to confirm Feinstein's assessment. Including fighters in both Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State is  80,000 strong and growing by the day.

The Islamic State group has an army of more than 50,000 fighters in Syria, and recruited 6,000 people in the last month, a monitoring group has said.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said on Tuesday that the group's recruitment push was gathering pace every month.

"July saw the largest recruitment since the group appeared in Syria in 2013, with more than 6,000 new fighters," he said.

"The number of IS fighters has passed 50,000 in Syria, including 20,000 non-Syrians," he said.

Al Jazeera cannot verify the observatory's figures. However, an Islamic State source backed the statement and told Al Jazeera that the group also had 30,000 fighters in Iraq.

Abdel Rahman said the new recruits in Syria included more than 1,000 foreign fighters from Chechnya, China, Europe and Arab countries. He said most had entered Syria from Turkey.

IS is not a problem that will remain in the Middle East if left unchecked. They have taunted President Obama and America at large on numerous occasions, and most recently released a video with the theme of “breaking the American cross.” In the video, they boast about “emerging victorious over “crusader” America,” Reuters reports.

JihadWatch.org explains further:

The Islamic State jihadis think of the U.S. as a Christian nation, and so they think of destroying it as breaking the cross, which language is also reminiscent of this:

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, son of Mary (Jesus) will shortly descend amongst you people (Muslims) as a just ruler and will break the Cross and kill the pig and abolish the Jizya (a tax taken from the non-Muslims, who are in the protection, of the Muslim government). Then there will be abundance of money and no-body will accept charitable gifts. (Bukhari 3.34.425)

Meanwhile, IS continues to warn that if U.S. airstrikes continue, Americans will be attacked “in any place.” The gruesome video of an IS militant purportedly beheading journalist James Foley in retaliation for airstrikes is one such example, and the executioner threatened to do the same to fellow American journalist Steven Joel Sotloff, depending on President Obama’s next move.

Matt Vespa - Millennials Aren't As Liberal Once They Start Making Money
Posted: 8/20/2014 7:40:00 AM EST

There may be a glimmer of hope for the Millennial Generation–my generation– when it comes to attitudes about government and the welfare state. In 2008, young Americans got drunk on Barack Obama. I mean, insanely drunk over Mr. Hope and Change, who bamboozled them not once, but twice. So, it should come as no surprise that after Obamacare’s disastrous rollout and the president’s ineffectiveness as a leader that  a majority of young Americans would support recalling him from office.

Ouch! But, so what if they agree to this? They're still hopelessly liberal on everything, right? Emily Ekins at Reason says not so much, especially once millennials become employed and, you know, start making money:

Millennials also become more fiscally conservative as they age, make more money, and learn they will become responsible for paying for things. In fact majorities begin to oppose income redistribution and increased spending on financial assistance to the poor, and support for government guarantees drops once millennials start making between $40K-60K a year. Moreover, as they roll off their parents' health insurance policies and begin paying for their own, they no longer are willing to pay more for insurance even "if it helped provide health insurance coverage for the uninsured," flipping from 57 percent in support to 59 percent opposed.

When it comes to Social Security, 71 percent of millennials support creating private accounts:

Similarly, Pew found 67 percent of all Americans also favor allowing younger workers invest in private accounts. However, if allowing younger workers to opt out of Social Security meant reduced benefits to seniors, only 38 percent of all Americans would favor while 55 would oppose, according to Reason-Rupe. Millennials’ willingness to cut entitlements simply doesn’t comport with strong economic liberalism.

As for health care, 54 percent of millennials believe that government should ensure access, but Ekins noted “GenX was also more supportive when they were in their 20s and have since changed.”

You can read the rest of Reason’s report on millennials here.

Although, while millennials might go the way of the generations before them, they’re largely “unclaimed.” While Republicans’ espousing of social conservatism might turn them off, the GOP’s advocacy for free markets and economic independence might be a magnet. Yet, they’re unsure if such a system is the best for social mobility, according to the report. That’s an area conservatives can surely win, but only if we make the argument. Demography isn’t destiny–and it seems the notion of young Americans being lost to liberalism is a bit premature. 

After all, the majority of 18-year-olds voted for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.

I double-checked this and found a Washington Post article from March 10 that touched upon this, saying Democrats have a young people problem as well:

Among self-reported voters who were 18 years old in 2012, Mitt Romney, not Obama, won the majority: 57 percent. Romney also won 59 percent among 19-year-olds, and 54 percent among 20-year-olds. These youngest voters of 2012 had entered the electorate in 2010-2012, when Obama’s popularity was much lower than the high point of his inauguration.

In other words, they saw the Obama agenda in action. 

Republicans have an inroad; let's see if they take advantage of it.