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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Obama orders airstrikes in Syria for first time

Obama orders airstrikes in Syria for first time 
 

AP Photo
President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Cross Hall in the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. In a major reversal, Obama ordered the United States into a broad military campaign to “degrade and ultimately destroy” militants in two volatile Middle East nations, authorizing airstrikes inside Syria for the first time, as well as an expansion of strikes in Iraq.
 
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Opening a new military front in the Middle East, President Barack Obama authorized U.S. airstrikes inside Syria for the first time Wednesday night, along with expanded strikes in Iraq as part of "a steady, relentless effort" to root out Islamic State extremists and their spreading reign of terror.


"We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are," Obama declared in a prime-time address to the nation from the White House. "This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten 
America, you will find no safe haven."

Obama announced that he was dispatching nearly 500 more U.S. troops to advise and assist Iraqi security forces, as well as conduct intelligence and reconnaissance flights, bringing the total number of American forces sent there this summer to more than 1,500. He also urged Congress anew to authorize a program to train and arm Syrian rebels who are fighting both the Islamic State militants and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Obama's plans amounted to a striking shift for a president who rose to political prominence in part because of his early opposition to the Iraq war. While in office, he has steadfastly sought to wind down American military campaigns in the Middle East and avoid new wars - particularly in Syria, a country where the chaos of an intractable civil war has given the Islamic State space to thrive and move freely across the border with Iraq.

Speaking on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Obama's plans were also an admission that years of American-led war in the Middle East have not quelled the terror threat emanating from the region.

Obama insisted that his plan to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State militants would not involve returning U.S. combat troops to the Middle East. Even so, he acknowledged that "any time we take military action, there are risks involved, especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions."

"But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil," he added.

The president's speech, which lasted about 15 minutes, followed a summer of deliberation at the White House over how to respond to the violent Islamic State militants. While administration officials have said they are not aware of a credible threat of a potential attack by the militants in the U.S., they say the group poses risks to Americans and interests across the Middle East. Officials are also concerned about the prospect that Westerners, including Americans, who have joined the militant group could return to their home countries to launch attacks.

In recent weeks, the militants have released videos depicting the beheading of two American journalists in Syria. The violent images appear to have had an impact on a formerly war-weary public, with multiple polls in recent days showing that the majority of Americans support airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. began launching limited airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq earlier this summer at the request of that country's former prime minister. But Obama vowed that he would not commit the U.S. to a deeper military campaign until Iraq formed a new government that allowed greater participation from all sects, a step Iraqi leaders took Tuesday.

Officials said Obama plans to proceed with both the broader airstrikes in Iraq and the strikes in Syria without seeking new authorization from Congress. Instead, he is to act under a use-of-force authorization Congress passed in the days after 9/11 to give President George W. Bush the ability to go after those who perpetrated the terror attacks. Obama has previously called for that authorization to be repealed, but he has also used it as support for strikes against terror targets in Yemen and Somalia.

Obama said his approach in Syria is modeled after those long-running U.S. counterterrorism campaigns. But it is different in important ways, starting with the fact that it marks the first time since 9/11 that a U.S. president has authorized the bombing of terror targets in another nation without seeking permission or at least notifying it in advance.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, praised Obama for acknowledging the "grave and growing threat" that Islamic extremists pose, but he said Obama was coming to that conclusion far too late.

"He has finally begun to make the case the nation has needed him to make for quite some time: that destroying this terrorist threat requires decisive action and must be the highest priority for the United States and other nations of the free world," Boehner said.

As if to answer the criticism that he has been too cautious, Obama declared of his plan: "This is American leadership at its best."

Obama is seeking authorization from Congress for a Pentagon-led effort to train and arm more moderate elements of the Syrian opposition. Even before his remarks, congressional leaders were grappling with whether to support that request and if so, how to get such a measure through the fractured legislature before the November elections.

The White House wants Congress to include the authorization in a temporary funding measure lawmakers are expected to vote on before adjourning later this month. Republicans have made no commitment to support the request and the House GOP has so far not included the measure in the funding legislation.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Nevada Democrat might opt to seek separate legislation.

While the CIA currently runs a small program to arm the rebels, the new version would be more robust. Obama asked Congress earlier this year to approve a $500 million program to expand the effort and put it under Pentagon control, but the request stalled on Capitol Hill.

Some of Obama's own advisers, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, pressed him to arm the rebels early in their fight against Assad. But Obama resisted, arguing that there was too much uncertainty about the composition of the rebel forces. He also expressed concern about adding more firepower to an already bloody civil war.

The White House announced Wednesday that it was also providing $25 million in immediate military assistance to the Iraqi government as part of efforts to combat the Islamic State.

The Treasury Department will also step up efforts to undermine the Islamic State group's finances. David Cohen, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, wrote in a blog post that the U.S. would be working with other countries, especially Gulf states, to cut off the group's external funding networks and its access to the global financial system.

The U.S. has been pressing allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere to help with efforts to degrade the terror group.

France's foreign minister said Wednesday that his country was ready to take part in airstrikes against extremist fighters in Iraq if needed. And the German government announced that it was sending assault rifles, ammunition, anti-tank weapons and armored vehicles to Kurdish forces in Iraq fighting, breaking with Berlin's previous reluctance to send weapons into conflicts.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who met with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad Wednesday, was also scheduled to attend a conference with Arab leaders Thursday to discuss their role in confronting the militants.
 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Election Results In Delaware State Primary

Election Results In Delaware State Primary

NEWARK, Del., (CBS) — They’re counting the votes in Delaware’s primary election.

In the Senate race, Kevin Wade defeated Carl Smink to win the Republican nomination.

Wade will take on incumbent Democrat Chris Coons in the November general election.

In the race for State Treasurer, Jen Simpler defeated Sher Valenzuela for the Republican nomination.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Monday, September 8, 2014

WHO: Liberia will see thousands of new Ebola cases

WHO: Liberia will see thousands of new Ebola cases 

AP Photo
Health workers, attend to patients that contracted the Ebola virus, at a clinic in Monrovia, Liberia, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Border closures, flight bans and mass quarantines are creating a sense of siege in the West African countries affected by Ebola, officials at an emergency African Union meeting said Monday, as Senegal agreed to allow humanitarian aid pass through its closed borders.
 

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) -- The United States and Britain will send medical equipment and military personnel to help contain West Africa's Ebola outbreak, as the World Health Organization warned Monday that many thousands of new infections are expected in Liberia in the coming weeks.

The current Ebola outbreak is the largest on record. It has spread from Guinea to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal and killed more than 2,000 people. An "exponential increase" in new cases is expected in the hardest-hit countries in coming weeks, the U.N. health agency warned.

"As soon as a new Ebola treatment facility is opened, it immediately fills to overflowing with patients, pointing to a large but previously invisible caseload," WHO said in a statement about the situation in Liberia. "Many thousands of new cases are expected in Liberia over the coming three weeks."

So far, more than 3,500 people have been infected, nearly half of them in Liberia. The outbreak has taken a particularly heavy toll on health workers. The World Health Organization announced Monday that one of its doctors working in Sierra Leone has been infected with Ebola.

In response to the spiraling disaster, U.S. President Barack Obama said Sunday that the military would help to set up isolation units and provide security for public health workers responding to the outbreak.

Military personnel will set up a 25-bed field hospital in the Liberian capital, Col. Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday. The clinic will be used to treat health care workers, a high number of whom have become infected in this outbreak.

Once set up, the center will be turned over to the Liberian government. There is no plan to staff it with U.S. military personnel, Warren said.

Liberia welcomed the news.

"This is not Liberia's particular fight; it is a fight that the international community must engage very, very seriously and bring all possible resources to bear," said Information Minister Lewis Brown.

In addition, Britain will open a 62-bed treatment center in Sierra Leone in the coming weeks. It will be operated by military engineers and medical staff with help from the charity Save the Children, Britain's Department for International Development said Monday.

The clinic will also include a special section for treating health care workers, offering them high-quality, specialist care, the statement said.

Currently, there are about 570 beds in Ebola treatment centers in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the hardest-hit countries, and the World Health Organization says nearly 1,000 more are needed, the vast majority of those in Liberia.

Doctors Without Borders welcomed both the American and British announcements, but warned even the latest surge in efforts may not be enough, saying the disease was moving "catastrophically through the 
population much faster than new facilities are being created."

And experts say it's not just beds, but that more international and local health workers that are needed. 

Doctors Without Borders also urged Washington to not simply set up clinics but also to staff them.

Many health workers, however, have been reluctant to respond to the crisis out of concern that there isn't enough protective equipment to keep them safe.

A fourth American who contracted Ebola in West Africa was expected to arrive in the U.S. for care Tuesday, Emory University Hospital - where two other aid workers successfully recovered from the disease - said Monday in a news release.

Ebola is spread through the bodily fluids of people who show symptoms, and doctors and nurses are at high risk of infection because they work closely with the sick. The WHO doctor whose infection was announced Monday is the second health care worker with the agency to catch Ebola. The doctor is in stable condition and will shortly be evacuated, the agency said.

In Liberia alone, 152 health care workers have been infected with Ebola and 79 have died, WHO said, noting that country had too few doctors and nurses even before the crisis.

"Every infection or death of a doctor or nurse depletes response capacity significantly," it said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called several world leaders over the weekend, including the British prime minister and French president, to urge them to send more medical teams and money to fight the 
outbreak.

Officials have said flight bans and border closures - meant to stop the disease's spread - are slowing the flow of aid and protective gear for doctors and nurses to the region.

At an emergency African Union meeting Monday, members agreed to open borders that have been closed and lift bans on flights to and from affected countries, according to Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chair of the AU's Commission. But it was unclear how quickly those promises would be kept.

Earlier, Senegal, which has shut its borders and blocked flights, said it was planning to open a "humanitarian corridor" to the affected countries.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Churches urge high court to act on gay marriage

Churches urge high court to act on gay marriage 
  

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Mormon church and four religious organizations are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and settle once and for all the question of whether states can outlaw gay marriage.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in a statement Friday, said it joined a friend-of-the-court brief asking the high court to hear Utah's marriage case.

Also taking part in the filing were The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics & Religious Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Each teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman.

"The time has come to end the divisive national debate as to whether the Constitution mandates same-sex marriage," the brief states.

Multiple organizations and governmental entities on both sides of the debate have filed similar briefs asking the court to take up the issue.

The religious groups urged the Supreme Court on the basis of tradition and religious freedom to uphold a state's right to disallow gay and lesbian couples to wed.

"Legal uncertainty is especially burdensome for religious organizations and religious believers increasingly confronted with thorny questions," the brief says. "Is their right to refrain from participating in, recognizing or facilitating marriages between persons of the same sex, contrary to their religious convictions, adequately shielded by the First Amendment and other legal protections? Or is further legislation needed to guard religious liberties in these and other sensitive areas?"

Last month, attorneys for three Utah gay and lesbian couples formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take Utah's appeal of a favorable gay marriage ruling.

The plaintiffs said they asked for the review even though they won at the federal appellate court level because they want the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether state same-sex marriage bans violate the Constitution.

The high court is under no obligation to take Utah's case or the others.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

US and UK seek partners to go after Islamic State

US and UK seek partners to go after Islamic State

AP Photo
U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, right, speak before taking their seats at the start of a NATO-Afghanistan round table meeting during a NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. In a two-day summit leaders will discuss, among other issues, the situation in Ukraine and Afghanistan.
  
NEWPORT, Wales (AP) -- President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pressed fellow NATO leaders Thursday to confront the "brutal and poisonous" Islamic State militant group that is wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria - and urged regional partners like Jordan and Turkey to join the effort as well.

As leaders of the Western alliance gathered for a two-day summit, Obama and Cameron worked to begin forming a coalition of nations that could combat the extremists through military power, diplomatic pressure and economic penalties.

"Those who want to adopt an isolationist approach misunderstand the nature of security in the 21st century," they wrote in a joint editorial published as the meetings began. "Developments in other parts of the world, particularly in Iraq and Syria, threaten our security at home."

While some NATO leaders talked tough about the threat posed by the Islamic State group, the alliance made no specific pledges of action. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he believed the broader international community "has an obligation to stop the Islamic State from advancing further" and would seriously consider requests for assistance, particularly from the Iraqi government.

The Islamic State group moved up the list of international priorities as the militants pressed through Iraq with lighting speed earlier this year. The group, which seeks to create a caliphate, or Islamist nation-state, in the Mideast, is considered even more merciless toward its enemies than the al-Qaida terror network, and intelligence officials across the world warn that with hundreds of Westerners fighting for them, it may soon seek to seed its violence beyond its declared borders.

The U.S. began launching airstrikes against militant targets in Iraq last month, with Britain joining American forces in humanitarian airdrops to besieged minority populations. The militants' killing of two American journalists inside Syria has raised discussion of targeting the group there as well.

White House officials said they did not expect NATO to commit to a military mission against the group during the summit. Still, they raised the prospect that the end of NATO's combat mission in Afghanistan - an effort that has consumed the alliance for more than a decade - could allow member states to focus their attention elsewhere.

"What you see the alliance doing at this summit is looking at more than one direction at a time," said Douglas Lute, the U.S. ambassador to NATO.

Indeed, the threat posed by the Islamic State overshadowed some of the NATO summit's official agenda, which was intended to focus on celebrating the Afghan drawdown of troops and constructing a rapid response force on the alliance's eastern flank that could serve as a deterrent to Russian aggression. Obama and European leaders met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in a show of solidarity with his embattled nation.

Beyond direct military action, the White House said it was also seeking commitments from allies to send weapons, ammunition and other assistance to Western-backed Syrian rebels and to Iraqi forces.

Germany moved in that direction Thursday, with the government announcing that it had sent a first planeload of military equipment to the Kurds in Iraq's north, including helmets, protective vests, field glasses and mine-searching devices. The German government also said it had decided to send assault rifles, ammunition, anti-tank weapons and armored vehicles to the Kurdish forces, but it hadn't yet set a date for the arms deliveries.

In between summit sessions on Afghanistan and Ukraine, Obama and Cameron also sought support from non-NATO nations that partner with the alliance. The president and prime minister held separate meetings with Jordan's King Abdullah II Thursday, and both plan to meet Friday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Obama has said repeatedly that efforts against the Islamic State would be successful only if the U.S. had support from neighbors of Iraq and Syria.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who are both with Obama in Wales, plan to travel to the Middle East next week to rally more support from regional partners.

The U.S. and Britain have been particularly concerned about the prospect that Westerners who have traveled to Syria to join the militants could return to their home countries and launch attacks. Cameron proposed new laws this week that would give police the power to seize the passports of Britons suspected of fighting alongside the extremists.

A British citizen is believed to have carried out the beheadings of the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Cameron on Thursday said he hadn't ruled out joining the U.S. in airstrikes, but he added that the priority was to support the forces already fighting the militants on the ground.

"We need to show real resolve and determination; we need to use every power and everything in our armory with our allies - with those on the ground - to make sure we do everything we can to squeeze this dreadful organization out of existence," Cameron told the British network ITV.


Monday, September 1, 2014

No gray area: Beliefs shape views of Brown killing

No gray area: Beliefs shape views of Brown killing 
 
AP Photo
In this Aug. 23, 2014 photo, Keith Stephens stands at a rally in support of policeman Darren Wilson, in St. Louis. Wilson is the white officer who shot unarmed, black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Like many Americans, Stephens has formed strong opinions about the case.

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Lamont Jones and Keith Stephens stood 60 feet from each other, separated by four lanes of pavement and a thousand miles of perception.

Stephens was wearing a T-shirt printed with a police shield bearing the phrase "OFFICER DARREN WILSON I STAND BY YOU," as part of a rally supporting the white policeman who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed. Jones was across the street, holding up a sign that said, in blood-red letters: "Darren Wilson is a Murderer."

There was no overlap in the facts as seen by Jones and Stephens at the demonstrations staged a few miles from suburban Ferguson, where Brown was killed. Like many who have closely followed the case, which sparked riots and yet another national racial conflagration, Jones and Stephens had made up their minds.

Like uncounted numbers of Americans, they saw no gray area in the killing of Michael Brown.

Many are convinced there was no justification for Wilson to kill Brown because he was unarmed. Many others are certain it was justifiable because they believe Brown threatened Wilson.

Not everyone is so sure. In a CBS News/New York Times poll, 64 percent of respondents said they didn't know enough to say whether the shooting was justified. Only about half of respondents said they had paid "a lot" of attention to the case.

But the national furor over Ferguson is fueled by those with strong opinions. They are the people still marching, or calling Brown a thug, or demanding that Wilson be convicted, or implying that Brown deserved his death.

Such strong opinions can often be influenced by "confirmation bias," psychologists say. A large body of research shows that people search for evidence to support their preexisting viewpoints - and then interpret that information in a way that reinforces their beliefs.

"It's the tendency to seek out and give greater weight to information that confirms what we think rather than contradicts it," said Scott Plous, a psychology professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Confirmation bias seemed to be running rampant at the dueling demonstrations.

About 100 Wilson backers, nearly all of them white, gathered outside of Barney's Sports Pub in St. Louis late last month, brandishing signs like "Heroes Have A Right To Protect Themselves." A multiracial group of about a dozen Brown supporters stood across the street. Passing drivers honked in support of one side or the other, screamed obscenities, or raised middle fingers out of windows.

Jones stalked the sidewalk with a silent, smoldering gaze. Asked why his sign called Wilson a murderer, he said Brown was unarmed and was shot with his hands up.

What about the police statement that Brown tried to grab Wilson's weapon?

"Where his witnesses at?" Jones demanded. "(Brown) ran away. He was unarmed."

"Use a stun gun. Taser," Jones added. "The facts are, Darren Wilson fired a multitude of six shots into an 18-year-old, who was unarmed . two shots in the arm, the rest in the head and upper torso."

An autopsy by the Brown family said Brown was hit with four shots in the arm and two in the head.

Might any information emerge that could change Jones' mind?

"No," Jones said, gaze steady. "Not at all."

His parting shot: "Unarmed!"

Across the street, questions about the case were met with a different selection of facts.

People at the Wilson rally brought up the arrest record of Dorian Johnson, the first witness, who said Brown was shot in the back (autopsies indicate the bullets hit him from the front) and with his hands up.

They were quick to mention two unverified accounts that provided support for those who argue Brown rushed toward the officer.

No mention was made of the other three witnesses - Tiffany Mitchell, Piaget Crenshaw and James McKnight - who also said they saw Brown's hands up. None of those witnesses described Brown rushing toward the officer.

Wilson's supporters mentioned that Brown stole a box of cigars from a store and roughly shoved the clerk minutes before he encountered Wilson.

"That'd say something about your character, right? And then you might start a fight with a cop?" said a plumber who gave his name as James Edwards.

Edwards mentioned a report, based on anonymous sources, that Wilson's orbital eye socket was fractured. But what about another anonymously sourced report that there was no fracture?

"I don't know if it's true or not. It makes no difference. He had facial wounds when he was hit. He was 100 percent right to shoot," Edwards said, as a passing driver honked in solidarity.

Stephens, one of many people wearing the Wilson badge T-shirts selling for $20, said that if Brown grabbed Wilson's weapon and assaulted him, "that gives him every right to shoot him."

At first Stephens said he could see a gray area in the case because there was so much unconfirmed information circulating. Then he said, "If we assume this officer's account is accurate, there is no gray area in the state of Missouri," meaning he believed what Wilson did was legal under state law.

Did he assume Wilson's account was accurate?

"Yeah, I do," Stephens said.

Several witnesses described Brown breaking away from Wilson and running away. They recalled the officer firing shots at the fleeing Brown, and then Brown stopping.

The crucial question is what happened next.

The rallying cry of "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" has become a powerful symbol of Brown's death. But could "Hands Up" be more myth than fact?

Alternatively, could Wilson, facing possible criminal charges over his decision to shoot, have exaggerated Brown's aggression, shading his statement of facts about what happened?

With so much incomplete and sometimes conflicting information, some confirmation bias is bound to occur.

"If one were to view a police officer pointing a gun at someone, and they also view police negatively, they may very well ignore whatever events precipitated the officer drawing his/her weapon, even though that action may have been entirely justifiable," Lou Manza, chair of the psychology department at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, said in an email.

"On the other side," he said, "if one has a favorable view of police, they're going to ignore the alleged assailant's behavior, and simply assume that the police officer is correct, despite the fact that the officer may very well be wrong and unjustified in their actions."

"Confirmation bias is a subtle but strong effect," Manza said, "and once a belief is established, it can be VERY difficult to change it."

This helps to explain why Brown's killing, currently being considered by a Missouri grand jury, has revived a dynamic seen in racial controversy after controversy, from O.J. Simpson to Rodney King to Trayvon Martin: People look at the same information and come to very different conclusions.

In this particular case, with little unambiguous evidence, "people are actually acting very reasonably," said Plous, the Wesleyan professor.

"There is a void, and into that void, people will bring whatever they regard as the most reasonable evidence," he said. "People are trying to make sense of this tragedy using the most compelling evidence they have available."

Such as their own perspectives and experiences.

"We're forced to reconstruct, to remember, to imagine what could have taken place," Plous said, "and those are precisely the conditions when we're likely to see bias."

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Joan Rivers' daughter: I'm keeping fingers crossed

Joan Rivers' daughter: I'm keeping fingers crossed 

AP Photo
FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2012, file photo, Joan Rivers attends a screening of the Season 2 premiere of WE TV's "Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?" in New York. Two police officials say Rivers has been rushed in cardiac arrest from a doctor’s office to a New York City hospital, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014.
  
NEW YORK (AP) -- Joan Rivers' loved ones said Sunday that they remain hopeful about her recovery three days after she went into cardiac arrest at a doctor's office.

"We are keeping our fingers crossed," her daughter, Melissa Rivers, said in a statement, thanking people who have expressed support for the 81-year-old comedian. Rivers on Friday described her mother's condition as serious.

Joan Rivers was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital on Thursday, a day after she spoke at an employee event at Time Inc. in New York. Spectators there said she had appeared to be well.

Rivers is the host of "Fashion Police" on E! and presides over an online talk show, "In Bed With Joan." She also co-stars with her daughter on the WEtv reality show "Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?"

Two of her "Fashion Police" co-stars tweeted their well-wishes to Joan Rivers and her family Saturday.

"Praying for Joan Rivers and Mel Rivers," Giuliana Rancic tweeted. "Even though Joan's the strongest woman I know, every single prayer counts. I love you, Joan."

"4 the first time in years I got down on my knees & prayed tonight!" Kelly Osbourne wrote. "I encourage U 2 do the same 4 Joan Rivers my grandma!"

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mourners urge black Americans to take action

Mourners urge black Americans to take action 

AP Photo
Pictures of Michael Brown flank his casket during his funeral, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. Hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye to Brown, who was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer on Aug. 9. The more than two weeks since Brown's death have been marked by nightly protests, some violent and chaotic, although tensions have eased in recent days.
 
 ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The mourners filled an enormous church to remember Michael Brown - recalling him as a "gentle giant," aspiring rapper and recent high school graduate on his way to a technical college.


But the funeral that unfolded Monday was about much more than the black 18-year-old who lay in the closed casket after being shot to death by a white police officer. The emotional service sought to consecrate Brown's death as another in the long history of the civil rights movement and implored black Americans to change their protest chants into legislation and law.

"Show up at the voting booths. Let your voices be heard, and let everyone know that we have had enough of all of this," said Eric Davis, one of Brown's cousins.

The Rev. Al Sharpton called for a movement to clean up police forces and the communities they serve.

"We're not anti-police. We respect police. But those police that are wrong need to be dealt with just like those in our community that are wrong need to be dealt with," Sharpton said.

Two uncles remembered how Brown had once predicted that someday the whole world would know his name.

"He did not know he was offering up a divine prophecy," Bernard Ewing said.

More than 4,500 mourners filled Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis for the service, which at times seemed like a cross between a gospel revival and a rock concert. It began with upbeat music punctuated by clapping. Some people danced in place.

The crowd included the parents of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old African-American fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida, along with a cousin of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old murdered by several white men while visiting Mississippi in 1955. Till's killing galvanized the civil rights movement.

Also in attendance were several White House aides, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, moviemaker Spike Lee, entertainer Sean Combs and some children of the Rev. Martin Luther King.

The Rev. Charles Ewing, the uncle who delivered the eulogy, said Brown "prophetically spoke his demise." And now his blood is "crying from the ground. Crying for vengeance. Crying for justice."

Poster-size photos of Brown, wearing headphones, were on each side of the casket, which had a St. Louis Cardinals ball cap atop it. Large projection screens showed a photo of him clutching his high school diploma while wearing a cap and gown. Two days after his death, he had been scheduled to start training to become a heating and air-conditioning technician.

Brown, who was to be buried in a St. Louis cemetery, was unarmed when he was killed. A grand jury is considering evidence in the case, and a federal investigation is also underway.

Police have said a scuffle broke out Aug. 9 after officer Darren Wilson told Brown and a friend to move out of the street and onto a sidewalk in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Police said Wilson was pushed into his squad car and physically assaulted. Some witnesses have reported seeing Brown's arms in the air in an act of surrender. An autopsy found he was shot at least six times.

Relatives denounced a video released by police, who say it shows Brown snatching cigars from a convenience store just before he was killed. In the video, the person said to be Brown grabs a clerk by the shirt and forcefully pushes him into a display rack.

Sharpton also took the black community to task, saying it should be as upset about black-on-black crime as it is about police violence: "We have to be outraged by our disrespect for each other."

"Blackness," he added, "has never been about being a gangster or a thug."

Money and possessions mean little, he said, "if we can't protect a child walking down the street in Ferguson" and bring justice.

Brown's death fueled nearly two weeks of sometimes-violent street protests in Ferguson. His father, Michael Brown Sr., asked protesters to observe a "day of silence" Monday to let the family grieve.

The request appeared to be honored. At the Ferguson Police Department, where a small but steady group of protesters have stood vigil, a handmade sign announced a "break for funeral." On Monday afternoon, the West Florissant Avenue commercial corridor was also devoid of protesters, whose ranks have typically swelled as days turned to nights.

After the service, Corey Thomas, a 34-year-old St. Louis man, said the large crowd at the church reflected "that people are tired of being treated like dogs. They're tired of being taken advantage of."

The mourners came to show their support because "it could be any one of us," Thomas said.

Angela Pierre, a machine operator who once lived in Ferguson, said she hopes the funeral helps turn a page and eases tensions. Most important, she hopes it provides healing for Brown's family.

"I really wanted to just be here today to pray for the family and pray for peace," said Pierre, 48, who is black. "When all of this dies down, there's still a mother, father and a family who's lost someone. Sometimes a lot of the unrest takes away from that."

Monday also marked the first day back at school for students in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. Classes had been scheduled to begin Aug. 14 but were postponed because of safety concerns.

"We're ready to move forward," said Marcus Baker, a junior at McCluer South-Berkeley High School. "But we're still going to remember him."
 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Beheading spurs new attacks on Islamic militants

Beheading spurs new attacks on Islamic militants

AP Photo
FILE - This file photo posted on the website freejamesfoley.org shows journalist James Foley in Aleppo, Syria, in July, 2012.In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say.
 
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States launched a new barrage of airstrikes Wednesday against the Islamic State extremist group that beheaded American journalist James Foley and that has seized a swath of territory across Iraq and Syria. President Barack Obama vowed relentless pursuit of the terrorists and the White House revealed that the U.S. had launched a secret rescue mission inside Syria earlier this summer that failed to rescue Foley and other Americans still being held hostage.

In brief but forceful remarks, Obama said the U.S. would "do what we must to protect our people," but he stopped short of promising to follow the Islamic State in its safe haven within Syria, where officials said Foley had been killed. Later, though, the administration revealed that several dozen special operations troops had been on the ground in Syria briefly in an effort to rescue the hostages, but did not find them.

And looking forward, the State Department refused to rule out future U.S. military operations in Syria, where Obama has long resisted intervening in a three-year civil war.

Western nations agreed to speed help to combat the militants - most notably Germany, which bucked public opposition by announcing it would arm Iraqi Kurdish fighters to battle the Islamic State. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he was outraged by the beheading, deeming it evidence of a "caliphate of barbarism." Italy's defense minister said the country hopes to contribute machine guns, ammunition and anti-tank rockets.

The Islamic State called Foley's death a revenge killing for U.S. airstrikes against militants in Iraq, and said other hostages would be slain if the attacks continued. Undeterred, the U.S. conducted 14 additional strikes after a video of the beheading surfaced, bringing to 84 the number of airstrikes since they began on Aug. 8.

Two U.S. officials said additional American troops - probably less than 300 - could be headed to Iraq to provide extra security around Baghdad, where the U.S. Embassy is located. That would bring the total number of American forces in Iraq to well over 1,000, although officials said no final decision had been made. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter by name.

Foley's mother said she is praying for other hostages being held by the Sunni-dominated terror group, and described her son's slaying as "just evil."

Obama agreed.

"No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day," the president said. The Islamic State militants have promised to eliminate all people they consider heretics in their quest to create an extremist state across much of Iraq and Syria.

"We will be vigilant and we will be relentless," Obama said, urging unity among Mideast governments in order to eviscerate the extremist group's growing power. He spoke from Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, where his family is vacationing.

In capitals across the Middle East, news of Foley's death was met largely with silence, even in Syria and Iraq - the two countries where the Islamic State is strongest. On social media, people in the region condemned Foley's killing, but stressed that the Islamic State has been committing atrocities against Iraqis and Syrians for years.

For much of the past year, and until this summer, the Obama administration was deeply divided on how much of a threat the Islamic State posed to Americans or even other nations beyond Iraq and Syria. But since the militants' march across northern Iraq in June, and as its ranks swelled almost threefold to an estimated 

15,000 fighters, Obama has acknowledged that the Islamic State could become a direct threat to Americans.

The secret mission to rescue the U.S. hostages involved several dozen special operations forces dropped by aircraft into Syria. The hostages weren't found, but special forces engaged in a firefight with Islamic State militants before departing, according to administration officials. Several militants were killed, and one American sustained minor injuries.

"The U.S. government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens," Lisa Monaco, Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present."

Foley's death proved to the West what many people in Syria and Iraq already knew: The Islamic State "has declared war on the civilized world," said Dr. Najib Ghadibian, the Syrian National Coalition's special representative to the U.S. The group's sweep also has served as a wake-up call to other Mideast governments, said Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics.

"The Saudis, the Kuwaitis, the Emiratis, and even the Qataris, are getting the message now," Gerges said. "I think in the last few weeks we have seen a kind of new awareness on the part of regional powers that the Islamic State does present a threat to the very social fabric and the foundation of the state system."

He said Foley's death could help intensify efforts on the part of Washington's regional allies to make a more concerted effort to address the threat.

Jordan and Saudi Arabia, both of whom share a border with Iraq, have dispatched troops to the frontier in a bid to prevent any attempt by the extremists to attack. Iran, an ally of the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, has sent military advisers to help organize Shiite militias in Iraq and defend holy sites.

Authorities from the Gulf to Egypt, as well as their peoples, have looked on with growing concern as the Islamic State group has brutally expanded the territory under its control, punctuating its rise by declaring a caliphate in lands straddling the Syria-Iraq border.

Foley, a 40-year-old journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire, was no stranger to war zone reporting. He went missing in northern Syria in November 2012 while freelancing for Agence France-Presse and the Boston-based news organization GlobalPost. The car he was riding in was stopped by four militants in a contested battle zone that both Sunni rebel fighters and government forces were trying to control. He had not been heard from since.

He was one of at least four Americans still being held in Syria - three of whom officials said were kidnapped by the Islamic State. The fourth, freelance journalist Austin Tice, disappeared in Syria in August 2012 and is believed to be in the custody of government forces in Syria.

The Islamic State video of Foley's beheading also showed another of the missing American journalists, Steven Sotloff, and warned he would be the next killed if U.S. airstrikes continued. U.S. officials believe the video was made days before its Tuesday release, perhaps last weekend, and have grown increasingly worried about Sotloff's fate.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says that more than 80 journalists have been abducted in Syria, and estimates that around 20 are currently missing there. It has not released their nationalities. In its annual report in November, the committee described the widespread seizure of journalists as unprecedented and largely unreported by news organizations in the hope that keeping the kidnappings out of public view may help in the captives' release.

Obama avoided specific mention of the other American hostages in Syria, and was vague on whether the U.S. would significantly ramp up its assault on the Islamic State beyond the airstrikes and small potential increase in troops in Iraq. A third senior U.S. official said the administration was well aware of the risks to the hostages once the strikes began, and would now consider as aggressive a policy as possible to obliterate the militants.

At the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf did not rule out military operations in Syria to bring those responsible to justice, saying the U.S. "reserves the right to hold people accountable when they harm Americans."

U.S. lawmakers, however, said they doubted the White House would expand its attacks to strike within Syria - something the Obama administration has long resisted.

"The mission already crept a bit," said Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and House Intelligence Committee member. "The administration would be wise to not get sucked in. That's going to be very hard."

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., lamented that Obama has been "unwilling to do what is necessary to confront" the Islamic State.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Philadelphia Front Page News Special News Report: Jehovah’s Witnesses Religion Truth Be Told (2012 film) by Van Stone frontpagenews1@yahoo.com

Philadelphia Front Page News Special News Report: Jehovah’s Witnesses Religion Truth Be Told (2012 film) by Van Stone frontpagenews1@yahoo.com


 























The following news report is not a message for those who support speaking out about the Jehovah’s Witnessess religion or for those who support not speaking out about the Jehovah’s Witnessess religion.  However, it is a real and factual report. 

Truth Be Told is a 2012 documentary about growing up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion. The title refers to the Jehovah's Witnesses’ perception that their beliefs are 'the truth.'

Truth Be Told focuses on seven individuals raised in the Jehovah's Witnesses religion. In a series of informal interviews they reveal experiences including the effects of proselytizing door-to-door, shunning non-observant family and friends, suffering the discouragement of pursuing dreams like gaining a higher education and missing other societal holidays and customs. The film cuts between talking-head interviews and visual storytelling techniques including dramatic reenactments, motion graphic sequences and montages. Actors were filmed in front of a greenscreen and composited to create a virtual Kingdom Hall, the house of worship used by Jehovah's Witnesses.

The documentary features an interview with retired mixed martial arts fighter and television personality Nathan Quarry. Quarry grew up as a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses in a variously oppressive and controlling environment. After a period of self-discovery, Quarry rejected his Jehovah's Witnesses upbringing, which caused him to become alienated from his family and former friends.
























In the Photo: Dark Church for Christian Jehovah’s Witnessess called the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnessess and  Nathan Quarry, former baptized Jah’s Witness, Disfellowshipped (meaning expulsion from the Jah’s Witness faith ) for declaring the religion and religion organization a cult.  

Truth Be Told is described as an exposé of the Jehovah's Witnesses religion that discloses a profit-driven, isolationist culture characterized by fear, totalitarian corporate leadership, intellectual & spiritual intimidation, suspension of critical thinking, failed prophecies, doctrinal inconsistency and improper handling of physical and sexual abuse allegations within the church.

The documentary is the first feature-film directed by Gregorio Smith. He describes his film as an honest glimpse into the culture of growing up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion that is at once immersive, informational, expository and controversial.

Truth Be Told is described as an exposé of the Jehovah's Witnesses religion that discloses a profit-driven, isolationist culture characterized by fear, totalitarian corporate leadership, intellectual & spiritual intimidation, suspension of critical thinking, failed prophecies, doctrinal inconsistency and improper handling of physical and sexual abuse allegations within the church.

The documentary is the first feature-film directed by Gregorio Smith. He describes his film as an honest glimpse into the culture of growing up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion that is at once immersive, informational, expository and controversial.








 








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