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  • Canada's NATO Delegation Just Epically Trolled Russia With This Map Of Ukraine

    Canada's delegation to NATO on Wednesday posted a helpful guide for Russian soldiers who have crossed the Ukrainian border "by accident."

    On Twitter, the delegation posted a simple map of "Russia" and "Not Russia."

    "Geography can be tough. Here’s a guide for Russian soldiers who keep getting lost & ‘accidentally’ entering," the delegation wrote along with the map.

    Russia map

    Twice in the past three days, Ukraine has accused Russian soldiers of crossing the border and fighting alongside pro-Russian rebels in southeastern Ukraine. Ukraine's state security service said Monday it detained 10 Russian paratroopers who crossed into Ukrainian territory. But a Russian defense ministry source said the soldiers crossed "most likely by accident," according to Reuters.

    And on Wednesday, Ukraine's military accused more Russian soldiers of crossing the border, saying a group of Russian paratroopers entered through the small town of Amvrosiyivka in five armored infantry carriers and a truck.

    Ukraine released video of the soldiers it detained on Monday. It is considered the strongest evidence to back Ukraine, NATO, and the West's claims that Moscow is intervening directly in southeast Ukraine. 

    And according to a translation from Interpreter Magazine, the soldiers did know where they were going.

    "Do you know that you are now illegally on the territory of Ukraine?" the interrogator asks.

    "I guessed," the soldier said, "but I realized it when they began to bomb us."

    "Ah-ha. How did you end up on Ukrainian territory?"

    "We went in convoys. Not on the roads but through the fields. I didn't even see when we crossed the border."

    "But did you know you were going to Ukraine?"

    "We knew," the Russian paratrooper confirmed.

    The Canadian delegation's map also notably still includes the region of Crimea — which was formally annexed by Russia in March — as part of Ukraine. The West has refused to recognize and has condemned Russia's annexation of Crimea, and the U.S. and E.U. have imposed sanctions, but there's not much more they can or want to practically do about it.

    About a month after Russia annexed Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted he had sent in Russian forces to support local defense teams in the region while fighting raged. He said the troops were deployed to protect Russian-speaking citizens in Crimea. 

    "Of course we had our servicemen behind the self-defense units of Crimea," Putin said during an annual televised call-in with the nation in April. "We had to make sure what is happening now in eastern Ukraine didn't happen there." 

    SEE ALSO: Dozens Of 'Men In Green' With Russian Accents Have Showed Up In East Ukraine

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  • Here's The Passport Of The American Killed While Fighting With ISIS

    passport Douglas McAuthur McCainThe first reported American to die while fighting for the Islamic State, Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, was carrying his American passport along with $800 when he went into battle in a recent clash between ISIS and other Syrian opposition groups.

    McCain, who was born in Illinois, grew up in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota. Graduating from Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, classmates remembered McCain as being affable and a "goofball." 

    However, after graduating from high school, McCain seemed to become progressively more radicalized. His actions on social media, particularly Twitter, led to McCain being placed on a U.S. terror watch-list. 

    In the days leading up to McCain's death, the majority of his Twitter presence was either replies to other ISIS members or retweets of ISIS talking points. 

    McCain's Facebook profile painted a similar profile of a man who began as well-integrated into U.S. society while maintaining his own culture and religion. His Facebook likes included as benign topics as "The Chappelle Show" and ReverbNation, while also including more religious likes such as the Quran. 

    His profile pictures, likewise, showed a young man in 2010 that was not overly religious and was at least jokingly interested in the "gangster" lifestyle. 

    McCain 3

    However, over the span of a few months, McCain began posting photos that could either be taken as glorifying violence, or a continuation of the "gangster" motif. 

    McCain 1

    The most shocking example of McCain's radicalization came in January of 2013, when he changed his profile picture to an image of Troy Kastigar. Kastigar and McCain had both graduated from Robbinsdale Cooper High School in 1999. In 2009, Kastigar traveled to Somalia in an effort to join an extremist group before ultimately being killed in the country's ongoing civil war. 

    McCain 4

    McCain may be the first American to have have died fighting for ISIS, but he is not the first American to have been killed fighting for jihadis in Syria. Back in May, an American from Florida became the first American suicide bomber in the conflict. 

    The State Department told CNN on Tuesdau that upwards of 100 Americans could now be fighting in Syria alongside a range of Syrian-based groups. 

    State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has said that out of respect for McCain's family, there will be no additional comments at this time. 

    SEE ALSO: American Killed While Fighting For ISIS Seemed Increasingly Radical On Social Media

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  • As The US Strikes At ISIS, Here's A Look At What The Jihadists Have In Their Arsenal


    The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) rakes in over $1 million a day and commands "a volume of resources and territory unmatched in the history of extremist organizations," according to Janine Davidson and Emerson Brookings of the Council on Foreign Relations.

    The Al Qaeda splinter group has massacred members of Iraq's Yazidi religious minority and broadcast the murder of an American journalist on YouTube. 

    Now the target of a sustained campaign of American airstrikes, ISIS has previously declared the establishment of a caliphate and changed its name to simply the Islamic State, underscoring its ambition to become a permanent feature on the map of the Middle East.

    ISIS wouldn't have been able to carve out such a vast domain, or present itself as a state-like entity capable of controlling territory and ruling over a population of millions, if it hadn't been armed to the hilt, partly from its seizure of military equipment from fleeing Iraqi soldiers and plundered Syrian military bases.

    When ISIS overran Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, in June, it captured weaponry that allowed the group to arm itself like a conventional army, rather than a ragtag insurgency. 

    "You lost approximately three divisions worth of equipment and probably at least three depots in that area," Anthony Cordesman, a security analyst at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Wall Street Journal

    More recently, ISIS captured anti-aircraft weaponry from an air force base in eastern Syria, including rockets capable of bringing down planes flying at 16,000 feet.

    A large quantity of the weapons that ISIS has seized were supplied by the U.S. to the Iraqi Army. ISIS also fields weapons produced in Russia, China, the Balkans, and Iran. 

    T-55 Tanks

    The T-55 tank series is a Soviet tank line that was produced from the end of World War II through the 1980s. It is estimated that ISIS has about 30 of these tanks, although it is unknown how well the organization can maintain and operate them. 

    Despite the tanks' age, they remain operational in up to 50 armies around the world. The tanks feature heavy armor, along with a 100-mm rifled gun and a secondary 7.62-mm machine gun. 

    T-72 Tanks

    The T-72 tank is the second-generation Soviet battle tank. These tanks first entered production in 1971, and they are still rolling off the assembly line. ISIS has an estimated five to 10 T-72 tanks, although it is unknown whether they will be able to keep the vehicles in working order. 

    The T-72 is heavily armored and features a 125-mm main gun. It is also armed with a secondary machine gun and an antiaircraft gun.


    ISIS acquired U.S.-built Humvees when it stormed Mosul. The U.S. had provided these same Humvees to the Iraqi Army. The vehicles allow for quick and effective movement across rough terrain.

    The Humvee's heavy armor also protects forces against small-arms fire as well as against collateral damage from indirect explosions. The vehicles offer little protection against land mines or buried IEDs. 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider


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  • Obama Has A Very Impressive Diet, According to Australia’s Ex-Foreign Minister

    Obama Beach Swim Shirtless 2008President Barack Obama’s “steely resolve” in avoiding sugar, carbs, and fat has been praised by Australia’s former Foreign Minister, Bob Carr. 

    The comments appear in "Diary of a Foreign Minister," a collection of journal entries published by Carr after retiring from Australian federal politics.

    G-20 Working Session at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, Sept. 5,

    In an entry after a dinner at the 2013 G20 meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, Carr describes President Obama as “Leader of the Free World and Leader of the Slim People of America.”

    “Anything with sugar, carbs or fat in it he pushed to one side," Carr notes.

    In another entry, Carr describes Obama — along with former CIA Director David Petraeus and Secretary of State John Kerry — as belonging to “the elite of the flat-stomached.”

    “Men who’ve looked at the prospect of swelling belly fat and settled on strategies to stay slim,” he wrote.

    Carr laments that, “outside a circle of the ruling elite, nobody in America is lean anymore.”

    “A plot by the fat people of America" 

    On November 10, 2012, when Carr learns that David Petraeus has resigned as Director of the CIA after an extra-marital affair, Carr writes “an affair is elevated to a hanging offense.”

    Gen. David Petraeus testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 29, 2010, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to be confirmed as President Obama's choice to take control of forces in Afghanistan. “Their best military commander, and author of the text on counter-insurgency, the leader of the surge in Afghanistan, a dedicated public servant. Next step — chemical castration mandated for cabinet appointees?”

    “Or maybe,” Carr muses, “it was a plot by the fat people of America against a greyhound-fit public servant who could run rings around them.” 

    Carr’s diaries offer bi-partisan praise for many American politicians – including John McCain, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Republican Senator Roy Blunt – however, the diplomat harshly condemns the Bush Administration. 

    According to Carr, President George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney “bankrupted the country and drained its military strength.”

    READ THE FULL STORY: Australian Ex-Foreign Minister Releases Diary Full Of Priceless Entries About US Politicians

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  • Obama Is Pursuing A 'Sweeping' International Climate Agreement — And He's Doing It Without Congress

    Barack Obama

    In a move certain to draw the ire of congressional Republicans, President Barack Obama is working to secure an international agreement on climate change that would compel countries to slash their carbon emissions.

    The New York Times' Coral Davenport reports the agreement would be a "politically binding" one that would "name and shame" countries into reducing their emissions of fossil fuels.

    Obama is pursuing the "politically binding" accord to sidestep the U.S. Senate, where a "legally binding" agreement would almost certainly fail. Such an agreement needs a two-thirds majority of the Senate to pass under the U.S. Constitution. 

    There is virtually no chance the Senate would pass a legally binding U.N. accord on climate change in the near future, at a time when divisions over the causes of the Earth's warming have become increasingly partisan. 

    The new plan for the accord is to "blend legally binding conditions from an existing 1992 treaty with new voluntary pledges," according to The Times. The end result would be updating the existing treaty — not establishing a new treaty — which negotiators argue would not require a new ratification vote.

    Under the budding agreement, countries would voluntarily set certain levels of emissions cuts — but they would be legally required to enforce certain climate-change policies.

    "There’s some legal and political magic to this," Jake Schmidt, an expert in global climate negotiations with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group, told The Times. "They’re trying to move this as far as possible without having to reach the 67-vote threshold" in the Senate.

    Late Wednesday morning, the State Department pushed back on the Times' report, suggesting it was premature to say the agreement would not require Senate approval.

    "Not a word of the new climate agreement currently under discussion has been written, so it is entirely premature to say whether it will or won’t require Senate approval," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

    "Our goal is to negotiate a successful and effective global climate agreement that can help address this pressing challenge. Anything that is eventually negotiated and that should go to the Senate will go to the Senate.  We will continue to consult with Congress on this important issue."

    Climate change carbon emissions

    If he does move to act without Congress, Obama's move would largely sync with his domestic strategy toward climate change, which has been geared around executive actions and orders that have sidestepped Congress. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled new proposed regulations that aim to force power plants to cut their emissions by as much 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. The EPA estimates the rule will cost approximately $5.5 billion in 2020, vs. net climate and health "benefits" of $26 billion to $45 billion to the economy.

    Carbon pollution from power plants accounted for 33% of the U.S.' total greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, according to the EPA. The U.S.' carbon emissions have already fallen by about 10% since 2005, due in part both to the recession and the natural-gas boom. The new regulations are expected to be a cornerstone toward accomplishing Obama's 2009 pledge during international climate talks of reducing U.S. carbon emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020.

    The budding international climate accord and the new EPA regulations are likely to be the last significant moves for the Obama administration on climate change.

    This post was updated at 11:37 a.m. ET with comment from the State Department.

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  • Lyndon Johnson Liked Taking His Advisors Out For Joyrides That Ended With This Terrifying Prank

    lyndon johnson amphicar

    Lyndon Johnson, who was born on August 27 1908, was remembered by close advisors and friends long after his 1973 death for a horrifying prank he played on unsuspecting guests at his Stonewall, Texas ranch. 

    The prank involved Johnson's Amphicar, the only civilian amphibious car every mass produced, according to the National Park Service's website for the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park3,878 Amphicar vehicles were built in in Germany during the 1960s in four different colors. Johnson chose Lagoon Blue. On land, the vehicle looked like any ordinary automobile, and the President offered to drive guests around his ranch.

    Those leisurely rides created the opportunity for a clever prank that Johnson enjoyed playing on his passengers. It involved barrelling the vehicle down a hill into a lake and exclaiming to his passengers that the brakes had malfunctioned, while they had no idea the car was designed to float in water.

    Joseph A. Califano, Jr., the president's special assistant for domestic affairs at the time, recalled his experience as a victim of his boss's prank:

    The President, with [White House secretary] Vicky McCammon in the seat alongside him and me in the back, was now driving around in a small blue car with the top down. We reached a steep incline at the edge of the lake and the car started rolling rapidly toward the water. The President shouted, "The brakes don’t work! The brakes won’t hold! We’re going in! We’re going under!" The car splashed into the water. I started to get out. Just then the car leveled and I realized we were in a Amphicar. The President laughed. As we putted along the lake then (and throughout the evening), he teased me. "Vicky, did you see what Joe did? He didn’t give a damn about his President. He just wanted to save his own skin and get out of the car." Then he’d roar. 

    Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, John W. Gardner, one of the only Republican cabinet members during Johnson's presidency, was also reportedly a victim of this prank.

    The Amphicar was known for its easy transition from land to water. "The process was simple," Rebecca Onion wrote for Slate. "One: drive the car into the water. Two: engage the two propellers, located under the rear engine compartment. Three: Steer as usual — the wheels acted as stabilizers."

    H/T mental_floss

    SEE ALSO: These GIFs Show How Much American Politics Has Changed Since The 1900s

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  • Warren Buffett Singlehandedly Undermined Democrats' Main Argument Against Inversions

    warren buffett

    By providing $3 billion in financing to aid Burger King's acquisition of the coffee and donut chain Tim Hortons, Warren Buffett has complicated the Democratic argument against the practice known as tax inversion.

    Buffett has become the public face of this inversion deal, just one of what has become an increasingly common practice in which an American corporation buys or merges with a foreign corporation and relocates its tax base out of the U.S.

    Buffett has been one of Democrats' main wealthy allies on issues of taxes and so-called tax "fairness." In 2011, President Barack Obama even dubbed one of his tax plans the "Buffett Rule," which would enact a minimum 30% tax rate on individual incomes above $1 million. But in the Burger King deal — part of a larger issue of "tax fairness" with inversions — Buffett weakens their case.

    Democrats "were dealt a psychological setback yesterday as Warren Buffett essentially said 'do as I say, not as I do.' The patron saint of tax fairness is part of this deal, which clearly weakens the Democrats' case," said Greg Valliere, the chief political strategist at Potomac Research Group.

    Democrats in the Senate are moving to potentially hold a vote on a bill to stop the flow of inversions before the midterm elections, and the Treasury Department is considering acting on its own to stem the practice, which Obama has called unpatriotic. 

    For Democrats, the larger plan was to use the division between them and Republicans — who want to solve the inversion issue as part of overall tax reform — as a campaign issue. But now, the messaging becomes more difficult.

    "Berkshire Hathaway's reported role in financing part of the proposed 'inversion' deal between Burger King and Canadian donut and coffee chain Tim Hortons further complicates the political messaging and tactics of the White House on inversions and their midterm campaign theme of economic patriotism," said Chris Krueger, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities. 

    "The fact that the Administration's poster child for tax fairness is now financing a proposed deal that the Administration has previously attacked for lacking patriotism and for loophole exploitation only reinforces how contrived and politically disjointed this issue has become for the White House."

    Krueger surmised there was less than a 10% chance of any meaningful inversion-related legislation passing into law by the end of the year, and he expects any Treasury action to be largely symbolic. He said that with the squeeze from Buffett, Democrats and the administration were on "very shaky" political ground with the issue.

    SEE ALSO: Democratic Congressman On Burger King Deal: 'If I Were McDonald's, I'd Launch A Buy America Campaign'

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  • 'CIRCUMSTANCES CAN CHANGE': Mitt Romney On Whether He'll Run In 2016


    Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, said Tuesday that he'd be interested in making a third White House bid — but only in the "one of a million" situation where every other 2016 candidate coalesced around him.

    Romney, who has repeatedly insisted that he won't run again, made the remarks in an interview with radio show host Hugh Hewitt.

    "I know this is hard for a lot of people to recognize, but frankly, I’d love to run for president. I loved running for president," Romney said. "I love the country enough to know that I’m not as good a candidate this time around as I think the other guys would be, because they’re new and not defined. I want the country to win. I do not want to see Hillary Clinton as our next president. So I stepped aside so someone who has a better shot will be able to step forward."

    Hewitt repeatedly pressed Romney on the 2016 question, setting up hypotheticals where the former Massachusetts governor was the only GOP candidate who could save the country from Clinton, the Democratic front-runner. Romney ultimately admitted that "circumstances can change" and he could be compelled to  run.

    "Someone else has a better chance than I do. And that’s what we believe, and that’s why I’m not running. And you know, circumstances can change," Romney said. "Well, you know, let’s say all the guys that were running all came together and said, 'Hey, we’ve decided we can’t do it, you must do it.' That’s the one of the million we’re thinking about."

    During the interview, Romney also said his experience running national campaigns would likely make him a stronger presidential candidate than he was in 2012. However, he maintained a fresher face would be better for the Republican Party and offered praise for an entire slew of expected 2016 hopefuls.

    "I mean, you hope you learn from your mistakes. But at the same time, there are people who are not yet known by the American public who have extraordinary records, great capability, Paul Ryan being one of them, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio. Of course, people are getting to know Chris Christie. Jeb Bush, they don’t know Jeb Bush as the governor of Florida, and the kind of record he has and had there. These are people who I think have the potential to really ignite interest in our party and potentially win the general," he said.

    (h/t USA Today)

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  • Why The Obama Administration Wants This Journalist In Jail


    President Barack Obama came into office in 2009 promising a new era of unprecedented transparency in his administration. But when he leaves office, reporters may remember him for an effort that has largely turned out to be the opposite — and for being what one affected reporter has called the "greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation."

    At a time when journalists' roles in covering different, critical conflict zones have been under the microscope, renewed attention has come to the case involving James Risen. He is the New York Times journalist who has been fighting efforts by two different Departments of Justice — under Presidents Obama and George W. Bush — to compel him to identify sources from a 2006 book that reveals a secret CIA plan to sabotage Iran's budding nuclear program.

    For the past five years, he has battled the Obama administration's Justice Department, which in 2009 took a rather unprecedented step of renewing a subpoena scheduled to expire that year. From his case and others the Obama administration has pursued, Risen told The Times' Maureen Dowd recently that Obama represented a fundamental obstacle for press freedom.

    "It’s hypocritical," Risen said. "A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistleblowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation."

    Risen's Case

    There's a perception, many observers of Risen's case say, that Obama is viewed by the public as different and as overtly friendly with the press. They think that perception is wrong.

    They point to the Obama administration's use of the Espionage Act to prosecute government employees more than any other administration in history, saying it is borne out of a necessity to viciously control the flow of information. In 2009, when Risen's subpoena first expired, the Obama administration took the unusual step of renewing it and continuing to pursue the case.

    "He promised to be a different kind of president," said Jerry Kammer, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who now works at the Center for Immigration Studies. "But he has only suppressed efforts to disclose the government's misdeeds. His administration has been untransparent at so many levels."

    Kammer was one of 14 Pulitzer Prize winners, spanning 1982 to 2014, who issued statements earlier this month in support of Risen. The group that put together the statements, Roots Action, also delivered a petition with more than 100,000 signatures to the Justice Department's Washington headquarters.

    Earlier this summer, Risen failed in an attempt to have the Supreme Court review an order compelling him to testify about the sources in a book he published in 2006. He has vowed to fight on, but he has exhausted all legal options to halt the Justice Department's pursuit of him. He has vowed he is ready to go to jail, even telling his paper he has the books he will take with him already picked out. He could be the first reporter since The Times' Judith Miller in 2005 to go to jail for refusing to reveal the name of a source.

    "The government likes to keep its house in order and likes to go after every possible leaker it can find," said Gregg Leslie, the legal defense director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "They really just don't believe in whistleblowers or leakers."

    James Risen

    In 2006, Risen published "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration." One chapter in the book detailed a secret CIA plan — started under the administration of then-President Bill Clinton and supported by the Bush administration — to sabotage Iran's then-budding nuclear program. (You can read an excerpt of the chapter here at The Guardian.)

    It was an embarrassment for the CIA and for the government. The CIA chose a Russian defector to give deliberately flawed nuclear blueprints to Iranian officials. The flaws, however, were easily detectable, and the Russian defector tipped off the Iranians to maintain his credibility and not draw suspicion as a source, according to the book. In the end, "Operation Merlin," as it was codenamed, may have aided Iran in its plans to develop a nuclear weapon.

    "This espionage disaster, of course, was not reported. It left the CIA virtually blind in Iran, unable to provide any significant intelligence on one of the most critical issues facing the US — whether Tehran was about to go nuclear," Risen wrote.

    In late 2010, the federal government indicted Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former CIA operative, with leaking the classified information to Risen. The government wants to compel Risen to reveal his source independently. 

    Observers of the case view it as pure retaliation. There is a compelling interest to know when the government screws up, Leslie said. And if Risen is compelled to reveal his sources, it could have a "chilling effect" on other government whistleblowers who would be willing to share that information with journalists.

    "This is what the American people need to know," Leslie said.

    "If we're talking constantly about how evil the Iranian government is and how dangerous it is that they're getting weapons-grade nuclear materials — and we had a role in getting that to them. Whether accidentally or stupidly or however, the American people need to know that."

    The Justice Department declined to comment about an ongoing case.

    'Here In The United States Of America'

    Some reporters and observers of the Risen case say it is especially important in light of recent world events. In Ferguson, Missouri, where racially charged protests raged for more than a week after the killing of an unarmed black teenager, multiple journalists were arrested. 

    In one high-profile incident emerging from the Ferguson protests, reporters from The Washington Post and The Huffington Post were arrested in a local McDonald's. The outrage that ensued prompted a personal response from the president. 

    "Here, in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground," Obama said in a statement from Martha's Vineyard the next day.

    Ferguson police

    But that is exactly what many people think he's doing in the case of prosecuting Risen and others. Under Obama, the Justice Department has broadly increased leak investigations.

    "There's far more ramifications for journalists from this case," Kammer said, "than anything that happened in a McDonald's restaurant in Ferguson."

    In the investigation stemming from a 2009 leak of classified information involving North Korea, for example, investigators probed security-badge access records to monitor the comings and goings of Fox News reporter James Rosen with the State Department.

    An FBI agent also wrote in an affidavit that by soliciting classified information from Stephen J. Kim, a former State Department official, Rosen was an "aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator" in leaking the information and could be charged as a "co-conspirator" in the case. 

    Weeks after the case involving Risen was reported last year, the Associated Press revealed that federal investigators obtained nearly two years of phone records from its reporters in another leak case.

    One former Justice Department official told Business Insider the Obama administration's increased pursuance of leak cases was mostly a product of having so many new tools available at its disposal to track down the leakers.

    It is also a product, the official said, of a more sensitive world post-Sept. 11, 2001. The official said it was likely to only escalate with future presidencies, as the U.S. continues to grapple with a copious number of global threats.

    Leslie, the legal defense director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, also noted the government's capabilities to find out where leaks originate.

    "The point I always make is that I'm not sure it's the Obama administration alone, but rather the institutional government that's going to be here no matter which party is in control of the White House," he said.

    "They've got new, invasive, and incredibly advanced tools for discovering information. And they're going to exploit those as much as they can. I don't see much animus on the part of the administration or from Obama himself. It's more that the post-9/11 reality seems that they are going to relentlessly pursue every leaks case."

    He added: "I say that not to give Obama an excuse but to say that, no matter who's elected next, it's going to continue — unless something is done about it."

    That would take a groundswell of public outcry — or perhaps a legislative fix. At this point, neither seems likely. 

    For example, pollsters found it difficult to poll Americans on their opinions of the Justice Department's subpoenaing of the Associated Press reporters' phone records, in part because public attention was not at all focused on the story. According to a Pew Research Center poll, Americans said they disapproved of the Justice Department's actions by only an 8-point margin.

    Meanwhile, a federal version of a shield law, which does not exist, has languished in Congress, and no action is likely this year. The best chance for a law this year is an amendment to the Justice Department's appropriations act offered by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida), which passed in late May. But it is unclear if that amendment will survive the reconciliation process.

    The Risen case, Leslie said, provides a clear picture for why a federal shield law is needed to complement similar laws in 49 states. The Supreme Court's dismissal of his petition, Leslie said, is more evidence of what he called a "disturbing" trend — federal courts have been less and less willing to side with reporters' arguments.

    Said Leslie: "If courts can not give you that relief, then you need legislative relief. It has to happen."

    SEE ALSO: NYT reporter calls Obama the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation

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  • Pablo Escobar's Right-Hand Man Freed From Colombian Prison

    John Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, aka 'Popeye', a former chief hitman for Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escolar, is shown in Combita prison, in Boyaca, on January 18, 2013

    The head of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar's hitmen, a confessed murderer nicknamed "Popeye," was released from prison after helping prosecutors convict a former justice minister.

    John Jairo Velasquez Vasquez has confessed to killing 300 people and organizing the killings of 3,000 others, but he walked free from the Combita high-security prison in central Colombia after completing 22 years of his 30-year sentence for murder, police and judicial sources said.

    The hitman was convicted for the murder of presidential hopeful Luis Carlos Galan in 1989 but won release by turning state's witness against former justice minister Alberto Santofimio, a rival candidate in the 1990 presidential election who was convicted of ordering Galan's killing.

    Galan, who took a hard line against the country's powerful drug cartels and was the favorite to win the election, was shot dead in a public square in a town outside Bogota as he prepared to give a speech.

    The assassination was carried out by gunmen loyal to Escobar, the blood-soaked founder of the Medellin cartel.

    Now 52, "Popeye" Velasquez has confessed in numerous media interviews to crimes ranging from kidnapping former president Andres Pastrana to murdering his own girlfriend, all on his late boss' orders.

    He was granted "conditional release ... for a trial period of 52 months and 22.7 days," said a judicial order seen by AFP.

    Popeye said the drug war was unwinnable because there would always be people like him.

    "People like me can't be stopped. It's a war," he told Jochen-Martin Gutsch and Juan Moreno of Der Spiegel. "They lose men, and we lose men. They lose their scruples, and we never had any. In the end, you'll even blow up an aircraft because you believe the Colombian president is on board. I don't know what you have to do. Maybe sell cocaine in pharmacies. I've been in prison for 20 years, but you will never win this war when there is so much money to me made. Never."

    Popeye helped Escobar industrialize cocaine production, seize control 80 percent of the global cocaine trade, and become one of the richest people on the planet by kidnapping, torturing, and murdering hundreds of people who obstructed the Medellín cartel's business.

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  • Obama Is Trying To Enlist A Bunch Of Countries To Hit ISIS Harder


    The United States has called on several countries to join a widened assault on ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Heleme Cooper and Mark Landler of The New York Times report.

    Administration officials told The Times that the White House had begun enlisting "allies and neighbors in the region to increase their support for Syria’s moderate opposition and, in some cases, to provide support for possible American military operations. The countries likely to be enlisted include Australia, Britain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, officials said."

    The Times reports that Britain and Australia would be likely to enlist in an air campaign. Turkey would provide support in the form of crucial strategic military bases that could be used to expand the campaign into Syria. The U.S. is also pushing Turkey to tighten up its border, as it has become a key part of a route for foreign fighters traveling to Syria join ISIS.

    Jordan would aid in intelligence-gathering and surveillance, while Saudi Arabia — which is arming and financing moderate-opposition groups in Syria — would provide financial support. Qatar and the UAE would also be asked to help financially.

    On Tuesday, Obama said that the U.S. was building an international coalition to "take the fight to these barbaric terrorists."

    "We're strengthening our partners — more military assistance to government and Kurdish forces in Iraq and moderate opposition in Syria. We're urging Iraqis to forge the kind of inclusive government that can deliver on national unity, and strong security forces and good governance that are ultimately going to be the antidote against terrorists. And we're urging countries in the region and building an international coalition, including our closest allies, to support Iraqis as they take the fight to these barbaric terrorists," Obama said in remarks at the American Legion National Convention.

    One country that will not be a partner in the effort: the Syrian government. The Obama administration on Tuesday brushed off reports it was sharing intelligence and coordinating with the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad on a campaign against ISIS.

    "We're not going to ask permission from the Syrian regime," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

    Since Aug. 8, U.S. warplanes and drones have been bombing ISIS, also known as the Islamic State and ISIL. The U.S. has conducted 98 airstrikes over that span, according to U.S. Central Command. The missions initially aimed at stopping militants from reaching the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Irbil and rescuing members of the Yazidi minority who had been stranded on a mountain.

    Airstrikes then supported the Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi forces as they recaptured the Mosul Dam from ISIS and pushed toward Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul. The Times reports that the campaign would at least extend to a larger area in northern Iraq, specifically the Iraqi Turkmen town of Amerli.

    A hardline Shiite militia backed by Iran, the Badr Brigades, mobilized a large number of its fighters last week to liberate the 12,000 Turkmen, who are Shiite Muslims. Iraqi Shiite gunmen are suspected of killing people at Sunni mosques, deepening the sectarian war fueled by ISIS attacks on Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and elsewhere.

    Syria Iraq MapThe Times noted that the U.S. would have to get all of the coalition partners, which have different interests and therefore have supported different groups in Syria, to work together.

    "One of the problems is that different countries have different clients among the fighting groups in Syria," Robert S. Ford, a former American ambassador to Syria who has been critical of the administration's policy, told The Times. "To get them all to work together, the best thing would be for them to pick one client and funnel all the funds through that client. You’ve got to pick one command structure."

    The relatively moderate opposition, comprising the Free Syrian Army and other groups, is currently being squeezed by both Assad's troops and ISIS fighters in Syria's largest city of Aleppo, and a new ISIS offensive threatens to cut off FSA rebel supply lines to Turkey. Hussam Marie, the Free Syrian Army spokesman for northern Syria, told The Times that the loss of FSA positions in and around Aleppo would be "unrecoverable" and "a blow to our shared goals of a moderate Syria."

    syriaFrederic Hof recently advocated that the president "direct an immediate and significant resupply of nationalist forces and give the assurances required to encourage the full relocation of Syria's external opposition to Syria itself." 

    The plan as outlined by The Times is similar to the plan advocated by senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy Mike Doran.

    "To counter ISIS, the United States must relearn the lessons of the surge [during the Iraq war]," Doran told Business Insider in an email. "The key is to detach moderate Sunnis, the vast majority of Sunnis, from ISIS, by providing them with security and with a political alternative to rule by Iran and its proxies.

    "The first step is to commit the United States to crushing ISIS unambiguously," Doran continued. "The second step is to create a coalition to achieve that goal by creating a new order in what is now Jihadistan, the region that ISIS controls from Baghdad to Aleppo. That coalition should include, among others, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, France, Britain, and, of course, the Free Syrian Army."

    SEE ALSO: Assad's Devilishly Simple Plan To Bring The West To His Side Against ISIS

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  • Obama Is Awarding The Medal Of Honor For A Soldier's Heroics From More Than 151 Years Ago

    Alonzo Cushin

    The White House announced on Tuesday it would award the Medal of Honor to an Army officer who distinguished himself during the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg more than 151 years ago.

    Army artillery officer 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing continued to issue orders despite being wounded numerous times in the bloody battle, and will receive the posthumous award on Sep. 15. According to the Washington Post, relatives of Cushing and others have spent decades lobbying on the soldier's behalf.

    From the White House statement:

    First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions while serving as commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac. Cushing distinguished himself during combat operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863.

    A graduate of West Point, Cushing was just 22-years-old when he was killed in the battle. On the battle's third day, Cushing's unit faced the Confederate "Pickett's Charge" and his artillery battery took heavy losses.

    Alonzo Cushing

    The Army has more:

    Cushing manned the only remaining, and serviceable, field piece in his battery. During the advance, he was wounded in the stomach as well as in the right shoulder. Refusing to evacuate to the rear despite his severe wounds, he directed the operation of his lone field piece continuing to fire in the face of the enemy. With the rebels within 100 yards of his position, Cushing was shot and killed during this heroic stand. His actions made it possible for the Union Army to successfully repulse the Confederate assault. Cushing is buried with full honors at his alma mater, West Point.

    Once he receives the award, Cushing will be the 64th soldier to receive the nation's highest award for the Battle of Gettysburg. (Important sidenote: Aside from a "certificate of merit," the Medal of Honor, created in 1861, was the only valor award for soldiers at that time).

    On the same day as Cushing's award, President Obama will also be awarding the Medal of Honor to two other soldiers, Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat, for separate acts of heroism during the Vietnam War.

    SEE ALSO: Army Medal Of Honor Hero Breaks The Gavel At The New York Stock Exchange

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  • Satire Website Writes Hilarious 'Apology' To PR Firm Offended By One Of Its Articles

    Pan Arabia Enquirer

    Middle Eastern satirical website The Pan-Arabia Enquirer got in hot water with a public relations firm over a recent article it wrote which said the company was representing the terrorist group ISIS — and it ended up deleting the article — but not without issuing a brilliant and hilarious public "apology" of sorts.

    The site, which bills itself as "the world's only 7-star satirical news site," published an article on Sunday under the headline, "PR giant Bell Pottinger lands $10 million Islamic State account."

    It was a pretty short article — just two paragraphs — but offered this deadpan quote typical of PR types: “We’ve been closely watching ISIS transform into the Islamic State and are now delighted to reveal that we’ll be able to use our expertise to help steer this engaging and fast-moving brand onto the next stage of its exciting journey,” a Bell Pottinger spokesperson said in a statement.

    Obviously, it's fake news, and that quote is in no way real. And while it would seem crazy for a PR firm to represent ISIS, the Enquirer's story isn't terribly off the mark.

    A profile in The Guardian newspaper noted a number of Bell Pottinger's big clients:

    The government of Sri Lanka; FW de Klerk, when he ran against Nelson Mandela for president of South Africa; Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted Thai premier, whom protesters claim still controls the country; Asma al-Assad, the wife of the president of Syria; Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus; Rebekah Brooks after the phone-hacking scandal broke; the repressive governments of Bahrain and Egypt; the American occupying administration in Iraq; the polluting oil company Trafigura; the fracking company Cuadrilla; the athlete Oscar Pistorius after he was charged with murder; the Pinochet Foundation during its campaign against the former Chilean dictator's British detention; the much-criticised arms conglomerate BAE Systems – Bell or Bell Pottinger has represented all of them.

    Still, the company apparently took issue, and the Enquirer took down the post and issued a brilliant apology (You can see still the satirical article via Google cache):

    "Yesterday we received a complaint about one of our articles and subsequently removed it from The Pan-Arabia Enquirer website," the site wrote on its Facebook page (although this too was later removed). "Following on from this, we would like to offer our apologies to PR firm Bell Pottinger for a satirical story that suggested it had won the account to represent the Islamic State. Although the article was entirely in jest, we feel we must apologise for any sullying of the name of a company whose standing in the international community is reflected in a client list that has included the likes of Augusto Pinochet and the government of Bahrain. Oh, and the government of Sri Lanka. And Rolf Harris."

    The Pan-Arabia Enquirer started out as The Dubai Enquirer back in 2005 and has grown considerably, now attracting more than 400,000 pageviews each month, the site claims. The site, which is written in English by anonymous writers, has other headlines like "New Islamic State jihadist accidentally packs wrong black flag" and "Egypt relieved as threat of democracy recedes."

    Business Insider reached out to Bell Pottinger and the Pan-Arabian Enquirer for comment and will update if we hear back.

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  • A Former Federal Cyber Security Director Was Just Convicted On Child Pornography Charges

    hhs logo

    A former acting director of cyber security at the Department of Health and Human Services was convicted on federal child pornography charges on Tuesday, according to the Department of Justice.

    The details of the evidence presented against Timothy DeFoggi, the former acting director, are gruesome and include an apparent plot to enact some of his violent "fantasies" in the real world.

    Federal prosecutors said DeFoggi was arrested as part of an investigation into three child pornography websites the FBI shut down in 2012. DeFoggi registered as a member of at least one of these websites and "solicited child pornography from other members, and exchanged private messages with other members where he expressed an interest in the violent rape and murder of children."

    He "even suggested meeting one member in person to fulfill their mutual fantasies to violently rape and murder children."

    It was not immediately clear to what extent DeFoggi's participation in the websites overlapped with his work at the Health Department. However, a government document detailing funding estimates for the 2014 fiscal year listed a "Tim Defoggi" as the head of "OS IT Security Operations" and indicated he reported directly to the department's chief information security officer.

    DeFoggi's sentencing is scheduled for November.

    Update (6:04 p.m.): An HHS official told Business Insider that DeFoggi was part of the department from 2008 until the start of 2014: "Mr. DeFoggi was employed at HHS, first at the Indian Health Service as a Supervisory IT Specialist from September 2008 until March 2012, and then at the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration as a Lead IT Specialist from March 2012 until January 2014."

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  • Australia's Ex-Foreign Minister: 'Swivel-Eyed Neo-Cons' Bankrupted America And Drained Its Military Strength

    Bush Cheney RumsfeldIn "Diary of a Foreign Minister" published by Australia’s former top diplomat, Bob Carr, many U.S. politicians are given effusive praise. From Republican Senators John McCain and Roy Blunt, to President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry – Carr finds America breeds “public polity athletes” who are “first class.”


    He has no such love for the Bush Administration. 

    Carr described former President George W. Bush, ex-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Vice President Dick Cheney as “swivel eyed neo-cons and ultra-nationalists. He also accused the Bush Administration of having "bankrupted the country and drained its military strength."

    "America, with all its capacity to make calibrated decisions and tease out diplomatic nuance and take a strategic view, allowed itself to be taken over by its pure blood-in-the-eye instincts," Carr wrote of America after the 9/11 attacks. 

    "A coalition of ultra-nationalists"

    The 66-year-old veteran politician lamented that, within the Bush administration, “a coalition of ultra-nationalists and neo-cons clawed their way into the ascendancy and quickly set off two wars.”

    Carr spared former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, from criticism. According to Carr, they both opposed the administration’s direction. 

    “The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been bankrupting disasters for America, both unnecessary,” Carr continued.

    bill clintonDescribing America as Australia’s “closest friend, our ally, our partnership of interests and values,” Carr said no one was penalized for the "damage" done by the Bush administration.

    “One’s got to ponder how America got it so wrong and wonder about accountability for this damage. No one is being held accountable. Yet I can’t think of more horrendous errors of judgment since Washington decided to dig in rather than exit Vietnam,” he writes.

    Days before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Carr said former President Bill Clinton told him, “some people in my country believe America must always have enemies.”

    “Even before September 11, influential Americans were working themselves up into a frenzy about China,” Carr wrote, “all nations suffer pathologies, the great republic being no exception.”

    SEE ALSO: Here's One Theory About Why Cops In America Kill So Many People

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  • Biden Sends A Clear Message To Putin About Georgia, As Ukraine Intervention Continues

    Joe Biden Vice President Romania

    American officials have been hesitant to label the Russian military advance into eastern Ukraine an invasion, calling it a "Russian-directed counteroffensive," for instance.

    But the Obama administration has sharpened some of its rhetoric toward Russia in subtle but still significant respects, as a seemingly innocuous and little-commented-upon press readout from Friday demonstrates.

    On the same day a Russian "aid convoy" reportedly entered southeastern Ukraine, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's office released a readout of his conversation with Georgian prime minister Irakli Garibashvili. In it, Biden "underscored his support for Georgia’s NATO membership aspirations."

    At a particularly sensitive moment in U.S.-Russian relations, Biden confirmed the U.S. was still backing a policy that Moscow has long opposed and considers something of a red line. (In March, U.S. President Barack Obama said neither Georgia nor Ukraine were on the path to NATO membership, although that was most likely a misstatement in Georgia's case).

    Georgian NATO membership would permanently remove the former Soviet republic from Russia's orbit. Practically, it would mean that Russia would risk war with the entire NATO alliance if it ever invaded Georgia, which it did as recently as 2008. Symbolically, it would place one of the most integral of the former Soviet states firmly in the European camp — something that Moscow might see as a provocation unto itself.

    But this was no gaffe. Biden's support appears in a readout of a phone conservation, a vetted statement that was most likely deliberately and carefully crafted. So the U.S. still supports Georgia's NATO aspiration, even if it's unclear what that means in practicality, or whether Biden's statement was anything more than a rhetorical ploy.

    "The question is the degree to which the U.S. really means it," Jeremy Shapiro, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former U.S. State Department staffer, told Business Insider.

    Biden might just mean the U.S. supports Georgia taking a number of procedural steps that may or may not result in NATO membership — a process that took Albania, which joined in 2009, over a decade. Or he might mean the U.S. wants to advance the process to counter Russian aggression.

    The latter possibility seems unlikely, as it would only ratchet up the confrontation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the West and lessen the chances of a peaceful resolution to the Ukraine crisis.

    putinIt's more likely the U.S. is talking about Georgian NATO membership to remind Russia of the NATO block's range of strategic options — but without committing itself to a specific course of action.

    "The logic is to give Georgia a Membership Action Plan and put them on this path that still changes the situation on the ground and Moscow's calculation," Laura Linderman, a research fellow at the Atlantic Council and expert on the Caucasus region, told Business Insider.

    By even talking about Georgian accession to NATO, the U.S. is telegraphing its intentions to Putin without throwing its weight behind anything more than a vague policy. "Putin operates in a way that forces a black and white view of countries on Russia's periphery — they have to choose the West or choose us," Linderman says, "and Putin tends to take any kind of equivocating statement as a sign of weakness."

    This doesn't mean that letting Georgia into NATO would necessarily be a smart policy. The inclusion of a weak and sometimes-unstable frontline state with a history of conflict with Russia might weaken the mutual defense guarantee at the heart of the alliance. And Georgia has an active border conflict with Russia — along with Russian troops stationed inside the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are Georgian territory under international law.

    But it would put a fragile and Western-leaning country behind the strongest defense alliance in modern history, giving it the security needed to build institutions while denying Moscow of another area of influence. The Ukraine situation has also convinced Georgian leaders that their future lies with integration into Europe — even if it's a reminder of what Putin is capable of.

    "The Ukraine crisis an opening for Georgia to push for a closer relationship with NATO in some ways," Linderman says. "It also leaves them much more vulnerable. They're in a tough spot."

    SEE ALSO: The U.S. warned Russia about escalation in Ukraine ahead of a crucial meeting

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  • American Killed While Fighting For ISIS Seemed Increasingly Radical On Social Media


    An American who grew up in Minnesota joined the Islamic militant group ISIS and was killed along with two other foreign fighters in Syria, NBC News reports, citing activists linked to the Free Syrian Army. 

    Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, was killed in clashes between ISIS and other Syrian opposition groups. McCain, who branded himself "Duale ThaslaveofAllah" on Facebook and "Duale Khalid" on Twitter, was considered an unlikely jihadi by those who knew him.

    Remembered as affable and friendly, one former high school classmate at Robbinsdale Cooper High School, in New Hope, Minnesota, referred to McCain as a "goofball."       

    However, it appears through social media that McCain became radicalized at some point. McCain's Twitter bio reads "Its Islam over everything," and his most recent Twitter activity was a series of retweets in support of ISIS and jihad.

    Since the spring, McCain started to follow a number of jihadis on Twitter. Due to his activity, McCain had been placed on a U.S. terror watch-list. 

    At one point, McCain retweeted an English translation of a speech given by Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the ISIS spokesman. McCain's jihadist-inspired tweets came after a four-month break from Twitter. Before the break, McCain mostly tweeted about seeing friends, smoking hookah, hip-hop, and occasionally about Islam. 

    On Facebook, McCain's pictures featured the black flag of ISIS and an illustration stating "They are coming back, soldiers of Allah." At the time of writing, it appeared that photos from his profile page were starting to be removed.  

    McCain's Facebook photos paint a portrait of a young man who was religiously observant, while also being interested in a "gangster" lifestyle. 

    McCain 3

    As time progressed through 2010, McCain posted progressively more suggestive photos of glorified violence and weaponry. 

    McCain 1

    By the end of the summer of 2010, McCain was posting photos of men raising the black flag that has come to be associated with ISIS. 

    McCain 2

    In January of 2013, McCain changed his profile picture to a picture of Troy Kastigar. Kastigar was a fellow Minnesotan who converted to Islam and traveled to Somalia to join an extremist group before ultimately dying in 2009. Kastigar and McCain both graduated from Robbinsdale Cooper High School in 1999.

    McCain 4

    McCain is not the first American to die fighting for jihadis in Syria. In May, an American from Florida became the first American suicide bomber in the conflict. In total, there may be over 100 Americans currently engaged in fighting alongside ISIS and other jihadi groups in Syria. 

    Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, estimates that "Syria is attracting more foreign fighters than Afghanistan did in its heyday." That heyday he was referring to was the 1980 Soviet occupation that helped form the basis of al-Qaeda. 

    ISIS and other jihadist groups value foreign fighters for their potential symbolic and progoganda value. 

    SEE ALSO: ISIS demands a $6.6 million ransom for release of a 26-year-old American woman

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  • WHITE HOUSE: The US Is Not Giving Information To Assad


    The White House categorically denied a report saying it was sharing information with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad about the extremist group the Islamic State (also ISIS or ISIL) on Tuesday. Furthermore, the White House said it had no plans to coordinate whatsoever with the Syrian government in the ongoing fight against the group.

    The AFP reported on Tuesday that the U.S. was "sharing intelligence about jihadist deployments with Damascus through Iraqi and Russian channels." AFP's report came just as White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One that the U.S. does not recognize the Assad regime and had "no plans" to coordinate with them in regards to any campaign against ISIS.

    "As a matter of US policy, we have not recognized" Assad as the leader in Syria, Earnest said, according to a transcript. "There are no plans to change that policy and there are no plans to coordinate with the Assad regime."

    When asked if Earnest's comments also represented a denial of the AFP report, White House National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said it did.

    President Barack Obama has reportedly given the go-ahead for the U.S. military to begin surveillance flights in Syria to gather intelligence on ISIS. The intelligence-gathering could be a prelude for potential strikes on the group in Syria. The U.S. has already launched airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and multiple administration and military officials have publicly suggested any campaign to confront the group would need to be expanded into Syria.

    Earnest said Obama has not made a decision about whether to strike ISIS in Syria. 

    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Monday the country was open to working with the international community against ISIS, however, he said the Syrian government would need to be notified. Some observers and analysts have accused Assad of facilitating ISIS' rise during the three-plus-year civil war in Syria, using their rapid gains as a ploy to present himself as the better of two options.

    On Tuesday, Earnest said the situation was different today than one year ago, when the Obama administration pushed Congress to approve targeted strikes on Assad regime targets. 

    "The goal of the mission from last year was aimed squarely at the Assad regime. ... The situation a year later is markedly different," Earnest said.


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  • See What Has Become Of 8 Olympic Host Cities After The Games Left Town

    Igman Ski jumps

    Since the inception of the modern Olympics, there have been 49 winter and summer games held in 41 different cities around the globe. Some were great successes. Others, not so much.

    Researchers have known for years that cities that host large sporting events like the Olympics generally spend more money and make less than anticipated. And investing in an Olympic Games won't necessarily lead to long-term economic growth or improved infrastructure.

    Photographers and artists Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit set out to document what exactly happens when the games are over, and discovered varying answers.

    Pack and Hustwit explored and photographed relics and remains of once-new Olympic features in 13 cities. Their photos, collected in a new book entitled "The Olympic City," show the varied remnants of Olympic Games gone by. 

    "We're interested in the idea of government-approved spending — and these are huge amounts of money — to build massive structures, some of it temporary, all to host an event that will only last a couple of weeks ... Are [the people] benefiting from having been a part of the Olympics? Are the games a point of pride or regret?" Pack explains.

    Some places faired well, standing the test of time by adapting to new roles. Other structures fell to shambles after years of disuse. Both aspects, rebirth from ingenuity and death from poor planning, are documented in the series, which acts as a interesting behind-the-scenes look at the games we know and love.

    Many pieces of architecture originally created for an Olympic event have been gracefully integrated into the landscape. Here, the Montjuïc Communications Tower still stands in Olympic Park in Barcelona. Created for the 1992 Summer Games, the structure was built to beam TV coverage out to the world and was meant to look like an arm holding an Olympic torch. Today, it continues to send out TV signals and remains a striking part of the city skyline.

    Other structures were repurposed. These eighteen 16-story buildings were created to house athletes at the the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, though only a few of them were used, due to the US-led boycott of the games. They have since been made into permanent apartments for state employees.

    Similarly, the Olympic Village from the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics was also converted into full time residences, though they have recently fallen into slight disrepair.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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  • Obama: 'Justice Will Be Done' After James Foley Execution

    Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama vowed on Tuesday that "barbaric terrorists" in Iraq and Syria would face the might of the U.S. military after they murdered American journalist James Foley in a brutal video released last week.

    "Our message to anyone who harms our people is simple: America does not forget, our reach is long, we are patient, justice will be done," Obama said in a speech before the American Legion's annual convention in North Carolina. "We have proved time and time again we will do what's necessary to ... go after those who harm Americans. And we'll continue to take direct action where needed."

    Obama nevertheless reiterated his previous promise that the U.S. would not deploy any ground troops in its fight against jihadist Islamic State forces in the region.

    "We have to use our power wisely. History teaches us of the danger of overreaching and spreading ourselves too thin," Obama said. "Let me say it again: American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq. We will not allow the United States to be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq."

    The U.S. launched airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq earlier this month and may be considering similar action in Syria

    SEE ALSO: GOP Campaign Releases Ad Featuring Killer Of James Foley

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  • Watch Joe Biden Flirt With A 108-Year-Old Veteran

    Vice President Joe Biden's flirting skills are legendary and they were on full display July 25 when he met with America's oldest living female veteran, Lucy Coffey. The White House released an adorable video of Coffey's encounter with Biden on Tuesday that shows the vice president working his magic.

    Coffey is 108 years old. She enlisted in 1943 and subsequently earned two Bronze Stars. After being honorably discharged in 1945, Coffey worked in civil service and on a Texas Air Force base until she retired in 1971. 

    Shortly after Biden sat down with Coffey, President Barack Obama dropped in and gave her a presidential command coin.

    wh biden 9

    Biden responded to Obama dropping in by joking with Coffey that it was like having a "better-looking" man steal his date. Initially, Coffey seemed resistant to Biden's charms. 

    wh biden 1

    However, Biden insisted to Coffey that he was really the "guy that loves you."

    wh biden 4

    This joke finally broke through and earned a big laugh and smile from Coffey.

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    After he got her smiling, Biden went on to show Coffey a picture of his late mother.

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    Coffey left her meeting with the vice president with gifts. He gave her an official coin and a stuffed animal.

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    Watch the entire exchange below.

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    Details: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/businessinsider/politics/~3/ZIfDBq8kSRA/watch-joe-biden-flirt-with-a-108-year-old-veteran-2014-8

  • The US Is Reportedly Giving Information About ISIS To Syria's Assad Regime

    us air force drone afghanistan reaper

    The U.S. has begun reconnaissance flights over Syria and is sharing intelligence about jihadist deployments with Damascus through Iraqi and Russian channels, sources told AFP on Tuesday.

    "The cooperation has already begun and the United States is giving Damascus information via Baghdad and Moscow," one source close to the issue said on condition of anonymity.

    The White House and State Department flatly denied the report. 

    White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One that the U.S. does not recognize the Assad regime and had "no plans" to coordinate with them in regards to any campaign against ISIS.

    "As a matter of US policy, we have not recognized" Assad as the leader in Syria, Earnest said, according to a transcript. "There are no plans to change that policy and there are no plans to coordinate with the Assad regime."

    When asked if Earnest's comments also represented a denial of the AFP report, White House National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden told Business Insider it did.

    State Department spokesperson Marie Harf also denied the report:

    The comments came a day after Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Syria was willing to work with the international community against the jihadist Islamic State group, and U.S. officials said they were poised to carry out surveillance flights over Syria.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said foreign drones had been seen over the eastern province of Deir Ezzor on Monday.

    "Non-Syrian spy planes carried out surveillance of Islamic State positions in Deir Ezzor province on Monday," the Britain-based monitoring group's director, Rami Abdel Rahman, said.

    On Tuesday, Syrian warplanes bombed Islamic State positions in several areas of Deir Ezzor, an oil-rich province in the east of Syria, most of which is held by the jihadists.

    A regional source told AFP that "a Western country has given the Syrian government lists of Islamic State targets on Syrian territory since just before air raids on Raqa, which started in mid-August."

    The Islamic State, which emerged from Al-Qaeda's Iraq branch but has since broken with the worldwide network, controls large parts of Deir Ezzor and seized full control of Raqa province, further up the Euphrates Valley, on Sunday, with the capture of the army's last position, the Tabqa air base.

    It has declared an Islamic "caliphate" in areas under its control in Syria and neighboring Iraq, where US war planes have been targeting its positions since August 8.

    U.S. officials said Monday that Washington was ready to send spy planes into Syria to track the group's fighters but that the moves would not be coordinated with the government in Damascus.

    Muallem warned Monday that any unilateral military action on its soil would be considered "aggression."

    SEE ALSO: ISIS just looted advanced weaponry from a crucial Assad regime air base in Syria

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    Details: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/businessinsider/politics/~3/o1-AdmOSW9U/us-giving-information-about-isis-to-assad-2014-8

  • Israel And Hamas Just Reached Long-Term Ceasefire In Gaza

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    Weeks after Israel withdrew ground troops from Gaza and just days after the largest rocket bombardment of the conflict, the two-month war between Israel and Hamas might actually be drawing to a conclusion. According to Reuters, Gaza-based Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zhuri has claimed that a "long-term ceasefire" has been reached with Israel after a conflict in which other 2000 Palestinians and 68 Israelis have been killed. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed the agreement in a statement shortly after the ceasefire was set to take effect.

    According to Barak Ravid of Ha'aretz, Israel has acceptedthe ceasefire proposal. In a statement on August 26, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed that he "strongly support[s] today’s ceasefire agreement."

    Kerry also stressed that humanitarian response to the destruction in the coastal strip would be coordinated with the help of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, and would not be conducted in a way that benefitted "Hamas and other terrorist organizations."

    The Egyptian government of Fattah Adbul al Sissi — which has taken a hard-line against Hamas and destroyed over 1,600 of its cross-border smuggling tunnels with Egypt — reportedly brokered the agreement, in which Israel lifts restrictions on the importation of food and construction materials and widens the area permitted for fishing off of the Gaza coast, and Egypt opens the Rafah border crossing under Palestinian Authority supervision. The agreement also requires future discussions for the opening of an airport and seaport in the Gaza Strip.

    If these reports are accurate, Hamas scaled back many of its demands from earlier in the conflict. Hamas had wanted Rafah to be supervised by "friendly Arab states" and had made the air and seaport a quid pro quo for the end of hostilities. Instead, Hamas would cede the border crossing to their rivals in the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, and end the rocket fire based on the vague possibility that Egypt and Israel would allow the construction of a port facility.

    At the same time, Hamas would have succeeded in exacting concessions from Israel by force of arms. The cost is steep, at least by conventional standards: over half of its rockets are gone, its attack tunnel network is in ruins, hundreds of its fighters are dead, and parts of the Gaza Strip are decimated.

    But it managed to keep up a rocket bombardment in spite of what a conventional state would count as an battlefield defeat — and possibly even gained as a result of it.

    SEE ALSO: Netanyahu's popularity craters as rocket attacks continue

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    Details: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/businessinsider/politics/~3/QuZ7zAu1kIs/israel-hamas-ceasefire-2014-8

  • Here's How Obama's New ISIS Strategy Could Become A Disaster


    The Obama administration has given the green light for surveillance flights over eastern Syria to prepare for possible military strikes on the extremist militant group ISIS. 

    Any increased U.S. involvement in “somebody else’s civil war” at this point brings risks, especially when airstrikes alone would not be enough to beat ISIS and no real policy has emerged to deal with the militants in Syria.

    "Senior officials have talked of efforts to 'stall,' 'contain,' 'degrade,' 'defeat,' and 'destroy' the Islamic State. These words actually mean very different things, indicating either a major internal administration debate or utter confusion," Michael Gerson, a senior White House policy adviser from 2000 through June 2006, wrote recently.

    Assad, on the other hand, clearly has a plan. The Iranian-backed ruler has offered to work with the West against ISIS — after facilitating the group's rise — while also attempting to destroy what remains of the mainstream Free Syrian Army (FSA).

    "[Assad] would prefer to confront the West with what it would present as a fait accompli: the opposition is dead; ISIS is a greater evil than us; you in the West have no choice but to work with us against this greater evil," Fred Hof, a former special adviser for transition in Syria under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wrote over the weekend

    And the relatively moderate opposition forces are currently being squeezed by both Assad's troops and ISIS fighters in Syria's largest city of Aleppo, and a new ISIS offensive threatens to cut off FSA rebel supply lines to Turkey. Hussam Marie, the Free Syrian Army spokesman for northern Syria, told The New York Times that the loss of FSA positions in and around Aleppo would be “unrecoverable” and “a blow to our shared goals of a moderate Syria.”

    syriaThe White House hopes to bolster the FSA with an undefined training mission and strikes on ISIS, but the long-neglected "farmers and dentists" are running out of time.

    “We’re going to find ourselves maneuvered into a very uncomfortable position,” Hof told NYT. “We’re unconsciously walking into an ambush."

    The situation would look like an intensified version of the State Department's worst-case scenario: "rebel gains evaporating, the moderate opposition ... imploding, large ungoverned spaces [ruled by ISIS], Assad holding on indefinitely, neighbors endangered, and Iran, Hizbollah, and Iraqi militias taking root."

    And now that all of that has happened, the administration of President Barack Obama could find itself on the same side of a regime that has tortured and killed people on an industrial scale with no allies on the ground who can beat ISIS.

    Consequently, Hof concludes that "if President Obama wishes to avoid the impression that the United States is collaborating with the crime family that has enabled both ISIS and the destruction of Syria, he will direct an immediate and significant resupply of nationalist forces and give the assurances required to encourage the full relocation of Syria's external opposition to Syria itself."

    In any case, it is becoming clear that after years of disengaging from the Middle East, Obama is going to need some help. 

    "To counter ISIS, the United States must relearn the lessons of the surge [during the Iraq war]," Mike Doran, senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy, told Business Insider in an email. "The key is to detach moderate Sunnis, the vast majority of Sunnis, from ISIS, by providing them with security and with a political alternative to rule by Iran and its proxies.

    "The first step is to commit the United States, to crushing ISIS unambiguously," Doran continued. "The second step is to create a coalition to achieve that goal by creating a new order in what is now Jihadistan, the region that ISIS controls from Baghdad to Aleppo. That coalition should include, among others, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, France, Britain, and, of course, the Free Syrian Army."

    SEE ALSO: Ex-Administration Official Destroys Obama's Argument For Not Helping Syrian Rebels

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    Details: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/businessinsider/politics/~3/E2euMt3YNfw/obamas-new-isis-strategy-2014-8

  • Republicans Create Their Own Low-Budget Video Game Starring 'Giopi' The Elephant

    gop game

    The campaign arm for Senate Republicans has created a video game starring "Giopi," an elephant that goes around jumping on high taxes and stopping Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nevada) agenda.

    "Harry Reid and President Obama sent the job-destroying Taxers to stop you! You need to avoid them. Jumping on top of them suppresses their high taxes," the instructions for the game note.

    The web-based game is an open attempt for the National Republican Senatorial Committee to collect contact information for later use in campaigns. In order to jump into Giopi's fantasy world, users have to login via their email, Facebook page, or Google account.

    "Hi, my name is Giopi!" the elephant says to introduce himself. "I'm one of the GOP's best volunteers for the 2014 midterms, and I'm here to show you how we can win back the Senate! There is going to be a lot of red tape and regulations in our way, but we need to overcome them in order to succeed. At the end of each level, there is a link that will bring you to a site where you can support Republicans in real life."

    NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring told The Weekly Standard that the entire project was a low-budget affair.

    "This game will ultimately be revenue positive," Dayspring said. "It’s going to generate revenue (especially when the merchandising is factored in)."

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    Details: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/businessinsider/politics/~3/HaD_A_8Junw/nrsc-video-game-giopi

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