Thursday, October 1, 2015

Headlines: U.S. and Russian officials have little to agree on - The Washington Post - 10:48 PM 10/1/2015



Russia Endangering Itself With Syrian Airstrikes

Russia Endangering Itself With Syrian Airstrikes

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The White House said Thursday that Russia had “further isolated itself” by carrying out airstrikes in Syria and was putting itself in jeopardy.
“The fact is that carrying out indiscriminate military operations against the Syrian opposition is dangerous for Russia,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
He said Russian interference would prolong the sectarian conflict inside Syria. “It also risks Russia being drawn even more deeply into that conflict,” he said, pointing out that Russia already had acknowledged there could be no military solution in Syria.
Earnest also said that what he called Russia’s “indiscriminate” strikes would drive moderate elements of the Syrian opposition toward extremism, and ultimately exacerbate extremism inside Russia.
Russia's actions in Syria have not led to a "broad re-evaluation" of the U.S. strategy there, Earnest said.
Shift by U.S.?
But Syrian expert Joshua Landis told VOA's Persian service that the Obama administration might actually be climbing down from its strict rejection of working with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia in trying to root out Islamic State.
"It’s not very clear how far it can go in this process," said Landis, an associate professor in the School of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He said Washington has been trying to balance two separate interests. "On one hand, it insists on the values of human rights, democracy and getting rid of dictators ... but on the other hand there is this interest of rooting out ISIS from Syria," and for that the U.S. may need to work with the Russians and Assad.
The Pentagon said the U.S. and Russian militaries would hold another teleconference in the coming days on ways they can avoid firing on each other, as both wage air campaigns in Syria.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said an hourlong conversation between the two sides Thursday was cordial. He said the Russian side made clear that strikes in Syria would continue, while the American representative "noted U.S. concerns that areas targeted so far are not ISIL [Islamic State] strongholds."
The officials' conversation came amid signs that Russia may be preparing to expand its air operations to neighboring Iraq.
A senior Russian diplomat said his country would consider airstrikes in Iraq if Baghdad asked, though Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated otherwise.
"We are not planning to expand our airstrikes to Iraq," Lavrov said at a Thursday news conference at the United Nations in New York. "We were not invited. We were not asked. We are polite people; we don’t come unless invited."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses the media during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in Manhattan, New York, Oct. 1, 2015.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses the media during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in Manhattan, New York, Oct. 1, 2015.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he would welcome Russian aid in defeating the Islamic State. He told France 24 television earlier in the day that if Russia offered air support, "we will consider it and I would welcome it," Reuters reported.
In its fight with the Islamic State, Iraq's government primarily has been supported by the U.S.-led coalition. To date, it has provided $2.3 billion in equipment and air support. Its current ground force of 5,451 includes 3,359 Americans, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.
Iranian ground troops
Earnest said the White House could not confirm reports that Iranian troops were on the ground in Syria and preparing for a ground offensive, but he said that if the reports were true, they would be an “apt and powerful” illustration of how Russia’s military operations have worsened the conflict.
Hundreds of Iranian troops newly arrived in Syria will join in a major ground operation with Assad's government forces and Lebanese Hezbollah allies, two Lebanese sources told Reuters.
To date, Iran primarily has provided military advisers in the conflict.
At a Pentagon news conference Thursday, spokesman Colonel Steve Warren did not confirm reports that Iranian troops had crossed into Syria. But, he said, "it’s no surprise to us that the Iranians are present." Iran's Foreign Ministry on Thursday endorsed Russia's airstrikes.
Broader target list
Russian jets staged a second day of airstrikes in Syria on Thursday, targeting not only Islamic State extremists but also fighters backed by the United States, some observers charged.
Russian aircraft hit a dozen IS targets, including a command center and two ammunition depots, Defense Minister Igor Konashenkov said in a televised report.
The Kremlin acknowledged it also was taking aim at "a list" of groups beyond the extremist group.
"These organizations are well-known and the targets are chosen in coordination with the armed forces of Syria," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday.
This image taken in Sept. 30, 2015 posted on the Twitter account of Syria Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, a volunteer search and rescue group, shows the aftermath of an airstrike in Talbiseh, Syria.
This image taken in Sept. 30, 2015 posted on the Twitter account of Syria Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, a volunteer search and rescue group, shows the aftermath of an airstrike in Talbiseh, Syria.
His words contradicted a statement Wednesday by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff that raids were solely meant to aid Syria’s government in fighting the Islamic State group.
Russian Military Video: Syrian Airstrikes
Russian Military Video: Syrian Airstrikes
Russian Military Video: Syrian Airstrikes
Airstrikes on Thursday pounded areas where the U.S.-backed rebel group Tajamu Alezzah is operating, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
U.S. Senator John McCain, who heads the Senate's Armed Services Committee, said he had proof that Russian warplanes had attacked U.S.-trained fighters.
"Their initial strikes were against the individuals and the groups that have been funded and trained by our CIA," McCain said Thursday on CNN.
He accused Moscow of trying to prop up its ally Assad, whom the United States and other Western countries want out of office.
Dangerous new dimension
With American and allied airstrikes daily, and now Russian warplanes in the Syrian airspace, the war is taking on a dangerous new dimension.
Alexander Orlov, the Russian ambassador to France, said Russian officials warned the Americans “via confidential channels” of where they planned to strike. He also noted a coordination center was being set up in Baghdad that would include Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians and Russians — and any other country that wants to participate.
Smoke billows from buildings in the central Syrian town of Talbisseh in Homs province. Russian warplanes carried out airstrikes in three Syrian provinces, including Homs, along with regime aircraft, according to a Syrian security source, Sept. 30, 2015.
Smoke billows from buildings in the central Syrian town of Talbisseh in Homs province. Russian warplanes carried out airstrikes in three Syrian provinces, including Homs, along with regime aircraft, according to a Syrian security source, Sept. 30, 2015.
Khaled Khoja, head of the Syrian National Council opposition group, said at the U.N. that Russian airstrikes in four areas, including Talbiseh, killed 36 civilians, with five children among the dead.
The claim could not be independently verified. At a Thursday news conference, a Pentagon spokesman said he had no information.
Putin denied reports of any civilian deaths in Russian airstrikes.
“We are ready for such information attacks. The first reports of civilian casualties came even before our jets took off,'' he said Thursday in a live broadcast from the Kremlin, according to the AP.
Russia began carrying out airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, just hours after lawmakers gave Putin the permission to deploy Russian military forces there.
Russia’s decision to begin airstrikes in Syria in support of Assad’s regime "is tantamount to pouring gasoline on the fire" of that country’s four-year civil war, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.
The conflict, rooted in a civilian uprising against Assad in March 2011, has claimed more than 250,000 lives and forced millions to flee — mostly elsewhere in the Middle East or to Europe.
Pamela Dockins at the State Department, Carla Babb at the Pentagon and Jeff Seldin contributed to this report. Some material for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.
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Mapping the Battle for Syria: Russia Continues Airstrikes on Rebel Areas - The New York Times

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Most of the Targets Have Been Far From ISIS Territory

Known Russian airstrikes on Oct. 1
On Sept. 30
Turkey
By Tim Wallace/The New York Times|Source: The Carter Center (areas of control); Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (some targets)
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FBI Chief Says Politics Won't Interfere With Inquiry on Hillary Clinton's Email - New York Times

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New York Times

FBI Chief Says Politics Won't Interfere With Inquiry on Hillary Clinton's Email
New York Times
WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. director, James BComey, said Thursday that he was certain the bureau would be able to complete the investigation into Hillary Rodham Clinton's personal email account in a timely manner and that he would make sure politics ...
Dozens of Clinton emails in latest release contain classified infoFox News
Hillary Clinton private account targeted in Russia-linked email scamWPTV.com

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Russia, US Open Deconfliction Talks

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A day after Russian jets began strikes in Syria, US and Russian militaries opened talks on deconflicting air operations.
       

Lawmakers Concerned Army Commission Headed In Wrong Direction

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Two Republican House lawmakers say a commission tasked to study the future of the Army is headed in the wrong direction
       

U.S. fails to stop people from joining the Islamic State: congressional report 

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The Obama administration has largely failed to stop more than 250 Americans from traveling overseas since 2011 to join — or attempt to join — terrorist groups like the Islamic State, said a new congressional report released on Tuesday.
Lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee commissioned the six-month review ...
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Pentagon puts Syrian rebel training program on hold

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The Pentagon said Tuesday that its embattled program to train and equip Syrian rebels to combat the Islamic State has temporarily stopped receiving new recruits.
"We continue to recruit and vet potential participants for the [train and equip] program. As we review the program, we have paused the actual movement ...

Dimitry Belorossov, Russian cybercriminal, sentenced over 'Citadel' malware 

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Federal prosecutors in the United States have secured a 4½-year prison sentence against Dimitry Belorossov, a Russian national who helped spread malware that infected over 11 million computers worldwide.
Belorossov, 22, pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiring to commit computer fraud related to his involvement in an ...

McCain urges Obama to 'wake up' as Russia begins airstrikes in Syria 

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Sen. John McCain urged President Obama Wednesday to "wake up" and reassert American leadership in the Middle East, following reports that Russian military jets carried out their first airstrikes in support of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"This is the inevitable consequence of hollow words, red lines crossed, ...

Al Qaeda propagandist will have remaining conviction reviewed in court 

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A federal court has agreed to rehear arguments concerning Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman Al Bahlul, a detainee at Guantanamo Bay who has already had most of his terror-related convictions reversed.
As President Obama moves forward with plans to pull the plug on the  detention center before his administration comes to ...

Ashton Carter: Russian action like 'pouring gasoline on the fire,' bombed Assad enemies, not ISIS 

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Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday voiced his concern's over Russia's "contradictory position" in Syria, saying the Kremlin's decision to conduct airstrikes at the request of Bashar Assad is "tantamount to pouring gasoline on the fire." 
Mr. Carter stopped short of confirming Russian warplanes had targeted anti-Assad forces in its ...

John Kerry: U.S. open to Russia hitting Islamic State in Syria

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Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Wednesday the Obama administration is "prepared to welcome" the Russian military's bombardment of al Qaeda and Islamic State targets in Syria, but will continue for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"We must not and will not be confused in our fight ...
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US defense chief: Russia airstrikes targeted non-IS areas

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday that the Russian airstrikes in Syria appear to have targeted areas that do not include Islamic State fighters, a development which Secretary of State John Kerry said would cause "grave concern" for the United States.
Kerry told the United Nations Security ...

Commander: Marine killed in hit-and-run was noble, selfless

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THURMONT, Md. (AP) - The commander of the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington says a Camp David guard killed by a hit-and-run driver was acting in a characteristically selfless manner when he was struck.
Col. Benjamin Watson issued the statement Wednesday as police searched for the truck that hit 21-year-old ...

Investigation: Secret Service tried to discredit US lawmaker

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Scores of U.S. Secret Service employees improperly accessed the decade-old, unsuccessful job application of a congressman who was investigating scandals inside the agency, a new government report said Wednesday. An assistant director suggested leaking embarrassing information to retaliate against Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House ...

Vladimir Putin campaign in Syria to hit targets beyond militants

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Russian President Vladimir Putin's new air war over Syria will not be conducted with the niceties of the ongoing American campaign because the Russians lack sophisticated smart bombs, do not adhere to rules against killing civilians and will hit targets beyond the Islamic State's terrorist army.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter ...

Russia airstrikes in Syria alarm Obama critics

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Russia followed its launch of airstrikes in Syria with a call Wednesday for the world to unite and form a coalition in the fight against terrorist groups, raising concerns that the Obama administration was caught flatfooted and prompting calls for President Obama to "wake up" and reassert American leadership in ...

Russia begins airstrikes in Syria, but West disputes targets

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MOSCOW (AP) - Russia launched airstrikes Wednesday in Syria, sharply escalating Moscow's role in the conflict but also raising questions about whether its intent is fighting Islamic State militants or protecting longtime ally, President Bashar Assad.
President Vladimir Putin called it a pre-emptive strike against the militants, and the Russian ...
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Apologies, pledges abound again in new Secret Service scandal 

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Secret Service's cycle of apology, explanation and promises is back this time, involving an attempt to embarrass a congressman investigating the seemingly non-stop shenanigans.
This scandal doesn't involve booze, women or security breaches. It revolves instead around a revelation that scores of Secret Service employees ...

House to vote on defense bill that Obama threatens to veto

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The defense policy bill is one of the few bipartisan measures in Congress that has readily become law for more than a half-century. Not so fast this year, as President Barack Obama threatens to veto the bill moving through the House amid a bitter dispute about government ...

The Latest: Russia says it has destroyed 12 IS targets

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MOSCOW (AP) - The latest developments as Russia and other nations counter Islamic State militants in Syria. All times local:
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2:30 p.m.
Russia's defense ministry says it has damaged or destroyed 12 targets in Syria belonging to the Islamic State militant group, including a command center and ammunition depots.
...

CIA goes live with new cyber directorate, massive internal reorganization 

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The CIA officially launched its new cyber-focused directorate Thursday, capping a massive internal reorganization that intelligence officials say will also include the agency's first ever creation of six regional command centers aimed at streamlining U.S. spying activities across the globe.
The establishment of the new Directorate for Digital Innovation (DDI) ...

Tensions rising, US and Russian military holding Syria talks

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon said it would begin talks Thursday with Russian military officials on ways to avoid U.S. and Russian forces firing on each other in Syria as tensions escalate over Russian airstrikes that apparently are serving to strengthen Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The talks, to be held ...

St. Louis VA mental health records questioned by watchdog

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ST. LOUIS (AP) - A federal watchdog says it has confirmed a whistleblower's claims that St. Louis' Veterans Affairs sites wrongly marked appointments for mental health patients as completed even before the patients were seen, boosting the system's performance showing.
A VA Inspector General's report Wednesday involved records of the ...
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U.S.-led air war in Syria recedes as Russian jets take control of skies 

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The U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State launched only one airstrike Thursday in Syria, far below the daily average of eight, as Russian jets continued to pound various targets in that country.
But Army Col. Steve Warren, the top U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the U.S. is not ...

The Latest: Eastern Europeans to cooperate on border control

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ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) - The latest developments in the hundreds of thousands of refugees and other migrants passing through Europe on their way west. All times local.
7:00 p.m.
Hungary says it is in "constant consultations" with Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia about cooperating on issues of border defense.
...

House votes to delay Iran sanctions relief until terror victims get paid 

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The House passed a bill Thursday that blocks President Obama from lifting sanctions on Iran until Tehran makes billions in court-ordered payments to U.S. victims of state-sponsored terrorism.
Republicans pushed the bill to passage, 251 votes to 173, despite a veto threat from the White House, which said it was ...

Russia says Islamic State group not the only target in Syria

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MOSCOW (AP) - Russian jets carried out a second day of airstrikes in Syria on Thursday, but there were conflicting claims about whether they were targeting Islamic State and al-Qaida militants or trying to shore up the defenses of President Bashar Assad.
As concerns grew about a conflict that has ...

Iranian troops move into Syria as White House blames Russia for worsening crisis 

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Hundreds of Iranian troops have moved into Syria to join a major ground offensive in support of President Bashar Assad's government, as the White House expressed fears Thursday that Russia's military intervention will worsen sectarian violence there and prolong the civil war.
Russian warplanes, in a second day of strikes, ...

Congressmen Introduce Resolution to Reinstate War Hero Who Blew Whistle on Afghan Rape 

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Reps. Vern Buchanan (R., Fla.) and Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.) on Wednesday introduced a House resolution demanding the reinstatement of the decorated Green Beret who blew the whistle on U.S.-allied Afghan forces raping boys.
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland was dismissed from the Army after standing up for an Afghan rape victim in 2011. Though Martland appealed the decision, he was rejected last week and will be discharged at the beginning of November.
Marltand’s story is one of several cases that have illuminated an alleged Pentagon policy instructing U.S. soldiers not to report suspicions of Afghan forces sexually abusing children in Afghanistan.
Both Buchanan and Hunter have advocated for Martland in the wake of reports indicating the Army punishes soldiers and Marines who blow the whistle on Afghan forces raping boys.
“Driving Sgt. Martland out of the Army for standing up for American values is a national disgrace,” Buchanan said in a statement. “Now is the time for the U.S. House to demand Sgt. Martland be reinstated for his honorable actions in defense of innocent children.”
“The fact that Sgt. Martland was reprimanded by the Army for confronting a corrupt Afghan commander and child rapist shows a complete lack of morality among the Army’s risk-averse leadership,” Duncan, a former Marine officer, said Wednesday.
The House resolution, though non-binding, would immediately reinstate Martland into the Army.
Last week, Buchanan demanded that the Army reinstate Martland and called on House and Senate Armed Services Committees to investigate the matter. Days later, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R., Texas), who chairs the House committee, received a report on the circumstances surrounding Martland’s ouster.
Thornberry said Friday that the committee is probing whether soldiers were discouraged from reporting the sexual abuse due to the Obama administration’s push for a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“It is, I think, one of the broader questions for us to look into. Was there a rush to get in and out?” Thornberry said. “If there was, what effect did that have? So, I don’t know that that’s the case, but I do think it’s important for us to look at the context. There was an increase in a rush to get out.”
Buchanan has also sent a letter to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey demanding that the alleged policy of punishing soldiers who report suspicions of Afghans raping children be reversed.
Meanwhile, Gen. John Campbell, who commands U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has denied the existence of such a policy.
“The only people who should be punished are the ones who condoned a policy of ignoring child rape on a U.S. military base,” Buchanan stated Wednesday. “It’s bad enough if we were ignoring this type of barbaric and savage behavior, it’s even worse if we are punishing American heroes who try to stop it.”
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Following Russian Air Strikes, Israeli Defense Minister Says Israel Will Defend Its Interests in Syria 

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JERUSALEM—As Russian warplanes struck for the first time in Syria Wednesday and asked other foreign air forces to get out of the way, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel will defend its interests in Syria without seeking permission from Russia.
“We have our interests and when they are threatened we will act and will continue to act,” he said. “This was made clear to the Russian president.”
The Russians notified both the United States and Israel about an hour before they struck rebel targets near the Syrian city of Homs. The Russians asked the Americans and Israelis to clear Syrian air space before the attack.
American officials said the U.S.-led coalition will continue to conduct strikes and will not leave Syrian air space.
Ehud Yaari, an analyst for Israel’s Channel Two, said that the Russians had made their request to the United States by a low-level official in their embassy in Baghdad in a phone call to the American embassy there, a form of communication that angered the Americans, according to Yaari.
Although the Russians claimed to have attacked Islamic State targets, Yaari and other analysts say the attacks were not against IS but against several small rebel groups, some of them supported by the West. The object of these attacks, said Yaari, was to keep open a main highway leading from Damascus to the north.
At least 27 Syrian civilians, including a number of children, were reported to have been killed in the air attacks.
Yaalon spelled out Israel’s red lines in Syria, which, if crossed, will provoke an Israeli reaction. “We will hit anyone who tries to violate our sovereignty, anyone who tries to transfer advanced weapon systems to terrorist organizations (a reference to Hezbollah), and anyone who tries to transfer chemical weapons to terror organizations. We have no intention of giving up our ability to defend our interests.”
The minister’s comments came two days after Putin said he was “concerned” about Israeli attacks in Syria.
Yaalon said that Israel was not intervening in the Syrian civil war and was not directly attacking the regime of President Basher al-Assad, whose interests the Russians are seeking to protect. Russian officials said the military intervention in Syria is temporary and will not involve the use of ground troops.
It remains to be seen whether the Russians will try to curb the Israeli air force’s freedom of movement over Syria, although Israeli planes will avoid flying over the base Russia has built for itself near Latakia.
The prospect of Russian and Israeli warplanes clashing is intimidating but they have in fact done so once before, and it was the Israelis who came out ahead. The incident occurred during the so-called War of Attrition between Israel and Egypt along the Suez Canal in 1970. The Egyptians had called on Moscow to protect it from deep strikes being carried out by the Israeli Air Force in an effort to halt the Egyptian shelling of Israeli ground forces along the Suez Canal. The Soviets posted several squadrons of MIGs at Egyptian air bases.
The Israeli government at first ordered its air force to keep well away from the Russians, in order not to get entangled with a superpower. As the Russian planes became increasingly aggressive, however, permission was given for a one-time faceoff, according to Israeli accounts. The Israelis chose a force composed of its best pilots, almost all of whom were veterans of innumerable clashes with Arab air forces. Between them, the pilots in the group had 67 confirmed aerial kills. On July 30, in a carefully choreographed ambush, the planes were dispersed in small groups over the Sinai Peninsula and Gulf of Suez, out of sight from the patch of sky where the ambush was to be sprung and at different altitudes.
The action began with an attack on an Egyptian radar station to draw the Russians out. The Israelis could monitor more than a score of Soviet planes lifting off from their bases, identifying them as Russian by the language the pilots were speaking. At a signal, the Israeli Phantoms and Mirages began to converge on the target area. As the two forces sighted each other, dogfights began. The Israelis quickly detected that the Soviet pilots were inexperienced. Within three minutes, five of the Russian planes were shot down. Only one of the pilots succeeded in parachuting to safety. One Israeli plane was damaged but made it safely back to base.
Not wishing to twist the bear’s tail, Israel announced that it had shot down Egyptian aircraft. Within a few days, however, the true story emerged. Egypt declared that it had lost no planes to the Israelis and Egyptian pilots, often berated by their Russian instructors, took pleasure at the Russians’ embarrassment. The Soviets, however, would find a more effective means of curbing the Israeli air force—the formidable SAM (surface-to-air missiles) which in the Yom Kippur War, three years after the ambush, would down scores of Israeli planes on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts.
Israeli pilots today are presumably not looking for a replay, and it has been many years since Israel planes engaged enemy planes in aerial combat. It can be presumed too that the Russian pilots in Syria today, if the 1970 incident is known to them, will not be out to settle scores.
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FBI: Gun Murders Continue to Fall 

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A report published by the FBI on Monday shows that gun murders and other violent crimes continued to fall in 2014.
The FBI Crime in the United States report found 8,124 murders committed with firearms in 2014, down from 8,454 in 2013. That represents a 3.9 percent drop year over year and the lowest rate of any year included in the report.
The report found that, as in previous years, the vast majority of gun murders were committed with handguns, but all categories of gun murders declined.
Rifles were involved in 248 murders last year, fewer than the number committed with knives, blunt objects, and fists or feet. Three percent of gun murders involved rifles.
The overall murder rate declined by 1.2 percent year over year.
The downward trend extended to other crimes beyond murder. The overall violent crime rate was down 1 percent between 2013 and 2014. The rate of robbery and aggravated assault fell. The overall property crime rate decreased 5 percent in the same time period. The rates of burglary, larceny theft, and motor vehicle theft all declined.
The rate at which rapes occur increased by 1.6 percent, however.
The decrease in most crimes during 2014 is a continuation of a decades-long trend in the United States. Both violent crime and property crime are down over 20 percent compared with 2005. Every category of violent and property crime has fallen in that period. The rate of rapes has decreased by 10.9 percent.
“The gun prohibition lobby and Michael Bloomberg and friends must be choking on this huge drop in homicides,” said Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation, a gun rights organization. “They have been claiming that we have a ‘gun violence’ epidemic. What we have are a record number of new gun sales and owners over the past few years which has translated into more guns less violent crime.”
“It is time for people like Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton to admit that guns save lives.”

Valerie Jarrett: WH Issued ‘Guidance’ to Clinton Recommending She Use Official Email 

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White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett admitted Wednesday that the White House had issued guidance to cabinet secretaries recommending they use government email for official business—guidance that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ultimately ignored.
“Weren’t there guidelines from the White House to all cabinet secretaries to use government email?” MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell asked Jarrett at an event sponsored by the Aspen Institute.
“Well, yes there were. Yeah, absolutely,” Jarrett said.
“Obviously, we want to make sure we preserve all government records, so there was guidance given that government business should be done on government emails and that if you did use a private email it should be turned over,” Jarrett said.
Jarrett then offered a partial defense of Clinton’s behavior.
“She’s working hard to comply with making sure everything is pursuant to the Federal Records Act,” Jarrett said.
Clinton did not turn over emails from her private account until December 2014, two years after her tenure as secretary of state concluded and two months after the State Department sent her a letter asking for her emails.
When Clinton did turn over her emails, she did so at the request of the State Department, not on her own initiative—and only after permanently (or rather, “permanently”) deleting tens of thousands of emails from the private server.
The State Department received 55,000 pages of emails from Clinton. The emails were printed hard copies that were not digitally searchable, a lawyerly move many think was an attempt to stymie investigators and Freedom of Information Act requests.
The Clinton camp maintained control of Clinton’s private server until it was seized by the FBI as part of an ongoing investigation into the classified information on Clinton’s server.

Jacobs Blasts Obama Administration’s ‘Bankrupt’ Syria Policy: ‘We’re Not Doing Anything,’ Have ‘Egg On Our Face’

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Retired Col. Jack Jacobs, an NBC military analyst, blasted Obama administration policy in Syria Thursday, saying the latest moves by Russia in the war-torn nation showed “we’re not doing anything” and uncovered “the fiction that we’re actually engaged in getting rid of” Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Russian airstrikes in Syria this week against anti-Assad forces were yet another antagonistic move by Russia toward Obama and the United States. Obama has long contended that Assad has to be removed from power to achieve a political solution in Syria. Putin escalated a steady military build-upin Syria last month culminating in the airstrikes to bolster Assad, a Putin ally that the Russian president says is critical to fighting the Islamic State terrorist group.
“We’re not doing anything,” Jacobs said. “One of the things this uncovers is the fiction that we’re actually engaged in getting rid of Assad and destroying ISIS on the ground with airstrikes. We’ve been doing airstrikes, but we haven’t made any headway whatsoever. ISIS is bigger than it was before.”
CNBC reporter Michelle Caruso-Cabrera asked Jacobs what the best thing was for Americans to do right now. Jacobs sharply replied they should “shut up” and not engage in the kind of rhetoric Defense Secretary Ash Carter employed Wednesday, when he said the Russians were being“counterproductive.”
“Shut up is the first thing to do,” Jacobs said. “We’re not doing anything whatsoever … The most outrageous thing imaginable was the secretary of defense … his criticism of Putin was that Putin was not professional, that the way Russia’s been doing it is not professional. I mean, if the worst thing that you can say about somebody is that he’s not genteel in waging war and making you look like a dummy, then you’ve got absolutely nothing to say.”
If the U.S. were “really serious” about influencing events in Syria, Jacobs said, the U.S would get the Kurds and Sunnis together and generate a multi-national force including Saudi Arabia to help stabilize Syria.
“The United States has no stomach for continuing any war in the Middle East, and it’s all flypaper there,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs also attacked the administration for showing its hand by saying it wouldn’t put any troops on the ground in various conflicts.
“Anybody who has any military experience knows that everything we’ve been doing there is bankrupt,” he said, later adding, “We’ve got egg on our face because we clearly have a bankrupt–we don’t even have a strategy.”
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Assad Allies, Including Iranians, Prepare Ground Attack in Syria

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By Laila Bassam
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Hundreds of Iranian troops have arrived in Syria in the last 10 days and will soon join government forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies in a major ground offensive backed by Russian air strikes, two Lebanese sources told Reuters.
“The (Russian) air strikes will in the near future be accompanied by ground advances by the Syrian army and its allies,” said one of the sources familiar with political and military developments in the conflict.
“It is possible that the coming land operations will be focused in the Idlib and Hama countryside,” the source added.
The two sources said the operation would be aimed at recapturing territory lost by President Bashar al-Assad’s government to rebels.
It points to an emerging military alliance between Russia and Assad’s other main allies – Iran and Hezbollah – focused on recapturing areas of northwestern Syria that were seized by insurgents in rapid advances earlier this year.
“The vanguard of Iranian ground forces began arriving in Syria: soldiers and officers specifically to participate in this battle. They are not advisors … we mean hundreds with equipment and weapons. They will be followed by more,” the second source said. Iraqis would also take part in the operation, the source said.
Thus far, direct Iranian military support for Assad has come mostly in the form of military advisors. Iran has also mobilized Shi’ite militia fighters, including Iraqis and some Afghans, to fight alongside Syrian government forces.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, has been fighting alongside the Syrian army since early in the conflict.
The Russian air force began air strikes in Syria on Wednesday, targeting areas near the cities of Homs and Hama in the west of the country, where Assad’s forces are fighting an array of insurgent groups, though not Islamic State, which is based mostly in the north and east.
An alliance of insurgent groups including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and powerful Ahrar al-Sham made rapid gains in Idlib province earlier this year, completely expelling the government from the area bordering Turkey.
(Reporting by Laila Bassam; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Samia Nakhoul and Peter Graff)
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Russia-Linked Hackers May Have Infiltrated Hillary Clinton’s Personal Email 

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Emails released by the State Department Wednesday show that Russia-linked hackers tried to gain access to Hillary Clinton’s personal email no less than five times during her time as secretary of state.
According to the Associated Press, the phishing emails were disguised as New York speeding tickets and were sent to Clinton’s private email during a four-hour period on the morning of Aug. 3, 2011. The email directed recipients to print the speeding tickets attached to the message. If Clinton opened any of the attachments, she would have given hackers permission to take control of her computer.
It is unknown whether the former secretary of state clicked on attachments, thereby exposing her email account to the hack. Her campaign insisted that there exists “no evidence” that the Democratic presidential candidate opened the attached files.
According to security researchers who examined the phishing messages in September 2011, the hacked computers would send information to at least three server computers abroad, one being in Russia, though that isn’t enough to indicate that Russian citizens or government sources were behind the attacks.
“We have no evidence to suggest she replied to this email or that she opened the attachment,” Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill stated. “As we have said before, there is no evidence that the system was ever breached. All these emails show is that, like millions of other Americans, she received spam.”
Curiously, the presence of the phishing emails indicates that computer hackers had somehow obtained Clinton’s email address, which was not public, and knew enough to send her a phony speeding ticket from the state in which she lives.
Russian hackers are known to have launched cyber attacks on U.S. government computer systems. Defense officials confirmed in August that Russia was behind a “sophisticated cyber attack” on the Pentagon’s unclassified email system used by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in July.
Moreover, personal email systems of government officials have fallen victim to Chinese cyber spies. Top secret documentation recently indicated that China has been accessing the private emails of many top Obama administration officials since at least April 2010, which overlaps with the time during which Clinton served as secretary of state.