A 19-year Air Force veteran who was relieved of his duties because he disagreed with his openly gay commander over gay marriage is now facing a formal investigation after he told me his story. Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk found himself at odds with his Lackland Air Force Base commander after he objected to her plans to severely punish an instructor who had expressed religious objections to homosexuality. During the conversation, his commander ordered him to share his personal views on homosexuality. “I was relieved of my position because I don’t agree with my commander’s position on gay marriage,” he told me. “We’ve been told that if you publicly say that homosexuality is wrong, you are in violation of Air Force policy.” In one of her first meetings with Monk, the commander expressed concern about the chaplain who would deliver the benediction at her promotion ceremony.
“She said she wanted a chaplain but objected to one particular chaplain that she called a bigot because he preached that homosexuality is a sin,” Monk said. After he was relieved of his duties, the Liberty Institute filed a religious discrimination complaint on his behalf. Last week, Monk was supposed to meet with an Air Force investigator tasked with gathering facts about the complaint. But when he arrived, Monk was immediately read his Miranda Rights and accused of providing false statements in a conversation Monk had with me. “I immediately got the sense that this was retaliation against me for coming forward with my religious discrimination complaint,” he said. The accusations against Monk are a court-martial offense in the Air Force – and it’s quite possible that the 19-year veteran with a spotless record could be booted out of the military because of his Christian beliefs. And he’s not the only Christian at Lackland Air Force Base facing persecution for opposing gay marriage, according to Monk’s pastor. Steve Branson is the pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church, about five miles from the Air Force base. He tells me that as many as a half dozen of his church members are currently facing persecution on the base for their religious beliefs. “Sgt. Monk is just the tip of the iceberg,” the pastor tells me. “Anyone who doesn’t hold to the right view on homosexuality is having a very difficult time.” Branson said one colonel is not even allowed to voice an opinion on the matter over fears it might cost him his job. Another airman has been brought up on charges eight times. Christians are under attack, the pastor warned – and Lackland Air Force Base seems to be ground zero. “I’m raising the warning,” the pastor said. “It’s not a good situation out here. The military’s job is not to fight these kinds of battles.
Christians are having to walk so carefully. I hear it every Sunday at church.” Hiram Sasser, of the Liberty Institute, is representing Monk in his battle with the Air Force. He said he’s very disturbed at what’s happening at Lackland. “Lackland has been having some extensive problems,” Sasser told me. “It tells me there must be some sort of systemic problem in the Air Force. It’s leading to Christians not feeling welcome.” Sasser said he was repulsed by the way the military has treated Monk. “I can’t imagine someone having their Miranda Rights read to them like they did to Sgt. Monk simply because he is complaining about being mistreated and being discriminated against,” he said. “This kind of retaliation needs to come to a stop.” Sasser said someone with such a clean military record deserves better treatment. “We want to make sure we right all the wrongs and keep anyone from retaliating against Sgt. Monk,” he said. Pastor Branson told me Monk is an outstanding member of the congregation. “One of the finest men I’ve ever met in my life,” he said. “He lost his job because of what he thought. He’s paying the price.” Monk tells me Christians are trading places with homosexuals. “Christians have to go into the closet,” he said. “We are being robbed of our dignity and respect. We can’t be who we are.” I asked Sgt. Monk why he just couldn’t keep quiet knowing that the Obama administration has staffed the Pentagon with anti-Christian civilians. Why risk getting booted out of the military? Sgt. Monk told me he decided to take a stand for his three teenage sons. “Every night after dinner we read the Bible together,” he said. “I tell the boys we’ve got a lot of stuff going on in this world and we need people to stand up. My boys know what I’m going through. They are looking at me – wanting to know how I’m going to handle this.” He said the Monk family has a “family ethos.” “The Monk family will be strong in mind, strong in soul, they will have strong character and strong work ethic,” he said. “That is the ethos of our family. That’s what I hope they see in me.” He hopes his boys will see “a man who stands upright and stands for integrity.” Sadly, those values are no longer seen as virtuous in a military that’s been turned into a social-engineering petri dish. Fox News
A 6.5-magnitude earthquake shook Guatemala’s Pacific coastline on Friday evening, causing some adobe homes to collapse in a town near the epicenter. There were no immediate reports of injuries. The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter was 6 kilometers (3 miles) south of the small town of Pajapita, near the border with Mexico, and 168 kilometers west of Guatemala City. It had a depth of 67 kilometers (41 miles). Guatemala’s fire department issued a statement saying some poorly-built homes were destroyed in the town of Patzicia, located between the epicenter and the capital city. The Central American nation’s natural disaster agency said that at least three uninhabited homes collapsed, and two highways were blocked by landslides.
The quake was felt strongly in the capital of Guatemala City, and caused blackouts in some areas, but authorities did not immediately report any damage there. ”People living in Guatemala City’s tall buildings were panicked,” said Eddy Sanchez, director of Guatemala’s National Institute of Seismology. People ran outside their homes and some motorists stopped their cars in the capital. An aftershock of a lower magnitude further frightened capital-dwellers. The temblor was also felt in neighboring Mexico and El Salvador, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage in those countries. Friday’s temblor was one of the strongest in Guatemala since a 7.4-magnitude earthquake last November killed 44 people in the country’s west. That quake was the strongest in 36 years and left thousands of people homeless and without electricity or water. ABC News
Updating our earlier report on Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk, a Christian serving in the Air Force whose unit is now commanded by a lesbian: according to Monk’s complaint filed with his superiors, he was relieved of duty for refusing his commander’s order to say he supports gay marriage. Now the Air Force has taken the first steps to criminally investigate Monk for talking to the media about his situation. Despite the fact that earlier this year the Obama-Hagel Pentagon said they would never court-martial a service member for their Christian faith, they have taken the first steps to possibly court-martial Monk. On Aug. 27, an Air Force investigator met with Monk and his attorney, Mike Berry from Liberty Institute. Berry expected it to be a routine meeting to take a statement from his client, but during the meeting the investigator said that he would read Monk his Miranda rights. Monk was advised that he is being investigated for committing a crime by the U.S. military for making a false official statement, that he has the right to remain silent, and that he has the right to an attorney. The Air Force then assigned military defense counsel to him and is deciding whether to formally charge him with a crime, at which point Monk would either have to admit guilt and accept further punishment or face a court martial. Monk is being investigated and might be formally charged for violating Article 107 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which makes it a crime to make a false official statement. But Monk’s explaining his situation to the media is not an official statement. More than that, another element of this alleged crime is that Monk must be making a statement he knows is false or that he reasonably should know is false. All Monk is saying is that he believes he’s being punished because of his traditional Christian beliefs. Monk explained in a statement to Breitbart News, “I immediately got the sense that this was a retaliation against me for coming forward with my religious discrimination complaint.” Berry told Breitbart News by phone that the allegation being made against Monk is “a court-martial offense in the military. Monk was disheartened by what he believes is a retaliatory and vindictive act by his commander.” Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin is the executive vice president of the Family Research Council, which recently published a report on how troops’ religious liberty is being infringed upon under the Obama administration and is a leader of a new coalition, Restore Military Religious Freedom. On Monk’s situation, Gen. Boykin says: We now see what is happening to Christians under President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. This appears to be an intimidation tactic to send a message to other Christians in the military that you better not speak up when we violate your religious liberty. A statement to the media is not an official statement, so it’s absurd to consider charging him with this crime. The Obama-Hagel military leadership is not officially court-martialing Christians for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, but you will be punished and might even face a court martial if you stand by the principles of your Christian faith when you are serving in uniform. A court martial is a criminal prosecution in the military. Depending on the crime, punishments can range from reduction in rank and withholding pay to dishonorable discharge from the military or even imprisonment. Boykin said FRC and the coalition is collecting signatures for a petition to the secretary of the Air Force, calling upon him not to punish Sergeant Monk for refusing to compromise his Christian beliefs. Breitbart
Turmoil in Syria and Egypt is nudging Israelis and Palestinians toward peace, a US official said on Friday as Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Europe for talks about that conflict and a possible US strike on Syrian targets. While the chief US diplomat’s three-day trip was originally designed to focus on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and will include a lengthy meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in London on Sunday, Syria is sure to consume many of his conversations with European and Arab diplomats. Kerry will meet European Union foreign ministers in the Lithuanian capital on Saturday as the US Congress weighs whether to give President Barack Obama the authority to conduct military strikes on Syria following an Aug. 21 attack in which Washington accuses Damascus of using sarin gas to kill at least 1,400 Syrians. The White House has argued that any strike would aim to deter Syria, and others, from using chemical weapons and it has denied any intention of getting enmeshed in Syria’s civil war. A senior US State Department official said Syria’s civil war, as well as upheaval in Egypt, whose army ousted Islamist Mohamed Morsi, its first freely elected president, gives Israelis and Palestinians an incentive to end their conflict. ”Both sides have made clear to us and to each other that they do not want the turmoil to engulf them and that therefore it motivates them to try to resolve their conflict to prevent that from happening,” the official told reporters with Kerry. The White House has ruled out sending combat troops to Syria and, while it wants to push Syrian President Bashar Assad to embrace a political deal to leave power, it has said the purpose of any strike is solely to deter chemical weapons use.
“I don’t expect huge, huge change on the day after (any US strike),” a second senior State Department official told reporters with Kerry. “I think the war of attrition will grind on … without the use of chemical weapons,” he said. “It is a war of attrition that the regime slowly, gradually is losing.” If the United States failed to act, this would likely lead more refugees to flee Syria – some 2 million have already left – and strengthen “extremist” members of the opposition at the expense of moderates, this official said. Obama asked Congress to authorize a strike after it became clear he would not win UN Security Council sanction given Russian opposition, after the parliament of US ally Britain voted against taking part, and as opinion polls showed US skepticism about getting dragged into Syria’s 2-1/2-year-old civil war. Kerry may try to garner international support for a strike but his main focus is likely to be on his signature initiative, the July 29 resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that he hopes will yield the outlines of a deal within nine months. The core issues that need to be settled in the more than six-decade-old Israeli-Palestinian dispute include borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem.
After meeting EU foreign ministers on Saturday, Kerry flies to Paris for talks with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius the same day and to see members of an Arab League committee formed to track Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on Sunday. He then heads to London for what one US official said was likely to be a several-hour, one-on-one session with Abbas on Sunday, before returning on Monday to Washington, where he is expected to plunge back into the US debate over Syria. Kerry has been Obama’s primary public advocate for military action against Syria – most likely in the form of cruise missile strikes – and he last week made his case for several hours before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he first appeared as a young Vietnam veteran arguing against that war. Jerusalem Post
ABC News: US is planning an aerial strike in addition to a salvo of Tomahawk missiles from Navy destroyers;
New York Times: Obama ordered expansion of list of targets following reports Assad moved troops, equipment.
Despite statements from both US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that a US-led strike on Syria would be a “limited and tailored” military attack, ABC News reported on Thursday that the strike planned by Obama’s national security team is “significantly larger” than most have anticipated. According to ABC News, in additional to a salvo of 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from four Navy destroyers stationed in the eastern Mediterranean, the US is also planning an aerial campaign that is expected to last two days.
This campaign potentially includes an aerial bombardment of missiles and long range bombs from US-based B-2 stealth bombers that carry satellite-guided bombs, B-52 bombers, that can carry air-launched cruise missiles and Qatar-based B-1s that carry long-range, air-to-surface missiles, both ABC News and The New York Times reported. ”This military strike will do more damage to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s forces in 48 hours than the Syrian rebels have done in two years,” a national security official told ABC News. Meanwhile, Obama has directed the Pentagon to expand the list of potential targets in Syria following reports Assad’s forces have moved troops and equipment used to employ chemical weapons in anticipation of the US-led strike against them, the Times reported on Thursday.
In order to degrade Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons, the list of 50 or so major sites has to be expected, officials told the Times. Targets include military units that have stored and prepared the chemical weapons, as well as headquarters who ordered the attacks and units who carried them out. Other targets include rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks, the Times quotes military officials as saying. US military chief of staff Martin Dempsey said targets would also include equipment used to protect the chemicals – air defenses, long-range missiles and rockets. The attack would not target the chemical stockpiles in fear that doing so could cause catastrophe. In Washington, US lawmakers questioned the possible price tag of a military operation in Syria. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told Congress on Wednesday the military operation is expected to cost “tens of millions” of dollars, according to AFP. This estimate is based on the assumption the military intervention in Syria would only last a few days. A single Tomahawk missile costs $1.5 million, while keeping some ships in the area would cost millions more, Navy chief Admiral Jonathan Greenert said on Thursday, but those numbers are “not extraordinary at this point.” In addition to the four destroyers the US Navy currently has stationed in the Mediterranean, aircraft carrier Nimitz and accompanying warships are ready at the Red Sea in case they are needed. The carrier strike group costs up to $40 million a week if the aircraft on board are engaged in combat-related flights, while routine operations cost $25 million a week, Greenert said. The Jerusalem Post
President Barack Obama hinted Friday that he might not strike Syria if Congress rejects his authorization request. “I’m not itching for military action… and if there are good ideas that are worth pursuing, then I’m going to be open to them,” he told one reporter who asked if he was seeking alternatives to a missile strike. “Are we on a fast track to military action as soon as Congress renders its judgment one way or the other?” the reporter asked Obama, during his morning press conference in St. Petersburg, Russia. “Some in Congress have suggested giving the Syrian regime 45 days to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, get rid of its chemical stockpiles, do something that would enhance the international sense of accountability for Syria, but delay military action,” the reporter asked. “I am listening to all these ideas, and some of them are constructive,” he said.
“My goal is to maintain the international norm on banning chemical weapons. I want that enforcement to be real… I want people to understand that gassing innocent people, you know, delivering chemical weapons against children, is not something we do,” he said. Through the press conference, Obama played down the prospect of a strike, whether by aircraft-launched guided bombs, or sea-launched missiles, such as the Tomahawk cruise missile. “As I said last night, I was elected to end wars, not start them,” he said. “I’ve spent the last four and a half years doing everything I can to reduce our reliance on military power as a means of meeting our international obligations and protecting the American people.” The Senate is likely to approve Obama’s request, but the House seems set to reject his request. Few Democrats or Republicans have voiced support for the measure, which is so unpopular that voters’ phone calls to offices in Congress are overwhelmingly reporting opposition. Obama’s equivocations and rhetorical asides often provide guides to his intentions and decisions. For example, one day after he and his aides indicated an imminent strike on Syria, Obama surprised many D.C. players last Saturday by announcing he would delay a strike until he got clearance from Congress.
White House officials said the president changed his mind during a 45-minute Friday-night talk with his chief of staff. But that surprising announcement to delay the strike was foreshadowed in prepared statements that he and his Secretary of State, John Kerry had made the day before, Friday.The Friday statements included many combative and emotional sections about the Syrian nerve gas attack killed more than 1,400 civilians in a rebel-held neighborhood. “This crime against conscience, this crime against humanity, this crime against the most fundamental principles of international community, against the norm of the international community, this matters to us,” Kerry said Friday. The response “will directly effect our role in the world and our interests in the world,” he said. “It is also about who we are — we are the United States of America, we are the country that has tried, not always successfully … to honor a set of universal values.” The Daily Caller
Pope Francis has written a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, host of the G-20 summit that President Obama is attending, urging world leaders to oppose a military intervention in Syria. “To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,” the Pope urged. “Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community.” The move is the latest in a series of efforts by the Holy See to prevent military action in the already civil-war torn region. On Sunday, the Pope declared in his Angelus teaching that Saturday Sept. 7 would be an day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria.
The prayer rally will take place in St. Peter’s Square from 7 p.m. to midnight, on the vigil of the birth of Mary, the Queen of Peace. “Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love,” the Pope asked people around the world. “She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children!” Next Pope Francis took his views on Syria to Twitter. On Monday he tweeted, “War never again! Never again war!” and “How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake.” On Tuesday, he tweeted “We want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out!” and “With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons.” Today his social media message was, “With all my strength, I ask each party in the conflict not to close themselves in solely on their own interests. #prayforpeace.” Cardinal Dolan and leaders of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops followed the Pope’s lead and wrote to every member of Congress today urging them to vote against military intervention in Syria. Yesterday the USCCB also wrote to President Obama, reminding him that the Pope and Middle Eastern Bishops “have made it clear that a military attack will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation, and will have unintended negative consequences.” Dolan also asked Catholics to urge their representatives in Washington to vote against a military strike.
The Vatican, which almost always stops short of taking sides in international issues, historically holds to just war theory, which requires a military defense meet a set of strict qualifications, including that “the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain,” “all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective,” and ”the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.” Pope Francis’ response to Syria is in line with how his predecessors handled international conflicts. Pope Benedict XVI expressed concerns over the military intervention in Libya. Pope John Paul II continually and strongly spoke out against the US-led war in Iraq. The US and the Vatican squared off during the 1989 Panama invasion when dictator Manuel Noriega took refuge in the Vatican embassy. US seals tried to blast Noriega out with deafening levels of rock music and only stopped the “rock-’n’-roll offensive,” as TIME called it, after the Vatican complained to President George HW Bush. Pope John Paul II kept quiet on the crisis, and left it to the hands of Vatican officials. Time Swampland
Mounting pressure for a Western strike on Syria has seen naval forces both friendly and hostile to Damascus build up off the embattled country’s coastline. The potential of a US strike against Syria in response to an August 21 chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb gained steam on Wednesday, when a resolution backing the use of force against President Bashar Assad’s government cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 10-7 vote. President Obama has decided to put off military action until at least September 9, when the seemingly recalcitrant US House of Representatives reconvenes to vote on the measure. Following the August 21 Ghouta Attack, which killed anywhere between 355 to 1,729 people, the diplomatic scramble to launch or stave off a military strike on Syria was mirrored by the movement of naval forces in the Eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of Syria. The deployment of US and allied naval warships in the region has been matched by the deployment of Russian naval warships in the region. While the Western vessels have in many cases been deployed in the event a military strike against Syria gets a green light, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia’s naval presence is needed to protect national security interests and is not a threat to any nation. Below is a brief summary of the naval hardware currently amassed off Syria’s shores.
The US Navy has five Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers off the coast of Syria, which its top admiral says is “fully ready” for a wide range of possible actions. The USS Ramage, USS Mahan, USS Gravely and USS Barry are each armed with dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles, which have a range of about 1,000 nautical miles (1,151 miles) and are used for precise targeting. The ships are also equipped with surface-to-air missiles capable of defending the vessels from air attacks. On August 29, the USS Stout was sent to relieve the USS Mahan, but a defense official told AFP that both ships might remain in the area for the time being. Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday that the US ships are prepared for what he called a “vast spectrum of operations,”including launching Tomahawk cruise missiles at targets in Syria, as was done in Libya in 2011, and protecting themselves in the event of retaliation, AP reports.
In addition to the destroyers, the United States may well have one of its four guided missile submarines off the coast of Syria. At one time these subs were equipped with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. Nowadays, they are capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles. It was also announced on Monday that the US had deployed the USS San Antonio, an amphibious transport ship, to the Eastern Mediterranean. The USS San Antonio, with several helicopters and hundreds of Marines on board, is “on station in the Eastern Mediterranean” but “has received no specific tasking,” a defense official told AFP on condition of anonymity. The deployment of the USS Antonio comes despite promises from President Obama that no amphibious landing is on the agenda, as the US has ostensibly ruled out any “boots on the ground.” While the wording of the draft resolution set to be put before the House does not permit a ground invasion, the wording of the text could potentially allow troops to carry out non-offensive operations within Syria, including securing chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities. On Monday, it was also announced the USS Nimitz super carrier had moved into the Red Sea, though it had not been given orders to be part of the planning for a limited US military strike on Syria, US officials told ABC News. The other ships in the strike group are the cruiser USS Princeton and the destroyers USS William P. Lawrence, USS Stockdale and USS Shoup. The official said the carrier strike group has not been assigned a mission, but was shifted in the event its resources are needed to “maximize available options.” The USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier and strike group is also in the northern Arabian Sea.
Russia, Syria’s longtime ally and primary arms supplier, has its only overseas naval base located in the Syrian port of Tartus, which has reportedly been used to support Russia’s growing number of naval patrols on the Mediterranean. However, Russia insists recent efforts to bolster its naval presence in the region are not in response to Western threats of a military strike. Reported movements of many Russian ships in the region are coming from anonymous Russian defense ministry sources and have not been confirmed. RT contacted the Russian Navy to ask for confirmation of the reported ship movements, though no comment was forthcoming. On Friday, for example, the large landing ship, Nikolai Filchenkov, was reportedly dispatched from the Ukrainian port city of Sevastopol for the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, from where it is eventually expected to reach the Syrian coast, a source told Interfax News Agency. “The ship will make call in Novorossiisk, where it will take on board special cargo and set off for the designated area of its combat duty in the eastern Mediterranean,” the source said. RIA news agency quoted an unnamed senior naval source as saying on Friday that the frigate, Smetlivy, would leave for the Mediterranean on September 12-14, and the corvette Shtil and missile boat Ivanovets would approach Syria at the end of the month. The Russian destroyer Nastoichivy, which is the flagship of the Baltic fleet, is also expected to join the group in the region. Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov, who was unable to comment on specific reports, said on Thursday the Russian navy currently had a “pretty strong group” there. “The Russian navy does not intend to take part directly or indirectly in a possible regional conflict,” he told the state Rossiya 24 broadcaster. “Our navy vessels are a guarantee of stability, guarantee of peace, an attempt to hold back other forces ready to start military action in the region.” Also reportedly in place in the eastern Mediterranean are the frigate Neustrashimy, as well as the landing ships Alexander Shabalin, the Admiral Nevelsky and the Peresvet. They are expected to be joined by the guided-missile cruiser Moskva. The Moskva, set to arrive in a little over a week’s time, will take over operations from a naval unit in the region. “The plans of the naval unit under the command of Rear Admiral Valery Kulikov had to be changed a little. Instead of visiting a Cape Verde port, the cruiser Moskva is heading to the Strait of Gibraltar. In about ten days, it will enter the eastern Mediterranean, where it will replace the destroyer Admiral Panteleyev as the flagship of the operative junction of the Russian Navy,” a source told Interfax on Wednesday. Panteleyev incidentally, only arrived in the east Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday after leaving the Far-Eastern port city of Vladivostok on March 19 to join the Russian standing naval force as its flagship. The SSV-201 reconnaissance ship, Priazovye, is also reportedly on its way to join the group in the Eastern Mediterranean. Accompanied by the two landing ships, Minsk and Novocherkassk, the intelligence ship passed through the ‘Istanbul Strait’ on Thursday, which helps form the boundary between Europe and Asia.
On August 31, French military officials confirmed the frigate Chevalier Paul, which specializes in anti-missile capabilities, and the transport ship, Dixmude, were in the Mediterranean. French officials denied they are in the region to participate in military action against Syria, but were rather taking part in training and operation preparations. Despite their presence in the region, France currently has no ship-based missiles, so any offensive action would come from the air in the form of long-range Scalp missiles, similar to those the nation used in Kosovo in 1999 and in Libya in 2011, Time reports.
Two Italian warships set sail for Lebanon on Wednesday in a bid to protect 1,100 Italian soldiers in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, Syria’s southeastern neighbor, Agence France Presse reported. The Italian ANSA news agency reported that a frigate and a torpedo destroyer boat departed from Italy’s southeastern coast on Wednesday and would provide additional protection to the soldiers in the event the Syrian conflict further deteriorates.
As of August 29, the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group was deployed in the Mediterranean as part of long-planned exercise Cougar 13. The force includes helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious, type-23 frigates HMS Westminster and HMS Montrose, amphibious warship HMS Bulwark and six Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships. The Trafalgar-class nuclear submarine HMS Tireless was also believed to be in the area at the time, after it was detected in Gibraltar. On the same day that British media started touting Britain’s “arsenal of military might” which would be available in the event of intervention, British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vote endorsing military action against Syria by 13 votes. In light of the shocking parliamentary defeat, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK would only be able to offer the US “diplomatic support.” The UK’s Conservative Chancellor, George Osborne, confirmed that the UK would not seek a further vote on action in Syria. RT
Who Is Going To Buy Our Debt If This War Causes China, Russia And The Rest Of The World To Turn On Us?
Can the U.S. really afford to greatly anger the rest of the world when they are the ones that are paying our bills? What is going to happen if China, Russia and many other large nations stop buying our debt and start rapidly dumping U.S. debt that they already own? If the United States is not very careful, it is going to pay a tremendous economic price for taking military action in Syria. At this point, survey after survey has shown that the American people are overwhelmingly against an attack on Syria, people around the globe are overwhelmingly against an attack on Syria, and it looks like the U.S. Congress is even going to reject it. But Barack Obama is not backing down. In fact, ABC News is reporting that plans are now being made for a “significantly larger” strike on Syria than most experts had expected. More
DAYS OF LOT: President Barack Obama met with leaders of several Russian social activist groups Friday, an event that likely touched on the sensitive subject of gay rights in the nation amid tensions over Syria. Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law passed by parliament that bans the public discussion of gay rights and relationships where children might hear it. Violators can be fined and, if they are foreigners, deported. Obama, who has advocated gay rights and same-sex marriage, has said that “nobody’s more offended than me” by the Russian law. In connecting with the nine activists, Obama spoke about his own foray into politics. ”I got my start as a community organizer, somebody who was working in what would be called an NGO in the international community,” he said.
“I got elected president by engaging people at a grass-roots level.” He further called the activists’ work “critically important” to open society. ”I’m very proud of their work,” Obama said. “Part of good government is making sure we’re creating a space for civil society.” Critics say the Russian law is so vague that anyone can be prosecuted for wearing a rainbow T-shirt or holding hands in public with someone of the same sex. At the event Friday in Russia, Obama met with representatives of groups that support a range of causes, including media freedom, protection of the environment and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. The controversy over the law is one of several disputes between the United States and Russia, including the question of possible military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow’s decision to shelter National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Obama and Putin met briefly Thursday at the Group of 20 summit meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, shaking hands and exchanging a few words. Officials said the two leaders could have a longer meeting on the margins of the event. Obama had previously canceled a summit meeting with Putin scheduled around the G20 event after Russia gave temporary asylum to Snowden, whom the United States wants to prosecute for leaking documents about NSA surveillance programs. It said at the time that considerations on a variety of issues went into the decision to cancel the meeting. CNN
An American national security official has reportedly outlined Washington’s war strategies for Syria, saying the US administration is preparing to use B-2 and B-52 bombers for a potential military strike against the country. President Barack Obama’s national security team is preparing for a “significantly larger military attack than most had anticipated,” ABC News reported. The unnamed official told ABC News the military action could do more damage to forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “in 48 hours than the Syrian rebels have done in nearly two years of civil war.” “The air campaign which is expected to last at least two days will potentially include an aerial bombardment of missiles and long range bombs fired from B-2 and B-52 bombers flying from the United States,” according to the ABC News report by Jonathan Karl. “That in addition to a relentless assault of Tomahawk missiles fired from those four Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean. Those ships are loaded with nearly 200 missiles, plans call for firing the vast majority of them,” it added.
In an interview with CNN, a US official also characterized the long-range bombers as options. ”You can employ stand-off weapons from an aircraft, just as easily as from a ship or submarine. Aerial assets can be used from a distance,” he said. Other reports also indicated that the US military was preparing to employ greater firepower to reach shifting military targets. “The revised options under development include the use of Air Force bombers to supplement US destroyers in the Mediterranean,” The Wall Street Journal said. The B-2 and B-52 bombers are equipped with joint air-to-surface missiles, designed to destroy both mobile and fixed targets. The missiles’ primary advantage is that they allow pilots to operate outside the lethal range of most hostile air defense systems. Press TV
Just after Labor Day, the Bureau of Labor statistics reported more than 90 million Americans age 16 and older were not in the labor force in August, the highest level recorded since the Department of Labor began collecting the data during the Truman administration three years after the end of World War II. On Friday, the BLS reported that the 90,473,000 Americans not currently in the labor force marked the first time the figure exceeded the 90 million threshold. In January 2009, when President Obama first took office, there were 80.5 million Americans 16 years and older not in the labor force, meaning the number of Americans not in the labor force has increased 10 million during his presidency. For men, the BLS reported the labor force participation rate, the percentage of the population working or considered looking for work, was 63.2 percent in August, basically unchanged from 63.5 percent in July. It’s also a record low. The BLS also reported the unemployment rate dropped 0.1 percent to 7.3 percent in August, but the figure was almost completely driven by negative factors. The total number of people employed fell by 115,000 in August, but the unemployment rate dropped because the overall labor force dropped by a larger 312,000, a phenomenon the Wall Street Journal interpreted as a possible sign of discouraged long-term jobless workers dropping out of the labor force altogether. Alternative calculations place “true unemployment statistics” at 23.3 percent for August, with nearly 1 of every 4 workers out of work, not the politically adjusted figure of 7.3 percent the BLS reported.
Manipulated unemployment rates
Last month, WND reported that according to John Williams, an economist known for arguing the government reports manipulated “shadow statistics” of economic data for political purposes, the real unemployment rate for July was 23.3 percent, not the 7.4 percent reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By including in the calculation of the unemployment rate people the BLS classifies as “not currently in the labor force” because of their long-term unemployment, the true unemployment rate could be more than three times the unemployment rate the BLS publicly declares. Williams, the editor of the Shadow Government Statistics website, has repeatedly insisted that the BLS reports, such as the current showing that unemployment dropped from 7.4 percent in July to 7.3 percent in August, are essentially “meaningless.” “The broad economic outlook has not changed, despite the heavily distorted numbers that continue to be published by the BLS,” Williams wrote.
“The unemployment rates have not dropped from peak levels due to a surge in hiring; instead, they generally have dropped because of discouraged workers being eliminated from headline labor-force accounting.” Williams has demonstrated that it takes an expert to truly decipher BLS unemployment statistics. For instance, in a table titled “Alternative measures of labor underutilization,” the BLS reports what is known as “U6 unemployment.” The U6 unemployment rate is the BLS’s broadest measure. It includes those marginally attached to the labor force and the “under-employed,” those who have accepted part-time jobs when they are really looking for full-time employment. Also included are short-term discouraged workers, those who have not looked for work in the last year because they have become convinced there are no jobs to be found. Since 1994, however, the long-term discouraged workers, those who have been discouraged for more than one year, have been excluded from all government data. While the BLS was reporting seasonally adjusted headline unemployment in July of only 7.4 percent, it also was reporting the broader U6 seasonally adjusted unemployment was 14percent. In his subscription newsletter, Williams has urged caution in interpreting BLS statistics: “To the extent that there is any significance in the monthly reporting, it is that the economy is not in recovery, and that unemployment has made a new high, at a level that rivals any other downturn of the post-Great Depression era.” The only measure BLS reports to the public, as the official monthly unemployment rate, is the seasonally adjusted U3 number. Williams calculates his “ShadowStats Alternative Unemployment Rate” by adding to the BLS U6 numbers the long-term discouraged workers. Williams argues that his ShadowStats Alternative Unemployment measure most closely mirrors common experience. “If you were to survey everyone in the country as to whether they were employed or unemployed, without qualification as to when they last looked for a job, the resulting unemployment rate would be close to the ShadowStats estimate,” Williams explained to WND. The headline BLS unemployment rate has stayed relatively low because it excludes all discouraged workers, Williams argues. As the unemployed first become discouraged and then disappear into the long-term discouraged category, they also vanish from inclusion in the headline labor force numbers. Those workers still are there, however, ready to take a job if one becomes available. They are unemployed and consider themselves to be unemployed, but the government’s popularly followed unemployment reporting ignores them completely. Below is a more complete unemployment table that includes the seasonally adjusted unemployment percentages for U3 unemployment, as well as the same for U6 unemployment, followed by the ShadowStats Alternative Unemployment rate for both July 2012 and July 2013, the most recent month for which Williams has calculated his ShadowStats Alternative Unemployment Rate.
The higher alternative unemployment rate for August relative to the BLS percentages reflects an increasing tendency by the BLS to add to the “not in the labor force” total to depress unemployment percentages reported in the U3 and U6 calculations. Increasingly, critics like Williams believe the seasonally adjusted U3 numbers reported by the BLS as the official monthly unemployment rate do not give a reliable picture of the true magnitude of unemployment in the United States. The definitions used by the BLS exclude from the calculation of the monthly U3 unemployment rate anyone who has not looked for work at any time during the past four weeks. In the U6 calculations, the inclusion of discouraged workers extends only to those who have actively looked for work in the past year. The BLS definitions exclude from the definition of unemployed those who have grown so discouraged that they have not actively lookedfor work in the past year, without distinguishing those who would look for work if there were a reasonable chance their job search might result in employment.
Under Obama, an economy of part-time jobs
WND also reported last month that under the Obama administration, the U.S. is rapidly transforming from a nation of full-time employment to a nation of part-time employment. Seven out of eight jobs created during Obama’s five years as president have been part-time jobs. The House Ways and Means Committee noted Aug. 5 that approximately 88 percent of the jobs created under President Obama have been part-time jobs. “The reality, as you dig into the latest jobs data, reveals that few are finding the full-time work they want and need, and many are forced to accept part-time employment,” the committee said. The BLS statistics show that under Obama, 1,882,000 part-time jobs have been created, compared to only 270,000 full-time jobs created between January 2009 and July 2013.
On Aug. 21, Reuters reported that three out of four of the nearly 1 million jobs created this year are part-time, with many of the jobs low-paid, a phenomenon Reuters attributed to an unanticipated adverse economic impact of Obamacare. “Faltering economic growth at home and abroad and concern that President Barack Obama’s signature health care law will drive up business costs are behind the wariness about taking on full-time staff, executives at staffing and payroll firms say,” Reuters reported. “Employers say part-timers offer them flexibility. If the economy picks up, they can quickly offer full-time work. If orders dry up, they know costs are under control. It also helps them curb costs they might face under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.” Reuters pointed out that the growing tendency to create part-time jobs instead of full-time jobs causes a vicious cycle in which the new employees who tend to be hired in retail businesses and food services do not have the disposable income to drive demand for goods and services in the economy as a whole. WND
September 7, 2013 – MIDDLE EAST – The U.S. State Department has ordered non-emergency U.S. personnel to leave Lebanon and has approved voluntary evacuation from southern Turkey. The state department cited “current tensions the region” but did not specifically mention Syria. The department also warned U.S. citizens travelling in the two countries to remain alert to potential danger. The U.S. Congress is debating President Barack Obama’s request to wage a military strike against Syria. “Given the current tensions the region, as well as potential threats to U.S. government facilities and personnel, we are taking these steps out of an abundance of caution to protect our employees and their families, and local employees and visitors to our facilities,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. The department did not offer details of any threats to the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, or the consulate in Adana, Turkey. But it issued the warning less than a week before the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and amid an intense debate over President Obama’s plans for a potential military strike in Syria. In the past week, Mr. Obama and leaders in the U.S. Congress have been trying to gather support for a resolution authorizing force in Syria, with votes expected next week. But analysts say supporters of military action face an uphill battle in the House of Representatives, where lawmakers in both parties are opposed to involving the U.S. in the country’s civil war. Separately, almost 20 embassies in the region were closed last month after the U.S. said it had picked up unspecified threats. The U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen was closed for two weeks over the threats. –BBC
‘I HATE WHITE PEOPLE’: RANDOM RACIAL RAMPAGE IN NEW YORK LEAVES ONE MAN BRAIN DEAD
The New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating a savage attack that took place Wednesday afternoon in Union Square, after witnesses say a man vowed to attack white people before assaulting multiple individuals and leaving one man brain dead.
The black suspect, Lashawn Marten, 31, was playing chess before randomly jumping up and declaring “I hate white people,” according to one witness.
Another eye-witness told WLNY-TV that Marten said “the next white person who walks by I’m going to f**k.”
Marten’s fists then started to fly, allegedly targeting random white individuals as they walked by.
“His fist went in and the man’s head bobbed and he hit the ground and you could hear his skull hitting the ground,” the unidentified witness added.
That man, Jeffrey Babbitt, 62, has now been declared clinically brain dead. In a video posted to video-sharing website Instagram, Babbitt can be seen on the ground with blood flowing from his head.
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