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AP Enterprise: al-Qaida’s Syrian cell alarms US


If we erased Muslims from the planet, if they suddenly vanished; from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, etc. over 90% of all the killing on earth would cease to exist. These people are a cancer to the human race. Yet still, there are Americans who defend them, all because Muslims are Islamic and Islam is a religion. When are we as Americans going to use our brains, grow some balls, and stop defending entire groups of people simply because they belong to a religion and pray to an invisible man in the sky? TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Associated Press

By KEN DILANIAN and EILEEN SULLIVAN

Filth

WASHINGTON (AP) — While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.

At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.

But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.

In addition, according to classified U.S. intelligence assessments, the Khorasan militants have been working with bomb-makers from al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate to test new ways to slip explosives past airport security. The fear is that the Khorasan militants will provide these sophisticated explosives to their Western recruits who could sneak them onto U.S.-bound flights.

The Obama administration has said that the Islamic State group, the target of more than 150 U.S. airstrikes in recent weeks, does not pose an imminent threat to the continental U.S. The Khorasan group, which has not been subject to American military action, is considered the more immediate threat.

Because of intelligence about the collaboration among the Khorasan group, al-Qaida’s Yemeni bomb-makers and Western extremists, U.S. officials say, the Transportation Security Administration in July decided to ban uncharged mobile phones and laptops from flights to the U.S. that originated in Europe and the Middle East.

The Khorasan group’s plotting with al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate shows that, despite the damage that years of drone missile strikes has done to the leadership of core al-Qaida in Pakistan, the movement still can threaten the West. It has been rejuvenated in the past year as al-Qaida offshoots have grown in strength and numbers, bolstered by a flood of Western extremists to a new terrorist safe haven created by Syria’s civil war.

That Yemen affiliate, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been able to place three bombs on U.S.-bound airliners, though none has succeeded in downing the aircraft.

“The group’s repeated efforts to conceal explosive devices to destroy aircraft demonstrate its continued pursuit of high-profile attacks against the West, its increasing awareness of Western security procedures and its efforts to adapt to those procedures that we adopt,” Nicholas Rasmussen, deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, recently told a Senate panel.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, first disclosed during a Senate hearing in January that a group of core al-Qaida militants from Afghanistan and Pakistan was plotting attacks against the West in Syria.

But the group’s name, Khorasan, or its links to al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate, which is considered the most dangerous terrorist threat to the U.S., have not previously been disclosed.

Khorasan refers to a province under the Islamic caliphate, or religious empire, of old that included parts of Afghanistan.

Many U.S. officials interviewed for this story would not be quoted by name talking about what they said was highly classified intelligence. Some lawmakers who have been briefed on the Khorasan group threat were willing to discuss it in general terms. One congressman who declined to be identified in order to discuss intelligence matters used the group’s name in conversations with a reporter.

The CIA refused to confirm the group’s name or any details in this story.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, declined to name the group. But he described concerns among intelligence officials about “an unholy mix of people in Iraq and Syria right now — some who come from AQAP, some who come from Afghanistan and Pakistan, others from the Maghreb” in North Africa.

“They can combine in ways that could pose a greater threat than their individual pieces. And that’s something we worry about,” said Schiff.

U.S. officials have identified some members of the Khorasan group, but would not disclose the individuals’ names because of concerns they would hide from intelligence-gathering.

Intelligence officials have been deeply concerned about dozens of Americans and hundreds of Europeans who have gone to fight for various jihadist groups in Syria. Some of those Westerners’ identities are unknown and therefore they are less likely to draw the attention of intelligence officials when they purchase tickets and board a crowded jetliner heading for European and American cities.

AQAP’s master bomb-maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, is believed to have built the underwear bomb that a Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried to detonate on a passenger jet over Detroit in December 2009.

Al-Asiri is also believed to have built two bombs hidden in printer cartridges placed on U.S.-bound cargo jets in 2010, and a body bomb that was acquired in a 2012 operation involving Saudi, British, and U.S. intelligence agencies.

U.S. intelligence suggests al-Asiri and his confederates are constantly trying to tweak their bomb designs so that the explosives can get past airport security and also detonate successfully.

The TSA ban on uncharged laptops and cellphones stemmed from information that al-Qaeda was working with the Khorasan group to pack those devices with hard-to-detect explosives, a U.S. official said.

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Family of British hostage sends message to IS captors


One can only hope that these beasts who belong to IS can see some humanity in sparing the life of an innocent human being whose efforts was in helping other people. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AFP

Scum

London (AFP) – The family of British aid worker David Haines, threatened with death by Islamic State militants in a recent video, has appealed to his captors to contact them.

In a statement issued by the Foreign Office in London on Saturday, they said the extremists have not responded to any of their attempts to make contact so far.

“We are the family of David Haines. We have sent messages to you to which we have not received a reply. We are asking those holding David to make contact with us,” the family said.

Scottish-born Haines, 44, was taken hostage in Syria in March 2013 and was threatened in a video released this month depicting the beheading by IS militants of the US journalist Steven Sotloff.

Haines had been working for the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Developement (ACTED), an international relief charity, and was previous involved in humanitarian work in the Balkans, parts of Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East.

In a statement last week, ACTED said it was “deeply shocked” at the threats made against him.

“ACTED strongly condemns the violence and threats against David. A man’s life should never be threatened on account of his humanitarian commitment,” it said.

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Cuba to send 165 health workers to Sierra Leone in Ebola fight


The communist Castro regime in Cuba has executed hundreds if not thousands of innocent people since taking over the country in 1959. And now, 55 years later, after destroying a country and its people for generations to come, they’re sending doctors to fight Ebola in Africa; what a hypocrisy!

The man pictured in the photo, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, was an Argentinian-born communist and a murderer who had no qualms with personally shooting people in the head.

Talk about a twisted regime… TGO

Refer to brief story below. Source: Associated Press

Che

Geneva (AFP) – Cuba will send 165 doctors and nurses to Sierra Leone to help fight the Ebola outbreak, Cuba’s health minister and the World Health Organization announced Friday.

WHO chief Margaret Chan hailed Cuba’s commitment to send the health professionals to the hard-hit west African country for six months, telling reporters it was “the largest” made so far in the global fight to stop the deadly outbreak.

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She must not enjoy shaving? TGO

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9/11 commemoration in New York City


Americans are extremely forgiving, often times naive and have a very short memory. All I can say to that is that the people should NEVER forget. They should NEVER forget that it was Muslims who attacked us on 911, and they will do it again. They (Muslims) should never be defended – never! TGO
 

New York

With the solemn toll of a bell and a moment of silence, the nation paused Thursday to mark the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attack.

Family and friends of those who died read the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed in New York, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (AP)

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Atheist must swear to God — or leave US Air Force


People really are full of crap, on both sides of the argument. First I must ask the question, when did the United States as a country, as a people, lose their common sense and become indoctrinated with Christianity? Surely our Founding Fathers were not religious freaks, in fact, most of them were deists – a far cry from being evangelical Christians. The fact that most of them were Freemasons and that they fled Europe to avoid, among other things, religious persecution is all the proof one needs that they were not Christians.

On the other side of the argument, an oath is nothing more than words, meaningless words. One has to swear on the Bible in court; talk about mindless stupidity! Swearing on a book of fairy tales with talking animals and all other kinds of nonsense.

It just seems to me that there are more important things to fight over than a silly, meaningless oath which is basically the same as a prayer; it does no good and no harm. In other words, it’s just talking to the wind ’cause no one is listening. Just say the silly oath and be done with it… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AFP

Air Force

Washington (AFP) – The US Air Force has told a sergeant he will have to leave the military unless he agrees to take an oath with the phrase “so help me God,” officials said Tuesday.

In the latest religious controversy to roil the air force, the atheist airman last month was denied his request to re-enlist because of his refusal to swear to God — and he is now poised to take the military to court, his lawyer said.

“We have not received word from the Air Force regarding our letter. It has not indicated a willingness to settle out of court,” said Monica Miller, an attorney for the American Humanist Association, which has taken up the service member’s case.

With the deadline for re-enlisting expiring in November, the technical sergeant at Creech Air Force base in Nevada — whose name has not been released — will be forced to sue the government in a federal court, Miller told AFP.

In the past, an airman could opt for an alternative phrase and omit the words “so help me God,” but the US Air Force changed its policy in October 2013.

The other branches of the American military do not require the reference to God and make the phrase optional.

“This is the only branch to my knowledge that’s actually requiring everyone in all instances to use the religious language,” Miller said.

The requirement violates the US Constitution, which bars religious tests to hold office or other positions, Miller said of the case, which was first reported by the Air Force Times.

“The government cannot compel a nonbeliever to take an oath that affirms the existence of a supreme being,” she said.

The sergeant’s service expires in November and he has until then to re-enlist and take the oath, said US Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.

In the meantime, “a written legal opinion is being requested” from the Pentagon’s top lawyer, she said.

The air force has been plagued by controversy for years over religion and the role of Christian evangelists.

The US Air Force Academy in Colorado faced accusations several years ago that evangelical Christians exerted a dominating influence over the institution.

But attempts to counter the perceived bias in the service have sparked criticism from Christian activist groups, who allege a new rule stifles the religious expression of troops.

The disputed rule bars commanders from promoting their religious convictions to their subordinates.

Advocates of the policy say it protects troops who worry their careers could be jeopardized if they do not take part in their superior’s Christian activities.

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Stephen Hawking Says ‘God Particle’ Could Wipe Out the Universe


Super-interesting stuff… While a great deal of what I read pertaining to the universe is “over my head” (no pun intended) as I am not an astronomer or physicist, it is still fascinating nonetheless… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: LiveScience

LiveScience.com

God Particle

Stephen Hawking bet Gordon Kane $100 that physicists would not discover the Higgs boson. After losing that bet when physicists detected the particle in 2012, Hawking lamented the discovery, saying it made physics less interesting. Now, in the preface to a new collection of essays and lectures called “Starmus,” the famous theoretical physicist is warning that the particle could one day be responsible for the destruction of the known universe.

Hawking is not the only scientist who thinks so. The theory of a Higgs boson doomsday, where a quantum fluctuation creates a vacuum “bubble” that expands through space and wipes out the universe, has existed for a while. However, scientists don’t think it could happen anytime soon.

“Most likely it will take 10 to the 100 years [a 1 followed by 100 zeroes] for this to happen, so probably you shouldn’t sell your house and you should continue to pay your taxes,” Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, said during his lecture at the SETI Institute on Sept. 2. “On the other hand it may already happened, and the bubble might be on its way here now. And you won’t know because it’s going at the speed of light so there’s not going to be any warning.”

The Higgs boson, sometimes referred to as the ‘god particle,’ much to the chagrin of scientists who prefer the official name, is a tiny particle that researchers long suspected existed. Its discovery lends strong support to the Standard Model of particle physics, or the known rules of particle physics that scientists believe govern the basic building blocks of matter. The Higgs boson particle is so important to the Standard Model because it signals the existence of the Higgs field, an invisible energy field present throughout the universe that imbues other particles with mass. Since its discovery two years ago, the particle has been making waves in the physics community.

Now that scientists measured the particle’s mass last year, they can make many other calculations, including one that seems to spell out the end of the universe.

Universe doomsday

The Higgs boson is about 126 billion electron volts, or about the 126 times the mass of a proton. This turns out to be the precise mass needed to keep the universe on the brink of instability, but physicists say the delicate state will eventually collapse and the universe will become unstable. That conclusion involves the Higgs field.

The Higgs field emerged at the birth of the universe and has acted as its own source of energy since then, Lykken said. Physicists believe the Higgs field may be slowly changing as it tries to find an optimal balance of field strength and energy required to maintain that strength.

“Just like matter can exist as liquid or solid, so the Higgs field, the substance that fills all space-time, could exist in two states,” Gian Giudice, a theoretical physicist at the CERN lab, where the Higgs boson was discovered, explained during a TED talk in October 2013.

Right now the Higgs field is in a minimum potential energy state — like a valley in a field of hills and valleys. The huge amount of energy required to change into another state is like chugging up a hill. If the Higgs field makes it over that energy hill, some physicists think the destruction of the universe is waiting on the other side.

But an unlucky quantum fluctuation, or a change in energy, could trigger a process called “quantum tunneling.” Instead of having to climb the energy hill, quantum tunneling would make it possible for the Higgs field to “tunnel” through the hill into the next, even lower-energy valley. This quantum fluctuation will happen somewhere out in the empty vacuum of space between galaxies, and will create a “bubble,” Lykken said.

Here’s how Hawking describes this Higgs doomsday scenario in the new book: “The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become metastable at energies above 100 [billion] gigaelectronvolts (GeV). … This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light. This could happen at any time and we wouldn’t see it coming.”

The Higgs field inside that bubble will be stronger and have a lower energy level than its surroundings. Even if the Higgs field inside the bubble were slightly stronger than it is now, it could shrink atoms, disintegrate atomic nuclei, and make it so that hydrogen would be the only element that could exist in the universe, Giudice explained in his TED talk.

But using a calculation that involves the currently known mass of the Higgs boson, researchers predict this bubble would contain an ultra-strong Higgs field that would expand at the speed of light through space-time. The expansion would be unstoppable and would wipe out everything in the existing universe, Lykken said.

“More interesting to us as physicists is when you do this calculation using the standard physics we know about, it turns out we’re right on the edge between a stable universe and an unstable universe,” Lykken said. “We’re sort of right on the edge where the universe can last for a long time, but eventually it should go ‘boom.’ There’s no principle that we know of that would put us right on the edge.”

Not all doom and gloom

Either all of space-time exists on this razor’s edge between a stable and unstable universe, or the calculation is wrong, Lykken said.

If the calculation is wrong, it must come from a fundamental part of physics that scientists have not discovered yet. Lykken said one possibility is the existence of invisible dark matter that physicists believe makes up about 27 percent of the universe. Discovering how dark matter interacts with the rest of the universe could reveal properties and rules physicists don’t know about yet.

The other is the idea of “supersymmetry.” In the Standard Model, every particle has a partner, or its own anti-particle. But supersymmetry is a theory that suggests every particle also has a supersymmetric partner particle. The existence of these other particles would help stabilize the universe, Lykken said.

“We found the Higgs boson, which was a big deal, but we’re still trying to understand what it means and we’re also trying to understand all the other things that go along with it

“This is very much the beginning of the story and I’ve shown you some directions that story could go in, but I think there could be surprises that no one has even thought of,” Lykken concludes in his lecture.

Follow Kelly Dickerson on Twitter. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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Jack the Ripper identified through DNA traces: sleuth


I wonder why we, “normal” people, are so fascinated with serial killers? There must be some genetic reason for it; or maybe not. I suppose the curiosity comes from trying to understand how a human being can be so totally unsympathetic to the suffering of others. Anyway, if nothing else it makes for interesting conversation. Personally, I love the Hannibal Lecter movies, although technically he wasn’t a serial killer, but the character in the movie was definitely ruthless. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AFP

Jack the Ripper

London (AFP) – Jack the Ripper, one of the most notorious serial killers in history, has been identified through DNA traces found on a shawl, claims a sleuth in a book out on Tuesday.

The true identity of Jack the Ripper, whose grisly murders terrorised the murky slums of Whitechapel in east London in 1888, has been a mystery ever since, with dozens of suspects that include royalty and prime ministers down to bootmakers.

But after extracting DNA from a shawl recovered from the scene of one of the killings, which matched relatives of both the victim and one of the suspects, Jack the Ripper sleuth Russell Edwards claims the identity of the murderer is now beyond doubt.

He says the infamous killer is Aaron Kosminski, a Jewish emigre from Poland, who worked as a barber.

Edwards, a businessman interested in the Ripper story, bought a bloodstained Victorian shawl at auction in 2007.

The story goes that it came from the murder scene of the Ripper’s fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes, on September 30, 1888.

Police acting sergeant Amos Simpson, who had been at the scene, got permission from his superiors to take it for his dressmaker wife — who was subsequently aghast at the thought of using a bloodstained shawl.

It had hitherto been passed down through the policeman’s direct descendants, who had stored it unwashed in a box. It briefly spent a few years on loan to Scotland Yard’s crime museum.

- Victim disembowelled -

Edwards sought to find out if DNA technology could conclusively link the shawl to the murder scene.

Working on the blood stains, Doctor Jari Louhelainen, senior lecturer in molecular at Liverpool John Moores University, isolated seven small segments of mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down through the female line.

They were matched with the DNA of Karen Miller, a direct descendant of Eddowes, confirming her blood was on the shawl.

Meanwhile stains exposed under ultra-violet light suggested the presence of seminal fluid.

Doctor David Miller, reader in molecular andrology at the University of Leeds, managed to find cells from which DNA was isolated.

With the help of genealogists, Edwards found a descendant of Kosminski through the female line, who offered samples of her DNA.

Louhelainen was then able to match DNA from the semen stains to Kosminski’s descendant.

For Edwards, this places Kosminski at the scene of Eddowes’ gruesome murder.

Eddowes, 46, was killed on the same night as the Ripper’s third victim. An orphan with a daughter and two sons, she worked as a casual prostitute.

She was found brutally murdered at 1:45am. Her throat was cut and she was disembowelled. Her face was also mutilated.

The belief is that the shawl was left at the crime scene by the killer, not Eddowes.

- Calls for peer review -

Kosminski was born in Klodawa in central Poland on September 11, 1865. His family fled the imperial Russian anti-Jewish pogroms and emigrated to east London in the early 1880s. He lived close to the murder scenes.

Some reports say he was taken in by the police to be identified by a witness who had seen him with one of the victims, and though a positive identification was made, the witness refused to give incriminating evidence, meaning the police had little option but to release him.

He entered a workhouse in 1889, where he was described on admission as “destitute”. He was discharged later that year but soon ended up in an insane asylum.

He died from gangrene in an asylum on March 24, 1919 and was buried three days later at East Ham Cemetery in east London.

Some have cast doubt on Edwards’ findings.

The research has not been published a a peer-reviewed scientific journal, meaning the claims cannot be independently verified or the methodology scrutinised.

Professor Alec Jeffreys, who invented the DNA fingerprinting technique 30 years ago this week, called for further verification.

“An interesting but remarkable claim that needs to be subjected to peer review, with detailed analysis of the provenance of the shawl and the nature of the claimed DNA match with the perpetrator’s descendants and its power of discrimination; no actual evidence has yet been provided,” Jeffreys told The Independent newspaper.

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As Islamic State fighters begin to blend in, defeating them no easy matter


A couple of nuclear bombs would “take care” of IS forever. But this won’t happen. What will happen is that the United States will get into another 10-year war in Iraq. It starts with air strikes but in short order will evolve into a typical war, with troops on the ground. This of course will result in American casualties. In other words, more of the same…

The bottom line is that no matter the U.S. president; Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, black or white, our reaction is the same; the United States will fight other people’s wars. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

Reuters

Morons

BAQIRTA Iraq/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After their lightning takeover in June, flag-waving Islamic State militants paraded through the captured Iraqi city of Mosul in looted U.S.-built Humvees, armored cars and pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns.

Today, many have ditched military-type vehicles that could make them easy targets of U.S. air strikes, and try to blend in with residents, say witnesses. While still terrifying, they are now a far more discreet force.

A Reuters examination of three weeks of U.S. air strikes reveals significant changes in the way the Islamic State operates since the U.S. joined the struggle against them, with fewer militants on the streets of Mosul the clearest sign. It is unclear how the Islamic State’s tactics will further change as a result of the reclaiming of the strategic Mosul Dam by Iraqi government and Kurdish forces or Sunday’s dramatic retaking of Amerli, where thousands had been cut off from food and water, but clearly battlefield strategies are involving on both sides.

The way the Islamic State is adapting shows the scale of problems ahead for President Barack Obama, the Pentagon and U.S.-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces, as they struggle to reclaim ground from the Sunni militants, who have seized a third of both Iraq and Syria, and want to establish a jihadist hub in the heart of the Arab world.

After forging working arrangements with other armed Sunni groups and tribes angry at the Shi’ite Islamist-dominated central government in Baghdad, the Islamic State is now the most powerful force in parts of northern and western Iraq, with its ranks ranging from 8,000 to 20,000 fighters, according to Iraqi government estimates.

Large areas are under control of the radical offshoot of al Qaeda, and will be difficult to wrest away from them if Iraq’s Shi’ite political leaders fail to appease disgruntled Sunnis, many of whom have embraced Islamic State after what they describe as years of discrimination and persecution.

Ousting the jihadists altogether will likely require a two-pronged approach, including ground combat in Iraq carried out by Iraqi security forces, Sunni tribesmen and ethnic Kurdish peshmerga fighters, perhaps with guidance by U.S. Special Operations Forces and American advisers, say Iraqi security officials and experts.

Defeating them would almost certainly require air strikes on Islamic State strongholds in neighboring Syria that could be risky, including the possibility of high civilian casualties given patchy American intelligence on the ground.

“To retake areas requires more than airstrikes. It requires specially trained fighters and the support of the population in these areas,” said Ali Al-Haidari, an Iraqi security expert and former officer in the Iraqi military.

Washington needs to decide whether it wants to halt and contain Islamic State or wipe it out entirely, said Hayat Alvi, professor of Middle East studies at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.”If they really want to destroy the Islamic State and stop them being a threat, they are going to have to get a lot more committed,” she said.

RUSSIAN-BUILT JETS

Since Aug. 8, U.S. warplanes have mounted several strikes a day in Iraq, mostly around three key northern Iraqi battlefields: the Kurdish capital Arbil, Mosul Dam and Mount Sinjar, a strip of ground more than 40 miles (65 km) long where Iraq’s ethnic Yazidis had been trapped by the jihadists.

U.S. F/A-18 jets from the carrier USS George H.W. Bush launched the first strikes around Sinjar in what it said was a move to protect Yazidis it feared were facing “genocide”. U.S. officials say those planes have now been joined by land-based aircraft and drones from other bases in the region.

“So far, the air strikes have been focused on stopping IS moving forward,” says Douglas Ollivant, former lead U.S. National Security Council official on Iraq for both President George W. Bush and Obama. “They’ve been quite successful, at least within Iraq. Syria is a different matter. So is pushing IS back in Iraq itself.”

The increased use of airpower, not just U.S. fighter jets but also the arrival of Russian-built Su-25 attack jets for the Iraqi Air Force, have had a significant impact, say Iraqi and Western officials, though gauging casualties among Islamic State fighters is difficult.

THORNY DYNAMICS

In Mosul, a mainly Sunni city under Islamic State control, the group no longer flaunts its presence. “Their deployment is less than before,” said one resident who declined to be identified by name for fear of Islamic State reprisals. “They avoid using machine guns on pickups as they are clear targets for the jets.”

U.S. airstrikes also helped Iraqi forces and militia wage a coordinated assault on Islamic State-held towns near northern Amerli, where thousands of Shi’ite Turkmen residents had been cut off from receiving food, water, and medical supplies for two months. On Sunday, the town returned to Iraqi government control.

Even as U.S. air strikes assisted the military campaign, they underscored the thorny dynamics for all sides as the U.S. military, in effect, came to the assistance of not only Iraqi troops but Shi’ite militia elements, who once fought U.S. forces and have been accused by Sunnis of carrying out abuses in the fight against the Islamic State, including extrajudicial killings.

Without American air power, Kurdish forces say they would have been hard-pressed to halt the Islamic State’s advance on Arbil. Instead, the Kurds pushed back and on Aug. 24 retook the village of Baqirta some 43 miles (70 km) away.

Several Islamic State leaders have also been killed, said sources in Mosul. The Kurdish government says its fighters have seen vehicles burning and militants struggling to evacuate the dead and dying.

“We feel we are stronger than them,” said Nejat Ali Salih, a senior official from the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Makhmur, an oil and farming center near Baqirta.

RUSSIAN JETS

At the start of the Islamic State offensive, Iraq’s air force was largely limited to attack helicopters and a handful of propeller-driven Cessna light aircraft firing Hellfire rockets.

By the end of June, however, Russia and Iraq announced a deal to supply the Iraqi air force with Su-25 attack jets. Simple, slow and unwieldy but heavily armored, they are ideal for attacking troop concentrations in the open.

A second batch of Su-25s arrived in July bearing the camouflage patterns and markings used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies said after examining assorted photographs. Neither the Iraqi nor Iranian governments have commented on their origin, or who is flying them.

Iraqi military officer Colonel Ali Abdulkareem said the jets halted the Islamic State’s advance on Baghdad last month.

Although Iraqi pilots were less experienced than their American counterparts and the weaponry less accurate, coordination with ground forces was improving, Abdulkareem said.

“TERRORIST ARMY”

But it won’t be easy to defeat Islamic State in Iraq.

The U.S. air campaign appears to have provoked even more anger from the Islamic State against the Kurds. The Islamic State released a video on Thursday in which it showed 15 Kurdish prisoners and the apparent execution of one of the men. Three of the prisoners urge Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani to end his military alliance with the United States.

“What we are fighting now is a well-trained and well-armed terrorist army,” said a senior Kurdish official. “They are very clever in their fighting, we have to admit. They want to make us busy on many fronts. They come to one front, they want all of us to focus on that front, and then they penetrate through another front.”

Taking back ethnic Sunni areas looks difficult. During the 2007/08 “surge”, U.S. troops worked closely with some Sunni groups against al Qaeda. Some of those they trained now fight with Islamic State, say Sunni fighters and tribal leaders.

Although Islamic State has lost considerable quantities of heavy equipment, advancing mainly Kurdish forces have found fewer bodies than they had expected, say Kurdish fighters. Some Kurdish officials say the bodies could have been removed quickly by retreating militants, though it is also possible the Islamic State may have also had fewer fighters in the path of air strikes than had been expected.

The jihadists are also making substantial new gains in Syria, including capturing a major military airbase on Aug. 24.

Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey said on Aug. 21 beating Islamic State in Iraq would require success against the group in Syria, something U.S. officials are now considering.

But unlike Iraq, where the United States has years of ground experience and friendly forces with which it can liaise, a Syrian operation faces formidable hurdles. Washington has no relations with President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Air defences operated by both Asaad and IS are more formidable.

Obama on Thursday dampened expectations of imminent air strikes on Islamic State positions in Syria, admitting “we don’t have a strategy yet” for confronting the militant group in Syria. The White House said he wants to look deliberately at the options his military advisers are giving him.

“So far, the strikes haven’t targeted the organizational structure of Islamic State, haven’t targeted their stores, haven’t targeted the sources of their strength which are the oilfields and haven’t targeted the smuggling between the Syrian and Iraqi borders,” said Hisham al-Hashimi, a Baghdad-based researcher of Iraq’s armed groups.

“These strikes achieved their target in pushing Islamic State from Kurdistan but they haven’t achieved a big victory or big gains,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Raheem Salman and Ned Parker; Editing by Jason Szep and Martin Howell)

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Worse than Al-Qaeda? ISIS pledges to raise flag of Allah in White House


What a cluster-f*ck! This obsession with religion, and more specifically with Allah, is revolting. These people have their heads stuck so far up their asses that they have sh*t for brains. The stupidity of it all… They want to conquer the world, but in doing so they’re slaughtering their own people. Brilliant!! Oh, I forgot, it isn’t enough to be a Muslim, one has to be the “correct” type of Muslim. This region of the world truly is a sewer, and Islam is the cause.

But to make things worse, the United States has once again intervened, and for what? These people we are defending are all criminals. The president of Syria is a criminal, as was Saddam Hussein. We try to protect the common man against these tyrants, and then the people you are trying to protect turn against you; it’s a lose/lose proposition. Let’s learn our lesson and just stay the hell away from the region. These people have been slaughtering each other since the beginning of recorded history and will continue to do so until the end of time… TGO

Video: YouTube

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Newfound Asteroid Will Give Earth Super-Close Shave on Sunday


All of the madness going on here on earth; the fighting, the killing… Yet all it takes is one of these giant space rocks to collide with our planet and we are history… That wouldn’t be a very honorable way to go, but then again, being decapitated by a religious freak is much, much worse. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: SPACE.com

SPACE.com

NASA: Asteroid Will Pass Close To Earth

Earth is about to have a close encounter with a house-sized asteroid on Sunday (Sept. 7), when a space rock discovered just days ago will zoom by our planet at a range closer than some satellites. But have no fear, NASA says the asteroid won’t hit Earth.

The asteroid 2014 RC will safely buzz Earth at 2:18 p.m. EDT (1818 GMT) on Sunday. At that time, the asteroid will pass over New Zealand and fly just inside the orbits of the geosynchronous communications and weather satellites orbiting Earth about 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the planet’s surface, according to a NASA statement. During its close pass, 2014 RC will be about 21,126 miles (34,000 km) from Earth’s surface. That’s about 10 times closer to the Earth than the moon.

“Asteroid 2014 RC was initially discovered on the night of August 31 by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, and independently detected the next night by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope, located on the summit of Haleakal? on Maui, Hawaii,” NASA officials said in a statement. [See images of potentially dangerous asteroids]

The asteroid will be very dim when it passes by Earth. Observers on the ground won’t be able to catch sight of it with the naked eye, but, weather permitting, intrepid amateur astronomers should be able to catch a glimpse of the fast-moving space rock through telescopes, according to NASA.

You can also watch two webcasts featuring the asteroid flyby this weekend. The Slooh Community Observatory — an online organization that hosts live broadcast of celestial events — will begin their asteroid webcast on Sept. 6 at 10 p.m. EDT (0200 Sept. 7 GMT). The Virtual Telescope Project will also host a webcast featuring live images of the asteroid on Sept. 6 starting at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT).

At its close approach, the 60-foot (20 meters) asteroid will fly about 25,000 miles (40,000 km) from the center of Earth. The average radius of the Earth (the distance from the center of the planet to its surface) is about 3,959 miles (6,371 km).

The speedy asteroid isn’t a threat to satellites orbiting Earth, and the space rock could even give scientists a special opportunity to learn more about asteroids because it will be so close to the planet, according to NASA.

NASA officials have also mapped out 2014 RC’s future orbits to see whether the near-Earth object might pose a threat to the planet in the future.

“While 2014 RC will not impact Earth, its orbit will bring it back to our planet’s neighborhood in the future,” NASA officials said in the same statement. “The asteroid’s future motion will be closely monitored, but no future threatening Earth encounters have been identified.”

Scientists have found more than 10,000 near-Earth objects in the solar system.

Follow Miriam Kramer @mirikramer and Google+. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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In northeast Syria, Islamic State builds a government


For those interested in learning a thing or two about “Islamic State,” read the story below. It seems these blood-thirsty hoodlums are more organized than most believed. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

Reuters

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BEIRUT (Reuters) – In the cities and towns across the desert plains of northeast Syria, the ultra-hardline al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State has insinuated itself into nearly every aspect of daily life.

The group famous for its beheadings, crucifixions and mass executions provides electricity and water, pays salaries, controls traffic, and runs nearly everything from bakeries and banks to schools, courts and mosques.

While its merciless battlefield tactics and its imposition of its austere vision of Islamic law have won the group headlines, residents say much of its power lies in its efficient and often deeply pragmatic ability to govern.

Syria’s eastern province of Raqqa provides the best illustration of their methods. Members hold up the province as an example of life under the Islamic “caliphate” they hope will one day stretch from China to Europe.

In the provincial capital, a dust-blown city that was home to about a quarter of a million people before Syria’s three-year-old war began, the group leaves almost no institution or public service outside of its control.

“Let us be honest, they are doing massive institutional work. It is impressive,” one activist from Raqqa who now lives in a border town in Turkey told Reuters.

In interviews conducted remotely, residents, Islamic State fighters and even activists opposed to the group described how it had built up a structure similar to a modern government in less than a year under its chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Reuters journalists are unable to visit the area for security reasons.

The group’s progress has alarmed regional and Western powers – last month U.S. President Barack Obama called it a “cancer” that must be erased from the Middle East as U.S. warplanes bombarded its positions in Iraq.

But Islamic State has embedded itself so thoroughly into the fabric of life in places like Raqqa that it will be all but impossible for U.S. aircraft – let alone Iraqi, Syrian and Kurdish troops – to uproot them through force alone.

BRIDE OF THE REVOLUTION

Last year, Raqqa became the first city to fall to the rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. They called it the “Bride of the Revolution.”

A variety of rebel groups ranging from hardline Islamists to religious moderates held sway in the city, although Islamists clearly dominated. Within a year, Islamic State had clawed its way into control, mercilessly eliminating rival insurgents.

Activists critical of the group were killed, disappeared, or escaped to Turkey. Alcohol was banned. Shops closed by afternoon and streets were empty by nightfall. Communication with the outside world – including nearby cities and towns – was allowed only through the Islamic State media center.

Those rebels and activists who stayed largely “repented”, a process through which they pledge loyalty to Baghdadi and are forgiven for their “sins” against the Islamic State, and either kept to their homes or joined the group’s ranks.

But after the initial crackdown, the group began setting up services and institutions – stating clearly that it intended to stay and use the area as a base in its quest to eradicate national boundaries and establish an Islamic “state”.

“We are a state,” one emir, or commander, in the province told Reuters. “Things are great here because we are ruling based on God’s law.”

Some Sunni Muslims who worked for Assad’s government stayed on after they pledged allegiance to the group.

“The civilians who do not have any political affiliations have adjusted to the presence of Islamic State, because people got tired and exhausted, and also, to be honest, because they are doing institutional work in Raqqa,” one Raqqa resident opposed to Islamic State told Reuters.

Since then, the group “has restored and restructured all the institutions that are related to services,” including a consumer protection office and the civil judiciary, the resident said.

BRUTALITY AND PRAGMATISM

In the past month alone, Islamic State fighters have broadcast images of themselves beheading U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff as well as captive Kurdish and Lebanese soldiers, and machine-gunning scores of Syrian prisoners wearing nothing but their underwear.

But the group’s use of violence has not been entirely indiscriminate. The group has often traded with businessmen loyal to Assad when it has suited its interests, for instance.

According to one fighter, a former Assad employee is now in charge of mills and distributing flour to bakeries in Raqqa. Employees at the Raqqa dam, which provides the city with electricity and water, have remained in their posts.

Islamic State’s willingness to use former Assad employees displays a pragmatism residents and activists say has been vital to its success holding onto territory it has captured.

They have been helped by experts who have come from countries including in North Africa and Europe. The man Baghdadi appointed to run and develop Raqqa’s telecoms, for instance, is a Tunisian with a PhD in the subject who left Tunisia to join the group and serve “the state”.

Reflecting Islamic State’s assertion that it is a government – rather than simply a militant group that happens to govern – Baghdadi has also separated military operations from civilian administration, assigning fighters only as police and soldiers

Instead, Baghdadi has appointed civilian deputies called walis, an Islamic term describing an official similar to a minister, to manage institutions and develop their sectors.

Administrative regions are divided into waliyehs, or provinces, which sometimes align with existing divisions but, as with the case of the recently established al-Furat province, can span national boundaries.

Fighters and employees receive a salary from a department called the Muslim Financial House, which is something like a finance ministry and a bank that aims to reduce poverty.

Fighters receive housing – including in homes confiscated from local non-Sunnis or from government employees who fled the area – as well as about $400 to $600 per month, enough to pay for a basic lifestyle in Syria’s poor northeast.

One fighter said poor families were given money. A widow may receive $100 for herself and for each child she has, he said.

Prices are also kept low. Traders who manipulate prices are punished, warned and shut down if they are caught again.

The group has also imposed Islamic taxes on wealthy traders and families. “We are only implementing Islam, zakat is an Islamic tax imposed by God,” said a jihadi in Raqqa.

Analysts estimate that Islamic State also raises tens of millions of dollars by selling oil from the fields it controls in Syria and Iraq to Turkish and Iraqi businessmen and by collecting ransoms for hostages it has taken.

BAGHDADI CALLS THE SHOTS

At the heart of the Islamic State system is its leader, Baghdadi, who in June declared himself “caliph”, or ruler of all the world’s Muslims, after breaking with al Qaeda.

Residents, fighters and activists agree Baghdadi is now heavily involved in Raqqa’s administration, and has the final word on all decisions made by commanders and officials. Even the prices set for local goods go back to him, local sources say.

Residents say Baghdadi also approves beheadings and other executions and punishments for criminals convicted by the group’s Islamic courts.

On the battlefield, fighters describe him as a fierce and experienced commander.

The Syrian fighter said Baghdadi led major battles, such as one to retake a Syrian military base known as Division 17 in July, the first in a series of defeats the group dealt to Syrian government forces in Raqqa province.

“He does not leave the brothers. In the battle to retake Division 17 he was also slightly wounded but he is fine now,” the fighter said.

“He is always moving. He does not stay in one place. He moves between Raqqa, Deir al-Zor and Mosul. He leads the battles.”

NEXT GENERATION JIHAD

Although pragmatism has been a key to the group’s success, ideology is also vital to the group’s rule.

By declaring the caliphate and setting up a “state”, Baghdadi aimed to attract foreign jihadis and experts from abroad. Supporters say thousands have responded.

At the same time, wealthy Islamists from across the world have sent money to Raqqa to support the caliphate, jihadis say.

According to sources in Raqqa, the group maintains three weapons factories mainly designed to develop missiles. Foreign scientists – including Muslims from China, fighters claim – are kept in a private location with bodyguards.

“Scientists and men with degrees are joining the State,” said one Arab jihadi.

The group has also invested heavily in the next generation by inducting children into their ideology. Primary, secondary and university programs now include more about Islam.

The group also accepts women who want to fight – they are trained about “the real Islam” and the reasons for fighting.

Islamic education groups are held in mosques for newly arrived fighters, who, according to militants in Raqqa, have flocked to Islamic State-controlled territory in even greater numbers since Baghdadi declared the “caliphate”.

“Every three days we receive at least 1,000 fighters. The guest houses are flooding with mujahideen. We are running out of places to receive them,” the Arab jihadi said.

(Editing by Alexander Dziadosz and Giles Elgood)

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