Mike Huckabee at The Hospital For Surgery

Former Arkansas Governor and GOP Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is at the hospital today for knee surgery after experiencing a loud pop during a recent walk through a South Carolina airport. He is expected to return to the campaign trail next week.

A Dozen Refugees in U.S. Connected to Terrorism Just This Year

The battle over Syrian refugees is raging on as the White House doubles down on their policy to bring 10,000 refugees from terror hot spots to U.S. soil over the coming months. But a new report from Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions details 12 alarming instances of refugees being connected to terrorism just this year. Criminal complaints, arrest warrants and indictments were provided. Here are just a few examples (bolding is mine): 

On January 29, 2015, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, a federal warrant was unsealed for the arrest of Liban Haji Mohamed – a native of Somalia who sources indicate came to the United States as a refugee, adjusted to Lawful Permanent Resident status, and subsequently applied for and received citizenship – for allegedly providing material support to Harakat Shabaab Al-Mujahidin, also known as Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda. Mohamed is believed to have left the U.S. on July 5, 2012, with the intent to join Al-Shabaab in East Africa. Mohamed previously lived in the metro D.C. area and worked as a cab driver, and is believed to have snuck across the border to Mexico after being placed on the no-fly list. Carl Ghattas, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Washington, D.C. Field Office emphasized the importance of locating Mohamed, “because he has knowledge of the Washington, D.C. area’s infrastructure such as shopping areas, Metro, airports, and government buildings . . . [t]his makes him an asset to his terrorist associates who might plot attacks on U.S. soil.”

On February 5, 2015, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Abdinassir Mohamud Ibrahim – a native of Somalia who came to the United States as a refugee in 2007 at the age of 22 and subsequently adjusted to Lawful Permanent Resident status – was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for conspiring to provide material support to Al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization, and for making a false statement in his immigration paperwork. Ibrahim knowingly lied in his application for citizenship, and previously lied on his request for refugee status, by falsely claiming that he was of a member of the minority Awer clan in Somalia and subject to persecution by the majority Hawiye clan. However, Ibrahim was actually a member of the Hawiye clan and not subject to persecution. In fact, according to the Complaint, “Ibrahim’s family was famous . . . [and] [t]hrough his clan lineage, Ibrahim was related to known Somali terrorists[.]” Ibrahim also admitted he had lied on his citizenship application by having previously lied on his refugee application by falsely claiming that he had not provided material support to a terrorist group, when he had in fact provided material support in the form of cash to an Al-Shabaab member.

On February 5, 2015, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Ramiz Zijad Hodzic – a native of Bosnia, and a purported Bosnian war hero who came to the United States as a refugee – was charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, with providing material support to terrorists, and conspiring to kill and maim persons in a foreign country. According to the indictment, among other things, Hodzic obtained money that he used to “purchase materials and supplies including: United States military uniforms, tactical combat boots, military surplus goods, tactical gear and clothing, firearms accessories, optical equipment and range finders, rifle scopes, equipment, and supplies . . .  intending that the materials and supplies would thereafter be transferred to, and used to support” Abdullah Ramo Pazara and ISIS.

On February 5, 2015, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Sedina Unkic Hodzic – the wife of Ramiz Zijad Hodzic, and a native of Bosnia who came to the United States as a refugee – was charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists. According to the indictment, Sedina, along with her husband, collected money from third parties and wired it to terrorists abroad. Also according to the indictment, Sedina shipped six boxes of U.S. military uniforms, combat boots, tactical clothing and gear, military surplus items, firearms accessories, rifle scopes, optical equipment, first aid supplies, and other equipment to terrorists abroad.

Again, these are just cases from this year. There are many more examples of refugees being tied to terrorism since 9/11.

Last week President Obama accused Republicans of being afraid of "widows and orphans" after raising concerns, along with Democrats, about the vetting process for new refugees.

"Apparently they are scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America," Obama said during an overseas trip to Turkey. "Now they are scared of three year old orphans. That doesn’t seem so tough to me."

'Progressive' Hillary Skips Forum With One of Nation's Largest Progressive Groups

At the first 2016 presidential Democratic debate, frontrunner Hillary Clinton declared she was a "progressive who likes to get things done." It's something liberals on the fence needed to hear, considering Clinton has had a hard time appealing to the base thanks to her hawkish past and Wall Street ties. Left-leaning voters may wonder why then, at a time when she needs to prove her liberal credentials, Clinton chose to skip a candidate forum hosted by one of the country's most prominent progressive groups, MoveOn.org.

Anna Galland, the executive director of the group's non-profit wing, warned that the decision could hurt Clinton's ability to motivate progressives.

"It’s a shame that Secretary Clinton declined to participate in the MoveOn member forum; she missed an opportunity to speak directly to and energize the progressive base she’ll need in her corner not just to win the nomination but also the general election, if she is the party's nominee," she said in a statement. 

Meanwhile, Clinton's two opponents, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, were happy to field some questions.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz praised the idea of a forum last month, saying it was an ideal opportunity for the candidates to engage with voters. Why, then, did the party's leading lady forgo the chance to defend her supposedly progressive record?

Perhaps she's not ready to provide an answer as to why she used the tragedy of September 11 to justify her Wall Street connections. 

Or, maybe she's just scared to get more questions like this.

It's obvious the former Secretary of State is more comfortable in a safer, DNC-sanctioned environment - and the committee is happy to oblige.

Watch: An Inside Look at Obama Negotiating with Republicans in Congress

Obamacare Architect: Okay Fine, Our Law Isn't Controlling Costs

You remember Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, don't you? He's the brother of Rahm, who played an instrumental role in crafting and promoting Obamacare -- and who occasionally lets the truth slip regarding its myriad broken promises. Here he is admitting what has become painfully obvious: The so-called 'Affordable' Care Act that he helped design, and that Democrats marketed to the public as a cost-reduction measure, is failing by its own standards.  "We need to focus on cost control," means "the law isn't controlling costs."  The doctor is correct on this point:

With the open enrollment deadline for Obamacare looming next month, one of the chief architects of the president's health law said Friday the plans offered on government-run exchanges need to be more affordable in order to boost participation rates. High-deductible plans are part of the problem, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel added..."Even though I am a liberal, I think we really have to focus on cost control. Affordability is absolutely critical across the board, because if we don't have affordable plans we are not going to get universal coverage. They are intimately linked," said Emanuel...He did acknowledge: "We've overplayed the high-deductible plans. People are feeling this is less and less insurance. And just more and more, 'I'm paying out of my pocket.'"

With rates rising substantially across most of the country, consumers are also being pummeled with climbing out-of-pocket costs. They're forking over a fortune before the coverage they're paying into each month even kicks in at all -- and when it finally does, many are discovering narrow networks and difficulty securing actual care.  It's telling that Obamacare godmother and cheerleader Hillary Clinton feels compelled to offer new healthcare affordability proposals.  Democrats can repeat the empty "it's working" slogan all day long; their presumptive nominee's actions tell the real story.  Last week, America's largest private insurer signaled that it is seriously considering pulling out of the Obamacare market, citing major losses that could prove unsustainable over time.  This is a big deal, and Philip Klein has been all over it:

UnitedHealth Group, the largest insurance company in the U.S., on Thursday slashed its earnings outlook, citing new problems related to Obamacare, and told investors it may exit the program's exchanges. "In recent weeks, growth expectations for individual exchange participation have tempered industrywide, co-operatives have failed, and market data has signaled higher risks and more difficulties while our own claims experience has deteriorated," Stephen J. Hemsley, chief executive officer of UnitedHealth Group, said in a press release. The release added that, "UnitedHealthcare has pulled back on its marketing efforts for individual exchange products in 2016. The company is evaluating the viability of the insurance exchange product segment and will determine during the first half of 2016 to what extent it can continue to serve the public exchange markets in 2017."

In that single compact quote, Hemsley makes several key points.  He notes that new enrollment projections have been slashed, that a slew of state-level Obamacare co-ops have gone belly up, and that the adverse selection problem arising from older, sicker risk pools is real.  Klein goes on:

In a conference call with investors, Hemsley offered a sober assessment of the exchanges' future viability. He said that claims data have been getting worse as time has gone on, and there's no evidence pointing toward improvement. Asked about whether the company could sustain losses past 2016, he was blunt: "No. We cannot sustain these losses. We can't really subsidize a marketplace that doesn't appear at the moment to be sustaining itself." The year 2017 is significant for insurers, because that's the year when several programs designed to mitigate risk for insurers through federal backstops go away. The hope was that those programs would act as training wheels for Obamacare in its first few years of implementation, but after that, the insurers were supposed to be able to thrive on their own. UnitedHealth's statement suggests otherwise. If UnitedHealth and other insurers decide to exit, remaining insurers will be forced to take on even more high-risk enrollees, prompting them to either raise rates further or exit themselves.

That's exactly how a market "death spiral" would begin.  As for the impending expiration of Obamacare's bailout-style loss mitigation provisions Klein addresses, those programs are already falling short of expectations.  Congressional Republicans deserve real credit on this front, as Jeffrey Anderson explains at the Weekly Standard, singling out Marco Rubio and Mike Lee for their special efforts: "One of the least-reported substantial policy victories in recent years was stopping Obamacare’s insurer bailout through last fall’s CRomnibus bill.  Now we can attach a price-tag to that victory:  $2.5 billion.  That’s how much taxpayers would have been funneling to President Obama’s insurance-company allies if the bailout hadn’t been thwarted, according to Obama administration officials.  Insurers were hoping for $2.87 billion but, thanks to the anti-bailout legislation, which required Obamacare’s risk-corridor program to operate in a revenue-neutral manner, rather than as a bailout, they will be getting only $362 million—the same amount that other insurers paid in," Anderson writes. "But this victory was worth more than just that, for when companies can’t rely on having large chunks of their losses covered by taxpayers, they have to price their products accordingly.  Thus, insurers have had to price their Obamacare-compliant policies more honestly, causing premiums to rise and enrollment to slow."  Rubio is pushing for a follow-up bill to kill off the bailout program completely.  I'll leave you with two public opinion data points.  Repeat after me -- it's working:

The Dangerous Game We Play in the Middle East

We are playing a dangerous game of “who’s who” in the Middle East and we are not winning.  

Today, Turkish forces (or whoever they claim to be), shot down a Russian fighter jet. We know very little about the Turkish F-16 that shot down the Russian jet, but we do know that it was over Turkish airspace. In this video, it is clear that the men shooting at the Russian pilot look more like renegades rather than regular army.

Another video released today shows young Arab men firing an American made BGM-71 TOW missile which destroyed a Russian helicopter. There are questions that need to be asked.  How did they obtain this weapon? Why are they attacking Russia?  And why are they chanting ‘Allah Akbar’?

It is only a matter of time before someone, who ever that may be, shoots down an American jet. We need to start preparing ourselves for this scenario as it is bound to happen at some point.

For the past 15 years, we have tried every tactic in the book: invasion, persuasion, arming rebel groups, and toppling regimes.

The luxury of ineffective action by coalition forces puts little doubt in the minds and spirits of ISIS fighters.

The chaos in the Middle East is going to continue. It is not going to stop today, tomorrow, or 15 more years from now unless we radically change tactics.

Osama Bin Laden had no shame in killing almost 3,00 innocent Americans back in 2001, however, Bin Laden’s ultimate scenario was to create the madness that exists today. He wanted a world where powerful countries turn on each other and doubt each other’s every move until massive conflicts irrupt. Keeping our world stuck in the most barbaric ages, preventing mankind from ascending to new heights, and demanding that the world as we know it become an Islamic Caliphate, are all goals that extremists want to accomplish.  

Defending 9/11 Claims, Trump Says He Has 'World's Greatest Memory'

One thing anyone following the 2016 election cycle knows about GOP frontrunner Donald Trump is that he has no problem speaking the truth. In other words, he’s just not politically correct, which has often caught him a lot of flak from those on both the left and right.

His recent comments about Muslims cheering when the Twin Towers went down on 9/11 is no different.

Speaking at a rally in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday, Trump said, “And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands of people were cheering as the building was coming down.”

The Anti-Defamation League said Trump’s account was “factually challenged” and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he had no recollection of that happening.

But Trump insisted he was right, defending his comments on an ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos Sunday, and again on Twitter, where he posted a WaPo article from Sept. 18, 2001 titled, “Northern New Jersey Draws Probers’ Eyes,” which read:

 “In Jersey City, within hours of two jetliners’ plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.”

Trump then went so far as to tell an NBC News reporter that he has “the world’s greatest memory” and is demanding an apology from those who doubt his recollection of the attacks.

However, the article Trump pointed to as support of his claim only says “a number of people”—not thousands.

The author of the Post article told CNN that he doesn’t remember “anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating.” 

Mark Up Another Win for the Second Amendment in Alabama

Jason Tulley was convicted in the Calhoun Circuit Court of Alabama for carrying a pistol on premises not his own in violation of Ordinance No. 0-514-10 in the City of Jacksonville.

On March 31, 2011, Tulley entered a credit union bank in Jacksonville, Alabama with a pistol unconcealed in a hip holster. James Clayton, a Jacksonville police officer, was working as an off-duty security guard at the credit union that day. Clayton approached Tulley and told him that he could not carry the pistol in the credit union. Tulley became argumentative and asserted that it was his constitutional right to carry his firearm. Clayton testified that Tulley was defiant but but did not raise his voice or become aggressive. Tulley complied with the officer and put his pistol into his vehicle.

Tulley was arrested a few days later and was ordered to pay a $50 fine and $200 in court costs. Tulley then appealed to the Calhoun County Circuit Court.

Following two motions to dismiss the case, Tulley entered into a bench trial where he was convicted and sentenced to serve 30 days in jail and pay a $200 fine.

Tulley then took his case to the Alabama Supreme Court where, in September, the court ruled that a state law that banned the open carry of a gun on someone else’s property is unconstitutional.

Tulley’s attorney said he believes that businesses still have options available to limit people bringing firearms onto their property, but open carry advocates should not fear criminal prosecution under 13AA-11-52 going forward.

Last week the City of Jacksonville requested the Alabama Supreme Court revise its ruling that declared unconstitutional a state law that bans the open carry of a gun on someone else’s property.

Marilyn Hudson, the prosecutor for the City of Jacksonville, stated that towns and counties of Alabama have a duty and responsibility to uphold the law.

The Supreme Court Justices rejected the city’s request for a rehearing on Friday.

What people in the court system fail to realize is that America was not built on penal codes such as 13AA-11-52 and Ordinance No. 0-514-10.  We were built on that the fact that, when in doubt, choose freedom.  The courts got this one right, in whatever legal jargon that they had to use, because of people like Mr. Tulley and his attorney who refused to back down and risked being thrown in jail to defend the Second Amendment.  

Alabama Supreme Court Gun Law Case

Obama Holds Joint Presser With Hollande: "Americans Will Not Be Terrorized"

Presidents Obama and Hollande expressed their solidarity during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House Tuesday.  

Obama said he and Hollande were here to declare the United States and France stand united and are ready “to deliver justice to terrorists.” This barbaric terrorist group and its murderous ideology poses a serious threat to all of us. “It must be destroyed and we must do it together,” he insisted.

Obama acknowledged France as our oldest ally.

“Americans love France because we dedicate ourselves to the same ideals,” he said.

“We’ll never forget how the French people stood with us after 9/11,” he remarked. “We stand with you now.”

Hollande returned the grateful words.

“Obama was the first one to call me” after the Paris massacre, Hollande said.

“After 9/11, we all felt American,” Hollande added. “Two people emerged as one, sharing the same emotion.”

The world leaders addressed the specific military responses their nations are prepared to act on after the terror attack in Paris. Obama said 8,000 airstrikes have pushed ISIL back from territory in Iraq and Syria. Yet, “we must do even more.”

The president said he and Hollande supported the French strikes in Syria and will continue to step up coordination. The U.S., he explained, will share intelligence to France to help destroy terror networks. He also called on the European Union to finally implement an agreement that requires airlines to share passenger information to stop terror fighters from entering nations.

Additionally, Hollande said we must close the border between Turkey and Syria and prevent the entry of terrorists. France also plans to support the forces fighting terrorists on the ground.

As for Russia’s role in the fight against terror in Syria, Obama said Russia’s strikes against moderate regimes only “bolster” the Assad regime.

“We agree Russia could play a role if it were to shift focus to defeating ISIL,” he said.

Obama then addressed concerns that a similar attack is imminent in the United States.

“I want you to know we will do everything in our power to protect our nation,” he said.

Our counterterrorism, homeland security, he emphasized, have “prevented attacks and they have saved lives.” As for the Syrian refugee program, which more than half the country has soundly rejected, “no one goes through more screenings than refugees,” the president ensured.

Obama concluded by insisting Americans, along with the French, must “uphold the rights and freedoms that defines our two republics.”

“We will not succumb to fear, nor can we allow fear to divide us," he said. "Americans will not be terrorized.”

“We will win and groups like ISIL will lose. Vive la France and God bless the United States of America.”

Cruz Catching Up to Trump After Passionate Anti-Terror Rhetoric

A new Iowa poll puts Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) a stone's throw away from longtime presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. Here's the breakdown of the top four:

Mr. Cruz, the Republican Texas senator, was the choice of 23 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers in the new poll, from Quinnipiac University, following Mr. Trump at 25 percent and ahead of Mr. Carson at 18 percent. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was in fourth with 13 percent. The margin of error was plus or minus four percentage points.

Cruz has more than doubled his support in Iowa since October, The New York Times explains, crediting his momentum with the passionate anti-terror rhetoric he has voiced since the carnage in Paris. Last week, after Obama criticized him and his Republican colleagues for stirring unnecessary "hysteria" over the coming influx of Syrian refugees, Cruz told the president to "insult him to his face."

The senator's bold comments have seem to have convinced Iowans he is the candidate most capable to handle foreign policy. A majority, 24 percent, said they would trust him with those decisions. 

Foreign policy and terrorism were deemed to be the most important issues in the 2016 election. 

Arizona State Senator Switches to Republican Party

A State Senator in Arizona has announced that he is switching parties.

Carlyle Begay announced yesterday that he is leaving the Democratic Party in favor of becoming a Republican. Begay said that the Republican party better reflects the values of self-determination and self-empowerment that he holds and wants to emphasize in his district. 

Begay is part of the Navajo tribe and represents Arizona’s 7th District and also represents the tribal communities that are consumed with rampant unemployment and poverty.

Begay was appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 2013 and was reelected in 2014.

This brief video shows Begay’s plans moving forward:

Scandal: US Analysts Allege Political Manipulation of ISIS Intel, Cover-Up

We've touched on these allegations before, but now they're getting more specific and serious. The Obama administration is engaged in a storm of blame and demagoguery as Americans begin to demand answers in the aftermath of this month's deadly terrorist attacks in Paris. The president has personally assailed Republican rhetoric as the strongest ISIS recruitment tool he can imagine, while finding new ways of downplaying the threat posed by the expanding terrorist organization.  The public isn't buying it.  And now a clearer picture is beginning to emerge as to why so many Americans were caught off-guard by the strength and reach of this expanding malignant force.  The prevailing 'official' opacity and diminished sense of urgency was no an accident, US intelligence officials tell Fox News and the Daily Beast:

Analysts at U.S. Central Command were pressured to ease off negative assessments about the Islamic State threat and were even told in an email to “cut it out,” Fox News has learned – as an investigation expands into whether intelligence reports were altered to present a more positive picture. Fox News is told by a source close to the CENTCOM analysts that the pressure on them included at least two emails saying they needed to “cut it out” and “toe the line.”  Separately, a former Pentagon official told Fox News there apparently was an attempt to destroy the communications. The Pentagon official said the email warnings were "not well received" by the analysts. Those emails, among others, are now in the possession of the Pentagon inspector general. The IG’s probe is expanding into whether intelligence assessments were changed to give a more positive picture of the anti-ISIS campaign. The former Pentagon official said there were “multiple assessments” from military intelligence and the CIA regarding the “rapid rise” of ISIS in Iraq and North Africa in the year leading up to the group’s territory grab in 2014. Similar intelligence was included in the President’s Daily Brief, or PDB – the intelligence community’s most authoritative product -- during the same time period. Yet the official, who was part of the White House discussions, said the administration kept "kicking the can down the road."

Very serious stuff indeed, especially within an administration filled with people who accused the Bush White House of "cooking the books" on WMD's in the lead-up to the Iraq war.  Here we have (a) intelligence analysts alleging effective stand-down orders after their rigorous assessments were deemed unhelpfully severe, (b) accusations that those enforcing this whitewash attempted to destroy evidence to that end, and (c) confirmation that some of these warnings made it to Obama's desk.  Remember, the president's team has insisted that Obama reads the PDB every single day; this was a central piece of the White House's election-year damage control messaging after it was revealed how often he skipped his daily briefings, including the morning after the Benghazi massacre.  The New York Times reported over the weekend that a nonpartisan probe into allegations of manipulated intelligence is growing in scope, with "more investigators" being assigned to the inquiry.  The Daily Beast has more details on the cover-up aspect of this story:

In July, a group of intelligence analysts at the U.S. military’s Central Command accused their bosses of distorting and selectively editing intelligence reports about the fight against ISIS in order to portray that campaign as more successful than it really was. As a result of those complaints, the Pentagon’s inspector general opened an investigation. Now, the allegations of misconduct have extended to a possible cover-up, with some analysts accusing the senior intelligence officials at Centcom, Maj. Gen. Steven Grove and his civilian deputy, Gregory Ryckman, of deleting emails and files from computer systems before the inspector general could examine them, three individuals familiar with the investigation told The Daily Beast...At the heart of the analysts’ allegations is what they describe as a persistent effort by Grove and his team to downplay or even change reports that that questioned how much progress a U.S.-led coalition is making in the Obama administration’s stated goal to degrade, destroy, and defeat ISIS. Draft reports that contained a more pessimistic view, or that questioned the efficacy of hitting certain targets, were sent back to the analysts for more extensive rewriting.

Allahpundit correctly points out that we don't yet know who, precisely, ordered the dangerous, politicized 'sanitization' of intelligence (cui bono?) -- but he notes that there are some breadcrumbs to be followed:

Two defense officials said that some felt the commander for intelligence at CENTCOM failed to keep political pressures from Washington from bearing on lower-level analysts at command headquarters in Tampa, Florida. That pressure, while described as subtle and not overt, is nevertheless clear, the analysts said: Assessments on ISIS should comport with “the leadership consensus,” that is, top policymakers’ view, that the U.S.-led campaign against the group is paying dividends.

I'd also (againsubmit this into evidence:

If the Obama administration deliberately ignored unpleasant developments in 2012 -- as alleged by a high-ranking intelligence official in that Times piece -- in order to protect a political storyline, why wouldn't they rig the game later in the process too? I'll leave you with this juxtaposition of two headlines that emerged late yesterday. We're in the very best of hands:

Putin Warns Turkey It Will Face 'Serious Consequences' After Shooting Down Russian Plane

Turkey is facing the wrath of Russian President Vladimir Putin after shooting down a Russian fighter near the Syrian border Tuesday morning.

Turkish officials claim it only took the action after issuing several warnings to the Russian warplane reportedly violating Turkish airspace.

Russia is of a different mind.

But Russia's state-run Sputnik news agency said that, "According to preliminary reports, the plane was gunned down from the ground."

Russian officials denied that the plane had violated Turkish airspace. Both pilots ejected from the plane, but their fate is unknown, Sputnik reported.

Putin issued a warning in response to the incident. The downing, he said, is a "stab in the back that will have serious consequences for Russia's relationship with Turkey."

The pilots ejected from the plane before it crashed, but still no word on whether they survived, CNN reports.

NATO is expected to hold an emergency meeting in Brussels at 11 a.m. ET. 

John Kerry Meets With Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem as Stabbing Attacks on Israelis Continue

Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Jerusalem and is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today as terrorism stabbing attacks continue to roil the Jewish State.

"Clearly, no people anywhere should live with daily violence, with attacks in the streets, with knives or scissors or cars. And it is very clear to us that the terrorism – these acts of terrorism which have been taking place – have deserved the condemnation that they are receiving. And today, I expressed my complete condemnation for any act of terror that takes innocent lives and disrupts the day-to-day life of a nation. Israel has every right in the world to defend itself and it has an obligation to defend itself, and it will and it is," Kerry said to reporters prior to a closed door meeting with Netanyahu. "Our thoughts and prayers are with innocent people who have been hurt in this process. I know that yesterday, a soldier was killed in the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and those who were wounded, their families. Regrettably, several Americans have also been killed in the course of these past weeks. And just yesterday, I talked to the family of Ezra Schwartz from Massachusetts, a young man who came here out of high school ready to go to college, excited about his future. And yesterday, his family was sitting at Shiva and I talked to them and heard their feelings, the feelings of any parent who lost their child."

"So I’m here today to talk with the prime minister about the ways that we can work together – all of us in the international community – to push back against terrorism, to push back against senseless violence, and to find a way forward to restore calm and to begin to provide the opportunities that most reasonable people in every part of the world are seeking for themselves and for their families. We have much to talk about," Kerry continued, adding the issue of ISIS will also be discussed during their meeting.

Kerry will also meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to the region.

According to The Media Line, Kerry arrived with an uncharacteristically pessimistic attitude. 

US Secretary of State John Kerry has been called many things during his missions to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but rarely “pessimistic.” So it came as an anomaly to see the SecState warn before his latest arrival to the region that “people aren’t in the mood for concessions,” presaging little expected success in lowering the level violence and the tension that has gripped Israeli and Palestinian societies. During the past two months, 23 Israelis were killed in seemingly random acts of terror carried out by Palestinians as young as 13 years of age. Most of the assailants were killed at the scene by police, soldiers or armed bystanders. Victims range in age from 13 to 80, underscoring to the public the reality that anyone and everyone is a target. Prior to his arrival in Israel on Tuesday, Kerry told reporters his reason for the trip was “to see if we can get some concrete steps in place – begin to build them, maybe – that could calm things down a little bit so people aren’t living in absolute, daily terror that they might be stabbed or driven into or shot trying to walk around their city.”

Earlier this month, the White House made the concession that a peace deal between the Israeli's and Palestinians is unlikely to happen during President Obama's final year in the Oval Office.

State Department Issues Travel Warning to All Americans Overseas

Last week the State Department issued a travel warning to Americans traveling in Brussels after the city went into lock down over an imminent terrorism threat from ISIS. Late last night, that warning was expanded to all international travel for U.S. citizens. 

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests. This Travel Alert expires on February 24, 2016.

Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Da’esh return from Syria and Iraq. Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis. Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services. In the past year, there have been multiple attacks in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey, and Mali. ISIL/Da’esh has claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt.

U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events. U.S. citizens should monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities. Persons with specific safety concerns should contact local law enforcement authorities who are responsible for the safety and security of all visitors to their host country. U.S. citizens should:

-Follow the instructions of local authorities. Monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.
-Be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions.
-Stay in touch with your family members and ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency.
-Register in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

Essentially, this warning doesn't do much to clarify any kind of situation. Americans have been told for months to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings. Interesting how warnings like this never include tips about how to defend yourself should something actually happen.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials are stressing this warning does not apply inside the U.S.

Massachusetts Has Dropped Common Core Test

This post has been updated

Massachusetts has become the latest state to eschew Common Core tests, and will instead create its own state-specific test to measure how well students are learning.

Common Core has come under fire from both the left and the right. Teacher's unions disliked the standards-- and the high-stakes testing--and those on the right thought that Common Core was the federal government growing far too large.

Massachusetts already had very high standards (and good outcomes) for education, plus some of the best schools in the country. While Massachusetts will remain part of the PARCC test, it's good that they're exercising at least some local control.

It's important to make sure that every child, regardless of what state they live in, receives a good education. While the goals of Common Core were noble in theory, it seems as though many states are realizing that it's not right for their students.

Buzzkill: Obamacare Regulation May Put Craft Breweries Out of Business

Obamacare’s menu labeling regulation promises to be a disaster for the food and restaurant industries, as its implementation is both costly and extremely onerous. While its deleterious effects on the pizza, restaurant, and grocery industries have been most well known, it also has the potential to shutter an industry near and dear to Americans’ hearts: craft beer.

Since beer has a few too many calories for bureaucrats, the health law dictates that all brewers include a detailed calorie count on every type of beer produced. Failure to do so, according to Americans for Tax Reform, “means craft brewers will not be able to sell their beer in any restaurant chain with over 20 locations.”

The Cato Institute estimates the Obamacare calorie labeling requirements will cost a business as much as $77,000 to implement. For larger beer companies, this is a drop in the bucket, but for small, local craft brewers it represents a substantial cost that they must pay. As a result, it creates a significant disadvantage compared to larger beer companies who can better absorb the cost of this new regulation.

 According to Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association, "Most of the new [craft beer] entrants continue to be small and local, operating in neighborhoods or towns. What it means to be a brewery is shifting, back toward an era when breweries were largely local, and operated as a neighborhood bar or restaurant." The increasingly small size of craft breweries means they are faced with a tough decision in light of the impending regulations: cut costs and possibly lay off workers to pay for the calorie labels, or be shut out of one of the most profitable markets for their product. Either way, it is a lose - lose situation for the craft beer brewers and drinkers, an industry that grew 27.8 percent from 2013 to 2014 when it was left alone.

The most ridiculous part about the entire regulation is that menu labeling has little to no effect on consumers’ purchasing choices, and studies demonstrating that menu labeling is linked to a reduction in obesity rates, the supposed benefit the FDA used to justify the regulation in the first place, doesn’t exist. 

Canada to Refuse Entry to Single Male Syrian Refugees

Canada is not taking any chances when it comes to its new influx of Syrian refugees. While the country is preparing to accept about 25,000 migrants by the end of the year, security concerns have convinced officials they should leave out a key demographic: single males

The federal government's much-anticipated Syrian refugee plan will limit those accepted into Canada to women, children and families only, CBC News has learned.

Sources tell CBC News that to deal with some ongoing concerns around security, unaccompanied men seeking asylum will not be part of the program.

To put the number 25,000 into perspective, that is about the population of Canada's Yukon Territory. Most of the women and children refugees entering Canada will be placed in military bases upon arrival, CBC reports, before being relocated throughout the country. 

The Canadian government���s decision to bar unaccompanied males comes after last weekend’s terror in Paris, when eight suspected radical terrorists killed over 129 people.

Single men are most vulnerable to being seduced by ISIS. They are told they will be powerful and performing these extreme, violent acts are moral necessities in order to establish a militant Islamic caliphate, NY Magazine explains.

Meanwhile, our own Syrian refugee program will allow up to 100,000 migrants to enter the country by the end of 2017. President Obama has tried to ensure us our vetting process is “rigorous,” yet 34 governors aren’t so sure, refusing to let even one refugee in their respective states until their security concerns are addressed.

Is this one instance when we should follow the example of our northern neighbor?

Yoga Class Cancelled Due to Cultural Oppression

Sorry to say this to all the yoga fans out there, but you too may fall victim to the political correctness police.

Jennifer Scharf who teaches a free yoga class to students with disabilities at the University of Ottawa in Ontario found out the hard way that even yoga must cease because people from a long time ago may be offended by people so far away.

Scharf received this e-mail informing her that there would no longer be a yoga class on campus:

“I have unfortunate news, apparently our centre has chosen not to do yoga for programming this year. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns in regards to this and I am welcome to explain. Thank you so much for volunteering to do yoga over the past couple years. It has truly been wonderful and I hope to stay in touch in the future.”

Scharf responded by asking, “that’s disappointing news for sure, is there someone I can speak to about this… do you know why the decision was made? I don’t mind doing it for free so if money is a concern, that’s no problem.”

The representative responded by saying, ‘“I think that our centre agreed … that while yoga is a really great idea, accessible and great for students, that there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice. I have heard from a couple students and volunteers that feel uncomfortable with how we are doing yoga while we claim to be inclusive at the same time. Yoga has been under a lot of controversy lately due to how it is being practiced and what practices from what cultures (which are often sacred spiritual practices) they are being taken from. Many of these cultures are cultures that have experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy, and we need to be mindful of this and how we express ourselves and while practicing yoga. It is not something that is easy to explain. It is a sensitive topic for some people that use our Centre and I would just like to respect that for the moment.”

After a tough battle and standing up to the political correctness police, the University of Ottowa posted this on Twitter today:

Free yoga classes are still offered on campus by #uOttawa https://t.co/eQi8sjBDqT

— uOttawa (@uOttawa) November 23, 2015

Top Democrat: ISIS Threat Has 'Gotten Worse' Under Obama's Policies

This is exactly what ISIS would want Sen. Dianne Feinstein to say -- amirite, lefties?

"I don't think the approach is sufficient for the job," said Feinstein, a top ranking Senate Democrat who serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "I'm concerned that we don't have the time and we don't have years. We need to be aggressive now." ... "What I'm saying is this has gone on too long now and it has not gotten better, it's gotten worse," [Feinstein said].

One key point she makes is that ISIS' footprint is expanding to countries beyond Syria and Iraq; she cites TunisiaLibya, and Egypt's Sinai peninsula.  She might have also added Afghanistan.  Obama's former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is also criticizing the president's hands-off approach, effectively calling for ground troops to beat back the terror army's advance:

“I think the U.S. has to lead in this effort, because what we’ve learned a long time ago is that if the United States does not lead, nobody else will,” Panetta said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Panetta also called on the U.S. to commit additional resources to the fight against the radical Islamic terrorist group. He said air strikes will not be enough to slow ISIS’s territorial expansion in Syria. “Look, air strikes are great, you know, we’re hitting some targets, but air strikes alone are not going to win here,” Panetta said. “We’ve got to take that territory away from them,” he added. “It’s been a year. They’re still in Mosul, they’re still in Ramadi, they’re still in Raqqa, those are areas we have to go after in order to be able to defeat ISIS, ultimately.”

Panetta added that partnering with the Russians in this effort may be a good idea in theory, "but I don't trust them...at this time." He has ample cause for deep mistrust, but that hasn't stopped Team Smart Power from ritually humiliating itself in front of Putin. Panetta mentioned that airstrikes aren't sufficient to seize and hold ISIS-controlled territory.  After the Paris attacks, some Americans wondered why the French military had so many juicy, obvious ISIS bombing targets to choose from.  What have we been doing this whole time?  partial answer, perhaps (via the Free Beacon):

U.S. military pilots who have returned from the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq are confirming that they were blocked from dropping 75 percent of their ordnance on terror targets because they could not get clearance to launch a strike, according to a leading member of Congress. Strikes against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) targets are often blocked due to an Obama administration policy to prevent civilian deaths and collateral damage, according to Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The policy is being blamed for allowing Islamic State militants to gain strength across Iraq and continue waging terrorist strikes throughout the region and beyond, according to Royce and former military leaders who spoke Wednesday about flaws in the U.S. campaign to combat the Islamic State...[Obama's zero civilian casualties rules of engagement regime] is likely the reason that U.S. pilots are being told to back down when Islamic State targets are in site, Keane said, citing statistics published earlier this year by U.S. Central Command showing that pilots return from sorties in Iraq with about 75 percent of their ordnance unexpended. “Believe me,” Keane added, “the French are in there not using the restrictions we have imposed on our pilots.” And the same goes for Russians, he said, adding, “They don’t care at all about civilians.”

Taking pains to avoid collateral damage is the admirable and morally-correct course of action. This should be a major goal in any military endeavor; the United States targets bad actors, not innocent people. But at what point do extremely restrictive American rules of engagement directly benefit the enemy and constrain our military's ability to carry out its mission?  A new CBS News survey broadly reflects other polling regarding President Obama's handing of foreign policy and national security matters: Just 23 percent of respondents say Obama has a clear plan to handle ISIS, with two-thirds saying the opposite.  Half of the country now backs "boots on the ground" to combat ISIS, a shifting political reality that has tied Hillary Clinton into knots.  Left-leaning columnists from Ron Fournier to Frank Bruni to Eugene Robinson have criticized the president's absentee leadership and misplaced priorities.  Battered from all sides amid sliding poll numbers, Obama has ramped up his vitriol against the only enemies he truly relishes attacking:

Pathetic. Having repeatedly dismissed and underestimated ISIS -- sometimes deliberately so, it's been seriously alleged -- Obama's latest assessment amounts to another rhetorical shrug:

Evidence: Expanding territoryUS weapons30,000 fighters.  And close to $2 billion in estimated assets.  Just some thugs with lots of Twitter followers, the president sneers.

White House: President Obama Has A "Clear Eyed Assessment of What He Thinks is Happening" With ISIS

Speaking from the White House Monday after more than a week of being overseas, Press Secretary Josh Earnest tried to reassure reporters that President Obama is taking the threat from ISIS seriously and is gathering as much intelligence on the terror army as he possibly can.

"The intelligence reports that he's received about ISIL and the impact they've had on Syria and Iraq in particular, have been troubling and that is part of what has prompted the kind of aggressive and sustained commitment to degrading and ultimately destroying that organization that you've seen put forward by the president," Earnest said. "He [Obama] has made quite clear to military leaders and to intelligence officials that he's looking for the best, most accurate assessment of what' actually happening, that he can possibly get, because that's only going to improve his ability to make decisions about policy to address the situation on the ground."

Further, Earnest argued Obama will spend the next year with "a clear eyed assessment of his view of what's happening" when it comes to dealing with ISIS. 

There are two major problems with these claims and assertions. First, last week investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson revealed that her sources, who have worked in the White House, have told her Obama is flat out rejecting intelligence about Islamic groups he doesn't consider terrorists. 

"I have talked to people who have worked in the Obama administration who firmly believe he has made up his mind, I would say closed his mind, they say, to the intelligence they try to bring him about various groups he does not consider terrorists even if they're on the U.S. list of designated terrorists," Attkisson said during an interview with Newsmax. "I don't know the reasoning for it I’ve only been told by those who have allegedly attempted to present him or been in the circle that has attempted to present him with certain intelligence that they said he doesn’t want it, he said he doesn't want it or he won't read it in some instances."

Second, we've been hearing for months about the manipulation and downgrading of ISIS intelligence to make the situation in Iraq and Syria look better before being presented to Obama in the Oval Office. From The Daily Beast

It’s being called a ‘revolt’ by intelligence pros who are paid to give their honest assessment of the ISIS war—but are instead seeing their reports turned into happy talk.

More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials, The Daily Beast has learned.

The complaints spurred the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence. The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command charged with the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State assesses intelligence.

The accusations suggest that a large number of people tracking the inner workings of the terror groups think that their reports are being manipulated to fit a public narrative.

Just hours before the ISIS attack on Paris, President Obama said the group had been "contained" while intelligence and military communities were screaming about their expansion, increase in strength and ability to carry out attacks on the West. 

Clear eyed, indeed.

Washington Post Reporter Jason Rezaian Sentenced to Jail in Iran

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian has been sentenced to prison in Iran after a closed-door trial found him guilty of espionage on October 11. He was arrested in July 2014.

The length of the prison term was not specified. "Serving a jail term is in Jason Rezaian's sentence but I cannot give details," judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei told a weekly news conference in Tehran, according to IRNA.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters he was aware of the IRNA report but could not independently confirm it. It was not clear why Iran has not given details of the ruling against the 39-year-old Rezaian, who Iranian prosecutors accused of espionage.

The foreign editor of the Washington Post, Douglas Jehl, said the newspaper was aware of the reports but had no additional information.

Iran's lack of transparency in this case is astounding. Rezaian has still not been informed about basic things in his own case--which, by all accounts, is "absurd" or "bogus." He's a reporter, not a spy, and he's being deprived of a basic human right to a fair trial. It's unacceptable to treat somebody this way. Iran should not use a human being as a pawn or bargaining chip.

Russia Not Afraid to Show Support for France

Russia is doing all of the right things for France in a time of crisis. From bombing runs, to German shepherd puppies, to vowing allegiance with France; Russia is leading the way for the free world.

For the past several weeks, Russia has been engaged in bombing runs targeted for ISIS strongholds. Russian air crews were videoed writing messages on some of the bombs delivered to ISIS targets. “For Paris” and “For our people” are phrases that the airmen drew before take-off.

Three days ago, the Russian Minister of the Interior wrote a letter to France offering to give a German shepherd puppy to French police as a sign of “solidarity.” This after a French police dog, Deisel, was killed during the raid that took out Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., we have a president who cannot say "Islamic" and "extremist" in the same sentence.

Clock Kid Ahmed Mohamed Wants $15 Million in Damages

Remember Ahmed Mohamed? Now infamously known as "The Clock Kid" after he was arrested for bringing a clock to school that looked like a bomb. President Obama invited Mohamed to the White House and made good on his promise to meet with him

I wrote about this case and the death of see something, say something, a few weeks back. 

Last week, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was handcuffed by police at his Irving, Texas, high school after a teacher suspected a science project he brought to class — a homemade clock — could have been a bomb. The now famous “suitcase clock” didn’t look like a clock, it looked like a bomb, and therefore a teacher took action to be safe and sure. Thank God the teacher was wrong. Mistakes by school officials and law enforcement officers were made and apologies for supposedly overreacting have been issued.

While Mohamed has been cleared, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the situation that remains.

These days, if you see something and say something, you’re just a paranoid bigot.

Now Ahmed and his family, who have since moved to Qatar, are demanding $15 million in damages payouts from the City of Irving Texas and the local school district where the incident took place. From local Fox 4:

Give us $15 million – or else.

That’s the demand from the family of the world’s most famous clockmaker, Ahmed Mohamed, to the City of Irving and Irving ISD. The city and district were each sent letters on Monday demanding money or else a lawsuit would be filed.

The family wants $10 million from the City of Irving and $5 million from Irving ISD for damages it claims Ahmed and the family suffered after the teen was arrested. The family also wants an apology from the two entities.

As the Fox 4 report notes, a foundation in Qatar has offered to pay for Mohamed's education.

Considering how beneficial this entire ordeal has been for Mohamed, it is unclear how he and his family have a case for demanding a whopping $15 million in damages, which would be paid out with taxpayers funds.

New York Daily News Smears NRA By Claiming Organization Supports Jihadists Buying Guns

This is the front page of the New York Daily News today:

Where to start with this incredible smear job. First of all, there is no such thing as a "terrorist loophole" as the NYDN claims. Second, the NRA doesn't support terrorists purchasing firearms. Third, the legislation the NYDN, Schumer and Bratton are calling for strips due process for hundreds-of-thousands of Americans  who have been deemed "terrorists" and put on the severely flawed terror watch list. Bob Owens has more:

The New York Daily News is continuing their insane attempt to use fears of terrorism to deny nearly a million Americans due process before stripping them of their basic human rights, including 300,000 on watch lists with no ties of any kind to terrorist groups.

Hundreds of thousands of American citizens have been placed on terror watch lists for no reason at all by faceless and unaccountable bureaucrats for arbitrary reasons.

I was added to a watch list in January of 2013 for writing an article, and Cam spoke with a number of other people who’d been added to terrorist watch lists for doing something as innocuous as accidentally using an expired credit card to buy a plane ticket. Another lady was flagged by Homeland Security for hopping among various travel sites trying to find the best deal on a flight to Ireland.

It took the later lady eighteen months to get her name off the list.

Ted Kennedy was on the no-fly list. Many active duty military servicemen are on these lists. One in every 300 Americans is on a terror watch list, for reasons that vary from very good (ties to known terrorist groups) to utterly arbitrary (using a travel web site in a “suspicious manner”).

The Daily Mail call to attack the NRA and rank-and-file Americans is nothing more or less than a totalitarian attempt to undermine the constitutional rights of all Americans.

Who could forget the 2009 report from Homeland Security deeming "right-wing" activists as racist, paranoid terrorists?

"Rightwing extremists are harnessing this historical election as a recruitment tool.  Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use.  Rightwing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them as drivers for recruitment.  From the 2008 election time frame to the present, rightwing extremists have capitalized on related racial and political prejudices in expanded propaganda campaigns, thereby reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers," the report stated.

Last year the Huffington Post ran a lengthy piece about the ways everyday Americans can easily end up on the terror watch list, regardless of whether they actually have ties to terrorism. 

Earlier this week, The Intercept published a 166-page document outlining the government's guidelines for placing people on an expansive network of terror watch lists, including the no-fly list. In their report, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux highlighted the extremely vague and loosely defined criteria developed by 19 federal agencies, supposedly to fight terrorism.

Using these criteria, government officials have secretly characterized an unknown number of individuals as threats or potential threats to national security. In 2013 alone, 468,749 watch-list nominations were submitted to the National Counterterrorism Center. It rejected only 1 percent of the recommendations.

Critics say the system is bloated and imprecise, needlessly sweeping up thousands of people while simultaneously failing to catch legitimate threats, like Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

While some individuals are surely placed on these watch lists for valid reasons, the murky language of the guidelines suggests that innocent people can get caught up in this web, too, and be subjected to the same possible restrictions on travel and other forms of monitoring.

And finally, it's thanks to the NRA that Americans have the ability to defend themselves should ISIS come knocking on their door in cities across the country.

The terrorism watch list is deeply flawed and regularly violates the civil rights of law abiding American citizens. To suggest the NRA, Wayne LaPierre or any other Second Amendment proponent is in favor of terrorists purchasing guns is beyond asinine and disgraceful.