Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering September 11 Amid Growing Terror Threat

Thursday marks the day of the September 11, 2001 attacks in which nearly 3000 Americans were killed. Now thirteen years removed from the tragedy, the world faces growing terror threats, from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and al-Shabaab in Somalia.

In addition, today marks the two year anniversary of the terror attack on the American diplomatic residence in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans died.

As the United States and the world remembers the attacks and violence associated with this day, it is a reminder to us all that freedom and liberty cannot be taken for granted. For as long as freedom exists, there are those who exist who lie in wait to take it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Obama Promises "Relentless Effort" to Rid World of Islamic State

President Obama used a primetime address Wednesday to
explain his strategy to fight the Islamic State. This comes
after the statement at an earlier press conference in which
he said that his administration had no strategy,
a comment he immediately walked back.
Credit: Saul Loeb
President Obama in a primetime address Wednesday vowed to destroy the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL), calling it a "cancer", saying, "If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven."

In the address, the Obama said that 475 service members will be deployed into to Iraq. In addition, Obama tried to allay the fears from many Americans that the US will become involved in a long drawn-out commitment, saying “It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.” Obama also ruled out cooperation with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying that the regime "will never regain legitimacy." Instead, the US will provide additional military aid to the moderate opposition.

Obama said in the address that he has that authority to take action against the Islamic State, but that he welcomes Congressional support for the effort. It has been just over year since the controversy over Obama's call for military action in Syria and the massive Congressional and public push back. His statement affirming his authority to act unilaterally in Iraq and Syria likely is an attempt to avoid similar political conflict.

The President has received increasing calls to further his actions against the IS terrorist group, which has continued its destruction across Syria and Iraq. IS has continued to persecute Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities in the region. The murders of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Soltoff, have only continued to fuel outrage against the group.

The Islamic State is a self-proclaimed caliphate led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (his nom de guerre, his real name is Ibrahim ibn Awwad ibn Ibrahim ibn Ali ibn Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarrai and known by his supporters as Caliph Ibrahim). IS has its roots as al-Qaeda in Iraq, which led the insurgency against American and Iraqi forces during the Iraq War. After the troop surge during the Iraq War, the group was severely immobilized. However, al-Qaeda in Iraq later grew and became the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (or the Levant) and became a major player in the Syrian Civil War against the Assad regime. Their battle victories led to it being the most effective opposition group; however, it is now enemies with the moderate opposition, led by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Kurdish rebels, and with the jihadist group al-Nusrah (al-Qaeda in Syria). It turned its focus to Iraq earlier this year, capturing its second largest city, Mosul, and a large swath of the country.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Apple Unveils iPhone 6

Apple unveiled its new version of the iPhone Tuesday, introducing the iPhone 6 and its newest relative, the iPhone 6 Plus.

The iPhone 6 will have a larger 4.7 inch screen, and the iPhone 6 Plus's is even larger at 5.5 inches. They will both run iOS 8. 64 GB and 128 GB models of both devices will be available. Both models are thinner than the current iPhone model, the 5S.

They will each go on sale on September 19.

Apple's newest iPhone release is widely seen as critical for the company as Apple tries to continue its revenue dominance in the smartphone market. Android-powered competitors now control the majority of the market share, and newer high-end Android smartphones from Samsung, LG, and HTC and high-end Nokia Lumia devices powered by Microsoft's Windows Phone continue to threaten Apple's primarily high-end focused approach.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Story of the Border Crisis

Photo released by conservative website Breitbart shows
crowded conditions at station for detaining illegal immigrants,
many of whom are from Central America.
The tale of the US-Mexican border crisis spans years. Long has it been the goal of countless politicians to secure the border; however, it has not been the achievement of any of them.

Since the mid-2000's effort to secure the border with a fence, the security of the border has been a major driver of US policy, a trend the continues to this day, especially now.

With thousands of illegal immigrant minors crossing the border, the effectiveness of the fence and the validity of the Obama administration's earlier assertions of security at the border are rightly being questioned.

CAB News Online is based in Brownsville, Texas, (and will be for the next month) and is in a unique place to understand the crisis at the border. For years, local news stations have reported of human trafficking and drug smuggling across the Rio Grande with little notice from national new networks.

In a 2013 press conference with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, President Obama said, "Our shared border is more secure than it’s been in years. Illegal immigration attempts into the United States are near their lowest level in decades.”

In 2014, however, border crossings spiked. Many of the illegal immigrants were minors or their parents. With apprehensions climbing higher and higher, the situation at the border developed into a crisis.

The question now posed is this: How secure is border really?

First is the issue of the fence. In many cases, it was built a distance away from the Rio Grande, which forms the border between the US and Mexico. Many illegal immigrant wishing to cross into the US would be able to do so without crossing the fence. It was not until they moved further into the United States that they would encounter the fence.

In addition, the fence's metal is rusty, which makes it easier for any person to climb it and cross over. According to one source, a person working on the fence was able to scale the fence with little difficulty because of the sandpaper-like traction.

It may be easy to conclude the border was never really as secure as the President made it sound; however, one detail of the current border crisis must also be addressed. Many of illegal immigrants were not caught, but instead turned themselves in. With this as the case, it could stand to reason that the border is secure (but without statistics detailing how many illegal immigrants cross into the US without being caught by border patrol, it cannot be known for sure).

Other pieces of evidence seem to contradict this. KRGV, the ABC and CNN affiliate for the Rio Grande Valley, where many of the border crossings occur, reported a story about a teen smuggler who was smuggling illegal immigrants near La Joya, Texas. The incident resulted in the death of two Guatemalans.

In response to the ongoing wave of border crossings, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) ordered the national guard to aid in the search for criminals, such as drug cartel members, crossing the border.

In the wake of this and other incidents, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters, "The border is secure," citing Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM). Republicans criticize him as being out of touch with the situation on the border, saying that while certain border sectors are secure, others are not.

In addition, concerns over immigration loopholes persist. For example, illegal immigrants from Central America are offered certain legal protections not afforded to illegal immigrants who are Mexican nationals. Concerns over immigrants using minors who are not their children (though they claim them to be) in order to avoid deportation have also been expressed.

Regardless of the political aspects of the border crisis, the humanitarian crisis continues. The federal government has through the Border Patrol and other agencies has set up stations to house illegal immigrants. Private groups and charities have also contributed to the effort. Catholic Charities of Dallas has launched a campaign to provide legal representation to unaccompanied minors. Other groups have also provided limited support in caring for those housed at the stations. According to a member of a church group who was helping the government in feeding those detained, the food given to them consisted of bare-boned burritos and other lackluster foods.

In addition, the border crisis has brought the conditions of Central America and the perilous trek through Mexico by immigrants into focus. Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador rank among some of the most dangerous countries in the world. Many immigrants have claimed to be threatened by gangs and other criminal syndicates. Also, many of the immigrants, including minors, have been claimed to be raped on their dangerous journey through across the Mexico-Guatemala border through Mexico. Many immigrants have died on the journey through Mexico and rural South Texas counties.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Israel Launches Ground Invasion of Gaza Strip

Israel began ground operations in the Gaza Strip Thursday in response to Hamas rocket fire. This comes after Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, rejected an Egypt-brokered peace deal with Israel.

Israel has said its ground operations will be limited in nature, and it warned residents in certain areas of the Gaza Strip to evacuate in anticipation of the invasion.

Israeli drones are reported to be used to spy over Gaza as Israeli forces move into the area.

Boeing 777 Shot Down Near Ukraine-Russia Border

Debris from downed Boeing 777
Credit: Reuters: Maxim Zmeyev
A Malaysian Airlines flight with 295 people on it was believed to have been shot down Thursday near the Ukraine-Russia border. According to Ukrainian officials, the debris filed is nine miles long and that no people are believed to have survived.

The Ukrainian military, the Russian military, and the pro-Russian separatists operating in Ukraine have all denied responsibility. Current evidence, however, points to the pro-Russian separatists as possible perpetrators. The militants are known to possess surface-to-air missile capable of taking out a cruising jet liner. One theory currently being floated is that they were targeting a Ukrainian military jet or cargo plane and instead hit the Boeing 777 because of a targeting error.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told American President Barack Obama about the plane crash during a call over US sanction on Russia, according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

Updates as more information is available will follow.

UPDATE 3:19 PM EASTERN TIME 7/17/14:

23 American citizens are believed to have been on the flight. A video has surfaced that likely shows the crash of MH 17 right after impact. No smoke trail in the sky was apparent, making it more likely that a missile may have hit the plane, rendering unable to fly, causing it to crash and its fuel to explode into a fireball, utterly destroying the fuselage.

UPDATE 5:29 PM EASTERN TIME 7/18/14:

So far only one American has been confirmed to have been on the flight, Quinn Lucas Schansman. The death toll has been updated to 298 with three more passengers reported.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Amidst Obama Administration Woes, Republican Candidates May Be Stumbling

Since the bungles of the 2012 elections involving many of its nominees, the Republican Party has been working hard to put electable candidates in competitive races across the county, especially in senate races. Though the GOP has managed to avoid the faux pas such as those of Todd Akin and Richard Murdock this election cycle, recent developments may be hurting the GOP's chances of making big gains in the upcoming midterm elections.

For example, Iowa GOP Senate candidate Joni Ernst is trying to walk back comments made back in January about impeaching President Obama. Ernst was critical of certain recess appointments Obama had made, which were later ruled by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutionally appointed. In addition, Ernst had said that the President has "become a dictator," referring what she called an overreach of his executive power.
GOP Senate candidate Joni Ernst's calls for Obama's impeachment
have led to criticism both of her campaign and the GOP
in general.

Trying to quell the controversy, her campaign spokeswoman said, "If any president oversteps their bounds, there are procedures in place for Congress and the American people to hold him or her accountable. Impeachment is a strong word and should not be thrown around lightly.”

Ernst has not been the only prominent Republican to throw around the idea of impeachment. Former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin is now actively calling for Obama's impeachment. She also criticized Speaker of the House John Boehner's lawsuit against Obama over hi executive powers. When confronted with Palin's comments at a press conference, Boehner appeared visibly agitated and responded to her comments with only two words: "I disagree."

The GOP leadership has avoided nearly all impeachment talk, hoping to avoid a situation like the last time the party tried to impeach a President. When House Republicans impeached President Bill Clinton in 1998, the GOP's brand suffered while Clinton came out more popular.

Besides impeachment talk, Democrats are using women' issues in their campaign tactics in hopes of turning out their base in November. In the wake of the "Hobby Lobby ruling," in which the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that certain "closely-held" corporations could not be forced to provide insurance coverage for contraception that runs counter to their religious or moral beliefs, many Democratic leaders have cried foul, saying that reproductive rights are under siege. Many prominent Democrats have went so far as to imply that the court's ruling will lead to employers taking away the freedom of women to use contraception. Most Republicans disagree with that characterization; however, many Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, continue to hammer Republicans for not, in their view, doing enough to preserve reproductive rights. The same tactic was used in 2012 against Republicans.

Former Missouri Representative and then-Senate candidate Todd Akin added fuel to the fire in 2012 with his comments on rape and pregnancy, in which he used the term "legitimate rape." Akin has recently recanted his apology for the comments, which was given in the wake of political pressure following his initial comments.

Other controversies exist with other GOP candidates. Chris McDaniel, who narrowly lost the Mississippi GOP Senate runoff to longtime incumbent Thad Cochran, has continued to challenge the results, saying that many of the votes for Cochran were cast illegally. National GOP leaders were worried about a McDaniel candidacy. Besides their obvious affinity for the incumbent Cochran, national and Mississippi Republican officials were concerned that McDaniel's dislike for bipartisanship (revealed in his fiery non-concession speech) and his controversial remarks on his former radio show may cause problems for other Republican candidates nationwide. That tactic was used by Democrats in the wake of the Todd Akin controversy, in which the party attempted to tie the Romney/Ryan ticket with Akin with the faux campaign motto "Romney/Ryan/Akin."

Even in the wake of these controversies, the GOP is strongly favored to keep control of the House and is in a good position in its attempt to take control of the Senate. With the Obama administration's record low disapproval ratings and a string of controversies ranging from the border crisis, the VA scandal, and the situation in Iraq, the Democratic Party is by no means in a good position for the midterm elections. However, if more Republican candidates continue to make controversial statements, the results of 2012 may be another reality, not just a memory.