Saturday, July 30, 2016

War

Brothers arrested on suspicion of plotting terror attack in Belgium - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Police arrested two brothers who are suspected of plotting a terror attack in Belgium. According to the BBC, the two men, identified as Nourredine H and Hamza H, were arrested during house searches in the Mons region and the city of Liege. [...] Sky News reports that the French version of the statement indicated that multiple attacks were being planned."

Comment: Score one for the security services! I know that in the U.S. the domestic security services don't often announce it when attacks are foiled but it certainly helps promote public confidence when we can see that they are being successful at stopping attacks. 

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Peace and Security of Jerusalem

Report: U.S., Israel close to largest military deal ever - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The United States and Israel are closing in on a massive military aid agreement that will reportedly become the largest security package the American government has ever struck with any nation. A senior Israeli official is expected to visit Washington next week to finalize negotiations, The Washington Post reported Friday -- and the edict from Tel Aviv is to get the deal done 'as soon as possible.'"

Comment: This is good to see. I know a lot of Americans are against foreign aid in any form whether philanthropic or military, but in my opinion this is money well spent. 

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Pestilence

Local transmission of Zika confirmed in South Florida - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The Florida Department of Health confirmed four cases of Zika virus in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have a "high likelihood" of being locally transmitted. Health officials believe the virus was acquired in a one-mile area of Miami, though no mosquitoes the department has trapped have tested positive for Zika yet, according to a press release."

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

China, Russia announce joint military drills in contested South China Sea - UPI.com
UPI reports: "China and Russia announced they will hold joint naval exercises in the South China Sea, a hotly contested region with a $5 trillion international trade route that has mostly been claimed by China. Yang Yujun of China's Defense Ministry announced the joint drill, which will begin in September. [...] Military operations between the two countries have been held annually since 2012."

Comment: The world's newest flashpoint is becoming more and more crowded with warships. What could possibly go wrong? 

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Pestilence

Florida investigates 2 more cases of Zika virus local transmission - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Florida health officials are investigating two more unexplained cases of Zika infection, bringing to four the number of cases that don't seem to be related to travel to countries where the virus is circulating. This suggests the possibility that local transmission of the mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to severe birth defects has begun, officials said."

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

War - Persecution

Pope Francis says world 'is at war' due to jihadists - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Pope Francis said 'the world is at war' after jihadist attacks have killed dozens and shaken Europe. As he spoke on the plane from Rome to Krakow, Poland, the 79-year-old pontiff reacted to the murder of a Catholic priest by jihadists Tuesday, saying he did not think it was a religious war, but a war over 'interests, money, resources.' Father Jacques Hamel was killed as he led mass in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France. Two armed men entered the church and slit his throat. The attack, which the Islamic State claimed responsibility for, is the latest in a wave that has increased tensions across Europe and hardened anti-Muslim views as refugees from Syria and other parts of the Middle East continue to reach European shores."

Comment: It's brave of the pontiff to admit and declare that the world is at war. Like a politician, he was careful to  say it was not a religious war. Although, to be fair, the IS militants have use the past religious wars in their propaganda, inviting their followers to strike at "Crusaders," so calling it a religious war would play into their narrative. On the other hand, can we at least acknowledge that this is a religious war in that it's Islamic fanatics v. followers of all other religions, whom they call infidels? If your opponent declares a religious war against you, does it matter what you call it?

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Persecution - War

Hollande: French church attacked 'in name of' ISIS - CNN
CNN reports: "One of two suspects in a church attack that left a priest dead in northern France was known to anti-terror authorities after attempting a trip to Syria, a French anti-terrorism prosecutor said Tuesday. [...] Sister Daniele Delafosse said she was able to escape the attack, according to CNN French affiliate BFMTV. Before she fled, she witnessed the perpetrators gather around the church altar and perform some sort of religious oration in Arabic before forcing Hamel to his knees and placing a knife to his neck, she told the station. Police attempted to negotiate through a small side door in the church, but they could not enter the building sooner because of the hostage situation, Molins said. One of the killers wore a fake explosive belt, and the other carried a kitchen timer and fake bomb, he said. They were captured as they exited the church. One of them shouted, 'Allahu Akbar' -- Arabic for 'God is the greatest' -- as they left the church."

Comment: What a horrific attack. This was an attack on France but also an attack on this priest because he was a Catholic priest, a Christian, and the attackers did everything they could to underscore the religious nature of this profane attack. Those who deny the religious motivation of these Islamic State terrorists need only look to this attack to see that they are wrong. 

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Famine

VOA - Nigeria May Be on Brink of Famine
The Voice of America reports: "Nigeria is in need of $164 million in humanitarian funding to prevent thousands of deaths from malnutrition in its war-torn northeast, a United Nations humanitarian coordinator said this week. The ongoing conflict between Nigeria’s military and the Boko Haram insurgency is to blame for the growing hunger crisis in the northeast, humanitarian officials say. The seven-year-old war has disrupted planting and marketplaces, killed more than 20,000 people and forced 2.7 million to flee in Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger."

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Pestilence

Little threat of Zika spread from Rio Olympics - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Travelers and competitors at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil are not likely to contract the Zika virus during their stay or bring it back to their home countries, Yale University experts contend in a new report. Fear of the mosquito-borne virus has led some athletes to skip the games, which start Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro. [...] The Zika virus is frightening because it can cause the brain-related birth defect microcephaly if an expectant mother becomes infected. [...] However, Zika poses little threat to most other people."

Comment: That's good news but it does seem to run counter to the spin from some quarters. I suppose could just thank all the Olympic competitors and travelers for participating in a huge public health experiment. 

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pestilence

Forms of HIV can jump from chimps to humans, study says - UPI.com
UPI reports: "With the recent emergence of Zika virus as a threat to human health, and discovery of two new strains of HIV in 2009, researchers say the threat of animal viruses jumping to humans is not as a big a concern as it should be. Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found simian immunodeficiency viruses, or SIV, often easily move to humans because of quick mutations once they encounter human cells, suggesting the threat animal viruses may pose to humans deserves more attention that it gets."

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Wars & Rumors of War

France sending artillery, aircraft carrier to Iraq to fight Islamic State - UPI.com
UPI reports: "France will loan artillery to Iraqi forces fighting the Islamic state and will station an aircraft carrier in the region, French President Francois Hollande said Friday. The nuclear-powered carrier Charles de Gaulle will return to the region to facilitate airstrikes, but Hollande said no French soldiers will be on the ground to fight IS. [...] The actions come after a terrorist, driving a truck, killed 84 people in Nice, France, on July 14, followed by complaints that the government is not doing enough to protect citizens from terrorism."

Manhunt underway after deadly Munich mall shooting - UPI.com
UPI reports: "German authorities said a lone gunman carried out an apparent terrorist attack Friday afternoon at a retail shopping center in downtown Munich. Gunfire began at the Olympia-Einkaufszentrum mall around 6 p.m. local time Friday. Police were unsure initially how many people were killed and how many were injured, but later said at least nine people had died in the armed assault. [...] Late Friday, police said they believe the attack was carried out by one individual, and that person had committed suicide about a half-mile away from the shooting scene. [...] The Olympia-Einkaufszentrum mall is less than 2 miles from the 1972 Munich Summer Olympic Village, where terrorists kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli athletes in a bloody 20-hour siege that made international headlines and threatened to derail the global sporting event."

Possible North Korean secret nuclear facility discovered, report says - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A U.S. research group said it found early evidence of a secret North Korean facility used for uranium enrichment for nuclear weapons, a discovery that may be critical in any future nuclear negotiations with North Korea. "

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nations in Distress - Gog Alliance

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declares state of emergency - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday declared a state of emergency after the country's failed military coup. Erdogan told the nation the state of emergency would last three months and that 'all the viruses within the armed forces will be cleansed.' The Turkish government under Erdogan has now arrested, fired or suspended a total of more than 50,000 people in its post-coup d'etat attempt crackdown."

Comment: Wow, that's just scary. This guy is a dictator and an ego-maniac for sure. Whether he staged the coup or not, the end result is the same, Turkey is now under an Islamic dictatorship and the trend lines suggest a path toward becoming anti-U.S. and anti-Israel. Forget about EU membership, the question now is, how quickly will the new Axis be officially formed?

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Nations in Distress - Gog Alliance

Turkey suspends 15,000 educators, forces resignation of 1,500 university deans - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Turkey's Ministry of Education has suspended more than 15,000 education staff on accusations of having links to a cleric living in the United States who the Turkish government alleges organized last week's coup d'etat attempt. [...] Turkey's high education board has also forced the resignation of more than 1,500 university deans. Since the coup attempt, Turkey's army, judiciary, security and civil services have been targeted by the administration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. More than 6,000 military personnel have been arrested, including more than two dozen generals awaiting trial; 9,000 police officers have been fired; and 3,000 judges have been suspended."

Comment: The scope of this purge is really quite massive and far in excess of the number of actual soldiers who attempted the coup. It's sad to see that no one in Turkish civil society is standing up for all the people whose lives are being ruined. The people defended their democracy from a coup by taking to the streets but it seems they won't defend it from a dictator.  Do they not care or see what is happening or are they too afraid to act?

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Rumors of War - Kings of the East

North Korea missile practice aiming for South's ports, Pyongyang says - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The three ballistic missiles North Korea fired early Tuesday were target practice for potential strikes against South Korean ports and airfields. [...] The missiles were being tested for possible strikes against ports in the South Korean cities of Pohang, Busan and Gimhae, if preemptive U.S. military reinforcements were to arrive in those areas. Both the United States and South Korea military have clarified if war were to break out on the peninsula U.S. reinforcements would arrive from the U.S. mainland as well as from neighboring Japan."

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Monday, July 18, 2016

King of the North - Gog Alliance

Kremlin watching events on potential energy partner Turkey - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The Russian government views an attempt to undermine the government of its key energy trading partner Turkey as unacceptable, President Vladimir Putin said. [...] Putin said in a statement he was expecting to meet personally with the Turkish president to discuss bilateral affairs. [...] Turkey is a key energy hub given is geographic position between Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. Political ties between Russia and Turkey have soured in recent years, though both sides had reviewed the potential for energy cooperation last year."

Comment: This news report that suggests that the attempted coup in Turkey has set the stage for a renewal in relations between Turkey and Russia. It also helps frame the emerging alliance as primarily economic. Could gas pipelines be the foundation of the future alliance between Russia, Turkey and Iran?

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Pestilence

Latest Zika puzzle: How U.S. patient infected caregiver - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The mysterious Zika virus continues to surprise health scientists. On Monday, U.S. health officials said they were trying to determine how a now-deceased elderly Utah man who had Zika managed to infect a family caregiver. Zika is normally spread by mosquitoes and can also be transmitted sexually. But health officials said neither appears to have played a role in this case."

Comment: Everyone loves a good mystery, I'm sure they will figure it out. Glad the infected caregiver recovered quickly. 

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Nations in Distress

Nearly 3,000 arrested after failed Turkey coup - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Turkish government officials declared an attempted military coup in the country had been put down as nearly 3,000 soldiers were arrested and 265 people, including civilians and coup plotters, were killed. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke publicly Saturday, less than 24 hours after the military coup was squashed, saying the government remained in control after rival factions of the Turkish military attempted to forcibly seize power of government buildings in Ankara and Istanbul. [...] Turkish television reported about 2,745 judges and five High Judiciary Court Board were removed from duty as a result of the failed coup."

Comment: So the coup failed and the purge has begun. Note that not only have soldiers been arrested  (as we might expect) but that also thousands of members of the judiciary have also been punished. That is most unexpected and can only mean that President Erdogan is moving fast not only to punish the coup plotters but to consolidate his own power by removing anyone he considers a threat to his rule. Turkey may be a democracy, but I'm betting Erdogan will find a way to become president-for-life. 

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Nations In Distress

Martial law declared in Turkey after coup attempt - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Civil unrest took hold in the streets of Turkey late Friday after members of the nation's military attempted to forcibly seize power in a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's regime. The coup attempt occurred in the capital, Ankara, and in Istanbul around 10 p.m. local time Friday -- plunging the nation into a chaotic power grab for control of Turkey's government. Hours into the overthrow attempt, both sides claimed the upper hand in the struggle."

Comment: I'm not sure how the media will spin this, but from my perspective, a military coup in Turkey could be a GOOD thing. Let me explain.

As I've noted in past blog posts, the elected government in Turkey is led by a man who is taking Turkey down an Islamist path and he has become increasingly autocratic and authoritarian.  This is noteworthy because modern Turkey was founded as a secular republic even though Turkey is a majority Muslim country. To many observers, President Erdogan has done everything he could to undermine secular institutions (like the free press) and promote Islam.

The military in Turkey, on the other hand, has long considered itself to be the guardian of secular rule and has a history of stepping in from time to time. So, if this is a course correction, a return to the traditional secular character of modern Turkey, this is indeed a good thing.

Let's also consider that President Erdogan has not joined the war against the Islamic State with the enthusiasm that his NATO partners would like and has allowed Turkey's border with Syria to be a porous border for Islamist fighters going to fight for IS in Syria and Iraq and also returning and going into Europe to plot attacks. It's very likely that a military government, even an interim junta, would would be much more assertive in attacking the Islamic State than the Erdogan government.

This is a fluid situation and we should watch carefully as events unfold.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pestilence

Zika outbreak should 'burn out' within 3 years, scientists say - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A team of British experts in disease outbreaks believes that the Zika epidemic afflicting Latin America will end within three years. They based their estimate on modeling using available data on the outbreak, which has so far involved thousands of cases of Zika-linked birth defects, mainly in Brazil."

Comment: Well, that's some good news for a change. 

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

China considers air defense zone after losing South China Sea court ruling - UPI.com
UPI reports: "China says even if its claims to 90 percent of the South China Sea isn't recognized, it still reserves the right to establish an air defense zone. [...]  Tensions could escalate as China refuses to recognize the court decision. About $5 trillion of trade occurs in the South China Sea annually."

Comment: There is still a chance this can all blow over, but given the number of claimants to the various islands and the apparent resolve by China to not let it go, well, things don't look good.  With any luck, this will be the kind of slow burn that takes years, even decades or more before sparking a conflagration.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Covenant with Many

Arab nations seek to block quartet report at UN | Daily Mail Online
The Daily Mail reports: "Arab nations are calling on the UN Security Council not to endorse a report aimed at reviving the Middle East peace process that the Palestinians see as biased in favor of Israel, the Palestinian envoy said Tuesday. The report by the Middle East quartet -- the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States -- calls on Israel to halt settlement expansion and the Palestinians to stop inciting violence. Arab diplomats agreed during a recent meeting to try to block any move by the council to adopt a US-drafted statement backing the long-awaited report's recommendations, Riyad Mansour told reporters."

Comment: So, the Palestinians are seeking to subvert the Quartet, not realizing their allies in France and the EU are probably doing more for their cause than they are.  Since I'm not a fan of the French plan, I'm actually happy about this development.

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Rumors of War - Kings of the East

International court rebukes China's claims in South China Sea - UPI.com
UPI reports: "An international tribunal in the Hague on Tuesday ruled overwhelmingly in favor of the Philippines, saying China has no right to territorial claims in the South China Sea. The court concluded China has no legal basis to claim rights to large swaths of international waters in the region falling within the so-called 'nine-dash line,' the line claimed by China as its territorial sea boundary. [...] The Chinese government declared the ruling 'ill-founded' and said it will ignore it. [...] Several nations have argued over Bejing's claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea – an area roughly the size of Mexico, including areas claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. The Philippines government decided in 2013 to make its case before the Hague. [...] At issue in the dispute is control of vital shipping lanes, fishing and oil exploration rights."

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Monday, July 11, 2016

War

U.S. to deploy 560 additional troops to Iraq in Islamic State fight - UPI.com
UPI reports: "During a visit to Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on Monday said the United States will deploy 560 additional troops to Iraq to assist Iraqi security forces in combating the Islamic State. [...] The number of U.S. troops in Iraq will officially increase to 4,647. Nearly 6,000 troops are deployed when counting U.S. troops there on temporary assignments. The U.S. troops will offer a variety of support to Iraqis such as providing logistics, creating infrastructure and training soldiers."

Comment: It's a good thing that they spelled it out so clearly, not really boots on the ground, no combat role, not in harms way at all. 

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Earthquakes

Scientists predict massive earthquake in Bangladesh - UPI.com
UPI reports: "According to new research, there is tension growing in the fault system created by the two tectonic plates that meet beneath Bangladesh. The tectonic boundary at the world's largest river delta is of the subduction variety, the type of plate boundary that produces Earth's most devastating earthquakes."

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Friday, July 08, 2016

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

North Korea fires missile from submarine, appears to have failed: South Korea - Reuters
Reuters reports: "North Korea fired a ballistic missile from a submarine on Saturday but it appears to have failed soon after launch, South Korea's military said. The launch comes at the end of a week of sharply rising tensions on the peninsula. It is only a day after the U.S. and South Korea pledged to deploy an advanced anti-missile system to counter threats from Pyongyang, and two days after North Korea warned it was planning its toughest response to what it deemed a 'declaration of war' by the United States. That followed Washington's blacklisting of the isolated state's leader Kim Jong Un for alleged human rights abuses."

Comment: China asked the U.S. not to deploy the anti-missile system. It might have been prudent for the U.S. to show regard for China's sensibilities and put the deployment on hold with the understanding that if  Pyongyang engaged in any further provocative acts, the deployment decision would be reconsidered. The U.S. would thus have engendered goodwill among the Chinese leadership (some of whom are not overtly hostile towards the U.S.) and at the same time, guaranteed the eventual deployment of the missile system when the North again conducted a missile launch, as there was little chance young Un would show restraint. Sadly, the opportunity has passed.

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Wickedness Increases

Charging police, Dallas gunman shows tactical skill in ambush | Reuters
Reuters reports: "The gunman in downtown Dallas, wearing light tan pants and a dark tan jacket, crouches behind a trash can next to the pillar of an office building. He stalks his target, who stands behind a pillar just a few feet away, then charges with a rifle. The assailant bobs and weaves - while firing - then circles the pillar and squeezes off rounds into the back of a collapsing body in a dark, short-sleeved uniform. The scene unfolds in a widely circulated video that appears to have captured one killing in Thursday's ambush of Dallas police that left five officers dead, and seven other officers and two civilians wounded. The shooter's maneuvers make clear that the gunman had extensive tactical training, military experts who reviewed the video told Reuters."

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Thursday, July 07, 2016

Rumors of Wars - Kings of the East

Chinese foreign minister calls Philippines case 'farce' - UPI.com
UPI reports: "With a major international court ruling on its South China Sea claims around the corner, Beijing has stepped up its diplomatic outreach and warned the United States against intervention. Beijing's Foreign Minister Wang Yi called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday, advising Washington against any moves that violate China's claimed sovereignty, state-owned Xinhua news agency reported."

China urges U.S., South Korea to stop deployment of missile system - Reuters
Reuters reports: "China's foreign ministry said on Friday it was strongly opposed to the United States deployment of the THAAD missile defense system to South Korea and urged the two countries to put a stop to it."

Comment: Is China signaling that it has "red lines" that other countries need to pay attention to? Or, is this merely the usual give and take of international affairs?

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Wednesday, July 06, 2016

War

Obama: U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan to train forces, fight terrorists - UPI.com
UPI reports: "President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced a slowing in the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan as 8,400 U.S. troops will remain in the country through 2016. There are 9,800 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan and the initial plan was to leave 5,500 there through the end of the year."

Comment: I think this answers the question: how is the war in Afghanistan going?

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Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Pestilence

Rio Olympic Games: 'Super bacteria' discovered in Rio's waters - CNN.com
CNN reports: "A group of Brazilian scientists has detected a drug-resistant bacteria growing off some of Rio de Janeiro's most stunning beaches, in research being published a month before the city hosts the 2016 Olympic Games. [...] The news comes as Rio prepares to host hundreds of thousands of athletes and tourists during next month's Summer Olympics."

Comment: I won't be participating in this public health experiment, I'll be safely watching the games on TV, but hats off to those brave souls volunteering to gamble their health in Rio. 

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Friday, July 01, 2016

War

Islamic State claims responsibility for attack, hostage crisis at Dhaka cafe - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility for Friday's explosive attack on a cafe in Bangladesh that killed two police officers and held dozens of people hostage. The gunmen are believed to have taken at least 20 hostages at the cafe, which is popular with Westerners in the Gulshan diplomatic zone in the capital of Dhaka. The restaurant is said to be popular with expatriates, diplomats and middle-class families."

Eisenhower carrier group strikes Islamic State group from Mediterranean - News - Stripes:
Stars & Stripes reports: "The Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier group has started launching strikes from the Mediterranean against the Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, the military said. [...] The Eisenhower’s involvement in the operation is the latest effort by the U.S.-led coalition to accelerate the campaign and keep the pressure on the militants."

Comment: Another day, another Islamic State attack. Same enemy, different country. However, you may not have heard that the U.S. and coalition allies are striking back in Iraq and Syria. I wonder why the airstrikes don't get the same coverage on cable news? Do they want people to believe their government are doing nothing? 

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