Archive for January 5, 2014
JERUSALEM, Israel | DMN — Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States will help the Iraqi government in its battle against al Qaeda-linked fighters in western Iraq, but stressed it won’t send troops. Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem on Sunday during his visit to the Middle East, Kerry said the United States is not contemplating a return to the volatile nation. U.S. military forces, which invaded Iraq and toppled the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, fought insurgents there for years until they withdrew at the end of 2011. “We are not, obviously, contemplating returning. We’re not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight, but we’re going to help them in their fight,” Kerry said, noting that the United States plans to be in “close contact with all of the Iraq political leaders” to determine how to help them.
“We going to do everything that is possible to help them, and I will not go into the details except to say that we’re in contact with tribal leaders from Anbar province whom we know who are showing great courage in standing up against this as they reject terrorist groups from their cities. And this is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis. That is exactly what the President and the world decided some time ago when we left Iraq.” Fighting in the predominantly Sunni Anbar province in recent days has posed a serious challenge to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his Shiite-dominated government, raising questions about his ability to hold the country together amid a rising insurgency. Conflicting reports have the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), formerly the group commonly known as al Qaeda in Iraq, in partial control of Falluja, the site of some of the bloodiest fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents during the Iraq War.
This weekend, the government claimed, the Iraqi army shelled the Anbar city of Falluja in an effort to clear out al Qaeda-linked fighters amid dueling claims by the terror group and government forces about just who was in control of the flashpoint town. But the conflict in Anbar is not black and white — al Qaeda vs. pro-government troops — according to local officials, political analysts and tribal leaders in Falluja and Ramadi. They say al-Maliki is spinning the strife to his political advantage. These sources say al-Maliki is trying to cite al Qaeda as a pretext to crush Sunni protesters and is using the same tack to get international support for his fight. They say he’s trying to create the false impression that ISIS fighters control much of Falluja. ISIS has been working doggedly to exploit a security vacuum across Iraq.
While there are pockets of al Qaeda-linked militants in Anbar cities such as Falluja, most regions in Anbar, including Falluja, are under the control of local police and Sunni tribes not aligned with militants, they explained. Fighting also has raged between these local tribes and the Iraqi army in Falluja. Violence has flared in recent days because of the arrest of a Sunni lawmaker in Ramadi and the dismantling of protest sites by the army in Falluja and Ramadi. Most Sunnis in Anbar have simply been angry at being regarded as second-class citizens in the majority Shiite country. They have been upset with the local and central government authorities, and these grievances have spurred an ongoing uprising against the Shiite-led government.
Things are a bit more stable in Ramadi, Anbar’s capital because the local government struck a deal with tribes to fight against ISIS. Al-Maliki is more supportive of local government in Ramadi than Falluja, according to these sources. Soldiers have not been stationed inside Anbar cities for nearly a year. Now, al-Maliki is trying to bring the soldiers back, a move prompting Sunni resistance. The deal the government made with some Sunni tribal fighters was comparable to a 2007 U.S. pact that saw Sunnis turn on al Qaeda, siding with American and Iraqi forces to bring about an end to the terrorism. The fighting between Sunni militants against Shiite-dominated forces was reminiscent of fighting during the height of the Iraq War in 2006 and 2007, when sectarian violence nearly tore the country apart. The analysts who spoke to CNN said that Shiites have more to fear in the conflict with Sunnis because they risk losing its newfound and widespread power after decades of domination by a large Sunni regime led by Saddam.
As for Kerry, he said the U.S. government is concerned that al Qaeda and ISIS “are trying to assert their authority not just in Iraq but in Syria.” “These are the most dangerous players in that region. Their barbarism against the civilians of Ramadi and Falluja and against Iraqi security forces is on display for everybody in the world to see. Their brutality is something we have seen before. And we will stand with the government of Iraq and with others who will push back against their efforts to destabilize and to bring back, to wreak havoc on the region and on the democratic process that is taking hold in Iraq.” Kerry called the fight against the militants “bigger than just Iraq” and the United States has an “interest” in helping an elected government “push back against the terrorists.”
“The fighting in Syria is part of what is unleashing this instability in the rest of the region. That’s why everybody has a stake. All of the Gulf states, all of the regional actors — Russia, the United States, and a lot of players elsewhere in the world — have a stake in pushing back against violent extremist terrorists who respect no law, who have no goal other than to take over power and disrupt lives by force. Violence raged in the capital of Baghdad on Sunday. Three car bombs and two roadside bombs exploded in several areas, killing at least 18 people and wounding dozens.
ASPEN, Colorado | DMN — A small plane crashed while trying to land at the Aspen, Colorado, airport Sunday afternoon, according to the FAA and local officials. The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said that one passenger died and two passengers were taken to a local hospital. The jet, according to FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer, was a Bombardier Challenger 600 that was coming from Tucson, Arizona. Photos posted on Twitter showed the plane upside down on the tarmac, its fuselage charred.
Two celebrities, who were at the small airport in the Aspen ski resort area, posted Twitter messages saying they witnessed the crash. “So sad! Horrible plane crash we just saw happen at the Aspen airport,” singer LeAnn Rimes tweeted. Comedian Kevin Nealon tweeted: “Horrible plane crash here at Aspen airport. Exploded into flames as it was landing. I think it was a private jet. Fire truck and ambulances were on the scene within minutes.”
Weather conditions at the time of the crash, according to the National Weather Service in Boulder, had west winds of 10 to 20 mph and gusts of around 30 mph, with temperatures from zero to minus-10 degrees. The Aspen airport is known as a challenging place for pilots to land because of the mountains that surround the runway. The airport tarmac is often filled with private planes owned or chartered by the wealthy and famous who own vacation homes in the mountain resort community. “Airport is closed now,” Nealon tweeted. “I think I’ll drive back to LA after seeing that.”
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana | DMN — Wet, heavy snow across Indiana is causing widespread power outages this afternoon. Officials reminded residents to stay away from any downed power lines they encounter. The lines could contain live power and cause fatal injuries. As of 3:25PM this afternoon, 26,611 Indianapolis Power and Light customers were without power.
IPL had extra crews working today to restore power and planned to have extra manpower through Thursday, said IPL spokeswoman Katie Bunton. Besides limbs falling on power lines, cold temperatures can also cause utility equipment to fail, Bunton said. Customers of IPL can report outages or downed power lines by calling (317) 261-8111, (317) 261.8222 or toll-free at (888) 261-8222. At 2:30 p.m., 8,122 customers of Duke Energy across the state were without power – including 1,865 customers in Hendricks County and 214 in Hamilton.
Utility officials offer several tips for instances in which your power goes out:
Here are excerpts from Duke Energy’s web site:
“If you see downed power lines, assume they are dangerous and stay away!”
“If your power goes out, check to see if your neighbors have power. If your home is the only one without power, check your circuit breakers or fuses to determine if the outage is a result of a household problem. Do not assume we automatically know about your outage. Please contact us immediately.”
Duke Energy’s toll-free number: 1-800-343-3525
“If you anticipate an extended outage, consider moving yourself and your family — especially those with special needs — to an alternate location.”
“Turn off lights and as many appliances and electronics as possible – including heating or air conditioning systems. You will help prevent circuit overload situations when your power is restored. You will also reduce the potential for damage to sensitive equipment such as computers, microwave ovens, televisions and recording devices.”
“To help you prepare in case you face a power outage, we suggest you assemble an emergency kit.”
“Consider including the items below:”
• A flashlight with extra batteries (placed where you can find it in the dark)
• A battery-powered radio and fresh batteries
• Canned foods that require no cooking
• A manual can opener
• First aid supplies
• Extra fuses
• A battery-powered or wind-up clock
“Help protect your food during a power outage by keeping your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. Your refrigerator should keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer should hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours if the door stays closed (about 24 hours if it is half full). Make sure you have items on hand that do not require refrigeration and can be eaten cold or heated on an outdoor grill.”
There is a lesson in the latest cable news debacle. Stop saying stupid things. Think before you speak and above all else…show some respect. Mitt Romney took a conciliatory tone Sunday when asked about an MSNBC panel mocking a family holiday card that showed him holding his adopted black grandchild, saying it is time to move on. “People make mistakes and the folks at MSNBC made a big mistake and they apologized for it,” Romney said Sunday in an interview on Fox News Sunday. “They apologized for it. That’s all we can ask for.”
A day earlier, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry made a tearful apology to the former Republican presidential candidate and his family after she and a panel poked fun at a photo of Romney with his wife and 21 grandchildren by zeroing in on his adopted African-American grandson. “Whatever the intent was, the reality is that the segment proceeded in a way that was offensive, and showing the photo in that context, of that segment, was poor judgment. So without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family,” said the anchor at the open of her show, “Melissa Harris-Perry.” Harris-Perry became emotional as she went on to apologize to all “other families formed through transracial adoption,” saying, “I am deeply sorry that we suggested that interracial families are in any way funny or deserving of ridicule.”
She highlighted her own interracial background, as the daughter of an African-American man and a white Mormon woman. But, she said, families are always “off limits,” and the Romneys’ grandchildren should never have been a topic of discussion. “Adults who enter into public life implicitly consent to having less privacy. But their families, and especially their children, should not be treated callously or thoughtlessly. My intention was not malicious, but I broke the ground rule that families are off limits, and for that I am sorry,” she said. Harris-Perry first apologized on Twitter and MSNBC’s website Tuesday, offering a similar mea culpa “without reservation or qualification.”
Last week, Harris-Perry and panelists on her show made jokes at the expense of the Romney family. Perry asked her guests to come up with a caption for the Romney family photo, prompting actress Pia Glenn to sing “one of these things is not like the others” and comedian Dean Obeidallah to remark the picture “sums up the diversity of the Republican Party.” Obeidallah appears frequently on CNN and writes a regular opinion column for CNN.com. Harris-Perry, for her part, described the baby as “gorgeous” and joked that in 2014 he would marry North West, the daughter of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. “Can you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws,” she said.
Romney, the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2012, said his stature makes him a frequent target of attacks, but added that the barbs directed at his family crossed the line. “People like me are fair targets. If you get in the political game, you can expect incoming,” Romney said. “For children, that’s beyond the line. I think they understand that and feel that, as well. “I think it’s a heartfelt apology, and I think for that reason we hold no ill will whatsoever,” he said.
My message is this. If you want me to respect your political debates…keep it about politics or policy but these personal attacks, whether they be on President Obama, Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney are beyond disrespectful…they are beneath all of us.