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The propaganda war Obama is losing

President Barack Obama is pictured. | AP Photo

The propaganda war Obama is losing


As President Barack Obama prepares to unveil his strategy for turning back ISIL’s gains in Syria and Iraq, the headlines will most likely focus on expanding U.S. airstrikes and challenges of defeating the group without involving American troops.

But one potentially critical part of the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant also seems poised for a big new push: working to keep foreign fighters — including Americans — from joining the group in the first place.

Officials and outside experts say an essential part of fighting ISIL, Al Qaeda and similar groups is undercutting their propaganda on social media and elsewhere, while identifying and dissuading Americans and foreigners who might be considering travel to join up with such groups or — even worse — trying to emulate them at home.
Ray Rice Video: what it looks like when a man beats up a woman.
The Problem Beyond Ray Rice

The Problem Beyond Ray Rice

Jason Gay

The NFL's initial handling of the Ray Rice domestic-violence case was a failure, but when the league kicked off its season this past weekend, an eager nation fell in line.

The NFL kicked off its season this past weekend, and as the ritual goes, an eager nation fell in line. There are reasons to feel uncomfortable about the modern American pastime—football at every level continues to have alarming worries with regard to long-term player health; the college system is a colossus of hypocrisy; the NFL's meek handling of the Ray Rice domestic-violence case was already a failure, by its own admission. But each year, as if on cue, a loyal audience considers, compartmentalizes and submits—myself included. By late Sunday afternoon, the country was amid a merry fever of football mania. Who wins? Who loses? How's the fantasy team doing? Any trace of moral queasiness had evaporated. The NFL was back. Fantastic.

Cold reality came rushing back early Monday morning. The website TMZ published what it said was a surveillance video of Rice, a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, striking his now-wife Janay Palmer inside an elevator at an Atlantic City casino. The violence captured in the video was brutal, and it immediately reignited an outrage over the NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell's decision this summer to suspend Rice for a meager two games. And it was outrageous—not only the attack caught on videotape, but the initial reaction of the NFL and the Ravens and of course the criminal-justice system in the first place. Institutional failure was abundant, and the message to victims of domestic violence was appalling.

A few hours later, the NFL came forward to announce that no one in its office had seen this videotape before Monday. Never mind that the NFL and its teams, burned before, now pride themselves—to the point of crowing—about the phalanx of former law-enforcement officials capable of digging up unsavory information on any potential prospect or signee. It makes its business to know.

Now we know. Now everybody knows. But honestly, what was there to know? It's ghastly to think there was already another videotape in existence, one reported to depict Rice dragging Palmer out of an elevator, and that alone wasn't enough to merit a more severe punishment. Rice's punishment was mild compared with the hammer the league has dropped for repeated recreational drug use, a contradiction it defended behind the shield of its collectively bargained protocol. Meanwhile, the Ravens seemed to reposition the public's anger as an "Us vs. the World" rally, vigorously defending Rice as a good man misunderstood, and trumpeting the ovation he received before a preseason training-camp practice.

Russia threatens to shut its skies to the West

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, right, at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow . Russia threatens to shut its skies to the West

Russia threatens to shut its skies to the West

By Tom Parfitt in Moscow, Roland Oliphant in Mariupol and David Millward 

Prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said his country would have to respond "asymmetrically" to news that European leaders are planning a wave of fresh sanctions.

Hundreds of flights to Asia every week from Britain and other European countries face disruption following a threat by Russia to close its airspace to Western carriers in response to new European Union sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

The move, which would increase costs for passengers by forcing airlines to revert to more circuitous routes used during the Cold War, was signalled by Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's prime minister, as the EU prepared to publish a detailed list of companies and individuals to face restrictions on their dealings with Europe.

Mr Medvedev told the Vedomosti newspaper: "I hoped that our partners would be smarter. If there are sanctions related to energy, or further limits for our financial sector, we will have to respond asymmetrically.

"We proceed from the fact that we have friendly relations with our partners and that is why the sky over Russia is open for flights. But if they put limits on us we will have to respond."

Maybe Latinos should sit out 2014

Barack Obama is shown. | AP Photo

Maybe Latinos should sit out 2014


Obama Broke His Promise to Latinos. Why are we still supporting him?

When Barack Obama and I last sat down in 2006, I refused to shake his hand. Today, I still won’t. His announcement last weekend that he would delay executive action on immigration is his fifth broken promise to Latinos on this all-important issue for our community. He has been blind to the pain of the 1,100 deportations our communities face every day and the anguish our families feel as they are swung back and forth as political pawns.

The question for us Latinos — especially the nearly 24 million of us eligible to vote — is, what to do about this? How can we ensure that the fastest-growing demographic in the country isn’t taken for granted by Democrats who purport to be our allies but often dash our hopes in the face of the least bit of political pressure? There are no obvious or even satisfactory answers, but one thing is clear: We’ve been slapped in the face one too many times by this president. And it probably won’t be the last: Obama has a long record of betraying Latinos — and it predates his days in the White House. I’ve seen it up close.

The U.S. is right to set out to destroy the Islamic State

The U.S. is right to set out to destroy the Islamic State

PRESIDENT OBAMA and top aides are now employing the “D” word — “destroy” — to describe U.S. objectives regarding the fanatical Middle Eastern force known as the Islamic State. Already, the group has seized far more of Iraq and Syria than is compatible with the safety and human rights of the people living there, and its sights are set on further destabilization in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kurdistan, as well as terror attacks in Europe and, if it’s capable of them, the United States. The two Americans butchered by the Islamic State will not be the last if the group’s leaders have their way. This murderous terrorist army, whose scarily effective global recruitment matches its global ambitions, can be neither contained nor “managed,” as the president implied in some of his more hesitant previous comments.

We are glad that the president has come around to a more sober view. But if he is truly committed to the group’s defeat, certain things must follow from that determination. First, the objective — victory — must determine the strategy, tactics and schedule. Heretofore, Mr. Obama has had an unfortunate tendency to do things the other way round: to view military conflict as something to be carried out according to a schedule, whereby U.S. forces must be withdrawn on a particular date, whether their goals were lastingly achieved or not. He has described his country as tired of war, and, in multiple instances, ruled out certain means — ground forces especially — before anyone has even asked for them. He wishfully mused that the tide of war had “receded.” Now, if Mr. Obama believes that the destruction of the Islamic State is essential to U.S. security, he must commit to that goal and fashion whatever strategy is necessary to achieve it.

Bill Clinton and George Bush pal up

Bill Clinton and George Bush pal up

Now it can be told: Bill Clinton was a secret advisor to George W. Bush.

“He used to call me twice a year in his second term, just to talk,” the 42nd president disclosed Monday, with the 43rd president at his side. The two would talk “somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes, for several years,” Clinton continued. “Never talked about it in public. We talked about everything in the wide world. He asked my opinion.”

The prevailing opinion expressed by the two men at their joint appearance at the Newseum was that they really, really like each other. These representatives of America’s rival political dynasties spent years blaming each other’s leadership for the nation’s ills, but now they have come together to profess mutual, and longstanding, admiration.

Josh Bolten, the former Bush White House chief of staff who moderated the event, instructed each to say what he liked about the other’s leadership.

Clinton, up first, went on at characteristic length about Bush’s partnership with Ted Kennedy, his knack for being underestimated and his courageous determination to do “what he thought was right” regardless of the politics. Clinton said he “learned a lot” from Bush and watched his “clarity and decisiveness with great admiration.” He even defended Bush for his famous assertion that he doesn’t “do nuance.”

After 3 ½ minutes, it was Bush’s turn. “There’s a lot to admire about Bill Clinton,” he began. “I think first of all, he’s an awesome communicator.” Bush tried to stretch his answer out (“you, too, have got great empathy…you, too, made tough decisions”) but ran out of steam after about 90 seconds. “And so, um, yeah – Is that enough?” he asked. “That was a lot shorter than your answer.”

“You don’t do nuance,” Clinton reminded him.

The two men were true to type: Clinton was meandering, while Bush’s answers were simple (asked to comment on Lyndon Johnson, Bush remarked that “he was a big guy.”) But the old foes seemed to be enjoying their banter. If they don’t genuinely like each other, they fake it well. “George” and “Bill,” as they called each other, wore matching blue ties and crossed their legs in identical fashion, shared manly handshakes and occasionally put a hand on each other’s arm as they performed their routine.

Does Obama Remember He's President?


Does Obama Remember He's President?

More and more, Obama seems like a passive observer of events who dismisses criticism as superficial. Not a good combination.

“But part of this job is also the theater of it. A part of it is, you know, how are you, how, how are you, well, it's not something that—that always comes naturally to me.” —President Barack Obama on Meet The Press, Sunday

Some presidents might have garnered a bit of sympathy and understanding with claims that the “theater” of the office doesn’t come naturally to them. Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson, maybe even Richard Nixon, who was so much the anti-natural he hired PR professionals to run his White House. But Barack Obama?

This is the Obama who as a candidate spoke before 200,000 at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate? Der Spiegel headlined that speech with: “People of the World, Look at Me.” The same candidate who gave his acceptance speech outdoors in Denver surrounded by columns, mocked for their resemblance to ancient Greek temples, which is, ironically enough, where the Greeks performed the new art form of dramatic theater they were creating.

Why is this pretense necessary? Obama wrote two autobiographies by the age of 40 and is well aware of the role that his mastery of political theater has played in his rapid ascension to the White House. As Valerie Jarrett said of Senate candidate Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention: “It changed his life.”

The “I’m not good at theater” is a calculated, if awkward, attempt to dismiss criticism as superficial and worthy of, well, theater critics, not serious thinkers. It’s fundamentally condescending, but like a lot of ill-considered defenses, it only reinforces the heart of the criticism. The charge is being disconnected and out of touch, and to dismiss it with a retort that even supporters will find inadequate seems….disconnected and out of touch.

U.S. Air Force: Swear to God—or Get Out


U.S. Air Force: Swear to God—or Get Out

In a new, unexplained shift, the Air Force is compelling its troops to use the phrase ‘so help me God’ in their oaths or be discharged.

For years, allegations of religious intolerance have swirled around the U.S. Air Force, with officers accused both of pushing evangelical Christianity on the troops—and of hampering Christians’ practice.

Now, a new case threatens to reignite the firestorm. The Air Force has allegedly refused to allow a service member to reenlist, because he refused to use the phrase “so help me God” in his oath, the American Humanist Association asserts.

According to the group, which has come to the defense of the unnamed airman—as Air Force troops are known—commanders told the service member on Aug. 25 that he must use the religious language in his reenlistment contract or leave the military.

Ravens Cut Rice as Video of Punch Emerges

Ray Rice at a news conference with his wife, Janay, in May. Rice was initially suspended for two games by the N.F.L. before the Ravens terminated his contract.

Credit Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Ravens Cut Rice as Video of Punch Emerges


The Baltimore Ravens terminated Ray Rice’s contract and the N.F.L. suspended him indefinitely on Monday after a video, posted by TMZ, showed him punching Janay Palmer in February.

The Baltimore Ravens terminated running back Ray Rice’s contract Monday after a graphic video emerged of him punching his former fiancée, who is now his wife, in a hotel elevator in Atlantic City in February. The video raised fresh questions about N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of the situation; in July, the N.F.L. suspended Rice for two games.

The team, which had not previously disciplined Rice in any public way, announced Rice’s release on its Twitter account Monday afternoon. Shortly afterward, Goodell announced that Rice had been suspended from the N.F.L. indefinitely.

TMZ published the video Monday on its website. It showed Rice and Janay Palmer, in an elevator, where Rice punched her. He then dragged her unconscious body from the elevator.

Immigration Reform? Not Until Hillary

Obama’s retreat on immigration was an unforced error, but we probably won’t see real reform until the 2020s anyway.

The only thing about the Obama White House’s weekend decision to delay any action on immigration that surprised me was why the president had earlier promised to act before the election in the first place. He made the vow on June 30, and I remember thinking at the time how strange it seemed.

Why? Simple electoral politics. You need to spend literally no more than 40 seconds looking at a map of the pivotal Senate races to see that, to be perfectly blunt about it, the Latino vote just isn’t a factor. Democrats are defending seats in the following states: North Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alaska on the first tier; Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Colorado on the second. Only in Colorado is the Latino vote sizeable. In the other seven states, especially the first four, Democrats are running in red states where they need to win a lot more white votes than Democrats usually do these days. And the same is true in the states where Democrats hope they might steal a Republican Senate seat—Georgia, Kentucky, and I suppose now we at least theoretically add Kansas (technically it’s an independent, not a Democrat, who stands a chance of unseating the GOP incumbent). These jurisdictions are not the Bronx, to put it mildly.

There are a few House districts where it might matter. Read this very interesting blog post from David Damore at Latino Decisions about how the Latino vote will figure into some House races, for example in the first and second districts of Arizona, where pro-immigration Democrats are defending their seats against well-financed, anti-immigration Republicans. But overall, Damore argues that Democrats’ poor candidate-recruitment efforts in GOP-held House districts with reasonably large Latino populations mean that a number of Republicans who could have faced decent challenges are getting a pass.

So if it’s just not a year when the Latino vote is going to be pivotal, why did Obama say what he said in June? It seemed and seems like an unforced error to me, like not anticipating that Bowe Bergdahl and his father were going to pop the Breitbart meter. Sometimes the political people at the White House just appear to be asleep. I suppose we have to allow for the possibility that he wanted to do the right thing. But to get the right thing done in politics, you have to do it at the right time. I kind of hate this category of overworked Obama-LBJ comparisons, but when Johnson became president, he didn’t charge right into civil rights. The first big bill he passed? A tax cut. Loosen ’em up, give ’em an easy vote, throw a little bouquet to the right, then go in for the liberal kill.

LBJ's Mad Men

LBJ's Mad Men


ifty years ago—on the night of Monday, Sept. 7, 1964—an innocent little girl plucking flower petals in a sun-splashed field helped usher in a revolution in American political advertising. The 60-second television spot that featured her disjointed counting exploded, literally and figuratively, all notions of what it meant to effectively persuade voters with paid political advertising.

The little girl counted as she plucked flower petals. Unseen birds chirped happily. As her counting ended, viewers suddenly heard a mission control announcer begin a countdown. As he neared zero, the girl’s image froze as the camera zoomed into her right eye until her pupil filled the screen and was replaced by a nuclear blast and mushroom cloud. As the apocalyptic scene unfolded, President Lyndon Johnson’s reedy drawl entered the spot, ending with the admonition, “we must either love each other or we must die.”

The so-called “Daisy Girl” spot created by Johnson’s New York advertising firm aired only once as a paid commercial during the 1964 presidential campaign. An estimated 50 million voters saw it during NBC’s “Monday Night at the Movies”—the film was “David and Bathsheba.” Another 50 million or more saw it again, or for the first time, later that week when the three television networks aired the unique, powerful spot in their newscasts.

The spot, which was created by the ad firm Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), was actually called “Peace, Little Girl,” but its message was anything but peaceful. It was a fierce assault on Johnson’s Republican opponent, Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona. It was as clever and creative as any attack ad ever produced in American politics. Its images were arresting and unexpected and its message—Johnson was a man of peace, Goldwater would destroy the world—was abundantly clear.

Without showing his image or even speaking his name, DDB masterfully evoked the widespread fears about a potential Goldwater presidency. The Republican candidate’s remarkable absence was the essence of its brilliance, and the reason it and the other DDB spots that followed transformed political advertising: These spots had such a powerful impact not for what they said, but what did not require words at all.

NBA owner to sell Atlanta Hawks after racist email emerges

NBA owner to sell Atlanta Hawks after racist email emerges

Complained about too many black cheerleaders and white fans 'being scared away'

 By Associated Press

Less than one month after the Clippers' sale ended Donald Sterling's ugly downfall, another NBA team is on the market following a racially charged disclosure from its owner. Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson said Sunday he is selling his controlling interest in the team, thanks in part to an inflammatory email he wrote two years ago. Levenson said he wrote the email in an attempt 'to bridge Atlanta's racial sports divide.' Instead, he offered his divisive comments, including his theory that Hawks black fans kept white fans away.

Levenson said he regrets the email sent to the team's co-owners and general manager Danny Ferry in 2012 as 'inappropriate and offensive.' In a statement released by the team, Levenson said he sent the email due to his concerns about low attendance and a need to attract suburban whites. He says he later realized the email made it seem white fans were more important. He voluntarily reported the email to the NBA.

'I have said repeatedly that the NBA should have zero tolerance for racism, and I strongly believe that to be true,' Levenson said in the statement. 'That is why I voluntarily reported my inappropriate email to the NBA.

'After much long and difficult contemplation, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the team, the Atlanta community, and the NBA to sell my controlling interest in the Hawks franchise.'

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Sunday the league will work with the Hawks' ownership group and CEO Steve Koonin, who now will oversee all team operations.

In the email sent in August 2012, Levenson said 'southern whites' were uncomfortable at games.

'My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base,' Levenson said in the email released Sunday by the Hawks.

'Please don't get me wrong. There was nothing threatening going on in the arena back then. I never felt uncomfortable, but I think southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority.'

Levenson said Hawks crowds were 70 percent black, the team's cheerleaders were black and hip-hop music was played.

Obama's dilemma is America's appetite for power but aversion to political risk

obama nato hand

Obama's dilemma is America's appetite for power but aversion to political risk

Gary Younge

Americans want him to 'do something' about catastrophes abroad while withdrawing from the role of world policeman

In 1964, then-former US secretary of state and foreign policy adviser Dean Acheson elaborated a plan for the partition of Cyprus which proved unpalatable to all concerned parties. During a visit to Washington, the Greek prime minister and president Lyndon Johnson locked horns over the issue. Shortly afterwards, when the Greek ambassador explained the plan’s shortcomings, Johnson exploded:

"Fuck your parliament and your constitution ... We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks, Mr Ambassador. If your prime minister gives me talk about democracy, parliament and constitution, he, his parliament and his constitution may not last long"

By 1967, Greece was under a brutal military junta backed by the US from which it did not emerge for seven years.

With a few notable exceptions, the performance of US foreign policy, both in public and private, has long been an unsubtle blend of carrots, sticks and presidential swagger. Impulse and ultimatum are privileged over reflection and negotiation. In Berlin in 1987, Ronald Reagan called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall”. Almost 20 years later George W Bush was caught on an open mic, laying out his plan to halt to the strife in Lebanon: “See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.” It was high time, he thought, for UN secretary general Kofi Annan to get onto the phone with Syrian president Bashar Assad and “make something happen”.

In a summer that has seen their countrymen publicly beheaded and passenger planes shot out of the sky by rebels as war raged in Gaza, Ukraine, Iraq and Syria, Americans look to their commander-in-chief and expect him to “make something happen”.

Obama’s apparent inability to make anything happen on the international stage is unnerving many. Big things keep taking place to which he appears to offer only incremental responses within a strategic void. Asked late last month what his plans were for dealing with Islamic militants (Isis) rampaging through Syria and Iraq he said, “We don’t have a strategy yet.” As he left the Nato summit in Newport last week, Obama announced a nine-nation coalition that would “push them back”, “systemically degrade their capabilities”, “narrow their scope of action” and “take out their leadership”. To some it sounded less like a battle plan to assert American power than a Powerpoint demonstration illustrating his pusillanimity.

Ray Rice assault: new video released

Ray Rice assault: new video released

Jessica Glenza in New York

Ray Rice, Janay Rice

Baltimore Ravens running back was banned for two games but observers now ask whether NFL knew of full casino CCTV video

With one swift punch to the face, delivered in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino in February, the Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked out his fiancée. He stood over her limp body.

When the doors opened he dragged Janay Palmer, who was unconscious, out of the elevator by her underarms, before dropping her face down, her dress up and her feet still in the elevator. As he stepped over her, Rice knocked into her sides with his feet. For almost two minutes, a security guard hovered over Palmer, Rice a few steps further away, as she slowly regained consciousness.

Now, observers are asking how much the NFL knew about the incident, and when it knew it.

The new video was released on Monday by the celebrity news site TMZ, the same site which in February released a video that showed only Rice dragging Palmer out of the elevator.


Granting Edward Snowden Immunity

Granting Edward Snowden Immunity

Any effort to reform the NSA has to insulate the fate of future whistleblowers.

By Yochai Benkler

In 1970, Christopher Pyle disclosed in public writing that the U.S. Army was running a domestic intelligence program aimed at anti-war and civil-rights activists. His disclosure began a series of public-accountability leaks, the most famous of which was Daniel Ellsberg's leak of the Pentagon Papers. These disclosures, the FBI's notorious abuses in COINTELPRO, and the Watergate leaks taught Americans that the national-security system can take profoundly dangerous constitutional turns. They formed the foundation of the political will that led to the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978. And although Ellsberg and his collaborator Anthony Russo were prosecuted, their cases were dismissed.

This series of events that helped cement the role of unauthorized public disclosure as a systemic check on the predictable cycles of error in the national-security system. The leakers of the 1970s became heroes who exposed systemic failure, and the nation did not punish those who helped it correct the excesses.

For a quarter of a century, leaks continued apace, though not the kind of public-accountability disclosures that typified the early 1970s. These were the normal grist for the mill for the national press: gossip and backstabbing, trial balloons and glorified insider war stories—leaks that, as David Pozen showed, existed long before the 1970s and have continued without noticeable increase or decrease ever since. Only one leak, the clearly improper disclosure of satellite images of a Soviet aircraft carrier to Jane's, was ever prosecuted, and the norm of not prosecuting for leaks to the press was so strong that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan persuaded President Bill Clinton to pardon that one offender.

Romney Foreign Policy Team Is Schooling 2016's Republicans


Romney Foreign Policy Team Is Schooling 2016's Republicans

The ‘John Hay Initiative’ has been working secretly for over a year to keep a large part of the Romney foreign-policy team together, and it’s ready to help top contenders—even Hillary.

Early in 2013, leaders of the foreign policy team that guided presidential candidate Mitt Romney regrouped under a new banner and began working to influence lawmakers and potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates, keeping their work secret.

Now the “John Hay Initiative,” a nonprofit organization named after the private secretary to Abraham Lincoln who eventually rose to be Teddy Roosevelt’s secretary of state, is planning its first public event, a national security speech by 2016 hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio on September 17 in Washington.

The group of more than 150 senior foreign policy and national security experts and former officials was founded by three of the top leaders of the Romney 2012 foreign policy team: Eliot Cohen, former State Department counselor; Eric Edelman, former undersecretary of defense for policy; and Brian Hook, former assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs.

Mitt Romney is on the group’s advisory council, along with top Romney campaign foreign policy representatives Sen. Norm Coleman, Sen. Jim Talent, Tim Pawlenty, Amb. Paula Dobriansky, and Michael Chertoff, among others.

America may not be clamoring for the return of Romney, but the Hay Initiative is betting that Romney’s foreign policy will be increasingly attractive as Obama’s foreign policy continues to appear to be floundering.

“For the last 60 years there has been a bipartisan tradition of American leadership that is now being called into question. We are trying to restore that tradition,” Cohen told The Daily Beast. “Our biggest allies in this argument have been Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

Scottish Independence Campaign Receives Poll Boost

Scottish Independence Campaign Receives Poll Boost

The U.K. government promised new powers for Scotland if it votes to remain in the U.K. after a weekend opinion poll showed the Scottish independence campaign in the lead for the first time.

A Retirement Home With a 3-Star Chef

A Retirement Home With a 3-Star Chef


The senior housing industry is preparing to serve a wave of residents who expect more than mush on their plates.

EVANSTON, Ill. — Some of the toughest reservations to get in this affluent suburb of Chicago are for the early tables at the Mather, a senior community of $1 million condominiums near Lake Michigan. Citrus-dressed duck breasts and “tomahawk” pork chops are on the menu, along with vegetables from a cooperative farm in upstate Wisconsin and house-made gelato.

Across town, aging nuns at the Mercy Circle retirement center drink fruit-enhanced spa water at “hydration stations,” spread whipped European butter on house-baked rolls and discuss the prices at the farmers’ market set up in their courtyard.

Chefs there purée roasted, free-range chicken for residents who can’t eat solid food, then mold it into an approximation of the real thing, garnishing the plate with a reduction of balsamic vinegar.


In a nation where food has become a cultural currency and the baby-boom generation is turning 65 at a rate of 8,000 people a day, it was only a matter of time before expensive ingredients, elevated cooking techniques and old-fashioned food snobbery hit the nursing home.

“The latte and sushi generation is coming,” said Mary von Goeben, the executive director of Mercy Circle, where almost 100 retired nuns in various states of health live. “The people entering nursing homes have traveled and they are used to eating at great restaurants.”

Culinary schools are redesigning curriculums to teach students how to cook for the aging. At many senior living communities and nursing homes, chefs with degrees from Johnson & Wales or the Culinary Institute of America have taken over kitchens.

They sear wild Alaska salmon and offer cooking demonstrations. Residents can drink craft cocktails in the lounge at the Merion in Evanston. At places like Wake Robin senior center in Vermont, chefs use whole pigs from local farms and serve coffee roasted in nearby Burlington. At Lenox Hill Neighborhood House in Manhattan, sustainable seafood comes directly from the boat.

And as well-known chefs like Wolfgang Puck pass their 65th birthdays, they are taking their passion for cooking into work with Meals on Wheels and other programs that feed seniors. The prolific cookbook author Paula Wolfert, 76, is developing recipes to help fight her recently diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease and is publicly pushing other chefs to join her.

Sanchez: 'Disappointed' in Obama

House Homeland Security Committee member Rep.  Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., is pictured. | AP Photo

Sanchez: 'Disappointed' in Obama


Rep. Loretta Sánchez (D-Calif.) said Monday she was disappointed in President Barack Obama for delaying action on immigration, adding that the president didn’t give the Hispanic Caucus any word ahead of time that there was a change of plans.

“The president said he would address [immigration reform] with us,” Sánchez explained on CNN’s “New Day” after describing a list of suggested immigration reforms that the caucus sent to the president. “He has delayed it to after the election, [we] had no heads up on that.”

The 3 most importan numbers in the new Senate polls

The 3 most importan numbers in the new Senate polls

FILE - In this June 29, 2014 file photo, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., left, and Kentucky Democratic Senatorial candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes wave to supporters at at rally in Louisville, Ky. Warren is quickly becoming a top Democrat fund-raising and campaigning powerhouse. Since March, she has stumped for candidates in Ohio, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Kentucky and has trips planned in July for West Virginia and Michigan. It’s a hefty schedule for a freshman senator who not long ago was teaching law at Harvard. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

Aaron Blake THE FIX

Or, why candidates matter

New NBC News/Marist College polls released Sunday in three key Senate races are largely good news for Republicans.

The trio of surveys shows Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) building leads in some key races that will decide the majority. McConnell leads by eight percentage points, while Cotton leads by five. Both leads are the largest each candidate has shown to date and -- if accurate -- would be huge for the GOP's hopes in races it must win to capture the majority.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, some better news for Democrats: Sen. Mark Udall (D) has maintained a six-point lead over Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

The common thread running through each of these races? According to the polls, the underdog has taken a hit when it comes to his or her personal image. Since May, this candidate has seen his or her unfavorable ratings increase by 17, eight and seven points in the three races.

To Kill a Terrorist

To Kill a Terrorist

The leader of the Somali militant group al-Shabab is dead. Now what?

By Kathy Gilsinan

On Friday, the Pentagon confirmed that American airstrikes in Somalia last week had succeeded in killing Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader and co-founder of the al Qaeda-linked Islamist group al-Shabab. “Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al-Shabaab,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

The symbolic loss may be bigger than the operational loss, however. Targeted airstrikes or special-operations raids aimed at “taking out” leaders of terrorist organizations are arguably the most critical component of the Obama administration’s light-footprint counterterrorism strategy, which my colleague Stephanie Gaskell summed up at Defense One as: “partner up with local nations, build strong intelligence for targeted strikes and keep no U.S. boots on the ground.” But the popularity of "decapitating" militant organizations rests on an assumption: that removing an extremist group’s leadership degrades or diminishes the group as a whole—making it less violent or causing it to collapse altogether. Whether this assumption is correct is by no means a settled question, and the history of terrorist and other violent groups whose leaders have been killed or captured leaves reason for doubt.

There have been high-profile cases in which the death or capture of a militant group's leader has significantly weakened the organization. The Kurdistan Workers' Party, for example, scaled back its attacks in Turkey following the 1999 apprehension of its leader Abdullah Ocalan; analysts have also credited "leadership decapitation" with dealing decisive blows to Japan's Aum Shinrikyo and Peru's Shining Path. On the other hand, Israel has targeted Hamas leaders for years, and the Palestinian group appears nowhere near dissolving. Bloody succession struggles within Mexican drug cartels following the removal of kingpins demonstrate that the approach can actually increase a group's violence.
A Pipeline From Minnesota to Militancy

Riverside Plaza in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, which is home to the country’s largest Somali population. Credit Tim Gruber for The New York Times

A Pipeline From Minnesota to Militancy


The journeys of two friends toward militancy offer an example of how the allure of Islamist extremism has evolved, enticing young Americans to conflicts around the world.

As Minnesota teenagers growing up in the 1990s, Troy Kastigar and Douglas McAuthur McCain shared almost everything. They played pickup basketball on neighborhood courts, wrote freewheeling raps in each other’s bedrooms and posed together for snapshots, a skinny white young man with close-cropped hair locking his arm around his African-American friend with a shadow of a mustache.

They walked parallel paths to trouble, never graduating from high school and racking up arrests. They converted to Islam around the same time and exalted their new faith to family and friends, declaring that they had found truth and certainty. One after the other, both men abandoned their American lives for distant battlefields.

“This is the real Disneyland,” Mr. Kastigar said with a grin in a video shot after he joined Islamist militants in Somalia in late 2008. Mr. McCain wrote on Twitter this past June, after he left the United States to fight with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, “I’m with the brothers now.”

Today, both are dead. While their lives ended five years and over 2,000 miles apart, their intertwined journeys toward militancy offer a sharp example of how the allure of Islamist extremism has evolved, enticing similar pools of troubled, pliable young Americans to conflicts in different parts of the world. The tools of online propaganda and shadowy networks of facilitators that once beckoned Mr. Kastigar and Somali men to the Horn of Africa are now drawing hundreds of Europeans and about a dozen known Americans to fight with ISIS, according to American law enforcement and counterterrorism officials.

“Troy and Doug fit together in some ways,” Mr. Kastigar’s mother, Julie Boada, said at her home here. “They’re both converted Muslims. They both have had struggles.” She added, “They’re connected through that.”

Investigators are looking into what led a handful of other people from Minnesota to follow the same path, said Kyle Loven, an F.B.I. spokesman in Minneapolis. American intelligence and counterterrorism officials say Mr. McCain, 33, and a second American believed to have been killed while fighting for ISIS traveled in the same circles in Minneapolis and knew each other.


 Cedar Avenue in the Cedar-Riverside district. Leaders in the Somali community say they are losing a battle to keep new waves of young men and women from turning to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

CIA 'tortured al-Qaeda suspects to the point of death'

CIA 'tortured al-Qaeda suspects to the point of death by drowning them in water-filled baths'

By Peter Foster, Washington

The description of the torture meted out to at least two leading al-Qaeda suspects including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Telegraph Exclusive: As the US Senate prepares to release a report documenting US torture programme after 9/11, Telegraph reveals new details about the scope of CIA excesses.

The CIA brought top al-Qaeda suspects close “to the point of death” by drowning them in water-filled baths during interrogation sessions in the years that followed the September 11 attacks, a security source has told The Telegraph.

The description of the torture meted out to at least two leading al-Qaeda suspects, including the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, far exceeds the conventional understanding of waterboarding, or “simulated drowning” so far admitted by the CIA.

“They weren’t just pouring water over their heads or over a cloth,” said the source who has first-hand knowledge of the period. “They were holding them under water until the point of death, with a doctor present to make sure they did not go too far. This was real torture.”

A second source who is familiar with the Senate report told The Telegraph that it contained several unflinching accounts of some CIA interrogations which – the source predicted – would “deeply shock” the general public.

Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee that authored the report has promised that it will expose “brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation”. The Senate report is understood to accuse the CIA of lying and of grossly exaggerating the usefulness of torture.

It is being angrily opposed by many senior Republicans, former CIA operatives and Bush-era officials, including the former US vice president Dick Cheney, who argue that is it poorly researched and politically motivated.

The CIA has previously admitted that it used black sites to subject at least three high-value al-Qaeda detainees to “enhanced interrogation” – namely Mohammed, the alleged USS Cole bomber Abd al Rahim al Nashiri and alleged senior Bin Laden aide Abu Zubaydah.

Class Issues, Not Race, Will Likely Seal the Next Election


Class Issues, Not Race, Will Likely Seal the Next Election

Race is always a hot button topic in the U.S., but rising and rampant economic inequality will likely be the issue that propels people to the voting booth.

Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and along the U.S.-Mexico border may seem to suggest that race has returned as the signature issue in American politics. We can see this already in the pages of mainstream media, with increased calls for reparations for African-Americans, and expanded amnesties for the undocumented. Increasingly, any opposition to Obama’s policies is blamed on deep-seated white racism.

Yet in reality, race will not define the 2014 election, or likely those that follow. Instead the real defining issue—class—does not fit so easily into the current political calculus. In terms of racial justice, we have made real progress since the ’60s, when even successful educated minorities were discriminated against and the brightest minority students were often discouraged from attending college. Today an African-American holds the highest office in the land, and African Americans also fill the offices of U.S. attorney general and national security advisor. This makes the notion that race thwarts success increasingly outdated.

But at the same time that formal racial barriers have been demolished, the class divide continues to grow steeper than in at any time in the nation’s recent history. Today America’s class structure is increasingly ossified, and this affects not only minorities, who are hit disproportionately, but also many whites, who constitute more than 40 percent of the nation’s poor. Upward mobility has stalled under both Bush and Obama, not only for minorities but for vast swaths of working class and middle class Americans. Increasingly, it’s not the color of one’s skin that determines one’s place in society, but access to education and capital, often the inherited variety.

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