Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hamas' Army Is Stepping Out Of The Shadows



Secretive Army of Hamas Emerges From Shadows in Gaza -- Wall Street Journal

Conflict Has Brought Qassam Brigade, Guerrilla Army of Hamas, Into Battle Against Israel

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip—When the shrapnel-torn body of Ahmed Abu Thoraya returned to this city in the Gaza Strip, only one member of his family knew for sure he had been a fighter in Al Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas.

Mr. Abu Thoraya had given his brother, Mohammed, a short will before he left town on July 19. "He said 'I'm going somewhere,' " his brother recalled recently. "I knew that he may not come back."

The conflict in the Gaza Strip has brought the secretive guerrilla army of Hamas out of the shadows and into battle against Israel's military for only the second time. When the brigade's fighters are killed, Hamas street organizers eulogize them as heroes, posting images of them in fatigues and toting rockets. And families in the Gaza Strip are coming to terms with never-before-discussed identities of sons and neighbors.

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My Comment: Everyone knew that Hamas had an army .... but it took a war to reveal who they are.

Is Qatar The Main Reason Why Israel - Hamas Cannot Agree To A Truce?

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, and Hamas chief Khaled Meshal. Al Jazeera

Report: Qatar Threatened To Expel Meshal If He Agreed To Cairo Truce Draft -- Haaretz

German development aid minister accuses Qatar of aiding Islamic State.

Qatar pushed Hamas to renew hostilities with Israel by threatening to expel Khaled Meshal, the chief of Hamas' political bureau, if Hamas accepted the Egyptian proposal for a long-term cease-fire, the London-based pan-Arab daily Al Hayat reported Wednesday.

An unnamed source in the Palestinian delegation to Cairo said in the report that Qatar – which, like Turkey, is considered a Hamas ally – worked to undermine the talks by pressuring Hamas officials, including Meshal, not to advance negotiations.

“Qatar, financially and politically, diplomatically and through Al Jazeera, is supporting a terrorist group,” an Israeli official said late last month. “Instead of contributing to the development of the area, they are contributing to terror in the region.”

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My Comment: Qatar must be playing a pivotal role in this conflict .... Palestinian President Abbas is flying to Qatar to meet the Emir and the leader of Hamas today.

Update: This is unsettling .... German minister accuses Qatar of funding Islamic State fighters -- Reuters

Israel - Hamas War News Updates -- August 20, 2014


Israel, Hamas Resume Fighting as Cairo Talks Break Down -- Voice of America

JERUSALEM — Israeli and Palestinian fighters in Gaza exchanged fire Tuesday night and Wednesday morning as cease-fire talks in Egypt broke down.

Palestinian authorities said at least 11 people were killed in the latest round of violence. There we no reported injuries in Israel.

Israel said it hit more than 90 targets in the Palestinian enclave along the Mediterranean, one of which struck the house of Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif. Hamas said he is still alive, but the raid killed his 27-year-old wife and seven-month-old son.

Several thousand mourners joined a funeral procession for them and shouted demands for revenge. Their bodies, wrapped in green Hamas flags, were carried from a mosque to a cemetery in a refugee camp in Jabaliya.

Hamas said that Israel had opened a "gateway to hell."

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Israel - Hamas War News Updates -- August 20, 2014

Iron Dome intercepts two rockets over greater Tel Aviv area -- Jerusalem Post
Hamas warns airlines not to land in Israel, disputes reports terror head Deif killed -- Times of Israel
Hamas says fired rockets at off-shore Israeli gas well -- Reuters
Israel steps up raids, Gaza buries dead -- AFP
Israel’s missile strikes kill 20 Palestinians after truce disruption -- ITAR-TASS
Gaza toll tops 2100 as war resumes; Hamas says its military chief still alive -- Zee News
Gaza truce fail: Israeli airstrikes kill 5yo child, Hamas barrages Tel Aviv -- RT
Gaza war rages on, Hamas says Israel tried to kill its military chief -- Reuters
Israeli officials acknowledge assassination attempt on Hamas military wing chief Deif -- Jerusalem Post
Gaza conflict: Israel 'targets Hamas leader Deif' -- BBC
Hamas leader's wife and child reported killed as Gaza war resumes -- The Guardian
Hundreds turn out for Gaza funeral of Hamas military chief's wife and son -- The Guardian
Family of Hamas military chief buried in Gaza -- Al Jazeera
In blow to Gaza’s economy, Israeli strikes have left industries hard-hit -- Washington Post
Palestinian president due in Doha to meet Emir and Hamas leader -- Reuters
Steep Obstacles to Any Gaza Deal -- AP

Ukraine Will Have Two Choices In Resolving The Civil War

Ukraine president-elect Petro Poroshenko (R) talks to Russian President Vladimir Putin after a group photo during the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Benouville, France June 6, 2014. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Putin Meeting Leaves Ukraine With Tough Choices -- Wall Street Journal

Encounter Would Be First Since June, Comes Amid Diplomatic Push

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart will meet next week for the first time in two months, officials in both countries said, intensifying a diplomatic push that could force Kiev to choose between continuing its military campaign against pro-Russia separatists or making concessions to Moscow to stop the bloodshed.

Calls for a cease-fire from both Russia and Europe are growing louder amid a deepening humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine.

But Ukrainian politicians and voters are skeptical of agreeing to a truce now, since doing so could give the rebels the chance to consolidate control over some territory and give Russia long-term influence over their country.

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My Comment:  The two choices for Ukrainian President Poroshenko are simple .... a truce followed by negotiations .... or a full blown military campaign. My money is on Poroshenko ignoring European and Russian pleas for a ceasefire .... and a full commitment to a military campaign to crush the rebellion.

In A Concession To Russia, NATO Has Agreed To Not Substantially Increase It's Military Presence In Eastern Europe

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (L) speaks next to Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs (R), Radoslaw Sikorski at the Przezdziecki Palace in Warsaw May 7, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Filip Klimaszewski

NATO To Shun Substantial Eastern Footprint In Nod To Russia -- Stars and Stripes/Bloomberg

RIGA, Latzia — NATO will stop short of basing substantial combat forces in eastern Europe to avoid a complete rupture in relations with Russia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

A NATO summit next month will settle on other ways of protecting the alliance's eastern flank, including previously floated plans for more war-games, a more robust command structure and warehousing equipment that would be needed in an emergency, Merkel and allied officials said.

Defensive steps triggered by Russia's pressure on non-NATO member Ukraine "don't involve a permanent, sustained stationing of fighting troops, but we can strengthen our cooperation very much in other ways," Merkel told reporters today in Latvia, one of the frontline states pleading for more vigilance against the Kremlin.

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My Comment:  I  concur with this New York Time's post .... Germany's Angela Merkel is trying her best to defuse the situation from getting worse. This is also a major scale-down for NATO ... especially from what they were saying just a few weeks ago.

Fear And Distrust Remains Where The Fighting Has Stopped In Eastern Ukraine



In Ukraine, Fear And Distrust Remain Where Fighting Has Stopped -- Voice of America

KRAMATORSK, UKRAINE - As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. In the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.

In a leafy neighborhood of Kramatorsk, residents are cleaning up the debris of war.

Tolia, a pensioner, is fixing up his home, damaged as Ukrainian forces battled armed rebels who took over the town in April.

“Everything was destroyed, everything was ruined, these three houses - some of the others," he said. "And here I know a bus was hit, the driver and passengers were killed.”

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My Comment: It is going to take years before the bitterness and anger dissipates .... and even then there is no guarantee that it will go away.

What Is Next For The Ukraine Rebel Movement

Alexander Borodai, premier of the self proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, shakes hands with Alexander Zakharchenko, who heads a heavily armed rebel unit called Oplot during their news conference in Donetsk, in this August 7, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/Files

Ukraine Rebel Movement Faces Uncertain Future -- Reuters

(Reuters) - The resignations were abrupt and unexpected, two quick-fire blows to a separatist movement already suffering reversals on the battle field of eastern Ukraine.

Alexander Borodai, the premier of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, and Igor Strelkov, his military commander, had together formed the rebels' leadership against Ukrainian troops since armed men first seized state buildings across eastern Ukraine in April.

Friends from Moscow and comrades in arms, they were viewed by the separatists and by Kiev as Russia’s men. Their successive departures in the past two weeks may mark a turning point in a conflict which has dragged ties between Russia and the West to their lowest since the Cold War.

Among separatist ranks, the news has fueled fears that other Russian fighters may abandon the insurgency.

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Update: The rebel leaders dropping out of the fight in eastern Ukraine -- The Guardian

My Comment: Everyone is now positioning themselves for what will happen after the major rebel-held cities have fallen to the Ukraine military. My prediction is that if Kiev does adopt a reconciliation tone .... and is willing to compromise starting with the granting of a certain of degree of autonomy .... the rebel-separatist movement will (probably) eventually die. But .... if it becomes business as normal .... expect a low level insurgency to grow in the same manner that happened in Northern Ireland in the last century.

Ukraine Civil War News Updates -- August 20, 2014


Ukraine Fight With Rebels Intensifies as Deaths Mount -- Bloomberg Businessweek

Ukraine’s armed forces said they continue to push back separatists in fighting in the country’s east before a possible meeting of the Russian and Ukrainian leaders next week.

Ukraine’s National Guard captured the city of Ilovaysk, leading rebels to counter-attack with tanks and artillery, the force said today on its website. Nine Ukrainian servicemen died and 22 were wounded in the past 24 hours, military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in Kiev. He later told reporters government troops control a “significant” part of Luhansk, one of the main separatist strongholds. Thirty-four civilians were killed and 29 hurt in Donetsk, the other redoubt, in the past 24 hours, the regional administration said.

Read more ....



Ukraine Civil War News Updates -- August 20, 2014

Fighting Rages in Eastern Ukraine Ahead of Meeting Between Putin and Poroshenko -- WSJ
Fighting in eastern Ukraine kills 43 in 24 hours -- AP
Dozens of residents die in Donetsk fighting -- Al Jazeera
Kiev shelling death toll on rise in southeast Ukraine -- ITAR-TASS
Street battles in eastern Ukraine town kill nine: ministry -- Reuters
9 Killed in Eastern Ukraine Violence -- VOA
Urban warfare as Ukraine forces move in on rebel strongholds -- Euronews
Ukraine conflict: Fierce battle for town of Ilovaisk -- BBC
Ukrainian govt troops take over much of Luhansk -- AP
Ukraine’s dying rebel capital seeks normal life against the soundscape of war -- AP
Underground life: E.Ukraine civilians pushed to basements by constant shelling (VIDEO) -- RT
Ukraine crisis: What does the footage tell us? -- BBC
Chart: Street Battles Rage In Luhansk - The Escalating Cost In Eastern Ukraine -- Forbes
Ukraine rebel movement faces uncertain future -- Reuters
The rebel leaders dropping out of the fight in eastern Ukraine -- The Guardian
ICRC team enters eastern Ukraine to smooth way for Russian convoy -- Reuters
Militia Reports Ukrainian Saboteurs Obstructing Path of Russian Humanitarian Convoy -- RIA Novosti
Russia Offers Ukrainian Refugees Chance for 'New Life' -- Naharnet
Moscow Invites European Officials to Visit Ukrainian Refugee Camps in Russia -- RIA Novosti
Ukraine conflict is draining economy, hampering reforms: PM Yatseniuk -- Reuters
Ukraine Asks for Combined IMF Loan Installment of $2.3Bln by Year-End -- RIA Novosti
Ukraine asks IMF to combine two aid tranches for total of $2.2 billion: IFX -- Reuters
Ukrainian parliament to ratify association agreement with EU in September — Poroshenko -- ITAR-TASS

World News Briefs -- August 20, 2014



US Confirms American Journalist's Beheading -- Voice of America

WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday confirmed the authenticity of a grisly video showing the beheading of American freelance journalist James Foley by the Islamic State militant group.

The Sunni extremist group had released the Internet video Tuesday, claiming it had killed Foley in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes targeting the group’s fighters in northern Iraq.

The militant group also is threatening to kill a second hostage American journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff, U.S. officials said.

Foley disappeared November 22, 2012, after being abducted by unidentified gunmen.

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MIDDLE EAST

James Foley 'beheading': West condemns 'barbaric' murder. James Foley remembered as 'brave and tireless' journalist.

Islamic State opens new anti-U.S. front with beheading video.

Iraqis in besieged town appeal to army for help.

Islamic State repels Iraqi military's 3rd attempt to retake Tikrit. Iraqi effort to recapture Tikrit said to stall.

Top Kurdish minister rejoins Iraqi government.

Gaza conflict: Israel 'targets Hamas leader Deif'. Palestinians bury the baby son and wife of Hamas leader targeted in Israeli airstrikes as Hamas warn 'You've opened the gates of hell'.

Iran's parliament dismisses moderate minister.

ASIA

Pakistan cleric's supporters attempt to blockade parliament, but MPs escape.

Military secures sensitive sites in Pakistan capital; Political instability grows.

Nervous Afghans near political deadline.

Afghanistan bars New York Times reporter from leaving country. Afghanistan orders NYT reporter to leave.

US experts fault both Japan, South Korea for strained relations.

U.S. official says unified with Japan on need for Russian sanctions.

Japan landslides kill 32 in Hiroshima prefecture.

AFRICA

Relief official urges groups to step up Ebola efforts.

Ebola crisis: Liberian troops impose slum quarantine.

C.African Republic will have 7,600 UN peacekeepers.

Nigeria’s Boko Haram forces victims to fight, kill.

Four beheaded corpses found in Egypt's Sinai: security sources.

Egypt suffers regular blackouts due to worst energy crisis in decades.

Ethiopia hosts largest number of refugees in Africa.

Shares in South Africa's banks fall after Moody's downgrade.

EUROPE

'We will oppose ISIS with every breath in our body': Foreign Secretary says terrorist who beheaded US journalist IS British and troops could be sent to Baghdad, as Cameron breaks off holiday over crisis.

France seeks global meeting on Islamic State group.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine kills 43 in 24 hours. Ukraine conflict: Fierce battle for town of Ilovaisk.

NATO to shun substantial eastern footprint in nod to Russia.

German leader emerges as key figure in Ukraine talks.

Russia forces its popular bloggers to register -- or else.

Austria detains nine suspected of wanting to join militants in Syria.

AMERICAS

Poll: Majority of Americans support airstrikes in Iraq.

House Intel chief: Obama should cut vacation short to deal with ISIS.

US Attorney General to visit Ferguson amid relative calm.

Landmark Brazil poll brings good news for Rousseff. Exclusive: Brazil's PSDB party would support Silva in runoff.

Venezuela holds 13 and seizes tonnes of food in smuggling crackdown.

China to spend $1bn on massive Caribbean resort.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

ISIS beheading: Militants ‘represent a direct threat’ to UK security says Foreign Sec.

Al Qaeda in Yemen declares support for ISIS.

9/11 terror trials delayed by allegations of torture.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Apple soars to record amid optimism about coming products.

Is this the world’s most expensive apartment?

Former Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer leaves firm.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- August 20, 2014



Pentagon Says Iraq Airstrikes Will Be Limited --- For Now -- Washington Examiner

The Pentagon declined to discuss whether the U.S. military would step in with airstrikes to help Iraqi forces struggling to recapture Tikrit one day after a successful mission in assisting Iraq forces reclaim a strategic dam from Islamic militants.

“I’m not going to speculate about future operations,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Tuesday.

President Obama and U.S. military leaders have authorized airstrikes in Iraq only under two main missions: to provide humanitarian assistance and to protect U.S. personnel and facilities.

Read more ....

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- August 20, 2014

Pentagon Describes Anti-ISIL Operations in Iraq -- US Department of Defense

NATO to shun substantial eastern footprint in nod to Russia -- Stars and Stripes/Bloomberg

Russia vows to strengthen navy to ward off NATO -- AFP

Mistral Ships to Be Delivered Despite Current Level of Sanctions – Hollande -- RIA Novosti

Russian Aerospace Defense Forces to Launch 20 Missiles During Exercise -- RIA Novosti

Uncertain outlook for German arms industry -- Deutsche Welle

While India dozes, China is modernising its military -- Manoj Joshi, Daily Mail

2 Italian air force fighter jets collide, crash -- AP

Japan to Permit Logistical Support to US Forces -- RIA Novosti

Pacific Navy bases to conduct security exercise -- Stars and Stripes

NORAD to conduct exercises over DC -- The Hill

Navy: USS Carl Vinson to Deploy to Middle East -- Times of San Diego

Air Force grounds 82 F-16Ds after cracks discovered -- Defense News

Army quits tests after competing rifle outperforms M4A1 carbine -- Washington Times

Navy Missile Hits Subsonic Target Over Land -- Defense Tech

U.S. Navy SEALs Are Getting New Mini-Subs -- War Is Boring

The present and future of the US Navy's aircraft force in one GIF -- Sploid

Navy analyzes new Growler alternatives -- ptleader.com

US Army Black Hawk fleet to receive major avionics upgrade -- Autoblog

Space Plane Tech Could Power Hypersonic Aircraft for US Military -- Space.com

After Months on Back Burner, Sequester Fears Return -- Defense News

Spy office defends ‘extensive and multi-layered’ oversight -- The Hill

US Army general accused -- again -- of obstructing probe of grisly Afghan hospital -- FOX News

Want to buy a 50-foot experimental Navy boat? Here's your chance -- bidding starts at $25 -- 7 News Denver

Pentagon defends program supplying military gear to Ferguson police -- Washington Post

Under What Conditions Can The US Army Engage Citizens: The Army's "Civil Disturbances" Primer -- Zero Hedge

Bowe Bergdahl reveals what he wants to do next -- CBS

Combat controller receives Silver Star for 13-hour Afghan firefight -- Stars and Stripes

Comprehensive Airman Fitness: A Lifestyle and culture -- U.S. Air Force

The Navy Is Tracking Some Strange Sounds Coming from the Ocean -- Matthew Braga, Defense One/The Atlantic

The U.S. Air Force's Development Of A New Bomber Continues

B-1 bomber

Top Secret Air Force Bomber Program Moves Forward -- National Defense

It is a program shrouded in secrecy.

Air Force officials over the past few years have been happy to talk publicly about how much they need a new long-range strike bomber, but have given it a “secret” classification and share few other details.

But after a half-decade of discussions about what the aircraft should be in unclassified settings, 2014 has seen some revelations and movement in the program.

A request for proposals was released in July and two competitors are expected to respond, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team and Northrop Grumman.

Gen. Michael Hostage, commander of the Air Force air combat command, after the RFP was released, reiterated what has been said before.

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My Comment: I do not know where they will get the money to manufacture this new line of bombers .... but the work continues.

The Future Of Tanks

The new design will reduce vehicle size and weight by 50 percent

The Future Of Tanks: US Military Reveal Small 'Off Road' Vehicles With Smart Armour Are Set To Replace Bulky Vehicles -- Daily Mail

* Small vehicles set to be 100% faster and 50% lighter than current tanks
* Smaller footprint will enable 'stealth' mode

The US Army has revealed plans to replace tanks with small, 'off road' vehicles covered in smart armour.

Military bosses says the current tanks are hindering soldier's ability to get into battle.

They say the future is a small vehicle called the GXV-T.

'For the past 100 years of mechanized warfare, protection for ground-based armored fighting vehicles and their occupants has boiled down almost exclusively to a simple equation: More armor equals more protection,' Darpa said

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More News On The Pentagon's Designs For A Future Tank

Pentagon researches 'more mobile' hi-tech tank -- BBC
US military targets revolutionary new tank designs -- FOX News
DARPA Thinks Less Armor Could Make Tanks Safer -- Popular Science
DARPA: Tanks in the future will not depend on armor but technology -- Tech Times
DARPA seeks high-tech alternatives to armor -- Gizmag
US reveals plans for smaller, faster, lighter tanks -- The Engineer

The Greying Of President Obama In 42 Seconds -- A Time-Lapse (2009-2014)


My Comment: This is what happens when you play too much golf.

Will Robot Car Bombs Replace Suicide Car-Bombers?



Don’t Fear The Robot Car Bomb -- Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists

Within the next few years, autonomous vehicles—alias robot cars—could be weaponized, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fears. In a recently disclosed report, FBI experts wrote that they believe that robot cars would be “game changing” for law enforcement. The self-driving machines could be professional getaway drivers, to name one possibility. Given the pace of developments on autonomous cars, this doesn’t seem implausible.

But what about robotic car bombers? If car bombs no longer require sacrificing the driver’s life, then criminals and terrorists might be more likely to use them. The two-page FBI report doesn’t mention this idea directly, but this scenario has caused much public anxiety anyway—perhaps reasonably so. Car bombs are visceral icons of terrorism in modern times, from The Troubles of Northern Ireland to regional conflicts in the Middle East and Asia.

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My Comment: I predict that an airborne drone will be used as a means to deliver the first significant remote controlled terror attack before a remote controlled car is utilized. Having said that .... a remote controlled car bomb will still be the preferred choice because it can wreck havoc on larger scale due to the payload that it can carry .... a payload that would be far greater than what an airborne drone can possibly carry.

Octopus Camouflage For The Military?



Octopuses' Color-Changing Skin Inspires New Type Of Camouflage -- CSM/Live Science

Researchers developed flexible sheets of light sensors, containing a temperature-sensitive dye, that can automatically sense and adapt to the color of their surroundings.

Octopuses and squid possess the amazing ability to blend in with their surroundings, but now, researchers have created a man-made system that mimics this form of camouflage.

The team developed flexible sheets of light sensors, containing a temperature-sensitive dye, that can automatically sense and adapt to the color of their surroundings. The technology could have consumer, industrial and military applications, according to the study, published today (Aug. 18) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"These devices are capable of producing black-and-white patterns that spontaneously match those of the surroundings, without user input or external measurement," the researchers wrote in the paper.

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My Comment: They still have a long way to go .... but the implications for the military if they can perfect this are enormous.

President Obama's Reason For Returning To Washington In The Middle Of His Vacation Is Still Unknown



Obama Heads Back To Vacation After Unexplained DC Trip -- The Hill

President Obama went back to his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard Tuesday evening following less than 48 hours in Washington, leaving people puzzled over why he came back in the first place.

Obama’s two days in Washington were mostly quiet, and concluded with the president receiving his daily national security briefing in the morning, and joining Vice President Biden to huddle with members of his economic team in the afternoon.

Administration officials have insisted for weeks that the president just wanted to return to the White House for a series of meetings, but the explanation was met with a healthy dose of skepticism, since Obama rarely interrupts his vacations.

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My Comment: Human beings are creatures of habit .... in the case of President Obama .... he is not in the habit of interrupting his vacation. There is probably more to his return to Washington than what is being disclosed .... and I also suspect that the reason why will remain a mystery for a long time.

An Inside View Of The Donetsk War Zone In Ukraine

SPIEGEL reporter Christian Neef has visited Donetsk repeatedly in recent months and has seen the war creep up on the city. He says that many in the city seem unenthusiastic about supporting the pro-Russian separatists, but that the Ukrainian government in Kiev hasn't done much to win their support either. Jonathan Alpeyrie/DER SPIEGEL

Battle For Ukraine: An Inside View Of The Surreal Donetsk War Zone -- Christian Neef in Donetsk, Speigel Online

As the Ukrainian army closes in on Donetsk, shelling in the metropolis has become much more frequent -- and deadly. Many residents have left, but those who remain seem unsure what to make of the conflict. Resignation is widespread.

It is a thin veneer that separates guests of the Donetsk Park Hotel from the surreal world outside. Inside, we watch BBC in English and ZDF broadcasting news in German. The hotel has electricity and Internet while air conditioning keeps out the summer heat.

OSCE observers sit at the bar drinking Lvivske, a dark Ukrainian beer, for €2.50 ($3.3) a pint, a price that is outrageous for Donetsk. Their shiny white Toyota SUVs are lined up outside, waiting to drive them through the warzone during those moments when it's not too dangerous.

This Thursday is not one of those moments. Shortly before 1 p.m., a salvo of grenades rains down. One's ear quickly gets used to the sounds of war, rapidly learning to halfway reliably tell them apart. This time, though, the detonations are unbelievably loud and very close. Only three minutes after leaving the hotel, I arrive in the midst of misery in this embattled city of Donetsk.

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My Comment: When I am asked on what is my opinion on the war in eastern Ukraine .... I always answer back that I wish for a plague on both house (Kiev on one side and the pro-separatist forces on the other). Reading Christian Neef's column reassures me that I am not the only one who is thinking this way.

Picture Of The Day

A landing craft leaves the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, Aug. 13, 2014. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tamara Vaughn

Chechnya's President Is An Instagram Addict


Chechen Leader 'Has 1,000 Wedding Guests Questioned After Losing Phone' -- The Guardian

Human rights group says Ramzan Kadyrov, who often posts to Instagram several times a day, mislaid phone at feast

Blame it on Ramzan Kadyrov's well-known Instagram addiction; the strongman leader of Russia's Chechen Republic was apparently so worried when he lost his mobile phone at a wedding that police questioned more than a thousand people into the early hours of the morning in an attempt to find it.

The human rights organisation Memorial, which has documented numerous abuses in the mountainous region of Chechnya including the murder of its own activist there in 2009, said in a statement that the loss of Kadyrov's phone occurred on Saturday at the opening ceremony for the Shira-Yurt museum constructed in the form of a medieval Chechen village. According to his hugely popular Instagram account, the "grandiose holiday" attended by "thousands of residents of the republic" saw Kadyrov meet and dance with elders, size up a shotgun and a cannon and preside over a lavish feast. The event was capped off with a traditional Chechen wedding at which Memorial said Kadyrov gave the young couple 1m rubles (£17,000).

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My Comment: This guy has waaaayyyy too much time on his hand. His Instagram account is here.

Relatives And Victims Of A U.S. Military Drone Strike In Yemen Get More Than $1 Million

Yemeni Victims Of U.S. Military Drone Strike Get More Than $1 Million In Compensation -- Washington Post

The Yemeni government paid the families of those killed or injured in a U.S. drone strike last year more than $1 million, according to documents that provide new details on secret condolence payments seen as evidence that civilians with no ties to al-Qaeda were among the casualties.

The documents, which are signed by Yemeni court officials and victims’ relatives, record payouts designed to quell anger over a U.S. strike that hit vehicles in a wedding party and prompted a suspension of the U.S. military’s authority to carry out drone attacks on a dangerous al-Qaeda affiliate.

The records reveal payments that are many times larger than Yemeni officials acknowledged after the strike. The $1 million-plus figure also exceeds the total amount distributed by the U.S. military for errant strikes in Afghanistan over an entire year.

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My Comment: This is as close as you will get to an admission that someone screwed up bad.