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Posts Tagged ‘ Osama Bin Laden ’

All Guns Blazing – The Fickle Nature Of Lethal Force

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Recent cases of hostage stand-offs in Australia and France have been ended by force, bringing this tactic into the limelight once again. Unfortunately this means of ending a hostage siege is unavoidably dangerous even amongst the most highly trained of police or military units, and their use should be limited to cases where all other avenues have been exhausted. In particular, negotiated surrender risks falling by the wayside as a viable option. Because society tends to value the hero who dramatically takes lives rather than the hero who quietly saves them, we risk a selection-bias in examining the optimal means to end hostage scenarios.

As a credit to the police units involved, yesterday’s stand-offs in France seem to have been a ‘home-run’. The Kouachi brothers were both killed while the single hostage escaped unharmed, although it appears that they exited without him, determined to die fighting. While four hostages died in the kosher supermarket, earliest reports suggest that they were murdered before the police raid took place. This success is commendable but should not set a precedent to the exclusion of other alternatives. In contrast, the Sydney siege saw the death of two hostages during the rescue and the injury of three others in still unclear circumstances. These cases demonstrate the fickle nature of such raids. Continue reading

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Some Fights Are Right: Obama’s IS Strategy

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Barack Obama has received criticism for his recent expansion of strikes against IS to include Syria. On the far left are those who object outright to liberal intervention, while on the right of the spectrum Senator Rand Paul labelled him a ‘neo-con’. However despite his perceived hesitancy, Obama’s strategy looks set to hit a sweet spot between reckless and cautious that is grounded in sound principles and is the best reasonable response to the current threat posed by IS.

IS are the closest the 21st century has to the Nazi’s- fundamentally motivated, exceptionally violent and on a quest that is their downfall before it has even begun. Their so called caliphate has no precedent in history. Killing Shia as easily as they behead innocent westerners or massacre Yazidi Iraqis, the group’s strategy is founded on brutality, with no room for any form of tolerance or compromise, to the point where they have drawn condemnation from Al-Qaeda. Mass murder of civilians and trafficking of women for as sex slaves are par for the course with IS . This incarnation of radical Islam is now the richest terrorist organization in history.  It has also shown itself to be a master of cinematic and striking (and ironically western style) media campaigns in a way that Al-Qaeda never was, making it the most hot brand of radical Islam. The stunning videos are a draw for young radicals of fighting age as well as rich benefactors who may be sympathetic to their cause, and is possibly the greatest threat posed by IS. However despite capturing swathes of Iraqi and Syrian cities (and open desert), the groups has united even larger swathes of the world against it through its actions. General consensus already exists. This includes almost every parliament and head of state in the world, as well as mainstream Muslim groups in western countries (see the “Not in my name” campaign if you feel like blaming regular Muslims). Continue reading

British Terrorist’s Bin Laden Love Letter Revealed

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Police have revealed a number f files that were uncovered following a search of Islamic terrorist Samantha Lewthwaite’s computer.

The British woman turned terrorist is believed to have been involved in last month’s Kenyan mall attack, and now a picture has emerged of a woman who admired Osama bin Laden and wished her children to become “holy warriors.”

Known as the “White Widow,” Lewthwaite was married to London bomber Germaine Lindsey, who took part in the 7/7 bombing that killed 52 people. In the months after the attack, Samantha denounced her husband and fled the country. Continue reading

News in Brief-Dolphins Attack As Irish Rugby Players In Sex Storm

dolphinAfter the other week’s eel attack it seems the sea has unleashed a new beast. In Clare a dolphin called Dusty has got the hump with swimmers and has been bating the s*** out of them. The bottlenose local has been ramming residents of Doolin, even hospitalising some. The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has warned swimmers that insist on swimming with her not to “grab, lunge or chase after her”. If you’ve been lunging at dolphins you probably deserve a shove.
Talking of slippery mammals, Irish rugby has been brought into disrepute by reports two top-level players engaged in a threesome with a woman in a Dublin hotel. Details apparently emerged from the woman’s Facebook account, before a conversation between the rugby players and their pals went viral containing explicit details. Before you ask NIB does not know who it was, but we will take your bets. Continue reading

Sopranos Star Gandolfini Passes Away

James Gandolfini. photo: Barry WetcherJames Gandolfini, the actor best known for his Emmy-winning portrayal of a conflicted New Jersey mob boss in the groundbreaking TV series “The Sopranos,” died on Wednesday while on holiday with his son in Italy.

Gandolfini, whose performance as Tony Soprano made him a household name and ushered in a new era of American television drama, had been scheduled to attend the closing of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily on Saturday. Continue reading

Re-Elected Obama Has No Time To Ponder Victory

The objective of a first term president is to get re-elected – Barack Obama has achieved that.  On November 7th 2012 Obama was given a mandate to lead his country for a second term comprehensively defeating Republican Mitt Romney.  However, the incumbent president has no time to savour his victory – unfortunately for him that was the easy part.  Unlike the euphoria of four years ago, the overriding emotion was one of relief for himself and his supporters.  Now he faces the objective of a second term president which is to create a legacy.  The next four years will determine how the first black president to occupy the White House is judged by history.  Not much has changed as a result of this election.  The power structure has remained the same:  Obama occupies the Oval office with a Democratic majority in the Senate and the Republicans still hold sway in Congress.  The checks on his legislative powers in his first term remain.  Obama will be buoyed by victory but he leaves behind the campaign trail with its echoes of lofty oratory and his loyal base in Chicago returning to WashingtonDC and the gritty reality of politics in a divided capital.

There was a palpable fear in the Obama camp about voter turnout.  Hope was the operative word on the campaign trail in 2008 but four years on they couldn’t rely solely on that to bring voters to the polling stations.  The reality of the situation dictated that his team launch a monumental groundswell operation in order to galvanise a similar turnout and they succeeded.   Dubbed the hash-tag election due to the prominent role played by social media, Obama has the largest Twitter following of any world leader.  His team relentlessly contacted supporters and the undecided, imploring them to vote for their man.

This race was deemed too close to call.  But after the ballots were cast and the pundits began deciphering the early exit polls it became clear that the 44th president had managed to win the crucial swing states that often decide these elections.  The margins were tight but President Obama carried Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin.  This meant that he easily won the race to 270 electoral college votes out of the 538 available.  Currently he stands on 303 to Romney’s 206 with Florida’s 29 still to be allocated.  Obama managed to defeat Romney in Michigan, where the challenger was born, and in Massachusetts, where he was governor from 2003 to 2007.  From the 2008 election results the Democrats only lost two states: Indiana and North Carolina.  In the end Obama won the popular vote by 50% to Romney’s 48% which shows that incumbent clearly won the popular vote.  The president’s mandate is reduced from the last election but it is still a clear mandate.

For the Republicans this defeat illustrates major deficiencies in the Grand Old Party (GOP) as they were unable to capitalise on high unemployment and a stuttering economy since the financial meltdown of 2008.  One must go back to 1936 and Roosevelt during the Great Depression to find a president who, in the face of such high unemployment figures, managed to get re-elected.  The unemployment rate in America is roughly the same as when Obama took office but instead of losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month the country is now gaining them.

This was an election that a united Republican party would have won.  However, the party is split and they managed to alienate large cohorts of the electorate with their divisive politics throughout the campaign.  It is clear that the party is torn.  Over the next two years they must decide if they are the fractious and severely conservative right-wing party that we saw in the primary or the more moderate one that Romney unveiled at the first presidential debate.  Romney was hamstrung by his own party in this race – for instance the party signed a pact that said they would not raise taxes on anybody and that included the super wealthy – Romney wanted to extended the Bush tax cuts that are due to expire in January thereby avoiding the so called ‘fiscal cliff’.  An exit poll indicated that 60% of voters believed that taxes should be increased on at least the very wealthy.

Romney lost the presidency in a centre right nation because he lost the centre.  He had to secure the extreme elements of his party early in the campaign and by the time he changed tack in search of the middle ground he was too late.  His voter base was too narrow:  He had a greater proportional share of the vote amongst whites, men, the wealthy, older people, Catholics and Evangelicals.  This campaign shows that the GOP needs some serious introspection and to broaden their appeal.  They will not be able to compete over the coming years if they do not moderate certain policies that alienated them from large portions of the electorate.  George Bush won 40% of the Latino vote whereas Romney only picked up 29%.  Hispanics voted en masse for Obama.  Romney and the Republican party have ostracised this large demographic through their extreme immigration policies.   Pat Cadell, a public opinion pollster who worked on Jimmy Carter’s campaign team, spoke on Fox News of the party’s problems, “There is no future for a party that consistently gets wiped out at the polls by Latinos and Women and which constantly appears negative.”  The first presidential debate in Detroit was the highlight of the Romney campaign as he shape-shifted toward the centre.  Voters did not really know who Romney was – they were still uncertain of his true identity. What they feared was the Republican party of the last four years and that his potential administration would have reflected the GOP’s extreme agenda. American politics desperately needs a united Republican party.  They need to decide their identity and emerge as the party of fiscal responsibility and moderately conservative social policies or they will find themselves left behind by the future generations of American voters.

One can only get elected once on a ‘change’ platform.  The American public had a four year record on which to judge Obama so either his policies were seen as acceptable by the electorate or the opposition was not seen as offering a viable alternative – a bit of both seems to be the answer.  Economically Obama inherited ‘The Great Recession’, as it was dubbed, from his predecessor and his policies have prevented a depression.  The recovery is slow but there are green shoots.  Voters are beginning to see improvements in the economy and perhaps the electorate was wary that a new administration could derail this progress.  A Republican Congress has stymied much of Obama’s stimulus plan however the bailout of the auto-industry saved many jobs.  In Ohio for example this bailout directly translated into a victory for him in this vital swing state.  Exit polls suggested that nobody voted solely on foreign policy.  The Republicans touted Obama as weak but he has managed to repair America’s reputation in foreign eyes without pandering or endangering American national security as was feared by his opposition.  Military hawks waited for the incumbent to slip up in his first term but he has been almost flawless in foreign theatres. Al Qaeda is a shadow of its former self.  He tracked down and killed Osama Bin Laden.  He ended the unpopular war in Iraq.  His sanctions on Iran have been tough and he intervened responsibly in the Arab Spring.  He increased troop levels in Afghanistan but intends to pull out of that quagmire by 2014.  The only real blot on his record was the loss of four American lives in Benghazi in Libya and Romney tried to make political capital from this event during the campaign and as a result he lost popularity.  If there is something the American people can be bi-partisan about it is in events where they lose their own men.

Obama’s win was an endorsement for his policies and an acknowledgment that the government has an important role to play in an American recovery.  He will look to implement legislation that he was unable to get passed in his first term now that he is equipped with a new mandate from the public.  His lasting legislative success came early in his first term with his sweeping health reform known as Obamacare.  With his re-election he hopes to fully implement these plans by 2014.  His second term priorities will be the deficit, changing the tax code, immigration and climate change.  His first major obstacle will be the ‘fiscal cliff’ the metaphor for what will happen in January when George Bush’s tax schemes lapse. If a compromise is not reached between the President and Congress on fiscal policy then taxes will increase and there will be spending cuts.  The speeches of both candidates after the results indicated that the need for cooperation on this issue will test their commitment to bi-partisanship.

This election does not indicate a united nation; real polarisation still exists in the States but what this vote does show is a majority electorate that saw Obama as working for them.  They aren’t saying he’s succeeding but he is trying and that is more than can be said of an opposition that has been unwilling to compromise.  Republican House speaker John Boehner, in a speech after the results, was clear that his Congress would remain the check on the president’s power as they have been since the mid-term elections in 2010.  President Obama’s dealings with Congress over the next four years will be the key to his legacy.  He urged reconciliation between the two parties in his emotive speech, “We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states.  We are and forever will be the United States of America.”  Let the partisan battles begin.

The Newsroom Season 1 Review

Warning: Spoilers for The Newsroom Season 1 below

Every once in a while a TV show comes along that, from the first second, feels different from all the rest. HBO series The Newsroom is one of these shows. From the writing mind of Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing, A Few Good Men), the show follows the hustle and bustle of a network news programme, hosted by anchor-man in need of reinventing Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels). Opening episode “We Just Decided To” introduces us to McAvoy as he sits sandwiched in a bickering session on a televised debate. His lack of interest coupled with him seeing his liberal and empowered ex in the crowd prompts him to answer an audience question with a scathing and all too factual rant about exactly how far America is from the top of the global pile and just how far the nation has slipped. This sets us up for the theme of the series, McAvoy is an anchor in need of rejuvenation and with the help of said ex, played brilliantly by Emily Mortimer, he and his crew embark on the task of bringing the real news to the American people.

With Sorkin at the helm one thing that was always a guarantee with this series is that the dialogue would be sharp and witty as they come. What he also manages to achieve however is he skirts any and every cliché whilst also steering far enough way so as not to entirely fall into their traps. Yes, McAvoy is the gruffy grump anchor who we can see as the series continues is slowly but surely going to unfold. Yes, there’s a Ross and Rachel scenario in the form of Jim and Maggie (both played, once again, with absolute aplomb by John Gallagher Jr. and Alison Pill). And yes, there is somewhat fantastical moments of hilarity and stupidity that are of course out of place in the realm of reality, but they make for fantastic television. But this is a show that feels different, how is that so with all these clichés floating about? See, what The Newsroom does so well is that it always stays aware that it is a TV show. It is set in a world where all the elements of pop culture exist. References fly about to the likes of baseball flick Rudy and that other HBO show Sex and the City and given that it is set in a TV studio, the show is allowed a certain meta quality. Any moment that seems too cliché can always be written off as a subtle nod/dig at other shows, whether it is or not.

Where The Newsroom really excels is how, like Scrubs before it, it does have moments where it makes the viewer want to work in this place based solely on the programme. Seeing the banter and humour that comes with the job coupled with how reactive and emotionally connected the crew will get to the right story, one can’t help but think this really is a great place to be a part of. The finest episodes to exhibit this quality are “I’ll Try To Fix You” and “5/1”. In the former, Will becomes wrapped up in a smear campaign being undertaken by a trashy magazine and the majority of the episode is filled with humour at Will’s expense. Then all of a sudden, the news breaks of the shooting of Gaby Giffords and suddenly all the smaller issues are thrown out, the crew unites and strives to make sure only the truth makes it to their audience. Yes, it does all happen to the strains of Coldplay’s Fix You, but there’s Sorkin skirting those clichés again. The latter, “5/1” is one of the episodes I had been most looking forward to seeing the show tackle, that being the death of Osama Bin Laden. Given the subject nature, there was always a risk of this story being treated far too patriotically and come across as pure cheese. On the contrary, it feels incredibly real. There is real joy in the characters as they hear the news, there is a more real sense of them trying to get the show right than there was for any other story and now that I think of it, I don’t even think I caught a glimpse of the stars and stripes once in that episode. Quite simply, “5/1” is one of the finest episodes of television ever seen. Fact.

One issue with the show, and it is one that does prevent it from being perfect, is that being based on a news programme, there is always the sense that the writer is taking the opportunity to force their opinions on a mass audience. It can’t be denied that the general theme of the show is that the Republicans have let themselves go and the party is a disgrace. Whilst it isn’t exactly littered with Obama praise either, this message got through even to myself who has zero knowledge or interest in American politics. Whilst it doesn’t hinder the series in any major way, it can’t be denied that it is still there all the same. A small gripe I suppose though and definitely only a minor blemish on an otherwise flawless series.

Thankfully, The Newsroom has been renewed for another season and, trust me, once you finish these ten episodes you will be salivating for more. It is an old school show in a modern world and more of it could only be a good thing. An absolute must see.

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