The Discouraging Findings Obama’s Former Economic Adviser Has About Longterm UnemploymentPosted March 25, 2014 at 1:20 pm by Fred Lucas
In a fairly discouraging outlook from a former Obama economic adviser, the longterm unemployed may not have much brighter futures even when the economy does pick up.
An analysis found that from 2008 through 2012, only about 10 percent of those without a job for 27 weeks or longer returned to steady, full-time employment within a year of when government agencies checked back with them. Steady employment is defined as working the same job for at least four months.
Alan Krueger, former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, co-authored the Brookings Institute study on the longterm unemployed along with two other Princeton University colleagues, Judd Cramer and David Cho.
The study found that if someone is without a job for 15 months, they are twice as likely to drop out of the labor force entirely. Already, 10.8 million dropped out of the labor force since early 2009, which skews the unemployment rate – currently 6.7 percent – that measures the jobless who are looking for work.
“The portrait of the long-term unemployed in the U.S. that emerges here suggests that, to a considerable extent, they are an unlucky subset of the unemployed,” the Brookings study said.
Moreover, the Brookings study found that reemployment for long-term unemployed did not improve substantially in states with stronger job markets. That could project dim prospects for when the economy improves.
“Our preliminary analysis suggests that the longterm unemployment rate has remained elevated even in low-unemployment rate states (defined as the 13 states with the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. as of October 2013),” the study said. “In addition, we do not find evidence that the longterm unemployed are faring better in terms of transitioning to employment in the low-unemployment states than in the high-unemployment states.”
It added, “These findings suggest that the longterm unemployed will continue to encounter difficulty finding employment even if the unemployment rate continues to fall, although a stronger economy would undoubtedly raise the prospects of the long-term unemployed.”
Previous studies have found that being unemployed for a long period of time carries a stigma that could repel potential employers, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper cited a study where researchers sent out phony resumes with all things being equal, and found employers were far less likely to respond to long term unemployed than those that were jobless for only a short time.
This Is Unlike Any Fire Drill You’ve Ever ExperiencedPosted March 25, 2014 at 1:15 pm by Liz Klimas
A Cleveland grade school counselor did her due diligence making sure students were ushered outside for a fire drill on a rainy day, but the drill wasn’t just to teach students proper protocol for fire safety. It came with a major surprise just for her.
Megan Zahorec — known as Miss Z to her Greentown School students — was outside taking head counts when her firefighter boyfriend Justin Deierling rolled up fully suited and asked her to marry him.
Though Zahorec got a diamond ring on March 19, the students weren’t left out either as Deierling arranged for them to each get a ring pop.
“Megan has changed my life in the best way. I wanted to do something super special for her,” Deierling said in the description of the video shot by his brother and posted on to YouTube. “We met on this date [six] months ago while I was volunteering for my [fire department] passing out water to the students participating in a walkathon. I instantly knew she was someone special. I knew how much she loves her job and the kids at Greentown and wanted to include them as well as the place we met. I thought what better to do this than a fire drill. […] It was a great successes. Such a great day!!”
Watch the surprise proposal:
Pilot Manages Unbelievable Landing After Wind Tips Plane Toward the Ground Just Feet Above the RunwayPosted March 25, 2014 at 1:04 pm by Elizabeth Kreft
High winds and driving rain tossed this propeller plane into a near nose-dive mere feet above the runway, but somehow the pilot was able to recover and land safely.
Newsflare told TheBlaze the incredible video was filmed Sunday on the island of Flores in the Azores.
“The commercial flight was a propeller-driven Bombardier Q400 approaching Flores airport when it is buffeted by wind,” a Newsflare spokesman said.
The video shows the aircraft swaying and bouncing wildly several times above and on the runway before finally touching down.
There were no reports of any injuries, which makes watching this footage a little easier:
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.
Ukrainian Women Urge Sex Boycott Against Russian MenPosted March 25, 2014 at 12:58 pm by Sara Carter
As the United States and European Union attempt to halt Russian aggression toward Ukraine with sanctions against members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, it seems Ukrainian women are threatening some of their own: They’re calling for a sex strike on Russian men.
A group of female activists launched a Facebook page to sell T-shirts that declare: “Don’t give it to a Russian.” They’re encouraging women to “fight the enemy by whatever means,” according to Global Voices, a website which translates Russian language media.
The official logo shows two hands clasped together along with “a verse from Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko’s 1838 poem ‘Kateryna’: ‘O lovely maidans, fall in love, but not with the Moskaly [the Russians],’” Global Voices noted. As of Tuesday, the Facebook page had more than 900 “likes.”
According to Global Voices, the concept of sex boycotts goes back nearly 2,500 years.
Although the campaign’s Facebook page is written primarily in Russian, one of the founding activists is Katerina Venzhik, an editor at the Ukrainian news site Delo.UA, according to the Atlantic. Venzhik lives in Kiev and, like a large majority of Ukrainians, speaks Russian.
Follow Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) on Twitter.
What This Family Found In Their Home’s Mudslide Rubble Left Them Absolutely StunnedPosted March 25, 2014 at 12:40 pm by Oliver Darcy
A Washington state family is still reeling after they found something very unexpected in their home’s mudslide rubble — their beloved family dog.
According to KOMO-TV, the Kuntz family had lost hope of ever finding their chocolate lab, “Buddy.” Their home was utterly destroyed when a mudslide shifted the house 150 feet from its base Saturday.
The family was attending a baseball game when Mother Nature left their home mangled, but the family cat and dog were inside. They thought they had perished — at least until Monday.
Sifting through the wreckage that was once their home, something improbable happened.
“We were looking through all the rubble and we heard the dog whining,” Quinton Kuntz recounted to KOMO-TV.
Buddy was covered in filth, had a few gashes, but was alive.
“I just broke down crying, really happy that my dog was alright,” Quinton said. “I’m just shocked how well he did against my whole house falling on him.”
And while they did lose their cat, the Kuntz family is thankful Buddy survived.
“We had one thing we could celebrate, after just a day of horror,” a member of the family told KOMO-TV.
Saturday’s mudslide has killed at least 14 people, according to Reuters. Rescue workers continued Tuesday to search through rubble for survivors, but expect the death toll to continue to rise. As many as 176 people have been reported missing.
This post has been updated.
Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter
The Awesome Piece of Motorcycle Technology That Could Save Riders’ LivesPosted March 25, 2014 at 11:58 am by Elizabeth Kreft
A famed motorcycle company teamed up with the creators of extreme-sport clothing to design the world’s first wireless suit-mounted airbags.
Ducati Motors and Dainese collaborated to introduce the design that will offer the auto-inflation safety system that doesn’t require the rider to be connected to the bike by a release cord.
“Marking a ‘world’s first’ in the motorcycle industry and combining the innovative designs from two famous Italian brands, the new Ducati model takes a significant step forward in two-wheel safety,” Ducati said in a statement.
The Multistrada D-Air model features a fully integrated, intelligent system of sensors that wirelessly connect to the airbags inside the jackets.
Dainese has experimented with suit-mounted airbags since 2008 and its D-Air system is already available in Race and Street options. The Race version pops out of the collar to protect the neck, shoulders and collarbone, and the Street boasts a much larger bag that protects the rider’s entire torso, front and back, according to GizMag.
The two Italian companies will reveal more of their plans for the wireless airbag system April 15, but odds are they won’t expand sales to the U.S. yet. So far, the system will only be sold in Europe. But you can watch the cool slow motion video of the vest inflating, here:
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter
We Think We Know Why There Is a Creepy Clown Walking Around Staten IslandPosted March 25, 2014 at 11:43 am by Oliver Darcy
Images of a creepy clown carrying balloons around New York City’s Staten Island have surfaced on social media in the past week — but new evidence suggests it maybe part of a viral stunt for a film company.
Over the past week, images of a mysterious — yet terrifying — clown have popped up online, sending chills down the spines of local residents.
“The fact that there’s some [expletive] dressing as a clown and roaming around Staten Island has me never wanting to leave my house,” wrote Twitter user @LisaCattt.
“So I’m not cool with this Staten Island clown thing that’s developing at the moment,” echoed @NEXGENERATION.
But, according to the New York Post, the individuals who initially sparked the viral phenomenon are all tied to a borough-based horror film company.
Those men are the same individuals that posted photos and video online claiming to be “freaked” out by the clown.
Vic Dibitetto, who posted one of the videos, was heavily involved in project for the Lens production company, the Post reported.
Michael Leavy, who reportedly is a filmmaker for the company, posted an image two weeks ago with this caption: “OK, so I’m a little freaked out right now. I was driving home from Buffalo Wild Wings and saw this waving at me.”
Robert Privitera, who also reportedly worked for the company, posted about a supposedly random sighting as well.
“I’m driving home from the gym and this is what I see!” he wrote. “Guess who ain’t sleeping tonight.”
According to the Post, however, the clown continues to wander Staten Island, horrifying New Yorkers.
Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter
Christian Org Announces Major Policy Change on GaysPosted March 25, 2014 at 11:26 am by Billy Hallowell
World Vision, a prominent evangelical Christian charity that conducts humanitarian efforts around the globe, announced this week that it will begin hiring married gays and lesbians at its U.S. branch, so long as they are committed followers of Jesus Christ.
The policy change still requires World Vision’s more than 1,100 U.S. employees to be abstinent outside of marriage, though it broadens employment possibilities for gay Christians looking to work in the faith-based nonprofit realm.
World Vision U.S. President Richard Stearns told Christianity Today Monday that the move is intended to create and foster unity among believers, though he said it should not be viewed as an endorsement of same-sex marriage.
“Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues,” Stearns said. “It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”
Stearns said the organization did not cave to outside pressure to reach the decision, nor is it abandoning its stance on traditional marriage.
“This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage,” he said. “We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support.”
At the center of the policy change is the notion that denominations continue to splinter and disagree over the Bible’s stance on same-sex marriage. Since so much disagreement abounds, World Vision has chosen to step out of the debate and to allow churches to make decisions for themselves on the divisive matter.
By opening employment to gays and lesbians, church autonomy is being honored, Stearns said.
“Denominations disagree on many, many things: on divorce and remarriage, modes of baptism, women in leadership roles in the church, beliefs on evolution, etc.,” he told Christianity Today. “So our practice has always been to defer to the authority and autonomy of local churches and denominational bodies on matters of doctrine that go beyond the Apostles’ Creed and our statement of faith.”
While the organization is painting the issue as relatively unremarkable — one that merely broadens employment eligibility — World Vision’s size and scope has distinguished it a leader for other faith-based nonprofits to follow. World Vision brought in more than a billion dollars last year and is one of the top 10 charities in the U.S.
Stearns also recently wrote a letter to the organization’s staff explaining the change-of-heart, noting that World Vision spent numerous years praying about how to handle the issue of human sexuality.
In it, he said the organization’s core values and mission haven’t changed and that all employees must still embrace Jesus Christ as God’s son who died for humanity’s sins.
Read more about World Vision’s policy change here.
(H/T: Huffington Post)
Featured image via World Vision
Putin to Use Olympic Funds to Revive Soviet-Era Fitness Program for Russian CitizensPosted March 25, 2014 at 10:58 am by Liz Klimas
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he will use leftover funds from the Sochi Winter Olympics to relaunch a Soviet-era fitness regimen for Russian citizens.
Reuters reported that the Ready for Labor and Defense plan — abbreviated in Russia as GTO — was introduced in the 1930s by Joseph Stalin. Vladimir Putin said Monday that bringing this program back would “pay homage to our national historical traditions.”
It is Putin’s plan that the money set aside for the Winter Games, which wrapped up last month, now be used for sporting venues and to promote fitness starting at age 6. The Sochi Games cost Russia $50 billion to host.
Putin first pitched the revival idea last year, saying such a program would teach people “to stand up for themselves, their family and, in the final run, the Fatherland.”
It is unclear how closely Putin’s plan will follow the old GTO, but a paper published by Victor Zilberman in the McGill University Journal of Education in 1982 explained that the GTO “[encourages] sport in the everyday life of the Soviet people, to enhance military preparedness, to teach civic [defense] and to improve personal hygiene.”
Putin’s announcement comes during a period of extreme international isolation amid Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the greatest rift between the U.S. and Russia since the Cold War.
Try to Keep Calm While Reading What a School Did to a 9-Year-Old Girl After She Shaved Her Head to Support Her Cancer-Stricken FriendPosted March 25, 2014 at 10:17 am by Liz Klimas
A Colorado 9-year-old was not allowed in class Monday because she violated the school’s dress code. Her offense? Shaving her head as an act of compassion to support a friend battling cancer.
Kamryn Renfro, who attends Caprock Academy, a public charter school in Grand Junction, told KUSA-TV she “felt it was the right thing to do.”
“I was really excited I would have somebody to support me, and I wouldn’t be alone with people always laughing at me. I would at least have somebody to go through it all,” 11-year-old Delaney Clements, Kamryn’s friend who recently started chemotherapy, told KDVR-TV.
The school said in a statement that its dress code policy was “created to promote safety, uniformity and a non-distracting environment for the school’s students.”
“Under this policy, shaved heads are not permitted,” Catherine Norton Breman, president and chair of Caprock Academy board of directors, said, according to KUSA.
Watch KUSA’s report:
Jamie Olson Renfro, Kamryn’s mother, wrote on Facebook Sunday that her daughter was asked by the school not to return until her hair grew back. The mother said she realized that, as a parent, she signed unto the school’s rules every year, but “I never thought my 9-year-old daughter would do something so courageous, brave and selfless.”
In response to criticism of the school’s initial, unwavering response, the school’s board of directors called a closed meeting to discuss the issue Tuesday evening, KKOC-TV reported.
Kamryn was allowed to return to school Tuesday while the board discusses the issue.
“Words can not express how humbled my family is from all the support that our friends, family and even people we have never met before, have shown us through this ordeal that we started [Sunday] evening,” Renfro wrote on Facebook.
(H/T: Fox News)
Canadian Man Does Not Have Ebola, Tests RevealPosted March 25, 2014 at 10:01 am by Liz Klimas
TORONTO (TheBlaze/AP) — Canadian officials investigating a man suspected of having contracted Ebola during a visit to West Africa determined he does not have the deadly virus.
Cailin Rodgers, a spokeswoman for Canada’s health minister, said Tuesday lab testing confirmed the individual hospitalized with symptoms of a hemorrhagic fever does not have Ebola, which has recently made headlines after an outbreak in Guinea. There are no confirmed cases of Ebola in Canada.
The man, however, remains seriously ill and is being kept in isolation in a Saskatchewan hospital as a precaution.
Dr. Denise Werker, Saskatchewan Province’s deputy chief medical health officer, said Monday the man fell ill after returning from the West African nation of Liberia.
“People need to be in close contact with blood and bodily fluids and so that would be close household contacts of people who are taking care of these individuals,” Werker said, according to the Globe and Mail.
Even if the ill man had Ebola, Werker said, “there is no risk to the general public at all about this.
In West Africa, health workers are trying to contain an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus which is believed to have killed at least 59 people in a remote forest region in the south of Guinea. In neighboring Liberia, health officials are investigating five deaths after a group of people crossed the border from Guinea in search of medical treatment.
Watch this report with the latest about the outbreak:
Werker said health workers caring for the man at a hospital in the city of Saskatoon were taking precautions by wearing masks, gowns, gloves and boots. She said hemorrhagic fevers are not easily spread.
Dr. Kent Sepkowtiz for the Daily Beast also said that contracting Ebola in the United States is unlikely.
“[…] Ebola and its related group of devastating infections will never become a threat to the US. The disease simply sickens and kills too quickly, plus anyone in the US with an odd febrile illness and rapid progression to prostration is placed into gown and glove isolation at just about every hospital in the country,” Sepkowtiz wrote.
Hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola can be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person, or objects that have been contaminated with infected secretions. The Ebola virus leads to severe hemorrhagic fever and internal bleeding and has no vaccine or specific treatment.
“Viral hemorrhagic fever is a generic name for a number of rather exotic diseases that are found in Africa,” Werker said. This class of diseases includes Ebola hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever and yellow fever.
Two Dead After Shooting Aboard a Navy Guided-Missile Destroyer in VirginiaPosted March 25, 2014 at 9:06 am by Associated Press
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Aboard a guided-missile destroyer docked at the world’s largest naval base, a sailor was fatally shot and security forces killed the lone suspect late Monday, according to the Navy.
The suspect was a civilian who had access to be at Naval Station Norfolk, spokeswoman Terri David said early Tuesday. She said she couldn’t say whether he had permission to be on the USS Mahan, where the male sailor was shot about 11:20 p.m. Monday.
No other injuries were reported, and the base was briefly on lockdown, according to the Navy. David would not describe any other circumstances of the shooting but said the scene was secure.
The Navy will release both men’s names once their families are notified, Davis said.
Operations had returned to normal at the base, with counselors available, the Navy said in a news release. But most enlisted sailors on the Mahan – docked at the first of 13 main piers – were not to report to duty Tuesday. Base traffic was typical Tuesday morning.
The shooting on the Mahan comes about a month after the Navy held anti-terrorism and force protection exercises on bases around the U.S., including an active-shooter drill at the Norfolk station.
To get on the base, civilians must be escorted or have identification that allows them to be there. Authorized civilians can include Department of Defense employees, contractors and military family members. Davis would not elaborate on how the suspect was authorized to get on base.
Each base entrance is guarded, and all 13 piers have additional security forces. As part of ongoing security efforts, handheld ID scanners were implemented this year at Navy bases in the region, including the Norfolk station.
The shooting comes months after a September incident at the Washington Navy Yard, in which a gunman – identified as a contractor and former Navy reservist – killed 12 civilian workers before being shot to death.
The Norfolk base covers more than 6,000 acres and is the home port for 64 ships, according to information the Navy provided in February. About 46,000 military members and 21,000 civilian government employees and contractors are assigned to the base and its ships, according to the Navy figures.
The base also is the home port for a Navy hospital ship, docked at Pier 1 with the Mahan.
In February, the Norfolk base got a new commanding officer, Capt. Robert E. Clark Jr. He took over for Capt. David A. Culler Jr., who was set to retire in May. Clark had served as the installation’s executive officer since 2012.
The Mahan, commissioned in 1998, has a crew of nearly 300. In September, it returned to Norfolk after a deployment of more than eight months that included being positioned in the eastern Mediterranean Sea for a potential strike against Syria.
Associated Press writer Bernard McGhee in Atlanta contributed to this report.
‘F**k It, Let’s Go Nuts!’: Jon Stewart Unloads on CNNPosted March 25, 2014 at 8:59 am by Billy Hallowell
“Daily Show” host Jon Stewart blasted CNN’s coverage of missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, poking fun at what he perceived as the network’s over-the-top handling of a tragic and confounding situation.
At the start of the segment, the comedian played video of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper respectfully discussing the missing Malaysian airliner — then juxtaposed this clip against some of the more bombastic examples of the network’s coverage.
“An accurate and humble assessment from CNN,” Stewart said of Cooper’s balanced approach. “Until they realized, ‘Oh sh*t, we’ve got 23 hours and 59 minutes left to fill. F**k it, let’s go nuts!”
And that’s when the comedian began blasting the network’s analysis of the missing flight.
“Giant floor maps, big fake airplanes, little fake airplanes holographic airplanes — no airplane detail left unspoken!,” Stewart quipped.
He went on to note that CNN’s “airline obsession” paid off in the ratings, taking shots at the news outlet’s recent struggles to attract viewers.
“CNN’s missing airline obsession not only doubled their prime time ratings,” Stewart said. “It itself became news, because the only thing less likely than an airplane disappearing out of the sky is CNN’s ratings doubling.”
Other news networks weren’t immune to the skewering either.
Watch the segment below:
Obama Admin. Doesn’t Seem to Be Forgiving Israeli Defense Minister’s ‘Weakness’ Comments Any Time SoonPosted March 25, 2014 at 8:54 am by Sharona Schwartz
The Israeli defense minister’s efforts at smoothing over tensions with the Obama administration do not appear to be satisfying Washington, as reflected in days of criticism from the White House and the State Department, continuing through Monday.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon last week angered administration officials when he said that the U.S. was projecting “weakness” on issues including Iran, China and Ukraine, forcing Israel to conclude it may need to act alone to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Yaalon’s sharp criticism prompted phone calls and angry statements from Obama administration officials calling for an apology.
Despite a phone call from Yaalon to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last Wednesday clarifying his remarks and emphasizing that the minister values his relationship with the U.S., the State Department continued to suggest on Monday that the administration is still not appeased.
“We’re certainly disappointed that he didn’t apologize,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Monday. “His comments just don’t reflect the true nature of our relationship with Israel.”
Last Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the administration had “concerns” about what she called “the pattern of comments” from Yaalon.
White House press secretary Jay Carney last week called Yaalon’s remarks “clearly not constructive” and said that the U.S. “maintains an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protest his defense minister’s comments.
After making the initial comments, which were published Tuesday, Yaalon called U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday in what the Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post each described as an apology.
Yaalon’s office released a statement describing the conversation in which Yaalon said his comments “were not intended to express opposition, criticism or offense to the United States,” adding that he “greatly admired” the relationship and that maintaining strong ties with the United States is Israel’s utmost priority, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“I have a total commitment to these relations and to the cooperation between Israel and the United States in every way,” Yaalon told Hagel.
Yaalon had been quoted by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz blasting U.S. foreign policy as creating an image of “feebleness” and saying he hoped the U.S. would come “to its senses.”
“At some stage the United States entered into negotiations with them [the Iranians], and unhappily, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian bazaar, the Iranians were better,” Yaalon was quoted as saying.
Yaalon prompted a row with the Obama administration in January when he was quoted in a Hebrew newspaper calling Kerry “messianic” and acting out of “incomprehensible obsession” over his single-minded pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian peace framework, comments for which he later apologized.
‘How We Got Our First-Grade Teacher Fired’: Disturbing YouTube Videos Show Students Talking About Lies They Used to Can Their TeachersPosted March 25, 2014 at 8:38 am by Liz Klimas
Not everyone can be a teacher’s pet, but some students who think their instructor doesn’t like them are saying they’ve fabricated stories to get them fired.
KRIV-TV out of Houston recently conducted an investigation and found a disturbing number of YouTube videos with students describing what they’ve done to get teachers sacked.
“So, we’re going to tell you guys about how we got our first-grade teacher fired,” a young boy in a video posted to YouTube a year ago said.
“Wanna share the story?” he continued to his friend.
“What first happened is we got the suckiest teacher ever,” the other boy said. “I forgot her name … but she’s gone.”
The boys went on to describe a discipline system the teacher had in place. It was a common tactic that included a warning system, a small writing punishment for minor offenses all the way up to getting sent to the principal’s office.
“Anyway, how we got her fired … we just kept going to the principal’s office and telling her [the teacher] was harassing us,” one of the boys said, adding that they eventually told their parents as well at which point formal reports were filed. They also described having hidden cameras on their clothes to capture the alleged harassment.
“We got her pretty good but they said we didn’t show that much,” the boy said.
So, they went on to get people to sign a petition — about 20 students — to have the teacher ousted.
“We gave her a lot for her to handle,” the boys said wondering if they really got her fired or if she quit.
Watch the students talking about the efforts they went through to have the teacher leave:
And this video is not unique.
“So I had this teacher, right, Ms. Keller, and I just didn’t like her, you know, so, you know, what I said ‘let me just get her fired’ … So I went to the principal and instead of saying ‘I was molested you need to play the victim,’” another student said in a YouTube video, according to KRIV.
According to the news station, many teachers are cleared in court of accusations made by students out to get them, but it still can have damaging effects.
“I don’t think at the age those students are they realize they can ruin a person’s home life, their family often turns on them, they ruin their career, they ruin their reputation in the community,” Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, told KRIV.
Watch the news station’s report:
The National Education Association has a post about the negative effects of false reports — it cited one teacher as committing suicide afterward.
“Whenever there is an allegation, there is a victim, whether it is the accused or the accuser,” Colorado Education Association lawyer Greg Lawler said in the post. “Students these days know all too well the consequences of an abuse complaint, and they know how to game the system. They know how to get an unpopular teacher fired by making false allegations, and unfortunately, some of them try to do just that.”
‘Gay People Are Just Outright Bullies’: Pastor’s ‘Jesus Would Stone Homos’ Sign VandalizedPosted March 25, 2014 at 8:15 am by Billy Hallowell
A controversial sign at a Harlem, N.Y., church proclaiming that “Jesus would stone homos” has been vandalized.
A male suspect spray-painted “God is Gay” on both sides of the billboard outside ATLAH World Missionary Church over the weekend. The culprit also purportedly removed the letters comprising the original anti-gay message.
Surveillance footage shows a male suspect engaged in these crimes around 12:24 a.m. Saturday morning, the Christian Post reported.
Pastor James David Manning, known for his contentious views on gays and lesbians, lashed out at the individual responsible for the vandalism.
“Gay people are just outright bullies,” he told the New York Daily News. “I expected them to act in a very violent way.”
As TheBlaze previously reported, the sign outside the church reads: “Jesus Would Stone Homos. … Stoning Is Still The Law,” along with several Bible verses. Manning told the Christian Post earlier this month that the message is meant to dispel “flat-out lies” coming from gay activists.
“They have been spreading lies about what Jesus would do regarding homosexuality; whether Jesus ever addressed homosexuality, and what the Bible, in general, has to say about homosexuality,” Manning said at the time. “So we thought we’d say what Jesus would do.”
The Daily News reported that the New York Police Department is investigating the vandalism as a hate crime — a move Manning praised, as he believes it was motivated by “pure and simple hate.”
The “Jesus Would Stone Homos” sign follows a controversial message that Manning posted last month about President Barack Obama. It read: “Obama has released the homo demons on the black man. Look out black woman. A white homo may take your man.”
Manning also made headlines last summer for telling his mostly black congregation to stop viewing the world through their “black eyes” and start looking at it through the “blood of Jesus.”
He made these comments in an effort to publicly defend the “not guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin case.
(H/T: Christian Post)
Watching This Breathtaking Video Is Likely as Close as You’ll Ever Come to BASE Jumping Off NYC’s Freedom TowerPosted March 25, 2014 at 12:24 am by Jason Howerton
Three BASE jumpers are set to be arraigned in court for leaping from New York City’s Freedom Tower last month. On Monday night, the stunning video footage of the stunt that got them in trouble with the law was released.
The thrill-seekers, identified as James Brady, Andrew Rossig and Marko Markovich, turned themselves in on Monday for their involvement in the Sept. 30 BASE jump off the 1,776-foot-tall building.
“The jumpers’ lawyer said that any money that came in from ads on YouTube would be donated to charity,” The New York Post reports.
Watch the breathtaking video below:
Russia Sanctions: Who’s Losing Out So Far?Posted March 24, 2014 at 11:59 pm by Guest Post
The sanctions taken against Russia by the West over its annexation of Crimea are already having an impact, which is set to deepen in coming months.
The first round of sanctions, which came out earlier in March, were viewed as weak, but a second round announced last week seemed to have more far-reaching impact. Visa and MasterCard have stopped providing services for clients at the two Russian banks, Rossiya and SMP, which have already been targeted by sanctions.
“The actions taken by the US/EU bring Russia to the outer limit of the ‘inconvenient’ sanctions,” Chris Weafer, senior partner at Moscow-based firm Macro-Advisory Ltd, said. “Any additional sanctions are likely to cross into the trade and economy disruption category. It is that threat which is now of greatest concern to investors and the business community.”
Patriotic Russians have opened accounts at Bank Rossiya in response to the sanctions, according to Yuri Kovalchuk, the bank’s chairman and one of the influential Russians targeted by sanctions.
Targeted trade bans, which are likely to be the next phase of sanctions, have not happened, but many companies seem to be behaving as though they are.
“We’re not getting responses to calls or emails on deals that are supposed to close within weeks,” one source at a Russian company told CNBC, speaking about Western companies whom they are supposed to buy goods from.
“There have also been numerous anecdotal reports of orders for goods and services to and from Russia being canceled and of a number of financial transactions being halted or at least delayed,” Stephen Leach, emerging market economist at Citi, pointed out.
There are growing concerns that Western jobs are now at real risk if sanctions continue or are increased. Companies like Boeing, which uses Russian titanium, or General Electric, which leases aircraft to Russian airlines, may see profits dented by sanctions.
A series of meetings between the G-7 nations: Canada; France; Germany; Italy; Japan; the United Kingdom and the United States this week in Europe and Ukraine is expected to further raise tensions.
Germany, one of Russia’s closest European trading partners, with more than 6,000 businesses engaged in Russia, has adopted a harder line than some expected on sanctions. The government last week indefinitely suspended a planned 100 million euro ($140-million) contract for German defense group Rheinmetall to build a training camp for Russian forces.
Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov called the decision “unconstructive” and “canceling out the positive trends developed in recent years,” according to Interfax, the Russian news service.
The BGA exporters’ body, Germany’s main trade body warned that further economic sanctions would be a “real catastrophe” on Friday.
The impact on Russia and Ukraine’s economies will not be clear for weeks, until the economic data from when the escalation in tensions began is released. However, economists have rushed to downgrade their 2014 growth forecasts for both economies.
Within Russia, there are major concerns about the impact on confidence for consumers and businesses, and about money being taken out of the country and invested elsewhere. Investors with more stomach for risk should look at Novatek, Megafon and CTC Media, according to Weafer. All have seen their share prices hit by concerns about sanctions against major investors, but are fundamentally good businesses, he argued.
Around $45-50 billion was taken out of the country in 2014 up until the middle of March, according to Goldman Sachs, the bank charged with restoring Russia’s image internationally, compared to $63 billion in the whole of 2013.
In the West, the tens of thousands of companies with Russian links may just have to grin and bear it.
Nils Andersen, chief executive of Danish shipping company Maersk, told CNBC: “If it comes to sanctions everybody involved in international commerce where Russia and areas around Russia and even Europe is involved will be affected to a large or smaller extent. We just hope that the sanction will be reasonable if any and we will have to find solutions.”
- Russian troops seize Ukrainian naval base
- Why sanctions and S&P may spoil Russia’s Crimea party
- Ukraine’s battered economy
Meanwhile, the Kremlin has retaliated with sanctions against the West.
The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that 13 Canadians were banned from entering Russia, including the head of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Paul Grod, as well as politicians and aides to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This followed a similar ban last Thursday on nine U.S. lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, and Senator John McCain.
©2014 CNBC LLC. All Rights Reserved. Catherine Boyle and Kiran Moodley.
Accomplished Actor Wanted His Obituary to Say Exactly What Was in His Heart – So He Wrote It Himself Before He DiedPosted March 24, 2014 at 11:46 pm by Jason Howerton
Accomplished actor James Rebhorn passed away last week at age 65 following a tough and long battle with melanoma.
The “Homeland” actor’s church, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Jersey City, N.J., revealed on Monday that Rebhorn actually penned his own obituary.
“He was a lucky man in every way,” the actor wrote.
He spent a lot more time talking about the people he loved than himself, and he allotted just one paragraph to talk about his career as an actor.
Read the entire touching obituary below:
James Robert Rebhorn was born on Sept. 1, 1948, in Philadelphia, PA. His mother, Ardell Frances Rebhorn, nee Hoch, loved him very much and supported all his dreams. She taught him the value of good manners and courtesy, and that hospitality is no small thing. His father, James Harry Rebhorn, was no less devoted to him. From him, Jim learned that there is no excuse for poor craftsmanship. A job well done rarely takes more or less time than a job poorly done. They gave him his faith and wisely encouraged him to stay in touch with God.
He is survived by his sister, Janice Barbara Galbraith, of Myrtle Beach, SC. She was his friend, his confidant, and, more often than either of them would like to admit, his bridge over troubled waters.
He is also survived by his wife, Rebecca Fulton Linn, and his two daughters, Emma Rebecca Rebhorn and Hannah Linn Rebhorn. They anchored his life and gave him the freedom to live it. Without them, always at the center of his being, his life would have been little more than a vapor. Rebecca loved him with all his flaws, and in her the concept of ceaseless love could find no better example.
His children made him immensely proud. Their dedication to improving our species and making the world a better place gave him hope for the future. They deal with grief differently, and they should each manage it as they see fit. He hopes, however, that they will grieve his passing only as long as necessary. They have much good work to do, and they should get busy doing it. Time is flying by. His son-in-law, Ben, also survives him. Jim loved Ben, who was as a son to Jim, especially through these last months.
His aunts Jean, Dorothy and Florence, numerous cousins and their families, and many devoted friends also survive Jim. He loved them all, and he knows they loved him.
Jim received his BA at Wittenberg University and his MFA at Columbia. He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Nu Zeta 624, a life-long Lutheran, and a longtime member of both the AMC and ACLU.
Jim was fortunate enough to earn his living doing what he loved. He was a professional actor. His unions were always there for him, and he will remain forever grateful for the benefits he gained as a result of the union struggle. Without his exceptional teachers and the representation of the best agents in the business, he wouldn’t have had much of a career. He was a lucky man in every way.
–Jim Rebhorn, March 2014
Report: Obama to Call for End to NSA’s Bulk Call Data CollectionPosted March 24, 2014 at 11:31 pm by Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Security Agency may be getting out of the business of sweeping up and storing vast amounts of data on people’s phone calls.
The Obama administration this week is expected to propose that Congress overhaul the electronic surveillance program by having phone companies hold onto the call records as they do now, according to a government official briefed on the proposal. The New York Times first reported the details of the proposal Monday night. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the plan.
The White House proposal would end the government’s practice of sweeping up the phone records of millions of Americans and holding onto those records for five years so the numbers can be searched for national security reasons. Instead, the White House is expected to propose that the records be kept for 18 months, as the phone companies are already required to do by federal regulation.
Details of the government’s secret phone records collection program were disclosed last year by a former NSA systems analyst. Privacy advocates were outraged to learn that the government was holding onto phone records of innocent Americans for up to five years.
In January, President Barack Obama tasked his administration with coming up with an alternative to the current counterterrorism program. Obama also said that the option of having the phone companies hold the records posed problems.
“This will not be simple,” Obama said. An independent review panel suggested that the practice of the government collecting the phone records be replaced by a third party or the phone companies holding the records, and the government would access them as needed.
“Both of these options pose difficult problems,” Obama said in January. “Relying solely on the records of multiple providers, for example, could require companies to alter their procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns.”
And the phone companies have been against this option, as well.
In several meetings with White House staff since December, phone company executives came out strongly opposed to proposals that would shift the custody of the records from the NSA to the telecoms. The executives said they would only accept such changes to the NSA program if they were legally required and if that requirement was spelled out in legislation.
The companies are concerned about the costs of retaining the records and potential liability, such as being sued by individuals whose phone data was provided to intelligence or law enforcement agencies, these people said. The discussions with the White House ceased earlier this year. Industry officials said they had not been in contact with the administration as new options were being considered. The executives have continued to discuss the issue with lawmakers, however.
The administration’s proposed changes won’t happen right away. The government plans to continue its bulk collection program for at least three months, the Times said.
The White House does not have the full support of Congress for this option, either.
The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, has advocated for the program to continue to operate as it does. The California Democrat said she would be open to other options if they met national security and privacy needs.
It is unclear whether the White House proposal will meet those needs.
Leaders of the House intelligence committee are expected to introduce legislation Tuesday that would call for a similar option to the Obama administration’s.
Under the administration’s pending legislative proposal, officials would have to obtain phone records by getting individual orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Times report said. The new court orders would require companies to provide those records swiftly and to make available continuing data related to the order when new calls are placed or received.
Mark Levin Explodes on Mitch McConnell for Reportedly ‘Pressing Republican Senators to Join Harry Reid’ on Key Vote (UPDATED)Posted March 24, 2014 at 11:11 pm by Jason Howerton
UPDATE: The day after conservative radio host Mark Levin went off on him for reportedly “pressing” Republicans to vote with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Democrats on the Ukraine aid bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said the “controversial IMF provision must be removed.”
Conservative lawmakers have been calling for a “clean” aid bill that excludes additional, “extraneous” funding for the International Monetary Fund. The aid portion of the bill includes $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine.
“Look: this bill cannot pass the House or become law in its current form — it must be amended,” McConnell said. “Not only have many members not yet had the chance to offer amendments in committee, but so many developments have unfolded in this crisis in the weeks since the bill was drafted that the legislation will have to be modified – at least to take those realities into account. And in order for it to become law, the controversial IMF provision must be removed.”
However, as the Hill notes, “Democrats may not be inclined to offer amendments to Republicans given that they appear to have the 60 votes needed to pass the bill. The measure cleared a procedural vote 78 to 17 Monday evening.”
Still, it was reported on Tuesday that Reid was considering removing the IMF provisions.
A Senate GOP aide told TheBlaze that Senate Republican leaders have closely coordinated with their House counterparts specifically on this issue for weeks.
“House Republicans have the majority and therefore the ability to prevent Democrats from playing politics with the Ukraine package by adding controversial provisions like the IMF funding,” the aide said. “They’ve passed a clean package and now the pressure is on Senate Democrats who are back-peddling to defend their extraneous political add on. Democrats now face a choice: help Ukraine or look like petty opportunists.”
A bipartisan House bill that would strip the IMF provisions from the Senate bill was introduced last week.
It was clear on Tuesday that Levin wasn’t buying what he framed as a McConnell flip-flop:
He votes for it, urges his members to vote for it, now complains about it http://t.co/4Sb2ZStHv0
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) March 25, 2014
WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) — Conservative radio host Mark Levin exploded on Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other GOP leaders on Monday for refusing to stand against “extraneous” funding for the International Monetary Fund currently included in a Ukraine aid bill.
He accused McConnell of undermining House Republicans in the fight to pass a “clean” bill that only includes the $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and other U.S. sanctions of Russia.
“[McConnell] delivered more than half of the Republican conference into the hands of Harry Reid and the Democrats, enabling them to gain leverage over the GOP-controlled House and pass this IMF crap I just told you about,” he said. “McConnell was pressing Republican senators to join Harry Reid on this vote.”
Several conservative lawmakers have objected to including the IMF provisions in the Ukraine aid bill.
“He’s not a conservative,” Levin said of McConnell. “He’s an operator.”
Listen to what Levin had to say via the Right Scoop:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday that Republicans may have helped Russia annex Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, delivering a surprisingly sharp attack just before lawmakers advanced the bill.
The 78-17 procedural vote in favor of the legislation spared President Barack Obama an embarrassing setback while he lobbies U.S. partners on a weeklong trip overseas to punish Moscow for its annexation of the Crimean peninsula. But Reid’s tone suggested a compromise with the Republican-controlled House may prove difficult, prolonging Congress’ inaction in the two weeks since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military intervention.
Reid focused his ire on the GOP senators who blocked the bill before lawmakers went on break March 14. He urged them to consider “how their obstruction affects United States’ national security as well as the people of Ukraine” and said their delay of any congressional action “sent a dangerous message to Russian leaders.”
“Since a few Republicans blocked these important sanctions last work period, Russian lawmakers voted to annex Crimea and Russian forces have taken over Ukrainian military bases,” Reid said. “It’s impossible to know whether events would have unfolded differently if the United States had responded to Russian aggression with a strong, unified voice.”
The Nevada Democrat’s charge came despite widespread bipartisan support for providing Ukraine with much-needed economic assistance and hitting Putin’s government with sanctions. And GOP Senate aides noted the House has passed different legislation, meaning the Senate bill could not have become law before recess anyhow.
They blamed Reid and Democrats for blocking the Senate from taking up the House legislation.
Reid “sounds completely unhinged,” fired back Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “The House has acted, and is continuing to act, in a reasonable and responsible way to give the White House the tools it needs to hold President Putin accountable.”
The Senate bill includes a proposal from one of Obama’s fiercest critics, Republican Sen. John McCain, enabling the president to impose economic penalties on Russian government officials for corruption even within Russia’s own borders. The broadness of the authorization is unprecedented for Russia, even if applying the sanctions would be at Obama’s discretion.
But it also includes GOP-opposed reforms of the International Monetary Fund, which the United States, Europe and others are working with to stabilize Ukraine’s economy. The IMF’s 2010 reforms increase the power of emerging countries in the lending body and shift some $63 billion from a crisis fund to a general account it can use for economic stabilization operations around the world.
Republicans have long spurned the administration’s attempt to ratify the IMF changes, saying they’d increase the exposure of U.S. taxpayers in foreign bailouts managed by the fund. Making the shift now, opponents such as Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio argue, also would marginally increase Russia’s voting power over the fund’s finances.
The Obama administration and Democrats counter that unless the U.S. approves the new rules, Washington will lose its influence at the IMF and hamper the body’s ability to avert economic meltdowns in places precisely like Ukraine. The U.S. is the only major country that has yet to sign off.
With American officials warning that Russia could opt to expand further into Ukraine, McCain urged his colleagues to look beyond the IMF provisions. He stressed the need for Congress to pass the Senate bill quickly.
“If we do not send this message now,” McCain said, “Putin will be encouraged to enact further acts of aggression against Crimea and in the region.”
Reid interpreted the logjam differently. He said Republicans blocked the bill before Congress’ one-week recess to “protect the anonymity of their big-money donors” such as the Koch brothers, two of America’s wealthiest men who’ve strongly supported conservative causes.
He was referring to an unsuccessful attempt by some Republicans to include an amendment to the bill halting new IRS regulations on groups claiming tax-exempt status.
“Republicans objected to moving forward with this aid package unless Democrats agreed to allow the Kochs and billionaires like them to continue to anonymously spend millions trying to buy America’s democracy,” Reid said. “It’s hard to believe. But that’s the truth.”
Nevertheless, a majority of Senate Republicans joined Democrats in passing the cloture vote Monday evening, setting the stage for full Senate passage of the bill later this week.
House members are preparing to write their own Russia sanctions bill at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs committee Tuesday, supplementing the aid legislation they passed earlier this month. Neither includes any reference to the IMF.
‘Miracle’ Saves Father & His Six Kids After Their Car Tipped Over on a HighwayPosted March 24, 2014 at 11:00 pm by Oliver Darcy
A Massachusetts father thanked the man who saved his family’s life Monday, as local news cameras recorded the heartfelt exchange.
“It’s only by the grace of God you guys were there it’s totally a miracle. I just want to thank you and whoever else was with you on that afternoon,” David Sullivan told Chris Cronen as WBZ-TV cameras recorded.
Cronen was reportedly on his way home from a ski trip when he saw a car tipped over on a New Hampshire highway. Inside he says he saw Sullivan and his three kids, along with three of their friends.
“I immediately yelled for help and here comes three Air Force guys running toward the scene,” Cronen recalled to WBZ-TV.
With “a big team effort” the men were able to successfully get everyone out of the vehicle.
“It’s just a miracle he came to after he pulled him out of the vehicle,” Cronen said.
And, while Sullivan was injured, he says the kids are doing okay.
“I got a concussion and shattered vertebrae, neck brace. Tell you what the kids are fine,” Sullivan told WBZ-TV.
The father of three added that he just wants to thank those who rushed to the scene to offer help.
“I am glad I was there able to help and even more glad that the civilians and Air Force guys were there to assist to help get boys out and you out,” he said.
Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter
Viral Video Captures What Looks Like Something Straight Out of the Apocalypse – But It Can Happen ‘Any Time of the Year’Posted March 24, 2014 at 10:30 pm by Jason Howerton
Rocky Mountain Arsenal firefighter Thomas Rogers captured absolutely breathtaking footage of a vicious “dust devil” or “firenado” on camera last week. He naturally then uploaded the video on YouTube for the rest of us to enjoy.
The video is from Friday at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in the Denver area.
In an interview with CNN, Rogers said similar dust devils can occur “any time of the year, not just fire season.”
With the addition of the thrash metal music, the footage looks like something out of the apocalypse.
Thinking Caps Might Actually Be a Real ThingPosted March 24, 2014 at 10:15 pm by Liz Klimas
“Put your thinking caps on.”
It’s a common phrase, but according to new research from Vanderbilt University a cap that applied a mild electric current to the brain could enhance the wearer’s ability to learn. The cap, however, was also shown to depress learning, depending on the direction of the current.
Psychologists Robert Reinhart, a Ph.D. candidate, and professor Geoffrey Woodman wanted to see if they could control the area of the brain that is associated with learning from our mistakes, which was already known to emit a negative voltage when a mistake is made.
To conduct their research, participants were fitted with a headband with electrodes that applied transcranial direct current stimulation for 20 minutes.
“Using one direction of current flow, we eliminated performance-monitoring activity, reduced behavioral adjustments after an error and slowed learning. By reversing the current flow in the same subjects, we enhanced performance-monitoring activity, increased behavioral adjustments after an error and sped learning,” the study’s abstract stated.
Explained another way, Reinhart told Vanderbilt that when current flowed from the positively charged electrode to the negatively charged one, they found “we can make you more cautious, less error-prone, more adaptable to new or changing situations — which is pretty extraordinary.”
An improvement on cognition was observed for up to five hours after this stimulation, which the study classified as a noninvasive procedure. The study participants, however, didn’t personally notice a positive or negative effect on their cognitive abilities as a result of the stimulation, though the results were observed by scientists.
In addition to improved learning capabilities, the researchers think it could be paired with treatments for disorders like schizophrenia and ADHD, according to the university.
This study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Featured image via Shutterstock.
Has Russia Figured Out How to Evade U.S. Counterintelligence Operations? Why the Crimean Invasion Has Washington WorriedPosted March 24, 2014 at 10:00 pm by Becket Adams
As U.S. satellites observed Russian troops gathering near Crimea’s border last month, officials in the nation’s capital were shocked that they hadn’t received earlier notice of military action in the area.
In fact, prior to Russia’s takeover of Crimea, U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted virtually no Russian communications suggesting a possible invasion of the peninsula, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The failure of the U.S. intelligence community to provide Washington with detailed information on Russia’s plans before they were set into motion has many in the nation’s capital worried that the Kremlin has somehow figured out how to elude U.S. eavesdropping, the report adds.
“Even though there was a warning, we didn’t have the information to be able to say exactly what was going to happen,” a senior U.S. official said told the Journal.
In response to this surprising failure, the U.S. is scrambling to improve its communications-interception efforts. The idea is that the expanded coverage will provide U.S. officials with better information that may help them predict Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next move.
“We have gone into crisis-response mode,” a senior official told the Journal.
Still, even in “crisis-response mode,” U.S. officials are worried that Russia will continue to cloak its actions and that troop movements may continue to go undetected.
“That is the question we’re all asking ourselves,” an official said.
As a result of Russia’s swift and nearly silent takeover of Crimea, the Obama administration is “very nervous,” the Journal reported, citing an official familiar with the matter.
“This is uncharted territory,” the official said.
When Russia decided to make its play for Crimea, U.S. intelligence agencies were busy observing troops on Russian soil. Washington hadn’t anticipated that the takeover would come from Russian troops already inside the peninsula.
But that’s exactly what happened.
A few officials admitted there were some slight inconsistencies between intelligence reports on Ukraine, Russia and Crimea, but they said the reports didn’t contain anything substantial enough to suggest a sudden takeover. These same officials also said that the Russian takeover was so swift that there was little the U.S. military and President Obama could have done differently.
This leaves the lingering question: How did Russia manage to pull this off virtually undetected?
“Some U.S. military and intelligence officials say Russia’s war planners might have used knowledge about the U.S.’s usual surveillance techniques to change communication methods about the looming invasion,” the Journal reported. “U.S. officials haven’t determined how Russia hid its military plans from U.S. eavesdropping equipment that picks up digital and electronic communications.”
The Journal is careful to note that although the U.S. maintains assets observing Russia, most of the Washington’s attention is set on the Middle East.
Further, it’s important to remember that the U.S. had information as early as December indicating that Putin had his eye on Crimea, prompting the U.S. to expand satellite coverage of the area. However, after expanding coverage of Russia and observing initial satellite imagery, U.S. officials concluded that the Russian movements around and inside Crimea were typical military exercises.
They were mistaken.
By Feb. 26, U.S. officials had changed their minds and were certain Russia was going to make a play for Crimea — but they still lacked corroborating evidence of a possible invasion.
“We didn’t have someone [from the Russians] saying: ‘Let’s do this,’ ” a U.S. official said, stressing that they never intercepted early communications from Russian officials pointing to a takeover of Crimea.
Now, the annexation of Crimea complete, U.S. officials believe Russia was able to move as quickly as it did because it had already slipped small bands of highly trained soldiers into the area, somehow avoiding detection by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Of course, it’s possible that the U.S. didn’t intercept any invasion communications because there weren’t any. That is, the takeover could have been a last-minute decision from Putin that was known only by him and his closest advisors.
“Some U.S. and U.K. officials believe that Russia’s takeover plan was drawn up in advance and ready to go, reducing the need to discuss it,” the Journal reported.
Then again, as certain U.S. officials fear, it’s possible that the Russians have been given information on how to avoid U.S. spying.
Obama on Feb. 28 issued his final public warning against Putin. It was too late: Russia had already seized control of Crimea, its sights set on the peninsula’s important naval installations. On March 18, Putin signed a treaty declaring Crimea a part of the Russian Federation, the latest development in a takeover that apparently caught the U.S. off guard.
“This is the kind of thing young military officers are going to be reading about in their history books,” an official said.
A spokesperson with the CIA did not immediately return TheBlaze’s request for comment.
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
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