U.S. top military brass warns: the U.S. isn’t ready for a war with Russia or China

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September 2016WASHINGTONThe United States military is not ready to confront a peer-level threat such as Russia or China in a high-end conflict. As it currently stands, while the United States would ultimately prevail in a hypothetical high-end war, Washington would pay a high price in blood and treasure. That’s what the nation’s top uniformed officers told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 15. Gen. Mark Milley, United States Army chief of staff, reiterated his belief that his service does not have the resources and training to execute America’s national security strategy without ‘high military risk.’ Risk in Milley’s context is the ability for an Army unit to meet its objectives on time and at an acceptable price in terms men—dead and wounded—and materiel. “My assessment remains the same,” Milley told the Senate.
Chief of naval operations, Adm. John Richardson, said that the United States Navy faces the same problem. “I concur with Gen. Milley,” Richardson told the committee. “If we get into one of those conflicts, we’ll win, but it going to take a lot longer than we’d like and it’s going to cost a lot more in terms of dollars and in casualties.” Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the United States Marine Corps, also agreed with his peers. “I agree, we’ve build a force that’s been focused on the counterinsurgency fight, and while we’ve been doing that effectively, our potential adversaries have recapitalized from the ground up and built a force that has very significant capability that grows everyday,” Neller said. “So we’re in the process now of getting ourselves back to where [we need to be] and looking at those capabilities we need to match that up.”
U.S. Air Force chief of staff Gen. David L. Goldfein was more measured in his testimony, but agreed with his peers in aggregate. Goldfein said that it is important to ask what kind of conflict the Pentagon is preparing for. If the U.S. military is preparing for a fight against a major regional war while deterring another in another theatre while also securing the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent and defending the American homeland simultaneously, then the military is facing a high risk, Goldfein said. “But you’ve got to walk down that line,” Goldfein said.

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Milley—whose service along with the Marine Corps most directly faces off against America’s enemies—did not shy away from describing the consequences of sending units that are not fully prepared into battle against a near-peer threat. “The butcher’s bill is paid in the blood of American soldiers for unready forces,” Milley said. “We have a long history of that— Kasserine Pass, Guadalcanal, Okinawa, Tarawa, Task Force Smith in the Korean War. It goes all the way back to Bull Run—Lincoln thought he was going to fight a war for 90 days. Wars are often thought to be short when they begin—they’re not. They’re often thought to cost less than they end up costing and they end up with outcomes and take turns you never know. It’s a dangerous thing.”
The best way to prepare for conflict is to deter the enemy so that it does not come to war, Milley said. But if war does break out, the best way to fight it is by winning quickly and decisively. “The best thing I know off is to ensure you have forces that are sized, trained, manned and equipped and very, very capable to first prevent the war from starting to begin with, and then once it starts, to win and win fast and win decisively,” Milley said. “That’s the most humane thing to do when you’re engaged in combat. Otherwise, you’re expending lives.”  –National Interest

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‘Emergency’ need for exorcists after surge in people dabbling in Satanism and black magic

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September 2016SOCIAL TRENDS Exorcists are in urgent demand as a result of a sharp rise in people dabbling in Satanism and the occult, experts from the Catholic Church in Italy and the US said. Speaking in tongues, levitating and vomiting nails may seem far-fetched to most people, but church experts insist there is a need to recruit more priests as exorcists in order to combat sorcery and black magic. Valter Cascioli, a psychologist and scientific consultant to the International Association of Exorcists, which is endorsed by the Vatican, described as an “emergency” the lack of priests capable of fighting the forces of evil.
“The lack of exorcists is a real emergency. There is a pastoral emergency as a result of a significant increase in the number of diabolical possessions that exorcist priests are confronting,” he told La Stampa newspaper. “The number of people who take part in occult and satanic practices, which lead to serious physical, psychological and spiritual damages, is constantly rising.” Dr. Cascioli teaches courses in exorcism at the Pontifical University of Regina Apostolorum, a Vatican-backed university in Rome. “The number of exorcists has increased in recent years, but there are still not enough to deal with a dramatic situation that affects, above all, young people who use the internet a lot.  “There is a broad spread of superstitious practices, and with that a growing number of requests for help from people who are directly or indirectly struck by evil. “It is dangerous to underestimate a phenomenon that is caused by the direct actions of the devil, but also by a decline in faith and values.”
He called for the establishment of a permanent training college or university where Catholic priests would be taught how to counter the malign influence of the Devil. “There doesn’t exist a training institution at university level. We need an interdisciplinary approach in which science collaborates with religion, and psychiatrists work with demonologists and exorcists.” He said it was important not to confuse cases of diabolical possession with psychiatric illnesses. Only one per cent of people who claim to have problems with demons have real need of an exorcist, he said. Father Ildebrando Di Fulvio, the exorcist for the diocese of Frosinone, a town south of Rome, said people possessed by the devil often vomited metal objects and chunks of undigested food and gibbered in archaic languages such as Aramaic, ancient Greek and Latin.

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They demonstrated “violent reactions to prayers of liberation and to holy water,” he said. On the other side of the Atlantic, two of America’s leading exorcists told The Telegraph that keeping up with demand for exorcisms is a constant struggle. Father Gary Thomas, whose training in Rome was chronicled in the book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, and Father Vincent Lampert, whose work has featured on the television show Paranormal Witness, said demonic possessions were the result of an increase in drug and pornography addiction.
They also pointed to a rise in the popularity of “pagan activities,” such as using a Ouija board to summon the dead, the failure of the mental health care system, a spiritual void in the lives of Americans and the diminishing authority of the Church. “We’re gaining all sorts of knowledge, but there’s still that emptiness within us that is being filled with addictive behavior such as drugs and pornography,” said Father Lampert, of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. “The decline in faith goes hand in hand with the rise in evil.” Father Thomas, the official exorcist of the diocese of San Jose in northern California, trained in Rome in 2005 after being an ordained priest for 22 years.  In the past 10 years, he says he has performed 50 to 60 exorcisms.  “I am a full-time pastor and this is a very intense ministry. Almost every free night that I have is taken up with exorcisms,” he said.  –Telegraph

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How decades of divorce helped erode religion in America

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September 2016SOCIAL TRENDSTwo widely recognized trends in American society might have something to do with each other. Divorce rates climbed to the highest levels ever in the 1980s, when about half of all marriages ended in divorce. And in the present day, Americans are rapidly becoming less religious. Since 1972, the share of Americans who say they do not adhere to any particular religion has increased from 5 percent of the population to 25 percent.
Could those two trends be related? A new study from the Public Religion Research Institute says yes. The children of divorced parents have grown up to be adults of no religion. People whose parents divorced when they were children are significantly more likely to grow up not to be religious as adults, the study found. Thirty-five percent of the children of divorced parents told pollsters they are now nonreligious, compared with 23 percent of people whose parents were married when they were children.
Other studies on the rise of the “nones” — those who say they have no religion — have focused on millennials’ changing preferences. This study found that 29 percent of adults who were raised religious and left their faith say they left because of their religion’s negative teachings about gay and lesbian people. Nineteen percent say they left because of clergy sexual-abuse scandals. Sixty percent say they simply do not believe what the religion teaches.
“A lot of the narrative around the rise of the nones, or the rise of the non-affiliated, has focused on how there’s changing cultural preferences, that people are choosing to move away from religion,” said Daniel Cox, one of the researchers on the new study. “I think there’s also a structural part of the story that has not gotten as much attention. We wanted to focus on the way millennials were raised, which is different from any previous generation. And part of that is they’re more likely to have grown up with parents who are divorced.”
Cox said his team found that even children of divorced parents who are religious are less religious than their peers. Thirty-one percent of them go to services every week, compared with 43 percent of religious people whose parents were married when they were growing up. Andrew Root, a professor at Luther Seminary who has written a book about the spiritual consequences of divorce for children, was not surprised to hear about the study’s findings.  –Washington Post

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The Syrian Powder Keg: No-fly zone would ‘require war with Syria and Russia’ – top US general

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September 2016DAMASCUSSpeaking to the US Senate, the Pentagon’s leaders blamed Russia for the Aleppo aid convoy attack, but admitted they “had no facts.” Only US coalition planes should be allowed over Syria, they said, though that would require war against both Syria and Russia. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, faced the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday to report on the ongoing military operations and “national security challenges” faced by the US. They also asked the senators for more reliable funding, saying the uncertainty was hurting the defense industry.
“Not only our people – our defense industry partners, too, need stability and longer-term plans to be as efficient and cutting-edge as we need them to be,” Carter told the senators. The lawmakers were far less interested in the war against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) than about the future of the Syrian government, Iran’s “malign influence,” and “aggression” by China and Russia – all ranked far ahead of terrorism on Carter and Dunford’s list of security challenges. The Pentagon had “no intention” of sharing intelligence with Russia when it came to Syria, Dunford told the lawmakers unequivocally. Secretary Carter explained that the joint implementation councils envisioned by the ceasefire proposal negotiated in Geneva wouldn’t share intelligence, just coordinate efforts – but that they were a moot point anyway, since the ceasefire was effectively dead.
Both the lawmakers and the Pentagon chiefs blamed that development on Russia, focusing on the alleged airstrike against the humanitarian convoy in east Aleppo while the US-led airstrike against the Syrian Army fighting IS in Deir ez-Zor went unmentioned. “I don’t have the facts,” Dunford said, when asked about the convoy attack by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut). “It was either the Russians or the regime,” he added. “There is no doubt in my mind that the Russians are responsible,” whether directly or because they backed the government in Damascus, Dunford said, describing the attack as “an unacceptable atrocity.” Carter explained Dunford’s logic in a response to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), saying that “the Russians are responsible for this strike whether they conducted it or not, because they took responsibility for the conduct of the Syrians by associating themselves with the Syrian regime.”

The latest proposal by Secretary of State John Kerry involves grounding only Syrian and Russian airplanes, Carter told Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire). “There can be no question of grounding US aircraft” over Syria, he said, adding that US jets conduct their strikes “with exceptional precision… that no other country can match.” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) asked about what it would take for the US to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, using the phrase “control the airspace. Right now… for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia,” Dunford replied, drawing a rebuke from committee chairman John McCain (R-Arizona), who argued a no-fly zone was possible without war. Asked about the video of US-backed Syrian rebels insulting US Special Forces in Al-Rai and running them out of the northern Syrian town, Carter and Dunford shrugged it off.
A “very small minority took verbal action” against US troops, said Dunford, who admitted he did not watch the video but had discussed it with US commanders. He said the incident was “irrelevant” because the US-backed forces and Turkey were making “great progress” along Syria’s northern border.  In their exchange with Graham, Carter and Dunford confirmed there is a plan to arm the Kurdish militia in Syria, over Turkish objections, as a way of advancing on the IS stronghold of Raqqa. Once Raqqa is taken, however, an Arab force would be required to hold it. “We have a plan,” Dunford said, but described it as “not resourced.” Dunford agreed with Graham’s assertion that the US had two objectives – to destroy IS and to “remove Assad,” referring to the Syrian president – but admitted the Kurds were not interested in the latter.   –RT News

Ending Syrian War “Almost Impossible – The United States has accused Russia of “barbarism” in Syria as warplanes supporting Syrian government forces pounded Aleppo and Moscow said ending the civil war was almost “impossible.” A diplomatic solution to the fighting looked unlikely as US and Russian diplomats disagreed at a UN Security Council meeting called to discuss the violence, which has escalated since a ceasefire collapsed last week. Rebels, who are battling President Bashar al-Assad’s forces for control of Aleppo, said any peace process would be futile unless the scorched earth bombing ” stopped immediately.  –Otago Daily Times

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Obama’s legacy of wars  — President Obama came into office seven years ago pledging to end the wars of his predecessor, George W. Bush. On May 6, with eight months left before he vacates the White House, Mr. Obama passed a somber, little-noticed milestone: He has now been at war longer than Mr. Bush, or any other American president. If the United States remains in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria until the end of Mr. Obama’s term — a near-certainty given the president’s recent announcement that he will send 250 additional Special Operations forces to Syria — he will leave behind an improbable legacy as the only president in American history to serve two complete terms with the nation at war.
 Mr. Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and spent his years in the White House trying to fulfill the promises he made as an antiwar candidate, would have a longer tour of duty as a wartime president than Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon or his hero Abraham Lincoln.  –NY Times

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Commentary: Barack Obama may have won the Nobel Peace Prize, to everyone’s utter surprise (including himself), but he has done little in eight years to indicate that he even merits such an award of distinction. If only there was a way to rescind it or for him to even relinquish it, since he has virtually no chance of ever earning it by collective deed or action while in office. To even say that his record, as U.S. president, on reigning in peace in the world is dismal would be exaggerating the point. Not only has he failed to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that George Bush ignited, he has expanded the so-called Democratic Wars (cloaked as Wars on Terror) via drones to such areas as Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and even Syria. Obama’s military intervention and agitation in the Middle East has set off a flood of refugees swimming across the Mediterranean to Europe.
Obama’s own home city of Chicago is the murder capitol of the U.S. America is more polarized and racially divided then when he came into office. And to add insult to injury, he virtually ignited a political war within the Republican party by pushing for key Republicans to denounce and repudiate the very person (Donald Trump) that America has democratically elected as presidential candidate. Perhaps he’s not the Peace Maker at all the world thought he was. Maybe he is more the ominous shadow of a Darth Vader figure where everything he touches or everywhere he goes  – perniciously bad karma follows in his wake. 

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North Korea warns UN of nuclear war with South Korea & U.S. – G7 to stiffen sanctions

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September 2016 NORTH KOREANorth Korea has warned the world before about a possible war especially as the United States continues to cooperate with the South. Nonetheless, despite the threat of nuclear war, foreign ministers of the Group of Seven countries promised to take a harder stance over North Korea’s provocations. Will North Korea pull the trigger?
North Korea issued a warning to the United Nations saying that things could turn into nuclear war especially with America intervening into things. US sent its supersonic bombers near the border of North Korea which prompted the country to issue a warning that things could escalate with the South. According to North Korea’s foreign minister, that B-1B bombers from the US military navigated over South Korea but also crossed the demarcation lines dividing the two countries. The US military said that at least one of two supersonic bombers went over the region and approached North Korea’s border.
Dave Benham, a US Pacific Command spokesman, confirmed that the bombers flew but they “did not at any time cross the military demarcation line between North and South Korea,” as reported by The Sun. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, claimed that every nation reserves the duty to enforce  U.N. Security Council resolutions to guarantee that North Korea “pays a price for its dangerous actions.”
In response to North Korea’s actions, the G-7 has reiterated a stronger stance on the country. “Sharing deepening concerns over the recent developments in North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, we stress our determination to take further significant measures in effective response to provocations by North Korea,” Nikkei quoted the G-7 foreign ministers through their statement released following a meeting in New York.   –Morning News USA

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Bosnian Serbs to hold disputed vote amid ethnic tensions

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September 2016BOSNIA Bosnian Serbs vote on Sunday in a referendum over a disputed national holiday, defying Bosnia’s highest court and Western pressure to call off a process that risks stoking ethnic tensions in the divided Balkan country. The referendum, on whether to mark Jan. 9 as “Statehood Day” in the Serb Republic part of Bosnia, will be the first since the 1992 vote on secession from Yugoslavia that ignited three years of ethnic war in which 100,000 were killed. Voter turnout was a little more than 30 percent by 1100 GMT, referendum organizers said. Polling stations will close at 1700 GMT and preliminary results are expected within 48 hours.
The Sarajevo-based Constitutional Court has ruled that the holiday would be illegal because it coincides with a Serbian Orthodox Christian holiday and so discriminates against Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats living in the Serb Republic. The court also banned the referendum. Jan. 9 is the date when Bosnian Serbs declared independence from Bosnia in 1992, precipitating Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War Two, marked by mass killings and persecution of Bosniaks and Croats in the territory they earmarked to become exclusively Serb. The region’s government has said it would comply with the court’s ruling on the “Statehood Day” and make changes to its law on holidays to ensure it was not discriminating against other peoples, but only after the vote.
“This day is important for me to confirm why I took part in the war and lost my arm,” said 45-year-old war invalid Novak Kajkut before casting his vote in the region’s capital of Banja Luka. “We don’t dispute the right of the Muslim Bosniaks to mark their holidays but they can neither dispute this right to us.” The Serbs celebrate the holiday by hanging out Serb flags and holding Orthodox Christian ceremonies in public institutions, which non-Serbs say is aimed at excluding them. Many believe that by defying the court ruling, Serb Republic President Milorad Dodik is aiming to highlight the weakness of post-war Bosnia’s central authorities and set the stage for a vote on secession.

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Dodik said that the right to hold the referendum should not be questioned, though Western diplomats have warned that it violates the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the Bosnian war and could prompt sanctions or criminal charges against the organizers. While the United States, which brokered the Dayton treaty and the European Union called on the Serb Republic to cancel the vote, fearing instability, Russia voiced support.
Some Bosniak politicians said it would weaken Bosnia’s delicate structure, created to hold the country together in the aftermath of the war. Many in the region fear that the Serb Republic could be preparing to secede, bringing the future of Bosnia as a whole into doubt. Talk of a new war has increased tensions, prompting the Serb Republic police to raise the security level at the weekend. The police said that no incidents have been reported so far. “There will be no war, nobody will destroy Republika Srpska,” Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak chairman of the country’s three-man inter-ethnic presidency, said on Saturday. “We shall guard this country and the Dayton peace agreement, and all citizens, the Serbs and the Croats and the Bosniaks.” –Reuters

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Apprehended: another Muslim shooter guns down Americans in a “non-terrorist” act of slaughter

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September 2016 WASHINGTON The man suspected of killing five people in a deadly shooting rampage at a mall in Burlington, Wash., was busted after an intense 24-hour manhunt that garnered a flurry of tips, according to state police. Arcan Cetin, 20, was captured less than 30 miles from Cascade Mall where he unleashed mayhem with a hunting rifle, police said. A vehicle Cetin used to flee the attack was found in Oak Harbor at around 6:30 p.m. Saturday on Whidbey Island, authorities said at a press conference. Within minutes, two Island County Sheriff’s Office deputies had the dazed suspect surrounded at N. Oak Harbor St. near NE 7th Ave.
“I veered left, hit my lights and pulled my gun,” said Island County Lt. Mike Hawley after seeing Cetin walking along a street. “He said nothing,” Hawley added. “He was just kind of zombie-like, which is the best I could describe him.” Cetin was unarmed at the time of his capture. A witness who saw Cetin outside her kitchen window during the arrest said he was wearing the same black clothes pictured in surveillance footage at mall, according to KIRO-TV. Court records also obtained by the Seattle television station detailed Cetin’s history of mental health problems.
Officials said he had one prior arrest for simple assault. Cetin is originally from Adana, Turkey, but police said he is a legal, permanent resident that lives in Oak Harbor. The manhunt focused on a suspect initially described as Hispanic. Cetin is pictured brandishing an arsenal of weapons — including a rifle and a revolver — on his MySpace account. Authorities did not say where he obtained the firearm used during Friday’s attack.
Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton said the small town had “changed forever, but I don’t think our way of life needs to change. “This was a senseless act. It was the world knocking on our doorstep, and it came into our little community,” he added. The FBI said terrorism was not suspected. –NY Daily News

Commentary: The media was quick to call the suspected shooter Hispanic but not Muslim. Again, Westerns targeted simply because they are Americans – but not a case of terrorism, as the government sees it. The media is always quick to inform us that these Muslim murders have a history of mental problems, yet somehow they are sane enough to collect an arsenal of weapons. They are also sane enough not to walk into a mosque and shoot-up a gathering and kill their own people. Americans were targeted. Females were specifically the object of this man’s hate-perpetrated violence. It is a hate-crime. This is an act of terrorism.

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Why tensions on Korean peninsula may soon boil over to war – S. Korea: We’ll kill Kim Jong Un if we have to

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September 2016 SOUTH KOREAThis should calm tensions on the Korean peninsula. Asked in parliament on Wednesday whether South Korea had a plan in place to take out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should the need arise, the country’s defense minister didn’t beat around the bush. “Yes, we do have such a plan,” Han Min-koo replied, per CNN, which called the response “candid” and surprising to some. “If it becomes clear the enemy is moving to attack the South with nuclear missile, in order to suppress its aims, the concept [of the special forces] is to destroy key figures and areas [that] include the North Korean leadership,” Han said, per Korea Times.
CNN reports this Special Forces unit is already assembled, but other reports suggest it’s still a concept. UPI reports Han also said the country needs half-a-million active-duty soldiers in order to fend off a hypothetical attack from the North, which has 1.2 million. In an appearance before the UN General Assembly on Thursday, South Korea’s foreign minister questioned North Korea’s fitness to be a “peace-loving UN member.” This is notable, reports the Korea Times, in that the South has not officially spoken out against the North’s membership in the 15 years the North has had it. The country “is totally ridiculing the authority of the General Assembly and the Security Council,” Yun Byung-se said.  –USA Today

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Five killed in shooting at Cascade Mall; search on for gunman

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September 2016 BURLINGTON, Wash. The FBI has joined the search for an armed man suspected of killing five people in a shooting at Cascade Mall in Skagit County. The shooter remained on the loose Saturday morning. Police don’t know his name or his motive. Investigators said newly released surveillance photos show the suspect enter the mall without a weapon, then was seen about 10 minutes later with the rifle inside the Macy’s store. It’s not clear where he got his gun. He left his rifle behind in the mall and apparently slipped away as police began combing through the shopping center. The FBI said right now, there’s no indication this is an act of terror.
According to police, four women were killed. The fifth victim, a man, died later at Harborview Medical Center. The four women’s bodies remain inside the mall. And it may take some time for an autopsy for all four and to identify them. They were described as ranging in age from teenagers to seniors. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families who were affected by this tragedy, ” said Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton. “It was a senseless act. It was the world knocking on our doorstep and it came to our little community here.” An emotional Sexton called on the community to help find the shooter.

“I know our main support goes with them, to help them, the long arm of the law, to bring the son-of-a-bitch to justice who did this to our community,” he said at a news conference. Central United Methodist Church in Sedro-Woolley will be hosting a prayer vigil at 5 p.m. Saturday in honor of the shooting victims. The church will be open form 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. as a space for prayer and meditation for the Skagit Valley community, Cody Natland, a pastor at the church, said.  –Komo News

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Definition: Terrorism is, in its broadest sense, the use or threatened use of violence (terror) in order to achieve a political, religious, or ideological aim. It is classified as fourth-generation warfare and as a violent crime.
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Syrian troops advance in Aleppo amid war’s heaviest bombing campaign yet

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Syria is just one more example of failed U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East region, which appears to favor regime over-throw and civil war rather than finding long-term political solutions to centuries-old hostilities.
September 2016DAMASCUSSyrian troops captured a rebel-held area on the edge of Aleppo on Saturday, tightening their siege on opposition-held neighborhoods in the northern city after what residents described as the heaviest air bombardment of the 5 ?-year civil war. The U.N. meanwhile said that nearly 2 million people in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and onetime commercial center, are without running water following the escalation in fighting over the past few days. Government forces captured the rebel-held Palestinian refugee camp of Handarat as airstrikes pounded rebel-held eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, killing 52 people, including 11 children and six women, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Local Coordination Committees, another monitoring group, said 49 were killed on Saturday alone.
The Observatory said the death toll in Aleppo is expected to rise since many people are in critical condition and rescue workers are still digging through the rubble. Residents say the latest bombardment is the worst they’ve seen since rebels captured parts of the city in 2012. Activists reported dozens of airstrikes on Friday alone. “Since the beginning of the crisis, Aleppo has not been subjected to such a vicious campaign,” said Mohammed Abu Jaafar, a forensics expert based in the city. ‘Aleppo is being wiped out.” For days, videos and photographs from eastern Aleppo have shown flattened buildings and paramedics pulling bodies from the rubble. Wounded people have flooded into clinics, where many are being treated on the floor because of a lack of stretchers.
“People in Aleppo already suffocating under the effects of the siege, have yet again come under horrific attack,” said Carlos Francisco of Doctors Without Borders, which supports a number of area clinics. “No aid, including urgent medical supplies, is allowed to enter. We are deeply worried by the high numbers of wounded reported by the hospitals we support, and also know that in many areas the wounded and sick have nowhere to go at all — they are simply left to die.” U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the “chilling” escalation in Aleppo, which he said marked the “most sustained and intense bombardment since the start of the Syrian conflict.” The statement issued by his spokesman said the reported use of “indiscriminate” weapons in densely populated areas “may amount to war crimes.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at Tufts University in Boston, said what was happening in Aleppo was “beyond the pale.”

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“If people are serious about wanting a peaceful outcome to this war, then they should cease and desist bombing innocent women and children, cease cutting off water and laying siege in medieval terms to an entire community,” he said. In the rebel-held neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr, cluster bombs killed 13 people and wounded 150, according to Ibrahim Alhaj, a member of the Syrian Civil Defense, volunteer first responders also known as the White Helmets. Syrian state TV said insurgents shelled the government-held neighborhood of Salhiyeh, killing five people. The Observatory said insurgents shelled the government stronghold of Masyaf, home to a large number of Alawites, members of President Bashar Assad’s sect, which until now had largely been spared from violence.
An unnamed Syrian military official was quoted by state media on Friday as saying that airstrikes and shelling in Aleppo would continue for an extended period and include a ground offensive” into rebel-held areas. The fall of Handarat to Syrian troops allied with pro-government Palestinian fighters pushed insurgents further away from the government-controlled Castello Road, a main artery leading to rebel-held parts of the city. “Breaking the siege through the Castello Road has become very difficult,” Yassin Abu Raed, an opposition activist based in Aleppo province, told The Associated Press. –ABC News
Syria believes it’s on the way to military victory: Syria’s top diplomat told the world’s nations Saturday that his country’s belief in military victory is greater now because the army “is making great strides in its war against terrorism” with support from Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters. Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Syria is more determined than ever to eliminate “terrorism” from the country. The Syrian government refers to all those fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad as “terrorists,” including Western-backed opposition groups. –ABC News

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