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August 03, 2014

Wanna Understand Gaza? Start with the Tunnels

(This is a cross-post from my Snip, Burn, Solder Blog)...

July 29, 2014

Did you ever wonder how all those AK-47s get into places like Afghanistan?

How A One-Time Pig Peddler Helped The U.S. Flood War Zones With Guns
The U.S. is famously the largest arms exporter in the world. Less well-known is that America also purchases massive amounts of foreign-made weapons, most of them manufactured in the former Soviet bloc. In an effort to build up and train friendly security services, the U.S. saturates some the most violent regions of the world with these arms but has little control over who ultimately gets them. The Pentagon or U.S. intelligence agencies often issue contracts themselves for these weapons. But other times, American tax dollars go through a proxy, such as an Afghan government agency, which issues the contract but which is heavily funded and guided by the U.S. Dolarian was involved in both types of contracts. While most coverage of the weapons trade tracks the multibillion-dollar deals in fighter jets, strategic missiles, or radar systems, most killing in modern wars is done with cheap rifles, machine guns, mortars, and other small arms. Over the last decade, the U.S. has sent more than 700,000 weapons — the vast majority foreign-made small arms — to Afghanistan, where President Barack Obama has staked his strategy on training and arming the army and police. Likewise, in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, the U.S. disbanded the security forces only to rebuild and rearm new ones for eight years, sending over a million weapons by some estimates. The majority of these were Russian-designed small arms. These are the types of arms that Dolarian, a man the state of California banned from selling certain financial securities, was given U.S. tax dollars to purchase. . . .

July 17, 2014

Russia probably just shot down a commercial airliner over Eastern Ukraine

Russia has been shooting down Ukrainian planes lately, so this isn't a stretch. U.S. official: Malaysia Airlines plane shot down - CNN.com
(CNN) -- A Malaysia Airlines passenger jet crashed in a rebel-controlled area of eastern Ukraine on Thursday, prompting swift accusations from Ukrainian officials that "terrorists" shot down the aircraft. The United States also has concluded that the plane was shot down, but hasn't pinpointed who was responsible, a senior U.S. official told CNN's Barbara Starr. The Boeing 777 carrying 295 people fell from the sky near the town of Torez in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, according to a Facebook post from a top Ukrainian official, as it flew at about 10,000 meters (nearly 33,000 feet) on the way from Amsterdam to Malaysia. A radar system saw a surface-to-air missile system turn on and track an aircraft right before the plane went down, the senior U.S. official said. A second system saw a heat signature at the time the airliner was hit, the official said. The United States is analyzing the trajectory of the missile to try to learn where the attack came from. . . . Vice President of Malaysia Airlines Europe Huib Gorter told reporters that the 15 crew members on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were all Malaysian nationals. He gave a breakdown of the known nationalities of the 280 passengers: 154 were Dutch, 27 were Australians, 23 were Malaysians, 11 were Indonesian, six were from the United Kingdom, four were from Germany; four were from Belgium, three were from the Philippines and one was Canadian. Authorities were still trying to determine the nationalities of the other passengers. . . .

July 07, 2014

Obama checkmates Republicans on contrception coverage

The crux is that insurance companies *want* to cover birth control. They really, really do. Birth control is incredibly cheap compared to pregnancy, delivery, and actual children. Obama riled up Republicans on contraception, and then delivers a knock-out punch.
After two solid weeks of Republicans rapidly escalating attacks on contraception access under the banner of "religious freedom," Obama finally announced what the White House is proposing: an accommodation of religiously affiliated employers who don't want to offer birth control coverage as part of their insurance plans. In those situations, the insurance companies will have to reach out directly to employees and offer contraception coverage for free, without going through the employer. Insurance companies are down with the plan, because as Matt Yglesias explained at Moneybox, contraception actually saves insurance companies money, since it's cheaper than abortion and far cheaper than childbirth. Because the insurance companies have to reach out to employees directly, there's very little danger of women not getting coverage because they are unaware they're eligible. That's the nitty-gritty. The fun part of this is that Obama just pulled a fast one on Republicans. He drew this out for two weeks, letting Republicans work themselves into a frenzy of anti-contraception rhetoric, all thinly disguised as concern for religious liberty, and then created a compromise that addressed their purported concerns but without actually reducing women's access to contraception, which is what this has always been about. (As Dana Goldstein reported in 2010, before the religious liberty gambit was brought up, the Catholic bishops were just demanding that women be denied access and told to abstain from sex instead.) With the fig leaf of religious liberty removed, Republicans are in a bad situation. They can either drop this and slink away knowing they've been punked, or they can double down. But in order to do so, they'll have to be more blatantly anti-contraception, a politically toxic move in a country where 99% of women have used contraception.