Obama’s Aussie and Brit Buddies Abandon Him On Syrian Air Strikes

Australia, US alone on Syria air strikes after British change of heart


David Wroe, National security correspondent

US to put boots on the ground in Syria

The White House announces a small number of US special operations forces will be sent to northern Syria to work with local troops in the fight against Islamic State militants.

The Turnbull government has expressed veiled disappointment that Britain will not join Australia in expanding air strikes into Syria, leaving the RAAF and the US Air Force as the only contributors.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said on Wednesday that the decision was a matter for Britain but added twice that Australia would like to have the “broadest possible coalition” to help in the fight against the Islamic State terror group.

He was commenting on the decision by British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday to shelve plans for a parliamentary vote on expanding air strikes to Syria amid concerns by Downing Street that the government could not muster enough MPs to back the expansion.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

“Obviously we’re keen to see the broadest possible coalition participating in those strikes on ISIL,” Mr Keenan said, using an alternative name for the Islamic State.

“That issue of air strikes in Syria from the British perspective is clearly contentious domestically for Britain. It’s clearly a matter for them and their parliamentary processes about the way they see fighting ISIL going forward.

“But clearly from Australia’s perspective, we’re keen to have the broadest possible coalition participating with us in degrading and destroying ISIL.”

Defence Minister Marise Payne was in Kuala Lumpur attending the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting and could not be reached for comment.

Downing Street’s change of heart came as a British parliamentary committee recommended against expanding air strikes into Syria in the absence of a clearer strategy for the broader civil war in the country.

The foreign affairs select committee, chaired by one of Mr Cameron’s own Tory MPs, found that while an expansion would be welcomed by coalition partners, it would have only a “marginal effect” on the overall campaign.

“We believe that there should be no extension of British military action into Syria unless there is a coherent international strategy that has a realistic chance of defeating ISIL and of ending the civil war in Syria,” the MPs concluded.

Australia is the second largest contributor to the fight against the Islamic State after the US.

Britain has eight Tornado fight planes operating over Iraq, which have carried out about 300 air strikes compared with 434 strike missions by the RAAF’s six Hornet and Super Hornet aircraft as of about one month ago.

The Hornets had carried out nine missions over Syria as of October 2 and launched strikes against two targets. The RAAF’s KC-30 air-to-air refueller had carried out five missions over Syria and its Wedgetail early warning and control aircraft one mission.

Canada had carried out a handful of strikes in Syria but its new government has decided against continuing those missions.

The US recently announced it will deploy up to 50 special forces soldiers to train and advise Syrian rebels and will step up special operations raids against high-value ISIL targets in both Syria and Iraq – widely seen as an escalation by the Obama administration.

Fairfax Media understands Australia will not make any such expansion, reflecting a view in Canberra that the Australian Defence Force is already pulling its weight.


US SECDEF Carter Fails To Strong-Arm Anti-China Statement At ASEAN Summit

China sea tensions stop joint statement at Asia defense meet

seattle pi

From left, Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov, Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen, Thailand's Defense Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwon, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Vietnam's Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Van Hien joint hands as they pose for photographers after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. Photo: Lai Seng Sin, AP / AP

Photo: Lai Seng Sin, AP

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Divisions within Asia over China’s claims in the disputed South China Sea spilled over Wednesday to a meeting of U.S. and Asian defense ministers, where China insisted the group make no public mention of the strategic waters in a joint declaration intended as a public display of unity.

As a result, a joint statement was canceled. Both host Malaysia and U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter discounted the significance of the failure, which reflected a split with China and other Asian nations over the South China Sea issue.

“I had no expectation there would be agreement,” Carter told a news conference, adding that the important point was that the South China Sea was a “persistent topic” of the conference.

“Everybody raised it,” he said.

Carter defended U.S. Navy patrols in the contested waters that China objects to, saying the U.S. has been sailing in the South China Sea for decades to the benefit of regional security and economic prosperity. He said he planned to go aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt transiting the South China Sea on Thursday, accompanied by his Malaysian counterpart, Hishammuddin Hussein, as a symbol of the United States’ commitment to promoting stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

What’s new and problematic, Carter said, is China’s land reclamation and militarization of reefs and islets.

“What we sign on the joint declaration is not going to resolve the issue of duplicating claims nor is it going to wish vessels that are in the South China Sea away,” Hishammuddin said.

He said that “our concerns are more real … unintended accidents at the high sea, which can spiral into something worse and that we must avoid.” The Southeast Asian grouping will continue to engage China and the U.S. to ensure peace and stability in the region, he said.

Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said that the dispute over the joint declaration was due to “differences in phrasing and interpretation.” But he said “all countries agreed on the freedom of navigation and all countries accepted international laws and norms.”

In a statement issued by the host country, Malaysia said the meeting noted the importance of the early conclusion of the code of conduct in the South China Sea — a set of rules meant to govern behavior in the disputed waters — “in order to build mutual trust and confidence, and maintain peace, security and stability in the region.” China has so far dragged its feet in concluding discussions on the code of conduct.

American officials traveling with Carter said that China, which like the United States is not a member of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations but was attending the defense ministers’ meeting as an invited partner, was adamant that the meeting’s final public statement omit any mention of the South China Sea. The Americans argued that it would be better to make no joint statement at all rather than issue one that omitted mention of the contentious South China Sea issue.

China’s claims in the South China Sea are disputed by several countries in the region, including Malaysia.

At his news conference, Carter was asked about his meeting Tuesday with Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, where Chang told Carter that there is a “bottom line” to China’s patience with challenges to its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Carter noted that in a September visit to the White House, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he has no intention of pursuing militarization of the artificial islands his country is creating in the South China Sea.

“That’s the fundamental point,” Carter said, indicating the U.S. intends to hold Xi to his word.

“We all must mean what we say,” he said.

Carter said he has accepted an invitation by China to visit Beijing next spring.

NONE FOR YOU!—OHIO Remains A Police State

Marijuana Legalization Amendment Fails On Ohio Ballot

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After the rejection of Issue 3, recreational and medical marijuana will not be legalized in the Buckeye State.
Issue 3 would have given Ohioans 21 and over the ability to buy and possess one ounce of marijuana and up to eight ounces to grow at home. 

Latest Election Results

The use of medical marijuana would have also been allowed by those with a qualifying health condition.

If ResponsibleOhio’s amendment had passed, it would have created 10 marijuana grow sites around Ohio including three in central Ohio.

Meanwhile, Issue 2 – the so-called “anti-monopoly” amendment –has passed.

Issue 2 will ban the adoption of monopoly or oligopoly measures in the Ohio Constitution.  It is a constitutional amendment proposed by the Ohio General Assembly aimed at making it more difficult for groups promoting special economic interests from getting on the ballot and into the Ohio Constitution.

The anti-monopoly amendment will require organizations such as ResponsibleOhio, the group behind Issue 3, to go to the ballot twice. The first vote would ask the public to exempt the proposed issue from the special-interest prohibition, while a second statewide vote at a later time would be required on the issue itself.

ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James issued the following statement:

“We’d like to thank the hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who worked tirelessly to put Issue 3 on the ballot, educate friends and family members and who voted to bring marijuana reform to our state. We would have never gotten this far without your support.

“We trust the voters. We started the conversation, and we’re going to continue the conversation starting tomorrow. The status quo doesn’t work, it’s unacceptable and we’re not going away. All the things we’ve fought for are true. Ohioans still need treatment and deserve compassionate care. And our state needs the jobs and tax revenue that marijuana legalization will bring.”

The following remarks were delivered on Tuesday evening by Curt Steiner, Campaign Director for Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies:

Before I get into my formal remarks about tonight’s results, let me thank all of the people here and those hard-working members of our team who couldn’t be at this event in Columbus tonight.  You have been very special professional colleagues and volunteer supporters throughout this campaign.

The Issue 3 campaign has been spirited and high profile, drawing interest from across Ohio and around the nation. 

Some people have had definite opinions about this issue, and emotions will often run high under these circumstances.

I wish to acknowledge that a number of voters on the side that didn’t prevail tonight have strong feelings about a couple of issues in particular:  legal reform – and the availability of medical marijuana.

But those issues got overshadowed during this debate.  Overshadowed by the brazen nature and far-reaching extent of the statewide money grab attempted by Issue 3 backers — an attempt voters concluded was, in this instance, an unsavory abuse of the ballot issue process.

Issue 3 was nothing more and nothing less than a business plan to seize control of the recreational marijuana market in Ohio.  Google and read the ResponsibleOhio prospectus.  Issue 3 was designed and built primarily to garner massive and exclusive profits for a small group of self-selected wealthy investors.  Issue 3 was about greed, not good public policy. 

Never underestimate the wisdom of Ohio voters.  They saw through the smokescreen of slick ads, fancy but deceptive mailings, phony claims about tax revenues and, of course, Buddie the marijuana mascot.

Published accounts say promoters of Issue 3 have spent $25 million on this year’s campaign.  Yes, dollar wise, our campaign has been outspent more than 12 to 1.

Still we are grateful for the financial support we have received since our formation in mid-August.  Our money was from contributions from Ohio donors concerned about what’s good for Ohio – not from investors solely trying to generate exclusive and enormous rates of return on their investments.

Our campaign committee, Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, produced just one printed campaign flyer to take to meetings, one direct mailer sent to targeted early voters, and one 30-second spot for TV. 

Our campaign was mainly people talking to people.  Our committee grew to the point that it was made up of more than 140 respected nonpartisan organizations throughout Ohio.  Opposition to Issue 3 mobilized thousands of volunteers who communicated for months with millions of voters.

Today, by a decisive margin, Ohio voters locked arms with our supporting organizations and our thousands of volunteers. 

What most Ohio voters said today is clear.

Ohio voters rejected a greedy marijuana business plan to make gobs of money for a chosen few at the expense of many.

In short, Ohio voters said:

NO to a marijuana monopoly in our Constitution.

NO to 1,100-plus retail stores across Ohio selling marijuana-infused cookies and candy that would pose harm to our kids.

Indeed, Ohio voters have now formally joined doctors, nurses, children’s Hospitals, adult hospitals, chambers of Commerce, farmers, educators, the building trades, lawyers, faith-based groups and so many more in saying NO to Issue 3.

Black Box Found On Russian Airliner Crash In Sinai—questions raised

[Thanks to Penny For Your Thoughts for the following, most interesting slant on the Russian passenger plane downing.]



Russian plane’s black box recorded unusual sounds before Sinai crash

dpa international

Debris from crashed Russian passenger jet lies strewn across the sand in Egypt's Sinai Peninsual on Saturday. EPA/STR

Debris from crashed Russian passenger jet lies strewn across the sand in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsual on Saturday.

Moscow/Cairo (dpa) – Unusual sounds were recorded in the cockpit as a Russian passenger jet crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula at the weekend, sources told Russia’s Interfax news agency Tuesday.

The news came after revelations by US broadcasters that satellite images had detected a heat flash at the time of the crash.

All 224 people on board the 18-year-old Airbus were killed in Saturday’s crash, making it the worst in Russian aviation history. The black box flight recorders are currently being analysed in Cairo.

Kogalymavia, a small airline that operated the flight under the name Metrojet, said Monday that the disaster was most likely caused by a mid-air “impact” and that the plane had no technical problems.

Its announcement followed Egyptian and Russian authorities categorically ruling out claims from an affiliate of the Islamic State extremist militia that members of the Sinai-based group had downed the plane with a rocket.

Speculation of a possible bomb on board has continued, however, with Russian officials saying the plane broke up in mid-air.

“Before the moment of the disappearance of the aircraft from radar screens, sounds are recorded which are not characteristic of a normal flight,” Interfax quoted an unnamed security source in Cairo as saying.

The source said that, shortly beforehand, there were normal conversations between pilots and air-traffic controllers with no evidence of irregularities as Russian tourists flew home from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg.

US satellites recorded a heat flash over Sinai at the time of the crash, several US television networks reported, but there was no evidence of a rocket launch.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi said any rocket claims by Islamic State were nonsense.

“When there is propaganda that it crashed because of ISIS [Islamic State], this is one way to damage the stability and security of Egypt and the image of Egypt,” he told the BBC.

“Believe me, the situation in Sinai – especially in this limited area – is under our full control,” he said.

Russia continued to bring bodies of the victims home Tuesday.

“We will do this work every day until all the dead and their belongings have been brought back,” the deputy head of Russia’s Civil Protection Agency, Vladimir Stepanov, told the Itar-Tass news agency.