Anti-Isis "Grand Alliance" Derails in Wake of Russian Jet Downing and Quick Revival of Business-As-Usual

In the wake of the shocking terrorist attacks on Paris, French President Francois Hollande embarked on a round of high-level summitry at the start of the week just past to create an effective new “grand alliance” to defeat Isis. But his venture, already meeting a disappointing “more of the same” response from President Barack Obama in Washington, received an unexpected but timely setback Tuesday when trigger-happy Turkish fighter pilots, flying American-supplied F-16 interceptors, shot down a much slower Russian Su-24 fighter-bomber conducting air strikes against anti-Assad regime Turkmen rebels near the Syria/Turkey border.

The Turkmen are ethnically and politically aligned with NATO member Turkey. They also work closely with the local Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Thus one person’s elusive anti-Assad “moderate” is another’s jihadist.

By week’s end, with Hollande having moved his summitry from Obama in Washington to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris and on to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, the French president had only shards of a potential new grand alliance. The bottom line is the shiny new would-be venture looks like a somewhat enhanced version of the present, clearly insufficient, approach.

International anti-Isis efforts remained mostly stalled at the “intensification” of more of the same laid out by US President Barack Obama in his Washington talks with French President Francois Hollande.

Would the result have been different had Turkey not chosen to shoot down a Russian plane which may have veered momentarily — and this in the Turkish version, mind you — into its territory? We’ll never known.

The shoot-down was certainly curious.

Turkey’s snap-count shoot-down of a Russian Su-24 fighter-bomber threw a big spanner into the works, with NATO backing its member’s action of destroying the aircraft despite it having been inside Turkish air space — even by the Turkish accounting — for only 17 seconds. That’s less time than it takes Usain Bolt to run the 200-meter dash.

Russia says there was no incursion. Assuming, however, that there was, for the few seconds Turkey claims, the Russian plane evidently was heading away from Turkey. The wreckage landed in Syrian territory. And video footage of the missile striking the Russian plane shows no change in course after the first explosion.

For whatever reason the plane was shot down, the effect was to lessen the momentum toward a new anti-Isis coalition with Russia at its center. The Russians certainly seemed eager enough, especially after the Isis bombing of their airliner over Egypt, killing 224 Russian citizens, mostly tourists returning home from holiday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Not surprisingly, Obama doesn’t seem to want Russia in the middle of things pertaining to Isis. For good and bad reasons, that’s understandable.

However, Obama seems to have nothing new to offer from the US. With Hollande, he apparently did little more than call for more European action and pledge America’s continued action. As I pointed out a few days
ago, what the US is doing now against Isis is simply insufficient.

Footage of the Turkish shoot-down of the Russian SU-24 fighter-bomber shows that it was heading away from Turkey at the time it was downed, as there was no course correction after the aircraft was hit and then spiraled down to crash in Syrian territory.

Certainly what Hollande took away from his highest-level discussions held less than two weeks after the shock and horror of the Paris attacks can’t have been anything like what he hoped for. Or what many had expected in the immediate wake of Friday the 13th.

Obama pledged to stay the course, an “intensification” of his insufficient strategy of the past year. Oh, and some more intelligence sharing with the French. Er, what intelligence would that be? Obama is already having to come to grips with US intelligence failures, principally of the “cooked” and non-existent varieties, despite the massive global surveillance apparat — much of its simply irrelevant to the anti-Isis conflict — he has presided over.

Hollande did get German Chancellor Angela Merkel, no doubt with some help from the US, to agree, despite her country’s shying from aggressive military ventures, to help against Isis by sending a naval ship and recon and refueling aircraft for the anti-Isis fight. And to send 650 German peacekeeping troops to free up French troops now in Mali, where the French intervened successfully to roll back jihadist advances.

While the limited but helpful German moves emerged, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would seek parliamentary approval to extend the UK’s anti-Isis air strike program from Iraq to Syria. Cameron had nothing to say about any other potential moves.

And what about Russia?

By the time he got to Moscow, Putin ordered up a menu of economic sanctions against an oddly unrepentant Turkey, until recently rather friendly with Russia, as a clearly piqued Putin repeatedly pointed out. Not surprisingly, Russian ground-strike aircraft will now be accompanied by top-line Russian fighter jets to prevent a recurrence of the Turkish shoot-down.

Hollande and Putin did agree to a new intel-sharing pact. Putin even agreed to more closely coordinate Russian air strikes — many of which are against other anti-Assad rebels — with the US-led coalition. And Hollande got Putin to agree to strike, as the French president put it, only Isis and other jihadists and not “the forces and groups that are fighting terrorism.”

Of course, defining who is a “jihadist” is very selective and subjective, at least in international politics. And the only non-Western forces fighting terrorism in Syria are the Kurds, who the Turks have been fighting, and, er, the Assad regime. Which Hollande, at least in the past, has wanted to get rid of a lot sooner than Russia, much less Iran.

And so the cross-purposes muddle of take down Isis vs. take down Assad, shows strong signs of surviving the Paris attacks.

As does the stay-the-course/more-of-the same mentality Obama keeps reiterating.

The containment strategy has moved only to containment-plus. There is no sign at the end of Hollande’s hoped-for big week of a strangulation strategy. I discussed how
Isis’s lines of communication — its ability to use the Internet to recruit, propagandize, and communicate with international assets; its ability to fund itself with the oil trade, other commerce, and major ideological fundraising; its ability to function within Islamic State territory via networks of surface transportation — can all be taken down with a highly aggressive set of efforts that don’t involve a conventional land invasion.

There is not a hint of anything like that coming out of Week 2 of the post-Paris era.

It’s as though some wanted the memory to just go away. Or to use it for tangential purposes.

Such as ending private encryption, notwithstanding the lack of any evidence that it played a role in what is actually a series of obvious conventional intelligence and security blunders that allowed the Paris attacks.

Such as implying that it is the Assad regime facilitating the Isis oil trade, rather than elements among the Saudis and some other Gulf Arabs who have long promulgated the extremist Wahhabi ideology Isis expounds and provided fortunes for jihadists around the world.

In other words, the non-seriousness of our system reasserted itself this week. And that doesn’t even begin to cover what Republican presidential candidates had to say.

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William Bradley Archive

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Facebook Announces Four Months Of Paid Parental Leave For All Employees

Less than a week after Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said he would take two months of paternity leave, the social media company announced it is extending its parental leave policy to full-time employees outside the United States.

The policy, which provides four months of paid time off, will be provided to all new parents regardless of gender or location, starting Jan. 1. Employees may take leave at any point up to a year after the birth of their child, Lori Matloff Goler, the company’s head of human resources, said in a Facebook post late Wednesday.

Facebook currently offers only U.S.-based workers up to four months of paid leave.

“We want to be there for our people at all stages of life, and in particular we strive to be a leading place to work for families,” she added. “An important part of this is offering paid parental or ‘baby’ leave.”

Goler said the new policy will primarily help new fathers and employees in same-sex relationships outside the United States, noting that it will not change maternity leave already available to employees worldwide.

Zuckerberg last week said he would take two months off after his daughter’s birth. Zuckerberg announced in July that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were expecting a baby girl; they have not said when the baby is due.

His announcement was seen in Silicon Valley as a strong endorsement from a high-technology industry top executive on the importance of family time.

Technology companies in Silicon Valley have been rushing to extend parental leave allowances and other benefits to help recruit and retain employees.

Many high-tech workers, however, do not take advantage of such benefits for fear of falling behind at work or missing out on promotions.

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Robert Lewis Dear Identified As Colorado Planned Parenthood Shooter

Robert Lewis Dear was identified as the gunman who allegedly killed three people and wounded nine others
 Friday during a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to the AP

Dear, who the AP reported is from North Carolina, was arrested Friday after an hours-long standoff with police.

Read more on the shooting here

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Celebrating Sixty!

In addition to enjoying my 60th birthday on November 28th, I’m going to celebrate the entire year by getting to know 60 people a whole lot better.

A 60th birthday is indeed something to pause and acknowledge because not everybody makes it, and some that do haven’t done much during their journey. By the time you reach 60, you should know who you want to celebrate with and how.

Like most people, my greatest joy comes from family and friends and these are the people I want to be with on my 60th birthday. You see, by 60 you understand ‘stuff’ isn’t that important although we spend much of our lives trying to accumulate it. Enjoying the company of people you genuinely like is much more rewarding.

For me, relationships and having fun started to take center stage as I aged. It was made easier for me to have this ‘childlike’ experience the last 25 years, because I had kids late in life (at 35 and 43). I spent my 50th birthday at Disneyland with my seven-year-old. We’re going back to celebrate 60 years of both me and Disneyland.

At 60, I am taking a closer look at relationships and thinking about whom I want to spend time with and who I don’t. I’m also thinking about all the people I’ve met the past few years that I would love to get to know better. So many people I’ve promised to meet for coffee or a quick bite. Quick has been the operative word for me because as a working wife and mother who is also involved in community activities, I don’t have a lot of extra time.

This coming year, I want to make time to have a ‘sit-down’ with a few folk. 60 people to be exact. You see, I’ve been keeping a list the past few years of people I’d like to share a meal with and hear their story. Their ages range from 20 to 90 and they represent various cultures and life experiences. These are people I’ve met in passing, or worked on a project with, or people I’ve known for years but just never seem to have the time to sit and chat with them. Hopefully…this, my sixtieth year will be different.

I’m calling my project ‘Celebrating Sixty’ and I hope to have these get-togethers with 60 people between now and my next birthday! I’m going to document it and write down what I learned from each person.

Now this will be FUN and quite an experience for me! I only hope I don’t gain 60 pounds!!

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Suicide Bomber Kills 21 At Religious Procession In Nigeria

A male suicide bomber hit a procession of Shi’ite Muslims in Nigeria’s Kano state as they walked to the city of Zaria to pay homage to their founder in the country, security sources and a Shi’ite leader said.

Muhammad Turi said that 21 people had been killed and more wounded. Police said there were casualties but they could not confirm a figure.

The blast went off at around 2 p.m. local time (1300 GMT) near the village of Dakozoye outside the town of Garum Mallam, south of Nigeria’s second city Kano.

“It was in a bush area, on a farmland along the highway, our concern is to make everywhere safe. The bomb was made of high caliber explosive,” police commissioner Muhammad Musa Katsina said.

The commissioner said he did not know who was behind the bombing.

Suspicion is likely to fall on Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which frequently uses suicide bombers to hit soft targets like places of worship, markets and bus stations. Since losing most of the territory it controlled this year, it has returned to guerilla tactics and pledged allegiance to Islamic State based in Syria and Iraq.

Last week, two female suicide bombers hit a mobile phone market in Kano, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 100 others.

Boko Haram has been trying to establish an Islamist state adhering to strict Sharia law since 2009 in the northeast of Nigeria. It gained control of large swathes of territory in 2014 before being pushed back by Nigerian troops and forces from neighboring countries.

About 2.1 million people have been displaced and thousands have been killed.

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Supreme Court Halts Historic Hawaiian Election

The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily blocked a historic and controversial election
 from moving forward in Hawaii.

Native Hawaiians are currently nearing the end of a month-long election to select delegates for a constitutional convention, but on Friday, Justice Anthony Kennedy issued an order blocking both
 the counting of votes and the certification of any winners “pending further order” by the court. 

The election is seen by many as a first step for Native Hawaiian self-determination. The elected delegates would attend a constitutional convention and recommend a form of self-government, deciding what — if any — relationship that government should have with the United States.

But opponents of the election say the process is unconstitutional and racially exclusive.

A group of native and non-native residents is challenging the election, arguing Hawaii residents who don’t have Native Hawaiian ancestry are being excluded from a vote that affects the state. They also argue that the election is racially exclusive and therefore unconstitutional.

Attorneys representing Hawaii have argued that the state isn’t involved in the election — an argument that a federal judge agreed with last month
. In October, U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright said the election was legal since it was a private poll being conducted by the private nonprofit Nai Aupuni

Nai Aupuni said in a statement Friday that Native Hawaiian self-governance has been discussed for over two hundred years without tangible results. And despite the recent ruling, the group remains confident that the election will ultimately be ruled legal.

“Reorganizing a government is not easy and it takes the courage and will of the candidates to take the first step in this historic process,” Nai Aupuni said.

State Attorney General Doug Chin pointed out that Friday’s order doesn’t prevent people from voting in the election, which he described as a private process.

Opponents of the election, however, called order a “victory.” 

“First, it’s a victory for Native Hawaiians who have been misrepresented by government leaders trying to turn us into a government-recognized tribe,” Kelii Akina, one of the Native Hawaiian plaintiffs and president of public policy think tank Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, said in a statement. “Secondly, it is a victory for all people of Hawaii and the United States as it affirms racial equality.”

While Native Hawaiians make up one of the nation’s largest indigenous communities, they are the only one without an independent political structure. In September, the U.S. Department of the Interior proposed a framework
 that it would use if “the Native Hawaiian community forms a unified government that seeks
a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States.” 

The 30-day election for constitutional delegates kicked off on Nov. 1 with more than 100,000 Native Hawaiians
 eligible to vote. Election results were due Dec. 1
, with the convention set to be held on Oahu between February and April. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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How James Foley Changed The World, One Life At A Time

On a sunny afternoon in eighth grade, Eddie Martinez was out on the basketball court at Lowell Elementary School as soon as the bell rang. He tugged off his blue jeans — he was wearing his basketball shorts underneath — and stuffed them into his backpack.

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Is Adam Lambert Too Sexy (And Gay) For This New Year's Concert?

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Adam Lambert may have been a hit on “American Idol” but rival petitions in Singapore have gathered thousands of online votes in a lively debate over whether he is too sexy to be allowed to perform at the city-state’s largest New Year’s eve concert.

The petition against Lambert, addressed to concert organizer Mediacorp and the government, has gathered around 14,000 signatures to back its case that a performance by the openly gay singer did not align with Singaporean values.

However, two rival petitions backing Lambert had gathered more than 11,000 votes by Friday arguing that allowing the performance would show that Singapore shunned discrimination and promoted diversity. 

The concert organizer said it was sticking with Lambert, a runner-up on American idol who caused controversy during his 2009 American Music Awards performance when he kissed his male keyboard player and stimulated sexual acts with dancers.

Sex between men is illegal in Singapore.

“We urge the organizers of Countdown 2016 to recognize and respect the values of the majority of Singapore that has voiced its desire to preserve our nation’s moral fiber,” reads the protest petition, which was posted anonymously by a group saying it represented concerned parents. 

The petitioners argue that having Lambert at the concert would bring a sour note to the end of the conservative city-state’s 50th birthday celebrations.

State TV company Mediacorp maintained Lambert would perform, and said the televised concert would be suitable for family audiences and conform with broadcast regulations.

(Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Rodney Joyce)

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Lunch with Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling at The Four Seasons: The Big Short


If you are going to celebrate a movie following a group of guys who make a lot of money, The Four Seasons is a good place to be. So it seemed as director Adam McKay, his stars Brad Pitt and Ryan
Gosling, Pitt’s Plan B producing partners DeDe Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, and co-screenwriter with McKay Charles Randolph joined Malcom Gladwell for a panel discussing the making of the film The Big Short, based on the book by Michael Lewis. Steve Carell and Christian Bale, not present at the luncheon, square off the stellar cast. A great entertainment, fast paced like an action flick,The Big Short limns the economic collapse of 2008 through the machinations of four men.

Think Wolf of Wall Street (from another era and without the sex and drugs) meets the indie masterpiece 99 Homes (about the housing market crisis). Gladwell opened up the talk recounting Michael Lewis’ words to him about the movies, like Moneyball, made of his books: They’re complicated so only the smart filmmakers tackle the material. They are not dumbed down which is why seeing a bunch of appealing guys betting against America makes you want to gag. Fun even as the reality turns grim, the movie is in your face subversive.

Brad Pitt, who plays the film’s smoothie concocting Ben Rickert, wears a brown pin striped suit looking like a banker out of Boardwalk Empire. Between Adam McKay and Ryan Gosling, the panel seemed to be enjoying an inside joke about the fine steaks we were wolfing down as they spoke about The Big Short. McKay, ultra sarcastic, said Gosling prepared them for us, and Gosling, licking it up, made gestures of love to the rapt diners. It’s a time for satire, said McKay, a time to be vocal and passionate. “People are clever and smart until their souls are out in front of them. Mark Baum (Steve Carell) makes $200 million and we are all disgusted about it.”

Charles Randolph pointed out, the movie is educational, emotional, and entertaining at the same time, while Dede Gardner explained the book’s attraction: If you have human beings inside a narrative, you understand what happened. Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett, a character obviously working in his own self-interest. He functions as narrator and tour guide of this world. Unreliable, he tells the truth. What a sense of entitlement: to make money without any social responsibility.

Talk about making money without conscience! Synergy at the luncheon: Rita Ryack, costume designer working on dressing Robert DeNiro as Bernie Madoff for an HBO movie and John Dunne, designing costumes for the series Vinyl, observed that Gosling had a moth hole in his sweater.

I asked Ryan Gosling how he created his character: “It was the big, black wig. It made me feel like Sampson.”

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.

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Week to Week News Quiz for 11/27/15

While everyone else injures themselves trying to buy a discount blu-ray player, try your hand at our latest Week to Week news quiz and see what really makes the world go around.

Here are some random but real hints: LOL; fellow Democrat Jackie Speiers agreed; making anti-social media; and and not like making an oath. Answers are below the quiz.

1. After Belgians were told not to post anything on social media about police activity during the local ISIS threat, how did Belgians respond?
a. The posted on social media about police activity anyway
b. They filled their social media feeds with cat postings
c. They stopped using social media altogether
d. They hacked local ISIS Twitter accounts and filled their feeds with Christmas tree photos

2. What did Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) say about U.S. policy toward ISIS?
a. ISIS is growing in strength and “We need to be aggressive now”
b. Fighting ISIS is a waste of tax dollars
c. U.S. policy should focus on visa and immigration restrictions to deter migration of radicals
d. Iran and Saudi Arabian troops should be leading the anti-ISIS fight on the ground

3. Conservative Mauricio Macri ended a dozen years of leftist rule when he was elected president of what country?
a. Brazil
b. Chile
c. Columbia
d. Argentina

4. How is Pfizer, Inc., planning to reduce its U.S. tax bill?
a. It will sell half of its American subsidiaries
b. It is converting its lower-margin businesses into nonprofit subsidiaries
c. In a $160 billion “tax inversion” deal, it will buy Allergen and moves its headquarters to Ireland
d. It is converting all salaries for its executives to lower-taxed stock options

5. Why did German police arrest a man in connection with the Paris terrorist attack?
a. He is believed to have fled to Berlin after helping plan the attack
b. He is suspected of supplying weapons to the Paris gunmen
c. He was seen fleeing the Bataclan concert hall and ditching handguns immediately after the attack
d. He posted supportive messages about the ISIS terrorists on Facebook

6. A group responsible for an armed anti-Muslim protest at a Dallas-area mosque last week did what this week?
a. Posted on Facebook a list of addresses and other personal information of more than 60 local Muslims and “Muslim sympathizers”
b. Staged a sit-in at the First Dallas United Methodist Church, claiming it had become a hotbed of “pro-papal anti-Americanism”
c. Issued a press release saying they weren’t aware there were any Muslims in the Islamic center they protested
d. Claimed they were armed so they could protect the Muslims

7. An attacker surrendered Friday afternoon after a shooting and armed standoff where in Colorado Springs?
a. A synagogue
b. A Planned Parenthood building
c. A Social Security office
d. A Best Buy store

8. What action by Donald Trump did The New York Times call “outrageous”?
a. Mocking the disability of a Times reporter
b. Promising to erase the federal deficit “faster than the World Trade Towers collapsed”
c. Shooting an unarmed black man who was trying to run away
d. Insinuating that Hillary Clinton was gay

9. Why are world leaders from 150 countries arriving in France this weekend?
a. Paris is holding a three-hour memorial for the victims of the ISIS Paris attacks
b. Talks on the World Trade Partnership Protocol take place this week in Paris
c. France is hosting a global environmental summit
d. An Asterix convention

10. What did The New York Times say Republican candidates were doing more and more, inspired by Donald Trump?
a. Giving money to Hillary Clinton
b. Opposing U.S. military action in the Middle East
c. Publicly swearing
d. Threatening to run as third-party candidates

BONUS. France has agreed to water down a climate deal due to pressure from whom?
a. Big oil
b. Small oil
c. The United States
d. Saudi Arabia

1. b.
2. a.
3. d.
4. c.
5. b.
6. a.
7. b.
8. a.
9. c.
10. c.

Want the live news quiz experience? Join us Monday, November 30
in downtown San Francisco for our next live (and lively) Week to Week political roundtable with a news quiz and a social hour at The Commonwealth Club of California
. Panelists will include Carson Bruno, Carla Marinucci, and Dr. James Taylor.

Explanations of the hints: LOL: the internet was basically made solvent by LOLcats; fellow Democrat Jackie Speiers agreed: Feinstein and Speiers have both said the U.S. approach has fallen short; making anti-social media: they used social media to spread the personal data; and not like making an oath: that’s right–they were cursing, not swearing allegiance.

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