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Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine to fend off Putin-backed rebels

U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment board a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter during a mission July 5, 2014, in Gereshk, Helmand province, Afghanistan.  U.S. Marine Corps photo.

Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine to fend off Putin-backed rebels

By Maggie Ybarra - The Washington Times

A team of Pentagon officials is heading to Ukraine to help the country rebuild its fractured military, a mission that lawmakers and analysts expect will result in recommendations for greater military assistance in the country’s fight against pro-Russia separatists amid international outrage over the downing of a commercial airplane.

Within the next few weeks, a group of Defense Department representatives who specialize in strategy and policy will head to Kiev to evaluate specific programs that the United States may want to help bolster, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

 
Francis State Beach Tragedy

man

College graduate, 26, dies after being BURIED ALIVE by 10ft deep sand tunnel he was digging

A California man died after a hole he was digging on the beach collapsed on top of him. Adam Pye, 26, dug a roughly 10-foot-deep hole at Francis State Beach and was standing in it around 5:30 p.m. Monday when the sand started caving in around him. About 30 people, including Pye's friends and bystanders, frantically dug with their hands, buckets and other improvised tools to expose his head. Paramedics managed to open Pye's airways while about 30 firefighters, aided by the bystanders, used shovels and other equipment to pull out his body. Rescuers extricated him in about 35 minutes and tried to revive him, but he died at the scene.

 
Does Volunteering Foster Narcissistic Kids?

Does Volunteering Foster Narcissistic Kids?

By Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D.

Youth Volunteerism

A growing body of research suggests children and teenagers are not getting the types of experiences that teach them to care — to put the common good before their own. Does the current culture of youth volunteerism teach kids to care less rather than more?

 
D.C. SNAFU

** FILE ** Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland Democrat. (Associated Press)

USIS, the firm that vetted Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Alexis, faces heat over border contract

By Jim McElhatton - The Washington Times

For the first time in its 20-year history, a federal contracting firm is filing a bid protest to overturn the $190 million award of a border security contract to a rival accused of fraud by the Justice Department. Contractor USIS, which vetted NSA leaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, won the contract over Virginia-based FCi Federal last month.

The contract award by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, came months after USIS was hit with a Justice Department complaint accusing the firm of falsely certifying that hundreds of thousands of background checks were completed.

“This is the first time in our company’s 20-year history that we have challenged a contract award, and we take our decision to file this protest very seriously,” FCi Federal chief executive Sharon D. Virts said in a statement, explaining the bid protest.

“We are surprised that a company under federal investigation for defrauding the government while conducting security-clearance background investigations can bid for and win government contracts, let alone one directly connected with our nation’s border security,” she said.

Still, the contract award has prompted questions from Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, and Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican. They sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security officials last week asking how the agency awarded a contract to a firm being sued by the Justice Department.

Mr. Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Mr. Coburn, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, also questioned how federal contracting officials deemed USIS to be “low-risk” despite the Justice Department lawsuit.

 
U.S. releases intelligence on Flight 17

A handout released says it shows a flight path. (U.S. Intelligence Community)

U.S. releases intelligence on Flight 17

Greg Miller

Officials describe the sensitive information as evidence that Moscow trained and equipped rebels who downed the plane.

The Obama administration, detailing what it called evidence of Russian complicity in the downing of a Malaysian airliner, on Tuesday released satellite images and other sensitive intelligence that officials say show Moscow had trained and equipped rebels in Ukraine responsible for the attack.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials cited sensors that traced the path of the missile, shrapnel markings on the downed aircraft, voiceprint analysis of separatists claiming credit for the strike, and a flood of photos and other data from social-media sites.

The officials also for the first time identified a sprawling Russian military installation near the city of Rostov as the main conduit of Russian support to separatists in Ukraine, describing it as a hub of training and weapons that has expanded dramatically over the past month. The officials said that tanks, rocket launchers and other arms have continued to flow into Ukraine even after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which killed 298 civilians.

 
Hezbollah Talks Big but Bows Out of the Gaza War

top-box

Hezbollah Talks Big but Bows Out of the Gaza War

Hamas is increasingly isolated in the region as it fights its ferocious war against Israel. In the old days Hezbollah might have helped—but not now.

Hezbollah boss Hassan Nasrallah made a phone call to Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal on Monday and vowed to support “the resistance in Gaza in any way necessary.” Then Nasrallah, whose fame has spread far and wide over the years as the head of the Iranian-backed Lebanese “Party of God,” called Palestinians Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Salah to talk about maintaining close diplomatic ties in the fight against Israel.

But here’s the real message from Nasrallah: Hamas, you’re on your own.

This is a far cry from those days in the middle of the last decade when Hezbollah, encouraged by Tehran, was staking out a position as the region’s preeminent leader of resistance against Israel and leader of a pan-Islamist movement ready to defend not only Shiites but also Sunni Muslims from, as they were wont to say, Jews and Crusaders.

In 2006, when the Israelis attacked Gaza in the south, Hezbollah started launching rockets attacking Israel from the north and kidnapped Israeli soldiers there, leading to a brief but brutal war in which Hezbollah guerrillas fought the vaunted Israel Defense Forces to a standstill.

But Hezbollah has more pressing strategic imperatives today, and Nasrallah is not known as an impulsive leader. He plots and schemes and bides his time to strike when he thinks the stars are aligned in his favor. Weighing in on the side of Hamas would invite massive Israeli retaliation and force a replay of the 2006 war that, this time around, Hezbollah would be likely to lose—not just because Israel would fight a smarter campaign, but because Nasrallah’s forces are stretched so thin on so many fronts defending its allies—and Tehran’s—in Damascus and even in Baghdad.

 
Rebels shoot down two Ukrainian fighter jets

Rebels shoot down two Ukrainian fighter jets

MH17 wreckage

Ukrainian military spokesman says planes were brought down about 16 miles from MH17 site

Pro-Russia rebels have shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets in eastern Ukraine just days after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, a Ukrainian military spokesman has said.

"Two Sukhoi Ukrainian fighter jets have been shot down. The fate of the pilots is not known," a spokesman, Oleksiy Dmytrashkivsky, said, adding that the planes had been brought down about 16 miles (25km) from the crash site of MH17.

 
Families Are Paying Smugglers To Escort 'Unaccompanied' Children, Johnson Admits

Neil Munro

President Barack Obama (L) announces Jeh Johnson (R) to be his nominee for secretary of Homeland Security, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Oct. 18, 2013. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson admitted at a Tuesday press conference that nearly all the roughly 50,000 Central American youths who have crossed the Texas border since October are accompanied by smugglers hired by the youth’s parents or families.

“It is our observation and our experience that almost all of of them are smuggled,” he said. ”Nobody is freelancing,” he added.

“The families are paying as much as $10,000,” he said.

Johnson’s admissions undercut the White House claim that the smuggled youths can’t be repatriated immediately, but must be protected by the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which automatically allows trafficked youths a chance to win a green card in court.

 
Director Jonathan Demme Blasts Israel, Says Not an Anti-Semite

Director Jonathan Demme Blasts Israel, Says Not an Anti-Semite

“I think more than anything, first and foremost, all of these innocent children being killed. It makes me think about — please withdraw the settlements; please tear down the wall; please let's work for peace,” Demme said. “Every new iteration of the violence that comes up feels like you're starting all over again and I just can't imagine how unbearable it must be to be a Palestinian living in Gaza being invaded like this and seeing the children of your community lying dead in the sand."

 
Why Obama Is Tough on Russia, Not on Putin

Why Obama Is Tough on Russia, Not on Putin

  • By Gerald F. Seib

What might explain the difference in President Obama's tone toward Russian President Putin personally than toward Russia generically? There are a couple of possibilities.

One, which U.S. officials have discussed privately, is the hope that Mr. Putin may have been so embarrassed by the Malaysia Airlines disaster and the behavior of Russian separatists in its aftermath that he will decide it’s time to pull back from his support of those separatists and his broader program of intimidating Ukraine’s government.

Put in the diplomatic vernacular of the moment, it may be that Mr. Putin is looking for an “exit ramp” from Ukraine.

Mr. Obama appears to have a tense but functioning personal relationship with the Russian leader; he talks frequently of their phone conversations. It may well be that he hopes he can persuade the Russian president onto that exit ramp, or at least avoid personalizing the conflict in such a way that Mr. Putin feels he would be humiliated by making the turn onto the ramp.

In addition, the simple fact is that the Obama administration needs Mr. Putin’s cooperation in addressing some other messy world problems.

 
Where the Illegal Wild Things Go

Where the Illegal Wild Things Go

By Sam Price-Waldman

This government facility houses more than a million seized products of the exotic wildlife trade

The National Wildlife Property Repository, a government facility outside of Denver, stores more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to elephant ivory. These items are confiscated at points of entry around the United States, and sent to the Repository to be destroyed or used for educational purposes. The Wildlife Property Repository is a revealing window into the growing global industry of wildlife and plant trafficking, which has been estimated at up to $23 billion.

 
The secrets of New York's realtors

The secrets of New York's realtors

James Ball

New York: pricey.

How to find the client, seal the deal and collect the fee? A training manual issued to realtors, seen by the Guardian, reveals all

The document covers everything from dress code – “You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure” – to crafting adverts, how to talk on the phone, sealing the deal, tackling those tricky questions from clients, and even when it’s permissible to take a client to bed.

The art of the realtor, though, lies in the deeply professional advice for handling any misgivings you may have about a particular place – and the manual is full of advice on this.

If a client feels an apartment is too small, suggested replies include “All apartments are basically four walls”, “Most people are not going to be home that much to begin with” and the profound and tautologous “a studio is a studio is a studio”.

If there’s not enough light in the apartment, well, “a halogen lamp would brighten the place up in a hurry”. But “in the right situation” agents are given another option which could just as easily have come from the famous creep-dating guidebook The Game: “You could say to a guy that his girlfriend’s eyes are so bright that they wouldn’t need any more light. She might get a kick out of it, and he will not disagree with you in front of her.”

 
4 Reasons Why Smart People Make Bad Career Decisions

4 Reasons Why Smart People Make Bad Career Decisions

By Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D.

We all know someone who has made bad career decisions – staying too long in a dead-end job, picking a career they are not suited for, or giving up a good job for a bad one. What are some of the psychological factors in play when making career decisions, and how can we make better ones?

 
Russia, Great Britain and Israel intercepted Bubba's x-rated conversations

Hurley burley: Bill Clinton and Liz Hurley at 2005 Children Charity Ball in Saint-Petersburg. Halper Lists Hurley among his rumored conquests

Russia, Great Britain and Israel intercepted White House phone calls, including Bubba's x-rated conversations

Explosive new book claims Bill Clinton's steamy phone sex calls with Monica were intercepted by Russia and the UK and used in a 'blackmail' attempt by Israeli Prime Minister according to ex-intern's secret dossier on the President

According to a new blockbuster book, tapes of Bill Clinton’s steamy phone sex with Monica Lewinsky posed a threat to national security and resulted in a not-so-subtle ‘blackmail’ attempt by the Prime Minister of Israel, who used the torrid exchanges to try to ‘convince’ the President to secure the release of an American spying for the Israelis.

The book, Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine by Weekly Standard editor Daniel Halper, has been described as 'scrupulously researched' and 'juicy'. The contents of this latest tome about the ultimate power couple have been widely leaked and have already been the subject of numerous news reports.

Halper reports evidence that not only the Israelis but also the British and Russians had ‘scooped up’ the microwaves off the top of the White House and taped Clinton's phone sex conversations with Monica – and perhaps other women.

According to allegations in the book, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the tapes to try to persuade Clinton to release Jonathan Pollard, an American caught and jailed for spying for Israel. Clinton lobbied for Pollard’s release but his attempts were ultimately thwarted by CIA Director George Tenet. That bombshell and scores of others - some amusing, some alarming - are part of hundreds of pages of allegations compiled by a team of lawyers and investigators working for Monica Lewinsky and viewed exclusively by Halper.

The so-called 'Monica Files', chronicling the dalliances and misdeeds of Clinton, were assembled for the hapless White House intern after the public outing of their affair in case she might be drawn into legal action against the President.

Happy days: Barbra Streisand was instrumental in helping Bill win the 1992 election. But sources close to Clinton say their relationship was more intimate

In another bombshell reportedly uncovered by Monica’s team, a woman, then a student at a university in California, claimed that she met a young Bill Clinton when he returned from his studies in England as a Rhodes scholar. She described a disturbing encounter with the man who would be president.

The couple dated once, Halper reports, and then they met up again at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. According to Lewinsky’s team they went to a wooded section of the park, where the future president pushed her to the ground and tried to have sex with her.

She 'scratched and kicked' him and managed to get away. Halper reports no charges were filed against Clinton.

Incredibly, decades later, the woman heard from the then Governor of Arkansas, according to Monica's dossier, to tell her he was running for President and ask for her support.

She said she would, but the woman believed the call was 'a blatant attempt' to find out if she would reveal anything about the assault in San Francisco, Halper reports.

 
California Halts Injection of Fracking Waste, Warning it May Be Contaminating Aquifers

California's drought has forced farmers to rely on groundwater, even as aquifers have been intentionally polluted due to exemptions for the oil industry.

California officials have ordered an emergency shut-down of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review more than 100 others in the state's drought-wracked Central Valley out of fear that companies may have been pumping fracking fluids and other toxic waste into drinking water aquifers there.

The state's Division of Oil and Gas and Geothermal Resources on July 7 issued cease and desist orders to seven energy companies warning that they may be injecting their waste into aquifers that could be a source of drinking water, and stating that their waste disposal "poses danger to life, health, property, and natural resources." The orders were first reported by the Bakersfield Californian, and the state has confirmed with ProPublica that its investigation is expanding to look at additional wells.

The action comes as California's agriculture industry copes with a drought crisis that has emptied reservoirs and cost the state $2.2 billion this year alone. The lack of water has forced farmers across the state to supplement their water supply from underground aquifers, according to a study released this week by the University of California Davis.

The problem is that at least 100 of the state's aquifers were presumed to be useless for drinking and farming because the water was either of poor quality, or too deep underground to easily access. Years ago, the state exempted them from environmental protection and allowed the oil and gas industry to intentionally pollute them. But not all aquifers are exempted, and the system amounts to a patchwork of protected and unprotected water resources deep underground. Now, according to the cease and desist orders issued by the state, it appears that at least seven injection wells are likely pumping waste into fresh water aquifers protected by the law, and not other aquifers sacrificed by the state long ago.

 
Obamacare dealt massive setback by federal appeals court

President Barack Obama shares a humorous moment with a group of doctors from around the country in the Oval Office, Oct. 5, 2009, prior to a health insurance reform event at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Obamacare dealt massive setback by federal appeals court

By Tom Howell Jr. - The Washington Times

Americans are not entitled to Obamacare’s government subsidies if they live in a state that relied on the federal government to set up its insurance marketplace under the law, according to a federal appeals court ruling Tuesday that could blow a hole through President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the administration used an IRS rule to stretch the meaning of the Affordable Care Act, which said financial aid to to low- and middle-income people should only flow to exchanges “established by the State.” If that means only state-run exchanges, it would cut off subsidies to two-thirds of the nation.

 
Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200: Signs of Impact by Supersonic Missile

A piece of the wreckage shows damage that is said to be consistent with a hit from a fragmenting warhead. Credit Noah Sneider

Signs of Impact by Supersonic Missile

By C. J. CHIVERS

A piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 that was shot down in eastern Ukraine last week bears telltale marks of small pieces of high-velocity shrapnel that apparently crippled the jet in flight. Riddled with these perforations and buffeted by a blast wave as it flew high above the conflict zone, the plane then most likely sheared apart.

The wreckage, photographed by two reporters for The New York Times in a field several miles from where the largest concentration of the Boeing’s debris settled, suggests that the destruction of the aircraft was caused by a supersonic missile that apparently exploded near the jet as it flew 33,000 feet above the ground, according to an analysis of the photographs by IHS Jane’s, the defense consultancy.

The damage, including the shrapnel holes and blistered paint on a panel of the destroyed plane’s exterior, is consistent with the effects of a fragmenting warhead carried by an SA-11 missile, known in Russian as a Buk, the type of missile that American officials have said was the probable culprit in the downing of the plane. 

 
Sterling 'needs sale to pay debts'

Sterling 'needs sale to pay debts'

Shelly Sterling sits with her husband, Donald Sterling.

Chief financial officer of Sterling's properties says banks will recall their loans if Sterling persists in refusing to sell the team

The chief financial officer of Donald Sterling's properties said Monday that the billionaire may be forced to sell a large portion of his real estate empire to cover $500 million in loans if he persists in refusing to sell the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion.

Darren Schield, who oversees the finances of The Sterling Family Trust, testified Monday that three banks are ready to recall their loans to Sterling because of his decision to dissolve the trust. His move was designed to rescind his signed agreement for the sale of the Clippers, a team he bought for $12 million.

Schield said if Sterling has to dump $500 million worth of apartment buildings he could destabilize the Los Angeles real estate market.

Sterling attorney Maxwell Blecher suggested that Sterling could take the company public in order to raise funds.

But Shelly Sterling's lawyer, Pierce O'Donnell, asked if it would be easy to go public "with Donald Sterling's reputation."

Schield responded: "There's huge reputation issues. I don't know if anyone would want to go into partnership with him."

 
Cash Crops With Dividends: Financiers Transforming Strawberries Into Securities

Steve Fessler of Prudential Agricultural Investments, left, shows Thomas S. T. Gimbel the harvest on a farm in Watsonville, Calif.

Cash Crops With Dividends: Financiers Transforming Strawberries Into Securities

His boots were caked with mud when Thomas S. T. Gimbel, a longtime hedge fund executive, slipped in a strawberry patch. It was the plumpness of a strawberry that had distracted him.

Mr. Gimbel, who once headed the hedge fund division of Credit Suisse, now spends more time discussing crop yields than stock or bond yields.

He is the man on the ground for a group of investors — including New York’s biggest real estate dynasty, two Florida sugar barons and the founder of a multibillion-dollar investment firm — who have been buying up farms across the United States through a real estate investment trust called the American Farmland Company.

Hedge funds are not new to farmland. For nearly a decade they have scoured the corners of the globe for cheap land as food prices have soared, positioning themselves to profit from the growing demand. Hedge funds now have $14 billion invested in farmland, according to the data provider Preqin.

But in the latest twist, a small but growing group of sophisticated investors and bankers are combining crops and the soil they grow in into an asset class that ordinary investors can buy a piece of.

This strawberry field in Watsonville, Calif., is owned by the American Farmland Company, which has acquired more than 11,000 acres of tillable land.

“It’s like gold, but better, because there is this cash flow,” Mr. Boardman said. The income stream comes from the rent farmers pay American Farmland and also often includes a share of the revenue from the crops. The company buys farms with permanent crops like almonds and avocados and row crops like cotton and corn.

American Farmland has spent $131 million on 16 farms and more than 11,000 acres of tillable land — the equivalent of 13 Central Parks. It’s a small start, but Mr. Boardman, Mr. Gimbel and their partners have large ambitions.

Thomas S. T. Gimbel, left, and Steve Fessler among the grapevines at Kimberly Vineyards in Soledad, Calif.

The value of farmland in the United States has appreciated on average by 8.4 percent over the last year and 4.7 percent annually since 1990, according to an index from the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries. Taking into consideration the income generated by crops, the total average return was 17.4 percent over the last year and 11.9 percent annually since 1990.

But not everyone thinks farmland values will continue to rise endlessly.

“You can certainly overpay for farmland, and if crop prices declined for whatever reason — for example because of some type of natural disaster — there are all sorts of reasons why, all of a sudden, the income stream does not support the price you paid for a piece of land,” said Jeffrey R. Havsy, director of research for the council.

And as the financial world’s interest in farmland grows, some observers have raised concerns about the new landowners’ switching to crops that pay better but that work the soil too hard and use up precious resources like water. In California, for example, a recent move toward nut trees has put pressure on already constrained water resources during a severe drought.

 
Israel Is Facing Difficult Choice in Gaza Conflict

Israel Is Facing Difficult Choice in Gaza Conflict

Israeli leaders have stressed two points in selling their Gaza Strip ground invasion internationally and at home: that they embraced all cease-fire proposals and that troops are targeting tunnels used by Palestinian militants to infiltrate their territory.

Now, with the lopsided death toll mounting on both sides — more than 550 Gazans, 25 Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians — world leaders are demanding an immediate halt to the hostilities. But the operation has uncovered more tunnels than expected, officials said, and there were two more deadly incursions Monday, making many Israelis say they were reluctant to leave a job half-finished.

That has Israel struggling with a more distilled version of the dilemma it has faced in repeated rounds against Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates Gaza. If it stops now, it faces the prospect of a newly embittered enemy retaining the capacity to attack. But if it stays the course, it is liable to kill many more civilians and face international condemnation.

“Israel must not agree to any proposal for a cease-fire until the tunnels are eliminated,” Gilad Erdan, the right-wing minister of communications, said during a hospital visit to wounded soldiers.

But Tzipi Livni, the centrist justice minister, told reporters that demilitarizing Gaza could be tackled after an agreement, and that “to cease the fire, stop the fire, this is the main goal right now.”

As Secretary of State John Kerry and the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, landed in Cairo on Monday night seeking a cease-fire, analysts set low expectations. The Hamas-Israel feud is in many ways trickier and outside the core Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israelis feel they withdrew from Gaza only to allow it to become a launching pad for rockets, and Hamas refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

For each, eradicating the other is the goal — not a two-state solution.

 
Did Anti-Obamacare Ads Actually Increase Enrollment?

Did Anti-Obamacare Ads Actually Increase Enrollment?

By Joe Pinsker

Spending by the healthcare law's opponents backfired, it seems.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act outspent Obamacare's proponents 15-to-one, but they might have been funding their rivals' cause. 

 “There are basically two theories,” Yaraghi told On The Media last week. “The first one is that with the negative ads, citizens’ awareness about this subsidized service increases, and the more ads they see, the more they know that such a service exists. … The other theory is that citizens who were exposed to an overwhelming number of ads about Obamacare are more likely to believe that this service is going to be repealed by the Congress in the near future … [so] he or she will have a higher willingness to go and take advantage of this one-time opportunity before it goes away.”

 
Bubba and the "Energizer"

Keeping a secret? A new book claims that Bill Clinton has a mistress nicknamed 'Energizer' by his security staff

Bubba and the "Energizer"

Bill Clinton 'has a busty blond mistress nicknamed "Energizer" by his Secret Service detail who work to hide the woman from Hillary'

One excerpt includes a quote from a source that revealed 'Energizer' has no problem getting inside the Clintons' Chappaqua, New York home.

'You don’t stop her, you don’t approach her, you just let her go in,' the source said.

The former president's other woman has 'very perky' augmented breasts, another source alleged in quotes shared by the newspaper.

'It was a warm day, and she was wearing a low-cut tank top, and as she leaned over, her breasts were very exposed,' the security source said of the mysterious mistress. 'They appeared to be very perky and very new and full... There was no doubt in my mind they were enhanced.'

The Post also reported that both Bill and Hillary's security officers work together to hide 'Energizer' from Hillary.

Requests for comment to both Clintons' press offices regarding the book's allegations were not immediately returned.

Kessler's book claims 'Because [Hillary] is so nasty to agents and hostile to law enforcement officers and military officers in general, agents consider being assigned to her detail a form of punishment,' according to the Post.

 
Is this the moment a rebel stole plane victim's ring?

MH17

Is this the moment a rebel stole plane victim's ring?

By Tania Steere and Sam Marsden

A photograph widely circulating on social media last night purported to show a Russian separatist fighter stealing a ring from a victim of the MH17 crash. In the picture, which has not been independently verified, three rebels wearing military uniforms appear to be rifling through the wreckage. A blonde-haired fighter, wearing a black beret, is bent over what looks like wreckage and apparently holding what seems to be a gold ring.

 
Why Seven Hours of Sleep Might Be Better Than Eight

Why Seven Hours of Sleep Might Be Better Than Eight

Sleep experts close in on the optimal night's sleep

Experts generally recommend seven to nine hours a night for healthy adults. Sleep scientists say new guidelines are needed to take into account an abundance of recent research in the field and to reflect that Americans are on average sleeping less than they did in the past.

Several sleep studies have found that seven hours is the optimal amount of sleep—not eight, as was long believed—when it comes to certain cognitive and health markers, although many doctors question that conclusion.

Other recent research has shown that skimping on a full night's sleep, even by 20 minutes, impairs performance and memory the next day. And getting too much sleep—not just too little of it—is associated with health problems including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease and with higher rates of death, studies show.

"The lowest mortality and morbidity is with seven hours," said Shawn Youngstedt, a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University Phoenix. "Eight hours or more has consistently been shown to be hazardous," says Dr. Youngstedt, who researches the effects of oversleeping.

 
While Hillary offers a resume, Elizabeth Warren offers a plan

While Hillary offers a resume, Elizabeth Warren offers a plan

Byron York

t seems almost too obvious to mention, but presidential candidates need a clear idea of why they want to be president. In the past few days, Democrats have heard that their still-undeclared frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, needs time to think about the question. Meanwhile, another undeclared hopeful, Elizabeth Warren, is thrilling liberal audiences with a forceful, point-by-point declaration of the principles that would guide her as president. The contrast is striking.

Clinton is offering Democrats her resume. Warren is offering them a plan.

 
Seeking redemption, Rick Perry finds power in immigration crisis

Seeking redemption, Rick Perry finds power in immigration crisis

Philip Rucker

The Texas governor stares down President Obama and hopes for a second chance in 2016.

Three years ago, the Texas governor blazed a trail across Iowa to become the instant Republican presidential front-runner. Perry had a solid record and signature bravado. (At the Iowa State Fair, he blew a kiss to the cameras and mockingly said of rival Mitt Romney, “Give him my love.”) But after humiliating fumbles, Perry’s 2012 campaign became a death march: He finished fifth in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses and dropped out soon after.

This summer, Perry, 64, is back in the game. What he lacks in sizzle from 2011 he’s making up for with newfound substance on issues ranging from the economy to turmoil in the Middle East. And with tens of thousands of undocumented immigrant children streaming into Texas, the border crisis gives Perry an animating issue placing him at the forefront of Republican politics.

The immigration crisis has given Perry the opportunity to stare down President Obama — they sat across a table from one another in Dallas earlier this month — and a second chance to make a positive impression with Republican voters.

Perry’s political rehabilitation has been slow and methodical. There’s little doubt he has become “wiser,” as he put it in an interview here with The Washington Post. Perry said that if he runs for president again — he insists it’s an if, although his actions suggest a when — he will be a competent candidate and as ready as anyone to sit in the Oval Office.

“I try not to be perceived as being coy,” Perry said in the interview. “I am preparing for the possibility of a presidential run. Yes, I think about it, and I know how to be prepared for it.”

In the 2012 race, Perry’s back surgery and long recovery slowed his campaign. He did not sleep well and often felt pain standing for long debates. Now, he said, he is healthy. He has stopped running and began a new regimen of sit-ups, pull-ups, crunches and time on a stationary bicycle.

 Since giving up on cowboy boots (the arched heels agitated his back) and wearing hipster glasses, Perry has a look more bookish than buckaroo — and more in keeping with his attempt at intellectual reinvention. He sat on a panel in January with former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Next month, he jets to China for his second World Economic Forum and is planning a fall trip to England, Poland, Croatia, Romania and the Baltics.

“The biggest error in judgment I made [in 2011] was thinking that just because I’d been the governor in the state of Texas I was prepared to run for the presidency of the United States,” Perry said in the interview. “It is very different in the sense of having a global grasp of what’s going on in the world.”

 
Israel hits targets in Gaza as soldier confirmed missing

Israel hits targets in Gaza as soldier confirmed missing

Gaza City

Israeli soldier captured during intense battle as Palestinian death toll nears 600, with 27 IDF troops killed

Israel continued to pound Gaza overnight, including hitting 100 targets in Shujai'iya, the scene of the most intense fighting of the conflict, as the Israeli military confirmed that one of its soldiers was missing.

Hamas claimed on Sunday that it had captured an Israeli soldier during the intense battle in Shujai'iya.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) named the missing soldier as Sergeant Oron Shaul, 21, a combat soldier of the Golani brigade.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad reportedly agreed to a five-hour pause in the fighting. However, Haaretz quoted senior Israeli officials as saying a humanitarian ceasefire was "not on our agenda right now".

As the fighting continued, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, was due to meet the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and Egyptian mediators in Cairo. Barack Obama said on Monday that Kerry had been authorised to do "everything he can to help facilitate a cessation of hostilities", in a sign that international diplomacy had been galvanised by the weekend carnage in Shujai'iya.

Gaza City
Bomb damage in the streets of Gaza City. Photograph: Ezz al-Zanoun/NurPhoto/REX

Kerry described Israel's military offensive as an "appropriate and legitimate effort" to defend itself but added that the consequences were of deep concern.

 
Israel Rejects Humanitarian Ceasefire

Israel Rejects Humanitarian Ceasefire

Gaza officials puts day's death toll at 27 - 608 since start of op

Israel's Operation Protective Edge enters its third week on Tuesday, and the IDF's ground incursion into the Gaza Strip moved into its fifth day. Nine IDF soldiers were killed on Monday, raising the number of Israeli military fatalities since the operation commenced to 27. At least 130 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its ground operation, raising the recent escalation's death toll in Gaza to 604, with 3,700 wounded.

 
If the Left Wants Scapegoats, Just Look in the Mirror

obama looking in mirror

By Kevin Drum

....In point of fact, there were plenty of things Obama’s Democrats could have done that might have put the right out of business once and for all—for example, by responding more aggressively to the Great Recession or by pounding relentlessly on the theme of middle-class economic distress. Acknowledging this possibility, however, has always been difficult for consensus-minded Democrats, and I suspect that in the official recounting of the Obama era, this troublesome possibility will disappear entirely. Instead, the terrifying Right-Wing Other will be cast in bronze at twice life-size, and made the excuse for the Administration’s every last failure of nerve, imagination and foresight. Demonizing the right will also allow the Obama legacy team to present his two electoral victories as ends in themselves, since they kept the White House out of the monster’s grasp—heroic triumphs that were truly worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. (Which will be dusted off and prominently displayed.) 

As for Obama, could he have done more? I suppose he probably could have, but it's a close call. Even with his earnest efforts at bipartisanship at the beginning of his presidency, he only barely passed any stimulus at all. If instead he'd issued thundering populist manifestos, even Susan Collins would have turned against him and the stimulus bill would have been not too small, but completely dead. Ditto for virtually everything else Obama managed to pass by one or two votes during his first 18 months. If that had happened, the economy would have done even worse, and if you somehow think this means the public would have become more sympathetic to the party in the White House, then your knowledge of American politics is at about the kindergarten level. Democrats would have lost even more seats in 2010 than they did.

Look: Obama made some mistakes. He should have done more about housing. He shouldn't have pivoted to deficit-mongering so quickly. Maybe he could have kept a public option in Obamacare if he'd fought harder for it. Maybe, maybe, maybe. But probably not. Like it or not, America was not poised for a huge liberal wave in 2008. It just wasn't. It was poised for a fairly routine cycle of throwing out the old bums and electing new bums, who would, as usual, be given a very short and very limited honeymoon. Democrats actually accomplished a fair amount during that honeymoon, but no, they didn't turn American into a lefty paradise. That was never in the cards.

 
Amazon at 20: billions and battles

Amazon at 20: billions and battles

Mark Hooper

Amazon fulfilment centre prepares for Christmas, Swansea, Britain - 13 Dec 2012

It's 20 years since entrepreneur Jeff Bezos registered the company that would become Amazon. How did it get so big so fast?

1996: Send us your freaks

Despite losing $52,000 in 1994, Amazon's fortunes begin to change, not least because of Bezos's bullish attitude. The new unofficial company motto becomes "Get Big Fast". Amazon introduces an 8% referral commission to sites that direct customers to Amazon to purchase a book. A front-page interview in the Wall Street Journal in May ("How Wall Street whiz finds niche selling books on the internet") proves a watershed moment. Daily orders double overnight, with revenues growing at 30-40% a month. To meet demand at the warehouse, an Amazon representative allegedly tells a temp agency to: "Send us your freaks."

Key product Amazon's bestselling book of the year was a prescient one – David Siegel's Creating Killer Web Sites: The Art of Third-Generation Site Design.

 
Are the Obamas buying a home in Rancho Mirage?

Hot Property: Barack and Michelle Obama

Are the Obamas buying a home in Rancho Mirage?

 President Obama and his wife, Michelle, could be the owners of a home in Rancho Mirage listed at $4.25 million before the month is out.

The First Family is believed to be in escrow on a contemporary home in a gated community where entertainers Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby once maintained estates.

The White House said rumors regarding a home in Rancho Mirage are not true.

The 8,232-square-foot compound in question sits adjacent to a bighorn sheep preserve on a 3.29-acre hilltop with panoramic views. The custom-built main house, constructed in 1993 and designed for entertaining, includes a gym, four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. A 2,000-square-foot casita has three bedrooms and three bathrooms. Over-the-top exterior features include a pool with a 20-foot waterfall, a rock lagoon, two spas, a misting system and a putting green with a sand trap.

 
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