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In this image made from video released by the U.S. Navy on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, missiles bound for Syrian Islamic State group targets are launched off of a U.S. Navy ship.

U.S. air campaign begins overnight in Syria

09/23/14 08:01AM

When President Obama spoke two weeks ago about his counter-terrorism strategy towards the Islamic State, he specifically talked about using force to target ISIS "in Syria, as well as Iraq." It was at this point that we knew it was only a matter of time before the U.S. airstrikes began inside Syria.
 
Last night, we learned that this phase of the campaign is now underway.
The United States and a broad coalition of Arab partners launched a predawn attack on Islamist fighters in Syria, the Pentagon announced Monday, using bombers and cruise missiles in the first such strike on the Middle Eastern country that has been riven for two years by a catastrophic civil war.
 
The strikes -- part of a U.S. plan to hit up to 20 targets in and around Raqqa, Syria, where the militants have their headquarters -- mark a major escalation in the American military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which previously had been limited to Iraq.
As NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel noted last night, the timing of the offensive is important: the airstrikes coincide with the United Nations General Assembly, at which world leaders will consider how best to address the ISIS threat.
 
There are, of course, more questions than answers, and if you missed Rachel's segment at midnight (ET), it fleshed out many of the key aspects of the debate. For example, are the U.S. airstrikes likely to have the intended effect?
 
Thus far, the air campaign against ISIS targets in Iraq has been constant for six weeks, but the offensive has "scarcely budged the Sunni extremists." Whether a related campaign in Syria is determinative remains an open question.
 
Also, to what extent is the United States acting as part of a coalition?

Strikes on Khorasan Group and other headlines

09/23/14 07:48AM

Air strikes in Syria targeted Khorasan Group as well as ISIS. (NBC News)

Israel says it shot down a Syrian fighter jet. (NY Times)

Jeb Bush and Sarah Palin will campaign for Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas. (Wichita Eagle)

Biden to Hispanics: Obama will act on immigration. (AP)

Another experimental ebola drug gets nod from the FDA. (Wall Street Journal)

Google to cut ties with ALEC for "literally lying" about climate change. (Talking Points Memo)

Politico names Chelsea Clinton's baby for her. (Politico)

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US, partners rip ISIS on new Syrian front

US, partners rip ISIS on new Syrian front

09/23/14 01:12AM

Laith Alkhouri of Flashpoint Global Partners, talks with Rachel Maddow about global recruitment efforts by ISIS and how the new airstrikes by U.S. partners inside Syria are likely to affect the terror organization. watch

US attacks ISIS at Syria root

US attacks ISIS at Syria root

09/22/14 10:04PM

Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News chief Pentagon correspondent, reports on the details of a new bombing campaign by the U.S. and partners of ISIS targets in Syria, and how those airstrikes are likely to be received by Syria. watch

US bombs Syria for ISIS targets

US bombs Syria for ISIS targets

09/22/14 09:47PM

Rachel Maddow reports breaking news that U.S. military aircraft have commenced bombing in Syria. Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, joins to discuss the international ramifications and the pressure on Arab partners to get involved. watch

"I can confirm that U.S. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles. Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time. The decision to conduct theses strikes was made earlier today by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief. We will provide more details later as operationally appropriate."

Monday's Mini-Report, 9.22.14

09/22/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* ISIS: "After six weeks of American airstrikes, the Iraqi government's forces have scarcely budged Sunni extremists of the Islamic State from their hold on more than a quarter of the country, in part because many critical Sunni tribes remain on the sidelines."
 
* Refugees: "Some 130,000 Kurdish refugees fleeing Islamic militants have crossed the border from Syria into Turkey in the past four days, Turkey's deputy prime minister said Monday as fighting raged close to Turkey's southern border."
 
* Related news: "Turkish troops fired tear gas and water cannons Monday to disperse crowds near Suruc, Turkey, on the Syrian border, where Turkish and Syrian Kurds have been demonstrating against border closings and the Islamic State's latest advances in Syria."
 
* Afghanistan: "The two candidates for president of Afghanistan on Sunday signed an American-brokered agreement on a power-sharing government that would make Ashraf Ghani president, while the runner-up, Abdullah Abdullah, would effectively become a prime minister with substantial powers of his own."
 
* Speaking of Afghanistan: "Three missing Afghanistan National Army officers, who disappeared while participating in a training program in Massachusetts, were detained while attempting to cross the border into Canada and are in the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said on Monday."
 
* Sierra Leone: "Two of the West African nations hardest hit by Ebola were bracing for new caseloads on Monday after trying to outflank the outbreak with a nationwide checkup and a large new clinic."
 
* Fence jumper: "Federal prosecutors alleged Monday in federal court that a man who jumped a fence and ran into the White House's unlocked front door Friday night posed a threat to President Obama and was keeping 800 rounds of ammunition, two hatchets and a machete in his car, parked blocks away."
 
* Obama eyes new international standards: "President Obama will preside this week over an unusual meeting of the United Nations Security Council poised to adopt a binding resolution that would compel all countries to put in place domestic laws to prosecute those who travel abroad to join terrorist organizations and those who help them, including by raising funds."
 
* As someone who was born and raised in Miami, all I can say is, Ugh: "Miami had the highest uninsured rate of any large American city in 2013, new data from the Census Bureau shows. It beats out Houston and Dallas for the top spot."
In this his June 27, 2012 file photo, Vic Gundotra, Google senior vice president of Engineering, talks about Google Plus at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco.

Google latest to walk away from ALEC

09/22/14 04:44PM

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) no doubt found it easier to operate when it was largely unknown, working behind the scenes to advance a far-right agenda. As we've discussed before, shadowy obscurity allowed ALEC to be more effective.
 
But as the group made the transition from obscurity to notoriety, suddenly the organization that quietly wrote ready-made legislation for Republican legislators started losing friends who saw associations with ALEC as a public-relations problem.
Google plans to sever its relationship with the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council following a wave of public scrutiny about the conservative group's climate-change views.
 
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt indicated in an interview Monday with NPR's Diane Rehm that Google would drop its ALEC membership "in the future," but did not specify a date.
A caller asked Schmidt about Google's ALEC ties, and the chairman responded that Google funded them for an unspecified cause, but added, "I think the consensus within the company was that that was some sort of mistake, and so we're trying to not do that in the future."
 
In this case, climate change seemed to be the impetus for the disassociation. "Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place," Schmidt said. "And so we should not be aligned with such people -- they're just, they're just literally lying."
 
Ouch.
 
Google, of course, is a massive multi-billion-dollar company, and it doesn't look good for ALEC to lose its support. But it's especially jarring given the number of other major companies who've done the same thing.
Screenshot Courtesy of Americans for Shared Prosperity

How not to address the gender gap

09/22/14 03:36PM

Republican officials are not blind to their demographic problems. GOP candidates tend to excel with whites, men, and older voters, and that may even be enough in the short term for Republicans to take control of Congress, but it's not a recipe for long-term success. Party leaders know this, but aren't entirely sure what they're willing to do about it.
 
Since changing their policy agenda has been deemed out of the question, many Republicans have resorted to rhetorical experimentation, trying to come up with new ways to persuade Democratic voters to make the jump to the increasingly far-right GOP. In 2012, for example, the RNC aired ads encouraging women to "break up" with President Obama. Earlier this year, the RNC unveiled a new pitch to millennials featuring a young man with ill-fitting clothes, awkwardly reading cue cards on energy policy.
 
These pitches weren't especially effective, though the party apparently keeps trying.
In the latest attempt to woo female voters, a Republican group has launched an ad featuring a woman's declining "relationship" with President Obama. [...]
 
The Republican group Americans for Shared Prosperity is behind the 60-second spot, called "Dating Profile," with Florida GOP consultant and media man Rick Wilson at the helm. John Jordan, who heads the group, told POLITICO the goal of the ad is "to communicate with women voters in a way that outside groups and campaigns haven't."
Which is to say, badly.
 
The spot features a young woman saying she "fell in love" with a man in 2008, "stuck with him" in 2012, but now that he "thinks the only thing I care about is free birth control," she intends to vote against "his friends."
 
How this got past the focus-group stage is a bit of a mystery to me.

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