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Russia: bomb brought down plane and other headlines

11/17/15 07:10AM

Russia: plane brought down by homemade explosive device. (AP)

Belgian suspect in Paris attacks was target of airstrikes in Syria. (New York Times)

Pentagon quietly shifts to new phase of war against ISIS. (USA Today)

France seeks E.U. security aid, launches new airstrikes on ISIS. (AP)

Sec. of State Kerry says ceasefire in Syria potentially weeks away. (AP)

3 GOP presidential candidates demand equal airtime after Donald Trump's 'SNL' stint. (The Wrap)

Martin O'Malley reduces campaign HQ staff. (NBC News)

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Paris plotter extends terrorist timeline

Chief Paris plotter extends terrorist timeline

11/16/15 10:34PM

Rachel Maddow shows how a series of planned, thwarted, and successful terror attacks in Europe, including the deadly attacks in Paris, all have connections to a single Belgian man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is already well known to authorities. watch

Cruz quick to exploit right's refugee fear

Cruz quick to exploit right's refugee fear

11/16/15 09:24PM

Rachel Maddow reports that while all of the Republican presidential candidates have moved to take advantage of the fear among voters on the right of immigrants, Muslims, and Syrians, Ted Cruz is the first to try to exploit that fear with a piece of stunt watch

Predaceous Diving Beetle With Air Bubble

Week in Geek: insect scuba edition

11/16/15 06:34PM

Your next scuba diving buddy could be a water beetle.

It turns out these little guys don't breathe under water with gills, but rather bring their oxygen supply with them, much like we humans do. And they've been doing it for millions of years.

Thanks to their size and their streamlined shape, predaceous diving beetles can actually drag air underwater with them thanks to the power of surface tension. The beetles use their wings to trap air from the surface and carry it with them when they dive into the streams and lakes they live in. The air provides them with the oxygen they need while they hunt for food. One depleted, they return to the surface for a refill.

That sure beats renting fifty pounds of scuba gear!

Here's some more geek from the week.

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Monday's Mini-Report, 11.16.15

11/16/15 05:30PM

Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Paris: "A leading Belgian jihadist who is one of the most active ISIS operators in Syria is the suspected mastermind behind the Paris massacre, according to reports. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who once boasted about evading Western intelligence, is also said to be linked to the thwarted attacks on a Paris-bound high-speed train and a church near the French capital earlier this year."
* An international list of victims: "Most of the victims of Friday night's horrific attacks in Paris were French, killed in their capital on what should have been an enjoyable evening out. Many others were visitors from around the world."
* Guantanamo: "The Department of Defense announced on Sunday that it had transferred five lower-level Yemeni detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba to the United Arab Emirates. The United States had held each for nearly 14 years as wartime prisoners, and none had been charged with a crime. The transfers reduced the detainee population at the prison to 107."
* Minnesota: "A man suspected of assault was shot on a north Minneapolis street by a police officer early Sunday while allegedly hindering emergency responders from aiding his victim. The shooting ignited a chaotic scene of shouting and taunting bystanders who believed the man was handcuffed before police opened fire."
* Kansas: "Racial tensions are growing at the University of Kansas with a call for three top Student Senate leaders to resign and a recent graduate initiating a hunger strike."
* Some heartening news out of Maryland: "Gov. Larry Hogan said at a press conference Monday afternoon that he is '100 percent cancer free.' ... The governor finished chemotherapy last month for stage 3 non-Hodgkins lymphoma."
* Trey Gowdy may hope to parlay his Benghazi Committee failure into a seat on the federal judiciary: "Gowdy’s newfound reputation as a somewhat reticent warrior for the hard right on the Hill has many allies predicting a career switch even sooner rather than later. Look for him to trade in his House voting card for a federal judicial robe at the earliest opportunity."
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during a Presidential Town Hall Series at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., Nov. 13, 2015. (Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters)

Carson faces foreign-policy test, flunks

11/16/15 04:06PM

Last week's debate for Republican presidential candidates wasn't necessarily flattering for Ben Carson, especially on the issue of foreign policy. But former CIA Director Michael Hayden nevertheless defended the confused candidate on Friday, saying he's been impressed with Carson.
“I must admit I had one lengthy phone call with Dr. Carson about two months ago,” Hayden said. “His instincts are all right.” The retired intelligence chief added. “He asked the right questions…. he had good follow-on questions.”
One wonders if Hayden was watching "Fox News Sunday" yesterday morning. The Washington Post reported:
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson struggled Sunday to attach specifics to his plan to defeat the Islamic State militant group, again illustrating the former neurosurgeon's difficulty discussing foreign-policy matters.
Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Carson could not name a specific country or leader he would call to assemble an international coalition to counter the Islamic State, despite being asked three times by host Chris Wallace.
The context of the interview always matters, though it's especially important in this case. The terrorist attacks in Paris were on Friday night, so when Carson agreed to appear on a Sunday show less than two days later, the Republican presidential hopeful must have realized he'd face a series of questions about national security. He and his campaign team had ample time to prepare talking points.
And yet, Carson appeared lost, going so far as to reiterate his odd belief that the Chinese military has intervened in Syria -- a claim he made at last week's debate, despite the fact that isn't supported by any facts.
Asked how many U.S. troops he's prepared to deploy to the Middle East for counter-terrorism missions, he told Fox's Chris Wallace, "I don't want to put a specific number on it or indicate what types of people there are because those are decisions that, I think, are made by people who have a tremendous amount of military experience and capability. For me to pretend like I have all that knowledge and the ability to formulate the specific plans is foolish, and I think anybody else who thinks they know it all is foolish also."
Carson added, "You have to be willing to recognize that you are not the end-all, but that you are the conduit for the conduct of American policies [if elected president]."
President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference following the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 16, 2015. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP)

Obama defends American values, pushes back against GOP

11/16/15 12:40PM

In the wake of Friday night's terrorism in Paris, Republican policymakers and candidates have settled on a very specific policy demand: blocking ISIS's victims from seeking refugee status in the United States.
Initially, it was GOP presidential hopefuls exploiting fear to advance their own ambitions, but soon after, Republican governors began scurrying to announce their "No Syrian Refugees Here" plans.
President Obama could have stuck his finger in the wind, but speaking from the G-20 Summit this morning, he took a stand in support of the United States doing the right thing.
“Slamming the doors in [refugees'] faces would be a betrayal of our values,” Obama said. Syrian “refugees are the victims of terrorism.”
“The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism ... they are parents, they are children, they are orphans.” Obama said. “It is very important that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.”
Given his remarks, the president has clearly heard some of the new Republican talking points, and he's not impressed.
“When I hear folks say that well maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war torn country is admitted,” Obama said. “When some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful. That’s not American, that’s not who we are.”
“We don’t have religious tests to our compassion,” Obama added, warning U.S. politicians not to “feed that dark impulse inside of us.”
There's such an important difference between those who talk about leadership and those who lead. It's as important as the different between those who talk tough and those who are tough.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.16.15

11/16/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* The latest national Marist poll, conducted before Saturday night's debate, showed Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination, 57% to 35%. Martin O’Malley remains a distant third with 4%.
* Speaking of the debate, 8.5 million viewers tuned in, which is the lowest for any presidential debate this year, but still higher than any primary debate held in the 2012 cycle.
* Some of the early-voting tallies in Louisiana's gubernatorial race are encouraging for Democrats. Election Day is this Saturday.
* On a related note, Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum have recorded robocalls in the Louisiana race in support of Republican David Vitter. A similar call from Marco Rubio is reportedly "in the works."
* Hillary Clinton drew a fairly specific line in the sand: if her administration raises taxes, families earning less than $250,000 a year won't be affected.
* Jeb Bush continues to quietly lead the Republican presidential race in an important category: congressional endorsements. On Friday, Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind), the Republican Policy Committee chairman and fifth-ranking member of the House, threw his support to the former Florida governor.
Then, Republican U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally at SeaGate Convention Centre on Sept. 26, 2012 in Toledo, Ohio. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

A Romney-esque approach to combating ISIS

11/16/15 11:21AM

Mitt Romney likes to write the occasional op-ed, usually on topics he doesn't understand especially well. Last fall, for example, the former one-term governor with no military experience wrote a Washington Post piece on his vision for overhauling the U.S. armed forces. Earlier this year, USA Today published a piece from Romney condemning an international nuclear agreement with Iran.
And this week, for anyone thinking, "If only we had Mitt Romney around to help us navigate these challenging waters regarding ISIS," there's good news: the failed presidential hopeful has a new piece in the Washington Post on the lessons of Paris and how to "wage war" against ISIS.
On Friday morning, hours before news broke that terrorists killed 129 people and wounded hundreds of other innocent victims in coordinated, bloody attacks all around Paris, President Obama told Americans that “we have contained” the advance of the Islamic State.
Now that the Islamic State is claiming credit for these attacks, we know just how wrong he was.
After Paris, it’s clear: Doing the minimum won’t make us safe. It’s time the president stopped hedging and took meaningful steps to defend us and our allies.
Right off the bat, it's pretty obvious Romney has no idea what he's talking about. Obama wasn't wrong about containing ISIS's territorial gains; he was entirely correct. It's not particularly complicated.
What's more, it's not clear how Romney defines "hedging." Obama has launched over 6,000 airstrikes against ISIS targets -- roughly quadruple the number of the rest of the world combined -- as part of a sustained, ongoing campaign that started 15 months ago. Why is this an example of presidential "hedging"? I have no idea; Romney didn't say.
Nevertheless, Romney says he has a plan: (1) start using words like "Islamists," because nothing undermines terrorism more than conservative semantics; (2) the White House can "call in the best military minds from the United States and NATO"; (3) Middle Eastern countries should engage in some kind of p.r. campaign to "promote tolerance and eschew violence"; (4) block ISIS's victims from seeking refuge in the United States, unless they're old, young, or women.
The piece concludes, "We must do what it takes." Oh, good. What would we do without Mitt Romney bringing such clarity to complex national-security dynamics?
Smoke rises after an U.S.-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani on Oct. 8, 2014.

The anti-ISIS airstrikes the right chooses to ignore

11/16/15 10:40AM

Just two days after the deadly attacks in Paris, French fighter jets yesterday targeted a Syrian ISIS stronghold, Raqqa, as part of a sizable French military offensive. The French Defense Ministry confirmed in a statement that the raid "included at least 10 fighter jets and was launched simultaneously from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan," and included 20 bombs.
The statement added, “The first target destroyed was used by Isis as a commanding post. A jihad recruitment center. And a depot for arms and munitions. The second target housed a terrorist training camp."
The news was cheered by many, though Erick Erickson, a prominent voice in Republican media, responded with a message that was fairly common on the American right.
"Dear President Obama, today France is leading from the front to contain what you couldn’t contain leading from behind."
This is nonsensical for a variety of reasons -- we talked earlier about the foolishness of the "contain" talking point -- though I'll concede it's interesting to see far-right Republicans celebrating the French while taking cheap shots at the United States on matters of national security.
But what's especially noteworthy about this are the details many on the right choose to ignore. National Journal's Josh Kraushaar insisted this morning, for example, that the president has a "deep seated aversion to using military force," adding, "If not after Paris, when?"

What's puzzling about this is the degree to which the criticisms ignore current events. According to statistics from the Pentagon, since President Obama launched a military offensive against ISIS targets 15 months ago -- his "deep seated aversion to using military force" notwithstanding -- the United States military has carried out 6,353 airstrikes. Every other country on the planet combined has carried out 1,772.
Or put another way, for every one anti-ISIS airstrike launched by all of our coalition partners from around the globe, American forces have launched four anti-ISIS airstrikes of our own.
If we narrow the focus to Syria specifically, as of late last week, France had carried out four airstrikes. The United States, acting on orders from President Obama, had carried out 2,658.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the Sunshine Summit conference being held at the Rosen Shingle Creek on Nov. 13, 2015 in Orlando, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Cruz: Obama 'does not wish to defend this country'

11/16/15 10:00AM

Ted Cruz appeared on Fox News over the weekend, where he shared this insight: “I recognize that Barack Obama does not wish to defend this country. He may have been tired of war, but our enemies are not tired of killing us."
Look, if the far-right senator wants to argue that President Obama, despite his record of success, is bad at defending this country, fine. It's a topic worth debating. If Cruz wants to argue that Obama has been successful thus far in defending the country, but his plans for the future lack merit, that too can be the basis for an interesting conversation.
But that's not what the Texan said. Rather, he told a national television audience that the president "does not wish to defend this country." It's about intent and motivation. In Cruz's mind, Obama isn't bad at national defense; Obama doesn't even care.
It's hard not to wonder how Cruz explains the last seven years. President Obama has had striking successes on national security, preventing terrorist attacks, killing all kinds of terrorist leaders, and helping dismantle terrorist networks. Last year in The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, hardly a liberal, wrote, “Obama has become the greatest terrorist hunter in the history of the presidency.”
In Cruz's mind, was the last seven years just a charade? Does Obama keep racking up counter-terrorism victories for show, hoping to obscure the fact that he "does not wish to defend this country"?


About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.



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