After Breaking Ceasefire Hamas Fires 50 Rockets Into Israeli Population Centers

Jerusalem - Since breaking another ceasefire agreement just hours ago, Hamas terrorists have launched at least 50 rockets into Israel. Populated areas like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have been targets and two rockets made it through the Iron Dome. 

Rocket sirens in areas close to Gaza have been sounding all night and will no doubt continue into the morning and day tomorrow. The war continues.

RickPAC Sets 'Record Straight' On Bogus Abuse Of Power Indictment

It’s no holds barred in RickPac’s latest video, which continues to eviscerate the legitimacy of the abuse of power indictment made against Gov. Rick Perry over a budget veto within the Travis County District Attorney’s office.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving; she refused to resign, and Gov. Perry vetoed her Public Integrity Unit. And that’s how this whole circus began.

As Dan noted earlier today, the New York Times labeled the indictment as "overzealous:"

 Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is one of the least thoughtful and most damaging state leaders in America, having done great harm to immigrants, abortion clinics and people without health insurance during his 14 years in office. But bad political judgment is not necessarily a felony, and the indictment handed up against him on Friday — given the facts so far — appears to be the product of an overzealous prosecution.

For more than a year, Mr. Perry has been seeking the resignation of the Travis County district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg. He had good reason to do so: Ms. Lehmberg was arrested in April 2013 for driving with a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit, and she verbally abused the officers who found her with an open bottle of vodka. She ranted and raved at the local jail, threatening sheriff’s deputies, and she had to be restrained in a chair with a hood over her head. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. In addition to endangering people’s lives, she instantly lost her credibility as a prosecutor of drunken-driving cases.

Bloomberg-Funded Gun Control Advocacy Group Targets Kroger Stores

Moms Demand Action, a gun-control advocacy group funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, want guns out of the grocery store. The group has challenged the nation’s largest supermarket retailer, Kroger Co., to ban open-carry policies in all of their  2,640 locations across America. 

The petition states that grocery stores are the last place mothers with their children want to see someone openly carrying a gun. One advocate even tweeted that she has instructed her kids to run if they see a man with a gun (question: does this mean they run from police officers?). 

Attached to the petition is the the picture shown below: 

The scenario used in the group’s media campaign undoubtedly is ridiculous. No one carries around an AK-47 in a grocery store. Even the  NRA acknowledged that carrying such weapons is abnormal and “downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself.”

This is hardly the first company Moms Demand Action has tried to force a gun-ban on. The group has recently petitioned Staples, Starbucks, Chipotle, Sonic, Target, Sonic, Chili’s, and Jack-in-the-Box to accept gun-bans. These have hardly been well-received. Staples actually  called in security to remove the group. Additionally, companies that have endorsed the ban have failed to create safer spaces for their customers. 

Ironically, there were two robberies and a shooting at Jack-in-the-Box restaurants within weeks of their request that law-abiding citizens visit unarmed, and a Sonic in Topeka, Kansas was robbed the very day on which that chain asked law-abiding citizens to leave their guns home.

Target stores experienced two robberies within weeks of "respectfully" asking law-abiding citizens to leave their guns home at home, and on July 22, the retailer had their first post-gun ban murder when a man was fatally shot at a Los Angeles-area target.

Kroger Co. seems unfazed by the petition. Spokesperson Keith Dailey claimed they have customers on both sides of the argument and trust them to act responsible in stores. 

BREAKING: ISIS Beheads American Journalist James Wright Foley

The terrorist group ISIS has allegedly beheaded American journalist James Wright Foley on video in Iraq in order to send a message to the United States. I'm not going to dignify the terrorists by posting the video here, you can look it up on your own if you'd like. A warning, extremely violent and difficult to watch. 

Wright's fellow journalist Ihan Tanir gave some background on the situation on Twitter.

More from Noah Rothman:

The American photojournalist James Wright Foley was working for Agence France Presse when he was captured crossing the Syria-Turkish border in 2012. The American war reporter had previously been held for six weeks by pro-Gaddafi forces in Libya while covering that conflict. Some believed that his capture would be similarly short-lived. Tragically, that would not be the case.

“On November 22, 2012, James Wright Foley, a freelance photo journalist, was taken by an organized gang after departing from an internet café in Binesh, Syria,” the FBI noted in November, 2012. “Foley had employed a translator to help him travel across the Syrian-Turkish border. The translator was also taken, but later released.”

Swift justice is in order. Immediately. May his family find peace in this extremely difficult time. 

Meanwhile the JV terror team, I mean ISIS, is threatening to kill American journalist Steven Sotloff next.

By the way, where is President Obama right now? On Air Force One headed back to vacation.

Oh My: Al Qaeda and ISIS Joining Forces?

It would seem so.

And while al Qaeda once famously severed ties with ISIS for its barbarism, now one of its most dangerous affiliates has come out publicly in support of them (via The Hill):

Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen is declaring its support for the Sunni extremist group that has taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria, creating the potential for a new alliance against the United States.

“We announce solidarity with our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the crusade. Their blood and injuries are ours and we will surely support them,” said a statement published by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemen Times reported Tuesday.

“We assert to the Islamic Nation [all Muslims worldwide] that we stand by the side of our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the American and Iranian conspiracy and their agents of the apostate Gulf rulers," the statement continued.

AQAP is believed to pose the most dangerous threat to the U.S. of all the al Qaeda affiliates, because it has tried to stage attacks against the United States several times.

Was this not bound to happen at some point? Both al Qaeda and ISIS share the same goal of killing Americans and waging war against the U.S. This is beyond dispute. Meanwhile, ISIS has publicly taunted the president, vowing to "raise the flag of Allah in the White House” while al Qaeda, everybody knows, masterminded the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I suspect, also, that al Qaeda operatives aren't universally opposed to ISIS’ decision to slaughter young Christians and ethnic minorities and sell the rest of their victims into slavery. Though perhaps, for now, maybe some are:

One expert, Saeed Al-Jamhi, head of the Al-Jamhi Center for Strategic Studies, told the Yemen Times that there were ISIS gunmen training fighters in Yemen, and some AQAP members fighting in Iraq.

Al-Jamhi also said there were divisions within AQAP over whether to support ISIS, but predicted that division would fade as ISIS increases its stature.

And its stature is indeed increasing. President Obama once dismissed them as “jayvee,” but their military capabilities, coupled with their bloodthirsty tactics, makes them a serious national security threat. President Obama himself has already said explicitly that they pose a danger to the Middle East and our diplomatic and military personnel stationed there. Now, apparently, AQAP is advising ISIS on how best to avoid US airstrikes, and maximize their influence in the region.

Worse, ISIS just released a video pledging to “drown all [Americans] in blood”:

The Islamic State militant group that has seized large parts of Iraq and drawn the first American air strikes since the end of the occupation in 2011 has warned the United States it will attack Americans "in any place" if the raids hit its militants.

The video, which shows a photograph of an American who was beheaded during the U.S. occupation of Iraq and victims of snipers, featured a statement which said in English "we will drown all of you in blood".

Parting question: Two terrorist organizations have apparently joined forces to wage jihad against the United States. So what, if anything, will be the administration's response?

If the Senate Splits, Biden Takes the Gavel

If neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) nor Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are allowed to claim victor over the coveted Senate Chamber gavel come election day, Vice President Joe Biden will play tie-breaker. 

In the event a 50-50 Senate is the outcome this November of an already polarized Washington,  Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution has the Vice President as the president of the Senate. Though it has only happened twice, the VP would then give the gavel to his or her party. 

Biden would be in high-heaven if this were to happen  says Senator Ted Kaufmen (D-Pa.), Biden's long time chief of staff. 

“He’d like two years of being the deciding vote, back in the cloakroom, in the Senate gym...I think he would revel in that.”

If this were to become a reality, Biden would be back in the spotlight and would hope to be seen as the savior of Obama's last two years in office where the loss of a Democratic-controlled Senate means further trouble for the Obama administration. 

Politico breaks it down this way: 

To hit a tie, Democrats would need a net loss of five seats, and most of them have already written off the seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. That leaves two, and between the races they’re facing in Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina, Democrats say losing two seems a pretty safe bet. They’re not counting on pickups in either Kentucky or Georgia, where their prospects are best.

There are Democratic strategists that say this situation is realistic, which means the only way for Republicans to take the Senate is to win fair and square this November.  

Reidiculous: Dems ‘Doing Really Well In Montana,’ Will Hold Senate Majority

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is simply living in an alternate universe. While yelling into the clouds over the Koch Brothers’ evil plot to destroy America, he said today that Democrats “are doing really well in Montana.” And is optimistic that they'll maintain control of the Senate (via the Hill):

Reid predicted Democrats would lose a seat in South Dakota, but was optimistic about Montana despite Sen. John Walsh's (D-Mt.) recent decision to drop out of the race after a plagiarism scandal. We are doing really well in Montana," Reid told reporters on Monday.

If the election were held today, we'd be in the majority without any question, but the election is not today," said Reid, who argued "it's not going to be easy" for Republicans to win the Senate.

Democrats hope to take GOP seats in Georgia and Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing a difficult challenge.

Of those two races, Reid added, “we are holding our own.”

In both Georgia and Kentucky, Republicans David Perdue and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are leading. Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn had the unfortunate mishap of having campaign memos leaked, which described her as a “lightweight, too liberal, and not a real “Georgian.” Oh, and those critiques are by her own staff. Her Republican opponent, David Perdue, leads with a comfortable seven-point lead, according to Insider Advantage’s poll.

In Kentucky, the race is going to be a tight one for Mitch McConnell, who’s battling for his political life, but even Huffington Post pollsters give him the advantage in that contest against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who infamously said that Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system protects Israelis from Hamas’ underground tunnels.

McConnell’s campaign has worked hard to define Ms. Grimes, flooding the Bluegrass state with negative ads calling her “Barack Obama’s Kentucky candidate” and saying she supports “Barack Obama's anti-coal environmental platform,” according to the Wall Street Journal. And, they're working:

Those ads are having an impact. In a July poll sponsored by local media outlets, 33% of voters viewed her negatively, up from 27% in May, while the share of voters who view her positively, which was higher, stayed relatively flat.

In an interview, Ms. Grimes said she has attempted to spend time with people in Kentucky, not "pandering to the press."

"We are no better off for having Mitch McConnell there," she said, referring to his seniority in Washington. "It's not about the lines on a résumé. It is about the passion that you have to work in a bipartisan manner to put the people of this state first."

At the same time, McConnell isn’t doing too badly in the latest Bluegrass poll. He’s virtually tied with Grimes amongst women voters (46/47) and he’s winning the youth vote–those between the ages of 18 and 34–(49/44) over Grimes. Additionally, the poll finds that 27% of likely African-American voters would vote for Mitch McConnell.

As for Ms. Grimes slamming of McConnell’s service in the Senate, She does know that Democrats have been in the majority for the past eight years, right?. And since 2008, the working class of America has seen their average incomes drop by 6.5%, African-American median incomes falling by 9.5%, and Hispanic income dropping consistently every year since the 2008 presidential election, according to WPA Research.

That’s not a shining statistic if you’re running as a Democrat.

Over at FiveThirtyEight, Harry Enten threw cold water on Democratic hopes in Georgia and Kentucky last month:

In Georgia, the FiveThirtyEight projection is far more pessimistic about Democratic prospects than the polls. Here’s why: No Democrat holds an elected statewide office in Georgia. No Democrat has won a U.S. Senate race in the state in 14 years. No Democrat has won a presidential race in the state in 22 years. The Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn, is probably benefitting from name recognition; her father, Sam Nunn, was a well-regarded senator from the Peach State. That edge may disappear once voters realize Michelle is not Sam. Moreover, Republicans may coalesce around the winner of the contentious GOP primary between Jack Kingston and David Perdue.

Kentucky is a similar case — the polls show a Democrat holding her own a in a deeply red state. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has all the fundamentals going for him: President Obama is deeply unpopular in Kentucky, McConnell is an incumbent, and Democrats haven’t won a statewide federal race in Kentucky in 18 years. They haven’t won a Senate race in 22 years. In May, I estimated that these factors knocked down Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes’s chances of winning by nearly 30 percentage points, from the low 40s into the teens.

Enten described Senate Democrats’ position in the 2014 elections as “perilous,” saying, “A tiny shift could tip the canoe and spill a lot of Democrats overboard.”

As for Colorado, need I say more about the candidate who even Montana Democrats say doesn’t “have a chance in hell?”

Republicans need to win six seats; they’re probably going to pick up Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota. Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s re-election bid is a bellwether for Arkansas and North Carolina. If she goes, most likely incumbent Democratic Senators Mark Pryor and Kay Hagan go as well. There’s also Jodi Ernst in Iowa, who could possibly fill retiring Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat. And don’t forget about Rep. Cory Gardner in Colorado. Plenty of room for Republicans to maneuver and create upsets.

Election 2014 is 77 days away.

Granted, Reid is part of the Democratic leadership going into an election cycle hostile to his party. He needs to be Mr. Positive, the guy who keeps the liberal base at ease. In 2010, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi filled this role when she said Democrats would maintain their majority in the House, despite the red tsunami that washed 63 of them out of office that November.

Nevertheless, it still makes Reid’s optimism look as insane as the alleged Koch Brothers' double secret probation plan to overthrow the country. 

NYT Editoral Board: The Indictment Against Rick Perry "Appears" to be "Overzealous"

Add the New York Times editorial board to the growing list of constitutional scholars, journalists, and political operatives who find the curious indictment against Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) to be a farce. The board doesn’t go as far as defending his tenure or his policies (in fact, they do the opposite) but they do nevertheless feel as if he is the victim of an “overzealous prosecution”:

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is one of the least thoughtful and most damaging state leaders in America, having done great harm to immigrants, abortion clinics and people without health insurance during his 14 years in office. But bad political judgment is not necessarily a felony, and the indictment handed up against him on Friday — given the facts so far — appears to be the product of an overzealous prosecution.

For more than a year, Mr. Perry has been seeking the resignation of the Travis County district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg. He had good reason to do so: Ms. Lehmberg was arrested in April 2013 for driving with a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit, and she verbally abused the officers who found her with an open bottle of vodka. She ranted and raved at the local jail, threatening sheriff’s deputies, and she had to be restrained in a chair with a hood over her head. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. In addition to endangering people’s lives, she instantly lost her credibility as a prosecutor of drunken-driving cases.

Yes, one wonders how the county’s district attorney -- who herself served time for drunk driving -- can reasonably be expected to effectively prosecute other loaded drivers. Meanwhile, her refusal to resign after overtures from the governor's delegates prompted the whole lawsuit in the first place. Now it’s no secret that Perry tried to entice her to resign the only way he knew how (cutting funding to her department) but did he also break the law? Even the NYT editorial board doesn’t think so:

But his ill-advised veto still doesn’t seem to rise to the level of a criminal act. After a complaint was filed by a liberal group, a judge appointed a special prosecutor, Michael McCrum, a San Antonio lawyer and former federal prosecutor, to take the case. A Travis County grand jury indicted Mr. Perry on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. The indictment says he exceeded his veto power by combining it with a threat to Ms. Lehmberg if she didn’t quit.

Governors and presidents threaten vetoes and engage in horse-trading all the time to get what they want, but for that kind of political activity to become criminal requires far more evidence than has been revealed in the Perry case so far. Perhaps Mr. McCrum will have some solid proof to show once the case heads to trial. But, for now, Texas voters should be more furious at Mr. Perry for refusing to expand Medicaid, and for all the favors he has done for big donors, than for a budget veto.

In other words, there’s no evidence at present that suggests Perry is guilty of criminal wrongdoing. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t. Still, as former Clinton advisor Lanny Davis argues in a recent Newsweek op-ed, the indictment itself doesn’t really mean a whole lot:

It is even more outrageous to anyone who cares about due process and civil liberties to read the comments from local and state Democrats in the state Texas Democratic Party about the Perry indictment. Most of the comments I read used language of guilt or a presumption of wrongdoing because of the fact of the indictment.

In fact, an indictment is evidence of nothing. It is literally just an accusation, not even close to proven facts. Yet I read some Texas Democrats calling for Perry to resign — resign!

These cannot be Democrats who care about civil liberties or due process, much less the credibility of our party, which has always denounced those who presume guilt or even suggest wrongdoing after an indictment alone.

In my opinion, silence by Democrats about the Perry indictment and Democratic comments rushing to assume wrongdoing isn't acceptable.

Indeed, calls for Perry to resign are misplaced and premature at this point in time – as even prominent Democrats (and the New York Times editorial board) are more than willing to concede.

Awesome: Reporter Asks "Who Gets to Hold Hillary's Crown" When She Speaks?

Sometimes reporters just  tell it like it is. Nevada reporter Jon Ralston offered an epic rant to viewers Monday when he spared no insults against Hillary Clinton and her “royal” speaking demands: 

“We don’t have kings and queens in America, or at least we shouldn’t. But when I see the red carpet UNLV is rolling out for Hillary Clinton in two months I start to wonder. Unless you’re a mindless partisan, the details of that contract with the UNLV Foundation should disturb you.”

In case you weren't familiar with the revelation,  The Las Vegas Review-Journal obtained documents detailing Clinton's speaking demands ahead of her appearance at a University of Nevada, Las Vegas Foundation fundraiser. Here were a few of her totally normal requests:

She insists on staying in the “presidential suite” of luxury hotels that she chooses anywhere in the world, including Las Vegas.

She usually requires those who pay her six-figure fees for speeches to also provide a private jet for transportation — only a $39 million, 16-passenger Gulfstream G450 or larger will do.

And she doesn’t travel alone, relying on an entourage of a couple of “travel aides,” and a couple of advance staffers who check out her speech site in the days leading up to her appearance, much like a White House trip.

In the 2012 presidential election, it's safe to say former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's wealth was a handicap. Liberals accused him of being a one percenter who couldn't relate to the average American. A clever and relevant piece, “ Yes, Hillary Clinton Has a Mitt Romney Problem” suggests Clinton may face the same issue were she to run in 2016. The difference, however, is that the mainstream media will likely fail to make the same connection: 

In many ways Hillary is the perfect embodiment of this liberal mindset. She’s committed to fighting poverty and income inequality one charity gala at a time, growing increasingly confident in her moral superiority over her ideological opponents. Her multiple mansions are her just reward for being a good person. She has earned the presidency. Her multiple mansions are her just reward for being a good person. She has earned the presidency.

Come 2016, will voters distance themselves from Clinton for her red carpet treatment? Who knows. Until then, have a bit of fun watching all of Ralston’s stellar report:

BREAKING: Hamas Violates Another Ceasefire, Israel Responding With Strikes on Terror Targets

Jerusalem - The terrorist organization Hamas has violated yet another ceasefire just hours before an extended 24-hour ceasefire agreement was scheduled to end. Israel is responding accordingly.

Before the violation, an Israeli official talked about a push to demilitarize Hamas. You can read more about that here.

Democrats Accused of "Meddling" Alaska Senate Primary

The feud between Democrats and Republicans in Alaska's heated Senate race has potential make-it-or-break it consequences in the fight to control the Senate. 

Nearly $4 million in attack ads mudslinging GOP front-runner Dan Sullivan have been spent by supporters of Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, a ploy Republicans call "meddling" the Republican primary for an easier win in the general election. 

The Begich campaign and their supporters deny these claims, as Sullivan and his allies fire back with ads calling out Sen. Begich and his coercive tactics to beat Sullivan in November. 

Recent polls show that Sullivan is in the lead against opponents Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller. Art Hackney, an Alaska Republican operative who has been running a pro-Sullivan super PAC, told Politico that these attacks could have an impact on Tuesday's primary: 

“They’re trying simply to make sure Dan Sullivan is damaged goods,” said Hackney. “They’ve put a lot of money behind it, and, frankly, they’ve turned it into a primary that’s possible to go almost any way."

Netanyahu Spokesman on Looming Ceasefire Deadline/Deal: Israel Wants Demilitarization of Hamas

Jerusalem - As a midnight ceasefire deadline looms with just hours to go, Israeli officials and their allies are pushing for the demilitarization of Hamas in a final attempt to avoid future conflict with the terror organization. 

"What we're hoping to have is a situation where Hamas is demilitarized and we have allies, the American administration, the American Congress, the Europeans, the Egyptians and even the official Palestinian government in the West Bank [in agreement], but is Hamas going to voluntarily going to turn in their weapons? It's tough," Mark Regev, chief spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview Tuesday. "Ronald Reagan once said about the old Soviet Union, and I'm old enough to remember, he said, 'Trust but verify.' When dealing with Hamas in contrast you have to verify and you have to verify again and Hamas has broken ceasefires as recently as last week."

On the issue of a preemptive decrease in militarization of Hamas, officials are happy to report while not all Hamas weapons resources have been destroyed, they have been heavily depleted over the past two months.

"First we took out a lot of it, secondly they shot a lot of it at us and what's left is a residual capacity still there that's much less than what they had two months ago," Regev said. "Part of our challenge in this ceasefire is to make sure they [Hamas] don't rebuild tunnels and don't replenish their supply of rockets."

According to a report from Haartz, a Hamas spokesman said the latest 24-hour ceasefire extension, will be the last. As a reminder, the Hamas charter states, "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

Negotiations for a long term peace deal are ongoing in Egypt. 

UPDATE: Immediately after I filed this story, this happened.

Editor's note: I am in Israel on a trip being sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters and hosted by the Israel's Ministry of Tourism.

Three Family Members of Pope Francis Killed in Auto Accident

Part of the human condition is experiencing profound tragedy and anguish. It’s inevitable. And yet at the same time it’s also impossible to understand how Pope Francis must be feeling today after learning that three of his relatives (two of whom were just babies) died in a traffic accident in his home country of Argentina. The Associated Press reports:

The Vatican says a road accident in Argentina has killed two young great-nephews of Pope Francis as well as their mother, the wife of the pope’s nephew.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the accident occurred Tuesday morning in the area of Cordoba, a major Argentine city. One nephew was 2, the other was 8 months. The age of their mother wasn’t immediately available. Lombardi said the nephew survived; local news reports said he was injured. Lombardi didn’t have the victims’ names.

The cause of the crash is unknown. All we know, at this point, is that there was some sort of rear-end collision early this morning, and that the pontiff’s nephew is alive, but in serious condition:

For reasons that are under investigation the car hit a truck from behind.

The pope's nephew has been hospitalized with multiple injuries. Official details of his condition have not been released.

He is the son of Alberto, the pope's late brother.

The pope is now urging those who “ share in his grief” to pray for him:

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said "the pope was informed about the tragic accident. He is deeply pained." He added the pope asks "all who share in his grief to unite with him in prayer."

In the Catholic tradition, like many traditions, life is a precious and inviolable gift from God that must be cherished. But at the same time, tragedies befall families all the time for no discernible or logical reason. It’s especially heartbreaking to learn that Pope Francis’s great nephews were so young; they were barely children and had their whole lives ahead of them. I therefore share in his grief today, and hope that through the power of prayer and human solidarity he will find some solace.

Incidentally, Pope Francis isn’t blind to the preciousness of life, either. Reflecting on his own mortality recently, he stated that he believes he himself has only “ two or three years” to live:

Pope Francis on Monday publicly broached the prospect of his own death for the first time, giving himself "two or three years" but not ruling out retirement before then.

Talking to reporters on a flight back to the Vatican from South Korea, the 77-year-old pontiff, who seemed in good spirits, was asked about his global popularity, which was evident again during his five-day visit.

"I see it as the generosity of the people of God. I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, not to become proud. Because I know it will last only a short time. Two or three years and then I'll be off to the Father's House," he replied light-heartedly.

The Argentine pope said he could handle the popularity "more naturally" these days, though at first it had "scared me a little".

The crushing burden of responsibility must take its toll on any world leader over time. That's especially true for Pope Francis today.

So let us pray for him, and his family, as they cope with this profound tragedy and loss in the days and years ahead.

Democrats Decry Obama's Lack Of Interest In Working With Congress

"Aloof." "Cool." "Above the fray." These are all characteristics that have been used to describe President Obama and likely characteristics he would use to describe himself. President Obama came to Washington promising to end the partisan rancor that has come to define lawmaking in the nation's capitol. But instead of addressing it, he just pretends like he never has to get his hands dirty.

A New York Times article today reveals that lawmakers in the President's own party are fed up with his refusal to actually work with Congress:

With Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, sitting a few feet away, Mr. Reid complained that Senate Republicans were spitefully blocking the confirmation of dozens of Mr. Obama’s nominees to serve as ambassadors. He expected that the president would back him up and urge Mr. McConnell to relent.

“You and Mitch work it out,” Mr. Obama said coolly, cutting off any discussion.

Mr. Reid seethed quietly for the rest of the meeting, according to four separate accounts provided by people who spoke with him about it. After his return to the Capitol that afternoon, Mr. Reid told other senators and his staff members that he was astonished by how disengaged the president seemed... the impression the president left with Mr. Reid was clear: Capitol Hill is not my problem.

This cuts to the heart of the matter when longtime Washingtonians decry President Obama's inability to "lead." Leadership isn't about declaring your intentions and letting those you deem to be your underlings sort out the specifics. It's about working with them, as individuals, to chart out a path and, when necessary, make compromises along the way.

The NYT goes on to quote Democratic lawmakers Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, Richard Blumenthal, Steny Hoyer and Dick Durbin on President Obama's aloofness. Democratic-caucusing but technically independent Sen. Angus King was also quoted:

“Maybe if something isn’t working, you’d say, ‘What can I do better?’ ” said Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, expressing dismay that the president seemed to have little interest in taking a warmer approach with Democrats. “Maybe we wanted something different. But it kind of is what it is.”

“In order to work with people, you need to establish the relationship first before you ask for something,” said Senator Angus King of Maine, an independent member of the Democratic caucus. “And I think one of the things the White House has not done well and the president has not done well is the simple idea of establishing relationships before there is a crisis.”

The NYT report also features push-back from the White House, with a spokesperson counting the number of times that the President has reached out on a personal level for White House invitations and events, though that's little comfort to some of the Democrats quoted in the story.

It might be true that these stories of White House disengagement are overhyped - that, when it comes to actually quantifying "reaching out," this White House is as active as any. What matters, though, is that the lawmakers feel slighted. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the type of people who ascend to powerful political positions of national importance are egotistical, petty, and insecure. Perhaps our politicians should not be so egotistical, petty, and insecure - but this is the world that we are living and operating in. President Obama came to Washington pledging to mend partisanship. The way to do that isn't to tell our ego-driven elected representatives to suck it up and deal with it. It's to, as Manchin put it, ask yourself what you can do better. President Obama is wholly uninterested in that kind of introspection.

This isn't a new complaint from lawmakers, by the way. Pieces throughout the Obama era have described " the perils of being aloof" and "the loner president." In the most recent negotiations over our illegal immigrant crisis, the Associated Press reported:

House and Senate lawmakers in both parties plus several senior congressional aides said this past week that the handling of the proposal by Obama and the White House is emblematic of the administration's rocky relationship with Congress: an ad hoc approach that shuns appeals to opponents and doesn't reward allies.

Again: it should come as no surprise that lawmakers are fickle, petty, egomaniacal humans who perceive slights where there are none and hold grudges. If President Obama had been elected promising to end face-to-face meetings with legislators, promising tough love when it comes to interpersonal relationships and ending any semblance of White House intervention in Congress, that would have been fantastic. But that's not what President Obama has done, and the White House has continued to insist that they're doing all they can to smooth over their rocky relationships with legislators. When the legislators themselves don't feel that way, it's hard to lend credence to President Obama's claims that he is indeed being an effective leader of his party.

Hospital Network Hacked, 4.5 Million Patient Records Stolen

Any online record of a person’s name, date of birth, Social Security number, and address automatically becomes a prime target for hackers, and a hospital system is no exception.

One of the largest U.S. hospital groups, Community Health Systems Inc, revealed on Monday that it was a victim of a major cyber attack from China. The personal data and Social Security numbers of 4.5 million patients was stolen, making it the largest breach of its kind since HHS began tracking breaches in 2009, Reuters reports.

Security experts said the hacking group, known as "APT 18," may have links to the Chinese government.

"APT 18" typically targets companies in the aerospace and defense, construction and engineering, technology, financial services and healthcare industry, said Charles Carmakal, managing director with FireEye Inc's (FEYE.O) Mandiant forensics unit, which led the investigation of the attack on Community Health in April and June.

"They have fairly advanced techniques for breaking into organizations as well as maintaining access for fairly long periods of times without getting detected," he said.

The information stolen from Community Health included patient names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers of people who were referred or received services from doctors affiliated with the hospital group in the last five years, the company said in a regulatory filing.

The stolen data did not include medical or clinical information, credit card numbers, or any intellectual property such as data on medical device development, said Community Health, which has 206 hospitals in 29 states.

In April, the FBI warned the health care industry that their cyber protections lagged behind other sectors, making it particularly vulnerable to attacks. As of 2013, there were 804 large-scale breaches of protected health information reported to HHS since 2009, affecting nearly 30 million patient records, reports Redspin, a leading IT security assessment company.

Video: Iraqi Anchor Openly Weeps For Persecuted Christians

I could be wrong but I don’t think any journalist ever intends to break down on live television. But the realization that Iraq’s diminishing Christian population was emigrating en masse (or suffering martyrdom for their faith) was obviously too much for Asia TV anchor Nahi Madhi to bear.

The segment below covering persecuted Christians in Iraq aired about a month ago, and is itself raw and moving, I think, because it reminds us that the prevailing sentiment in the country is not one of hatred and exclusion, but tolerance and pluralism (via The Blaze):

Remember, it’s not just those of us in the West who weep for Iraq’s Christian and Yazidi populations; it’s their compatriots as well. As one anchor put it in the video, “The Christians have done nothing wrong. They haven’t hurt a soul. On the contrary, they are peaceful people, who love all sects. They are honorable people, with high moral values.”

And yet they are being displaced and exterminated by ISIS at alarming rates. Such terrible human rights atrocities are difficult to grasp, let alone comprehend. But at least ethnic minorities in the region refuse to submit quietly to ISIS' barbarism: some are even undergoing military training and fighting back.

Former Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ettinger: The Goal of Israel Should Never Be Ceasefire

JERUSALEM - The current ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has been extended for an additional 24-hours as negotiations surrounding a long-term peace agreement between the two sides continue in Egypt. 

Speaking in an interview with Townhall and members of the National Religious Broadcasters last night, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger said that until Israel has finished necessary attacks against Hamas resources, including on tunnels and missile launch sites, the job against the terrorist organization is not done.

"Some thirty plus tunnels were destroyed by Israel. I have no doubt, no doubt, that since we, so far, have not chosen to go deeper into Gaza that there are definitely are many more tunnels in Gaza and therefore this is still an unfinished agenda, unfinished business," Ettinger said. "Not only that, there are hundreds of underground manufacturing facilities for the missiles, especially for the long range missiles. They not only rely on smuggling in, they're also manufacturing and the manufacturing facilities are underground just like their headquarters, just like their inventories."

Ettinger stressed that the discovery of extensive tunnels from Gaza to Israel was a bi-product of a larger goal for Israel against Hamas, which includes destroying the main missile and rocket launching capabilities underground, in neighborhoods and near or in schools and hospitals. He also said that until those capabilities are completely destroyed, Israel should not be agreeing to any kind of ceasefire deal.

"The aim of the war, the goal of the war as far as I have seen was not to take of the tunnels, this was absolutely not part of the initial goal of the war. The initial goal of the war was to take care of their launching capabilities, of their missile capabilities and in that respect my position has been not only from day one of this war but for number of years that the goal of Israel should never be ceasefire, the goal of Israel should always be the annihilation of the infrastructure of fire and when I say infrastructure I mean especially the ideological and political as well as the military and the manufacturing," he said. "This unfortunately has not been obtained yet."

Editor's note: I am in Israel on a trip being sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters and hosted by the Israel's Ministry of Tourism.

Report: Where Do You Get the Most Bang for Your Buck?

How much is $100 dollars worth? The answer to this varies greatly depending upon where you live. For example, $100 is worth 40 percent more in Mississippi than it is in the District of Columbia based on the value of available goods. 

The Tax Foundation compiled data this week from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to find out "which states offer the biggest bang for your buck." 

According to the chart, $100 is worth the most in Mississippi ($115.74), Arkansas ($114.16), Missouri ($113.51), Alabama (113.51), and South Dakota ($113.38). In other words, Mississippi residents are about 15 percent richer than their "nominal incomes suggest." 

Lefty Writer: Perry Indictment 'Unbelievably Ridiculous'

In case you missed it, Gov. Rick Perry was hit with an abuse of power indictment by a grand jury in Austin, Texas. It stems from his veto of a state prosecutorial unit, whose District Attorney refused to resign after she plead guilty and served a jail sentence for drunk driving (via WSJ):

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was indicted by a grand jury in Austin on Friday on charges of abuse of power, a possible setback to the Republican governor as he considers a second bid for president.

He was accused of improperly withholding money from a state prosecutorial unit because its Democratic district attorney refused to resign after pleading guilty to drunken driving.

The complaint was filed last year by Texans for Public Justice, a liberal watchdog group.

Mr. Perry vetoed $7.5 million in funding for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit, which handles political corruption investigations, following the drunken-driving arrest of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. Travis County includes Austin, the state capital. "The person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public's confidence," he said at the time of his veto.

Earlier today, Dan  reported that liberal lawyer Alan Dershowitz slammed the indictment against Gov. Perry as “un-American.” Over the weekend, former editor of the New Republic, Jonathan Chait, called this whole circus “unbelievably ridiculous” (via NYMag):

I do not have a fancy law degree from Harvard or Yale or, for that matter, anywhere. I am but a humble country blogger. And yet, having read the indictment, legal training of any kind seems unnecessary to grasp its flimsiness.

Perry stands accused of violating two laws. One is a statute defining as an offense “misus[ing] government property, services, personnel, or any other thing of value belonging to the government that has come into the public servant's custody or possession by virtue of the public servant's office or employment.” The veto threat, according to the prosecutor, amounted to a “misuse.” Why? That is hard to say.

The other statute prohibits anybody in government from “influenc[ing] or attempt[ing] to influence a public servant in a specific exercise of his official power or a specific performance of his official duty or influenc[ing] or attempt[ing] to influence a public servant to violate the public servant's known legal duty.”

But that statute also specifically exempts “an official action taken by the member of the governing body.” The prosecutors claim that, while vetoing the bill may be an official action, threatening a veto is not. Of course the threat of the veto is an integral part of its function. The legislature can hardly negotiate with the governor if he won’t tell them in advance what he plans to veto. This is why, when you say the word “veto,” the next word that springs to mind is “threat.” That’s how vetoes work.

The theory behind the indictment is flexible enough that almost any kind of political conflict could be defined as a “misuse” of power or “coercion” of one’s opponents. To describe the indictment as “frivolous” gives it far more credence than it deserves. Perry may not be much smarter than a ham sandwich, but he is exactly as guilty as one.

Here’s a copy of the Perry indictment.

Rick Perry Indictment by Dave Weigel

And here’s Rosemary Lehmberg acting like most people after way too many drinks.

Gov. Perry said, "I’m going to fight with everything that I have against those who would erode our state’s constitution purely for political purposes."

On MSNBC's Morning Joe earlier today, Mark Halperin called this  Perry indictment “the stupidest thing I’ve seen, I think, in my entire career.”

Obama: I'm Sending AG Eric Holder to Ferguson

President Obama returned to Washington from Martha's Vineyard today to attend some meetings and update the American people on two crises facing the nation.

“With respect to Iraq, we continue to see important progress there,” he said. “First, our military operations are effectively protecting our military personnel. [Meanwhile] we have urgently provided arms to [the Kurds] and Iraqi security forces fighting on the frontlines.”

He also announced that the Mosul Dam had been retaken, a decisive and strategic victory for both Iraq and the U.S.

“If that dam was breached it could have proven catastrophic…and would have endangered our embassy compound in Baghdad,” he said. “This operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces can effectively take the fight to ISIL.”

“Let’s remember that ISIL proposes a threat to all Iraqis,” he cautioned. He made it fairly clear, however, that he would not be authorizing any additional military operations in the region.

At least not yet.

Meanwhile, with regards to the chaos in Ferguson, he made a somewhat newsworthy announcement: Attorney General Eric Holder will be traveling there on Wednesday to meet with DOJ and FBI investigators.

He then turned to the rioting and lawlessness threatening the security of the city.

“It’s clear that the vast majority of people are peaceful protesters,” he said. “It’s also clear that some people are not.”

And yet to those breaking the law he had a simple message: now is not the time to succumb to feelings of anger and despair.

“Giving into that anger by looting, or carrying guns, and even attacking police…undermines rather than advances justice,” he said.

“As Americans we got to use this moment to seek our common humanity,” he continued. “I’ve said this before: in too many communities around the country [too] many young men of color are left behind and only seen as objects of fear.”

But that doesn’t necessarily give them the right to break the law and foment civil unrest.

“We are a nation of laws,” he said.

So, Republicans Are Probably Going To Win Montana's Senate Seat

On August 7, Alex Roarty at National Journal wrote about how Montana Senate race  has become a nightmare for Democrats. Incumbent Democratic Senator John Walsh, a seasoned military veteran, plagiarized a paper while attending the U.S. Amy War College. As a result, he dropped out of the race. Former Governor Brian Schweitzer refused to throw his hat into the ring. Oh, and the Republican candidate, Congressman Steve Daines, was already ahead by comfortable lead. So, who will replace Sen. Walsh? Montana Democrats met over the weekend and picked State Rep. Amanda Curtis.

She’s a train wreck waiting to happen.

The Montana GOP has selected her greatest hits from her video blog.

At Hot Air, Noah Rothman put it succinctly:

In this video, Curtis mocks gun ownership, religion, family values, concern over the $17.6 trillion national debt, and self-identifies as an anarchist. Montana most certainly has a historic blue streak, but Curtis is a candidate so openly left-wing that she would have trouble winning a statewide race – much less the Democratic Party’s nomination — in even traditionally blue states.

There is every reason to believe that Montana was not going to be competitive for Democrats this cycle, but a state with two Democratic senators and a Democratic governor is a state Republicans have to fight for. The GOP will still have to campaign hard in Montana, but Rep. Steve Daines, the Republican Party’s nominee for Senate, will no doubt have a much easier time of 2014 than it appeared he would early on in this cycle  

Yeah, it looks like she doesn't have "a chance in hell" (via the  Washington Examiner):

“I think she’s a lovely young lady and very courageous, and I think she [Curtis] is, you know, a fine character and all that,” said Paul Edwards, a former member of the Montana Democratic Party’s executive board. “I don’t think she has a chance in hell.”

Poll: United States Should Respond to Rising Violence in Iraq

With a humanitarian crisis forcing thousands of minority Iraqis to flee from Islamic State forces, American public opinion on the United States' involvement in Iraq has shifted.

USA TODAY/Pew Research poll found that 44%-41% of those surveyed say the U.S. should "do something" about the violence. Only a month ago, majority opinion (55%-39% of those surveyed) said the U.S. has no responsibility in the matter.

Americans still fear a long term commitment to the region less than three years after withdrawing troops. 

A 51% majority are more concerned that the U.S. will go too far in getting involved. About a third, 32%, say their greater concern is that the U.S. will not go far enough in stopping the Islamic militants.

68 airstrikes have been conducted in Iraq since August 8 and the survey showed that most Americans (54%-31%) approve of them. 

The United States has recently been involved in delivering humanitarian aid to Iraqi refugees. Earlier this month, President Obama ordered airstrikes and humanitarian aid for the Yazidi refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar. Last week while on vacation, President Obama said that they had succeeded in easing the crisis. 

Christopher Gelpi, a political scientist at Ohio State University who studies public opinion toward military conflicts, told USA TODAY:

"The public attitude seems to reflect very much the kind of attitude that you heard from Obama when he was justifying the airstrikes," Gelpi says. "The president was very much in sync in feeling we ought to try to do something but we shouldn't do too much. Whether the president is leading the public, or whether the president has his finger in the wind and understands where the public is at, is hard to say."

#CanAnyoneConfirm Hashtag Mocks HuffPo Writer

Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly made an unfortunate mix-up on Twitter while reporting about the events in Furguson, Missouri:

Twitter was quick to inform Reilly that the items pictured were in fact a rather innocuous collection of ear plugs, not rubber bullets. Still, despite Reilly's correction and retraction of the tweet, other Twitter users were quick to pounce on other things they'd like to be "confirmed."

One thing that can most certainly be confirmed is the hilarity of mixing up ear plugs for rubber bullets.

Officer Account: Brown "Bum-Rushed" Officer

Don Lemon reads a new second-hand account from officer Darren Wilson's friend.

Politico: White House Pleas With Big Business to Support Executive Action on Immigration

The White House is reaching out to major companies in an effort to expand the executive power of the president in solving the immigration crisis and rally support for Obama’s go-in alone action on the issue.

Politico is reporting that Senior White House officials have met with companies such as Intel, Cisco, and Accenture, who say they have a fix to many of the problems plaguing immigration such as the collection of unused green cards.

Senior administration officials have had “listening sessions” with over 20 business leaders as they plan to put forth a plethora of executive orders starting in September. The Obama administration’s plea with big business to support the president’s aggressive action on immigration reform could be a sign that the White House is preparing for serious backlash this November.

White House spokesman Shawn Turner said:

“The president has not made a decision regarding next steps, but he believes it’s important to understand and consider the full range of perspectives on potential solutions...The meetings were in keeping with the president’s commitment to do whatever he can, within the constraints of the law, to address the immigration issue.”

The president’s timing has Senate Democrats worried any executive action taken by Obama could sway independent voters in key Senate races such as North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alaska.