Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jim Gilmore Announces Second Presidential Campaign

Former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R-VA) filed his election paperwork
Wednesday and released his Presidential announcement video
Credit: Getty
Former Virginia Governor James "Jim" Gilmore announced on Thursday his second campaign for the GOP nomination for President. Gilmore is the 17th major Republican candidate, and the 22nd major candidate overall, for President.

Gilmore, who served as Virginia's governor from 1998 to 2002, was also a former attorney general of the state and a former Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman. In his announcement video, Gilmore noted the large GOP field, saying "Some may ask, 'Why am I running?'" He went on to say, "I'm a candidate for president because our current Washington leadership is guiding America on a path to decline, and I can reverse that decline." He focused particularly on foreign policy in his announcement, attacking President Obama's foreign policy record.

Gilmore, 65, ran in the 2008 Presidential election but dropped out in July 2007 over lack of support. He then ran to succeed retiring Sen. John Warner (R-VA), running against former Gov. Mark Warner in the 2008 senate race, losing by a large margin in a particularly Democratic year.

Gilmore has often failed to register on most polls for the Republican nomination, which will exclude him from competing in the first GOP debate on August 6 on Fox News. He may be eligible for a forum on Fox News featuring lesser polling candidates such as Lindsey Graham and Carly Fiorina.

Gilmore faces fellow Republicans Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, John Kasich. He also faces former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, often not considered a major contender but considered so by the RNC).

If he wins the nomination, he could face Democrats Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee, or Jim Webb.

Taliban Leader Mohammed Omar Dead Since 2013

Mullah Mohammed
Omar was the leader
of the Taliban until his
death in 2013.
Mohammed Omar, the reclusive mullah who was the leader of the Afghan terrorist group the Taliban, died in 2013, according to the Afghan government. Citing "credible information," the spokesman for Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani said Wednesday that Omar died in Pakistan in April 2013. Another government spokesman said he died in the city of Karachi in a hospital there.

Omar, who led the Taliban regime during its political dominance in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, was extraordinarily secretive even during the height of his power. He is believed to have been born around 1960, but is often speculated to have been born years earlier or years later (from 1950 to 1966). An ethnic Pashtun, he formed the Taliban in the 1990s, a radical Islamist group dominated by Pashtuns. His group took over the country in 1996 and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which survived until the United States toppled it in 2001.

He had a amiable relationship with Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda. Bin Laden is thought to have financed the Taliban's rise to power over a weakened Afghanistan after years of Soviet occupation. Omar repaid bin Laden by offering him safe haven in the country in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in New York City in 2001. His ties to bin Laden cost him his position, however. The American invasion of the country removed Omar from his position as head of state of Afghanistan, but he remained the "spiritual" leader of the Taliban until his death in 2013.

Few images of the mysterious mullah exist, and few details of his life are known. One of his most noted features was his damaged right eye, which was hit by shrapnel during his time fighting the Soviets.

The US Department of Justice's reward for his capture was $10 million. He has been succeeded by Akhtar Mansoor.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Louisiana Theater Shooting Leaves 3 Dead, Including Gunman

The aftermath of Thursday's shooting at the Grand Theater in
Lafayette, Louisiana
Credit: AP/Danny Culbert
A gunman killed two people and injured at least nine others Thursday at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. The perpetrator, John Russel Houser, 59, was watching the movie Trainwreck when he shot and killed two people in front of him. He then began firing on other moviegoers. Houser tried to escape the theater, but ran back inside when he saw police officers. He killed himself at the scene.

Houser has been described as mentally ill and violent, with his wife and family obtaining a court order a number of years ago to keep him away. According to court documents, Houser "ha[d] a history of mental health issues, i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder.”

 Houser’s rampage comes only a short time after another theater gunman, James Holmes, was found guilty of his 2012 rampage.

The theater had 300 people in it, with around 25 people watching Trainwreck. The shooting began about 20 minutes into the movie. One patron, a teacher, stood in front of one of her coworkers, while the second one pulled the fire alarm to alert the other moviegoers.

Numerous statements of condolence have poured in following the shooting. Gov. Booby Jindal, currently a Republican Presidential candidate, called the shooting, "an awful night for Louisiana” and said, "We can hug these families. We can shower them with love, thoughts and prayers." President Barack Obama also offered his “thoughts and prayers,” according to the White House. Comedienne Amy Schumer, who stars in Trainwreck, said, “My heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana."


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

John Kasich Announces Second Presidential Candidacy

Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) greets supports as he announces his
second run for the Presidency, his first being in 2000.
Credit: NBC News
Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced Tuesday his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President in 2016. He is the 16th major Republican and 21st major overall candidate for the 2016 election.

Kasich, announcing his run at his alma mater Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, told the audience, “I am here to ask you for your prayers, your support, your efforts because I have decided to run for president of the United States." He went on to say, "The American Dream is pivotal to the future of our country...But I have to tell you, a lot of people are not sure that dream is still possible, not sure that dream is still alive. … I have the skills and experience [to restore the American Dream]."

This is not his first Presidential run: He ran in 2000 in a crowded (but not as crowded as this cycle's) Republican field. He withdrew before the primary elections because of poor fundraising.

Kasich, 63, is most often noted for his fiscal conservatism. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, a capacity in which he served from 1995 to 2001, he led the effort to pass a balanced budget in 1997, the first since 1969. He was also involved in the "workfare" (portmanteau of work and welfare) reform to entitlements that required most able-bodied singles between 18 and 50 to find work in order to receive food stamp benefits.

After leaving Congress in 2001, he worked in business, serving on the board of directors of several corporations and becoming a managing director for the ill-fated Lehman Brothers. During this time, he became a host on Fox News, hosting his own show Heartland with John Kasich and guest hosting for Bill O'Reilly.

Kasich left Fox News in 2009, and decided to run against incumbent Democratic Governor of Ohio Ted Strickland. He defeated Stickland by a narrow margin, taking office in 2011. While Kasich suffered some political defeats, such as a referendum repealing a bill stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees  (similar to the one Scott Walker passed in Wisconsin), the unemployment rate has significantly dropped under Kasich's tenure, providing a political advantage for him in the coming months of campaigning.

Kasich has not escaped Republican criticism, much of it stemming from his acceptance of expanding Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Kasich responded by saying, "If other people don't want to take the money, that's up to them, but I got money I can bring home to Ohio. It's my money. There's no money in Washington. It's my money. It's the money of the people who live in my state."

In 2014, he won a landslide reelection victory over Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. While FitzGerald was a damaged candidate (such as driving without a valid license for years), Kasich's victory set him up as a possible GOP contender in 2016, which on Tuesday Kasich claimed.

While the Real Clear Politics aggregate tracking poll has Kasich 11th among national Republican candidates, he is likely hoping his recent announcement will bolster his candidacy to a top 10 position so that he can appear in the first Republican debate (hosted by his former employer Fox News and in his home state of Ohio) on August 6.

He faces for the Republican nomination announced candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and Scott Walker. He will likely also face Jim Gilmore.

If he wins the nomination, he could face Democrats Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee, or Jim Webb.

Read the transcript of Kasich's speech here:

Monday, July 20, 2015

New Horizon's Pluto Flyby Photos Reveal Formerly Mysterious Planet

All images courtesy of NASA. Descriptions are below.
1. CHARON: Closeup view of Charon, Pluto's largest moon and planetary twin
2. HILLS OF PLUTO'S HEART: The relatively smooth region of Pluto's heart region may indicate recent geological activity on the small dwarf planet
3. MOUNTAINS ON PLUTO'S SURFACE: Mountains rise from Pluto's surface
4. NIX: Blurry image of one of Pluto's small moons, Nix
5. NIX AND HYDRA: Images of two of Pluto's small moons, Nix (L) and Hydra (R)
6. PLUTO: Picture taken the day before New Horizon's July 14 flyby clearly shows its large "heart" region, notable for its absence of craters and relatively smooth surface
7. PLUTO 2: Image of Pluto from 1 Million Miles Away
8. PLUTO AND CHARON: Image of Pluto and Charon
9. PLUTO ICE FLOW: Image shows nitrogen flowing on Pluto's surface
10. PLUTO MOUNTAINS: Image of less tall mountain's on the Plutonian surface
11. PLUTO MOUNTAINS: Image of mountains with ice sheets surround them