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Rush Limbaugh: A Huge Void in Our Hearts


RUSH: Ladies and gentlemen, indulge me for just a few minutes here.  We all here at the EIB Network are experiencing a huge void in all of our hearts here today because of a death, one of our staff members, the very first staff member to join me 27 years ago in New York.  Christopher Carson, "Kit," my trusted chief of staff, aide-de-camp, passed away today at 8 a.m. at his home in New Jersey after what really was a four-year battle, really valiant, never-seen-anything-like-it battle with essentially brain cancer. He thought that it was beaten back two years ago, but it came back again last fall with a vengeance.

To give you an idea, December 19th, staff Christmas party, and he was fine, normal as anybody ever remembered him.  Ten days ago I flew to New York to see him in the hospital, and it was the last day that he had any kind of a short-term memory at all.  It was a good visit.  It was a really good day.  For him, too.  I've always said that I wanted to be older, and I never factored something in about getting older, and that is people you know getting sick and dying.  But Kit was in all ways, every way I can of think of, a special human being and person.

When the program debuted in 1988, nobody had any idea if it was gonna work.  And we had made no plans initially for it to get big.  It was just a radio show with a guy doing three hours on the radio and the itinerant things that happened.  But it took off.  It took off faster and bigger than anybody had planned.  So the phone started ringing and mail started coming in, and things needed to be dealt with.
We didn't have anybody, and Ed McLaughlin, who was the syndicator of the program at the time and the founding executive of the EIB Network, had just come from ABC and knew countless people at ABC. And in our building where we were at the time, ABC staffed its magazines, such as Prairie Farmer magazine and American Homeowner, Contemporary Homeowner or something.  And Ed said, "Look, I got this guy that's gonna come up from the magazine, and he's gonna answer the phones and deal with the mail. He's a good guy. He's here in New York. He's trying to become an actor, and he'll help us out here in a pinch."

I said, "Oh, okay, great, what's his name?"

He said, "Some guy, Kit Carson."

I said, "Kit Carson?  Kit Carson, like the cowboy?"

"Yeah, that's what he says, Kit Carson."

Okay.  So the next day in walks this guy, cargo shorts, white ankle socks, black Keds, and red hair that looks like it's got yeast in it piled so high on top of his head.  I was immediately jealous, I said,

"What did you do, put yeast in your hair?"  He didn't know what I meant.  But I spotted it immediately. He wanted to be an actor, he had a performer's ego, and he thought I was crazy.  After one radio show, he thought I was crazy.

He's listening to "homeless updates" and all this stuff and he just thinks that I'm a lunatic.  But he's gonna stick with it 'cause it looks like it could be fun for a while.  And he said, "What do you want me to do?"

I said, "Well, when it comes to the phones ..."  And I did my best to explain who I was, what I did, and what we're all trying to accomplish, and he just said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, the latest to get to New York, gonna hit it big, right, right, okay, got it, got it. What can I do?"

I said, "Well, when you're answering the phones, I want you to really learn how to do something, and I really want you to learn how to do it, and it's say, 'No.'  You're gonna have people calling wanting me to do this, do that, requests for all kinds of things, and I don't care what and I don't care who, your first answer is 'no' and then you come tell me and we'll review who called and then we'll decide what to do."  It's harder than you think, folks.  It's easy to say "yes" to people and make friends, have a good relationship.

Saying "no" to people does not promote good friendships right off the bat.  He said "no." He loved saying "no."  He said, "Really, I have the power to say "no" to anybody?"  I said, "Yes, you do."  He started answering mail.  Anyway, it just evolved to where he became the resident expert on me and the program. He became its number-one champion, defender, evangelist, and, of course, he ended up doing much more than -- well, he never stopped saying "no."  That job remained as important 27 years later as it was that first day.  He enjoyed it as much as ever, except the people calling later on were like from the White House and Good Morning America and the Today Show, and he still said "no" and then came and told me about it.

Fifty-six years old.  He arrived around age 30 or 31, grew up in Milwaukee.  He was insistent, you know, when he introduced himself to people, "Yeah, I'm Kit Carson," and he assumed everybody thought that meant he'd be related to the famous cowboy character, Kit Carson, so he told everyone, "Yeah, my name is really Kit Carson."

So the first time I had to write him a check, forget what it was for, I made it out to Kit Carson.  He brought it back and said, "The bank won't accept it."

I said, "Why?"

He said, "'Cause this isn't my name."

I said, "What, you've been telling me for two years --"

"It's Christopher."  Okay.  So I rewrote the check, but he always remained "Kit."  He was Kit to everybody that knew him. He was Kit to his family.  He was Kit, dad to his teenaged sons, Jesse and Jack, wife Theresa.  It's such a void because he loved this job.  He loved being here.  He loved being part of it every day.

Folks, the last four years of his life, I kid you not, for the vast majority of 'em he would get up early to do the show prep he had been assigned.  When the Internet came, he and Snerdley were assigned various areas of the Internet to help me with show prep, and he had his, and he was gonna do 'em no matter what. No matter how many times we tried to tell him, "Forget it, just head to the hospital and get your treatment." It was just incredible to see.  He would show up as often as he could these last four years, even if only for a half hour. He would try to get his cancer treatments moved to different times of the day so he wouldn't have to miss.  All the while we're telling him, "Hey, put yourself first here."

He said, "I am.  I love this."

He loved everybody here, and everybody loved him.  We've all heard people remembered by having it said about them that they never heard the guy say a bad word about anybody.  How many times have you heard that in eulogy?  Well, Kit Carson, honest to God, never, ever had a bad word to say about anybody.  Kit Carson never, never had a critical thing to say about anybody he dealt with, anybody else on the staff.  He did not engage in back-stabbing. He did not ever, not a single time, try to undermine anybody else on the staff for his benefit.  And you know that's common in office settings, but he never did it.

He's the guy in the office who had everybody's back.  In fact, when I got mad at people, either on the staff or anybody, he's the first guy trying to talk me out of it.  "No, no, you're misunderstanding. Don't get mad."  He's not the kind of guy that relished in other people being in the dock, or people being in trouble, it bothered him.  And any time I got mad at anybody he defended 'em.  It was always my fault for getting mad.  Remember, he's the chief of staff.  It was always my fault for getting mad, not their fault.  No matter what, no matter who.  Well, there were exceptions.  I mean, we haven't had that many people do egregious things, and we've only had in the 27 years two or three people leave the program. So we've been fortunate to avoid a lot of this typical interoffice stuff, but Kit obviously was employee badge one. Well, I guess I am badge one, he's number two. He's been here longer than anybody.

He wanted to be an actor, but he ended up enjoying what he was doing here so much. He would still hang around with his actor buddies and friends, but he became one hundred percent totally devoted to the program. And, folks, he was such a patriot.  He loved this country so much.  He started out not caring.  I mean, not "not caring," but the first thing on his mind was not what's happening in politics every day or what's happening in Washington. But he came to care about it as much as any of us, and he came to be as concerned, especially when his children were born, he came to be as concerned about it as any of the rest of us are, and it's what inspired him and motivated him every day to make sure that when it was his Stack of show prep stuff, that it was right, that I had it right.

He always put his comments in the margins, you know, what he thought of things.  And there were times he thought of things I didn't.  And I stole 'em.  I stole his opinions sometimes.  Sometimes I gave him credit.  But he always knew that what was important to me, the show's the thing, and it always was with him.  Whenever I had to go anywhere, say a Rush to Excellence Tour, he always went, in some cases early to advance it, but he always accompanied me.  And, you know, I didn't like those things much.  I never really did.  They were things that were necessary to be done.  And he said, "You're crazy! It's the greatest job in the world.  You're gonna show up and 5,000 people can't wait to hear what you have to say. Do you realize how many people would love that?"

He did not allow me to be pessimistic or negative.  He didn't allow me to get down in the dumps about anything.  And if he sensed that I was, he would do anything that he could that enabled me to get the best out of myself, even if it was just a social soiree that we were at or some business trip. I was thinking about it last night. I can't remember a time when he complained about things.  You know how often people complain?  Oh, my God.  People complain all the time.  People manipulate, try to manipulate you all the time.  That's nothing unique to me.

He never did.  Never.  Never did.  Never undermined anybody.  Never wanted me to think ill of anybody that had anything to do with this program.  A special passion of his was the leukemia radiothon that we did every year.  He devoted as much time to putting that together and working with the leukemiathon people throughout the year and things like that. He built and maintained relationships that the program had with any number of people, sponsors, you name it, and maintained them.  He spoke for me when I was unable to.  And I have to say this, too.  He is the one guy -- this is not meant to besmirch anybody else, but I never once doubted his instincts.

 I had total trust.  I never once thought, for example, when he's advocating that I do something, I never once thought that there was something in it for him, for me to do it, that it would help him with somebody that was asking me to do it or a friend of his, I never, ever, got the impression.  The only thing he cared about was doing what he could to make sure I looked good and be the best I could be.

He had this innocent, even at age 56, this innocent exuberance about everything.  And it wasn't just me.  He trusted everybody.  I mean, even the people he knew that he shouldn't, he did.  Everybody got the benefit of the doubt.  You had to really earn his distrust because he trusted you right off the bat.  Complete and total trust in the guy.  Everything he told me, everything I asked him to give me a report on or do or whatever it was, I never had any suspicions that he was trying to get me to do things or to say things or whatever that would benefit him with other people.

Anyway, I have to take a break here, folks.  There's just a little more here, but I wish all of you could have -- many of you around the course of the country and various parts have probably met him, and, if you did, you know exactly the kind of person and personality I'm talking about. I wish everybody could have met him.

RUSH:  I just got a note that reminded me of something.  When Kit was undergoing his cancer treatments, he held onto his hair longer than most people do, and he loved to go walking down 60th Avenue in New York and the Japanese tourists would think he's Conan O'Brien. The point is, he found the good in everything, and he was always optimistic and upbeat.  I'll tell you, the happiest I can remember him -- outside of, you know, the birth of his kids -- is when he met his soon-to-be-wife Theresa. It was like a kid and a candy store forever, and when they finally got married, they got married in Boston.

I remember I flew up for the wedding, and I landed there. The car is taking me, and Snerdley is walking to the venue. I asked him, "What, did you come from the train station or something?" So I stopped, and Snerdley got in the car. We drove to the wedding, and Kit just couldn't believe it. Honestly, this was so sentimentally the truth. He could not believe that he had actually convinced this woman to marry him -- and he never stopped looking at her that way.  It was really special.  It was a fairytale.  Exactly like a fairytale.  When the preacher made it official and pronounced them man and wife, he turned to the audience and started jumping up and down doing fist pumps and started shouting, "Yeah! Yeah! Did you hear? She said, 'Yes!'" or something. it was just ... I don't know.

He loved life so much, and it was cut short.

RUSH: Just a few more comments about the late Kit Carson, our chief of staff here who passed away. He'd been with us, with me, longer than anybody else on this program. He passed away this morning at 8 a.m. from brain cancer, and I want to talk a little bit about something. He taught everybody incredible lessons in toughness and fortitude in the way he fought it.  I've seen a lot of people go through what Kit went through.

But honest to God, folks, I've never seen anybody deal with it the way he did, and I've seen some heroics.  But I want to go back to something.  I checked the e-mail during the break.  "What's so big about saying 'no' to everybody?" somebody wants to know. Folks, I... (sigh) Look, I don't want to make this too personal, 'cause this isn't about me, but you don't know... (sigh) I don't know how to say this, 'cause this is not complaining.  I, believe me, have nothing to complain about.

But when I say that I was able to totally trust Kit with virtually anything he came to me with, any proposals that somebody else had, any request that somebody else had, one of the things I had to learn... I'd never been on a success track before, 'til this program.  I didn't know what it was like.  And you wouldn't believe the number of phonies you come in contact with who portray themselves as your best friend.  And all they want to do is manipulate you into doing things they want you to do.

Either just parade you around so they can look like hot stuff or get you to do something they couldn't get done for themselves, all the while telling you -- me -- that it's for my benefit.  He never, ever, did that -- and he sniffed that out in other people and never, ever, did it himself.  I can't tell you, for me, that was important.  Maybe other people in my position, they don't care about it. But, to me, I hated having my intelligence insulted. I hated being used. I hated thinking that people were trying to manipulate me.

When I thought it, they were gone. That was the end of 'em.  I had no more time for it.  And I never, ever, once had any doubts about Kit and his intentions in that regard.  So saying, "no," that's how you weeded people out. It became a policy of mine.  A, I don't like to do a bunch of outside stuff anyway.  The show's the thing.  I don't need to go somewhere to say what I say. I have a radio show to say it.  Why go somewhere else and say it?

But the point is I had entire, complete, total trust, and never once doubted his motivations for things. Sometimes he suggested I do things, thought they'd be good for me and so forth.  Anyway, that's why saying "no" was important.  'Cause it's easy to say "yes" and befriend somebody, particularly if they're a powerful person on the other end of the phone. It's the easiest thing in the world to say, "Yeah," and become their friend, become a good friend. "Yeah, I can get Rush to do that."

He never did that, folks, and that was big.  But the way he fought this disease, it was just terrible to watch it.  But it was also inspiring.  Honestly, I'm not exaggerating.  The e-mails that we would get when he was in the midst of the worst treatment -- the chemo, the radiation, whatever -- he scheduled as much of it as outpatient as he could, much more than he should have. Because he didn't want to let anybody down.

The last time I was able to talk to him meaningfully was a couple of Wednesdays ago in his hospital room.  His short-term memory was mostly gone. But he remembered the magazine that he came from 27 years ago.  He remembered all the stories we were reminiscing about over the years.  But what had happened in the last couple hours, couple days, were tough.  But, at one point, Jack and Jesse, his kids were there, and Theresa and I.

I grabbed his hand and I held his hand, and I said, "Let me tell you something: There's nobody who can replace you.  There's nobody who can do what you do." He looked at me, and I don't know how much there he was at that given moment. Brain cancer is a horrible thing. But he looked at me and said, "That's not true."  I said, "Oh, yes, it is."  And I kept squeezing his hand, letting him know that it was true, and I wasn't just saying it.

And it is, because of the trust.

So he was just insistent on getting his portion of the show prep in.  He was.  He asked permission... I mean, I never got over it: He asked permission to go get his next cancer treatment, and if we had said, "Well, that's gonna be really tough," he would call the hospital, the doctors, and try to move it. Now, we never did. Don't misunderstand.  But 27 years, and even in the fight for his life, he's putting our concerns ahead of his.

We had to insist with him a number of times, "Look, just take care of yourself.  We all know the story here.  Just go take care of yourself," which he did.  But it still was... Folks, one time, when he was in the hospital for treatment, he learned how... I still don't know how he did it, because he could barely use a computer.  But he figured out in the midst of all this, 'cause he had lost the ability to type for a while, the dexterity.

He learned how to set up Dragon Dictate and he learned how to dictate things and e-mail them off.  I went to the hospital to visit him at that point and saw the setup, and I said, "You could not have... How did you do this?" He said, "I don't know, I don't know, but it had to be done."  I'm looking at it, and I said, "This is not possible."  I wouldn't have known how to do it the way he did it.  Now, he may have had some outside help.

But he was so insistent on whatever all this was not harming the show or me, that he did everything he could.  And it was just amazing to watch.  And it was instructive to watch the success and then the failure of all of the various treatments.  You could see the signs. I mean, the first time the brain tumor was zapped with radiation, it was phenomenal. Within three days...  I mean, one day in the hospital you would walk in and say "hi" and he'd know who you are.

And five minutes later, not know who you are, and 10 minutes later not remember you'd been there awhile.   After the first time that tumor got zapped, all that was gone, and he was back to being perfectly normal.  It was amazing to watch the effectiveness of the treatments, but then everybody says when it comes back the second time after you think you've been in remission, it's really bad -- trouble. And it was. And he ended up succumbing to it at 8 o'clock this morning.

But he never, ever, gave up on it.  All he ever wanted to do was see his kids graduate from high school.  Jack and Jesse.  But the exuberance, yeah. I remember one year. Occasionally we here get a suite at the Super Bowl to entertain clients and others, and one Super Bowl that we went to we took Kit. He went to this one. It was the Steelers and Packers. The Packers was his team.  He loved the Packers.  He grew up in Wisconsin.  This is just five years ago, whenever that Super Bowl was. So he's been with the radio program 22 years.

The game started, and he was sitting in the suite after doing some of the work involved with the dinners that we had the weekend prior to the game. He's sitting there watching the game, and I get up from my seat to go to bathroom or something, and he's sitting there and he stands up and hugs me.

"Rush, this is just great! This is just great! I can't believe this! I'm having such a great time! My God, the Packers and I'm here at the Super Bowl? This is so great!"

He was always appreciative. He was always very much aware of how special things were. I mean, to him, the special things stayed special. There was never anything taken for granted. But to have that kind of exuberance after all this time? I mean, a lot of people after 22 years become jaundiced. "You mean I gotta go work the damn Super Bowl? Come on, Rush. Can't somebody else do it?" Never.  He would be the first one there, whatever needed to be done, and he was able to turn it into a pleasurable thing.

But standing up and hugging me, and telling me how great it was to be there to see his Packers against my Steelers in the Super Bowl, was something he never thought he'd be able to do.  And he's just gonna be really missed. Everybody here is... Even though we've known this was coming for a few weeks, still, it leaves a huge void in everybody's heart.  'Cause whenever he was on the other end of something you knew there was going to be a laugh or a joke or a smile.

And I'm not trying to sound cliched.  It was really true.

You knew you were talking to somebody who actively loved being alive.

He had great respect for being alive, did not take that for granted.

He loved his job, he loved the country, loved his kids and his wife Theresa so much.

It's the one bad thing about getting old, is your friends start... They get old, too.  Anyway, thank you for indulging me on this.  I haven't even begun to do him justice, folks.  But I wanted to share with you a little of who he was, because he was such an integral part of this program every day. Even though you never heard him, and even though many might not have known who he was or what he did other than hearing me call him chief of staff, he was irreplaceable. And it's just a very, very sad, unfortunate thing that happens to everybody.

The way he dealt with it was a lesson in and of itself.

RUSH:  Kathryn has been spending a lot of time with Kit's family the past couple weeks.  She had a great idea, Snerdley.  I don't know if she mentioned this to you or not.  She thinks we ought to put a chair in there and up in New York that's called the "Kit Chair," the honorary Kit Chair.  He's always gonna be there, that chair is always gonna be for him, always gonna be where he sat.  So we're gonna do that, 'cause it is a great idea.  He walked in the room wearing those cargo shorts and the short white socks and the black Keds. He didn't care if you were laughing at him, didn't matter.  He made everybody laugh.

RUSH: My gosh, I feel kind of guilty here.  I really feel like we should be doing all three hours talking about Kit.  He'd think that's nonsense.  If you're just joining us, a staff member that has been with me longer than anybody else, the chief of staff, we jokingly called him H.R.  The reason his nickname was H.R., by the way, was after H.R. Haldeman, who was Nixon's chief of staff.  He said "no" to everybody, and that's why we called him -- in fact, Kit came up with the name for himself, H.R.

He passed away this morning at 8 a.m. at age 56.

 I spent much of the first hour doing the remembrances, but it's such a huge void here.  I feel like I'm just doing the program today here on half-mast, half scan, half attention, what have you.  It's just an empty feeling.  Even though it's not unexpected, sadly, it's still hard to accept.  But, anyway, forge on we must, and he would have insisted, obviously.  But it just feels weird.  A part of me thinks I shouldn't even be here today, but that's silly.

RUSH: God bless Kit Carson, his wife Theresa, and his sons Jack and Jesse.
See you tomorrow.


Gary Sinise tells off Howard Dean: The ‘American Sniper’ flaps still haven’t ended

In this image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Bradley Cooper appears in a scene from “American Sniper.” (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Keith Bernstein)

The box-office success of
“American Sniper” continued in its second weekend of wide distribution, with $64.4 million in ticket sales. That’s on top of the estimated $107.2 million the Clint Eastwood film took in the previous weekend.

The movie, based on Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s life and four combat deployments to Iraq, is a massive commercial success. But the reaction to it — already inflamed — has become even more polarized, as celebrities, pundits and veterans all continue to weigh in (and sometimes respond to each other).

The latest flap erupted following comments by former Gov. Howard Dean (D.-Vt.) on Friday night. They came on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” in which the show’s host ripped the movie for its lack moral ambiguity and Kyle for writing previously that he didn’t care about Iraq and hated the “savages” there.

“‘Hurt Locker’ made $17 million because it was a little ambiguous and thoughtful,” Maher said, citing the opening weekend sales of another Iraq War filmed released in 2008. “And this one is just ‘American hero. He’s a psychopath patriot, and we love him.’”

Dean said Maher had made a “very interesting point.”

“There’s a lot of anger in this country, and the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry,” Dean said. “And this guy basically says ‘I’m going to fight on your side.’ … I bet you if you looked at a cross-section of the Tea Party and the people who go to see this movie, there’s a lot of intersection.”

That prompted a reaction today from actor veterans advocate Gary Sinise that has gone viral. He noted that he has seen the movie, and does not consider himself to be angry person.

“You certainly have a right to make stupid blanket statements, suggesting that all people who see this film are angry, but how is that helpful sir?” Sinise wrote, on the celebrity website WhoSay. “Do you also suggest that everyone at Warner Brothers is angry because they released the film? That Clint Eastwood, Jason Hall, Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and the rest of the cast and crew are angry because they made the film? Chris Kyle’s story deserved to be told.”

Sinise continued that the movie shows how the stress of multiple deployments affected Kyle’s family, which is “a family representative of thousands of military families.”

Defiant Netanyahu to Obama: I will go anywhere to warn about nuclear Iran

Jim Kouri
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted House Speaker John Boehner's invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress on February 11th . Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak on the issue of Iran; congressional leaders in both chambers.
Israel's Prime Minister on Sunday said openly and loudly that he will go anywhere in the world where he is invited to speak about the clear and present danger posed by Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and the threat to Israel, the United States and European nations posed by radical Islam, according to the Middle Eastern news agencies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a former officer with the Israeli special forces, while not mentioning names left the impression he was referring to his controversial upcoming visit to the United States. 

Although at first the Obama administration seemed to disregard the Netanyahu invitation to address the U.S. Congress which came from House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and the majority Republicans, President Barack Obama's politically-driven administration officials claimed 
Speaker Boehner committed a faux pas of diplomatic protocol.

Speaker Boehner, the Republican majority in Congress and many Democratic lawmakers wish to increase economic sanctions against the Iranian regime as it continues to defy the international community by developing a nuclear weapon and a delivery system that would increase the radical Islamic nation's aggression against Israel and the United States.

However, despite evidence of Iranian deceit and propaganda, President Obama and his minions in the State Department, led by Secretary John Kerry, believe they will succeed in reaching "a deal" with the world's most prolific supporter of terrorism. Kerry is famous throughout the world for saying he was for funding the war in Iraq before he was against it, during his abysmal presidential campaign. 

During his appearance on local news media in Israel on Sunday, Netanyahu also directly maintained that it is his duty as the leader of the Jewish State to do anything and everything possible to make certain the Iranians never get their hands on a "nuclear weapon." But most of the Sunday morning news shows airing on ABC, CBS, NBC and cable news outlets including MSNBC, appeared to portray Boehner and Netanyahu as being disrespectful towards President Obama.

"The media is comprised largely of ideologically left-leaning news people and it's no secret the left-wing of the Democratic Party favors the Palestinians, with Obama own former campaign worker Jodie Evans taking part in the Free Gaza Flotilla that intended to make Israel look like the bad guys," said former U.S. Marine and police detective Michael Snopes. "The news media's short memories fail to recall the times the Democrats undermined President George W. Bush at every turn" added Snopes. 
Meanwhile, during the weekend, Russian Ambassador to Iran Levan Jagarian said his country is enthusiastic over closer relations with Iran in all enedeavors, especially economically and militarily. 

"We have never given up cooperation with Iran in our foreign and economic policies, which include energy, industrial, transportation, technological and agricultural sectors, and the same policy will be continued by Moscow officials in future," Jagarian said in an interview with the Russian Ria Novosti news agency on Saturday.
"Perhaps Obama and his White House should be more concerned with the Russians and Iranians helping one another than with Netanyahu giving a speech in Congress," said political strategist Evan McNaughten. "Last week the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to increase their mutual interests, one of which is quite possibly hurting the United States," he added.

Airlines Prepare to Shut Down in Northeast for Snowstorm

Airlines are preparing to shut down operations along the East Coast as a major snowstorm packing up to three feet of snow barrels down on the region.

Around 700 flights scheduled for Monday are expected to be cancelled, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware.

Most major airlines are allowing customers whose flights are canceled in the next few days to book new flights without paying a penalty. Customers ticketed on flights to at least two dozen Eastern airports are generally eligible for the allowance, though specific terms vary by airline.

The National Weather Service predicts 2 to 3 feet of snow for a 250-mile stretch of the Northeast, including the New York and Boston areas. Philadelphia should get 14 to 18 inches.

Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com

'Historic' Blizzard to Bomb Northeast

The New York City area was placed under a 35-hour blizzard warning beginning Monday afternoon, with more than 2 feet of snow expected to create "paralyzing, crippling" conditions, forecasters said Sunday. It's part of a storm system that's expected to pummel the Northeast from Philadelphia all the way to northern New England with potentially "historic" snow accumulations well into Tuesday night.

The National Weather Service estimated that 29 million people will come under the blizzard warning, and more than 3,100 flights scheduled for Monday and Tuesday were canceled in advance. The worst of it will be late Monday through Tuesday night, with blizzard conditions, damaging wind gusts to possibly hurricane strength and coastal flooding, the National Weather Service said. The nation's largest city was put under an extraordinarily long blizzard warning stretching from 1 p.m. Monday to midnight Tuesday.

The forecast means New York City could smash its one-day snowfall record — 26.9 inches, recorded in Central Park in February 2006.

"Very highly populated areas of the Northeast are going to get crushed with snow," said Tom Moore, coordinating meteorologist for The Weather Channel. "Everywhere ... you're going to get hit very hard by this storm."

"This could be the biggest snowstorm in the history of this city," Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Sunday. "My message for New Yorkers is prepare for something worse than we have ever seen before."
Confidence is increasing on a historic winter storm across parts of the Northeast Monday night thru Tuesday night, tapering off Wednesday morning. Blizzard warnings have been issued along the Eastern Seaboard from central New Jersey north through the New York City metro area and northeast across Connecticut, Rhode Island, eastern Massachusetts, and coastal New Hampshire and Maine. Snowfall rates of 2-4 inches per hour are expected, resulting with snowfall totals of 18 to 30 inches, with locally higher amounts. In addition very heavy snow, strong winds in the Blizzard Warning area are expected to gust to 35 to 50 mph, with gusts as high as 65 mph possible across eastern Long Island and Cape Cod. The heavy snow and blowing and drifting snow will reduce visibilities to near zero, making travel extremely dangerous. Snow drifts may exceed 3-4 feet across the blizzard warning area.

The strong northeast winds will create a storm surge along the coast. Moderate coastal flooding, especially during high tides is possible along the coast from Delaware Bay north all the way to the Maine coast. Major coastal flooding is possible along east facing sections of the Massachusetts coast. The strong winds will also create high waves that will likely result in significant beach erosion, as well as splash-over that could result in damage to waterfront structures and closures of shoreline roads.

Some uncertainty remains regarding how far west the heavy snowfall will get. That is why there is an area of Winter Storm Watches from Delmarva north across eastern Pennsylvania to the western Catskills and north into northern Vermont. Forecast confidence across this area is less than the area of Winter Storm Warnings further east.

World Turned a Blind Eye Toward Tel Aviv Terror Attack

WORLD leaders were silent, the media uninterested and even cynical following the barbaric attack against innocent Israelis on a public bus in Tel Aviv last Wednesday morning.
T here was no world outrage following a barbaric attack against innocent Israelis in Tel Aviv Wednesday morning.

A 23-year-old “lone-wolf” terrorist, a resident of the Arab village of Tulkarem in Samaria, boarded a bus during the morning rush hour and stabbed 12 people, wounding four seriously. It was the most recent attack in the current wave of terror.

Spokesmen for the Hamas terror organization, while not claiming responsibility for the attack, praised it as “heroic” and “brave.”

“The terrorist attack in Tel Aviv is the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority (PA) against the Jews and their state,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated. “This same terrorism is trying to attack us in Paris, Brussels and everywhere.”

The Israeli leader, as well as the foreign minister and other government officials, have noted the incitement to terror by Mahmoud Abbas, head of the PA – Israel’s partner in the failed US-brokered peace negotiations – and other leading Palestinian government officials .

In order to explain “the daily Palestinian incitement against Israel, which encourages acts of terrorism, including murder,” the Israeli prime minister’s office (PMO) publicized four terror-inciting photographs that were recently uploaded to the Facebook page of Abbas’s Fatah movement. One of the photographs, for example, displays a Palestinian flag and weapons with the caption: “We started with stones and will end with a state.”

The Fatah page, the PMO report continues, “serves as a regular platform for the glorification of those who have perpetrated large-scale terrorist attacks against Israel as part of the PA’s systematic campaign of incitement, by various means and through various bodies, against Israel.”

New Palestinian Slogan: ‘I am Knife’

The Palestinian Safa News Agency published a cartoon with a knife painted in the colors of the Palestinian flag and, in the background, a bloodied Israeli flag. The caption reads: “Good morning Palestine.”

Mimicking the “I am Charlie” slogan among advocates for freedom of expression following the recent massacre at the Charlie Hebdo magazine headquarters in Paris, Palestinian supporters of terror are saying: “I am Knife.”

Another cartoon shows a terrorist praising the Tel Aviv stabbing, holding a sign saying: “Occupied Tel Aviv,” although Palestinian officials had never demanded during negotiations that Tel Aviv become part of a Palestinian state.

Commenting on the latest Tel Aviv terror attack, senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi declared: “You cannot have a violent military occupation with full impunity and then expect all its victims to be calm and quiet.”

Security Council Silence on Terror Aimed at Israelis

“The Security Council has yet to say a word in response to the wave of terrorism aimed at Israeli citizens in recent months,” Ron Prosor, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, affirmed. “By remaining silent, the Council is giving terrorists and their sponsors a free pass.

“I urge the Council to immediately and unequivocally condemn the recent terrorist attacks, the growing Palestinian incitement, and denounce those states that are lending their support to this murderous campaign,” he said.

Pointing to the “numerous cartoons” glorifying terror that were posted on Hamas-affiliated/Palestinian news websites. the UN envoy stressed that “Hamas, a terrorist group, and President Abbas’s partner in the Palestinian unity government, praised the stabbings in Tel Aviv and encouraged Palestinians to commit similar attacks.”

BBC Moral Equivalence?

Reporting on the incident, BBC added what could be seen as justification for the stabbing. After citing details of the attack and the terrorist’s explanation that he “had carried out the attack in response to Israel’s military operations in Gaza last year and tensions over access to religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem,” the news source added:

“More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza during the conflict in July and August last year. The majority of those killed were civilians, according to the UN.

“Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers, and six civilians in Israel, were also killed.”

Referring to vicious terror attacks in Jerusalem against innocent civilians, including an infant run 
down in a car terror attack, BBC wrote in the same report: “Late last year, a number of Israelis were killed in attacks by Palestinians using weapons including knives and even vehicles to run down pedestrians,” adding that “at least 12 Palestinians were also killed, including several of those who carried out the attacks.”

Will UN Meeting on Anti-Semitism Include Terror in Israel?

While the UN has yet to issue a statement of condemnation regarding terror against Israelis, an informal meeting of the plenary of the UN General Assembly on anti-Semitism was scheduled for Thursday, January 22 – the day after the Tel Aviv terror attack –  in order “to address concerns of a rise in anti-Semitic violence worldwide.”

Israel claims Iran has produced an intercontinental ballistic missile

Iran has apparently produced an intercontinental ballistic missile whose range far exceeds the distance between Iran and Israel, and between Iran and Europe.

On Wednesday night, Channel 2 showed satellite imagery taken by Israel’s Eros-B satellite that was launched last April. The imagery showed new missile-related sites that Iran recently constructed just outside Tehran. One facility is a missile launch site, capable of sending a rocket into space or of firing an ICBM.

On the launch pad was a new 27-meter long missile, never seen before.

The missile and the launch pad indicate that Iran’s ballistic missile program, which is an integral part of its nuclear weapons program, is moving forward at full throttle. The expanded range of Iran’s ballistic missile program as indicated by the satellite imagery makes clear that its nuclear weapons program is not merely a threat to Israel, or to Israel and Europe. It is a direct threat to the United States as well.

Also on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to address a joint session of Congress by House Speaker John Boehner.

Boehner has asked Netanyahu to address US lawmakers on February 11 regarding Iran’s nuclear program and the threat to international security posed by radical Islam.

Opposition leaders were quick to accuse Boehner and the Republican Party of interfering in Israel’s upcoming election by providing Netanyahu with such a prestigious stage just five weeks before Israelis go to the polls.

Labor MK Nachman Shai told The Jerusalem Post that for the sake of fairness, Boehner should extend the same invitation to opposition leader Isaac Herzog.

But in protesting as they have, opposition members have missed the point. Boehner didn’t invite Netanyahu because he cares about Israel’s election. He invited Netanyahu because he cares about US national security. He believes that by having Netanyahu speak on the issues of Iran’s nuclear program and radical Islam, he will advance America’s national security.

Boehner’s chief concern, and that of the majority of his colleagues from the Democratic and Republican parties alike, is that President Barack Obama’s policy in regard to Iran’s nuclear weapons program imperils the US. Just as the invitation to Netanyahu was a bipartisan invitation, so concerns about Obama’s policy toward Iran’s nuclear program are bipartisan concerns.

Over the past week in particular, Obama has adopted a position on Iran that puts him far beyond the mainstream of US politics. This radical position has placed the president on a collision course with Congress best expressed on Wednesday by Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez. During a hearing at the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee where Menendez serves as ranking Democratic member, he said, “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”

Menendez was referring to threats that Obama has made three times over the past week, most prominently at his State of the Union address on Tuesday, to veto any sanctions legislation against Iran brought to his desk for signature.

He has cast proponents of sanctions – and Menendez is the co-sponsor of a pending sanctions bill – as enemies of a diplomatic strategy of dealing with Iran, and by implication, as warmongers.

Indeed, in remarks to the Democratic members of the Senate last week, Obama impugned the motivations of lawmakers who support further sanctions legislation. He indirectly alleged that they were being forced to take their positions due to pressure from their donors and others.

The problem for American lawmakers is that the diplomatic course that Obama has chosen makes it impossible for the US to use the tools of diplomacy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

That course of diplomatic action is anchored in the Joint Plan of Action that the US and its partners Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia (the P5+1) signed with Tehran in November 2013.

The JPOA placed no limitation on Iran’s ballistic missile program. The main areas the JPOA covers are Iran’s uranium enrichment and plutonium reactor activities. Under the agreement, or the aspects of it that Obama has made public, Iran is supposed to limit its enrichment of uranium to 3.5-percent purity.

And it is not supposed to take action to expand its heavy water reactor at Arak, which could be used to develop weapons grade plutonium.

THE JPOA is also supposed to force Iran to share all nuclear activities undertaken in the past by its military personnel.

During his State of the Union address, Obama claimed that since the agreement was signed, Iran has “halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.”

Yet as Omri Ceren of the Israel Project noted this week, since the JPOA was signed, Iran has expanded its uranium and plutonium work. And as the Eros-B satellite imagery demonstrated, Iran is poised to launch an ICBM.

When it signed the JPOA, Obama administration officials dismissed concerns that by permitting Iran to enrich uranium to 3.5% – in breach of binding UN Security Council Resolution 1929 from 2010 – the US was enabling Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Enrichment to 3.5%, they said, is a far cry from the 90% enrichment level needed for uranium to be bomb grade.

But it works out that the distance isn’t all that great. Sixty percent of the work required to enrich uranium to bomb grade levels of purity is done by enriching it to 3.5%. Since it signed the JPOA, Iran has enriched sufficient quantities of uranium to produce two nuclear bombs.

As for plutonium development work, as Ceren pointed out, the White House’s fact sheet on the JPOA said that Iran committed itself “to halt progress on its plutonium track.”

Last October, Foreign Policy magazine reported that Iran was violating that commitment by seeking to procure parts for its heavy water plutonium reactor at Arak. And yet, astoundingly, rather than acknowledge the simple fact that Iran was violating its commitment, the State Department excused Iran’s behavior and insisted that it was not in clear violation of its commitment.

More distressingly, since the JPOA was signed, Iran has repeatedly refused to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to access Iran’s nuclear installations or to inform the IAEA about the nuclear activities that its military have carried out in the past.

As a consequence, the US and its partners still do not know what nuclear installations Iran has or what nuclear development work it has undertaken.

This means that if a nuclear agreement is signed between Iran and the P5+1, that agreement’s verification protocols will in all likelihood not apply to all aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. And if it does not apply to all aspects of Iran’s nuclear activities, it cannot prevent Iran from continuing the activities it doesn’t know about.

As David Albright, a former IAEA inspector, explained in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last May, “To be credible, a final agreement must ensure that any effort by Tehran to construct a bomb would be sufficiently time-consuming and detectable that the international community could act decisively to prevent Iran from succeeding. It is critical to know whether the Islamic Republic had a nuclear weapons program in the past, how far the work on warheads advanced and whether it continues. Without clear answers to these questions, outsiders will be unable to determine how fast the Iranian regime could construct either a crude nuclear-test device or a deliverable weapon if it chose to renege on an agreement.”

Concern about the loopholes in the JPOA led congressional leaders from both parties to begin work to pass additional sanctions against Iran immediately after the JPOA was concluded. To withstand congressional pressure, the Obama administration alternately attacked the patriotism of its critics, who it claimed were trying to push the US into and unnecessary war against Iran, and assured them that all of their concerns would be addressed in a final agreement.

Unfortunately, since signing the JPOA, the administration has adopted positions that ensure that none of Congress’s concerns will be addressed.

Whereas in early 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that “the president has made it definitive” that Iran needs to answer all “questions surrounding Iran’s nuclear program,” last November it was reported that the US and its partners had walked back this requirement.

Iran will not be required to give full accounting of its past nuclear work, and so the US and its partners intend to sign a deal that will be unable to verify that Iran does not build nuclear weapons.

As the administration has ignored its previous pledges to Congress to ensure that a deal with Iran will make it possible to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, it has also acted to ensure that Iran will pay no price for negotiating in bad faith. The sanctions bill that Obama threatens to veto would only go into effect if Iran fails to sign an agreement.

As long as negotiations progress, no sanctions would be enforced.

OBAMA’S MESSAGE then is clear. Not only will the diplomatic policy he has adopted not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons (and the ability to attack the US with nuclear warheads attached to an ICBM), but in the event that Iran fails to agree to even cosmetic limitations on its nuclear progress, it will suffer no consequences for its recalcitrance.

And this brings us back to Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu.

With Obama’s diplomatic policy toward Iran enabling rather than preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, members of the House and Senate are seeking a credible, unwavering voice that offers an alternative path. For the past 20 years, Netanyahu has been the global leader most outspoken about the need to take all necessary measures to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, not only for Israel’s benefit, but to protect the entire free world. From the perspective of the congressional leadership, then, inviting Netanyahu to speak was a logical move.

In the Israeli context, however, it was an astounding development. For the past generation, the Israeli Left has insisted Israel’s role on the world stage is that of a follower.

As a small, isolated nation, Israel has no choice, they say, other than to follow the lead of the West, and particularly of the White House, on all issues, even when the US president is wrong. All resistance to White House policies is dangerous and irresponsible, leaders like Herzog and Tzipi Livni continuously warn.

Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu exposes the Left’s dogma as dangerous nonsense.

The role of an Israeli leader is to adopt the policies that protect Israel, even when they are unpopular at the White House. Far from being ostracized for those policies, such an Israeli leader will be supported, respected, and relied upon by those who share with him a concern for what truly matters.


Yemen’s Government Falls

By Maria Abi-Habib And
Dion Nissenbaum

Yemen’s president and cabinet resigned on Thursday amid a standoff with a powerful anti-American militia, signaling deep uncertainty for U.S. counterterrorism strategy in the country and the future of a drone program in what has become a cornerstone of the global war on terror.

The resignations come a day after the Houthi militia and President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi signed a deal that would see the minority group withdraw from government and military infrastructure in exchange for greater political power.

After the deal was signed, however, the Houthis continued to occupy Yemen’s largest missile base in San’a and the president’s residence, while the group tried to overrun a military base and clashed with pro-government tribesmen in Marib province, which contains the country’s most significant oil infrastructure.

The Houthis represent the country’s Zaidi sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. They have admitted to accepting Iranian arms and training in the past, although militia leaders insist they are an organic, national force.

The group said it would prepare a reaction to the resignations on Sunday, when Parliament meets. The response hinted that the militia recognizes that it will have a hard time running Yemen unilaterally, as a minority sect with much of the country out of its control.

A Houthi Shiite Yemeni stands guard at a street leading to the presidential palace in San'a, Yemen.It said Mr. Hadi’s resignation must be accepted by an absolute majority in Parliament and “unless this happens, his resignation is on hold.”

The U.S. finds itself in an awkward position with the Houthi takeover, as the militants have been more successful at fighting a resurgent al Qaeda force than the Yemeni national security forces, which have been trained and backed by the U.S. In recent weeks, the U.S. has tempered criticism of the Houthis.

Whether the U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Yemen can continue under the rocky political transition is unclear. Mr. Hadi personally approved a U.S. airstrike-and-drone program that targets al Qaeda leaders and training camps, with dozens of such strikes since 2009. The U.S. also trains Yemen’s elite counterterrorism units and has spent nearly $1 billion on military, economic and humanitarian assistance to the government since 2011.

U.S. officials consider Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, to be the organization’s deadliest branch, the one most capable of launching global attacks. AQAP claimed responsibility for this month’s attack at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that killed 12 people.

“It’s absolutely too soon to tell what impact it’s going to have on any counterterrorism partnership,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said on Thursday. “Obviously, our counterterrorism partnership and operations in Yemen have been productive and useful.…Regardless of what happens here, nothing’s going to change about our focus about going after AQAP wherever they are.”

A second Pentagon official said it is possible a Houthi-led government would welcome U.S. help against AQAP. “The Houthis are every bit as anti-AQAP as the Hadi government is,” he said.
U.S. officials said they didn’t expect Thursday’s resignations to bring an abrupt halt to American surveillance flights over Yemen used to gather intelligence on AQAP operations.

AQAP stands to benefit from the current political vacuum while the expanding Houthi force could polarize the country’s sects further, pitting the country’s majority Sunni population behind the al Qaeda militants, seen by some as the only force capable of countering the Houthis. Hard-line Sunni groups such as al Qaeda see the Zaidis as heretical. The downfall of Mr. Hadi and fellow Sunni politicians and parties could rally the sect behind AQAP.

An AQAP spokesman said in a series of text messages via secure chat that the Houthi takeover would help the group find new recruits. “It will also help us in targeting the Yemeni army and police because they will be working officially under [the] Houthis’ administration,” the spokesman said.

“It’s like the Iraqi scenario,” he added, in reference to Iraqi Sunnis’ opposition to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, which they say discriminates against their sect.

The political marginalization of Iraq’s Sunnis and their growing opposition to the government in Baghdad has led to the resurgence of Islamic State, another extremist group and al Qaeda spinoff.

“The U.S. is trying to keep themselves open to the Houthis. The U.S. realizes, and I think the Saudis realize as well, that although the Houthis are friendly with the Iranians, they are indigenous to Yemen. And they both are desperate to maintain their influence in San’a,” said Charles Schmitz, a Yemen specialist at Towson University and scholar with the Middle East Institute.

Saudi Arabia also opposes the militia and in December cut off aid to Yemen’s government to protest the gradual Houthi takeover. Yemen relies on foreign aid to prop up the state and Riyadh has given billions of dollars in assistance to San’a since 2012.

The current crisis began in September, when the Houthis occupied the capital, forcing Mr. Hadi’s cabinet to resign in protest of the slow pace of political overhauls, including the drafting of a new constitution. Mr. Hadi took over in 2012 after the country’s two-decade autocrat, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was ousted in Yemen’s revolution.

This month, Mr. Hadi’s government stood behind a draft constitution that would divide Yemen into six federal states, which the Houthis protested, saying it would dilute the Zaidi’s political power.

Clashes also intensified Thursday in central Marib province, a stronghold of AQAP and the site of the country’s most significant oil and electricity infrastructure, including a pipeline that feeds San’a.

Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi had demanded this week that the government step up its fight against AQAP in Marib or else his militia would storm the province. In the Wednesday deal, the government had agreed to examine the security situation there and determine a course of action.

The Houthis have quietly stationed their forces in parts of Marib, although the province is dominated by Sunnis, invoking the ire of pro-government tribes there.

Just hours after the political agreement was signed Wednesday and a cease-fire was to begin, hundreds of Houthi militants tried to storm the 7th Brigade in Marib. They were fended off by pro-government tribesmen, killing at least two and wounding six.

—Hakim Almasmari contributed to this article.

Saudi King Abdullah has died at 90

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, the powerful U.S. ally who joined Washington's fight against al-Qaida and sought to modernize the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom with incremental but significant reforms, including nudging open greater opportunities for women, has died, according to Saudi state TV. He was 90.

More than his guarded and hidebound predecessors, Abdullah assertively threw his oil-rich nation's weight behind trying to shape the Middle East. His priority was to counter the influence of rival, mainly Shiite Iran wherever it tried to make advances. He and fellow Sunni Arab monarchs also staunchly opposed the Middle East's wave of pro-democracy uprisings, seeing them as a threat to stability and their own rule.

He backed Sunni Muslim factions against Tehran's allies in several countries, but in Lebanon for example, the policy failed to stop Iranian-backed Hezbollah from gaining the upper hand. And Tehran and Riyadh's colliding ambitions stoked proxy conflicts around the region that enflamed Sunni-Shiite hatreds - most horrifically in Syria's civil war, where the two countries backed opposing sides. Those conflicts in turn hiked Sunni militancy that returned to threaten Saudi Arabia.

And while the king maintained the historically close alliance with Washington, there were frictions as he sought to put those relations on Saudi Arabia's terms. He was constantly frustrated by Washington's failure to broker a settlement to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He also pushed the Obama administration to take a tougher stand against Iran and to more strongly back the mainly Sunni rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Abdullah's death was announced on Saudi state TV by a presenter who said the king died at 1 a.m. on Friday. His successor was announced as 79-year-old half-brother, Prince Salman, according to a Royal Court statement carried on the Saudi Press Agency. Salman was Abdullah's crown prince and had recently taken on some of the ailing king's responsibilities.

Abdullah was born in Riyadh in 1924, one of the dozens of sons of Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. Like all Abdul-Aziz's sons, Abdullah had only rudimentary education. Tall and heavyset, he felt more at home in the Nejd, the kingdom's desert heartland, riding stallions and hunting with falcons. His strict upbringing was exemplified by three days he spent in prison as a young man as punishment by his father for failing to give his seat to a visitor, a violation of Bedouin hospitality.

Abdullah was selected as crown prince in 1982 on the day his half-brother Fahd ascended to the throne. The decision was challenged by a full brother of Fahd, Prince Sultan, who wanted the title for himself. But the family eventually closed ranks behind Abdullah to prevent splits.

Abdullah became de facto ruler in 1995 when a stroke incapacitated Fahd. Abdullah was believed to have long rankled at the closeness of the alliance with the United States, and as regent he pressed Washington to withdraw the troops it had deployed in the kingdom since the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The U.S. finally did so in 2003.

When President George W. Bush came to office, Abdullah again showed his readiness to push against his U.S. allies.

In 2000, Abdullah convinced the Arab League to approve an unprecedented offer that all Arab states would agree to peace with Israel if it withdrew from lands it captured in 1967. The next year, he sent his ambassador in Washington to tell the Bush administration that it was too unquestioningly biased in favor of Israel and that the kingdom would from now on pursue its own interests apart from Washington's. Alarmed by the prospect of a rift, Bush soon after advocated for the first time the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The next month, the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks took place in the United States, and Abdullah had to steer the alliance through the resulting criticism. The kingdom was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers, and many pointed out that the baseline ideology for al-Qaida and other groups stemmed from Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

When al-Qaida militants in 2003 began a wave of violence in the kingdom aimed at toppling the monarchy, Abdullah cracked down hard. For the next three years, security forces battled militants, finally forcing them to flee to neighboring Yemen. There, they created a new al-Qaida branch, and Saudi Arabia has played a behind-the-scenes role in fighting it.

The tougher line helped affirm Abdullah's commitment to fighting al-Qaida. He paid two visits to Bush - in 2002 and 2005 - at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

When Fahd died in 2005, Abdullah officially rose to the throne. He then began to more openly push his agenda.

His aim at home was to modernize the kingdom to face the future. One of the world's largest oil exporters, Saudi Arabia is fabulously wealthy, but there are deep disparities in wealth and a burgeoning youth population in need of jobs, housing and education. More than half the current population of 20 million is under the age of 25. For Abdullah, that meant building a more skilled workforce and opening up greater room for women to participate. He was a strong supporter of education, building universities at home and increasing scholarships abroad for Saudi students.

Abdullah for the first time gave women seats on the Shura Council, an unelected body that advises the king and government. He promised women would be able to vote and run in 2015 elections for municipal councils, the only elections held in the country. He appointed the first female deputy minister in a 2009. Two Saudi female athletes competed in the Olympics for the first time in 2012, and a small handful of women were granted licenses to work as lawyers during his rule.

One of his most ambitious projects was a Western-style university that bears his name, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which opened in 2009. Men and women share classrooms and study together inside the campus, a major departure in a country where even small talk between the sexes in public can bring a warning from the morality police.

The changes seemed small from the outside but had a powerful resonance. Small splashes of variety opened in the kingdom - color and flash crept into the all-black abayas women must wear in public; state-run TV started playing music, forbidden for decades; book fairs opened their doors to women writers and some banned books.

But he treaded carefully in the face of the ultraconservative Wahhabi clerics who hold near total sway over society and, in return, give the Al Saud family's rule religious legitimacy.

Senior cleric Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan warned against changes that could snap the "thread between a leader and his people." In some cases, Abdullah pushed back: He fired one prominent government cleric who criticized the mixed-gender university. But the king balked at going too far too fast. For example, beyond allowing debate in newspapers, Abdullah did nothing to respond to demands to allow women to drive.

"He has presided over a country that has inched forward, either on its own or with his leadership," said Karen Elliot House, author of "On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines."

"I don't think he's had as much impact as one would hope on trying to create a more moderate version of Islam," she said. "To me, it has not taken inside the country as much as one would hope."

And any change was strictly on the royal family's terms. After the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings in particular, Saudi Arabia clamped down on any dissent. Riot police crushed street demonstrations by Saudi Arabia's Shiite minority. Dozens of activists were detained, many of them tried under a sweeping counterterrorism law by an anti-terrorism court Abdullah created. Authorities more closely monitored social media, where anger over corruption and unemployment - and jokes about the aging monarchy - are rife.

Regionally, perhaps Abdullah's biggest priority was to confront Iran, the Shiite powerhouse across the Gulf.

Worried about Tehran's nuclear program, Abdullah told the United States in 2008 to consider military action to "cut off the head of the snake" and prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic memo.

In Lebanon, Abdullah backed Sunni allies against the Iranian-backed Shiite guerrilla group Hezbollah in a proxy conflict that flared repeatedly into potentially destabilizing violence. Saudi Arabia was also deeply opposed to longtime Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom it considered a tool of Iran oppressing Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority.

In Syria, Abdullah stepped indirectly indirectly into the civil war that emerged after 2011. He supported and armed rebels battling to overthrow President Bashar Assad, Iran's top Arab ally, and pressed the Obama administration to do the same. Iran's allies Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militias rushed to back Assad, and the resulting conflict has left hundreds of thousands dead and driven millions of Syrians from their homes.

From the multiple conflicts, Sunni-Shiite hatreds around the region took on a life of their own, fueling Sunni militancy. Syria's war helped give birth to the Islamic State group, which burst out to take over large parts of Syria and Iraq. Fears of the growing militancy prompted Abdullah to commit Saudi airpower to a U.S.-led coalition fighting the extremists.

Toby Matthiesen, author of "Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Spring That Wasn't," said Abdullah was not "particularly sectarian in a way that he hated Shiites for religious reasons. ... There are other senior members of the ruling family much more sectarian." But, he said, "Saudi Arabia plays a huge role in fueling sectarian conflict."

Abdullah had more than 30 children from around a dozen wives.
Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Obama’s Climate Agenda A ‘Wealth Redistribution Scheme’

by Michael Bastasch / Contributor

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe criticized President Barack Obama’s doubling down on fighting global warming Tuesday night, arguing that the president’s planned climate regulations were simply “a wealth redistribution scheme.”

“Why the pain for no gain?” Inhofe asked in a rebuttal to Obama’s State of the Union speech. ”As The Wall Street Journal put it when reporting on just one of the president’s many climate regulations, this is a wealth redistribution scheme being imposed by the president through the EPA.”

“This is the real climate agenda the president chose not to address tonight. It is no wonder because it would impose the largest tax increase in the history of America,” Inhofe added.

Obama’s second-to-final State of the Union speech Tuesday night focused mainly on his “middle class economics” plan to increase taxes on the wealthy and ramp up social programs. His speech only mentioned the word “climate” four times. But the president warned that doing nothing to fight global warming means “we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.”

Obama also touted his own policies put in place to fight global warming. Though the president did not specifically mention his most contentious policies: proposals to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants.

Russian spy ship in Havana on eve of US-Cuba talks

The Viktor Leonov CCB-175 is docked at the port of Havana, on January 20, 2015 (AFP Photo/Francisco Jara)

Havana (AFP) - A Russian intelligence warship docked in Havana on Tuesday, a day before the start of historic US-Cuba talks aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations.

There was nothing stealthy about the arrival of the Viktor Leonov CCB-175, which was moored to a pier in Old Havana where cruise ships often dock. But the visit was not officially announced by Cuban authorities.

US officials in Washington played down the presence of the Russian vessel, saying it was perfectly legal and not at all out of the ordinary.

"It's not unprecedented. It's not unusual. It's not alarming," a defense official told AFP.

The Vishnya or Meridian-class intelligence ship, which has a crew of around 200, went into service in the Black Sea in 1988 before it was transferred seven years later to the northern fleet, according to Russian media.

The vessel previously docked in Havana in February and March last year, staying there for a few days. Those visits were also unannounced.

The highest-level US delegation to visit Havana since 1980 arrives Wednesday for two days of talks aimed at normalizing diplomatic and immigration relations between the former Cold War foes.

The former Soviet Union was Cuba's main patron during the Cold War.

NHS may be forced to abandon free healthcare for all, says Britain's top doctor as he warns service needs radical change

  • Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of NHS England said the health service needs a 'complete transformation' to make it less reliant on hospitals
  • Said GP surgeries need more resources to cope with high demand 
  • If changes are not made it 'may be forced to abandon free care for all'
The NHS is ‘not fit for the future’ and unless it undergoes radical change it may be forced to abandon free healthcare for all, in the future, the service's top doctor has warned.

Medical director of NHS England Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said the NHS must become far less reliant on hospitals and needed a ‘complete transformation’ of the way it operates.

Sir Bruce told the Guardian: ‘If the NHS continues to function as it does now, it’s going to really struggle to cope because the model of delivery and service that we have at the moment is not fit for the future.’

GP surgeries need to be given more resources to cope with the pressures of demand and tight budgets, he added.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of NHS England, warned the health service needs a complete 'transformation' if it is to continue providing free healthcare for all in the future. He said it needs to move away from a reliance on hospitals and that GPs must be given extra resources to cope with demand

In order for the NHS to keep itself sustainable, he said more services need to happen under the same roof – for example diagnostics tests and an expanded range of treatments at their GP surgery.

Sir Bruce added: ‘If not, we will get to a place where the NHS becomes unaffordable and we will have to make some very difficult decisions which will get to the very heart of the principle of the NHS and its values.