Malaysian jetliner carrying 295 reportedly “shot down” in Ukraine, near Russian border

Breaking news

Still too early to know exactly what has happened but here’s an initial report from Fox News:

A Malaysian Airlines passenger plane with 295 aboard was shot down by a surface-to-air missile in Ukraine near the Russian border, according to multiple reports.

The airline, the same one whose plane disappeared over the Indian Ocean in March, confirmed only that “an incident” had occurred involving the Boeing 777, which was en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.

“Malaysia Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam,” read a tweet from the airline. “The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow,” read a tweet from Malaysia Airlines’ account.

Multiple reports said the plane was shot down at cruising altitude. Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister told The Associated press that the plane, carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew people onboard, was shot down.

Gerashenko says on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet when it was hit Thursday by a missile fired from a Buk launcher. A similar launcher was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday.

The adviser also told Russian news agency Interfax that all onboard have been killed.

Prayers to the families of those hurt or killed, of course.

To keep up to date on the latest developments, all the major nets are all over this story. And, of course, there is the Twitter machine

#SCOTUS: Constitutional scholar President overstepped on recess appointments

King Obama

Image via Salon.com

A HUGE victory for limiting executive powers – via Fox News:

The Supreme Court delivered a blow Thursday to President Obama, ruling that he went too far in making recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

In a unanimous decision, the high court sided with Senate Republicans and limited the president’s power to fill high-level vacancies with temporary appointments. It was the first-ever Supreme Court test involving the long-standing practice of presidents naming appointees when the Senate is on break.

In this case, Obama had argued that the Senate was on an extended holiday break when he filled slots at the NLRB in 2012. He argued the brief sessions it held every three days were a sham that was intended to prevent him from filling the seats.

The justices rejected that argument, though, declaring the Senate was not actually in a formal recess when Obama acted during that three-day window.

Justice Stephen Breyer said in his majority opinion that a congressional break has to last at least 10 days to be considered a recess under the Constitution.

“Three days is too short a time to bring a recess within the scope of the Clause. Thus we conclude that the President lacked the power to make the recess appointments here at issue,” Breyer wrote.

At the same time, the court upheld the general authority of the president to make recess appointments.

This one, like the Citizens United ruling, is gonna sting “the smartest administration evah!!” quite a bit. Good.

In other good news related to SCOTUS: Justices strike down protest buffer zones around Massachusetts abortion clinics.  Planned Parenthood, of course, is not pleased.  What a shame.

Senior admin officials: @Sebelius will soon no longer be job-locked by HHS

CBS News’ Major Garrett reports tonight that the embattled Health and Human Services Secretary will announce her resignation Friday:


Not seeing any write-ups on any of the news sites as to specifics other than this AP blip, but let me be the first to say “don’t let the door hit ya on the way out, Madame Secretary.” Another Obama administration corruptocrat exits stage left. Let’s hope Holder is next (although I’m not holding my breath).

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Update – 7:05 PM: Best response so far to the news, via Ben Shapiro:


Heh.

Americans held in Libya, head-meets-desk quote. Update: released?

**Posted by Phineas

There’s breaking news tonight that four Americans, likely military, are in the custody of the Libyan government, having been taken during a visit to the Roman ruins at Sabratha. As of this writing, no information has been released as to any charges, and the State Department has issued no statement. (Probably wise, until we learn more.)

Reading the NYT article, I did a double-take when I read the following:

Since the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens on Sept. 11, 2012, employees of the American Embassy have operated with extraordinary caution. Rigorous security rules preclude any movements outside the heavily fortified embassy compound without advance planning and an armed guard. The compound is locked at night, and no one is permitted to enter or exit. Counterterrorism has become a central focus of the work there, and the compound brims with well-armed security officers.

Just brilliant. It takes the needless deaths of four US personnel, including an ambassador, at the hands of our sworn enemies for us to finally start providing anything resembling adequate security. Hillary Clinton’s legacy is secure, and I’m sure the souls of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods are ever so relieved.

Meanwhile, I would suggest to the Libyan government that it remember who put them in power in the first place and that, if any of these men are hurt in any way, we have long memories, and Barack Obama won’t always be president.

UPDATE: Per CNN via KCCI, the four have been released. No confirmation yet, nor any word on their condition or why they were held in the first place.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Breaking: Sebelius now says you *can* buy catastrophic insurance

**Posted by Phineas

Obama foreign policy advisers

Obamacare planning experts

Remember, one of the excuses offered for the massive private insurance cancellations under Obamacare was that the existing policies –the ones you chose of your own free will– just weren’t good enough. So the government had to cancel them in order to encourage force you to buy better ones.

Which is why they are now going to let us buy insurance worse than the policies that they killed. Genius:

The Obama administration said Thursday it would allow millions of Americans whose insurance policies had been canceled to purchase bare-bones plans next year, in another eleventh-hour tweak to the law likely to cause consternation among insurance carriers.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a group of six senators in a letter viewed by The Wall Street Journal that people whose policies had been canceled because of new requirements under the health law would be allowed to purchase ‘catastrophic’ plans. Those plans had previously been restricted to people under the age of 30 or individuals who qualified for a set of specific hardship exemptions.

Call me a reactionary, right-wing, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing bitter-clinger, but wouldn’t it have been simpler and better to let people keep the blasted plans they already had and liked? I must be missing something that’s obvious to Our Betters in Washington.

I’d call this a clown-car operation, but then I’d have to find a clown to apologize to.

via Allahpundit

UPDATE: Good point from National Journal’s Clara Ritger: this is an exemption to the individual mandate, the core of Obamacare.

The Obama administration will not require the millions of Americans who received health-insurance plan cancellation notices to purchase a new policy next year.

They’re granting those consumers an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a Department of Heath and Human Services spokeswoman confirmed. The mandate requires everyone to have health insurance or face a tax penalty, the greater of $95 or 1 percent of income in 2014.

(…)

This change could have a more long-term impact. Catastrophic-coverage plans were priced with a 30-and-under consumer base in mind. And with thousands who were barred from the market due to preexisting conditions expected to purchase the new coverage, allowing people who already had coverage to go without it could upset the balance of the risk pool. The Affordable Care Act exchanges need enough healthy people to balance out the costs of care for the sick or premiums could rise in 2015, creating a “death spiral” and jeopardizing the law’s success altogether.

So… What, pray tell, happens to the mandate, now? Isn’t this one huge crack in the dam?

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

I suspect Secretary Sebelius will resign after the midterm elections. UPDATE: Accusations of “criminal obstruction”

**Posted by Phineas

"In hot water"

“In hot water”

Mostly because, if the Republicans take the Senate and she keeps giving contempt-laden answers like these, she’s sure to face impeachment:

[Rep. John] Shimkus (R-IL)moved on to try and get Sebelius to acknowledge that items the Obama administration is claiming are free now because of Obamacare are not actually free: “I had my phone on and when my phone rang on left on because I wanted to talk to a Democrat state senator from my state of Illinois, who was on the insurance commission and he said mandated preventive services are laid directly on premium prices. So you cannot say as you have numerous times that these preventative care services our, quote, free of charge, can you?”

Again, Sebelius stuck to the party line: “They are free to the consumer.”

This sparked a response from Shimkus, “There is no free lunch, Madam Secretary! If the premiums increase because of the mandated coverage based upon state senator from the state of Illinois, a Democrat, who is in oversight of the insurance of the state of Illinois and he said when you mandate coverage it is ruled directly on premiums, premiums increase, that is paying, you cannot say these are free of charge!”

“Consumers will not have a co-pay or deductible,” Sebelius fired back, and refused to acknowledge that anyone’s premiums have risen due to Obamacare mandates, despite the widely reported fact that millions of Americans have seen their health insurance premiums and deductibles rise sharply since Obamacare’s implementation.

I’d recommend that Madame Secretary read Bastiat’s “That Which is Seen” essay, as well as anything by Thomas Sowell, for a reminder that nothing comes without cost. But that would assume she’e even interested in learning such things, which she isn’t.

In fact, the former-governor’s answers at this committee hearing were indicative of utter contempt for those charged with spending the public’s money and, by implication with overseeing how that money is spent. She simply would not give Mr. Shimkus a straight answer, until he gave up and said it was like dealing with North Korea.

This isn’t the first time the HHS secretary has given non-answers to legitimate questions posed by a co-equal branch of the government. Indeed, it’s a pattern with this whole administration; one just has to recall any number of Eric Holder’s appearances before House committees, or Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s patent lies to Congress. Granted, this happens to one degree or another in all administrations, especially when the opposition is on an obvious fishing expedition, but that isn’t the case, here. Republicans are posing valid questions in pursuit of their constitutional duties of oversight, and members of the administration are duty-bound to answer.

But, more and more, Obama administration officials are doing the equivalent to answering with “lovely weather, isn’t it?” and acting as if they have no responsibilities to the public at all.

There is an answer for this. I refer the reader to Article 1, sections 2 and 3 of the United States Constitution:

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

…and…

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

I would argue that Kathleen Sebelius’s utter disregard for the constitutional proprieties, such as giving a straight answer to a straight question from a member of the legislature, merits impeachment, as much to send a warning to other government officials as to punish her. Now, it would never get through a trial in the Senate as currently constituted. That’s fine; we have more pressing matters to deal with, such as taking control of said Senate in next year’s elections. We must control the tool before we can wield it.

But, after that, some salutary execu… er… impeachments may well be in order; I’ve come to the conclusion we don’t do it often enough. (1)

Which is why I think we’ll see a few key resignations starting in late November, 2014.

BREAKING UPDATE:

Just as I was finishing this post, the following news broke:

In a letter addressed to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) accuses the Department of criminally threatening the vendor that developed troubled Healthcare.gov website. Issa chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has been investigating the extremely rocky rollout of Healthcare.gov on October 1.

Issa cites a December 6, 2013 letter that HHS sent to Creative Computing Solutions, Inc. In that latter, “the Department claimed that the company is contractually precluded from producing documents to Congress. The letter further stated that the Department will respond to requests from Congress on the company’s behalf.” Issa’s letter states that other Healthcare.gov vendors received similar letters.

But Issa notes that the actual HHS contract precludes vendors from sharing documents with other companies, not Congress, which is charged by the Constitution with overseeing the actions of the executive branch.

“The Department’s attempt to threaten CCSI for the purpose of deterring the company from providing documents to Congress places the officials responsible for drafting and sending the letter on the wrong side of federal statutes that prohibit obstruction of a congressional investigation,” Issa states in the letter to HHS. He cites Section 1505 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code,…

Be sure to read the rest. Sebelius may be leaving sooner than I thought.

Footnote:
(1) While I agree completely with Andrew McCarthy that President Obama himself merits impeachment and removal from office, I don’t think we’d ever have enough votes in the Senate (2) to convict him. However, “bumping off ” one or two cabinet-level appointees might convince him to spend more time on the golf course and less abusing his power for the time he has left.
(2) Of course, it’s always possible Obama will leave Congress no choice, whether they’re sure of the votes or not.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Mexican Marines capture Los Zetas chief

**Posted by Phineas

Wow. This is huge news:

One of Mexico’s most wanted drug lords has been captured: Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, also known as “Z-40.”

Trevino Morales, leader of the brutal Los Zetas cartel, was caught Sunday by Mexico Marines in his hometown of Nuevo Laredo, just over the U.S. border, CBS News has learned.

The U.S. State Department had offered a $5 million reward for Trevino Morales.

The Zetas cartel is among Mexico’s most violent drug organizations, notorious for civilian killings and beheadings. Is leaders ordered the killing of 72 undocumented immigrants in 2010 in what is known as the San Fernando massacre. More recently in May, the Mexican army said their leaders ordered underlings to leave 49 mutilated bodies in a northern Mexico town square.

The Mexican drug cartels are a nasty bunch, but the Zetas are the worst of the worst. Founded by former Mexican Special Forces members who first worked as soldiers for the cartels before striking out on their own, they’ve been called the Mexico’s most dangerous drug cartel. Beheadings, bombings, massacres, terrorism… You name it, they’ve been in on it. “Well done” to the Mexican military; this is quite a take-down, and I hope this leads to information that allows the Mexican and US governments to roll up Los Zetas on both sides of the border.

Maybe we’ll even finally see justice for David Hartley, who was murdered at Falcon Lake, and some peace for his widow.

UPDATE: Fixed the headline to give proper credit to the Mexican Marines. Sorry, guys.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Nothing to see here, move along: #IRS official to plead the 5th over targeting scandal

**Posted by Phineas

But, really, this is all just some wingnut fantasy aiming to destroy the fourth-greatest president ever.

Which is why Lois Lerner is invoking her right not to incriminate herself:

A top IRS official in the division that reviews nonprofit groups will invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions before a House committee investigating the agency’s improper screening of conservative nonprofit groups.

Lois Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS, won’t answer questions about what she knew about the improper screening – or why she didn’t reveal it to Congress, according to a letter from her defense lawyer, William W. Taylor 3rd.

“She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,” said a letter by Taylor to committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, R-Calif. The letter, sent Monday, was obtained Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times.

Taylor, a criminal defense attorney from the Washington firm of Zuckerman Spaeder, said that the Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation, and that the House committee has asked Lerner to explain why she provided “false or misleading information” to the committee four times last year.

You see? Just a bunch of nothing. In fact, all these questions about all these cooked-up “scandals” are nothing more than the new birtherism.

Between this and Roger Simon teasing us with the prospect of new Benghazi whistleblowers, I may have to double my reserves of popcorn for all the hearings.

via a gazillion people on Twitter

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Devastation in Oklahoma as “mile-wide” “200 mph” tornado hits near #OKC

It also reportedly leveled an elementary school. There are mixed reports that all kids in the school are accounted for but nothing confirmed. Please keep the state in your prayers as rescue, recovery, and rebuilding efforts get underway. Via Fox News:

A mile-wide tornado churned through Oklahoma City’s suburbs Monday afternoon, causing significant property damage for the second day in a row, as part of a severe weather outbreak that was expected to spread in other parts of the Plains and Midwest.

Television footage on Monday afternoon showed homes and buildings that had been reduced to rubble in Moore, Okla., south of Oklahoma City. Footage also showed vehicles littering roadways south and southwest of Oklahoma City.

Gary Knight with the Oklahoma City Police Department also said and elementary school in Moore suffered “extensive damage.” There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The National Weather Service said the tornado was on the ground for nearly 40 minutes, with the first tornado warning coming 16 minutes before it touched down.

Search and rescue crews are now staging at the Warren Theaer in Moore to look for anyone who may be trapped in the rubble, Fox 25 reports. Aerial flyovers showed crowds of residents picking through debris.

[…]

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman had predicted a major outbreak of severe weather Monday in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The National Weather Service has also issued tornado watches and warnings for counties in Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

On Sunday, at least two people were killed and 29 were injured in Oklahoma as a severe storm system generated several tornadoes in Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa, leveling neighborhoods and

Unconfirmed reports say today’s twister took at 12 mile path.    Of course, this story is still developing so for the latest, make sure to stay tuned to one of the 24 hour networks,  the Weather Channel, your local news if you live at or near the affected areas, and to social media platforms which update constantly.   There are tornado watches in other parts of OK and TX right now, so it’s REALLY important to stay informed about this for those potentially in the path of the storm.  BE SAFE.

It looks really, really bad there.  Praying hard for all impacted.

OKC devastation

Fire breaks out amid the destruction after a tornado touched down near Oklahoma City on Monday. – Photo via NBC.

 

Breaking: Canadians foil Iranian/al Qaeda New York-Toronto train attack

**Posted by Phineas

They love hitting mass transportation. Breaking in The Washington Examiner:

Canadian security officials announced today that they thwarted a terrorist attack on a passenger train reportedly traveling from New York City to Toronto, planned by two men allegedly tied to al Qaeda.

“I commend our Canadian counterterrorism partners, particularly the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for their efforts in stopping a major terrorist plot which was intended to cause significant loss of human life including New Yorkers,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said in a statement today.

The attack had Iranian backing. “They are elements of al Qaeda in Iran,” a Canadian police official told reporters during the press conference while identifying the al Qaeda affiliate that was involved in the attack. “What the investigation has demonstrated is that the support being received was in the form of direction and guidance.”

Emphasis added. Say it after me, folks:

This is war, and they’re still trying to kill us.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)