Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

World appalled by beheading, Obama says, as U.S. continues airstrikes

EDGARTOWN, Mass. — President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that the entire world was "appalled" by the videotaped beheading of an American journalist by Islamic militants, speaking as American warplanes conducted 14 airstrikes in Iraq and the State Department asked the Pentagon to send as many as 300 more American troops to Iraq for security.

"The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people," the president said from Martha's Vineyard, where he was vacationing. "We will be vigilant, and we will be relentless."

Obama's remarks came hours before administration officials said that the president had authorized a secret mission in July to rescue James Foley, and other American hostages in a remote area of Syria. But when commandos arrived, the hostages were not there, U.S. officials said.

Obama's harsh remarks, the failed rescue mission and Wednesday's military action reflected new pressure on the administration not to step back from the assault on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, as well as a recognition of the grim reality that other American hostages held by the group face a similar threat.

The events also marked a shift in the complexion of the American confrontation with the terrorist group — until now an abstraction to most Americans — after its release of a gruesome video depicting the beheading of Foley, which ISIS militants said was in retaliation for the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. ISIS threatened to kill another American journalist held hostage, Steven Sotloff, who is from Miami, if the airstrikes continue.

Within an hour after Obama's remarks, in which he pronounced ISIS a "cancer" that had to be expelled from the Middle East, the U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, announced it had carried out 14 more airstrikes around the Mosul Dam and destroyed more ISIS military vehicles and equipment. There have so far been 84 U.S. airstrikes since Obama first announced the offensive against the militants on Aug. 7.

Secretary of State John Kerry stepped up the administration's tough tone. "Make no mistake: We will continue to confront ISIL wherever it tries to spread its despicable hatred," he said in a statement, using an alternative acronym for the extremist organization.

"The world must know that the United States of America will never back down in the face of such evil. ISIL and the wickedness it represents must be destroyed, and those responsible for this heinous, vicious atrocity will be held accountable."

The graphic video of Foley's beheading — released Tuesday night and verified by intelligence officials Wednesday as authentic — sparked renewed debate about U.S. objectives in Iraq, where this week the Pentagon's warplanes unleashed a barrage of bombs in an expansion of the limited goals of protecting Americans and providing humanitarian aid initially set forth by Obama.

Despite the attacks, ISIS continued its sweep across Iraq and laid siege to Amerli, a small town in the nation's center, where residents and an Iraqi army unit stuck inside are running low on food, medicine and water. Aid dropped by Iraqi army helicopters has failed to meet the town's needs.

"The situation here is going from bad to worse because we are running out of all things needed for life," said Adel al-Bayati, a local official reached by phone in the town Wednesday.

The plight of Amerli — home to members of Iraq's Turkmen minority, who are Shiite Muslims considered infidels by ISIS — has raised alarm in Iraq and abroad because it bears similarities to other areas where the Sunni militant group has committed mass killings as they have seized territory across northern and western Iraq.

On Martha's Vineyard, Obama said he spoke by phone to Foley's parents, telling them that Americans "are all heartbroken at their loss." He described Foley as a journalist, a son, a brother and a friend who was "taken from us in an act of violence that shocked the conscience of the entire world."

He made no mention of Sotloff, whose life, according to the masked executioner that stands by his side, hinges on Obama's "next move."

At the State Department, a spokeswoman said other American hostages held by the militants will not change American plans for additional airstrikes. "We don't make concessions to terrorists," said Marie Harf, the spokeswoman.

Obama's fear that ISIS militants would massacre Yazidis, another religious minority, as they fled across the rugged Sinjar mountains, was one of his stated reasons for authorizing American airstrikes Aug. 7.

In his remarks Wednesday, Obama said ISIS had committed torture and rape against innocent women and children and continued to enslave those they did not kill.

"Let's be clear about" ISIS, Obama said. "They have rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery."

"No faith teaches people to massacre innocents," Obama said. "No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future is won by people who build and not destroy."

Comments
Live blog: 2018 Gasparilla Distance Classic

Live blog: 2018 Gasparilla Distance Classic

The Tampa Bay Times will be there for every step of this year's Gasparilla Distance Classic. Whether you'll be walking, skipping, jogging or sprinting across the 5K, 8K, 15K or half-marathon finish, join us by using #gasparillarun.(function(d, s, id)...
Published: 02/24/18

High school scoreboard for Feb. 23

Friday’s scoreboardSoftballSpringstead 2, Crystal River 0BaseballCalvary Christian 9, Countryside 2Northeast 15, Tarpon Springs 1
Updated: 8 hours ago
Florida Capitol Republicans promise ‘complete investigation’ of what went wrong

Florida Capitol Republicans promise ‘complete investigation’ of what went wrong

TALLAHASSEE — A bombshell that South Florida police ignored tips that a teenager was planning an assault on a school and then failed to stop him when he attacked seems destined to complicate the election-year discussion around mass shootings.Even in ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance

Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance

WASHINGTON — A top Justice Department official alerted the White House two weeks ago that significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security clearance process of senior adviser Jared Kushner, three people fami...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

RUSKIN — Arthur D. Showley, 75, went fishing early Friday morning, something he did two or three times a week, friends said. When they saw his car and trailer still parked near a community boat ramp at 2 p.m., they thought that was strange."He never ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Here are the GOP’s responses to the Parkland massacre. Would any have worked?

Here are the GOP’s responses to the Parkland massacre. Would any have worked?

Gov. Rick Scott and Republican leadership in the Florida Legislature have rolled out their ideas for change in response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But would these measures have made a difference in the worst mass...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

TAMPA — A bipartisan pair of former congressmen spoke Friday about gun safety measures that are more drastic than those being considered following the Parkland school shootings, and about hopes for a national youth movement comparable to the 1960s an...
Published: 02/23/18
Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

This is the sad new math in the age of school slaughter.If one student comes to school with a firearm and 10 ammunition magazines filled with 30 bullets each, and another comes with a firearm and 30 magazines filled with 10 bullets each, who can crea...
Published: 02/23/18
Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

TAMPA — Friends and family have a saying about Lee Thornton Davis Jr. Once you met him, even for just a moment, you knew him forever."He was the most outgoing person I’d ever met," Dick Greco said, which is something coming from Tampa’s gregarious, 8...
Published: 02/23/18
Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

The head of the Pinellas and Hillsborough career centers under multiple investigations into the way they report job placement figures says he has no intention of stepping down.That’s unless he is paid five months severance.In a letter from his attorn...
Published: 02/23/18