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No, Iran Didn’t Attack the US Embassy in Baghdad

On December 31, Iraqis stormed the US Embassy in protest against US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, which killed 25 people and wounded more than 50.

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(TMU) — The United States and Iran are currently engaged in a tit-for-tat conflict in which attacks conducted every couple of days injure and kill each other’s nationals, a situation that is not so unusual for the two countries.

However, the U.S. significantly escalated tensions when, on January 2, Iran’s most powerful and well respected military leader, General Qassem Soleimani, was assassinated in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport.

On Thursday night, World War III began trending on various social media platforms but it became quickly apparent that many Americans, whether cheering on the murder of Soleimani or not, were largely ignorant to the recent developments leading up to this brazen act of war.

On December 31, Iraqis stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, torching its outer fence in protest against deadly air strikes conducted by the U.S. military which targeted facilities controlled by Kataib Hezbollah in both Iraq and Syria.

The December 29 strikes carried out by the U.S., which killed 25 people and wounded more than 50, were in response to the death of an American contractor as a result of a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base on December 27. The U.S. claimed that more than 30 rockets were fired in the Friday strike that also injured four U.S. service members and two members of the Iraqi Security Forces, but has offered no proof that Iran was responsible.

In December, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeatedly blamed Iranian-backed forces for attacks on bases in Iraq. Pompeo warned Iran that any attacks by the country or their proxies would be “answered with a decisive U.S. response” if American citizens or allies were harmed. And U.S. officials have been warning of possible attacks by Iran on U.S. forces since early December.

Meanwhile, Iran, along with both China and Russia, began their first-ever joint naval drills, which took place in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman, December 27 through December 31. China announced the drills on Thursday.

Of the drills, Jonathan Eyal, associate director at the Royal United Services Institute said:

This is a carefully calculated exercise in which all three participants are winners: Iran gets to claim it is a regional power, Russia demonstrates its role as the key actor in the Middle East, and China can show it is a global naval power. The strategic message is that these are the countries shaping events in the Middle East.”

Tensions between Iran and the United States have been increasing ever since U.S. President Donald Trump formally reneged on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—also known as the Iran nuclear deal—in May of 2018, in what was a scandal in itself after Iran was repeatedly certifiably compliant with the terms of the JCPOA.

Wendy Sherman, a former Obama-era undersecretary for political affairs, blames Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA for destroying the “uneasy balance” that has existed with Iran, eventually resulting in the December 31 storming of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Sherman explained:

“It is President Donald Trump’s failed policy toward Iran that has brought us to this combustible moment.”

While recently tensions have included drone strikes, exploding tankers, and other equally visible and damaging actions, a July 20 article in the Atlantic highlighted something even more significant that American citizens tend to ignore:

“This summer, tankers are exploding, disappearing, or getting seized near the Gulf; drones are getting destroyed in tit-for-tat attacks; and a war of words and tweets is erupting between Donald Trump and Iran’s supreme leader. That’s where all the drama is, but in fact most of America’s punitive actions against Iran are taking place in a world not physical but financial. Sanctions are the key tool the United States uses against what it sees as the Islamic Republic’s provocative behavior—especially for the past three presidential administrations running, and never more so than in this one.”

The use and threat of sanctions on Iran by the U.S government is nothing new and sanctions are often a precursor to war. And through its draconian sanctions regime, the U.S. has already been at war with Iran, killing and harming Iranians.

Following the assassination of Soleimani, Pompeo told reporters on Friday that “the world is a much safer place today.” However, at virtually the same time, the U.S. state department issued a security alert urging U.S. citizens to “depart Iraq immediately.” 

Major U.S. cities are also taking steps to increase security in case of retaliatory attacks by Iran or its allies.

It remains to be seen where things go from here, but it is extremely likely that Iranian officials are currently turning to Russia and China to determine its next move.

By Emma Fiala | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Cop Gave Children Weapons During Exorcism and Told Them To Shoot Demons And Intruders

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A police officer from Florida was recently arrested after he was caught performing a strange exorcism on a child holding a taser, while another child was given a gun and instructed to shoot anyone who entered the home. 37-year-old Christopher Dougherty reportedly told the two children that there were demons in the house. According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Dougherty was fired from the department on an unrelated matter on the same day of his arrest, but he had worked with the sheriff’s office since 2006.

Someone tripped an alarm at the house where the incident was occurring, which prompted police to arrive on the scene. Once they got there, they saw evidence of child abuse, and decided to enter the home. Upon entering they found a young girl wearing body armor and a Kevlar helmet, lying on the ground with a rifle in a shooting position. There was also a young boy in the house who had a taser. The boy is believed to be the subject of an exorcism. Dougherty was armed with a handgun when police arrived.

The children said that Dougherty was performing an exorcism on the young boy, and told the girl that there were demons in the house, and instructed her to shoot anyone that entered.

Dougherty was detained and taken to a hospital where he was held under the Baker Act, and then arrested after he was released from the hospital a few days later. On the same day as his arrest, he was fired from the sheriff’s office, but the agency insists that his termination was related to “an unsatisfactory performance finding in a separate matter,” and had nothing to do with the exorcism. 

In a statement to Fox News, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said that he was concerned about the officer’s mental health. 

“While this deputy was terminated for a pattern of unsatisfactory performance, these are very serious criminal allegations. As law enforcement officers, we are held to the highest standards of conduct whether on duty or off duty. But we are also concerned about the deputy’s mental health,” Mina said.

It is still not entirely clear what Dougherty’s relationship was with the two children that were in his care.

The 2014 horror film “Deliver Us From Evil” is based on the true-life story of New York City Police Sgt Ralph Sarchie, who was an exorcist in his spare time. Sarchie described himself as a “demonologist” and claimed to have taken part in at least 20 exorcisms, but says that he investigated over 50 paranormal cases. “I’m a demonologist, and I’m going head to head with the devil,” Sarchie once said in an interview.

In 2001, Sarchie co-wrote the book Beware the Night about his experiences as a part-time demon hunter in New York. His book would eventually inspire the horror movie that came later.

Of course, Sarchie’s “demon hunting” activities seem to be a bit more safe and legitimate than whatever was happening inside the home of Christopher Dougherty.

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4th-grader walks to school every day to do classwork because his family can’t afford internet

Elias Marat

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A fourth-grader in Roswell, New Mexico, has been spending his days outside of his closed elementary school to access the building’s WiFi and do his classwork due to his lack of internet access at home.

With the novel coronavirus continuing to interrupt lives everywhere, this kid is proving that the global pandemic isn’t strong enough to disrupt his studies. Like other school districts across the country, students at Roswell Independent School District have had to attend online classes due to the ongoing health emergency.

Jonathon Endecott, who turns 10 next month, has always been an independent kid who enjoys his studies, and especially science. He always used to walk to school and back home when school was in session, and this is one habit that hasn’t been broken even as teachers and students stay at home.

However, like too many homes across the United States, Jonathon’s home lacks internet service. Tragically, Jonathon’s mom, Angel Endecott, lost her two jobs once the pandemic struck. And while she’s been able to return to one of her jobs, she still can’t afford internet service.

So Jonathon has been going back to his closed elementary school for the building’s WiFi connection to continue doing his classwork. And he’s been happy to do it.

“He was like, ‘Yeah, I need to be back on the school property, and I could be like a normal kid again,'” Angel explained. “Him just being outside of the building gives him that, ‘Hey, I’m at school’ feeling even though he’s not around other classmates or teachers.”

With Jonathon’s home lying just across the school’s field, his parents are happy to let him study on campus grounds during the day. “The principal, the secretary and a few teachers, they do come outside to check up on him and see if he needs anything,” Angel said.

Jonathon has also found support from local teachers in the school district, who were deeply touched by the heartbreaking site of Jonathon working outside the school so that he could access an internet connection.

One teacher shared a photo of Jonathon on Facebook after getting permission from his mother. The image was shared widely online, and eventually reached a kind person who offered to pay for Jonathon’s internet service for the next year out of their own pocket.

The teacher who posted the photo to her Facebook has since created a GoFundMe account to help raise funds for other children who lack access to the internet, which is crucial to accessing their classes.

Jonathon remains optimistic despite the challenge of not having home internet access, and is happy that he can still remain connected with his friends and classmates online. He also likes the familiarity of being at his school building, which makes the virtual experience more like being back at school.

He’s also been approaching every day with vigor and excitement, relishing the ability to get a bit of alone time at school, his mom said. Jonathon also plans to continue going back to his school even when the family gets its internet back up and running again. However, the school district will require that he has a parent with him in the future.

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Study: 1,000 Potential Alien Star Systems Could Be Watching Us From Afar

Justin MacLachlan

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Motivated by the “Pale Blue Dot” NASA photo researchers are asking the question, could other planets be looking at us just like we’re looking at them? A study of Earth’s “solar neighborhood” has found that over 1,000 different systems have the perfect angle to view Earth.

The infamous “Pale Blue Dot” photograph was suggested by astronomer Carl Sagan who implored that the Voyager 1 space probe take a picture of Earth from nearly four billion miles away. The new study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, seeks to find out how many different exo-planet systems with alien life could be watching us. Ironically, the research comes from the Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute.

The studies co-author Lisa Kaltenegger stated their list focuses on main-sequence stars similar to our own sun. These solar systems may contain exoplanets, Earth-like worlds sitting in the habitable zone for life. All of the prospective systems are within 300 million light-years of Earth, close enough to see our world’s chemical traces according to the researchers.

“Let’s reverse the viewpoint to that of other stars and ask from which vantage point other observers could find Earth as a transiting planet,” Kaltenegger, the director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute said in a press release.

“If observers were out there searching, they would be able to see signs of a biosphere in the atmosphere of our Pale Blue Dot… and we can even see some of the brightest of these stars in our night sky without binoculars or telescopes.”

What makes this listing of 1,004 star systems novel and significant is they all sit in Earth’s elliptic orbit or the plane of the planets orbit around our Sun. Exoplanets traveling along this same path would be able to see the Earth according to the researchers.

To foreign observers, Earth would be a transiting planet that passes in front of its sun as the observer looks at distant stars. Theoretically, these exoplanets would be able to see Earth crossing the Sun, which sounds like a marvelous sight.

“Only a very small fraction of planets will just happen to be randomly aligned with our line of sight so we can see them transit,” co-author Joshua Pepper of Lehigh University says. “But all of the thousand stars we identified in our paper in the solar neighborhood could see our Earth transit the sun, calling their attention.”

“If we’re looking for intelligent life in the universe, that could find us and might want to get in touch,” Kaltenegger adds. “We’ve just created the star map of where we should look first.”

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