Independence Day! One of my favorite holidays. Last year we drove out to the lake on the golf cart, where thousands of people gather every year with, blanket, food and kids in hand. Last year though, Maiya was getting ready to turn 3. So I dug in the range bag and took along a few pairs of ear muffs. Well, everyone of course thought it was hilarious, until Maiya was really enjoying the action, and their kids, well… Not so much. I went to research the noise level a few days ago to write something about it. When I did, I ran across one of my favorite writers, Tactical Dad. He pretty much summed it up. So I thought I share his story with you, as well.

Originally posted by Guns And Tactics


Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. I love the sense of patriotism and community it brings as friends, family and neighbors come together to observe the day. Like any red-blooded American, I also love to celebrate by blowing things up once the sun sets.

A few years ago, as we were beginning our annual fireworks display, my young son started fussing and made it clear that he was not interested in sticking around for the show. I realized that it was the noise from the explosions that was making him uncomfortable. I went inside to grab my range bag and pulled out a set of range muffs to put over his ears. Almost immediately he stopped being upset and everyone was able to enjoy the fireworks.

The next day I did some research and learned that the explosions from the fireworks are just as loud or even louder than the rounds we fire at the range, often exceeding 150 decibels (db) and even reaching up as far as around 200 db. The limit for sound exposure where immediate nerve damage can occur is only 140 db for adults and 120 db for children, so there is a pretty good case for everyone to consider wearing ear protection during your 4th of July fireworks display… including you! There are several youth-sized ear muffs available. My kids like the pink and blue Peltor Junior muffs made by 3M.

This year, thinking about it from the perspective of range safety, I considered the need for eye protection as well. Simply put, a firearm is far less likely to send something flying into your eye than fireworks – which explode in all directions and have questionable quality-control at best. Thus, since we wear eye protection at the range, it only makes sense to do the same while setting off fireworks as well. As I wrote in another Tactical Parent article, Tiny Ears & Eyes, I have found the SoundVision eye protection to work particularly well for children in terms of both coverage and comfort.

So this year dig out your extra range gear and make sure everyone has appropriate eye and ear protection. Even if your kids aren’t yet old enough to join you at the gun range they will still benefit from having their own gear and, I have to admit, it’s cute to see them wearing it. Adding these key pieces of safety equipment not only allows you to model good habits for your kids but it also dramatically reduces the likelihood of an injury. It will also, hopefully, ensure that even the littlest ones enjoy the show along with everyone else.

Doug Marcoux

Doug has a diverse background, both professionally and privately, in firearms, self-defense, and tactics… but most importantly, he’s a parent. He writes from the unique perspective of someone whose life involves combining concealment clothing, tactics training, and “everyday carry gear,” with car seats, exploding diapers, and questions like “why did you paint the dog with yogurt?” In our Tactical Parent series, Doug shares his perspective on gear, tricks and tips, defensive tactics, and best practices for parents who take an active role in protecting their family.



Facebook Alters 689,000 Users News Feeds’ For Psychology Experiment

Previously written by Russell Brandom for The Verge

According to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Facebook altered the News Feeds for hundreds of thousands of users as part of a psychology experiment devised by the company’s on-staff data scientist. By scientifically altering News Feeds, the experiment sought to learn about the way positive and negative effect travels through social networks, ultimately concluding that “in-person interaction and nonverbal cues are not strictly necessary for emotional contagion.”


To test the hypothesis, the researchers identified 689,003 different English-language Facebook users, and began removing emotionally negative posts for one group and positive posts for another. According to the paper, “when a person loaded their News Feed, posts that contained emotional content of the relevant emotional valence, each emotional post had between a 10 percent and 90 percent chance (based on their User ID) of being omitted from their News Feed for that specific viewing.” The posts were still available by visiting a friend’s timeline directly or reloading the News Feed. The researchers also state that they did not alter any direct messages sent between users.

As the researchers point out, this kind of data manipulation is written into Facebook’s Terms of Use. When users sign up for Facebook, they agree that their information may be used “for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.” While there’s nothing in the policy about altering products like the News Feed, it’s unlikely Facebook stepped outside the bounds of the Terms of Use in conducting the experiment. Still, for users confused by the whims of the News Feed, the experiment stands as a reminder: there may be more than just metrics determining which posts make it onto your feed.

New Markets To Tap

As a licensed real estate agent in Peachtree City, GA. and soon to be Miami, FL. I’m always trying to stay on top of the latest trends. I ran across a great article written by Richard Westlund, a freelance writer in Miami for
Florida Realtor Magazine. I think he really nailed this one. Needless to say, I think we have been seeing this trend coming. I know I’m really excited to soon be hitting the Miami market wide open, specializing in the affluent and international clientele.

New Markets to Tap

We scoured the latest studies to find the demographics that will mean the most to your business. While retooling your marketing program, consider these groups of prospective buyers and sellers.

For decades, Florida buyers could typically be sorted into well-defined categories: families, retirees from “up North” and affluent second-home buyers from around the world, to name a few. While those buying patterns are still in place, the Florida market has changed significantly in recent years, creating new opportunities for real estate professionals seeking to enhance an overall marketing program.

Here is a closer look at three fast-evolving demographic groups that are already reshaping Florida’s buyer landscape.

Michael Pappas, president of The Keyes Co./Realtors® in Miami, remembers when it was difficult for an unmarried woman to get a mortgage loan. “Nowadays, things are much better, and there’s no question that single women—and men—are an increasingly important part of Florida’s market,” he says.

According to the 2006 National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 22 percent of homes sold in the United States during 2006 were to single females and 9 percent were to single males. In the same study, NAR reported that the average female first-time homebuyer was 34 with an annual household income of $43,300.

“Clearly, single women help drive real estate sales in this country,” says Charlie Young, senior vice president for marketing of Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corp. in Parsippany, N.J. “This group has demonstrated its clout in the real estate market and has the economic capability to gain the American dream of homeownership.”

In a recent study, “Buying For Themselves: An Analysis of Unmarried Female Home Buyers,” the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University found that about 45 percent of single women who bought homes (in all age groups from divorcees to single moms to seniors) live alone and 30 percent are single parents without another adult in the home. In contrast, 55 percent of single male buyers live alone and 20 percent with an unrelated adult. In the study, only 15 percent of men who own homes are single parents.

Why are there so many single buyers—especially women? Lewis Goodkin, president of Goodkin Consulting in Miami, says that nationwide, higher salaries, delayed marriages, relationship breakups and longer lifespans are all contributing to the growth in single female buyers.

“A lot of singles
—both women and men—are making good money and find that real estate is very appealing to them because of the tax savings,” he says. “Single buyers are an important factor in Florida’s second-home and investment markets, as well as in primary housing.”

And it’s important to note that single men are also buying homes in Florida, says Pam Picard, career counselor for Watson Realty in Orlando. “We’re seeing a growing trend where the single head of household is a male,” she says. “Finally, these single guys are realizing the advantages of homeownership. Rather than waiting until marriage to buy that first home, they’re buying now.”

As for selecting a home to meet their lifestyle, the singles market is highly diverse. A newly divorced mother with two young children might want an inexpensive single-family house, while a 25-year-old single man might be content with a one-bedroom condo.

In general, singles of both sexes usually prefer a smaller home that requires less maintenance, says Pappas. That could be a condominium in an urban setting, a suburban town home or a luxurious second home on the beach. “There’s no question that convenience and security are big factors,” he adds, “making a low-maintenance lifestyle in a condominium residence very appealing to many buyers.”

For decades, many retirement-age buyers came to Florida seeking a quiet lifestyle: walking on the beach, a round of golf and shopping at the mall. Today, buyers are looking for a more active lifestyle—especially the baby boomers in their late 50s and early 60s.

“We’re seeing a larger percentage of baby boomer second-home buyers versus the standard retiree,” says Phil Wood, president and CEO of John R. Wood, Realtors in Naples. “These new buyers often have a fair amount of wealth from their own careers or significant inheritances. They’re buying upscale homes for eventual retirement, but they’ve definitely not retired yet.”

Instead, many retirees age 55 and up are launching new careers as consultants, volunteering in the community, traveling frequently and cultivating new recreational activities, from rock climbing to sky diving. Ideally, their Florida home would have the latest technology, space for a personal fitness center and lots of choices in daily activities.

“Buyers want fitness centers and seminars that provide intellectual stimulation,” says Arlene Stiepleman, a sales associate with The Keys Co./Realtors in Coral Springs. “And it’s a plus if shopping centers are close to home, so there’s less need for a car,” she says.

While some older buyers will choose communities where most residents are 55 or over, others want to live in neighborhoods filled with families and young children. “Many buyers with a dog or cat will rule out communities that have restrictions on pets,” she says.

And as with all age segments, price and value are key components of the buying decision. “Florida will continue to be the No. 1 state in the second-home/preretirement market,” says Goodkin. “But with higher land prices [and property insurance costs], especially in the coastal areas, the real depth of this market will be in Central and Northern Florida.”

Goodkin points out that baby boom buyers fall into three distinct categories, based on their income and savings patterns. About 20 percent are affluent buyers who can afford luxury homes in prime locations. Another 20 percent are financially comfortable, but aren’t looking to upgrade their current lifestyle. “Some buyers in this category will actually be ‘down-buying,’ purchasing a smaller home than they can afford, with the expectation that they will be living longer and need to stretch their savings.”

The largest group of boomers, though, will face financial challenges in their retirement years, Goodkin says. In general, they have limited savings and their current home is usually their largest asset. “Cost factors are the most important consideration to this segment,” he says. “Some will be moving from high-cost to lower-cost areas in Florida; others will be downsizing from their current home. For the most part, these boomers will be looking to get the most bang for the buck.”

Young Adults
Tired of living with parents or sharing an apartment with roommates, more Floridians in their late 20s and early 30s are buying their first homes. These “Generation Y,” or “Millennial,” adults make up a fast-growing segment of the Florida market.

“We’re seeing a new wave of young adult buyers,” says Pappas. “In many ways, they’re better equipped than any other generation. They use technology to research homes and neighborhoods and understand the value of ownership.”

Across the country, recent college graduates and young professionals are buying houses and condominiums. Data from the 2006 U.S. Census Bureau indicate that 42 percent of people ages 25–29 are already homeowners. And buyers in their 20s and 30s account for more than 50 percent of new-home purchases, according to the American Housing Survey conducted by the U.S. Commerce Department.

However, Goodkin cautions that many of those buyers were able to take advantage of flexible mortgage loans as well as parental financial support when making their purchases—two factors that have changed in the past year.

“Many graduates were able to take advantage of what I call ‘GI’ financing from ‘generous in-laws,’” says Goodkin. “Many parents took out loans on their own homes to help their kids get into a condo. That source of funding will be more limited because of today’s more restrictive credit climate.”

As for lifestyle, the Gen Y buyers often want to be in an urban setting that offers camaraderie and opportunities for socializing with other young adults. “They don’t mind the hubbub of a downtown, beachfront or college community,” Goodkin says.

Pam Picard, a career counselor for Watson Realty in Orlando, says Gen Y buyers are usually interested in smaller homes or condos, compared with their baby boomer parents. “They tend not to be homebodies,” she says. “They would rather be sitting on a sofa in the local coffee bar working on their laptop, where it’s easy for friends to stop by. And, generally, they’re more interested in condos and town homes, because they don’t want the maintenance responsibilities, like mowing the lawn, that come with a single-family home.”

By knowing the demographic trends, you can gear your marketing to reach a wide variety of prospective home buyers and sellers.

Your “Green” Magazine
Media Center Advertising Privacy Policy Copyright Notice Terms of Use
Florida Realtors® Headquarters – Orlando: (407) 438-1400
Office of Public Policy – Tallahassee: (850) 224-1400

© 2014 Florida Realtors®


/strong>The Man Behind The Webs Most Controversial Video Site.

Have you ever wondered who writes all the crazy stuff on the most controversial website out there? I don’t care for it, not my cup a tea. But a lot of others, meaning millions view it everyday, and that’s how he became so famous and wealthy doing it, and I have say, anytime a company or someone becomes an overnight success, its spikes my interest. Jason Parham with Gawker had the opportunity to sit across from him and chat. Let’s hear his side of the story.

We’re 35 floors high above midtown Manhattan and Lee O’Denat occupies the seat across from me. His is a physically-commanding presence—a bull of a man—and I begin to think everything I have read about him up until this point is true. The designer shades. The diamond-encrusted chain. The deceptively knowing smile that spreads across his round face from time to time. He knows something that you don’t.

And here he is, the Hollis, Queens-raised kid turned internet entrepreneur who built a media empire off shock and awe, the man who understands that maybe, deep down, all people really want is to be entertained, and whether that pleasure comes by watching two kids fight or some girl shake her ass—well, that’s your choice, not his. Because it is your choice. Right?

His speech is deliberate and gentle, and not at all what you might expect from a man his size. “I believed in it so much,” he says. “And we’ve grown so organically based on the trueness of the site.” O’Denat is talking about WorldStarHipHop, the video site he created in 2005 as a means to provide for his family. He’ll later tell me of the time he pawned his son’s video games so he could buy food at Wal-mart, struggled to pay rent, but kept at it because he knew he was on to something (he admits WSHH did not turn a profit until 2009). But all of that was almost 10 years ago, and he goes by Q now.

As it stands today, WorldStar has become a household name among a generation of kids raised on Facebook and Lil’ Wayne lyrics. The site, though, is not without controversy. Aside from featuring music videos, both regional and mainstream, it regularly posts videos depicting unimaginable violence (the killing of 16-year-old Chicago student Derrion Albert in 2009, for example) and bare-ass nudity. The easy argument: It’s all just click bait, and isn’t every website doing that these days? But to Q, it’s more than that. WorldStar’s mission, so he believes, is to provide coverage of communities that larger news organizations like CNN or MSNBC might ignore. It can be ugly at times, but so is reality.

Really, it’s all part of Q’s larger plan to provide the masses with the “realness” that made hip-hop such an unstoppable force. “Hip-hop is profanity, it’s violence, it’s all of the above. Watching NWA, 2Live Crew, and Eminem being themselves, being real, and getting criticized—and Tupac with Delores Tucker—this is who we are,” he says of WorldStar. A slight grin gives way before he continues. “If you don’t like it, go fuck yourself.”

Before WorldStar you were in the mixtape game, right?

In 1999 I reached out to a longtime friend of mine, DJ Whoo Kid, who I’ve known for over 25 years. He had a little buzz circling in the streets with his mixtapes. At the same time he met 50 Cent, and I told them, ‘Hey, I can help you guys. I’m learning the internet, I need to make some money, so let me help you get these mixtapes out.’ Back then, no one wanted to buy. It was hard, because I was living in Baltimore for a few years at the time, and a lot of stores didn’t really know who Whoo Kid was. Long story short, I just kept hustling; I got a couple on consignment based on what they sold. Then I noticed, in the internet space, there weren’t many mixtapes being sold online. So I spent eight months reading and studying and learned how to build a mixtape website. It officially launched on September 11, 2001. I got the email at around eight o’clock in the morning that the site was officially open, and then a couple hours later the planes hit. At the time, there were maybe two or three other sites doing it. It was slow in the beginning, because I made it 100 percent Whoo Kid mixtapes. It was; that was my first website. It just took off, and kept growing and growing.

Did you have a background in tech? Or did the hustler in you feel like it was just something you needed to pick up?

It’s the mentality. I grew up fast. My brother left for the Marines when I was 13 and I had to learn on my own. No father in the house. My mom worked a lot so we really didn’t spend much time together. I didn’t know anything about “family day” or “family time.” It was a Haitian home—you learn early that you’re on your own, and that this is life. I learned that I had to work hard for myself, because no one gave me shit. Family, aunts and uncles, nobody gave me anything. I just thought that that’s what life is about. I had to go out, work, hustle, find ways to make my money. I used to shovel snow all over Queens, in the hood. I found my own ways to make money and understood that I was in control of my own life. And that’s what people need to realize, no one owes you anything.

So what eventually led you into video aggregation?

I was booking a lot of after parties for Whoo Kid and G-Unit, and I found myself on the road a lot. So the site blew up based on that, and me hustling on the web side to put a nice site together for the artist, because the label wasn’t. Being on the road all the time, I wasn’t home to ship the CDs and people kept complaining. I was doing everything by myself, and it was hard. I was like, I gotta find a way to make people download this shit, so I don’t have to be home to ship it. Then 2005 came around, and I figured why not just create a site where people can download. So WorldStarHipHop was a download mixtape site in the beginning. But it also had other things: you could watch crazy stuff, read crazy stuff; it had sex tapes. I knew I wanted to be different. Most of these sites were boring, not really showing that realness of hip-hop. You know, hip-hop is profanity, it’s girls, it’s fights. That’s why the culture is loved worldwide—it’s real. And I wanted a site to be real like that.

Do you remember the very first video posted to WorldStar?

It was a lot of that DVD stuff. People didn’t have ways to go into the hood and buy these DVDs. So we would buy it, chop up the best part of the interview with an artist, usually two to three minutes, and people started loving it. Here we are showing these real interviews, not the ones on BET or MTV, not the PG-13 interview; we’re showing them being real, back of the tour bus, with chicks, fights, cursing—it was all crazyiness. We decided to move forward in that direction. I relaunched to make it an official video website in 2008, because in 2007 we got hacked and the site was down for seven months. When we relaunched in January 08 we never looked back.

When did you realize WorldStar had truly made a name for itself?

I guess when news started wrenching us. I remember Bill O’Reilly shouted us out twice. He said the government should pay us a visit. And I’m like, ‘Whoa I’m just the video guy, why aren’t you going after YouTube’s CEO. That’s where I got it from?’ People kept talking about us, telling me we were on Fox News. The media outside of the internet space, when people talk about us, freaks me out. Now it’s part of the norm. I remember the first official music video premiere we had exclusive to the site—Ace Hood’s “Cash Flow” featuring Rick Ross—that DJ Khaled gave us. That was five, six years ago. We had buzz, but we weren’t the top yet. I think did better numbers than us., too. Khaled saw we were growing fast, and we got that first exclusive video, and that kinda made people realize we just didn’t have crazy videos, but we premiered music videos too. Then more people started premiering videos with us, and that started the price charts, the banner sales. I was one of the first guys to come up with the price plan. Labels usually do net 60, net 90, and I was the first to be like, ‘I want my money now, or you get no banner space.’ So I changed the game. I made labels pay the check first, then I’d put the banner up. And I was doing everything myself, handling all the business and advertisers. Being organic, and the way we do business—we’re pretty much flat rate—it made people feel like, ‘Whoa this site is growing and keeping it 100.’

WorldStar has become known as a shock site, and is famous for the fight videos it posts. Was that your intention going in—to sell spectacle?

I wanted the site to have a hip-hop influence. I wanted it to be like the games that I liked growing up, and like Grand Theft Auto—video games where it just shows everything, where it shows what’s going on in the streets, where I’m from. These kinds of videos were popping on YouTube, and they were entertaining. It was something we couldn’t deny. People love to see that stuff. I didn’t think the site would move so much in that one direction, but WorldStar shows the good, the bad, and the ugly. And if it’s going to show something that’s ugly, we’re just providing the medium. We’re just providing the news.

What do you mean by the good, the bad, and the ugly?

We show things that are inspirational, but that are bad, too. But that’s just the way news is. CNN and Fox News do the same thing. This is part of our history, our culture. Culture as a whole. People. Not just black people, but whites, and everybody—every culture has its bad side. People want to watch an ugly side of someone then blame us for showing it, but what about the people actually doing it? Why click on it? It’s like why watch porno on HBO at midnight? You have the choice to watch what you want. The remote control is in your hand. People will click it, watch it, then hate on me for watching the video. Then why did you watch the video? It’s a choice we all have. You can’t point fingers. It’s your guilty pleasure. Point at yourself.

You once referred to WorldStar as the “CNN of the Ghetto.” Do you see the site giving voice to unheard communities?

Yeah, definitely. We do a lot of community work for people that gets unnoticed. I’m not looking for a lot of exposure on that. If it comes, great. But I know, deep down, we give back to charities.

No, I’m talking about the site specifically, the videos that you put up. Do you see them giving voice to communities and people that go unheard?

Yeah, they get heard. These communities—for example, when the WIC in LA was shut down, we were the first to go talk to those people who were in line waiting. CNN didn’t do that. FOX News; they’re not out there. It’s not gonna be a big headline. So we like to give voice to the communities that are hurting, and let people know even though some of these videos may look ugly to people, it’s still our voice, and they need help. But fighting is a part of life. You gotta get over it. People complain to me about the fighting, but people have been fighting before camera phones, before I was born, and this is the way life is. As long as they are not shooting each other, I have no problem with people wanting to squab it out. That’s how this country was built, on fighting. We fight all the time, every election day there’s fights. People need to stop thinking that everyone is going to walk around and sing Kumbaya.

But don’t your good intentions get lost in all the fight videos, sex clips, and twerking montages? Is the message lost in all that noise?

Yeah, I mean—the site’s mission is to just capture what we find real in the world, you know? As a leader of the internet entertainment world we understand that we’re going to be critiqued for everything that we post. You still see shock TV on cable. Ridiculousness, the MTV show, mocks people all the time with their videos, Tosh.0—but no one ever talks about them.

So why do you get all the criticism?

Because I’m black, and from the hood. [Laughs] Tosh does it and he’s great, Rob Dyrdek and all the white people on Ridiculousness hurting their balls, falling down, cracking their heads open—it’s funny. But someone fighting in the back of a Waffle House? Oh, Q’s the devil! I accept that. That’s just being a black man in America. If you make it doing something someone else can easily do, they’re going to blame you. Black people look at me because I’m black and think I’m doing harm to black communities. But I look at this as a positive. It’s all about how you look at things in life. I bring awareness to those that don’t want to be on WorldStar in that way. Somebody might say, ‘I don’t want to get drunk and then start a fight.’ They can, but they’re going to end up on the site looking foolish. People are now thinking two or three times before they want to fight someone, or act ratchet and crazy. People have camera phones, so whatever you do—if you’re acting silly, stupid, belligerent—they’re gonna record it and send it to us. People have to realize and look at it as a positive.

But if somebody non-black comes to the site they are being sold a very specific brand of blackness. Do you see WorldStar as fueling negative stereotypes within the black community?

Stereotypes? I don’t think so. If a white person comes to the site and sees black people fighting or twerking, he likes the culture. We just like to have fun, man. Black people are admired by different cultures because we’re free. We like to be free. Some people live trapped. They don’t want to get wild because they feel like they’re being judged for this. With black people, we’re just ourselves. If we fight, we fight. And we’ve always been shaking our asses. Since the slave ship we’ve been shaking our asses. [Laughs] We love to do these things. And now, people are attached to it. We’re a very influential race all over the world because we keep it 100. We have negative stereotypes, sure—we like chicken, we like to drink, we go the the strip club—but every race has negative stereotypes. We just have to love ourselves, admire ourselves. Know that only God can judge you. Don’t worry about the critics.

Hip Hop Weekly just had the exclusive with Q, CEO Of as well about why he thinks he receives so much hate?

On the recent hate he’s receiving:

“A lotta folks hate on me because of the way the site blew up, and since you’re number one, that’s what happens. Like Obama, he’s got hatin’. That’s the way it is. I’ve accepted it.”

On helping launching careers like Kat Stacks:

“People that have the talent and skill, it speaks for itself now because the video don’t lie, as far as the image, and people like to see video more and more. For the new artists comin’ up, like the Kat Stacks, the 50 Tysons, you can get instant fans real quick because people are drawn to anything that’s interesting to them.”

On the image of World Star:

“I try to portray the good, the bad and the ugly – that’s what I try to portray. It’s not just good, good, good. Hip Hop is a culture – a lifestyle. It’s not just a Black thing or an inner-city thing. It’s for anyone that can feel it in’em. It’s Hip Hop. It’s just swag.”

[Image by Sam Woolley]


Feet on the ground in Bagdad

Authors name is kept anonymous. This came from a very reliable source.

Gents, thought you might want to hear from the front. Just returned from Baghdad day before yesterday checking on my folks. This is as current and objective as I have seen to date.

The current situation in Baghdad is best described as tense. Mass media coverage over the last few days of unfolding events has seen a run on supplies/fuel/at banks by civilians who are preparing in the event the worst does happen. It is not yet to the point of a panic but locals are nervous. The airport is extremely busy and flights elsewhere (especially to the Kurdish Region) are far overbooked. The overall situation in the country can only be described as very serious and with yesterday’s ‘call to arms’ by Ayatollah Sistani, the prospect of a sectarian civil war is the highest it has ever been – and has the potential to even be worse than the 2006/2007 era.

But – before going any further – it is worth putting the overall situation into context, and describing the ISIS ‘advance to Baghdad’ thus far. The portrayal in the media since this situation broke five days ago has been one of a relentless advance by ISIS. According to CNN etc, ISIS began by capturing Mosul, then advanced in a Blitzkrieg movement south, routing the Iraqi Army and capturing vast swathes of terrain as they went. This continuous sensationalization by the mainstream western media is the number one driving factor for the tension in Baghdad rather than a true appreciation of fact.

While the reporting of the folding of the Iraqi Army in Mosul and areas north of Baghdad is accurate (and is the reason why this situation has developed as it has), the rest of it is far less simple than is widely portrayed in the western media, and the true facts need putting into context. Most of this has already been covered in the GW Daily Reports from Jun 10-14 inclusive, and summarized in the GW weekly released last night. It is recommended these documents are reviewed for a balanced understanding of what has transpired so far. But to put some key points down on paper:

The last week in May/first week in June saw a substantial increase in insurgent activity across the country. Bombings and spectacular attacks ranged across the country, from VBIEDs near Karbala and Najaf, an assassination of a senior Sahwa commander in Anbar, an assault on Sammara and finally the attack on Mosul which caused the rout of the Iraqi Army and everything that then subsequently unfolded over the course of the last five days. The key takeaways, however are:

The ‘advance’ from Mosul to the outskirts of Baghdad has been blown out of proportion. What in actuality happened was ISIS were masterful in capitalizing on their success in Mosul and then gaining and achieving momentum. But rather than a straightforward advance to Baghdad, it is more realistic to consider that news of the Mosul success and fleeing Iraqi Army traveled fast throughout the Sunni dominated areas north of Baghdad. ISIS units already in situ in their traditional locations rallied behind their flag and mobilized in their local areas all at once. Similar news spread amongst the Iraqi Army, whose commanders were the first to flee, which caused the mass pullout/desertion/withdrawal. ISIS then moved into the Iraqi Army positions, taking the majority of them without a fight or meeting only mediocre resistance. What is extremely import to note is: ISIS have yet to move outside of areas where they have always been traditionally strong. In addition, ISIS have met no resistance from the predominantly Sunni population in these areas – who have been downtrodden and marginalized to the point where they are at least passively supporting ISIS, maintaining a laissez faire outlook. Some of this support though is no doubt through fear – ISIS will have presented them with a ‘You are either with us or against us’ ultimatum. In the total absence of official law and order, most Sunni locals will have little choice but to along with it – for now. It should also at this point be noted that ‘ISIS’ is not just ISIS. Other militant organizations and local Sunni tribes who are ‘going along with it for now’ are involved. These ultimately are not interested in the level of radicalism that true ISIS demands – so this is a fragile alliance at best, which will no doubt come to the fore once true resistance appears, or when ISIS start summarily executing peop0le for crimes and issuing strict laws on how to live etc (and we are already seeing evidence of this in Mosul and Tikrit).

Back to the ‘Advance on Baghdad’. Understanding the above – it should now be clear that ISIS have not yet set one foot outside areas where they have traditionally been strong. Which is why the ‘advance’ has stalled in the area of Samarra/Balad. In Diyala with its more mixed populace, they have not even ‘advanced’ that far south in parallel – Shia militia groups such as AAH are openly fighting them and the Iraqi Army is maintaining a presence there also. Not to mention in Northern Diyala, the ‘limits of control’ are tested between ISIS/Peshmerga – testing the Peshmerga are currently winning as they consolidate positions and expand their region (they will likely be the ultimate winners in all of this). The minute they step off their traditional turf into areas where they have no popular support (i.e. Shia parts of the country – northern Baghdad for instance….) we will see how well they do trying to fight conventionally….

The massive Shia mobilization that is currently occurring in Baghdad and the south means that the ‘advance’ in a conventional sense, is likely to remain stalled where it is if not beaten back some in the coming days.

So what’s the realistic prognosis of the situation for Taji and Baghdad?

Taji has become the main reception point for falling back troops and the point from where counter offensives will be planned and organized. On current available information, the massing troops there and the size of the facility means that ISIS as yet will have very little chance of attacking it in a conventional sense, so will get back to what they do best – car bombs, suicide attacks etc, along with IDF. The fact that the group has consolidated ground now with a ‘frontline’ behind which they have almost unrestrained freedom of movement means that supply lines will be extended so possibly we will see the frequency of these kind of attacks increasing. Not to mention the masses of military equipment (and cash) they have captured (although it appears much of it has gone to Syria – which is indicative that the campaign there may be of greater or least equal importance to the movement). Same goes for Balad airbase to the north of Taji – as yet the facility has not been directly attacked despite ISIS proximity, and both will be extremely well defended but no denying the facilities will be ISIS priority targets.

It also goes for Baghdad itself. In addition to the northern ‘axis’, we need to consider what is happening Anbar to the west (and the linked Jurf al-Sakhr district of Babil province to the southwest of Baghdad). There has been a noticeable drawing back of Iraqi Army units from Fallujah (presumably so properly battle hardened veterans can redeploy elsewhere). The has led to more freedom of movement for ISIS/anti govt elements – again with the implication of being able to stage closer to Baghdad. But again even from this axis – at this juncture we are talking increased unconventional guerilla attacks in the capital rather than the media ‘Lets all drive right into town’ sketch. I do see increased suicide attacks, car bombings – possibly even IDF on the BIAP and IZ (and maybe even increased conventional clashes in Abu Ghraib and therefore encroaching on the outer BIAP perimeter), but based on current info, not a conventional type assault as the press is talking. Baghdad is absolutely teeming with Iraqi Army troops and now, Shia milita of all kinds, including the now gloves-off Jaish al Mahdi (JAM) and Asaib Ahl al Haq (AAH), and I don’t doubt (as with some other parts of the country) Iranian Quds force too. Iranian involvement is set to increase as this progresses.

So to conclude – for ISIS to just go strolling into Baghdad as they have in a similar fashion in the areas where they’ve always been strong is currently completely unrealistic (again, media to blame for it). However what is likely is an increase in car bombings, suicide bombings, IDF threat to BIAP and IZ. Short notice lockdowns throughout the city are also possible, as is the potential for short notice vehicle movement restrictions and curfews (already one in place from 10pm till 6am). The other major burning issue right now – is the mass Shia mobilization and the fighting that is to follow north of the capital: Once this begins, we are going to hear many reports of atrocities committed against both Sunni and Shia communities as such a mass, fast mobilization means that training will be poor as will discipline. And we already know what the other side is capable of. This has the very real potential to spark bitterness and a renewed civil war period. In Baghdad, this may well translate as mass sectarian killings on either side on the streets in capital in conjunction with attacks on Mosques etc (as happened in 2006/2007) depending as to what transpires over the coming days .

I hope that helps clarify the current situation.