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America on Edge

Warrior Cops

July 31st 2013

NYPD and flag

In an excellent July 19, 2013, Wall Street Journal essay entitled "Rise of the Warrior Cop," author-journalist Radley Balko described the alarming militarization of police forces across America. He cited myriad cases of innocent citizens being killed by over-zealous police officers, particularly Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams serving warrants for alleged, often petty, offenses. 

The WSJ essay, which is based on Balko's newly released book, "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces," details several egregious cases, where gunned-up, overzealous SWAT forces executed citizens in the name of enforcing gambling laws and mere regulations. "In 2006," the author writes, "38-year-old optometrist Sal Culosi was shot and killed by a Fairfax County, VA, SWAT officer," after an undercover detective overheard Culosi betting on college football games. "The department sent a SWAT team after Mr. Culosi, who had no prior criminal record or any history of violence. As the SWAT team descended, one officer fired a single bullet that pierced Mr. Culosi's heart. The police say that the shot was an accident." Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Implementing the Affordable Care Act: Why Is This So Complex?

July 30th 2013

No Obamacare

Last week, the Obama administration made a sensible, pragmatic decision to postpone until 2015 the implementation of the employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The postponement allows the government to simplify the reporting requirements, which companies alleged were unnecessarily burdensome, and gives employers more time to figure out how they want to adjust their health insurance coverage to the ACA environment. No postponement is without cost, but delaying the employer mandate allows the Administration to concentrate its energies on implementing the most important part of the ACA—the on-line market-places or exchanges being set up in each state to facilitate purchase of health plans by the uninsured. Getting the exchanges running—along with a way to determine the subsidies that make those purchases affordable—is a daunting, complicated task and should be given highest priority. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

The JTA Gets it Wrong on Settlements

July 29th 2013

Shomron

A recent Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) news brief quoted Christine Quinn’s campaign as saying she “believes the West Bank is a disputed territory and that the Israelis and Palestinians must sit down and negotiate a solution.”

According to the JTA, “Quinn’s position runs counter to that of the U.S. government, which considers the West Bank Israeli-occupied territory.” Actually, Quinn was restating a long-held U.S. position. If the status of territories weren’t legitimately disputed, there would be nothing to negotiate.

No Arab entity held clear title and exercised peaceful sovereignty over the territory prior to the 1967 Six-Day War. If one had, Israel’s conquest would have been an act of aggression and it would have been obligated to clear out decades ago. Read more ..


Broken Banking

Mortgage Lender Owned by Dole Foods Magnate Accused by CFPB of Abusive Practices

July 28th 2013

Home Foreclosure

As the financial overhaul known as the Dodd-Frank Act turns three this week, the law’s most controversial creation, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is for the first time cracking down on mortgage lenders for encouraging loan officers to put borrowers in high-cost loans.

The agency filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Castle & Cooke Mortgage LLC and its president, an accomplished rodeo performer who professes to be “a big fan” of new rules aimed at helping consumers.

It’s the first time the new consumer cop — a creation of Dodd-Frank that drew sharp opposition from the financial industry — has taken action against the practice, which was pervasive in the years leading up to the housing meltdown and then banned under Dodd-Frank.

Castle & Cooke, based in Utah, is a privately held, non-bank lender of the sort that largely escaped the federal government’s scrutiny before the financial crisis focused attention on abusive lending. Its president, Matthew Pineda, founded it in 2005 for eccentric fruit billionaire David Murdock. (Murdock owns Castle & Cooke, Dole Food Company Inc. and collections of “animals, orchids, Chippendale mirrors and Czechoslovakian chandeliers.” He is the 190th-richest person in America on the latest Forbes list.) Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Facing One's Demons: The Egyptian Military and the Brotherhood at a Crossroads

July 27th 2013

Security Forces Riot Gear

Events in Cairo have all the hallmarks of a return to the repression under ousted President Hosni Mubarak that prompted millions of Egyptians two years ago to camp out on Cairo's Tahrir Square for 18 days until the military forced him to step down after 30 years in office. Little in the unfolding drama in Egypt genuinely responds to the demands put forward by the protesters two years ago: an end to the police state, greater political freedom, respect for human rights, an end to corruption, and justice and dignity. Is Egypt going to change? Or is this a return to Mubarak-style politics?

Egypt was seemingly united two years ago when Mubarak was ousted. There were no mass demonstrations against the ousting of the president. This time round, the Muslim Brotherhood's mass protests against the removal of President Mohammed Morsi, post-revolt Egypt's first democratically elected leader, complicates things for the military that sees itself as the guarantor of the state. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Is Syria Finished?

July 26th 2013

Bomb Damage

What was supposed to be the Syrian phase of the so-called “Arab Spring” has evolved into one of the greatest tragedies of the 21st century.

The once-peaceful opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s deeply entrenched and powerful Ba’ath Party regime has escalated into armed resistance and, finally, a brutal civil war – one that has now claimed close to 100,000 lives. This escalation poses a serious threat, not just to Syria’s neighbors, but – given the existence of chemical weapons in Syria – to the international community as well.

The United States, like other nations supportive of the Syrian opposition, has chosen to act, but to do so primarily through diplomatic and economic means. Its hesitancy to take more direct action is understandable given the fractious nature of the opposition, but the cost of failing to influence the balance of power between the opposition and the Syrian regime could be high. Read more ..


After the Arab Spring

The Resurgence of the Regimes in the Arab World

July 24th 2013

Jump at Cops

The toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood power in Egypt by the army is an event of historic importance. It is important chiefly because it represents an enormous setback in a process which only a few months ago looked inexorable and unstoppable. That process was the replacement of the military-republic regimes in the Arab world by new regimes based on Sunni Islamism, with franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood most prominent among them.

The setback suffered by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was preceded by an earlier rallying of one of their chief enemies. In the course of this year, the Assad regime in Syria succeeded in reversing rebel gains and ending the threat to Damascus.
Since then, Assad’s forces, assisted by Hizballah and advised by Iran, have been turning the Sunni Islamist rebels back in the west of the country. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Israeli Deputy Minister Slams Possible Involvement of New Israel Fund Figure in Peace Talks

July 23rd 2013

Jerusalem flags

Media reports that former United States Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk has been selected by the Obama administration to lead new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority announced Friday, have elicited strong opposition, including from an Israeli deputy minister, The Algemeiner has learned.

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon penned a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposing a scenario whereby Indyk would take on the pivotal role in the talks, citing the veteran politician’s chairmanship at the New Israel Fund, an organization which has been criticized for supporting organizations that seek to harm the Jewish state. Read more ..


The War on Terror

Critical Distinctions Between Islam and Islamism

July 23rd 2013

Death to infidels

Since 9/11 the West has been confounded with the question whether Islam and Islamism are one and same, or if there is a critical distinction to be drawn between the two. How this question is answered has profound implications for understanding and explaining the immense convulsion seizing the Muslim world, and on how best to frame a proper response without undermining or eroding the secular and liberal democratic culture of the West.

Islamism is -- from the perspective of someone born and raised within the mainstream majority Sunni Islam -- an ideology fascistic and totalitarian in impulse and action, masquerading as religion. The proponents, advocates, activists and apologists of Islamism, irrespective of whatever guise these Islamists assume in public, are engaged in the sort of radical politics the West became acquainted with in the early decades of the twentieth century with the rise of Communism, Fascism and Nazism. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Courts Unravel Sanctions on Iran

July 22nd 2013

Iran Nuclear Equipment centrifuges

Supporting sanctions against Iran is understood to be a position designed to moderate Iranian behavior regarding the acquisition of nuclear capability. It is the position of people and countries that do not want to contemplate military action by either the United States or Israel. It is the position of the European Union, the UN, Congress, the U.S. President, and Israel. As such, giving sanctions as much backbone as possible seemed an unassailable position -- until Iranians began to sue in European courts to see the evidence against them. In a pattern of behavior disconnected from the possibility that they are aiding the Islamic Republic 's nuclear programs, European courts are obliging them.

If Iran's acquisition of nuclear technology is a legal problem, the theory is, Iran has the same rights in Western courts as an accountant accused of stealing from the firm. But if, as many believe, Iran is planning to acquire nuclear weapons for the war in which it claims it will engage with Israel and the West, its use of the Western legal system is Lawfare (coined by Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap; meaning "the use of the law as a weapon of war"). The Lawfare Project defines it as, "The abuse of Western laws and judicial systems to achieve strategic military or political ends." Those ends appear to include using Western companies as a conduit for technology and financing. Read more ..


Drug Trafficking on Edge

A State-building Approach to the Drug Trade Problem

July 21st 2013

Drug War

 

The Growing Dissensus on How to Combat Drug Trafficking.
The United Nations Security Council has increasingly highlighted organized crime, particularly drug trafficking, as requiring the coordinated focus of various United Nations bodies and the Secretary-General.

The escalation of drug trade-related violence in Mexico and Central America where inadequate rule of law institutions have been overwhelmed by intense organized crime; the emergence of drug smuggling in West Africa, which contributes to its cauldron of other illegal economies and poor governance; and the deep penetration of drug trafficking into the political and economic life in Afghanistan and Pakistan have all captured policy attention.

Yet many existing policies to combat the illegal drug trade and associated organized crime have not been highly effective. Premature eradication of drug crops, interdiction too narrowly preoccupied with stopping illicit flows, and imprisonment of drug users have proven to be ineffective and even outright detrimental to key policy objectives, such as weakening criminal organizations and their linkages to militant groups, improving security and rule of law and reducing consumption. These policies have also often been counter productive with respect to other important goals, such as mitigating violent conflict, fostering good governance and promoting human rights. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Israel Sets New Military Priorities Amid Budget Cuts

July 19th 2013

IDF tanks

Confronted with a staggering $11.2 billion budget deficit, the Israeli government passed a new budget earlier this year with sweeping spending cuts in a nearly unanimous vote. Israel's military is facing a significant transformation in the wake of the budget shortfall at home and the Middle East's changing security challenges.

The most ambitious reform since the 1990s, the five-year plan to reduce the military budget by approximately $830 million entails extensive monetary and personnel cuts to the ground, air, and naval forces. Even with the reductions, balancing the budget is still far from achieved; the Israeli army is projected to retain a $5.6 billion deficit. New fiscal priorities will mean less procurement of tanks, but an increase in intelligence gathering and cyber warfare capabilities. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said he is "not happy about the cuts," but that "We'll see the rewards in two to four years. Our forces might be diminished but will be stronger and better equipped." Read more ..


Broken Economy

Strengthening Employment Pathways to Prosperous Careers

July 18th 2013

Employee applications

Persistently high unemployment rates among Americans aged 18 to 24 reveal a generational divide in workers’ access to employment opportunities and, by extension, economic prosperity.

At the same time, employers throughout the country—particularly those in production-intensive industries—consistently report that they are unable to find workers possessing the skills that their firms need as something of a “manufacturing renaissance” begins.

Together these realities suggest that the educational and employment training systems currently in place in U.S. states and regions must evolve if they are to meet the task of preparing workers for success in the years ahead.

How might they begin to do that? This past October the Brookings / Living Cities State and Metropolitan Prosperity Collaborative —an 18-month old peer learning forum for top state and local leaders—brought together senior economic development and workforce officials from 14 states to explore the question. With promising case studies from the state of Kansas, the Wichita region, Washington state, and the Seattle-King County region  before them, the attendees spent the better part of two days exploring how to better attune educational and training pathways to private-sector needs. Read more ..


After the Arab Spring

Mideastern Nations Don't Need Any More Islam than They Already Have

July 16th 2013

Muslim-Prayers

During the decades when Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was a barely tolerated opposition party, it campaigned against the reigning secular autocrats under the banner “Islam is the solution.”

With the military’s removal on July 3 of the Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, the region’s oldest exemplar of political Islam has lost its best and perhaps only chance to validate that slogan. Indeed, the rise and abrupt fall of the Morsi presidency are a timely comeuppance for a world view that, starting with Iran’s 1979 revolution, seemed to be gaining adherents throughout the Muslim world.

Political Islam has had a long arc, reviving in the modern era with the founding of the Brotherhood by Hassan al Banna in 1928 in opposition to a monarchy largely controlled by Western interests. Over the decades, monarchs and military-run governments of assorted Arab nationalist, socialist and capitalist hues have suppressed the Brotherhood and its various offshoots. Then came spring 2011. Read more ..


Broken Banking

The 21st-Century Glass-Steagall Act

July 15th 2013

JP Morgan Chase

Hollywood knows nostalgia sells. That’s why cineplexes are stuffed with sequels, remakes, and reimagined versions of 1960s TV shows. But can Washington use nostalgia to break up America’s megabanks? Senators John McCain and Elizabeth Warren are giving it a shot. The Arizona Republican and Massachusetts Democrat last week unveiled their “21st-Century Glass-Steagall Act,” which would restore the barrier between commercial banking and investment banking first established by the Banking Act of 1933. That prohibition, known as the Glass-Steagall “wall” after congressional sponsors Senator Carter Glass of Virginia and Representative Henry Steagall of Alabama, was repealed by the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, legislation signed by President Bill Clinton.

McCain and Warren, through both the title and substance of the bill, are playing off the widespread public belief that the repeal of Glass-Steagall was a monumental mistake, effectively ending seven decades of financial calm and contributing greatly to the Great Recession and Financial Crisis. So it follows, at least according to McCain and Warren, that bringing back Glass-Steagall would go a long way toward returning us to that post-Depression era of stability and finally ending Too Big to Fail.
As McCain puts it, “Since . . . shattering the wall dividing commercial banks and investment banks, a culture of dangerous greed and excessive risk-taking has taken root in the banking world.” And Warren says the bill would “make our financial system more stable and secure, and protect American families.” Read more ..


America on Edge

Young, Violent and Aggressive in America's Murder Capital

July 15th 2013

Click to select Image

They're young. They've been injured in an assault – so badly they went to the emergency room. And nearly one in four of them has a gun, probably an illegal one. What happens next?

A new study by the University of Michigan Injury Center provides data that could be important to breaking the cycle of gun violence that kills more teens and young adults than anything except auto accidents.

In the new issue of the journal Pediatrics, the team from the U-M Injury Center reports data from interviews with 689 teens and young adults who came to an emergency department in Flint, Mich. for treatment of injuries from an assault.

In all, 23 percent of the patients reported they owned or carried a gun in the last six months – and more than 80 percent of those guns were obtained illegally. Of those with guns, 22 percent said it was a highly lethal automatic or semiautomatic weapon. The study excluded guns used for recreational hunting and target practice. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Tehran's Take On Egypt's Revolutionary Coup

July 14th 2013

Egypt Protests

Iranians have been following the dramatic denouement of the Egyptian revolution with keen interest. Although Tehran ranks as merely an ancillary actor in the Egyptian drama, recent events have highlighted the profound – if imperfect – historical resonance in each state’s revolutionary upheaval. That historical perspective informs Iran’s view of events in Egypt, and compounds the impetus for circumspection that can be discerned in its leadership’s recent behavior.

Viewing the world through the lens of Iran is a tricky business. It can be tempting to make too much of the Iranian place in the world or to impose a preferred narrative as the overarching interpretation of all its actions and rhetoric. In Washington, Iran is perpetually judged as either emboldened or on the run – almost never anything in between. On Egypt today, as I’ll argue below, neither extreme is quite correct. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Why the Brotherhood Won't Back Down

July 13th 2013

ProMorsi Demo Post-Coup

After only one year in power, during which its blatantly autocratic behavior alienated millions of Egyptians, the Muslim Brotherhood is back where it started. For six decades before the 2011 uprising, the group sat in the opposition, under fire from a military regime. This time, even after security forces unseated President Mohamed Morsi, detained top Muslim Brotherhood leaders and reportedly issued arrest warrants for about 300 more, shut down the group's television station, closed some of its offices, and then killed 53 and wounded hundreds at a demonstration outside of the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood does not seem ready to go quietly. It has called for an intifada and has repeatedly vowed to escalate its protests until Morsi is reinstated. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Leadership Changes as Violence Continues

July 12th 2013

Syrian Violence

As violence continues to brew in Egypt, the Syrian civil war has been overshadowed in the media. However, dramatic shifts have taken place in the leadership of both the opposition and al-Asad forces as fighting continues.

On the opposition side, Syrian National Coalition (SNC) leader Ghassan Hitto announced his resignation after only four months as prime minister. The rebel leader was tasked with creating an interim government to control rebel-held areas. Hitto remained mistrusted by many in the anti-Asad opposition, who saw him as being too close to the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar. Hitto resigned on Monday, acknowledging insurmountable difficulties in forming the needed interim government. He explained in an online statement that although he will not continue as prime minister, he will continue working for the interests of the revolution. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

An Economic Roadmap for Egypt

July 10th 2013

Great Pyramid Giza

A stable and prosperous Egypt has to be among the top two or three foreign policy goals for Israel and the West, perhaps exceeded only by the potential threat posed by a  nuclear-armed Iran. It would appear that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait are going to chip in to cover Egypt's immediate foreign currency shortfalls which will postpone potential collapse and provide time for the new Egyptian government to prepare a meaningful economic plan for the medium- and  long-term and for the Western countries and the international development  agencies to realize what is at stake and offer generous support to the  implementation of such a plan.  It should include the following items, alluded to briefly in last week's column (this is not intended to be in any way exhaustive and omits such areas as transportation and communications):

(1)  Egyptian agriculture MUST be  rationalized, reorganized and modernized, which means that the basic units  involved must be large enough to efficiently use inputs of machinery and  equipment, fertilizers and insecticides.  Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Rowhani's Economic Team

July 8th 2013

Rowhani

During the campaign for president of Iran, Hassan Rowhani expressed views consistent with a liberal outlook on economy. The president-elect is an advocate of the economic policy pursued by former President Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, based on privatization, deregulation, and economic openness.
 
Reports published in the Iranian media in recent weeks indicate that some of Rowhani's top economic advisors are affiliated with the Niavaran school of thought, established on neo-liberal economic principles. Its adherents support a free-market economy and a reduction of government economic intervention. Major economists affiliated with that school of thought and considered close to Rowhani are Dr. Mohammad Baqer Nowbakht, Dr. Mohammad Tabibian, Dr. Ali-Naqi Mashayekhi, Dr. Mas'oud Nili, Mohammad-Ali Najafi, Dr. Mas'oud Roghani-Zanjani, Dr. Mohammad-Hossein Adeli, and Dr. Majid Qassemi. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Amid Egypt Turmoil, Israel Eyes Troubled Sinai

July 7th 2013

Camel-safari-sinai

Israel should do all it can to help the new secular government in Egypt beat the Muslim Brotherhood, even if that means amending the Military Annex of the Camp David peace accords to allow more Egyptian military assets into the Sinai Peninsula, the former director of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister's Office Brig. Gen. (Res.) Nitzan Nuriel said Sunday.

Speaking on Army Radio, Nuriel said a defeat for the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters in the Sinai would reverberate across the Middle East, and would be of huge strategic importance to Israel. The Egyptian army is currently engaged in battle with Islamists across the Sinai. According to Al Gomhuria [The Republic], an Egyptian newspaper, the Egyptian military, accompanied by warplanes, are battling "terrorists and jihadists elements" in the Sinai. Al Gomhuria reported that the military presented its planned operation to Mohammed Morsi when he was still president, but that the latter rejected the idea "without offering an explanation."  Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Welcome Back to Mubarak’s Egypt

July 6th 2013

Bye bye Mubarak

The Egyptian army’s announcement of an ultimatum “to heed the will of the people” in retrospect said it all. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Minister of Defense appointed by the democratically-elected president he was about to ouster, talked about “the will of the people” in the typical manner of dictators, as if the people were united. In fact, the people were deeply divided between an opposition that wanted President Mohamed Morsi’s head and his supporters who believed that the first president in Egypt’s history to be elected in free elections should be allowed to remain for the full four years in office, as stipulated by the constitution. This constitution, they argued, was supported by 63 percent of voters in a national referendum.

The army’s moves on the ground clearly showed that it sided completely with the opposition. All of their demands were met and more: Morsi was ousted and placed under arrest, the constitution was suspended, a government that included the military was set to take over, and new presidential and parliamentary elections were called for the distant future. Just to make sure, the military refrained from committing itself to any timetable. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Egypt: The Opposition's Next Steps

July 5th 2013

Islamist Protest PostMorsi

Egypt's Tamarod movement succeeded in its attempt to pressure the Egyptian military to expel former President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-led government from office. Now the question is whether Tamarod and the other elements of the former opposition can avoid the kind of fragmentation and divisive infighting that played a significant role in catapulting the Muslim Brotherhood to power in the first place. There are many challenges to overcome, not the least of which is that the military ultimately holds the keys to power -- something the Muslim Brotherhood learned the hard way July 3. Going forward, it will be difficult for the disparate blend of liberal, secular and Islamist parties united in their shared desire to see Morsi deposed to maintain their cohesion. Read more ..


Egypt on Edge

Long-Standing Issues Continue to Undermine Egypt's Stability

July 4th 2013

Egypt Protests

Egypt's crisis goes much deeper than the recent political chaos. With the leader of the Supreme Constitutional Court taking over the presidency at the behest of the military, the new government will likely represent a coalition of interests facing many of the same challenges that brought about Mohammed Morsi's downfall.

Egypt's population has grown well beyond the means of the state to support its needs, and even a strong state will struggle to ensure sufficient supplies of basic staples, particularly fuel and wheat. Read more ..


Egypt on Edge

Egypt's Ouster of Morsi Bodes Ill for Regional Stability

July 4th 2013

General Al-Sisi

Egyptian military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced July 3 that the country's president, Mohammed Morsi, had been removed from office in the wake of popular unrest. In a short media statement, al-Sisi, who was flanked by the three armed services chiefs, opposition leaders, the sheikh of al-Azhar Mosque and the pope of the Coptic Church, announced that Adly Mansour, chief justice of the Constitutional Court, has replaced Morsi as interim president.

He also announced that the constitution has been suspended. Mansour's appointment is notable in that one of the key demands of the Tamarod protest movement was that he become president. The provisional government will be holding fresh parliamentary and presidential elections. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Egypt's Atypical Military Coup

July 3rd 2013

Morsi

There is a great debate underway in Egypt on whether the move to oust President Mohammed Morsi is tantamount to a military coup. Considering that the Egyptian army is forcibly removing a democratically elected president in the wake of nation-wide unrest, the military intervention is indeed a coup. However, it differs from other coups in that direct military rule will not be imposed.

There is considerable public support for Morsi's removal, so the provisional authority that will replace him likely will be a broad-based entity that includes representatives of the nation's main political stakeholders. Indeed, the interim government likely will differ greatly from the one run by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which governed the state after former President Hosni Mubarak was forced from office in 2011 and until Morsi came to power in June 2012. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Egypt's Waning Influence

July 3rd 2013

7.2.2013 Egypt Protests

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr resigned Tuesday, becoming the most high-profile minister to step down since protests against the rule of President Mohammed Morsi began over the weekend. Amr's resignation came after the Egyptian military issued an ultimatum Monday, demanding that Morsi and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood start a dialogue with opposition members within 48 hours, or risk the military stepping in to impose a "political roadmap" on all parties. This move comes amid the latest in a series of political crises in Egypt since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. The political turmoil facing Egypt, its political class and its powerful military has become almost a given, with all sides turning to public displays of unrest and emotion as often as they do to the democratic process. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

The Danger of What Edward Snowden Has Not Revealed

July 2nd 2013

Snowden

Since fleeing the United States, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has publicly disclosed top-secret information that has aided America’s enemies and damaged relations with America’s allies. But the real danger may be the classified information he has not publicly disclosed.

Snowden’s revelations have been damaging to be sure. He has exposed details of U.S. intelligence collection efforts against China, including the fact that the NSA had infiltrated the computer networks of Tsinghua University in Beijing, which houses one of China’s six major backbone networks through whichInternet data for millions of Chinese citizens pass. He has exposed our intelligence collection efforts on our allies, including the fact that the United States bugged the offices of the European Union and infiltrated its internal computer networks. He has revealed to a German newsmagazine that the NSA has been using data from Internet hubs in south and west Germany to monitor Internet traffic to Syria and Mali — two hotbeds of al-Qaeda activity — tipping off our enemies to these vital U.S. intelligence operations. Read more ..


The New Egypt

After Protests, A U.S. Triage Policy for Egypt

July 1st 2013

Cairo Protest Dec 2012

Yesterday's mass protests against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which were reportedly among the largest in recorded history, represent a critical juncture for U.S. policy. While the Obama administration has until now viewed President Muhammad Morsi's emergence through relatively fair and free elections as an important step toward institutionalizing democracy in Egypt, the outpouring of public antipathy against the Islamist government serves as an important reminder that elections alone cannot yield stability. Washington should therefore try to limit the damage to Egypt's state institutions. The protests reflect Egyptians' deep and widespread frustrations with Morsi's management of the post-Mubarak transition. His noninclusive governing style -- punctuated by a November 22 constitutional declaration through which he temporarily asserted unchecked executive authority, and his subsequent ramming through of an Islamist constitution -- led opposition activists to call for his ouster months ago. Read more ..


Spain on Edge

Spain Continues to Accomodate Political Islam and Terrorists

July 1st 2013

Click to select Image

While Spanish Muslims are busy trying to Islamize Spain, Spanish politicians are busy removing all references to Christianity from public discourse…The requirement which will be enshrined in Spain's legal code law, represents an unprecedented encroachment of Islamic Sharia law within Spanish jurisprudence.

Spanish police have arrested a Muslim immigrant in Mallorca after he claimed to have been sent by Allah to "kill all the Spanish."

The arrest follows a series of other Islam-related incidents in recent weeks and months which reflect the mounting challenge that radical Islam is posing to Spain.

In the latest incident, police on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca arrested a German national of Tunisian descent on June 13 after he repeatedly threatened to carry out terror attacks in the name of Allah. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

PA Officials Refuse to Meet Jews and Israeli Journalists

June 30th 2013

Abbas UN

Palestinian Authority officials have adopted the questionable norm of refusing to meet with Israeli or Jewish journalists, according to veteran journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, in a recent article published by Gatestone Institute.

According to Toameh, Palestinian journalists who try to arrange meetings or interviews with Palestinian Authority representatives for Western colleagues frequently verify that there will be no Jews or Israelis present at the meetings before giving the go ahead.

Just last week, Toameh reports, a journalist who requested a meeting between Western journalists and a top Palestinian Authority official was told "to make sure there were no Jews or Israelis" among the visitors. The official's aide went on to explain: "We are sorry, but we do not meet with Jews or Israelis." Read more ..


Europe on Edge

The Security Implications of Europe’s Economic Downturn

June 28th 2013

Euro Symbol

The European Union's unfolding crisis tends to be seen as purely economic in nature and consequence. The EU is a common market, with a common currency adopted by most of its members and with fiscal problems of one kind or another facing almost all of its capitals. Most analyses of the euro crisis focus, therefore, on the economic and financial impact of whatever "euro exit" may occur or of a European fiscal centralization. In the worst case, they project a full-fledged breakup of the common currency and perhaps even the EU itself. Not much can be added to this sea of analysis except a pinch of skepticism: nobody really knows the full economic impact, positive or negative, of such potential developments. In fact, not even European leaders seem to have a clear idea of how to mitigate the economic and political morass of the Continent. While it is certain that the EU of the future will be different, it isn't clear just how. Read more ..

The New Egypt

Egypt Will Erupt Again on June 30

June 28th 2013

Muslim Brotherhood bus burning 10 2012

Given the opposition's growing rage and the Brotherhood's increasingly confrontational stance, the upcoming nationwide protests are unlikely to end well.

The Middle Egypt governorate of Beni Suef, an agricultural province located 70 miles south of Cairo, is an Islamist stronghold. Islamists won 14 of Beni Suef's 18 seats during the first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections in December 2011, and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi won nearly two-thirds of Beni Suef's votes in the second round of the 2012 presidential elections en route to an otherwise narrow victory.

Yet Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, who teaches in the veterinary school of Beni Suef University, hasn't visited his home in the governorate since late March, when activists hoisted anti-Brotherhood banners and surrounded the mosque where he was scheduled to deliver a Friday sermon. "The people planned to attack him and hold him in the mosque," Waleed Abdel Monem, a former Muslim Brother who owns a socialist-themed cafe up the street from Badie's home, told me. The Supreme Guide's son now holds down the fort, and Brotherhood cadres are occasionally called upon to protect his home whenever demonstrations are announced on Facebook. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Supreme Court Tips the Gay Marriage Scales

June 26th 2013

Gay Marriage

What will be the effects of the Supreme Court's twin rulings on gay marriage? My first-blush take is that the rulings will have a modest effect on legal doctrine but a major effect on cultural momentum.

The Supreme Court did two things today. First, it overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The federal government will now have to recognize states' same-sex marriages--mine among them--as valid for federal purposes. But, second, the court declined to make same-sex marriage a federal constitutional right. It punted on that issue. As a result, gay marriage will go back into effect in California (after a four-year hiatus), but nothing will change in other states.

California, however, is a big change all by itself. The state is so big that it takes the percentage of Americans living in gay-marriage states up to 30 percent, from 18 percent. Soon, when Illinois or a few other states come in, more than a third of the country, by population, will allow gay marriage. If that is not mainstream, nothing is. Read more ..


The Nuclear Edge

Nuclear Waste: A Major Proliferation Concern

June 25th 2013

Standard Missile 3

A half-finished monolith of raw concrete and rebar rises suddenly from slash pine forests as the public tour bus crests a hill at this heavily-secured site south of rural Aiken.

Dozens of hard-hatted workers in bright green and orange vests slog through the damp clay and clamber over a half-finished roof five floors up. Others filter in and out of openings cut into the windowless, half-a-million square-foot box, where towering construction cranes are clustered.

Guide Laurie Posey uses the bus loudspeaker to describe the project’s 6,800 miles of cable, 80 miles of radiation-resistant piping and double walls of reinforced concrete. Recently, she said the government factory would cost $4.86 billion, then coughed into her fist and shot a glance at the bus’ driver.

“Do you think they picked up on that?” she asked, shaking her head. The estimate she cited — $4.86 billion — is a fiction the government used well after its lead contractor said the real number was likely to be $3 billion higher.

Dark clouds hover over this ambitious federal project, 17 years in the making and at least six more from completion — if, indeed, it is ever completed. It lies at the center of one of the United States’ most troubled, technically complex, costly, and controversial efforts to secure nuclear explosive materials left stranded by the end of the Cold War. Read more ..


Broken Government

IRS Chief: Agency Improperly Screened Groups Until Last Month

June 24th 2013

IRS building

The acting head of the IRS said Monday that the agency was still giving improper scrutiny to groups seeking tax-exempt status when he arrived in May, suggesting that the probe into the IRS’s treatment of conservative groups could widen.

Danny Werfel, the acting chief, said that the IRS division overseeing tax-exempt applications used other “be on the lookout” lists as they tried to flag cases that needed more attention.

The so-called BOLO list has proven to be a key detail in the current investigation over the IRS’s singling out of conservative groups, with agency officials searching for groups with the name “Tea Party,” “patriots” and “9/12.” In a Monday conference call, Werfel gave little detail about the ideology or interests of groups receiving additional scrutiny, though he added that the IRS hopes to circulate more information soon after it takes more steps to protect confidential information. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Pentagon's F-35 Program May Be Unaffordable

June 23rd 2013

F-35

The troubled F-35 fighter jet, which is supposed to serve as the backbone of the U.S. military’s future air combat forces, may cost much more than the nation can afford, a federal auditor told a Senate panel Wednesday.

Michael J. Sullivan, acquisitions director of the Government Accountability Office, told the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee that current projections call for $316 billion in F-35 development and purchases from now through 2037, an average of $12.6 billion a year. Operations and maintenance costs alone will exceed $1 trillion over the fleet’s 35-year lifespan.

“Congress may want to consider whether the funding assumptions are reasonable in our current fiscal environment,” Sullivan said, responding to questions from Subcommittee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Sullivan told the panel maintaining this sustained level of funding “will be difficult in a period of declining or flat defense budgets and competition with other ‘big ticket items’ such as the KC-45 tanker and a new bomber program.” Read more ..


The Education Edge

Special Education: The Forgotten Issue in No Child Left Behind Reform

June 22nd 2013

Special Ed Teacher

In 2002, when President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), few would have predicted the law would last.  Yet persist it did, and the controversial legislation remains on the books more than a decade later.  Now that Democrats and Republicans have recently started its reauthorization process, it is time to examine one particular aspect, special education, that raises several different challenges.

Assessment of students with disabilities is perhaps the thorniest issue in education policy.  For decades students with disabilities were not assessed or educated along with their peers.  Schools, like all organizations, value what they can measure.  The education system did not value students with disabilities because their success or failure was not counted. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Despite Election Outcome, Obstacles To An Iranian Nuclear Deal Persist

June 21st 2013

Hassan Rohani closeup

The election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s next president has rightfully elicited the first real optimism in years about the possibility of diplomatic progress in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. As I’ve written repeatedly now, I believe that the campaign and its outcome have bestowed upon Rouhani some measure of mandate, both from the political establishment and from a population that desperately wants a reprieve from sanctions, to advance constructive solutions on Iran’s nuclear program at the negotiating table.

However, as Rouhani’s opening press conference made clear, Iran has no intention of simply capitulating to international demands for a suspension of its uranium enrichment activities. And Rouhani’s previous tenure as the nuclear negotiator – combined with the continuing influence of the hard-liners who now control the security bureaucracy – suggests that it is far too soon to declare victory on one of the world’s most urgent (and yet oddly enduring) crises. While no one should downplay the significance of the election and the apparent emergence of a new consensus around moderation rather than resistance within Iran’s leadership, it’s also important to hedge against any irrational exuberance either in Washington or within Iran. Read more ..



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