Environment on Edge
|Angus Sibley||December 24th 2013|
Everywhere we see examples of the damage caused by atmospheric pollution and consequent climate change. And unless we change our habits pretty quickly, we shall suffer a great deal more damage. Last October, an agency of the World Health Organization issued a report showing that ‘outdoor air pollution’ is a major cause of cancers, predominantly in the lungs but also in the bladder. The report states that the main causes of this pollution are diesel fumes, industrial and agricultural emissions, and energy generation.
In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a summary of its report Climate Change 2013. Among its conclusions are:
In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983 – 2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period in the last 1400 years.
The rate of sea level rise since the mid-nineteenth century has been larger than the previous two millennia.
It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-twentieth century.
Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Isabel V. Sawhill||December 23rd 2013|
In Charles Dickens' classic tale, Ebenezer Scrooge refuses to take part in the joys of the Christmas season and only finds redemption after a ghost warns him that he will die, scorned by all, if he continues in his miserly ways. Perhaps "The Christmas Carol" has lessons for our own times.
Right now, the shops are full, office parties are in full swing, trees and buildings are all dressed up in their holiday finery, and airports are jammed with people heading home for Christmas. But behind the glitter and the conviviality, all is not well.
The ranks of the long-term jobless have swelled to unprecedented levels; the proportion of the population participating in the labor market has shrunk, the real earnings of men have declined, and the poverty rate is at peak levels. The Great Recession is partly to blame but there are signs of deeper, longer-lasting problems as well. Read more ..
|Judd Gregg||December 22nd 2013|
One of the great disconnects occurring today revolves around the concept and purposes of “risk.” On one side of the divide are those who govern, especially those who populate President Obama’s party.
On the other are those who are governed and still participate in the private sector. The present Democratic Party is now dominated by those who have a natural inclination to not have much confidence in their fellow Americans’ ability to choose for themselves.
It is a party that has as one of its primary tenets that a government led by well-intentioned and better-educated people should decide how average folks should live their lives. Whether it is through having the government set the parameters regarding healthcare needs and insurance coverage for everyone, or through restricting the private sector activity at all levels, the goal is to allow a few (that is, those who govern) to choose for the many (that is, those who are governed) as to how things should be. Read more ..
|Brent Budowsky||December 21st 2013|
It is the sin of Republicans, and the shame of Democrats, that as the president who praises Mandela heads for the sun of Hawaii, the least productive and most unpopular Congress in history is skipping town for yet another long vacation, leaving the hungry and jobless behind to endure a cold and bitter Christmas.
There is a war against the jobless in America, and a war against the poor, and there is shame to be shared by both political parties. The president and Democrats should have fought for — not merely talked about — far larger jobs programs. They should have fought for — not weakly surrendered — extending jobless benefits. Democrats should have pledged to keep the Senate in session and force Republicans to vote against jobless benefits on Christmas Eve if necessary, which would probably have led to a deal. Read more ..
|Jeb Bush Jr. ||December 20th 2013|
As our members of Congress head home to enjoy the holiday recess and start of the New Year, I look back at all the progress we’ve made on immigration in 2013 — building a nationwide coalition of leaders who carry a bible, wear a badge or own a business — and I look forward to what 2014 holds in store for reform.
Wide acknowledgement from Republican House leadership — and support among Republican constituents — shows that immigration reform is definitely not a “dead” issue, but one with great opportunity in 2014.
Every member of the House leadership team has expressed commitment to move reform forward in 2014, and each week the number of rank and file Republicans in favor of reform grows. In 2013 we made great strides toward a successful 2014 for immigration. Considering that just over a year ago this issue was on the sidelines, the fact that the home stretch is in sight is no small accomplishment. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Armstrong Williams||December 19th 2013|
The very best gift of all this Christmas will be my being able to count my blessings in a multitude of varying fashions. As we endure a season of economic repression, our traditionally bountiful holiday season has cultivated the remnants of manger scenes in chain department stores and Christmas trees in schools. By refining this year's Christmas celebrations to appeal less towards material things and more so reawakening the virtues faith and family, we will once again find ourselves remembering the true joy and meaning of Christmas.
Jesus Christ can easily be considered the top blessing this world has ever come to receive. The combination of extraordinary birth, life, and death freed many believers from the troublesome burdens of sin – past, present, and for years to come. Living in today's age is difficult enough as it is and without Christ’s gift of forgiveness, times like these would be tremendously impossible to maneuver. Moreover, Christ has graciously been given to this world to free us from all of our very worst transgressions. One of which being our obsession with possessions and worldly objects, we often find ourselves entangled in the things in the world which the Apostle John so pre-cautioned us clearly not to.
Somewhere throughout the history of mankind's technological advances and Hollywood appetite Christmas has transformed into much more than a mere religious celebratory holiday. It has morphed into being about gifts and gadgets as opposed to faith and family. Christmas dismally has lost its real meaning once we became enamored with the idea of receiving presents. As the day became more about giving and receiving the perfect present and considering our blessings based upon the caliber of our material possessions, it has drastically warped into a season of stress in both a financial and emotional fashion. In lieu of humanity's frequency to disappoint, billions of people around the world experience more strain and loneliness 'celebrating' Christmas more so than any other celebrated holiday. How sad is it that we have taken the greatest gift this world has ever been so fortunate to receive and let it consume and enervate us towards a path of destruction. Ironically the very same capitalistic nature of man that has afforded & introduced humanity with some of the greatest innovations and opportunities has an indiscernible characteristic to seize the opportunity to monetize even within the religious community. Read more ..
Edge of Healthcare
|Michael Beck ||December 19th 2013|
The “glitchy” launch of HealthCare.gov is an obvious front-page story. But when it comes to health and information technology, we face much bigger challenges than the website for ObamaCare. Though electronic medical records (EMRs) are often viewed as the best way to bring health technology into the 21st century, they are just a part of a vitally needed health technology infrastructure.
Health information technology is notoriously behind the times. To put things into perspective, health sectors are just starting to use technology on a large scale that other industries adopted in the 1980s. Back then, businesses started moving paper-based processes, like HR forms and payroll, to separate systems that simply collected information electronically. Read more ..
The US and the Ukraine
|David Adesnik||December 18th 2013|
Without firing a shot, the United States and the European Union may deliver an embarrassing blow to Vladimir Putin’s imperial ambitions. Just over two weeks ago, the Ukrainian capital of Kiev erupted in massive protests when President Viktor Yanukovych submitted to Russian pressure and rejected an agreement with the EU widely expected to spur Ukrainian growth after years of stagnation. While focused on the EU pact, the protests are also a means of resistance to Yanukovych’s corruption and increasingly authoritarian behavior. The protesters’ top demand is that Yanukovych resign immediately.
The American decision to support the protesters seems like an easy call. They are pro-Western, have strong democratic credentials, and want to draw closer to the EU, rather than seeking security guarantees from NATO. Yet some conservatives have hoisted the banner of “realism” to argue that supporting the protesters amounts to yet another example of moralistic naïveté that will damage our true national interests. But they are wrong. In this instance, promoting democracy and civil liberty are integral to advancing our interest in a peaceful and independent Europe. Read more ..
Our Darkest Hour
|W. Bradford Wilcox||December 17th 2013|
Another shooting, another son of divorce. From Adam Lanza, who killed 26 children and adults a year ago at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., to Karl Pierson, who shot a teenage girl and killed himself this past Friday at Arapahoe High in Centennial, Colo., one common and largely unremarked thread tying together most of the school shooters that have struck the nation in the last year is that they came from homes marked by divorce or an absent father. From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia's "list of U.S. school attacks" involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.
This is not to minimize the importance of debates about gun control or mental health when it comes to understanding these shootings. But as the nation seeks to make sense of these senseless shootings, we must also face the uncomfortable truth that turmoil at home all too often accounts for the turmoil we end up seeing spill onto our streets and schools. Read more ..
|James Pethokoukis||December 16th 2013|
Republicans generally don’t like the now-adopted Volcker rule, which prevents banks with federally insured deposits from trading for their own profit — or much else about the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law, for that matter. Recall that Mitt Romney pledged to repeal the whole magilla if he became president. Romney didn’t win, of course, and it’s no more likely that President Obama would ever sign a repeal of Dodd-Frank than it is that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act.
But that doesn’t mean Republicans don’t need an alternative financial-reform agenda, especially considering that the U.S. has averaged a financial crisis every half-dozen years the past few decades. So far for the GOP, it’s pretty much been about the three “Fs”: Fannie, Freddie, and “Feddie” — to prevent future bubbles, shutter the two government mortgage giants and shackle the U.S. central bank. Read more ..
America and Cuba
|Tim Ashby||December 15th 2013|
Commenting on the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, President Barack Obama referred to the legendary South African figure as “one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth.”
Yet, until just five years ago, Mr. Mandela was on the U.S. terror watch list, a grossly anachronistic Cold War absurdity equaled only by the continuation of Cuba on the same discredited list. Sadly, despite fundamental changes both in Cuba and the global geo-strategic balance, the Caribbean island will probably remain as an “enemy” for decades to come due to the rigidities of U.S. domestic politics and the lack of immediate incentives to propel change. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|John R. Bolton||December 14th 2013|
Ukraine's civil conflict strikes many Americans as a distant and unimportant dispute, one hardly connected to their daily lives. Such a lack of interest in international affairs is understandable, perhaps, because of the focus on economic recovery since 2008, but it's badly misplaced given the stakes involved, not just in eastern and central Europe but around the world.
More alarming, and far less justifiable, as a cause for such inattention is the failure of America's national political leadership. President Obama's inattention to national security distinguishes him from his predecessors, Republican and Democrat alike, since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Unlike them, his first thought every morning seems to be not the international threats facing the United States and its allies; rather, as he said in the 2008 campaign, his aim is to "fundamentally transform" America. Only when international affairs cannot be avoided or where potential domestic political gains are manifest (such as the killing of Osama bin Laden) does Obama emerge from his domestic policy bubble. Read more ..
|Bill Press||December 13th 2013|
Running for reelection in 1948 — and written off as a sure loser — Harry Truman had a field day. He crisscrossed the country by train with just one strategy, according to historian David McCullough: “Attack, attack, attack.” And the chief target of his attacks was the 80th Congress, which he branded the “Do Nothing Congress.”
In Reno, Nev., Truman claimed Congress was still run by a “bunch of old mossbacks still living back in 1890.” He warned residents of Roseville, Calif., outside of Sacramento, that a “do-nothing Congress tried to choke you to death in this valley.” But if ol’ Harry thought the 80th Congress was bad, it’s a good thing he didn’t live to see the 113th.
For all its faults, the gridlocked 80th Congress still managed to pass more than 900 bills. By contrast, in 2013, the first year of the 113th’s two-year session, Congress passed only 52 bills, making 2013 the least productive single year in congressional history and, unless things change dramatically in 2014, signaling the 113th Congress as the least effective two-year session ever. Read more ..
Colombia on Edge
|Luis Fleischman and Nancy Menges||December 12th 2013|
Center for Security Policy
In spite of its geographical proximity to the U.S. homeland, events in Latin America usually get sparse coverage in the American press, making it unsurprising that the early December visit to Washington by Colombia’s president Manuel Santos and his meeting with president Obama was hardly noticed. The main highlight of their visit was president Obama’s reiteration of his support for Colombia’s “peace process,” namely the negotiations with the guerilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
President Obama’s support was not surprising given his inclination to always endorse negotiations. This is particularly relevant when the meeting with Santos took place a little more than a week after the signing of the interim agreement with Iran.
We agree with the president that negotiations should always be the first resort and should be fully exhausted before the next step is taken. However, it is vitally important to check if the other side has undergone an evolution that can make a negotiation successful. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Armstrong Williams||December 12th 2013|
There are some aspects of seeing people based on color that we simply are not going to ever eradicate from the human race, even though we would like to be able to. Some people don’t want to hear this – people who would even consider such a statement racist – so let me start in a gingerly way by discussing other forms of discrimination that don’t provoke the same reaction.
No one seems to have a problem with Jews who prefer to date and marry other Jews, or Catholics who prefer to do the same (or Mormons, atheists, Democrats, Republicans, and so on). Why? Be- cause it makes sense that people naturally gravitate towards those who share their world view – or, in the case of religion, the same Other World view. If, as a devout Catholic, you believe that those who don’t accept Jesus as their savior are going to hell, you’d naturally prefer to marry someone not destined for fire and brimstone, and whose presence won’t risk hellfire for the children you have to- gether. Some people might consider such thinking kooky, especially if they’re not religious, but at the very least, they would probably respect the right to see the world this way and not judge them as bigoted. Most reasonable people consider it perfectly legitimate for someone to “discriminate” in his or her dating choices by limiting options to those with the same religious beliefs.
Then there are the practical mechanics of making a lifelong marriage work. Marriage is hard enough – there are struggles about finances, parenting philosophy, personality differences and whether to watch the ball game or “Scandal” – without adding an even bigger struggle over the basic questions of who we are, where we come from, and where we’re going when it all comes to an end. So, from a practical standpoint, marriage and dating are simply easier with people with whom you have all this in common. Read more ..
|A.B. Stoddard||December 12th 2013|
Leaders aren’t necessarily those we find in the highest office, or those who campaign for it, or those we see on television the most. True leaders make unpopular choices. They have the guts to take the heat for tough decisions but also to call out those who take easy cheap shots from the sidelines.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, 2012 vice presidential nominee, author of “The Roadmap” for fiscal solvency, chief doer among talkers, got slapped around this week for doing something. The bipartisan budget he helped draft, which would fund the government for two years, remove the threat of shutdowns and reduce the deficit without any new taxes, made him the latest punching bag Wednesday among Tea Party conservatives who deemed the deal a sellout. Read more ..
Hunger in America
|Jim Walsh and Tony Hall||December 11th 2013|
As people of faith with deep and long-held commitments to helping poor and hungry people, we have been following the ministry of Pope Francis since his election last March with a deep sense of awe and gratitude for his leadership. The Pope’s commitment to the most vulnerable members of society is evident from both his words and his actions.
An inspiring example of this commitment is the Pope’s support for an upcoming campaign seeking an end to hunger. Led by Caritas Internationalis, the humanitarian arm of the Catholic Church, this campaign will kick off with a global wave of prayer today, December 10, 2013. In communities all over the world, Roman Catholics will unite with believers of all faiths to pray for the end of hunger at noon in local time zones—meaning that the “wave of prayer” will flow around the world as each time zone adds its voice. Read more ..
|Juan Williams ||December 10th 2013|
The 2013 winner of top political player on Capitol Hill is…
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
The senator stands out as the leader of the Democrats’ historic move to go to the “nuclear option,” ending the paralysis by threat of filibuster that tied the Senate in knots for the last five years.
The junior senator from the Beaver State showed a lot of political bite, in the form of persistence, and has become a left-wing hero as a result. Merkley, with a big assist from Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), won the biggest vote of the year on Capitol Hill by convincing Democrats they were being trapped by Senate tradition into acquiescing to GOP obstruction. Read more ..
|Scot Faulkner||December 9th 2013|
Those wanting an expanded governmental role and those opposing it are fighting the wrong battle in the wrong way. The battle over a national healthcare policy has raged since the early 1990s. It has always been about coverage, liability, and finance, never about care protocols and patients. If making health affordable is everyone’s stated goal then why not focus on the actual care, health, and wellness of Americans?
America remains the best place on Earth to have an acute illness or shock-trauma injury. Our nation’s emergency rooms and first responder protocols are unequaled. Princess Diana may have lived had her car accident happened in New York City instead of Paris. America’s diagnostic methods and equipment are unequaled. That is why patients from all over the globe seek answers to complex symptoms by visiting the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Sloan Kettering and countless other world class facilities. Read more ..
Japan on Edge
|Sol W. Sanders||December 9th 2013|
In a world of moldering journalism, nothing quite equals the inadequacies of Japan reporting. Despite this short shrift, Japan remains the United States' most important relationship in Asia -- especially as China is increasingly seen as an adversary and with an unpredictable North Korea.
It is an important trading partner -- $170 billion through October this year with a $61 billion deficit in Japan's favor. Even though that is dwarfed by China's $468 billion for the same period, with a staggering $268 deficit in Beijing's favor, it has heft beyond the numbers. Japan is rapidly becoming a major scientific center with the third largest budget for research and development at $130 billion with 677,731 world-class researchers. Most important, Japan's civil society, despite its unique characteristics, is a major partner in the world democratic alliance. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Mackenzie Eaglan||December 8th 2013|
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made headlines Wednesday when he unveiled a plan to shrink his office by about 200 employees and reduce its budget by about 20 percent over the next five years.
The plan was billed as the first step in a larger effort to reduce the Department of Defense’s headquarters budgets by 20 percent. As the Secretary is leading by example in cutting costs and personnel, the announcement is an important step in the right direction. However, despite this good news, the Pentagon still has a long way to go in restructuring its costs away from bureaucratic bloat and towards hard combat power.
For one, the Pentagon must reverse years of backwards priorities. Since entering office, the Obama administration has set in motion a plan to shrink the active duty military (mostly in the Army and Marine Corps) by about 7 percent, while at the same time growing the Pentagon’s civilian workforce by about 13 percent. Read more ..
|Armstrong Williams||December 6th 2013|
Cutting Edge Contributor
In February and March of 1990, I had a profoundly life-changing experience.
At the time, I was working for Robert J. Brown, former aide to President Richard M. Nixon, as a vice president for the international division of Mr. Brown’s B&C Associates. The position required my spending many months in South Africa. Never in America, before or since, had I felt and seen such racism, raw and ugly, as was laid bare in South Africa, where blacks were treated as chattel and subhuman.
I was treated that way myself until they heard my accent or saw my passport. Suddenly, I was OK to the racist throngs and treated with all respect. Only my U.S. passport differentiated me from other blacks, but apparently that was enough.
Very quickly, this exposure started to harden me and for the first time, hate began to seep within my heart. Read more ..
Transparency in Government
|Juan Osuna||December 6th 2013|
|Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla|
Along with Costa Rica current slow economic growth, many Costa Ricans are also discontented with rampant corruption that has affected the country’s entire civic society. On November 11th, Fulton Armstrong, an experienced analyst of Inter-American policy and a highly regarded CLALS Research Fellow at American University, posted a blog in which he provided an insightful analysis of Costa Rica’s stumbling political system.
Although Costa Rican officials present their country as a democratic success, Mr. Armstrong responded by writing “Costa Rica is approaching February’s presidential and legislative elections with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, if not with dread.” Many Costa Rican citizens are using the elections as an opportunity to manifest their large-scale discontent, through massive protests,with the government’s inability to adequately provide for the nation’s dispossessed and address the country’s runaway corruption cases.
President Laura Chinchilla contends that her government is now clean and that it has taken giant steps in curbing corruption, yet some local polls find that 95 percent of the population believe that many officials within her administration are corrupt. Read more ..
The Media on Edge
|Michael B. Mukasey||December 3rd 2013|
Wall Street Journal
Luckily, previous 'Free Flow of Information' bills went nowhere. But a new one is picking up steam. Why?
Anyone looking for proof that bad policy begets more bad policy need look no further than the all-too-aptly-named Free Flow of Information Act of 2013. The bill may be taken up on the Senate floor as early as this week.
The proposed legislation has had predecessors that failed to become law: the Free Flow of Information Acts of 2007, 2008 and 2009. Each, like the current bill, was said by its proponents to provide urgently needed protection for reporters seeking to shield confidential sources from discovery through federal subpoenas-thereby promoting disclosure of important information, particularly from government whistleblowers. Each of those earlier bills was firmly opposed by members of the intelligence community, including by me when I served as U.S. attorney general in 2007-09. We thought that the bills were not merely unnecessary but also a potential source of mischief that would empower those who lost policy arguments within the government, or who were simply out to do harm, to leak with impunity. Read more ..
|William Schambra||December 1st 2013|
Philanthropy has many wonderful qualities — and never tires of proclaiming them, for one quality it sorely lacks is humility. It regularly thumps itself on the back, for instance, for devoting some $300 billion a year to good causes. And though philanthropic spending on social causes is dwarfed by that of the government, foundations proudly claim that dollar for dollar their spending is in fact more effective than the government’s. While government tends to stick with the safe and the routine, philanthropy regularly and energetically seeks out the next new thing; it claims it is at the cutting edge of social change, being innovative, scientific, and progressive. Philanthropy, as legendary Ford Foundation program officer Paul Ylvisaker once claimed, is society’s “passing gear.”
Indeed, philanthropy increasingly prides itself on its ability to shape and guide government spending, testing out potential solutions for social problems and then aggressively advocating for their replication by government. Any employee of a philanthropic organization can immediately tick off a list of major accomplishments of American foundations, all of which followed this pattern of bold experimentation leading to government adoption.
For example, Andrew Carnegie’s library program pledged funding to construct the buildings, if the local municipalities would provide the sites and help pay for the libraries’ operation. The Rockefeller Foundation funded a moderately successful hookworm abatement program in the southern United States, which strongly involved local governments. The Ford Foundation’s “gray areas” project in the 1960s experimented with new approaches to urban poverty that then became the basis for the Great Society’s War on Poverty. Read more ..
Uruguay on Edge
|William Kinney||November 30th 2013|
In an October 3 interview with The Associated Press, Uruguayan First Lady and former guerrilla activist Lucía Topolansky was asked about the past justification for the execution of unarmed prisoners at the hands of urban guerrillas, known as Tupamaros, during their turbulent uprising against the Uruguayan government in the 1970′s and 1980′s. Topolansky, while being detained at the hands of the military junta (1973-1985), replied, “[h]istory is what it is. We are not going to go back and analyze it.”
While there is no denying that egregious human rights violations were systematically perpetrated by Southern Cone military regimes, Topolansky’s rather lukewarm and evasive remark echoes sentiments often resorted to by supporters of the regional dictatorships that sprung up in order to combat guerrilla movements throughout the 1970′s and 1980′s. Read more ..
After the Holocaust
|Stephen Halbrook||November 30th 2013|
This month marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Night of the Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom against Germany’s Jews in November 1938. Historians have documented everything about it except what made it so easy to attack the defenseless Jews without fear of resistance. Their guns were registered and were easily confiscated in the weeks before the onslaught.
How this was possible can be seen through the eyes of one of the countless victims, who happened to be a renowned German athlete. Alfred Flatow won first place in gymnastics at the 1896 Olympics. In 1932, he dutifully registered three handguns as required by a decree of the Weimar Republic. The decree also provided that, if “public safety” so required, the guns could be confiscated. Officials gullibly neglected to consider that only law-abiding citizens would register, while political extremists and criminals would not. But the interior minister warned that the gun registration records must be carefully secured so they would not fall into the hands of extremist elements. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|James C. Capretta||November 30th 2013|
The past two months have laid bare the emptiness of the president’s most prominent Obamacare promises. Millions are losing the plans they have and like against their wishes, contrary to the president’s oft-repeated pledge. And those being forced into Obamacare could lose access to the doctors and hospitals they trust, also contrary to assurances from the president. The evidence demonstrating that these commitments cannot be met is so overwhelming that even the administration has abandoned defense of the president’s previous statements.
But there’s still one claim the Obama administration hasn’t yet admitted will not come true, which is that Obamacare will drive overall health costs down, rather than up. More precisely, the administration continues to insist that the law is responsible for slowing the pace of rapidly rising health costs and will continue to slow the growth of such costs in the future, with great economic benefits for families and the entire country. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Michael Johnson||November 29th 2013|
Jewish Policy Center
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), two influential human rights organizations, released separate reports on Tuesday criticizing the Obama administration's use of drones in the fight against al Qaeda terrorists. The reports detail instances of where secret drone strikes killed civilians and violated international law in Pakistan and Yemen.
Amnesty International's investigation into nine strikes in Pakistan's North Waziristan region between January 2012 and August 2013 finds civilians were disproportionately killed by U.S. drone attacks. In one incident, Amnesty reported that the U.S. killed 18 laborers as they waited to eat dinner. According to locals, who often fear of reprisals from Taliban in the area, the men were not engaged in militant activities. Amnesty believes more justification, other than "association" with a terrorist group, is needed to carry out a strike. "[We have] serious concerns that this attack violated the prohibition of the arbitrary deprivation of life and may constitute war crimes or extrajudicial executions," said the report. HRW focused on six drone strikes in Yemen in which 57 civilians were killed. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Armstrong Williams||November 28th 2013|
Cutting Edge Conservative Commentator
The Social Security Act was passed in 1935 guaranteeing retirement pensions to all Americans over the age of 65. Sounds like a good deal… except for the fact that the average American life expectancy back in 1935 was 61.7 years. FDR and his administration were as far-sighted as any politician in America, meaning not-at-all. Everything was supposed to remain the same so their plan would work perfectly -- get the young and poor to pay for the federal pensions of the old and wealthy.
As time marched on, access to food and healthcare, as well as the automation of labor, granted longevity to even the poorest in America. In 2010, the average lifespan was 78.7 years. The number of centenarians (people over 100 years old) in the US that year was more than 53,000. Interestingly enough, there were more centenarians in 2010 then there were Social Security recipients in 1937, the first year benefits were distributed. Those first recipients received a total of $1.278 million in 1937. The Class of 2010 centenarians had received no less than $18 billon at the time of the 2010 census. That is $18 billion -- with a B.
There is absolutely no way that FDR thought social security would pay 53,364 people a monthly stipend for over 35 years. Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population was 65 or older in 1940; by 2011, that figure had exceeded 18 percent. To give those percentages a number, 222,488 people in 1940 versus over 56 million in 2011.
The lifespan of the average American in 1935 was already unprecedented in the history of the world. In 1900, the average lifespan was 31 years, which was the norm for every advanced civilization at their peaks. Hobbes may have been describing the State of Nature when he said life was “… nasty, brutish, and short,” but it just as much describes life in civilization until the last half of the 20th Century. Read more ..
|Timon Dias||November 27th 2013|
When European history teachers omit the Holocaust from their curriculum, they do not do this because they hate their Jewish students more than their Muslim students. They omit it because they are afraid of their Muslim students. They might also believe they do it to be "nice," but then how come this same "niceness" is not afforded to the Jews?
In the "Stockholm Syndrome," now seen, ironically, in Sweden, victims start bonding with their abusers in the wish that if they share the same values as their abusers, their abusers might stop abusing them. "We must be open and tolerant toward Islam and Muslims because when we become a minority, they will be so toward us." — Jens Orback, former Swedish government minister. Read more ..
|Doug Lamborn||November 26th 2013|
“Always believe the threats of your enemies, more than the promises of your friends,” Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel has said.
This wise advice is becoming a cold reality for many of America’s longtime allies in the Middle East amid an unprecedented breakdown in U.S. foreign policy and credibility in the region.
Indeed, America’s allies in an extremely volatile part of the world have been left stunned by a foreign policy – from Egypt to Syria and now to Iran -- which has been bumbling at best and damaging at worst. This foreign policy fumble has serious long term implications for U.S. national security.
But today, with Iran within reach of the technical capacity to build a nuclear weapon, the U.S. itself is nearing a point of no return. There is grave concern in Congress, (and across America) that an emerging agreement being brokered by the U.S. and world powers with Iran in Geneva will irrevocably weaken sanctions against Iran without doing anything about the infrastructure of their nuclear program. Read more ..
|Edwin Black||November 25th 2013|
While the world’s leaders are still coming to grips with the enrichment aspect of the Obama Administration's new deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear weapons program, no one has noticed that Iran's warhead and delivery program remains untouched. Despite Tehran's protestations that it has no intention of ever creating a nuclear weapon, Iran, in fact, has been developing a warhead for some fifteen years. That design is now near perfect.
Compare Iran’s nuclear weapons program to the use of gunpowder. One stuffs gunpowder into a bullet, loads it into a rifle, and then finds a marksman who can hit the target. Iran has nearly mastered all those steps-- but in nuclear terms. Read more ..
The JFK Edge
|Brent Budowsky||November 24th 2013|
Let’s look beyond the repellant spectacle of politics in Washington, reflect on a president who rallied America to greatness and consider how we can bring his legacy alive in our generation.
We should put the space program back at the center of American life. Let’s begin a national discussion to decide the next great mission for NASA. Then, let’s mobilize the nation again, inspire the young again and make great things happen again.
Greatness is not defined by lowering our standards, expectations or ambitions. Patriotism is not defined by lowering our political discourse to a dialogue of defamation. Americanism is not defined by blaming others for failure or inventing excuses for mediocrity.
A recent Gallup poll found President John F. Kennedy to be the most admired recent former president, with 74 percent of the nation calling him an outstanding or above average leader. Kennedy stands for the America we can be and want to be. Read more ..
The Way We are
|Armstrong Williams||November 21st 2013|
This column is dedicated in remembrance of a holiday that encourages us to take a step back in order to gain clarity and perspective when giving thanks for all the blessings we have come to adore. In what might seem like a time of such frivolous peril, America has a plethora of great accomplishments to be thankful for. We are thankful that in lieu of our devastating unemployment increases, loss of faith in Affordable care, and what has matured into a series of mass-shootings and terror throughout 2013, we are perhaps stronger as a nation now than ever. Despite all the negative images we read about America abroad, we're still the envy of the world with some of the finest collegiate institutions in the world, the best doctors and hospitals and the freedom of speech and choice which is second to none on the planet. We should be thankful to those families that have endured challenging marriages, but found the will to endure to raise their children in a two parent household.
Just recently, we celebrated Veterans Day by honoring the soldiers that have answered the call to service and who have ever so bravely fought to protect our freedom; the dedication ceremony in remembrance of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial celebrating all of his progress; and our economy which remains strong and continues to grow. The list goes on.
We cannot control what talents we have, only that we must recognize and nurture them in others and ourselves. We all have something we can do well, but we were not all meant to be successful business owners, great athletes, artists or inventors. But by developing our own particular talents to their maximum, we can find success and happiness even without fame and fortune. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Lewis Fleishman||November 20th 2013|
Early this year the Argentine prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, disclosed a 500-page document of evidence of Iran’s terrorist networks in Latin America. It included a number of countries, among which were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Uruguay. Iran’s activities in some of these countries are carried out with the direct or indirect support from the local government.
For example, in my last article, I described the role played by the Surinamese president in the trafficking of drugs, as well as the strengthening of relations with Iran. Suriname received US $1.2 million to purchase tractors, and direct flights between the two countries were established. A question I asked in that article was: Could these flights possibly be used to transport weapons or other materials, such as uranium, to Iran? Read more ..
Israel and America
|Robert Satloff||November 20th 2013|
America and Israel are in uncharted waters. Just eight months since President Barack Obama visited Israel on the first foreign trip of his second term in an attempt to patch things up with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the two close allies are at odds once again -- this time over a proposed "first step" nuclear agreement with Iran. Washington and Jerusalem eventually will find a way to move beyond this titanic clash, but no kiss-and-make-up effort can erase the scars that will be left behind.
The current crisis is already one of the biggest U.S.-Israel blowups, ever -- and it could get worse before it gets better.
Not since Menachem Begin trashed Ronald Reagan's 1982 peace plan has Israel so publicly criticized a major U.S. diplomatic initiative. In a rousing speech in Jerusalem on Nov. 10, Netanyahu even called on leaders of American Jewry to use their influence to stop what he called a "bad" Iran deal. Read more ..
The Middle East on Edge
|Kulwant Singh and David Leffler||November 19th 2013|
A new technology of defense is now available that has been scientifically shown to prevent war and create peace by harnessing the deepest level of nature's functioning.
War is ultimately a human problem requiring a human solution. Experts in the field of conflict resolution maintain that the underlying cause of war is accumulated "social stress" - i.e., mounting political, religious and/or ethnic tensions between rival factions in critical hotspots throughout the world. As social stress builds, divisions grow stronger, groups take sides, diplomats become unable to resolve differences, and enemies arise within or outside the nation. Military force may then be invoked to protect the country, resulting in armed conflict and unpredictable outcomes. But even if conflict temporarily solves the problem for the victor, the social stress remains, fueling future cycles of conflict. In contrast, the absence of collective stress translates into the absence of tension between competing sides, thereby reducing the probability of hostilities. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Henry F. Cooper||November 18th 2013|
Secretary of State John Kerry signed the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty against the clear wishes of the U.S. Senate-there were 51 votes against it last March. Now it will be important for the Senate to refuse to ratify this ill-advised treaty which is not in our national interest and could lead to unwelcome constraints, enforced by international bodies, on our Second Amendment Constitutional rights.
On the heels of his brilliant effort in setting up Russia's President Vladimir Putin to lead in accounting for and eliminating the chemical weapons of its ally Syria (stay tuned) and setting the stage for Iran, another Russian ally, to continue its development of nuclear weapons while its new "moderate" President Rouhani thumbs his nose at U.S. interests, Secretary of State John Kerry signed the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). This Treaty, which is not consistent with U.S. interests, would empower an international body to inject itself in the activities of American citizens in ways that could lead to a loss of our Second Amendment rights. Read more ..
|Wendell Potter||November 17th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
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My heart sank when I got an email late last month from my friend Robert, who has been battling multiple sclerosis for the past decade. He wrote to tell me that he was among the many Americans who in recent weeks received letters from their insurance companies saying that their policies won’t be available next year.
Insurance companies are sending those letters primarily because the policies they will no longer offer don’t provide enough coverage — or have deductibles that are too high — to comply with the Affordable Care Act. In many cases, however, the policyholders getting those letters are simply victims of a business practice insurers have engaged in for years: discontinuing policies because they’re no longer sufficiently profitable.
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