The Iranian Threat
|Alan Elsner||August 4th 2012|
The State Department issued two reports this week, one on patterns on global terrorism and the other on religious freedom and oppression around the world. In both reports, one country took a preeminent and shameful place – Iran. I would urge readers to take a look at these reports in detail. They are both available in full on the State Department’s website and they provide a graphic warning about the nature of this regime which is trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
The report on religious freedom made sobering reading. Iran’s population is 89 percent Shia Muslim and 9 percent Sunni. An estimated two to five million persons practice Sufism. The largest non-Muslim minority is the Baha’is, who number 300,000 to 350,000. Unofficial estimates of the Jewish community’s size varied from 20,000 to 30,000.
The report cataloged persecution by the regime of Baha’is, Christians, Zoroastrians, Sufis, Sunni clerics, Muslim converts to Christianity and even Shia religious leaders who did not fully support government policies or the supreme leader’s views.The regime also fosters open antisemitism. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Juan Williams||August 4th 2012|
Get ready for this year’s “October Surprise” — the news event in the weeks before the presidential election that has the potential to push the remaining undecided voters behind one candidate and decide the outcome. Here’s a sneak peek at the “surprise.”
In late October, President Obama announces his campaign is tapped out of money and unable to answer the final round of attack ads from his opponent, Mitt Romney. This scenario is no longer outside the realm of possibility. On a recent conference call with potential donors, President Obama said: “If things continue as they have so far, I’ll be the first sitting president in modern history to be outspent in his reelection campaign.”
The president then asked his donors “to meet or exceed what you did in 2008.” That is a pretty high bar to clear.
In 2008, Obama shattered all campaign fundraising records by bringing in more than $700 million. His GOP opponent, John McCain, raised only $316 million, giving the Democrat a tremendous advantage.
It is a different ball game this time around. At the moment, President Obama’s campaign has $170 million in the bank while his GOP opponent, Mitt Romney, has $144 million. But the Romney money machine is gaining momentum.
It raised more money than the Obama campaign in May and June. Romney’s donors also appear to have more money: Only 17 percent of Romney’s donations have been less than $200, compared to 40 percent of Obama’s donations that came in at less than $200. The big money going to Romney also has more ways than ever to avoid limits on donations. Keep in mind this is the first presidential election since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, which opened the floodgates for unlimited contributions to outside groups and created the super-PACs. Read more ..
The 2912 Vote
|Jonah Goldberg||August 3rd 2012|
This is shaping up to be the second election in a row that’s about someone who isn’t on the ballot: George W. Bush. In 2008, Barack Obama won in no small part by turning the election into a referendum on President Bush and by claiming that a John McCain presidency would amount to a third Bush term. Since then, Obama’s presidency has been one long run-on sentence of blaming his predecessor, only occasionally punctuated with complaints about Europe, ATMs, the GOP Congress, Fox News, and tsunamis.
Like a general fighting the last war, Obama is going with what’s worked for him in the past. And the thing is, it might work for him in the future.
Whatever character flaws Obama’s relentless buck-passing might reveal, and whether or not it’s fair to Bush, the simple fact is that it may well be good politics. The Obama campaign has spent millions on polls and market research. If Bush-bashing was really hurting Obama’s numbers, he’d stop doing it. Instead, he relentlessly insists in ads and speeches that Mitt Romney represents a return to the Bush years. Read more ..
America on Edge
|Richard Striner||August 3rd 2012|
Amid the national and international horror at the slaughter in Colorado, attention once again has been rightly focused on our weak gun laws and the odious influence and power of the National Rifle Association. But there’s another issue that seldom if ever gets raised on occasions like this: characters like James Holmes, the accused mass murderer, should not be allowed to run loose, at least if they exhibit the kind of behavior that reveals their mental state before they kill.
In the case of Holmes, the evidence is not yet in: we will have to wait (perhaps a long time), to know the full truth about the “Batman” butcher in the days before he terminated the lives of all those helpless people. Read more ..
Obama and Israel
American foreign policy, and specifically its Middle Eastern dimension, came back into play last week in a presidential election campaign that has largely focused on domestic issues. The big dispute centered around which candidate had outflanked the other in reaching out to Israel—as Mitt Romney prepared for his arrival in Israel, President Obama announced that he would sign a bill enhancing cooperation between the United States and Israel.
Congress already passed that bill, the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, with strong bipartisan support. As an expression of policy, it is a welcome reaffirmation of American objectives with regard to a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. That there needs to be a two-state solution is pretty much the global consensus, but the bill places strong emphasis on the requirement that Israel’s neighbors recognize its right “to exist as a Jewish state,” an inflection that, with the exception of Canada, most of the other parties with regional influence tend to downplay. The bill also quotes former President George W. Bush’s elegant 2008 summation of what makes the U.S.-Israel relationship distinctive: “The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty.” Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|George L. Perry||August 2nd 2012|
The Brookings Institution
Presidents running for reelection are hard to beat. Since World War II, a period over which Democrats and Republicans have each occupied the White House about half the time, incumbents have won reelection 70 percent of the time. Other things equal, a clear advantage for Obama this year.
On the other hand, it is accepted political wisdom that the state of the economy is what matters most for voters. Fairly or unfairly, the president gets the credit for good times and the blame for bad. Obama initially got high marks for moving aggressively to stop the economic freefall he inherited. His approval ratings were high. But by the summer of 2010, the overhang of the credit and real estate bubbles got in the way of normal recovery and the resulting weak expansion had become a political liability for the president.
So how compelling is the idea that the state of the economy determines the election winner? And is there evidence of a separate incumbency effect? Five of the 7 incumbents who won did so in years with both good job markets and no serious inflation worries. The other two had good job growth but inflationary problems. Harry Truman won in 1948 despite serious labor unrest and inflationary wage increases. And Richard Nixon won in 1972 despite clumsy wage and price controls that suppressed inflation. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Peter Huessy||August 2nd 2012|
A small group of nuclear abolitionists are pushing for the United States to dramatically reduce its nuclear weapons and eliminate the strategic nuclear triad, which for half a century has maintained the peace. Global Zero, which bills itself as an international movement for the elimination of all nuclear weapons and counts among its supporters a raft of former and current policy elites, recently released a report calling for steep reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Global Zero claims that the enhancement of ballistic missile defenses, long-range conventional prompt strike, and overall conventional military capabilities allow the United States to reduce its deployed nuclear forces to a level roughly double that of Pakistan and India combined or half that of China.
Unfortunately, if adopted, such a force structure would make the world a far more dangerous place and highly unstable. In fact, nuclear weapons use would be more likely. Let us go through the numbers. Global Zero proposes the United States reduce to 450 warheads deployed day-to-day from the current 1,550, and dramatically reduce the number of nuclear-armed platforms upon which the warheads rest. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Morton A. Klein, Michael Goldblatt, and Daniel Mandel ||August 2nd 2012|
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been assailed for saying at a fundraiser in Jerusalem that “culture” plays a large part in Israel’s superior “economic vitality” over the Palestinians, just as it does “between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States.” For this commonsensical statement of the obvious, he has been pilloried, not least by the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Saeb Erekat, who described his remarks as “racist.”
There was, of course, no reference in Governor Romney’s comparison of Israel and the Palestinians to religion or ethnicity, let alone race. He referred to culture, which indeed makes a major difference, in this case and the others he cited. He was right to note that this has produced widely divergent results in economic performance between Israel and the PA. Read more ..
|Ben Cohen and Keith Roderick||August 1st 2012|
Cutting Edge Contributors
In July, Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani marked his 1,000th day of incarceration in Lakan, a notorious prison in northern Iran. Charged with the crime of apostasy, Mr. Nadarkhani faces a death sentence for refusing to recant the Christian faith he embraced as a child. He embodies piety and represents millions more suffering from repression—but his story is barely known.
Mr. Nadarkhani’s courage and the tenacity of his supporters, many of them ordinary churchgoers who have crowded Twitter and other social media to alert the world to his plight, bring to mind the great human-rights campaigns of recent years: the fight against apartheid in South Africa, or the movement to assist Soviet Jews seeking to emigrate from behind the Iron Curtain. As Nelson Mandela represented the opposition to South African racism, and Anatoly Sharansky exemplified the just demands of Soviet Jews, so Mr. Nadarkhani symbolizes the emergency that church leaders say is facing 100 million Christians around the world. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Mark Mellman||July 31st 2012|
Our democracy is under attack from within. Republicans (and it seems to be just Republicans) appear determined to deny citizens their constitutional right to vote. Oddly enough, those whose rights are being curtailed are disproportionately Democratic. The GOP view seems to be, “If you can’t win fair and square, change the rules — even cheat.”
Since 2010, 16 states have passed restrictions that could affect Election 2012. The abuses of democracy come in several forms. Ohio and Florida, among others, reduced early voting just as more and more citizens were availing themselves of that opportunity. Both states cut the number of early-voting days almost in half. Why? Florida’s former Republican chairman swore in court documents that suppressing the African-American vote was discussed by officials.
Perhaps the most insidious weapon in the arsenal of those seeking to undermine the legitimacy of our elections is so-called “voter ID laws,” which require citizens to show government-issued (usually photo) identification in order to cast a ballot. Read more ..
The Obama Edge
The Heritage Foundation
Two days from now, employers across America will become vulnerable to crushing government penalties for exercising their religious freedom. This isn’t exactly what lawmakers advertised when they pushed Obamacare, but it is part of the Obama Administration’s agenda—forcing nearly all employers to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization services.
Beginning August 1, employers must amend their health insurance offerings to include these drugs and services. And if they don’t? How about a fine of $100 per employee per day for non-compliance. This outrageous policy makes it impossible for employers to afford the fine—meaning they must change their insurance policies or stop offering health coverage to their workers.
But for many employers, offering the types of services required under the HHS mandate violates their consciences. It conflicts with their deeply held religious beliefs. And the government is telling them that doesn’t matter—what’s more, it’s telling them that their beliefs are inconsequential, and they must pay. Read more ..
|Charles Murray||July 30th 2012|
Mitt Romney's résumé at Bain should be a slam dunk. He has been a successful capitalist, and capitalism is the best thing that has ever happened to the material condition of the human race. From the dawn of history until the 18th century, every society in the world was impoverished, with only the thinnest film of wealth on top. Then came capitalism and the Industrial Revolution. Everywhere that capitalism subsequently took hold, national wealth began to increase and poverty began to fall. Everywhere that capitalism didn't take hold, people remained impoverished. Everywhere that capitalism has been rejected since then, poverty has increased.
Capitalism has lifted the world out of poverty because it gives people a chance to get rich by creating value and reaping the rewards. Who better to be president of the greatest of all capitalist nations than a man who got rich by being a brilliant capitalist? Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Bruce Riedel||July 30th 2012|
The Brookings Institution
Al Qaeda has exploited the Arab Spring to create its largest safe havens and operational bases in more than a decade across the Arab world. In the 18 months since the Arab revolutions first began, al Qaeda has grown stronger, despite founder Osama bin Laden’s death and a lack of mass appeal.
Like the rest of the world, the terror organization was surprised by the revolutions that toppled dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Its ideology of violence and jihad initially was challenged by the largely nonviolent revolutionary movements that swept across North Africa and the Middle East. But al Qaeda is adaptive, and it has exploited the chaos and turmoil of revolutionary change to create bases and new strongholds from one end of the Arab world to the other.
In North Africa, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a franchise of the global organization, has successfully aligned itself with a local extremist group in Mali named Ansar al Dine, or Defenders of the Faith, and together they have effectively taken control of the northern two thirds of Mali. Together they are destroying the Islamic heritage of the fabled city of Timbuktu, much as al Qaeda and the Taliban destroyed Afghanistan’s historical treasures in the years before 9/11. Read more ..
|Michael Frank||July 29th 2012|
The Heritage Foundation
“I want every man to have the chance . . . in which he can better his condition; when he may look forward and hope to be a hired laborer this year and the next, work for himself afterwards, and finally to hire men to work for him. That is the true system.”
— Abraham Lincoln
How better to encourage Lincoln’s “true system” of upward mobility than by allowing hard-working employees to receive pay raises and spot bonuses when they deserve them? That, in a nutshell, is the philosophy behind the RAISE (Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees) Act. It would lift the restrictions that bar employers subject to collective-bargaining agreements from rewarding their best workers with pay increases or bonuses based solely on merit.
That’s right. Federal labor law — specifically, the National Labor Relations Act — actually prohibits employers from rewarding employees in this manner without permission from union officials. The Heritage Foundation’s labor expert James Sherk explains:
Most Americans know that unions set a floor for workers’ wages: An employer may not pay individual union members less than the amount bargained for by the union. Few Americans know that unions also set a ceiling for workers’ wages: Businesses may also not pay individual workers more than the amount for which their union bargained.
Unions are exclusive bargaining representatives. They represent all employees in a bargaining unit as a group, and they negotiate a collective contract that applies to all workers. Employers may not pay individuals more than the contract allows without first negotiating such an increase with the union. Read more ..
The New Egypt
|Isi Leibler||July 27th 2012|
Cutting Edge commentator
The government of Israel is making all the right noises and appropriate statements expressing hope that the new government of Egypt will maintain the cold peace.
But we should be under no illusions. Even the greatest optimists cannot gloss over the reality that the Islamic forces of the Muslim Brotherhood seeking to control Egypt are committed to ultimately revoking the peace treaty. Their motives stem not merely from nationalist xenophobia but are deeply rooted in fanatical extremist Islamic ideology which is infinitely more intense and inflexible. Although Mubarak treated Israel like a pariah and exploited popular anti-Semitism, in comparison to these Islamic zealots, he would be considered a “liberal.”
The Moslem Brotherhood is the organization which spawned Hamas and remains adamantly committed to wiping the “Zionist entity” off the face of the map. This was reiterated last month by its leader Mohammed Badie, who called for “imposing Muslim rule throughout Palestine” and “freeing it from the filth of Zionism”. Read more ..
|Pete V. Domenici and Alice M. Rivlin||July 27th 2012|
The Brookings Institution
In this age of political polarization, agreement across party lines on any subject is almost miraculous. And yet one thing everyone agrees on is this: America’s tax code is a mess.
When we focused on tax reform during the work of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, we kept hearing the same themes, which have been repeated by Senate Finance Committee Chairmen Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp (R-Mich.) before and since: the code is too complex, too hard to enforce, it costs growth and jobs and it contains countless special interest loopholes and favorable treatment for some taxpayers at the expense of others.
The “gee whiz” aspects of the tax code emerge daily: U.S. taxpayers and businesses spend 6.1 billion hours per year complying with the code. The instruction booklet for the basic Form 1040 now runs at 189 pages, whereas in the 1940s it took only two. The entire tax code stands at 5,296 pages. As the Internal Revenue Service notes, if tax compliance were considered an industry, it would take approximately 3,000,000 workers annually. And estimates show that individuals and companies shell out about $160 billion each year — equal to 11 percent of all income tax receipts — to comply with the tax code. Read more ..
The London Olympics
|Dovid Efune||July 27th 2012|
It wasn’t the Israelis that brought politics to the Olympic Games; it was the terror thugs of the PLO who in 1972 slaughtered 11 members of Israel’s Olympic team. It certainly wasn’t a decision that lay in the hands of the International Olympic Committee President at the time, although his successor Jacques Rogge has taken it upon himself to resolve that the commemoration of the victims is not befitting of the Olympic Games opening ceremony.
Rogge’s claim that his rationale is because, “We feel the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident,” is simply drivel. A number of other tragedies have been commemorated at past opening ceremonies, including at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics where the victims of the September 11 World Trade Center attacks were remembered. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Brent Budowsky||July 26th 2012|
Ernest Hemingway advised young writers to write one true sentence. For the 2012 campaign one true sentence is this: A great nightmare for Republican strategists is that President Obama might pull a “JFK in 1960” and run with Hillary Clinton for vice president. If he does, it will lift the chances of Democrats substantially, bend the curve of history dramatically and give him a chance to reach for historical greatness in his second term.
I have focused on this matter so intensely because I believe the possibilities of this decision are so momentous, the consequences for this election are so enormous, and the state of the union is so precarious as America and the world sail again into stormy economic seas. Consider this column, on this matter, my final summation to the jury of one.
My thesis about the 2012 election is this: The election will not ultimately be won by the candidate who most aggressively charges: You would be even worse off with my opponent than with me. It will not be won by the candidate who most cleverly asks: Are you better off than you were four years ago? It will be won by the candidate who most convincingly answers: Here is how you will be better off four years from now. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Michael Singh||July 25th 2012|
More than a year into the Syrian uprising, the regime of Bashar al-Assad finally appears to be approaching the demise that Western leaders have long insisted is inevitable. The assassination last week of senior Assad lieutenants, the increasing number of high-level regime defections, and the mounting achievements of opposition forces have contributed to the sense that the endgame in Syria is near.
Yet Assad is not yet finished. While his inner circle has suffered a grievous blow, he is far from isolated. Key advisors, including his younger brother and key military official Maher al-Assad, remain by all accounts loyal. So too do entire segments of the Syrian populace, such as Assad’s own Alawite community, other ethnic minorities who fear an Islamist takeover of Syria, and wealthy businessmen who have prospered under the regime’s patronage. Assad also retains support of foreign allies, such as Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia and China, which recently vetoed for the third time a UN Security Council resolution which would have imposed stronger sanctions on the Syrian regime. Read more ..
Jewry on Edge
|Juda Engelmayer||July 25th 2012|
Cutting Edge Contributor
It was just about two weeks ago that New Yorkers woke to news stories on radio and television about anti-Israel ads that were posted in train stations along commuter routes to New York City. In a slow news week, many news stations covered the “outrage” over what the Anti-Defamation League referred to as the “deliberately misleading and biased” messages that graphically demonstrated how Israel has been consuming “Palestine” since 1948. These ads were the work of a wealthy ex-Wall Street financier, Henry Clifford, who is now the chairman of The Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine.
During the broadcast reports, Jewish commuters were asked about the ads, and all of them expressed outrage. One, I recall, called the ads a form of terrorism and urged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to take them down. A local Jewish weekly newspaper also called for the ads to be taken down, claiming that they were offensive, and that they painted Israel and Israelis in a bad light.
When asked, Aaron Donovan of the MTA said, “We do not decide to accept or reject a proposed ad based on the viewpoint that it expresses, or because the ad might be controversial.”
Now, only a few days ago, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan ruled on another set of ads, this time on the other side of the Arab-Israel equation. (In the interest of full disclosure, neither of us have ever spoken to one another and it is yet uncertain how, if at all, we are related.) His finding was that a 15-year-old rule by the MTA that barred demeaning language in advertisements was a violation of free speech. Donovan may not have been aware of that old rule when he commented on Clifford’s ads.
In the case Engelmayer decided, the advocacy group American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) sought to run ads that stated, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel/Defeat Jihad."
Last September, after the MTA denied the ads, the group sued the public authority for violating its right to free speech. The ads would have been posted on 318 city buses for four weeks. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|John R. Bolton||July 25th 2012|
The killings of Syria’s Defense Minister and other key officials last week by opposition forces threaten to shatter Bashir al-Assad’s regime. Without a devastating response, his days are numbered. Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister of Russia, Syria’s closest ally, warned darkly that “the battle for the capital, the decisive fight” for the country, was underway.
Final collapse of the Ba’ath Party dictatorship will have profound, if still unpredictable, consequences. One absolutely critical issue is Assad’s weapons of mass destruction (“WMD”). Even before the deadly bomb attack, the regime, for unknown reasons, had begun moving stockpiles of chemical weapons from secure storage locations.
The most immediate question is whether Damascus will use chemical weapons (“CW”) against the opposition, as Amnesty International reported his father did during the 1982 Hama massacre. If Bashar concludes his regime will collapse and expose his fellow Alawites and other supporters to a bloodbath, he may calculate that resorting to CW is his only hope. Read more ..
The Automotive Edge
|Clifford Winston||July 24th 2012|
The Brookings Institution
California's proposed bullet train between Los Angeles and San Francisco—which Gov. Jerry Brown is likely to sign off on soon—has been characterized by the Obama administration and its other supporters as an effective way to reduce highway congestion. These costs amount to more than $100 billion annually in wasted time and higher fuel expenses.
In fact, a much better technological solution is on the horizon, if we pave the way by getting rid of obsolete highway design. It is already possible to imagine a world in which you could predict exactly how long it would take to drive in your car from one point to another. No worries about rush hour, vacation congestion, bad drivers, speed traps and accidents. You could also text while you drive with no safety implications.
All this may be possible thanks to a "driverless" car that does a human driver's normal job and much more. The car is operated by a computer that obtains information 10 times per second from short-range transmitters on surrounding road conditions, including where other cars are and what they are doing. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Steven Bucci||July 24th 2012|
The Heritage Foundation
My name is Dr. Steven P. Bucci. I am a Senior Research Fellow for Defense and Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. The views I express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed as representing any official position of The Heritage Foundation. Prior to coming to The Heritage Foundation I served as an Army Special Forces officer for three decades and led deployments to eastern Africa, South Asia, and the Persian Gulf. I have participated in joint exercises with regional militaries in the geographic vicinity of Syria. I also oversaw operations dealing with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) while serving in the Army and at the DoD level.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee and address this vital subject. My responsibilities at The Heritage Foundation involve research and analysis for the foundation’s public policy work concerning defense and homeland security. Read more ..
The New Egypt
|Shadi Hamid||July 23rd 2012|
The Brookings Institution
Elections are supposed to, among other things, bestow legitimacy to fledging institutions. In Egypt, the opposite seems to have occurred. After seemingly endless voting – the polls have been open no less than 17 days over eight election rounds – Egypt’s first democratically-elected parliament was dissolved, while the presidency was stripped of many of its powers. The early mistakes of what some have called the “stupidest transition in history” have accumulated. Each competing power – the military, the Brotherhood, and so-called ‘third way’ liberals – believes in its own set of rules, backed by its own set of legal interpretations. What a transition needs more than anything else is legitimacy, but this is precisely what Egypt lacks the most.
Take, for example, President Mohamed Morsi’s recent move to reinstate parliament, which had just weeks before been invalidated by the Supreme Constitutional Court. No one knows for sure whether Morsi’s move was, in fact, ‘legal’. The court, for its part, held an emergency meeting and found that Morsi’s decree was not legal. Of course, coming to a different conclusion would have been tantamount to ruling against itself, something which the court was unlikely to do. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Danielle Pletka||July 23rd 2012|
After months of bloodshed, some in Washington continue to suggest that Syria’s fight has little to do with the United States. They’re wrong. Principle aside, we have interests in ensuring the stability of a pivotal country in the Middle East — and not simply because Bashar al-Assad’s regime has nuclear- and chemical-weapons programs.
The question is: How does the United States make a difference, in spite of the international community’s paralysis and the Obama administration’s reluctance to support the Syrian opposition?
First, Washington must stop subcontracting Syria policy to the Turks, Saudis and Qataris. They are clearly part of the anti-Assad effort, but the United States cannot tolerate Syria becoming a proxy state for yet another regional power. If we have an interest, we have an interest in helping to lead Syria toward a stable future, not beholden to any nation. Read more ..
The Edge of Physics
|Rick Pantaleo||July 22nd 2012|
Tired, and rushing to meet a looming deadline, Dr. Pierre Savard and his colleagues didn’t realize what they’d found when they first came across a particle that looked a lot like the long-sought-after Higgs boson.
But it didn’t take long for them to realize their hard work had paid off. “When we looked at it, we kind of saw it,” Savard says. “It was unbelievable.” The University of Toronto professor belongs to ATLAS, one of two teams tasked with finding whether the mystery subatomic particle – which is believed to give all objects mass - actually exists. The team’s excitement about finding the new particle grew when it discovered the second team, CMS, had found virtually the same thing.
“It’s a big thing. Essentially, it’s as if we discovered a new fundamental force of nature,” Savard says. “So we know about, for instance, electromagnetism, electricity and magnetism. We know about gravity… but now we’ve found something new and it also plays a key role in our current theory for how we understand how matter interacts with particles and forces. It’s a big deal.” Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|A.B. Stoddard||July 22nd 2012|
|Indiana Senate contendors Joe Donnelly (D) and Richard Mourdock (R)|
Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock made “The Colbert Report” last month when he hedged his bets on the eve of the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on healthcare reform and mistakenly released three videos declaring his reaction to three different outcomes, each delivered with an identical somber visage before a dimly lit brick wall. Mourdock’s opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), bet big on one outcome a year ago—that Mourdock would defeat Sen. Dick Lugar in a GOP primary, then be defeated this fall, even as Hoosiers voted for Mitt Romney for president and Mike Pence for governor. Four months from Election Day, Romney and Pence hold solid leads but Mourdock and Donnelly are tied in the polls.
On May 8, Mourdock’s Tea Party-fueled victory over Lugar ended the legendary 36-year Senate career of a beloved Hoosier, bitterly dividing Indiana Republicans. Gov. Mitch Daniels supported Lugar, but endorsed Mourdock, Indiana’s state treasurer, after he won. Lugar was tagged a “liberal” and attacked by the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, two groups he accused of targeting incumbents in a “purification exercise” to enhance their influence and scare other Republicans. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Peter W. Singer||July 21st 2012|
The Brookings Institution
The last several months were supposed to be good times for the makers of unmanned aerial systems, popularly known as "drones." Business is booming and theirs is one of the few parts of the aerospace industry not shaking in its boots at impending defense budget cuts. And the $2.3 million spent on lobbying Congress finally seems to have paid off. In February, Congress ordered the FAA to figure out an action plan to open up the national air space to unmanned systems (currently, only those with special agreements, such as for Border Patrol, are allowed) by 2015, as well as set up six experimentation locales.
This will put an already strong business on steroids, akin to what the development of the Internet did for the computer industry. Rather than just selling to the Pentagon, the new clients might range from the more than 21,000 state and local law enforcement departments to farmers, journalists, and more, as they find new and innovative uses for unmanned systems, from overhead surveillance to crop-dusting. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Jonah Goldberg||July 21st 2012|
“If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own … If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” – Barack Obama, Roanoke, Va., July 13
The president’s defenders have claimed he either misspoke last week at a Roanoke, Va., campaign event or that what he said is true. Both defenses have merit. Obama surely didn’t mean to say something that politically idiotic so plainly. And it’s true that no man’s accomplishments are entirely his own. We’re all indebted to others, and we all rely on government to provide some basic things. Only the straw-men conservatives of Obama’s imagination yearn for an America with no roads and bridges. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Samara Greenberg||July 20th 2012|
Jewish Policy Center
Six people were killed and dozens injured July 18 in a terror attack directed against Israeli tourists in the resort city of Burgas, Bulgaria. The explosion occurred shortly after Israeli tourists boarded a bus at the airport after arriving from Tel Aviv. They were to be driven by four buses to hotels in the city. Of the dead, five people were Israeli and one a Bulgarian bus driver; the seventh casualty is the suicide bomber.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly pointed an accusatory finger at Hezbollah and Iran: “For over a year, Iran, along with its protégé Hezbollah, has been waging an international terror campaign,” Netanyahu said, calling Iran “the world’s number one exporter of terror” and Hezbollah its “long arm.” The White House, though not explicitly accusing Tehran, is reportedly concerned with what it sees as an increase in terror activities abroad plotted by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s elite Qods Force in response to intensifying Western sanctions. Iran denied its involvement in the Bulgarian attack. Read more ..
The London Olympics
World Jewish Daily
Jewish Blood Is Cheap!
One minute... That's all the families of 11 Israeli terror victims want from this year's summer Olympics. One minute to memorialize the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered at the hands of Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich games.
But they won't get it. The Olympic committee has refused to grant them their request, citing the "non-political" nature of the games. However, it has been widely reported that the committee is simply afraid that Arab nations will stage a walkout if the world is reminded that Arab terrorists killed Jewish athletes.
At Tablet, historian Deborah E. Lipstadt puts the issue into sharp focus.
Why the IOC refusal? The Olympic Committee’s official explanation is that the games are apolitical. The families were repeatedly told by long-time IOC President Juan Samaranch that the Olympic movement avoided political issues. He seemed to have forgotten that at the 1996 opening ceremony he spoke about the Bosnian war. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|James Colbert||July 18th 2012|
The Obama administration's intention to shift military resources to the Pacific satisfies American objectives, including enhancing stability and bilateral relations, and, perhaps most importantly, expanding economic opportunities.
Broadening the scope of this shift, or "pivot," as it is often called, to encompass the Arctic region furthers U.S. interests and is harmonious with existing national objectives. Indeed, the strategic doctrine underpinning the Pacific shift bolsters the compelling reasons for America to assert its rights and pursue its interests in the Arctic as well.
An invigorated Arctic focus would promote stability and the unfettered flow of global commerce to the great benefit of the U.S. economy - by far the world's largest - as well as the economies of its friends, partners and allies. Ocean-borne trade, which accounts for the vast majority of global commerce, has more than tripled over the past 40 years. Read more ..
|Juda Engelmayer||July 18th 2012|
Cutting Edge News Contributor
In about a week from now, the world will tune in to watch the opening ceremonies of the London Olympic Games. With all of the fanfare it deserves, this event brings together most of the world in harmony unseen in almost every other part of international relations. In principle, the Olympics were founded with the goal of placing “sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
A sports event intended to bring people together in harmony where politics and policies often fail is more than commendable, it merits deeper study toward replicating its influence in all parts of life. What is it about competitive sports that inspires people to put aside political, religious and often deep seated hatreds and divides and just play the game, put in their all and walk away feeling camaraderie rather than enmity?
The opening games this year, however, come with a dark memory of 40 years ago in Munich. Not exactly the anniversary, as those games began on August 26 in 1972, but as the summer series begins on July 27 this year, it is hard not to recall Black September when 11 Israeli athletes and a policeman were killed by Palestinian terrorists trying to take a political stand. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
In his exhaustive biography of Winston Churchill—which, incidentally, makes for splendid summer reading—the historian Roy Jenkins provides a gripping account of the future British Prime Minister’s lonely struggle during the 1930s to boost the defenses of the United Kingdom.
The main obstacle Churchill faced, Jenkins writes, was that “the climate of the time was profoundly anti-war and semi-pacifist.” While Hitler was energetically rearming Germany, British politicians of all stripes were worried that a corresponding shift on their part—to strengthen national security—would compromise them at the ballot box. The Nazi aggression that Churchill feared seemed too remote, given these day-to-day political pressures.
I thought of Churchill’s battle when I read, earlier this month, of British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond’s intention to transform British forces into a “smaller, integrated and more adaptable army than it is today.” Translated, that means massive, across-the-board cuts: once Hammond’s plans have been implemented—the target date is 2020—Britain will have just 82,000 soldiers available, and the British army will have shrunk to its smallest size since the Crimean War of 1853. Read more ..
Following what President Barack Obama's critics call his "amnesty announcement," instead of hiring more Border Patrol agents to cover the U.S-Mexico border, several stations are being shut down, which Border Patrol agents, through their union, claim will make it easier for illegal aliens to enter and remain in the country. In addition, it is a reckless move that makes the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorists entering the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction, say law enforcement officials.
According to a Fox News Channel story on Friday, "[T]he Obama administration is moving to shut down nine Border Patrol stations across four states, triggering a backlash from local law enforcement, members of Congress and Border Patrol agents themselves."
"Critics of the move warn the closures will undercut efforts to intercept drug and human traffickers in well-traveled corridors north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Though the affected stations are scattered throughout northern and central Texas, and three other states, the coverage areas still see plenty of illegal immigrant activity -- one soon-to-be-shuttered station in Amarillo, Texas, is right in the middle of the I-40 corridor; another in Riverside, Calif., is outside Los Angeles," said the Fox News report. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad|
There is a common misconception that Iran’s restrictions on the right to worship freely apply only to members of the Baha’i religion. But while the Islamic republic has reserved the most vicious forms of persecution for the adherents of this gentle faith — whose numbers, according to some estimates, have dwindled from around 500,000 at the time of the 1979 revolution to just 150,000 now — the situation of Iranian Christians is little better.
Through its treatment of its Christian and Jewish minorities, Iran’s policies underscore that mythology behind the oft-heard claim that the followers of the “Abrahamic” faiths are accorded dignity and respect. Just last week, Iran’s millenarian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told an Islamic conference in Tehran that Islam is the only true religion, denying at the same time the divine provenance of both Judaism and Christianity. “My dear ones!” Ahmadinejad declared munificently, “Islam is a world religion and God has only one religion, that of Islam, he did not send Judaism or Christianity; Abraham was a harbinger of Islam, as were Moses and Jesus!”
The majority of Iran’s 300,000 Christians belong to established churches like the Armenian and the Assyrian; for the time being, their fate is to walk on eggshells around the regime, which means they can’t say or do anything that the mullahs might interpret as proselytizing. By contrast, it is open season on the followers of the smaller, evangelical denominations, all of whom risk being charged with the crime of moharebeh, or apostasy. Read more ..
Healthcare on Edge
|Wendell Potter||July 18th 2012|
|Baylor University Hospital, 1938 (credit: Baylor Health Care System)|
Back during the debate on the Clinton health care reform proposal, insurance executives tried to convince lawmakers that they were on the same side of health care reform as consumers were, so they embraced the idea of “community rating” in which insurers charge everyone in a given community the same premium regardless of age, gender or health status. In testimony before a House committee in 1993, the president of Cigna’s health care business assured lawmakers that all the big insurers were on board with a return to community rating.
Insurance executives have changed their tune, now that they’re actually being required to go back to the days when community rating was the norm. Today’s health insurers want nothing to do with it. There’s just not enough profit in it.
Community rating was the original way insurance companies set prices for their policies. The practice began in the late 1920s when the administrator of Baylor University Hospital in Dallas came up with a strategy to deal with his hospital’s mounting expenses. His idea was to have groups of local residents, beginning with the city’s teachers, pay fifty cents a month and receive up to 21 days of hospital care—if needed—during any year. If you were a 21-year-old man who was as healthy as a bear, you paid the same each month as a 42-year-old woman who was not nearly as healthy. It made everybody happy, subscribers and cash-strapped hospital officials alike. Read more ..
Palestine on Edge
|Asaf Romirowsky||July 17th 2012|
Following a recent meeting between Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Filippo Grandi, commissioner-general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, Canberra agreed to contribute $90 million for additional teachers and doctors working for UNRWA.
Australia will provide these funds over five years to support Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
But why is Australia, like so many other Western countries, so ready to write large cheques to the UNRWA?
UNRWA is an open-ended educational and social welfare system for millions of Palestinians, primarily in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. But in what sense are these individuals truly refugees who should fall within UNRWA's remit? Publicly, UNRWA defines a Palestinian refugee as anyone whose "normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict". Read more ..
|James Colbert ||July 17th 2012|
JINSA Policy Director
When it comes to compelling Tehran to end its nuclear weapons program, sanctions - as employed by the U.S. government and our European partners - amount to little more than a time-consuming exercise with scant possibility of success. Moreover, the latest round of negotiations, which went nowhere, is just the most recent illustration of how the mullahs play for time, convinced that their sanctions-induced economic slowdown can be weathered and that the world will line up to purchase their oil once Iran's status as a nuclear power is secure.
Much has been made of the latest round of sanctions; they have been described as the toughest ever levied against Iran. As of June 28, the United States can bar foreign banks that participate in oil-related business with the Central Bank of Iran from access to American financial markets. Since July 1, European Union members are prohibited from buying Iranian oil as well as insuring ships that carry Iranian oil. It has been reported that these new sanctions could cost Iran some $4 billion a month. That is far from enough.
Iran's significant monetary and gold reserves (foreign currency reserves estimates run from $60 billion to $100 billion) however, coupled with a reduced but still substantial oil income, will continue to buffer the Tehran government from the degree of economic pain that even the most optimistic sanctions supporter believes would force a change in policy. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Juan Williams||July 16th 2012|
Last week, as Mitt Romney tried to defend himself against attacks on his record at Bain Capital, Republicans complained the Obama campaign is guilty of distracting Americans from the central issues of the 2012 presidential race — jobs and the economy.
In fact, fixing the economy is the entire basis of Romney’s campaign. So what plans does the GOP candidate have to rev up the economy? His best-known idea is cutting taxes. But there is no way to specify how many jobs that will create. After-tax profits for corporations are already high.
His most concrete idea for creating jobs is to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The idea has political potency because President Obama, citing environmental concerns, denied a permit for TransCanada Corp. to construct the 1,700-mile pipeline.
However, the number of jobs that would be created by Keystone could generously be described as modest. TransCanada initially estimated the project would create 20,000 jobs — 13,000 for the actual construction and 7,000 for manufacturing steel and other equipment.
In subsequent interviews the firm’s executives and economists who consulted on the study clarified that each of those “jobs” actually represents one “job year” — that is a job that lasts for one year. This means that for a single worker who works on the pipeline for the two years the project requires his tenure is counted as two “jobs.” That reduces the maximum number of jobs created by Keystone to between 10,000 and 15,000. Read more ..
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