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The Trump Era

Court Decision Upholds Trump's Travel Ban

March 25th 2017

airplanes shadows

A federal judge in Virginia ruled Friday against blocking President Trump’s executive order that called for temporarily stopping the entry of immigrants from six majority-Muslim nations and refugee admittance overall.

 
Judge Anthony Trenga of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia found on Friday that President Trump indeed has the authority to impose a travel ban on certain Muslim-majority countries, while he also agreed that the president’s executive order does not discriminate against Muslims. Linda Sarsour -- a Muslim activist who was an organizer of the January 21 Women’s March on Washington -- had initiated an injunction against the executive order with legal counsel from an attorney of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Read more ..

The Trump Era

Did Obama Abuse Raw Intelligence?

March 24th 2017

Obama bummed out

I couldn’t have seen those transcripts when I led the House intel committee.

It was remarkable when Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, revealed Wednesday that Trump campaign officials were caught up in the inadvertent collection of intelligence. Read between the lines with a clear understanding of the intelligence community, and it’s positively astonishing.

Starting with the premise of Mr. Nunes’s announcement, there’s evidence to show that communications involving people connected with the Trump transition were collected by America’s intelligence apparatus. We don’t know the particulars, but it could include conversations between Trump transition staff and foreign officials whose conversations were subject to intelligence monitoring. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

Where the Fed Goes, Other Central Banks May Not Follow

March 20th 2017

$1B US Currency

It has been a busy couple of days for the world's central banks. Since the U.S. Federal Reserve made its decision to hike interest rates, rate announcements have followed from the People's Bank of China, the Bank of Japan, the Swiss National Bank and the Bank of England. This confluence of activity from most of the key guardians of the global economy provides a good opportunity to take stock of where things stand.

The Federal Reserve had telegraphed its intent to raise its benchmark rate well before Wednesday's announcement, so it came as no surprise. In the past few weeks, various Fed governors had conducted a coordinated speaking campaign to prepare the markets, and Friday's report showing strong U.S. jobs numbers removed its last impediment to action. With recent U.S. economic data generally robust, the Fed wants to give itself room to boost rates two or possibly even three more times during the year.

Read more ..

Jewry on Edge

From Noble to Ignoble: Quaker Relations with Israel

March 15th 2017

boycott Israel t-shirt

Unwittingly, Friends' Central School in Wynnewood, PA, a well-regarded Quaker establishment, has once again come under fire for its ties to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement supported by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

The school operates in accordance with the Quaker philosophy of "simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. Underlying all facets of School life is the belief that 'there is that of God in everyone.' Meeting for Worship is central, providing time for connections among members of the community and between individuals and their spiritual sources. Peaceful resolution of conflicts, seeking truth and collaboration are key aspects of a Friends' Central education."

The Quakers have cultivated their image as peaceful and supremely benign. Few suspect, much less know, that one of their central missions is promoting the BDS movement that opposes Israel's existence. Read more ..


The Edge of Physics

The Quest to Crystallize Time

March 14th 2017

Taurus Molecular Cloud

Christopher Monroe spends his life poking at atoms with light. He arranges them into rings and chains and then massages them with lasers to explore their properties and make basic quantum computers. Last year, he decided to try something seemingly impossible: to create a time crystal.

The name sounds like a prop from Doctor Who, but it has roots in actual physics. Time crystals are hypothetical structures that pulse without requiring any energy—like a ticking clock that never needs winding. The pattern repeats in time in much the same way that the atoms of a crystal repeat in space. The idea was so challenging that when Nobel prizewinning physicist Frank Wilczek proposed the provocative concept in 2012, other researchers quickly proved there was no way to create time crystals.

But there was a loophole—and researchers in a separate branch of physics found a way to exploit the gap. Monroe, a physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park, and his team used chains of atoms they had constructed for other purposes to make a version of a time crystal. “I would say it sort of fell in our laps,” says Monroe. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Israeli Experts Claim Iran and North Korea Working On Nuclear Warheads

March 9th 2017

Iran Long-Range Missile

Iran is using its strategic relationship with North Korea to advance its nuclear weapon program, two Israeli experts of the Begin Sadat Center revealed in a study published Tuesday. Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Refael Ofek and Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham say that Iran is circumventing the restrictions on its nuclear program under the nuclear agreement with the P5+1 countries by collaborating with North Korea on missile development and modifying missiles for nuclear weapons. They also work together on programs meant to upgrade gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment, the Israeli experts claim.

“This kind of strategic, military-technological collaboration is more than merely plausible. It is entirely possible, indeed likely, that such a collaboration is already underway,” the two Israeli experts wrote. The pair also noted the two countries have developed almost identical ballistic missiles which can carry nuclear warheads. Read more ..


The Edge of Film

The Oscars Reflect Talent, but also Money and Politics

February 10th 2017

Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep

The 89th Academy Awards are upon us, and critics and Hollywood insiders are placing bets on which nominees will go home with the coveted statuette. The idea of the Academy is to judge films on their artistic merit, but as always, political considerations and even current events can have an impact on who wins an Oscar.

Damien Chazelle’s nostalgic musical La La Land may be the big winner this year. The film offers a tribute to Hollywood musicals, has great cinematography, good music and a tear-jerking story; but, some critics question if the film really deserves all of its 14 nominations. That number has been equaled by only two other movies throughout Hollywood history: the 1950s drama All About Eve starring Bette Davis, and James Cameron’s 1997 Titanic.

Ads, money influence Oscars

Giovanna Chesler, director of the Film and Video Studies program at George Mason University in Virginia, says that as in any other campaign, robust advertising and a large amount of money can have as much influence as artistic merit in securing a film’s road to the Oscars.

She says that in some categories, such as the Documentary category, filmmakers have to submit a $50,000 fee just to be considered for a nomination. She says such fees guarantee screenings of the prospective nominees’ films in core markets during the Oscar season.

A filmmaker herself, Chesler says she has renewed faith in the Oscars because, as she puts it, “in this year’s nominees you see more talent reflected, not just the marketing ability of the industry.”

Oscars less white

There are more nominations for minority films and actors. She points to art films like Moonlight, a coming-of-age drama about an African-American boy growing up in a drug-infested community, and Denzel Washington’s movie adaptation of the play Fences, about a struggling husband and father who, despite his personal flaws, is working hard to make his mark in the world. Read more ..


The Trump Era

Palestinians Fear Being Sidelined by Trump White House

February 9th 2017

Palestinans for Yeshua?

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who spent hundreds of hours on the phone and in meetings with U.S. presidents and secretaries of state in the past 12 years, has tried unsuccessfully to reach out to President Donald Trump. Abbas and his aides are alarmed by the possibility of being sidelined at a time when the administration is embracing Israel's prime minister who heads to the White House next week. Here's a look at what's at stake for Abbas and Palestinian hopes for statehood.

ARE THE PALESTINIANS REALLY BEING IGNORED?

In December, the Trump transition team refused to meet with Palestinian officials visiting Washington, putting them off until after the Jan. 20 inauguration, according to senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat, the main point man for official contacts with the United States. Other advisers say Abbas tried to arrange a phone call with Trump after the November election and again after the inauguration, but received no response to his requests. The White House did not respond to a January letter in which Abbas expressed concerns about possibly moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to contested Jerusalem. Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

Stunning Court Decision Approves Passover Punishment

February 6th 2017

judge's gavel

Three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit surprisingly rejected the appeal of Susan Abeles a Washington D.C., Orthodox Jew, who was punished by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) because she took off work for the last two days of Passover 2013, as she had done for the past 26 years that she worked at the agency. Abeles’ closely-watched case evoked amicus briefs by the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) as well as The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and the American Jewish Committee. Ms. Abeles' lawyer is Nathan Lewin, the well-known advocate for Jewish religious rights."

For each of the 26 years Abeles worked for the Airports Authority since 1987, she took off for all Jewish holidays on which work is prohibited, including the last two days of Passover. Everyone at her job knew she was an Orthodox Jew. She consistently gave her supervisors a list of the dates of Jewish holidays at the beginning of each calendar year and her supervisors accepted that list as a request for annual leave on the specified Jewish holidays.

Read more ..

The Trump Era

Who are Those Refugees Australia Doesn’t Want?

February 4th 2017

Sydney Opera House

It is hard to complain about Australia — democratic, sunny, cheerful, and oh, those koalas and kangaroos. On a more serious note, Australia is a welcome ally, participating in military operations around the world with American forces and sharing our concerns about aggressive Chinese behavior in the South- and East China Seas. Australia is spending billions to modernize its military forces.

But a few things about Australia should be made clear as President Trump scuttles an Obama-administration deal to take 1,250+ refugees currently in Australian-run internment camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Internment camps? Papua New Guinea and Nauru?

The Wall Street Journal explains:

“Under laws first put in place in 2001, successive Australian governments have required asylum seekers coming by boat to be intercepted. The conservatives, on winning power in 2013, set up a maritime blockade that Mr. Turnbull has offered as a model for Europe. But the system began to unravel after Papua New Guinea’s highest court last year ordered the closure of the Australian-operated immigration center on Manus Island, ruling asylum seekers were being held illegally.” Read more ..


Covenant of Democratic Nations

Replacing the UN with The Covenant of Democratic Nations—An Inside Story

January 30th 2017

Edwin Black

For years, foreign policy critics, politicians, and outraged members of the general public have been militating to defund and quit the United Nations. Some have advocated that a rival or successor organization be established. Now, the empty sheet of bitter discontent with the UN has been filled in with a new name, and a new movement calling to “defund and replace” troubled organization with a new world body: The Covenant of Democratic Nations. This writer has been a participating witness to the birth of this movement.

 

Just days after controversial UN Resolution 2334 declared, among other things, that Israel’s Jewish connection to the Western Wall was effectively illegal, to ambassadorial applause in the room, concrete replacement action began. It has started with a conversation of ideas proposing an official international conference which would carefully propound a multilaterally-signed diplomatic convention that would be ratified by countries as a binding treaty that would juridically forge the Covenant into operational reality. The entire process— fraught with hazy puzzlements over a terrain of “what ifs”—would be limited to nations governed by democratic principles. Each member would or could defund the United Nations while it labored to construct a successor entity dedicated to world peace along democratic principles with equal respect for all people regardless of religion, gender, race, identity, or national origin, as well as formulating a mechanism to resolve disputes.

 

A prime mission of the new world body would be to re-ratify, amend, or nullify all acts and resolutions of the United Nations and its agencies such as UNESCO. Thus, the Covenant would create a new body of long-overdue, reformed, clarified, and updated international law. Just as unjust American laws perpetrating slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and institutional inequality were overturned, updated, and reformed during the civil rights era and right through our present decade, so too, the damage, inequity, and misuse of international law and process would be overturned by the CDN. Sensibly, most CDN nations would remain as vestigial members of the UN overseeing its collapse from economic and bureaucratic processes just as was done when the League of Nations was dissolved after World War Two and replaced with the present UN. Read more ..


The Trump Era

Ambassador Haley delivers blunt warning to UN

January 28th 2017

UNESCO

The new US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said today at the headquarters of the international body that her country will show strength in international affairs. She also delivered blunt warnings from the Trump administration. The former governor of South Carolina told UN the media before meeting Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, "For those who don't have our backs: we're taking names." Haley said, "We will make points to respond to that accordingly."
 
"Our goal with the administration is to show value at the UN, and the way that we will show value is to show our strength, show our voice, have the backs of our allies and make sure that our allies have our back as well," she said. Haley presented her diplomatic credential today to Guterres, who is also new to his position.
Read more ..

The Covenant of Democratic Nations

Has the Time Come for Amexit From the UN?

January 25th 2017

UN Human Rights Council

As British Prime Minister Theresa May plans a Brexit from the EU, Americans may soon ask what kind of exit we want from another international institution.

In our case, the organization is not the European Union, but the United Nations. Earlier this month, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced a bill to block taxpayer dollars from going to the UN. These senators, like many Americans, are incensed by a recent anti-Israel resolution adopted by the world body. But the US’ problems with the UN run deeper than one bad resolution. They are endemic to the institution. At some point, our elected leaders will ask whether the time has come not just to defund, but also to depart — and then replace the UN with something better.

That point may come sooner rather than later. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

In Obama’s last hours, US Sent $221 million to Palestinians

January 24th 2017

President Obama sunglasses and flying cravat

Officials say the Obama administration in its waning hours defied Republican opposition and quietly released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority that GOP members of Congress had been blocking.

A State Department official and several congressional aides said the outgoing administration formally notified Congress it would spend the money Friday morning. The official said former Secretary of State John Kerry had informed some lawmakers of the move shortly before he left the State Department for the last time Thursday. The aides said written notification dated Jan. 20 was sent to Congress just hours before Donald Trump took the oath of office. Read more ..


The Race for Flying Cars

Airbus Develops Flying Car, Prototype Is Coming Soon

January 19th 2017

Broken Road

As recently as past week, Volvo futurologist Aric Dromi predicted that before mankind will see completely autonomous vehicles driving around in cities, they will see flying cars. Now someone no less than the CEO of the Airbus Group banged on the same drum.

At the DLD digital technology conference in Munich, Airbus Chief Executive Office Tom Enders said the company is in the process of developing flying cars – and a prototype will be available before the end of the year. The self-piloted flying car could be seen as a way of avoiding gridlock on city roads, Enders said according to media releases.

Read more ..

The Islamic State

Islamic State Surrounds Military Airport in Deir ez-Zor, Eastern Syria

January 18th 2017

IS with Missile

Islamic State fighters have broken through government defensive lines in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, surrounding a military airport and cutting off food supplies for roughly a quarter of a million civilians in what could become a major humanitarian disaster.

Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria is divided between the militants and the government of Bashar al-Assad. The areas controlled by the government have long been under siege but were sustained by supplies flown in to the nearby military airport and by airdrops from the World Food Programme.

But on Monday, Isis fighters, which sources from the city said were primarily reinforcements coming over the border from Iraq’s Anbar province, broke through government lines, splitting its territory in half and taking control of the area where the WFP’s airdrops landed. Read more ..


The Trump Era

Disruptions Planned for Inauguration Day

January 11th 2017

Whitehouse

Opponents of President-elect Donald Trump are planning huge demonstrations in Washington DC during the month of January. At least one large-scale protest by leftists and progressives is planned for January 20: Inauguration Day. Police are expecting tens of thousands of protesters in what could well become like the large-scale Occupy Wall Street protests and raucous anti-war protests of the last decade. 
 
Here are some major protests related to Donald Trump’s inauguration day.
 
January 14, 2017: We Shall Not Be Moved March  
 
Al Sharpton will lead a major protest at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on January 14, six days before the inauguration. Sharpton, who is a contributor to CNN, has long been a gadfly to Republicans and has made plain his opposition to Trump. And make no mistake. This march is all about Trump. Sharpton has been quoted as saying that the rally will seek to protect civil rights and voting rights for “people that have been excluded,” and also push for healthcare and equal opportunity for Americans. 
Read more ..

The Trump Era

Ford Cancels $1.6 Billion Plant in Mexico after Trump criticism

January 3rd 2017

Ford

Ford Motor Co (F.N) said Tuesday it will cancel a planned $1.6 billion factory in Mexico and will invest $700 million at a Michigan factory, after President-elect Donald Trump had harshly criticized the Mexico investment plan.

The second largest U.S. automaker said it would build new electric, hybrid and autonomous vehicles at the Flat Rock, Michigan plant.

Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields said the decision to cancel the new Mexico factory was in part related to the need to "fully utilize capacity at existing facilities" amid declining sales of small and medium sized cars such as the Focus and Fusion. Fields also endorsed "pro growth" tax and regulatory policies advocated by Trump and the Republican-led Congress. "This is a vote of confidence for President-Elect Trump and some of the policies he may be pursuing," Fields said.

Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Assad's Palestinian Mercenaries

January 3rd 2017

Mahmoud Abbas and Yassir Arafat

Over the past century, various Palestinian leaders have fostered alliances that were either unsuccessful or not particularly useful to them.

Take the alliance formed by the grand mufti of Jerusalem during the British mandate period, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who during World War II supported Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. Al-Husseini hoped the Germans would win the war and Hitler would become fuhrer of the Middle East. After the Nazis lost the war, however, the West did not forgive al-Husseini, which severely damaged the Palestinian cause for over two decades.

Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat erred in 1990 when he supported Iraq in its invasion of Kuwait. Palestinian public support for the invasion led to a great deal of suffering for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians then living in Kuwait and the Persian Gulf, who paid the price for Arafat's support of the tyrannical Saddam Hussein.

Read more ..

The Robotic Age

iPhone Manufacturer Foxconn Plans To Replace Almost Every Human Worker With Robots

December 31st 2016

Smart phone

Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing giant behind Apple’s iPhone and numerous other major electronics devices, aims to automate away a vast majority of its human employees, according to a report from DigiTimes. Dai Jia-peng, the general manager of Foxconn’s automation committee, says the company has a three-phase plan in place to automate its Chinese factories using software and in-house robotics units, known as Foxbots.

The first phase of Foxconn’s automation plans involve replacing the work that is either dangerous or involves repetitious labor humans are unwilling to do. The second phase involves improving efficiency by streamlining production lines to reduce the number of excess robots in use. The third and final phase involves automating entire factories, “with only a minimal number of workers assigned for production, logistics, testing, and inspection processes,” according to Jia-peng.

The slow and steady march of manufacturing automation has been in place at Foxconn for years. The company said last year that it had set a benchmark of 30 percent automation at its Chinese factories by 2020. The company can now produce around 10,000 Foxbots a year, Jia-peng says, all of which can be used to replace human labor. In March, Foxconn said it had automated away 60,000 jobs at one of its factories. Read more ..


The Trump Era

What Really Happened at the Presidents Conference-Azerbaijan Hanukkah Party

December 27th 2016

Malcolm Hoenlein

On December 14, 2016, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (the Presidents Conference) in concert with the Embassy of Azerbaijan held a historic Chanukah party in Washington, D.C. that will be talked about for some time. Controversy continues to swirl over not only who attended the party, but who did not; how many were clicking glasses inside and how many were scowling outside. Ironically, this special event was singularly memorable not only for its historic collection of diplomatic personalities but also for the landmark under-reporting and misreporting of the event.

The Presidents Conference is comprised of the presidents of 50-plus so-called “major” Jewish organizations, although some are so small few have heard of them. Malcolm Hoenlein serves as executive vice chair of the conference.

The Conference Hanukkah party was timed to intersect with the official White House Chanukah party being held a few blocks away the same evening. Included among the approximate 150-200 attendees were at least 13 ambassadors and other senior diplomatic envoys, many from predominantly Muslim countries, along with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer. The senior diplomats hailed Turkey, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan, as well as Belarus, Romania, Russia, Greece, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and even the PLO Mission, along with the Azerbaijan Embassy sponsors and Israel’s Ambassador.

Around Washington, D.C., it is not hard to attract senior personalities and officials to a party. Top congressmen and senators are always special guests and speakers at luncheons, conferences, and receptions. Typically, they dash in and dash out, within moments of their appearance, lingering just long enough to read a short political statement and then exit. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

An Existential Battle for the Demographic Future of Syria

December 21st 2016

Syria fighting injured baby

The Syrian government, Russia, and Iran (SRI) are trying to change the demographic makeup of Syria. They aim to depopulate Syria of the Arab Sunnis, which, before the Arab Spring was the largest religio-ethnic group in Syria. They mostly inhabited a very fertile strip of land between Aleppo in the north, down to Damascus, and then southward to the Jordanian border. Those Arab Sunnis who did not leave are being forced to move to Idlib and Raqqa, near the Turkish border.1

Examining SRI’s military campaign and its policy towards the refugees they have created suggests this SRI strategy.  The groups and places which the Russians have been attacking are the traditional strongholds of the Sunni Arab population – as of late Aleppo – the largest city in Syria.

Read more ..

The Trump Era

On the Eve of Trump's Deregulatory Revolution

December 20th 2016

Wall Street Bull

President-Elect Trump has the unprecedented opportunity to eliminate thousands of  useless federal regulations without any Congressional involvement.  Trump is uniquely not beholden to a political party, patrons, pollsters, pundits, lobbyists or ideologues.  His Cabinet and federal agency appointees can use the Administrative Procedure Act to rescind eighty years of outdated, useless and, in some cases, stifling regulations that have impeded business and stunted the growth of the US economy. 

Mr. Trump, not Congress, should appoint "a Special Advisor to the President for Deregulation" who would work out of the White House with all Cabinet members and agency heads to implement the Deregulatory Revolution. 

In 1762 Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote the immortal words that launched the Age of Revolution throughout Europe and America (somewhat contemporized): "Man is born free and everywhere he is in the chains of excessive regulation!"  Right now in America before the beginning of the Trump Presidential Administration in January 2017, we are on the eve of a deregulatory revolution that will be unprecedented in American history.  Read more ..


Israel and Muslim World

Historic Meeting of Muslim Ambassadors and Israel Ambassador at Conference of President Hanukka Party

December 15th 2016

Malcolm Hoenlein

On December 14, 2016 the Conference of Presidents and the Embassy of Azerbaijan co-hosted nearly two hundred guests who filled the room for a reception in Washington, DC to celebrate the upcoming Chanukah holiday and honor those countries and others that provided crucial firefighting personnel and equipment to assist Israel in battling the devastating fires last month.

The event was attended by the ambassadors representing the diverse group of nations and others who aided Israel, leaders from many important American Jewish organizations, Ambassador Ron Dermer of Israel and other honored guests, including members of Congress.  Joining Ambassador Suleymanov of Azerbaijan were ambassadors and diplomats from Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, the PLO, Romania, Russia, Tajikstan and Turkey.  

The event also followed by one day the visit to Azerbaijan of Prime Minister Netanyahu for meetings with President Ilham Aliyev which resulted in stronger ties between the two countries.

Stephen M. Greenberg, Chairman and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO said, “Last night, in a spirit of celebration, mutual respect and gratitude, we brought together a full house of guests from many different faiths, cultures and countries who joined together with us to reaffirm our common humanity.”

In his address to the capacity crowd, Ambassador Suleymanov stressed the value Azerbaijani society has historically placed on acceptance and respect for religious diversity and saying “it is who we are as a people and a nation.” He added that the centuries old Jewish community is and has always been an integral part of Azerbaijan.

Read more ..

Obama and Israel

High Anxiety Continues Over Obama in the UN Until January 20

December 7th 2016

Edwin Black

Anxiety continues to roil through the pro-Israel world over a possible last-minute political move by the Obama administration that could permanently alter the Israeli-Palestinian geo-political landscape.

Forty-eight hours after the November 8 election, I flew to South Florida for a series of lectures and briefings organized by StandWithUs, NOVA Southeast University and other organizations as part of the State Department’s International Education Week, this to analyze the prospects regarding relations with Israel in the last weeks of the Obama administration. Everywhere, audiences were on the edge of their seats asking whether President Obama would take extraordinary passive or active steps in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to recognize a Palestinian state or impose a peace settlement, including a territorial mandate following the lines of the 1948 truce. Unlike General Assembly resolutions, which are not binding, the UNSC generally creates lasting pillars of international law.

As we approach Noon, January 20, 2017, uncertainty continues to abound among even the most astute of political insiders.

President Barack Obama remains personally silent. Administration assurances in recent days proffer comfort to those hanging on every word to discern a course of action. But embedded ambiguities in each of those assurances only increases the speculation.

For example, in recent days, unnamed administration sources were quoted by the Associated Press suggesting that President Obama "has nearly ruled out any major last-ditch effort to put pressure on Israel over stalled peace negotiations with the Palestinians." The phrase "nearly ruled out" shines brightly in that report to emphasize that no decision has been made.

Read more ..

The Caliphate

The Islamic State Comes to Russia

December 6th 2016

ISIS Group with Flags

On June 23, 2015, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the official spokesman of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, declared the formation of a new wilayat, or governorate, in Russia’s North Caucasus.(1) The announcement was a watershed; as news agencies noted at the time, never before had the group made a territorial claim inside Russia. But it was also a sign of something bigger; al-Adnani’s announcement came just days after reports that thousands of Islamic militants in Russia’s restive regions of Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria—four provinces of the Caucasus Emirate, Russia’s most potent jihadi group—had formally pledged allegiance to IS. In doing so, they echoed an earlier, December 2014 declaration by several of the Emirate’s senior militants.(2) Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Forces Seize More Rebel-Held Districts In Aleppo As Assault Gains Momentum

November 30th 2016

Syria fighting injured baby

Syrian government forces seized full control of northeast Aleppo on Monday, overrunning a third of what remained of the rebel enclave and sending thousands of civilians into panicked flight.

The area’s recapture brings President Bashar al-Assad’s troops closer than ever to realizing their biggest victory of the five-year-old civil war: retaking full control of what was once Syria’s commercial capital.

The reconquered neighborhoods in Aleppo had been among the first to throw off government control in 2012. On Nov. 15, government forces launched a final push to take them back, supported by Russian warplanes and Iranian-backed troops. Read more ..


The US and China

China vs America-- Competing Economic Superpowers

November 29th 2016

Bank of China

Depending on how one crunches the numbers, China’s economy has either already surpassed, in size, that of the United States, or will do so in a within a couple of years.  According to data from the World Bank, it is the former, China’s nominal GDP was $19.3 trillion in 2015, while U.S. GDP came in at $17.9 trillion.  One difficulty in comparing national economies is calculating each country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in a common currency—usually in U.S. dollars.  A second is adjusting the GDP numbers to take into account purchasing power parity (PPP).

Whether or not China’s economy is larger than the U.S., the former’s economic growth over the past three decades is nothing if not incredible.  In turn, it has created some angst among Americans.  Mike Patton writes in Forbes:  “China’s economy will become more significant than America’s.  How is this possible?  Is the golden era of “Made in America” in our rearview mirror?  Is China entering a modern-day economic dynasty?”  Based solely on the dollar size of GDP, yes China is projected to far surpass the U.S. in the coming years. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Bolton Warns Obama on Israel Action at UN

November 22nd 2016

Obama and Israel

Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton warned Sunday that President Obama should not take any actions before leaving office that could hurt Israel at the U.N.

Bolton said during an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis that there is "a lot of speculation over in Turtle Bay at U.N. headquarters about resolutions that recognize a Palestinian state or that try and set a boundary for Israel based on the 1967 ceasefire lines."

"I think that’d be very inadvisable for the president to do that," he said. Obama said during his final speech as president at the U.N. General Assembly that Israel would be in a better position if it did not “permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land" and Palestinians would be better off if they were to “reject incitement," according to the Jerusalem Post.

Read more ..

The Trump Era

Obamacare’s Days May be Numbered

November 12th 2016

Medical bag

Obamacare’s days may be numbered. The Affordable Care Act has survived dozens of recall attempts by the House of Representatives and two challenges brought to the U.S. Supreme Court.  But with a Donald Trump presidency and a new Republican-led House and Senate, the bill—or at least certain key provisions—is almost certainly headed for the chopping block.

The question now is what provisions may survive and when the death knell of the others will sound.

President-elect Trump campaigned on repealing the law and its requirement for Americans to carry health insurance. Trump says the private market should step in with the sale of insurance plans across state lines to help drive down costs through competition. He has said he will dismantle Medicaid and transform it into a system of state grants to provide assistance for low-income residents.

Read more ..

Vote 2016

WikiLeaks: Julian Assange Reveals 'Most Significant' of Hillary Clinton's Emails Politics

November 6th 2016

Hillary Clinton

In a far-ranging interview with Australian journalist John Pilger, open-government activist Julian Assange spoke of revelations not only about Hillary Clinton’s fundraising among foreign nations for the Clinton Foundation, but also linkage to funding for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks hacking organization, claimed that there is a broad conspiracy to obstruct Donald Trump’s candidacy. Broadcast on Russian state television, Assange was asked by journalist John Pilger to comment on the significance of the reopening of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State.
Assange started the conversation by denying that WikiLeaks has anything to do with the Russian security apparatus, as asserted by the Obama administration and trumpeted by the Clinton campaign. The Clinton campaign has sought to link Russia and the embarrassing hacked emails to Donald Trump as well. 
Read more ..

The Battle for Iraq

Mosul Embattled Again 100 Years After Lunge for Oil

November 3rd 2016

Oil fields near Ramadi

Mosul is dominating news headlines worldwide. Daesh is making its last stand in the Iraqi city as an international coalition moves in to expel them. 

But this is not the first time Mosul is at the centre of a global struggle. A 100 years ago, Britain, France, Germany, Turkey, the United States and Russia were trying to make their mark on the city. 

The reason: oil. 

Here is a brief account of what was happening around Mosul a century ago. But at that time Mosul was the name used to represent a larger region in north-west Iraq. 

Spoils of War

Not a hole had been drilled and not a barrel pumped out in 1916 but oil was what everyone wanted.

Read more ..

Vote 2016

E-Voting Refuses to Die Even Though It's Neither Secure nor Secret

November 2nd 2016

Vote Buttons

In theory, using the internet or e-mail to vote for the U.S. president sounds like a good idea. It would be easier than rushing to the nearest polling station before or after work, and it might pull in notoriously apathetic younger voters already living most of their lives via screens. But in reality these online channels have proved to be terribly insecure, plagued by cyber attacks and malicious software able to penetrate supposedly well-protected financial, medical and even military systems.

Such security concerns are the most frequent and convincing arguments against online voting—there is no way to fully secure e-voting systems from cyber attack. Online voting systems are also expensive and often require voters to waive their right to a secret ballot.

Still, at least 31 states and the District of Columbia do let military and expatriate voters use the internet to submit marked ballots via e-mailed attachments, fax software or a Web portal according to Verified Voting, a nonprofit organization that studies the security of electronic voting systems. Twenty-one of those states and D.C. let voters e-mail or fax in their ballots, and another five states allow some people to cast their votes via special Web sites. “You can make voting more secret with a Web site because there is no e-mail address to trace a vote back to but the information about a person’s vote and their voter ID number are still out there on a server,” says Jeremy Epstein, a senior computer scientist at nonprofit research organization SRI International. Read more ..


Vote 2016

Clinton Emails -- A Dark Sampling

October 28th 2016

Hilary Clinton

Most Americans know very little about the leaked Clinton emails.

Here’s what’s happening behind the headlines.

Major news organizations buried the most damaging. So we’re sharing some with you.

The FBI and State Department used the term “quid pro quo” in secret negotiations to alter the Clinton investigation in exchange for more embassy assignments.

The campaign strategized on political contributions from lobbyists of foreign governments.

The term “pay-to-play” was used in selling ambassadorships to donors.

The New York Times coordinated its criticism of Trump with Clinton officials.

The campaign chair [John Podesta] was disappointed the San Bernardino terrorist was Muslim and not a white guy.

[A lobbyist offered $5,000 in return for a White House meeting.

Staffers consider Chelsea “a spoiled brat kid.”]

Chelsea used charity money in her for-profit business.

Obama used Clinton’s private email while claiming he didn’t know about it.

Staff mocked Catholics, evangelicals, Bernie Sanders voters and Hispanics. And called southern states the “confederacy.” Read more ..


Vote 2016

Concern Grows Over Soros-Linked Voting Machines

October 25th 2016

Voting Booth

Concern is growing over revelations that voting machines in a significant number of states could be linked to a company tied directly to billionaire leftist George Soros and his personal quest to create a nationless, borderless global state.

The U.K.-based Smartmatic company posted a flow-chart on its website that it had provided voting machines for 16 states, including important battleground states like Florida and Arizona. Smartmatic Chairman Mark Malloch-Brown is a former U.N. official and sits on the board of Soros’ Open Society Foundations. Since the story first broke, the flow-chart has disappeared from Smartmatic’s website, raising further questions about the real status of the Soros-tied voting equipment and whether it is truly being deployed in U.S. elections. Read more ..


Cybersecurity

What We Know About That Massive Internet Outage

October 23rd 2016

Fiber Optics

Friday morning is prime time for some casual news reading, tweeting, and general Internet browsing, but you may have had some trouble accessing your usual sites and services this morning and throughout the day, from Spotify and Reddit to the New York Times and even good ol’ WIRED.com. For that, you can thank a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) that took down a big chunk of the Internet for most of the Eastern seaboard.

This morning’s attack started around 7 am ET and was aimed at Dyn, an Internet infrastructure company headquartered in New Hampshire. That first bout was resolved after about two hours; a second attack began just before noon. Dyn reported a third wave of attacks a little after 4 pm ET. In all cases, traffic to Dyn’s Internet directory servers throughout the US—primarily on the East Coast but later on the opposite end of the country as well—was stopped by a flood of malicious requests from tens of millions of IP addresses disrupting the system. Late in the day, Dyn described the events as a “very sophisticated and complex attack.” Still ongoing, the situation is a definite reminder of the fragility of the web, and the power of the forces that aim to disrupt it. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Glenn Oswald and Cheryl Guyer Remain Silent on Detroit Museum Future

October 20th 2016

Detroit Holocaust Memorial Center

Cheryl Guyer, interim director of Detroit's Holocaust Memorial Center, and the museum's outside publicist Glenn Oswald, have both maintained silence about the beloved museum's future, this despite global attention focussed on the institution's plan for a so-called "new direction."

 

Guyer also functions as fundraiser for the museum. Oswald also serves in the Marx Layne public relations firm.

 

Despite eight phone and email requests for comment over a period of days, neither Oswald or Guyer have responded. The unusual silence comes in the wake of an article about the museum and its unclear future that was syndicated to numerous newspapers here and abroad, including the Huffington Post, Jerusalem Post, History Network News, Spero Forum, The Cutting Edge News, the Algemeiner and other leading Jewish and non-Jewish publications.

Read more ..

Vote 2016

Coordinated Voter Fraud Revealed by James O'Keefe video

October 19th 2016

Hilary Clinton

Activist videographer James O’Keefe released today the second video in a series that has already made explosive allegations about the Democratic National Committee and its involvement with leftist organizations that have fomented rioting and disturbances at rallies for Donald Trump this year. In the video, operatives for the Democrats reveal how to commit voter fraud in an effort to win the presidency for Hillary Clinton. The first video had more than 2.6 million views on YouTube as press time.
 
 
In one segment, leftist Scott Foval admits that the Democrats have been rigging elections for the last fifty years through the liberal application of cash. He also described how Democrats bused people across state lines to cast their ballots in a rigged election in Iowa. Undercover journalists for Project Veritas Action caught Scott Foval, the National Field Director for Americans United for Change, saying, “we’ve been bussing people in to deal with you fuckin’ assholes [Republicans] for fifty years and we’re not going to stop now, we’re just going to find a different way to do it.” An operative for the Democratic National Committee, he admitted that he is “no white knight” while saying Democrats have rigged elections for years.
 
Foval explained how he and his associates avoid detection. One of the undercover reporters asks why they cannot simply “bus in” voters, but get them to use their own personal vehicles. Foval describes how they avoid being detected and free of criminal charges. “Would they charge each individual of voter fraud? Or are they going to go after the facilitator for conspiracy, which they could prove? It’s one thing if all these people drive up in their personal cars. If there’s a bus involved? That changes the dynamic.”
Read more ..

Vote 2016

Podesta Leaks: The Obama-Clinton E-mails

October 16th 2016

Obama downcast

Among the most noteworthy of the hacked e-mails from John Podesta’s accounts is an exchange in which Podesta consults Clinton consigliere Cheryl Mills about the private e-mail exchanges between President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
 
As readers may recall, I have long maintained (see here and here) that the principal reason why Mrs. Clinton was not prosecuted, despite a mountain of evidence that she committed felony mishandling of classified information, is the fact that Obama engaged in the same kind of misconduct. The president’s use of a private, non-secure channel to discuss sensitive matters with high level officials may not have been systematic, as Mrs. Clinton’s was. (Obama’s disturbing use of an alias, however, suggests that Clinton was not the only one he was privately e-mailing.) Nevertheless, the fact that the president was e-mailing Clinton means he not only participated in her misconduct but also that the Obama-Clinton e-mails would have been admissible evidence in any criminal trial of Clinton.
Read more ..

Edge of Cybersecurity

After Claiming Cyberattack is Russian, the Most Likely Response Is Non-Cyber

October 15th 2016

Cyber Warfare

Almost four months after the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike claimed that two Russian hacker groups were behind the theft of data from computers at the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations, the U.S. government has publicly attributed the attacks to Russia. In a joint statement from the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security, the intelligence community declared that it was “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” According to the statement, the hack was not the work of an individual calling himself Guccifer 2.0 or a 400 pound hacker sitting on a bed, but was: intended to interfere with the U.S. elections; consistent with other Russian efforts to influence public opinion in Europe and Eurasia; and was likely to have been authorized at the highest levels of the Russian government. Read more ..



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