|Rebecca Shabad||December 18th 2014|
The $1.1 trillion spending bill approved by the Senate Saturday includes emergency funding and dozens of policy riders that will affect policy throughout the government.
The main purpose of the bill is to keep the government funded, and the so-called “cromnibus” includes 11 appropriations bill that will fund most of the government through September 2015. It also includes a continuing resolution (CR) that funds the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 27. This is to answer GOP critics of President Obama's immigration executive actions, who had pushed to defund the agency.
Here's a look at some of the key riders in the bill:
Wall Street un-reform
The bill includes language repealing part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law that will allow banks covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to directly engage in derivatives trading. Read more ..
|Soeren Kern||December 17th 2014|
The Internet giant Google has announced that it is shutting down its Google News service in Spain. The move came in response to a new copyright law in Spain that would require Google and other news aggregators to pay Spanish publishers for linking to their content. The Spanish law follows similar legislation in other parts of the European Union, where politicians are increasingly lashing out at Google over a host of complaints about antitrust, privacy and taxation issues.
Google has accommodated critics in some countries, but with Spain, the government appears to have completely overreached: Spain's ailing newspaper industry, which is utterly dependent upon Google News to drive traffic and revenues, is now at risk.
Spain's new Intellectual Property Law (Ley de Propiedad Intelectual) was approved in February 2014 and enters into effect on January 1, 2015. Also known as the "Google Tax" (tasa Google), the purpose of the new law is to force predominately American internet content aggregators to pay for the rejuvenation of digital media in Spain. Read more ..
Venezuela on Edge
|Frederick B. Mills||December 12th 2014|
Led by Senators Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio, the U.S. Senate passed the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act on December 8. The House is expected to vote tonight on the bill. The new legislation hatched by the hard right wing of the Upper House will place targeted sanctions on Venezuelan officials “planning, facilitating, or perpetrating gross human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators, journalists, and other members of civil society in Venezuela.”
Such sanctions include travel restrictions and the freezing of assets of those found culpable of the offenses. On May 28, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill with similar sanctions against Venezuela, but at that time, former democratic Senator Mary Landrieu from Louisiana, fiercely opposed it. Similarly, the White House did not support the measure, arguing that it could jeopardize discussions between the government and the opposition. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Ben Kamisar ||December 8th 2014|
The Supreme Court could have an outsized impact on President Obama’s agenda next year.
The court has been a mixed bag for Obama during his presidency. He’s had big wins, including rulings affirming the Affordable Care Act and striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. But there have been losses too, including a challenge to ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate and the elimination of part of the Voting Rights Act.
With challenges on issues including ObamaCare, EPA regulations and potentially gay marriage, here are five ways that the Supreme Court could impact Obama’s agenda in the twilight of his presidency. Read more ..
|Bernie Becker||December 7th 2014|
The NAACP president said Sunday that full-scale changes need to be made to battle what he called a “pandemic of police misconduct.”
Cornell William Brooks, speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said that more and more citizens want to make broad changes to police culture in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y.
“We have to change the model of policing,” Brooks said after grand juries in both Missouri and New York declined to indict police officers involved in the Brown and Garner cases.
“So in other words where we have police fulfilling the role, or serving the role as an occupying army, as opposed to using a community policing model, that's where we have to go.” Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Mariella Sala||December 6th 2014|
In 1995, then-President Alberto Fujimori met with Peruvian feminists at the UN Women’s Conference in Beijing and announced he would liberalize Peru’s strict laws on contraception by allowing women to have their tubes tied without getting their husbands’ permission. For Peruvian feminists, who had been fighting for more reproductive rights against powerful opposition from the Catholic Church and Opus Dei, this was a victory. They had no idea that the Fujimori government would use the new law to forcibly sterilize three hundred thousand indigenous women in the Andes between 1995 - 2000.
There are many historical instances of forced sterilization, which is currently being practised on HIV-positive women in Namibia, for purposes of population control in Uzbekistan, and against the Roma in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It is among the offenses listed as crimes against humanity by the Rome Statute of 2005: “Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity.” Read more ..
Edge of Tolerance
|Thekla Hritz||December 1st 2014|
Pope Francis and the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians have called for peace in Ukraine and appealed to all sides to pursue dialogue based on international law to resolve the conflict.
Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I issued a joint declaration on November 30 in Istanbul at the end of a lengthy liturgy to mark the feast of St. Andrew, an important feast in the Orthodox Church.
In the statement, the two Christian leaders said they were praying for peace in Ukraine "while we call upon all parties involved to pursue the path of dialogue and of respect for international law in order to bring an end to the conflict and allow all Ukrainians to live in harmony."
The celebration was the main reason for Francis's three-day visit to Turkey. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Elise Vliebeck||November 29th 2014|
The Obama administration is facing a slew of healthcare challenges as the winter holidays approach.
While this fall has been a far cry from last year, when HealthCare.gov was melting down, 2014 has brought wholly unexpected problems to the fore for federal health officials and the White House.
Take the conflict surrounding Jonathan Gruber, the ObamaCare consultant whose suggestion that a "lack of transparency" and voters' "stupidity" helped the law pass, went viral.
Though Democrats have sought to distance themselves from Gruber, his remarks have become a new flashpoint in debate over healthcare reform, invigorating GOP critics as the party prepares to take control of the Senate. Read more ..
Edge of Tolerance
|David Meyers||November 26th 2014|
At least two major media outlets have this week reported the shocking statistic that 40 percent of of Palestinian children detained in Jerusalem have been sexually abused by Israeli police. There’s only one problem – the statistic is entirely fabricated.
Writing for the International Business Times, contributor Tabatha Kinder reported the following:
Around 600 Palestinian children have been arrested in Jerusalem since June 2013, the International Middle East Media Centre news agency reports. This means approximately 240 minors could have been abused during their arrest or investigation by Israeli authorities, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club (PCC).
The PCC say the “daily arrest campaigns” inflicted on young Palestinians living in the historic capital are a “collective punishment against Palestinian residents of Jerusalem”. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Eli E. Hertz||November 21st 2014|
Myths and Facts
What kind of a society consciously and purposely sacrifices its own youth for political gain and tactical advantage? Suicide bombers are an escalation of a small-arms war introduced during the first Intifada (1987-1993) and championed by Palestinian leaders, even prior to Arafat’s arrival from Tunis in July 1994. Today the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Arabs nurture a blind hatred of Israel. They created a cultural milieu of vengeance, violence and death - preparing their children to be sacrifices in a death cult. Proud parents dress up their toddlers not in clown costumes, but with suicide belts, and countless others celebrate their children’s deaths with traditional sweet holiday cakes and candies.
It is clear that in Palestinian society something has gone dreadfully wrong. Children in Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza are turned into “self-destructing human bombs” capable of carrying out casualty terrorist attacks in the struggle between Palestinians and Israelis - a phenomenon whose seeds can be traced to the first Intifada.
Clearly horrified by the use of children in armed conflict, Israeli author and peace advocate Aharon Megged wrote during the first Intifada:
“Not since the Children’s Crusade in 1212 … has there been a horror such as this – no people, no land where adults send children age 8-9 or 14-15 to the front, day-after-day, while they themselves hide in their houses or go out to work far-far away. They continue, and send them time-after-time, and don’t stop them even when they know they are liable to be killed, maimed, beaten or arrested.” Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
|Lawrence Kadish||November 21st 2014|
Rabbis became, in essence, the health department of their time.
Much as Jews were accused and attacked for supposedly spreading the plague in the 14th Century because their dietary ad sanitary rituals gave them a slight edge in preventing disease, doctors in West Africa have been attacked on suspicion that they are actually infecting people with the disease rather than combating it.
In an era before antibiotics, blood tests and digital scanning thermometers; In an era before EKG's, stethoscopes, blood transfusions and even refrigeration; In an era before doctors, science and even a rudimentary understanding of human anatomy, there was the ancient Jewish dietary law of kosher, which continues to offer a lesson for today's fractured societies of western Africa struggling to contain the Ebola epidemic. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Mike Eckel and Harun Maruf||November 19th 2014|
|Somali Muslims protest in Minneapolis, June 2014|
When Dayib Ahmed Abdi and his family arrived in the United States in 1996, his son Abdifatah already had an independent streak. The family settled in Minnesota along with thousands of other refugees from Somali’s civil war and Abdifatah, known also as Abdirahman Muhumed, went in his own direction. Minnesota's ethnic Somali population has mushroomed in the last two decades from a small group to more than 50,000.
On September 27, 2013, hundreds, including Ilhan Issa, gathered at a solidarity rally in Minneapolis to protest terrorist attacks by Al-Shabab. He frequented gyms, lifted weights and played basketball. He wasn’t particularly religious. He liked going out to night clubs and was considered handsome, “a heartthrob,” his father said. Abdifatah ended up marrying three times, having eight children in all. His father hoped he would join the military. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||November 17th 2014|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks - a member of Britain's House of Lords - summed up in just over eight minutes in a speech before the deliberative body a stunning and succinct analysis of the grave danger posed by ISIS in the Mideast but also by Islamic radicalism the world over. Importantly, Rabbi Sacks notes that the Jewish people want peace, prosperity, and freedom for the children of Palestine as much as for the children of Israel.
He noted that the "religion in whose name atrocities are being carried out, innocent people butchered and beheaded, children treated as slaves, civilians turned into human shileds, and young people into weapons of self-destruction, is no the Islam that once earned the admiration of the world, nor is its God the God of Abraham. It was Nietzsche not the prophets who worshipped the will to power. It was Machiavelli not sacred scripture who taught tht it is better to be feared tan to be loved." Read more ..
The 2014 Vote
|James M. Thunder||November 10th 2014|
"We ought to be debating the fact that corporations are now controlling not only the Republican Party, but the government of the United States.” — Howard ("Screamin'") Dean, November 9, Meet the Press
"Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.” — Hillary ("What Difference Does It Make") Clinton, October 24, Boston
54-42, Senate Democrats vote in favor of S.J. Resolution 19, to gut the First Amendment, September 11 - - reported by Mark Pfiefle in The American Spectator Read more ..
The Edge of Tolerance
|Ben Cohen||November 10th 2014|
While I’ve never been a big fan of celebrity interventions in politics, I will concede that, on occasion, a big-screen actor or a rock star will achieve the kind of impact that mere mortals can only dream about.
Case in point: Maureen Lipman, a much-loved British Jewish actress whom American audiences will recognize from her role in Roman Polanski’s 2002 film about the Holocaust, “The Pianist,” in which she played the mother of the film’s main protagonist, Wladyslaw Szpilman.
Last week, Lipman wrote an article for Standpoint, a British political magazine, entitled “Labour has Lost Me.” (She’s referring to the current opposition party in a country where they spell ‘labor’ with a ‘u.’) In that piece, she did two things. Read more ..
Books and Authors
|James Graham Wilson||November 7th 2014|
One unfortunate consequence of the Watergate scandal was the demise of the White House taping system. Historians of the post-Nixon era must settle for memoirs, diaries, interviews, private collections, and official records stored in the National Archives and printed in the Foreign Relations of the United States series. Memories are selective, however; policymakers tend to win their own memoranda of conversations; and, no piece of paper can match a surreptitiously-recorded meeting with the president of the United States.
With the Ronald Reagan administration, minutes of the majority of meetings of two principals committees - - the National Security Council (NSC) and National Security Planning Group (NSPG) - - are available to researchers at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, and are highly illuminating. Especially in the early years of that administration, Counselor to the President Edwin Meese, a longtime Reagan associate with no formal foreign policy brief, is the person steering the conversation. One might even regard Meese as the de facto National Security Advisor in 1981, since the person actually bearing the title that year, Richard Allen, reported to him.
Five years later, then-Attorney General Meese may well have saved Reagan's presidency. On November 25, 1986, he took over a White House press briefing after his boss announced the resignation of National Security Advisor John Poindexter and the dismissal of NSC staffer Lt. Colonel Oliver North. Meese provided the results of an initial White House inquiry after newspaper reports surfaced of clandestine U.S. arms transfers to Iran and illicit support for Contras fighting against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. Read more ..
European Jewry on Edge
|Ben Cohen||November 6th 2014|
The uninitiated reader spying the BBC’s initial headline about this morning’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem – “Driver hits pedestrians in Jerusalem” – could have been forgiving for thinking that this was a report of a traffic accident in Israel’s capital.
The accompanying tease – “A driver rams a car into several pedestrians in East Jerusalem” – communicated the sense that most of the victims were Palestinians, since this part of the city is predominantly Arab.
Then, the headline was changed to the more accurate “Jerusalem attack: New Palestinian car attack kills one,” prompting media watchdog Honest Reporting to ask, “Is the BBC asking to be ridiculed? Draw your own conclusions.” Read more ..
Israel and America
|Ben Cohen||November 2nd 2014|
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister, got it 100 percent right in a Facebook posting just a few hours after the latest blow to American-Israeli relations—aka “chickenshitgate”—surfaced in the media.
Responding to the anonymous “senior Obama administration” official who told The Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a “chickenshit,” Bennett said, “Cursing the prime minister and calling him names is an insult not just to him but to the millions of Israeli citizens and Jews across the globe. The leader of Syria who slaughtered 150,000 people was not awarded the name ‘chickenshit.’ Read more ..
Financing the Flames
|Ben Cohen||October 30th 2014|
The New Israel Fund, the New York-based non-profit which granted nearly $27 million to left-wing and progressive NGOs in Israel according to its latest financial report, is again under scrutiny following revelations of extreme anti-Israel rhetoric by the Executive Director of the Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF,) a body supported financially by the NIF.
A just-released fact sheet from NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog that monitors foreign funding for Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, discloses that the Executive Director of the HRDF, Alma Biblash, has described Israel in such inflammatory terms as “racist,” and “murderous.”
Biblash also described Israel as a “temporary Jewish apartheid state.” According to NGO Monitor, “Biblash also supports Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns and promotes the Palestinian ‘right of return,’ meaning the elimination of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.” Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|Kristina Gorelik and Daisy Sindelar||October 29th 2014|
Hundreds of Russians lined up outside Moscow's former KGB headquarters on October 29 for an annual ritual commemorating the tens of thousands of people executed during the Great Terror of Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
Each victim is granted just a few words -- name, age, occupation, and the date when they were killed, usually by a shot to the head.
Sometimes, the speakers have no connection to the victims they name. Other times, it couldn't be more personal.
"Avramov, Roman Petrovich, 56 years old. My father," an elderly man says in a shaking voice. "Manager of the All-Soviet Bakery-Building Trust. Shot January 8, 1938. After several months they arrested my mother, Avramova, Faina Avramovna. She spent eight years in the Karaganda labor camps. I was 5 at the time."
The ritual is simple but staggering in its reflection of the sheer scope of the Stalin-era purges, when people of every ethnicity, profession, and political leaning were subject to summary arrest, sentence, and execution, often on flimsy political pretexts.
The daylong commemoration, organized by the Memorial human rights organization, comes as a new public survey shows many Russians expect to see a fresh wave of similar repressions in the future.
The poll, conducted by the pro-Kremlin Public Opinion Foundation (known by its Russian acronym, FOM), indicates that 48 percent of Russians surveyed said there was a chance they would live to see a repetition of Soviet-style repressions. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Mosaic Magazine||October 26th 2014|
How has the tumult in the Middle East affected the debate over Israel’s territorial requirements? For an answer, Mosaic approached Dore Gold, head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who has long promoted the concept of defensible borders primarily as a means of meeting Israel’s security needs in the West Bank. Our exchange was conducted by email.
Q. Before we get to the idea of “defensible borders” itself, can you begin by telling us about your involvement in it?
A: I became immersed in this issue when I was serving as foreign-policy adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term in the late 1990s. I was tasked with converting the IDF’s “Interests Map” for the West Bank into a form that could be presented to President Bill Clinton; I joined the prime minister for that presentation in the White House Map Room. Four years later, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked me to condense the work for his meeting in the Oval Office with President George W. Bush. Read more ..
The 2014 Vote
|Star Parker||October 25th 2014|
Cutting Edge commentator
Prospects that three term Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu will return to the US Senate to represent Louisiana for a fourth term are looking increasingly bleak. Senator Landrieu has good reason to be concerned. One reason is disenchantment among Louisiana’s black population, which amounts to 32 percent of the population of the state – the nation’s second largest black population percentage-wise. Justification for black disillusionment is eloquently and explosively captured in the ad being run by Republican State Senator Elbert Guillory’s FreeAtLast PAC.
Guillory shook things up in 2013 when the then conservative black Democrat announced he was switching to the Republican Party.
In the ad, Guillory stands on Academy Street, in a poor black neighborhood in Opelouses, Louisiana, delivering his message, graphically powerful as the camera pans across the poverty of the neighborhood, that nothing has changed during the 18 years that Mary Landrieu has represented Louisiana in the US Senate. Read more ..
Venezuela on Edge
|Larry Birns, Frederick B. Mills, and Ronn Pineo||October 22nd 2014|
With 181 out of 193 of the United Nations representatives voting yes on Thursday, October 16, the Venezuelan government has gained not only a seat on the U.N. Security Council, but an affirmation of a leadership role in the Americas. As a result, there are now two strong features of Venezuelan foreign policy that will likely have an intensified impact on the Council: Caracas’ ongoing commitment to construct a multi-polar world, and its anticipated presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement starting next year.
Although there have been some moments of dismay over the last fifteen years with Venezuela’s evolving foreign policy, overall the nation has advanced to a position where it draws considerable respect among other Latin American nations. Acclaim for Venezuela’s international position already has stemmed from its strong support for efforts aimed at regional integration and the establishment of the region as a “zone of peace,” as well as for its long-time championing of the inclusion of Cuba at the Summit of the Americas. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Justin Sink||October 19th 2014|
President Obama will make the first public campaign appearance of the 2014 cycle Sunday in Maryland — just 16 days before voters head to the polls.
But the event — like almost every rally on the president’s schedule over the next two weeks — will be for the state's Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Anthony Brown.
In the biggest game in town - whether or not Democrats hold the Senate - the president is virtually absent from the campaign trail to help his party hold the upper chamber. He's fundraised to help Senate Democrats for months. But just over two weeks out the White House seems to have come to a sober reality - even though he has a ton to lose if Republicans take back the Senate, the president is more of a liability than an asset for Democrats locked in tough races. Read more ..
Syria on Edge
|Julie Tabboh||October 16th 2014|
Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. The museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
The images are horrifying. The semi-naked, emaciated bodies show signs of torture: severe bruises, cuts and burn marks. Read more ..
The Edge of Petropolitics
|Sol Sanders||October 16th 2014|
When Secretary of State John Kerry tried to lead an LNG posse to rescue the Europeans, blackmailed in the Ukraine affair by their heavy dependence on Russian natural gas, his bluff was soon called.
True, the U.S. has a growing natural gas surplus. Converted, it can move over oceans as liquefied natural gas (LNG). But we are still years away from multi-billion-dollar facilities and a fleet of refrigerated tankers that would turn domestic supplies into a geopolitical weapon.
At the moment the U.S. has only one LNG export operation in Alaska dedicated to the Japan market. A Louisiana facility-- ironically revamped in mid-construction from importing to exporting-- will go on stream shortly. And while the Energy Department has approved seven applications for building new LNG exporting plants, only one has received the environmental go-ahead. Another two dozen haven't been vetted. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Ben Cohen||October 15th 2014|
A leading supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has conceded that the growth of western trade with Israel shows the “limits” of the strategy – and suggests, instead, that activists turn their ire upon the political influence of the “Israel Lobby.”
“BDS, in some ways, detracts from directly dealing with the real problem: the foreign policy of the West has been seriously corrupted by Israeli influence, almost wherever you look,” wrote Alastair Sloan, a left-wing British journalist, on the website of Middle East Monitor (MEMO,) a pro-Hamas outlet based in London. MEMO’s director is Dr. Daud Abdullah, a signatory of the so-called “Istanbul Declaration” of 2010, which lauded Hamas as the “Resistance against the Jewish Zionist occupation.” MEMO’s staff includes Ben White, a long-serving Hamas propagandist who has stated, “I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are.” Read more ..
|Cary Nelson||October 12th 2014|
Early this year my colleague Gabriel Brahm and I approached a series of academics with an usual request. Higher education was facing an increasing number of struggles over the pressure to boycott Israeli universities. Academic freedom had long supported the notion that dialogue with our peers throughout the world was a fundamental value to be promoted no matter what policies their governments adopted. Indeed faculty members have traditionally seen that as one of higher education’s founding principles. But this core belief was in the process of being eroded. The movement to Boycott, Sanction, and Divest from Israel (BDS) was waging campaigns on campuses and in professional associations to make Israeli faculty, students, and their universities the one exception to a principle that had been universally honored.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the BDS movement—from Omar Barghouti to Judith Butler—were issuing a number of books in support of their cause. Yet there was not a single book supporters of universal academic freedom could turn to for help in analyzing the boycott issue and defending their beliefs. There was no lack of resources online reflecting both sides of the debate, but there was no one convenient comprehensive package for boycott opponents to use and recommend. Read more ..
The 2016 Campaign
|Pete Sullivan and Amie Parnes||October 11th 2014|
Former President Clinton’s library released thousands of previously undisclosed papers on Friday, the final in a series of document dumps that have shed new light on the 1990s battles characterizing the Clinton years.
The papers released Friday included memos from Clinton staff offering advice on how to handle the Monica Lewinsky and Whitewater scandals. They offer glimpses of how the Clinton team handled the press that could take on a new light with Hillary Clinton’s expected 2016 run for the White House.
Here are five initial takeaways from the documents.
Bill Clinton has always been Hillary Clinton's best defender
After Hillary Clinton emerged bruised and beaten from the 1990s healthcare fight, Clinton adviser Paul Begala recommended that President Clinton defend his wife during the State of the Union address. Read more ..
Islam's War Against Christians
|Raymond Ibrahim||October 8th 2014|
U.S. President Barack Obama did not "publicly broach the subject of religious freedom" during talks with Saudi King Abdullah, despite a letter from 70 members of Congress urging him to "address specific human rights reforms" both in public and in direct meetings with King Abdullah. It was "remarkable that the resident could stay completely silent about religious freedom.... as well as other human rights concerns, with King Abdullah." — International Christian Concern advocacy group.
Al-Shabaab Islamists publicly beheaded a mother of two girls and her cousin after discovering they were Christians. The two daughters of one of the women, ages 8 and 15, "were witnesses to the slaughter," sources said, with the younger girl screaming for someone to save her mother. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Benjamin Goad||October 7th 2014|
The Supreme Court’s inaction on same-sex marriage Monday stunned much of the legal world, but the justices had plenty of reason to duck the hot button issue for now.
A string of lower court rulings against state bans offers both the court’s liberal and conservative wings powerful incentives to steer clear of gay marriage, despite pleas for legal clarity from both sides of the issue.
“There’s been great reluctance on the part of the Supreme Court to take up gay marriage,” said UCLA law professor Adam Winker, who suggested the justices believe the issue could “be resolved satisfactorily without Supreme Court involvement," a principle known as judicial restraint.
With legal battles over gay marriage raging across many states, the court was widely expected to take up one of the more than seven cases that had been pending before it. Instead, the justices declined to hear any of them — and no explanation was offered. Read more ..
Islam in Europe
|Timon Dias||October 6th 2014|
|Islamist Muhajiri Shaam|
The Dutch Ministry of Defense has advised its soldiers not wear their uniforms in public. Dutch vice Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher of the Labour Party emphasized that the proposal was merely advice. The Dutch military, however, clearly ordered -- instead of advised -- its personnel to hide their military professions in public. Dutch customs officials, whose uniforms could be mistaken as military, received the same advice.
The reason for this display of woefully misplaced 'conscientiousness' was a series of threats by the Dutch jihadist known as Muhajiri Shaam, a member of the al-Qaeda-affiliated group Jahbat-al Nusra.
Shaam tweeted: "So, now Dutch F-16's. Dutch people: your government just made you a target". Read more ..
|Mark Hyman||October 3rd 2014|
Back in the 90's, defense contractors hit on a stroke of genius. They'd select subcontractors located in nearly every single one
of the 435 congressional districts. This helped them when lobbying for billion dollar weapons systems. The federal government has taken a page out of that book. Few Americans have heard of a HUBZone
– a Historically Underutilized Business Zone. But they impact billions of dollars in federal spending.
Here’s the theory. Some regions of the country have been left-out when it comes to federal contracts. By designating regions as HUBZones, and companies as eligible to receive HUBZone contracts, government can divvy-out contracts and help local businesses. Now, maybe its reasonable for a federal agency – when faced with identical $100 million proposals – to award one to an underserved area. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Soeren Kern||September 30th 2014|
"In the Quran it is not allowed for you to feel sorry for non-Muslims. I don't feel sorry for him." — Anjem Choudary.
"Eventually the whole world will be governed by Shari'ah & Muslims will have authority over China Russia USA etc This is the promise of Allah." — Anjem Choudary.
"Under the Koran the sale of alcohol is prohibited and if one were to also drink alcohol, that would be 40 lashes." — Anjem Choudary.
"We [Muslims] take the Jizya, which is ours anyway. The normal situation is to take money from the kuffar [non-Muslim]. They give us the money. You work, give us the money, Allahu Akhbar. We take the money." — Anjem Choudary. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Kent Paterson||September 29th 2014|
All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey
I've been for a walk on a winter’s day
I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A.
California dreaming on such a winter’s day...
The Mamas and the Papas (1965)
California is a land of dreams. From the star-struck Midwestern girl seeking fame and fortune in Hollywood to the Oaxacan farm laborer hoping to earn a few bucks for the folks back home, the Golden State lures the brave, the imaginative and the desperate. Almost another nation perched on the Pacific, California’s migrant histories span different eras, ranging from the Dust Bowl environmental exodus to the Indochinese apocalypse and the Central American cataclysm, among numerous others. Read more ..
Jewry on Edge
|Barry Curtiss-Lusher and Abraham H. Foxman||September 28th 2014|
As we mark the end of another year with the advent of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, we pause to take stock of the year that has passed, to learn from ourselves, our experiences and our mistakes as we move forward to build a better future.
This has been a most difficult year for the Jewish people and particularly for the state of Israel, which once again has fended off a threat on its southern border from an implacable foe: the terrorist group Hamas. As the year concludes there is little hope that the most recent war will lead to any meaningful change in the depressing state of affairs in the Palestinian territories and particularly in Gaza, where Hamas rules with an iron fist, an anti-Semitic charter and a deep ideological opposition to any rapprochement with Israel. Read more ..
|Soeren Kern||September 23rd 2014|
|Sven Lau chats with locals in Wuppertal, Westphalia, Germany|
According to Burkhard Freier, the director of domestic intelligence for North Rhine-Westphalia, German Salafists are increasingly inclined to use violence to achieve their aims, and many have travelled to Iraq or Syria to obtain combat training.
"The intention of these people is to provoke and intimidate and force their ideology upon others. We will not permit this." — Wuppertal Mayor Peter Jung.
"In Germany, German law is determinative, not Sharia law." — Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician Volker Kauder.
Salafist ideology posits that Sharia law is superior to all secular laws because it emanates from Allah, the only legitimate lawgiver, and thus is legally binding for all of humanity. According to the Salafist worldview, democracy is an effort to elevate the will of human beings above the will of Allah. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Thomas Donnelly||September 17th 2014|
In testimony yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that the most that could be done by way of creating an effective Free Syrian Army – that is, the forces of the moderate opposition to Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad – was to train a force of 5,000 over the next year.
That’s probably realistic, in the sense that the Free Syrian Army is starting from a very low point, but it’s also a tacit confession that the prospects for lasting success against the Islamic State enemy are slim and distant.
Just to review: the rise of the Islamic State has its origins in the Syrian civil war, and eastern Syria is where it has its greatest base of support and safest sanctuary. The town of Raqqah is the “capital” of its would-be caliphate. Intelligence estimates of IS troop strength are uncertain, but the numbers and capabilities have grown rapidly and continue to grow; total effectives are now some thing above 30,000. The Islamic State’s most vital lifeline extends through northern Syria into Turkey. And, by training the Syrians in small increments, eight weeks at a time, the result will be small units with limited capabilities, dribbled into the fight in penny-packets. Even with support from U.S. airpower, the Free Syrian Army isn’t going to be defeating the Islamic State any time soon. Read more ..
The Edge of Tolerance
|Alana Goodman ||September 15th 2014|
President Barack Obama and White House national security adviser Susan Rice met with a delegation of Christian Middle Eastern leaders in Washington, D.C., on Thursday that included at least one Hezbollah-supporting Lebanese cleric.
The meeting came one day after Sen. Ted Cruz was booed off the stage for defending Israel while giving a keynote address at a conference for the same delegation of Christian leaders.
The In Defense of Christians summit, which was aimed at raising awareness of persecution against Arab Christiansa, featured speeches by several Hezbollah supporters and some of Bashar al-Assad's most vocal Christian allies. One of the clerics who met with Obama was Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, the Daily Star reported on Thursday. Read more ..
The Edge of Tolerance
|Alana Goodman||September 15th 2014|
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon that the “hatred and bigotry” he encountered when he was booed off the stage at a Middle Eastern Christian conference for defending Israel on Wednesday night was like nothing he has previously seen in his political career.
“I’ve certainly encountered audiences that disagreed with a particular point of view. But this virulent display of hatred and bigotry was remarkable, and considerably different from anything I’ve previously encountered,” Cruz said, just a few hours after his pro-Israel speech to the In Defense of Christians conference was drowned out by shouts and jeers from the audience.
The senator was booed off stage at the conference, which is aimed at raising awareness for the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians, after saying that Christians “have no greater ally than Israel” and calling on the audience to support the Jewish state. Read more ..
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