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Africa on Edge

End Wildlife Poaching -- and its Financial Benefit to Terrorists

March 27th 2014

African savanna and elephants

Transnational criminal syndicates, terrorist organizations and Islamic extremists are increasingly turning to wildlife trafficking to bankroll their operations. Specifically, elephant and rhinoceros ivory accounts for an increasing share of the budget of Somali militant groups and al-Qaeda affiliates. So far, the White House and international agencies have failed to effectively address this emerging threat.

The United Nations has categorized trafficking in wildlife products as a "serious crime" in order to protect the animals that produce ivory. Nevertheless, their tusks are in demand throughout Africa, Asia and the West.

Wildlife poaching is lucrative, yielding an estimated $19 billion annually. The only other illicit industries that generate more money are drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking. A kilogram of elephant ivory commands about $2,000, and the same amount of rhino horn fetches $65,000. The enormous sums of money involved, coupled with trans-African corruption, extreme poverty, poor law enforcement capabilities and weak judicial enforcement, have led to a thriving illicit market. Read more ..


Confronting J Street

J Street Said to be Pro-Israel Actually Supports Israel Adversaries

March 26th 2014

Israel Airport

J Street describes itself as Zionist, pro-Israel, pro-peace and supporting the “peace camp” in Israel. Yet J Street has consistently taken positions to the left of the Israeli Labor Party.

In a Washington Post op-ed in May 2008, entitled, ’5 Myths About Being Pro-Israel,’ Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s Executive Director, asserted that “forging a healthy friendship with Israel requires bursting some myths about what it means to be pro-Israel.” Despite the fact that successive Israeli governments have offered major concessions but have all refused to go as far is J Street in seeking to appease its Arab enemies, J Street simply insists on having Israel pressured to conform to its vision. Ben-Ami rhetorically claims that true friendship demands this (“Would a true friend not only let you drive home drunk but offer you their Porsche and a shot of tequila for the road?”). The not-so-subtle implication is that Israel is not a sovereign power responding to the will of its electorate, but rather a reckless teenager who needs to be brought to heel by a stern guardian.

Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

A Cowardly Congress

March 25th 2014

Congress-senate

If you needed proof that Congress is more politicized than ever before, here it is: the Senate’s failure to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s nominee for surgeon general. I’ve talked with many lawmakers and lobbyists. Looking back, nobody can remember such organized opposition to any prospective surgeon general — a post which, after all, has no power.

Nor has there ever been, perhaps, a more qualified candidate. Murthy is a practicing physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. A national leader in HIV prevention and education, he also founded Doctors for America, bringing 16,000 doctors and medical students together in support of the Affordable Care Act. He has the support of more than 50 healthcare organizations, including the American Public Health Association. He’d be the first Indian-American to serve as surgeon general. Read more ..


Islam in America

New York City Schools Advance toward Islamic Diet while Kosher Alternatives Languish

March 23rd 2014

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Proposed legislation was introduced into New York City Council to require that the city’s public schools provide Islamic-compliant food – halal – as an option in the cafeterias. The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) joined forces with council member Rafael L. Espinal, Jr. (D-Brooklyn) to support Resolution 54 at a press conference on the steps of New York City Hall on Wednesday, March 26.

Fourteen other city councilmembers co-sponsored Espinal’s Resolution.

The Resolution goes into explicit detail about what Islamic-observant students are permitted to eat and what they must avoid eating, as well as stating who made those determinations. To wit:

Whereas, The practice of Islam is determined by the Islamic teachings as guided by the holy book Quran and the Hadith, and sayings of the Prophet Mohammad, which includes observing dietary laws; and Whereas, Islamic dietary laws delineate foods that are halal, meaning lawful or permitted, and those that are haram, meaning not permitted; and Whereas, Haram foods include pork and its by-products, meat and poultry not slaughtered according to the Islamic dietary law, alcohol and foods prepared with and containing alcohol, foods containing blood and blood by-products, and foods containing whey prepared with non-microbial enzyme, rennet, animal shortening, monoglycerides and diglycerides from an animal source, sodium stearoyl lactylate, and L-cysteine. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Dems Can Win Obama

March 20th 2014

Obamacare

On March 31 the enrollment period for ObamaCare will end, hopefully with nearly 6 million customers signed up. On April 1 President Obama should announce the enrollment period will be extended for three months and begin the largest marketing campaign in the history of healthcare with a mobilization of the stars of sports, song and cinema. If this happens, enrollments will soar past the 7 million mark and dramatically increase the ratio of younger and healthier customers enrolled.

Memo to Democrats: Right now we are barely fighting — and are largely losing — the political war being waged against ObamaCare. The outcome of the midterm elections is far from clear, with GOP incumbents as unpopular as Democratic incumbents, but there is grave danger of electoral catastrophe facing Democrats in November. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Rabbi Escapes Conflictive Crimea with Wife and Torah Scroll

March 19th 2014

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Crimea’s Chabad Rabbi Yitzchak Meyer Lipszyc escaped Crimea with his wife – and a Torah scroll – on the last train that left the area before the Russian sealed it off.

“The main action in Crimea was taking place right across the street from our synagogue,” said Rabbi Lipszyc, who has been a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, for more than two decades. “There were demonstrations with over 30,000 people. The protestors were pro-Ukrainian. But eventually the ones who took over were in the unidentified uniforms—they were obviously Russian military. There was Cossacks there too; for Jews that was a bit scary because of their history in the pogroms.” Read more ..


The Way We Are

'Special Consideration' for Teacher Applicants of 'Non-Christian Faith' in Michigan

March 19th 2014

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The teachers union contract in Ferndale Public Schools in Oakland County, Michigan, gives "special consideration" to applicants that are of "the non-Christian faith."

Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment and public services on the basis of religion. The state constitution says it, "shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." And the Federal Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on religion.

The contract ran from 2011 to 2012 but was extended to 2017. The teachers belong to the Ferndale Education Association, a division of the Michigan Education Association.

Regarding promotion to a vacant position, it states on page 22: Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

'Prankster' Obama's Pretend Sanctions for Russia

March 18th 2014

Barack Obama announced that 7 Russian and 4 Ukrainian citizens will be sanctioned by the United States as retaliation for Russia's expected unlawful takeover of the Crimea. This comes after Crimea's 95-percent-plus decision by referendum to leave Ukraine and join the Russian Federation, and before Russia's recognized Crimea's independence tonight.

Obama sees the Crimea referendum and Russia's recognition of the results as violations of international law. Thus he based the sanctions on the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), and the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.). Read more ..


China on Edge

China's Economic Bubble Showing It Could Burst

March 17th 2014

Bank of China

The shudder that relatively minor bad news from China sent through world markets last week was a warning that the halcyon days of Beijing's economy are over. Indeed, reluctantly because of self-interest and wishful thinking, a universal consensus finally is emerging that the Chinese economy is in deep trouble, a crisis that could perhaps overturn the regime itself.

The cardinal indicator is that the Chinese economy is slowing down. How much, how fast, which sectors, is all open to speculation given the notorious unreliability of Beijing statistics. But certainly we long ago dipped below that 8% minimal annual gross national product growth rate which once was accepted inside and outside the Middle Kingdom as the requirement for political stability. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Eight Crucial Questions for Obama and Abbas about Israel

March 16th 2014

Question #1: Does Israel have a right to exist?

There seems to be a double-standard when it comes to how Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian Authority's erstwhile President, Mahmoud Abbas -- now in the tenth year of his four-year term -- are treated by the Obama White House, as well as by many journalists.

While Netanyahu is humiliated, insulted, threatened, and told that he must make "painful concessions" for peace, such as releasing more than 100 terrorists merely to get the Palestinians to come to a negotiating table, Abbas – a facilitator and supporter of these terrorists – is treated with kid gloves, and with Obama virtually begging him to visit. Read more ..


Saudi Arabia on Edge

The Saudi Pivot to Asia

March 15th 2014

Saudi Oil

Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud’s visit this week to China — his second major state trip this year to Asia — underscores the kingdom’s pivot to the east. Long before the American pivot, Saudi Arabia has reoriented its economic and political priorities to South and East Asia.

Salman arrived in Beijing on March 13 for his first visit to China. Last month, the crown prince visited Pakistan, Japan, India and the Maldives. The two state visits symbolize the kingdom’s growing role in the economies of all five states. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, now sells more than two-thirds of it oil to markets in south and east Asia. Saudi trade and investment are increasingly directed toward Asian markets rather than Europe or America.

Saudi Arabia’s turn to the east began almost a decade ago. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s first foreign trip after becoming king was to India and China in January 2006. It was also the first ever visit by a Saudi monarch to China. At the time, Saudi officials cited the trip at a symbol of the kingdom’s growing interest in Asia’s two largest emerging economies. Saudi Arabia is today China’s largest trading partner in the Middle East. Read more ..


Significant Lives

A Man on a Mission

March 14th 2014

putin

Vladimir Putin is a man who sees his mission as the Russian state’s recovery of political, economic, social, cultural and geostrategic assets that were lost in the Soviet collapse—this mission I’ve dubbed the “Putin doctrine.” Domestically, it means re-establishing the state’s control over (and maybe even ownership of) politics, Russia’s legal system, the economy’s “commanding heights” (first and foremost, oil and gas) and the national cultural narrative.

In foreign policy, the Putin doctrine means more muscular, more assertive, at times even aggressive, policies with respect to the geostrategic triad essential to Russia’s national identity: nuclear superpowership, defined by Putin as incompatible with strategic missile defense anywhere near Russian borders; Russia as a great power, which he interprets largely in opposition to the West and, especially, the United States; and dominance, even hegemony, in the post-Soviet space (minus the Baltics), specifically a veto over former satellites’ foreign and defense policies and alliances. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Time to Accommodate the Divorce Revolution?

March 13th 2014

Pope Francis thumbs up

In the wake of the divorce revolution that swept Europe and the Americas over the last half-century, Pope Francis-who celebrates his one-year anniversary this week-is convening a major synod of the world's bishops this fall in Rome to retool the Catholic Church's message and ministry to families. One of the top items on their agenda is to reconsider the Church's approach to the divorced and remarried. Many voices-including a majority of the Catholic laity who have been polled on these issues around the world-are calling on Francis and the Church to accommodate this revolution by, among other things, dispensing with any rules that sanction divorce and remarriage in the Church.

The accommodationist position got a seeming boost from a recent University of Texas study, which found that divorce was higher among Evangelicals and counties with lots of Evangelicals in the United States. For many in the media, the takeaway was not only that any religious efforts to resist the divorce revolution are doomed to failure, but can actually be counterproductive today insofar as they encourage strategies to family life that are ill-suited to the times. Indeed, a headline in the Nation asked "Is Conservative Christianity Bad for Marriage?", with the article answering in the affirmative. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Europe's Alarming Alienation from Israel

March 12th 2014

Click to select Image

Why are so many of the grandchildren of Nazis and Nazi collaborators who brought us the Holocaust once again declaring war on the Jews?

Why have we seen such an increase in anti-Semitism and irrationally virulent anti-Zionism in western Europe?

To answer these questions, a myth must first be exposed. That myth is the one perpetrated by the French, the Dutch, the Norwegians, the Swiss, the Belgians, the Austrians, and many other western Europeans: namely that the Holocaust was solely the work of German Nazis aided perhaps by some Polish, Ukrainian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian collaborators.

False.

The Holocaust was perpetrated by Europeans — by Nazi sympathizers and collaborators among the French, Dutch, Norwegians, Swiss, Belgians, Austrians and other Europeans, both Western and Eastern.

If the French government had not deported to the death camps more Jews than their German occupiers asked for; if so many Dutch and Belgian citizens and government officials had not cooperated in the roundup of Jews; if so many Norwegians had not supported Quisling; if Swiss government officials and bankers had not exploited Jews; if Austria had not been more Nazi than the Nazis, the Holocaust would not have had so many Jewish victims. Read more ..


The Violent Roads of Mexico

Upcoming Human Rights Report Reveals CIA Pay-Offs to Mexican Presidents

March 12th 2014

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Forced displacements and disappearances. Vietnam-style strategic hamlets. Death flights over the Pacific. All this and more terrorized the mountain communities near Acapulco, Mexico, during the years when the resort was reaching its apex as a favored international destination for fun-seeking beach lovers in the early and mid-1970s. In response to a popular guerrilla insurgency, the Mexican army and security forces escalated what became known as the Dirty War.

“There was a lot of sadism and brutality,” said Hilda Navarette, commissioner for the Guerrero State Truth Commission, an offical organism created by the Guerrero State Congress in 2012 to probe the Dirty War and unravel the truth about hundreds of still missing people. Read more ..


Computer Edge

World Wide Web Potential Still Untouched After 25 Years

March 12th 2014

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the invention of the World Wide Web. What started as a way for scientists to share research has changed life worldwide forever.

In March 1989, British scientist Tim Berners-Lee was working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Switzerland.

Scientists would come to CERN from all over the world, but others could not view their research because their computers were not compatible. Berners-Lee thought it would be easier if all the computers could talk to one another and swap information directly. So he proposed linking the machines. The response from his bosses to his proposal, titled Information Management: A Proposal? Read more ..


The Diplomatic Edge

Kerry, the Warrior Diplomat

March 11th 2014

John Kerry

With the winds of Cold War blowing across Ukraine, time running short for peace in the Middle East, high-wire diplomacy seeking to avoid military options with Iran, China flexing its military muscle aggressively in the South China Sea, voices of militarism and nationalism being heard whispered in Japan, and a nuclear North Korea acting bellicose, the alliance of democracies is fortunate that President Obama had the wisdom to choose John Kerry as secretary of State.

As the danger of conflagration rises with the belligerence of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin against Ukraine, what makes Kerry so valuable in diplomacy today is that, like Gen. George Marshall, who served as secretary of State for former President Truman, Kerry is a student of history who has long played a part of history and applies the lessons of history to crises today. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Cross-Purposes

March 10th 2014

Gay Marriage

The good news coming out of the just-concluded legislative battle in Arizona is that religious freedom remains what it has been there, undiminished by Governor Jan Brewer’s veto of a bill meant to protect it. The bad news is that the debate over religious freedom has taken an ominous turn. Here are six takeaways from the controversy.

The media cannot be trusted to report accurately on social issues. I mention this first not because it is the most important part of the Arizona story — though it is very important — but because it has made understanding that story so difficult. The press leans to the left, as everyone knows, and especially on social issues. CNN anchors more or less openly advocated for a veto of the bill, which they would generally not do on tax legislation.

Political journalists tend to accept social liberals’ framing of issues, their terminology, and their claims, and to believe the worst about social conservatives. In the Arizona debate, these tendencies manifested in widespread reports that the bill authorized businesses to refuse to serve gay people who wanted to be their customers and in the labeling of the legislation as “anti-gay.” Read more ..


The Way We Are

An End to General Misconduct

March 9th 2014

Seal of DOD

Cheater, bribe taker, skirt chaser and drunk should not be the first words that come to mind when you think of the U.S. military.

Unfortunately, a series of scandals involving the military’s top brass has brought to light a bizarre and seemingly unethical culture that pervades what should be America’s finest institutions.

We’ve learned that “the wheels would come off” if Air Force Gen. David Uhrich didn’t have his vodka, and that he was engaged in other unlawful conduct. Army Brig. Gen. Martin P. Schweitzer was sending emails about the hotness of one member of Congress, and bragging to his superiors in an email about the number of times he masturbated after his meeting with her.

Air Force Nuclear Commander Maj. Gen. Michael Carey went on a drinking binge in Russia that would’ve been the envy of Lindsay Lohan. Too drunk to stand upright, the general’s subordinates found him consorting with beautiful Russian women who were oddly interested in his nuclear portfolio.

Their punishments? Uhrich received verbal counseling, and Schweitzer got a memorandum of concern in his personnel file. Only the nuclear commander was relieved of command, retaining his pension and all other benefits. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

The Front Lines on Russia's Home Front

March 8th 2014

Russian Paratroopers

In every country, all truly important foreign policy choices are, at their core, ultimately about domestic politics. And it's not just about creating a "rally 'round the flag" effect, or distracting from pesky domestic issues, although these are definitely relevant considerations for decision-makers. The right foreign policy move at the right time can boost a leader's ratings and the regime's popularity. This is doubly true for authoritarian regimes that lack democratic legitimacy, and it is true for Russia today.

In Putin's Russia, as one top pollster told me in Moscow a few weeks ago, "foreign policy is pretty much the only thing that works." What he meant was that, with the country's economy slowed to a crawl, and with the regime facing near-universal revulsion over the corruption, thievery, and incompetence of officials at every level, racking up foreign policy successes has become vital to maintaining Putin's popularity -- which, in turn, is key to the legitimacy of the whole enterprise. As the economy staggers along at 1.5 percent growth, as capital flees the country at a record pace, and even as nearly half of Russians agree that the ruling "United Russia" party is the "party of thieves and swindlers," Read more ..


The 2016 Election

What Won't Bother Voters About Hillary Clinton If She Runs

March 7th 2014

Hillary

Repeat after us: The 2016 election is more than two and a half years away. Hillary Clinton may be a candidate. If she is, Benghazi or Bill Clinton may or may not be issues. Who could possibly know?

Now that that's out of the way, let's look at something more interesting - how much resistance there may be to a female presidential candidate and to Hillary Clinton in particular. Here we have a plethora of polls to provide some tentative answers. Let's start at the beginning.

In the late 1930s, when the Gallup Organization asked people about voting for a woman for president, more than six in 10 said they would not do so. Widespread doubts about a female president were evident even in the question itself: in 1937, respondents were asked whether they would vote for a woman president "if she qualified in every other respect!" Fortunately, things have changed a great deal since then. Resistance dropped to around 25 percent by the early 1970s. In 2012, the last time Gallup asked the question, 5 percent said they would not vote for a qualified woman their party nominated. Read more ..


The Way We Are

A Social Justice Fight

March 6th 2014

family with teenagers

Who owns the term "social justice," conservatives or liberals? Whatever your own politics, you probably said "liberals." After all, most progressive policies — raising the minimum wage, expanding entitlements, increasing taxes on the wealthy as outlined in President Obama's budget proposal this week — are framed as steps towards greater fairness and compassion.

But as the past five years have shown, intentions do not equal results. Since Obama took office, stock markets have soared and the wealthy have regained their economic footing. But the most vulnerable people have fallen further and further behind. The percentage of Americans in the workforce has fallen to its lowest level since the 1970s. Food stamp enrollment has risen by 50% since January 2009; one in six citizens in the world's wealthiest country now rely on nutrition assistance from their government. Economists calculate that income inequality has actually grown under this administration. Read more ..


The Way We Are

The Path to Responsibility Can Start With a Broom and a Paycheck

March 5th 2014

Southside of Chicago

It is hard to be a young black male in the United States today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for African-American men between 16 and 24 is 30.5 percent. That rate is more than twice what it is for whites in the same age group. Among African-American men over 20, more than 33 percent are not in the labor force. In addition, young African-American men are also more likely to be poor and to not graduate from high school. Sadly, the disparities these numbers reveal have not changed much since President Obama was elected in 2008.

On Thursday, Mr. Obama announced an initiative called My Brother's Keeper intended to "unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color," aiming to help them avoid the pitfalls of unemployment and criminality by focusing on education and personal responsibility. A White House task force will work on the matter, and Mr. Obama has recruited foundations and businesses pledging $200 million over five years to find solutions. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Could Obamacare Win 'Lie of the Year' Two times in a Row?

March 4th 2014

No Obamacare

In December, President Obama’s claim that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” was named the 2013 Lie of the Year by Politifact. This came shortly after even the barely accessible exchange websites made it clear that for many people, their old plans were no longer available due to the new regulatory environment imposed by Obamacare.

Now fast forward a few months to the glorious new year of 2014, and let’s see what has become of the president’s other central claim in the debate over health care reform: that it would “bring down premiums by $2,500 for the typical family.” (Here’s a compilation of the president making this claim over and over again before his law was enacted.) Has that claim materialized now that the parts of the law the president decided not to delay for partisan political purposes are in full effect? Was it a reasonable claim to make at the time? Let’s have a look at the evidence. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Mexican Apple Growers are Incensed over U.S. Price Supports

March 3rd 2014

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Facing ruin, apple producers in the Mexican border state of Chihuahua are mulling an anti-dumpring complaint against U.S. imports. Ricardo Marquez Prieto, president of the Chihuahua Regional Union of Fruit Growers, charged that unfair competition from Mexico's partner in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) threatens the viability of the local apple industry, which could see tens of thousands of tons of warehoused apples valued in the neighborhood of $65 million go to rot.

"We are going to file a suit against dumping if (Mexican) federal authorities don't get on the ball and move to our side," Marquez vowed late last week, after meeting with federal officials.

Historically an important crop in Chihuahua, locally-grown apples confront a deluge of U.S. imports, which reached 237,000 tons in 2012. Hammered by unusual freezes, Chihuahua's orchards chalked up a 55 percent production decline in the same year. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

How to Understand Putin's Ukraine Strategy

March 3rd 2014

putin

To understand what motivates Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukrainian crisis and how he will proceed, we have to recall two key things about his strategy and his tactics.

First, Russian foreign policy — whether under Brezhnev, Yeltsin, Putin or anyone after him — is informed by three imperatives: Russia as a nuclear superpower, Russia as the world’s great power, and Russia as the central power in the post-Soviet geopolitical space. And a power that is political, economic, cultural, diplomatic and most certainly military.

What differs from one Russian political regime to another is interpretation and implementation, that is, the policies that support these objectives.  Putin’s have been far more assertive and at times riskier than those of his predecessors. The nuclear “superpowership” has been translated into a vehement opposition to missile defense in Europe.  Russia as a great power has been defined largely in opposition to the U.S. and the West in general. And the centrality of Russia in the post-Soviet space has been reinterpreted as dominance and hegemony. Read more ..


Ukraine on Edge

Ukraine's Perpetual East-West Balancing Act

March 2nd 2014

Svoboda

Striking the right balance between relations with the West and relations with Russia has always been Ukraine’s central foreign policy challenge. Ukraine’s leaders have sought to have it both ways: to grow relations with the United States, European Union and NATO while also trying to maintain a stable relationship with Russia.

Kyiv pulled off this balancing act in the 1990s. Its first steps to engage the West did not appear to threaten key Russian interests. Boris Yeltsin accepted Ukraine as an independent state. Vladimir Putin, however, is not Boris Yeltsin, and today’s Russia is not the Russia of the 1990s. The current Russian president wants to prevent Ukraine from slipping too far toward the West, has significant leverage over Kyiv and is prepared to use it. The Russians’ spectacularly ill-timed February 26 decision to launch a snap military exercise is not an encouraging sign, nor are the February 27-28 developments in Crimea. Read more ..


The Emissions Problem

Emissions: A Cool Assessment of a Hot-Botton Issue

March 1st 2014

John Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attracted some attention last week by describing climate change as “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Another part of his remarks, though, was just as revealing.

After saying we should not listen to those who deny that human activity is warming the globe, he said: “Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits. There are people who say, ‘Oh, it’s too expensive, we can’t do this.’ No. No, folks.”

For Kerry, then, the benefits of reducing carbon emissions so obviously exceed the costs that no debate on the question is necessary or even tolerable. But he’s wrong. The cost-benefit calculation is the weak point in the case for reducing carbon emissions. It's possible to reject that case without questioning the science behind it. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Obamacare Navigator Revealed as Convicted Palestinian Terrorist Bomber

February 28th 2014

A terrorist from Jordan briefly worked as an Obamacare navigator in Illinois while authorities remained unaware of her conviction for involvement in a deadly grocery store bombing and two other attacks.

Rasmieh Yousef Odeh was convicted in Israel for her role in several bombings, including the 1969 attack on an upscale Shufersol grocery store, which killed two Hebrew University students who had stopped in to buy groceries for a hiking trip in the Jerusalem hills. Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe were killed by a bomb hidden in a candy box tucked on a shelf, which also injured nine or 10 others, according to a website maintained by the Israeli government to commemorate terror victims.

The Illinois Department of Insurance quietly revoked Odeh’s certification as a Navigator In-Person Counselor on November 24, explaining in a disciplinary report that the decision was “based on an investigation which revealed that she had been convicted in Israel for her role in the bombings of a supermarket and the British Consulate in Jerusalem and failed to reveal the conviction on her application.” Read more ..


Defense on Edge

Waking Up to Defense Cuts

February 27th 2014

B-2-Refueling

If you are surprised by this week's announcement of major manpower cuts to the U.S. Army, you haven't been paying attention. For a long time.

There are two components to understanding America's defense spending choices -- the political and the budgetary; they are not the same. The Administration has made the political case clear.

     Beginning in 2011, President Obama pronounced himself committed to "ending the wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan "responsibly."
     The president committed to a turn inward, beginning with a 2011 statement that "the nation we need to build is our own," coupled with the promise to cut troops deployed abroad in half.
     The refrain "no boots on the ground," is the mantra of many administration officials, resurrected again last weekend by Susan Rice regarding limits to U.S. support of rebels in Syria -- although no one appears to have suggested so much as a huarache.
     Secretary Kerry's visit to Indonesia prompted him to declare global "climate change" as big a threat in Asia as "terrorism, poverty and WMDs." He skipped China's increasingly bold assertions of hegemony in Asian waters and increasingly large defense budget (still miniscule compared to ours, but one heads one way, the other the other way).  Read more ..


The Broken Economy

The Unemployment Trap

February 26th 2014

People lined up for jobs

In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama called on Congress to extend federal emergency unemployment benefits that expired in December 2013. “I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the work force faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.” The president didn’t seem to recognize the internal contradiction in his speech: The extended insurance was surely a significant cause of the surge in long-term unemployment that has left us with a lingering unemployment problem.

Extended unemployment benefits lower workers’ incentives to search for jobs and to take jobs that may not be a perfect fit, and they may also lower firms’ incentives to hire new workers. It might seem intuitive that these incentives sometimes lead workers to delay their return to work, but many on the left dispute this. Read more ..


Ukraine on Edge

Ukraine's President Yanukovych is At-Large and So Are His Secrets

February 25th 2014

Someone wanted the records to disappear without a trace under the gray waves of the Kyiv Reservoir. Instead, they are ending up on the Internet for everyone in the world to see. When ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his entourage were fleeing the lavish presidential residence at Mezhyhirya, outside of Kyiv, on the night of February 21-22, they dumped hundreds of documents into the reservoir in an amateurish attempt to conceal the information they contain.

But journalists and scuba divers showed up on the scene just hours later and began recovering the soggy papers. Some were floating surreally along the edges of the water; others were recovered in stuffed file folders from the depths. Read more ..


Broken Economy

Obama's War on Oppurtunity

February 25th 2014

Minimum wage protest

The “opportunity agenda” was supposed to be the signature initiative of President Obama’s second term. But recent data suggest his administration is waging a war on opportunity instead.

First, came the Congressional Budget Office report, which found that Obamacare will reduce overall employment by the equivalent of 2.5 million workers by 2021 and will reduce aggregate labor compensation for Americans by 1 percent during the same period — a $70 billion-a-year pay cut for lower- and middle-income American workers.

Then the New York Times reported that, substitute teachers, school bus drivers, police dispatchers, prison guards, coaches, janitors, cafeteria workers and other low-wage public workers are all seeing their hours cut because of Obamacare. As one local official told the paper, “Our choice was to cut the hours or give them health care, and we could not afford the latter.” Obama promised in his State of the Union to “build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” but for many part-time and low-income workers, Obamacare is reducing their hours and their wages — knocking them off the ladder of opportunity. Read more ..


Counting Palestinians

The Artificiality of the Historical Palestinian Identity

February 24th 2014

Abbas UN

The artificiality of a Palestinian identity is reflected in the attitudes and actions of neighboring Arab states that never established a Palestinian state or advocated one prior to the Six-Day War in 1967. What unites Palestinian Arabs has been their opposition to Jewish nationalism and the desire to stamp it out, not aspirations for their own state. Local patriotic feelings are generated only when a non-Islamic entity takes charge – such as Israel did in 1967 after the Six-Day War, and dissipates under Arab rule, as it was under the rule of Jordan prior to 1967.

Culturally, Palestinians are not distinct from other Arabs. The sole contributions Palestinians can take credit for are the invention of skyjacking for political purposes in the 1960s, and a special brand of suicidal terrorism that uses their own youth as delivery systems for bombing pizza parlors, discos, and public commuter buses. Read more ..


The Economic Edge

Trade Pacts Are a Tonic for the Economy

February 23rd 2014

Home Foreclosure

A new debate is emerging regarding the economic impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and trade promotion authority (TPA) -- that is, presidential "fast-track" power -- on middle and lower income Americans.  Opponents have argued that these trade measures will only exacerbate our country’s growing income inequality. They assert, therefore, that the president must be forced to choose between these two critical administration priorities. But it is a false choice.

Inequality reflects a number of factors, including technological advancements that have increased productivity.  The reality is that little of this has to do with trade agreements.

That’s because the United States already has one of the most open economies in the world.  Our average tariffs on foreign goods are around 3.5 percent.  We have few non-tariff barriers, and we don’t use our regulatory processes to discriminate against foreigners.  That’s not the case for the vast majority of countries. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Attacking Diversity of Thought

February 22nd 2014

university students and laptops

Cancel the philosophy courses, people. Oh, and we’re going to be shuttering the political science, religion, and pre-law departments too. We’ll keep some of the English and history folks on for a while longer, but they should probably keep their résumés handy.

Because, you see, they are of no use anymore. We have the answers to the big questions, so why keep pretending there’s anything left to discuss?

At least that’s where Erin Ching, a student at Swarthmore College, seems to be coming down. Her school invited a famous left-wing Princeton professor, Cornel West, and a famous right-wing Princeton professor, Robert George, to have a debate. The two men are friends, and by all accounts they had an utterly civil exchange of ideas. But that only made the whole thing even more outrageous.

“What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion,” Ching told the Daily Gazette, the school’s newspaper. “I don’t think we should be tolerating [George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.” Swarthmore must be so proud. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

How E-Cigarettes Could Save Lives

February 21st 2014

cigarette in ashtray

Should electronic cigarettes be regulated like tobacco products, emblazoned with warnings and subject to tight marketing restrictions? Those are among the questions before the Food and Drug Administration as it decides in the coming weeks how to handle the battery-powered cigarette mimics that have become a $1.5 billion business in the United States.

Groups promoting intensive regulation include the American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. They worry that the health risks haven’t been fully established and that e-cigarettes will make smoking commonplace again, especially among teens. They are quick to push back in response to anything that might make e-cigarettes more attractive, such as the NJOY King ad that aired during the Super Bowl or when actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Julia Louis-Dreyfus were shown “vaping” at the Golden Globes.

A surgeon general’s report released last month, on the 50th anniversary of the office’s first warning about the dangers of smoking, had little to say about e-cigarettes. Its suggestions for further reducing tobacco use were familiar, including: increase taxes on cigarettes, prohibit indoor smoking, launch media campaigns and reduce the nicotine content of cigarettes. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

History Not Repeating Itself In Afghanistan

February 20th 2014

Afgan Police

Twenty five years ago this month, the last Soviet soldier marched out of Afghanistan, bringing an end to a nine year occupation that cost the lives of 15,000 Soviet troops and more than a million Afghans. With the close of the Cold War, the West lost interest in the region and Afghanistan became a proxy battlefield for subversive regional power play. Infighting between competing Afghan mujahedeen factions brought anarchy, paving the way for the Taliban and al Qaeda. And now, as the drawdown of international forces approaches, there’s growing fear that history might repeat itself. It doesn’t have to work out the same way.

For a start, while the political system in Afghanistan is far from perfect, it enjoys far greater support and legitimacy among the Afghan people than the communist regime did in the 1980s. While Afghan presidents back then were effectively appointed by the Kremlin, Afghans today have elected their own leader – and will head to the polls in April to pick a successor to Hamid Karzai. And despite growing pessimism in the West about Afghanistan, Afghans generally remain optimistic about their future: an Asia Foundation survey last year found that a majority of Afghans (57 percent) believed their country was moving in the right direction. Read more ..


Broken Economy

Raising the Minimum Wage is Still a Bad Idea

February 19th 2014

Minimum wage protest

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as President Barack Obama urged in his State of the Union address last month, is as popular an idea as ever. It’s also a worse idea than ever.

Obama presented it as a way to help struggling families: “Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.” That comment provides a misleading picture of who minimum-wage earners are. The White House’s own graph promoting the idea shows that only 26 percent of minimum-wage earners have kids. Thirty percent either have spouses and no kids or are kids themselves. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

The High Price of Negotiating With Bad Guys

February 18th 2014

Barack Obama in Thought

It was during a 2007 Democratic primary debate that Sen. Barack Obama first declared “ridiculous” the idea that “not talking to countries is punishment to them.” Eighteen months later, with the world watching his historic inauguration, he reiterated his openness to dialogue with America’s enemies: “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Since then, his administration has talked with North Korea and the Taliban, defied cynicism at home and abroad with efforts to jump-start ­Israeli-Palestinian talks , sought to bring Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood in from the cold, and, after 35 years, brought the United States and Iran to the verge of a nuclear deal. And retired American diplomats Thomas Pickering and Rob Malley — as well as Rachel Schneller, a State Department official who was on leave at the time — have met with Hamas, a terrorist group implicated in scores of bombings and suicide attacks in Israel. Read more ..



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