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The Way We Are

Ms. Davis Goes to Austin

June 26th 2013

Texas state capitol

I have a dream. The date is Nov. 1, 2014. The place is Austin, Texas. The candidate is state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), nominated by Texas Democrats to run for governor after a grassroots groundswell that began with her courageous filibuster against an extremist anti-choice bill that was pushed by a Texas Republican governor — a governor who recently declared war against the University of Texas, against pay equity for women and against voting rights and fair representation for Hispanics, and now wages war against the right of choice even for women who are raped.

I have been singing the praises of Wendy Davis of Texas for some time now. If the Good Lord would grant me one political wish, it would be that every Democrat at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue would battle for principle with the spunk, heart, courage, tenacity and grit that the gentlewoman from Fort Worth has shown throughout her career. Read more ..


The Afghanistan War

Exit from Afghanistan--Here we Go Again

June 24th 2013

US 10 MT departing

For those of us who lived through it, current negotiations for the American exit from Afghanistan smells much too much like the end of the U.S. commitment in Vietnam. Washington, after a decade of enormous sacrifice of life and treasure, has chosen to negotiate with the enemy following diplomatic "modalities" pretty much on his terms.

What has faded is Washington's resolve to crush completely the hosts of the perpetrators of 9/11 by setting up an alternative regime in Kabul. Now, whatever the failings of the Karzai government, Washington finds itself in bitter confrontation with its own creature. That parallels the long history of embittered relations with the Saigon regime in the negotiations leading to the Vietnamese Communist victory.

In fact, Pres. Obama's dual strategy at the outset of his first administration was doomed: the surge in the American military effort was vitiated by his simultaneous announcement of a withdrawal deadline. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Hassan Rowhani: A Honey Trap for Iran and the World?

June 23rd 2013

Rowhani

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.

Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani could even serve as a sort of buffer between Khamenei and the West, thereby winning more time to complete the nuclear program and move to a “breakout” at the right moment.

The Iranian people voted for the only “reformist” candidate, even though Rowhani is a conservative and part of the regime. Within the rules of the game of the Islamic regime, Rowhani will try to promote freedom of expression and to free some of the detainees (including Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are under house arrest). He is likely, though, to encounter the opposition of the Revolutionary Guard if he tries to move too fast. In 1999 the Revolutionary Guard sent a threatening letter to President Khatami, who instituted far-reaching reforms, in which they warned against continuing such a policy that threatened the Islamic nature of the regime.

Rowhani, unlike Jalili, is a diplomat and a sophisticated negotiator in the nuclear field. In interviews before the 2009 elections, he explained the rationale behind Iran’s decision to suspend uranium enrichment in 2003. It came, he said, from a situation assessment of the regional and international circumstances at that time. “The presence of the United States all around Iran and along its borders, the American invasion of Iraq on the pretext that there was mass-destruction weaponry there, posing the potential threat of a similar move against Iran…these were certainly very uncomfortable circumstances for Iran.”

Rowhani emphasized at the time that, given these conditions, the decision to suspend the uranium-enrichment program was one of the ways to break the international consensus against Iran. In agreeing to suspend enrichment, Rowhani made clear, Iran managed to neutralize any such broad international consensus and to remove the threat of the United States bringing the Iran-related issues to the United Nations Security Council during his tenure as negotiator.

Rowhani also revealed part of Iran’s negotiating strategy with the Western countries; implicit in his remarks is that it was based on deception. He underlined that, while Iran indeed suspended enrichment at Natanz (where Iran enriches uranium in centrifuges), it simultaneously continued its activity at Isfahan, where the uranium-conversion facility is located that produces the UF6 gas needed to supply the centrifuges at Natanz. Rowhani explained that at the time the Isfahan facility was not yet operational and more work and installation of equipment were needed there. He also said Iran did not agree to suspend the assembly of centrifuges; instead it continued that endeavor since it only had a few centrifuges and needed a larger number.

Iran under President Rowhani will keep using similar tactics of cautious, non-defiant diplomacy. The West has obtained its “moderate president.” Iran will exploit this ongoing Western delusional tendency to the end.

Numerous fruitless rounds of nuclear negotiations have been held since Rowhani’s time as negotiator. He was one of those who, carefully and prudently, set Iran on its nuclear course, and it looks as if he will be the one to bring it toward the bomb.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/hassan-rowhani-a-honey-trap-for-iran-and-the-world/#sthash.LzpewRCR.dpuf

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.

Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani could even serve as a sort of buffer between Khamenei and the West, thereby winning more time to complete the nuclear program and move to a “breakout” at the right moment.

The Iranian people voted for the only “reformist” candidate, even though Rowhani is a conservative and part of the regime. Within the rules of the game of the Islamic regime, Rowhani will try to promote freedom of expression and to free some of the detainees (including Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are under house arrest). He is likely, though, to encounter the opposition of the Revolutionary Guard if he tries to move too fast. In 1999 the Revolutionary Guard sent a threatening letter to President Khatami, who instituted far-reaching reforms, in which they warned against continuing such a policy that threatened the Islamic nature of the regime.

Rowhani, unlike Jalili, is a diplomat and a sophisticated negotiator in the nuclear field. In interviews before the 2009 elections, he explained the rationale behind Iran’s decision to suspend uranium enrichment in 2003. It came, he said, from a situation assessment of the regional and international circumstances at that time. “The presence of the United States all around Iran and along its borders, the American invasion of Iraq on the pretext that there was mass-destruction weaponry there, posing the potential threat of a similar move against Iran…these were certainly very uncomfortable circumstances for Iran.”

Rowhani emphasized at the time that, given these conditions, the decision to suspend the uranium-enrichment program was one of the ways to break the international consensus against Iran. In agreeing to suspend enrichment, Rowhani made clear, Iran managed to neutralize any such broad international consensus and to remove the threat of the United States bringing the Iran-related issues to the United Nations Security Council during his tenure as negotiator.

Rowhani also revealed part of Iran’s negotiating strategy with the Western countries; implicit in his remarks is that it was based on deception. He underlined that, while Iran indeed suspended enrichment at Natanz (where Iran enriches uranium in centrifuges), it simultaneously continued its activity at Isfahan, where the uranium-conversion facility is located that produces the UF6 gas needed to supply the centrifuges at Natanz. Rowhani explained that at the time the Isfahan facility was not yet operational and more work and installation of equipment were needed there. He also said Iran did not agree to suspend the assembly of centrifuges; instead it continued that endeavor since it only had a few centrifuges and needed a larger number.

Iran under President Rowhani will keep using similar tactics of cautious, non-defiant diplomacy. The West has obtained its “moderate president.” Iran will exploit this ongoing Western delusional tendency to the end.

Numerous fruitless rounds of nuclear negotiations have been held since Rowhani’s time as negotiator. He was one of those who, carefully and prudently, set Iran on its nuclear course, and it looks as if he will be the one to bring it toward the bomb.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/hassan-rowhani-a-honey-trap-for-iran-and-the-world/#sthash.LzpewRCR.dpuf

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.

Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani could even serve as a sort of buffer between Khamenei and the West, thereby winning more time to complete the nuclear program and move to a “breakout” at the right moment.

The Iranian people voted for the only “reformist” candidate, even though Rowhani is a conservative and part of the regime. Within the rules of the game of the Islamic regime, Rowhani will try to promote freedom of expression and to free some of the detainees (including Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are under house arrest). He is likely, though, to encounter the opposition of the Revolutionary Guard if he tries to move too fast. In 1999 the Revolutionary Guard sent a threatening letter to President Khatami, who instituted far-reaching reforms, in which they warned against continuing such a policy that threatened the Islamic nature of the regime.

Rowhani, unlike Jalili, is a diplomat and a sophisticated negotiator in the nuclear field. In interviews before the 2009 elections, he explained the rationale behind Iran’s decision to suspend uranium enrichment in 2003. It came, he said, from a situation assessment of the regional and international circumstances at that time. “The presence of the United States all around Iran and along its borders, the American invasion of Iraq on the pretext that there was mass-destruction weaponry there, posing the potential threat of a similar move against Iran…these were certainly very uncomfortable circumstances for Iran.”

Rowhani emphasized at the time that, given these conditions, the decision to suspend the uranium-enrichment program was one of the ways to break the international consensus against Iran. In agreeing to suspend enrichment, Rowhani made clear, Iran managed to neutralize any such broad international consensus and to remove the threat of the United States bringing the Iran-related issues to the United Nations Security Council during his tenure as negotiator.

Rowhani also revealed part of Iran’s negotiating strategy with the Western countries; implicit in his remarks is that it was based on deception. He underlined that, while Iran indeed suspended enrichment at Natanz (where Iran enriches uranium in centrifuges), it simultaneously continued its activity at Isfahan, where the uranium-conversion facility is located that produces the UF6 gas needed to supply the centrifuges at Natanz. Rowhani explained that at the time the Isfahan facility was not yet operational and more work and installation of equipment were needed there. He also said Iran did not agree to suspend the assembly of centrifuges; instead it continued that endeavor since it only had a few centrifuges and needed a larger number.

Iran under President Rowhani will keep using similar tactics of cautious, non-defiant diplomacy. The West has obtained its “moderate president.” Iran will exploit this ongoing Western delusional tendency to the end.

Numerous fruitless rounds of nuclear negotiations have been held since Rowhani’s time as negotiator. He was one of those who, carefully and prudently, set Iran on its nuclear course, and it looks as if he will be the one to bring it toward the bomb.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/hassan-rowhani-a-honey-trap-for-iran-and-the-world/#sthash.LzpewRCR.dpuf

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.

Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani could even serve as a sort of buffer between Khamenei and the West, thereby winning more time to complete the nuclear program and move to a “breakout” at the right moment.

The Iranian people voted for the only “reformist” candidate, even though Rowhani is a conservative and part of the regime. Within the rules of the game of the Islamic regime, Rowhani will try to promote freedom of expression and to free some of the detainees (including Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are under house arrest). He is likely, though, to encounter the opposition of the Revolutionary Guard if he tries to move too fast. In 1999 the Revolutionary Guard sent a threatening letter to President Khatami, who instituted far-reaching reforms, in which they warned against continuing such a policy that threatened the Islamic nature of the regime.

Rowhani, unlike Jalili, is a diplomat and a sophisticated negotiator in the nuclear field. In interviews before the 2009 elections, he explained the rationale behind Iran’s decision to suspend uranium enrichment in 2003. It came, he said, from a situation assessment of the regional and international circumstances at that time. “The presence of the United States all around Iran and along its borders, the American invasion of Iraq on the pretext that there was mass-destruction weaponry there, posing the potential threat of a similar move against Iran…these were certainly very uncomfortable circumstances for Iran.”

Rowhani emphasized at the time that, given these conditions, the decision to suspend the uranium-enrichment program was one of the ways to break the international consensus against Iran. In agreeing to suspend enrichment, Rowhani made clear, Iran managed to neutralize any such broad international consensus and to remove the threat of the United States bringing the Iran-related issues to the United Nations Security Council during his tenure as negotiator.

Rowhani also revealed part of Iran’s negotiating strategy with the Western countries; implicit in his remarks is that it was based on deception. He underlined that, while Iran indeed suspended enrichment at Natanz (where Iran enriches uranium in centrifuges), it simultaneously continued its activity at Isfahan, where the uranium-conversion facility is located that produces the UF6 gas needed to supply the centrifuges at Natanz. Rowhani explained that at the time the Isfahan facility was not yet operational and more work and installation of equipment were needed there. He also said Iran did not agree to suspend the assembly of centrifuges; instead it continued that endeavor since it only had a few centrifuges and needed a larger number.

Iran under President Rowhani will keep using similar tactics of cautious, non-defiant diplomacy. The West has obtained its “moderate president.” Iran will exploit this ongoing Western delusional tendency to the end.

Numerous fruitless rounds of nuclear negotiations have been held since Rowhani’s time as negotiator. He was one of those who, carefully and prudently, set Iran on its nuclear course, and it looks as if he will be the one to bring it toward the bomb.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/hassan-rowhani-a-honey-trap-for-iran-and-the-world/#sthash.LzpewRCR.dpuf

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.

Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani could even serve as a sort of buffer between Khamenei and the West, thereby winning more time to complete the nuclear program and move to a “breakout” at the right moment.

The Iranian people voted for the only “reformist” candidate, even though Rowhani is a conservative and part of the regime. Within the rules of the game of the Islamic regime, Rowhani will try to promote freedom of expression and to free some of the detainees (including Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are under house arrest). He is likely, though, to encounter the opposition of the Revolutionary Guard if he tries to move too fast. In 1999 the Revolutionary Guard sent a threatening letter to President Khatami, who instituted far-reaching reforms, in which they warned against continuing such a policy that threatened the Islamic nature of the regime.

Rowhani, unlike Jalili, is a diplomat and a sophisticated negotiator in the nuclear field. In interviews before the 2009 elections, he explained the rationale behind Iran’s decision to suspend uranium enrichment in 2003. It came, he said, from a situation assessment of the regional and international circumstances at that time. “The presence of the United States all around Iran and along its borders, the American invasion of Iraq on the pretext that there was mass-destruction weaponry there, posing the potential threat of a similar move against Iran…these were certainly very uncomfortable circumstances for Iran.”

Rowhani emphasized at the time that, given these conditions, the decision to suspend the uranium-enrichment program was one of the ways to break the international consensus against Iran. In agreeing to suspend enrichment, Rowhani made clear, Iran managed to neutralize any such broad international consensus and to remove the threat of the United States bringing the Iran-related issues to the United Nations Security Council during his tenure as negotiator.

Rowhani also revealed part of Iran’s negotiating strategy with the Western countries; implicit in his remarks is that it was based on deception. He underlined that, while Iran indeed suspended enrichment at Natanz (where Iran enriches uranium in centrifuges), it simultaneously continued its activity at Isfahan, where the uranium-conversion facility is located that produces the UF6 gas needed to supply the centrifuges at Natanz. Rowhani explained that at the time the Isfahan facility was not yet operational and more work and installation of equipment were needed there. He also said Iran did not agree to suspend the assembly of centrifuges; instead it continued that endeavor since it only had a few centrifuges and needed a larger number.

Iran under President Rowhani will keep using similar tactics of cautious, non-defiant diplomacy. The West has obtained its “moderate president.” Iran will exploit this ongoing Western delusional tendency to the end.

Numerous fruitless rounds of nuclear negotiations have been held since Rowhani’s time as negotiator. He was one of those who, carefully and prudently, set Iran on its nuclear course, and it looks as if he will be the one to bring it toward the bomb.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/hassan-rowhani-a-honey-trap-for-iran-and-the-world/#sthash.LzpewRCR.dpuf

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.

Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani could even serve as a sort of buffer between Khamenei and the West, thereby winning more time to complete the nuclear program and move to a “breakout” at the right moment.

The Iranian people voted for the only “reformist” candidate, even though Rowhani is a conservative and part of the regime. Within the rules of the game of the Islamic regime, Rowhani will try to promote freedom of expression and to free some of the detainees (including Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are under house arrest). He is likely, though, to encounter the opposition of the Revolutionary Guard if he tries to move too fast. In 1999 the Revolutionary Guard sent a threatening letter to President Khatami, who instituted far-reaching reforms, in which they warned against continuing such a policy that threatened the Islamic nature of the regime.

Rowhani, unlike Jalili, is a diplomat and a sophisticated negotiator in the nuclear field. In interviews before the 2009 elections, he explained the rationale behind Iran’s decision to suspend uranium enrichment in 2003. It came, he said, from a situation assessment of the regional and international circumstances at that time. “The presence of the United States all around Iran and along its borders, the American invasion of Iraq on the pretext that there was mass-destruction weaponry there, posing the potential threat of a similar move against Iran…these were certainly very uncomfortable circumstances for Iran.”

Rowhani emphasized at the time that, given these conditions, the decision to suspend the uranium-enrichment program was one of the ways to break the international consensus against Iran. In agreeing to suspend enrichment, Rowhani made clear, Iran managed to neutralize any such broad international consensus and to remove the threat of the United States bringing the Iran-related issues to the United Nations Security Council during his tenure as negotiator.

Rowhani also revealed part of Iran’s negotiating strategy with the Western countries; implicit in his remarks is that it was based on deception. He underlined that, while Iran indeed suspended enrichment at Natanz (where Iran enriches uranium in centrifuges), it simultaneously continued its activity at Isfahan, where the uranium-conversion facility is located that produces the UF6 gas needed to supply the centrifuges at Natanz. Rowhani explained that at the time the Isfahan facility was not yet operational and more work and installation of equipment were needed there. He also said Iran did not agree to suspend the assembly of centrifuges; instead it continued that endeavor since it only had a few centrifuges and needed a larger number.

Iran under President Rowhani will keep using similar tactics of cautious, non-defiant diplomacy. The West has obtained its “moderate president.” Iran will exploit this ongoing Western delusional tendency to the end.

Numerous fruitless rounds of nuclear negotiations have been held since Rowhani’s time as negotiator. He was one of those who, carefully and prudently, set Iran on its nuclear course, and it looks as if he will be the one to bring it toward the bomb.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/hassan-rowhani-a-honey-trap-for-iran-and-the-world/#sthash.LzpewRCR.dpuf

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation. Read more ..


Broken Banking

Senators Grill Treasury Official about Debit Card Program

June 23rd 2013

Democrats on the Senate Special Committee for Aging pummeled a Treasury official Wednesday with questions about the effort to replace paper checks with electronic payments to mostly poor and elderly beneficiaries of government programs.

Questioning Treasury Fiscal Assistant Secretary Richard Gregg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts repeatedly expressed her concern about the decision to pay an additional $30 million to Comerica Bank that was not in its original contract.

Comerica issues a taxpayer-subsidized debit card that the government is pressuring beneficiaries to use if they haven't already signed up for direct deposit.

Unsatisfied with Gregg's response that the nature of the deal changed between 2008, when Comerica offered to perform the service for free, and 2010, when the Treasury Department agreed to the additional millions, Warren repeatedly interrupted his answers. “Mr. Secretary, let me stop you there,” she said at one point. “My question is about the contract … and that we agreed to give Comerica — we, the U.S. government, through Treasury — an additional $30 million without knowing if they were already making substantial profits on this contract or not.” Read more ..


After the Holocaust

ADL Withdraws Honorary Status for Giovanni Palatucci

June 22nd 2013

Abraham Foxman Color cropped
Abraham H. Foxman

In view of new historical evidence that has come to light documenting that an Italian police official, Giovanni Palatucci, did not play a role in rescuing Jews during the Holocaust as was widely believed and may have in fact been a Nazi collaborator, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) will no longer present law enforcement officials with an award named for him.

We know now what we did not know then, which is that Giovanni Palatucci was not the rescuer he was made out to be. We thank the historians for their efforts to bring the truth to light, and as a result of their research we have decided to disassociate our law enforcement award from his name.

Palatucci was long credited with saving thousands of Jews during the Holocaust while he was police chief in Fiume, Italy, and has been recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.  But a panel of historians and scholars, after examining hundreds of documents, has recently concluded that Palatucci was “a willing executioner of the racial legislation” and may have even collaborated with the Mussolini government in helping to identify Jews for deportation.

Palatucci was recognized with ADL’s Courage to Care Award in 2005 and, since 2007, the League has bestowed the ADL Giovanni Palatucci Courageous Leadership Award in honor of Italian and American law enforcement officials who have exemplified leadership in the fight against extremism, bigotry and terrorism. 

Read more ..

The New Venezuela

Jimmy Carter Gives Seal of Approval to Venezuela Election

June 21st 2013

Jimmy Carter

When the Venezuelan tyrant Hugo Chavez passed away back in March, one notably unctuous commemorative tribute came from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. “Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chavez’s commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen,” the statement, carried on the website of the Carter Center, intoned. Carter then praised the “positive legacies” of a man famous for embracing genocidal dictators like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, before ending with a vague plea to Chavez’s successors to forge a “new consensus” in taking the country forward.

Three months and one disputed election later, has Carter revised these views? As the Miami Herald’s Andres Oppenheimer discovered this week when he interviewed Carter, the answer is a resounding no.

“Would Carter now approve of the results of Venezuela’s April 14 elections, which according to the pro-government National Electoral Council (CNE) were won by Chavez protégé Nicolas Maduro?” Oppenheimer asked. “Would he give some credence to opposition leader Henrique Capriles’ claims that the election had been stolen from him?” Carter’s responses on these matters were an artful fusion of tired platitudes with flagrant untruths. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria: Pick Your Poison…or Pass the Cup

June 20th 2013

Syrian Fighters w/RPGs

President Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 summit this week to discuss many things, but the biggest topic appeared to be their differences over Syria. One look at a picture of their meeting tells you how poorly it went.Syria has been in the midst of a civil war for 2 years. The rebels were a late bloom of the Arab Spring—beginning while the Western world was occupied with Libya. President Obama has largely avoided getting involved, but recently cited reports of chemical weapon usage for declaring that Syrian “President” Bashar al-Assad must go. Obama backed himself into the same corner when he said Qaddafi must go last year. Furthermore, the UK and France forced the White House to openly agree to supply arms to the rebels. Read more ..


The Arab Winter

The Arab Impasse

June 19th 2013

2012 Egyptian Elections

The Arab Spring has failed.  The Sunni Renaissance has floundered. And all in the space of three years.  In a review of Arab history, one searches in vain for a comparable epoch of chaos and confusion.

Egypt under Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al-Muslimun) is a mess. So too is Libya. And Tunisia under the Muslim Brothers and eminence gris Rachid Ghannouchi is not much better. The Khartoum government, yet another Ikhwan outpost, is a state whose riverain core is under attack by its periphery. The Sudanese remain as they always have been--bogus genealogies to the contrary--more African than Arab. Ditto, Mauretania.  Algeria will remain a military dictatorship for the foreseeable future, while the Moroccan throne totters.    Read more ..


Broken Intelligence

People, Privacy and Fear

June 18th 2013

NSA

The American people often prove to be more sophisticated about themselves, their rights, and their government than they get credit for. Even if they can't enumerate the clauses, most people know the Bill of Rights is designed to restrict the government's ability to curb their speech or religious practice; take their weapons; search their persons or property without a warrant; make them incriminate themselves; deny them a lawyer, a speedy trial, and a jury of their peers; or set excessive bail. Some people know that at least in peacetime, the Army can't live in your house without your permission. But they're not absolutists about it.

Even after the discovery that the Federal Government has been collecting voluminous data -- including aggregated information on credit card usage, e-mails, telephones and EZ-passes -- on American citizens, the Pew Research Company found that 56 percent of Americans consider it "acceptable" for the NSA to get "secret court orders to track calls of millions of Americans to investigate terrorism," while 41 percdent said it was not. In addition, 62 percent say, "it is more important for the government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy," while 34 percent reject government intrusion, "even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats."  Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

An Outbreak of Bipartisanship

June 17th 2013

US Capital Day

Folks, there is reason to be hopeful that our lawmakers can put aside their ideological differences every now and then and do what makes sense for constituents.

In fact, last week some of the people we have elected to represent us — at least at the state level — even showed a willingness to put careers at risk by doing what they believe is the right thing.

One of the most contentious issues during state legislative sessions this year has been whether to expand the Medicaid program for low-income individuals and families, as Congress intended when it enacted health care reform three years ago.

The state-level debate was made necessary when the Supreme Court ruled last year that Congress can’t force the states to expand their Medicaid programs, even if the feds will always cover no less than 90 percent of the cost. Medicaid is jointly funded by the states and the federal government. Read more ..


Brazil on Edge

Occupy Mato Grosso: Brazil's Native People Rise Up

June 17th 2013

Yanomami in Brazil

In the last two years, media outlets have reported the actions of the so-called “Occupy” movement that began on Wall Street and subsequently spread across the globe. Beyond the individual episodes, occupying has nowadays become a way of life to raise voices against social and economic inequalities and injustices all over the world. Brazil is not an exception, nor is the phenomenon likely to disappear soon.

On June 3, 2013, the website of the Italian newspaper La Stampa included a piece titled “Occupy Mato Grosso—La Protesta Degli Indios Brasiliani” (“Occupy Mato Grosso—The Protest of Brazilian Indigenous Peoples”). But what is this protest about? Which injustices are the Brazilian Mato Grosso experiencing today? Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

The Sub-Bachelor STEM Economy

June 16th 2013

university students and laptops

To make it in this economy, you have to have skills that customers or employers value. The need for skilled workers is at the heart of debates about immigration policy, innovation, education, and opportunity. It raises questions about how to better prepare students, spark entrepreneurship, and spur innovation as part of the broader quest to revamp our stagnant economy and bring more Americans into the middle class.

But these questions can’t be answered without a proper definition of our skilled workforce, and we don’t have that. It is well established that knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects leads to high-paying careers, but we have the misconception that all STEM workers are advanced degree holders.

As my new report shows, half of America’s highly-skilled technical workers do not possess a doctorate or even a bachelor’s degree. Instead their knowledge is acquired through a combination of on-the-job-training, experience, and relatively short periods of post-secondary education. These are unheralded STEM jobs, in the background of every city and town, far removed the public accolades, or support, reserved for scientists and tech workers. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Pentagon Must Change the Way It Does Business

June 15th 2013

Chuck Hagel

On increasingly rare occasions, the relentless cacophony inside the Beltway gives way to harmony. Such was the case last week when the doyens of DC’s think-tank community united their voices to urge painful yet necessary Pentagon reforms. On Monday, a group of 25 scholars from ten different think tanks released an open letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and senior congressional leaders of the defense committees on June 3 in The Hill newspaper.

The authors issued a clarion call on the need for quick action on excess bases, the size and structure of the defense civilian workforce, and make-up of military compensation. Many of the necessary measures will face steep political resistance from entrenched interests in both branches of government as well as many communities and constituencies across America. While all of these concerns must be weighed equally, what should not get lost is the other key Pentagon priority to provide service members the cutting-edge tools and training, maintenance, and readiness they need to fight and win as safely, effectively, and quickly as possible. Yet this is increasingly a zero-sum outcome if policymakers continue to allow DoD structural costs to squeeze the defense budget from within. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

A Rapidly Evolving World

June 14th 2013

North America sat image

As a diplomat for 42 years, 16 of which I spent at the Elysée, under three presidents (Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy), I’ve always believed that one of the most difficult tasks of an advisor involved in the action is to understand the long-term consequences of key events beyond their immediate impact, which can be misleading.

To take the image of a game of chess, how can you think not just tactically but strategically, calculating not just the next move but the fifth or sixth one down the line, based on all the possible reactions of the other player? With an additional difficulty: In international relations, the number of players—both state and non-state—is considerable.

The demise of the Soviet Empire and reforms in China marked the end of a century of ideologies. The market economy now reigned supreme.
Without rewriting history, it’s possible to illustrate my remarks by looking at key moments in recent decades that eventually led to upheavals that were unsuspected at the time.

1979: Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan on Christmas day. The USSR was on the offensive, making gains in Africa, Angola and Ethiopia. Faced with this event, along with the loss of an ally, Iran, and bogged down in the Teheran hostage crisis, President Carter projected an image of America on the defensive. This was also true on the economic front, due to the meteoric rise of Japan, which was buying up Hollywood properties and the Empire State Building. According to a number of analysts, it was about to become the world’s leading economic power. Read more ..


The Mideast on Edge

New Iran Crisis Looming

June 12th 2013

Iran Nuclear Equipment centrifuges

At a time when news headlines from the Middle East are dominated by battles in Syria, growing Sunni-Shi'ite conflict in Iraq and Lebanon, and mass disturbances in Turkey, it is easy to forget about Iran's nuclear program; but early warning indicators are signaling an impending, explosive crisis over Iran's refusal to halt its covert nuclear weapons program. At enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow, Iran is continuing to inch closer to the point of nuclear breakout, as a report by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently noted.

The report confirmed what defense analysts had been saying for months: that Iran installed hundreds of additional centrifuges for uranium enrichment, enhancing its nuclear program, while continuing enrichment activities. Tehran has also taken steps to create a parallel path to nuclear weapons through its plutonium plant at Arak. Iranian engineers are constructing a reactor at the heavy water plant at Arak, which could enable the production of a plutonium-based atomic bomb.  Read more ..


Broken Government

IRS Seeks Advanced Surveillance Equipment

June 12th 2013

IRS building

Internal Revenue Service snoops are seeking to purchase surveillance equipment from an “undisclosed Corporation,” according to a solicitation the agency posted on June 6. The tax agency expects to close the deal on June 10.  The purchase order includes cameras hidden in coffee trays, plants and clock radios. “The Internal Revenue Service intends to award a Purchase Order to an undisclosed Corporation,” reads the solicitation. Furthermore, it says “The following descriptions are vague due to the use and nature of the items.” Continuing, the solicitation says, “If you feel that you can provide the following equipment, please respond to this email no later than 4 days after the solicitation date.”  Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Alternative Fuel Automobiles are No Cure-All for Environmental Woes

June 12th 2013

Click to select Image

Making cars more fuel-efficient is great for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but rather than promoting sales of electric and other alternative-fuel vehicles, policymakers should turn their focus to cutting emissions in other energy sectors—from oil wells and power plants to farms and forests affected by biofuels production—says a University of Michigan researcher.

"While the rush to get alternative fuels on the road has become dogma in many policy circles, such haste cannot be justified by careful analysis," said John DeCicco, a research professor at the U-M Energy Institute and professor of practice at the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Alternative fuel vehicles have been promoted for decades—plug-in electric cars as well as those powered by ethanol, natural gas, hydrogen or other nonpetroleum fuels. Federal tax credits for electric vehicles range up to $7,500 per car and many other alternative fuels are also subsidized. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

46 Years of "No"

June 11th 2013

Dome-of-the-Rock

At the end of August 1967, shortly after the Six Day War, the heads of Arab states held a special conference in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, where the three famous "Nos" were decided on: No to peace with Israel; no to the recognition of Israel; and no to negotiations with Israel. The PLO representative at the conference, Ahmad Shukeiri, was even more extreme and called for an active military struggle against Israel. The heads of Arab states believed the superpowers would do their work for them and pressure Israel to withdraw.

Forty-six years have passed, and nothing has changed in relation to the Arabs who are dubbed Palestinians. Yasser Arafat replaced Shukeiri, and Mahmoud Abbas replaced Arafat, but the three "Nos" remained as they were. The chairman of the Palestinian Authority (which the Palestinians insist on calling a "state") is not willing to reach a peace agreement with Israel; he is not willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; and he is not willing to negotiate with it. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

June 10th 2013

Anthony Weiner

I read an article the other day about a famous liar, Jonah Lehrer. Less than a year ago, Lehrer was a writer for the New Yorker, one of the most prestigious jobs in journalism. He was caught fabricating quotations and plagiarizing from other writers, and resigned in disgrace. Then in February, he got $20,000 from the Knight Foundation to give a talk about his lies and how he planned to redeem himself. The Knight Foundation claims it promotes quality journalism under the slogan “informed and engaged communities”. Now he has just scored a deal with Simon and Schuster for a book tentatively titled “A Book About Love”. Looks like lying can be a good career move.

In fact, liars are doing quite well these days. While he was Governor of South Carolina in 2009, Mark Sanford cheated on his wife and lied about it to his constituents. He lied about misusing state travel funds to finance his long distance affair. He admitted that he had “crossed the lines” with other women during his marriage. This May he was elected to Congress, with the endorsements of Speaker John Boehner and other conservative Republicans. His website headlines “Leadership”.

Another big public liar is Democrat Anthony Weiner, a married man who sent sexually explicit messages and photos to many women while he was in Congress, and then fervently denied it. He resigned from Congress just two years ago, but now he’s back in the political limelight. Weiner is running for mayor of New York. His website promotes his “ideas”. If you want to make a contribution to his campaign, you must check a box: “I confirm that the following statements are true and accurate.” Weiner does not have to confirm that his statements are true or accurate. A poll in late May showed Weiner running second in a crowded field, with 19 percent support. Read more ..


The US and Turkey

The US Should Stand with the Turkish People

June 9th 2013

Turkey Protest Riot

Tear gas continues to waft over Istanbul’s mosques and malls as protests have spread to dozens of cities. What began as a sit-in against the destruction of a small park has morphed into a country-wide revolt against authoritarianism. Turks have reason to be angry: Where liberals once applauded Erdogan’s efforts to rein in the Turkish military, he soon showed his vendettas would not stop there: minorities, secularists, and women all found themselves targets of his ire. Press freedom is in free fall. Turkey was a tinderbox in need of a spark. By attacking demonstrators, Erdogan lit a match.

The “Turkish Spring” puts President Barack Obama in a tough spot. Hosting Erdogan at the White House last month, Obama was effusive. “This visit reflects the importance that the United States places on our relationship with our ally, Turkey, and I value so much the partnership that I've been able to develop with Prime Minister Erdogan.” Never before has an American president struck up such friendship with a Turkish leader. In a January 2012 interview, Obama singled out Erdogan as among those leaders with whom he was able to forge "bonds of trust.” Read more ..


Broken Borders

Militarization of U.S./Mexico Border Leads to Rise in Migrants' Death

June 8th 2013

Click to select Image

As the hottest time of year descends on the borderland, a new report sheds fresh light on the mass deaths of migrants crossing the deadly Sonora-Arizona desert. Co-authored by the University of Arizona’s Binational Migration Institute and the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner (PCOME), the study examines the deaths of 2,238 migrants in the Tucson area between 1990 and 2012.

The researchers document the dramatic rise in border crossing deaths beginning in 1990, when the bodies of 8 undocumented migrants were recovered, and culminating in 2012, when 171 migrant deaths were recorded. With 225 migrant deaths registered in the zone examined, 2010 was rated the deadliest year.

According to the report: “Previous research has illustrated that segmented border militarization has resulted in the funnel effect, or the redistribution of migratory flows into remote and dangerous areas such as southern Arizona…” Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

It Wasn't an Accident--The Plan to Make Israel Nervous

June 7th 2013

Iron Dome

Yesterday it was revealed that that the current US ("I've Got Israel's back") administration leaked to the media the specifications for the heretofore-secret US-Israel installation for Israel's Arrow 3 missiles. It was quickly called just another leak from an administration already reeling from leaks; someone apologized. But it was more likely a deliberate decision -- by someone. The constellation of players in the administration now contains a heavy contingent of those determined to bring "peace" to Israel. "Peace" is defined as the creation of the State of Palestine under whatever circumstances they can, and the operative question is how to bring Israel in line. Leaking military secrets is actually the second step in the process -- first was Secretary of State John Kerry last month positing the absurdity that because Israel is successful, democratic and increasingly energy independent, Israelis do not care about peace: "People in Israel aren't waking up every day and wondering if tomorrow there will be peace because there is a sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and of prosperity." The implication that Jews care more about money than peace comes ever so close to anti-Semitic caricature.

Read more ..


The War on Terror

RFK Assassination: None Dare Call it Palestinian Terrorism

June 7th 2013

Robert F Kennedy assassination

Forty-five years ago, on June 6, 1968, New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy died of gunshot wounds. His assassination, coming five years after his brother Jack’s and two months after Martin Luther King’s, traumatized America. Amid the tumultuous 1960s, with youth rioting, crime soaring, blacks protesting, the Vietnam War souring, and these young, visionary leaders dying, Americans wondered: “is ours a sick society?” While America then needed reforming, the soul-searching around Robert Kennedy’s assassination was unmerited. The truth -- which most overlooked then -- was that this Kennedy assassination was the first major act of Palestinian terrorism targeting the United States.

No new evidence has emerged, we just understand the world better. At the time, Sirhan Sirhan, Kennedy’s murderer, was usually called a “Jordanian” -- there was minimal international awareness of the “Palestinians” as a factor in “the Arab-Israeli conflict." Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Iran In Syria: Let Your Enemy Make A Mistake

June 7th 2013

Dead Syrians

The Syrian civil war, all acknowledge, is a humanitarian tragedy and a threat to regional stability. For many, however, it is also a proxy battle in a larger struggle between Iran and the United States. Worse, many say that the U.S. is losing that battle or as Vali Nasr, who is a Brookings non-resident senior fellow and dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, puts it in a recent op-ed, “Iran is beating the U.S. in Syria.” In an echo of the Cold War struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union, the U.S.-Iran rivalry will now play out in shadow wars and guerilla struggles across the Middle East. As we often heard during the Cold War, the United States must fight its enemy everywhere, lest it lose credibility—in Nasr’s words “the aura of power”—in the larger struggle. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Hagel's Strategic Choices Study: Americans Need to See it Now

June 6th 2013

Chuck Hagel

Pentagon leaders have been working for months on a process Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said will inform budget decisions should sequestration stay in place for the U.S. military next year (the top weapons buyer said Monday that it’s likely to continue).

The process, known as the Strategic Choices and Management Review, is apparently designed to “stress test” President Obama’s strategic guidance, from January 2012, calling for a pivot to Asia amid shrinking defense budgets.

The review is long overdue, given that sequestration — mandated budget cuts of roughly 10 percent — took effect more than three months ago. For that reason, Hagel should prepare to release some of its findings publicly. By keeping the budget-review findings secret, Hagel will instead allow speculation, rumors and select leaks to drive the debate. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

U.S.-Pakistan Relationship and the Future of Afghanistan

June 5th 2013

Afgan Troops

The U.S. and Pakistan are fundamentally at odds over the future of Afghanistan. Washington and Islamabad back opposite sides in the war and want different outcomes. This despite a new civilian government in Islamabad and a somewhat new counter terrorism policy in Washington.

For twenty years Pakistan's army--the real power broker in the country--has backed the Afghan Taliban. It helped create the Taliban's Islamic Emirate in the 1990s and build the al Qaeda state within a state. The army has provided safe haven, arms, expertise and other help to the Taliban. It briefly pretended to abandon the Taliban to avoid American anger in 2001 misleading George Bush. By 2004 under the leadership of its then spy chief and today top general, Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, was deeply engaged in helping the Taliban again. It still is. The senior Taliban leadership including Mullah Omar are protected by the ISI in Quetta and Karachi. Read more ..


The Edge of Jihad

Muslim Outreach Efforts and the Impact on U.S. Middle East Policy

June 5th 2013

Arab terrorist

The aftermath of the April 15, 2013 bombings in Boston, Massachusetts, has focused attention on the failure of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to carry out an adequate investigation of the suspected bombers despite warnings from Russian authorities. This failure has partially been attributed to a full scale campaign of political correctness waged inside the bureau and throughout the U.S. government under the Obama administration against any attempt to link jihadi terrorism with anything remotely connected to Islam of any variety (the most radical versions included). This has extended into other segments of the government as well, particularly the Department of Defense. One of the primary contributors to this widespread political correctness campaign has been the U.S. government’s disastrous Muslim outreach policies extending back to the Clinton administration and the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Turkey’s Tiananmen Square Moment?

June 4th 2013

Turkey Protest Riot

Twitter is lighting up with reports of mass protests spreading in major Turkish cities, and apparently increasing use of force by Turkish police and paramilitary forces to break them up. The major confrontation is taking place in Istanbul, with at least two deaths and dozens of injuries reported on Twitter. Pictures of police literally blowing protesters off their feet with water/gas cannons are making the rounds, as well as grainy images of huge bonfires in the middle of the streets. The spark apparently was a protest in central Istanbul against Prime Minister Erdogan’s plans to remove iconic Taksim Square and replace it with another shopping mall. Protests spread to nearby parks and along the pedestrial shopping street, Istiklal. Accuracy of reports about protests in other cities need to be checked. Read more ..

Education on Edge

No Child Left Behind: Pass or Fail?

June 2nd 2013

school kids

If you are a parent of one of the 50 million public schoolchildren in the United States, the odds are your child has taken a standardized test within the past few weeks. The odds also suggest that you took such a test yourself once upon a time, though probably not as early or as often as your kids. You and your children have the federal No Child Left Behind Act to thank for the modern ubiquity of standardized testing.

No Child Left Behind is something of a forgotten stepchild now, having been expired without formal reauthorization longer than it was actually in effect. The Obama administration has moved on to its “Race to the Top” initiative; most states have applied for waivers from many of the law’s requirements. One might be tempted to conclude that NCLB was a failed experiment, a quixotic effort to attain noble yet patently unrealistic ideals. A new American Enterprise Institute report I’ve authored, along with Thomas Ahn of the University of Kentucky, argues the opposite: that there were, in fact, many positive lessons to take from No Child Left Behind. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

US and EU Must Arm the Syrian Rebels

June 2nd 2013

Syrian Fighters w/RPGs

For much of the past two years, Europe and the United States have taken only diplomatic and humanitarian measures as Syria's Assad regime has killed nearly 80,000 civilians and forced another million to seek refuge in neighboring states. Despite overwhelming odds and this heavy toll, Syrian rebels made some remarkable gains on the battlefield.

Lately, however, opposition forces experienced setbacks as Assad's allies -- Russia, Iran and the Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah -- have reinforced the regime. The European Union's decision to lift the arms embargo will not immediately reverse momentum in favor of the rebels, but it is an important first move away from the ambivalence that has characterized western policy toward the Syrian conflict for too long. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Britain's Islamic Future is Here

June 2nd 2013

Shariah demonstration

Islam is on track to become the dominant religion in Britain within the next generation, according to new census data published by the British government.The numbers show that although Christianity is still the main religion in Britain -- over 50% of the population describe themselves as such -- nearly half of all Christians in Britain are over the age of 50, and, for the first time ever, fewer than half under the age of 25 describe themselves as Christian.

By contrast, the number of people under 25 who describe themselves as Muslim has doubled over the past ten years: one in ten under the age of 25 are Muslim, up from one in 20 in 2001. If current trends continue -- a Muslim population boom, combined with an aging Christian demographic and the increasing secularization of British natives -- Islam is set to overtake Christianity in Britain within the next 20 years, according to demographers. A new report published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on May 16 offers additional analyses of the 2011 census data previously published in December 2012. Read more ..


Broken Government

Social Security Trust Fund Reports Massive Deficits, Benefit Cuts by 2033

June 1st 2013

Capitol Hill

Social Security ran a $55 billion deficit in 2012, closing out three years of consecutive cash-flow deficits as the program’s unfunded obligations continue to grow. The combined 75-year unfunded obligation of the Social Security and Disability trust funds (referred to as the OASDI trust fund) is $12.3 trillion. This is a $1 trillion increase from last year’s unfunded obligation of $11.3 trillion.

The combined Social Security and Disability programs are projected to remain solvent—that is, they are expected to have enough revenue from payroll taxes, interest on the trust fund balance, and repayment of borrowed trust fund dollars to pay out scheduled benefits—through 2033. This is the same date as projected in last year’s report. If no action is taken to improve the program’s solvency before 2033, benefits will be reduced across the board by 23 percent. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

A Hidden Tax in Obamacare

May 31st 2013

Surgeons

The central provisions of the Affordable Care Act require younger and healthier Americans to buy insurance policies that will, in essence, subsidize the health care of older and sicker Americans. But one of Obamacare's hidden taxes — a new limit on contributions to health flexible spending accounts, or FSAs — will hit older and chronically ill individuals hardest.

Starting this year, the health care law imposes a $2,500 annual cap on an individual's contribution to an FSA that is part of an employer's "cafeteria" benefits plan. Such contributions, diverted directly from one's paycheck, are not subject to federal income and payroll taxes. The money in an FSA can then be used to pay for qualified medical expenses such as deductibles, co-insurance and co-payments, as well as services not covered by insurance.

Before Obamacare, there were no FSA contribution limits for workers under federal tax law. Employers set their own annual limits, and many chose amounts well above $2,500. The federal government, as one example, allowed FSA contributions of up to $5,000 a year. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Should Counseling be Required with DNA Screenings?

May 30th 2013

Angelina Jolie

The decision by Angelina Jolie to undergo a double mastectomy after tests determined she carried a genetic mutation that elevated her chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer has led to renewed calls for expanded genetic screening. It has also raised a disconcerting question-could genetic testing actually be harmful to your health?

As is the case for many people with a family history of breast cancer, the Jolie story is very personal. She carried one of three mutations, specifically BRACA 1, that is linked to ancient Jewish communities. I can relate: My two sisters and I all carry one of these genetic mistakes (in our case, it's BRCA2). I face a higher likelihood of contracting male breast cancer, as well as ocular and prostate cancers. Many of my family members, including my mother, developed breast or ovarian cancers. My mother died as a consequence of carrying this mutation. My young, female family members worry whether they should have their breasts and ovaries removed as a precaution.

It's estimated that one in forty-three Jews (about 2.5 percent) carry one of these three genetic faults. Because humans move around and fool around, the BRCA mutations are also found in non-Jews like Jolie. It's estimated that overall, one in nine women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime-although only a fraction can be definitively linked to a specific mutation like BRCA1 or BRCA2.

The Jolie revelation has sparked a welcomed public discussion about the benefits of testing. But it's also raised questions about the need for counseling that often accompanies genetic screening-and calls by some to make counseling mandatory, regardless of cost or effectiveness.

The costs of mandated genetic counseling
     I found out I was a potential carrier for one of the three "Jewish" breast cancer mutations in 2001, when I received a terrifying call from my oldest sister: she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Gratefully, she defeated the cancer but the issue of genetic screening-it's costs and implications-took on personal significance. Read more ..


Food Safety on Edge

Americans Should be Alarmed by Smithfield Acquisition

May 29th 2013

Smithfield Foods pigs

Shuanghui International’s blockbuster acquisition of Smithfield Foods raises major concerns over food safety, Rep. Rosa DeLauro said Wednesday, pointing to the Chinese company's troubled history. "This potential merger raises real food safety concerns that should alarm consumers,” the Connecticut Democrat said in a written statement. “We know that Chinese food products have been a threat to public health and that Shuanghui was found to have produced and sold tainted pork.” DeLauro’s reference was to 2011 revelations that Shuanghui products contained a hazardous and banned chemical used to make meat leaner. The case was just one part of an ongoing scandal involving tainted or fake Chinese meat. Read more ..


The Edge of Reform

Unintended Consequences Often Bedevil Reformers

May 29th 2013

Congress-senate

A thoughtful reformer targets the traditional rules of an aging institution that has retarded progress in the past. Time to modernize those rules, the reformer says, and prevent obstruction in the future. The trouble is that such reform efforts often prove counterproductive. New rules strengthen rather than weaken the aging institution. Unintended consequences abound.

Three examples come to mind, the first from far away -- the British House of Lords.

After Tony Blair's Labor Party was swept into office in 1997, it decided to reform the House of Lords. Its hereditary members were overwhelmingly Conservative and could outvote the appointed life peers of various parties. The Lords could not veto legislation -- it threatened to do so in 1910 and the power was taken away -- but could delay or amend it, sometimes obstructing or frustrating the democratically elected House of Commons. Read more ..


Broken Government

Democrat-Heavy IRS Will Always Distrust Tea Parties

May 28th 2013

IRS building

If you take a group of Democrats who are also unionized government employees, and put them in charge of policing political speech, it doesn't matter how professional and well-intentioned they are. The result will be much like the debacle in the Cincinnati office of the IRS.

The IRS's targeting of Tea Party groups doesn't look like a Nixonian abuse of power by the Obama White House. And there's no reason to even posit evil intent by the IRS officials who formulated, approved or executed the inappropriate guidelines for picking groups to scrutinize most closely.

There's a fairly innocent -- and fairly probable -- explanation for what the IRS did, and it boils down to the natural suspicion people have of those with opposing views. The public servants figuring out which groups qualified for 501(c)4 "social welfare" non-profit status were mostly Democrats surrounded by mostly Democrats. Read more ..


The War on Terror

No Way Out of Guantanamo, says former Bush Appointee

May 28th 2013

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“I continue to believe that right now these prisoners are receiving all the rights that they are entitled to. They are receiving good treatment – certainly the treatment that they are entitled to under international and domestic law.” – Alberto R. Gonzales

A hunger strike by Guantanamo Bay detainees has now passed the 100-day mark, increasing pressure on President Barack Obama to shut down the controversial detention facility – something he promised to do even before he took his first oath of office. During an April 30 press briefing, Obama reiterated that promise, telling reporters that Guantanamo not only hurts U.S. international standing but impacts America’s ability to coordinate counterterrorism efforts with its allies.

Judge Alberto R. Gonzales served as United States attorney general under and counsel to President George W. Bush. Today he holds the Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of Law at Belmont University and serves as counsel at the Weller law firm in Nashville, Tennessee. VOA reporter Cecily Hilleary spoke to him by phone and asked him whether he agrees with President Obama on the need to close down Guantanamo. Below please find the transcribed interview. You can also listen to it using the audio player at the bottom of this post. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Top 10 To-Do List for the National Defense Authorization Act

May 27th 2013

Afghanistan us army dustoff

The federal National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) annually specifies the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense (DOD). The law can be a vehicle for both good and bad policies.

As Congress prepares to craft this legislation, it should seriously consider policy issues that can improve U.S. security and advance international partnerships:

1) Maintain permanent U.S. military presence in Europe. It is in the strategic interest of the U.S. to maintain a permanent military presence in Europe. Having U.S. troops in Europe provides flexible and resilient rapid deployment options to northern Africa and the Middle East as well. Permanent bases also strengthen critical alliances in Europe. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Better Place Goes Belly Up--Sorry We Told You So

May 26th 2013

Shai Agassi, former Better Place CEO

Better Place, the innovative initiative founded by Shai Shai Agassi, has filed for liquidation this morning in Israel. According to the company’s motion, the action is a result its failure to raise additional funds and in the absence of sufficient resources for the continued operation of the business, the company is asking for the court’s assistance in protecting the rights of its employees, customers and creditors. There was no word how the Israeli filing will affect Better Place’s operations in other parts of the world.

“Project BETTER PLACE” made international headlines several years ago with an imaginative solution to the primary problem of electric cars (range and charging time) by quickly swapping out batteries at roadside service stations, as is done with propane tanks, rather than recharging them. Read more ..



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