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The Edge of Terrorism

Are We Safer Today than We Were 10 Years Ago?

April 17th 2013

Boston Marathon Massacre

The ghastly bombings in Boston, followed by an envelope laced with the lethal poison ricin that was sent to the U.S Capitol, renews fear about our vulnerability to these kinds of terrorist acts. It invites unwelcome memories of 9-11.

Speculation is widespread about the potential origins of these attacks, and whether they could be related (seems unlikely). Investigations are underway. In time, we also must ask how much safer we’ve made ourselves based on the lessons we learned after 9-11. And whether there are still precautions we should heed.

When it comes to bioterrorism, it’s at best a mixed bag. Programs enacted after 9-11 helped shore up our defenses. But they’re not equipped to promote development of the kinds of technologies that we need to thwart modern day threats. These threats may not come from established agents of bioterror, but new strains of bugs engineered for deadly purposes. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Seeing the Big Picture

April 16th 2013

Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were the highest-profile stars of the Tea Party Class of 2010. They successfully scared two centrists out of the Republican Party before a primary vote was even cast, and were held out as examples of conservative leadership, dedicated to stopping President Obama at all costs.

Less than three years later, they no longer seem to be so extreme. Instead of being content to vote “no” and go home, they are in the middle of the various Senate gangs. Toomey is working with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to enact some common-sense gun measures, while Rubio is laboring within the Gang of Eight to bring comprehensive immigration reform to the Senate floor. They are no longer deal-breakers. They are deal-makers.

For a movement that heartily applauded a Senate candidate (Richard Mourdock) who said that his definition of compromise was Democrats agreeing with the Republican position, the fact that its two biggest heroes are now in the mood to find compromise must be shocking. While Tea Party activists might be shocked, nobody else should be. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Why Tax Day Is the Best Day to Save Money

April 15th 2013

IRS building

If you’re a smart money manager, you’ll take time on Tax Day to fill out one more form—a savings deposit form. With a healthier economy and less overall debt among U.S. households this year, tax time is an excellent opportunity to start or add to a savings account because the hard work of saving has already been done.

Saving money is hard. To save even small amounts, you have to deny yourself or your family the immediate pleasure of spending. That’s not easy to do when you’ve already been putting off purchases to stay on budget. But having savings is important to individual families’ security as well as our national security. Most Americans already participate in a national savings plan called “federal withholding tax.” Although frequently maligned, withholding tax is relatively painless because the money comes out of your paycheck before you see it, touch it, or have to hand it over to the tax collector. Once you file your taxes, the extra money you saved in your withholding account is returned to you (without interest). Read more ..


Campaign 2016

Santorum Ignores Shift

April 14th 2013

Rick Santorum

Several 2016 presidential campaigns are already up and running — some more quietly than others — and Republicans hoping to be their party’s nominee are preparing for a primary that could potentially bear little resemblance to those of 2012 and 2008. As the party grapples with a shifting electorate, it is divided over differences on gay marriage, immigration reform, national security policy and even guns — gaps that could only widen by 2015, when campaigns will be in full swing.

Potential candidates are busy searching for safe corners on these contentious issues and are either acknowledging the profound shifts, even when they haven’t changed their minds, or saying little until they have to — all of them, so far, except former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Santorum, of course, won the Iowa caucuses last year and nearly derailed Mitt Romney’s path to the GOP nomination before he started speaking out against the dangers of college education, free prenatal testing and contraception. Read more ..


Israel and Turkey

Israel’s Apology to Turkey: A Mistake

April 13th 2013

Mavi Marmara (Flotilla lead vessel)

It’s hard to understand or justify Israel’s weekend apology to Turkey. While the use of Israeli force in the Mavi Marmara “flotilla” incident was not very elegant, it was perfectly legitimate – as the UN-appointed Palmer Commission unequivocally determined. Moreover, the incident was a Turkish provocation that warrants a Turkish apology to Israel, not an Israeli apology to Turkey.

Worst still, the hopes in Jerusalem for a new era in Israeli-Turkish relations are simply illusory. The Israeli apology will hardly stop Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regular Israel-bashing rhetoric. It has not secured a clear Turkish commitment to the resumption of full diplomatic relations. Moreover, Erdoğan already has conveyed his intention to visit Hamas-ruled Gaza. Such a visit is a slap in the face of both Jerusalem and Washington. Read more ..


The Edge of Politics

Ben Carson Endures Predicatable Liberal Assault

April 12th 2013

B.Carson current

Dr. Ben Carson stepped into the national spotlight in February, when, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast to an audience that included President Barack Obama, he openly criticized the president's approach to health care and his overall management of the nation's economy. Carson, who is director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, is a hero to many. His rise from a Detroit ghetto to a life of accomplishment and distinction is a story of American ideals on steroids.

Those ideals say that America is about merit, not circumstance. Your life, your achievements are the result of what you do and how you live, not where you came from. The hard history of blacks in America has always made it a challenge for them to accept this credo. Many still carry a sense that those ideals may be true for whites, but they never were true, and still aren't true, for blacks.

So in this context, Carson's story is particularly important. It's making liberals nervous, and the attacks on him are starting. He's now pulled out, under pressure, from giving the commencement address at Johns Hopkins University because some are unhappy with how, in an interview on Fox, he expressed his views regarding the importance of maintaining the integrity of traditional marriage. Blacks have known about Carson for years. I gave his book, "Gifted Hands," to my daughters to read when they were little girls. A highly acclaimed made-for-TV movie about his life aired in 2009, with Carson played by Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Anti-Semitism is Why the Arab Spring Failed

April 12th 2013

Iranians Publicly Hung

About two years ago, when the so-called pro-democracy movement, better known as the "Arab Spring," began in the region, many commentators hailed it as "a great step forward," "a turning point in the contemporary Arab world history ", and a" fourth wave of democratization. "I remember those days very well because my colleagues at Iran's foreign ministry were very excited. Like most Iranians, they supported the toppling of the old tyrants in the Arab world. Many of my colleagues were saying - in private of course - that Iran would be next in the domino effect, and the whole region would take great strides towards democracy.

I was not as optimistic. I argued that, unlike Iran's opposition Green Movement - which was an uprising backed by predominantly secular, middle class and pro-western layers of society - the major opposition forces in the Arab streets were made up of Islamists and even Salafists from poor neighborhoods, not real forces for change for the good. I contended that circumstances were not ripe for a positive transformation and that quick and bloody change would only exacerbate the situation by bringing anti-West extremist elements to power. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

The Weak Link in the Iran Fight

April 11th 2013

Ahmadinejad pointing

When Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi visited Vienna in February for a U.N. Alliance of Civilizations conference, he was met outside by a protest. Spearheaded by a 38-year-old Austrian political activist named Simone Dinah Hartmann, the group, called Stop the Bomb, is made up of a broad cross-section of the Austrian political spectrum, from leftists and Greens to conservatives and Iranian dissidents. The group is small, and yet it managed to elicit a reaction-from Salehi himself. When a journalist asked Salehi about Stop the Bomb's demands that Austria break off all relations with Iran, the foreign minister warned that "caution and wisdom should prevail. Otherwise one could end up in problem situations." Salehi then added that Austrian anti-regime activists, including Iranian dissidents living in the country, should "be more rational and more careful." Read more ..

Islam's War Against Christianity

Muslim Persecution of Christians Escalating in Pakistan

April 10th 2013

Pakistan religious minorities

In recent years, the Christians of Pakistan have become one of the most vulnerable religious communities in the world. Most of the time, the Pakistani extremists use two common accusations to persecute the Christians: defamatory remarks toward Mohammed, and burning pages of Quran. There is no provision in Pakistan's blasphemy law to punish a false accuser or a false witness. Since 1990, more than 65 Christians have been killed for "blasphemy;" more than 165 cases are waiting for verdicts.

Christians in Pakistan, a news site on behalf of the Pakistani Christian community, predicted that the situation is becoming alarming. The site alleges that there are currently many cases being reported of Christians being targeted, but no action to reform or address the problem by any government official. In a recent incident in Badami Bagh near Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore, Sawan Masih, a Pakistani Christian and two Muslims were quarreling over the drinking of alcohol. Four days later, on March 9, the Muslims accused him of insulting the Prophet Muhammad -- in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Iran, under blasphemy laws, an allegation punishable by death. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Egypt Takes Another Step Toward Autocracy -- and Instability

April 9th 2013

Morsi

Egypt's prosecution of comedian Bassem Youssef for allegedly insulting President Muhammad Morsi and denigrating Islam is the latest indication of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government's undemocratic disposition. The move will likely deepen the non-Islamist opposition's mistrust of the country's political and judicial institutions, encouraging groups to continue seeking change through increasingly violent demonstrations rather than official political channels. Given Washington's interest in promoting democratic governance and stability in Egypt, the Obama administration should urge Morsi to pardon Youssef and end the crackdown on critics of the Brotherhood. Read more ..


Broken Immigration Policy

Reject Gang of 8's Immigration Reform Deal

April 9th 2013

Star Parker

A bipartisan group of senators, known as the Gang of 8, has put together a framework for the immigration reform that supposedly America is waiting for. Provisions of the agreement have been widely leaked and, from what I see, these senators should return to the drawing board. If we are going to tackle immigration reform, there should be agreement at the outset on the objectives. In my view, there should be three. It should enhance the freedom, fairness and security of the nation. If not, why bother?

The Gang of 8 proposal makes no gains on any of these fronts. And on at least one front -- fairness -- it makes a bad situation even worse. It seems to be the way of Washington these days to take issues that are huge and complex, devise comprehensive mega-reforms -- too massive for any single person to read or grasp -- and pass a new law that exchanges one set of problems for different and even bigger ones. We've just finished going through this with reforms of our financial services system and our health care system. Now we're about to do the same with immigration.

It's unrealistic to think that with one new law we can secure our border, deal with 11 million illegal immigrants now in the country, devise a new way of allowing skilled labor to enter the country, and create a strategy to employ unskilled foreign labor. But Washington is trying to do it all. And it seems that another legislative disaster is waiting to happen. A purported achievement of the Gang of 8 is an agreement between big business and unions regarding hiring of unskilled foreign labor. As our nation buckles under the load of excessive government, the proposal involves giving Washington even more power and building yet another new government bureaucracy. Read more ..


The North Korean Threat

Calling North Korea's Hand

April 9th 2013

North Korean soldiers

A bitter and unresolved struggle behind the scenes for control of North Korea, the world's most regressive regime, is the likeliest explanation for Pyongyang's unprecedented deluge of threats against South Korea, the U.S. and Japan. For heavy hangs the head of Kim Jong-un, heir to the world's only Communist monarchy, a novice never reared to manage the complex game of maintaining control of a starving population and pursue blackmail of aid-givers to sustain the regime. Kim may be the spokesman. But it seems unlikely the 30-year-old could be calling the shots for the carefully programmed rising level of attempted intimidation of North Korea's neighbors. Nor does it seem likely his generals, whatever their personal ambitions and relationship to the throne, are not aware of the ultimate imbalance which exists between their warmaking capability and the U.S. and its allies if conflict does lead to miscalculation. In riposte, slowly, given the long history of provocation both on the Peninsular and through illicit deals with pariah states around the world, Washington, Seoul and Tokyo now are forced to call Kim's hand. Read more ..

Edge on Washington

Plurality of Voters Polled Nominate Hillary Clinton for 2016

April 8th 2013

A majority of voters believe Hillary Clinton is running for president in 2016, according to a new poll for The Hill, and a plurality believe she will be the Democratic Party’s nominee. A full 51 percent of voters said the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of State is running for president in the 2016 election, while just 21 percent said she is not running. Meanwhile a plurality, 41 percent, believe Clinton will be the Democratic Party’s 2016 nominee. Just 7 percent of voters said the party would anoint Vice President Biden, while 35 percent said the nominee would be someone else.

Democratic voters were more confident that Clinton would be the ultimate pick, with 53 percent saying she will be the nominee, 6 percent saying Biden will be chosen and 24 percent saying the party will go with someone else. Among Republicans, just 39 percent said Clinton would be the Democratic nominee, 7 percent predicted Biden, while 42 percent said the party would choose another candidate. Read more ..


The Darkest Edge

Gun Control May Have to Wait

April 7th 2013

Sandy Hook Shooting

No matter what gun control bill passes the Senate, and it is highly unlikely one will, the National Rifle Association has already won this round. An assault weapons ban is off the table. There is no hope for restricting high-capacity magazines. Now even the once bipartisan idea of expanding background checks is nearly dead.

Democrats and advocates of new gun restrictions are clinging to the hope that Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) could step into the fray to rescue their efforts. They shouldn’t hold their breath. Coburn is under well-publicized pressure from an outfit called Gun Owners of America, which, according to The New York Times, boasted its members “irritated” the senator with constant pleas against background checks but nonetheless succeeded in changing his mind. Democrats have dug up an ad McCain cut in 2000 in which he declares he has evolved on the issue of background checks, and that “with rights come responsibilities.” At this point it won’t be easy to bring Coburn back to the table, and without Coburn, McCain would just be dismissed as having one of his fits of mavericky-ness that was sure to pass. Pro-gun Democrats from states where Mitt Romney crushed President Obama in 2012 are hardly ready to walk that tightrope without some Republican skin in the game. Read more ..


American Lives

Daniel Patrick Moynihan: Professorial Politician and Political Intellectual

April 5th 2013

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Daniel Patrick Moynihan died ten years ago this week, on March 26, 2003. His remarkable career took him from Hell’s Kitchen to Harvard, from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations to the Nixon and Ford administrations, and from serving as America’s U.N. Ambassador for only eight months, starting in July 1975, to New York’s senator for four terms, from 1977 to 2001. But Moynihan “was not interested in power,” his widow Elizabeth Moynihan recalls, “Pat was interested in access for his ideas.” His unconventional ideas continue to illuminate public debate, his patriotic vision of liberal national greatness remains relevant, and his towering presence is sorely missed.

As social scientist, public intellectual, and professorial politician, someone, who George Will quipped, wrote more books as senator than most senators have read, Moynihan enjoyed defying the conventional wisdom. In truth, it cost him dearly in 1965 when his “Moynihan Report” warning about “the Negro family’s” deterioration was called racist. Five decades later, as four of ten American babies are born to unmarried mothers, we have indeed “defined deviancy down,” the phrase he forged in 1993.

In the Senate, Moynihan also offered a forward-thinking, creative alternative to gun control. Realizing there were too many guns on the street already, he proposed increasing the tax on hollow-tipped bullets by “Ten thousand percent” to limit the ammunition supply. He proclaimed: “Guns don’t kill people; bullets do.” Read more ..


The CIA on Edge

Damage at the CIA

April 4th 2013

John Brennan (Counterterrorism)

CIA director John Brennan apparently has decided to postpone and reverse the appointment of the first woman to head the CIA directorate of operations (which controls all covert operations and spying). According to press reports, Brennan has prevented the woman, whose identity is classified, from assuming the post because of her involvement with the interrogation and detention decisions after 9/11. According to the Post, she is already the acting head of the directorate and the most qualified person for the job, but Brennan has appointed an outside panel of former CIA officers to review her and other candidates for the job — something that the CIA has never done before. This is a lot more serious than the hypocrisy of the diversity-crazed Obama administration’s blocking the first woman for this most sensitive and important of intelligence positions. Read more ..


Agiriculture on Edge

'Monsanto Protection Act'? Separating Facts from the Fury

April 3rd 2013

wheat fields

The past week has seen a tsunami of stories about the  so-called “Monsanto Protection Act,” more accurately known as Section 735 of HR 933. It’s a tiny provision attached to a massive agricultural spending bill signed into law by President Obama last week.

According to detractors, Section 735 is the “most dangerous food act ever” and a “terrifying piece of policy.” Why? Because, among other claims, it purportedly allows biotech companies to sell seeds that can cause serious consumer health problems. Here is how Gawker frames it:

Section 735 effectively shields large biotech companies, like Monsanto, from the federal courts in case something is found to be harmful in their genetically-modified seeds. Because of Section 735, federal courts would be powerless to stop Monsanto from selling their product Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Betraying One of the CIA's 'Band of Sisters

April 2nd 2013

John Brennan

Former CIA director Mike Hayden credits "an incredible band of sisters" for the success of the operation that found and brought down Osama bin Laden. Now one of those sisters has been appointed acting chief of the CIA's National Clandestine service. It is a major milestone for women at the CIA, the first time in the agency's history that a female officer has headed the clandestine service.

But The Post reports that CIA Director John Brennan is "hesitating" at giving her the position on a permanent basis, because of her past association with the CIA's rendition, detention and interrogation (RDI) program.

This is an outrage. According to several former senior CIA officials I spoke with, the officer is highly respected and unquestionably qualified for this post. Denying her this promotion because of her role in the RDI program would not only be a personal injustice, but also send a chilling message through the ranks of the CIA. It would effectively tell hundreds of talented officers who were involved in the program - who constitute the best and brightest of the agency's counterterrorism professionals - that their careers are over. It would push the agency back into a risk-averse, pre-Sept. 11, 2001, mindset, sending an unmistakable signal to CIA officers across the world: Don't take risks in the fight against the terrorists; if you want to advance, play it safe. Read more ..


Greece on Edge

Is Greece the New Germany?

April 1st 2013

Golden Dawn - Greece

The political situation in Greece has been of concern to Jews since the beginning of the economic meltdown in 2009 set the stage for the rise of xenophobic and racist political parties.

According to Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, however, the problem is much bigger than that. Virulent antisemitism, they say, is spreading across the Greek political spectrum: Left, Right, and Center.

The biggest problem is obviously the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which had a major breakthrough in the last elections. It permits "only Aryans in blood and Greeks in descent" to join, and its leader has openly denied the Holocaust. Its members include gangs of thugs who regularly use violence against ethnic and religious minorities.

But Golden Dawn is not alone. The Right-wing Popular Orthodox Party has been growing more popular, and its leader has "raised the question of Jewish complicity in the 9/11 attacks in Parliament, stating that 'the Jews have no right to provoke, because they have filled the world with crimes.'" Read more ..


Broken Economy

Is a New Housing Crisis In the Offing?

March 31st 2013

Home Foreclosure

Jim Carr's response to my Senate testimony contains a major misconception about the 2008 financial crisis that is at the bottom of the left's mistaken view of the crisis. Unfortunately, that mistake has also shaped the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's definition of the Qualified Mortgage (QM), so that-unless QM is changed--we will again bring about a collapsed housing market at some time in the future.

The left's fundamental mistake is to believe that the low quality mortgages that became delinquent and failed in 2007 and 2008 were the result of predatory lending. We don't have a very good definition of predatory lending--some think it is defined as a high cost loan--but we can pretty well characterize what is not predatory lending.

A loan to someone who has a 580 FICO score is not predatory; a loan to someone who makes a 3 percent downpayment is not predatory; and a loan to someone who has a 50 percent debt-to-income ratio is not predatory. Yet loans like this--which are currently insured by FHA--have claim rates through the normal credit cycle of 8-10 years of 27 percent. Read more ..


Cyprus on Edge

Picking Up the Cyprus Geopolitical Pieces

March 30th 2013

Putin

It's early on but some new disturbing geopolitical trends are emerging or being emphasized from the Cyprus Financial Crisis that go far beyond continuing the very real threat to the Euro and the whole economic structure of the European Union. Offstage, it has exposed the growing deterioration of the Russian regime of Vladimir Putin, dramatizing the question of how the world is to cope with a rapidly diminishing former superpower but one still armed with nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic delivery systems.

The foolishness of the Main-Stream Media blather about Moscow using the crisis to reinstall itself as a Mediterranean power, or indeed a major force beyond the confines of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, became quickly self-evident. The fact is that the once vaunted Soviet Black Sea fleet is now a pile of rusting junk, still anchored in Sevastopol by permission of Ukraine. Moscow and Kyiv, where there is now a more Russian-friendly regime, talk of swapping the Kremlin's gas for Ukraine's refurbishing this fleet from Ukraine plants is wishful-thinking on both sides.  

Moscow, increasingly feeling the heat of competitive lower cost gas producers for its northern monopoly European markets, is being left even further high and dry by the shale revolution's dynamiting of long-term energy prices. And Stalin did his work well: the dispersal of the Soviet military industrial complex for internal security reasons left a decapitated post-Soviet Moscow vulnerable with its various military manufacturing and test units in a half dozen independent countries now disorganized, disconnected and not always cooperative. Furthermore, the brief Yeltsin Boom detoured young workers out of the former all-powerful Soviet weapons complex and even the Indians are complaining of the quality of Russian exports as the Soviet overinvestment in military technology winds down. Read more ..


Mauritania on Edge

Arab Apartheid and Enslavement Continues in Mauritania

March 29th 2013

Slaving

Israel Apartheid Week has come and gone this year on many American campuses. It was, of course, a hoax: However much Arabs in Israel suffer, and whoever is to blame for it, there is no apartheid in Israel. Meanwhile, however, in Sudan and Mauritania, racist Arab societies enslave blacks. Today. Most of the slaves are African Muslims. Yet there is no Arab Apartheid Week on American campuses. Why not?

One might think American student activists would be upset about Mauritania, the West African country with the largest population of black slaves in the world – estimates range from 100,000 to more than a half-million. In Mauritania, slaves are used for labor, sex and breeding. The wholly owned property of their masters, they are passed down through generations, given as wedding gifts or exchanged for camels, trucks, guns or money.  Read more ..


Israel's Next Northern War

Israel's Insightful Cynicism

March 28th 2013

Soldiers-vehicle

Israel is in the process of watching a peace treaty unravel. I don't mean the one with Egypt, but the one with Syria. No, I'm not crazy. Since Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy in 1974, the Israelis have had a de facto peace agreement of sorts with the al Assad family. After all, there were clear red lines that both sides knew they shouldn't cross, as well as reasonable predictability on both sides. Forget about the uplifting rhetoric, the requirement to exchange ambassadors and the other public policy frills that normally define peace treaties. What counts in this case is that both sides observed limits and constraints, so that the contested border between them was secure. Even better, because there was no formal peace agreement in writing, neither side had to make inconvenient public and strategic concessions. Israel did not have to give up the Golan Heights, for example. And if Syria stepped over a red line in Lebanon, or say, sought a nuclear capacity as it did, Israel was free to punish it through targeted military strikes. There was usefully no peace treaty that Israel would have had to violate.     Read more ..


America on Edge

Detroit's Financial Debacle Holds Lessons

March 28th 2013

Panic in Detroit

If we are going to save our cities, we need to get back to what built them in the first place: Freedom, enterprise and entrepreneurship. We are now hearing the usual voices of protest in Detroit in the wake of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointing an outside expert to take over financial management of the near-bankrupt city. Detroit is the largest city in American history to be seized in this fashion and turned over to an outside manager. The city's reported deficit is $327 million and long-term liabilities are in the range of $14 billion.

But no matter to the unions, politicians and bureaucrats who have been at the helm for years as the city has spiraled into the depths of the black hole in which it now finds itself. These interest groups, which have been the driving force behind this fiscal travesty, have one interest: to keep their respective beds feathered. Citizens and public welfare be damned. So they cry foul when adult supervision is sent in to take on the formidable rescue task. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Medicare Stopped Paying Bills for Diagnostic Tests

March 27th 2013

Cat Scan

The Obama Administration has stopped the paying bills from hundreds of health care companies, and it has nothing to do with sequestration. This is a story of bureaucratic mismanagement at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the harm it’s visiting on the diagnostic testing industry.

At issue is the way that Medicare reimburses everyone from the big laboratory companies such as the Laboratory Corp of America (LH:NYSE) and Quest Diagnostics Inc. (DGX:NYSE), to the molecular diagnostic labs inside academic hospitals, and especially smaller firms that make proprietary tests used by doctors to more effectively target treatments to patients with conditions like cancer.

Some of these proprietary tests — focused around the more accurate diagnosis of prostate cancer — areprofiled in today’s edition of the New York Times. The incompetent manner in which Medicare has handled a change in the reimbursement of similar tests has the potential to stymie one of the most important and potentially cost-saving technologies in the pipeline. Read more ..


The Architectural Edge

Architectural Pornography: Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower

March 27th 2013

skyscraper

Saudi Arabia announced its Kingdom Tower, a skyscraper aiming for a new world height record of over 1 kilometer high in the sky.

Boys, boys, boys, when will you learn that size doesn’t matter as much as performance? Next Azerbaijan broadcast plans to top that with their own mile-high cloud-puncher. Then Pakistan upstaged both with their own biggest building boast. And performance brings us full circle back to Team Saudi who just commissioned the project delivery team for their kilometer-high Kingdom Tower. Is this engineering ingenuity or architectural porn? Actions speak louder than empty press releases. Obama may have scratched another trip to the moon, but, regrettably, the terrestrial race towards the heavens is on. Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower was first conceived years back. Geological testing commenced in 2008 for the planned one-mile-high structure. That initial engineering resulted in a down-sizing of tower height, which still bests Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. Read more ..


Cyprus on Edge

Cyprus Crisis Show Considerable Improvement, but Serious Risks Remain

March 26th 2013

Euro money

We can heave a sigh of relief about the revised Cyprus deal. Early this morning, Cyprus, the various European authorities, and the IMF found common ground on the outline of a deal that is much better than the very flawed agreement of the previous weekend. At the same time, the earlier botched proposal will carry some long-term costs and the actions taken now, while necessary, create real risks of their own.

The best news is simply that an agreement of any kind was reached, allowing European support to flow to Cyprus and preventing, for now anyway, the possibility of an exit from the eurozone. It is also very good news that insured bank depositors in Cyprus will be protected after all, eliminating a terrible precedent with repercussions across Europe. Further, there are real advantages to inflicting large losses on the uninsured depositors and the bondholders of the two largest Cypriot banks. This is by far the strongest message Europe has ever sent that people must pay attention to the strength of the banks with which they deal. It brings the hope that market discipline will finally be a significant aid to outright regulation in ensuring that European banks act prudently at all times. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

In Iran Stand-off, Energy Market Believes U.S. is Bluffing

March 25th 2013

Iran centrifuges

The Obama administration has utterly failed to convince the world that it is serious when it says the U.S. would attack Iran if it does not halt its nuclear weapons program. Analysis of energy markets reveals that crude oil is trading today with no greater risk than stocks and currency. Even China, notoriously conservative when it comes to the energy imports upon which its economy depends, demonstrates little concern over the prospect that Gulf oil flows might be interrupted by American military action against Iran.

Do oil prices reflect the risk of a military strike against Iran's nuclear weapons program? This is not an academic question. If oil buyers ignore President Obama's claim that he is not bluffing about Iran, it is likely that the Iranian government will ignore it as well. Measurement of a risk premium in the oil price indirectly gauges the credibility of the Obama administration's stance towards Iran. The oil price has fallen by 16 percent during the past 12 months (from $107 to $90 for the benchmark West Texas Intermediate) as the Iranian nuclear threat has escalated. That suggests that the oil market does not assign a high probability that military force will be used against Iran. Read more ..


Broken Government

A Wrong Purple Moment for Obama and Boehner

March 24th 2013

Congress-senate

I have been writing this “Purple Nation” column for a long time, waiting for the “purple moment” when President Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would agree on an important position on the budget and deficits. Little did I know that when it finally happened, I would be disappointed, to say the least.

“We don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt,” President Obama told ABC’s “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos, in an interview that aired March 13. “In fact, in the next 10 years, it’s gonna be in a sustainable place.” Then a day or so later, Boehner said he agreed with the president!

Instead of cheering this as a magic purple moment, I could only think of this metaphor, which I believe is apt: There’s a ticking time bomb in your living room. You know the bomb will certainly explode in 10 to 15 years, and you choose only to reassure your family, “There is no ‘immediate’ danger. Read more ..


Israel and Turkey

Did Israel `Apologize’ to Turkey? Well, No, Not Exactly

March 24th 2013

Obama Bibi

Israel apologizes to Turkey, reads every headline. That simply isn’t true in the sense it is taken to imply. To understand what happened one must examine the long negotiations on this issue.

The issue began when several ships were sent to break the Israeli sanctions on the Gaza Strip in May 2010. These sanctions were put on by Israel—Egypt, then under the government of President Husni Mubarak, had its own restrictions—against a radical Islamist regime in the Gaza Strip that openly rejected peace, used terrorism, and called for genocide against the Jews and the elimination of Israel.

This flotilla was not interested in helping the people of Gaza. It refused to land the cargos in Israel and have them passed across the border after inspection. Rather, the goal was to help Hamas. A key role in the flotilla was played by the IHH, an Islamist group that has been involved in terrorism, backed by Turkey’s government. Read more ..


Cyprus on Edge

The Cyprus Farce

March 24th 2013

Euro Symbol

Cyprus's efficient money laundering services were a common knowledge, almost as the lore of Aphrodite's frolicking on the Island's sunny shores. Yet, until the bottom fell from under the banks that weren't smart enough to better invest the money, no one called out "the king is naked."

How much money was laundered? "Depending on how you count it," said Cyprus Central Bank governor Panicos Demetriades.

On Friday - calling the government scheme to tax all bank depositors big and small "bank robbery" -  the parliament nixed the plan. To prevent capital flight and a run on the banks when (if) they open on Tuesday, the government now has powers to control capital, close or reconstruct "bad banks," and other measures. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Medicare’s Outdated Structure—and the Urgent Need for Reform

March 23rd 2013

emergency room

Traditional Medicare, which liberals once envisioned as the foundation for national health insurance for all ages, is a fee-for-service model rooted in the 1960s. Its outdated structure makes the program fundamentally flawed, as the editors of The Washington Post remarked recently: “Medicare as we know it is not sustainable” and the “ultimate solution” is structural reform.

Medicare’s current structure determines the way it functions. It also entails certain undesirable consequences. For example, it requires Medicare beneficiaries to pay additional premiums and purchase supplemental coverage; employs price controls to control costs that often result in underpayment or overpayment for medical goods and services; places massive levels of detailed regulation on doctors, hospitals, and other medical professionals; generates tens of billions of dollars annually in waste, fraud, and abuse; and uses an administrative payment system that, as an arena for special interest lobbying, results in the politicization of decisions over health care financing and delivery for America’s senior and disabled citizens. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Where Was The President When He Was Supposedly In Israel?

March 22nd 2013

Western Wall - Wailing Wall Jerusalem

What a week it has been for Jerusalem. The President of the United States arrived, transformed the King David Hotel into his (and his entourage’s) home away from home, and then began a series of meetings and visits – to the official residences of President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, to the Israel Museum and the Shrine of the Book, to the Jerusalem Convention Center, to Mount Herzl, Yad Vashem, and to the grave of former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.  All of these sites are in Jerusalem.  But are they in Israel?

According to the U.S. State Department they are not.  The State Department refuses to recognize Jerusalem as being in Israel and says that the city’s status must be determined in future peace negotiations.

My father, Nathan Lewin, and I were in court this week – the day before President Obama arrived in the Middle East – on a case that concerns this very issue.  The case is Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State, and it involves the right of a Jerusalem-born American citizen to self-identify as born in “Israel” on his or her U.S. passport and birth certificate.

The general rule for American citizens born abroad is that their U.S. passports list their country of birth as their place of birth.  So American citizens born in Paris, have “France” listed as their place of birth on their passports.  Citizens born in Rome list “Italy.”  Those born in Tel Aviv or Haifa list “Israel.”  But because the U.S. does not recognize Jerusalem as being in Israel, the State Department lists the city – “Jerusalem” – instead of the country as the place of birth for Jerusalem-born American citizens. Read more ..


Israel and Obama

The Uneasiness that Belies the Smiles

March 22nd 2013

Obama-Peres

Officials from Obama's inner circle are trying to lower the expectations of the Israeli and American publics. The visit's value lies in the fact that it is taking place, they say, to avoid any possibility that it will be perceived as a failure.

But they also realize this is a good time to do business with the Israeli government. Netanyahu is no longer "King Bibi" after the defeat in the elections and the humiliating coalition talks, while Obama is relatively free of pressures in his second and final term as president. Therefore, it is clear that Netanyahu will go to great lengths to erase the disputes of the past and provide a new boost for strategic cooperation.

On Monday we specified America's short-term goals in the Middle East: To ensure a constant supply of energy to the global market; stop the killing of civilians; prevent a regional nuclear arms race and the collapse of the Non-Proliferation Treaty; and to prevent the spread of radical Islam so it does not pose a real threat to Israel and the moderate, pro-Western Islamic regimes in the region. Another important goal is to preserve Washington's influence in the region in the face of Russia's attempts to diminish it. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Shame and Teen Pregnancy

March 21st 2013

Pregnant and alone

Does shame perform a useful social function? Is it legitimate for the state to engender feelings of shame to further public goals? Is the answer to either of these questions affirmative, in the case of teen pregnancy?

These are the key questions raised by the decision by New York officials to use controversial advertisements that highlight the impact of teen pregnancy on the life chances of the child. The apparently ‘liberal’ response has been to rail against Mayor Michael Bloomberg for shaming teen parents. The very idea of passing moral judgment makes many people of a liberal orientation queasy, especially in the U.S.

I have argued, by contrast, that there is a liberal case for shame as a form of non-coercive regulation towards better choices – including avoiding teen pregnancy. So, question 1: does shame ever have any positive role to play in a liberal society? Yes: it is in fact a valuable form of non-coercive regulation of behavior. As a general rule, we hope that illegal activities are also shameful ones. In many cases the shame might do more work than the sheriff. Drunk driving is a case in point. Read more ..


Obama and the Arabs

Hitler Praised in Official Palestinian Media as Obama Tours

March 20th 2013

Abbas UN

The official PA daily welcomed Barack Obama ahead of his visit to the region with a scathing anti-semitic and anti-American op-ed Monday.

“Our history is replete with lies… [including] the lie about Al-Qaeda and the September 11 events, which asserted that Muslim terrorists committed it, and that it was not an internal American action by the Freemasons,” the article states, while later calling former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt “alcoholics,” unlike Hitler who “hated alcohol and was not addicted to it.”

An op-ed in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 18, 2013 by Hassan Ouda Abu Zaher stated: ‘History is a great lie written by the victors’ – said Napoleon Bonaparte, the source of dubious historical writing and father of Freemasonry in France. If so, is the history planted in us through TV and the standard educational curriculum indeed true? Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Judiciary Committee Chairman Expresses Shock Over Perez Nomination

March 19th 2013

PBObama contemplative

Immediately following President Barack Obama's official nomination of Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez as the new Secretary of Labor in an announcement on Monday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) bluntly stated, "I am shocked!"

Perez’s Justice Department division has overseen several voting rights cases against South Carolina and Texas, as well as numerous probes of police and sheriff’s departments including that of Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

During the official nomination of Perez, Obama claimed, "Tom's knowledge and experience will make him an outstanding Secretary of Labor. And there's plenty of work to do."

However, Perez had been singled out by citizens groups and even fellow Justice Department staff members for his alleged improper conduct during an investigation of voter intimidation committed by the New Black Panther Party during the 2008 presidential election. Read more ..


Broken Government

The Postal Union Dilemma: Shirk to Survive or Corporatize

March 18th 2013

Post Office closed

Thursday's National Academy of Public Administration report on the United States Postal Service highlighted the need for reform. However, the proposal - which essentially recommends increased postal "worksharing," or greater private participation in such activities as mail collection, processing, and local mail transportation - might not work well for one of its key stakeholders: postal unions.

Many labor groups have already voiced their opposition to the concept. What they have not done is stepped back and pushed for a third way that promises growth opportunities for their members while addressing budgetary and business concerns. Yet there is a third way that allows the Postal Service, postal unions, and American taxpayers to emerge as winners.

First the context: Postal Service news continues to be grim. The USPS lost another $1.3 billion for the first quarter of its 2013 fiscal year, on top of the $16 billion lost in its 2012 fiscal year. The Postal Service's core business - the delivery of first-class letter mail - was down by 4.5 percent relative to the same quarter in 2012. Though standard mail was up 3.6 percent, fueled by the fall elections, and parcels were up 4 percent, the numbers are worse than they appear at first, since first-class mail is by far the Postal Service's most profitable business. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

U.S. Challenges in North Korea

March 18th 2013

Launch with Un insert

As with Iran, talks and lax sanctions regimes have failed to prevent North Korea's nuclear buildup. Congratulating China's new president Xi Jingping, President Obama called Xi's attention to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs that increasingly threaten the United States and its allies. Obama "stressed the need for close coordination with China to ensure North Korea meets its denuclearization commitments."

The Chinese however, have their own agenda. "Whether China - which holds and manages life-support for Pyongyang with massive food and energy aid in exchange, in part, for metals imports - would or could force Pyongyang to back off is a moot point. There is evidence the new Chinese leadership like its predecessors is conflicted, especially with reported support for Pyongyang in the People's Liberation Army with its growing influence over all Beijing decision-making," observed Sol Sanders. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

The Doctor Won't See You Now. He's Clocked Out.

March 17th 2013

echocardiogram on child

Big government likes big providers. That's why Obamacare is gradually making the local doctor-owned medical practice a relic. In the not too distant future, most physicians will be hourly wage earners, likely employed by a hospital chain.

Why? Because when doctors practice in small offices, it is hard for Washington to regulate what they do. There are too many of them, and the government is too remote. It is far easier for federal agencies to regulate physicians if they work for big hospitals. So Obamacare shifts money to favor the delivery of outpatient care through hospital-owned networks.

The irony is that in the name of lowering costs, Obamacare will almost certainly make the practice of medicine more expensive. It turns out that when doctors become salaried hospital employees, their overall productivity falls.

Obamacare's main vehicle for ending the autonomous, private delivery of medicine is the hospital-owned "accountable care organization." The idea is to turn doctors into hospital employees and pay them flat rates that uncouple their income from how much care they deliver. (Ending the fee-for-service payment model is supposed to eliminate doctors' financial incentives to perform extraneous procedures.)The Obama administration also imposes new costs on physicians who remain independent—for example, mandating that all medical offices install expensive information-technology systems. Read more ..



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