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America After Sandy

Let's Make Sure this Natural Disaster Doesn't Become a Political Disaster

November 1st 2012

Bridge Failure

As Hurricane Sandy pounds the East Coast, endangering as many as 60 million Americans, just days before Election Day, it is reasonable to worry about possible disruptions next Tuesday. States have a responsibility to protect their citizens, while democracies have a responsibility to hold fair elections. And especially after such a high stakes campaign, every voter who wishes to vote should be able to cast a ballot safely and comfortably. L.V. Anderson on Slate offers a thoughtful overview of the legal issues involved if areas are out of power, roads are blocked or polling stations are inaccessible. I hope, however, that Election Day goes off smoothly, with no postponements, no disruptions -- as it did in 1864 during the Civil War, as it did in 1944, during World War II.

The thicket of state and country regulations -- and the relative irrelevance of the federal government here -- reminds us that these are 50 state-by-state elections, thanks to the Electoral College. True, presidents have wide emergency powers, and Congress could enact an emergency law, but any decision about extending polling hours, postponing Election Day, or other improvisations will most probably be made by governors, state judges, secretaries of state, or even county election officials. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Nigeria and Norway: Accountability Dilemmas and Jet Travel

November 1st 2012

Nigeria Oil

Nigeria and Norway have little in common except the first letter of their names and the fact that they produce about the same amount of oil each day. Norway on a per capita basis may be the richest country in the world, while Nigeria is among the poorest. Norway has among the world’s best social statistics, while Nigeria has among the worst. Norway has been a democracy for a long time, while Nigeria is still struggling to attain it.

I was therefore startled to learn that an official spokesman for Rivers State, one of the Nigeria’s principal oil producing states, confirmed the purchase of a new Bombardier jet for Governor Chibulke Amaechi. It cost U.S. $45 million. The jet is for the governor’s “exclusive” use and replaces an older aircraft, which will be sold.

And, just out of interest, what would be the travel arrangements for the King of Norway and the prime minister? I learned from a good authority that the King flies commercial. The seat next to him, however, is left vacant. The prime minister is not accorded the privilege of a vacant seat next to him when he flies commercial. It is true that the King of Norway can use a military aircraft on official (usually state) visits. And the prime minister can hire a plane. These occasions are relatively rare.

It is an illustration of how the Norwegian leadership is accountable to the parliament, and through it to the Norwegian people. Nigeria cannot yet hold its leaders to that standard of accountability. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

SEAL Team Community Disputes Osama Movies Based on Obama Narrative

November 1st 2012

Special-Ops

In a Hollywood Reporter news story by Tim Goodwin on Monday night, readers were told about the two motion pictures that depict the hunt and killing of radical-Islamist icon Osama bin Laden by President Barack Obama and members of the U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six being released. Goodwin mentions Katherine Bigalow's big screen release Zero Dark Thirty, which will be released after election day, and the National Geographic cable-TV channel's SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden scheduled to air at 8 p.m. on Sunday, two days before Election Day.

The NatGeo film comes from The Weinstein Company, a big contributor to the Obama campaign, and is directed by John Stockwell (Into the Blue, Turistas, Crazy/Beautiful) and produced by Nicolas Chartier, who was a producer on The Hurt Locker, Bigelow’s best picture Oscar winner.

But a former high-ranking Army officer and television news military analyst said that the Barack Obama telling of the Osama bin Laden killing is full of discrepancies geared towards helping Obama's re-election bid. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Leaving No One Behnd

October 31st 2012

Barack Obama

Remember when Barak Obama had a silver tongue? Was a great orator - maybe so much so that it didn't matter what he said, it just mattered that he was the coolest guy in the room, or on the platform, or in front of adoring crowds in front of some phony Greek columns in Denver? Remember that, because it's over.

He's not cool. He's not hip. He's not even terribly articulate; the teleprompter has become the butt of jokes people don't want to make about the President himself. But this really couldn't have been an accident, a slip of the tongue, could it? Could the President of the United States really have said in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that "Americans leave nobody behind?" After Benghazi, did he really have the nerve to use the words that soldiers use to reassure themselves that their comrades will do everything they can to support them?

At a Red Cross relief/campaign stop, President Obama told the audience and the video camera that Sandy was tough, but, "America's tougher. And we're tougher because we pull together, we leave nobody behind, we make sure we respond as a nation and remind ourselves that whenever an American is in need, all of us stand together to make sure we're providing the help that's necessary." From the man who left American soldiers on the battlefield.

The President is the Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces. It was bad enough that he and his minions -- Secretary of State Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, Press Secretary Jay Carney -- all spun a knowing lie about "the video," made a show of asking Google to take it down and had the videographer arrested in the dead of night and clapped into jail. They knew better then and now. But it all pales in comparison to what we now know about the failure of the commander in chief to respond to the call of soldiers in battle -- when the battle started, how long it was running, where the enemy was and what was needed on the ground. Read more ..


America After Sandy

Hurricane Sandy: A Lesson in Why Governments Really Matter

October 31st 2012

Hurricane Sandy Lashes Ocean City

Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, has famously said that he has no wish to eliminate government, but only to “shrink it to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” Americans up and down the east coast can be grateful in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that he has not yet succeeded, or they might well have drowned in their own homes.

For those who wonder just what it is our tax dollars pay for, consider just a small list of government actions before and during the storm that made it far less catastrophic than it might have been:

    The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is responsible for tracking the path of hurricanes and other storms, predicted days in advance – and with astonishing accuracy – both the path and strength of Hurricane Sandy. That gave governments throughout the region time to plan a response. Read more ..


Media on Edge

Journalistic Sham: Haaretz Acknowledges Misleading ‘Apartheid’ Survey Report

October 31st 2012

Haaretz

A recent survey presented by “Haaretz” newspaper claimed that the majority of Jews in Israel advocate the establishment of an apartheid regime, and further claimed that most Israelis believe that currently there are areas in the Jewish state in which apartheid measures are already exercised.

The survey relied on a sample of 503 respondents, and was referenced in articles published by media outlets all over the world, allegedly revealing a series of racist views and extreme nationalist opinions among the Jewish citizens of Israel. However, an in-depth analysis of the survey performed by Israeli media watch dog ‘Presspectiva’ presents a different depiction of Israeli opinion. Presspectiva was able to obtain a full copy of the survey, enabling them to take a close and accurate look at the survey’s findings.

According to their analysis, the conclusions in this survey were misrepresented by the Haaretz article, details were omitted, and Gideon Levy’s coverage of the survey was not objective and contained information that was intentionally distorted. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Having our Soldiers' Back

October 31st 2012

Leon Panetta

The government of Israel traded 1,700 Palestinian terrorists for Sgt. Gilad Shalit, an IDF soldier kidnapped and held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis have been known to trade live terrorists for the bodies of its soldiers held by its enemies. That's what it means to have your soldiers' collective back. And their families' back.

Navy SEALS Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods knew the risks they took having volunteered for service in the American armed forces. They were in a war zone; they knew what the enemy could do, but it's hard to imagine they ever considered that their government didn't have their back. That the U.S. government would deny them rescue, deny them reinforcements, deny them cover. What must they have felt in those hours, knowing it was only a matter of time until they died -- not because their government didn't know, not because their comrades couldn't reach them, but because their comrades weren't sent.

Riding Amtrak Sunday, I read an article in the magazine about Jill Biden's new book, When Daddy Goes to War. Dr. Biden, stepmother of an Army National Guardsman who served a tour in Iraq, has -- along with Michelle Obama -- been a public face in support of our troops. Her book is about "the sacrifice of one military family -- the endless worry, the prayers, the love, the lonesomeness..." Mrs. Biden talks about "gestures of kindness" her family received while Beau was in Iraq. "I can't tell you how many times people would come up to me -- I mean strangers, complete strangers -- and say, 'I'm praying for your son.' As a mom, you can imagine what that means." Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Obama and The Women's Lobby

October 30th 2012

Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act mentions “breast” 44 times, “prostate” not once. It also establishes an elaborate and expensive network of special programs to promote women’s health. Programs for men are nowhere to be found. What explains the imbalance?

When President Obama took office, he promised to insulate his administration from organized lobbyists. Yet, from day one, he granted the women’s lobby unprecedented influence. The results should trouble fair-minded feminists.

The 2009 stimulus program set the pattern. The president had originally called for a two-year “shovel-ready” plan to modernize roads, bridges, electrical grids, and dams. Women’s activists were appalled. Op-eds appeared with titles like “Where Are the New Jobs for Women?” and “The Macho Stimulus Plan.” More than 1,000 feminist historians signed an open letter urging Mr. Obama not to favor a “heavily male-dominated field” like construction: “We need to rebuild not only concrete and steel bridges but also human bridges.” Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), attacked the “testosterone-laden ‘shovel-ready’ terminology.” Christina Romer, who chaired the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, would later say, “The very first e-mail I got . . . was from a women’s group saying, ‘We don’t want this stimulus package to just create jobs for burly men.’” Read more ..


The Obama Edge

The Night our Consulate was Attacked--Was Obama in charge—or not?

October 30th 2012

Amb. Christopher Stevens, killed in Libya #2

Much has been made of President Obama’s considerable use of the pronoun “I” on the night he announced to the nation the killing of Osama bin Laden. As Mark Bowden notes in his recently published account of the killing and the decision-making that led up to the operation, The Finish, the president was not shy about putting himself front and center when it came to the decision to proceed with the operation: “I directed Leon Panetta … I was briefed … I met repeatedly with my national security team … I determined … and authorized … Today at my direction.” 

While a bit over the top when it comes to the “me” factor, nevertheless, the president is indeed commander in chief and, under the Constitution, with its unitary executive, he is, as the text of that document asserts, the sole holder of “the executive power.” Unlike many of the state constitutions of the time, the national executive authority was not divided among various state office holders nor as under the Articles of Confederation—the country’s first federal constitution—was it in the hands of the national assembly. So, whether critics of the president liked his rhetoric or not, whether they felt it was unseemly or not, it wasn’t out of bounds from a constitutional perspective. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Haaretz Survey Distorts Data and Falsifies Israeli Sentiment

October 30th 2012

Austrian Hospice

A recent survey conducted and presented by "Haaretz" newspaper claimed that the majority of Jews in Israel advocates the instating of an apartheid regime, and further claimed that most Israelis believe that currently there are areas in which apartheid measures are already exercised.

The survey relied on a sample of 503 respondents, and was published in the media all over the world, allegedly revealing a series of racist views and extreme nationalist opinions among the Jewish citizens of Israel. An in-depth analysis of the survey performed by the Israeli media watch dog 'Presspectiva' presents a different depiction of Israeli opinion. Presspectiva was able to obtain a full copy of the survey, enabling them to take a close and accurate look at the survey's findings.

According to their analysis, the conclusions in this survey were misrepresented by the Haaretz article, details were omitted, and Gideon Levy's coverage of the survey was not objective and contained information that was intentionally distorted.
Presspectiva's study provides many examples of inconsistencies between the survey's data and the information presented by Haaretz newspaper. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

President Obama's Outsized Stakes in Hurricane Sandy

October 30th 2012

obama

The stakes are higher for President Obama than for his Republican opponent Mitt Romney as Hurricane Sandy pounds the eastern United States.

Obama could reap big electoral benefits if he takes command of the situation and if the federal government's response to the massive storm is competent.

But it will be Obama who gets the blame if anything goes badly wrong with that response or if it takes longer than expected for a swathe of the nation to get back on its feet.

It is a tantalizing but perilous situation for a president locked into a race that both sides agree is extremely close.

On Monday, both campaigns wrestled with an appropriate response to a storm that had suddenly supplanted all else, just eight days before Election Day. Obama and Romney each cancelled events on Monday and Tuesday. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

A Foreign Policy Failure to Acknowledge the Obvious

October 29th 2012

libya-consulate

A month after the murder of four American officials in Libya on Sept. 11, congressional testimony and leaked government cables have revealed that some U.S. officials immediately recognized that terrorists had planned the attack. So why did the Obama administration's top policy makers—including the president himself—persist in claiming that the catastrophe was a spontaneous outburst of rage against an anti-Islam video posted on YouTube by an American provocateur?

Many critics smell cynical politics. The president, after all, has an electoral interest in denying that terrorism remains a serious problem. Likewise, during the second presidential debate, when he could no longer justify his initial emphasis on the video, Mr. Obama claimed misleadingly that he had called the Benghazi attack a terrorist act a day after it happened. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Everybody in Washington Wants a Piece of the Libya Action

October 29th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

Everyone in Congress seems to want a bite at the Libya apple. Lawmakers have launched a half-dozen probes, scheduled numerous hearings and sent dozens of letters to the Obama administration asking for information on the attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. The administration also is undertaking its own investigation into the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi where four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.

In Congress, lawmakers from the Armed Services, Homeland Security, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees have all asked for information from the Obama administration over the attacks. Most are Republicans, but some Democrats, such as Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), are also involved. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Islamists Got it Right: America is Their Enemy

October 28th 2012

Obama Cairo Speech
Obama in Cairo

One of President Barack Obama’s main themes has been to convince Middle Eastern Islamists and Arabs generally that America is not their enemy. But the reason this strategy never works is that the radicals, be they Islamists or nationalists, know better. They see the United States as their enemy and they are right to do so.

No amount of sympathy, empathy, economic aid, apology, or appeasement will change this fact. Nor did such efforts succeed in making either Obama or the United States popular in such circles and the tens of millions of people influenced by them.  The only thing surprising about all of this is that so few “experts” and politicians seem to comprehend it. There are a number of reasons why this is true, though many people mistakenly think they must find just one factor that explains this reality. Read more ..


China on Edge

Will the Real Chinese Leaders Please Stand Up?

October 27th 2012

Chinese soldier at Tienamen Square

For more than two decades beginning in 1956, CBS and then NBC aired a television show “To Tell the Truth,” in which a panel of celebrities attempted to identify which one of three contestants was telling the truth about who he/she was. I always found the show rather painfully gripping as I waited for the final reveal, when the host would ask, “Would the real [so and so] please stand up?”

That pretty much sums up how I feel about the Chinese leadership succession process. I am more than ready for the host of the Chinese Communist Party to ask, “Will the real Chinese leadership please stand up?”

It has been an exhausting process, trying the patience of even the most dedicated Pekinologists. As China watcher Francesco Sisci has noted, there are still “so many elements up in the air,” including: how many people will be in the standing committee? Will there be a woman? Will Hu Jintao stay as chairman of the Central Military Commission? Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Mystery Deepens Over Origins of Nonprofit Battling Montana Spending Limits

October 27th 2012

Money Stack

The origin story of the secretive nonprofit that is leading efforts to invalidate Montana’s campaign finance laws keeps getting murkier. In a document filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the group claimed Jacob Jabs as its “primary donor” who had “agreed to provide $300,000” to get the group rolling in 2008.

It appears the group was referring to Jacob Jabs, the president and CEO of American Furniture Warehouse, based in Colorado, where ATP was created. But a spokeswoman for Jabs said he's never heard of the group. ATP’s current executive director says he wasn’t with the organization at the time.

“Someone is not coming clean,” said Marcus Owens, the former director of the division that handles nonprofit corporations at the IRS. “A knowing effort to mislead the IRS is a crime and people go to jail for that.” Jabs has been a major supporter of Republican candidates and causes. He gave heavily to an anti-union ballot initiative in Colorado in 2008, and is a donor to Mitt Romney. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Obama Administration Will Pay Companies to Violate the Law

October 27th 2012

 The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

The Obama Administration’s disregard for the law has struck again—and this time, it’s encouraging others to violate the law at taxpayer expense. That’s worth saying again: The Obama Administration is encouraging people to violate a law, and promising that it will use taxpayer money to cover fines incurred from this action.

The law: The law in question is called the WARN Act, and it requires that federal contractors send employees layoff notices 60 days before a plant closing or mass layoff. The inconvenience: Massive defense spending cuts under sequestration are scheduled to hit on January 2, 2013. Defense contractors affected by the budget cuts would have to issue notice letters to employees by November 2 (four days before the election) to meet the January 2 start date for the spending cuts. The penalty taxpayers would pay: Employers who violate the WARN Act are liable to their former employees for “back pay for each day of a violation” and “benefits under an employee benefit plan,” as well as a penalty of $500 for each day that notice has not been sent to the local government where the layoffs will occur. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Aleksandr Bastrykin's 'Forest Scandal' and its Connections to Putin

October 27th 2012

Putin

Remember Aleksandr Bastrykin's " forest scandal"? In light of the horrors Leonid Razvozzhayev says he endured, merely hauling a journalist out into the woods and threatening his life looks positively quaint. Bastrykin has managed to survive -- and indeed thrive -- amid not just the forest incident, but also the revelations about his unreported properties and business dealings in Europe. And his sharp bureaucratic elbows have made him plenty of enemies inside the elite.

Will the mushrooming scandal around Razvozzhayev's abduction and alleged torture finally be the one that brings him down? I wouldn't count on it. He enjoys President Vladimir Putin's favor and the Kremlin leader isn't one to throw his people under the bus. Moreover, the case that led to Razvozzhayev's abduction -- allegations that he, Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, and Konstantin Lebedev conspired with Georgian officials to provoke mass unrest in Russia -- was clearly green lighted at the highest level. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Is the West Uninterested in Nigeria’s Floods?

October 26th 2012

Flood

It baffles me that the Western media is paying so little attention to the flooding in Nigeria. There are dramatic aerial photographs of the flooding in the Delta, and affected areas spread as far afield as Kano and Kogi states in northern and central Nigeria.

Over a million people have been displaced. In the Delta alone, tens of thousands have been moved into camps that are ill-equipped to receive them.  Crop fields and fisheries in their thousands of hectares are completely flooded and destroyed. Local food shortages seem inevitable; though President Goodluck Jonathan is confident existing grain stores will be sufficient. In over-crowded camps with poor sanitation, the spread of infectious disease also seems inevitable. Deaths–direct and indirect–from flooding in Nigeria this season, may exceed the total associated with Boko Haram. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Defense Sequestration Targets Small Business

October 26th 2012

The Pentagon

Washington lawmakers have failed to reach a compromise over how to reduce the national debt, and the automatic budget cuts of the 2011 Budget Control Act are set to take force on January 2, 2013. These automatic cuts, known as sequestration, are inflexible, across-the-board cuts that were designed to be so harmful that no politician would ever let them occur. Unfortunately, the White House and Congress have yet to reach a deal that would prevent their implementation.

Sequestration is particularly harmful for national defense, as it would cut another half trillion from the military's budget on top of nearly $900 billion in cuts already under the Obama administration.

Contrary to public perception, most defense dollars today go to small and medium-sized businesses rather than large firms. In a recent letter to Ohio's congressional delegation, concerned small businesses wrote, "[b]etween two-thirds and three-quarters of defense industrial purchases go to smaller suppliers, and three-quarters of all defense related manufacturing jobs are at supply chain firms." This means the real harm of sequestration will fall disproportionately on small business owners and entrepreneurs. Read more ..


The Economic Edge

Returning to an Economic Growth Agenda

October 26th 2012

Unemployed Claimants

The engine of growth that has fueled the U.S. economy for over 225 years appears idle. In the five-year period from the second half of 2007 through the first half of 2012, the U.S. GDP growth rate has averaged just 0.6 percent annually. In fact, as the accompanying chart indicates, the average annual growth rate of the U.S. economy has been below 1 percent during the last five years, far slower than its recent historical average.

Furthermore, a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the median household income in the United States in 2011 declined for the second consecutive year to $50,054. On an inflation-adjusted basis, the median household income in 2011 was 8.1 percent lower than in 2007. And finally, the average unemployment rate in the first nine months of 2012 has been 8.2 percent. While an improvement relative to 2010 and 2011, the labor market remains weak as 12 million workers are unemployed. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

The Demographic Sources of Turkey's Foreign Policy Crisis

October 25th 2012

Turk flags

Syria's two million Kurds have become a wild card in the country's crisis, after the Assad regime encouraged Kurdish autonomy as a ploy against its Sunni opposition in the ongoing civil war. The importance of the small Syrian Kurdish zone extends far beyond its possible role as a base for PKK guerillas to attack Turkish security forces. The new self-assertion of Syria's Kurdish minority forces a long-term problem onto the short-term regional agenda: the inexorable shift of the population balance in Anatolia towards the fast-growing Kurdish population at the expense of Turkish-speakers, whose fertility has fallen to Western European levels.

Turkey's demographic time bomb has gone largely uncommented in the Western press, but it has the undivided attention of the Turkish media. The thesis that the Kurdish question may not be soluble within Anatolia over the medium term has gained wide credence among Turkish analysts. It helps to explain why Turkey appears paralyzed in the face of the Syrian conflict. Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

ANC Party Politics and the Upcoming Convention

October 25th 2012

Africa-Mantashe-South-Africa-ANC

Politics within South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) is focused on the upcoming December party convention for the party presidency. The political maneuvering is focused on nominees for party positions, but also looks over its shoulder at the national presidency and vice presidency nominations for the 2015 elections. Voting in South African national elections largely remains a racial census. The ANC candidates for presidency and vice presidency can count on support from most of the country’s black population, making victory for its nominees in national elections almost a foregone conclusion. Africa Confidential has published an excellent primer on the current state of play inside the ANC.

Zuma faces a serious challenge for the party leadership from the vice president, Kgalema Motlanthe, and, possibly, billionaire businessman Cyril Ramaphosa. But neither Motlanthe nor Ramaphosa have yet declared themselves candidates for the party presidency. A possible deal between the Zuma and Motlanthe campaigns might have Motlanthe not run against Zuma for the party presidency in December in return for a promise of the ANC nomination to be president of the country in 2015. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Missing Obama-Romney Debate on Egypt

October 24th 2012

Obama and Romney road show

Hosni Mubarak had to go.

It's nice that the presidential candidates can agree on something. (Never mind that they agree on something that happened over twenty months ago.) During last night's debate, both candidates said that the United States had to stand with the brave Egyptians who took to Tahrir Square to demand Mubarak's ouster. This was, in fact, the position of the American public, which supported Egypt's uprising by a whopping 82-11 margin. Who would want to run against those numbers?

Yet neither candidate articulated a clear policy towards post-Mubarak Egypt. (Perhaps this is a reflection of Americans' own ambivalence towards Egypt, which has a middling 47-percent approval rating among the American public.) Instead, the candidates espoused a virtually identical set of guiding principles -- Egypt's new government, they agreed, should uphold the rights of women, protect religious minorities, and act as a partner in American counterterrorism efforts -- but failed to say how they would deal with Egyptian Islamists' rejection of these things. Read more ..


China and the US

A U.S.-China “Trade War”--Time to Abolish a Silly Notion

October 24th 2012

Bank of China

I have a suggestion for everyone who writes about international trade: it is time to bury, once and for all, the concept of a “trade war.” The phrase is so ubiquitous that it will be awfully hard to abolish; I have probably been guilty myself from time to time. Indeed, it is almost a reflex that every time the United States or some other nation takes any action that restricts imports in any fashion, reporters and editorial writers jump to their keyboards to warn that a trade war is looming. But it is a canard that makes it far harder to have a sensible discussion about U.S. trade policy.

No sooner had President Obama and Mitt Romney finished their latest round of “who’s tougher on trade with China?” in their final debate Monday night than the New York Times – to take one of many possible examples – warned that “formally citing Beijing as a currency manipulator may backfire, economic and foreign-policy experts have said. In the worst case, it could set off a trade war, leading to falling American exports to China and more expensive Chinese imports.” Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Talk Radio Superstar Sues EPA in Federal Court

October 23rd 2012

Money Stack

One of the nation's top conservative voices, syndicated radio talk host and former Reagan Administration Justice Department chief of staff Mark Levin at the beginning of Monday's show announced his legal group's intention to pursue another lawsuit against the Obama Environmental Protection Agency.

Levin gave a brief explanation of the Landmark Legal Foundation -- which he founded -- battle against what he termed an "out of control" and "unconstitutional" EPA. Levin and his legal staff are demanding records that were requested months ago as per the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but have yet to materialize, a violation of FOIA. "There are a host of new regulations waiting in the wings no matter who wins, but especially if the 'dear one' loses, to create havoc," Levin stated.

The records involved in Landmark Legal Foundation v. Environmental Protection Agency that are in dispute include identification of all new rules or regulations for which the public has not yet been given notice, but for which public notice is planned by the EPA before Jan. 20, 2013; the names of individuals, groups or organizations outside EPA with whom the agency has met or talked regarding the pending rules and regulations; documents concerning pending revised or new environmental rules including notes, letters, memoranda, minutes, logs, calendars, schedules, reports, studies, analyses and plans; economic-impact assessments and environmental-impact statements that have been conducted in accordance with any pending new regulations; and efforts by EPA to issue a host of new rules and regulations proposed by environmentalists and other liberal groups, but adamantly opposed by many business and industry organizations and leaders. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Borderline Slavery in Mexico

October 23rd 2012

mexican children working

“Each year, thousands of people are trafficked within and across our borders to serve as sex slaves or un-free labor in U.S. homes, fields and factories. Many enter via our southern border with Mexico, after having been trafficked within or across Mexico from other parts of the Americas and beyond…enslaved migrant laborers are often seen simply as undocumented workers who are in the country illegally, while sex trafficking victims are merely prostitutes plying an illegal trade.”

The above passages were from a program backgrounder to a timely conference held this past week at the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque: “Borderline Slavery: Contemporary Issues in Border Security and the Human Trade.”

Sponsored by UNM’s Latin American and Iberian Institute and in cooperation with colleagues from New Mexico State, the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and other academic institutions, the event drew borderlands scholars, journalists, legal professionals and students. In a series of presentations, panelists dug into the problem of human trafficking within the socio-economic contexts of massive immigration, globalization, drug prohibition, border militarization, and the War on Terror. And as conference participants learned, the parts can't be neatly packaged into just a U.S.-Mexico box, but encompass long migrant threads from Central America, the Caribbean and elsewhere. Read more ..


Broken Labor

California Union Members Demand Transparency from Union Bosses

October 23rd 2012

Union Protest

Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have launched a protest against their own union in California over waste and corruption. They rallied outside SEIU headquarters last week and plan to be in Sacramento on Wednesday.

The protestors are calling for transparency, accountability, and audits of the 2 million member labor union. The group’s website is urging members to hold their representatives accountable: “It is our members that see the waste every day; it is our members that can call it out to the union representatives in their area.” At the rally last week, SEIU officials asked the gathering protesters, “How much are they paying you?” The protestors replied that they were participating on their own time.

SEIU reacted to the protest outside its offices by closing the doors and videotaping the dissenting members, according to the protesters. The group’s website describes the purpose of videotaping dissenting members as an effort to identify members to add to a “blacklist.” Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The End of Democracy as We Know It

October 22nd 2012

Obama-Limo

The next four years may prove to be a trying time for those who truly love democracy, those who abhor ideologues, extremists and agenda driven radicals. For democracy at its very essence is a continuous uneasy balance between varying yet reasonable opinions, valid alternatives - a respectful conversation. It is not the bulldozing of one side by the other, as though one side's ideas always have a superior lock on the truth, a permanent fix on reality.

The forthcoming election is more than being about the middle, the centrists, the moderates, holding sway between a little left versus a little right. It's fast becoming the seminal election of the century, with two game changing policies that may determine, eventually, the very nature of our democracy, the heart of America. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

The Deadly World of Falsified and Substandard Medicine

October 22nd 2012

Fake Medicine

Everyone knows about the risks narcotics pose and the lethal war waged against them. But there are probably far more deaths caused by dangerous therapeutic medicines. Lazy, cost-cutting manufacturers and criminal counterfeiters make billions of dollars a year peddling products which may kill you and which you might find online or even at your neighbourhood pharmacy.

It is impossible to know the exact size of the illegal medicine trade or its lethal impact. I estimate that bad medicines cause at least 100,000 deaths annually. Some markets are barely affected while others are replete with substandard products. Around 10 percent of all essential drugs in emerging markets fail basic quality tests. The UK is much better served: far less than 1 percent of all drugs are faulty. Although even if only 0.001 percent of the hundreds of millions of prescriptions filled in the US every year were compromised, well over one thousand prescriptions could be deadly. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Few Voters Pay Attention to Fact-Checkers

October 22nd 2012

Obama and Romney road show

Fact-checkers from Politifact, FactCheck.org, and The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog were out in force after the first two debates as they have been for much of the 2012 campaign season. Do Americans want journalists to assess the accuracy of debate claims, candidate speeches and TV ads?

Brooks Jackson, who heads FactCheck.org thinks so. He was quoted recently as saying: "In an age where the typical citizen is subjected to an avalanche of the kind of pure baloney that journalists used to keep out of the public discourse ... they are looking for journalists to be kind of adjudicators or referees. That's what we try to do."

The media's job used to be to report the news - who, what, when and where. Their new role as adjudicators extends their warrant at a time when skepticism of the media is already sky high. In a September Gallup poll, 60 percent said they had either "not very much trust or confidence" or "no trust at all" in the media to report the news "fully, accurately or fairly." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama’s U.N. Worship Jeopardized National Security

October 22nd 2012

Professor Obama at work

Today's presidential debate no doubt will center on the Middle East, as it should. President Obama has stood by while Iran has closed in on nuclear weapons, Syria has massacred its own civilians and al Qaeda terrorists killed our ambassador to Libya. After all the blood and treasure spent in Iraq, we hastily left instead of maintaining a stabilizing presence, and we are following an arbitrary withdrawal schedule in Afghanistan just when our brave troops are achieving success.

We have the chance to strike at two of our most dangerous enemies: Syria and Iran. A no-fly-zone and military aid could overthrow the Assad regime in Damascus, and precision strikes, while costly, could destroy Iran’s weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) programs — which could even produce regimes that, while not Jeffersonian democracies, would pursue friendlier relations with their neighbors and the United States. Read more ..

American History

The Speech JFK Didn't Have to Give in the Cuban Missile Crisis

October 21st 2012

Kennedy

It could have been the start of a war the likes of which the world had never seen. Films and history books have documented the the hair's-width margin that separated the United States and the Soviet Union from nuclear conflict during 13 days in October 1962, the height of the Cuban missile crisis.

But a speech drafted by U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and newly released to the public, throws what may be the starkest light yet on just how close the sides came to starting World War III. "My fellow Americans, with a heavy heart, and in necessary fulfillment of my oath of office, I have ordered -- and the United States Air Force has now carried out -- military operations with conventional weapons only, to remove a major nuclear weapons build-up from the soil of Cuba," Kennedy was to begin. Read more ..


The Caribbean on Edge

U.S. Should Push Back Against Chavez in the Caribbean

October 21st 2012

Hugo Chavez

The historically pro-American multilateral organization known as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has been struggling for decades to form a regional “Single Market and Economy” (CSME) to integrate the disparate islands and sub-continental economies of the Caribbean Basin into a common market based on sound democratic institutions and pro-market policies. The obstacles to this integration have been plentiful, but none has been as daunting in recent years as the assault on free enterprise in the Caribbean mounted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Since taking power in 1999, Chavez has been enticing and outright bribing member countries to join instead his own statist regional creations: the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) and “PetroCaribe.” The U.S. should strongly support market democracy and free enterprise in the Caribbean while simultaneously encouraging CARICOM to reject and withdraw from ALBA and PetroCaribe. Read more ..


The UN on Edge

The U.S. Should Withdraw from UNESCO

October 21st 2012

UNESCO

Last fall, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) granted membership to the Palestinian Authority. It did so despite clear warnings from Washington that this would necessitate an immediate freeze on all U.S. funding to the agency. Subsequently, President Obama stopped all U.S. financial contributions to the organization as required by U.S. law.

Since then, however, UNESCO and the Obama Administration have been pressing Congress to change the law, arguing that the prohibition threatens programs vital to U.S. interests and that the cut improperly punishes a valuable voice for integrity and moderation. Neither of these claims is persuasive or sufficient to trump the purpose of the law, which is to dissuade U.N. organizations from granting membership to the Palestinians before a negotiated peace agreement is concluded with Israel. To avoid an accumulation of arrears and disabuse UNESCO of the idea that U.S. funding will resume, the U.S. should withdraw from UNESCO. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

What We Need to Hear From the Candidates on China

October 21st 2012

Chinese J-20 fighter

A few weeks back I explored the quality of the China debate in the Presidential campaign and found it sadly lacking. The campaigns have targeted China as a critical issue, but not in a way that elevates the discourse. China-bashing television ads and debate over whose pension fund has Chinese companies in its portfolio are not going to help the American people understand who would better manage U.S.-China relations and China’s rise. As a result, I raised a number of potential issues I thought might help answer this question.

Now with the foreign policy debate just a few days away, I see that the moderator Bob Schieffer has selected “The rise of China and tomorrow’s world” as one of the five central topics for the debate. The somewhat awkward-sounding but bold title has reinforced my sense that the candidates need to be pushed out of their comfort zones to address the more strategic challenges that China is likely to present. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Nigeria’s Floods and the Jonathan Administration

October 20th 2012

Flood

Floods resulting from the autumn rainy season have devastated central and southeastern Nigeria. According to Nigerian media, the flooding is the worst in fifty years, and has already killed more than one hundred and displaced more than a million people. The Nigerian media speculates that the particularly heavy rains are associated with global warming–as is the shortage of rainfall, when it occurs, and the advance of the Sahara Desert in the north.

In the areas affected by flooding, the displaced are huddled together in camps set up by the state governments. Presumably, outbreaks of infectious disease will start soon if these conditions do not improve. Despite the efforts of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross and some private organizations, nationally organized relief appears minimal. According to a locally-based NGO in Delta state, in a camp for one thousand five hundred victims, the state authorities have been able to supply only one hundred mattresses, fifty blankets, twenty bags of rice, and a few bags of gari. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Spiraling Down Toward a Loss

October 20th 2012

PBObama contemplative

President Obama is losing. So says the latest Gallup poll, and so do those swelling numbers in key states like Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia and Ohio.Democrats say wait, he won the second debate. They are holding their breath, hoping polls next week will show that this week's debate brought the herky-jerk of the campaign back full swing, with Obama back to his September lead in the swing states and poised to win. But with two weeks to go, a sudden surge in voter support for a president as unpopular as this one, in an economy this weak, is simply hard to believe. Conservatives like Karl Rove note that this late in October, no candidate with support higher than 50 percent (see Mitt Romney: Gallup) has ever gone on to lose.

Perhaps Obama lost the presidency weeks ago, on Oct. 3, when he sleepwalked and scribbled through the first debate and helped make Romney a new candidate overnight. It was Obama's night to finish Romney off; behind in the polls, even Romney likely woke up that morning thinking it was over. But Obama underestimated the task, the challenger and the electorate — all in 90 minutes. So a win this week was critical but perhaps not decisive. There is no obvious reason for Obama's performance to reverse the course of the campaign and blunt Romney now. And though there is one final debate next week, a back-and-forth on national security and foreign policy isn't likely to make the sale for anyone who still cannot make up his or her mind. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria’s New Attack on Lebanon

October 20th 2012

Tripoli Lebanon Embattled Street Aug 2012

Fears are expressed almost every day that the war in Syria will spread to Lebanon, or to all of Syria’s neighbors. The problem, however, is not that the war “will spread” as if by nature, inevitably, the way spilled water spreads, but that it will be spread– deliberately, by the Assad regime.

And that is indeed what is happening. The assassination in Beirut of Wissam Hassan, by a huge car bomb, is only the latest in a long series of such murders of critics of the Assad regime.  Hassan was a senior intelligence official, a Sunni, and the man who led the investigation of the murder in 2005 of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. That investigation led to the uncovering of evidence implicating both the Assad regime in Syria, and Hezbollah. Read more ..


America and Israel

The Israel that Can help the United States

October 19th 2012

Better Place Station

The election season is becoming an all out brawl between the candidates; each one is trying to paint a picture of the better America he will create in less than four years. Something is wrong with that philosophy, but it is hard to really put your finger on it after being indoctrinated with the short-term fix for so long. Our leaders, instead of looking at Israel as a strategic ally in a troubled region, or the little democracy that needs protecting, may be able to learn a real lesson from Israel about how to establish and run a country that is living for today while truly building for future generations.

The debate over the benefit or usefulness of green initiative continues as we spend more money on fuel every week. In reality, little has been done here to push forward a viable alternative energy policy for the everyday consumer. Sure there have been those publicly discussed initiatives where government funded green companies have subsequently failed, but in practical terms, not much is happening to encourage the use of alternative energy. Why? Read more ..



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