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Thailand on Edge

Southern Philippines Deal a Lesson for Southern Thailand?

October 12th 2012

Puea Thai

In the wake of the Philippines government announcing last weekend that Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had agreed upon a peace plan after fifteen years of negotiations and forty years of war, many Thai news outlets are wondering whether Manila could teach Bangkok a lesson in how to deal with the southern Thailand insurgency. The Nation today, in an editorial titled “A Lesson for Thailand from the Philippines,” offers that the Philippine agreement has many key points for Thai policymakers to learn from, a mantra echoed by several other Thai media outlets. Yet there are key differences between southern Thailand and southern Philippines that, at this point, will make it hard to apply many of Manila’s lessons to Thailand.

Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is not personally engaged in ending the insurgency. According to nearly all Philippine news sources, Philippines president Benigno Aquino III made a peace deal with the MILF one of his highest priorities, and agreed to face-to-face meetings with the MILF leaders in order to personally guarantee the peace process and demonstrate his commitment. Read more ..


Edge of Intolerance

A Darkness Falls on Europe as it Learns to Know Fear

October 11th 2012

Vigil in Paris

When kippah-wearing Jews and non-Jews march in Sweden to show that they have no fear, I know fear.

When anti-Semitism is again the most common currency of politics in Europe, I know fear.

When the Chief Rabbi of Lyon receives death threats with menacing photos, I know fear.

When a rabbi and his daughter are assaulted in the middle of Berlin, I know fear.

When guards patrol the streets near Rome’s Jewish school with metal detectors, searching for explosives, I know fear.

When I, a non-Jew, receive letters saying “dear feces eating insect, scratch around the Zionist dung as it’s natural for you” and my name appears in the list of the “mafia ebraica”, I know fear.

When Bruxelles debates the criminalization of “Islamophobia” like the Soviet Union did with “deviationism”, I know fear.

When circumcision is persecuted in Germany, like during the Shoah when the Jewish ritual could bring with it a death sentence, I know fear. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The True Choice Facing Voters in 2012

October 11th 2012

Click to select Image

In 2008, when Americans went to the polls, our nation was in dire straits. Unemployment was high. The housing market had collapsed. Our national debt was swelling. Like a great locomotive, our nation was off the rails, teetering on the edge of a precipice. With great hopes for the future, voters cast their ballots looking forward to the change a new conductor promised. But three and a half years later, our situation is no less precarious.

Apologists would say it was ambitious to think we could put the train in reverse and back it off the cliff in such a short time. But there can be no one who would say it is acceptable or excusable to drive the train even further into the abyss. And yet, that is precisely where the Obama administration has led the American people. Whether it is through sheer ineptitude or calculated design, the result is the same. No objective measurement can demonstrate the President’s policies have improved the lives of Americans or made our nation stronger. Never before have voters faced so stark a contrast and so critical a decision point.

On every single issue, staying the course will serve only to accelerate the fall into the deep chasm, taking with it the hopes, livelihood and security of this nation and its citizens.

Fiscal Policy

Since 2009, our national debt has swollen by almost $6 trillion to an incomprehensible $16 trillion. The Obama administration is borrowing $4 billion. Every. Single. Day. With every billion borrowed, we drive down the value of our dollar, saddle our children with insurmountable debt and raise the specter of fiscal collapse. But how does the Administration address this madness? With even greater insanity -- named “QE3”  --where we print money in order to buy our own debt. Even median family income has decreased by 2.6% to 4% -- so much for the middle class. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Jewish Leaders Outraged Over Christian Call for Reevaluation of Israel Aid

October 11th 2012

Abraham Foxman Color cropped
ADL's Abraham Foxman

American Jewish organizations are reconsidering relations with certain Christian leaders after a call for reevaluation of U.S. foreign aid to Israel. On October 5, a group of Christian leaders wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress accusing Israel of human rights abuses and asking lawmakers to reevaluate "unconditional" military assistance. “We urge Congress to undertake careful scrutiny to ensure that our aid is not supporting actions by the government of Israel that undermine prospects for peace. We urge Congress to hold hearings to examine Israel’s compliance, and we request regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.” It added, “As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional US financial assistance to the government of Israel. Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued US military assistance to Israel — offered without conditions or accountability — will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories.”

After learning of the letter, the Anti-Defamation League pulled out of a joint interfaith conference scheduled for October and urged other Jewish organizations to do the same: “it is outrageous that mere days after the Iranian president repeated his call for Israel’s elimination, these American Protestant leaders would launch a biased attack against the Jewish state by calling on Congress to investigate Israel’s use of foreign aid. In its clear bias against Israel, it is striking that their letter fails to also call for an investigation of Palestinian use of US foreign aid, thus once again placing the blame entirely on Israel.”

The American Jewish Committee questioned the timing of the letter, coming just days after Iran's president unleashed a blistering attack on the Jewish state: “When the world currently is focused on the Iranian nuclear threat to the entire Middle East and the world, Christian leaders have chosen to mount another political attack on Israel,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. “When religious liberty and safety of Christians across the Middle East are threatened by the repercussions of the Arab Spring, these Christian leaders have chosen to initiate a polemic against Israel, a country that protects religious freedom and expression for Christians, Muslims and others.” Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

'Sesame Street' and 'Big Bird' are Unwilling Props in Contentious Election Year

October 11th 2012

Big Bird

Sesame Street's objection to the use of Big Bird as a political prop has churned plenty of headlines over the last week, but it's hardly the first time this year a prominent name has protested an unwitting campaign appearance.

From Exxon to AARP to several national journalists, a growing number of well-known groups and individuals have taken exception when either President Obama or GOP nominee Mitt Romney invoked them – without notice or approval – to hammer home a political message. While those organizations have plenty to gain from the national attention a campaign-trail shout-out can generate, they seem more wary that appearances of supporting one side or the other could alienate a huge segment of the country, potentially costing them customers, members or even influence on Capitol Hill. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Former Saudi Navy Officer says Arabs' Real Enemies are Corruption and Dearth of Freedom

October 11th 2012

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Ret. Commodore Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

"The Arab world wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of innocent lives fighting Israel, which they considered is their sworn enemy, an enemy whose existence they never recognized. The Arab world has many enemies and Israel should have been at the bottom of the list. The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good health care, lack of freedom, lack of respect for the human lives and finally, the Arab world had many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people."

I did not write these words. I have said the same things many times before in different ways, but these words are not mine. What is shocking is not the paragraph itself, but rather who wrote it and where it was published. This comes from an article titled, "Arab Spring and the Israeli enemy" by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, and it was published October 7, 2012 by the Arab News. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Israel's Destruction of Drone Changes Region's Dynamics

October 10th 2012

MQ-1 Predator Drone

The widely reported downing of an unmanned aerial vehicle that entered Israeli airspace on Oct. 6 demonstrates, in stark terms, how UAVs have the potential to upend long-held assumptions regarding the nature of Iran’s reach in the Middle East. For Israel, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The UAV (industry experts dislike the term drone) arrived in Israeli airspace from over the Mediterranean, flying west to east in a trajectory that brought it “over settlements and military bases in the Negev” before it was shot down south of Hebron. In a video released by the Israeli Defense Forces, a missile fired from a fighter jet can be seen striking the interloper. Israeli officials believe the UAV may have been on a mission to perform surveillance of the Dimona nuclear plant.

The video shows that the UAV was flying at a sufficiently high altitude to allow use of an air-to-air missile. In addition, a size comparison with the missile in the video frames just before impact indicates that the UAV was fairly small, making Israel’s success at destroying it noteworthy. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama's Closing Argument

October 10th 2012

Obama Bowed Head

President Obama won’t have a chance to make up for his uninspiring debate performance until Oct. 22, when he will meet Mitt Romney in Florida with CBS’s Bob Schieffer moderating. The vice president’s debate comes before that, though, as well as a debate with a town-hall format that won’t allow the candidates much opportunity for oratory. So, as an old speech writer, I can’t resist offering suggestions for his last clear chance for summation. Here’s what I’d whisper in his ear the night before.

Rest up on debate day. Have an espresso before going onstage. Keep in mind: You are the champ, not the contender. Act like it. Dark suit, red tie. Ramrod straight. Never look down. Use the right mix of sugar (that wonderful smile) and salt (a few zingers on point.) The final debate is on foreign affairs, which offers the right openings for you to regain your respect, along with your mojo.

Set a presidential stance, reminding your opponent that you are one of the 44 commanders in chief in American history. You committed the lives of brave young Americans to war. No one who has not written personal letters of condolence to military families or met and saluted troops’ returning caskets at quiet airports can know this feeling.

Take some sober credit. You promised to end the war in Iraq, and you did. You promised to pursue Osama bin Laden and kill him, and you did. You promised to end our military adventure in Afghanistan, and that is happening. You promised to find and kill the terrorists who killed our ambassador and other Americans in Libya and you will do that. In critical matters of war and peace, any administration should be graded on one fundamental basis: Promises made, promises kept. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

General Destroys Officer's Career Over Radical Islam Course

October 9th 2012

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General Martin Dempsey

During a press briefing, Army General Martin Dempsey, President Barack Obama's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly lambasted Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Matthew Dooley, a 1994 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a highly decorated combat veteran. His reason: The course on Islamic Radicalism which LTC Dooley was teaching at the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) of the National Defense University was offensive to Muslims, according to a statement released on Monday by officials from a public-interest law firm in Michigan. As a result, the Thomas More Law Center on October 8 announced it is taking on LTC Dooley's case against the Defense Department and the Obama administration.

"General Dempsey characterized LTC Dooley’s course as "totally objectionable," and ordered all material offensive to Islam scrubbed from military professional education within the JFSC and elsewhere. In addition, LTC Dooley was fired from his instructor position and given an ordered negative Officer Evaluation Report (OER) -- the death-knell for a military career," according to Thomas More officials. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Thoughts on China and American Elections

October 9th 2012

Chinese Credit Card

The current presidential campaign will be the eleventh U.S. presidential election since Richard Nixon began America’s opening to the People’s Republic of China. It is the sixth election in which an elected incumbent seeks a second term. On one of those six occasions (1972), China policy arguably worked to the advantage of the incumbent; twice (1984 and 2004) it figured little or not at all in the contest; and in three instances (1980, 1992, and 2000), the challenger tried to make a case that the incumbent had not stood up for American interests and values against Beijing.

It is not yet clear how Barack Obama’s policy toward China will feature in the 2012 campaign. There has been no huge China controversy under Obama thus far, as there was under Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. However, China’s revival as a great power poses greater challenges for the United States than ever before. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

The Obamagas Rip-Off

October 9th 2012

USS Harry S Truman

The Wall Street Journal notes that when President Obama took office in 2009, gas was $1.84 per gallon. The Lundberg Survey last Sunday shows gas in Chicago at $4.25. But that's small potatoes. Wait until you learn what the U.S. Navy pays for Obamagas.

Even loyal Democrats in the Teamsters Union would raise hell if the Obama administration started a biofuel program that bumped a gallon of gas to $10. But not the U.S. Navy. In 2009 Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered the Navy to spend $424 per gallon for 20,000 gallons of biofuel from Solazyme, another ‘green' company like Solyndra -- the outfit that went bankrupt after a $535 million loan from the Obama administration.

To be fair, that $424 gas was just the first batch. These days, the admirals have the price of a gallon of biofuel down to a mere $27, instead of the usual $3.60 for conventional fuel. They bought 450,000 gallons based on chicken fat, grease and algae, and used it to power "The Great Green Fleet," a carrier strike group, for a six week exercise in July. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Vladimir Putin: By the Numbers

October 9th 2012

Vlad the Action Figure winks

Russiuan President Vladimir Putin celebrated his 60th birthday on October 7. But how many people know the price of oil on the day he was born? Or the number of airplanes and helicopters he has at his disposal? Or how many tiger cubs he was given as a birthday gift?

See Vladimir Putin by the numbers below:

1 -- The number of rare tiger cubs Putin was given on his birthday in 2008. He declined to reveal who gave him the cubs. But Putin Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin appointee, is known to be the proud owner of a pet tiger.

2.6 -- The price in U.S. dollars of a barrel of oil in 1952, the year Putin was born in Leningrad.

6 -- The number of years that have passed since Journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead outside her apartment in Moscow on October 7, 2006, Putin’s 54th birthday.

11 -- Putin’s age when he began learning sambo and judo. He holds a black belt in the latter.

12 -- The number of female Moscow State University students who posed in lingerie to mark Putin’s 58th birthday in 2010 in a racy calendar. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Undoing of Storybook Man

October 8th 2012

Obama

It was the Puss in Boots eyes. If you’ve seen the Shrek movies or the spin-off cartoon starring the storybook cat voiced by Antonio Banderas, you know what I’m talking about. Whenever Puss in Boots really needs something from someone, he flashes these enormous kitten eyes that melt anyone in their path. Whenever my daughter really wants something, she tries to lay them on me, and I have to say, “Stop trying to give me the Puss in Boots eyes . . . you can’t have chocolate cake for dinner.”

I knew Barack Obama was miserable when he tried to give debate moderator Jim Lehrer the Puss in Boots eyes. “You may want to move on to another topic,” Obama implored Lehrer, a bit like a motorcycle thief begging a cop to take him into custody rather than let him stay with the surly biker gang that caught him.

I expected Romney to beat expectations and win the debate (though I had no clue how decisive his victory would be), not because I thought Romney was such a fantastic debater, but because Obama is the single most overrated politician of my lifetime. That’s not to say he’s a bad politician. He’s not. He’s fine, even pretty good. But he’s not the master so many people claim he is. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Odd September Unemployment Rate: When Good Surveys Produce False Results

October 8th 2012

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What’s behind the seemingly sudden drop in the unemployment rate?

While the economy stumbles along, no one would expect a sudden jump in employment. Job growth has averaged about 100,000 per month over the past six months, roughly consistent with other economic indicators suggesting slow growth. But the Labor Department reported today [1] the unemployment rate fell from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September, which makes a full half-point drop since July.

These results suggest something very strange is going on with the household survey. In this hyper-political season, some who should know better and some who know little at all are suggesting the Obama Administration is playing games with the numbers. This is almost certainly not the case. The professionals at the Bureau of Labor Statistics would never stand for it, and like all good bureaucrats, they have ways of getting the truth out. Something strange is going on, but not politics—rather, statistics caused this little rhubarb. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

The FBI in Libya--a Very Cold Case

October 7th 2012

libya-consulate

Close to three weeks after the deadly and destructive terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a team of FBI investigators finally had boots of the ground in order to examine the crime scene, a police source said on Friday. But several forensics experts and former crime scene investigators called this latest display from the Obama administration a "dog and pony show" for consumption by U.S. voters.

The forensic team had hoped to gather information, investigative aids, and evidence on the terrorist attack that burned-down U.S. diplomatic compound and killed four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. “The FBI continues to coordinate with the U.S. Departments of State, Justice, and Defense, as well as the Libyan government, and other agencies in furtherance of the investigation into the deaths of Ambassador Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Tyrone Woods,” the FBI said in a statement. “As this is an ongoing investigation, we have no further information to provide.” Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Corruption Scandal in Iran’s Central Bank

October 7th 2012

Iranian Moneychanger

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s final term as president will end in 2013. While Western audiences remember the Iranian president for his blustery rhetoric, his legacy in Iran may well revolve around economic failings.

Throughout the first decades of the Islamic Republic, war and revolution took its toll on the Iranian rial. Unable to stem its devaluation, Iranian officials imposed an official bank exchange rate, which differed from the black market rate offered by traders in the traditional Tehran bazaar. When this author visited Iran in the late 1990s the discrepancy between the bank rate and the black market rate for dollar exchange was almost 300 percent. A hotel room, therefore, might cost three times as much for foreigners as it would for Iranians, even if they were paying the same rial price. The black marketing was so blatant that Iranian financial newspapers would print the current black market currency exchange rates openly. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Coffee, Culture and Restoration in Mexico's Borderland

October 7th 2012

Juarez Mexico

As Ciudad Juarez lurches ahead in an uncertain recovery from years of extreme violence and economic decline, signs of renewed night life are stirring in the northern Mexican border city. Especially in the Pronaf and Gomez Morin zones, new bars and clubs, known as antros in Mexican lingo, are open for business. And across the street from the Rio Grande Mall near the Pronaf area, a different option now exists for people interested in more than just bouts of mindless drinking and dancing.

Open since August, Bumps Café Trilce proposes to be a center for creative connection, cultural revival and collective healing in a city traumatized by multiple crises. Housed in a former billiard joint, the new establishment is refurnished with comfy couches, several tables, a long liquor bar and decent space for artistic exhibitions and performances. A message on the wall behind the bar proclaims, “Life is Too Short for a Bad Coffee.” Fine cheeses, cold cuts and sandwiches round out the menu. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Health Care Reform and the 47 Percent

October 6th 2012

Obamacare

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's secretly videoed remarks regarding the number of Americans "dependent upon government" have sparked a great deal of debate over who in the public receives what from the state.

The Census Bureau's latest figures confirm that 49 percent of Americans received benefits from at least one federal program. This total, however, mixes apples and oranges insofar as it includes 35 percent of individuals who rely on means-tested benefits and those who might be viewed as having "earned" their benefits, including nearly 50 million recipients of Social Security and much smaller numbers of individuals who qualify for unemployment benefits, workers' compensation, veterans benefits, etc.

Let's examine one segment from the former category: the 80.5 million low-income Americans on Medicaid — 26.4 percent of the entire population. As discussed in previous posts, Medicaid is a seriously flawed program. From a beneficiary standpoint, it generally offers quite comprehensive benefits-rivaling or exceeding those available to most workers through employer-sponsored coverage. However, Medicaid also severely underpays providers. Consequently, only 53 percent of doctors accept all or most new Medicaid patients (compared to 87 percent who will accept all or most new patients with private insurance). This is why Medicaid ranks as "America's worst health care program" — in some cases, worse than no coverage at all. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

How the Media are Spinning Romney's First Debate Victory

October 6th 2012

Ask Mitt

Did Romney win the debate, or did Obama lose it? To those who watched, the answer is obvious: both. In the media we hear endless explanations of why Obama lost but few comments on how effective and articulate Mitt Romney was.

Bob Woodward hypothesizes that Obama was, somehow, distracted — perhaps by some personal issues or maybe by a big international crisis about which we don’t know yet. Al Gore, ever focused on climate issues, posited that the high altitude in Denver had enervated the president since his handlers brought him out to the Mile-High City only a few hours before the debate.

These reasons may or may not have had anything to do with Obama’s terrible performance. But the point in floating them is to focus attention on something that may be repairable: Obama’s debating skills. They want to avoid having to zero in on Romney’s ability, knowledge, charm and charisma because these qualities are not likely to change and pose a permanent challenge to the liberal establishment. Read more ..


Venezuela on Edge

Election in Venezuela: Wild Card for US National Security

October 5th 2012

Chavez PDVSA

The upcoming October 7th elections in Venezuela do not constitute just another round of elections in another country. These elections are crucial for the future of Latin America and for the security of the United States. In fact, it is no exaggeration to point out that the Venezuelan drama should be as great a  concern as the  elections in the young democracies of the Middle East that emerged in the aftermath of the Arab spring.

Unfortunately, the Venezuelan electoral process  has been characterized by intimidation of the opposition and the press, violence, and indiscriminate use of state resources, all this with the objective of providing an advantage to Hugo Chavez.

In fact,  two supporters of Henrique Capriles Radonsky, the opposition candidate  challenging the President,  were recently shot to death.

Although Chavez and his interior Minister pledged to make every effort to bring the killers to justice, the case seems to follow an environment of intimidation and fear that has characterized the Chavez campaign. Opposition rallies have been blocked and undermined by pro-Chavez supporters and fistfights have been very common. Even the last killings took place at the time Chavez supporters blocked a motorcade of Capriles supporters. In September, Chavez supporters blocked a motorcade and burned a truck that belonged to the Capriles campaign. Read more ..


Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

Challenging Opponents of Jewish Refugee Status

October 5th 2012

Alan Dershowitz lecture

Mention the words “refugee” and “Middle East”—in the media, at universities, at the United Nations and elsewhere—and the image of a Palestinian living in a makeshift camp will immediately pop into one's mind.  That is because the world has neglected the plight of an equal or greater number of Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries.  One rarely hears any discussion of the hundreds of thousands of Jews, whose families had lived throughout the Middle East and North Africa for thousands of years, and who were made refugees between 1947 and the early 1970s. 

There are differences, of course, between Palestinian and Jewish refugees.  Palestinian refugees have deliberately been kept in camps and not resettled so that they can be used as political footballs by Arab and Muslim states in their continuing effort to delegitimize Israel.  Jewish refugees were quickly resettled in Israel, in the United States and in several European countries.   Read more ..


Honduras on Edge

Murder and Corruption Taint a Model-City Program in Impoverished Honduras

October 5th 2012

Honduras - free speech - if I speak I die
Honduran protester bearing 'I will die if I speak' label.

MGK Group is lead by CEO Michael Strong, who the New York Times describes as an “activist” — “He promises that his investors include Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and Central American investors, but when pressed for details, named only one Guatemalan businessman.” The newspaper says that the lack of details has made even pro-government newspapers question the reality of the project. Honduras Culture and Politics says that the group’s “bare bones generic website grupomgk.com … was hastily erected in the last week.” El Heraldo reported on September 14 that the organization did not exist, and that no trace of it could be found online.

Honduras Culture and Politics reports that Strong has been involved in projects including Conscious Capitalism, Radical Social Entrepeneurs, and Peace Through Commerce, which all share the idea that poverty can be combatted through better legal systems that allow poor people to set up businesses free from restrictions. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

DHS Intelligence Gathering & Analysis a Failure

October 4th 2012

Janet Napolitano

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano appears to have another failure to add to her incompetency list, according to several experts in intelligence, law enforcement and counterterrorism. A new congressional report denigrates the Department of Homeland Security for not effectively and efficiently using its multi-billion dollar fusion centers supposedly created to provide actionable intelligence for counterterrorism operations within the U.S., according to former police counterterrorism expert Ronald Secord.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) released their biting report on Tuesday evening. According to the Senators, DHS operatives assigned to various state and local fusion centers took taxpayer money and garnered information that was either a duplication of intelligence already gathered by other agencies or wasn't information that was not even connected to combating terrorism and terrorist groups operating within the United States. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Aid To Egypt: What’s The Rush?

October 4th 2012

Cairo embassy protest Sep 2012

Texas Rep. Kay Granger has put a hold on $450 million in aid to Egypt, and this has caused consternation in the Obama administration.

Granger is a member of the Committee on Appropriations and chairs the subcommittee on foreign operations, so she is a powerful figure. Her brief explanation of the hold is this: "This proposal comes to Congress at a point when the U.S. – Egypt relationship has never been under more scrutiny, and rightly so. I am not convinced of the urgent need for this assistance and I cannot support it at this time.  As Chair of the Subcommittee, I have placed a hold on these funds."

The State Department took a dim view of the hold, as follows: "As the president made clear more than a year ago when he pledged a billion dollars in support from the American people to the people of Egypt if their transition stays on track and continues, and as the secretary said when we were in Cairo in July, on Friday we here at the State Department notified the Congress of our intention to disburse $450 million in budget support to the government of Egypt in two tranches,” she said. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iran's Dark World Agenda

October 4th 2012

Iranian clerics

With the focus of the presidential race turning sharply toward foreign policy, the topic of Iran and competing visions for what to do about the rogue regime's pursuit of nuclear weapons are likely to take center stage in the coming days.

While Iran claims that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, the international community continues to unveil evidence that Tehran's atomic pursuits are anything but innocent.  Far from being harmless, the notion of the world's most destructive weapons in the hands of a terrorism-sponsoring regime represent a stark threat to the stability of the Middle East and the security of the entire world. If you have any doubts that Iran continues to play a dangerous game, then look no further than developments from just the past couple of weeks.  In a meeting ahead of the Iranian President's speech before the U.N. General Assembly, U.N. Secretary General Bank Ki-Moon warned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the dangers of inflammatory rhetoric.  Ignoring the suggestion, Ahmadinejad took the podium denouncing "uncivilized Zionists," and attacked Western nations as handmaidens of the devil.
Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

The YouTube Video Response a Dress Rehearsal?

October 3rd 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #2

The Obama administration’s handling of the organized assaults on American Embassies and personnel on September 11, 2012—and later the other organized protests across the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan—is a window into its possible reaction should Israel conclude that the cost of facing a nuclear-armed Iran outweighs the cost of a military strike against Iranian facilities.

It was a “dress rehearsal,” so to speak, and frightening at many levels—not least of which is that there appears to be no understanding in the White House that there are those who need the United States as their enemy. President Obama said “the tide of war is receding,” but our withdrawal from Iraq and impending withdrawal from Afghanistan are understood by Iran, the Taliban, al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and various Salafist groups as unilateral retreats in the face of their continuing expansion. This is not only true of Islamic organizations and governments; Vladimir Putin threw out USAID last week, undoing yet another part of the administration’s “reset” with Russia, and Hugo Chávez keeps “U.S. imperialism” on his teleprompter for every occasion. Read more ..


America on Edge

American Exceptionalism... Exposed

October 3rd 2012

Stature of Liberty Sunset

In 2010 Sarah Palin toured the United States promoting “Tea Party” candidates and her new book titled America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag. Her persistent theme was American Exceptionalism, which she considered an article of faith to all patriots but an embarrassment to President Obama to judge from his notorious interview in the Financial Times. By 2012 it seemed the Republican presidential candidates openly vied for the mantle of most zealous defender of exceptionalism against Obama's suspiciously European values. What a surprise, therefore, when at the Democratic Convention the usually wooden John Kerry made a fiery speech that chanted “exceptional” fourteen times, branded his own party's values as such, and hurled the issue back in Republicans’ faces. Of course, it was demagogy-as-usual on both sides. But it also exposed the schism over U.S. identity that had been widening since the end of the Cold War. That is because exceptionalism, a concept that is not sui generis, not very old, and not even American in conception, has come to serve as code for the American Civil Religion that dare not speak its name. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

After the 2012 Election, Is a Return to Sanity Possible?

October 2nd 2012

Obamacare Protest

Well, political junkies, only five weeks of the 2012 presidential campaign remain. But, don't despair. You have four years and five weeks until the end of the 2016 presidential campaign, which will almost surely start the day after the 2012 campaign ends. If, as now seems likely, President Obama wins four more years and Republicans retain control of the House, you will be exposed to four more years of Republican efforts to make a Democratic president fail, just like the last two. And, misguided fans of divided government, you will have your way—the election will not have changed a thing.

But, wait! Maybe, just maybe, enough representatives and senators will conclude that elections do, as the pundits say, have consequences. Republican leaders just might recognize that the Affordable Care Act is, and will remain, the law of the land, that closing the deficit while retaining government services Americans demand must include tax increases, and that trying to privatize Social Security and Medicare is a losing strategy. Read more ..


Israel's Looming Attack

Israel Stands Alone

October 1st 2012

soldiers pray at wailing wall

The world’s best-known secret has finally been revealed: the United States and Israel do not see eye-to-eye on Iran’s nuclear program. In an unusually public ping-pong, the Obama administration rebuffed an Israeli effort to clarify America’s Iranian “red lines,” the point at which it would agree that its negotiations-cum-sanctions strategy has failed and it would take military action to stop the Iranian nuclear project.

Rather than attempt to resolve the issue behind closed doors, Secretary Clinton brushed off the Israeli salvo, saying "we’re not setting deadlines," a message reiterated by her spokesperson, who called the setting of any redlines "not useful." Prime Minister Netanyahu was irate, implying that the United States didn’t "have a moral right to place a red light before Israel" if it was unwilling to set red lines. Israeli ambassador Michael Oren seemingly wondered if the administration thought Iranians were color-blind. On the dais of the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu actually brandished a Sharpie pen and literally drew a red line through a cartoon diagram of an Iranian bomb. The most Obama would muster was that "time is not unlimited." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

When it Comes to Polls, Readers Beware

October 1st 2012

Obama Campaign 2012

As a recovering pollster (I worked for Democratic pollster Peter Hart from 1974 to 1981), let me weigh in on the controversy over whether the polls are accurate. Many conservatives are claiming that multiple polls have overly Democratic samples, and some charge that media pollsters are trying to discourage Republican voters.

First, some points about the limits of polls. Random-sample polling is an imprecise instrument. There's an error margin of 3 or 4 percent and polling theory tells us that one out of 20 polls is wrong, with results outside the margin of error. Sometimes it's easy to spot such an outlier; sometimes not.

In addition, it's getting much harder for pollsters to get people to respond to interviews. The Pew Research Center reports that it's getting only 9 percent of the people it contacts to respond to its questions. That's compared with 36 percent in 1997. Interestingly, response rates are much higher in new democracies. Americans, particularly in target states, may be getting poll fatigue. When a phone rings in New Hampshire, it might well be a pollster calling. Read more ..


Japan on Edge

Shinzo Abe's Surprising Victory

October 1st 2012

Shinzo Abe

The election of Shinzo Abe as president of the Liberal Democratic Party caught many by surprise – in an informal poll of seasoned Japan-watchers in fact no one picked Abe as the likely winner in this intra-party contest. That the outcome was unusual can be readily appreciated by the fact that the selection of the LDP’s president had not been decided in a runoff election in over 40 years, and that it had been close to 56 years since there had been an upset between the first and second place candidates in the two rounds of voting (coincidentally Abe’s grandfather Nobosuke Kishi lost that run-off election in 1956). The victory of Abe is even more surprising if one takes into account that his competitors had strong bases of support: Mr. Nobuteru Ishihara from the party elders and Mr. Shigeru Ishiba from the party’s base in the prefectural branches. Moreover, since Mr. Abe resigned abruptly as Prime Minister in September 2007 after just one year in office, few thought he would be given a second chance to head the LDP and aspire again to the top political office in the country.

In the weeks to come, we will be scratching our heads trying to figure out this unlikely outcome. Some possible explanations are already circulating: the divisions and increasing weakness of the party factions in deciding party presidential elections, the perception that the Japanese population is so disenchanted with the DPJ, that the party can still win the election without choosing its most popular candidate, and of course the appeal of the “deliverables” Mr. Abe has put on the table: securing an early general election, reaching out to popular Osaka Mayor Tōru Hashimoto’s party (the Japan Restoration Association) to set up the basis of a future coalition government, and standing firm with China. Read more ..


America on Edge

The Tribe of Liberty

September 30th 2012

Cairo burning US embassy

We like tribalism for the same reason we like fatty foods: We evolved that way.

Homo sapiens didn’t survive long on the African savannas as rugged individualists. Alone, they couldn’t scare away the scarier animals, and, for the most part, they couldn’t catch and kill the tastier ones. But in groups, humans rose to the top of the food chain thousands of years ago and have been passing down their tribe-loving genes ever since.

Customs and practices that ensured the survival of the species were worked out through trial and error and passed from one generation to the next. Over time, and with many setbacks, the knowledge accumulated until we hit the critical mass required for modernity. Indeed, the story of modernity is the story of how we moved away from traditional, non-voluntary forms of tribalism based on familial, ethnic, or even nationalistic lines and toward voluntary forms of tribalism. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

America Was Warned from the Beginning of the Dangers of Islamic Terrorism

September 29th 2012

Stephen Decatur boards a Libyan vessel
'Decatur boards the Tripolitan Gunboat' by Dennis M. Carter

The American founding fathers and early scholars—since the 18th century—were aware of deeply-rooted Islamic violence, terrorism, intolerance and hatred toward other Muslims, as well as non-Muslims.

Early American leaders and thinkers were endowed with deep appreciation and unique knowledge of global history, international relations, ancient cultures, ideologies and religions. They spoke and wrote candidly about global threats, including the Islamic threat.

In 1830, New York University Prof. George Bush, the great-granduncle of G.H.W. Bush, considered one of the most profound American scholars of the mid-19th century, published The Life of Mohammed. He was not concerned about political correctness, and was low on delusion and top heavy on realism. His 1830 reference to the Islamic threat was consistent with the 2012 state of intra-Muslim atrocities, hate-education, tyranny, anti-US stormy Arab winter, intolerance of criticism, global Islamic terrorism in general and suicide bombing in particular. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

U.S. Elections: Ignoring Climate Agenda Is a Mistake

September 29th 2012

NASA ICESCAPE Arctic melt pools

Whichever way you run the numbers about climate change, 2012 looks set to go into the record-books. In America alone, this year's heat wave broke over 40,000 temperature records. In the 1980s, the US weather-related insurance cost was around $3bn a year, compared to $20bn (and rising) today. Hurricane Katrina alone cost more than £200bn, representing over 1 percent of GDP. And then there are little things like West Nile virus, unknown in the US before 1988, but now spreading as a result of rising temperatures – resulting in a record 2,000 cases by August 2012, and 87 deaths.

But how many of us expect climate change to be central to the debates between Obama and Romney in the final stages of the US presidential elections? I, for one, am not holding my breath. And yet the degree to which this rising challenge is debated should be seen by the wider world as a key indicator of whether America is fit for purpose – and fit to lead – in the 21st century. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Obama Does Little on Mideast Foreign Policy

September 29th 2012

Obama UN
Credit: White House/Sonya Hebert

In 2008, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton questioned whether then- Sen. Barack Obama would be prepared for the unexpected 3 a.m. phone call should he become president. The voters concluded he would be. When that call came with the Arab Spring, Obama put it on hold.

Indecisiveness has cost. Like a gambler who demands to see the cards on the table before he makes a move, Obama waited as first the Tunisian, then Egyptian, and the Yemeni governments teetered. Only when protestors sealed the autocrats' fate did he place his bet. The cynicism is self-defeating: Protestors doubt U.S. commitment, while surviving kings and strongman question whether their decades-long U.S. partnership has value.

Also crippling American influence is Obama's desire to lead from behind. Multilateralism builds legitimacy, but not all multilateralism is the same: American leadership influences outcomes. When the White House works through allies, the United States becomes a slave to their agendas. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

To Counter Islamist Threat, America Should Practice American Values

September 28th 2012

Star Parker

Baseball player Yogi Berra once said, "You can see a lot just by looking" -- simple wisdom that President Barack Obama is not likely to heed. In order to see, you have to want to look at the truth that's actually out there. With reality so different from how our president wishes to portray it, he has little interest in seeing things as they really are.

The president delivered a "Kumbaya" appeal this past week to the current session of the United Nations General Assembly. The pitch, about peaceful resolution of disputes, tolerance, and free speech, was clearly aimed at Muslim nations.

The following day, Egypt's newly elected Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi stood before the General Assembly and gave his reply. No thanks.

Sure, Egypt will respect free speech, as long as it does not offend "one specific religion or culture." The message we got from candidate Obama in 2008 was that the rift between the Muslim world and the West was one of misunderstanding, of lack of empathy on our part toward them. Candidate Obama said he was the man, given his personal history, who could bridge that gap. In 2009, the first year of the Obama presidency, the Pew Research Center reported that the favorability rating in Egypt toward the United States was 27 percent. Now in 2012 it is 19 percent, down eight points.

More misunderstanding? I don't think so. Egyptians are quite clear about who they are and quite clear about their distaste for the moral relativism Barack Obama peddles as freedom. Conflicting attitudes and worldviews emerge from different beliefs, not misunderstanding. In the same Pew survey of last June, 11 percent of Egyptians agreed with the statement: "It is good that American ideas and customs are spreading here." Has Obama just not had enough time, as with producing an economic recovery at home, to get Muslims to learn the words to "Kumbaya"? Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Boykinism is Something Joe McCarthy Would Understand

September 28th 2012

LtG William G Boykin
Army Lt General William G. Boykin (ret.)

First came the hullaballoo over the “Mosque at Ground Zero.” Then there was Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, grabbing headlines as he promoted “International Burn-a-Koran Day.” Most recently, we have an American posting a slanderous anti-Muslim video on the Internet with all the ensuing turmoil. Throughout, the official U.S. position has remained fixed: the United States government condemns Islamophobia. Americans respect Islam as a religion of peace. Incidents suggesting otherwise are the work of a tiny minority -- whackos, hatemongers, and publicity-seekers.

Among Muslims from Benghazi to Islamabad, the argument has proven to be a tough sell. And not without reason: although it might be comforting to dismiss anti-Islamic outbursts in the U.S. as the work of a few fanatics, the picture is actually far more complicated. Those complications in turn help explain why religion, once considered a foreign policy asset, has in recent years become a net liability.

Let’s begin with a brief history lesson. From the late 1940s to the late 1980s, when communism provided the overarching ideological rationale for American globalism, religion figured prominently as a theme of U.S. foreign policy. Communist antipathy toward religion helped invest the Cold War foreign policy consensus with its remarkable durability. That communists were godless sufficed to place them beyond the pale. For many Americans, the Cold War derived its moral clarity from the conviction that here was a contest pitting the God-fearing against the God-denying. Since we were on God’s side, it appeared axiomatic that God should repay the compliment. Read more ..


Africa on Edge

Poverty, Inequality and Africa’s Education Crisis

September 28th 2012

African school kids

The Africa Learning Barometer, a new interactive produced by our colleagues at the Brookings Center for Universal Education, indicates that only about half of sub-Saharan Africa’s 128 million school-aged children currently attending school are likely to acquire the basic skills needed for them to live healthy and productive lives. The center’s research further suggests that if you are a poor, female child currently attending school in a rural region you are far more likely to not be learning the critical skills, such as reading, writing and math. While these gender, income and regional learning gaps exist in most sub-Saharan African countries, they are most salient in South Africa, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Botswana.

Taking aside the legacy of colonialism and racial and ethnic inequalities in some of these countries, a number of other factors explain the continuing disparities in learning between rural and urban schoolchildren in sub-Saharan Africa. Considering the significance of rural poverty across the continent, it should come as no surprise that rural schoolchildren are the most disadvantaged from a socioeconomic perspective when it comes to access to a quality education. Rural schools generally have less qualified teachers and not enough teachers for the number of children enrolled in school. This is clearly evident in the low teachers-per-school ratios and teacher-to-pupil ratios in most rural African regions. The reasons for these low numbers in rural Africa are many and very much linked to poverty and other inequalities and socioeconomic conditions. For example, teachers generally prefer urban to rural schools because urban areas offer greater opportunities and higher incomes. There is also a better quality of life in urban areas, with better access to good infrastructure, other services (such as healthcare) and general public goods. Read more ..


America on Edge

Pamela Hall to Sue Mona Eltahawy over New York Anti-Jihad Poster Incident

September 28th 2012

Following an incident on the 25th in the Times Square subway station, where an Egyptian-born American activist spray painted an anti-Jihad poster designed to garner support for Israel, the woman who attempted to stop the vandalism is suing for damage to her property.

When Mona Eltahawy took out a can of pink spray paint and began to deface an advertisement that reads “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad,” a woman named Pamela Hall stepped in front of Eltahawy and began questioning her right to spray paint the sign.

“Mona, do you think you have the right to do this?” Hall asked. “What right do you have to violate free speech?” Read more ..


Broken Government

Washington Sent Billions in Medicaid Overpayments to New York

September 28th 2012

medicine and money #2

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has released a new report, “The Federal Government’s Failure to Prevent and End Medicaid Overpayments,” which examines outrageous abuses of federal tax dollars within the Medicaid program, specifically regarding payments made to New York State developmental centers.

“New York’s residential centers for the developmentally disabled cost Medicaid about $1.9 million a year for each patient, and federal overpayments that total $15 billion since 1990 should end immediately, according to a congressional oversight committee,“ said Michael Virtanen in an AP report last week.

The report reveals that for the past 20 years, New York State has received billions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements through mismanaged overpayments, and that the overpayments are continuing. Further, the report documents that as Medicaid payment rates increased, Federal officials failed to question the rising cost or implement measures that would bring the rates in line with actual costs, according to Rep. Issa. Read more ..



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