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The Violent Roads of Mexico

Harassment of Tourists by Mexican Police a New Reality South of the Border

August 22nd 2012

Mexico City mounted police

A friend and I had lunch in Ciudad Juarez last week. For a few bucks each, we savored different versions of sumptuous fish soup. Tasty and flavorful, the soup was as good- and much cheaper than the same food sold in Mexican beach resorts. Feeling fine, we paid the bill and headed out the door of the restaurant with a pair of satisfied stomachs.

Then we got a taste of the reality that many of the residents of the troubled border city experience on a routine basis. Strolling down Avenida Juarez, the main drag of the battered downtown tourist district, we were motioned aside by a group of three men who were wearing municipal police uniforms. Without any explanation, one of the officers demanded to search us.

Since the Mexican Constitution guarantees freedom of transit, and because the officer had not stated a reason for the requested search, I felt the order was out of line. But studying the looks of this particular trio of Ciudad Juarez’s finest, I judged it best not to challenge their command at the moment. So it was, “Up against the wall, mother..!!!”

One cop did the talking and searching while the others stood guard. The active one asked what we were doing in his city, and gave a blank look when we responded that I was a journalist and my friend an academic from the U.S. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Why Is Israel More Prosperous than the Palestinians?

August 22nd 2012

Tel Aviv Skyline

In almost 40 years of studying these issues, I’ve never seen a better case study of mass media bias and knee-jerk narrowness than an aspect of the current flap about what presidential candidate Mitt Romney said during his trip to Israel. I’m going to focus on a single point because it brings this problem into sharp focus.

If you truly understand what you are about to read, I don’t see how you can accord most of the mass media any credibility when it comes to Israel ever again. Briefly, Romney mentioned the gap between the Israeli and Palestinian economies—ironically, he vastly understated the gap—and attributed it to “culture,” by which he meant, as Romney has said elsewhere, such things as democracy, individual liberty, free enterprise, and the rule of law.

But I’m not talking about Romney here or the media’s critique of him. What is interesting is this: How do you explain the reason why Israel is so more advanced in terms of economy, technology, and living standards? The media generally rejected Romney’s explanation and pretty much all made the same point. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Clarify U.S. Policy on Afghanistan: Designate Haqqani Network Terrorists

August 21st 2012

haqqani terrorists

For the past two years, the Obama Administration has pursued on-again, off-again reconciliation talks with Taliban leaders in an effort to bring an end to the Afghan war. As part of this process, it has wrestled with how to handle the Haqqani network, a Taliban affiliate organization headquartered in Pakistan’s tribal border areas that has extensive influence in eastern Afghanistan and is responsible for some of the most vicious attacks against coalition forces.

Congress recently passed legislation, which President Obama signed into law on August 10, requiring the Administration to determine within 30 days whether the Haqqani network should officially be classified as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) and, if not, to explain its rationale. The decision will be watched closely in the region and will signal—to Afghans, Pakistanis, and terrorist leaders alike—the degree of U.S. commitment to uprooting terrorism from the region. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

GOP has Good Reason to Worry about Ryan on its Ticket

August 21st 2012

Juan Williams 02
Juan Williams

No one wants to say it out loud. But the political professionals are saying quietly that Mitt Romney conceded the presidential race by putting Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on his ticket.

The muzzle is on for good reason.

GOP strategist Mark McKinnon was hammered when he said out loud Romney’s pick of Ryan means the GOP ticket will “probably lose – Maybe big.” The Wall Street Journal belittled the former adviser to President George W. Bush for speaking out. They hilariously called him a member of the Republican “Bedwetter Caucus.” The problem with that putdown is that Democratic political insiders are saying the same thing – Ryan hurts Romney and helps President Obama.

So we have a bipartisan judgment.

Ryan simply comes with too much political baggage for a successful national presidential campaign. He does not help Romney to win Ohio, Florida or Virginia. His focus on budget cutting is out of step with the voters’ focus on creating jobs.

All of this is hurting Romney’s effort to win core constituencies, particularly senior citizens – but also moderate women and the large middle of the American electorate, independents. The best that can be said about the pick is that Ryan is extremely popular with the activist right-wing base. True believers who doubted Romney as a Massachusetts moderate are thrilled by Ryan’s presence on the ticket. What those conservatives do not seem to fully appreciate is that there is a whole other world outside of the House GOP caucus, the talk radio universe and the conservative blogosphere.

Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Hundreds of Thousands of Invalid Voter Registrations Uncovered by Attorney

August 20th 2012

Election ID Support

During an appearance on Geraldo Rivera's radio show on Friday, an attorney who gained notoriety investigating President Barack Obama's background told Rivera's audience that her analysis of California's voter rolls revealed more than 720,000 invalid voter registrations.

Orly Taitz told Rivera -- a newsman known to be a staunch pro-illegal alien advocate -- that she is working with a former North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expert in digital databases to investigate complaints of fraudulent voter registration. According to the attorney, an examination of California's database revealed 723,620 voter registrations which are not valid because of missing birth dates on the forms.

"California's elections code 2150 and 2152 stipulate that an affidavit from an elector has to contain a valid birth date, valid country of origin, a Social Security number, drivers license or a number assigned to the voter if there is no Social Security number or Drivers License number," Taitz said. Read more ..


Education on Edge

Solving America's Mathematics Education Problem

August 20th 2012

Students

American students test poorly in mathematics compared to those in other developed—and in some cases, less developed—countries. While we have seen some signs of improved performance in recent years, these improvements are not yet evident among high school students. And the proportion of new college graduates who majored in math-intensive subjects has declined by nearly half over the past sixty years. Will the United States lose its edge in innovation as the math skills of our elite students atrophy? Will the average worker possess the training necessary to take advantage of technically demanding twenty-first-century job opportunities? Most important, why has the United States lost ground, and what course must we follow to gain it back?

This report summarizes recent research that yields important insights into America’s mathematics problem. Stated succinctly, the root of the problem is an excessive emphasis on equality in curriculum. Given the inherent variability in students’ math aptitude, equity can be achieved only by delivering a suboptimal education to at least some students.

A recent policy initiative undertaken by one of the nation’s largest and most successful school districts, Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina), illustrates the hazards of math acceleration. In 2002, the district joined a growing number of education agencies in promoting eighth grade algebra for a larger proportion of students. The push to accelerate algebra was based on a naïve interpretation of correlations between algebra timing and later success, ignoring the obvious counterargument that a propensity for future success drives early algebra taking, not the reverse. However ill-conceived the policy, though, the results are instructive: Read more ..


The Obama Edge

U.S. To Continue Pouring Money Into Palestinian Coffers

August 20th 2012

Palestinian Authority police

The Obama administration is seeking another $200 million to aid the Palestinians in the 2012 fiscal year, State Department officials said on Friday. But many Americans are uneasy about giving money to a group that has a history of embezzling millions -- perhaps billions -- of foreign aid cash; or worse, they use the money to purchase missiles, rockets, mortar rounds and other conventional weapons.

"We are working with the Congress to ensure continued U.S. support for the Palestinians, including 200 million dollars in direct budget support this fiscal year," the department said in response to the U.S. news media.

Last year, Washington gave the same amount of direct budget support to the Palestinian National Authority, which is claiming it's facing the worst financial crisis in years with a deficit of about $1.1 billion in its current budget. "Our view remains that our assistance to the Palestinian people is an essential part of the U.S. commitment to a negotiated two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis, promoting a comprehensive peace in the Middle East," the State Department said. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

A Storied Presidency

August 19th 2012

Obama pensive with flag

In 1995, Barack Obama released "Dreams from My Father," a compelling memoir full of stories about his life that — though often not exactly true — persuaded many people that this young man had a great political future ahead of him.

Nearly a decade later, Obama introduced himself to the country with a stirring speech at the 2004 Democratic convention in which he conceded, “I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story ... and that in no other country on earth is my story even possible.”

“Even as we speak,” Obama declared as he strode the high road at takeoff velocity, “there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative-ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.”

“Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.” He insisted that we stop listening to the “pundits” who divide the country into red and blue states. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Paul Ryan's Medicare Plan Harnesses Consumer Power

August 19th 2012

Paul Ryan

The Medicare reform plan advanced by Rep. Paul Ryan is not just a good idea, it's essential both to restoring solvency to the federal government and to improving the nation's healthcare system. It's important to note that the proposal is bipartisan in nature. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden joined with Ryan in offering it in December 2011. Earlier versions of the idea were supported by Democratic Sen. John Breaux and other many other Democratic members of Congress.

There are two basic choices for slowing the pace of rising costs in Medicare. The first option—the one embraced by the Obama administration—is to rely on the federal government to impose price controls and otherwise try to micromanage how healthcare is delivered to patients. This approach has been tried for the past four decades in Medicare, and hasn't worked. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

A Victory for Election Integrity

August 19th 2012

Election ID Support

In a victory for election integrity, a Pennsylvania district court judge denied a preliminary injunction to stop Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law from going into effect. The law, passed in March 2012, minimally changes Pennsylvania’s election code to require citizens voting in person on Election Day to present photo identification. Acceptable forms of photo identification include IDs issued by the federal or state government, such as municipalities, accredited public or private schools, and care facilities. Citizens who cannot produce an approved form of ID may still cast a provisional ballot provided that the person delivers proof of identification within six days after the election. The law imposes a similar ID requirement for absentee ballots.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation is charged with issuing free identification cards. For those who cannot afford the minimal cost of supporting documentation, such as a birth certificate, their votes will still count if they sign an affirmation that they can’t afford the cost. The challengers claimed that many citizens will be disenfranchised or severely burdened by the photo ID requirement. At a trial in July, the challengers put forth testimony regarding the number of registered voters supposedly without certain types of photo ID (e.g., drivers licenses) as of June 2012, but others have noted that most of these voters have other approved IDs that they use to pass through airport security or get into government buildings. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Former Navy SEAL Team Six Commander Heads Anti-Obama PAC

August 18th 2012

Barack Obama in Thought

On Wednesday, a group, Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, Inc., began airing political advertisements criticizing President Barack Obama's service as Commander in Chief. Now a former commander of Navy SEAL Team Six is leading a political action committee (PAC) with a simple mission: Defeat Barack Obama and his leaking White House. according to a press statement released on Thursday.

Ryan Zinke, a former commander of Navy SEAL Team Six, started a super PAC, Special Operations for America, which is dedicated to supporting Mitt Romney and slamming President Obama on leaks and on politicizing Bin Laden’s death. According to Mr. Zinke, these two super PACs are just the first salvo in what will be a sustained assault on the president by high-level ex-soldiers. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney's Latin America Policy: Where's the Beef?

August 18th 2012

Romney and Ryan--Virginia Announcement

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has amassed a collection of headlines impugning his foreign policy credentials since his speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) convention and overseas trip. This publicity he has received all too characteristically crops Latin America from forecasts about what a Romney White House would mean for hemispheric policy issues. Still, as his sparse commentary on the region suggests, Latin America would not only remain out of frame, but out of focus should Romney secure the presidency.

In his lone reference to the region during the VFW address, Romney focused exclusively on ties between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Hezbollah. Such emphasis on terrorism in Latin America allowed Romney to incorporate the region into his broad global narrative: the world is “dangerous, destructive, chaotic” and it is America’s moral duty – no, its “destiny” – to safeguard freedom for all humanity. Though the escalating link between the South American cocaine trade and Middle Eastern terrorists marks a valid security concern, Romney has neglected the region’s geopolitical importance with those lean remarks. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

America Ready for Paul Ryan's Adult Conversation

August 17th 2012

Star Parker, CURE

There's a line of thinking on the political left that Mitt Romney served up a great softball in picking Paul Ryan as his running mate. According to Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, "Ryan brings to the Romney campaign the Tea Party's style of magical thinking, a blissfully simplistic, ideologically driven world view that seems to think candidates can win votes by promising to reduce popular government services."

Republican candidates, they say, are ducking for cover to avoid being branded with budget reforms that Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, has proposed, particularly for Medicare and Medicaid.Vice President Joe Biden, eloquent as always, told a mostly black audience in Virginia that Republicans want to put "y'all back in chains."

Although Biden has taken flak for this nauseating remark, he should get credit for summing up how Democrats really think: that government running your life makes you free and that anyone who proposes freedom and choice wants to put "y'all back in chains."

Earlier this year, Douglas Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, sent a report on the nation's budget to House Budget Committee chairman Ryan.

Here's what he said: "The explosive path of the federal debt that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects under what many observers would view as current policies underscores the need for policy changes to put the nation on a sustainable course.

"The aging of the population and rising costs for health care will push spending for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health-care programs considerably higher as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP)." Elmendorf concludes that without major increases in revenues and/or substantial cuts in spending, "the resulting budget deficits will increase federal debt to unsupportable levels." Read more ..


Battle for Syria

Is Hillary Clueless or Cavalier? Neither Helps

August 17th 2012

Hilary Clinton

Last week in this space I wrote about Secretary of State Clinton's cavalier call for the people of Aleppo to rise up against the Assad regime.  When they did -- as when President Bush (41) called on the Shi'ites and Kurds of Iraq to rise up against Saddam in 1991 -- the U.S. declined to support the rebels, and the results were bloody.  It seemed that neither was aware of the impact the words of the government of the United States can have on people in distress.

The problem, actually, is different, as seen on Page 2 of the Style Section of The Washington Post (15 August).  It was just a little blurb in the "Names & Faces" column, noting that back in April, Secretary Clinton, "indulging in a bit of wishful thinking ... about the plight of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng," said, "You know, this is such a long flight, maybe they'll have the problem all worked out by the time we land.  Maybe all the problems everywhere will be worked out by the time we land."

The real problem is twofold -- first that the secretary of state of the United States begrudged the long flight that carried her to her duties and wished that those duties would be obviated by other people "working things out."  (Helpful hint to Mrs. Clinton: don't go everywhere; you didn't need more frequent flier miles than Madeleine Albright.)

Remember that in April, human rights activist Chen Guangcheng had been released from prison but was under house arrest and severe mental stress until he made a daring and dangerous escape from his residential prison to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.  The Embassy escorted him to a government-run hospital and accepted its dictate that American officials leave him there alone.  He spent several days isolated.  And she was complaining about the job of talking to his jailors. That's a small, nasty problem. Read more ..


Religion's Edge

If God Lived on Earth, People Would Break his Windows

August 17th 2012

Hareidi Violence

As is has been throughout history, when economic times become bleak, fingers start pointing toward the Jewish people.  It will often begin anonymously, first with outbreaks of anti Jewish "noise" and messaging in hurting communities, then the public rants by so-called scholars and community figures gain broader audiences; and it eventually gets mainstreamed into protected remarks and satirical comics in media offered as “legitimate” commentary; and then it moves up to public protests with public leaders leading the fight for imaginary justice from the evil Jews.

This is not meant as a scare, as there is no looming menace here in the United States; not to say that there are no troubles brewing in European regions that have high and growing Moslem populations.  Yet, the other day in a Cedarhurst commuter station of the LIRR, on a billboard that read “Jump Start Your Economy”, was the word “Jew” scrawled in graffiti.  Once again, it’s not major, and it is not as bad as seeing swastikas etched into synagogue doors, but we should be aware that there is an element that would associate the hurting economy with some sort of Jewish involvement. Read more ..


The Cyber Edge

President Obama May Bypass Lawmakers with Cybersecurity Executive Order

August 16th 2012

Data center computer corridor

Senate Republicans recently blocked cybersecurity legislation, but the issue might be revived by the White House, a federal law enforcement official said earlier this week. The Obama administration officials haven’t forgotten the power of an executive order signed by their boss that could be used to address cybersecurity if the Senate and House of Representatives fail to pass the requested bill.

The wide-reaching legislation, if it had passed, would have given government law enforcement and security agencies power to make decisions regarding the digital defense of critical infrastructure companies against cyber attacks. The Republican senators claimed they were uneasy about giving Washington even more power over the private sector.

“Many corporate security directors believe their own businesses are better able to protect themselves from cyber attacks. If the government wishes to assist, the Obama administration can offer grant money to upgrade cybersecurity programs,” said Thomas Whelan, a former corporate security director now a business consultant during a telephone interview. Read more ..


Broken Banking

Geithner Giving U.S. Taxpayer Info to Foreign Nations

August 15th 2012

Geithner

In reaction to the worldwide economic turmoil with governments squeezing every penny possible out of taxpayers, Swiss bankers find themselves in the position of actually enticing clients from emerging markets or face a "slow death" as the pursuit of so-called tax evaders increases by U.S. and European authorities, according to The American Banker on Thursday. And U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is at the forefront of chasing tax dodgers.

Few Americans are aware that their personal and financial information is being given to foreign nations by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in the name of "getting Americans to pay their fair share." And the globalists in the U.S. government are happy to share Americans' confidential information, according to information from a political strategist and tax attorney. Read more ..


Faster and More Furious

In Wake of Fast and Furious, ATF Threatens Future Whistleblowers

August 15th 2012

Click to select Image

Fast and Furious is the scandal in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms encouraged the illegal sale of thousands of guns to Mexican drug cartels.  The guns disappeared into Mexico. Two federal agents (here & here) were slain by these weapons. According to Mexican officials, as many as 200 Mexican citizens have been killed.This scandal has reached into the highest levels of the Obama Administration.  [Read the report on the investigation into 'Fast & Furious' here.] Eric Holder is the first attorney-general in history to have been issued a contempt citation for refusing to cooperate in the investigation. The Justice Department has refused to enforce the citation.

We now know Holder lied before Congress in sworn testimony (here, here, here, here & here).  There's even a White House cover-up. There's more. Recently, we helped break the story in which the ATF director threatened agents.  It was ATF whistleblowers -- acting in accordance with federal law -- who reported Fast & Furious when their own agency ridiculed their concerns that lives could be lost.

Read more ..

Broken Banking

Shocking Revelations of Standard Charter Bank conspiracy with Iran

August 15th 2012

Standard charter bank

Americans are jaded by the size and shape of the financial crisis that ripped through banking in 2008. Bernie Madoff, AIG, "too big to fail," Goldman Sachs, subprime lending, unfathomable derivatives, and underwater mortgages make it hard to work up much steam on yet another banking story. And you could be forgiven for thinking a tome entitled "NY State Department of Financial Services in the Matter of Standard Chartered Branch, NY, NY" would be dull. But Benjamin M. Lawsky, superintendent of the NY State Department of Financial Services, has written the banking equivalent of pornography. (Words you never thought you'd read together, right?)

It is the disgusting description of how a British bank and its U.S. subsidiary conspired over a decade to allow Iran to evade U.S. banking sanctions, and how a well-known American consulting firm covered it up in an "independent report." Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

How the Affordable Care Act Reduces our Liberty

August 14th 2012

Obamacare Protest

With one to two weeks left before most schools begin their fall semester, there's still time left to squeeze in a bit more summer reading. So if health care policy is your idea of a beach read, grab a copy of "Why Obamacare is Wrong for America."

Authored by former OMB associate director Jim Capretta, American Enterprise Institute resident fellow Tom Miller, Heritage Foundation senior fellow Bob Moffit, and Galen Institute president Grace-Marie Turner, the book makes nuances of the debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) palatable to a lay audience by breaking down the law into eight pillars. This book nicely elaborates on the government takeover concerns I voiced in my earlier column.

The first two pillars are mandates on individuals (to obtain) and employers (to provide) health coverage. These are unprecedented. Most people can go without healthcare longer than they can make it without food. Yet, even for a necessity such as food, lawmakers do not impose any remotely equivalent restrictions on freedom of choice. Read more ..


Broken Government

GOP vs Tea Party on Dodging Doomsday

August 14th 2012

Juan Williams 02

Is there another Republican revolution taking place behind the scenes on Capitol Hill?

In the run up to the election, several Senate Republicans are openly talking about agreeing to tax hikes, or some revenue increases, to get a budget deal done. They see a political trap for the president. If he does not go along with the Republican plan—which uses formulas similar to the one set down by the independent Simpson-Bowles commission—the GOP senators envision voters blaming the Obama White House for failing to act in the national interest and reduce the federal deficit.

There is just one problem with this political strategy: The Senate Republicans first have to convince the Tea Party freshmen in the Republican-controlled House to approve of any deal that includes tax increases. Their best hope for persuading the House GOP to join the deal is the coming fiscal cliff of severe budget cuts that threatens to derail the nation’s fragile, slow-moving recovery. That day of doom is the year-end deadline for implementing the Budget Control Act (BCA) that Congress passed one year ago, and which is scheduled to make a merciless cut through federal spending at the end of the year.

But facing fiscal calamity has not helped to bring the House GOP to its senses in the past. Last year, House Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling without dramatic spending cuts to domestic social programs. Their refusal to perform this routine duty—to quite literally pay the nation’s bills—resulted in an unprecedented downgrade of America’s credit rating by Standard and Poor’s. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last month that said lenders charged the federal government an extra $1.3 billion last year because of the debt-ceiling debacle. Read more ..


The Clinton Edge

Why America Loves the Clintons

August 13th 2012

Bill & Hillary Clinton

As the campaign from hell continues to promise voters four more years of what they detest no matter who wins, and politics in America is now in almost universal disrepute outside the circles of those paid to continue the status quo, and banking scandals continue, and virtually every major American institution is widely distrusted, consider this:

In a recent Gallup poll, the favorable rating of Bill Clinton was a towering 66 percent. In another recent poll the favorable rating of Hillary Clinton was an equally towering 66 percent. By contrast:

Public confidence in Congress is at levels comparable to the favorable rating of Saddam Hussein. Congressional Republicans are as popular as defective dog food. Congressional Democrats fare slightly better. They are as popular as average dog food, which is fine for the dogs but not great for the people.

Meanwhile, Congress leaves Washington for another long recess while farmers endure agony from the drought, drivers are punished by soaring gas prices and families are pained by another jobs report while nobody in Washington appears to give a damn about anything except blaming each other and telling angry voters why they are so wonderful. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Bullied Automakers in Negotiations

August 13th 2012

Obama and Flag

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight released a biting report on Friday regarding the Obama Administration’s unusual and questionable practice of obtaining agreements from automakers for stricter mileage standards.

According to Rep. Issa, the Congressional report sheds new light on the extent to which the Obama Administration strong-armed auto manufacturers at the expense of consumer choice, safety and affordability. “In the wake of a massive taxpayer funded bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, the Obama Administration took aggressive action to force a rulemaking process that reflects ideology over science and politics over process and law,” Chairman Issa said in a statement.

“Pleas from career technical experts about passenger safety and consumer choice were ignored by the White House to appease overzealous environmental extremists as this process was forced through,” Chairman Issa noted. Read more ..


Venezuela on Edge

Chavez's Latest Tool for Voter Intimidation

August 12th 2012

Hugo Chavez red

With two months to go before Venezuela’s election on October 7, the regime of Hugo Chavez is exploring ways more foul than fair to secure a fourth term in office for the Comandante.

For the first time this year, the fingerprint scanners used in the past to verify voter ID will be connected to the electronic voting machines themselves. Because voters will have to press down a thumb in order to activate the ballot system, there are justified fears of an electronic record of every individual vote. For tyrants who occasionally allow the public a trip to the polling station, knowing who the dissidents are is both a nasty weapon and a powerful one; in the early 1980s, Chavez’s close friend Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, punished the rebellious voters of Matabeleland with a campaign of violence, public executions and enforced famine.

If the Chavistas are trying to sow fear in the hearts of Venezuelans tempted to vote for his arrival, the moderate leftist Henrique Capriles, they appear to be succeeding: “If the thumbprint makes the machine work, how do you know it doesn’t end up being recorded who you voted for?” asked Jacqueline Rivas, a 46-year-old housewife. Experts say there is no evidence the system has ever been used to reveal voters’ preferences, and most opposition leaders, who stand to suffer if supporters don’t vote, have been eager to assure that the system is safe. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

HHS Can’t Waive Workfare

August 12th 2012

Kathleen Sebelius

The welfare reform of 1996 stands as perhaps the most important entitlement reform in the nation’s history. Its successes stem from a core requirement that able-bodied parents must work, search for work, or train for work to be eligible for public assistance.

But now, under the guise of providing states greater “flexibility” in operating their welfare programs, the Obama administration claims unjustifiable authority to weaken or waive the work requirements at the heart of the reform law. There’s just one problem: The law is clear that those requirements can’t be waived.

The work requirement was no doubt the most controversial provision of the 1996 welfare reform. Even after President Clinton twice vetoed reform bills, Congress refused to budge on Section 407, which defines “Mandatory Work Requirements.” Clinton reluctantly signed the final “workfare” measure into law.

Fast forward to July 12, when the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an “information memorandum” to state welfare-plan administrators regarding “waiver and expenditure authority.” Essentially, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius contends that a separate provision gives HHS authority to waive the work requirement in Section 407 of the welfare-reform law.

Bear with us. We’ll try to keep the gobbledygook to a minimum. The HHS memorandum contained a single paragraph of convoluted legal analysis supporting this novel contention. It claims that because that other provision “authorizes waivers concerning Section 402,” and because Section 402 mentions Section 407, “HHS has authority to waive compliance with this 402 requirement and authorize a state to test approaches and methods other than those set forth in Section 407.” Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Rise Up and Die: Hillary Clinton on Aleppo in February

August 12th 2012

Hillary

With the rebels and the Syrian government both claiming the upper hand in Aleppo, the only truth on this side of the ocean is that the war is grinding up the city and its people. Ever wonder how Secretary of State Clinton feels about that?

Less than six months ago, Mrs. Clinton made the case for the United States not arming Syrian rebels about whom we know little. Speaking in Morocco, she said, “We really don't know who it is that would be armed,” noting that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had expressed support for the rebellion. “Are we supporting al-Qaeda in Syria?” she asked, not quite rhetorically. “Hamas is now supporting the opposition. Are we supporting Hamas in Syria?”

By itself, that is a good point. Its power is only slightly diminished by the recent revelation that the CIA has been on the ground trying to figure out precisely whom we would be funding if we were funding, and the further revelation that indeed we have been funding (with non-lethal aid) even before the CIA has gotten it figured out.

Mrs. Clinton went farther in the interview, however, than just stating policy that the U.S. was not going to arm rebels. Not at all rhetorically, she encouraged the civilian residents of Damascus and Aleppo to join an uprising she knew wouldn't have U.S. military support. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Rep. Ryan’s Budget Plan is a “Path to the Poorhouse”

August 11th 2012

Romney and Ryan--Virginia Announcement

If Americans who are embracing Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity”—and that now includes Mitt Romney—spent a few minutes reviewing a few recent research reports, they just might conclude that the Wisconsin Republican’s plan to reduce the deficit might better be renamed the “Path to the Poorhouse” because of what it would mean to the Medicare program and many senior citizens.

Ryan’s proposal, which will get new scrutiny now that Romney has made him his running mate, would end the current Medicare program for everyone born after 1956. It would replace Medicare with a system in which beneficiaries would receive a set amount of money from the government every year to buy coverage from private insurers. That money would go straight into insurance companies’ bank accounts, which would make them far richer and grant them even more control of our health care system than they already are. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama's Attack on 'Workfare'

August 11th 2012

Obama Campaign 2012

President Obama has created a firestorm by overturning the work requirements of the popular 1996 welfare-reform law. Now his White House is bristling because Mitt Romney dares to point out that fact on the stump and in a new campaign ad. Obama’s move is only the latest step in a long history of liberal opposition to work requirements. The Left blocked welfare-reform efforts under both Presidents Nixon and Reagan, for example.

In 1996, a Republican Congress drafted a welfare-reform law — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) — that for the first time established meaningful work standards for welfare recipients. President Clinton reluctantly signed this legislation. Ever since, Democratic leaders have attempted — unsuccessfully — to repeal welfare’s work standards, blocking reauthorization of TANF and attempting to weaken the requirements. Unable to eliminate “workfare” legislatively, the Left now acts contrary to the law and employs a bureaucratic maneuver to gut the work requirements. The Obama administration claims authority to grant waivers that allow states to skirt these requirements. Read more ..


Education on Edge

It’s Time for an Education Breakthrough

August 11th 2012

African school kids

The stars of the global development galaxy infrequently align to provide the education sector with an opportunity to advance progress for girls and boys around the world. However, there is currently a unique opportunity to put forth a common vision to reinforce the Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and to chart a forward-looking agenda for the post-2015 development goals that builds upon collective progress and lessons learned.

Three global policy windows are available to advance a common agenda:

1.  Discussions and processes for establishing a new set of global development goals, following the expiration of the MDGs in 2015, are underway in the United Nations. Read more ..


The Olympic Edge

Why We Should Tax Olympic Medalists?

August 10th 2012

London Olympics

While the Olympics have injected much excitement into the dwindling days of our summers, many media outlets have given significant coverage to what some might see as the most unexciting aspect of these international games: taxes.

Politicians from both parties, including President Obama and Mitt Romney, leveled critiques at the United States' complicated "worldwide" tax system (which taxes money regardless of where an American earns it) because it will diminish the value of the prizes won by American Olympians.

The U.S. is one among a handful of nations that has this system; most other countries use a territorial system, meaning that income is taxed only one time, in the country where it is earned. Given that Britain agreed to exempt athletes who compete in the 2012 London games from paying taxes on their winnings, the majority of Olympic winners will take home their winnings tax-free. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Firm Formerly Known as Blackwater Settles with Criminal Prosecutors

August 10th 2012

Blackwater employees in Iraq

The liberal-left’s least favorite company, security contractor Blackwater, under its new corporate identity of Academi LLC, agreed on August 7th to pay more than $7 million in fines in order to settle federal charges regarding alleged arms smuggling and other crimes.

The documents. which were unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Raleigh, North Carolina, stated that the company’s executives agreed to pay the fine as part of a deferred prosecution agreement to settle all 17 violations of law.

The agreement also acknowledges and references a $42 million settlement between the company and the Department of State as part of a settlement of violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations, according to officials at the Justice Department (DOJ).

According to DOJ documents, the list of violations includes the possession automatic weapons in the United States without registration, deceptive statements made to government firearms officials about weapons tranferred to the Kingdom of Jordan, and passing secret plans for armored personnel carriers to Sweden and Denmark without U.S. government approval. A separate violation entailed illegally shipping body armor to nations overseas. Read more ..


Religion on Edge

Jewish People for the Suppression of Other Jewish People

August 10th 2012

Eruv Tied to Pole
An Eruv wire on an electric pole

There probably is no better known statement that reveals racism in America than the phrase that begins, “Some of my best friends are …,” with the blank filled in with “Jews,” “blacks,” or some other such qualifier. It reeks of a closet bigot’s desperate attempt to backpedal on a comment or position regarding the inserted group that exposes him for what he really is. It is so widely known an expression for what it is, that when author Tanner Colby released his new book last month, “Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America,” readers and reviewers had no problem understanding the main point – that America still struggles with racism, even with an African-American president. Those seven words have become almost iconic in the annals of closet racism, but there is another such lurking out in our language.

It is not a mere phrase, but the actual name of an organization – a nonprofit, no less, and through its name, its founders reveal their true intent as much as “some of my best friends” does. The subtly subversive name of the group: Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach. Read more ..


Tajikistan on Edge

Silly Dictator Story #14: No Donkeys At The Well

August 9th 2012

Donkeys at the Well

When Tajik President Emomali Rahmon ventures from Dushanbe, it’s always a big deal. The streets are cleaned, the poems and songs of praise are practiced, and now, at least in the city of Kulob, people’s water-toting donkeys will be kept at home.

In preparation for President Rahmon’s upcoming visit to the southern city of Kulob, officials there, anxious to portray a prosperous, functioning municipality, are “asking” the city’s residents to keep their equine helpers away from the city wells. Due to a combination of high consumption and shoddy infrastructure, the city’s 100,000 or so residents have had to rely more and more on the traditional city wells for water during the summer months.

Water can be quite heavy, so many use donkeys -- the prices of which have also risen -- to transport large plastic jugs to and from the wells. The city officials have canvassed the city street-by-street telling residents to keep their donkeys home while the president surveys the city. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Are US Drone Strikes in South Asia, Middle East Ethical?

August 9th 2012

 The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

For many Americans, the use of armed drones is a necessity of our times. According to survey data, most see them as an integral part of the war on terror launched more than a decade ago in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. On a global scale, however, Americans supportive of armed drone use, represent a minority viewpoint that is being increasingly challenged by those questioning both the ethics and the legality behind the use of such aircraft.

Officially defined as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), drones have many applications, including civilian, but are today primarily associated with their military purpose of targeting and killing those whom the U.S. government defines as terrorists or their supporters in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Armed drones were also in use in Iraq, but after American troops withdrew from the country late last year, the U.S. has reportedly limited the application of drones there to surveillance activities.

Unmanned aerial vehicle technology has been in the works for decades but became more refined in the 1990s. The first use of a drone in a targeted killing was recorded in Afghanistan in 2002. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Real Poll Numbers

August 8th 2012

Detroit voters

The media is trying to create a sense of momentum and inevitability about the Obama candidacy. One benighted Newsweek reporter even speculated about a possible Democratic landslide. On Friday, I saw the real numbers. These state-by-state polls, taken by an organization I trust (after 40 years of polling), show the real story. The tally is based on more than 600 likely-voter interviews in each swing state within the past eight days.

The trend line is distinctly pro-Romney. Of the 13 states studied, he improved or Obama slipped in nine, while the reverse happened in only four. To read the media, one would think that Romney had a terrible month. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Romney is currently leading in every state McCain carried plus: Indiana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Nevada, North Carolina and Colorado. If he carries these states, he’ll have 228 electoral votes of the 270 he needs to win. Read more ..


America and the Muslim Brotherhood

Inside the Muslim Brotherhood in the West

August 8th 2012

The so-called Arab Spring has seen the Muslim Brotherhood rise to power in the Middle East and North Africa. But those aren’t the only regions where the group is spreading its influence: the Brotherhood has also been active in the West for decades. CBN News recently traveled to Europe to discover how the Muslim Brotherhood got here and what it has planned.

It’s an issue that continues to heat up on Capitol Hill. When Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and four other GOP House members called for an investigation recently into Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government, they were widely criticized, even by some of their Republican colleagues.

Yet documents captured by the FBI show cleary that the Muslim Brotherhood is active in the United States. And Egypt’s new president, Mohammed Morsi, reportedly joined the group while he was a student at the University of Southern California in the late 1970s and early 80s.

Establishing a Toehold

The Brotherhood’s presence in the West, however, goes back much further than that. CBN News recently visited the Islamic Center of Munich, which many consider the birthplace of radical Islam in the West. It was there that the Muslim Brotherhood first established a presence in the West and spread its tentacles throughout Europe and the United States. “Initially, the mosque was an idea of the West Germans, who also wanted to harness Islam for its political purposes in the Cold War,” said Ian Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Mosque in Munich. “But the project was taken over by young students, mostly members or sympathizers with the Muslim Brotherhood.” Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Obama and 'Earning your Success'

August 7th 2012

Obama and Flag

Within the space of just two weeks, Americans have witnessed two radically different philosophies about the free enterprise system from President Obama. In his notorious Roanoke, Va., speech of July 13, he said "If you've got a business—you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." That is, Americans have not fully earned their success.

Backpedaling after a public outcry, the president insisted he had been misinterpreted, and that he is fully committed to the values of competition, merit, and opportunity. In a speech to the National Urban League in New Orleans on July 25, he asserted that "America says we will give you opportunity, but you've got to earn your success." The sentiments expressed in these two speeches are inconsistent. To find the truth, we need to look at the administration's actions. As far as business is concerned, a great deal has been written about the myriad barriers the Obama administration has placed in the way of entrepreneurial success. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Obama Trying to Buy Allies in Syrian Revolution

August 7th 2012

Obama meditates

The news is out -- President Obama is not just watching the gory events unfold in Syria. The president signed an intelligence finding permitting the CIA to help the opposition with $25 million's worth of non-lethal assistance, possibly including communications, logistics, and intelligence. Public acknowledgement of the finding follows a New York Times story that the CIA was "helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive weapons to fight the government ... and to keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with al Qaeda".

The Times added that "by helping to vet rebel groups, American intelligence operatives in Turkey also hope to learn more ... and establish new ties to fighters who may be the country's leaders one day." Learning on the job, are they?
Read more ..


Europe on Edge

Is the Euro Worth the Price?

August 6th 2012

Spanish unemployed

Mario Draghi emphatically says that, “the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro,” but mounting strains on euro member states must force us to ask if the cost is worth the benefit.

Preserving the euro as a single currency with its 17 members comes at an extremely high price.  Economic, financial, political, and social burdens jeopardize the ideals held sacrosanct by Europeans.  Paradoxically, by preserving the unity offered by the euro, European leaders are forging the type of disunity the euro was designed to eradicate.

The founding of the European Union marked a watershed moment in European history wherein the countries of Europe consciously ceded a small portion of their sovereignty for the expressed purpose of preventing political conflict, promoting liberal democratic conceptions of human rights, and creating efficient markets.  As the euro project slogs onward, it undermines all three of these goals. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

South China Sea Tensions Reflect Danger of Defense Cuts

August 5th 2012

Chinese Aircraft Carrier

In recent months, tensions have risen in the South China Sea as the ongoing territorial disputes between various Southeast Asian states and the People’s Republic of China have begun to boil. An April speech by Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie stating that the South Sea Fleet would be the vanguard of major new missions makes recent developments even more ominous. This situation raises real stakes for the United States, especially in the context of ongoing and potentially accelerating cuts to the defense budget.

Increasing Chinese Pressure
China has been steadily increasing pressure on its neighbors in the ongoing South China Sea dispute, employing a variety of means. In March, Chinese and Philippine fishing vessels converged on the disputed Scarborough Shoal, reinforcing each side’s claim to the area. Thinking they had a bargain to de-escalate the conflict, the Philippines pulled out its ships. Although the Chinese did not deploy naval ships to the waters, Chinese fishing boats and civilian law enforcement vessels remained, despite an announced Chinese fishing ban on the area. Read more ..



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