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Iran on Edge

In Islamic Iran All Innovation is Unbelief, Including Baha'i Faith

June 10th 2014

Mona Mahmudinezhad

Liberalization is a constant threat to today's Islamists.

Anyone who takes an interest in human rights issues in Iran -- and there are many who do -- probably knows about the Baha'is. They are a small religious minority (perhaps as many as 300,000), but nonetheless the largest in the country. The largest, yet painfully small and the most hated. If Jews and Christians have a rough time in Iran, the Baha'i experience has been worse.

Over 200 members of the religion, including many of its leaders (there are no priests) have been executed, and others have been and still are in prison. In 1983, a seventeen-year-old girl, Mona Mahmudinezhad, was hanged in Shiraz along with nine older women, mostly in their 20s. Their crime was, apparently, teaching "morality lessons" to Baha'i children who had been expelled from school.

All the Baha'i holy places in Iran have been reduced to rubble, including the beautiful House of the Bab, a small treasure of Iranian architecture which the author visited often with its custodian. All Baha'i cemeteries have been dug up and bodies exhumed. No young Baha'i is permitted to enter university. Older Baha'is have had their pensions removed. Jobs are hard to come by. Many linger in prison. There are serious plans to rid the country of the Baha'is altogether. Read more ..


America and Great Britain

The Not-So-Special Relationship--Seventy Years After D-Day

June 9th 2014

British army privates on parade

Seventy years after Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, D-Day remains etched in American minds. Even as the "Greatest Generation" passes away, the iconic images of Allied forces landing on the beaches to free Europe from the clutches of Nazi Germany live on in movies, history, and even politics. Only in 2006 did the British finish repaying Lend-Lease, the crucial American military aid that ensured Britain's survival during the war. The invasion of France and the subsequent liberation of Europe defined the Anglo-American bond—the Old and New Worlds uniting to defeat tyranny. Since then, however, a lot has changed, and the "special relationship" has lost some of its luster.

Superficially, at least, the state of the "special relationship" is strong. At the United Nations, only a handful of countries, like Canada and the Marshall Islands, vote more frequently with the United States than the United Kingdom. With trade topping $100 billion in 2013, the State Department considers the United Kingdom as "one of the largest markets for U.S. goods exports [sic] and one of the largest suppliers of U.S. imports." Read more ..


Palestinians on Edge

Jews and Palestinians: A little history remembered

June 9th 2014

Palestinian Rock Attackers

The failure of American-mediated peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the likely creation of a Hamas-Fatah government in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip have cast deep shadows over the Middle East.

Harry Truman once said that the only new history is the history that we have forgotten. This is especially true of the Palestinians, whose history has been forgotten by many.

When the 1948 war between Israelis and Arabs is bathed in the color of a Palestinian "nakba" (catastrophe), few remember that the United Nations in November 1947 by a 33-12 vote adopted Resolution 181 that called for the creation of a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. The 650,000 Jews in British Palestine declared independence in May, 1948 and won their battle for statehood. Read more ..


Broken Government

Changing Leadership Will Not Cure the VA

June 7th 2014

Soldier Crying

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation will not solve the crisis in the VA health system. Veterans have had trouble accessing the healthcare they need for decades — and over many changes in agency leadership. We need to open the system to competition. Let veterans, not bureaucrats, decide how they get their healthcare.

The VA's inspector general reported last week that 1,700 veterans in the Phoenix area who were waiting for a primary care appointment were not even included on the electronic wait list. Veterans waited 115 days on average for their first primary care appointment.

Today's problems are not new. They go back at least as far as the early 1970s, when the VA was seeing an influx of Vietnam veterans with serious war-related injuries. Failure to recognize exposure to Agent Orange as a cause of serious health conditions stirred public protest over inadequate care. Then, as now, the VA head resigned, but the system did not change. Read more ..


Broken Government

Our Chicken Dinners At Stake

June 6th 2014

Chicken Flock

Most of the meat on our dinner plates comes from cows and chickens treated with a battery of drugs that helped them grow quickly in dismal, cramped conditions that would otherwise make them sick.  The drugs are blended into their food and water without any requirement for a veterinary prescription.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued long-awaited guidance, asking drug companies to voluntarily curb the use of drugs that are also essential for human health—such as tetracyclines, penicillins, and azithromycin. The guidance calls for pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily alter their drug labels to exclude growth promotion as a listed use, and that would make it illegal to use the drugs for such growth promotion uses in the future. Read more ..


Science and Environment

How to Tell When a Sewage Pipe Needs Repair -- Before it Bursts

June 5th 2014

Click to select Image

The nation's sewer system is a topic most people would prefer to avoid, but its aging infrastructure is wearing out, and broken pipes leaking raw sewage into streets and living rooms are forcing the issue. To better predict which pipes need to be fixed, scientists report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology that certain conditions in the pipes can clue utilities in to which ones need repair — before it's too late.

Mark T. Hernandez and colleagues note that the maintenance of U.S. wastewater collection systems costs an estimated $4.5 billion every year, much of which goes toward fixing or replacing 8,000 miles of sewers. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

The Battle Over Obama's Legacy and the Democrats' Political Future

June 4th 2014

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President Obama’s second-term focus on legacy building is coming into direct conflict with the Democratic Party’s pursuit of victory in the midterm elections.

While Obama has been fundraising for his party at a steady clip, some Democrats fear the president is more concerned about the history books than in helping his party in 2014.

“I think he’s always been concerned with his legacy,” said one Democratic strategist who has consulted with the White House. “One of the big misconceptions is that the president is concerned about short-term politics. I think he’s focused on what it will look like to the next Robert Caro,” the strategist said, referring to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s biographer.

Democrats point to Obama’s announcement last week about removing troops from Afghanistan by the end of his presidency as an example of the White House’s focus on Obama’s legacy. Others point to Monday’s announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency of sweeping new climate change rules aimed at cutting carbon emissions. Read more ..


The Way We Are

States' Rights, Slavery & Symbolism of Cliven Bundy

June 2nd 2014

Armstrong_Williams

        America is a land of stories.  We love to use stories about individuals to extract general principals about society as a whole.  The story of Cliven Bundy is no exception.  His story about an armed standoff versus the Federal Government this past April was illustrative to many of the principles that we are a government of the people, that individual rights are sacrosanct, and that states have the right to decide how to govern the lands and people within their territories.  But the story didn’t end there unfortunately.

Given the bully pulpit for the first time in his life, Mr. Bundy foolishly squandered his opportunity to have America hear his story.  Instead, he launched into a misguided and racist diatribe about African Americans, stating that he believed the fact that “they never learned to pick cotton,” accounted for the social ills of single motherhood and high black male incarceration rates.  He went on to speculate, “I’ve wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family…?” The entirety of his rant has been relentlessly reported, and the real principles undergirding his story have been lost in the ensuing media feeding frenzy.

But that does not mean there is not a story to be told here, and an important one.  In fact, Bundy meandered right into one of the essential fault lines of American society: the relationship between states’ rights and slavery, and more generally the relationship of majority rule to the protection of individual civil rights.  A cursory review of the history reveals inextricable links between early states’ rights advocates and proponents of slavery.  In fact, some would say that the Civil War, called by some the War between the States, was not over slavery per se, but whether States had the rights to enact laws governing slavery within their territory.  That might seem to be a minor distinction for some, but the issue continues to rear its’ head in American law and politics to this day, and not just when it comes to issues of race.  Read more ..


Broken Government

Pro-Israel Group’s Lawsuit Against IRS May be Tea Party Game Changer

June 1st 2014

IRS Bldg DC

If the IRS had behaved itself, Z Street would rarely have ever made the headlines outside of the small world in which anti-Israel and pro-Israel groups argue with each other. But then the IRS, following the lead of the New York Times, decided to be overt about Obama’s policy of political intimidation. And now a crack has opened.

On Tuesday, a federal judge refused to dismiss a suit brought by a pro-Israel group against the IRS. In her ruling, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson demanded that the agency stop “attempting to thwart this action’s advancement,” and ordered the IRS to respond to the complaint within thirty days. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

The Republican Strategy Regarding VA Secretary Shinseki

May 30th 2014

It’s not that House Republican leaders think Eric Shinseki is doing a good job as secretary of the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs. It’s that they think his ouster could give President Obama an easy way out of a widening crisis.

Over the last several days, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have resisted an increasingly bipartisan chorus of calls for Shinseki’s resignation following reports of concealed waiting lists and preventable patient deaths at VA healthcare facilities.

Their position has been noteworthy, particularly as Shinseki has lost support among even Democratic stalwarts like Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), the party’s campaign chief and a confidante of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).
While Boehner said last week he is “getting closer” to calling for Shinseki to step down, he has argued that the secretary’s ouster would follow a predictable pattern of political scandals: anger grows, a top official gets the boot, the administration can say it took action, and public attention would quickly dissipate. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

The End of the Line for VA Secretary Erick Shinseki

May 30th 2014

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is widely expected to lose his job as the White House seeks to quell a rising controversy over mismanagement at his agency.

White House press secretary Jay Carney offered little support for Shinseki’s position on Thursday, repeatedly brushing aside questions about whether President Obama had the four-star general’s back.

Instead, Carney reiterated the president's pledge to seek “accountability” for secret waiting lists at VA facilities that may have contributed to the deaths of veterans.
Carney said Obama expected a preliminary report from Shinseki “by the end of this week,” setting up Friday as a possible time for Shinseki’s dismissal. Read more ..


Broken Education

Anti-Jewish Books Still in Newton

May 29th 2014

Blackboard classroom

New information has surfaced regarding the Newton Public School controversy. Compelled to comply with state law, the school’s administrators recently were forced to release an initial batch of 9th- and 10th-grade history lesson plans used to teach about the Middle East. Most of the information, initially withheld from the public despite requests from parents, taxpayers and even a Newton alderman, was delivered to Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT’s) offices in response to a public records request. Once our request is completed, we will post the records on this website. Newton citizens, especially those who are Jewish, will not be pleased.

For two years, we have been told by Superintendent David Fleishman and others that the Arab World Studies Notebook (ASWN) was removed from all classrooms and has not been used to teach Newton students since 2011. But the official documents we received show that Newton South High School assigned readings from the AWSN to 9th-grade students in at least three separate classes in the last school year – months after claims that it was “eliminated.” Read more ..


The Bear is Back

The Cool War Cometh

May 28th 2014

Putin

No, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not ushered in the return to The Cold War with his assault on the integrity of Ukraine. But he has confirmed that the United States and his Russian regime–very likely as long as he lasts–is engaged in a bitter new geopolitical contest. The Obama Administration–and its predecessor Bush II–had refused to acknowledge the onset of this conflict. Washington now finds itself wrong-footed in Ukraine, a crowning blow to an already growing perception of U.S. foreign policy failure and general retreat across a worldwide screen. That’s leading to a replay of old rivalries, if on a more temperate scale.

But the situations of both countries–especially Russia–has changed dramatically in the almost three decades since the Soviet Union imploded. But its hold on Germany and the rest of Central and Eastern Europe under Communist domination is gone if not forgotten. Moscow retains a huge nuclear arsenal and missile delivery systems that make it one of the world’s greatest potential purveyors of weapons of mass destruction. But there are multiple signs that the overinvestment in the Soviet military-industrial complex on which post-Soviet Russia has been coasting is about played out. Putin’s repeated effort to rebuild Russia’s limping conventional military has largely failed. And his economy, while rewarding a new urban class, still cannot cope with a collapsed agriculture and an almost total dependence on fossil fuel exports is eroding rapidly under the impact of the American shale gas revolution Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Connect the Dots . . . Please!

May 27th 2014

NYPD and flag

Recent press accounts illustrate the mainstream media’s growing awareness of threats to the electric power grid and the need to counter them. These threats extend from physical attacks, to cyber attacks, to natural and manmade electromagnetic pulse events that could take down the grid for an indefinite period of time, during which several hundred Americans could perish. We must connect the dots and deploy needed countermeasures!

On February 1, 2014, a Los Angeles Times article described  the threat posed by solar storms that will one day occur…Lloyds of London reported on a 2012 near miss that they say, had it hit, could have left 20-40 million Americans without electricity for a year or two; and 2) On February 4, 2014, the Wall Street Journal front page article on a sniper attack in the early morning hours on April 16, 2013, which shut down a power plant near Jan Jose, California for 27 days. Read more ..


Broken Bookselling

Is Amazon's Stock About to Burst its Bubble?

May 27th 2014

Amazon box

Amazon has been a phenomenal stock since its 1997 IPO with cumulative gains of 600 percent in the past decade (down from a 900 percent gain at its peak a few months ago). Amazon has also been a fantastic business success in terms of revenue growth, now grossing around $80 billion per year. Yet, where Amazon has fallen short is in earning a profit. That is normally a severe shortcoming for a business, but until the past few months it had not seemed to hurt Amazon. The question now is, are investors finally starting to evaluate Amazon’s stock price according to normal metrics or will they continue to award the company a stock price with no relationship to business fundamentals?

Amazon’s revenue growth is quite high (23 percent in the last quarter), but even growth that rapid does not generally lead a stock to trade at a price to earnings (P/E) ratio of over 400 as Amazon has done in recent times. Amazon’s trends don’t warrant the stock price as revenue and profit growth both have been declining recently. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Forcing Healthcare Insurers to Do the Right Thing

May 26th 2014

Click to select Image

The first time I blew the whistle on health insurance companies was during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in June 2009. Last Wednesday, almost five years later, I appeared before that committee again to give a progress report on how Americans have been benefiting since Congress enacted reforms in 2010 that changed the way insurance companies operate.

Among the practices I brought to the panel’s attention back in 2009 were those insurers engaged in to meet the profit expectations of shareholders and Wall Street financial analysts.

I explained that one of the ways insurers kept Wall Street happy was to spend as small a percentage of our premium dollars as possible on actual medical care. I told them that analysts and investors pay close attention to an obscure mathematical equation called the medical loss ratio (MLR for short), which measures the percentage of premium revenue insurers pay out in claims. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

If We Can Cut the Leading Cause of Cancer Death, Shouldn't We?

May 25th 2014

Remy Elbiz UMichigan cancer cells

What if we told you a proven cancer-screening method could save more lives than any prior screening technology or existing cancer medications? Or that studies show it is a more cost-effective screening tool, compared to breast and colon cancer screening programs, or even compared to automobile seatbelts and airbags? What if we then told you that while most private insurance plans will cover the test with no copay, Medicare does not cover it at all, even though seniors need it most? We think you’d agree this has to change.

The largest government sponsored and designed lung-cancer screening trial in history demonstrates that using low-dose CT scans to screen patients at high risk for developing lung cancer significantly reduces lung-cancer deaths.  The trial worked and the New England Journal of Medicine announced the results early in order to save lives.  As the leading cause of cancer deaths, lung cancer takes nearly 160,000 lives each year (more than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined) and if adopted could help save at least 30,000 patients annually. Read more ..


Broken Bookselling

Amazon Blackmail and Bullying of Book Industry Escalates

May 24th 2014

Amazon box

Blackmail works best.  That seems to be Amazon’s negotiating strategy, at least.  The online retailer is now refusing orders on some Hachette Book Group titles in an attempt to extort better contract terms from the publisher.

We reported earlier this week on Amazon’s “slow walking” of Hachette Book Group titles.  Amazon was putting pressure on the smallest of the Big Five publishers as the two firms try to negotiate a new contract.

Now the online retail giant has tightened its grip.  The New York Times reports that Amazon is preventing the purchase of some Hachette books and listing others as unavailable.

Amazon’s strategy is designed both to show its market dominance and to engineer a rift between Hachette and its authors.  But is it working?  In a letter to authors, Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch relates that “it is extremely encouraging to see our retail partners—thousands of chain, online and independent bookstores—showing their support for HBG and its authors.”  Despite Amazon’s foul play, Hachette still boasts the #1 Hardcover Fiction and Advice/How-To titles, and two of the Top 10 Nonfiction books in the most recent New York Times bestseller list.

Read more ..

Campus Hate

Anti-Semitism on Campus

May 23rd 2014

Anti-Israel Protest at UC Irvine

As soon as an African American student at San Jose State University who was racially harassed and bullied by his dormitory roommates came forward, university, county, and state officials began an investigation. Within days, prosecutors labeled it a hate crime, battery charges were filed against three of the roommates, and the university had suspended them. Within weeks, California State Assembly Speaker John Perez announced the creation of a Select Committee on Campus Climate, and its first task was to look into this incident and find a way to prevent others like it.

When a white male threw a beer at Trinity College sophomore Juan Hernandez and yelled, “Get off our campus,” Trinity launched an investigation and charges were brought against the perpetrator. When anti-gay remarks were written on message boards that hang on dorm-room doors, Elizabethtown College began an investigation, engaged the FBI, and disciplinary action was taken.

Compare that to the situation for Jewish students. Over the last several years, Jewish students on campuses across the country have been physically, emotionally, and intellectually harassed, intimidated, threatened, and bullied, not only by their fellow students but also by some of their professors. Anti-Israel student activists at the University of Michigan last month hurled death threats at Jewish student council members and called them “dirty Jew” and “kike.” At University of California, Berkeley, a Jewish girl holding an “Israel Wants Peace” sign was ramrodded with a shopping cart by the head of Students for Justice in Palestine. Read more ..


America on Edge

New Responsibilities Come With the Age of Ownership

May 22nd 2014

Armstrong_Williams

Donald Sterling’s publicly disclosed comments depict an anachronistic view of race relations in this country.  His interview tour is beyond incomprehensible, sad, ignorant, and completely shows that he has lost touch with reality. His media revelations are undoubtedly hurtful, not only to the African-American players and staff of the NBA, but really hurtful to many Americans regardless of their race, who feel that finally (as partially symbolized by the ascension of President Barack Obama and others) we have evolved as a society beyond a preoccupation with race.  These are people who are proud to live in a nation that has moved closer to an ideal urges us to judge our fellow human by their competence and character instead of their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

It was and remains an embarrassing moment, not only for the NBA and society, but surely as well for the Sterling family, who now must live under the stigma or suspicion that deep within their hearts they condone such sentiments by their patriarch.  Hopefully the candid peek behind the curtain into the private life of Mr. Sterling can also help us air some of the laundry about race in this country and speak a bit more frankly than civil discourse usually permits.  In response to an interviewer question about “whether something good can come out of this,” NBA clippers’  coach Doc Rivers stated, “I think something good comes out of everything.”  And that something “good” might be that some wealthy African-Americans might put their money where their race is, and step up to become part of an ownership group that ultimately purchases the LA Clippers. Read more ..


Edge of Islam

A Month in the Life of Europa-stan

May 22nd 2014

The American Embassy in Prague is financing a new project aimed at promoting Islam in public elementary and secondary schools across the Czech Republic.

The new law removes the requirement that there must be a special reason to sue for defamation or insult. Swedish thought police will be able to prosecute anyone who expresses an opinion about Muslim immigration and much else if that opinion is deemed to be defamation or slander. The Swedish government is also spending 60 million krona ($9 million) to boost voter turnout in Muslim neighborhoods.

"The influx of immigrants is reaching biblical proportions. Italy is fighting a losing battle." — Admiral Giuseppe De Giorgi, Head of the Italian Navy Read more ..


Broken Government

GOP Committee Chairman Declares War on Corporate Welfare

May 21st 2014

Washington K Street NW

A Republican congressman bashing “crony capitalism” and “corporate welfare” is no longer a new thing. A Republican congressman actually trying to do something about corporate welfare, however, is nearly unprecedented.

So it's a sign that the GOP could go in a new direction when the Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee sets out to derail some of Wall Street's favorite federal gravy trains and “reform the corporate welfare state.”

Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling, who chairs the House banking panel, gave a call to arms at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Tuesday afternoon, imploring his colleagues to “reject the Washington insider economy and embrace the Main Street competitive economy.” Read more ..


Inside Politics

The Coming 2016 Foreign Policy Brawl

May 20th 2014

Hillary Clinton in blue

Conservative national security hawks should be rooting for Hillary Rodham Clinton to throw her hat in the ring in 2016. That’s because a Clinton campaign would spark the first major foreign policy battle in a presidential election in decades — and the first GOP primary fight over national security since the 1970s.

Polls show that just 2 percent of Americans say foreign policy is their top priority — far behind the economy, jobs and health care. But if Clinton is the Democratic nominee, then the GOP will have to run against her record — and central to that record was her tenure as secretary of state.

Even Clinton’s most ardent defenders can’t name a single accomplishment she had during her four years at the helm of the State Department. And given Benghazi, don’t look for Clinton to brag, as President Obama did in 2012, about how Osama bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda is on the run. Read more ..


Education on Edge

Brown V. Board of Education - 60 Years Later

May 18th 2014

Students

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education became a watershed moment in our nation’s history. By mandating that Americans cannot be equal without equal access to education, the decision breathed new momentum into the movement for civil rights. The ensuing years saw one barrier after another destroyed as we pushed and pulled our way to a more just and equal society.

Across the South, the tidal wave of change was staggering. In 1963, about 1 percent of African-American children in the South attended school with white children. By the early 1970s, that number had nearly reversed itself; 90 percent of African-American children in the South attended desegregated schools. At the same time, the racial achievement gap was cut in half. And then, in the decades to follow, something happened. Read more ..


Education on Edge

Brown Vs. Board of Eduction Anniversary: Our Unfulfilled Promise to African-American Kids

May 17th 2014

parents teachers students

At the end of this school year, Saint Jude Educational Institute in Montgomery, Alabama will close its doors forever. The 70-years-old Catholic school announced that it no longer could subsidize its 7th to 12th grade students.

It is a cruel irony that as America celebrates this week the 60thanniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court case that ruled segregation in public schools unconstitutional, a school located in the heart of the African-American community of the city that was the cradle of the civil rights movement is closing.

It is also an unfortunate reminder that still too few low-income and minority families have high quality educational options for their children.Saint Jude played an important role in the civil rights movement. Since it first opened its doors to students in 1938 in the basement of the church, Saint Jude was always geared towards its African-American neighborhood. Read more ..


Financing the Flames

PA and Hamas Honor Sbarro Suicide Bomber Who Murdered 15

May 16th 2014

Suicide Bombing--Sbarro

The terrorist who murdered 15 in the Sbarro pizza shop suicide bombing in 2001 was given a military funeral by the PA after his body was transferred to the PA last week.

On Aug. 9, 2001 suicide bomber Izz Al-Din Al-Masri detonated himself in a Sbarro pizza shop in Jerusalem, killing 15, 7 of them children. 5 members of one family were killed in the attack. (See names below.) Palestinian Media Watch has reported that the PA in the past has honored Ahlam Tamimi, the terrorist who picked the Sbarro restaurant as the place for the bombing "because many people entered it," and later led the bomber there. Official PA TV has also glorified her.

Last week, Israel transferred the body of the suicide bomber to the PA and both the PA and Hamas took the opportunity to honor the murderer once again. Reporting from the official military funeral, PA TV News called him a "Martyr," the highest religious level a Muslim can reach. In calling the terrorist a Martyr - a Shahid - the PA continues to teach its people that according to its interpretation of Islam, killers of Israeli civilians in suicide terror attacks are doing such a positive act, that it overrules the general Islamic prohibition against committing suicide. Read more ..


The Battle for the Ukraine

How to Hit Putin Where It Hurts

May 15th 2014

Oil Barrels

As Russia's Ukrainian incursion sends a chill through the Baltic states, diplomatic fecklessness and the lack of adequate collective defense capabilities on the ground seems to leave the U.S. and Europe with economic sanctions as the only lever against Vladimir Putin's imperialism. Yet asset freezes and travel bans on Putin buddies garner yawns in the Kremlin and almost no public support among NATO or European Union members.
 
There is, however, another approach that would undermine Russia's (and like-minded oil autocracies') efforts at regional domination while strengthening Western economies.
Russia's geopolitical influence in Europe derives in part from its hand on the natural-gas tap, but its Achilles' heel is the price of oil. A successful effort to drive the price of oil down to, say, $60 a barrel—far below the $117 per barrel that Russia requires to balance its national budget—would benefit the West, as well as China and India. Neither of the latter two countries, on the other hand, is likely to cooperate with sanctioning major energy exporters.
Read more ..

Germany on Edge

Islam Increasingly Grows in Germany Through the Schools

May 14th 2014

Click to select Image

Muslim radicals are imposing Islamic norms and values in primary and secondary public schools in Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany, say school officials, who are asking for stepped-up monitoring of the Salafist groups thought to be behind the Islamization efforts.

At least 25 schools across Hamburg are believed to have been infiltrated by Salafists and other fundamentalist Muslim groups, according to German media reports. But local politicians from the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD)—a party committed to enforcing multiculturalism in Hamburg—have refused to disclose precisely which schools are affected.

Now, for the first time, a confidential report leaked to the German newspaper Bild identifies seven of the problem schools by name. The schools where Islamist fanatics are "waging a religious war" against non-Muslim teachers and classmates are located in districts across the city, the document says, but the situation in Mümmelmannsberg in eastern Hamburg is "particularly appalling" and "the focus of an organized strategy" by Islamists to recruit new followers. Read more ..


France on Edge

Jews Increasingly Emigrate as Islam in France Grows

May 14th 2014

Click to select Image

Polls show that more than 70% of the French... expect that France will become a country under submission to Islam.

Last month, between April 18-21, the Union of Islamic Organizations of France [UOIF], the French branch of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (presided over by Yusuf al Qaradawi) held its thirty-first annual conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris. As usual, jihadist and anti-Semitic books, which are banned in French bookstores but tolerated there, were offered in several booths.

As usual also, speakers were invited to deliver fiery speeches. In 2012, the keynote speaker was supposed to be Qaradawi himself, but faced with protests from the Jewish community, France denied Qaradawi a visa to enter French territory, and he was replaced by Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim Brotherhood operative who works with Qaradawi in Doha, Qatar, at the Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics. Read more ..


The Violent Roads of Mexico

A Mother's Quest for Justice Sheds Light on Mexico's Violence Against Women

May 14th 2014

Click to select Image

In September 1998, the van Nierop family of Holland was enjoying a family vacation in the mountains of northern Mexico. Oldest daughter Hester had just graduated with a degree in architecture and was on her way to the United States to seek employment or an internship.

Studying a map, the family determined that the easiest way to cross the border from their vantage point in Chihuahua state’s Sierra Tarahumara would be a “little” place named Ciudad Juarez. Bidding good bye to Hester, parents Arsene and Roeland van Nierop then headed to Mexico City for the flight back to the Netherlands. But Hester never made it to the United States or fulfilled her dream of becoming a professional architect. Read more ..


America on Edge

Ideal Society vs Ideal State

May 13th 2014

Armstrong_Williams

Anyone who reads my columns has heard me say before that what unites the Left is a vision of an ideal society, and what unites the Right is a vision of an ideal state. The Left will take or use any state necessary to get to that ideal society. At times they will argue for freedom in the language of the libertarian right; at others, they will defend Big Government outright. They think that this incoherence makes them centrists, pragmatists, reasonable, and they pat themselves on the back for it.

It is this ideology, this willingness to do absolutely anything to bring about their ideal society—a society, by the way, that would be nothing like any society ever actually achieved, one with gay marriage, abortion on demand, and safety net handouts for all who want them—is what drives their vision of the state. They see no inconsistency in arguing for small government one minute, and then big government the next.

That is why we are not on a road to serfdom, but an escalator down to it—that is, if we do nothing at all, we will find ourselves there.

The Left is not only attacking behavior they don’t like, but attacking omissions, attacking non-activity. The most famous example of this is Obamacare, which forces people to buy something or else pay a tax. They raise your taxes, and then, when you try to put your money offshore, they try to find a way to tax it there too.

First they got you to pay for the elderly to retire. Then they got you to pay for their healthcare. Then they got you to pay for the poor. Then they got you to pay for people who were just slightly above poverty. They got you to give food stamps to the poor. Then free healthcare. Then free cell phones. Then free apartments. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

The Islamist Canaries in the Bruneian Mine Shaft

May 13th 2014

Koran and prayer beads

Human rights and liberal values are under threat in a small, little-known country most people would be hard-pressed to find on a map. Brunei Darussalam, following the radical vision of Usama bin Laden and his followers, became an Islamic state under strict Sharia law this past week, with punishments of death by stoning for adulterers and severing of limbs for thieves. Policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic have yet to focus on the challenges posed by radical Islamic regimes, much less tackle them effectively.

Located on the northern coast of the Island of Borneo in Southeast Asia, Brunei is the world's fifth wealthiest country among those with per capita annual income over $48,000. It will also become the 14th country or region to fully implement Sharia, a system of moral and religious laws that addresses not only criminal and civil affairs, but also politics, economic transactions and all matters of personal conduct. Because so few Muslim countries have adopted all aspects of the code — including capital punishment, flogging, amputation and stoning — in their criminal justice system, Brunei serves as useful prism for understanding the issue.  Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Another Obamacare Failure: Health Care Spending on the Rise

May 13th 2014

Obamacare

One of the central goals of the Affordable Care Act has always been to reduce medical spending. As President Barack Obama said in 2009: "You talk to every health care economist out there and they will tell you that whatever ideas are—whatever ideas exist in terms of bending the cost curve and starting to reduce costs for families, businesses, and government, those elements are in this bill." Lowering the cost of health care is a laudable public-policy goal. Health care expenditures in the United States have escalated rapidly over the past few decades, which is a concern for two reasons. First, it is not clear that all of this money is actually improving health outcomes, as opposed to fattening the wallets of the merchants of waste, fraud, and abuse. Second, the large share of health-care spending borne by the government makes rising costs a major threat to the long-term fiscal health of the nation. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Michigan Plays Favorites with Food Providers

May 12th 2014

There are about 10 grocery stores in Marquette serving a population of about 21,355 in the Upper Peninsula city of Michigan.

And one of them has been in the news recently for the financial aid it's receiving from state taxpayers to help with an expansion project.

The Marquette Food Cooperative will get $615,000 for an expansion from the Michigan Economic Development Program and a $115,000 tax abatement from the city of Marquette.

But is that fair?

On its website, the Marquette Food Cooperative boasts about paying its employees above the minimum wage. That, says Michael LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, is evidence that the Co-op shouldn't need government handouts at the expense of its competitors. Read more ..


The Way We Are

The Great Society at 50

May 12th 2014

Lyndon Johnson signs Medicare bill as Harry Truman watches

May 22, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson's "Great Society" address, delivered at the spring commencement for the University of Michigan. That speech remains the most ambitious call to date by any president (our current commander in chief included) to use the awesome powers of the American state to effect a far-reaching transformation of the society that state was established to serve. It also stands as the high-water mark for Washington's confidence in the broad meliorative properties of government social policy, scientifically applied.

No less important, the Great Society pledge, and the fruit this would ultimately bear, profoundly recast the common understanding of the ends of governance in our country. The address heralded fundamental changes​-​some then already underway, others still only being envisioned​-​that would decisively expand the scale and scope of government in American life and greatly alter the relationship between that same government and the governed in our country today. Read more ..


Broken Politics

U.S. Chamber Targets Dems in State Attorney General Races

May 11th 2014

Money Bands=Happiness

The ads accuse Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, a candidate for state attorney general, of living a lavish lifestyle at the taxpayers’ expense.

Shots of Miller with Mike Tyson and Hugh Hefner’s former girlfriend flash across the screen as the narrator highlights more than $60,000 in gifts Miller has accepted from “special interests” since taking office in 2006. “He lives the life,” the narrator says. “You pay the tab.”

The $500,000 ad campaign is being paid for by a nonprofit from Virginia called the State Government Leadership Foundation. It’s an impressive sum, especially considering the ads ran three months before a primary in which Miller is running unopposed, and for an office that doesn’t normally get so much attention.

Miller’s campaign called on TV stations to pull the ads, challenging them as misleading.

So why is so much money being poured into the race and who is behind it? The biggest underwriter of the group behind the ad is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the affiliated Institute for Legal Reform, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation.

The Chamber isn’t talking, but it’s not hard to figure out why state attorney general races are getting so much of its attention, not just in Nevada, but across the country.

First, the joke is that “AG” stands for “almost governor” in the 43 states where they are elected, as many go on to higher elected office. Spending on these races is an investment in the future. Eight current governors and eight current U.S. senators were previously state attorneys general. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

The Reverberations of U.S. Sanctions on Russia

May 10th 2014

Click to select Image

When thousands of fans packed Helsinki's Hartwall Arena this week to rock out to the music of U.S. industrial metal band Nine Inch Nails, they likely gave little thought to the Russian industrialists who own the venue.

Not so the organizers of the concert, who had to reckon with the fact that the arena's three owners -- billionaire associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin -- have been hit with U.S. sanctions in response to the Ukraine crisis.

Ensuring the show can go on is something many U.S. companies and entrepreneurs are wrestling with as they try to determine whether they are unwittingly violating U.S. sanctions. In doing so, they often find themselves entering a legal minefield as they try to make sense of the Russian business world's often Byzantine ownership structures. Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

University Administrators Ignore Growing Anti-Semitism on U.S. Campuses

May 9th 2014

As soon as an African American student at San Jose State University who was racially harassed and bullied by his dormitory roommates came forward, university, county, and state officials began an investigation. Within days, prosecutors labeled it a hate crime, battery charges were filed against three of the roommates, and the university had suspended them. Within weeks, California State Assembly Speaker John Perez announced the creation of a Select Committee on Campus Climate, and its first task was to look into this incident and find a way to prevent others like it.

When a white male threw a beer at Trinity College sophomore Juan Hernandez and yelled, “Get off our campus,” Trinity launched an investigation and charges were brought against the perpetrator. When anti-gay remarks were written on message boards that hang on dorm-room doors, Elizabethtown College began an investigation, engaged the FBI, and disciplinary action was taken. Read more ..


Libya on Edge

Libya is Prepared to Become an Islamist Emirate under Moslem Brotherhood

May 9th 2014

Libya's interim Congress on May 5 confirmed the appointment of new Prime Minister, Ahmed Maiteeg, a young businessman backed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Maiteeg's election was controversial. As described by the Libyan Herald, Maiteeg was elected after Congress members persuaded the deputy President to re-run a vote of confidence in him. In the earlier vote of confidence, Maiteeg gained 113 votes, seven short of the figure needed to make him Prime Minister. The Libyan Herald explains that the second vote took place after a number of absent Congress members were summoned by colleagues to come and vote. At that point, apparently, members of Congress started shouting at each other. As a consequence, First Deputy President and independent Congressman from Cyrenaica, Ezzidden Al-Awami, who had chaired the session, decided to close proceedings and departed. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Kidnappings in Nigeria

May 8th 2014

Armstrong Williams Headshot

On Sunday night, 11 Nigerian girls were kidnapped in two remote villages in Northeastern Nigeria. These missing girls add to the list of up to 276 girls who are currently missing in that part of the country. Just over three weeks ago, 230 Nigerian Christian school girls were kidnapped by the Islamist group, Boko Haram, which in English is translated “Western Education is forbidden”. This group is also responsible for the recent kidnappings and many other terrorist attacks throughout the country. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s attempt to retrieve the girls has been entirely unsuccessful and has undermined the President’s standing with his people.

According to Manuel Fontaine—UNICEF’s regional director for west and central Africa—Boko Haram has been terrorizing villages in Northeastern Nigeria for years while nothing has been done to stop them. As late as this past Monday, large groups of Nigerians protesters have urged the government to do more to rescue the kidnapped children.   
 
The leader of the Islamist terrorist group behind the kidnapping—Abubakar Shekau—has taken responsibility. He recently released a video in which he promised to sell the girls as slaves in the “marketplace”. Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights, told reporters: “We warn the perpetrators that there is an absolute prohibition against slavery and sexual slavery in international law.”
 
Although I applaud the words of Navi Pillay, I’m angered over the lack of action taken against Abubaker Shekau by the Nigerian government and the United States. More must be done to put an end to Abubaker Shekau’s terrorist attacks and to rescue these innocent Christian school girls.  Read more ..



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