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Rick Moran

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.
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ISIS Executioners Hug Two Gay Men, Then Stone Them to Death

Friday, April 24th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A lurid account in The Daily Mail about how Islamic State handles their “gay problem.”

Depraved militants fighting for the Islamic State in Syria have brutally stoned two gay men to death only seconds after they were photographed embracing and ‘forgiving’ them.

The shocking images were taken in ISIS-held territory in the province of Homs and show the two accused men being savagely executed by up to four jihadis.

Huge, bloodthirsty crowds are seen in the desert clearing where the group of executioners made a display of hugging the blindfolded couple and telling them they were forgiven of their ‘sins’, before pummeling them to death with hundreds of fist-sized rocks.

How touching.

000

000.1

Incredibly, ISIS supporters are saying that the hugs show how “compassionate” the fanatics are.

Wearing traditional Arab clothing, the bloodthirsty audience stand in a semi-circle only feet away from the spot where the men will be barbarically murdered.

A number of motorbikes are seen in the background, suggesting that’s how many of the onlookers arrived at the execution site.
The final image shows the two victims’ battered bodies on the ground as a group of at least four ISIS executioners stand over them, raining down rocks.

000.000

 

Just when you think Islamic State can’t top their last outrage, they find a way to do so.

 

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ACLU Sues to Force Catholic Charities to Provide Abortions to Illegal Alien Minors

Friday, April 24th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

I can’t think of anything that the ACLU has done in its long history that’s quite this outrageous.

Apparently, the ACLU is upset that the Catholic charities taking care of the nearly 60,000 illegal immigrant children who crossed the border last year without an adult refuse to supply contraceptives or abort their babies. Under the auspices of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which signed a contract with the federal government to take care of the children, the charities were tasked with supplying health care services to the illegals.

The ACLU claims that by not giving out contraceptives or performing abortions, the charities are in breach of contract for not giving “reproductive care” to the minors, and they want the federal government to force the Catholic charities to provide those services.

Washington Times:

The suit has sparked outrage among religious, anti-abortion, and civil rights groups who argue the ACLU is more concerned with bullying the Catholic church than helping vulnerable immigrants.

“Lawsuits like the one the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) just filed demanding all of the records on a faith-based provider of care and services to vulnerable children are destructive and divisive,” said Brian Walsh, president of the Civil Rights Research Center in a statement. “When it comes to religious freedom, some organizations that have had a laudable history of defending Americans’ religious civil rights and liberties are looking less and less like their former selves.”

Legal experts say that despite the contract agreement, federal law protects USCCB’s religious rights and say ACLU’s case aims to strip religion from the public sphere.

“The larger issue — religious liberty — is the constitutional issue of our time,” said Jerad Najvar, founder of Najvar law firm in Houston, Texas. “We are coming to a tipping point in this country. Right now it’s an attempt to sanitize religious principles from religious charities and schools that receive government assistance. Next it will be denying religious freedom to even privately-funded charities that are open to the public. It’s time for Catholics to recognize the trajectory here, and stand up before it’s too late.”

But Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney at ACLU told The Times that group is concerned that by accepting federal money to care for immigrants and then denying them reproductive healthcare the USCCB may be in violation of the Constitutional separation of Church and state.

According to Ms. Amiri the government’s contract with USCCB requires the group to abide by a number of federal laws including a settlement agreement that requires children in the government’s custody to receive access to routine medical services, including family planning services.

ACLU has received complaints that USCCB has been denying reproductive healthcare services, such as abortions, for female immigrants, many of whom suffer sexual assault or rape during their journey to the U.S., Ms. Amiri said.

Almost 60,000 unaccompanied minors illegally crossed the U.S./Mexico borer last year. Nearly a third were young girls and up to 80 percent of those girls were victims of sexual assault. USCCB was awarded a $73 million overall contract and received $10 million in 2013 alone to care for those unaccompanied minors.

No good deed goes unpunished, I suppose. But really, does the ACLU have any kind of a case? Abortion is an elective procedure. Why isn’t the ACLU suing to force Catholic charities to offer plastic surgery, or any other elective procedure, for that matter?

Abortion is not a “routine medical service” — except in the eyes of the ACLU and other pro-choice fanatics. And family planning services can include many things besides abortion and contraception.

The bishops issued a statement:

“We ensure children and youth have access to ongoing medical and social services. This extensive health care would include, in the case of pregnancy, prenatal, labor/delivery and well-baby care. For decades, we have provided exemplary services to this vulnerable population without facilitating abortions, and despite ACLU’s extreme assertions to the contrary, the law not only permits our doing so, but protects it,” the statement reads.

No doubt the ACLU will go shopping for a judge who they think will accept their radical arguments. But in truth, it’s hard to see how any judge would countenance this attack on the Catholic Church. The law and religious freedom are on the side of the church in this matter, and the ACLU is blowing smoke if they think otherwise.

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Insulted Native Americans Walk Off Set of New Adam Sandler Movie

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

About a dozen Native American actors walked off the set of Adam Sandler’s new movie The Ridiculous Six because of insulting and degrading language in the script directed toward women and elders.

This piece in the Native American publication Indian Country gives some examples that are incredibly embarrassing and border on racism. At the very least, the film is like something out of the 1950s, as it stereotypes Native Americans.

The examples of disrespect included Native women’s names such as Beaver’s Breath and No Bra, an actress portraying an Apache woman squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe, and feathers inappropriately positioned on a teepee.

The film, which is said to be a spoof of The Magnificent Seven and was written by Adam Sandler and his frequent collaborator Tim Herlihy, is currently under production by Happy Madison Productions for a Netflix-only release. The movie will star Adam Sandler, Nick Nolte, Steve Buscemi, Dan Aykroyd, Jon Lovitz and Vanilla Ice.

Among the actors who walked off the set were Navajo Nation tribal members Loren Anthony, who is also the lead singer of the metal band Bloodline, and film student Allison Young. Anthony says that though he understands the movie is a comedy, the portrayal of the Apache was severely negligent and the insults to women were more than enough reason to walk off the set.

“There were about a dozen of us who walked off the set,” said Anthony, who told ICTMN he had initially refused to do the movie. He then agreed to take the job when producers informed him they had hired a cultural consultant and efforts would be made for tasteful representation of Natives.

“I was asked a long time ago to do some work on this and I wasn’t down for it. Then they told me it was going to be a comedy, but it would not be racist. So I agreed to it but on Monday things started getting weird on the set,” he said.

Anthony says he was first insulted that the movie costumes that were supposed to portray Apache were significantly incorrect and that the jokes seemed to get progressively worse.

“We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche,” he said. “One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?’”

“They just treated us as if we should just be on the side. When we did speak with the main director, he was trying to say the disrespect was not intentional and this was a comedy.”

Oh yeah, a comedy. Given recent film productions involving Native Americans from that period being meticulously recreated with authentic costumes and great attention paid to cultural details, it appears that Sandler and his production team were either too lazy or too racist to make the effort:

Allison Young, Navajo, a former film student from Dartmouth, was also offended by the stereotypes portrayed and the outright disrespect paid to her and others by the director and producers.

“When I began doing this film, I had an uneasy feeling inside of me and I felt so conflicted,” she said. “I talked to a former instructor at Dartmouth and he told me to take this as finally experiencing stereotyping first hand. We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’ I was just standing there and got emotional and teary-eyed. I didn’t want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way.”

“Nothing has changed,” said Young. “We are still just Hollywood Indians.”

Even liberals in Hollywood have a responsibility to accurately portray the subjects of their films, even if it is a comedy. It’s a simple matter of respect, not a question of political correctness. It’s also disrespectful to the audience to present Native American culture so inaccurately that it becomes a parody of itself.

Perhaps they believed that because their “hearts were in the right place” on race they would be forgiven their exaggerated portrayal of Native Americans and disrespect shown to their culture. We see it often enough when it comes to comments by liberals about blacks. I suppose we shouldn’t expect anything differently when it comes to liberals and Native Americans.

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Comcast Calls Off Mega-Merger with Time Warner

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

One of the largest mergers in US history will be called off, according to Bloomberg News, as Comcast will drop its $45.2 billion offer for Time Warner.

The writing was on the wall yesterday when the FCC staff recommended that hearings be held on the deal and that an administrative law judge rule on whether the proposed merger would be harmful to consumers.

This, along with months of foot dragging by the Department of Justice, apparently spooked Comcast enough that an announcement is expected in the next 24 hours calling off the merger.

CNNMoney:

There was initially an air of inevitability around the merger when Comcast announced its bid back in February 2015.

But doubts grew in recent months as the government’s reviews of the deal dragged on, and the company’s stock prices shifted accordingly.

The key piece of new information after Wednesday’s meetings was about the Federal Communications Commission, which along with the Department of Justice had been reviewing the proposed combination in great detail.

FCC staffers are not convinced the merger is in the public interest, and they are recommending that the case be heard by an administrative law judge, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

It’s a bureaucratic maneuver, one that effectively strangles the merger by swallowing up months and months of time. It happens so rarely that the FCC barely has the staff to do it.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the staff recommendation on Wednesday night. BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield reacted by saying, “This would appear to be a death sentence for the transaction.”

An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment. But another person confirmed to CNNMoney that the five commissioners have been briefed on the recommendation, and that a vote will be scheduled soon.

The commission is comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans, so the hearing will likely be supported by a majority.

But the vote would be rendered moot if Comcast withdraws from the deal.

There is said to be serious skepticism about the deal within the Justice Department, as well.

Critics of the deal are ecstatic:

“Comcast’s withdrawal of its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable would be spectacularly good news for consumers concerned about the spiraling costs of cable and broadband and for millions of citizens who want nothing more to do with gatekeeping and consolidation in the communications ecosystem on which our democracy depends,” said former FCC chairman Michael Copps, who is now special advisor to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.

“Comcast’s apparent failure to take control of Time Warner Cable should be a lesson for the industry,” said Free Press President Craig Aaron. “Communications giants should stop trying to consolidate and instead focus on providing the fast, affordable and neutral Internet services that Americans demand.”

TWC won’t be without a bidder for long. Already, Charter Communications is thought to be planning a bid for Time Warner’s 11 million subscribers. There are losers, however:

That’s not to say either side will be celebrating. (It would be a particularly sad day for TWC chief executive Rob Marcus, who was supposed to receive $80 million upon completion of the deal.) Wall Street banks and law firms contracted by both companies won’t be smiling either—they stand to lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars that they would have made in fees.

There were always pros and cons for consumers in this deal, but in the end, the nixing of a deal to create the largest broadband media company in the US is probably a good thing. Economies of scale are wonderful — if you’re on the heavy end of the scale. Otherwise, competitors would have been squeezed, reducing competition, and more than 30 million consumers would have been at the mercy of a gigantic media conglomerate already holding a monopoly on cable TV service in big markets all across the country.

Comcast was my cable-broadband provider for 6 years before I switched to DirecTV and my experience with their customer service and technical departments was usually frustrating and maddening. I don’t see how that could improve if they increased in size by 50%. Consumers are probably better off without the merger.

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Here Are Some Doomsday Predictions from the First Earth Day that Didn’t Quite Pan Out

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Mark Perry at AEI has dug up some doomsday predictions from the very first Earth Day in 1970 that never quite lived up to their billing.

Here are a few of my favorites (remember, this is from April, 1970):

1. Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”

4. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich confidently declared in the April 1970 Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

6. Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”

7. “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” declared Denis Hayes, the chief organizer for Earth Day, in the Spring 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness.

8. Peter Gunter, a North Texas State University professor, wrote in 1970, “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”

9. In January 1970, Life reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”

12. Paul Ehrlich chimed in, predicting in his 1970 that “air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” Ehrlich sketched a scenario in which 200,000 Americans would die in 1973 during “smog disasters” in New York and Los Angeles.

14. Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”

18. Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

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Rep. Royce: ‘Not Confident’ if Iran is Caught Cheating that Sanctions will ‘Snap Back’

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, held a hearing today on the difficulties in verifying the proposed Iran nuclear deal.

In his opening statement, Royce nailed the reasons why it’s folly to enter into an agreement without the world community fully prepared to punish Iran if it cheats.

Now, Iran’s long history of clandestine activity and intransigence prevents the U.S. from holding any trust whatsoever in the clerics who run Iran. Indeed, deception has been a cornerstone of their nuclear program since its inception. So when it comes to negotiating and inspections regime over the next two months, the U.S. must gain ground, not retreat, keep a key piece of verification which includes Iran coming clean on its past bomb work. We recall that the IAEA asked those 12 questions about their testing. They got an answer back of half of the first question and none of the others were were responded to.

That still has not happened despite long-overdue commitments on the part of Iran to international inspectors. The IAEA remains concerned about about signs of Iran’s military related activities, including designing a nuclear payload for a missile, a new killer weapon, an ICBM missile. Iran hasn’t even begun to address these concerns and last fall 350 members wrote to the secretary of state expressing deep concerns about this lack of cooperation. Yet the framework agreement is vague on this critical verification step. Intrusive inspections are even more critical when you consider a recent Department of Defense study. It points out that the U.S. capabilities to locate undeclared nuclear facilities or convert nuclear programs are either —in the words of the Department of Defense study —inadequate or more often do not exist.

And critically, that study also reminds us that verification is principally the political judgment in the words of the study to which monitoring and other means contribute. The IAEA and its inspectors will play an essential role in monitoring Iran but it will ultimately be up to the administration and its negotiating partners, which includes Russia and China, likely acting through the UN Security Council or another international body to decide whether Iran is complying with its commitments, and this is another weak link.

If Iran is caught cheating, will this or the next administration be prepared to call them out? I’m not confident. Why? Because during the interim negotiations when Iran was caught testing advanced supersonic centrifuge, it faced no consequences. As one witness will testify, international inspectors can be no tougher than the countries that back them. The history of arms control inspections is that they are easy for political leaders to tout as a solution, but are difficult to fully implement. What looks good on the chalkboard often fails in the real world. (Emphasis mine)

Couple that with the propensity of the IAEA to give the subjects of their inspections the benefit of the doubt when it comes to violations and you can immediately see the problem. Iran’s cheating must be so clear-cut, so obvious that no leader — including and especially President Obama — can spin their way out of re-imposing sanctions.

But, in the “real world” as Royce points out, things are rarely black and white. Even if the IAEA is able to confirm Iranian cheating — by no means a certainty given statements from Tehran regarding access to all their nuclear sites — the government will no doubt throw up a lot of smoke, trying their best to give western leaders the opportunity to ignore the transgressions and continue their work toward a bomb.

So in this case, it’s not only a question of trusting the Iranians. It’s also a matter of trusting western leaders to take a firm stand against Iranian cheating and reimpose sanctions if necessary. At this point, and with President Obama as desperate for a deal as he apparently is, trust is a commodity in short supply.

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USS Theodore Roosevelt May Intercept Iranian Convoy Headed for Yemen

Monday, April 20th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

According to senior Pentagon officials, the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is moving into position to intercept a flotilla of Iranian ships headed for Yemen. The Pentagon thinks that the ships — 7 to 9 warships and cargo vessels — are going to try to re-supply the Houthi rebels.

The Gulf states have ships off the coast of Yemen trying to impose an arms blockade against the Houthis, so the carrier group may not actually stop and board the Iranian vessels. But stopping a hostile power’s warships on the high seas could lead to a rapid escalation by Iran, at which point, an aircraft carrier is a nice back up to have.

NBC News:

There is no indication that U.S. or other coalition warships have been in contact with the Iranians, but one official told NBC News, “They know we’re there.”

Some U.S. officials are concerned that the leak of the information is not good, coming at the same time as the United States and other countries try to reach a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

“Since this is now public, the Iranians may feel they’ve been backed into a corner” and attempt to run through any blockade set up by the coalition warships, one official said.

Publicly, the Pentagon is denying that the carrier group would intercept the Iranian vessels:

Warren specifically denied a media report that the two American ships were being moved so they could assist in the interception of a flotilla of seven to nine Iranian ships headed to Yemen to re-supply Houthi rebels.

“They are not going to intercept Iranian ships,” said Warren. “That is absolutely not the case.”

On April 1, the U.S. Navy boarded a Panamanian-flagged ship that was believed might be transporting supplies from Iran to the Houthis. No weapons were found and there have been no other boardings since then.

Seven other American warships have been operating in the Gulf of Aden for weeks, including the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima.

A public confirmation of the Roosevelt’s role would inflame the situation, so it’s not surprising that officials are saying one thing in public and another in private.

The Saudis have already said they will prevent any arms from reaching Houthi rebels. This sets up a confrontation at sea with the Iranians at which time anything could happen.

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Of Lawfare and Battering Rams

Monday, April 20th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

You have got to read this National Review piece by David French about the Wisconsin “John Doe” investigations that targeted conservative individuals and groups for harassment, intimidation, and state terror.

Yes, this is happening in America today — now.

“IT’S A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH.”

That was the first thought of “Anne” (not her real name). Someone was pounding at her front door. It was early in the morning — very early — and it was the kind of heavy pounding that meant someone was either fleeing from — or bringing — trouble. “It was so hard. I’d never heard anything like it. I thought someone was dying outside.”

She ran to the door, opened it, and then chaos. “People came pouring in. For a second I thought it was a home invasion. It was terrifying. They were yelling and running, into every room in the house. One of the men was in my face, yelling at me over and over and over.” It was indeed a home invasion, but the people who were pouring in were Wisconsin law-enforcement officers.

Armed, uniformed police swarmed into the house. Plainclothes investigators cornered her and her newly awakened family. Soon, state officials were seizing the family’s personal property, including each person’s computer and smartphone, filled with the most intimate family information.

Why were the police at Anne’s home? She had no answers. The police were treating them the way they’d seen police treat drug dealers on television. In fact, TV or movies were their only points of reference, because they weren’t criminals.

They were law-abiding. They didn’t buy or sell drugs. They weren’t violent. They weren’t a danger to anyone. Yet there were cops — surrounding their house on the outside, swarming the house on the inside. They even taunted the family as if they were mere “perps.”

As if the home invasion, the appropriation of private property, and the verbal abuse weren’t enough, next came ominous warnings. Don’t call your lawyer. Don’t tell anyone about this raid. Not even your mother, your father, or your closest friends.

The backstory, as told by French, involves a hyper-partisan, runaway prosecutor whose wife was a teachers’ union shop steward opposed to the public union reforms of Governor Scott Walker. The “investigations” eventually encompassed five counties in Wisconsin, with a partisan, rubber-stamp judge signing off on the targeting subpoenas and search warrants.

Dozens of conservatives experienced almost exactly the same terror as Anne. Many conservative groups were destroyed by investigations that appropriated their donor lists and advocacy files. Funding sources dried up as no one wanted to be associated with people whose lives were destroyed by minions of the state in league with a politically motivated prosecutor.

This is “domestic lawfare” as French points out. It is increasingly being used by liberals in government in league with left-wing legal advocacy groups to target conservatives in order to silence them and criminalize dissent.

It’s an incredible story told with dispassionate clarity by French. Share with your friends. The time for silence on this matter is over.

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30 Ethiopian Christians Executed by Islamic State

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The Islamic State released a video on their official media site purporting to show up to 30 Ethiopian Christians captured in Libya being brutally executed.

Last month, IS released another video showing the execution of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt. The victims in both cases appear to be migrant workers captured by Islamic State for the express purpose of executing them in a very public, very horrific way.

Daily Mail:

Initial reports did not make clear who the captives were or when they were captured. 

The video bore the official logo of the IS media arm Al-Furqan and resembled previous footage released by the extremist group.

Redwan Hussein, an Ethiopian government spokesman, said officials were in contact with its embassy in Cairo to verify the video’s authenticity. 

He said he believed those killed were likely to have been Ethiopian migrants hoping to reach Europe. Libya has become a hub for migrants across Africa hoping to cross the Mediterranean to enter Europe for work and better lives.

‘If this is confirmed, it will be a warning to people who wish to risk and travel to Europe though the dangerous route,’ Mr Hussein said. 

He added that Ethiopia, which does not have an embassy in Libya, would help repatriate Ethiopians if they wanted to leave. Libyan officials were not immediately available for comment. 

Abba Kaletsidk Mulugeta, an official with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church’s Patriarchate Office, said he also believed the victims were likely to have been migrants.

‘I believe this is just another case of the IS group killing Christians in the name of Islam. Our fellow citizens have just been killed on a faith-based violence that is totally unacceptable. This is outrageous,’ he said. 

‘No religion orders the killing of other people, even people from another religion.’

Ethiopia’s options to retaliate remain slim, given its distance from Libya. 

However, Ethiopian Ambassador to Egypt Mohammed Edrees said his country could partner with Cairo to strike the militants.

‘That could be an option,’ Mr Edrees said. ‘We will see and explore what is possible to deal with group.’ 

Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate for the Middle East Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: ‘The Islamic State in Libya is still focused on this consolidation phase of announcing its presence through these very high-profile executions. But they face some structural limits in terms of how much local support they can get because they haven’t captured real revenue streams.’

Islamic State has a lot of competition in Libya from other wacko extremists. You have to figure that the pool of twisted fanatics has to be limited, so their executions aims to maximize their efforts. It is important to keep the pressure on them in Iraq and Syria so they can’t send reinforcements to Libya where it would be possible for them to carve out a section of that failed state for their own.

Here’s a link to the very graphic, entire 29 minute video. I debated posting it on the site but I think people would be right to criticize us for posting murder porn. We can be outraged without having images of human beings at the last instant of life having their heads cut off.

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Rand Paul Sounds Like a Democrat Criticizing GOP Rivals’ Foreign Policy

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Bernie Sanders couldn’t have said it better:

“There’s a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now — maybe more,” the Kentucky senator told hundreds of activists at a GOP cattle call that has drawn every major presidential aspirant. “This is something, if you watch closely, that will separate me from many other Republicans. The other Republicans will criticize Hillary Clinton and the president for their foreign policy, but they would have done the same thing – just 10 times over!”

“Six countries – maybe more”? Which countries, Senator? And how many of your rivals have proposed sending troops to Syria? To Yemen? To Libya? (Do we have to count Lindsey Graham?)

Rand Paul is trying to separate himself from other candidates on foreign policy while not appearing to be a head-in-the-sand isolationist. But in doing so, does he have to lie like a Democrat about his opponents?

“Everyone who will criticize me wanted troops on the ground, our troops on the ground, in Libya,” he said. “It was a mistake to be in Libya. We are less safe. Jihadists swim in our swimming pool now. It’s a disaster.”

Did Ted Cruz want troops on the ground in Libya? Did Scott Walker, Chris Christie, or any other GOP governor who might run for president want troops on the ground in Libya? Marco Rubio specifically advised against troops on the ground in Libya, believing that the president could have intervened “more decisively” but rejecting American military intervention.

Paul’s statement is either an ignorant rant or a baldfaced lie. Falsely accusing opponents of things they don’t believe and wouldn’t do obscures Paul’s real problems with rank-and-file Republicans who want a president to stand up strongly for American interests and want to make America the pre-eminent military and economic power in the world once again. Many simply don’t believe his foreign-policy ideas are proactive enough. They are suspicious of his libertarian leanings on national-defense strategy.

One aspect of a Paul campaign Republican regulars can get behind is his position on NSA snooping:

Contrasting himself with most others in the field, Paul also promised to end the federal government’s collection of American phone records if elected president. “I’m a Republican who believes in the right to privacy,” he said. “It doesn’t mean collecting 300 million people’s phone records. The 4th amendment is not consistent with a warrant that says Mr. Verizon on it. Last I heard Mr. Verizon isn’t a person.”

“Your phone records are yours,” he declared. “It’s none of the government’s damn business what you’re doing on your phone.”

“You can say damn in New Hampshire, can’t you?” he quipped.

“Damn straight,” a man yelled back from the crowd.

NSA spying is a peripheral national-security issue and there is disagreement among the candidates about how much of what the NSA has been doing is really necessary. This is a legitimate way for Paul to put distance between himself and his rivals — as long as he accurately enumerates their positions.

But otherwise, Paul’s rank dishonesty in describing what his opponents would do if elected is intolerable. Might we see a sound bite of Paul dishonestly ripping his opponents in a Hillary Clinton commercial? Perhaps the senator should think about that the next time he feels compelled to grossly exaggerate the positions of his opponents.

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Iranian Ship Convoy Heads for Yemen

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Seven to nine Iranian ships are headed for Yemen, according to US military officials. The Pentagon is worried that the ships may dock at a port controlled by Houthi rebels in order to resupply them.

Saudi ships are patrolling off the coast, looking to impose a blockade on supplies to the rebels Obviously, a dangerous situation may develop if Iran tries to run the blockade.

The Hill:

Officials fear the move could lead to a showdown with the U.S. or other members of a Saudi-led coalition, which is enforcing a naval blockade of Yemen and is conducting its fourth week of airstrikes against the Houthis.

Iran sent a destroyer and another vessel to waters near Yemen last week but said it was part of a routine counter-piracy mission.

What’s unusual about the new deployment, which set out this week, is that the Iranians are not trying to conceal it, officials said. Instead, they appear to be trying to “communicate it” to the U.S. and its allies in the Gulf.

It is not clear what will happen as the convoy comes closer to Yemen. Saudi Arabia has deployed ships around Yemen to enforce the blockade, as has Egypt. An official said the ship convoy could try to land at a port in Aden, which the Houthis have taken over.

Although the U.S. is assisting with the Saudi-led air campaign, it is not participating in the naval blockade of Yemen, said U.S. Central Command spokesman Col. Pat Ryder.

However, the U.S. Navy is in the region and has already “consensually boarded” one Panamanian-flagged ship in the Red Sea on April 1 on the suspicion it was illegally carrying arms for the Houthis.

None were found, but the move raised alarm bells in Washington over an increasingly active U.S. military role in the conflict. The Pentagon indicated this week that more boardings could occur.

“We will continue to vigilantly defend freedom of navigation and to conduct consensual searches in an effort to ensure that drugs, human trafficking, weapons trafficking and other contraband are limited,” Army Col. Steve Warren said on Monday.

Officials fear a naval confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia could escalate what has become a proxy war between the two countries.

I don’t think either the Saudis or the Iranians want to go to war. It doesn’t make sense for Iran to negotiate a nuclear deal with the west that will lift sanctions and then start a war that’s sure to bring a response from the US. Not only that, but Iran’s military would be overwhelmed by the Arab army assembled by Saudi Arabia. They may be fanatics in Tehran but they’re not stupid.

From the Saudi point of view, there are several countries in their coalition with large Shia minorities who might cause trouble if there’s a war with Iran. And while the war in Yemen is seen as an effort to help the recognized government, a war with Iran would be seen as a sectarian conflict that might blow up the entire Middle East.

Still, you can have the best of intentions not to go to war and one will start anyway. That’s the nature of confrontation and all it takes is one mistake by one Iranian or Saudi ship’s captain for the shooting to begin.

So why is Iran risking war?

U.S. officials say they are unsure why Iran is making the brazen move. One theory they have floated is that the Saudi-led coalition has effectively blockaded any air routes into Yemen and there are no other ways to resupply the Houthis.

Another theory is that Iran is trying to distract the coalition from another ship it has tried hard to conceal that is currently docked at Oman — a potential land route for smuggling arms into Yemen.

Yet another theory is that Iran wants to force a confrontation with Saudi Arabia that it believes it will win, because Iran views the Saudi military as weak and suspects the U.S. lacks the willpower to support its Gulf ally.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last week on Twitter taunted Saudi Arabia, calling its military puny and smaller than Israel’s. He also said the air campaign was tantamount to genocide of innocent Yemeni civilians and that the U.S. would also fail in Yemen.

The Saudi military may be weak, but they have assembled a 40,000 man Arab army. And Egypt, with the largest military in the region, has said they would contribute troops if called upon. Pakistan has also said they would consider sending troops if Saudi Arabia was threatened.

A confrontation between Iran and the Saudis would quickly escalate. Let’s hope there aren’t any nervous trigger fingers on any of the ships from either side.

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Shroud of Turin Goes on Display Tomorrow

Saturday, April 18th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The most baffling religious relic of the Catholic Church goes on display tomorrow for the first time since 2010.

The Shroud of Turin is rarely displayed these days because of its deteriorating condition. But starting tomorrow through June 24th, the relic will will be available for public veneration in the Turin Cathedral.

Numerous scientific tests conducted on the shroud have been inconclusive in determining how old it is and how the image of an apparently crucified man was imprinted on the 14-foot-long cloth — except one. A radiocarbon dating test conducted in 1988 proved the cloth to be a medieval forgery — probably. Or maybe. Two separate labs working with small pieces of the shroud snipped off by scientists determined that the linen was manufactured in a 130-year period between 1260 and 1390.

Try as they might, those who believe the shroud to be the burial cloth of Christ have offered no convincing proof that the radiocarbon test was flawed. The latest efforts center on trying to prove that the cloth is actually 2000 years old and that it had been cross contaminated with more modern pollens or bacteria. Another explanation for the later date has to do with the sample taken by scientists coming for a patch used to repair the shroud following a fire that damaged it in the 16th century.

For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.

What makes the shroud such a compelling and mysterious object is the way it appears in photographic negatives. Until 1898, all that was visible was the faint outline, presumably in blood, of a human form. But an amateur photographer, Secondo Pia, was astonished after being allowed to take a photo of the shroud, to see the clear image of a human male that showed up on the negative.

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But no one has an answer to the question of how the image got on the shroud. It’s not paint. It’s not a pigment of any kind. And there is no evidence that the various techniques to produce an image known by medieval artists were used.

But few of the nearly 1 million people who will view the shroud in the next two months care much about the scientific arguments.

Associated Press:

The 4.3-meter-long (14-foot) cloth will be displayed April 19-June 24. Pope Francis will view it on June 21 on an overnight trip to the Turin area, which will include private time with relatives.

Public viewings of the cloth were last held in 2010.

“Many pilgrims who had already seen the shroud in past showings come back, even though some saw it just five years ago,” Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia said on Saturday.

“That’s not a long time. And yet many of the bookings we have are people who have already seen the shroud. That means there is a fundamental need in people’s hearts to renew this incredible experience that they had the first time they saw it,” the prelate told reporters.

Reservations are mandatory but free of charge to see the shroud, displayed in a climate-controlled case, in Turin’s cathedral. Turin’s mayor said recently that more that 1 million people had made reservations. In 2010, some 2.5 million people came, according to organizers of the display.

The pope’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, has described the cloth as an icon “written with the blood” of a crucified man. Benedict said there was “full correspondence with what the Gospels tell us of Jesus.”

When Pope John Paul II saw the shroud in 1998, he said the mystery forces questions about faith and sciences and whether it really was Jesus’ burial linen. He urged continuous study.

Skeptics say the linen bearing the figure of a crucified man is a medieval forgery.

Nosiglia said people of all faiths will come to see the shroud, not just Christians. “Even non-believers will come. It’s an occasion that brings everybody together and aims to give a precise response to the violence in this world. It tells us that the way to build a fairer world is not violence, but love,” he said.

I am not a believer but I find the shroud the most fascinating religious artifact in the world. There is nothing comparable in any other religion of which I am aware. It is certainly the most debated, the most studied religious artifact  – and for that, a trip to Turin to view it is most definitely worth it.

More at PJ Lifestyle: 

Does New Study of Burial Cloth Add to Existing Proof that Jesus Was Resurrected Around 33 AD?

 

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Celebrate ‘Diversity’ by Having Girls Wear Muslim Head Scarf?

Saturday, April 18th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

This is one of the most bizarre efforts by diversity freaks to advance their cause.

A high school principal has canceled an exercise dubbed “The Covered Girl Challenge,” where girls would cover their heads with a Muslim head scarf. The event was nixed after intense criticism from people not besotted with idiotic notions of cultural relativism.

But, hey! Her heart was in the right place:

Intense criticism has prompted an Ohio high school’s principal to cancel a student event in which girls would celebrate diversity by spending a day wearing a Muslim headscarf.

Mason High School Mindy McCarty-Stewart also issued an apology in an email Thursday to district families, saying the intent of the April 23 student-led event was meant to be positive, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

“I now realize that as adults we should have given our students better guidance. After much consideration and after talking with the student event organizers, we have canceled the event,” she said.

Well, if the point of the event was supposed to be positive, obviously everything is OK. The fact that it was a display of profound ignorance about Islam and the brutal way it treats women — covered or not — should have had no bearing on the happy happy path to diversity and understanding the event would have promoted.

Sharon Poe, a former school board candidate in the district, told the Enquirer she opposed the “Covered Girl” event.

“My belief is wearing these hijabs represents the oppression of women and Sharia law,” she said, adding that public schools should not be promoting one religious tradition over another.

However, Yasmeen Allen, an Iraqi native with two teenagers at Mason High, told the newspaper that Muslim students at the school “were robbed of an opportunity” to counter negativity their religion faces around the world.

McCarty-Stewart said she decided to cancel the event because it was clear it was not reaching its goal of teaching tolerance, the Dayton Daily News reported.

She also said it was a mistake for the event, which was sponsored by a Muslim student group, to be promoted by the school’s student activities department.

The decision to cancel the event has since prompted its own backlash, with some complaining that the school caved in to anti-Muslim bigotry, The Associated Press reported.

To be intolerant of intolerance is the best lesson those kids can learn out of this. Since when is it “anti-Muslim bigotry” to protest against the reality of Muslim treatment of women? Sheesh.

Only radical multiculturalists promote diversity in a vacuum. When you ignore the reality of Islam’s oppressive 8th century ideas about women and celebrate one of the major symbols of that oppression — the hijab — you give aid and comfort to the very people and ideas you are supposed to be fighting.

Muslims do not celebrate “diversity.” They punish it — harshly. The price for non-conformity is sometimes death, always ostracization. And the hell of it is, the principal is clueless about the gaping dichotomy of celebrating diversity by having girls wear an anti-diversity symbol.

Someone that dense should be fired.

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Last Two Doolittle Raiders Honored on Anniversary

Saturday, April 18th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Only two men are left alive from the 80 airmen and pilots who took off from the deck of the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, and set out to send Japan a message that the U.S. would stop at nothing to win the war begun by Japan a few months earlier.

Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, 99, and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, 93, are the last of the Doolittle Raiders — the men who struck the first blow against the Japanese empire by bombing Tokyo. They are in Dayton, Ohio, today to present the Raiders Congressional Gold Medal to the National Museum of the US Air Force.

Associated Press:

“It just happens that way, I guess,” Thatcher, of Missoula, Montana, said of being one of the last survivors.

“Something’s just got to give,” said Cole, a Dayton native who lives in Comfort, Texas.

The museum’s director, retired Lt. Gen. Jack Hudson, accepted the medal, the highest honor Congress can give a civilian, for them in Washington on Wednesday. In a video message, Cole said it was an honor to receive the medal “on behalf of 78 fallen Raiders who we proudly served with on that famous raid.”

The latest Raider to fall was Lt. Col. Robert Hite, who died March 29 at age 95 at a Nashville, Tennessee, nursing facility. Hite was also the last of the eight Raiders who were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed and a fourth died in captivity. Three other Raiders were killed soon after the bombing run, as most crash-landed or had to ditch.

Cole was the co-pilot for their mission’s leader, James “Jimmy” Doolittle, in plane No. 1 of the 16. Thatcher was engineer-gunner aboard the 7th plane, nicknamed “The Ruptured Duck,” whose crew’s crash-landing and evasion of Japanese troops in China was depicted in the movie “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.”

Thatcher, who was played by Robert Walker in the movie while Spencer Tracy portrayed Doolittle, chuckled as he recounted how the Raiders had given little thought at the time of the raid about earning a place in history.

“We figured it was just another bombing mission,” he said in a phone interview from his home this week.

In the years afterward, though, he said, they realized: “It was an important event in World War II.”

Thatcher, who said he uses a cane and walker but otherwise is “getting around OK,” was looking forward to weekend events including reunions with family members of the other Raiders to share stories and remembrances.

“You learn something new every time,” Thatcher said.

Sixteen specially outfitted B-25s — a land-based bomber not designed for carrier take-offs — flew the long, perilous mission to drop a few bombs on the Japanese capital, also hitting targets in Yokohama and one each in Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe and Osaka. They took off 10 hours early after the task force was sighted by a Japanese picket boat, but all 16 crews managed to make it to the coast of China where most of the crews bailed out after running out of fuel.

Friendly villagers rescued all but 10 of the Raiders, which resulted in massive, brutal retaliation by the Japanese.

Smithsonian:

That generosity shown by the Chinese would trigger a horrific retaliation by the Japanese that claimed an estimated quarter-million lives and would prompt comparisons to the 1937-38 Rape of Nanking. American military authorities, cognizant that a raid on Tokyo would result in a vicious counterattack upon free China, saw the mission through regardless, even keeping the operation a secret from their Pacific theater allies. This chapter of the Doolittle Raid has largely gone unreported—until now.

Long-forgotten missionary records discovered in the archives of DePaul University for the first time shed important new light on the extent to which the Chinese suffered in the aftermath of the Doolittle raid.

n the moments after the attack on Tokyo, Japanese leaders fumed over the raid, which had revealed China’s coastal provinces as a dangerous blind spot in the defense of the homeland. American aircraft carriers not only could launch surprise attacks from the seas and land safely in China but could possibly even fly bombers directly from Chinese airfields to attack Japan. The Japanese military ordered an immediate campaign against strategically important airfields, issuing an operational plan in late April, just days after the Doolittle raid.

Survivor accounts point to an ulterior objective: to punish the Chinese allies of the United States forces, especially those towns where the American aviators had bailed out after the raid. At the time, Japanese forces occupied Manchuria as well as key coastal ports, railways and industrial and commercial centers in China.

[...]

By early June, the devastation had begun. Father Wendelin Dunker observed the result of a Japanese attack on the town of Ihwang:

“They shot any man, woman, child, cow, hog, or just about anything that moved, They raped any woman from the ages of 10 – 65, and before burning the town they thoroughly looted it.”

He continued, writing in his unpublished memoir, “None of the humans shot were buried either, but were left to lay on the ground to rot, along with the hogs and cows.”

The Japanese eventually captured eight of the Americans, executing three for “war crimes.” One American died in captivity and the remaining four were eventually rescued by soldiers when Nanking, where the prisoners were being held, was liberated.

The audaciousness of the raid had a big effect on American morale, but it was the Japanese, shaken by the notion that their cities were not invulnerable, who were affected even more. The military actually moved up plans to attack Port Morseby, New Guinea and Midway Island. When our codebreakers, who had cracked one of the Japanese navy cyphers, intercepted the information, the resulting naval engagements in Coral Sea and especially the decisive battle off of Midway Island sealed the fate of Japan and sent us on the road to victory.

The World War II generation is rapidly receding into history, but exploits like the Doolittle Raid will never be forgotten as long as courage and fortitude are celebrated in America.

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The Fall of Ramadi Would Upend US Iraq Policy

Saturday, April 18th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

It’s the same old story we’ve heard a dozen times. Islamic State targets a key city or region. They attack relentlessly. Iraqi troops flee in terror. And the government tries to cover up the fact that their soldiers are unable to stem the Islamic State tide.

What’s happening in Ramadi is a familiar story, one that has played out across western Iraq since early last year. But the administration had just made the claim this week that Islamic State had lost 30% of the territory it conquered last year, suggesting the war were going better.

The lightning assault on Ramadi would suggest otherwise.

Washington Post:

Rawi said that there had been “realignments” of forces but not retreats and that there were assurances from the U.S.-led ­coalition that airstrikes would increase. Still, he said, support has been sorely lacking.

“We don’t know if it’s neglect or just a lack of capacity,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Tahseen Ibrahim, a spokesman for Iraq’s Ministry of Defense, said reinforcements from counterterrorism units had been deployed.

“Our troops are preparing themselves to attack,” he said. Discussions were underway as to whether to also send what are known as popular mobilization forces, which include Shiite militias, but there was not yet an agreement, he said.

The question of sending the largely Shiite paramilitary forces has been contentious in Anbar, a predominantly Sunni province. But as the security situation has deteriorated, a growing number of local tribal leaders and officials have said they need all the help they can get. In his sermon Friday, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, said “all sons of Iraq” should help the fight, a comment viewed as an endorsement of the militias playing a role.

At a Pentagon briefing Thursday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, played down the importance of Ramadi, saying that it is “not symbolic in any way” and that Baiji, a key location for Iraq’s oil infrastructure, is “a more strategic target.”

But Iraqi military officials have said that securing Anbar province, much of which is controlled by the ­Islamic State, is an essential step before any advance on Mosul, the group’s base of power in Iraq.

That view was echoed Friday by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who called Dempsey’s remarks a “gross mischaracterization.”

“The fall of Ramadi would be seen by Iraqi Sunnis as a failure of the Baghdad government to protect them, and could deal a major blow to political reconciliation efforts that are essential to defeating ISIL,” McCain, using another acronym for the Islamic State, said in a statement Friday that was released jointly by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). “Yet apparently, the current U.S. strategy is to defend an oil refinery in Beiji, but abandon the capital of pivotal Anbar province to ISIL.”

With Shia militias rampaging through Sunni towns and villages, residents of Anbar don’t trust the government, and military forces fleeing the region and not much being sent from Baghdad to help with the fight confirms their suspicions that the government just doesn’t care very much about them.

The fall of Ramadi would only add to their well-founded skepticism:

Should Iraqi forces appear to only be able to win with the help of militiamen that reportedly looted their communities, it could exacerbate the very same sectarian tensions that led to the rise of ISIS.

“It can increase Sunni resentment and can set the stage of future Sunni resistance against Shiite advancement,” Gartenstein-Ross said. Given that the groups were also backed in some way by Iran “creates risks of perception of regional Shite war.”

And with less territory to control, there could be more ISIS fighters available to move to other areas to “surge them somewhere else or try to capture new territory.”

That’s because the terror group doesn’t appear to have lost many of its forces, even as it lost Tikrit.

U.S. defense officials told The Daily Beast that Iraqi forces confronted little resistance and that few fighters left Tikrit. It suggested that remnants of Saddam Husein’s regime—Baathist party members—were as strong a presence in Tikrit as ISIS. (After all, Tikrit is Saddam’s hometown and a Baathist stronghold.) Baathists and ISIS have increasingly worked together in Iraq even as they have varied goals: While Baathists are Iraqi secular nationalists seeking a return to power, ISIS wants a regional, ultra-religious caliphate.

What remains unclear is whether the loss of territory will create a stronger or weaker alliance between the two groups.

If Ramadi falls, it will likely push back Iraqi and US plans to retake Anbar province, including the key city of Mosul, this year. It may also change US calculations on whether we should give the Iraqi army more sophisticated arms.

But the real damage would occur with efforts to unite the country behind the government. Many Sunnis, if not fighting with IS, are not very troubled that the terrorists are giving the government all they can handle. That kind of lukewarm loyalty to Baghdad stands in the way of forging an effective, united front of Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds to throw Islamic State out of the country.

The fall of Ramadi would only exasperate the problem as Sunnis are confirmed in their belief that government forces will only fight and die to protect Shias. Prime Minister al-Abadi would do well to rush a sizable number of troops to the battle in Anbat and make a supreme effort to protect Ramadi from IS.

Otherwise, progress against Islamic State elsewhere won’t mean very much in the end.

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Cardinal Francis George, Leader of American Catholics, Dead at 78

Friday, April 17th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A towering intellectual force in the American Catholic church is dead of cancer at age 78.

Former leader of the Chicago Archdiocese, Cardinal Francis George, succumbed to the disease after a long illness. George retired last year after a third diagnosis of cancer and was replaced by Archbishop Blase Cupich. He was elevated to head the Chicago diocese following the death of Cardinal Joseph Bernadin in 1997.

In his 17 years as head of the third largest Catholic diocese in America, George confronted the sex scandals roiling the church head on, proposing in 2002 a “zero tolerance” policy for sex offender priests. He also became a leading light in the anti-abortion debate and was the driving force behind Catholic bishops opposing President Obama’s contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.+

A Chicago native, George suffered a bout of polio when he was 13 and was denied entrance to the seminary. Instead, he attended a private seminary run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. After becoming a priest, he spent the next 30 years traveling the world representing his order, eventually landing in Portland, Oregon to head the church there. John Paul II tapped him to lead the Chicago diocese in 1997.

Chicago Tribune:

As head of the nation’s third-largest archdiocese, he shepherded the Chicago church through school closings and the priest sexual abuse scandal, striving to reconcile his support for the clergy with the pain of victims.

He also became a point person between the U.S. and the Vatican on the abuse scandal and matters such as liturgy of the Mass, playing a key role in revisions that brought the English translation closer to the original Latin.

George in November 2014 became the first Chicago archbishop to retire, following his third cancer diagnosis, and was replaced by current Archbishop Blase Cupich.

“He stood apart for his intelligence, his ability to make the church’s proposal in a compelling way to contemporary society, his deep faith, personal holiness and courage,” said Catholic scholar and papal biographer George Weigel.

“I think he would want to be remembered as a good and faithful priest,” Weigel said. “That’s all he ever wanted to be.”

George received his first cancer diagnosis in 2006 and had surgery to remove his bladder and prostate. He was diagnosed with cancer again about six years later and underwent more surgery.

His most recent diagnosis came in March 2014, when doctors found new cancer cells in his right kidney. He underwent chemotherapy, but the archdiocese announced in late 2014 that he had stopped taking an experimental drug because it had not been effective.

From his childhood on the Northwest Side of Chicago, George embarked on a spiritual career that took him around the globe as a missionary, then brought him back home in 1997 when he was appointed as the eighth archbishop of the Chicago Archdiocese and spiritual leader of its more than 2 million Catholics.

Born Jan. 16, 1937, George went to St. Pascal School in the Portage Park neighborhood, where he knew early on that he wanted to serve the church.

“The first time I thought about being a priest was my first Holy Communion, when I really came to appreciate the nature of that sacrament as much as a 7-year-old could,” he said in a church documentary in December 2013 commemorating his 50th anniversary as a priest.

Cardinal George was immensely popular in the city due to his good humor and gentle ways. When it became necessary to close dozens of Catholic schools due to declining enrollment, he publicly agonized over his decision, realizing that the people who would be hurt the most were black and Latino parents desperate to keep their children out of the Chicago public school system.

In fact, George made saving Catholic education in Chicago his life’s mission. When he arrived, the diocese was ready to close 45 schools in addition to the 175 they had shuttered in the previous 3 decades.

George, a former professor who graduated from St. Pascal Catholic School on Chicago’s Northwest Side, balked at such a drastic move. He immediately launched fundraising campaigns, ordered academic overhauls and traveled to Springfield to lobby legislators for tax credits and private school vouchers. He also pledged to make teachers’ salaries competitive with those of public school teachers, an inequity he found particularly troubling.

His early efforts met with success, said Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois. By 1999, George had brokered a meeting with House Speaker Mike Madigan, then-Gov. George Ryan and other legislators and secured support for a state income tax credit of up to $500 for parents of private and parochial school students to help defray tuition costs. Legislators also increased money for transportation and textbooks.

“I’m not asking (policymakers) to be open to this for sentimental reasons. I’m asking them to be open to it for public reasons,” George once said. “This is a pivotal, central public service. It is privately provided, but it is a public service.”

But success in Springfield was short-lived, Gilligan said, in part because of the state’s own fiscal crisis. The cardinal’s proposals to fund math and science education for at-risk students, reimburse schools for fulfilling state mandates, provide vouchers and lift the cap on the tax credit never materialized. Even money for transportation and textbooks has disappeared from the budget, he added.

To be sure, the progress has been slower than expected, said Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of Catholic schools.

“It took a little longer than what the two of us had hoped,” she said.

To this day, teacher salaries remain way below those in public schools and schools in other dioceses, and individual Catholic schools still don’t provide parents the same academic accountability that neighborhood public schools offer by publicizing their test scores.

The cardinal, however, has focused on securing outside funds, building a case for parish schools as community stabilizers that serve children in need of a quality education, not just Catholics. He claims that Catholic schools save the public school system $1 billion a year, a cost it would incur if Catholic schools closed and displaced more than 60,000 students.

His was a powerful voice that will be missed by Christians of all denominations.

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Auto Repair Owner to Refuse Service to ‘Openly’ Gay People

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The owner of an auto repair shop in Michigan has become the latest center of attention in the culture wars after writing a post on his Facebook page saying, among other things, that he would refuse service to “openly” gay people.

Dieseltec owner Brian Klawiter also says that he will run his business based on his Christian beliefs.

Klawiter is sticking by his guns:

“I am a Christian,” wrote Brian Klawiter, owner of Dieseltec in Grandville, Michigan. “My company will be run in a way that reflects that. Dishonesty, thievery, immoral behavior, etc. will not be welcomed at MY place of business. (I would not hesitate to refuse service to an openly gay person or persons. Homosexuality is wrong, period. If you want to argue this fact with me then I will put your vehicle together with all bolts and no nuts and you can see how that works.)”

Klawiter also stated that he will offer a discount for customers who bring their gun into his shop — on-duty police officers excluded, he said, because their guns were purchased with tax dollars.

Dieseltec’s new policy seems to have been inspired by recent battles over “religious freedom” laws in Indiana and Arkansas. “Enough is enough,” the owner began his post. “Our rights as conservative Americans are being squashed more and more everyday. Apparently if you are white (or close to it), you have a job, go to church, and own a gun… That translates into racists, privileged, bigot, conspiracy theorist. Too many of us say nothing.”

Naturally, when his Facebook declaration went viral, local NBC affiliate station WOOD-TV got a hold of him and to further elaborate on his new policy. “If you have a vehicle that needs to be repaired, we’d be happy to do that for you,” he told the channel. “But if you want to come in here with your boyfriend and you want to openly display that, that’s just not going to be tolerated here. We don’t believe that here.”

The story was picked up by Huffington Post and ThinkProgress; and, as a result, his post has since shot up to being among the top 10 trending items on Facebook.

A GoFundMe page was started, purportedly in support of the auto shop, but has since been removed.

On Thursday afternoon, Klawiter claimed in a new Facebook post that he had not requested anyone set up a crowdfunding page to support his business. However, he said, “I will stand firm on my views and will not back down” in the face of alleged threats to attack his business.

What if the two guys who come in are just a couple of buds hanging out for the day? If they start making out, that’s one thing (no doubt a gay couple will try that so they can bring a nice, fat lawsuit), but otherwise, define “openly” gay. That kind of stupidity is just one reason this guy’s business deserves to go belly up.

It’s one issue to refuse to take an active part in a gay marriage ceremony or ritual by supplying flowers, or food, or photography, or any other wedding service based on religious convictions. That principled stand should be protected. But to refuse service to someone based on their sexual orientation is clearly illegal. It’s not a question of applying your religious beliefs to your business. It’s a matter of obeying the anti-discrimination law in your state — and if your hatred of gays is so profound that you can’t do business with them, you should probably find another line of work.

Besides, any businessman who refuses perfectly good money based on a personal dislike of a customer is a bad businessman. A gay person’s money is just as green and just as good as a straight person’s cash. Deliberately taking a loss because you disagree with how someone lives their life is senseless.

Now it’s not likely that Klawiter’s business will rise or fall based on the number of gay customers he might turn away in Grandville, Michigan. But his attitude could convince straight people concerned about his overt bigotry to take their business elsewhere. That might, indeed, cut into his profits — which makes me question why he took to Facebook so that all the world would know of his prejudice.

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The Incredible, Disgusting TSA Groping Conspiracy

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Two Denver TSA screeners have been fired for assisting another TSA employee in sexually assaulting male passengers.

CNN:

Here’s how police say the scheme worked: When the male TSA officer noticed a man he found attractive, he would alert a female TSA officer.

The female officer would then tell the screening machine that a female passenger — not a male — was walking through. And that information would trigger a machine to register an anomaly in the groin area, prompting the male TSA officer to pat down the passenger, police said, citing a TSA investigation.

But during the patdown, the male TSA officer used the palms of his hands to touch the passenger’s front groin area and buttocks, which violates TSA policy.

All this came to light after an anonymous tip from a TSA employee in November. The agency launched an investigation, and investigator Chris Higgins monitored the two TSA officers in question, Denver police said in a report.

Higgins watched the plan being carried out on February 9. He interviewed the female TSA officer, who said she had done this with her colleague at least 10 other times, police said.

Both of the TSA officers investigated have been fired, TSA special agent Charles Stone told police. Authorities did not release their names.

The TSA called the incident deplorable.

“These alleged acts are egregious and intolerable,” the agency said in a written statement to CNN.

“All allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated by the agency. And when substantiated, employees are held accountable.”

But it’s unlikely criminal charges will be filed because there is no identifiable victim. The TSA said it has been trying to identify the passenger in the February incident but to no avail.

The TSA said no passengers have come forward with similar cases so far at the Denver airport.

Now how do you suppose they came up with such a clever scheme? Do you think that perhaps they heard of similar methods to get their rocks off at other airports?

And what was the motivation of the two TSA screeners who facilitated these attacks? Did they think it was funny? Did they themselves get a sexual thrill out of their co-workers’ groping? It boggles the mind.

Almost all people would too embarrassed to report this kind of attack by TSA employees. And perhaps they’re not even sure it’s an attack. Most of us are very trusting of law enforcement and especially airline security employees. I think there’s a good chance this kind of attack — on both men and women — occurs far more often than we can imagine and the victims simply dismiss it as intrusive, but part of the price we pay to be safe in the air.

Sick. Sick. Sick.

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Oh, for God’s Sake: A Hunger Strike to Force Confirmation of Loretta Lynch?

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Groups referring to themselves as “civil rights advocates” are beginning a hunger strike because the Senate has not confirmed Eric Holder’s replacement for attorney general, Loretta Lynch.

Actually, these groups have as much to do with “civil rights” as my cat Snowball has with quantum physics. Real civil rights groups call for a hunger strike because of injustice or oppression. These clowns are going on a fake hunger strike so they can act as Democratic Party partisans.

Politico:

The advocacy group founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton, along with female civil-rights leaders, are staging the hunger strike, in which groups of fasters will alternate days abstaining from food until Lynch is confirmed to replace Eric Holder at the Justice Department. Dubbed “Confirm Loretta Lynch Fast,” the new tactic is designed in the mold of actions by civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Cesar Chavez, organizers said.

Um…no. The tactic is designed in the mold of Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers. How can you possibly refer to the “action” as a hunger strike when no one is going to go hungry?

“As long as the Senate refuses to take fifteen minutes to confirm someone for Attorney General that they have already confirmed twice for U.S. Attorney,” National Action Network and its allies “will do everything in our power to draw attention to this completely unfair and unnecessary delay to vote to confirm Loretta Lynch,” Sharpton, who founded NAN, said in a statement Wednesday.

The group’s executive director, Janaye Ingram, added: “We stand with Loretta Lynch and are so in support of this cause that we are willing to sacrifice our daily meals to impress upon the U.S. Senate that it’s time to call a vote.”

Those brave souls who went on hunger strikes in southern jails in the 1960s to protest the injustice of their incarceration are spinning in their graves — as are the thousands all over the world who have used hunger strikes to draw attention to oppression and tyranny.

How dare these fake “civil rights” advocates use a fake hunger strike as a purely partisan political weapon. What’s worse is that they are diluting the power of the hunger strike by making a mockery of it. Who ever heard of a hunger strike on alternating days? There will be no suffering, no self-denial. The symbolic power of the hunger strike is vastly diluted by this faux “action.”

The politics involved is roiled by the Democrat’s attempt to strip abortion provisions from the human sex trafficking bill:

The long-going partisan spat over the trafficking legislation took a even sharper rhetorical turn earlier Wednesday when the Senate’s two top leaders fought over the impasse in dueling speeches.

McConnell accused Democrats of choosing to aid doctors who serve Medicare patients, while shunning sex trafficking victims. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shot back that his counterpart’s complaints were “illogical” and devoid of facts.

The sweeping Medicare payments package that the Senate passed overwhelmingly on Tuesday night contains so-called “Hyde amendment” language that would bar funding for community health centers from being used on abortions. The abortion provision in the trafficking bill is similar, but instead of applying those restrictions to taxpayer funds, it would be for fines paid from trafficking offenders — which Democrats say goes too far.

It is the prerogative of the majority to set the agenda for the Senate and McConnell is playing hardball with  obstructionists who care more about abortion than sex trafficking. Democrats believe that because Lynch is a black woman that they can play the race card to get both the abortion restrictions removed and Lynch confirmed.

It’s not surprising to see Al Sharpton behind this bit of political theater. A fake reverend running a fake hunger strike generating fake outrage for a fake cause.

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Turkey Recalls Vatican Ambassador After Pope Uses the ‘G’ Word Referring to Armenia

Sunday, April 12th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Pope Francis marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide by declaring that the mass killings was the first genocide of the 20th century.

Speaking at Sunday mass commemorating the anniversary of the genocide, Pope Francis became the second pope to risk the wrath of Turkey who, despite mountains of evidence, continue to deny that the deaths of 1 million Armenians was genocide.

Wall Street Journal:

Speaking at a Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican to mark 100 years since the Armenian killings, the pope spoke of the massacres in the context of the contemporary persecution of Christians in the Muslim world—a subject that has become an increasingly prominent and urgent theme in Pope Francis’ public statements.

Armenians say that as many as 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed during World War I in today’s eastern Turkey, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire.

Many countries officially recognize the killings as genocide. But Turkey contests Armenian claims about the scale of losses; it argues that hundreds of thousands actually died in warfare and famine, and that many Turks were also killed by Armenians. Turkey argues that the question of genocide should be left to historians rather than politicians.

Pope Francis said Sunday that “it is necessary, and indeed a duty” to “recall the centenary of that tragic event, that immense and senseless slaughter whose cruelty your forbears had to endure…Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”

[...]

Pope Francis went further than the 2001 declaration, calling the killing of Armenians one of “three massive and unprecedented tragedies” in the 20th century.

“The remaining two were perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism,” he said. The latter reference was apparently to the 1932-33 man-made famine in Ukraine, part of Joseph Stalin’s effort to collectivize Soviet agriculture, which killed as many as 7.5 million.

The evidence is overwhelming that the Ottoman Turks systematically organized the deliberate deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians. Government documents, photos, testimony from survivors prove that Turkey wished to rid itself of its Christian minorities, largely because they believed that the Armenians and others were siding with Russia against Turkey in World War I. They also needed a convenient scapegoat for the losses suffered on the battlefield.

The greatest number of killings occurred on horrific death marches of hundreds of miles where the Turks drove women, children, and old people (most of the young men had already been massacred) into the Syrian desert. There was no food or water given to the victims along the way — again, by design.

Few recognized historians take Turkey’s side — that the deaths were regrettable but not part of an organized effort to kill all Armenians. And Turkey is fanatical about the subject. After Pope Francis identified the Armenian massacres as genocide, Turkey angrily recalled its ambassador to the Vatican.

CNN:

His use of the term genocide — even though he was quoting from the declaration — upset Turkey.

The nation summoned its ambassador to the Vatican for “consultations” just hours after Francis’ comments, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. Earlier, Turkey summoned the ambassador from the Vatican for a meeting, Turkish state broadcaster TRT reported.

Turkey’s former ambassador to the Vatican, Kenan Gursoy, told CNN in a telephone interview that while it is the first time Turkey has summoned its ambassador home from the Vatican, “This does not mean that our diplomatic ties with the Vatican are over.”

“Since this is a situation that we do not approve of, as a first reaction, (the ambassador) is summoned to get consultation,” Gursoy said, adding that the Pope’s use of the word “genocide” was “a one-sided evaluation.”

In a tweet Sunday on his official account, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the Pope’s use of the word “unacceptable” and “out of touch with both historical facts and legal basis.”

“Religious offices are not places through which hatred and animosity are fueled by unfounded allegations,” the tweet reads.

This is actually a mild reaction compared to when the US House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution in 2010 calling the actions of the Turkish government genocide:

Barack Obama’s administration, which regards Turkey as an important ally, was today desperately seeking to defuse the row. It expressed its frustration with the House of Representatives’ foreign affairs committee, which voted 23-22 yesterday in favour of a resolution labelling the 1915 massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians a “genocide”.

A furious Turkey may now deny the US access to the Incirlik air base, a staging post for Iraq, as it did at the time of the 2003 invasion, or withdraw its sizeable troop contribution to the coalition forces in Afghanistan.

On the diplomatic front, the US needs the support of Turkey, which has a seat on the UN security council, in the push for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. Turkey is also helpful to the US on a host of other diplomatic issues in the Middle East and central Asia.

The White House and state department began work today to try to prevent the controversial issue making its way to the floor of the house for a full vote.

In Turkey, Suat Kiniklioglu, the influential deputy chairman for external affairs in the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), warned of “major consequences” if the resolution was accepted by the full House of Representatives.

“If they choose to bring this to the floor they will have to face the fact that the consequences would be serious – the relationship would be downgraded at every level,” he said. “Everything from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iraq to the Middle East process would be affected.

“There would be major disruption to the relationship between Turkey and the US.”

The Obama administration was successful in keeping the measure from the House floor.

It is shameful that the US hasn’t stood up and sided with the victims of this atrocity. Turkey cannot continue to deny its culpability for this crime against humanity any more than the Germans can deny the Holocaust. They have been convicted by their own words and deeds and given the Islamist bent of the Erdogan administration, Turkey is becoming less and less important to the US — and NATO.

The truth is out and the fact that Turkey refuses to acknowledge it should play no part in the world’s condemnation of this horrible crime.

 

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Oooops! Four Episodes of Game of Thrones Leaked Online

Sunday, April 12th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Tonight marks the premiere of Season 5 of HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones and, as is becoming common these days, 4 episodes of the drama have leaked online.

Since I am not a spoiler-mongerer, I won’t link to where you can find them. But I don’t think it really matters as far as the viewing audience is concerned. In fact, in the past, HBO has celebrated the piracy.

Forbes:

Bad news today for HBO, which is attempting to marry the recent debut of their HBO Now streaming service with season 5 of Game of Thrones. As of last night, the first four episodes of the new season, nearly half of the ten total episodes, have been leaked online to various torrent sites.

After appearing online yesterday afternoon, the episodes have already been downloaded almost 800,000 times, and that figure will likely blow past a million downloads by the season 5 premiere tonight.

Game of Thrones has consistently set records for piracy, which has almost been a point of pride for HBO. Last year, when it was announced HBO set a world record for illegal downloads after the season four premiere, Time Warner TWX -0.14% CEO Jeff Bewkes had this to say.

“Our experience is [piracy] leads to more penetration, more paying subs, more health for HBO, less reliance on having to do paid advertising… If you go around the world, I think you’re right, Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world. Well, you know, that’s better than an Emmy.”

It’s a refreshing view of piracy as a means of audience engagement, but that was in reference to the ability of pirates to upload episodes of Game of Thrones shortly after they air, and this is a different situation in which four episodes have leaked weeks before the later ones were supposed to air.

How this happened isn’t a mystery. The press has had their hands on four episodes worth of press screeners for a while now, so someone that was trusted with those review materials clearly should not have been. We see this happen every single year with screeners for the top Oscar nominated films, but to my knowledge, Game of Thrones hasn’t had to deal with this kind of leak before.

This is a variation of the famous actor’s dictum, “I don’t care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right.” Indeed, the downloads represent advertising that HBO can’t buy at any price. I can’t say that HBO is necessarily pleased that episodes that won’t be seen for a month are available for download, but neither is there likely to be panic at the prospect.

I prefer to get my Game of Thrones as it’s broadcast, spoilers be damned. The bewildering array of characters are nearly impossible to remember and follow, so here are a couple of handy guides to help you. If you’ve follow the series closely, this chart by USA Today will be of great assistance as you watch the show.

But if you’re new to the series, this photo guide from Access Hollywood with thumbnail commentary will bring you up to speed.

In telling us what he likes about Game of Thrones, Jim Geraghty says the multitude of characters is a big plus:

What I love about Game of Thrones:

It’s different. It doesn’t look like any other show on television. Almost every episode looks like an epic movie: The scale is huge, the sets are huge, the number of key characters is enormous. Every season is just ten episodes, and something important and consequential occurs in just about all of them.

It’s complicated. Here’s where Game of Thrones compares to Twin Peaks; my favorite early-90s surreal comic-horror murder mystery had a good thirty-to-forty characters of significance during its run. A lot of shows effectively “talk down” to their audience by simplifying things and creating worlds where everything of importance is done by the same half-dozen people every week. For example, on Castle, we almost never see Castle and Becket interacting with any cops or police personnel outside of the main cast. As far as viewers can tell, the precinct consists of three detectives, a captain, two medical examiners, and Castle the consultant. To keep costs down, anyone in the background – other detectives, uniformed officers, secretarial staff, etc. – rarely, if ever, speak a line of dialogue. Most cop shows are the same, as are most doctor shows and legal dramas.

The limited terms of those shows work well enough, but in real life we interact with lots of people throughout the day – and the world of Game of Thrones presents multiple members of multiple families in an enormously complicated web of rivalries, shifting alliances, secret agendas and vendettas, etc. This is a show that rewards playing close attention – and like most of my cult-hit favorites, you feel as though there’s a lot going on off-screen.

No doubt there will be shocks and plot twists to satisfy the most cynical among us. Characters we’ve come to know and love will be killed off — probably suddenly and brutally. But that is why the series is so compelling.

My DVR is already set. Is yours?

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Watch: Boston University Goalie Personifies the ‘Agony of Defeat’

Sunday, April 12th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!

So began the most iconic, longest-running general interest sports program in TV history. ABC’s Wide World of Sports broadcast sports that Americans rarely saw outside of Olympic programming. Skiing, skating, track and field, and swimming were staples of the broadcast, but hurling, curling, Australian Rules football, bocce, log rolling … even shuffleboard were occasionally featured.

But the common thread running through all of its programming was “the human drama” of competition. And no one man represented that drama quite like Vinko Bogataj.

Bogataj was a Yugoslavian ski jumper of Slovenian descent who etched himself into the consciousness of Americans thanks to a spectacular failure at the World Ski Championships in West Germany in 1970. Wikipedia describes the scene:

A light snow had begun falling at the start of the event, and by the time Bogataj was ready for his third jump, the snow had become quite heavy. Midway down the ramp for that jump, Bogataj realized that the conditions had made the ramp too fast. He attempted to lower his center of gravity and stop his jump, but instead lost his balance completely and rocketed out of control off the end of the ramp, tumbling and flipping wildly, and crashing through a light retaining fence near a crowd of stunned spectators before coming to a halt.

Despite the horrific crash, Bogataj suffered only a minor concussion.

The Slovenian ski jumper then became the symbol of the “Agony of Defeat” on Wide World of Sports from 1971 until the last broadcast in 1998.

The story of Mr. Bogataj comes to mind when viewing what happened to Boston University goalie Matt O’Connor, who was playing in the NCAA hockey championship game against Providence College.

O’Connor had a stellar season for the Terriers, winning 25 of 28 games. But he will always be remembered for pulling the biggest bonehead play in NCAA hockey history. With BU winning 3-2 in the 3rd and final period, O’Connor mishandled an easy dump-in from the blue line by Providence that he promptly dropped, the puck trickling backwards between his legs into his own net for the tying goal. Providence went on to score in the final minutes to ice the 4-3 victory and win the championship.

Is this not the personification of the “Agony of Defeat”?

Those of you who have played sports, even if only at the high school level, know that the difference between victory and defeat is often measured in inches, or tenths of a second. It is that difference that compels us to watch athletic competitions and become captivated by the performances.

Matt O’Connor showed genuine courage when he took full responsibility for the loss and sat patiently for a couple of hours after the game answering every last question put to him by reporters:

They could have spirited Matt O’Connor down the back stairs, into a cab, and whisked him back to Boston University.

And everybody would have understood.

They could have issued a stern and to-the-point directive to the media that, no, sorry, Matt O’Connor would not be available for interviews.

And everybody would have understood.

And, yes, O’Connor himself could have told the first wave of reporters, the second wave, the third wave . . . he could have told them all to please just leave him alone.

And everybody would have understood.

Yet the young man sat there, seemingly for hours, answering every last question, including a few dumb ones. As soon as one group had finished, some of the reporters patting him on the back and thanking him for his time, another group would push forward and the process would begin all over again.

At one point, associate head coach Steve Greeley leaned in to O’Connor and apparently whispered something about stopping this madness.

“No,” O’Connor said. “It’s better to get it over with.”

Hopefully, that’s what’ll happen to Matt O’Connor . . . that he’ll get it over, that he’ll get on with his life. Hopefully he’ll be buoyed by friends, by family, by teammates. He’ll find a way. He’s young, he’s strong, he’s smart.

O’Connor may have lost the game in agonizing fashion. But the kid is no loser.

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Russian Fighter Buzzes U.S. Spy Jet Over Baltic

Sunday, April 12th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The Russian air force has become more aggressive over the last few months, invading NATO air space and coming close to civilian aircraft.

But this sort of thing is downright dangerous.

A Russia Su-27 jet fighter flew dangerously close and nearly collided with a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft this week in the latest aerial provocation by Moscow, defense officials revealed to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Su-27 conducted the close-in intercept of an RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace over the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, said officials. The incident prompted a diplomatic protest.

“On the morning of April 7th, a U.S. RC-135U flying a routine route in international airspace was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker in an unsafe and unprofessional manner,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez.

“The United States is raising this incident with Russia in the appropriate diplomatic and official channels,” she said in a statement.

A defense official said the Russian fighter jet flew within 20 feet of the unarmed reconnaissance jet in what the official called a “reckless” encounter that endangered the lives of the RC-135 crew.

No details were available regarding the mission of the RC-135, which was in a position to monitor Russian military activities in western Russia and Kaliningrad.

In Moscow, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman confirmed the incident.

Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman, said the intercept was carried out after the aircraft was detected by Russian radar.

“Russian air defense radars spotted an unidentified air target over the Baltic Sea making steady progress toward the national border,” he said according to several state-controlled news outlets. The report said the U.S. aircraft was operating without its signal transponder turned on.

“No emergency situation was reported during the fly-by of the American reconnaissance aircraft,” Konashenkov said.

Needless to say, a confrontation of two military aircraft is fraught with meaning — and danger. Given that both sides are on high alert, an “accident” could lead to a misunderstanding which could spiral out of control.

The Free Beacon details some past encounters with Russian military aircraft:

The threatening aerial encounter followed a series of provocative Russian military aircraft encounters, mainly involving the dispatch of nuclear-capable Tu-95 Bear bombers near U.S. and European coasts.

Flights of Russian strategic aircraft near U.S. and allied airspace have sharply increased as part of a campaign of nuclear saber rattling by Moscow.

Adm. William Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, expressed his military concerns about the increase in Russian military flights and provocations during a briefing with reporters the same day of the RC-135 incident over the Baltic.

“The Russians have developed a far more capable military than the quantitative, very large military that the Soviet Union had,” Gortney said, adding that Moscow has adopted a new strategic doctrine that is being demonstrated by the provocations.

“At the same time, they are messaging us,” he told reporters at the Pentagon. “They’re messaging us that they’re a global power—we do the same sort of thing—with their long-range aviation.”

Gortney said the numbers of incidents have gone up but he did not have the percentages.

“And so we watch very carefully what they’re doing,” he said. The Russians need to adhere to “international standards that are required by all airplanes that are out there,” he said, “and everybody is flying in a professional manner on their side and our side as we watch very closely.”

Eric Edelman, former undersecretary of defense for policy, said the latest incident appears to be part of a pattern of activities by Russia that began around 2007 when Russian President Vladimir Putin began protesting U.S. missile defenses in Europe. The provocative activities have taken place in both the skies and on the sea, Edelman said.

Putin can afford to play a confrontational game as long as Obama is in office. He knows there will be no pushback from the U.S.. The question is, will this behavior continue when the next president takes office? I suspect like most bullies, Putin will back off once it is made clear that the new president won’t tolerate such provocations.

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Iraq: We Will Gladly Pay You Later for Billions in Arms Today

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is coming to Washington next week with his hand out. Reuters is reporting that the PM will ask President Obama for billions of dollars in U.S. weapons to fight Islamic State, but wants to defer payment until later.

Wimpy couldn’t have asked more politely for his hamburger.

But is this really a good idea? What guarantee is there that there will even be an Iraqi government a year from now — or at least one that would be willing to live up to its commitments to pay the U.S. back?

But Iraq thinks they have a hole card — Iran. If they don’t get the arms from us, they say they will look to Tehran for assistance.

Reuters:

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is grappling with an insurgency by militants from Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that emerged from the chaos in Iraq and neighboring Syria and seized much of northern and central Iraq last year.

He is also facing a cash crunch thanks to a plunge in oil prices that is ravaging Iraq’s state finances. The government is projecting a budget deficit of roughly $21 billion this year.

Visiting Washington for the first time as prime minister, Abadi hopes to convince a war-weary United States Iraq deserves more U.S. manpower and arms three years after U.S. troops withdrew from the country in December 2011, as his fledgling army confronts Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

“ISIS is everybody’s problem now,” said the senior Iraqi official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “You can’t run away from the problem if it comes to Canada or goes to France,” he said in reference to attacks by people influenced by Islamic State or al Qaeda in those countries.

The senior Iraqi official hinted Baghdad could turn to Tehran if it did not get the aid it wants from Washington.

“If that’s not available, we’ve already done it with the Iranians and others,” he said, saying that was not the first choice. “The PM is committed to the U.S. … What he also wants to make sure is that he has a partner that he can rely on.”

That makes two of us, Mr. Iraqi official. The Iraqi government has yet to show that they have any desire to include the Sunni Muslims in the national life of the country. There is a reason a lot of them are supporting Islamic State: Iraqi Shias are massacring them, stifling economic opportunity, shutting them out of government jobs, and not allowing them to rise through the ranks in Iraq’s security services.

I say let them go to Tehran for arms. The Iranians are already exerting tremendous influence on the government. They even control the half million Shia volunteer militias that make up the most reliable fighters in the Iraqi forces. No amount of U.S. aid will change the dynamic that Iran is going to dominate Iraq for the foreseeable future.

Why waste the money and arms on a country that might not even exist in a few months?

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Lerner Email Shows Attempt to Pressure IG Conclusions in IRS Targeting Scandal

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

About 5 months before former director of the IRS exempt division Lois Lerner casually let slip the revelation that her department had been targeting conservative organizations for special scrutiny, she sent an email to the inspector general investigating the matter, accusing the IG of being “too narrow” in their scope of the targeting investigation, claiming that she was just doing her job.

It is unusual for the subject of an investigation to plead their case so directly with the inspector general. But the email also shows that Lerner was well aware of the problems in her office with targeting and was looking for a break from the IG in reaching his conclusions.

Washington Examiner:

In an email on Jan. 31, 2013, Lerner encouraged Troy Patterson of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to back off of his investigators’ view that the tax agency was targeting political groups for excessive attention.

“We feel your folks are being too narrow in their view and have decided that because of the language on the earlier BOLO list regarding Tea Party, everything that followed was tainted. They seem to believe that if a case was initially sent to the advocacy group, but ultimately determined to be an approval, that our action in putting it into the advocacy group in the first place is incorrect, and illustrates ‘targeting,’” she said.

“BOLO” was the tax agency’s abbreviation for categories of nonprofit applicants to “be on the lookout” for as they were received.

Lerner continued in the email to Patterson, arguing that she was “willing to take the blame for not having provided sufficient direction initially, which may have resulted in front line staff doing things that appeared to be politically motivated, but I am not on board that anything that occurred here shows that the IRS was politically motivated in the actions taken.”

The email was made public Thursday by nonprofit government watchdog Judicial Watch, which obtained it via a Freedom of Information Act request. The email was among multiple documents the tax agency only provided after being ordered to do so by a federal judge.

The IRS had previously claimed all of Lerner’s emails were lost when her computer crashed and the hard drive was subsequently destroyed as a matter of routine practice by the agency’s information technology staff.

Another email released by Judicial Watch shows Lerner wanting a training program for employees of her division so that they could be “sensitive” to the fact that Congress might review what they were doing:

In another email made public Thursday by Judicial Watch, Lerner said she wanted a training program set up to teach underlings reviewing conservative and Tea Party non-profit tax exemption applications to be “sensitive” to “the fact that anything we write can be public — or at least be seen by Congress.”

In a Feb. 16, 2012, email to colleague Holly Paz, Lerner, who was then head of the federal tax agency’s exempt organizations division, said “we are all a bit concerned about the mention of specific Congress people, practitioners and political parties.”

Lerner suggested that Paz’s staff in the IRS Rulings and Agreements department “could put together some training points to help them understand the potential pitfalls, as well as how to think about referrals.”

Judicial Watch sums up the findings:

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the latest email disclosures “show that the IRS scandal is not over. These documents point to document gaps caused by the refusal of the Obama IRS to search for Lois Lerner’s emails. The incredible email from Lois Lerner admitting (and denying) culpability by her and the IRS in the scandal further undermines President Obama’s lie that the IRS scandal was entirely the fault of ‘bonehead decisions in local offices.’”

The more we read of Lerner emails, the less the bumbling bureaucrat she looks and the more the devious, duplicitous manager she becomes.

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Astounding Cave-in by Obama on Venezuela Threat

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

There’s been a  remarkable about-face by President Obama regarding the threat of Venezuela to the national security of the U.S..

Last month, the president issued an executive order imposing some mild sanctions on seven Venezuela officials who the U.S. says were responsible for the growing climate of human rights violations. The White House said of President Maduro’s crackdown on the opposition, “We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents./..Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent.”

In addition to the sanctions, the president declared a national emergency and referred to the Venezuelan regime as an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United State.”

Sounds serious, right?

After President Maduro threw a tantrum against “American imperialism” and gathered 10 million names on a petition against the sanctions, President Obama backed down and, in an interview this week, said that “Venezuela is not a threat to the U.S. and the U.S. is not a threat to Venezuela.”

So much for the “national emergency.”

Maduro claimed “victory” — as well he should.

Fox News:

Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, is claiming “victory” after President Obama said in an interview earlier this week that “Venezuela is not a threat.”

Maduro is attributing Obama’s supposed change of stance to his initiative of gathering 10 million signatures protesting “U.S. imperialism.”

[...]

“This rectification of vocabulary means a lot and it was possible thanks to the help we received from other Latin American governments and the entire world,” Maduro said Thursday to a crowd gathered in front of the Miraflores Presidential Palace.

He said that Obama’s change of language could open a “new era” of relations between the U.S. and Venezuela.

It gets worse — or better if you’re Maduro. When some reporter timidly asked if the president’s statement represented something of a retreat from the language in the executive order (Jesus, what else could it be), a State Department spokesman referred to former Obama speechwriter, now foreign policy expert Ben Rhodes, who gave this incredible explanation earlier:

Asked whether the U.S. was walking back from its previous depiction of Venezuela as a national security threat, a State Department spokesman, Justen Thomas, referred to remarks by a deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes, at a press briefing this week in which he said: “The wording [of the executive order], which got a lot of attention, is completely pro forma. This is a language that we use in executive orders around the world. So the United States does not believe that Venezuela poses some threat to our national security. We, frankly, just have a framework for how we formalize these executive orders.”

By his side was Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, a willing signer of the petition that will be delivered this weekend to President Obama at the Summit of the Americas taking place in Panama City.

This is actually good news. Doesn’t this mean that the president’s executive orders on immigration are merely “pro-forma” and they don’t really mean what they say? What a relief. For a while we all thought the president was serious about tearing up the Constitution and doing an end run around Congress.

Obama reminds me of the punch-drunk boxer, cowering in the corner, covering up, as the champ pummels him with blow after blow after blow. It appears that his entire second term will be spent caving in to the thugs and evil fanatics of the world who have been largely kept in a box by presidents of both parties since the end of the cold war. They have been released now, free to run wild and dominate and bully their neighbors — with the president of the United States their chief enabler.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. This is the foreign policy that the most radical liberals have been wanting for 40 years: a humbled, apologetic United States, playing second fiddle to the United Nations, agreeing with every claim of “imperialism” made by every tin pot dictator in all the benighted cesspools of the world. Obama believes it’s time for the U.S. to be taught a lesson through humiliation. And school has just begun.

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Does the Nuclear Framework Deal with Iran Actually Exist?

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The framework agreement with Iran announced last week by the White House consisted of an outline memorandum of what the deal covered.

But there have been so many differences in interpretation between Iran and the U.S., that it makes you wonder if there’s any agreement at all.

The Hill:

Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s claim that the United States is “lying” about the terms of a framework nuclear agreement will not derail the negotiations, the White House said Friday.

“The test of whether or not that framework can be memorialized in a deal is not going to be a comment on any given day by a particular Iranian leader,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters.

Whether a final deal is reached will depend on the ability of negotiators from the U.S., Iran and five other world powers to produce a document by the end of June that “meets our core objectives of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Rhodes said.

Khamenei on Thursday accused the U.S. of publishing a fact sheet about the framework agreement that misrepresented what was agreed to, particularly on the pace of sanctions relief and inspections of nuclear sites.

The ayatollah’s comments raised concerns that the differences between Iran and other world powers would be too vast to reach a final deal by the June 30 deadline.

Republicans, meanwhile, have seized on his remarks to argue that the “framework” announced last week wasn’t really a deal at all.

“The Ayatollah and President Obama appear to be talking about two separate agreements and unfortunately, I can’t say I’m surprised,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is considering a run for president in 2016, said in a statement Friday.

“President Obama wants a deal way too badly, and his administration has been trying to sell a deal which may not actually exist,” he added.

Under the framework agreement, Iran would accept limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions that have crippled its economy.

Iran has called for the sanctions to be removed upon the completion of a deal, but the U.S. and its negotiating partners want them lifted gradually as Iran proves it is abiding by the terms of an agreement.

Basically, Rhodes is saying only we can spin what the deal means, not the Iranians.

And it isn’t just that the two sides aren’t on the same page as far as what was negotiated in the framework deal. They are talking about two different deals — one with sanctions lifted immediately upon implementation and one where sanctions are lifted gradually. One where nuclear inspections are severe and complete and another where military sites are off limits to inspectors. One where the facility at Fordow is converted into a kind of nuclear school and another where research can continue and 1000 centrifuges can continue spinning.

And that’s just a few of the massive contradictions coming from both sides. In short, it looks like there was no agreement at all — that the two sides simply gave up and stopped negotiating so that the administration could run out in front of the TV cameras and claim an achievement that is all smoke and mirrors and not real in any sense of the word.

It takes a lot of cynicism to pull off this kind of diplomatic lie, as well as complete confidence that the press won’t make a big deal about it.  But it is a big deal. President Obama is going to negotiate a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that Congress won’t have the opportunity to vote up or down, where the UN Security Council will have the final say, where the ludicrous idea that sanctions, once lifted, can be “snapped back” into place if Iran cheats is pushed on a gullible public, and where the safety and security of the U.S. and our allies may be subject to differing interpretations of what has been negotiated.

Those who say opponents of the framework deal need to come up with an alternative are wrong. There is no deal — never was and never will be unless negotiators on our side cave in and agree that the Iranian interpretation of the framework agreement is correct. There is no way to reconcile what both sides are saying about the deal with reality. The agreement exists in Never-Never Land and with the administration more desperate to complete a deal rather than halt Iranian efforts to get the bomb, Captain Hook has a better chance of beating Peter Pan than the U.S. has of convincing Iran that its interpretation of the agreement is more than just spin.

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Letter Circulated on Behalf of a Victim of Global Warming Witch Hunt

Friday, April 10th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

You probably recall the case of Dr. Willie Soon, a respected solar astrophysicist and expert in how the sun impacts earth’s climate. Dr. Soon fell victim to a witch hunt by global warming hysterics who accused him of accepting money from the fossil fuel industry and not acknowledging the supposed conflict of interest in his work.

A group affiliated with the Center for American Progress gathered 20,000 signatures and sent a letter to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, affiliated with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics where Dr. Soon had served for 25 years as a tenured but unsalaried employee. The petition said:

Dr. Willie Soon — an astrophysicist employed by the Smithsonian — is a go-to “scientist” for climate deniers in Congress, despite his lack of climate credentials. Worse yet, he’s received research grants exclusively from fossil fuel companies and dark money groups since 2002.

Now The Boston Globe is reporting that Soon just published a paper on climate change without disclosing his fossil fuel funding — a violation of the journal’s ethics code and a no-no in the science community.

Tell the Smithsonian: Don’t lend your good name to fossil fuel-funded climate denial. Drop Dr. Willie Soon.

Joe Bast, the Heartland Institute’s CEO and president, responded to these wild, unsubstantiated accusations:

The claim that Dr. Soon lacks “climate credentials” is false and meant to harm his reputation. Dr. Soon is a distinguished astrophysicist with many published articles in peer-reviewed climate science journals. A bio at heartland.org/willie-soon lists many publications and awards and features this quotation from Freeman Dyson, one of the world’s most respected physicists: “The whole point of science is to question accepted dogmas. For that reason, I respect Willie Soon as a good scientist and a courageous citizen.’’

Forecast the Facts’ second lie is more serious, because alleging a violation of professional ethics is taken seriously in the academy. Dr. Soon and his coauthors told the editor ofScience Bulletin, “None of the authors has received funding from any source for this work. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.”

The petition misrepresents a Boston Globe article which reported only that an environmental group “accused” Dr. Soon and his coauthors of failing to report possible conflicts of interest to the journal’s editor. The petition fails to tell potential signers that the article quoted Soon’s coauthor, Christopher Monckton, vigorously refuting the claim. It also fails to note the reporter said the Science Bulletin had not responded to a request for comment, so he had no way of knowing whether there was a “violation of the journal’s ethics code.”

We have reviewed the Science Bulletin’s policy regarding disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and the coauthors’ letter to the editor explaining their decision to declare no conflicts of interest. We believe the coauthors were correct and there was no violation of the journal’s ethics code.

The phrasing of this petition is plainly misleading, making it meaningless regardless of how many people are fooled into signing it. It should immediately be withdrawn and a public apology extended to Dr. Soon.

Now, there is an effort by Dr. Soon’s co-authors of that important paper to push back against the smears and call out the Smithsonian for their deliberate campaign to delegitimize Dr. Soon’s work, and to damage him personally. Christopher Monckton of Brenchley, David Legates and Matt Briggs are circulating a letter addressed to the Smithsonian IG and the Attorney General of Massachussets outlining specific charges against the Smithsonian stemming from their organized and deliberate campaign against Dr. Soon.

There is a mountain of evidence:

We are friends, colleagues, or supporters of Dr Willie Soon, a solar physicist who has been on the strength at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, for a quarter of a century. Recently, with Lord Monckton, Professor David Legates and Dr Matt Briggs, Dr Soon co-authored a paper in the Science Bulletin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences that led to widespread but false allegations by the Smithsonian, echoing various advocacy groups, that he had improperly failed to disclose a source of his funding for his work on the paper.

When those allegations were proven false, the extremist advocacy group originally responsible for them circulated further false allegations that in 11 earlier papers Dr Soon had acted improperly in not having disclosed the source of his funding. However, the Smithsonian had negotiated a contract with the funder in question by which the funder’s identity was not to be published. The only papers in which Dr Soon had not disclosed his funders’ identity were those papers covered by that contractual obligation of confidentiality, for which the Smithsonian, not he, was solely responsible.

The Smithsonian, however, unlawfully and publicly issued a series of statements intended to blame Dr Soon, though it was at fault for having improperly agreed to the obligation of confidentiality by which he was bound. His three co-authors of the Science Bulletin paper have investigated the allegations by the Smithsonian and various political advocacy groups against their colleague. Their findings are set out in the first two pages of their report to the Regents, attached hereto, followed by the evidence.

We now ask you –

(1) to instruct the Inspector-General of the Smithsonian to investigate the co-authors’ findings (pages 2-3) and the evidence in support of the findings (pages 4-17) as part of his investigation of this matter,

(2) to investigate Dr Alcock’s malicious and dishonest interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education; his subsequent refusal to make any correction of his falsehoods upon request by Dr Soon and separately by Dr Soon’s lead author; and his failure to pass on to the general counsel the lead author’s freedom of information request;

(3) to request the Attorney-General of Massachusetts to investigate those aspects of the conduct of the Smithsonian in general and of Dr Alcock in particular that constitute a fraudulent campaign of connected and co-ordinated deceptions, persisted in despite requests to cease and desist and, therefore, intended to cause not only continuing reputational harm but also financial loss to Dr Soon; and

(4), if the report’s findings are in substance correct, to order the Smithsonian to apologize publicly to Dr Soon and to make just and full restitution to him for the loss and damage it and its defalcating senior management have caused.

The hypocrisy of the Smithsonian is astounding. After signing the confidentiality agreement with the funder, preventing Dr. Soon from disclosing his funding, they then have the gall to accuse Soon of unethical behavior!

There may be merit — or there may not be — to Soon’s theories about the sun’s effect on climate. But the goal here is not to examine the scientist’s findings, but rather to stifle scientific dissent. And for a government-affiliated organization like the Smithsonian to willingly and deliberately take part in this organized attempt to smear a fellow scientist only shows how small-minded those who oppose Soon and his colleagues truly are.

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So Ends the Civil War Sesquicentennial: How’d We Do?

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The guns did not fall silent across America 150 years ago today with Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant. There was still a little killing and burning and pillaging left to do.

According to this exhaustive study performed by historian Darroch Greer for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, there would be more than 14,000 additional combined casualties on both sides before formal hostilities were declared over by President Andrew Johnson on August 20, 1865. Of course, that doesn’t count the dead civilians who would be killed for years to come as the violence and chaos continued for a decade in some parts of the country.

And while the formal commemoration of the Sesquicentennial isn’t over yet — the battle of Palmito Ranch fought May 11 will be marked by the Civil War Trust next month — the last four years has seen a remarkable effort to recall and explain what happened during those fateful years of 1861-1865.

The Civil War was fought from Canada to Florida, from Maine to Arizona. Hundreds of skirmishes and battles were fought in some of the quietest corners of America– most of them sleepy towns and villages before the two great armies met and spilled enormous amounts of blood in fighting for their possession.

Would we ever have heard of Bull Run creek? Gettysburg, Pennsylvania?  Sharpsburg, Maryland? Chancellorsville, Virginia? It is startling to realize that the Civil War was fought in the front yards and farmer’s fields of ordinary Americans. Much of Virginia was ravaged, especially following General Grant’s famous order to his hell-for-leather cavalry commander Phil Sheridan to lay waste to the state. His troops would “eat out Virginia clear and clean as far as they go, so that crows flying over it for the balance of the season will have to carry their provender with them.”

Wilbur McLean was one American who experienced the Civil War up close and personal. He owned a house near Bull Run in 1861 and when a  cannonball tore through his front porch during the battle, he decided to leave for safer climes. He settled a few miles south in a tiny hamlet named Appomattox Courthouse. On this day 150 years ago, the opposing generals sat down in his living room to negotiate the surrender of the southern army. Later in life, McLean was fond of noting that “The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor.”

But perhaps the most astonishing accomplishment of this Sesquicentennial has been to pique the interest of the American people in their own past. Americans are notoriously oblivious to their history — a consequence at least partly because of our desire to look always forward and never behind.  But the rash of books, documentaries, and especially the events at battlefield sites, have excited a desire to know our past in a new generation. There are many thousands of kids who are going to grow up and become Civil War buffs — reading and learning everything they can about the conflict. There are almost certainly many adults who have followed events these past 4 years and will continue to educate themselves about our history.

All in all, the 150th anniversary was a huge success no matter how you measure it. Memory is a fragile, unreliable thing, which is why there is history. And being able to live that history vicariously through books, TV, and battlefield commemorations cements the interest of young and old alike in America’s treasured past.

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Michigan Football Coach Jim Harbaugh Stands up for American Sniper Being Shown on Campus

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

My colleague Stephen Kruiser wrote yesterday of a decision by the University of Michigan not to show the film American Sniper because of protests from students and faculty. They sent a letter to the administration claiming:

“The movie ‘American Sniper’ not only tolerates but promotes anti-Muslim and anti-MENA [Muslim, Middle Eastern and North African] rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer,” the letter read in part. “Chris Kyle was a racist who took a disturbing stance on murdering Iraqi civilians.”

MENA, SHMENA — the film was protested because it made Muslims the bad guys and Americans the good guys.

Thankfully, the administration changed its mind and the film will now be screened on campus. And if all that pro-American violence upsets you, the school has the film Paddington being shown at the same time.

Fox News:

The cancellation drew a strong reaction, and The Michigan Daily reported that a third-year Law School student named Rachel Jankowski circulated a petition calling on the university’s Center for Campus Involvement to restore “American Sniper” to the UMix schedule. The university’s football coach, Jim Harbaugh, weighed in on the controversy by tweeting that he would watch the movie with his team.

 

It was nice that the student newspaper was on the side of diversity of opinion for once. But the real catalyst in getting the administration to change its mind were the sentiments expressed by Harbaugh.

After the recent examples of college basketball coaches falling all over themselves to criticize and condemn the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it’s refreshing to see a big-time college athletic coach stand up against the diversity nuts and come out for academic freedom.

And Harbaugh isn’t some run of the mill coach. Even if he hadn’t recently served as the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach, the Michigan alum was hired this year to serve in one of the three most coveted jobs in college football. The University of Michigan is football crazy and Harbaugh’s influence is greater than that of any academic and most administrators. If his intervention wasn’t decisive, it certainly swayed the administration to change its mind and screen the film.

Harbaugh has had success wherever he’s coached and he will no doubt return Michigan to its former glory. Let’s hope he remains a strong voice for sports excellence and academic freedom.

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DirecTV Pulls Rob Lowe Ads After Complaints From Comcast

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

DirecTV has been clobbering Comcast in recent months thanks to an unusual ad campaign that features actor Rob Lowe touting several claims about the advantages of satellite TV compared to cable, who is represented by one of Lowe’s alter egos.

Some of the doppelgangers include “peaked in high school,” “bad decision making,” and “creepy” Rob Lowe. The ads were mildly amusing, but it was the claims made regarding DirecTV vs. cable that had Comcast up in arms.

The cable giant, whose merger with Time-Warner is currently under review, complained to the National Advertising Division (NAD), which is affiliated with the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The NAD adjudicates these kinds of ad disputes and called out DirecTV for basically lying about its advantages over cable.

Business Insider:

Complaints from Comcast have led an industry trade group to recommend DirecTV pull a bizarre series of commercials featuring actor Rob Lowe.

The ads — which featured alter-egos of the actor who had cable while a smooth-talking, sharply dressed Lowe urged people to switch to satellite — have been discontinued. DirecTV says it did not pull them. Rather, they had already planned to start a new campaign during the second quarter.

DirecTV said in a statement to AdAge that the Lowe ads were scheduled to be replaced with spots showing Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover model Hannah Davis and a talking, singing horse. The new commercials began airing during the Final Four.

“The Rob Lowe spots were always scheduled to end at the end of Q1,” said the satellite provider, adding “We definitely reserve the right to bring back the Rob Lowe campaign, either in its current form or with new spots … It has been extremely successful for the brand.”

The National Advertising Division (NAD), which is affiliated with the Council of Better Business Bureaus, argued late Wednesday that DirecTV pull the ads because the following claims made by Lowe were mostly incorrect:

With DirecTV you get 99% signal reliability
With DirecTV you get 99.9% signal reliability
With DirecTV you get 1080p picture quality and Dolby 5.1. The industry’s best picture quality and sound
Up to 1080p picture quality
DirecTV is #1 in customer satisfaction over all cable TV providers
DirecTV is ranked higher than cable for over 10 years
DirecTV is the undisputed leader in sports which means you can watch all the games you want
When it comes to sports, with DirecTV, you can have them all

“The National Advertising Division has recommended that DirecTV, LLC, discontinue certain advertising claims made in a series of television commercials that feature actor Rob Lowe and one of several odd or awkward alter-ego characters,” the group said in a statement.

The trade group agreed only with DirecTV on claims based on signal reliability and 1080p picture quality. NAD’s ruling has no legal standing, but the satellite provider has vowed to repeal.

I can testify for the plaintiff in the case of signal reliability. Not only is it outrageously wrong, but the customer service rep I talked to when I signed up for DirecTV actually told me that if there are outages, they never last more than a few minutes.

Every summer when there’s a thunderstorm, we can lose the signal up to 45 minutes, depending on how big the storm system is. Even without a thunderstorm, a simple rain shower can cause a loss of signal for 5-10 minutes.

As far as customer service overall, I’d give them a C+.  Comcast, to which I subscribed for many years before I converted to satellite, was no worse, except they took a little longer to come out for service calls.  Picture and sound quality on satellite are far superior to Comcast so I really don’t have much to complain about.

In a statement, DirecTV tried to brush off the criticisms, saying: “The various Rob Lowe advertisements are so outlandish and exaggerated that no reasonable consumer would believe that the statements being made by the alter ego characters are comparative or need to be substantiated.”

This is true, as far as it goes. But when you make claims that can’t be substantiated or are outright incorrect, the company should be slapped down.

DirecTV’s new ad campaign is idiotic and embarrassing:

Bring back “scrawny arms” Rob Lowe who angered the group, the International Paruresis Association (IPA):

The campaign previously made headlines when a group called the International Paruresis Association (IPA) railed against “scrawny arms” Rob Lowe being unable to pee in public. Paruresis is also known as “shy bladder” and affects around 200 million people around the world, IPA claims.

“In this particular case the portrayal is making it look ridiculous, that this guy is a loser for having a problem,” group CEO Steve Soifer told the Associated Press. “What if he didn’t have a leg or an arm?” he continued. “Are you going to make fun of them?”

If it would sell subscriptions to DirecTV, you can bet they’d make fun of them.

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Hatton Garden $300 Million Jewel Heist: Who Should Play the Mastermind in the Film?

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

It was the perfect heist. Whether or not it becomes the perfect crime depends on if the criminals get away with it.

Sometime over the long Easter weekend, an unknown number of criminals broke into the offices above the Hatton Garden Safety Deposit Box Company. They cut through the roof to gain access to Hatton Garden offices, rappelled down an elevator shaft to the basement, disabled a state-of-the-art security system, stole the hard drive of the CCTV system, cut through an 18-inch thick metal wall, and, over the four-day Easter holiday weekend, leisurely went about the business of gathering up an unknown amount of jewelry and valuables by drilling into at least 70 of the safe deposit boxes.

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The estimate of $300 million (200 million pounds) is pretty much a wild guess. Hatton Garden is located smack in the middle of London’s diamond district and all sorts of people had accounts with the firm at the time of the heist. People trying to hide assets for one reason or another may have had a box, and they would not be likely or eager to declare what was in it. Most of the customers were small, independent firms who couldn’t afford to buy a safe. But there were several firms whose losses will be in the millions.

The Telegraph:

Local jewellers said the victims would be small, independent business and workshop owners who used the boxes to store their stock overnight and who did not have their own safes.

Many admitted they were not insured and said the prospect of losing tens of thousands of pounds worth of valuable goods made them “feel sick” as they waited for the police to confirm whose boxes had been emptied.

Michael Miller, a jeweller from Knightsbridge, London, faces the prospect of losing up to £50,000 as the contents of his safety box were not insured. But he said some boxes would be worth several million pounds.

“I have a collection of watches I was going to give my son and that is irreplaceable,” he said. “I bought an IWC GST Aquatimer on the day my son was born and I was going to give it to him when he turns 18. They don’t make them anymore.”

Norman Bean, 68, said: “A friend had a half-cut aqua diamond worth £500,000. He’s terrified it has gone. I have £35,000 of stuff including a pear-shaped diamond ring.”

The gang was almost caught when an alarm went off over the weekend. But the security guard on duty had a rather novel reason why he didn’t investigate:

Mr Bean said he had spoken to the security guard who heard the alarm going off.

“He went downstairs, looked through the door, through the windows and couldn’t see anything and came out again, that was it,” he added. “I said, ‘Well why didn’t you open up and have a look in?’ He told me he doesn’t get paid enough.”

I daresay the security guard isn’t being paid anything now.

With detailed knowledge of the security system and CCTV set-up, authorities believe the heist was an inside job. Given the complexity of the crime, there may have been a couple of insiders.

This is a movie that scripts itself. As for casting, how about Clive Owen as the mastermind? Need someone older? Michael Caine would be perfect. Or, if we want to be politically correct, make the mastermind a woman. Scarlett Johansson would fit the bill nicely.

Eric Bana could be the leader of the crooks who performed the heist. Russell Crowe could play one of the crooks who looks to double cross the rest of gang (can’t have a heist movie without a double cross).

And how about Johnny Depp playing the lead detective who finally catches up with the crooks?

As audacious and daring as this robbery was, you would hope they catch the criminals responsible. Still, in the long and storied history of crime in England, the Hatton Garden heist will go down as one of the most spectacular.

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Greece Demands $303 Billion in Reparations from Germany

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The Greek debt crisis is entering a surreal phase, where the leftist government in Athens has delusions of forcing Germany to pay reparations from World War II in the amount of $303 billion (279 billion euros).

After overcoming their astonishment, the German government reacted swiftly.

 Germany’s economy minister branded Greece’s demand for 278.7 billion euros in reparations from World War Two as “stupid” on Tuesday, while the German opposition said Berlin should repay a forced loan dating from the Nazi occupation.

Greek Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas made the demand on Monday, seizing on an emotional issue in a country where many blame Germany, their biggest creditor, for the tough austerity measures and record high unemployment connected with two international bailouts totalling 240 billion euros.

“And this leeway has absolutely nothing to do with World War Two or reparation payments,” said Gabriel, who leads the Social Democrats (SPD), junior partner in the ruling coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

Berlin is keen to draw a line under the reparations issue and officials have previously argued that Germany has honoured its obligations, including a 115-million deutsche mark payment made to Greece in 1960.

A spokeswoman for the finance ministry said on Tuesday that the government’s position was unchanged.

How desperate is Greece for cash? The government of Alex Tsipras keeps telling its creditors it will meet all obligations, but nobody is believing them. They have a 450 million euro payment due the IMF by April 9 and it’s unknown whether they can — or will — pay the bill. Over the next three months, much larger payments to creditors are coming due and without the remaining 7.9 billion euros in the bailout package being released by the EU, Greece will be in technical default.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has reiterated his country’s commitment to its creditors, however, saying on Sunday that Greece “intends to meet all obligations to all its creditors, ad infinitum,” Reuters reported Monday. He also told a Greek newspaper Monday that the country “must” reach an outline funding agreement with its lenders at the Eurogroup meeting on April 24.

Christian Schulz, a senior economist at Berenberg, said Tuesday that while the 279 billion euro figure that Greece was claiming in war damages would cover nearly 90 percent of Greece’s entire public debt, it would do little to help Greece’s current crisis.

“If the government were to support these claims, long legal battles between Germany and Greece might loom, but that would be of little help in the immediate crisis,” he said in a note Tuesday. As such, he said, “Europe’s trouble spot provides few reasons for optimism, to put it mildly” and that the new threat is snap elections or a referendum as early as May.

“If the T-bill auctions on 8 and 14 April go well and funds also cover pension and salary payments this month, the government may be able to keep going until the next scheduled meeting of the Eurogroup of finance ministers on 24 April,” he said.

“However, that would only be encouraging, if Prime Minister Tsipras’ coalition was close to an agreement with the EU, IMF and ECB about the necessary reforms to unlock the 7.2 billion euros left in the bailout fund.”

Tsipras will visit Moscow this week which has some EU members nervous. The Greek prime minister may be tempted by President Putin to swap some assets for a line of credit that could get Greece through some rough spots over the next few months.

Russia could offer debt-ridden Greece controversial loans and discounts on supplies of natural gas in exchange for the country’s “assets”, according to reports in Moscow.

Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s prime minister, is due to arrive in the city on Tuesday and will meet Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, on Wednesday.

Athens overtures to Moscow have raised fears the Leftist government is pivoting east in search of alternatives sources of finance as it bids to avoid bankruptcy. Ahead of his visit, Mr Tsipras condemned economic sanctions on Moscow as “a road to nowhere”.

Greece’s dalliance with the Kremlin has also attracted criticism for potentially undermining the EU’s united front against Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.

The Syriza leader’s flirtation with Moscow is likely to harden sympathetic European voices to Greek pleas of relief.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said on Saturday that it would be “unacceptable” if Mr Tsipras “jeopardised Europe’s common policy on Russia” in return for Kremlin aid.

But Kommersant newspaper quoted an anonymous Russian government source on Tuesday saying that lines of credit were on the table.

“We’re ready to consider the question of providing Greece discounts on gas: the price for it is tied to the cost of oil which has significantly fallen in recent months,” the source said.

“We are also ready to discuss the possibility of granting Greece new loans. But here we, in turn, are interested in reciprocal moves – in particular, in Russia receiving particular assets in Greece.”

Putin must be licking his chops. Pulling the Greeks into his web with promises of cash and cheap energy in exchange for a seaport or perhaps a natural gas company would be extra satisfying if he could drive a wedge between Athens and the rest of the EU. And, of course, the implications for NATO would be troubling.

For Tsipras, it must be flattering to have Russia so interested in helping him. But the Greek prime minister must know that any help from Putin will come with a price. And when the bill comes due, that price may be too high for Greece to pay.

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California Wealthy: Water Conservation Is for the Little People

Sunday, April 5th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

California is going through a severe drought that has been exacerbated because of poor planning by government and massive interference by environmentalists. (Victor Davis Hanson explains it all.)

It’s gotten so bad that California Governor Jerry Brown has imposed mandatory conservation measures — at least for homeowners and some businesses. Others, like California’s farmers and oil companies, have largely been spared the 25% cut in water usage.

For the state’s wealthy, their attitude seems to be “catch me if you can.” The water restrictions depend a lot on voluntary compliance. So it shouldn’t surprise us that this weekend in upscale areas  like Beverly Hills, La Canada Flintridge, Newport Beach, Malibu and Palos Verdes, the sprinklers were going full blast, fountains were burbling, and hoses were watering all those beautiful gardens.

From the Los Angeles Times: 

Residents in communities such as La Canada Flintridge, Newport Beach, Malibu and Palos Verdes all used more than 150 gallons of water per capita per day in January. By contrast, Santa Ana used just 38 gallons and communities in Southeast L.A. County used less than 45.

Water usage in Los Angeles was 70 gallons per capita. But within the city, a recent UCLA study examining a decade of Department of Water and Power data showed that on average, wealthier neighborhoods consume three times more water than less-affluent ones.

With Gov. Jerry Brown’s order requiring a 25% cut in water consumption, upscale communities are scrambling to develop stricter laws that will work where years of voluntary standards have not. Many believe it’s going to take a change in culture as well as city rules to hit the goal.

“Some people — believe it or not — don’t know we are in a drought,” said George Murdoch, general manager of utilities in Newport Beach, which is beginning to fine chronic water wasters. “We have people that own a home here but aren’t around a lot, so they could miss a leak.”

Stephanie Pincetl, who worked on the UCLA water-use study, said wealthy Californians are “lacking a sense that we are all in this together.”

“The problem lies, in part, in the social isolation of the rich, the moral isolation of the rich,” Pincetl said.

Until now, Beverly Hills officials said they have focused on educating, rather than penalizing water wasters. The city is in the second stage of its emergency water conservation plan, which calls for voluntary limits on use of fountains that do not use recycled water, pavement washing and lawn watering to reduce water consumption by 10%.

But on Friday, fountains, sprinklers and hoses seemed to flow freely throughout the city.

City officials will introduce a stricter plan that they say will achieve the governor’s 25% reduction target at a council meeting this month. There is some debate as to how much residents can change.

Kay Dangaard, a longtime Beverly Hills resident who recently moved to a condo just outside the city, said she’s seen much apathy about the drought.

“In this part of town, everyone is just too important to see outside themselves,” she said as she shopped at the Beverly Hills Whole Foods Market. “Where are these people going to go with all their money when the water is gone?”

The answer to that last question is easy: wherever they damn well please.

As an object lesson, perhaps California should shut the water off in those zip codes for a day or two, giving the residents a chance to see what it would be like to live without water. We recently had that experience here in Streator, IL, when a boil order went out because of contamination.  No drinking, no washing, no bathing. Sue rushed to the store and bought the last 8 cases of water but it was still a pain in the neck to deal with. It made us both appreciate a little more what comes out of the tap every time you turn the handle.

Is the social isolation of the rich a problem associated with income inequality? The rich have always been socially isolated. It’s one of the perks of having money. You don’t have to hang around with Joe and Marge Public if you don’t want to. This has been true forever, so it’s hard to see how this is a recent problem that government should try to fix.

I don’t begrudge these people their money and wealth. I celebrate it. But if I lived in California, I would organize a brigade of water spies who would prowl these wealthy neighborhoods looking for obvious scofflaws and turn them in to the local authorities. If I have to cut my water consumption by 25%, by god, both the wealthiest and the poorest are going to cut it, too. And if there are those who actually believe they are above these restrictions, I would want the local and state government to know who they are.

 

 

 

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Watch J. Christian Adams Eviscerate Madison, WI Atheist Protections

Sunday, April 5th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

PJ Media’s Legal Editor J.Christian Adams was “on fire for his faith” yesterday, according to Fox and Friends host Anna Kooiman. Adams appeared on a segment discussing the recent city council ordinance in Madison, WI that granted atheists “protected class” status.

Adams explained that the aggressively anti-religion group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is pushing the measure in cities and counties across the country. He warned that an “army of bureaucrats” would enforce the measure, making sure that people of faith are not discriminating against atheists — even though there may be a good reason an employer would want a person of faith working for them.

The video is currently the top video on the Fox News site.


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