Not his fault. How was he supposed to know that ISIS was a growing threat?
In fact, U.S. intelligence agencies received information from Kurdish officials early this year that ISIS was on the march.
Kurdish officials on Tuesday revealed more details about the warnings they gave to U.S. officials about the threat from Sunni militants now rampaging across Iraq with their eyes on Baghdad.
As far back as six months ago, Kurdish intelligence operatives were receiving troubling reports from along the border between Syria and Iraq, officials told NBC News.
There was a suspiciously large amount of men gathering in makeshift camps and staging areas that were accumulating weapons and vehicles. They appeared, according to Kurdish intelligence, to be preparing for battle.
The men were made up of mostly fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), which has taken control of several cities in Iraq in the past couple of weeks — but Kurdish Intelligence operatives also noticed the fighters’ ranks had grown.
Joining were young men from local Iraqi tribes not known to have previous affiliation with ISIS, an organization aimed at establishing an Islamic caliphate militarily and imposing their strict interpretation of Islamic Law, or ‘Sharia’ in Iraq and greater Syria. Kurdish intelligence also learned that former officials from Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party and ex-military officers were communicating with the fighters.
Then, in April, large convoys of vehicles carrying militants were spotted moving across the Syria-Iraq border. Only this time, after years of moving to the Syrian battlefield, they were now returning to Iraq.
The intelligence, according to Kurdish security sources, also revealed that ISIS had shifted its sights away from Syria and onto Iraq to tap into a groundswell of resentment among Sunni communities in the west of the country — who are underrepresented by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad.
As was their job, the intelligence agencies passed this information along to senior officials at the White House:
The U.S. intelligence community warned about the “growing threat” from Sunni militants in Iraq since the beginning of the year, a senior intelligence official said Tuesday — a claim that challenges assertions by top administration officials that they were caught off guard by the capture of key Iraqi cities.
Earlier Tuesday, in an interview with Fox News, Secretary of State John Kerry said “nobody expected” Iraqi security forces to be decisively driven out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, as they were earlier this month in Mosul.
But in a separate briefing with reporters Tuesday afternoon, the senior intelligence official said the intelligence community had warned about the ISIS threat.
“During the past year, the intelligence community has provided strategic warning of Iraq’s deteriorating security situation,” the official said. “We routinely highlighted (ISIS’) growing threat in Iraq, the increasing difficulties Iraq’s security forced faced in combating (ISIS), and the political strains that were contributing to Iraq’s declining stability.”
Asked who failed to act, the official did not explain.
The highest-ranking Vatican official ever to be investigated for sex abuse is now accused of storing tens of thousands of child porn videos and images on his computer.
Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who served as a papal envoy in the Dominican Republic, had been arrested earlier this week at the Vatican and will be charged with sexually abusing minors and child porn possession. He may spend up to 7 years in the Vatican prison.
Vatican detectives analysed the PC Wesolowski used in his office in Santo Domingo, where he served as Holy See envoy from 2008 to 2012 as part of an investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of underage boys.
The probe reportedly revealed a collection of horrors. The Polish native held more than 100,000 sexually-explicit files, Il Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.
ome 160 videos showing teenage boys forced to perform sexual acts on themselves and on adults and more than 86,000 pornographic photos were meticulously archived in several category-based folders, the paper said.
Investigators said that at least another 45,000 pictures were deleted, while a second stash of material was found on a laptop Wesolowski used during his trips abroad.
The former clergyman was placed under house arrest in a pre-trial detention at the Vatican earlier this week. He has been detained in a small room in the basement of the Collegio dei Penitenzieri, a convent located in the same building hosting the Vatican’s court and military police in the famous Santa Marta square.
Investigators are also probing whether there was a network of people who helped him to set up sexual encounters and if he committed other abuse during his previous posts around the world.
Before arriving in Santo Domingo, Wesolowski served as apostolic nuncio in Bolivia and Central Asia – covering Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kirghizstan and Uzbekistan – after holding less prominent roles in Southern African, Costa Rica, Japan, Switzerland, India and Denmark.
He was recalled to Rome last year, after Dominican Republic media alleged he hired “rent boys” and was subsequently banished from the clergy, after a canonical court found him guilty of sex abuse.
His trial is expected to start in January.
This may be the apex of the sex scandals that have done so much to damage the Catholic Church. The loss of trust among ordinary Catholics because of an organized effort at the highest levels of the church hierarchy to sweep even the most egregious sex abuse cases by priests under the rug has angered and saddened tens of millions around the globe.
It may be that only 3% or so of priests are guilty, although how many priests have gotten away with their crimes is unknown. But beyond the numbers of abused children, there stands the dioceses, the archdioceses, and the Holy See itself who knew of the abuse and quietly paid off victims and covered up the criminal activity by transferring offending priests from parish to parish, thus giving them new children to victimize.
Many Catholics have left the church in disgust over the sex scandals. Many others have had their faith tested. Pope Francis appears to acknowledge the errors, but it will take more than one good-hearted pope to restore the people’s faith in this 2000 year old institution.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov was present at the first “reset” between the US and Russia when then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously presented him with a button that said “Reset” in English but something less friendly in Russian:
Clinton presented Lavrov with a gift-wrapped red button, which said “Reset” in English and “Peregruzka” in Russian. The problem was, “peregruzka” doesn’t mean reset. It means overcharged, or overloaded.
And Lavrov called her out on it.
“We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” Clinton asked Lavrov.
“You got it wrong,” Lavrov said. “This says ‘peregruzka,’ which means overcharged.”
There’s a YouTube clip of this unforced error. Do you think the GOP will use it against her in 2016?
Not likely. Hillary got a pass from the media then for this towering stupidity in 2009 and the entire incident has gone down the rabbit hole never to be brought up again.
But Lavrov may be tweaking Hillary a bit with this call for a “reset” of US-Russia relations, putting the onus squarely on the United States to improve ties.
Sergei Lavrov, who was minister during the 2010 “reset” of relations, said the current US administration had “wrecked much of the co-operation structures”.
“It is absolutely in our interests to normalise relations but we didn’t wreck them,” he told a Russian TV channel.
The US led sanctions against Russia this year over its actions in Ukraine.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March and has since been accused of fuelling the bloody insurrection in its eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, a charge it denies.
It has also differed sharply with the US and its Western allies over the conflict in Syria.
In June 2010, US President Barack Obama cemented the original “reset” at a summit when the then Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, visited the White House.
That initiative came after years of poor relations, notably after Russia’s summer war with Georgia, an aspiring Nato member, in 2008, when George W Bush was president.
“Now there’s a need for what the Americans might call a ‘reset’,” Mr Lavrov told Russia’s Channel Five (in Russian).
“The current US administration is today wrecking much of the co-operation structures that it created itself along with us. Most likely, something more will come up – a reset No 2 or a reset 2.0.”
Mr Lavrov said the situation was improving on the ground in Ukraine, where a shaky ceasefire has been in place for several weeks.
Nato reported this week that there had been a significant withdrawal of Russian conventional troops from inside eastern Ukraine, although many thousands remained just over the border.
Moscow has never acknowledged the presence of any Russian troops in Ukraine.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, President Obama accused Russia of pouring arms into the region but he also praised the recent ceasefire agreement between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels.
He promised to lift sanctions if Moscow worked through diplomatic means to secure a lasting peace.
It’s clear the Russians have given up on Obama. He never panned out to be quite the pushover they hoped and expected — and probably would have been if they hadn’t gone off half cocked and annexed Crimea. Their naked aggression forced Obama to reluctantly cancel the reset and treat them as an opponent rather than a partner.
That “reset” gimmick was probably forced on Hillary. She’s one of the few Democrats who never had any illusions about Putin or the Russians. What worries Lavrov — and American liberals — is that Clinton possesses a harder edge to her foreign policy outlook than most leftists, and that a Clinton presidency wouldn’t be burdened by Obama’s nonsensical naivete that led to the belief that America’s enemies can be our friends.
Clinton will almost certainly position herself to the right of Obama on foreign policy if she runs. Lavrov’s offer of a “reset” can be seen in the context that the next American president won’t have much of an opportunity to improve relations unless they accept the new Russian sphere of influence that includes the Ukraine as well as the Baltic states and former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe.
An article appearing in a Liberian newspaper by an American professor teaching at a taxpayer-funded university accuses the U.S. Department of Defense of deliberately infecting Africans with the Ebola virus.
Cyril Broderick, a Liberian-born professor teaching at Delaware State University, believes that the Ebola outbreak was an international plot that included the injection of the Ebola virus into human test subjects just weeks before the outbreak began in Africa.
Broderick’s conspiracy-laden Sept. 9 article is entitled “Ebola, AIDS Manufactured By Western Pharmaceuticals, US DoD?”
“Reports narrate stories of the US Department of Defense (DoD) funding Ebola trials on humans, trials which started just weeks before the Ebola outbreak in Guinea and Sierra Leone,” Broderick claims. “The reports continue and state that the DoD gave a contract worth $140 million dollars to Tekmira, a Canadian pharmaceutical company, to conduct Ebola research. This research work involved injecting and infusing healthy humans with the deadly Ebola virus.”
In addition to the American military and the Canadian pharmaceutical industry, the nutty professor also implicates the United Kingdom, France, Tulane University, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders.
Richard Preston’s epidemiological thriller “The Hot Zone” rates a mention in Broderick’s rant as well.
The Washington Post describes the professor’s potboiler of an article as “semi-intelligible” and interviewed Broderick.
“There are many references to what was contained in my letter,” Broderick told the Post. “You may read the letter and double-check the sources listed. They are available and legitimate.”
ut actually the sources are questionable. They include several conspiracy websites such as Global Research, which seeks to counter “media disinformation” with “unspoken truth.”
As the Post also notes, Western government leaders, philanthropic givers and medical professionals who seek to fight against Ebola face a massive obstacle in the pervasive amount of misinformation that continues to spread in West African communities ravaged by (and soon-to-be ravaged by) the virus.
Bizarro rumors “become strengthened through mass dissemination and the credibility gained through publication,” explained international affairs blog Ramen IR, according to the Post.
Many conspiracy-loving readers who have found Broderick’s article believe the nonsense, at least to judge from the over 500 comments below it.
A fairly representative commenter charges that AIDS and Ebola are “biological weapons designed to ‘cull’ Africa’s populations.”
Meanwhile, the Post also notes that administrators at Delaware State have no plans to restrict Broderick’s ability to spew crackpot theories using his job as a credential.
“The university is not going to abridge his First Amendment rights to give his opinion about the issues of the day,” Carlos Holmes, a spokesman for the school, told the paper.
Broderick could be dismissed as a kook — except he won’t be by far too many people in Africa and here at home. For Africans, it’s much easier to accept the “hidden hand” theory of history that takes away their free will and mysteriously controls their lives. This way, nothing is ever their fault. They can blame anything and everything from natural disasters to political oppression on forces they can’t control.
There are plenty of Americans who suffer from the same paranoia. The black community seems particularly susceptible to these wild conspiracy theories, largely because there have been real conspiracies carried out against them over the centuries. The government really did carry out experiments with syphilis on poor blacks in Mississippi, deliberately not treating infected patients to measure the progress of the disease over 40 years. There really was a conspiracy by the FBI to not only monitor civil rights leaders, but place them in compromising positions to discredit them.
Perhaps the most pervasive conspiracy — supported by notable blacks like Dick Gregory and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — is that the U.S. government created the AIDS virus to kill black people. Given the impossibility of any lab in the world creating a retrovirus — especially in the late 1970s when the disease first presented –i t’s amazing that this theory is still being touted.
Sadly, Broderick is only contributing to the spread of the disease in Africa. And the fact that his university won’t shut him up in the interest of saving lives makes his transgressions against rationality all the more tragic.
It’s been 48 hours since Jah’Keem Yisrael — AKA Alton Noel — perpetrated a horrific terrorist attack on 54 year old co-worker Colleen Hufford, stabbing her repeatedly and then sawing her head off with a knife, and we have yet to hear any acknowledgment from President Obama of this worrisome incident.
Why not? All the elements of an Islamic act of terror are present: the savagery, the shouting of Islamic verses during the act, the stated determination to carry out jihad, and a fanatical belief in Islam that, in his mind, justified everything.
From a political standpoint, it’s a bad idea to bring attention to the attack. But we don’t pay presidents to do what is politically expedient. We pay them to lead. And leadership — so sorely lacking in this and many other incidences — is what President Obama is unable to give.
Instead, our president could be found, for the 198th time, playing golf today.
Sometimes President Obama makes the right choice, and I think we try to note that here at White House Dossier.
Today was one of those times.
Obama analyzed the facts – 80 degrees, no humidity, and endless sunshine – and made the decision to go golfing.
He’s playing today at Fort Belvoir in Virginia with two junior White House aides and sports columnist Tony Kornheiser. It’s the 198th time he’s played as president and his 41st trip to the links this year.
Meanwhile, authorities continue to insist there is “no connection” to terrorism. It’s a useful fiction, but hardly the point.
Colin Clarke, a Rand Corp. terrorism expert, told Fox & Friends Saturday that the beheading was an act of terrorism and should be characterized as such.
“Calling it workplace violence is counterproductive,” he said.
Chad Sweet, CEO of the Chertoff Group and a former Department of Homeland Security Chief of Staff and CIA official, also appeared on Saturday’s Fox & Friends program. He said he expected the Obama administration to change its tune quickly and call it terrorism.
“You’ll see this change very shortly,” he said Saturday. “The only thing that is causing a pause I think is the fact that the triggering event was the termination of his employment.”
The police department issued a statement saying, “After conducting interviews with Nolen’s co-workers, information was obtained that he recently started trying to convert several employees to the Muslim religion. Due to the manner of death and the initial statements of co-workers and other initial information, the Moore Police Department requested the assistance of the FBI in conducting a background investigation on Nolan.”
Nolen, according to state corrections records, was convicted in January 2011 of multiple felony drug offenses, assault and battery on a police officer and escape from detention. He was released from prison in March 2013.
Incredibly, the FBI is refusing to call this terrorist act an act of terror, and they also say that there is “no indication that Nolen was copying the beheadings of journalists in Syria by the Islamic State,” and “that they are treating this as an incident of workplace violence.”
Where else would Yisrael have gotten the idea to behead people? And “workplace violence”? I suppose if a Christian beheads a Muslim, we’ll get around to calling it “terrorism.”
It’s this kind of politically correct obtuseness that will only get more Americans killed. Trying to spare the sensibilities of American Muslims by refusing to state the obvious and connect this terror attack to the thousands of others carried out by Islamic terrorists since 9/11 is dangerous myopia.
No doubt authorities worry about a violent response against Muslims for this act of terror. And this is an excuse to hide the truth from the American people? We are not to be treated as frightened children, with adults telling us soothing fairy tales to mask the horrors of the world. If we are really going to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, it’s not going to be accomplished by sticking our head in the sand and ignoring the reality of what’s happening in the world.
How many more of these lone wolf terrorist attacks will occur before our leaders begin to treat Islamic terrorism with the seriousness it deserves?
More than 2,000 flights across the country were canceled on Friday and another 700 on Saturday after a contractor set a busy air traffic control center outside of Chicago on fire and tried to take his own life.
Brian Howard, a 36 year old resident of Naperville, IL left his intentions on his Facebook page:
“Take a hard look in the mirror, I have. And this is why I am about to take out ZAU and my life,” Howard posted, using the call letters for the Aurora center, the FBI said. “April, Pop, love you guys and I am sorry. Leaving you with a big mess. Do your best to move on quickly from me please. Feel like I give (expletive) for the first time in a long time again … but not for too long (haha!) So I’m gonna smoke this blunt and move on, take care everyone.”
That was posted at 5:36 a.m. Friday, about 30 minutes after Howard entered the center, the FBI said.
At 5:42 a.m., a control center employee called 911 to say the center was on fire.
It was the responding paramedics from the Aurora Fire Department who found Howard, the FBI said.
After sabotaging the center, Howard tried to slit his own throat:
In federal court documents, investigators say they found Howard at the Aurora center Friday morning, not far from a gas can and lighter, burned towels and exposed telecommunications cables and wires that had been set on fire.
A floor panel had been pulled away to reach the wires, officials said.
Paramedics followed a blood trail near the fire and found a knife and a lighter on the floor. Another knife was found on the blood trail — and then a pair of feet were seen sticking out from under a table, authorities said.
It was Howard, they alleged, in the process of slitting his throat with another knife. He also had knife wounds on his arms, authorities said.
A paramedic pulled the knife away from him and set it on the table. Howard told the paramedics to “leave me alone,” the FBI said.
The FBI said the investigation revealed Howard posted to Facebook just before the fire was set:
Since Chicago is a major air hub, the flight disruptions rippled across the country on Friday, bringing some airports to a standstill:
Lines remained long on Saturday at O’Hare, a major hub for the nation’s air network. Many travelers stranded overnight slept on cots provided by the airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration facility in Aurora, about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago, handles planes cruising at high altitudes through the airspace as well as those just beginning to approach or completing a departure from airports in the Chicago area. During the shutdown, its responsibilities have been transferred to centers in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Minneapolis.
The widespread disruption left some aviation analysts, travelers and politicians calling for a smoother backup plan and wondering how one person could be in a position to wreak so much havoc.
“As the busiest airport in the world, Chicago O’Hare International Airport cannot be brought to a screeching halt,” said Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, of Illinois. “I want to see not only an immediate review by the FAA of the screening process at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, but also a report within 30 days outlining changes the FAA will make to prevent any one individual from having this type of impact on the heart of the United States economy.”
An FAA spokeswoman didn’t immediately have a response, but an agency statement on Friday’s fire emphasized that airspace management was immediately transferred to other facilities.
It’s not like these air traffic control sites are top secret. You can probably find the address in the phone book. Unless you believe terrorists like ISIS are complete idiots, you have to wonder what lessons were drawn from Howard’s sabotage by those who seek to strike America any way they can.
Imagine if the entire facility had been blown up or a better job done of destroying equipment? Then imagine multiple similar targets all attacked at the same time. How long would air travel be disrupted? The 9/11 attacks forced the closure of US airspace for 2 days, with the fallout from the hijackings costing the industry $22 billion in lost revenue. It’s easy to see what would happen if several of these FAA facilities were to go offline at the same time; mass cancellations and chaos.
While we have no idea how secure these facilities were before the fire, you would hope that they will be improved in the aftermath.
Both authorities in More, Oklahoma, and legions of social media watchers have been busy ferreting out information on the man accused of stabbing and beheading Colleen Hufford, a 54-year-old grandmother, at a food distribution warehouse.
The picture that is emerging of Alton Noel, who took the Islamic name Jah’Keem Yisrael, is of a violent criminal with no history of mental illness, who converted to Islam in prison and wished to bring Sharia law to America.
The American Thinker’s Jeannie DeAngelis looked at Yisrael’s Facebook page:
Judging from things he says on his Facebook page, Jah’Keem Yisrael was raised in a Christian home where, while getting ready to go to church, his mama sang along with the O’Jays to “Stairway to Heaven” (no, not that “Stairway to Heaven”).
Since coming out of prison, he spent his time offering Dawah to kids in Old Navy t-shirts and proselytizing on behalf of Islam while working at Vaughan Foods.
Nolen’s Facebook rants include preaching against non-Muslims, especially Jews, and features gun-toting Taliban fighters as his cover photo and a picture justifying beheading infidels, complete with a severed head. In addition, Jah’Keem lauds Osama Bin Laden, displays the smoking Twin Towers, and has numerous photos starring himself as was a proud member of the Islamic Mosque community in Oklahoma City.
According to Breitbart, that Oklahoma City mosque attended by Yisrael had connections to terrorist imam Anwar al-Awlaki, a former leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula:
Suhaib Webb, an Imam with ties to former Al Qaeda mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki, had also previously been the leader of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, which had been attended by Alton Nolen — the man who on Thursday beheaded a former coworker after recently converting to Islam, Breitbart News has learned. Webb now serves as Imam of the sister organization of the mosque attended by Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Imam Suhaib Webb has a history of ties to radicalism. FBI surveillance documents found that he was a known confidant of Al Qaeda mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki. Just two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks on America, Webb spoke at a fundraiser with Awlaki with hopes to raise funds for Atlanta-based H. Rap Brown, a man that shot and killed two police officers. The FBI documents also found that “Webb and Awlaki may be associated with the Muslim American Society,” which is a group described by the Investigative Project on Terrorism as being “founded as the United States Chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Nolen took a picture of himself (above) September 5th, just three weeks before he brutally murdered an innocent woman, standing in front of the gates of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City.
The caption read: “At The Masjid (Mosque)Today For Jumar 9/5/2014 & Peforming Wudu!!!”
Writing in the Jewish Advocate last year, columnist Charles Jacobs described Imam Webb as someone who “teaches vicious hatred and calls for young Muslims to engage in Jihad against non-Muslims in order to establish a global Islamic state.”
Ben Shapiro’s Truth Revolt blog has been extensively reporting on Yisrael, and tracked down a story in the terrorist’s hometown newspaper (no online edition) that sheds more light on his termination from Vaughan Foods:
A classmate of Nolen’s, who didn’t wish to be identified, told this newspaper that he spoke to a close family member of Nolen’s today.
He told this newspaper that according to the family member, Nolen was telling coworkers Thursday of an Islamic teaching that said women should be stoned for an offense, and that an argument followed the mark, Nolen was later fired and returned later Thursday, when he beheaded Colleen Hufford, the family member said.
Truth Revolt also delved into Yisrael’s police record:
The Gazette reports that Nolen has a long history with the local police department. He has been arrested at least 10 times by Idabel police between 2004 and 2009, on “allegations ranging from assault, burglary, obstructing an officer, resisting arrest, drug possession, and larceny,” among other unlisted charges.
Nolan’s classmates state that he converted to Islam while in prison in 2011. Records indicate he was incarcerated for, among other things, assaulting a police officer.
The website also reports on the violent friends Yisrael hung out with growing up:
Tucker points out that Nolen is not the only person accused of murder from their childhood circle of friends. Mutual friend Eric Blandon was found guilty of murder in 2013, having killed his boss at a Sonic restaurant in nearby Broken Bow. He shot her multiple times, starting with a point blank shot to the back of her head, and then stole the day’s deposits she was carrying with her. He plead guilty and was sentenced to life.
Tucker saw Blandon after he was convicted, when Tucker was working as a corrections officer at the country jail in Idabel, where they reminisced about their childhood days playing football and baseball together in the neighborhood.
Another mutual friend, Corey Lewis, murdered a woman in her bathtub. He and an accomplice stabbed her multiple times. Tucker reports that Lewis, too, was from the same neighborhood and grew up in the same situation.
Members of Yisrael’s mosque say that the recent convert apparently was fairly ignorant of some Islamic protocols:
A man accused of beheading a woman and stabbing another after he was fired from a food-processing plant “exhibited odd and bizarre behaviour” at a local mosque, according to a religious leader.
Imad Enchassi, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, told local media that Alton Nolen’s conduct had raised eyebrows among worshippers.
He said the 30-year-old had improperly handled Islam’s holy book, the Quran, slept on the prayer floor, and worshipped in an unconventional manner.
The imam said mosque members had been shocked by Thursday’s attack at Vaughan Foods.
Mr Enchassi told the Oklahoman newspaper: “He’s as far away from Islam as he could be.”
Yisrael was yelled at by several worshipers when he placed the Koran on his prayer rug. Muslims believe that to be a serious transgression against the sacredness of the Koran.
Nine Colorado children have experienced “muscle weakness” and paralysis after becoming ill with a mystery virus that may be connected to a respiratory infection that has been detected in 19 states. The paralyzed children all carry the enterovirus 68 — a virus first detected in 1962 — and experienced respiratory sickness within a couple of weeks of falling victim to the paralyzing disease. The CDC is investigating the virus, but doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Associated Press:
The virus can cause paralysis but other germs can, too. Health officials don’t know whether the virus caused any of the children’s arm and leg weaknesses or whether it’s just a germ they coincidentally picked up. “That’s why we want more information,” and for doctors to report similar cases, said the CDC’s Dr. Jane Seward. The cases occurred within the last two months. All nine children are being treated at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, and most are from the Denver area. A hospital spokeswoman said the patients’ families didn’t want to talk to the media. The nine children had fever and respiratory illness about two weeks before developing varying degrees of limb weakness. None seems to have a weak immune system or other conditions that might predispose them to severe illness, but the cases are still being investigated, Seward said. Investigators don’t think it’s polio – eight of the nine children are up to date on polio vaccinations. It’s not known whether the limb weakness or paralysis is temporary or will be long-lasting. The cases come amid an unusual wave of severe respiratory illness from enterovirus 68. The germ is not new – it was first identified in 1962 and has caused clusters of illness before, including in Georgia and Pennsylvania in 2009 and Arizona in 2010. Because it’s not routinely tested for, it’s possible the bug spread in previous years but was never distinguished from colds caused by other germs. This year, the virus has gotten more attention because it has been linked to hundreds of severe illnesses. Beginning last month, a flood of sick children began to hit hospitals in Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago – kids with trouble breathing, some needing oxygen or more extreme care such as a breathing machine. Many – but not all – had asthma before the infection. The CDC has been testing a limited number of specimens from very sick children around the country, and as of Thursday reported 277 people in 40 states and the District of Columbia with enterovirus 68. So far no deaths have been attributed to the virus, but Seward said 15 still are being investigated.
There have been efforts to tie the virus to illegal aliens flowing into the country from Central America, but that’s clearly not the case. Since the virus has been in the US since 1962, it may be that better detection methods are responsible for the spike in cases this year. The CDC also points to similar outbreaks in the past. As for the paralysis, the CDC says that enterovirus 68 has been the suspected culprit in other cases of limb weakness and paralysis. What they don’t know is why there has been an apparent increase in the number of cases involving paralyzed children. The CDC’s medical detectives are the best in the world, so they are likely to eventually come up with some answers.
Speaking at the UN Climate Summit, President Obama made it clear he expected China to help the US lead the way on fighting global warming:
Just a few minutes ago, I met with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, and reiterated my belief that as the two largest economies and emitters in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead. That’s what big nations have to do. (Applause.)
And today, I call on all countries to join us -– not next year, or the year after, but right now, because no nation can meet this global threat alone.
Today, China gave their response to the president. It came in the form of a paper submitted to the Geneva-based U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in advance of a planned meeting next month.
Basically, the Chinese took 9 pages to tell the president to stuff it.
Carbon emission cutbacks by China and other developing countries, the document says, will be “dependent on the adequate finance and technology support provided by developed country parties” to any new climate accord.
In other words, only if Western nations pay for it.
More specifically, only if Western taxpayers ante up. Among other things, the Chinese communist regime insists that the incentive payments it demands must come from “new, additional, adequate, predictable and sustained public funds” — rather than mostly private financing, as the U.S. hopes.
In addition, the Chinese state:
– A promised $100 billion in annual climate financing that Western nations have already pledged to developing countries for carbon emission control and other actions by 2020 is only the “starting point” for additional Western financial commitments that must be laid out in a “clear road map,” which includes “specific targets, timelines and identified sources;”
–In the longer run, developed countries should be committing “at least 1 percent” of their Gross Domestic Product — much more than they spend on easing global poverty” into a U.N.-administered Green Carbon Fund to pay for the developing country changes;
–In the meantime, the $100 billion pledge to the same fund should be reached by $10 billion increments, starting from a $40 billion floor this year;
–Western countries also need to remove “obstacles such as IPRs [intellectual property rights]” to “promote, facilitate and finance the transfer” of “technologies and know-how” to developing countries in advance of any future climate deal;
China will fight climate change to the very last American taxpayer dollar.
Chinese recalcitrance to participate in a global climate convention is matched by India, whose new Prime Minister Narendra Modi just announced a major new campaign to bring massive numbers of factories to his country. Both countries rely on coal for a large percentage of their power generation and neither country is willing to stifle its economic growth when most countries in the west failed to reach the emission goals spelled out in the Kyoto accord.
Kyoto’s strictures expire in 2020, but there is already a move to replace it with even more draconian protocols. How about a climate mitigation fund — opening amount to be $100 billion — to be made available to some of the biggest kleptocrats in the third world? I’m sure bankers in Switzerland and the Caymans are salivating at the ill gotten gains that will be flowing into their coffers from various presidents-for-life in Africa and Asia.
Meanwhile, China’s communist dictatorship continues to build coal fired electric plants, whose particulate emissions are suffocating millions of people.
Photographs of a smog-wreathed Tiananmen Square and the iconic headquarters of China Central Television dominated reports of Chinese pollution last year, but analysis shows nine other Chinese cities suffered more days of severe smog than the capital in 2013.
The worst was Xingtai, a city of more than 7 million people south-west of Beijing, which was hit by 129 days of “unhealthy air” or worse – the threshold at which pollution is considered at emergency levels – and more than twice as many days as the capital experienced.
Beijing suffered 60 days of pollution above emergency levels, sparking reports of an “airpocalypse”, a boom in sales of air purifiers and masks and measures to tackle the problem including the destruction of open-air barbecues and a crackdown on fireworks for Chinese new year.
Last week, the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, “declared war” on pollution, saying it was “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”
Do the Chinese really need a “red-light warning” from nature?
China is now the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Coal is the culprit and the Chinese burn almost 3 times as much as the US.
A few more stats on Chinese coal use:
Coal, the most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels, accounts for 70 percent of energy used in China today and is responsible for about three quarters of electricity generation.
- In just 5 years, from 2005 through 2009, China added the equivalent of the entire U.S. fleet of coal-fired power plants, or 510 new 600-megawatt coal plants.
- From 2010 through 2013, it added half the coal generation of the entire U.S. again.
- At the peak, from 2005 through 2011, China added roughly two 600-megawatt coal plants a week, for 7 straight years.
- And according to U.S. government projections, China will add yet another U.S. worth of coal plants over the next 10 years, or the equivalent of a new 600-megawatt plant every 10 days for 10 years.
China also leads the world in the production of renewable energy. But despite fantastic growth in that energy sector, the Chinese use of coal will continue to skyrocket. Filling the boilers of 3 new coal fired electric plants a month will increase China’s coal use by up to 15% by 2020.
All of this means that any reduction in emissions by western industrialized nations will be futile. It won’t reduce worldwide CO2 emissions by one, single, molecule.
All of the speechifying by Obama and the other delegates to the climate summit amounted to a lot of unnecessary CO2 being emitted by blowhards who care less about saving the world than they do enhancing their power over the citizens of the world.
USA Today sums up the situation for hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who may owe the IRS for overpayment of subsidies for Obamacare policies: “Sadly, it’s fair to say some people will see some unexpected, unpleasant surprises on their tax returns next year.”
If you’re receiving an Obamacare subsidy and you had certain “life changes” over the past year — marriage, divorce, a raise, a new child — chances are, you are going to owe Uncle Sam some cash.
When you file that 2014 tax return next year, the Internal Revenue Service will compare your actual income for the year with the amount you estimated when applying for exchange-based health insurance under the health insurance law.
The next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15. But notices were sent this week to some consumers whose incomes don’t match up to such things as 2012 tax return information.
On Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said at least 279,000 households reported incomes that still don’t match what the government has on record. Supporting documents are needed by Sept. 30.
What can you do to avoid tax-time problems?
Experts say people need to realize early on that they should report changes in income and other changes in one’s life, such as a marriage, throughout the year. See HealthCare.gov to report “income and life changes.”
Of course, many people may have no idea that they’d need to report changes.
The IRS put out some more details on the issue mid-month.
What should you report? A move, an increase or decrease in income, a marriage or divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, whether you started a job that offers health insurance and whether you gained or lost eligibility for other health care coverage.
Best spots for information: HealthCare.gov and IRS.gov/aca.
Karen Pollitz, senior fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation, said many people who qualify for these tax credits aren’t working 9-to-5 jobs with regular salaries. So guesstimating one’s income for the coming year can be very tough.
“It’s people in transition. Maybe they’re in and out of work,” she said. Or maybe they’re self-employed.
People who lose a job would want to report that change during the year, as well, because that change can lead to a higher advance payment for the credit.
“Life changes can drive tax changes,” said Mark Steber, chief tax officer for Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.
Steber stressed that people need to make sure to update information via HealthCare.gov or their state insurance exchanges.
If your income ends up below 400% of the poverty line, you would owe a maximum of $600 for a single filer, and $2500 for a family.
But if your income is over 400% of the poverty line, there is no limit. You will have to repay the entire amount of the difference between what you received as a subsidy and what you actually deserved.
There are already going to be millions of taxpayers who get a nasty surprise when the IRS withholds part or all of their refund to pay the fine for not having insurance — and then bills them if that’s not enough.
Welcome to the Brave New Tax World of Obamacare.
Many politicians have a gift for understatement. So it’s not surprising that Kansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis would describe being caught getting a lap dance in a strip club in the late 1990s when police raided the joint looking for drugs as being in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”
Got that right, dog.
In the late 1990s the Democratic candidate for governor of Kansas was getting a lap dance at a strip club when cops raided it in search of drugs, a situation Paul Davis on Saturday described as being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Davis was not charged with any crime, but a police chief involved in the raid wrote afterward that he had been drinking and was found “in a somewhat compromising position … in a back room of the club.”
According to police reports, he was alone with a topless stripper who was wearing only a G-string.
Davis, who was unmarried at the time, identified himself as an attorney for the owner of the strip club after an officer ordered him at gunpoint to lie on the floor during the raid for methamphetamine.
That’s one lap dance Davis won’t forget.
“When I was 26 years old, I was taken to a club by my boss – the club owner was one of our legal clients,” said Davis, a state representative. “While we were in the building, the police showed up. I was never accused of having done anything wrong, but rather I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
This news comes amid recent polling that shows Davis with a slight lead over Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, the former U.S. senator who is seeking a second term.
How many points in the polls is a lap dance worth to Brownback? Kansas is a very conservative state — as culturally conservative as they come. I suppose it will depend on how many voters believe that Davis having a mostly naked woman writhing on his lap constituted “the wrong place.”
A few minutes after midnight on Aug. 5, 1998, a group of officers executed a search warrant after an informant said he bought drugs from the owner of the club.
One of Davis’s “legal clients.” Sheesh. The owner was later arrested for selling drugs and the strip club was closed.
For those of you not familiar with strip-club nomenclature, a “lap dance” can take many forms, but is usually performed as a clothed sex act. I’ve never had the pleasure, but I am told by reliable sources that a good lap dance can really curl your toes.
In Davis’s case, it appears that the poor guy suffered the ultimate indignity and had his ego — or something — deflated in the most humiliating way.
Like any good politician, Davis used the revelation to turn the tables on his opponent and attack:
Responding to the strip club story Saturday, Davis pointed to press reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating whether confidants of Brownback were involved in an influence-peddling scheme around the governor’s attempt to privatize the state’s Medicaid program.
Brownback has denied any wrongdoing, and his team questions the political motivations behind leaks to the Topeka Capital-Journal this spring. The governor declined to say in a July interview whether he’s been in contact with the FBI.
Is one lap dance worth one FBI investigation? Not when you consider no one would pay an FBI agent to walk around in a G-string.
Well, maybe they’re not really marching to end industrialized civilization. But given all the monumental exaggeration and hyperbole of which they are guilty, perhaps I can be excused a few small liberties while describing their goals.
Tens of thousands of marchers from all over the world came to New York City to protest inaction on climate change. A “wake up call” they are calling it. In fact, at 12:58 Eastern time, there was to be a moment of silence followed by “a blare of noise — a symbolic sounding of the alarm on climate change — from horns, whistles and cellphone alarms. More than 20 marching bands and tolling church bells were expected contribute to the cacophony.”
A perfect way to sum up the march: a lot of noise signifying nothing.
As might be expected, the New York Times is all over the story:
With drums and tubas, banners and floats, the People’s Climate March turned Columbus Circle, where the march began just before 11:30 a.m., into a colorful tableau. The demonstrators represented a broad coalition of ages, races, geographic locales and interests, with union members, religious leaders, scientists, politicians and students joining the procession.
“I’m here because I really feel that every major social movement in this country has come when people get together,” said Carol Sutton of Norwalk, Conn., the president of a teachers’ union. “It begins in the streets.”
With world leaders gathering at the United Nations on Tuesday for a climate summit, marchers said the timing was right for the populist message in support of limits on carbon emissions. The signs marchers held were as varied as the movement: “There is No PlanetB,” “Forests Not for Sale” and “Jobs, Justice, Clean Energy.”
The description of the tableau was accurate. The colors reminded me of a tie my little niece bought me a few years ago.
Truth be told, if things are as dire as the marchers believe, it’s already too late. That’s the problem with the hysterical wing of climate change advocacy. Cutting emissions of greenhouse gases won’t do the trick if we are on the edge of the climate precipice. We would have to halt all human activity that contributes to global warming and then hope nature can reverse the process.
And if this movement was really about “climate change,” they might be forgiven their hysteria. But as world leaders gather at the UN beginning Tuesday, it will become clear that, at least for the politicians of the world, it’s not about climate change at all. It’s about power, control, and money.
If history is any guide, the rich countries of the world will say how concerned they are about the damage their emissions of heat-trapping gases are causing. The poor countries — whose people have done little to contribute to global warming but stand to suffer the most from it because of their vulnerability to rising seas and weather extremes — will point out that this professed concern never seems to translate into sufficient action.
“We’re saying to the U.S. and the developed world, ‘You’re responsible for this,’ ” said Ronald Jean Jumeau — the ambassador to the United Nations for the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles, off the coast of Africa — in a preview of his country’s remarks. “Don’t tell us you can’t cut emissions, you can’t give money, while you bask in the rich way of life you enjoy now. You know your emissions are damaging us. Help us out here.”
People like Mr. Jumeau have been pleading for help for years, and they have heard many promises that help will come. The latest attempt to make good on those pledges is the Green Climate Fund, a financing vehicle that is eventually supposed to funnel as much as $100 billion a year to poor countries.
The fund, which struggled for four years to get off the ground and opened its doors only recently, has received just one large donation to date: $1 billion from Germany. More are expected this week.
Notably absent from the summit will be the leaders of China and India — the two nations that make any effort to cut CO2 emissions a waste of time.
China is building three coal-fired power plants a month. India isn’t far behind. And neither country seems interested in anything the rest of the world wants to do about global warming. The fact is, any schemes the nations come up with to reduce their emissions won’t matter a fig if China and India refuses to cooperate.
Forces of the Islamic State in Syria have mounted a huge offensive with columns of heavy armor sweeping through the Kurdish region of northern Syria near the Turkish border.
Their goal is apparently capturing the strategic border town of Ayn al-Arab, and more than 60 towns and villages in the region have fallen to ISIS forces in the past few days.
This has unleashed a nearly unprecedented wave of refugees streaming into Turkey. More than 60,00 women, children, and old people crossed the border into Turkey in the 24-hour period from Friday to Saturday, overwhelming aid resources.
Kurdish forces in the region are falling back while others are making their way to the front from Turkey to join their comrades.
Since Thursday, Islamic State rebels, backed by tanks and other heavy armor, have seized control of more than 60 villages near the regional capital of Ayn al-Arab, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group. The extremist insurgents, also known as ISIS or ISIL have also forced the evacuation of about 100 other villages, Kurdish field commanders and Turkish officials said.
Turkish television on Sunday continued to broadcast footage of thousands of Kurds, many on foot, crossing the border into Turkey to escape Islamic State. The U.N. refugee agency said most of the refugees were Kurdish women, children and the elderly. Hundreds of Kurdish fighters and volunteers were traveling in the other direction to Syria to shore up their brethren’s defenses, Turkish media reported.
Kurdish militia in Syria, under the banner of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Defense Units, or YPG, said dozens of Kurds had been killed in fighting to defend Ayn al-Arab, called Kobani in Kurdish. They said the jihadists had advanced to within 9 kilometers of Kobani and appealed for international intervention to help their outgunned forces.
The call was joined by one from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a rebel group closely affiliated with the YPG, for the youth of Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeast to rise up and rush to save Kobani. The PKK, listed as a terror organization by Washington and Turkey, has spent three decades fighting for autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds.
“Supporting this heroic resistance is not just a debt of honor of the Kurds but all Middle East people. Just giving support is not enough, the criterion must be taking part in the resistance,” the PKK said on its website. “ISIL fascism must drown in the blood it spills…The youth of north Kurdistan (southeast Turkey) must flow in waves to Kobani.”
Islamic State’s progress toward the Turkish border again showed the group’s military strength. It seized Kurdish territory in Syria even as French warplanes launched their first attacks Friday against the group’s positions hundreds of miles away in northeastern Iraq.
The move on Ayn al-Arab follows the seizure by Islamic State insurgents this past week of a strategic bridge over the Euphrates River. The capture enabled the rebels to march on the city from the west and rain down artillery shells on the city’s streets, said Khaled Issa, a representative of the Syrian Kurdish administration in Paris.
The timing is almost too coincidental, as I’ll explore after the page break.
Hey, Democrats! How about giving some props to your party leader, your president, by talking about him on the House or Senate floor?
What’s that? President “who”? My, how the worm has turned.
When President Obama took office in 2009, congressional Democrats were euphoric. With control of the House, Senate and the White House, and high public approval for their new party standard bearer, Democrats eagerly embraced Obama and all the long-awaited policy initiatives he’d surely help them achieve.
In that first month, congressional Democrats mentioned Obama during floor speeches 200 or so more times than Republicans. In the next year and a half, the parties referred to the president at similar rates, sometimes with the Republicans having more to say, other times the Democrats.
One can reasonably assume that when the Democrats speak of the president publicly it’s in a favorable way and when Republicans do it’s, well, not quite as glowing. As positive public opinion of Obama began to dip after his first year, the spread between how often Republicans and the Democrats invoked Obama grew wider. Put simply, the Democrats weren’t mentioning Obama by name nearly as much as Republicans.
This chart from the Sunshine Foundation tells the tale at a glance. The Democrats have almost stopped mentioning the president in public debates, according to the Congressional Record.
The gap between how many times the Republicans anhd Democrats have mentioned Obama has considerably widened in the last year.
Much has been written this election cycle about the Democrats distancing themselves from Obama ahead of the midterm elections. Some Democratic candidates in tough races regularly emphasize their differences with the president. And Obama is persona non grata on the campaign trail (unless it’s inside private high-dollar fundraiser dinners).
If the number of times they bring him up in front of the C-SPAN cameras is a measure, the Democrats detachment from the president is even evident on Capitol Hill – where every spoken word is recorded forever, so it’s especially crucial to choose them carefully.
Politicians are feral when it comes to their survival, so it’s not surprising that Democrats would have stopped talking about an unpopular leader. The problem is that history shows it won’t matter. Trying to run away from your party leader is a futile strategy and Democrats are likely to find that out in November.
Turkey is celebrating the return of 49 of their citizens held for 101 days by Islamic State. The hostages were captured when the Iraqi city of Mosul fell to the terrorists.
Turkey’s state run news agency Anadolu reported that “no ransom had been paid and “no conditions were accepted in return for their release.”
But many observers weren’t buying that explanation.
The official explanation “sounds a bit too good to be true,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who chairs the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies. “There are some very legitimate and unanswered questions about how this happened.”
The hostages — whose number included two small children — were seized from the Turkish Consulate in Mosul after the Islamic State group overran the Iraqi city on June 11. Turkish leaders gave only the broadest outlines of their rescue Saturday.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the release was the work of the country’s intelligence agency rather than a special forces operation.
“After intense efforts that lasted days and weeks, in the early hours our citizens were handed over to us and we brought them back,” Davutoglu said.
Davutoglu was the star of the homecoming ceremony Saturday, flying the hostages back to Ankara on his plane and delivering an impassioned address to the crowd. Families rushed the aircraft to greet their returning loved ones. The ex-hostages emerged wearing clean dresses and suits and showed little sign of having been held captive by fanatical militants for more than three months.
The hostages’ joyous reunion at the airport came as an enormous relief after the recent beheadings of other hostages — two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker — by the Islamic State group. The gruesome deaths briefly reignited a debate over whether the U.S. or British government should pay ransoms to free hostages.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported no ransom had been paid and “no conditions were accepted in return for their release,” although it didn’t cite any source for its reporting.
The agency said the hostages had been held at eight separate addresses in Mosul and their whereabouts were monitored by drones and other means.
The Iraqi government said it had no information about the rescue.
The hostages declined to answer all but the most general questions, although a couple hinted at ill treatment or death threats.
While the Turkish government broadly hints at some kind of cloak and dagger operation, the truth may be as simple as the government of Prime Minister Erdogan trading their pledge not to allow anti-ISIS forces uses of their bases and not joining the coalition for their prisoners.
What is certain is that the release of the hostages hasn’t changed Turkey’s mind about the coalition:
Turkey had been reluctant to join a coalition to defeat the Islamic State group, citing the safety of its 49 kidnapped citizens, but Stein said he doubted Turkey would suddenly adopt a much more muscular attitude toward the organization. Turkey might feel freer to advertise its existing efforts against the group, he said, citing its efforts to control oil smuggling across the border. But he said Turkey would not open its air bases to U.S. aircraft operating against the group.
“There will some changes, but not as much as people hope,” he said.
ISIS has hardly been restrained from killing fellow Muslims so there has to be another reason the hostages lives were spared. Whatever that reason was, Turkey — a member of NATO at present — still won’t allow their allies to press the fight against ISIS from their soil.
In the first big move by Pope Francis to put his imprint on the American Catholic church, the pontiff named Blase Cupich, the Bishop of the diocese of Spokane, to lead the 2.2 million Catholics of the archdiocese of Chicago.
Cardinal Francis George, the current archbishop, announced he was stepping down last May after he was diagnosed with cancer for the third time since 2005. Since then, George has said that he believes the cancer will take his life.
Bishop Cupich is considered a “moderate” in church circles and is said to mirror the opinions of the pope about de-emphasizing issues like abortion and gay marriage. While Cupich is said to be opposed to both, he is expected to bring a different style of advocacy to the debate.
Chicago is the third largest diocese in America and is considered one of the most influential in the nation, with innovative lay outreach programs and the largest private school system in the country.
Cupich, 65, is a native of Omaha, Nebraska, where he was ordained a priest. He holds degrees from the Pontifical Gregorian University and The Catholic University of America. He was appointed bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1998, and served there until 2010, when he was appointed to Spokane.
In a 2012 essay in the Jesuit magazine America, Cupich said the U.S. bishops “rightly objected” to the original narrow religious exemption in President Barack Obama’s requirement that employers provide health insurance that covers contraception. But Cupich called for a “return to civility” in conversations about religious liberty and society.
Cupich also served as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ child protection committee at the height of the clergy sex abuse crisis and as church leaders were putting in place a toughened policy on disciplining guilty priests.
“While the outrage to the (government) decision was understandable, in the long run threats and condemnations have a limited impact,” Cupich said. “We should never stop talking to one another.”
Cupich has also defended Francis’ views on the economy and emphasis on fighting poverty, which some Catholics and others have criticized as naive and against capitalism.
“Instead of approaching life from the 30-thousand-feet level of ideas, he challenges policymakers and elected officials — indeed all of us — to experience the life of everyday and real people,” Cupich said at a conference last June on the Catholic case against libertarianism. “Much like he told religious leaders, Francis is saying that politicians and policymakers need to know the smell of the sheep.”
A Francis clone in the 3rd largest diocese in America would certainly have an impact on the hierarchy. Catholic bishops tend to be more liberal than their leaders both in the US and Rome and the notion that a more pastoral archbishop will have such a high profile position can only encourage the bishops in their attacks on wealth and capitalism.
But there is no difference of opinion regarding the contraceptive controversy, except perhaps in the manner in which Cubich will approach the administration.
In a letter last year on the Obama administration’s birth-control coverage rule for employers, Bishop Cupich said faith-affiliated groups should never be forced to provide services that the church considers morally objectionable. However, he condemned threats by some U.S. church leaders that they would shut down social-service agencies over the Affordable Care Act.
“These kind of scare tactics and worse-case scenario predictions are uncalled for,” he wrote in a letter to diocesan employees. “I am confident we can find a way to move forward.”
Is Pope Francis sending a message to the American Catholic church? “I think he sent a pastor, not a message,” Cupich says. Nice thought, but irrelevant. Of course popes send messages. But what kind of message he is passing along won’t be known until Archbishop Cubich has a chance to place his own stamp on the Chicago Catholic church.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has asked for a Pentagon review of the military’s involvement in the National Football League. The review comes in the wake of several domestic violence complaints against NFL players.
The connection between the NFL and the military goes back decades, and the connections are considerable.
The Army alone spends some $10 million a year buying advertising from television networks broadcasting NFL games. Games are also broadcast by the Armed Forces Network to troops deployed overseas.
Military support for the NFL games includes: providing ceremonial units at games for colors ceremonies; military personnel singing the national anthem, and other units providing drill teams or flyovers. Military personnel, including wounded warriors, often appear at NFL events honoring those who serve.
The Army and the NFL also have a agreement to share information and resources to better understand traumatic brain injury, which is a major medical issue both for wounded troops and football players. They are working together on awareness of TBI as well as research into treatment. The military has been sharing some of the lessons learned on TBI from the last 13 years of war, specifically.
Another program, NFL Play 60, has seen players visit military bases to encourage children to be more active as least 60 minutes a day to help prevent childhood obesity.
It is clear the White House is also closely monitoring the NFL controversy, with one senior administration official calling recent abuse allegations “deeply troubling” and stressing the league’s obligation to “(get) control of the situation.”
“Many of these professional athletes are marketed as role models to young people,” the official said. “So their behavior does have the potential to influence these young people. So that’s one of the many reasons it’s important the league gets a handle on this and have zero tolerance.”
Just how is the NFL supposed to “get control” of the domestic violence committed by their players? There are more than 1300 NFL players on 30 rosters across the league. Six players have been accused of domestic violence in recent months. While that is six too many, the question has to be asked: is domestic violence in the NFL so serious and so widespresd that it must become a federal issue?
No doubt women’s advocates would love to make it one. Already several big money advertisers like Anheuser-Busch and Nike are looking closely at their relationship with the NFL. A pullout by those two giants would hit the league where it hurts the most: advertising dollars.
There are legitimate questions about how the league has handled specific cases — most notably, the Ray Rice clocking of his girlfriend in an elevator. But how can you blame anyone, especially Commissioner Roger Goodell, for the actions of players off the football field? The only way this campaign against the NFL makes sense is if you consider the enormous amount of money at stake, and the high-profile nature of the crimes, which aids women’s groups in fundraising and marketing.
Prior to the independence vote in Scotland, there were predictions that, win or lose, the vote would encourage other regions of Europe and around the world to seek independence in order to fulfill the national aspirations of their people.
Several European enclaves have been agitating for independence for decades — even centuries. Many of them have their own history, culture, and language that predate their assimilation. The Basque may be the most notorious of these independence seekers since the armed wing of their revolutionary party — the ETA — used to routinely carry out terrorist attacks. The ETA laid down their arms in 2011, but the desire for independence has not lessened.
Italy’s South Tyrol and Sardinia, Belgium’s Flanders, France’s Corsica, the United Kingdom’s Wales and Northern Ireland — all of these and a dozen more have expressed an interest in gaining independence.
And that’s just Europe. There are dozens of separatist movements in Africa and Asia that also have been cheered by events in Scotland. While independence may have lost, the fact that a vote was held in the first place has leaders of separatist movements around the world hopeful that they can be more successful.
The next turn of the screw for Europe will apparently be in Catalonia, the richest and most productive area of Spain. Within hours of knowing the outcome of the Scottish vote on independence, the Catalonian parliament voted to hold their own referendum on independence in November, thus directly defying the national government in Madrid which has threatened to take legal action against the autonomous region.
A day after a majority of Scots voted against secession from the U.K., the parliament in the wealthy, industrial Spanish region of Catalonia approved a law to allow for its own, albeit nonbinding, referendum on independence.
The 106-28 vote Friday set Spain on a path toward a legal and political crisis. The central government in Madrid has vowed to block the referendum, which it says is unconstitutional.
After the law is published in the coming days, Catalonia’s regional president, Artur Mas, is expected to sign a decree formally convoking the referendum for Nov. 9. At the Spanish government’s request, the Constitutional Court is then expected to issue an injunction to halt the vote.
Mr. Mas has expressed misgivings about going ahead with the referendum in violation of Spanish law because the vote might lack international credibility. Another way for him to satisfy pro-independence groups clamoring to cast ballots would be by calling early regional elections as a proxy vote.
During the Catalan parliament’s 2½-hour debate, many speakers took note of the historic nature of the proceedings.
“Democracy without liberty is a sham and we want to vote—not a sham,” said pro-referendum congresswoman Dolors Camats.
Albert Rivera, leader of the Citizens’ Party and an opponent of the referendum, said that those advocating it were being irresponsible. “This isn’t a day of celebration, but of worry because these separatist movements have a sword over Europe’s head,” he said.
Catalan separatists complain that the government in Madrid drains the region of tax revenue without offering sufficient respect for its language and culture. Spanish government officials maintain that Catalonia receives economic benefits from being part of Spain and has plenty of autonomy under the constitution.
While there is certainly resentment against the perception that Madrid is stifling their national character, Catalans have an economic bone to pick with the Spanish government — especially after the last few years of “austerity” budgets that put most of the burden on the region:
The pro-independence forces claim that Catalonia’s fiscal imbalance with Spain’s national budget amounts to $20 billion (US dollars) per year, according to figures from the Catalan government’s finance minister. This office claims that Catalonia—origin of a quarter of Spain’s exports—suffers an insufficient investment and financial disadvantage since it generates nineteen percent of Spain’s GDP and receives back eleven percent in expenditure from the central government. Indeed, with a population of 7.5 million out of 46 million, Catalonia is, after Madrid, the second-wealthiest of Spain’s seventeen so-called autonomous communities, as stated in the last available Spanish government’s National Statistics Institute account, which excludes the Basque Country and Navarre because they benefit from a special fiscal regime due to their historic “foral” tradition. However, Catalonia is also the most indebted autonomous community among the communities.
Madrid responds to Catalan complaints by claiming that Catalonia receives special assistance from the Spanish government, outside of money from the national budget, in the form of ad hoc loans to make payments not previously planned for. (The central government is in fact its only lender, since Spanish law blocks access by the autonomous communities to shop for loans on international markets.) Spain also insists that solidarity must be at the core of relations among its regional governments. But this has proven a double-edged sword since the separatists claim that Catalonia is discriminated against within this community, noting that Spanish investment in Catalonia (i.e., annual government budgeting for the region) will drop twenty-five percent compared to an average decrease of 7.2 percent for the nation as a whole during the current belt-tightening effort to stop the country’s economic free fall. Catalan nationalists refer to this imbalance as “plunder.”
With Barcelona, one of the jewel cities of Europe and a vital hub of finance and commerce as Catalonia’s capital, it is not likely that the Spanish government will allow independence for the region even if a vote for independence is successful.
Besides, it appears likely that the Catalans themselves are wary of even holding a vote if it contravenes Spanish law:
Just 23 percent of those surveyed in a Metroscopia poll published in El Pais said Catalonia should press ahead with the referendum, even if it is declared illegal. This is the stance of Mas’s coalition partner, the separatist party ERC.
The poll showed 45 percent of those surveyed believed Catalonia should respect the decision of the court and 25 percent said the region should look for other legal ways to redraw its relationship with Spain.
A NC Report poll, published in La Razon newspaper, showed 55 percent of Catalans would not support the referendum if declared illegal. Both polls surveyed 1,000 people.
The wealthy region of 7 million people has its own language and cultural identity and has long sought greater self-rule. Central government spending cuts during a deep recession have helped fuel independence sentiment.
The Metroscopia poll found just 27 percent of those polled wanted full independence from Spain, with 42 percent wanting Catalonia to form a part of Spain but under new terms. Many Catalans want more power over taxes and welfare spending.
The Catalonian people share a common dream with other small European enclaves of distinct ethnic minorities: they want their culture and history back, as well as some sense that they have their hands on the levers of economic and political power to help direct their national destiny. If this can be accomplished within the framework of remaining attached to their current parent country, that would probably be satisfactory to the majority.
If not, we are going to see more votes like the one in Scotland.
Voters still show a negative view toward both parties, but favorable ratings for Republicans have rebounded since the low in October, 2013 following the government shut down.
Gallup reports nearly identical favorable numbers for both parties; 40/57 favorable/unfavorable for Republicans and 42/54 for Democrats.
There are encouraging and discouraging signs for both parties in the latest poll, conducted Sept. 4-7, just two months before the important midterm elections.
Americans have typically rated the Democratic Party more positively than the Republican Party since the question was first asked in 1992, so the current parity between the two is a positive sign for the GOP and a negative one for the Democratic Party. Indeed, current opinions of the Democratic Party are among the worst Gallup has measured in the past 20 years. The only time Gallup measured a lower favorable rating for the Democrats was 41% in late March 2010, just after Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.
At the same time, Democrats can take some solace in the fact that Americans are not rating the GOP any more positively than they rate the Democratic Party, even at a time when Americans believe the Republican Party is better than the Democratic Party both at keeping the U.S. prosperous and at keeping the U.S. secure from international threats.
The situation is similar to what occurred in 2010. Even as Republicans were making large gains in federal and state offices nationwide, Americans did not view the GOP any more positively than the Democratic Party. As such, the Republicans may have merely benefited from public frustration with Obama and the Democrats in 2010, rather than having been truly embraced by Americans. Thus, if Republicans do well on Election Day this year it does not necessarily equate to a voter mandate for the party and its policies.
All Partisan Groups More Positive toward GOP
The gains, or perhaps recovery, in the GOP’s image over the past year are evident among Democrats, independents, and Republicans. Notably, Republicans’ favorable views of their own party are still not back to pre-shutdown levels.
As would be expected given the stability in overall views of the Democratic Party, the ratings of it by respondents’ political identity are also generally steady over the past 12 months. However, Democrats and independents are less positive toward the Democratic Party than they were in late 2012, after Obama’s re-election.
That “public frustration” of voters in 2010 with Democrats may have turned into something even more dangerous for Democratic prospects in November; fear. The threats we face around the world are causing a lot of concern among voters and given the Republican edge in which party can keep America safer, that may play a significant role when voters make up their mind.
Peter Beinart of the Atlantic writes of the return of the “security moms” and how that favors the GOP:
In August, white women favored a Democratic Congress by four points. Now they favor a Republican Congress by eight.
As in 2002, Democrats are responding by becoming more hawkish. In October 2002, most Democrats in competitive Senate races voted to authorize the Iraq War. Last week, Obama announced a multi-year air campaign against ISIS.
But it doesn’t work. Almost all the imperiled Democrats in 2002 lost anyway. And there’s no evidence that Obama’s new hawkishness is helping him politically either. One reason is that although women are more worried about terrorism than men, they’re actually less supportive of responding with military action. In 2002, women were somewhat more skeptical of invading Iraq. Today, they’re more wary of going after ISIS.
Fundamentally, the Democrats’ terrorism problem with women—especially married white women—isn’t about policy. It’s about trust. In 2002, at a time of heightened anxiety, women trusted a Republican president to keep them safe. In 2014, with that anxiety heightened again, they don’t trust a Democratic president to do the same.
Rather than wondering if “foreign policy” will play a larger role in the campaign, perhaps it’s more accurate to talk about “security” as a general issue where Republicans appear to have the advantage.
In as many close Senate races as we are likely to have, the security issue may be a difference maker in at least some of them.
It’s known colloquially as “Who Hit John,” “The ‘Crature’,” and “John Barleycorn.” It’s name is derived from the Gaelic for “Water of Life” — for which those of us who imbibe the elixir from time to time (or more often) heartily agree.
Whatever you want to call it, Scotch Whiskey is Scotland’s proudest achievement. In a nation of 5 million people, $6.5 billion in Scotch is exported annually. That accounts for fully 20% of all exports in the country. It’s the third biggest industry in Scotland behind financial services and oil.
But the industry operates in a global marketplace where more mundane concerns than achingly smooth taste and a complex bouquet are of paramount importance. Cheap credit, trade barriers, and a reliance on the UK to help promote their product have most distilleries in Scotland worried about the vote on independence.
Members of Scotland’s best-known industry are watching the vote for independence with serious trepidation.
Lack of certainty about Scotland’s currency, interest rate levels and membership in the European Union—which eliminates trade barriers in its largest market—all compete for the top of the list of worries.
Mike Younger, one of the few Scotch executives who will speak to the media, is finance director for Macleod Distillers, makers of Glengoyne Single Malt. He is solidly in the “no” camp. “I’m nervous,” he said, “because the results could be quite difficult for business.”
Scotch whisky is the third-largest contributor to Scotland’s GDP after the oil industry and financial services. And it acts as perhaps the No. 1 ambassador for Scottish culture. Nine out of 10 bottles are sent overseas.
Scotch can only be made in Scotland, just as Champagne can only be made in the Champagne region of France. In Scotland, it’s officially called Scotch Whisky (no “e” at the end!).
And precisely because it is an export, Scotch is particularly vulnerable to the unknowns that will come about if the Scots vote yes for independence.
David Williamson is the spokesperson for the Scotch Whisky Association. Officially, the group is not taking a side, but Williamson said that “At the moment, the consensus within the Scotch industry is that the potential risks outweigh the advantages.”
Back on the factory floor of Macleod, Younger said he’s worried because he thinks credit will become less available, and more expensive, in what will be a much smaller country, “simply because the full scale of the Scottish banking system at that point will be much smaller and less well defined and less capable than the much richer system that we have across the UK in its entirety.”
The potential rise of trade barriers is another concern. Currently, Scotland, as part of the United Kingdom, is part of the European Union, and faces no trade barriers in member states. The leaders of the “Yes” campaign have promised that Scotland would remain in the European Union, but just today, Spain said it would block Scotland’s membership.
The US imbibes more than twice as much Scotch as any other nation — $1.32 billion to France’s $600 million. If the distilleries are worried, so should be Scotch drinkers. There’s not much danger of an interruption in supply, as much as there may be significant price increases and availability issues for some of the more popular brands.
In its latest report, “Going Scot-free”, the bank notes that while many have argued independence has the “potential” to boost sales of Scotch, it believes the “overall short-term impact on the industry will be negative.”
The bank highlighted five key areas which will be impacted, one of which would be the industry’s ability to access EU export markets, which currently account for 37% of Scotch sales, as a result of its temporary loss of EU membership and free trade agreement with member states.
While Scotland would be expected to re-apply for EU membership, the country would likely to shut out until at least 2018, leaving the Scotch sector at risk of seeing higher import tariffs in its core markets for at least two years, competition from other spirits categories and its competitiveness in key EU markets.
“The Scottish government would also have a mountainous task in procuring new trade agreements with non EU export markets following independence,” warned the bank.
It has been suggested that Scotland could instead join the European Economic Area (EEA) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), giving it full access to the EU market without required membership to the EU, however foregoing any influence on it which could prove uncomfortable for a newly independent country.
The loss of the British pound would also raise uncertainly with a change in currency likely to lead to an “increase in foreign exchange risk for Scotch exports”, according to the bank.
Should independence be established, the Rabobank warned it was likely interest rates would rise which could create a “serious challenge” within an industry built on inventories stored up for decades with smaller companies likely to be hit hardest.
The pro-independence leaders have dismissed the concerns of the distilleries, saying that Scotch has been around for at least 800 years and it’s not going anywhere. That may be true. But it looks like Scotch makers are in for a rough ride if the “yes” vote wins tomorrow.
In the end, I suspect they will be able to hold a convention of “moderate Syrian rebels” in a space larger than a phone booth but smaller than a room at the Holiday Inn.
But the New York Times is, forever, hopeful:
Groups identified by Western intelligence agencies as the moderate opposition — those that might support democracy and respect human rights — have been weak, divided and without coherent plans or sustained command structures capable of toppling the Assad regime. Today, those so-called moderates are even weaker and more divided; in some cases, their best fighters are hard-line Islamists.
Get that? There, indeed, are moderate rebels — except when they’re hardline Islamists. The Times is turning itself inside out trying to make sense of Obama’s policy and ends up twisted into a pretzel.
In April 2013, Mr. Obama authorized the C.I.A. to begin a secret mission to train Syrian rebels in Jordan. The total number trained so far is between 2,000 and 3,000. Last September, the C.I.A. began delivering light weapons like rifles and ammunition to a rebel faction commanded by Gen. Salim Idriss, whom Americans considered a competent leader and whose forces were not connected to terrorist groups. But since then, the Supreme Military Council, which General Idriss headed, has broken apart, and he has been sidelined. Its weapons and supply storerooms have been looted by Islamist groups or stolen by its members.
Don’t worry — we are in the very best of hands.
As the ISIS threat became clearer, Mr. Obama announced a plan in June to spend up to $500 million to send some American Special Forces troops to train as many as 3,000 rebels over the next year, but it stalled in Congress. Now the administration proposes training twice that number of fighters in neighboring countries in the Middle East, including a facility that Saudi Arabia has agreed to host.
One complication is the federal ban on sending military aid to people with a history of human rights abuses. The C.I.A. has been working for some time to vet the Syrian rebels, but on a limited scale; the expanded mission, which would include more fighters, is likely to make vetting even more difficult.
Beyond that, there are bigger questions. The main target of the United States right now is ISIS, but for the mainstream rebel groups, getting rid of Mr. Assad is the main goal. How do you reconcile those competing goals? How do you avoid a flare-up of anti-American sentiment? The Assad government and its allies Russia and Iran have condemned Mr. Obama’s plans, but how will they react when the military campaign begins? And how can weapons shipped to rebel fighters be kept out of the hands of ISIS?
There is no reconciling the twin goals of getting rid of Assad and ISIS. There is no uniting the various factions — at least under the rubric of a secular, “democratic” opposition. There’s nothing we can do to stop Russia and Iran from giving arms to Assad, or running diplomatic interference for him at the UN.
One week, the president admits he has no policy to deal with ISIS and the next, presto! A policy magically appears. Does anyone else get the feeling that this “policy” has been thrown together haphazardly and without careful thought as to the consequences?
About what we’ve come to expect with our new and improved “smart” foreign policy.
Today is the 200th anniversary of the writing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” an event commemorated in Baltimore this weekend — the site of Fort McHenry whose defense against a pitiless British bombardment inspired Francis Scott Key to write the stirring words that eventually became our National Anthem.
Every school child in America knows the story — or, at least, they used to. Today, I’m not so sure. With such short shrift given to the uplifting parts of our national narrative, Key’s remarkable, emotional story may have become something less than a footnote in history books.
Key was on a mission approved by President Madison to negotiate an exchange of prisoners with British Admiral Alexander Cochrane, including a good friend of Keys who had been captured a few days earlier. The attack began on the morning of September 13, with the British launching huge mortar shells and Congreve rockets against the fort. The rockets were more of a psychological weapon at that time as they were very loud but not very destructive. Not so the mortars that arched over the walls of the fort causing few casualties but wreaking havoc on the fort’s infrastructure.
The British plan was to silence the fort’s big guns that would have made any attempt to sail past McHenry into the harbor a suicide mission. Once in the harbor, the ships would then support a ground force whose job was to take the city of Baltimore.
It was a good plan, but dependent on the ability of Cochrane’s ships to either so demoralize the Americans that they surrendered, or cause so much damage that the the fort could not effectively resist. Cochrane believed Key would be useful to negotiate the fort’s surrender so he allowed him to reboard the sloop that brought him to the admiral’s flagship and join the fleet that was bombarding McHenry.
Key had a birdseye view of the bombardment. By all accounts an emotional man, Key watched and fretted while the fort took a pounding for more than 24 hours, as nearly 2000 shells and 1000 rockets pummeled the works. Toward morning, the fort’s defenders replaced the storm flag that had flown throughout the battle with the huge 46′ by 32′ flag that now resides in the Smithsonian.
But Key couldn’t see in the dim light and because smoke obscured his view. Finally, as dawn broke, Key caught sight of the huge flag and was so filled with gratitude and patriotism, that he wrote the poem “Defence of Fort M’Henry” which was later put to music — “Anacreon in Heaven” – and the rest is history. The “Star Spangled Banner” become the official anthem of the US in 1931.
There have been numerous complaints through the years about the anthem; it’s too “martial”; it’s hard to sing; the song is inappropriate because it was originally a drinking song (not true, but it’s a good story); the lyrics are overwrought.
Steve Vogel, author of “Through the Perilous Fight: From the Burning of Washington to the Star-Spangled Banner: The Six Weeks That Saved the Nation”, debunks several myths about the anthem in a recent column for the Washington Post:
Rather than martial chest-thumping, Key’s first verse is a long question, wondering not just whether the flag still flew over the fort but whether the young nation would survive. In the dark hours before dawn, the guns fell quiet. For Key, the silence was dreadful, a sign that the fort may have fallen. The second verse captures Key’s relief at spotting the American flag “in full glory reflected” at first light.
The rarely sung third verse is angry and vengeful, rejoicing that the enemy’s “blood has washed out their foul footstep’s pollution.” Perhaps the lyrics reflect Key’s emotion after watching the British attempt to incinerate Baltimore. Key takes a more pious tone in the fourth and final verse, celebrating the return of peace and the end of “war’s desolation.”
The man who wrote this most patriotic of American songs in fact deeply opposed the war. Key had been dismayed by the U.S. declaration of war in 1812, considering it foolhardy for the young nation to take on one of the most powerful militaries on Earth.
Politico’s Ted Widmer wonders if it isn’t time to replace the “Star Spangled Banner” with a song that’s easier to sing, and with a less problematic history. Apparently, Key owned slaves and was a vigorous defender of the abomination. Should this disqualify him and his creation?
Two hundred years after that long night in Baltimore, is it time to rethink the Star-Spangled Banner? It has its merits—to drown out bad news with bluster, brass and percussion worked in 1814, and the song continues to radiate personality, even as most of us try and fail to sing along with its awkward leaps over one-and-half octaves. It feels right that the city that gave us Hairspray also surrendered this essential bit of national theater. The music has entered so deeply into our consciousness that even its parodies can seem beautiful—much as the Jimi Hendrix version, inflammatory at the time, has acquired a great dignity of its own.
But the story of Key’s nearness to slavery cannot easily be forgotten, especially in an era that demands more accountability, and offers to tools to find it. Critics over the years—I am hardly the first—have been brutal about the Star-Spangled Banner’s many shortcomings. The New York Herald Tribune dismissed it as “words that nobody can remember [set] to a tune that nobody can sing.” In 1918, a woman named Kitty Cheatham denounced the words as “German propaganda” (because they undermined the Anglo-American alliance), and saw the music as a product of “darkness,” “degeneracy,” and “the carnal mind.” Christian Science leader Augusta Stetson called it a “barroom ballad composed by a foreigner.” A 1965 writer thought it “as singable as Die Walkure, as American as ‘God Save the Queen’”; the columnist Michael Kinsley has ripped its “empty bravado” and “mindless nonsense about rockets and bombs.”
Perhaps—like Old Glory herself—the unsingable song is here to stay. But if not, we have a worthy contender waiting in the wings: “America the Beautiful,” a stirring piece of music, easily sung and irrefutably composed by U.S. citizens.
Like all of us, Key was a product of his times. The fact that he supported slavery is only one aspect of his character, and to condemn him unmercifully for a sin shared by tens of millions of Americans north and south seems harsh and arbitrary. Using that logic, no American born before 1865 deserves recognition for anything. It cost the US 600,000 lives to wrench the institution of slavery from our midst — a horrible price to pay and illustrative of just how difficult it was to escape the institution’s historical trap.
Certainly Key should be criticized for his views on slavery, especially when you consider the growing abolitionist movement in America during his lifetime. He could have changed but he didn’t. That’s a black mark on his character that history will not wash away.
But why besmirch his heartfelt patriotism and sheer relief that Baltimore was saved and possibly, the war with it? The emotional lyrics to the “Star Spangled Banner” are a celebration of American values and a demonstration of the American character. It is as much a part of American history as any icon we possess.
Surely we can find room for Francis Scott Key in the pantheon of American heroes despite his flaws, and celebrate his creation no matter how hard it is to sing. For the sake of our children, we have to.
President Barack Obama’s approval numbers appear to be in freefall across the board as his most vigorous supporters in the past are now abandoning him
President Obama, plagued by growing disapproval ratings, is now losing support from his liberal base as the country appears to have given up on his administration and Washington, according new polling data.
Once their hero, now only three-quarters of African Americans and Democrats support the president.
One reason, according to Zogby Analytics: Jimmy Carter-style malaise is settling in.
“There is clearly a growing amount of angst and malaise and it appears to be nonpartisan,” said pollster John Zogby, who provides the weekly Secrets report card on the president.
In a new poll, he said that if the 2012 election were held today, Obama would tie Republican Mitt Romney at 40 percent. Zogby noted that both men have lost support among allies.
For Obama it’s obviously worse because he has the Oval Office and needs public support to push through a new anti-terrorism policy, a developing plan to grant amnesty to illegals and continued efforts to bolster the sour economy and employment.
Zogby reported that Obama “is losing, at this point in time, significant chunks of his base. He won 61 percent of the vote of 18-29 year olds in 2012 but now has only 47 percent of their support. He is down nine points among Democrats (from 82 percent to 73 percent), 12 points among moderates (54 percent to 42 percent), 11 points among Hispanics (71 percent to 60 percent), and 13 points among African Americans (91 percent to 78 percent),” said Zogby on his company’s blog.
This news doesn’t necessarily work in the GOP’s favor. Republican candidates are not going to pick up 25% of the black vote, or 50% of the youth vote. The GOP may see marginal improvements in gaining votes from Obama’s base across the board, but it’s probably not going to be a difference maker.
Turnout among most of those groups is historically low in off-year elections anyway. What is worrying Republicans, though, is the same turnout machine that brought the president victory in 2012 will increase the historical share of the vote among youth, minorities, and fervid Obama supporters.The same social networking infrastructure is in place from 2012 and even a small increase in votes among the Democrats’ base supporters might save one or two vulnerable Democratic senators.
But if Zogby is right and many in the president’s base have given up on him, all the social network goosing in the world won’t matter in the end.
The New Georgia Project, an independent group set up by a major donor and adviser to the campaign of Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn, is under investigation by the state’s attorney general for voter fraud.
We know this is impossible because there is no such thing as voter fraud, right? So, the story is either a hoax, or a very bad joke.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) said in a memo, reported by WSB-TV, that his office has “received numerous complaints about voter applications submitted by the New Georgia Project,” an organization launched to register and turn out voters to the polls.
“Preliminary investigation has revealed significant illegal activities, including forged voter registration applications, forged signatures on releases, and applications with false or inaccurate information,” Kemp wrote in the memo.
Nunn is running against Republican David Perdue for a Senate seat left open by the retirement of Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). Democrats see the race as a pick-up opportunity in a year where they are largely playing defense.
Most polls have shown a close race, with Perdue leading Nunn by three points in the most recent survey, conducted earlier this month.
Republicans are seizing on the allegations against the New Georgia Project to tarnish Nunn, suggesting the group was part of a larger effort by Democrats to “expand the electorate by any means necessary.”
“The serious allegations of illegal activities and potential fraud from liberal voter registration groups are outrageous and should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law,” said Perdue spokeswoman Megan Whittemore.
The New Georgia Project and its parent organization, Third Sector Development, were issued subpoenas this week demanding documents relating to the allegations be turned over to the Georgia Election Board by Sept. 19.
Third Sector Development is run by Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D), who has contributed to Nunn’s campaign and was listed on an official campaign strategy document as a proposed member of a group of potential policy advisers.
Abrams said in a statement she was “saddened” by the subpoenas, and that the group is working to comply with them.
“The abrupt release of this subpoena saddens me as I know the efforts of this organization have been done with the mission of increasing voter registration and engagement in the most disadvantaged and underserved groups in the state,” she said.
Democrats are framing the illegal activity as part of the process to register poor people and minorities. Apparently, we are supposed to put up with a little fraud in order to “enfranchise” more people.
Beyond that, the New Georgia Project is a shadowy organization. When they first appeared, even the NAACP was worried about them — with good reason:
Is the New Georgia Project a legitimate organization? That’s the question NAACP leaders have, saying the organization is under investigation by state election officials. The group has been going door-to-door offering to register voters, but they’re not registered with the state.
NAACP leaders spoke out at Franklin Square to remind people to be cautious with their personal information. “If you see a volunteer with those five letters, NAACP, you can count that they are well trained and they can hold voter registration information in strict compliance with the law and they can assist every citizen with the right to vote,” said Francys Johnson, Georgia NAACP President.
The New Georgia Project claims to be helping register voters. They set up in an office building off Skidaway Road. We went there Friday, but no one was there. Representatives of the group told employees it’s a non-profit organization.
“I truly am worried about some of the people whose information we’ve collected,” said Brad Jones, a Savannah State student recruited to register voters at $11 per hour. Jones says he was instructed to collect full names, social security numbers, birth dates and more. “I’m really not sure what’s happening to this information. That’s what I really want to know because I really don’t think this is a legitimate business.”
Jones says he was instructed to tell people to vote at their polling station at Roosevelt School. But voter registration officials say that place doesn’t exist. When going door-to-door, people are supposed to be given the option to mail the form themselves so strangers don’t get their information. Jones says he was not instructed to give that option.
That was back in June. Now, the NAACP is asking the Georgia secretary of state to drop the subpoenas and halt the investigations. Apparently, giving away your social security number to a total stranger doesn’t bother them very much anymore.
So far, 12 counties have reported voter fraud from the New Georgia Project. Democrats are charging a conspiracy to suppress minority voters. Rational people are wondering what took the secretary of state so long to investigate.
When I was growing up in the 1950s, corporal punishment was not only commonplace, it was an accepted adjunct to raising good, obedient children.
“Spare the rod and spoil the child” may have been a euphemism for “child beating” even back then. But spanking was considered an important part of child rearing, and few parents would have thought that it was abuse, much less unnecessary.
Taking a rod to a child’s backside — or a razor strop, or a paddle — might be stretching the point. But it was considered to be a parent’s absolute right to discipline his child any way he saw fit — even if that meant leaving marks on the child’s body.
Times have changed and striking a child anywhere for any reason can get you in trouble with state child service authorities. Some may think we’ve gone too far in protecting children while interfering with the right of parents to raise their child by their own lights.
If you believe that, allow me to introduce you to Adrian Peterson.
Peterson is not only star running back for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. He is the best back of his generation, a marvel of speed, power, and shiftiness. Yesterday, authorities in Texas handed down an indictment of Peterson for child abuse.
His unsettling and sometimes shocking explanations for beating his son with a tree branch because he misbehaved remind us that socioeconomic and cultural differences in parental attitudes toward child rearing are still with us, despite efforts to eradicate child beating disguised as “discipline.”
The “whooping” – as Peterson put it when interviewed by police – occurred in Spring, Texas, in May. Peterson’s son had pushed another one of Peterson’s children off of a motorbike video game. As punishment, Peterson grabbed a tree branch – which he consistently referred to as a “switch” – removed the leaves and struck the child repeatedly.
The beating allegedly resulted in numerous injuries to the child, including cuts and bruises to the child’s back, buttocks, ankles, legs and scrotum, along with defensive wounds to the child’s hands. Peterson then texted the boy’s mother, saying that one wound in particular would make her “mad at me about his leg. I got kinda good wit the tail end of the switch.”
Peterson also allegedly said via text message to the child’s mother that he “felt bad after the fact when I notice the switch was wrapping around hitting I (sic) thigh” and also acknowledged the injury to the child’s scrotum in a text message, saying, “Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!”
In further text messages, Peterson allegedly said, “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has the biggie heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”
According to police reports, the child, however, had a slightly different story, telling authorities that “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face.” The child also expressed worry that Peterson would punch him in the face if the child reported the incident to authorities. He also said that he had been hit by a belt and that “there are a lot of belts in Daddy’s closet.” He added that Peterson put leaves in his mouth when he was being hit with the switch while his pants were down. The child told his mother that Peterson “likes belts and switches” and “has a whooping room.”
It seems apparent that Adrian Peterson experienced similar beatings as a child and was only “whooping” his son as he had been “whooped” as a boy. This becomes clear with Peterson’s bewilderment at thinking that anyone thought his intentions and motivations were anything but legal and proper.
Peterson, when contacted by police, admitted that he had “whooped” his son on the backside with a switch as a form of punishment, and then, in fact, produced a switch similar to the one with which he hit the child. Peterson also admitted that he administered two different “whoopings” to his son during the visit to Texas, the other being a punishment for the 4-year-old scratching the face of a 5-year-old.
In an interview with Houston police, Peterson was very matter-of-fact and calm about the incident, appearing to believe he had done nothing wrong and reiterating how much he cared about his son and only used “whoopings” or “spankings” as a last resort. He offered up information that the police didn’t have and was incredulous when asked if some of the numerous wounds and marks on the child were from an extension cord, saying, “Oh, no, I’d never hit my child with an extension cord. I remember how it feels to get whooped with an extension cord. I’d never do that.”
Peterson also said, “Anytime I spank my kids, I talk to them before, let them know what they did, and of course after.” Peterson also expressed regret that his son did not cry – because then, Peterson said, he would have known that the switch was doing more damage than intended. He didn’t realize the “tip of the switch and the ridges of the switch were wrapping around [the child’s] legs.” Peterson also acknowledged that this was administered directly to the child’s skin and with the child’s pants pulled down.
It would be a mistake to ascribe this attitude to black America only. It is more a product of one’s socioeconomic strata and tradition than a condition based on race. From what I can discover, Peterson grew up in a lower middle class home with loving parents. While his parents divorced when Adrian was seven and his father was convicted and given an eight-year sentence for money laundering when he was thirteen, Peterson maintained close contact with his father, even speaking to him before every game in high school despite him being in prison.
I thought that the recent passage in California of the “yes means yes” bill was extremely problematic — especially for males, who are basically at the mercy of women when it comes to initiating a sexual encounter. The temptation to engage in false accusations for purposes of revenge or pique will be great, and given the temper of the times, rather than an incident becoming a “he said, she said” issue, it is likely to be a “whatever she said goes as the truth” matter.
That California law defines consent as “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” And it covers each step of the sexual encounter — from kissing to petting, to intercourse. Madness.
But Ohio State has gone California one better. If you’re a Buckeye male, it’s not enough that you get “consent” for every sexual act. You have to agree with your partner on why you are having sex.
Have they gone bat guano crazy?
Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute writing at the Liberty Unyielding blog:
Ohio State applies an impractical “agreement” requirement to not just sex, but also to a much broader category of “touching” that is sexual (or perhaps romantic?) in nature. First, it states that “sexual assault is any form of non-consensual sexual activity. Sexual assault includes all unwanted sexual acts from intimidation to touching to various forms of penetration and rape.” Then, it states that “Consent is a knowing and voluntary verbal or non-verbal agreement between both parties to participate in each and every sexual act. . .Conduct will be considered “non-consensual” if no clear consent . . . is given. . . .Effective consent can be given by words or actions so long as the words or actions create a mutual understanding between both parties regarding the conditions of the sexual activity–ask, ‘do both of us understand and agree regarding the who, what, where, when, why, and how this sexual activity will take place?’”
College students, barely out of their teenage years with little sexual experience, are now expected to glean “consent” by the actions and supposed intent of their partner. If you kiss a girl without permission, that is considered a sexual assault — even if the girl liked it.
Bader takes us through the practical consequences of the policy:
This “agreement” requirement is impractical, because unlike sex (where there is generally an implicit agreement among the participants before it can even happen, since sex is difficult to do without active cooperation), no one agrees in advance – verbally or non-verbally – to have someone touch them in a particular place while making out. No one ever says, “may I touch your breast” before doing it while making out. They may (and usually do) welcome (and enjoy) it after it occurs, but they don’t specifically “agree” to it in advance (indeed, they may have expected the touch to occur in a different place, even if they found it pleasant). The very process of making out is a gradual escalation of intimacy step by step, without constant discussion or an endless series of agreements. That may be impossible under Ohio State’s policy, not just because it requires “agreement” (rather than mere “acquiescence”) but also because it expresses hostility to the concept of “consent to one form of sexual activity” being a signal of receptiveness to other, slightly more intimate “forms of sexual activity.” But that’s exactly what happens in making out: when you acquiesce in one form of touching or other “sexual activity” long enough, that signals a likely willingness to engage in slightly more intimate forms of touching — although you are free to rebut that presumption of willingness at any time simply by saying “no” or physically conveying your unwillingness. Such fluid interaction is threatened by Ohio State’s definition, which states that that “Consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other . . . sexual activity,” that there must be “agreement between both parties to participate in each and every sexual act,” that only “clear consent” counts, and that “Consent can never be assumed, even in the context of a relationship.”
With so much going on prior to intercourse, can a woman having a sexual encounter under these circumstances ever use the excuse that she and her partner got “carried away” and had unprotected sex leading to an unwanted pregnancy and an abortion? If you’re going to slow down the process of becoming intimate, what excuse do you have for not using a rubber? Or some other form of contraception?
That’s a side issue, to be sure. But Bader’s practical guide to sex at Ohio State (and other schools that will likely adopt similar policies) is a clear warning to males; know your partner well before even initiating a kiss. Is she mentally stable? Does she have relationship issues? If you’re only interested in a casual encounter, is she OK with that? A woman who discovers that her sexual partner from the night before was not interested in a long term relationship and only wanted to “hook up” for the night, is that grounds for charging him with sexual assault?
This may be the zenith of political correctness on college campuses. To take perhaps the most joyous, fulfilling act a human being can perform and turn it into a laborious, awkward, artificial, and dangerous encounter is the height of stupidity.
You have to wonder if the people who developed this policy ever had sex themselves.
I am of two minds about this story. Certainly, we can all relate to the desperation of the parents of Steve Sotloff and James Foley. They were willing to do anything to get their children back — as any of us would do in a similar situation. The fact that the government apparently threatened both families with prosection if they tried to raise ransom money seems harsh and arbitrary.
But the government is forced to think not only about present hostages, but any future hostage taking of Americans by the terrorists. It seems logical that paying ransom for hostages only encourages more hostage taking. Recall in Lebanon in the 1980s when the U.S. bartered arms for hostages only to see more hostages taken by the terrorists.
But there is more to this story. Specifically, White House lies about being in “constant contact” with the families of hostages. That’s not the story the families are telling. And the manner in which the message about potential prosection was delivered is more reminiscent of a threat delivered by a mafioso than a caring, compassionate government.
The mother of slain American journalist James Foley said she wasn’t necessarily surprised that the U.S. government threatened her family with prosecution should they raise money to pay her son’s ransom, but she was astounded by how such a devastating message was delivered.
“I was surprised there was so little compassion,” Diane Foley told ABC News today of the three separate warnings she said U.S. officials gave the family about the illegality of paying ransom to the terror group ISIS. “It just made me realize that these people talking to us had no idea what it was like to be the family of someone abducted… I’m sure [the U.S. official] didn’t mean it the way he said it, but we were between a rock and a hard place. We were told we could do nothing… meanwhile our son was being beaten and tortured every day.”
Earlier this week five current and former officials with direct knowledge of the Foley case confirmed the alleged threats were made.
“It was an utterly idiotic thing to do that came across as if [the U.S. official] had the compassion of an anvil,” said a former official who has advised the family.
At times, Diane Foley said the family “had to beg” the government for information on their son.
“We were an annoyance, it felt, at some level… They didn’t have time for us,” she said.
Today White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said that government officials were in constant contact with the Foley family and declined to comment on the alleged ransom warnings, telling reporters he’s “not going to be in a position to detail the kinds of conversations that took place so often between members of the administration and the Foley family.”
“It is a long standing policy of this administration, it was the policy of previous administrations that ransoms should not be paid to terrorist organizations,” Earnest said before referring more specific questions about the Foley’s situation to the Justice Department.
Secretary of State John Kerry today told reporters that he was “really taken aback [and] surprised” by Foley’s allegations. “I can tell you that I am totally unaware and would not condone anybody that I know of within the State Department making such statements,” Kerry said.
The family of Steve Sotloff, the other murdered American, was also threatened directly with prosecution at a White House meeting.
Sources close to the families say that at the time of the White House meeting the Sotloffs and Foleys — after receiving direct threats from IS — were exploring lining up donors who would help pay multimillion-dollar ransoms to free their sons. But after the meeting those efforts collapsed, one source said, because of concerns that “donors could expose themselves to prosecution.”
Although European hostages have been freed through ransom payments that have run into the millions of dollars, the Obama administration has taken a hard line against any such payments, viewing the transfer of cash as a violation of federal laws that forbid providing “material support” to a terrorist organization.
“They’ve been stricter than any administration on this,” said a former law enforcement official who has been working with the families of IS hostages.
Barfi said that within a few hours of the White House meeting, he was at a separate meeting with State Department officials. One of those officials repeatedly mentioned the “material support” law and made it “clear,” said Barfi, that criminal prosecutions could result if ransoms to the IS terrorists were paid.
Such explicit threats made to parents who “had to beg” to get any information about their children points to an administration that employed clod-hoppers as liaisons to the families. No doubt it was a tough job to inform the families of the law and the potential penalties that would have come with raising ransom money. But it’s obvious from statements made by both families that the administration blew it. The situation called for striking the right balance between showing compassion and imparting the matter-of-fact information about potential prosections. The White House chose people without tact or empathy to deliver their message and struck out.
Even though they’re right about the policy.
Time magazine described the “Daisy” ad, which aired only once 50 years ago today, as “the most infamous, and most effective” political ad ever. A little girl appears on the screen, stoops, and picks a daisy. As she starts pulling the petals off the flower, she counts, “One, two, three…” Her little-girl voice fades away as an ominous male voice counts down from 10:
It’s a minute long and appeared during Monday Night at the Movies on NBC. This is what happens next, as TIME described it: The countdown ends, and the screen erupts in atomic explosion, followed by the voice of Lyndon Baines Johnson, who says somberly: “These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or go into the dark. We must either love each other or we must die.”
Context is all, and here’s the political context in which that ad appeared:
The commercial, an election-season spot for incumbent president LBJ, was never meant to run repeatedly, but it was followed later in the month by a similar commercial featuring another little girl, this time with an ice cream cone, accompanied by an ominous voiceover about radioactive chemicals introduced to the environment by nuclear tests. Still, the spots provoked immediate controversy — and contributed to TIME’s decision to dub the Sept. 25, 1964, issue “The Nuclear Issue.” (The daisy girl appears on the cover.) Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, TIME said then, was dogged by an “itchy-finger image.” After speaking in favor of making it easier for the nation’s armed forces to use nuclear weapons if needed, Goldwater became synonymous with the threat of full-on nuclear destruction. As one registered Republican from Vermont told a reporter, “I don’t think too much of President Johnson, but I guess I’m really afraid of Senator Goldwater.”
In case you’ve been sleeping under a rock for 50 years, here’s the ad:
The ad was a punch in the groin to Goldwater. Republicans immediately cried “foul” and went off on the network for running it. Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois wrote the National Association of Broadcasters, fuming that the ad was “unfit for children to see, and takes the level of political campaigning to a depth never before approached in the history of television.” Republican House leader Charles Halleck said “decent people resent this kind of play on emotions, this appeal to fear, this scare campaign that outdoes a horror movie.”
Ad Age reports that it didn’t matter that the ad ran only once.
It didn’t run again, partly due to the outcry, mostly because it didn’t need to run again. According to atomic-age-obsessed CONELRAD, which has an extensive, must-read three-part history of the ad (complete with supporting documents and an interview with Daisy herself and a video clip of the DDB team), “Daisy” was also a pioneer in what we now call “earned media.”
The spot may not have been re-broadcast as a paid ad, but it was run during nightly news segments. CONELRAD quotes a memo from the Johnson campaign’s Bill Moyers (yes, that Bill Moyers) to the president, that reads in part:
“While we paid for the ad only on NBC last Monday night, ABC and CBS ran it on their news shows Friday. So we got it shown on all three networks for the price of one.”
The cost to run that ad? According to CONELRAD, $24,000.
According to a Nov. 23 Ad Age article citing a Walter Pincus story in the Washington Star, the Democrats were billed for $4 million worth of advertising (including media) for that election, compared to the Republican’s $4.6 million.
And the Democrats thought the Willie Horton ad low? At least the Horton ad, run by the George H.W. Bush campaign against Michael Dukakis in 1988, was based on fact, as you’ll see on the next page.
So much for appealing to the authority of think tanks when making an argument.
The New York Times studied the question of foreign funding of American think tanks and discovered some disturbing patterns. Twenty-eight think tanks received at least $92 million from dozens of foreign entities in exchange for at least some favorable research and access to US policy makers.
Of particular interest were payments made to the Brookings Institution, the most prestigious of all think tanks in the US.
The Brookings Institution, considered by many to be the most prestigious think tank in the world, comes off especially poorly in the report.
“There was a no-go zone when it came to criticizing the Qatari government,” Saleem Ali, formerly a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, told The Times.
Qatar, which backs the Muslim Brotherhood, paid Brookings $14.8 million over four years to fund the center and for a special project to address relations between Muslims and the U.S.
“It was unsettling for the academics there. But it was the price we had to pay,” Ali said of the partnership, while warning members of Congress to “be aware” of Brookings reports, which he said may not contain the full truth on any given issue.
The Qataris were pleased with the arrangement, which the foreign ministry touted on its website, writing that “the center will assume its role in reflecting the bright image of Qatar in the international media, especially the American ones.”
“Yikes,” Todd Moss, the Center for Global Development’s chief operating officer, exclaimed to The Times after the paper showed him communications between his organization and the government of Norway, detailing plans to lobby the White House and Congress to double spending on a foreign aid program. ”We will absolutely seek counsel on this,” said Moss.
The failure to comply with foreign donors’ agenda had ramifications at one organization.
Michele Dunne, a former State Department official with expertise in the Middle East, was named as the first director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. In 2013, Dunne signed a petition and testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to voice concern over the ouster of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.
Bahaa Hiriri, who financed the center, called to complain, according to The Times, and Dunne was out four months later. She was replaced by a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt, who was reportedly criticized for being too deferential to former president Hosni Mubarak.
The first word that comes to mind is “whores” — selling your name, your credibility, and your reputation for money. There’s no other way to see this no matter how they spin it.
And I don’t think this is a left-right issue. The competition for dollars is fierce and it’s not surprising that most policy centers would reach out to foreign governments for donations.
From the Times report:
The think tanks’ reliance on funds from overseas is driven, in part, by intensifying competition within the field: The number of policy groups has multiplied in recent years, while research grants from the United States government have dwindled.
Foreign officials describe these relationships as pivotal to winning influence on the cluttered Washington stage, where hundreds of nations jockey for attention from the United States government. The arrangements vary: Some countries work directly with think tanks, drawing contracts that define the scope and direction of research. Others donate money to the think tanks, and then pay teams of lobbyists and public relations consultants to push the think tanks to promote the country’s agenda.
The trouble comes when sensitivity by the think tank to the feelings of foreign governments shades the research a certain way. Apparently, outright interference by governments is not unheard of either.
A solution might be to amend the law governing lobbying activities by domestic concerns for foreign governments. A little transparency would, at least, give policy makers better context to judge think tank output.
The Arab League will issue a resolution sometime today or tomorrow supporting efforts to confront Islamic State.
They may even include language that supports the U.S. air campaign against ISIS in Iraq, although any show of support for the U.S. would be politically troublesome for some Arab countries.
The resolution is not expected to go into detail about what exactly the league would be willing to do to support efforts to defeat Islamic State, but there’s a chance that the resolution will include a hint of some kind of joint military action by the league against ISIS
Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo are set to issue a resolution on Sunday backing Iraqi and U.S. efforts to confront Islamic State insurgents who have overrun large areas of Iraq and Syria and declared a cross-border caliphate, diplomats said.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi told the opening session that the rise of the group in Iraq challenged not merely the authority of the state but “its very existence and the existence of other states”, and called for a clear and decisive resolution to confront terrorism militarily, politically, economically and culturally.
Several foreign ministers spoke of the gravity of the challenge posed by Islamic State in Iraq as well as the violence that has engulfed Libya and other regions.
An Iraqi diplomatic source said Baghdad had drafted a resolution that would endorse its efforts to confront the militants and condemn Islamic State’s actions as war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Other diplomatic sources said the Arab League would agree a resolution endorsing the U.S. aerial campaign against the group. Egypt’s official Mena news agency quoted a source saying the ministers would agree to coordinate with the United States.
It was not immediately clear if Washington would be named in the final text as the foreign ministers hammered out the details into Sunday evening.
However, the Iraqi draft does endorse a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last month that urges member states to “act to suppress the flow of foreign fighters, financing and other support to Islamist extremist groups in Iraq and Syria”.
Diplomatic sources said backing for Iraqi efforts and the U.N. resolution could be read as offering tacit support for U.S. action, even if the United States is not named in the final text.
Arabi suggested that military action could take place under the umbrella of an Arab League joint defense pact.
Most Arab states have taken steps to prevent their young men from going to Syria to join ISIS, although according to one source, there are 12,000 foreign fighters who have joined the rebellion against Bashar Assad, most of them from Arab League countries and many of them now swelling the ranks of jihadists fighting for Islamic State.
And the resolution represents something of a flip flop for Gulf states like Qatar and Saudi Arabia who originally financed and armed ISIS. Money still flows from those countries into ISIS coffers despite both governments now disavowing any support for the terrorists.
So, now the Saudis and Qatar are going to go to war against their creation? Such is the topsy-turvey world of Arab politics.
Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to visit the Middle East next week to see how much Arab rubber meets the road. Will they back up their tough words with tangible support? Egypt would almost certainly agree to go to war against ISIS. They have the largest army and the military government’s stated position against extremists as well as their recent actions in Libya to combat jihadists would suggest their willingness to commit troops.
As for the others, there isn’t much to write home about as far as military prowess. The Saudis and UAE have modern equipment courtesy of the U.S., but the fighting skills of their armies have rarely been tested. How would they measure up against the battle-hardened veterans of ISIS?
They are probably going to need a lot of help from America to be successful.
Somebody has got to take the fall, so why not the most vulnerable and voiceless among us?
President Obama declared war on illegal alien children during an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd of Meet the Press., blaming them and the resulting border crisis for scuttling his amnesty plans.
The president also claimed that politics was not the reason for his decision to delay his power grab. And he said that unicorns were real and can fly.
Well, maybe not the last. But if he expects us to believe the other two explanations, why not?
“The truth of the matter is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem,” Obama said in the interview, which will air on Sunday’s Meet the Press on NBC. “I want to spend some time, even as we’re getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we’re doing this, why it’s the right thing for the American people, why it’s the right thing for the American economy.”
In the sit-down with Todd, Obama rejected criticism that the postponement is merely a political tactic intended to help embattled Democrats in the months before contentious midterm elections, saying that the delay will help make new immigration policies “sustainable” when they are announced later this year.
“What I’m saying is that I’m going to act because it’s the right thing for the country,” he said. “But it’s going to be more sustainable and more effective if the public understands what the facts are on immigration, what we’ve done on unaccompanied children, and why it’s necessary.”
It should go without saying that “the truth of the matter” is Obamaspeak for “pay close attention because I’m about ready to lie.” The midsummer “shift” in politics was a sudden drop in the poll numbers of Democratic senators in states where Republican challengers were making hay criticizing Democrats for their border policies.
And, as Jennifer Rubin points out, the notion that the president delayed his policies because he didn’t want to hurt the chances of comprehensive reform passing Congress is a crock:
If the president wants to make a policy grab, he can do so whenever he pleases. This craven move, however, allows him to (try to) duck responsibility and avoid the wrath of voters. To suggest that he is trying to avoid wrecking the prospects of legislative action is absurd; he’s given up on legislation passed as the Constitution prescribes. The speaker of the House rightfully blasted the president: “There is never a ‘right’ time for the president to declare amnesty by executive action, but the decision to simply delay this deeply-controversial and possibly unconstitutional unilateral action until after the election – instead of abandoning the idea altogether – smacks of raw politics. The American people deserve honesty, transparency, and accountability – and any unilateral action will only further strain the bonds of trust between the White House and the people they are supposed to serve.“
Obama has handed Republicans a powerful issue and put Democrats in the uncomfortable position of having to defend the president’s lawlessness. If there is one thing that united all Republicans on the immigration issue, it is the unacceptability of the president taking the law into his own hands. Republicans can now talk about this, not to mention the fact the House did pass a bill on the border security crisis (the Senate went home). Democrats have gone from offense to defense, thanks to the president, on the one issue that might have saved some seats. Now it is Republicans who will seize the momentum.
While Rubin is correct, the unfortunate fact is that Republican candidates have nowhere to go on the amnesty issue. The president hasn’t confirmed anything. The administration has only said that amnesty is an “option.” Republicans may broadly allude to the prospect of amnesty but are prevented from specific criticism by the president’s delaying tactic.
Indeed, it’s the last quiver in the president’s bow to save the Senate for Democrats. By taking amnesty off the table as a campaign issue — or, at least, reducing its impact — the president gives Senators like Pryor in Arkansas and Landrieu in Louisiana a fighting chance. It also eases the way for incumbents like Udall in Colorado and Dem candidates in several open-seat races who are locked in tighter-than-expected contests.
On the downside, it is likely to depress Hispanic turnout. But minority turnout in off-year elections is notoriously low anyway, so the calculus will probably make the president’s gambit pay off on election day: It will save more votes for Democrats than cost them.
The Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab has vowed revenge after US intelligence confirmed that a drone strike on a truck earlier this week took out their leader Ahmed Abdi Godane.
The terrorists named Abu Ubeyda Ahmed Omar to replace Godane and swore vengeance on both the US and the Somali government.
In a statement, al Shabaab reaffirmed its affiliation to al Qaeda, and named its new leader as Sheikh Ahmad Umar Abu Ubaidah, warning its enemies to “expect only that which will cause you great distress”.
Little is known of al Shabaab’s new leader, but a local elder who asked not be named said he had joined al Shabaab in 2006 and, like Godane, hailed from the Dir clan.
Godane himself was named head of al Shabaab in 2008, less than a week after his predecessor Aden Hashi Ayro was killed in a similar U.S. raid.
Godane dramatically raised the group’s profile, carrying out bombings and suicide attacks in Somalia and elsewhere in the region, including last September’s attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in which 67 people died.
Godane publicly claimed responsibility for that attack, saying it was revenge for Kenyan and Western involvement in Somalia and noting its proximity to the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
The militants have also staged guerrilla attacks in parts of the capital, as well as in neighboring Kenya and Uganda.
The Pentagon said on Friday that Godane’s killing was a “major symbolic and operational loss” for al Shabaab, but some analysts have said it could bring more violence.
Al Shabaab, whose name means “The Youth”, said two of Godane’s companions had been killed in the attack, adding: “Avenging the death of our scholars and leaders is a binding obligation on our shoulders that we will never relinquish or forget, no matter how long it takes.”
The group, which aims to impose its own strict version of Islam, controlled Mogadishu and the southern region of Somalia from 2006 until 2011. It was forced out of the capital by peacekeeping forces deployed by the African Union, who have launched a new offensive against the Islamists this year.
Kenya deployed troops with the AU force to try to prevent al Shabaab encroaching onto its own territory, and suffered retribution in the shape of the attack on the Westgate mall.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta thanked the United States for killing Godane, and “for bringing an end to Godane’s career of death and destruction; and finally allowing us to begin our healing process”.
Al-Shabab may be the least of our worries at this point, but along with Nigeria’s Boko Haram, and Algerian-based Al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the world may have more than it can handle in Africa very soon. These three groups are growing, gaining recruits and credibility, and gaining confidence as they confront government forces ill-equipped to battle fanatics.
It’s good to see that we aren’t totally ignoring the threat from Al-Shabab. But the danger is we will get so caught up in fighting Islamic State that other, growing threats are given short shrift until we wake up one day and discover that one of these terrorist groups has become a full-blown threat to the region and us.
It’s what happened with ISIS and we shouldn’t let it happen again.
According to a report from the Freelancer’s Union and freelance markeplaces oDesk and eLance, 53 million American workers, or 34%, are now considered “freelance.”
As you will see, there are several definitions of freelancer, some traditional, some less so, but familiar to many who struggle with their personal finances. Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue with this statement from the report; that the move to freelancing by so many millions represents “a cultural and social shift” that will “have major impacts on how Americans conceive of and organize their lives, their communities, and their economic power.”
The first and last time anyone looked at the freelance worker population in the U.S. was 2004, in a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Back then the GAO turned up about 42 million “contingent workers,” a group that included folks we would normally think of as freelancers but also all part-time workers. “It was a solid, if not particularly nuanced, effort,” as the writers of the new report put it. For their purposes, they defined freelancers as “individuals who have engaged in supplemental, temporary, or project- or contract-based work in the past 12 months” and further broke the group down into five categories:
- Independent contractors (21 million). This group hews closest to our “traditional” idea of freelancing: individuals whose main source of employment involves working on a project-to-project basis in their field. They make up about 40 percent of freelancers.
- Moonlighters (14.3 million). These are individuals who work regular full-time jobs and also do some amount of freelance work. This group includes 27 percent of freelancers.
- Diversified workers (9.3 million). These are our serious hustlers, the folks pulling in income from multiple sources, including traditional employment and freelance work. A diversified worker may have a 20-hour per week bartending or retail job and supplement her income with freelance graphic design work and some time as an Uber driver. This group makes up about 18 percent of freelancers.
- Temp workers (5.5 million). Temp workers are those working with a single employer, client, job, or project but on a temporary basis. This could be “a business strategy consultant working for one startup client” (the report’s example) or a recent college graduate doing grunt or admin work for different companies each week through a temp agency. They make up about one-tenth of freelancers.
- Freelance business owners (2.8 million). This group includes people employ between one and five others and who consider themselves both freelancers and business owners. They make up 5 percent of the freelance economy.
A few more key findings about the freelance population in general:
- 77 percent say they make as much or more money now than they did before becoming a freelancer
- About half (53 percent) say going freelance was totally their preference; the rest say it was out of necessity.
- The main reason people take on freelance work is to earn extra money (68 percent), followed by the ability to have a flexible schedule (42 percent).
There have always been people who “moonlighted” to earn extra cash, or took a particular part-time job because the hours were flexible. But that was almost always a result of necessity; child care duties or simply not making enough in one’s 9-5 job to make ends meet.
Today’s freelancer would seem to be more interested in freedom of action and making an impact on the world, according to the study. The fact that decent paying jobs are hard to find may also factor into a workers’ decision to try to make a living as an independent contractor.
As an independent contractor myself, I can tell you one big change that has to made; the tax code. It is rigged against independent contractors and is unnecessarily complex. The tax code actually encourages an independent contractor to pile on as many expenses as possible. This lowers your taxable income but is counterintuitive to those who wish to save something for retirement.
Elizabeth Nolan Brown, author of the Hit and Run piece, sums up the consequences:
To its credit, the new report remains relatively agnostic about whether these updated employment realities are better or worse than the previous paradigm(s), an agnosticism I share. There’s just no use crying over a culture and economy we won’t get back. What matters is what is happening now, why it’s happening, and how adjust our political and cultural expectations to accommodate it. And to the first two points, this new report provides some valuable and long overdue data.
Why it’s happening probably has as much to do with a stumbling economy that is failing to create jobs that someone who might want a little more security would take in a heartbeat, as it does with any newfound independent spirit in the workforce. In this case, the Mother of Invention is necessity, and as long as the economy is in the doldrums, it is likely to continue that way.
The Associated Press is reporting that President Obama has decided to break his promise to immigration advocates and hold off on any executive action on amnesty until after the midterm elections.
The ditherer-in chief-probably could have gotten away with his executive orders having minimal impact on the midterms if he had decided in the spring to amnesty millions of illegal aliens. But now, less than two months from the elections, such a move would likely lead to a slaughter of vulnerable Senate Democrats and perhaps even the loss of some seats thought relatively safe. The delay was realistically the only chance Democrats had of keeping hope alive to remain in control of the upper body.
Abandoning his pledge to act by the end of summer, President Barack Obama has decided to delay any executive action on immigration until after the November congressional elections, White House officials said.
The move instantly infuriated immigration advocates while offering relief to some vulnerable Democrats in tough Senate re-election contests.
Two White House officials said Obama concluded that circumventing Congress through executive actions on immigration during the campaign would politicize the issue and hurt future efforts to pass a broad overhaul.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the president’s decision before it was announced, said Obama made his decision Friday as he returned to Washington from a NATO summit in Wales.
They said Obama called a few allies from Air Force One to inform them of his decision, and that the president made more calls from the White House on Saturday.
The officials said Obama had no specific timeline to act, but that he still would take his executive steps before the end of the year.
In a Rose Garden speech on June 30, Obama said he had directed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to give him recommendations for executive action by the end of summer. Obama also pledged to “adopt those recommendations without further delay.”
Obama faced competing pressures from immigration advocacy groups that wanted prompt action and from Democrats worried that acting now would energize Republican opposition against vulnerable Senate Democrats. Among those considered most at risk were Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.
Obama advisers were not convinced that any presidential action would affect the elections. But the officials said the discussions around timing grew more pronounced within the past few weeks.
Ultimately, the advisers drew a lesson from 1994 when Democratic losses were blamed on votes for gun-control legislation, undermining any interest in passing future gun measures.
White House officials said aides realized that if Obama’s immigration action was deemed responsible for Democratic losses this year, it could hurt any attempt to pass a broad overhaul later on.
Immigration advocates blasted Obama and Senate Democrats over the decision, saying both have shown a lack of political will.
Mitch McConnell summed up the political dilemma for Republicans perfectly:
What’s so cynical about today’s immigration announcement is that the president isn’t saying he’ll follow the law, he’s just saying he’ll go around the law once it’s too late for Americans to hold his party accountable in the November elections.
Republicans on the hustings can’t go out and charge the president with planning unilateral amnesty for millions of illegals because he can always say he hasn’t decided yet, or some other dodge. The president has effectively checked the Republicans on immigration as a campaign issue, although border security remains a big problem for Democrats.
As for immigration advocates, they are getting what they deserve. They trusted the most untrustworthy president in recent memory and look what it got them:
“We are bitterly disappointed in the president and we are bitterly disappointed in the Senate Democrats,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice. “We advocates didn’t make the reform promise; we just made the mistake of believing it.
Will this depress Hispanic turnout in November? Past off-year elections have shown low participation by Hispanics, so it is unlikely that the president’s decision will materially affect the outcome. But it certainly puts a dent in the president’s plans to goose turnout among his base followers, hoping that blacks, the young, single women, and other minorities could ride to the rescue and save his Senate majority.
I think GOP chances to take the Senate just improved markedly.
Prolific bank robber Willie Sutton, when asked why he held up banks, supposedly said, “Because that’s where the money is.”
Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon, who reports on an FBI internal document stating that Cuban intelligence is targeting American academia and university professors to recruit spies, brings to mind Sutton’s declaration.
Why should Cuban intel target colleges? Because that’s where the communists are.
Cuba’s communist-led intelligence services are aggressively recruiting leftist American academics and university professors as spies and influence agents, according to an internal FBI report published this week.
Cuban intelligence services “have perfected the work of placing agents, that includes aggressively targeting U.S. universities under the assumption that a percentage of students will eventually move on to positions within the U.S. government that can provide access to information of use to the [Cuban intelligence service],” the five-page unclassified FBI report says. It notes that the Cubans “devote a significant amount of resources to targeting and exploiting U.S. academia.”
“Academia has been and remains a key target of foreign intelligence services, including the [Cuban intelligence service],” the report concludes.
One recruitment method used by the Cubans is to appeal to American leftists’ ideology. “For instance, someone who is allied with communist or leftist ideology may assist the [Cuban intelligence service] because of his/her personal beliefs,” the FBI report, dated Sept. 2, said.
Others are offered lucrative business deals in Cuba in a future post-U.S. embargo environment, and are treated to extravagant, all-expense paid visits to the island.
Coercive tactics used by the Cubans include exploiting personal weaknesses and sexual entrapment, usually during visits to Cuba.
The Cubans “will actively exploit visitors to the island” and U.S. academics are targeted by a special department of the spy agency.
“This department is supported by all of the counterintelligence resources the government of Cuba can marshal on the island,” the report said. “Intelligence officers will come into contact with the academic travelers. They will stay in the same accommodations and participate in the activities arranged for the travelers. This clearly provides an opportunity to identify targets.”
In addition to collecting information and secrets, Cuban spies employ “influence operations,” the FBI said.
“The objective of these activities can range from portraying a specific image, usually positive, to attempting to sway policymakers into particular courses of action,” the report said.
While the left generally romanticizes the Castros and Cuban communism, the hard-core Marxists on college campuses see the regime as on the frontlines of the revolutionary struggle against capitalism. They are dead serious about the regime’s survival and would no doubt betray their own country to facilitate that goal.
The fact that being a Marxist professor is not a detriment to one’s career means that Cuban intelligence operatives on a recruiting mission don’t have to try very hard to find likely targets. More difficult, one would think, would be to recruit the fellow travelers who might be in a better position to supply usable intelligence. Those academics who move easily between the ivory tower and Washington, D.C., would be prime candidates for recruitment. They would also be likely targets of honey traps and other methods to compromise potential recruits.