From our “Now We’ve Heard Everything” file, three men have been arrested for operating a fictitious police department that they say has jurisdiction in 33 states and Mexico and has existed for 3,000 years.
One of those arrested worked in the office of California Attorney General Kamal Harris.
It gets even more bizarre, as this AP report explains:
Brandon Kiel, David Henry and Tonette Hayes were taken into custody last week on suspicion of impersonating officers as members of the so-called Masonic Fraternal Police Department, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Kiel, 31, has worked as deputy director of community affairs at the California Department of Justice. He is on administrative leave, and the department can’t comment on an ongoing personnel matter or criminal investigation, agency spokesman David Beltran said.
An investigation into the Masonic Fraternal Police Department was launched after various police chiefs in Southern California received a letter in late January that announced new leadership for the group, sheriff’s officials said.
Later a man claiming to be Kiel and describing himself as the police force’s “chief deputy director” called various law enforcement agencies to schedule sit-down meetings, officials said.
Capt. Roosevelt Johnson of the sheriff’s department’s Santa Clarita Valley station said he met with members of the Masonic Fraternal Police Department in February.
Henry and Hayes showed up in black jumpsuits wearing patches with their department name on them, along with stars indicating they were brass. Hayes was carrying a handgun and wearing a utility belt, Johnson said.
Kiel was there too, wearing a dark navy business suit. They told Johnson they were opening a new Canyon Country police station.
Johnson said he grew wary when they couldn’t answer questions about where they derived their authority, or jurisdictional issues.
“Brandon Kiel gave me a business card from the Department of Justice, showing he worked out of Kamal Harris’ office,” Johnson said. “That really raised red flags for me.”
Kiel, who was hired in July 2013 in a civil service job, “worked with members of the public basically on issues and questions regarding the work of the department,” Beltran said.
A website for the police force says the group was created by the Knights Templar in 1100 B.C.
“When asked what is the difference between the Masonic Fraternal Police Department and other Police Departments the answer is simple for us. We were here first!” the site says.
Investigators searched a Santa Clarita home and office and found badges, weapons, uniforms and law enforcement paraphernalia, sheriff’s officials said.
I would assume that the “Masonic Fraternal Police Department” has something to do with Freemasonry, although it’s probably as much a puzzle to them as it is to us. There are a lot of people who believe the Masons control our lives already, so it makes perfect sense to them that they would have a police force.
But then there are hints at the three men fancying themselves part of the Illuminati – the grandaddy of all conspiracy tales.
Henry on his Google Plus account fashions himself GRANDMASTER HENRY X under “ILLUMINATOR JURISDICTION.” A YouTube video uploaded to his account shows that he was able to parlay his cosplaying into an appearance with the LAPD in a press conference calling for peace after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for Trayvon Martin’s death.
Here is Mr. Henry and some of his fellow “officers” in full regalia:
KTLA reports that “investigators also believe there are other people associated with the group. According to the website, there are roughly 500,000 members in the U.S.” Probably a slight exaggeration, but it gives one pause to consider even a few of these armed nutcases running around the country trying to arrest people.
I think I prefer the Freemasons.
More than 7,000 people lie dead in Nepal, victims of a massive earthquake. Hundreds of thousands are sitting in ruined villages with no food, no clean water, and no shelter from the elements.
But as the New York Times reports, relief supplies are piled high at the Kathmandu airport, and desperately needed food and medicine is not reaching the victims as intended.
The reason? Nepalese bureaucrats refuse to cut the red tape that would speed the relief supplies along.
Relief supplies for earthquake victims have been piling up at the airport and in warehouses here because of bureaucratic interference by Nepali authorities who insist that standard customs inspections and other procedures be followed, even in an emergency, Western government and aid organization officials said on Sunday.
“The bottleneck was the fact that the bureaucratic procedures were just so heavy,” Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations resident coordinator, said in an interview. “So many layers of government and so many departments involved, so many different line ministries involved. We don’t need goods sitting in Kathmandu warehouses. We don’t need goods sitting at the airport. We need them up in the affected areas.”
The United States ambassador to Nepal, Peter W. Bodde, said he had spoken to Nepal’s prime minister, Sushil Koirala, about the issue and “he assured me that all the red tape will be stopped.”
“Everyone was panicked, everything was closed, and we all tried to save our own lives,” Purna Bahadur Khadka, joint general secretary of the governing Nepali Congress, said in an interview at the prime minister’s official residence. “And some critics can say there was no proper coordination for the first two days.”
But sometime over the past week, the government revived, Mr. Khadka said. And that is when, Western aid officials say, government officials began insisting that an entire list of rules must be followed, even for emergency relief supplies.
Mr. Bodde said it was a problem that the United States intended to help fix, as a huge C-17 transport plane unloaded a UH-17 helicopter and, separately, four Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft flew into Nepal on Sunday to help carry supplies from Kathmandu to devastated rural areas.
“That’s why we’re here today,” Mr. Bodde said as the C-17 rolled to a stop.
But even that help had been delayed, according to Marine Lt. Col Edward Powers, the helicopter pilot.
“We’ve been sitting on a ramp in Okinawa for the last 72 hours” waiting for permission to land at Kathmandu, Colonel Powers said at the airport.
The bureaucratic foul-ups are also occurring at border crossings with India , who is trying to get relief supplies overland into the interior of Nepal. The same heavy handed “inspections” are happening there as well.
Nepal, being a third world country, has no doubt experienced problems with crooked customs inspectors with sticky fingers. But this doesn’t look like any illegal activity is going on. Rather it is the perfect storm of bureaucrats who take their jobs seriously meeting a situation where they shouldn’t. For bureaucrats the world over, dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s” even though the end of the world is nigh, is what we should expect.
Former Maryland Governor — and mayor of Baltimore — Martin O’Malley is probably going to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president.
Martin O’Malley’s political career, which started on the streets of Baltimore, may also end there: Half of Democratic insiders in the early states believe this week’s riots have hurt the former mayor’s already long-shot presidential hopes.
The POLITICO Caucus, our weekly bipartisan survey of the most important activists, operatives and elected officials in Iowa and New Hampshire, found that Democrats are evenly split over whether racial unrest will be a minor or significant issue in the presidential campaign.
“I really like and respect O’Malley, so it pains me to write that I think the Baltimore violence will essentially disqualify him as a viable presidential candidate for a broad swath of Americans,” said a New Hampshire Democrat, who – like all 73 respondents – completed the questionnaire anonymously in order to speak candidly.
“The renaissance of Baltimore has been such a huge part of his biography when he speaks to Democrats, so when your TV shows Baltimore on fire, riot police on the streets and baseball at an empty Camden Yards, one can only wonder what kind of lasting progress he made there.”
What’s an ambitious politician to do?
If he’s smart, he makes a virtue out of necessity and embraces the cause of the cities.
“We haven’t had an agenda for America’s cities probably since Jimmy Carter … We have left cities to fend for themselves. … But look, the structural problems that we have in our economy, the way we ship jobs and profits abroad, the way we failed to invest in our infrastructure and failed to invest in American cities, we are creating the conditions. Please, Speaker Boehner and his crocodile tears about the $130 million, that is a spit in the bucket compared to what we need to do as a nation to rebuild our country. And America’s cities are the heart of our country. We need an agenda for American cities. We need to stop ignoring especially people of color and act like they are disposable citizens in this nation. That’s not how our economy is supposed to work, it’s not how or our country works,” an impassioned O’Malley said.
NBC host Chuck Todd asked, “Do you think you can run on your record as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland, given all this? You are getting a lot of scrutiny now. Do you think this is a positive thing voters will look at and say Martin O’Malley ought to be president?”
“I did not dedicate my life to make Baltimore safer and more just place because it was easy. And I am more inclined and deeply motivated to address what’s wrong with our country and what needs to be healed and what needs to be fixed. This should be a wake-up call. What’s happened in Baltimore should be a wake-up call for the entire country. The protests that also happened in New York, Philadelphia, and other cities–we have deep problems as a country. And we need deeper understanding if we are going to give our children a better future,” said O’Malley.
You’ve got to hand it to O’Malley. He constantly touts his wonderful tenure as Baltimore mayor despite the fact that he left office less than 8 years ago. Has the city plummeted to its current depths in 8 short years?
Not hardly. The police were just as corrupt 8 years ago, as was city government. Urban blight was just as bad 8 years ago. The schools were just as bad 8 years ago.
But we’re supposed to forget all that and elect O’Malley anyway? Washington already sends tens of billions in direct aid to the cities and more in indirect subsidies for schools, health care, and other social needs. Perhaps before we start worrying about “developing an agenda” for the cities, we look at what we’re already spending to see what’s working and what isn’t.
Most major metropolitan areas in America are having financial difficulties, largely brought about by their own ruinous fiscal policies. It isn’t a question of neglect. It is a question of mismanagement, corruption, cynicism, and political manipulation by the one-party state — the Democratic Party.
Oh, dear. This video of a Georgetown, Texas, town councilman leaving the council meeting to attend to the call of nature, only to leave his microphone on, has gone viral.
Things got real awkward during a council meeting in Georgetown, Texas, when an unidentified councilman excused himself to use the bathroom. Unfortunately, the man forgot to turn off his microphone, so everyone heard his trip to the lavatory as it was amplified throughout the meeting. It seems he also forgot to wash his hands.
Rachael Jonrowe, the city’s mayor pro tem who tried her best to speak seriously about infectious diseases while the man relieved himself, was not immediately available for comment or additional information. But we have to admit, she handled it really well.
Bathroom humor is very popular, and listening to someone urinate loudly and flush a toilet is irresistible. But why something like this went viral is a mystery.
If you figure it out, please write me and I will share in the gazillion dollars we will make by writing the book.
This is incredibly sickening. A hospital in St. Louis, now closed, may have taken babies from black mothers to sell elsewhere, telling the mothers their babies had died.
Most of the babies were born in the 1940s and ’50s.
A lawyer for a long-separated mother and daughter said on Friday he is investigating whether staff at a now-closed St. Louis hospital may have taken babies from impoverished young black women to put them up for adoption.
Melanie Gilmore was reunited with her mother, gospel singer Zella Jackson Price, after 49 years in March in an emotional video that has been seen by almost 300,000 people on YouTube. Price was told by a nurse at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis in 1965 that her baby had died, said family attorney Albert Watkins.
Gilmore’s children had reached out to Price on Facebook because Gilmore had seen the name Zella Jackson on her birth certificate. A DNA test proved the connection, Watkins said.
Watkins said he has since heard from more than 20 elderly black women who gave birth at Phillips in the 1950s and 1960s with similar stories – nurses said their babies were dead, and the mothers were not allowed to see the bodies. There were no death certificates, he said.
Watkins said he suspects that babies were taken to be adopted by middle-class black families and is asking state and city officials to investigate.
“It points to a very dark place,” said Watkins, of the women’s stories.
Phillips, a city-owned hospital which served black patients during a time of segregation and was a training ground for black doctors, closed in 1979.
Former staff at the hospital said they can’t believe something so sinister could have happened.
“None of my staff members would have ever done anything like that,” said Helen Wallace, a former head nurse who worked at the hospital from 1947 through 1979.
Dr. Mary Tillman, who worked at the hospital between 1960 and 1979, said that the nursing staff “ran a tight ship,” with identification bracelets matching mother and child, and only a doctor, not a nurse, would have told a woman if her baby had died. Tillman had one of her own children at the hospital.
One part of this story that gives me pause is the number of children involved. It would be very difficult to carry out a scheme like this involving 20 infants. Too many people inside and outside the hospital would have been involved.
It’s more likely that, if there was a plan and not just a mix-up, it would have involved a handful of babies, and two or three hospital staff. Presumably the parents who bought the babies would have been in the dark about how they were obtained.
The tipping point for the downfall of our civilization is near.
Police in Manatee County, Florida, were called to investigate a report that two seven-year-old kids were kissing at school — on the lips!
Florida police last week investigated whether a kiss exchanged by seven-year-old elementary students amounted to “lewd and lascivious” behavior, according to an incident report.
Responding to “allegations” that the children kissed “on the lips” during class last Tuesday, a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy was dispatched to the school to investigate, according to the report, which includes a charge description as “unnatural and lascivious.”
The report, which contains redactions, does not indicate the source of the kissing “allegations.”
Deputy April Culbreath reported speaking with a teacher who “witnessed the incident.” Thereafter, Culbreath concluded that there was “no indication that there was anything sexual about this incident” and no evidence that Florida state law had been violated.
Well, I’ll bet those kids will think twice before they kiss anyone again.
Is it a requirement for teachers at American schools to be mentally unbalanced? Or are teachers just totally besotted with fear that the children in their charge might grow up without their help?
There is a mindlessness to much of what is going on in schools that is directly related to the idea that unless the school is in total control of everything kids do, they are failing. The mania for organized activities, the panic when a kid fashions a gun out of a Pop Tart, suspending a kid because he got a “soldier’s haircut” or shaved their head to show solidarity with a classmate who had cancer — and these are incidents that have made it on the news. How many hundreds or thousands of similar demonstrations of stupidity have gone on around the country that didn’t receive any press attention?
I’ve always thought homeschooling was a great idea. After hearing this story, I’m more convinced than ever before.
There will be a celebratory atmosphere among the thousands of people in Baltimore expected to take part in a “victory rally” on Saturday. Marchers will be celebrating the indictments handed down by states’ attorney Marilyn Mosby, who charged six police officers with murder and assault in the case involving Freddie Gray.
You would think that the indictment of anyone for murder would have been met by a more solemn reaction. But this isn’t about reflection, or solemnity, or any uplifting civic virtue. It isn’t even very much about Freddie Gray.
This is about sticking it to the police, good and hard, and the satisfaction of seeing the “enemy” humbled.
Gray’s stepfather, Robert Shipley, said the family was happy the officers were charged, and he reiterated a plea to keep all public demonstrations peaceful.
“We are satisfied with today’s charges; they are an important step in getting justice for Freddie,” Shipley said. “But if you are not coming in peace, please don’t come at all.”
The family lawyer, Billy Murphy, said the charges are “a first step but not the last,” adding that Baltimore now has an opportunity to set an example for cities across the nation grappling with police brutality.
“The overwhelming number of people who have protested over the days didn’t know Freddie personally, but the people of Philadelphia, New York, Cincinnati, and in numerous cities and towns are expressing their outrage that there are too many Freddie Grays,” Murphy said. “If Freddie Gray is not to die in vain, we must seize this opportunity to reform police departments throughout this country, so there are no more days and times like this.”
A lawyer hired by the police union insisted the officers did nothing wrong. Attorney Michael Davey said Friday that Mosby has committed “an egregious rush to judgment.”
But for others who saw Gray’s arrest and death as a reflection of the city’s broad social and economic problems, the announcement of charges prompted celebrations in the streets.
At City Hall, Andrea Otom, 41, sobbed with something like joy.
“You have to be able to expect that at some time, the pendulum will swing in your favor, and in the black community we’ve seen it over and over and over where it doesn’t,” Otom said. “I’m so happy to see a day where the pendulum has finally begun to swing.”
Black Lawyers for Justice is expecting at least 10,000 people to show up for a protest rally Saturday in downtown Baltimore.
Justice isn’t a pendulum. It isn’t always, but it’s supposed to blind. It doesn’t depend on keeping score, giving one side a victory and then the other. If that’s the attitude of the black community in Baltimore, they are going to be royally disappointed. At least one liberal lawyer believes there’s a good chance the charges against the officers will be dropped:
Charges filed against the six Baltimore police officers for their involvement in the death of Freddie Grey will be dismissed, a George Washington University law professor predicted in an interview with The Daily Caller.
John Banzhaf, who teaches public interest law, says that the charges announced by Baltimore state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby on Friday “go too far.”
“I think a prosecutor is going to have a hard time proving that the actions did in fact cause death, since they seem to have no theory as to how it occurred,” Banzhaf said in a phone interview.
And Alan Dershowitz thinks there’s a good chance that the officers will be acquitted:
Alan Dershowitz really went after Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby today for charging the six cops involved in the death of Freddie Gray, saying it was entirely based on politics and “crowd control.”
Dershowitz lamented that “this is a very sad day for justice” and told Steve Malzberg that Mosby acted out of a “desire to prevent riots.” It will be “virtually impossible,” he predicted, for the six officers involved to get a fair trial.
And as for murder charges, Dershowitz said there’s “no plausible, hypothetical, conceivable case for murder” and “this is a show trial.” He predicted that Mosby might get removed as prosecutor and Baltimore citizens may get upset if and/or when they “move to a place with a different demographic.”
He concluded that it’s “unlikely they’ll get any convictions in this case” and if they do they’ll likely “be reversed on appeal.”
The haste with which these indictments were handed down — one day after prosecutor Mosby received the police report — suggests that Dershowitz may be on to something. “Riot prevention” seems a plausible explanation for what a lawyer for one of the arrested officers is calling a “rush to judgment.”
The local lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police in Baltimore is calling on states’ attorney Marilyn Mosby to recuse herself from the case involving six policemen who have been indicted for killing Freddie Gray because of a conflict of interest.
Mosby has a personal relationship with the attorney for Freddie Gray’s family and her husband is a Baltimore city councilman.
The letter from Gene Ryan, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, also states that none of the six officers involved in Gray’s arrest and death were responsible for the 25-year-old West Baltimore man’s death that spurred protests and unrest, including rioting and looting on Monday. The letter was released just minutes before Mosby announced charges against the officers.
“Not one of the officers involved in this tragic situation left home in the morning with the anticipation that someone with whom they interacted would not go home that night,” the letter states. “As tragic as this situation is, none of the officers involved are responsible for the death of Mr. Gray.”
Ryan requests that Mosby appoint a “Special Independent Prosecutor.”
“I have very deep concerns about the many conflicts of interest presented by your office conducting an investigation in this case,” the letter states.
“These conflicts include your personal and professional relations with Gray family attorney, William Murphy, and the lead prosecutor’s connections with members of the local media,” the letter states. “Based on several nationally televised interviews, these reporters are likely to be witnesses in any potential litigation regarding this incident.”
Murphy supported Mosby during her campaign last year. He donated $5,000 to her campaign and served on her transition committee.
In a statement to The Baltimore Sun, Mosby said the Gray case doesn’t pose any conflicts for her and the police union donated to other candidates in election to be the state’s attorney.“State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has been elected by the residents in Baltimore City to uphold the law in every neighborhood including her own, regardless of if her husband is the councilman within the district where numerous crimes occur,” said spokeswoman Rochelle Ritchie. “Hundreds of people donated to her campaign. There is no conflict of interest surrounding Billy Murphy. He is representing the family in a civil case which has nothing to do with the criminal case.”
The FOP letter also expresses problems with Mosby’s marriage to Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby.
“Most importantly, it is clear that your husband’s political future will be directly impacted, for better or worse, by the outcome of your investigation,” the letter states. “In order to avoid any appearance of impropriety or a violation of the Professional Rules of Professional Responsibility, I ask that you appoint a Special Prosecutor to determine whether or not any charges should be filed.”
Several prominent attorneys have come out against the rush to judgment against the police by prosecutor Mosby, including Alan Dershowitz:
Alan Dershowitz really went after Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby today for charging the six cops involved in the death of Freddie Gray, saying it was entirely based on politics and “crowd control.”
Dershowitz lamented that “this is a very sad day for justice” and told Steve Malzberg that Mosby acted out of a “desire to prevent riots.” It will be “virtually impossible,” he predicted, for the six officers involved to get a fair trial.
And as for murder charges, Dershowitz said there’s “no plausible, hypothetical, conceivable case for murder” and “this is a show trial.” He predicted that Mosby might get removed as prosecutor and Baltimore citizens may get upset if and/or when they “move to a place with a different demographic.”
He concluded that it’s “unlikely they’ll get any convictions in this case” and if they do they’ll likely “be reversed on appeal.”
In ordinary circumstances, Dershowitz would be right. But these indictments are not about giving anyone a “fair” trial, or “justice.” The railroad has been built and no judge is going to stand in the way of assuring a conviction for these defendants.
This is about giving the mob what they want. That’s not to say the officer’s are innocent of wrongdoing. But when a prosecutor is motivated by more than simple justice — when personal considerations and politics play a role — the entire system is damaged.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association announced that it will end its annual Labor Day Telethon — an American institution that has aired for 48 years.
Comedian Jerry Lewis, who hosted the event from 1966 to 2010 when he left under murky circumstances, had no comment on the announcement. The 89-year old entertainer was the signature personality for the telethon and since his departure, the event had seen donations drop and interest by celebrities to appear flag.
The telethon was a relic from a different age, a tuxedoed Lewis oozing show biz schmaltz and hosting stars from Frank Sinatra to Jennifer Lopez over 45 years, pushing through his exhaustion to sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as a tote board rang up millions of dollars in donations.
From 21 and a half hours in Lewis’ final year, the show had been reduced to two hours the last two years on ABC.
“It’s not a 21-hour world anymore,” said Steve Ford, MDA executive vice president, on Friday.
With television time costly, the MDA’s fundraising efforts will move primarily online, he said. The success of a viral event like “The Ice Bucket Challenge” proves this is a potent area for philanthropy, he said.
“The real heroes have always been our families, and what we need to do is make sure that every dollar we raise is spent working for our families,” he said.
The Labor Day tote board hit a record of $65 million in 2008, a figure Ford said reflected a full year’s worth of fundraising activities capped off by the telethon. The MDA says the telethon itself has been responsible for more than $2 billion in giving.
Lewis’ abrupt exit, announced by the MDA a month before the 2011 telethon, was never fully explained.
The 89-year-old comedian declined to comment on Friday’s announcement, a spokeswoman said.
His history with the charity goes back nearly to its beginning: the MDA was started in 1950 and, a year later, Lewis and his comic partner Dean Martin mentioned the charity on their NBC show. The two comics hosted a 1956 telethon before breaking up. Lewis began hosting it regularly in 1966, starting on a single television station in New York.
The telethon was not without controversy; in the early 1990s it was picketed by a handful of disabled people who said people with the disease were being made objects of pity by Lewis to raise money.
Yet his roster through the years represented a who’s who of entertainment, including a post-Beatles John Lennon, Michael Jackson singing with and without his brothers, Liberace, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles and Celine Dion. Former Johnny Carson sidekick Ed McMahon filled the same role with Lewis on Labor Day for many years.
In 1976, Sinatra engineered a reunion of Lewis with Martin, his estranged former partner.
At its height, the “Love Network” featured 213 stations carrying the telethon in every television market in America. Local tie ins increased interest and donations.
The irrepressible Lewis brought energy and show-biz pizazz to the broadcast, being on a first name basis with the biggest stars in Hollywood. His jokes could be lame, and his schtick got tired over the course of 21 hours of the broadcast, but his interaction with the victims was sincere and heartwarming.
No matter what I was doing on Labor Day, right before 7:00 PM when the show was set to sign off, I always made sure to watch Lewis battle his exhaustion and emotions to sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” — the brilliant Rodgers and Hammerstein song from the musical Carousel. It was shameless emotionalism but great showmanship.
It is estimated that more than $2 billion was raised for MD during the life of the telethon. Much progress has been made in battling the disease, but no cure has been found yet. The MDA Labor Day Telethon brought prominence to a once obscure disease and demonstrated the power of the medium to improve society.
Kevin Moore, the man who shot the video of Freddie Gray’s arrest by Baltimore police, was himself arrested on Thursday at gunpoint.
The circumstances surrounding the arrest are unclear, but Moore claims the police have been harassing him since his video went viral.
It’s believed police detained Moore Thursday night along with two other people after handing over a copy of this video to detectives with the department’s Office of Internal Oversight.
Photography is Not a Crime reports authorities took Moore into custody at gunpoint during a traffic stop. He was released two hours later.
It’s not clear what charges Moore faces, but the Baltimore Sun previously reported that police wanted Moore for questioning.
An image from surveillance footage was released by Baltimore police showing Moore at the site of Gray’s capture, an intimidation tactic, Moore believed.
“They plastered my face all over the Internet like (they) don’t know who I am when (they) very well know who I am,” Moore told Photography is Not a Crime after his arrest.
The two suspects, identified as Chad Jackson and Tony White, by Counter Current News, are members of We Cop Watch.
I would urge caution in that we are only getting one side of the story, told by activists with a stake in proving police wrongdoing.
But from what I’ve read about the Baltimore Police Department over the last two weeks, harassment wouldn’t surprise me a bit. This is a police department as dysfunctional as any big city police department in the country, including New Orleans, which is known as a cesspool of corruption and bad behavior.
But we don’t know if Moore is wanted for another crime, or whether the police just wanted to “question” him about his video. Needless to say, drawing a gun on Moore seems a little extreme if all they wanted to do was question him. More intimidation? Unknown at this time.
Incidents involving citizens who are placed under arrest simply for filming police in action are happening with disturbing frequency. The standard appears to be a “reasonable” belief by the police that the citizen is interfering or otherwise in the way. For the most part, courts have been siding with law enforcement on this issue. But there’s a line between cops who are genuinely concerned about the safety of onlookers and police trying to cover up wrongdoing.
Proving the latter is very difficult.
Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Friday that the six officers involved in the arrest and transport of Freddie Gray have been criminally charged after he died in their custody.
The news was greeted with joy across the city. The Baltimore Sun reports:
Desmond Taylor, 29, shouted in jubilee in front of the War Memorial Building.
“I did not expect this, but I prayed for it,” he said. “This day means that your actions bring consequences in Baltimore City.”
Word traveled quickly of the charges against the officers. In West Baltimore, cars honked their horns. A man hanging out of a truck window pumped his fists and yelled; “Justice! Justice! Justice!”
At the corner where Gray was arrested, 53-year-old Willie Rooks held his hands up in peace signs and screamed, “Justice!”
The prosecutor threw the book at the officers:
Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., 45, who was the driver of a police van that carried Gray through the streets of Baltimore, was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, two vehicular manslaughter charges and misconduct in office. A man who answered the phone at Goodson’s home declined to comment and hung up the phone.
Officer William Porter, 25, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
Lt. Brian Rice, 41, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
Sgt. Alicia White, 30, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
Officer Edward Nero, 29, was charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
Officer Garrett Miller, 26, was charged with second-degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.
It’s apparent that the prosecutors believe that the driver, Officer Goodson, deliberately drove the police transport van to maximize the discomfort of Gray, who was not buckled up despite it being department policy. The New York Times explains:
In Baltimore, they call it a “rough ride.” In Philadelphia, they had another name for it that hints at the age of the practice — a “nickel ride,” a reference to old-time amusement park rides that cost five cents. Other cities called them joy rides.
The slang terms mask a dark tradition of police misconduct in which suspects, seated or lying face down and in handcuffs in the back of a police wagon, are jolted and battered by an intentionally rough and bumpy ride that can do as much damage as a police baton without an officer having to administer a blow
It’s unknown if any of the officers charged in the case have had their charges reduced for cooperating with the prosecutor.
One issue that will need to be resolved is a possible conflict of interest involving prosecutor Mosby:
The Fraternal Order of Police asked Mosby to appoint an independent prosecutor in the case, citing her ties to the Gray family’s attorney, William Murphy, as well as her lead prosecutor’s connections to members of the local media. Murphy donated $5,000 to Mosby’s campaign and served on her transition committee.
“While I have the utmost respect for you and your office, I have very deep concerns about the many conflicts of interest presented by your office conducting an investigation in this case,” Ryan wrote in his letter.
The FOP letter also expresses concerns regarding Mosby’s marriage to Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby.
“Most importantly, it is clear that your husband’s political future will be directly impacted, for better or worse, by the outcome of your investigation,” the letter states. “In order to avoid any appearance of impropriety or a violation of the Professional Rules of Professional Responsibility, I ask that you appoint a Special Prosecutor to determine whether or not any charges should be filed.”
Mosby responded to that request by saying: “The people of Baltimore City elected me and there is no accountability with a special prosecutor.”
“I will prosecute any case within my jurisdiction,” she added.
The lengthy process of bringing the defendants to trial now begins. But the protests that became violent earlier this week will not stop and it wouldn’t take much to set the mob off again.
Governor Greg Abbott has ordered the state’s National Guard to “monitor” federal military exercises that will take place in Texas and four other states beginning July 15. In so doing, Abbott is feeding the wild paranoia that has gripped some residents in his state who think that the special-ops exercise, dubbed “Jade Helm 15,” is a precursor to a declaration of martial law, or a crackdown on conservative groups.
And the paranoia is not limited to Texans. Thanks to radio host, 9/11 truther, and conspiracy nut Alex Jones, the temperature in the fever swamps on the right is rising precipitously. Jones has singlehandedly whipped up fear and outrage over what every responsible military expert says is a routine training exercise for our special-operations forces.
Abbott may be trying to douse the flames with his announcement that the Guard will monitor the exercise. But by acknowledging people’s paranoia, he gives it prominence and legitimacy.
The Dallas Morning News:
Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor federal military exercises in the state, responding to citizen fears, stoked by online conspiracy theories, that the maneuvers are a ruse to impose martial law.
Operation Jade Helm 15 is a large-scale training operation scheduled for elite military forces, such as the Navy SEALS and Green Berets. The operation will involve about 1,200 personnel operating in Southwestern states including Texas from July 15 to Sept. 15.
Fears about the exercise have roiled for weeks online. Several websites, videos and Twitter users have argued that it is really a federal takeover of hostile states, including the confiscation of guns.
To address those concerns, Abbott instructed Maj. Gen. Gerald “Jake” Betty, commander of the Texas State Guard, to keep a watch over the exercises and help keep local law enforcement agencies and their citizens informed.
“During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed,” Abbott told Betty in a letter Tuesday.
A U.S. military spokeswoman said “we cannot speculate on the public response to this exercise,” and declined to react to Abbott’s use of the state guard. “The Texas State Guard stands ready to serve the state and governor when called upon,” she said.
The Texas Democratic Party questioned the judgment of Abbott, a Republican, for giving countenance to questions about the military’s integrity and credence to “the most extreme right” aspects of his party.
“If the governor truly respects the men and women of our armed forces, both national and Texan, he shouldn’t make public policy and operational decisions on the basis of tea party Internet chatter or the rants of conspiracy theorists,” said party spokesman Manny Garcia.
The Guard will not deploy, nor, as far as I can tell, do much of anything about the exercises. The governor’s announcement is window dressing, nothing more.
Why and how did this routine military exercise become a plot to deprive Americans of their constitutional rights? Elizabeth Price Foley, posting about the governor’s announcement on Instapundit, put it this way:
A healthy dose of suspicion is warranted, especially with this Administration.
“Warranted” suspicion of exactly what? Martial law? Gun grabbing? Occupation? There’s even been an attempt to connect the sudden closing of five Walmart stores with the exercise, as some nutcases are claiming they will be used to house political prisoners.
I’m a skeptic by nature but this is bat guano crazy stuff. It’s not that it could never happen here. It’s that the Obama administration wouldn’t use a measly 1200 special-operations forces to conquer the state of Texas. Nor would they announce the operation six months in advance.
Thinking critically of these paranoid scenarios for 30 seconds would show them to be the imaginings of troubled minds. The scenarios debunk themselves.
So what is Jade Helm 15? Justin King, whose blog The Fifth Column is hardly a bastion of reason and restraint, fleshes out some of the details:
To start out it may be best to clarify what Jade Helm is not. It is not a precursor to martial law. It is not an operation designed to round up American citizens for FEMA camps. It is not a UN ordered invasion. The truth behind Jade Helm is much less conspiratorial, but much more interesting.
After speaking to several former and active duty soldiers, The Fifth Column can say with almost certainty that Jade Helm is a massive Field Training Exercise (FTX) to enhance the SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) capabilities of American special operations troops.
The uproar of Jade Helm was triggered by a map that surfaced on the internet labeling some areas of the United States as “hostile.” Had the sites that cast this as some plan for martial law researched the acronyms on the map, they would have quickly realized it was a large scale training exercise involving some of America’s most secretive units. It should have also been immediately evident that there is currently no “insurgent pocket” in Southern California.
Why hold the exercise in the U.S.?
“That notion was proposed by a few individuals who are unfamiliar with how and why USASOC conducts training exercises,” he said in an email. “This exercise is routine training to maintain a high level of readiness for Army Special Operations Forces because they must be ready to support potential missions anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice.”
He said the only thing unique about this particular exercise, which is slated to take place between July 15 and Sept. 15, is “the use of new challenging terrain” which was chosen because it is similar to conditions special operations forces operate in overseas.
Almost all of the exercises will take place on private land where the owner has granted permission for our special operators to train.
According to the Statesman, Lastoria attempted to assuage residents’ concerns, saying the operation in Bastrop County will take place almost entirely on private land leased to the Army by the owner. And participants won’t be trying to sneak through the population undetected — everyone involved will wear uniforms or orange armbands signaling that they are part of the exercise, he said.
That’s hardly a recipe for a coup d’etat.
Governor Abbott has done what he thought he had to do to get some of his more excitable citizens to relax. The last thing the army or the governor wants is for an armed confrontation to take place between some paranoid nuts who believe the military is after them and lethal special forces warriors who don’t have much of a sense of humor about conspiracy theories.
In that sense, Abbott is acting responsibly. But by mainstreaming the concerns of the fringe, he risks making this a political issue that could harm him and the Republicans in Texas.
Forty years ago, with the North Vietnamese army entering the outskirts of Saigon, a remarkable evacuation of American civilians and at-risk South Vietnamese was undertaken by a small number of CIA and military helicopter pilots.
Since the airport was under attack, it was impossible to use fixed wing aircraft to evacuate the many thousands of Vietnamese allies who would surely suffer once the North took over.
Dubbed Operation Frequent Wind, pilots from Air America and several search and rescue units began to land on rooftops all over Saigon where American civilians, alerted to the evacuation by the playing of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” over the radio, had assembled. Vietnamese who were thought to be most at risk of North Vietnamese reprisals were airlifted from the US embassy.
All told, the few dozen pilots, flying in some cases for 14 hours straight, managed to evacuate more than 7,000 people.
On April 29, Coalson flew alone, without a co-pilot. Often when he would land on a rooftop, his chopper would be “mobbed by people. You had to watch your tail rotor so somebody didn’t walk into that.”
For a lone pilot, cutting off the stream of anxious evacuees when the chopper filled up was tricky. He couldn’t leave the cockpit. And the passengers wouldn’t stop trying to get aboard.
So, Coalson used his chopper to give them a hint that he was leaving.
“You just slowly start to lift up, very, very slowly,” Coalson said. “And people knew, ‘Well, if we can’t get in, we’re certainly not gonna be able to get on, because this aircraft, I think, is takin’ off’ — which it was.” Coalson flew more than 10 hours that day without rest.
Other pilots reported that some evacuees wouldn’t let go. As the choppers took off, they’d find themselves dangling from the landing skids until the pilot was able to shake them off.
At about 2:30 p.m., 41-year-old Caron unintentionally starred in one of the most famous photographs of the Vietnam War. It happened because CIA air officer Oren “O.B.” Harnage asked Caron and co-pilot Jack “Pogo” Hunter to pick up “the deputy prime minister and his family.”
United Press International’s Hugh van Es photographed Caron and Hunter’s chopper perched atop Saigon’s Pittman Building, about a half-mile from the embassy. In the picture, Harnage is seen standing on the roof, helping evacuees climb a ladder to get on board. The iconic photograph has come to symbolize the chaos and desperation of that day.
“I remember looking out there at the people coming up the ladder,” Caron told CNN. “And I turned to Pogo and said, ‘I tell you what, this prime minister has a pretty damned big family!’ It was 50 people. As you can imagine, as word spread, everyone they knew suddenly became ‘family.’ “
It’s a myth that this was a shot of the last helicopter leaving the rooftop of the embassy. It was actually a few blocks away — the rooftop of an apartment building where the CIA station chief and a few agents lived. And it was nowhere near the last helicopter to leave Saigon. The airlift would continue into the early evening until the last few embassy Marines were taken away.
Myths about the Vietnam War that have become part of the anti-war left’s permanent narrative also include the aftermath of the war. The North Vietnamese, who deliberately and without provocation violated the peace agreement, rolled through the South pushing aside the poorly armed Saigon army who were suffering huge shortages because of a cut off in aid by the US Congress.
Once in charge, the North Vietnamese went to work. In great secrecy, the drumhead trials began and tens of thousands of South Vietnamese were summarily executed (A US embassy official admitted that a list with the names of 30,000 South Vietnamese who cooperated with Project Phoenix was not destroyed. It is believed most of those people were executed.).
Hundreds of thousands more were incarcerated in “re-education camps” where it is estimated by one scholar that up to 10% of prisoners died.
Between 200,000 and 400,000 Vietnamese boat people died on the high seas. The total number of South Vietnamese murdered by the North may never be known to any degree of accuracy. But scholar R.J. Rummel, after an exhaustive search of available records, came to the following conclusion:
Finally, I can calculate the overall democide of Vietnam in the post-Vietnam War period (lines 762 to 764). This amounts to 346,000 to 2,438,000 Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians, probably about 1,040,000.
That death toll only points up the fact that while Operation Frequent Wind was a brave attempt to rescue as many Vietnamese as possible, it fell far short of protecting the vast majority of South Vietnamese who risked everything to help America in the war effort. How many of those million who died could we have saved? We’ll never know.
History condemns us for not making a better effort.
For the first time in Major League Baseball history, a game that counts in the standings will be played in a stadium devoid of any fans.
The Baltimore Orioles, after consulting with the office of the commissioner and state and city officials, announced that Wednesday’s game with the Chicago White Sox will be closed to the public. The decision came as pockets of looting continued to break out in the city and most Baltimore residents remained indoors.
A Major League Baseball spokesman told ESPN’s Outside The Lines that the league is not aware of any other time that a major league game has been played, by design, without spectators allowed in to watch.
In addition, MLB spokesman Matt Bourne said the league office would not comment as to how, if at all, it would compensate the Orioles for the lost attendance.
The Orioles also announced that their upcoming weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays, which originally was scheduled to be played in Baltimore, instead will be played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Orioles will play as the home team in the three-game series which begins Friday.
Two sources told ESPN’s Darren Rovell that it is already established that when a home team is forced to play on the road due to extenuating circumstances, it gets 100 percent of the revenues minus the costs.
Baltimore’s postponed games against the White Sox from Monday and Tuesday will be made up as a single-admission doubleheader on May 28. The White Sox were in town for a three-game series that had been slated to start Monday, and it was their only planned visit on the schedule
Was this the right decision? Some don’t think so. Nancy Armour, writing in USA Today:
At a time when a little show of faith could have gone a long way, Major League Baseball acted out of fear.
Commissioner Robert Manfred said the decision to have the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox play a game in an empty stadium, and move another series to Tampa, was in the “best interests of fan safety and the deployment of city resources.”
Really, though, it was a knee-jerk reaction that assumes the worst of Baltimore. Yes, there is fear that the city’s streets will erupt in rage and violence again Tuesday night, and no one wants baseball fans to be caught in the crossfire. But there were other options.
Postpone the last game of the series with the White Sox, and the upcoming one with the Rays. Move the games to nearby Washington D.C., and play in Nationals Park, which happens to be open. If Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Nats owner Ted Lerner can’t make nice under these circumstances, there’s another open ballpark less than two hours away in Philadelphia.
Better yet, send a message to those folks in Baltimore – the ones cleaning up their neighborhoods and reclaiming their kids from the streets – that you believe in the inherent goodness of the city.
Play the games as they were originally scheduled, and give the people of Baltimore a chance to show the city is better than those who want to tear it down.
“A little show of faith” is fine. But there should be something to base that faith upon. The people of Baltimore are voting with their feet when it comes to faith by staying home from work and away from businesses. Many retail outlets are closed anyway. Why should MLB and the Orioles show any faith when the people of Baltimore aren’t showing any themselves?
This is the right call. If people want to see the game they can watch it on TV. Even if just a few thousand people attended the game, it would be a magnet drawing protestors and rioters to the ballpark. There’s no reason to take a chance that a tragic incident could occur.
I don’t envy the players having to go out tomorrow and play in a silent stadium with the events of the past couple of days hanging over their heads. A game designed to bring joy to players and fans will seem more like a funeral than a ballgame.
Details are a little sketchy, but what’s clear is that a cargo ship flying the flag of the Marshall Islands, a U.S. protectorate, was intercepted in international waters by Iranian vessels. When the ship, the MV Maersk Tigris, refused the Iranian vessel’s demand that it heave to, it was fired upon with shots across the bow.
At that point, the Maersk Tigris sent out a distress signal. The U.S. Navy responded by dispatching the destroyer Farragut and an aircraft to monitor the situation. But the Farragut was 60 miles away and by the time they reached the point of contact, the Iranians had seized the Maersk Tigris and directed it to dock in an Iranian port.
At nightfall in the region, the Maersk Tigris was reported by international ship tracking services to be at Bandar Abbas, on the north coast of the Strait of Hormuz, where it was diverted from its course for Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates.
The Iranian vessel fired shots when the Maersk Tigris captain initially declined Iranian demands to halt and change direction, Warren said.
The ship was forced to dock at Bandar Abbas, Al-Arabiya said, and Iranian forces boarded the ship to detain its crew.
There was no official confirmation of the incident from Iranian officials. The semi-official Fars news agency, though, observed in a report cited to Al-Arabiya that the Iranian navy typically seizes vessels that “arrive illegally in Iran’s territorial waters.”
Fars, quoting what it said was a well-informed source, later added that the Iranian Ports and Maritime Organization had sought and received a court order authorizing seizure of the vessel. The news agency quoted the source as saying that the Marshall Islands “are ruled by the U.S.,” and that most of the seized ship’s crew were of European nationality, some likely with U.S. citizenship.
The Marshall Islands were once under U.S. administration, but have been independent since 1986. They retain close ties to the United States, however.
The Iranians are lying when they say the ship was in Iranian territorial waters. The Maersk Tigris was steaming in a well-recognized shipping lane used by hundreds of ships every month.
Patrick Megahan of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tweeted the actual course of Maersk Tigris:
Maersk Tigris was clearly in international waters and diverted by Iranian navy pic.twitter.com/3hVbLy0KlG
— Patrick Megahan (@PatMegahan) April 28, 2015
Iran gave the game away when they claimed that the Marshall Islands are “ruled by the U.S.” and that some of the crew could be American citizens. It’s why the Pentagon says that this is a “provocation” rather than a misunderstanding or some other diplomatic weasel words.
Indeed, the U.S. has a security agreement with the Marshall Islands:
While the Marshall Islands is a sovereign country, the U.S. “has full authority and responsibility for security and defense of the Marshall Islands,” according to the U.S. State Department. Maersk, the shipping line whose vessel was commandeered, is one of the largest employers of U.S. merchant mariners, and “operate[s], manage[s] and maintain[s] ships for the U.S. government ships in preposition and surge sealift capacities,” according to its website.
In other words, the Iranians were fully aware they had a ripe target in their sights and seized the ship in order to thumb their nose at America and the American Navy. The price they will ask for the release of the ship and crew will no doubt be a steep one.
So far, the U.S. hasn’t demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the vessel. Nor should we expect such a demand as long as the Obama administration will let no humiliation or provocation by Iran come between the president and his “historic” nuclear agreement with Tehran.
Following the funeral of a young black man, Freddie Gray, who died in police custody, several hundred rioters confronted police and began to tear up West Baltimore.
I’ve been watching the WJLA live coverage of the rioting, and the scenes being shown are incredible. “Like a war zone” said the reporter of a business section of one neighborhood, as businesses are burning because firefighters refuse to respond until police can assure them they can be kept safe.
Looters are targeting pharmacies, grocery stores, liquor stores, cell phone stores — apparently any business selling anything that rioters want. Police have virtually disappeared in some neighborhoods, giving the rioters a free pass.
The Washington Post is giving regular updates:
Protesters are looting a check-cashing business and other stores in Baltimore, busting through the windows and climbing inside to take items.
Cars have been lit on fire and a large group of youths threw rocks, bricks and other items at police. As people arrived home from work, some yelled at the youths to stop causing trouble.
“I never thought I’d see something like this happen in my neighborhood,” said Ted Bushrod, 32, who’s lived in the area all his life.
Bushrod, who said his father died in an officer-involved shooting involving the Baltimore Police Department, criticized the violence.
“It’s disappointing. I understand the kids’ frustration. We go through this every day,” he added, referring to black people being targeted for their race in Baltimore.
Freddie Gray, who is black, died after he suffered injuries while in police custody.
Police are urging parents to locate their children and bring them home after youths clashed violently with police in Baltimore.
Baltimore police made the announcement on its Twitter feed. A group of youths threw bricks, rocks and other items at police during a violent clash hours after the funeral of Freddie Gray. At least seven police officers were injured.
A lot of the youths clashing with police had backpacks and were wearing khaki pants, which are a part of many Baltimore public school uniforms.
The activity broke out just as high school let out, and at a key city bus depot for student commuters.
Gray died April 19. He suffered injuries in police custody. Authorities are investigating.
Groups of youths are looting a convenience store near downtown Baltimore.
They busted out the window of the closed businesses, and piled in. Police in riot gear began forming a line nearby.
A helicopter circled overhead as groups of roving youths moved through the city. Television footage showed one group of demonstrators pile on top of and ride a car as it drove in the street.
We will update this post when necessary.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has issued a state of emergency and called out the National Guard to deal with the growing violence and mayhem in Baltimore.
More than 2,000 police from several different jurisdictions, including state police, Prince George’s County police, and county sheriffs, have been pouring into the city for the last several hours. But as the violence has grown, police have been unable to keep up with the rolling gangs of youths torching businesses and cars, looting, and threatening bystanders. That’s why Governor Hogan has called out the National Guard to restore order.
The Baltimore Sun is reporting that the rioting was a planned event, urged by social media and flyers at area high schools.
The incident stemmed from a flier that circulated widely among city school students via social media about a “purge” to take place at 3 p.m., starting at Mondawmin Mall and ending downtown. Such memes have been known to circulate regularly among city school students, based on the film “The Purge,” about what would happen if all laws were suspended.
The flier included an image of protesters smashing the windshield of a police car Saturday during a march spurred by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who suffered a spinal cord injury earlier this month after being arrested by city police.
The paper is also reporting that many of the rioters are wearing the uniform of the Baltimore public high schools.
Before the president went into his stand-up routine at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, making unfunny jokes about himself and his opponents, he urged the release of Jason Rezaian, a journalist being held by Iran on charges of espionage. Obama said “we will not rest” until Rezaian is released from prison and returned to the U.S.
But the family of Marine Corps veteran Amir Hekmati, who is under a death sentence in Iran, says that Iranian guards taunted him over the weekend, telling him that the American government has forgotten him because President Obama mentioned Rezaian and not Hekmati.
The prisoner, Marine Corps veteran Amir Hekmati, called his mother over the weekend from the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, terrified that gaining his release is not a priority for the U.S. government, his family said. Now, in an emotional letter to the White House, Amir’s sister is demanding to know why the president has never said her brother’s name in public. He has been imprisoned for nearly four years.
“He has already been mistreated, abused, and tortured,” writes Sarah Hekmati, Amir’s sister, in a letter to White House counter-terrorism advisor Lisa Monaco. “Now the mental torture continues as he is made to feel that the country he put his life on the line for, the one he defended, and the president he voted for has left him behind and are not actively trying to secure his freedom.”
American Detained in Iran Urges US to Impose Consequences
Of the three Americans known to be imprisoned in Iran, Hekmati has been held the longest. He was arrested in 2011 when, according to his family, he was visiting his ailing grandmother in Iran. He was sentenced to death in January 2012 for “espionage, waging war against god and corrupting the earth.”
President Obama spoke out for the release of American journalist Jason Rezaian at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and earlier this year he spoke out for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini at the National Prayer Breakfast. The Hekmati family said they have repeatedly asked the White House to push for Amir Hekmati’s release.
“Why has President Obama yet to utter the name Amir Hekmati?” his sister wrote. “Why on days significant for Amir — Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, the anniversary of his death sentence, the anniversary of his imprisonment — President Obama cannot say the name Amir Hekmati out loud, but he can say it for Jason Rezaian and he can say it for Pastor Abedini? Why when we make a request is it ignored? Why am I forced to write this email to you AGAIN, the same subject AGAIN, the same plea AGAIN?”
Incredible. While the president was yucking it up with the lapdog press at the so-called “Nerd Prom,” Iranian guards were putting an American Marine veteran through hell by taunting him with his own government’s inaction in trying to secure his release.
When asked about Hemkati, White House spokesman Josh Earnest gave a halting, lame answer:
“Certainly when considering how best to secure the release of these individuals, a calculation is made about the wisdom of the publicity that surrounds the efforts to secure their release,” Earnest said.
That’s not good enough for the family:
“Please spare us this dignity and give us a straightforward answer as to why in nearly 4 years President Obama has [not] raised Amir’s plight individually outside of the context of the others imprisoned. Not even once. Not even when he was sentenced to death. The only question at this point is why,” Sarah Hekmati wrote.
This is an old game being played by Iran. They are holding the three Americans on trumped-up charges in order to get something valuable in exchange for them. All thug nations do this, knowing that America will move heaven and earth to get our people home.
In Obama’s case, there’s always something more important, like enabling Iran’s nuclear program or buddying up to the Iranian leadership. Iran will continue to pluck Americans off the street or drag them out of their homes until the cost of keeping them becomes too high.
Don’t expect that cost to rise while President Obama is in office.
Late last week, a slew of anonymous leaks, presumably from NBC news sources, plunged a few daggers into the decomposing carcass of former anchorman Brian Williams. The leaks were designed, says another source, to lessen Williams’ negotiating power as the network readies the ax to fire him.
Longtime broadcast executives say a triple crown of leaks about Brian Williams late last week appear to be an effort by NBC News to shame him into resigning, to avoid the messiness and possible additional expense of the firing. The brutal leaks were designed to send the message to Brian Williams and his superlawyer, Robert Barnett: “You’re dead. Now negotiate.”
This is the effect of the leaks, if not the intention. NBC insiders say his return is still possible. Look for a resolution over the next several weeks.
Williams was reported to be under a contract of as much as $50 million (five years, at up to $10 million each). Speculation is that he’ll get $20 million to $30 million to leave. The $20 million camp says that he’s so weak, he’ll get less than 50 cents on the dollar. The $30 million camp says Brian has plenty of ways to embarrass the bosses and colleagues who threw him under the bus, and NBC should stop the bleeding/leaking. “He knows things, too,” a wise man pointed out.
–A FEW PROBLEMS with this theory: Some of the leaks are arguably inaccurate. The Williams camp believes that it can disprove them, and that only a small number of incidents will prove to be problematic. And even those are explainable.
–WashPost’s Paul Farhi reported on the front of Friday’s Style section, “NBC’s D.C. news bureau opposed Brian Williams’s return as anchor” (online: … D.C. bureau strongly opposed … Williams’s return in February”)http://wapo.st/1QwlBdy
–NYT’s Ravi Somaiya reported above fold of Saturday’s Business front (with A1 tease), “NBC Inquiry Into Anchor Is Said to Get New Grist”: “[Discrepancies are evident in accounts given by Mr. Williams in February 2011 [about his reporting from Egypt’s Tahrir Square] … In an appearance that month with Jon Stewart on ‘The Daily Show,’ Mr. Williams described his reporting from the square. …
“Subsequent reports said that Mr. Williams was reporting ‘from a balcony overlooking Tahrir Square,’ rather than from inside the square itself … [E]mployees in the news division provided examples for the investigating team to look into, flagging instances in which they thought Mr. Williams had exaggerated.” http://nyti.ms/1z8EE8B
–Farhi reported online Saturday: “NBC News finds Brian Williams embellished at least 11 times.” http://wapo.st/1JHj4bo
“He knows things too” is an interesting threat. Remember the car NBC’s Dateline deliberately set on fire? How about the edited recording of George Zimmerman? And those are the lies we know about. Might Williams be sitting on some blockbuster stories NBC deliberately skewed or created?
That may be one reason Williams is likely to get a huge settlement despite his tall tales. NBC News is going to be absolutely sure that Williams keeps his mouth shut once he’s gone. In fact, there may be some kind of non-disclosure agreement attached to his lump sum payment.
The writing is on the wall for Williams. The leaks serve only to further soil his tattered reputation.
Idiocracy was a pretty dumb movie, but it had its moments. The opening narration offers a cautionary tale for the future:
As the 21st century began, human evolution was at a turning point. Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest, the fastest, reproduced in greater numbers than the rest, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits. Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down. How did this happen? Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most, and left the intelligent to become an endangered species.
The Wikipedia entry for the film describes the level to which humanity has sunk 500 years into the future:
The human population has become morbidly stupid, speak only low registers of English competently, and are profoundly anti-intellectual.
Why wait 500 years when you can go to the University of Maryland and show students a picture of Ronald Reagan, asking them to identify the photo?
President Ronald Reagan is one of the most famous Americans of the 20th century. Between his acting career and his eight years as president, you would think that his face would be instantly recognizable to anyone with even a basic knowledge of recent American history.
You would think.
As it turns out, a lot of college students at the University of Maryland had absolutely no clue who Reagan was when they were shown a picture of America’s 40th president.
A few historically-literate students recognized Reagan right away. But, the majority of those I showed the picture to were completely flummoxed or provided me with wild guesses. Some of those guesses included: John Wayne, Kenny Rogers, George Bush and some guy named Fred Moore. (I have no idea who Fred Moore is, but he sounds like a pretty cool dude.)
Some got close – including one young lady who asked if he was “…some kind of president.”
At a certain point, I decided that informing the students that they were totally ignorant of recent American history would just be too embarrassing. So, when they gave me a wrong answer, I just told them they were right and let them go about their day, having no idea that they know less about American history than a 4th grader who sits in the back of the classroom and eats paste.
Two or three times a year, a similar experiment is carried out at other campuses and we are shocked, shocked, I say, that young people attending college can be so profoundly stupid.
Surveys going back to the 1950s show alarming numbers of college students being unaware of when the Civil War was fought, who Thomas Jefferson was, or what the Declaration of Independence is (many confuse it with the Constitution).
I will bet that some of those kids in the video who don’t have a clue who Reagan was are going to make a gazillion dollars inventing something that would never occur to you or me. They will be captains of industry, or tech moguls. They will be lawyers, doctors, or even engineers.
The point being, they are probably plenty smart in the field they have chosen to study. That’s why even though school has been dumbed down, these and other students retain knowledge that is essential to them, rather than information that we think should be essential. It makes them stupid voters and stupid citizens, but we’ve always had low-information voters and probably always will.
It’s sad, but most Americans care little for their past. And while this has allowed us to look to the future unencumbered by ghosts of past failures, it also blinds us to some realities that end up causing us to repeat historical mistakes.
It was 25 years ago this week that NASA was finally able to launch its most ambitious robot explorer: the Hubble Telescope. Delays caused by software glitches and the Challenger disaster had pushed the launch date back from 1986 to 1990.
The original price tag of $400 million eventually ballooned to $2.5 billion — a massive cost overrun even for NASA. The agency was betting that once the telescope experienced “First Light,” it would be seen as worth the investment.
The company in charge of manufacturing, shaping, and polishing the 2.5 meter mirror assembled a measuring device incorrectly, leading to an error in polishing of about 1.3 millimeters. There were several opportunities to catch the error before launch, but the company — PerkinElmer — failed to do so. When the telescope took its first photos a month later, scientists realized to their horror that the Hubble was nearsighted.
The project became the butt of jokes and Congress was outraged. But NASA came up with a fix for the mirror — complex “spectacles” that would clear up about 98% of the image problem. In December 1993, after training for two years for the complex and dangerous mission, legendary astronaut Story Musgrave and six others rendezvoused with Hubble in space and installed the correctives.
The result was awe-inspiring. Here are a few examples:
The Horsehead Nebula is a dense cloud of gas and dust embedded in a much larger structure
Taken with the Hubble Deep Field lens, this is a tiny portion of the sky showing thousands of galaxies billions of light years away.
The Butterfly Nebula. What resemble dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
DEM L 90: Resembling the puffs of smoke and sparks from a summer fireworks display, these delicate filaments are actually sheets of debris from a stellar explosion in a neighboring galaxy.
Mystic Mountain: A stellar nursery with thousands of new suns forming.
* * * * * * * * *
The telescope doesn’t only take pictures in visible light. It is also capable of looking at distant objects in the infrared and ultraviolet spectrum, giving scientists an incredible look at the inner workings of the universe.
There is no doubt that the Hubble has performed spectacularly. But has it been worth it?
The Hubble has revolutionized our view of the universe.
“Even the most optimistic person to whom you could have spoken back in 1990 couldn’t have predicted the degree to which Hubble would rewrite our astrophysics and planetary science textbooks,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at the image-unveiling event. “A quarter-century later, Hubble has fundamentally changed our understanding of our universe, and our place in it.”
At its current pace, the Hubble telescope produces 10TB of new data per year — enough to fill the entire collection of the Library of Congress, Bolden said. At that same event, Kathy Flanagan, interim director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which operates Hubble’s science program, said scientists using data from the telescope have produced “nearly 13,000″ science papers.
This week, NASA hosted a Hubble symposium to discuss major science results from the telescope. The space agency also has hosted Hubble-themed events for the press and the general public, as well as a Friday night (April 24) gala to honor many of the people who made Hubble what it is today. Few, if any other, NASA projects have garnered such an ovation.
If you make the argument that $2.5 billion spent on a science project is too much, it would be hard to argue against the point. But can you put a price tag on the human need to explore and understand our universe? The money was spent over a decade, meaning that it cost about a dollar a year per American to build the telescope. Given the huge return on this investment, this is a small price to pay to immeasurably add to the storehouse of human knowledge.
The family of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have been flown to the U.S. from their home in Chechnya, are being housed at a Hampton Inn outside of Boston, and are being guarded 24 hours a day by at least three federal agencies.
The taxpayer-funded junket to the U.S. for the family of a Muslim terrorist is costing well over $100,000, according to a former U.S. attorney.
Survivors and their families are outraged:
“I think you’re probably talking about $100,000 plus in that neighborhood in terms of security and out of pocket costs associated with travel,” former US attorney Michael Sullivan said.
And that’s just for this trip.
Lawyer fees or even what all witnesses during the trial cost is still unclear. One defense witness, Mark Spencer of Arsenal Consulting, charged $375 per hour and billing taxpayers for $150,000.
Governor Charlie Baker said, “It’s a federal trial, it’s a federal case, the feds ultimately need to make the decisions about this.”
Baker was non-committal about how resources are being used, even state ones.
Sullivan told Sacchetti that while he understands taxpayer outrage, the whole point is to make sure it’s done right.
“The court wants to make sure that at the end of the day, the defendant gets a fair trial and would not want to add any potential issues on appeal in the penalty phase, prosecutors finished making their case yesterday,” he said.
Marathon survivor Marc Fucarile reached out to us Friday night, reacting to this news, saying that he’s outraged that Tsarnaev’s family’s expenses are being paid for when “myself and some of the other survivors and our families have to pay for our own parking at court, lunch, and we were told that if the trial was moved out of state, we’d have to pay for our own travel and lodging, there.”
The statement went on to say: “Why should our country pay for them when that family committed a violent act against our country? Not to mention, all of the free government services this family previously enjoyed on the backs of the taxpayers including government assistance and a free ride to UMass Dartmouth. In contrast, I was denied housing assistance I sought after the bombings, even though I needed a handicapped accessible apartment, and my wife lost her job as a result of the events.”
He ended by saying he feels badly for the taxpayers that have to pay for this after they were so generous to all the survivors and the One Fund.
Once this news got out, it wasn’t only the victims and their families who were upset. The Hampton Inn where the Tsarnev family is staying is being hit with complaints and cancellations.
Hosting the relatives of convicted terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is proving to be very bad for business, the manager of the Hampton Inn in Revere is finding out as complaints and cancellations pour in.
When asked how many people had called to drop their reservations since news broke that six of Tsarnaev’s relatives are staying at the Route 1A hotel while they wait to testify in his blockbuster death penalty trial, general manager Cathy Cucchiello simply said, “Enough.”
A half-dozen TV news satellite trucks lined the sidewalk outside the hotel and reporters and cameramen were bunched in a group near the exit, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Tsarnaev clan. The Boston Marathon bomber’s family members were whisked to the hotel in vans Thursday from nearby Logan International Airport.
Cucchiello banned the media from the hotel and its grounds and repeatedly asked the press to stay off the grass and on the sidewalk.
Your tax dollars are paying for the trip to the U.S. for Tsarnev’s mother’s–a woman who has constantly threatened the U.S. with Islamic-backed violence:
The outraged mother of the terrorist Tsarnaev brothers charged the Boston Marathon jury got the verdict wrong — and the U.S. will suffer for its mistake.
“They will pay for my sons and the sons of Islam, permanently!!!” threatened Zubeidat Tsarnaeva in a bitter rant sent to the media/technology website Vocativ.
“The tears of their mothers will be fuel for them in hell,” continued the lengthy missive penned after Wednesday’s conviction of her younger son, 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
The excuse given by prosecutors is that they don’t want to give the defense an opening in any likely appeal. Defendants with family overseas have gotten by fine in previous trials without the government flying them to the U.S. It’s silly to think an appeals judge would overturn a murder conviction because some killer’s mommy wasn’t there to testify for him.
Whatever happens to Tsarnaev, his entire family should be billed for this little excursion. There’s no good reason why taxpayers should be asked to countenance a trip to the U.S. by these anti-American, pro-terrorist people.
What makes the academic study of “white supremacy” and “white privilege” so perfect for racialists is that it requires absolutely no parameters of study. There are no standards of proof. There is no way any claims can be vetted in peer-reviewed journals because the “evidence” can be explained by other factors. Anything and everything can be pointed to as being a result of white supremacy or white privilege because of one’s personal worldview — looking at the entire world through a prism of race.
And apparently, you don’t even need a white person around for white supremacy to rear its ugly head.
On Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC show, Cherrell Brown, identified as a “community organizer,” was referencing the tragedy in Baltimore where a young black man died in transport on the way to the police precinct. When it was pointed out that Baltimore’s entire power structure is black — the mayor, the chief of police, etc. — Ms. Brown proceeded to spew inane nonsense about white supremacy that shocks a rational mind.
HARRIS-PERRY: “It feels to me like part of what’s happening here is — when I say biking while black, we talked about walking while black, in the case in the Freddie gray watching the video and seeing and hearing his agony I keep wondering is there no benefit of a doubt given to a black person in public space. If that is true, if riding an expensive bike in black body inherently generates suspicion then that is the new Jim crow. That’s what Jim crow was is that black bodies in public space are inherently suspicion.”
BROWN: “Yes. I want to mention two things — I think it’s so ingrained that you don’t have to have a white person around to have white supremacy play out.”
HARRIS-PERRY: “Just pause for a second. What you just said there is going to be difficult for some folks to hear because the discourse of white supremacy can often mean academic discourse. But for ordinary people sitting at home may say did she call all white people racist. So tease that out a little bit.”
BROWN: “I will do my best.”
HARRIS-PERRY: “I recognize that it’s hard on a TV show.”
BROWN: “With an institution like American policing that I believe is founded on anti-blackness, on slave patrols there are things so institutionally ingrained in terms of how we police communities that are anti-black. They may not say in the language that they’ll stop and target black people but when you do this type of proactive policing much akined to stop and risk this effects black and brown and poor communities. This would be almost comical this story in Tampa if it wasn’t so scary. You have 11 year olds, boys as young as 11 being stopped on their bikes in Tampa. This is introducing children to the criminal justice system at an early age.”
(Video courtesy of Grabien)
I really should watch MSNBC more often. It’s very educational. Did you know that “American policing is founded on…slave patrols”? Who’d have guessed it? Sounds like a fit subject for a paper in my White Privilege class. No doubt the prof will give me an “A.”
In addition to desperately casting about for a scapegoat in the Freddy Gray tragedy because there is no “white power structure” in Baltimore, Brown has to totally invent an invisible racist to blame. It’s perfectly in keeping with the academic notion that all white people subconsciously throw around white privilege and practice white supremacy without even knowing it. We can’t help it — we are inherently anti-black — and we should thank the racialists for pointing out the error of our ways.
Note also Harris-Perry moving the goalposts on Jim Crow. “If riding an expensive bike in black body inherently generates suspicion then that is the new Jim Crow” matches no description of Jim Crow of which I am aware. She just totally made it up out of thin air in order to make the point that things are as bad today for blacks as they were in the 1950s. Jim Crow gone? No problem. We’ll resurrect it in a completely different context and change the definition.
I don’t know that if I were a black man, I wouldn’t view my entire existence through the lens of race, where every glance, every act by a stranger is seen as hate. And certainly not all blacks have this problem.
But racialists like Harris-Perry know better. They give aid, comfort, and rationalization to the victimhood cult in the black community that does more to hold back the social and educational progress of blacks than all the real racists in the U.S. combined.
What’s the cost of refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding celebration? An Oregon commission wants to slap a very uncivil $135,000 fine on the owners of a bakery that refused to supply a cake to a gay wedding reception because of their religious beliefs. The fine would be for “emotional damages” suffered by the gay couple denied service.
Aaron and Melissa Klein, who are struggling to make ends meet after closing Sweet Cakes by Melissa in September 2013, received the 110-page proposed order Friday from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, which ruled against the couple in February.
Mr. Klein said Friday the figure was “shocking” but not entirely unexpected. The commission has the authority to mete out awards for damages of up to $150,000.
“It’s very discouraging. This is not money coming from a business, this is not money coming from an insurance fund, this is money coming straight from our bank account,” Mr. Klein told the Family Research Council’s Craig James in a radio interview Friday.
“This is money that should be used to pay my mortgage, money that should be used to feed our kids, not something that should be given to others,” Mr. Klein said. “This is a decision I made because of my faith, and now the government is now saying it doesn’t matter, your kids can suffer for it as well.”
He noted that the monetary ruling is for emotional damages suffered by the same-sex couple, who filed a complaint against the Gresham bakery with the state in 2013.
“You have unsubstantiated emotional damages — that’s what this came down to,” Mr. Klein said. “There was never any physical or financial harm done to the plaintiffs. This was specifically to emotional damages. It takes a lot to explain where $135,000 comes from.”
In a press release, the bureau said that an administrative law judge had awarded $60,000 in damages to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 in damages to Rachel Bowman-Cryer for “emotional suffering stemming directly from unlawful discrimination.”
“The amounts are damages related to the harm suffered by the Complainants, not fines or civil penalties which are punitive in nature,” said the release, adding that the proposed fines are “less than what was sought by administrative prosecutors,” who had sought the full $150,000.
“Emotional Damages”? Judging by the amount, both women must be unable to get out of bed in the morning and have developed a pathological fear of cupcakes.
Gay activists are thrilled, of course. People who don’t believe as they do must be punished severely — financially ruined and pauperized. The evil Christians are only getting what they deserve and the fine sends a strong message to others who disagree with gays to sit down, shut up, and do as they’re told, regardless of their personal religious beliefs.
Leaders of Basic Rights Oregon, a gay-rights advocacy group, applauded the proposed order, saying it sends a message that religious beliefs cannot be used to justify discrimination against same-sex couples.
“This case struck a chord with many Oregonians because allowing businesses to deny goods and services to people because of who they are and whom they love is hurtful and wrong,” said Jeana Frazzini, Basic Rights Oregon’s co-director, in a statement.
The couple who owned the closed bakery regularly served gay customers — that is, they baked birthday cakes, graduation cakes, and other treats for gays — so it’s impossible for anyone to argue they refused to bake a cake out of hate. The award for “emotional damages” is beyond punitive — it is reckless and not based on any facts that would require the impoverishment of the defendants.
Gay activists should be proud of themselves. They are celebrating the reduction of a pious couple to penury over a political disagreement. No doubt, the suggestion for re-education camps to force us all to become “tolerant” is just around the corner.
A lurid account in The Daily Mail about how Islamic State handles their “gay problem.”
Depraved militants fighting for the Islamic State in Syria have brutally stoned two gay men to death only seconds after they were photographed embracing and ‘forgiving’ them.
The shocking images were taken in ISIS-held territory in the province of Homs and show the two accused men being savagely executed by up to four jihadis.
Huge, bloodthirsty crowds are seen in the desert clearing where the group of executioners made a display of hugging the blindfolded couple and telling them they were forgiven of their ‘sins’, before pummeling them to death with hundreds of fist-sized rocks.
Incredibly, ISIS supporters are saying that the hugs show how “compassionate” the fanatics are.
Wearing traditional Arab clothing, the bloodthirsty audience stand in a semi-circle only feet away from the spot where the men will be barbarically murdered.
A number of motorbikes are seen in the background, suggesting that’s how many of the onlookers arrived at the execution site.
The final image shows the two victims’ battered bodies on the ground as a group of at least four ISIS executioners stand over them, raining down rocks.
Just when you think Islamic State can’t top their last outrage, they find a way to do so.
I can’t think of anything that the ACLU has done in its long history that’s quite this outrageous.
Apparently, the ACLU is upset that the Catholic charities taking care of the nearly 60,000 illegal immigrant children who crossed the border last year without an adult refuse to supply contraceptives or abort their babies. Under the auspices of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which signed a contract with the federal government to take care of the children, the charities were tasked with supplying health care services to the illegals.
The ACLU claims that by not giving out contraceptives or performing abortions, the charities are in breach of contract for not giving “reproductive care” to the minors, and they want the federal government to force the Catholic charities to provide those services.
The suit has sparked outrage among religious, anti-abortion, and civil rights groups who argue the ACLU is more concerned with bullying the Catholic church than helping vulnerable immigrants.
“Lawsuits like the one the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) just filed demanding all of the records on a faith-based provider of care and services to vulnerable children are destructive and divisive,” said Brian Walsh, president of the Civil Rights Research Center in a statement. “When it comes to religious freedom, some organizations that have had a laudable history of defending Americans’ religious civil rights and liberties are looking less and less like their former selves.”
Legal experts say that despite the contract agreement, federal law protects USCCB’s religious rights and say ACLU’s case aims to strip religion from the public sphere.
“The larger issue — religious liberty — is the constitutional issue of our time,” said Jerad Najvar, founder of Najvar law firm in Houston, Texas. “We are coming to a tipping point in this country. Right now it’s an attempt to sanitize religious principles from religious charities and schools that receive government assistance. Next it will be denying religious freedom to even privately-funded charities that are open to the public. It’s time for Catholics to recognize the trajectory here, and stand up before it’s too late.”
But Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney at ACLU told The Times that group is concerned that by accepting federal money to care for immigrants and then denying them reproductive healthcare the USCCB may be in violation of the Constitutional separation of Church and state.
According to Ms. Amiri the government’s contract with USCCB requires the group to abide by a number of federal laws including a settlement agreement that requires children in the government’s custody to receive access to routine medical services, including family planning services.
ACLU has received complaints that USCCB has been denying reproductive healthcare services, such as abortions, for female immigrants, many of whom suffer sexual assault or rape during their journey to the U.S., Ms. Amiri said.
Almost 60,000 unaccompanied minors illegally crossed the U.S./Mexico borer last year. Nearly a third were young girls and up to 80 percent of those girls were victims of sexual assault. USCCB was awarded a $73 million overall contract and received $10 million in 2013 alone to care for those unaccompanied minors.
No good deed goes unpunished, I suppose. But really, does the ACLU have any kind of a case? Abortion is an elective procedure. Why isn’t the ACLU suing to force Catholic charities to offer plastic surgery, or any other elective procedure, for that matter?
Abortion is not a “routine medical service” — except in the eyes of the ACLU and other pro-choice fanatics. And family planning services can include many things besides abortion and contraception.
The bishops issued a statement:
“We ensure children and youth have access to ongoing medical and social services. This extensive health care would include, in the case of pregnancy, prenatal, labor/delivery and well-baby care. For decades, we have provided exemplary services to this vulnerable population without facilitating abortions, and despite ACLU’s extreme assertions to the contrary, the law not only permits our doing so, but protects it,” the statement reads.
No doubt the ACLU will go shopping for a judge who they think will accept their radical arguments. But in truth, it’s hard to see how any judge would countenance this attack on the Catholic Church. The law and religious freedom are on the side of the church in this matter, and the ACLU is blowing smoke if they think otherwise.
About a dozen Native American actors walked off the set of Adam Sandler’s new movie The Ridiculous Six because of insulting and degrading language in the script directed toward women and elders.
This piece in the Native American publication Indian Country gives some examples that are incredibly embarrassing and border on racism. At the very least, the film is like something out of the 1950s, as it stereotypes Native Americans.
The examples of disrespect included Native women’s names such as Beaver’s Breath and No Bra, an actress portraying an Apache woman squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe, and feathers inappropriately positioned on a teepee.
The film, which is said to be a spoof of The Magnificent Seven and was written by Adam Sandler and his frequent collaborator Tim Herlihy, is currently under production by Happy Madison Productions for a Netflix-only release. The movie will star Adam Sandler, Nick Nolte, Steve Buscemi, Dan Aykroyd, Jon Lovitz and Vanilla Ice.
Among the actors who walked off the set were Navajo Nation tribal members Loren Anthony, who is also the lead singer of the metal band Bloodline, and film student Allison Young. Anthony says that though he understands the movie is a comedy, the portrayal of the Apache was severely negligent and the insults to women were more than enough reason to walk off the set.
“There were about a dozen of us who walked off the set,” said Anthony, who told ICTMN he had initially refused to do the movie. He then agreed to take the job when producers informed him they had hired a cultural consultant and efforts would be made for tasteful representation of Natives.
“I was asked a long time ago to do some work on this and I wasn’t down for it. Then they told me it was going to be a comedy, but it would not be racist. So I agreed to it but on Monday things started getting weird on the set,” he said.
Anthony says he was first insulted that the movie costumes that were supposed to portray Apache were significantly incorrect and that the jokes seemed to get progressively worse.
“We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche,” he said. “One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?’”
“They just treated us as if we should just be on the side. When we did speak with the main director, he was trying to say the disrespect was not intentional and this was a comedy.”
Oh yeah, a comedy. Given recent film productions involving Native Americans from that period being meticulously recreated with authentic costumes and great attention paid to cultural details, it appears that Sandler and his production team were either too lazy or too racist to make the effort:
Allison Young, Navajo, a former film student from Dartmouth, was also offended by the stereotypes portrayed and the outright disrespect paid to her and others by the director and producers.
“When I began doing this film, I had an uneasy feeling inside of me and I felt so conflicted,” she said. “I talked to a former instructor at Dartmouth and he told me to take this as finally experiencing stereotyping first hand. We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’ I was just standing there and got emotional and teary-eyed. I didn’t want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way.”
“Nothing has changed,” said Young. “We are still just Hollywood Indians.”
Even liberals in Hollywood have a responsibility to accurately portray the subjects of their films, even if it is a comedy. It’s a simple matter of respect, not a question of political correctness. It’s also disrespectful to the audience to present Native American culture so inaccurately that it becomes a parody of itself.
Perhaps they believed that because their “hearts were in the right place” on race they would be forgiven their exaggerated portrayal of Native Americans and disrespect shown to their culture. We see it often enough when it comes to comments by liberals about blacks. I suppose we shouldn’t expect anything differently when it comes to liberals and Native Americans.
One of the largest mergers in US history will be called off, according to Bloomberg News, as Comcast will drop its $45.2 billion offer for Time Warner.
The writing was on the wall yesterday when the FCC staff recommended that hearings be held on the deal and that an administrative law judge rule on whether the proposed merger would be harmful to consumers.
This, along with months of foot dragging by the Department of Justice, apparently spooked Comcast enough that an announcement is expected in the next 24 hours calling off the merger.
There was initially an air of inevitability around the merger when Comcast announced its bid back in February 2015.
But doubts grew in recent months as the government’s reviews of the deal dragged on, and the company’s stock prices shifted accordingly.
The key piece of new information after Wednesday’s meetings was about the Federal Communications Commission, which along with the Department of Justice had been reviewing the proposed combination in great detail.
FCC staffers are not convinced the merger is in the public interest, and they are recommending that the case be heard by an administrative law judge, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.
It’s a bureaucratic maneuver, one that effectively strangles the merger by swallowing up months and months of time. It happens so rarely that the FCC barely has the staff to do it.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the staff recommendation on Wednesday night. BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield reacted by saying, “This would appear to be a death sentence for the transaction.”
An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment. But another person confirmed to CNNMoney that the five commissioners have been briefed on the recommendation, and that a vote will be scheduled soon.
The commission is comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans, so the hearing will likely be supported by a majority.
But the vote would be rendered moot if Comcast withdraws from the deal.
There is said to be serious skepticism about the deal within the Justice Department, as well.
Critics of the deal are ecstatic:
“Comcast’s withdrawal of its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable would be spectacularly good news for consumers concerned about the spiraling costs of cable and broadband and for millions of citizens who want nothing more to do with gatekeeping and consolidation in the communications ecosystem on which our democracy depends,” said former FCC chairman Michael Copps, who is now special advisor to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.
“Comcast’s apparent failure to take control of Time Warner Cable should be a lesson for the industry,” said Free Press President Craig Aaron. “Communications giants should stop trying to consolidate and instead focus on providing the fast, affordable and neutral Internet services that Americans demand.”
TWC won’t be without a bidder for long. Already, Charter Communications is thought to be planning a bid for Time Warner’s 11 million subscribers. There are losers, however:
That’s not to say either side will be celebrating. (It would be a particularly sad day for TWC chief executive Rob Marcus, who was supposed to receive $80 million upon completion of the deal.) Wall Street banks and law firms contracted by both companies won’t be smiling either—they stand to lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars that they would have made in fees.
There were always pros and cons for consumers in this deal, but in the end, the nixing of a deal to create the largest broadband media company in the US is probably a good thing. Economies of scale are wonderful — if you’re on the heavy end of the scale. Otherwise, competitors would have been squeezed, reducing competition, and more than 30 million consumers would have been at the mercy of a gigantic media conglomerate already holding a monopoly on cable TV service in big markets all across the country.
Comcast was my cable-broadband provider for 6 years before I switched to DirecTV and my experience with their customer service and technical departments was usually frustrating and maddening. I don’t see how that could improve if they increased in size by 50%. Consumers are probably better off without the merger.
Mark Perry at AEI has dug up some doomsday predictions from the very first Earth Day in 1970 that never quite lived up to their billing.
Here are a few of my favorites (remember, this is from April, 1970):
1. Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
4. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich confidently declared in the April 1970 Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
6. Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”
7. “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” declared Denis Hayes, the chief organizer for Earth Day, in the Spring 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness.
8. Peter Gunter, a North Texas State University professor, wrote in 1970, “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
9. In January 1970, Life reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”
12. Paul Ehrlich chimed in, predicting in his 1970 that “air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” Ehrlich sketched a scenario in which 200,000 Americans would die in 1973 during “smog disasters” in New York and Los Angeles.
14. Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”
18. Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”
Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, held a hearing today on the difficulties in verifying the proposed Iran nuclear deal.
In his opening statement, Royce nailed the reasons why it’s folly to enter into an agreement without the world community fully prepared to punish Iran if it cheats.
Now, Iran’s long history of clandestine activity and intransigence prevents the U.S. from holding any trust whatsoever in the clerics who run Iran. Indeed, deception has been a cornerstone of their nuclear program since its inception. So when it comes to negotiating and inspections regime over the next two months, the U.S. must gain ground, not retreat, keep a key piece of verification which includes Iran coming clean on its past bomb work. We recall that the IAEA asked those 12 questions about their testing. They got an answer back of half of the first question and none of the others were were responded to.
That still has not happened despite long-overdue commitments on the part of Iran to international inspectors. The IAEA remains concerned about about signs of Iran’s military related activities, including designing a nuclear payload for a missile, a new killer weapon, an ICBM missile. Iran hasn’t even begun to address these concerns and last fall 350 members wrote to the secretary of state expressing deep concerns about this lack of cooperation. Yet the framework agreement is vague on this critical verification step. Intrusive inspections are even more critical when you consider a recent Department of Defense study. It points out that the U.S. capabilities to locate undeclared nuclear facilities or convert nuclear programs are either —in the words of the Department of Defense study —inadequate or more often do not exist.
And critically, that study also reminds us that verification is principally the political judgment in the words of the study to which monitoring and other means contribute. The IAEA and its inspectors will play an essential role in monitoring Iran but it will ultimately be up to the administration and its negotiating partners, which includes Russia and China, likely acting through the UN Security Council or another international body to decide whether Iran is complying with its commitments, and this is another weak link.
If Iran is caught cheating, will this or the next administration be prepared to call them out? I’m not confident. Why? Because during the interim negotiations when Iran was caught testing advanced supersonic centrifuge, it faced no consequences. As one witness will testify, international inspectors can be no tougher than the countries that back them. The history of arms control inspections is that they are easy for political leaders to tout as a solution, but are difficult to fully implement. What looks good on the chalkboard often fails in the real world. (Emphasis mine)
Couple that with the propensity of the IAEA to give the subjects of their inspections the benefit of the doubt when it comes to violations and you can immediately see the problem. Iran’s cheating must be so clear-cut, so obvious that no leader — including and especially President Obama — can spin their way out of re-imposing sanctions.
But, in the “real world” as Royce points out, things are rarely black and white. Even if the IAEA is able to confirm Iranian cheating — by no means a certainty given statements from Tehran regarding access to all their nuclear sites — the government will no doubt throw up a lot of smoke, trying their best to give western leaders the opportunity to ignore the transgressions and continue their work toward a bomb.
So in this case, it’s not only a question of trusting the Iranians. It’s also a matter of trusting western leaders to take a firm stand against Iranian cheating and reimpose sanctions if necessary. At this point, and with President Obama as desperate for a deal as he apparently is, trust is a commodity in short supply.
According to senior Pentagon officials, the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is moving into position to intercept a flotilla of Iranian ships headed for Yemen. The Pentagon thinks that the ships — 7 to 9 warships and cargo vessels — are going to try to re-supply the Houthi rebels.
The Gulf states have ships off the coast of Yemen trying to impose an arms blockade against the Houthis, so the carrier group may not actually stop and board the Iranian vessels. But stopping a hostile power’s warships on the high seas could lead to a rapid escalation by Iran, at which point, an aircraft carrier is a nice back up to have.
There is no indication that U.S. or other coalition warships have been in contact with the Iranians, but one official told NBC News, “They know we’re there.”
Some U.S. officials are concerned that the leak of the information is not good, coming at the same time as the United States and other countries try to reach a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
“Since this is now public, the Iranians may feel they’ve been backed into a corner” and attempt to run through any blockade set up by the coalition warships, one official said.
Publicly, the Pentagon is denying that the carrier group would intercept the Iranian vessels:
Warren specifically denied a media report that the two American ships were being moved so they could assist in the interception of a flotilla of seven to nine Iranian ships headed to Yemen to re-supply Houthi rebels.
“They are not going to intercept Iranian ships,” said Warren. “That is absolutely not the case.”
On April 1, the U.S. Navy boarded a Panamanian-flagged ship that was believed might be transporting supplies from Iran to the Houthis. No weapons were found and there have been no other boardings since then.
Seven other American warships have been operating in the Gulf of Aden for weeks, including the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima.
A public confirmation of the Roosevelt’s role would inflame the situation, so it’s not surprising that officials are saying one thing in public and another in private.
The Saudis have already said they will prevent any arms from reaching Houthi rebels. This sets up a confrontation at sea with the Iranians at which time anything could happen.
You have got to read this National Review piece by David French about the Wisconsin “John Doe” investigations that targeted conservative individuals and groups for harassment, intimidation, and state terror.
Yes, this is happening in America today — now.
“IT’S A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH.”
That was the first thought of “Anne” (not her real name). Someone was pounding at her front door. It was early in the morning — very early — and it was the kind of heavy pounding that meant someone was either fleeing from — or bringing — trouble. “It was so hard. I’d never heard anything like it. I thought someone was dying outside.”
She ran to the door, opened it, and then chaos. “People came pouring in. For a second I thought it was a home invasion. It was terrifying. They were yelling and running, into every room in the house. One of the men was in my face, yelling at me over and over and over.” It was indeed a home invasion, but the people who were pouring in were Wisconsin law-enforcement officers.
Armed, uniformed police swarmed into the house. Plainclothes investigators cornered her and her newly awakened family. Soon, state officials were seizing the family’s personal property, including each person’s computer and smartphone, filled with the most intimate family information.
Why were the police at Anne’s home? She had no answers. The police were treating them the way they’d seen police treat drug dealers on television. In fact, TV or movies were their only points of reference, because they weren’t criminals.
They were law-abiding. They didn’t buy or sell drugs. They weren’t violent. They weren’t a danger to anyone. Yet there were cops — surrounding their house on the outside, swarming the house on the inside. They even taunted the family as if they were mere “perps.”
As if the home invasion, the appropriation of private property, and the verbal abuse weren’t enough, next came ominous warnings. Don’t call your lawyer. Don’t tell anyone about this raid. Not even your mother, your father, or your closest friends.
The backstory, as told by French, involves a hyper-partisan, runaway prosecutor whose wife was a teachers’ union shop steward opposed to the public union reforms of Governor Scott Walker. The “investigations” eventually encompassed five counties in Wisconsin, with a partisan, rubber-stamp judge signing off on the targeting subpoenas and search warrants.
Dozens of conservatives experienced almost exactly the same terror as Anne. Many conservative groups were destroyed by investigations that appropriated their donor lists and advocacy files. Funding sources dried up as no one wanted to be associated with people whose lives were destroyed by minions of the state in league with a politically motivated prosecutor.
This is “domestic lawfare” as French points out. It is increasingly being used by liberals in government in league with left-wing legal advocacy groups to target conservatives in order to silence them and criminalize dissent.
It’s an incredible story told with dispassionate clarity by French. Share with your friends. The time for silence on this matter is over.
The Islamic State released a video on their official media site purporting to show up to 30 Ethiopian Christians captured in Libya being brutally executed.
Last month, IS released another video showing the execution of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt. The victims in both cases appear to be migrant workers captured by Islamic State for the express purpose of executing them in a very public, very horrific way.
Initial reports did not make clear who the captives were or when they were captured.
The video bore the official logo of the IS media arm Al-Furqan and resembled previous footage released by the extremist group.
Redwan Hussein, an Ethiopian government spokesman, said officials were in contact with its embassy in Cairo to verify the video’s authenticity.
He said he believed those killed were likely to have been Ethiopian migrants hoping to reach Europe. Libya has become a hub for migrants across Africa hoping to cross the Mediterranean to enter Europe for work and better lives.
‘If this is confirmed, it will be a warning to people who wish to risk and travel to Europe though the dangerous route,’ Mr Hussein said.
He added that Ethiopia, which does not have an embassy in Libya, would help repatriate Ethiopians if they wanted to leave. Libyan officials were not immediately available for comment.
Abba Kaletsidk Mulugeta, an official with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church’s Patriarchate Office, said he also believed the victims were likely to have been migrants.
‘I believe this is just another case of the IS group killing Christians in the name of Islam. Our fellow citizens have just been killed on a faith-based violence that is totally unacceptable. This is outrageous,’ he said.
‘No religion orders the killing of other people, even people from another religion.’
Ethiopia’s options to retaliate remain slim, given its distance from Libya.
However, Ethiopian Ambassador to Egypt Mohammed Edrees said his country could partner with Cairo to strike the militants.
‘That could be an option,’ Mr Edrees said. ‘We will see and explore what is possible to deal with group.’
Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate for the Middle East Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: ‘The Islamic State in Libya is still focused on this consolidation phase of announcing its presence through these very high-profile executions. But they face some structural limits in terms of how much local support they can get because they haven’t captured real revenue streams.’
Islamic State has a lot of competition in Libya from other wacko extremists. You have to figure that the pool of twisted fanatics has to be limited, so their executions aims to maximize their efforts. It is important to keep the pressure on them in Iraq and Syria so they can’t send reinforcements to Libya where it would be possible for them to carve out a section of that failed state for their own.
Here’s a link to the very graphic, entire 29 minute video. I debated posting it on the site but I think people would be right to criticize us for posting murder porn. We can be outraged without having images of human beings at the last instant of life having their heads cut off.
Bernie Sanders couldn’t have said it better:
“There’s a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now — maybe more,” the Kentucky senator told hundreds of activists at a GOP cattle call that has drawn every major presidential aspirant. “This is something, if you watch closely, that will separate me from many other Republicans. The other Republicans will criticize Hillary Clinton and the president for their foreign policy, but they would have done the same thing – just 10 times over!”
“Six countries – maybe more”? Which countries, Senator? And how many of your rivals have proposed sending troops to Syria? To Yemen? To Libya? (Do we have to count Lindsey Graham?)
Rand Paul is trying to separate himself from other candidates on foreign policy while not appearing to be a head-in-the-sand isolationist. But in doing so, does he have to lie like a Democrat about his opponents?
“Everyone who will criticize me wanted troops on the ground, our troops on the ground, in Libya,” he said. “It was a mistake to be in Libya. We are less safe. Jihadists swim in our swimming pool now. It’s a disaster.”
Did Ted Cruz want troops on the ground in Libya? Did Scott Walker, Chris Christie, or any other GOP governor who might run for president want troops on the ground in Libya? Marco Rubio specifically advised against troops on the ground in Libya, believing that the president could have intervened “more decisively” but rejecting American military intervention.
Paul’s statement is either an ignorant rant or a baldfaced lie. Falsely accusing opponents of things they don’t believe and wouldn’t do obscures Paul’s real problems with rank-and-file Republicans who want a president to stand up strongly for American interests and want to make America the pre-eminent military and economic power in the world once again. Many simply don’t believe his foreign-policy ideas are proactive enough. They are suspicious of his libertarian leanings on national-defense strategy.
One aspect of a Paul campaign Republican regulars can get behind is his position on NSA snooping:
Contrasting himself with most others in the field, Paul also promised to end the federal government’s collection of American phone records if elected president. “I’m a Republican who believes in the right to privacy,” he said. “It doesn’t mean collecting 300 million people’s phone records. The 4th amendment is not consistent with a warrant that says Mr. Verizon on it. Last I heard Mr. Verizon isn’t a person.”
“Your phone records are yours,” he declared. “It’s none of the government’s damn business what you’re doing on your phone.”
“You can say damn in New Hampshire, can’t you?” he quipped.
“Damn straight,” a man yelled back from the crowd.
NSA spying is a peripheral national-security issue and there is disagreement among the candidates about how much of what the NSA has been doing is really necessary. This is a legitimate way for Paul to put distance between himself and his rivals — as long as he accurately enumerates their positions.
But otherwise, Paul’s rank dishonesty in describing what his opponents would do if elected is intolerable. Might we see a sound bite of Paul dishonestly ripping his opponents in a Hillary Clinton commercial? Perhaps the senator should think about that the next time he feels compelled to grossly exaggerate the positions of his opponents.
Seven to nine Iranian ships are headed for Yemen, according to US military officials. The Pentagon is worried that the ships may dock at a port controlled by Houthi rebels in order to resupply them.
Saudi ships are patrolling off the coast, looking to impose a blockade on supplies to the rebels Obviously, a dangerous situation may develop if Iran tries to run the blockade.
Officials fear the move could lead to a showdown with the U.S. or other members of a Saudi-led coalition, which is enforcing a naval blockade of Yemen and is conducting its fourth week of airstrikes against the Houthis.
Iran sent a destroyer and another vessel to waters near Yemen last week but said it was part of a routine counter-piracy mission.
What’s unusual about the new deployment, which set out this week, is that the Iranians are not trying to conceal it, officials said. Instead, they appear to be trying to “communicate it” to the U.S. and its allies in the Gulf.
It is not clear what will happen as the convoy comes closer to Yemen. Saudi Arabia has deployed ships around Yemen to enforce the blockade, as has Egypt. An official said the ship convoy could try to land at a port in Aden, which the Houthis have taken over.
Although the U.S. is assisting with the Saudi-led air campaign, it is not participating in the naval blockade of Yemen, said U.S. Central Command spokesman Col. Pat Ryder.
However, the U.S. Navy is in the region and has already “consensually boarded” one Panamanian-flagged ship in the Red Sea on April 1 on the suspicion it was illegally carrying arms for the Houthis.
None were found, but the move raised alarm bells in Washington over an increasingly active U.S. military role in the conflict. The Pentagon indicated this week that more boardings could occur.
“We will continue to vigilantly defend freedom of navigation and to conduct consensual searches in an effort to ensure that drugs, human trafficking, weapons trafficking and other contraband are limited,” Army Col. Steve Warren said on Monday.
Officials fear a naval confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia could escalate what has become a proxy war between the two countries.
I don’t think either the Saudis or the Iranians want to go to war. It doesn’t make sense for Iran to negotiate a nuclear deal with the west that will lift sanctions and then start a war that’s sure to bring a response from the US. Not only that, but Iran’s military would be overwhelmed by the Arab army assembled by Saudi Arabia. They may be fanatics in Tehran but they’re not stupid.
From the Saudi point of view, there are several countries in their coalition with large Shia minorities who might cause trouble if there’s a war with Iran. And while the war in Yemen is seen as an effort to help the recognized government, a war with Iran would be seen as a sectarian conflict that might blow up the entire Middle East.
Still, you can have the best of intentions not to go to war and one will start anyway. That’s the nature of confrontation and all it takes is one mistake by one Iranian or Saudi ship’s captain for the shooting to begin.
So why is Iran risking war?
U.S. officials say they are unsure why Iran is making the brazen move. One theory they have floated is that the Saudi-led coalition has effectively blockaded any air routes into Yemen and there are no other ways to resupply the Houthis.
Another theory is that Iran is trying to distract the coalition from another ship it has tried hard to conceal that is currently docked at Oman — a potential land route for smuggling arms into Yemen.
Yet another theory is that Iran wants to force a confrontation with Saudi Arabia that it believes it will win, because Iran views the Saudi military as weak and suspects the U.S. lacks the willpower to support its Gulf ally.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last week on Twitter taunted Saudi Arabia, calling its military puny and smaller than Israel’s. He also said the air campaign was tantamount to genocide of innocent Yemeni civilians and that the U.S. would also fail in Yemen.
The Saudi military may be weak, but they have assembled a 40,000 man Arab army. And Egypt, with the largest military in the region, has said they would contribute troops if called upon. Pakistan has also said they would consider sending troops if Saudi Arabia was threatened.
A confrontation between Iran and the Saudis would quickly escalate. Let’s hope there aren’t any nervous trigger fingers on any of the ships from either side.
The most baffling religious relic of the Catholic Church goes on display tomorrow for the first time since 2010.
The Shroud of Turin is rarely displayed these days because of its deteriorating condition. But starting tomorrow through June 24th, the relic will will be available for public veneration in the Turin Cathedral.
Numerous scientific tests conducted on the shroud have been inconclusive in determining how old it is and how the image of an apparently crucified man was imprinted on the 14-foot-long cloth — except one. A radiocarbon dating test conducted in 1988 proved the cloth to be a medieval forgery — probably. Or maybe. Two separate labs working with small pieces of the shroud snipped off by scientists determined that the linen was manufactured in a 130-year period between 1260 and 1390.
Try as they might, those who believe the shroud to be the burial cloth of Christ have offered no convincing proof that the radiocarbon test was flawed. The latest efforts center on trying to prove that the cloth is actually 2000 years old and that it had been cross contaminated with more modern pollens or bacteria. Another explanation for the later date has to do with the sample taken by scientists coming for a patch used to repair the shroud following a fire that damaged it in the 16th century.
For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.
What makes the shroud such a compelling and mysterious object is the way it appears in photographic negatives. Until 1898, all that was visible was the faint outline, presumably in blood, of a human form. But an amateur photographer, Secondo Pia, was astonished after being allowed to take a photo of the shroud, to see the clear image of a human male that showed up on the negative.
But no one has an answer to the question of how the image got on the shroud. It’s not paint. It’s not a pigment of any kind. And there is no evidence that the various techniques to produce an image known by medieval artists were used.
But few of the nearly 1 million people who will view the shroud in the next two months care much about the scientific arguments.
The 4.3-meter-long (14-foot) cloth will be displayed April 19-June 24. Pope Francis will view it on June 21 on an overnight trip to the Turin area, which will include private time with relatives.
Public viewings of the cloth were last held in 2010.
“Many pilgrims who had already seen the shroud in past showings come back, even though some saw it just five years ago,” Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia said on Saturday.
“That’s not a long time. And yet many of the bookings we have are people who have already seen the shroud. That means there is a fundamental need in people’s hearts to renew this incredible experience that they had the first time they saw it,” the prelate told reporters.
Reservations are mandatory but free of charge to see the shroud, displayed in a climate-controlled case, in Turin’s cathedral. Turin’s mayor said recently that more that 1 million people had made reservations. In 2010, some 2.5 million people came, according to organizers of the display.
The pope’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, has described the cloth as an icon “written with the blood” of a crucified man. Benedict said there was “full correspondence with what the Gospels tell us of Jesus.”
When Pope John Paul II saw the shroud in 1998, he said the mystery forces questions about faith and sciences and whether it really was Jesus’ burial linen. He urged continuous study.
Skeptics say the linen bearing the figure of a crucified man is a medieval forgery.
Nosiglia said people of all faiths will come to see the shroud, not just Christians. “Even non-believers will come. It’s an occasion that brings everybody together and aims to give a precise response to the violence in this world. It tells us that the way to build a fairer world is not violence, but love,” he said.
I am not a believer but I find the shroud the most fascinating religious artifact in the world. There is nothing comparable in any other religion of which I am aware. It is certainly the most debated, the most studied religious artifact – and for that, a trip to Turin to view it is most definitely worth it.
More at PJ Lifestyle: