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Dem Chairmen to Obama: Don’t Wait for Europe to Get Tough on Russia as National Security is at Stake

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A trio of Senate Democratic chairmen channeled their “outrage over the wanton destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17″ today to directly ask President Obama to consider designating the Donetsk People’s Republic a foreign terrorist organization.

Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked Obama to impose broad sanctions on Russia’s defense sector as well as energy and finance industries.

“Evidence compiled since the crash, along with efforts to hide evidence and block international investigators, indicates the culpability of Russia and the separatist militants it supports in Ukraine. The attack on the Malaysia Airlines jet follows the downing of a Ukrainian AN-26 transport plane three days earlier, as well as the shooting down of a Ukrainian SU-25 attack jet and the downing of several Ukrainian government helicopters –  the Donetsk People’s Republic has claimed responsibility for each of these acts,” the senators wrote.

They noted how the separatists have controlled the crash site with many bodies uncollected after six days, tampered with evidence and scooped up the flight recorders before OSCE investigators could get their hands on them.

“President Putin may have publicly stated that all sides should allow an investigation into the downed airliner, but Russia’s actions belie his words,” the chairmen wrote. “These contemptible actions cannot go unanswered.  We strongly urge you to aggressively exercise your authorities under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and other relevant statutes to impose immediate broad sanctions against Russia’s defense sector, including state-owned Rosboronexport, in order to prevent Russia from providing weaponry, equipment, or assistance and training to separatists in Ukraine.”

The Russian arms giant that has been the target of so much consternation in Congress since President Obama lifted its sanctions in 2010 recently marketed to Malaysia the Buk missile system believed to have taken down the Malaysia Airlines jet.

Lawmakers have been trying to block U.S. funds from lining the pockets of Rosoboronexport — Russia’s state-owned arms behemoth that has raked in more than $1 billion in Defense Department contracts since 2011. President George W. Bush had placed a ban on doing business with the firm in 2008.

“We further urge you to explore the possibility of designating the Donetsk People’s Republic as a foreign terrorist organization. Increasing evidence of their human rights violations in Eastern Ukraine – including abductions and torture – demonstrates that their actions have threatened the lives of innocent Ukrainians, not to mention those unfortunate innocents merely traveling in civilian airspace over Ukraine,” the senators wrote.

“We understand and strongly support your efforts to coordinate the imposition of sanctions with our key European allies in order to ensure their maximum intended effect, and we encourage further cooperation in pursuit of this goal. However, the United States must not limit its own national security strategy when swift action will help fulfill our strategic objectives, support an independent Ukraine, and counter malignant Russian interference.”

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FAA Empowers Hamas, Sets Stage for Israel’s Long Term Win

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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A loser in the PR battle, Hamas decided to move their international offense to a new front today. Taking advantage of the Malaysian airliner downed by pro-Russian rebels, Hamas is now targeting air traffic entering Israel. Israel National News reports:

A rocket hit a home in the city of Yehud, near the airport, on Tuesday morning. Having failed to cause significant casualties due to Israel’s extensive defense systems, Gaza terrorists have focused rocket fire on the area in hopes of disrupting Israeli air travel.

Delta Air Lines was the first to suspend service, rerouting an Israel-bound flight with 273 passengers and 17 crew members to Paris, as if France is really a safer place for Israel lovers right now. Not long after, the Federal Aviation Administration barred flights to Israel for 24 hours. Air Canada, Lufthansa, Air France, KLM and Turkish Air followed suit. The State Department (whose official tweeted #UnitedforGaza this past weekend) rushed to clarify that the FAA’s move was “in no way politically motivated”.

Israel’s Transportation Minister released the following statement in response to the flight cancellations, rightly observing:

“Ben Gurion Airport is safe — takeoffs and landings — and there is absolutely no need to be concerned about the security of planes and passengers. There’s absolutely no reason why American airlines in particular should stop their flights and thus hand a prize to terrorism.”

The brash action of Hamas may have larger ramifications than even they realize. Analysts are already commenting on the long term impact of the airline safety concerns:

The implications are enormous. Whether intended or not, Hamas has made the case as to why its rocket arsenal and infrastructure must be dismantled no matter the cost. It also has justified why Israel cannot give up security control of Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”). Hamas has to fire a long way to scare away air traffic, but from the West Bank it’s practically a stone’s throw.

Regardless of how Israel chooses to handle the West Bank, the actions taken by Hamas today have made two things very clear: Hamas has no problem holding America and the rest of the world hostage, and right now Israel is the free world’s last, best and only hope.

 

 

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State Dept. Denies Coordinating with FAA to Put Pressure on Israel

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The State Department denied today that yesterday’s travel warning coupled with today’s FAA decision to keep planes away from Israel is an administration strategy to put economic pressure on the Jewish state.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice at lunchtime today “informing U.S. airlines that they are prohibited from flying to or from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport for a period of up to 24 hours.

“The notice was issued in response to a rocket strike which landed approximately one mile from Ben Gurion International Airport on the morning of July 22, 2014,” the FAA said in a statement. “The [Notice to Airmen] NOTAM applies only to U.S. operators, and has no authority over foreign airlines operating to or from the airport.”

“The FAA immediately notified U.S. carriers when the agency learned of the rocket strike and informed them that the agency was finalizing a NOTAM. The FAA will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation.  Updated instructions will be provided to U.S. airlines as soon as conditions permit, but no later than  24 hours from the time the NOTAM went into force.”

The notice was issued soon after Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the region to attempt to broker a ceasefire agreement. He announced a $47 million humanitarian aid package to the Palestinians soon after touching down in Cairo on Monday.

“The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens consider the deferral of non-essential travel to Israel and the West Bank and reaffirms the longstanding strong warning to U.S. citizens against any travel to the Gaza Strip,” reads the travel warning issued Monday.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters she “would wholly disagree with that argument” that the moves are intended to put pressure on Netanyahu.

“We issue travel warnings because one of our top priorities is protecting U.S. citizens overseas. I would note that in 2012, the department also issued travel warnings for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in March, August and December. So this is a step we have taken when we felt the situation on the ground warranted it. Obviously, that is a process that we go through that in no way is — is policy-related or politically related. It is just gets to how we can best protect American citizens,” Harf said.

“On the FAA, we to my knowledge were not involved in that decision-making. Obviously, we knew it was coming today. I was actually waiting for the announcement to come out before I came out to brief so I had more information. But the FAA makes these decisions when they feel it’s warranted, again for the safety of United States citizens. And they, in response to the recent attack at Ben Gurion Airport and the vicinity of Ben Gurion Airport, after consultation with U.S. operators, felt today that it was important to issue this notice, which is in effect for up to 24 hours and they will provide additional guidance to the — updated instructions to the aircraft operators no later than 24 hours from when it went into effect.”

Harf said it was “not true” that the White House was out of the loop on the FAA decision while the State Department had the head’s up.

“I was on many e-mail chains this morning about when the statement would actually come out that included my White House colleagues,” she said. “There’s not coordination — the FAA makes decisions on its own from a policy perspective. We all — we knew — you know, I knew a little bit before the briefing, as did the White House, that this was being announced publicly on the communications side. But from a policy perspective, this is a process driven entirely by the FAA.”

She said both the State Department and FAA were “in contact with the Israeli government about this,” but added that she didn’t “have specifics on what that looks like.”

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Reid: ‘Let the Dust Settle for a Little While’ Before New Measures Against Iran

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) insisted that the “dust” needs to “settle” before considering any new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Outside of a closed party policy luncheon, Reid was asked if he would continue to resist calls to bring a sanctions bill to the floor, such as the bipartisan Menendez-Kirk legislation.

“I think we should, on Iranian sanctions, let the dust settle. I think we should all feel good that an agreement was reached to move further,” Reid replied.

“Now, I don’t know if there’s going to be a final agreement. I certainly hope so, but I don’t know,” he added. “But before we start talking about additional sanctions, let’s just let the dust settle for a little while.”

The deadline for reaching an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program was July 20, but the Obama administration announced a four-month extension Friday night.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) indicated Sunday he wouldn’t stop pushing for a sanctions bill that would trigger new punitive measures if talks fail.

“Well, look, I have always been a proponent of the type of sanctions that we had devised in the latest legislation which are prospective, which sends Iran a message that if, in fact, they do not reach an agreement, an agreement that we would think is a good deal, that there are consequences and the consequences would be set up,” Menendez told Fox. “I believed those before and I believe in them now.”

In March, 83 senators — signaling a veto-proof majority if such a bill got a vote — banded together to demand that President Obama meet core principles, including clear consequences, in any final nuclear agreement with Iran.

Reid, who at the request of the White House held up a sanctions vote he’d previously vowed to allow, was not among the signatories.

The “core principles” demanded by the senators include no right to enrichment, a complete dismantling of the nuclear weapons program, cessation of all activities at Fordow and Arak, full adherence to UN Security Council resolutions, and “a long-term and intrusive inspection and verification regime.”

On the question of sanctions against Russia for its role in downing MH17, Reid said that’s possible.

“But I think first of all we have to look at what happened. 298 dead people for no reason,” Reid said. “That area clearly controlled by rebels supported overwhelmingly by Russia and Putin — and we’re going to see what the international community is willing to do to look at these people who were basically murdered.”

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VIDEO: Forget Obama/Kerry, Western Civ Is in Great Hands

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Roger L Simon

This video going viral on Facebook was sent to me by Robert Eisenman, the esteemed Dead Sea scholar, who pointed out that the mood of the IDF (Israel Defense Force) is wildly different than in previous wars.  In Hollywood, you would say, “This time it’s personal.”  In Israel, you would say, “This time it’s Biblical.”

Shades of King David.  Watch this video.

(Thumbnail on Tatler homepage based on a modified Shutterstock.com image.)

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White House Inexplicably Shuts Press Out of Apollo 11 Remembrance

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama Meets with Crew of Apollo 11

President Obama met with the crew of Apollo 11 to mark the 45th anniversary of the first mission to land on the Moon in an event mysteriously closed to the press.

The White House allowed a stills-only pool spray at the top of the meeting in the Oval Office. No reporters or TV cameras were allowed.

Badgered about the secrecy at today’s press briefing, White House spokesman Josh Earnest called it “merely a scheduling matter.”

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times said in a tweet that a complaint would be lodged over the closed coverage.

NASA soon released a photo of Obama meeting with Apollo 11 astronauts Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, Carol Armstrong (widow of Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong), NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and Patricia “Pat” Falcone, OSTP Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs.

“Forty-five years ago, while the world watched as one, the United States of America set foot on the moon.  It was a seminal moment not just in our country’s history, but the history of all humankind,” Obama said in a statement.

“The three brave astronauts of Apollo 11 –Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins – took the first small steps of our giant leap into the future.  And for all the years since, they and their families have served as testaments to American ingenuity and human achievement.  Today, I was honored to welcome Buzz, Michael, and Neil’s wife, Carol, to the White House to mark this historic anniversary – and to thank them for serving as advocates, role models, and educators who’ve inspired generations of Americans – myself included – to dream bigger and reach higher,” he continued.

“Today, under Administrator Bolden’s leadership, the men and women of NASA are building on that proud legacy by preparing for the next giant leap in human exploration — including the first visits of men and women to deep space, to an asteroid, and someday to the surface of Mars — all while partnering with America’s pioneering commercial space industry in new and innovative ways.”

Obama added that “the United States of America is stronger today thanks to the vision of President Kennedy, who set us on a course for the moon, the courage of Neil, Buzz, and Michael, who made the journey, and the spirit of service of all who’ve worked not only on the Apollo program, but who’ve dared to push the very boundaries of space and scientific discovery for all humankind.”

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Netanyahu: Hamas Conflict the ‘Cruelest, Most Grotesque War I’ve Ever Seen’

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

In response to critics of the Jewish State’s response to Hamas rocket fire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country is showing “a hell of a lot of restraint” compared to the British response during World War II.

“Who wants civilian casualties? Who wants to accelerate and escalate? We’re forced to do it. And what would you do? What would anybody do?” Netanyahu told Fox last night. “You know, you just have to put yourself in Israel’s place. And if you’re a leader, put yourself in my place. And ask a simple question, what would you do?”

“If you look at the historical antecedents, the answer is very clear. Israel is acting with great restraint because there’s no other country that’s been rocketed like this, with thousands of rockets. We’ve just had close to 2,000 rockets and mortars in the last few days, on every — just about every one of our cities,” he continued.

“Well, the only parallel, history parallel is Britain, rocketed by the Nazis in World War II. I don’t — you know, if we start drawing parallels, what Britain did compared to what we do, we’ve been showing a hell of a lot of restraint. So if there is any complaints, and there should be, about civilian deaths that they belong, the responsibility and the blame belongs in one place, Hamas. I don’t think anyone should get that wrong.”

The prime minister said there’s still hope for some sort of ceasefire. “But, you know, in the Middle East, it takes two to tango, sometimes three and maybe four,” he said, stressing that Hamas had rejected both the Egyptian proposal and a Red Cross humanitarian ceasefire.

“The point is that there’s one side that is clearly bent on escalation and one side, that is Israel, that is bent on defending its people, as any country would under similar circumstances,” Netanyahu said.

Of Secretary of State John Kerry’s hot mic remark that Israel was engaging in “a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Netanyahu said he doesn’t “want to deal with off the cuff remarks.”

“I’ll tell you what my experiences have been. I’ve been in war. I’ve been in battle. And when you take a surgical operation, you can’t guarantee when your soldiers are being fired from Hamas homes, that is, Hamas is targeting people with — from private homes. And you hit them back. Of course, some people are going to be hurt. That’s totally different from deliberately targeting them,” he said. “We asked these civilians, before we went in, we said, please leave. We text them. We call them on cell phones. We drop leaflets. We told them where to go. And those who left were safe.”

“Now, those who didn’t leave, you know what they didn’t leave? Because Hamas told them to be there, because Hamas, while we try to avoid Palestinian civilian dead, Hamas wants Palestinian civilian dead. The more the better, so they can give you telegenic fodder. So this is the cruelest, most grotesque war that I’ve ever seen. I mean not only does Hamas target civilians, ours, and hides behind their civilians, theirs, it actually wants to pile up as many civilian deaths as possible.”

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Breaking: Federal Court Rules Obamacare Insurance Subsidies Invalid

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

This case was going to the Supreme Court anyway, but for the notoriously liberal  U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to rule the subsidies invalid may sound the deathknell of an important part of Obamacare.

Jonathan Adler:

This morning the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit released its much awaited opinion in Halbig v. Burwell.  In a 2-1 opinion, the Court held that the Internal Revenue Service regulation authorizing tax credits in federal exchanges was invalid.  Judge Griffith, writing for the court, concluded, “the ACA unambiguously restricts the section 36B subsidy to insurance purchased on Exchanges ‘established by the State.”  In other words, the court reaffirmed the principle that the law is what Congress enacts — the text of the statute itself — and not the unexpressed intentions or hopes of legislators or a bill’s proponents.  Judge Randolph joined Judge Griffith’s opinion and wrote a concurrence.  Judge Edwards dissented.  The opinions are available here.

Background on the case can be found here.

Developing…

UPDATE

CNBC lays out some of the consequences of the ruling:

A judicial panel in a 2-1 ruling said such subsidies can be granted only to those people who bought insurance in an Obamacare exchange run by an individual state or the District of Columbia — not on the federally run exchange HealthCare.gov.

“Section 36B plainly makes subsidies available in the Exchanges established by states,” wrote Senior Circuit Judge Raymond Randolph in his majority opinion, where he was joined by Judge Thomas Griffith. “We reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance. At least until states that wish to can set up their own Exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal Exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly.”

In his dissent, Judge Harry Edwards, who called the case a “not-so-veiled attempt to gut” Obamacare, wrote that the judgment of the majority “portends disastrous consequences.”

Indeed, the decision threatens to unleash a cascade of effects that could seriously compromise Obamacare’s goals of compelling people to get health insurance, and helping them afford it.

More: 

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

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Religious Leaders Beg Obama to Force Them to Hire LGBT, Then Celebrate His Commandment

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

This morning’s email bag included a news release with quotes from officers at Union Theological Seminary and Auburn Theological Seminary, in celebration of President Obama’s executive order effectively requiring religious organizations with government contracts over $10,000 to hire homosexuals.

Religious leaders across the country declared victory today as the president honored their request to leave out a religious exemption in an executive order banning LGBT discrimination by federal contractors.

This follows a “grassroots campaign” to gather signatures begging the president to force them to hire homosexuals — or in politically-correct parlance, to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In exultant language, the news release goes on…

Present at today’s signing ceremony was Rev. Fred Davie, Executive Vice President of Union Theological Seminary and a member of the LGBT community. “Today at the White House I witnessed the arc of history bend toward justice,” said Davie. “This is a tremendous victory for those of us who believe that as people of faith we should be exemplary, not exempted. Leaving out a religious exemption is simply the right thing to do, both theologically and civically. It is my obligation, and desire, as a Christian and a member of human community to love my neighbor and it is my obligation as a citizen to treat all my fellow citizens equally, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

It’s a peculiar locution — “leaving out a religious exemption” — akin to “leaving out the leaving out.” The authors of the press release preferred double negative to a plain assertion, like: “the president commanded faith-based organizations to violate the tenets of their faith if they want to serve as a federal contractors.”

But why all of this unseemly lobbying?

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The Media’s Shameful Lack of Objectivity on Civilian Casualties in Gaza

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Mike McNally

On his Fox News show on Saturday night, Geraldo Rivera conducted a “two-way” with John Huddy, one of the network’s reporters in Gaza. During their exchange, Huddy matter-of-factly stated that 40 percent of those killed in Gaza as a result of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge were children. He didn’t cite a source, and he didn’t say “Hamas claims….” He just rattled off the number as if it were the Dow Jones closing figure – final and indisputable. (The clip is here – click on the 10:33pm segment if it doesn’t play straight off.) Having failed to question or verify the 40 percent claim, Rivera then repeated it in an exchange with Danny Danon, who resigned as Israel’s deputy defense minister last week after opposing a proposed ceasefire with Hamas.

Rivera is far from most conservatives’ favorite Fox presenter, and he can be hard to take seriously as he veers between Kent Brockman-esque pomposity and Ron Burgundy-esque histrionics. However, he’s normally solidly pro-Israel, so it was troubling that he didn’t challenge Huddy’s 40 percent figure, which seems implausibly high – even Gaza’s notoriously exaggeration-prone, Hamas-controlled Health Ministry puts the figure at around 25 percent. Fox, along with the rest of the media, has a duty to ensure that casualty figures are reliably sourced and as accurate as possible, given the key role that civilian deaths, and those of children in particular, play in shaping attitudes towards any conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

No-one knows exactly how many Gazans have been killed, nor how many of the dead are civilians, nor how many of those civilians are children. As well as ensuring that health officials stick to the party line, Hamas also keeps a tight grip on information coming out of the territory from other sources. The New York Times, for one, appears to be tailoring its coverage to suit the demands of the terror group. There are suspicions that the Times is playing ball with Hamas in order to be allowed to continue operating in Gaza – not that it would need much encouragement, given the Times‘s legendary anti-Israel bias, but the one-sidedness of its reporting this time is particularly egregious.

Israel is unable to produce its own estimates of casualties inside Gaza. It only releases its own casualty figures for operations like the one currently underway after they’ve been concluded, and, as this Times of Israel Report details, it concedes that it can do little to counter the likely exaggerated figures from Hamas. 

Of course, one dead civilian, let alone a child, is one too many. But innocent people will inevitably be killed and injured when Hamas launches its rockets from densely populated residential areas, and stores them in UN-run schools. And in conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians, as in no other conflict anywhere in the world, the body count is the most important factor in the propaganda war, with Israel’s opponents pointing to the disproportionality in dead and injured as proof in itself that Israel is in the wrong.

Unfortunately, the same media that unquestioningly broadcasts Hamas’s civilian-heavy death tolls seems far less interested in examining why so many civilians are dying. On Sunday, the BBC aired a typically harrowing report from inside a Gaza hospital. While the reporter was talking to medics, there was a deafening roar as a salvo of Hamas rockets passed over the hospital, clearly launched from close by. To his credit, the clearly startled reporter said something to the effect of “but that doesn’t help the situation.”

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Joni Ernst Gets The DSCC To Spend Some Early Nervous Money In Iowa

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Smell the sweat.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will launch a half-million-dollar television-ad campaign in Iowa on Tuesday against GOP nominee Joni Ernst, hitting her on entitlements.

“She’s proposed privatizing Social Security — gambling our savings in the stock market,” a female narrator says in the commercial, shared first with POLITICO. “Experts say that could be a windfall for Wall Street but a wipeout for us.”

“Joni Ernst — her ideas are just too extreme for Iowa,” the 30-second spot concludes.

The DSCC has reserved $188,000 in Des Moines, $145,000 in Davenport, $109,000 in Cedar Rapids and $72,000 in Sioux City between July 22 and August 4. It’s all broadcast, according to a source tracking the air war.

This a sizable early buy for the national party to make mid-summer, coming in the wake of an NBC News/Marist poll last week that showed the race tied at 43 percent. The Cook Political Report and Rothenberg Political Report also recently moved the contest from “Lean Democrat” to “Toss Up.”

It’s always amusing these days to see or hear the Democrats trot out the “OMG-PRIVATIZING SOCIAL SECURITY!” nonsense. Whenever anyone on the Left tries to put lipstick on the Obama economic pig about the only thing they can tout is the stock market’s performance. In fact they’re huge fans of it then. But the notion of people taking money that the government robs from them to invest in the market is still a Halloween story for them.

The Democrats are tired and old, even more so than the Republicans. The “extreme” bogeyman is all they’ve got. Extreme, of course, means “what most Americans outside of Manhattan, Los Angeles and San Francisco are comfortable with” and this tactic is losing its oomph.

So let ‘em keep at it.

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AIPAC ‘Distressed’ by Iran Negotiations Extension, Economic Relief

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The leaders of the largest pro-Israel lobby in D.C. were willing to give the Obama administration a shot at the beginning of the six-month interim agreement with Iran, but now it appears as if AIPAC’s patience is wearing thin.

The administration announced Friday night that it would extend the nuclear negotiations for four months, stressing that they were making progress on a deal and that Tehran was cooperating.

In November, AIPAC unveiled a list of concerns about the interim agreement, and invited Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to the March convention to discuss the talks. While AIPAC leaders at the conference welcomed the administration members and said they were open to hearing what they had to say, many of the conference attendees were unmoved by the reasoning of cabinet members.

The largest standing ovation of the conference went to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) when he told the crowd that he had stood against members of his own party on Iran — including calling for new sanctions.

Today, AIPAC said in a statement that “despite our support for talks, we note that Tehran has yet to indicate a willingness to dismantle any element of its nuclear infrastructure.”

“We are concerned that rather than coming into compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions, Iran will try to use the recently announced extension of talks to break the international coalition and advance its nuclear weapons program,” said the group. “We are deeply disappointed that the P5+1 has offered even more economic relief to Iran. Economic pressure brought Tehran to the negotiating table, and increased pressure is critical to any reasonable prospect for reaching a good agreement. Moreover, we are distressed that the P5+1 is providing Iran access to increased economic benefits at the very moment when Hamas is using arms supplied by Tehran to attack Israeli civilians.”

AIPAC said it was “concerned from the outset that Iran would drag out talks to improve its position, and Tehran has actually enjoyed some economic improvement as a result of sanctions relief in the Joint Plan of Action.”

“In addition, during the last six months, Iran has continued both enriching uranium and conducting research and development on advanced centrifuges,” continued the statement. “The Administration and Congress must make clear to Tehran that America’s patience with diplomacy is not infinite. And the Administration should begin immediate substantive consultations with Congress concerning what an acceptable final nuclear agreement must include.”

“The United States should make clear that Iran can expect no further extension of the talks. We must find new means to step up pressure on Tehran. And Iran must verifiably dismantle its nuclear weapons program or face harsh consequences for its ongoing violations of treaty commitments and international law.”

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Kerry Dispatched to Egypt to Forge Middle East Ceasefire

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Secretary of State John Kerry has landed in Cairo in a mission to arrive at some sort of settlement to end the latest battle between Hamas and Israel.

“The United States – and our international partners– are deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation, and the loss of more innocent life. We believe there should be a ceasefire as soon as possible – one that restores the cease-fire reached in November of 2012,” the State Department said in its announcement of the trip. “Secretary Kerry is working to support Egypt’s initiative to pursue that outcome, and will travel to the region as part of those efforts.”

Hamas rejected Egypt’s peace plan last week after Israel approved it. “It is a surrender and we reject it outright,” the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said. “Our battle with the enemy will intensify.”

“As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas. And as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza,” President Obama said this morning on the South Lawn of the White House. “I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives. And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.”

Kerry, Obama said, will meet with allies and partners to attempt to forge an agreement.

“I’ve instructed him to push for an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza,” Obama said. “The work will not be easy. Obviously, there are enormous passions involved in this and some very difficult strategic issues involved.”

“Nevertheless, I’ve asked John to do everything he can to help facilitate a cessation to hostilities,” he added. “We don’t want to see any more civilians getting killed.”

At the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf echoed that “we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives.”

“I’ll let the Israeli government speak to its operations, but they’ve spoken about particularly rocket and tunnel attacks coming from Hamas in Gaza and I know they’ve been quite focused on those kind of attacks and thwarting them, but I’ll let them speak to their own military operation,” Harf told reporters.

“The secretary and the president both have been clear that they’ve spoken about the November 2012 ceasefire because look, overall our preference here is a ceasefire as soon as possible. That’s what the secretary is going to Cairo to talk about with the Egyptian, with Ban Ki-moon and with others. And so at this point we do believe that there’s not another viable plan out there.”

Harf added that “obviously our position on Hamas hasn’t changed.”

“But this is an important point to talk to the Egyptians, who do play a role here, and have played an important role in past ceasefires, as you’ve noted, to see if we can get to a ceasefire here,” she said. “I would also emphasize that this is hard, and that you know, I think the secretary will be there on the ground talking to the Egyptians, but I think we need to be realistic about how hard this is.”

UPDATE: Kerry has announced a $47 million aid package “to help address the humanitarian situation in Gaza,” including “an initial $15 million contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in response to UNRWA’s $60 million Gaza Flash Appeal.”

 

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Feinstein: ‘World Would Very Much Respect’ Obama’s ‘Increased Attention’ on Crises Abroad

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said it would be nice if President Obama stepped up his attention to the foreign policy crises crashing down around him.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) stressed “the eastern part of the Ukraine is essentially controlled by Russian partisans who are run by Russia.”

“I agree with those who see former fighters, Russian fighters amidst them. Russian equipment, Russian training, Russian practice. And I think Putin ought to own up in the sense that do what an objective, responsible leader would do,” she told MSNBC today. “…I think it may well be that the United States should take its solid intelligence, which I believe is solid now, and declassify it, and let the world see what went into this and why the belief is so solid that this, in fact, was a Russian Buk that unleashed this missile.”

“…What action is the world going to take? Are we just going to sit by and see this all happen? What action is Europe going to take? Will they become a participant in a sanctions regime that will say to Russia, the West condemns this act?”

Feinstein said she believes “that America’s reputation is somewhat diminished, but I think there are people that still believe that we want to do the right thing.”

“This is a very hard time. With ISIS and its caliphate in the middle of Syria and in the middle of Iraq, with them marching on Baghdad, with what’s happening with Iran and the P-5-plus- 1, Gaza,” she said. “…Now, look, I’m not gonna tell the president what to do. But I think the world would very much respect his increased attention on this matter. And I think there ought to be increased attention.”

“And I think the leader of the free world has to be strong and this is a time where strength is necessary. And this, our president, has to convince Europe to stand up and be part of this so that the world can speak out with one voice of condemnation.”

Feinstein added that it’s important current events don’t “just slide from the viewers’ screen.”

“I think people have to understand the kind of world we live in today, with this kind of expressly high-tech technology and what it can do and how it’s controlled and who has access to it,” she said. “This is as important as keeping people from a dirty bomb, in my view.”

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Obama: Pro-Russia Rebels Demonstrating ‘Kind of Behavior That Has No Place in the Community of Nations’

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama added a brief statement to his schedule this morning to come to the podium and ask Russian separatists in Ukraine what they’re trying to hide at the MH17 crash site.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Saturday that OSCE monitors were only allowed 75 minutes at the crash site Friday and fewer than three hours on Saturday, all confined to a small area. “The site is not secure, and there are multiple reports of bodies being removed, parts of the plane and other debris being hauled away, and potential evidence tampered with. This is unacceptable and an affront to all those who lost loved ones and to the dignity the victims deserve,” Psaki said.

The location of the black boxes was also uncertain, with rumors over the weekend saying that the rebels turned the flight recorders over to Moscow.

“Now, international investigators are on the ground. They have been organized. I’ve sent teams. Other countries have sent teams. They are prepared. They are organized to conduct what should be the kinds of protocols and scouring and collecting of evidence that should follow any international incident like this,” Obama said on the South Lawn of the White House.

“And what they need right now is immediate and full access to the crash site. They need to be able to conduct a prompt and full and unimpeded, as well as transparent investigation. And recovery personnel have to do the solemn and sacred work of recovering the remains of those who were lost,” he added.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has declared a demilitarized zone around the crash site, but the separatists are still hampering the investigation.

“As investigators approached, they fired their weapons in to the air. The separatists are removing evidence from the crash site. All of which begs the question: What exactly are they trying to hide?” Obama said. “Moreover, these Russian-backed separatists are removing bodies from the crash site, oftentimes without the care that we would normally expect from a tragedy like this. This is an insult to those who’ve lost loved ones. This is the kind of behavior that has no place in the community of nations.”

The president said that given Russia’s “extraordinary influence” over the separatists, Russian President Vladimir Putin should have greater pull in getting them to behave.

“President Putin says that he supports a full and fair investigation, and I appreciate those words, but they have to be supported by actions,” Obama said. “The burden now is on Russia to insist that the separatists stop tampering with the evidence, grant investigators who are already on the ground immediate, full and unimpeded access to the crash site.”

“If Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and to back these separatists, and these separatists become more and more dangerous and now are risks, not simply to the people inside of Ukraine but the broader international community, and Russia will only further isolate itself from the international community, and the costs for Russia’s behavior will only continue to increase,” he added.

Putin made his own address earlier today, insisting “no one should and no one has the right to use this tragedy to pursue their own political goals.”

“I believe that if military operations had not resumed in eastern Ukraine on June 28, this tragedy probably could have been avoided,” Putin said. “…All those who are responsible for the situation in the region must take greater responsibility before their own peoples and before the peoples of the countries whose citizens were killed in this disaster.”

Poroshenko told CNN this morning that he doesn’t see “any differences from the tragedy of 9/11″ and the shooting down of the civilian airliner.

“We should demonstrate the same way of reaction,” said the Ukrainian leader.

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Two Americans Among IDF Killed Fighting for Israel

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Two American citizens are among the 13 Israel Defense Forces soldiers in the Golani brigade killed in the ground operation into Gaza.

Max Steinberg, 24, was born in Woodland Hills, Calif., where he attended El Camino Real High School and Pierce College, according to the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. He volunteered for the IDF in December 2012 and was a sniper in Golani.

Steinberg’s family still lives in the San Fernando Valley. They were flying to Israel for his burial.

“He was completely dedicated and committed to serving the country of Israel,” his father, Stuart, told the Associated Press. “He was focused, he was clear in what the mission was, and he was dedicated to the work he needed to be doing.”

Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, was from South Padre Island, Texas, and moved to Israel four years ago.

The specific circumstances of their deaths aren’t known, only that all of the 13 IDF soldiers died in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya.

Seven were killed when their personnel carrier drove over an explosive device, three were killed by a fire in a building, and three were killed in a firefight with Hamas.

“We can confirm the deaths of U.S. citizens Max Steinberg and Sean Carmeli in Gaza,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a Sunday night statement. “Out of respect for those affected by this, we have nothing further at this time.”

 

maxsteinberg

Max Steinberg

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Nissim Sean Carmeli

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How Israel is Winning the PR Battle Against Hamas

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Moral equivalence is dead. When Bill Clinton, the “international community”-blessed architect of Oslo, can blatantly declare

In the short and medium term Hamas can inflict terrible public relations damage by forcing (Israel) to kill Palestinian civilians to counter Hamas. But it’s a crass strategy that takes all of our eyes off the real objective which is a peace that gets Israel security and recognition and a peace that gets the Palestinians their state.

it is obvious that Hamas has finally shot themselves in the foot with the terrorists’ ideological weapon of choice. So, why do news agencies insist on reporting nothing more than body counts in evening news reports, as if the latest conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is nothing more than a sports game?

Clinton may be a pervert, but he isn’t stupid. He acknowledged the “public relations” battle because he knows that the press follows the cues given by Hamas, the terrorist organization that holds reporters in Gaza against their will. Unless they have the intellect of toddlers, these reporters cannot be blind to the brainwashing from birth that turns children into human shields. Nor can they be so totally blind to the rocket launchers hiding behind schools and mosques in residential neighborhoods. Yet, the best they can muster is a body count followed by sarcastic commentary like that of CNN’s Ben Wedeman: “There is no Iron Dome in Gaza to protect civilians.” Amazing. Toddler Ben gets a gold star for that stellar observation.

As my PJMedia colleague Ron Radosh so excellently pointed out, the intellectuals also have no problem fettering mainstream media with arguments of moral equivalence. All they need is the right costume and a little bathtub gin and they could easily chatter the night away as if they were on the porch of Gatsby’s mansion. That is how comfortable they are turning an international war against Islamic terrorism into the banal “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter” claim. Like America’s “restless” President, these politicos prefer the comforts of today’s Weimar. No doubt they are taking fiddling lessons so they can be fully prepared when Rome begins to burn.

There is a reality on the ground that escapes the Hamas-controlled media: Israel loves life. Israel’s policy is to warn Palestinian civilians (or, as Hamas calls them, weapons in Operation Human Shield) to get out of the way before they drop bombs or conduct ground invasions. Israel sets up field hospitals to treat wounded Gazans. We know about these things because, much to the chagrin of the death-loving Hamas, they cannot control the Internet. Just as Israelis are winning the ground offensive, Israel-supporters are winning the ideological offensive through alternative news sources and, most importantly, social media.

This past Saturday, 200 anti-Israel protesters fell to the ground in Boston in a “die-in” meant to demonstrate the number of Palestinians who have been killed thus far in Operation Protective Edge. A number of Israel supporters attended the event and were cornered by the anti-Israel crowd. One Zionist, Chloe Valdary told the Times of Israel:

We really do manage to disrupt them and distract them when we show up. We show up and it’s in the media, so the public sees how hate-filled and incredibly deluded these Hamas supporters are.

We’ve caught onto the PR game and we play to win. Now it is our turn to Tweet with a smile and watch as the death-obsessed Hamas-brainwashed fools fall and take their wretched canard of moral equivalency down with them.

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The Libertarian Case for Supporting Israel

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

As the presidential prospects of Senator Rand Paul grow more viable, so does the intensity of the foreign policy debate within the Republican Party. At the center of that debate is the U.S. relationship with Israel. What obligation do we hold to the Jewish state?

PJM associate editor Bryan Preston responds to a report from the Washington Free Beacon regarding a list of books scrubbed from Senator Paul’s website after the Weekly Standard called out some of the books as “anti-Israel.” Preston concludes:

I’d like to like Rand Paul, for his small government, libertarian principles. I share those, and the fact is, we will go bankrupt as a country if we do not get spending under control. But Paul’s foreign policy instincts have too much of the far left, Dennis Kucinich, blame-America-and-Israel-first detritus to make him a serious commander in chief. This reading list is a symptom of that. It suggests that Paul sees Israel as the prime problem in the Middle East, and Jews the prime problem in the world.

Whether Paul holds such views or not, a broader question emerges from the association of non-interventionist foreign policy with antisemitism. Does one indicate the other? Must we “support Israel” in a particular way to prove that we do not hate Jews?

Lost in the loudest rhetoric dominating the Republican foreign policy debate is an application of non-interventionism which nonetheless acknowledges Islamic totalitarianism. As Ayn Rand Institute executive director Yaron Brook explains in the clip above, the U.S. and Israel share a common enemy, an ideology which expressly seeks to deprive individuals of their rights. Non-intervention does not mean sticking our head in the sand and ignoring real enemies. It means limiting our response to actions which defend us rather than police the world.

Certainly, influences within the Paul family orbit err on the side of pacifism, and those forces deserve rebuke. Even so, it would be a mistake to dismiss the principle underlying non-interventionism. We should “support Israel” to the extent it defends our citizens by defanging a common enemy, not for Israel’s sake, but for ours. What that looks like in practice remains open to debate.

(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 16:14 minutes long; 15.64 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)

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Joyous, Adorable Reunions Between Returning Soldiers and their Dogs

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

To end your weekend on a real upper, Daily Caller has assembled 15 of the most adorable and emotional videos you’ll ever see; soldiers returning from deployment reunited with their dogs.

There is a question among scientists about whether dogs miss their human companions more after a long period of time as opposed to a few hours. Those of us who have had dogs for many years know the answer to that. We don’t need a scientist to tell us the absolute joy a dog shows when a friend returns after a long absence. It’s magic.

This is my favorite among the 15 entries. I love how the dog is trying so hard to speak. Enjoy.

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Kerry Heard on Hot Mic: ‘It’s a Hell of a Pinpoint Operation’

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Secretary of State John Kerry is apparently displeased with Israel for the way they are defending themselves from Hamas rocket attacks.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday — one of five talk shows on which Kerry made an appearance — the secretary of state was caught on an open mic talking to an aide about Israel’s efforts so far:

“It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said to an aide on the phone, with some measure of frustration.

His comments seemed to be criticizing the Israeli government’s assurances about the limited scope of its attack and ground invasion of Gaza.

Kerry, speaking by phone to one of his top aides, then added: “We’ve got to get over there. Thank you John. I think John, we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around.”

Kerry was confronted on air by host Chris Wallace, who asked if Kerry was implying that the Israeli government had gone too far in its Gaza operations.

“While you were on camera and while you were on microphone, you just talked to one of your top aides about the situation in Israel and the fact that 14 Israelis have apparently been shot and killed in an operation,” Wallace said.

Kerry stood by his comments, while defending Israel’s right to defend itself.

“It’s tough to have these kind of operations. I reacted, obviously, in a way that anybody does with respect to young children and civilians,” Kerry said,

“War is tough. I’ve said that publicly and I’ve said it again. We defend Israeli’s right to do what it is doing,” Kerry said.

“We support Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets that are continuing to come in. Hamas has started its process of rocketing after Israel was trying to find the people who killed three young [people] — one American kid, three young Israelis,” Kerry said.

If Israel was not engaged in a “pinpoint operation,” the casualties might be 10 times higher. If Israel was not engaged in a “pinpoint operation,” they wouldn’t have called every resident of that neighborhood two days ago telling them to leave. (What other nation in the history of warfare tells their enemy they are coming in order to minimize civilian casualties?)

Kerry is a putz. He gives Israel no credit for their efforts to avoid civilian casualties while failing to note that Hamas is using civilians as human shields. The more dead babies the better for Hamas. They’ve been playing this game a long time.

Kerry was probably reacting to the news that 70 Palestinians had been killed in Israel’s offensive today. He might have mentioned that 13 Israeli soldiers also lost their lives. He might also have said that it is unknown how many of the 70 dead Palestinians were shooting at Israeli soldiers.

In short, blaming Israel for the tactics of Hamas is irrational, illogical, and indicative of an anti-Israeli bias.

 Related: 

State Department Official Tweets #UnitedforGaza

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45 Years On and the Moon Landing Still Inspires Awe

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Ten thousand years from now, historians — if historians there be — will not have much to say about the 20th century. It will be seen as an obscure epoch where nothing very interesting happened — at least compared to our making First Contact with aliens, or the singularity coming about, or perhaps a cure for the common cold.

Except the landing on the moon, of course.

The wars, the political upheavals, the giant personalities may be worth a footnote or two in some grad student’s thesis. But the achievement of sending men to the moon and returning them safely to earth will never be forgotten as long as humans inhabit the planet. Our very first attempt to take a tentative step beyond the earth is easily the most significant development in human history to date both for what the event represented as far as what our species was capable, and how humans define themselves.

Petty politics, courage, brilliant thinking, striving to satisfy an insatiable curiosity, an ability to work together to achieve a common goal — all of this and more went into the machines we hurled toward the moon in July of 1969.

We had never conceived or built anything like them before or since. Consider:

* The Saturn V rocket that carried the crew into orbit was as tall as a 36 story building and weighed 6.5 million pounds. It was the largest machine ever built by man then, and remains so today.

* At takeoff, the Saturn V generated 7.6 million pounds of thrust. The Shuttle generated 5.4 million pounds of thrust.

* Up to 500,000 workers laid a hand on at least one of the Apollo’s systems — Saturn V, command module, and the Lunar module. By comparison, the Panama Canal employed about 70,000 workers.

* The Lunar Module was the first spacecraft designed to fly only in space. To save weight, there were parts of the outer skin that were less than 2 inches thick.

* More than 20,000 people at NASA, private companies, and other government agencies acted as support staff for the flight of Apollo 11.

This was a dangerous mission but, from the astronauts point of view, the risk was acceptable. It might be a much different story in today’s risk-averse NASA, but by necessity, so many of the systems employed on the flight could not be realistically tested, that some critical components like the LM ascent engine, would see their first real test on the moon’s surface.

The descent to the surface is the most dramatic part of the mission. This video synched up capcom communications with film taken from Apollo 11 cameras:

A little known and remembered fact from those tense July days; the Soviet Union had launched a sample return mission to the moon — Luna 15 — that was scheduled to beat Apollo 11 back to earth by a few hours and present the world with the first moonrocks. Unfortunately for the Soviets, the craft crashed on the surface and they failed to upstage Apollo 11.

So was it a waste of money? If you were to separate the larger space program from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo moon programs, you could make a very good argument that manned space flight was unnecessary. While satellites have changed the world, the manned program has had very little impact beyond national bragging rights. It may be that we must learn to live and work in space, but if NASA had done it right, manned space flight would have been developed by private industry.

The trip to the moon cost $125 billion in today’s dollars. We sent a 36 story building toward the moon and what we got back could fit in the living room of most American homes. Moon rocks are nice, and the knowledge gained from sending men to the moon is valuable, but what kind of return did we get on that stupendous investment?

These are all good questions, but despite the political nature of the effort, I still think it was worth it in a metaphysical way. Can you place a value on validating our national identity? On ultimately showing that capitalism is superior to communism? On defining our character as a people?

I understand and appreciate the arguments against the Apollo program. But what Apollo 11 ultimately accomplished was to achieve the landing of humans on the moon at exactly the first moment in history when it was possible to do so.

That’s an achievement that will stand the test of time for all time.

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Obama Aides Knew Crisis Was Building at Border a Year Ago

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

The Washington Post is reporting that the Obama administration was fully aware of the spike in illegal alien children crossing the border almost a year ago and failed to do anything to prepare for it.

In fact, despite a report from the Department of Homeland Security that said the crush at the border was going to get much worse, federal officials viewed the crisis as a “local problem” according to WaPo.

Governor Rick Perry sent a letter to the president in 2012, also warning of the brewing crisis. Perry’s letter and the DHS report were ignored until the crisis became unmanageable.

The researchers’ observations were among the warning signs conveyed to the Obama administration over the past two years as a surge of Central American minors has crossed into south Texas illegally. More than 57,000 have entered the United States this year, swamping federal resources and catching the government unprepared.

The administration did too little to heed those warnings, according to interviews with former government officials, outside experts and immigrant advocates, leading to an inadequate response that contributed to this summer’s escalating crisis.

Federal officials viewed the situation as a “local problem,” said Victor Manjarrez Jr., a former Border Patrol station chief who led the UTEP study. The research, conducted last year, was funded by the Department of Homeland Security and published in March. A broader crisis was “not on anyone’s radar,” Manjarrez added, even though “it was pretty clear this number of kids was going to be the new baseline.”

So what was the problem? If you listen closely to what this bureaucrat is saying, since the real-time information didn’t fit in with their graphs and chart projections, they didn’t believe what they were seeing:

“What happened this year was . . . off-the-charts different,” Muñoz said. “It was not the same pattern. We assumed a significant increase, but this was not the same kind of trend line.

“This trend was more like a hockey stick, going up and up and up,” Muñoz added. “Nobody could have predicted the scale of the increase we saw this year. The minute we saw it, we responded in an aggressive way.”

But top officials at the White House and the State Department had been warned repeatedly of the potential for a further explosion in the number of migrant children since the crisis began escalating two years ago, according to former federal officials and others familiar with internal discussions. The White House was directly involved in efforts in early 2012 to care for the children when it helped negotiate a temporary shelter at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

“There were warning signs, operational folks raising red flags to high levels in terms of this being a potential issue,” said one former senior federal law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about internal operations.

The former official said the agencies primarily in charge of border security, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were “ringing alarm bells” within the administration.

Meanwhile, top officials focused much of their attention on political battles, such as Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and the push to win congressional support for a broad immigration overhaul, that would have been made more difficult with the addition of a high-profile border crisis.

“I don’t think they ignored this on purpose, but they didn’t know what to do,” said Michelle Brané, director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, which published a 2012 report highlighting the influx of minors. “For whatever reason, there was hesi­ta­tion to address the root causes. I think the administration was dealing with it at a minimal scale, putting a Band-Aid on something they should have been thinking about holistically.”

In fact, they did their best to hide the surge from Congress and the American people while the president pushed an immigration reform bill that would have done absolutely nothing to stem the flow of illegals crossing the border. There’s a good chance it would have made the situation worse.

Incompetence and a lack of transparency have been the hallmarks of this administration since they took office. It’s no wonder we’ve got an unmanageable crisis when our national leaders prefer to look away and hope for the best rather than deal with the problem.

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Anti-Illegal Immigrant Protests Sweep the Nation

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

A coalition of anti-illegal immigration groups are staging protests this weekend around the country in what’s being touted as “the largest coordinated protest against all forms of amnesty, comprehensive immigration reform, and the government’s failure to enforce immigration laws and secure our borders.”

According to the group’s website, hundreds of protests will take place on Friday and Saturday. There were apparently sporadic clashes between pro and anti-illegal immigrant forces at some of the rallies, but overall, words rather than blows appeared to be exchanged.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, writes in the Washington Times that a tipping point against illegal immigration may have arrived:

The response of the administration and its supporters to the breakdown of the border in South Texas seems to have finally gotten a large share of the public to see what’s happening. Even the White House’s use of illegal-alien children as human shields for its anti-sovereignty policies has not managed to allay the increasing sense of alarm across the country.

Only a few peeps of concern have emanated from Democrats in Congress, most of whom are applauding the border breakdown. Republicans haven’t been much better. Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain have taken the opportunity to repeat their support for amnesty and dramatic increases in immigration. Others at least are concerned, but have been distracted by the trivial issue of a 2008 anti-trafficking law, which does not even apply here.

In the absence of political leadership, the public is jumping out of the pot on its own. A new Gallup poll shows that immigration now tops the list of most important issues facing the country, higher than dissatisfaction with government, the economy, jobs or health care.

That concern is being expressed by ordinary citizens in their communities. Residents of Murrieta, Calif., were the first to act, blocking buses to prevent the relocation of illegal immigrants from the Texas border. Virtually the entire town of Lawrenceville, Va., came to a community meeting on relocating illegal-immigrant juveniles there, causing the federal government to back off. Similar resistance has happened in Vassar, Mich.; Oracle, Ariz.; Greece, N.Y.; Escondido, Calif.; and elsewhere.

The story isn’t over in those communities, where illegal immigrants have already been relocated. Come September, thousands of illegal-alien “minors” (many of them adults lying about their age) will be entering unprepared public schools, creating a new wave of outrage.

Perhaps one particular decision by the White House highlights how concerned the administration is about public reaction: As of now, not a single illegal-alien detainee seems to have been sent to Louisiana or Arkansas, the states bordering Texas that are closest to the site of the border deluge. This is no accident. Those two states have Democratic senators up for re-election who are vulnerable enough to lose, but who might still be able to prevail. The White House appears to have decided not to send any illegals there to avoid the potential for political damage.

The real tipping point comes in November. If the public stays outraged enough about the border situation, they should take it out on both Republicans and Democrats who don’t believe in our sovereignty and turn them out of office.  Putting enough anti-illegal immigrant lawmakers in office is the only way to flip the playing field and get serious about border control.

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Paris in Flames as Pro-Palestinian Rioters Clash with Police

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Despite a first-of-its-kind-in-Europe ban on demonstrations in Paris, pro-Palestinian protestors gathered to demonstrate against Israel on Saturday. When police tried to break up the protest, rioters threw rocks and other debris while chanting “Israel, assassin.”

Protests in Paris were banned following the demonstration last weekend that ended up threatening two synagogues.

The government of President Hollande has come under fire for the ban, as far-left groups accused Hollande of favoring Israel while far-right groups criticized him for policies they say encourage lawlessness among immigrants.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The clashes underscore a dilemma facing France’s Socialist government. President François Hollande has faced searing criticism in France—home to Europe’s biggest Muslim minority—for what pro-Palestinian groups say is his failure to take a stand against Israel’s incursions in the Gaza strip.

At the same time, Mr. Hollande is under pressure from even broader swaths of the French public, which blames minorities and immigrants for a perceived rise in violent crime and delinquency. The far-right National Front is garnering support by accusing Mr. Hollande’s ranks of being soft on crime and illegal immigration.

Saturday’s clashes occurred at the tail end of a large rally that had been called by several French political organizations, including the far-left New Anticapitalist Party, despite a French government ban.

The rally had been banned on Friday after government officials expressed concern that it could turn violent. Last Sunday, a similar rally in Paris sought to steer the march toward two synagogues and clashed with riot police, and eight arrests.

Earlier Saturday, French President François Hollande justified the decision to ban the rally at a news conference, saying groups have other ways to express themselves. “Those who want at any cost to protest will be held accountable,” he told TV cameras.

Nevertheless, French TV showed a large number of protesters showing up at 3 p.m., chanting and waving Palestinian flags under raised metro tracks. French television estimated between several hundred and several thousand people attended the rally at its peak, but the police official said the police didn’t immediately have any estimate.

The tension between the Muslim and Jewish populations in France has been building for years, which has led to many violent attacks. Reuters reports that “more Jews left France for Israel than at any other time since the Jewish state was created in 1948, with many citing rising anti-Semitism as a factor.”

Saturday’s demonstrations are not going to improve the situation.

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Pro-Russian Separatists Destroying Evidence of Plane Shootdown

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

As now seems likely, Moscow-backed separatists launched the missile that shot down a Malaysia airlines passenger plane flying near the Russian border.

Within minutes of the shootdown, rebels were on social media gloating about shooting down a Ukrainian cargo plane. But that posting, along with other damning evidence on Facebook and other sites, have been scrubbed by the rebels as they seek to cover up their involvement in the attack.

On Friday, the separatists blocked international monitors from the crash site, threatening members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and even firing shots to force them back. On Saturday, AP is reporting that the monitors got limited access, but that security was very tight.

Bociurkiw said the 24-member monitoring delegation was given some access Saturday to the crash site but their movements were being limited by the rebels. The site sprawls across sunflower and wheat fields between two villages in eastern Ukraine, encompassing eight square miles (20 square kilometers).

“We have to be very careful with our movements because of all the security,” Bociurkiw said. “We are unarmed civilians, so we are not in a position to argue with people with heavy arms.”

At issue for the monitors was the attempt by separatists, with the possible assistance of Russians, to remove evidence from the crash site:

The government in Kiev said militiamen have removed 38 bodies from the crash site and have taken them to the rebel-held city of Donetsk. It said the bodies were transported with the assistance of specialists with distinct Russian accents.

The rebels are also “seeking large transports to carry away plane fragments to Russia,” the Ukrainian government said in a statement.

In Donetsk, separatist leader Alexander Borodai denied that any bodies had been transferred or that the rebels had in any way interfered with the work of observers. He said he encouraged the international community to help with the cleanup before the bodies decay further.

As emergency workers loaded about 80 bodies of plane victims into bags Saturday, Bociurkiw stressed that his team was not at the site to conduct a full-scale investigation.

“We are looking at security on the perimeter of the crash site, looking at the status in the condition of the bodies, the status in the condition of the debris, and also personal belongings,” he said.

One passenger’s body was seen still strapped into an airline seat, with bare toes peeking out under long jeans. Another body was flung face-up into a field of blue flowers.

Ukraine also urged Moscow to insist that the pro-Russia rebels grant international experts the ability to conduct a thorough, impartial investigation into the downing of the plane – echoing a demand that President Barack Obama issued a day earlier from Washington.

“The integrity of the site has been compromised, and there are indications that vital evidence has not been preserved in place,” Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.

He called for immediate access for Malaysia’s team at the site to retrieve human remains.

The Guardian is reporting that there has been other efforts to destroy or remove evidence from the site:

There is also confusion over the black boxes and other devices apparently salvaged from the plane. A rebel military commander initially said he was considering what to do with them, while another rebel leader, Aleksandr Borodai, contradicting his colleague, said the rebels had no black boxes or any other devices.

The Ukrainian interior ministry added to fears of a cover-up when it released video purportedly taken by police showing a truck carrying a Buk missile launcher with one of its four missiles apparently missing, rolling towards the Russian border at dawn . The video could not be independently verified.

Other material on rebel social media sites was being deleted, including pictures showing the alleged capture of Buk missile vehicles by rebels from a Ukrainian air base last month.

Perhaps the most troublesome question that needs to be answered is did Russian technicians assist the rebels in launching the missile?

Defence analysts with Russian expertise shared Power’s scepticism that Russia-backed rebel groups would have had the expertise to fire the missile and suggested it was more likely to have been Russian ground troops who specialise in air defence, seconded to help the rebels.

At the Pentagon, officials said a motive for the operation had yet to be determined, as had the chain of command. One said it would be “surprising to us” if pro-Russia separatists were able to operate the Buk missile battery without Russian technical support. The Ukrainian military confirmed it has Buk batteries but said it had none in the area the missile was fired.

It would seem unlikely that militiamen would be capable of handling a sophisticated surface to air missile system by themselves. If it’s true that Russian technicians aided the separatists, then Russia bears equal responsibility for this war crime — something that would ratchet up the tension between Moscow and the US and could lead to crippling sanctions against Russia.

Is Putin able to control the separatists? He is still supplying them with arms, but it’s unclear how many local commanders are actually taking orders from Moscow. Whatever influence he possesses, he better use it now. If the shootdown did anything to the war, it placed the west even more firmly on Ukraine’s side and isolated Russia even more than they were. The prospect that the next round of sanctions may hit the already weakened Russian economy should galvanize Putin into forcing the rebels to the negotiating table.

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Forget About Sending Them Back: 65% of Illegal Kids Already Have Asylum

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

It’s funny how we have to find this stuff out from Congress and not the administration.

A House Judiciary Committee report states that 65% of illegal alien children who have entered the U.S. this year have already been given asylum — without appearing before a judge. Once granted asylum, the border jumper is eligible for all welfare programs — including Obamacare.

Now, before you burst a blood vessel, you can relax. According to the Department of Homeland Security, 70% of asylum cases contain “proven or possible fraud.”

What a trusting government we have! Don’t you wish the IRS worked that way?

Byron York:

Now, new numbers released by the House Judiciary Committee show the “vast majority” of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum are granted it before even appearing before a judge. “Information from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that shows 65 percent of unaccompanied alien minors’ asylum applications have been immediately approved by asylum officers in Fiscal Year 2014,” says a Judiciary Committee statement. “And this is just the first bite of the apple. Many more cases can be approved later. Where an asylum officer does not approve the application, it is then referred to an immigration judge where the applicant can try again. If that fails, they can continue to appeal their case.”
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The Judiciary Committee says asylum approval rates have “increased dramatically” under the Obama administration. Overall, according to the committee statement, “Approval rates by asylum officers have increased from 28 percent in 2007 to 46 percent in 2013 and approval rates by immigration judges in affirmative cases have increased from 51 percent in 2007 to 74 percent in 2013.” And that does not count appeals.

“Once individuals are granted asylum,” the report notes, “they have access to all major federal welfare programs.”

Complicating matters, according to the committee, is the rate of fraud in asylum cases. The committee says “an internal Department of Homeland Security report” has shown that “at least 70 percent of asylum cases contain proven or possible fraud.”

“President Obama’s refusal to crack down on rampant asylum fraud is one of the many reasons we are witnessing a surge of Central Americans seeking to enter the U.S. illegally at the border,” said the Judiciary Committee chairman, Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, in a statement. “New data showing that the vast majority of Central Americans’ asylum claims are immediately approved will only worsen the situation along our southern border by encouraging more to come and take advantage of the situation.”

Gee. Ya think? I guess the “my dog ate my proof that I deserve asylum” excuse is working pretty well.

I am perplexed. Why not just announce to the entire world that you can come to America and be granted asylum if you’re from anywhere there is violence, drugs, gangs, or bad weather? Why talk tough about sending these kids home and then turn around and grant them what amounts to blanket asylum?

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The Obama Administration Will Seize Land from the Lakota Sioux if They aren’t Stopped

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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The federal government is planning to take the South Unit of  Badlands National Park and turn it over to the Department of the Interior,  to have it administered by the National Park Service. The NPS was in the news last year when they barricaded our national monuments and prevented elderly WWII veterans from seeing their memorial during the sequester. The NPS put up barriers along scenic look-outs so drivers couldn’t see Mt. Rushmore, and closed park entrances across the country. These brown-shirted federal agents now intend to take and control thousands of acres of Sioux land.

This intended seizure by the Obama administration reads like something out of the history books, and not the part that makes you want to wave the American flag:

“Thousands of tribe members will be affected by the land-grab. Some residents will be forced to relocate, and many more others will lose their income from grazing allotments on the land – a result which will ultimately force any remaining independent cattle ranchers out of business. In addition to all this, Tribal members will lose their share [of] income from entrance fees collected at the adjacent North Gate fees of the Badlands National Park – a punitive measure which will further compound the existing economic depression on a reservation where the average annual income is around $8,000 per year.”

The Black Hills once belonged to the Lakota Sioux in a treaty signed by the U.S. government. These sacred lands were taken from them in 1877 after gold was discovered there by an expedition led by General George Custer. This shameful act by the U.S. government can be somewhat explained away by the history of the times, when a fierce war raged between Native Americans and new settlers and bigotry about the rights of non-whites ruled the day.

What excuse does the Obama administration have for their actions today? And if Congress passes this bill, what excuse will they give to the voters who put them in office?

Here’s a petition. Here’s your representative. The Obama administration shouldn’t get away with acting like a 19th century thug and the U.S. Congress shouldn’t allow it to. The Lakota Sioux deserve better. We all do.

Photograph courtesy of Cumulo Nimbus

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White House Extends Iran Nuclear Deadline by Four Months

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

With two days to go until the July 20 deadline for a final nuclear agreement with Iran, the Obama administration announced Friday evening that it would extend the deadline by four months.

In a lengthy statement from the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest lauded Washington’s “unprecedented diplomatic effort with the Islamic Republic of Iran to achieve a comprehensive solution to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

“As verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has met its commitments under that initial accord – ceasing its enrichment of uranium to higher levels; taking steps to neutralize its more dangerous stockpile of nuclear material; refraining from installing more centrifuges, including its more advanced models; halting advances at its Arak reactor; and submitting to broader and far more frequent inspections of its facilities,” Earnest said. “Meanwhile, the relief provided by the P5+1 and EU has been limited, and the overwhelming majority of our sanctions remain in force.”

The White House insisted that while “our negotiators have made progress in some areas and, while real gaps remain, there is a credible prospect for a comprehensive deal.”

“Because of this – and because Iran has upheld its commitments under the initial accord – we agreed today to extend the Joint Plan of Action to November 24. This extension will allow us to continue the negotiations while ensuring that the progress of Iran’s nuclear program remains halted during the negotiations,” Earnest said.

He added “throughout this process, we have consulted regularly with Congress, whose efforts have been critical in supporting this diplomatic opportunity” — but lawmakers have regularly complained throughout the six-month period that they haven’t been included in the process.

“We have also engaged closely with our regional partners and allies – particularly Israel and our Gulf partners – given our shared interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and the United States’ enduring commitment to regional security,” Earnest said.

“We will not accept anything less than a comprehensive resolution that meets our objectives, which is why it is necessary for negotiations to continue.”

On Wednesday, the White House wouldn’t say if it would extend the talks, but was paving the way by waxing about Iran’s “surprisingly favorable” record.

Secretary of State John Kerry insisted tonight “this effort remains as intense as it is important, and we have come a long way in a short period of time.”

“Less than a year ago, President Obama and Iranian President Rouhani spoke for the first time to try to usher in a new diplomatic moment, and I held the first bilateral meeting between a Secretary of State and an Iranian Foreign Minister in more than three decades,” he said in a statement. “Since that time, we’ve been intensely engaged in a constant and comprehensive effort – the best chance we’ve ever had to resolve this issue peacefully.”

The six-month interim agreement, Kerry claimed, “has been a clear success.”

“Today, we have a draft text that covers the main issues, but there are still a number of brackets and blank spaces in that text,” he said, adding that some of those gaps are concentrated around “issues such as enrichment capacity at the Natanz enrichment facility.”

“Diplomacy takes time, and persistence is needed to determine whether we can achieve our objectives peacefully. To turn our back prematurely on diplomatic efforts when significant progress has been made would deny ourselves the ability to achieve our objectives peacefully, and to maintain the international unity that we have built. While we’ve made clear that no deal is better than a bad deal, the very real prospect of reaching a good agreement that achieves our objectives necessitates that we seek more time,” Kerry continued.

The Nov. 24 date was picked because it’s exactly one year since the initial agreement was finalized in Geneva. Kerry argued the extension is “warranted by the progress we’ve made and the path forward we can envision.”

The U.S. “will continue to suspend the sanctions we agreed to under the JPOA and will allow Iran access to $2.8 billion dollars of its restricted assets, the four-month prorated amount of the original JPOA commitment,” he said.

Kerry was quickly booked on all five Sunday morning news shows.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday that Tehran would be open to an extension “if it becomes clear that the opposite side respects the Iranian nation’s rights and viewpoints within the framework of international law.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on the floor of the upper chamber this week noted the “same obfuscation, same Iranian tactics we’ve seen for decades … that’s not an endgame – that’s a nonstarter.”

Menendez stressed that the only acceptable agreement is one that would set off alarm bells if Iran tries to attain nuclear weapons capability over the next 20 to 30 years.

Along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Menendez circulated a letter to President Obama around the Senate this week to gather signatures on the need for a tough stance against Tehran, touching off a lobbying battle of sorts with pro-Iranian groups.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said tonight the extension sounds like anything but the “progress” claimed by Kerry.

“It looks like the Iranians won extra time with a good cop-bad cop routine, backing off the Supreme Leader’s absurd claim for 190,000 centrifuges,” Royce said. “This tells me Iran, with centrifuges spinning, thinks time is on its side. Increased economic pressure would strengthen our hand, but the administration opposes it. It should welcome congressional efforts to ratchet up the economic pressure on Iran.”

“Any deal should be graded on its technical merits, not in the hopes of a partnership with Iran on Iraq and other issues, as some have argued,” the chairman added. “Iran’s terrorist-backing activities, including illicitly shipping missiles to Hamas, demands even higher standards of verification for any deal. Everything about Iran’s nuclear program signals ‘nuclear bomb,’ yesterday, today, and I worry tomorrow.”

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Rob Portman Didn’t Know His PAC Paid for Race-Baiting Anti-McDaniel Ads

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Ohio Senator Rob Portman told The Plain Dealer he didn’t know that money his PAC donated to Mississippi Conservatives PAC would be used for ads that portrayed the Tea Party and Senate candidate Chris McDaniel as racists. Portman said he had “absolutely no discretion” over how his donation would ultimately be used. “I believe using race as a political issue, as these ads apparently did, was wrong.”

“United States senators contributed money for ads to call Chris McDaniel a racist and to motivate black Democrats through hatred to come out and to vote for Thad Cochran,” Mitch Tyner, an attorney for McDaniel, told reporters this week. McDaniel ran against incumbent Senator Thad Cochran in the Mississippi primary, losing by just over 7000 votes in the runoff election.

Portman’s PAC, Promoting Our Republican Team, gave $25,000 to Mississippi Conservatives, a group associated with Haley Barbour that not only paid for racially charged anti-McDaniel ads, but also funded another group, All Citizens for Mississippi, that ran ads in the black community saying that McDaniel wanted to suppress the black vote and cut food stamps. A radio ad from All Citizens for Mississippi warned voters that, among other things, “A victory for Chris McDaniel is a loss for the reputation of this state, for race relations between blacks and whites and other ethnic groups.”

“As NRSC finance chair, I am working to secure a Republican majority in the fall, and I support Sen. Cochran’s re-election,” Portman said in a statement to The Plain Dealer. “My PAC donated money to a Mississippi PAC also supporting his election, but I had absolutely no discretion over how that money would ultimately be spent. In fact, I believe using race as a political issue, as these ads apparently did, was wrong. All who believe our country is heading in the wrong direction under the failed policies of the Obama Administration — including Tea Party activists and more moderate Republicans — must come together to take back the Senate and put our country back on the right track.”

Tom Zawistowski, executive director of the Portage County TEA Party and recent past president of the statewide Ohio Liberty Coalition, reacted angrily to Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s claims that he had no idea that the $25,000 from his PAC would be used by the Thad Cochran campaign to air racially charged attacks on the Tea Party.

“Isn’t it convenient Senator Portman, that you had nothing to say about the horrific, disgusting, totally dishonest racist ads run by Thad Cochran’s campaign until you were identified as having provide funding for this despicable human being Thad Cochran?” Zawistowski said in a press release. “Where was your moral outrage the days after the ads became public?”

Zawistowski said the Tea Party is made up of hard working, God-fearing, patriotic Americans who do not hate blacks or any other minority, yet Portman “did nothing to defend those TEA Party members from these vicious attacks” by someone he supported financially.

He asked why Portman is asking Tea Party activists to support a Republican who votes with Democrats most of the time and “who told black voters that the TEA Party is affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan,” saying that they want to deny blacks the right to vote. “Why in hell should we support someone like Thad Cochran after what he did?” Zawistowski asked.

Zawistowski said that Portman, a Republican who is considering a presidential run, should renounce his support of Thad Cochran immediately and demand that he drop out of the race. “You must demand that your fellow senators who supported Cochran do the same. Not to do so would show that you in fact condone the actions of the Cochran campaign and that you do not respect either the TEA Party movement or black voters.”  He said that if Portman does not “choose the moral path at this critical time … we will do everything in our power to make sure that Thad Cochran and every RINO like him loses in the fall.”

Senators Mitch McConnell ($50,000), John Cornyn ($50,000), Bob Corker ($25,000), and Roy Blunt ($5,000) also contributed to the Mississippi Conservatives PAC that supported Cochran. [UPDATE: Just to clarify, the candidates themselves did not donate directly to Cochran's campaign. Instead, their leadership PACs donated to the pro-Cochran Mississippi Conservatives PAC.]

Mississippi Conservatives raised $2.9 million altogether — $1.7 million was spent on opposing McDaniel. A mere $122,904 was used to promote the incumbent Cochran. This week’s FEC filings show that Mississippi Conservatives, the group to which Portman and other Republicans contributed, was the sole funding source for All Citizens for Mississippi.

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Obama Bringing Central American Leaders to White House to Talk Immigration

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama has not gone down to see the influx of illegal immigration overwhelming the southern border, yet will host Central American leaders at the White House next week to talk immigration reform.

“President Obama will welcome President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala, President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras, and President Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador to the White House on July 25,” press secretary Josh Earnest announced in a statement late Friday afternoon.

“The four leaders and Vice President Biden will discuss how to reinforce our ongoing collaboration to stem the flow of undocumented migrants from Central America to Mexico and the United States. This will include discussion of how the United States and Central American governments are cooperating to promote safe, legal, and orderly migration between our countries in a spirit of shared responsibility, including with respect to the return of family units, which began this week for all three countries,” the statement continued.

“The leaders will also discuss how we can work together with other members of the international community to foster development, economic growth, and security in the region and address the factors that are causing Central American citizens to undertake the dangerous journey to the United States. The Vice President will also host a lunch for the three leaders prior to the meeting with President Obama to continue the dialogue he began on this topic in his June 20 meeting in Guatemala City.”

Obama has requested $3.7 billion in emergency appropriations to address the immigration influx, many of them unaccompanied minors, but will not entertain bipartisan proposals to reform a 2008 law that is keeping Central American migrants in the country for an extended period of time for amnesty proceedings — until Congress passes his funding.

“Last year President Obama suspended the policy of immediately returning of illegal immigrants caught at the border. Consequently, thousands of families in Central America have taken the President’s unilateral decision as an open invitation to send their children to the United States. This is unacceptable and has created a massive crisis. Our nation has immigration laws and those laws MUST be enforced. We need to treat these children humanely, but they should then be sent back to their country of origin as soon as possible,” Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R) said Thursday.

“I am also adamantly against the President’s recent request for $3.7 billion emergency funding for the border. His plan focuses on treating the symptoms and not the disease. I am staying in constant contact with Republican leaders as we craft a plan to secure the border and stop the free flow of illegal immigrants into Texas.”

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Psaki: ISIS ‘Seeks to Distort Religion Solely to Obtain Power Through Violence’

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

State Department spokeswoman said the stoning of a woman by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL) was the result of a movement that “seeks to distort religion solely to obtain power through violence.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported today that a woman in her 30s in Tabaqa became the first victim of the Islamic State’s judiciary system.

“The Islamic state carried out its first sentence of death by stoning against a woman in Tabaqa, accusing her of adultery,” said the human rights group.

“The situation is unbearable. Stoning is the worst punishment history has known. A quick death is more merciful,” Raqqa activist Salameh, using a pseudonym, told AFP via the Internet. “The woman’s family did not know the sentence was going to be carried out at this time.”

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s barbaric stoning of the woman yesterday in Tabaqa — Tabaqa, Syria,” Psaki told reporters at the start of the daily briefing.

“This is the latest example of ISIL’s infamous atrocities against the Syrian people. ISIL is a vicious terrorist organization with a proven agenda of grotesque violence and repression, which runs against the Syrian revolution’s goals of freedom and dignity,” Psaki continued.

“We’ve been clear that all those who commit crimes against the Syrian people must be held accountable. The United States regularly reports on violence against women and girls around the world and supports efforts to prevent and respond to such violence, including advancing accountability by working with law enforcement, supporting civil societies efforts, and engaging with critical stake holders such as men and boys,” she said.

“We raise these issues with world leaders and an international force such as the United Nations to spur collective action against such — these egregious crimes.”

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Power at UN: Russia Recently Transferred Tanks and Artillery to Separatists

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

UN Ambassador Samantha Power said at the United Nations today that the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 came on the heels of discoveries by Ukrainian officials of Russian arms transfers to separatists.

Power said three infants were among the 283 passengers killed.

“Of the operational SAM systems located near the border, only the SA-11, SA-20, and SA-22 SAM systems are capable of hitting an aircraft at this flight’s altitude of 33,000 feet. We can rule out shorter-range SAMs known to be in separatist hands, including MANPADS, SA-8 and SA-13 systems, which are not capable of hitting an aircraft at this altitude,” she said. “Early Thursday, an SA-11 SAM system was reported near Snizhne by a Western reporter and separatists were spotted hours before the incident with an SA-11 system at a location close to the site where the plane came down.”

“Separatists initially claimed responsibility for shooting down a military transport plane and posted videos that are now being connected to the Malaysian airlines crash. Separatist leaders also boasted on social media about shooting down a plane, but later deleted these messages. Because of the technical complexity of the SA-11, it is unlikely that the separatists could effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel. Thus, we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel in operating the systems.”

Power said the Ukrainian government does also possess the Buk missile system, or SA-11, but “we are not aware of any Ukrainian SAM systems in the area of the shoot-down.”

“And, more importantly, since the beginning of this crisis, Ukrainian air defenses have not fired a single missile, despite several alleged violations of their airspace by Russian aircraft,” he said.

However, Russian separatists shot down a Ukrainian transport plane, carrying 40 paratroopers and nine crew, on June 13. On June 24 separatists downed a Ukrainian helicopter, killing all nine on board.

Separatists claimed credit for the downing of a Ukrainian military cargo plane on July 14 and a Ukrainian fighter jet two days later.

“If indeed Russian-backed separatists were behind this attack on a civilian airliner, they and their backers would have good reason to cover up evidence of their crime. Thus, it is extremely important that an investigation be commenced immediately,” Power said.

She stressed that “in the last few weeks, Russia has increased the number of tanks, armored vehicles, and rocket launchers in southwest Russia. More advanced air defense systems have also arrived.”

“Moscow has recently transferred Soviet-era tanks and artillery to the separatists and several military vehicles crossed the border,” Power continued. “After recapturing several Ukrainian cities last weekend, Ukrainian officials discovered caches of weapons long associated with Russia stockpiles, including MANPADS, mines, grenades, MREs, vehicles, and a pontoon bridge.”

“Ukrainian forces have discovered large amounts of other Russian-provided military equipment, including accompanying documentation verifying the Russian origin, in the areas that they have liberated from separatists in recent days. Recruiting efforts for separatist fighters are expanding inside Russia and separatists have openly said that they are looking for volunteers with experience operating heavy weapons such as tanks and air defenses. Russia has allowed officials from the ‘Donetsk Peoples’ Republic’ to establish a recruiting office in Moscow.”

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Michelle Obama Wants Your Shopping Cart to Nag You

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

You’ve got to be kidding me. FLOTUS wants to turn grocery stores into little food police states.

While the feds’ plan deals mostly with the 47 million Americans who participate in the government’s food stamp program, it would indirectly affect all consumers.

According to FreeBeacon.com, the federal busybodies want to provide food-stamp shoppers with “incentives” for making healthy food choices – such as discounts or free movie tickets – and even talking shopping carts that will notify them when they’ve selected enough healthy items.

RELATED: School board slams Michelle O’s lunch rules: ‘Nanny state interference’

The high-tech carts – which would cost every grocery store about $30,000 to provide – would be physically divided and color coded to help consumers select approved food items. It would also “have a system installed so that when the shopping cart reaches its healthy ‘threshold’ it would congratulate the customer,” FreeBeacon.com reports.

In case that’s not creepy enough, the feds want grocery store employees to serve as government “ambassadors” who can “redirect” food stampers toward healthy items by explaining the various incentive programs and nutritional information.

Does Michelle Obama even believe that people have the right to choose to do things that she disapproves? Can she just stick to bossing her own man and stay out of everyone else’s business? Is that too much to ask?

Do the feds even realize who works in the checkout lines at grocery stores? It’s mostly high school and college kids. The government would be deputizing them to pester the rest of us over what we’re eating.

While the feds could easily ensure healthier purchases for food stamp participants by clamping down on which products are available to them, the government busybodies want consumers to think they’re making these choices all by themselves.

They’re not going to do that. That would be racist or something. So they’ll nag everyone and irritate everyone equally.

I’ll just lay this marker out right now. Do not turn my Trader Joe’s into a pest zone. Ditto for my Whole Foods and my HEB.

Just don’t do it.

I’ll start ordering more junk food online and sell it on the black market just to be spiteful.

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Pentagon Doesn’t ‘Have a Working Theory’ on Culprits Behind MH17 Takedown

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters today that more than 24 hours after a passenger airliner was downed with a Russian-made surface-to-air missile they don’t have any operational theories on what was behind the takedown.

“I don’t think we have a working theory at this point… I mean, this just happened yesterday,” Kirby said. “There’s teams of investigators now trying to get to the site and pore through this. And I mean, we just have to let them do their job.”

It was one of the few press briefings on the Malaysia Airlines attack at which questions were taken, as press secretary Josh Earnest’s daily briefing was canceled by the White House around noontime.

“We see strong evidence that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was hit by a surface-to-air missile at an altitude of about 33,000 feet and that the missile was launched from a location near the border that is controlled by Russian separatists. This incident obviously occurred in the context of a conflict fueled by Russian support for Ukrainian — or for these Russian separatists and that support has — and that support has included arms, materiel and training,” Kirby said.

“As we investigate who did this and why, this terrible tragedy underscores for Russia to take immediate and concrete steps to deescalate the crisis in Ukraine and support the Ukrainian government’s plan for a ceasefire and peace settlement.”

Kirby said they see see “no hint that Russian support for the separatists has ceased.”

“In fact, we believe that Russia continues to provide them with heavy weapons and other military equipment, financing as well. And they continue to allow these Russian fighters to enter Ukraine freely,” he said. “There have been — as you know, we’ve acknowledged that some tanks, some personnel vehicles have — have made their way across the border. It is a — it has been a steady, concerted campaign by Russia’s military to continue to support and resource, advise these separatists.”

Kirby said they didn’t have any specific information corroborating reports that a Buk system was seen being hustled back across the Russian border missing two missiles.

“The missile itself, the SA-11, which is the one we believe was used to down Flight 17, is a sophisticated piece of technology,” the admiral said. “And it is — it — it strains credulity to think that — that it could be used by separatists without at least some measure of Russian support and technical assistance.”

“I don’t have an indication now that a system was brought over. And we don’t exactly know who is responsible for firing that missile, or with — or with what assistance. What I’m saying is that that system is fairly sophisticated,” Kirby added. “…Nobody is suggesting that the Russian military advice and assistance has not somehow crossed the border. It is just unclear exactly how much and when and who. That is what the investigators are going to look at and that is what we need to let them do.”

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel conferred by phone today with Malaysian Minister of Defense Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, whose step-grandmother was among the passengers killed.

Kirby said they’re still keeping an eye on “roughly still about 10,000 to 12,000″ Russian troops at the Ukrainian border.

“And it fluctuates a little bit from week to week, but the point is that it has been a — over time, a steady increase of these combined arms tactical battalions across the border on the Russian side, but to the southeast of Ukraine. And they are close to the border. In many cases, closer than those forces who were more aligned right on the east. If you remember we had, you know, tens of thousands that were along the eastern border with Ukraine, but not as close as these units appear to be,” he said.

“All they’re doing is further escalating tension. It’s difficult to know what the intent is. That’s a question you should ask the Russian ministry of defense. But they’re there. They’re growing in size week by week, and they continue to just do nothing more than escalate the tension.”

He said various government agencies would likely be participating in an international investigation of the takedown, but “I have no expectation right now that there’ll be a DOD representative on this team.”

Kirby said the Pentagon continue to review Ukrainian requests for military assistance.

So far, they’ve received MREs, radios, body armor, individual first aid kits, sleeping mats, and uniform items to battle Putin’s army and militia.

“Over the next few months, additional items will start moving through the procurement process to include night vision goggles, thermal imagers, Kevlar helmets, explosive ordnance disposal robots, and some additional radios. And there’s been some other equipment given to Ukraine’s border guards — barbed wire, alarm systems, excavators, trucks, generators, that kind of thing — communications gear,” he said. “…I think I’ve said it before that they have requested a lot of material, some of it lethal in nature. But the focus has been and remains on the non-lethal side of the assistance.”

When asked if they were withholding lethal aid to avoid stoking tensions with Russia, Kirby replied, “Look, I mean, I’m not going to get into hypothetical here. The concern is that the territorial integrity of Ukraine has been violated and continues to be violated by its neighbor in Russia and that needs to stop.”

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Rand Paul’s Little Problem, Which Is Actually A Very Big Problem, Resurfaces

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The Pauls have a longstanding strain of anti-Semitism in their libertarian politics. Sen. Paul has tried his hand at scrubbing some of that as he gears up for a presidential run. The WFB has the details.

Sen. Rand Paul’s (R., Ky.) office deleted a “student reading list” that promoted anti-Israel books from his official Senate website this week, shortly after the Weekly Standard published an article last Friday highlighting the controversial recommendations.

Paul’s Senate website has advertised the list of 17 books as “suggested titles for a student, or anyone else interested in learning more about freedom and the role of government in a free society” under a “students” section since 2011.

While most of the recommended titles focus on economic policy, the list also included books that claim the “Israel Lobby” controls U.S. foreign policy, call for the United States to cut ties with the Jewish state, and argue that support for Israel is anti-Christian and anti-American.

One of the recommended titles, Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency by Patrick Buchanan, has been criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for containing “anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

In the book, Buchanan accused “the Beltway Likud” of plotting the war in Iraq “long before 9/11.”

“President Bush no longer sits at the head of the negotiating table, but directly behind [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon,” Buchanan wrote.

Buchanan also compared former Bush adviser Richard Perle with “Fagin,” the villainous, anti-Semitic caricature in Oliver Twist.

And so forth.

I’d like to like Rand Paul, for his small government, libertarian principles. I share those, and the fact is, we will go bankrupt as a country if we do not get spending under control. But Paul’s foreign policy instincts have too much of the far left, Dennis Kucinich, blame-America-and-Israel-first detritus to make him a serious commander in chief. This reading list is a symptom of that. It suggests that Paul sees Israel as the prime problem in the Middle East, and Jews the prime problem in the world.

If that’s what he thinks, there isn’t a whole lot left to talk about.

We already have a president whose tendency is to blame America for the world’s ills and does not step up forcefully to defend American citizens or US global interests. That’s not working out very well at all. Today, Obama put himself even to the left of his own Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power. She spoke far more clearly on the Ukraine crisis today than he did. She called Putin out. Obama backed Putin’s call for a cease-fire and delayed any action he would have to take by hiding behind an investigation that stands no chance of being seriously and fairly conducted, not with Putin’s proxies in control of the crash site.

The best name you can put on that is “incoherence.” It’s also weakness, and it tells our enemies that we have no plan and no strong leadership. Commit a heinous act, give Obama a way to escape having to deal with it, and he’ll take it.

Eight years of that look like they’ll leave America economically and diplomatically weakened and more isolated than before, and Putin and his axis and every other bad actor out there emboldened.

It’s hard to see Rand Paul being an antidote to any of that.

Eight years of Obama stand to leave Israel also more isolated, as Islamists take over more territory around it.

It’s impossible to see Rand Paul being an antidote to that.

 

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