You’ve just been chastised for nearly 25 minutes by Monica Lewinsky — chastised for reading and writing on the internet about Ms. Lewinsky’s “intimate moments” with former President Bill Clinton nearly two decades ago. [See Lewinsky speech video on the next page.]
You see the genuinely immoral aspect of her adulterous affair with Hillary Clinton’s husband cannot be found in anything she did — unless loving too much is a crime — nor in anything he did, because she imputes no impropriety to him. Rather, here’s how she broaches the topic…
Fresh out of college, a 22-year-old intern in the White House, and more than averagely romantic, I fell in love with my boss, in a 22-year-old sort of way. It happens. But my boss was the President of the United States. That probably happens less often.
This, of course, is calculated to draw laughter and sympathy. But Lewinsky is quick to add a note of contrition — not a whole note, but perhaps a quarter note.
Now, I deeply regret it for many reasons, not the least of which is because people were hurt, and that’s never OK.
Observe the skillful use of the passive voice (“people were hurt“) and the stern consequences she accepts (“that’s never ok“).
But before she can rend her garment and fling dust on her head, she rapidly moves on to the real breach of morality in this saga.
No, it’s not that she was diddled by a man old enough to be her father. It’s not that the imbalance of power between them was perhaps the greatest since Mohammed took 9-year-old Aisha as his wife, making it prima facie sexual harassment in every corporation in the land.
You see, she wasn’t sexually harassed, she was in love. Her two-year affair with 15-year-old Chelsea Clinton’s Daddy was what Lewinsky calls “my everything.” That was “the golden bubble part for me,” Lewinsky said. “The nice part.”
The nasty part was that it became public — public with a vengeance.
So, nearly 20 years after she and the president jeopardized national security by conducting a clandestine sexual relationship in the White House, making the commander in chief vulnerable to blackmail, it’s time for the perpetrators to be called out — starting with Matt Drudge and you.
Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one.
She goes on to recount her depression and suicidal thoughts, and falls just short of launching a crusade to “Save the Love-Struck Presidential Interns from Internet Shaming.”
For just 73 cents a day — that’s less than a cup of coffee — you can rescue a “more than averagely romantic” young woman from the savagery of social media slut-shaming and help her to live a quiet life of secret trysts with leader of the free world.
Personally, after watching Monica Lewinsky’s entire speech, I’m as chastened as she was chaste.
[See Lewinsky speech video on the next page.]
The State Department is lauding Cuba for sending resources to help fight Ebola in West Africa, with spokeswoman Marie Harf not ruling out further cooperation with the communist island in the future.
“Cuba, a country of just 11 million people, has sent 165 health professionals and it plans to send nearly 300 more,” Kerry said in Washington on Friday while noting “nations large and small stepping up in impressive ways to make a contribution on the front lines.”
Granma reported that Raul Castro said today Cuba ”is ready to work shoulder to shoulder with all nations, including the United States” to stop the spread of Ebola “and that urgently needed is the will to integrate, organize and plan, as well as articulate efforts – not only for assistance and treatment, but for prevention and strict adherence to medical protocols, as well.”
Today, Harf was asked if the U.S. welcomes Castro’s remarks.
“Well, you heard Secretary Kerry last Friday in his comments about Ebola recognize that Cuba dispatched hundreds of health care workers to the region as part of the U.N. mission for the emergency response here and said that this is a significant contribution to the overall international response,” she said.
“We have recognized and appreciate this contribution, as we do from other countries, as well. But the fact that such a small country is providing so many resources — more than many other countries, quite frankly — is a significant contribution.”
Harf said she “saw some of those comments,” but doesn’t have “more analysis of how we might have discussions with them in the future”
“You know we do have discussions with them from time to time on certain issues, but I don’t have anything to preview for you,” she said.
“In recognizing what they’ve done, that doesn’t seem the same thing as saying you’re willing to cooperate?” a reporter asked.
“I’m not saying we’re not,” Harf replied. “I’m just saying I don’t have any more for you on those comments, and I can check with our folks and see if we have more to say tomorrow.”
She added that Cuba is “absolutely” helping by “pulling their weight.”
“The secretary very publicly and openly said that we thought this is a significant contribution by the Cubans… And I would of course welcome additional support and resources and contributions from the Cubans. The question, I think, was about whether we will work together, and I just don’t know the facts. But, of course, we would welcome them doing more, absolutely.”
Former vice president turned unofficial environmental czar Al Gore pitched climate control to a packed house at Dreamforce 2014 with some 150,000 registrants and 5 million online via Salesforce Live. But what caught my eye most wasn’t what Gore said (as we’ve all heard these alarming stats before), it was the barrage of disparaging comments I received online after posting highlights from his speech (read on for those).
Wows Some, Nauseates Others
Nearly all the replies on Twitter were aimed at giving Gore a new bunghole. Really. Plenty pockmark Gore carte blanche and rubberstamp him as a political-has-been, fraud and profiteer. Here are screen captures of these digs (I omitted any with four-letter unmentionables:
Just the mere mention of Gore’s name either wows those who hang on his every word as gospel or nauseates others who would rather eat a dirt sandwich then sit through his lecture. There seems to be no middle ground either. Some attendees were psychologically pumped by his seemingly vast knowledge of our eroding ozone layer noticeable by their cheers, applause and standing ovation.
One slide Gore presented, interestingly enough, was dated two days before his keynote on October 13, 2014, from the U.S. Department of Defense 2014 Climate Change Roadmap:
“Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty and conflict.”
Another slide featured insight from Jason Box, a Lead Researcher with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. Yet another covered the 10 cities at risk from sea level rise in 2070 (which most of us won’t be around to dispute): Calcutta, Mumbai, Dhaka, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai, Rangoon, Miami, and Haiphong.
Another shared this less-known insight:
“In 2014 the ice sheet is precisely 5.6 percent darker, producing additional absorption of energy equivalent to roughly twice the US annual electricity consumption.”
Gore spent a good 20 minutes on the nuances of every monster storm of the last decade. One of the proof points environmentalists offer while making their case is the increased frequency of colossal storms and single out global warming as the culprit.
Oops. He Did It Again.
Gore ramped up the wattage of his speech by bringing legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young on stage. Young was already at Dreamforce stumping his new digital-download music service and dedicated high-quality music player, Pono (I tried it out and easily give it two thumbs up).
Yet Gore couldn’t quite get to his end game on the evil-ways-we’re-polluting-our-planet-diatribe on fact-based evidence alone. He relied on mammoth monitors displaying a serene image of Earth from space and a few dry jokes. One poked fun at former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in reference to dissing anyone who talks about space colonies. His next zinger fell sideways yet was as expected as Hillary’s pantsuit jests: his “election win” that lost.
How Did Gore Fare?
I give Gore’s a C- on his controversial climate research, a D on his lengthy delivery and need to add A-list glitter with a legendary musician yet still have one overriding question: “Shouldn’t you let that loss go already?” That was 14 years, one separation, one girlfriend, two presidents and four terms ago.
The Department of Homeland Security will begin early next year a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program to “expedite family reunification for certain eligible Haitian family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents of the U.S. and to promote safe, legal and orderly migration from Haiti to the United States.”
The program will allow those already approved under family-based immigrant visa petitions to come to the U.S. up to two years before their immigrant visa priority dates become current.
“Due to annual caps, more than 100,000 Haitians with approved family-based petitions remain on waiting lists of up to more than 12 years in Haiti. In creating a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program next year, the Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to reuniting Haitian families, saving lives, and accelerating Haiti’s recovery efforts following the devastating 2010 earthquake,” Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) said. “This will not only help ensure that migration from Haiti is safe and legal, but strengthen Haitian families and provide them with greater opportunities to succeed.”
Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas called “the rebuilding and development of a safe and economically strong Haiti is a priority for the United States.”
“The Haitian Family Reunification Parole program promotes a fundamental underlying goal of our immigration system – family reunification. It also supports broader U.S. goals for Haiti’s reconstruction and development by providing the opportunity for certain eligible Haitians to safely and legally immigrate sooner to the United States,” Mayorkas said in a statement Friday.
“The United States strongly discourages individuals in Haiti from undertaking life-threatening and illegal maritime journeys to the United States. Such individuals will not qualify for the HFRP program and if located at sea may be returned to Haiti.”
Secretary of State John Kerry met earlier this month with Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe. “The government has worked hard and we have worked hard and the international community has worked hard to make a difference to the lives of the people of Haiti,” Kerry said.
Lamothe said Haiti “has tremendous challenges ahead of it,” but is recovering from the 2010 earthquake that took 250,000 lives and caused $14 billion in damages.
“The country is progressing very much, and that’s thanks very much to the U.S. support of Haiti’s growth, Haiti’s progress. We have a thriving industrial park in the northern part of Haiti,” the prime minister said.
DHS said legal authority for the reunification program “is provided under the Immigration and Nationality Act which authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to parole into the United States certain individuals, on a case-by-case basis, for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.”
“This is the same legal authority used to establish the Cuban Family Reunification Parole program in 2007.”
Hastings said it’s his “sincere hope” that the program “will be expanded, so that all Haitians with approved petitions may join their families in the United States as soon as possible.”
Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the 30-person Ebola strike team ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will likely begin training this week.
Kirby told Fox that the idea was developed out of discussions between Hagel and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.
“We have some unique capabilities in the United States military and our medical health professionals, and we wanted to be able to lend this capability to the government if needed, to civilian medical authorities if needed,” the press secretary said.
“They’re going to start their training probably this week. The training will take place for about a week long session, and then they’ll be on this 30 days prepare-to-deploy ready status where they could be ready to go within 72 hours. And we think we have some expertise that could be of help, again, only if needed and if required.”
The strike team would be limited to use within the United States. Kirby said there’s no significance to the fact that they’ll be training in Texas, where the first Ebola cases in the country occurred.
“It just so happens that that’s where the training, the U.S. Army training that they’re going to go through, that’s where it is. And the training that they’re going to be going through is really about Ebola protocols, to help them take the right precautions, to teach them how it wear the protective personal equipment, and to get them a little bit more up to speed on the latest on the virus,” he continued. “But that’s where the training really is, and that’s why it’s going to Texas. It has nothing to do with the issues in Dallas.”
Kirby told CNN none of the troops currently deployed in Liberia have contracted the Ebola virus.
“None of them have shown any symptoms. It’s going OK. And OK I mean that we’re on track to get those first emergency treatment units up. The first one will be done by the end of this month. The second one probably the first week of November. We’re building the training site,” he said.
“It’s going OK. But the weather and the infrastructure still a problem. I mean, it still rains much of the day and it just slows us down a little bit. But our troops are working really, really hard and they’re very proud of the contributions that they’re making.”
Kirby stressed that ”it’s still going to be quite a lift.”
“This disease is very, very deadly and it’s spreading down there, there’s no question about that. “
The World Health Organization has declared Nigeria “Ebola-free” after 42 days elapsed without a new case being diagnosed.
WHO announced that Senegal was Ebola-free on Friday.
Neither country experienced the kind of outbreak of the disease seen in other West African countries. But the reason for that has a lot to do with how they handled the crisis in the first few days after diagnosing the first patient.
In the case of Nigeria, the country immediately declared an emergency, and set out to identify all the people who had come in contact with the patient. The early detection of the disease, the swift emergency response, and a massive public education effort all combined to limit the spread of the virus to 20 people, eight of whom died.
“This is a spectacular success story that shows to the world that Ebola can be contained but we must be clear that we have only won a battle, the war will only end when West Africa is also declared free of Ebola.”
The outbreak there began when Patrick Sawyer, an American-Liberian citizen, was diagnosed with the illness in July.
Nigeria declared a national public health emergency and Mr Sawyer later died of the disease, followed by seven Nigerians.
These included Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, who diagnosed Mr Sawyer and is credited with helping to contain the outbreak at its source.
Dr Adadevoh’s son, Bankole Cardoso, told the BBC that because Mr Sawyer had been so quickly diagnosed, Nigeria was able to trace all those who could possibly have contracted the disease from him.
“That was probably the difference between us and our West African neighbours,” he said.
John Vertefeuille, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that Nigeria had taken the right steps to contain the outbreak.
“Nigeria acted quickly and early and on a large scale,” he told AFP news agency.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., authorities have released 43 people from quarantine when they failed to show symptoms of the disease after 21 days. All 43 had come in contact with the first Ebola patient, Thomas Duncan. Authorities say that 120 people who came in contact with the other two Ebola patients are still being monitored in Texas with dozens more in Ohio, and up to 800 more across the country who had flown on the plane taken by Amber Vinson, the third Ebola patient.
Vinson’s family is pushing back from the CDC’s contention that the nurse was told not to use public transportation, including flying in commercial aircraft, prior to her trip to Cleveland.
Health officials gave Texas nurse Amber Vinson permission to fly to Ohio and back even though she voiced concern about Ebola, her relatives said Sunday, adding that they have retained a high-profile attorney.
Their statement contradicted a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention account of what took place before the nurse was diagnosed with the virus.
CDC officials said last week that Vinson had been told to avoid public transportation, including commercial airlines, while monitoring herself for symptoms. CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said her trip to Ohio, which began before fellow nurse Nina Pham had been diagnosed with Ebola, violated that restriction. The agency has acknowledged approving Vinson’s return flight.
“In no way was Amber careless prior to or after her exposure to Mr. Thomas Eric Duncan,” the Ebola patient she treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Vinson’s family said Sunday in a statement detailing her interactions with health officials.
The family also said they have retained attorney Billy Martin, a veteran of numerous high-profile cases. He represented NFL star Michael Vick during his dogfighting case, actor Wesley Snipes during his tax case, the parents of federal intern Chandra Levy after her disappearance and the mother of former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky during the sex-and-perjury investigation of President Clinton.
Vinson’s family said that before the nurse flew to Cleveland on Oct. 10, she contacted the CDC through her work supervisor “and was fully cleared for travel.”
Say it isn’t so! The CDC tried to blame the victim for the agency’s own stupidity? I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that a government agency would lie to cover its own behind.
In a Politico poll concluded before the 3rd case of Ebola was diagnosed, just 22% of voters in swing states said they had a lot of confidence that the government could contain the disease while 33% said they didn’t. Those numbers may change as days pass and no more new cases of Ebola are diagnosed in the U.S. But the glaring, nearly incomprehensible missteps made by the government in their efforts to contain the virus in the first days of the crisis is a warning that in the months ahead, as the outbreak worsens in West Africa, the U.S. may again be challenged and found wanting in its response. No “czar,” no smooth assurances from health bureaucrats can mask the fundamental truth that we’re not ready to face an outbreak here.
With leaders in both chambers coming under increased pressure to call Congress back into session to address the Ebola crisis, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) today said he’s preparing to introduce legislation to put a temporary ban on new visas from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
That follows last week’s announcement by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) that he’s preparing a bill to restrict flights to and from Ebola-affected countries “until the virus is declared to be contained and no longer a threat.”
In a Friday letter, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) reached out to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), arguing that Congress can’t wait until after Election Day to reconvene.
“Without improvements to border control, our nation runs the risk of additional Ebola cases reaching our shores. This is simply unacceptable,” Vitter and Garrett wrote.
“The Obama administration has failed to recognize this public health threat.… The House and Senate must reconvene to direct the administration on what steps must be taken to protect the American people.”
There are no signs yet that Congress will be coming off the campaign trail to return to Washington, though, so Rubio is planning for a November unveiling of his legislation.
The ban would go into effect as soon as the bill is signed and would remain in effect until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have decided the outbreak in West Africa is contained.
If the disease spread in “significant levels” to another country, that would be added to the visa ban as well.
The bill will include an exemption for “individuals who are approved to come to the U.S. for training related to the Ebola outbreak.”
Dozens of Republicans and Democrats have come out in favor of a travel ban, though it’s clear that the extent of a ban and whether or not it extends to incoming flights, visas or both would be debated in both chambers.
“While Ebola’s deadly reach has proven to be a complex and unique international challenge, the many uncertainties surrounding this virus continue to threaten U.S. national security,” Rubio said in a statement. “Our biggest priority is ensuring that sufficient safeguards are in place to limit the spread of Ebola, contain it at the source, and protect Americans.”
“We must take any and all necessary precautions to contain this virus – and common sense restrictions on travel from countries now confronting this epidemic is an important step,” added Rubio. “The most effective way to combat this deadly virus is to address it at its source.”
Ross’ bill, the Contain Ebola and Stop the Epidemic (CEASE) Act, would “ban the arrival of any commercial aircraft from a country in which the Ebola virus disease has reached epidemic proportions as determined by the Director of the Center for Disease Control and to deny a visa to any individual whose travel itinerary includes a departure from such a country.”
“Now that two of our health care workers have contracted the virus I am putting my foot down. This legislation is a more serious approach to preventing Ebola from further infiltrating our homeland,” Ross said. “Airport security screening is a complete smoke and mirror approach to the virus and Americans aren’t buying it. I urge my colleagues to sign onto this legislation and hope Speaker Boehner will quickly call Congress back into session to debate my legislation.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Sunday on CNN that the administration’s assertion a travel ban would hamper relief flights is “very different from saying commercial airliners should fly day after day after day with hundreds of passengers connecting with thousands of passengers coming all throughout the country.”
“The arguments they’re giving don’t make sense,” Cruz said. “And what is unfortunate is watching the Obama administration treat this as yet another political issue rather than as a public health crisis; for the same reason, you’ve seen virtually no attention from the administration on the need to secure the southern border.”
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told MSNBC today that “there’s no ideology” in their Ebola strategy and signaled the administration’s resistance to calls for blocking travel from the hot zone.
“Frankly, the judgment of the professionals who know how to deal with these issues is that if you have a travel ban in place, it drives people underground. Instead of traveling through existing protocols that allows us to screen for Ebola, they seek to evade detection,” Rhodes said. “And, the fact of the matter is what we’ve been focused on, therefore, is screening. If people are trying to travel from West Africa into the United States, how can we screen them to make sure that they’re not posing a risk?”
“We believe that a travel ban could actually endanger people more by driving them underground and having people seeking to find ways into the United States that are outside the existing travel protocols.”
Rubio stressed that his bill banning the issuance of new visas “does not mean we will be completely cutting off the affected countries from the outside world.”
“We must continue to increase our assistance to those countries as they struggle to contain this outbreak,” the senator said. “That is, ultimately, the only way we will be able to stop this outbreak and keep Americans safe from this horrible disease.”
I can not wait until the day after the midterm elections when the 2016 presidential campaign “officially” begins. But in the meantime, our latest contest photo is an indication of the high-quality entertainment that awaits us on the campaign trail.
This photo and news appeared on October 17 in the Hollywood Reporter (so it must be true) with the headline:
Hillary Clinton Flying Monkey Signs Deface Brentwood Ahead of L.A. Fundraiser
Guerrilla street artist SABO, who made headlines with his Gwyneth Paltrow” Obama Drone” poster, has struck again — this time ahead of Hillary Clinton‘s upcoming Democratic fundraiser at Tavern restaurant in Brentwood. The Los Angeles artist early Friday hung signs depicting Wizard of Oz flying monkeys holding “Hillary 2016″ signs from traffic lights and pasted them on utility boxes near the San Vicente Boulevard restaurant. Although, as SABO told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday, one poster near a Whole Foods had been “violently” torn down.
“All these leftists, I’m tired of their s—,” SABO said via email.
There is nothing I can add to that report except reveal your contest mission which is to answer the following questions:
What is the flying monkey’s name?
What is the monkey saying?
What is the monkey thinking but afraid to say?
Extra credit: On the sign under “Hillary 2016,” add another pithy phrase.
The only rule for this contest is “be nice,” PLEASE be nice.
Now, here are the winners from our last photo caption contest which asked the question, “Is this Obama’s JV Team?”
The grand prize winner went to Chris Henderson for:
Never in the field of human conflict has so much been botched by so few endangering so many.
Here are the three runners- up.
Obama: “Just look at these water glasses. Did I not promise you the most transparent administration ever?”
Obama: Just because the secret service puts on a Kobe jersey doesn’t mean the sex is consensual.
And finally, Chris Henderson won again for:
Obama: “The buck never got here!”
Thanks to all who played along and thanks in advance to our loyal contest goers who will fly along and help the monkey become an influential opinion leader in the 2016 presidential campaign.
San Antonio Express-News reporter Peggy Fikac runs a story in which she attempts to tie Texas Republican governor nominee Greg Abbott to a little misstep made by a fellow Republican who is several states away.
The subject is state-level bans on interracial marriage, which were struck down by courts decades ago. They are not relevant today, but reporters like Fikac are attempting to equate them with the current trend of courts striking down bans on same-sex marriage. And Wendy Davis’ campaign is running with that.
Texas AG Greg Abbott Doesn’t Know If He Would’ve Defended Bans on Interracial Marriage 50 Years Ago http://t.co/ykQexLCgjW
— Zac Petkanas (@Zac_Petkanas) October 20, 2014
That’s the spokesman Davis imported from Harry Reid’s smear shop, demonstrating his total lack of honesty, facts and sense.
It didn’t take Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott any time at all to decide that not answering that question was the best course during a meeting with the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board.
“Right now, if there was a ban on interracial marriage, that’s already been ruled unconstitutional,” Abbott pointed out. “And all I can do is deal with the issues that are before me … The job of an attorney general is to represent and defend in court the laws of their client, which is the state Legislature, unless and until a court strikes it down.”
When I said I wasn’t clear if he was saying he would have defended a ban on interracial marriage, he said, “Actually, the reason why you’re uncertain about it is because I didn’t answer the question. And I can’t go back and answer some hypothetical question like that.”
Asked about the similarities some see between the ban on gay marriage and past prohibitions on interracial marriage, Abbott said, “Well, the Supreme Court has disagreed with that” by holding that sexual orientation isn’t due protected-class status in the way that race is.
What Abbott is doing there is staying away from hypotheticals, in this case, one set up by the media to help Democrats who favor gay marriage and who want some issue to use against their Republican opponents. It’s a gotcha, and everyone — the media, Abbott, everyone — knew that.
Why is it a “gotcha”? Because there’s no way to answer it and satisfy the press, and the media hardly ever uses the same technique against Democrats. Go one way and you get the report above, go another and you get “Abbott disagrees with fellow Republicans,” go another and you get the media putting him on the defensive in some other way.
In this case, Wendy Davis admitted that she would violate current state law, but media evidently did not follow up or chase her down on that, so she is not being forced to defend that.
“I do,” she said in her meeting with the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board. “I think it’s a very fair comparison in that the time has … come for us to move forward in understanding that we’ve been kind of stuck in the same place that our country was stuck when it had the ban on interracial marriage. And I’m pleased to see the rapid advancement that is happening around the country in us accepting that and moving forward in a more productive way.”
Davis has called on Abbott to stop defending both Texas’ gay marriage ban and its public education finance system, which is being challenged in court by school districts.
Wendy Davis wants the Texas attorney general to violate his official duties under state law.
Chicks on the Right, women working to take back feminism from the pro-choice crowd, discovered yet another way for parents and students to flush the cost of three college credits down the drain. Last spring, it was Rutgers University’s “Feminist Perspectives: Politicizing Beyoncé.” This coming spring, it’s UT Austin’s “Beyonce Feminism, Rihanna Womanism.”
By comparison, this class has a very eye-catching title. Whether or not you are a Beyoncé Bey or part of the Rihanna Navy, it will cause you to do a double take while scrolling through electives. The one downside, students may not realize the type of academic inquiry or material that will be covered in the course.
Students in this class will learn that there is far more than catchy melodies to Beyoncé’s and Rihanna’s music. They will not be simply listening to Beyoncé and Rihanna for fun or even comparing the roles of Beyoncé and Rihanna in popular culture, rather, students will be studying how the lyrics, music videos, and actions of these women express various aspects of black feminism such as violence, economic opportunity, sexuality, standards of beauty, and creative self-expression. The instructor hopes for students to understand the role black feminism plays in popular culture as well as everyday life.
For any student interested in women’s and gender studies or how popular culture reflects social studies, this is a class that will make them fall crazy in love.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker initially defended her decision to subpoena the sermons of several pastors who lead churches in the city. Parker defended that decision publicly, on Twitter.
If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?-A
— Annise Parker (@AnniseParker) October 15, 2014
Blowback was national, immediate and fierce (though, not from Wendy Davis, Barack Obama or any other of Parker’s fellow Democrats. They stayed quiet as Parker launched lawfare against churches.).
Parker backtracked and lied, claiming that she isn’t interested in the sermons.
Now she is lying again, claiming that the pastors knew that she wasn’t ever interested in their sermons.
“‘We don’t need to intrude on matters of faith to have equal rights in Houston, and it was never the intention of the city of Houston to intrude on any matters of faith or to get between a pastor and their parishioners,’ Parker said. ‘We don’t want their sermons, we want the instructions on the petition process. That’s always what we wanted and, again, they knew that’s what we wanted because that’s the subject of the lawsuit.’”
That is not what the original subpoenas said, and it is not what Parker defended demanding in the tweet above. In the tweet above, Parker admitted that she is interested in putting anything that the pastors might have said that can be construed as any way political under scrutiny. She wants to use discovery in the lawsuits against her to put the pastors and their tax-exempt status on trial.
As we and others have reported previously, the pastors who find themselves targeted by Parker’s subpoenas are not even party to the lawsuit in question. The lawsuit is over the Parker administration’s decision to throw out a petition that more than met the threshold to get a question on the ballot for Houston voters to decide.
That referendum would have put Parker’s “bathroom ordinance” up to a vote of the people. It needed a little over 17,000 signatures. It got 50,000, but Parker’s administration threw it out, citing “irregularities.”
That’s what the lawsuit is about — getting that petition re-instated, and putting Parker’s controversial “bathroom ordinance” up for a vote of the people.
…you’ll love how they’ll handle the Internet.
The late, inordinately great Ronald Reagan rightly observed:
“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
So when the federal government says about Ebola “We’ve got this” – people have a problem believing it.
Ah, the Barack Obama Administration – which has been caught lying over and over and over again.
81 percent of Americans believe that Obama lies to them at least “now and then” on “important matters.”
The Obama Administration has again and again offered Ebola assertions and assurances that Reality has subsequently demonstrated were…wanting.
In one of the most breathtakingly on-its-face anti-Reality statements ever, the Administration asserted a flight ban from afflicted countries would INCREASE the spread of the disease.
The American people think otherwise.
Democrats are blaming the Administration’s Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s serial Ebola incompetence – the CDC being the government’s alleged “expert agency” on, well…disease control – on budget cuts. That’s not true either.
At $7 billion, the Centers for Disease Control 2014 budget is nearly 200 percent bigger now than it was in 2000. Those evil, stingy Republicans actually approved CDC funding increases in January larger than what President Obama requested.
So the American people can be forgiven for arriving here:
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is gearing up to unilaterally commandeer control of the Internet.
On Ebola, the allegedly Disease Controlling Administration – in fine Kevin Bacon “Animal House” fashion – has been repeatedly proclaiming “All is well” as things continue to get worse and worse.
Conversely, the Internet has been since just about its inception a government-free zone. And has a result become an ever-expanding free speech-free market Xanadu.
The Administration has been the Chicken Little of the World Wide Web. Running around decrying a “problem” that does not exist – and demanding a Huge Government “solution.”
The fake “problem?” Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may – one day, someday, maybe – block you from websites. Only they haven’t. And they won’t. Because they are in the customer service business – but won’t be for long if they refuse to serve their customers what they want.
The fake “solution?”
Reclassification will give the government the same regulatory stranglehold on the Web that it has had for seventy-plus years on landline phone lines. Which is why landline phone lines have remained just about undeveloped since FDR.
Oh – and this:
Now we know why the government has created a faux Web crisis – so as to not let it go to waste.
But fret not, the government tells us. They will wield just some – and not all – of their massive new powers. They will practice “forbearance.”
“(F)orbearance” refers to a special magic power that Congress gave the FCC…which gives the FCC the power to say “you know that specific provision of law that Congress passed? We decide it really doesn’t make sense for us to enforce it in some particular case, so we will “forbear” (hence the term ‘forbearance’) from enforcing it.”
Sure. Because we can take the government at its word – right?
Like the CDC on disease control, the FCC is the government’s alleged “expert agency” on all things Internet. Except:
How about, then, they not take over the Web?
When Israeli Sergeant Oron Shaul was captured by Hamas terrorists in the thick of this past summer’s Operation Protective Sheild, the Palestinian terror organization used the sergeant’s Facebook page to broadcast their sick achievement to his family and friends. It should have been easy for the IDF to electronically trace the gloating terrorists, but it wasn’t. Why not? Apparently the U.S. attorney general got in the way.
Israel issued a request for Facebook to turn over IP address information, and the Justice Department got to work. In the meantime, the FBI got the bureaucratic wheels rolling with the U.S. Attorney’s office in what should have been a cut and dry procedure that, in a few short hours, was inexplicably shut down. The Jewish Press reports:
Suddenly, and to the shock of the prosecutors working feverishly to obtain the information that possibly could reveal where Shaul (or his body) was being held, a shocking email arrived from the FBI. An email that spelled a death sentence for what many believed to be the best chance of finding Shaul and his kidnappers.
Thank you for your effort, input and assistance. I regret to inform you we have been denied approval to move forward with legal process.We were told by our management we need a MLAT [Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty] in order to continue to assist our partner with the request in question.
The MLAT requires a standardized process to wind its way through legal and diplomatic protocols and usually take weeks to process. They are used, [Steve] Emerson explained, for non-pressing legal matters in which the United States or another country is carrying out some legal process, such as a prosecution of a citizen in another country. They are not used in urgent, life-or-death or counter-terrorism scenarios, “especially with a close ally such as Israel,” Emerson was told.
…Three days after the stand down email was sent, the IDF concluded that Oron Shaul was dead. His body has never been recovered. Hamas is interested in using whatever parts of Shaul’s body they claim to have to swap for terrorist prisoners held by Israel.
According to Emerson’s investigation, those involved in the legal procedures in the U.S. believe the stop order was given by the attorney general’s office.
Add this to the list of reasons why Eric Holder stepped down just in time. It may also be on the list of reasons why Israel is choosing to wean itself from its strong dependency on American military aid.
The United States spent $296 billion to defeat the Axis powers in World War II. That figure does not include “veterans benefits, interest on war-related debt, or assistance to allies.” The conflict resulted in 405,399 Americans killed and 670,846 wounded, making it the most costly war in the nation’s history by far.
In light of that, you may be surprised to learn that American taxpayers have since shelled out potentially millions more to “suspected Nazi criminals” living in the United States. Fox News breaks down the report from the Associated Press:
The payments flowed through a legal loophole that has given the U.S. Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave. If they agreed to go, or simply fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security, according to interviews and internal government records…
Among those who benefited:
–armed SS troops who guarded the Nazi network of camps where millions of Jews perished.
–an SS guard who took part in the brutal liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland that killed as many as 13,000 Jews.
–a Nazi collaborator who engineered the arrest and execution of thousands of Jews in Poland.
–a German rocket scientist accused of using slave labor to build the V-2 rocket that pummeled London. He later won NASA’s highest honor for helping to put a man on the moon.
The AP’s findings are the result of more than two years of interviews, research and analysis of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and other sources.
You owe it to yourself to check out the rest of the article. Among the highlights, the Justice Department responded to a request from the AP to disclose the number of Nazis receiving payments, and the amount of those payments, by claiming no such records were kept.
A further barrier, [Spokesman William "BJ"] Jarrett said, is that there is no exception in U.S. privacy law that “allows us to disclose information because the individual is a Nazi war criminal or an accused Nazi war criminal.”
That’s right. Nazis have privacy rights. This from the same federal government which takes every opportunity to spy on its own citizens without cause or warrant.
This is what happens when “need” is democratized. We can get bend out of shape over suspected Nazi war criminals living off our tax dollars. But the root problem is Social Security itself, along with any redistributive tax scheme which removes individual consent from economic transactions.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how upset you are about funding the retirement of Holocaust participants. You’ll still be funding them tomorrow, because you don’t get to choose whether you pay your Social Security taxes.
(Editor’s note: J. Christian Adams’ Crimes Against the Republic is available free for a limited time only, exclusively through the PJ Store.)
Lots of folks think Democrats oppose voter ID laws because they want to cheat and such laws interfere with their plans. That’s an attractive explanation, but it ignores the far more complex architecture of voter ID opposition. Here’s the real reasons Democrats oppose voter ID. Understanding these three reasons will help you decode the whole narrative behind voter ID.
1. Opposition to Voter ID Is a Base-Mobilization Tool.
Simply, Democrats and civil rights groups spend millions of dollars opposing voter ID because they are trying to scare minority voters into thinking that Jim Crow is back. If Jim Crow is back, then they better go vote in November. This was made starkly clear to me when I learned that a 3rd grade teacher in a government-run school was telling her students that Republicans were trying to take away the right to vote for black people, so they better get their parents to vote against Republicans. (Yes, that’s another story for another day, and yes I know her name and the school where she still teaches.)
Fear mobilizes people to vote better than does logic. If you can scare minorities falsely into thinking that they may lose their right to vote if they don’t vote for Democrats, they will vote for Democrats.
2. Voter ID Opponents Have the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations.
Leftist opponents of voter ID truly think minorities are less able to function in American life. I learned this when a Department of Justice Voting Section lawyer opposed to voter ID told me he thought blacks were more likely to forget their photo identification than whites were. Their lives “were more disorganized,” he said. This is a lawyer currently still working in the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. This is a perfect example of the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”
And it isn’t just one crank lawyer at DOJ. The plaintiffs challenging voter ID and election integrity laws actually hired an expert to testify in federal court in voter ID cases that blacks were less capable of functioning efficiently in a daily routine and photo ID laws have a disparate impact on them. The expert called this idea the “calculus of voting.” For example, they have to take the bus more. Taking the bus, naturally, makes it harder to get photo ID.
The plaintiffs argue that voting “is largely a product of habit,” and blacks, well, their habits just don’t brook any interruptions to their habits, so they argue.
This is another perfect example of the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” Opponents of voter ID are genuinely afraid that forcing blacks to get photo ID will impose a burden on them they just can’t handle.
Someone check the weather forecast for hell and see if it calls for falling temps because the liberal Chicago Sun-times newspaper just endorsed Republican Bruce Rauner for governor.
The other Chicago paper, the Tribune, endorsed Rauner earlier this month.
Incumbent Governor Pat Quinn, who calls himself the “jobs governor,” has presided over the worst economy in the Midwest. He forced the state legislature to pass ruinous tax increases in 2011, promising that the measure would only be temporary.
Last April, he proposed making the increases permanent. His own party shot him down.
His opponent, Bruce Rauner, is a private equity fund manager worth billions. He’s a political novice who promises to “reform” state government. Illinois residents shrug their shoulders and yawn at that kind of talk. They’ve heard it all before and nothing ever changes.
The race isn’t quite as dirty as the Florida governor’s race, but it’s rancid enough for any oppo researcher’s taste. Quinn is portrayed as a crook, a clown, and part of the culture of corruption in Springfield. Rauner is your typical evil businessman who got his wealth illegally, tries to kill poor people and old folks, and wants to get into office so he can cut his own taxes.
The pick of the crop of Illinois politicians.
The Sun-Times endorsement is interesting because the newspaper swore off endorsement two years ago.
This one contest, the race for governor, is simply too important to the future of Illinois for us to stay silent. It may well be the most important election in our state’s modern history. On Nov. 4, voters will decide if Illinois is to grow and charge ahead, reclaiming its place as one of the great states in the Union, or to settle — once and for all — for defeat and decline.
We do not exaggerate. The stakes are that high, and Illinois has just about run out of time for a comeback. We cannot stand on the sidelines.
Today we are endorsing Bruce Rauner for governor. Today we are putting our chips — we’re all in — on an extraordinarily capable businessman who just might have what it takes to break the stranglehold of uninspired, self-serving, one-party rule in Springfield.
We look across Illinois and we despair. We see struggling small towns and an antiquated tax structure, monstrous pension debt and population decline, government incompetence and public corruption.
We see an entrenched political class bereft of fresh ideas, basic business acumen, and independence from unions and other special interests. We see professional politicians, beginning with Gov. Pat Quinn and House Speaker Mike Madigan, who have failed to do what must be done before all else — promote economic growth and help create many more new jobs. We see a political status quo that is ruining Illinois.
Then there is Bruce Rauner. In him, we see everything the current occupant of the Governor’s Mansion is not — a smart businessman, skilled executive and born leader beholden to nobody but those of us smart enough to vote him into office. We see that rare candidate who has but one agenda, to get Illinois roaring again for the sake of us all. It’s not like the man needs the money.
That’s a pretty serious indictment of the Democratic party in Illinois. And it’s deserved. The IRS published a study that showed one person left Illinois every ten minutes. People, businesses, jobs, and wealth are all fleeing the state:
“I thought it was going to be a lifetime thing — living in the Chicago area,” said Ciaburri, 28. “But I just don’t see us getting ahead by staying here.”
Sky-high property taxes make homeownership a pipe dream, she explained. And the job market — terrible. It seems there are always more headlines about companies leaving Illinois than moving in. She and her husband both have jobs now, but what about in five years when there might be kids in the picture?
As Ciaburri laid out all the reasons why it made sense to move, my heart ached.
I was born in Chicago, raised on Superdawg and Portillo’s. In my early 20s, I made a hard pitch for Illinois to my then-boyfriend-now-husband.
“It’s better here,” I told him.
It should be. But thousands of people just like Ciaburri have decided it’s not.
A startling pair of Gallup polls recently suggested that Illinoisans are an unhappy lot. Half of us would move elsewhere if we could. One in 4 says Illinois is the worst possible place to live in the entire U.S.
Naysayers claim it’s all talk. It isn’t.
Not long after the Gallup polls came out, the Internal Revenue Service released fresh numbers showing which states people are moving to and which states people are fleeing.
Spoiler: Illinois didn’t earn any positive marks in this report, either.
According to the IRS, Illinoisans don’t just want to move; they are moving. And they’ve been moving for a long time.
From 1995 to 2010, Illinois lost more than 850,000 people to other states. That’s after you offset the number of people who actually moved in.
That Gallup poll showed that one in four Illinoisans would rather live somewhere else.
Rauner would have to be a miracle worker to turn this around. And he will be fighting against the most entrenched, the most corrupt political system in the country. It won’t just be Democrats he’ll be battling. Republicans, too, benefit from and lustily take part in the shenanigans that allow politicians to line their own pockets and feed the special interests that warp, twist, fold, spindle, and mutilate politics in the state.
Illinois residents have resigned themselves to their fate, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when the politicians carry on with business as usual. Where pitchforks and tar and feathers is called for, residents just throw up their hands and walk away.
Apathy aside, if Rauner wins — the race is virtually tied 2 weeks out — it will be interesting to see what he can do. If history is any guide, it won’t be much. But perhaps he can start something that the next governor can build on and finally bring some hope to the long suffering citizens of the state that Abraham Lincoln called home.
Officials in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, are threatening an elderly couple who run a wedding chapel with jail time unless they perform wedding ceremonies for gay couples.
Donald Knapp and his wife, Evelyn, both ordained ministers who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, have declined to host gay weddings based on their religious beliefs. The city is basing its claims on their “non-discrimination” statute now that the courts have cleared the way for same sex marriages in the state.
Alliance Defending Freedom has filed suit against the city and is asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent authorities from carrying out their threat.
“The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Many have denied that pastors would ever be forced to perform ceremonies that are completely at odds with their faith, but that’s what is happening here – and it’s happened this quickly. The city is on seriously flawed legal ground, and our lawsuit intends to ensure that this couple’s freedom to adhere to their own faith as pastors is protected just as the First Amendment intended.”
“The government exists to protect and respect our freedoms, not attack them,” Tedesco added. “The city cannot erase these fundamental freedoms and replace them with government coercion and intolerance.”
The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel is across the street from the Kootenai County Clerk’s office, which issues marriage licenses. The Knapps, both in their 60s and who themselves have been married for 47 years, began operating the wedding chapel in 1989 as a ministry. They perform religious wedding ceremonies, which include references to God, the invocation of God’s blessing on the union, brief remarks drawn from the Bible designed to encourage the couple and help them to have a successful marriage, and more. They also provide each couple they marry with a CD that includes two sermons about marriage, and they recommend numerous Christian books on the subject. The Knapps charge a small fee for their services.
Coeur d’Alene officials told the Knapps privately and also publicly stated that the couple would violate the city’s public accommodations statute once same-sex marriage became legal in Idaho if they declined to perform a same-sex ceremony at their chapel. On Friday, the Knapps respectfully declined such a ceremony and now face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines for each day they decline to perform that ceremony.
“The city somehow expects ordained pastors to flip a switch and turn off all faithfulness to their God and their vows,” explained ADF Legal Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “The U.S. Constitution as well as federal and state law clearly stand against that. The city cannot mandate across-the-board conformity to its interpretation of a city ordinance in utter disregard for the guaranteed freedoms Americans treasure in our society.”
There is little likelihood that any judge in America would uphold the city’s interpretation of the non-discrimination statute. In their eagerness to bend over backwards and show how tolerant they are, city fathers have trampled on the Constitution and threatened to severely curtail religious freedom.
This story comes on the heels of news from North Carolina that several magistrates who can legally perform weddings have resigned rather than marry a gay couple.
After a week-long lull in the fighting, Islamic State forces have renewed their assault on the Syrian border town of Kobani, attacking the Kurdish defenders from three sides.
Dozens of mortars were fired into the city and two car bombs exploded near Kurdish positions. US-led air strikes bombed targets outside of the city, according to eyewitnesses watching from the Turkish border.
Islamic State doesn’t appear to be able to mass troops for a final assault because of coalition air power. But it is believed they already have about 9,000 fighters in the city itself.
Raids on Islamic State around Kobani have been stepped up, with the fate of the town seen as an important test for U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign against the Islamists.
NATO member Turkey, whose forces are ranged along the border overlooking Kobani, is reluctant to intervene. It insists the allies should also confront Assad to end Syria’s civil war, which has killed close to 200,000 people since March 2011.
“We had the most intense clashes in days, perhaps a week, last night. (Islamic State) attacked from three different sides including the municipality building and the market place,” said Abdulrahman Gok, a journalist in Kobani.
“Clashes did not stop until the morning. We have had an early morning walk inside the city and have seen lots of damaged cars on the streets and unexploded mortar shells,” he said.
The Observatory reported two Islamic State car bombs hit Kurdish positions on Saturday evening, leading to casualties. A cloud of black smoke towered over Kobani on Sunday.
A fighter from one of the female units of the main Syrian Kurdish militia in Kobani, YPG, said Kurdish fighters were able to detonate the car bombs before they reached their targets.
“Last night there were clashes all across Kobani … this morning the clashes are still ongoing,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Observatory said 70 Islamic State fighters had been killed in the past two days, according to sources at the hospital in the nearby town of Tel Abyab, where Islamic State bodies are taken. Reuters cannot independently confirm the reports due to security restrictions.
The Observatory said some Syrian Arab fighters from the Revolutionaries of Raqqa Brigade, who are fighting alongside Kurdish fighters, had executed two Islamic State captives.
“One was a child of around 15 years old. They shot them in the head,” he said.
Islamic State have also used executions throughout their campaigns in Syria and Iraq, killing hundreds of enemy combatants and civilians who oppose their cause, according to Islamic State videos and statements.
Seventy dead in two days is a high casualty total and it raises the question what price IS is willing to pay to capture the town. The month long siege has cost them several thousand casualties and with coalition air power proving to be a powerful obstacle to success, they are already engaged in a conflict of diminishing returns.
But the propaganda value of capturing Kobani would be great. It would maintain an aura of invincibility with jihadists around the world as well as exposing the Obama policy in Syria as a hollow reed. That alone is probably worth the cost of continuing the assault.
The Air Force’s X-37B space plane has just returned from a two year mission and speculation about what that mission was is running wild.
The aircraft — a mini version of the Space Shuttle at 29 feet long and 15 foot wingspan — officially says the craft carried out experiments in advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, and aircraft electronic systems, which is about as general as you can get.
But specifics have been lacking which has set off an internet storm that includes conspiracy theories about top secret surveillance programs, developing bombing capabilities, and even anti-satellite warfare. That last is an area the US lags behind China and Russia as it is thought that both countries have carried out experiments in crippling communications and surveillance satellites from the ground.
Weeden, now a technical advisor for the Secure World Foundation, said speculation seemed to run rampant specifically because so little has been disclosed.
“Because it is a secret military space plane, there is tons and tons of speculation about what it’s doing in orbit,” Weeden said.
Popular online theories included that “it’s testing the ability to drop bombs in orbit or covertly going up and disabling satellites,” he said.
Weeden said looking at past instances of American spacecraft, he believes the spacecraft is more likely involved in something less shocking.
“What I think is more practical is that it’s setting up technology for surveillance,” said Weeden, who pointed out the military has relied heavily on satellite surveillance for decades.
Weeden also said the fact that the spacecraft can be reused and can return unmanned can allow faster turnaround on experiments.
Weeden said the ship might provide a kind of fast-track space for the military to try out new equipment in orbit before it is sent via satellite. If new equipment breaks on a satellite in orbit, it can be difficult to fix. However, if it breaks in on a returnable spacecraft, engineers can make changes before it returns to orbit.
Of course, the question that would be uppermost in everyone’s mind is just who the government wants to surveil. Since the NSA and affiliated agencies don’t appear to be slacking off in their mania for our communications, you have to believe they are inventing more and better ways to keep track of us.
But whatever the X-37B was up to out there, it’s still a cool piece of technology.
One notable problem with Obamacare insurance policies that has been commented on extensively is the higher-than-average deductibles that make seeking routine health care an expensive proposition.
In fact, according to this New York Times story, the sky-high deductibles — double what many consumers carried in their old policies — is preventing them from getting preventive care that could lead to serious health issues later.
About 7.3 million Americans are enrolled in private coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, and more than 80 percent qualified for federal subsidies to help with the cost of their monthly premiums. But many are still on the hook for deductibles that can top $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for families — the trade-off, insurers say, for keeping premiums for the marketplace plans relatively low. The result is that some people — no firm data exists on how many — say they hesitate to use their new insurance because of the high out-of-pocket costs.
Insurers must cover certain preventive services, like immunizations, cholesterol checks and screening for breast and colon cancer, at no cost to the consumer if the provider is in their network. But for other services and items, like prescription drugs, marketplace customers often have to meet their deductible before insurance starts to help.
While high-deductible plans cover most of the costs of severe illnesses and lengthy hospital stays, protecting against catastrophic debt, those plans may compel people to forgo routine care that could prevent bigger, longer-term health issues, according to experts and research.
“They will cause some people to not get care they should get,” Katherine Hempstead, who directs research on health insurance coverage at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said of high-deductible marketplace plans. “Unfortunately, the people who are attracted to the lower premiums tend to be the ones who are going to have the most trouble coming up with all the cost-sharing if in fact they want to use their health insurance.”
Reuters is reporting that Islamic State is training pilots to fly captured MIG 21 fighters in Syria.
IS overran the huge Syrian airbase in Taqba last August. The base contained more than 100 MIG 21′s along with a few MIG 29′s. MIG 21s are 1970′s-era aircraft and no match for the US air force, although they may eventually prove a challenge for the Syrians.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that IS is using Iraqis who were in the Iraqi air force during the Saddam Hussein regime to train the pilots.
Iraqi pilots who have joined Islamic State in Syria are training members of the group to fly in three captured fighter jets, a group monitoring the war said on Friday, saying it was the first time the militant group had taken to the air.
The group, which has seized swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, has been flying the planes over the captured al-Jarrah military airport east of Aleppo, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Reuters was not immediately able to verify the report and U.S. Central Command said it was not aware of Islamic State flying jets in Syria.
U.S-led forces are bombing Islamic State bases in Syria and Iraq. The group has regularly used weaponry captured from the Syrian and Iraqi armies and has overrun several military bases but, if the report is confirmed, this would be the first time it has been able to pilot warplanes.
“They have trainers, Iraqi officers who were pilots before for (former Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein,” Abdulrahman said.
“People saw the flights, they went up many times from the airport and they are flying in the skies outside the airport and coming back,” he said, citing witnesses in northern Aleppo province near the base, which is 70 km (45 miles) south of the Turkish border.
Witnesses reported the flights were at a low altitude and only lasted five to 10 minutes before landing, the Observatory said. It was not possible to reach the Syrian government for comment and state media did not mention the report.
It was not clear whether the jets were equipped with weaponry or whether the pilots could fly longer distances in the planes, which witnesses said appeared to be MiG 21 or MiG 23 models captured from the Syrian military.
The short duration flights could very well be a deliberate tactic to avoid detection by our satellites, although our AWAC coverage in the area should be able to see them. US Central Command is saying this is the first they’ve heard of the flights, which could be misdirection as they plan an attack on the base where the pilots are being trained.
As long as we have a couple of hundred planes in the region, any IS air force will not present a threat to us or our coalition partners. And it remains to be seen whether they could realistically challenge the Syrian air force. Knowing how to fly a plane is one thing. Becoming an effective combat pilot is quite another.
Earlier this week, the UN issued a statement on the Ebola crisis that should set off alarms in every household in America.
In his briefing, Mr. Banbury told the 15-nation UN Security Council that he is “deeply worried” that the steps implemented by the international community were “not nearly enough” to halt the advance of the fatal disease.
“Ebola got a head start on us,” he said.
“It is far ahead of us, it is running faster than us, and it is winning the race. We either stop Ebola now or we face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we do not have a plan,” Mr. Banbury told the council on Tuesday via video link from the operation’s headquarters in Ghana.
Mr. Banbury recalled the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation that, within 60 days of October 1, 70 per cent of all those infected must be in the hospital and 70 per cent of the victims safely buried, to arrest the outbreak.
“This is what we are fighting for now; we are fighting to prevent unavoidable deaths. We are fighting for people who are alive and healthy today, but will become infected and die if we do not put in place the necessary emergency response.”
In its most recent situation report on the disease, WHO, which is leading the wider UN response, reported 8,376 cases and 4,024 deaths from Ebola based on information provided by the Ministries of Health of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
The agency notes that the upward epidemic trend continues in Sierra Leone and also in Liberia. By contrast, the situation in Guinea appears to be more stable but a pattern of transmission is still of very grave concern.
“With every day that passes, the number of sick people increases,” Mr. Banbury added.
“Time is our biggest enemy. We must use every minute of every day to our advantage and that is what UNMEER is doing.”
In particular, Mr. Banbury called for an increase in the number of diagnostic laboratories, transport support and funding to help with operation logistics which would help aid the UN response to a crisis so vast in scope and magnitude.
Moreover, with the number of infected growing exponentially each day, he cautioned that UNMEER could expect new caseloads of approximately 10,000 people per week by December 1, meaning that 7,000 beds for treatment were needed.
The good news is that we know what has to be done to stop the virus in its tracks. The bad news is that we’re not even close to catching up because the international response to the crisis has been pathetic.
More than a million cases of Ebola by the end of January? Each passing day makes that scenario more likely and the spread of the disease worldwide a near certainty. Individual countries like the U.S. may initially be able to contain the outbreak, but what of our neighbors to the south?
Jonathan Last gives us “Six Reasons to Panic”:
And by the way, things could get worse. All of those worst-case projections assume that the virus stays contained in a relatively small area of West Africa, which, with a million people infected, would be highly unlikely. What happens if and when the virus starts leaking out to other parts of the world?
Marine Corps General John F. Kelly talked about Ebola at the National Defense University two weeks ago and mused about what would happen if Ebola reached Haiti or Central America, which have relatively easy access to America. “If it breaks out, it’s literally ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States,” Kelly said. “They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment.”
Taking center stage for the foreseeable future will be a much-maligned group of citizens who call themselves “preppers.” They are portrayed as wild-eyed paranoids, or religious nuts, hiding in a cabin in the woods waiting for the Second Coming, or a race war, or an alien invasion.
In truth, they are normal citizens who have decided to take prudent, reasonable, logical precautions in case of natural disaster or a terrorist attack.
Or, in the case of Ebola, a pandemic that threatens the breakdown of civil society. That scenario is still very remote. But six months ago, the chances of such a breakdown were zero. What will the chances be six months from now?
For preppers, who find their ranks growing by the week as the Ebola crisis spreads, the bottom line is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
From the Daily Beast:
The website is run by Joe Alton, a retired OB-GYN and fellow at the American College of Surgeons, and his wife, Amy, a nurse. They’re the authors of The Survival Medicine Handbook, a guide for post-apocalyptic wellness.
On Thursday morning, Joe flew from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Texas—home to America’s three Ebola cases—to talk prepping on Glenn Beck’s television show. On his way there, he said he was more careful than usual, wiping down the plane’s seat armrests with bleach wipes for the first time ever, and scrubbing his hands with strong sanitizer half a dozen times.
There are some fanatics in what Alton calls the “preparedness community,” but when it comes to Ebola, he’s tempered, saying it’s unlikely the virus will hit communities in the U.S. much more widely.
But the benefit of a slow-moving virus like Ebola, Joe Alton says, is there will be a warning, just like a hurricane, and time to get ready. At home, the Altons have been outfitting a designated “sick room,” for the possibility of a family member coming down with something, most likely influenza, but perhaps Ebola. He chose a corner spare room with good ventilation, and put aside a spare set of sheets and silverware, just in case.
“There’s no harm for everyone in the general public to prepare for disaster,” he says. “We should plan that room out and designate which it’s going to be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean if I visited your house it would look like an intensive-care unit.”
Right now, the ratio of preppers to regular Americans is dramatic: Joe cites 3 percent as the accepted number. A few months of Ebola fear could give the community a bump. “We’re not going to see millions of people in audition calls for [National Geographic Channel show] Doomsday Preppers, but I’m hoping 3 percent one day gets to 4 percent,” he says.
“As long as we’re prepared and have plan of action, we’re going to keep it together even if everything else falls apart.”
We’ve already seen signs of panic with only three cases in the U.S. What happens if there are several hundred infected people? With a combination of lack of faith in government pronouncements about the disease and scare mongers who will use the crisis to advance their own interests and agendas, it won’t take much to panic the entire nation.
Can you really prepare for that? It’s always a good idea to have extra food, batteries, potable water, and even weapons and ammunition. But we are creatures of civilization and without power, running water, and other accoutrements of civil society, few of us will have truly prepared to come face to face with civilization’s end.
Nevertheless, basic preparedness is a must. And if you haven’t thought about it before, it’s time to take the blinders off. Remote though the worst case scenario might be, your chances of survival are a lot better even with a little advance planning than if you didn’t plan at all.
Overnight the Supreme Court refused to reverse the stay imposed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and thus allowed voter ID to be required in the midterm election in Texas. This is procedural delay based on the idea that election rules shouldn’t change at the last second.
So voter ID gets one last hurrah in Texas.
But election integrity advocates shouldn’t celebrate too much. Texas Voter ID is doomed. After this next election, it is prohibited from being used.
Nor should much faith be placed in any appeal. The plaintiffs won on two separate theories under the Voting Rights Act, and both are fatal to the law. First, the court ruled that Texas voter ID was enacted with a discriminatory intent. That finding alone dooms the law. And here’s the bad news: the chances of that finding being overturned are next to zero. Proving discriminatory intent isn’t easy, but the court said the plaintiffs did it. That’s a fact-based determination and will not be overturned unless it is clearly erroneous. Appeals courts are deferential to lower courts on fact findings. Why? Because lower courts conduct the trial. Lower courts see the witnesses, even if they sweat and squirm. Appeals judges sitting in New Orleans can’t size up the witnesses like the lower court judge in Corpus Christi.
Second, Texas also lost on the results prong under the Voting Rights Act. The plaintiffs pushed an outlandish theory for sure, and one that might get overturned on appeal. They pressed the novel idea that any statistical disparity of the impact of voter ID dooms the law. If blacks have ID less often than whites, game over. The problem is that the courts have so far rejected that idea. You can be sure the Supreme Court will also.
But so what? The intent finding stands and that means that the Texas law likely gets one last hurrah in two weeks.
What’s the solution? For Texas to pass a new ID law lickety split. A new law can be in place within a few days of the Texas legislature convening in January. Pass something identical to the law approved in South Carolina or Georgia, and it’s lights out for the foes of election integrity.
Endangered Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) was against a West Africa travel ban earlier this week. Hagan agreed with President Obama and most Democrats at the time, in rejecting calls for a temporary travel ban to halt the spread of Ebola, which has now infected at least two Americans.
“The CDC and the World Health Organization is certainly giving us great guidance, but we’ve got to make sure the implementation is perfect,” said the first-term senator. Hagan also declined to endorse the policy of temporarily banning passengers from entering the U.S. if they’re traveling from West African countries experiencing the Ebola outbreak.
“That’s not going to help solve this problem,” said Hagan of the proposed ban. “That’s not going to contain the epidemic that we see happening in Africa.”
Hagan changed her tune today. The senator released an about-face statement this afternoon.
Greensboro, NC – U.S. Senator Kay Hagan issued the following statement about the ongoing Ebola crisis:
“I have said for weeks that travel restrictions should be one part of a broad strategy to prevent Ebola from spreading in the U.S. and fighting it in Africa. I am calling on the Administration to temporarily ban the travel of non-U.S. citizens from the affected countries in West Africa. Although stopping the spread of this virus overseas will require a large, coordinated effort with the international community, a temporary travel ban is a prudent step the President can take to protect the American people, and I believe he should do so immediately.”
Her challenger, Republican Thom Tillis, already called for a temporary travel ban more than two weeks ago.
Stressing that “air travel is, in fact, how this disease crosses borders and it’s certainly how it got to Texas in the first place,” Gov. Rick Perry today backed a travel ban to combat Ebola.
“Based on recent and ongoing developments, I believe it is the right policy to ban air travel from countries that have been hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak,” Perry said at a news conference today. “Certainly there should be an exception for aid workers so that they continue their important work fighting this disease.”
Perry had previously shied away from calls for a travel ban, including from the state’s senators.
In his conversation yesterday with President Obama, the governor said he asked to “fast-track CDC acknowledgement of the next-level facilities that are better prepared to deal with diseases like Ebola.”
“This will let people know that there will be a place to go if they get sick in Texas. Over the past two days, two additional positive tests, both involving caregivers to Mr. Duncan, reminded us just how dangerous this virus truly is. Both women are currently being treated at other facilities around the country and they each have certainly our thoughts and our prayers, as do their family,” Perry said.
“It’s indefensible that one of Mr. Duncan’s nurses was allowed to fly from Ohio to Dallas after she said that she had a low grade fever,” he said, adding that the state’s health department has been asked to monitor 79 Texans who were on the flight with Amber Vinson.
“The eight individuals that were in closest proximity to her, within three feet, are under active monitoring with two temperature checks a day, including once face-to- face with our health care workers,” the governor added. “The others are being monitored by phone.”
“Considering this was the first time that Ebola has been diagnosed on American shores, it’s perhaps understandable that mistakes were made, but it’s also unacceptable.”
Perry stressed that “Ebola is a dangerous, persistent foe but the threat to the general public remains negligible.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said yesterday that Obama’s coordinated national response to Ebola should include ”temporary restrictions on travel from impacted West African nations.”
In an op-ed this week in the Texas Tribune, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wrote, “Banning flights from the afflicted countries is a prudent, common-sense step until the epidemic is brought under control.”
Meet Shyanne Roberts, a 10-year-old competitive shooter who is out to prove something: Children with guns don’t always mean disaster.
“I want to be an inspiration to other kids and be a leader,” said the girl. “Kids and guns don’t always mean bad things happen.”
Shyanne competes alongside junior shooters, who are participants younger than 18, and even adults. Last year, she beat out adult women to place second in the Women’s Division of the New Jersey Ruger Rimfire Challenge.
On October 31, she will square off against 200 of the top women shooters at the Brownell’s Lady 3-Gun Pro-Am Challenge in Covington, Georgia. Shyanne is the youngest competitive shooter registered at the female-only event, according to the match director. The top shooter has a chance to win $5,000, as well as items from a prize table of guns, ammo and more.
The Franklinville, New Jersey, girl, who now has more than 20 sponsors, started learning gun safety when she was 5. After she could recite the rules and had grasped what guns can do, around age 6, her father started taking her to a gun range. Dan Roberts is a certified firearms instructor and a single dad. He has custody of Shyanne and her younger brother.
What the media bubble anti-gun nuts don’t understand is that the safe use of firearms is a fact of life in a lot of American homes from a very young age. I got my first rifle when I was six and grew up around people who all owned guns and knew how to handle them properly. When I first started going on the road, I found it very strange to meet people who not only didn’t own a gun, but had never fired a weapon. The experience that Brad Pitt recently described is a very normal American one.
Shyanne Roberts has some unique talent but her early involvement with shooting is a classic American family story that is all but ignored by the relentless anti-gun lobbyists and media types. Comprehensive gun legislation hasn’t been failing because of Republican obstruction, it’s failing because it is un-American and very unpopular with the citizens who are unwilling to see their rights gutted by an out-of-touch political ruling class.
FBI Director James Comey gave a speech at the Brookings Institute yesterday to make a case against companies that allow customers to encrypt their digital data. The speech came following moves by both Apple and Google to encrypt users’ data on their electronic devices, essentially locking out law enforcement agencies along with identity thieves and criminals from a treasure trove of personal information.
Comey explained that such a lockout allows criminals to “go dark” and prevents law enforcement officials from accessing information and evidence against predators, terrorists or criminals. “With Going Dark, those of us in law enforcement and public safety have a major fear of missing out—missing out on predators who exploit the most vulnerable among us…missing out on violent criminals who target our communities…missing out on a terrorist cell using social media to recruit, plan, and execute an attack.”
But civil rights advocates have a different take on the matter. “Whether the FBI calls it a front door or a backdoor, any effort by the FBI to weaken encryption leaves our highly personal information and our business information vulnerable to hacking by foreign governments and criminals,” Laura W. Murphy, director of the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “We hope that others in the tech industry follow their lead and realize that customers put a high value on privacy, security and free speech.”
In a statement to Ars Technica, Google explained: “People previously used safes and combination locks to keep their information secure—now they use encryption. It’s why we have worked hard to provide this added security for our users.”
Comey closed his speech by suggesting the conflict between liberty and security just needs a “regulatory or legislative fix to create a level playing field.” However, it doesn’t look like too many on the Hill are eager to jump on board.
“I’d be surprised if more than a handful of members would support the idea of backdooring Americans’ personal property,” Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and vocal privacy advocate, said.
“And a House Democratic aide said that staffers have been in touch with the FBI on the issue but that Congress is unlikely to force technology companies to build backdoors into their networks and devices anytime soon.”
NEW YORK – Robert Redford will play Dan Rather in a film about the former CBS anchor’s disputed report about President George W. Bush’s National Guard service.
The film, titled Truth, will be adapted from the memoir Truth And Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power by former CBS producer Mary Mapes, said the production company, Mythology Entertainment. Cate Blanchett is signed on to play Mapes.
But I hope truth is subject to no prescription, for truth is truth though never so old, and time cannot make that false which was once true. – Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, 1603
If you followed the 2004 presidential campaign, you probably recall the “disputed” 60 Minutes report claiming that George W. Bush shirked his duties and failed to follow orders as a young Texas Air National Guard officer. The segment was discredited when the “military memos” on which it was based were exposed online as forgeries. CBS News received a well-deserved black eye, and long-time anchor Dan Rather, producer Mary Mapes and several others lost their jobs.
There is no need to review the technical evidence about the memos, except to note that 1970s-era typewriters lacked word processing features such as superscripts, kerning (adjusting the spaces between letters to improve readability), proportional spacing and mathematically centered titles. A detailed account of the scandal, which became famous as “RatherGate,” can be found here.
To many, the debunking of the 60 Minutes segment For the Record was a brilliantly effective exercise in free speech that prevented a slanted hit piece from influencing a national election. But to Mapes and Rather, it was a profound injustice that should never be allowed to happen again.
The online takedown of For the Record a decade ago was a watershed moment for the Internet, showing that ordinary citizens could effectively fact-check and counter old media political narratives. This failed to please “gatekeepers” such as former CBS News executive Jonathan Klein, who harrumphed that “you couldn’t have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of check and balances [at 60 Minutes] and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing.” But the evidence pointed the other way: all the professional media outlets, with their vaunted fact-checkers, vetting processes and layers of editorial review, overlooked the glaring problems with the documents. Most tried for nearly two weeks to defend the politically useful story.
For the Record did not reveal how CBS News had obtained the memos, which were attributed to Bush’s former commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian. The source turned out to be one Bill Burkett, a former Texas Army National Guard officer with a history of mental problems who had made previous false claims about Bush’s military service. Burkett later told investigators that Mary Mapes put him in touch with senior Kerry officials so he could “provide the campaign with strategic advice on countering the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.” Mapes herself kept in contact with top Kerry campaign advisor Joe Lockhart as she worked on the segment, though she later claimed the topic was never discussed. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that the Kerry campaign was ready to launch a multi-million dollar national TV ad campaign targeting Bush’s National Guard service (“Operation Fortunate Son”) right after For the Record was televised.
Patterns of behavior
It is impossible to know how many bogus news stories have been broadcast over the years. For the Record wasn’t Dan Rather’s first rodeo. In his 1988 CBS News documentary The Wall Within, Rather interviewed six “combat veterans” who claimed to have committed gruesome crimes in Vietnam, and now, traumatized, were living in the woods in Washington State.
Researcher B.G. Burkett (no relation to Bill Burkett) used Freedom of Information requests to discover that five of the men had never served in combat. The sixth, a former ammunition handler, was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who had spent months in military prisons. Dan Rather enthusiastically reported his impossible story of murdering, skinning, and stacking the corpses of dozens of Vietnamese men, women and children. B.G. Burkett would later write the landmark book Stolen Valor to help debunk the media-inspired wave of phony Vietnam atrocity stories. The book noted that Dan Rather, who claimed to have been a two-tour Marine, had actually failed the physical requirements and been discharged after just four months.
Portraying Vietnam veterans as psychologically devastated war criminals unable to function in society was a standard leftist propaganda theme for decades. John Kerry’s central role in creating this “poisonous image” was the primary reason he was considered unfit to serve as commander-in-chief by most of his fellow Swift Boat veterans. However, it took Hollywood to fully inject the Left’s slanderous narrative into the culture. In his book Vietnam at the Movies, Michael Lee Lanning analyzed how films such as Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and Hearts and Minds presented American soldiers as “brutal killers who routinely commit atrocities and pursue genocide.”
Free speech online
In an era largely defined by electronic communications, it is easy to forget that the Internet and its social media derivatives, all less than a generation old, represent the greatest advance in the ability of ordinary people to obtain and disseminate information since the printing press. Totalitarians of all kinds inevitably want to control, manipulate, or shut these channels down.
Worldwide, Internet censorship is becoming the rule rather than the exception. A 2013 study by Freedom House found that “an increasing number of countries are passing new laws that criminalize certain types of political, religious or social speech….” A sharp rise was noted in the use of paid government commentators “to manipulate online discussions by trying to smear the reputations of government opponents, spread propaganda, and defend government policies….” The U.S., while categorized as “free,” was docked 12 out of 40 points in the “violation of user’s rights” category (online protections, restrictions, surveillance, repercussions for online activity, and limits on privacy), and scored just 83 of 100 points overall, down from 88 in 2012.
President Obama supported and recently signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, a provision of which (Section 1021) allows American citizens to be arrested and detained indefinitely by the military, even if their actions were protected by the First Amendment.
The U.S. State Department joined with the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the United Nations to pass “Resolution 16/18 to Combat Intolerance based on Religion or Belief,” which advances the OIC’s goal of criminalizing free speech on topics related to Islam.
Muslim Brotherhood agents have been invited to help develop America’s national security policies, with the result that many federal agencies disallow any mention of Islamic terrorism. Our military has become so fearful of offending Muslims that Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood jihadi mass-murderer, received plum assignments, glowing reviews and promotions from the Army, despite being both professionally incompetent and an obvious security threat.
Further guidance on the limits of speech comes from Mr. Obama, who informed the UN General Assembly in 2012, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
Say what you will about the Tea Party, it has not only given voice to those who hold dear conservative values, but to paraphrase Mr. Newton, it has engendered an equal and opposite reaction from those who inhabit the left side of the political spectrum. Ironically, this vociferous differentiation has placed greater import on the new electoral power brokers, independent voters.
Nothing bad happens when Americans get fired up about the political process, regardless of whether they spin to the left or the right, or mark time in the middle. Feeling pressure to take a political position typically manifests in becoming a more knowledgeable voter. If America is to ever solve its many challenges, those solutions will be demanded by an informed electorate who hire representatives to serve them, rather than anoint a self-serving political class.
Something good would happen if small business stakeholders were as politically organized and influential as other single-issue groups, like unions. If small business were a country, Wikipedia would describe Small Business USA like this: Population: 125 million (owners, employees and dependents). Economy: Largest on the planet. Contribution to society: Significant. Organized political influence for its own interests: Negligible.
What’s wrong with this picture?
With so much to contribute, Small Business America has many reasons to catch the tide of electoral fervor and become more involved in the political process.
Most of my immediate family are and were small business owners (different kinds, there is no “family business), and I know from that experience that they tend to be more conservative. The small business owners they do business with tend to be the same.
The point here about the SBA having political influence that is inversely proportional to its economic clout is important and one that isn’t talked about much. If ever a time existed to address it, it’s now. So many of the progressive left boondoggles that have been passed and are being fought for place and undue burden on small businesses. Boeing can absorb the ever-escalating costs of the PPACA without blinking an eye because it will have an easier time of spreading around how it passes those costs on. Joe’s Construction, however, will not.
The $15 an hour minimum wage is something that is championed by people who, by and large, have never run a business in their lives and think most money can be “POOFED” into existence by governmental mandate. This is another progressive favorite that disproportionately affects small biz owners.
Large industries (health care, insurance, etc.) and Big Labor all have powerful political lobbies. The Small Business Association has a seat at the table but it’s WAY at the end where almost no one can hear it and the good stuff is gone by the time the serving dishes are passed down there.
It would be good for the country if:
a) The SBA upped its political clout and,
b) One of the two major parties (hint, hint) gave them something to vote for again.
State Dept. Inspector General Finds ‘Appearance of Undue Influence and Favoritism’ in Internal Probes
The Office of the Inspector General at the State Department released a report revealing “an appearance of undue influence and favoritism by Department management” in three out of eight internal investigations reviewed.
“The appearance of undue influence and favoritism is problematic because it risks undermining confidence in the integrity of the Department and its leaders,” the OIG report said.
“In May 2011, [Bureau of Diplomatic Security] was alerted to suspicions by the security staff at a U.S. embassy that the U.S. Ambassador solicited a prostitute in a public park near the embassy. DS assigned an agent from its internal investigations unit to conduct a preliminary inquiry. However, 2 days later, the agent was directed to stop further inquiry because of a decision by senior Department officials to treat the matter as a ‘management issue.’ The Ambassador was recalled to Washington and, in June 2011, met with the Under Secretary of State for Management and the then Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Secretary of State. At the meeting, the Ambassador denied the allegations and was then permitted to return to post. The Department took no further action affecting the Ambassador.”
The OIG found that not enough evidence was collected to confirm or refute the allegation of misconduct, including no interview of the ambassador by DS.
The second case “concerned a DS Regional Security Officer (RSO) posted overseas, who, in 2011, allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct and harassment.”
“At the time the investigation began, the RSO already had a long history of similar misconduct allegations dating back 10 years at seven other posts where he worked,” and the OIG found that “notwithstanding the serious nature of the alleged misconduct, the Department never attempted to remove the RSO from Department work environments where the RSO could potentially harm other employees.”
The third case “involved the unauthorized release in mid-2012 of internal Department communications from 2008 concerning an individual who was nominated in early-2012 to serve as a U.S. Ambassador,” a nominee whose name was then withdrawn.
“OIG did find that the Assistant Secretary of State in charge of DS had delayed for 4 months, without adequate justification, DS’s interview of the nominee, and that delay brought the investigation to a temporary standstill.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the “unusual role played by State Department top management handling these internal investigations of potential criminal acts is disturbing” and he’s “pleased” that new Inspector General Steve Linick “took it upon himself to reexamine this issue.”
“Today’s report demonstrates why having a permanent Inspector General is critical to overseeing government operations. Unfortunately, the State Department lacked this accountability during the first five years of this Administration. With no top cop on the beat for nearly 2,000 days, I’m not surprised that management went off the rails in this case,” Royce said.
“Luckily that’s not the case today. I’m proud of the role that the Committee played – on a bipartisan basis – to get a permanent Inspector General in place to oversee the State Department’s operations.”
Secretary of State John Kerry told a belated Eid al-Adha celebration at the State Department yesterday — postponed because of his travel — that if he went back to college today he would “at least minor, if not major, in comparative religion.”
“I have found in my journeys through the world over these 29-plus years as a senator and now in the year and a half, year and three-quarters I’ve been Secretary of State, there is no place in the world where in one way or the other it isn’t affecting an outlook,” Kerry said.
“And even in places where people are nonbelievers or people have a different philosophy rather than one of the major religions of the world, there are themes and currents that run through every life philosophy, every single approach, whether it’s Native Americanism or Confucianism or – you can find that there’s been this passage through history from the scriptures – from the Qu’ran, from the Torah, from the Bible – that all come together, and even from other places, where they’ve been incorporated and inculcated through the sermons and preachings and teachings of religious leaders,” he added. “And we know this today.”
Kerry called the global situation “a very complex time, and there are many currents that are loose out there that have brought us to this moment.”
“The extremism that we see, the radical exploitation of religion which is translated into violence, has no basis in any of the real religions. There’s nothing Islamic about what ISIL/Daesh stands for or is doing to people,” he said.
“And so we all have a larger mission here. And obviously, history is filled with that. I mean, you go back to the Thirty Years’ War in Europe and other periods of time, Protestants, Catholics, others who have fought. It’s not new to us. Tragically, it’s more prominent because media is more available today, the messaging is there, everybody is more aware on an instantaneous basis of what is happening. And of course it’s exploited by people who engage in this.”
Kerry lobbied for a two-state solution in the Middle East and reflected “deeply on how we will deal not just with the manifestation of the symptom, which is what the violence and the extremism is, but with the underlying causes which go to this question of governance and corruption and a whole issue of how you meet the needs of people.”
“And that’s where our partnership has to be not just for peace but for prosperity, shared prosperity, where everybody has an ability to be able to find a job, get the education, be able to reach the brass ring, and it is not just reserved for a privileged few,” he continued.
“And finally, we have to build a partnership for sustainability of the planet itself, and that brings us to something like climate change, which is profoundly having an impact in various parts of the world, where droughts are occurring not at a 100-year level but at a 500-year level in places that they haven’t occurred, floods of massive proportions, diminishment of water for crops and agriculture at a time where we need to be talking about sustainable food.”
After huddling with a handful of advisers Thursday afternoon, President Obama told reporters he cold be open to the idea of an Ebola czar.
On Friday morning, CNN reported that Obama would name lobbyist and former Vice President Al Gore’s and VP Joe Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain to the position.
The Democratic Party operative has worked as a lawyer since leaving the White House in 2011. He led the legal team fighting for Gore in the 2000 recount and was portrayed by Kevin Spacey in HBO’s Recount.
A day after pulling together his cabinet to talk Ebola, Obama met with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.
“The President’s advisors detailed for him the status of the investigation into how the Dallas healthcare workers were exposed to the virus and updated him on the contact tracing process, which allows health officials to identify and, as necessary, monitor all individuals who may have come into contact with the patients following their exposure,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting. “They also discussed the steps the President ordered to enhance the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ability to respond rapidly, safely, and effectively upon the diagnosis of an Ebola case domestically.”
Obama told reporters that he had spoken with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, “who is on top of it,” regarding the trip of nurse Amber Vinson to the state while she was symptomatic.
“We don’t know yet exactly what happened,” he said of how the healthcare workers contracted Ebola from Liberian patient Thomas Eric Duncan, mirroring the CDC’s head-scratching at how the protective system failed.
Obama also spoke with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and said Perry had “legitimate concerns in terms of making sure that the federal government is surging the kinds of resources that they need in order to handle any eventuality there, to make sure that folks not just at Texas Presbyterian, but potentially at other health care facilities, have the training and the equipment that they need.”
The president addressed the idea of a travel ban “because I know it’s been a topic consistently in the news.”
“I don’t have a philosophical objection necessarily to a travel ban, if that is the thing that is going to keep the American people safe,” he said. “The problem is, in all the discussions I’ve had thus far, with experts in the field, experts in infectious disease, is that a travel ban is less effective than the measures that we are currently instituting, that involve screening passengers who are coming from West Africa.”
“…If we institute a travel ban instead of the protocols that we’ve put in place now, history shows that there’s a likelihood of increased avoidance. People do not readily disclose their information. They may engage in something called ‘broken travel,’ essentially breaking up their trips so they can hide the fact that they have been to one of these countries where there’s a disease in place. And as a result, we may end up getting less information about who has the disease. They’re less likely to get treated properly, screened properly, quarantined properly, and as a consequence, we could end up having more cases rather than less.”
A senior State Department official in Vienna told reporters that, after hours of talks on Wednesday, the hangup keeping Iran and the P5+1 from arriving at a nuclear deal remains “sort of everything.”
“We know where we are headed. We know what we each want the objective to be and we’re trying to narrow those gaps. But we have to do so in a way that ensures that all of the pathways to fissile material for a nuclear weapon are shut down,” the official said on background, adding there are “possible” solutions on the horizon in regard to the Arak heavy water reactor and “many elements” to be dealt with including uranium enrichment at Natanz and Fordow.
“And then we want to make sure we shut down the covert path, and that is largely done through very specific and very meaningful and concrete verification and monitoring mechanisms. And each one of these pathways has layers and layers of detail, and you have to understand every one of those layers to know whether what you think you’ve gotten really works.”
Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, met late into the evening “about whether Iran is willing to take verifiable actions to show the world that their program is indeed exclusively for peaceful purposes.”
Iran also met separately with EU representatives. The State Department official said Iran “thinks it’s important to meet with the United States from time to time because not only do we hold a number of the sanctions that are of greatest interest to them, but we – they are also very interested in our views on what needs to be accomplished.”
The official compared the negotiations to “an amoeba that sort of moves in and out until all of the pieces lock into place.”
“We’ve been chipping away at some of the issues. Everyone has put ideas on the table to see if we can move the ball forward. We have and continue to make some progress, but there is still a substantial amount of work to be done.”
Kerry said this week that he doesn’t know if the administration will extend the deadline — yet again — for an agreement by Nov. 24.
He quipped at a press availability in Paris on Tuesday that he’s “glad that all the pundits and speculators are doubting whether or not” a nuclear deal with Iran “can be reached” by the target date.
The official today said they’re keeping an eye on Nov. 24 because “if you take the pressure off yourself, then you never have to make hard decisions.”
“And deadlines help people to make hard decisions, and there are hard decisions to be made here. And we must. So we are all keeping the pressure on ourselves, and that includes Iran,” the official continued.
“In terms of mood, in a professional way, we all know each other pretty well now. You can tell when the deputy foreign minister jokes. He reads the transcripts of these backgrounders, and when he can joke, ‘Why don’t you just hand over the last one? You’re going to say the same thing,’ it’s reached a level of we know each other well enough to make jokes.”
The State Department official acknowledged that joking around with the Iranians “will not get an agreement done.”
Zarif said today that “experts” from Iran and the P5+1 “will discuss issues related to their differences in the negotiation within the next one or two weeks.”
“There are outstanding differences, but it doesn’t mean that these differences cannot be resolved,” Zarif told reporters, according to Fars News Agency. ”…Everyone believes that this issue can be settled since, actually, Iran’s nuclear program is a peaceful program and a reality on the ground.”
The State Department official wouldn’t put a number on how far along they are in negotiations.
“You can’t put a percentage on it, because even if you thought you were 75 percent of the way or even 98 percent of the way there, that last two percent may be the most important 2 percent there is, may be the glue that puts it all together. So can’t put a percentage on it.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden told a House panel today that they “will consider any options to better protect Americans,” but White House press secretary Josh Earnest reiterated that a travel ban is “not something that we’re considering.”
The White House’s reluctance to entertain the idea comes as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are getting louder, asking why even interim measures such as blocking non-essential travel or blocking travel for non-citizens can’t be considered.
“Currently, when individuals do travel from West Africa to the United States, they are screened prior to departure in West Africa. They are screened again once they enter this country. And they are subjected to heightened screening if they have traveled in these three west African countries in the last three weeks or so,” Earnest told reporters today.
“That is an indication that we are taking the necessary steps to protect the American public. That is our core priority. And that is why the president has directed that these heightened screening measures be put in place at the airports where 94 percent of travelers from western Africa arrive in this country.”
Earnest argued that putting into place a travel or visa ban “would provide a direct incentive for individuals seeking to travel to the United States to go underground and to seek to evade this screening and to not be candid about their travel history in order to enter the country.”
“And that means it would be much harder for us to keep tabs on these individuals and make sure that they get the screening that’s needed to protect them and to protect, more importantly, the American public,” he continued. “So we want to keep those lines of — of transportation open so that those individuals who seek to enter this country — and again, it’s a relatively small number, about 150 a day that enter this country. We want to make sure that those individuals are subjected to the heightened screening measures that the president put in place a week or two ago.”
He also stressed the administration refrain that it’s “important for us to keep this line of transportation open because commercial transportation is critical to ensuring that supplies and equipment can get to the region.”
“I know nothing about the commercial airline industry. But ostensibly, you’re not going to fly a bunch of planes to West Africa and then fly them out of there while they’re empty,” Earnest said. “So as a practical matter, you know, putting in place that travel ban would make it harder for the international community to respond to this incident and to mobilize the personnel and equipment that’s necessary to stop this outbreak at the source.”
The press secretary also denied a report from Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), who said that Frieden told him one of the reasons behind the reluctance to enact a travel ban is the desire to not harm the economies of the “fledgling democracies” in West Africa.
“It’s not. The reason that the travel ban in the view of this administration is not appropriate right now is because it’s not in the best interest of the safety of the American public. Again, people who are traveling from those three countries to the United States right now are subjected to intensive screening both on the ground in those three countries, but also upon arrival here in the United States of America,” Earnest said.
“If we were to put in place a travel ban, it essentially would drive those individuals underground. And it would make it easier for them to evade detection. They wouldn’t be screened at the airport before they left. And it would be harder to ensure that they were being screened when they arrived in this country.”
When asked how it would drive people underground, Earnest replied, “I don’t mean literally underground.”
“I mean that they would be below the radar of the transportation system, that they would now have an incentive to be less than candid about their travel history. If knowing that they could not travel to the United States by saying that they’d been in Liberia, individuals are much less likely, if they’re planning to travel to the United States, to disclose the fact that they’ve been in Liberia,” he said.
“What people need to have the facts about is the facts that there are screening measures that are in place to ensure that individuals who are traveling from West Africa don’t currently exhibit symptoms of Ebola when they try to enter the country. That’s much harder for us to do if we put in place a travel ban, because people will attempt to circumvent that ban and it will make it harder for us to ensure they get the screening we believe is necessary.”
Once again, Islamic State Muslims are pointing to Islam in order to justify what the civilized world counts as atrocities.
According to an October 13 report in the Telegraph,
Islamic State jihadists have given detailed theological reasons justifying why they have taken thousands of women from the Iraqi Yazidi minority and sold them into sex slavery.
A new article in the Islamic State English-language online magazine Dabiq not only admits the practice but justifies it according to the theological rulings of early Islam.
“After capture, the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Sharia amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated,” the article says.
As for “theological reasons” for sex slavery “according to the Sharia,” these are legion—from male Muslim clerics, to female Muslim activists. Generally they need do no more than cite the clear words of Koran 4:3, which permit Muslims to copulate with female captives of war, or ma malakat aymanukum, “what”—not whom—“your right hands possess.”
The article continues:
But most of it [Islamic State “article” or fatwa] is devoted to theological justifications for Islamic State behaviour, citing early clerics and the practices of the Prophet Mohammed and his Companions during the early years of Islamic expansion.
Indeed, while many are now aware of the Koran’s and by extension Sharia’s justification for slaves, sexual or otherwise, fewer are willing to embrace the fact that the prophet of Islam himself kept and copulated with concubines conquered during the jihad.
One little-known story is especially eye-opening:
During Muhammad’s jihad on the Jews of Khaybar, he took for himself from among the spoils of war one young woman, a teenager, Safiya bint Huyay, after hearing of her beauty. (Earlier the prophet had bestowed her on another Muslim jihadi, but when rumor of her beauty reached him, the prophet reneged and took her for himself.)
Muhammad “married” Safiya hours after he had her husband, Kinana, tortured to death in order to reveal hidden treasure. And before this, the prophet’s jihadis slaughtered Safiya’s father and brothers.
While Islamic apologists have long tried to justify this account—often by saying that Muhammad gave her the honor of “marriage” as opposed to being a concubine and that she opted to convert to Islam—they habitually fail to cite what Islamic sources record, namely Baladhuri’s ninth century Kitab Futuh al-Buldan (“Book of Conquests”).
According to this narrative, after the death of Muhammad, Safiya confessed that “Of all men, I hated the prophet the most—for he killed my husband, my brother, and my father,” before “marrying” (or, less euphemistically, raping) her… Keep reading