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At Fundraiser, Obama Steers Foreign Policy Crises to Economic Equality Platform

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama used the foreign policy crises unfolding across the globe as a jumping-off point to promote economic equality policies at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Seattle last night.

He was addressing donors at a private home “under a white tent near a pool, on the lawn of an Italianate style house with a panoramic view of the lake,” according to the White House pool report.

Despite “enormous progress across the board on a whole range of fronts,” he said, “…people are anxious.”

“Now, some of that has to do with some big challenges overseas. I am very proud that we have ended one war, and by the end of this year we will have ended both wars that I inherited before I came into office,” Obama said to applause. “But whether people see what’s happening in Ukraine, and Russia’s aggression towards its neighbors in the manner in which it’s financing and arming separatists; to what’s happened in Syria — the devastation that Assad has wrought on his own people; to the failure in Iraq for Sunni and Shia and Kurd to compromise — although we’re trying to see if we can put together a government that actually can function; to ongoing terrorist threats; to what’s happening in Israel and Gaza — part of people’s concern is just the sense that around the world the old order isn’t holding and we’re not quite yet to where we need to be in terms of a new order that’s based on a different set of principles, that’s based on a sense of common humanity, that’s based on economies that work for all people.”

“But here in the United States, what people are also concerned about is the fact that although the economy has done well in the aggregate, for the average person it feels as if incomes, wages just haven’t gone up; that people, no matter how hard they work, they feel stuck,” he added. “And that’s not an illusion. Because what’s happened is, is that a lot of our gains, a lot of the progress that’s been made in this economy — and this is like a 20, 25, 30-year trend — have gone to the folks at the very top. And middle-class families find themselves with stagnant incomes, even as the cost of health care or the cost of a college education for their kids keeps on skyrocketing.”

“And part of what people are also anxious about is the fact that government doesn’t seem to be responsive, at least at the federal level, to those concerns.

“We know how to solve some of our big problems. But what we’re going to have to do is break the logjam in Washington. So where I’m able to get Congress to help, I want to work with them. Where I can’t get Congress to help, I’m going to do everything I can on my own. Everything I can on my own. If they don’t want to pass a sensible climate change bill, we’re going to go ahead and put forward a Climate Action Plan and make sure we’re working with the EPA under authorities we already have to reduce carbon,” he said.

“And that’s why these midterm elections are so important. I do not want anybody here to succumb to cynicism. Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice. But in order for us to make hope live, in order for hope to be more than just a slogan, we’ve got to work. We’ve got to work to make sure that members of Congress — whether the Senate or the House of Representatives — are serious about you. And I will say, for all the Democrats around here, I’m not overly partisan.”

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House Working Group Arrives at List of Border-Control Actions

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A working group appointed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to study the border crisis has arrived at its slate of recommendations.

Boehner named Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) to lead the group on June 24, and she said last week that the group was making “extraordinary progress in a short amount of time to understand the facts of the situation at the border, and develop sensible, humane, but tough recommendations on a course of action for Congress and the president to act on immediately.”

Granger along with Reps. John Carter (R-Texas), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) visited the Texas-Mexico border twice and flew to Central America to meet with the presidents of Honduras and Guatemala.

Their recommendations are:

·         Deploy the National Guard to the Southern border to assist Border Patrol in the humanitarian care and needs of the unaccompanied minors. This will free up the Border Patrol to focus on their primary mission.

·         Prohibit the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture (USDA) from denying or restricting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) activities on federal land under their respective jurisdictions.

·         Require a DHS strategy and implementation plan to gain operational control of the Southwest border.

·         Establish independent third party commission to develop border security metrics as a means to accurately gauge progress on border security.

·         Establish border security in Central American countries and Mexico.

·         Establish repatriation centers in originating countries in order to facilitate the return of family units and unaccompanied minors.

·         Deploy aggressive messaging campaigns in originating countries and the U.S. to dispel immigration myths, clarify that individuals will be deported on arrival and advise on the dangers and legal penalties of traveling through Mexico to enter the United States illegally.

·         Mandate the detention of all Family Units apprehended at the border with the ultimate goal of processing family units 5-7 days. Congress must continue stringent oversight to ensure this mandate is being met.

·         Amend the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2008 so all unaccompanied minors are treated the same as Mexicans and Canadians for the purpose of removals. This would require unaccompanied children who do not wish to be voluntarily returned to their home country to remain in HHS custody while they await an expedited immigration court hearing that must occur not more than 7 days after they are screened by child welfare officials.

·         Deploy additional judge teams and temporary judges to expedite the hearing of asylum and credible fear claims. Congress must address the occurrences of fraud in our asylum system. Baseless claims crowd the immigration court system and delay processing for those with legitimate claims. The standard under current law that allows an alien to show a “credible fear of persecution” needs to be examined and addressed to ensure a fraud-free system moving forward.  In addition, criminal aliens and criminal gang members should not receive asylum.

·         Establish tough penalties for those engaged in human smuggling, including the smuggling of unaccompanied minors by strengthening penalties for human smugglers and those who assist them.

·         Increase law enforcement operations domestically and in originating countries to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations and encourage originating countries to pass strict laws against human smuggling.

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) said he expected the House to “take up these recommendations so that we can quickly send them to the Senate for a vote and to the president for implementation.”

“I expect that whatever proposal we pass will remain fiscally responsible and not add to our deficit,” Salmon added.

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How Secretary John Kerry Can ‘Address Long-Term Palestinian Grievances,’ Stopping War with Israel

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Shortly after touching down in Tel Aviv today (7/23), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the press why he had come to the region.

The goal, Mr. Kerry stressed, was not only to obtain a cease-fire but to map out a “sustainable process going forward” that would address some of the long-term grievances of the Palestinians in Gaza and prevent the fighting between Hamas and Israel from erupting every few years. [emphasis added]

His jet landed at Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s front door, which had already been slammed shut by U.S. and European officials banning flights in and out. One can only imagine the comfort Kerry’s words brought to the mothers of Israel, whose sons crawl through tunnels attempting to flush out Hamas terrorists.

After all, what long-term grievances might the Palestinians harbor that Mr. Kerry could address?

How about the fact that Israelis live on land that Palestinians will forever claim as their own?

Well, he might address that by agreeing with Hamas and Fatah that a Jew can no longer have an address in the former, and ephemeral, state of Israel. Then he could get back on his plane at Tel Aviv’s new Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Hassan Yassin International Airport and enjoy a ticker-tape parade down Broadway.

That might encourage Hamas to stop lobbing thousands of missiles into the area. Although history shows that if radical Muslims don’t have Jews or Christians to kill (or even if they do), they’ll kill each other. Even Bill Maher knows that.

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Hamas Threat to Israel’s Airport Demands a New Strategy: Let Israel Win

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Hamas launched a powerful rocket that landed within a mile of Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport. Israel has opened an alternative airport in Negev.

The US Federal Aviation Administration overreacted to the Hamas rocket, by banning American carriers from landing at Ben Gurion, temporarily. Secretary of State John Kerry has flown to the Middle East to try and arrange a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

Michael Bloomberg, of all people, showed stronger leadership by flying into Ben Gurion and publicizing his flight, to show that it is still safe.

Hamas is believed to possess from 10,000 to 20,000 rockets. The terrorist group has used that arsenal to start the current round of fighting by firing those rockets at Israeli civilian population centers.

Israel has responded by going after Hamas in as precise a manner as possible, to avoid civilian casualties. That is no easy feat when Hamas deliberately hides its weapons in schools and when its fighters do not wear uniforms and who themselves hide among civilians, using them as human shields. When those civilians are inevitably killed, Hamas then uses them for propaganda against Israel.

At this point, what would a cease-fire achieve?

For Israel, a temporary and untenable “peace.” For Hamas, it would achieve quite a lot. A cease-fire would leave its rocket arsenal intact. It would also leave the threat that Hamas could shut down Israel’s main international airport, at any moment, intact.

For Israel, that is an intolerable threat. Hamas could cut Israel off from the rest of the world, or at least from its strongest ally, any time it wants, just by firing one of its thousands and thousands of rockets near the airport.

Kerry should not have gone to Israel to mindlessly try to broker another cease-fire.

He should have gone to Israel to tell Hamas unambiguously that the United State supports Israel’s right to self-defense, and that if Hamas does not turn over all of its rockets immediately, that the United States supports Israel’s right to destroy the entire arsenal by means and methods of its choosing.

In other words, Kerry should have gone to Israel to tell Hamas and the world that the United States supports Israel and its right to defeat Hamas once and for all.

Negotiating with Hamas has proven to be futile. It’s time to let Israel win.

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John Kerry Fan Boy On CNN.com Not Quite Sure What Hamas Is Up To

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Yes, he’s talking about that John Kerry.

This is mostly full of what you would expect from cheerleaders in the MSM but there are a couple of notable nuggets here, the first of which is an implication that Kerry has grown weary of the boss’s thumb-twiddling:

Kerry is an activist and simply couldn’t abide the fact that people were dying and the United States wasn’t at least trying to stop it.

The comments on Kerry are generally full of praise for a Secretary of State who talks about climate change as a threat more than he does terrorism.

Amid the repeated reminders in the op-ed that Palestinians are dying, the author tosses out this gem:

As for Hamas, it’s not easy to read its calculations, in part because it’s not clear whether the military or political wing is in charge.

Really? Are we still pretending there is a lot of nuance there?

Let me offer some armchair (ok, desk chair) analysis: Hamas attacks Israel until it runs out of things with which to attack. As a distraction while re-arming, Hamas then whines about retaliation and is supported by useful idiots in various media around the world. Then it attacks again.

It is rather difficult to deal with the various evils in the world when so many keep playing dangerous games of moral equivalence.

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Go Home, United Nations, You’re Drunk

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Detroit has a water crisis.

Actually, no, it doesn’t. Detroit has a deadbeat crisis.

The broke down Motor City has announced that it is suspending shutting off water to those who don’t pay their water bills, for 15 days. Just about half of the city’s residents are actually paying their water bills.

Detroit, which by the way is bankrupt, made that decision because the United Nations pressured it to.

How did Detroit get to be bankrupt? Well, it has a deadbeat problem. And a corruption problem.

The United Nations claims that access to clean water is now a “human right.” And because of that, the city should not cut off the water to people who are using the city’s water service, but are refusing to pay for it.

Most of the same people who are refusing to pay for the water they use are on taxpayer-supported public assistance. Public assistance is meant to help them pay for food, shelter, and of course, water.

But instead, many of them are paying for cell phones and satellite or cable TV service.

They are making choices in what they pay for. If they prize other things over clean water, well, there ought to be consequences for that. The United Nations, which itself lives off of the public assistance of member states including the United States, disagrees.

Potable water doesn’t clean itself and, for the most part, doesn’t exist in nature in the quantities that we need to support our cities. Humans have to process water to make it drinkable. That processing costs money. Somebody has to pay for it. If that somebody is not the people who are actually using the water, then who ought to pay for it?

The United Nations has taken the position that it doesn’t care, and it doesn’t matter, who pays for water.

They’re not going far enough.

Food is just as important to our health as water. If clean water is a human right, why isn’t food? And if food is a human right, why should anyone ever have to pay for food?

Why shouldn’t farmers just give away all of the crops, beef, milk, and other products that they generate? Why shouldn’t all restaurants serve everyone whatever food they want, free of charge? Aren’t they violating our human rights if they force us to pay for the food that we eat? Steak and lobster for everyone, every day, whenever they want — since it’s a human right. Why shouldn’t the United Nations make this happen?

Then no one would have to choose between food and their smartphone.

Because having to make choices isn’t fair. Or something.

 

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New NRA Ad Urges Members To Vote And Protect Their Rights (VIDEO)

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

This is part of the organization’s Trigger The Vote campaign:

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IRS IT: Lerner’s Hard Drive Was Merely ‘Scratched,’ Data Was Recoverable

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The House Ways and Means Committee’s IRS targeting scandal investigators have tracked down some IRS information technology specialists who contradict the agency’s official line regarding the spoiled hard drive of Lois Lerner.

According to the IRS, Lerner’s hard drive “crashed” and the data on it was not recovered. That data, according to the IRS, included all of Lerner’s emails to and from people outside the IRS itself. Those so-called lost emails could shed light on who Lerner was communicating with outside the IRS and who outside the agency may have been aware of the targeting of conservative groups, and what the purpose of the targeting was.

But the IRS says that those emails are “lost,” and Lerner’s “crashed” hard drive was later “recycled,” meaning it was destroyed entirely.

But the IRS IT specialists tracked down by Ways and Means tell a different story.

According to them, Lerner’s hard drive was merely “scratched,” and most of the data on it was recoverable. The IT specialists tell the Committee’s investigators that they recommended the IRS seek outside assistance to recover the data on Lerner’s drive. Forensic experts consulted by the Committee agree that most of the data would have been recoverable.

The IRS apparently never followed that advice to seek outside experts for help with the drive.

But the IRS’ record-keeping on Lerner’s hard drive may not be complete or accurate itself. Paperwork discovered by the committee says that at one point, Lerner’s computer was described as “recovered.” The IRS has also failed to provide a paper trail for the destruction of the hard drive. To date, IRS officials have testified that it was destroyed. But the agency systematically tracks the disposition of hard drives. There ought to be paperwork tracking Lerner’s hard drive to its demise, but there is no such paperwork.

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President Obama Casts Himself as Champeen News Reader in the World, or Something

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

President Barack Obama is spending three of this week’s five work days fundraising for the Democratic Party. At a fundraiser last night, he contradicted everything he has ever said about how he learns about scandals in his own government.

POLITICO reports that Obama said he’s fighting however he can to combat cynicism from becoming a dominant theme in the upcoming midterm elections. And when the president brought up the media as partly to blame, he remarked, “Whatever they’re reporting about, usually I know.”

That’s a funny thing to say for a guy who claims that he learned about Fast and Furious, the Veterans Administration secret waiting lists, the NSA spying on foreign leaders, the terrorist capture of much of Iraq, Russia’s invasion of Crimea, the IRS targeting scandal and the failure of Healthcare.gov from the news media.

Or maybe he was just lying about not knowing about any of that beforehand…

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Survey Says Millennials Think Socialism is a Joke

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The Reason Foundation just released a survey proving the failure of the American public education system. But, according to Derek Thompson in The Atlantic, we might as well just laugh at it:

3. Far less important, but entertaining nonetheless: Millennials don’t know what socialism is, but they think it sounds nice.

I predict that any readers over the age of 30 will absolutely love this fact about voters under the age of 29. Forty-two percent of Millennials think socialism is preferable to capitalism, but only 16 percent of Millennials could accurately define socialism in the survey.

Say what you want about the tenets of national socialism, dude, at least it’s an ethos that young people can define in an Internet survey.

A number of my PJMedia colleagues jumped on the survey with the usual complaint that “kids these days” want everything handed to them on a silver platter. Conservatives in general fail to address the far more creepy comedic love affair with socialism because we fail to understand the media that informs the Millennial generation.

Case in point: The “Jon Stewart takes on Gaza” debacle. Times of Israel editor David Horovitz did an excellent job ripping the comedian to shreds for his stereotypical, biased account of the meanie Israelis versus the poor Palestinians. Conservative media proceeded to join in the dissection 15 years too late. From the day he took the anchor’s chair on the set of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart has attempted to be the court jester of the hipster elite. An admitted leftist, he was a psych major turned stand-up comedian who makes no bones about being a professional satirist – nothing more. Yet, the bulk of the millennial news audience share goes to Stewart and his former Daily Show co-star, Colbert Report comic actor Stephen Colbert. Knowing this, why should we be the least bit surprised that Millennials are laughing about the real issues facing the world and our country today, including socialism?

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Americans Dovish, New Poll Finds

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Politicians and pundits apparently have more interest in asserting American strength on the world stage than do the American people. From Fox News:

It’s no secret that after a decade of bloodshed and sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan, most Americans are weary of war. But the numbers in a new Politico poll bring home how sizable majorities are increasingly wary of further foreign entanglements.

Take Ukraine, which became a flash point when Russia invaded Crimea and has dominated the news since the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane, almost definitely by pro-Russian separatists. When the pollsters asked whether the U.S should do more to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine, only 17 percent of likely voters said yes. Another 34 percent said America should be less involved, while 31 percent backed the Obama administration’s current approach. (The poll was taken before the jet was shot down.)

What about Syria, which shattered President Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons and has been suppressing a rebellion for years. Some 42 percent of likely voters want less U.S. involvement, while 15 percent want more and 26 percent back our limited level of involvement.

And then there are the two wars that have roiled American politics since 9/11. An overwhelming 77 percent support Obama’s plan to pull all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, with 23 percent in opposition.

And in Iraq, where tremendous gains by ISIS sparked a fierce debate over whether Obama should have left some troops in the country, 44 percent want less involvement and 19 percent favor more involvement, with 23 percent supporting the current level of engagement.

These are staggering figures that reveal a chasm between most politicians and a majority of voters. Many Americans are understandably focused on the problems in their daily lives and not terribly worried about what happens in Donetsk or Aleppo.

Have we become a nation of wimps? Or, has the Washington set been operating under a false dichotomy between restraint and strength?

An opportunity seems to be presented here for a new kind of foreign policy posture, one focused on quick and decisive victory against objective threats to American lives, but otherwise reluctant to intervene in wholly foreign affairs. Will Rand Paul fill that void? Many Republicans won’t trust him to recognize objective threats. Yet, his seems to be the only voice deviating from the bipartisan Washington choir. Who else might thread the needle between isolationism and military adventurism by articulating a vigorous defense that nonetheless minds our own business?

(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 10:01 minutes long; 9.68 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)

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GAO “Secret Shopper” Investigation Finds Fraud in Obamacare Exchanges

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

On Tuesday, Republicans released preliminary results of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) undercover examination of enrollment in the Obamacare exchanges.

Using fake information during an undercover “secret shopper” investigation, the GAO created 18 fictitious identities through the federal exchange by telephone, online, and in-person.  In 17 of 18 attempts the GAO was able to obtain premium subsidies and health insurance with fake information through telephone and online applications. According to the report, 11 out of 12 fake applications for the federal exchanges were approved, with credits totaling $2500 per month ($30,000 per year).

During the investigation, fake shoppers provided fake documents, such as Social Security numbers and proof of income and citizenship. They found that “Federal contractors made no effort to authenticate documents applicants provided” and the fake ID and income information proved to be no impediment to enrollment.  According to the report, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is not required to authenticate documentation. “The contractor told us it does not seek to detect fraud and accepts documents as authentic unless there are obvious alterations,” the GAO said.

As of July 2014 the fake enrollees continue to receive subsidized coverage for the 11 applications, including 3 applications where GAO did not provide any requested supporting documents.

When the GAO made attempts to sign up for federal subsidies in person, they were unable to obtain assistance in five of six attempts. “One navigator said assistance was not available because HealthCare.gov was down and another [declined] to provide assistance,” the preliminary report said, noting that navigaors have received tens of millions of dollars in federal grants to provide assistance to those in need of healthcare.

The report also pointed out that CMS officials still do not have the electronic capability to identify enrollees who have “put their policies in force” by paying their premiums. “As a result, CMS must rely on health insurance issuers to self-report enrollment data used to determine how much CMS owes the issuers for the income-based subsidies,” the GAO report said. “Work is underway to implement such a system, according to CMS, but the agency does not have a timeline for completing and deploying it.”

Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) said, “We are seeing a trend with ObamaCare information systems: under every rock, there is incompetence, waste, and the potential for fraud.” Camp said, “Now, we learn that in many cases, the exchange is unable to screen out fake identities or documents.”

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) said, “Fictitious people have used fictitious documents to gain tens of thousands of dollars in real subsidies.  Yet, before subsidies were paid in January, the former secretary ‘certified’ the proper controls were in place to prevent these kinds of improper payments.” Coburn added that such incompetence and gross mismanagement is unacceptable and deeply troubling.  ”At a time when we’re facing a $17 trillion debt, it is imperative that DHS take the necessary steps to address the problems identified in GAO’s report.”

According to GAO, over 2.6 million application inconsistencies have been found for people who have signed up for health plans in the exchange. The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight will hold a hearing on Wednesday morning with the GAO to discuss the findings of its report.

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Ted Cruz Sorry/Not Sorry About Losing the Vampire Vote

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) responded on Facebook to a True Blood episode that featured a storyline with a massacre at a fundraiser for Ted Cruz at the George W. Bush Presidential Library. In the episode, a pair of  left-leaning vampires show up at the Republican fundraiser to search for the parents of their enemy. Pam, the female vampire, catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror with a sparkly dress and big hair and exclaims, “I’m a Republican!” Except instead of “Republican” she invents a sexually crude word that’s not worth repeating here because it’s juvenile and debauched. After Pam recovers from her shock at looking like a Republican, a bloody massacre ensues at the gala.

On his personal Facebook page, Cruz said he never expected to turn up on the “misogynist and profanity-ridden” show. “I’m sorry to have lost the vampire vote,” Cruz wrote, “but am astonished (and amused) that HBO is suggesting that hard-core leftists are blood-sucking fiends.”

But in retrospect, Cruz acknowledged that he probably never had a chance with the hard-core leftist blood suckers:

 

 

Cruz’s senior communications advisor (and frequent tag-team Twitter partner) Amanda Carpenter agreed:

 

 

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

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sir Ian McKellen Says Struggling Actors Deserve “Living Wage”

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

If venerable film and theater actor Sir Ian McKellen has proven anything over the course of his remarkable career, he has proven that it is never too late to catch your big break. McKellen worked steadily throughout his life, achieving renown (and an Oscar) for his role as an aging Nazi war criminal in 1998’s Apt Pupil. But it wasn’t until two years later, when he reunited with director Bryan Singer to play Magneto in the first X-Men film and became Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings franchise, that McKellen became an American superstar at the age of 61.

Plenty of actors have “made it” well into their middle age. Despite playing roles in several Hollywood films, including a significant supporting bit in Jurassic Park, Samuel L. Jackson didn’t become a star until his role in Pulp Fiction at the age of 46. Another Quentin Tarantino film catapulted Christoph Waltz to fame at the age of 53.

Such success, like most all success, emerges from a commitment to develop a craft and persist through setbacks while relentlessly pursuing an individually-defined happiness. No one handed it to McKellen, Jackson, or Waltz. They earned it.

Nevertheless, McKellen recently shared his belief with Radio Times that struggling actors should be lifted up through wage controls. From The Independent:

A recent report found just one actor in 50 earned more than £20,000 a year.

“Most actors are not rich – they are very poor indeed. What keeps them going is that they just love the job,” Sir Ian told Radio Times.

He said: “I know actors who have had to turn down good roles because they just don’t pay enough. It’s hard. The one thing you can ask, I think, is that actors get paid a living wage. I would like it if all the repertory theatres that currently exist could do that. It would make a huge difference.”

The reason one actor in 50 earns more than £20,000 a year is because only one actor in 50 produces that much value. Forcing wage mandates on the industry will not change the amount of value produced. It will only increase the cost of giving struggling actors a chance, which means they will get fewer chances.

It’s precisely the same dynamic created by any minimum wage. Opportunities for those with low or developing skill dry up as they are priced out of the market. If McKellen truly cares about the struggling actors rising up in his wake, he should reconsider his position on wage controls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shades of King David.  Watch this video.

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

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White House Inexplicably Shuts Press Out of Apollo 11 Remembrance

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama Meets with Crew of Apollo 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Heart-ectomy for Obamacare: Did Obama’s Lawyers Really Make This Argument?

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

By now you’ve heard that a federal three-judge panel ruled that the Affordable Care Act does not permit federal subsidies to help people buy insurance through HealthCare.gov. This cuts the heart from the redistributive scheme by essentially pricing young, healthy people out of the market.

But scrolling down in The New York Times story, I found the stunning argument that the Obama administration offered in a vain attempt to rescue the president’s sole accomplishment.

Basically, the law says only the states can help people pay for their Obamacare policies. So, here’s how the all the president’s lawyers tried to get around that.

Obama administration officials said that an exchange established by the federal government was, in effect, established by a state because the secretary of health and human services was standing “in the shoes” of states when she established exchanges.

Imagine how Obama and his cronies might apply that principle.

Federal executive branch officers can act on behalf of the legislative branch in each of the states. This is a shocking coup attempt against federalism, republican governance, the separation of powers and the Constitution itself.

No, it’s not the first time he’s tried something like this, but forgive me if I never grow accustomed to the audacity of these would-be transformers.

Burwell ruling

Click the image to read the actual ruling.

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

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Breaking: Federal Court Rules Obamacare Insurance Subsidies Invalid

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Rick Moran

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

Jonathan Adler:

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

Background on the case can be found here.

Developing…

UPDATE

CNBC lays out some of the consequences of the ruling:

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

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

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

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

More: 

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

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

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

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

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

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

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

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

But why all of this unseemly lobbying?

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

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Mike McNally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Central America Leaders Enter Phase II of Border Extortion Plan

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Surprise!

Central American leaders will ask U.S. President Barack Obama to support a regional development and security plan to stem the tide of illegal child migrants to the United States at a meeting next week, a Honduran minister said on Saturday.

Presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras will meet with Obama on Friday to look for ways to curb a record-breaking exodus of Central American children, fleeing to the United States to escape violence and poverty.

Since October, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children have been detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, most of them from Central America, and double last year’s count.

OK, they haven’t hit us up for any money yet, but let’s just say I tend to err on the side of cynical these days. When other countries want “support” from the United States they aren’t really looking for a group hug.

Kudos to them for at least admitting there is a problem on their end. That’s more than we’ve gotten from various Mexican presidents in the last several decades.

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

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Smell the sweat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let ‘em keep at it.

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Shocking Allegations About Ohio Charter Schools Tied to Controversial Turkish Leader

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

FBIRAid

On the heels of an FBI raid of several Horizon-Concept charter schools in Ohio, several former teachers and employees have come forward to make shocking allegations of inflated test scores and falsified attendance records, racist and sexist behavior by Turkish teachers and administrators, and sexual harassment and abuse that went unreported by administrators. At a State Board of Education meeting last week, former employees described not only low educational standards, but also an atmosphere of intimidation — American teachers feared Turkish administrators who fired teachers at the first sign of disloyalty while Turkish teachers were promoted, often despite poor job performance. The charter schools, associated with the Turkish Gülen movement and its controversial leader, Fethullah Gülen, promote Turkish language and culture and many of the schools are known for their academic excellence.

Richard Storrick, who taught at Horizon Science Dayton High School for two and a half years, told members of the state school board about a “sex game” that went on in the middle school classroom of a Turkish teacher, saying that standards differ “whether you are from Turkish descent or of American descent.” Storrick said that no action was taken when the director of the school was informed about the game and in fact, the teacher was re-hired the next year and given additional responsibilities.

Storrick also said that Turkish students were treated differently than American students. “If you were a Turkish student, you knew you could get away with misbehavior, including fighting, and be back the next day. Turkish students were permitted to skip class or school with no repercussions,” Storrick said. Turkish teachers called African American students “dogs” and “monkeys.” Another teacher at the same school, Timothy Neary added, “Racism was an issue. Black kids would be disciplined much more severely than Turkish students. If there was a fight in school, the Turkish students would be back the next day. Many of the black students would get severe consequences.” He also said that sexism was a problem. “It was almost gross how they’d talk to women. They’d tell them to not talk or cut them off in midpoint,” Neary said, adding that the majority of teachers fired were women.

Kelly Kochensparger, who served as the Dayton charter school’s public communications director in addition to her teaching duties, said that middle school students were caught on tape engaging in oral sex. School administrators notified neither the parents nor the authorities, preferring to focus on maintaining the school’s positive image instead, she said.

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AIPAC ‘Distressed’ by Iran Negotiations Extension, Economic Relief

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kerry Dispatched to Egypt to Forge Middle East Ceasefire

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Criminalization of All The Things

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Radley Balko highlights this charming story from South Carolina, among others.

Here are the facts: Debra Harrell works at McDonald’s in North Augusta, South Carolina. For most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her, playing on a laptop that Harrell had scrounged up the money to purchase. (McDonald’s has free WiFi.) Sadly, the Harrell home was robbed and the laptop stolen, so the girl asked her mother if she could be dropped off at the park to play instead.

Harrell said yes. She gave her daughter a cell phone. The girl went to the park—a place so popular that at any given time there are about 40 kids frolicking—two days in a row. There were swings, a “splash pad,” and shade. On her third day at the park, an adult asked the girl where her mother was. At work, the daughter replied.

The shocked adult called the cops. Authorities declared the girl “abandoned” and proceeded to arrest the mother.

The state has taken the nine-year-old girl away from her mother. Which is abusive, if you ask me.

So if you let your kid play unsupervised at a park for any length of time, you’re subject to arrest by the minions of the state now?

Can we really describe ourselves as the “land of the free” anymore?

 

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Thanks, Bill Gates: How to Keep Dictatorships Alive, Squelching Liberty on a Global Scale

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Sounds like a simple enough way to cure poverty: Form a partnership between donors and leaders of government. Get a set of measurable goals and diligently track progress toward those goals. There’s nothing we can’t do when we put our minds to it.

It’s a technocratic solution to a human problem that plays to our sense of confidence as scientific problem solvers.

That’s been the basic approach to economic development of the so-called “third world” by the “first world” since the middle of the last century.

But not only is it a failure, it actually props up dictators and stomps the rights of the poor, while allowing wealthy donors, like Bill Gates, to feel good about themselves as they monitor the “measurable” progress.

I love the [United Nations'] Millennium Development Goals. I think they’re the best idea for focusing the world on fighting global poverty that I’ve ever seen….Thanks to these goals…the world at large knows the key measures of poverty, hunger, health and education. Some of the numbers are good and some are not. But the fact that the world is focusing on these numbers is excellent….The Millennium Development Goals can guide the search for new discoveries by showing us where innovation can bring the biggest returns. This is their genius.
– Bill Gates, speech to U.N. General Assembly, September 2008  (video below)

Sounds great. But is it true?

The Tyranny of ExpertsThe Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, by William Easterly, demonstrates how a toxic stew of arrogance, altruism and racism has led “the West” to positively hinder “the Rest” from achieving the very thing we value most — equality under law. Easterly has produced a rarity among serious books — page-turning readability, with even-handed scholarship and careful documentation.

Easterly says the problem with well-meaning fellows like Bill Gates is multi-pronged.

1) We don’t have accurate data, we ignore contrary evidence, and we misinterpret the faulty data, attributing apparent growth to the activities of autocrats and bureaucrats when the evidence points to factors beyond their control.

2) We ignore history and the actual needs of the people, as if we could write our own solutions upon a blank slate, that we decide is framed by modern national boundaries.

3) We idolize strong leaders who can implement programs funded by donors, but ignore their autocratic repression of individual rights, and so we often use charity dollars to pay for pogroms via programs.

4) We think of innovation as something a few elite scholars and captains of industry bring to the poor, rather than something that springs from decentralized problem-solving by people who have freedom, property rights, equal justice under law and profit motive.

In the video below, Bill Gates speaks to the UN General Assembly — history’s greatest congregation of thugs and tyrants. For more than six minutes Gates praises the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), without even hinting that people might need more than food, medicine and education. He never mentions self-governance, liberty, or capitalism.

The best spin on this is that Gates think if we take care of health, learning and economic survival, then republican governance and its protection of person and property will come later.

The vector of history collides with, and obliterates, that notion.

The worst-case scenario is that Gates cravenly kowtows to the world’s oppressors because he needs their cooperation to reach his beloved development goals. Like a geek with an MS-Excel spreadsheet, he has lost sight of the human impact behind the columns, rows and formulae. All that matters is the data, not how you get there.

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Malaysia Airlines Flight Spotted as Lone Transcontinental Traveler Over Syria

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

With all of the scrutiny surrounding the path of doomed MH17 over a war zone in eastern Ukraine, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH4 took a questionable route from Kuala Lumpur to London yesterday:

 

Homs remains an area of heavy fighting despite a recently lifted siege, with ISIS taking over a gas field and executing many of the workers.

A look at FlightRadar24 this morning found that MH4 wasn’t flying over Syria anymore, but heading over the Islamic State and Mosul:

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 10.52.17 AM

Planes are having to find new diversions since last week’s takedown of the passenger airliner by a Russian-made missile, including this wide curve under the Crimean peninsula.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 10.42.56 AM

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