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1  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pressure builds on France to not proceed with warships sale to Russia on: Today at 12:32:53 PM

Check out the picture of one of the ships.

I'm calling BS on the parity of our sales to Egypt.
2  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama plans to bring Hondurans here directly on: Today at 12:13:49 PM
3  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel's destruction: Good thing we have SecState Kerry negotiating w this guy , on: Today at 11:01:33 AM
4  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: Today at 11:00:19 AM
Excellent find!
5  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics at the State & Municipal level on: Today at 12:51:18 AM
Well, I'm not down with the amnesty, but that is a federal issue , , , and the federal courts have taken gay marriage away from the vote so I suppose he doesn't hurt on those two issues.

Good message that the Reps are the party of work, etc.

Let's see.

6  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Energizer on: July 24, 2014, 04:46:31 PM
7  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Umm , , , well , , , ummm , , , maybe they were not vaporized after all , , , on: July 24, 2014, 03:17:50 PM
8  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Winston Churchhill arrested , , , on: July 24, 2014, 02:54:06 PM
9  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 800,000 pairs of shoes on: July 24, 2014, 02:46:52 PM
10  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jewish births trending up? on: July 24, 2014, 02:45:33 PM
11  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Maliki on way out? on: July 24, 2014, 02:44:01 PM
second post-- be sure to see first one


Nouri al-Maliki, the only prime minister Baghdad has known since the United States invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam Hussein, may soon lose his job as his country struggles to form a government. Like al-Maliki, Iraq's next head of state will almost certainly be beholden to Tehran, even as he manages an insurgency that threatens to tear the country apart.

Al-Maliki owes his tenure largely to his ability to placate U.S. and Iranian interests. For eight years he was able to keep his Shiite coalition intact, but his tactics alienated Iraq's once-dominant Sunnis and the Kurds, who were once allied with the Shia. In some ways, his exclusion of the country's minority populations explains why the country is fraying.
Government Formation

There are several factors in Iraq's struggle to form a government. The Kurds have sought more autonomy by assuming control over oil-rich areas. More important, the ongoing Sunni rebellion, led by the Islamic State, has overrun large swaths of Syria and central Iraq, and rebels have captured parts of Mosul and Tikrit.

It is under these circumstances that Iran is trying to forge a new power-sharing agreement among al-Maliki's erstwhile allies. While replacing the prime minister with someone likewise friendly to Iran will be difficult, it appears Tehran has narrowed down its choices to four candidates: Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, National Alliance chair Ibrahim al-Jaafari, al-Maliki's former chief of staff and close adviser Tariq Najm, and Ahmed Chalabi, the onetime darling of the George W. Bush administration.

The international community has clamored for al-Maliki's departure ever since the Islamic State began its campaign of violence, which is brutal even by Iraq's standards. But the momentum really turned on the prime minister July 21, when Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said his country did not support al-Maliki. Specifically, Zarif said in a CNN interview that Tehran would support whomever the Iraqi people elected. Zarif's statement comes after Iranian national security chief Ali Shamkhani traveled to Iraq to meet with al-Maliki, Iraq's top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and several other Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders.
Iraqi Parliamentary Elections Results
Click to Enlarge

The problem for Iran is that al-Maliki, his party (Hizb al-Dawah) and the State of Law coalition constitute Iraq's political establishment, which Tehran has no interest in dislodging. Baghdad's ruling coalition is based on a delicate balance of power within the Shiite community and, more broadly, Iraq's three main population groups. In fact, the outcome of the April 30 elections, which gave the State of Law coalition a majority in parliament, validated Iran's strategy. And even though there were rising calls for al-Maliki's ouster, Iran was unprepared to replace him because it was dealing with an even bigger crisis: Syria.

But the Islamic State offensive has forced Iran to reconsider its strategy. Not only has the jihadist assault emboldened Kurdish separatists, it has also forced Iran to work with its Shiite allies to elect Salim al-Jubouri, a prominent Sunni politician, as parliamentary speaker. (Tehran needs as many Sunni partners as possible so that it can help manage the Islamic State-led uprising.) By Aug. 15, Iraqis should also select the president and his vice president, though internal rivalries among the Kurds, who typically occupy the presidency, could delay this process.
Iran's Endorsement

But these posts are not nearly as important as the premiership, a fact that Iraq's minorities understand well. In this context, determining the next prime minister is no longer a purely internal matter among the Shia; they will have to consider the Kurds and the Sunnis. Already there have been signs of discord between rival Shiite parties. A member of Hizb al-Dawah, Heidar al-Abadi, recently was elected as one of the country's two deputy parliamentary speakers (one post always goes to a Shi'i). The move may be part of a compromise whereby al-Maliki surrenders the premiership. Bayan Jabr Solagh, a former interior and finance minister and a senior leader of the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, went so far as to say that since al-Maliki's party got the deputy speaker post, it should not be given the premiership.
Potential Iraqi Prime Ministers
Click to Enlarge

Meanwhile, Chalabi reappeared to submit his own candidacy for the deputy speaker's position. Interestingly, Chalabi took 107 votes -- 42 fewer than al-Abadi -- which was enough to force a run-off. After Chalabi agreed to withdraw his candidacy, al-Abadi won the second round with 188 votes. Chalabi's move showed that he may not have enough votes to win the premiership, but he does have the numbers to block al-Maliki from retaining his post.

Chalabi's maneuvering has fueled speculation that he is staging his political comeback. Already he has the support of the two main rivals of al-Maliki's party, the movement of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which enabled him to be elected as a lawmaker. Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq chief Ammar al-Hakim has even said Chalabi is one of his top candidates for prime minister. Chalabi has considerable support from the Kurds, and with his secular credentials, he also has influence among the Sunnis.

However, there are some obstacles to Chalabi's election. Al-Maliki's bloc has 92 seats while Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadrists combined have 63. Legally, the largest parliamentary bloc is entitled to the premiership. This is why other Shiite stalwarts such as Abdul-Mahdi and Solagh, who are Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq members, are not strong contenders for the job. If al-Maliki is replaced, the premiership is still likely to stay with Hizb al-Dawah. That leaves Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs Hussain al-Shahristani, an independent politician in the State of Law, on the outside -- unlikely to succeed al-Maliki despite being one of his top lieutenants. 

There are several members in Hizb al-Dawah that are suitable for the premiership. These include national security adviser Falah al-Fayadh, al-Maliki's closest adviser, Najm, and Ali al-Adeeb, who is seen as the second-in-command in the party. Ultimately, the premiership will be determined according to an internal power-sharing agreement that all the main stakeholders endorse.

In geopolitics, personalities matter more in the short term than in the long term. This is particularly true in Iraq, where a functional three-way power-sharing arrangement has yet to take hold. According to a July 22 report by the Kurdish news website Khandan, Shamkhani told the leaders of the National Alliance that Tehran approved of the list of four candidates. All these candidates are close to Iran, and though the Sunni insurrection has weakened Iraq, the state remains firmly under Iranian influence, even if al-Maliki's successor is untested.

Read more: Iraq's Prime Minister May Be Replaced | Stratfor

12  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oil Export Deal on: July 24, 2014, 02:41:52 PM


News of an impending deal to bring oil exports back online is likely to create more problems for Libya's embattled central government rather than solve them. After the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's regime, Tripoli has found that such deals usually trigger a larger competition between various armed groups demanding often-competing concessions, further destabilizing the country. As long as Libya depends on cooperation from the various armed groups within its borders to maintain stability, its reliance on negotiating and granting concessions (rather than using force) to end protests and fighting will perpetuate the very pattern of extortion and violence by militias that Tripoli is trying to end.


Libyan media outlets are reporting that members of the government-funded Petroleum Facilities Guards and Tripoli have reached an initial deal allowing for a temporary resumption of exports at the 90,000 barrels-per-day Marsa el Brega loading facility in eastern Libya. The deal, brokered by tribal elders from Marsa el Brega, is provisional. The guards whose protests closed the facility last week are demanding pay increases and, more controversially, the reinstatement of Brig. Idris Bukhamada, the former commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guards. The protestors are giving the government 20 days to meet their demands, though this process likely will be complicated by the impending dissolution of the outgoing General National Congress in favor of a new transitional political body, the House of Representatives, expected to take place in early August.

Bukhamada was removed in deals between the General National Congress and a group of renegade Petroleum Facilities Guards in April and earlier this month. Ibrahim Jathran, a former regional commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guards and leader of the breakaway group that has kept much of Libya's eastern oil exports offline for nearly a year, demanded that his forces be reincorporated into the larger body of the guards. Leveraging his control over the majority of eastern Libyan export capacity, Jathran also pushed the government to appoint new leadership for the force, effectively ousting Bukhamada, his professional and regional rival. The replacement was Ali al-Arash, a man seen as closer to Jathran than to the government and whose leadership has been contested and ultimately rejected by the Bukhamada loyalists within the Petroleum Facilities Guards.
Libya's Urban and Rural Power Centers
Click to Enlarge

The episode underscores the difficulty in reaching lasting arrangements in Libya's increasingly fragmented political and social order. Stratfor has long noted the temporary nature of agreements reached by the weak central government and the highly competitive tribal, militia and ethnic groups that have dominated post-Gadhafi Libya. It is nearly impossible to make concessions to one group without angering its competitors, and nearly all of the rival groups are able to control and take critical infrastructure -- including airports, pumping stations, oil refineries and export terminals -- offline.

The outgoing government and its successor body now must choose to either acquiesce to the demands of Bukhamada's supporters at Marsa el Brega and bring the terminal and its airstrip back online, or placate Jathran, whose forces still guard the bulk of eastern Libya's export capacity. While Jathran is present at more ports, Bukhamada's cousin, Col. Wanis Bukhamada, is head of Bengahzi's Sawaiq special forces currently fighting alongside retired Gen. Khalifa Hifter's anti-Islamist forces in the east.

The embattled central government's considerations go beyond pay scales and leadership structures of embittered petroleum guards into broader issues of renegade national forces, anti-incumbency movements and a risk of larger-scale fighting between the country's many competing armed groups. The central government will have a difficult time reaching a deal with one group of Petroleum Facilities Guards that does not violate the terms of its deal with the other, and risks angering both -- resulting in cutoffs of all or some of Libya's eastern oil terminals. Those on strike are unlikely to modify or lessen their respective demands, making a limited restart followed by a partial shutoff or delay from either Marsa el Brega or other eastern terminals the most realistic outcome. Such an outcome would occur within weeks rather than months

This unpredictability and the government's lack of enforcement capabilities is causing other larger, structural issues for a government keen to export what oil it can while some fields and terminals are still open. Buyers are demanding discounts -- rumored to be between $1-2 per barrel for now -- for spot purchases, making it more difficult for the National Oil Company to sign months-long supply contracts to traders who are wary of Libya's ability to guarantee stable, ongoing supply deals. After nearly a year of halted exports, Libyan crude supplies have become largely displaced in international markets. Buyers are also hesitant to buy Libyan crude blends of volatile and unknown quality at current prices, especially since the central government has been prevented from testing crude flows into coastal storage tanks and monitoring the additional processing necessary to refine crude blends.

Tripoli now has to deal with a national force tasked with protecting its oil fields and infrastructure that effectively is split into two camps: Jathran supporters and Bukhamada supporters, with both possessing questionable loyalty at best to the national government. Regional militias and tribal and ethnic groups continue to maintain a disjointed system of local fiefdoms, largely preventing the national government from controlling their oil resources and critical infrastructure. This scenario makes it quite probable that either Marsa el Brega or other eastern terminals, such as Ras Lanuf and As Sidra, will start cutting off oil exports again in the near future as Libya destabilizes rapidly beyond the point of political reconciliation.

Read more: Oil Export Deal Could Further Destabilize Libya | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
13  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / East Africa Rising on: July 24, 2014, 02:32:30 PM
 East Africa Rising
Global Affairs
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 03:04 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan

By Robert D. Kaplan and Mark Schroeder

The Greater Indian Ocean is the maritime organizing principle of geopolitics, uniting the entire arc of Islam (including the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf), East Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. But while economic dynamism has focused more on the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia over the past quarter-century, lately the most intriguing success story has been East Africa. So while the situations look dire in Ukraine and Gaza this week, take a moment to look at a part of the world -- once deemed hopeless -- that is quietly experiencing a regeneration.

From Mozambique northward to the confines of Somalia even, there has been sustained progress and renewed hope. Over the past ten years, annual GDP growth rates have averaged 8 percent in Mozambique, 7 percent in Tanzania, 5 percent in Kenya and 10 percent in Ethiopia. Tens of billions of dollars are in the process of being poured into Mozambique and Tanzania to tap into vast offshore deposits of natural gas intended to feed growing demand in both South and East Asia, at the other end of the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, hydrocarbon exploration is occurring in northwestern Kenya and off of Kenya's coast, as well as in the interior reaches of East Africa, particularly in the Great Rift Valley basin stretching through parts of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania.

East Africa and Neighboring Countries
Click to Enlarge

Exploring for energy is not the only development in East Africa. A growing middle class with an attendant consumer sector -- along with increased economic and political integration -- is contributing to significant foreign interest in building road, harbor, rail and power projects that will connect these Indian Ocean countries with Africa's interior. Such projects will also make these countries a maritime and energy center on which the Indian subcontinent and Asia partly depend.

Even Somalia, long isolated because of its civil war and Islamist insurgency, is no longer quite as cut off from global economic interests as it once was. The radical al Shabaab group is still a guerrilla threat, but it has lost substantially the capability of defeating and replacing the Somali government. A multiyear effort by African Union peacekeepers, with extensive Western security and economic backing, has led to the group's degradation. And thanks to counterpiracy operations from a host of world navies, Somali piracy is just not the threat it once was. As Somalia slowly and tenuously moves in the direction of stabilization, there is interest from foreign companies in exploring for minerals in the country's interior and for hydrocarbons off the Somali coast -- for the rich offshore natural gas fields of Somalia's southern neighbors may extend farther north.

Even the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo -- to the west of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda -- may be on the long march to greater stability as peacekeepers from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi have been making some headway against Rwandan-backed guerrillas there. If this trend continues, there is sure to be more foreign interest in the region's vast yet underdeveloped mining sector, even as Uganda becomes a hub for a cross-border trade in hydrocarbons and consumer goods for central-east Africa. Rwanda, too, has attracted investment in its agriculture and light manufacturing sectors -- the fruit of greater stability there also.

Of course, nearby South Sudan has been going in the opposite direction, toward greater dissolution. The Western-encouraged breakup of Sudan in 2011 has thus far tragically backfired, with tribal animosities inflamed by an internal battle over the hydrocarbon spoils of the new nation in the south. Unity in South Sudan existed only as long as there was a common threat in Khartoum. That threat now absent, distrust has spiraled into a seemingly irreconcilable armed conflict between the once brothers-in-arms.

The overall trend in this vast region is dominated by increasing foreign investment in the pursuit of natural resources, but this level of investment would simply not be possible without greater political and economic stabilization itself. Governments here and elsewhere in Africa are no longer driven by the same statist ideas of the sort that once dominated the continent, especially during the Cold War when socialism was the philosophical avatar of too many African leaders. While little may have changed in terms of who rules over these African states (with often the same political parties in control as during the Cold War), the difference has come in the reward of capital now within reach for the resources over which these governments hold sovereignty. Put another way, the opportunity cost of not developing a country's resources is a political calculation leaders in East Africa are no longer willing to wager.

Certainly the defeat of the Soviet Union had a positive effect on Africa, albeit delayed and indirect, but it has not been Western liberalism that has succeeded in Africa so much as pragmatism. For it is the institution of the ruling party that affirms political continuity across much of the East Africa region, even as countries in East Africa have achieved consistent and strong economic growth. After all, Ethiopia's government is by no means a democratic regime; neither is Rwanda's. Yet Ethiopia has averaged a 10 percent annual growth in GDP and Rwanda 8 percent over the past decade or so. Thus, to say that Western-style democracy has succeeded in Africa is a narrow version of the truth. More truthful is the fact that what is transpiring constitutes Asian-like pragmatism with African characteristics. Further encouraging this is the large-scale presence of the Chinese nearly everywhere in Africa, scouring for minerals, metals and hydrocarbons, and building transportation infrastructure as a consequence. For the Africans, the Chinese are, in part, symbols of economic dynamism without the stern moral lectures about democracy that they get from the West.

Examples of Asian-like pragmatism are in evidence throughout the continent. Banished are political leaders in countries such as Mozambique and Tanzania, willing to oppose the development of vast reaches of their countries -- and the economic potential therein -- for the sake of internal political control. Others, such as the political leadership of Uganda and Rwanda, will embrace economic liberalism, as long as political freedoms do not challenge the ruler's interests. East Africa has the edge over regions elsewhere in the continent because of its geographical links to Asia and the Indian subcontinent by way of the Indian Ocean.

The real test will come as the wealth from natural resources continues to accumulate. Will that money be stolen by new elites or will it diffuse throughout societies, so that the result is more modern middle classes that can, in turn, stabilize and expand effective institutions and a culture of civility and human rights? The risk of another descent into rampant corruption and misrule is real, since hydrocarbon and mineral wealth are of the kind whose profits can be concentrated into relatively few hands. The bottom-line question is this: Will the presidency control the hydrocarbons, such as is the case in Angola or Nigeria, or will the institutions of the state and the private sector be empowered to develop and adjudicate the pursuit of Africa's emerging resources?

One thing is clear: Economic change is so ever-present and vibrant throughout East Africa that the region's geographical orientation itself may be changing. Rather than be part of a once-lost and anarchic continent, the area from Mozambique north to Ethiopia may be in the process of becoming a critical nodal point of the dynamic Indian Ocean world.

Read more: East Africa Rising | Stratfor
14  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mark Levin lawsuit against EPA claims emails destroyed on: July 24, 2014, 02:27:45 PM
15  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury , , , ummm , , , uhh , , , look over here , , , on: July 24, 2014, 02:00:16 PM
New Single-Family Home Sales Declined 8.1% in June To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 7/24/2014

New single-family home sales declined 8.1% in June to a 406,000 annual rate, coming in well below the consensus expected pace of 475,000. Sales are down 11.5% from a year ago.

Sales declined in all major areas of the country.

The months’ supply of new homes (how long it would take to sell the homes in inventory) rose to 5.8 in June from 5.2 in May. The increase in the months’ supply was due to a slower sales pace along with an increase in inventories.

The median price of new homes sold was $273,500 in June, up 5.3% from a year ago. The average price of new homes sold was $331,400, up 8.3% versus last year.

Implications: Forget about new home sales for a minute. New claims for unemployment insurance dropped 19,000 last week to 284,000, the lowest since February 2006, which was at the peak of the housing boom. The Labor Department said there was nothing unusual about last week’s reports from the states, but noted the data are often volatile this time of year due to summer-related auto plant shutdowns. This suggests there were fewer shutdowns than normal last week. Continuing unemployment claims declined 8,000 to 2.50 million. Plugging these figures into our payroll models, which are rated #1 by Bloomberg for the past two years, suggests nonfarm payrolls increased 218,000 in July, while private payrolls grew 216,000. These forecasts will likely change next week as we get data from ADP and Intuit, as well as one more week of unemployment claims. On the housing front, new single-family home sales dropped steeply in June and were revised substantially lower in May. Today’s report came in well below even the most pessimistic forecast for sales in June. This does not mean we are back in a housing recession; home construction remains in an upward trend and new homes sales have been hovering in the same range for the past two years. There are a few key reasons why new home sales remain so low. First, the homeownership rate remains depressed as a larger share of the population is deciding to rent rather than own. Second, buyers have shifted slightly from single-family homes, which are counted in the new home sales data, to multi-family homes (think condos in cities), which are not counted in the report. Third, financing is still more difficult than it has been in the past. The inventory of new homes rose in June, but still remains very low and most of the inventory gains are for homes not started, instead of homes completed. Homebuilders still have plenty of room to increase both construction and inventories. Once again, the housing recovery remains intact, despite the fits and starts which are to be expected when the overall economy is a Plow Horse, not a Race Horse.
16  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Religion of Peace drives Christians out of Mosul on: July 24, 2014, 12:51:40 PM
17  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The lingering, hidden costs of the bank bailout on: July 24, 2014, 12:48:42 PM
The Lingering, Hidden Costs of the Bank Bailout
Why is growth so anemic? New economic activity has been discouraged. Here are some ways to change that.
By Vernon L. Smith
July 23, 2014 8:01 p.m. ET

The rescue of incumbent investors in the government bailout of the largest U.S. banks in the autumn of 2008 has been widely viewed as unfair, as indeed it was in applying different rules to different players. The bailout through the Troubled Asset Relief Program has been justified by the Federal Reserve and Treasury as preventing a financial collapse of the economy.

The rescue, however, had a hidden cost for the economy that is difficult to quantify but can be crippling. New economic activity is hobbled if it is not freed from the burden of sharing its return with investors who bore risks that failed. The demand for new economic activity is enlarged when its return does not have to be shared with former claimants protected from the consequences of their risk-taking. This is the function of bankruptcy in an economic system organized on loss as well as profit principles of motivation.

Financial failure and the restructuring of assets and liabilities motivates new capital to flow directly into new enterprise activity at the cutting edge of technology—the source of new products, output and employment which in turn provide new growth and recovery. Requiring new investment to share its return with failed predecessors is tantamount to having required Henry Ford to share the return from investment in his new horseless carriage with the carriage makers, livery stables and horse-breeding farms that his innovation would render obsolete.

This burden on new investment helps explain the historically weak recovery since the "Great Recession" officially ended in June 2009, and the recent downturn in gross-domestic-product growth. The GDP growth rate for all of 2013 was just 1.9%, and in the first quarter of 2014 it declined at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.9%.
Enlarge Image

Getty Images

With only two balance-sheet crises in the U.S. in the past 80 years, 1929-33 and 2007-09, we have little experience against which to test alternative policies and economic responses. Japan and Sweden are examples of economies that followed distinct pathways after crises in the early 1990s. In Japan the economy floundered in slow growth for over two decades; Sweden recovered much more quickly. The difference can be attributed to following different policies in the treatment of severe bank distress.

Japan's real-estate market suffered a major decline in the early 1990s. Home prices peaked in the fall of 1990 and fell by 25% in two years. By 2004 they had fallen 65%. Meanwhile, nonperforming loans continued to escalate throughout this 14-year period.

Japanese policy permitted banks to carry mortgage loans at book value regardless of their accumulating loss. Loans were expanded to existing borrowers to enable them to continue to meet their mortgage payments. This response could be rationalized as "smoothing out the bump." Bank investors were protected from failure by stretching out any ultimate return on their investment, relying on a presumed recovery from new growth that never materialized. This accounting cover-up was coupled with government deficit spending—tax revenues declined and expenditures rose—as a means of stimulating economic growth that was delayed into the future.

From the beginning Japan was caught in the black hole of too much negative equity. The banks, burdened with large inventories of bad loans, geared down into debt reduction mode, reluctant to incur more debt, much as their household mortgage customers were mired in underwater mortgages and reluctant to spend. The result was a decade of lost growth that stretched into and absorbed a second decade of dismal performance. The policy cure—save the banks and their incumbent investors—created the sink that exceeded the pull of recovery forces.

Sweden's response to deep recession in the early 1990s was the opposite of Japan's: Bank shareholders were required to absorb loan losses, although the government financed enough of the bank losses on bad assets to protect bank bondholders from default. This was a mistake: Bondholders assumed the risk of default, and a bank's failure should have required bondholder "haircuts" if needed. Nevertheless, the result was recovery from a severe downturn. By 1994 Sweden's loan losses had bottomed out and lending began a slow recovery that accelerated after 1999.

The political process will always favor prominent incumbent investors. They are visible; they contribute to election campaigns; they assist in the choice of secretaries of Treasury and advisers and they suffer badly from balance-sheet crises like the Great Recession and the Great Depression. Invisible are the investors whose capital will flow into the new economic activity that constitutes the recovery.

Growth in both employment and output depends vitally on new and young companies. Unfortunately, U.S. firms face exceptionally high corporate income-tax rates, the highest in the developed world at 35%, which hobbles growth and investment. Now the Obama administration is going after firms that reincorporate overseas for tax purposes. Last week Treasury Secretary Jack Lew wrote a letter to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee urging Congress to "enact legislation immediately . . . to shut down this abuse of our tax system."

This is precisely the opposite of what U.S. policy makers should be doing. To encourage investment, the U.S. needs to lower its corporate rates by at least 10 percentage points and reduce the incentive to escape the out-of-line and unreasonably high corporate tax rate. Ideally, since young firms generally reinvest their profits in production and jobs, such taxes should fall only on business income after it is paid out to individuals. As long as business income is being reinvested it is growing new income for all.

There are no quick fixes. What we can do is reduce bureaucratic and tax barriers to the emergence and growth of new economic enterprises, which hold the keys to a real economic recovery.

Mr. Smith, a recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics, is a professor at Chapman University and the author, along with Steven D. Gjerstad, of the new book "Rethinking Housing Bubbles" (Cambridge University Press).
18  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton on lasting tranquility, Fed 34, 1788 on: July 24, 2014, 12:14:37 PM

"To model our political system upon speculations of lasting tranquility, is to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34, 1788
19  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gun prosecutions down under Obama on: July 24, 2014, 10:52:28 AM
20  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Rand Paul goes after black vote on: July 24, 2014, 10:31:22 AM
Disappointed he includes voter ID in this , , , rolleyes but I do like that he is thinking outside the box.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s resistance to military intervention abroad is likely to be viewed as his biggest break from Republican tradition if he seeks his party’s nomination in 2016.

But Mr. Paul is also challenging his own party by increasingly embracing issues dear to the African-American voters who have overwhelmingly rejected the GOP for decades.

Mr. Paul is championing the restoration of voting rights to felons, wants to ease sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders and says he disagrees with Republican-led efforts in several states to curtail early voting and require voters to show photo ID at the polls.

On Friday, Mr. Paul is scheduled to speak to the National Urban League conference in Cincinnati, a mostly African American audience that’s often bypassed by potential Republican presidential candidates.

“I want to be known as a Republican who got more people to vote, not less,” Mr. Paul said in an interview.

Mr. Paul is sponsoring a bill that would allow non-violent felons to regain their voting rights after serving time. Mr. Paul also wants to downgrade some non-violent drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors to make it easier for those offenders to get jobs when they get out of jail. Minorities, he said, are disproportionately charged with drug crimes.

“The biggest impediment to both voting and getting a job is having a criminal record,” Mr. Paul said. “I’ve always felt like the war on drugs had gotten out of control, and as I’ve met different people in our cities I’ve become more aware there’s a racial element to the war on drugs.”

At a Senate hearing earlier this week on his bill, Mr. Paul said some drug offenders “are people who just made youthful mistakes.”

Some African American leaders say they welcome Mr. Paul’s outreach and ideas. But they also point to significant hurdles faced by a Republican, particularly a leader in the tea party movement, which has vigorously opposed President Barack Obama.

“It’s fascinating that on some issues like felon re-enfranchisement and criminal justice reform that his libertarian philosophy has brought him to some policies in common with the thinking of civil rights organizations,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. “Certainly some of the rhetoric associated with the tea party is anathema to many of us in the civil rights community, but I don’t like to paint with a broad brush.”

Mr. Paul’s plans to headline an Aug. 4 fundraiser for Rep. Steve King, an Iowa congressman backed by the tea party, illustrate the challenges.

Mr. King recently said of Mr. Obama: “His vision of America isn’t like our version of America. That we know. Now I don’t assert where he was born, I will just tell you that we are all certain that he was not raised with an American experience. So these things that beat in our hearts when we hear the National Anthem and when we say the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t beat the same for him.”

Mr. Paul declined to say whether he disagreed with Mr. King. “I’d like to be judged on what I do and say and not what everybody else does,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a fair standard.”

A policy issue that could also divide Mr. Paul from black voters is the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, aimed at protecting minorities from discrimination. The Supreme Court struck down parts of the law last year.

“I’m a supporter of the Voting Rights Act and trying to figure out a way it can be done that is constitutional and in a fashion that only goes after perpetrators of discrimination, but not so much that the federal government is always involved in state elections,” Mr. Paul said.

Even if Mr. Paul is unsuccessful in garnering much support in the African American community, he may win over other Republican voters and even Democrats who approve of his outreach at a time when the electorate is become increasingly diverse.

“People will be paying attention who think the Republican Party needs to grow and evolve and speak to a broader audience, and if you can’t do that you can’t be a leader of a national party,” said Doug Stafford, Mr. Paul’s top political adviser. “He’s one of the few Republicans who can go in [to the black community] and say that some of their main issues are things he is a sponsor of. Not a whole lot of Republicans can have that conversation.”

Some of Mr. Paul’s potential rivals in 2016, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, have also talked about easing sentences on drug offenders and emphasizing treatment programs. But on the issues of allowing felons to vote again and requiring voters to show ID at the polls, Mr. Paul has little company among potential 2016 candidates. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have both defended the state’s rules stripping felons of their right to vote without a pardon from the governor, while Govs. Perry and Scott Walker of Wisconsin have backed voter ID laws.

Correction: Mr. Paul is sponsoring a bill that would allow non-violent felons to regain their voting rights after serving time. The initial version of this post incorrectly said Democratic Sen. Cory Booker was also a sponsor.

21  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: US increases surveillance and advisors in Iraq on: July 24, 2014, 10:26:50 AM
second post

U.S. Increases Surveillance, Military Advisers in Iraq
Total U.S. Military Personnel in Iraq Now at 825
By Felicia Schwartz
Updated July 23, 2014 5:16 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The U.S. has increased surveillance efforts and has sent additional military advisers to Iraq to better aid national forces and understand the expanding extremist insurgency there, officials told Congress on Wednesday.

Since extremists seized control of Mosul in June, U.S. surveillance flights over Iraq have increased to nearly 50 a day, up from one flight a month, said Brett McGurk, the deputy assistant defense secretary for Iraq and Iran, in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Pentagon said 20 additional military advisers recently arrived in Iraq, bringing total U.S. military personnel there to 825. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said there are now 90 advisers working with Iraqi military forces, assessing their capabilities, and 160 Americans are assigned to joint operation centers in Baghdad and Erbil.

Mr. McGurk and Elissa Slotkin, a Pentagon policy official, emphasized the continued threat that the extremist group Islamic State poses to the U.S. and its allies. Mr. McGurk spent the past seven weeks in Iraq and described the group as a "full-blown army," not just a terrorist organization, and said it was worse than al Qaeda.

Lawmakers from both parties expressed frustration that the U.S. didn't do more to help Iraqi forces and Syrian groups fighting extremists sooner.

Lukman Faily, Iraq's ambassador to the U.S., said the U.S. was sending mixed signals to Baghdad about its intentions regarding military support. "If Iraqis don't believe that meaningful U.S. assistance is forthcoming, then they will not have enough incentive to adopt the political reforms that America is urging," he said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.

Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chairman of the committee, said the Obama administration denied repeated requests for drone strikes from the Iraqi government, which he said Iraqi leaders had made since last August. Mr. McGurk said the U.S. received a formal request for support from Iraq in May.

Mr. McGurk said the U.S. has continued to study the possibility of drone strikes in Iraq. When asked about assessments of Iraqi forces on the ground, Ms. Slotkin said there are some "very capable units" that could assist the U.S. with airstrikes, should President Barack Obama pursue that option.

However, both Mr. McGurk and Ms. Slotkin said military support alone wouldn't sufficiently address instability in Iraq, and that the formation of a new Iraqi government would be key to lessening the Islamic State's strength.

Ms. Slotkin said a "strong, capable" federal government in Baghdad would be the best defense against threats from the Islamic State and strong Iranian influence in the region.

U.S. officials have been pushingfor the formation of a new government that can convincingly move away from exclusionist policies that Washington believes have been in effect under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Of the U.S. troops sent to Iraq, 475 are providing security for the American Embassy in Baghdad.

The Obama administration's priorities in Iraq are improving U.S. intelligence, supporting the formation of a new government and aiding Iraqi forces in repulsing the Islamic State, which has taken control of much of Iraq, Mr. McGurk said in the hearing Wednesday.
22  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Deportations give illegals cold feet on: July 24, 2014, 10:13:07 AM
Deportations Give Migrants (Marc: a.k.a. "illegal aliens")  Cold Feet
Fewer Minors Are Apprehended at Border; Obama to Meet With Central American Leaders
By Laurence Iliff and Laura Meckler
July 23, 2014 7:55 p.m. ET

U.S. agents take undocumented immigrants (MARC: a.k.a. "illegal aliens")  into custody on Tuesday near Falfurrias, Texas. Since October, a wave of unaccompanied minors has surged across the Rio Grande. Getty Images

ARRIAGA, Mexico—Esther Vasquez arrived in this dusty town in southern Mexico on a recent day to jump a freight train with her young son in hopes of eventually making it into the U.S. She said she hadn't been deterred by dangers, even after she and her 10-year-old son Oscar were briefly kidnapped by a Central American gang.

But now, Ms. Vazquez isn't sure the journey is worthwhile, thanks to the rapid spread of news that the U.S. is speedily deporting undocumented Central American families. A rise in deportations in the past two weeks anchor a broader international effort to stem the flood of child migrants across the Rio Grande that has spawned a humanitarian crisis and a U.S. political brawl over immigration.

"People are now telling me that things have changed," Ms. Vasquez said, leaving her uncertain whether to press ahead or return home to La Ceiba on Honduras's Atlantic coast.

Her cold feet come as the number of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the Rio Grande Valley, the most popular crossing point, has dropped sharply in recent weeks, U.S. officials say. In mid-June, an average of about 300 children were apprehended daily. Last week, fewer than 100 migrant minors were detained a day, the Department of Homeland Security said. Administration officials said it wasn't clear whether the trend would continue, and that factors such as weather could be at play.

President Barack Obama is meeting with the presidents of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala on Friday to discuss ways to stem the crisis, including the thorny question of how to repatriate tens of thousands of youngsters to their violence-torn countries without putting them in harm's way back home.

Meanwhile, House Republicans on Wednesday recommended changing a 2008 anti-human-trafficking law that limits deportations of minors, while saying they would back some of the $3.7 billion in emergency funding requested by the White House to deal with the child migrants. But Senate Democrats are opposed to changing the law. The standoff shows no sign of abating, putting the spending request in jeopardy.

For months, the administration has struggled to get on top of the crisis, which has seen more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors flooding in the U.S. since last October, possibly lured by a 2008 law that gives certain migrant children more legal rights than adults.

Children are typically reunited with relatives already in the U.S. while they await a ruling on their status, which can take years.

Smugglers, including drug gangs that run migrant routes through Central America and Mexico, have drummed up business by highlighting that leniency, according to migrants, aid groups and some Central American officials. Many suspect that has contributed to the surge in crossings.

Now, the U.S. government is busy sending the opposite message, including an ad campaign in Central America that warns would-be migrants of the dangers of their journey toward the American dream.

"We want to make sure that they understand and communicate to their citizenry that parents in their country should not entrust their children in the hands of criminals to make the dangerous journey to the border" with the U.S., White House press secretary Josh Earnest said this week. "The reason for that is quite simple…even if those children survive that long, dangerous journey, they will not be welcomed into this country with open arms."

Despite the very recent drop in the flow of migrants, there are still daunting issues to be tackled. The expedited deportations that began last week so far have been limited to children who arrived with adults. Congress would have to change the 2008 law, or significantly increase court resources, to speed deportations of Central American unaccompanied minors.

The White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans say they are reluctant to send children back to unsafe conditions at home, and they want assurances from the Central American countries that they will improve their repatriation processes.

"If we're going to return them, we want to be sure it's done humanely, that we're not just dropping them off at the border," said Rep. Kay Granger (R., Texas), who heads a GOP working group on the crisis. On a recent congressional visit to the region, she said she was impressed by a repatriation center in Honduras, but worried that it wasn't big enough to handle the expected volume of children.

Last month, the Obama administration funneled $9.6 million to the region to improve repatriation in all three countries, including expanding centers and providing the returned migrants with expanded services, and the White House has requested additional funding from Congress.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández told Time magazine this week that he has been warned by U.S. officials to expect a big wave of deportations. "They have said they want to send them on a massive scale," Mr. Hernández is quoted as saying.

For its part, Honduras is expanding the capacity of its reception centers in San Pedro Sula, where most Hondurans are now being repatriated, and developing programs to monitor the minors once they return to their hometowns. The government also is planning to send money to local mayors to monitor the progress and well-being of returned children, and boost their long-term prospects.

The leaders of all three countries agreed last week to develop a regional strategy to ensure the returned minors' safety and to find educational and jobs strategies to keep them at home. But that is a far cry from tackling the difficult conditions the children will return to, including violence and scant economic opportunity.

"The returnees will face the same vulnerability as we all do," said Isis Miranda, who directs a Roman Catholic Church-linked community center and high school in Chamelecon, a San Pedro Sula suburb that is one of Honduras's most dangerous communities.

For now, a crackdown north of the U.S.-Mexico border seems to have bought officials some time. Word about stepped-up U.S. deportations has spread like wildfire along the migrant routes. Jose Rogelio Umaña, 27, who arrived in Arriaga from El Salvador late last week, said human smugglers had persuaded desperate parents to send their children away from gang violence and poverty on the premise that the Americans would give them special treatment.

Now, the risk of putting their children in harm's way from the journey only to have them sent back is just too much for many parents. "When they deported those children, the number leaving fell sharply," he said.

But Carlos Bartolo Solis, who runs the Catholic shelter for migrants in Arriaga, said he thought any decline in children leaving Central America would be temporary. "Until the conditions change in their countries, they will continue to leave. The alternative is to stay and be killed or recruited by a gang." On Tuesday, he said, the freight train known as "The Beast" headed north with around 400 migrants hanging on to boxcars, including young children and adolescents.

A Central American migrant with a young wife and an infant, who said he was too scared to give his name, said they planned to hop "The Beast," even though gang members had already tried to steal his child. "Am I scared? Very scared."

—Dudley Althaus and Dassaev Aguilar contributed to this article.

Write to Laurence Iliff at and Laura Meckler at
23  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Ryan proposes consolidation, more discretion for the States on: July 24, 2014, 10:09:17 AM
Paul Ryan to Propose Sweeping Consolidation in Antipoverty Pitch
Plan Will Include New Work Requirements, More Accountability and Efficiency, Congressman Says
By Damian Paletta
Updated July 24, 2014 9:09 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is proposing to consolidate up to 11 federal antipoverty programs into a single funding stream for states, a plan he says will include new work requirements and create more accountability and efficiency in assisting low-income Americans.

Food stamps, housing assistance, child-care aid and cash welfare would be among the funding streams pooled into the program, potentially redirecting more than $100 billion in federal support each year.

While many Republicans and President Barack Obama have offered anti-poverty proposals recently, Mr. Ryan's status as budget committee chairman and a leading architect of GOP fiscal plans mean that his ideas are likely to become central to the Republican policy discussion. His plan to consolidate antipoverty efforts is the main element of a sweeping set of proposals that he is unveiling Thursday to address incarceration, education aid, the Earned-Income Tax Credit and many other federal programs.

Mr. Ryan believes the current set of federal antipoverty programs creates a disincentive for people to work, as families fear they will lose benefits if their income rises above certain thresholds. Many of his ideas would transfer federal decision-making to state leaders, who he believes are best equipped to tailor programs to help residents.

    Ryan's 73-page proposal
    GOP 2016 Hopefuls Stake Out Anti-Poverty Positions
    Rand Paul Veers Off Party Line
    2014 Polls: Senate, Governors, More
    Sign Up: Get Capital Journal Daybreak

The plan, outlined in a 73-page proposal called "Expanding Opportunity in America," would challenge decades of federal antipoverty strategy. Many anti-poverty programs, such as food stamps, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, exist as hybrid designs that require cooperation and administrative involvement from states and the federal government.

Mr. Ryan would, in a number of these programs, require the federal government to offer more responsibility to state leaders and change the federal role to focus more on oversight.

"The idea would be to let states try different ways of providing aid and then to test the results—in short, more flexibility in exchange for more accountability," Mr. Ryan wrote in an opinion piece that ran Thursday in USA Today.

In anticipation of Mr. Ryan's proposals, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), the top Democrat on the Budget committee, said, "Democrats welcome any ideas that lift more Americans out of poverty and create pathways into the middle class. But we will oppose any plan that uses the sunny language of 'reform' as a guise to cut vital safety-net programs."

Liberal groups are likely to describe Mr. Ryan's proposal as a way of transforming federal assistance into "block grants'' to states, something they have long resisted. Many say states are less capable than the federal government of ensuring the delivery of benefits to low-income families. They have said these services should not depend on the political decisions of governors, some of whom rejected an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Ryan would consolidate 11 anti-poverty programs into one funding stream, which he calls an "Opportunity Grant,'' for states that volunteered to participate. States would have to submit a plan to the federal government describing how the money would be allocated.
Related Video

In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) will outline his plan for a conservative response to help Americans in poverty. WSJ's Jerry Seib describes four themes Ryan will discuss in an attempt to reignite the idea of compassionate conservatism. Photo: AP

    Ryan's 73-page proposal
    GOP 2016 Hopefuls Stake Out Anti-Poverty Positions
    2014 Polls: Senate, Governors, More
    Sign Up: Get Capital Journal Daybreak

Several conditions would determine whether states qualify for the program, Mr. Ryan wrote. Funds would have to go to people "in need." States would have to incorporate work requirements and limit the duration that recipients could participate. States would have to allow multiple providers to offer services under the program.

"All this time, a neutral third party would keep tabs on each provider and its success rate, looking at key metrics: How many people are finding jobs? How many people are getting off assistance? How many people are moving out of poverty?" Mr. Ryan said. "Any provider who came up short could no longer participate. And at the end of the program, we would pool the results and go from there."

States participating in the new program would have to ensure that low-income disabled and elderly Americans do not lose access to benefits. If their state participates in the Opportunity Grant program, they would either retain their existing benefits or receive similar benefits in a new program, Mr. Ryan said.

Mr. Ryan will lay out details in a speech Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. Democrats plan a conference call immediately afterward to counter his proposals, reflecting how they believe his ideas could quickly influence much of the GOP's economic strategy across the country.

Democrats have long accused Republicans, and particularly Mr. Ryan, of looking to balance the federal budget primarily by cutting spending on programs for low-income Americans. Mr. Ryan said his plan would be deficit-neutral—neither adding to or reducing the deficit—suggesting it would not cut government spending but change how current money is allocated.

Mr. Ryan's proposal is the latest in a series of plans offered by Republicans as part of an effort to rethink how conservatives approach antipoverty programs.

President Barack Obama has made economic inequality a major theme of his second term, calling for a higher minimum wage and expanded work-related tax credits. Many in the GOP are eager to fashion proposals that reflect their own approach to inequality and poverty.

Mr. Ryan previously has proposed deep cuts in federal spending on programs such as Medicaid and food stamps, and he has said that federal assistance creates a culture of "dependency" among the poor that makes it harder for people to climb the economic ladder. Mr. Ryan does not offer new proposals for Medicaid in his plan.

Mr. Ryan's proposal is similar to a plan recently outlined by Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), who has called for consolidating all antipoverty programs into a single funding stream for states and allowing states to allocate the money based on federal guidelines. A major difference is that Mr. Ryan's proposal, as described, would be voluntary for states.

Both lawmakers are considered potential presidential candidates in 2016. The new antipoverty platform likely would make up a key plank in either man's economic plan, should he run for the White House.

Mr. Ryan, who was the Republican Party's vice-presidential candidate in 2012, has spent months visiting low-income neighborhoods and meeting with community activists trying to find ways to offer conservative-principled proposals that would apply to issues poor families want to address.

The "Opportunity Grant" is part of a broad set of proposals that Mr. Ryan is unveiling Thursday. Other parts of the plan include:

    Expanding the earned-income tax credit for childless workers. The White House has offered a similar proposal. Mr. Ryan differs on this point from Mr. Rubio, who has called for scrapping the EITC and replacing it with an income supplement.

    Streamlining federal grant, loan and work-study programs. Mr. Ryan says federal involvement in student loans has "stoked" tuition inflation. He would also expand accreditation in an attempt to spur more access to technical careers, an idea that has drawn active interest from both parties in Congress.

    Revising mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for nonviolent offenders, to prevent prisons from becoming overcrowded and making it easier for people to reenter society. He would also expand rehabilitative programs in prisons.

Mr. Ryan is likely to become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in January, which would give him control over a panel that oversees taxes and entitlement programs, such as Social Security.
24  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: July 24, 2014, 10:03:18 AM
Egypt: Deaths in policy custody, once a spark for revolt, now met by shrugs' (Louisa Loveluck, The Christian Science Monitor)

"With little public outcry, more than 80 people have died in custody over the past year, according to independent monitor Wikithawra. In June 2010, photos of the shattered face of Khaled Said, a young man killed in police custody, laid the groundwork for mass protests in Egypt against longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak. His downfall in February 2011 was a landmark in the so-called Arab Spring, which still has aftershocks roiling the region. 

Last July, Egypt's military ousted the country's first elected president, Mohamed Morsi, and launched an aggressive crackdown against dissidents. Egypt's police are back to the most brutal practices of the Mubarak era, and deaths in custody have surged once again. But this time popular anger is muted, as many swing behind a repressive security state as a bulwark against the chaos and sectarianism that came in Mubarak's wake, particularly after police retreated from the streets."
25  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: July 24, 2014, 10:02:08 AM
'Hamas's struggle has receded as a priority in the new Arab world' (Roula Khalaf, Financial Times)

"It is not that the Palestinian cause is no longer an emotive issue for Arabs. But the turmoil spreading across the region has lessened the shock of a soaring Palestinian death toll while stripping Islamist groups, including Hamas - which controls the Gaza Strip - of an automatic claim on public sympathy. Few in the region are rushing to Hamas's rescue. State-backed media in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are blaming not only Israel but the Islamist group, too, for the violence.

The shift in Arab attitude has not gone unnoticed in Israel, which has expanded its campaign by launching a ground offensive. While it plays to Israel's advantage in the short term, though, it also complicates the search for a way out of the crisis that Israel will eventually need.

'The circumstances of the region are different this time. There are problems no less important than Gaza - whether in Syria, Iraq or Libya,' says Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian official who now teaches at Birzeit University near the West Bank town of Ramallah."
26  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 24, 2014, 10:01:17 AM
Defeating the Islamic State: Crafting a Regional Approach' (Douglas A. Ollivant and Terrence Kelly, War on the Rocks)

"It is important not to overstate ISIL's connection with the current dysfunction in Iraqi politics. It is not 'an al-Qaeda army marching across Iraq' as some news commentators have claimed. It has succeeded in Iraq through a partnership with local Sunni forces. While it is true that current sectarian tensions have led Iraqi Sunnis to support ISIL to oust the Shi'a dominated government, this has happened before during the Iraqi resistance in 2004-2007. Moreover, this alliance need not be permanent; Iraq's Sunnis, with U.S. help, decimated ISIL's predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, in 2007 and 2008 because of the threat it posed to local Iraqi leaders and their way of life through their imposition of a strict version of Sharia law and other social changes they sought to impose on the local communities (e.g., forced marriages into important tribal families). Further, it will be interesting to see how Iraq's more nationalist Sunnis, including the outlawed Ba'ath Party, react to the Caliphate announcement and similar threats to local leaders, which will no doubt occur. It is likely that these groups will turn on ISIL again once they have realized their true goal of getting Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki out of power."
27  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: July 23, 2014, 10:09:24 PM
Obama’s Attack on Israel

"The success of Hamas in closing Israeli airspace is a great victory for the resistance, and is the crown of Israel’s failure,” a Hamas spokesman said today.
When Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, the United States became the first country in the world to recognize the Jewish state, just 11 minutes later. That recognition, however, came after one of the greatest foreign policy disputes in American history—a fight in which Secretary of State George C. Marshall told President Truman that “if the President were to [recognize Israel] and if in the elections I were to vote, I would vote against the President.”
This was an astonishing rebuke coming from any cabinet officer, and more so coming from Marshall—a popular figure who as Chief of Staff of the Army during World War II had helped win the war—and directed at Truman, one of the least popular presidents in recent history. But Truman was still the president, and he had the wisdom to forge with Israel what has become one of our country’s closest friendships.

Later, when Syria and Egypt invaded Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, President Nixon airlifted heavy arms and supplies to help Israel defend itself.
Contrast those strong actions with President Obama’s response to the current crisis threatening our ally.

The President’s FAA-imposed ban on flights into Ben Gurion International Airport is the most hostile step any American president has taken toward Israel in its entire existence. The restriction deals a major psychological blow to our friends, prevents Israelis across the world from returning home, stops tourists and others from leaving, and creates a major disruption to the country’s economy its tourism industry especially.

Even worse, it hands an extraordinary victory to Hamas, a terrorist organization that also happens to be the government in Gaza.

The decision can only be interpreted as a willful attack by the United States and one of its closest allies at a time of great crisis. It was clearly deliberate. If the restriction had been an accident—an unfortunate mistake by some bumbling bureaucrat at the FAA— the President could simply have reversed it when he found out about it.

Given the circumstances, it is impossible to believe the cessation of flights was not a deliberate act on the part of the Obama administration to undermine Israel and bully it into accepting the “ceasefire” President Obama and Secretary Kerry desperately want.

The Israelis maintain that their airport is safe. Their own airline, El Al, continues to fly. They have demonstrated with impressive accuracy the ability of their Iron Dome missile defense shield to protect Tel Aviv from Hamas rockets. Except for a single rocket discovered about a mile from the airport, there is no evidence to support the FAA’s decision.

That’s the same FAA that allows flights into Baghdad. That allows flights into Kabul. Into Peshawar and Kandahar. It allows flights, for that matter, into Kiev. These are all places where the FAA might apply the same logic as it did in Tel Aviv—there are bad people in the neighborhood who sometimes do bad things.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stood bravely against the administration’s bullying tactics when he released a statement last night announcing:

“This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel. Ben Gurion is the best protected airport in the world and El Al flights have been regularly flying in and out of it safely. The flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately I strongly urge the FAA to reverse course and permit US airlines to fly to Israel.”

Mike Bloomberg is exactly right about the effects of the administration’s decision, which is even more damaging in the context of the American government’s latest pronouncements. All week Secretary Kerry and President Obama have been pressuring Israel to accept a ceasefire against an enemy that is actively trying to kill Israelis. They warn Israel that the United States is “deeply concerned” about civilian casualties in Gaza.

Indeed, everyone is worried about civilian casualties. Everyone except Hamas.

Have Obama and Kerry forgotten how the current violence started?

It started with Palestinian terrorists firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians.

It continued with the discovery of hidden tunnels—dozens of them—which Hamas has dug into Israel with the intention, apparently, of launching an invasion of terrorists into Israel to kidnap Israelis and drag them back through the tunnels into Gaza.

A few militants who made it through the tunnels were found to be carrying tranquilizers and handcuffs. Today Israel discovered a tunnel filled with a trove of Israeli Defense Force uniforms in which the terrorists were evidently planning to disguise themselves.

This is the stuff of nightmares. And in the middle of Israel’s campaign to stop such atrocities, Obama and Kerry are criticizing Israel for causing civilian casualties? They’re handing a victory, with the flight cancellations, to Hamas, which hides its weapons and its militants in civilian homes to use women and children as human shields. It is an act of enormous cowardice.

President Obama should immediately reverse the FAA’s ban on flights into Ben Gurion International Airport and should apologize to Israel for the mistake. And Congress should hold hearings on the decision process to determine for certain if this was a deliberate political attack by the Obama White House on America’s ally.

Your Friend,
28  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Karambit Vs. straight blades on: July 23, 2014, 07:00:49 PM
TTT due to this thread being referenced on our FB page.
29  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen.Ted Cruz loses the Vampire vote on: July 23, 2014, 06:34:44 PM
30  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 23, 2014, 04:40:40 PM
Hmas using children as human shield in war
فقط 25 ثانیه ست اما دنیا حرف تو این کلیپ هست!! بازم بگین ماله سوریه ست..!! تو روخدا از ثانیه 19 تا 23 رو دقت کنین.. داره میگه: "تو حالا دختر حماس فاتح شدی..!!" این همون چهره واقعیه تروریست های «حماس» ست ک اینگونه با قساوت از کودکان معصوم فلسطینی در جنگ استفاده مستقیم میکند.. ناجوانمردانه آنها را سپر انسانی خود میسازد.. و شرم آورش آنجاست ک اینهمه ادعای شجاعت دارند اما بجای آنکه پناهگاه کودکان باشند حود با بزدلی در پشت یک دختر بچه پناه می گیرند.. و با وقاحت تمام حتی فیلم هم می گیرند..!!ا
حالا متوجه هستین اسرائیل با چ کسانی در حال جنگه..؟؟ا

Youtube لینک یوتیوب

وفاة الأطفال في غزة مدمرة! نسأل حماس السبب في ذلك هو استخدام الاطفال كدروع بشرية
The death of Children in Gaza is devastating! Ask Hamas why it is using kids as human shield
مرگ کودکان درد آور است.. از حماس بپرسید چر از کودکان مانند سپر انسانی مانند سپر انسانی استفاده میکند
חמאס משתמשים בילדים כמגן אנושי

‪#‎israelunderfire‬ ‪#‎istandwithisrael‬ ‪#‎israelunderattack‬ ‪#‎supportisrael‬#standwithisrael ‫#‏צוקאיתן‬ ‫#‏צבעאדום‬ ‫#‏פיקודהעורף‬ ‪#‎israel‬ ‪#‎gazaunderattack‬
31  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison, Fed 62, 1788 -- too many laws on: July 23, 2014, 10:44:55 AM
"It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow." --James Madison, Federal No. 62, 1788
32  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2016 Foreign Policy Debates on: July 23, 2014, 08:49:57 AM
Most of us here have tended to a strong US foreign policy, but at the polls in 2016 this may prove a very losing proposition.   For several years now I have been underlining here that rudderless nature of US foreign policy.   This article addresses this theme:

The Big 2016 Foreign Policy Debates
Rand Paul will fight the GOP hawks, and Joe Biden could run to the left of Hillary Clinton.
By William A. Galston
July 22, 2014 7:19 p.m. ET

These are tough times for internationalists, liberal and conservative alike. George W. Bush's overreach in Iraq undermined public support for the use of American power overseas, and Barack Obama has done nothing to rebuild it. Large majorities of Americans believe that our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan was a mistake. A July 21 Politico survey of likely voters in battleground states found that only 39% think that we have a responsibility to do something about the mess we left behind in Mesopotamia.

The survey also found that by a margin of 3 to 1, Americans reject the sweeping vision Mr. Bush enunciated in his second inaugural address and would instead confine the use of American military power to direct threats to our national security. In the same poll, completed before the downing of the Malaysia Airlines 3786.KU -2.17% passenger plane, only 17% thought we should get more involved in the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine.

The desire for some nation-building here at home is palpable and understandable. Nevertheless, the forthcoming presidential campaign is likely to feature an unusually spirited debate—within as well as between the parties—about America's role in the world.

The outline of this debate among Republicans is easy to foresee. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has articulated a coherent message of government restraint abroad as well as at home and has proved adept at making a libertarian-leaning agenda more broadly acceptable to conservatives. The young adults who flocked to his father's rallies seem especially receptive to his critique of military intervention and NSA surveillance. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose political instincts seem to have improved since 2012, has publicly challenged Mr. Paul for his alleged isolationism, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has positioned himself as his generation's torchbearer for a muscular internationalism based on American leadership.
Enlarge Image

Sen. Rand Paul Associated Press

Most Republican contenders are likely to side with their party's national-defense orthodoxy of recent decades. Still, Mr. Paul's self-confidence and political skills could carry him far in a divided field and might even gain him the nomination. That would be an earthquake within the Republican Party and present a tough choice for staunch hawks like John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Mr. McCain has publicly said as much.

Although it may not occur, the Democrats are poised for a similar debate. The only significant difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008 was her vote for the Iraq war, which probably cost her the presidential nomination. Little has changed. During her tenure as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton was among the administration's toughest voices during internal debates. She supported the use of American air power in Libya, and the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden. (Both Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Robert Gates opposed it.)

Strong legal support from Mrs. Clinton's State Department for President Obama's expansive use of drones surprised many observers. She was an advocate for the 2009 surge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and favored maintaining a residual American force in Iraq after the end of our combat missions. While not opposed to nuclear negotiations with Iran, she has expressed mistrust about Iranian intentions and has opposed a policy of "containing" a nuclear-armed Tehran if diplomacy fails. As president, it seems reasonable to conclude, Mrs. Clinton would make decisions about using American power based on prudential considerations, not instinctive aversion.

For the record: Even though I opposed the Iraq war from the start, I believe that Hillary Clinton's judgment on defense and foreign policy issues has been right far more often than it was wrong and that she would serve our country well as commander in chief.

But rank-and-file Democrats are no less dovish today than they were in 2008. Although attention has focused recently on the clash between "populist" and "Wall Street" Democrats, the potential for an intraparty debate on foreign policy seems just as real. While Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has consistently denied her intention to run if Mrs. Clinton enters the race, Vice President Biden has made no such pledge. Estes Kefauver, the 1956 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, once remarked that the only known cure for persistent presidential ambition was "embalming fluid."

Mr. Biden is well-positioned to wage a left-leaning campaign on foreign policy as well as economic issues. Although he voted for the Iraq-war authorization in 2002, he argued vehemently against the Bush administration's surge in 2007, proposing instead the quasi-partition of Iraq into autonomous Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite zones. As vice president, he argued just as hard against Gen. David Petraeus's proposal (backed by then-Secretary of State Clinton) for a massive military surge and nation-building policy in Afghanistan. And he has taken U.S. military action against Iran off the table, declaring that "war with Iran is not just a bad option. It would be a disaster."

These issues matter, not just for the U.S., but for the world. During the Cold War, American retreat usually meant Soviet advance. Now it most often means anarchy. The question is whether the American people can be persuaded that they should care.
33  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Can Putin Survive? on: July 23, 2014, 08:30:44 AM
Can Putin survive?
Russia's strongman is far from finished, but events in Ukraine have weakened his position.
George Friedman | 23 July 2014
comment 6 | print |

There is a general view that Vladimir Putin governs the Russian Federation as a dictator, that he has defeated and intimidated his opponents and that he has marshaled a powerful threat to surrounding countries. This is a reasonable view, but perhaps it should be re-evaluated in the context of recent events.

Ukraine is, of course, the place to start. The country is vital to Russia as a buffer against the West and as a route for delivering energy to Europe, which is the foundation of the Russian economy. On Jan. 1, Ukraine's president was Viktor Yanukovich, generally regarded as favorably inclined to Russia. Given the complexity of Ukrainian society and politics, it would be unreasonable to say Ukraine under him was merely a Russian puppet. But it is fair to say that under Yanukovich and his supporters, fundamental Russian interests in Ukraine were secure.

This was extremely important to Putin. Part of the reason Putin had replaced Boris Yeltsin in 2000 was Yeltsin's performance during the Kosovo war. Russia was allied with the Serbs and had not wanted NATO to launch a war against Serbia. Russian wishes were disregarded. The Russian views simply didn't matter to the West. Still, when the air war failed to force Belgrade's capitulation, the Russians negotiated a settlement that allowed U.S. and other NATO troops to enter and administer Kosovo. As part of that settlement, Russian troops were promised a significant part in peacekeeping in Kosovo. But the Russians were never allowed to take up that role, and Yeltsin proved unable to respond to the insult.

Putin also replaced Yeltsin because of the disastrous state of the Russian economy. Though Russia had always been poor, there was a pervasive sense that it been a force to be reckoned with in international affairs. Under Yeltsin, however, Russia had become even poorer and was now held in contempt in international affairs. Putin had to deal with both issues. He took a long time before moving to recreate Russian power, though he said early on that the fall of the Soviet Union had been the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century. This did not mean he wanted to resurrect the Soviet Union in its failed form, but rather that he wanted Russian power to be taken seriously again, and he wanted to protect and enhance Russian national interests.

The breaking point came in Ukraine during the Orange Revolution of 2004. Yanukovich was elected president that year under dubious circumstances, but demonstrators forced him to submit to a second election. He lost, and a pro-Western government took office. At that time, Putin accused the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies of having organized the demonstrations. Fairly publicly, this was the point when Putin became convinced that the West intended to destroy the Russian Federation, sending it the way of the Soviet Union. For him, Ukraine's importance to Russia was self-evident. He therefore believed that the CIA organized the demonstration to put Russia in a dangerous position, and that the only reason for this was the overarching desire to cripple or destroy Russia. Following the Kosovo affair, Putin publicly moved from suspicion to hostility to the West.

The Russians worked from 2004 to 2010 to undo the Orange Revolution. They worked to rebuild the Russian military, focus their intelligence apparatus and use whatever economic influence they had to reshape their relationship with Ukraine. If they couldn't control Ukraine, they did not want it to be controlled by the United States and Europe. This was, of course, not their only international interest, but it was the pivotal one.

Russia's invasion of Georgia had more to do with Ukraine than it had to do with the Caucasus. At the time, the United States was still bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. While Washington had no formal obligation to Georgia, there were close ties and implicit guarantees. The invasion of Georgia was designed to do two things. The first was to show the region that the Russian military, which had been in shambles in 2000, was able to act decisively in 2008. The second was to demonstrate to the region, and particularly to Kiev, that American guarantees, explicit or implicit, had no value. In 2010, Yanukovich was elected president of Ukraine, reversing the Orange Revolution and limiting Western influence in the country.

Recognizing the rift that was developing with Russia and the general trend against the United States in the region, the Obama administration tried to recreate older models of relationships when Hillary Clinton presented Putin with a "restart" button in 2009. But Washington wanted to restore the relationship in place during what Putin regarded as the "bad old days." He naturally had no interest in such a restart. Instead, he saw the United States as having adopted a defensive posture, and he intended to exploit his advantage.

One place he did so was in Europe, using EU dependence on Russian energy to grow closer to the Continent, particularly Germany. But his high point came during the Syrian affair, when the Obama administration threatened airstrikes after Damascus used chemical weapons only to back off from its threat. The Russians aggressively opposed Obama's move, proposing a process of negotiations instead. The Russians emerged from the crisis appearing decisive and capable, the United States indecisive and feckless. Russian power accordingly appeared on the rise, and in spite of a weakening economy, this boosted Putin's standing.

The Tide Turns Against Putin

Events in Ukraine this year, by contrast, have proved devastating to Putin. In January, Russia dominated Ukraine. By February, Yanukovich had fled the country and a pro-Western government had taken power. The general uprising against Kiev that Putin had been expecting in eastern Ukraine after Yanukovich's ouster never happened. Meanwhile, the Kiev government, with Western advisers, implanted itself more firmly. By July, the Russians controlled only small parts of Ukraine. These included Crimea, where the Russians had always held overwhelming military force by virtue of treaty, and a triangle of territory from Donetsk to Luhansk to Severodonetsk, where a small number of insurgents apparently supported by Russian special operations forces controlled a dozen or so towns.

If no Ukrainian uprising occurred, Putin's strategy was to allow the government in Kiev to unravel of its own accord and to split the United States from Europe by exploiting Russia's strong trade and energy ties with the Continent. And this is where the crash of the Malaysia Airlines jet is crucial. If it turns out -- as appears to be the case -- that Russia supplied air defense systems to the separatists and sent crews to man them (since operating those systems requires extensive training), Russia could be held responsible for shooting down the plane. And this means Moscow's ability to divide the Europeans from the Americans would decline. Putin then moves from being an effective, sophisticated ruler who ruthlessly uses power to being a dangerous incompetent supporting a hopeless insurrection with wholly inappropriate weapons. And the West, no matter how opposed some countries might be to a split with Putin, must come to grips with how effective and rational he really is.

Meanwhile, Putin must consider the fate of his predecessors. Nikita Khrushchev returned from vacation in October 1964 to find himself replaced by his protege, Leonid Brezhnev, and facing charges of, among other things, "harebrained scheming." Khrushchev had recently been humiliated in the Cuban missile crisis. This plus his failure to move the economy forward after about a decade in power saw his closest colleagues "retire" him. A massive setback in foreign affairs and economic failures had resulted in an apparently unassailable figure being deposed.

Russia's economic situation is nowhere near as catastrophic as it was under Khrushchev or Yeltsin, but it has deteriorated substantially recently, and perhaps more important, has failed to meet expectations. After recovering from the 2008 crisis, Russia has seen several years of declining gross domestic product growth rates, and its central bank is forecasting zero growth this year. Given current pressures, we would guess the Russian economy will slide into recession sometime in 2014. The debt levels of regional governments have doubled in the past four years, and several regions are close to bankruptcy. Moreover, some metals and mining firms are facing bankruptcy. The Ukrainian crisis has made things worse. Capital flight from Russia in the first six months stood at $76 billion, compared to $63 billion for all of 2013. Foreign direct investment fell 50 percent in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. And all this happened in spite of oil prices remaining higher than $100 per barrel.

Putin's popularity at home soared after the successful Sochi Winter Olympics and after the Western media made him look like the aggressor in Crimea. He has, after all, built his reputation on being tough and aggressive. But as the reality of the situation in Ukraine becomes more obvious, the great victory will be seen as covering a retreat coming at a time of serious economic problems. For many leaders, the events in Ukraine would not represent such an immense challenge. But Putin has built his image on a tough foreign policy, and the economy meant his ratings were not very high before Ukraine.

Imagining Russia After Putin

In the sort of regime that Putin has helped craft, the democratic process may not be the key to understanding what will happen next. Putin has restored Soviet elements to the structure of the government, even using the term "Politburo" for his inner Cabinets. These are all men of his choosing, of course, and so one might assume they would be loyal to him. But in the Soviet-style Politburo, close colleagues were frequently the most feared.

The Politburo model is designed for a leader to build coalitions among factions. Putin has been very good at doing that, but then he has been very successful at all the things he has done until now. His ability to hold things together declines as trust in his abilities declines and various factions concerned about the consequences of remaining closely tied to a failing leader start to maneuver. Like Khrushchev, who was failing in economic and foreign policy, Putin could have his colleagues remove him.

It is difficult to know how a succession crisis would play out, given that the constitutional process of succession exists alongside the informal government Putin has created. From a democratic standpoint, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin are as popular as Putin is, and I suspect they both will become more popular in time. In a Soviet-style struggle, Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov and Security Council Chief Nicolai Patryushev would be possible contenders. But there are others. Who, after all, expected the emergence of Mikhail Gorbachev?

Ultimately, politicians who miscalculate and mismanage tend not to survive. Putin miscalculated in Ukraine, failing to anticipate the fall of an ally, failing to respond effectively and then stumbling badly in trying to recoup. His management of the economy has not been exemplary of late either, to say the least. He has colleagues who believe they could do a better job, and now there are important people in Europe who would be glad to see him go. He must reverse this tide rapidly, or he may be replaced.

Putin is far from finished. But he has governed for 14 years counting the time Dmitri Medvedev was officially in charge, and that is a long time. He may well regain his footing, but as things stand at the moment, I would expect quiet thoughts to be stirring in his colleagues' minds. Putin himself must be re-examining his options daily. Retreating in the face of the West and accepting the status quo in Ukraine would be difficult, given that the Kosovo issue that helped propel him to power and given what he has said about Ukraine over the years. But the current situation cannot sustain itself. The wild card in this situation is that if Putin finds himself in serious political trouble, he might become more rather than less aggressive. Whether Putin is in real trouble is not something I can be certain of, but too many things have gone wrong for him lately for me not to consider the possibility. And as in any political crisis, more and more extreme options are contemplated if the situation deteriorates.

Those who think that Putin is both the most repressive and aggressive Russian leader imaginable should bear in mind that this is far from the case. Lenin, for example, was fearsome. But Stalin was much worse. There may similarly come a time when the world looks at the Putin era as a time of liberality. For if the struggle by Putin to survive, and by his challengers to displace him, becomes more intense, the willingness of all to become more brutal might well increase.

George Friedman is the founder and CEO of Stratfor, the global intelligence website. This article has been republished with permission of Stratfor.
34  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Hamas' Gamble on: July 23, 2014, 08:21:59 AM
GAZA CITY — When war between Israel and Hamas broke out two weeks ago, the Palestinian militant group was so hamstrung, politically, economically and diplomatically, that its leaders appeared to feel they had nothing to lose.

Hamas took what some here call “option zero,” gambling that it could shift the balance with its trump cards: its arms and militants.

Now, this conflict has demonstrated that while Hamas governed over 1.7 million people mired in poverty, its leaders were pouring resources into its military and expanding its ability to fight Israel. If it can turn that improved military prowess into concessions, like opening the border with Egypt, that may boost its standing among the people of Gaza — although at an extraordinarily high cost in deaths and destruction.

“There were low expectations in terms of its performance against the recent round of Israeli incursions. It’s been exceeding all expectations,” said Abdullah Al-Arian, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar who is currently in Washington. “And it’s likely to come out in a far better position than in the last three years, and maybe the last decade.”

Hamas had been struggling. The turmoil in the region meant it lost one of its main sponsors, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whom it broke with over his brutal fight against a Sunni Muslim-led insurgency, and weakened its alliance with Iran. It lost support in Egypt when the Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted and replaced with a military-backed government hostile to Hamas.

Unemployment in Gaza is around 50 percent, having risen steeply since Israel pulled out its troops and settlers in 2005 and severely tightened border restrictions.

Hamas appeared powerless to end the near-blockade of its border by Israel and more recently Egypt. It could not even pay its 40,000 government workers their salaries.

The group was so handicapped that it agreed to enter into a pact with its rival party, Fatah, to form a new government. But that seemed only to make matters worse, sowing division within its own ranks, with some in the military wing angry at the concession, while providing none of the economic relief Hamas had hoped for.
A woman, center, was comforted after the missile attack in Yahud. Credit Dan Balilty/Associated Press

When Hamas sent a barrage of rockets into Israel, simmering hostilities, and back and forth strikes, erupted into war.

At first, when Hamas rockets were being intercepted mainly by Israel’s Iron Dome system as Israel hit Gaza with devastating force, the group strove to persuade its supporters that it was having enough impact on Israel to wrest concessions: Its radio stations blared fictional reports about Israeli casualties.

But as it wore on, the conflict revealed that Hamas’s secret tunnel network leading into Israel was far more extensive, and sophisticated, than previously known. It also was able to inflict some pain on Israel, allowing Hamas to declare success even as it drew a devastating and crushing response. Its fighters were able to infiltrate Israel multiple times during an intensive Israeli ground invasion. Its militants have killed at least 27 Israeli soldiers and claim to have captured an Israeli soldier who was reported missing in battle, a potentially key bargaining chip.
Continue reading the main story

And on Tuesday its rockets struck a blow to Israel — psychological and economic — by forcing a halt in international flights. Hamas once again looks strong in the eyes of its supporters, and has shown an increasingly hostile region that it remains a force to be reckoned with.
Continue reading the main story Video
Play Video|1:59
Behind the Escalations in Gaza
Behind the Escalations in Gaza

A look at why Israel and Hamas have repeatedly chosen to intensify the violence at every stage of the continuing conflict.
Video Credit By Mona El-Naggar on Publish Date July 17, 2014. Image CreditRonen Zvulun/Reuters

Hamas, Mr. Arian said, has demonstrated that “as a movement, it is simply not going anywhere.”

But Hamas’s gains could be short-lived if it does not deliver Gazans a better life. Israel says its severe restrictions on what can be brought into Gaza, such as construction materials, are needed because Hamas poses a serious security threat, and the discovery of the tunnels has served only to validate that concern.

So far, at least 620 Palestinians have died, around 75 percent of them civilians, according to the United Nations, including more than 100 children. Gazans did not get a vote when Hamas chose to escalate conflict, nor did they when Hamas selected areas near their homes, schools and mosques to fire rockets from the densely populated strip. At the family house of four boys killed last week by an Israeli strike while playing on a beach, some wailing women cursed Hamas along with Israel.
Continue reading the main story
Related in Opinion

    Op-Ed Contributor: Gaza Under Israel’s OnslaughtJULY 22, 2014
    Room for Debate: Self-Defense or Atrocities in Gaza?JULY 22, 2014

“It comes at an exceptionally high price,” said Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former adviser to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. “When the bombs stop and the dust settles, people might have different calculations about cost-benefit.”
A home that was destroyed by a Hamas missile near Ben Gurion International Airport in Yahud, near Tel Aviv. Credit Gideon Markowicz/European Pressphoto Agency

It is also unclear whether, when the fighting ends, Hamas will have the same kind of foreign support it has had in the past to rebuild its arsenal or its infrastructure; Egypt, under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has destroyed hundreds of the tunnels that were used to bring in arms, money and supplies, and has kept the proper border crossing mostly closed. There are also some diplomatic efforts underway seeking to force Hamas to surrender its weapons in exchange for a cease-fire, a demand it is not likely to accept.

Omar Shaban, an economist and political independent, sat in his walled garden in the southern Gaza town of Deir al-Balah as shells crackled nearby and said he fervently hoped, but also doubted, that both Hamas and Israel’s government would reach for a substantive deal.

“This war will end tomorrow or after tomorrow, we will have another cease-fire, we will have another siege and Hamas will continue to run the scene,” he said.

“Gaza is a big problem for everybody, for Hamas, for Fatah, for Israel,” he added, ticking off the list: shortages of water, housing and medicine, a population explosion, growing extremism.
35  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Noose tightening around NY Gov. Cuomo? on: July 23, 2014, 08:16:33 AM

Exclusive: Cuomo’s Office Hobbled New York State Ethics Inquiries

A high-powered commission created by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to root out corruption in New York politics was hobbled almost from the outset by demands from the governor’s office, which sought to shield his allies from scrutiny, according to an examination by The New York Times.

A three-month review of the panel’s short life and sudden death found that the governor’s office deeply compromised the commission’s work, objecting whenever its investigators focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him.

Ultimately, Mr. Cuomo abruptly disbanded the commission halfway through what he had indicated would be an 18-month life. And now, as the Democratic governor seeks a second term in November, federal prosecutors are investigating the roles of Mr. Cuomo and his aides in the panel’s shutdown and are pursuing its unfinished business.


36  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Warrantless/illegal Sting Ray on: July 22, 2014, 11:00:20 PM

They use them in N.C. too.

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department may be keeping judges, prosecutors and the public in the dark about the use of a controversial electronic surveillance tool known as the StingRay, according to new information obtained by News10.

Despite evidence showing the sheriff's department is utilizing the device, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office and Sacramento Superior Court judges said they have no knowledge of StingRays or similar tools being used in Sacramento.

This revelation is concerning to privacy advocates and defense attorneys. They say the intrusive nature of the device, which tracks people in their homes and collects data from third parties, requires a search warrant. The fact that judges and prosecutors haven't heard of this use could indicate that warrants to use a StingRay aren't being obtained.

StingRay, IMSI catcher(Photo: News10/KXTV)

The district attorney's office said they would expect to see a search warrant for any device capable of real-time location tracking.

"We request a search warrant in all of those cases," Sacramento County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi said. He said while warrants for a wiretap or GPS tracking devices are fairly common, he has never seen a Stingray warrant.

The sheriff's department won't acknowledge they own the surveillance tool or talk about how it works. They also won't discuss who is targeted with it or what oversight mechanisms are in place to govern its use.

A News10 investigation in March showed the spying device is being used by at least nine local law enforcement agencies in California, from San Diego to Sacramento.

A StingRay is a brand of IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) catcher, a device that mimics a cell tower and attracts all wireless phone signals within a certain radius into connecting with it. Authorities can use it to track the location of phones in real time, as well as the unique ID and phone numbers of all connected phones and the numbers dialed by a connected phone. That includes the phone numbers of outgoing calls and text messages.

StingRays also can be configured to capture the content of calls and texts connected to the device, although Harris Corporation, the maker of Stingray and similar products, said devices used by law enforcement don't have that capability.

Linda Lye, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Northern California, spent several years battling federal and local authorities for StingRay records. Lye reviewed documents and other evidence obtained by News10 and believes the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department is almost certainly using a StingRay, and likely with little to no oversight.

"There's no California law governing how StingRays are to be used," Lye said. "It means law enforcement is using them under rules that they have unilaterally written."

Over the past six months the sheriff's department has denied multiple requests from News10 to discuss the technology. News10 submitted a records request to the sheriff's department in October 2013 asking for contracts, agreements, invoices, purchase orders or maintenance contracts signed with Harris Corporation.

The sheriff's department responded by providing a purchase order for a "High Powered Filtered 25W PA Kit (CONUS)" costing $11,500, but said they had no other responsive records or documentation specifically related to a StingRay device.

Procurement documents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement describe the "High Powered Filtered 25W PA Kit (CONUS)" as a signal amplifier for a StingRay device.

In early February, News10 obtained StingRay records from the San Jose Police Department. San Jose was interested in purchasing a StingRay from the Harris Corporation and discussed the device with other law enforcement agencies already using it - including the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

"The Harris Corporation is a government contractor and the sole supplier of this technology and type of product line," stated a San Jose Police Department grant application requesting Department of Homeland Security funds to purchase a StingRay. "The Harris Corporation is bound by Title 18 USC 2512 and is protected under non-disclosure agreement and federal law. Research of the product consisted of testing by San Jose Police and technology and equipment feedback from the U.S. Marshals Service, [Redacted], the Oakland Police Department, the Sacramento Sheriff's Department, the San Diego Sheriff's Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department."

"While I am not familiar with what San Jose has said, my understanding is that the acquisition or use of this technology comes with a strict non-disclosure requirement," Sacramento County Undersheriff James Lewis said in a written statement. "Therefore, it would be inappropriate for us to comment about any agency that may be using the technology."

Privacy advocates such as the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation argue that a non-disclosure agreement between the sheriff's department and a private corporation is not a valid reason to withhold public records.

"Government agencies cannot enter into private contracts in order to evade their statutory obligations," Lye said.

The sheriff's department later refused to release additional records requested by News10, citing several federal regulations, including the Freedom of Information Act, the Homeland Security Act, International Traffic in Arms Regulations and the Arms Export Control Act.

Lye reviewed the department's justification to withhold public records and said she believes their justification is invalid. The arms trafficking exemptions, she said, don't apply to StingRays.

"In order to be protected under that, there would have to have been a determination that they're on the U.S. munitions list, and they're not," Lye said.
37  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Great 11 minute history on: July 22, 2014, 10:56:41 PM
38  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA News on: July 22, 2014, 09:43:45 PM
One of my good gym buddies is Tony Fryklund.

He was intrigued by some things he saw me doing with shot puts (this has been really good in my rehab of my separated shoulder) so I gave him a few ideas and turned him loose to experiment. He became quite enthused and came up with a whole bunch of things more oriented to MMA clinch whereas my routine is more oriented to "Kali Tudo"

He suggested I come by his MMA wrestling class the next day with the shot puts and we worked on some interesting things. I was very impressed with how the training method instantly improved the power and fluidity of one's clinch movement.

So I lent him my 8s (and have been working with my 6s and 4s instead) and he has been working things out for a couple of weeks.

The plan is to shoot the first of a series of training clips next week and have it available for download not too long after that.
39  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Summer 2014 DBMA Training Camp July 19-20 on: July 22, 2014, 09:42:58 PM
Good times with good people!

Very pleased with the training progression.  I will be using it again.
40  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / BP points gun at Boy Scout on: July 22, 2014, 08:45:36 PM!bj84sS
41  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / June CPI adds to ongoing uptrend in inflation on: July 22, 2014, 08:40:37 PM
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) Increased 0.3% in June
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Bob Stein, CFA - Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 7/22/2014

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.3% in June, matching consensus expectations. The CPI is up 2.1% versus a year ago.

“Cash” inflation (which excludes the government’s estimate of what homeowners would charge themselves for rent) rose 0.3% in June and is up 1.9% in the past year.
Most of the increase in the CPI in June was due to a 1.6% rise in energy prices. Food prices increased 0.1%. The “core” CPI, which excludes food and energy, increased 0.1%, below consensus expectations of a 0.2% rise. The gain in core prices was led by shelter and core prices are up 1.9% versus a year ago.
Real average hourly earnings – the cash earnings of all employees, adjusted for inflation – were flat in June, and are down 0.1% in the past year. Real weekly earnings are also down 0.1% in the past year.

Implications: In her last press conference, Janet Yellen said recent higher inflation readings weren't a problem because the data are "noisy." But, lately, that noise all seems to be coming from the direction of higher inflation. Consumer prices increased 0.3% in June, following a large 0.4% rise in May. Although consumer prices are up a moderate 2.1% from a year ago, this year-over-year number masks a real acceleration. Over the past three months, the CPI is up 3.5% at an annual rate. And if you think three months is just noise, how about the first half of the year? In the first six months of 2014, consumer prices are up 2.7% at an annual rate, a clear acceleration from the 1.5% rate seen through the first six months of 2013. Energy led the way in June, with gasoline prices, up 3.3%, accounting for two-thirds of the increase in the overall index. And while a 0.1% increase in "core" prices in June means core prices are up only 1.9% from a year ago, they are still up an annualized 2.5% in the past three months. In addition, owners’ equivalent rent (the government’s estimate of what homeowners would charge themselves for rent), which makes up about ¼ of the overall CPI, is up 2.6% over the past 12 months. This measure will be a key source of the acceleration in inflation in the year ahead, in large part fueled by the shift toward renting rather than owning. The worst news in today’s report was that “real” (inflation-adjusted) average hourly earnings remained flat in June and are down 0.1% in the past year. Plugging today’s CPI data into our models suggests the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, the PCE deflator, probably increased 0.2% in June. If so, it would be up 1.7% from a year ago, barely below the Fed’s target of 2%. We expect to hit and cross the 2% target later this year, consistent with our view that the Fed starts raising short-term interest rates in the first half of 2015.
42  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: July 22, 2014, 02:02:17 PM
Health Law Subsidies Upheld, Conflicting With Ruling Hours Earlier
Two federal appeals court panels issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on whether the government could subsidize health insurance premiums for people in three dozen states that use the federal insurance exchange. The decisions are the latest in a series of legal challenges to central components of President Obama’s health care law.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, upheld the subsidies, saying that a rule issued by the Internal Revenue Service was “a permissible exercise of the agency’s discretion.”

The ruling came within hours of a 2-to-1 ruling by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which said that the government could not subsidize insurance for people in states that use the federal exchange.

That decision could cut potentially off financial assistance for more than 4.5 million people who were found eligible for subsidized insurance in the federal exchange, or marketplace.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the appeals court here said, subsidies are available only to people who obtained insurance through exchanges established by states.

43  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Healthier school lunches now found to be agreeable on: July 22, 2014, 10:00:34 AM

Study Finds Elementary Students Like New Healthier Lunches
Students Complained When Regulations Implemented, But Ultimately Found Them Agreeable
by Caroline Porter and Stephanie Armour
Updated July 21, 2014 7:39 p.m. ET

A new study reveals that the healthier school lunches despised in 2012 are now found to be agreeable among students and staffers. Caroline Porter joins the News Hub with Sara Murray. Photo: Getty Images.

When the federal government implemented new school-meal regulations in 2012, a majority of elementary-school students complained about the healthier lunches, but by the end of the school year most found the food agreeable, according to survey results released Monday.

The peer-reviewed study comes amid concerns that the regulations led schools to throw away more uneaten food and prompted some students to drop out of meal programs.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago surveyed administrators at more than 500 primary schools about student reaction to the new meals in the 2012-2013 school year. They found that 70% agreed or strongly agreed that students, by the end of the school year, generally liked the new lunches, which feature more whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and lower fat levels.

"We feel like these data support the new meals and show that although change can be slow, there have not been as many student complaints as thought to be," said Lindsey Turner, the lead author of the study, which will be published in the journal Childhood Obesity. The research was supported by a national group called Bridging the Gap that studies polices that improve health and was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which backs public-health initiatives.

In another study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine this past spring, researchers found that students were eating more fruits and vegetables under the new guidelines.

The school-meal standards have been contentious. Some Republicans criticized their calorie limits—the first time the government had imposed such a mandate on school meals—and in 2012 introduced legislation in the House to repeal the requirements. The standards also spurred student-led lunch boycotts in some districts.

Participation in the school-meal program has declined in recent years, fueling questions about the regulations' impact.

"Our big concern is that participation continues to slide," said Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokeswoman for the School Nutrition Association, which represents 55,000 school-nutritional professionals. The group seeks a relaxation of the rules, and says it believes they play a role in the decline in students participating.

Nationwide, participation in the school-lunch program fell by 1.2 million students, or 3.7%, from the 2010-2011 school year through the 2012-2013 year after having steadily increased for many years, according to a Feb. 27 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. State and local officials reported the drop was due in part to the new standards.

The study released Monday shows that schools in which two-thirds or more of students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch had higher participation and left less food on their plates than schools with fewer students qualified for the meals. In addition, administrators at rural schools reported more student complaints and wasted food, as well as participation drops, as compared with urban or suburban schools, according to the report.

The rules cover the roughly 32 million children who eat school breakfasts, lunches and snacks, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which says the program cost $15.2 billion in the 2013-2014 school year.

The requirement for healthier school food was a signature push of first lady Michelle Obama. The standards are aimed at reducing childhood obesity and were released in January 2012. Ms. Obama earlier this month vowed to fight GOP efforts to weaken the rules. House Republicans and the School Nutrition Association are seeking to relax some of the requirements in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

House Republicans are calling for some schools facing financial challenges to get a temporary waiver from the rules. They say the standards have been money losers for some districts. Democrats say the schools simply need more time and that many have made a successful transition.

"It takes students a little bit to adjust," said Jessica Donze Black, a child nutrition expert for the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit that promotes healthy school meals. "A majority of schools are doing well, and we should be able to learn from those schools and move forward with the schools that are still struggling."

A hearing on school nutrition by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry is set for Wednesday.

Write to Caroline Porter at and Stephanie Armour at
44  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: The healthy tend to sleep 7 hours on: July 22, 2014, 09:56:57 AM
Why Seven Hours of Sleep Might Be Better Than Eight
Sleep experts close in on the optimal night's sleep
Sumathi Reddy


July 21, 2014 7:22 p.m. ET

American adults get less sleep today than in the past, research shows. Corbis

How much sleep do you really need?

Experts generally recommend seven to nine hours a night for healthy adults. Sleep scientists say new guidelines are needed to take into account an abundance of recent research in the field and to reflect that Americans are on average sleeping less than they did in the past.

Several sleep studies have found that seven hours is the optimal amount of sleep—not eight, as was long believed—when it comes to certain cognitive and health markers, although many doctors question that conclusion.
The Way We Sleep

    People say they need an average of 7 hours, 13 minutes of sleep to function at their best. They sleep 6 hours, 31 minutes on an average weekday, and 7 hours, 22 minutes on weekends.
    69% of Americans get less sleep on weekdays than they say they need.
    Sleeping with a partner is preferred by 60% of adults. About 1 in 5 people sleep with a pet.
    Pajamas are worn by 73% of people and 12% sleep with nothing on.
    A third of adults sleep with one pillow, 41% use two and 14% keep four or more pillows.

Source: National Sleep Foundation, 2013 International Bedroom Poll

Other recent research has shown that skimping on a full night's sleep, even by 20 minutes, impairs performance and memory the next day. And getting too much sleep—not just too little of it—is associated with health problems including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease and with higher rates of death, studies show.

"The lowest mortality and morbidity is with seven hours," said Shawn Youngstedt, a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University Phoenix. "Eight hours or more has consistently been shown to be hazardous," says Dr. Youngstedt, who researches the effects of oversleeping.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping to fund a panel of medical specialists and researchers to review the scientific literature on sleep and develop new recommendations, probably by 2015.

Daniel F. Kripke, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, tracked over a six-year period data on 1.1 million people who participated in a large cancer study. People who reported they slept 6.5 to 7.4 hours had a lower mortality rate than those with shorter or longer sleep. The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2002, controlled for 32 health factors, including medications.

In another study, published in the journal Sleep Medicine in 2011, Dr. Kripke found further evidence that the optimal amount of sleep might be less than the traditional eight hours. The researchers recorded the sleep activity of about 450 elderly women using devices on their wrist for a week. Some 10 years later the researchers found that those who slept fewer than five hours or more than 6.5 hours had a higher mortality.

Other experts caution against studies showing ill effects from too much sleep. Illness may cause someone to sleep or spend more time in bed, these experts say. And studies based on people reporting their own sleep patterns may be inaccurate.

"The problem with these studies is that they give you good information about association but not causation," said Timothy Morgenthaler, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which represents sleep doctors and researchers, and a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine.

Dr. Morgenthaler advises patients to aim for seven to eight hours of sleep a night and to evaluate how they feel. Sleep needs also vary between individuals, largely due to cultural and genetic differences, he said.

Getting the right amount of sleep is important in being alert the next day, and several recent studies have found an association between getting seven hours of sleep and optimal cognitive performance.

A study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience last year used data from users of the cognitive-training website Lumosity. Researchers looked at the self-reported sleeping habits of about 160,000 users who took spatial-memory and matching tests and about 127,000 users who took an arithmetic test. They found that cognitive performance increased as people got more sleep, reaching a peak at seven hours before starting to decline.

After seven hours, "increasing sleep was not any more beneficial," said Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., who co-authored the study with scientists from Lumos Labs Inc., which owns Lumosity. He said the study replicated earlier research, including a look at memory loss. "If you think about all the causes of memory loss, sleep is probably one of the most easily modifiable factors," he said.

Most research has focused on the effects of getting too little sleep, including cognitive and health declines and weight gain. David Dinges, a sleep scientist at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine who has studied sleep deprivation, said repeatedly getting just 20 or 30 minutes less than the minimum recommendation of seven hours can slow cognitive speed and increase attention lapses.

Experts say people should be able to figure out their optimal amount of sleep in a trial of three days to a week, ideally while on vacation. Don't use an alarm clock. Go to sleep when you get tired. Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol. And stay off electronic devices a couple of hours before going to bed. During the trial, track your sleep with a diary or a device that records your actual sleep time. If you feel refreshed and awake during the day, you've probably discovered your optimal sleep time.

The new sleep guidelines will be drawn up by a panel of experts being assembled by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the Sleep Research Society, an organization for sleep researchers, and the CDC. The recommendations are meant to reflect evidence that has emerged from scientific studies and are expected to take into account issues such as gender and age, says Dr. Morgenthaler, the academy president.

Another group, the National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, also has assembled an expert panel that expects to release updated recommendations for sleep times in January.

These groups currently recommend seven to nine hours of nightly sleep for healthy adults. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends seven to eight hours, including the elderly. Most current guidelines say school-age children should get at least 10 hours of sleep a night, and teenagers, nine to 10.

"I don't think you can overdose on healthy sleep. When you get enough sleep your body will wake you up," said Safwan Badr, chief of the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit.

A study in the current issue of Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine seemed to confirm that. Five healthy adults were placed in what the researchers called Stone Age-like conditions in Germany for more than two months—without electricity, clocks or running water. Participants fell asleep about two hours earlier and got on average 1.5 hours more sleep than was estimated in their normal lives, the study said.

Their average amount of sleep per night: 7.2 hours.
45  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Fed Appeals Court deals setback to Obamacare on: July 22, 2014, 09:52:48 AM
Federal Appeals Court Deals Setback to Health Care Law

In a ruling that could upend President Obama’s health care law, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the government could not subsidize premiums for people in three dozen states that use the federal insurance exchange. The 2-to-1 ruling could cut off financial assistance for more than 4.5 million people who were found eligible for subsidized insurance in the federal exchange, or marketplace.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the court said, subsidies are available only to people who obtained insurance through exchanges established by states.
The law “does not authorize the Internal Revenue Service to provide tax credits for insurance purchased on federal exchanges,” said the ruling, by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The law, it said, “plainly makes subsidies available only on exchanges established by states.”


46  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IDF targetting in Gaza on: July 22, 2014, 09:22:31 AM
47  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: July 21, 2014, 09:17:30 PM
second post of the day

ditor's Note: This week's Security Weekly summarizes our quarterly Mexico drug cartel report, in which we assess the most significant developments of the second quarter of 2014 and provide a forecast for the third quarter. The report is a product of the coverage we maintain through our Mexico Security Memo, quarterly updates and other analyses that we produce throughout the year as part of the Mexico Security Monitor service.

By Tristan Reed
Mexico Security Analyst

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto aggressively pursued a strategy of targeting top organized crime leaders throughout Mexico in the second quarter -- and not just in Michoacan, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas, the states that the country's major criminal groups call home.

In Michoacan, Mexico City achieved substantial success against organized crime in the first half of 2014. Self-defense militias and Mexican authorities have dismantled most of the senior leadership of the Knights Templar. Only Servando "La Tuta" Gomez Martinez remains at large.

Federal forces also continued to inflict significant leadership losses on organized crime groups in Sinaloa, particularly the Sinaloa Federation. The arrest of top Sinaloa Federation leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera on Feb. 22 capped the government's successes in Sinaloa. The Mexican military on June 23 also arrested Fernando "El Ingeniero" Sanchez Arellano, one of the primary leaders of another criminal group in Sinaloa (despite its brand name), the Tijuana cartel.

Mexico City announced a renewed campaign against organized crime in Tamaulipas on May 13, highlighting its intent to crush the leaderships of all organized crime groups in their respective domains. Successes mounted just days after the announcement: Already, federal forces have arrested or killed several significant Gulf cartel and Los Zetas bosses. And at least so far, the campaign against organized crime in Tamaulipas has not distracted the government from its pursuit of crime bosses elsewhere.

Successfully targeting crime bosses in Mexico does not ensure improved security over the long term. It also does not guarantee the collapse of any group. For example, the arrest of Zetas leader Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales on July 15, 2013, did not appear to meaningfully affect Los Zetas' capabilities or operations.

Opportunities for new crime bosses to emerge or expand their control will remain as long as vast quantities of highly profitable drugs are flowing through criminal territories and other highly profitable criminal activities are proliferating. If Mexico City is to translate its recent successes into enduring security improvements, it will have to continue to pressure crime bosses and strengthen the government institutions that maintain the rule of law.

Economic Incentives

It is more than just a desire to end the drug-related violence that motivates Mexico City's recent campaigns against organized crime in Tamaulipas, Sinaloa and Michoacan. The Mexican government is also protecting its own economic interests. Not only do Mexican criminal groups traffic drugs into the United States, but they are also increasingly engaged in the theft of hydrocarbon products, as well as illegal mining and illegal logging.

In Michoacan, the Knights Templar had enjoyed an increasing share of shipments of illegally mined ore to China until the second quarter. Meanwhile, the theft and sale of hydrocarbon products by these groups has grown throughout Mexico. Criminal groups in Tamaulipas in particular have an extensive reach into Mexico's energy resources: Groups have stolen gasoline from Petroleos Mexicanos' pipelines, trucks and even directly from refineries, then sold it on the street for less than half the official price.

Organized crime's exploitation of Mexico's hydrocarbon resources is one of the principal forces pushing the new campaign in the northeast. As Stratfor noted in its second quarterly cartel update, the recent surge in violence in Tamaulipas was mainly because of the collapse of the Tampico Gulf cartel faction and the continued Gulf cartel factional fight for control of Reynosa. However, Mexico City has thus far targeted virtually all organized crime groups based in Tamaulipas -- from Los Zetas to the various Gulf cartel factions -- and government operations have extended into Guanajuato, Mexico, Nuevo Leon and Veracruz states.

The long-term consequences of Mexico's high-value target campaign are difficult to forecast. Security improvements -- where there have been any -- as a direct result of military and law enforcement operations in the most violent areas of the country have been modest. Those operations have, however, accelerated the trends Stratfor underlined in its 2014 cartel annual update.

In northwestern Mexico, the series of arrests of high-level Sinaloa Federation leaders has further balkanized organized crime in states such as Sonora, Baja California and Sinaloa. In north-central Mexico, La Linea has re-emerged in Chihuahua without resorting to the levels of violence seen when the Sinaloa Federation initially pushed into the state and challenged it. The picture in Mexico's northeast is still hazy, especially given the recent operations in Tamaulipas. Nonetheless, the combination of escalated turf wars among Gulf cartel factions and the government's targeting of crime bosses from Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel will accelerate the organizational shifts Stratfor noted in its 2014 cartel update.

Changes in Tamaulipas and the Northeast

The collapse of the Tampico faction of the Gulf cartel during the first quarter, leaving no major group in control of organized crime in the city of Tampico, marked the beginning of substantial shifts in organized crime in the northeast. In addition to Tampico, Reynosa and Ciudad Victoria saw renewed organized crime violence. Gulf cartel factions fought each other for control of Reynosa, and Los Zetas continued to face off with security forces in Ciudad Victoria. However, because Tampico lies on drug smuggling routes into the United States and is a hub for the theft of hydrocarbon products, it is almost a given that a group such as Los Zetas or another Gulf cartel faction will vie for control. Competing groups could launch a direct incursion, or they could sponsor one of the old Tampico faction's successor groups.

Areas of Cartel Influence in Mexico

As Stratfor detailed in the first quarterly update, a shift of control in Tampico could affect the landscape of organized crime in all of northeastern Mexico. We did not, however, predict the sweeping federal operations targeting all major criminal groups in Tamaulipas that began in May. Sharp increases in violence and subsequent military operations are not new to Tamaulipas. Since 2003, the state has experienced a series of bloody criminal turf wars followed by substantial military and law enforcement operations. The turf wars reflect the state's value to organized crime. Given its location on the Lower Rio Grande, Tamaulipas offers access to U.S. ports of entry where contraband can be smuggled into the United States. This has made Tamaulipas one of the major regional bases for organized crime in Mexico. The various major groups based there, namely, Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel factions, collectively operate in roughly half of the country.

The operations that reshaped the security environment in Tamaulipas in the second quarter will continue at least into the third quarter. Fighting between gunmen and military forces has increased in multiple areas of Tamaulipas, particularly Reynosa, Tampico and Ciudad Victoria, though the increased troop presence in hot spots in the state has diminished intercartel violence.

The wide net Mexico City has cast in targeting crime bosses from groups based in Tamaulipas reveals that the government's ambitions go beyond simply quelling cartel violence in the state. Numerous Tamaulipas crime bosses have been caught, many after fleeing the state. The number of crime bosses fleeing Tamaulipas only to be arrested in their new refuges stands out. These include Gulf cartel boss Juan Manuel "Juan Perros" Rodriguez Garcia, apprehended May 25 in Nuevo Leon state; Los Zetas leaders Juan Fernando "El Ferrari" Alvarez Cortez and Fernando "Z-16" Magana Martinez, both apprehended in May in Nuevo Leon; Luis Jimenez Tovar, Los Zetas' plaza boss for Ciudad Victoria, arrested July 3 in Leon, Guanajuato; and Gulf cartel boss Juan Zarate "El Sheyla" Martin Chavez, apprehended June 18 in Mexico state. The high volume of fugitives from Tamaulipas suggests that the crime bosses fear this security operation more than major ones in the past, such as the operation launched against Los Zetas in 2011 and the one targeting the Gulf cartel in 2012.

Violence stemming from the turf wars between rival criminal groups in Reynosa and Tampico slowed in the last few weeks of the second quarter, supplanted by fighting between authorities and criminal gunmen. While organized crime groups will continue fighting one another in Tamaulipas, the heightened number of federal troops and aggressive targeting will continue to limit their ability to fight one another in the third quarter.

It is highly likely that more Gulf cartel and Los Zetas leaders will fall this quarter, though it is uncertain whether Mexico City will apprehend the senior leaders of Los Zetas, such as leader Omar "Z-42" Trevino Morales, brother of former leader Miguel Trevino Morales. The faction of the Gulf cartel based in Matamoros, a town where the family of former Gulf leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen still has considerable power, has weathered the federal operations the best. As a result, this faction could expand its reach onto the turf of other Gulf factions in the second half of the year.

Editor's Note: The full version of our quarterly cartel update is available to clients of our Mexico Security Monitor service.
48  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo and Allen West: This was anticipated way in advance, , , on: July 21, 2014, 06:17:29 PM
According to the Washington Post, “Nearly a year before President Obama declared a humanitarian crisis on the border, a team of experts arrived at the Fort Brown patrol station in Brownsville, Tex., and discovered a makeshift transportation depot for a deluge of foreign children. Thirty Border Patrol agents were assigned in August 2013 to drive the children to off-site showers, wash their clothes and make them sandwiches. As soon as those children were placed in temporary shelters, more arrived. An average of 66 were apprehended each day on the border and more than 24,000 cycled through Texas patrol stations in 2013.”

“In a 41-page report to the Department of Homeland Security, the team from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) raised alarms about the federal government’s capacity to manage a situation that was expected to grow worse. The researchers’ observations were among the warning signs conveyed to the Obama administration over the past two years as a surge of Central American minors has crossed into south Texas illegally.”

That means the administration was informed about the coming invasion as early as 2012 – of course at that time, there was an election to win.

So could it be that Barack Hussein Obama was deliberately and willfully negligent in the discharge of his duties to protect the American people and the sovereignty of our Constitutional Republic? Did Obama violate Article 4, Section 4 of the US Constitution; “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion?”

There's more disturbing evidence that this immigrant invasion was planned and anticipated by the Obama administration as early as 2012
49  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Glenn Beck visits the border on: July 21, 2014, 02:46:50 PM
50  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glenn Beck visits the border on: July 21, 2014, 02:46:18 PM
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