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1  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: Today at 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.
READ MORE »
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/us/court-rules-against-obamacare-exchange-subsidies.html?emc=edit_na_20140722

2  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Healthier school lunches now found to be agreeable on: Today at 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
WSJ
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 caroline.porter@wsj.com and Stephanie Armour at stephanie.armour@wsj.com
3  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: The healthy tend to sleep 7 hours on: Today at 09:56:57 AM
Why Seven Hours of Sleep Might Be Better Than Eight
Sleep experts close in on the optimal night's sleep
By
Sumathi Reddy
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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.
4  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Fed Appeals Court deals setback to Obamacare on: Today at 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.”

READ MORE »
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/us/court-rules-against-obamacare-exchange-subsidies.html?emc=edit_na_20140722

5  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IDF targetting in Gaza on: Today at 09:22:31 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j16xIxZdqgg
6  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.
7  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 http://allenbwest.com/2014/07/evidence-immigrant-invasion-planned-expected/
8  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Glenn Beck visits the border on: July 21, 2014, 02:46:50 PM
http://www.glennbeck.com/2014/07/21/it-is-a-horrifying-place-to-be-glenn-reflects-on-his-visit-to-the-rio-grande-river-with-louie-gohmert/
9  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glenn Beck visits the border on: July 21, 2014, 02:46:18 PM
http://www.glennbeck.com/2014/07/21/it-is-a-horrifying-place-to-be-glenn-reflects-on-his-visit-to-the-rio-grande-river-with-louie-gohmert/
10  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: July 21, 2014, 12:36:37 PM
Plow Horse GDP Rebound in Q2 To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 7/21/2014

The 2.9% drop in real GDP during the first quarter was a fluke caused by a brutal winter and some one-off events. With much of the monthly data in for Q2, it looks like the US will see that drop almost completely reversed.

Normally, we would expect a bigger bounce as pent-up demand (lost to the weather) returned and added to growth already in train. But, not this time. In recent years, tax rates have been hiked, regulations have increased and government spending has expanded. All of these are a burden on the economy that creates slower potential growth.

As a result, while we expect a nice rebound in Q2 real GDP to 2.9% annualized growth, this still looks like a Plow Horse recovery.

This doesn’t mean we won’t see better growth rates in the years ahead. Monetary policy is loose – and will stay that way even when the Federal Reserve starts raising rates – corporate profits have been terrific, and housing will continue to rebound. Job creation has hastened, helping boost incomes and purchasing power.

However, the economy will remain disappointingly weak unless, and until, government policies change. Given current policies, this economic expansion will not be like the ones in the 1980s or 1990s. Not even close.

As we do every quarter, below is a component by component “add-em-up” forecast of Q2 real GDP – and how we get the 2.9% rebound from the Q1 economic pothole.
Consumption: Auto sales surged at a 26% annual rate in Q2 and “real” (inflation-adjusted) retail sales outside the auto sector grew at a 4% rate. But services make up about 2/3 of personal consumption and those were roughly unchanged. As a result, it looks like real personal consumption of goods and services combined, grew at a 1.9% annual rate in Q2, contributing 1.3 points to the real GDP growth rate (1.9 times the consumption share of GDP, which is 69%, equals 1.3).

Business Investment: Business equipment investment looks like it grew at a 12.5% annual rate in Q2, the fastest pace since 2011. Commercial construction looks like it grew at a 4% rate. Factoring in R&D suggests overall business investment grew at a 7.5% rate, which should add 0.9 points to the real GDP growth rate (7.5 times the 12% business investment share of GDP equals 0.9).

Home Building: Better weather brought more home building in Q2, although nothing close to a housing boom. We see a 6% annualized gain in home building in Q2 adding 0.2 points to the real GDP growth rate (6 times the home building share of GDP, which is 3%, equals 0.2).

Government: Public construction projects, which had been slowed by the weather in Q1, rebounded sharply in Q2. However, military spending continued to head down. On net, it looks like real government purchases grew at a 2% annual rate in Q2, which should add 0.4 percentage points to real GDP growth (2 times the government purchase share of GDP, which is 18%, equals 0.4).

Trade: At this point, the government only has trade data through May, and it doesn’t look very good for US GDP. On average, the “real” trade deficit in goods has grown larger in Q2. As a result, we’re forecasting that net exports subtracted 0.7 points from the real GDP growth rate.

Inventories: Companies cut the pace of inventory accumulation in Q1. But, with partial data only through May, it appears inventory accumulation is reaccelerating. That’s a harbinger of better sales ahead and, for the time being, will add 0.8 points to the real GDP growth rate in Q2.

Nothing in the next GDP report is going to signal an economic boom. But, the dour forecasts of imminent recession which accompanied the reported drop in GDP over the winter months will be proven wrong. (Once again!) We aren’t looking for a boom, but it sure looks like a solid Plow Horse piece of data is on its way.

11  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia's anti-west isolationism on: July 21, 2014, 11:50:19 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/21/opinion/russias-anti-west-isolationism.html?emc=edit_th_20140721&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
12  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIS drives Christians into exile on: July 21, 2014, 11:39:11 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/21/world/middleeast/concern-and-support-for-iraqi-christians-forced-by-isis-militants-to-flee-mosul.html?emc=edit_th_20140721&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193&_r=0
13  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kurdistan's financial trap on: July 21, 2014, 11:20:43 AM

Summary

The Kurdistan Regional Government's recent stream of announcements make it appear that Iraqi Kurdistan, now endowed with the prize of Kirkuk oil, is on the verge of political and economic independence. But behind the Kurdish hubris is a government in an increasingly desperate financial situation, with only its old adversary Turkey to rely on for its survival. This situation will create deeper divisions among Iraq's Kurdish factions, providing neighboring Iran with an opportunity to counter Turkey's moves in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Analysis

Now that the Kurds have established control over the Kirkuk oil fields, the Kurdistan Regional Government is working rapidly to connect the fields to its own energy infrastructure. Multiple sources have confirmed that the Avana Dome has been connected to the Kurdish-controlled Khurmala Dome. The next step will be to connect the Baba Dome and nearby Bai Hassan field to the Avana Dome, which altogether would add (in theory) some 415,000 barrels to Kurdish production capacity, though these fields currently produce around 160,000 barrels per day of sour light crude. Kirkuk crude can be blended with light Taq Taq crude to channel more oil for export, but that would irritate potential buyers, who are looking for consistency in output and would be reluctant to buy crude from a disputed territory. More likely, Kirkuk crude will be diverted to local refineries for domestic Kurdish consumption.


Still, the Kurdish acquisition of Kirkuk does little at the moment to alleviate the Kurdistan Regional Government's deepening financial crisis. For the past six months, it has gone without a roughly $1.2 billion monthly budget allocation from Baghdad, since the Iraqi government sought to punish Kurdish attempts to attain energy and political independence. That is about the same amount the Kurdistan Regional Government spends monthly for public sector employee salaries, operational expenses and investment projects. Critically, 60 percent of the Kurdistan Regional Government's monthly expenditures go toward the salaries of a bloated 700,000-strong bureaucracy, including 200,000 peshmerga soldiers.

The government has had to delay paying some public sector employees, especially teachers. With security threats rising, paying peshmerga forces seems to be a priority, even if those salaries are not paid in time. After its financial obligations to its employees, the Kurdistan Regional Government also has to answer to more than 50 international oil companies and contractors operating in Iraqi Kurdistan that also face repeated delays in payments. The government tried to extract fees from these firms to alleviate its current financial problems, demanding immediate payments for the services of its oil protection units. But the patience of international oil companies wears thin with such demands the longer they go without pay. The Kurdistan Regional Government's total debts to international oil companies and contractors is estimated to be roughly $5 billion and counting.

Without reserves to draw from, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Arbil has had to borrow from a limited menu of lenders. Several of Iraqi Kurdistan's business tycoons, including the heads of KAR Group and Asiacell, have been called on to issue loans and maintain liquidity in public banks. Most foreign banks are reluctant to lend to the Kurdistan Regional Government, but Arbil appears to have secured around $1 billion total in regional loans from Turkey's Asya Bank and VakifBank, in addition to funds from Lebanese banks IBL, Byblos and BBAC. After securing a $2 billion to $3 billion loan from Turkey in March, the Kurdistan Regional Government has requested additional loans from Ankara, but the terms and exact amount remain unclear.
Overcoming Obstacles

With a growing deficit of more than $6 billion and no resolution with Baghdad in sight, the Kurdistan Regional Government is desperate to generate enough revenue on its own from oil sales to cover basic expenses. But that is easier said than done. The Kurdish government has already been trying to convince the market that any oil exported out of Iraqi Kurdistan constitutes a legal sale, even as Baghdad has threatened to fine and sue any company that bypasses the central government in such commercial transactions. The legality of Kurdish crude exports has only been compounded by the Kurds' seizure of fields in disputed territory.

Arbil has assumed that all it has to do is establish precedence in selling its oil to drown out Baghdad's threat. Unfortunately, only one of four tankers -- carrying roughly 100,000 barrels of Kurdish crude -- has been sold so far to a buyer out of Israel, while traders such as Glencore, Vitol and Trafigura have kept their distance. Turkey meanwhile announced July 18 that it is halting the flow of Kurdish oil through its pipeline to the port of Ceyhan because its storage tanks are already full with unsold Kurdish crude.

Click to Enlarge

Kurdish officials have lobbied firms throughout Europe in the hope of selling the remaining oil, but the Kurdistan Regional Government would then face the challenge of securing the funds from those sales. Fearing that firms would buy the oil but deposit the funds with Baghdad to avoid a legal morass, the Kurdistan Regional Government has put out messages threatening legal action against its own potential buyers since Baghdad will withhold those funds and deny the Kurdistan Regional Government its revenue. The key to Arbil's funds lies in Turkey's hands. Some $93 million from the first Kurdistan Regional Government crude sale by tanker is sitting in a Turkish Halkbank account. Arbil recently sent a delegation to try and secure those funds, but Ankara can be expected to proceed cautiously in releasing these funds as it tries to avoid incurring further wrath from Baghdad and Washington.

Turkey understands the enormous financial leverage it holds over the Kurdistan Regional Government as Arbil struggles to make its monthly payments. Turkey will selectively -- and stringently -- provide enough aid to allow Arbil to scrape by, but will also demand that Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani and his Kurdistan Democratic Party lay off their calls for independence. A nearly bankrupt Kurdistan Regional Government will have no choice but to heed these demands, but it is also not comfortable with its deep dependency on Turkey.

This sentiment appears to be growing within Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Factions of the party have already vocalized their unease with the policies of Barzani's party that have led Iraqi Kurdistan into a tight dependency with Turkey and an increasingly hostile relationship with Baghdad, Washington and Tehran. This intra-Kurdish tension grew deeper following the Kurdish Democratic Party's ousting of National Oil Co. officials from the Kirkuk fields. The Kurdish Democratic Party made it a point to use its own peshmerga forces and oil protection units to take control of Kirkuk's oil fields, largely edging the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan out. Also, local Arab and Turkomen resistance to Kurdish control over Kirkuk province is rising and will further complicate the regional government's hold over Kirkuk in the long term.

Informal networks and Turkish aid will enable the Kurdistan Regional Government to avoid financial collapse, but growing economic tensions will only exacerbate frictions among Iraq's Kurdish factions as the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan sees its own interests compromised by Kurdish Democratic Party policy. The longer Arbil holds out on a deal with Baghdad, the more financially dependent the Kurdistan Regional Party will be on Turkey and the more difficulty Kurdish parties will have in maintaining their patronage networks while under financial duress.

This provides Iran with an opportunity to further its already strong ties with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Gorran to counterbalance Turkey's sponsorship of Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party. Iran has already threatened to close its border with Iraqi Kurdistan to trade should Barzani proceed with his calls for independence, a move that would have significant economic repercussions for the regional government as a whole, but the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in particular. Through a carrot-and-stick approach, Iran will try to sow divisions among Kurdish parties, potentially offering financial and military assistance to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan while using its influence among the Iraqi Shia to grant political concessions and positions to cooperative Kurds in forming a new government. This may well be the subject of conversation when a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan delegation visits Iran in the coming days.

Read more: Iraqi Kurdistan's Financial Trap | Stratfor
14  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on Universal Peace, 1792 on: July 21, 2014, 11:01:39 AM
"A universal peace, it is to be feared, is in the catalogue of events, which will never exist but in the imaginations of visionary philosophers, or in the breasts of benevolent enthusiasts." --James Madison, essay in the National Gazette, 1792
15  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: July 21, 2014, 09:47:19 AM
I confess to being surprised that this report is the only report I have seen of this so far , , ,
16  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq signs $11B advanced arms sale to Qata deal-- WTF?!? on: July 20, 2014, 09:05:56 PM
http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/obama-signs-11-billion-arms-deal-with-hamass-greatest-ally?omhide=true&utm_source=MadMimi&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Israel+Breaking+News+Video%3A+Obama+Signs+%2411+Billion+Arms+Deal+with+Hamas%E2%80%99s+Greatest+Ally&utm_campaign=20140720_m121404817_7%2F20+Israel+Breaking+News+Video%3A+Obama+Signs+%2411+Billion+Arms+Deal+with+Hamas%E2%80%99s+Greatest+Ally&utm_term=Obama+Signs+_2411+Billion+Arms+Deal+with+Hamas_E2_80_99s+Greatest+Ally 
17  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Social media dis-intel on: July 20, 2014, 08:56:52 PM
http://m.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/07/13/israelis-unnerved-by-a-new-round-of-warfare-using-text-message/
18  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Father deals out justice on: July 20, 2014, 10:34:38 AM
http://www.tpnn.com/2014/07/18/swift-justice-what-one-father-did-to-the-man-he-caught-molesting-his-son/
19  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I'm shocked, absolutely shocked! Who could have seen this coming? on: July 20, 2014, 10:28:46 AM
second post

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/18/two-third-illegal-immigrant-children-okd-asylum/
20  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCarthy: Bipartisan fantasy on: July 20, 2014, 10:18:30 AM
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/383084/russia-strategic-partner-another-bipartisan-ruling-class-fantasy-andrew-c-mccarthy
21  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: July 20, 2014, 09:17:28 AM
Scary.

Please post in the Military Science thread as well.
22  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Excellent piece by VDH on: July 20, 2014, 09:09:53 AM


http://www.nationalreview.com/article/382679/illiberal-immigration-reform-victor-davis-hanson
23  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 20, 2014, 09:01:33 AM
As usual Krauthammer is superb.

And here is today's expression of what he writes:

Click here to watch: Hamas Announces it Will Give Grenades to All of Gaza's Youth
A Hamas spokesman announced that Hamas had manufactured 250,000 hand grenades that would be given to Gazan youth to use to fight Israel instead of rocks. The IDF has released another video which shows how Hamas deliberately puts civilian lives in danger.
The video shows that Hamas hides weapons and missile launchers in densely populated areas and sends men, women and children directly into the line of fire to be used as human shields for terrorists. Hamas has openly boasted about the "success" of its strategy of using civilians as human shields during Operation Protective Edge, and the IDF has published extensive evidence of the practice. By contrast, the IDF has dropped leaflets, sent phone messages, and issued general warnings to all civilians within range of upcoming airstrikes to prevent further harm. The IDF has also called off attacks upon realizing that there are innocent civilians in the area or, as shown in the video below, when seeing the terrorist target enter an ambulance.
Watch Here
The UN agency for Palestinian Arab “refugees,” UNRWA, has caused outrage by apparently giving rockets to Hamas. On Thursday, UNRWA confirmed that 20 rockets had been found in one of its vacant schools in Gaza. UNRWA staff said last week that they had “informed the relevant parties and successfully took all necessary measures for the removal of the objects.” However, Channel 2 reports Sunday that - rather than destroying the rockets - UNRWA workers called Hamas to come remove them. Hamas has fired over 1,500 rockets at Israeli population centers over the past two weeks. Any new rockets would presumably be used in similar attacks. While UNRWA confirmed the existence of rockets in one of its schools last week, the organization refused an Israeli request to provide a picture of the weapons. A picture could have helped Israel show that Hamas uses civilian institutions to store weapons and launch attacks. Hamas has openly used human shields in its latest conflict with Israel. The terrorist group issued a statement Thursday urging Gaza residents to ignore IDF warnings to evacuate their homes. Earlier, Hamas gathered civilians to stand on the roof of a senior terrorist’s home in order to deter an IDF strike.
Read More Here: Arutz Sheva
24  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: July 20, 2014, 08:55:10 AM
The flaw in Newt's piece is that he assumes Obama wants America to be America, that he wants America to succeed.
25  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Marine Commandant agrees with me ;-) on: July 20, 2014, 08:39:18 AM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/17/gen-james-amos-marine-corps-commandant-slams-obama/
26  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: July 20, 2014, 08:34:25 AM
OK, folks, what do we make of that?
27  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: July 20, 2014, 08:32:08 AM
The show wherein I saw him was an Electric Hot Tuna show and he was invited onstage to join the set.

Frankly to my ear he often did not play with much heart, instead more with volume and speed and with a competitive attitude with Jorma.
28  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Goldberg File on: July 18, 2014, 05:52:41 PM
The Goldberg File
By Jonah Goldberg
July 18, 2014

Dear Reader (including the president of the United States whenever he gets to this after dealing with many important fundraisers),

If you've been reading my stuff over the years, you'll find a number of common themes ("And recycled jokes. Let's not forget those." — The Couch). One such theme is that liberalism hides behind seemingly value-neutral or benign language in order to advance a value-laden and not necessarily benign agenda. That was the basic idea behind The Tyranny of Clichés. Conservatives argue as conservatives. Liberals tend to argue not so much as liberals, but in a variety of disguises, each of which tries to draw on authority unearned by liberalism itself. Indeed, the history of American liberalism can be understood as a series of costume changes. A new nominally non-ideological discipline emerges — political science, engineering, public health, psychology, environmentalism, neuroscience and, these days, various forms of data prestidigitation — and liberals flock to it. They don the latest fashionable version of the white smock and say — à la Bill Murray in Ghostbusters — "back off man, we're scientists." Or to be more fair, they claim to be speaking for the scientists, engineers, psychologists, and other experts. "We're not ideologues, we go with the facts." This game was old when Walter Lippmann came out with his Drift and Mastery. After all, Karl Marx, the Babe Ruth of this sport, had long before insisted that his shtick wasn't opinion or even mere analysis, but a new science.

In 1962, John F. Kennedy delivered the commencement address at Yale. He explained that "political labels and ideological approaches are irrelevant to the solution" of today's challenges. At a press conference the same year, he expanded on the idea. "Most of the problems . . . that we now face, are technical problems, are administrative problems." These problems "deal with questions which are now beyond the comprehension of most men" and should therefore be left to the experts to settle without subjecting them to divisive democratic debate.

Today, the political landscape is littered with earnest, well-intentioned, and often, incredibly sanctimonious liberals who insist that they are simply pursuing truth and fact regardless of ideology. This, of course, remains Obama's favorite pose. It runs through the "scientific consensus" argle-bargle on global warming. When Chris Hughes took over what has long been considered the flagship magazine of American liberalism, he ridiculously vowed that, "the journalism in these pages will strive to be free of party ideology or partisan bias." The same conceit is behind Vox.com and "explanatory journalism," which everyday sinks further and further into liberal Ronburgundyism. (Coming soon at Vox: "Fifteen Reasons Why San Diego Really Does Mean 'Whale's Vagina' in German — And Why That Has To Change.")

It's Biden's Party

Speaking of Ron Burgundyism, remember Joe Biden's vice-presidential debate with Paul Ryan? He'd flash those teeth like a flounder that accidentally picked up a set of dentures. He'd laugh like the crazy guy on the bus who knows the driver is really following the chem trails in the sky because you can still get a Snickers bar for less than a dollar. He'd guffaw at any suggestion he or the president did anything wrong — ever — and shout "malarkey" at the idiots and knaves who thought otherwise. And, sadly, it largely worked. I'm beginning to think Biden was simply ahead of his time. So much of elite liberalism these days is little more than bluster and self-satisfied blather.

For instance, I am so disappointed in John Oliver's HBO show, Last Week Tonight. I like Oliver's stand-up and his stints on Community. But his approach is simply Bidenism refined. The show begins from the premise that liberal conventional wisdom is not only right but obviously so and then simply works backward to "prove it." In Britain, populist tabloids are condemned by people of Oliver's persuasion for simply confirming the prejudices of the working class. Last Week Tonight is a similar effort for the more upscale — and often more prejudiced — HBO demographic. He doesn't tell his audience anything it doesn't want to hear, he just gives them new and occasionally funny reasons to feel good about themselves. The only difference between his show and the typical MSNBC host's is that Oliver is funny on purpose.

The Dogma Business

Anyway, I kind of wandered off from where I planned on going with all of this. For the record, I'm not saying that politicians, pundits, and other partisans should not consult the opinions of scientists and other experts. Of course they — we — should. We learn new and interesting things all of the time. What I am saying is that liberalism is constantly rebranding itself as solely an explanation of reality and it constantly needs to rebrand itself because reality keeps revealing that it isn't.

What worries me — a lot — is that reality is coming to the rescue of liberalism. No, I don't mean that the crooked timber of humanity has grown straight or that it now
makes sense that the Pentagon hold bake sales to pay for bombers. What I mean is that progressives are quicker to seize on the political opportunities created by a changing culture.

What is commonly called "political correctness" doesn't get the respect it deserves on the right. Sure, in the herstory of political correctness there have been womyn and cis-men who have taken their seminal ovulal ideas too far, but we should not render ourselves visually challenged to the fact that something more fundawomyntal is at work here.

Political correctness can actually be seen as an example of Hayekian spontaneous order. Society has changed, because society always changes. But modern American society has changed a lot. In a relatively short period of time, legal and cultural equality has expanded — albeit not uniformly or perfectly — to blacks, women, and gays. We are a more heterodox society in almost every way. As a result, many of our customs, norms, and terms no longer line up neatly with lived-reality. Remember customs emerge as intangible tools to solve real needs. When the real needs change, the customs must either adapt or die.

Many conservatives think political correctness forced Christianity and traditional morality to recede from public life. That is surely part of the story. But another part of the story is that political correctness emerged because Christianity and traditional morality receded. Something had to fill the void.

I wish more conservatives recognized that at least some of what passes for political correctness is an attempt to create new manners and mores for the places in life where the old ones no longer work too well. You can call it "political correctness" that Americans stopped calling black people "negroes." But that wouldn't make the change wrong or even objectionable. You might think it's regrettable that homosexuality has become mainstreamed and largely de-stigmatized. But your regret doesn't change the fact that it has happened. And well-mannered people still need to know how to show respect to people.

Identity politics is only part of the story, and not even the most important part. Medical, technological, and economic changes are almost surely far more important than changing demographics alone. A society where individuals are vastly more autonomous than they were a century ago is simply going to have different codes of conduct and manners. The telephone, television, and the car did more to liberate young people from the moral cocoon of their families and communities than any libertine intellectual fad (you can be sure that driverless cars, for instance, will change society in unimaginable ways). Democrats recognize this, which is why they've cynically exploited changes in family structure, female labor participation, and reproductive technology and declared that Republicans have declared war on women. It's not remotely true, but it is effective.

Now, I don't actually think Christianity is necessarily inadequate to the task of keeping up with the changes of contemporary society. (The pagan Roman civilization Christianity emerged from was certainly less hospitable to Christianity than America today is. You could look it up.) But Christianity, like other religions, still needs to adapt to changing times and the evolving expectations of the people. I'm nothing like an expert on such things, but it seems to me that most churches and denominations understand this. Some respond more successfully than others. But it's hardly as if they are oblivious to the challenge of "relevance."

My concern here is more about mainstream conservatism. I think much of what the Left offers in terms of culture creation is utter crap. But they are at least in the business of culture creation.

The New Manners

And that brings me back to where I started. I began this "news"letter talking about how liberalism hides behind seemingly non-ideological language in order to advance an ideological cause. Think of political correctness in those terms. Progressives are steadily dismantling the beautiful cathedrals of traditional manners and customs, arguing that they're too Baroque, too antiquated. They use the sledgehammer of liberation rhetoric to destroy the old edifices, but their fidelity to liberty is purely rhetorical. In place of the old cathedrals they build supposedly functional, modern, and utilitarian codes of conduct. But these Brutalist codes are not only unlovely, they are often more prudish than traditional approaches. Like some Six Sigma seminar participants holed up in a Holiday Inn conference room, Harvard is currently gathering its finest minds to draw up the procedures for sexual conduct and consent. The end result will surely be a clipboard check-list to rival that of any Jiffy Lube manager's in both romantic appeal and sexiness.

What I would like to see from conservatives is recognition that some of the cathedrals are outdated. But instead of arguing that they should be razed and replaced with Jacobin Temples of Reason with rites and rituals grounded in abstraction, why not argue for some long overdue updating and retrofitting? I guarantee you more women prefer a modified version of the traditional process of wooing, courting, and dating before sex than the "modern" schizophrenic system of getting drunk enough for a same-day hook up but not so inebriated to forget to get a signature on the consent form. Traditional notions of romance and respect are far better tools than the mumbo-jumbo campus feminists have to offer. The problem is that the mumbo-jumbo feminists are fighting largely uncontested.
29  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dem Congressman calls out Qatar/Al Jazeera's support of Hamas on: July 18, 2014, 05:44:17 PM
Second post

Democratic Congressman Calls Out Qatar's Hamas Support on Al-Jazeera America
by John Rossomando
IPT News
July 18, 2014
http://www.investigativeproject.org/4467/democratic-congressman-calls-out-qatar-hamas
 
A congressman's recent criticism of Al-Jazeera America's Qatari owners for funding of Hamas has renewed questions about the network's journalistic integrity.
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also slammed the network's coverage of the latest round of fighting between Hamas and Israel during his July 9 appearance on the network.

"Every one of those rockets [fired by Hamas into Israeli cities] is a war crime, almost every one," Sherman said, noting that Hamas seeks to hit civilian targets. "Of course it's a war crime committed by Hamas. And of course the owners of this TV network help fund Hamas."

Allegations have floated for years about members of the Qatari royal family meddling in editorial decisions of Al-Jazeera's Doha-based English-language sister network. A State Department cable from December 2009 stated that Qatar was using Al-Jazeera as "an informal tool … of foreign policy."

This lack of editorial independence came into focus in 2011, when Qatari superiors ordered the re-editing of a two-minute video package that appeared on Al-Jazeera English. Qatari network officials modified the segment to ensure that comments by Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani at the United Nations led the segment, even though staffers judged Al-Thani's comments as being less important than other speakers that day, such as President Barack Obama.

Al-Jazeera America strives to publicly distance itself from its Qatari parents and portray its product as "unbiased, fact-based … in-depth journalism." A look at its coverage of the current Gaza conflict, however, calls its claim of being unbiased into question.

The network's pro-Hamas slant has been exhibited in its disproportionate emphasis on deaths of Palestinian civilians without almost any critical mention of Hamas's intentional use of human shields – considered a war crime under international law.

Similarly, Al-Jazeera America reporters have made scant reference to the terrorists' use of densely populated areas to fire rockets or of Israel's warning civilians to leave targeted areas prior to bombing.

For example, a July 15 segment of its program "Consider This" focused on the plight of Palestinian children in Gaza. Moderator Wajahat Ali omitted any reference to how the terrorist group endangers children's lives. Ali repeated the mantra about Gaza's population density without a single reference to how Hamas uses mosques and civilian buildings to launch rockets.

During his appearance on the network, Sherman also slammed Al-Jazeera America for dismissing Hamas' threat to Israeli civilians because their rockets had not killed anyone at a kindergarten in Israel.

"… [Y]ou on this TV station say, 'well maybe it's not a war crime because it's not successful, the rocket didn't hit a kindergarten – it was aimed at a kindergarten but it didn't hit a kindergarten – so then it's not reprehensible,'" Sherman said.

U.S. officials have harbored concerns about the Qatari royal family for years and even interceded to stop some of the money it sent to Hamas.

A confidential State Department cable from February 2006 describes former Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who founded Al-Jazeera by a royal decree in 1996, as a "a big friend of Hamas." He notably pledged $400 million to Hamas's cash-strapped government in Gaza during an October 2012 state visit. However, recent reports indicate that the U.S. blocked the transfer of money to Hamas.

Back in 2006, Al-Thani gave $50 million to the then Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

Al-Thani may have abdicated in 2013 in favor of his son, but the change has not lessened Qatar's financial commitment to Hamas. Qatar's Prime Minister Abdullah bin Naser bin Khalifa Al Thani announced in June that Qatar would give Hamas $60 million to pay the salaries of its civil servants in Gaza.

That kind of open support frustrates American diplomats.

"Officials should make known USG concerns about the financial support to Hamas by Qatari charitable organizations and our concerns about the moral support Hamas receives from Yousef Al-Qaradawi [a popular Muslim Brotherhood cleric living in Qatar]," U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Joseph E. Lebaron wrote in a 2009 secret cable to Washington. He also made clear "high-level Qatari political support is needed" to curtail terror financing.

Hamas received much of its money in Qatar through charitable foundations or popular committees, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal told Al-Hayat in 2003. Meshaal noted that Qatari TV occasionally organized days when it would collect donations to assist the intifada happening at the time.

Qatar twice provided sanctuary to Meshaal after he wore out his welcome elsewhere. Jordan kicked him out in 1999, and he had to leave Damascus in 2011 after relations between Hamas and the Assad regime soured over the Syrian civil war. Qatar has allowed Hamas to maintain offices in Doha for years.

Qatar Charity, formerly the Qatar Charitable Society and also controlled by the Qatari royal family, has long been suspected of maintaining close ties with Hamas. A secret cable from July 2003 suggests that the charity likely had ties to Hamas. The charity collaborated with the Hamas Ministry of Education 2009 to build schools, according to the Daily Mail. Such schools indoctrinate children with pro-jihadist propaganda.

Osama bin Laden discussed Qatar Charity in 1993 as an important fundraising source for al-Qaida – underscoring its long history of funding terrorism.

Another example of Qatar's complicity with Hamas fundraising has been in its allowing Qaradawi, who heads the Union of Good, to operate within its borders. Treasury Department officials stated in a November 2008 press release that Hamas's leadership created Union of Good in 2000 shortly before the start of the second Intifada to "facilitate the transfer of funds to Hamas."

Qaradawi has hosted a program on Al-Jazeera's Arabic channel where he has advocated Palestinian suicide bombings.

Al-Jazeera America came into being after the Al-Jazeera Media Network purchased Current TV from former Vice President Al Gore and other investors in January 2013. Worries about Qatar using Al-Jazeera America as a propaganda tool surfaced almost immediately.

Al-Jazeera America interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi fought back hard against those accusations in May. "I am not Qatar. I don't represent Qatar," Al Shihabi told the Paley Center for Media. "I am, you know, separate from Qatar government. I took a grant like what [the] BBC has."

"And the whole concept exercise really is built up on the asset of Al-Jazeera Media Network," he added, "and if I'm not successful to build up on that asset that means I am not a right business person."

Other than Al Shihabi, all of the network's top executives are Americans who previously worked for American networks such as CNN or ABC.

Questions about Al-Jazeera America's editorial independence and slant persist, despite those American hires.

Temple University journalism professor Christopher Harper, a veteran reporter who has covered the Middle East since 1979, noted in a column following the network's launch last August that Al-Jazeera America was not about news, and that its product reminded him of Soviet propaganda. Al-Jazeera America gave Qatar a "seat at the political table in the United States," Harper wrote, adding that it was not likely to make money in the already crowded cable news market.

He has proven correct thus far. Its viewership has been practically non-existent, averaging 15,000 viewers during prime time.

Al-Jazeera America's uncritical coverage of the Hamas-linked Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)'s effort to weaken the terrorism watch list is one example of the slanted coverage. The FBI cut off contact with CAIR in 2008, based on evidence it uncovered tying CAIR and its founders to a Hamas support network. A federal judge also ruled in 2009 that the evidence established "at least a prima facie case as to CAIR's involvement in a conspiracy to support Hamas."

Al-Jazeera America anchor John Siegenthaler Jr. interviewed CAIR-NY board member Lamis Deek on June 25 concerning a federal judge's ruling that the watch list was unconstitutional. Siegenthaler never asked Deek about the national-security considerations stemming from the judge's ruling and seemed to sympathize with CAIR's position.

"I think it is simply providing one side of a story. It doesn't rise to Soviet propaganda, but it certainly is propaganda for one side," Harper told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

A July 10 broadcast of the network's program "Inside Story" hosted by longtime former National Public Radio announcer Ray Suarez provides another example of this slant.
Suarez sought to discuss the failure of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, except for one critical part of the story – someone to present Israel's perspective.
Peace would be possible, Suarez and his three guests agreed, if only Israel were to cooperate with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

None of the guests, including Gershon Baskin, head of the Israel-Palestinian Think Tank; Aziz Abu Sarah of the Middle East Justice & Development Initiative; or former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Dan Kurtzer, made any reference to Hamas' refusal to renounce violence or its commitment to Israel's destruction, nor provocations by members of the Palestinian Authority calling Israel the occupied "1948 lands," nor Abbas's statements of solidarity with Hamas as far back as 2009.

Suarez noted that Baskin had past contacts with Hamas and proceeded to ask him how he would handle peace negotiations with the terrorist group, regardless of the fact that Hamas's charter and recent statements show it has no desire for peace with Israel. The host then referred to Palestinian terrorism as the "armed struggle" – a term Hamas leaders use to describe their terror attacks against Israelis.

Abu Sarah suggested that Palestinians should consider a one-state solution where Palestinians and Jews would live side by side in the same state – something he said "would mean the end of the Jewish state."

Suarez's political bias has been well-known for years. He narrated an April 2007 PBS documentary, "America at a Crossroads: The Muslim Americans," which dismissed CAIR's links to terrorists as the work of "a small band of conservative and pro-Israeli groups, who accuse it of having an extremist agenda."

"There have also been claims that some members of CAIR have terrorist links. But there have been no charges linked to CAIR itself," Suarez said.

Information about CAIR's extremism was readily available at the time the documentary aired. These included CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad's 1994 endorsement of Hamas; convictions of CAIR leaders such as Randal "Ismail" Royer and Ghassan Elashi; and its opposition to terrorism investigations.

Conservative journalist Cliff Kincaid questions why Al-Jazeera America continues to operate despite Qatar's terror ties and argues that it should be labeled foreign propaganda.

"Al-Jazeera's entry into the U.S. media market, in violation of the law, was tantamount to giving American broadcast facilities during World War II to 'Tokyo Rose' and 'Axis Sally,'" Kincaid said. "Its broadcasts in the U.S. are not being labeled by cable and satellite providers as foreign propaganda under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
"In addition, the deal was not reported to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) of the Treasury Department, in violation of the law."

Clearly, the terror ties of Al-Jazeera America's Qatari owners should be further examined by U.S. regulatory authorities and members of Congress because many questions remain to be answered regarding the network's independence from foreign control.
30  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt Gingrich: The Tranquility of Baraq's Mind on: July 18, 2014, 05:40:53 PM
The Tranquility of President Obama's Mind
Originally published at CNN.com

When new White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that President Obama had "substantially improved the tranquility of the international community" many observers reacted with disbelief.
 
When the President refused to go to the border to see the crisis of young people flooding into the United States because "he's not interested in photo ops," lesser mortals noted he had played pool with Governor Hickenlooper, dropped by a brewery to have a beer, and shook hands with a man wearing a horse head mask.
When he went to Delaware and opened with only a few sentences about the shooting down of a Malaysian Airliner in Ukraine before joking about Joe Biden and going back to his prepared text on infrastructure, real Americans thought he had failed to take seriously an international disaster and mass murder. They were even less impressed when he had lunch at the Charcoal Pit and ordered burgers and fries (not a photo op, of course).

With ISIS causing the collapse of Iraq and continued violence in Syria, the Syrian dictatorship consolidating its power, the Iranians failing to take steps to end their nuclear weapons program and Hamas firing more than a thousand missiles at Israel, the President and his team have moved decisively to brief the New York Times on his passion for late night intellectual dinners exploring physics, architecture, and questions far more profound than the fate of the Middle East.

It is as though the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world of avoiding the responsibilities of the presidency by using the office to surround himself with court jesters who distract him in an enlightened and noble way from the growing failures of his policies and the rapidly expanding threats to the civilized world.

Finally, as Vladimir Putin continues to flex his muscles and expand his policies there is a psychologically bizarre pattern of the President's staff referring to Obama as "the Bear.”

The President refers to himself when he asserts that "the Bear is loose." Of course with a President who last week used “I”, “my” or “mine” 207 times in one speech, we can expect him to refer to himself but the concept is beyond bizarre. The White House staff, thinking somehow that this was clever, promptly turned the phrase into a Twitter hashtag, “#TheBearIsLoose”.

Obama's idea of a loose bear is an unplanned walk to a Starbucks near the White House. Putin's idea of a loose bear is stealing Crimea. Obama's idea of risk-taking is shooting pool with a Democratic Governor. Putin's idea of risk-taking is handing out anti-aircraft missiles to separatists in Ukraine. Putin’s actions remind us of a time when America was threatened by a real metaphorical bear, as a 1984 Reagan campaign ad referred to the Soviet Union.

The very self-image of Obama as a bear is so delusional that it brings into question the degree to which he is simply out of touch with reality.

Which brings us back to the Josh Earnest quote about tranquility in the international community.

What Josh Earnest is channeling is Obama's personal tranquility.

From his perch in the amazingly Obama-centric world in which our president lives, look again at what the rest of us think of as serious problems.

Have any of the thousand-plus Hamas missiles been aimed at Obama? No. That is why Obama is tranquil.

Have any of the thousands who are crossing the border tried to move into the White House? No. That is why Obama is tranquil.

Is ISIS an immediate threat to the United States that is likely to blow up the next golf course the President is playing at? No. That is why Obama is tranquil.

If you can reduce your presidency to a Starbucks visit, a man with a horse head mask, shooting pool and visiting Joe Biden's burger joint for lunch you can have a very successful presidency as you have defined it, even if the real world is disintegrating.

The President’s detachment from reality is fast infecting the rest of his party. How else can we explain fellow Democrat and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stating this week that “the border is secure”?

This "tranquility" line was a Freudian slip by the President's spokesman that reveals the deep gap between reality and the Obama White House.

President Obama is rapidly becoming the weakest president since James Buchanan failed to stop the drift toward Civil War.  Self-delusion and a rich fantasy life are dangerous in a president. They often lead to disasters that are unimaginable until they happen.  That is what we have to worry about for the next two years until he leaves public office for a private fantasy land.

Your Friend,
Newt
31  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Warren and the Ex-Im bank on: July 18, 2014, 05:13:49 PM


http://townhall.com/tipsheet/conncarroll/2014/07/18/elizabeth-warren-backs-corporate-welfare-bank-n1863643?utm_source=thdailypm&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nl_pm
32  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pelosi's son on: July 18, 2014, 11:26:11 AM
http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/pelosi-son-ran-firm-ownedcontrolled-illegally-by-convicted-criminals/
33  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chinese Gold strategy on: July 18, 2014, 10:47:37 AM

Scott Grannis:  Buying up trillions of forex and gold reserves is not necessarily a smart thing to do, especially when your currency has been appreciating against almost every other currencies for over 20 years. China's forex losses alone could be staggeringly large. And I'll bet they bought a lot of gold at higher prices than today's. Not to mention what they might lose on their trillions of Treasury holdings if Treasury yields jump.

Japan did something similar back in the day, and it proved to be extraordinarily painful.


On Jul 18, 2014, at 4:43 AM, "XYZ" wrote:

I can only say, that Chinese gold holdings are rising, their aim is to exceed US reserves, or at least have the second highest gold reserve. Their sole goal is to compete and beat the US in every sphere. ..ie be superpower number 1. Whether they succeed,  is open to discussion.

"ABC" wrote:

Thanks to all for your comments and articles.  Not too long ago I was told by a devoted conspiracy theorist sleuth that China was buying up tons of gold in order to make the Yuan 'gold based' and a (the) potential reserve currency.  I told him that wasn't likely and sent the following article which I post below.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/kitconews/2013/08/12/rumors-of-a-chinese-gold-standard-are-overblown-cpms-christian-and-author-jim-rickards/
34  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McDaniels' request denied by Supreme Court of Mississippi on: July 18, 2014, 10:16:45 AM


http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/07/17/Mississippi-Supreme-Court-Rejects-McDaniel-s-Request-For-Access-To-Election-Records?utm_source=e_breitbart_com&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Breitbart+News+Roundup%2C+July+18%2C+2014&utm_campaign=20140718_m121390411_Breitbart+News+Roundup%2C+July+18%2C+2014&utm_term=Mor 
35  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CNN reporter in Gaza on: July 18, 2014, 10:13:35 AM
http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2014/07/17/CNN-Reporter-Calls-Israelis-Scum?utm_source=e_breitbart_com&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Breitbart+News+Roundup%2C+July+18%2C+2014&utm_campaign=20140718_m121390411_Breitbart+News+Roundup%2C+July+18%2C+2014&utm_term=More 
36  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: July 18, 2014, 10:09:41 AM
I saw Hillary making a politically astute move the other day.  She spoke in terms of being proud of America and that we have a great story to tell and that we just have to tell it.   Great way to appeal to every one who was offended by the Apology Tour and to subtly begin to separate herself from Obama's foreign policy.  Yes, yes I know it really was hers in great part and she stayed on board for it, but politically the theme looks to work well for her.
37  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ukraine on: July 18, 2014, 10:04:52 AM
My intended point was that there are people who were there before this administration and who will be there after this administration , , ,
38  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Putin: BRICs key element of emerging multi-polar world on: July 17, 2014, 11:30:36 PM
second post

Putin's take...

BRICS key element of emerging multipolar world – Putin
Published time: March 22, 2013 04:55
Edited time: March 22, 2013 08:05

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds hopes that the BRICS group of emerging economies will turn into “a full-scale strategic cooperation mechanism” and become more involved in global politics.

Putin gave an interview to the ITAR-TASS news agency ahead of the March 26-27 BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa. Apart from Russia, the bloc consists of Brazil, India, China and the host country.

ITAR-TASS: BRICS' relatively new phenomenon attracts increased global attention due to the optimistic predictions about its development, especially against the backdrop of global crisis developments in the world economy. What is BRICS' immediate and long-term significance for Russia? Is such a format practical for the development of relations among these countries?

Vladimir Putin: There are a number of long-term factors working on BRICS' success. For the last two decades the economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have been in the lead of global economic growth. Thus, in 2012, the average GDP growth rate in the group amounted to 4 per cent, while for the G7 this index was estimated at 0.7 per cent. In addition, GDP of the BRICS countries derived from the national currency purchasing power parity is currently over 27 per cent of the global GDP and its share continues to increase.

BRICS is a key element of the emerging multipolar world. The Group of Five has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to the fundamental principles of the international law and contributed to strengthening the United Nations central role. Our countries do not accept power politics or violation of other countries' sovereignty. We share approaches to the pressing international issues, including the Syrian crisis, the situation around Iran, and Middle East settlement.
 
Brazilian President Dilma Roussef(L to R), Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese President Hu Jintao and South African President Jacob Zuma pose during a BRICS's Presidents meeting in Los Cabos, Baja California, Mexico on June 18, 2012.(AFP Photo / Roberto Stuckert Filho)
The BRICS’ credibility and influence in the world is translated into its growing contribution to the efforts to stimulate global development. This important matter will be specifically addressed at the BRICS Leaders – Africa Dialogue Forum to be held on the sidelines of the Durban summit.

BRICS members advocate the creation of a more balanced and just system of global economic relations. The emerging markets are interested in long-term sustainable economic growth worldwide and reforms of the financial and economic architecture to make it more efficient. This is reflected in last year's joint decision to contribute $75 billion to the IMF lending program, thus increasing the participation of the fastest growing economies in the Fund's authorized capital.

Russia, as the initiator of the BRICS format and chair at its first summit in Yekaterinburg in 2009, sees the work within this group among its foreign policy priorities. This year, I have approved the Concept of the Russian Federation's Participation in the BRICS group, which sets forth strategic goals we seek to achieve through interaction with our partners from Brazil, China, India and South Africa.

Such cooperation in international affairs, trade, capital exchange and humanitarian sphere facilitates the creation of the most favourable environment for further growth of Russian economy, improvement of its investment climate, quality of life and well-being of our citizens. Our membership in this association helps foster privileged bilateral relations with the BRICS nations based on the principles of good neighbourliness and mutually beneficial cooperation. We believe it crucial to increase Russia's linguistic, cultural and information presence in the BRICS member nations, as well as expand educational exchanges and personal contact.

ITAR-TASS: What are the group’s short-term objectives and how do you see strategic directions for BRICS' economic development?

VP: BRICS identifies what is to be done based on action plans adopted at the group's annual summits. Last year's Delhi Action Plan outlined 17 areas of cooperation, including meetings of Foreign Ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, joint meetings of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors on the sidelines of the G20, World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings, as well as contacts between other agencies.

We are currently negotiating a new plan we will discuss at the meeting in Durban. I am confident that it will help us develop a closer partnership. We expect that we will be able to closer coordinate our approaches to key issues on the agenda of the forthcoming G20 summit in St Petersburg, increase our cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking and production, and our efforts to counter terrorist, criminal and military threats in cyberspace.

It is of great importance for Russia to increase its trade and investment cooperation with its BRICS partners and launch new multilateral business projects involving our nations’ business communities. In Durban we intend to announce the formal establishment of the BRICS Business Council designed to support that activity. The summit will be preceded by the BRICS Business Forum, which will bring together more than 900 business community representatives from our countries.

ITAR-TASS: The potential of the BRICS economies brings up not only the question of economic policy coordination but also that of close geopolitical interaction. What is BRICS' geopolitical role and mission in today's world? Does it go beyond the purely economic agenda and should the BRICS countries accept greater responsibility for geopolitical processes? What is their policy with regard to the rest of the world, including its major actors such as the United States, the European Union, Japan… What future do you see for this association in this regard?

VP: First and foremost, the BRICS countries seek to help the world economy achieve stable and self-sustaining growth and reform the international financial and economic architecture. Our major task is to find ways to accelerate global development, encourage flows of capital in real economy and increase employment. This is particularly important in the context of poor global economic growth rates and unacceptably high unemployment. Although this is mainly true of western countries, the BRICS states are also negatively affected; export markets are shrinking, global finance lacks stability, and our own economic growth is slowing down.

At the same time, we invite our partners to gradually transform BRICS from a dialogue forum that coordinates approaches to a limited number of issues into a full-scale strategic cooperation mechanism that will allow us to look for solutions to key issues of global politics together.

The BRICS countries traditionally voice similar approaches to the settlement of all international conflicts through political and diplomatic means. For the Durban summit, we are working on a joint declaration setting forth our fundamental approaches to pressing international issues, i.e. crisis in Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East.
We do not view BRICS as a geopolitical competitor to western countries or their organisations — on the contrary, we are open to discussion with any country or organisation that is willing to do so within the framework of the common multipolar world order.

ITAR-TASS: Russia and China are important strategic and historic partners. How do you see the significance of such partnership not only for the development of the two countries, but also for the entire system of international relations and the world economy?

VP: Russia and China are two influential members of the international community, they are permanent members of the UN Security Council, and they are among the world’s largest economies. That is why the strategic partnership between us is of great importance on both a bilateral and global scale.
 
Today the Russian-Chinese relations are on the rise, they are the best in their centuries-long history. They are characterised by a high degree of mutual trust, respect for each other's interests, support in vital issues, they are a true partnership and are genuinely comprehensive.

President of the People’s Republic of China is currently on a state visit to Russia. The fact that the new Chinese leader makes his first foreign trip to our country confirms the special nature of strategic partnership between Russia and China.

In the last five years only, the volume of bilateral trade has more than doubled. China has firmly taken the first place among our trading partners. In 2012 the Russian-Chinese trade turnover increased by 5.2 per cent to constitute $87.5 billion (in 2007 the figure was $40 billion).

The commonality of our approaches to fundamental issues of world order and key international problems has become an important stabilising factor in world politics. Within the framework of the UN, the Group of Twenty, BRICS, the SCO, APEC and other multilateral formats, we are working together, helping to shape a new, more just world order, ensure peace and security, defend basic principles of international law. That is our common contribution to strengthening sustainable global development.
Russia and China show an example of a balanced and pragmatic approach to solving the most critical issues, such as the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula, situation around Iran’s nuclear program.

ITAR-TASS: Before the BRICS summit your schedule features a working visit to South Africa. What do you expect from the upcoming negotiations with South African party? Will this visit give impetus to the development of bilateral relations?

VP: Russia and South Africa have old ties of friendship and mutual respect. Multifaceted cooperation is developing between our countries, with constructive political dialogue established at the highest level, between governments, ministries and agencies. Interparliamentary, interregional, business and humanitarian contacts are consistently expanding.
 
During the visit to South Africa we certainly hope to give new impetus to our bilateral relations. The adoption of the Declaration on Strategic Partnership between Russia and South Africa is being prepared; it will confirm the new quality of our relations, determine key areas of joint work in the future. We plan to sign a number of important intergovernmental and interagency documents in Durban: the declaration on strategic partnership, the agreements on cooperation in the energy sector, agriculture, etc.
Trade and economic cooperation will be in the focus of our attention during negotiations. Last year the volume of trade between Russia and South Africa grew by 66 per cent and reached $964 million (in 2011 the figure was $580 million). Big Russian businesses, including such companies as Renova, Norilsk Nickel, Evraz Group, Basic Element, Severstal, Renaissance Capital and Vnesheconombank are actively entering the South African market, they are interested in further expanding their presence in South Africa.

Russia and South Africa can significantly, by many times, increase the volume of bilateral trade and investments, the number of mutually beneficial projects in the mining sector, power industry (including nuclear power), space exploration, military and technical sphere.

We consider it important to develop cooperation in the field of education and culture by strengthening direct ties between universities, promoting Russian language teaching in South African educational institutions, organising film festivals and tours by leading artists, and exchanging museum exhibitions.

We will discuss practical steps to achieve these goals with President Jacob Zuma.

39  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chinese ambassador to India on new BRIC group on: July 17, 2014, 11:27:10 PM
Chinese ambassador's take on BRICS

Building BRICS
Wei Wei : Sat Mar 23 2013, 03:46 hrs   

The 5th BRICS summit is to be held in Durban, South Africa next week. The leaders of China and India will meet again on the sidelines of the summit. It is undoubtedly a good opportunity for the two BRICS members to enhance mutual trust and promote cooperation through high-level interactions.

As the two biggest developing countries and emerging economies, relations between China and India have exceeded the bilateral spectrum and assumed global and strategic dimensions. The BRICS mechanism not only serves as a platform for the China-India relationship to raise its global impact, but also helps advance bilateral ties. The leaders of China and India have maintained close contact within the BRICS mechanism. Last March, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met each other during the 4th BRICS summit. Meanwhile, senior representatives on security affairs, foreign ministers, finance ministers, governors of the central banks of the two countries also met and exchanged views on political, security, economic and trade cooperation under the BRICS framework. We have every reason to believe that closer personal connection will be forged through the meeting between the newly elected Chinese president and the Indian leader in Durban, which would significantly contribute to the mutual trust and bilateral relations between China and India.

Recent years have witnessed the ever-growing national strength of the BRICS countries. The BRICS countries increasingly speak with one voice on international affairs, enjoy higher international standing and make their presence felt in a larger way globally. Now, the five BRICS countries account for 42 per cent of the global population, make up more than 20 per cent of the world GDP and contribute more than half of the world's economic growth. It is also noteworthy that the larger share the BRICS have in the world economy, the more important cooperation among the BRICS members will become. Currently, the BRICS countries are the world's largest market. Each has its own competitive edge in different areas. Some are blessed with abundant natural resources, while others are taking leading roles in manufacturing, IT, biotechnology, telecommunications and aerospace. Among the five BRICS members, China and India are especially complementary in their economies. In this sense, the two should fully tap the huge potentials and deepen substantial cooperation in various fields so as to bring more tangible benefits to the two peoples.

The BRICS countries also play a positive role in addressing issues such as food and energy security, environmental protection and reforms in the global trade system and financial governance. The leaders of the BRICS countries exchange views on important topics relating to sustainable development and discuss possible cooperation areas. Working groups are established and action plans are made on future agricultural cooperation. They have also been working together to tackle climate change and other issues to safeguard the interests of the emerging economies and developing countries. Apart from seeking a larger say in the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other international financial institutions, the BRICS countries are actively pushing for the establishment of new financial institutions of their own. In this regard, China, with the world's largest foreign exchange reserves and India, with a long history of financial services development, have plenty of opportunities for close cooperation and great accomplishment. We believe that closer cooperation within the BRICS in international finance will help put in place a more equitable and fair international economic and financial order. We believe that a strong manufacturing sector and large foreign-trade volumes still fall short of what we need. A greater say in international financial governance better serves our interests. To this end, deeper mutual trust and closer cooperation within the BRICS are needed.

China and India are faced with similar historical tasks and challenges to develop the economy and improve people's livelihood. Since last year, China and India have been conscientiously implementing the Delhi Declaration, which was agreed upon by the 4th BRICS Summit in India. As a result, we have yielded fruitful results in cooperation in economy, finance, trade, culture and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. The meeting to be held between the newly elected Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian PM Manmohan Singh in the coming BRICS summit would surely further strengthen political mutual trust and deepen the China-India strategic cooperative partnership.

Last but not least, I sincerely wish the 5th BRICS summit great success. China will join hands with India to safeguard the fundamental interests of developing countries, promote solidarity and cooperation among the BRICS countries, and make unremitting efforts for world peace and prosperity.

The writer is Chinese ambassador to India

40  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ukraine on: July 17, 2014, 11:23:58 PM
Someone on our side is trying to pay attention.  The new, slightly expanded sanctions announced just before today's jetliner shoot down included the company that made the missile that did it. 

BTW, this missile reaches up to 72,000 feet altitude; this is not amateur stuff.
41  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ukraine on: July 17, 2014, 07:23:55 PM
Maybe if our Commander in Chief can break away from brie and crackers in the Hamptions while fundraising, he can announce giving something a tad more effective for fighting to the Ukrainians than MREs , , , tongue angry angry
42  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: July 17, 2014, 05:51:42 PM
I saw him sit in with Electric Hot Tuna at the late show at the Fillmore East around 1970. 

I LOVE his rendition of Dylan's "Highway 61"!!!
43  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Origins of the ice cream truck song on: July 17, 2014, 03:51:43 PM
http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/05/11/310708342/recall-that-ice-cream-truck-song-we-have-unpleasant-news-for-you
44  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'America', the D'Sousa Movie... on: July 17, 2014, 01:49:47 PM
Me too.
45  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israeli history in 11 minutes on: July 17, 2014, 01:47:59 PM
Hat tip to our MT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZY8m0cm1oY
46  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 17, 2014, 01:42:48 PM
Note the part about Hezbollah's rockets being more powerful than Hamas's

Israel Watching Hizballah While Fighting a Cautious Battle With Hamas
by Yaakov Lappin
Special to IPT News
July 17, 2014
http://www.investigativeproject.org/4463/israel-watching-hizballah-while-fighting

The 10th day of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) "Operation Protective Edge" featured a five-hour ceasefire to allow humanitarian supplies to reach people in Gaza. The ceasefire was violated by rocket launchers in Gaza, who fired three projectiles into Israeli regions in the south.

Before the ceasefire took effect, Hamas sent 13 heavily terrorists, carrying RPGs and AK-47 assault rifles through a tunnel from Gaza into Israel, where it is believed they wanted to attack a nearby kibbutz.

The IDF says it "neutralized the threat" and video it released shows the tunnel opening being blown up seconds after the terrorists were seen retreating back underground. It believes several members of the cell were harmed in the blast. No Israelis were hurt thanks to the IDF's readiness, but army sources said a massacre of civilians had been narrowly averted.

Unlike past conflicts with Hamas, this Israeli operation – which is aimed at extinguishing rocket fire on Israeli cities – is slow-paced and deliberate. This approach enables the security cabinet and military planners to carefully examine the developing situation, set targets, and decide on their next move without a great deal of pressure.

This atmosphere, considered conducive to decision-making during war, is possible thanks to the dazzling success of the Iron Dome air defense system (10 batteries are currently in operation – double the number that were deployed during Israel's 2012 clash with Hamas).

The conflict began when Hamas ignored Israeli demands to cease firing heavy rocket barrages last week, and continued when Hamas rejected an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire in recent days.

Israeli military sources say that Hamas initiated the conflict due its growing regional isolation, which began when Hamas's ideological twin and founding movement, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, was ejected from power in Egypt last year. Hamas' crisis has grown ever since. Through a conflict with Israel, Hamas hopes to ends its isolation, reenter the Palestinian mainstream as a "hero," and secure a cash flow for its 43,000 members on the payroll, or risk seeing its Gaza regime sink into a sea of anarchy and debt.

But Hamas' decision to launch a war against Israel has backfired. The Arab world has largely given it a cold shoulder, and Hamas' military wing in Gaza, the Ezz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, is growing weaker by the day due to Israel's military blows.

Israel's Air Force and Navy have launched nearly 2,000 strikes on Hamas and Islamic targets in this operation, delivering a series of painful strikes, and knocking out many underground rocket launchers. An estimated 3,000 rockets (a third of Gaza's arsenal) have been destroyed, as well as command and control centers, while around 100 Hamas and Islamic Jihad field operatives have been killed.

Several tunnels dug by Hamas, earmarked for future attacks on the Israeli border, or for sending gunmen and suicide bombers under the border into southern Israel to carry out a killing spree among civilians, also have been destroyed.

Israel has thus far focused its efforts on deterring Hamas from continuing the fight. But faced with Hamas's insistence on continuing the conflict, Jerusalem may now be contemplating going beyond deterrence, and targeting all of Hamas's military assets for destruction.

While Israel's firepower has been highly effective, Hamas' has been the opposite, due in large part to the Iron Dome air defense system. Hamas and other organizations fired 1,400 rockets into Israel since the start of the operation. Of those, Iron Dome knocked out 272 that were heading toward high-population centers. More than 1,000 rockets fell in open, sparsely populated areas, and a few caused heavy damage to Israeli homes and injuries. One man was killed Tuesday.

Nevertheless, the constant barrages of rockets disrupt daily life in Israel, terrorizing its civilians and sends them fleeing for shelter every time an air raid siren goes off.
Hamas has fired on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem repeatedly, and even fired long-range rockets, with ranges of 150 kilometers, at northern Israel.

As the fighting continues, Israel is amassing 56,000 ground troops on the border with Gaza, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu edges closer to ordering a ground offensive.

The IDF is preparing to encounter urban warfare, combat in underground tunnels, and terrorist cells armed with anti-tank missiles and automatic weapons that lie in wait.
Air power alone is not enough to achieve a fallout victory. Many of Hamas' nerve centers and rocket launching infrastructure are hidden deep underneath civilian buildings – targets that Israel refuses to strike for fear of harming Palestinian noncombatants.

As Hamas insists on continuing the conflict, the IDF is prepared to move to a new stage in its operation, aimed at systematically destroying what remains of its offensive capabilities.

Even in the midst of the fighting, the IDF is keeping a close watch on Hizballah in Lebanon, acutely aware that Hizballah is returning the same watchful gaze.  On the one hand, Hizballah is likely highly aware of the fact that the IDF dropped heavy bombs on the homes of Hamas's battalion and brigade commanders – structures that doubled up as command centers. The message to Hizballah seems clear – it, too, will face devastating firepower in the event of a conflict and its attempt to plant assets in the middle of civilian neighborhoods will not prevent that outcome.

Hamas and Hizballah are both experts at guerrilla-terrorist asymmetrical warfare, and both convert densely-populated civilian regions into rocket bases. They convert mosques and residential buildings into command and control centers, and bunkers dug under homes into rocket storage facilities.

But the similarities end there.

In terms of firepower, Hizballah's rocket arsenal is more than 10 times greater than Gaza's.

With 100,000 rockets in Hizballah's possession, including missiles with warheads of hundreds of tons, which have ranges of several hundred kilometers, the current pattern of conflict between Hamas and Israel cannot be replicated by Jerusalem in the event of a full-scale clash with Hizballah.

Some of Hizballah's projectiles can bring down whole buildings.

Israel does not have enough air defenses to cope with Hizballah's rocket onslaught, and the David's Sling system, designed to shoot down heavy Hizballah rockets, is not operational. Even if that changed, Israel's defense budget would not allow for the creation of sufficient numbers of interceptor missiles to deal with the level of firepower that Hizballah has amassed. According to Israeli estimates, the Lebanese terror organization is number five in the world in terms of its firepower (Israel is number two).
This means that Israel would have to rely on a far stronger offense against Hizballah than the one it has employed so far against Hamas.

Attacks would be characterized by a massive wave of air strikes, in which thousands of targets are destroyed every day. Israeli ground forces would likely be ordered to launch an immediate offensive aimed at seizing southern Lebanon, and put out the rocket fire.

As Israel prepares its next move against Hamas, it knows that a far larger and more dangerous enemy to the north is observing its every move, and searching for weaknesses.

Yaakov Lappin is the Jerusalem Post's military and national security affairs correspondent, and author of The Virtual Caliphate (Potomac Books),
47  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A glimmer of hope? on: July 17, 2014, 01:09:31 PM
http://www.clarionproject.org/analysis/arab-world-holds-hamas-responsible-latest-conflict
48  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tennis Anyone? on: July 17, 2014, 01:06:26 PM


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49  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Keep up the bad work! on: July 17, 2014, 12:57:22 PM
Social Security Insolvent, Voters Say 'Do Nothing'
 

The main driver of the ballooning federal debt is wealth transfer payments. Indeed, more than two-thirds of the federal budget is money that goes from one taxpayer's pocket into someone else's. Some of this is naked wealth redistribution, like food stamps and other welfare. But much of it is what some call "earned" payments, like Social Security and Medicare -- money that has been taken from workers' paychecks for decades with the promise of a retirement return. The solvency of these programs, however, is in jeopardy.

Social Security already runs an annual deficit -- about $200 billion this year -- which will only grow worse as fewer workers support more retirees. From the start, politicians have raided the Social Security "trust fund" and spent the money on other general fund projects, leaving the program as a wealth transfer one instead of an investment as it's billed. Economist Walter Williams explains, "What the Treasury Department does is give the Social Security Trust Fund non-marketable 'special issue government securities' that are simply bookkeeping entries that are IOUs."

Now that benefits paid exceed taxes collected, the problem has become acute. According to the Social Security board of trustees, in 1945, there were 42 workers for every retiree; the current ratio of three workers to every retiree is unsustainable. Strictly speaking, Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme, in part because it's not against the law. Indeed, it is the law. (Try not paying payroll taxes -- a.k.a., "investing" in the system.) But it is structured exactly like a Ponzi scheme, and it will eventually fail for the same reasons.

Of the gap between Social Security taxes collected and benefits paid out, The Wall Street Journal's William Galston writes, "To close that gap while maintaining scheduled benefits, we would need to enact an immediate increase in the payroll tax rate from 12.4% to 15.9%. For workers earning $50,000 a year, that would mean a tax increase of $900, nearly 2% of gross income. And employers would have to match it. For workers making the maximum now subject to payroll taxes (a bit under $120,000), taxes would rise by $2,100."

If the income cap were lifted, workers at higher incomes would face an even more staggering tax increase. And yet as it stands, the payroll tax is regressive in that it hits lower income families disproportionately. If the income cap were doubled, it still wouldn't fix the problem. Galston notes, "One might imagine that such a sizable increase in covered earnings would be enough to stabilize the system for the long term. In fact, the CBO calculates, it would reduce the imbalance by only 30%. Indeed, eliminating the cap and taxing all earnings would solve just 45% of the problem."

Meanwhile, the expected return on the 12.4% in Social Security withholding from our income is practically criminal. Consider the potential return of investing 12.4% of a typical middle class income in indexed mutual funds, where decent investments would yield perhaps multiple millions of dollars over 30 years. Over a retirement span of 20 years or so, annual withdrawals could be six figures while still leaving a good chunk of change making money.

Compared to that, Social Security looks like the poorest investment ever concocted. In fact, from that perspective, Social Security is stealing our money by mandating that it do something for us in a worse way than we can ourselves.

Or put it another way. Financial advisers often recommend putting 10% to 15% of your income toward "retirement" (whatever that means to you). The potential return on that 15% over 30 years is fantastic. Unfortunately, Social Security is already taking over 12%, while giving us miserable returns. So for savers, Social Security is costing us significant returns that we could have realized but won't. What a "safety net."

In spite of the facts, Social Security has always been one of the most popular programs the federal government runs, and the overwhelming choice of voters is to do nothing to fix it -- let alone returning to the constitutional norm of the federal government staying out of your retirement. So we understand politicians desperate for votes not wanting to touch this beloved system. But Social Security is built on a half-truth at best, and it's unsustainable.

50  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'Real News' sites on: July 17, 2014, 12:53:26 PM
Outstanding!

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