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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Trump's critics are wrong about birthright citizenship
on: August 27, 2015, 11:54:53 AM
by Edward J. Erler August 19, 2015 4:00 AM Donald Trump continues to bewilder political experts. He unabashedly wades into politically dangerous territory and yet continues to be rewarded by favorable poll results. He has clearly tapped into a reserve of public resentment for inside-the-Beltway politics. How far this resentment will carry him is anyone’s guess, but the Republican establishment is worried. His latest proposal to end birthright citizenship has set off alarm bells in the Republican party. The leadership worries that Trump will derail the party’s plans to appeal to the Latino vote. Establishment Republicans believe that the future of the party depends on being able to capture a larger share of this rapidly expanding electorate. Trump’s plan, however, may appeal to the most rapidly expanding electorate, senior citizens, and may have an even greater appeal to the millions of Republicans who stayed away from the polls in 2012 as well as the ethnic and blue-collar Democrats who crossed party lines to vote Republican in the congressional elections of 2014. All of these voters outnumber any increase in the Latino vote that Republicans could possibly hope to gain from a population that has consistently voted Democratic by a two-thirds majority and shows little inclination to change. RELATED: Not Hard to Read the 14th Amendment As Not Requiring Birthright Citizenship — And Nothing Odd About Supporting Such a Reading Critics say that Trump’s plan is unrealistic, that it would require a constitutional amendment because the 14th Amendment mandates birthright citizenship and that the Supreme Court has upheld this requirement ever since its passage in 1868. The critics are wrong. A correct understanding of the intent of the framers of the 14th Amendment and legislation passed by Congress in the late 19th century and in 1923 extending citizenship to American Indians provide ample proof that Congress has constitutional power to define who is within the “jurisdiction of the United States” and therefore eligible for citizenship. Simple legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president would be constitutional under the 14th Amendment. Birthright citizenship is the policy whereby the children of illegal aliens born within the geographical limits of the U.S. are entitled to American citizenship — and, as Trump says, it is a great magnet for illegal immigration. Many of Trump’s critics believe that this policy is an explicit command of the Constitution, consistent with the British common-law system. This is simply not true. Congress has constitutional power to define who is within the “jurisdiction of the United States” and therefore eligible for citizenship. Although the Constitution of 1787 mentioned citizens, it did not define citizenship. It was in 1868 that a definition of citizenship entered the Constitution with the ratification of the 14th Amendment. Here is the familiar language: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Thus there are two components to American citizenship: birth or naturalization in the U.S. and being subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Today, we somehow have come to believe that anyone born within the geographical limits of the U.S. is automatically subject to its jurisdiction; but this renders the jurisdiction clause utterly superfluous. If this had been the intention of the framers of the 14th Amendment, presumably they would have said simply that all persons born or naturalized in the U.S. are thereby citizens. Indeed, during debate over the amendment, Senator Jacob Howard, the author of the citizenship clause, attempted to assure skeptical colleagues that the language was not intended to make Indians citizens of the United States. Indians, Howard conceded, were born within the nation’s geographical limits, but he steadfastly maintained that they were not subject to its jurisdiction because they owed allegiance to their tribes and not to the U.S. Senator Lyman Trumbull, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supported this view, arguing that “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” meant “not owing allegiance to anybody else and being subject to the complete jurisdiction of the United States.” RELATED: End Birthright Citizenship Now: Barack Obama Makes the Case Jurisdiction understood as allegiance, Senator Howard explained, excludes not only Indians but “persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, [or] who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers.” Thus, “subject to the jurisdiction” does not simply mean, as is commonly thought today, subject to American laws or courts. It means owing exclusive political allegiance to the U.S. Furthermore, there has never been an explicit holding by the Supreme Court that the children of illegal aliens are automatically accorded birthright citizenship. In the case of Wong Kim Ark (1898) the Court ruled that a child born in the U.S. of legal aliens was entitled to “birthright citizenship” under the 14th Amendment. This was a 5–4 opinion which provoked the dissent of Chief Justice Melville Fuller, who argued that, contrary to the reasoning of the majority’s holding, the 14th Amendment did not in fact adopt the common-law understanding of birthright citizenship. Get Free Exclusive NR Content
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/birthright-citizenship-not-mandated-by-constitution?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Saturday%20Best%20of%208/22&utm_term=VDHM%20Reader
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential
on: August 27, 2015, 01:47:13 AM
Ted Cruz told Megan Kelly that there are quality C'l scholars on both sides of the question.
MK reminded him that previously he had supported the birth right interpretation. He acknowledged but repeated that there are reasonable scholars on both sides and suggested that both seeking judicial change and C'l change because birthright is bad policy.
Worth noting is that the language on subject to the jurisdiction and Congress making law to effectuate the intent had Indians excluded until Congress passed a law in the 1940s (sorry I have no citation for this). Question: If Congress can expand those subject to the jurisdiction, why can't it contract those subject to the jurisdiction?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Summary of Hillary's email issues
on: August 20, 2015, 12:44:34 PM
Classified or Not? Explaining the Clinton Email Controversy
Hillary Clinton earlier this week
John Locher/Associated Press
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s campaign acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that her email archive contains material that is now classified—but downplayed its admission by saying the material had been retroactively classified out of an abundance of caution by U.S. intelligence agencies. Further, she said she has done nothing illegal.
“She was at worst a passive recipient of unwitting information that subsequently became deemed as classified,” said Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, on Wednesday.
Here is a rundown of the key issues in the fight over whether classified information was improperly sent or received by her private email address, which has become the focus of the controversy surrounding her email setup.
First, remind me how the email controversy got started.
When Hillary Clinton was secretary of state from 2009 to early 2013, she used a private setup for her email. In late 2014, Mrs. Clinton turned over her work-related emails at the request of the State Department. In March 2015, Mrs. Clinton gave her first comments on why she used a private system, saying the setup was for convenience. (See a timeline of events leading up to these remarks.) She also said she wanted all her work emails to be made public. These emails are being reviewed and released in batches by the State Department this year. Aside from public interest in the contents of the emails, there were also concerns about the level of security protecting her emails, since they resided outside government control.
So, what then kicked off the classification review?
The State Department told a federal court in May that it would be reviewing Mrs. Clinton’s emails for any sensitive information in consultation with other government agencies before releasing them. Such precautions are a routine part of the Freedom of Information Act process. However, a few months later two inspectors general — independent, internal government watchdogs — raised concerns about the thoroughness of that process as part of an independent audit. Specifically, the two IGs warned that classified information had already been released publicly by the State Department and recommended that other intelligence agencies be more involved in the screening. The intelligence community inspector general found four emails in Mrs. Clinton’s email trove that appeared to be classified when they were sent. Since then, reviewers from five intelligence agencies have identified 305 emails out of about 6,000 that have been designed for further scrutiny to ensure they contain no classified material.
Explain the classification system. That’s like “Confidential” or “Secret”?
Yes. The classification system is laid out by executive order and aims to protect national security information. Generally, classified information is designated either “Confidential,” “Secret” or “Top Secret.” All three require various levels of security clearances and secure computer systems or access procedures designed protect the information. As head of the State Department, Mrs. Clinton had some power to determine what information her department considered classified. But she was also obligated to protect the classified information shared with her by other agencies.
How does that relate to the FBI probe?
Once the two inspectors general discovered that classified information was on a server not in the government’s possession, they made a referral to the FBI about the situation. The IGs “did not make a criminal referral,” they said in a July statement. “It was a security referral made for counter intelligence purposes. The [Intelligence Community Inspector General] is statutorily required to refer potential compromises of national security information” to appropriate officials. Department of Justice officials have said Mrs. Clinton herself is not a target of the investigation.
What are some of the emails under scrutiny?
As mentioned earlier in this Q&A, the inspector general for the intelligence community said earlier this year he found four emails containing material that was classified at the time they were written. The State Department and the Clinton campaign now disagree with that assessment. Two of the four emails were identified by Fox News on Wednesday as two emails flagged by the inspector general as part of its referral to the FBI. Both were already released publicly as part of an investigation into the death of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi, Libya. The two emails in question were written by lower-ranking State Department officials and forwarded to Mrs. Clinton by top aides Jake Sullivan and Huma Abedin, who both now work for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign. (Here is the 2011 email forwarded by Ms. Abedin to Mrs. Clinton, and here is the 2012 email from Mr.Sullivan to Mrs. Clinton.)
How can I see more of her her emails?
You can see the full archive in the WSJ.com email archive tool. They are first posted at the State Department’s FOIA site.
What happened to the email server after Mrs. Clinton left office?
The server was at one point run out of Mrs. Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y., according to reports. However, Mrs. Clinton’s lawyer said in a letter this month that a private IT firm called Platte River Networks was hired to manage it sometime in 2013 — the same year Mrs. Clinton left her State Department post. That firm has now turned over her server to the FBI. The details about what was on the server when Platte River Networks took control of it are not clear.
What are these thumb drives belonging to David Kendall?
The Intelligence Community inspector general announced last month that it had uncovered that Mrs. Clinton’s personal attorney David Kendall was in possession of a thumb drive containing an archive of her work email. Mr. Kendall acknowledged in a letter that he possessed two other copies of that thumb drive. State Department officials noted that Mrs. Clinton’s attorneys had a security clearance and said they had provided adequate security precautions to allow Mr. Kendall’s firm to store those thumb drives, despite the fact that they were now deemed to have contained classified information. Mr. Kendall turned all of his thumb drives over to the FBI.
Was the server ever wiped?
Mrs. Clinton said in March that she “chose not to keep my private personal emails — emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes.” Mr. Kendall, her lawyer, further affirmed that no emails were left on the server in a March letter to Congress. After a review to identify potential work-related emails, Mrs. Clinton asked that her server be set to only keep 60 days worth of email. Mr. Kendall said in the same letter that no emails from Mrs. Clinton’s time in office remained on the server as of March.
So did she, or did she not, send or receive classified info on her private email?
The State Department and the inspectors general are at odds over this fact. The State Department has said repeatedly that that while some information has been retroactively classified, Mrs. Clinton’s emails did not contain anything classified at the time as far as they were aware. Other intelligence agencies disagree, saying that her email contains information that was classified at the time and should have been submitted over a secure email system. Because the fight is essentially a bureaucratic turf war over complicated issues of classification, it’s difficult to say at this point without a more complete report.
On Wednesday, campaign spokesman Fallon said: “When it comes to classified information, the standards are not at all black and white.”
What has Mrs. Clinton’s said about it?
In March, Mrs. Clinton said definitively: “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.”
After the inspectors general report, Mrs. Clinton started to emphasize that the information was not identified as classified — something that the inspectors general also attest to. “I did not send classified material and I did not receive any material that was marked or designated classified — which is the way you know whether something is,” Mrs. Clinton said Tuesday.
On Wednesday, her campaign finally acknowledged the presence of now-classified material but said that such material was only retroactively classified as part of the routine turf war between agencies.
“That’s why we are so confident that this review will remain a security-related review. We think that furthermore this matter is mostly just shining a spotlight on a culture of classification that exists within certain corners of the government, especially the intelligence community,” he said.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history
on: August 20, 2015, 09:41:37 AM
A ‘Formal Criminal Investigation’ of Hillary’s E-mails Is ‘Under Consideration’
Either the FBI is going to take Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server and the classified information in e-mails extremely seriously . . . or a whole bunch of former FBI agents are going to be disappointed with their former employer.
For now, federal authorities characterize the Justice Department inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s private email server as a security situation: a simple matter of finding out whether classified information leaked out during her tenure as secretary of state, and where it went.
Except, former government officials said, that’s not going to be so simple.
“I think that the FBI will be moving with all deliberate speed to determine whether there were serious breaches of national security here,” said Ron Hosko, who used to lead the FBI’s criminal investigative division.
He said agents will direct their questions not just at Clinton, but also her close associates at the State Department and beyond.
“I would want to know how did this occur to begin with, who knew, who approved,” Hosko said.
Authorities are asking whether Clinton or her aides mishandled secrets about the Benghazi attacks and other subjects by corresponding about them in emails.
For her part, Clinton said she did not use that email account to send or receive anything marked classified.
“Whether it was a personal account or a government account, I did not send classified material, and I did not receive any material that was marked or designated classified which is the way you know whether something is,” she said Tuesday in a question-and-answer session with reporters.
Why is Clinton emphasizing the idea that none of those messages were marked? Because what she knew — her intent — matters a lot under the law. If the Justice Department and FBI inquiry turns into a formal criminal investigation.
Are we really to believe that when she’s reading about -- you name it, drone strikes, satellite images, evacuation plans for staffers in Benghazi -- that Hillary Clinton never thought that any of that information was classified?
The inspector general’s report said that the classification labels had been removed . . .
“We note that none of the emails we reviewed had classification or dissemination markings, but some included [intelligence community]-derived classified information and should have been handled as classified, appropriately marked, and transmitted via a secure network,” wrote McCullough, the inspector general for the intelligence community, who described his review as incomplete.
A spokeswoman for McCullough, Andrea Williams, said Friday that there are at least four emails of concern, which have yet to be released by the State Department under the Freedom of Information Act. “They were not marked at all but contained classified information,” she wrote in an email to TIME Friday.
. . . which suggests some staffers were taking off the classified label and then sending it to Hillary.
Here’s the bombshell:
Two lawyers familiar with the inquiry told NPR that a formal criminal investigation is under consideration and could happen soon -- although they caution that Clinton herself may not be the target.
In other words, look out, staffers.
Here’s Michael Hayden -- former director of the NSA, and former director of the CIA -- declaring that the e-mail system would be “a very juicy target” and “not very difficult if you have the resources and talented people to go after it. The NSA does this all the time against, I would suggest, better defended targets.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Tom Steyer's Stimulus
on: August 20, 2015, 08:12:18 AM
Aug. 18, 2015 6:57 p.m. ET
How many workers does it take to change an incandescent light bulb in California? Two. One to install its energy-efficient replacement, and another to ensure the job complies with government regulations. Behold Tom Steyer’s green jobs stimulus, which a new report from the Associated Press shows has been a colossal failure even by its proponents’ standards.
In 2012 the hedge-fund billionaire bankrolled a California ballot initiative (Prop. 39) hitting up corporations to finance green construction jobs. The referendum changed the way many corporations that do business across state lines calculate their tax liability. Half of the new revenues were to be earmarked for “clean energy” (e.g., LED and solar panel installations) with the rest flowing into Sacramento’s general fund for the politicians to spend.
Mr. Steyer and friends claimed the initiative would raise more than $500 million annually for green projects and create tens of thousands of jobs. Neither dream has come true. According to AP, the initiative’s clean-energy fund has raised $973 million over the past three years—about a third less than projections because companies have responded by seeking to minimize their tax liabilities.
And little of that has gone toward creating “clean energy.” Funding recipients have frittered away millions completing paperwork—energy surveys, audits, data analytics—to meet California Energy Commission’s guidelines, which require $1.05 of energy savings for every dollar spent. Schools have spent more than half of the $297 million that they’ve received on consultants and auditors. As if California’s regulatory compliance industry needed more work.
AP reports that the initiative has created all of 1,700 jobs over three years, yet the state doesn’t know how much if any energy has been saved. Credit to Mr. Steyer for his grand ambitions. His initiative may beat the 2009 Obama-Pelosi blowout as the country’s least effective jobs stimulus.
Mr. Steyer told AP the initiative has nonetheless accomplished its goal of closing a “corporate loophole.” But then results rarely matter for the supporters of green subsidies. Their good intentions in spending other peoples’ money is enough.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams: Thoughts on Govt. 1776
on: August 19, 2015, 11:27:37 AM
"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men." —John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kasparov down the memory hole
on: August 19, 2015, 10:45:10 AM
Aug. 18, 2015 7:05 p.m. ET
‘Where is Garry Kasparov?” asked many Russians recently, when they discovered that the famed chess player was missing from the new edition of a book celebrating the achievements of Russia’s largest athletic association, Spartak—of which Mr. Kasparov was a member. It turns out that an article about Mr. Kasparov had been removed at the last minute. The message was clear: No achievement can trump political loyalty, and for Mr. Kasparov, a harsh critic of the Kremlin, the doors to the Russian version of the sports hall of fame are currently closed.
Erasing dissidents from history was a standard practice of Soviet disinformation. I recall how one day in the mid-1970s at my university library in Elista, a small city between the Black and Caspian seas, I could not locate a book by a well-known Soviet literary critic, Efim Etkind. When I asked the librarian, she looked at me as if evaluating whether my question was a provocation or simply a result of naiveté. Concluding the latter, she sternly replied that the book was no longer available because the author was a dissident and had emigrated to Israel. The book’s title was “A Conversation About Poetry,” and it had nothing to do with politics.
I thought of this last week when the zealous authorities in Sverdlovsk Oblast ordered the books of two British military historians, Antony Beevor and John Keegan, taken from library shelves. These classic books about the battles of Stalingrad and Berlin reveal the Soviet generals’ disregard for casualties and soldiers’ mass rape of German women in 1945, taboo topics seen as undermining Russia’s glorious victory. The authorities insisted that the books present “a mistaken representation” of World War II and “Nazi propaganda stereotypes.”
The short-lived outburst of freedom after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 was followed by a slow return to Soviet values. After assuming the presidency again in May 2012, Mr. Putin appointed as minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky, a man widely considered to be a crude propagandist and henchman. The appointment came as a shock to the Russian intelligentsia and marked a new aggressiveness by Mr. Putin toward reshaping the cultural and ideological landscape. Mr. Medinsky has regularly denounced regime critics as Russophobes, Russian liberals as national traitors, gays as products of Western decadence, and modern artists and writers as blasphemous.
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Editorial Writer Sohrab Ahmari discusses renewed fighting on the Ukrainian border and why the White House won’t help Kiev. Photo credit: Getty Images.
Mr. Medinsky has suggested that there was no anti-Semitism in the Russian empire, that the reign of Ivan the Terrible was not so terrible after all, and that Stalin’s purges were necessary. When accused of falsifying history, Mr. Medinsky responded that history is solely a matter of interpretation and mass propaganda.
Last month he defended a popular legend of 28 soldiers of the Panfilov division who lost their lives bravely defending Moscow from the Nazis in November 1941. Even in the face of the fact that some of these men proved to be alive after the war and the story was shown to have been concocted by the editor of the Red Star newspaper, Mr. Medinsky dismissed the critics of this tale of Soviet heroism. “The only thing I can say to them is: It would be good if we had a time machine and could send you, poking your dirty, greasy fingers into the history of 1941, into a trench armed with just a grenade against a fascist tank,” he said.
In early 2013, Mr. Putin proposed the introduction of a single history textbook for all Russian middle schoolers, and Mr. Medinsky promoted the idea. “One should not create pluralism in school children’s heads,” he was quoted as saying, as he expressed support for a single textbook with a clearly defined pantheon of Russian heroes to serve as models of the country’s greatness. In the end the government decided against a single version of the textbook, probably realizing that what could rouse patriotism in central Russia might do the opposite in Chechnya or other regions. Nonetheless, a basic textbook that follows an approved government blueprint is supposed to be out this fall.
This rewriting of history sometimes puts the government at odds with the Orthodox Church. Mr. Putin has burnished Stalin’s image, presenting him as a shrewd leader faced with hard choices—much the same way Stalin once ordered Sergei Eisenstein to make a film about Ivan the Terrible, with whom Stalin identified. Yet this rehabilitation of Stalin does not sit well with the church, which was destroyed during Stalin’s rule but now is one of Mr. Putin’s most reliable supporters.
More surprising was Mr. Putin’s claim that Crimea is an ancient and sacred Russian land, where Grand Prince Vladimir was baptized in 988 and from which he brought Christianity to Russia. Yet neither Russia nor Moscow existed in the 10th century, and Prince Vladimir ruled in Kiev, now the capital of Ukraine. Even at the height of Russian nationalism in the 19th century, emperors never disputed the link between Prince Vladimir and Kiev, where the imperial authorities constructed St. Vladimir University, St. Vladimir Cathedral and St. Vladimir Monument, depicting the prince, cross in hand, looking over the Dnieper River.
Now Mr. Putin wants to claim Prince Vladimir for his own. An 80-foot monument of the saint will be erected on a hill in Moscow this fall. The goal, of course, is to legitimize Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea and delegitimize the sovereignty of Ukraine.
To impose the state’s version of history, Russia’s government is using both carrots and sticks. Those who do not toe the line are denied government grants and have difficulty finding publishers for their books or venues for their performances. Critics who are particularly vocal are hounded out: The departures of two prominent economists, Sergei Guriev to France and Konstantin Sonin to the U.S., and the firing of history professor Andrey Zubov from the Moscow Institute of International Relations drew headlines. Yet few noticed when the historian Vladimir Khamutayev was forced to flee the country after arguing that his native region of Buryatia, which borders Mongolia, was “Russia’s silent colony.”
That Russia should be taking such steps now is particularly striking. In the past three years, the Dutch government apologized for the mass killings in Indonesia in the 1940s, the British for the colonial abuse in Kenya in the 1950s, the French for the injustice in Algeria in the 1950s-60s, and the Japanese for their actions during World War II.
But Russia marches backward to its own drummer. One can only hope that some day a different set of Russian leaders will realize that history is not simply fodder for mass propaganda, to be rewritten and disseminated by the state.
Mr. Khodarkovsky grew up in the Soviet Union and is a history professor at Loyola University in Chicago.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: August 19, 2015, 09:50:30 AM
Charlie Who? Dutch Muslim Actor Threatened For Playing Jesus
by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
August 19, 2015http://www.investigativeproject.org/4960/charlie-who-dutch-muslim-actor-threatened-for
How well so many of us remember. It wasn't very long ago – barely eight months – since Muslim extremists stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing 12 of the satirical magazine's editors and artists. And how well we remember, too, the hours and days that followed as the world declared its support for free expression, with hashtags and marches and T-shirts and headlines that bore the now-immortal phrase "je suis Charlie" – and believed that it would make a difference.
Apparently, it didn't.
Earlier this month, a group of Dutch Muslim youth surrounded actor Abbie Chalgoun – a self-described "non-practicing" Muslim – at a train station in Venlo. They called out, "Whore child! Just you wait. We know where you live. We know where to find you."
Chalgoun's misdeed? He plays the role of Jesus in a nationally-celebrated performance of "The Passion." For Muslims, Chalgoun explained in an interview with national daily Trouw, the image or personification of a prophet – including Jesus – is forbidden.
And so you think: here we go again. The concept of the arts for radical Muslims becomes nonexistent, and so, impossible. European civil laws for them possess no meaning and no power. True, unlike Chérif and Said Kouachi, the brothers who staged the attack on Charlie Hebdo, these youth have not (yet) committed a crime in this case, did not (yet) physically attack the 35-year-old actor. But they demonstrate clearly the subtle, more insidious threat that lurks in Europe today: a generation of Muslims who too often place Allah's law above the state, and who will use violence and intimidation to make the rest of Western civilization do the same. Sometimes – as with the attacks on a conference on free speech in Denmark last February or a draw Mohammed event in Texas in May, they will try to kill for it.
But sometimes the threat alone is enough.
Those who oppose his playing the role of Jesus comprise "no more than a half percent [of Dutch Muslims]," Chalgoun estimated, "but they are the ones with the biggest mouths."
They also follow a solid tradition among European Muslims, particularly in the Netherlands, where the Dutch-Moroccan Mohammed Bouyeri shot and stabbed writer and filmmaker Theo van Gogh to death in 2004, then plunged a knife into his body along with a lengthy letter that included a list of those he would attack next. Since then, there have been plenty of others, from artist Rashid ben Ali, threatened for his drawings of Mohammed and "idiot" imams; photographer Sooreh Hera, who received death threats for her photographs of costumed homosexuals she claimed depicted Mohammed and his son-in-law Ali; outspoken anti-Islam Parliamentarian Geert Wilders, whose film "Fitna," exposes the destructiveness and dangers of radical Islam; and even comedian Ewout Jansen, who was the target of threats against "those who make jokes about Islam."
To his credit, Chalgoum – like these others – has so far remained unbowed. ("Jesus was also threatened," he told Trouw.) So, too, is activist Pamela Geller, despite alleged plans by Boston-based Islamic terrorist Usaamah Rahim, who was killed in a confrontation with Boston police in June.
Not so, however, for far too many others – like the National Youth Theatre of London, which earlier this month cancelled a play about the radicalization of British Muslims, inspired, said its Muslim creators, by the plight of two British schoolgirls who joined the Islamic State earlier this year.
Tweeted one would-be cast-member, in frustration, "I don't know how anything can ever change when we are too scared to say the things that need to be said."
Perhaps the play's censors – among others – might take a lesson from Chalgoum, who told NPO radio shortly after the incident, "We can't let things like this make us crazy. We will go on. "
Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential
on: August 19, 2015, 09:45:17 AM
What If Donald Trump Really Is . . . Electable?
Do a dance, Donald Trump fans, because the “he’ll lose a general election in a landslide ” argument just took some damage in the CNN poll out this morning:
The poll finds Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton ahead of Trump by just 6 points, a dramatic tightening since July. Trump is the one of three Republican candidates who have been matched against Clinton multiple times in CNN/ORC polling to significantly whittle the gap between himself and the Democratic frontrunner. He trailed Clinton by 16 points in a July poll, and narrowed that gap by boosting his standing among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (from 67% support in July to 79% now), men (from 46% in July to 53% now) and white voters (from 50% to 55%).
It will be fascinating to see if applying likely voter screens changes these numbers. Usually, Republican candidates do a few points better among a sample of likely voters than overall registered voters. But Donald Trump’s name identification among the general population is so high, his numbers might be the same.
Why Democrats Can’t Confront What Hillary Has Done
The Democratic party is about to have a breakdown.
For at least the past four years, if not longer, the average Democrat, when asked about the nominee-in-waiting, will respond, “Hillary Clinton is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.” Oh, sure, they may not be able to think of any accomplishments, and they may gripe about her ties to Wall Street. They may openly acknowledge that she lied about her e-mail server. Her team may openly gloat that no one cares whether she followed the rules or the laws about government archiving. But most of that they hand-wave away. She’s just doing it because she has such ruthless enemies. Everybody does it, she’s judged by an unfair, harsher standard than everyone else.
The problem is that there isn’t really a good reason to keep lots of classified information on a private server. We’re talking about information from the National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (spy satellite images), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Central Intelligence Agency.
The Director of the DIA at the time Hillary was at the State Department said there’s a “very high” chance her e-mails were hacked by foreign intelligence -- Chinese, Russians, or others. “Likely. They’re very good at it. You know, China, Russia, Iran, potentially the North Koreans. Other countries that are quote-unquote our allies, because they can.”
And here’s who was running the server:
The IT company Hillary Clinton chose to maintain her private email account was run from a loft apartment and its servers were housed in the bathroom closet, Daily Mail Online can reveal.
Daily Mail Online tracked down ex-employees of Platte River Networks in Denver, Colorado, who revealed the outfit’s strong links to the Democratic Party but expressed shock that the 2016 presidential candidate chose the small private company for such a sensitive job.
One, Tera Dadiotis, called it “a mom and pop shop” which was an excellent place to work, but hardly seemed likely to be used to secure state secrets. And Tom Welch, who helped found the company, confirmed the servers were in a bathroom closet.
This sort of decision is just stupid. It’s dangerous for herself, for everyone she e-mails, for the Obama administration, and of course, for national security. It’s an astonishingly short-sighted risk-reward calculation, to escape Freedom of Information Act requests and Congressional subpoenas by putting your communications at risk of being read by Russia’s foreign-intelligence service or the Chinese Ministry of State Security or God knows who else.
The problem for Democrats is that their worldview rests upon their leaders’ being the smart ones. They’re the ones who are wrapped up in “smart power.” They’re the ones sophisticated enough to “empathize with our enemies.” It’s those knuckle-dragging Republicans, those neocon warmongers, those paranoid xenophobes, those backwards hicks who just don’t understand how the world works. All it takes to get Russia to behave better is a reset button. The fall of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya deserves a “victory lap.” Syria’s Bashir Assad is a “reformer” and “the road to Damascus is the road to peace.”
If Democrats acknowledge Hillary made a stupid and consequential decision, everything else built upon that perception of intellectual and judgmental superiority crumbles. Yes, it erodes the case for her to be commander-in-chief. But what’s more, it forces Democrats to look at what their foreign-policy philosophy has really generated. Has the outstretched hand really thawed relations with hostile states? Have the concessions made to hostile states changed their behavior, rhetoric, or policies? Are international institutions really responsive to horrific mass violence? Is the world safer? Are human rights more respected? Are extremist groups waning or thriving and expanding?
Coming to terms with all of that is just too hard. So many Democrats will choose to believe that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is involved in a partisan witch hunt.
Meanwhile, in that CNN poll:
Clinton maintains this edge in the general election race despite a growing perception that by using a personal email account and server while serving as secretary of state she did something wrong. About 56% say so in the new poll, up from 51% in March. About 4-in-10 (39%) now say she did not do anything wrong by using personal email. Among Democrats, the share saying she did not do anything wrong has dipped from 71% in March to 63% now, and just 37% of independents say she did not do wrong by using the personal email system.
And positive impressions of Clinton continue to fade. Among all adults, the new poll finds 44% hold a favorable view of her, 53% an unfavorable one, her most negative favorability rating since March 2001.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: China's Crisis; the price of change
on: August 18, 2015, 08:17:46 AM
China's Crisis: The Price of Change
August 18, 2015 | 08:08 GMT
By Rodger Baker
Last week was an eventful one for China. First, the People's Bank of China shocked the financial world when it cut the yuan's reference rate against the U.S. dollar by nearly 2 percent, leading to a greater than 2 percent drop in the value of the yuan in offshore trading. The decline triggered a frenzy of speculation, including some expectations that the Chinese move would trigger a race to the bottom for Asian currencies. Beijing said the adjustment was designed to fix distortions between the trading rate of the yuan and the rate it should have been at according to speculation, and that subsequent large shifts were unlikely. The International Monetary Fund, however, noted that the move could lead to a freer floating yuan — something the IMF has asked of Beijing before the organization considers including the yuan in its Special Drawing Rights basket of currencies. In comments made on the sidelines of its annual report on the Chinese economy, released later in the week, the IMF also noted that the yuan was not undervalued, despite the decline.
Also last week, Chinese state media issued a warning to retired officials to stay out of politics and not misuse their former networks and prestige. The warning followed reports in state media suggesting that the annual unofficial gathering of current and former Party officials at Beidaihe was canceled and would not serve as a policy-making venue in the future. The reports noted that Party officials had already held several additional sessions in Beijing and that decisions were being made in the open, not in some secretive gathering of Party elders. Other reports circulating in Chinese media warned that former Party and military officials were involved in real estate speculation along with other economic mismanagement and needed to stop.
Finally, last week China dealt with one of its worst industrial accidents in years — a series of explosions at a chemical short-term storage facility in the busy port city of Tianjin. More than 100 people were killed in the explosions and aftermath, prompting the government to launch an investigation into illegal storage and improper safety procedures at that and other facilities around the country. Citizens have begun small-scale demonstrations in Tianjin to demand government reparations for damages as a result of the blast. In response, Beijing stepped up its media campaign against rumors, using state media to remind the public that the government publicly charged a Politburo standing committee member with corruption, so the public can trust the government to be open and not hide a conspiracy surrounding the Tianjin blast.
If there is a common theme running through these events, it is the way Beijing is emphasizing its openness in decision-making, in reporting and in explaining its actions. This is not the China of the past that tried to hide the truths of major natural or man-made disasters from its citizens. It is not the China that operated by secret agreements made only after a consensus of Party elders, or the China that tried to protect Party officials at the expense of the public. Nor is it the China of tight currency controls, amid fears that the vagaries of global markets could affect China's economic regulation. Or at least that is the message Beijing is trying to send. It is a message perhaps meant more for domestic than international consumption, but one that recognizes that neither abroad nor at home is there a lot of trust in the Chinese Communist Party or the government to pursue a transparent policy. The taint of corruption, collusion and nepotism remains strong and is perhaps even reinforced by the breadth and depth of the ongoing anti-corruption campaign.
Old Systems Become Obsolete
The reality is that China is in the midst of what may be its most serious crisis since the days of Deng Xiaoping. And the model of government and economy Deng put in place is no longer effective at managing China, much less shifting it in a new direction.
As China emerged from the chaos of the Maoist era, Deng initiated three basic policies for China's future growth and development, starting around the early 1980s. First, allow the economy more localized freedom, accepting that some areas would grow faster than others but that in the long run the rising tide would lift all boats. Second, prevent any single individual from truly dominating the Chinese political system. No longer could a figure like Mao Zedong exert so much personal influence that the entire country could be thrown into economic and social upheaval. Instead, China's leaders would be locked into a consensus-driven model that limited any individual source of power and eliminated factions in favor of widespread networks of influence that overlapped so much they could not be truly divisive. And finally, walk softly internationally, be ruthless in the appearance of a non-interference policy and avoid showing any military strength abroad. This latter point was intended to give China time to solidify internal economic and social cohesion and strength while avoiding distraction or inviting undue military attention from its neighbors or the United States.
In retrospect, Deng's model worked exceptionally well for China, at least on the surface. While the Soviet Union collapsed, the Communist Party of China held together, even after Beijing's mismanagement of Tiananmen Square. Although at times slow to respond or initiate proactive change, China's leaders managed the country's rapid economic growth in a way that avoided extreme social or political destabilization. The Party managed not only the leadership transitions set in motion by Deng, but also, amid intra-Party scandal, the latest transition to Xi Jinping. China's leaders even managed the impact of the global economic slowdown and appear capable of maintaining order even as economic growth rates slow considerably.
But the relative calmness on the surface belies disturbing deeper currents. The dark secret of consensus rule was that, while appearing to provide stability, by the late 2000s it was doing more to perpetuate underlying structural problems that could delay or even derail actual reforms or economic evolution. The lack of radical shifts and turns, the avoidance of major recessions and the ability to defer significant but potentially destabilizing reforms made China look like an unstoppable juggernaut. China's economy climbed past Japan's and seemed destined to surpass the U.S. economy. And if economic strength translated into total national strength, then China was emerging as a significant global power. Beijing even began breaking from Deng's cautions on overt military power and started a more assertive foray into the East and South China seas, both because of a perceived need to protect its increasingly important sea lanes carrying natural resources and exports and because it was feeling more powerful and capable and wanted to act on those strengths.
However, all economies are cyclical. As they grow through different stages, the deadwood needs to be trimmed and funding provided for the new shoots. Recessions, slowdowns, bankruptcies and sectorial collapses are all part of the natural economic process, even if they are disruptive in the short term. As China claims to be climbing the value chain in manufacturing and exports, it is not simultaneously trimming away older components of the economy or effectively weaning itself from the stability of large state companies that are disproportionately locking up available capital compared with total employment. Parochial interests by local and provincial governments — themselves keen to avoid any sense of instability — have left massive redundancies intact across China's manufacturing sectors, particularly in heavy industries, the backbone of early Chinese economic growth. Consensus politics allowed China to grow, but not in a healthy manner — and the global economy is no longer giving China the freedom to just keep pouring on the fertilizer and hope no one notices the rot spreading through the trunk and branches.
Xi's Crisis Management
The leadership transition to Xi in 2012 was also not nearly as smooth as it first appeared. It occurred amid the Bo Xilai scandal, in which it appeared the former Chongqing Party Secretary was making a bid not only to reshape the direction of Chinese politics but also to usurp Xi's rise to central Party and state leadership. What has emerged amid the ongoing anti-corruption campaign is that the challenge was much more serious than it may have appeared, including an alleged assassination plot against Xi.
The recent pronouncements regarding former Party leaders and officials staying out of politics suggests that challenges to Xi's position are still emerging. Xi's decision to build a national security council and economic affairs advisory body, to which he belongs, has aroused opposition from former officials used to playing a role in shaping policy. Publicly canceling the unofficial Beidaihe summit was an overt strike against former officials. The consolidation campaign continues.
While China faces some of its toughest economic challenges, and after it has stepped out into the South China Sea and international military affairs in a way it cannot easily pull back on, it is also contending with internal dissent and intra-Party fighting. Xi's consolidation drive, closely linked to the anti-corruption campaign, is all about tightening the reins of control to allow more rapid policy adjustments, force macro-policies on localities and accelerate the Party and state's response time to changing circumstances. But that challenges decades of tradition and entrenched power and interests. It also creates a contradiction: The economic policies are moving toward liberalization, but the political and social policies are moving toward autocracy.
To manage the next phase of China's economic opening and reform — something that changes in the global economy and decades of internal ossification are forcing upon Beijing — Xi is simultaneously cracking down on media, information, social freedoms and the Party itself. The fear is that significant economic reform without tight political control would lead to a repeat of the Soviet experience: the collapse of the Party and perhaps even the state.
Each event, each headline, should be assessed in the context of this internal crisis. The currency dip — an important step in liberalizing yuan trading, gaining a role in the Special Drawing Rights basket and continuing China's path toward yuan globalization (freeing the country at least a little from the dominance of the U.S. dollar) — has auxiliary risks, not least of which is that a freer currency can move in directions far from those the government would like to see. The explosion in Tianjin is reinforcing the fears of rampant mismanagement and corruption. It has sparked a new round of conspiracy speculation and is placing the government in a position where it must deal with protesters in a major city as well as foreign investors and traders — again raising uncomfortable questions about safety and security in China. The warnings against retired officials interfering in politics may be more than just public relations attempts to highlight some newfound transparency.
This is not to say China is on the verge of collapse, that the government and Party is about to fracture along internecine battle lines, or that economic reform is simply impossible in the face of entrenched interests. But none of these are out of the question. China has entered a stage of the uncertain. The transition to an internal demand-driven economy will not happen smoothly, nor will it happen overnight. The reduction in exports and the drain on investment is already under way. And with all of these issues sitting squarely on his shoulders, Xi is preparing for his September visit to the United States, where the litany of concerns about China expands daily.
The transitory period is the most chaotic, the most fragile, and that is where China sits right now.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Donald Trump and the case against birthright citizenships
on: August 18, 2015, 08:08:17 AM
I know we have discussed this previously. Can someone find where?
By Mark Alexander · Aug. 26, 2010
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Only if your mother was “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” (Ciudadanía por Nacimiento – sólo si su madre estaba sujeta a su jurisdicción)
“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.” –George Washington
Coming to America
Given the far-reaching implications of illegal immigration, and more recently the Left’s objections to enforcing immigration law in border states like Arizona, the 14th Amendment of our Constitution is receiving some long-overdue attention.
Like every contemporary political debate, the questions raised concerning the meaning of the 14th Amendment are, essentially, about whether we are a nation subject to Rule of Law codified in our Constitution, or we are subjects under the rule of men, subject to a “living constitution” amended primarily by judicial diktat and legislative mischief, rather than amended by the people, as prescribed in Article V.
Does the 14th Amendment mean what its framers intended and the states ratified, or does it mean whatever the courts and Congress have construed it to mean today?
Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which pertains to immigration and naturalization, reads, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
To discern the authentic meaning of this amendment as originally intended by its framers, we must first start with its plain language, and then further examine the context under which it was proposed and passed. Any debate about the authority of our Constitution must begin with First Principles, original intent.
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States…”
This language is plain and easily understood.
“[A]nd subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
This language, too, is plain and easily understood, unless there is a contemporary Leftist political agenda, which does not comport with that understanding, in which case benefactors and beneficiaries of that agenda will interpret (read: misconstrue) it to fit their purposes.
So, what does “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” actually mean? Beyond the apparent plain language definition, a factual interpretation is supported by the context in which this amendment was framed and ratified.
After the War Between the States, freedmen (former slaves) may have been liberated by Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, but they didn’t enjoy the same rights as those who freed them. Though slaves were in the United States legally, and thus, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” they had no assurance of equal rights.
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was designed to rectify this injustice by noting in part, “All persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States. … All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other.”
The first definition of “citizenship” in legal references is “nationality or legal status of citizenship.”
The 1866 act defined “persons within the jurisdiction of the United States” as all persons at the time of its passage, born in the United States, including all slaves and their offspring.
However, concern that the Act might be overturned by a future Congress motivated its sponsors to make it more resistant to the arbitrary rule of men, so they proposed the 14th Amendment to our Constitution, which upon ratification, would protect the provision of the 1866 Act from legislatures and the courts.
Michigan Sen. Jacob Howard, one of two principal authors of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment (the Citizenship Clause), noted that its provision, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” excluded American Indians who had tribal nationalities, and “persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers.”
According to University of Texas legal scholar Lino Graglia, the second author of the Citizenship Clause, Illinois Sen. Lyman Trumbull, added that “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” meant “not owing allegiance to anybody else.”
Thus, in the plain language of its author, those who are born to parents who are legally in the U.S., who have no allegiance to a foreign power (as diplomats), are thus, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” and have claim to birthright citizenship. Just as plain is the fact that the 14th Amendment would exclude those born to illegal aliens.
Despite the confidence of the 14th Amendment’s authors that it wouldn’t be subject to legislative and judicial mischief, subsequent generations of legislatures and judges have so twisted its plain language as to all but alienate it from its original intent – as they have likewise done with the rest of our Constitution.
For that reason, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) is now proposing a measure to restore the original intent of the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause by way of another amendment.
The problem is that Boehner and likeminded conservatives still erroneously rely on the Rule of Law, an assumption that our Constitution is still the Supreme Law of the land. Unfortunately, it has been thoroughly subordinated to the rule of men.
Where does that leave the birthright citizenship debate?
Today, more than 20 percent of all children born in the United States are born to those who have entered the United States unlawfully, and who are, by any authentic definition of the 14th Amendment, NOT subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. because they are not citizens. Yet Barack Hussein Obama and his Socialist Bourgeoisie assert that the “anchor babies” of illegal immigrants are owed all the entitlements of an American citizen.
The near-term consequences of this fallacious assertion have dire implications for the future of Liberty, for the Rule of Law, and for the very survival of our nation. But this is consistent with Obama’s objective of “fundamentally transforming” our nation by breaking the back of free enterprise, which is a foundational component of Liberty.
In 1776, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson proposed the national motto, “E pluribus unum” (“Out of many, one”), but that unity will not last much longer if we do not take dramatic action to restore the Rule of Law.
In 1919, Theodore Roosevelt penned these words: “We should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag. We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language … and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”
Now, writes Graglia, “It is difficult to imagine a more irrational and self-defeating legal system than one which makes unauthorized entry into this country a criminal offense and simultaneously provides perhaps the greatest possible inducement to illegal entry,” making a child born to that immigrant “an American citizen, entitled to all the advantages of the American welfare state.”
For the record, according to both the Justice Department and Homeland Security, “A person born in the United States to a foreign diplomatic officer accredited to the United States, as a matter of international law, is not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. That person is not a United States citizen under the 14th Amendment.”
So, according to current laws and regulations, consistent with the original intent of both the 1866 Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment as duly ratified on 9 July 1868, the child of a diplomat born in the United States, though that diplomat is legally on U.S. soil, has no birthright entitlement to citizenship.
However, according to Obama and his Leftist cadres, inconsistent with both the 1866 Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment, a child born to anyone who enters the U.S. illegally has a birthright entitlement to citizenship.
Which will it be, then: Rule of Law or the rule of Obama?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Money, the Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar & other currencies, Gold/Silver
on: August 17, 2015, 01:52:10 PM
Financial System Healing To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Every month, the National Association of Realtors reports on existing home sales, which are closings on previously-owned homes. These sales have been doing very well lately, up in four of the past five months and up almost 10% from a year ago. We expect further gains when the next report comes out Thursday morning.
But these solid headlines are missing what is probably the most important point about existing home sales. In the past year, all-cash buyers have dropped to 22% of sales from 32% a year ago. So, even as total sales have risen almost 10%, mortgage-backed purchases have risen more than 25%.
In our view, there’s no better sign that the financial system, at least as it relates to consumers, is getting closer to normal.
Meanwhile, the average household is in the best financial shape in a generation. The financial obligations ratio measures the share of after-tax income that households need to service their debts and other recurring obligations, so it covers mortgages, rent, car loans and leases, as well as debt service on credit cards, student loans, and other lending arrangements, like signature loans.
Back in late 2007, just before recession started, these payments were the largest share of after-tax income on record, going back to 1980. But after the huge consumer debt reduction during and after the recession, for the past few years, these payments have been the smallest share of after-tax income since the early 1980s.
Payment rates on credit cards – the share of principal balances and finance charges that consumers are paying every month – are the highest on record (starting in 1992), according to Standard & Poor’s. At the same time, delinquency rates are at an all-time low.
And remember the wave of foreclosures that was supposed to bring down the economy? Well, according to the NY Federal Reserve Bank, the number of consumers with new foreclosures showing up on their credit reports is the lowest on record going back to 1999, even lower than during the housing boom.
In other words, consumers are in a position to borrow more while banks are finally starting to boost lending.
No wonder auto sales have fully recovered from the disaster in 2008-09. In the past twelve months, Americans have bought cars and light trucks at a 17 million annual rate. For 2015 as a whole, a pace of 17.5 million is within reach, which would top the previous record of 17.4 million set back at the peak of the internet boom in 2000.
This doesn’t mean everything is right with the financial system. Far from it. The private system could have healed earlier and faster without Dodd-Frank and federal micromanagement. Someone needs to explain to the Fed that having a Ph.D. in economics doesn’t mean you know how to run a bank, not even close. This is one reason why the US economy remains a Plow Horse several years into recovery.
Meanwhile, the public portion of our financial system – a part of it we wish didn’t even exist – is trying to expand again, regardless of the disaster it caused in the prior decade. For example, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and is led by a presidential appointee, has encouraged loans where the down-payment is as low as 3%. Luckily, so far, Fannie and Freddie haven’t expanded in any noticeable way, at least not yet.
The bottom line is that the US financial system still has a way to go before it’s fully healed, but like most of the rest of the economy it’s also clearly moving in the right direction.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Very long POTH piece on Jihadi Girl Power
on: August 17, 2015, 09:16:53 AM
Jihad and Girl Power: How ISIS Lured 3 London Teenagers
By KATRIN BENNHOLDAUG. 17, 2015
Continue reading the main story Video
At Home in London, Girls Chose ISIS
A look into the world of three teenage girls who abandoned their lives in London to join the Islamic State.
By MONA EL-NAGGAR and BEN LAFFIN on Publish Date August 17, 2015. Watch in Times Video »
LONDON — The night before Khadiza Sultana left for Syria she was dancing in her teenage bedroom. It was a Monday during the February school vacation. Her niece and close friend, at 13 only three years younger than Khadiza, had come for a sleepover. The two girls wore matching pajamas and giggled as they gyrated in unison to the beat.
Khadiza offered her niece her room that night and shared a bed with her mother. She was a devoted daughter, particularly since her father had died.
The scene in her bedroom, saved on the niece’s cellphone on Feb. 16 and replayed dozens of times by Khadiza’s relatives since, shows the girl they thought they knew: joyful, sociable, funny and kind.
As it turned out, it was also the carefully choreographed goodbye of a determined and exceptionally bright teenager who had spent months methodically planning to leave her childhood home in Bethnal Green, East London, with two schoolmates and follow the path of another friend who had already traveled to the territory controlled by the Islamic State.
On Tuesday morning, Khadiza got up early and put on the Lacoste perfume both she and her niece liked. She told her mother that she was going to school to pick up some workbooks and spend the day in the library. She grabbed a small day pack and promised to return by 4:30 p.m.
It was only that night that the family realized something was wrong. When Khadiza had not come back by 5:30, her mother asked her oldest sister, Halima Khanom, to message her, but there was no reply. Ms. Khanom drove to the library to look for her sister, but she was not there. She went to the school, but the staff said no student had come in that day.
By the time she came back home, her mother had checked Khadiza’s wardrobe and found that besides some strategically arranged items it was empty. “That’s when I started panicking,” Ms. Khanom, 32, said in a recent interview at the family home. Two tote bags were missing from the house. “She must have taken her things gradually and packed a suitcase somewhere else.”
Early the next morning her family reported Khadiza missing. An hour later, three officers from SO15, the counterterrorism squad of the Metropolitan Police, knocked on the door. “We believe your daughter has traveled to Turkey with two of her friends,” one said.
Even then, Ms. Khanom said, recalling the conversation, “Syria didn’t come into my mind.”
The next time she saw her sister was on the news: Grainy security camera footage showed Khadiza and her two 15-year-old friends, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, calmly passing through security at Gatwick Airport for Turkish Airlines Flight 1966 to Istanbul and later boarding a bus to the Syrian border.
“Only when I saw that video I understood,” Ms. Khanom said.
These images turned the three Bethnal Green girls, as they have become known, into the face of a new, troubling phenomenon: young women attracted to what some experts are calling a jihadi, girl-power subculture. An estimated 4,000 Westerners have traveled to Syria and Iraq, more than 550 of them women and girls, to join the Islamic State, according to a recent report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which helps manage the largest database of female travelers to the region.
The men tend to become fighters much like previous generations of jihadists seeking out battlefields in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. But less is known about the Western women of the Islamic State. Barred from combat, they support the group’s state-building efforts as wives, mothers, recruiters and sometimes online cheerleaders of violence.
Many are single and young, typically in their teens or early 20s (the youngest known was 13). Their profiles differ in terms of socioeconomic background, ethnicity and nationality, but often they are more educated and studious than their male counterparts. Security officials now say they may present as much of a threat to the West as the men: Less likely to be killed and more likely to lose a spouse in combat, they may try to return home, indoctrinated and embittered.
One in four of the women in the Institute for Strategic Dialogue’s database are already widowed. But if women are a strategic asset for the Islamic State, they are hardly ever considered in most aspects of Western counterterrorism.
The Bethnal Green girls, slender teenagers with ready smiles and London accents, were praised by teachers and admired by fellow students at Bethnal Green Academy.
Khadiza, with straight chocolate-colored hair and thick-rimmed glasses, had been singled out as one of the most promising students in her year, according to a letter her mother received after mock exams only weeks before she left. In her bedroom, she kept a copy of a novel that a teacher had given to her with a handwritten dedication inside, dated January 2015: “Well done for working hard and exceeding your target grade for English language.” In her spare time she tutored less gifted peers.
Her bubbly friend Amira was a star athlete and a respected public speaker, once debating the rights of Muslim women to wear the veil. She was a regular at the local library, where she read voraciously. (After her disappearance, when the police went to check the list of books she had borrowed, one title, “Insurgent,” briefly rang alarm bells — until the officer realized that it was part of a popular dystopian teenage trilogy set in Chicago.)
“They were the girls you wanted to be like,” said one 14-year-old from the grade below.
Perhaps that is why everyone failed to respond to the many signs that foreshadowed their dark turn. The families, who noticed the girls’ behavior changing, attributed it to teenage whims; school staff members, who saw their homework deteriorate, failed to inform the parents or intervene; the police, who spoke to the girls twice about their friend who had traveled to Syria, also never notified the parents.
They were smart, popular girls from a world in which teenage rebellion is expressed through a radical religiosity that questions everything around them. In this world, the counterculture is conservative. Islam is punk rock. The head scarf is liberating. Beards are sexy.
Ask young Muslim women in their neighborhood what kind of guys are popular at school these days and they start raving about “the brothers who pray.”
“Girls used to want someone who is good-looking; nowadays girls want Muslims who are practicing,” said Zahra Qadir, 22, who does deradicalization work for the Active Change Foundation, her father’s charity in East London. “It’s a new thing over the last couple of years. A lot of girls want that, even some nonpracticing girls.”
The rows of housing complexes behind Bethnal Green’s main street are home to a deeply conservative Muslim community where the lines between religion and extremism can be blurred, including in at least one of the girls’ families. In this community, the everyday challenges that girls face look very different from those of their male counterparts.
The Islamic State is making a determined play for these girls, tailoring its siren calls to their vulnerabilities, frustrations and dreams, and filling a void the West has so far failed to address.
In post-9/11 austerity Britain, a time when a deep crisis of identity and values has swept the country, fitting in can be harder for Muslim girls than for boys. Buffeted by a growing hostility toward Islam and deep spending cuts that have affected women and young people in working-class communities like their own, they have come to resent the Western freedoms and opportunities their parents sought out. They see Western fashions sexualizing girls from an early age, while Western feminists look at the hijab as a symbol of oppression.
Asked by their families during sporadic phone calls and exchanges on social media platforms why they had run away, the girls spoke of leaving behind an immoral society to search for religious virtue and meaning. In one Twitter message, nine days before they left Britain, Amira wrote: “I feel like I don’t belong in this era.”
Muslim girls generally outperform the boys in school but are kept on a shorter leash at home. Many, like Khadiza, have sisters whose marriages were arranged when they were teenagers. Ms. Khanom, now 32, was 17 when she was wed, just a year older than Khadiza. And they wear head scarves, which identify them as Muslims in often-hostile streets.
In their world, going to Syria and joining the so-called caliphate is a way of “taking control of your destiny,” said Tasnime Akunjee, a lawyer who represents the families of the three girls.
“It’s about choice — the most human thing,” Mr. Akunjee said. “These girls are smart, they are A students. When you are smarter than everyone else, you think you can do anything.”
Since they left their homes, bits and pieces have emerged about the three friends revealing a blend of youthful naïveté and determination.
Khadiza’s friend Amira, an acquaintance of the family said, “fell in love with the idea of falling in love.” At one point, she posted the image of a Muslim couple with the caption: “And he created you in pairs.”
Khadiza, by contrast, told her sister in one of the first Instagram conversations after her arrival in Syria: “I’m not here just to get married.”
The Islamic State has proved adept at appealing to different female profiles, using girl-to-girl recruitment strategies, gendered imagery and iconic memes.
As Muslims, the girls would be treated very differently from women and girls of the Yazidi minority, who are taken by the Islamic State as slaves and raped with the justification that they are unbelievers.
The group runs a “marriage bureau” for single Western women. This year, the media wing of Al Khanssaa Brigade, an all-female morality militia, published a manifesto stipulating that women complete their formal education at age 15 and that they can be married as young as 9, but also praising their existence in the Islamic State as “hallowed.”
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State, took a young German woman of Iraqi descent as his third wife and put her in charge of women’s issues in the caliphate, according to information circulating among Islamic State-affiliated social media accounts.
Social media has allowed the group’s followers to directly target young women, reaching them in the privacy of their bedrooms with propaganda that borrows from Western pop culture — images of jihadists in the sunset and messages of empowerment. A recent post linked to an Islamic State account paraphrased a popular L’Oréal makeup ad next to the image of a girl in a head scarf: “COVERed GIRL. Because I’m worth it.”
“It’s a twisted version of feminism,” said Sasha Havlicek, a co-founder and the chief executive of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, who testified about Western women under the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on July 29.
“For the girls, joining ISIS is a way to emancipate yourself from your parents and from the Western society that has let you down,” Ms. Havlicek said. “For ISIS, it’s great for troop morale because fighters want Western wives. And in the battle of ideas they can point to these girls and say: Look, they are choosing the caliphate over the West.”
In January 2014, one of Khadiza’s best friends, Sharmeena Begum, no relation to Shamima, lost her mother to cancer. Her father soon started courting a woman who would become his second wife.
An only child, Sharmeena was deeply shaken. Until then, she had not been very religious, friends say. “She was barely practicing before,” according to one acquaintance of the family. After her mother died, she started praying regularly and spending more time at the mosque.
But there were signs she was not just turning toward religion for comfort. Bethnal Green Academy is a state-funded secondary school with just over 900 students, the majority of them Muslim. At one point last year, Sharmeena had a heated exchange with a teacher, defending the Islamic State. The teacher, also a Muslim, disagreed, and Sharmeena “flipped out,” a witness said.
Her closest friends started changing, too.
Khadiza stopped wearing trousers and began covering her hair after the summer vacation, at first only in school but gradually at home as well. It was a big change for a girl who “loved” her hair and styled the women in her family on festive occasions.
One day last fall, she asked her older brother Shuyab Alom, a science student who sometimes helped her with homework, what his thoughts were on Syria.
“She asked a very general question as to what I thought about what’s happening over there,” Mr. Alom recalled. “And I said how it was, the fact that it seems that the Syrian regime, you know, the majority of the people oppose the regime.”
Around the same time other friends at school noticed the girls’ lunchtime conversations changing. One friend, whose passport has since been seized because it was feared that she, too, might go to Syria (she denies this), reported a “noticeable” change in attitude.
When Sharmeena’s father remarried in the fall, Khadiza accompanied her to the wedding. Soon after, on Saturday, Dec. 6, Sharmeena disappeared.
“She was vulnerable; she had a trauma,” said Mr. Akunjee, the lawyer, who does not represent Sharmeena’s family but is familiar with her case. “She didn’t get a body piercing or a drug-dealer boyfriend. She went to ISIS.”
Khadiza did not tell her family that Sharmeena had run away. When a school staff member called to inform the family that Khadiza’s friend had “gone missing,” the official did not specify that she was believed to have traveled to Syria, Ms. Khanom, Khadiza’s sister, recalled.
Her mother asked Khadiza regularly whether she had news of her friend. “And she’d be like, ‘Well, I don’t know, I don’t know,’” Ms. Khanom said. “And I thought that was weird.”
Sharmeena’s father, Mohammad Uddin, said he had been surprised that the other girls had not left with his daughter. He told The Daily Mail that he had urged the police and the school to keep a close eye on them, though the police say the formal statement Mr. Uddin gave to them on Feb. 10 — a week before the three girls left — contained no such warning.
At the time, one police officer was charged with getting in touch with the girls, but they were “uncooperative” and did not return his calls and messages. He asked the school to set up meetings with them and four other friends. Two meetings took place, one in the presence of the deputy principal and one with a teacher. But even then, Ms. Khanom said, neither the school nor the police told the families exactly what was going on.
Asked about failing to spot the signs of the girls’ radicalization, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police maintained that there had been no indication during the interviews that any of the girls “were in any way vulnerable or indeed radicalized.”
“There was no indication that any of the girls were at risk of traveling to Syria,” the spokesman said.
On Feb. 5, officers gave letters to the girls, seeking their parents’ permission to take formal statements from them about Sharmeena’s disappearance. But the girls never passed the letters on. Khadiza’s was discovered by her sister hidden in textbooks in her bedroom after they had left.
Ms. Khanom was furious. “I saw the guy who gave her the letter. He said the 15-year-olds were giving him a runaround. And I’m like, ‘You’re supposed to be someone who’s trained in counterterrorism, you know. We don’t understand about 15-year-olds giving you a runaround. How does that work?’”
Eventually, the police issued an apology. The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, said he was sorry that the letters had never reached the parents. A spokesman added: “With the benefit of hindsight, we acknowledge that the letters could have been delivered direct to the parents.”
As the police and the school were keeping Sharmeena’s suspected travel to Syria quiet, Khadiza and her friends began planning to follow in her footsteps.
A Girls’ Pact and Missed Signs
In messy handwriting on a page ripped out of a calendar, the girls made a detailed checklist for their trip: bras, a cellphone, an epilator, makeup and warm clothes, among other things. Next to each item, they noted cost, including just over 1,000 pounds for tickets to Turkey.
Discovered at the bottom of one of the girls’ closets after their departure, the list also appears to contain the handwriting of a fourth girl who had apparently planned to travel but dropped out when her father suffered a stroke. Since then, a judge has confiscated the passports belonging to her, three other students at Bethnal Green Academy and a fifth girl from the neighborhood.
Like other teenagers, the girls were sensitive to peer pressure. They were what Shiraz Maher, a senior fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, called a textbook “cluster,” making the multiple oversights by the school and the police even more surprising.
If one member of a group of friends has gone to Syria, Mr. Maher said, that is a far more reliable predictor of the friends being at risk of going than variables like class or ethnicity. In clusters like the Bethnal Green group, doubts are drowned out and views quickly reinforced.
Mr. Akunjee, the lawyer, said, “From December it is pretty clear that there is a pact between the girls.”
Planning their trip appears to have occupied much of their time. Their homework, diligently completed before Sharmeena’s departure, came back incomplete in the weeks after.
“I’m amazed that the teachers and police missed that,” said Mr. Akunjee, who reviewed the homework. “These are bright girls. Well above average clever. This was a year with exams coming up. Shouldn’t the school have informed the parents?” It is a question the police are asking the school, too.
Khadiza and her friend Amira exchanged many messages on social media. In one post, Amira described the two of them as “twins.” In a Twitter message dated Dec. 20, she posted a hadith on being in a group of three friends: “If you are three (in number), then let not two engage in private, excluding the third.”
Was Amira worried about her two friends speaking without her and questioning their pact to go to Syria? She was perhaps the most active of the three friends on social media, providing glimpses of the gradual radicalization the group underwent.
In her posts, under the name Umm Uthman Britaniya, typical teenage commentary about fashion, school and her favorite soccer club (Chelsea) increasingly mixed with posts inquiring about how to learn Arabic quickly and what behavior is Islamic and what is not.
“Are nose piercings Haram or not?” one of her posts asked on Dec. 30, meaning were they forbidden under Islam. “Connnfuuuusseedddd.” Two weeks later she wrote: “The Prophet (PBUH) cursed those who pluck their eyebrows.”
But far from portraying an increasingly submissive girl, Amira’s Twitter messages featured punchy fist emoticons and empowered language: “Our abaya game” she wrote under a photo of four girls proudly clad in Muslim garb, is “strong.” In January, she wrote about rape: “Hearing these stories of sisters being raped makes me so close to being allergic to men, Wallah.”
Around the same time, Khadiza’s family noticed that she became “more quiet.”
“She spent a lot of time on her iPod,” her sister, Ms. Khanom, recalled. The iPod had been the subject of a dispute between Khadiza and her mother a year earlier. Khadiza had asked for one, but her mother had said no. It took Ms. Khanom to lobby on her behalf.
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On her iPod she received a steady stream of images depicting atrocities against Muslim children, from Syria to Myanmar. Her friend Amira posted and reposted several. One of her posts, a photo of a 3-year-old boy, had the caption: “This always gets to me.”
“Almost every day, I go on Facebook and I’m shown a horrible post somewhere,” Khadiza’s brother, Mr. Alom, said. “Online you have whole pages and groups and accounts dedicated to these sort of things, where they post pictures, they post videos.”
A lot of young Muslims, he said, feel that “Islamophobia is a very prevalent thing.”
“And then a group comes to them and says, like, ‘This is where you come,’ this is where they will be complete. ‘It’s a home for you.’ That appeals to them.”
“Yeah, that’s the main thing,” he continued, “because a lot of people feel that they are out of place to where they are.”
Bethnal Green is only one subway stop from the moneyed towers of the City of London and stretches into the capital’s trendy start-up district. Bearded hipsters are a common sight among the bustling market stalls selling everything from saris to spices.
But four in 10 residents, including Khadiza’s and Shamima’s families, have roots in Bangladesh. (Amira was born in Ethiopia and spent her early childhood in Germany before moving here when she was 11.) A literalist interpretation of Islam promoted by Saudi Arabia has become more mainstream and has combined with a widely shared sense that Muslims across the world suffer injustices in which the West is complicit.
After the girls vanished, it emerged that Amira’s father, Hussen Abase, had been filmed attending an Islamist rally in 2012 organized by a notorious hate preacher, Anjem Choudary, and also attended by Michael Adebowale, one of the two men who hacked a British soldier to death on a London Street in 2013. In the video Mr. Abase, who in March appeared on British television sobbing and cradling his daughter’s teddy bear and begging her to come home, can be seen chanting “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) as an American flag was burned nearby.
He occasionally took Amira to marches, too. Among the people she followed on Twitter was Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, who has close links to Mr. Choudary. Both men were charged this month with supporting the Islamic State. Mr. Abase did not respond to an interview request.
“Some parents create the atmosphere for their children,” said Haras Rafiq, the managing director of the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremism research center.
As Amira became more vocal on Twitter, Khadiza became more argumentative at home, on occasion scolding her older siblings for acting “un-Islamic” or pressing her niece to disobey her mother.
The last time Ms. Khanom saw her sister was five days before she left. Her cousin Fahmida Abdul Aziz had come over, too. “We were fighting over a bag of Bombay mix,” Ms. Khanom said, referring to a traditional Indian snack. “She loves that. I guess she gets that off my dad, because my dad used to love it, too.”
They were sitting on the living room sofa. “She was in her PJs, you know like a T-shirt and a pajama bottom, and she just literally came, sat herself between the two of us and put her arms around us,” the cousin, Ms. Aziz said, smiling at the memory. “You know, just looked at me and just gave me a cuddle.”
The next day, Khadiza asked that her niece come to stay, but Ms. Khanom, the niece’s mother, said no because it was a school night. Uncharacteristically, she said, Khadiza texted her niece, urging her to disobey: “Just jump on the bus and come.”
That same week, Amira implored her Twitter followers in capital letters: “PRAY ALLAH GRANTS ME THE HIGHEST RANKS IN JANNAH, MAKES ME SINCERE IN MY WORSHIP AND KEEPS ME STEADFAST.” She posted a photo of three girls in black head scarves and abayas in a local park with their backs to the camera, presumably her and her two friends. “Sisters,” the caption reads.
Call Home, Girls
On Feb. 15, just two days before the three girls left, Shamima sent a Twitter message to a prominent Islamic State recruiter from Glasgow, Aqsa Mahmood. The youngest of the three, Shamima is also the most elusive. Little is known about her apart from the fact that she loved to watch “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and traveled to Turkey on the passport of her 17-year-old sister, Aklima.
Ms. Mahmood, who goes by the name of Umm Layth (meaning Mother of the Lion) and provides advice on social media to would-be female migrants, has denied recruiting the girls. But her parents’ lawyer expressed surprise that the security services, believed to be monitoring Ms. Mahmood’s social media accounts, had not reacted to Shamima’s approach.
Khadiza’s family members say it is unlikely that the girls could have raised an estimated 3,000 pounds, or about $4,700, to cover the cost of their trip on their own. The plane tickets alone, police confirmed, cost more than 1,000 pounds and were paid for in cash at a local travel agency.
Unlike their friend who left earlier, Sharmeena, who had an inheritance from her mother, the three girls had no known source of money, raising questions about whether they were recruited and had outside help.
A suggestion by the counterterrorism chief of the Metropolitan Police, Mark Rowley, that the girls might have stolen from the families did not go down well: “I felt like punching them; that was a blatant lie,” Khadiza’s sister said.
“Khadiza took some of her jewelry but nothing expensive,” Ms. Khanom said. She left behind the most precious item she owned, a Swarovski necklace she had gotten for her most recent birthday. She did not touch the money in her sister’s bag in the hallway that morning and took nothing from her mother’s kitty.
“Nothing was missing,” Ms. Khanom said.
The police are still trying to establish whether the girls had help online or from a local recruiter. The trouble, investigators say, is that traveling to a conflict zone is not a crime in Britain, and neither is encouraging or facilitating travel to a conflict zone, unless a terrorist purpose can be proven.
“If a local facilitator is identified, a likelier ground for prosecution might be child abduction,” a senior officer said.
The families’ lawyer is convinced the girls tapped into a shadowy recruitment network embedded in and protected by the community in East London and were then handled “point to point.”
In shaky footage, apparently filmed on a hidden camera near the Syrian border and broadcast on A Haber, a Turkish television network, the girls are seen alongside a man in a maroon hooded sweatshirt. Another man, bearded and bespectacled, is taking bags out of the trunk of one car and helping to load them into another.
“This car,” he seems to tell them in heavily accented English, then apparently directs them to take passports allowing them into Syria.
The girls, who arrived in Turkey on a Tuesday night and were reported missing by early Wednesday, waited 18 hours at a bus station in an Istanbul suburb and crossed into Syria only on Friday. Both the British and the Turkish police have faced accusations of reacting too slowly.
Eventually, the Turkish police arrested a man on allegations that he had helped the teenagers cross the border. The Turkish news agency Dogan said the man had helped several other Britons cross into Syria for a fee between $800 and $1,500.
“This is not a package holiday,” Mr. Akunjee said. “It is a complicated journey.”
He knows this firsthand. One of the first things he did after the families hired him was to travel with relatives of all three girls to Turkey and make a public appeal to the girls to get in touch. The campaign, publicized with the hashtag #callhomegirls, was widely covered in the British press.
“Even I needed fixers to help me set it all up,” said Mr. Akunjee, who knows Turkey well. (He recently negotiated the release of a British girl held hostage by the Nusra Front.) “There is no way the girls did this on their own.”
Khadiza’s sister, Ms. Khanom, was among those who traveled to Turkey. “It was like we were retracing their steps,” she said. When the appeal went out, the families learned that 53 other women and girls were believed to have left Britain for Syria.
“Fifty-three,” Ms. Khanom said. “Where are all these girls?”
The morning after the families returned to London, a message popped up on Ms. Khanom’s Instagram account. Her request to follow her sister, blocked since Khadiza had left for Syria, had been accepted.
Ms. Khanom said she sent Khadiza a private message, asking to let her know that she was safe. Her sister replied and later messaged again, asking about their mother.
“She is on her prayer mat asking Allah to help her find you,” Ms. Khanom wrote.
“I’ll call soon okay,” Khadiza replied.
“She has not been sleeping or eating since you left,” her sister wrote.
“Tell her to eat.”
“She is asking do you not want to see her?”
“Of course I do.”
But Khadiza also seemed suspicious of the families’ trip to Turkey, making Ms. Khanom wonder if it was really her sister messaging her. “It’s just the way of asking questions about what happened in Turkey: Why did I go? Those kind of things. It just felt like, why would she be asking me these questions, you know.”
At one point, Ms. Khanom tested her: “Who is Big Toe?” she asked. Khadiza sent back a “lol” and replied: “Our cousin.”
For a moment it was as if they were back in the same city. “I kind of forgot she’s not here,” Ms. Khanom said.
She asked her sister to keep in touch. Khadiza promised she would, but insisted that it would always be her to initiate contact. “I don’t think she has full freedom,” Ms. Khanom said.
The next day, Khadiza messaged again.
“I asked her, ‘Are you married?’ She goes, ‘You know me too well. I’m not here just to get married to someone,’” Ms. Khanom recalled. Khadiza said she was “considering.”
“What do you mean by considering?” Ms. Khanom recalled asking.
“Looking into getting married,” the reply came.
From these early conversations, and descriptions of the food they were eating — fried chicken, French fries and pizza — the families and authorities concluded that the three girls were in Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State, housed in one of several hostels for single women. Khadiza said she was living in a nice house “with chandeliers.”
Ms. Khanom pleaded with her to come home, telling her that the police had assured the families that the girls would not face prosecution.
Khadiza did not believe it. “They’re lying,” she told her sister.
No Way Back?
At Bethnal Green Academy, a school with a fine academic record but now notorious for having four of its students join the Islamic State, the departure of the girls is gingerly referred to as “the incident.”
In the week after they ran away, the principal, Mark Keary, called an assembly. Students were upset, and some teachers cried. But it quickly became clear that this was not a place where the issue of the girls’ departure would be openly discussed. As Mr. Keary put it that same week, it was “business as usual” for the school.
“He brushed over it,” said one girl who had attended the assembly. Teachers have been threatened with dismissal if they speak out publicly, people inside the school said. Mr. Keary declined to comment.
Two weeks after the girls disappeared, the phone rang at the help line of the Active Change Foundation, the organization working on deradicalization and prevention.
It was the father of a student at Bethnal Green Academy. His daughter had overheard a group of girls at lunchtime talking about going to Syria. He said it appeared they were in contact with the girls already there and were planning to join them over the Easter holiday. Hanif Qadir, who runs the charity, informed the local council. On March 20, a judge took away the girls’ passports.
It was an early indication that Khadiza, Amira and Shamima seemed to be settling into life in Raqqa.
Since then, all three girls have married, their families’ lawyer confirmed. They were given a choice between a number of Western men. One chose a Canadian, another a European. Amira married Abdullah Elmir, a former butcher from Australia, who has appeared in several ISIS recruitment videos and has been named “ginger jihadi” for his reddish hair.
All three have moved out of the hostel and live with their husbands. They have sporadic contact with home. The conversations give the impression that the girls have few regrets about leaving their lives in London. But they also hint at hardships like frequent electricity cuts and shortages of Western goods. One recent chat came to an abrupt end because airstrikes were starting.
Khadiza told her sister that she still wanted to become a doctor. There is a medical school in Raqqa, she said. The logo for the Islamic State Health Service mimics the blue-and-white logo of Britain’s treasured National Health Service.
In a recent online exchange on Twitter and Kik with a British tabloid reporter posing as a schoolgirl interested in going to Syria, Amira gave instructions that appeared to track her own experience: She advised the “girl” to tell her parents that she was going for review classes to escape the house, then fly to Turkey and take a bus to Gaziantep, where she could be smuggled across the border. She recommended a travel agent in Brick Lane, a short walk from Bethnal Green Academy, which would accept cash and ask no questions, and suggested taking along bras because “they have the worst bras here.”
She also asked if the would-be recruit would consider becoming a second wife to a Lebanese-Australian, a description fitting her own husband, and appeared to mock a minute of silence for the mostly British victims of a recent shooting in Tunisia for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility, with “Looooool,” shorthand for “laugh out loud.”
It is getting harder to know whether it is the girls who are communicating. Increasingly their conversations are interspersed with stock propagandistic phrases.
“Have they adapted that language, or is there someone standing next to them?” Mr. Akunjee asked. “We don’t know. But they’re not the people their families recognize. They’re not them anymore. And how could they be?”
Standing in her sister’s bedroom one recent afternoon Ms. Khanom recalled the girl who had watched “The Princess Diaries” at least four times and loved dancing Zumba in the living room.
Her room is unchanged; perfumes and teenage accessories remain on a small chest. Her exam schedule is still taped to the inside of her closet door: math, statistics, history, English. A checkered scarf, which Khadiza had dropped on the morning of her departure in the hallway outside, is neatly folded on a shelf. It still carries her scent.
There are frames filled with photographs of her sisters and her nephew, as well as her niece, who has taken her departure particularly badly.
“She’s very affected by it, she misses her terribly, Khalummy — that’s what she calls her, Khalummy,” Ms. Khanom said, referring to a Bengali term of endearment for aunt. “You know, sometimes she shows anger, sometimes she thinks that, you know, she could have stopped her that morning. She saw her get ready.”
“I don’t want to say they’re memories because ...,” Ms Khanom said, her eyes traveling across her sister’s things. “They’re memories, but not as if, like ...,” her voice trailing off again. “I hope and I feel she’s going to come back and things are going to go back to normal.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Saudi Arabia and Egypt covet new assault ships.
on: August 17, 2015, 08:03:51 AM
Not sure where to put this one so I put it here:
Saudi Arabia and Egypt Covet New Assault Ships
August 17, 2015 | 09:15 GMT
A Mistral-class warship under construction in Saint-Azaire, France, in December 2014. (JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP Photo)
Saudi Arabia and Egypt want to buy the Mistral vessels France originally agreed to sell to Russia. Stratfor sources in the region have largely confirmed French media reports, indicating that there is at least a preliminary interest in acquiring the vessels. Despite the considerable obstacles that Riyadh and Cairo would have to surmount before they could effectively utilize Mistral-class ships, the vessels could eventually offer these Arab countries increased capability to respond to varying threats in the region.
Saudi Arabia is making considerable efforts to bolster its air and land force capabilities, and now Riyadh appears increasingly focused on investing in its naval forces. The acquisition of potent new ships easily fits within the envisaged Saudi maritime upgrade. Mistrals are flexible amphibious assault platforms that are ideal for the projection of force in littoral waters. In missions of short duration, a battalion — approximately 400-900 troops — can deploy from the Mistral, using landing craft or helicopters. In addition to carrying an infantry-based force, the vessels can be configured to lift significant numbers of vehicles (armored or otherwise) that can deploy by landing craft to a designated landing zone. The helicopter air wing aboard the Mistral can also be configured to the task at hand, with the ability to deploy large numbers of anti-submarine warfare helicopters for sub-hunting missions. However, the vessels have little self-defense capacity and rely on other surface warships to escort them and to provide protection.
There is definitely a requirement for Mistral-type ships in Riyadh's arsenal. The vessels, if correctly manned and equipped, would have been very useful in the Saudi-led coalition's operations in Yemen. It often takes offensive action for an armed force to understand that a capability gap exists, and the ability to project force from sea to shore is critical for a modern military. The Saudis could also benefit from using the vessels in and around the Persian Gulf, especially close to the islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs islands. These islands are disputed by Iran as well as the United Arab Emirates, but Riyadh could very rapidly deploy forces from a Mistral to capture terrain.
As Stratfor has noted in the past, Saudi Arabia has a strong desire to set up a joint Arab intervention force to counter threats to individual and collective interests in the region. The U.S. rapprochement with Iran and increased Turkish assertiveness mean that the Saudis are looking to their Arab brethren to reinforce their own military alliance system. As alluded to in the French reports, the Saudis may be interested in procuring the Mistrals as part of the greater joint Arab force project.
Military capabilities alone are not enough to create a viable and effective joint force — that requires strong political will. Indeed, there are several obstacles that work against the success of a joint Arab intervention force, especially one where Riyadh is vying for leadership. The Sunni Arab states, though willing to work closely on occasion, have disparate goals and interests that will continue to undermine their unity. Egypt would likely host the envisaged joint Arab force, and it would make considerable sense to base the Mistrals in Egypt. In this case, one or both of the Mistrals would be docked in Egypt close to the headquarters of the Arab force. Alternatively, one could be stationed in Egypt while the other would be deployed with the Saudi navy. This raises the question, would Cairo be willing to foot the bill for one or both of the Mistrals?
Financing the Purchase
The Egyptians lack money and are principally concerned with countering threats in their immediate locale. Therefore, Cairo would be unlikely to go ahead with any purchase without Saudi financial backing. Assuming the Saudis fund the purchase, the Egyptians would benefit from the considerable prestige of maintaining one or both Mistral vessels within their own fleet. Furthermore, Egypt is involved in a number of regional conflicts where the deployment of a Mistral vessel might be useful, the Libyan conflict being the most obvious example.
While Saudi Arabia may be willing to finance the acquisition of the Mistrals, there are several obstacles that will continue to hamper the Saudis and the Egyptians when it comes to using the equipment. The biggest obstacle is the absence of trained crews to operate the vessels, and even more important, well-trained forces to deploy from the Mistrals. While both Egypt and Saudi Arabia maintain small marine forces, neither nation has previously operated large amphibious assault vessels and will need considerable time and investment to build up the necessary institutional knowledge to use the Mistrals effectively.
Furthermore, procuring the Mistrals is only the first step. The Saudis and Egyptians would still need to purchase the associated specialized helicopters and landing craft that would operate from each Mistral. Additionally, the Mistral vessels in question were specifically built for the Russians, and Riyadh and Cairo will undoubtedly have to refurbish the ships and modify them to suit their own particular command, control, communications and climate requirements.
Despite these constraints, there is a high likelihood that Egypt and Saudi Arabia will purchase the Mistrals. Assuming Riyadh is willing to fund their purchase and associated costs, in time the Egyptians and the Saudis could have a considerable rapid response force ready to deploy from these vessels for missions across the Arab world. That would fit in neatly with the current Saudi-led efforts to create a potent unified Arab force that would help safeguard shared interests across the region.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FP:
on: August 17, 2015, 07:16:09 AM
Brace and break The Defense Department is finally being allowed to scrub a mission that some military officials never much liked in the first place: stationing two U.S. Army Patriot anti-missile batteries in southern Turkey.
A joint statement by the United States Embassy in Ankara and the Turkish government on Sunday said that the two Patriot batteries and 250 U.S. soldiers will come back to the States in October so that the missile systems can undergo “critical modernization upgrades.” The Patriots -- along with Patriot units from Germany and The Netherlands -- were deployed to Turkey in 2013 to calm Ankara at a time when NATO feared that Turkey was in danger of being hit by ballistic missiles fired by Syrian forces.
But with that threat all but eliminated now that Syrian forces have abandoned the Turkish border region, Pentagon leaders have been eager to bring the batteries home. Patriots are in high demand by commanders across the Middle East and Asia, and the soldiers manning the systems in Turkey had yet to conduct a single mission during the deployment. The timing of the move was a delicate diplomatic issue, however, as the U.S. and Turkey had been working on a deal to get Turkey into the anti-Islamic State fight while allowing U.S. warplanes and drones to begin flying out of Turkish air bases. Once that deal was reached, U.S. officials told their Turkish counterparts about the Patriot redeployment.
As part of the deal, six U.S. F-16 fighter jets and 300 American military personnel have now arrived at Incirlik and have started flying combat missions against the Islamic State in Syria. Germany also announced on Saturday that it was pulling its Patriot battery from Turkey, leaving only a Spanish unit behind. The Spanish system replaced the Dutch battery this year.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FP:
on: August 17, 2015, 07:14:40 AM
Let the dominoes fall. Launching strikes against Taliban targets has become all but off-limits for the handful of American special operators still working in Afghanistan, FP’s Sean Naylor reports, though commanders have recently added the Islamic State to their shrinking hit list.
The number of missions that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducts in Afghanistan have been slashed in recent months thanks to restrictive new targeting rules which specify that the Taliban can’t be hit unless a specific target poses a direct threat to U.S. interests or allies.
Limiting the strikes against Taliban operatives doesn’t mean that the war is winding down, however. Late last week, a spokesman for the Defense Department said that since January, a staggering 4,302 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed in action along with 8,009 wounded in what has by far been the bloodiest year for Kabul’s security forces since the ouster of the Taliban in 2002. Overall, 13,000 Afghan security forces have been killed over the past three years.
Not all Taliban-related groups are in the clear, however. The Haqqani Network continues to be hunted by JSOC, though only after a thorough scrubbing of of the details of each mission by military leadership. It remains to be seen whether the recent naming of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the network, as the Taliban’s new deputy commander will further complicate JSOC’s ability to target the group.