Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hillary Clinton's Email Problems Deepen

The Patriot Post reports that after learning the FBI was able to recover some of the emails she had deleted, Hillary Clinton "launched into damage control," saying she didn’t determine which emails were public and which were private. Instead, she now claims, she let her lawyers do the job : “I didn’t look at them. I wanted them to be as clear in their process as possible. I didn’t want to be looking over their shoulder. If they thought it was work-related, it would go to the State Department. If not, then it would not.” ~~~~~ Since we know Hillary’s track record in telling the truth about the email scandal, we realize it will just be a matter of time before she creates another story in her effort to save herself. Judge Andrew Napolitano said Monday : “Her most recent troubles show that when she certified under oath, ‘under penalty of perjury,’ to a federal judge that she had surrendered all her emails to the State Department, in fact she had not.” Napolitano believes the FBI will recommend indicting Clinton over her email use at the State Department. ~~~~ The latest chapter in Hillary's email probe involves emails between General David Petraeus and her, first discovered by the Defense Department and passed to the State Department's Inspector General. They start on January 10, 2009, with Clinton using an older email account. By January 28 - a week after her swearing in - she had switched to using the private email address on her home server that she would use for the rest of her State Department service. There are fewer than 10 emails back and forth, officials said, and the chain ends on February 1. State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed last week that State received the emails in the "last several days" and that they "were not previously in the possession of the department." Some of the newly discovered emails sent by State to Trey Gowdy's Committee involve Benghazi. There are also potentially unrelated emails about Libya, as well as personal emails State had previously decided not to send to the Committee. Among the emails released so far are revelations about what Clinton was doing the night of the Benghazi attacks, how her team coordinated with the White House to assign blame for the attacks, and the role of Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal in assisting Clinton on intelligence in the region. Kirby said they would be subject to Freedom of Information Act review like the rest of Clinton's emails, adding that the department will add the newly discovered emails to a review of record retention practices that Clinton's successor, Secretary of State John Kerry, initiated in March. "We have also informed Congress of this matter," he added. ~~~~~ The House Benghazi Select Committee plans to hold a public hearing with Clinton on October 22 to hear what the emails can reveal about the 9/11/2012 attack on the US diplomatic Benghazi compound that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. And, the Senate Judiciary Committee's GOP chairman wants to know if the Justice Department has a criminal investigation underway into Clinton's use of private email after the FBI recovered deleted emails from her server. The Senate Homeland Security Committee also is looking into the matter. ~~~~The Hill says Joe Biden’s close friends and advisors believe Hillary Clinton’s email probe and her dip in recent polls present him with a big opening : the American electorate wants 'authentic' and 'genuine' candidates. But Biden isn't an outsider - he served 36 years in Congress and 7 as VP. If Biden is going to run, he should announce now, before any Clinton indictment makes him look like a pirhana. ~~~~~ Dear readers, Clinton is now very clearly saying, “Hey, I was just a bystander here and my lawyers did all of it.” This giant shift shows she’s concerned about a felony indictment that goes beyond perjury. It's difficult to see how she'll avoid an indictment, other than to blame everything on her attorneys. But will Clinton lackeys agree to fall on a sword for the obviously crumbling Clinton political machine? Not likely.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Will Obama Push Back Against Putin in Syria and Iraq?

US President Obama and Russian President Putin used verbal swords Monday at the United Nations. ~~~~~ Obama, in his General Assembly speech, condemned Russia and Iran for fueling conflicts around the world. He urged world leaders to choose “cooperation over conflict” and warned of “dangerous currents pulling us back into a darker, disordered world,” where nations “assert themselves in a way that contravenes international law.” Obama said the US is willing to work with Russia and Iran to end the four-year Syrian civil war, but stressed there cannot be a return to the “status quo” under al-Assad, "who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children....We must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo." ~~~~~ Putin, however, told the General Assembly there is no alternative to cooperating with al-Assad's military in an effort to defeat ISIS, which has seized much of Syria and neighboring Iraq. Putin called for the creation of a broader international anti-terrorist coalition with majority-Moslem countries as members, a coalition that would compete with the US-led coalition assembled to fight ISIS. Putin blamed the US for fomenting democratic revolutions in the Middle East. "Do you now know what you have done?" he asked. Putin said : "We should finally acknowledge that no one but President Assad’s armed forces and (Kurdish) militia are truly fighting the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in Syria." ~~~~~ The rise of ISIS has seriously challenged Obama’s foreign policy, as the terrorist group Obama long refused to see as a major threat to the Middle East has created a humanitarian crisis in Syria with 250,000 Syrians dead and millions fleeing, leading to a refugee crisis in Europe and the wider Middle East. Despite calling for al-Assad to go in 2012, Obama has not been able to broker a political transition in Syria. In defiance of Obama, Putin took a bold step in calling for an anti-ISIS coalition that includes the al-Assad government. The military equipment, weapons and personnel Russia is sending to Syria are, Putin says, meant to help the country combat ISIS. But, Obama has suggested that Putin is simply trying to prop up al-Assad. ~~~~~ Other world leaders are also speaking up. French President Hollande says he will discuss with his partners a proposal by Turkey and members of the Syrian opposition for a no-fly zone in northern Syria. With 1.8 million Syrian refugees, Turkey has long called for a no-fly zone to keep ISIS and Kurdish militants away from its border and reduce the number of displaced Syrians entering Turkey. The idea has gained support in Europe where up to a million Syrian and Iraqi refugees are flooding into the EU. "Refugees could return to this [no-fly] zone," Hollande said, adding that the proposal could be finalized by a Security Council resolution. But UN diplomats say Russia would not support any such resolution. Turkey and the US said in July they were working on plans to provide air cover for Syrian rebels and jointly sweep ISIS fighters from a Syrian area along the Turkish border. But, the US has ruled out jointly imposing a formal no-fly zone. ~~~~~ Dear readers, Obama’s confrontational words - words are cheap - came before he met with Putin for the first time in nearly two years. The two leaders obviously discussed Russian intervention in Syria, but no details have been leaked. However, it is clear that Obama's offer to work with Russia and Iran, both al-Assad allies, is a reluctant admission of their influence in Syria, as well as an admission that Russia's blitzkreig military takeover of Syria and of Iraq's Baghdad forces caught the Obama White House and Secretary of State Kerry flat-footed. It will take muscular US leadership to neutralize Russia and Iran. But, nothing is less likely from Obama, who still has no Middle East policy and refuses to fully engage his military or rally US allies against Putin's strong-arm Middle East tactics. Ukraine was the Putin trial run -- the Middle East is Putin's frontal attack.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Russia Settles into Syria and Iraq

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he is ready to discuss Syria with Russia, stressing the need for coordination to avoid any "incident or accident" between Russian forces and US-led forces fighting ISIS. Stoltenberg, in New York for the annual General Assembly meeting, said it was "too early to determine" what Russian plans are in Syria, but it has an increased military presence there, including warplanes and air defenses. Stoltenberg will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in New York to encourage Russia "to play a constructive, cooperative role in fighting ISIS," adding that support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "is not a constructive contribution to finding a solution." He said he welcomed contacts between the US and Russia, and he didn't rule out an expanded NATO role in the fight against ISIS, but wouldn't give specifics. He welcomed independent French air strikes. Western officials say US Secretary of State John Kerry wants to launch a new effort at the UN General Assembly this week to try to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict. Kerry says it is vital to coordinate all efforts against ISIS but this is not yet happening. ~~~~~ As an indication of the lack of cooperation between the US and Russia in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday called US support for Syria rebel forces illegal and ineffective. "In my opinion, provision of military support to illegal structures runs counter to the principles of modern international law and the United Nations Charter," he said in an interview with US television networks CBS and PBS released by the Kremlin. Putin was interviewed ahead of a meeting with US President Barack Obama. Obama and Putin are scheduled to talk today after Putin addresses the UN, although White House and Kremlin officials disagree on what the two leaders will discuss and even who suggested the meeting. Russia has increased its military presence in Syria recently, and US officials accuse Moscow of sending combat aircraft, tanks and other equipment to help al-Assad's army. Russia's sudden military build-up in support of al-Assad has forced the US to rethink its Syria coalition, which now could include Russia, as well as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar that support Syrian opposition groups. Putin says al-Assad deserves support in his fight against "terrorists" and must be included in international efforts to fight ISIS, a demand the US rejects. Putin also criticized US plans to train 5,400 Syrian rebels to fight ISIS : "It turns out that only 60 of these fighters have been properly trained, and as few as four or five people actually carry weapons. The rest of them have deserted with the American weapons to join ISIS." Critics urge Obama to be more decisive in the Middle East and Syria - where the UN says 250,000 people have died in the four-year civil war - and say lack of a clear American policy has given ISIS opportunities to expand. ~~~~~ Dear readers, Russian news agency Interfax quoted a Russian military diplomatic source as saying a Baghdad committee might be formed to plan military operations and control armed units in the fight against ISIS. A Russian foreign ministry official told Interfax that Russia could "theoretically" join the US-led coalition against ISIS if al-Assad were included and international military operations in Syria had a UN mandate. Iraqi officials deny reports of a Baghdad coordination cell set up by Russian, Syrian and Iranian military commanders to work with Iranian-backed shiite militias in Iraq, seen by Iraq as key in its fight against radical sunni militants of ISIS. But, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari says the US-led coalition should bomb more ISIS targets in Iraq. Despite $20 billion in US aid and training, Iraq's army fled twice last year instead of fighting ISIS. If Obama refuses to change his failed Iraq/Syria tactics, Congress must force a change through budget controls. Obama is burning money with no hope of success. The Russian seizure of Syria/Iraq leadership makes a change of US regional policy imperative.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday Politics - John Boehner and the Future of the GOP

It's Saturday politics. One event overshadowed all others. ~~~~~ The shock of the year came Friday when House Speaker John Boehner -- under fire from the House tea party conservative Gang of 50 for several years and being threatened with a vote of confidence over their determination to shut down the government rather than agree to a budget that funds Planned Parenthood -- suddenly announced his resignation from Congress at the end of October. He had planned to retire at year's end. Boehner, 65, said : "Prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution....The first job of any speaker is to protect this institution that we all love." In an emotional news conference, Boehner thanked his family and constituents, and said he's proud of his accomplishments. Boehner said he plans to get as much work done as he can on outstanding fiscal issues before he leaves Congress at the end of October -- seen as a threat to join with Democrats to enact a clean budget, raise the debt ceiling and reinstate the Export-Import Bank. Boehner is a consummate compromise lawmaker who drove a conservative agenda to reduce government size and budgets : "My mission every day is to fight for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government. Over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children. I am proud of what we have accomplished." ~~~~~ John Boehner's resignation was a thunderbolt in Washington. President Obama said he was taken by surprise by Boehner's decision and phoned the Republican leader. Obama often unfairly attacked Speaker Boehner publicly, but said Friday : "John Boehner is a good man. He is a patriot. He cares deeply about the House....He cares about his constituents and he cares about America. We have obviously had a lot of disagreements, and politically we're at different ends of the spectrum, but I will tell you he has always conducted himself with courtesy and civility with me." Boehner said the choice of the next speaker is up to members of Congress, but he thinks House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy would make an "excellent Speaker." In a prepared statement, McCarthy praised Boehner for a "depth of character [that] is unmatched," adding : "Now is the time for our conference to focus on healing and unifying to face the challenges ahead and always do what is best for the American people." ~~~~~ Republicans at a Washington conference cheered when GOP presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio announced the news. Rubio said : "It's not about him or anybody else, and I'm not here to bash anyone, but the time has come to turn the page - and allow a new generation of leadership in this country." ~~~~~ Dear readers, Speaker Boehner and Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are despised by the tea party and Gang of 50 since they refuse to shut down government for battles they cannot win because of the Obama veto. Speaker Boehner was brought down by this uncompromising conservative minority Gang of 50 in the GOP House caucus, where the majority supports Boehner. The fear is that unless a GOP House leader emerges who can control the entire caucus, this vocal minority, with no realistic achievable plan for governing, may destroy the GOP's chance of winning the presidency in 2016. The tea party outsider fury that drove Boehner out may create again the perception that the GOP is divided and unable to govern. It will be a devastating legacy for the Gang of 50 -- reminiscent of the legacy of 1964 and as disastrous in 2016 as it was in 1964 -- unless a coalition of insider and outsider Republicans who honestly care about the survival of the GOP - Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush - can pull the GOP together, support the new House Speaker and provide policy leadership to go forward into 2016 as a united Party. If the outsider fury and know-nothing posturing of Donald Trump prevail, the Democrats will elect Hillary Clinton and the radical tea party conservatives will have destroyed not only the GOP but also America.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Pope Defends Religious Freedom

If there ever was a doubt that the United States of America is a Christian nation, it was dispelled yesterday at 10 a.m. when Pope Francis entered the chamber of the US House of Representatives. As he walked down the aisle, the members of the House and Senate, Supreme Court, executive departments and military cheered him. During his address -- with the US motto "In God We Trust" behind him and the medallion of Moses the Lawgiver looking down at him from the facing wall -- Francis reminded his prestigious audience of America's Christian tradition. What did we learn on Thursday? ~~~~~ One concern was that Pope Francis would be used as a partisan tool. President Obama already had tried to place the papal seal on his homosexual and climate change agendas. But, in his Congress address, the Pope parried, urging America to pursue social justice, but noting aspects every American can support as he or she thinks best — strengthening the family, abolishing the death penalty, fighting against poverty and welcoming immigrants. Francis said : "It is important that now, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus." Francis spoke about finding "common ground" - sorely lacking in Congress since Obama was elected President in 2008. While mainstream media may say the Pope spoke against conservative principles, it must be noted Francis has consistently spoken up conservatively for the family, protecting life at every moment and supporting religious liberty. ~~~~~ To emphasize his disagreements with Obama and Democrats, Francis altered his itinerary Wednesday to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns that care for the elderly. A Vatican spokesman said Francis visited them in order to express support for their legal battle with the federal government over the contraception mandate in ObamaCare. In a statement to the Washington Post, Sister Constance Veit, communications director for the nuns, said : “The Holy Father spoke to each of us individually, from the youngest postulant to our centenarian, and then he spoke to all (of) us about the importance of our ministry to the elderly. We were deeply moved by his encouraging words.” In his public remarks on religious liberty Wednesday at the White House, Pope Francis spoke generally : "With countless other people of good will, (American Catholics) are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and the right to religious liberty. That freedom (remains) one of America’s most precious possessions." The nuns want to be completely exempt from the contraception mandate, as churches are. Pope Francis’ support may give them the boost they need to topple Obama’s legacy achievement, or at least carve a place for religious groups to operate in the public sphere without violating the tenets of their faith. ~~~~~ GOP Presidential candidate and minister Mike Huckabee echoed Pope Francis when he suggested that President Obama "pretends to be" a Christian. When asked on Newsmax TV about Ben Carson's comment that a Moslem should not be President, the former Governor said there is no religious test for public office, but then made a comment about Obama : "I'm less concerned about what faith the person has. I'm more concerned about the authenticity of their faith and how that plays out in their politics...I'm also concerned about a guy that believes he's a Christian and pretends to be and then says he is, but then does things that makes it very difficult for people to practice their Christian faith." ~~~~~ Dear readers, as the Pope told Congress : "This land has inspired so many people to dream. God bless America." We may add, "and keep America Christian."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Pope's Security and Humanity

Everyone is repeating the story of Sophie Cruz, 5, the little Los Angeles girl who slipped past the Pope's security, as small children often squeeze into places meant to be off limits. She wanted to give Pope Francis a letter and t-shirt during a parade in Washington yesterday, but she was stopped by security before Francis motioned for her to approach him. She was quickly lifted up to Francis, where the Pope did what he so often does : he gave her a hug and kiss. ~~~~~ Francis is known for wading into crowds, kissing and blessing children, and accepting gifts from well-wishing strangers - even when tossed at him from crowds. But in the United States, Francis is surrounded by security that includes Vatican security officers, Secret Service agents, uniformed federal agents and local police keeping most onlookers at a distance. For the first time, tickets are required for most of Francis' popemobile processions, and those lucky enough to get one through lotteries or their parishes still had to pass through metal detectors to get into position. In New York, security screening will be part of "layers and layers and layers of protection" for the Pope, including 6,000 extra police officers and counter-terrorism units, according to John Miller, the top NYPD security official. Police will also be "looking for...potential terrorist threats, not to the Pope, but to the crowd. And we have layers behind that," Miller said. Vatican spokesman, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, said that, despite tight security, Francis "intends to move around as he usually does" -- along parade routes or outside events in Washington, New York and Philadelphia. ~~~~~ Pope Francis, the object of these unwanted but necessary security measures, is, after all, a priest -- a special priest, since he is the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church and its 1.2 billion faithful. What he wants is to be able to touch, bless and speak with them. Despite his speeches emphasizing global poverty, climate change, caring for migrants and providing a welcoming church that is pastoral rather than doctrinaire, when asked what he sees as the world's greatest problems, he answered : "the loneliness of the elderly and the lack of opportunity for the young." He spoke of America's devotion to liberty and freedom of religion, and noted that America’s vast resources demand a deep sense of moral responsibility. Later, the Pope spoke to his “brother” bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, site of President Kennedy's 1963 funeral and of a mass offered by Pope Saint John-Paul in 1979. He spoke warmly, praising the bishops for their work with immigrants and for the first time praised their handling of the church’s sex-abuse scandals, telling them : "I am also conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficult moments in the recent history of the Church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice." He urged the bishops not to be silent toward the “innocent victims of abortion.” He mentioned children who die of hunger and bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better future, the elderly and sick, victims of terror, war and drug trafficking, and an environment “devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature.” American bishops have not always agreed with Francis' spiritual messages, but they listened and will surely do their best. The Pope said : "Know that the Pope is by your side. The Pope supports you. He also puts his hand on yours, a hand wrinkled with age, but by God’s grace still able to support and encourage.” ~~~~~ Dear readers, we may disagree with Francis on issues - reflecting our political principles - but it is hard not to be drawn to this humble, loving man who has touched the world's heart. It would be better to ask what it says about the state of the world when Pope Francis, a man of peace, has trouble stepping out of his security bubble to reach people, when his gesture is seen as special. The evil that stalks us must not prevent us from being loving human beings.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Russia Takes Syria while the US Watches

Gulf Arabs oppose Russia's military intervention in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying it will prolong the war and keep Syria firmly on the side of their arch rival, Iran. Russia confirms it is providing arms to al-Assad, a longtime ally, and has sent military to advise on their use against ISIS and other jihadist groups. Russia has also staged naval exercises off Syria. The United States, which opposes both ISIS and al-Assad, says Russia has sent fighter jets, tanks and heavy equipment to Syria. On Monday, US officials said Russia is now flying drone aircraft surveillance missions in Syria. Saudi Arabia and the other sunni Gulf states have not said how they intend to deal with the arrival of the Russian forces. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir described the Russian military moves as an "escalation" and stated at a recent meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar - that Syria can have no future while al-Assad remains in power. A GCC statement urged a political solution to the Syrian crisis "without any foreign intervention" - referring to Russia and Iran. While Saudi Arabia prefers a political solution, al-Jubeir said : "the military choice is still available, as the Syrian opposition is still fighting the regime with more efficiency with the passing of time." The Gulf states have said that they, like the US, won't let the Syrian rebels they fund engage Russian forces militarily. The Gulf Arabs continue to say that al-Assad cannot survive despite Russia's military support. But, Russia says the US-led air strikes on ISIS positions in Syria are unlikely to succeed and it has called for international dialogue with al-Assad. Syria is strategically critical to Russia because its naval base at Tartous is its sole installation in the Mediterranean and supports its regional influence. The Assad family has also historically been one of Russia's best clients for arms sales. ~~~~~ ABC News reports a significant increase in the Russian military presence in Syria --- Russia sent 24 more fighter aircraft last weekend to the Latakia airfield that US officials say is the center for Russian air operations in Syria. US officials say the arrival of Russian military equipment continues at the airfield located in an al-Assad stronghold, including 15 Mi-17 and Mi-24 attack helicopters, double the number at the base last week. The US also confirms there are 36 Russian armored personnel carriers, nine tanks and two air-defense missile systems at the Latakia airfield. Some are types of equipment needed to defend the new operations center. There are now an estimated 500 Russian military personnel at Latakia. But American officials are still "unclear" about Russian intentions. ~~~~~ Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Israel and Russia have agreed to coordinate military actions over Syria in order to avoid accidentally trading fire, Prime Minister Netanyahu said after a meeting with Russian President Putin in Moscow. Briefing Israeli reporters on Monday, Netanyahu said his goal was "preventing misunderstandings between Israeli units and Russian forces" in Syria. Netanyahu also said he had informed the Americans "on each and every detail" of his Moscow visit. A US official told Reuters that US-Israeli coordination allowed the sharing of classified technologies for identifying Russian aircraft over Syria : "We know how to spot them clearly and quickly." ~~~~~ Dear readers, the Gulf states are privately critical of President Obama for allowing Russia and Iran to carve out an al-Assad enclave that gives them Mediterranean access. Where is US Secretary of State John Kerry in this? This afternoon he said : "For the moment, it is the judgment of our military and experts that the level and type represents basically force protection." But, that is not the issue. Why is Russian military in Syria at all? It is just one more Obama/Kerry sellout to Iran. The US military understands. But, how long will Congress remain a silent toothless tiger? When will it oppose Obama?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Dr. Carson, the Constitution and the Media

Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson has reaffirmed his view that a Moslem should not be President of the United States. Carson started a media firestorm on Sunday when he told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that he “would not advocate that we put a Moslem in charge of this nation.” Later, Carson told The Hill : "I do not believe Sharia is consistent with the Constitution of this country. Moslems feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.” Carson also mentioned "Taqiya," a practice in Shia Islam in which a Moslem apparently can mislead nonbelievers about the nature of their faith to avoid persecution : “Taqiya is a component of Shia that allows, and even encourages you to lie to achieve your goals.” In his own defense, Carson said he is one of the few presidential candidates willing to tell hard truths. Carson said : "We are a different kind of nation. Part of why we rose so quickly is because we wouldn’t allow our values or principles to be supplanted because we were going to be politically correct…part of the problem now is we’re so busy trying to be politically correct (PC), that we lose all perspective.” Carson described Todd's question of a Moslem President asked to all GOP presidential hopefuls who appear on his show as possibly being gotcha journalism meant to trip them up. But, he said the question “served a useful purpose by providing the opportunity to talk about what Sharia is and what their goals are.” ~~~~~ So far, there has been no media discussion of Sharia or Taqiya. But there has been abundant media and candidate misinformation blaming Carson for not understanding the US Constitution, Article VI, Clause 3 : "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." Since Sunday, everyone has attacked Carson using Clause 3, twisting it to mean that the religion of American political candidates cannot be discussed. ~~~~~ This is wrong. Candidate religious views can be discussed. Clause 3 means that local, state or federal government cannot make the practice or non-practice of religion a part of what qualifies or disqualifies an American from running for any office. It also forbids any oath of office that requires or forbids an elected officeholder to swear to adhere to and/or support any religion. Clause 3 was written to prevent in America an 18th century England practice -- that all officeholders and the monarch had to be Anglican and take an oath to support the Anglican Church when being sworn in - still required of the British monarch. ~~~~~ Dear readers, I think Dr. Carson was thinking about the First Amendment separation of church and state -- if a candidate for office cannot separate his or her religion from politics, (s)he should not hold office. But, his detractors missed that and are talking about Clause 3's interdiction of religious tests as a qualification for office. Carson's comments are about whether Moslem dogma on society and religion creates religious obligations that may make Moslems unable to separate the duties of President under the Constitution from their religious duties. In 1960, when critics said his duties as a Catholic could interfere with his presidential obligations, John Kennedy said he couldn't see that happening, but that if it did, he would resign. The debate Dr. Carson has begun is about the religious qualities Americans want in their President and about the First Amendment separation of church and state. A debate about the Clause 3 interdiction of state religious tests for officeholders is not useful - it's settled law. But, First Amendment political issues should not be cut off by media PC constitutional worries.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tsipras Victory - Will the EU Help Him?

Alexis Tsipras has secured another dramatic victory in the snap general election he called in Greece after having to turn to conservatives in the Greek parliament to get approval for the larest EU bailout program this past summer. Tsipras' opponents, the anti-austerity Popular Unity and center-right New Democracy conceded defeat Sunday afternoon as the vote count showed a Syriza party victory for Tsipras. With most votes counted, Syriza is projected to finish with 145 seats. There will be coalition partners, but the difference this time is that Syriza’s most rebellious MPs have now defected to Popular Unity and will not be voting in the coalition. New coalition rebels could emerge as the difficult bailout measures are carried out, but Eurozone politicians will be pleased that Tsipras is pledging to clean up the darker elements of Greek society, including putting an end to systemic corruption. Tsipras declared : “In Europe now, Greece and the Greek people are synonymous with resistance and dignity, and this struggle will be continued together for another four years...We have difficulties ahead, but we are also on firm ground. We won’t recover from the struggle by magic, but it can happen with hard work.” Syriza supporters celebrated in Athens this evening as Tsipras told them that victory belongs to the people and thanked the electorate : "I feel vindicated by this success," he said, recognizing the Greek people who handed him a clear mandate to govern for a full four-year term, and singling out the young people of Greece, thanking them for backing Syriza again. ~~~~~ In the run-up to Greece's Sunday snap election, the governing far-left Syriza party was in a tight race with center-right New Democracy, which finished 7 points behind at 28%. There were also fears that the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party might benefit from electoral anger over the migrant crisis facing Greece. The Guardian had said Golden Dawn might be "Europe's most dangerous political force....Touring Kos and other Aegean islands most affected by the influx, Golden Dawn MPs brazenly played on locals' fears. ‘Elections are approaching,' Ilias Kasidiaris, the party's swastika-tattooed spokesman, told residents. ‘Kos has a choice. If [inhabitants] choose to vote Syriza it will turn into Pakistan. If they choose Golden Dawn and Golden Dawn governs the land, then Kos will become Greece again. And that is our goal.'" Despite the Guardian's predictions, Golden Dawn got only 7% of Sunday's vote. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the bailout-reform road ahead of Akexis Tsipras is steep and full of dangers for the Greek people as they try to meet EU belt-tightening demands on already-empty stomachs. Tsipras will need all his political and management skills to get through what is essentially the latest chapter of a program always designed to repay EU banks and sovereign lenders without much regard for the impact on the Greek people. And, on top of an already daunting economic and fiscal task, the new Tsipras government will have to meet the challenge of Greece's central role in Europe's migration crisis, which could intensify as countries, such as Hungary, Croatia and Bulgaria, further along the land route north across the Balkans, either close or greatly restrict entry at their frontiers. In another migrant disaster, on Sunday as Greeks voted, 13 migrants died in Turkish waters when a boat carrying 46 people enroute to Greece collided with a dry cargo vessel and capsized, according to a Turkish coast guard source. An estimated 250,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Greece so far this year, six times more than during all of 2014. Perhaps now that Alexis Tsipras has promised to fall into line with the EU bailout program, the EU will actually give Greece, an EU member after all, some money for itself - to help the overrun and overwhelmed Greek islands handle their massive migrant influx. But don't bet the family jewels on the EU to do anything right -- you would probably lose.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday Politics - Obama Insults the Political Pope Francis

It's Saturday Politics. Pope Francis heads a papacy that is overtly political - from climate change to Israel-Palestine relations to helping President Obama re-open US diplomatic relations with Cuba. Next week, Pope Francis will visit the United States for the first time. To thank the Pope for his helpful Cuban diplomacy, President Obama will give His Holiness a slap in the face. A guest list for the Pope's welcome ceremony to be held on the White House's South Lawn Wednesday was released by the White House and some of the guests offend the Vatican and test the Pope's well-documented tolerance, according to the Wall Street Journal. President Obama has invited **transgender activists Mateo Williamson and Vivian Taylor, **the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, Bishop Gene Robinson, and **Sister Simone Campbell, an activist nun who leads a group criticized by the Vatican for its silence on abortion and euthanasia. ~~~~~ The Pope has said that Catholics do not accept the modern mentality of transgenderism and that gay marriage is the devil's "attempt to destroy God's plan." Both Obama and Francis will speak at the welcome ceremony. Perhaps the Pope will paper over Obama's faux pas. Perhaps Obama will apologize for causing the Pope discomfort -- in his speech or later in the one-on-one Oval Office meeting. But, don't count on it. Obama as President has seldom apologized to anyone for anything. He prefers to blame others for his mistakes. ~~~~~ Rush Limbaugh said on his TV show : "Some people are saying that this is perfectly Obama. He's got the Pope coming, and he wants to insult the Pope, put pressure on the Pope, and challenge the Pope." White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that he was unaware of the guest list but said that "there will be 15,000 other people there, too." Perhaps Obama has disagreements with the political and social positions of the Catholic Church headed by the Pope, but he has chosen to highlight them in a particularly boorish manner. A senior Vatican official says the Holy See has noted its concerns that any photos of the Pope with these controversial guests could be interpreted as an endorsement of their activities. ~~~~~ The White House is known as "the people's house." No residence of any head of government is as open to the public. The building has always been called "the people's house." It was completed one year after Washington's death. The first President to occupy the home, then known as "The President's House," was John Adams, the Second President, who moved into the unfinished mansion in late 1800, during his final weeks in office. Adams started the custom of hosting an open reception for the public on New Year's Day. Long lines of people gathered to meet the President and his wife, Abigail, shake hands, and enjoy free refreshments. The next President, Thomas Jefferson, continued the New Year's Day receptions, shaking hands with every visitor. Jefferson said : "When brought together in society all are perfectly equal, whether foreign or domestic, titled or untitled, in or out of office." The British burned the White House during the War of 1812, but James Madison rented a home for New Year's Day receptions. When the White House was rebuilt, James Monroe brought the receptions back in 1818. Abraham Lincoln shook hands with so many visitors at his New Year's Day reception in 1863 that he had severe cramps in his hand and had to wait to sign the Emancipation Proclamation until the swelling in his hand subsided. The next year, Lincoln invited the city's black residents to the reception. The last New Year's Day reception was held in 1932. Because of the Depression, Herbert Hoover had no reception and FDR never restored it. Since the 9/11 attacks, White House access has been limited. But, from public tours to lawn Easter egg rolls to lighting the national Christmas tree, the White House remains the people's house. ~~~~~ Dear readers, President Obama has no right to insult the Pope, admired by 80% of Americans, or any guest of America, while they are in the people's house.

Friday, September 18, 2015

An Exceptional Presidential Debate

The GOP presidential debate Wednesday night was, for me, the best presidential debate ever. We were privileged to watch 11 exceptional Republicans present their views clearly, forcefully and honestly. Each of us has our own favorite candidate, and last night's debate probably reinforced our opinions. But, what we learned during the debate is that the GOP has a stable of mature leaders, any one of which would be an infinitely better US President than any candidate the Democratic Party can field. ~~~~~ Why do I say this? First, every Republican candidate spoke with reverence about the US Constitution. They made the rule of law under the Constitution their guiding principle for governing -- with respect for separation of powers, co-equal branches of government and the entire Bill of Rights that informs their determination to reduce taxes, empower the middle class and control government expenditures and regulation. Second, every Republican candidate spoke forcefully about protecting America from terrorism by canceling the Iran nuclear deal, and rebuilding the military gutted by the budget sequester and President Obama's purge of line officers who refused to kowtow to his views. Third, they all see the failure of Obama's weak world leadership and are determined to make America the world's leader again by taking control of the ISIS mess, confronting Russian President Putin and protecting Israel and our other friends around the world. And, finally, every Republican candidate spoke openly and proudly of the Christian faith and ethic that underpins the American body politic and gives form to American morality -- from their horror at the government-funded sale of fetal tissue to their willingness to give a name to the enemy, radical islamic terrorism. ~~~~~ Listen to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden --- you will hear talk about expanding social programs, raising taxes, and walking on the Constitution and Bill of Rights --- with not a word about selling fetus tissue or America's defining Christian character. ~~~~~ So, dear readers, as the polls come in, some GOP candidates may fall away, but don't despair. Whoever the Republican candidate is, vote confidently for him or her -- the GOP winner will make you proud and put America back on track. There's a reason it's called the Grand Old Party. [Newsmax TV viewer poll, front-runner Donald Trump placed first in the statistically non-valid poll, followed by Carly Fiorina, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Here are the results from the Newsmax poll: Donald Trump 46.26% Carly Fiorina 20.11% Sen. Marco Rubio 9.32% Dr. Ben Carson 9.22% Sen. Ted Cruz 5.67% Gov. John Kasich 3.10% Gov. Chris Christie 2.14% Gov. Jeb Bush 1.45% Sen. Rand Paul 1.27% Gov. Mike Huckabee 1.04% Gov. Scott Walker 0.41%]

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

US Funding of the Sale of Aborted Fetal Tissue Is a Moral Issue

Not only are Democrats standing firmly behind the foolhardy Obama Iran nuclear deal that he obstinately forced through the Senate using a Democrat filibuster that prevented both debate and a vote -- now Democrats in Congress are threatening to block passage of the budget because it defunds Planned Parenthood (PPFA). ~~~~~ Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigating PPFA have said Republicans have no evidence that the women's health and abortion provider sold aborted fetal tissue for profit. The Democrat minority staff of the Committee's oversight subcommittee released a memo Wednesday trying to discredit claims by Republicans that PPFA illegally sold fetal body parts as alleged in a series of undercover videos from the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Committee ranking Democrat member Frank Pallone and oversight ranking member Diana DeGette said : "Despite the incendiary rhetoric, we have looked strictly at the facts. We are continuing to do our due diligence, but we have found these claims to be unsubstantiated. Instead, these attacks appear to be part of a coordinated campaign on the part of the CMP and others to simply discredit Planned Parenthood and undermine a woman's legal right to safe reproductive healthcare." ~~~~~ Here is dialogue from the latest CMP “Human Capital” series, the 10th undercover video showing Planned Parenthood’s baby-parts trafficking efforts. The video discusses the sale of fetal parts that Democrats deny. CMP says : “The video highlights conversations with Dr. Carolyn Westhoff, Senior Medical Advisor for PPFA; Dr. Vanessa Cullins, Vice President for External Medical Affairs for PPFA; and Deborah VanDerhei, National Director for the Consortium of Abortion Providers (CAPS) at PPFA.” VanDerhei talks about “donation for remuneration,” referring to buying baby tissue, which CMP notes “carries the connotation of financial reward or benefit without regard for actual expenses.” VanDerhei says, “I have been talking to the executive director of the National Abortion Federation -- we’re trying to figure this out as an industry - about how we’re going to manage remuneration - because the headlines would be a disaster.” VanDerhei adds, “[W]e have independent colleagues who generate a fair amount of income doing this, which is why they don’t want a paper trail via email. It’s an issue that you might imagine we’re not really that comfortable talking about on email.” The 10th video then shows Dr. Deborah Nucatola in footage from the first CMP video, saying : “There are no guidelines on tissue procurement. And there will never be guidelines. Folks will ask the national office questions, and we certainly have answers to those questions, but we don’t have a policy per se, and that is by choice.” (The choice is clearly to distance the national PPFA from affiliates who traffic baby parts.) CMP then says, “Vanessa Cullins, the Vice President of External Medical Affairs, seems fully aware of the criminal exposure that fetal body parts sales present to PPFA when she says : "This is important. This could destroy your organization and us, if we don’t time those conversations correctly." She is talking to a prospective buyer. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the take-away from this video is that these doctors and officials know that many people have major problems with what they’re doing, and that they’re at best skirting the law. But instead of saying that carving up aborted babies for research material is good practice, they hide their deeds, refuse to state their policy and speak in euphemisms, and then they blame CMP for “heavily editing” the videos. These are all good indications that they know they are wrong. PPFA has abandoned ethics, instead seeking PR solutions. But, the issue is not whether Planned Parenthood has broken laws -- this is the reason Democrats will use to blame the GOP for a government shutdown, appealing to narrow legal arguments. The real question is moral -- does America really want to fund killing fetuses and cutting up the fetal tissue for profit.

Iran and Obama -- the Deal Gets Ever More Sordid

Are we surprised that Iran has discovered a new big reserve of uranium and will soon begin extracting it at the mine in Yazd province. The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization reported this on Saturday. The news contradicts prior evaluations by western analysts who said Iran would need to import uranium for use in its nuclear program. Some western analysts had said that Iran was close to exhausting its raw uranium supply and that mining it domestically was not cost-efficient. A 2013 report by the US Carnegie Endowment and the Federation of American Scientists said the scarcity and low quality of Iran's uranium resources forced it "to rely on external sources of natural and processed uranium...Despite the Iranian leaders' assertions to the contrary, Iran's estimated uranium endowments are nowhere near sufficient to supply its planned nuclear program." Now, the idea that Iran could become self-sufficient will gnaw at world powers that signed the nuclear deal with Iran -- a deal opposed by a large majority of Americans but approved by the US by means of a Democratic filibuster preventing a Senate vote earlier this month. ~~~~~ Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi told state news agency IRNA : "I cannot announce (the level of) Iran's uranium mine reserves. The important thing is that before aerial prospecting for uranium ores, we were not too optimistic, but the new discoveries have made us confident about our reserves." Salehi said aerial uranium exploration had covered two-thirds of Iran and would be complete before 2020. Uranium can be used for energy production and scientific purposes, but is also essential for nuclear weapons. US State Department spokesman John Kirby said any new Iranian reserves of uranium will be under the same monitoring as existing mines under the nuclear agreement : "Any violation of that commitment would be met with the appropriate response." Sanctions on companies in Iran's uranium mining industry will be lifted when the nuclear deal is fully implemented. ~~~~~ One group of US experts would not be surprised that Iran hid its new uranium deposits from the US-led P1+5 negotiators and UN/IAEA scientists. A Defense One survey recently found deep skepticism among US active-duty military and civilian national security employees when they were asked to evaluate the statement, “The Iran nuclear deal is a good deal for the United States” --- 66% of responders disagreed — and two-thirds of that group “strongly disagreed.” When asked what the US should do about it, 62% said the US would be better off rejecting the deal and keeping current sanctions in place. Half said the US should compensate for the deal by increasing arms sales to countries in the Middle East. ~~~~And, dear readers, now we learn that President Obama knew about a link between the terrorist group that attacked the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 and Iran, but he has not yet told Americans. Documents captured by SEAL Team 6 after they killed Osama bin Laden reportedly show that al-Qaida was welcome in Iran. Around 2006, al-Qaida wanted to set up an Iran office, but it was too expensive. Before the Iran nuclear deal was signed, the Wall Street Journal wrote : “[E]arlier this summer the State Department’s latest country report on terrorism said Iran had ‘previously’ allowed al-Qaida ‘to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran,’ implying this was over. Less than a month later, President Obama announced the Iran nuclear deal." While he hid the information from Americans prior to the unpopular Iran deal, Obama could now release bin Laden files related to Iran. The WSJ said : "[I]f the President doesn’t release the documents, Congress ought to demand them." Before Obama gives Iran $150 billion and a nuclear capability, Congress and America deserve to see these documents, as well as the Iran deal secret side agreements. But it will take House legal action by Speaker Boehner and the GOP caucus to pry them loose from Obama.The fate of the dangerous Obama Iran deal is far from decided but we could ask, who lies more - Iran or Obama?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Immigrant America and Today's Dilemma

Every year my sister and brother and I remember, on September 15th, our grandfather's birthday. ~~~~~ Grandpa died quickly, in an ambulance on his way to hospital at the venerable age of 85 - more or less - because his age was, like that of many early 20th century immigrants to America - vague. He was the child of a family that was a mix of Greek, French and English. He was raised in Athens by parents who taught their children - boys and girls - to value education and culture. He was the coddled youngest son, but was sent to relatives in London so that, barely a teenager, he would be spared Greek conscription prior to World War I. ~~~~~ From London, he followed his two older brothers to New York City. Like them, Grandpa had engineering training and worked in New York as an engineer handling heating systems in a big Manhattan hotel. Then, he answered an ad for engineers to go to a new town in Pennsylvania to help start a steel mill. He was hired and so his path led him from Athens to London to New York City to a small, newly created "steel town" in the developing steel empire of western Pennsylvania. His American dream was becoming reality. It was in the little town expanding along a river not far from Pittsburgh that he met my grandmother. She was the daughter of the manager who supervised Grandpa. He was invited to Sunday lunch and the rest is history. ~~~~~ Grandpa spoke six languages. He loved opera and sang arias like we hum popular songs. He could fix anything. Anything. But, for us, his genius was his command of Greek culture and mythology. He taught us about honor, duty, compassion and love through tales of Olympian gods that we will never forget. He was a Greek Catholic in a town full of Methodists and Presbyterians. My grandmother was a calvinist and Grandpa went to church every Sunday with her and made sure we did, too. Yet, it was on quiet afternoons that he told us stories of monks on Mount Athos and about the sunny, less dark visage of God as Athenians saw Him. Grandpa taught us to enjoy honeydew melons and black olives and olive oil. And, when we were ill, he would arrive with blue cheese, pears and grapes. We can vouch for their therapeutic effect. ~~~~~ But above all, Grandpa taught us tolerance and brotherly love, and the joy of being humans together that led him to give gifts to everyone he knew, all year round. It wasn't charity. It was love. And he often reminded us that the world is a big place with enough joy and beauty and love for everyone. ~~~~~ Why do I tell you about my grandfather? He was a special person that I was blessed to know. But, Grandpa was only one of the new Americans who came to the little town in western Pennsylvania that, thanks to him, became my hometown. It was founded by Anglo-saxon American Protestants - WASPs. But the steel mill attracted Italians, Polish, Lithuanians, Chechoslovaks. During my teen years, we had our first Italian police chief and doctor, our first Polish doctor, our first elected Black high school class officer and first Black football quarterback. We learned to like pasta and polish sausages and eastern European Easter pastries. There were pinch points, to be sure, mostly related to the fact that we were Protestant and the new arrivals were Catholic. But, it didn't take too long for my generation to get past that. ~~~~~ Dear readers, today, Europe is feeling the influx of Middle East Moslem migrants. And, Europe is asking America to accept more of these migrants. America's history -- indeed Europe's history -- should make this a no-brainer. But it isn't. There is a hesitancy, a fear, that Syrian and other Middle East migrants are dangers to our way of life - our culture. Of course, we mean religion -- our Christianity vs their Islam. They live in unwelcoming enclaves, and we wonder if they plot our downfall. It is more than ISIS. It is an historic clash of disparate cultures, politics and religion. I cannot say we will succeed. Much work is needed -- especially an effort of Islam to accept democratic humanist western society.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The EU Refugee Dilemma Can Be Resolved Only by Ending the War in Syria

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has welcomed Germany's re-introduction of border controls, telling German newspaper Bild that it was necessary to protect German and European values. "We have great understanding for Germany's decision and we'd like to express our solidarity," he said in comments to be published today. But, he said this should only be a first step, since Greece's borders also need to be protected as soon as possible. Germany re-imposed border controls on Sunday after admitting that it could not cope with the thousands of asylum seekers arriving every day. Germany said the temporary measure would take effect first on the southern border with Austria, where migrant arrivals have skyrocketed since Chancellor Angela Merkel singlehandedly put in abeyance the Dublin rules requiring registration of migrants in the first EU country they enter, when she opened German borders a week ago to unregistered refugees coming from other EU countries. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere explained the border closure : "The aim of these measures is to limit the current inflows to Germany and to return to orderly procedures when people enter the country." De Maiziere said it was also necessary for security reasons. Open borders among the European countries that signed the Schengen Treaty are a crucial part of the EU project but controls can be re-introduced, provided they are only temporary. ~~~~~ Today, deeply divided European Union ministers will meet to try to put order into their migrant crisis. The EU executive Commission issued a statement saying : "The free movement of people under Schengen is a unique symbol of European integration. However, the other side of the coin is a better joint management of our external borders and more solidarity in coping with the refugee crisis." At today's emergency meeting, the 28 EU member state interior ministers will discuss Commission proposals to distribute 160,000 asylum seekers across the EU. Berlin made clear it wants EU partners to share the migrant burden. The Commission statement said : "We need swift progress on the Commission's proposals now," in an obvious reference to the tens of thousands of people heading to Europe to flee war and poverty in Syria and other parts of the Middle East, Asia and Africa. ~~~~~ The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, has called on every EU member state to take in a share of asylum-seekers under a Brussels plan that some countries have refused to accept. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has gained the backing of the UNHCR in appealing for the creation of effective reception centers to register and screen people arriving in the Schengen states of Greece, Italy and Hungary. A UNHCR statement said : "This must be accompanied by the rapid implementation of a relocation program as proposed by the European Commission." ~~~~~ While the EU and the UNHCR try to stabilize the refugee and migrant situation in Europe despite deep political differences among European governments, the crisis claimed more lives on Sunday when 34 refugees, almost half of them babies and children, drowned off a Greek island when their boat sank. When Germany opened its borders, it said it could manage the tens of thousands of migrants it attracted by sea and land, often via Turkey and the Greek islands, and then onwards through the Balkans, Hungary and Austria. Police said 13,000 arrived in the southern German city of Munich on Saturday, and another 3,000 on Sunday morning. But the result of Germany's largesse is that it has now joined smaller, poorer countries like Greece and Hungary in struggling to handle the huge flow of desperate people. So, Germany has halted train traffic from Austria, a spokeswoman for Austrian rail company OeBB said on Sunday. Trains from Austria to Germany will be stopped until 5:00 am (0300 GMT) on Monday, the Bavaria interior minister said. German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who is also vice-chancellor, told the website of Der Tagesspiegel newspaper : "It's true : the European lack of action in the refugee crisis is now pushing even Germany to the limit of its ability." Interior Minister De Maiziere defended Merkel's decisions to both open and then close Germany's border with Austria, but he insisted the Dublin rules are still valid. He said : "We need to quickly return to orderly procedures now. We can't allow refugees to freely choose where they want to stay - that's not the case anywhere in the world." ~~~~~ The European Commission said Germany appeared legally justified in reimposing border controls with Austria, saying the move showed the need for EU states to back the executive's proposed plans for refugees : "The temporary reintroduction of border controls between member states is an exceptional possibility explicitly foreseen in and regulated by the Schengen Borders Code, in case of a crisis situation. The current situation in Germany, prima facie, appears to be a situation covered by the rules." It added that the executive would keep the situation under review and said the aim would be to return to the normal situation of no border checks between member states of the Schengen zone "as soon as feasible." ~~~~~~Most asylum seekers are refusing to stay in the poorer southern European countries where they arrive, such as Greece, and are instead making their way to Germany or Sweden where they anticipate a warmer welcome and better social benefits. Many Germans have greeted the arrivals with cheers and volunteers are flooding in to help. But, central European countries disagree and are hostile to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, rejecting compulsory quotas. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Sunday : "We are helping, we are ready to help, but on a voluntary basis. The quotas won’t work." In Slovakia, Interior Minister Robert Kalinak said he would try to block quotas : "They don't make any sense...and don't solve the crisis in any way." he said. Poland said it might accept more migrants, but only if the EU secures its external borders, separates those who need help from economic migrants, and allows Warsaw a say in screening them from the viewpoint of security. ~~~~~ Dear readers, while Europe ponders their fate, the migrants continue to risk all on their journeys to Europe -- death by drowning, weeks of marching without sure sources of food, water, or shelter, and hostile border security patrols -- all at high cost and with many taking young children with them. On Saturday evening and Sunday morning, 8,500 migrants entered Macedonia from Greece, according to the UNHCR. Hungarian state TV reported that 8,000 to 10,000 migrants had crossed into Austria at Hegyeshalom by 6 p.m. and several thousand more were expected by the end of the day. The influx will not stop. And there is little acceptable action that Europe can take to halt the migration that now includes up to 80% Syrian refugees, but also a mix of Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Yemenis. EU ministers and the UNHCR will continue to talk. But, other EU leaders know that only peace in Syria will provide the beginning of real relief. That is why Chancellor Merkel has "welcomed" the increased military activity of Russia in Syria. And it is why a majority of French citizens are, for the first time, in favor of sending troops to fight ISIS militants in Syria, a prospect that President Francois Hollande flatly ruled out recently. A poll released on Sunday showed 56% of those questioned were in favor of a ground intervention as part of an international coalition. France began reconnaissance missions over Syria last week in preparation for a decision on whether to launch air strikes against ISIS militants in Syria. Until now France has only taken part in air strikes against ISIS in Iraq. And rumors in the UK suggest that British troops are positioned and ready to move into Syria, although Parliament has not yet given approval. Senior European military and political leaders are now beginning to understand what the US Congress and American people have known for four years -- returning the Middle East to some sort of balanced truce between sunnis and shiites begins in Syria. President Obama and his White House advisors have not yet understood, and so the destruction and displacement of people continues.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Saturday Politics : 21st Centuy Politics Is Often about Terrorism

It's Saturday Politics -- and this week "politics" is worldwide and often tied to terrorism. Let's take a look. ~~~~~ Northern Ireland's power-sharing government is falling apart. On Thursday, Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson resigned as the UK province headed toward the deepest crisis since a 1998 peace deal ended years of sectarian violence. The current political crisis began when a senior Sinn Fein figure was arrested in connection with the shooting of a former Irish Republican Army (IRA) gunman last month. Sinn Fein was the political wing of the IRA during 30 years of sectarian violence known as The Troubles, which was largely brought to an end by a peace deal in 1998. Sinn Fein, which wants Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland, shares the governing of Northern Ireland with the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The DUP is concerned that the murder of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast indicates that the IRA is still active, although Sinn Fein strongly denies this. On Thursday, Robinson said : "The DUP has made it clear it will not be involved in business as usual. If others want the assembly to function normally in spite of Sinn Fein's position, we will have reached the point where, as a last resort, we will take this final step." The crisis may trigger early elections. Sinn Fein's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, long thought to be a former senior IRA leader, said the crisis was down to "inter-party rivalry" among unionist (i.e., pro-British) parties, adding that suspending the assembly would be a mistake. He told reporters : "I think it would send a very negative message and would be grist to the mill of those who in the past have tried to plunge us back to the past." Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said that there was a "limited opportunity" to avert the collapse of Northern Ireland's power-sharing administration, and if it fell, it could be a very long time before it resumed. During The Troubles before the peace accord of 1998, terrorism was the daily fare in Northern Ireland -- fed by IRA pipe bombs, smashed kneecaps and midnight murders of those who supported the DUP government. The IRA has been called terrorist since it was formed in the 1916 period to wage guerrilla war against British government in Ireland. ~~~~~ German Chancellor Angela Merkel is feeling political heat from the many Germans accusing Merkel's government of losing control of the refugee situation. Another record influx of asylum seekers is expected in Germany over the weekend. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that up to 40,000 migrants might arrive in Germany on Saturday and Sunday, twice as many as last weekend, when authorities in Bavaria warned they were barely coping. In a sign that the government itself is concerned, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said she had put 4,000 troops on standby to help with the influx, a rare step in Germany that is usually reserved for natural disasters. The refugees are arriving from Syria, Iraq and other countries as far away as Bangladesh. They are Moslem and unregistered before knocking on the EU's door, and some EU leaders worry that jihadist terrorists may be imbedded with them. Austria followed Denmark's lead by closing the highway between Vienna and the Hungarian border as 8,000 refugees flooded into Austria on Thursday and a further 4,500 arrived overnight, Austrian police said. The rail link to Hungary also remains shut due to "massive overburdening" by the migrants. Denmark has refused to accept any more refugees. Hungary is racing to complete a fence along its border with Serbia by early October to help stem the refugee tide. It also plans to implement much tougher immigration rules beginnlng next week. Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a populist who has framed the crisis as a battle to preserve Europe's prosperity and "Christian identity," angrily criticized the behavior of the 100,000+ mostly Moslem migrants who have been filling up central Budapest and disrupting traffic along roads running westward to Austria. Orban told the media : "They seized railway stations, rejected giving fingerprints, failed to cooperate and are unwilling to go to places where they would get food, water, accommodation and medical care...They rebelled against Hungarian legal order." And news now circulatibg in Europe concerns the father of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, whose dead body washed-up on a Turkey beach caused Merkel to open the German gates to refugees. Aylan's father, Abdullah Kurdi, was apparently working with people traffickers and driving the flimsy boat that capsized trying to reach Greece, according to other passengers on board the boat, who dispute the version Kurdi gave last week. One of them, Jawwad, was on the boat with his wife and they lost their 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son in the crossing. He told Reuters that Kurdi panicked and accelerated when a wave hit the boat, raising questions about his claim that somebody else was driving the boat. Jawwad said : "The story that (Aylan's father) told is untrue. I don't know what made him lie, maybe fear...He was the driver from the very beginning until the boat sank." Jawwad also said that the people traffickers told him that Kurdi had organized the boat crossing. Another passenger confirmed the account. The Kurdi story strengthens the position of EU opponents who believe that accepting Middle East Moslem migrants, some of whom may be terrorists and criminals not refugees, will destroy European Christian culture and create a Moslem Europe. ~~~~~ In a purely anti-terrorist action, Egyptian security forces killed 98 militants in Sinai during a recent military operation, the military said yesterday. Egypt is battling an insurgency that grew after the army overthrew President Mohamed Morsi of the Moslem Brotherhood Islamist movement in mid-2013 after mass protests against his rule. The insurgency, mounted by ISIS's Egyptian affiliate, has killed hundreds of soldiers and police and has started to attack Western targets. President al-Sisi describes Islamist militancy as an existential threat to Egypt, the most populous Arab state and a close US ally. ~~~~~ And in an African terrorist shooting at a camp that housed people who had fled Boko Haram and a suicide attack on a bus station, at least 12 people were killed in northeast Nigeria yesterday, officials said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings. About 2.1 million people have been displaced and thousands killed in a six-year-old campaign by the jihadist Boko Haram to carve out an Islamist state. ~~~~~ So, dear readers, 21st century politics thus far is often about terrorism and the fear of terrorism. It is no longer something that happens in remote areas far from Europe or America. Terrorism is around us daily and if the IRA is an example, terrorists don't reform or abandon their twisted causes. They are always there waiting for the opportunity to attack us, our values, and our democratic political systems. The IRA attacks Protestants. ISIS attacks all Christians and Jews. Preparedness, vigilance and strong military and intelligence services are our armour. Our challenge is to remain true to our judeo-christian values without becoming doormats for those who would destroy us.

Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11...Obama's Democrat Senate Partners in the Sellout to Iran

Today is the 14th anniversary of the attack on the New York City Trade Towers. The 9/11 jihadist terrorists killed 3,000 innocent victims as they slammed planes into the twin towers. For 7 years after 9/11, America fought back -- in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and tracked down those who participated in al-Qaida terrorist acts and had information that could be used to make America and the world safer as they faced the well-funded radical Islam organization. ~~~~~ Then, starting in November 2008, newly elected President Barack Obama began the systematic destruction of the progress made against al-Qaida and Islamic terrorism -- from his Cairo speech that unleashed the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt - to his total troop withdrawal from Iraq - to his refusal to intervene to stop the Syrian conflict - to his release of terrorist detainees from Quantanamo - to his dereliction of duty in the Benghazi attacks - to his Taliban-pleasing announcement of a firm date for withdrawal from Afghanistan - to his trade of 5 Quantanamo terrorist detainees for the US soldier Bergdahl who is now officially accused of treason - to his continuing attacks on Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu - to his call for Israel to commit suicide by withdrawing to its pre-1967 borders - to his refusal to directly arm the Sunni or Kurdish Iraq fighters - to his stupifying sellout to Iran. That is the history of the past 7 years in America under Presidrnt Obama. ~~~~~ And what has the Obama surrender to jihadist terrorist Islam produced? ~~~~~ The latest issue of the "INSPIRE" magazine published by al-Qaida -- the organization pronounced dead by Obama -- has raised concerns among US law enforcement officials because it renews calls for the assassination of prominent American figures and urges more lone wolf terror attacks. Officials told CBS News they are troubled by the timing of the release of INSPIRE just days before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which INSPIRE refers to as "the blessed 9/11 operation." ~~~~~ Late yesterday, Iran Supreme Leader and Terrorist-in-Chief Ayatollah Khamenei celebrated the US Senate's approval of the Iran nuclear deal by saying : “After nuclear negotiations, the Zionist regime [Israel] said that they will not be worried about Iran in the next 25 years. I am telling you, first, you will not be around in 25 years’ time, and God willing, there will be no Zionist regime in 25 years. Second, during this period, the spirit of fighting, heroism and jihad will keep you worried every moment.” Ayatollah Khamenei also emphasized, as he has in past months, that he would not allow any new negotiations with the United States. Politically moderate government officials, including the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, have raised the possibility of discussing a solution for the war in Syria with the United States and its allies. ~~~~~ And in their own almost ghoulish 2015 memorial to 9/11, 42 Democrat Senators chose to cut off debate and stop a vote on the Iran nuclear deal by filibustering on behalf of their leader, Barack Obama - an act that declared their firm support for his march toward surrender to jihadist terrorist Islam. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the GOP House under Speaker Boehner is taking up the world's cause by positioning itself to vigorously resist implementation of the Iran deal. We will have time to discuss this later. But today, let us pause to remember the 3,000 innocent souls lost at the twin towers -- let us remember the 40 American heroes who crashed Flight 93 and perished to save the White House and Congress -- let us give thanks for the brave American men and women who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, where 7,000 of them died and 50,000 were wounded. And when we have said farewell to the 14th anniversary of 9/11, let us hold up for all of America the list of those 42 despicable Democrat Senators who voted today to complete Obama's surrender to jihadst terrorist Islam. "Remember the Appeaser Senators" by defeating every one of them the next time their name is on a ballot. America has long since understood Obama's agenda. But America deserves more from its Senators than a sellout to terrorist anti-Semitic Iran. It is inadmissible that rogue state terrorism be handed nuclear weapons and their missile delivery systems by US Senators.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The EU Calls for Dignity for Refugees...Where Is EU Dignity for Greece?

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged in his first State of the European Union address that the EU deal with refugees with humanity and dignity. juncker said on Wednesday that the EU executive would offer better protection for refugees but also improve its frontier defenses and deport more illegal migrants. In his first annual address to the European Parliament as president, Juncker outlined an emergency plan for the compulsory distribution of 160,000 refugees among the 28 EU member states and promised a permanent asylum mechanism to cope with future crises. He urged Europeans to welcome the refugees and not be afraid. Juncker said Europe is a continent where almost everyone has been a refugee at some point. That refugees want to come to Europe, accordng to Juncker : "is something to be proud of and not something to fear." Juncker, a former Luxembourg prime minister, spoke for 80 minutes. Highlights included : "The Europe I want to live in is illustrated by those who want to help," he added denouncing calls to discriminate among refugees according to religion. Listing the refugee problem as first among a list of priorities, putting it before the economy, Ukraine, climate change and a looming vote on Britain's membership in the bloc, he said the crisis was caused by "war, terror and instability in our neighborhood." He said the Union is in a bad state : "We are not in a good place. There is a lack of Europe in the EU and there is a lack of union in the European Union. That has to change." ~~ "We Europeans should know and never forget why the right to asylum is one of the fundamental, most important rights. We should not forget that." ~~ "It is true that Europe cannot house all the misery in the world. But we have to put it into perspective. This still represents just 0.11% of the EU population. In Lebanon refugees represent 25% of the population which has just 1/5 of the wealth of the EU. Who are we to never make such comparisons?" Juncker said citizens of "safe countries" on a list to be issued would be subject to fast-track deportations if they breached EU immigration laws. He also urged EU member states to allow refugees to work from day one while their asylum applications are processed. ~~~~~ Juncker's plan faces opposition from several governments whose interior ministers will meet on Monday, but Juncker pledged to improve the management of the bloc's external frontiers, bolster its Frontex border agency and take "steps toward the creation of European coastguard and border guard systems." He also proposed a "more effective approach to return" - addressing complaints that too many people not eligible for asylum status remain in the EU indefinitely. Juncker reminded eastern EU member state citizens who object to mandatory distribution of refugees that when they were refugees fleeing Soviet repression in their countries, they had been welcomed in large numbers in western Europe. And he took a dig at Hungary's building of a frontier fence by saying desperate families fleeing Syria would cross any barrier and brave many dangers to escape their homeland. ~~~~~ There is much disagreement among EU states about taking in refugees under a quota system with financial penalties for refusing -- Denmark closed some of its train service, highways and border with Germany today to prevent an influx of refugees. The mounting scale of the human calamity on the bloc's frontiers -- and fears that discord might do damage to freedom of travel across Europe's internal borders -- has sparked some willingness to compromise after an earlier Juncker plan failed to be accepted in May. "This time, the Commission seems to be proposing a more comprehensive approach, also addressing the need to control the external frontiers better," said one EU diplomat whose government was among those in the east who argue that their society, unused to immigration, cannot take in large numbers. He added, "There is still a lot to negotiate. There is a lot we cannot accept. But the debate is now a lot less emotional." Also driving the EU toward some accord has been the firm position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose government has taken in the greatest number of asylum seekers. She has called on poorer eastern neighbours who receive German-funded EU subsidies to show solidarity -- and warned that the Schengen system of open internal borders from which they benefit is under threat from chaotic movements of migrants across the bloc. "When Merkel needs something, and she plays it sensibly as she usually does, things start to move," said another senior EU diplomat from the formerly Communist east. While Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban remains vocally opposed to relocation quotas, his country will now benefit from the financial support scheme, having taken in tens of thousands. And Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz conceded on Tuesday that Warsaw could take in more than the 2,000 people it has said. EU officials have said countries could also be offered the chance to contribute financially rather than take in migrants. Britain has been critical of the EU approach but is exempt from the bloc's asylum policies -- because it chose not to be in the Schengen zone -- and will not take part, although Prime Minister David Cameron said this week it would accept over five years up to 20,000 Syrian children who are orphans or abandoned in Middle East refugee camps. Spain, which had complained its likely quota was too high, said on Tuesday it was ready to take what the European Union allocated to it. ~~~~~ It is good to hear Jean-Claude Juncker join Chancellor Merkel in trying to find places for the wave of Syrian refugees who will be flooding into Europe for an indefinite future. But, his emotional appeal to Europeans to show "humanity" and "dignity" in welcoming the refugees made me think of Greece, which has received 250,000 refugees, trying to manage the onslaught with little help from Juncker's EU. I was also struck by Juncker's emotional tone as he spoke of refugees. It was vastly different from his tone when he menaced Greece with collapse unless it complied with his draconian austerity bailout programs. Because of the lack of the EU's humanity and dignity in dealing with the Greek liquidity crisis, Greeks could easily be called refugees in their own homeland. Specifically, the Greek government was required to cut spending by €28 billion in 2010-2011, with a further cut of €13 billion in 2012-2014. Austerity packages, beginning in 2010, included cuts to public sector jobs and salaries and to pensions, as well as increases in indirect taxes and privatization of state-owned industries. By February 2012, 20,000 additional Greeks had been rendered homeless, and 20% of shops in the historic center of Athens were empty. And an estimated 1 in10 of the population of greater Athens was visiting a soup kitchen daily. In the last two years in Greece : (1) Health care spending has fallen from  9.3% of GDP in 2012 (meeting the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development average) to 5% today. (2) As many as 2.5 million people lack health insurance today, and some 800,000 are estimated to lack unemployment benefits and the means to access healthcare. (3) The suicide rate has increased by 35%. (4). In psychological surveys, "hopelessness," "helplessness," and a feeling of "being used as an experiment" are the major sentiments expressed by Greek adults. (5) Adult unemployment is at 30% and youth unemployment is above 50%. (6) Pensions have been cut by 40%, leaving many retired Greeks to live on less than €700 ($784) a month. (7) The unpopular 2015 bailout was pushed through the Greek parliament by Prime Minister Tsipras, costing him his majority and forcing new elections this month. ~~~~~ Dear readers, if charity begins at home, Juncker, Merkel and the rest of the EU leadership have failed miserably with Greece. If the EU can find €3.9 billion, and Germany an extra €10 billion in 2015 -- the current German annual cost per refugee is €12,000 to cover accommodation, meals, pocket money, health costs and administrative expenses -- for Syrian refugees, why can they not find the means to provide minimal food, shelter, healthcare and pensions for their Greek EU brothers and sisters? It is a disgrace that EU leaders have been allowed to create Greek misery without the application of humanity or dignity for Greek Europeans.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Tibet -- Lest We Forget China's Evil Face

China celebrated the 50th annuversary of its creation of the Tibet Autonomous Region yesterday. It was pure Chinese Communist propaganda -- highlighted by a tirade against Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Yu Zhengsheng, in charge of religious groups and ethnic minorities and number four in the ruling Communist Party, called the Dalai Lama -- who fled China in 1959 after a popular uprising against Chinese rule was viciously crushed -- a violent separatist. The 14th Dalai Lama, based in India since 1959, says he is merely seeking greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland. The Chinese version that Yu gave on Tuesday was : "People of all ethnicities are steadfastly engaged in a struggle against separatism, continuously thwarting the Dalai clique and foreign hostile forces' splittist and sabotage activities." Yu spoke in front of Lhasa's grand Potala Palace, once the home of the Dalai Lama, and the highest palace in the world. Yu, who led the Chinese government delegation to Tibet, spoke to officials, Tibetans dressed in ethnic costumes and students waving Chinese flags. A procession of gaudy floats celebrating Communist Party achievements and others showing famous Tibet landmarks such as the Potala Palace paraded after the speeches. Earlier, Yu urged army, police and judicial staff in Tibet to be ready to "fight a protracted battle against the clique of the 14th Dalai Lama," Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported. The Global Times, a tabloid owned by the ruling Communist Party's official newspaper the People's Daily, called the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, a "cheater" and a "cruel ruler in exile." ~~~~~ Theis year marks several sensitive anniversaries for the mountain nation that China has ruled with an iron fist since 1950, when Communist troops marched in and took control in what Beijing calls a "peaceful liberation." It also marks the 80th birthday of the Dalai Lama and the 20th anniversary of the disappearance of a young Tibetan who was chosen by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism. The Panchen Lama and his family disappeared into Chinese custody and have not surfaced even once during the last 20 years. On Sunday, a senior Chinese official said the young man, six years old when he disappeared, was "living a normal life," although China has always refused to give any evidence that the Panchen Lama is alive. On Monday, the Free Tibet rights group denounced the celebrations, saying they "may be dressed up in 21st century PR but they belong in the era of Mao," referring to the founder of Communist China Mao Zedong. Tibet remains under heavy security, with visits by foreign media tightly restricted, making an independent assessment of the situation difficult. ~~~~~ The tragedy of Tibet began in 1950. Tibet was a sovereign state. The Tibetans were a distinct people with their own language, culture, religion, history and customs. But, in 1950, Tibet was invaded by the army of The People's Republic of China. It has been occupied by the Communist Chinese since then. The Tibetan people refused to accept Chinese occupation and unrest escalated, culminating in the Tibetan Uprising of 1959. According to Chinese sources 80,000 Tibetans died in Central Tibet during and immediately after the uprising. It is estimated that since 1959, Tibetan deaths as a direct result of Chinese invasion and occupation are between 400,000 and 1.5 million. In 1959, many thousands of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, sought asylum in India. The exodus of Tibetans from Tibet continues, wirh several thousand escaping every year. Today, more than 200,000 Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, live in exile in India, Nepal, Bhutan Switzerland, the United States and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. ~~~~~ In 1960, after reviewing accounts of Chinese atrocities in Tibet, including the widespread use of summary execution, torture and general abuse that included the forced sterilization of women, the International Commission of Jurists found that the Chinese were committing genocide and that 16 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were being violated by the Chinese. The Commission reported that the Chinese were guilty of "the most pernicious crime that any individual or nation can be accused of, viz. a wilful attempt to annihilate an entire people." ~~~~~ In the decades following 1959, particularly during the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966, there was wholesale destruction of Tibetan buildings and religious artifacts. All but 12 of Tibet's 6,000 monasteries were destroyed, many of them used as target practice by Chinese artillery. A thousand years' worth of priceless Buddhist literature, religious paintings and artifacts were either destroyed or have been sold for millions of dollars on the international market by the Chinese to raise foreign currency and to wipe out Tibet's rich heritage. ~~~~~ Since the 1980s, the Chinese have had the goal of re-populating Tibet with Chinese. Today, Tibetans are a minority in their own country -- and inducements of higher pay and other privileges continue to bring a stream of Chinese settlers into Tibet. The goal is to forcibly seal China's territorial claims over Tibet by means of a massive and irreversible population shift. In May 1993, an official Chinese government document, leaked to the Tibetan Government in Exile, indicated that Chinese authorities proposed another massive population transfer as one element in what they termed "a final solution" to their "Tibetan problem." In 1996, the South China Morning Post reported official sources in Beijing as saying that a further 500,000 ethnic Chinese would be moved into Tibet. This large-scale population transfer has resulted in a very high inflation rate in Tibet, a two-class society sharply divided along racial lines, and high unemployment among ethnic Tibetans who don't speak the required Chinese. ~~~~~ Further, Tibet, once a peaceful buffer state between India and China, has been transformed into a militarized zone. There are at least 300,000 Chinese troops stationed in Tibet at any tine. A part of China's arsenal of nuclear missiles are located at 5 different Tibet missile bases. It is believed that approximately 3,000 religious and political prisoners are held in prisons and forced labor camps where torture is common. There are reports that Tibetan women are subject en masse to forced abortions and sterilization. Russian dissident leader Alexander Solzhenitsyn described China's administration of Tibet as "more brutal and inhumane than any other communist regime in the world." There are strong concerns, voiced internationally, that China is using Tibet as a dumping ground for nuclear waste. In the 1990s, Tibetan farmers complained that "fertilizer" they were forced to use on their fields destroyed crops and killed birds and animals. Tibet's natural resources and ecology are being irreversibly destroyed. Wildlife, including the Tibetan snow leopard and the wild blue Tibetan sheep, has been decimated. Forests have been clear-cut and transported to China -- since 1950, 68% of Tibet's forests have been felled, causing grave concern in Bangladesh and India, now both frequently devastated by flooding. China severely restricts the teaching and study of Buddhism, an essential core of Tibetan culture. The Communist Party regulates the admission of monks and nuns into the monasteries and "political education" is compulsory. Though for a period after the Cultural Revolution there appeared to be a liberalizing of the Chinese attitude to religious life, a new report released by the International Campaign for Tibet indicates that China has shifted its religious policy to actively suppress and restrict further religious growth, including halting the unauthorized rebuilding of monasteries destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, setting limits on the number of monks and nuns in all monasteries, enforcing restrictions on youths joining monasteries, prohibiting Tibetan Party members from practising religion, and strengthening the control of the government and the Communist Party over each monastery. Chinese authorities reportedly prohibit pictures of the Dalai Lama in monasteries and temples, as well as schools and private homes. There have been reports of house-to-house searches checking for possession of photographs of the Dalai Lama. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the chilling truth behind the rape and destruction of Tibet is that the world sees China as "too big to fail" and Tibet as "too small to be saved." The failure to save Tibet is the greatest sin committed against innocence by the 20th century "free world."

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Europe and Russia Refocus the Need to Act in Syria

World attention has refocused on Syria, largely as a result of the wave of Syrian migrants and refugees flooding into Europe. The goal is to stop the flow by finding a way to bring peace to war-torn Syria. ~~~~~ US and coalition forces carried out 11 air strikes on the ISIS in Iraq on Sunday, as well as four strikes targeting ISIS in Syria, according to a statement released on Monday. Attacks in Iraq were scattered, hitting tactical units and destroying vehicles and weapons. An air strike near Tuz destroyed 49 ISIS fighting positions, as well as four tunnels and a weapons cddache, according to a coalition statement. The attacks in Syria were near Raqqa, Mar'a and Tamakh, hitting a staging area and tactical unit, and also destroying five excavators used by ISIS. The air strikes killed at least 16 militants, including five foreign jihadists. Islamist insurgents bombarded central Damascus, killing one civilian and wounding others, according to al-Assad state TV. Meanwhile, because of an ISIS surge, the al-Assad regime has lost "the last oilfield in Syria," according to the Syrian Observatory, which tracks the conflict in Syria through a network of sources on the ground. Social media comments said fighting had surged in the last two to three days and the rebels had taken the oilfield on Sunday, located northwest of the rebel-held ancient city of Palmyra, close to Syria's main natural gas fields and multi-million-dollar extraction facilities. The army, which has been fighting to retake the city and surrounding areas, secured the oil field's perimeter in June. ~~~~~ And, out of step with the world's renewed seeking a Syria peace, Russia has sent a military advance team to Syria and is taking other steps the US fears may signal that President Vladimir Putin is planning to vastly expand his military support for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, as reported by Obama administration officials Friday. The Russian moves -- the recent transport of prefabricated housing units for hundreds of people to a Syrian airfield and the delivery of a portable air traffic control station there -- complicate Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to enlist Putin’s support for a diplomatic solution in Syria. The Russians have also filed military overflight requests with neighboring countries through September. Greece has received a request from the US to deny Russia the use of Greek airspace for aid flights to Syria, a spokesman for the Greek foreign ministry said on Monday, adding that the request was being examined. Russian newswire RIA Novosti earlier said Greece had refused the US request, citing a diplomatic source. American officials acknowledge that they are not certain of Russia’s intentions, but some say the temporary housing suggests that Russia could deploy as many as 1,000 advisors or other military personnel to the airfield near the Assad family’s ancestral home. The airfield serves Latakia, Syria’s principal port city. The Russian Foreign Ministry denounced on Monday as "falsifications and fabrications" media reports that it is changing its stance on the war in Syria or on the future of President al-Assad, whom it has shielded throughout the conflict. The Russian ministry statement said : "We don't appoint or dismiss foreign presidents, neither on our own or in cahoots with anyone else." Russian officials have not confirmed recent media reports of Moscow increasing its military assistance to al-Assad, saying only that it has long been supplying Damascus with arms and training to help it fight Islamist radicals, and will continue to do so. ~~~~~ While Russia appears to be upgrading its presence in Syria on behalf of al-Assad, the United States is reviewing its options for battling ISIS in Syria, the New York Times reported on Monday. The Pentagon is looking into moving more fighters into safer zones with greater popular support, providing better intelligence, increasing the number of trained rebels and improving their skills. The classified options are circulating among top Defense Department officials, the NYT reported, citing sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. ~~~~~ But, despite the growing search for a Syrian peace, recent analysis has reinforced the view among Syria experts that there is no solution in sight, with one of the biggest obstacles an unbridgeable international divide over President al-Assad's future, leaving Syria looking forward to ever greater fragmentation into territorial enclaves, with only one of them the fiefdom of al-Assad - a diminishing Damascus-based state where he appears confident of survival because of backing from his Russian and Iranian allies. While some Western officials say even al-Assad's allies now accept that he cannot win back and stabilize all of Syria, Russia's support for him is even stronger. Russia's foreign minister recently repeated the Russian view that al-Assad is a legitimate leader, rejecting the US position to the contrary as "counterproductive," and comparing the West's approach to Syria to its failures in Iraq and Libya. Russia also confirmed that it continues to supply al-Assad with weapons. A Syrian military official told Reuters there has recently been a "big shift" in Russian military support, including new weapons and training : “Our ties are always developing but in these days a qualitative shift has happened. We call it a qualitative shift in Arabic, which means big." The New York Times says American intelligence analysts told it that Russia had sent a military advance team to Syria. Secretary Kerry expressed his concern about the reports of an increased Russian involvement in a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday. The logjam over al-Assad remains the biggest obstacle to breaking a diplomatic impasse around peace efforts and it is a big complication in the fight against the ISIS group, which has flourished in the chaos caused by the Syrian conflict that has killed a quarter of a million people and driven another 11 million from their homes. ~~~~~ In addition the recent flurry of diplomatic activity followed the conclusion of Iran's nuclear deal with world powers and included high-level meetings between states with a stake in the conflict, with Russia taking the lead. "There is no real peace solution because of the unlimited support from Russia and Iran," said Bashar al-Zoubi, head of one of the biggest rebel groups fighting al-Assad in southern Syria, speaking to Reuters via Whatsapp from Syria. Al-Assad has rejected the idea of imminent political progress, saying the war would only be near its end when states "conspiring against Syria" cease doing so - a reference to Saudi Arabia and Turkey.Iranian officials travel to Damascus frequently, underlining Teheran's support for an ally who has protected its interests in the Levant in alliance with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Iran-backed jihadist group fighting alongside al-Assad's forces in Syria. Moscow and Teheran's backing for al-Assad is supported by the fact that they see no alternative leader who can guarantee their interests. Al-Assad may control only 20% of Syria, but they see him as the cornerstone of what remains of the state. including the military and security forces which many Syria experts believe would fragment were he gone. Russia is pushing for the Syrian government to be included in international efforts to fight ISIS. Saudi Arabia is one of the states rejecting the idea. A senior Russian diplomatic source told Reuters :"Proposals by our partners for the change of regime in Damascus are illegitimate. To he replaced by what? I don't think they have any idea. There used to be no terrorists in Iraq, the same in Libya. And now the Libyan state has fallen apart and the terrorists are roaming there." The new US special envoy for Syria Michael Ratney, gave the opposite view after his August 28 visit to Moscow. A US statement said : "We are cognizant that Assad’s continued tenure fuels extremism and inflames tensions in the region. That is why a political transition is not only necessary for the good of the people of Syria, but an important part of the fight to defeat the extremists," While insisting al-Assad must go, US officials are not specific about when or how. That leaves open the possibility of a transition that begins while he is still in office - an almost impossible idea for the rebels fighting him. In any case, Russia has rejected the idea of any prenegotiated exit for al-Assad. In comments closest in weeks to outlining what Moscow might see as an acceptable way forward on dealing with al-Assad, Russia said on Friday the Syrian president was ready to hold early parliamentary elections and share power with moderate opposition. ~~~~~ Dear readers, we continue to go round and round diplomatically while millions of Syrians flee to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Europe. Nothing related to Syria is even close to being resolved -- and won't be until President Obama decides to act.