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Deval Patrick Aims To Unseat Fellow Governor Paul LePage

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-07-21 21:11
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) campaigned on Monday for Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), who is running to unseat Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R).

Patrick, who attended a fundraising luncheon along with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), criticized LePage's decision to skip conferences with his fellow New England governors focusing on regional issues.

"It may surprise the governor, and surprise you, that we don't sit around the table spouting partisan slogans," Patrick said Monday. "We're about problem solving."

Patrick, who chose not to run for a third term as governor this year, is often mentioned as a potential Democratic presidential candidate. Though he has denied he's interested in a 2016 run, he has left the door open for a future bid.

Shumlin is running for a third term in Vermont.

As for LePage, his tenure as governor has been controversial. Among other things, he has been accused of (and denied) discussing the idea of hanging Democratic leaders and has proposed that a state ethics panel fact-check campaign statements.

If elected, Michaud would be the first openly gay governor of a U.S. state.

HuffPost Pollster has Michaud leading LePage and independent candidate Eliot Cutler ahead of the November general election:

Chris Christie Won't Campaign For This Republican Gubernatorial Candidate

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-07-21 21:10

GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he doesn't have plans to campaign for New York's Republican candidate for governor because he doesn't campaign for candidates he doesn't think can win.


Christie was in Greenwich, Connecticut, with GOP candidate Tom Foley on Monday when he was asked whether he planned to spend any time campaigning in New York, where Republican challenger Rob Astorino trails incumbent Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo (KWOH'-moh) by a large margin in public polls.


Christie chairs the Republican Governors Association. He says he's repeatedly told candidates he doesn't "pay for landslides" and he doesn't "invest in lost causes."


He says he's focusing on spending time in places where he thinks he can make a difference.


Astorino's spokeswoman notes other Republican governors have agreed to help his campaign.

Obama's Immigration Dilemma

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-07-21 20:40

President Obama faces a dilemma on immigration reform, and it goes beyond the current problem of children at the border. If he sticks to his announced timetable, Obama will act in some way on immigration reform in the next month or so. The Republican House has already signaled that it not only won't vote on the bipartisan plan passed by the Senate last year, but also that it won't hold any votes on immigration reform at all in the foreseeable future (before the midterm election, in other words). This means if anything is going to happen, Obama will have to make it happen on his own. Obama's real dilemma is that no matter what he does, it's not going to satisfy everyone. In fact, it may not satisfy much of anyone. But it is sure to annoy and even enrage certain groups.


No matter what Obama does, if he acts in any meaningful way at all he's going to enrage Republicans -- both the politicians and their base voters. It's a pretty safe bet that the word "amnesty" will figure prominently in their complaints. But if whatever Obama announces is seen as not going far enough, he's also going to annoy some Democrats and a lot of Latino activists. Anything short of green cards for all 11 million undocumented immigrants could spur cries of not doing enough to help. That's a pretty tough tightrope to walk.


This dynamic existed even before the problem of child refugees was brought to the attention of the American public, it bears mentioning. The problem of what to do with the children only exacerbates Obama's dilemma, since it makes any executive action on immigration a much tougher sell. Even if we hadn't all been seeing child refugees on television for weeks, Obama still would have had a tough time, but now it's going to be a lot trickier. To his credit, so far it seems that Obama is not going to allow this separate problem to stop him from acting -- although this could indeed change. The White House has so far not signaled that it is going to back off from announcing some sort of policy change in the next month (it's always been assumed that such an announcement will come in August, when Congress is on its month-long vacation). But now any new policy shift may have to also take into account the child refugee crisis, since it is looking more and more likely that Congress is going to refuse to act (before it scarpers off on vacation again).


Exactly what Obama is going to announce isn't clear, at this point. I've seen speculation that he may announce that undocumented parents of American children will be somehow legalized in a way similar to how the "DREAMers" were. I've also heard rumors that whatever Obama will announce may include up to half of the 11 million currently in America illegally. Either of these would be a momentous policy shift, but because these rumors exist it also means that anything short of this may appear too timid for some Democrats.


Whatever Obama announces, politically it's pretty easy to predict what the reaction will be. He'll get some initial praise from the Latino activists, perhaps tempered by some "it's a good first step, but..." language. Obama will also get howls of rage from Republicans, as sure as night follows day. If Obama does announce new policy in August, look for some of this to play out in local town hall meetings immediately afterward. Republican politicians will doubtlessly redouble their efforts to paint themselves as immigration hardliners. Democrats will counter with some version of: "You've had years to act in the House, and you have done nothing! Why can the House not even pass a border control bill? If building the biggest fence in the world is the answer, then why has the Republican House not even voted on that?" This is the case Democrats will have to make: that there is nothing to stop House Republicans from enacting some magic Republican plan to solve the problem, except for their own ineptitude and lack of political will.


How this all plays out in the midterm elections is anyone's guess, really. Instead of the Republican plan to make this election a referendum on Obamacare, they may decide to make it a referendum on immigration instead. House Republicans are already talking about suing the president, but they haven't actually filed any suit yet. They could decide to drop the focus on Obama changing Obamacare's implementation timetable and instead focus solely on Obama's new immigration policy announcement. Whether this boosts their political chances this November is, as I said, anyone's guess at this point.


But what is pretty clear is that if Obama does act, it is going to help Democrats in the 2016 presidential contest. The whole immigration reform issue is a gigantic trap for Republicans, and they will likely be unable to resist the urge to walk right into it.


Republican strategists love to convince themselves (and the politicians they work for) that the Latino vote is not actually monolithic, and that Latino voters care more about other subjects than immigration. This is proved, they say, by polls which ask Latino voters what their biggest concerns are in the upcoming elections. Republican strategists point to the results of such polls and say: "See? Latinos care more about jobs and the economy [or any of a number of other issues] more than they care about immigration reform." This is a fundamental misreading of the data, however. Sure, Latinos care about other political subjects than immigration reform. Some Latino families have been here for generations and are not directly affected by immigration policy, after all. But Latinos as a group are more likely than other Americans to personally know someone dealing with immigration in some form. The issue is personalized for them -- it is not about "millions of people" or data or statistics, it is instead about their neighbors, their co-workers, or their relatives. Which means it is a much more sensitive subject for them, even if it is not their biggest political concern when the pollster calls.


This is the trap Republicans almost always stumble into, because they almost always go overboard in the way they talk about the issue. By using language seen as demeaning, insulting, or just plain mean-spirited, Republicans have been driving Latinos towards voting Democratic for over a generation's time, now. This will likely continue, as a backlash against Republican overreach on immigration policy. It wasn't so long ago that California had Republican governors and sent Republican senators to Washington; but from the exact point in time that they started demagoguing immigration to fire up their base, they have all but disappeared from state-level politics (I don't count Arnold Schwarzenegger as a real Republican politician, I should mention). That's a direct cause-and-effect relationship. We see this playing out on the national level, these days.


How will Republican presidential candidates react to any new Obama immigration policy? They will almost certainly try to outdo each other in denouncing it. They will scramble over each other's backs in this rush rightwards, to prove to the primary voters that they are the one who will draw the hardest line against immigration, of all the Republican candidates running. Especially if there is a lawsuit grinding its way through the federal court system (if House Republicans do sue the president and include immigration in the suit) -- because this means that the issue won't fade away. Mitt Romney's "self-deportation" policy will likely look pretty timid by the time the Republican field is done trying to outdo each other on immigration policy as the 2016 campaign gets underway. The only way they could avoid this trap, really, would be to nominate Jeb Bush, who would likely blunt the Republican edge on the subject (Bush is married to a Latino and speaks fluent Spanish). But that has to be seen as a longshot, at least at this point. In fact, Bush may have torpedoed any chance of winning the nomination by his comparatively moderate stance on immigration, which doesn't play well with Republican primary voters.


If Obama acts, it almost guarantees that the House is not going to act for the next two years, except maybe to pass some sort of protest bill that'll die in the Senate. This is another way of saying that the issue's not going away before the 2016 race. Which is going wind up helping the Democratic candidate, no matter who wins the nomination. Republican anti-immigration policies have already placed several states comfortably in the Democratic column in presidential elections (Colorado, New Mexico). If Republicans overreact to Obama's announcement, it may eventually put a few more states out of reach for them as well (Florida, and perhaps even Texas or Arizona). So while Republicans may even see some short-term gains from their hardliner immigration stance in 2014 (in House districts with few Latino voters, of which there are many), the issue is also probably going to come back to bite them in the 2016 presidential race. Latinos may become as solidly Democratic as African-American voters already are. Romney couldn't even manage to get 30 percent of the Latino vote, but this number may get far smaller for Republicans next time around.


President Obama seems to be sticking to his decision to act (since Congress hasn't been able to) on moving immigration reform forward. This, of course, could always change. Obama faces a real dilemma on how far to go, a problem which actually predates the media's focus on the child refugee problem. If he appears to be too timid, Latinos aren't going to be all that impressed. If he acts too boldly, he may risk losing the Senate and having to deal with a Republican-dominated Congress for his final two years in office. The problem of the refugee children means he will likely have to include some sort of action or plan to deal with them in his August announcement -- which just exacerbates how tough a sell it is going to be to the public. Whatever path Obama chooses through this dilemma, however, it is likely going to provoke some serious overreaction from Republicans (especially those in extremely safe districts). This will all but guarantee that the Republican 2016 presidential candidates will be occupying ground to the right of where Romney stood in 2012. To put this another way, it's going to become even clearer to Latino voters which political party is trying to actually solve a problem in a humane way and which party always jumps to knee-jerk demonization. The Republicans famously released a post-mortem document after the 2012 election which called for better outreach to Latino voters, but it has been completely ignored by most Republican politicians. Which pretty much guarantees that this problem is going to get a whole lot worse for them before they ever decide to change their outlook or their policies in any way.


 


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Chokehold Death Puts New York's Controversial Police Chief Back In The Spotlight

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-07-21 20:31
NEW YORK -- On a freezing day this past winter, a small group of protesters gathered outside police headquarters in downtown Manhattan. They were barely noticed by the throngs of reporters who streamed through the doors of 1 Police Plaza to watch a celebrated cop be sworn in for his second turn at the helm of America's largest police force.

Calling themselves "New Yorkers Against Bratton," the protesters warned that the new chief, William J. Bratton, wouldn't mend the New York City Police Department's troubled relationship with people of color. Some had lost family members to police violence, and they had not forgotten who led the force when cops gunned down 13-year-old Nicholas Heyward Jr. in a housing project in 1994, when they strangled 29-year-old Anthony Baez in a scuffle after a football hit a police car the same year, when they filled Anthony Rosario and his cousin with bullets as -- according to one investigation -- the two men lay facedown on the floor of a Bronx apartment in 1995.

Outside City Hall on Monday, the protesters were back. This time, reporters surrounded them. "What Commissioner Bratton has shown is that he's unable to control his own police officers, and he has never done anything to address the systemic brutality that keeps happening for low-income, predominantly people of color in New York City," Josmar Trujillo told the crowd. "Another black man is dead at the hands of the NYPD."


A young protester outside New York City Hall on July 21, 2014, holds a T-shirt naming people killed by the NYPD over the years.

The man in question, 43-year-old Eric Garner, died on Friday after an NYPD officer in Staten Island grabbed him in an illegal chokehold. Garner did not have a weapon and had not committed a violent crime. According to Commissioner Bratton himself, what Garner did wrong was sell untaxed individual cigarettes, or "loosies."

The Police Department didn't respond to questions from The Huffington Post on Monday afternoon. But at a press conference on Friday, Bratton said that the sale of untaxed cigarettes constitutes "a seemingly minor quality-of-life offense, if you will."

That "seemingly" is a loaded word. Bratton built his career on the theory that what may at first appear to be mere petty offenses, like graffiti and small-time pot dealing, are in fact the seeds of deeper troubles, like the widespread violence that plagued the city before his first stint as commissioner from 1994 to 1996. Now, as he again faces anger over the conduct of the officers under him, the validity of this idea is being called into question.

In the first six months of Bratton's second stint as commissioner, he has aggressively gone after low-level offenders, such as panhandlers and subway performers. Earlier this month, a viral video showed cops arresting a black man for sleeping in an empty subway car. "For what!? For what!?" the man yells at the beginning of the video, which has since been taken down. "'Cause I'm sleeping?"

Last week, moments before he died, Garner expressed a similar sense of bewilderment. "Every time you see me, you want to mess with me!" he shouted. "I'm tired of it!"

The campaign Communities United for Police Reform called Garner's death "yet another example of unnecessary police encounters resulting from broken windows-style policing that targets New Yorkers of color -- in this case escalating with fatal consequences."

Bratton offered a general explanation of his hard-nosed approach back in April, when asked by reporters why he had ordered his officers to crack down on people dancing in the trains.

"Those activities just create a sense of fear or that we're not paying attention to disorder," he said. "We are paying a lot of attention to disorder."

Disorder has preoccupied Bratton from the beginning. Long before he was arresting subway dancers, he seized upon an influential article about the hidden dangers of "broken windows."

"Consider a building with a few broken windows," wrote social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in The Atlantic Monthly in 1982. "If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building."

Bratton hailed Kelling as an "intellectual mentor" and invoked his "broken windows theory" as a justification for getting tough on turnstile hoppers and dime-bag peddlers back in the '90s. The city's arrest rate soared under Bratton's watch, and reports of serious crimes plummeted. Supporters praised him for his "zero-tolerance" approach; Kelling compared him to Plato. Police departments from Philadelphia to Seattle adopted his methods.

But as New York's arrest rate climbed, so did the charges of police misconduct, especially in heavily black and Latino areas. According to police statistics cited in a 1996 report by Amnesty International, 31 civilians were shot dead by cops in Bratton's first year as commissioner, compared with 23 the year before; the number of civilians who died in police custody similarly rose from 15 to 23. Nearly all the victims were black or Latino.

According to Alex Vitale, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College, it was all for naught. "No one has produced a real academic study showing how enforcement of low-level crimes has resulted in a drop in major crime," he told HuffPost at the City Hall rally Monday. Instead, Vitale characterized the drastic drop in New York's crime rate over the last 20 or so years as part of a "national and international phenomenon" that can't really be explained.

"Everyone thinks, 'Oh, in New York we solved the crime problem with this aggressive policing,' but that does not explain why there was a similar plummeting of crime in Montreal, San Diego, Chicago," Vitale said, pointing to cities where the strategy wasn't used.

When Mayor Bill de Blasio took over the city some seven months ago, many hoped that press conferences about New Yorkers' deaths at the hands of police would largely be a thing of the past. De Blasio had surged ahead of his election rivals while promising to stop the abuses of "stop and frisk" -- a key weapon in the broken-windows arsenal.

Bratton, often credited as an architect of stop-and-frisk, has suggested that the department wielded the tactic recklessly under Ray Kelly, the police chief who most recently preceded him. At Bratton's swearing-in ceremony on that frigid day back in January, he professed a commitment to getting "every member" of the NYPD to treat all New Yorkers with respect, "regardless of their background, their class, their race."

"Why is it," he asked that day, "that so many in this city do not feel good about this department that has done so much to make them safe? What is it about our activities that have made so many alienated?"

Nicholas Heyward was among the protesters standing outside in January. The police had shot and killed his 13-year-old son 20 years ago. The boy had been playing with a toy gun in his Brooklyn apartment building.

"We've been opposed to Bratton from the very beginning, because of his practices and his policies," said the father on Monday. "And to bring him back, what made people believe that things were going to be different?"

Colorado County Clerk 'Reluctantly' Halts Gay Marriage Licenses

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-07-21 20:29

By Keith Coffman

DENVER, July 21 (Reuters) - A Colorado county clerk who issued nearly three dozen same-sex marriage licenses agreed on Monday to halt the practice after the state's highest court ordered another clerk to stop issuing the permits to gay couples.

Pueblo County clerk Gilbert Ortiz said he would comply with the request by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, in light of Friday's ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court that halted the practice in Denver County.

"I believe that ... Suthers is on the wrong side of history and my office is reluctantly ceasing to issue licenses as of this afternoon," Ortiz said in a statement.

Emboldened by a landmark federal appeals court ruling late last month in favor of gay marriage in neighboring Utah, the county clerk in Boulder became the first clerk in Colorado to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

That appeals court decision was stayed, and Suthers asked the Boulder clerk, Hillary Hall, to stop.

He later sued her, but a state judge rejected his lawsuit, and within hours both Denver and Pueblo counties said they would also begin handing out licenses to gay couples.

Suthers said in a statement that Ortiz's decision will avoid "further wasteful litigation."

"No matter one's views on the issue of same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court of Colorado has made clear that until it has had a chance to rule on the merits, clerks must enforce the state's laws, which are still in effect," Suthers said.

Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. State law does provide for same-sex civil unions.

Hall said on Monday that the Boulder County Clerk's office will continue to issue permits to same-sex couples, despite renewed requests from Suthers that she cease.

"I think the least harmful and most sensible solution is to issue marriage licenses and avoid the potential of more civil rights violations while this plays out in court," Hall said in a statement. (Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Walsh)

The U.S. Must Lead on Climate Threat

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-07-21 19:42

During a Congressional hearing this year, Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R) invoked Noah's Ark saying, "I would point out that if you're a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn't because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon."



Really? Because 97% of the world's climate scientists beg to differ today.



Pope Francis, who also reads the Bible, understands the current threat better than Rep. Barton. He said recently that we must be "custodians of creation," respecting the "beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos." He noted the failure to address the warming planet could bring apocalyptic consequences stating, "Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!"



Three authoritative and frightening reports on climate change were released this year. They come from completely different sources: the U.S. Global Change Research Program; the United Nations; and the U.S. Department of Defense.



The first report, the National Climate Assessment, is a U.S. Government interagency report required every four years and established under first President Bush. The Congressionally-mandated report released this year was authored by 300 leading climate scientists and experts, and reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences.



A decade ago, these scientists predicted the weather changes we are seeing now. Here are just three major points the National Climate Assessment noted this year:



· The warming trend is clear and primarily the result of human activities. The last decade was the warmest on record.



· Heavy precipitation and extreme heat events are increasing and the risks of such extreme events will rise in the future.



· The sharp decline in summer Arctic sea ice has continued, is unprecedented and is consistent with human-induced climate change. A new record for minimum area of Arctic sea ice was set in 2012.



The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also issued its annual report for 2014, the fifth of its kind. Its findings cement the fact that not only is climate change here, it has been affecting us for decades. Of the previous 30 years, each decade has been successively warmer than the last, and each warmer than any time in history since 1850. Greenland and the Antarctic glaciers and icepack are melting, and the sea levels and ocean temperature are rising. CO2 is 40% higher now than since pre-industrial times and one of the main causes is the burning of fossil fuels.



Finally, a recent report by the Department of Defense (DOD) outlines the threat of climate change in national security terms. It notes climate change would exacerbate "poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions -- conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence."



The DOD "expects climate change to challenge its ability to fulfill its mission in the future." And it has been saying this since 2010.



Now, let us consider the responses of elected Republicans to the recent findings.



House Speaker John Boehner says he is "not qualified" to debate the science of climate change." Yet he seems unwilling to listen to the climate experts who testify before Congress. Representative Marco Rubio from Florida - where seawater occasionally now floods the sewer system - said, "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it." His fellow statesman, Florida Governor Rick Scott, also hides behind recent statements like, "I am not a scientist," but has also said, "I've not been convinced that there's any man-made climate change."



These politicians have these three reports at their fingertips, in case they'd like to learn something from those who are qualified.



The extreme right in Congress effectively gagged our military. Just two months ago, on May 22, Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Bill that, despite the DOD request, no funding could be used to address climate change as a national security issue. All but three Republicans voted for the McKinley Amendment. Save four members, Democrats all voted against it.



As Congressmen Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) said in response, "The McKinley amendment would require the Defense Department to assume that the cost of carbon pollution is zero. That's science denial at its worst and it fails our moral obligation to our children and grandchildren."



Once there were more sensible Republicans. President George W. Bush's homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, said that climate change is "a real serious problem," and if ignored it "would bring destruction and economic damage." Climate change is not a partisan issue. Like terrorism, climate change sees no party lines and threatens us all.



Charles Pierce summed up the debate, "Can this country learn anymore? That is a question that underlies so many others. We have allowed ourselves in our politics to become contemptuous of knowledge, wary of science, and suspicious of expertise."



If established climate science, unfolding in real time before our eyes, does not prevail in this debate, then the fate of the world may look a lot like the dystopia popular in much of current cinema. If the United States does not lead in this issue, there will be little progress.



President Obama did take steps to gradually reduce carbon emissions from power plants, further implementing the EPA's Clean Air Act regulations. As a bonus, the U.S. will have cleaner air and less mercury pollution as a result of burning less coal. This is a major step in the right direction for America and the world.



Paul Krugman pointed out these regulations can be implemented at little cost to our economy. Despite the attack on the regulations by the Chamber of Commerce, it admitted the cost is small. Krugman writes, "So what the Chamber of Commerce is actually saying is that we can take dramatic steps on climate -- steps that would transform international negotiations, setting the stage for global action -- while reducing our incomes by only one-fifth of 1 percent."



Regional cap-and-trade programs will allow states and companies to slowly reduce - through retrofitting designs - their carbon emissions. Some states have already reduced emissions by 40% below 2005 levels. Over-all, carbon emissions have already been reduced by 13%. Progress is already happening. Republicans, meanwhile, are missing the boat. President Obama is doing what he can. The United States of America is a world leader and the world must respond to climate change.



We have a choice before us, and a chance to gain the upper hand on this rapidly expanding threat. The changes are already here, but we could stop its most damaging effects. As astrophysicist and Cosmos host, Neil deGrasse Tyson said, "Vested interests still hire their own scientists to confuse the issue. But in the end, nature will not be fooled."

Plants are talking and these sensors let us hear what they're saying

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Mon, 2014-07-21 10:02
A new open-source sensor project taps into the electrochemical signals that plants send in response to the environment around them.

Iraq Veteran Darin Walker Could Lose Therapy Ducks In Dispute With Town

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-07-21 04:06
Darin Welker, a veteran of the Iraq War, says he relies on 14 pet ducks for comfort and physical therapy, but by keeping the birds, he's running afoul of local laws.

As a result, the village of West Lafayette, Ohio, is trying to make the 36-year-old ditch his ducks.

Welker told the Coshocton Tribune that he served nearly a year in Iraq in 2005 and came home with a bad back. While the Department of Veterans Affairs paid for his back surgery in 2012, the agency ducked his doctor's request for physical therapy.

In addition, Welker says he's facing both depression and post-traumatic stress, conditions that are eased by his 10 Pekin ducks and four mallards.

“Taking care of them is both mental and physical therapy,” Welker told the Tribune. “(Watching them) keeps you entertained for hours at a time.”

While it may seem a little unusual to rely on ducks for therapy, it's not unheard of. In January, British Army veteran Paul Wilkie, who was a bomb disposal officer in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, said ducks helped him overcome post-traumatic stress.

"I saw children playing with mines and getting killed. Every night I go to sleep, I have to relive that horrible experience," traumatic said. "I’m getting it under control now, thanks to the ducks."

Welker told the Tribune the VA even provided him with a letter recommending that he be allowed to keep the ducks. But village officials say a 2010 law allows only "dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds or mice" as pets and cited him with a violation that carries a potential fine of up to $150.

Welker plans to make his case to a judge on Wednesday.

Those wishing to express support for Welker and his ducks can should contact West Lafayette Mayor Jack L. Patterson via phone at (740) 545-6327 or by email at jackpatterson@coshoctoncounty.net.



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Putin Demands Access For International Experts At Malaysia Airlines Crash Site

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-07-21 02:37

MOSCOW, July 21 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday the downing of a Malaysian airliner in east Ukraine must not be used for political ends and urged separatists to allow international experts access to the crash site.

"Everything must be done to guarantee the security of international experts at the site of the tragedy," Putin, wearing a dark suit and a black tie, said in televised comments.

He reiterated his belief that the incident would not have happened if Ukrainian government forces had not ended a truce and resumed a military campaign against the pro-Russian separatists who have risen up in eastern Ukraine.

"However nobody should - and no one has the right to - use this tragedy to achieve selfish political ends. Such events should not divide people, but unite them," he said. (Reporting by Timothy Heritage, Editing by Elizabeth Piper)

'True Blood' Turns Ted Cruz Fundraiser At George W. Bush Library Into A Bloodbath (SPOILER ALERT)

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-07-21 00:23
"True Blood" fans know to expect plenty of bloodshed, often in unique circumstances. But on Sunday night's episode, the show stepped it up a notch.

SPOILER ALERT: STOP READING IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THIS EPISODE.


Vampires Eric and his progeny Pam attended a Ted Cruz fundraiser supposedly held at the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas to search for the parents of their enemy, Sarah Newlin.

Trying to blend in, Eric dons a Western-style suit with a bolo instead of a necktie while Pam puts on a purple dress worthy of a gala on either side of the aisle.

But when she catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror, Pam utters a line that would light up Twitter:

"Oh...my...god... I'm a Republicunt" PAM I LOVE YOU! #TrueBlood #TrueToTheEnd @TrueBloodHBO

— Shani (@TastyHorchata) July 21, 2014


Even some on the right admitted they got a kick out of the scene:

"Oh my god, I'm a Republicunt." #TrueBlood

Hardcore Right & I still find the humor in it. #iloveit

— Christina Wilson (@MsChrissyW) July 21, 2014


When Sarah shows up with the yakuza in hot pursuit, a bloody massacre ensues.

"True Blood" is in its final season so you can expect even more bloodshed before the Aug. 24 series finale.

Obama and the World's Ills

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:28
It's hard to recall a time when the world presented more crises with fewer easy solutions. And for the Republicans, all of these woes have a common genesis: American weakness projected by Barack Obama.

People in the Middle East, former Vice President Dick Cheney said recently, "are absolutely convinced that the American capacity to lead and influence in that part of the world has been dramatically reduced by this president." He added, "We've got a problem with weakness, and it's centered right in the White House."

Really? It's instructive to ask: What exactly would a Republican president advised by Cheney do in each of these crises? Let's take them one at a time.

Iraq. It's now clear that Cheney's invasion of Iraq and its subsequent Shiite client state under Nouri al-Maliki only deepened sectarian strife and laid the groundwork for another brand of Islamist radicalism, this time in the form of ISIS, and more backlash against the U.S. for creating the mess. What's the solution -- a permanent U.S. military occupation of Iraq? Republican presidential candidates should try running on that one.

Syria. Obama took a lot of criticism for equivocating on where the bright line was when it came to Syrian use of chemical warfare. In fact, American military pressure and diplomacy has caused Syrian president Assad to get rid of chemical weapons. But the deeper Syrian civil war is another problem from hell. How about it, Republican candidates -- More costly military supplies to moderate radicals, whoever the hell they are? A U.S invasion? See how that plays in the 2016 campaign.

Israel-Palestine. A two-state solution seems further away than ever, and time is not on the Israeli side. No American president has had the nerve to tell the Israeli government to stop building settlements on Arab lands, despite $3 billion a year on U.S. aid to Israel. What Would Jesus Do? (What would Cheney do?)

Putin and Ukraine. Russian President Putin's fomenting of military adventures by ethnic Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine has created a needless crisis. But our European friends, who have trade deals with Russia, don't want to make trouble. So, what will it be -- a new U.S.-led Cold War without European support? A hot war?

Iran's Nuclear Capacity. The policy of détente with Iran in exchange for controls on Iranian ability to weaponize enriched uranium is a gamble that could well pay off. The alternative course of bombing Iran, either ourselves or via a proxy Israeli strike, seems far more of a gamble. Who's the realist here?

China's New Muscle. The U.S., under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, has become pitifully dependent on borrowing from China. Our biggest corporations have put the attractions of cheap Chinese labor ahead of continuing production in the U.S.A., creating a chronic trade deficit that requires all that borrowing. Now, China is throwing around its economic weight everywhere from its own backyard in East Asia to Africa and South America. Our troubles with Putin have helped promote a closer alliance between Moscow and Beijing. Anyone have a nice silver bullet for this one?

Those Central American Kids. What do you think -- failure of immigration policy or humanitarian refugee crisis? On the one hand, American law says that bona fide refugees can apply for asylum and that children who are being trafficked fall into the category of refugees. On the other hand America is never going to take all the world's refugees. Border Patrol agents interviewing terrified nine-year-olds lack the capacity to determine who is a true candidate for asylum. If shutting down the border -- ours or Mexico's -- were the easy solution, we would have done it decades ago.

And I haven't even gotten to Afghanistan, or the problem of nuclear proliferation, or new Jihadist weapons that can evade airport detection systems, or the total failure of democracy to gain ground in the Middle East.

The Republican story seems to be: we don't need to bog down in details -- somehow, it's all Obama's fault.

Here's what these crises have in common.

  • They have no easy solutions, military or diplomatic, and U.S. leverage is limited.


  • They are deeply rooted in regional geo-politics. U.S. projection of either bravado or prudence has little to do with how recent events have unfolded.


  • Some of these crises were worsened by earlier U.S. policy mistakes, such as the Cheney-Bush invasion of Iraq, or the bipartisan indulgence of Israeli building of settlements, or the one-sided industrial deals with China, or 20th-century alliances with Middle Eastern despots to protect oil interests.


When I was growing up, there was a nice clean division between the good guys and the bad guys. Hitler was the ultimate bad guy. Or maybe it was Stalin. America won World War II, and we won the Cold War when the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed.

Policy choices were easy only in retrospect. The neat world of good guys and bad guys started coming apart with the Vietnam War.

Today's crises are nothing like the ones of that simple era. Who are the good guys and bad guys in Syria and in Iraq? In China's diplomacy in South America? Among the murdered Israeli and Palestinian children and the children seeking refuge at our southern border?

To the extent that policy options are even partly military, the American public has no stomach for multiple invasions and occupations.

As Republican jingoists scapegoat President Obama for all the world's ills and try to impose a simple story of weakness and strength on events of stupefying complexity, you have to hope that the American people have more of an attention span than usual.

Robert Kuttner's latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He is co-editor of The American Prospect and a senior Fellow at Demos, and teaches at Brandeis University's Heller School.

The Explosive, Inside Story of How John Kerry Built an Israel-Palestine Peace Plan--and Watched It Crumble

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-20 22:00
At around noon on March 20 last year, Air Force One landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport for Barack Obama’s first presidential visit to Israel.

In Comcast/Time Warner Merger, Public Interest Is Paramount

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-20 21:17
New York State's Public Service Commission (PSC) is currently reviewing Comcast's plan to purchase Time Warner Cable for over $45 billion, a merger which would link the nation's two largest cable companies. This merger has the potential to affect millions of New Yorkers who rely on Time Warner Cable for TV, phone, and internet access at home and at their place of business. As a result, it is critical that state and federal regulators review the proposal to determine whether it is truly in the best interests of consumers.

On Monday, I submitted testimony to the PSC, urging it to do just that. For Comcast, this is an opportunity to do the right thing by introducing itself to the New York market as a company that values equitable access and understands that its product--the fourth utility of the modern age--must be available to all New Yorkers. If Comcast fails to provide a detailed, practical plan to both address the ongoing digital divide in New York City and ensure its long-term commitment to net neutrality, the PSC should reject the merger.

As Gotham's residents know all too well, our city is stuck in an internet stone age. According to a study by the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation, New Yorkers not only endure slower internet service than similar cities in other parts of the world, but we also pay higher prices for that substandard service.

Today, nearly 3 million New York City residents lack internet access at home and many entrepreneurs who hoped to launch businesses in former industrial districts within the five boroughs have had to abandon (PDF) those plans after discovering high-speed internet connections were not available.

While there is a significant digital divide in New York on socioeconomic lines, the truth is that no neighborhood is immune from poor internet. As a report (PDF) I issued last year found, from Tribeca to Tompkinsville, the Upper East Side to East Flatbush, the South Bronx to Sheepshead Bay, communities across the city and throughout the state are affected by poor broadband.

To date, Comcast's effort to close the digital divide have focused on its "Internet Essentials" program, which provides internet access to low-income Americans for $10 a month. However, the program's limited eligibility has kept connectivity beyond the reach of millions of Americans. For instance, the program is not offered to childless couples or low-income individuals.

A recent analysis of customers in Time Warner Cable's service area found that of the 4.6 million households that earn less than the amount that would qualify them for the federal government's free and reduced-price lunch program, only 1.7 million would qualify for Internet Essentials.

The PSC should press Comcast to significantly expand the reach of Internet Essentials and to provide a concrete outreach plan to communities that have low rates of internet use.

Comcast not only has a duty to work to close the digital divide, but also must ensure that the internet remains a place where all people can engage in robust discussion on an equal footing and where the power of ideas, rather than the size of one's pocketbook, guides the marketplace. That's why the PSC must carefully examine Comcast's commitment to net neutrality.

In recent months, Comcast has squeezed additional payment out of content providers, such as Netflix, in exchange for preferential access to its network.

This type of arrangement is concerning, because if fiber-optic networks are up for sale to the highest bidder, it both threatens to undermine the entrepreneurial energy of the internet and could also lead to higher prices for consumers to access content. Simply put: a merger without a commitment to the principles of net neutrality is not in the public interest.

Under a new law signed by Governor Cuomo in April, cable companies must affirmatively demonstrate that mergers are in the public interest in order to secure approval.

As a result, the PSC has a duty to hold Comcast's feet to the fire and ensure that its proposed merger with Time Warner will not only protect consumers, but will contribute to an internet infrastructure that can support a 21st century economy in all five boroughs.

U.S. Presses Case Against Russia On Downed Jet

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-20 21:02
By Anton Zverev and Matt Spetalnick

HRABOVE, Ukraine/WASHINGTON, July 21 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry laid out what he called overwhelming evidence of Russian complicity in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 as international horror deepened over the fate of the victims' remains.

Kerry demanded that Moscow take responsibility for actions of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine whom Washington suspects of downing the jet with a missile, and expressed disgust at their "grotesque" mishandling of the bodies.

Television images of the rebel-held crash sites, where the remains of victims had lain decomposing in fields among their personal belongings, have turned initial shock and sorrow after Thursday's disaster into anger.

Emotions ran high in the Netherlands, the home country of about two-thirds of the 298 people who died in the Boeing 777. The Dutch foreign minister has said the nation is "furious" to hear bodies were being "dragged around", while relatives and church leaders demanded they be rapidly returned home.

But the departure of dozens of corpses loaded into refrigerated railway wagons was delayed on Sunday as Ukrainian officials and rebels traded blame over why the train had not yet left the war zone, and where or when international investigators would be able to check it.

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to vote on Monday on a resolution that would condemn the downing of the plane and demands that those responsible be held accountable and that armed groups not compromise the integrity of the crash site.

In an apparent bid to compromise with Moscow, the wording of the resolution, drafted by Australia, was changed to characterize the incident as the "downing" of the flight, instead of "shooting down," according to the final draft obtained by Reuters. Diplomats said it was unclear if Russia would support the final version.

In Washington, Kerry criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and threatened "additional steps" against Moscow.

"Drunken separatists have been piling bodies into trucks and removing them from the site," he said on NBC television on Sunday. "What's happening is really grotesque and it is contrary to everything President Putin and Russia said they would do."

Moscow denies any involvement in the disaster and has blamed the Ukrainian military. While stopping short of direct blame on Moscow, Kerry put forward the most detailed U.S. accusations so far, based on the latest U.S. intelligence assessments.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond urged Moscow to ensure international investigators had access to the crash sites. "Russia risks becoming a pariah state if it does not behave properly," he told Sky television.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had spoken "overnight" to Putin for the first time about the disaster, amid mounting horror over the treatment of victims' remains. At least 27 Australian passengers were on the Malaysia Airlines flight.

Abbott said an Australian investigation team was in Kiev but had been unable to travel to the site. He said there had been some improvement with the Ukrainian government offering access.

"But there's still a hell of a long way to go before anyone could be satisfied with the way that site is being treated," Abbott said. "It's more like a garden cleanup than a forensic investigation. This is completely unacceptable."

After lying for two days in the summer heat, the bodies had been removed from much of the crash site by Sunday, leaving only bloodstained military stretchers along the side of the road.

Emergency workers, who have to navigate reporting both to the authorities in Kiev and the rebels who control the crash site and other areas in the Donetsk region, will now need to pick through the debris spread across the Ukrainian steppe.

As Ukraine accused the rebels of hiding evidence relating to the loss of the airliner, a separatist leader said items thought to be the stricken jet's "black boxes" were now in rebel hands.

Investigators from the U.N. aviation agency arrived in Ukraine to help probe the crash, but a senior official said safety concerns prevented them from reaching the crash site.

"Until safe passage for them is assured, we don't send people into that kind of situation," said the official with the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization.

U.S. CASE

Kerry said the United States had seen supplies moving into Ukraine from Russia in the last month, including a 150-vehicle convoy of armored personnel carriers, tanks and rocket launchers given to the separatists.

It had also intercepted conversations about the transfer to separatists of the Russian radar-guided SA-11 missile system, which it blames for the Boeing 777's destruction. "It's pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia," Kerry said in an interview on CNN.

"There's enormous amount of evidence, even more evidence that I just documented, that points to the involvement of Russia in providing these systems, training the people on them," he said on CBS.

Kerry's evidence of a Russian connection tracked closely with an official unclassified U.S. intelligence summary released over the weekend. It said intelligence analysts confirmed the authenticity of an audiotaped conversation provided to the press by Ukrainian authorities of a known separatist leader boasting of downing the plane.

"We also have information indicating that Russia is providing training to separatist fighters at a facility in southwest Russia" that includes missile systems, it said.

The disaster has sharply deepened the Ukrainian crisis in which the separatists in the Russian-speaking east have been fighting government forces since protesters in Kiev forced out a pro-Moscow president and Russia annexed Crimea in March.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on individuals and businesses close to Putin but Kerry indicated that President Barack Obama might go further. "The president is prepared to take additional steps," he told Fox News, although he ruled out sending in U.S. troops.

European Union ministers should be ready to announce a fresh round of sanctions at a meeting of the EU's Foreign Affairs Council this week, said a statement from British Prime Minister David Cameron's office, issued after telephone calls with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"They ... agreed that the EU must reconsider its approach to Russia and that foreign ministers should be ready to impose further sanctions on Russia when they meet on Tuesday," it said.

The leaders also agreed to press Putin to ensure investigators had free access to the crash site.

IDENTIFICATION SPECIALISTS

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said all efforts were focusing on getting the train loaded with bodies to territory controlled by the Ukrainian authorities.

The European security organization, the OSCE, was negotiating with the separatists, he said, adding that a team of victim identification specialists was likely to enter the crash site on Monday.

While Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko issued a renewed appeal for backing from the international community, some European nations, with an eye to their trade links with Russia, have been less enthusiastic about confronting Moscow.

Kerry challenged the Europeans to be more assertive. "It would help enormously if some countries in Europe that have been a little reluctant to move would now recognize this wakeup call and join the United States and President Obama in taking the lead, and also stepping up," he said.

A spokesman for Ukraine's Security Council, Andriy Lysenko, accused the rebels of a cover-up. "The terrorists are doing everything to hide the evidence of the involvement of Russian missiles in the shooting down of that airliner," he told a news conference in Kiev.

He said the rebels had taken debris and bodies from the crash site in trucks, tampering with a scene that investigators need to be secure to have a chance of determining what and who caused the plane to plunge into the steppe.

MEMORIAL SHRINE

OSCE observers visited part of the crash site for a third day on Sunday. Just before their arrival, emergency workers found parts of three more bodies and put them in black body bags on the side of a road.

At the site where the cockpit fell, in a field of sunflowers near the village of Razsypnoye, residents had made a small memorial shrine of flowers, candles in tiny jars and brightly colored teddy bears.

Photocopied pictures of children and families killed in the disaster, apparently from news coverage of the victims, had been set out on the grass.

All bodies, including that of a woman who had lain naked under a tarp about 50 meters away, had been removed.

"There were five or six over here, and two or three over there," said a young man with a rifle guarding the site, who declined to give his name. "They took the bodies away to the morgue. Firstly, they were decomposing. And secondly, the smell was horrible." (Additional reporting by Peter Graff in Hrabove, Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets and Elizabeth Piper in Kiev, Jim Loney, Doina Chiacu, Ayesha Rascoe and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Allison Lampert in Montreal, Lincoln Feast and Jane Wardell in Sydney, William James in London and Nicholas Vinocur in Paris; Writing by Giles Elgood and David Stamp; Editing by Tom Heneghan, Peter Cooney and Eric Walsh)

U.S.-Africa Leaders' Summit: Let's Ensure It's on the Positive Side of History

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-20 20:52
If you are an Africa-hand, activist or development partner, you are either directly or indirectly involved with the upcoming Washington, D.C. August 4-6, 2014, U.S.-Africa Leaders' Summit. Fundamentally, the event is incredibly historic as it will be the first time that a sitting U.S. president has invited all the leaders of the Africa Region to a single event (with the exceptions of Zimbabwe, Central Africa Republic, Eritrea, and Western Sahara), to discuss key continent issues and the macro U.S.-Africa relationship. The four themes for the summit are: Investing in Africa's Future; Peace and Regional Stability, and Governing for the Next Generation.

There is some griping, of course, about aspects of the summit, but overall the event is a step in the right direction for the United States, even if some parts of the program rankles Africa-hands and activists on both sides of the Atlantic and bothers many African Leaders. They are all pondering the single most asked question: Why are there no individual heads-of-state (HOS) meetings with the 50 leaders attending? China, France, Japan, India all have gotten this right - holding one-on-one meetings lasting a few minutes. So the U.S. approach to not doing this does bother many. But, this article is not necessarily arguing for individual meetings.

However, here is a new thought or one possibly considered but dismissed: How could having five sub-regional meetings - short presidential sessions with leaders of West, Central, East, South, and North Africa - be too much for us to do? This doesn't seem to be an excessive time requirement (this is the argument against one-on-ones). But, considering the cost, distance, respect-balance ratios at stake as these leaders travel to the U.S. with probably no less than 10 senior government officials, we should be able to manage five meetings. Moreover, the U.S. sound policy direction to encourage regional integration and cooperation on the very issues the summit will address would be advanced by having regional discussions with the President of the United States.

Some factoids why this misstep could not only be strategically wrong for the U.S., but further play into the notion by some that the U.S. approach is not on par with China and others are: Africa's population is reportedly 1.5 billion, and is on course to reach a population of 2.4 billion people by 2050; and, its average 2.4 percent growth rate could remain constant for decades. Africa is the third-most populated region and will become the largest - with most facing poverty unless we all do some additional things correctly now.

Arguing that demographics is a U.S. strategic issue as we look forward in the 21st Century for new partners on policy, business, or counterterrorism - Africa is key to the United States. Its large demographics make it more so. The summit themes are great, the U.S. interest is historic, but we may need to show something else based more on Africa's perception (not ours) of appropriateness. Thus, the suggestion being made here is to consider or re-consider the sub-regional meeting approach - further concretizing, and synergizing the U.S. stated desire to have a positive U.S.-Africa relationship. Hence calling the summit historic should not be hyperbole!

However positively the summit is planned, the fact that there are no HOS meetings, even at the sub-regional level, might be what is remembered most, and that would be a shame. Especially since the themes are on target, and various events like the recent FEEEDS-Gallup-Allafrica Africa Forum, the first to launch, and the array of July 31-August 5, 2014, unofficial and official events all addressing key related topics.

Interactive dialogue and partnership are the summit's goals. Again, all good! Although I am cheering for and confident that the summit, in so many ways, will be successful, this one issue is something many of us cannot understand. Sub-regional sessions could be tied to single topics. For example, West or Central Africa sessions could focus on security, given challenges in Mali, Nigeria, and Central African Republic and threats to U.S. national interest. East Africa's topic could be energy, noting great efforts of EXIM, Commerce, USAID, USTDA and leaders to help the 550 million Africans without power.

The last three U.S. administrations - politics aside - have done a tremendous job changing the U.S.-Africa post-Cold War paradigm - creating out of the box, or next to the box signature initiatives from AGOA to PEPFAR to MCC to FEED the Future to YALI. All in which FEEEDS-CEO, during diplomatic and non-diplomatic years, has had an opportunity to be involved.

In sum, as an American and long-time Africa hand, FEEEDS-CEO is proud of all these things, and proud that the U.S. is having this summit - hopefully the first of many. Although, a summit was called for in the 2000 Africa Growth and Opportunity Act; it has taken 10 years to get there. Indeed, it is important for this event to be remembered in good light. Even if the summit is successful on many fronts, it might be footnoted everywhere that we couldn't find time to hold, at a minimum, five sub-regional sessions. It is not like we haven't held more than five before. If one recalls, and I do, as I was there and attended one, the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit had a similar number of world leaders, 49. According to various official U.S. scheduling reports, there were at least 9-10 bilateral sessions.

I am voting for this historic summit to be remembered for all the things we did right, not for the one thing we didn't do right. Let's reconsider and put sub-regional meetings on the agenda.

MH17 and the Long Term Costs of Russia's Ukraine Incursion

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-20 19:13
Policymakers, especially policymakers who have never seen action, are often seduced by covert operations. They see them as the perfect policy instrument: cheap, deniable, effective. Yes, there can be tremendously effective covert or at least non-conventional operations and campaigns, but just as all intelligence operations must come to terms with the fundamental truth that nothing is guaranteed to stay secret for ever, so too these sneaky campaigns can very easily either fail or, even more likely, have unexpected consequences that may overshadow the intended outcome. After all, while al Qaeda and the rise of Osama bin Laden cannot entirely be charted back to the US campaign to support Islamist rebels fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan -- had the social, political and intellectual climate not been ready for the message of jihad then they would have remained on the fringes -- nonetheless there is a strong connection.

Courtesy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Putin is now coming to terms with the blowback from his Ukrainian adventure, a hybrid non-linear political-military campaign fought largely through local proxies, and this is something that will dog him for as long as he is in power. I plan to look at these in more detail at a later date, but in summary, the consequences are:



1. You don't have control over events on the ground but (rightly) get blamed when bad stuff happens. The MH17 shootdown is generating an unprecedented level of anger. Even if ultimately it is unable to muster the unity, determination and moral courage to act resolutely -- although I hope they do -- I do not believe the West will look at Putin the same way again. Furthermore, the pliant choir of "useful idiots" arguing the Russian case, whether out of self-interest or because of a naive and perverse disillusion with their own society, will find their lives harder and their audiences less tolerant.



2. You inject yourself into the negotiations, but can't deliver on a deal. At this stage, Kiev will be looking for more from Moscow than "we won't send any more people or weapons in to join the fight" but it is questionable whether the Russians can do more than extract those elements of the rebellion which really are direct covert operatives and try to persuade the rest. Given that Moscow doesn't really care about the east Ukrainians but is instead using them to put pressure on Kiev, it is unlikely to put a great premium on looking after them and their interests -- but it must then sell them the consequent peace terms.



3. You create chaos on your border. Even if Kiev is able to win a military victory or else is willing and able to arrange some kind of peace deal (which is all the harder now), eastern Ukraine will be suffering from the effects of this nasty conflict for years to come. Bad blood between communities, civilians angry at either the separatists or government after being caught in the crossfire, a hemorrhage of weapons which will arm gangsters, terrorists and random lunatics for years to come... considering the close ethnic and economic connections across the border, that will inevitably have an impact on Russia.



4. You disappoint people you previously counted as fervent supporters. It's not just Strelkov who expressed disappointment at Russia's stance. There are already concerns within the ultra-nationalist wing in Russia, people who previously saw Putin as the ideal ruler, not least given his recent shift towards a messianic Russian exceptionalism and a commitment to asserting Russia's rights to protect Russians abroad. This is very much a fringe movement, and poses no serious threat to Putin, but it does mean that he no longer can rely on their active support.



5. You undermine your persona as the infallible tsar. Of course the Russian media will spin whatever decision he chooses to make, but we shouldn't presume that the Russian population are wholly clueless. If he has to accept the crushing of the insurrection and, even more alarming, a further Ukrainian drift towards Europe without having been given some grounds to claim"Mission Accomplished," then he will look bad. (To that end, if the aim is an early end to hostilities, it would make sense for Kiev to ponder what face-saving package it can give that it is willing to give: simply a nicely package assertion of things already said, such as the protection of Russia's status as a state language; as well as what is a practical inevitability, such as ruling out NATO membership for at least eight years, might be enough.)



6. You look weak before your other neighbors, undermining claims to regional hegemony. Just as the 2008 Georgian War was as much -- if not mainly -- about asserting Moscow's will and capacity to punish those Near Abroad states challenging its regional hegemony, a perceived failure in Ukraine cannot but embolden those other nations. Let's face it, Moscow has in the main relatively little positive soft power: no one especially likes Russia or looks up to it as a model. Instead, there are some countries who regard it as either too useful or too dangerous to flout. That pragmatic arithmetic may shift.



7. You are held accountable for your actions (maybe). We'll have to see quite how robust the further Western response will be. The current sanctions regime and diplomatic chill is a little irksome but entirely bearable, but if we start seeing more concrete measures, whether the cancellation of contracts (can Paris really still deliver modern assault carriers to Russia with good conscience?), expanded travel bans or even sectoral sanctions, then this will hit Russia and Russians. Short-term bravado will give way to longer-term concerns in this case. Either way, those voices in the West who warned that Putin's Russia was that dangerous thing, a compound of the aggressive and erratic, have been proven right, and NATO now looks more relevant than at any time since not even 1991, but arguably since Gorbachev's accession to power.



One way or the other, while the concept of non-linear war is still entirely valid and will be a crucial factor in 21st century statecraft, in this case it has gone very wrong. Bad luck for Moscow, to a degree, but handing powerful weapons to undertrained, undisciplined and gung-ho rebels is in many ways an invitation to such bad luck. And ultimately Putin has no one to blame but himself (although I'm sure he'll find someone.)



Mark Galeotti is Professor of Global Affairs at New York University's Center for Global Affairs, where his focus is modern Russian history and security affairs and transnational and organized crime. He has published widely, with 13 authored and edited books to his name, and writes a personal blog at inmoscowsshadows.wordpress.com, where this post first appeared.

Bad Borders Make Bad Neighbors: Israel/Gaza, Ukraine/Russia, Texas/Mexico

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-20 18:40


LISTEN HERE:



By Mark Green

Border clashes are suddenly breaking out making immigration reform and Middle East peace now even less likely. Shrum and Lowry debate origins and solutions and a) whether the downing of MH17 will force Putin to choose between partner or pariah; and b) how Elizabeth Warren became the new Thor.

On Refugee Crisis. We hear Sen. Harkin complain that we're dealing with the influx of unsupervised children from Central America "like they were livestock - just round 'em up and ship 'em back," while Sen. Cruz says this is what happens when you promise "amnesty" and don't enforce the law.

Bob argues that the 57,000 came here largely because they were fleeing violence and we need to follow - not repeal - the '08 Bush-Feinstein law to provide hearings to determine whether they are entitled to asylum or should be returned. "If Cruz gets his way and we deport Dreamers" and have no comprehensive immigration reform, "it'll be hemlock for the GOP in 2016... And why are we about the only country in the world not providing asylum in these circumstances?"

Rich emphasizes that the U.S. has been a magnet for these immigrants, that violence in those dysfunctional host countries is lessening and that most should be returned as quickly as possible. "There are cross-pressures", he adds, on both Obama not to look like he's created this problem and on the GOP not to look anti-Hispanic - hence the basis of a deal to speed the process and provide humane facilities. But neither thinks that likely in the near-term despite the immediate humanitarian crisis.

Host: a favorite new rhetorical riff is for the McCain-Rogers-Radditz crowd to breathlessly list hot spots around globe - Texas border! Israel-Hamas! Iraq-ISIS! Iran! Afghanistan! MH17!... then remind us that Obama's president... then assert that he's "aloof; QED. Secretary Kerry brilliantly pushed back against this politicized cause-effect on all five Sunday shows by ticking off U.S. involvement in each (brokered deal in Afghan, chemicals out of Syria, Iran talks continuing...) and by suggesting to the armchair warriors/Chicken Littles that 2014 is not 1914.

On Israel-Hamas. Shrum-Lowry agree with Netanyahu-Obama that Israel should and will respond to rocket attacks on its civilian population by retaliating against Hamas in Gaza. Host: "Rich, since Obama's approach is probably identical to one that Reagan-Clinton-Bush would take, will there one GOP leader who says on this foreign policy issue, 'We stand with the President and Prime Minister?'" "I doubt it," he responds, as Bob laughs and lauds his "honesty."

Given the gross disparity in military assets, why would Hamas start this violence? Again, we go beyond Left-Right as both agree that a weakened Hamas (e.g., Egypt now hostile after fall of Morsi) wants to show it can stand up to the Goliath of Israel in order to score points with the 'Arab Street'. Lowry laments that the PA and Hamas had the opportunity to make Gaza "the Switzerland of the Middle East - emphasizing trade, democracy - but instead chose hatred and violence toward Israel."

This is third such exchange since Israel withdrew from occupying Gaza in 2005 - so what can stop these déjà vu wars? Bob wants an Israeli PM to also bring a larger vision of a two-state peace to the conflict but doubts that Netanyahu can. "Israel should every week say that the Camp David (Clinton-Barak) Accord is on the table if this Palestinian Authority, unlike Arafat, would sign it."

Obama and Kerry, like all reasonable observers, should be anguished by the civilian death toll in Gaza. But it's another thing to tell Israel how to calibrate that the porridge is neither too hot nor too cold having had to face these existential threats since 1948. Or as Bill Maher put it, Israel can't go 8-1 in wars, only 9-0 will do.

On MH17. Following Russia's annexation of Crimea and Obama's increasing sanctions, might the tragic shoot-down by apparently pro-Russian separatists be a "game-changer" forcing Putin to stop his subsidized provocations in Eastern Ukraine? Can a "New Cold War" or even a hot one be averted? Shrum thinks so but only if there's a "face-saving, broader agreement" that establishes a federal Ukraine trading with both East and West. But just arming Kiev more could backfire if it provokes Putin to do what he so far hasn't - invade Eastern Ukraine. Then like FDR in the Balkans, Ike in Hungry, Bush in Georgia, there won't be much a U.S. president can realistically do.

Although the McCain-Graham war whoops will continue, it's unlikely that neo-cons, post-MH17, will be repeating their praise of Putin as being a superior leader to Obama. In their lexicon, presumably, a thug is worse than a wimp.

On Elizabeth Warren. Why are many Democrats treating first-term Senator Elizabeth Warren as the new Thor?

We listen to her sharp rhetoric against a "rigged system" that helps Wall Street at the expense of Main Street and how the Senate chose "billionaires over students" by rejecting her Student Loan bill reducing rates. There's a consensus that she has an authentic voice conveying an understandable economic message that appeals to Democrats and even some "populist" Republicans.

Can she competitively run for President if HRC does, or doesn't? Bob says, "no and yes." Rich: "yes and yes." (Apparently, while Lowry wants a juicy intra-party nomination fight, he has never entered a campaign 60 points behind, as the Host has and as Warren would if she challenged Clinton.) There's an implied understanding that a Warren-Cruz/all-Harvard Law School general election would be fun... but far-fetched.

On Quick Takes: Water, Death Penalty, Teacher Tenure.

Should a bankrupt Detroit shut water off to homes not paying its water bills - or is water a basic human right?

Then, like Prop 13 and later Prop 8, is California again on the cutting edge, judicially? Will the California federal judge ruling that the death penalty is arbitrary and therefore unconstitutional be sustained on appeal? Will the California state judge ruling that teacher tenure is unconstitutional be upheld and spread?

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

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UN: Iran Turns Nuclear Material Into More Harmless Forms

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-20 18:05
VIENNA (AP) — The United Nations says Iran has turned all enriched uranium closest to the level needed to make nuclear arms into more harmless forms.

Tehran had committed to the move under an agreement with six powers last November that essentially froze its atomic programs while the two sides negotiate a comprehensive deal. They extended those talks Saturday to Nov. 24. Iran had more than 200 kilograms (over 250 pounds) of 20 percent enriched uranium when the agreement was reached and began reducing it shortly after. The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency said Sunday in a report obtained by The Associated Press that all has now been converted or diluted.

At 20 percent, enriched uranium can be converted quickly to arm a nuclear weapon. Iran denies wanting such arms.

John Kerry To Go To Cairo To Push Israel, Hamas Ceasefire

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-20 17:58
WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry is heading back to the Middle East as the Obama administration attempts to bolster regional efforts to reach a ceasefire and sharpens its criticism of Hamas in its conflict with Israel.

The State Department said Kerry would leave early Monday for Egypt where he will join diplomatic efforts to resume a truce that had been agreed to in November 2012. In a statement Sunday evening, department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the U.S. and international partners "deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation, and the loss of more innocent life." The Obama administration has toned down its earlier rebuke of Israel for attacks on the Gaza Strip that have killed civilians, including children, although both President Barack Obama and Kerry expressed concern about the rising death toll.

The U.S. will urge the militant Palestinian group to accept a cease-fire agreement that would halt nearly two weeks of fighting with Israel. More than 430 Palestinians and 20 Israelis have been killed in that time.

Two Americans who fought for the Israel Defense Forces were killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip — Max Steinberg, 24 of Southern California's San Fernando Valley and Nissim Carmeli of South Padre Island, Texas. The State Department's Psaki confirmed the names of the two U.S. citizens.

Stuart Steinberg earlier told The Associated Press Sunday that his 24-year-old son Max, 24, had been killed. Steinberg was a sharpshooter for the Golani Brigade. Earlier Sunday, the IDF said in a statement that Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, was killed in combat in the Gaza Strip. Deputy Consul General of Israel to the Southwest, Maya Kadosh, said Carmeli moved to Israel four years ago and added that the consulate helped his family get a flight there Sunday.

Cairo has offered a cease-fire plan that is backed by the U.S. and Israel. But Hamas has rejected the Egyptian plan and is relying on governments in Qatar and Turkey for an alternative proposal. Qatar and Turkey have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is also linked to Hamas but banned in Egypt.

Making the rounds of Sunday talk shows, Kerry pointed to Hamas' role in the violence.

"It's ugly. War is ugly, and bad things are going to happen," Kerry told ABC's "This Week." But, he added, Hamas needs "to recognize their own responsibility."

Both Obama and Kerry said Israel has a right to defend itself against frequent rocket attacks by Hamas from the Gaza Strip. Kerry accused Hamas of attempting to sedate and kidnap Israelis through a network of tunnels that militants have used to stage cross-border raids.

He said on CNN's "State of the Union" that Hamas must "step up and show a level of reasonableness, and they need to accept the offer of a cease-fire."

Then, Kerry said, "we will certainly discuss all of the issues relevant to the underlying crisis."

The nearly two-week conflict appeared to be escalating as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was already in the region to try to revive cease-fire efforts.

Obama, in a telephone call Sunday, told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Kerry was coming to the Mideast and condemned Hamas' attacks, according to a White House statement.

The U.N. relief agency in Gaza estimates that 70,000 Palestinians have fled their homes in the fighting and are seeking shelter in schools and other shelters the United Nations has set up. The relief agency's top director in Gaza, Robert Turner, told CNN's "State of the Union" that the U.N. has run out of mattresses for refugees and few hygiene and medical supplies are left, although fresh food and water remain available.

"People are scared," Turner said. "They don't feel safe at home, they don't feel safe with their families or neighbors. They feel relatively safe in our installations. ... We frankly have been overwhelmed by the numbers."

He said more than 1,000 homes in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair, and at least 13,000 lightly damaged.

U.S. officials made clear, however, that Hamas could bring relief to the Palestinian people if it agrees to a cease-fire proposed by Egypt — a view that Netanyahu is pushing as well.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, urged Israel to "stay as long as you need to stay, go wherever you need to go, do deal with a viper's nest called Hamas."

"If it's left up to Hamas, thousands of Israelis would be dead," Graham, R-S.C., told NBC's "Meet the Press."

Netanyahu agreed. In an ABC interview, he said Israel has tried to avoid killing Palestinian civilians through phone calls, text messages and leaflets dropped on their communities.

But Hamas doesn't "give a whit about the Palestinians," Netanyahu said. "All they want is more and more civilian deaths."

The prime minister said his top goal is to restore a sustainable peace, but then will ask the international community to consider demilitarizing Gaza to rid Hamas of its rockets and shut down the tunnels leading into Israel. Netanyahu brushed off a question about giving concessions to Hamas as a step toward peace, including releasing Palestinian prisoners or loosening border crossings.

"Hamas doesn't care," Netanyahu said. "I think the last thing you want to do is reward them."

Kerry also said any cease-fire agreement must be without conditions or "any rewards for terrorist behavior." He did not mention the Qatari or Turkish efforts.

Kerry also blamed the latest wave of violence on what he called Israel's "legitimate" efforts to pursue and punish those who last month kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found in the West Bank.

Their deaths were followed almost immediately by what authorities believe was a retribution attack on a Palestinian youth who was strangled, beaten and burned to death.

Tensions between Israel and Palestinian authorities have been simmering for years. They threatened to boil over this spring when Israel shelved nearly nine months of peace negotiations that were being personally shepherded by Kerry after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to create a unity government with Hamas.

"No country could sit by and not take steps to try to deal with people who are sending thousands of rockets your way," Kerry said.

Kerry spoke Sunday on all five major news network talk shows: NBC's "Meet the Press," CNN's "State of the Union," ABC's "This Week", CBS' "Face the Nation" and "Fox News Sunday."

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Follow Lara Jakes on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/larajakesAP

Illinois Legalizes Medical Marijuana For Children With Seizures

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2014-07-20 17:29

July 20 (Reuters) - Illinois children and adults with epilepsy will soon be allowed to use marijuana to ease their symptoms under a law signed on Sunday by Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, the latest in a series of measures loosening restrictions on cannabis by U.S. states.

The move to add epilepsy and other seizure disorders to the list of conditions legal to treat with marijuana or its extracts comes as numerous states have made medical use of the drug legal. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized its recreational use.

"This new law will help alleviate the suffering of many adults and children across the state," Quinn said in statement. "Epilepsy is a debilitating condition, and this much-needed relief will help to reduce some of its symptoms for those who endure seizures."

The Illinois law, which takes effect in January, would allow children who experience seizures to be treated with non-smokable forms of cannabis, as long as they have permission from a parent.

"I have a 14-year-old constituent by the name of Hugh who lives with epilepsy," said Republican state lawmaker Jim Durkin, who co-sponsored the new law. "His parents, Bob and Kelly, want to provide their son with as much relief as possible. Unfortunately, traditional medications and methods have not worked."

The state is putting the final touches on a broader medical marijuana plan, a tightly regulated program whose regulations were finalized just last week.

Residents will be allowed to apply for permission to use the drug to treat medical conditions in September, and the full program is expected to be up and running early next year, Quinn spokeswoman Katie Hickey said on Sunday.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Editing by Dan Grebler)