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Jon Stewart Mocks Media 'Chaos' Over Obamacare Ruling

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2014-07-24 05:17
it was chaos -- chaos!!! -- when a federal appeals court ruled against a key provision in the Affordable Care Act earlier this week.

At least, that's how the media put it, leading "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart to whip out a severed head and begin screaming: "There is no law! Everyone for themselves! It's the end of the world! You blew it up! Obamacare is made of people!"

But then a second court ruled in favor of that same provision.

So how can we fix it? As usual, Stewart has some ideas... including one that involves a Scrabble set.

Watch the clip above for more.

Anthony Maslin And Marite Norris, Parents Of 3 Kids Killed On Flight MH17, Speak Out

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2014-07-24 04:07
Anthony Maslin and Marite Norris, who lost their three children and Norris' father when Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, have released a statement describing their anguish.

The couple had remained in Amsterdam while Nick Norris, 68, brought the kids -- Otis, 8, Evie, 10 and Mo, 12 -- home for school.

"No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for our children, for Mo, for Evie, for Otis - Maslin family pic.twitter.com/ZaM1wDn3eq

— Samantha Maiden (@samanthamaiden) July 23, 2014


Here's the full text of the statement released by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs:

A message to the soldiers in the Ukraine, the politicians, the media, our friends and family.

Our pain is intense and relentless. We live in a hell beyond hell.

Our babies are not here with us -- we need to live with this act of horror, every day and every moment for the rest of our lives.

No one deserves what we are going through.

Not even the people who shot our whole family out of the sky.

No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for our children, for Mo, for Evie, for Otis.

No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for Grandad Nick.

No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for each other.

This is a revelation that gives us some comfort.

We would ask everyone to remember this when you are making any decisions that affect us and the other victims of this horror.

So far, every moment since we arrived home, we’ve been surrounded by family and friends. We desperately pray that this continues, because this expression of love is what is keeping us alive. We want to continue to know about your lives, all the good and all the bad. We no longer have lives that we want to live by ourselves. So we’d like to take the chance to thank everyone, all our incredible friends, family and communities, and to tell you all that we love you very much.

We would also like to thank the people at DFAT; the local co-ordinator Claire and most sincerely, Diana and Adrian from The Hague, without whom we would not be here. We ask the media to respect the privacy of our family and friends -- pain is not a story.

Yours truly

Anthony Maslin & Marite Norris

Health Insurers Set To Give Out More Obamacare Refunds

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2014-07-24 00:01
WASHINGTON -- An obscure Obamacare feature may net health insurance customers $332 million this year.

That's the total insurance companies will have to give back to customers this year under an Affordable Care Act provision designed to keep companies from overcharging consumers, the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Thursday. Including this year, consumers will have recovered a total of $1.9 billion from insurance companies since the rule took effect in 2011, according to the department.

Under President Barack Obama's signature health care reform law, insurance companies must spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they collect on actual medical care, rather than on overhead and profit. They are required to give rebates to consumers, or to their employers in the case of job-based insurance, if they fail to meet that standard. Close to 7 million people are due refunds by Aug. 1, with an average of $80, according to a report issued by the department.

Consumers may not actually get checks or refunds to their credit cards, however. Insurance companies may also apply the money to future premiums, or pass the dollars back to the employer that sponsored the coverage, which may use the funds to lower premiums or add benefits.

The aim of the "80/20" or "medical loss ratio" rule isn't just to give rebates to consumers whose insurance providers overcharge them. The goal is to pressure insurers to cut administrative spending and other overhead, and to price their plans accurately up front. Under the rule, large-group plans like job-based health benefits must spend 85 percent of premiums on medical care, while insurers covering small businesses or individuals who buy plans directly must spend 80 percent.

Health and Human Services data indicate health insurers are cutting overhead. In the individual market, the percentage of premiums going to administrative costs and profit fell from 15.3 percent in 2011 to 11.5 percent in 2013, HHS reports. Reductions in the large-group and small-group markets were less, and the overall rate dropped from 13.1 percent to 12.2 percent.

Fewer people are getting rebates, which is another sign the 80/20 rule may be working as intended: If insurance companies set prices up front that are closer to their expenses, then they will have less need to pay rebates.

In 2012, 13 million consumers got rebates valued at $1.1 billion. Last year, 8.5 million got $500 million in refunds. According to HHS, the Obamacare 80/20 rule saved consumers about $9 billion in excess premiums from 2011 to 2013.

Congress Stalls Out Trying To Solve Self-Declared Crises

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2014-07-24 00:00
WASHINGTON -- When Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in crafting a bill to restructure the Department of Veterans Affairs, he pleaded with his colleagues to not derail the compromise.

The delays in health care for veterans were too offensive, the system too corrupt, to allow for the usual congressional squabbling. And if McCain, an avowed conservative, and Sanders, the chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a noted socialist, could find common ground, surely other committee members could.

“Let’s not get hung up on certain other aspects of our differences that have characterized what most people would view as gridlock in this body,” said McCain.

The date was June 5. Now, nearly 45 days later, the squabbling that McCain warned about has come to pass.

While the Senate quickly passed the Sanders-McCain bill with bipartisan support, efforts to reform the VA have stalled during the past few days. And with little more than a week remaining before Congress leaves for August recess, there seems little confidence for a quick resolution.

“It is unconscionable,” McCain told The Huffington Post in a brief interview in the Senate halls on Wednesday. “It is embarrassing. Embarrassing is a better word.”

Predictable is a word, too.

A nasty habit has begun defining the current Congress. Following the emergence of a crisis, lawmakers and the White House spend weeks treating the matter as an existential threat. A proposed response is crafted, only to fall apart amid partisan struggling.

When Congress adjourns in August, it won’t just be a VA reform bill likely left unresolved. Every other major emergency Congress faces will be left festering as well.

Top aides on both sides said it's increasingly likely that, come recess, there won’t be a bill to address the buildup of undocumented migrants along the nation’s southern border, even though it's been repeatedly called a humanitarian crisis. Bickering between the two parties has infected hearings into the disappearance of Internal Revenue Service emails, despite it being branded troubling if not downright Nixonian. A long-term extension to the dwindling highway trust fund was resolved with a short-term patch, even though both sides warned that only a long-term deal will avoid upsetting the economy.

“These are shameful chapters,” said McCain. “Probably the most shameful would be if we fail to act on the VA. For us to let our veterans down, it is unacceptable is the mildest word I can think of.”

What ails the legislative process is nothing new. Interviews with members of Congress from both sides on Wednesday produced the usual responses. There is no trust or relationships between the parties. Partisans on each side demand ideological purity. Election season never seems to end. And so on.

“The problem we have here in Washington is you’ve got senators campaigning against fellow senators,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) “There is no trust. They are afraid to talk openly or share any information that they have. They are afraid to share their thoughts because it might be used against them in the political arena.”

But if the symptoms remain the same, the outcome is growing worse. While past congresses, including recent ones, were poor at legislating, a crisis usually compelled action. The current crop of lawmakers doesn’t seem to respond quickly (if at all) to self-proclaimed emergency.

“This is the least-productive Congress in my 17 years in Congress,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a briefing with reporters on Wednesday. “This Congress is dysfunctional.”

Asked why Senate and House leaders weren’t talking with each other right now on bills dealing with the border crossings, Hoyer quickly interjected: “What do you mean right now? .... When were they talking to each other?”

VA reform, as McCain suggested, was supposed to be different. While the IRS scandal and issue of border security have heavy, existing political undertones, there seemed general consensus about fixes for veterans’ care. Changes would allow veterans far from VA facilities the option of private care, cutting bureaucratic red tape. In return, the VA would get resources to help with overwhelmed hospitals and doctor shortages.

The compromise struck by McCain and Sanders would spend $500 million for constructing 27 new VA facilities and hiring new medical personnel, among other things. It also allows veterans who live beyond 40 miles from a VA facility the option to seek outside care. The measure passed 93-3 in the Senate.

The House version of the bill is not too different from the Senate’s, which makes the stalemate all the more staggering to those who want smooth passage. While the House bill wouldn't add additional funds for new facilities, it allows veterans to opt out of the system if they experience long waits or are far from hospitals.

The House bill, like the Senate version, would be quite costly. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the Sanders-McCain bill would cost $50 billion, while the House measure would cost $54 billion, owing to the tabs the government would have to pick up for additional private care.

Top aides on the Hill have said that negotiations between Sanders and House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) have had an on-again, off-again feel. At points, both sides see the contours of an agreement, but disputes have always gotten in the way. Most recently, talks have been disrupted over a memo from acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, saying the department needs an infusion of more than $17 billion in order to perform its job.

“It seemed like the conferees were making steady progress until the White House inserted this new funding request into the mix,” said one senior House GOP aide.

Sanders on Wednesday said he was looking for ways to chop down the $17 billion. He has also said he's fine with finding budget cuts or revenue increases to offset a portion of the bill's cost. But he has noted that if the country wants to go to war, it has to tend to the wounded. And if lawmakers were sincere when they deemed the VA system in crisis, they must consider the legislation emergency spending.

Talking to reporters late Wednesday afternoon, Sanders didn’t sound like someone optimistic for a breakthrough.

“I think that it has been public that one of the great stumbling blocks is that the House is not interested in funding the doctors and nurses and space that the VA needs,” Sanders said. “I hope we can resolve that. I hope that we can come up with a compromise bill, and I hope we can do that before we get out of here."

U.S.: Downed Ukraine Jets Part Of Russia Influenced Pattern

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 23:58
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House cast the downing of two fighter jets in Ukraine on Wednesday as part of a pattern of Russian-backed separatists using Russian weapons to pose risks to aircrafts and further destabilize the conflict in the former Soviet republic.

The Ukrainian jets were downed just 20 miles south of the wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane hit by a missile last week, suggesting the separatists have been undeterred by the international outrage over that incident. The United States has blamed the separatists for firing the missile that led to the deaths of the 298 people aboard and also pointed a finger at Russia for equipping the rebels with the technology to bring down a plane. White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Wednesday's attack was another indication that the separatists have the capability to bring down aircraft.

"The only aircraft they're not taking responsibility for is MH-17," Rhodes said, referring to the Malaysia plane's flight number. "But I don't think anybody believes that. How could anybody believe anything that the separatists or Russia says about this when we see a clear pattern of threatening Ukrainian aircraft in eastern Ukraine?"

Rhodes said the U.S. is weighing additional economic sanctions that could be levied on Russia if it continues to arm the separatists. He left open the possibility that the U.S. could implement those penalties unilaterally, before the European Union potentially deepens its own sanctions regime against Russia.

While the U.S. has sought to levy sanctions in coordination with the EU, officials have become increasingly frustrated with Europe's reluctance to approve penalties that could cut deeply into Russia's key economic sectors. European leaders fear that their strong trade ties with Russia could make their own economies vulnerable to the fallout of such sanctions.

Rhodes offered no timeline for when the U.S. could levy new penalties. He suggested that the U.S. could deepen sanctions on Russian banks, as well as on energy and defense companies, all sectors the administration hit with penalties the day before the Malaysia plane was shot down.

The U.S. has sought this week to present more specific evidence tying the separatists to the shooting of the passenger jet. Officials have cited intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts, as evidence that the plane was brought down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired from a separatist-controlled area in eastern Ukraine.

However, officials have offered no direct evidence that the missile came from Russia or that Russia was directly involved in the attack.

"Do we know who pulled the trigger? No, that's the hardest thing to determine," Rhodes said. "But when you add up the different pieces of evidence, they're telling one story here."

D'Souza's Shameful Treatment of Conservatives Highlights Need for a Renaissance of Intellectual Conservatism

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 22:59
A few weeks ago I went to see Dinesh D'Souza's America: Imagine the World Without Her in hopes of viewing a film that would represent a significant intellectual contribution to the current policy debates plaguing the American psyche. What's fascinated me since that viewing are the many accolades that D'Souza has received from conservative print publications and television shows. In fact, Human Events wrote, "Dinesh D'Souza does a fine job of conducting a classical American symphony in response [to the liberal viewpoint]," and National Review's Jay Nordlinger lauds, "D'Souza is highly skilled in defending his point of view."

I'm fascinated by this praise, because although some of the premises of D'Souza's film and, I assume, the corresponding book have great potential for fostering an engaging and meaningful dialogue around conservative viewpoints, the film devolves into a series of vignettes that lack any intellect. D'Souza's film fails to present conservatism as having anything to offer to today's policy debates and instead makes it out to be a cacophony of unsubstantiated statements.

Throughout the film D'Souza presents cherry-picked "experts" who, in many cases, could be described as amateurs when compared to the intellectuals he puts them up against from the left. For example, when discussing the economy, Dinesh relies on "experts" whom even a well-read conservative would likely have never heard of before watching the film. As a response to the dogma of the Piketty clan, Dinesh could have drawn on the likes of Niall Ferguson or Luigi Zingales to drive home his point regarding why capitalism works and how, even conservatives admit, it can be fixed.

Further, to justify each of the five theses that he presents throughout the film, Dinesh relies on hollow and overly generalized arguments. In fact, at one point in the film, Dinesh appears to be preparing to tackle the issue of border security but fails remarkably by instead insisting that the issue really comes down to how great America is, which, from D'Souza's viewpoint, is reinforced by the fact that "nobody is trying to escape to Mexico." It's arguments such as this, lacking any underlying data, presented as being the best conservatives have to offer, that serve only to diminish conservative thought. Conservatives need to move beyond political hyperbole masked with patriotic images and instead exhibit their patriotism by developing arguments that are rooted in facts and by using a language that doesn't hide behind our flag but hoists it up with statements that would make John Adams or Alexander Hamilton recognize their own political philosophy.

Conservatives are in desperate need of new voices, voices that resurrect conservativism from being a dormant perspective to one that is rich with much to offer to today's policy debates. We need voices like Bret Stephens and others to be brought to the forefront, while also fostering the next generation of Hayeks and Friedmans. Conservative doctrine can no longer afford to fall victim to poorly constructed books and films or, for that matter, "talking heads" who risk negating the very real contribution that this political philosophy has and can continue to make to our society.

At the end of D'Souza's film, he's portrayed as wearing handcuffs in what appears to be an apology to his "fans" and an awkward show of penance for recent improprieties on his part (campaign finance fraud). Perhaps it's this visual that could also be viewed as an analogy for his wrongdoing in producing this film: It handcuffs us to a representation of conservativism that restricts it from realizing its potential. What we need now is a new generation of conservative thinkers on the same level as celebrated liberal intellectuals such as Thomas Piketty (and, hopefully, with better data!). We need to celebrate and promote conservative academics and thinkers instead of those who only add fodder to the belief that conservatives have little or nothing to add. If conservatives seek to remain relevant, then we must challenge the stereotypes that we are at risk of succumbing to when we allow ourselves and our philosophy to be turned into political caricatures by voices like D'Souza. We need to stand up and challenge the view that we're "non-thinkers" by constructing well-informed arguments that shatter the belief that conservatives are uneducated that are only reinforced by films like America: Imagine the World Without Her.

Failing to foster a new generation of conservative thinkers thoughtfully engaged in policy discussions and, therefore, witnessing the disappearance of this perspective in our time is a shameful, and yet preventable, possibility that may yet come to be.

Gaza Death Toll Climbs As Kerry Pushes For Truce

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 21:59

* Israeli tank fire kills 16 Palestinians before dawn

* Kerry reports progress in ceasefire talks; Israel is mum

* U.S. extends ban on U.S. flights to Israel for second day

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Allyn Fisher-Ilan

GAZA/JERUSALEM, July 24 (Reuters) - The death toll in Gaza topped 700 on Thursday as Israeli tank fire before dawn killed 16 people in the Hamas-dominated coastal territory, including six members of the same family, Palestinian health officials said.

The continued violence defied world efforts to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas after 17 days of fighting, though some officials voiced optimism that a limited truce may be within reach.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flying back from Israel to Cairo for more talks with Egyptian mediators, reported some progress in ceasefire talks.

An Egyptian official said on Wednesday a humanitarian truce may go into effect by the weekend, in time for the Eid al-Fitr festival, Islam's biggest annual celebration that follows the fasting month of Ramadan.

However, a senior U.S. official said this was a U.S. hope but a truce was by no means locked in.

"It would not be accurate to say that we expect a ceasefire by the weekend," said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We are continuing to work on it, but it is not set at this point."

Israel's security cabinet released no decision after meeting late into the night on a proposed humanitarian truce under which fighting would cease immediately but negotiations for terms for an extended deal would begin only in several days' time.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, speaking in Qatar, said his fighters had made gains against Israel and expressed support for a humanitarian truce, but only if Israel eased restrictions on Gaza's 1.8 million Palestinians.

"Let's agree first on the demands and on implementing them and then we can agree on the zero hour for a ceasefire ... We will not accept any proposal that does not lift the blockade ... We do not desire war and we do not want it to continue but we will not be broken by it," Meshaal said on Wednesday.

Israel has signaled it prefers to press on with its ground troops offensive to find and destroy Hamas's rocket stores and wipe out a vast network of tunnels Israel sees as having been built for the purpose of infiltrating its territory.


U.S. FLIGHT BAN

But Israel is also under growing pressure to curtail the fighting, especially with American aviation authorities having banned U.S. flights to Tel Aviv for the past two days, spooked by rocket salvoes out of the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration took the rare step of banning flights to Tel Aviv, and renewed the order on Wednesday.

Many other foreign carriers, on heightened alert after a Malaysian airliner was shot down over a combat zone in Ukraine last week, followed suit. Israeli carriers continued to operate.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri praised the flight bans as a "great victory" for the Islamist group.

Israel also came under criticism from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who said there was "a strong possibility" Israel was committing war crimes in Gaza, where 703 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the fighting.

Pillay also condemned indiscriminate Islamist rocket fire out of Gaza, and the United Nations Human Rights Council said it would launch an international inquiry into alleged violations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted furiously.

"The decision today by the HRC is a travesty," he said in a statement. "The HRC should be launching an investigation into Hamas's decision to turn hospitals into military command centers, use schools as weapons depots and place missile batteries next to playgrounds, private homes and mosques."


ROCKETS IN SCHOOLS

The U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, lashed out at militants in Gaza, by expressing "outrage and regret" at rockets found inside a U.N. school for refugees, for the second time during the current conflict.

Storing the rockets in the schools "turned schools into potentially military targets, endangering the lives of innocent children," U.N. employees and the tens of thousands of Palestinians seeking shelter at Gaza schools from the fighting, Ban said. He urged an investigation.

Kerry returned to Egypt late on Wednesday after meeting in Jerusalem and the West Bank with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Ban and a grim-faced Netanyahu.

"We have certainly made some steps forward. There is still work to be done," said Kerry, on one of his most intensive regional visits since Netanyahu called off U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations over Abbas's power-share deal with Hamas in April.

Israel launched its offensive on July 8 to halt rocket salvoes by Hamas and its allies, which have struggled under an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade on Gaza and were angered by a crackdown on their supporters in the occupied West Bank.

After an aerial and naval bombardment failed to quell the outgunned guerrillas, Israel poured ground forces into the Gaza Strip last Thursday to destroy Hamas's rocket stores and tunnels.

"We are meeting resistance around the tunnels ... they are constantly trying to attack us around and in the tunnels. That is the trend," Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said on Wednesday.

Palestinian health officials said Israeli tank fire killed 16 people early on Thurday, including six members of the same family.

Three Israeli soldiers were killed by explosive devices on Wednesday, lifting the army death toll to 32. Three civilians have also been killed in rocket attacks out of Gaza, including a Thai laborer hit on Wednesday.

The military says one of its soldiers is also missing and believes he might be dead. Hamas says it has captured him, but has not released a picture of him in their hands.

Rocket fire at Israel slowed slightly on Wednesday when 98 rockets were fired, 70 of them striking Israeli territory and 25 intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system. Through much of the fighting more than 110 rockets had been fired daily at Israel.

Israel said it detained 150 Palestinians in Gaza for questioning about involvement with militants, and that it targeted more than 100 rocket launchers, tunnels and military compounds across Gaza on Wednesday.

Gaza has been rocked by regular bouts of violence since Israel unilaterally pulled out of the territory in 2005.

Hamas, which rejects Israel's right to exist, balked at Egypt's truce proposal last week and said its conditions had to be met in full before any end to the conflict.

These demands include the release of hundreds of Hamas supporters arrested since last month in the West Bank and an end to the Egyptian-Israeli blockade of Gaza, which has stymied the economy and made it near impossible for anyone to travel abroad.

The war is exacting a heavy toll on impoverished Gaza. Palestinian officials say at least 475 houses have been totally destroyed by Israeli fire and 2,644 partially damaged. Some 46 schools, 56 mosques and seven hospitals have also suffered varying degrees of destruction.


(Additional reporting by Ori Lewis, Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Arshad Mohammed and Yasmine Saleh in Cairo, Amena Bakr in Doha and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Nigeria: Is Religion Used as an Excuse to Rape?

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 21:53
Whether you call the girl a "wife" or an "infidel," abducting and molesting her is still rape with religion used as a cover to justify carnal assault.

One hundred days ago, Boko Haram, a diffuse Islamic sect, abducted 243 girls from a school in Chibok, Borno State, in northeast Nigeria They carted them off to unknown forest locations where they are still being held. Some who escaped told of gang rapes. So much for religion.

"For a group that claims to be religious, Boko Haram's tactics are the most profane acts we can imagine," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The killing and mutilation of ordinary Nigerians, the abduction and rape of women and girls, and the use of children for fighting are horrifying human rights violations."

Chibok, a largely Christian community, where literacy is relatively high, is located in the predominately Muslim Borno State. The abductions were not the first or the last act of thugs calling themselves Boko Haram who claimed they are against education for women, a Western imperialist imposition. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted, the horrific attacks and violence have become "an almost daily occurrence."

Boko Haram has interpreted Islam to mean that Muslims are forbidden to take part in any political or social activity associated with the West. It has opened up schools for impoverished boys to attend, plays on their ignorance and recruits them as soldiers. The Nigerian government, many say, has done too little for education and the economic disparities. (See Council on Foreign Relations analysis)

Under an apparent belief that if you kill enough people, you will establish a caliph, the sect has attacked the police and military, Moslem and Christian clerics, and many public institutions, including a suicide attack on the United Nations building in Abuja, the capital, in 2011.

Human Rights Watch says at least 2,053 civilians have been killed in an estimated 95 attacks during the first half of 2014, compared with 3,600 deaths in the first four years of the conflict. And over the weekend, Boko Haram took over a major northeast town, Damboa, a few miles from Chibok, forcing 15,000 people to flee and leaving behind 100 dead bodies.

If the girls come home...
What happens if the girls escape, alive and perhaps pregnant? Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin of Nigeria, the executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), says his agency is organizing health workers, teachers and other skilled counselors to enable the girls to speak of their treatment and console their parents.

Dr. Osotimehin said the Nigerian people, as a whole, did not view education as Western invention and that "every decent person in the world would like to see the girls come back home and whatever it takes to make that happen."



In an interview, he said health workers in the community have to be trained in order to get the girls to speak to them. "If they do that, they are in a position to determine what is going on what is needed to build up confidence and how to provide them psychological support," he said.

"We will also provide immediate diagnosis and treatment to the victims to ensure their health, including their sexual and reproductive health. We will initiate programs that will encourage the girls' reintegration into the educational system to enable them to complete their education."

The UN Security Council's Al Qaeda sanctions committee added Ansaru (another Nigeria militant group), Boko Haram and its leader Abubakar Mohammed Shekau to its blacklist, subject to financial and arms sanctions. The main object is to permit governments and agencies to trace and stop financial flows.

And despite the world wide protest, no one has found the abducted girls, even with the United States lending air surveillance.

ISIS and the religious rape brigade
ISIL or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in Iraq also uses religion to justify rape.

"We are deeply concerned by recent reports that four women have committed suicide after being raped or forced to marry ISIL militants as well as reports of men committing suicide after being forced to watch their wives and daughters being raped," said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa, the executive director of UN Women.

Obviously violence against women and girls is not confined to religious or Islamic groups but is widespread around the world. (Child marriage in Asia and elsewhere is also rape by another name.)

But the jihadists in Nigeria and Iraq have the audacity to contend their interpretation of Islam or Sharia law justifies rape.


Abducted girls in video by Boko Haram, May 12, 2014

This Week in World War I, July 24-30, 1914

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 21:11

Serbian army on the Stava River, Belgrade



The Die is Cast: The Eastern Front


On July 25, two days after receiving an ultimatum from Austria, the Serbian government ordered a full mobilization of the Serbian army. On July 28, barely a month after the assassination of the Archduke and his wife, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia and ordered a partial mobilization of its army. The guns of August had started to rumble.

It could have ended there - a short nasty war that pitted a small Balkan nation against a European superpower. The sort of war that had gripped the Balkans for centuries, a few bloody battles, then a long drawn out peace conference at some stylish European capital. Perhaps a redrawing of a national boundary or two to satisfy wounded pride and Europe would have returned to enjoying an idyllic summer.

Indeed, barring any further intervention by another great power, it was hard to see how any other outcome was possible. Austria-Hungry had the third largest army in Europe and twelve times the population of Serbia. Along its frontier with Serbia it already had a 3 to 2 advantage in manpower and it had many more troops it could call up if needed.

The week that followed Austria's declaration of war against Serbia prompted a blizzard of diplomatic activity. Diplomatic cables crisscrossed the continent as foreign offices tried to head off the impending catastrophe. A few days earlier Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Minister, speaking on behalf of his majesty's government, implored Germany, France and Italy to act in concert with Great Britain, "four nations who had no direct interest in Serbia," for the sake of peace. On July 29, one day after the Austrian declaration, Britain once again made an urgent plea to Germany to intervene with Austria to maintain the peace.

The Russians, styling themselves the protector of the Slavic peoples, of which the Serbs were part, demanded immediate military support for Serbia. On July 29, in St. Petersburg, Tsar Nicholas II, urged on by his generals to show his resolve, ordered the full mobilization of the Russian army in all six of the military districts in western Russia. Then, hesitating, he withdrew his order and opted instead for a "partial" mobilization. In practice this meant a full mobilization in the three military districts that bordered the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the Balkans.

In a desperate plea to the German Kaiser, his cousin, he wrote, "I shall be overwhelmed by the pressure, do what you can, your loving Nicky." The Kaiser, at the request of his government and his generals, had cut short his summer Baltic cruise and returned to Berlin. Responding to Nicholas, he replied, "I am exerting my utmost influence. Your devoted friend and cousin, Willy." Appealing to their family ties, he urged Nicholas to halt the partial mobilization of the Russian Army.

Truthfully, no one in the Russian General Staff had ever contemplated reversing a mobilization in midstream. Even if they had wanted too, they didn't know how to stop, much less reverse the process without leaving the Russian army in a state of complete disarray. Faced with mounting German pressure to stand down, on July 30 Nicholas ordered a full mobilization of the Russian Army. The same day, Germany issued an ultimatum to Russia to halt its mobilization within twelve hours or face war with Germany. The next day, August 1, citing the ongoing Russian mobilization, Germany declared war on Russia. All along the one thousand mile border shared by Russia with Germany and Austria, from the Baltic to the Balkans, the machinery of war slowly and inexorably groaned forward. On the Eastern Front, the die had now been cast.

Hidden History Helped End 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 20:49
A reporter covering recent LGBT strides toward equality recently asked me, "Are you surprised at how fast things are moving?" When I replied that I think they're actually moving pretty slowly, he looked at me quizzically. After all, the past four years have been one victory after another, celebrating marriages and serving openly in the military, right?

It only appears to be happening quickly because of all the heroes during the past six decades.

We're familiar with the 1969 Stonewall riots, now memorialized in annual Pride celebrations. But 18 years earlier the Mattachine Society, and then the Daughters of Bilitis a few years after that, started building a grassroots movement of gay people to increase understanding and stop discrimination.

Fighting the "no gays in the military" rule wasn't new: Forty-six years before President Obama certified the end of "don't ask, don't tell," members of those groups picketed the White House and the Pentagon to protest gays being excluded from military service and federal employment.

Did those 46 years pass by quickly? Not for the protestors, most of whom did not live to see that day. Leader Frank Kameny, a veteran who in 1957 was the first to challenge being dismissed from government service for being gay and took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1961, died a few months after the repeal took effect.

Nor did time pass quickly for those who served under either policy: the initial ban, officially established in 1916, or the equally harmful "don't ask, don't tell" of 1993.



Some soldiers bridged both: Col. Grethe Cammermeyer, Chief Nurse of the Washington National Guard, was asked her sexual orientation during a 1989 security-clearance interview. Her honesty yielded a three-year investigation that culminated with her dismissal in June 11, 1992, 30 years to the day that she had joined the Army. She wrote about the trial in her autobiography Serving in Silence, and her experience was made into a 1995 television movie, Serving in Silence, executive-produced by Barbra Streisand and starring Glenn Close.

Another National Guard nurse, Col. Pat Thompson, retired 11 months after President Clinton announced DADT. Throughout her career she'd deflected the typical "why aren't you married?" questions as she rose through the ranks, becoming Chief Nurse of the Army National Guard. Like many other lesbian or gay military couples, she and her wife, Barbara Brass, wrestled with heart-wrenching choices, which they share in the film-in-production Surviving the Silence: Love and Impossible Choices.



In early interviews, Thompson recalls thinking, "How can I choose between who I am and the work I am called to? How can I ask Barb to choose between being with me and openly working for equality? How can we be 'together' yet be apart?"

Although they developed a secret code to communicate when their phone conversations could be tapped, Barb still struggled:

It was bad enough being apart, but wondering if someone had caught on to us amplified my anxiety: Will they report us? Were unknown investigations going on? This all-consuming drive to be closeted permeated our lives. All the hiding and fear gave us a subtle, underlying sense of shame.

It only got worse.

The two nurses' worlds collided when Thompson, still in the closet, was tasked with presiding over the dismissal hearing of Cammermeyer, recently forced out of the closet. The result was a foregone conclusion: Military regulations required that Cammermeyer be discharged.

When I first learned about this, I was (internally) indignant and self-righteous: "How could any LGBT person possibly do so such a thing to another?!" It turns out I was also shortsighted.



As I set aside my 21st-century rush to judgment. I listened and learned. What first appeared as cowardice was actually extreme courage. Don't take my word for it; here's what Cammermeyer had to say during Surviving the Silence interviews:

Pat faced an impossible choice: she could have come out, and then there would have been two of us dismissed without recourse; she could've presided over the board but not pushed for anything beyond the inevitable discharge so she could avoid any suspicion being cast in her direction; or she could fulfill her duty in a way that allowed me the best possible defense then and in the future. She chose to be brave.

So, by staying in the closet, Thompson actually did the most good? Yes, said Cammermeyer. "By presiding over the board in the courageous manner she did, Pat had a profound impact on my ability to get into federal court and make my reinstatement possible." Cammermeyer returned to the National Guard in 1994 and was the highest-ranking openly gay or lesbian servicemember while "don't ask, don't tell" was in effect, until her retirement in 1997.

But wait, there's more. Cammermeyer added, "In setting all those things in motion, Pat played an important role in enabling us to move forward to finally get the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell.'" Though I was asking the questions, I'd just been schooled by Col. Cammermeyer.

Who knows how many stories like this one have gone untold; how many lives were wrecked by policies rooted in pure prejudice, whether they were discharged or in hiding; and how many closeted servicemembers worked from the inside to dismantle, brick by brick, the DADT wall?

There will be no parade for them, no magazine covers, not even a footnote in history. Yet I hope we remember them, these invisible brave ones who silently worked behind the scenes for so long. They too have given us this day when we can celebrate three years of the formal end of "don't ask, don't tell" and the policies that preceded it.

Jan Brewer Orders Full Review Of Drawn-Out Execution

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 20:49

PHOENIX, July 23 (Reuters) - Arizona's Governor Jan Brewer ordered a full review of Wednesday's two-hour execution of death row inmate Joseph Wood, saying that while justice had been done she was concerned by how long the lethal injection procedure took.

"One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer," she said. "This is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims, and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family."

She said in a statement that Arizona's Department of Corrections had been directed to carry out the full review. (Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

World Health Organization Calls For Decriminalizing Personal Drug Use

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 20:08
The World Health Organization came out publicly, if quietly, in support of the decriminalization of personal drug use in a report released last week.

The 159-page report, which focused primarily on HIV prevention and care worldwide, included a brief section discussing "good practice recommendations concerning decriminalization." In it, WHO offered the following recommendations:

  • Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration.

  • Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize the use of clean needles and syringes (and that permit NSPs [needle and syringe programs]) and that legalize OST [opioid substitution therapy] for people who are opioid-dependent.

  • Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs.


The recommendations refer specifically to the decriminalization of personal drug use, not the decriminalization of drug cultivation, production and trafficking, Dr. Andrew Ball of the WHO told HuffPost. He also said that the global organization is not calling for the legalization of drugs worldwide.

Ball is senior adviser on strategy, policy and equity in the WHO's Department of HIV, which produced the report.

"The guidelines recommend decriminalization of a range of behaviors of key populations -- not just drug use -- on public health grounds, so as to improve access to and utilization of health services, to reduce the likelihood of the adoption of riskier behaviors and to reduce incarceration rates," Ball said.

While bold, the WHO's favorable take on decriminalization of personal drug use is not entirely new coming from a U.N. agency, Ball argued.

He noted that although the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances permits countries to criminalize the personal use of drugs, it also allows "as an alternative to conviction or punishment ... measures for the treatment, education, aftercare, rehabilitation or social reintegration of the offender."

Ball added that "there is increasing interest in applying such flexibility in the interpretation of the Convention on public health and human rights grounds."

Actual decriminalization is not without precedent either. Some countries have begun to consider it for some or all illicit drugs. In 2001, Portugal did decriminalize all drugs and has seen a dramatic decline in drug abuse since.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime has also addressed other ways of responding to personal drug use, saying in a 2009 discussion paper that "treatment, rehabilitation, social reintegration and aftercare should be considered as an alternative to criminal justice sanctions." Earlier this year, the office added that "criminal sanctions are not beneficial" in addressing drug use.

The U.N. General Assembly plans to hold a special session in 2016 to assess the "world drug problem." Similar sessions in the past have focused on more idealistic, and arguably impractical, notions of creating a "drug free world." But if the WHO report is prologue, the upcoming event may shift toward seeing decriminalization of personal drug use as a key solution.

U.S. Passport, Visa Operations Glitch Could Delay Millions

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 19:59

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department's global database for issuing travel documents has crashed, resulting in major delays for potentially millions of people around the world waiting for U.S. passports and visas, officials said Wednesday.


Unspecified glitches in the department's Consular Consolidated Database have resulted in "significant performance issues, including outages" in the processing of applications for passports, visas and reports of Americans born abroad since Saturday, spokeswoman Marie Harf said. She said the problem is worldwide and not specific to any particular country, citizenship document, or visa category.


"We apologize to applicants and recognize this may cause hardship to applicants waiting on visas and passports. We are working to correct the issue as quickly as possible," she said.


Harf said the problems with the database have resulted in an "extensive backlog" of applications, which has, in turn, hampered efforts to get the system fully back on line.


It was not immediately clear how many people are affected, but two U.S. officials familiar with the situation said some 50,000 applicants were hit in one country alone. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly or identify the country.


The database is the State Department's system of record and is used to approve, record and print visas and other documents to ensure that national security checks are conducted on applicants.

Net Neutrality Debate Threatens 911 Emergency Services

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 19:39
While the net neutrality debate rages on across the blogosphere and peeks its head out again in Washington, D.C., much of the United States remains either ignorant of net neutrality or ambivalent. A recent poll conducted by Google Consumer Surveys showed that roughly 57 percent of Americans felt they "do not know enough about net neutrality" to make a decision in support or opposition (Google, 2014).

Those who do feel informed enough to make a decision support net neutrality rules, but not by a very large margin. While I will not hide my bias towards supporting net neutrality legislation, I will say that the arguments largely proposed for supporting net neutrality misses the bigger picture - critical infrastructure.

I would like to address the first of multiple pieces of critical infrastructure that are dependent upon the Internet and its equal treatment of information. These vital services are in the crosshairs if net neutrality is undermined.

How Net Discrimination Impacts Vital Services

We needn't resort to scare tactics to identify how net neutrality can and will harm general Internet services. The concern is quite simple - if Internet carriers can offer a fast lane to the highest bidder, services that cannot afford the fast line will be relegated to a higher-congested, rarely-upgraded, under-performing network. The "freemium" version of the Internet will suffer. However, this seems perfectly acceptable, especially to our legislators, if the Internet were only about uploading pictures to Facebook, catching a moving on Netfix, or chatting on Twitter.

The reality is that the Internet today is used to deliver many vital services, not just the latest meme-generating social media site. Among these vital services is phone service. Consequently, the demise of net neutrality would impact 911 emergency services in two distinct, critical ways.

Home and Business VoIP Services

The first and most obvious impact would be upon home and business users of Voice-over-IP services. Whether you use Vonage or Ooma or the IP phone provided by your Internet provider, your phone calls are passed over the Internet rather than through traditional analog phone services.

By 2012, over 33 million households in the United States used Voice-over-IP technology and the latest report from the FCC indicates that upwards of 47 percent of residential U.S. voice service customers use Voice over IP. The FCC is quite aware of this growth, and has had to deal with its integration with 911 in the past through various regulations. What seems to have missed hitting home is the relationship between net discrimination (ie: the alternative to net neutrality) and Quality of Services (QoS) for emergency calls made via VoIP lines. This issue has seemed to slip through the cracks.

IP-Enabled 911 Call Centers

Unfortunately, the demise of net neutrality would mean double jeopardy for many as the call centers themselves modernize and deploy IP telephony. There is no doubt that Voice-over-IP solutions and cloud call technology for 911 call centers is the right move for many 911 providers across the country. In fact, the National 911 OKce at the request of Congress came to this exact conclusion in 2009 in their "National Plan for Migrating to IP-Enabled 9-1-1 Systems."

"Because these outmoded networks cannot provide the public with access to 9-1-1 services from newer technologies and devices, 9-1-1 networks and call centers must change. Based on recent technology assessments by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and others, it was concluded that IP-enabled systems provide the optimal technical solution for future 9-1-1 networks."

Many districts, such as Durham, North Carolina, have already begun the transition to IP-Enabled call centers, potentially revolutionizing the way emergencies are handled without the limitations of outmoded analog technologies. For example, handling voice, data and text are now within reach. City after city, county after county, state after state are adopting the National 911 Office's recommendations, but are walking into a huge new trap: the unraveling of net neutrality.

Call centers of this size will have to either have to bid against highly profitable businesses like high speed traders for the access to the fast lane, or they will be relegated to degrading infrastructure. Not only are home VoIP users impacted, but everyone calling in - whether from a landline, a cell-phone or from VoIP technology.

Would the End of Net Neutrality Really Affect Phone Service
This is a fair question and should be answered without the standard anti-telco assumptions regularly made. According to the same recent report by the FCC, 38 percent of VOIP services are not provided by the incumbent telephone provider. There is just more competition in the VOIP space than in traditional land lines. It would be in the financial best interest of carriers who also offered VOIP service to relegate competing services to lower tiers and charge fees for usage. While this would likely end up being litigated to death, any degradation in service, even in the short term, unwittingly risks lives.

Moreover, it is unlikely that the carriers already have in place sufficient QoS to guarantee prioritization of VOIP calls, especially to emergency services, even if they wanted to proactively carve out special exceptions for these types of critical services. To avoid the potential negative ramifications of net discrimination, they would actually have to invest in prescriptive measures, an investment they might not like to make.

The Three Options Before Us:

As I see it, our leaders have three options.

  1. Let net neutrality fail and put at risk these vital services.

  2. Let net neutrality fail but try and carve out exclusions for as many vital services as possible, surely leading to round after round of lobbying over what deserves exclusion.

  3. Keep the net neutral.



In the next few weeks, I hope to outline several more types of vital services that are at risk if net neutrality is undermined. From the education of our children to providing veterans with health care, we depend on the Internet far more than any of us often realize.

Our forefathers clearly prioritized our rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Net neutrality has far too often been described as merely protecting our happiness or, perhaps, our liberty. In this global age, without Net Neutrality, our very lives are threatened.

Chalking Up Montana As A Democratic Loss

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 19:31

I had intended to write a column today to take an overview of all the close races for Senate seats. Every so often, I like to take a look at what the chances are for both parties to make gains in November (or, this year, to see whether the Republicans are going to gain a majority, realistically). Instead, after seeing the recent news from the New York Times, what is now called for is kissing goodbye any chances that the Montana Senate seat up for grabs will stay Democratic. To be blunt: there is now exactly zero chance of that happening, and we should all chalk up one guaranteed Republican gain in the Senate. The revelations that John Walsh plagiarized a major paper in college have now completely torpedoed his chances for retaining the seat. To be fair, there was little chance that Walsh was going to win in any case. But the difference between "little chance" and "no chance" can be measured in hope. There is now no hope for Democrats in Montana, this year.


Democrats were likely to lose this seat because the strongest candidate decided not to run. Brian Schweitzer is a well-liked ex-governor and would likely have held onto the Senate seat for Democrats. But he wasn't interested in becoming a senator -- perhaps because he has his sights set higher, on a presidential run. He expressed his feelings in no uncertain terms, by stating: "Congress is a miserable place. If a bus ran over a senator or a congressman tomorrow, we wouldn't even miss them." So Schweitzer wasn't ever going to save this seat for Democrats, even though lots of Democrats sincerely wished he had done so. John Walsh sits in the Senate now because he was appointed to the seat when Max Baucus became ambassador to China. So even though he's already in the Senate, he's never been elected to the spot by the state's voters. Being this type of "incumbent" doesn't really guarantee election (at least not in the way that an elected incumbent has such an advantage). Few Democratic strategists really expected Walsh to win this year, reflecting his standing in the polls versus his Republican opponent.


Walsh is a military man, and proud of it. Democrats aren't known for having lots of ex-military politicians in general, so Walsh was a welcome addition to the party (Democrats are all about diversity, right?). But his military record was already slightly tarnished by a previous mini-scandal, and the fact that he copied -- without attribution -- anywhere from one-fourth to one-third of his final paper for a master's degree from the War College is going to make him completely unacceptable to the voters. Running as an ex-military candidate means running on a military tradition of honor, but when that honor is tarnished it can cut even deeper than with non-military politicians, in the eyes of the public.


Plagiarism isn't a major crime, of course. Politicians plagiarize all the time, in fact -- sometime consciously, sometimes not. They'll use a phrase or a paragraph in a speech and not give credit for the idea's originator. Sometimes they get caught, sometimes they get away with it. Even when caught red-handed, some politicians manage to put it behind them (such as Rand Paul, who has been caught multiple times without it hurting his standing much with Kentucky voters).


Finding such plagiarism is a pretty hard slog, too. Just think of the amount of opposition research required to unearth plagiarism on a college paper from a long time ago. You'd have to do a pretty thorough search of everything publicly available (even when the only copy is sitting on a dusty shelf in some college library), and then you'd have to run literally every sentence from every bit of writing you found through a search engine, to find out if anyone else had publicly written exactly the same thing. Most of this incredibly boring work would turn out to be fruitless. You'd have to sift a lot of hay to find one needle.


Obviously, someone took the time to do so for John Walsh. Whether it was the New York Times who performed this laborious search or whether it was done by Republican opposition researchers and the results just passed along to a reporter is really immaterial. It doesn't matter who baked the cookies when you're caught with your hand in the jar, in other words. The point is the plagiarism was found and has now been exposed. Walsh has no ready explanation. That's all it is going to take.


Now, you can argue (plenty of politicians already have) that plagiarism isn't all that big a deal. This argument is a lot stronger when you're making it because you used someone else's words in a political speech. Nobody expects a political speech to come with footnotes, after all. And since politicians (from the same party, at least) routinely offer support for the same issues, there's bound to be a lot of overlap in general. But that's in political speeches and political writing. Plagiarism has a sliding scale, in the world of politics, and speeches are at the lowest end of that scale. The other end -- the worst possible infraction -- would be to pass someone's writing off as your own in a book that you write to put money in your pocket. For example, if it had been discovered that Hillary Clinton had "borrowed" one-fourth of her new book, she would likely be disgraced so badly she wouldn't even run for president. It's a cardinal sin, as opposed to lifting a few sentences in a political speech.


Walsh's plagiarism falls somewhere in between. It wasn't for personal profit, but it was for personal gain (to earn himself an advanced college degree). It wasn't for political reasons, and he was definitely passing others' work off as his own. Which makes it a pretty serious offense, especially when you add in the whole question of honor for an ex-military politician. I could -- barely -- see a certain type of politician survive such a scandal, but the circumstances would have to be otherwise perfect to do so. If this had been uncovered right after an election (instead of right before), then a politician might be able to survive it in the next election. If the politician were well-loved by his constituents (with sky-high approval ratings), then people might brush it off as a youthful mistake. If the politician were extremely charismatic and hadn't built his public persona around being ex-military, then the voters might also forgive and forget. Unfortunately for Walsh, though, none of those really apply to him.


Walsh is (not to put too fine a point on it) now toast. His shot at holding onto his Senate seat is essentially over. Democrats should focus their energy on winning other Senate races this time around, and should just chalk up Montana as a loss. Many already did so when Schweitzer said he wouldn't run, but now everyone should just throw in the towel on this particular race. It ain't over 'til it's over (which I fully cite the great Western philosopher Yogi Berra for stating); but at this point for Walsh, it really is over.


 


Chris Weigant blogs at:


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Self-cooling solar cells have greater power output, last longer

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Wed, 2014-07-23 07:00
Researchers have developed a new coating that lets solar cells cool themselves, which saves water, boosts performance and helps the technology to last longer.

Jon Stewart Wants You To Help Him Buy CNN

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 05:20
Forget that potato salad Kickstarter campaign. Jon Stewart has something much more fun you can do with any money you're willing to throw away.

Stewart wants to buy CNN, and on Tuesday night's "Daily Show," he asked for your help.

Rupert Murdoch is angling to purchase Time Warner. But since he already owns Fox News, he'd likely be forced to sell CNN, which experts say could fetch $10 billion -- or exactly the amount Stewart is hoping to raise.

"This $10 billion all-cash bid for CNN would secure control of a massive television network reaching over 100 million homes in the US alone, which we could then use to rebuild a news organization befitting this proud land," a statement on Stewart's "Let's Buy CNN" page reads. "Or more likely we'd use it to make a lot more poop jokes."

Like any good Kickstarter campaign, Stewart is offering up some enticing rewards.

Watch the clip above to find out what they are.

John Kerry Flies To Israel Despite FAA Ban

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 04:00

TEL AVIV, July 23 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to seek ways of ending the deadliest violence in years between Israel and Gaza's Islamist Hamas.

"Secretary Kerry arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel, this morning to meet with officials to discuss the ongoing ceasefire efforts," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

"He will also travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank, and will be meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Palestinian Authority President (Mahmoud) Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu." (Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

Sarah Palin Ticketed For Speeding, Cracks A NASCAR Joke

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:57
Sarah Palin was allegedly caught speeding in Alaska last week, but she has an excuse that's sure to make many of her NASCAR-loving fans smile.

"I wasn’t speeding, I was qualifying," she joked to TMZ.

Records posted online by Alaska's CourtView system show Palin was ticketed by the Wasilla Police Department on July 16 for going 10 to 19 mph over the speed limit, which is listed as a minor offense.

TMZ says she was doing 63 mph in a 45 mph zone in a Toyota Tundra pickup truck.

The former governor of Alaska joked that her choice in music may have played a role in her speed, telling TMZ that she was listening to "I Can't Drive 55" by Sammy Hagar.

Palin was fined $144, plus a $10 surcharge. The ticket is currently listed as unpaid, but TMZ reports that she plans to settle up soon.

For the record, qualifying speeds at a recent NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway ranged from 194.963 mph to 204.557 mph.

Why I Am a Zionist

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-07-22 23:13
Twenty-five years ago, in late 1989, I enrolled in an ulpan or Hebrew immersion program at Mishmar Haemek, a kibbutz in the Jezreel Valley.

When I met the kibbutzniks as well as the other students in the ulpan, many of them would ask me two questions.

First, they asked if I had graduated from college. The answer was yes. I was puzzled that people asked me this question until I learned that most of my fellow ulpanim, at least those who hailed from western countries, were high school or college dropouts. Some had even gotten into trouble with the law and had fled to Israel to evade the long arm of justice.

Then there were those who had emigrated from the then-Soviet Union, Hungary, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mauritius or other developing countries and had come to the Jewish state for asylum, job opportunities and freedom from tyranny.

Those were the reasons why they were in Israel.

But why was I? That was the second question.

I never knew how to answer that question. All I ever said was the truth: "I love Israel."

I don't believe that my love for Israel derives simply from the fact that I grew up in the 1970s when so many tragedies befell the Jewish state.

The Yom Kippur War, a war that brought Israel many casualties and demoralized the nation for a period of time, broke out at my birthday party in 1973. I will never forget my father pulling me into the den at our home in Southern Connecticut, pointing at the television screen and saying something to the effect of, "See! See what's happening to your people!"

And I'll never forget driving into Worcester, Mass., my dad's hometown, on the Fourth of July in 1976 when we heard on the radio that Israel had successfully rescued the hijacked airline passengers at Entebbe. I remember we all cheered, my brother and I in the back seat of the car, my father and mother in the front seat.

It was thrilling that Israel had defeated the terrorists, although it was heartbreaking that Yoni Netanyahu, commander of the mission and brother of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had died in the raid.

Of course, I will also never forget that my father turned off the TV four years earlier when I was watching Mark Spitz win a record number of Gold Medals for the U.S. Olympic swim team.

It was only years later, when I started reading the papers, that I realized what had happened: that Palestinian terrorists had murdered Israeli Olympians in 1972.

But my love for Israel goes deeper than this recent tragic history. It goes back to what it means to be Jewish.

When I think about it, being Jewish connects me to the world of imagination, to a people who were the first ones to articulate and adhere to the idea of monotheism and a code of ethics, to a people who never gave up on those ideas, who never departed from that imaginative realm even when they were living in exile, away from their homeland.

I am grateful that I live at a time when there is not only Israel but also the United States, whose founders, in touting the concept of a city on a hill, were consciously trying to create a new Jerusalem in the New World.

Jews do not have a monopoly on imagination, ideas or anything else. There are Jewish thugs, Jewish idiots and Jewish criminals. I have encountered some in my time.

But for me being Jewish means being loyal to those ideas that came before me and to the people who still live and practice those ideas and ideals.

I have had a few mishaps over the years, including some in Israel, which I have written about in the past. But nothing can take away the love I have for a people who famously resurrected themselves from the ashes of the Holocaust.

It goes without saying that Israel, unlike Hamas and the other terror outfits in Gaza, keeps its military bases as far away from population centers as possible. It goes without saying that Israel tries its very best to avoid civilian casualties while Hamas cynically does its best to put innocent Gazans in harm's way. And it goes without saying that Arabs have more rights in Israel than they do in most Arab countries.

I would never say that Israel is a perfect nation. No such nation exists. There are Jewish extremists who have committed horrific crimes. Who can forget the hateful yeshiva student who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin? And who can forget the more recent "revenge" killing of an innocent Palestinian boy?

But Israel is a country of laws. It brings Jewish terrorists, just as it brings Palestinian terrorists, to justice. Israel treats them all as pariahs, not martyrs.

Some day this war will end, and flights will resume to Ben-Gurion Airport. And some day I will be on one of those flights to return to a country I love and revere.

And if I am asked why I am in Israel, I will give the answer that has always been apparent to anyone with a brain in his or her head: Because I am Jewish and because I am an idealist.