Friday, March 25, 2011

Political Digest for March 25, 2011

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article. Help your friends and relatives stay informed by passing the digest on.

For those who want further information about the topics covered in this blog, I recommend the following sites. I will add to this as I find additional good sources.

Excerpt: Deep divisions between allied forces currently bombing Libya worsened today as the German military announced it was pulling forces out of NATO over continued disagreement on who will lead the campaign. A German military spokesman said it was recalling two frigates and AWACS surveillance plane crews from the Mediterranean, after fears they would be drawn into the conflict if NATO takes over control from the U.S. The infighting comes as a heated meeting of NATO ambassadors yesterday failed to resolve whether the 28-nation alliance should run the operation to enforce a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone, diplomats said. Yesterday a war of words erupted between the U.S. and Britain after the U.K. government claimed Muammar Gaddafi is a legitimate target for assassination. U.K. government officials said killing the Libyan leader would be legal if it prevented civilian deaths as laid out in a U.N. resolution. (It didn't take long for the agglomeration of nations involved in Libya to start fragmenting over assorted and sundry matters. If there's no real leader, it all goes to hell in time, sometimes not much time. This is where we need, gee, a "cowboy" leader to ride up and act decisively. Unfortunately, we don't have one of those available right now. --Del)

Rep. King: Military campaign in Libya ups risk of terror attack
Excerpt: American military intervention in Libya increases the risk of a reprisal terrorist attack by the Libyan leadership in the U.S. or Europe, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee told The Hill. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) backs the multinational campaign to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, saying he agrees with the Obama administration’s assertion that it is in the U.S.’s long-term national security interests. But he warned of retribution from Col. Moammar Gadhafi, who before a brief rapprochement with the U.S. had a history of involvement in terrorism.

Boehner to Obama: Lawmakers 'troubled' by intervention in Libya
Excerpt: Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), in a strongly worded letter to President Obama sent Wednesday, criticized the administration's handling of the situation in Libya, citing the absence of a well-defined mission and the lack of consultation with congressional leaders. The two-page missive, a response to an Obama letter from Monday, marked Boehner’s most extensive reaction to the launch of U.S. military operations on Saturday. It encapsulated much of the criticism coming from Capitol Hill in recent days — that the White House did not sufficiently consult with Congress before intervening in Libya and that it has provided an unclear and inconsistent explanation of U.S. goals there.

2,200 Marines Go To Libya, ‘What Happened to No Boots on the Ground’?
In all the reporting on the involvement of US Forces in Libya a report by WCTI Channel 12 News in New Bern, North Carolina seems to have gone by almost unnoticed. The News channel reports that 2,200 U.S. Marines have been shipped off the Libya. But doesn’t this deployment clash with Obama’s supposedly steadfast claim that there will be “no boots on the ground” in Libya? On March 20 WCTI reported that the Marines were shipping out. About 2,200 Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, or 26th MEU will take part. Their mission is to help end the violence directed at the Libyan people. (Good questions! –Del. Will probably float off the coast “just in case.” ~Bob.)

Unanswered questions about Libya
Excerpt: It’s hard to find a precedent for a president ordering U.S. military forces into action, then heading off for a five-day tour of Latin America, but that’s just what President Barack Obama did when he approved the deployment of air and naval assets to establish a no-fly zone over Libya. His homecoming gift is a barrage of questions about the military action Obama aides refuse to label a “war.” Obama was asked the most obvious question — what is the U.S. endgame in Libya? — several times during his trip. His answers seemed deliberately obtuse: To stop a humanitarian crisis and, hopefully, drive Muammar Qadhafi from power, while at the same time ceding leadership of the effort to countries with a direct regional stake in the outcome — France and Arab League nations — sooner rather than later. (Turns out being CIC is a LOT harder than running for CIC while blasting the guy who had the job. ~Bob.)

Why Are Pacifist Europeans Declaring War on Libya?
Excerpt: The antiwar idealism of Zapatero and other European fellow travellers is, in its essence, a neo-pacifist reality-evading political façade that Spain and other European governments have hid behind in recent years to avoid military alliance responsibilities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. (In my opinion, the short, brutal answer is because Libya looks like a weak and convenient target that really can't strike back in any meaningful way. They expect to be heroes on the cheap while still letting the US carry the majority of the load. Ron P.)

excerpt: Why are many conservatives against the Libyan war? Is it, as alleged, political opportunism — given their prior support for the 2001 and 2003 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? No. Most of us support wholeheartedly our troops now that we are in, but opposed the intervention for reasons that were clear before we attacked, and are even clearer now. Among them:

Liberals March to War
Excerpt: Well, that didn’t take long. Now that President Barack Obama has intervened in Libya, his army of apologists is mobilizing to defend his “humanitarianism,” declaring that his war isn’t at all like Bush’s wars. It’s something new, and different – and admirable. I’m not at all surprised. Are you? The anti-interventionist veneer of most American liberals and assorted “progressives” peels off quite readily when a little “humanitarian” lotion is applied – especially if it’s poured on thick by a liberal Democratic President with a domestic agenda they can endorse.

Libya's Terrorism Option
Excerpt: Certainly, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has no doubt that the U.S. and European military operations against the Libyan military targets are attacks against his regime. He has specifically warned France and the United Kingdom that they would come to regret the intervention. Now, such threats could be construed to mean that should Gadhafi survive, he will seek to cut off the countries’ access to Libyan energy resources in the future. However, given Libya’s past use of terrorist strikes to lash out when attacked by Western powers, Gadhafi’s threats certainly raise the possibility that, desperate and hurting, he will once again return to terrorism as a means to seek retribution for the attacks against his regime. While threats of sanctions and retaliation have tempered Gadhafi’s use of terrorism in recent years, his fear may evaporate if he comes to believe he has nothing to lose.

Anti-Iraq War Bush-Haters Squirm to Justify Libya
Excerpt: "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation," then-presidential candidate Barack Obama said in December 2007. What a difference a change of job title makes. "Let's just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya," said Defense Secretary Robert Gates three weeks before President Obama ordered a no-fly zone over -- and other military action against -- Libya. Like many anti-Iraq War/Bush-is-a-warmonger critics, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., supports the Libyan action. Bush-hater Rachel Maddow of MSNBC rationalized that unlike the bloodthirsty President George W. Bush, you see, Obama ordered the military into action under a different "narrative" -- that is, reluctantly and without zeal. Understand? (I understand. If someone was going to bomb me into an unrecognizable, bloody pulp, I’d much rather it be done “without zeal. That makes all the difference. ~Bob.)

Black Africans and other non-Libyans targeted for revenge killings: reports
But, but, CNN said the rebels are “brave freedom fighters.” So this can’t be true. ~Bob. Excerpt: Non-Libyan Africans are reportedly becoming the target of revenge killings in Libya, owing to the perception that foreigners form a large part of Moammar Gaddafi’s mercenary force paid to kill anti-government protesters. The violent backlash is focusing primarily on black Africans below the Sahara desert, including migrant workers who had nothing to do with Gaddafi or his killing machine whatsoever. There are an estimated 1.5-million black African migrants in Libya, most of whom work as lowly-paid laborers toiling for the country’s oil, construction, agriculture and service sectors. Reportedly, dozens of black Africans have already been murdered and hundreds, perhaps thousands, are hiding from enraged Libyan mobs seeking vengeance. Saad Jabbar, deputy director of the North Africa Centre at Cambridge University, told Al Jazeera: "These [black Africans] people… they will be slaughtered in Libya. There is so much anger there against those mercenaries, which suddenly sprung up,:

Al Qaida commander backs Libyan rebels in message
Gee, al Qaida is on the side of the “brave freedom fighters” with us. ~Bob. Excerpt: A senior member of al Qaida urged Libyan rebels to continue their fight against Muammar Gaddafi and warned of the consequences of defeat, in a videotaped message posted on Jihadi websites, the Qatar-based Gulf News reported on Sunday.

Excerpt: The big question looming since a coalition of UN nations began airstrikes inside Libya last week is, why? While the carefully crafted answer to that question revolves around a concern for the civilian population there, no one has adequately explained why it should be a concern to the United States specifically or the world in general. Why should we care more for the Islamic rebels than their Islamic Leader? Libyan oil output does not factor in as national security concern nor a factor in our overall economy. Ever since President Reagan authorized an attack against Ghaddafi over 20 years ago, the leadership in that country has posed very little in the way of an existential threat. When you also consider the percentage of the population dedicated to Islam standing at 97%, there is little to hope for in the way of reconciliation with that nation's people. So; why are we concerned that the Muslim tyrant of a particular Muslim country is not kind to the overwhelming Muslim population of his country? And why have we decided to throw in with an Islamic rebel faction intent on overthrowing the government there? Does this sitting government actually believe there is any hope for an actual democratic, constitutional republic or constitutional monarchy to rise from the ashes of this latest struggle and if so; what gives them that hope?

Who's On First?
Excerpt: How not to run a war in Libya War is not an Abbott and Costello routine, but it's hard to tell the difference this week regarding the coalition of the confusing that is bombing Libya. Five days into the campaign, the allies—is that the right word?—still can't decide who or what should run the no-fly zone, what the desired outcome is, much less who should do what in the war's aftermath. The British and Italians, from whose bases coalition planes are flying, want a unified command under NATO. This makes sense given that NATO is a military alliance designed for precisely these kinds of operations. However, the French want the operation to be run outside of NATO, perhaps because President Nicolas Sarkozy wants more credit for his own domestic political purposes or perhaps due to historic Gallic NATO-phobia, or both. As an alternative, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has suggested a "political steering committee," whatever that is. Maybe war does imitate Abbott and Costello. As for the Obama Administration, its officials want everyone to know they have no plans to run anything in this Libyan operation. President Obama and Defense Secretary Bob Gates are both saying NATO's leading nation will retreat to the rear of no-fly zone participation as soon as possible. If not sooner. Asked about the NATO follies yesterday in Moscow, Mr. Gates said that "This command-and-control business is complicated, and we haven't done something like this kind of on-the-fly before. . . . It's not surprising to me that it would take a few days to get it all sorted out." (That second line is dead-on. How NOT to run a war.... anywhere. It's hard to imagine how to have messed this up much worse. At this point Gadhafi can just sit tight, whittle away at the rebels here and there, and wait for them to collapse for lack of arms and all basic supplies. Without either boots on the ground or a campaign to kill Gadhafi himself, there is almost no way he can lose, if he doesn't do anything stupider than he's done so far. The weakness of all the West is apparent ever more so. Can't stop the Somali pirates, can't stop genocide in Darfur, can't really deal with Libya.... how discouraging. --Del)

Syrian forces shoot protesters, kill 6 in mosque
Guess we need another “no fly” zone. Alert the UN to get approval. ~Bob. Excerpt: Syrian forces killed six people on Wednesday in an attack on protesters in a mosque complex in the southern city of Deraa, and later opened fire on hundreds of youths marching in solidarity, witnesses said. At least four youths were killed when the security forces intercepted them at the northern entrance of Deraa, witnesses said. Their bodies were seen at a clinic in the city. There were unconfirmed reports that dozens more bodies were taken to Tafas hospital outside the city, they added. (Wow! Egypt... Libya... Yemen... Saudi Arabia... Bahrain... Syria... --Larry.)

Syria: more protests in Deraa as number of dead rises
Excerpt: Around 20,000 people have lined the streets of Deraa for the funerals of protesters killed in clashes with security forces. A Syrian journalist tells Channel 4 News the situation "is out of control". (...) Secret police and special police units wearing all black have been more visible in Deraa since the protests erupted last Friday. The army has so far taken a secondary role, mostly manning checkpoints, in confronting demonstrations that erupted last week in Syria's agricultural heartland, demanding political freedoms and an end to corruption. (This could be far more important than it looks. One of the stated objectives of the protestors is to end Syria's alliance with Iran. The bad news is that their reason is due to the difference in religions; Iran is mostly Shi’ite, while Syria is mostly Sunni. "Confusion to our enemies." Ron P.)

2012: Obama runs ahead in generic Pew poll
Excerpt: President Barack Obama runs ahead of an unnamed Republican opponent by 47 to 37 percent among registered voters in a new poll from the Pew Research Center. The poll also finds former governors Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee as the most likely candidates to fill that Republican slot. Before rolling out the data too far, a few caveats. The election is more than a year and a half away. And without a named opponent in a horserace question, the true electoral choice is obscured -- hence a large 16 percent report being undecided. But some clues emerge. Obama’s advantage is similar to former president George W. Bush’s and better than former president Bill Clinton’s at comparable times in their presidency. In April 2003, Bush ran ahead of a generic Democrat by 48 to 35 percent. In March 1995 Clinton was in a more tenuous position at 29 percent to 33 percent for a generic Republican, with 20 percent preferring an independent candidate.

Excerpt: Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.) believes the Supreme Court will declare Obamacare unconstitutional in 2012. In a conference call with reporters, Price discussed Congressional Republicans’ attempt to repeal Obamacare before suggesting the nation’s highest court might beat them to it. “I think the courts are going to lap us on this one,” Price said. Noting an “expedited appeal process,” he forecast that “sometime in the spring of next year,” the Court would find the bill unconstitutional, after receiving the case from “either the Fourth and or the Eleventh Court of Appeals.”

Obama: Drill, Brazil, Drill!
Excerpt: While leaving U.S. oil and jobs in the ground, our itinerant president tells a South American neighbor that we'll help it develop its offshore resources so we can one day import its oil. WHAT?!? With Japan staggered by a natural disaster and a nuclear crisis, cruise missiles launched against Libya in our third Middle East conflict and a majority of U.S. senators complaining about a lack of leadership on the budget, President Obama decided it would be a good time to schmooze with Brazilians. His "What, me worry?" presidency has given both Americans and our allies plenty to worry about. But in the process of making nice with Brazil, Obama made a mind-boggling announcement that should make even his most loyal supporter cringe: We will help Brazil develop its offshore oil so we can one day import it. We have noted this double standard before, particularly when — at a time when the president was railing against tax incentives for U.S. oil companies — we supported the U.S. Export-Import Bank's plan to lend $2 billion to Brazil's state-run Petrobras with the promise of more to follow.

Repeal and Replace: Health Reform Law Turns One
Excerpt: On yesterday's first anniversary of the president signing the health reform bill into law, Investor's Business Daily featured an editorial coauthored by National Center for Policy Analysis President and CEO John C. Goodman, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and James C. Capretta, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. It reflects their one-year assessment of the health reform law: Ever-more-costly mandate: The health reform law will force Americans to buy insurance whose premiums will rise at twice the rate of their incomes. Bizarre system of subsidies: Depending on where insurance is bought, the subsidies for individuals are radically different, a cost factor so large it will force a major reorganization of American business. Perverse incentives for insurers: Health plans will try to attract the healthy and avoid the sick; and after enrollment, they will overprovide to the healthy and underprovide to the sick. Perverse incentives for people buying insurance: With small (and maybe unenforced fines), people will have an incentive to wait until they are sick to buy insurance, and then drop coverage after their medical bills are paid. Tattered safety net: With 32 million newly insured, and more generous coverage for almost everyone else, there will be a huge increase in the demand for care; but the legislation has no provisions to increase supply. The result: increased waiting times at the emergency rooms and in doctors' offices -- with those whose plans pay below market being pushed to the rear of the waiting lines. Benefits cuts for seniors: Deep Medicare cuts will make it increasingly hard for seniors to find doctors to treat them and facilities who will admit them.

Insolvency Looms as States Drain U.S. Disability Fund
Excerpt: This mountainside town is home to a picturesque cathedral, a tobacco museum and a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Another defining feature: Caguas's 00725 zip code has more people who receive a disability check than any other in the U.S. Puerto Rico has emerged in recent years as one of the easiest places in the U.S. to get payments from the Social Security Disability Insurance program, created during the Eisenhower administration to help people who can't work because of a health problem. In 2010, 63% of applicants there won approval, four percentage points higher than New Jersey and Wyoming, the most-generous U.S. states. In fact, nine of the top 10 U.S. zip codes for disabled workers receiving benefits can be found on Puerto Rico. The SSDI is set to soon become the first big federal benefit program to run out of cash—and one of the main reasons is U.S. states and territories have a large say in who qualifies for the federally funded program. Without changes, the Social Security retirement fund can survive intact through about 2040 and Medicare through 2029. The disability fund, however, will run dry in four to seven years without federal intervention, government auditors say. 9have I mentioned that I see a collapse coming? ~Bob.)

State and Local Accounting Standards Encourage Risky Investments
Excerpt: The accounting standards applied to public sector pensions are far more forgiving than those required for use by private sector pensions or those that economic theory and the financial markets would recommend. Put simply, public pension accounting standards encourage state and local governments to promise too much, fund too little and take too much risk with their investments, says Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. To illustrate, consider a pension that owes a lump sum of $500 million 15 years from now. It has $100 million in assets today with which to fund that liability. How well funded is it? Under current accounting standards, that depends on what those funds are invested in. If the plan holds $100 million in stocks with an expected return of 10 percent, then it discounts the future liability by a 10 percent annual return, generating a present value of $120 million. The plan is considered 85 percent funded and has an unfunded liability of about $20 million. But now imagine that the plan shifted its assets to U.S. Treasury securities yielding 4 percent. This would alter the discount rate applied to the future liability, generating a much higher present value of around $275 million. The plan would now be considered only 37 percent funded, with an unfunded liability of almost $180 million. This exercise is what public pensions go through every day and is in part accountable for why pension assets have shifted increasingly toward equities, foreign investments, hedge funds and private equity. The more risk you take, the better funded you look. It is not an exaggeration to say that rising debt should be a central focus of public policy at the federal, state and local levels over the next decade, says Biggs.

The Fearsome Reactor Meltdown Accident
Excerpt: Technologies are normally developed by entrepreneurs whose primary goal is making money. If the technology is successful, the entrepreneurs prosper as a new industry develops and thrives. In the process, the environmental impacts of this new technology are the least of their concerns. Only after the public revolts against the pollution inflicted upon it does the issue of the environment come into the picture. (…) Use of nuclear energy to generate electricity was a very important part of this research and development program. In order to promote it, the AEC brought in commercial interests beginning in the mid 1950s, but it kept the national laboratories deeply involved. One of the highest priority activities it assigned to them was investigation of the environmental impacts of nuclear power. For the first time in history, environmental impacts were thoroughly investigated before an industry started. An important part of this effort was to try to "dream up" anything and everything that can possibly go wrong in a nuclear power plant, and investigate the consequences. This was a useful process in deciding on what safety systems to include. But if enough thought and "dreaming up" is devoted to any system, one can always devise a chain of events that can defeat all safety systems and do harm to the workers or the public. Though this is true for every technology, no other technology has ever been subjected to this degree of scrutiny. (…) This wide-ranging research program developed a variety of accident scenarios, calculated their consequences, and estimated their probability for occurring. However, while these efforts were highly laudable, their effects proved to be disastrous. The public did not understand these risk analyses. Its attention became entirely focused on excerpts stating that nuclear accidents can kill tens of thousands of people. They never seemed to notice that these reports estimated that such an accident can be expected only once in 10 million years. The public doesn't understand probabilities anyhow. Most people recognize little difference between a risk with a probability of once in 10 thousand years and once in 10 million years. The common impression was that a reactor meltdown accident killing tens of thousands of people would occur every few years. (This is Chapter 6 of The Nuclear Energy Option by Prof. Bernard Cohen, PhD. It recounts some of the history leading to the current state of public perception of nuclear energy. At the bottom of the chapter is a link to Chapter 7 that concentrates on Chernobyl-type accidents. While these really are chapters from a Physics textbook, they are easily understandable by anyone who reads English. --Ron P.)

Video: Christie Explains to Police Officer Why He'll Have to Pay More for Health Insurance
Excerpt: Christie has gone toe-to-toe with teachers before, but this time he faces down one of New Jersey's finest--a police officer who's upset that he's going to have to start paying for one-third of his health insurance premiums:

The Convention-Center Follies
Excerpt: To a disinterested observer, it might seem obvious that Boston is no different from so many other cities competing for conventions and trade shows in a national market glutted with space. Over the past two decades, the amount of square footage available for exhibitions nationwide has soared nearly 75 percent, growing from 40.4 million square feet in 1990 to more than 70 million square feet today. Cities everywhere have been enlarging their convention centers. San Diego, Phoenix, Denver, Atlanta, Orlando, Chicago, Las Vegas, Philadelphia -- all of them have either recently finished or are planning an expansion, all of them at taxpayer expense, and all of them justified with the same argument being made once again in Boston: If only we had more capacity, we could attract bigger shows, lure more visitors, stimulate more business, generate more growth. But while the supply of convention space has been going through the roof, the demand for that space hasn't come close to keeping up. According to the industry publication TradeShow Week, attendance at conventions and trade or consumer shows plummeted from 126 million in 2000 to just 86 million in 2010. (TradeShow Week ceased publication last year.) The market is hopelessly overbuilt. Earnings are weak. In some cities, convention halls are literally giving space away. (Is some civic booster trying to get your area to build a convention center with public money? Keep this article in mind. Ron P.)

Why Do Heavy Drinkers Outlive Nondrinkers?
Excerpt: One of the most contentious issues in the vast literature about alcohol consumption has been the consistent finding that those who don't drink tend to die sooner than those who do. The standard Alcoholics Anonymous explanation for this finding is that many of those who show up as abstainers in such research are actually former hard-core drunks who had already incurred health problems associated with drinking. But a new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that — for reasons that aren't entirely clear — abstaining from alcohol does tend to increase one's risk of dying, even when you exclude former problem drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers' mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers. (Of course this is from another old Marine. –RGP. Hummm. I’ve been laying off to lose weight so I’ll need less O2. what to do? What to do? ~Bob.)

Detroit’s Liberal Nightmare
Excerpt: What happens when a city buys the liberal dream hook, line and sinker? Just take a look at the City of Detroit. The once-great city lost 237,493 residents over the last decade according to the 2010 Census, bringing it to 713,777 – a population plunge of 25%. That’s its lowest population since 1910, and it marks the city’s fall from a 1950s peak of two million, over 60%. And that’s just the people who can afford to leave. Detroit, once known as “the great arsenal of democracy,” has made headlines of late for its notorious fall from grace. The “Big Three” automakers are no longer the biggest, falling behind their overseas rivals, and the Michigan economy lost 450,000 manufacturing jobs over the past 10 years all while Detroit lost population. And while the Motor City suffers unemployment from a decimated automotive industry, it suffers crime, high taxes, poor city services, plummeting home values, and a public education system in shambles with a $327 million budget deficit and a 19 percent dropout rate. Is it any wonder people are leaving in droves? (Thomas Sowell has pointed out that Detroit once had the highest black income level in the nation. That was before the riots by blacks destroyed black infrastructure and drove many of the most productive and educated black folks from the city. In 1998, I wrote a science fiction short story about the future of cities like Detroit, entitled, “A Bit of Colored Ribbon.” ~Bob.

Implications of the Attacks in Israel
Excerpt: A bombing struck a bus station in central Jerusalem on Tuesday wounding 34 people and killing one other. This apparent escalation by at least some Palestinian factions raises the potential for another military campaign by Israel in the Palestinian territories. This not only could produce another crisis for Egypt, but could also play to Iranian interests in the region.

Anti-Muslim Backlash? Justice Says 3-Week Vacation for Hadj is a Constitutional Right
Excerpt: The overheated response to Rep. Peter King's hearings on the threat from Islamist extremism has now officially gone over the top. In an astonishing decision, the Justice Department has decided to argue that a Muslim school teacher had the right to demand a 3-week vacation in the middle of a school year in order to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. It's difficult to figure the reasoning behind the federal government's move to treat an individual's decision to make the hadj a constitutional right but, as an article in the Washington Post points out, this may have more to do with the Obama administration's campaign to reach out to Muslims than it does with the law. The facts of the case as presented make Attorney General Eric Holder's decision hard to understand. The teacher, a woman named Safoorah Kahn, who taught math at a middle school in Berkley, Illinois, had only been on the job for nine months when she presented her supervisors with a demand for three weeks off in order to go to Mecca. The right to take this kind of leave during the time the school was in session was not part of her employment agreement or the teachers-union contract. While making the pilgrimage is a requirement of the Muslim faith, it is one that can be fulfilled by going once during one's lifetime. Had Ms. Kahn been willing to wait eight years until the time for the annual hadj set by the Muslim religious calendar fell during school vacation there would have been no problem. But she was not willing to wait. She demanded the time off immediately and when the school refused her unprecedented request, she went anyway and was, not surprisingly, dismissed. (My employer is lucky. I’m a “Maltist,” but my faith only requires me to take two weeks off, though every couple of years, to tour the malt whisky distilleries in Scotland. ~Bob.)

No Holds Barred at Islamist Confab
Excerpt: A global assortment of radical Islamists held an online conference last weekend, calling for the destruction of the West and the violent implementation of Islamic law. It isn't clear how many people tuned in to the Rise of Islam Conference 2011, but many of the speakers are considered fringe elements, even among Islamists. They represented English-speaking Islamist groups from all over the world. Jamaican Islamist Abdullah al-Faisal and British leaders Abu Izzadeen and Anjem Choudary hammered home their views about why and how Islam will dominate the world. But American Abdullah Younus Muhammad, currently living in Morocco, took the spotlight with his open endorsement of al-Qaida's war on the West. "O Muslims, there is no honor, there is no dignity, there is no victory, unless Islam is a complete system established," said Muhammad, of "We do not believe in mass protest movements. We do not believe in each one teach one as the way forward. We believe that when a sufficient amount of Muslims have might to take all the powers that be, they go out and march forth in the way of Allah."

Senate to hold hearings on Muslims' rights
Excerpt: In 2009, the latest FBI statistics available, anti-Islamic hate crimes accounted for 9.3 percent of the 1,376 religiously motivated hate crimes recorded. That's far less than the 70.1 percent that were anti-Jewish.

Desecration, attacks at ancient Jewish cemetery
Excerpt: A wide patch of steep hillside overlooking Jerusalem's Old City holds row after row of graves. Biblical prophets, revered rabbis and a prime minister are buried there. Yet many of the tombstones have been smashed, litter is strewn around and tethered donkeys defecate on top of graves. The ancient cemetery is just one point of contention in the struggle for control of Jerusalem, an explosive issue in decades of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Israelis and American Jewish leaders are demanding that the Israeli government increase protection to ensure that those buried on the Mount of Olives can rest in peace.

Sperm grown in laboratory, raising hopes of male infertility treatments
Excerpt: Fertility experts called the work a "crucial experimental advance" towards the use of lab-grown sperm in the clinic and a stepping stone to the routine creation of human sperm for men who cannot make the cells normally. Though the procedure would be illegal in Britain under current legislation, sperm grown in the laboratory, if proven safe, could be used to help infertile men have children through standard IVF treatments. The procedure could also benefit boys with cancer who are too young to produce sperm but are at risk of being made infertile by radio- or chemotherapy. While men can have their sperm frozen before cancer treatment, the latest research suggests boys could have testicular tissue removed and kept in cold storage for use in later life. (Why does the British media cover this odd-science stuff and the US media not? This could offer hope to millions of couples that don’t want to use donated sperm. The article says it would be illegal in Britain; its status here in the USA isn’t as clear. Ron P.)

Just 737 Of 1.2 Million Federal Workers Denied Raise for Poor Performance
Excerpt: Just 737 federal employees were denied a pay increase in 2009 due to poor job performance, according to information obtained by the Federal Times, a D.C. newspaper for government employees. That’s about one out of every 1,698 workers, or a denial rate of 0.06%. Believe it or not, that is actually up from recent years, according to data from the Office of Personnel Management. The denial rate had hovered between 0.04%-0.05% from 2004-08. So is the federal work force super-efficient? Are all the raises justified? Probably not. As the Federal Times notes, several studies of federal workers have found substantial evidence of poor performance:

The Atlantic: Fears of the Super-Rich
Excerpt: Does great wealth bring fulfillment? An ambitious study by Boston College suggests not. For the first time, researchers prompted the very rich—people with fortunes in excess of $25 million—to speak candidly about their lives. The result is a surprising litany of anxieties: their sense of isolation, their worries about work and love, and most of all, their fears for their children. (I believe I could bring grounding and stability to the group if they’d chip in to get me in. ~Bob.)

Long Live Gaddafi!?! Liberal Racism, Anti-Semitism & Violence Abound at Liberal Rallies
This PJTV Video: "Long Live Gaddafi!?! Liberal Racism, Anti-Semitism & Violence Abound at Liberal Rallies" really tears the curtain from the "Liberal" rhetoric and shows the total craziness, hatred, and violent rhetoric of what are actually Leftist/Nutcake activists. I've been to such rallies myself in the past (undercover, of course) and can testify that this is indeed what you really see when you get inside the movement. –Del

Excerpt: Plans to store nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain have been abandoned, but even if a facility had been built there, America already has more waste than it could have handled. Three-quarters of the waste sits in water-filled cooling pools like those at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in Japan, outside the thick concrete-and-steel barriers meant to guard against a radioactive release from a nuclear reactor. (…) The rest of the spent fuel from commercial U.S. reactors has been put into dry cask storage, but regulators only envision those as a solution for about a century and the waste would eventually have to be deposited into a Yucca-like facility. (…) Spent nuclear fuel is about 95 percent uranium. About 1 percent are other heavy elements such as curium, americium and plutonium-239, best known as fuel for nuclear weapons. Each has an extremely long half-life - some take hundreds of thousands of years to lose all of their radioactive potency. The rest, about 4 percent, is a cocktail of byproducts of fission that break down over much shorter time periods, such as cesium-137 and strontium-90, which break down completely in about 300 years. How dangerous these elements are depends on how easily can find their way into the body. Plutonium and uranium are heavy, and don't spread through the air well, but there is a concern that plutonium could leach into water supplies over thousands of years. (…) Typically, waste must sit in pools at least five years before being moved to a cask or permanent storage, but much of the material in the pools of U.S. plants has been stored there far longer than that. (…) The casks in the U.S. are kept outdoors, generally on concrete pads, but industry officials insist they are safe. Unlike the pools, the casks don't need electricity; they are cooled by air circulation. One cask model, selling for $1.5 million, places spent fuel inside a stainless steel canister, which is placed inside an "overpack" - an outside shell composed of a layer of carbon steel, 27 inches of concrete and another layer of carbon steel. When in place, the system stands 20 feet tall and weighs 150,000 pounds, said Joy Russell, a spokeswoman for manufacturer Holtec International of Florida. Russell said engineers have designed the system to withstand a crash from an F-16 fighter jet and survive the resulting jet fuel fire. (Excellent, but long in-depth article. The only thing I can think of that would breach one of these casks is to throw it into a volcano. And, at 75 tons, that doesn’t sound like a typical student’s weekend project. Ron P.)

Virginia Military Institute Celebrates Muslim Invasion, Brutal 781-Year Occupation of Spain
Excerpt: Stonewall Jackson is rolling over in his grave. Next month his beloved Virginia Military Institute will be convening a celebration commemorating the 1300th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Spain under the Muslim warlord Tariq ibn Ziyad in 711 A.D. The March 23-25 celebration entitled “711-2011: East Meets West” and organized by VMI’s Center for Leadership and Ethics, is scheduled to feature standard Muslim apologists Reza Aslan and Akbar Ahmed. VMI Superintendent Gen. J.H. Binford Peay has even filmed an invitation to the celebration. No word if VMI’s World War II commemoration will be entitled “Germany meets Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Belgium, France, Norway, The Netherlands and Russia”.

Iran, Syria Benefit From U.N. Nuclear Assistance Program, Which the State Dep’t Insists on Funding in Full
Excerpt: The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: IAEA)( – The United States is the biggest funder of a U.N. program that helps countries to develop civilian nuclear technologies. Despite “dual-use” proliferation concerns, the program’s beneficiaries include Iran and Syria. The Government Accountability Office has for years recommended that the U.S. government, as a result of those proliferation concerns, withhold a proportion of its funding to the program, but the State Department strongly opposes the move, arguing among other things that the U.S. must set a good example to other countries “by paying its contribution in full and on time.”

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