July 3, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Iran to US: Nuke deal could result in joint cooperation (GEORGE JAHN AND MATTHEW LEE July 4, 2015, Times of Israel)

Suggesting that Islamic extremism is a far greater threat to the world than his country's atomic activities, Zarif called for an end to "unjust economic sanctions" and for the West to join Iran in common cause against "the growing menace of violent extremism and outright barbarism."

"The menace we're facing -- and I say we, because no one is spared -- is embodied by the hooded men who are ravaging the cradle of civilization," Zarif said. He called for realignment from Iran's nuclear activities, saying it was time to "open new horizons to address important, common challenges."

Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry have taken the lead in the negotiations. In comments echoed by Zarif ahead of their renewed meeting on Friday evening, Kerry said the talks "are making progress." 

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Many New Teen Drivers 'Crash' in Simulated Driving Task (Carrie Myers, JULY 3, 2015, HealthDay News) 

Around four in 10 newly licensed teen drivers "crashed" in a simulated driving test, suggesting that many adolescents lack the skills they need to stay safe on the road, according to a new study.

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


Europe's soft underbelly (Scott Sumner, 6/19/15, EconLog)

In one important respect southern Italy is different from Greece. Like eastern Germany, southern Italy is part of a larger and more prosperous fiscal union. For many decades, Italy has been doing the things that American progressives would recommend, pouring lots of fiscal stimulus into the south, to build up the economy. But nothing seems to work. Indeed from Greece to Italy to southern Iberia, the entire southern tier of Europe is doing quite poorly. But why? And what can America learn from the failure of Italian policies aimed at boosting the mezzogiorno?

American progressives will sometimes argue that we have much to learn from the successful welfare states in northern Europe. Perhaps that's true. But I'd have a bit more confidence in that claim if they could explain what we have to learn from the failed welfare states in southern Europe. Indeed I'd have more confidence in progressive ideas if they even had an explanation for the failed welfare states of southern Europe. But I don't ever recall reading a progressive explanation. Indeed the only explanations I've ever read are conservative explanations, tied to cultural differences.

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


Japan launches fresh cash and diplomacy push to woo Mekong states (Michael Peel in Bangkok and Robin Harding in Tokyo, 7/02/15, Financial Times)

Shinzo Abe, prime minister, will play host at a summit in Tokyo this weekend to leaders of the "Mekong five" states, named for the river that flows through them from Japan's arch-rival China.

The premier's courting of Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos is part of a more active brand of diplomacy he is promoting in search of new export markets and an Asia governed by international laws.

Kuni Miyake, president of the Foreign Policy Institute think-tank in Tokyo, said Japan was aiming to counter Chinese diplomacy in the region by uniting the Mekong countries behind universal values such as freedom of the seas, at a time when Japan and other countries are in maritime territorial disputes with China. "By doing so we can counterbalance the Chinese push," Mr Miyake said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


Whistle-blower: How doctor uncovered nightmare (Laura Berman, 6/10/15, The Detroit News)

From the blue yarns tucked in a woven basket to the earth-tone carpeting and the solidity of the stone fireplace, every detail of the Crittenton Hospital Cancer Center's waiting room helps anxious patients feel embraced by warmth and comfort. Even the vaulted ceiling, crafted of gleaming cherry wood, suggests a religious sanctuary, not a medical clinic.

Two years ago, before St. John Health System acquired it, this was the foyer to Dr. Farid Fata's clinic, a tasteful yet grand reception area linking his private clinic to the hospital. It was an arrangement that lent Fata seemingly special status and enhanced his reputation with patients.

Yet at 10 a.m. on July 1, 2013, Monica Flagg felt dread as she entered this space, a full year after a routine urine test showed an M protein spike that led her physician to refer her to Fata, a well-known oncologist and hematologist. She was 51, the executive director of a state-licensed nonprofit -- a competent woman facing the stress of a life-threatening illness.

She would wait close to two hours before being called for this, her first chemotherapy session.

A nurse opened the door for her. "Monica."

Inside the clinic, the designer surroundings faded as human chaos seeped in. The infusion nurses argued among themselves, uncertain about whether to deliver the treatment by injection or a slow drip. In the end, Flagg was given a single shot. By the time she returned home, she was exhausted and upset.

Later that day, she and her husband Stephen retreated to the deck outside their Rochester home, trying to relax. When a few raindrops splattered, she went upstairs to close the bedroom window. Turning back around, Flagg stumbled and fell on an open suitcase she had been unpacking.

Almost two years later, she still recalls the crunch of bone and her own anguish as she began to cry.

That sweltering Fourth of July week, Dr. Soe Maunglay, then 41, a Burmese-born oncologist newly settled in southeastern Michigan, was making hospital rounds for Fata, his employer. Soft-spoken and meticulous, Maunglay was wearing a suit jacket rather than a white lab coat, a habit he'd adopted from a Mayo Clinic-trained mentor.

An accident of timing, personal history, and incredible luck -- good and bad -- was about to unfold in Flagg's hospital room. The result would save lives and unleash a federal investigation into a long-esteemed physician, collapsing his elaborate medical empire, even as details about who uncovered the doctor's web of deceit, fraud and suffering remained unexplained.

Next month, before Fata is sentenced in a Detroit federal courtroom, Fata victims will describe the toll of being prescribed toxic medication and testing they didn't need. They will explain how their misplaced trust in a doctor they once revered tore apart their families, cost them the power to make choices about living or dying, and created lingering mental anguish and illness.

But it was Flagg's stumble over a suitcase, and Soe Maunglay's determined follow-through over the next weeks, that precipitated Fata's own fall.

Making Fata's rounds that July day, Maunglay checked for the first time on Flagg, hospitalized with two fractures in her left leg. Because Maunglay is a cancer doctor, he paid heed to her multiple myeloma diagnosis, the Velcade injection, and the medical record before him. It all triggered an internal alarm. .

"Who told you that you have cancer?" he asked her.

Fata's Michigan Hematology and Oncology Inc. (MHO) was the state's largest private cancer practice in 2013, with clinics in seven cities, its own pharmacy and diagnostic center, and 1,700 patients, virtually all of them assigned to Fata, the tireless physician. Those who needed proof of Fata's dedication could look to the doctor's work ethic -- he often labored past midnight -- or to the Swan for Life Foundation, a charity Fata established to help cancer patients and their families.

Today, MHO is gone and Fata is behind bars, awaiting sentencing for at least $34 million in fraudulent Medicare billings and a kickback scheme with a hospice. The criminal counts only hint at the human suffering behind the financial damages and raise questions about how Fata's schemes could go undetected so long, despite his many contacts, doctors, and huge roster of patients. As Brian McKeen, the malpractice lawyer now representing Flagg, says with outrage: "The one place a person should be safe is a hospital or doctor's office. [...]

Maunglay was stunned by what the hospital chart suggested. A cancer-free patient being given chemotherapy wasn't negligence; it was an atrocity. "It's oh my God, if he can do this to a person who has nothing. ..." he said one recent Saturday afternoon. "For me, one case like this was enough. How could a doctor do this? My father died of cancer. For most of us" -- he waved his arms -- "cancer is personal."

As a cancer specialist, he had a special understanding of the horror he was witnessing, its cruelty. Fata's choice of myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow, bespoke a certain shrewdness, because of the subjectivity of diagnosis. It was a clever niche for false doctoring. "You cannot fake lung cancer," he says. "You cannot fake a tumor ..." But with this disease, a malevolent doctor could plausibly use the treatment itself as a smokescreen to obscure future questions.

Myeloma's early "smoldering" stage is signaled by relatively minor changes in blood chemistry. Maunglay and Dr. Craig Cole, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan and myeloma specialist, say someone with an elevated M protein level is properly monitored through blood and urine testing. Flagg's was high enough to qualify as MGUS -- an entry-level condition that can be precancerous, but often is not.

Flagg was instead diagnosed for the more serious smoldering myeloma and singled out for Fata's brand of aggressive, unorthodox -- and very expensive -- treatment: she was subjected to three bone marrow biopsies and prescribed monthly intravenous immunoglobin injections (IVIG) that cost $4,000 each. Flagg despaired before every test, even fighting the diagnosis. "People would ask me how I was feeling. I felt fine. I had no symptoms!" she said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


Obama administration scales back deportations in policy shift (Jerry Markon, July 2, 2015, Washington Post)  

The Obama administration has begun a profound shift in its enforcement of the nation's immigration laws, aiming to hasten the integration of long-term illegal immigrants into society rather than targeting them for deportation, according to documents and federal officials.

In recent months, the Department of Homeland Security has taken steps to ensure that the majority of the United States' 11.3 million undocumented immigrants can stay in this country, with agents narrowing enforcement efforts to three groups of illegal migrants: convicted criminals, terrorism threats or those who recently crossed the border.

...focussing on the undesirables.

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


A Disney World Vacation in One Day (MEKADO MURPHY, 7/02/15, NY Times)

Orlando: So much excitement, so little time.

Universal Orlando, Sea World and Disney World all compete for your attention. It seems within the realm of possibility to visit all of them over the course of a (very long) weekend until you realize the Disney World problem.

The complex includes the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom, four equally appealing options. Most people have to choose between Disney World and the rest, but roller coaster enthusiasts like me (and very ambitious family travelers) refuse to make a decision. We can do it all.

Fortunately, Disney World offers a one-day park hopper ticket for the four parks. You may not see it advertised in packages because there's no discount for it. Also, some may think it crazy to attempt to traverse these four parks in a day. Each has rides that a thrill lover wouldn't want to miss. But visiting all four in a day is possible with patience, stamina, a solid pair of walking shoes and a few tips.

Here is some advice on experiencing the thrills at the parks while still having time later for refreshments at Downtown Disney. [...]

5:30 p.m.

Our first Fast Pass reservation in the Magic Kingdom was around 6:30 p.m. We left Epcot to get to Magic Kingdom (which involves parking, a monorail ride through a hotel and across water to the park entrance) and have dinner. We used the Fast Pass at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a steel roller coaster, before our 9 p.m. reservation on Space Mountain.

We checked the app to see the wait time because I felt it essential to ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the newest roller coaster in the park, regardless of the wait, which was listed at 60 minutes; we went for it.

...if they'd just taken Walt Disney World Railroad from dinner to Big Thunder Mountain they'd have had the four train set.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


Osborne's devolution plans signal English revolution (Sarah Neville, Jim Pickard, Chris Tighe and Andy Bounds, 7/03/15, Financial Times)

George Osborne will next week signal a sweeping transfer of powers to the regions, from Cornwall to Yorkshire, presaging the biggest shake-up for decades in the way England is run.

The chancellor will use his Budget speech to maintain momentum from last year's devolution of powers to Manchester, as he aims to redraw the boundaries of the historically centralised UK state, the Financial Times understands.

Cornwall is in discussions over gaining powers to shape its own economic destiny, with sway over transport, energy and housing, according to people involved in the talks. This breaks new ground, extending the devolution agenda for the first time to one of Britain's most rural counties.

Posted by orrinj at 10:31 AM


Goodbye Washington, hello Moscow? Saudi Arabia finds friendly face in Putin. (Fred Weir, JULY 3, 2015, CS Monitor)

Some experts perceive signs of an "emerging partnership" driven by shifting global winds, in which Saudi cash helps Moscow dodge Western sanctions, while Russian arms, engineering expertise, and diplomatic support assist the energetic new Saudi king to wean his country from dependency on an increasingly uncooperative US.

Posted by orrinj at 10:28 AM


CVS arson suspect faces federal charges (WBAL TV, Jul 02, 2015)

The man who law enforcement officials said is responsible for intentionally setting fire to the CVS in west Baltimore during the recent unrest had his initial appearance Thursday in federal court.

Posted by orrinj at 10:24 AM


Big Corn vs. Big Sugar could have a sweet outcome for taxpayers (Charles Lane, July 1, 2015, Washington Post)

 The Corn Refiners Association, headed by giant grain processors such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, is taking aim at the federal sugar subsidy program -- which shares both Ex-Im's birth year, 1934, and its propensity for wasting resources and distorting markets.

Perhaps you did not know that it is unambiguously in the public interest for the United States' sugar farmers and refiners to make a profit, even though many other countries produce this fungible, but dietarily dubious, commodity at a lower cost.

Well, Congress, well-lubricated by the sugar lobby, believes that it is, and hasn't really revisited that conclusion for decades. And so we have country-by-country quotas on imports, buttressed by domestic price supports.

The net effect is to soak U.S. consumers every time they buy sugar-containing products, from soda to Snickers bars. The industry used to boast that its government protection does not cost taxpayers anything directly, but that claim has been exploded due to recent market developments that forced the federal government to, in effect, buy up tons and tons of sugar and sell it to ethanol refiners at a loss -- so as to prop up prices. Taxpayers took a hit of some $258 million in fiscal 2014.

So now the Corn Refiners Association is throwing its high-powered lobbying operation behind a bill that would, for the first time, cap taxpayer exposure to sugar-market ups and downs, with votes on the floor of the House looming later this summer.

There's actually a chance that sugar program reform, a cause heretofore supported by the candy and cake makers, plus a few hardy environmentalists, will finally have enough muscle to prevail.

Perhaps the best sign that the Corn Refiners' position has already made an impact is that Big Sugar's backers are resorting to the same old specious arguments that rent-seekers, and their friends in Congress, always trot out. The sugar program, which subsidizes cane growers in the Florida Everglades and sugar-beet growers in Minnesota, is "critical to jobs and economic development," Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Tell that to the candy-factory work force, which shrank from 70,500 to just under 55,000 between 1998 and 2011, due in large part to the high cost of sugar inputs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Posted by orrinj at 10:18 AM


The sadist who wrecked New York, and the last of the great biographers (John R. MacArthur, 4 July 2015, The Spectator)

It is something of a mystery why the Bodley Head has decided to publish Robert Caro's The Power Broker in Britain more than 40 years after the initial appearance in the US of this classic work -- but better late than never. Caro's remarkable portrait of New York City's master planner Robert Moses merits publication in any language, at any moment in time. For its scope extends beyond Moses, fascinating though he was as a person, builder, wrecker, and manipulator of men and money.

Caro's ambition -- in a journalistic sense equal to Moses's ambition in architecture, park creation, and road and bridge construction -- is greater than conventional biography. Over 1,200-odd pages, with immense precision and considerable verve, Caro aims to describe the essence and pathology of Moses's political power, not just the uses to which he put it or how he got away with the worst of his bulldozing, both physical and political. So we learn as much about the intoxication and addiction of power as we do about the bureaucratic titan whose imprint on New York bears comparison with his only modern equivalent, the smasher and rebuilder of Paris, Baron Haussmann.

Unfortunately, New York today remains ugly, congested, and harsh compared with Paris, and the tactics Moses employed to transform the city, adjacent Long Island, and upstate New York to suit his tastes were uglier still. Thus any assessment of Moses's legacy, or potential revision of Caro's devastating critique, must include the question: did Robert Moses make New York a better or a worse place to live?

There's nothing wrong with New York that tearing down all the highways and high-rises wouldn't fix.

Posted by orrinj at 10:15 AM


Christian activist decries 'evil' gay marriage with a honey-smooth voice (TINA SUSMAN, 6/30/15, LA Times)
In a state where 86% of voters cast ballots for a ban on gay weddings in 2004, and where opposition is fierce to last week's Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right, Meeke Addison stands out from the fire-and-brimstone preachers and politicians usually associated with the fight against gay marriage.

Her view of marriage came from divorce. It was her mother's divorce, and according to family lore, it came after Addison's father handed his wife a pearl-handled pistol, told her to use it on anyone who tried to break into their apartment, and walked out.

Despite being left with five children to raise, Addison said, her mother trumpeted the value of marriage and instilled in her a passion for the institution that has turned Addison into one of Mississippi's most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage.

Addison is a 36-year-old black woman. She is not a preacher or a politician. Her views are as hard-line as theirs, and her words can be as harsh, but her voice is honey smooth, whether she is speaking on her weekday radio show, "Airing the Addisons," on a Christian-based network, or speaking on behalf of the American Family Assn., a national Christian group based in Tupelo.

One of the things that rile Addison most about the same-sex marriage issue, which peaked in Mississippi on Friday when the state attorney general directed court clerks to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, is the idea that same-sex marriage is a civil right.

"I'm a black woman, so when I think of a civil right and the fight for freedom, it kind of strikes a chord for me that your sexual preference is not equal to the color of my skin, an immutable characteristic," Addison said in an interview Saturday, a day after the Supreme Court's ruling.

Posted by orrinj at 10:10 AM


Dune, 50 years on: how a science fiction novel changed the world (Hari Kunzru, 3 July 2015, The Guardian)

In 1959, if you were walking the sand dunes near Florence, Oregon, you might have encountered a burly, bearded extrovert, striding about in Ray-Ban Aviators and practical army surplus clothing. Frank Herbert, a freelance writer with a feeling for ecology, was researching a magazine story about a US Department of Agriculture programme to stabilise the shifting sands by introducing European beach grass. Pushed by strong winds off the Pacific, the dunes moved eastwards, burying everything in their path. Herbert hired a Cessna light aircraft to survey the scene from the air. "These waves [of sand] can be every bit as devastating as a tidal wave ... they've even caused deaths," he wrote in a pitch to his agent. Above all he was intrigued by the idea that it might be possible to engineer an ecosystem, to green a hostile desert landscape.

About to turn 40, Herbert had been a working writer since the age of 19, and his fortunes had always been patchy. After a hard childhood in a small coastal community near Tacoma, Washington, where his pleasures had been fishing and messing about in boats, he'd worked for various regional newspapers in the Pacific northwest and sold short stories to magazines. He'd had a relatively easy war, serving eight months as a naval photographer before receiving a medical discharge. More recently he'd spent a weird interlude in Washington as a speechwriter for a Republican senator. There (his only significant time living on the east coast) he attended the daily Army-McCarthy hearings, watching his distant relative senator Joseph McCarthy root out communism. Herbert was a quintessential product of the libertarian culture of the Pacific coast, self-reliant and distrustful of centralised authority, yet with a mile-wide streak of utopian futurism and a concomitant willingness to experiment. He was also chronically broke. During the period he wrote Dune, his wife Beverly Ann was the main bread-winner, her own writing career sidelined by a job producing advertising copy for department stores.

Soon, Herbert's research into dunes became research into deserts and desert cultures. It overpowered his article about the heroism of the men of the USDA (proposed title "They Stopped the Moving Sands") and became two short SF novels, serialised in Analog Science Fact & Fiction, one of the more prestigious genre magazines. Unsatisfied, Herbert industriously reworked his two stories into a single, giant epic. The prevailing publishing wisdom of the time had it that SF readers liked their stories short. Dune (400 pages in its first hardcover edition, almost 900 in the paperback on my desk) was rejected by more than 20 houses before being accepted by Chilton, a Philadelphia operation known for trade and hobby magazines such as Motor Age, Jewelers' Circular and the no-doubt-diverting Dry Goods Economist.

Though Dune won the Nebula and Hugo awards, the two most prestigious science fiction prizes, it was not an overnight commercial success. Its fanbase built through the 60s and 70s, circulating in squats, communes, labs and studios, anywhere where the idea of global transformation seemed attractive. Fifty years later it is considered by many to be the greatest novel in the SF canon, and has sold in millions around the world.

...it was hard to believe the same guy had written the incoherent follow-ups.

Posted by orrinj at 10:02 AM


Sunny weather sees Britain break solar power record, estimate says (Press Association, 3 July 2015)

An increase the amount of solar panels, with the latest statistics showing there are more than 709,000 solar installations across UK, and the glorious sunshine means solar arrays from large farms to home roof panels are believed to be supplying 16% of power needs this afternoon.

Posted by orrinj at 9:58 AM


Orthodox Jews Can't Protest Gay Pride Parade, Hire Mexicans Instead (Alex Griswold, June 29th, 2015, Mediate)

A (actually Jewish) member of the political action committee readily admitted they had paid the protesters, and claimed they were filling in for younger men who would normally protest. "The rabbis said that the yeshiva boys shouldn't come out for this because of what they would see at the parade," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 9:50 AM


The Quiet Crisis Of America's Disappearing Workforce (IBD, 07/02/2015)

Will the last worker in America please raise your hand? We ask this because Thursday's Labor Department report for June found yet another record collapse in the number of working Americans. [...]

The labor force participation rate for those 16 and over dropped from 65.7% at the start of the Obama presidency to just 62.6% last month.

Posted by orrinj at 9:48 AM


Jihadist From Tunisia Died in Strike in Libya, U.S. Official Says (CARLOTTA GALL and ERIC SCHMITT, JULY 2, 2015, NY Times)

Tunisia's most wanted jihadist, who masterminded a campaign of assassinations and terrorist attacks, including one against the United States Embassy in Tunis, was killed in an American airstrike in Libya in mid-June that had targeted another Al Qaeda leader, a senior United States official said on Thursday.

The jihadist, Seifallah Ben Hassine, also known as Abu Ayadh, was one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants and the leader of the outlawed group Ansar al-Shariah in Tunisia. He had been based in Libya since 2013, according to reports, and ran training camps and a network of militant cells across the region.

His death, if confirmed, would be an important victory for Tunisia in its struggle to contain a persistent insurgency in its western border region and a growing threat to its urban centers. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:42 AM


Arnold Schwarzenegger: five best moments : Highlights from the action-packed and dialogue-light career of the bodybuilder turned actor turned governor turned actor (Benjamin Lee, 7/03/15, The Guardian)

...from the otherwise godawful Raw Deal:

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


Who is burning black churches? Twitter activists think they know (BBC Trending, 7/03/15)

A co-ordinated effort on Twitter earlier in the week turned the hashtag "Who is burning black churches?" into a worldwide trend, and it's since been mentioned more than 300,000 times. The phrase, however, is slightly misleading - instead of trying to get to the bottom of who might have been behind the fires, most of the messages Tweeted under the hashtag criticised mainstream US media outlets, claiming that they were ignoring or downplaying the story.

"I live in knoxville [in Tennessee] and had to hear about a black church being burned IN MY CITY from twitter thanks local news," one man tweeted.

The campaign was the brainchild of a relatively small group of activists, many of whom identify themselves on their Twitter profiles as supporters of Black Lives Matter, a movement that originally sprung up to protest alleged police brutality and the shootings of African-Americans.

It became a political force last year during protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri, after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead by a police officer. One of the activists who rose to prominence after live streaming events in Ferguson, Palestinian-American and St Louis native Bassem Masri, was also one of the main Twitter users behind the "Who is burning black churches?" hashtag.

"We circulated the idea through [direct messages] so that at a specific time, everyone would to go hard on the hashtag, and encouraged everyone to keep at it," he told BBC Trending.

July 2, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 PM


Church fires in the US are very common, but usually not arson or racially motivated (BRUCE SMITH and RAY HENRY, 7/0/15, Associated Press)

More than half of fires at houses of worship from 2007 to 2011 were blamed on cooking equipment and heating and electrical systems, according to estimates by the National Fire Protection Association. [...]

While church fires have declined significantly in recent decades, they are not infrequent: Blazes at houses of worship happened, on average, 31 times a week across the nation, according to the data collected during the five-year period ending in 2011. If those trends still hold today, an average of five church fires could be intentionally set each week. [...]

[T]he task force formed by President Bill Clinton found that 37 percent of the people arrested for bombing or burning black churches in the 1990s were black themselves.

The same task force reported that many arsonists appeared to have non-racial motives, such as covering up other crimes, pyromania and other mental illness.

Local and federal investigators said Wednesday that they haven't ruled out any potential cause for the fire at Mount Zion, which started late Tuesday as lightning storms rolled through the area.

Churches may face special fire risks. For example, insurers have cautioned that church spires may attract lightning strikes, and churches may pose an easy target for arsonists, since many are vacant outside of weekly worship services. 

Still, the estimated number of intentionally set fires at houses of worship and funeral homes has trended downward, falling 71 percent from 1,320 in 1980 to 380 in 1998, according to an NFPA analysis. That coincides with a general decrease in all fires at those structures.

July 1, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 PM


Saudi Officials Linked to Jihadist Group in WikiLeaks Cables (SAEED SHAH, June 28, 2015, WSJ)

Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, had high-level contacts with America's most deadly adversary in Afghanistan, the Haqqani network, according to purported Saudi diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 PM



One day after the 51st anniversary of the murder of Schwarner, Chaney and Goodman, nine African Americans were shot down in cold blood in the sanctuary of Emmanuel AME church in Charleston on June 17, 2015.

Seven black churches have burned since that day, with conflicting reports on whether or not these churches burned because of arson, lightning or other causes. Meanwhile, several African American female pastors in South Carolina have had threatening letters sent to them, stating, "You and your children will die."

When it comes to racism in America, and specifically acts of violence against black Christians and black churches, the past is not even the past--it is a very present danger. 

One would have thought Michael Fumento had debunked this meme permanently. If I recall the old New Yorker piece correctly, an unlikelihood, churches burn often generally : they're old, wooden buildings that aren't maintained very well and often aren't up to code.  They're also prey to arson frequently because they have little security, they burn well, and nuts hate God.

It's certainly possible that a black church fire could be a racist attack, it just isn't likely.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM


Start Your Transition to LED Lighting for $4 Per Bulb (Shep McAllister, 7/01/15, Kinja)

If you're still using ugly CFL bulbs, or heaven forbid, energy-hogging incandescents, it's time to transition to LED. Philips' unique SlimStyle 60W equivalents are only $4 each today on Amazon, which is within a few cents of an all-time low. At that price, they'll pay for themselves in the short term with energy savings, and in the long term with a lifespan that could stretch over multiple decades. Plus, many utility companies will pay you a buck or two for each bulb, if you submit a receipt.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Near to a nuclear deal, Iran grapples with bigger headaches (Matthew McInnis, July 1, 2015, AEIdeas)

The Iranian leadership appears quite content with waiting until July 7 to conclude a comprehensive agreement with the P5+1. All the angst over Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's reiteration two weeks ago of old redlines (immediate sanctions relief, no military inspections) and seemingly new ones (uranium enrichment will not be restricted for ten to twelve years) appears to have been unwarranted, as expected.

The mostly upbeat reports coming out of the Vienna negotiations do not indicate Tehran has shifted from the basic parameters in the April 2 Lausanne agreement to restrict enrichment for at least ten years, contrary to Khamenei's new 'redline'. The negotiators appear to concede that sanctions will be lifted in some sequence tied to the deal's implementation even if that sequence is still undetermined. Tehran should find the eventual arrangements for a new inspections regime and for answering the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) questions about Iran's suspected nuclear weapons research manageable, especially given indications that the US and other P5+1 members are willing to bend on these issues. Khamenei tweeted he "recognized our negotiators as trustworthy, committed, brave and faithful" on the original deadline date of June 30. The Supreme Leader is seeing a favorable deal and his satisfaction is showing.

...and alliance with us helps with both.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Jeb Bush's education foundation releases donor list a day after his tax returns (Ed O'Keefe July 1, 2015, Washington Post)

A nonprofit education foundation established by Jeb Bush has released a full list of donors dating back to its founding in 2007. The list comes a day after the former Florida governor released 33 years of tax returns. [...]

News of the release of the foundation's donors was first reported by the Associated Press.

The nonprofit received donations from 191 organizations over the eight-year period. Four entities have donated more than $1 million at least once: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (in 2013); the GE Foundation (2012 and 2013); the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust (2014); and the Walton Family Foundation (2014). All four entities have given six-figure sums in other years.

Other backers include Bloomberg Philanthropies -- the charitable entity of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg; Exxon Mobil; BP America; Target; Publix Supermarkets; the Florida Lottery; State Farm Insurance; and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Just think how much easier W's presidency would have been if he'd released his arrest record in July 1999.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Jeb Bush is surging in a new GOP poll (Colin Campbell, 7/01/15, Business Insider)

"The findings suggest Bush is making progress toward being seen as the frontrunner in a field that has long lacked a clear leader," wrote CNN's polling director, Jennifer Agiesta. 

"He holds a significant lead over the second-place candidate Trump, is seen as the candidate who could best handle illegal immigration and social issues, and runs about even with Trump and well ahead of the other candidates when Republicans are asked which candidate can best handle the economy."

Brianna Keilar, a CNN political correspondent, further called Bush "the humble front-runner." 

He is the base's candidate.

June 30, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM


"I only ask the West one thing: Stop arming our assassins"  : Interview with the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, Aphrem II  (GIANNI VALENTE, 6/30/15, Vatican Insider)
Some Western circles accuse the Christians of the East of submitting to authoritarian regimes.

"We have not submitted ourselves to Assad and the so-called authoritarian governments. We simply recognise legitimate governments. The majority of Syrian citizens support Assad's government and have always supported it.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


Jeb Bush releases 33 years of tax returns, advocates for fairer tax code (Stephanie Talmadge, 6/30/15, The Week)

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush published a whopping 33 years of personal tax returns to his campaign website Tuesday, a new record in American politics. The former Florida governor reported an effective rate of 36 percent over the years.

"In my case, I paid the government more than one in three dollars that I earned in my career. Astounding," Bush writes. "I think I speak for everyone, no matter your tax rate: we need to get more money back in your pocket and less in the federal kitty."

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Why the church should neither cave nor panic about the decision on gay marriage (Russell Moore, June 26, 2015, Washington Post)

The church will need in the years ahead to articulate what we believe about marriage; we cannot assume that people agree with us, or even understand us. Let's not simply talk about marriage in terms of values or culture or human flourishing. Let's talk about marriage the way Jesus and the apostles taught us to -- as bound up with the gospel itself, a picture of the union of Christ and his church (Eph. 5:32).

As we do so, we must not just articulate our views of marriage, we must embody a gospel marriage culture. We have done a poor job of that in the past. Too many of our marriages have been ravaged by divorce.

Too often we've neglected church discipline in the cases of those who have unrepentantly destroyed their marriages. We must repent of our failings and picture to the world what marriage is meant to be, and keep the light lit to the old paths.

This gives the church an opportunity to do what Jesus called us to do with our marriages in the first place: to serve as a light in a dark place. Permanent, stable marriages with families with both a mother and a father may well make us seem freakish in 21st-century culture.

We should not fear that. We believe stranger things than that. We believe a previously dead man is alive, and will show up in the Eastern skies on a horse. We believe that the gospel can forgive sinners like us and make us sons and daughters. Let's embrace the sort of freakishness that saves.

Why not abandon the merely legal institution of marriage and recraft our religious version?

Pro-Lifers Didn't Give Up After Roe v. Wade. Here Are 3 Critical Steps to Take on Marriage. (Ryan T. Anderson,  June 29, 2015, Daily Signal)

Now everything the pro-life movement did needs to be done again on this new frontier of marriage. Here are three critical steps to take.

First, we must call the court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges what it is: judicial activism. Just as the pro-life movement successfully rejected Roe v. Wade and exposed its lies about unborn life and about the Constitution, we must make it clear to our fellow citizens that Obergefell v. Hodges does not tell the truth about marriage or about our Constitution.

Second, we must protect our freedom to speak and live according to our beliefs. The pro-life movement accomplished this by ensuring that pro-life doctors and nurses would never have to perform abortions. It won the battle to prevent taxpayer money from paying for abortions. And it made sure that pro-lifers and pro-life organizations could not be discriminated against by the government.

Pro-marriage forces need to do the same: Ensure that we have freedom from government coercion to lead our lives, rear our children, and operate our businesses and our charities in accord with our beliefs about marriage. Likewise, we must ensure that the government does not discriminate against citizens or organizations because of their belief that marriage is the union of husband and wife.

Third, we must redouble our efforts to make the case for marriage in the public square. To do this, we must use reason and our own personal stories. This is the most compelling way to bring the truth about marriage to light.

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