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Greek court acquits farmers who shot 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers

Strawberry picker in tears amid crowd

Greek court acquits farmers who shot 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers

Helena Smith

'Scandalous' verdict condemned by politicians and anti-racist groups after case that revealed migrant workers' plight

A Greek court's decision to acquit local farmers who admitted shooting 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers when they dared to ask for months of back pay has sparked outrage in the country.

Politicians, unionists and anti-racist groups roundly condemned the verdict describing it as a black mark for justice in a case that had shone a light on the appalling conditions in which migrant workers are often kept in Greece.

"I feel shame as a Greek," said the victim's lawyer, Moisis Karabeyidis, after the tribunal in the western port city of Patras, delivered the shock ruling. "This decision is an outrage and a disgrace … the court showed an appalling attitude toward the victims."

Scores of migrants, many sobbing in disbelief, protested outside the court house after magistrates allowed two of the men, including the owner of the farm who had been accused of human trafficking, to walk free.

Two others, accused of aggravated assault and illegal firearms possession, were handed prison sentences of 14 years and seven months and eight years and seven months but were also freed pending appeal.

The Bangladeshis were shot at in April last year when they demanded to be remunerated for six months of unpaid work at a farm in Manolada in the southern Peloponnese. Four of the strawberry pickers were badly injured in the attack.

At a time of unrivalled crisis in Greece, where living standards have deteriorated dramatically after six straight years of recession, the case had triggered widespread indignation.

 More than 40 prosecution witnesses testified in a case in which the prosecutor had asked that exemplary punishment be made.

Denouncing the judgment as scandalous, anti-racism organisations said it raised questions about the impartiality of the Greek justice system and vowed to step up protest action against the decision.

"We call upon unions and human rights movements to react against this unprecedented racist scandal," said Petros Constantinou, coordinator of the Movement Against Racism and the Fascist Threat in a statement. "The hundreds of millions of profit made in the strawberry industry cannot come about by shooting labourers in strawberry fields."

American Voters Don’t Get Foreign Policy

American Voters Don’t Get Foreign Policy

Stuart Stevens

Voters may care little about what happens overseas, but President Obama’s lack of leadership is destined to leave the world in flames.

Like it or not, Americans today are just not that interested in foreign affairs. In 1964, Pew research showed only 20 percent of the public agreed and 69 percent disagreed with the statement, “The US should mind its own business and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” By December 2013, those who disagreed had risen to 52 percent and those who agreed had fallen to 38 percent—a 63-point shift.

If you’re looking for an issue that unites Republicans and Democrats, this is it. When asked, “Should the US concentrate more on our national problems rather than international,” the results vary almost none by party: 82 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of independents agree.

Penelope Cruz Backtracks on Israel

Penelope Cruz Backtracks on Israel

Danny Moloshok/Reuters

After coming under fire, along with actor-husband Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz backtracked about her signing on to a letter criticizing Israel on Wednesday. She said, "I'm not an expert on the situation and I'm aware of the complexity of it. My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza. I am hopeful all parties can agree to a ceasefire and there are no more innocent victims on either side of the border. I wish for unity, and peace." Cruz had been attacked after signing on to a letter with director Pedro Almodovar that said Israel engaged in "state terrorism" and denounced the country for its incursion into Gaza. However, it appears the retraction only is from Cruz, not Bardem.

Summer for SparklyMorons

The Spiritual Significance of a Traditional Church Wedding

Everett Collection/Shutterstock

 The Spiritual Significance of a Traditional Church Wedding 

Emma Green

According to new data, Catholic marriages in the U.S. are on a steep decline. Why are fewer couples relying on religious institutions as they take their vows?

It’s an iconic image: the white dress, the church bells, the priest, the traditional vows repeated by an earnest, fresh-faced couple. Many elements of the archetypical American wedding echo the formality and traditions of the country’s largest single religious tradition, Roman Catholicism. But Catholic weddings themselves are becoming rarer and rarer.

In 1970, there were roughly 426,000 Catholic weddings, accounting for 20 percent of all marriages in the United States that year. Beginning in 1970, however, Catholic marriages went into decades of steady decline, until the turn of the new century—when that decline started to become precipitous: Between 2000 and 2012, Church weddings dropped by 40 percent, according to new data from the Official Catholic Directory. Given other demographic trends in the denomination, this pattern is question-raising: As of 2012, there were an estimated 76.7 million Catholics in the United States, a number that has been growing for at least four decades.

According to Catholic doctrine, marriage is a sacrament, or holy rite of passage, that can only be received if both husband and wife are baptized in the Church. In many cases, bishops can grant a special dispensation for interfaith couples, which allows them to be married in a church by a priest. But for faithful Catholics who want their marriage to be fully recognized by the Church, the options are either marrying a good Catholic girl or boy, or convincing their partner to convert.

Israel surprised by Hamas’ advanced tunnel network

An Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour, Friday, July 25, 2014, of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza Border. A network of tunnels Palestinian militants have dug from Gaza to Israel, dubbed "lower Gaza" by the Israeli military, is taking center stage in the latest war between Hamas and Israel. (AP Photo/Jack Guez, Pool)

Echoes of Vietnam: Israel surprised by Hamas’ advanced tunnel network

By Bill Gertz - The Washington Times

Israeli military intelligence is facing criticism for failing to comprehend the network of tunnels and other underground facilities built by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

“We’ll see when the war was over,” Mr. Pollak said in an interview, “but it is clear that the underground tunnel complex was far more extensive than Israeli military intelligence understood.”

Information that Israel Defense Forces reportedly obtained from captured Hamas fighters revealed that the group was planning to use several Gaza tunnels that extend under Israeli territory for a major attack timed with the beginning of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, on Sept. 24.

The plan called for Hamas fighters to surface from the tunnels in Israel and kill as many people as possible. The plot was first reported by the Israeli newspaper Maariv.

No More Mr. Tough Guy

No More Mr. Tough Guy

By Adam Gopnik

President Obama's critics have made it a practice to attack his supposed lack of strength.

Barack Obama is not a tough guy. Everybody rolls him. He’s a wimp, a weak sister; he won’t stand up for himself or his country. Vladimir Putin, a true tough guy, blows planes out of the air, won’t apologize, walks around half-naked. Life, it seems, is like a prison yard, and Obama cowers in a corner. “It would be a hellish thing to live with such timidity. … He’s scared of Vladimir Putin,” one Fox News contributor said about the President. But this kind of thing is not confined to the weirder fringes: Maureen Dowd pointed out a while ago that former fans of Obama “now make derogatory remarks about your manhood,” while the Wall Street Journal ’s editorial page runs a kind of compendium of “weak sister” pieces every morning, urging the President, at one point, to make more “unambiguous threats”—making unambiguous threats evidently being the real man’s method of getting his way.

“Barack Obama is the first female president,” The Daily Caller, a Web site co-founded by a former adviser to Dick Cheney, blared, without a trace of irony or consciousness that female might not be such a bad thing for a President to be. The Daily Caller lists seven basic “manly” traits—courage, industry, resolution, self-reliance, discipline, honor, and manliness, that last one bafflingly redundant but, hey, that’s the way men are—and shows how Obama fails in regard to each. (He’s terrified of his wife, apparently, though one would think that this is actually a classic Jimmy Stewart-style American sign of husbandliness.) Toni Morrison wrote memorably, in these pages, that Bill Clinton had become, in a symbolic sense, “our first black President”—meaning that Clinton’s perceived faults were flaws of appetite, of a kind that a racist imagination traditionally ascribed to black men. “His unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution,” Morrison wrote. Obama’s perceived flaws are the ancient effeminate ones, of the kind that a bigoted tradition ascribed to women; above all, the criticism reflects the President’s unapologetic distaste for violent confrontation and for making loud threats, no matter how empty those threats may obviously be. (The joke, of course, is that, with Clinton as with Obama, the symbolic substitute may well precede the real thing.)

Obama—contemptibly, in this view—offers off-ramps in the direction of reason even when faced with the most fanatical opponents, who are bent on revenge for mysterious, sectarian motives, and yet he still tries to appease them. And that’s just the Republicans in Congress. Shouldn’t he be tougher with bad guys abroad? The curious thing, though, is how much the talk about manliness—and Obama’s lack of it—is purely and entirely about appearances. In the current crisis over the downed Malaysian plane, all the emphasis is on how it looks or how it might be made to look—far more than on American interests and much less on simple empathy for the nightmarish fate of the people on board. The tough-talkers end up grudgingly admitting that what the President has done—as earlier, with Syria—is about all that you could do, given the circumstances.  Their own solutions are either a further variant on the kinds of sanctions that are already in place—boycott the World Cup in Russia!—or else are too militarily reckless to be taken seriously. Not even John McCain actually thinks that we should start a war over whether Donetsk and Luhansk should be regarded as part of Ukraine or Russia.  The tough guys basically just think that Obama should have looked scarier. The anti-effeminate have very little else to suggest by way of practical action—except making those unambiguous threats and, apparently, baring your teeth while you do.

Love or Lust? Do Your Eyes Give You Away?

Love or Lust? Do Your Eyes Give You Away?

By Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D.

The common stereotype is of lovers gazing into each other’s eyes, while lust involves checking out the other’s body. Is there any truth to these stereotypes? What other secrets do our eyes reveal?

A new study that will be published soon in Psychological Science had college students look at photos of same-age models from fashion magazines and were asked to decide if the model elicited feelings of lust or love. The students’ eye gaze was tracked electronically. Consistent with the stereotypes, feelings of lust led to more eye fixation on the body, while feelings of love led to gazing more at the model’s face. Importantly, there were no significant sex differences—both men and women looked more at the face when feeling love, and more at the body when feeling lust.

Before Suicide Bombing, a Last Trip Home

Moner Mohammad Abusalha, an American suicide bomber, destroying his passport in a video released on Monday.

Before Suicide Bombing, a Last Trip Home


Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a Florida man who died in a suicide attack in Syria in May, traveled to the U.S. for several months after training with a group allied with Al Qaeda.

 When Moner Mohammad Abusalha drove a truck packed with explosives into a restaurant in northern Syria in May, American authorities conceded that they knew little about how a young man who grew up a basketball-obsessed teenager in a Florida gated community had become a suicide bomber.

And they have never publicly acknowledged the startling discovery they made weeks into their investigation: that after receiving training by an extremist group in Syria, Mr. Abusalha had returned to the United States for several months before leaving the country for the last time.

Mr. Abusalha, 22, chose to carry out his attack in Syria rather than in the United States, but the difficulty learning about his background, motivations and travels illustrates the problems law enforcement officials face in trying to identify the Westerners — including dozens of Americans — believed to have been trained by Islamic militants in Syria.

Counterterrorism officials in both Europe and the United States have long said they consider the return of their radicalized citizens from Syria a looming threat, especially to nations easily reached from Syria. But with so many Americans traveling abroad, officials in the United States face the difficult question of how to deal with a potential danger posed by a small group of people.

In the newly released video, Mr. Abusalha spoke directly into the camera for nearly a half-hour, a gun sometimes resting on his shoulder. At times he was calm; at other times he shouted in anger, pounded his chest and pointed a finger at the camera.

He said those fighting in Syria were not terrorists. “You think jihad is evil and terrorism,” he said.

The United States, Russia, China and the Syrian government of Mr. Assad had killed many Muslims, including children, he said. “You think you are safe; you are not safe,” he said.

Even as he was explaining how he was about to give his life, he said his life in Syria had been far better than anything he had ever experienced.

“I lived in America; I know how it is,” he said. “You think you’re happy? You’re not happy. You’re never happy. I was never happy. I was always sad and depressed.”

Then, crying, he said goodbye to his family.

“Mother,” he said, pausing. “I love you, Mom. Stay strong for Allah.”

He said goodbye to his father, who is a Palestinian-American, in Arabic.

To his brother, he said, “I love you, bro.”

The video ended with images of the large cargo truck used in the attack, shown packed with explosives and outfitted with armored plates.

It drove into the distance, and then the video cut to a clip of a giant explosion.

The United State of America

The United State of America

Washington is turning state governments into instruments of federal policy.

By Richard A. Epstein and Mario Loyola

The tug of war between the president and Congress is steadily escalating. The most recent sign of incipient institutional breakdown is House Speaker John Boehner’s suit against President Obama for rewriting laws and stepping on Congress’s turf.

But lurking in the wings is a second separation-of-powers issue, just as important, that Americans have mostly overlooked—the separation between federal and state government. In many areas, that vital divide is fast disappearing, owing to a relentless expansion of federal power. And both political parties share the blame.

Programs like Medicaid, Common Core, the Clean Air Act, and the federal highway system enjoy popular support because they appear to allow the federal government to accomplish things all Americans want, at least in the short run. But those programs often turn states into mere field offices of the federal government, often against their will, in turn creating a  host of structural problems.

Federal officials exert enormous influence over state budgets and state regulators, often behind the scenes. The new federalism replaces the “laboratories of democracy” with heavy-handed, once-size-fits-all solutions. Uniformity wins but diversity loses, along with innovation, local choice, and the Constitution’s necessary limits on government power. 

Take Medicaid. On the surface, it looks like a federal matching-grant for state health care programs targeted at the needy. In fact it is the opposite: a way to rope states into match-funding a federal program. Federal Medicaid funds come with so many strings attached that states have little room to deviate from federal dictates—except by expanding their programs to fiscally unsustainable levels, which Medicaid actually encourages the states to do.

Argentina Default Imminent as Talks Collapse

Argentina Default Imminent as Talks Collapse

Setback Sends Argentine Shares Down in After-Hours Trading

By Nicole Hong, Taos Turner and Matt Day

Argentina teetered on the brink of its second default in 13 years after talks with bondholders collapsed late Wednesday.

The setback, after glimmers of hope in recent days that a last-minute agreement could be reached, immediately sent Argentine stocks plunging in after-hours trading.

Still, there remained the possibility that talks could resume and a deal could eventually be reached.

At a news conference after talks with a court-appointed mediator ended Wednesday, Argentine Economy Minister Axel Kicillof, who had led the country's delegation to New York, said "we won't sign an agreement that would compromise Argentina's future." A spokeswoman later said negotiations would continue, without giving a timetable.

"Default is not a mere 'technical' condition, but rather a real and painful event that will hurt real people," said Daniel Pollack, the mediator, in a statement late Wednesday. He added, "The full consequences of default are not predictable, but they certainly are not positive."

The development is the latest turn in a yearslong battle between Argentina and a small group of hedge funds that have demanded full payment for bonds the country defaulted on in 2001. Argentina has refused to pay, despite an order by a U.S. District Court judge requiring it to pay the hedge funds. The issue came to a head Wednesday as Argentina missed a deadline to make a payment it owed to other bondholders, because the court order had prevented such a move.

Immigration is now President Obama’s worst issue

Immigration is now President Obama’s worst issue

Immigration has emerged as perhaps President Obama's worst issue -- definitely for today, and maybe of his entire presidency -- when it comes to public perception.

A new poll from AP-GfK shows more than two-thirds of Americans (68 percent) disapprove of Obama's handling of the immigration issue in general. Just 31 percent approve -- down from 38 percent two months ago.

When you separate those most passionate about the issue, the difference is even more stark, with 57 percent opposed and just 18 percent in favor. That's more than three-to-one.

Chicken pox outbreak puts illegal immigrant facility on lockdown

** FILE ** In this July 12, 2014, photo, Central American migrants ride a freight train during their journey toward the U.S.-Mexico border in Ixtepec, Mexico. The number of family units and unaccompanied children arrested by Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley has doubled in the first nine months of this fiscal year compared to the same period last year.  (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

Chicken pox outbreak puts illegal immigrant facility on lockdown

By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times

The federal government’s new facility to house illegal immigrant families surging across the border has been put on lockdown because of chicken pox, with no immigrants allowed to be transferred in or out, a congressman said this week.

Hundreds of illegal immigrants being kept at the campus of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico, are being treated for and vaccinated against chicken pox after an outbreak, said Rep. Steve Pearce, the Republican congressman whose district includes Artesia.

“As the FLETC facility reaches maximum capacity, I am increasingly concerned for the health and safety of the women and children at FLETC and for the local community. The virus, that has caused two residents to be put in isolation, has halted all departures,” Mr. Pearce said.

The White House’s Woman in the Immigration Crosshairs

Gaza crisis: Israel calls up 16,000 more reservists

an Black, Middle East editor, Patrick Kingsley in Cairo and Paul Lewis in Washington 

An Israeli soldier cleans his APC machine gun

Official says move will allow IDF to expand attacks 'against Hamas and the other terror organisations'

Israel has said it is calling up another 16,000 reserves following a security cabinet meeting that decided to keep up military operations in Gaza, ignoring international pressure for an immediate ceasefire.

The move will allow the Israeli military to substantially widen its 23-day campaign against Hamas, which has already claimed more than 1,360 Palestinian lives – most of them civilians – and reduced entire Gaza neighbourhoods to rubble. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians have died during the campaign.

Israel has now called up a total of 86,000 reserves during the Gaza conflict. At least 19 air strikes were carried out overnight, officials said.

Arab Leaders Silent, Viewing Israel as Better Than Hamas


Arab Leaders Silent, Viewing Israel as Better Than Hamas


Led by Egypt, a coalition of Arab states has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, posing new obstacles to efforts to end the Gaza conflict.

Battling Palestinian militants in Gaza two years ago, Israel found itself pressed from all sides by unfriendly Arab neighbors to end the fighting.

Not this time.

After the military ouster of the Islamist government in Cairo last year, Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states — including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan — that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. That, in turn, may have contributed to the failure of the antagonists to reach a negotiated cease-fire even after more than three weeks of bloodshed.

“The Arab states’ loathing and fear of political Islam is so strong that it outweighs their allergy to Benjamin Netanyahu,” the prime minister of Israel, said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington and a former Middle East negotiator under several presidents. “I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummeling of Hamas. The silence is deafening.”

In Video Age, Film Gets a Reprieve


In Video Age, Film Gets a Reprieve

By Ben Fritz

Faced with the possible extinction of the material that made Hollywood famous, a coalition of studios is close to a deal to keep Eastman Kodak in the business of producing movie film.

The negotiations—secret until now—are expected to result in an arrangement where studios promise to buy a set quantity of film for the next several years, even though most movies and television shows these days are shot on digital video.

Kodak's new chief executive, Jeff Clarke, said the pact will allow his company to forestall the closure of its Rochester, N.Y., film manufacturing plant, a move that had been under serious consideration. Kodak's motion-picture film sales have plummeted 96% since 2006, from 12.4 billion linear feet to an estimated 449 million this year. With the exit of competitor Fujifilm Corp. last year, Kodak is the only major company left producing motion-picture film.

In the agreements being finalized with Kodak, studios are committing to purchase a certain amount of film without knowing how many, if any, of their movies will be shot on the medium over the next few years.

Obama vows veto of House border bill

President Barack Obama speaks about the economy, Wednesday, July 30, 2014, at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Obama vows veto of House border bill

By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times

President Obama threatened Wednesday to veto the House’s border-spending bill, saying it doesn’t give him enough money, cancels key environmental protections and removes key judicial checks for the illegal immigrant children surging into the U.S.

The threat, issued in an official statement of policy, puts Mr. Obama at odds with even some Democrats who say changes are needed to a 2008 law granting Central American children a long judicial process before they can be deported. Mr. Obama himself had called for changes to the 2008 law earlier this month, but has since backed away under intense political pressure from immigrant-rights groups.

GDP grows at 4 percent pace. Good news for Democrats and Obama, right?

GDP grows at 4 percent pace. Good news for Democrats and Obama, right?

By Mark Trumbull

The 4 percent rise in GDP last quarter continues a string of modest but good economic news, yet the party in power doesn't seem to be getting much of the credit. That could be important this November.

The welcome pickup for Americans is also, politically, good news for Democrats in a midterm election with control of Congress at stake. As members of the party in control of the White House, they generally stand to take some credit or blame for what’s happening in the economy.

But political analysts say that any tailwinds that Democrats get from faster growth and falling unemployment may be very modest when Election Day rolls around.

The key reasons: The improving economy hasn’t necessarily translated strongly into people’s everyday lives, and because voters aren’t giving President Obama much credit for the economy. 

Is Mindfulness a Fad or The Real Deal?

Is Mindfulness a Fad or The Real Deal?

By Thomas G. Plante, Ph.D., ABPP

Mindfulness is all the rage now and practiced by many. It is the #1 trend in psychology! Yet only time (and excellent research) will tell if mindfulness is a fad or is the real deal in helping people live better. High quality clinical trials and objective empirical research with a focus on scientific objectivity and an openness to go where the data leads is critical.

As you likely know, mindfulness is "the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment", which can be trained by meditational practices derived from Buddhist anapanasati". For the most part, it is offered to the public by professionals and laypersons alike in a more secular version. Typically, you’d never know that it came from the Buddhists.

U.S. Air Force Calls for Cheaper Weapons Development

U.S. Air Force Calls for Cheaper Weapons Development


A 20-year strategic forecast, spurred in part by looming budget constraints, urges broad changes in developing both airmen and their technology.

In an acknowledgment that the military may be pricing itself out of business, the Air Force on Wednesday called for a shift away from big-ticket weapon systems that take decades to develop and a move toward what Defense Department officials are calling more “agile” high-tech armaments that can be quickly adapted to meet a range of emerging threats.

A 20-year Air Force strategic forecast, spurred in part by looming budget constraints, also calls for a faster pace, with lower price tags, in developing both airmen and the technology they use, warning that the current way of acquiring warplanes and weapons is too plodding.

The report, labeled a “call to action” by the Air Force secretary, Deborah Lee James, limits itself to how the country’s most tech-heavy military service can adapt to looming threats and budget constraints. But it is also a warning to and an admission from the entire Defense Department that with military compensation and retirement costs rising sharply, the country may soon be unable to afford the military it has without making significant changes to the way it does business.

“To boil this down, we have to buy things very differently and develop and employ our people differently,” said Maj. Gen. David W. Allvin, the author of the report. “We have to behave more like an innovative 21st-century company.”

The Lytro Illum uses light field technology

This Camera Focuses on Everything

Tech Review:The Lytro Illum uses light field technology to give photos new depth. Is it a game-changer or a gimmick?

Instead of snapping a solitary image, the Illum captures a whole moment—known as the light field—so you can change focus and shift perspective after you've taken the shot. Just by clicking around a screen, the viewer can focus on a birthday cake candle, the person blowing it out, or partygoers in the background. These "living pictures," as they're called, even let the viewer look a bit behind the closest objects. The effect is a little like the portraits in Harry Potter's newspaper: a hint of depth where you weren't expecting it.

Catholic League slams Obama: ‘Do Christian lives mean so little to you?’

** FILE ** Pope Francis and President Barack Obama smile as they exchange gifts, at the Vatican Thursday, March 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Gabriel Bouys, Pool)

Catholic League slams Obama: ‘Do Christian lives mean so little to you?’

By Cheryl K. Chumley - The Washington Times

The head of the Catholic League issued a scathing criticism at President Obama, posting on his group’s website an essay that pointed to all the Christians being beheaded by Muslim terrorists and asking: Doesn’t that matter to you?

Mr. Donohue also referenced Mr. Obama’s end-of-Eid al-Fitr celebration remarks — when the president and first lady Michelle Obama spoke of the “many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation” — as a face slap to Christians.

Most puzzling, he went on, Newsmax reported, was the fact that Mr. Obama spoke in this statement about the “common values” that unite those of all religious faiths.

“I can search in vain to find you condemning the genocidal slaughter of Christians by Muslims,” Mr. Donohue wrote. “Muslim terrorists are killing Jews in Israel, and their representatives have pledged to wipe Jews off the face of the earth. Yet your administration spends most of its time lecturing Israelis to be patient. About what? Being bombed because they are Jews? Do Jewish lives mean so little to you?”

Lois Lerner Called Conservatives ‘Assholes’

U.S. Director of Exempt Organizations for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Lois Lerner is sworn in to testify before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on alleged targeting of political groups seeking tax-exempt status from by the IRS, on Capitol Hill in Washington May 22, 2013. Lerner, the IRS official who this month revealed the tax agency

Lois Lerner Called Conservatives ‘Assholes,’ Fantasized About Working At Obama Group

Chuck Ross

New emails released by the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday provide more evidence that ex-IRS official Lois Lerner is not fond of conservatives.

“So we don’t need to worry about teRroists [sic]. It’s our own crazies that will take us down,” Lerner wrote in a Nov. 9, 2012 email exchange with an IRS colleague.

Lerner’s disdain for the right is central to an investigation into whether she targeted conservative groups who were seeking tax-exempt status. Republicans have accused the former director of the IRS’s exempt organizations division of possible criminal wrongdoing in targeting the groups.

“This email shows that Ms. Lerner’s mistreatment of conservative groups was driven by her personal hostility toward conservatives,” Camp wrote.

“This new evidence clearly demonstrates why Ms. Lerner not only targeted conservatives, but denied such groups their rights to due process and equal protection under the law.”

Camp claims that the emails “build on ample evidence” that Lerner used her official position “to improperly influence agency action against only conservative organizations.”

Is Silicon Valley the New Wall Street?

Is Silicon Valley the New Wall Street?

Tech elites seem to hold themselves above regular citizens, but their companies don't.

By Dan Gillmor

A few years ago, key leaders in the technology industry, led by Apple's Steve Jobs, colluded to hold down their employees' wages. They agreed not to recruit from each other, and this spring they settled a civil lawsuit that brought evidence of their brazen scheme to wide public notice. The case unveiled a Silicon Valley that most Americans didn’t recognize—an ugly side to America's most innovative and, increasingly one of its most essential, industries. 

It's certainly become one of the biggest and most profitable, spinning off countless billions to investors even as it forces ever-greater changes in the local, national and global economy. Which raises an interesting question, given a new level of scrutiny that has revealed some unpopular, and sometimes repugnant, practices and attitudes: Is Silicon Valley the new Wall Street?

In some interesting respects, it is. But in the most important ways, it's not even close.

Nixon's Nightmare—and Ours—Forty Years Ago

President Richard Nixon bids farewell to his White House staff, on August 12, 1974, with his son-in-law David Eisenhower at his side.

Nixon's Nightmare—and Ours—Forty Years Ago

By Jeffrey Frank

Remembering a Presidential resignation.

About a dozen years after Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency, on August 9, 1974, C. L. Sulzberger, a former Times correspondent who made his home in Paris, returned for a visit Stateside and discovered that passions still ran deep—that, “to my surprise, despite the passage of time since the Watergate scandal, the fevered detestation seemed to continue unabated. . . . This anger was, I found, astonishingly personal. . . . It was the same kind of personal hatred that survivors of Hitler and Stalin in Germany and Russia felt toward their persecutors,” he wrote, adding, “I cannot explain this extraordinarily venomous sentiment, this blind rage that focused its attention entirely on one man and displayed not the faintest sign of forgiveness.”

As we approach the fortieth anniversary of the resignation, next week, that “fevered detestation” has abated—in part, no doubt, because the generation that watched Nixon’s rise and fall is disappearing, or has been tempered by age, and in part because other Presidents have since become objects of hatred. As for forgiveness, President Bill Clinton said it well at Nixon’s funeral, in April, 1994: “May the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career come to a close.”

Yet Nixon remains an emblem of political villainy, the instantly recognizable man with the heavy jowls, startling nose, and awkward gestures; his image is still visual shorthand for any compromised public figure. He was, after all, a President willing to countenance law-breaking and then cover it up; we know this because he had the bad luck to leave an uncensored oral history: the secret White House tape recordings made between February, 1971, and July, 1973. They captured some of Nixon’s worst moments. In one, a conversation with his national-security adviser, Henry Kissinger, and two top aides, he said that he wanted someone to get him the so-called Vietnam-bombing-halt files, which were thought to be at the Brookings Institution—this should be “implemented on a thievery basis,” if need be, Nixon said. “God damn it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.” And he used a lot of foul language (as did most Presidents) and ethnic slurs—more bad luck. (Harry Truman used the word “nigger” in private and called New York City a “kike town,” but no one taped him doing it.) If you listen to just a few hours of the Nixon recordings, you begin to get a portrait of harried insecurity, tantrums, and familial affection, as well as the moments of bonhomie he shared with such fellow political soldiers as Hubert Humphrey.

Richard Rovere, who wrote about politics for this magazine for three decades, described the 1955 edition of Nixon, then forty-two, as “robust, intelligent, conscientious, ruthless, affable, articulate, competitive, telegenic, and breathtakingly adaptable.” Not someone Rovere took to, perhaps, but someone about whom he could add, “If he takes the elementary precautions with his health and does not squander the formidable political assets that are now his, he has ahead of him a full quarter-century of service to the Republic and to the good name of Richard Milhous Nixon.”

This anniversary, then, is also the anniversary of a mystery: How and why did this ruthless, talented man—perhaps the best-prepared person ever to assume the Presidency—squander those assets?
Kapitalism, With Kim Kardashian

Kapitalism, With Kim Kardashian

Her smartphone game is extremely popular and extremely ridiculous—and totally genius.

By Megan Garber

What is it like to be Kim Kardashian? What is it like to live her life, and know her mind, and walk a mile in her rhinestone-studded stilettos? 

You probably have not asked such questions, partly because it would be extremely uncomfortable to walk any more than a few feet in Kim Kardashian's shoes, but also because Kim herself does not seem to be terribly interested in engendering empathy. There are generally two types of Young Female Celebrity: the ones whose personas are based on their personalities—the ones who, in interviews, drop f-bombs and mention The Method and talk about Hollywood's treatment of women—and the ones who attempt to transcend their own pesky personhoods in the name of Fame itself. It's not a sharp divide—they are all, on some level, objectified, and they are all, on some level, on Twitter. But it comes down to a difference between those celebrities who primarily want to be heard, and those who primarily want to be seen.

 Kim Kardashian, she of the airbrushed cheeks and the synthetic lashes and the lips glossed in paradoxical shades of Nude, falls squarely into the "wants to be seen" category. She has a doll-like quality, like an American Girl who grew up to become a mannequin. She is plasticine. Her favorite activity seems to be posing. As a self-conjurer—as a Whitmanesque singer of herself—Kim is prolific. There are the reality TV shows, certainly, and the sex tape, but there are also the US Weekly spreads and the red carpet appearances and the endless stream of mirror selfies. There are, inevitably, the meta-selfies. Kim gives an age newly obsessed with self-documentation a perfectly vacant-stared mascot. Her preferred medium, the TV shows and the sex tape notwithstanding, is the photograph. And photos are extremely good at making their subjects seen and not heard.

Impeaching President Obama is just a fantasy — for both parties

Impeaching President Obama is just a fantasy — for both parties

Karen Tumulty and Wesley Lowery

Few people think he is about to be impeached, but both Democrats and the GOP can’t quit talking about it.

President Obama is not being impeached.

But for several years, Republicans have been indulging and even encouraging that fantasy on the part of the far-right edges of their party’s base.

Conservative backbenchers have told their constituents that the House has the votes to impeach the president. High-profile figures such as former Alaska governor Sarah Palin have called for it. The new House majority whip, Steve Scalise (R-La.), in an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” declined to rule it out.

And now Democrats are raising millions off the idea that the GOP is serious about doing it. “I would not discount that possibility,” presidential adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Friday.

On Monday night, members of the Congressional Black Caucus took to the House floor to sound the alarm in after-hours speeches.

Obama mum on where illegal immigrant children are sheltered

displaced: Detainees play while others sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville, Texas. Such installations have handled more than 47,000 unaccompanied alien children. (Associated Press)

Obama mum on where illegal immigrant children are sheltered

By S.A. Miller - The Washington Times

The Obama administration is concealing key details about its response to the surge of unaccompanied children illegally crossing the southern border, including where the unaccompanied minors are being sheltered and the circumstances under which some are set free inside the U.S.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill say the lack of information has handicapped their push to pass legislation to gain a handle on the surge — a debate taking place this week in both chambers.

“We’re getting almost no information, and there is all kinds of conflicting information,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who for months has been hounding the administration for answers about where unaccompanied minors, who crossed the border without their parents, are detained and released.

GOP to deny Obama migrant request

GOP to deny Obama migrant request

Paul Lewis in Washington 

us immigration undocumented immigrants central american unaccompanied minors children border detainees detention center

House GOP members coalesced around plan to provide Obama administration with markedly reduced package

Republicans in the House of Representatives are planning to deny the White House the vast bulk of its request for resources to manage the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally into the US.

Instead, Republicans have coalesced around a plan to provide President Barack Obama’s administration with a significantly slimmed-down package designed to help agencies cope with the thousands of Central American children arriving at the border over the summer.

Legislation unveiled to the House GOP during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, authorises only $659m, far less than the $3.7bn Obama requested weeks ago or the $2.7bn that would be released in a rival Democratic bill in the Senate. And it is less than half the $1.5bn that a working group set up by the Republican House speaker, John Boehner, recently suggested needed to be spent to manage the border crisis.

According to multiple sources in Tuesday’s meeting, the bill (pdf), which appears to have the support of the majority of House Republicans, will also tweak an 2008 anti-trafficking law that critics say significantly slows the deportation of children arriving from Central American countries.

Democrats are opposed to tweaking the anti-trafficking law, arguing it contains important provisions that guard against sex trafficking and ensure due process for children who may have valid claims for refugee status.
Mississippi's Last Abortion Clinic Will Remain Open—For Now

The last abortion clinic in Mississippi has been on the brink of closure for nearly two years. But the fight to shutter the Jackson Women's Health Organization may have ended Tuesday, when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the strict anti-abortion measure that would have closed its doors forever.

The court fight to save the clinic began in 2012, after state lawmakers passed a bill requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital—or else face criminal charges. Restrictive anti-abortion bills had already closed several clinics in the state, and, had the Fifth Circuit not ruled against the state, Mississippi was poised to become the first state since Roe v. Wade without a single abortion provider.

Attorneys for the Jackson Women's Health Organization argued that admitting privileges were unconstitutional and not medically necessary for the safety of its clients. (The clinic, after all, already had a patient-transfer agreement with a local hospital for rare cases in which a patient required hospitalization.) A federal judge was receptive to this argument and blocked the law from going into effect; in response, the state of Mississippi appealed the ruling to the Fifth Circuit.

Dramatic shift in Egypt deprived Kerry of vital tool

No Gaza cease-fire: Dramatic shift in Egypt deprived Kerry of vital tool

By Howard LaFranchi

Secretary Kerry has come under harsh criticism, particularly in Israel, for his efforts to secure a cease-fire in Gaza. Experts say Egypt's shift vis-à-vis Hamas has made diplomacy much harder.

The Israeli press has been especially brutal with the top US diplomat, accusing him of betraying Israel by circulating a draft cease-fire document that did not meet all of Israel’s demands concerning Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip.

The harsh tenor of that criticism could help explain why diplomatic efforts on Gaza so far have failed. But more important than a sudden surge in Israeli vitriol toward the US, some regional experts say, are the shifts in the Middle East’s political orientation and balance of power since the US brokered the last Gaza cease-fire, in 2012.  

“The regional constellation is very different from 2012, and in ways that make the diplomacy for getting some kind of cease-fire agreement in this conflict much harder than it was just a couple of years ago,” says Robert Danin, senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington. 

And the biggest change, he and other experts say, is with Egypt.

“Egypt doesn’t have the relationship with Hamas that it did, and its conception of its interests are very different from 2012,” Mr. Danin says.

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