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The Secret Service enabled the Reagan shooting

Secret Service agents restrain John W. Hinkley in the aftermath of his shooting President Reagan outside the Washington Hilton.    Associated Press photo

The Secret Service enabled the Reagan shooting

By Ronald Kessler

So far, Secret Service corner-cutting and laxness have not led to an attack on President Obama. But on March 30, 1981, the Secret Service’s actions led directly to the assassination attempt on President Reagan.

Ironically, Reagan’s own White House staff was most at fault. The Secret Service wanted Reagan to emerge from a speech at the Washington Hilton without any spectators present. The Reagan White House staff overruled the Secret Service, though, insisting for public-relations purposes that crowds have access to the president. The Secret Service improperly backed down and let unscreened bystanders within 15 feet of Reagan. As a result, John W. Hinckley Jr. had a clear shot and almost killed the president.

 After the shooting, the Secret Service covered up what had happened. However, as reported in my book “The First Family Detail,” six years after Hinckley shot Reagan the Secret Service’s Office of Training assigned agent William Albracht to teach new agents about what was called the “Reagan Attempt.”

On the one hand, Mr. Albracht taught that agents on his detail performed magnificently to save Reagan’s life. But Mr. Albracht’s class synopsis sets forth the damning facts. It says the Reagan White House staff overruled the Secret Service and demanded that the public be allowed without any magnetometer screening almost within touching distance of the president as he left the hotel.

Obama: ‘Suicide’ for Republicans not to pursue immigration reform

Obama: ‘Suicide’ for Republicans not to pursue immigration reform

Brian Hughes

President Obama on Thursday said Republicans were committing political “suicide” by not passing comprehensive immigration reform, saying that GOP resistance to legislation would alienate Hispanic voters and an entire generation of immigrants.

“It’s anyone’s guess how Republicans are thinking about this,” Obama mused at a town hall event in Santa Clara, Calif., aimed at millennials.

“If they’re thinking long-term politically, it is suicide for them not to do this,” Obama said of the GOP.

Jane Fonda drops bombshell, citing mother’s 9 abortions

Actress and event host Jane Fonda poses at the Rape Foundation's Annual Brunch at Greenacres on Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)

Jane Fonda drops bombshell, citing mother’s 9 abortions

By Cheryl K. Chumley - The Washington Times

Pro-choice Hollywood icon Jane Honda — and the liberal activist whose name still draws a hiss from Vietnam veterans and military supporters — dropped a bombshell during a speech before a Beverly Hills rape victims’ charity crowd, referring to a recent report she read about her mother and her mother’s many abortions.

The actress said that after she read the full report, “everything fell into place” about her mother’s promiscuous past and manic-depressive behaviors, she said, the media outlet reported.

“I knew [the reason for] the promiscuity, the endless plastic surgery, the guilt, the inability to love or be intimate, and I was able to forgive her and forgive myself,” she said, LifeNews reported.

Why Broadcast Journalism Is Flirting With Jon Stewart

Why Broadcast Journalism Is Flirting With Jon Stewart

Conor Friedersdorf

The norms of comedy permit its practitioners to treat politicians with irreverence and skepticism that very serious news anchors seldom equal.

Would network news be better if politicians were interviewed by comedians rather than broadcast journalists? That's one question raised by Gabriel Sherman's report that NBC executives wanted Jon Stewart to host Meet the Press, the prestigious Sunday morning interview program. Had higher-ups at NBC pursued Jimmy Kimmel or Sacha Baron Cohen for the gig, they'd stand accused of undermining the quality of their news programming to chase ratings. But few doubt that The Daily Show grapples with politics and policy, often with more sophistication than the broadcast journalists it incisively mocks. For that reason, news that Stewart was considered for the gig has prompted earnest debate about the merits of the idea. Some say he's "a devastatingly effective interrogator," others that he's "congenitally unprepared for any serious policy discussion."

That fight is beside the point. Interviews on The Daily Show are uneven, but they're also a rushed afterthought on a daily program the purpose of which is to get laughs. How would Stewart perform given a week for interview prep and a charge to inform? I'd wager he'd do better than any Meet the Press host. But that is a low bar. It's too early to fairly judge Chuck Todd, who has recently taken over the program, but his predecessor, David Gregory, was true to the form of the typical Sunday morning show: he was complicit in political theater, a deferential broadcaster asking easy or faux-tough questions on matters of fleeting importance. Politicians responded by regurgitating banal talking points. Meet the Press is the sort of show John McCain bragged about having been on more than anyone.


The subtext of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Last Week Tonight (the best of the three) is that elected and appointed officials belong to a suspect class of people who've earned intense skepticism and are better mocked than venerated. Even if the shows go easier on Democrats than Republicans, all three are straightforward proponents of the notion that all politicians are somewhat absurd, base characters; often in over their heads; and willing to shamelessly lie and spin.

This is more often than not the truth.

After Maher-Affleck, We Need an Honest—and Calm—Dialogue on Islam

Yes, You Can Criticize Muslims

By Dean Obeidallah

After Maher-Affleck, We Need an Honest—and Calm—Dialogue on Islam

Team Affleck needs to acknowledge that some criticisms are valid. Team Maher needs to stop stereotyping. And both teams: cool it down.

It’s been one week since the epic brawl between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck on HBO’s “Real Time.” This fight was like something we typically see in reality shows, complete with name calling and screaming. But as opposed to the donnybrooks we’ve seen on “The Kardishians” over issues like “why are you looking at my man?!”, this battle was about a faith of approximately 1.5 billion people.

So now that tempers have calmed somewhat on both sides of this skirmish, the question that must be asked is: Can we have an honest and reasonable discussion about Islam? 

As a Muslim, I not only say yes, but I say we need to. There’s simply too much misinformation – some intentionally distributed (I’m looking at you Fox News and certain GOP officials), and some by people simply repeating half-truths or lies they have picked up along the way. 

Regardless of the reason, it’s time to discuss Islam, the good and the bad, in a responsible and respectful way. This applies to both those on Team Maher and Team Affleck as well as those in between. (Full disclosure: I’m definitely on Team Affleck.)

First, to my fellow Team Affleck peeps, we can’t react in a knee-jerk fashion to every criticism of Islam by calling people bigots or racists.  Believe me, I understand the impulse. In fact, I’ve done just that many times, but only after I thought long and hard and decided the person really deserved the term. But it’s clearly not helping in the bigger picture of fostering understanding and countering misconceptions.

Rather, we must acknowledge that some criticisms are totally valid, such as questions about laws in certain (not all) Muslim-majority countries that codify discrimination against women or call for the death penalty for gays. And we must distinguish between those wanting to have an honest discussion that includes real criticism of Islam/Muslims with those who are truly anti-Muslim bigots, like the Pam Gellers and Frank Gaffneys of this country who profit off peddling Muslim hate through book sales and lectures. There’s nothing we can say to change the views of those people. Instead we can only marginalize them to the fringes of society like we have collectively done with racists, anti-Semites and homophobes.

To the Team Maher people, I respectfully ask that you please be specific in your criticism.  What I mean is if you want to have a productive conversation, avoid phrases like, “The Muslim world all thinks…" or “They hate us for our freedoms.”  And please leave out the truly bigoted comments like the one Maher made in 2011 on CNN when criticizing Muslims: “They bring that desert stuff to our world.”

And by the way, “the Muslim world,” as the media loves to call it, doesn’t exist. At least not in the sense that there's universal agreement on Islam or how it should be followed.  A Pew study in 2013 made that very point revealing that Muslims around the world disagree in big numbers on almost everything connected to Islam.

Oregon's first lady's secret past: A green card marriage to teen

Oregon's first lady's secret past: A green card marriage to teen

She was briefly married to an Ethiopian, but even the governor didn’t know.

A few years ago, Oregon’s first lady, Cylvia Hayes, shared her rags-to-riches journey — from her dilapidated childhood home in Washington state, to a tent on government land in Oregon, to the governor’s mansion, where she now lives with Gov. John Kitzhaber (D).

But she never mentioned the Ethiopian immigrant she married 17 years ago and divorced in 2002. When stories seeped out this week that she helped him obtain U.S. residency in exchange for $5,000, she said she needed the cash.

“It was a marriage of convenience,” she said in a statement. “He needed help, and I needed financial support.”

Hayes, 47, wiped away tears during a news conference Thursday, explaining that when she married the 18-year-old immigrant in 1997, she was “associating with the wrong people” and attempting to pay for classes at Evergreen State College near Seattle. She said she used the money to buy a laptop and cover school expenses. She was so “ashamed and embarrassed” of the illegal union she never even told Kitzhaber, her fiance — until the Willamette Week peeked into her past earlier this week.

Hayes was twice divorced and not yet 30 when she married an Ethiopian teenager identified as Abraham B. Abraham, who she met through a mutual acquaintance in Washington state. He was allegedly trying to stay in America to earn a college education.

Hayes said the two saw each other only a handful of times and never lived together.

“It was wrong then and it is wrong now and I am here today to accept the consequences, some of which will be life-changing,” she said.

Abraham eventually earned a mathematics degree from Greensboro College in North Carolina. He now lives in the Washington, D.C., area, according to public records. He declined to respond to calls and texts from the Willamette Week, and he refused to speak to a reporter who went to his home.

Gwyneth Paltrow to President Obama: ‘You’re so handsome’

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow is pictured. | AP Photo

Gwyneth Paltrow to President Obama: ‘You’re so handsome’


Gwyneth Paltrow wants President Barack Obama to know: she’s just like everyone else.

She makes $16 million per movie, sure, but that doesn’t mean that she’s not worried about Obama getting equal pay legislation through Congress.

At a fundraiser for the DNC held at her house in Brentwood Thursday evening, she called the issue “very important to me as a working mother.”

In front of a crowd that included fellow actors Julia Roberts (who took her picture in front of the presidential limo on her way out) and Bradley Whitford (that’s Josh Lyman from “The West Wing”), Paltrow told Obama she was “one of your biggest fans, if not the biggest.”

Reminding Obama that she hosted an expat fundraiser for him in London when she was living there, Paltrow described Obama as a president who would be studied for generations, and a role model for everyone of this generation.

“It would be wonderful if we were able to give this man all of the power that he needs to pass the things that he needs to pass,” she told the crowd.

Then turning over the microphone, she said, “you’re so handsome that I can’t speak properly.”

Could terrorists turn themselves into Ebola suicide 'bombs'?

Terrorist group Isis may be considering using Ebola as a suicide bio-weapon against the West, according to a military expert

Could terrorists turn themselves into Ebola suicide 'bombs'?

Experts fear ISIS jihadists may infect themselves to spread virus in West

By Ted Thornhill for MailOnline

Terrorist group Isis may be considering using Ebola as a suicide bio-weapon against the West, according to a military expert.

The virus is transmitted by direct contact with an infected person who is showing the symptoms – and it wouldn't be difficult for fanatics to contract it then travel to countries they want to wreak havoc in, according to a military expert. Capt. Al Shimkus, Ret., a Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, said that the strategy is entirely plausible.

The Micromanager in Chief

The Micromanager in Chief

David Rohde and Warren Strobel

How Syria overwhelmed an overcentralized White House

Throughout 2012, as signs mounted that militants in Syria were growing stronger, the debate in the White House followed a pattern. In meeting after meeting, as officials from agencies outside the executive residence advocated arming pro-Western rebels or other forms of action, President Barack Obama’s closest White House aides bluntly delivered the president’s verdict: no.

“It became clear from the people very close to the president that he had deep, deep reservations about intervening in Syria,” said Julianne Smith, who served as deputy national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden. “And the likelihood of altering those views was low, very low.”

This summer, events overwhelmed the status quo. In June, the radical group Islamic State, after seizing wide swaths of Syria, conquered Iraq's second-largest city and threatened Baghdad as the Iraqi army collapsed. The insurgents beheaded two American journalists, increasing U.S. public support for military action. Finally, U.S. intelligence agencies detected foreign jihadists who they believed had moved to Syria to plot attacks against the United States and Europe.

The radicals had undermined the administration’s argument that it had successfully ended the war in Iraq and were threatening Obama’s record of defending the homeland. The jihadists, said Smith, “turned the debate on its head.”

Prosecutor seeks arrest of Adrian Peterson for drug use


Prosecutor seeks arrest of Adrian Peterson for drug use

Brent Schrotenboer

A prosecutor in Texas is seeking the arrest of Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson after he admitted to smoking a "little weed" Wednesday when submitting to a drug test, according to court records obtained by USA TODAY Sports. The issue relates to the conditions of his $15,000 bond while free on a felony child abuse charge. Peterson submitted to a urinalysis Wednesday and admitted to an employee of the drug-testing agency that he "smoked a little weed."

"In light of this statement, and the fact that it was made during the urinalysis testing process, and the term 'weed' is a common slang term for marijuana, the state argues that the defendant has smoked marijuana while free on bond for the current offense," the Montgomery County District Attorney's office wrote.

The GOP’s Inane Attack on ‘President Ebola’

The GOP’s Inane Attack on ‘President Ebola’

By Frank Rich

The death of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, in a Dallas hospital is furthering fears of a larger outbreak. Republicans — particularly 2016 presidential hopefuls Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee — have criticized President Obama for his handling of the crisis and called on the White House to consider travel bans. Has Obama's response to Ebola been sufficient? And does it make any sense for the Republicans to attack him for a domestic outbreak that has so far claimed a single victim?

I am waiting for Donald Trump to weigh in so we can have the definitive explanation of how President Obama has masterminded the spread of Ebola. True, his birthplace of Kenya is in East, not West, Africa, but I imagine Trump’s investigators will discover some heretofore unknown Obamas in Liberia, including those who infected Duncan prior to dispatching him to the red state of Texas to target Ted Cruz.

While we wait for Trump’s Tweets on all this, let’s step back one moment and marvel at the way anything and everything can be politicized in America. A new Pew survey finds that only 48 percent of Republicans (as opposed to 69 percent of Democrats) have confidence in the ability of government to deal with Ebola. You’d think this might be because Republicans intrinsically are suspicious of big government, but Pew helpfully points out that when it asked the same question in 2005 during an outbreak of bird flu, 74 percent of Republicans had confidence in the government (as opposed to 35 percent of Democrats).

The New Fast: Enter the Forced Induction Engine

The New Fast: Enter the Forced Induction Engine

Weren’t muscle cars of the future supposed to be slow and joyless? Not so much, WSJ's Dan Neil says on Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero.

Joseph Goebbels' wife’s descendants are Germany’s richest family

Family photo: Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels with his wife Magda and their children, as well as Magda's son from a previous marriage, Harald Quandt (in uniform), whose family has become the richest in Germany

Joseph Goebbels' wife’s descendants are Germany’s richest family

Magda Goebbels' descendants own a 46.7 per cent stake in BMW

By Ollie Gillman for MailOnline

Descendants of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels' wife have become the richest family in Germany. Magda Goebbels, who was one of the most influential women in the Nazi regime, married Hitler's close ally in 1931. The children of Harald Quandt, her son from a previous marriage, have just seen their family reach a combined net worth of about £24.5billion.

RFK Jr will be deposed in bitter divorce battle by the husband of his 'mistress'

kirwan preview

RFK Jr will be deposed in bitter divorce battle by the husband of his 'mistress'

By Sara Nathan for MailOnline

Robert F Kennedy Jr. is set to be quizzed over the exact nature of his relationship with his alleged mistress Chelsea Kirwan, MailOnline can reveal.

The Kennedy scion, who only married actress Cheryl Hines just weeks ago, will be dragged into the bitter divorce battle between Mrs Kirwan and her estranged husband, plastic surgeon to the stars Laurence Kirwan.

Dr Kirwan’s lawyers have informed Chelsea's legal team that they plan to depose both her and Mr Kennedy in a letter sent out this week.

All smiles: Robert Kennedy Jr and Cheryl Hines tied the knot on August 2 - despite allegations of his infidelity

The 62-year-old surgeon is currently trying to negotiate more time to see his three children with Chelsea and, as MailOnline has reported, was aware that she had enjoyed a close friendship with Bobby, as a source said: ‘Laurence was well aware that his wife and Bobby had a friendship before their split and that they have had ongoing telephone calls.’

Bobby, 60, allegedly had a two-year 'affair' with Chelsea, 42, which was reported earlier this year.

Soon after the news became public, a source said Bobby was set to be questioned under oath as part of the Kirwans' divorce case, saying: 'Chelsea fears Laurence’s lawyers want to discredit her as a wife and a mom.

We have a problem with sports in America – and it's not what you think


We have a problem with sports in America – and it's not what you think

Caty Enders

Woe betide the athlete who wins Olympic gold, for he shall have gifs of himself, half-naked and screaming, played to eternity whenever he steps out of line, for the rest of his life – when did sports become moral arbiters?

The word came down this week that Michael Phelps would receive a six-month suspension from USA Swimming and will not compete in the world championships next summer – a significant penalty, considering that he’ll miss the biggest competition before the 2016 Olympic trials.

Greg Doyel of took to his pulpit to say that he wished his own employer would follow that lead and mete out the severest of penalties should he be caught drunk driving: “Some judge somewhere should throw the book at me and then when the book settles to the floor my bosses here at should pick it up and wallop me over the head with it. Suspension, at the least. Because should stand for something more noble than a vehicular game of Russian Roulette.”

He went on to suggest – with relish – that USA Swimming’s judgment might just have ended Phelps’ career.

It seems these days that every time an athlete screws up off the field, the commentati are ready to hurl insults and exclamation points at our privileged punching bags, along with the leagues, who could always be doing more.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Mickey Mantle

Sports sociologist and author David Ripath of Ohio University remembers a time when there was a certain dubious omerta between sports writers and the teams they covered. “You had sports writers who knew that athletes were taking drugs and cheating on their wives. Mickey Mantle was a hard drinker and got behind the wheel and none of those things were found out.”

Something changed when we started to talk about athletes as role models. Ripath marks a transition in the 90s, when media became more competitive, desperate to drum up stories for the 24-hour news cycle. “There were other factors, but the OJ Simpson trial - that was huge. Not only did we hear about OJ Simpson allegedly murdering people, but we lived it for two years.”


Ripath argues that we compensate professional athletes well enough that they should be reasonably expected to meet a higher standard: “With great blessings come great responsibilities. You’re representing more than yourself.”

And what about Olympic athletes, who aren’t particularly well paid and have to shill for sponsorship, carefully tending that Bob Costas-narrated, soft-focus image? “When you’re an Olympic athlete, you’re representing the flag,” says Ripath. “Is it fair? Well, life’s not fair. Don’t be an Olympic athlete if you can’t step up to it.“

And by and large, they seem to meet that higher standard. It’s hard to calculate athletes’ offender rates, but by various estimates they seem to be comparable to the rest of affluent society’s. With one important exception: the NFL players’ standout criminal activity, according to Fivethirtyeight, is for domestic violence, which they categorize as “downright extraordinary”.

The shocking details of spousal and child abuse have created a groundswell of commentary demanding that the NFL “get tough” on players. This, despite the fact that the NFL has done a pretty cockeyed job of judging the relative seriousness of domestic violence versus weed use versus HGH.

We demand this of sports leagues because they’ve maintained that they can self-regulate and offer us a more perfect justice than we will find in the US legal system. Christian Dennie, an attorney and sports arbiter with Barlow Garsek & Simon, explains that closed-door arbitration provides a speedier judgment than a trial. He also points out that it’s a way to prevent the rich and famous from finding themselves above the law. In effect, sports arbitration is a way to restore legal balance, which is a sad acknowledgment of the state of our court system.

And there’s the rub. It seems that all of this increasingly cinematic handwringing over the state of our athletes’ moral fiber might be no more than an exercise in frustration over bigger problems in our society.

John H. Richardson said it best over at Esquire, in an excellent feature on Lance Armstrong’s banishment (which you really must read if you haven’t). He makes the case that disgraced athletes at this moment in time are our whipping boys for more significant violations of social code – violations that have gone unheeded by a broken justice system. Disgraced athletes are “the essence of this whole mean-spirited era when so many real villains have gone unpunished”.

Will athletes be scared straight by our collective gall? Will they live up to our great American mythos that the good guy always wins?

Why Don't Boom-Times Make People Happier?

Why Don't Boom-Times Make People Happier?

Bourree Lam

Recessions are no fun, but, annoyingly, periods of growth aren't as fun as they should be.

We know what effect recessions and booms tend to have on our bank accounts. But what about our feelings and wellbeing? The equation should be simple, right? Recession = sad. Economic boom = happy! But it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Recent research says that those who graduate during recessions are happier in the long run—satisfied with being employed unlike boom-time graduates who wonder if they should be doing better. Emily Bianchi, associate professor at Emory’s Goizueta Business School, likens this to research showing that bronze medalists at the Olympics are happier than silver medalists (who wonder why they didn’t win gold).

But what about the rest of us? New research from Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and Michael Norton, professors at the London School of Economics and Harvard respectively, looks at four decades of data (collected from more than 150 countries, including one dataset from the Centers for Disease Control and covers 2.5 million U.S. respondents) to investigate the relationship between life satisfaction and the business cycle. What they found was that well-being is two to eight times more sensitive to negative economic times: Psychologically, a recession hurts a lot more than a boom helps.

De Neve says that this “untold story” is one of the unaccounted costs of a recession.  But why do we feel worse during recessions? This asymmetry can be explained by what economists call "loss aversion"—the human tendency to feel losses more strongly than gains, as demonstrated by the research of economists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

The most extreme example of De Neve and Norton's finding is Greece: When GDP grew 50 percent from 1981 to 2008, happiness went up 5 to 10 percent. When the recession hit, well-being in Greece not only reversed all previous gains, but dropped to the lowest on historical record.

The Triumph of the Democratic Party

<p>One for the history books.</p>  Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Triumph of the Democratic Party

Iran Says It’s Under Attack by ISIS


Iran Says It’s Under Attack by ISIS

Suicide bombs. Captured soldiers. Guerrilla attacks. Iran claims it’s under assault by Sunni militants like ISIS. Now Tehran is making mass arrests to try to stop the onslaught.

On May 13, 2014, a pickup truck approached a caravan of white vans moving on a road near Baqubah, east of Baghdad, in Iraq. Within few meters of the caravan, the pickup exploded, leaving five Iranian engineers and several of their Iraqi guards dead, according to local news reports. The attack came less than 24 hours after a threat by ISIS spokesperson, Abu Mohammad al Adnani.

ISIS’s rampage through Iraq has produced collateral damage that’s been largely unnoticed in the West. Iran, on the other hand, has been paying close attention. When ISIS took over the city of Jalawlah near the Iranian border, several Iranian media outlets reported a heavy attack on a border guard post near the city of Qasr-e-Shirin—on Iranian soil. The initial toll was reported four guardsmen killed in the incident. Qasr-e-Shirin’s representative in the Iranian parliament, a hardliner conservative named Fathollah Husseini, denied any casualties. But less than two days later, Iranian media outlets reported on funerals held for privates killed in the incident. Later reports suggested at least 11 Iranian border guards were killed in the incident.

Iranian political and military leaders tend to censor terrorist threats inside Iran, to bolster their reign over the country. But the ISIS threat is so bold inside Iran that even the highest officials have publicly acknowledged it. MohamdReza Rahmani Fazli, the Iranian interior minister and the highest ranking government official in charge of coordinating police and security efforts inside Iran, issued a warning on September 7 saying “Daesh”—a pejorative term for ISIS—“is posed to attack Iran imminently.”

How Are Men’s Friendships Different From Women’s?

How Are Men’s Friendships Different From Women’s?

By Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D.

Some research has looked at similarities and differences between male-male and female-female friendships. While the similarities tend to outweigh the differences, there are some interesting ways that men’s friendships differ from women’s.

For the most part, men’s friendships tend to be less intimate and less supportive than friendships between women. However, there is some evidence that women’s friendships tend to be more fragile than men’s. One study found that the type and quality of men’s friendships were influenced by their parent’s friendship patterns. Men whose parents had broad and active social networks tended to have more friendships.

Lessons From My 13 Careers

Lessons From My 13 Careers

By Marty Nemko, Ph.D.

Career and life lessons from my successes and failures.

Medical researcher. In my cab, I was lucky enough to get the famous medical researcher, Neal Miller, as a passenger. Miller was the first person to prove that biofeedback worked. I quipped, “I’m not letting you out of this cab unless you give me a job.” He did. Lesson learned: There’s no risk and plenty upside in asking for what you want. 

Bill Maher Isn’t the Only One Who Misunderstands Religion

Bill Maher Isn’t the Only One Who Misunderstands Religion

BILL MAHER’s recent rant against Islam has set off a fierce debate about the problem of religious violence, particularly when it comes to Islam.

Mr. Maher, who has argued that Islam is unlike other religions (he thinks it’s more “like the Mafia”), recently took umbrage with President Obama’s assertion that the terrorist group known as the Islamic State, or ISIS, does not represent Islam. In Mr. Maher’s view, Islam has “too much in common with ISIS.”

His comments have led to a flurry of responses, perhaps none so passionate as that of the actor Ben Affleck, who lambasted Mr. Maher, on Mr. Maher’s own HBO show, for “gross” and “racist” generalizations about Muslims.

Yet there is a real lack of sophistication on both sides of the argument when it comes to discussing religion and violence.

On one hand, people of faith are far too eager to distance themselves from extremists in their community, often denying that religious violence has any religious motivation whatsoever. This is especially true of Muslims, who often glibly dismiss those who commit acts of terror in the name of Islam as “not really Muslim.”

On the other, critics of religion tend to exhibit an inability to understand religion outside of its absolutist connotations. They scour holy texts for bits of savagery and point to extreme examples of religious bigotry, of which there are too many, to generalize about the causes of oppression throughout the world.

What both the believers and the critics often miss is that religion is often far more a matter of identity than it is a matter of beliefs and practices. The phrase “I am a Muslim,” “I am a Christian,” “I am a Jew” and the like is, often, not so much a description of what a person believes or what rituals he or she follows, as a simple statement of identity, of how the speaker views her or his place in the world.

As a form of identity, religion is inextricable from all the other factors that make up a person’s self-understanding, like culture, ethnicity, nationality, gender and sexual orientation. What a member of a suburban megachurch in Texas calls Christianity may be radically different from what an impoverished coffee picker in the hills of Guatemala calls Christianity. The cultural practices of a Saudi Muslim, when it comes to the role of women in society, are largely irrelevant to a Muslim in a more secular society like Turkey or Indonesia. The differences between Tibetan Buddhists living in exile in India and militant Buddhist monks persecuting the Muslim minority known as the Rohingya, in neighboring Myanmar, has everything to do with the political cultures of those countries and almost nothing to do with Buddhism itself.

No religion exists in a vacuum. On the contrary, every faith is rooted in the soil in which it is planted. It is a fallacy to believe that people of faith derive their values primarily from their Scriptures. The opposite is true. People of faith insert their values into their Scriptures, reading them through the lens of their own cultural, ethnic, nationalistic and even political perspectives.

After all, scripture is meaningless without interpretation. Scripture requires a person to confront and interpret it in order for it to have any meaning. And the very act of interpreting a scripture necessarily involves bringing to it one’s own perspectives and prejudices.

The abiding nature of scripture rests not so much in its truth claims as it does in its malleability, its ability to be molded and shaped into whatever form a worshiper requires. The same Bible that commands Jews to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) also exhorts them to “kill every man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey,” who worship any other God (1 Sam. 15:3). The same Jesus Christ who told his disciples to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) also told them that he had “not come to bring peace but the sword” (Matthew 10:34), and that “he who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36). The same Quran that warns believers “if you kill one person it is as though you have killed all of humanity” (5:32) also commands them to “slay the idolaters wherever you find them” (9:5).

How a worshiper treats these conflicting commandments depends on the believer. If you are a violent misogynist, you will find plenty in your scriptures to justify your beliefs. If you are a peaceful, democratic feminist, you will also find justification in the scriptures for your point of view.

What does this mean, in practical terms? First, simplistic knee-jerk response among people of faith to dismiss radicals in their midst as “not us” must end. Members of the Islamic State are Muslims for the simple fact that they declare themselves to be so. Dismissing their profession of belief prevents us from dealing honestly with the inherent problems of reconciling religious doctrine with the realities of the modern world. But considering that most of its victims are also Muslims — as are most of the forces fighting and condemning the Islamic State — the group’s self-ascribed Islamic identity cannot be used to make any logical statement about Islam as a global religion.

At the same time, critics of religion must refrain from simplistic generalizations about people of faith. It is true that in many Muslim countries, women do not have the same rights as men. But that fact alone is not enough to declare Islam a religion that is intrinsically more patriarchal than Christianity or Judaism. (It’s worth noting that Muslim-majority nations have elected women leaders on several occasions, while some Americans still debate whether the United States is ready for a female president.)

Bill Maher is right to condemn religious practices that violate fundamental human rights. Religious communities must do more to counter extremist interpretations of their faith. But failing to recognize that religion is embedded in culture — and making a blanket judgment about the world’s second largest religion — is simply bigotry
Anti-Obama artist targets Gwyneth Paltrow's fundraiser


Anti-Obama artist targets Gwyneth Paltrow's fundraiser

By Hanna Flint for MailOnline

It seems Gwyneth Paltrow's approval rating is at an all time low, that is according to one artist.

The Hollywood actress has been targetted by the anonymous Sabo, who has hung up parody campaign posters around her neighbourhood in Mandeville Canyon, Brentwood,ahead of her Barack Obama fundraiser event.

The 42-year old actress got full view of the posters as she arrived home on Wednesday, as they have been stuck to electricity boxes and hung over the road for everyone to see.  

Statement: The posters have been put up to coincide with the Fundraising event happening on Thursday

'I developed a method to hang them up as high as I need to, any one of these posters,' the artistsaid on Fox News.

'Because, these not being leftist posters, tend to get torn down very quickly. So ... I devised a way to get 'em up high.'

Secret Service members have reportedly been spotted arriving at Paltrow's house in preparation for the event which will be attended by the President.

Paltrow has been a long-standing Democrat supporter and even was an active member of Democrats Abroad when she lived in London with her ex-husband Chris Martin.

Tickets to attend the Democratic National Committee's event range from $1,000 to over $32,000.

She previously hosted a re-election fundraiser for Obama in 2012. 

Miffed? The actress doesn't seem happy

Obama Backers: We’re Ready for Warren

By David Freedlander

The Massachusetts Senator says she’ll sit out 2016. But some Democratic diehards won’t take no for an answer, and are already building a campaign for her.

She is, she insists, not interested, telling The Boston Globe, “There is no wiggle room. I am not running for president. No means no.”

But for the organizers behind Ready for Warren, the SuperPAC trying to draft the Massachusetts senator into the 2016 presidential race, the door remains open for a potential run. So the group is staffing up in key early primary states and raising money in what they say will be an all-out blitz after the midterm elections designed to show Warren that there is a groundswell of support behind her.

And if many of the organizers and early supporters of the Warren for President seemed unfazed by the notion that Hillary Clinton is an all-but inevitable Democratic nominee, perhaps that is because many of them have seen this process play out before—when they backed a previously unknown freshman senator from Illinois named Barack Obama who went on to topple the Clinton machine.

“I was in the Obama world,” said Erica Sagrans, who is helping lead the draft Warren effort and who served as digital director of the Obama re-election campaign in 2012 after working for the pro-Obama outfit Organizing for America in 2009. “There are a lot of people in that world who are Warren fans, who really like Warren. But this is still a moment when people aren’t entirely comfortable coming forward.”

President Obama’s approval numbers stink. Does it even matter anymore?

President Obama’s approval numbers stink. Does it even matter anymore?

In a very long Rolling Stone piece making the case that Barack Obama has been a great -- or, at least, very consequential -- president, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes this intriguing paragraph:

Yes, Obama has a low approval rating compared with earlier presidents. But there are a number of reasons to believe that presidential approval doesn't mean the same thing that it used to: There is much more party-sorting (in which Republicans never, ever have a good word for a Democratic president, and vice versa), the public is negative on politicians in general, and so on. Obviously the midterm election hasn't happened yet, but in a year when Republicans have a huge structural advantage – Democrats are defending a disproportionate number of Senate seats in deep-red states – most analyses suggest that control of the Senate is in doubt, with Democrats doing considerably better than they were supposed to. This isn't what you'd expect to see if a failing president were dragging his party down.

The second part of that paragraph -- that if Obama is such a drag then why are Democrats still in contention to hold the Senate -- doesn't really hold up if you talk to any Democratic strategist closely monitoring Senate races.  The prevailing sentiment among that crowd is that Democrats are still in the mix -- although the Post's Election Lab model now shows Republicans with a 94 percent probability of taking the majority -- in spite of Obama not because of him.

But it's the first part of Krugman's statement that intrigues me -- the idea that presidential approval may be dying off as a viable indicator of the relative success or failure of a presidency due to the increasing polarization in the country. That is, any president going forward will start with 47-ish percent of the country giving him the side eye on everything he says or does simply because he is a member of the"wrong" party. Success under such a dynamic, argues Krugman, can't then be defined by sky-high approval ratings since they will never happen.  Judging presidents by whether they have an approval rating in the 60s (or even higher) will doom them all to be failures.

MH17: one passenger was wearing oxygen mask when he died

Flight MH17 memorial at Schiphol airport

MH17: one passenger was wearing oxygen mask when he died

Associated Press in The Hague

Dutch prosecutors say Australian man had mask around neck, raising questions over what passengers may have known of fate.

The body of one passenger on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was found wearing an oxygen mask, Dutch prosecutors said on Thursday, raising questions about how much those on board knew about their fate when the plane crashed in eastern Ukraine in July.

The passenger, an Australian, did not have the mask on his face but around his neck, said Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the Dutch national prosecutor’s office, which is carrying out a criminal investigation into the disaster.

De Bruin said Dutch forensic experts investigated the mask “for fingerprints, saliva and DNA and that did not produce any results. So it is not known how or when that mask got around the neck of the victim.”

De Bruin said no other bodies recovered from the wreckage were found wearing masks. He also said he did not know where in the plane the Australian victim was sitting.

All 298 passengers and crew died when the aircraft flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed on 17 July. Dutch air crash investigators said last month it was probably struck by a number of “high-energy objects from outside the aircraft”, which some aviation experts say is consistent with a missile strike.

Bill Maher's Dangerous Critique of Islam

Bill Maher's Dangerous Critique of Islam

There's a constructive way for liberals to oppose illiberalism—which is not the approach the comedian took.

By Peter Beinar

Last Friday, the cranky comedian, aided by atheist author Sam Harris, enraged actor Ben Affleck by calling Islam, in Harris’s words, “the mother lode of bad ideas.” Then on Monday, Maher condemned liberals for being so afraid of being called Islamophobes that they won’t denounce brutality committed in Islam’s name. “We’re liberals!” Maher declared about himself and Harris. “We’re liberals … we’re trying to stand up for the principles of liberalism! And so, y’know, I think we’re just saying we need to identify illiberalism wherever we find it in the world, and not forgive it because it comes from [a group that] people perceive as a minority.”

Schlesinger would have been able to relate. In his 1949 manifesto, The Vital Center, the Harvard historian and future Kennedy administration aide attacked what he called “doughface” liberals. Borrowing a term for pre-Civil War northerners who had refused to denounce slavery, Schlesinger deployed it against liberals who refused to denounce Soviet communism. “The infiltration of contemporary progressivism by Communism,” he wrote, “has led to the same self-flagellation [that prevented doughfaces from denouncing slavery], the same refusal to take precautions against tyranny.”

Schlesinger’s point then, and Maher’s now, is that the enemies of liberals do not reside only on the right. In the 1930s and 1940s, some liberals grew so focused on the struggles against fascism and racism—struggles in which communists proved staunch allies—that they refused to acknowledge Joseph Stalin’s crimes. Today, some liberals are so focused on the struggle against American militarism and Islamophobia that they can’t muster much outrage against ISIS. According to Schlesinger, occupying the Vital Center means opposing totalitarianism wherever you find it, regardless of whether it claims the mantle of progressivism, as the Soviet Union did during his time, or anti-imperialism, as jihadists do now.

So far, so good. Where Maher goes wrong is in forgetting two other lessons of the liberal anti-totalitarian tradition. The first is to be precise about what you’re opposing. The second, to not get so carried away with your own virtue that you end up justifying terrible crimes.

What It’s Like to Be Snatched by the Delta Force

What It’s Like to Be Snatched by the Delta Force

Swarmed, Tasered, and trundled into a vehicle blindfolded—and that was just the beginning for alleged al Qaeda member Abu Anas al-Liby. Now he’s complaining about his treatment.

“While in the building, I was kept on a hard floor in handcuffs and in leg irons,” he says. “Neither the ear muffs nor the blindfold were ever removed from me. I was not offered any food, only water to drink. The people who kidnapped me never identified themselves, never told me how long I would be held, or where I was going to be transported.”

U.S. exasperation rises as Turkey hangs back from border battle

Smoke rises after an airstrike in Kobane. (European Pressphoto Agency)

U.S. exasperation rises as Turkey hangs back from border battle

Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly

The Pentagon has warned that U.S.-led strikes alone can’t drive the Islamic State from a border town.

Islamic State fighters were battling outgunned Kurdish fighters in the heart of Kobane on Thursday as the Pentagon warned that U.S. airstrikes alone will not save the Syrian border town from being overrun by the militants.

The fresh push came amid rising tensions between the Obama administration and Turkey, a NATO ally, over who should take responsibility for helping to save the town.

The Islamic State made gains overnight despite stepped-up American airstrikes over the past three days, and senior senior administration officials expressed growing exasperation with Turkey’s refusal to intervene, either with its own military or with direct assistance to Syrian Kurdish fighters battling the militants.

“Of course they could do more,” a senior official said. “They want the U.S. to come in and take care of the problem.” The administration would also like Turkey to be more zealous in preventing foreigners from transiting its territory to join the Syrian militants.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu countered on Thursday that a unilateral ground operation by Turkish troops also would not be enough to halt the militants’ advance.

“It is not realistic to expect Turkey to conduct a ground operation on its own,” Cavusoglu told a joint news conference in Ankara with visiting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “We are holding talks. . . . Once there is a common decision, Turkey will not hold back from playing its part.”

What Happened to the Roosevelts?

What Happened to the Roosevelts?

What the Bushes and the Clintons can learn from a fallen political dynasty.

And, taking the long view, we’ve loved those things much longer than we’ve tried to practice democracy. Maybe that appeal explains why democracy produces dynasties fairly consistently—but even so, the dynastic and democratic mindsets are at odds. The former promises all the appeals of celebrity, spectatorship, certainty. The latter means impersonality, interest groups, movements, “institutionalized uncertainty”—things that are simply harder to narrate. It’s no wonder that politics is so often told as a story of Kennedys or Bushes or Clintons (or, if we live elsewhere, of Trudeaus or Gandhis or Xis). It’s no wonder that Ken Burns’s just-aired documentary epic on the Roosevelts, which many of us are still watching on TiVo, was pitched to us as “An Intimate History”—the story of a family.

Yet it’s one of that history’s puzzles that a political family that looked poised at mid-century to pass from success to success instead fizzled and failed. And it is one of that history’s ironies that the great beneficiary of dynastic politics, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also left behind one of the sharpest critiques of dynasties in American life. Even as he reaped the rewards of a famous name, no one spoke for the dignity of the democratic mindset like FDR did. As we head toward what may be yet another dynasty-driven election in an era of deep inequality, it’s worth remembering that message—and the Roosevelt family’s consequential failures. It’s worth asking: Whatever happened to the Roosevelts? Why did their political dynasty fade, while others—the Kennedys, the Clintons, the Bushes—thrived?

Why China will unseat US as world's largest economy by year's end.

Why China will unseat US as world's largest economy by year's end.

By Mark Trumbull

  • By one measure, China's economy is set to outpace that of the United States by the end of the 2014, according to the latest annual report from the International Monetary Fund.

In its latest annual report on world economic activity, the International Monetary Fund said that China will have a larger gross domestic product than the US – some $17.6 trillion in overall output – during the 2014 calendar year.

The IMF comparison comes with an asterisk: China’s GDP is still smaller than America’s when measured in raw dollars, but its economy is larger when you account for “purchasing power” – the way a dollar can buy more at a restaurant or store in China than it can in the US.

With China having more than three times the population of the US, it was seen as only a matter of time before it overtook other nations to become the world's largest economy. But the gains for China are also a symbolic setback for the US – where a slower-than-hoped-for recovery from recession has coincided with widening income gaps between the rich and a stagnating middle class.

China has surpassed the US faster than many forecasters expected – a testament to China's shrewd capitalization on trade opportunities, as well as to the way steady growth in China has contrasted with America’s weak performance after the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009.

Elevating Dinner for One

Elevating Dinner for One


For a happy life, Montaigne wrote, we “should set aside a room, just for ourselves, at the back of the shop” — a refuge, mental if not physical, where our liberty is ours alone and our conversation inward. I like to think he meant us to include a carefully laid dinner table in the room’s shaded corner, considering how thoroughly our useful exercise of freedom relies on our being well fed.

Too often, though, when alone and hungry, we end up eating poorly. Or I have: Over the years, I’ve rushed through dozens of bad dinners scraped together because they were just for me, only to later realize the bad food and haste had delivered me directly into the loneliness I was trying to avoid. It’s when I’ve resolved to act not by myself but with myself — to serve as dignified a meal to me as I would to another — that the room has come to seem full and happy and loneliness has slunk away.

At their best, solitary meals take advantage of solitude. My most straightforward and happiest involve only basic cooking and mostly arranging of elements that, because I don’t have to seek consensus at the table, can be as irreverent as my tastes are. It feels strange to truly accept that, for once, you can listen to no one, making combinations that are right for only you. But once you get used to it, it’s shockingly freeing.

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