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FBI: Russian State-Owned Media Conspired with Spies in United States



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In a complaint detailing the arrest of a Russian spy in New York City on Monday, the FBI alleged that a U.S.-based media company owned by the Russian government collaborates with Russian agents to gather intelligence “under the cover of news media.”

Bureau agents arrested banker Evgeny Buryakov in the Bronx on Monday, charging him with economic espionage. Two other Russian government officials — both of whom are believed to have left the United States and who may have possessed diplomatic immunity — were also named in the complaint.

One portion of the FBI document alleges that an unnamed news organization, owned by the Russian state, asked Buryakov for probing questions to ask for an interview on the New York Stock Exchange. A tapped phone call shows one Russian official telling Buryakov the order “came down from the top.”

“From my training and experience, I know that the News Organization has been publicly identified by former SVR [Russian intelligence] agents as an organization that is sometimes used by Russian intelligence to gain access to and gather intelligence under the cover of the news media,” wrote FBI agent Gregory Monaghan.

A number of Russian-run news organizations exist in the United States — the most visible being Russia Today, an English-language television channel which essentially operates as a mouthpiece for the Kremlin. An RT spokesperson told Buzzfeed the “News Organization” mentioned is “definitely not RT.”

Other outlets include RIA-Novosti and ITAR-TASS, the latter of which appointed a former top Russian intelligence official to help run the organization in 1999.

 

The State of State Taxes



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Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, isn’t sweating about tax increases in Republican-controlled states. Over the weekend the New York Times ran a story saying 8 states with Republican governors were considering tax increases–something the Times calls “once-forbidden territory.” But the story noted that in several of those states, the tax increases would be balanced, or more than balanced, with tax cuts. In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley says that the gas tax will go up only if the income tax goes down by more. A gas-tax hike in New Jersey may be coupled with abolition of the state’s estate tax. Kansas may see an increase in the liquor and cigarette tax, and while Norquist would prefer that didn’t happen, he notes that it would be part of a path to a future free of the state income tax. Trading one tax for another without raising taxes overall has never been out of bounds for Republicans.

In states where Republican governors are considering net tax increases, Norquist tells me, he thinks they stand a good chance of being thwarted. Nevada requires two-thirds of the legislature to sign off on a tax increase, and he thinks the newly Republican legislature will be more anti-tax than Gov. Brian Sandoval. Alabama’s governor Robert Bentley is facing opposition to his proposed tax increases, too, and Norquist thinks he may back off. Michigan voters have to approve the tax increase favored by Gov. Rick Snyder, and they have “a good track record of voting these things down.” In Utah, he thinks there’s a shot at beating a tax on e-cigarettes.

Meanwhile, Norquist thinks tax cuts may take place in Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The press, he says, is always selling the notion that Republicans are going to break with the party’s anti-tax orthodoxy. “I live through it every two years. It’s as certain as the spring rains.” I can attest to that: Ten years ago I wrote an article for NR about a spate of reports that state-level Republicans had caught tax-hike fever. “Is Grover Over?” was one of the headlines. He wasn’t, and isn’t, and neither is strong Republican opposition to tax increases.

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Iran’s Revolutionary Aggression and the Arc of Terrorism



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With a new ferocity, the last few days have once again made clear that Iran’s revolutionary aggression knows no bounds. Whether in familiar Middle Eastern haunts such as Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, or halfway across the globe in Argentina, Tehran pursues its interests with a cold-eyed, singular zeal. And the bill of particulars for January is long.

Argentine special prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead on Sunday, January 18, with a bullet in his head. He was slated to deliver evidence revealing a government cover-up of Iran’s role in the worst terrorist attack in Argentina’s history — the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

Nisman methodically collected evidence proving that a joint Hezbollah/Iran operation murdered 85 people. “Alberto Nisman was the 86th victim of the AMIA bombing,” said Leah Soibel, who was born in Argentina and directs Fuente Latina, an Israeli NGO. Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner said last Thursday that Nisman’s death was not a suicide.

Two days after Nisman’s death, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized Yemen’s presidential palace. That’s the same Yemen that President Barack Obama famously considers to be a paradigm of effective U.S. counter-terrorism strategy in the Middle East.

And Iranian military personnel continue their long-standing presence in Lebanon and Syria. The same day Nisman was found dead, Israel administered a precision strike in rebel-held Quneitra, Syria, knocking out an Iranian general and Hezbollah operatives who they believed to be planning attacks on the Jewish state.

On the nuclear front, Tehran recently announced the construction of two new light-water reactors. The U.S. State Department says that the construction of the reactors does not violate the Joint Plan of Action agreed upon in late 2013, whereby Iran is supposed to accept limits on its illicit nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. But it’s impossible to know whether this is true, because the Obama administration still refuses to release the full text of the agreement.

On Wednesday, the U.S. furnished Iran with $490 million in economic relief, another of the installments which constitute America’s side of the bargain. Iran will have received $11.9 billion in relief by the time the latest round of extended talks expires in June.

Back in January 2014, when Obama gave his fifth State of the Union address, he promised that he’d “be the first to call for more sanctions” if an agreement is not reached with Iran’s regime. Last Tuesday, however, he abandoned his promise, pledging to veto any bipartisan, time-limited sanctions in his sixth State of the Union. The congressional sanctions being drafted would only be triggered if an agreement is not reached by the June deadline, so Obama’s veto threat effectively immunizes the talks from any consequences that might result if they break down.

While the president makes more and more concessions to Iran, the Islamic Republic continues to pursue a violent, aggressive foreign policy with the same goal it’s always had: a destabilized world order.

Obama is wedded to the notion that the Iranian threat can be neutralized, if the regime is only offered enough carrots. The events of this month suggest he should be reaching for a very big stick instead.

Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal

Web Briefing: January 26, 2015

Bill Nye Blames Blizzard on Climate Change, Because of Course



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Bill Nye The Science Guy” was on MSNBC Monday afternoon to discuss the New England Patriots’ assertion that the deflated footballs used against the Indianapolis Colts were caused by cold weather.

But that didn’t stop him from “introducing” the idea that the huge blizzard bearing down on the East Coast may be caused by global warming climate change.

“I just want to introduce the idea that this storm is connected to climate change,” he said. “I want to introduce that idea. I know there’ll be certain viewers who will become unglued, they’re throwing things at their television sets, and show on. But the economic effect of storms like this is huge!”

Nye went on to explain how blizzards like this “cost your society a lot of money,” through canceled flights and other infrastructure snarls.

“So I just want to introduce the idea that the strong winds that we had in southern California, the very strong winds that will be associated with this storm in the next couple days – these could be connected to climate change,” he said defensively, before adding it is very hard to prove any one storm is connected.

Last winter, Canadian climatologist Daniel Scott told the New York Times that by 2100, due to climate change, snow will become so rare that there will be few regions left in which to hold the Winter Olympic Games.

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Blizzard Fears Could Help Conservatives Kill House Border Bill



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Conservatives rank-and-file Republicans trying to stop a House border security bill received an unexpected boost from the weather, when House leadership delayed votes on the bill due to concerns of a blizzard hitting D.C. tonight.

Some House Republicans have been frustrated by the hasty process that has gone into the drafting of the bill: House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul’s border security bill went through a markup on Wednesday, then lawmakers were told they couldn’t file amendments after 10 am this morning. With Wednesday evening and Thursday devoted to an abortion debate and travel, that left just Friday for lawmakers to try to review the bill and craft amendments. The bill was initially set for a Tuesday vote, creating the sense that it was being ramrodded through the House, GOP representatives tell National Review Online.

“This is the fastest turn around from committee to floor that I’ve seen since I’ve been in the house,” one Republican congressman says.

That schedule was derailed Monday afternoon, when the leadership canceled this evening’s votes, which delays the votes on the border bill until next week.

At a minimum, this gives Republicans more time to file amendments, but the weather delay might lead to “killing it outright,” according to the lawmaker, because it gives “more time for the people and groups to engage.”

Senator Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) and outside groups have attacked the House border bill as flawed for not addressing interior enforcement priorities, such as ending President Obama’s catch-and-release policies. Some House Republican critics of the bill believe this criticism is unfair, because those policies fall under the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction, but they dislike the McCaul bill for other reasons, such as the cost, the fact that it will take years to secure the border, and — most of all — the fear that GOP leadership plans to pass this bill as a consolation prize for conservatives who want a long fight against Obama’s executive amnesty.

“We don’t want to sell out the constitutional issue for a border bill that won’t be enforced until 2017,” the lawmaker says.

Pro-Palestinian Activists Shout Down NYC Resolution Marking Liberation of Auschwitz



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That pro-Palestinian activists disrupted a New York City Council meeting to protest a trip that 15 council members will be taking to Israel next month is a decidedly dog-bites-man story. But it is worth mentioning for this reason:

Council members reacted furiously to the demonstration — especially because the disruption began as they were concluding a vote on a resolution commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

I’ve written this before, but it is worth reiterating: In principle, it is possible to oppose actions taken by the State of Israel, or perhaps even the existence of the nation as such, without being anti-Semitic. But that distinction is, any longer, basically non-existent in practice — as this episode demonstrates. It’s much more than dislike for the Netanyahu government that occasions this degree of vitriol.

New GOP Caucus Could Set Stage for Leadership Coup



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A group of 30-40 House Republicans — more than enough to prevent House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) from mustering 218 votes for anything — is organizing into a formal caucus and hiring staff.

The organization is devoted to pushing conservative legislative goals, as I write on the home page, but it could be an important component of the next leadership elections. That’s because the existence of the caucus provides outsiders with an opportunity to count votes, and court supporters, in public.

“Any leadership election is pretty much about organization and who has votes lined up or who can reach a lot of members quickly,” says one member of the newly-formed Freedom Caucus. “That is going to be a factor in a contested leadership race.”

It’s quite a risk to challenge a sitting speaker on the House floor, which is one reason that some critics of Boehner refused to vote against him in the last two failed coup attempts. By forming as a caucus that works to pressure House leaders, potential challengers can gauge the appetite for new leadership without overtly crossing Boehner, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), or House Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.). 

Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) will chair the new caucus, raising the possibility that he will use it to springboard into leadership. But he has ignored that siren call before. Even if Jordan never throws his hat in the ring, though, other candidates could try to build a bloc of support in the GOP conference by working with the caucus. And, the caucus could mobilize quickly during the next leadership election.

“Having a good organization, I think, can only benefit people who aspire to leadership and want to cultivate conservative support,” the lawmaker says.

 

Well, We Can Still Drone Yemen



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The White House denied reports that all of its counterterrorism operations in Yemen were suspended last week after Shiite rebels deposed the U.S.-backed government — and indeed, they’re apparently not stopped completely. The Times:

C.I.A. drone strike on Monday on a car in eastern Yemen, the first since the resignation of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, killed three suspected Qaeda fighters, American officials said, in a signal that the United States will continue its targeted killing operations in the country despite the apparent takeover by Houthi fighters.

The strike took place in the central province of Marib, where a missile hit a vehicle carrying three men near the boundary with the province of Shabwa, which is believed to be a stronghold of Al Qaeda. The Central Intelligence Agency operates a drone base in southern Saudi Arabia, which borders Yemen.

The Saudi government is a strong supporter of American strikes against the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Twelve Things that Caught My Eye



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I didn’t do one of these for a few days, so some of this takes the “In Case You Missed It” approach: 

1. Kit Carson, Rush Limbaugh’s longtime “chief of staff,” has died, after a battle with brain cancer. My experience of him was ever-gracious — he was kind and encouraging, helpful and funny, to a young kid working behind the scenes at National Review (and then on website before people were all that familiar with the creature). R.I.P. I know I join many in prayer — and for his family and friends and all who mourn his passing.

In a beautiful tribute to him, Rush said, in part, today on his show: 

He did not allow me to be pessimistic or negative.  He didn’t allow me to get down in the dumps about anything.  And if he sensed that I was, he would do anything that he could that enabled me to get the best out of myself, even if it was just a social soiree that we were at or some business trip. I was thinking about it last night. I can’t remember a time when he complained about things.  You know how often people complain?  …  People complain all the time.  People manipulate, try to manipulate you all the time.  That’s nothing unique to me. 

He never did.  Never.  Never did.  Never undermined anybody.  Never wanted me to think ill of anybody that had anything to do with this program.  A special passion of his was the leukemia radiothon that we did every year.  He devoted as much time to putting that together and working with the leukemiathon people throughout the year and things like that. He built and maintained relationships that the program had with any number of people, sponsors, you name it, and maintained them.  He spoke for me when I was unable to.  And I have to say this, too.  He is the one guy — this is not meant to besmirch anybody else, but I never once doubted his instincts. 

I had total trust.  I never once thought, for example, when he’s advocating that I do something, I never once thought that there was something in it for him, for me to do it, that it would help him with somebody that was asking me to do it or a friend of his, I never, ever got the impression.  The only thing he cared about was doing what he could to make sure I looked good and be the best I could be. 

2. Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur: Ruling on the word ‘Allah’ threatens religious freedom.

3. Ross Douthat:

Whatever judgment King Abdullah finds himself facing now, he is at least free of his kingdom, his region and its nightmarish dilemmas.

But not America. A king is dead, but our Saudi nightmare is a long way from being finished.

4. France’s prison population is estimated to be 70 percent Muslim

5. Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie: Abortion is about a child, not a choice

Keep reading this post . . .

Mrs. Obama’s Minions



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The Kale Cops are out. Via WATE News:

Dr. Justin Puckett was asked to sign a note sent home with his daughter Alia after the teacher saw her eating marshmallows and chocolate at lunch earlier this week.

He refused to do so, and posted it online instead, saying that it was just the latest in what he sees as a growing trend of overreaching by authorities. . . .

The substitute teacher wrote in the note sent home on Tuesday that a cafeteria employee said that her lunch consisted of four chocolate bars, a bag of marshmallows, Ritz crackers and a pickle.

“Please see that she packs a proper lunch tomorrow,” the teacher wrote. An attempt to reach the teacher for comment wasn’t immediately successful.

What the cafeteria worker and the substitute missed, however, was that the 8-year-old also had four pieces of ham and a low fat string cheese rather than a sandwich, since “we don’t eat a lot of bread,” said Puckett, who is double board certified in osteopathic family medicine and obesity medicine.

The irony of Dr. Puckett’s medical training makes this episode especially delicious. And it emphasizes the larger point: It is probably true, as Kirksville, Mo.’s school superintendent told WATE, that “it was all meant with the best of intentions,” and schools’ in loco parentis responsibilities have long extended to mealtime. Yet this was less an instance of in loco parentis than super loco parentis, which is a much more troubling proposition — and an all-too-common one. Government, especially at the federal level, is increasingly usurping decisions that were once reserved to the jurisdiction of the ultimate private space, the home.

Enter Michelle Obama. The First Lady’s school lunch initiative has met with scoffing, and even outright revolt. But even if her policies should ultimately, is it not still likely that she has “moved the window” when it comes to the willingness, or ability, of government officials to dictate nutritional choices? Her mystery mush may not make it onto trays after 2016, but her initiative has insinuated the federal government into cafeteria decision-making. The result is that the debate in some quarters now centers on which foods are and are not appropriate for the federal government to encourage — conceding the debate over whether the federal government should be involved at all.

Returning government to its original sphere is not just about pushing back against individual policies that overreach, but against the atmosphere of acquiescence that enables and encourages those policies.

Loaded Word, Emptied Guns



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The Independent:

The Islamists who committed the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris should be not be described as “terrorists” by the BBC, a senior executive at the corporation has said.

Tarik Kafala, the head of BBC Arabic, the largest of the BBC’s non-English language news services, said the term “terrorist” was too “loaded” to describe the actions of the men who killed 12 people in the attack on the French satirical magazine.

Mr Kafala, whose BBC Arabic television, radio and online news services reach a weekly audience of 36 million people, told The Independent: “We try to avoid describing anyone as a terrorist or an act as being terrorist. What we try to do is to say that ‘two men killed 12 people in an attack on the office of a satirical magazine’. That’s enough, we know what that means and what it is.”

Mr Kafala said: “Terrorism is such a loaded word. The UN has been struggling for more than a decade to define the word and they can’t. It is very difficult to. We know what political violence is, we know what murder, bombings and shootings are and we describe them. That’s much more revealing, we believe, than using a word like terrorist which people will see as value-laden.”

Of all the giveaways in those few lines, the most telling may be the reference to the U.N. as a supposedly neutral authority.

There’s little that’s more revealingly subjective than the elaborate pretense of objectivity. 

Miss Ukraine Calls Out Russian Invasion of Her Country During Miss Universe Pageant



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While representing her country at the 2015 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Miami on Sunday, Ukrainian model Diana Haruska highlighted the increasingly-aggressive Russian action against her country and urged everyone to support the Ukrainian armed forces.

When asked by pageant judges about Ukraine’s greatest contribution to the world, the 19-year-old seemed to misunderstand the question, instead answering what she felt Ukraine most needed from her people and the world at this time. 

“Now we have a very difficult situation in our country,” she said in Ukrainian. “And right now, the very most important contribution is to direct all of our energies to support our army and our people.” The crowd cheered in response.

With Islamist-fueled violence in the Middle East and Europe taking center stage, the slow-motion Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine has recently garnered little media attention. But the recent seizure of the devastated Donestk airport to Russian troops and pro-Russian separatists illustrates that – despite a supposed cease fire — heavy fighting continues. And the Ukrainians are losing. 

Haruska won second runner-up at the Miss Universe pageant, behind Miss Colombia and Miss U.S.A. She hails from Kharkiv, an eastern Ukrainian city with a large ethnic Russian population. Many observers expect Russian President Vladmir Putin to claim that city as part of “Novorossiya” (New Russia) should Ukrainian forces continue to lose ground.

1964 and All That



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In the issue before the current NR, I had a piece about Franco, “Franco in Full.” The piece is a book review: a review of a new biography by Stanley G. Payne and Jesús Palacios. To read the review, go here.

I wanted to share a letter with you, which tickled me, and may well do the same for you. It is so very typical (what the letter relates, I mean). A reader writes,

Your piece on Franco reminds me of a couple I knew years ago in Denver. He was an artist, she was artsy. They had lived for a few years on Ibiza, and never tired of talking about how wonderful it was. They were both extremely liberal/progressive. In the fall of 1964, she said to me very earnestly: “If that fascist Barry Goldwater wins, we’re moving back to Spain.”

Go figure.

Yup.

P.S. While I have you on the line, so to speak, let me link to a music piece: “The concert hall as warzone.” I talk about a concert featuring Maxim Vengerov, the Russian violinist, and Yu Long, a Chinese conductor.

P.P.S. About a month after the 1964 election, MLK gave his Nobel lecture. “The voters of our nation rendered a telling blow to the radical right,” he said. “They defeated those elements in our society which seek to pit white against Negro and lead the nation down a dangerous Fascist path.” In my history of the peace prize, I write, “An older King might well have been ashamed of that rhetoric, or at least regretted it. For one thing, Goldwater’s view of government and economics was the opposite of fascist: was the classical-liberal view.”

Pre-Order Fox News Host Dana Perino’s Upcoming Memoir



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National Review Online is pleased to reveal the cover of And the Good News Is . . . : Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side, the upcoming memoir from former White House press secretary and Fox News host Dana Perino:

Courtesy of Twelve Books:

And the Good News Is . . . : Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side is part memoir about, and part lessons-and-advice from, Dana’s unusual journey from small-town Western girl to White House press secretary. Dana reveals the principles that shaped her views and the hard-earned wisdom that has successfully guided her through a life of challenges and achievement — including never-before-told stories from behind the scenes at the White House and Fox News’s The Five. She shares specific tips on improving life at work and at home, and encourages readers on a path to restoring civility.

Dana is a Fox News contributor and co-host of one of the most popular shows on cable television, The FivePerino was the first Republican woman to serve as White House press secretary — for President George W. Bush, from 2007 to 2009. She served for more than seven years in the Bush administration, including at the Department of Justice after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. 

Perino lives in Manhattan with her husband, Peter McMahon, and their dog, Jasper.

And the Good News Is . . . will be published April 21, 2015. Pre-order Dana’s book here.

Summer Internship



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National Review is accepting applications for its summer internship. The intern will work in our New York office, receive a modest stipend, participate in every part of the editorial process, and have some opportunities to write. The ideal candidate will have an excellent academic record and some experience in student or professional journalism. If you wish to apply, please send a cover letter, your résumé, and two of your best writing samples (no more, please) to editorial.applications (at) nationalreview.com.

Do Contribution Limits



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give a leg up to dynastic political candidates? John McGinnis raises the question.

Obama Proposes Expanding No-Drill Territory in AK; Senators Furious



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After touting that the United States is “as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years,” and that the U.S. is “number one in oil and gas,” the president is keen to ensure that neither of those accomplishments lasts. Via the Washington Examiner:

President Obama has proposed setting aside more than 12 million acres of the Alaska coast as wilderness in a move that will pit him against Republicans from the state.

Obama’s plans to impose strict federal protections over an expanded portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [ANWR] would keep Alaskans from accessing the wealth of petroleum reserves that lay below the “fragile” habitat there.

“I’m very proud that my Department of Interior has put forward a comprehensive plan to make sure we’re protecting the refuge and that we’re designating new areas, including coastal plains, for preservation,” the president said from his seat aboard Air Force Once in a video released Sunday.

“I’m going to be calling on Congress to make sure that they take it one step further: designating it as a wilderness,” Obama said.

Here is the administration’s video, replete with picturesque footage of Alaskan flora and fauna:

Alaska’s presence in the Senate is not happy. “What’s coming is a stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive,” said Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski in a statement:

It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory. The promises made to us at statehood, and since then, mean absolutely nothing to them. I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska.

Added senator Dan Sullivan: “This outrageous action confirms what most Alaskans have feared – that the Obama administration’s war against Alaska families and the middle class would only intensify under the final two years of President Obama’s tenure. . . . We will defeat their lawless attempt to designate ANWR as a wilderness, as well as their ultimate goal of making Alaska one big national park.”

Pentagon Sponsors Essay Contest in Memory of Dead Saudi King



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Pentagon head General Martin Dempsey established an essay contest to honor the memory of the late Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, the absolute monarch of a fundamentalist Islamic kingdom responsible for exporting terrorism worldwide.

Abdullah died last Thursday at age 90, setting off an outpouring of tributes from leaders across the world — including President Obama, who said he “appreciated our genuine and warm friendship.” The governments of the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia flew their national flags at half mast throughout the weekend.

On Monday the Department of Defense took Abdullah’s eulogy to another level, with Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Dempsey announcing a research and essay competition in honor of the late leader for students at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. The press release calls Abdullah “a lifetime supporter of his country’s allegiance with the United States,” while Dempsey himself calls the monarch “a man of remarkable character and courage.”

Under Abdullah’s rule as a “cautious reformer,” Christianity and other religions remained outlawed nationwide. Women were unable to drive or leave the house without a male guardian.

Under Abdullah’s rule, public executions — typically by beheading — were performed routinely in the Islamic holy city of Mecca. Those who insulted Islam were sentenced to imprisonment and corporal punishment. Homosexuals and victims of rape often received the same treatment.

And under Abdullah’s rule, Saudi Arabia represented the world’s largest sponsor of international Islamic terrorism. Its citizens funded attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. In 2009, then-Secretary of State Clinton claimed that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” And wealthy Saudi Arabians were a significant source of income for the Islamic State before their seizure of oil resources in Iraq and Syria in mid-2014.

What I Saw at the March for Life 2015



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The March for Life came and went as it does every year and many in the media didn’t or barely noticed. But the civic — and religious for many, with Masses (at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Verizon Center, the D.C. Armory, among many other places) and prayer vigils and services a-plenty – pilgrimage for high school and college students who make the trek to Washington, D.C., can be formational. Among the most beautiful moments of an intense less than 24 hours happened at the Verizon Center. 18,000 people filled the sports center, with D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl encouraging young people discerning religious vocations to stand up. The applause were not only a matter of encouragement for them, but a countercultural force to be reckoned with.

The young people who were in Washington Thursday insist on something better than the culture of death the Supreme Court served 42 years ago and all too many went along with. They want life and love and freedom. Encourage them. Pray for them. Give thanks for them. As their signs insist, they are a pro-life generation. Would that the news penetrate Congress!

That’s a bit of what my syndicated column is about this week. It’s here

I was invited up Thursday to the rally stage just before the March began, joining other “pro-life leaders.”  The crowd was overrun with enthusiastic young people. This was the view:

Some 700 North Dakotan high-school and college students led the March (I think that’s remarkable): 

Everywhere I turned last week, while people gave testimony to the pain of abortion, and the sacrifices that come with doing the right thing, there was a radiant joy. Faith, hope, and love. A generosity. An openness. A desire to help. Some scenes:

Keep reading this post . . .

Report: ISIS Nearly Expelled from Kobani



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A bit of good news in the fight against the Islamic State. Via the Associated Press:

The extremist Islamic State group has nearly been pushed out of the Syrian border town of Kobani, activists and Kurdish officials said Monday, making a major symbolic victory both for the Kurds and the U.S.-led coalition targeting the extremists.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and senior Kurdish official Idriss Nassan said the Islamic State group had been nearly expelled, with some sporadic fighting on the eastern edges of the city near Turkey. . . .

The expulsion of the terrorist outfit from Kobani is a stunning turnaround; by mid October, many had considered the town lost.

However, this victory ought not to be overstated. As the Daily Beast reported earlier this month, the Islamic State has almost doubled the area it controls in Syria over the past four months. The following maps show the approximate gain:

Kobani has not been easily won. According to the AP: 

Since mid-September, the battle for Kobani has killed some 1,600 people, including 1,075 Islamic State group members, 459 Kurdish fighters and 32 civilians, the Observatory reported earlier this month. The Islamic State group, increasingly under pressure, has carried out more than 35 suicide attacks in Kobani in recent weeks, activists say.

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