And yet, after refusing to renounce her Christian-faith, Meriam Ibrahim showed herself to be, among other things, a woman of remarkable courage and conviction. She was presented with a choice, a choice no one should ever have to make: renounce your faith, or suffer martyrdom. (The punishment in Sudan for the “crime” of apostasy is death by hanging). She refused, knowing full well the risks she was taking. But I can only speculate that her abiding sense of faith, and her trust in the Lord, are what sustained her. And sustain her still.
To his credit, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), among other members of Congress, made her plight a top priority. Religious liberty is a human right, he argued, not one that is conditional or can be taken away. He therefore released this statement on Thursday, rejoicing she had been “brought out of the darkness.” He also praised government and religious leaders from around the world. Without them, Ms. Ibrahim's liberation would have been impossible:
“We rejoice today that our sister, Meriam Ibrahim, has been brought out of the darkness of persecution and into the light of liberty where she can worship freely and fully,” Sen. Cruz said.
“Great thanks are due to the government of Italy, which, not taking no for an answer, exerted the strongest diplomatic pressure to resolve Ms. Ibrahim’s case. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi publicly raised Ms. Ibrahim’s plight in recent weeks, and Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini has taken a personal interest in the case.
“Pope Francis has been a tireless advocate for Ms. Ibrahim through prayer, and their combined and sustained efforts have brought Ms. Ibrahim and her family to safety.
“Truly the Lord works in mysterious ways. Ms. Ibrahim’s long trial seemed at times hopeless, as a powerless woman was victimized by a brutal government that would torture and kill its own citizens for their faith. But its beautiful conclusion today when Pope Francis laid his hands on her in blessing reminds us of the boundless power of pure faith to lift up and preserve the weak and oppressed.
“It is also a call to action for all Christians around the globe to redouble our efforts to draw attention to the plight of the many Christians still suffering cruel and unjust imprisonment, including Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran and Kenneth Bae in North Korea.
“The vicious persecution of the Christians of Iraq, especially Mosul, also commands our urgent attention. We prayerfully urge our government to engage fully in their cases.”
Engineering a blossoming restoration of US-Russia relations is a major achievement, and Hillary would like American voters to know that she pulled it off, or something. Her timing is impeccable. Over the last few years, Moscow has complicated our efforts to halt Iran's nuclear march, ignored us completely on human rights, ostentatiously harbored a treacherous American fugitive, invaded (another) bordering country, and helped Kremlin-aligned rebels blow an airliner out of the sky. With international pressure mounting, Vladimir Putin's allies are escalating their hostilities, not backing down -- while the Russian government spins wild and debunked conspiracies about the Malaysian Airlines attack. With that spiraling catastrophe as her backdrop, Her Majesty has decided to pronounce her "reset" charm offensive a success. If you find yourself laughing incredulously, we've officially come full circle. That policy began with a hearty chortle, too:
Russian media have been poking fun at the US secretary of state over a translation error on a gift she presented to her Russian counterpart. Hillary Clinton gave Sergei Lavrov a mock "reset" button, symbolising US hopes to mend frayed ties with Moscow. But he said the word the Americans chose, "peregruzka", meant "overloaded" or "overcharged", rather than "reset".
Smart power. Allahpundit explains how the Clinton spinmeisters are trying to play this, deliberately using the past tense to frame things in a Hillary-friendly manner. Good luck:
The only way to do it is to argue that it was a success but that, through no fault of Hillary’s own, of course, it collapsed in a heap. Officially, she’s going to blame the failure of the reset on Putin re-assuming the presidency after four years of Medvedev, but that makes no sense. As Hillary herself concedes (“of course Putin still pulled the strings”), Putin was calling the shots as prime minister during Obama’s first term while Medvedev kept his presidential seat warm. Russian law forbids more than two consecutive terms as president — for now — so Czar Vladimir temporarily stepped aside for a catspaw. She’s drawing a lame distinction between Medvedev and Putin simply as an excuse for why her biggest initiative as Secretary of State now lies in ruins. Unofficially, of course, she’s also drawing a tacit contrast between herself and Obama: Things with Russia were fine during his first term but once she left State, everything went to hell. If having Putin as president of Russia is the key to all this, I’m not sure why we should expect different foreign policy results from President Hillary; after all, Putin will still be czar or king or emperor two years from now. But you’re not supposed to think too hard about this.
"Don't think too hard" might as well be an early frontrunner for her 2016 campaign-in-waiting's slogan. She's going to ask voters to give her political credit for all of the good things that happened during her husband's presidency and the Obama administration, while absolving her of the negative developments. She'll cherry-pick all day and all night. Clinton economy? Let's bring it back. The Obamacare mess? I would have done it more effectively. Etc, etc. But until she formally throws her hat in the ring, we'll have to endure an exhausting parade of coy hints, and an increasingly steady diet of the 'First Woman President' narrative.
In case you didn't know, TMZ is a paparazzi entertainment show that follows celebrities as they walk out of restaurants, get into their cars, or buy a cup of coffee. It is not a real news source. Case in point, on Wednesday these "reporters" proved just how sad their profession is. After airing a segment that showed footage of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin getting a speeding ticket in Wasilla, Alaska, the TMZ staff started demeaning her for no reason, according to Breitbart:
But then it quickly turned ugly, when, without justification, the staffers launched into a nasty, random, name-calling attack. One staff member exclaimed out of nowhere, "She's a bitch." Another chimed in, saying, "She's a really bad mom," while another added, "She's a horrible mom."
A third concluded, "She's not evil. She's too dumb to be good or evil."
The immature behavior continues on TMZ's website, where they again show the former governor no respect:
Sarah Palin may be conservative, but her driving is unabashedly radical ... giving TMZ an epic rationalization for speeding in her pick up truck in Alaska.
The former guv was stopped in her hometown of Wasilla last Wednesday for going 63 in a 45 MPH zone in her Toyota Tundra. The cop wrote her up and she was on her way.
Governor Palin has does nothing to suggest she is a bad mom or a "bitch," yet she has been the media's favorite target since the 2008 election.
These charges aren't only false, they're downright cruel. But, I guess the "war on women" is sanctioned when it's being waged on conservative women.
By now, we all know how wrong President Obama was when he repeatedly said on the campaign trail in 2012 that al Qaeda is on the path to defeat. Indeed, it seems like we’ve got a much bigger problem on our hands. According to top U.S. officials, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is “worse than al Qaeda.”
Via The Hill (emphasis mine):
"It is al Qaeda in its doctrine, ambition and increasingly, in its threat to U.S. interests," Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary of state, told lawmakers at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. "In fact, it is worse than al Qaeda."
McGurk said the group, which splintered off from its parent, al Qaeda in Iraq, had strengthened its capabilities and was “no longer a terrorist organization. It is a full-blown army.”
Elissa Slotkin, acting principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for policy, added that the group has threatened: "We're coming for you, Barack Obama."
ISIS has captured huge parts of both countries and threatened to move on Baghdad last month, leading President Obama to authorize deploying nearly 750 troops to Iraq.
Over the weekend, Attorney General Eric Holder said the threat of ISIS fighters infiltrating into the U.S. was "more frightening than anything I think I've seen as attorney general."
Former Defense Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge told The Hill Wednesday that the threat from ISIS has been "blinking red a long time."
"It's been blinking red but now it's flashing more frequently and is a lot brighter," he said.
"They've got a lot of fighters who are from European countries that are visa waiver countries, which means all they have to do is shave their beards and look like normal responsible civilians and walk into the United States of America without a visa."
"So it's a real challenge for our intelligence community to identify them and get their names on a watch list," he said.
Publicly, the administration says it has no plans for a U.S. military intervention to stop the extremist group, but Iraq’s request for U.S. airstrikes is “still under active consideration.”
“There is no exclusively military solution to the threats posed by ISIL in Iraq,” the Pentagon’s Elissa Slotkin said. “DoD remains postured should the president decide to use military force as part of a broader strategy. Our immediate goals … are to protect our people and property in Iraq; gain a better understanding of how we might best train, advise and support the Iraqi Security Forces [ISF] capabilities should we decide to support the ISF going forward … and expand our understanding — particularly via intelligence — of ISIL.”
The Earned Income Tax Credit is one of the federal government's most successful anti-poverty programs. As House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) notes in his newly released anti-poverty plan today, it "makes low-income families more likely to work by increasing work's rewards" and "encourages households to enter the labor force."
However, the EITC is also far from perfect. Which is why it was disappointing to see Ryan ignore some of the program's biggest shortcomings in his newly released anti-poverty plan.
To his credit, Ryan does note that the EITC's "complexity requires low-income individuals to either negotiate a complex maze of rules and forms" or "to pay tax preparers to file the necessary paperwork with the IRS to receive the credit."
"The IRS instructions run 39 pages, involve 15 'rules' and includes 12 separate forms that could apply in filing for the EITC," Ryan's report continues. "The credit is received as much as 15 months after the individual earned his or her pay. ... Its complexity also contributes to high error rates for the EITC. In many cases people just don't know whether they qualify or not."
What Ryan fails to mention here is just how hight the "error rate" for the EITC actually is. According to the latest Treasury Department Inspector General's report, the IRS made up to $15.6 billion in "improper" ETIC payments in 2013. That comes to 26 percent of all EITC spending.
Ryan's plan does call for EITC reform, but Congress has ordered the IRS to eliminate improper payments before, and the IRS has simply failed to do so (imagine that). Why on earth should conservatives expand a program with 25 percent error rate before IRS cleans up the existing program?
Especially considering that there is an easy way to both fight poverty and cut government at the same time: just cut the payroll tax!
Cutting the payroll tax would put more money in the hands of the working poor, encourage more poor people to work, and create more jobs. No 39 pages of IRS instructions or 15 month delays needed. Americans would just immediately see more money in each of their paychecks.
And all this could be done without raising the deficit. Whatever money Ryan was going to use to pay for his EITC expansion by cutting other ineffective programs, could also be easily funneled into the Social Security system to replace the revenue lost by the payroll tax cut.
Conservatives can fight poverty and shrink the government at the same time. Expanding the EITC is not the way to do that.
Via Noah Rothman, an excruciating interview between MSNBC's Joy Reid and Israeli spokesman Mark Regev. To clarify, Reid's questions make this interaction an excruciating spectacle for informed viewers. Regev's patient and thorough answers are a model of of effective professionalism. Skip ahead to 1:45 and soak it in. Brief commentary to follow:
Reid's questions are laden with faulty premises, with the most obvious error being her assertion that Gaza is "occupied" by Israel. In fact, Israel unilaterally ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005 as a gesture of good faith, forcibly uprooting settlements and withdrawing entirely from the territory. That olive branch was greeted with violent madness, as the local population promptly and decisively elected a terrorist organization -- Hamas -- to represent them. Hamas then overthrew the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, leading to Israel's blockade. Israel's generosity has been repaid with the firing of thousands of rockets at its civilians over nearly a decade, including the bombardment that served as the catalyst for the current conflict. Reid presses Regev on why Israel is attacking hospitals and bulldozing private homes. He responds with the depressing truth: The IDF is forced to use surgical strikes against non-traditional targets because Hamas is using those locations as staging grounds for their terrorist activities. And they're using their civilians as human shields, urging them to disregard Israel's humanitarian pre-attack warnings, which sometimes even entail leaflets with maps identifying safe zones.
Reid demands to know where displaced Palestinians should go, and who is responsible for their fate. Hamas is responsible for their fate. Hamas started this war. Hamas shoots rockets at civilians from clinics and schools. Hamas puts children in harm's way to protect their stockpiles and leaders. Hamas inculcates its population with hateful bigotry from the earliest age. Yet every accusatory question from the MSNBC host is premised on Israel's culpability. What happens to the people who live in houses above the terror tunnels Israel destroys? There may not be a great answer to that challenge, but the cause of that dilemma is, you know, the terror tunnels -- which Hamas builds to smuggle weapons and surreptitiously enter Israeli territory, often with murderous intentions (see below). What is Israel supposed to do? Not attack the enemies who are trying to kill their civilians? Not destroy the tunnel network? It's a cliche at this point, but it's true: If Palestinians renounced violence and laid down their arms tomorrow, they would have their own state, and achieve peace. If Israel did the same, she would be annihilated.
The Los Angeles Times has a front page story today positing that the present Gaza blockade is causing and fomenting terrorism. Actually, the blockade was only imposed when Hamas proved itself to be unable to resist terrorism. Its purpose is not to cut off humanitarian supplies or legitimate commerce -- both are permitted to pass through -- but to interdict munitions re-supply shipments from sources like Iran. People got excited yesterday when a Hamas leader said his group was open to a truce. The problem is that his peace offer came with strings attached, the primary one being the lifting of the anti-weapons blockade. Hamas wants Israel to lunge for a temporary quiet at the price of allowing terrorists to re-arm. Such a concession would be counter-productive and short-sighted, and Israel realizes this. The Washington Post editorial board can't understand why many of their media brethren stubbornly refuse to cover the Israel-Palestinian struggle based on a fair assessment of the parties' morals and motives:
Hamas’s offensive tunnels should not be confused with the burrows it has dug under Gaza’s border with Egypt to smuggle money, consumer goods and military equipment. The newly discovered structures have only one conceivable purpose: to launch attacks inside Israel. Three times in recent days, Hamas fighters emerged from the tunnels in the vicinity of Israeli civilian communities, which they clearly aimed to attack. The concrete-lined structures are stocked with materials, such as handcuffs and tranquilizers, that could be used on hostages. Other tunnels in northern Gaza are designed for the storage and firing of missiles at Israeli cities. The resources devoted by Hamas to this project are staggering, particularly in view of Gaza’s extreme poverty. By one Israeli account, the typical tunnel cost $1 million to build over the course of several years, using tons of concrete desperately needed for civilian housing.
By design, many of the tunnels have entrances in the heavily populated Shijaiyah district, where the Israeli offensive has been concentrated. One was found underneath al-Wafa hospital, where Hamas also located a command post and stored weapons, according to Israeli officials. The depravity of Hamas’s strategy seems lost on much of the outside world, which — following the terrorists’ script — blames Israel for the civilian casualties it inflicts while attempting to destroy the tunnels. While children die in strikes against the military infrastructure that Hamas’s leaders deliberately placed in and among homes, those leaders remain safe in their own tunnels. There they continue to reject cease-fire proposals, instead outlining a long list of unacceptable demands.
Exactly. 'Blame Israel First' agitators are either ignorant of these facts, or they don't care to know them. And far too many of them simply hate Jews, which no amount of empirical evidence will reverse.
The flood of illegal immigrants on our southern border shows no signs of stopping and drug mule and cartel operations aren't slowing down either. These exclusive photos were taken yesterday, July 22, 2014 in southeast Arizona just north of the U.S. southern border with Mexico. Each pack of narcotics being smuggled weighs 50-60 pounds.
A poll released yesterday on the blog FiveThirtyEight shows that Star Wars villain Darth Vader is currently polling at a higher favorability rating than any of the potential candidates for the 2016 presidential election. Additionally, Jar Jar Binks, the near universally-despised character from Episodes I, II, and III, has a higher favorability rating than many high-profile members of Congress as well as "Congress" as a whole.
On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65. In fact, the last time congressional net favorability was above that was February 2005. Incidentally this was just before the release date of "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," which marked Jar Jar's last appearance on the big screen.
None of the 2016 hopefuls is polling higher than Darth Vader. You'll recall that Vader chopped off his son's arm and blew up an entire planet, but evidently in the eyes of the American public these are minor sins compared to Benghazi, Bridgegate and Gov. Rick Perry's hipster glasses. These numbers suggest that if "Star Wars" were real and Darth Vader decided to enter the 2016 presidential race, he'd be the immediate front-runner.
The chart compiled by Washington Post comparing favorability rankings between the fictional characters of the Star Wars universe and the real-life "characters" of Congress is pretty jaw-dropping, yet somewhat amusing:
This shows how cynical Americans have become towards mainstream politicians. Americans, at least those polled, are just not enthusiastic about...really anyone, apparently - unless they happen to live in a galaxy far, far away.
SCHUMER: We are frustrated with the media's "double standard."
In an effort to impress fundraisers about how incredibly smart he is, President Obama recently told a group of rich California liberals this week that he doesn't watch the news because he already knows all about what's being reported. Interestingly, Obama claims to know nothing about the numerous scandals plaguing his legacy until of course...he learned it on the news.
I could list examples of former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Obama himself citing news reports as the administration's first time finding out about a particularly unpleasant issue, but I'll hand it over to Greg Gutfeld instead.
Progessives' Proudly Exploit Black Pain, Crave Moral Superiority By Using Term "Apartheid State" | Tony Katz