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Kevin Glass -  Rand Paul's Bipartisan Push To Fix Criminal Justice
Posted: 1/31/2015 3:13:00 PM EST
Civil forfeiture. Sentencing reform. Felon voting. These are all largely unsexy issues that don't particularly strike the chords of grassroots conservatives. But they're all issues that Senator Rand Paul is planning to take up, with the help of congressional Democrats, in an effort that may help the GOP reach voters whose big issues aren't typically politically salient.

As Dave Weigel reports:

On the morning before attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch would face Congress, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul re-introduced a bill that would tie her hands. Paul and a crew of congressmen—Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, Michigan Representative Tim Walberg—had resurrected the Fifth Amendment Integrity Act. If passed, it would restrict the government’s ability, from the Department of Justice on down to local cops, to seize property from criminal suspects.

“We’ve had protests across our country, and people think it’s about one or two instances,” Paul said from the rostrum. “No. It’s one thing after another. Let’s say you’ve got a poor family in a neighborhood in a big city, and grandmother owns the house. The 15-year old son is selling marijuana. They catch him. They take the house! The house was the only stabilizing thing in a family that was having trouble.”

Last year, Paul’s bills were written—and introduced with Democrats—at a staggered pace. This year, the senator expected “to get all those bills introduced in the next few weeks.” They include a bill that would give judges more flexibility in sentencing (with Pat Leahy), a bill that would allow felons to more easily restore their voting rights (with Harry Reid), and a bill that would reduce sentencing disparities in drug crimes (with Cory Booker).

Weigel reports that Sen. Judiciary Chariman Chuck Grassley is behind at least the asset forfeiture aspect of this push. Paul's proposals have gotten lots of press ink before with no action, but with a new GOP congress that has promised to be more bipartisan and force its members to take uncomfortable votes, Paul might get more of a hearing this time. Stay tuned.

Leah Barkoukis - American Sniper Is Surprisingly Popular in Iraq
Posted: 1/31/2015 2:03:00 PM EST

American Sniper, the film about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who became the deadliest sniper in U.S. history while serving four tours of duty in Iraq, has broken box office records and is nominated for six Oscars, including best picture. To say that the film is a hit among American audiences (Michael Moore, and other haters aside) would be an understatement. What is receiving far less attention—though very interesting—is how the moving is faring in the Middle East.

In Iraq, the theater at Baghdad’s Mansour Mall was “full and rowdy” during the film’s opening week—and the crowd was into it.

When Gaith Mohammed, a young man in his twenties with a degree in accounting, went to see "American Sniper" during its opening week at Baghdad’s Mansour Mall, he says the theater was full and rowdy. […]

Mohammed says one of the film’s opening scenes, when Kyle spots a woman and child who appear to be preparing to attack US troops during the initial invasion of Iraq, had the entire audience on the edge of their seats.

“When the sniper was hesitating to shoot [the child holding the RPG] everyone was yelling ‘Just shoot him!’” he said.

When asked by the Global Post whether he felt the film was in any way racist or anti-Arab, as one MSNBC reporter suggested on Friday, Mohammed replied, “No, why? The sniper was killing terrorists, the only thing that bothered me was when he said he didn’t know anything about the Quran!”

Mohammed also went on to say that movies like American Sniper gave him “strength to face ISIS.”

Others, of course, did consider the film to be ‘against all Muslims,’ and Kyle, another ‘bloodthirsty’ American troop. It’s no surprise, then, that the theater ended up pulling the film a week after its release. Nevertheless, the number of supporters is noteworthy.

Even though he saw it on the big screen already, Jalal says he was hoping to bring his family back to see the movie again. Instead, they’ll just watch it at home, he says, holding up a pirated DVD in a thin plastic sleeve that he bought from a shop a few doors down. Most of his other friends have already downloaded it illegally.

Jalal says the movie doesn’t strike him as racist or anti-Arab. He says he finds the main character appealing regardless of the fact that he’s an American soldier killing Iraqis during the US-led occupation of his home country.

“He was a hero and he went through difficult training,” Jalal explained, saying Chris Kyle was just serving his country, a universal duty for all men.

And elsewhere

American Sniper has also been playing to packed houses in Iraq’s Kurdish region, right behind Taken 3, including in theaters owned by the same chain that that shied away from opening the film at all in Baghdad.

“The Kurds don’t like the Baghdadis that much so they have no big problem seeing them getting shot by an American,” said one film exec who operates theaters in Iraq. “So far, the film is working well for our screens in Kurdistan.”

The film has also been drawing big crowds in Lebanon. Edited versions have opened in several Gulf states, with cuts to a scene involving the Quran. Jordanian censors originally rejected the film outright, though distributors plan to submit a re-edited version.

Iraqi audiences are engaged in films like American Sniper because conflict plays such a big role in everyday life, Iraqi filmmaker Mohamed Al-Daradji told the Post.

“[T]hey feel part of them is there,” he said.

Cortney O'Brien - ‘Controversial’ Anti-Abortion Bill Doesn’t Need Washington
Posted: 1/31/2015 12:00:00 PM EST

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act may have been temporarily halted in Congress, but it’s full speed ahead in areas of the country where there’s less political red tape to slow it down.

The new GOP-led Congress lost the chance to move forward lifesaving legislation last week that would ban abortions after five months. A third of the country has some form of this legislation, The Washington Examiner reports. The 5-month mark is a significant one, for that is the period at which unborn babies can feel pain. It’s a scientific fact. Thankfully, ten states acknowledged this and already have legislation in place to protect unborn children after 5 months. That list can be found here. South Carolina and West Virginia introduced similar legislation this year and pro-lifers in Ohio and Wisconsin are on a mission to do the same in their respective states.

Townhall caught up with some leading conservatives at this year’s Iowa Freedom Summit and we asked them simply, “Do you think the House should pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act?” Not one of them hesitated to voice their support of the legislation. A few interviewees, such as former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, went one step further and criticized Congress’ missed opportunity, saying, “It’s incredibly disappointing that that bill was pulled off the floor. I think it was a failure of leadership, honestly.”

Other notable quotes came from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who declared, “Yes...It’s set at 20 weeks. Medicine says that a baby that is being aborted feels that pain and agonizing death" and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), an initial sponsor of the legislation, who summed up the bill's efforts, “That’s our goal, to further the cause of life.”

Former South Carolina senator and current president of The Heritage Foundation, Jim DeMint, insisted that at 5 months, “There are very few sensible Americans who think you should be able to take that child’s life.”

Polls support DeMint’s argument. An impressive 60 percent of Americans surveyed said they would favor a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. The bill, therefore, is a popular one. As The Week’s Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writes, this is not an “extreme right-wing position. It’s a political no-brainer.”

So, why the holdup in Congress? Well, it’s all thanks to a few Republicans who were concerned that the bill would be too extreme. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) were a couple of the loudest legislators to make this nonsensical argument. As a result of their grumblings, a more moderate bill to ban government funding of abortion was introduced - an important bill no doubt, but a far cry from the kind of pro-life progress the Pain-Capable Act could have made.

The time was right: The GOP had just won the November elections in a landslide, the numbers were on their side, and hundreds of thousands pro-lifers were marching for life right outside their door to somberly recognize the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Yet, Congress let the moment slip.

Leave it to the states to do the federal government’s job.

Kevin Glass - Study: Uber And Ridesharing Reduces Drunk Driving
Posted: 1/31/2015 10:38:00 AM EST
Uber - the app-based private car service - and other ridesharing operations have been in constant political struggles with incumbent taxi operators across the country and across the world. But a hidden benefit may have emerged - the prevalence of Uber might lead to decreased road fatalities, because it means fewer people are driving drunk.

As Economics 21's Jared Meyer reports:

A new report issued by Uber and Mothers Against Drunk Driving shows that booming ridesharing services are not just convenient and affordable—they are lifesavers. Opponents of ridesharing will now have a more difficult time claiming that it puts the public at risk.

Ridesharing saves lives because people use it as a designated driver (drivers who partner with the companies are held to strict zero-tolerance alcohol policies) instead of trying to drive themselves home after they have had too much to drink. As the report states, “when people have more options, they make better, safer choices.” In a survey of 807 individuals conducted by Benenson Strategy Group, 88 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “Uber has made it easier for me to avoid driving home when I’ve had too much to drink,” and 78 percent said Uber has made it less likely that their friends drive after drinking.

The survey results are supported by other data. Uber’s entry into Seattle was associated with a 10 percent decrease in drunk driving arrests. Controlling for outside factors, after uberX launched in cities across California, monthly alcohol-related crashes decreased by 6.5 percent among drivers under 30 (59 fewer crashes per month). This decline was not observed in California markets without uberX. When drunk driving decreases, it benefits everyone who shares the road.

I've written about the push for sharing economy liberalization both at the local and national level here. This is evidence that there are myriad effects of ridesharing services that people don't traditionally think about. More sharing means fewer drunk drivers - because they'll be able to hail a cab, no matter what or where they are.

Daniel Doherty - Krauthammer Op-ed: "Anti-Semitism Has Returned to Europe"
Posted: 1/31/2015 9:00:00 AM EST

The horrors of the Holocaust are hardly a distant memory; after all, the survivors present and who paid their respects this past week at Auschwitz prove it was less than a lifetime ago.

But the reprieve of open and unabashed Jew-hating following the Shoah, according to syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, has finally ended. In Europe, he argues, it is once again fashionable and socially tolerable to hate Jewish people:

Amid the ritual expressions of regret and the pledges of “never again” on Tuesday’s 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a bitter irony was noted: Anti-Semitism has returned to Europe. With a vengeance.

It has become routine. If the kosher-grocery massacre in Paris hadn’t happened in conjunction with Charlie Hebdo, how much worldwide notice would it have received? As little as did the murder of a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse. As little as did the terror attack that killed four at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.

The rise of European anti-Semitism is in reality just a return to the norm. For a millennium, virulent Jew-hatred — persecution, expulsions, massacres — was the norm in Europe until the shame of the Holocaust created a temporary anomaly wherein anti-Semitism became socially unacceptable.

The hiatus is over. Jew-hatred is back, recapitulating the past with impressive zeal. Italians protesting Gaza handed out leaflets calling for a boycott of Jewish merchants. As in the 1930s. A widely popular French comedian has introduced a variant of the Nazi salute. In Berlin, Gaza brought out a mob chanting, “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight alone!” Berlin, mind you.

Read it all here.

Anti-Semitism is a bigoted and ugly ideology that sleeps but will not be silenced. Elie Wiesel and other survivors of the death camps have tried -- in vain, it seems -- to shake the world of its apathy and amnesia. The gravest sin of all, witnesses argue, is not necessarily shying away from the suffering of the Jewish people -- but erasing it. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, built in 1993, and others like it, are important institutions because they (among other things) recover and preserve the history of this terrible period in human history.

And with the rise of anti-Semitism not only in Europe, but across the globe, this history cannot and must not be forgotten. As my colleague Cortney O’Brien wrote in the November issue of Townhall Magazine:

When it was his turn to speak, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stalked right up to the microphone at the 2012 United Nations General Assembly in New York City and proudly declared that the state of Israel should be “eliminated.” It was a sentiment common in the Arab world, common enough that Ahmadinejad knew there would be no retaliation for openly questioning and attacking Israel’s legitimacy.

Anti-Semitism, the hatred and prejudice of Jewish people, is a centuries-old evil, but it appears to be on the rise in recent years. “Death to the Jews” is being chanted in France, teenagers are threatening to slit the throats of Jewish children in Australia, rabbis are being attacked in Great Britain, and Jewish students are being ostracized and attacked even here in the United States. These are just a few incidents of anti-Jewish hatred that escalated in conjunction with the Israel and Hamas conflict this past summer, and it seems to be spreading like an infection around the globe.

It takes an enormous amount of hubris to stand on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly and call for the open destruction of the only Jewish state. It is also rather ironic. But obviously, Ahmadinejad didn't care and felt entitled to express his opinions.

Hopefully, however, anti-Semitism and its growing appeal will be critically examined and addressed when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Washington in March.

It will be a missed opportunity if he doesn't.

Christine Rousselle - Young Americans More Concerned About Vaccines Than Their Elders
Posted: 1/30/2015 8:30:00 PM EST

A new YouGov poll shows that while most Americans are in favor of requiring children to be vaccinated, a growing number of millennials (people aged 18-29) think that parents should be permitted to decide whether or not to vaccinate compared to older Americans. Fifty-seven percent of Americans surveyed believed that children should be required to be vaccinated, but only 42 percent of millennials agree. On the contrary, 73 percent of Americans aged 65 or older think that vaccinations should be required, with only 21 percent agreeing that parents should be able to decide.

Millennials were also more likely to believe that vaccinations cause autism, even though several studies have shown they do not. Andrew Wakefield, the man behind the 1998 paper that initially suggested that the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine causes autism in children, has been stripped of his medical license and is no longer referred to as a "doctor."


Vaccines have come back into the news after an outbreak of measles traced back to Disneyland has sickened nearly a hundred people in 11 states and Mexico. Measles was once considered to be eradicated in the United States, but falling vaccination rates are eroding herd immunity. The majority of the people infected with measles in this outbreak were either unvaccinated or were too young to be vaccinated.

Frankly, it's not shocking to me that millennials, a.k.a. the generation fortunate enough to not need to actually worry about catching the measles (or polio or whatever 'rubella' is) due to extensive vaccination programs rendering the threat moot, values vaccines less than older Americans who saw their friends die from the aforementioned diseases. One of my great aunts died in 1921 at the age of 13 from diphtheria. That's less than 100 years ago and about 30 years before the diphtheria vaccine was licensed in the U.S. In the grand scheme of history, that's not too long ago. Here in 2015, I had to Google what "diphtheria" even was because thanks to the miracle of vaccines, diphtheria has essentially been eradicated in the developed world. That's incredible.

The Disneyland measles outbreak should serve as a wake-up call to my generation that we are not invincible and that protection through herd immunity isn't guaranteed unless people actually get vaccinated. My generation was lucky enough to never need to worry about the measles. Let's keep it that way.

Cortney O'Brien - Pro-life Tim Tebow Super Bowl Commercial Prompted Mother to Reject Abortion
Posted: 1/30/2015 5:40:00 PM EST

Super Bowl commercials make us smile, they make us laugh, they make us cry, and, sometimes, they save lives.

Susan Wood is a young woman who was pressured by her boyfriend to have an abortion in 2010. But, thanks to a trip to her friend’s Super Bowl party and one particular commercial, she decided to choose life. Today, she has a beautiful four-year-old daughter named Avita Grace.

In a four-minute video featured online, Wood explains how a Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad saved her unborn child the night of Feb. 7, 2010. In the ad, football player Tim Tebow’s mother, Pam, explains how she rejected pressures to have an abortion and gave birth to her talented son. Wood was moved by Mrs. Tebow’s story:

“That was the night that I saw Tim Tebow’s commercial. That’s really what brought me to Focus on the Family. I went home and I watched the commercial again on YouTube. I explored the site, I watched video after video, then I emailed Focus on the Family…Then I got an email back and literally within reading that email it was almost instantly that decision, the things that she said just clicked. And I knew that all along that was what I wanted to do, that I needed to have the strength to do it. There was nothing after that, I knew I'm keeping the baby. I'm having her. ”

Today, Susan says being a single mom to Avita Grace is challenging and exhausting, but that's okay because she "would do anything for her." What a beautiful testimony.

Chilling reports have revealed that 64 percent of abortions are coerced. Whether it’s verbal and physical threats or blackmail, women with unplanned pregnancies have a host of pressures to endure – even from their own boyfriends and family members. Susan Wood and Pam Tebow showed true courage in overcoming these obstacles and choosing life. Mrs. Tebow called her son a “miracle baby” – no doubt Ms. Wood would say the same about her daughter.

It’s encouraging to know that Super Bowl commercials can be more than just Doritos and beer. One particular new ad from Pampers suggests that there will be even more joyful pro-life messages in between the tackles and touchdowns this Sunday. In the meantime, read more about Susan’s story and enjoy the ad that saved her precious little girl:

Matt Vespa - Hall Pass: Dems Force Press To Have Bathroom Buddies At Philly Retreat
Posted: 1/30/2015 4:15:00 PM EST

All I can say is that I’m thankful I’m covering the Franklin Center’s school choice conference in Alexandria, Virginia, rather than the House Democratic Retreat in Philadelphia. The press has described “police state” conditions, where Capitol Police and Democratic staffers were unusually heavy handed with reporters responsible for covering Capitol Hill. Reporters in need of the restroom facilities were escorted, and barred from entering the hotel except for the scheduled events. But, bathroom buddies for the press? (Via Politico):

Reporters are being escorted to and from the restroom and lobby and are being barred from entering the hotel outside of scheduled events, even if they've been invited by a member of Congress.

During Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks at the retreat Friday, reporters were required to have a staff member, usually a junior member of the press team, escort them when going to the bathroom or to the lobby. The filing center for reporters was at a separate hotel from where the retreat was taking place, so access was limited to members of Congress specifically made available to the press.

“It was a police state. It was absurd how heavy handed the capitol police and Democratic staff were in trying to control everywhere the press went,” New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters said in an interview.

Peters said at one point he was also barred from entering the hotel where the retreat was taking place, despite the fact he had an invitation to eat breakfast with a member of Congress.

“I was an invited guest into this hotel, into the restaurant of the hotel. The staff from the Democratic caucus refused to let me into the hotel, and the Capitol Police told me to leave, even after the congressman went to them and said 'no, he is my invited guest,'" Peters said.

Peters said he was told by a staffer they were being escorted to prevent them from talking to members of Congress.

Amy Chozick, also of The New York Times,  noted that such events always had security, but the stringent limits placed on the press were instituted when Hillary’s possible 2016 bid became a point of interest. Still, as in her case, it’s incredibly awkward that a staffer waited outside the stall as she used the bathroom.