Editor's note: I was in Israel this week on a trip sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters and hosted by Israel's Ministry of Tourism.
Israel – On Wednesday morning I walked downstairs at my hotel in Jerusalem to grab breakfast before jumping on a bus headed south to Gaza's northern border with Israel. The plans for the day had changed as a result of the ceasefire agreement falling apart late Tuesday, so we left around 8: 30. When I got to breakfast at 7:30, my Red Alert application on my cell phone had already shown dozens of rockets had been launched into Israel from Hamas overnight. In fact, one siren had gone off in Jerusalem around 10 p.m. the night before a barrage of rockets had been fired at Tel Aviv. By the time breakfast started and ended, 12 rockets had been launched. More rockets were launched that day than during anytime so far in this war.
As we headed south and down the hill away from Jerusalem, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Being on a bus when rockets are being launched is not ideal. Roadways are considered open areas and often times the Iron Dome allows rockets headed for open areas to fall and running to shelter after the bus is pulled over isn’t an option. Regardless, I needed to get down to see how Israeli’s live under constant attack from Hamas terrorists. There are plenty of reporters stationed in Gaza and the West Bank, but it’s hard to find stories about the hell Israeli civilians go through when rockets are fired hundreds of times a day. Since June, Hamas has fired more than 3500 rockets at Israel. Over the past few days since the ceasefire was broken, Hamas has fired 300 rockets into Israel, killing a child and wounding others.
After a short drive from Jerusalem, we arrived at an intelligence center, Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. Less than five minutes after getting out of the parking lot and into the building, the rocket sirens went off and we quickly moved to a shelter down stairs.
“We work here and the thing that is the most most terrifying to me is to get used to the daily shutting because I have to say my children, one of them came with me today to work and he heard the alarm and just went away to the shelter. I don’t need to say anything to him, it’s building behavior and this is the most difficult for me because to get used to terrorism, to get used to this kind of life it’s catastrophic. We can’t live this way, that’s why we come here each day. No one gets a vacation,” one woman working at the Council explained. “We have to be strong, so our army can work.”
After our briefing in Hof Ashkelon, we continued to a little agricultural community on the border with Gaza called Netiv Ha’Ashara. A man named Raz, whose family has been in this area for decades, met us.
Ten minutes into our talk with him outside in a courtyard, the rocket sirens sounded again and we ran to get into shelters. Because Netiv Ha'Ashara is right on the border with Gaza, we only had five seconds to get there. Shortly after taking cover, we heard the Iron Dome intercept a rocket nearby. When we left the shelter we saw where the interception happened in the sky as a trail of smoke from the explosion was left behind.
When it was safe to go back outside, we moved inside to a community center that is used for gatherings. Raz briefed us on the challenges of living in the area, the history, etc. and then again, we heard the sirens. We ran to a shelter attached to the room and shortly after, heard an explosion. This time it wasn’t from the Iron Dome intercepting the rocket in the sky, but from a rocket landing in a nearby house.
Raz ran out to find out what happened and to make sure nobody had been hurt.
“There was a wreck in a house. This was a house that I used to live in until four and a half weeks [ago],” he said. “I built my new house here and I rented an apartment here and the one that is bombed now is where I lived four and a half weeks [ago]. The owner of the house had a baby two and a half weeks [ago].”
Walking around the community, Raz showed us a daycare center and the bomb shelter that sits just a few feet away. Many other shelters in the area were newly delivered over the past few weeks.
Although rocket fire is a major ongoing concern, the people here have been dealing with them for 10 years. The success of the Iron Dome has saved lives and serves to combat rockets falling into communities. The biggest concern now are Hamas tunnels, which were used to kidnap three Israeli teenagers in June, sparking the conflict. Raz and dozens of fathers like him worry about terrorists using tunnels to get into their communities to kidnap their children, which is why he sleeps with weapons and military gear next to his bed. He also walks around with a pistol in his waistband. Thirty of the tunnels built by Hamas from Gaza to Israeli cities, towns and the backyards of civilians have been destroyed, but the government will not say if they have all been annihilated.
After leaving Netiv Ha'Ashar and the Gaza border we drove to Ashkelon, one of the large cities in Israel under constant rocket attack during our visit. We met with the mayor’s office and spoke to the vice mayor about life in a rapidly growing beach city. We also heard from two teenagers living and studying there.
“I want you to know it’s a very hard experience to live like this,” student and head of the Ashkelon Youth Council Yuvall Sadon said. “We try to do our best. We try to give all the children living in Ashkelon spirit and a sense of a little bit of fun and normalcy."
Sadon works to help get children into shelters when rockets fly into Ashkelon.
“As the head of the Youth Council in Ashkelon, what we did is we opened more than 100 shelters,” she said. “We help to guide little children in the shelter and every evening we try to do something for the youth because it’s summer, it’s our vacation and they took the freedom from us because we always have to be thirty seconds away from a shelter. It’s not normal, it’s not a game so we try to stay normal and we want peace and we things normalized. We don’t want war and we don’t want rockets. We’re sick and tired of this.”
Two hundred and seventy two Schools are supposed to open in seven days with 27,000 students in the city but that opening may be delayed due to continuing rocket fire.
Israel’s Iron Dome system is a miracle and although it stops people from being killed, it cannot stop the mental trauma and daily disruptions of living life Hamas wreaks on Israeli civilians. Not to mention the toll terror takes on the tourism industry and ultimately the economy. Regardless, life goes on.
“We go to PTA meetings, we go to shops, when we get old enough if we’re lucky we can play with our grandchildren,” our guide Amir Orly said. “For us Israel is home.”
This isn't necessarily "news," per se, but it's confirmation from a respected nonpartisan source. The 'Taliban Five' for Bergdahl trade, sans mandatory Congressional notification, was not legal. But the Obama White House executed it anyway, over the objections of the intelligence community:
President Obama's decision to exchange captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Guantanamo Bay detainees violated federal law, according to a legal opinion the Government Accountability Office sent to Congress Thursday. That's because the administration failed to notify Congress at least 30 days before the transfer, as required under a law passed in February. The Pentagon notified Congress of the deal on May 31, the same day the transfer was made. And because Congress did not authorize spending for the exchange, it also violated the Antideficiency Act, a law intended to protect Congress's power of the purse. The Department of Defense spent $988,400 on the transfer, the Pentagon told the GAO. An intentional violation of the Antideficiency Act is a crime punishable by up to two years in prison, but those criminal penalties are rarely enforced.
Partisan hackery is expected from hacks, but a number of self-respecting Democrats raised concerns about the swap at the time. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California raised hackles about being kept in the dark by the executive branch, in contravention of the law. The White House's excuse -- at least for awhile -- was that they had to act quickly with no leaks, or else the terrorists were going to kill Bergdahl. This complicated their concurrent narrative that the arrangement was a normal "prisoner exchange," with plenty of precedent in US history. Feinstein shot back that she'd seen no evidence to back up the administration's "they were going to kill him!" excuse. Others also noted that she and her Republican colleague kept extremely sensitive Bin Laden raid details under wraps for months. The Obama White House broke the law, then served up contradictory excuses for doing so. In the end, not only did we effectively negotiate with terrorists to secure the release of an American soldier held hostage (setting aside Bergdahl's record of, um, "honor and distinction"), we released five high-ranking, extremely dangerous Taliban commanders (who are vowing to resume jihad) as our end of the "deal." And how's this for timing?
In an interview with the BBC, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond acknowledged that the apparent executioner spoke with a British accent and said the video seemed to be genuine. Hundreds of Britons are believed to have traveled to Syria to fight in the country’s civil war, including many who have joined the Islamic State...A European intelligence official said the British government was examining the video, and the speech of the purported executioner, to compare it with former Guantanamo Bay prisoners and other British residents believed to have joined the Islamic State. Both prisoners in the video are wearing orange shirts and pants, similar to orange jumpsuits worn by detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Western intelligence services are exploring the possibility that ex-Gitmo detainees (the supposedly "lower threat" ones, released prior to the 'Taliban Five') may hold leadership positions within the death cult that's marauding through vast swaths of Iraqi and Syrian territory. A former Guantanamo inmate was also implicated in the deadly 9/11/12 attack on the US compound in Benghazi, too. It's almost as if a lot of these guys really were bloodthirsty Islamist radicals, not innocent victims of US overreach, after all. That's why Congress has repeatedly refused to provide the funds to close the Gitmo detainment center, and why they passed a law that requires the White House to provide ample warning prior to releasing any further inmates. The Obama administration ignored that law, and spent a lot of taxpayer money to complete the illegal transaction. The broke the law knowingly, by their own admission, and in spite of what they knew to be the clear will of Congress. Democrats have decried House Republicans' lawsuit against the White House's flagrant lawlessness on Obamacare, but what other recourse does Congress have to rein in an administration that ignores provisions of laws deemed inconvenient? I know what Democratic campaign committees' answer would be, if only to touch off another round of fake hysteria, designed to extract additional millions from their gullible, paranoid base.
Down syndrome is a condition in which a baby is born with an extra chromosome. Those diagnosed with the syndrome experience mental disability and a plethora of physical challenges. But, is that really justification for abortion? Ethologist Richard Dawkins thinks so. When a Twitter user asked his opinion on whether she should abort a child after learning he or she would have Down syndrome, he was harshly straightforward:
@InYourFaceNYer Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 20, 2014
Because of the criticism he received as a result of the tweet, he wrote a response on his website, richarddawkins.net. He apologized not for the content of his tweet, but for the “feeding frenzy” it prompted, blaming the backlash on the fact that Twitter limited his response to 140 characters. So, he took the opportunity to offer a more in depth answer:
“Obviously the choice would be yours. For what it’s worth, my own choice would be to abort the Down fetus and, assuming you want a baby at all, try again. Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort. And, indeed, that is what the great majority of women, in America and especially in Europe, actually do. I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare. I agree that that personal opinion is contentious and needs to be argued further, possibly to be withdrawn. In any case, you would probably be condemning yourself as a mother (or yourselves as a couple) to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child. Your child would probably have a short life expectancy but, if she did outlive you, you would have the worry of who would care for her after you are gone. No wonder most people choose abortion when offered the choice. Having said that, the choice would be entirely yours and I would never dream of trying to impose my views on you or anyone else.”
His expanded explanation may have been more elaborate, but it’s no less rational. One’s quality of life should not determine whether that person lives or dies, for every life has a purpose. In 140 characters, Dawkins was simply summing up his tragic point: a life with Down syndrome is not a life worth living. I would challenge Dawkins to consider this statistic: 99 percent of those with the condition report being happy with their lives.
But, he tweeted this defensive follow up trying to justify that other numbers are on his side:
In point of fact, a majority of Down Syndrome fetuses in Europe and USA are aborted. What I recommended is not outlandish but the norm.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 20, 2014
Again, it may be the “norm,” but that doesn’t make it morally right. Sadly, 90 percent of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Why should this be the case? Shouldn’t we be encouraging mothers that yes, their child will have obstacles, but they are strong enough to overcome them? Won’t that mother’s love for her child ultimately trump the challenges that will arise from his or her physical setbacks?
Dawkins didn’t offer any of these considerations and was unapologetic about his first argument:
To conclude, what I was saying simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most us, I presume, espouse. My phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding, but I can’t help feeling that at least half the problem lies in a wanton eagerness to misunderstand.
One mother who gave birth to a child with Down syndrome isn’t letting Dawkins get away with his insensitive comments. Former Governor Sarah Palin had this to say:
“I’d let you meet my son if you promised to open your mind, your eyes, and your heart to a unique kind of absolute beauty,” Palin wrote.
“But, in my request for you to be tolerant, I’d have to warn Trig he must be tolerant, too, because he may superficially look at you as kind of awkward. I’ll make sure he’s polite, though!”
For the owner of Bailey's Pizza in the small town of Searcy, Arkansas, keeping the Scripture and the sausage separate is something he believes he should not have to do.
As a new business that opened less than two months ago, owner Steven Rose started to offer a discount for those who bring in their church bulletin. When the Freedom From Religion Foundation got word of this small, 10% discount, they sent a letter demanding he stop honoring the reduction saying it violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Rose, a Christian who is actively involved in his local church, told KTHV that a wall inside the store reads, "God is the center of our lives, so our scripture wall is the center of Bailey's Pizza."
Rose told Fox News:
“I’m just selling pizzas, I love my Lord and you see it expressed all over my building – but I’m just selling pizzas. To me, if making a pepperoni pizza furthers the Kingdom – well I’m excited about that."
When a North Carolina restaurant started offering a discount for those who pray before their meal, the FFRF did the same thing and got their way.
“We are no longer issuing the 15% praying in public discount,” read a sign posted at the Mary’s Gourmet Diner. “It is illegal and we are being threatened by lawsuit. We apologize to our community for any offense this discount has incurred.”
Rose told TheBlaze.com that he does not plan on getting rid of the price cut for church-goers. Conservative legal firms have volunteered to represent Bailey's Pizza in the event the FFRF takes legal action over a discount that is a mere ten cents on the dollar.
There is, as Real Clear Politics’ Sean Trende has argued, a distinct correlation between the president's job approval rating and how his caucus performs down-ballot every election cycle. And President Obama’s sinking numbers seem to be immensely benefiting none other than New Hampshire U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown -- a GOP hopeful many pollsters believed had little chance of winning just a few weeks ago.
In July, according to a WMUR Granite State poll, incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) was crushing her presumptive GOP opponent by a dozen percentage points -- 50 percent to 38 percent, respectively. Now, however, the same in-state survey shows the race is very much in play:
Last month, Brown trailed Shaheen in the WMUR Granite State Poll by 12 points. The new poll shows Shaheen leading brown by 2 points, 46 percent to 44 percent.
"I feel very good because when I'm going out and about into people's businesses, holding town halls -- town halls are an important thing -- and conveying my thoughts about being an independent voice for New Hampshire, it's resonating," Brown said.
"This will go down as one of the most important days of this New Hampshire U.S. Senate contest," said James Pindell of WMUR Political Scoop. "For much of the year, this race appeared to be slipping away from Scott Brown, but now he's back and within the margin of error."
Some pollsters argue Brown’s newfound popularity is inversely proportional to the president's sliding approval ratings, which currently sit at 38 percent in New Hampshire. The candidate himself, however, disagrees. Instead, he thinks it has more do with how hard he’s working, and his willingness to hold town halls all over the state:
Either way, Mitt Romney's endorsement last month only bolstered his cause. After all, the former Massachusetts governor is fairly popular in New Hampshire and won the first-in-the-nation Republican presidential primary in 2012. And although Brown isn’t the GOP nominee yet, he is showing signs of improvement.
Still, we probably shouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves:
There is still plenty of room for movement, as the poll shows that 60 percent of voters have not definitively settled on a candidate.
Lots of undecideds out there, in other words. So keep that in mind
For what it’s worth, Republicans need to net-gain six Senate seats to wrestle majority-control of the upper chamber from Democrats.
President Obama may be in denial over the serious threat the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) poses to the U.S., but senior military officials are not.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel described IS as an “imminent threat to every interest that we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else.”
He was also asked directly about the threat posed to the United States and if it's comparable to 9/11.
The Islamic State is “as sophisticated and well-funded as any group we have seen,” he replied. "They are beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of ... military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded. This is beyond anything we've seen."
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Islamic State has an “apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision” and “will eventually have to be defeated.”
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said officials were worried about the possibility that European or U.S. nationals, radicalized after fighting in Iraq or Syria, would return to their home countries.
Dempsey suggested Islamic State would remain a danger until it could no longer count on safe havens in areas of Syria under militant control. [...]
"To your question, can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria? The answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a non-existent border."
It was only in January that President Obama described the group as “jayvee.”
I wrote a post about the Islamic State’s now-deceased press officer two weeks ago; he was a central figure in part 1 of Vice News’ multi-part documentary profiling the terrorist
army organization and their warped ideology. You’ll recall he gracelessly insulted our men and women in uniform and vowed to "raise the flag of Allah” inside the White House.
Thankfully, that'll never happen. Why? Because he's already met his maker (via Noah Rothman):
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) put it rather well this week when describing the rabidity of death-loving fanatics like the late Abu Mosa: “ISIL cannot be reasoned with, they can’t be negotiated with, and their view of the world is irreconcilable with civilized society.”
I don’t disagree. Therefore, the more Abu Mosas we send to an early grave, the better.
Members of the National Religious Broadcasters have landed back in the United States after concluding a four-day Christians in solidarity trip to Israel this week.
“Our purpose was two fold. One, to show the people of Israel we support them in a time of crisis because Hamas is attacking them and this isn’t a time for neutrality. Hamas is a terrorist organization, we saw that, that they were using terror and the Israelis are trying to protect innocent civilians. It was good for us to see that and just show solidarity with those who were under attack,” NRB President Dr. Jerry Johnson said at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv before boarding his flight back to the United States early Friday morning. “And then also with the tourism industry just to say you know, 'We think other Americans should come, other Americans should get flights and hotels, go to the restaurants. It’s a time to support the economy and the life, the nation of Israel.'"
Johnson brought 10 Christian broadcasters on behalf of the NRB to Israel who have a combined listening audience of 60 million people per day through religious radio and television programs. He put the trip together specifically because Israel is under attack from Hamas and to combat rising anti-Semitism not just in the United States, but also around the world. Participants included President of AnGeL Ministries and daughter of Billy Graham Anne Graham Lotz, President of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins, President & CEO of the Total Living Network Jerry Rose, Evangelical Action Director at The Institute on Religion & Democracy Chelsen Vicari, Co-Founder of Precept Ministries Kay Arthur and others.
NRB board member and President of Son Broadcasting Annette Garcia, who visits Israel often, also stressed how now is an important time to visit the Jewish country.
Editor's note: I was in Israel this week on a trip sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters and hosted by Israel's Ministry of Tourism.
Are we seriously going back to this drivel? Although, it’s not a national campaign, John Foust, the Democratic candidate in Virginia’s 10th congressional district, recently slammed his Republican opponent, Delegate Barbara Comstock, for not holding a “real job.” Yeah, this lunacy is back (via Ashburn Rising) [emphasis mine]:
While earlier this week in Ashburn, Comstock left much of the harsh rhetoric to her supporters, Foust took the reins of criticism in his own hands during a stop at his new campaign office in Leesburg.
On creating jobs, Foust said, “In her mind that means giving tax benefits to special interests and the super wealthy. I don’t think she’s even had a real job.
Back in 2012, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen ignited a firestorm when she said that Ann Romney hadn’t worked a day in her life. Pretty much everyone distanced themselves from her comments and called them inappropriate, including President Obama; Rosin later apologized on CNN.
Yet, while being a stay-at-home mom is hard work, Comstock has conquered on both fronts. She’s the mother of three children and was an aide to retiring Rep. Frank Wolf. She later became chief counsel for the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.
And, that is why her candidacy possibly reignited the “Clinton Wars.” Foust’s supporters are probably ignorant of the fact that Comstock was the point of the lance, alongside the late Barbara Olson, in digging up information about the alleged shady dealings within the Clinton administration. As a result, the Clinton White House named them the “Barbarellas” (via Politico):
Comstock’s history with the Clintons dates back to 1993. At the time, she was working as an aide to GOP Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia when some of his constituents lost their jobs in the White House travel office. Wolf tasked Comstock with finding out why the firings happened and whether the Clintons were trying to make room in the office for their personal allies.
Republicans won the House majority in 1994, and Comstock became the chief counsel on the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.
Comstock’s legal training prepared her to burrow through mounds of government documents, spotting patterns in discrete facts that eluded others. She deposed countless high-level White House officials and allies, including John Podesta and George Stephanopoulos. When Democratic fundraiser Johnny Chung appeared before the committee in 1999, Comstock did the grilling.
The other trait Comstock’s admirers and critics consistently point to: a work ethic bordering on compulsive.
“Late night calls from Barbara Comstock were not unusual,” David Brock, the onetime conservative opposition researcher and Comstock confidant, wrote in his 2002 book, “Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative.” “She often telephoned with the latest tidbit she had dug up in the thousands and thousands of pages of administration records she pored through frantically, as if she were looking for a winning lottery ticket she had somehow mislaid.”
The late Barbara Olson, Comstock’s co-investigator on the committee, wrote in her own book that the two took extraordinary measures to prevent Clinton backers from sabotaging their work.
“We changed our locks; not even the cleaning crews had access to our tiny room,” Olson wrote in “Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton,” published in 1999. “I generally arrived at 6:30 a.m. and tried to leave for home before 8:00 p.m. My colleague Barbara Comstock continued the vigil and wouldn’t leave until 4:00 a.m.”
Foust is quoted in the piece saying he was unaware of the dynamics of the “Clinton Wars” since he was busy getting his law firm off the ground and raising his family. Nevertheless, the Clinton crew is fearful of Comstock returning to Congress and getting back on the “warpath,” especially with the Benghazi investigation still ongoing.
In the meantime, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright is hosting fundraisers for Foust and Jamie Gorelick, who served as Clinton’s deputy attorney general, gave him a $1,000 donation. She responded to many of Comstock’s subpoenas, according to Politico.
It looks like the Clinton people are out for a little revenge.
"No excuses. Do what it takes to get the job done." That's the Alaskan way of life, according to Steve Perrins, owner of Rainy Pass Lodge, the oldest hunting lodge in the state. One person who doesn't seem to share this mentality, however, is Senator Mark Begich (D-AK). In a new Americans for Prosperity ad, Perrins questions Begich's absenteeism in the nation's capital:
"I think our state is a little ticked off that our senator, Mark Begich, is not showing up for his job."
Alaskans are being kind on the senator. Last year, Begich missed more votes than 80 percent of all senators.
AFP President Tim Phillips commented on the senator's disappearing act:
"When it comes to critical issues facing Alaskans, Mark Begich seems to have more important things to do than fight for them in the United States Senate. Missed votes means the voices of Alaskans are marginalized and unheard. With one of the worst voting records in the Senate, Begich has failed to represent Alaskans on important issues like government spending, energy regulations and agricultural policy. Unfortunately, Mark Begich just hasn't been showing up for work."
How long, really, does it take to give a 'yea' or 'nay'? Representing his constituents in Congress certainly doesn't appear to be too high on Begich's agenda.
Perrins asked the important question:
"How can we count on Mark Begich to fight for Alaskans when he won't show up to work in Washington, DC?"
Most people who don't show up to work lose their jobs. Alaskans, therefore, have more than a right to fire Begich.
Watch the entirety of the effective ad here:
As the world burns: Obama’s “stupid stuff” foreign policy and its disastrous effects | Gayle Trotter