|7:07 AM, Mar 6, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
The semi-annual report on "Re-engagement of Detainees Formerly Held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba" was released on Wednesday by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Out of a total of 614 former prisoners (up from 603 six months ago), intelligence has confirmed that 104 (up from 100) have re-engaged in terrorism/insurgent activities while another 74 are suspected of doing so. The latest report nudged the recidivism rate up to an even 29 percent from 28.9 percent last September.
The report provides a chart breaking down the statistics into a number of categories:
If there is good news to be found in the report, it is that 3 of the 4 detainees confirmed to have reengaged are now deceased. Only one of the newly confirmed relapsed terrorist is still at large, joining the 56 other previously confirmed and 48 other suspected of reengaging presently not in custody.
One of President Obama's first acts in office was to sign an executive order to close the facility at Guantanamo. In his State of the Union Address this January, the president briefly expressed his desire once again to see the facility closed, laying the responsibility on Congress to act. Jay Carney was recently asked about a news report of a former detainee arrested in Britain suspected of terror activity in Syria, but Carney said he had not seen the report:
Q A former Guantanamo detainee has been arrested in Britain on suspicion of terror offenses in Syria. When you see these incidences pop up does it give the White House any pause on a policy for closing Guantanamo?
MR. CARNEY: I haven't seen that specific report. What I can tell you is that there is a thorough review process on every individual, every detainee who’s being considered for transfer that takes all of these issues into account.
5:23 PM, Mar 5, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
A French-built warship is on its way to Russia where it will undergo sea trials before joining the Russian fleet and, who knows, perhaps see service in the Black Sea. As the AP reports:
A French-built warship designed to strengthen Russia’s ability to deploy troops, tanks and helicopter gunships is getting its first test run Wednesday — just as Western powers are trying to rein in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military threat to Ukraine.
A spokesman for the shipbuilder says the Vladivostok helicopter carrier is setting sail from the French Atlantic port of Saint-Nazaire. A few hundred kilometers away in Paris, France’s government is hosting American, Russian and other leading world diplomats Wednesday amid mounting tensions over Ukraine.
Recalling Lenin’s line about capitalists, rope, and hangings. Except the French aren’t capitalists.
(Maybe.)5:17 PM, Mar 5, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
The Department of Health and Human Services announced this afternoon that health insurance plans that are supposed to be canceled by Obamacare may be sold through October of 2017 in states that approve of the extension. CNBC reports:
The federal government in late 2013, in the midst of the troubled launch of Obamacare, said that people who had bought non-compliant plans in 2013 would be able to keep them through 2014.
At the time, about half of the states allowed their residents to keep non-compliant plans, which the administration had earlier blasted as "junk insurance."
That tamped down, somewhat, outrage among critics who claimed President Barack Obama had lied while promoting his signature health-care reform law, when he had told people they could keep their insurance plans if they wanted under the ACA.
Under the new rule, people who maintain those plans, and who renew them as late as Oct. 1, 2016, will be able to keep them until as late as 2017.
Statutory language in the Affordable Care Act requires the cancellation of all individual health insurance policies issued after the law was passed on March 23, 2010, and further administrative regulations require the cancellation of plans that existed before March 23, 2010 if minor changes had been made to them.
As millions of cancellation notices began piling up this fall--and outrage grew over the president's broken promise that Americans could keep their plans--the administration flouted its regulations and the text of the law to give insurers and states the option to sell plans they were supposed to cancel.
Health industry consultant Bob Laszewski told THE WEEKLY STANDARD at the time that millions of more cancellation notices were expected to arrive right before the 2014 mid-term elections. Today's announcement is designed to avert that crisis and help Democrats make it through November.
4:36 PM, Mar 5, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
In a surprising move, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected President Obama's nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division on a 52-47 vote today.
The nominee, Debo Adegbile, had stirred up a lot of controversy because during his tenure as president of the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, NAACP lawyers portrayed convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal as the victim of racial injustice. So it's not shocking that enough Democrats joined Republicans to kill Adegbile's nomination today. But what has left Senate insiders scratching their heads is Harry Reid's decision to bring the nomination to the floor when he didn't have the votes to confirm Adegbile.
"The most plausible explanation I've heard is that Reid is either incompetent, indifferent, or both," a Senate GOP aide tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD. "He was probably under a lot of pressure from certain left-wing groups to have the vote, and decided he'd make it somebody else's problem, meaning the rest of his conference. The fact that they called Biden over at the last minute shows they didn't know if they had the votes as of this afternoon. If I'm a Democrat senator, I'm furious at Reid for having to take this vote."
The list of Democrats up for reelection in 2014 who voted for Adegbile includes Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Warner of Virginia, Mark Udall of Colorado, Al Franken of Minnesota, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. Why Reid forced them to cast a controversial vote for a failed nominee is anyone's guess.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:10 PM, Mar 5, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast, with senior writer Stephen F. Hayes on the IRS Scandal, Lois Lerner, and why the press won't get serious about it.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
What did the president eat and when did he eat it?3:34 PM, Mar 5, 2014 • By VICTORINO MATUS
Yet another damning revelation about the Clintons: Daughter Chelsea preferred imitation maple syrup over the real thing. In Dining at the White House, former presidential chef John Moeller recalls his urging another cook to give the first daughter what she wants, even if it seems just plain wrong.
As Tim Carman recently wrote in the Washington Post,
Moeller likes to share an anecdote to explain why a White House chef needs to be ego-free. The Clintons, Moeller remembers, had just hired a new cook, and he was eager to impress. Chelsea Clinton wanted pancakes for breakfast. The newbie noticed real maple syrup in the refrigerator and was about to grab it. Moeller told him to forget it: Chelsea liked the imitation bottled syrup.
“And he fought me about it,” Moeller recalls. “I said, ‘Okay, fine. Put it up there.’ It went up, and it came back two minutes later. . . . I said, ‘You know and I know [real maple syrup] might be the better-quality thing. That is maybe something we do on the outside for people, but we’re in a home. This is what she wants. We’re going to give them what they want.’ ”
Moeller also knew not to serve the first President Bush broccoli, though the chef did push the envelope. As Carman notes,
Moeller also knew that the elder Bush was a well-traveled man who knew a lot about cuisine. So one evening, Moeller decided to take a risk. He prepared the president an Asian-flavored meal: miso soup, California rolls, salmon teriyaki and other dishes. He even had White House carpenters build geta serving boards for a Japanese-style presentation.
“Afterwards, the president came back, and he shook my hand,” Moeller remembers. “He goes, ‘John, in the four years that I’ve been here, I’ve never had a meal like that. Thanks a lot. That was fun.’”
Perhaps most important, Chef Moeller finally solves the mystery of what kind of pretzel was temporarily lodged in George W. Bush's throat. It came from the Hammond Pretzel Bakery in Lancaster, Pa. When the incident occurred in early 2002, I speculated on the possibility it was a Rold Gold. (The folks at Snyder's reassured me it was not one of theirs.)
3:10 PM, Mar 5, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Earlier this morning Israeli commandos boarded an Iranian vessel in the Red Sea carrying an arms shipment destined for Gaza and the Sinai. According to Reuters, the Panamanian-flagged cargo vessel Klos C was boarded in international waters without resistance from its 17-strong crew, who may have been unaware of the cargo they were carrying. Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner told reporters that the ship was carrying dozens of M302 rockets. "The M302 in its most advanced model,” said Lerner, “can strike over 100 miles, and if they would have reached Gaza, ultimately that would have meant millions of Israelis under threat.”
Those weapons may have been meant to target Egyptians as well as Israelis. Egypt’s military-backed government is effectively at war with both Sinai-based and Gaza-based Islamist organizations, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Hamas, say Egyptian security officials, is backing the Sinai-based groups in their attacks on Egyptian soldiers and policemen. And accordingly Egyptian security officials explain that now they have their own Muslim Brotherhood under control after deposing President Mohamed Morsi, they will turn their attention to Gaza and Sinai. However, the IDF raid this morning shows that this is likely more empty boast than reality.
An IDF map and video posted at TheTower.org show the route that the weapons took: they were shipped from Damascus International Airport several months ago to Tehran, where they were dispatched to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, the typical starting point for Iran’s Red Sea smuggling route. Here the weapons were loaded on to the Klos C, which embarked on its long trip with Port Sudan as its final destination. Here the weapons are typically assembled by Iranian technicians and, as The Weekly Standard has previously reported, are transported by Sudanese smugglers “across the Nubian Desert to the Egyptian border, all the way through Egypt’s Eastern Desert along the Red Sea, and through the Suez Canal deep into the Sinai Peninsula” where they are transferred through tunnels into Hamas’s hands in Gaza.
That is to say, even if Egyptian strongman General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is eager to go after Hamas and assorted militants in the Sinai peninsula, his military and security forces are incapable of stopping these weapons shipments from traversing the entirety of Egypt, from its southern border to its northern one. The IDF knows that Egypt is incapable and incompetent, which is why it interdicted the weapons at sea instead of leaving the security of Israeli citizens in Sisi’s hands.
1:28 PM, Mar 5, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
When you spend in the trillions and run deficits in the (many) billions, then you look for the millions where you can find them.
So, the president’s budget does some “revenue enhancement” by raising the fee hunters pay for the federal duck stamp they must purchase if they intend to go after migratory waterfowl. As Charlie Spiering at the Washington Examiner writes:
President Obama's budget released Tuesday would hike duck stamp fees by $140 million over the next decade … the proposal seeks to raise an additional $14 million a year from hunters. The White House Office of Management and Budget projected that this would raise $140 million from 2015 to 2024.
A trifling figure, of course. But when you are scratching around for every spare million, then, as the old country wisdom has it,
“You hunt where the ducks are.”
12:06 PM, Mar 5, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell opposes the nomination of Debo Adegbile as assistant attorney general.
“The Department of Justice in this Administration has too often put politics ahead of the law. The record of the nominee before us to head the Civil Rights Division strongly indicates that if he were confirmed, the politicization of the Justice Department would increase further. He has a long record of left-wing advocacy, marked by ideologically-driven positions and poor judgment," said McConnell on the Senate floor.
“In District of Columbia v. Heller, he argued in the Supreme Court that it would be ‘radical’ to recognize ‘an individual right to keep and bear arms.’ In fact, before the Supreme Court, he repeatedly described the principle of individual liberty protected by the Second Amendment as a ‘radical’ proposition. It was the position advocated by the nominee, however, that the Supreme Court ruled was woefully at odds with the Constitution and individual liberty.
“He also called the requirement to present identification before voting a ‘modern poll tax.’ Americans strongly support this basic safeguard for the integrity of our elections, and it has been endorsed by liberal Democrats such as President Carter. Not surprisingly, in Crawford v. Marion County, the Supreme Court rejected the nominee’s views on this subject as well.
“And in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, he took the position in the Supreme Court that a church did not have the First Amendment right to hire or fire individuals who were responsible for conveying the church’s message and implementing its mission. The position the nominee advocated would greatly infringe on the Free Exercise rights of religious institutions. The Supreme Court rejected his views there, too—this time unanimously, 9-0.
“But it is his advocacy on behalf of the nation’s most-notorious cop-killer that most calls into question his fitness for the powerful government position he seeks.
“In December of 1981, twenty-five year old Officer Daniel Faulkner was conducting a routine traffic stop when Wesley Cook—also known as, Mumia Abu-Jamal—shot him in the back. He then stood over Officer Faulkner and shot him several more times in the chest. As Officer Faulkner lay dying in the street, defenseless, Abu-Jamal shot him in the face, killing him. At the hospital, Abu-Jamal bragged that he had shot Officer Faulkner and expressed his hope that he would die.
“At trial, he was remorseless. He turned the trial into political theater, interrupting the proceedings, insulting the judge, and even smirking at Officer Faulkner’s widow when his blood-stained shirt was held up in court as evidence.
“Four eyewitnesses saw Abu-Jamal gun down Officer Faulkner. Three more witnesses at the hospital heard him confess to the crime. Ballistics evidence proved that Officer Faulkner had been shot with a handgun that was registered to Abu-Jamal, which was found at the scene of the murder, along with shell casings.
“Based on overwhelming evidence, Abu-Jamal was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. What followed was a thirty year effort by the far-left to glorify Abu-Jamal and to exonerate him. This effort was taken up by law professors, left-wing activists, and in 2009, by the organization which the nominee before us led for several years, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
11:35 AM, Mar 5, 2014 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
"Bitcoin" is the most widespread, cryptographically-secure Internet currency. It was created in 2009 by someone (or someones) who referred to themselves as "Satoshi Nakamoto." Once it was released into the wild, the bitcoin currency ecosystem operated on a public, inalterable schedule. We know exactly how many bitcoins there are in existence today (12,446,725) and how many there will eventually be in total: when the 21 millionth bitcoin is minted, the plates automatically self-destruct. (This is a metaphor, of course. There are no minting “plates,” and nothing’s going to actually explode.) If you want to read the whole Wikipedia entry on bitcoin, have at it.
The genius of bitcoins is that they’re completely untraceable. Cash-money is anonymous and liquid, but even it has limitations—it must be used in face-to-face encounters; dollars have serial numbers on them, and if The Dark Knight is any guide, paper notes can be surreptitiously marked in many ways. But if cash is liquid, bitcoin is totally frictionless. As such, it is the first piece of computer technology to pose a fundamental challenge to the nation-state. That’s because the minting of legal tender is one of the base functions of government. And the person (or persons) who created bitcoin did so with the explicit goal of undermining the idea of sovereign governments.
For a while, a lot of people believed the gambit might work. Relatively speaking, there are very few places where you can use bitcoin as tender. But over the last year the value of bitcoins went on an extreme increase. In 2012, a bitcoin sold for about $10 USD. In January of 2013, the exchange rate began increasing, shooting up to $40. By December of 2013, a single bitcoin was selling for just over $1,100. You read that right.
The bubble eventually popped and before last week the value of a bitcoin had collapsed to "only" about $600.
But bitcoin's problems are much more serious than a mere speculative bubble.
As of last week, bitcoin is probably functionally finished as a serious hope of ever achieving mass acceptance as a currency.
Because last week, someone stole half a billion dollars worth of bitcoins from Mt. Gox, the world’s oldest bitcoin exchange.
So here's what happened to bitcoin last week:
In order to buy bitcoins, you have to go to a bitcoin exchange—a place where you wire in funds from traditional currencies and they dispense bitcoins in return. It's kind of like a bank. The largest and oldest of these exchanges was a Japanese company called Mt. Gox. Please note the verb tense.
11:01 AM, Mar 5, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
In an interview with NBC News, Democratic senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas accuses his Republican opponent, 36-year-old congressman Tom Cotton, of feeling entitled to a seat in the Senate because he served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan:
"There's a lot of people in the Senate that didn't serve in the military," Pryor told NBC News. "Obviously in the Senate we have all types of different people, all kinds of different folks that have come from all types of different backgrounds—and I think that's part of that sense of entitlement that he gives off is that, almost like, I served my country, let me into the Senate. But that's not how it works in Arkansas."
What makes the charge of entitlement both tone-deaf and hypocritical is that Pryor, the son of former governor and senator David Pryor, spent only a few years working as a lawyer before beginning a life-long career in politics.
10:46 AM, Mar 5, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Darrell Issa asked Lois Lerner a serier of devastating questions about her involvment in the IRS's targeting of conservatives.
[Slide 1] In October 2010, you told a Duke University group: “The Supreme Court dealt a huge blow, overturning a 100-year-old precedent that basically corporations couldn’t give directly to political campaigns. And everyone is up in arms because they don’t like it. The Federal Election Commission can’t do anything about it. They want the IRS to fix the problem.”
• Who exactly wanted you to “fix the problem” caused by Citizens United?
[Slide 2] In February 2011, you e-mailed your colleagues in the IRS: “Tea Party Matter very dangerous. This could be the vehicle to go to court on the issue of whether Citizens United overturning the ban on corporate spending applies to tax-exempt rules. Counsel and Judy Kindell need to be in on this one please. Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.”
• Why did you think the Tea Party cases were “very dangerous”?
[Slide 3] In September 2010, you e-mailed your subordinates about initiating a “c4 project,” but wrote: “we need to be cautious so it isn’t a per se political project.”
• Why were you worried about this being perceived as a political project?
[Slide 4] Michael Seto, manager of EO Technical in Washington, testified that you ordered Tea Party cases to undergo a “multi-tier review.” He testified: “She sent me email saying that when these cases need to go through multi-tier review and they will eventually have to go to Miss Kindell and the chief counsel’s office.”
• Why did you order the Tea Party cases to undergo a “multi-tier review”?
[Slide 5] In June 2011, you requested that Holly Paz obtain a copy of the tax-exempt application filed by Crossroads GPS so that your senior technical advisor, Judy Kindell, could review it and summarize the issues for you.
• Why did you want to have the Crossroads GPS application?
[Slide 6] In June 2012, you were part of an e-mail exchange that appeared to be about writing new regulations on political speech for 501(c)(4) groups “off-plan” in 2013.
• What does “off-plan” mean?
[Slide 7] In February 2014, President Obama stated that there was not a “smidgeon of corruption” in the IRS targeting.
• Ms. Lerner, do you believe that there is not a smidgeon of corruption in the IRS targeting of conservatives? [Slide 8] On Saturday, our Committee’s General Counsel sent an e-mail to your lawyer stating:
“I understand … that Ms. Lerner is willing [to] testify, and she is requesting a one week delay. In talking to the Chairman, wanted to make sure we had this right.”
Your lawyer gave a one word e-mail response: “yes.”
Are you still seeking this discussed delay?
Lerner refused to answer the questions. And instead invoked the 5th Amendment.
9:20 AM, Mar 5, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Mike Lee, perhaps the United States Senate’s leading voice for a conservative reform agenda, has now endorsed Ben Sasse in Nebraska’s Senate race. Lee declared, “Nebraskans need Ben Sasse to represent their values, reformers in the Senate need his conservative vote, our country needs his voice.” Lee added that Sasse is “a strong constitutional conservative who understands the proper role of government” and who “also recognizes that we must run and win on the power of our positive ideas.”
Sasse, a fifth-generation Nebraskan and one of the nation’s youngest college presidents (of Midland University), has made his opposition to Obamacare the centerpiece of his campaign. He has been highly critical of President Obama’s lawless refusal to executive Obamacare as written, in plain violation of the constitutional separation of powers. And he has expressed his opposition not only to Obamacare but also to the entire Obamacare worldview:
“I am opposed to Obamacare not just because it was passed by a dishonest legislative gimmick; not just because it puts bureaucrats between patients and doctors; not just because it infringes on religious liberty and forces people of conscience to pay for abortion; not just because its information technology systems won’t work, and will likely lead to massive data leaks of Americans’ confidential financial and health data; and not just because its budget projections were built on Ponzi schemes, and because its actual costs will dwarf all estimates from the time of its legislative debate….
“I am also against it for a much more basic reason: I oppose Obamacare because I reject the worldview underlying it.”
Sasse has also been endorsed by Paul Ryan, Tom Coburn, the Senate Conservatives Fund, the Club for Growth, the Family Research Council, and Gun Owners of America.
9:09 AM, Mar 5, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Private sector employment Increased by 139,000 jobs in February as reported by ADP (Automatic Data Processing, Inc.). This early, closely watched number comes in below:
The median forecast of 39 economists surveyed by Bloomberg …
… called for a 155,000 advance.
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