Links for 12-23-2015

  • The Department of Defense released information about the six Americans killed in a Taliban suicide bombing near Bagram Air Field. All six were members of the Air Force; the highest ranking officer was a major, Adrianna Vorderbruggen.

  • The Federalist published an excellent article about the Angel Tree Christmas program, which helps children who have a parent in prison:

    “Children don’t care about things if they know they are first of all loved,” [program founder Mary Kay] Beard says. Angel Tree provides incarcerated parents with a pathway for telling their children they love them. That’s a valuable thing, indeed, but the program’s salt is also in what it gives participants—an opportunity to serve a population that is too often forgotten and a reminder of what giving gifts at Christmas should be all about.

  • Ilya Shaprio compiled a list of President Obama’s top ten constitutional violations of 2015, including one I didn’t know about:

    Obamacare’s hidden tax on states. The Affordable Care Act imposed a health-insurance providers’ fee on insurance companies, for the purpose of taxing the windfall they were expected to receive from increased enrollment. In March 2015, states were notified that they too would be assessed this fee, because they use managed-care organizations to provide Medicaid services. Nothing in the ACA allows the federal government to force states to pay the fee, so the administration left it to the “private” Actuarial Standards Board to determine what makes a state’s payments to managed-care organizations “actuarially sound,” as required by law. The board then interpreted that “actuarially sound” standard to require states to pay the taxes assessed on their managed-care organizations. For Texas, that means an unanticipated annual budget hit of $120 million. This assessment raises serious coercion issues, as the states have no choice but to pay the tax or lose their federal Medicaid funds. Texas, joined by Kansas and Louisiana, sued the government in October.

  • France plans to revoke the French citizenship of dual citizens convicted of terrorism.

  • The British government signed a security pact with Saudi Arabia and didn’t tell Parliament about it.

  • Deutsche Bank uncovered violations of Russian sanctions to the tune of billions of dollars:

    It is safe to apply the iceberg rule to this phenomenon: What we see is only a very small percentage of what is going on. If even a prime German bank and flagship company like Deutsche Bank is vulnerable to the sleazy temptations offered by Russian money, what do we think is happening across much of Europe? The contrast between the moralistic lectures, finger-wagging, and ostentatious dedication to high values that mark the rhetoric of the European Union on the one hand, and the sleazy indifference to corruption that characterizes much of the shadowy transactions of European elites on the other, isn’t remarked upon often enough.

  • Russia’s foreign minister held talks in Moscow with Selahattin Demirtas, who leads Turkey’s pro-Kurdish political party, the HDP. This probably bothers Ergodan and his government more than Russian planes crossing into Turkish airspace.

  • Russia decided it’s time to arrest Mikhail Khodorkovsky again, two years after he was released from a ten year jail stint. Khodorkovsky is living in London and obviously won’t turn himself in. Of course assassination is still an option for Putin.