Links for 9-30-2017

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  • The U.S. plans to restrict Russian military overflights under the Treaty on Open Skies because Russia is not allowing the U.S. to conduct flights over Kaliningrad, Russia’s enclave on the Baltic Sea.

  • The White House does not believe the Cuban government is behind the “sonic weapon” attacks against American diplomats. They aren’t saying who is behind the attacks, but it’s hard to believe that in a society like Cuba’s, the government wouldn’t know about this sort of thing. Nonetheless, the State Department plans to withdraw most of its personnel from Cuba, leaving behind a skeleton staff.

  • Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) won’t run for re-election in 2018.

  • The Senate won’t vote on the Graham-Cassidy health insurance bill after several Republican Senators declared their opposition.

  • The Department of Commerce placed a 220% duty on Bombardier commercial jets after finding that the Canadian government is subsidizing Bombardier’s planes.

  • The Boston Globe published a two part series on problems at the Federal Aviation Administration. The first details how the FAA does a poor job vetting airplane registrations, making it easy for criminal organizations like drug cartels to register planes:

    More than 16 years after aircraft were used as weapons in the worst terrorist attack in US history, the FAA still operates more like a file clerk than a reliable tool for law enforcement, enabling secrecy in the skies here and abroad. The price to register a plane is still just $5 — the same as in 1964, even though the agency has the power to raise it — generating little revenue that could be used to expand oversight. And the FAA does so little vetting of the ownership and use of planes listed in its aircraft registry that two of the airliners hijacked and destroyed on 9/11 were still listed as “active” four years after. And that’s prompt compared to this: The FAA didn’t cancel the registration for one TWA cargo plane until 2016, 57 years after it crashed in Chicago, killing the crew and eight people on the ground.

    They do a similiarly bad job licensing pilots:

    Almost a decade after Haghighi’s brazen identify theft, the FAA still does not include pilot photos on its licenses, and the agency does not fully vet pilot information before issuing them credentials. Last year, a leading congressional overseer of the FAA, then-Representative John Mica, called US pilot licenses “a joke” and said that a day pass to Disney World in his native Florida contains more sophisticated security measures.

    Later:

    FAA procedures also make it easy for pilots to hide damaging information, by simply not reporting it. That’s because the agency relies on them to self-report felony convictions and other crimes that could lead to license revocation. Among the licensed pilots currently listed in the airman registry are Carlos Licona and Paul Grebenc, United Airlines pilots who were sentenced to jail in Scotland earlier this year for attempting to fly a commercial airliner with alcohol in their blood. Under FAA rules, an alcohol-related offense, especially related to flying, can be grounds for license revocation or suspension, though the FAA decides on a case by case basis.

  • Fred and Cindy Warmbier disclosed that when their son Otto was released by North Korea, he was deaf, blind, and howling incoherently:

    “Otto had a shaved head, he had a feeding tube coming out of his nose, he was staring blankly into space, jerking violently,” said Mr Warmbier.

    “He was blind. He was deaf. As we looked at him and tried to comfort him it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.”

    In short, North Korea tortured Otto Warmbier.

  • A group of abortion clinics, including Planned Parenthood, sued Texas in federal district court over a new law banning live dismemberment abortions. The abortion clinics refused to comply with Texas’ discovery requests, so the judge ordered them to provide records about the second-trimester abortions they’ve performed:

    Of significance, the abortion providers must identify each individual who performs or has performed abortions on fetuses 14 weeks old or older, from 2001 to the present, detailing the procedure performed, whether digoxin or another fetal demise technique was used, and whether fetal demise occurred prior to dismemberment, as well as whether any complications occurred.

    Additionally, the federal court ordered the plaintiffs to provide all records of digoxin purchases, any informational material or consent forms related to digoxin, and communications between Planned Parenthood Federated of America and the Planned Parenthood plaintiffs regarding digoxin.

    This ties into the Center for Medical Progress undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood — they captured abortionists saying they don’t like to use digoxin because they can’t sell the baby body parts afterward. There’s also this:

    In its earlier court filings, Texas stressed that it would be illegal to kill an animal in the way the abortion providers kill a fetus in dismemberment abortions—pulling the unborn baby apart limb from limb until he bleeds to death.

  • Iraq’s central government gave Iraqi Kurdistan until Friday afternoon to relinquish control of its airports to avoid an embargo on international flights. This is part of the Baghdad government’s attempts to punish Kurdistan for holding an independence referendum yesterday. They’re still counting votes, but so far “yes” to independence is winning by over 90%.

  • One of the co-founders of Alternative for Germany, Frauke Petry, left the party the day after it won nearly 13% of the vote in parliamentary elections. Petry, who is one of the party’s moderates, won a seat in the Bundestag but will be an independent member. Her husband, Marcus Pretzell, is also leaving the party — he’s an AfD leader and a member of the European Parliament.

Links for 9-25-2017

Links for 9-24-2017

  • Donald Trump nominated Trey Trainor to the Federal Election Commission, and Kevin Williamson suspects Democrat Senators are going to find him too Catholic to hold office, a cover for another objection:

    Trainor has been described as a “principled libertarian” by retiring FEC commissioner Lee Goodman, whose term Trainor will complete if he is confirmed. He describes himself as someone who simply wants to see the law implemented. “At the end of the day, the First Amendment says what it says, and there’s a reason it’s the First Amendment: The right of political speech of citizens is of utmost importance if we want to continue to have a functioning republic.” The real debate, he says, is not so much over the content of federal election law but the question of where — and to whom — that law applies. Questions about donations to candidates, campaign committees, and political parties are largely well-settled, but there are live issues involving organizations that have broader missions and that are controlled neither by candidates or political parties.

    The Democrats want to have a system under which the New York Times can engage in political advocacy without restriction but Citizens United is prohibited from showing a film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the weeks leading up to an election — the heads-I-win-tails-you-lose method of regulating campaign finances.

    And that is what the campaign against Trey Trainor is really about.

  • At least some of the opposition to Donald Trump’s policies are funded by Department of Justice and Department of Housing and Urban Development slush funds that the Obama administration filled via legal settlements stemming from the 2008 financial crisis:

    The Obama administration’s massive shakedown of Big Banks over the mortgage crisis included unprecedented back-door funding for dozens of Democratic activist groups who were not even victims of the crisis.

    At least three liberal nonprofit organizations the Justice Department approved to receive funds from multibillion-dollar mortgage settlements were instrumental in killing the ObamaCare repeal bill and are now lobbying against GOP tax reform, as well as efforts to rein in illegal immigration.

    Later:

    The payola is potentially earmarked for third-party interest groups approved by the Justice Department and HUD without requiring any proof of how the funds will be spent. Many of the recipients so far are radical leftist organizations who solicited the settlement cash from the administration even though they were not parties to the lawsuits, records show.

  • William Jacobson notes that the NFL’s protest rules are a ratchet that only turns left:

    The NFL is as political an organization as there is, now. It picked sides in the culture war, and the side it picked is decidedly left. The NFL refused to allow the Dallas Cowboys to display a decal honoring the Dallas police killed by a Black Lives Matter supporter, yet it is completely supporting the “right” of players to kneel on the sideline while the National Anthem is played, as both a sign of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and an anti-Trump protest.

    The entire Steelers team stayed in the locker room during the national anthem — except former U.S. Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who served three tours in Afghanistan.

  • A French soldier was killed fighting ISIS near the Iraq/Syria border. Around 1,200 French soldiers are serving in Iraq and Syria.

  • The U.S. bombed an ISIS camp in the Libyan desert, 150 miles southeast of Sirte.

  • The Spanish government is blocking access to internet domains associated with Catalonia’s independence referendum.

  • Rudaw published an interesting interview with Iraqi Christians who were asked what they’d like to see in a new constitution for an independent Kurdistan.

  • Iran imposed an air embargo on Iraqi Kurdistan ahead of the independence referendum, and staged war games along the border.