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  • An American soldier was killed and four were wounded during fighting in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, which is on the border with Pakistan. The U.S. is withholding $255 million in aid to Pakistan because it harbors terrorists.

  • Mark Steyn’s first post of the new year includes a twelve days of Christmas-style countdown: an eight o’clock curfew, seven sexual assailants, six stabbers arrested, five homes raided, four women gang-raped, three pubs attacked, two police officers lynched, and a canceled New Year in Sydney. His numbering scheme doesn’t handle the 945 cars that were torched in France on New Year’s Eve.

  • Two members of Germany’s Alternative for Germany party are being investigated for violating a new law that makes it a crime to “incite people to commit violence against a certain section of society.” Their alleged offenses were committed via Twitter, which deleted the tweets because the company can be fined 50 million euros for failing to delete “hateful” content.

  • Senator Al Franken (D-MN) officially resigned.

  • Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) won’t run for re-election. He’s only been in the Senate for 40 years, and he’s 83 years old. Say hello to Senator Mitt Romney.

  • Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA) won’t run for re-election.

  • Huma Abedin forwarded emails containing passwords to government systems to her personal Yahoo account before all of Yahoo’s accounts were breached. At least one of those breaches was perpetrated by a Russian intelligence agent.

  • Victor Davis Hanson writes that we’re in the midst of an unusual experiment in American government, a rapid switch from far-left to far-right governing at the federal level. He characterizes the Obama administration this way:

    Identity politics, progressive policing of ideas on campus, an end to campus free expression that only empowered hate speech, the politicization and expansion of the deep state, along with open borders and new laxities governing citizenship and voting would usher in new, kinder and gentler race, ethnicity, and gender agendas. A single EPA director, one high IRS commissioner, or a federal-appeals-court justice would now exercise far more political power than any congressional committee. The “law” — in the sense of customary non-surveillance of American citizens, disinterested attorneys general, or a nonpartisan bureaucracy — was redefined as whatever would best serve social justice and equality.

    On the economic side, more regulations, larger government, more entitlements, higher taxes, zero interest rates, and doubling the national debt were designed to redistribute income and “spread the wealth.” The idea that the stock market could get much higher, that GDP could ever hit 3 percent or above, or that industry and manufacturing would return to the U.S. was caricatured as the ossified pipe dreams of discredited supply-siders.

  • The initial narrative on collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia isn’t going anywhere, so The New York Times is trying again, this time focusing on George Papadopoulos instead of Carter Page.

    In the Times’ new version of events, it was not the dossier that “so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election.” That, according to the Times, is a false claim that “Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged.” Somehow, the paper omits the inconvenient details that it was the Times that led the charge in claiming that it was Page’s trip to Moscow that provoked the investigation, and that it was the dossier that so alarmed the FBI about that trip.

    In what we might think of as the latest “Russian Reset,” the Times now says the investigation was instigated by “firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies” — Australia. Turns out Papadopoulos was out drinking in London with Alexander Downer, “Australia’s top diplomat in Britain.” Tongue loosened, the “young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign” made a “startling revelation” to Downer: He had learned that “Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.”

    Later:

    To say this story has holes in it does not do justice to the craters on display. To begin with, the Times admits that “exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said” to Downer “is unclear.” What we are dealing with here is sheer supposition. And, it appears, flawed supposition.

  • The death toll in Iran’s protests is up to 20, and the government is blaming the country’s unnamed “enemies.” Ben Shapiro writes that Donald Trump has reversed the Obama doctrine on Iran:

    Contrast Trump’s behavior with that of the Obama administration, which deliberately ignored anti-regime protests in 2009, choosing instead to cozy favor with the regime and maximize Tehran’s regional power. The administration even went so far as to give Tehran a legal pathway to a nuclear weapon. Obama stated that while he was “troubled” by violence against the protesters, it was “up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be,” and he hoped “to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran.”

    The administration would go on to allegedly leak Israeli plans to kill the commander of the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, to the Iranians, lie to the American public about contact with the “moderate” Iranian regime regarding a nuclear deal, and then ship pallets of cash to the greatest state sponsor of terror on the planet.

    This, then, is the irony of Trump’s foreign policy in contrast with Obama’s: Obama jabbered endlessly about American leadership while simultaneously “leading from behind.” Trump actually pursues American leadership while simultaneously claiming the isolationist mantle of “America first.”

  • Iran re-opened two border crossings with Iraqi Kurdistan.

  • The Washington Free Beacon obtained a document from China’s Communist Party that indicates China offered North Korea increased aid and military support if the country stopped testing nuclear weapons. China’s public stance is that it wants a denuclearized Korean peninsula, but the document says North Korea can keep its existing nuclear weapons. The Beacon doesn’t say how it obtained the document, but there’s a good chance dissident Guo Wengui was involved.

  • An academic study suggests that Republicans support photo voter ID laws to combat voter fraud, but Democrats only support them when it’s likely that Republicans would be hurt by such laws.

Links for 12-25-2017

  • Guatemala plans to move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.

  • Russia’s election commission barred Alexei Navalny from running for president, which is very convenient for Vladimir Putin.

  • The New York Times published an account of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s October/November trip to Saudi Arabia, during which he announced his resignation. According to the Times, Hariri was forced to resign by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of an ill-conceived scheme to push Hezbollah out of Lebanon’s government:

    The Saudi moves that started on Nov. 4 came in rapid-fire succession. In the space of little more than a day, the Saudis extracted Mr. Hariri’s resignation; accused Iran and Lebanon of an act of war after Yemeni rebels fired a missile at Riyadh; and rounded up the princes and businessmen on opaque corruption charges. A week later, they ordered Saudi citizens to evacuate Lebanon.

    The burst of contentious actions sent war tremors across the region.

    With anxieties running high, Lebanese officials worked to head off what they feared was a long-range plan by Saudi Arabia to destabilize Lebanon’s volatile Palestinian refugee camps. There were even concerns in Beirut that Saudi Arabia or its Lebanese allies were seeking to form an anti-Hezbollah militia in the camps or elsewhere, two senior Lebanese officials and several Western diplomats said. No such plots came to fruition, and the Saudi official said none were even considered.

    Western and Arab officials say they are still puzzling over what the Saudis hoped to accomplish with all this intrigue. Several do not rule out the possibility that they aimed to foment internal unrest in Lebanon, or even war.

  • Reuters describes the state of Christians in Iraq this Christmas:

    Before the militant onslaught, Qaraqosh was the largest Christian settlement in Iraq, with a population of more than 50,000. But today, only a few hundred families have returned. Entire congregations have moved overseas, such as the Syriac Orthodox congregation of the Church of Mart Shmony.

    On Saturday afternoon, Father Butros Kappa, the head of Qaraqosh’s Church of the Immaculate was trying hard to summon any sense of hope to deliver his congregation during Christmas Mass.

    “We’ll have a Christmas Mass like in previous years, but this year, ours will be a joy soaked in tears, because all of our people have left Iraq,” said Father Kappa.

    Holding Mass in the singed and upturned ruins of his church was therefore important, he said, “to remind everyone that despite the tragedies that have befallen us, we’re still here.”

  • An ISIS suicide bomber attacked Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security in Kabul, killing five civilians and wounding two.

  • Scott Manley explains the SpaceX rocket trail over southern California that had people calling 911:

  • Hillsdale College’s Christmas message:

Links for 12-22-2017