Links for 7-14-2017

  • The latest version of the Senate’s health insurance bill contains hand-outs for states intended to persuade the senators from those states to vote for the bill. Here’s an example intended to buy off Lisa Murkowski:

    Section 106 of the bill includes new language—page 13, lines 4 through 13, and page 18, line 12 through page 19, line 4—dedicating one percent of the new Stability Fund dollars to “each state where the cost of insurance premiums are at least 75 percent higher than the national average.” As a Bloomberg story noted, this provision currently applies only to Alaska, and could result in $1.32 billion in Stability Fund dollars automatically being directed to Alaska.

  • A federal district court judge in Hawaii again took it upon himself (again) to re-write parts of Donald Trump’s “travel ban” executive order.

  • American and Somali special forces troops killed several al Shabaab fighters during a raid in southern Somalia.

  • Three gunmen killed two Israeli police officers on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The gunmen, who were Arab citizens of Israel, were killed by other police officers.

  • An Egyptian man stabbed two German tourists to death and wounded four others at Red Sea resorts. Three gunmen on a motorcycle killed five Egyptian policemen at a security checkpoint south of Cairo.

  • A high ranking member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Seyed Mohsen Dehnavi, was caught trying to enter the U.S. while posing as a cancer researcher. Dehnavi was deported back to Iran.

    “Here are the facts: Mr. Dehnavi is a high-ranking member of IRGC’s Basij, has been involved in the IRGC’s military research programs, has played a key role in oppressing dissidents, and Iran’s Supreme Leader has given him his own keffiyeh as a gift,” Saeed Ghasseminejad, a prominent Iranian dissident and regional expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told the Free Beacon.

    Other media outlets have independently identified Dehnavi as a top Basij member who was involved in efforts to suppress dissident and reformist voices in Iran.

  • New reporting from Raqqa indicates the Muslim Brotherhood’s affiliate in Tunisia actively recruited young men to fight for ISIS in Syria.

  • Young male Afghan refugees in Europe are in the habit of sexually assaulting women:

    But there was one development that had not been expected, and was not tolerable: the large and growing incidence of sexual assaults committed by refugees against local women. These were not of the cultural-misunderstanding-date-rape sort, but were vicious, no-preamble attacks on random girls and women, often committed by gangs or packs of young men. At first, the incidents were downplayed or hushed up—no one wanted to provide the right wing with fodder for nationalist agitation, and the hope was that these were isolated instances caused by a small problem group of outliers. As the incidents increased, and because many of them took place in public or because the public became involved either in stopping the attack or in aiding the victim afterwards, and because the courts began issuing sentences as the cases came to trial, the matter could no longer be swept under the carpet of political correctness. And with the official acknowledgment and public reporting, a weird and puzzling footnote emerged. Most of the assaults were being committed by refugees of one particular nationality: by Afghans.

  • 38 North, a think tank that monitors North Korea, believes that thermal images of North Korea’s main nuclear site suggest the country has reprocessed more plutonium than previously thought.

  • Hong Kong’s High Court stripped four opposition lawmakers of their seats in the legislature because they refused to (correctly) take an oath when they were sworn in.

  • Jeff M. Smith wrote a good summary of the border dispute between China and India at the point where China, India, and Bhutan meet:

    First, the de-facto border, the Line of Actual Control (LAC), is a magnet for standoffs between Chinese and Indian border patrols. Unlike the turbulent Line of Control with Pakistan in Kashmir, however, an elaborate series of bilateral mechanisms has kept the LAC free of any fatal exchanges for decades. Only once since 1962 has a standoff turned bloody. That’s the good news. But there is also bad news: That fatal exchange, the Nathu La incident of 1967, unfolded near the site of the current crisis.

    Second, the peace that has prevailed at the border masks a disconcertingly ambiguous tactical situation along select portions of the LAC. Not only is the roughly 3,500-kilometer border unsettled and un-demarcated, there are roughly a dozen stretches along the frontier where the two countries cannot even agree on the location of the LAC. These are the source of hundreds of relatively innocent “transgressions” by Chinese border patrols annually. (China doesn’t publicly track Indian transgressions). On occasion, these devolve into more serious “intrusions,” as witnessed in 2013 and 2014 when the People’s Liberation Army spent several weeks camped across the LAC in the Western Sector.

Links for 6-11-2017

Links for 6-10-2017

Links for 5-6-2017

Links for 5-5-2017

  • A U.S. Navy SEAL was killed fighting al Shabaab in Somalia. Two other SEALs were wounded.

  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee started an investigation of Barack Obama’s Iran deal, specifically looking into whether the Obama administration undermined counterproliferation efforts targeting Iranian weapons trafficking.

  • Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of the Army, Mark Green, withdrew his name from consideration. Leftist groups attacked Green because he believes transgenderism is a mental illness.

  • The Department of the Interior is reviewing 21 national and five marine monuments that were created by previous administrations. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be stripped of their status as monuments.

  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said this to Donald Trump yesterday: “Mr. President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children and grandchildren, in a culture of peace.” This is a lie.

  • Kevin Williamson writes that TrumpCare and ObamaCare fail to recognize the economic concept of scarcity:

    We have perfectly functional markets in all sorts of life-and-death goods. They expect you to pay up at the grocery store, too, but poor people are not starving in the American streets, because we came up with this so-crazy-it-just-might-work idea of giving poor people money and money analogues (such as food stamps) to pay for food. It is not a perfect system, but it is preferable, as we know from unhappy experiences abroad, to having the government try to run the farms, as government did in the Soviet Union, or the grocery stores, as government does in hungry, miserable Venezuela. The Apple Store has its shortcomings, to be sure, but I’d rather have a health-care system that looks like the Apple Store than one that looks like a Venezuelan grocery store.

    There is a certain libertarian tendency to look at messes such as the Affordable Care Act and the American Health Care Act and throw up one’s hands, exclaiming: “Just let markets work!” We should certainly let markets work, but not “just.” We aren’t going to let children with congenital birth defects suffer just because they might have stupid and irresponsible parents, and we are not going to let old people who have outlived their retirement savings die of pneumonia because we don’t want to spend a couple of thousand bucks treating them. But we also do not have a society in which everybody is on Section 8 and food stamps, nor do we want one. Developing sensible, intelligently run, reasonably generous welfare programs for those who cannot or simply have not done it for themselves is a relatively small project, but trying to have government impose some kind of political discipline on the entirety of the health-care system — which is as explicit a part of the current daft Republican health-care program as it is of Obamacare — is a different kind of project entirely.

  • The French presidential election is Sunday, and today 9GB of emails from Emmanuel Macron’s campaign appeared online.

  • Russia deployed several units of Chechen and Ingush special forces troops from the North Caucasus region to Syria:

    “I think this represents Moscow’s grudging recognition that it’s stuck in a quagmire,” says Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague. In their hybrid civil-military role, capable of a wide range of operations, these brigades have become a go-to deployment for the Kremlin as it seeks to assert itself in various theaters abroad. Chechen fighters have appeared alongside pro-separatist Russian “volunteers” in eastern Ukraine, and several battalions of Chechen servicemen also entered Georgia during its brief war with Russia in August 2008, occupying the town of Gori. At least some of the Chechen troops deployed in Syria have combat experience in eastern Ukraine, with the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reporting that one of the Chechen commanders is Apti Bolotkhanov, who spent substantial time fighting alongside pro-Russian forces in the Donbass.

    But beyond their skill on the battlefield, the brigades are valuable to Moscow for other reasons. Russian society and leadership have proved extremely sensitive to casualties in Syria; the Kremlin has gone to extreme lengths to hide its losses. Casualties are often only publicly confirmed after observers find the tombstones of deceased soldiers in their hometown cemeteries. Moscow’s official figures only account for 30 dead in Syria — with the true figure likely much higher. Using nonethnic Russian special personnel might protect the Kremlin from a public backlash sparked by rising battlefield casualties. Losses incurred by the new, North Caucasian contingent are unlikely to trigger such a response. Russian society carries a deep-seated resentment toward natives of the region, in particular Chechens, after two wars in the 1990s and multiple terrorist attacks since.

  • Russia, Turkey, and Iran defined “de-escalation” zones in Syria and declared that American aircraft cannot fly over them.

  • NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory published a video of what the Cassini probe saw when it dove between Saturn and its rings:

Links for 4-10-2017

Links for 3-21-2017

  • A special forces soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Robert R. Boniface, died in a noncombat incident in Logar province, Afghanistan. A Marine, Sgt. Maj. Timonthy J. Rudd, died while in South Korea for joint war games; Rudd was from Post, Texas.

  • Rob Natelson debunks disinformation campaigns that try to scare people about an Article V convention of states:

    Article V of the Constitution provides that three fourths of the states (now 38 of 50) must ratify an amendment before it becomes effective. Before ratification, however, it must be formally proposed—either by Congress or by a “convention for proposing amendments.” A convention is called when two thirds of state legislatures (34 of 50) adopt overlapping resolutions in favor of one.

    The founders inserted the convention procedure so the people, acting through their state legislatures, could propose reforms that Congress would rather block. The founders viewed the procedure as a crucial constitutional right. Without it, the Constitution may not have been adopted.

    Opponents’ disinformation campaign is designed to frighten Americans away from using a convention to bypass the Washington power establishment. In some ways, their campaign resembles efforts to suppress voting among targeted groups. It propagates four central assertions—all of them constitutional junk.

  • The House Republican leadership is done with the ObamaCare Lite bill, and the few changes they made don’t improve it much. The House Freedom Caucus is neutral on the revised bill, but many members say they’ll vote against it. Donald Trump is still threatening to primary them if they do vote against it, but Ben Shapiro argues they have a lot more to fear from voters if they fail to deliver on their promise to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with something that lowers premiums:

    Meeting on the Hill with House members today, Trump said that his crowd size would dissipate if Republicans didn’t pass his bill. “We won’t have these crowds if we don’t get this done,” he said. He turned on the House Freedom Caucus – some of his biggest backers during the election cycle – and said that loss wasn’t “acceptable,” specifically targeting Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) for scrutiny. He added, “I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don’t get this done.”

    This is doubtful.

    Actually, there’s a significantly better chance that House Republicans will lose their seats if they vote for a bad replacement bill that doesn’t cut rising premiums, provide more health care choice, or do much to lower costs down the line (which it won’t, since the block grant program to Medicaid is always subject to future Congresses revising the deal). Trumpcare doesn’t even meet with Trump’s directives to increase the number of people with health insurance – a Democratic talking point adopted by Trump for years on end.

  • Owen Strachan argues that the alt-right is what you get when you marginalize men:

    Because it is not friendly to them, many men do not like postmodern society. They have been taught they have no innate call to leadership of home and church, and accordingly have lost the script for their lives. They have been encouraged to step back from being a breadwinner, and do not know what they are supposed to do with their lives.

    They have been told that they talk too loudly and spread their legs too wide, and thus do not fit in with a feminized society. They may be the product of a divorced home, and may have grown up without an engaged father, so possess both pent-up rage and a disappearing instinct. They did nothing to choose their biological manliness, but are instructed to attend sensitivity training by virtue of it. They recognize—rightly—that politically correct culture constrains free thought and free speech, and so they opt out from it.

    But here is where the common narrative of the alt-right and related groups makes a major mistake. Men are disappearing, but they are not vanishing. They are moving out of the mainstream, and into the shadows.

  • The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that people flying to the U.S. from airports in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Morocco, and Qatar will have to check electronic devices larger than cell phones.

  • Sharron Angle is running for office again, this time for the House of Representatives from Nevada’s district 2.

  • Fox News pulled analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano off the air indefinitely over his claim that Britain’s intelligence agencies wiretapped Donald Trump at Barack Obama’s behest.

  • More than 300 models of Cisco Ethernet switches can be remotely compromised and there’s no fix yet. Cisco discovered the bug when WikiLeaks published an inventory of the CIA’s hacking tools.

  • Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye apologized for her role in the scandal that resulted in her impeachment. She lost her immunity from prosecution when she lost her office, so prosecutors are now questioning her as a criminal suspect.

  • A North Korean official stationed at the U.N. in Geneva claimed North Korea will develop a preemptive nuclear strike capability and the country isn’t afraid of U.S. efforts to impose new financial sanctions.

  • A Tibetan named Pema Gyaltsen self-immolated in Kham province and Chinese authorities responded by arresting around 200 people.

  • Stars and Stripes published an article describing the funeral of an 18-year-old Yazidi fighter, Salam Mukhaibir. He and four other fighters died in a battle with peshmerga forces from Iraqi Kurdistan. Many Yazidis fighters are aligned with the Kurdish PKK because the pershmerga abandoned them when ISIS invaded the area around Mount Sinjar.

  • A car bomb detonated less than a kilometer from the presidential palace in Mogadishu, killing at least four people.