Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Submitted By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Manuel NoriegaManuel Noriega, the former leader of Panama known for his indictment in the United States for drug smuggling, racketeering, and money laundering and his subsequent imprisonment, filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging the game maker Activision Blizzard defamed him. The game in question is the popular “Call of Duty: Black Ops II”.

Manuel believes being portrayed “as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state” in the game damaged his reputation. He further claims the company used his likeness and name in order to make money. Therefore, he is entitled to a share of the profits.

The game returned over a billion dollars in sales worldwide within months of release.

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225px-Richard_Durbin_offici300px-Flickr_-_Israel_Defense_Forces_-_Iron_Dome_Intercepts_Rockets_from_the_Gaza_StripThe US Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee just approved the transfer of $351 million to Israel for the Iron Dome missile defense system — that will bring the appropriations this week for Israel to $621 million. There has been virtually no debate about such huge payments to another nation’s defense budget when cities and schools continue to cut back on programs for lack of fund. In Fairfax county, our kids are being placed in classes of over 30 kids with a single teacher because there is no money to hire more staff. Congress has cut historic programs and environmental projects for lack of a few million dollars but approves these transfers with little debate. It is not just Israel, as we have previously discussed, but the continuation of huge expenditures abroad in various countries from Pakistan to Iraq to Afghanistan to Egypt. It is not necessarily the ultimate appropriation decision as much as the lack of any discussion on such budgetary priorities and policies that is so striking.

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300px-Flickr_-_Israel_Defense_Forces_-_Eight_Qassam_Launchers_in_GazaIsrael has long accused Palestinian groups of using schools and hospitals as launching or storage areas for weapons. The practice effectively uses patients, children, and others as human shields and increases civilian fatalities when Israel retaliates after rocket attacks. It is obviously a despicable practice that violates basic rules of international law as well as the law of war. On Thursday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency confirmed this practice when it found 20 rockets at a UN-funded school in Gaza in “the course of the regular inspection of its premises.”

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220px-AYELET_SHAKED220px-Erdogan_croppedThe situation in Israel and Palestine continues to grow worse on both sides. First you had the savage murder of three Israeli teens. Then you had the retaliation burning of a Palestinian teenager. Now protests are erupting all over Israel and the world on both sides. Some of the coverage is focusing on statements made by Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked on Facebook that day before three Israeli men went out and picked up Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, at random and burned him alive. Shaked’s post calls Palestinians “little snakes” and declares that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy.” Now comments by Israeli Knesset member Ayelet Shaked has caused an international outcry including contributing to a continuing rift with Turkey. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced the remarks and denounced Israel in an analogy to the Nazi regime. The situation is clearly getting worse by the day in the region.

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200px-Tony_Abbott_-_2010220px-AlfedPalmersmokestacksIn a major setback to effort to combat climate change, Australia’s Abbott government has secured a repeal of the carbon tax. It is the first major country to rollback on the basic environmental protection. Abbott’s government is suggesting that it will pay corporations not to pollute — a proposal that would cost a huge amount and environmentalists insist is unlikely to be successful.

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libertyFor years, we have lamented the wholesale attack on free speech in France from ever-expanding hate speech ruling to stripping away anonymity on the Internet to censorship of expression to criminalizing historical claims (though the last move was later reversed). The erosion of such protection has never been so evident as with the ruling against blogger Caroline Doudet. A French judge has issued an emergency ruling forcing that one of the titles of a blog restaurant critique be changed to reduce its prominence on Google and for Doudet to pay damages. It is an absurd ruling and frightening in its implications for free speech. France appears to have dived headlong into speech regulation and censorship.

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No_alcoholIn Kano, Nigeria, 55 people have been arrested and convicted for alcohol consumption in violation of Sharia law. Making the violation more serious in the view of the Sharia “judges” is the fact that they were drinking during Ramadan. They received four months in prison for failing to live up to the religious demands of their government.

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220px-TangopenguinThe Singapore government is supporting the National Library Board in the plan to destroy a children’s book detailing the real-life story of two male penguins raising a baby chick in New York’s zoo. It appears that the government views “And Tango Makes Three” to be nothing more than penguin perversion.

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article-2685923-1F81DC1E00000578-288_634x344Jonah_and_the_Whale,_Folio_from_a_Jami_al-Tavarikh_(Compendium_of_Chronicles)In a move reminiscent of the Taliban’s shocking destruction of the two massive ancient statues of the Buddha at Bamiyan in Afghanistan, ISIS militants are destroying sacred temples and art in Iraq in the name of Allah. This picture was posted on an affiliated website of their destruction of the tomb of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul. It appears that Jonah may have survived the whale but could not escape the raw hatred of ISIS. In the meantime, sectarian atrocities have continued with the discovery of 50 blindfolded bodies south of Baghdad.

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225px-Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_crop220px-Labor-Pearce-Highsmith-detail-1We have been following the bizarre struggle of Hillary Clinton to claim that she and Bill were “dead broke” after leaving the White House. Independent reviewers like Politifact have shredded the claim and the Clintons have become the fodder for commentators and comedians over the controversy. The Clintons made over $12 million in the first year after leaving the White House and they have made over $100 million from speaking fees and different events. CNN documented that Clinton earned $106 million by making speeches from the end of his presidency through January 2013. Hillary Clinton has pulled in $200,000 a speech and was criticized for receiving $500,000 in one week from Goldman Sachs . Yet, the Clintons have been doubling down on the claim like a bad gambler. Bill Clinton was brought out to vouch for Hillary that the statement is “factually true.” That resulted in a new round of mockery. We have discussed the controversy in terms of the interesting dynamic of American politics where exceptionally wealthy candidates struggle to identify with Americans struggling financially. The Clintons however will not accept that the pitch is simply not working. This week Hillary is again claiming to have been impoverished in a new interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel – a claim that even Germans find just as hard to swallow.

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Waleed_Abu_AlkhairSaudi Arabia’s medieval legal system has added a new outrage to its record: On Sunday, Saudi lawyer and reform advocate Waleed Abulkhair was sentenced on Sunday to 15 years in prison and a 15-year travel ban (to start after his release). He was also ordered to pay 200,000 Saudi riyals ($53,000). His offense? “inciting public opinion against the government” and “insulting the country’s leaders and judiciary.” The sentence once again raises the question over our level of support for Saudi Arabia and its distinction from our distinction with other countries viewed as extreme and inimical to the rule of law. Abulkhair is the head of the “Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia” organization and was ranked by Forbes magazine as one of Top 100 Most Influential Arabs on Twitter.

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

The Antagonists

The Antagonists

I think it was Winston Churchill who reminded us that the “supreme virtue” of government is action. In fact, the greatest of  modern British prime ministers, who often marked his staff memoranda in red with the words “Action This Day,” counseled that ” I never worry about action, but only inaction.” Action in recognizing problems. Action in mobilizing support and action in addressing the causes of human suffering and improving the lives of those over whom you have power and authority.

On this side of the Atlantic, the framers understood this seemingly obvious facet of government. Jefferson wrote, “The purpose of government is to maintain a society which secures to every member the inherent and inalienable rights of man, and promotes the safety and happiness of its people.” Protecting individual  rights and promoting the security and happiness of those individuals is the essential business of government. Not “either-or” but both.

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220px-Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_StatesWe have long discussed the erosion of civil liberties in the United States, including the attacks on privacy and other rights by the Obama Administration. It appears that we are not alone in those concerns. A new Gallup poll shows a record drop in the satisfaction of Americans over their freedoms. The massive drop is matched in such countries as Egypt, Pakistan, and Venezuela.

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girl2

Hessy Taft was a gorgeous baby by any measure in 1935. Her picture was so adorable it was reportedly selected by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels as the cover for the Nazi family magazine Sonne ins Hause as the very ideal of an Aryan child. The problem is that Hessy is Jewish, a story that is both hilarious and unnerving. Goebbels’ perfect Gerber baby proved an elegant rebuttal to Nazi fanaticism.

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1024px-Eustache_Le_Sueur_003There is an interesting complaint that has been filed against a church in New Zealand that touches on an issue that we previously discussed. In the United States, it is common for religious figures to claim to faith heal and recently we have seen some religious business suggest that they have divinely inspired products or services to sell. We have discussed whether such pitches constitute false advertising. Now the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is the subject of a formal complaint for advertising a prayer session to heal health problems including “incurable diseases.”

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