Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Rehab For Jihadis

Wow. I didn’t know such a facility existed.

More than 3,300 inmates have “graduated” from the centre since 2005, according to the staff, including 123 who have been in Guantanamo Bay. The success rate, they said, is 80% with the remaining 20% returning to violence. (A similar scheme I visited in Yemen in 2003 had a significantly lower success rate).

Inmates spend a minimum of three months at the centre before being assessed to see if they ready for release, Their overall programme is divided into three parts:

  • A counselling phase, which takes place while they are still in prison and before they arrive at the centre
  • Rehabilitation (“ta’heel” in Arabic) comprising cognitive behaviour programmes, art, culture, religious and sports activities
  • After care. This continues after their release into society

“Welcome to the oasis of wisdom,” said Dr Hamid Al-Shayri, a sociologist from King Saud University. “This is where we try to steer them away from their deviant path so they no longer present a danger to society.”

He said his staff sit with the inmates for several hours a day, but added: “It’s not an easy task to get people to stop hating society and their families.

Art therapy plays a big role in their rehabilitation, according to their art teacher, Dr Badr Al-Razin. He told me that when they first arrive, many of the ex-convicts want to paint crude, violent images, often in red, but over time their images soften and become gentler.

Religious scholars are on hand at all times, men with a profound knowledge of Islam, who try to use this to explain why the aims and actions of violent jihadists are “haram” (forbidden).

UK Sharing Again

That was quick.

Britain has reopened information-sharing ties with the US again – less than 24 hours after suspending intelligence sharing over leaked evidence from the Manchester bombing.

An extraordinary row erupted between British and US authorities after highly sensitive images of the blood-smeared remnants of attacker Salman Abedi’s backpack and a diagram showing precisely where his victims died were handed to the New York Times.

The halting of intelligence sharing with the US happened for what is understood to be the first time.

It applied only to intelligence related to the Manchester attack.

Brits Concerned About American Leaks

I don’t blame them. What has become clear is that some in our intelligence community have become very comfortable with leaking classified information – usually to advance a political agenda. In order to put a stop to it, the DOJ needs to find some of the leakers and really nail them to the wall. A couple of decades in prison for a leaker would certainly discourage others.

Burnham, a Labour mayor, also said he had spoken with the US ambassador to Britain about his concerns.
Two Labour lawmakers tweeted their concern Wednesday. Yvette Cooper said she was very troubled by the leaks amidst a “live investigation where public safety at risk,” while Lilian Greenwood asked, “What is the Government doing with US counterparts to address these breaches?”
US sources were the first to reveal the identity of the bomber, 22-year-old Salman Abedi, leading to concern that police efforts to hunt down his associates could be impacted.
On Wednesday, The New York Times posted photos that show what it said could be the detonator, a battery, nuts and screws for shrapnel, and fragments of a backpack used in the attack.
Britain’s National Police Chiefs’ Council warned Wednesday that leaks of potential evidence “undermine our investigations.”

Attack in Manchester

Prayers for our British friends.

Nineteen people have been killed and about 50 injured in a suspected terror attack at Manchester Arena.

The blast happened at about 22:35 BST on Monday following a pop concert by the US singer Ariana Grande.

The cause is unknown but PM Theresa May said her thoughts were with those affected by “what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack”.

British Transport Police said the explosion was in the arena’s foyer.

Obama Praises Himself for Courage

Heh

“I actually think that the issue that required the most political courage was the decision not to bomb Syria after the chemical weapons use had been publicized and rather to negotiate them removing chemical weapons from Syria,” Obama said in an interview with Jack Schlossberg, the grandson of President John F. Kennedy, which was published Monday.

That decision has come under renewed scrutiny following last month’s deadly sarin gas attack on Syrian civilians carried out by Syrian President Bashar Assad. President Trump subsequently ordered the bombing of a Syrian airfield and criticized Obama for not following through on a threatened military strike after Assad crossed what Obama had said was his “red line.”

“Now, we know subsequently that some [chemical weapons] remained, so it was an imperfect solution,” Obama said. “But what we also know is that 99 percent of huge chemical weapons stockpiled were removed without us having to fire a shot.”

Actually, we do not know that 99% of the chemical weapons were removed. We know nothing of the sort. What we do know is that Obama told us that 100% of the chemical weapons were removed and that hundreds of dead Syrians dispute Obama’s assertion.

Bitter Much?

Heh.

bitter

Socialism is Starving Venezuelans

Tragic.

Three in four Venezuelans said they had lost weight last year, an average of 19 pounds, according to the National Poll of Living Conditions, an annual study by social scientists. People here, in a mix of rage and humor, call it the Maduro diet after President Nicolás Maduro.

For more than a month, Venezuelans have protested against the increasingly authoritarian government of Mr. Maduro; by Friday, more than 35 people had been reported killed in the unrest. The country’s Food Ministry, the president’s office, the Communications Ministry and the Foreign Ministry didn’t return calls or emails requesting comment for this article.

Presidential Campaign Hacked

In France.

(CNN)Leading French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been the victim of a “massive and coordinated hacking operation,” after files purporting to be from the campaign were posted online via social media, his campaign said Friday.

Campaign officials said the perpetrators of the hack — revealed just two days before the election — had mixed fake documents with authentic ones “in order to create confusion and misinformation.”
About 14.5 gigabytes of emails, personal and business documents were posted, a CNN look at the data shows. Links to the 70,000-plus files were posted on pastebin, a text-sharing site, just before 2 p.m. ET Friday.
This does seem to be an ongoing tactic by anarchists and malcontents. Campaigns are going to have to go back to doing everything in person in smoky back rooms.

Chicago Area Community Organizer Admits to Being a Terrorist

It’s shocking how easily our immigration system can be defrauded.

(CNN)A Chicago-area resident who participated in two terror attacks in Israel in 1969 pleaded guilty Tuesday to having illegally obtained her American citizenship.

Rasmieh Odeh, 69, entered her plea Tuesday afternoon in federal court in Detroit, admitting she had been convicted in Israeli court in 1970 for her role in two bombings, and that she had willingly omitted that information from her US citizenship application.
[…]
Odeh was sentenced to life in prison by an Israeli military court in 1970 in connection with two bombs planted the previous year in Jerusalem by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, according to court documents. One bomb killed two people at a supermarket. The other damaged the British Consulate in Jerusalem, but caused no injuries.
Odeh, a Jordanian national, was later released from Israeli prison in 1979 as part of a prisoner transfer.
[…]
Court documents state that Odeh is a community organizer with the Arab American Action Network. The group, a Chicago-area nonprofit, lists Odeh as an associate director on its website.

Un’s Cookies

Something about cookies

“People are saying: ‘Is he sane?’ I have no idea…. but he was a young man of 26 or 27… when his father died. He’s dealing with obviously very tough people, in particular the generals and others.

“And at a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I’m sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie.”

Trump is probably right. Un is not unintelligent and received a good education. But his secret to holding power is probably more rooted in his ruthlessness rather than his intellect.

Turkish President Continues to Consolidate Power

The Middle East needed another totalitarian regime.

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish authorities said they had arrested more than a thousand “secret Imams” who had infiltrated police forces on behalf of a U.S.-based cleric accused by President Tayyip Erdogan of trying to topple him last July.

The nationwide sweep was one of the largest operations in months against suspected supporters of the cleric, Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan. Gulen denies any part in the coup led by military officers.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the overnight crackdown targeted a Gulen network “that infiltrated our police force, called ‘secret imams’.

“One thousand and nine secret imams have been detained so far in 72 provinces, and the operation is ongoing,” he told reporters in Ankara.

Another 9,103 personnel from Turkey’s police force were suspended on Wednesday, police headquarters in Ankara said in a statement on its web site, citing alleged links with Gulen’s network.

In the aftermath of the failed July coup, authorities arrested 40,000 people and sacked or suspended 120,000 from a wide range of professions including soldiers, police, teachers and public servants, over alleged links with terrorist groups.

Jordan Changes Rape Law

I guess one could call this an improvement, but not much.

A law which protected rapists from punishment if they married their victims has been scrapped in Jordan.
The Jordanian cabinet revoked Article 308 on Sunday, after years of campaigning by women’s activists, as well as Muslim and Christian scholars and others.

The law had meant rapists could avoid a jail term in return for marrying their victim for at least three years.

Its supporters said the law protected a victim’s honour and reputation.

But last year, it was amended so a rapist could only use the loophole to marry his victim if she was aged between 15 and 18 and the attack was believed to have been consensual.

So if you rape a child and marry her, it’s cool in Jordan.

Saudi Arabia Elected to U.N. Commission on the Status of Women

Because… of course.

Saudi Arabia was elected to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

The addition of the Gulf nation was first flagged by UN Watch, a nongovernmental body that monitors the United Nations. The Commission on the Status of Women’s main mission is to assess the challenges to reaching gender inequality, according to the U.N. website.

The organization’s executive director slammed the election, which occurred in a secret vote during the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council.

Trump Denies Sanction Waiver to Exxon to Drill in Russia

Well, that’s going to make cabinet meetings awkward.

“The Treasury Department will not be issuing waivers to U.S. companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, said in a statement Friday. Mnuchin said he consulted with President Trump on the decision.

Exxon had applied for a waiver from sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in a bid to resume its lucrative joint venture with Russian state oil giant PAO Rosneft.

In a statement, Exxon said “we understand” the decision by the Treasury Department. Exxon explained that its application for a license was aimed at meeting the company’s “contractual obligations” in Russia, where competitors are allowed to drill under European sanctions.

Paris Terrorist Was Released Early

So the cop killing terrorist in Paris was released early from prison where he was serving a sentence for threatening cops. Brilliant.

A policeman was shot dead while two other officers were seriously injured by a Kalashnikov-wielding gunman on the Champs Elysees in central Paris – just three days before the French presidential election.

The alleged ISIS gunman, identified as 39-year-old Karim C – who was jailed for 20 years for trying to kill officers in 2001 – parked his Audi and opened fire after police stopped at a red light on the world famous avenue.

[…]

Karim was born in France and lived in Chelles, a commuter town close to Paris and was jailed for the 2001 attack – but is believed to have been released early in 2016.

Venezuela Seizes GM Plant

Socialists gonna be socialists

GM (GM) described the takeover as an “illegal judicial seizure of its assets.”

The automaker said the seizure showed a “total disregard” of its legal rights. It said that authorities had removed assets including cars from company facilities.

“[GM] strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights,” it said in a statement.

GM’s subsidiary in the country — General Motors Venezolana — has operated in Venezuela for nearly 70 years. It employs nearly 2,700 workers and has 79 dealers in the country. GM said it would make “separation payments” to its workers.

May Calls for Election

Even though she’s ahead in the polls, it’s a gutsy move.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has called a snap general election for 8 June, taking the country by surprise.

The previous election was in 2015, so another was not due until 2020.

Ms May pledged several times after taking office last year not to call an early election, so this is something of a U-turn.


Why the U-turn?

The prime minister wants a strong mandate in parliament going into what are likely to be fraught negotiations with Europe over Britain’s exit from the EU.

Her Conservative party has a relatively slim majority in the House of Commons, won in 2015 under the previous leader David Cameron. But since that election the main opposition Labour party has collapsed in the polls, leaving her in a much stronger position and making an election win significantly more likely.

A victory in June would also hand her a very important personal mandate. Having taken over from Mr Cameron when he resigned mid-term, after losing the Brexit referendum, she has yet to win her own general election.

Dairy farmers feel slap of the Invisible Hand

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. In this age of populism and protectionism, it is bound to be unpopular. Here it is:

Dozens of Wisconsin dairy farmers with thousands of cows received a letter a few weeks ago that spoiled their year. Grassland, the company that had been buying their milk, told the farmers that they could no longer buy the farmers’ milk because of a new Canadian policy that has dried up the demand for American milk. The calls for government action throw kindling on the friction between Americans who believe in free trade and those who support protectionist policies.

The price of milk for Canadian dairy processors is set by the Canadian Dairy Commission. The way they set prices was based on a complicated process, but the end result is that the price that Canadian dairy farmers received for milk was substantially higher than in the rest of the world. By comparison, a Canadian dairy farmer received almost 50 percent more for his or her milk than an American farmer.

This artificial pricing sounds great for Canadian dairy farmers, but economies are dynamic and protectionist policies rarely have the desired effect. Canada’s participation in NAFTA and trade agreements with the European Union and other entities give other countries fairly free access to Canadian markets to sell their goods — including milk. While the high price of milk for Canadian dairy farmers sounds good on paper, the actual result is that Canadian dairy processors were buying most of their milk from American dairy farmers because it was cheaper. In other words, Wisconsin dairy farmers were directly benefiting from what was supposed to be a protectionist policy by Canada to prop up prices for their own dairy farmers.

The new pricing policy from the Canadian Dairy Commission would allow Canadian dairy producers to buy milk at whatever the global price is. The new policy is arguably promoting freer trade by dropping an artificial price of milk and allowing it to fluctuate with global supply and demand. Canadian dairy farmers will no longer get the higher prices for their milk, but they will be able to sell more of it. Canadian dairy processors and consumers will benefit from saving the cost of transporting milk from distant places. Wisconsin dairy farmers are being hurt by the policy because the artificial demand for their product that was created by the old Canadian policies has now dried up. While the new policy is arguably freer than the old policy, there is no question that it favors Canadian dairy farmers over foreign ones.

With so many Wisconsin families hurting, one question is what, if anything, should our government do in response? In an increasingly rare bout of bipartisanship, both of Wisconsin’s U.S. senators are calling upon the Trump administration to do something about the new Canadian

policy. Sen. Tammy Baldwin has called the policy an “unfair trade scheme” and Sen. Ron Johnson said Wisconsin dairy farmers should not be “victims of a trade dispute they didn’t start.”

What should the American government do? Should the Trump administration demand that Canada reinstate artificially high milk process for their own dairy producers? Should America enact retaliatory protectionist policies on other goods?

The free trade of goods and services in a market economy has proven to be the most efficient and economical way to align supply with demand. The United States has been a perfect example of this. Our large, diverse national land mass means that our nation has a diverse and robust internal economy that allows for specialization. Instead of Wisconsin having to try to provide our own milk, beef, oranges, wheat, iron, copper, etc., the lack of trade barriers with other states allows Wisconsin to focus on developing the natural abundances within our state and buy the natural abundances of other states. As Adam Smith said, “never attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy.”

The same is true in a global economy. Free trade is the most efficient, economical and fair way to allocate scarce resources to the greatest benefit of the most people.

But getting to that greatest benefit means that some folks will feel the sting when they are slapped by the invisible hand. Problems arise when we react to that inevitable sting by trying to protect that which the market no longer needs.

Wisconsin’s dairy farmers have benefited for years by an ill-conceived Canadian milk pricing policy and are feeling the sting of that policy being changed.

Our reaction should not be to enact further barriers to trade and further distort the market. Instead, our reaction should be to help our dairy farmers find a new market for their milk, or help them reallocate their resources to produce something for which there is market demand.

Turkey Descends Into Dictatorship

Totalitarianism is advancing as democracy retreats.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s push for an executive presidency succeeded with 51.4% voting for it.

The win was met with both celebrations and protests across Turkey.

[…]

What’s in the new constitution?

  • The president will have a five-year tenure, for a maximum of two terms
  • The president will be able to directly appoint top public officials, including ministers and one or several vice-presidents
  • The job of prime minister will be scrapped
  • The president will have power to intervene in the judiciary, which Mr Erdogan has accused of being influenced by Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based preacher he blames for the failed coup in July
  • The president will decide whether or not impose a state of emergency
Grey line

Mr Erdogan says the changes are needed to address Turkey’s security challenges after last July’s attempted coup, and to avoid the fragile coalition governments of the past.

The new system, he argues, will resemble those in France and the US and will bring calm in a time of turmoil marked by a Kurdish insurgency, Islamist militancy and conflict in neighbouring Syria, which has led to a huge refugee influx.

Critics of the changes fear the move will make the president’s position too powerful, arguing that it amounts to one-man rule, without the checks and balances of other presidential systems such as those in France and the US.

Trump Indulges in Waffles

Actually, “waffle” isn’t the right word… these are complete flip flops.

US President Donald Trump has said Nato is “no longer obsolete”, reversing a stance that had alarmed allies.

Hosting Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House, Mr Trump said the threat of terrorism had underlined the alliance’s importance.

He called on Nato to do more to help Iraqi and Afghan “partners”.

Mr Trump has repeatedly questioned Nato’s purpose, while complaining that the US pays an unfair share of membership.

The Nato U-turn wasn’t Mr Trump’s only change of heart on Wednesday.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said he would not label China a currency manipulator, despite having repeatedly pledged to do so on his first day in office.

He was right the first time on both counts. China is a currency manipulator. And NATO is obsolete in its current form. It was designed to counter a single threat that no longer exists.