Tuesday, October 18, 2011
- Updated !Earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the world seismic activity Papua New Guinea 5.4 and 5.8 ; Argentina 5.1 and Japan 5.1 ! More info here.
- Japan : For the most accurate info on the nuclear disaster go to : Paul Langley's Nuclear History Blog.Here.
- LIVE BLOG: The Gilad Shalit prisoner swap as it happens HERE.
BREAKING news: #IDF confirms # GiladShalit in good physical and mental health!
- Truck full of Hotair stolen?Truck Full of Equipment for Obama Bus Tour Stolen in Virginia: Report.(NBCWashington).A van containing President Obama's teleprompter and podium were stolen from a Virginia hotel parking lot on Monday, NBC12 in Richmond reports.The truck was parked at the Virginia Center Commons Courtyard Marriott near Richmond before the president's scheduled Wednesday appearance in Chesterfield, the Richmond station reports. In addition to the teleprompter, $200,000 worth of audio equipment and presidential seals mounted on Obama's podium were inside the stolen vehicle.NBC12 reports the truck was recovered on Monday at 12:30 p.m. at a Holiday Inn Express near the Richmond airport.The Defense Information Systems Agency released the following statement on the incident:"A government vehicle was stolen and has been recovered. No classified or sensitive information was in the vehicle. We take incidents such as this very seriously, and a formal investigation is continuing in coordination with relevant law enforcement agencies."At this time, officials have not said if any other items were missing from the van.Read the full 'story' here.
- Obama extends support for protesters.(FT).By Shannon Bond.Barack Obama, US president, offered more support for protesters against the global financial system after a weekend of demonstrations in cities around the world, but called on them not to “demonise” those who worked on Wall Street.On Sunday, Mr Obama honoured Martin Luther King at a dedication to a new memorial on National Mall in Washington. Referring to protests that have spread from Wall Street to London, Rome and elsewhere, Mr Obama said: “Dr King would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonising those who work there.” Mr Obama had previously said the protests “express the frustration” of ordinary Americans with the financial sector.But some bankers and others in the protesters’ sights sought to spread the blame. Andreas Schmitz, head of the German banking federation and chief executive of HSBC Trinkaus, told the Financial Times on Sunday that protests against banks were “a diversion from the fundamental problem: that we can no longer finance our welfare states”.In 2008 a banking crisis caused a budget crisis for governments, he said. Now “a state debt crisis [in the eurozone] is causing a banking crisis”. Politicians, he warned, should not try to make the banks the “fall guys” for their mistakes.Read the full story here.
- Obama Launches Cultural Warfare.(Politico).By Keith Koffler.President Barack Obama stands accused by conservatives of waging class warfare, seeking to galvanize his base and lure middle-class voters by pitting the rich against everyone else.But Obama’s reelection strategy is about more than the haves and have-nots. It appears he is seeking to stir up full-blown cultural warfare against a large and diverse segment of society known as Republicans.Having failed to lower the unemployment rate to a politically tolerable level, Obama cannot run as most presidential candidates do — on the economy. So he and his advisers seem to have decided instead to mount a deeply polarizing campaign based on “values” — suggesting his vision for America is correct even if the economy is not right yet.But in waging this battle, Obama is saying nasty and dangerous things. He is promoting his own principles — not just by touting their goodness, but by suggesting that Republicans hold to an offensive, even un-American, philosophy.By painting his opposition as not just wrong but evil, Obama risks dividing the nation in a profound and unnecessary way.Obama previewed the strategy last April, when he said that the budget produced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and eventually passed by the House was “not a vision of the America I know.”In the past several weeks, Obama’s pronouncements on what is American and what is not — and his accusations of bad faith by his opponents — have increased in frequency and intensity.In September, Obama used reactions by a handful of audience members at GOP debates to indict the entire party.“Some of you here may be folks who actually used to be Republican,” Obama said during a California fundraiser, “but are puzzled by what’s happened to that party. You’ve got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don’t have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they’re gay. That’s not reflective of who we are.”Allegations that Republicans want sick people to die and hate homosexuals are caricatures you might expect of an extreme House member or a raving partisan running for local office. That a president would say — or even believe — such things is deeply disturbing.The few in the debate audience who actually reacted in this way may, in fact, have been responding to the new health care law and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” — not seeking the death of people who can’t afford health care insurance or hating homosexuals. Obama has characterized Republican votes against his jobs bill — which are predicated, at least in part, over concern that new, temporary spending financed by tax increases will not help the economy — as a rejection of the most wholesome of American workers.“They said no to more jobs for teachers, no to more jobs for cops and firefighters,” Obama said during a speech Wednesday to the administration’s Forum on American Latino Heritage, “no to more jobs for construction workers and veterans, no to tax cuts for small-business owners and middle-class Americans.”But in these same remarks, Obama also subtly suggested something far worse — that his opponents are racially biased.“I ran for president for the same reason many people came to this country in the first place,” he explained. “Because I believe America should be a place where you can always make it if you try, a place where every child, no matter what they look like [or] where they come from should have a chance to succeed. I still believe in that America. I believe we can be that America again.”The clear suggestion is that someone has made this country a place where what a child looks like can hinder them — and Obama is the one who can erase the discrimination that has been permitted to return. First lady Michelle Obama made this point more explicitly at a Washington fundraiser the night before.“Will we be a country where opportunity is limited to just the few at the top?” the first lady asked. “Or will we give every child — every child — a chance to succeed, no matter where she’s from, or what she looks like, or how much money her parents [have]? Who are we? That’s what’s at stake here.”Her suggestion that “what’s at stake here” in the 2012 race is whether a child will be judged by color is an outrage, implying that a Republican victory would result in discrimination.The first lady repeatedly asked, “Who are we?” during her remarks — a phrase that could replace “hope and change” as the mantra for this Obama campaign.To the peril of the nation, the Obamas are declaring that “who the Republicans are” is something mean and pernicious.Democracy presupposes that both sides accept that the other speaks with goodness from the heart — if sometimes in error.But if the other side is not just wrong but ill-intentioned, the rationale for sharing power evaporates.Class warfare is a dangerous game, unjustly turning a small segment of society into villains. But cultural warfare is poisonous, threatening to sicken and cripple the entire society.Hmmmm.....The most divisive President EVAH?Read the full story here.
- Report: Obama’s Czars Are Seizing More Power.(BigGovernment).Barack Obama has made a number of decisions during his tenure proving that he has little regard for the U.S. Constitution or the rule of law. At the top of the list is Obama’s penchant for installing radical leftists as czars in his administration without the constitutionally-mandated vetting and approval by the U.S. Senate.These political appointees, called “czars,” are powerful and difficult to track. Nonetheless, Judicial Watch’s investigation team has taken on the important and exhaustive task of documenting these czar appointments (which number 45 according to our latest tally) and detailing the control these czars have over government operations.Among the report’s findings are the following:
Czar appointees have seized unprecedented control over major aspects of government policy and programs. In some instances, unconfirmed czars have authority, in seeming violation of the U.S. Constitution, over certain Senate-confirmed officers.A number of the czars have been linked to scandals, thefts and kickbacks, flagrant and offensive statements, conflicts of interest, and radical leftist political ideologies and policies.Barack Obama’s unconstitutional use of czars to help run his administration is at odds with republican, limited, and accountable government. Obama has simply installed his allies in various positions of power while thumbing his nose at Congress and the American people.As we document in this report, too many of these czars have proven to be corrupt or radical (or sometimes both). No wonder the Obama administration fights tooth-and-nail to allow these czars to operate in secret. Thankfully, our investigators managed to develop this comprehensive list of czars as part of our efforts to ensure government accountability. (Our report details 18 unfilled czar positions!)By the way, it is important to note that Obama’s list of czars is constantly shifting as scandals force some corrupt czars from office (see former Consumer Czar Elizabeth Warren for just one example).Moreover, every time Obama creates a new federal government bureaucracy he also creates the opportunity for more czars to join the Obama Big Government team. For example, Townhall’s Lurita Doan reported this week that more czars may be on the way courtesy of the president’s new “Jobs Act”:
Obama is proposing a new group of czars as a part of his “jobs” act – the American Infrastructure Financing Authority (AIFA) czars. President Obama’s newest czars will be given the authority to manage over a trillion dollars of federal funding for roads, bridges, buildings, waterways, dams and other infrastructure.Hmmmm......Welcome to the new Socialist Sovjet of America.Read the full story here.
- Obama Fist Bumps The Occupiers.(WhiteHouseDossier).by Keith Koffler.President Obama is intensifying his identification with the Occupy Wall Street movement.This is truly frightening.It would be one thing for Obama to practice benign neglect, to communicate that everyone has a right to protest without really commenting on the movement itself.But it must be unprecedented for a president of the United States to suggest an affinity for radical leftists who despise capitalism and seek to upend the economic and political system.I’ve watched enough video and seen enough commentary out of the Occupy Everything crowd to understand who these people are. They are not average people out of work who want jobs, or mainstream Democratic Party reformers who believe in more regulation and government programs.These are stereotypical leftists who want wrenching change that cannot be achieved by democratic means and that would require the type of government or third party intervention into the economy and people’s lives that is incompatible with democracy.But Obama has thrown in with these people, starting with his press conference statement earlier this month that they are expressing “the frustrations that the American people feel.”Sunday, during his dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, he cozied up further.Sure, he talks about the need for “love and mutuality,” but that’s a fig leaf. These hate-filled extremists are not going to start feeling love and mutuality for corporate America, and Obama knows it.What exactly does Obama mean when he speaks approvingly of a “challenge to the existing arrangements” and “peace without justice is not peace at all.” These are very provocative things for a president to say, particularly while aligning himself with hard core leftists.As if to make sure things were perfectly clear, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest Sunday adopted the phraseology of the movement and suggested Obama would fight for its goals.
The president will continue to acknowledge the frustration that he himself shares about the need for Washington to do more to support our economic recovery and to ensure that the interest of the 99 percent of Americans is well-represented.Obama is a former community organizer who was rated the most liberal member of the Senate. These kinds of protests are in his blood. He is no more able to condemn them than he is able to reject himself.It’s disconcerting that this president appears to harbor some radical notions. What scares is when he is supportive of those who would make such ideas reality by toppling the system he presides over and has pledged to defend.Hmmmm.......If he really wanted to destroy America would he do anything different?Read the full story here.
- 21st Century Statecraft: Meet The Private-Public Partnership Supporting #ArabSpring and #OccupyWallSt.(BigGovernment).
#GlobalRevolution Brought To You By Big Government, Big Business and Big Labor
Nearly a year ago, when the Tunisian uprising sparked the beginning of what would later be dubbed the Arab Spring, many in the Western World were transfixed by the seemingly spontaneous popular uprisings. However, what many have viewed as the impromptu uprisings of the oppressed appear to be more the result of a quietly-conducted campaign called 21st Century Statecraft that was birthed and nurtured by the U.S. State Department, some of America’s most well-known corporations, the U.S. labor movement and the global Left.
Now, as the American Autumn unfolds, combined with the #OccupyTogether movement taking root in cities around the world, it appears that the engineers behind Arab Spring are deploying their 21st Century Statecraft model in the United States.What is 21st Century Statecraft?
In short, 21st Century Statecraft is an initiative of the U.S. State Department to change the world through social media. Simply put, it is regime change through internet activism. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (referred to as “the godmother of 21st-century statecraft“) describes it on the State Department’s website:
“To meet these 21st century challenges, we need to use the tools, the new 21stcentury statecraft. …we find ourselves living at a moment in human history when we have the potential to engage in these new and innovative forms of diplomacy and to also use them to help individuals be empowered for their own development.” – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton:
The earliest indications are that America’s involvement in Arab Spring nearly three years ago, shortly after the election of Barack Obama when, according to the Telegraph, an Egyptian activist visited the U.S. for a conference called the Alliance of Youth Movements Summit in December 2008 and a plan was allegedly made to overthrow the government of Egypt.
The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police. On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011.That first conference morphed into a standing organization called the Alliance of Youth Movements (its website Movements.org), a non-for-profit group that is designed to train and connect activists. On the Movements.org website, AYM describes its mission as:
Through the use of new technologies, grassroots activists have more potential than ever to make social change. Movements.org is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping these activists to build their capacity and make a greater impact on the world.
How do we do this?
We Identify digital activists and developments in digital activism through our website, blog, social media presence, and outreach trips;We Connect digital activists to each other, to technology experts, and to more traditional members of civil society.We Support activists by ensuring that the matches we make deliver necessary resources, training and mentorship; by facilitating face-to-face meetings among members of our networkand by providing a platform for these connections to ignite and evolve over time.21st century activism produces unlikely leaders. Movements.org represents a new model of peer-to-peer training wherein these leader lends their experience in digital organizing, especially short term protests and campaigns, not just to each other but also to those whose expertise lies in long term capacity building.Read the full story here.
- Obama Will Use
DeathStarJobs Bus Tour To Support Occupy Wall Street Protesters.(Reuters).President Barack Obama will seek to tap into public anger at Wall Street excess to turn up the heat on congressional Republicans as he embarks on a campaign-style bus tour on Monday to rally support for his stalled jobs package.Hitting the road for the next three days, Obama heads to North Carolina and Virginia, both vital to his 2012 re-election chances, with an increasingly populist approach aimed at winning passage of at least parts of his $447 billion jobs plan.His visits to two pivotal Southern states come against the backdrop of protests against corporate greed and economic inequality that began weeks ago in New York and have spread to other cities, inspiring global “Day of Rage” demonstrations against the world financial system over the weekend.Obama — whose poll numbers have fallen over his handling of the stagnant economy and high unemployment — has voiced sympathy with the grievances of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement but has done so cautiously, not least because of his own economic team’s ties to the financial industry.Hmmm........divide et impera.Read the full story here.
- "It's a Zionist plot"...I knew it! - “Christopher Columbus Was the First Zionist”.(PowerlineBlog).Someone leaked a batch of emails that have been exchanged by leaders of the Occupy Wall Street group. I’ve only dipped into them briefly, but some are pretty entertaining. This thread reminded me of my days as a leftist, and the difficulty of accommodating the diverse and sometimes inconsistent varieties of left-wing crackpotism. It started with a representative of the Palestine Right to Return Coalition named Andy Pollack (!), who was dismayed that someone from Israel’s “tent protests” was an OWS speaker. He went on at great length, so I will excerpt:
Tonight (Tuesday) was the first Occupy Wall Street outreach training. I was shocked to hear that the first speaker after the introduction would be an activist from the Israeli “tent protests,” the racist movement which was fighting for cheaper rents and mortgages for stolen homes on stolen land.OWS has responded to criticisms of inadequate leadership and participation and addressing of issues by and regarding people of color by fostering discussion and restructuring. The racist “tent protest” movement responded to equivalent challenges from Palestinians by telling them, “shut up, leave us alone, don’t divide the movement.” …When he finished I got the floor … and made some of the above points. Almost as soon as I began speaking murmurs of disagreement and calls of “this isn’t the time” and downward “twinkling” hand motions began. One of the facilitators asked the speaker to respond, and he said “it’s a question of outreach. I did outreach to Palestinians in Israel who were leery of joining the movement. You’ll have to do the same in the Bronx. The issue of Palestinians in the movement won’t be settled here.”Well, yes, Mr. Zionist, it will be settled here. There is a huge Palestinian exile community in the US, with that in NY being one of the biggest components. They want their land back, they want their homes back, and they want the right to return. They have no interest in a movement which haggles over the rent paid by Jews to Jews for stolen property.I have been having a hell of a great time building OWS, especially its labor component, and encouraging Palestinians and other Arabs to join in. That will cease until there is some clarification of exactly where OWS stands on these issues.
Someone named Martin Kaminer joined the conversation with a relatively lucid comment: I’m not clear on the connection between unquenchable thirst for oil and unshakable support for Israel — those would seem to work at cross-purposes, no?
To which Ms. Zawacki replied: I don’t see the cross-purposes. US needs a secure base in the middle of oil country. My larger point, however, is that it is wholly insufficient to attack the economic system without understanding that, whatever the economic system, unsustainable growth based on burning fuel is doomed to catastrophe.
Finally, one Shaista Husain reconciles the contradictions with this synthesis:
Christopher Columbus was the first ZIONIST ===don’t you guys get it? The same colonial narrative–genocide. We must endorse the Declaration of First Nation Peoples, in solidarity, for the plight of all people of color. Cesar and Bahareh, i agree–this is most urgent.
This exchange strikes me as revealing on several levels, but I will close with just two observations: 1) It is a reminder of the sheer volume of ignorant BS that leftists can generate. 2) The only common denominator that binds together these miscellaneous cranks with their various obsessions is their visceral hatred of the United States.Hmmmm......Cristóbal Colón Aug 1492........ Anchors away "Drill baby , drill"?Read the full story here.
- Anti-Semitism tainting Occupy Wall Street protests.(YNet).VIDEO - Several anti-Semitic incidents have been reported during "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations in New York as Jews were blamed for the turmoil in America's financial markets. In addition, anti-Israel signs were raised against "Israel's occupation of Gaza". The "Emergency Committee for Israel" has published a hard-to-watch clip in which Jews are attacked and blamed for the financial crisis and assistance to Israel. The committee is a neo-conservative body headed by William Kristol, the Jewish editor of the Weekly Standard, which aims to convince Jews to vote for a Republican presidential candidate.It should be noted that the video is political in nature and seeks to tie President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to the protesters, urging them to "stand up to the mob". The White House, on its part, is trying to take advantage of the demonstrations against Wall Street while the anti-Obama camp is attempting to tie the protesters to the far Left and Israel's enemies. In the clip, a young demonstrator is seen arguing with an older Jewish man wearing a yarmulke. At one point, the young man says, "I work, earn seven dollars an hour. You have the money. You don't speak English? You are from Israel? Go back to Israel." Another African-American protester accuses the Jews of taking over America. "The smallest group in America controls the money, media and all other things. The fingerprints belong to the Jewish bankers. I am against Jews who rob America. They are one percent who control America. President Obama is a Jewish puppet. The entire economy is Jewish. Every federal judge in the East Coast is Jewish." Among the signs that could be seen in the protest were, "Gaza supports the occupation of Wall Street", "Hitler's Bankers", and a sign urging people to Google the following: Wall St. Jews, Jewish billionaires, Jews and Federal Reserve Bank. In addition, the anti-Israel group Code Pink: Women for Peace was spotted as well as other Arab groups. Read and see the full story here.
- Scribecast: J. Christian Adams on Obama’s ‘Lawless’ Justice Department.(Heritage).In June 2010, J. Christian Adams resigned his post as a career attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Adams cited DOJ’s decision to abandon prosecution of two members of the New Black Panther Party who had brandished weapons outside of a Philadelphia polling station in 2008, shouting racial slurs at passers-by.Adams called it “the simplest and most obvious violation of federal law I saw in my Justice Department career.”The decision to drop the case – made by top officials at the Civil Rights Division – was part of a very pronounced pattern at the Justice Department, which Adams documents at length in his new book Injustice. He details the “racialist” approach to civil rights law that pervades the Justice Department, its roots in the “racial grievance industry,” and its consequences for the integrity of American elections.
From the fight against voter ID laws to the disenfranchisement of white voters to efforts to pack DOJ’s Civil Rights Division with zealous left-wing ideologues, the trends documented in Injustice are as brazen as they are alarming. Adams’s thorough reporting and professional insight offer the most comprehensive and frightening account to date of the Obama administration’s attempts to exact racial retribution through the federal government’s law enforcement powers.In speaking with Scribe, Adams described the administration’s approach to civil rights law with a single word: lawlessness. “This is not only lawlessness,” he writes in Injustice, “it is the most dangerous kind of lawlessness – for history shows that once a nation’s laws cease to apply to the law enforcers, individual liberty does not survive for long.”Hmmmm.......If he really wanted to destroy America ...would he do anything different?Read the full story here.
- US acts like Israel's lawyer, Erdoğan tells Obama.(TodaysZaman).Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fired back at US President Barack Obama, after a remark Obama made about Turkey's relationship with Iran in a private meeting late last month, reportedly telling the US president that his country is acting like “Israel's lawyer.”Davutoğlu, who is currently attending an informal gathering of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the town of Kızılcahamam, near Ankara, revealed a minor encounter between Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Obama to lawmakers on Saturday during a speech, Turkish broadcaster NTV reported.Obama and Erdoğan met in New York late last month on the margins of the UN General Assembly, to discuss bilateral relations, along with regional developments. Davutoğlu said when Obama complained to Erdoğan that Turkey is “protecting Iran,” Erdoğan said: “You [the US] are acting like Israel's lawyer.” The Turkish foreign minister described Erdoğan as responding to Obama with his “sweet strong style.”Hmmmm........Read the full story here.
- ‘Newyorkustan’ Web Series Being Launched to Fight Muslim Stereotypes – (with video)(Vinienco).Most depictions of Muslims on television are, to say the least, negative. Perhaps that is why Muslims, according to Gallup, are the most disliked religious group in America.But in New York City, a group of producers, writers and actors are fighting to change America’s impressions of Muslim Americans. But instead of holding a rally or a forum, they are producing a web series featuring the lives of Muslim Americans, called NEWYORKUSTAN.“We’re not trying to change people’s minds so much as their hearts,” says Steven De Castro, the Producer and Director of NEWYORKUSTAN. ”History shows that propaganda does not work very well. The reason why Muslim Americans have such a bad image is that most Americans simply have never spoken to a Muslim. So we are not combating hate as much as we are a lack of meaningful encounters between Muslims and non-Muslims.”Although the public knows very little about their fellow Americans who follow Islam, Hollywood is doing precious little to enlighten them. ”If you watch TV, there are more realistic dramas set in outer space than in the mosque down the street.” Says De Castro. ”Our vision in NEWYORKUSTAN is to involve the audience with characters going through everyday dilemmas, just like in any series. But the characters are muslim characters, dealing with dramas that mirror what is going on in American mosques.”NEWYORKUSTAN features the story of three friends in their 20?s — played by Vinny Anand, Bilal Beydoun, and Axita Patel — who live in Queens, New York. They become embroiled in a struggle to save their neighborhood mosque from eviction. To their surprise, they realize that they must overcome stiff opposition from a city politician and a Tea-Party-like protest group.Sound familiar? Aside from the obvious parallels to the Ground Zero mosque controversy, the Pew Research Center is aware of at least 37 proposed mosques and Islamic centers across the country that have encountered community resistance in the last three years.The producers and writers of NEWYORKUSTAN met and researched this story for almost a year before filming. ”The most fascinating aspect of Muslim Americans, which distinguishes them from Muslims in other countries, is how diverse they are. Unlike standard depictions of Muslims, Muslims in America are radically different regarding how they dress the organization of their mosques, and their social and political views. I think that the viewer who is used to seeing Muslims on TV as Mideastern men, and rows of women wearing white hijabs (head coverings), will be surprised when they see NEWYORKUSTAN.”Less than 26% of American Muslims are from the Mideast. One out of three American Muslims were born in the United States. Muslims in America come from 77 different countries. ”We do not attempt to represent all Muslims so much as we try to show that being Muslim in America involves a culture clash, not with non-Muslims, but a clash of different Muslim cultures, as well as the standard immigrant generation gap.”“It has been a challenge to tell stories about such a complex community. But as yet there is literally no vocabulary in mainstream film to communicate these stories.” In contrast to Hollywood, the best filmmakers around the world find Muslims to be a rich source of material. Of the Academy Award nominees for best foreign film, all six except one dealt in some way with the relationship between the West and Islam. In America, of all the Academy Award nominees, not a single film featured a Muslim story, according to the New York Times.NEWYORKUSTAN will be releasing its first episodes in December 2011.Hmmmm.......Depicting a clash of different Muslim cultures,no Teaparty there?Read and see (Video) the full story here.
- IRS’s Difficulty Collecting Obamacare Tanning Tax Is a Troubling Sign.(Heritage).President Obama is fond of saying he hasn’t raised anyone’s taxes. How soon he forgets the $500 billion tax hike in his health care law. Obamacare raised 18 separate taxes and included a brand new 10 percent excise tax on tanning beds. The tanning bed tax started in July 2010. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) should have little trouble collecting this ridiculous tax. It already collects several other excise taxes on things like alcohol, tobacco, and gas. And the federal government has collected excises since the beginning of the republic. An increase of the excise tax on whiskey caused the Whiskey Rebellion back in the 1790s. But things haven’t gone as smoothly for the IRS as they should have. From USA Today:
Using an April 2010 Indoor Tanning Association estimate, the IRS initially projected the tax would be due quarterly from roughly 25,000 stand-alone tanning salons, plus spas, health clubs and beauty parlors.But the inspector general report found that actual tax returns filed for the first three quarters through March 31 averaged just above 10,300.
Tanning tax receipts for that nine-month period totaled $54.4 million, the report found. That was below projections by the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation [JCT], which had estimated the tax would raise $50 million in the last three months of fiscal year 2010 and $200 million for the full 2011 fiscal year.Once the IRS gets its act together, the tanning tax might collect what the JCT estimated it would. It is too soon to tell for sure. It should not be forgotten, however, that one of the motivations for this tax was to discourage Americans from tanning. So a built-in feature for the proponents of the tax would be revenues coming up short, because that would mean fewer people were tanning. If the tanning tax is successful in this regard, it will also mean that the claims that Obamacare wouldn’t add to the deficit are even more specious than they already are.The difficulty the IRS is having collecting the tanning tax is a worrying harbinger of more trouble to come for Obamacare. Besides collecting all the taxes Obamacare increased, the IRS has to determine if all 300 million Americans have health insurance approved by the Department of Health and Human Services—every month! If the IRS has so much trouble collecting a simple excise tax from a few thousand businesses, how is it going to achieve the exponentially more daunting task of determining if every citizen has government-approved health insurance 12 times a year?The answer will undoubtedly be a heap of more regulations and a mountain of new bureaucratic forms—especially for businesses already drowning under a tidal wave of regulations and tax forms. Bigger government, which Obamacare undoubtedly represents, requires the government to be more intrusive and impose more costs and more burdens on people and businesses to comply with its many mandates.Just as President Obama turns his attention to job creation after almost three years in office with an unacceptably high unemployment rate, his signature legislative achievement is promising to burden businesses with new costs they can ill afford. The timing couldn’t be worse for the President, the economy, and those out-of-work Americans searching for a job. Read the full story here.
- Five Banks Account For 96% Of $250 Trillion In Outstanding US Derivative Exposure.(ZeroHedge).The latest quarterly report from the Office Of the Currency Comptroller is out and as usual it presents in a crisp, clear and very much glaring format the fact that the top 4 banks in the US now account for a massively disproportionate amount of the derivative risk in the financial system.
Specifically, of the $250 trillion in gross notional amount of derivative contracts outstanding (consisting of Interest Rate, FX, Equity Contracts, Commodity and CDS) among the Top 25 commercial banks (a number that swells to $333 trillion when looking at the Top 25 Bank Holding Companies), a mere 5 banks (and really 4) account for 95.9% of all derivative exposure (HSBC replaced Wells as the Top 5th bank, which at $3.9 trillion in derivative exposure is a distant place from #4 Goldman with $47.7 trillion). The top 4 banks: JPM with $78.1 trillion in exposure, Citi with $56 trillion, Bank of America with $53 trillion and Goldman with $48 trillion, account for 94.4% of total exposure. As historically has been the case, the bulk of consolidated exposure is in Interest Rate swaps ($204.6 trillion), followed by FX ($26.5TR), CDS ($15.2 trillion), and Equity and Commodity with $1.6 and $1.4 trillion, respectively. And that's your definition of Too Big To Fail right there: the biggest banks are not only getting bigger, but their risk exposure is now at a new all time high and up $5.3 trillion from Q1 as they have to risk ever more in the derivatives market to generate that incremental penny of return.Read the full story here.
- California schools scrambling to add lessons about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans in history classes.(LATimes).At Wonderland Avenue Elementary School in Laurel Canyon, there are lesson plans on diverse families — including those with two mommies or daddies — books on homosexual authors in the library and a principal who is openly gay.But even at this school, teachers and administrators are flummoxed about how to carry out a new law requiring California public schools to teach all students — from kindergartners to 12th graders — about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans in history classes."At this point, I wouldn't even know where to begin," Principal Don Wilson said.Educators across the state don't have much time to figure it out. In January, they're expected to begin teaching about LGBT Americans under California's landmark law, the first of its kind in the nation.The law has sparked confusion about what, exactly, is supposed to be taught. Will fourth-graders learn that some of the Gold Rush miners were gay and helped build San Francisco? Will students be taught about the "two-spirited people" tradition among some Native Americans, as one gay historian mused?"I'm not sure how we plug it into the curriculum at the grade school level, if at all," said Paul Boneberg, executive director at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.Grace R. Callaway, a public school teacher near Yuba City, said she will refuse to teach LGBT issues to her fifth- and sixth-graders because she believes homosexuality is a "destructive lifestyle."She has also taken issue with a short biography recently presented in her daughter's high school history class that described John Berry, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, as the "highest-ranking openly gay federal employee in U.S. history." She and some other religious conservatives want to remove their children from such lessons as they can do with sex education.How administrators plan to handle "conscientious objectors" like Callaway is unclear.For now, L.A. Unified, along with school districts in south Orange County, Elk Grove and elsewhere, has started meeting with staff members to figure out lesson plans."We're looking for places of natural fit," Chiasson said. "We're not going to shoehorn in something gratuitous just to make a point."Hmmmm.......More 'Change'?Read the full story here.
- Clinton briefs Davutoğlu on alleged Iran plot.(TodaysZaman).US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton initiated a telephone conversation with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Friday and briefed him on an alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, Turkish officials said on Sunday.Separately, a US team was also at the Turkish Foreign Ministry briefing Turkish diplomats about the alleged plot, Turkish diplomatic sources told Today's Zaman on Sunday. The US briefing team was led by Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism.“The secretary and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu spoke this morning, in fact, very early before her speech. And the conversation was only on Iran, and it was her opportunity to brief the foreign minister on the situation, and I think you know that the Turkish side requested a briefing team, so I believe our briefing team was sitting in the foreign minister's office when she made the phone call, so she was able to say hello to Ambassador Benjamin as well,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters on Friday in response to a question at a daily press briefing.However, Turkish diplomatic sources speaking with Today's Zaman on Sunday made clear that sending such a briefing team was requested by the US side, not the Turkish side. The sources also noted that Iran was not the sole topic of conversation between Davutoğlu and Clinton and that the two also discussed affairs other than Iran.No Turkish official has publicly commented on the US and Saudi accusations against Tehran since US authorities announced last Tuesday that they broke up a plot by two men linked to the Iranian government to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the United States.“The US team provided [us] with detailed information on the issue. We took note of the information provided during the briefing. We will wait and follow the court process,” Turkish diplomatic sources briefly replied when asked whether Ankara found the US briefing on the issue convincing.Read the full story here.
- Canada: ‘Honor Killing’ Trial of 3 Sisters and Aunt Begins.(Vinienco).Days after three teenage sisters and their “aunt” were found dead in a submerged car two years ago, the girls’ parents offered a tearful explanation for the bizarre tragedy.The four died when their eldest daughter took the family car without permission, Mohammad Shafia and his wife, Tooba, said. They suggested that their eldest daughter, who didn’t have a driver’s license, crashed the car into a shallow canal in Kingston, Ont., where the family had been staying on their way back to Montreal from a family vacation in Niagara Falls.Three weeks later, the Montreal businessman, his wife and their adult son, Hamed, were arrested and each charged with four counts of first-degree murder.Canadians were shocked by the charges and allegations that the crime was a mass honour killing and that the adult victim was in fact Shafia’s first wife.The trio, who have always maintained their innocence, will go on trial in a Kingston courtroom next week.Mohammad Shafia is “very anxious” but eager for his day in court, says his Kingston lawyer.“(He’s) as well as can be expected for someone who has been in custody for two years,” Peter Kemp told The Gazette.Shafia, 58, Tooba, 41, and their son Hamed, 20, have been in custody since their arrest in July, 2009.This past week, a jury of six men and six women was chosen in a Kingston courtroom to hear the case, expected to run eight to 10 weeks.Prosecutors will call up to 58 witnesses, beginning Oct. 20, including 21 police officers. Four Montreal police officers are on the prospective witness list.During the three-day jury selection process, which ended Oct. 13, the accused appeared relaxed. In clear voices, each formally pleaded not guilty to the charges several times, as groups of prospective jurors were selected.On one day, as Shafia was led out of the courthouse in shackles, he responded with a wave and a big smile when a reporter shouted, “Salaam,” Dari for “Hello.”On June 30, 2009, a compact car was found submerged in a shallow canal in Kingston. Inside were the bodies of three of Shafia’s daughters, Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, Geeti, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, who was Shafia’s first wife.Shafia had taken two wives in his native Afghanistan before bringing his 10-member family, including seven children, to Canada in 2007. The family also lived in Pakistan, Dubai and Australia.The wealthy Kabul businessman established several businesses in Montreal, including an import/export operation, and the family settled in an apartment in St. Léonard.At the time of the arrests, Shafia was building a luxurious, 6,000-square-foot home in an exclusive neighborhood in Brossard.The house has since been sold.Jurors were told by the trial judge, Justice Robert Maranger, which it’s alleged “it was a staged car accident and a drowning committed by the accused.”Honour killings are commonplace in some countries in south Asia and the Middle East, where entire families conspire to kill a girl or woman who does not obey strict cultural codes around modesty, chastity and obedience.The Shafia trial was supposed to have begun in April, but in January, Hamed Shafia fired his Kingston lawyer and replaced him with veteran Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Patrick McCann.“He is, I think, glad that this trial is finally underway,” McCann said. “He, of course, by changing lawyers, effectively caused about a six-month (delay) but I think he’s happy the way things are going.”Kingston lawyer David Crowe, who represents the accused mother, declined to comment.McCann and Kemp would not say if they plan to put their clients on the witness stand to testify.“I think it’s very difficult in a first-degree murder trial with a jury to not call your witness because (jurors are) going to ask themselves, ‘Why didn’t he call this person?’ so that’s sitting there on top of me the whole time, but you know, I’ll have to make the decision when I see what the Crown’s able to prove,” Kemp said.He said he likely will not make an opening statement to the jury when the trial begins Thursday. The veteran of more than a dozen murder trials likes to reserve his statement until prosecutors are finished presenting their evidence.“You wouldn’t want to put your foot in your mouth by making a submission to the jury before you hear what the Crown’s evidence is because it can change,” Kemp said.The trial will be conducted in four languages, including Spanish, French and Dari, one of the two official languages of Afghanistan. Hamed Shafia speaks English but his mother and father speak only fractured English.During the arraignment, Mohammad Shafia responded, “No guilty.”To accommodate the Dari speakers, a hi-tech system has been installed to permit three interpreters, who are working inside soundproof booths erected in the courtroom, to translate all of the proceedings simultaneously between Dari and English. Everyone in the courtroom wears headsets connected to wireless receivers.A significant number of prospective jurors were rejected because they admitted they had hearing difficulties. The judge cautioned that because of the technology and the complex interpretation process, jurors must have good hearing.All prospective jurors were asked if their ability to consider the evidence without bias or partiality would be affected, knowing that the accused are from Afghanistan and are “of the Islamic faith.” Many people were rejected because they replied yes to the question.Hmmmm.....Rejecting Jurors based on religion?Read the full story here.
- Israel is waiting for Gilad Shalit.(GIYUS).This is a special day in Israel. 5 years ago Gilad Shalit was just a regular soldier doing his job in the IDF. In the last 5 years he spend in Hamas' captivity, Gilad Shalit became an icon, he became everyone's soldier. Gilad became a symbol of Israel's duty to protect it's soldeirs.The Shalit family is on its way to Tel Nof Airforce base where they'll meet Gilad in person. Hamas has transfered Shalit to Egyptian hands and the prisoner exchange is on it's way.While an overwhelming 79% in Israel support this deal, the release of so many terrorists with blood on their hand is very emotionally challenging to the families that lost their loved ones due to terrorist attacks by those prisoners.This is the end of Gilad's time in captivity. But it's a beginning of a long struggle to put those terrible times behind him. Gilad regains his freedom a day before Jews celebrate the Festival of Simchat Torah. Throughout the millennium, Jews have lived by and even died to preserve their holy Torah. Yet despite it’s intrinsic holiness Jewish law demands, that a community’s last Torah scroll must be sold off to perform one special deed: Redeeming a Jew from captivity.Welcome home Gilad. May you be able to put these hardships behind you and build your live again.. Amen.Read the full story here.
- Gaza celebration: Shalit captors to take stage.(YNet).Abductors and prisoners on one stage: As part of the "surprises" promised by Hamas to celebrate the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap, the group will present for the first time the terrorists in charge of guarding Shalit during his time in captivity. Shalit's captors will take the stage alongside the freed prisoners during the Gaza celebrations to be held upon their return to the Strip.The released prisoners will be first received by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, government ministers, Legislative Council members and other figures. Next, the detainees would meet with realtives. One of the freed prisoners is Muhammad Zufi, who assisted Shalit's abductors in videotaping the abduction operation. He was sentenced to four life terms but is set to be released Tuesday as part of the swap.The Palestinian Maan news agency reported that Gaza's Rafah Crossing will be declared a restricted military zone spanning a one kilometer radius, and that no journalists would be allowed in with the exception of Hamas' al-Aqsa channel, which will air an exclusive broadcast. The Palestine Today news agency reported that a local communication provider will provide the detainees with a cellular phone, a calling card and some cash on the occasion of their release. Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be welcoming freed terrorists in the West Bank. The PA leader will deliver a festive speech, before the detainees proceed to lay a wreath on Yasser Arafat's grave. Read the full story here.
- Video: Ramallah Lynch Butcher to be Freed.(INN).The government is freeing the terrorist who gleefully waved his bloody hands after the lynch of two Israeli soldiers. No one told the soldiers families that the terrorist is being released.The shocking picture that remains in the memories of Jews around the world depicts Abdel - Aziz Saleh waving his bloody hands from his Ramallah widow after the October 2000 lynching of Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami, who were murdered and their bodies mutilated after they inadvertently entered Ramallah.Aziz Saleh was arrested in 2001. He admitted to being one of those who broke in to the police station and choking one of the soldiers. He and other terrorists threw Nurzhitz upside down through a second-floor window and tossed Avrahami out the door for an angry crowd to trample their bodies, drag them to a town square and mutilate them.Saleh was sentenced to life in prison, but the government did not abide by the law requiring that the survivors be informed of his release, along with 1,026 other terrorists and security prisoners for the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.The brutality of the event, captured in the photo, sparked international outrage. Palestinian Authority police had taken the two soldiers a police station, but 1,000 rioters, hearing of the report they the soldiers were detained, stormed the building.British photographer Mark Seager tried to photograph the event, but the mob assaulted him and destroyed his camera. He later stated, "It was the most horrible thing that I have ever seen and I have reported from Congo, Kosovo, many bad places…. It was murder of the most barbaric kind.”WARNING: The video of the lynch contains graphic images.Read the full list of the first 450 male prisoners and 27 female 'prisoners' to be released here. Read the full story here.
- The European Debt Crisis In Comic Book Form -- So Even Democrats Can Understand.(DougRoss).It looks like the European bankers' can-kicking just ran out of road. The yield on a one-year bond from the country of Greece hit a new record high earlier today.A yield of 172% means that bonds issued by Greece are worth just a few pennies more than the paper they're printed on. Put another way, Greece is dead bang certain to default on its debt.European banks loaned Greece hundreds of billions of Euros -- the reasons don't matter at this point -- and were issued bonds in exchange for the money. The money's gone, spent on heaven knows what. And Greece is bankrupt, trying to make ends meet by laying off its bloated public sector union bureaucracy. That's why riots are occurring there on a near-daily basis.Germany is considered the bulwark of the European banking system. But even Germany's most august financial institutions are up to their eyeballs in bad debt. For instance, Deutsche Bank alone has Є3.6 billion of debt issued by Greece (PDF).
Greece owes its creditors an amount equal to 162 percent of its entire gross domestic product (GDP, or the annual output of its economy). Without repealing the laws of mathematics (or Paul Krugman's alien invasion force dropping gold bars on Athens), there is no possible way this debt can be paid off.
The reason for the crisis boils down to this: the banks know they are going to take a horrific beating on their crappy investments (like debt issued by Greece). And they are doing everything possible to avoid recognizing those write-downs, because they do not have the requisite capital to continue operating normally if they do. Deutsche Bank's CEO, for example, is reported to be fighting even a 50% "haircut" (loss) on the Greek debt. But knowledgeable analysts say that a 50% markdown won't be nearly enough.
Worse still, there is the real possibility of "contagion". German banks aren't the worst offenders when it comes to exposure to Greece. French banks are in terrible shape, despite today's protestations by the governor of the Bank of France that "all is well". French institutions have suffered a series of downgrades over the past several months as their vulnerabilities became more evident. That is, to everyone except the governor of the Bank of France.
Oh, but I haven't even gotten to the worst part. Greece is only the beginning of Europe's debt insanity:
European banks have total exposure of $998.7 billion to Italy, $774 billion to Spain and $532 billion to Ireland versus just $162.4 billion to Greece.
Talk of a rescue package for Greece -- which hasn't yet been finalized because no one wants to pony up -- doesn't even contemplate much larger defaults like those of Spain and Italy. Yields on Italian 10-year bonds are now nearing the deadly 6 percent mark, which signal weakening confidence in that country's ability to make good on its debts.Riots are underway in Italy this week to protest the government's handling of the financial crisis.This is only the beginning of the shakeout. The worst has yet to unfold.The European socialist welfare states are collapsing before our eyes. What we are seeing in Europe is a preview of the Obama-Democrat agenda writ large. Socialism can't work, won't work, and has never worked in all of human history.2012 may very well be our last chance to save this precious Republic.You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done. --Ronald Reagan. Hmmm.....Message to the rest of Europe....Greece was just the testcase....the real cuts are coming soon to your neighbourhood.Read and see the full story here.
- UN Special Rapporteur releases interim report on human rights situation in Iran.(Persian2English).The UN Special Rapporteur’s interim report on Iran was released today. Following the release of the report, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said that the Iranian government “should immediately allow access to the UN-appointed Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed to address Iran’s ongoing human rights crisis.”The Iranian authorities have not allowed Ahmed Shaheed or any other UN official to visit Iran to further investigate the numerous human rights violations reports.The interim report by the Special Rapporteur documents the multi-faceted human rights crisis gripping Iran. It provides details of the persecution and prosecution of civil society actors, including political activists, journalists, students, artists, lawyers, and environmental activists; as well as the routine denial of freedom of assembly, women’s rights, the rights of religious and ethnic minorities, and the skyrocketing rates of executions.Full report here.
- Grapel may be released Monday or Tuesday in exchange for 81 prisoners.(YNet).Ilan Grapel, a dual US-Israeli national who is held in Cairo on espionage charges, will likely be released on Monday or Tuesday via the Taba border crossing to Eilat, Egyptian sources said. On Sunday, Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram reported that Grapel will be released in exchange for 81 Egyptian prisoners as part of a deal between Jerusalem and Cairo.According to the paper, the deal for Grapel's release was inspired by the success of the Egyptian mediation between Israel and Hamas on the Gilad Shalit issue and Israel's apology over the deaths of five Egyptian officers on the border. Grapel, who was arrested last June, was charged with incitement and espionage last Tuesday. He was also accused of encouraging locals to burn government buildings.Grapel immigrated to Israel from the US and served as a lone soldier in the Paratroopers' 101 Battalion. He enlisted in the IDF in March 2005 and was injured during the Second Lebanon War. He had been traveling in Egypt at the time of the popular revolution. Local media claimed Grapel was a Mossad agent. Earlier this month, a senior Egyptian element admitted that Grapel was not a spy.Read the full story here.
- Jordan’s Princess Alia bint al-Hussein wants stunning made mandatory.(BikyaMasr).Princess Alia bint al-Hussein of Jordan wants Australia to make the stunning of animals mandatory before they are slaughtered.Princess Alia, sister of King Abdullah II of Jordan, has been in talks with Australia’s agriculture department to stop the slaughter of conscious animals for halal meat.Paul Morris, the department’s acting deputy secretary for live animal exports says, “there has been quite a bit of communication with Princess Alia over a number of years around these matters.”“From my own experience in talking to Princess Alia and in communications with her she has been a very good advocate for animal welfare and particularly for stunning in Jordan and also more broadly in the Middle East,” he told the ongoing hearing with the Rural Affairs and Transport committee.Morris clarified that kosher meat from Australia from un-stunned slaughtered animals was currently exported to Israel, while some animals processed for export to the Middle East had been stunned before slaughter and some not.“For cattle we do allow for ritual slaughter purposes, for stunning to occur after the cut has been done, so it’s a post-cut stunning,.” he said.“We do allow un-stunned slaughter of sheep in Australia.”In 2010 more than 2.9 million sheep were exported, 70% of which went to Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, and a smaller share to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.In previous correspondence Princess Alia has written to Labor MPs requesting that stunning be mandated and be imposed as a condition of sale.Princess Alia explains that stunning fits with Islamic teaching to prevent cruelty to animals.She adds that pre-slaughter stunning is used by both of Jordan’s government abattoirs for cattle and sheep.Islamic authorities have deemed pre-slaughter stunning acceptable in Jordan paving the way for other Islamic nations to accept any move by Australia to mandate stunning.Read the full story here.
- Iran 'admits' to abuses at UN..(BikyaMasr).The Iranian authorities will make a farce of a UN Committee hearing into Iran’s human rights record unless they acknowledge current and past abuses, Amnesty International warned today.The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors how states comply with their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, begins meeting today to consider Iran. The Iranian authorities’ report to the Committee, the first submitted since 1993; is more than a decade late.“The Iranian authorities have already shown contempt for the Committee by submitting this report so late” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.“They must now provide truthful answers to its questions and commit to providing a remedy to the many Iranians and their families who have suffered human rights violations”.The Committee’s task is to consider how far Iran has upheld key rights enshrined in the Convention, including the right to life; freedom of expression, non- discrimination, and the prohibition of torture and arbitrary detention.Iran’s report to the Committee and its written answers to the Committee’s initial questions both paint a severely distorted picture of its human rights record and fail to reflect serious and continuing abuses.The Iranian authorities do implicitly acknowledge ways in which laws discriminate against women and minorities. They also refer to some laws which would offer protection if implemented, but which are widely flouted in practice.And they make it clear that Iran is continuing to impose the death penalty on juvenile offenders – those convicted of offences when under 18 – despite the fact that this is explicitly prohibited under international law. In reality, Iran is a serial human rights violator which executes hundreds of people each year, including juvenile offenders.The Iranian authorities also deny that minorities face any kind of discrimination. They vilify the Baha’i community, and accuse women’s rights activists of “contributing to public disorder”.“It is shocking that the Iranian authorities are trying to imply that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community do not have rights which are protected under the Covenant,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.“It only highlights the degree of the authorities’ blindness and bigotry against those who identify themselves outside the narrow confines of state-imposed gender norms”.In reality, consensual same-sex relations face draconian punishments including flogging and the death penalty.Baha’is are frequently arrested or imprisoned on account of their faith, with over 100 currently behind bars. A Christian pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, is awaiting the outcome of a retrial for “apostasy” for refusing to renounce his religion. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.Iran jails defence lawyers and other human rights defenders and persecutes religious and ethnic minorities, along with anyone who expresses any form of peaceful dissent, after trials which are usually grossly unfair. Torture and other ill-treatment is routine.“Iran’s appearance before the Human Rights Committee offers a small glimmer of hope to victims and their families. The country’s authorities must begin to listen to them, and implementing the Committee’s recommendations would be an important first step,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.“Cooperation with international human rights mechanisms must consist of more than appearing before the Human Rights Committee and rejecting the questions of the Committee’s experts. Allowing all UN Special Rapporteurs – and particularly the new Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran – into the country to conduct a fact-finding mission would be a welcome sign that the authorities are serious about their international engagement on human rights issues”, she said. Iran has a patchy record on cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms. When it appeared before the UN Human Rights Commission’s Universal Periodic Review in 2010, it refused to acknowledge the gravity of its human rights situation, despite substantial evidence to the contrary.Read the full story here.