Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Speculation grows that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will announce his retirement.
The current Court year ends Monday, and any announcement would come soon after.
Kennedy is 80, was appointed by a Republican, and has served 29 years on the Court, recently as a crucial swing vote.
There are several elderly Democrats on the court, but they want to hang on (if health permits) in hopes of another Democratic president.
◆ Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, have lawyered up to defend against allegations of bank fraud. (CBS)
When Jane was president of Burlington (VT) College, she got big bank loans for an expansion project that ultimately failed and bankrupted the college.
The investigation is (1) whether the loans were based on Jane’s false representations about the college’s fundraising and (2) whether Bernie used his office to pressure the bank to make the loan.
◆ The battle for post-ISIS Syria is shaping up
The background: the Obama Administration did nothing in Syria and pulled out of Iraq, opening the door wide for Iran to control Baghdad and Damascus (the Assad government) and providing political space for ISIS to build its “caliphate” for Sunnis.
The change: Trump dramatically altered US policy, and, under the leadership of Mattis at DOD and McMaster at NSC, the US has been taking the fight to ISIS.
The result: Iran is closing in on ISIS from one direction, the US from the other.
There are three big issues in this end-game:
- Will ISIS turn to move civilian attacks in Europe (and possibly America)?
- Will US and Iranian forces be able to avoid direct military confrontation as they converge on ISIS’ last strongholds
- Who controls what territory in post-ISIS Syria?
An excellent primer on the emerging issues is Udi Dekel’s “East-West-North-South: The Race for Syria after the Islamic State” from the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS, Israel)
The current race for control of territory in Syria now appears to be a competition between Iran and the United States, which have established two respective axes – with a vertical American (north-south) effort on the one hand, and a horizontal Iranian (east-west) effort on the other hand. In practice, this is another stage in the shaping of Syria in preparation for the day after the Islamic State. In the meantime, the country’s southwestern region, from Daraa to the Golan Heights, remains open for activity and influence by Israel and Jordan, which must begin taking action before it is too late. Contacts are apparently underway to formulate a joint Israeli-Jordanian-American strategy aimed at preventing Iranian influence and the presence of its proxies, especially Hezbollah and Shiite militias, in the southern Syria. –Udi Dekel
◆ Political correctness to stop free speech in Arkansas? Yep.
But the University stepped in and did the right thing.
The Univ. of Arkansas’ King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies decided to hold a symposium on honor killings.
The Center’s director, a geosciences professor named Tom Paradise, included Prof. Phyllis Chesler (from CUNY) on one panel since she has published widely on the subject, arguing that scholars have underplayed the role of Islam in these killings.
Three Arkansas professors raised holy hell about it, saying the could never “countenance” Chesler’s participation, even though it would simply be a Skype call.
The Center caved and disinvited Chesler, according to an editorial in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Now, the University has done the right thing.
They removed Prof. Paradise from the center’s leadership, saying “The decision to disinvite a participant for his or her views is not reflective of the values and practices of our institution.”
Comment: The university did the right thing.
◆ Palestinians “disappointed” after “tense meeting” with Jared Kushner, Trump’s special emissary (The Hill)
Key disagreement: US wants Palestinians to stop paying terrorists for killing Jews.
Palestinian Authority likes paying them. Abbas told Trump it would stop and simply assumed the president knew he was lying.
Trump held him to account.
The PA has also been adamant about keeping incendiary, anti-Semitic materials in their school textbooks.
The larger problems for Abbas: no succession lined up, and the Middle East is moving forward without them.
Comment: My guess: Trump will look at Kushner’s report of the meetings and decide this is not a good time to push forward with negotiations.
Trump has always understood something about these negotiations that most presidents don’t: the US can help if both parties want an agreement. But it cannot force an agreement on parties that don’t want one and aren’t prepared to make serious concessions.
◆ Oklahoma doctor prescribed so many painkillers, she’s being charged with murder in one patient’s death (Washington Post)
The patient, Sheila Bartels, received
what drug addicts call “the holy trinity” of prescription drugs: the powerful painkiller Hydrocodone, the anti-anxiety medication Xanax and a muscle relaxant known as Soma.
In total, pharmacists handed her 510 pills that day — all legal, because she had a prescription with the signature of her doctor, Regan Ganoung Nichols, scrawled at the bottom, according to a probable cause affidavit. –Washington Post
Comment: Cracking down on excessive prescriptions is crucial in this fight.
♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Sam Stubbs for the Sanders bank fraud story
◆ Gregg Roman for the University of Arkansas speech-suppression story