• ZipDialog Roundup: What to Know about Barcelona and the Jihadist Attack; Friday, August 18

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Barcelona: What to Know about the Terror on Las Ramblas

    Explanation: Barcelona is one of the great cities of Europe, with a very mixed population. It has fabulous architecture and is a particularly good city for walking, strolling, having a cup of coffee outdoors. Americans think of it as “Spanish,” but it is also the capital of the Catalan region, which has its own language and which has voted to become independent. (Madrid has resisted and, unlike the Basque separatists, those in Catalan have not be violent.)

    One of Barcelona’s main spots for strolling is a pedestrian street, Las Ramblas, which runs a couple of miles from the port to a major plaza. It is next to a medieval quarter, which is also great for strolling or sitting at a cafe.

    The only vehicles permitted are those delivering merchandise to the store, and those are rare (most deliveries are at night or by small carts).

    A picture will help you understand the ambiance. 

    A Jihadist attack there was bound to kill many tourists, strike terror into the whole city, damage its vital tourist industry, and perhaps reiterate the Islamist claim that the Iberian peninsula should revert to Muslim control because, long ago, it was conquered by Islam.

    Of particular concern: The fact that the attack was so well-organized and seems to be linked to a strong support network (how else could the driver have been hidden after escape? how else would a bomb factory be found in another town?)

    Yes, there will be a lot of attention to the missed signals from the US to Spanish and Catalan authorities, as there should be.

    There will be a lot of attention to the huge, illegal migration from North Africa to Spain, a short boat ride away from Morocco.

    And there will rightly be a lot of concern about

    • The sophistication of this Islamist plot
    • The morphing of Islamist tactics as they lose their “caliphate” and send battle-hardened veterans back to Europe and North America to control local terror ops
    • The ease of killing people on sidewalks all over the world
      • If you harden one such targets, there are thousands more
      • These attacks are not limited to one city or one country; they are spread across the civilized world
    • The unregulated flow of North Africans and Middle Easterners into Europe
      • Still supported by clueless politicians, led by Germany’s Angela Merkel
    • The support network of local extremists, some of whom have lived in Europe for 2-3 generations without becoming European and accepting basic values of tolerance, peaceful contestation of grievances, and acceptance of social and religious differences
      • Note that the idea of a caliphate deeply contradicts western Europe’s hard-won achievement of separating political authority from religious authority; our leaders are not our chief priests and political dissent is not apostacy, as they are in an Islamic caliphate

    There should be deep concern about all of these issues.

    There should be much more attention to the spread of pernicious Islamist ideologies and their support from state sponsors, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and, of course, Iran.

    There should be deep concern about how to suppress the threats and how to do so without crushing the very liberties we seek to protect.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, July 11

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     NYT: Trump Jr was told by email that his meeting with a Russian lawyer was part of a Kremlin effort to aid their campaign  The NYT has not seen the email but has been told about it by 3 anonymous people.

    Trump Jr’s lawyer says it is “much ado about nothing” and that he was simply meeting with someone who might have info that could help the campaign.

    In fairness, the Times notes that Trump Jr. has said he would be willing to meet with Congressional investigators and that he

    had a reputation during the campaign for having meetings with a wide range of people eager to speak to him, did not join his father’s administration. He runs the family business, the Trump Organization, with his brother Eric.

    Comment: The fact that Jr’s story has changed several times is not a good sign for him; it suggests he has something to conceal.

    The better news for him is that it strongly indicates to me they did not already have good contacts with the Russians (a point that I have not seen made elsewhere). If that is true, it is strong evidence that they had not been colluding prior to the June 2016.

    Final point: we don’t know yet if this meeting was a dirty trick. Could be–but if it was then why wouldn’t the Clinton people have revealed it during the campaign? They would have. So that seems unlikely.

     US soldier arrested in Hawaii for allegedly joining ISIS  (NBC)

    Ikaika Erik Kang was a convert to Islam and some of his statements lauded Hitler.

    Comment: Proper sentence: send him to Mosul for join his friends.

     Two studies say drinking more coffee leads to longer life (CNN)

    Comment: More fine research from the Starbucks Institute for Science.

     FDA: opioid pharma companies must comply with new, tougher rules to train doctors on using the painkillers properly  (Washington Post)

    Comment: A small but welcome step.

     Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: Illinois should lead the way in solar energy

    Comment: No it shouldn’t. States with a lot of sunshine should lead the way.  They have the obvious advantage.

    If Illinois wants to lead the way in energy, it should use its advantage and focus on better energy use in cold weather. Conservation is an equally important part of an overall energy strategy.

     Texas judge suspended after admitting she used ecstacy and marijuana and sexted her bailiff (Daily Mail) She also misrepresented her relationship with a convicted swindler to conceal drug purchases from him.

    Her former boyfriend [whom she was seeing while she was married] also said that they used Backpage.com on two occasions to hire prostitutes for threesomes. He said Green paid $150 to a prostitute in Houston on one occasion, and $200 to a prostitute in Austin on another.  –Daily Mail

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, July 9

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Donald Trump, Jr., says he, Paul Manafort, and other campaign aides met with a Russian lawyer. The New York Times (here) and Washington Post (here) both play this as big news, but they don’t explain why. The Russian lawyer is connected to Putin’s circle, though it is not clear if Jr. or others knew. It was a brief meeting (20 minutes) and mostly raised the issue of resuming US adoptions in Russia.

    Comment: There are two reasons the meeting could be significant.

    First, Trump’s people had earlier denied any meetings at all. There was at least this one brief meeting.  Were there more? Did they go anywhere?

    Second, there is speculation (at the Daily Beast) the meeting was surreptitiously set up by a Democratic group, the Fusion GPS people. These are the fine folks who produced the dicey dossier on Trump. We don’t know a lot about Fusion GPS, including which Democrats paid for their services and why they were hired, but they seem to be part of an opposition research program. If that speculation pans out, then it looks like the Democrats were leading Trump’s people into a trap–not because anything really happened at the meeting but because the mere fact of a meeting with Russians looks bad in this increasingly anti-Russian environment.

    So far, a lotta would-a, could-a. Not much did-a, so far.

     ISIS, its “caliphate” in ruins, its capital of Raqqa about to fall, still inspires jihadis globally (New York Times)

    In Iraq, the group still controls Tal Afar, Hawija, other towns and much of Anbar Province. In Syria, most of its top operatives have fled Raqqa in the past six months for other towns still under ISIS control in the Euphrates River valley . . . .

    Many have relocated to Mayadeen, a town 110 miles southeast of Raqqa near oil facilities and with supply lines through the surrounding desert. They have taken with them the group’s most important recruiting, financing, propaganda and external operations functions, American officials said. Other leaders have been spirited out of Raqqa by a trusted network of aides. –New York Times

    Comment: About 18% of the ISIS-inspired attacks in Europe and North America involved fighters who returned from the battlefield. The other 82% were terrorists who had not been on the battlefield but were “inspired” by ISIS propaganda and radical imams, either in-person on online.

    Since these are typically low-tech attacks on soft targets, such as pedestrians on sidewalks, they are very hard to stop.

     The latest in aggie tech: farms inside shipping containers, using precise LEDs (Washington Post)

    Local Roots, a California company, has created an indoor farm that can turn any produce into local produce, anywhere. They grow fruits and vegetables in shipping containers that are stacked in old warehouses or parking lots, which can either be connected to the grid or, eventually, powered by solar energy. Local Roots has designed the custom growing technology and hardware, and it owns and operates the farms, selling its produce to restaurants and food distributors under its own brand. The fact that the company is vertically integrated differentiates it from other container farming systems. . . .

    Local Roots has figured out how to make the farm efficient enough that it can sell produce at a comparable cost to conventionally-grown fruits and veggies.

     Parental vetoes? Reports they are increasingly concerned about children attending universities with little tolerance for different ideas, little protection for free speech, and a uniform, “progressive” ideology (Inside Higher Ed)

    Comment: The parents are absolutely right. But the impact of the “parental veto” is probably exaggerated.

    There is no evidence that top schools like Brown are pinched–or intend to change. They still get the cream-of-the-SAT-crop and teach them to march in lock-step ideologically.

     Corrupt Illinois totters along: Passed the first budget in two years, huge tax increases, ZERO reforms  As the Chicago Tribune reports:

    Illinois’ bruising two-year run without a state budget is over, but business leaders are left feeling they got the short end of the stick: higher taxes with virtually none of the regulatory and political changes they sought.

    The $36.1 billion budget plan increases the corporate income tax rate to 7 percent from 5.25 percent and the personal rate to 4.95 percent from 3.75 percent. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: The Democrats delivered for the public-sector unions and shafted taxpayers, once again. 

     This is real. I swear.

    Comment: It sounds eerily like the scene at the Star Wars bar.

     

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Ed Vidal
    for the article on parental vetoes of elite colleges
    ◆ Christina Sommers for VIDA survey

     

  • Surprisingly, it detracts from your job application

    The Daily Caller picked up the story from a Swedish newspaper, Expressen, which interviewed the returning ISIS fighters. (Daily Caller story here)

    Swedish daily Expressen interviewed some of the 150 terrorists who have moved back to Sweden after fighting for ISIS. Many of them have changed their legal names to be able to rejoin society, but few are able to get jobs.

    “I just want to forget everything,” a 27-year-old man formerly known as Walad Yousef told Expressen. “I apply for a lot of jobs, but I can’t get any because my pictures are out there.” –Daily Caller

    I think we can all agree the Expressen report is more eloquent:

    Hundratals svenskar åkte till kriget för att slåss för IS – så lever återvändarna i dag. –Expressen

  • GREAT human interest story from the London Bridge attack

    Here’s the headline in London’s Independent:

    London attack: Football fan shouted ‘F*** you, I’m Millwall’ and took on knife-wielding terrorists with his bare fists
    The Newspaper reports “Calls for Roy Larner, the ‘Lion of London Bridge’, to be given a medal after reportedly saving lives and making Millwall fans popular by single-handedly taking on the three attackers”

    Normally, the Millwall team and its fans are considered louts and “football hooligans.”

    They return the favor with their chants: “No one likes us. We don’t care.”

    This time, people love them and they do care.

    Roy Larner has already been hailed a hero, with a petition launched for him to be awarded the George Cross medal for his actions in the Black and Blue steakhouse on Saturday night.

    In fighting back, the 47-year-old Millwall fan gave dozens of others who were in the Borough Market restaurant the chance to escape.

    Now out of the intensive care ward of St Thomas’ Hospital, where he was treated for knife wounds all over his body including his neck, the father-of-one has told The Sun how he reacted when the killers burst into the restaurant shouting “Islam, Islam” and “This is for Allah”.

    “Like an idiot,” he told the newspaper, “I shouted back at them. I thought, ‘I need to take the p*** out of these b******s’.” –The Independent

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    Millwall fans, like soldiers of old, march toward the sound of battle, ready to join in.

    Fans of the south London club have long prided themselves on their refusal to duck a fight, celebrating their intimidating reputation with the chant: “No-one likes us, we don’t care.”

    As you might expect, some alcohol was involved–enough to leave most people in a stupor, but not Millwall fans:

    “I didn’t think of my safety at the time,” [Mr. Larson] added. “I’d had four or five pints — nothing major.

    “I can handle myself. But I was out with an old person and it was out of order.”

    As he recovers in hospital, Mr Larner’s friends have brought him a running magazine.  The front cover headline reads: “Learn to run.”

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    The glass is raised to Bob Lieber for this wonderful story.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, June 7

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     ISIS attack at the heart of Iran’s government is stunning. ISIS, a Sunni group, has been under attack by the Iranian-led Shia forces in Iraq and Syria, and now they’ve struck back.

    The spectacular event is designed to humiliate the Iranians and show that ISIS can strike anywhere, even hard targets in a hostile country.

    Comment: More as it develops. 

     Qatar Qrisis: Trump suggests he led Saudis to act against Qatar’s support of terror (New York Times)

    Comment: True and dumb. True because Trump’s meetings in Saudi Arabia were a key to the new pressure the Arab states are putting on Qatar. Not smart to trumpet the US role when you are relying on others to lead. Makes them look like lap-dogs. 

     Two big stories broken by ABC News:

    1. Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered to resign because Trump was furious Sessions had recused himself in Russian investigation
    2. Former FBI Director Comey will not say Trump tried to obstruct justice

     Sessions offer to resign (ABC) Jonathan Karl reports:

    The relationship between President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become so tense that Sessions at one point recently even suggested he could resign.

    The friction between the two men stems from the attorney general’s abrupt decision in March to recuse himself from anything related to the Russia investigation — a decision the president only learned about minutes before Sessions announced it publicly. Multiple sources say the recusal is one of the top disappointments of his presidency so far and one the president has remained fixated on. –ABC News

    At a White House press briefing, Sean Spicer would not say whether Trump still supported AG Sessions.

    Comment: First, Sessions was right to recuse himself.

    Second, it’s over; he’s already done it; let it go, Donald.

    Third, if your earliest and strongest supporter from the Senate is not comfortable in the Cabinet, who will be?

    Four, this is still more evidence that, in this ship of state, everybody is rowing in different directions and the captain keeps changing course. What’s missing: self-discipline and a solid staff, given some authority to create order.

     Comey will stop short of saying Trump obstructed justice in Flynn probe (ABC)

    Although Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice, he will dispute the president’s contention that Comey told him three times he is not under investigation.

    The president allegedly said he hoped Comey would drop the Flynn investigation, a request that concerned Comey enough that he documented the conversation in a memo shortly after speaking with the president. In the memo, according to sources close to Comey who reviewed it, Trump said: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” during a February meeting.

    The request made Comey uncomfortable, but the source tells ABC News that Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice.

    “He is not going to Congress to make accusations about the president’s intent, instead he’s there to share his concerns,” the source said, and tell the committee “what made him uneasy” and why he felt a need to write the memo documenting the conversation. –ABC

    Comment: Here’s how I read that. Comey cannot say the president tried to obstruct justice without creating big problems for himself. He would be legally required to report it and, if he had any integrity, would have resigned. Also, he subsequently testified to Congress that no one had tried to obstruct his investigation.

    Given those constraints, he will do everything in his power to destroy Trump.

     Comey himself is being sued over an alleged coverup; a whistleblower says he gave Comey evidence of a huge, illegal surveillance operation on Americans by the CIA (using FBI computers) during the Obama administration (Circa)

    A former U.S. intelligence contractor tells Circa he walked away with more than 600 million classified documents on 47 hard drives from the National Security Agency and the CIA, a haul potentially larger than Edward Snowden’s now infamous breach.

    And now he is suing former FBI Director James Comey and other government figures, alleging the bureau has covered up evidence he provided them showing widespread spying on Americans that violated civil liberties.

    The suit, filed late Monday night by Dennis Montgomery, was assigned to the same federal judge who has already ruled that some of the NSA’s collection of data on Americans violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, setting up an intriguing legal proceeding in the nation’s capital this summer.

    Comment: Circa’s Sara Carter and John Solomon have done first-rate reporting on potential violations of civil liberties by US intel agencies.

     Why did Trump decline to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as he promised during the campaign?

    Because he thought it would hamper his goal of an “ultimate deal” between the Israelis and Palestinians, says Eytan Gilboa  (Begin-Sadat Center, Bar-Ilan University)

    Trump completely reversed the attitude of Obama, which verged on hostility, towards both the pro-American Arab states and Israel. –Eytan Gilboa

     Excellent news: One of the country’s staunchest, most experienced advocates for free speech, Adam Kissel, has been to head the Dept. of Education’s higher ed programs  (Inside Higher Ed)

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday June 6, 2017

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ D-Day: 73 years ago today. The US, Britain, and Canada opened a second front against the Nazis.
    A young, low-level intelligence contractor is first person charged with leaking, re Russian interference in 2016 election 
    (New York Times)

    She’s a big Bernie Sanders supporter and may have thought this was part of the “Resistance,” which she has supported online.

    The case showed the department’s willingness to crack down on leaks, as Mr. Trump has called for in complaining that they are undermining his administration. His grievances have contributed to a sometimes tense relationship with the intelligence agencies he now oversees.

    The Justice Department announced the case against the contractor, Reality Leigh Winner, 25, about an hour after the national-security news outlet The Intercept published the apparent document, a May 5 intelligence report from the National Security Agency. –New York Times

    Comment: Good. A first step.

    Now, go after the big boys and girls, who aren’t as careless as kids still on their parents’ insurance.

     Chicago’s free fire zone: 3 dead, 3 wounded in eight hours (Chicago Tribune)

    “I always see this on TV,” [the uncle of 23-year-old-victim Devonta Scott] said looking at frantic relatives holding each other splashed in strobing police lights. “I just never thought it would happen to me.” –Chicago Tribune

    And then, the most common ending to all this shootings in poor, black neighborhoods.

    Police reported no arrests. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: The problems are extremely serious and just as hard to manage.

    • The city needs a lot more police but cannot afford them.
    • The worst neighborhoods know who the criminals are, but they don’t cooperate with the police, either because they don’t trust the cops or they fear the bad guys, or both
    • The gangs have splintered, so dozens and dozens of gangs are fighting lethally for each street corner.
    • The gang members have no fathers, no education, and no jobs

    The headlines mislead outsiders in one important respect. The crime and killing is largely a product of–and confined to–very poor neighborhoods. Occasionally, it spills out as members try to escape their enemies or rob the rich, but that’s uncommon.

     The sanctions against Qatar are beginning to bite.  

    Qatar flight ban begins as Gulf crisis grows (BBC) The Saudis and Egyptians are leading this move.

    Several countries have cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism in the Gulf region.

    Qatari nationals in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been given two weeks to leave.

    Qatar denies backing militants and its foreign minister has called for “a dialogue of openness and honesty”.

    Egypt said it was closing off its airspace to Qatar from 04:00 GMT on Tuesday “until further notice”. –BBC

    Comment: The sanctions are a very good idea against a very bad actor, one the US has coddled for years because we have bases there. No more. And the shift in US policy made it easier for the Arab states to form this coalition.

    The question is whether it’s a first step or a showy diversion to avoid taking others, such as staunching the local donations to terrorists.

    Additional Reading:

    For a magazine-length piece on Qatar’s controversial history, this new article in The Atlantic is very good.

     Over 130 British Imams have refused to perform burial services for the attackers  (CBS)

    The ritual is normally carried out for every Muslim, regardless of their actions.

    In what is a highly unusual move, Muslim religious leaders from different schools of Islam — both Sunni and Shia — issued a statement late Monday saying their pain at the suffering of the victims of Saturday’s attacks had led to their decision, and they called on others imams to follow suit. –CBS

    Comment: Good. Also good: it seems like several Muslims who knew the attackers told the police about them, but the officials dropped the ball.

    One reason why important things slip through the cracks: the UK current has 500 active terror investigations, plus another 3000 top-tier subjects of interest, and 20,000 more one tier below that. Those numbers are overwhelming.

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