First up - some interesting updates from the epicenter:
The Sunday Times quoted both Israeli and Russian sources as claiming that Syrian President Bashar Assad is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction in Alawite enclaves on the western coast of Syria.
According to the Times, these sources report that the work has been ongoing despite the first round of peace talksbetween Assad's regime and the rebels, held last week in Geneva. The talks are largely seen as having been inconclusive.
One source stated that Assad has turned over only four percent of the regime's chemical weapons and that the regime will miss this week's deadline to send all toxic agents for destruction abroad.
Israel believes that the collected arsenal is mainly consistent of chemical warheads for missiles and warheads, and that it is concealed within the Alawite enclave on Syria's western coast. One IDF source said about Assad's defense of the Alawite region between Latakia and Turkey that, "This region is now totally fortified and isolated from the rest of Syria.”
Assad's apparent strategy is to defend the Alawite sector, a western diplomat stated. “The reason for some of the worst ethnic cleansing and murder of Sunni civilians on the edge of the Alawite enclave in places like Homs, was to give better protection to the Alawites.”
The Alawites, an Islamic sect, represent only 12% of the Syrian population. About 75% are Sunnis.
The continued collapse of Syria as the civil war drags on was discussed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah of Jordan recently, where both shared concern over Assad's plan to carve out a heavily armed Alawite state.
The White House tried to hold on to hope this week as its Syrian disarmament strategy falls apart, with Secretary of State John Kerry admitting Friday that the U.S. is leaning on Russia to urge Bashar al-Assad to come into compliance with Washington’s “red line” deal.
Less than 5 percent of the priority 1 chemical weapons in Assad’s stockpile, including agents like the nerve gas sarin, have been removed from the country and the regime appears to be making no effort to liquidate the rest as agreed.
That just includes chemical agents that the U.S. knows about, and wouldn’t include stockpiles that may have been scuttled off to Hezbollah or Iran for safekeeping as Assad negotiated a deal to avoid U.S. “red line” strikes.
A senior administration official on a State Department conference call with reporters Friday said he wasn’t in the room with U.S. and Syrian negotiators at peace talks this past week, but “I have never heard that the chemical weapons issues came up in any serious way during this week of talks here in Geneva.”
“I don’t know that the chemical weapons issue darkened the talks here, but there is a credibility issue for the Syrian government, whether it be with respect to chemical weapons, and whether or not it would implement any deal that was ever reached here in Geneva, if we do get to a deal,” the official said.
Fox News offered an in-depth look at the plight of Christians in the Syrian civil war, and implicitly in the region. The network’s national security analyst KT McFarland interviewed Syrian Orthodox Bishop Dionysius Jean Kawak and Prebyterian minister Riad Jarjour, who are in Washington DC in order to raise awareness of the situation as the US presses for peace talks. With those stalled, however, it’s more important than ever to hear these voices — and not just because of the plight of Syrian Christians, either:
“The Christians, they tried to be neutral,” Bishop Kawak said when asked what side the Christians take, but they were in favor of non-violent political changes in Syria. Now, though, the violence puts them between the Alawites, Shi’ites, and Sunnis, and their political neutrality is irrelevant, and makes them easy targets for all sides as supposed stooges for one of the other factions. That layers on top of the centuries-long effort to push Christians out of the region, despite Dr. Jarjour’s efforts at ecumenism and religious freedom. They are looking to the West for help, and not getting much more than lip service in return.
But it’s not just in the Middle East where this persecution threatens to wipe out Christianity. In Nigeria, a series of attacks from the radical-Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram havetargeted and slaughtered dozens of Christians in the past week alone:
At least 99 people were left dead after attacks on two Christian villages in northeast Nigeria this week, suspected to have been carried out by Islamic extremist militants.
Attackers flooded a Catholic church during a Jan. 26 Mass in Wada Chakawa village in Adamawa state. They set off explosives, took hostages and fired guns into the congregation in a five-hour attack, The Associated Press reported.
A separate attack later took place in the village of Kawuri, in northeastern Borno state. More than 50 extremists reportedly took part, killing dozens and burning homes to the ground.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. However, the Islamic sect Boko Haram is currently resisting a military crackdown in the region and is suspected to be behind the violence.
Terrorists reportedly attacked the village of Kawuri and detonated explosives while merchants were shutting down the crowded market. They also set alight to the homes of residents in the town, with residents still inside many of the houses.
Ari Kolomi, who fled his home in Kawuri to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, described the destruction left by the group as devastating.
“No house was left standing …The gunmen were more than 50; they were using explosives and heavy-sounding guns,” Kolomi told the Associated Press, adding that he was unsure if any of his relatives had made it out of the village alive.
Christian deaths from persecution doubled in 2013 over 2012, and we are unfortunately off to a pace to beat that in 2014. The crisis of Christian persecution extends beyond the Middle East, and even beyond Islam, as John Allen wrote in his excellent book about the subject,The Global War on Christians, released in October of this year:
This book is about the most dramatic religion story of the early twenty-first century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening: the global war on Christians. We’re not talking about a metaphorical “war on religion” in Europe and the United States, fought on symbolic terrain such as whether it’s okay to erect a nativity scene on the courthouse steps, but a rising tide of legal oppression, social harassment, and direct physical violence, with Christians as its leading victims.
However counterintuitive it may seem in light of popular stereotypes of Christianity as a powerful and sometimes oppressive social force, Christians today indisputably are the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often their new martyrs suffer in silence.
Racing Into The Tribulation:
There are many horrific stories to be told about the implosion of Detroit, once the nation’s most prosperous city, today its poorest. There is the story of its corrupt public institutions, its feckless leaders, its poisonous racial politics, its practically nonexistent economy, the riots that have led to its thrice being occupied by federal troops. The most horrific story may be that of the death of its children.
Detroit has the highest child-mortality rate of any American city, exceeding that of many parts of what we used to call the Third World. The rate of death before the age of 18 in Detroit is nearly three times New York City’s, and its infant-mortality rate exceeds that of Botswana. The main cause of premature death among the children of Detroit is premature birth — the second is murder. While the city’s murder rate among adults is nothing to be proud of, more horrifying is the fact that between 30 and 40 children are murdered in Detroit in a typical year. Some of those children are nine-month-olds killed by rifle fire in their beds; some are budding criminals in their late teens — and each of those situations offers its own unique horrors. So dangerous is the city that children are being armed by their parents, which has predictable consequences. “I work in the Wayne County Juvenile Court, and these children are obtaining guns from adults,” children’s-law attorney Lynda White told the Detroit News, which has been conducting an in-depth investigation of how Detroit’s children are dying. “They’re obtaining guns illegally from people who are supposed to be responsible and people who are supposed to protect them. And if that person who has a huge influence in your life is giving you a gun, some of them tend to think it’s okay to carry it. And they’re being told, ‘You need this for your protection, you live in Detroit.’”
Detroit represents nothing less than progressivism in its final stage of decadence: Worried that unionized public-sector workers are looting your city? Detroit is already bankrupt, unable to provide basic services expected of it — half the streetlights don’t work, transit has been reduced, neighborhoods go unpatrolled. Worried that public-sector unions are ruining your schools? Detroit’s were ruined a generation or more ago, the results of which are everywhere to be seen in the city. Worried that Obamacare is going to ruin our health-care markets? General-practice physicians are hard to find in Detroit, and those willing to accept Medicaid — which covers a great swath of Detroit’s population — are rarer still. Worried about the permissive culture? Four out of five of Detroit’s children are born out of wedlock. Worried that government is making it difficult for businesses to thrive? Many people in Detroit have to travel miles to find a grocery store. This is the endgame of welfare economics: What good is Medicaid if there are no doctors? What good are food stamps where there is no food? What good are “free” schools if you’re so afraid to send your children there that you feel it prudent to arm them first?
Detroit is what Democrats do. The last Republican elected mayor of Detroit took office during the Eisenhower administration. The decay of Detroit is not the inevitable outcome of the decline of the automotive industry: The automotive industry is thriving in the United States — but not in Detroit. It isn’t white flight: The black middle class has left Detroit as fast as it can. The model of Detroit politics is startlingly familiar in its fundamentals, distinguished only by its degree of advancement: Advance the interests of public-sector unions and politically connected business cronies, expand the relative size of the public sector remorselessly — and when opposed, cry “Racism!” When people vote with their feet, cry “Racism!” When the budget just won’t balance, cry “Racism!” Never mind that the current mayor of Detroit is the first non–African American to hold that job since the 1970s, or that, as one Detroit News columnist put it, “black nationalism . . . is now the dominant ideology of the [city] council” — somewhere, there must be a somebody else to blame, preferably: aged, portly, white, male, and Republican. No less a fool than Ed Schultz blamed the straits of this exemplar of Democratic single-party rule on “a lot of Republican policies.” Melissa Harris-Perry, “America’s leading public intellectual,” blames Detroit’s problems on its conservatism and small government, oblivious to the fact that Detroit maintains twice as many city employees per resident as do larger cities such as Fort Worth and Indianapolis, and three times as many as liberal San Jose.
There used to be a popular bumper sticker reading, “War Is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things.” War is hell, Detroit merely hellish. The difference is, we don’t send children off to war.
An astounding number of current world problems are traceable directly, or indirectly, to the intellectual infection called Marxism. Just last century an incomprehensibly large number of persons were directly murdered, or indirectly caused to die as a result of applying Karl Marx’s ideas.
This fact is damnably avoided by current socialists, who when the topic is raised, pretend there could be no connection between China’s and the USSR’s Marxist beliefs and their own. Yet, they share the same red thread, inexorably woven between the two. For both are atheistic ideological systems, built on the writings of a failed academic, that outlaws free markets, private property, free speech and free exercise of religion as well as all other natural rights.
That America today has committed itself to a type of socialism is shocking and deeply troubling. In the aftermath of the discovery of ObamaCare’s myriad failures, does no one recognize that ignorance and failure are the coins of the realm of Marxism? This is yet another step on the long road of subjugation and slavery. If not repudiated, our descent will cause future generations of Americans to fall under the whip hand of incompetent Marxist slave drivers. One can never tell the story of the evil of Marxism, and its bastard children—socialism, communism, and fascism enough to help recall their innocent hundreds of millions of victims.
The Soviet leaders grappled with the problem of a government being responsible for creating an entire economy, which Lenin and Joseph Stalin struggled to master. Neither Lenin nor Stalin knew anything about economics.
Socialism is state-directed economic activity in the name of morality. The chief problem in a socialist economy is that its real purpose is not to order markets in the most efficient and productive manner, but to apply the moral balm of Marxism to the evils of capitalism.
There may be many persons who fatuously believe that socialism is designed to help the poor and downtrodden. But this high-minded, kindly view of helping others was notably absent from the greatest and most influential Marxists, such as Lenin, Stalin and Mao, who remain the greatest murderers in history. At least 150 million were murdered by these three.
Socialism is morality masquerading as science. As Hayek writes in The Fatal Conceit, The Errors of Socialism,
The demands of socialism are not moral conclusions derived from the tradition that formed the extended order that made civilization possible. Rather, they endeavor to overthrow these traditions by a rationally designed moral system whose appeal depends on the instinctual appeal of its promised consequences…To follow socialist morality would destroy much of present humankind and impoverish much of the rest.
In other words, the very appeal of socialism is not a more prosperous world, but rather one where the rich are punished for daring to become wealthy, regardless the result.
The biggest problem with a socialist economy is bureaucracy, according to Oskar Lang, who wrote—“The real danger of socialism is that of a bureaucratization of economic life.” Famed economic and philosophical writer Robert L. Heilbroner, a former lifelong socialist, said near the end of his 85-year-long life—“capitalism has been as unmistakable a success as socialism has been a failure.”
There is a human tragedy smoldering in America’s inner cities. Twelve million poor children, mainly black and Hispanic, are trapped in failing government schools that are teaching them nothing. As a result, they will never get a chance at a middle-class life. Virtually every school board and every administration in inner city districts is controlled by Democrats, and has been for over fifty years. Everything that is wrong with inner city schools that policy can fix, Democrats are responsible for.
How bad is the inner-city school crisis? Almost half of black students in public schools, and almost half of Hispanic students drop out before graduation and fail to earn a diploma. The dropout rates are especially high in urban areas with large minority populations, including such academic disaster zones as Washington, DC (57%), Trenton (59%), Camden (61.4%), Baltimore (65.4%), Cleveland (65.9%), and Detroit (75.1%). As a result of high dropout rates, black and Hispanic students in these urban centers are denied the American dream and condemned to spend their lives in grinding poverty instead.
The school boards and school districts that control the public schools in America’s largest inner cities – schools, which year-in, year-out, fail to educate poor minority children – are run by big-government Democrats and progressives, and have been for generations.The public schools are government monopolies run as jobs programs for adults and slush funds for the teacher unions and the Democratic Party. Through these organizations, progressives have fought tooth and nail to prevent bad teachers from being fired and good teachers from being rewarded. They have spent millions on electoral campaigns to deny inner city parents access to voucher programs that would provide scholarships for their children to attend schools that would educate them. These same progressives, fully aware of the bankruptcy of public education, send their own children to expensive private schools, where they will get the education the public schools would deny them. When Vice President Al Gore, a supporter of teacher unions and opponent of school vouchers, was asked why he opposed school vouchers for black children while sending his own son to a private school, he said: “If I was the parent of a child who went to an inner-city school that was failing, I might be for vouchers, too.”
This is a social atrocity that has to be stopped. ”Atrocity” is the first web ad created by an organization I have created called Go For the Heart. I chose Atrocity to be our first project because what’s happening to poor mainly black and Hispanic children in our public schools is an atrocity, and it is one around which there is a great media silence. That is because the atrocity is being committed by the Democratic Party and its union supporters. “Atrocity” is an attempt to break that silence.