At Large

At Large

Bilderberg and Big Government

By 6.5.14

This spring marked the 60th anniversary of the Bilderberg Group summit, a gathering of major power brokers so apparently selective it makes the World Economic Forum’s annual Davos gathering in Switzerland look like a blue light stampede at K-Mart.

Charlie Skelton, who covered the three-day summit for England’s left-wing Guardian newspaper, describes this year’s anniversary event as “a red-letter occasion” where the summit’s chancellor has spent his time “deep in conference with the heads of MI6, NATO, the International Monetary Fund, HSBC, Shell, BP and Goldman Sachs International, along with dozens of other chief executives, billionaires and high-ranking politicians from around Europe.”

At Large

Abbas’ Empty Gesture

By 4.30.14

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made headlines on Sunday when, in a written statement, he condemned the Holocaust as “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in modern era.” Abbas’s statement came on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasn’t buying it. During an interview with Bob Schieffer on the CBS program Face the Nation, Netanyahu argued that he could not “reconcile” Abbas’s statement on the Holocaust with his decision to form a unity government with Hamas: 

I think it’s an overture to American public opinion, to world opinion to try to placate and somehow smooth over the fact that he made a terrible step away from peace. He made a giant leap backwards, away from pace, because he embraced Hamas that calls for the extermination of Jews worldwide, for the eradication of Israel.

At Large

Perspectives on Egyptian Politics

By 4.25.14

The Western press corps has clearly misunderstood the character of political change in Egypt. On January 25, 2011, the world’s television cameras were focused on Tahir Square. The images showed approximately five million people expressing their dissatisfaction with Mubarak. After days of protest, the government fell. It was a moment of national jubilation. But it was short lived.

The military establishment restored order and after several months an election was held. On these points, neither detractors of the revolution nor supporters disagree. Then the tire hit the road.

Although there were many interests represented in the election only one was sufficiently organized to take advantage of the accelerated desire for a national vote: the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). It was elected with five million votes, a plurality, but by most accounts a democratic victory. Although supposedly reluctant to run for the presidency, the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi did so and was elected.

At Large

Much Ado About Voting

By 4.23.14

Voter ID is not a big deal. Or, rather, it is a big deal, but it probably shouldn’t be. Let me back up a bit. Over the past decade, there has been a growing movement in a number of states to require individuals to show photo identification when voting. Twelve states have adopted a photo ID requirement so far, and more than a dozen others are considering it.

Proponents of Voter ID contend that the measure is necessary to combat voter fraud. Opponents, however, claim that the laws have a more nefarious purpose. At a speech before Al Sharpton’s National Action Network earlier this month, President Obama claimed that, efforts like Voter ID were a malign attempt to disenfranchise Americans: “About 60 percent of Americans don’t have a passport,” Obama said. “Just because you can’t have the money to travel abroad doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to vote here at home.”

At Large

The Sacrificial Love of Lebanon’s Christians

By 4.18.14

I recently returned from the Middle East, where I captured stories for a film project about Christians living their faith in the face of crippling persecution. In Beirut, Lebanon, I spoke with two Lebanese Christians, Georges Maalouly — a 48-year old, Orthodox father of three — and his friend Father Joseph — a priest at St. Tetla’s Catholic Church. They explained how Christians in Lebanon are coping with the arrival of more than a million refugees from Syria.

Most Syrian exiles are Sunni Muslims, and their arrival has started to drastically alter Lebanon’s delicate sectarian balance of Sunnis, Shiites and Christians. Economically, Syrian workers are driving down wages, and refugees place a severe burden on Lebanon’s already overtaxed and underfunded infrastructure. Despite this, many Lebanese Christians are choosing to help meet the needs of these refugees.

Jordan: The civil war in Syria has been raging for over three years. How has the conflict affected the Lebanese people? What challenges have you faced? How do you balance fear and compassion?

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Ready to Join the International Community?

By 4.16.14

The United Nations Human Rights Council angered Iran by renewing the mandate of monitor Ahmed Shaheed, who has criticized Tehran’s abuses. His work remains vital as long as Iran violates its citizens’ most basic rights.

At the same time nuclear negotiations continue. Dealing with Tehran could turn into the Obama administration’s greatest foreign policy success or another disaster. If the interim Geneva agreement leads to permanent denuclearization of the Islamic Republic of Iran, President Barack Obama can claim an achievement nonpareil. If the effort collapses, he will look dangerously naïve.

Everything depends on whether Tehran, and not just President Hassan Rouhani, is serious. No surprise, many analysts — and more importantly, paladins of Capitol Hill — remain skeptical. And that doubt has fueled efforts to impose new sanctions, which would impede if not kill efforts to reach a final accord.

If Iran is serious about joining the community of nations, it should demonstrate that commitment in practical ways. One of the most important symbols of Iranian irresponsibility today is its ruthless persecution of religious minorities. 

At Large

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom Doesn’t Belong in a Museum.

By 4.11.14

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the sound of nails scratching on the Blackboard Jungle. The body ostensibly honored Kiss, Cat Stevens, Nirvana, and Peter Gabriel, among others, by inducting them into their club last night at a party at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But the real honor goes to all those bands—Def Leppard, The Cure, Cheap Trick, etc.—snubbed from the guest list. "Yeah, yeah, yeah" and "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and "Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom" don’t belong cooped up behind a glass case in a museum.

The Sex Pistols understood this when they refused attendance at their induction a few years back. “Next to the SEX PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain,” the punk rockers announced in 2006. “Were not your monkey and so what?” They redundantly added: “Were not coming.” The Sex Pistols may never have nailed the music. But here, as in so much, they grasped the attitude—even in their intentional grammatical faux pas. 

At Large

The Whistleblower vs. Mugabe at the UN

By 4.1.14

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe is a corrupt authoritarian. The United Nations is a wasteful, inefficient organization that tolerates corrupt authoritarians. Unfortunately, the two don’t make beautiful music together.

But not everyone at the UN is corrupt. One hero is Georges Tadonki, a Cameroonian who for a time headed the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Zimbabwe. The others are three judges in a United Nations Dispute Tribunal who last year ruled for Tadonki in a suit against the venerable international organization.

Soon we will find if members of a UN appeals panel possess equal courage. That ruling is expected soon with rumors circulating that these judges might reverse course and absolve the organization of misconduct.

In 2008 President Robert Mugabe, who took power in 1980, was busy ruining the former British colony. Elements of the rule of law and democracy survived in Zimbabwe, but Mugabe and ZANU-PF, the ruling party, employed violent intimidation to preserve control. They were quite prepared, like Samson, to bring down the temple. Good governance was the last thing on their minds.

At Large

Nigeria’s Internal Insecurity State

By 3.28.14

ABUJA, NIGERIA—Like so many developing states, Nigeria showcases poverty while exhibiting potential. People are entrepreneurial but the state is exploitative. Wealth is made but too often stolen. Evidence of security—which really means insecurity—is everywhere.

Americans also suffer from crime, of course. But most of us fly around the country without giving the matter much thought. We hop into our cars without a bodyguard joining us. There are areas a smart traveler wouldn’t go. But most folks in the U.S. rarely imagine the potential of a daylight robbery or kidnapping.

Not so in Nigeria, however. I traveled with a journalist group on a business tour. We were met by representatives of the organizer, along with a driver and two national policemen armed with AK-47s. When we convoyed with figures of business or political note the guard multiplied dramatically.

All of my hotels around the country—Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt—had metal detectors. High walls and gates manned by armed security personnel. And multiple security guards, at the entrance, wandering the grounds, and even stationed by the elevators on each floor overnight.

At Large

The Classroom Plot

By 3.12.14

A demand for segregation of the sexes. A requirement for Islam-focused religious studies.

A ''Trojan Horse'' plot to remove Principals who won’t comply.

Welcome to Britain’s latest struggle with Sunni Islamist extremism — the battle of the classroom.

On Friday, the Birmingham News local news outlet to Britain’s second largest city — reported that self-styled ''jihadists'' are seeking to destabilize a number of Birmingham schools.

Their target — those institutions that will not yield to their agenda.

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