Good News: Russia Accused of Violating Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Reagan Put in Place

"The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War has been over for 20 years." -Barack Obama, October 22, 2012.

It's been 12 days since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot out of the sky by Russian separatists with a surface to air missile, yet President Vladimir Putin seems untouched by global outrage over the incident. Now, the United States is accusing the Russians of violating a key nuclear test ban put forth by President Ronald Reagan and the former Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev. The accusation comes after it was discovered Russia has been testing long range missiles for years. More from the New York Times:

The United States has concluded that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile, according to senior American officials, a finding that was conveyed by President Obama to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in a letter on Monday.

At the heart of the issue is the 1987 treaty that bans American and Russian ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles capable of flying 300 to 3,400 miles. That accord, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, helped seal the end of the Cold War and has been regarded as a cornerstone of American-Russian arms control efforts.

Russia first began testing the cruise missiles as early as 2008, according to American officials, and the Obama administration concluded by the end of 2011 that they were a compliance concern. In May 2013, Rose Gottemoeller, the State Department’s senior arms control official, first raised the possibility of a violation with Russian officials.

“The United States has determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the I.N.F. treaty not to possess, produce or flight test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”

Meanwhile, sales to Russia from the United States have increased, not decreased, since heavy sanctions were put in place months ago.

U.S. Census Bureau foreign trade data show that exports rose 17 percent from March through May _ the most recent months for which the data is available _ compared with the previous three months, before sanctions were imposed. The value of exports has risen in each consecutive month this year, an unusual trend in a trade relationship that historically fluctuates on a monthly basis.

Russian markets account for less than 1 percent of U.S. exports, but what the U.S. sells to Russia is largely high-tech and expensive goods, including technology and equipment for the energy sector, which faces the threat of targeted sanctions.

I'll leave you with this.

Court Rules in Favor of Ground Zero Cross, Rejects Atheists' Appeal

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the 17-foot cross beam salvaged from the wreckage of Twin Towers will remain in the National 9/11 Museum, despite the very best efforts of American Atheists Inc.

In “American Atheists v. Port Authority of New Jersey and New York” the group asserted that the artifact's positioning in the museum towered "over any other symbols in the vicinity, expressing Christian primacy." It charged that the Latin cross's dominance violated the First Amendment Establishment Clause and the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

The judges found, however, that the "Ground Zero Cross" is a constitutional and an important symbolic artifact from the terrorist attack. According to the ruling:

"The stated purpose of displaying The Cross at Ground Zero to tell the story of how some people used faith to cope with the tragedy is genuine, and an objective observer would understand the purpose of the display to be secular...there is no evidence that the static display of this genuine historic artifact excessively entangles the government with religion."

This common sense ruling still comes as a major legal victory. Eric Baxter, Counsel for the Beckett Fund, noted that the court made a very key distinction:

“Even though the Ground Zero Cross is unquestionably a religious symbol, and holds deep religious meaning for many people—particularly those who found hope and inspiration in its discovery—the government does not violate the Establishment Clause by recognizing and educating others about the actual role played by religion in our history and culture.”

This historic relic will now continue to show the importance of religion in the United States for years to come.

Sarah Palin Launches Online Web Channel

Former GOP Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin has launched a new online community dubbed the Sarah Palin Channel. The channel will feature videos of Palin and her family as well as "behind the scenes" videos of the Palin household as well as links to Bristol Palin's blog and video chats with Palin herself. Access to the channel is available via a subscription.

We'll go directly to the root of the problems confronting America. We'll talk about the issues mainstream media won't talk about.

The Palin family is quite familiar with reality television. "Sarah Palin's Alaska" lasted for one season on TLC in 2010 and "Amazing America with Sarah Palin has been renewed for a second season on the Sportsman Channel.

The channel can be accessed via computer, tablet or smartphone.

While this is certainly an unusual endeavor for an ex-politician, all power to Palin for marketing her personal brand.

Ebola Virus Sweeps West Africa in Largest Recorded Outbreak

Incidence rates continue to climb as the Ebola virus spreads through West African nations in what epidemiologists are calling the largest-ever recorded outbreak of the disease.

As the Associated Press reports, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has taken initiative to contain the virus by calling for the quarantine of entire communities and closing all but three land border crossings into the country.

The disease, which is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluid, puts both public health officials and the general population at risk. Those infected include two Americans, a medical director from Samaritan's Purse and a missionary worker with the Christian humanitarian organization Serving in Mission. Thousands more have fallen ill and nearly 700 have died.

USA Today has the stats:

Since it was detected in March, the number of cases attributed to Ebola in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea stands at 1,201, including 672 deaths:

Symptoms of Ebola include acute weakness, sudden onset fever, headache, muscle pain, and in some cases, internal and external bleeding. The incubation period from the time of contraction can range anywhere from two to 21 days and the virus only becomes contagious once the patient begins to show symptoms.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says there is currently no cure for Ebola and no vaccine to prevent it. Though the fatality rate is a staggering 90 percent, the disease can be treated by maintaining adequate blood pressure, balancing electrolytes, and quickly treating any other developing infections.

The latest scare arose in the Nigerian city of Lagos after a man traveling from Liberia brought the virus with him. As health professionals are working to stop the spread, we must be reminded that the threat of infectious disease is just one flight away.

Those Asians Are 'Very Tight,' And Other Memos From The Nunn Campaign

With David Perdue’s win over Rep. Jack Kingston in the Georgia Republican primary, the game is set. But it isn’t without Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn making more mistakes, like, uh, her campaign releasing campaign memos outlining their game plan.

Over at National Review, Eliana Johnson wrote how these memos were posted, albeit temporarily, in December of last year and seemed to have been regarded as confidential. Well, not anymore (via NRO):

Much of the strategizing in the Georgia contest as is typical in southern politics, revolves around race. But the Nunn memos are incredibly unguarded. One is from Diane Feldman, a Democratic pollster and strategist who counts among her clients Minnesota senator Al Franken, South Carolina representative James Clyburn, and former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Feldman, who did not return calls seeking comment, is frank in her characterization of the demographic groups — Jews, Asians, African Americans, Latinos, and gays — that are essential to a Democratic victory. The Nunn campaign declined to comment about the document on the record.

The campaign’s finance plan draws attention to the “tremendous financial opportunity” in the Jewish community and identifies Jews as key fundraisers. It notes, however, that “Michelle’s position on Israel will largely determine the level of support here.” That’s a position she has yet to articulate, and Israel goes unmentioned on her campaign website.

Asians are also identified as key fundraisers. The community is described as “very tight,” one in which people work to “become citizens quickly.” Nunn’s strategists also say there is a “huge opportunity” to raise money from gays, bisexuals, and transgender individuals, who are described as having “substantial resources.”

As southern whites have moved to the right, Democrats have been forced to cobble together a coalition of minority voters. Feldman recommends as a goal winning just 30 percent of the white vote while working to increase turnout among African Americans and Latinos. So while Jews, Asians, and gays are characterized as potential “fundraisers,” African Americans and Hispanics are the ones the campaign needs to get to the polls in historic numbers, the document makes clear.

Johnson elaborated on how Democrats know that Nunn will struggle with rural voters, which is why they’re focusing on turning out Hispanics and Blacks in historic numbers; something that’s described as “critical” to victory.

Democrats know that they have trouble with white voters in the South, and Johnson made it clear in her piece that no Democrat has come within the thirty percent mark since 2002.

Then again, Democrats may have jeopardized their hopes of picking up this very winnable seat for Democrats by sharing their playbook. Here's a list of Nunn's faults, which includes "service awards to terrorists."

Pushback Documents

The Research team will produce a "pushback" document for each identified vulnerability in Michelle's record, as well as common attacks frequently leveled against Democratic Senate candidates

These will be prepared as early as possible and will serve as the basis for our response when attacks are leveled against Michelle. Some, such as the document relating to Michelle's conservation easements, are complex and lengthy; while others will be short "fact checks" pushing back against common distortions (e.g. "Obamacare cut $500 billion from Medicare).

Points of Light

Grants to problematic entities

Layoffs

Liens (POL)

POL audit/IG report

Travel packages investigation

service awards to inmates, terrorists

Nunn’s salary

Bio/Personal

Nunn is too liberal

Nunn is a rubber stamp for Democrats

Nunn is Obama’s/Harry Reid/Nancy Pelosi Best Friend

Nunn is not a 'real' Georgian

Nunn is a lightweight

Conservation easements

Issues/Legislation

Serve America Act Healthcare/Obamacare

Gay Marriage

Guns

Cut Medicare/Social Security

Syria

Points Of Light was established by Bush 41 to encourage volunteering. Nunn became the CEO of the foundation in 2007. Under Nunn's tenure, they gave grants to Islamic Relief USA, a group that Johnson says is legally separate from Islamic Relief Worldwide, which has Hamas ties; but shares their "a common vision, mission, and family identity.”

When it comes to raising money, Nunn’s campaign listed all of their targeted “affinity groups,” or groups with “particular connection with Michelle,” and their messages to each of them. The memo obviously includes women and floats around this message marketed for them to help fill the Nunn campaign coffers: “Women ended the government shutdown. Help me get to Washington where I can bring a much needed [sic] spirit of collaboration.”

You can read the rest of the memos here

2014 Michelle Nunn Campaign Memo

Inspector General Report: Hundreds of Thousands of Machine Guns, Rifles Given to Afghani Security Forces Are Missing

In more good news coming out of the Middle East today, hundreds of thousands of weapons given to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) by the United States, including machine guns, are missing.

According to a report issued earlier this month from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) titled Afghan National Security Forces: Actions Needed to Improve Weapons Accountability, nearly half of weapons issued are unaccounted for.

"Controls over the accountability of small arms provided to the ANSF are insufficient both before and after the weapons are transferred. Accountability over these weapons within DOD prior to their transfer to Afghan ownership is affected by incompatible inventory systems that have missing serial numbers, inaccurate shipping and receiving dates, and duplicate records, that may result in missing weapons prior to transfer to the ANSF," the report states. "However, the problems are far more severe after the weapons are transferred to the ANSF. ANSF record-keeping and inventory processes are poor and, in many cases, we were unable to conduct even basic inventory testing at the ANSF facilities we visited. Although CSTC-A has established end use monitoring procedures, the lack of adherence to these procedures, along with the lack of reliable weapons inventories, limits monitoring of weapons under Afghan control and reduces the ability to identify missing and unaccounted for weapons that could be used by insurgents to harm U.S., coalition, and ANSF personnel."

Through corruption and bad accounting practices, these weapons more than likely in the wrong, violent hands of terrorists.

Severe Buyers' Remorse in CNN Poll: Romney 53, Obama 44


A new CNN poll reveals that if a do-over of the 2012 presidential election were held today, Republican Mitt Romney would handily defeat President Obama. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and the survey is meaningless on a practical level. The old cliche is spot on: The only poll that counts is on election day. Nevertheless, the findings reinforce a trend of deteriorating public confidence in the man Americans re-elected less than two years ago. Romney, who fell to Obama by three percentage points nearly two years ago, has now opened up a nine-point lead in a hypothetical head-to-head contest. What explains the double-digit swing? Major shifts among women, young voters and independents. According to CNN's respected 2012 exit polls, Obama won female voters by 11 points, carried young voters by 23 points, and lost independents by five points. Today?


RomneyDoOverPoll


Anti-Obama shifts of 18 points, 16 points, and 15 points, respectively. I suspect this poll comes as cold comfort to Romney, who might be thinking, "I literally told you so, America." On the stump, Romney frequently suggested that a more accurate variation of Obama's "Forward" slogan would be "Forewarned." Voters appear to be belatedly realizing that the Republican nominee was right about Obama, as well as a number of his policies. Before conservatives get cocky over Obama's dramatic fall from grace, though, they should note that the same poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Romney by double-digits in a 2016 match-up. Romney has stated repeatedly and unequivocally that he will not seek the presidency for a third time, though rumors continue to swirl. In the ridiculously early GOP nomination sweepstakes, the survey finds a logjam near the top, with Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Paul Ryan tightly packed within the 11 to 13 percent support range. Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz are next with eight percent apiece, followed by Sen. Marco Rubio at six percent, and Gov. Scott Walker at five percent. In far more relevant polling news, a massive nationwide survey conducted by the New York Times, CBS News and YouGov points to a continued GOP advantage -- but not a wave-level advantage -- heading into the November midterm elections.


The Republicans appear to hold a slight advantage in the fight for the Senate and remain in a dominant position in the House. They need to pick up six seats to gain Senate control, and they hold a clear advantage in races in three states: South Dakota, Montana and West Virginia. The data from YouGov, an opinion-research firm that enjoyed success in 2012, finds the G.O.P. with a nominal lead in five additional states. The five states where the Republicans hold a slight lead in the YouGov panel include three Southern ones — Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — where Democratic incumbents face tough re-election contests and where Mitt Romney won in 2012. Republicans also have a slight edge in Iowa and Michigan, two open seats in states that usually vote for Democrats in presidential elections.

If these results were to hold, Republicans would net eight Senate seats, two more than they need to secure the majority. For a more detailed look at the Senate battle, click through to my lengthy analysis from last week. But such a huge poll that uses a still-emerging online methodology should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, compared to other polling, these projections look a bit sunny for Republicans in North Carolina, and very optimistic in Michigan. On the other hand, they may underestimate the GOP's chances in places like Alaska and Colorado. This "mega poll" appears to be right on target in measuring Republicans' three likeliest Senate gains (Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia), and predicts the party will retain its contested seats in Kentucky and Georgia (the latter race just took an embarrassing and possibly catastrophic turn for the Democrats). It also finds that the GOP is "overwhelmingly likely" to keep its House majority, and could well expand it. I'll leave you with this nugget out of Texas:


Palestinian Spokesman: Tunnels Into Israel Were For Well-Meaning Palestinians To Travel

Maen Areikat, Palestinian Representative to the U.S. appeared with "the Beard" today to give us this sound bite:

Mrs. Obama's Desperate Plea

With her husband’s approval rating dipping lower every day, and a smaller electorate expected this November, Michelle Obama has the right to worry about the fast approaching 2014 midterm elections. Hence why the First Lady released a misleading, borderline desperate video this weekend.

“Equal pay for women, immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, and ensuring that women can make their own decisions about their bodies and their health care. My husband is working so hard on all these issues. But he needs leaders in Congress who will work with him – leaders who care about what’s going on in your lives and who will fight for you every single day.”

Apparently those heartless House Republicans could care less about their constituents.

Mrs. Obama then got straight to her point:

“We need you to be as passionate and as hungry as you were in 2008 and 2012.”

One year she notably forgot? 2010, a year when Americans were very passionate. They were passionate about the ugly economy. They were passionate about the high unemployment. Oh yeah, and they were especially passionate about the government getting between them and their doctors. That’s why these incensed voters turned our country red.

A new CNN poll puts the Democrats’ peril in perspective:

In the generic ballot question, the Democrats have a 4-percentage point 48 percent-44 percent edge over the Republicans among registered voters. The generic ballot asks respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates.

A smaller electorate could heavily favor the Republican Party. Single women, younger voters and minorities - who are generally consistent Democratic voters - typically vote in fewer numbers during midterms, according to wcti12.com.

She can keep urging her supporters on, but it’s clear voters aren’t “passionate” about the party who pushed through this disaster.

Watch: Emily Miller Explains New DC Firearm Carry Rules

In a major victory for Second Amendment rights over the weekend, U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin struck down the Washington D.C. total ban on concealed and open carrying of firearms as unconstitutional. The ruling came after a five year long court battle and effective immediately, D.C. police cannot arrest someone for carry a legal firearm.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision striking down the city's 32-year-old ban on handguns. Since then, the city has rewritten its laws, lawsuits have been filed and even Congress has waded into the fight.

In a decision made public Saturday, Scullin concluded that the Second Amendment gives people the right to carry a gun outside the home for self-defense. He cited two U.S. Supreme Court cases as important to his ruling — the 2008 opinion striking down the District of Columbia's ban and a 2010 ruling involving Chicago's handgun ban.

"There is no longer any basis on which this court can conclude that the District of Columbia's total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny," wrote Scullin, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush and is a retired Army colonel.

This morning Emily Miller, author of Emily Gets Her Gunand an expert in understanding D.C. gun laws, explained on Fox and Friends what the ruling means for carrying a firearm in the District.

"Anyone who is a none D.C. resident who legally can carry in their home state, whether open or concealed, can carry in D.C.," Miller said. "D.C. residents, if you have a registered gun like I do, I can carry. If you do not have a registered gun you can still be arrested on the unregistered gun law."

Hamas Breaks Ceasefire, Demands a New One...While Firing Rockets


UPDATE - Despite the UN's (and President Obama's) insistence on an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the battle in Gaza rages on. Israel is blaming errant Hamas rockets for horrible explosions at a hospital and a refugee camp, killing at least 10 people earlier today. The IDF published an infographic that it says tracks 100 Hamas rockets that have fallen within Gaza's borders since July 8:



Tragically, one of Hamas' rockets found its intended target today: Israeli civilians. Attention, "proportionality" fetishists (update: it now looks like those killed were Israeli soldiers):


Four people are pronounced dead from a mortar attack in the Eshkol region, and three others remain in serious condition...Hamas is celebrating the “success” of the mortar shelling at the Eshkol region.


And another Hamas attack:


Five Gaza militants breach Israeli border and open fire at IDF troops, causing several casualties. The troops returned fire, and it is possible some of the militants escaped back into the Strip. Troops are combing the area. Residents of a community in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council and of another community in the Sdot Negev Regional Council near the Gaza border have been instructed to remain in their homes.


::Original Post::


This past weekend's 12-hour humanitarian truce between Israel and Hamas, announced late Friday, represented a short respite in the three-weeks old conflict between the two sides. The first party to break the temporary calm was Hamas, after the terror group rejected Israel's offers to extend the peace window:


The Israeli cabinet approved a 24-hour extension of its cease-fire Saturday but said it would respond to any future rocket fire from Gaza after Hamas rejected an earlier proposed four-hour extension and fired rockets into Israel. The announcement came after Hamas confirmed that it fired five rockets at Israel late Saturday after rejecting an earlier offer from Israel to extend a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire by four hours, casting new doubt on international efforts to broker an end to 19 days of fighting. The terror group said two of the rockets were aimed at Tel Aviv. Police in Israel's second-largest city dispersed a peace rally attended by several thousand people because of the threat, a spokesman said. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group rejected Israel's proposal to extend an original 12-hour lull by four hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Saturday. Meanwhile, the Israeli military warned residents of areas where there had been heavy fighting against returning there.

Lots of information packed into that paragraph. Despite sustaining rocket fire after a rejected extension, the Israeli government nevertheless green-lit a day-long, good faith ceasefire. The Hamas rockets that punctured the quiet were aimed at Tel Aviv, where Israeli peace demonstrators had to be rapidly dispersed for their own safety. These people were demonstrating for an accommodation with the terrorist cartel that was literally trying to kill them. As Israel prepared to re-engage in the fight, it re-issued warnings to Palestinian civilians against returning to dangerous areas. Hamas, which targets Israeli innocents, also admonishes its civilians against heeding the IDF's warnings. They're more valuable to the terror campaign as human shields, frustrating Israel's response. And they're more valuable to the anti-Israel public relations campaign…well, dead. To the surprise of no one, Israel's unilateral 24-hour ceasefire didn't last:


Israel observed a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire from 8 a.m. on Saturday, during which time Gazan civilians stocked up on essential supplies and buried their dead. Israel offered to extend the cease-fire by four hours, and later by 24 hours, but was rebuffed in the form of rockets fired from Gaza. Israel continued to observe a cease-fire until mid-Sunday morning when volleys of rockets led the security Cabinet to order the Israel Defense Forces to continue its strikes on Gaza.


"Ceasefire," Hamas-style:



Having rejected several Egypt-proposed ceasefire agreements while breaking and violating the agreements to which they have acceded, Hamas had the gall on Sunday to insist upon a new one. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu highlighted the absurdity and dishonesty of the terrorist organization's demands on Fox News Sunday:


"Well, Hamas has broken five ceasefires that we accepted, and we actually implemented. They rejected all of them, violated all of them -- including two humanitarian ceasefires in the last 24 hours. Now they come with their own ceasefire proposal, and believe it or not, they're violating even their own ceasefire proposal. They're shooting at us as we speak. So Israel is not obliged, and is not going to let a terrorist organization determine when it's convenient for them to fire at our cities, at our people…we'll take the necessary action to protect our people."

Jennifer Rubin is exasperated by US Secretary of State John Kerry's inept meddling in the conflict, upbraiding him for being "in the wrong place, talking to the wrong people about the wrong thing." He's undermined Israel by throwing a lifeline to Hamas. Read her full analysis to get a sense of how badly he's bungled things. Rubin also links to a fascinating Times of Israel piece describing the degree to which "civilian life" in Gaza is intertwined with Hamas' terrorist activities, and the ongoing struggle of the IDF to try to respect innocent life deliberately embedded in a war zone:


Hamas has planted its military assets deep inside the very fabric of Gazan civilian life, [a military source] said. “Hamas operatives and area commanders, as well as their rocket cell members, keeps one part of their home for normal family life. A second part of the home is the command center, or the start of a tunnel. Daily life and military infrastructure are totally interwoven,” the source said. . . . “I have not entered one civilian home that did not have weapons, suicide belts, or booby traps in it. You can see the booby traps from the outside,” the source said. Any home found to be containing women and children leads to an immediate halt of the raid, he added. “We hold our fire, there’s no question. We don’t take chances with children and women. We allow them to leave, and then continue the raid. That’s who we are, and this is the source of our strength,” he added.


Meanwhile, Hamas sympathizers marched in Chicago over the weekend, as Europe continues to brace for more anti-Semitic violence. For many, Israel's defensive war effort is merely a "news hook" excuse to unleash their Medieval hatred of Jews. Awful:


Protesters have attacked synagogues, smashed the windows of Jewish-owned business and torched others, in scenes disturbingly reminiscent of the 1938 Kristallnacht in France. The marchers have chanted “Jews to the gas chambers”, and Jewish people have been attacked on the streets of Berlin. An 18-year-old Jewish man claimed on Friday he had been punched in the face in an unprovoked attack while wearing a skull cap in the centre of Berlin, in what would be the second such incident in less than a week. Police had to step in to protect an Israeli tourist couple from protesters who charged at them shouting “Jew! We’ll get you”...One Facebook page created in the last week, entitled Jeunes Revolutionnaires Francais, or Young French Revolutionaries, posted the names, photographs and addresses of 32 French Jews encouraging members to target them. After the picture of one young man seen wearing a skullcap was put up, he was attacked in his home in the Paris suburbs on Thursday evening by a group of masked men with iron bars. The group, which picked up 2,000 followers and more than 1,500 “likes”, was taken down on Friday night after it was reported to the social network...in Austria this week, a friendly football match between the Israel’s Maccabi Haifa and a French team had to be called off, after protesters stormed the pitch and fought with the players. The Haifa captain, Yossi Benayoun, defended his players for fighting back, saying “We had no choice but to defend ourselves”. The pitch invaders in Austria were mostly immigrants of Palestinian origin, and around Europe the new anti-Semitism is being seen a phenomenon confined to Arab and Muslim communities.

I'll leave you with a short spin around the globe, where American foreign policy is failing or nonexistent: (1) ISIS' march of terror through Iraq continues apace. The terrorists are destroying cultural and religious icons, as they keep Baghdad in their crosshairs. The Obama administration is responding by seeking the full repeal of America's authorization of force resolution vis-a-vis Iraq. (2) American officials have unveiled new evidence that proves how deeply involved Russia is in Eastern Ukraine -- further verification that Russia is directly attacking its neighbor. Moscow-backed rebels continue to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft following their downing of a large passenger jet with Russian equipment. The Obama administration's response is unclear. (3) The State Department evacuated US embassy in Tripoli and rushed its diplomats out of the country in a final admission that Libya is now a failed state, overrun by radical jihadists. The Obama administration supported the military effort to oust Mommar Gaddafi from power in 2011. The situation on the ground has steadily deteriorated ever since, punctuated by the Benghazi attacks of September 11, 2012. (4) As for Syria, where presidential red lines have been breached and re-breached, this Washington Post editorialheadline sums things up: "Syrian death toll and extremist threat increases, but the US does little." Click through and read it. We're not in good hands.

Bipartisan Deal on VA Reform Close to Complete

There are five days before the House and Senate will be forced by law to go on their August recess. With a race to the finish, it looks like a bipartisan Veteran's Affairs reform deal may be reached before the deadline Friday. More from Fox News:

The leaders of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees reached a tentative deal Sunday to improve veterans' health care -- a potential solution to help fix such ongoing problems as delays for benefits and long waits for medical treatment concealed by secret lists.

The tentative deal would also end speculation about whether Congress would indeed begin a five-week summer recess without a legislative solution amid widespread national outrage over problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The committee chairmen, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., worked through the weekend and have scheduled a press conference for Monday to talk about the tentative deal.

A spokesman for Sanders confirmed the agreement Sunday.

The pair said in a joint statement that they had "made significant progress" toward an agreement on legislation "to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals."


The VA scandal, which involves the deaths of dozens of veterans waiting for care in VA hospitals, is the only scandal both Republicans and Democrats both show outrage over. That being said, coming to an agreement about how to fix the VA is another story and bipartisan bickering has been at the center of the hold up for reform. It's been months since we first heard about secret waiting lists for veterans.

“In the wake of the biggest scandal in the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs, I am committed to working in a bipartisan manner with the Senate to send the president a VA reform package that will increase accountability at the department and provide veterans facing unacceptable waits for VA medical care the option to receive private-sector treatment. But arriving at a compromise will be impossible if Senate Democrats refuse to even participate in Veterans’ Affairs Conference Committee meetings and negotiations as they did today," House Veteran's Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller said late last week in a statement. “The crisis at VA is not a partisan problem, and I will do everything I can to prevent this from devolving into an exercise in the sort of bickering and name calling for which Washington has become infamous."

Miller also said he is willing to negotiate with the Senate for as long as it takes to get a bill through. The House legislation being offered as a solution to VA problems includes language that allows government employees working inside VA hospitals to be more easily fired for misconduct and incompetence.

Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Miller worked over the weekend to reach a deal and will hold a press conference Monday at 1:30 to discuss a compromise. Lets hope Congress can get something done before leaving Washington on Friday.

Wikipedia Bans House Staffers From Editing Pages

Following the launch of the Twitter account @congressedits, which shows edits to Wikipedia made from the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses associated with Congresss, Wikipedia has announced a 10-day ban on House staffers using that IP address to edit pages anonymously. Staffers, inspired that their Wikipedia edits would subsequently be broadcast to the 25,000-plus followers of @congressedits, were making unusual edits to various pages, prompting the temporary ban. House staffers that have official accounts on Wikipedia are still permitted to edit pages.

The Hill reports:

Apparently in reaction to the account, House staffers made a series of tongue-in-cheek edits, knowing they would show up on Twitter.

For instance, the Wikipedia page for “Moon landing conspiracy theories” was changed so that the theories were noted to be “promoted by the Cuban government.” Edits were also made to pages for the fictional reptilian race of aliens, ice cream brand Choco Taco and the secret society Skull and Bones.

As the edits are anonymous, it is unlikely the Choco Taco-loving conspiracy theorist working for the House of Representatives will ever be revealed.

August Recess Fast Approaching, Congress Down to the Wire on Immigration

Incoming House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) dodged questions Sunday when asked if House Republicans would delay Congress’ five-week vacation in order to address the continual crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Indecision over how to approach the steady influx of migrant children has lawmakers playing the finger-pointing game in Washington. The House, Senate, and White House will need to act quickly and work together if they hope reach a deal by the end of the week.

Scalise stressed the urgency of the situation while speaking with FNC’s Chris Wallace this morning. He declared that Congress is ready to tackle the issue but President Obama is more interested in securing funds for the Democratic party than securing the border:

Well, it’s ironic. We’re here in Congress right now and the president doesn’t want to work with us while we’re in town, he wants to wait until people are gone. The president has a lot of time on his schedule to secure fundraisers, but he has no time to secure the border. He has not taken his job seriously in this regard. The House is willing to lead. The House has laid out what we’ll do to solve this problem. The president just wants to sit back and play politics. He’s flying around the country doing fundraisers, he doesn’t have time to sit down and work with Congress.

He could solve this problem today. He has been AWOL, he doesn’t want to solve this problem, but we do.

We’re going to stay, we’re going to work, and we’re going to get our job done. I’d like to see the Senate take something up and do their job. I’d like to see the president do his job. But we’re not going to wait for that.

Here’s a little secret about members of Congress: they are people just like us and they like to go on vacation just like us. There is no easy solution to the complex problem at the border. We will see what happens in September.

Bipartisanship: Democrats and Republicans Agree Obama Doesn't "Get It"

One of the biggest structural problems of the Obama Administration is that the White House has been an ineffective participant in negotiations with Congress. Both Democrats and Republicans have complained about the White House's ineffectual manner in Capitol Hill dealings, and a new round of complaints highlight that the Obama Administration still hasn't learned from its mistakes.

As the Associated Press reports:

President Barack Obama's request for billions of dollars to deal with migrant children streaming across the border set off Democrats and Republicans. Lawmakers in both parties complained that the White House — six years in — still doesn't get it when it comes to working with Congress.

Obama is the "only person in America who can sign something into law and help bring members of his party on board for an outcome on a given piece of legislation that requires bipartisan support," McConnell said in an interview. "So it's a mystery, but that's the way they operate."

Several Democratic lawmakers echoed McConnell but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid alienating the president of their party. They said they were baffled by the White House's tactics in handling the border request. Several Democrats expressed frustration that the president and administration officials weren't more involved in legislative fights.

The Obama Administration at this point is either stubbornly ineffectual or completely incompetent. The complaints in this area have been the same throughout the entire Obama era, and they haven't gotten any better. President Obama's tactics seem to come down to making a wide-sweeping declaration and expecting it to just "get done," without actually working with Congress. This frustrates both Democrats and Republicans, and Obama refuses to actually try to remedy themselves in this area.

Senator Walsh's Plagiarism Scandal, PTSD References Angers Veterans

Well, “papergate” continues to plague Democratic Montana Sen. John Walsh, who didn’t attribute roughly a quarter of his paper for his Master of Strategic Studies at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

After allegations of plagiarism broke, the Montana Senator said he had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder while writing the paper, but didn’t want to blame his lapse in judgment on PTSD, according to the Associated Press:

Walsh told The Associated Press when he wrote the thesis, he had PTSD from his service in Iraq, was on medication and was dealing with the stress of a fellow veteran's recent suicide.

"I don't want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor," the senator said. "My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment."

Nevertheless, the fact that PTSD was even brought up, coupled with the plagiarism allegations, has angered veterans (Bozeman Daily Chronicle):

Retired Montana National Guard Sgt. Maj. Timothy Pentecost fought in Vietnam and Iraq, and according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, is 100 percent disabled by post-traumatic stress disorder. He also worked with Walsh.

“It's totally bogus,” an outraged Pentecost told the Chronicle. “I can't believe he's using the PTSD as a reason for what he has done in plagiarizing the paper, and that weak response he had was terrible.”

Brian Rudolph, 31, an Iraq and Afghanistan combat veteran from Great Falls, said he still has not heard Walsh apologize.

“I don't know if it's going to do a whole lot; I don't know how much people overall take that into consideration,” said Rudolph. “It's not that hard to cite something. It's quite a bit of his paper really. But I think there's a lot of people out there who have never had to write a paper so they might not understand the whole deal about it.”

The Chronicle added that Rudolph, who is undecided on the Montana Senate Race, said that the PTSD reference was “an irrelevant play for the public's sympathy.”

At the same time, members of the press, specifically the Washington Post, are aghast over the fact that a fourteen-page paper is sufficient for a Master’s Degree.

Regardless, plagiarism torpedoed then-Senator Joe Biden’s 1988 presidential bid; it very well could do the same for Mr. Walsh, who’s already facing less than hopeful prospects of surviving come Election Day.

Gov. Perry Could Give National Guard Arrest Powers

As the border crisis drags on, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, a Republican, has decided to take matters into his own hands; he’s ordered 1,000 National Guard soldiers to head towards the border. It will cost $12 million a month.

Additionally, these units could be given arrest powers if they come across any immigrants trying to illegally enter the United States (via NYT):

In 2006, President George W. Bush sent 6,000 troops to the four border states where they repaired and built fences and roads, conducted surveillance and took over administrative and logistical duties. In 2010, Mr. Obama deployed 1,200 troops to bolster border security. Troops in those deployments did not have arrest and apprehension powers.

The ones due at the border next month will work side by side not with federal Border Patrol agents but with state police officers of the Department of Public Safety. They will not be able to enforce federal immigration laws but may be able to enforce state law. A 19th-century federal law [Posse Comitatus] that makes it a crime for military personnel to perform civilian law enforcement activities does not apply to state-duty troops.

It remains unclear if Mr. Perry will grant the troops the authority to make apprehensions. General Nichols suggested this week that Guard troops could do so if the governor requested it but that they had no plans to.

Mr. Perry has previously favored such powers. In a letter to President Obama last month, he asked him to deploy 1,000 troops under presidential authority and to give those troops “arrest powers to support Border Patrol operations.”

I’m sure Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration will have a problem with this…after their next fundraiser.

Poll: Just 18% Claim to be "Better Off" Under Obamacare

We wrote this poll up several days ago. But perhaps it merits some additional attention on a slowish news weekend.

For starters, there can be no doubt that some Americans have benefitted enormously from the Affordable Care Act. As Guy previously noted, the uninsured who’ve finally obtained coverage (or qualified for subsidies or suffered from preexisting conditions), are only some of the law’s intended beneficiaries. On the other hand, when determining the overall success of any government overhaul, one must always consider its functionality, its costs, and, indeed, whether or not it even helps people.

And on that last score, most Americans aren't especially impressed. Take, for example, a new CNN poll, which also undermines claims advanced by some that "people love" Obamacare.

Check out the left-hand column below:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Brutal.

Congress Passes Bill Allowing Unlocking Cell Phones

A bill to permit the practice of "unlocking" a cell phone--meaning a consumer could use the same phone on different carriers--was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama. The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act passed with wide bipartisan support and was sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) in the House and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in the Senate.

Unlocking a phone without the wireless carrier's permission was legal in the U.S. until a 2012 decision by the U.S. Copyright Office. That decision resulted in a grassroots campaign to fight for the legality of unlocking a phone. A petition on the website We The People garnered over 114,000 signatures in support.

The White House released a statement praising Congress for passing the bill, saying that it will help to restore "basic consumer freedom."

I applaud Members of Congress for passing the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. Last year, in response to a “We the People” petition from consumers across our country, my Administration called for allowing Americans to use their phones or mobile devices on any network they choose. We laid out steps the FCC, industry, and Congress should take to ensure copyright law does not undermine wireless competition, and worked with wireless carriers to reach a voluntary agreement that helps restore this basic consumer freedom. The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget. I commend Chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte, and Ranking Members Grassley and Conyers for their leadership on this important consumer issue and look forward to signing this bill into law.

Kudos to Congress for finally getting this one right. More consumer choices is always a good thing, and carriers have no right to refuse to unlock phones even after a contract has ended.

Paul Ryan Advocates for Criminal Justice Reform in Anti-Poverty Proposal

Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released his 73-page “discussion draft” outlining specific approaches to reshape how the federal government combats poverty. As Sarah reported, the proposal aims to reform the way government provides aid by consolidating 11 federal anti-poverty programs into one pilot program. States that choose to opt-in would receive streamlined funding for housing assistance, food stamps, child care, etc. to distribute according to need. This budget-neutral “Opportunity Grant” would theoretically give states more control while exchanging “more flexibility for more accountability”.

Though most discussion has circled around the Opportunity Grant, Ryan’s plan also includes ideas such revising prison sentencing guidelines for non-violent offenders. During his speech at the American Enterprise Institute Thursday, Ryan threw his support behind Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-Utah) Public Safety Enhancement Act, saying:

“Did you know half of our ex-cons are reincarcerated within three years of release? But we know that there are programs that work, that get people out of a life of crime. That’s why Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Bobby Scott have introduced the Public Safety Enhancement Act. We’d let low risk, non-violent offenders exchange time in prison for time in pre-release custody as long as they complete a program with a proven track record. Here’s the point: non-violent, low risk offenders – don’t lock them up and throw away the key. Get them in counseling, get them in training, help them rejoin and contribute to our society.”

Ryan's proposal observes the tremendous strain that housing inmates puts on the economy:

About 2.2 million people are currently behind bars—a more than 340 percent increase since 1980. As a result, we spend about $80 billion on corrections at all levels of government—an inflation-adjusted increase of over 350 percent in that same period. This growing cost burden on society is a cause for concern.

In order to expand opportunity in America, Ryan emphasizes that once non-violent offenders have "paid their debt" to society, they should be able to move on. He explains that all too often, the consequence of incarceration extends even after release from prison. The proposal highlights three possible reforms to remedy this problem:

— Grant judges more flexibility within mandatory-minimum guidelines when sentencing non-violent drug offenders.

— Implement a risk- and needs-assessment system in federal prisons while expanding enrollment in rehabilitative programming to reduce recidivism. Allow non-violent and low-risk inmates to use enrollment to earn time off their prison stay towards prerelease custody.

— Partner with reforms at the state and local level.

For a nation that holds a higher percentage of its population in prison than any other country in the world, it is high time that Congress seriously addresses this issue. To fight poverty, we cannot ignore the impact our current prison system has on the chance of violators’ success upon release. Ryan’s discussion draft will hopefully prompt conversation amongst the American people and bring the incarceration rate to the forefront of Congress’ attention.

Obama Parties With 'Scandal' Cast as Middle East Burns

In his two presidential terms combined, President George W. Bush hosted a total of 318 fundraisers. Our current president, however, has already surpassed that number just two years into his second term. Most frustratingly, they often seem to come when we most need leadership from the commander-in-chief.

The turmoil between Israel and Hamas rages on and the downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight which took almost 300 lives has left nations in mourning. Yet, in the midst of these tragedies, Obama decided to attend another fundraiser. Five, actually:

Obama on Tuesday was starting a three-day West Coast trip, scheduled to attend at least five fundraising events in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles less than four months ahead of midterm elections that could change Washington's balance of power.

A few highlights of his most recent money-raising trip include an overpriced dinner:

The event is at the Hunts Point home of former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal and his wife, Jan, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by The Seattle Times.

The price tag for the event is $25,000 per person, with proceeds going to the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group that accepts unlimited donations.

And, of course, a bit of schmoozing with Hollywood, such as Obama’s fundraising trip at the Beverly Hills home of Shonda Rhimes, the producer of the ABC series "Scandal." After he “briefly” touched on the unfolding crisis in the Middle East, the party went on:

The international concerns didn’t dampen donor enthusiasm, with about 450 people attending at ticket levels ranging from $1,000 per person up to $32,400 per person, the latter including dinner with the president, according to a DNC official. Millions were expected to be raised from Obama’s series of fundraising events over the last few days, as donors increasingly focus on the possibility that the Democrats may lose control of the Senate in November.

Hey, he at least took one stop off his trip:

Obama did abandon one idea for the trip, however. The White House had been in touch with late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel about a presidential appearance on his show during the stop in Los Angeles.

"We elected not to do it this time, but hope we can arrange to do it in the near future," Earnest said.

Probably when he wants to escape the next crisis.

It's a known fact that the president's fundraising trips are not as well timed as his jokes. Another case in point: The day after the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, Obama went to a fundraiser in Las Vegas.

Obama may not quite hit Clinton’s number, (the 42nd president held a whopping 638 fundraisers), but at this rate he’ll sure come close.

Can someone tell him we don’t hire the president to be an incessant fundraiser?

GOP Enthusiasm Foreshadows Midterm Advantage

If enthusiasm is any indicator of success, the Republican Party is in for a riveting season of midterm elections. GOP voters are more confident and exuberant about heading to the polls this year than their Democrat counterparts, a recent Pew Research Center report found.

Today, the Republicans lead on a number of key engagement indicators, though in some cases by smaller margins than four years ago. Currently, 45% of registered voters who plan to support the Republican in their district say they are more enthusiastic about voting than in prior congressional elections; that compares with 37% of those who plan to vote for the Democratic candidate. The GOP had a 13-point enthusiasm advantage at this point in the midterm campaign four years ago (55% to 42%) and the Democrats held a 17-point advantage eight years ago (47% to 30%).

However, as many voters who support the Republican in their district say they are “absolutely certain” to vote this fall as said this in June 2010. Three-quarters of Republican voters (76%) say they are absolutely certain to vote, compared with 67% of Democratic voters. Four years ago, 77% of Republican voters and 64% of Democratic voters said they were absolutely certain to vote in the fall.

This report came out several months after a Gallup poll showed Democrats are the least eager to vote out of all the political parties. Gallup also demonstrated the correlation between party energy and overall advantage.

General elections are not until November. So, while it may be too early to tell, this analysis of the voter landscape is looking positive for the Republican party.

Must-See Video: Joan Rivers Defends Israel in Epic Rant

It’s been infuriating to watch Hollywood elites ignorantly blast out their support for Gaza across social media platforms since the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians escalated this month. Thus, it’s refreshing to see one particularly outspoken celeb passionately stand up for Israel’s right to self-defense.


“If New Jersey were firing rockets into New York, we would wipe ’em out,” she tells the cameraman.

Rivers continues, “I don’t want to hear anymore, ‘Oh, we’ll do a partial truce.’ The Palestinians… you cannot throw rockets, and not expect people to defend themselves.”

Asked about civilian casualties among Palestinians, Rivers fires back, “Then don’t put your goddamn things in private homes! I’m sorry, don’t you dare put weapons stashes in private homes!”

When the cameraman asks Rivers where civilians should go, she replies, “I don’t care! They started it. You’re all insane! They started it!”

Rivers slams media coverage of the conflict, declaring, “The BBC should be ashamed of themselves. And CNN should be ashamed of themselves. And everybody… stop it already.”

When the paparazzo mentions Selena Gomez’s support for Gaza, Rivers sarcastically says, “Oh, Selena Gomez! Oh, yeah, that college grad. Oh, well, if Selena said that… let’s see if she can spell ‘Palestinians.’”

Thank you, Joan Rivers for not being afraid to tell it like it is. If you’re interested in seeing a list of other celebs that have tweeted in support of Israel, check out Twitchy’s list here, although none are quite as colorful as Rivers’ epic rant.

Maybe Democrats Should Have Read Obamacare Before They Passed It

First, a fact. Obamacare's legislative text reads that tax subsidies administered by the IRS to help Americans pay for health insurance they are federally mandated to purchase reads that those tax subsidies will only apply to people who purchase coverage from insurance exchanges "established by the State." An exchange "established by the State" refers to state-run health insurance exchanges, established in ACA section 1311, as opposed to federally-run exchanges, established in ACA section 1321. The legislative language is pretty clear.

What ACA proponents want to say is that this just amounts to a "drafting error." Congress, of course, intended for the subsidies to apply to the exchanges run by the federal government; they just made a mistake.

It seems odd that we'd be able to divine the "intent" of the general will of 535 people, but some have now fallen back to asking if there was even a single legislator who thought that tax subsidies wouldn't apply to federal exchanges.

This is a good question, because it's unlikely that any legislator thought that would have been a good idea. But this gets to the heart of the problem with ACA: many legislators didn't know what they were crafting and voting on.

In the era of ACA's crafting, Republicans repeatedly brought up the point that legislators couldn't read the bill, because the legislative text hadn't been written. The Senate Finance Committee voted on what's called "conceptual langauge," but did anticipate that some states would not set up their own exchanges. Democrats also insisted that the "conceptual language" was enough to actually understand and vote on the law.

Max Baucus (D-Montana), chair of the Senate Finance Committee through which the health bill flowed, insisted that reading the law wasn't necessary.

“I don’t think you want me to waste my time to read every page of the healthcare bill,” Baucus said, according to the Flathead Beacon. “You know why? It’s statutory language. ... We hire experts.”

So that's what happened: in between the "conceptual language" and the actual legislative text, some experts who were writing the law thought it was a good idea to try to coerce states into creating their own exchanges by withholding tax subsidies from the federal exchanges. The actual legislators who voted on the legislation didn't know how the law would work, but they trusted the experts they hired.

One of the "experts" that helped write the law was Jonathan Gruber, an MIT health expert who also helped write Massachusetts' similar law. Gruber, in 2012, said that it was actually important that subsidies didn't apply to federally-run exchanges - and that it would be an incentive for states to set them up. The New York Times reported that he went to Capitol Hill to "help Congressional staff members draft specifics of the legislation."

Tom Carper (D-Delaware), who also served on the Senate Finance Committee, insisted that the legislative language wasn't important:

"I don't expect to actually read the legislative language, because reading the legislative language is among the more confusing things I've ever read in my life."

So, the Senate Finance Committee voted on "conceptual language" that established subsidies for exchanges without mentioning who those subsidies would apply to. They then hired experts, as Baucus said, who did intend for subsidies not to apply to federal exchanges, and those experts plainly wrote the law in the way that it wouldn't apply to federal exchanges. Democratic leadership then refused to post the legislative text for people to read in an adequate time period before passing the law, and as a result, Congress voted on legislation that was written by people who, yes, intended for tax subsidies only to apply to state-established exchanges.

Hamas: A Baby in One Arm, A Kalashnikov In The Other

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:

Michael Medved’s brother Jonathan, has lived in Israel for over 30 years, and his sons have now been called up. Elliott Abrams, a U.S. foreign policy expert who served under both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush on Israel. Jamie Weinstein with Noah Pollack who is the executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel. Bill Bennett turned to healthcare expert James Capretta to sort through the DC Court ruling on O'care. Dennis Prager, upon hearing the President’s response to the ruling, was understandably agitated. Leon de Winter with Prager on Malaysian Flight 17. Medved with Daniel Halpern of the Weekly Standard has a new book out: Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine. Prager on the President’s latest speech on the heels of the Hobby Lobby decision.