Cruz on Meriam Ibrahim’s Release: “Truly the Lord Works in Mysterious Ways”

Indeed He does.

And yet, after refusing to renounce her Christian-faith, Meriam Ibrahim showed herself to be, among other things, a woman of remarkable courage and conviction. She was presented with a choice, a choice no one should ever have to make: renounce your faith, or suffer martyrdom. (The punishment in Sudan for the “crime” of apostasy is death by hanging). She refused, knowing full well the risks she was taking. But I can only speculate that her abiding sense of faith, and her trust in the Lord, are what sustained her. And sustain her still.

To his credit, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), among other members of Congress, made her plight a top priority. Religious liberty is a human right, he argued, not one that is conditional or can be taken away. He therefore released this statement on Thursday, rejoicing she had been “brought out of the darkness.” He also praised government and religious leaders from around the world. Without them, Ms. Ibrahim's liberation would have been impossible:

“We rejoice today that our sister, Meriam Ibrahim, has been brought out of the darkness of persecution and into the light of liberty where she can worship freely and fully,” Sen. Cruz said.

“Great thanks are due to the government of Italy, which, not taking no for an answer, exerted the strongest diplomatic pressure to resolve Ms. Ibrahim’s case. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi publicly raised Ms. Ibrahim’s plight in recent weeks, and Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini has taken a personal interest in the case.

“Pope Francis has been a tireless advocate for Ms. Ibrahim through prayer, and their combined and sustained efforts have brought Ms. Ibrahim and her family to safety.

“Truly the Lord works in mysterious ways. Ms. Ibrahim’s long trial seemed at times hopeless, as a powerless woman was victimized by a brutal government that would torture and kill its own citizens for their faith. But its beautiful conclusion today when Pope Francis laid his hands on her in blessing reminds us of the boundless power of pure faith to lift up and preserve the weak and oppressed.

“It is also a call to action for all Christians around the globe to redouble our efforts to draw attention to the plight of the many Christians still suffering cruel and unjust imprisonment, including Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran and Kenneth Bae in North Korea.

“The vicious persecution of the Christians of Iraq, especially Mosul, also commands our urgent attention. We prayerfully urge our government to engage fully in their cases.”

Hillary: No, Seriously, Our Russian 'Reset' Worked

Hillary Clinton and her supporters have famously struggled to identify her major, tangible accomplishments as Secretary of State. Perhaps she's finally settled on an answer, and it's a doozy:

Engineering a blossoming restoration of US-Russia relations is a major achievement, and Hillary would like American voters to know that she pulled it off, or something. Her timing is impeccable. Over the last few years, Moscow has complicated our efforts to halt Iran's nuclear march, ignored us completely on human rights, ostentatiously harbored a treacherous American fugitive, invaded (another) bordering country, and helped Kremlin-aligned rebels blow an airliner out of the sky. With international pressure mounting, Vladimir Putin's allies are escalating their hostilities, not backing down -- while the Russian government spins wild and debunked conspiracies about the Malaysian Airlines attack. With that spiraling catastrophe as her backdrop, Her Majesty has decided to pronounce her "reset" charm offensive a success. If you find yourself laughing incredulously, we've officially come full circle. That policy began with a hearty chortle, too:

Russian media have been poking fun at the US secretary of state over a translation error on a gift she presented to her Russian counterpart. Hillary Clinton gave Sergei Lavrov a mock "reset" button, symbolising US hopes to mend frayed ties with Moscow. But he said the word the Americans chose, "peregruzka", meant "overloaded" or "overcharged", rather than "reset".

Smart power. Allahpundit explains how the Clinton spinmeisters are trying to play this, deliberately using the past tense to frame things in a Hillary-friendly manner. Good luck:

The only way to do it is to argue that it was a success but that, through no fault of Hillary’s own, of course, it collapsed in a heap. Officially, she’s going to blame the failure of the reset on Putin re-assuming the presidency after four years of Medvedev, but that makes no sense. As Hillary herself concedes (“of course Putin still pulled the strings”), Putin was calling the shots as prime minister during Obama’s first term while Medvedev kept his presidential seat warm. Russian law forbids more than two consecutive terms as president — for now — so Czar Vladimir temporarily stepped aside for a catspaw. She’s drawing a lame distinction between Medvedev and Putin simply as an excuse for why her biggest initiative as Secretary of State now lies in ruins. Unofficially, of course, she’s also drawing a tacit contrast between herself and Obama: Things with Russia were fine during his first term but once she left State, everything went to hell. If having Putin as president of Russia is the key to all this, I’m not sure why we should expect different foreign policy results from President Hillary; after all, Putin will still be czar or king or emperor two years from now. But you’re not supposed to think too hard about this.

"Don't think too hard" might as well be an early frontrunner for her 2016 campaign-in-waiting's slogan. She's going to ask voters to give her political credit for all of the good things that happened during her husband's presidency and the Obama administration, while absolving her of the negative developments. She'll cherry-pick all day and all night. Clinton economy? Let's bring it back. The Obamacare mess? I would have done it more effectively. Etc, etc. But until she formally throws her hat in the ring, we'll have to endure an exhausting parade of coy hints, and an increasingly steady diet of the 'First Woman President' narrative.

TMZ "Reporters" Call Sarah Palin a "Bad Mom" and "Dumb" After Receiving Speeding Ticket

In case you didn't know, TMZ is a paparazzi entertainment show that follows celebrities as they walk out of restaurants, get into their cars, or buy a cup of coffee. It is not a real news source. Case in point, on Wednesday these "reporters" proved just how sad their profession is. After airing a segment that showed footage of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin getting a speeding ticket in Wasilla, Alaska, the TMZ staff started demeaning her for no reason, according to Breitbart:

But then it quickly turned ugly, when, without justification, the staffers launched into a nasty, random, name-calling attack. One staff member exclaimed out of nowhere, "She's a bitch." Another chimed in, saying, "She's a really bad mom," while another added, "She's a horrible mom."

A third concluded, "She's not evil. She's too dumb to be good or evil."

The immature behavior continues on TMZ's website, where they again show the former governor no respect:

Sarah Palin may be conservative, but her driving is unabashedly radical ... giving TMZ an epic rationalization for speeding in her pick up truck in Alaska.

The former guv was stopped in her hometown of Wasilla last Wednesday for going 63 in a 45 MPH zone in her Toyota Tundra. The cop wrote her up and she was on her way.

Governor Palin has does nothing to suggest she is a bad mom or a "bitch," yet she has been the media's favorite target since the 2008 election.

These charges aren't only false, they're downright cruel. But, I guess the "war on women" is sanctioned when it's being waged on conservative women.

US Official: ISIL Is 'No Longer a Terrorist Organization--It's a Full-Blown Army'

By now, we all know how wrong President Obama was when he repeatedly said on the campaign trail in 2012 that al Qaeda is on the path to defeat. Indeed, it seems like we’ve got a much bigger problem on our hands. According to top U.S. officials, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is “worse than al Qaeda.”

Via The Hill (emphasis mine):

"It is al Qaeda in its doctrine, ambition and increasingly, in its threat to U.S. interests," Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary of state, told lawmakers at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. "In fact, it is worse than al Qaeda."

McGurk said the group, which splintered off from its parent, al Qaeda in Iraq, had strengthened its capabilities and was “no longer a terrorist organization. It is a full-blown army.”
Elissa Slotkin, acting principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for policy, added that the group has threatened: "We're coming for you, Barack Obama."

ISIS has captured huge parts of both countries and threatened to move on Baghdad last month, leading President Obama to authorize deploying nearly 750 troops to Iraq.

Over the weekend, Attorney General Eric Holder said the threat of ISIS fighters infiltrating into the U.S. was "more frightening than anything I think I've seen as attorney general."

Former Defense Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge told The Hill Wednesday that the threat from ISIS has been "blinking red a long time."

"It's been blinking red but now it's flashing more frequently and is a lot brighter," he said.

"They've got a lot of fighters who are from European countries that are visa waiver countries, which means all they have to do is shave their beards and look like normal responsible civilians and walk into the United States of America without a visa."

"So it's a real challenge for our intelligence community to identify them and get their names on a watch list," he said.

Publicly, the administration says it has no plans for a U.S. military intervention to stop the extremist group, but Iraq’s request for U.S. airstrikes is “still under active consideration.”

“There is no exclusively military solution to the threats posed by ISIL in Iraq,” the Pentagon’s Elissa Slotkin said. “DoD remains postured should the president decide to use military force as part of a broader strategy. Our immediate goals … are to protect our people and property in Iraq; gain a better understanding of how we might best train, advise and support the Iraqi Security Forces [ISF] capabilities should we decide to support the ISF going forward … and expand our understanding — particularly via intelligence — of ISIL.”

Don't Expand Government, Cut the Payroll Tax Instead

The Earned Income Tax Credit is one of the federal government's most successful anti-poverty programs. As House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) notes in his newly released anti-poverty plan today, it "makes low-income families more likely to work by increasing work's rewards" and "encourages households to enter the labor force."

However, the EITC is also far from perfect. Which is why it was disappointing to see Ryan ignore some of the program's biggest shortcomings in his newly released anti-poverty plan.

To his credit, Ryan does note that the EITC's "complexity requires low-income individuals to either negotiate a complex maze of rules and forms" or "to pay tax preparers to file the necessary paperwork with the IRS to receive the credit."

"The IRS instructions run 39 pages, involve 15 'rules' and includes 12 separate forms that could apply in filing for the EITC," Ryan's report continues. "The credit is received as much as 15 months after the individual earned his or her pay. ... Its complexity also contributes to high error rates for the EITC. In many cases people just don't know whether they qualify or not."

What Ryan fails to mention here is just how hight the "error rate" for the EITC actually is. According to the latest Treasury Department Inspector General's report, the IRS made up to $15.6 billion in "improper" ETIC payments in 2013. That comes to 26 percent of all EITC spending.

Ryan's plan does call for EITC reform, but Congress has ordered the IRS to eliminate improper payments before, and the IRS has simply failed to do so (imagine that). Why on earth should conservatives expand a program with 25 percent error rate before IRS cleans up the existing program?

Especially considering that there is an easy way to both fight poverty and cut government at the same time: just cut the payroll tax!

Cutting the payroll tax would put more money in the hands of the working poor, encourage more poor people to work, and create more jobs. No 39 pages of IRS instructions or 15 month delays needed. Americans would just immediately see more money in each of their paychecks.

And all this could be done without raising the deficit. Whatever money Ryan was going to use to pay for his EITC expansion by cutting other ineffective programs, could also be easily funneled into the Social Security system to replace the revenue lost by the payroll tax cut.

Conservatives can fight poverty and shrink the government at the same time. Expanding the EITC is not the way to do that.

Video: Israeli Spokesman Schools MSNBC Host

Via Noah Rothman, an excruciating interview between MSNBC's Joy Reid and Israeli spokesman Mark Regev. To clarify, Reid's questions make this interaction an excruciating spectacle for informed viewers. Regev's patient and thorough answers are a model of of effective professionalism. Skip ahead to 1:45 and soak it in. Brief commentary to follow:

Reid's questions are laden with faulty premises, with the most obvious error being her assertion that Gaza is "occupied" by Israel. In fact, Israel unilaterally ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005 as a gesture of good faith, forcibly uprooting settlements and withdrawing entirely from the territory. That olive branch was greeted with violent madness, as the local population promptly and decisively elected a terrorist organization -- Hamas -- to represent them. Hamas then overthrew the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, leading to Israel's blockade. Israel's generosity has been repaid with the firing of thousands of rockets at its civilians over nearly a decade, including the bombardment that served as the catalyst for the current conflict. Reid presses Regev on why Israel is attacking hospitals and bulldozing private homes. He responds with the depressing truth: The IDF is forced to use surgical strikes against non-traditional targets because Hamas is using those locations as staging grounds for their terrorist activities. And they're using their civilians as human shields, urging them to disregard Israel's humanitarian pre-attack warnings, which sometimes even entail leaflets with maps identifying safe zones.

Reid demands to know where displaced Palestinians should go, and who is responsible for their fate. Hamas is responsible for their fate. Hamas started this war. Hamas shoots rockets at civilians from clinics and schools. Hamas puts children in harm's way to protect their stockpiles and leaders. Hamas inculcates its population with hateful bigotry from the earliest age. Yet every accusatory question from the MSNBC host is premised on Israel's culpability. What happens to the people who live in houses above the terror tunnels Israel destroys? There may not be a great answer to that challenge, but the cause of that dilemma is, you know, the terror tunnels -- which Hamas builds to smuggle weapons and surreptitiously enter Israeli territory, often with murderous intentions (see below). What is Israel supposed to do? Not attack the enemies who are trying to kill their civilians? Not destroy the tunnel network? It's a cliche at this point, but it's true: If Palestinians renounced violence and laid down their arms tomorrow, they would have their own state, and achieve peace. If Israel did the same, she would be annihilated.

The Los Angeles Times has a front page story today positing that the present Gaza blockade is causing and fomenting terrorism. Actually, the blockade was only imposed when Hamas proved itself to be unable to resist terrorism. Its purpose is not to cut off humanitarian supplies or legitimate commerce -- both are permitted to pass through -- but to interdict munitions re-supply shipments from sources like Iran. People got excited yesterday when a Hamas leader said his group was open to a truce. The problem is that his peace offer came with strings attached, the primary one being the lifting of the anti-weapons blockade. Hamas wants Israel to lunge for a temporary quiet at the price of allowing terrorists to re-arm. Such a concession would be counter-productive and short-sighted, and Israel realizes this. The Washington Post editorial board can't understand why many of their media brethren stubbornly refuse to cover the Israel-Palestinian struggle based on a fair assessment of the parties' morals and motives:

Hamas’s offensive tunnels should not be confused with the burrows it has dug under Gaza’s border with Egypt to smuggle money, consumer goods and military equipment. The newly discovered structures have only one conceivable purpose: to launch attacks inside Israel. Three times in recent days, Hamas fighters emerged from the tunnels in the vicinity of Israeli civilian communities, which they clearly aimed to attack. The ­concrete-lined structures are stocked with materials, such as handcuffs and tranquilizers, that could be used on hostages. Other tunnels in northern Gaza are designed for the storage and firing of missiles at Israeli cities. The resources devoted by Hamas to this project are staggering, particularly in view of Gaza’s extreme poverty. By one Israeli account, the typical tunnel cost $1 million to build over the course of several years, using tons of concrete desperately needed for civilian housing.

By design, many of the tunnels have entrances in the heavily populated Shijaiyah district, where the Israeli offensive has been concentrated. One was found underneath al-Wafa hospital, where Hamas also located a command post and stored weapons, according to Israeli officials.
The depravity of Hamas’s strategy seems lost on much of the outside world, which — following the terrorists’ script — blames Israel for the civilian casualties it inflicts while attempting to destroy the tunnels. While children die in strikes against the military infrastructure that Hamas’s leaders deliberately placed in and among homes, those leaders remain safe in their own tunnels. There they continue to reject cease-fire proposals, instead outlining a long list of unacceptable demands.

Exactly. 'Blame Israel First' agitators are either ignorant of these facts, or they don't care to know them. And far too many of them simply hate Jews, which no amount of empirical evidence will reverse.

Exclusive Photos: Drug Mules Easily Smuggle Narcotics Into U.S. as Border Patrol Remains Overwhelmed

The flood of illegal immigrants on our southern border shows no signs of stopping and drug mule and cartel operations aren't slowing down either. These exclusive photos were taken yesterday, July 22, 2014 in southeast Arizona just north of the U.S. southern border with Mexico. Each pack of narcotics being smuggled weighs 50-60 pounds.

Despite claims from President Obama and Majority Leader Harry Reid, the border is anything but secure.

Darth Vader Polling Higher Than Every Potential 2016 Candidate

A poll released yesterday on the blog FiveThirtyEight shows that Star Wars villain Darth Vader is currently polling at a higher favorability rating than any of the potential candidates for the 2016 presidential election. Additionally, Jar Jar Binks, the near universally-despised character from Episodes I, II, and III, has a higher favorability rating than many high-profile members of Congress as well as "Congress" as a whole.

On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65. In fact, the last time congressional net favorability was above that was February 2005. Incidentally this was just before the release date of "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," which marked Jar Jar's last appearance on the big screen.


None of the 2016 hopefuls is polling higher than Darth Vader. You'll recall that Vader chopped off his son's arm and blew up an entire planet, but evidently in the eyes of the American public these are minor sins compared to Benghazi, Bridgegate and Gov. Rick Perry's hipster glasses. These numbers suggest that if "Star Wars" were real and Darth Vader decided to enter the 2016 presidential race, he'd be the immediate front-runner.

The chart compiled by Washington Post comparing favorability rankings between the fictional characters of the Star Wars universe and the real-life "characters" of Congress is pretty jaw-dropping, yet somewhat amusing:

This shows how cynical Americans have become towards mainstream politicians. Americans, at least those polled, are just not enthusiastic about...really anyone, apparently - unless they happen to live in a galaxy far, far away.

"One Word That Explains The Loss of Innocent Life: HAMAS," says...Schumer

SCHUMER: We are frustrated with the media's "double standard."

President Who Learns Everything Bad From The News Says He Doesn't Watch The News

In an effort to impress fundraisers about how incredibly smart he is, President Obama recently told a group of rich California liberals this week that he doesn't watch the news because he already knows all about what's being reported. Interestingly, Obama claims to know nothing about the numerous scandals plaguing his legacy until of course...he learned it on the news.

I could list examples of former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Obama himself citing news reports as the administration's first time finding out about a particularly unpleasant issue, but I'll hand it over to Greg Gutfeld instead.

How Paul Ryan's Poverty Plan Will Weaken States and Empower Presidents

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released a "discussion draft" today outlining a "Agenda for New Opportunity" designed to "make federal aid more accountable and more effective."

The centerpiece of Ryan's proposal is a new "Opportunity Grant" pilot program which would allow states to consolidate a slew of federal welfare programs into one coordinated plan.

To qualify for an Opportunity Grant, states would have to submit "a concrete plan to develop a new aid program" to the federal government.

The federal government would then have the power to approve or deny states plans based on four criteria, including: 1) "the plan must demonstrate how the funds would be used to move people out of poverty and into independence"; 2) the plan "would have to require all able-bodied recipients work or engage in work-related activities"; 3) the plan "would need to use some funds from the consolidated programs to encourage new approaches by innovative groups as well as non-governmental organizations"; and 4) "the state and federal government would have to agree on measures of success and evaluation by a third party."

These all sound like fabulous good government requirements. And as long as someone both slept through the Obama presidency and knows nothing about how administrative law works, they might sound like a basis for conservative reform.

Unfortunately, however, we live in a world where presidents use and abuse every grant of power from Congress to control and weaken states. And the Ryan plan would only make it easier for future presidents to do that.

True, Ryan's Opportunity Grant program would be voluntary... at first, but so was Medicaid. Eventually all the states signed up for that program and the federal government has been using it as leverage ever since.

The same would happen with the Opportunity Grant program. Let's say Texas got an Opportunity Grant program approved in year one. Well, eventually that plan would need to be renewed, but only after Texas had reorganized its entire social safety net delivery system.

Now the next president would have Texas dead to rights. He (or probably she) could demand Opportunity Grant funding go to progressive activist groups like La Raza or Casa de Maryland. The president could gut the program's work requirements or change the definition of "work-related activities." Or the president could insist on hostile third party evaluators who would push for more progressive big government solutions.

We've seen President Obama do something very similar with the No Child Left Behind law. He has used that programs waiver process in an unprecedented way to force big government Common Core curriculum and conservative states that don't want it.

Ryan's Opportunity Grants would eventually be used by progressive presidents in the exact same way.

Anti-Israel Protesters Ask: What If The IDF Bombed Rockville, Maryland?

As Israel continues its air and ground offensive in Gaza to protect itself, MRCTV’s Dan Joseph encountered an anti-Israel protest earlier this week outside the DC Convention Center where Christians United For Israel is having their annual summit.

One protestor said “Israel has a right to defend themselves if there is an equal army.” Joseph aptly noted the irrationality of her point since that’s not how war works. Things got even hazier when this person asked “but would it be ok for Israel to come in and bomb Rockville, Maryland?” She added, “Rockville doesn’t have a military.”

Actually, Rockville does; it’s part of the United States, therefore, protected by the most powerful and technologically sophisticated military in the world. Moreover, if the imaginary Democratic People’s Republic of Rockville existed, they didn’t fire rockets into Gaza! So, where is this narrative going?

An older protestor took a more conspiratorial tone saying, “ I say the government set it up and I don’t now if they were serving the United States.” Joseph pressed her asking, “you think the Israeli government set it up?”

“Yeah, I do,” she said.

Also, another gentleman claimed the United States is the biggest terrorist organization.

Oh, and the claim that Hamas is using innocent Palestinians as human shields is a lie, or something.

Paul Ryan Proposal Conflates Anti-Poverty Programs, Returns Power to States

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) studied a blend of politics and economics at his Ohio alma mater and he has continually made this fusion a priority in Washington. The House Budget Committee Chairman proposed a pilot program to consolidate 11 federal anti-poverty programs into one fund which would stream directly to states which opted-in. This conflation would, in theory, allow more flexibility for states to create aid options based on the unique struggles of its impoverished residents.

Ryan explained his plan in a USA Today op-ed Thursday:

Here's how the program would work: Each state that wanted to participate would submit a plan to the federal government. That plan would lay out in detail the state's proposed alternative. If everything passed muster, the federal government would give the green light. And the state would get more flexibility to combine things such as food stamps, housing subsidies, child care assistance and cash welfare. This simpler Opportunity Grant would include the same money as current law.

Plans would be approved on four conditions: The state would have to spend all funding on people in need. Second, the state would have to hold people accountable through work requirements and time limits for every able-bodied recipient just as there are for cash welfare today.

Third, the state would have to offer at least two service providers. The state welfare agency couldn't be the only game in town. And fourth, the state would have to measure progress through a neutral third party to keep track of key metrics.

The House Budget Committee defined federal anti-poverty programs as “duplicative and complex” in a 205-page analysis of the War on Poverty in March. The government spent $799 billion on the programs in 2012, the report found.

The new program would give families choices between approved non-profits, for-profits, or community groups, removing the monopoly of state agencies. According to Ryan, the scheme, dubbed the “Opportunity Grant,” would create more accountability and could be more closely eyed for results rather than sums.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) claimed Democrats would welcome any programs that would “create pathways to the middle class,” however, he was wary that the term "reform" might actually be a clever attempt to cut “vital safety-net programs.”

Rejoice: Meriam Ibrahim and Family Escape Sudan, Arrive in Italy

Sentenced to death for apostasy and confined to a prison cell for months (where she delivered her second child) Meriam Ibrahim fully expected to die a martyr's death. But now, it can be said, her harrowing experience is finally over.

And Thank God.

To recap, she was initially granted a pardon and freed after Sudan’s government overturned her death sentence for apostasy when international lobbying efforts from humanitarian groups and Western governments proved successful, only to be detained at the airport for “falsifying” her travel documents. Her entire family was apprehended, too, and after some scary bumps in the road, was finally granted refuge at the US embassy in Khartoum -- where she’s languished for about a month. Today, however, with the help of the Vatican and the Italian government, and in conjunction with the US State Department, she and her family arrived safely in Italy this morning:

Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian woman who was spared a death sentence for apostasy and then barred from leaving Sudan, met Pope Francis on Thursday after arriving in Rome to jubilant scenes following intense international efforts to free her.

Ms Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani thanked the pontiff for his support and he in turn thanked her for staying true to her Christian faith despite the threat of execution if she did not recant.

The 27-year-old was flown to Italy in a government aircraft and landed at Rome’s Ciampino airport accompanied by her family and Italy's deputy minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli, who flew to Sudan to collect her late on Wednesday

She was released after intense diplomatic negotiations from the Italian government and the Vatican ended an ordeal that lasted almost a year.

So what role did Italy and the Vatican play in securing Ibrahim, and her family’s, release? An indispensable one, it would seem:

[Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Lapo Pistelli] said Italy had become involved in the case because, as a Catholic country, it was very moved by Ibrahim's story and wanted to help.

Italy has good relations with Khartoum and offered to help the U.S. Embassy there to speed up the process of getting U.S. passports for Ibrahim and her family to leave the country, the minister said.

They succeeded, and now one of the most infamous cases of Christian persecution in recent memory can be laid to rest. Pope Francis, meanwhile, welcomed Meriam Ibrahim to the Vatican with open arms upon her arrival. The photograph taken of them, I believe, serves as a fitting and joyous conclusion to an otherwise traumatic and enervating world-event:

Ibrahim, her husband, and their two children are expected to fly to the US in a few days.

Local News Station Exposes How DC Will Collect $61 Million in Parking Tickets Next Year

If the increased metro fare in Washington, DC doesn't consume commuters' paychecks, the parking tickets certainly will. Emily Miller, author of "Emily Gets Her Gun," is the chief investigative reporter for Fox 5. Wednesday night, the local DC-based news station aired her latest report in which she exposed how the local government is finding any excuse to dole out those unpopular pink slips to unsuspecting drivers.

During her investigation, Miller abided by the law, using a Parkmobile app to pay for parking. Yet, upon her return from her yoga class, found a neatly placed ticket on her dashboard, informing her she received a fine for not placing a paper receipt on her car. How many other people, she wondered, were losing money paying with the app?

But, the most ridiculous ticket she received, involved the condition of her city-provided registration.

Apparently, Miller's registration had become unglued while parked and she had "failed to properly affix sticker."

However, she showed viewers a picture of the evidence that suggests otherwise:

"You can clearly see all the information on my registration sticker."

In court, the hearing examiner offered her a deal for half off. Miller still wasn’t buying it:

"I just paid $125 for this sticker a month ago. Now I want to pay $25 more?"

She claimed that the meter maid's photo showed that the sticker was originally put below the black defrost line, which is absurd.

Miller went through the rest of the court process and found she had the option to appeal her case, yet she'd have to pay the initial fine, plus an appeal fine.

Miller summed up the injustice:

"The government is buying cheap tickets and faulting us."

In another instance of the government benefiting from its own mistake, Miller explained how one person supposedly ended up with a poor credit score because of a ticket that never got sent to his house.

Miller interviewed a bank employee who claims to know victims of bad credit score in consequence of a parking violation:

“I actually work at a bank and some people will have mortgages years later, and because of a D.C. parking ticket that never got sent to their house, they can't get a loan, they can't get a mortgage, everything is in trouble,” said Sonia Benjelloun.

Miller tried to request a FOIA from the Department of Motor Vehicles seeking an explanation for these questionable fines. Their response? "The DMV is not required to answer questions."

As Miller asked, "What does that even mean?"

Miller wasn't the only one to call foul on the city’s eagerness to hand out parking tickets. Fox 5 Anchor Tony Perkins also chastised the local government for being too obsessed with "little nitpicky things like this, it's ridiculous."

Thanks to all these nitpicky violations, the city council expects to pocket $61 million next year from parking fines. That is $100 a year for every man, woman and child in the city, according to Fox 5.

I think it’s inevitable that anyone living in the Beltway knows someone who has been victim to the local government’s iffy parking laws. My roommate's friend got a ticket for not backing into spot. My other friend got a ticket for an expired meter, even though she says the meter itself was malfunctioning. She entered a month-long battle in which she had to write the government a letter and print out copies of receipts at the restaurants she went to while she was parked. She ended up not having to pay because her ticket had not even been entered in the system. As you know now, others are not so lucky.

Many drivers consider it more of a hassle to fight the system than to pay the fine. Here were a few of the common complaints Miller found on the street:

"Seems like it would take half a day or more and it’s just such a hassle."

“Just the idea of going to traffic court and the possible hours it would take – it just sounds terrible.”

Can we still criticize the government if we don't voice our frustrations?

Thankfully, more people are speaking up. Immediately after Fox aired Miller's segment, local drivers sped to their phones.

Drivers shouldn't have to be victims. With the revelation that the DC government is raking in millions of dollars off commuters, residents may soon take another look at walking to work - or moving somewhere else.

Watch the full report here:


Flashback: WH, Dems Killed Bill to Strengthen Obamacare Eligibility Verification

In light of the Government Accountability Office's eye-opening investigation into Obamacare's virtually nonexistent fraud protection safeguards, it's worth revisiting some recent history. Prior to last year's government shutdown, House Republicans passed a series of Obamacare-related bills over the adamant objections of most Democrats. One bill, called the 'No Subsidies Without Verification Act,' sailed through the House 235-191, with every single 'no' vote being furnished by Democrats. Only five members of President Obama's party backed this common-sense measure -- which, needless to say, died in Harry Reid's Senate. The impetus behind the legislation was the White House's announcement last summer that it would at least initially rely on the honor system in dispersing the law's subsidies to a subset of the population, wherein enrollees would self-report their income and insurance status. Administration officials had little choice but to pull this trigger, for two reasons: They'd already delayed the employer mandate (complicating the eligibility verification process), and the back end payment systems of weren't going to be completed on time (they are under construction to this day, and won't be ready until 2015). Conservatives decried the move as a reckless invitation to fraud and proposed mitigating solutions, resulting in the aforementioned legislation. As I mentioned earlier, 191 members of Nancy Pelosi's caucus voted to defeat anti-fraud protections that would have delayed the flow of taxpayer-funded subsidies until a basic verification regime was up and running. The White House immediately slapped the idea down:

Like dozens of other bills from the House meant to tweak or repeal ObamaCare, this one also seems likely to go nowhere in the Senate. The White House has said the bill is unnecessary, and President Obama would veto it if it were presented for his signature.

He never followed through on that threat because the bill never reached his desk. Flash forward to mid-October, when the partial government shutdown finally drew to a close. The GOP had been routed, and the only "concession" they won was a requirement that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius certify that Obamacare subsidy eligibility verification procedures had been faithfully carried out prior to the awarding of subsidies. She did so in a letter to Vice President Biden dated January 1, 2014:

"I certify that the American Health Benefit Exchanges (Marketplaces) verify that applicants for advance payments of the premium tax credit and cost-sharing reductions are eligible for such payments and reductions, consistent with the requirements of section 1411 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act…the Marketplace verifies application information provided by the consumer when making an eligibility determination. The Department of Health and Human Services has issued regulations that detail these procedures, and the Marketplaces have implemented numerous systems and processes to carry out these verifications."

Seven months later, the GAO has revealed that "the federal marketplace approved coverage for 11 of our 12 fictitious applicants who initially applied online, or by telephone," with these fake applicants securing approval for $30,000 in taxpayer-funded annual subsidies. Beyond that, "as of July 17, two of the fake applicants were told their citizenship had been verified." The verification process, certified as adequate and thorough by the Obama administration, confirmed the citizenship of two non-existent people. One final background note: When critics of the "honor system" gambit raised their concerns, the administration dismissed the issue as impacting very few consumers, stating that the newly-granted "flexibility" regulations only applied to states running their own exchanges. The implication was that the federal exchange was all squared away. But the coverage approval for those 11 fictional enrollees all came through the federal marketplace, according to GAO.

House Democrats were irresponsible to vote against the 'No Subsidies Without Verification' Act. Senate Democrats were derelict in obstructing its passage by refusing to bring it to a vote. The White House was wrong to shrug the proposal off as "unnecessary." President Obama was myopic and foolish to threaten a veto. And Kathleen Sebelius was negligent in rubber-stamping a system that clearly was not up to the task. Taxpayers have every reason to worry how their hard-earned money is being dispensed through Obamacare, and genuine program enrollees -- who've turned over a great deal of sensitive information -- have every reason to wonder what other safeguards are woefully inadequate. I'll leave you with the GAO director
declining to say whether he believes the Obama administration will have its act together before the next open enrollment period in November:

Gowdy Destroys IRS Commissioner Over Non-Compliance With Investigation Into Tea Party Targeting

Yesterday IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified on Capitol Hill after news surfaced Lois Lerner's hard drive was scratched and that data Koskinen said was lost, may not be lost at all. Considering how difficult it is to access an internal hard drive on a computer, scratching is very suspicious.

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee say that their investigators have learned that the hard drive belonging to former IRS official Lois Lerner was "scratched" and that data was recoverable, according to a release from the committee. The release says that it's unclear if the scratch was put there deliberately or accidentally. Republicans are now accusing the IRS of not being forthcoming after they said in court filings that the data on Lerner's hard drive was unrecoverable....Whether Lois Lerner's emails and data were lost has become the most recent focus in Republicans' investigation into the targeting of conservative groups by the tax-exempt office of the IRS. Lerner pled the fifth during two appearances before the House Oversight Committee, which called her to testify about that targeting.

Since testifying in front of Congress last month, Koskinen has changed his testimony and story about "lost" IRS emails multiple times. Yesterday Rep. Trey Gowdy took him to task over inconsistent statements and slow walking the investigation into IRS targeting of conservative groups. Koskinen argued that he is not asking questions or investigating because the Inspector General has opened an investigation he doesn't want to compromise.

"Our policy is that if the IG starts an investigation, the agency will not themselves run a competing investigation to try to get there first,” Koskinen said.

In the Obama administration, non-investigation is just the latest cover-up and delay tactic being used to avoid the truth about what really happened.

Non-Border State Governors Demanding Answers From Obama on Illegal Immigrant Crisis

The illegal immigration crisis on the border is showing no signs of stopping and the problem has spread well beyond states sitting side-by-side with Mexico. The Obama administration has been shipping unaccompanied minors to family members living illegally in the United States for months. Illegal aliens under the age of 18 have been shipped to states as far away as New York and Massachusetts, prompting non-border state governors to demand answers from the White House about what the President is planning to do to stop the crisis.

In an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren last night, Utah Governor Gary Herbert detailed a letter sent to President Obama by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, and himself expressing illegal immigration concerns.

"This is about America. We are not a border state but a lot of undocumented immigrants come up to Utah," Herbert said. "Why we're incenting families and parents to send their young people to our borders on the hope they'll get inside America really is puzzling in many ways and certainly not a very good, healthy immigration policy for America."

Herbert also criticized President Obama for his lack of leadership on the crisis.

"Nothing is really happening in Washington D.C., there's a dearth of leadership. The President won't even go down to the border to look and see first hand what is taking place. He needs to come up with a plan of first securing the border. I think that's something everybody agrees with. Why can we at not least take that first step," Herbert said. "We are being ignored and quite frankly the governors are tired of it. We've tried to do some things in our own states but we've been told very directly by the courts, 'this is a federal issue.' Okay, we'll back off, but we expect the federal government to do something. The President's got to lead."

President Obama has requested nearly $4 billion to throw at the problem, none of that money bolsters border security.

Corporate Tax Inversion: Quick Fix or Complete Overhaul?

The Senate Finance Committee met Tuesday to address the increasing national concern over corporate tax inversion and its negative impact on U.S. economy. Lawmakers were split along partisan lines when discussing whether relocated firms should be subject to punitive legislation.

The Congressional Research Service recently revealed that over the past 10 years, at least 47 American corporations inverted by reincorporating abroad. This is a significant spike considering only 29 did so the previous 20 years combined.

(Click here to see enlarged graph.)

The latest deal is pharmaceutical research and development corporation AbbVie Inc.'s merger with Ireland-based Shire PLC. As I reported last month, medical technology giant Medtronic also moved its headquarters to Dublin, where corporate tax is just 12.5 percent compared to the U.S. rate of 40 percent.

Nearly a dozen more are currently seeking to buy out smaller foreign companies in order to move their legal addresses overseas, thus escaping the superfluous tax burden imposed on American businesses.

Yesterday, chairman of the committee Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) described the anomaly of inversion as a "virus" and called for a stand-alone law to retract the tax benefits enjoyed by these corporations.

Republicans are reluctant to support any retroactive bill, instead pushing for a broader tax overhaul. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), explained, "Rather than incentivizing American companies to remain in the U.S., these bills would build walls around U.S. corporations in order to keep them from inverting. This approach, in my view, completely misses the mark."

Our country has the highest corporate tax rate of any other in the industrialized world. Take a look at how we stack up:

Something needs to be done. If Sen. Wyden has one thing right, it's this: "My concern is that tax reform is moving slowly, inversions are moving rapidly and that is a prescription for chaos."

Israel's Justice Minister Tells Off UN

Predictably, the United Nations Human Rights Council decided to launch a commission of inquiry on Wednesday into alleged war crimes committed by Israel during its current fighting in Gaza. And if you’re wondering—yes, it was a Palestinian-drafted resolution.

China, Russia, Latin American, African, Arab, and Muslim countries supported the resolution, while European countries on the 46-member council abstained. The United States was the only member state to vote against it.

“The decision today by the HRC is a travesty and should be rejected by decent people everywhere,” the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office stated in response. “Rather than investigate Hamas, which is committing a double war crime by firing rockets at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians, the HRC calls for an investigation of Israel, which has gone to unprecedented lengths to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way, including by dropping leaflets, making phone falls and sending text messages.”

Israel's Justice Minister wasn't having any of it either. Via Weasel Zippers (and Google translate):

I have [four] words to say about the decision of the UN human rights council – see if I care!
We will keep on making decisions for the safety of Israeli citizens according to our moral compass, the IDF will fight the terror and keep on doing the most to avoid harming innocents, and you [written plural] will keep on encourage the terror – because that is exactly what your decision is doing.

I'll leave you with this photo of the day:

Report: French Jews Mass Immigrate to Israel to Escape Persecution

Guy and Cortney have both written about and appraised the disturbing reports from across the globe that anti-Semitism has once again reared its ugly head. Canada, Germany and even the United States have seen appalling acts of vandalism and destruction carried out in recent days against Jewish businesses and Jews themselves. But perhaps the worst rioting and targeting of Jews has occurred in places like France. In fact, the safety and security of the Jewish people there feel so threatened that, as Weasel Zippers sharply noted, Jews would “rather live in an actual war zone” than a nation at peace. Indeed. That gives you some idea of the degree to which the Jews of Europe are now fearing for their lives:

More than a thousand Jews have made aliyah (the term used when Jews immigrate to Israel) in the past 10 days, according to the Israeli government.

"I came because of anti-Semitism,” said teary-eyed Veronique Rivka Buzaglo, one of 430 immigrants who arrived from France the day before. "You see it in the eyes of people. I see it in everything," she told HuffPost.

It’s also worth noting, I think, that the HuffPost piece excerpted above was published several days ago. Nonetheless, that doesn’t change the fact that Jews are being increasingly targeted and persecuted with vehemence and impunity in supposedly pluralistic countries. I won’t give anti-Semites such as these the satisfaction of posting their hateful rhetoric here, but it’s clear that they’re emboldened by a dangerous and bigoted ideology. An ideology, as it happens, one only wishes would have been stomped out and extinguished during the last century.

Oregon, Alaska to Vote On Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in November

Oregon and Alaska may be the next states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for persons 21 and older. Residents of both states are set to vote in November about whether the recreational use and selling of marijuana should be permitted. Oregon's Initiative Petition 53 qualified yesterday for the November election, and a petition in Alaska to vote on the issue received over 45,000 signatures in April, cementing its inclusion on the ballot in November.

Colorado and Washington both legalized the sale and consumption of marijuana for recreational purposes in 2012. Marijuana was first sold legally in Colorado on January 1, 2014, and on July 8, 2014 in Washington state. Oregon's proposed law, if passed, sets a target date of January 2016 for sales to begin.

Both Oregon and Alaska have decriminalized certain amounts of marijuana, and both states permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Since legalizing marijuana, Colorado has raised about $35 million in taxes and license fees, plus increased tourism from people eager to buy and use marijuana legally. (Exact figures from Washington state were not yet available, but an estimated $150,000 was raised from taxes in the first three days of legalized sales in just five stores.)

As Washington state is Oregon's direct neighbor to the north, it makes sense that Oregon would pursue legalization as well. Personal, home use of marijuana was declared legal in Alaska in 1975 as a result of the case Ravin v. State, but the sale and purchase of the drug remained illegal.

The consumption and sale of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but the Obama administration has repeatedly said that they do not seek to interfere with state laws.

If You're Thinking About Bringing Your Guns Into DC, DON'T!

There are places where you just don’t go with your firearms. Any gun owner knows them; any person who staunchly supports Second Amendment rights knows them; any person who knows gun laws knows them.

Save for Vermont, which has GREAT laws supporting the Second Amendment (you don’t need a permit for concealed carry), much of the Northeast is pretty much off limits to law-abiding gun owners from out of state. In most cases, the only Northeastern state that has reciprocity concerning concealed carry permit holders is Pennsylvania, whose laws on the subject aren’t bad. But, everyone should know that it’s never a good idea to bring a gun into the District of Columbia. Additionally, everyone should know that it’s even more insane to try and carry in the District of Columbia.

On July 18, Rep. Tom Marino’s press secretary, Ryan Shucard, was arrested for bringing his Smith and Wesson 9mm handgun into the Cannon House Office Building (via Roll Call):

Shucard entered the southeast door of Cannon with the weapon. The Smith & Wesson 9mm and magazine were found during the search required for entry into the building, according to Schneider. People entering Cannon, including those with staff identification badges, like Shucard, are required to step through metal detectors and place bags on the belt of an X-Ray machine.

Shucard is charged with carrying a pistol without a license, a felony. He is currently being processed at Capitol Police headquarters

Today, another man, Ronald William Prestage, was arrested in the same building for carrying a 9mm Ruger handgun. Prestage is from South Carolina and has a concealed carry permit in that state, but DC doesn’t permit open or concealed carry. If you’re caught, you face a $5,000 fine, a five-year prison sentence, or both.

Hopefully, there will be a day when DC honors concealed carry permit holders, permits open carry, and becomes more friendly to gun rights, but until that time; it’s a wise choice for every gun owner to not bring their firearms into DC.

Democratic Senator Hit With Plagiarism Allegations UPDATE: PTSD To Blame

Well, it seems “Papergate” just ensnared Montana Democratic Senator John Walsh. Mr. Walsh was appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock to replace outgoing Sen. Max Baucus, who decided to become the Obama administration’s Ambassador to China. Walsh is described by the New York Times as having something the Democrats lack in their political ranks: a seasoned military record. Walsh is a decorated Iraq War veteran, but his reputation might be marred by a final term paper he wrote in obtaining his master’s degree, where a substantial portion was written without crediting anyone (via NYT):

An examination of the final paper required for Mr. Walsh’s master’s degree from the United States Army War College indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution.

Mr. Walsh completed the paper, what the War College calls a “strategy research project,” to earn his degree in 2007, when he was 46. The sources of the material he presents as his own include academic papers, policy journal essays and books that are almost all available online.

Most strikingly, each of the six recommendations Mr. Walsh laid out at the conclusion of his 14-page paper, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” is taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document on the same topic.

In his third recommendation, for example, Mr. Walsh writes: “Democracy promoters need to engage as much as possible in a dialogue with a wide cross section of influential elites: mainstream academics, journalists, moderate Islamists, and members of the professional associations who play a political role in some Arab countries, rather than only the narrow world of westernized democracy and human rights advocates.”

The same exact sentence appears on the sixth page of a 2002 Carnegie paper written by four scholars at the research institute. In all, Mr. Walsh’s recommendations section runs to more than 800 words, nearly all of it taken verbatim from the Carnegie paper, without any footnote or reference to it. In addition, significant portions of the language in Mr. Walsh’s paper can be found in a 1998 essay by a scholar at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a research institute at Harvard.

On Wednesday, a campaign aide for Mr. Walsh did not contest the plagiarism but suggested that it be viewed in the context of the senator’s long career.

Montana is one of the states Republicans seem poised to pick up in the 2014 midterms.

UPDATE: Mr. Walsh says he had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when he wrote his thesis (via AP):

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."

CNN Poll: Twice As Many Americans Were Hurt By Obamacare Than Helped

Not an unusual data point at all, based on the polling trend -- but a timely reality check for the delusional "people love Obamacare!" propagandists. CNN's latest national survey includes a number of noteworthy nuggets, including the "Affordable" Care Act fallout verdict referenced in the headline (via Ed Morrissey):

(1) President Obama's job approval rating is mired at (42/55), languishing roughly where it's been for months. He is underwater with men (39/58), women (45/52), young people (45/49), and independents (34/62). Seventy-seven percent of Democrats and nearly two-thirds of non-white voters continue to give Obama high marks, but virtually everyone else's views have soured.

(2) The president is sucking wind on personal characteristics, as well:

- Is a strong and decisive leader: (48 yes / 52 no), which is amazingly generous, in my book.

- Generally agrees with you on issues you care about (43/56)

- Can manage the government effectively (42/57)

- Cares about people like you (51/48), down from his 2008 high water mark of (73/27)

- Shares your values (46/53)

- Is sincere in what he says (49/49). Ahem.

Obamacare's overall approval rating remains upside-down by nearly 20 points (40/59), virtually unchanged from its
March "rebound." Democrats' self-congratulatory convulsions over "eight million new enrollees" failed to move the needle. (Reasons for scare quotes here, here, here, and -- new today! -- here). Asked whether the law has helped or hurt their families, respondents shared the bad news:


As we've seen in the other polling linked above, a plurality of Americans say they haven't been impacted too much by the new law -- yet, at least. As I've said in the past, I generally fall into this category, as the "only" effect I've felt is a monthly premium increase of nearly $100. But of those consumer who have been affected, they break two-to-one into the "worse off" camp. Obamacare is helping some people; mostly Americans with preexisting conditions and those who are eligible for very generous subsidies. But it's hurting far more people. And a substantial majority oppose the law. Obamacare was pitched as a win/win for everyone, with no trade-offs and no losers. That has not been the case. Indeed, Politico is showcasing one class of Obamacare losers, who've encountered "access shock" -- a phenomenon we've been tracking for quite some time:

Anger over limited choice of doctors and hospitals in Obamacare plans is prompting some states to require broader networks — and boiling up as yet another election year headache for the health law...It’s not just a political problem. It’s a policy conundrum. Narrow networks help contain health care costs. If state or federal regulators — or politicians — force insurers to expand the range of providers, premiums could spike. And that could create a whole new wave of political and affordability problems that can shape perceptions of Obamacare.

The Tampa Bay Times profiles one woman whose frustrating experience underscores this problem

Charlene Lake thought she got a decent deal through the Affordable Care Act marketplace: a Humana HMO that included a family doctor a few miles from her home. Five months later, Lake wonders if she can even use the insurance she bought. Her plan's dominant health care provider, JSA Medical Group, recently announced that it would take no new patients covered by Humana's exchange HMOs at least until fall. That leaves Lake no choice but to use the community health centers left in her plan's network, rather than the traditional physician's practice on which she planned. She has company...aside from first-year fumbles, the case also shows the downside of limiting consumer choice of physicians through what is known as narrow networks. Or, in Lake's case, a network so narrow it barely exists. "You can't make people sign up for a health care plan and then not have a doctor," said Lake, a St. Petersburg antiques dealer who is in her 50s. Narrow networks of hospitals and physicians help insurers maintain profitability while holding down premiums and complying with ACA rules.

Lake's quandary is redolent of the doctor-finding headache an Obamacare supporter and 'beneficiary' from New Jersey described in April. The good news is that there's at least one group of Obamacare enrollees who have voiced zero complaints whatsoever about their benefits: The fake ones.