Advertisements

Heartache for the Global Left: The Great Man Progressives Loved to Love 

progs-mourn-castro

CNN mourns: Fidel Castro Ruz, the political personality, has died. Fidel Castro, the historical persona, has been born. He passes from the present into the past, to serve as an enduring historical subject of debate and dispute, about whom dispassion will be impossible for years to come. Fidel Castro was not a man about whom one is likely to be neutral.

NRO‘s Andrew Stuttaford writes:

castro-mourners-nro

Fidel is a metaphor. He is a Rorschach blot upon which to project fears or hopes. A prism in which the spectrum of colors refracted out has to do with light that went in. He is a point of view, loaded with ideological purport and political meaning. A David who survived Goliath. A symbol of Third World intransigence against First World domination.

obama-crying-reuters

But it is also possible to discuss the historical “essences” of Fidel Castro. He emerged out of a history shaped by a century of Cuban national frustration, heir to a legacy of unfulfilled hopes for national sovereignty and self-determination, aspirations that put Cuba on a collision course with the United States. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Dutch Newspaper Publishes Cartoon Depicting Erdogan as an Ape Crushing Free Speech 

The cartoon appeared on the front page after a Dutch journalist was detained in Turkey.

After a Dutch journalist was arrested in Turkey this weekend for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the most-read newspaper in the Netherlands on Monday published a front-page editorial cartoon that shows Erdogan as an ape, apparently crushing Europe’s free speech.

The cartoon, published by the populist daily De Telegraaf, has an ape with Erdogan’s face squashing a woman who appears to be Ebru Umar, the Dutch writer with a Turkish background who was arrested in Turkey on Sunday. In the cartoon, the Turkish president is standing on a rock labeled “Apenrots” — a Dutch term meaning “monkey rocks” that is used to refer to the Dutch Foreign Ministry but can also refer to a place where one dominant individual holds power.

The cartoon is titled “the long arm of Erdogan.”

Ebru Umar, the Dutch writer with a Turkish background who was arrested in Turkey on Sunday.

Ebru Umar, the Dutch writer with a Turkish background who was arrested in Turkey on Sunday.

Umar, a columnist for the newspaper Metro, had been detained by Turkish authorities who were investigating tweets she had sent about Erdogan. Umar was released Sunday, but she says she has been ordered to remain in the country as the investigation proceeds.

[read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

The detention of Umar has added another layer to what many in the Netherlands think is a growing crackdown on free speech within Turkey — and outside its borders, too. Last week, the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam came under fire after appearing to send an email that called for Turkish organizations in the Netherlands to report insults against Erdogan to it. The Turkish Embassy later said that the email had been poorly phrased and misunderstood, but it sparked controversy within the Netherlands, which is one of many European countries that still has “lèse-majesté” laws that prohibit insults against friendly heads of state. Read the rest of this entry »


Merkel Bows to Primitive Censorship: Comedian Faces Prosecution for Poem About Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

merkel-freespeech-forbidden

Under section 103 of the criminal code, insults against organs or representatives of foreign states are punishable with up to three years in prison, or three months to five years if a court judges the insult to be slanderous.

 reports: Angela Merkel, has been criticised by members of her cabinet after acceding to a request from Ankara to prosecute a comedian who read out an offensive poem about the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The German chancellor insisted her government’s decision did not amount to a verdict on whether Jan Böhmermann was guilty or not, but should be understood as a reaffirmation of the judiciary’s independence.

“I consider this to be the wrong decision. Prosecuting satire on the basis of a lèse-majesté law is not appropriate to the modern age.”

— Thomas Oppermann, leader of the Social Democratic party’s parliamentary faction

“In a constitutional democracy, weighing up personal rights against freedom of the press and freedom of expression is not a matter for governments, but for public prosecutors and courts,” Merkel said in a press conference on Friday.

The chancellor expressed “grave concerns” about the prosecution of individual journalists in Turkey, as well as growing limitations to the right to protest, but emphasised Germany’s close diplomatic ties with the country.

Merkel was left with the final decision on whether Germany’s state prosecutor should start proceedings against Böhmermann after Erdoğan requested the comedian be prosecuted.

censorship2

“Throughout his reading, the comedian is advised by another comedian impersonating a media lawyer, who tells him this poem is precisely the sort of thing that does not qualify as satire and is therefore illegal.”

Under an obscure section of Germany’s criminal code, prosecution for insults against organs or representatives of foreign states requires both a notification from the offended party and an authorisation from the government.

Merkel and other ministers confirmed reports that there had been disagreements on how to handle the Böhmermann affair between ministers within her coalition government.

[Read the full story here, at The Guardian]

The foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said Social Democrat ministers, including himself and the justice minister Heiko Maas, had been overruled by Merkel in allowing the prosecution to proceed. “It is our view that the prosecution should not have been authorised,” Steinmeier said. “Freedom of the press, freedom of expression and artistic freedom are the highest goods requiring protection in our constitution.”

“I consider this to be the wrong decision,” said Thomas Oppermann, leader of the Social Democratic party’s parliamentary faction. “Prosecuting satire on the basis of a lèse-majesté law is not appropriate to the modern age.”

campus-censorship

The little-used paragraph of the German legal code that had allowed the Turkish president to request the prosecution is likely to be scrapped in the aftermath of the affair. Merkel said on Friday that she considered the law unnecessary, and that legal steps would be taken towards deleting it from the penal code within the next two years. Read the rest of this entry »


Saint Luke Drawing the Virgin

Saint-Luke

Jan Gossaert c. 1520-1522

Saint Luke Drawing the Virgin (detail)


French President Francois Hollande Gagged From Saying the Forbidden: Obama White House Censors Phrase ‘Islamist Terrorism’

WH-censor

Sean Davis reports: President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande met in Washington on Thursday to discuss ways for the two countries to work together to defeat terrorism. But the White House apparently had zero appetite for Hollande’s mention of Islamist terrorism, since it censored the phrase from the official White House video of the meeting posted on the White House website.

[Watch and listen to the video below, which is available on YouTube through the White House’s official account, and you can hear the audio cut out right before Hollande says “Islamist terrorism”]

[You can read the full transcript of the event here or watch the full video here]

Media Research Center, a non-profit media watchdog, was the first to report the White House censorship.

[Hollande’s use of the phrase “Islamist terrorism” is also censored in the White House’s official MP3 recording of the event]

While the official transcript available on the White House web page includes Hollande’s use of the phrase “Islamist terrorism,” the White House video of the remarks muted the audio during that portion of Hollande’s remarks. The audio of the French-to-English interpreter stops right before Hollande characterizes “Islamist terrorism” as the root of terrorism in Syria and Iraq…(read more)

ObamaOrwell

Here is the transcript of what Hollande said, with strikethrough notation to show what the White House censored in its video of the exchange between the two presidents:

Europe has been hit more, given that it is also the target of the terrorists and ISIS. We’ve seen it in Paris last year, as well as in Brussels. And together with President Obama, we worked on coordinating further our commitments, our organizations, our services when it comes to fighting against these terrorists. Read the rest of this entry »


ISIS Supporters Release Video with Exploding Eiffel Tower 

tower-x

‘We will invade London, Brussels and Berlin, like we did in Paris before…at the earliest time.’

Bridget Johnson writes: A new video posted online by ISIS supporters shows the Eiffel Tower exploding and crashing to the ground in stylized, video game animation.

The video begins with a river of blood pooling and dripping off a wooden table filled with stacks of American money, guns, knives and bullets.

“We will come to you and terrify you everywhere. We will come after you from where you don’t expect…and fill your streets with blood.”

It’s ripped from a video game, as betrayed by the name of a video game designer with a U.S. company carved in the wood of the animated table.

Featured Image -- 62730

[Read the full story here, at PJ Media]

The video is titled “A message to the Western Kafir [Disbelievers] from the Supporters of the Caliphate.” It’s narrated in English and subtitled in Arabic, and was posted on YouTube and other file-sharing sites.

It included Defense Department footage related to strikes on the Islamic State and news footage of ISIS attacks. Read the rest of this entry »


Wall Street Journal Front Page for Wednesday, December 30, 1015

CXc0FUaWcAAuvlm.jpg-large


Belgian Police Arrest 16 in Anti-Terror Raids 

Belgian police have made 16 arrests in anti-terror raids but suspected Paris attacks gunman Salah Abdeslam remains at large, the authorities have said.

A total of 22 raids were carried out on Sunday across Brussels and Charleroi, Belgian prosecutor Eric van der Sypt told a news conference.

 “Salah Abdeslam is not among the people arrested”

— Eric Van Der Sypt

Police fired two shots at a car during an operation in Molenbeek, injuring one suspect who was later arrested.

More than 130 people died and some 350 were injured in the attacks in Paris.

No weapons or explosives were found during the searches on Sunday, Mr van der Sypt said.

Brussels will remain on the highest level of terror alert, Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel said. Universities, schools and the city’s metro system will also remain shut.

67D417E4-4ED7-47FE-A5A4-C54DA630108E_cx0_cy6_cw0_mw1024_s_n_r1

BBC News reports: Brussels has been on lockdown all weekend amid a manhunt for Abdeslam, who is suspected of being among the assailants who killed 130 people in Paris on Friday.

Mr Michel told reporters that authorities feared “an attack similar to the one in Paris, with several individuals who could also possibly launch several attacks at the same time in multiple locations”.

Eric Van Der Sypt: “Salah Abdeslam is not among the people arrested”

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Meanwhile, the BBC understands that another of the suspected attackers – pictured in a new French police appeal issued on Sunday – arrived in Greece under the name of M al-Mahmod.

The BBC’s Ed Thomas has matched the image released by French police with a photo on the arrival papers of a man who reached the Greek island of Leros on 3 October.

French police have asked for more information about the man, whom they say was the third suicide bomber to strike the Stade de France on 13 November.

Earlier, Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said the danger to Belgium was not tied to Abdeslam alone.

_86822003_86822002

“The threat is broader than the one suspected terrorist,” he told Flemish broadcaster VRT. Read the rest of this entry »


French Officials Confirm: Abdelhamid Abaaoud DEAD, Killed in Saint-Denis Raid

abaaoud-x

PARIS — The Belgian jihadi suspected of being the ringleader of the Paris terrorist attacks was killed during a raid on a suburban apartment, officials said Thursday.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, died during Wednesday’s operation in Saint-Denis, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office. He was identified by his fingerprints. His body was riddled with bullets, according to officials.

Abaaoud died along with a woman who blew herself up with a suicide belt when elite police forces stormed the scene. Eight other people were arrested.

In addition to being the suspected ringleader of Friday’s coordinated assaults, he had been linked to the thwarted attacks on a Paris-bound high-speed train and a church near the French capital earlier this year.

Abaaoud boasted in ISIS propaganda about avoiding capture and claimed he had been able to travel between Europe and Syria without being noticed.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve later said that Abaaoud was involved in four of the six attacks foiled by French intelligence agents since this spring. Read the rest of this entry »


Two Suspects Die During Police Raid in Paris

PARIS — Inti Landauro and William Horobin report: A woman blew herself up at the start of a dawn raid Wednesday on an apartment in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis targeting suspects linked to Friday’s massacre in Paris, the Paris prosecutor said.

The woman killed herself after shooting with an AK-47-type automatic gun. Another man was killed in the raid, a police official said. Three police officers were injured.

“A woman blew herself up at the start of a dawn raid Wednesday on an apartment in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis targeting suspects linked to Friday’s massacre in Paris,”

As the raid was unfolding, the Paris prosecutor said three men holed up in the apartment were detained, as well as a man and a woman nearby. Investigators didn’t immediately identify the detainees.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

French authorities suspect Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian-born Islamic State operative and presumed mastermind of the deadly Paris terror attacks may be in Saint-Denis, where elite police were conducting the raid in the early hours of Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor said.

SAMU members and French police participate in a raid in Saint-Denis. ETIENNE LAURENT/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY Hooded police officers walked on a street in Saint-Denis Wednesday. A woman wearing an explosive suicide vest blew herself up as heavily armed police tried to storm a suburban Paris apartment where the suspected mastermind of last week's attacks was believed to be holed up, police said. PETER DEJONG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Hooded police officers walked on a street in Saint-Denis Wednesday. A woman wearing an explosive suicide vest blew herself up as heavily armed police tried to storm a suburban Paris apartment where the suspected mastermind of last week’s attacks was believed to be holed up, police said. PETER DEJONG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

If confirmed, Mr. Abaaoud’s presence in Saint-Denis—near the a sports arena where three suicide bombers detonated their explosive vest on Friday—would deepen concerns about Europe’s security. It would raise questions over how an Islamic State operative, who featured prominently on Western military’s target lists, slipped back through borders to sow terror in the heart of the continent.

Read the rest of this entry »


‘Breeding Ground for Violence’: Belgium’s Islamist ‘Airbase’ 

Security services face difficulties due to Belgium’s local devolution and tensions between the country’s French-and Dutch-speaking halves; the country has long been open to fundamentalist preachers from the Gulf; and it has a thriving black market in automatic rifles of the kind used in Paris.

Jan Bartunek and Alastair MacDonald report: “A breeding ground for violence” the mayor of Molenbeek called her borough on Sunday, speaking of unemployment and overcrowding among Arab immigrant families, of youthful despair finding refuge in radical Islam.

“Belgium is a federal state and that’s always an advantage for terrorists. Having several layers of government hampers the flow of information between investigators.”

— Edwin Bakker, professor at the Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands

But as the Brussels district on the wrong side of the city’s post-industrial canal becomes a focus for police pursuing those behind Friday’s mass attacks in Paris, Belgian authorities are asking what makes the narrow, terraced streets of Molenbeek different from a thousand similar neighborhoods across Europe.

“In such a case it’s very difficult to get feedback from the community. That means while the neighbors may have seen something going on, they’re not passing it to the police. Then it becomes very tough for intelligence agencies as only relying on them and not local police is not sufficient.”

Three themes emerge as Molenbeek is again in a spotlight of Islamist violence, home not just to militants among Belgium’s own half a million Muslims but, it seems, for French radicals seeking a convenient, discreet base to lie low, plan and arm before striking their homeland across the border:

Security services face difficulties due to Belgium’s local devolution and tensions between the country’s French- and Dutch-speaking halves; the country has long been open to fundamentalist preachers from the Gulf; and it has a thriving black market in automatic rifles of the kind used in Paris.

People shop at a market in the neighbourhood of Molenbeek, where Belgian police staged a raid following the attacks in Paris, at Brussels, Belgium November 15, 2015. Reuters/Yves Herman

People shop at a market in the neighbourhood of Molenbeek, where Belgian police staged a raid following the attacks in Paris, at Brussels, Belgium November 15, 2015.
Reuters/Yves Herman

“With 500-1,000 euros you can get a military weapon in half an hour,” said Bilal Benyaich, senior fellow at Brussels think-tank the Itinera Institute, who has studied the spread of radical Islam in Belgium. “That makes Brussels more like a big U.S. city” in mostly gun-free Europe, he said.

[Read the full story here, at Reuters]

Two of the attackers who killed over 130 people, 170 miles away in Paris on Friday night were Frenchmen resident in Belgium. Belgian police raided Molenbeek addresses and seven people have been arrested in Belgium over the Paris attacks.

“Almost every time, there is a link to Molenbeek,” said 39-year-old centrist prime minister Charles Michel, whose year-old coalition is battling radical recruiters who have tempted more than 350 Belgians to fight in Syria – relative to Belgium’s 11 million population, easily the biggest contingent from Europe. Read the rest of this entry »


7 Arrested In Belgium Over Paris Attacks

PARIS (AP) — A Belgian official says seven people have been detained in Belgium linked to the Paris attacks.

The official, who spoke to The Associated Press in Brussels by phone, also said two of the seven attackers who died in Paris on Friday night were French men living in Brussels. He said one of the French attackers was living in the Molenbeek neighborhood, which is considered a focal point for religious extremism and fighters going to Syria….(read more)

Source: AP/Breitbart.com


Pablo Picasso’s ‘La Gommeuse’ Breaks Record at Sotheby’s: Sold for $67.5 Million

Barney Henderson reports: A double-sided erotic Picasso portrait has sold for a record price in New York, soothing the art world’s nerves after a nervous start to a major sale.

La Gommeuse (The Nightclub Singer), which hides a second hidden portrait of an art dealer on its back, sold for $67.5 million (£45 million) late on Thursday night, setting a new record for a blue period Picasso.

Auctioneer Henry Wyndham shows a Pablo Picasso artwork 'La Gommeuse' as it is auctioned at Sotheby's for $67,450,000, New York

Auctioneer Henry Wyndham shows a Pablo Picasso artwork ‘La Gommeuse’ as it is auctioned at Sotheby’s for $67,450,000, New York Photo: Getty Images

It’s sale, comfortably above its expectation, was one of several at Sotheby’s on Thursday night after a wobble in the market the night before.

The sale had got off to a lacklustre start, with a collection estimated at $500m selling for just $377m, including significant works left unsold and collectors fearing an impending chill in the market.

Unusually, the work by Piccaso has another painting on the rear of the canvas, seen reflected and upside down, in the mirror.

Unusually, the work by Piccaso has another painting on the rear of the canvas, seen reflected and upside down, in the mirror. Photo: JULIAN SIMMONDS

Officials seemed to breathe a sigh of relief on Friday, with Simon Shaw, co-head of Impressionist and modern art worldwide, lauding what he called “a small sale that packed a real punch,” and saw “a very strong result for any various owner sale in the category.”

The auction house noted its $1.67 billion Impressionist and modern total for the year so far was already the highest in its 271-year history…(read more)

Read the rest of this entry »


Banned in Belgium?

Banned in Belgium

Read more…

Source: VICE


Bravoure Américaine: Two U.S. Military Men Praised for Actions on French Train

france-train-getty

Members of Air Force and Oregon National Guard subdued a gunman loaded with weapons

Sam Schechner and Julian E. Barnes report: Authorities praised two U.S. military members and their friend who tackled and subdued a man armed with guns and a box cutter on a Paris-bound train Friday as it sped through Belgium, breaking up what could have been a deadly terrorist attack.

“All three made a show of courage—full of bravery—that everyone recognizes.”

— French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve

The three Americans were seated on the train when they heard a gunshot and breaking glass, according to accounts from one of the men and a U.S. official briefed on the attack.

Crouching behind their seats, the Americans, who are childhood friends, decided they had to act. Airman First Class Spencer Stone, 23 years old, ran toward the gunman and tackled him.

“I told him to go, and he went,” Alek Skarlatos, 22, a member of the Oregon National Guard who had been deployed in Afghanistan, said Saturday.

“Spencer ran a good 10 meters to get to the guy. And we didn’t know that his gun wasn’t working or anything like that,” he added. Mr. Skarlatos then said he ran up behind and grabbed the assailant’s AK-47 rifle, and then their friend, student Anthony Sadler, 23, came to help.

Airman First Class Spencer Stone, left, one of the American men who overpowered the gunman on a high-speed train, gestures as he left the hospital in Lesquin, France, on Saturday. Photo: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS/GETTY IMAGES

Airman First Class Spencer Stone, left, one of the American men who overpowered the gunman on a high-speed train, gestures as he left the hospital in Lesquin, France, on Saturday. Photo: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS/GETTY IMAGES

Investigators on Saturday used fingerprint analysis to identify the gunman as Ayoub El-Khazzani, a French official said. Mr. El-Khazzani, a 26-year-old Moroccan national, had been flagged last year by intelligence services as belonging to the “radical Islamist movement,” officials said.

“While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy.”

— statement from the White House

Officials said Spanish officials flagged him to French authorities in February 2014, when he was living in Spain. In 2015, he lived in Belgium, French officials added.

Mr. El-Khazzani attempted to reach Syria in May, taking a flight from Berlin to Istanbul, according to French and German security officials. But the officials said that it wasn’t immediately clear if the suspect made it to Syria.

Belgium, which the French official said had been notified of the suspect’s departure for Turkey, has opened its own criminal investigation into the attack.

Police detaining the suspect at the main train station in Arras, northern France, Friday. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Police detaining the suspect at the main train station in Arras, northern France, Friday. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

French officials praised the Americans’ bravery, as well as that of an unnamed Frenchman who initially confronted the man. The office of French President François Hollande said he had spoken by phone with those who had subdued the attacker, and would invite them shortly to the Élysée Palace to thank them personally. The French president also said he had thanked U.S. President Barack Obama by phone.

“All three made a show of courage—full of bravery—that everyone recognizes,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] Sacré Bleu! Rare Photograph: The Rediscovered Face of Vincent Van Gogh

van-gogh-1

It looks like any other old photograph you might find at an estate sale, but the gentleman highlighted in the 2nd image is someone who’s never been seen in photographic form: Vincent Van Gogh.

A pair of collectors found the image at an estate sale and brought it to a team of experts in France who verified that it really was the famous painter.

van-gogh-2

FRANCE – For loeildelaphotographie, Serge Plantureux writes: 

On a December morning, two somewhat hesitant people stood on the sidewalk of the Boulevard Haussmann, looking for a pop-up gallery we had opened for a period of six months next to the Musée Jacquemart André.

They had traveled over 800 kilometers, inquiring with different people who discouraged them and said their search seemed impossible. Perhaps the most difficult part was finding me, but thanks to their perseverance, and the kindness of a neighbor, Frédéric, the meeting happened.

van-gogh3

The photograph they had brought to show me was small, dark and rather difficult to see. Six characters were around a table. The light was pale, perhaps it was a winter afternoon.

They told me, still hesitant, that they thought they recognized the people in it, artists in whom they had long been interested. They were collectors and liked the painters of the late 19th century, in particular the neo-impressionists. They also said it was possible that one of the figures around the table was someone whose true face had never been seen.

I tried to avoid making a judgment too quickly and considered how I should react. I didn’t want to start doing what Americans call “wishful thinking,” that trap into which collectors and researchers fall, where their reasoning is governed only by what they want to see.

I asked them if they could describe the circumstances in which they had discovered the object. To my delight, they were extremely precise, talking about their quest for old paper, old books and old trinkets. Sometimes what’s left in a house wouldn’t be worth the cost of moving to an auction house so everything is sold on site. That’s where the photograph had come from, two years before. And they remembered perfectly having found a similar photograph, manuscripts, a letter from a major poet of the time, and the archives and catalogue of a bookseller named Ronald Davis.

They said his name without any particular emphasis on it, and it was as though a beam of light had shone down on me. Ronald Davis’s name had been long forgotten, but I had recently encountered it by chance while researching a portrait of Charles Baudelaire.

Davis had been a figure in Paris in the 1920s, a model for many sellers of old books. He was known for being an editor and friend of Paul Valéry. One of his clients was the wealthy Myriam de Rothschild. Read the rest of this entry »


Monarchies of Europe, 2015

monarchy

Most of the monarchies in Europe are constitutional monarchies, which means that the monarch does not influence the politics of the state: either the monarch is legally prohibited from doing so, or the monarch does not utilize the political powers vested in the office by convention.

mapsontheweb


How the White House Abandoned American Hostages

obama-oval-solo

I was an advisor to the families of U.S. hostages held by the Islamic State. And the Obama administration failed them, repeatedly

Barak Barfi writes: In the last 10 months, the Islamic State has brutally executed four American hostages. As Americans died, their government was powerless to stop the slaying. For while European governments tirelessly toiled to secure the release of European hostages, President Barack Obama’s administration’s passive approach doomed their Barak-BarfiAmerican cellmates.

“But more egregious was this administration’s failure. The White House did not do enough to rescue the four Americans. During Steve’s imprisonment, it rarely worked with the hostages’ families, kept them in the dark, and was essentially passive, rather than discussing ways to secure their release.”

I had a connection to three of the four hostages and their families. The parents of aid worker Kayla Mueller, who died in an airstrike in February, frequently consulted with me. Peter Kassig, another aid worker who was beheaded last November, slept on my couch two weeks before his abduction. And journalist Steve Sotloff was my best friend. I spoke to him moments before his abduction after he entered Syria. In letters smuggled out of captivity, Steve wrote that he was counting on me to get him out. I failed him.

Peter Kassig,

Peter Kassig,

“The State Department was no better. When the mother of one of the hostages requested a senior point of contact at the White House, a State Department official rebuked her for going over her head.”

But more egregious was this administration’s failure. The White House did not do enough to rescue the four Americans. During Steve’s imprisonment, it rarely worked with the hostages’ families, kept them in the dark, and was essentially passive, rather than discussing ways to secure their release. And though the White House finally authorized an extraction attempt in late June 2014, it waited far too long to do so.

“Our lead agent misled me on several occasions, employing convoluted legalisms that would have impressed the greatest Talmudic scholars. His tactics so frustrated the Sotloffs that they finally asked him to address all queries to me.”

It was left to civilians like me to gather information and debrief the released European hostages. Because of my experience in the Middle East, I became the principal advisor to Steve’s family, directly handling their communication with the Islamic State.

[Read the full text here, at Foreign Policy]

The U.S. government’s principal channels with the four families largely consisted of mid-level officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. The FBI was useless. Its tasks were alternately to extract information and to comfort the family. It never shared intelligence. One European hostage, who was incarcerated with the Americans and subsequently released, told me he was shocked that the FBI seemed more interested in gathering evidence to prosecute the hostage-takers than it was in locating the Americans. Our lead agent misled me on several occasions, employing convoluted legalisms that would have impressed the greatest Talmudic scholars. His tactics so frustrated the Sotloffs that they finally asked him to address all queries to me. Though Steve is dead, our nightmare with the FBI continues. The bureau still refuses to give the Sotloffs the original letters he smuggled out of prison, claiming it is studying them for clues. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Judith with the Head of Holofernes’, 1650s

Judith

Judith with the Head of Holofernes
David Teniers the Younger
(Flemish, Antwerp 1610–1690 Brussels)
Date: 1650s
Medium: Oil on copper

The Met


BREAKING: At Least 3 Reportedly Killed in Counter-Terrorism Raid in Belgium

Belgian-police-on-a-train

At least three people were killed in an anti-terror raid in Belgium Thursday that one official confirmed was “jihadist related,” and a man suspected of selling guns used in last week’s terror attacks in France was being detained in another part of the country, according to multiple reports.

The deadly raid was in Verviers, in eastern Belgium, according to the Telegraph. It was not immediately clear if the dead were terror suspects or if any authorities had been killed. Federal prosecutors were quoted as saying there had been a police operation near the center of Verviers.

Explosions and gunfire were apparently heard near the station, according to Belgium’s public broadcaster RTBF. The Belga news agency said there were several casualties and police activity was continuing.

“An operation is under way,” a source in the mayor’s office told AFP without giving further details.

Another official told the agency it was “jihadist-related.” Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTOS] Striking Images of People Across France Observing a Minute of Silence Today


[PHOTO] Musée du Louvre: Unpacking Mona Lisa at the End of World War II, 1945

PARIS - RETOUR DE LA JOCONDE AU MUSEE DU LOUVRE

Retour de la Joconde au musée du Louvre après la guerre. Paris, 1945.


A Belgian Chocolate Company Called ISIS Has Decided to Change Its Name

Featured Image -- 51885

TIME

Customers have gone from sweet to sour on a Belgian chocolatier because it has the same name as an Islamist militant group.

The Belgian chocolate maker’s name ISIS is supposed to stand for Italy and Switzerland, where the founder learned how to make chocolate, Reuters reports. Its website—URL “www.isischocolates.be”—says, “Ever since 1923, we at ISIS have been making premium Belgian chocolate with the utmost dedication” and talks about how the company’s chocolates create “unforgettable moments.”

But customers have been calling to say they don’t want to buy the chocolates anymore because the brand, which dates back to 1923, now makes them think of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the chocolatier’s marketing manager Desiree Libeert told Reuters. “We chose ISIS as that was the brand name of our pralines and tablets,” Libeert said. “Had we known there was a terrorist organization with the same name…

View original post 26 more words


(UPDATED) BREAKING: Sick Passenger Removed from United Flight by Medical Personnel in Hazmat Suits

New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport

DEVELOPING: Medical personnel in hazmat suits at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport removed a sick passenger Saturday from a United Airlines flight that arrived from Brussels, Belgium…

FoxNews

UPDATE: Robert Wilde has this:

On Saturday at Newark Airport, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials rushed to meet with a United Airlines flight from Brussels and removed a passenger, believed to be from Liberia, suspected of having Ebola. 

The CDC crew responded to flight 998 in full hazmat gear and took the man and his daughter to University Hospital in Newark for further evaluation. According to a senior federal official, the passenger was manifesting “flu-like symptoms.” The passenger was reportedly vomiting in the plane but did not exhibit other Ebola-like symptoms.

“He’s now being treated with protocols as if he has it, but no clear indication at this point that he does,” the official said. Read the rest of this entry »


Wartime Study: Audrey Hepburn Documentary

Audrey Hepburn was born on May 4, 1929 in Brussels, Belgium. Her mother was a Dutch baroness, and her father, who was of English and Austrian descent, worked in business.

After her parents divorced, Audrey went to London with her mother where she went to a private girls school. Later, when her mother moved back to the Netherlands, she attended private schools as well. age 12While she vacationed with her mother in Arnhem, Netherlands, Hitler’s army took over the town. It was here that she fell on hard times during the Nazi occupation. Audrey suffered from depression and malnutrition.

After the liberation, she went to a ballet school in London on a scholarship and later began a modeling career. As a model, she was graceful and, it seemed, she had found her niche in life–until the film producers came calling. In 1948, after being spotted modeling by a producer, she was signed to a bit part in the European film Dutch in Seven Lessons(1948).

Later, she had a speaking role in the 1951 film, Young Wives’ Tale (1951) as Eve Lester. The part still wasn’t much, so she headed to America to try her luck there. Audrey gained immediate prominence in the US with her role in Roman Holiday (1953) in 1953. This film turned out to be a smashing success, and she won an Oscar as Best Actress. This gained her enormous popularity and more plum roles…(read more)

 

Read the rest of this entry »


PHOTO: Miriam and Emanuel Riva, the Israeli Couple Murdered at the Jewish Museum of Brussels


Images Show Gunman Who Killed 4 at Jewish Museum Arriving, Shooting and Walking Away


BREAKING: 3 killed, 1 injured at Brussels Jewish Museum

brussels

BRUSSELS (AP) — At least three people have been killed and one seriously injured in a spree of gunfire at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on Saturday, officials said.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, who was in the vicinity, said the scene “was terrible and left me shocked” as he saw two of the three dead lying at the entry of the museum, located in the touristy Sablon neighborhood.

Interior Ministry Ingrid Van Daele confirmed the casualties. He added that investigators were still on the scene gathering details, and that it was too soon to say whether it was an anti-Semitic attack. Read the rest of this entry »


$1.5M Hotel Bill for President Obamas One-Day Visit to Brussels

Obama-Sparkly-New-Spending

In late March, President Obama took a week-long trip through Europe which included a stop of less than 24 hours in Brussels, Belgium for meetings with the European Union and NATO. The president stayed at The Hotel, a twenty-seven story hotel in the center of the city. The estimated cost for the president’s stay, including about two weeks for an advance team, was $1,522,646.36.

unnamed-6_1

Read more….

The Weekly Standard


New book shows U.S. top earners pay larger share of taxes than any other industrialized nation

The United States is actually more dependent on rich people to pay taxes than even many of the more socialized economies of Europe. According to the Tax Foundation, the United States gets 45 percent of its total taxes from the top 10 percent of tax filers, whereas the international average in industrialized nations is 32 percent. America’s rich carry a larger share of the tax burden than do the rich in Belgium 25 percent, Germany 31 percent, France 28 percent, and even Sweden 27 percent.”

Consider what happened each time the U.S. reduced the tax rate significantly:

  • 1920s: The top tax rate fell from 73 percent to 25 percent, yet the rich (in those days, those earning $50,000 and up) went from paying 44.2 percent of the tax burden in 1921 to paying more than 78 percent in 1928.
  • 1960s: President John F. Kennedy slashed the top tax rate from 91 percent to 70 percent. In the ensuing three years, those making more than $50,000 annually saw their tax payments rise by 57 percent, and their share of the tax burden climbed from 11.6 percent to 15.1 percent.
  • 1980s: The Reagan years saw the top rate fall from 70 percent in 1980 to 28 percent in 1988. What happened to the rich? The top 1 percent went from shouldering 17.6 percent of the income tax burden in 1981 to paying 27.5 percent of the total in 1988. The top 10 percent saw their share of the burden climb from 48 percent in 1981 to over 57 percent in 1988.

More >> via Washington Times

Who’s the Fairest of Them All?: The Truth about Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America