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Friday, May 31, 2013

Don’t Go Near The Pyramids

“Emergencies' have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded.” — Friedrich August von Hayek

In the summer of 1995 I had some business meetings Cairo, a city I will never return to. After the meetings were over I had a free day prior to my flight home so I hired a driver at the hotel and ventured out to Giza Plateau to see the Great Pyramids.

It was a hot muggy day at the plateau. I trudged up to the Great Pyramid with its cadre of independent guides standing about and trying to negotiate a commission from you. I selected a guide who I could understand and he led me into the pyramid. You cannot go in without a guide, or so I was told and I didn’t have the time to argue about it. To enter the narrow passage way and descend on a steep angle until you meet another passageway where you climb a bit and then enter a small room called the Queen’s chamber. After Seeing the Queen’s Chamber I decided I had enough and left the pyramid for fresh air. I you suffer any form of claustrophobia I would recommend that you not go into the pyramid, it’s a very tight fit

After exiting the Pyramid the guide suggested we take a camel over the view the Sphinx. This sounded like a good idea until I mounted the camel. If you have never ridden a camel you should be forewarned that they spit and bite. Camels come in two types, Dromedary and Bactrian. The Dromedary, or Arabian, has one hump and the Bactrian has two. Most of the world’s camels are Dromedary, Believe it or not camels are2005.0012 known for their healthy low fat milk. I sure would not like to milk a camel. This camel was muzzled and the guide walked along side leading the camel as we bounced around crossing the dessert plateau. As we rode along, little kids were chasing us trying to sell us drinks of Coca Cola out of plastic liter bottles for one US Dollar. Had the kids been selling sealed bottles of water I would have probably bought one for five dollars. They really should review their sales and marketing schemes. All during the ride I was trying to take some photos. I was about 10 feet in the air at my shoulders and I had a great view over the plateau when I wasn’t bouncing up and down like cork in a bottle. I managed to take one or two shots when the camel reached the zenith of his upward bounce, timing was critical.

When we reached the Sphinx, the ride was over and I paid the guide his one hundred Egyptian Pounds, which at the time was slightly under twenty US Dollars. Believe me the experience was well worth it. As in all tourist locations, you cannot leave without passing through the “museum”, which in reality is a gift shop. This museum, specializing in ancient papyruses, was about one hundred yards from the car park where my driver was waiting. The driver strongly recommended this shop as the best with the fairest prices; they always do for it is where they get a commission from the sales they generate. This bothers some people, but not me. I look upon it as free market entrepreneurship. Unless they put a gun to your head or threaten your family you do not have to enter the shop. The driver will try to convince you to go in and browse and will no doubt sulk if you say no, but it’s the way they make a living.

I browsed the store and was fascinated by some of the papyrus art. There were two in particular depicting the Ancient Egyptian’s understanding of the final judgment where man is judged for his acts before being allowed to enter the afterlife. It was about four feet wide by one and a half feet tall and great colors. The other was about eleven by fourteen inches and depicted the Egyptian Hieroglyphic alphabet. On a crazy whim I bought both of them for two hundred and fifty Egyptian Pounds or fifty US Dollars. They rolled them into a tube-like configuration and all I had to do now was pack them carefully in my suitcase. I did get them home undamaged and to my surprise Kathy really liked them. We had them professionally framed for seven times the cost of each papyrus and today they hang in our living room as a constant reminder of my adventure in Egypt. I have never returned to Cairo or Egypt and after September 11, 2001 I would never do so. It was a nice short visit to see something I always wanted to see. (Excerpt from my book: Footsteps on the Land.)

Today the American embassy in Cairo had bad news for anyone traveling to Egypt: For now, the pyramids in Giza should be considered off limits — at least if you're visiting without a trusted guide.

Describing a pattern of increasing lawlessness at the iconic tourist destination outside Cairo, the embassy is warning that some visitors have found their cars surrounded by angry individuals, and that in some cases those individuals have tried to open the doors. Here's the embassy's warning about the pyramids in full, according to Graham Harman the associate provost for research administration at the American University in Cairo:

“In recent weeks, the U.S. Embassy has become aware of an increasing number of incidents at or near the Giza Pyramids. The majority of these incidents are attributed to over-aggressive vendors, though the degree of aggressiveness in some cases is closer to criminal conduct. Other more serious incidents have been reported involving vehicles nearing the Pyramids, with angry groups of individuals surrounding and pounding on the vehicles - and in some cases attempting to open the vehicle's doors. While the motive is less clear (possibly related to carriage operators wanting fares), it has severely frightened several visitors. A common theme from many of these reports is the lack of visible security or police in the vicinity of the Pyramids. U.S. citizens should elevate their situational awareness when traveling to the Pyramids, avoid any late evening or night travel, utilize a recommended or trusted guide, and closely guard valuables. Though other tourist locations have not been brought to Embassy attention, these measures are also recommended at all crowded or popular tourist sites.”

Writing on his blog, Harman echoes the embassy's warning. Don't "even think of going to the Pyramids unless you’re on a large organized bus tour," he says.

Turbulence at the pyramids is terrible news for Egypt, whose economy is in a tailspin at the moment. Tourism has been a source of strength for the country's economy in the past, but it has also struggled enormously in the aftermath of the revolution, whose accompanying chaos has understandably scared off many tourists from visiting.

The 2011 revolution that toppled Morsi’s predecessor, former dictator Hosni Mubarak, was inspired by—in addition to police abuse and suffocating repression — the dire financial straits most Egyptians faced. Alongside Tahrir Square’s famous anti-Mubarak chants, protesters also rallied around a more basic slogan, in which the first demand went to the needs of the dinner table: “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice.”

Under Morsi, however, who became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in June, the economy is now faring even worse. And with Morsi’s government reluctant to tackle serious reform, and the country’s politics gridlocked, analysts say, it only looks likely to keep fading. “Things are going steadily worse in the economy, and the politics is becoming more polarized,” says Mohsin Khan, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and former director of the International Monetary Fund’s Middle East and Central Asia department. “I really don’t see a way out in the near future.”

The economic malaise is once again helping to bring protesters to the streets, calling for Morsi’s overthrow—as they once did Mubarak’s. At the ongoing demonstrations, alongside grievances over Morsi’s politics, young Egyptians regularly complain that they just can’t find work. “People don’t feel that the economic policy of Morsi is different from the economic policy of Mubarak,” says Hassan Aly, a professor at Ohio State University who specializes in Middle Eastern economies.

Mike Giglio writes in the Daily Beast:

“Mubarak led Egypt for 30 years, and during his tenure, the Arab world’s most powerful and populous country saw its resources squandered regularly on mismanagement and corruption. But Mubarak’s final decade brought steady economic growth as the regime pursued liberalizing reforms. The problem for most Egyptians was what economists called “growth without development.” While a small segment of the population grew wealthier—mainly regime loyalists—almost everyone else continued to struggle, with millions forced to get by on less than $2 a day.

Now, economists say, Egypt’s growth has slowed to a crawl. The economy is expected to expand slightly this year, but far less than it should, meaning that unemployment will continue to rise. The unrest that has defined Egypt since the revolution, meanwhile, has seen capital flee the country while political instability keeps investors at bay. Foreign reserves have dwindled, and the Egyptian pound has dipped. The constant chaos has also drained Egypt’s tourism industry, leaving the economy with two main lifelines: aid from allies and remittances from Egyptians working abroad.

Rachel Ziemba, the director of emerging markets at Roubini Global Economics, notes that the seeds for Egypt’s economic troubles were planted by Mubarak. In addition to saddling the country with corruption and unemployment, Mubarak’s government borrowed heavily to finance stimulus packages during the worldwide economic downturn, leaving Morsi to pick up the tab. “You had that whole period where people weren’t sharing the wealth. And then you had the global financial crisis, [with] the government draining its resources trying to keep the show on the road,” she says. “Morsi and his government didn’t really have a very strong hand to play.”

But Morsi “came to power with a lot of global willingness to help and invest,” Ziemba adds, only to let the opportunity go to waste as it fought bitterly with political opponents and failed to produce a serious economic game plan—“kicking the can down the road,” as Ziemba puts it. “Many of the economic triggers for the revolution are not only still present, but the economic conditions are arguably even worse,” she says.

Morsi’s government, says Khan, the former IMF official, “has done nothing on the economic indicators. But more importantly, it has done really nothing on some of the economic reasons for the uprising: rising inequality, rising unemployment, badly skewed wealth distribution. None of those things have been addressed.”

Already beset by crisis and eroding political support, the new government has seemed unwilling to push the potentially unpopular measures that analysts say are needed to repair the economy, such as increasing sales tax and cutting back on subsidies. “[Morsi] has made the political calculation that it’s just too costly,” Khan says.

Egypt’s political stalemate, Khan adds, has intensified the problems, with many observers blaming it for the delay of a critical IMF loan. (Egypt’s point man in the tumultuous negotiations resigned this week.) “Everyone is looking to the IMF to help out,” Khan says. “But the IMF’s position is [that they] want broad political consensus and broad political support for any program. There’s no way they’re going to get it.”

Aly, of Ohio State, criticizes Morsi for installing an inexperienced economic team that seemed to “give priority to the people you trust over the people who have experience.” But while Egypt’s economic woes have caused some analysts to warn of another upheaval—the term “revolution of the hungry” has gained currency lately—there are signs that Morsi will be able to muddle through, in the near-term at least, possibly buying time until parliamentary elections can help to stabilize the country politically.

Egypt has a bumper crop of wheat, Aly notes, which should keep down food costs. And Morsi’s greatest economic success has come in keeping the aid money flowing from wealthy allies who are likely wary of the fallout should Egypt slide into chaos. Qatar has made headlines with increasing billions in support, while countries such as Turkey and Libya are also helping to keep Egypt afloat. “Regional powers are not going to just let go,” Aly says. “They have this concern that Egypt is too big to fail. They cannot have a ‘failing state’ with Egypt’s size and influence on their doorsteps.”

Now with Egypt’s economy in the tank and Morsi’s crackdown on dissidents and Christians, and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood the country is for more problems as the tourist industry will begin to dry up. This latest warning from the State Department shows just how successful the so-called Arab Spring really was.

In short, if you visit Egypt in the near future, don’t even think of going to the Pyramids unless you’re on a large organized bus tour. Anything else is a big risk, for now.

As The Scandals Deepen will the Democrats be Hurt in 2014

"The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men." — Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 21

On December 12, 1787 Alexander Hamilton writing on the Defects of the Articles of Confederation in Federalist 21 stated:

“The inordinate pride of State importance has suggested to some minds an objection to the principle of a guaranty in the federal government, as involving an officious interference in the domestic concerns of the members. A scruple of this kind would deprive us of one of the principal advantages to be expected from union, and can only flow from a misapprehension of the nature of the provision itself. It could be no impediment to reforms of the State constitution by a majority of the people in a legal and peaceable mode. This right would remain undiminished. The guaranty could only operate against changes to be effected by violence. Towards the preventions of calamities of this kind, too many checks cannot be provided. The peace of society and the stability of government depend absolutely on the efficacy of the precautions adopted on this head. Where the whole power of the government is in the hands of the people, there is the less pretense for the use of violent remedies in partial or occasional distempers of the State. The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men. A guaranty by the national authority would be as much leveled against the usurpations of rulers as against the ferments and outrages of faction and sedition in the community.” (Emphasis added)

In essence what Hamilton was saying is that even with the checks and balances provided in the Constitution there could still be abuses by the Executive and the only solution outside of revolt is a change of men. This is very apparent today with the current epidemic of scandals facing the Obama administration: Benghazi, IRS, Justice Department, and Health and Human Services.

Almost on a daily basis more and more information on these scandals dribble out in drips and drops as reporters begin doing the job they should have done five years ago when it came to opening the curtain on Barack Obama — a curtain that had been constructed by his Chicago supporters and their sycophants in the main stream media. Now many members of that same Main stream media are joining the ranks of the honest, hard-working reporters that have been maligned for these past five years.

President Barack Obama's job approval rating has taken a huge hit in the wake of the scandals surrounding the White House, a new poll has found.

Fewer than half the registered voters surveyed now believe Obama is "honest and trustworthy," according to the poll conducted by Quinnipiac University. That figure had stood at 58 percent the last time the question was asked in September 2011. Now it is at 49 percent.

The Quinnipiac Poll stated:

“President Barack Obama gets a negative 45 — 49 percent job approval rating, compared to 48 – 45 percent positive in a May 1 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University, conducted before the IRS allegations surfaced. The president’s biggest drop is among independent voters, who give him a negative 37 — 57 percent score, compared to a negative 42 — 48 percent May 1. He gets a negative 9 — 86 percent from Republicans and a positive 87 — 8 percent from Democrats, both virtually unchanged. Women approve 49 — 45 percent while men give a negative 40 – 54 percent score...Americans are divided 49 — 47 percent on whether Obama is honest and trustworthy, down from 58 — 37 percent, the last time Quinnipiac University asked the question September 1, 2011.”

And it is the scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service that is hitting Obama hardest, the survey found. The voters, who were surveyed between Wednesday last week and Tuesday of this week, believe that controversy is more worrying than those surrounding the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, or the seizure of phone records from journalists.

According to the Connecticut University’s survey, more people now view the president negatively than positively. Slightly under half — 49 percent — say they have a negative view of Obama, while 45 percent have a positive view.

Just one month ago, before news of the IRS controversy broke, the president's job approval rating was more positive than negative, at 48 to 45 percent.

When it comes to the individual controversies swirling around the Obamae30f9d8c-9095-4b90-b821-4482c12e2d93 administration, 44 percent of voters see the IRS prying into conservative groups as the most important, while 24 percent say they are most concerned about the administration's handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, and 15 percent say the records seizure at news organizations is most important.

Many voters believe criticism of the administration's handling of the Benghazi attack as "just politics," the survey shows with 43 percent describing it that way

Meanwhile, more than three out of four voters — 76 percent — believe a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate the IRS scandal. That figure includes 63 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of independent voters.

"There is overwhelming bipartisan support for a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS," said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac's Polling Institute.

"Voters apparently don't like the idea of Attorney General Eric Holder investigating the matter himself, perhaps because they don't exactly think highly of him," Brown said. Holder got a negative 39 percent job approval rating, compared to 23 percent who approved of the way he is doing his job.

According to Newsmax: A special prosecutor will be needed to investigate the IRS' targeting of conservative groups, Sen. Rob Portman told Newsmax in an exclusive interview, because there are limits to what Congress can achieve on its own.

The Ohio Republican said that while he believes the congressionalJustice Holder investigation should continue for a while longer, it's unlikely that lawmakers will be able to extract the information they need from the administration to get to the bottom of the issue.

A new Rasmussen Reports poll finds that only 25 percent of likely voters have a favorable opinion of Attorney General Eric Holder and 42 percent would like for him to resign.

The telephone survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted on May 29-30, also revealed that 47 percent of those polled have an unfavorable opinion of him.

On the other hand a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal— No IRS Special Prosecutor – Indictments are less important than Political Accountability states:

“Like dumber follows dumb, the scandal of politicized IRS tax enforcement has been followed by calls for a "special prosecutor." Republicans are predictably leading this call against a Democratic Administration, but this is one case in which the GOP should hope it doesn't get its way.

The case for a special counsel is that Attorney General Eric Holder can't be trusted to investigate his Administration, and that the Administration will stonewall Congress. We don't trust Mr. Holder either, but letting him pass the buck to a special prosecutor is doing him a favor. This scandal is best handled in Congressional hearings that educate the public in the next year rather than wait two or three years for potential indictments. No fewer than three Congressional committees are digging into the facts, and they have the power to issue subpoenas, compel depositions and demand emails and documents. All of this can then make its way into the public record. If the White House chooses not to turn over relevant information, it will have to assert executive privilege. Such resistance carries its own political price.

With a special prosecutor, the probe would immediately move to the shadows, and the Administration and the IRS would use it as an excuse to limit its cooperation with Congress. Special prosecutors aren't famous for their speed, and a decision on indictments would extend well past the 2014 election. If there were no indictments, whatever the prosecutor has discovered would stay secret. And even if specific criminal charges were filed, the facts of an indictment couldn't stray far from the four corners of the violated statute. Beyond proving his specific case in court, a special prosecutor will not be as concerned with the larger public policy consequences and political accountability. That accounting should include how this started, what IRS officials thought they were doing, how far the knowledge and genesis went up the chain of government command, or what pressure was brought to bear on those supposed "rogues" in Cincinnati.”

But the poll also shows that almost three-quarters of voters, or 73 percent, believe that dealing with the economy and unemployment is a higher priority than investigating these three issues. Only 22 percent disagree.

But those who were surveyed are also optimistic that the economy is finally improving.

"The fact that voters say, 34–25 percent, that the economy is getting better also may be a reason the president's job approval numbers have not dropped further," said Brown.

Other points from the poll include:

• Political parties and groups are generally held in disdain. Voters have an unfavorable view of both the main parties and the tea party. The Republican Party fares worse, with an unfavorable rating of 50 percent, compared to 35 percent who rate it favorably. The same is said of the Democrats by 47 percent who rate their party favorably, and 42 percent unfavorably; and the tea party by 38-28 percent.

• A minuscule 3 percent of voters surveyed say they trust the federal government to do the right thing all the time. Twelve percent says they trust the feds most of the time, 47 percent say some of the time, and 36 percent say hardly ever.

• A congressional election today would be evenly split, with 38 percent saying they would vote for a Republican to sit in the House of Representatives and the same number saying they would vote Democrat.

On the same note Scott Rasmussen, founder and president of Rasmussen Reports, says there are signs the trio of scandals surrounding the Obama administration could cause more serious problems for the president and the Democratic Party if they persist.

Speaking to Newsmax TV, the pollster and political analyst explained: "As some people argue, his job approval ratings have already been hurt because they should be going up. The economy is getting stronger, the stock market is setting records, but the president's job approval is not going anywhere:"

"When we look at a question of, say, who do you trust more on the issue of ethics and corruption, it used to be Democrats had a big edge on the issue, but now with the scandals and controversy, the Republicans have a slight advantage; there's been a 10-point swing on that."

As for the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, Rasmussen said, "Fifty-seven percent believe that the IRS really did target people and they don't buy the notion that it was some low-level people at the Cincinnati office. Sixty-five percent believe the decisions came from Washington at either the IRS headquarters or the White House."

In addition, he said of Obama, "We do know that his overall efforts, his desire, his whole public life has been spent on the mission to restore faith in the federal government, trust in the federal government. That was an uphill fight to begin with; it's probably an unwinnable fight at this point."

Discussing how the scandals might help Republicans in the 2014 midterm elections, Rasmussen said public opinion is now "marginally in favor" of the GOP.

"In the last five weeks Republicans have been ahead on the generic congressional ballots twice; Democrats, three times. We saw that same kind of balance going back and forth in April and May of 2009 and then gradually the Republican wave began to build," he said.

"So we'll be watching over this summer. If the scandals pick up and the generic ballot begins to move in the Republican direction, you'll see definitely that's going to help."

On top of the scandals, Republicans might also be able to capitalize on the rollout of ObamaCare, according to Rasmussen. "It's likely to run into some administration hurdles, some bureaucratic issues, but it's also running into the fact that it has never become popular, and that's going to be a pretty healthy drag on Democrats in the 2014 elections."

Assessing the field of potential GOP contenders in the 2016 presidential race, Rasmussen said he does not think former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, or House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan will win the Republican nomination.

He did not rule out Florida Sen. Marco Rubio becoming the nominee, and he called Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul "a serious contender," noting the IRS scandal has boosted public opinion of the tea party.

"The tea party right now is viewed favorably by 44 percent of voters nationwide. That's up 14 points from before the targeting," he said. "Eighty percent of Republicans now have a favorable opinion of the tea party. That's a big jump. There's been this divide between the Republican establishment who really wanted to protect themselves from the tea party. Now, the IRS has put them all on the same team and that unity could not have been achieved in any other way."

On the Democratic side, Rasmussen is not optimistic about Hillary Rodham Clinton's prospects in 2016.

"I have a very hard time believing Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee," he said. "Benghazi is certainly not going to help but there will be other factors. We just don’t know what the Democratic field is going to look like.”

Asked on Wednesday if the White House is "satisfied with the responsiveness" of IRS officials testifying before Congress, Press Secretary Jay Carney answered, "Well, that's a broad question, but the answer is yes." Of course Barack Obama and his mouthpiece Carney are satisfied — the IRS targeted Patriot and Tea Party groups (and possibly pro-Israel groups) helping to swing the 2012 election in Obama's favor, and then IRS officials either pleaded complete ignorance of the doings of their subordinates or took the Fifth Amendment in order to avoid questions. They might be satisfied, but this is a serious abuse of power, not a Snickers commercial.

June promises to be a busy month for those investigating the IRS. The House Oversight Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee are all probing for answers. Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA), chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, obtained all communications using the terms "tea party," "patriot" or "conservative" from former acting IRS director and first sacrificial lamb Steven Miller. Boustany now knows the names of others involved and will be pursuing them. Oh, and the IRS is investigating itself, so there's that.

This week, Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), filed suit against the IRS on behalf of 25 conservative groups, saying, "The IRS and the federal government are not going to get away with this unlawful targeting of conservative groups." Ten of the organizations he represents still have not been approved for tax-exempt status. Sekulow provided letters to NBC News revealing that the extra scrutiny didn't originate in the IRS's Cincinnati office as we were told at first. Indeed, one letter bore the stamp-signature of Lois Lerner — the same official who last week claimed innocence before pleading the Fifth. Letters came "from four different offices, including the Treasury Department in Washington, DC," Sekulow says.

As for how high up the ladder this scandal goes, former IRS commissionerb90229924ecd4c78a980abd8e4b44329-e1369158211929 Douglas Shulman visited the White House an astounding 157 times during his tenure — which happens to coincide with the targeting in question. His successor, Steven Miller, visited numerous times as well. But Shulman's predecessor in the Bush administration, Mark Everson, visited the White House just one time. So what gives?

Shulman's first answer was, "Um, the Easter Egg Roll with my kids." Cute, but that doesn't explain why he visited the White House more than any cabinet member. He says he has "no memory" of discussing it and contends "it would not have been appropriate to have a conversation with anyone at the White House" on political audits at the IRS. Shulman further denied ever being told to scrutinize conservative groups. Then again, this is the same man who denied in March 2012 that the IRS was even targeting these groups. Can he be trusted now?


In the end, we don't expect anyone to truly be held accountable for this serious breach of trust by the Obama administration. In fact, one IRS official was promoted. The IRS has inordinate power as the agency with first dibs on your paycheck and the arbiter of tax status for political groups. And the IRS is beholden to a corrupt and thuggish administration run by a former community organizer from Chicago. As long as Barack Obama is in the Oval Office, there's only so much house cleaning that can happen. Besides, he's "satisfied" with how things are going.

On another front the scandal involving the Obama Justice Department's snooping into the electronic files of investigative journalists grew wider this week thanks in large part to Attorney General Eric Holder's congressional testimony. When asked by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), (of Guam tipping fame) if the Justice Department could prosecute reporters under the Espionage Act for disclosure of material, Holder replied, "This is not something I've ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy." (The "I don't know" refrain was common in his testimony — see the montage.) Holder's words run contrary to his actions, however. Not only did he personally approve a warrant to search Fox News correspondent James Rosen's email account, but he also shopped it with two federal judges before finding a third willing to agree. This bald-faced contradiction opens Holder to perjury charges, which the House Judiciary Committee is currently investigating.

Holder did a great imitation of Sargent Schultz on the 1970s TV show Hogan’s Heroes

Holder may think he's got his bases covered, but he may become too much of a political liability even for this lawless administration. Then again, he contends that he's still the best candidate to investigate his own actions at Justice. House committee members are not so confident.

Holder tried to meet with bureau chiefs of major news organizations this week to lay out the Justice Department's subpoena policy. But Holder insisted that the meeting about "transparency" be off the record, and only a few unprincipled outlets, such as Politico, The Washington Post and Bloomberg News took the bait. The Associated Press, The New York Times, CNN, Reuters and Fox News were among those that stayed away.

Government policy under Barack Obama is to silence whistleblowers through intimidation, and its latest attack on the press indicates that the ends justify the means. Rosen is but one example of many reporters who have been investigated with or without their knowledge. What they all have in common is that they worked on stories critical of the Obama administration and its policies. If it should be proven that Eric Holder did commit perjury and engaged in the systematic intimidation and persecution of journalists trying to do their jobs, then nothing short of his resignation will serve to make up for the wrongdoing.

Individual liberty and free enterprise bring about good things both great and small — among them, potable water and sanitary toilets — and for those things we should be thankful. But according to Hollywood actor Matt Damon, "780,000,000 people — that's two and a half times the population of the United States — lack access to clean water." U2 front man Bono and celebrities Olivia Wilde and Richard Branson joined Damon to do something about it. For starters, the group is going on a "toilet strike." Damon explained that he "won't go to the bathroom until everyone in the world has access to clean water and sanitation." The ploy is, of course, a humorous one meant to draw serious attention to the problem, something made clear by the group's video. But in order to know whether these wealthy do-gooders actually made charitable contributions to the cause, we'll just have to wait for the IRS audits of their tax returns.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

May Was An Interesting Month

“There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” — James Madison, Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention — 1788

This may was an interesting month if you were a news and current events junkie. It was filled with political scandals in involving the State Department, Justice Department, and the IRS. These scandals centered on names such as: Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, Lois Lerner, and even Barack Obama.

The following are a few items that pertain to these scandals along with a few that took a back seat.

Assad tells Lebanese media Syria has received Russian missile shipment:

President Bashar Al-Assad said the Syrian army holds "the balance of power" in the country's conflict, and that Syria has received the first shipment of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia. Assad spoke with Hezbollah-linked Al Manar TV in an interview set to be broadcast on Thursday and reported on by Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar. There is no evidence yet that the missiles have arrived, and some military analysts believe it is a bluff. Assad claimed that the Syrian army has "scored major victories against armed rebels on the ground" and admitted to collaborating with Hezbollah. Israel has expressed concerns over the Russian weapons delivery and has threatened to prevent the advanced missile defense system from reaching the Syrian government. Assad said, "The Syrian government will not stand in the way of any Syrian groups that want to wage a war of resistance to liberate the Golan." Israel took much of Syria's Golan Heights in the 1967 war. Meanwhile, Iran hosted an international conference on Wednesday in Tehran on Syria, working to gain a greater role in diplomatic efforts. The conference wasn't expected to yield any policy decisions, but it attempted to show support for Iran's inclusion in the international Syria debate as the country pushes for inclusion at peace talks that Russia and the United States are hoping to hold in Geneva in June. On Thursday, Syria's main opposition coalition announced it won't participate in negotiations in Geneva, with a spokesman for the group stating an "international conference on a political solution to the situation in Syria has no meaning in light of the massacres that are taking place." The United Nations Human Rights Council overwhelmingly passed a resolution Wednesday calling for the cessation of violence in the strategic Syrian town of Qusayr and condemning the use of ballistic missiles and other heavy weapons by the Syrian regime and pro-government forces in Qusayr. (Hat Tip to Foreign Policy Magazine)

Keep Your Eye on Oman:

"Oman's diplomatic value underscores how its locational advantages are amplified by its political ones. In Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, Oman quite simply has the best educated and among the most enlightened leaders in the Arab world. He is an absolute ruler with sophisticated liberal values. When the Arab Spring led to sustained protests in the capital of Muscat, Sohar and other Omani cities, Qaboos deftly allowed the demonstrations to proceed, then strengthened the role of the elected Shura Council, replaced older ministers with young ones, arrested some of the protest leaders and in general maneuvered in such a way that while the authorities were heavily criticized, his own prestige and power were largely unaffected. Thus, he has emerged from the Arab Spring in a comparatively stronger position vis-a-vis other leaders in the Middle East.

Oman now finds itself in the difficult but enviable position of being able to concentrate on the ultimate challenge of modern societies: building responsive and transparent institutions that ultimately make the role of the ruler himself less paramount. Of course, this is the task of societies throughout the Middle East, but few can conduct this experiment under such advantageous conditions as Oman: A country with a deeply respected ruler who is not under political siege, and who also has access to hydrocarbon revenues for at least another decade or so." (Hat Tip to Foreign Policy Magazine.)

MSNBC Falls Below HLN in May, Rachel Maddow Hits Lows:

HLN's wall-to-wall coverage of the Jodi Arias trial has had substantial ratings legs. Surging around the time of the May 8 verdict, the network notched an extremely rare monthly victory: It topped MSNBC in total day and primetime. And with CNN posting its second consecutive month as a distant primetime runner-up to Fox News Channel, MSNBC is in a very precarious fourth place.

Averaging 539,000 viewers in primetime and 175,000 viewers in the adultsrachel_maddow_show 25-54 demographic, MSNBC suffered double-digit drops from last May — down a respective 20 and 19 percent. Losses were less substantial in total day, down 10 percent to an average 346,000 viewers and down 7 percent to 115,000 adults 25-54, while all other nets pulled growth in multiple categories.

The soft start for All In With Chris Hayes has not helped. Hayes, down 32 percent in total viewers from The Ed Show last May, has offered a poor lead-in for MSNBC's primetime flagship, The Rachel Maddow Show, at 9 p.m. The show delivered its lowest-rated month since it debuted in September 2008 (717,000 total viewers) and its second lowest with adults 25-54 (210,000). Maddow was topped by typical time slot victor Sean Hannity and CNN's Piers Morgan.

Winner FNC, posting modest year-to-year losses in the key demo, was still number three across all of cable in both primetime and total day. Heavily covering White House woes like the Benghazi hearings, the network averaged 1,246,000 daily viewers (up 24 percent) and 236,000 adults 25-54 (down 5 percent) for the full day. Primetime saw 17 percent growth with 1,973,000 total viewers and a 6 percent dip with 308,000 in 25-54.

CNN is in significantly better shape than it was last May when it hit 20-year lows. The network's year-to-year growth brought in a third-place 465,000 total viewers for total day and a second-place 660,000 total viewers in primetime, growth of 61 and 70 percent. CNN's demo jumps were more considerable, rising 92 percent to 161,000 adults 25-54 in total day and 97 percent to 225,000 adults 25-54 in primetime.

Total Day

  • FNC: 1,246,000 total viewers, up 24 percent (236,000 in 25-54, down 5 percent)
  • CNN: 465,000 total viewers, up 61 percent (161,000 in 25-54, up 92 percent)
  • MSNBC: 346,000 total viewers, down 10 percent (115,000 in 25-54, down 7 percent)
  • HLN: 494,000 total viewers, up 111 percent (175,000 in 25-54, up 90 percent)


  • FNC: 1,973,000 total viewers, up 17 percent (308,000 in 25-54, down 6 percent)
  • CNN: 660,000 total viewers, up 70 percent (225,000 in 25-54, up 97 percent)
  • MSNBC: 539,000 total viewers, down 20 percent (175,000 in 25-54, down 19 percent)
  • HLN: 624,000 total viewers, up 91 percent (209,000 in 25-54, up 97 percent)

(Hat Tip to The Hollywood Reporter)

Holder Scrambled to Find Judge to Approve Rosen Subpoena After Rejected Twice; Only Fox News Reports:

Not surprisingly, there has been yet another revelation in the unfolding of the James Rosen investigation scandal. On Tuesday, it was discovered that Attorney General Eric Holder went “judge shopping” to find someone who would sign off on a subpoena of Fox News Correspondent James Rosen’s personal records. Apparently, Holder went to three different federal judges before he found one that would agree to sign the subpoena without telling Rosen or Fox News.

  • Judge Alan Kay—Denied
  • Judge John Facciola—Denied
  • Judge Royce Lamberth—Approved

However, the only morning show coverage of this important development in this scandal was found on the Fox and Friends; no other network or cable show devoted a sentence to educate the public about this discovery.


Fox & Friends cohost Gretchen Carlson believes that this is “the most egregious part of this story thus far” because the exposure of these new facts show that Holder went to a great deal of trouble and did “a lot of deliberate work to go to three judges” in order to find one to sign the subpoena. [Listen to the audio here]

Additionally, on Tuesday afternoon news broke that the House Judiciary Committee was investigating whether or not Holder had committed perjury by lying about his involvement in the subpoenaing of Rosen’s personal emails and phone records while under oath in his Congressional hearing May 15th. Holder claimed to have no involvement in the matter, but it was later revealed that he had personally signed off on the decision to investigate Rosen.

Fox News devoted 20 minutes of its morning show Fox  and Friends to cover this significant development in this scandal that has attempted to criminalize journalism, while two of the other three networks did not cover this story at all Wednesday morning. CBS was the only other network to report on it at all; however, they only deemed it worthy of two minutes of coverage on CBS This Morning.

These were stories that were widely available to all the news networks. They were not private and exclusive reports by Fox News to which the other networks did not have access. So why then, besides their vested corporate interest in defending their own, was Fox the only network to devote significant time to these discoveries? It was because the other networks have such strong liberal leanings.

The other news networks committed what is known as bias by omission. By devoting very little coverage to the Holder perjury story and no coverage at all to the “judge shopping” revelation, the liberal media lay bare their political tendencies

This practice is just as unacceptable as a network reporting the news with an overtly liberal spin. By failing to report news that might damage the left-wing political agenda, the mainstream media misleads its viewers into believing that such occurrences did not even take place. This practice must be eliminated from the news media in order to properly and truthfully educate the public about what is happening in their country and around the world, which is what news is supposed to do, but sadly, not what it usually does. (Hat Tip News Busters)

Teacher Punished for Telling Students about their Constitutional Rights:

An Illinois high school teacher was punished by a local school district after he warned students about the Constitutional rights before answering a school-mandated survey about emotional and at-risk behavior.

John Dryden, a social studies teacher at Batavia High School, was issued a formal reprimand and docked a day’s pay. The punishment was doled out during a closed-door school board meeting.

The controversy started when the school district directed students to complete a survey about at-risk behavior – including past drug, tobacco and alcohol usage.

“I advised my students that they had a Fifth Amendment right notteacher1 incriminate themselves,” Dryden told a local newspaper. “It was not my intention for them not to take the survey.”

Batavia School Superintendent Jack Barshinger told Fox News what the teacher did was against the rules.

“The issue before the board was whether one employee had the right to mischaracterize the efforts of teachers, counselors, social workers and others and tell students in effect that the adults are not here to help but they are trying to get you to incriminate yourself,” he said.

But Dryden said several questions on the 34-page survey asked students to self-report what could potentially be criminal behavior.

“I’m not here to stir the pot,” Dryden said. “I’m just trying to protect my kids.”

Barshinger told Fox News that school rules protect students from self-incrimination.

“It is not possible for a student to incriminate himself in a school setting that would make him eligible for any police action,” he said.

And while the superintendent said students “absolutely” have constitutional rights – he said there is a caveat.

“Unfortunately, it is how they are applied in a school setting,” he said. “The Fifth Amendment – you don’t typically hear about in a school setting. That’s because the law has already been set that don’t allow students to self-incriminate.”

He also said parents and students were given the opportunity to opt-out of the survey.

Nearly 100 students, former students and colleagues turned out at the school board meeting to show their support for the embattled teacher. A Facebook petition generated nearly 6,000 signatures for the 20-year veteran teacher.

“He is able to break through student apathy like no other teacher I know,” fellow teacher Scott Bayer told a local newspaper. (Hat Tip to Todd Starnes, Fox News Radio.)

Tea Party groups file lawsuit over IRS targeting:

A Washington advocacy group filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the IRS and top Obama administration officials on behalf of 25 Tea Party-related groups, marking the biggest lawsuit to date over the tax agency's practice of targeting conservatives for additional scrutiny.

The 29-page lawsuit named Attorney General Eric Holder, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and several IRS officials — including Lois Lerner, the division director who refused to testify before Congress last week. The suit claims the constitutional rights of 25 Tea Party and other conservative groups were violated when tax workers singled them out for a drawn-out vetting process.

052913_otr_teaparty_640The American Center for Law and Justice is arguing that the Obama administration overstepped its authority and violated the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, the Administrative Procedure Act as well as the IRS' own rules and regulations.

"The whole timeline and the whole narrative that the White House has put forth does not hold up to the truth," ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow told Fox News on Wednesday.

In its suit, the ACLJ wants the government to admit wrongdoing. The suit also seeks to protect the groups from future IRS retaliation as well as compensatory and punitive monetary damages.

"The IRS and the federal government are not going to get away with this unlawful targeting of conservative groups," Sekulow said later in a statement announcing the lawsuit. "As this unconstitutional scheme continues even today, the only way to stop this flagrant and arrogant abuse of our clients' rights is to file a federal lawsuit, which we have done."

Sekulow says the suit is intended to "send a very powerful message to the IRS and the Obama administration."

Emails to the White House and IRS for comment were not immediately returned. Administration officials have said that while the additional scrutiny was inappropriate it was not partisan and therefore no laws were broken.

Allegations that the IRS had been targeting conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status date back years but a government watchdog report released this month backed up the claims. (Hat Tip to Fox

Iran Terror 'Sleeper Cells' Are Infiltrating South America, Argentine Prosecutor Says:

Iran is "infiltrating" South America and setting up intelligence networks to carry out terrorist attacks in the region, an Argentine prosecutor said Wednesday.

The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, has been engaged for 20 years in the effort to charge a handful of former Iranian officials with masterminding the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center.

Nisman accused Mohsen Rabbani, Iran's former cultural attaché in Buenos Aires and a suspect in the attack that killed 85 people, of working continually over the last two decades to develop an intelligence network in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Surinam and Trinidad and Tobago.

"These are sleeper cells. They have activities you wouldn't imagine. Sometimes they die having never received the order to attack," Nisman said as he presented a 500-page indictment.

He said Iran has sought "to infiltrate the countries of Latin America and install secret intelligence stations with the goal of committing, fomenting and fostering acts of international terrorism in concert with its goals of exporting the revolution."

Iran no longer has an ambassador in Argentina. No one answered the phone after hours Wednesday at the Iranian Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil.

Nisman's concerns about Iran's interest in South America are seen as a viable threat from the U.S. State Department and President Barack Obama.

Obama signed the "Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act" into law last year in an effort to assess Iranian-related threats in Central and South America. Concern over Iran in South America hit a threshold in October 2011, when the Justice Department filed charges that revealed a failed plot by Iranian officials to use a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate a Saudi diplomat in Washington.

Iran has established six embassies in Latin America since 2005, bringing the total to 11, and has built 17 cultural centers in the Western Hemisphere.

Some analysts, like Larry Birns, director of The Council on Hemispheric51770818 Affairs, are skeptical about claims of Iranian terror infiltration in South America because of a lack of evidence. According to Birns, the 1994 attacks in Argentina are the "closest we've come" to hard evidence of Iranian meddling. Still, he said, there are real reasons for Iran to be interested in South America.

"When you are isolated and marginalized like Iran, you are basically looking for alliances," Birns said. "They go around looking for distressed nations ... and engage in negotiations, joint projects that very often are never completed."

Nisman has tried for years in vain to get Rabbani and the other suspects extradited to face trial in Argentina. Iran denies any involvement in Argentina's worst terrorist attack, but has agreed to set up a "truth commission" to facilitate Nisman's taking the suspects' testimony in Tehran. Nisman said it's not his role to comment on that accord, which has been harshly criticized by Argentine Jewish leaders.

Nisman said the attack that destroyed the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association building was no isolated incident, but "part of a much larger plot, in which the role of Rabbani was not limited to Argentina but extended as far as Guyana, as well as being responsible for coordinating these activities across all of South America."

The indictment now goes to the judge overseeing the case, Rodolfo Canicoba Corral. Nisman said he also sent copies to the countries he named, in keeping with Argentina's international agreements, so that they too can take action.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles welcomed Nisman's indictment and said its evidence shows Argentina should end its agreement with Iran for the joint commission.

"There is no question that the AMIA bombing was an action planned and carried out by Iranians and their agents. Prosecutor Nisman's expose of the Tehran regime's continent-wide tentacles must render the Iran-Argentine cooperation agreement on investigating the AMIA bombing null and void," said a statement issued by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Dr. Shimon Samuels and Sergio Widder, senior officials at center.

Nisman said that he has compiled a huge file of evidence including reports from the region, Europe and the United States, and that Iran's involvement goes way beyond the 1994 bombing. He described a decades-long effort by Iran to lay the groundwork for future terrorist attacks, either using Iranian agents "or through their terrorist ally Hezbollah."

The indictment names eight Iranis and a Lebanese national, and Nisman urged Interpol to help arrest all of them. In addition to Rabbani, they include Iran's current defense minister, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi; former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; former Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian; former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, former Revolutionary Guard chief Mohsen Rezaei; former ambassador to Argentina Hadi Soleimanpour; and the Iranian Embassy's former third-ranking diplomat, Ahmad Reza Asghari.

Nisman said the indictment provides new elements that strengthen the case against Iran's top officials, and proves that Rabbani oversaw Abdul Kadir, who is now serving life in prison for a frustrated attack on New York's John F. Kennedy airport in 2007.

The accord between Iran and Argentina on the "truth commission" has yet to go into effect. The deal has been fiercely defended by the government of President Cristina Fernandez as the best means of resolving a case that has moved forward only in fits and starts in Argentina's judiciary, and been frustrated all along the way by Iran's refusal to cooperate. (Hat Tip to Fox News Latino)

Larry King Joins Russian TV Network to Host 'Mold-Breaking' Political Program:

After 56 years in broadcasting and more than 50,000 interviews across the U.S., anyone else would be considered a prime candidate for retirement, but that doesn't apply to Larry King, who will launch a “mold-breaking political talk show” in June for the Russia Today online TV network.

Perhaps failed CNN-FOX-MSNBC-Current anchor Keith Olbermann should pay attention. If no one in America will hire you, take your act international.

While the announcement on the RT website states that King will interview “both leading establishment figures and those who are not afraid to go against the grain,” some critics doubt that the interviewer will really have the freedom -- or the impact -- he used to have now that he's on a Web outlet that has been called Putin's propaganda network.”

“I have always been passionate about government and issues that impacttopcrop_0 the public,” the interviewer said, “and I’m thrilled at the opportunity to talk politics with some of the most influential people in Washington and around the country.”

The announcement noted that “Politics With Larry King” will break new ground since he “will not shy away from causing controversy, or using his authority to give a chance to hear voices other media ignore.”

“I have interviewed every U.S. president since Nixon, and lest people forget, I helped usher Ross Perot into the national conversation during the 1992 presidential contest. I appreciate the importance of providing a platform to those with real alternative visions for our country’s future” King stated.

The network will air the new program — along with “Larry King Now,” which is broadcast four times a week and was launched on the Hulu and websites during July of 2012 — from RT's American studios in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

“Larry King has retained his trademark suspenders worn through his 25 years on CNN (he quit the news network in 2010), but has not been afraid to show a more opinionated and frank side, which he says is a must for the new media age,” the news release stated:

“Whether a president or an activist or a rock star was sitting across from him, Larry King never shied away from asking the tough questions, which makes him a terrific fit for our network,” noted Margarita Simonyar, RT’s editor-in-chief, who described her organization as the “anti-Fox News Channel.”

Jon Housman, chief executive officer of, added:

“We’re thrilled to bring Larry King’s insights and one-of-a-kind discussions, from celebrities to world leaders, to RT America’s television and online audiences.”

The news release also indicated that King's “return to television unleashed a torrent of reactions, both in Russia, where he widely known as an ultimate figurehead of U.S. broadcasting, and in his homeland.”

“With Larry King moving to Russia Today, is he legally obligated to change his name to Larry Czar?” asked @AlexJamesFitz.

Meanwhile, @tomgara stated that these are “dark days for Americans. China owns your bacon, Brazil owns your ketchup, Russia owns your Larry King.”

However, not everyone was excited about the news. Larry O'Connor of said that the network is “the western version of Pravda” — the newspaper that was the official voice for Soviet socialism -- and has become a television home for disaffected viewers around the globe and a refuge for activists in the “Occupy” generation.

Referring to Russian president Vladimir Putin, O'Connor called RT “Putin's propaganda network,” and he stated that Putin blocked a finance ministry proposal to cut last year's funding to the channel, which was launched by the Russian government in 2005 to improve the country's image overseas.

O'Connor concluded by stating:

“King must still feel burned by CNN for escorting him out the door and replacing him with perennial ratings loser Piers Morgan, but does he really want the coda to his career to be a show on a network that is really nothing more than a propaganda organ for Vladimir Putin's government?”

Good question. And here's another: Has Larry King lost his ability to draw the big U.S. audiences he used to attract during his 25 years at CNN? I suspect we already know the answer to that question. (Hat Tip to News Busters)

CNN: Furloughed Federal Employees Will Get Unemployment Benefits, Undercutting Sequestration:

The pity party for furloughed federal employees should be toned down. A story at notes something I don't expect will be only rarely be reported anywhere else, namely that there has been a concerted and likely largely successful effort on the part of federal employee unions to ensure that as many of their members as possible will be eligible to collect unemployment benefits during their time off. I would expect that those who don't have union representation are also attempting to imitate what the unions are doing whenever and wherever possible.

It's pretty safe to say that extra spending on unemployment benefits wasn't treated as a partial offset to estimated savings resulting from sequestration. CNN Money's coverage of one instance of this kind of maneuvering makes it clear that the total dollar amounts aren't small in a federal workforce of 4.4 million.

Paraphrasing the late Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen ("A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money"): $1,100 here, $1,100 there, and pretty soon you're losing a lot of the sequestration savings you thought you were going to achieve."

I don't expect that there will be any state or federal effort to push back against this gambit. I suppose it's futile to argue that the unemployment benefits system should never have been revised to include people who are put out of work for just a few days and haven't even lost their jobs. Unfortunately, many if not most states already allow that to happen, so furloughed federal employees' benefit applications will more than likely sail through without a challenge.

As an aside, they may also skew the weekly initial jobless claims statistics upward.

An additional aside: If you're making $104K per year and you're really worried about eating if the gravy train stops for even a few days, Uncle Sam isn't the only one with a basic budgeting problem. (Hat Tip to News Busters)

Does New Image Finally Show Amelia Earhart’s Plane:

Researchers and aviation enthusiasts have long been fascinated by the mystery of what happened to Amelia Earhart’s plane and where exactly it went down as she was attempting to be the first woman to fly around the world in 1937.


Now, a new SONAR image might reveal the plane’s final resting place 76 years after the event from which the pilot was never seen again.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has been working on piecing together details of what might have happened on July 2, 1937, when contact was lost with the Lockheed Electra Earhart was flying. It says the sonar image is off the coast of an uninhabited island in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati.

“It’s exciting. It’s frustrating. It’s maddening. There is a sonar image in the data collected during last summer’s Niku VII expedition that could be theamelia-earhart-620x470 wreckage of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra. It looks unlike anything else in the sonar data, it’s the right size, it’s the right shape, and it’s in the right place,” TIGARH wrote on its website of the image.

The “anomaly” in the sonar image is in a catchment area on a cliff of reef off Nikumaroro island. It appears at a depth close to 200 meters.

But does the image actually show Earhart’s aircraft?

“Opinions range from ‘almost certainly a man-made object to ‘probably geology’ but everyone who has reviewed the data agrees that the target is worthy of further investigation,” TIGHAR wrote. (Hat Tip to The Blaze)

Embarrassing Photos Surface Of Union Boss Allegedly Asleep On The Job:

A New York City union president—who rose to power campaigning to end union corruption more than a decade ago—spends much of the limited time he’s in the office asleep at his desk, according to the New York Post.

The Post published a “series of damning photos” of Mark Rosenthal apparently napping in his office chair on different days. Rosenthal told the Post he’s a victim of a “smear campaign” that’s part of a larger plan to get him replaced.

The president of Local 983 of District Council 37—the city’s largest blue-collar municipal-workers union—”often downs a huge meal, then drops into dreamland in the early afternoon,” the Post writes based on information from members of the union’s executive board.

Rosenthal, who earns $156,000 annually, “eats lunch when he arrives at workrosenthal at 2 p.m. Then, like clockwork, he goes to sleep with a cup of soda on the table and the straw in it,” according to Marvin Robbins, a union vice president, quoted in the Post piece.

“Then he wakes up, looks at his watch and says, ‘I have to get out before the traffic gets bad.’ He’s usually out by 4 p.m. after being at the office two hours.”

As for Rosenthal, he defended himself, citing “12-to-14-hour days” and the effects of pain medication he has to take after falling through a McDonald’s chair last year.

“The chair broke because I’m big,” Rosenthal said.

“I’m 60 years old, so if I eat during my lunch hour and take a little medication, can’t I close my eyes?” told the Post. “Is it so outrageous?”

The union that Rosenthal heads represents 3,000 workers, the Post reports, “mostly Parks Department peace officers and maintenance workers and NYPD tow-truck operators and other traffic agents that are among the lowest-paid city workers.”

“But they still fork over $1,080 in annual union dues that help fund Rosenthal’s salary and perks.” Hat Tip to The Blaze)

UFO Enthusiasts Spot An ‘Odd Creature’ On Mars:

Looking at an image snapped by NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars, UFO enthusiasts believe the might have spotted a rodent or a lizard — or something else with legs and a tail — among the rocks.

Posted on UFO Sightings Daily by Scott Waring, a “UFOlogist” who runs the website, the description says the “odd creature” was discovered in March by someone in Japan.

Waring went on to note that “this animal was not the first to be discovered in NASA photos but is in a long line of strange creatures.”

“Remember the last one we reported that was very similar to a squirrel?”mars-rodent_1 Well this one also seems to resemble a rodent but also may be a lizard. With water existing on Mars in small amounts, its possible to find such desert animals wandering around…although very rare mind you.”

Or, Waring wonders if NASA might be “placing animals from tiny cyogenic chambers inside the rover onto the surface of Mars to conduct tests?” Click on the photo for a larger image and see if it’s a rat. (Hat Tip to The Blaze — Click to see more photos.)

A Threat To The Entire World:

A French patient infected with a deadly new respiratory virus related to SARS died Tuesday of the disease, which has killed half the people known to be infected and alarmed global health officials.

The novel coronavirus is related to SARS, which killed some 800 people in a global epidemic in 2003.

Dr. Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization, told CNN on Wednesday that the virus is “a threat to the entire world.”

Chan also singled out the illness in a speech on Monday in Geneva.

“We understand too little about this virus when viewed against the130509063009-aggressive-virus-case-in-france-story-top-620x348 magnitude of its potential threat,” Chan said at the annual WHO meeting. “We do not know where the virus hides in nature. We do not know how people are getting infected. Until we answer these questions, we are empty-handed when it comes to prevention. These are alarm bells. And we must respond.”

WHO said in an update earlier this month that 20 of the 40 confirmed cases of the disease have ended in death. Most of those infected since the virus was identified last year had traveled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Pakistan. There also have been cases in Britain and Germany.

The ministry said the Frenchman, whose illness was identified May 8 after he returned from a visit to the United Arab Emirates, died Tuesday. His hospital roommate also tested positive for the illness.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Health Ministry reported five new cases of the virus. All the patients were in their 70s or older. (Hat Tip to AP)

Majority of Americans Want Special Prosecutor To Handle IRS Scandal (Plus: Holder’s Embarrassingly-Low Approval Rating):

The public isn’t ignoring the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) most recent scandal — and it seems most Americans have strong views on the matter. In fact, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, a majority of those surveyed believe that a special prosecutor should be appointed to examine the government’s targeting of conservative groups.

Interestingly, the penchant for such an investigation crosses partisan lines. Overall, 76 percent of American voters favor the idea of a special prosecutor; this translates to 88 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of independents and — most stunningly — 63 percent of Democrats.

“There is overwhelming bipartisan support for a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS,” Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a news release. “Voters apparently don’t like the idea of Attorney General Eric Holder investigating the matter himself, perhaps because they don’t exactly think highly of him.”

And his latter statement isn’t rooted in opinion or conjecture. Quinnipiac found his approval rating to be at 23 percent, with 39 percent of American voters disapproving of the attorney general’s job performance.

When it comes to the numerous scandals facing the Obama administration, it169639611 seems, at least based on this particular poll, that voters are most perturbed by the IRS scandal. While 43 percent (versus 32 percent) believe that furor over the Benghazi terror attack is “just politics,” 44 percent (versus 33 percent) see “legitimate concerns” with the Obama administration’s handling of conservative groups through the IRS.

The scandal over journalists’ phone records is also viewed as problematic by Americans, with 37 percent saying that this particular scandal raises “legitimate concerns” (24 percent disagree). Of the three, the IRS scandal is seen as the most important, however, on the whole, the vast majority of the nation believes that the economy should take precedence over investigations into these issues.

Nearly seven-in-10 Americans currently disapprove of the job that the IRS is doing. You can read more about voters’ views on the Obama administration’s scandals. Hat Tip to the Washington Post)

I could add many more examples of reports not covered in the main stream media but this post is already too long. Thanks for reading. (Click on any photo to view a larger image)