• Gratuitous insults: The staying power of bad ideas

    The state of Tennessee will consider a bill which will make supporting Sharia law a felony; Oklahoma already has a similar measure of the books, but it is currently under judicial review; burning the Koran and declaring Sharia law to be a felony are not going to help in our war against terrorism; they will have the opposite effect; they are provocative measures which will inflame Muslims around the world; without the active support of Muslims around the world, the war against the terrorists cannot be won; one way to make sure we do not receive such support is by burning the Koran or by declaring support for Sharia law to be a felony; legislating that support for Sharia law is a felony is unnecessary; we outlaw polygamy without declaring support for Mormonism to be a felony; Hassidic Jewish men believe that they can divorced their wives simply by repeating “I divorce you” three times; we do not allow that – without declaring support for Orthodox Judaism to be a felony

  • In Tennessee, supporting Shariah law may soon be a felony

    A Tennessee lawmaker is sponsoring a bill which would make it a felony in the state to knowingly support Shariah law; the bill, if passed, would allow the state’s attorney general to designate an entity as a Shariah organization if the organization knowingly adheres to Shariah; if the organization “engages in, or retains the capability and intent to engage in” an act of terrorism; or if the act of terrorism of the organization “threatens the security of public safety” of Tennessee residents; violations of the proposed law would be a Class B felony, punishable by fine and a prison term of up to fifteen years; a similar measure passed in November by Oklahoma voters that banned the use of Shariah law in state courtrooms was later blocked by a federal judge pending the resolution of a lawsuit calling it unconstitutional

  • King blasts GOP for transportation security cuts

    Representative Peter King (R - New York), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, blasted the GOP’s plan to reduce the budget by $61 billion, citing cuts to critical anti-terror programs; the House plans to reduce spending on port security and transit facilities by $400 million, bringing total spending down to $200 million; local transit authorities say that losing federal funding would be detrimental as states and cities are struggling with their own budgets; the grants are designated for things like cameras, tunnel fortification, training, patrols, and canine teams at transport hubs and ports; proponents of the cuts believe that these programs are redundant, unnecessary, and lack sufficient oversight

  • Maryland wants Florida's high speed rail funds

    As Republican governors in Florida, Wisconsin, and Ohio reject federal funding for high speed rail projects, states like Maryland are clamoring to receive those funds; Maryland Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood requesting that $2.4 billion dollars in high speed rail funding originally designated for Florida be redirected to projects in the Northeast Corridor; each year 250 million rail passengers use the corridor and passenger use is projected to increase by 60 percent by 2030; the White House plans to spend $53 billion on high speed rail projects over the next six years and $8 billion in the coming fiscal year alone

  • Alabama fire departments receive more than $1.5 million in DHS grants

    The Lanier Volunteer Fire Department in Talladega County, Alabama just announced that it received a little over $100,000 from DHS through its assistance to firefighters grant program; the department’s chief Jerry Alfred said he plans to use the funds to purchase a rescue truck; several other local fire departments also received grants from DHS including the Sycamore Volunteer Fire Department which received $231,750 and the Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department which got $185,250; DHS plans to award $1,564,732 to eighteen fire departments throughout Alabama

  • U.S. learning from Canada to combat domestic radicalization

    The United States is partnering with Canada to learn how to better address the increasing threat from the domestic radicalization of Muslim Americans; the United States is looking to learn how Canadian law enforcement agencies have developed relationships with Muslim communities; for the past several years the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has been actively focusing on reaching out to Muslim communities and other groups that are the target of terrorist investigations; Canadian law enforcement and intelligence agencies placed domestic radicalization at the top of its priorities several years ago; domestic radicalization only recently became a national priority in the United States after a slew of failed attacks were perpetrated by American Muslims

  • ATF pushes for power to track bulk assault rifle sales

    As more guns used in the bloody Mexican drug wars are traced back to the United States, efforts to crack down on illegal gun smuggling rings in border states have struggled to gain more traction; last month, the House denied the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) an emergency request to track bulk sales of semiautomatic guns in border states; a 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that an estimated 85 percent of guns seized by Mexican authorities originated from the United States; a recent investigation found that traffickers were purchasing as many as forty AK-47 rifles at a time from gun shops in the Phoenix area

  • Gaddafi launches first major counter-attack on rebels

    Gaddafi’s forces are escalating a counteroffensive, pushing the country closer to an all-out civil war; opponents of Gaddafi today (Wednesday) repelled an attack by the Libyan leader’s forces trying to retake Brega, a key coastal oil installation, in a topsy-turvy battle in which shells splashed in the Mediterranean and a warplane bombed a beach where rebel fighters were charging over the dunes. At least five people were killed in the fighting; the assault on the Brega oil port was the first major regime counteroffensive against the opposition-held eastern half of Libya, where the population backed by mutinous army units rose up and drove out Gaddafi’s rule over the past two weeks; a coalition of anti-government movements is considering whether to ask the UN to execute airstrikes against pro-Gaddafi forces; NATO has drawn up plans for imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, but the organization said it would implement the plan only with a UN Security Council blessing, which is unlikely because of Russia’s objections

  • UN Human Rights Council to praise Libya's human rights record

    While the UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on Libya, the UN Human Rights Council is set to adopt a report full of praise for Libya’s human rights record; the report also contains comments on Libya by Council members: Sudan praises Libya for improving education conditions; North Korea noted Libya’s progress on economic and social rights; Saudi Arabia praised Libya for improvements in constitutional, legislative, and institutional frameworks, which “showed the importance that the country attached to human rights”; praise is also heaped on Libya by Cuba, Venezuela, Oman — and two nations whose leaders were recently ousted in the midst of Middle East unrest — Egypt and Tunisia

  • History: Libya and the Un Human Rights Council

    In May 2010, in a secret ballot, Libya received a shocking 155 votes (out of 192 countries who are UN members) and was elected to the UN Human Rights Council; UN members were aware of Libya’s human rights practices, such as extrajudicial and summary executions, systematic use of torture, and the imposition of the death penalty for political and economic offences; UN members were also aware that Libyan agents in 1988 blew up a passenger airplane over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, exploded a French airliner over the Sahara desert, killing 170; Gaddafi also financed and helped train dozens of terrorist organizations, supported Charles Taylor in the Liberian civil war that was responsible for more than 200,000 deaths, supported the insurgency by Fodeh Sanko in Sierra Leon — Sanko’s followers chopped off the arms and legs of more than 82,000 men, women and children in villages loyal to the government, but left them alive so the government would go bankrupt trying to take care of them — and backed Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who brought hunger and devastation to that once relatively prosperous country; but then again, this is the UN

  • Battle lines in Libya harden

    The divisions in Libya harden; the Gaddafi government reinforces its hold on the Tripoli region by transferring to the area thousands of soldiers from southern tribes loyal to Gaddafi, augmented by hundreds of mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa; in the break-away eastern part of the country, former justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who defected from the Gaddafi regime, announced Saturday he was setting up a provisional government; the UN Security Council imposed a series of sanctions on the Gaddafi regime and its loyalists; the UN General Assembly will debate tomorrow (Tuesday) whether to kick Libya off the UN Human Rights Council (the 47-member Council debated the Libyan situation Friday, but member states could not bring itself to criticize Gaddafi); British and German military planes landed in Libya’s desert over the weekend to rescue hundreds of oil workers and civilians stranded at remote sites; the secret military rescue missions signal the readiness of Western nations to disregard Libya’s territorial integrity when it comes to the safety of their citizens

  • Acoustic gunfire detection devices heading to the field

    Technological developments may one day create artificial soldiers, but until they come along, the United States and other countries will continue to rely on human soldiers; the militaries thus want to preserve as many of their soldier’s lives as possible; to that end, Shoulder-Worn Acoustic Targeting System (SWATS), which helps Marines zero in on enemy sniper fire, is a godsend to the United States; asymmetric warfare favors the forces that can strike and runaway unharmed, but with plentiful acoustic sensors in the field it will be that much harder for snipers to ambush U.S. soldiers and live to escape

  • In a setback, Iran unloads nuclear fuel from Busheher reactor

    Iran announced Saturday it was unloading nuclear fuel from the Bushehr reactor, signaling more problems for the Russian-built plant after decades of delay; a source close to the project said the fuel was being unloaded on the suspicion that metal particles from nearly 30-year old equipment used in the construction of reactor core had contaminated the fuel; a senior Iranian official said earlier this month that suggestions should be investigated that the Stuxnet computer worm, believed to have been an attempt by Iran’s enemies to sabotage the nuclear program, had caused harm to the 1,000 megawatt Bushehr reactor

  • Android apps send private data in the clear

    Cell phones running the Android operating system fail to encrypt data sent to and from Facebook and Google Calendar, shortcomings that could jeopardize hundreds of millions of users’ privacy; Facebook’s recently unveiled always-on SSL encryption setting to prevent snooping over insecure networks — but the encryption is no good, meaning that all private messages, photo uploads, and other transactions are visible to eavesdroppers

  • On kabuki, farces, subpoenas, and theocracy

    The United States is trying to persuade the UN Human Rights Council to kick Libya out (yes, Libya is a member of the council) and to order an investigation of the atrocities committed by the Gaddafi regime against anti-government protesters; trouble is, members of the council include such towering paragons of human rights as Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Burundi — and the council is controlled by a bloc of Islamic and African states, backed by China and Russia; to hope this UN body will be moved by the plight of the Libyan people is to expect too much; closer to home, Darrell Issa (R-California) promised that when he assumed the chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he would launch a subpoena campaign against the Obama administration; the campaign has now been launched; in Kentucky, the state’s homeland security department requires the department’s executive director to publicize a “dependence on Almighty God” in agency training and educational materials; atheists argue in court that this would turn Kentucky into a theocracy