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Could you drop out of your life?

Could you drop out of your life?

By Jennifer Haupt

Many of us dream of dropping out of our lives to find something we can’t completely name. But what would taking time off from work and family really look like? And what might you find?

 
Happy Workers, Richer Companies?

Happy Workers, Richer Companies?

Businesses with perks like free lunch clearly outperform competitors in the stock market.

By Derek Thompson

You can hear it in the game rooms of Google's Chelsea office, smell it from the ice cream shops on Facebook's Menlo Park campus, and see it with yoga mats aligned on the rooftop of OpenDNS: We are living in an Age of Peak Perk. (Some of us, anyway).

While it's reasonable to consider benefits like free rental cars and dry-cleaning somewhat extreme, there might be a method to perk-madness.

In a 2012 paper, Wharton's Alex Edmans showed that, controlling for factors like industry, firms listed in “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” have outperformed their peers in annual stock market growth by up to 3.8% since 1984. To make sure causality wasn't running the wrong way —i.e.: great stock performance making workers happy—Edmans restricted his study to future returns (e.g.: "by relating satisfaction in December 2001 to stock returns in 2002").

This finding carries an interesting suggestion. Maybe these companies aren't being too generous. Instead, perhaps less indulgent firms are punishing their shareholders by withholding their workers' Essential American Right to free quinoa salad.

 
President Obama’s competence problem is worse than it looks

President Obama’s competence problem is worse than it looks

You can understand President Obama's current political problems -- and how those problems could make things very tough for his party in this fall's midterm election -- in a single word. And that word is "competence".

Obama was elected in 2008 on a stated promise that he would restore competence to government. He pitched himself as the antidote to "Heck of a job, Brownie" and the Bush years, the person who would always put the most qualified candidate in every job in his Administration. That the basic functioning of government would never be in question.

Almost six years on from that election, however, Obama is faltering badly on the competence question and, in so doing, badly imperiling not only his ability to enact any sort of second term agenda but also Democrats' chances this fall. A series of events -- from the VA scandal to the ongoing border crisis to the situation in Ukraine to the NSA spying program -- have badly undermined the idea that Obama can effectively manage the government.

The latest evidence is a question in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Sunday that asks whether the phrase "can manage the government effectively" applies to Obama. Just more than four in ten (42 percent) said that it does while 57 percent said it does not. (It was the lowest that Obama scored on any of the six characteristic questions CNN asked in the survey.)

Obama's trajectory on the question is all to the bad for Democrats. Back in December 2009, more than three quarters of respondents in a CNN/ORC poll said that Obama was an effective manager of the government. By early November 2009 that number had dropped to 58 percent. It dipped below 50 percent for the first time in June 2010 and in the three polls in which CNN has asked the question since mid-November 2013, 40 percent, 43 percent and now 42 percent, respectively, have said that he is a good manager.

 
Serial Killer Myth #2: They’re Dysfunctional Loners

Serial Killer Myth #2: They’re Dysfunctional Loners

By Scott A. Bonn, Ph.D.

Dr. Scott Bonn, serial killers, myths about serial killers

Serial killers are rarely reclusive, social misfits who live alone, despite pervasive depictions of them as such in the news and entertainment media. Disturbingly, serial killers are often married, gainfully employed and live normal looking lives in our very midst.

 
Europe and U.S. to Sharply Escalate Russia Sanctions

Europe and U.S. to Sharply Escalate Russia Sanctions

A package targeting Russia’s financial, energy and defense sector was driven by the conclusion that Moscow has taken a more direct role in Ukraine.

After months in which European leaders were hesitant to go as far as the Americans, the two sides settled on a package of measures that would target Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors. In some cases, the Europeans may actually leapfrog beyond what the United States has done, forcing Washington to try to catch up.

The agreement came during an unusual five-way video conference between President Obama and his counterparts from Britain, France, Germany and Italy in advance of a European Union meeting scheduled for Tuesday to consider new sanctions against Russia. American and European officials said the leaders agreed that Russia has not only not backed down since the shooting of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet but has also accelerated its involvement in Ukraine’s burgeoning civil war.

“They agreed on the importance of coordinated sanctions measures on Russia for its continued transfer of arms, equipment and fighters in eastern Ukraine, including since the crash, and to press Russia to end its efforts to destabilize the country and instead choose a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis,” Antony J. Blinken, Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters.

President François Hollande of France released a statement from his office saying that the leaders confirmed their intention to adopt new sanctions, and the office of Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said it should be “a strong package of sectoral sanctions” adopted “as swiftly as possible.”

The steps risk direct harm to European interest, by curbing business with Russia and courting countersanctions from Moscow. But in contrast to previous debate this year over how aggressively to confront President Vladimir V. Putin over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, political and business leaders in Germany — the crucial player in determining Europe’s response — now appear united behind the need to take more stringent action.

Several prominent German business leaders indicated in recent days that they supported tougher sanctions or were at least resigned to them, giving Chancellor Angela Merkel more political leeway at home to back what is expected to be the most far-reaching response yet by Europe to Russia’s behavior in Ukraine.

“In light of the most recent escalation, new sanctions are unavoidable,” Hannes Hesse, executive director of the German Engineering Federation, which represents makers of machinery and heavy equipment, said in a statement.

 
America has grown faster under Democratic presidents than Republicans?

Presidents Still Don't Control the Economy

America has grown faster under Democratic presidents than Republicans. What does that say?

By Derek Thompson

For years, Americans have listed the economy as their "most important problem," and it seems like countless elections have swung on candidates' sugar-coated promises to accelerate growth, create jobs, and generally make us all as rich as we've dreamed. But just how much power does the president really have over the economy, in the first place?

In a new update to a fantastically interesting paper, Princeton professors Alan Blinder and Mark Watson offer an answer that says, essentially, they have much less power than you think.

The juiciest discovery from the paper is that in the last 70 years, the US economy has been better, across many metrics, when a Democrat has been the president.

Why is the US economy so unapologetically partisan? Do the laws of supply and demand have a liberal bias? Are Democrats better at governing for growth? Do these graphs prove something fundamental about the superiority of Keynesianism?

Maybe none of the above. Blinder and Watson propose that the answer has less to do with policies—taxing, spending, redistributing—and more to do with dumb luck. "The Democratic edge stems mainly from more benign oil shocks, superior [productivity growth], a more favorable international environment, and perhaps more optimistic consumer expectations about the near-term future," they wrote.

As Jordan Weissmann and Brad Plumer both observed in analyses of previous drafts of this paper, some factors that Blinder and Watson file under "luck" might not be entirely outside of the president's control. Oil shocks, for example, are kryptonite for growth. But both Iraq wars, started by Republicans, coincided with oil spikes. It seems fair to point out that oil prices are a barometer of global supply and demand, not just the state of war in Iraq. But it's a telling example of how broader economic forces aren't entirely separate from U.S. policy.

 
Israel Creates 'No Man's Land' in Gaza, Shrinking Strip by 40%

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Israel Creates 'No Man's Land' in Gaza, Shrinking Strip by 40%

Jesse Rosenfeld

To protect itself from Hamas rockets and tunnels, Israel is forcing tens of thousands of people out of their homes, turning their old neighborhoods into a no-man’s land.

 This narrow strip of land that used to be called “the Gaza Strip,” already one of the more densely populated places on earth, is growing dramatically smaller. The Israeli military, relentlessly and methodically, is driving people out of the three-kilometer (1.8 mile) buffer zone it says it needs to protect against Hamas rockets and tunnels. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the buffer zone eats up about 44 percent of Gaza’s territory.

What that means on the ground is scenes of extraordinary devastation in places like the Al Shajaya district approaching Gaza’s eastern frontier, and Beit Hanoun in the north. These were crowded neighborhoods less than three weeks ago. Now they have been literally depopulated, the residents joining more than 160,000 internally displaced people in refuges and makeshift shelters. Apartment blocks are fields of rubble, and as I move through this hostile landscape the phrase that keeps ringing in my head is “scorched earth.”

It’s not like Israel didn’t plan this. It told tens of thousands of Palestinians to flee so its air force, artillery and tanks could create this uninhabitable no-man’s land of half standing, burned-out buildings, broken concrete and twisted metal. During a brief humanitarian ceasefire some Gazans were able to come back to get their first glimpse of the destruction this war has brought to their communities, and to sift through their demolished homes to gather clothes or other scattered bits of their past lives. But many were not even able to do that.

 
The Allure and Destruction of Fatal Attraction

The Allure and Destruction of Fatal Attraction

Many personality traits can be attractive at first, but then become precisely the thing that will drive us up the wall in the long run. WSJ 'Bonds' columnist Elizabeth Bernstein explains why on Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero.

 
The real reason French women have stopped sunbathing topless

Woman sunbathing topless

The real reason French women have stopped sunbathing topless

According to French Elle, women have stopped sunbathing topless in France. Two French women reveal why they do, and don't, and how little it has to do with health scares

Is topless sunbathing over? It certainly is in France, according to French Elle, if the coverline on its new summer issue is to be believed: "La Fin Du Topless Sur La Plage?" – which translates, verbatim, to "Is this the end of toplessness on the beach?"

According to the magazine the answer is "yes", and the reasons are threefold. First, an increased concern over health and the dangers of skin cancer; second, the "pornified" perception of topless women (indeed Elle suggests the death of the monokini – ie swimming briefs – was linked to the idea that topless women are seen as "loose"); and third, the rise of breast-affiliated activism – chiefly Femen, who use their naked breasts as a means of attracting attention to various causes, and Free the Nipple, a recent campaign that encourages women to go topless to end the stigma surrounding female bodies. "Topless sunbathing was seen by women as a new freedom in St Tropez in the 1960s," says Elle. And now that they're covering up? It's a "worrying sign of a regression in the place of women".

Ever since Brigitte Bardot took off her top on the French Riviera in the 1960s, the correlation between topless sunbathing and women's liberation has been entrenched in French culture as a sign of true equality. Many others followed suit and the breast and beach were reclaimed. News that so few women are now going topless (just 2% of women under 35 said they did) seems extraordinary – and depressing.

But, according to two French women, it's more than a fear of skin cancer and political activism that has kept them covered up.

Alice Pfeiffer, an Anglo-French journalist in her 30s (who, incidentally does sunbathe topless in Biarritz, Guéthary, Monaco and surfing resort Hossegor), thinks the decline is inextricably linked to social media: "Young women in their 20s do it less because they are aware that ... you can end up topless on your own Facebook wall."

 
Rock Bottom Is a Good Starting Point

Rock Bottom Is a Good Starting Point

By Rod Judkins, MA, RCA

We are often at our best after our biggest failures. There is a need to move on, do things differently, better.

 
Barack Obama ‘checks out’ of his job years early

US President Barack Obama walks to 18th green as he plays golf at Mid-Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Hawaii, during his winter holiday in January

Barack Obama ‘checks out’ of his job years early

By Daniel Bates

The US President is said to have played 81 rounds of golf since re-election – as many as he played in his entire first term – and has holed himself up in Washington where he attends fundraisers and dinners with celebrities rather than tackling the day-to-day business of congressional politics.

He is already all but a lame duck due to deadlock on Capitol Hill and has been forced to use executive powers to enact reforms. But come the mid-term elections in November, he could lose power entirely if the Republicans take the Senate.

In the meantime, commentators claim he believes that his time in office is effectively over – and has begun enjoying himself.

 
Rand Paul’s Daddy Issues

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Rand Paul’s Daddy Issues

The man that led the Kentucky senator to Washington could prevent him from entering the White House.

Just a few months into his campaign for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate in 2009, Kentucky’s Rand Paul was interviewed by Alex Jones, a noted conspiracy theorist who spreads his message on his syndicated radio show and on his website, Infowars.com. Jones is a moon landing denier who believes the government acted as a guiding hand for the September 11 attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing, buys into the New World Order—the theory that a group of so-called elites are conspiring to form a singular, totalitarian global government—has accused American pop stars of being purveyors of Illuminati mind control—and that’s not even the half of it. Paul, his eyes wide, offered, “I think it’s a little scary in our country that we’re doing what's called ‘political profiling.’ People are worried about profiling people for the color of their skin. Now we’re profiling people for the color of their thought.” For any candidate laboring to gain admittance to America’s most exclusive club, the interview would have seemed an unlikely pit stop—but Rand Paul was not just any candidate.

Jones has recalled encountering Paul for the first time nearly two decades ago, when he heard him on Republic Radio, with personality Mark “Mark from Michigan” Koernke, another conspiracy theorist and part of the militia movement in the 1990s. Paul was on the air, Jones remembered, speaking on behalf of Ron Paul, his father, who was running a tough campaign for reelection to Congress in Texas. “It’s just weird how time flies. [Rand will] probably end up being president if we’re able to turn this country around. He’s got a real shot at it, except for the electronic voting machine fraud. I can read the tea leaves as anyone can,” Jones told his listeners.

Jones was right—about the tea leaves. Paul has secured his status as the early frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He is being baited daily to say, definitively, that he is running. The younger Paul is the successor to the Ron Paul throne. He inherited his fans, his donors, his staff, and his friends in the media. But to continue on the path to the nomination that he is on, he will have to prove that he is mainstream enough to win—which will mean, in part, emancipating himself from the very person who gave him literal and—not so long ago—political life, and from the fringe allies, like Jones, he was handed.

All the while, his father continues to make headlines with his every eyebrow-raising utterance.

 
Singer sex abuse claim dismissed

Singer sex abuse claim dismissed

Bryan Singer, director

LA court finds no legal basis for lawsuit against X-Men director, leading to speculation a separate claim may also be dropped

Bryan Singer, director of The Usual Suspects and part of the X-Men franchise, is no longer named in a sexual abuse case filed against Hollywood executives by an anonymous British actor.

The film-maker had been the subject of a lawsuit alleging he assaulted the young man at an after-party for 2006's Superman Returns, when the alleged victim was 17. But a Los Angeles court has accepted Singer's motion to dismiss, which was made several weeks ago, on the grounds that there was no legal basis for the suit, and that it was improperly brought.

The director vehemently denied any wrongdoing when the court case was filed in May by US lawyer Jeff Herman. "We are pleased the case was dismissed," the film-maker's lawyer, Marty Singer, told The Hollywood Reporter.

The LA district court's dismissal casts doubt on a separate lawsuit filed against Singer in April by Herman, who claims the director and others were once engaged in a Hollywood "sex abuse ring".

In the separate suit, plaintiff Michael F Egan III, who has waived his right to anonymity, claims he was abused in Los Angeles and Hawaii as a 17-year-old during a period in which he was trying to make an acting career for himself in Hollywood. Herman, who handles sexual abuse cases across the US, has held several press conferences in Los Angeles to put forward his allegations.

 
The ISIS Caliphate’s Coming Blitz of Baghdad

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The ISIS Caliphate’s Coming Blitz of Baghdad

Analysts say the Islamic State is about to launch a major offensive—but one built around commando raids and suicide bombings rather than a frontal attack.

When the minions of the self-anointed caliph in the self-declared Islamic State that now straddles Iraq and Syria blow up a mosque supposed to contain the remains of the prophet Jonah, or offer punctilious details about the kind of purdah to be imposed on women, the world takes brief notice. But the group’s military campaigns have made less news in recent weeks because they seemed to have stalled.

Now, according to Western military analysts, it’s time to start worrying again. Those studying the attacks by the group formerly known as ISIS see critical changes in the bombings and skirmishing by the caliph’s troops and their allies in and around Baghdad. Some experts warn that a blitzkrieg—a lightning attack—is imminent, and it will be one the beleaguered and squabbling politicians in the Iraqi capital are ill equipped to combat. But it is more likely to be a guerrilla and terrorist offensive than an all-out push along conventional military lines.

Until recently, Islamic militant action around Baghdad appeared sporadic, uncoordinated, and lacking a clear strategic purpose. But analysts at the U.S.-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War, who have been plotting the locations and types of attacks in the recent flurry of blasts buffeting the Iraqi capital, have noted a clear pattern developing. They say it suggests the Islamic State is building up to something big and is no longer just focused on consolidating its grip and developing governance in the lands it now controls.

The institute’s analysts predict the caliphate may be readying for an onslaught, possibly timed for the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Monday or during the Eid holiday celebrations this week. The aim would not be to seize Iraq’s capital, which has a very large Shia population with every incentive to fight to the death against an organization that slaughters Shia prisoner en masse. The purpose of the Islamic State offensive would be to sow mayhem and to keep Iraq’s state apparatus from recovering from its stunning defeats in June, when it lost control of Mosul, the second-largest city in the country.

A sustained bombing campaign could well finish off the government of the embattled Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is still trying to cling to power, despite indications that even Iran, his main foreign backer, thinks it is time for him to step down.

 
Does "Handsome, Ruthless and Stupid" Sound Like Your Type?

Does "Handsome, Ruthless and Stupid" Sound Like Your Type?

By Gina Barreca, Ph.D.

Oscar Wilde wrote “I am afraid that women appreciate cruelty, downright cruelty, more than anything else... We have emancipated them, but they remain slaves looking for their masters...” Do women seek men who will colonize their emotions, enslave their passions, and rule over their lives--but instead of finding love, find what poet Sylvia Plath calls "a fascist"?

Dorothy Parker said, “I require only three things of a man. He must be handsome ruthless and stupid.”

 
Can Doctors Teach the Body to Cure Cancer?

Can Doctors Teach the Body to Cure Cancer?

Jacoba Urist 

Increasingly, patients' immune systems are becoming valuable weapons against the disease.

For generations the three pillars of cancer treatment have been surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. But both chemotherapy and radiation are crude weapons with significant collateral damage to healthy tissue, and surgery can leave cancerous cells behind.  Scientists have long tried to understand how to get the immune system—the body’s natural defense mechanism—to recognize cancer cells as the enemy and destroy them. And now we may finally be turning the corner: Doctors are finding that clinical regimens known as immunotherapies can empower a patient’s immune system to fight the disease like it might an infection, while sparing a person’s normal cells.  

“Before now, physicians in the field have always been extremely hesitant to use the ‘cure’ word for cancer,” said Dr. Axel Hoos, head of the immuno-oncology discovery performance unit at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. “But because of the incredible advances in immunotherapy, that’s no longer true. Individual physicians are actually using the word ‘cure’ for some patients with diseases that were almost universally fatal just five years ago.”

Last fall, scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle gathered at the bedside of a lymphoma patient as oncologist Dr. David Maloney reinfused a patient with the person’s own T-cells that had been genetically programmed. This form of immunotherapy harvests a person’s immune cells and recodes them to become better cancer drones.

 
Hillary Kicks Away From Obama and His Baggage

Former President George W. Bush is joined by Barbara Bush, his daughter; Laura Bush, his wife and the former first lady; and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton before his speech in Washington on Tuesday about a new initiative to combat cancers in women in developing countries. The program aims to expand the services of clinics created under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)

Hillary swats aside Obama, says George W. Bush made her ‘proud to be American’

By Cheryl K. Chumley

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised eyebrows on CNN by claiming that former President George W. Bush actually brought out her patriotism and made her proud of her American roots.

She also seemed to take a pot shot at President Obama’s foreign affairs policies during an interview on the “Fareed Zakaria GPS” show on CNN.

“We have to go back out and sell ourselves. It is not to be taken for granted. What do we stand for and how do we intend to lead and manage? How do we try to enlist the rest of the world in this struggle between cooperation and order and conflict and disorder which is really at the root of so much that’s going on today — and I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of that.”

 
Even Gaza Truce Is Hard to Win, Kerry Is Finding

Even Gaza Truce Is Hard to Win, Kerry Is Finding

After failing to win a deal to end fighting in Gaza last week, Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to salvage Plan B: a succession of temporary cease-fires that he hopes might yet open the door to Israeli and Palestinian negotiations for a long-term solution.

On Sunday, however, Mr. Kerry was having difficulty accomplishing even that, despite a phone call in which President Obama, in a sign of mounting impatience, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to embrace an “immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire” while the two sides pursued a more lasting agreement. 

Part of the reason the diplomatic effort has faced such an uphill struggle is far-reaching changes on both sides since the last Gaza cease-fire in 2012. Israel and Hamas seem to be dug in this time, with Israeli officials appearing dismissive of Mr. Kerry’s push for a weeklong cease-fire in a way that few American secretaries of state have faced.

Israel, after encountering a more formidable Hamas tunnel network than it had expected and being struck by longer-range missiles than ever, is determined not to stop until it has neutralized much of the threat.

The challenge of reconciling the seemingly irreconcilable is all the more difficult because there is no party that is in a position to mediate directly between Hamas and Israel. The United States does not deal directly with Hamas. And the countries with the closest ties, Qatar and Turkey, have fraught relations with Egypt, whose cease-fire plan has provided the broad framework for Mr. Kerry’s efforts.

Robert Danin, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Department official, said that while it was premature to write off Mr. Kerry’s struggle to achieve a cease-fire, the challenges were formidable. “There is nothing to suggest that either side is particularly desperate for a cease-fire,” he said. “Neither side believes a cease-fire will be the end of the conflict, and they are looking at a truce as a way to position themselves for the next round of fighting.”

 
Peter Beinart: Whiteness Still Equals Americanness

Whiteness Still Equals Americanness

Peter Beinart

A silly gaffe by a Florida representative reveals deep truths about race in society.

Anyone can make a fool of himself. So it’s tempting to dismiss last Thursday’s mega-gaffe by Florida Representative Curt Clawson as indicative of nothing more than the fallibility of the human brain. 

But think about the nature of Clawson’s goof. Sitting across a congressional hearing room from Nisha Biswal, an official at the State Department, and Arun Kumar, who works at the Department of Commerce, Clawson addressed the two Indian-Americans as if they were representatives of the government of India. Which is to say: He had trouble recognizing that two Americans who trace their ancestry to the developing world are really American.

In today’s Republican Party, and beyond, a lot of people are having the same trouble. How else to explain the fact that, according to a 2011 New York Times/CBS poll, 45 percent of Republicans think President Obama was born outside the United States? Is it because they’re well versed in the details of which kind of birth certificate he released and when? Of course not. It’s because they see someone with his color skin and his kind of name and think: Doesn’t seem American to me.

In fact, Obama’s opponents, including Democrats, have been raising questions about his Americanness since he began seeking the presidency. In a March 2007 memo, Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton’s chief campaign strategist, argued that she should attack Obama for “not [being] at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and his values.” Had Obama been white and named Joe Smith, Penn’s line of attack would have been inconceivable, since Obama’s thinking and values were typical of a liberal Democrat’s, and similar to Clinton’s own. Penn’s effort to question Obama’s Americanness was entirely a function of the fact that he traced his ancestry to the third world and had spent some of his childhood abroad.

Since Obama defeated Hillary Clinton, it has been the Republicans’ turn. Newt Gingrich has claimed Obama possesses a “Kenyan, anti-colonial worldview.” Dick Cheney has said, “I don’t think that Barack Obama believes in the U.S. as an exceptional nation.” Indeed, a major thrust of the GOP’s attack on Obama is that he doesn’t understand America, doesn’t believe in America and wants to turn it into something fundamentally different from what it has always been. Bill Clinton, by contrast, was attacked relentlessly for his supposed lack of personal integrity and failure to serve in Vietnam. But conservatives rarely questioned his connection to the United States.

It’s not just Obama. In various ways in recent years, conservatives have questioned the Americanness of American Muslims. Michele Bachmann suggested that Huma Abedin and other Muslim-Americans serving in the national-security bureaucracy might be more loyal to foreign Islamist movements than to the United States. Another former Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain, in 2011 said he would not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet because “Muslims in this country, some of them, try to force their Sharia law onto the rest of us.” A Public Religion Research Institute poll that same year found that 63 percent of Republicans believed Islam contradicts American values.

 
Illegals demand representation in White House meetings

Angel Diaz of Easton, PA holds a protest sign as traffic passes by. Members of the Industrial Workers of the World Lehigh Valley branch rally outside the KidsPeace Broadway campus, Sunday, July 27, 2014 in Fountain Hill, Pa. in support of the unaccompanied immigrant children who are temporarily housed there. (AP Photo/Chris Post)

Illegals demand representation in White House meetings

By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times

Illegal immigrants plan to picket the White House Monday afternoon, calling on fellow immigrant-rights advocacy groups to refuse to meet with the Obama administration until President Obama specifically includes illegal immigrants in any future meetings.

“We are among the millions of people who will either benefit or be harmed by the decisions the President makes, and we are here to represent ourselves in any future negotiations,” said Rosi Carrasco, one of organizers, in a statement announcing the action.

 
Inside the Huge Solar Farm That Powers the iCloud

Lisa Jackson on Apple's wide-ranging plan to green its act.

The skies are threatening to pour on the Apple solar farm but as the woman in charge of the company's environmental initiatives points out: the panels are still putting out some power. Apple is still greening its act.

The company, which once drew fire from campaigners for working conditions in China and heavy reliance on fossil fuels, is now leading other technology companies in controlling its own power supply and expanding its use of renewable energy.

After converting all of its data centers to clean energy, the Guardian understands Apple is poised to use solar power to manufacture sapphire screens for the iPhone 6, at a factory in Arizona.

And in a departure for its reputation for secretiveness, Apple is going out of its way to get credit for its green efforts.

Data centers require huge loads of electricity to maintain climatic conditions and run the servers carrying out billions of electronic transactions every day.

With Apple's solar farm, customers could now be confident that downloading an app or video-chatting a friend would not increase carbon pollution, Jackson said.

"If you are using your iPhone, iPad, Siri or downloading a song, you don't have to worry if you are contributing to the climate change problem in the world because Apple has already thought about that for you. We've taken care of that. We're using clean energy," she said.

The company is also moving to install solar and geothermal power at a plant in Mesa, Arizona, that has been manufacturing sapphire glass. Apple would not directly comment on the Arizona factory but the state's governor, Jan Brewer, has publicly praised the company's decision to relocate there and to use solar and geothermal in manufacturing.

 
ISIS’s Black Flags Are Flying in Europe

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ISIS’s Black Flags Are Flying in Europe

The symbol of the murderous Islamic State is waving in The Hague. ‘Death to the Jews,’ shout the demonstrators. Yet the Dutch government authorized the protests.

“Death to the Jews” chanted the crowd waving the black flags of the Islamic State, or ISIS as it used to be known. They were looking for new supporters for their cause, the creation of a worldwide caliphate answering to the man who now calls himself Ibrahim: a zealot too radical even for Al Qaeda who has stormed through Syria and Iraq carrying out mass executions, crucifying rivals, beheading enemies. But these marchers were not in Syria or Iraq; they were in The Hague in The Netherlands. And their message was one tailored to the disaffected young descendants of Muslim immigrants in Europe.

“We are Moroccans,” went out the cry over a portable loudspeaker. "The French killed the Moroccans but they didn’t kill them all; the grandchildren of the few men left protest against the West, America and the Jews.”

Many of the demonstrators covered their faces with Palestinian scarves or balaclavas. “Anyone who doesn’t jump is a Jew,” someone shouted as the whole group started jumping in a scene that might have been ludicrous if it weren’t for the hateful message. “Death to the Jews!” the crowd shouted in Arabic.

This scene last Thursday came in the wake of an earlier demonstration supposed to defend the Palestinians suffering in Gaza, which turned quickly into a hatefest targeting Israel, with people carrying placards that screamed “Zionism is Nazism.” But while the comingling of pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic sentiment has become all too common in European protests in recent weeks, that the battle flag of the Islamic State waved in the streets of The Netherlands on July 24 is something new and particularly dangerous.

 
Is water the next oil?

Is water the next oil?

Suzanne McGee

fjord

Mammoth companies are trying to collect water that all life needs and charge for it as they would for other natural resources

This summer, however, myriad business forces are combining to remind us that fresh water isn’t necessarily or automatically a free resource. It could all too easily end up becoming just another economic commodity.

At the forefront of this firestorm is Peter Brabeck, chairman and former CEO of Nestle.

In his view, citizens don’t have an automatic right to more than the water they require for mere “survival”, unless they can afford to pay for it. For context, the World Health Organization sets such “survival” consumption levels at a minimum of 20 liters a day for basic hygiene and food hygiene – higher, if you add laundry and bathing. If you’re reading this in the United States, the odds are that flushing your toilet consumes 50 liters of water a day.

Brabeck is right to argue that we risk depleting the world’s supply of fresh water irresponsibly through careless and thoughtless consumption of an apparently free resource. How many lush golf courses should we be sustaining with millions of gallons of water in parts of the world that are naturally arid, like Arizona or southern California?

water bottles

 And then there are the bizarre mixed messages that some California residents are getting: don’t water your lawns in the state’s long-running drought that has depleted its aquifers. On the other hand, some are also being warned they’ll be fined if they don’t keep their lawns and neighborhoods looking nice.

But Brabeck probably isn’t the best standard-bearer for the cause of responsible water management, by any stretch of the imagination.

Consider the fact that as the drought has worsened, Nestle’s Nestle Waters North Americas Inc division – the largest bottled water company in the country – has continued to pump water from an aquifer near Palm Springs, California, thanks to its partnership with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. Their joint venture, bottling water from a spring on land owned by the band in Millard Canyon, has another advantage: since the Morongo are considered a sovereign nation, no one needs to report exactly how much water is being drawn from the aquifer.

 
Violent transnational gangs "recruiting" unaccompanied minors at Border facilities

Violent transnational gangs 'recruiting unaccompanied minors at Border Security facilities

Recruiting drive: There are reports that gangs are trying to recruit young immigrants from Border Protection facilities where they're being held

Members of notorious U.S. street gangs have infiltrated shelters housing illegal immigrant minors from Central America and are recruiting them, say Homeland Security sources.

Border Control agents have allegedly witnessed gang members using a Red Cross phone bank at the facility at Nogales, Arizona, to 'recruit, enlist and pressure' other minors. Transnational gangs such as the Mara Salvatruca, also known as MS-13, and the 18th Street gang are using established juvenile members from Central America to cross the border and recruit other children to the cartels, say sources.

The Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement said earlier this week that they have no knowledge or evidence that gangs are recruiting immigrant minors.

'We know it’s happening because agents are telling us,' Moran told Fox News.

'The Border Patrol is trying to downplay it.'

Transnational: A young El Salvadorean member of the Mara MS-13 street gang. There are reports that young members are enlisting other youngsters crossing the border
 
What's Scully Been Up To?

Gillian Anderon to play Blanche on stage

Gillian Anderson: actress with a very distinctive X factor

Ryan Gilbey

The star of TV series The X-Files has gone on to distinguish herself on stage and screen. Now she's playing Blanche DuBois, a role she's long coveted

 It is quite a feat for an actor to be intensely memorable without appearing needy or even demonstrative, but Gillian Anderson has managed it. The plume of scarlet hair she sported in the role that defined her, as the FBI agent Dana Scully in The X-Files, which ran for nine series between 1993 and 2002 and spawned two movies, is gone, replaced by dusky blond locks. Anderson keeps a low profile and is held in high esteem. She is well-known and yet exudes an aloofness that has prevented her from becoming a national treasure and not only because, divided between Britain (where she spent a chunk of her childhood and where she now lives and works) and the US (which has claimed most of the rest of her years), it would be hard to know which nation would have dibs on doing the treasuring.

The show became a phenomenon. But the most uncomfortable truth was that she was suffering. A year into the run, she married Clyde Klotz, an assistant art director she had met on the programme. The following year, she gave birth to her first child, Piper Maru. (She has since had two more.) She missed one episode – Scully was kidnapped by aliens to cover for her absence – and was back on set only 10 days later. Postnatal depression didn't take long to announce itself. "Except there was no time for it, which made it worse," she said. "I shed a lot of silent tears. At times, all I wanted to do was quit and be with my baby."

She and Klotz didn't last much longer. "There were times, especially during the divorce, when I was just in tears constantly," Anderson said. She was accompanied on the set of The X-Files by a team of make-up artists devoted to disguising the fact that she had been crying.

To appreciate the schism in Anderson's life, it is worth remembering what else was going on in the same period. She was the co-lead in one of the most popular series in TV history, a show to which she felt increasing ambivalence. "I'm exhausted by the series," she said in the late 1990s. "I would like to do different characters." And she was participating in glossy shoots for men's magazines such as FHM, which in 1996 declared her the world's sexiest woman.

Gillian Anderson (Blanche DuBois) and Vanessa Kirby (Stella Kowalski)

She has been a celebrity – in fact, she still is – but her evident distaste for that world has only had the effect of making her look more serious about acting. The X-Files is to Anderson as an unasked-for hit single is to a painfully cool rock band – think Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit. That is, something that makes your name, but which you can then rail against strategically: something you dignify yourself by refusing to exploit.

Twelve years after the end of The X-Files, Anderson has not had a pop-culture hit to match it. Quite splendidly, she shows no sign of giving a hoot.

 
Why Is Israel Losing a War It's Winning?

Why Is Israel Losing a War It's Winning?

Five reasons why Israel is on the back foot even as it defeats rockets and tunnels

By Jeffrey Goldberg

 2. Hamas’s strategy is to bait Israel into killing Palestinian civilians, and Israel usually takes the bait. This time, because of the cautious nature of its prime minister, Israel waited longer than usual before succumbing to the temptation of bait-taking, but it took it all the same. (As I’ve written, the seemingly miraculous Iron Dome anti-rocket system could have provided Israel with the space to be more patient than it was.) Hamas’s principal goal is killing Jews, and it is very good at this (for those who have forgotten about Hamas's achievements in this area, here is a reminder, and also here and here), but it knows that it advances its own (perverse) narrative even more when it induces Israel to kill Palestinian civilians. This tactic would not work if the world understood this, and rejected it. But in the main, it doesn’t. Why people don’t see the cynicism at the heart of terrorist groups like Hamas is a bit of a mystery.

 
The Man Behind ‘The Princess Bride’

Rob Reiner on the State of Romcoms, ‘The Princess Bride’s’ Alternate Ending, and the Red Viper

Do you think the audience’s appetite has changed at all when it comes to romcoms?

No, no. People still like to see what happens between men and women because that’s who we are, and what we do with each other. But there’s a lot more violence in the movies now because they’re like rides, and if all that’s there in the movie is something to titillate, whether it’s through violence or sex, and all it’s about is shaking your theater seat, the problem is you get immune after a while to certain things so you have to shake the seat even more. For movies who want to make movies about real people, it gets harder. But there is an audience out there for it. But studios these days aren’t interested in making a lot of money, they’re interested in making a ridiculous amount of money. The Bucket List made $200 million. It used to be that if you made $100 million, it was a blockbuster hit. But now, you’ve got to make that opening weekend.

 
Israeli-Palestinian crisis: why this latest conflict cannot be considered a sideshow

Israeli ground operation in Gaza

Israeli-Palestinian crisis: why this latest conflict cannot be considered a sideshow

Rosemary Hollis

The twists and turns of political animosities, sectarian rivalries and territorial disputes in the Middle East over many decades now include further unravellings of the regional order as new forces take hold. The enduring Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be now be seen within this context.

Many Palestinians and Israelis foresaw another round of conflict on the Israel-Gaza front this summer. They depict a kind of inevitability to it all, that speaks of a fatalism about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some Israelis even hold to the view that they can sustain the status quo in both the West Bank and Gaza through a combination of containment and periodic resort to force, while mouthing the rhetoric of a two-state solution sometime in the future.

Yet the situation in the region as a whole should give them pause. The regional order that has more or less prevailed for decades is fast unravelling and new forces are emerging that cannot be contained in the way that the Palestinians have been since the 1948 war in which most of them became refugees and the state of Israel was established.

The configuration of Arab states that came into being at the end of the First World War has experienced relative stability on the basis of a system designed by Frenchman Georges Picot and his British counterpart, Mark Sykes, (the Sykes-Picot Agreement) in May 1916. They paved the way for the British mandates in Palestine and Iraq and the French mandate in Syria-Lebanon that endured until 1948. Thereafter, maintenance of the lines drawn on the map by the British and French has required a level of enforcement and dictatorial rule at odds with the ideals of self-determination and democracy. And the fate of the Palestinians today derives from their relative weakness in the successive struggles for power that have characterised the Middle East since 1916.

The enduring Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, in a sense, unfinished business from that era and it might have remained so, in relative isolation, but for the fact that in 2003 the Americans and British thought that by intervening in Iraq they could remake the regional system for the better. Instead, they opened Pandora's box, to quote former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and now the whole system is in flux.

 
Malibu beach wars: app reveals public access to beaches

Malibu beach wars: app revealing public access to beaches infuriates wealthy homeowners

By Nick Allen

Malibu Beach in California

Once called the "most expensive sandbox in the world," the beaches of Malibu are at the centre of a bitter battle between billionaires and sunbathers. Now, an app appears to have helped the masses claim victory

The signs next to strips of pristine sand in Malibu seem clear. "Private beach," "No stopping," and "Subject to control of owner," they say, striking fear into the hearts of passing tourists hoping for a glimpse of the glistening Pacific Ocean beyond.

But the signs are, to say the least, misleading, a tactic employed by uber-rich residents in an on-going battle to stop hordes of sun worshippers descending on their little piece of paradise.

"Every one of these signs is wrong," said Jenny Price, an environmental historian who has created a wildly popular app that tells people where to gain access to the beaches. "The homeowners have not been sharing their toys and now they have to."

Each year tens of thousands of tourists drive through Malibu, a 21-mile stretch of picture perfect California coastline, along Highway 1. It is a playground for billionaires whose ocean-side homes sell for eight figure sums. But under state law, there is no such thing as a private beach, with every inch public up to the mean high tide line.

In addition to increasingly alarming fake signs some residents have resorted to all sorts of tactics to disguise designated public access ways, allowing hedges to grow over them, padlocking gates, and putting up bright orange cones. In one bizarre case, a billionaire is reputed to have erected several fake garage doors.

Ben Adair, co-creator of the Our Malibu Beaches app, which has been downloaded 35,000 times since its launch a year ago, said residents were less than welcoming when they turned up at access ways. One homeowner shouted at him: "I'll punch you in the face."

Mr Adair added: "We've been really surprised by the success of something we thought would be quite niche. We thought everyone in Malibu would hate it, but it turns out the people who live right on the beach is only a tiny proportion of people living in Malibu. The rest think it's great because now they can go to the beach."

Nowhere is the effect more noticeable than Carbon Beach, once described by Forbes as "the most expensive sandbox in the world". It is also known as "Billionaires' Beach," which is entirely accurate.

In 2012 America's third richest man, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, bought his ninth house on the one-and-a-half mile strip for $36.9 million. Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder, has a $25 million white U-shaped home.

Billionaire Hollywood studio boss Jeffrey Katzenberg, President Barack Obama's biggest political donor, has an ultra-modern 10,000 sq ft Gwathmey Siegel-designed pad.

Last month Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, signed a law that will see homeowners fined up to $11,500 a day if they block access ways with fake signs or padlocks.

The app, and the arrival of the masses, was said to have been the subject of much discussion among some guests at the annual Memorial Day party hosted by Joel Silver, producer of the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard films, at his Carbon Beach house.

Linda Locklin, coastal access manager for the Coastal Commission, said: "We're fully supportive of it. It disseminates correct information about the public's rights to go to the beach easily in Malibu.

"This problem has been cumulative over the decades. First, you had the highway and then houses get built between it and the beach, Then they get bigger, and the ability for the person driving along the highway to ever see the coast got narrower and smaller.

"But the homeowners are starting to realise they don't have a choice. These are public spaces."

 

 
George Will Says U.S. Should 'Welcome' Illegal Children

Brendan Bordelon

George Will

'The idea that we can't assimilate these 8-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous'

Conservative columnist George Will surprised “Fox New Sunday’s” Chris Wallace when he claimed the United States should “welcome” the flood of illegal immigrant children along our southern border — adding that concerns about America’s ability to absorb Central America’s problems are “preposterous.”

Will spoke on a panel along with Fox News contributors Kirsten Powers, Juan Williams and Brit Hume about the ongoing border crisis. Powers had just finished slamming the Republican Party for not wanting to work on any kind of comprehensive immigration issue beyond deporting the tens of thousands of Central American children coming into the country illegally.

“How do you respond to Kirsten and her talking about Republicans who don’t want to deal with immigration except deporting children,” Wallace asked, “and is there a right way to deal with this problem?”

“Well, I think Kirsten’s largely right,” Will responded. “I think we ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America. You’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans. We have 3,141 counties in this country. That’d be 20 per county.”

“The idea that we can’t assimilate these 8-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous,” the conservative columnist went on, mocking those concerned about putting further strain on the United States’ limited resources.

 
Everything Happens For A Reason (Or Doesn't)

Everything Happens For A Reason (Or Doesn't)

By Nick Luxmoore

When young people say that everything happens for a reason, they need to be challenged gently and sympathetically. It doesn't matter that we end up not having the answers but it does matter that we keep asking the questions. The alternative for young people is sometimes a catastrophic disillusionment.

‘Everything happens for a reason’ is simple thinking. It denies that things might happen for no reason, that they might be ‘random’ (as young people might also say). When the really big things happen – disasters, genocides – it’s comforting to believe that there’s a purpose behind everything, something that makes meaning out of apparent meaninglessness and futility. But when smaller, everyday things go wrong – when there are no jobs to be had, when lovers break up, when families fight – it’s much harder to believe the mantra because these are the things over which young people expect to have control. They’ve worked hard in school and yet still there’s no job; they’ve tried their best and still their lover leaves them; they’ve helped out at home and still their parents are quarrelling.

 
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