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Obama Listens to Castro, Changes American Foreign Policy without Consulting Congress

By – Onan Coca
Do you still really not believe that President Obama thinks and acts as if he is some kind of banana-republic dictator?

Just a couple of weeks ago Obama told the nation that he would unilaterally change our immigration laws, precedent be damned. Now, acting on the advice of a REAL third-world dictator, he is moving to change our legal relationship with a nation that we’ve not had normal relations with in some 60 years. Against the advice of Congress (which would never give the President the go-ahead to normalize relations with Cuba) and with pressure from Raul Castro, the President is swapping prisoners with Cuba and reestablishing relations with them.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) stood up and took the lead on condemning the White House for their decision to normalize relations with Cuba.

It’s absurd and it’s part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established.” — Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Rubio later added in a written statement that, “Appeasing the Castro brothers will only cause other tyrants from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang to see that they can take advantage of President Obama’s naiveté during his final two years in office. As a result, America will be less safe as a result of the President’s change in policy. When America is unwilling to advocate for individual liberty and freedom of political expression 90 miles from our shores, it represents a terrible setback for the hopes of all oppressed people around the globe.”

Castro Loves ObamaIt wasn’t just Republicans speaking out against the move; the Cuban-American Democrats in Congress roundly attacked the White House too. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) spoke for them when he said,

“President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government. There is no equivalence between an international aid worker and convicted spies who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage against our nation. One spy was also convicted of conspiracy to murder for his role in the 1996 tragedy in which the Cuban military shot down two U.S. civilian planes, killing several American citizens. My heart goes out to the American families that lost love ones on that fateful day. Trading Mr. Gross for three convicted criminals sets an extremely dangerous precedent. It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips. I fear that today’s actions will put at risk the thousands of Americans that work overseas to support civil society, advocate for access to information, provide humanitarian services, and promote democratic reforms.”

Read more at http://eaglerising.com/12809/obama-listens-castro-changes-american-foreign-policy-without-consulting-congress/#Tmv1VbyZ1l5pOoxW.99

OBAMA THINKS THAT HE IS GOD -Quotes Nonexistent Bible Verse

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By Jessica Chasmar – The Washington Times

President Obama referred to the Bible on Tuesday as he was speaking about immigration reform in Nashville, but he confused some of the lines and even threw in a proverb that appears nowhere in the religious text.

“The good book says, don’t throw stones in glass houses,” he said. “Or … make sure we’re looking at the log in our eye before we are pointing out the mote in other folks’ eyes.”

The expression “they that live in glass houses should not throw stones” is a proverb of unknown origin that has been used in various form for centuries, The Washington Post reported. It does not appear in the Bible.

Mr. Obama’s reference to the “log in our eye,” is presumably from Matthew 7: 1-3, in which Jesus says, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged … Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?”

The word “mote,” which the president used, is a kind of antiquated word for “speck,” The Post notes.

During his speech Tuesday, the president also used the story of the birth of Jesus to relate to immigration reform.

“This Christmas season there’s a whole story about a young, soon-to-be-mother and her husband of modest means looking for a place to house themselves for the night, and there’s no room at the inn,” he said. “And as I said the day that I announced these executive actions, we were once strangers too. And part of what my faith teaches me is to look upon the stranger as part of myself. And during this Christmas season, that’s a good place to start.”

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/10/obama-quotes-nonexistent-bible-verse-during-speech/#ixzz3MHxlgLBa
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Policeman

Insurers Fire Back Over ObamaCare Changes

By Elise Viebeck – 12/10/14 12:24 PM EST

The health insurance industry is firing back at Republicans’ decision to cut government payments that could help plans struggling under the healthcare law.

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) blasted legislation changing ObamaCare’s “risk corridors” program and predicted that it would raise healthcare costs for families

“American budgets are already strained by healthcare costs, and this change will lead to higher premiums for consumers and make it more difficult to achieve affordability,” said Clare Krusing, AHIP spokeswoman.

“Our focus should be on changes to the law that will lower costs — like repealing the health insurance tax — not those that drive premiums higher.”

Risk corridors, a commonly used tool in public policy, were included in the healthcare law to spread risk among insurance companies participating in the new health insurance exchanges.

Firms that do better than expected in 2014, 2015 and 2016 pay the government, and firms that do worse than excepted can receive those funds.

Critics of the healthcare law have worked for a year to stop the government from spending additional money to enlarge those payments.

The Department of Health and Human Services at one point assured the industry that more money would be available, but the “cromnibus” spending bill released Tuesday would prevent that.

The fight reveals the strained relationship between the health insurance industry and Republican lawmakers.

Traditionally viewed as allies, the two sides are estranged over the healthcare law. Younger, more conservative Republicans have little deference for the industry.

A spokesman for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the lawmaker who first decried the payments as an insurer “bailout,” praised the decision to include the language.

“While the administration will still be able to administer the risk corridor program, at least now they must to do it in a budget-neutral fashion, opposed to unlawfully providing for a taxpayer bailout,” said Alex Conant.

“While there is much in this massive spending measure that is deeply troubling, at least this provision appears to be a step in the right direction.”

Viewing Russia From the Inside

By George Friedman
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Last week I flew into Moscow, arriving at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 8. It gets dark in Moscow around that time, and the sun doesn’t rise until about 10 a.m. at this time of the year — the so-called Black Days versus White Nights. For anyone used to life closer to the equator, this is unsettling. It is the first sign that you are not only in a foreign country, which I am used to, but also in a foreign environment. Yet as we drove toward downtown Moscow, well over an hour away, the traffic, the road work, were all commonplace. Moscow has three airports, and we flew into the farthest one from downtown, Domodedovo — the primary international airport. There is endless renovation going on in Moscow, and while it holds up traffic, it indicates that prosperity continues, at least in the capital.
Our host, who was from the Russian intelligence community, met us and we quickly went to work getting a sense of each other and talking about the events of the day. He had spent a great deal of time in the United States and was far more familiar with the nuances of American life than I was with Russian. In that he was the perfect host, translating his country to me, always with the spin of a Russian patriot, which he surely was. We talked as we drove into Moscow, managing to dive deep into the subject.

From him, and from conversations with Russian experts on most of the regions of the world — students at the Institute of International Relations — and with a handful of what I took to be ordinary citizens (not employed by government agencies engaged in managing Russia’s foreign and economic affairs), I gained a sense of Russia’s concerns. The concerns are what you might expect. The emphasis and order of those concerns were not.

Russians’ Economic Expectations

I thought the economic problems of Russia would be foremost on people’s minds. The plunge of the ruble, the decline in oil prices, a general slowdown in the economy and the effect of Western sanctions all appear in the West to be hammering the Russian economy. Yet this was not the conversation I was having. The decline in the ruble has affected foreign travel plans, but the public has only recently begun feeling the real impact of these factors, particularly through inflation.

But there was another reason given for the relative calm over the financial situation, and it came not only from government officials but also from private individuals and should be considered very seriously. The Russians pointed out that economic shambles was the norm for Russia, and prosperity the exception. There is always the expectation that prosperity will end and the normal constrictions of Russian poverty return.

The Russians suffered terribly during the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin but also under previous governments stretching back to the czars. In spite of this, several pointed out, they had won the wars they needed to win and had managed to live lives worth living. The golden age of the previous 10 years was coming to an end. That was to be expected, and it would be endured. The government officials meant this as a warning, and I do not think it was a bluff. The pivot of the conversation was about sanctions, and the intent was to show that they would not cause Russia to change its policy toward Ukraine.

Russians’ strength is that they can endure things that would break other nations. It was also pointed out that they tend to support the government regardless of competence when Russia feels threatened. Therefore, the Russians argued, no one should expect that sanctions, no matter how harsh, would cause Moscow to capitulate. Instead the Russians would respond with their own sanctions, which were not specified but which I assume would mean seizing the assets of Western companies in Russia and curtailing agricultural imports from Europe. There was no talk of cutting off natural gas supplies to Europe.

If this is so, then the Americans and Europeans are deluding themselves on the effects of sanctions. In general, I personally have little confidence in the use of sanctions. That being said, the Russians gave me another prism to look through. Sanctions reflect European and American thresholds of pain. They are designed to cause pain that the West could not withstand. Applied to others, the effects may vary.

My sense is that the Russians were serious. It would explain why the increased sanctions, plus oil price drops, economic downturns and the rest simply have not caused the erosion of confidence that would be expected. Reliable polling numbers show that President Vladimir Putin is still enormously popular. Whether he remains popular as the decline sets in, and whether the elite being hurt financially are equally sanguine, is another matter. But for me the most important lesson I might have learned in Russia — “might” being the operative term — is that Russians don’t respond to economic pressure as Westerners do, and that the idea made famous in a presidential campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid,” may not apply the same way in Russia.

The Ukrainian Issue

There was much more toughness on Ukraine. There is acceptance that events in Ukraine were a reversal for Russia and resentment that the Obama administration mounted what Russians regard as a propaganda campaign to try to make it appear that Russia was the aggressor. Two points were regularly made. The first was that Crimea was historically part of Russia and that it was already dominated by the Russian military under treaty. There was no invasion but merely the assertion of reality. Second, there was heated insistence that eastern Ukraine is populated by Russians and that as in other countries, those Russians must be given a high degree of autonomy. One scholar pointed to the Canadian model and Quebec to show that the West normally has no problem with regional autonomy for ethnically different regions but is shocked that the Russians might want to practice a form of regionalism commonplace in the West.

The case of Kosovo is extremely important to the Russians both because they feel that their wishes were disregarded there and because it set a precedent. Years after the fall of the Serbian government that had threatened the Albanians in Kosovo, the West granted Kosovo independence. The Russians argued that the borders were redrawn although no danger to Kosovo existed. Russia didn’t want it to happen, but the West did it because it could. In the Russian view, having redrawn the map of Serbia, the West has no right to object to redrawing the map of Ukraine.

I try not to be drawn into matters of right and wrong, not because I don’t believe there is a difference but because history is rarely decided by moral principles. I have understood the Russians’ view of Ukraine as a necessary strategic buffer and the idea that without it they would face a significant threat, if not now, then someday. They point to Napoleon and Hitler as examples of enemies defeated by depth.

I tried to provide a strategic American perspective. The United States has spent the past century pursuing a single objective: avoiding the rise of any single hegemon that might be able to exploit Western European technology and capital and Russian resources and manpower. The United States intervened in World War I in 1917 to block German hegemony, and again in World War II. In the Cold War the goal was to prevent Russian hegemony. U.S. strategic policy has been consistent for a century.

The United States has been conditioned to be cautious of any rising hegemon. In this case the fear of a resurgent Russia is a recollection of the Cold War, but not an unreasonable one. As some pointed out to me, economic weakness has rarely meant military weakness or political disunity. I agreed with them on this and pointed out that this is precisely why the United States has a legitimate fear of Russia in Ukraine. If Russia manages to reassert its power in Ukraine, then what will come next? Russia has military and political power that could begin to impinge on Europe. Therefore, it is not irrational for the United States, and at least some European countries, to want to assert their power in Ukraine.

When I laid out this argument to a very senior official from the Russian Foreign Ministry, he basically said he had no idea what I was trying to say. While I think he fully understood the geopolitical imperatives guiding Russia in Ukraine, to him the centurylong imperatives guiding the United States are far too vast to apply to the Ukrainian issue. It is not a question of him only seeing his side of the issue. Rather, it is that for Russia, Ukraine is an immediate issue, and the picture I draw of American strategy is so abstract that it doesn’t seem to connect with the immediate reality. There is an automatic American response to what it sees as Russian assertiveness; however, the Russians feel they have been far from offensive and have been on the defense. For the official, American fears of Russian hegemony were simply too far-fetched to contemplate.

In other gatherings, with the senior staff of the Institute of International Relations, I tried a different tack, trying to explain that the Russians had embarrassed U.S. President Barack Obama in Syria. Obama had not wanted to attack when poison gas was used in Syria because it was militarily difficult and because if he toppled Syrian President Bashar al Assad, it would leave Sunni jihadists in charge of the country. The United States and Russia had identical interests, I asserted, and the Russian attempt to embarrass the president by making it appear that Putin had forced him to back down triggered the U.S. response in Ukraine. Frankly, I thought my geopolitical explanation was a lot more coherent than this argument, but I tried it out. The discussion was over lunch, but my time was spent explaining and arguing, not eating. I found that I could hold my own geopolitically but that they had mastered the intricacies of the Obama administration in ways I never will.

The Future for Russia and the West

The more important question was what will come next. The obvious question is whether the Ukrainian crisis will spread to the Baltics, Moldova or the Caucasus. I raised this with the Foreign Ministry official. He was emphatic, making the point several times that this crisis would not spread. I took that to mean that there would be no Russian riots in the Baltics, no unrest in Moldova and no military action in the Caucasus. I think he was sincere. The Russians are stretched as it is. They must deal with Ukraine, and they must cope with the existing sanctions, however much they can endure economic problems. The West has the resources to deal with multiple crises. Russia needs to contain this crisis in Ukraine.

The Russians will settle for a degree of autonomy for Russians within parts of eastern Ukraine. How much autonomy, I do not know. They need a significant gesture to protect their interests and to affirm their significance. Their point that regional autonomy exists in many countries is persuasive. But history is about power, and the West is using its power to press Russia hard. But obviously, nothing is more dangerous than wounding a bear. Killing him is better, but killing Russia has not proved easy.

I came away with two senses. One was that Putin was more secure than I thought. In the scheme of things, that does not mean much. Presidents come and go. But it is a reminder that things that would bring down a Western leader may leave a Russian leader untouched. Second, the Russians do not plan a campaign of aggression. Here I am more troubled — not because they want to invade anyone, but because nations frequently are not aware of what is about to happen, and they might react in ways that will surprise them. That is the most dangerous thing about the situation. It is not what is intended, which seems genuinely benign. What is dangerous is the action that is unanticipated, both by others and by Russia.

At the same time, my general analysis remains intact. Whatever Russia might do elsewhere, Ukraine is of fundamental strategic importance to Russia. Even if the east received a degree of autonomy, Russia would remain deeply concerned about the relationship of the rest of Ukraine to the West. As difficult as this is for Westerners to fathom, Russian history is a tale of buffers. Buffer states save Russia from Western invaders. Russia wants an arrangement that leaves Ukraine at least neutral.

For the United States, any rising power in Eurasia triggers an automatic response born of a century of history. As difficult as it is for Russians to understand, nearly half a century of a Cold War left the United States hypersensitive to the possible re-emergence of Russia. The United States spent the past century blocking the unification of Europe under a single, hostile power. What Russia intends and what America fears are very different things.

The United States and Europe have trouble understanding Russia’s fears. Russia has trouble understanding particularly American fears. The fears of both are real and legitimate. This is not a matter of misunderstanding between countries but of incompatible imperatives. All of the good will in the world — and there is precious little of that — cannot solve the problem of two major countries that are compelled to protect their interests and in doing so must make the other feel threatened. I learned much in my visit. I did not learn how to solve this problem, save that at the very least each must understand the fears of the other, even if they can’t calm them.

Read more: Viewing Russia From the Inside | Stratfor
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THE TRAIN TRIP – SAD BUT TRUE

My wife and I decided to go on an organized trip to Afghanistan , to see for ourselves what the place was like.

It didn’t start well as the train we were traveling on broke down just few miles south of the station. We found ourselves stranded in a scary hell hole where no one around us spoke any English!

The train, and surrounding streets were full of Muslims, angry bearded types glared at us, my wife stood out in her brightly colored sun-dress, as all the local women were draped in black, head to toe, burkas.

We were extremely scared and convinced that we were in deep trouble.

Just then, Dave our group leader ushered us off the train and around the corner from Dearborn AMTRAK Station to the Greyhound terminal, where we continued our journey safely to Detroit Metro Airport .

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