Four Facts About the Fourth of July

Editor’s note: This post was published (and re-uploaded from) last year. The headline, however, has been changed.

Happy Fourth of July! Today we celebrate 239 years of American independence. To that end, here are four interesting facts about this uniquely American holiday that you might not be aware of.

(1) Did you know that the Second Continental Congress approved a resolution to dissolve all political ties with Great Britain on July 2, 1776? It wasn’t until two days later, on July 4th, that the Founding Fathers formally adopted the document we now universally refer to as the “Declaration of Independence.”

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” John Adams wrote his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. As it turned out, he was off by a few days.

(2) John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both passed away on July 4, 1826 -- 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted. The fifth president of the United States, James Monroe, also died on July 4th shortly thereafter -- in 1831.

(3) Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence. Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Franklin (70) was the oldest to sign his name, and South Carolina’s Edward Rutledge (26) was the youngest.

(4) John Hancock was the first delegate to sign the Declaration; and he was only one of two delegates to do so on July 4, 1776. According to legend, he decided to sign his name in big, ostentatious letters so that, as he put it, the “fat old King could read it without his spectacles.”

So there you have it. Have a great day, everyone. I’ll leave you with this: an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence -- one of the most important political documents ever written (or ever will be written):

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Read it all here, and explore Townhall's U.S. Constitution page here.

America The Beautiful on Independence Day

Happy Independence Day everyone. Hillsdale College, which is partially dedicated to preserving the principles of the U.S. Constitution through education, put together a wonderful tribute to the classic song "America the Beautiful." Enjoy.

US Blocking Heavy Weapons to Kurdish Fighters

The United States has been blocking Arab nations from giving heavy weapons to the Kurdish army in its effort to fight ISIS, according to a new report. Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been fighting ISIS for months and have recently made key gains, but they have repeatedly voiced their need for heavier armaments. They are currently relying on outdated Soviet-era weaponry, while their ISIS opponents are wielding modern American arms, which they seized from Iraqi troops last year.

The US-led air coalition has providing bombing assistance to Kurdish troops, which proved key to the Kurdish advance into Syria two weeks ago. But calls to give heavy armaments, even from within the US Congress, have gone unanswered. A measure to directly arm the Kurds failed failed in the Senate two weeks ago. 

Some Arab countries have expressed unwillingness to wait on US support.

“If the Americans and the West are not prepared to do anything serious about defeating Isil, then we will have to find new ways of dealing with the threat,” said a senior Arab government official. “With Isil making ground all the time we simply cannot afford to wait for Washington to wake up to the enormity of the threat we face.”

European countries have even purchased weapons for the Kurds — millions of dollars' worth — yet those weapons haven't yet reached Kurdish hands. The US military oversees the war against ISIS, and it directs all military arms support through Baghdad. This has enabled the US to block all arms transfers to the Kurds from other countries.

Regional allies — such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states — have been frustrated at the lack of direction and resolve in the US-led air campaign. These countries' militaries have frequently identified ISIS targets on the ground, only to have them vetoed by US officials. One senior Gulf state officical said:

“There is simply no strategic approach. “There is a lack of coordination in selecting targets, and there is no overall plan for defeating Isil.”

US pilots have also complained of targets being called off, even as they have them in the crosshairs.

Why would the president and administration officials want to keep Kurdish fighters from obtaining heavy arms? Do they not want to see ISIS destroyed?

One likely reason for the administration's blocking of arms is that a well-armed Kurdish army poses a threat to Turkey — a NATO ally that affords the US key strategic privileges. Turkey holds numerous military bases that the US uses. They not only allow the US to hold a key presence in the region; they also give the US a strategic foothold at Russia's doorstep.

The Kurdish people — who have no official nation, yet desire independence — have long posed a threat to Turkey's national stability. Ethnic Kurds comprise about 18 percent of Turkey's population and are mostly concentrated in the country's southeastern provinces, which border Syria and Iraq. If the Kurdish Peshmerga were to attain heavy arms, it may well defeat ISIS, but it would also embolden the Kurds to consolidate their ethnic communities in Turkey and forcefully push for national independence. If that happened, Turkey would lose 18 percent of its population and large swaths of land. Because Turkey is such an asset for the US, the administration is likely aiming to keep Turkey happy by keeping the Kurds relatively weak.

Since the Kurds have made real progress against ISIS, the administration is likely playing a game of wait-and-see in hopes that the progress continues. It is a rather forward move, though, for the administration to block other countries from arming the Kurds. It is reasonable to assume the US could keep good relations with Turkey without going so far as to block other countries' aid to the Kurds.

Even so, one can argue that the Kurds deserve their own nation anyway, and a strong Kurdistan would serve American interests and create a new regional buffer against Iran — a buffer that Turkey is not providing. At the very least, US officials should stop preventing other countries from giving arms to the Kurds. The biggest threat to the region is not an unhappy Turkey, but ISIS and the havoc it is wreaking in Syria and Iraq. A well-armed Kurdish army can only help the overall situation.

Seattle Schools to 6th Graders: No Soda For You, But Here's An IUD

From mandates about what food children can eat to draconian attendance policies, it’s becoming increasingly clear that parental rights do not exist when you send your child to public school, as The Blaze’s Matt Walsh has argued before.

But in Seattle, it’s even worse. In at least 13 public schools in the area, where kids are banned from even having soda or candy, middle and high school-aged girls can get a taxpayer-funded IUD without their parents’ consent.

CNS News reports:

[Long-acting reversible contraceptives] are associated with serious side effects, such as uterine perforation and infection. IUDs, specifically, can also act as abortifacients by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.

The state and federally funded contraceptive services are made possible by Take Charge, a Washington State Medicaid program which provides free birth control to adults who are uninsured, lack contraceptive coverage, have an income at or below 260 percent of the Federal Poverty Level -- or, in this case, to teens who don’t want their parents to know they’re on birth control.

In an email exchange with the Washington State Health Care Authority and CNSNews.com, a Take Charge spokesperson acknowledged that underage students are eligible for a “full array of covered family planning services” at school-based clinics if their parents meet the program’s requirements.

Take Charge added that “a student who does not want their parents to know they are seeking reproductive health services is allowed to apply forTake Charge using their own income, and if they are insured under their parents’ plan, the insurance would not be billed.”

When asked if a sixth grader could get an IUD implanted without parental consent,Take Charge told CNSNews.com: “We encourage allTake Charge providers to offer long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) in their clinics. A young person does not need parental consent to obtain a LARC or any other contraceptive method...If the young person is not choosing abstinence, she would be able to select a LARC and have it inserted without parental consent.”

Just so we’re clear: Chocolate and sugar? Way too unhealthy. Sex and contraceptives? Totally fine. And since Washington’s law states that “every individual has the fundamental right of privacy with respect to personal reproductive decisions,” there’s nothing parents can do about it.

Homeschooling is looking better and better, isn’t it? 

How Patriotic is Your Home State?

According to the website WalletHub, Virginia is the most patriotic state in the union.

States were ranked by "military engagement" (number of veterans per capita, number of active-duty military per capita, and number of people who enlisted in the military) as well as "civic engagement" (percentage of people who voted, percentage of people who volunteer, percentage of people who join the Peace Corps, as well as civics requirements and Google searches for the American flag).

The state with the highest military engagement was Alaska, while the state with the highest civic engagement ranking was Wisconsin.


Source: WalletHub

Personally, I was pretty pleased to see my home state of Maine come out at number 6, while slightly dismayed to see Rhode Island (where I lived for four years while in college) near the bottom at number 48.

How'd your home state do?

In Colorado, VA Officials Retire ‘Unscathed’ From Role in Growing Scandal

Veterans Affairs employees in Aurora, Colorado, who played a role in the agency’s expanding scandal, have found a way to escape punishment – they’re retiring.

In May, the building of the Aurora Veterans Affairs department was $1 billion over budget and more than a year behind schedule, ABC News reported. Taxpayers were forced to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to bring it back on track. Contributing factors to the project's slow progress included "changes to veterans' health care needs, site-acquisition issues, and a decision in Denver to change plans from a medical center shared with a local medical university to a standalone VA medical center." Thanks to the expensive mess, Aurora was named the “biggest construction failure” in the agency’s history. 

Two particular VA employees played a role in Aurora’s earning that title, but they’re quietly exiting stage left.

But now that attorney Phillipa Anderson and construction chief Glenn Haggstrom have left the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is unlikely they will face any punishment for their part in developing the over-budget medical complex. It's now estimated to cost $1.73 billion.

In a hearing last week, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson explained that the administration is powerless to punish employees once they’ve left their positions.

"Once a person is resigned or retired, they are no longer an employee and we have no basis for taking any disciplinary action," Gibson said in an interview.

But that’s not all. Not only are Anderson and Haggstrom leaving Scot free - they are doing so with full pensions in tow.

"Years-late, bureaucratic knuckle-rapping will not suffice for accountability, especially when the two officials retired unscathed with their full pensions and bonuses," U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said in a statement.

Ironically, Gibson recently announced that accountability efforts are working.

VA employees who were complicit in the agency's disaster deserve to be reprimanded �� and our vets deserve better.

2016 DEBATE WATCH: Donald Trump Slides To Seventh Place

Editor’s note: "2016 Debate Watch" is a running, bi-weekly series.

This week we’ve seen Jeb Bush and Donald Trump gain some momentum. Carly Fiorina, meanwhile, recently turned some heads as well, cracking the top ten for the first time ever.

If the August 6 Fox News debate were held tonight, however, only the following candidates would make the (prime-time) cut. (See the debate rules here):

(1) Jeb Bush: 15.0

(2) Scott Walker: 10.6

(3) Marco Rubio: 9.4

(4) Ben Carson: 9.4

(5) Mike Huckabee: 8.0

(6) Rand Paul: 8.0

(7) Donald Trump: 6.0

(8) Ted Cruz: 4.8

(9) Chris Christie: 3.8

(10) Rick Perry: 3.4

Editor’s note: The five polls used to calculate these averages can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

July 13: Scott Walker Finally Sets Presidential Launch Date

At long last, the governor of Wisconsin will toss his cap into the 2016 ring:

The Hill explains why his announcement is so significant:

Walker is the highest-profile potential Republican candidate who has yet to officially announce a bid. He’s currently in second place in the polls, behind former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.), according to a RealClearPolitics average of recent poll numbers.

Scott Walker is the real deal; he's won three statewide elections in four years. Interestingly, too, his most recent victory all but guaranteed that he would run for president in 2016. Hailing from a blue state, however, poses problems. Chief among them, of course, is convincing the base that he's sufficiently conservative.

Recently, he did this by categorically denouncing the High Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges — which, as The New York Times soberly points out, is wildly out of step with past statements he’s made about the case:

His response to the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage most emphatically demonstrated his sharp shift to the right: Mr. Walker called the court’s ruling “a grave mistake” and reiterated his call for a constitutional amendment that would allow states to ban same-sex marriage. It sent a clear message to social conservatives, and one that was noticeably not echoed by two of his leading rivals, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush — who warned last year that Republicans would need to campaign as if they were willing to lose the nomination if they hoped to win the general election. …

At a gathering of Republican donors in New York in the spring, Mr. Walker indicated that his response to an eventual Supreme Court ruling, if it deemed same-sex marriage constitutional, would be in keeping with the spirit of his earlier remark about the question being a settled one in Wisconsin, people who attended the meeting said.

In other words, Walker is sounding more and more like Ted Cruz, and less and less like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. Perhaps that's true. In fairness, though, Walker has not flip-flopped on the issue. He’s a Christian and therefore regularly defends the biblical definition of marriage. Clearly, however, he doesn’t give the same stump speech everywhere he goes (via the Times):

On the party’s right, Mr. Walker’s statement in favor of a constitutional amendment on marriage was greeted favorably on Friday but was called into question when, at a conservative conference in Colorado on Saturday, Mr. Walker made no mention in his speech of marriage or the court’s historic ruling the previous day.

My response: So what? That’s politics. Walker, a social conservative with an impressive legislative record, is campaigning as he sees fit to win the nomination. He is therefore going to stress his conservative beliefs in Iowa, and not do so in swing states like Colorado. He should be cautious, however, and never change his positions on issues simply because of his audience. Doing so, of course, would be politically disastrous.

Meanwhile, another question that has dogged Walker in recent months is if he’s ready for primetime. Earlier this year, for instance, he refused to answer a question about evolution (much to the disbelief of progressives) and later came under attack for questioning the president's religious convictions. He also, somewhat inarticulately, compared his detractors to ISIS, although reading his comments in context it’s clear what he meant. Still, the media will not give him the benefit of the doubt, and while all candidates misspeak from time to time (some more than others), it seems Walker is a prime target for derision.

Officially launching his candidacy, however, offers both opportunity and redemption. Thus, I fully expect him to introduce himself to voters, discuss his record of reform, reference his electoral victories (all three of them), and appeal to social conservatives. Walker, by the way, is deeply committed to winning the Hawkeye State. So don't be surprised if he tailors his message to Iowans specifically or conservatives generally. He needs their votes to stay competitive.

By the Way: More Than 42 Million Muslims 'Support ISIS'

“Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders -- holy warriors in defense of Islam. That’s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the “Islamic State.” And they propagate the notion that America -- and the West, generally -- is at war with Islam, President Obama said in February at the summit on countering violent extremism. “Of course, the terrorists do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology. They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God represents Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism. No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”

President Obama is right—the jihadists in ISIS do not represent the world’s Muslim population. But then again, despite its army numbering in the tens of thousands and sympathizers worldwide, it turns out they’re not quite the fringe group many thought—or hoped—they were.

According to a new report based on four recent polls, 8.5 million people view the brutal terror organization positively, while another 42 million view them somewhat positively.

"ISIS is only a fraction of what it could potentially become,” said Ryan Mauro of the Clarion Project, which conducted the research, reports the Daily Express.

"If we don't act quickly, this is still going to grow – and what we're looking at today is going to look like the good old days compared to the future,” he added.

This, my friends, is absolutely terrifying.

Jim Webb Launches Presidential Bid

Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb (D) has thrown his hat in to the 2016 presidential race, becoming the fifth Democrat to declare candidacy. He announced his candidacy on his website.

Webb served one term in the Senate, from 2007 until 2013. He also previously served as Secretary of the Navy.

Maine Governor Endorses Chris Christie For President

Yesterday, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has endorsed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) for president in 2016, becoming the first Republican governor to endorse a candidate for president in 2016. Christie announced his campaign on June 30.

This move was not exactly a surprise, as Christie campaigned extensively for LePage's reelection in 2014.

From the Bangor Daily News:

“I think he’s the real deal,” LePage later added. “He’s been a governor. He knows what hard decisions are. He’s going to make them. He’s not going to be a politician and talk out of both sides of his mouth. He’s going to tell you things you may not want to hear, but you need to. Then he’s going to go to work trying to fix them.”

[...]

Christie said he was honored to have LePage’s endorsement because he and LePage are cut from the same cloth — no-nonsense conservatives elected to run largely Democratic states.

“In the first full day of my presidential campaign, to be able to come up here and receive an endorsement from somebody who knows what it’s like to run a blue state, knows what it’s like to make tough decisions, knows what it’s like to engage in hand-to-hand combat to try to get things done for the people that elect you — to get an endorsement from Paul LePage today is an incredible honor for me,” Christie said.

Christie's tour of New England continued with an appearance in New Hampshire.

Good News: Promoting Hard Work, Saying "Melting Pot" Now Considered a "Microagression" on College Campuses

File this under "the insane left thinks the idea of America is one big offensive notion." 

According to a story over at Fox News, promoting merit, hard work, and American values, or saying things like "melting pot," is now considered offensive.

Simply asking someone “Where are you from?” or calling America "the land of opportunity” is now considered offensive at some colleges and universities, where such "micro-aggressions" are detailed in training programs and seminars for new faculty and staff.

Other examples of “offensive” statements include, “I believe the most qualified person should get the job,” “Affirmative action is racist,” Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough,” When I look at you, I don’t see color,” and “I don’t believe in race.”

More from the absurd list of "microagressions": 

For background, the University of California system, where this list originated, is now run by former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The concept of promoting hard work and American values is so insane even uber liberal Cass Sunstein is objecting.

“In well-functioning democracies and universities, feelings will sometimes be hurt," said Harvard Law School Professor Cass Sunstein in a Bloomberg View article. “It does students no service to treat them like children — or to threaten to punish people for starting perfectly legitimate political convictions.”

Happy Independence Day everyone.

NYT: There Are More 'Intact Families' Living In Red Counties

To circle back on my previous post about the blue and red state models regarding families, there are positives and negatives to each model. Blue state families–for lack of a better term–are usually better educated, which leads to greater financial stability that often translates into a more stable marriage, according to new research. Families in blue states also marry later in life, whereas families in red states are very religious and community-based, with a population that marries young. However, they aren’t as educated and therefore the divorce rates are usually higher. At the same time, abortion rates are typically lower in red states than that of blue states for obvious reasons. Yet, Ross Douthat of the New York Times highlighted that an ugly aspect of the blue state model is that it may require abortion to be successful. That’s abhorrent, but there's new data that sheds more positive light of the red state model.

Now, the Time’s Upshot blog has something to add to this debate, by analyzing the 470 biggest counties in the country we find–to no one’s surprise–that red counties have more intact families:

W. Bradford Wilcox, of the University of Virginia — decided to go one level deeper and analyze counties as well. (Because of census data limitations, the new analysis covers only the 470 largest counties, which together account for about two-thirds of the population.)

With the county data, the overall blue-state advantage disappears: Teenagers are more likely to live with both of their parents in red counties than in blue. In the counties where Mitt Romney won at least 50 percent of the vote in 2012, 57.7 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds live with both parents. In counties where Mr. Romney won less, 54.5 percent do.

Some critics of the earlier state-level analysis argued that it did not sufficiently take account of race — and that race, not politics, was driving the differences. And it’s true that black and Latino families are more likely to have only one parent and also more likely to vote Democratic, which explains some of the red-blue gap at the county level. But the higher share of intact families in red counties doesn’t appear to stem only from race.

The new data shows that among counties with similar racial makeups, the red counties still had a higher share of intact families.

(In statistical terms: A linear regression on three factors — the percentage of a county that was white, the percentage that was black and the county’s 2012 vote — still found that the vote variable was a statistically significant predictor of the share of intact families. Every additional percentage point in Mr. Romney’s vote share, after controlling for race, correlated with an increase of 0.11 percentage points in the share of intact families.)

“The data suggest that marriage is more likely to ground and guide adult lives, including the entry into parenthood, in red America,” Mr. Wilcox writes in the new paper, published by the Institute for Family Studies. “The red advantage in marriage, in all likelihood, flows in part from higher levels of religious participation and normative support for marriage found in more politically conservative counties.”

He emphasizes that the red-county advantage is modest. The difference between 57.7 and 54.5 is obviously small, indicating that red and blue counties have far more in common than not. Blue counties also have their own advantages — above all, higher levels of education, which tend to lead to more family stability.

At the same time, the article added that Naomi Cahn of George Washington University and June Carbone from the University of Minnesota, who wrote Red Families vs. Blue Families in 2010, argued that “women’s equality, later marriage, birth control and strong educations made families more stable,” though both women agreed that a strong, vibrant economy benefits family stability for all.

Five Lies About Hillary's Secret Emails


Let's review a handful of false statements and claims offered by Hillary Clinton, her lawyers, and her supporters, pertaining to the secret email scandal that continues to unfold:

(1) CLAIM: After the existence of the "home brew" email server was revealed, Hillary turned over all work-related emails to the State Department from her private server, deleting only personal emails -- including missives about "yoga routines," "family vacations," and "planning Chelsea's wedding."

REALITY: Records prove that among the 30,000-plus emails deleted by Hillary's team were notes regarding Benghazi and other Libya-related policies. Congressional investigators have no idea what else may have been unilaterally erased without independent supervision.  What we know for certain is that some number of official emails were permanently deleted, not handed over to State, as claimed. (Bonus lie: Team Hillary initially claimed that emails were automatically flagged for deletion using a keyword search mechanism. They later changed their story, averring that they'd reviewed every individual email -- which means they necessarily eliminated emails they actively knew were not personal in nature).

(2) CLAIM:  Hillary set up a secret email server in her home as a means to simplify her life; she needed this arrangement to streamline all of her emails onto one mobile device.

REALITY: Records prove that Hillary used multiple mobile devices to send and receive emails.  This revelation caused her entire explanation to "crumble at her feet."  Her initial excuse-making made little sense from the get-go.  How is paying someone to set up an entire private email system a simplification?  (Bonus lie: Clinton initially claimed that all of her work-related emails were intact because the aides with whom she corresponded uniformly used .gov accounts, the contents of which were archived.  In fact, several top aides were revealed to have also used private email accounts to conduct official business, and the State Department was shown to have extremely shoddy archiving practices anyway.  And that was all before the Sidney Blumenthal emails came to light, blowing up claim #1 above).

(3) CLAIM: Clinton's lawyers stated that with the exception of a few days at the very beginning of the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton exclusively used one email address through her private server.

REALITY: Records prove that Mrs. Clinton used multiple email addresses, including one that her team had explicitly told Congressional investigators did not exist while she was at State.  The evidence contradicts this assertion.  Also, the latest batch of released emails (which, again, intentionally excludes tens of thousands emails hand-selected for destruction by Clinton's attorneys) reveals a third account:



(4) CLAIM: Top White House officials say they had no idea that Mrs. Clinton was operating a private email server and using it for officials tasks.

REALITY: David Axelrod has some explaining to do, as may others:

Emails released Tuesday by the State Department show that former W.H. advisor David Axelrod knew Hillary Clinton had a private account despite recent claims. According to the latest batch, two email chains show Axelrod did indeed correspond with the then-secretary of state — once in June, 2009 and again in July, 2009. The emails contradict recent comments by Axelrod to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, in which he said he would have “asked a few questions” and shared his “concerns” had he known about Clinton’s private email account and server. Axelrod made the statements in a June 17 appearance after former White House chief of staff Bill Daley told “Meet The Press” that he didn’t know anything about Clinton’s private email during his time in the White House.

He might be able to insist that he wasn't paying attention to the address from which her emails were sent, but one correspondence shows Axelrod actively seeking her email address:



(5) CLAIM: Hillary Clinton "fully complied" with " every rule" regarding official email correspondence and archiving.

REALITYNo, she didn't.  Not even close.  (Bonus point: In light of the unprecedented and potentially disastrous OPM hack at the hands of the Chinese, it is clearer than ever that foreign intelligence services accessed Mrs. Clinton's emails with relative ease; her server was woefully under-secured, especially given the sensitivity of its contents.  Hillary's response to credible allegations that she recklessly endangered national security for selfish political reasons is mind-blowingly silly.  Either she's lying again, or she has no idea how the Internet works.  Or both).

Latest: Navy Yard Cleared, No Shooter Found

UPDATE: It appears this was a false alarm:

UPDATE: Navy Yard officials now say a shooter has not been spotted and there are no casualties.

The Navy Yard in Washington D.C. has been locked down after shots were fired inside a building. Authorities are reporting there is an active shooter in the area. At this time there are no reports of casualties or injuries. 

Earlier this week the FBI and Homeland Security issued a joint memo heightening security awareness and warning against lone wolf terror attacks over the July 4 weekend.

In 2013, the Navy Yard was attacked by a mentally ill man who killed twelve people.

More to come...

This post has been updated with additional information.

Unspeakable: ISIS Has Executed Over 3,000, Including 74 Children

New details are emerging about the nature and extent of the Islamic State's executions, and they are grisly. According to a new report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIS has executed 3,027 people since it established its caliphate one year ago. That number includes 74 children and 86 women.

The charges that ISIS brings against those condemned to death are usually offenses against Islam. These include blasphemy, sorcery, sodomy, spying, and practicing as a Shia Muslim. The bodies of the executed are often brutally put on public display, with their purported offenses listed for everyone to read.

One expert put forth her view of why these executions are so ubiquitous and brutal:

“Underlying all these executions is the apocalypse ideology of the final battle between the believers and the unbelievers,” said Jasmine Opperman, the director of Southern Africa Operations at the Terrorism, Research & Analysis Consortium. “ISIS is using executions to show its followers -- and would-be followers -- that the group is the only true representative of believers, not only in word, but action, which is why executions are featured so prominently.”

This past week, ISIS has stepped up its executions to set an example for conduct during the month of Ramadan. It dealt out three straight days of executions and public chastisements.

On June 30, 11 workers from al-Miadin endured live crucifixion and were forced to wear signs saying "70 lashes and to be crucified for 1 day for breaking the fast in Ramadan."

The most recent killing spree was publicized via a highly produced video, which showed 15 men being executed in three horrific ways.

ISIS has been active in recruiting children to its cause, sending them to "Jihad School" at young ages and holding commencement ceremonies in terrorist fashion. ISIS not only co-opts and brainwashes children, it even brutalizes them through cage-fighting. The report reads:

“The violent Islamist group appears to demonstrate a particular interest in children, releasing videos of children fighting in cages and undertaking military training,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said. “The report also details moves undertaken by the group to entice children to join, which include setting up offices called "cubs of the caliphate" that recruit children to fight for ISIS.”

The report also confirms that ISIS has killed 143 of its own fighters. Many of them were fighters who attempted to flee back to their home countries, some of which were in Europe. Most prospective jihadis who leave their home countries understand that it's a one-way trip, as they are expected to give their lives to the caliphate.

LifeSiteNews Hosts Press Conference Denouncing Obergefell Decision

LifeSiteNews held a press conference Wednesday morning in front of the Supreme Court denouncing the Obergefell v. Hodges that made gay marriage legal throughout the country.

The master of ceremonies was LifeSiteNews editor-in-chief John-Henry Westen. Representatives from the American Life League, Lepanto Institute, Cardinal Newman Society, 2nd Vote and International Human Rights Group all provided statements at the conference.

Westen began the press conference by saying that the results of gay marriage being legal around the world provides evidence of threats to religious liberty.

"In Ireland, churches face fines for not letting same-sex couples have ceremonies on church property," Westen said. "In France, negative speech against homosexuality is banned, and in the Canadian province of Quebec, parents are forced to teach their homeschooled children the government's sexual ideology."  

Scott Schittl from CitizenGo continued on the religious freedom theme.

"It goes to the very core of who we are as people, being made in the image and likeness of God," Schittl said.

He said that religious freedom is under attack in the West, pointing out that bakeries, florists, and teachers have been sued for not accepting in gay marriage; some have even faced fines, prison time or possible termination from their place of employment.

"This phenomenon is now rampant," Schittl said. "Conservatives and people of faith must engage with organizations like CitizenGo and LifeSiteNews.

"Let's go forward with our convictions. If there's one thing the other side hates, it's courage."

Right Wing News founder and Townhall.com columnist John Hawkins was unable to attend the conference, so Westen read his statement aloud.

"As Antonin Scalia noted in his dissent, the Supreme Court's decision had nothing to do with the Constitution," Hawkins wrote. "Instead, five Supreme Court Justices substituted their own opinion for that of more than 300 million people. No American who cares about the Constitution, justice, or the rule of law could support this ruling."

Hawkins noted that the ruling will be used to discriminate against Christians, saying that the tax status of churches will be under attack and Christians will be fired from their jobs.

"This is a country founded on religious freedom and those rights don't cease the moment someone walks out of doors of their church," Hawkins wrote. "The time to start fighting back is right here and now."

Westen also read a statement by Robert Oscar Lopez, an English California State University Northridge who is bisexual and was raised by same-sex parents. Lopez's statement spoke for himself and five other members at the International Children's Rights Institute, who were also raised by same-sex parents. The statement expressed concern for children with same-sex parents.

"The right to a relationship with one’s own mother and father is more universal, lifelong, and fundamental than the right to marry, yet the Court has given an adult class the latter at the expense of the former for a group that truly needed equal protection and due process," Lopez said. "The complete disregard for the research and testimony from children of gays in both the majority opinion and the dissenting opinions is as chilling as it is ominous."

Hugh Brown from the American Life League said that the truth of marriage does not change and that we currently live in a culture that seeks "the destruction of virtue and character" as well as "feminize men." He ripped into Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"Anthony Kennedy betrayed Christ with a vote," Brown said.

Brown later told Townhall.com that he thinks that Kennedy should be excommunicated.

"Anthony Kennedy professes to be a Catholic," Brown said. "If he professed not to be a Catholic, then he can't betray anyone. A hypocrite is someone who goes against the teachings and their beliefs of their faith. He has betrayed his Catholic faith time after time after time. And if you redefine marriage and impose that on 360 million people and you can't be excommunicated for that, then excommunication shouldn't exist."

Gualberto Garcia Jones, the International Human Rights Group executive director and Latin American Bureau Chief of LifeSiteNews’ Spanish and Portuguese website NotiFam.com, also said that Kennedy should be excommunicated. Garcia-Jones said that judges have given up the role as arbiters and are now representatives. He compared Kennedy to Justice Harry Blackmun.

"In 1973, Justice Blackmun ruled through a legal slight of hand that the unborn in the womb are not persons," Garcia Jones said. "Kennedy is the new Blackmun and Obergefell v. Hodges is the new Roe v. Wade."

Westen concluded the conference with a call to arms.

"Let us stand for the right of the family, for truth, for freedom of speech, all of which are under attack with this Supreme Court decision," Westen said. "Will you stand with us America?"

Recreational Weed Now Legal in Oregon

Today marks the first day that recreational weed is legally available (kind of) in Oregon. Oregon residents voted to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes back in November 2014. Oregonians will now be allowed to possess eight ounces of marijuana for recreational use, but they cannot legally buy or sell it just yet. A person may grow their own weed or receive it as a gift, and are only allowed to carry around one ounce at a time. Smoking in public remains illegal.

From Huffington Post:

"We’re turning a page," Blumenauer said Tuesday. "We are suffering, and have for years, with unequal application of justice ... [We’re now] able to focus on our attention of enforcement on people who would put it in the hands of our children, and away from criminalizing behavior that most people think should be legal for adults."

Lawmakers are still working on making it easier for people to clear convictions from their record. A House bill overwhelmingly approved last week still needs Senate approval.

For now, it's not legal to buy or sell marijuana -- though local organizations are circumventing that by giving weed away. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has said it won't be ready to dole out licenses to sell until late next year.

Legislation that still needs House and Senate approval would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell weed to the public as early as Oct. 1, The Oregonian reports. That bill will make pot easy to obtain for adults, considering there are 269 medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon -- more than there are McDonald's or Starbucks locations in the state, Vocativ reports.

Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Gov. Kasich Signs Pro-Life Budget That Helps Pregnancy Centers, Could Close Abortion Facilities

Ohio Governor John Kasich reaffirmed Ohio’s pro-life stance this week when he signed into law a state budget that helps pregnancy centers and holds abortion clinics accountable by closing those that fail to meet basic health and safety standards.

LifeNews.com reports:

Kasich signed the State of Ohio’s 2016-2017 Budget, which provides funding for Ohio’s over 140 pregnancy centers. These life-affirming centers provide material assistance to pregnant women in need, as well as parenting classes for mothers and fathers alike, a service that many centers consider a core element in empowering families.

Across the country, there are over 3,000 pregnancy help centers, outnumbering abortion facilities by a ratio of 6:1. In Ohio, they outnumber abortion providers by a ratio of 18:1, according toOhio Right to Life.

[…]

According to [Ohio Right to Life], the budget also includes pro-life measures that could restrict abortion facilities. The first is an amendment that defines “local” following an abortion facility’s attempt to enter into a contract with an out-of-state hospital in order to stay open.

The second is a requirement that the Ohio Department of Health respond to a facility’s license application in reasonable time. Failure to approve the application within that time will result in the facility’s closure.

“With Ohio facing an infant mortality crisis, it’s absolutely essential that our state enlists and promotes as many community partners as possible to help pregnant women and their children survive birth and their first birthday,” said Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, reports LifeNews. “We know that abortion increases the risk of premature birth, and that premature birth increases the risk of infant mortality. It’s clear that our state needs a consistent ethic that affirms life at all of its stages, and pregnancy centers are the perfect partners for promoting that.”

Krider also noted the importance of showing compassion to women facing crisis pregnancies.

“As a pro-life state, we have to be working to hold abortion facilities accountable, while also promoting positive alternatives to the heartbreaking practice of abortion,” she said, reports LifeNews. “Showing compassion for women and opposing abortion are not mutually exclusive. We have to stop the abortion industry’s disingenuous attempts to turn women against their babies. We have to truly love them both.”

The pro-life group thanked Kasich, a presumptive presidential candidate, who’s been instrumental in promoting the dignity of every human life in The Buckeye State.

VA Denies Iraq War Vet Medical Care Because They "Aren't Taking New Patients"

The Department of Veteran's Affairs apparently doesn't have time for the nation's veterans and recently turned at least one young man away after he sought treatment for PTSD. The excuse? The VA just isn't "taking new patients right now." More from USA Today

Iraq war veteran Chris Dorsey figured that no one would believe he had been turned away from a U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs clinic when he sought an appointment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

So when he went on Tuesday to another facility, the VA Oakwood, Georgia, Community Based Outpatient Clinic, he flipped on his smartphone camera.

On the video, Dorsey is heard waiting patiently in line for more than 5 minutes. When he reaches the check-in counter, he informs the desk he needs a transfer from the Athens, Georgia, VA system and an appointment.

The response?

"We're not accepting any new patients — not this clinic," the VA employee behind the desk says, without providing any extra information, assistance or guidance for treatment.

Unforunately, Dorsey's case isn't an isolated incident. According the the Armed Forces Foundation, the average wait time for veterans to see a specialist for PTSD at the VA is 41 days.

"If it's happening to me, I can't just be be the only one," he said.

Waiting periods for any veteran can be deadly, but especially those suffering from PTSD. On average, veterans commit suicide every 65 minutes of every single day. Since 2001, 2,500 active-duty military personnel have committed suicide. Our vets need help and they need it immediately when they make the decision to seek it out. This is completely unacceptable. 

The War on Marriage

Editor’s note: This author interview originally appeared on ConservativeBookClub.com.

Congratulations Dr. Paul Kengor on the release of your new book, Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage! Can you give us an overview of the book?

Well, as you can see, I avoid provocative topics. Really though, in all seriousness, I wrote this book because of my unique background—decades of researching, studying, writing, and lecturing on ideologies and especially radical ideologies like communism, socialism, and secular progressivism. I know from that background how communists, socialist utopians, and (more recently) secular “progressives” have long sought to reshape, redefine, and effectively take down natural-traditional-biblical family and marriage. This has been a long march ongoing for about two centuries. They’ve long looked to alter the so-called “nuclear family.”

I know that ideological past. I know how it fits into the present. Most people don’t, including those today who are shockingly and unhesitatingly willing to redefine the historic Western/Judeo-Christian conception of male-female marriage. The vast majority of those who are willing to do that have no idea of the deeper, darker ideological-historical forces long at work in this wider movement. They are signing on to something that, whether they know it or not, have important links to much older and more sinister attempts by the far left to redefine family and marriage.

And so, my book details that longer effort. It goes through characters ranging from Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Robert Owen, and Charles Fourier to the likes of Margaret Sanger, Wilhelm Reich, Herbert Marcuse, Betty Friedan, Kate Millett, the Bolsheviks, the Frankfurt School of cultural Marxists, the New Left, and assorted ‘60s radicals from Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn to Mark Rudd and Tom Hayden, just for starters.

What three takeaways would you like readers to leave with after reading your book?

First, for two centuries, the far left—from communists to socialists—have sought to takedown the natural-traditional-Biblical understanding of family and marriage. Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto candidly spoke of the “abolition of the family,” which, even then, in 1848, they could rightly describe as “an infamous proposal of the communists.” These two men did not like marriage and family. “Blessed is he who has no family,” Marx wrote to Engels, who agreed wholeheartedly, refusing marriage to his many suffering mistresses.

Second, for the first time ever, the far left has finally found a vehicle to enable this long-sought takedown of family and marriage: gay marriage. This 21st-century novelty is utterly without precedent in the ancient sweep of human history. Though communists, socialists, and even early progressives could have never conceived the idea of same-sex marriage, they are now firmly on-board for this fundamental transformation of marriage and family. Amazingly, groups like Communist Party USA, its flagship publication People’s World, and even Fidel Castro’s Cuba—once militantly anti-gay—now support gay marriage.

Third, the American mainstream and even the gay community itself have no idea that their support of same-sex marriage actually enables the far left to achieve the takedown of marriage it has long desired. Most chillingly, they have no idea that their support of gay marriage also allows the far left to attack religion—its long-reviled foe—in a way it never thought possible with such wide public acceptance. They are oblivious to the older, deeper forces at work.

What is your opinion of the recent Supreme Court case involving gay marriage?

I’m not surprised. It was inevitable. This country and culture was destined to redefine marriage, period. America as we once knew it is long gone. It’s now comprised of people who feel they can arrogate unto themselves the right to redefine whatever they want. If you tell a modern American that her dog is a dog but she wants it to be a cat, then damn it, it’s a cat. Since January 22, 1973, we’ve rendered unto ourselves the right to redefine life itself. It’s up to each and every woman in America to decide whether the child in her womb is a baby or not.

I think of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s woeful proclamation in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), affirming abortion as a “constitutional right” in all 50 states: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Chew that one over. If Anthony Kennedy interprets liberty to mean that every American possesses his or her own right to define existence, meaning, the universe, and life itself, then why not marriage? For a country of people than can redefine life itself, and come up with their own meaning of meaning, redefining marriage is small potatoes. Really, this country and culture is toast. America, RIP.

What the court’s decision also means is a long, dark, protracted battle for religious believers who dare invoke their faith against a newly invented constitutional “right” to gay marriage. They are in big trouble. With this decision, the religious persecution will now begin full throttle. It’s amazing that these five justices have done this even after several years of watching what liberals—in the name of “tolerance,” of course—will do to those who dare to disagree with them on redefining marriage. This stunning new constitutional invention of “gay marriage” will be an extraordinary wrecking ball for the secular left to smash religious people who disagree with them.

A long period of persecution against religious Americans was launched on June 26, 2015.

Some of our readers may disagree with your view on marriage. What would you say to those who believe that same-sex marriage is an issue about equality, or a civil right itself?

Well, consider all of my earlier points. But I’ll add some more.

This requires a much longer answer on so many levels, but the absolutely fundamental starting point must be this: We have to understand and remember that two men or two women simply can’t form a “marriage.” The very notion of gay “marriage” starts from a completely flawed premise. Marriage has always been a male-female bond. That’s simply what it means. A tree is a tree, a dog is a dog, a cat is a cat, the moon is the moon, and marriage is marriage.

When we as conservatives start acquiescing to a totally relativistic culture’s redefinition of the most fundamental things, then we’re little different from progressives, and we’ve certainly ceased to be true conservatives. A progressive can come up with a new definition, a new meaning, and a new right over a grande skim latte at Starbucks one morning. That’s what progressives do; they have no absolutes, no standards. The only thing that progressives know, and do, is change. They can come up with a totally new definition of marriage tomorrow, next week, next month, or next decade. And they will do so, moving beyond same-sex marriage as well.

In fact, in my book, read closely my section where I discuss the “progressive” group “Beyond Marriage.” They’ve been ready for nearly 10 years to use same-sex marriage to move the culture and legal system beyond traditional marriage entirely.

This is a cultural revolution, folks. If you don’t understand that, then you’re quite ignorant and need to get up to speed really, really quick. The typical gay-marriage supporter has no understanding of how breaking this model, this male-female mold, will open the floodgates and truly change everything. This will undoubtedly create a revolutionary fissure in marriage and family.

One added thought on this: As for conservatives who support gay marriage, all I can say is that supporting gay marriage is absolutely and utterly incompatible with the basic tenets of conservatism. Click here for a recent piece I did on this. Conservatives conserve and preserve the time-tested values and ideals that we know have been good for people, for cultures, for societies. We don’t seek to fundamentally transform human nature and human relations through brand new revolutionary ideas that have never been done before. That’s what the other side does.

If you could advise any of the 2016 GOP presidential candidates, how would you advise them to approach the topic of marriage?

Though the Supreme Court ruling is bad for America, it’s actually politically good for the 2016 Republican presidential candidates. It will allow them to stick to something politically more popular with the electorate: protecting religious freedom from the gay-marriage onslaught.

Though Americans are split on or slightly favor gay marriage, most do not support (not yet anyway) the state forcing religious believers to bake cakes or photograph or provide flowers or whatever for a gay-wedding service that violates their religious beliefs. The candidates can now focus on that aspect of the gay-marriage debate. The supremes have spoken: gay marriage is a “constitutional right” in America now. The candidates can’t do much about that, but they can strive to protect religious liberty.

Also, I would advise the candidates to generally appeal to their faith on this issue. Most of the candidates, if not all, are religious, and (I believe) Christians. As Christians, it would be incredibly arrogant of us and downright heretical and blasphemous to render unto ourselves the right to redefine something that heretofore has been the province of the laws of nature and nature’s God. The male-female unitive, procreative, and marital bond is as old as Genesis and was reaffirmed by Christ himself in the first book of the New Testament, where Christ told his followers that humans cannot tear asunder what God ordained.

As Christians, we have no right to redefine marriage.

What books or conservative-themed books, influenced your political philosophy?

That would be a long list, but I’m often reminded in this marriage debate of a remark by Whittaker Chambers in his classic Witness, which bears very much on the focus and argument of my book, Takedown. Witness was a favorite book of Ronald Reagan as well. Reagan and Chambers both often noted that communists (read: radical leftists) were their own gods. Whittaker Chambers noted precisely this, as would Reagan in his March 1983 Evil Empire speech, where Reagan quoted Chambers on the point. Chambers declared that Marxism-Leninism is actually the world’s second oldest faith, first proclaimed in the Garden of Eden with the words of temptation, “Ye shall be as gods.”

Today’s liberals/progressives, like their leftist forebears, have taken it upon themselves to reinvent our very order in their own image. They are their own determinants of truth, of morality, of what is right and wrong. They render under themselves the right to determine everything from what is marriage to what is life. Again, these things used to be the province of nature and nature’s God. And when someone disagrees with liberals’ attempts to remake these sacred institutions in their own image, they are attacked with hellfire and brimstone.

And here is where modern liberals, secular progressives, and old socialists and communists all come together and share common ground. They all unite, across the generations and centuries, in a joint willingness to permanently alter the historic Western/Judeo-Christian understanding of male-female matrimony. They reject the idea of a single absolute arbiter. They share the fatal conceit first expressed in the Garden of Eden: Ye shall be as gods.

Email Upchuck: State Department Releases First Batch Of Clinton's Correspondences

After a judge ruled that the Clinton emails must be released on a rolling basis, the State Department dumped the first 3,000 of such correspondences last night. They contained more information about Sidney Blumenthal, the fear that she might not last long in the new administration, and how she was reportedly engaged in foreign affairs, specifically the debate about the Afghan surge. Oh, and her private email address was a “hot commodity," with some containing correspondences with journalists.

On Blumenthal, the emails show that the longtime Clinton aide was sought for advice:

Clinton has described Blumenthal’s advice as unsolicited. However, it’s clear from the emails that — at least in her first year in office — the two were in regular contact and Clinton sometimes sought Blumenthal’s counsel.

“Are you still awake?” she wrote in an email to Blumenthal sent on Oct. 8, 2009, at 10:35 p.m. that does not provide details on the issue prompting the message. “I will call if you are.”

Clinton even attempted to get Blumenthal a State Department post in 2009, but aides to President Barack Obama blocked the appointment because of what they viewed as Blumenthal’s role in spreading rumors about Obama during the 2008 presidential primary fight with Clinton.

He would later go on to be a consultant for the Clinton Foundation at a rate of $10,000 a month.

Besides Blumenthal, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Rahm Emanuel, Lanny Davis, a former special counsel to President Clinton, and David Axelrod had Clinton’s private email address (via National Journal):

A new batch of Hillary Clinton's emails released by the State Department make one thing clear—lots of people wanted Hillary Clinton's email.

More specifically, they wanted her email address—a non-governmental address that, as is widely-known now, was hosted on a private server she controlled. Following a court order, the State Department on Tuesday released more than 3,000 pages of emails that Clinton had turned over from her server, with several more batches of messages due before January 2016.

The newest tranche of messages, all of them from 2009, show that many top officials and powerful figures inside and outside the administration had Clinton's address, but some didn't.

In one exchange from June 8 of 2009, Clinton's chief of staff Cheryl Mills emails with a note saying "axelrod wants your email -- remind me to discuss with you if i forget," referring to then-senior White House adviser David Axelrod. Clinton replies, "can you send it to him or do you want me to?" They resolve that Mills will take care of it.

Then a Sept. 5 thread notes that Clinton and Obama's then chief of staff Rahm Emanuel were slated to speak and that she had asked him to email her. Mills emailed Clinton asking, "do you want him to have your email?" Clinton replied: "Yes."

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell had it, as was made clear in his June 19, 2009 email asking, after her mid-June 2009 elbow fracture: "Hillary, Is it true [Richard] Holbrooke tripped you? Just kidding, get better fast, we need you running around."

At the same time, Axelrod said he knew nothing about the email server.

Here are the journalists (via Washington Examiner):

BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith and former New York Times correspondent Les Gelb both make a brief appearance in the newly released trove of messages, as the two reporters apparently discussed Clinton-related story ideas with various members of her team. The emails, which cover only the former secretary of state's first year at Foggy Bottom, raise questions about how much input Clinton's people had in the press' coverage of her early days as America's top diplomat.

In one of the correspondences released Tuesday evening, Smith, who was reporting for Politico at the time, discusses possible story ideas with Tommy Vietor, the former spokesman for President Obama's National Security Council.

On June 22, 2009, Smith wrote Vietor, saying, "[Thanks]. I've been successfully, mostly, talked out of that thesis."

Vietor responded with a simple, "Victory!"

Smith told the Washington Examiner that there's more to the story than the single State Department email suggests.

"I think I'd tried to get them to talk to me by floating the thesis that she was totally irrelevant," Smith told the Examiner. "Reporters' tactics are not always great."

There’s also the bit where the former first lady seems to have been aware of how the media views her, and how she was engaged in her role as Secretary of State, or so says Foreign Policy:

They reveal she was highly concerned with the day-to-day workings of Washington’s Fourth Estate and was well informed of her portrayal in the national media. Additionally, the messages lay bare Clinton’s almost painful awareness of losing her party’s presidential nomination in 2008 to Barack Obama.

But the emails released Tuesday show how Clinton wielded her influence in Obama’s administration.

The messages document Clinton’s initial unease with obscure aspects of international diplomacy. In an April 2009 exchange, Clinton asked advisor Jake Sullivan what is the difference between the P5+1 and E3+3 — two different names for the same world powers’ diplomatic grouping assembled to carry out negotiations with Iran. “What is the E3+3 vs the P5+1?” Clinton wrote. After a back-and-forth with Sullivan, who schooled his boss, Clinton replied, sardonically, “I already feel safer.” Sullivan replied: “And I feel ashamed that I had to subject you to this” — a commentary on U.S. irritation with European countries’ insistence that the term E3+3 be used in official government statements.

As the White House grappled with whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, longtime Clinton political advisor Mark Penn complained to her in a Sept. 24, 2009, email about “the lack of clear Afghanistan policy [that] is unwinding the coalition and threatens to cause a massive deer in headlights problem for administration if not resolved soon.” In heated White House debates, Clinton had lobbied Obama to plus up U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan vexed Clinton in a variety of ways, but never as angrily as in September 2009, when, the emails show, she became aware of naked pool parties and sexually deviant acts performed under pressure among the security staff guarding the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

“This whole issue makes me sick,” Clinton wrote in a Sept. 2, 2009, email to her close friend and chief of staff, Cheryl Mills. “State is too passive and accepting.… I have some ideas about this to explore.”

Clinton also was called on repeatedly to soothe ruffled allies, from Haiti to Argentina, and agreed to send a condolence letter in December 2009 to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose brother had just died. Fewer than two years later, Assad would face a revolt from his country’s Sunni opposition and respond so harshly that Clinton ultimately advocated sending U.S. military assets to curb his assaults.

Still, her perceived engagement doesn’t negate the fact that “smart power” diplomacy has been a disaster.  Guy will elaborate more on this document dump.

Terrific: Attorney In Charge of Releasing Lois Lerner "Lost" Emails Now In Charge of Hillary Clinton's Emails

Attorney Catherine Duval is in charge of handling inquiries from Congress about emails belonging to former IRS official Lois Lerner, the woman at the center of the conservative targeting scandal. Just last week we learned during Congressional testimony from internal government watchdogs that Lerner's hard drive containing emails sent and received when the agency was targeting conservative groups between 2010 and 2012 likely crashed due to "an impact of some sort." We also learned that her hard drive allegedly crashed on a Saturday and that the IRS didn't bother looking for backup tapes. 

“When asked about the possible cause of the hard drive failure, the HP technician opined that heat-related failures are not seen often, and based on the information provided to him, the hard drive more than likely crashed due to an impact of some sort. However, because the HP technician did not examine the hard drive as part of his work on the laptop, it could not be determined why it crashed," written testimony submitted by Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George and Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Timothy P. Camus said.

Now, we're learning that Duval is also in charge of handling the release of emails belonging to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who of course conducted years of government business on a private server hosted in her house. More from CNSNews

“I want to ask you about another name. Have you ever heard of the name Kate Duval?” asked Gowdy.

“Yes sir,” said Camus.

“Who is Kate Duval? Because I think I’ve heard that name before too,” said Gowdy.

“Kate Duval is the chief counsel representative, the IRS’ counselor concerning the production issues to Congress,” said Camus. “She was a lawyer in charge of making sure the counsel made production to Congress.” (The Senate Finance Committee also lists Kate Duval in its timeline of IRS communications with Congress.)

“So she’s in charge of making sure that emails and other matters get produced,” said Gowdy.

“Yes sir,” said Camus.

“Is she still with the IRS?” asked Gowdy.

“She is not, I don’t recall the date that she left, but she’s no longer,” said Camus.

“Do you know where she is now?” asked Gowdy.

“I can get that information for you,” said Camus.

“No, I know where she is now. She’s at the Department of State, in charge of their email productions,” said Gowdy. “Wow.”

Based on the results of Duval's work getting Lerner's emails released, or rather "lost," the American people will never see Hillary's emails. This is a corruption shuffle.

Obama: Opening US Embassy in Cuba "a Historic Step Forward"

On Wednesday, President Obama announced from the White House that the United States and its longtime rival, Cuba, were moving beyond Cold War suspicions and entering a new partnership.

“More than 54 years ago today, at the height of the Cold War, the United States closed its embassy in Havana,” he began. “Today, I can announce that the United States has agreed to formally reestablish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, and reopen embassies in our respective countries.”

“This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people,” he continued, “and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas.”

Not surprisingly, the president also emphasized that such a diplomatic breakthrough was a long-time coming, and therefore will be officially celebrated — and kicked off in style — by his top foreign diplomat.

“Last December, I announced that the United States and Cuba had decided to take steps to normalize our relationship,” he said. “Later this summer, Secretary Kerry will travel to Havana, formally, to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.”

“This is not merely symbolic,” he added. “With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people, we’ll have more personnel at our embassy, and our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island.”

All of which is surely true. However, not everyone is celebrating open diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is perhaps the most vocal critic of such a policy, released a statement today blasting the president's announcement.

“Throughout this entire negotiation, as the Castro regime has stepped up its repression of the Cuban people, the Obama Administration has continued to look the other way and offer concession after concession,” he intoned. “The administration's reported plan to restore diplomatic relations is one such prized concession to the Castro regime. It remains unclear what, if anything, has been achieved since the President's December 17th announcement in terms of securing the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, [in] obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people.”

“I intend to oppose the confirmation of an Ambassador to Cuba until these issues are addressed,” he added. “It is time for our unilateral concessions to this odious regime to end.”

CNN Poll: Bush 19; Trump; 12

So who are the GOP winners and losers in CNN/ORC’s latest poll? Let’s take a look:

Clearly, the two candidates sitting pretty right now are Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. The former jumped six percentage points over the course of the past four weeks, while the latter quadrupled his level of support during that same period, according to the survey. This is no coincidence: Both candidates recently announced their presidential bids, and therefore both have capitalized on all the free (if not always positive) media attention. A month from now, however, it will be interesting to see if The Donald is still in the top tier, especially since he is still reeling from a bevy of negative attacks after uncharitably stereotyping Mexican immigrants.

On the other hand, several candidates have fallen precipitously since CNN/ORC released a national survey. Most noticeably, Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) status as a frontrunner has all but disappeared. He’s polling at a measly six percent, dropping eight percentage points in just four weeks. No candidate (not even Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who fell just four percentage points to six percent overall) is in as bad shape as Rubio. The silver lining, however, is that it’s much too early for this poll to be a political death sentence. Rubio can still recover.

Finally, and not surprisingly, none of the candidates come close to defeating Hillary Clinton in the general election. The candidate who does best against her head-to-head is Jeb Bush, and he trails her by...13 percentage points. And while not every serious contender was tested against her, if the nominal GOP frontrunner, Jeb Bush, is trailing her by double-digits already, clearly Republicans have their work cut out for them. They must finally begin convincing the public, collectively, that Hillary Clinton should not be the next president of the United States.

Luckily, it's only 2015.