Who Will Put an End to the Child Separation Policy?

The GOP is divided over two potential bills to address immigration issues including the highly contentious policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. Trump has distanced himself from the issue, blaming Democrats and saying that he will sign either of the bills. There is bipartisan support for ending the child separation policy, but it is yet unclear who will be able to make a change. More at Wall Street Journal.

House Republicans plan to vote next week on a pair of immigration bills, including one that would end the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their parents at the Southwest border… In the House GOP proposal released Thursday there is a provision ending the policy. The fate of that measure and another backed by a significant bloc of conservatives is uncertain, meaning the family separation policy could remain intact indefinitely.

Democrats, actively denouncing the zero-tolerance policy, have remained united against the GOP measures but are pushing a bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California to immediately block family separations. No Republican has publicly supported that option… White House officials have said the president is betting that by continuing to separate families, he will gain political leverage in negotiations with Congress over a new immigration bill and cause a drop in the number of immigrants seeking entry.

A top White House adviser on Sunday distanced the Trump administration from responsibility for separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, even though the administration put in place and could easily end a policy that has led to a spike in cases of split and distraught families. U.S. President Donald Trump has tried to blame Democrats, who hold no levers of power in the government, for a situation that has sparked fury and a national debate over the moral implications of his hardline approach to immigration enforcement.

Are Voters Aware of the Impact of Tariffs?

We’ve been warned by experts that the main victims of a trade war will be American farmers and manufacturers. Are these economic consequences beginning to be felt? And further, for farmers in the heartland, is supporting Trump more important than their own economic wellbeing?

In Iowa, where farmers raise 40 million to 50 million pigs annually, President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum from Mexico have already cost producers $560 million, according to an Iowa State University economist. How can that be, you ask. Mexico has threatened countervailing tariffs that include a 20 percent tariff on American pork… If you like barbecued ribs, this could be a great summer for you. If you raise the pigs, you may be eating more barbecued beans.

Strong corporate earnings and confidence about the US economy have further boosted directors’ optimism after the tax reforms that yielded windfalls for many companies. But Gary Cohn, one of the most prominent business voices in the administration until he stepped down as head of the National Economic Council in April, said last week that a trade war could wipe out the boost that business had gained from tax reforms.

A huge amount of work has been done on exactly why voters in places like Iowa vote against their own economic interests, and do so with such conspicuous glee. And here it was. The Secretary of Agriculture and Land Stewardship of Iowa doesn’t have anything to do with abortion or gun control, unless somebody finds a way to plant a crop of newborns or raise a stand of AK’s… But nobody said a mumbling word all afternoon about tariffs that could cost Iowa’s farmers $624 million. The disconnect was sharp and obvious.

Who Calls the Shots in Gaza? Hamas or Iran?

Hostilities between Israel and Gaza militants have persisted with short respites since the beginning of the March of Return demonstrations. Last night Israel responded to rockets from Gaza with targeted airstrikes. In talking about the March of Return and the ensuing violence, discussions tend to center on both Israeli policies and Hamas. But what about Islamic Jihad? Many analysts think it’s the Iranian militant group which is calling the shots in Gaza. More at Jerusalem Post.

In recent years, members of Islamic Jihad have managed to create clear rules of the game vis-à-vis the Israeli army. Unlike Hamas, which is also responsible for the civilian population in Gaza and has political ambitions, Islamic Jihad is committed to nothing other than armed confrontation with Israel… Hamas isn’t interested in escalation, but it can’t prevent an Islamic Jihad response every time. Hamas is also aware of the following that Islamic Jihad has on social media after it clashes with the IDF…Hamas has chosen to cooperate with Islamic Jihad, albeit in a limited way.

The joint work between al-Qassam Brigades and Al-Quds Brigades poses several questions about the reasons behind this field coordination. Why have Hamas and Islamic Jihad agreed to work together now? Is this a prelude to opening a new chapter of joint armed attacks against Israel? Hamas and Islamic Jihad are on the same page ideologically, and they have the same political stance toward Israel and armed resistance against it. They held joint meetings that culminated in the Great Return March in the Gaza Strip on March 30. The Palestinian Authority and Israel are pursuing the two groups in the West Bank.

It could be simply money. Hamas has faced many financial challenges lately, especially considering the dire humanitarian situation in the Strip. The decrease in smuggling from and to the Sinai Peninsula, and reduced tax collection, have put Hamas in one of the greatest financial crises it has ever faced. Its main sponsors, Qatar and Turkey, aren’t rushing to transfer funds to Gaza as in the past. The Iranians, by contrast, decided to come to Hamas’s aid on the issue of the border protests. Every Palestinian wounded near the fence gets approximately $250, a pretty significant sum of money by Gaza standards. According to assessments in Gaza, it is Iran that is funding these payments.

Is Commentary Magazine Overly Focused on Black Antisemitism?

A recent article by James Kirchick in Commentary Magazine laments the rise of black antisemitism in America, but this is not the first time Commentary has run such an article. In 1963, then-editor Norman Podhoretz published “My Negro Problem – And Ours,” and in 1979 Commentary featured an article titled, “Black Anti-Semitism on the Rise.” Is black antisemitism as big of an issue as Commentary is making it out to be? Or does Commentary have a prejudice issue of its own to work out?

Tensions between African-Americans and Jewish Americans have not been this bad since 1991. In that single, fateful year, the Crown Heights riot resulted in the death of an Australian Jewish student, the Nation of Islam released a libelous tract (The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews) alleging an exceptionally invidious Jewish role in the slave trade, and City University of New York black studies professor Leonard Jeffries made national headlines with his denunciations of “a conspiracy, planned and plotted and programmed out of Hollywood” by “people called Greenberg and Weisberg and Trigliani.”

In a notorious 1963 essay titled “My Negro Problem–And Ours” Norman Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary, wrote of “the insane rage” he felt “at the thought of Negro anti-Semitism.” Podhoretz didn’t elucidate why “Negro anti-Semitism,” which manifested itself most visibly in the ravings of the Nation of Islam, should be any worse than white anti-Semitism… we are [now] told, in an article criticizing “black anti-Semitism” that “For all his many faults, Donald Trump has never ‘questioned the humanity,’ either metaphysically or biologically, ‘of Jewish people.’” [.] In the age of the alt-right, fighting anti-Semitism is an urgent problem. Unfortunately, Commentary magazine doesn’t seem interested in the most politically potent form of contemporary anti-Semitism. Instead, the magazine seems to be serving up the 1960s, reheated.

…a 2016 Anti-Defamation League study reported that 23 percent of African-Americans demonstrated anti-Semitic views. The study subsequently notes that “anti-Semitic propensities within the African-American population continue to be higher than the general population,” also adding, however, that these propensities “are in decline.” [.] Whether that amounts to a grudge match between the two communities is unclear. Both groups are among the biggest supporters of the Democratic Party, and, at least among the majority of Jews who are not Orthodox, tend to share a common foe in Donald Trump.

Mohammed bin Salman: Social Reformer or Ruthless Authoritarian?

Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, is either the greatest authoritarian the Kingdom has ever seen or else its greatest reformer. The paradox can be seen perfectly in the issue of Saudi Arabian women and their right to drive. In granting women the right to drive, MBS is taking a major step forward for women’s rights in a country where women’s freedoms are as restricted as anywhere else on earth. At the same time, he has arrested or detained nearly all of the female activists who agitated for precisely that kind of reform. So is he a reformer fighting for women’s rights? Or is he a repressive dictator? Maybe he’s both.

…the new Saudi Arabia appears to be heading toward an ever-harsher form of authoritarianism, even as the government promotes the social reforms that are starting to release women from the most rigidly enforced gender discrimination in the world. Future campaigns for more meaningful reforms to women’s lives, such as an end to the widely hated guardianship law requiring all women to seek the permission of a male relative before traveling, working or even visiting a cafe, will be deterred… “The only reforms that are going to happen are those identified by the state,” she said. “Mohammed Bin Salman wants to be the arbiter. He wants to decide the reforms and when they happen.”

Saudi Arabia’s highest authorities apparently want to make it clear that it was not the courageous advocacy of those feminists that led to this moment, when the kingdom is about to finally lift its ban on women driving, but rather the grace of a crown prince engaged in ferocious revisionism. To allow feminists to celebrate what is, in all regards, a victory of their years of activism would nurture the idea that activism works — a truism that authoritarians hate.

Allies of the young prince argue that he is pushing hard to transform Saudi society against powerful forces, and he has to restrain protests, whether liberal or conservative, because they risk spiralling and derailing the entire reform project. He has certainly appeared as determined to rein in hardline Islamists as to silence feminist campaigners. A senior cleric was suspended when he made claims that women shouldn’t drive because their brains were half the size of men’s and shrank when they went shopping. But regardless of the crown prince’s own aims, allowing women to drive is itself a powerful political liberation that will make a huge difference to millions of people.

How Dependent is the World on Coal-Based Energy?

Between renewables and nuclear energy one would imagine that the world has been slowly weaning itself off of environmentally destructive coal-based energy. But is this really the case? New data from BP says no. But if we’re really developing new energy tech, why are we still so hooked on coal?

In 1998, coal represented 38 percent of global power generation. In 2017, it represented … 38 percent of global power generation. In electricity, a sector that absorbs 40 percent of the world’s primary energy and produces more than a third of its emissions, the past 20 years have been running to stay still. No net decarbonization progress has been made. Coal grew like crazy starting in 2000, so all the progress in renewable energy over the past decade has just scarcely served to bring coal back to where it was in 1998. And speaking of “non-fossil” power, it didn’t help that even as renewable energy was growing, nuclear power was declining, a climate disaster activists have done too little to forestall.

In the energy business, perceptions of change often run ahead of reality. The 19th century is widely thought of as the Age of Coal. However, as environmental scientist Vaclav Smil points out, the dominant sources of total fuel use worldwide were wood, charcoal and straw. On that basis, it was the 20th century that was the true Age of Coal… World coal use rose in 2017 for the first time in three years, and may well rise again in 2018. Prices for thermal coal used for power generation have risen strongly in recent months, driven by high temperatures in China and other Asian countries that have increased demand for air-conditioning and hence for electricity.

Our addiction to fossil fuels is unrelenting, which means that the skies will continue to fill with carbon dioxide for the foreseeable future. Efforts to scale back coal and oil consumption are underway, but once the trigger has been pulled, it’s hard to put the bullet back into the chamber: conventional wisdom states that the CO2 up there isn’t going anywhere. Some scientists, however, beg to differ. They imagine a future wherein colossal network of machines scrub the sky of CO2. It sounds science fictional, but prototypes of these machines exist, and recently, the idea received a flurry of media attention when a team of researchers announced they might be scaled up more cheaply than we thought.

Today’s Hot Issues

Who Will Put an End to the Child Separation Policy? Are Voters Aware of the Impact of Tariffs? Who Calls the Shots in Gaza? Hamas or Iran? Is Commentary Magazine Overly Focused on Black Antisemitism? Mohammed bin Salman: Social Reformer or Ruthless Authoritarian? How Dependent is the World on Coal-Based Energy?