Why is the West declaring a new cold war on Russia?
It seems a thin excuse that Ukrainian independence fighters misused Russian-made weapons! This can't end well. Economic sanctions are always ineffective so tend to lead to escalation. There is a view that Western leaders want to stop Ukrainian oil and gas from falling under Russian control. A war for oil?
Spurred to action by the downing of the Malaysian airliner, the European Union approved dramatically tougher economic sanctions Tuesday against Russia, including an arms embargo and restrictions on state-owned banks. President Barack Obama swiftly followed with an expansion of U.S. penalties targeting key sectors of the Russian economy.
The coordinated sanctions were aimed at increasing pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his country's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine whom the West blames for taking down the passenger jet nearly two weeks ago. Obama and U.S. allies also warned that Russia was building up troops and weaponry along its border with Ukraine.
"Today Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of genuine progress," Obama said. "It does not have to be this way. This a choice Russia and President Putin has made."
Tuesday's announcements followed an intense lobbying effort from Obama aimed at getting European leaders to toughen their penalties on Russia and match earlier U.S. actions. Europe has a far stronger economic relationship with Russian than the U.S., but EU leaders have been reluctant to impose harsh penalties in part out of concern about a negative impact on their own economies.
However, Europe's calculus shifted sharply after a surface-to-air missile brought down the passenger jet, killing nearly 300 people including more than 200 Europeans. Obama and his counterparts from Britain, France, Germany and Italy finalized plans to announce the broader sanctions Monday in an unusual joint video conference.
European Union President Herman Van Rompuy and the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said the sanctions sent a "strong warning" that Russia's destabilization of Ukraine cannot be tolerated.
"When the violence created spirals out of control and leads to the killing of almost 300 innocent civilians in their flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia, the situation requires urgent and determined response," the two top EU officials said in a statement.
Obama, responding to a question after his announcement at the White House, said, "No, it's not a new cold war."
The new European penalties include an arms embargo on Moscow and a ban on the unapproved sale to the Russians of technology that has dual military and civilian uses or is particularly sensitive, such as advanced equipment used in deep-sea and Arctic oil drilling.
To restrict Russia's access to Europe's money markets, EU citizens and banks will be barred from purchasing certain bonds or stocks issued by state-owned Russian banks, according to EU officials.
A dissident comment from Australia
Julie Bishop [Australia's foreign minister] is choosing her words more carefully in Kiev and starting to doubt the motives of President Poroshenko who is systematically murdering thousands of his own Ukrainian citizens. He has little interest in MH17, his interest is genocide.
The Ukrainian military is bombing its own undefended eastern cities, razing schools, hospitals, suburban infrastructure, water and electricity supplies. It is showering mortars indiscriminately on rural nationals who are fleeing as refugees from their own country in numbers approaching a quarter million.
Yet, if Putin dares to assist in stemming the genocide he is labelled a supporter of separatists and rebels by the West.
Poroshenko is feigning co-operation with the Dutch and Australians in order to precipitate further Western sanctions on Russia. It’s working. Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott are now hoping they have backed the right horse in Poroshenko. Clearly they haven't.
They are trusting this tyrant to secure the MH17 site when his sole interest is to ethnically cleanse the East of all Russian sympathisers. The problem is that Putin will now be forced to meet the Poroshenko behemoth head on, leaving MH17 irrecoverable in the midst of an escalating white hot warzone.
Unconstitutional Obamacare legislation defended by Leftist judges
A federal appeals court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to invalidate the president’s health-care reform law on grounds that the massive piece of legislation did not originate in the House of Representatives as required by the Constitution.
A three-judge panel of the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the lawsuit filed on behalf of an Iowa artist and part-time National Guardsman.
The artist, Matt Sissel, pays for medical expenses out of pocket and does not want to be forced to purchase a required level of health insurance or pay a tax to the government.
Recommended: How much do you know about health-care reform? Take our quiz!
He challenged the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, charging, in part, that Congress followed improper procedure by initiating the health-care law in the Senate rather than the House.
The Constitution’s Origination Clause says: “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”
The provision is intended to ensure that any effort by Congress to raise money from the American people must first receive the approval of those lawmakers closest to the people – and presumably more receptive to the wishes and concerns of voters.
The ACA’s journey from debate to bill to law was somewhat unusual. What would become the ACA was actually drafted in the Senate. Senate Democrats then gutted a bill that passed the House – offering tax credits to military veterans buying a first home – jettisoning every provision of that measure. All that remained was the designation – HR 3590.
Into that empty shell the Senate poured the full contents of what became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The approved Senate version was then sent to the House for approval.
Sissel’s lawyers noted that in 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts upheld the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate on the grounds that it was enacted under Congress’s taxing authority.
They argued that if the ACA is a tax, it had to have been passed by Congress in compliance with the Origination Clause.
In rejecting that argument, the appeals court panel said the ACA is not subject to the terms of the Origination Clause because the ACA is not a “bill for raising revenue.”
As such, the court said it had no reason to conduct a detailed examination of how the ACA was passed in Congress.
In dismissing the lawsuit, the appeals court said the purpose of the underlying bill was critical to determine whether the Origination Clause would apply.
“After the Supreme Court decision [upholding the ACA], it is beyond dispute that the paramount aim of the Affordable Care Act is to increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance and decrease the cost of health care, not to raise revenue by means of the shared responsibility payment,” Judge Judith Rogers wrote for the court.
Judge Rogers acknowledged that although the ACA’s individual mandate might raise up to $4 billion a year by 2017, “it is plainly designed to expand health insurance coverage,” rather than to raise revenue.
The upshot of the appeals court’s ruling is that the ACA’s required payment for failing to purchase health insurance is a “tax” significant enough to support Congress’s authority to pass such a measure, according to the US Supreme Court. But the required payment does not qualify as “tax” for constitutional provisions dictating how Congress passes such legislation, according to the DC Circuit court.
Two of the judges on the appeals court panel were appointed by President Obama. Rogers was appointed by President Clinton.
“The mere fact that [the individual insurance mandate] may have been enacted solely pursuant to Congress’s taxing power does not compel the conclusion that the entire Affordable Care Act is a bill for raising revenue subject to the Origination Clause,” Rogers wrote.
“Where, as here, the Supreme Court has concluded that a provision’s revenue-raising function is incidental to its primary purpose, the Origination Clause does not apply,” she said.
One of Sissel’s lawyers, Timothy Sandefur of the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, said the court’s decision was “disappointing.” He suggested they were considering filing an appeal to the US Supreme Court.
Mr. Sandefur said the appeals court relied on “a new and unprecedented distinction to exempt the Obamacare tax from the Constitution’s rules for enacting taxes.”
“The Constitution makes no such distinction, and neither does Supreme Court precedent,” Sandefur said in a statement.
“The precedents say that the only kinds of taxes that don’t have to originate in the House are penalties and fines,” he said. “But the Supreme Court itself ruled in 2012 that Obamacare’s individual mandate is not a penalty or a fine. So the Origination Clause should therefore apply.”
Sandefur added: “The DC Circuit for the first time holds that judges can decide for themselves what the ‘main object or aim’ of a tax is, and then pick and choose whether the constitutional rules on the enactment of new taxation should apply. We think that’s wrong, and that’s what we’ll be taking to the Supreme Court if necessary.”
Obama to the rescue – of Hamas
by CAROLINE GLICK
Operation Protective Edge is now two weeks old. Since the ground offensive began Thursday night, we have begun to get a better picture of just how dangerous Hamas has become in the nine years since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip. And what we have learned is that the time has come to take care of this problem. It cannot be allowed to fester or grow anymore.
We have known for years that tunnels were a central component of Hamas's logistical infrastructure.
What began as the primary means of smuggling weapons, trainers and other war material from Hamas's sponsors abroad developed rapidly into a strategic tool of offensive warfare against Israel.
As we have seen from the heavily armed Hamas commando squads that have infiltrated into Israel from tunnels since the start of the current round of warfare, the first goal of these offensive tunnels is to deploy terrorists into Israel to massacre Israelis.
But the tunnels facilitate other terror missions as well.
Israel has found tunnels with shafts rigged with bombs located directly under Israeli kindergartens.
If the bombs had gone off, the buildings above would have been destroyed, taking the children down with them.
Other exposed shafts showed Hamas's continued intense interest in hostage taking. In 2006 the terrorists who kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Schalit entered Israel and returned to Gaza through such a tunnel.
Today the presence of sedatives and multiple sets of handcuffs for neutralizing hostages found in tunnel after tunnel indicate that Hamas intends to abduct several Israelis at once and spirit them back to Gaza.
These tunnels must be found and destroyed not merely because they constitute a physical danger to thousands of Israelis. They must be located and destroyed, and Hamas's capacity to rebuild them must be eliminated because the very idea that they exist makes a normal life impossible for those immediately threatened.
Hamas's tunnels are also the key component of their command and control infrastructure inside Gaza. Hamas's political and military commanders are hiding in them. The reinforced bunkers and tunnel complexes enable Hamas's senior leadership to move with relative freedom and continue planning and ordering attacks....
By Tuesday morning, IDF forces in Gaza had destroyed 23 tunnels. The number of additional tunnels is still unknown.
While Israel had killed 183 terrorists, it appeared that most of the terrorists killed were in the low to middle ranks of Hamas's leadership hierarchy.
As Israel has uncovered the scope of Hamas's infrastructure of murder and terror, the US has acted with the UN, Turkey and Qatar to pressure Israel (and Egypt) to agree to a cease-fire and so end IDF operations against Hamas before the mission is completed.
To advance this goal, US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo on Monday night with an aggressive plan to force on Israel a cease-fire Hamas and its state sponsors will accept.
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