Media group launches fact-check network

(AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) — Fact-checking has a new global network after the media studies Poynter Institute announced plans Monday for a new body to support efforts to root out false claims from the media.

The project “will support and study the work of 64 fact-checking organizations spanning six continents,” Poynter said in a statement.

Funded by grants from the Omidyar Network of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Fact-Checking Network will be based at Poynter’s headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida.

What War and Terror Do to Principles

Editor’s note: War is hell. And for those living in Syria, hell is currently a way of life. Armchair statesmen and foreign policy mavens have a lot to say about these matters. Here at FEE, we advocate “anything peaceful,” but often in distant, theoretical terms.

In this article, we present the unique opportunity to hear from someone who has lived the Syrian conflict. We cannot verify all of the author’s claims, but we can offer a glimpse into the mind of someone who, though he desperately wants to cling to his ideals, struggles to maintain them as he witnesses his homeland being torn apart.

I lived in Syria for three out of the four and half years of war. I’ve never been physically harmed, even though there were several close calls. In another sense, though, I’ve come to realize this war has killed so much in me that I’ve turned into something completely unfamiliar; something that often works like a calculator.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither.”

Not a long time ago, he used to be my example. I often repeated that line to those who defended the Assad rule, to those who said that his reign was better than the chaos the country had endured from 1958 to 1970. After a catastrophic union with Egypt between 1958 and 1961, Syria had to deal with the aftermath of its failures until 1970, when the late Hafez al-Assad stabilized the country. Until 2011, Syria was very secure socially, economically, and militarily. Damascus was one of the safest cities in the world — but that was irrelevant to me. I believed in certain principles and demonized the regime that failed to live by them.

I would soon change my mind.

Over the last five years, the Syrian establishment has grown more brutal. Those reforms that were foreseeable in 2011, such as limiting the secret service’s influence and empowering political pluralism, n…

Atheist Dawkins calls out Muslim clock-boy ‘hoax’


Richard Dawkins, ever the skeptic, isn’t buying the official “clock” tale told by Muslim high school student Ahmed Mohamed.

The famous atheist went on Twitter on Sunday and shared a video by electronics expert Thomas Talbot, who demonstrated the fraudulent nature of the ninth-grade MacArthur High School student’s claims. The young man was temporarily detained by law enforcement personnel  Sept. 14 and then suspended when school officials thought he created a homemade bomb.

Mohamed insists he invented a clock, but evidence indicates he may have taken parts from an existing clock and placed them inside a suitcase.

“All he did was remove the plastic case from the alarm clock. This is not an invention. This is not something that someone built or even assembled,” Talbot said in his video, WND reported Sunday.

“If this is true, what was his motive?” asked Dawkins on Twitter. “Whether or not he wanted the police to arrest him, they shouldn’t have done so. If the reassembled components did something more than the original clock, that’s creative. If not, it looks like hoax.”

Dawkins immediately faced backlash to his tweet, to which he responded “He didn’t only claim to have built it. He claimed, on Youtube, that it was his INVENTION. … Possibly wanted to be arrested? Police played into his hands? Anyway, now invited to White House, crowdfunded etc.”

The 74-year-old atheist later apologized if his “passion for the truth” came across as “over the top,” the Huffington Post reported.

In “Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance,” renowned activist Pamela Geller provides the answer, offering proven, practical guidance on how freedom lovers can stop jihadist initiatives in local communities.

Fellow famous atheist Bill Maher also cast a questioning eye on Mohamed, saying on his HBO “Real Time” show Friday, “People at the school that it might be a bomb, perhaps because it looks exactly like a f***ing bomb,” Mediaite reported. “This kid deserves an apology. No doubt about it, they were wrong. But can we have a little perspective about this? Did the teacher really do the wrong thing? … What if it had been a bomb? … Somebody look me in the eye right here and tell me, over the last 30 years, if many young Muslim men (and he is young, 14) haven’t blown up a lot of s**t around the world?”

NBA owner Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks told Maher he spoke with school employees in Irving, Texas, who said Mohamed got through six periods of school before there was any trouble.

“One of the teachers, an English teacher apparently, said ‘Look, you’ve got to put it in your backpack because it’s going to make people nervous and it’s making me nervous,’” said Cuban. “And again, second hand, he wasn’t responsive [to instructions] at all.”

Ahmed, who has been invited to the White House by President Obama, said he plans to transfer to a new high school.

‘Confederate heroes matter’ banner flown over Richmond

(Richmond Times-Dispatch) Community activists and historic preservationists got help from an unusual source to draw attention to their protest today of monuments to Confederate leaders on Monument Avenue during the first day of training for the UCI Road World Championships.

A small plane carrying a banner with a Confederate battle flag and the phrase “Confederate heroes matter” circled above Monument Avenue, where the protest had gathered at the statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

But the drone of the aircraft did not drown the half-hour protest of the Richmond 2015 decision to make Monument Avenue a focal point of the world bicycle competition.

Dozens of groups urge pardon for Edward Snowden


Dozens of organizations, from the American Civil Liberties Union on the left to Guns Owners of America on the right, are urging President Obama to pardon National Security Agency whistleblower and fugitive Edward Snowden.

“We call on you to actively endorse S. 794, legislation introduced by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., that would restore whistleblower protections for IC contractors,” the organizations said in a joint letter Friday to Obama.

Snowden, an NSA private contractor, leaked government documents showing the agency was spying on Americans, including through monitoring cell-phone data.

He ended up a fugitive in Russia.

Get your favorite flag from the WND Superstore’s flag department, from “Don’t Tread on Me” and the “Union Civil War” flags to the Bennington, Culpeper, Betsy Ross and more.

Since the beginning of the Snowden case, nearly 170,000 people have signed an online petition seeking “a full, free and absolute pardon” for Snowden over whatever he revealed about the NSA programs.

Lisa Monaco, a White House adviser on homeland security, responded online by blaming Snowden for not “constructively” addressing the concerns and suggesting he would “come home” and be judged by a jury.

“The balance between our security and the civil liberties that our ideals and our Constitution require deserves robust debate,” she wrote.

However, the organizations said in their letter the White House response “grossly misleads the American public by implying that – 1) there were constructive channels in place for National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden to challenge widespread domestic surveillance, and 2) Mr. Snowden and other contractor whistleblowers within the intelligence community have protections against retaliation.”

While Congress enacted whistleblower rights for some IC contractors in 2007, including those at the Department of Defense, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the NSA, the protections lasted only from 2008 through 2012.

At that time, the Senate expanded the protections, but a “closed conference committee removed all preexisting and new IC whistleblower protections from the bill before passing it,” the letter said.

“Six months after IC contractor rights were rolled back Mr. Snowden disclosed the U.S. government’s sweeping domestic surveillance programs,” the letter said.

The programs have been the focus of a multitude of lawsuits.

Snowden explained to those who questioned him at the time: “The charges they brought against me … explicitly denied my ability to make a public-interest defense. There were no whistleblower protections that would’ve protected me – and that’s known to everybody in the intelligence community.”

He continued, “There are no proper channels for making this information available when the system fails comprehensively.”

The letter was over the signatures of some 40 groups, including Access, ACLU, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Center for Digital Democracy, Citizens for Health, Coalition for Change, Constitutional Alliance, Consumer Action, Consumer Watchdog, Defending Dissent Foundation, Demand Progress, Drum Majors for Truth, Equal Justice Alliance, Essential Information, Expose Facts, Federal Ethics Center, Federally Employed Women Legal Education Fund, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Golden Badge, Government Accountability Project, Gun Owners of America, Human Rights Watch, International Association of Whistleblowers and Judicial Engineering Documented and Impeded.

Other groups are National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, National Employment Lawyers Association, National Forum on Judicial Accountability, National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, OAK, OpenTheGovernment, Patient Privacy Rights, Plea for Justice Program, Power Over Poverty Under Laws of America Restored, Privacy Times, Project of Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Restore the Fourth, RootsAction, State Community Councils, Sunlight Foundation, Rutherford, United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities, Whistleblower Alliance and Whistleblower Support Fund.

Rutherford issued a statement explaining that the legislation would allow workers to “file a whistleblower complaint and provide them access to district court and a jury trial to challenge retaliation.”

“In our current governmental climate, where laws that run counter to the dictates of the Constitution are made in secret, passed without debate, and upheld by secret courts that operate behind closed doors, obeying one’s conscience can well render you a criminal,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute.

“If we are to have any hope of restoring transparency and accountability to our government, it is more critical than ever that we stand up for the rights of those whistleblowers who dare to speak out against governmental wrongdoing.”

The Senate plan, the letter said, “would give intelligence whistleblowers incentives to work within the system, thus protecting taxpayer money from waste, fraud, abuse and misuse.”


A Life Devoted to the Freedom of Others

Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.

The captain of the British slave ship Zong ordered his crew to throw 133 chained black Africans overboard to their deaths. He reckoned that by falsely claiming the ship had run out of fresh water, he could collect more for the “cargo” from the ship’s insurer than he could fetch at a slave auction in Jamaica.

The captain and crew were found out, but no one in the Zong affair was prosecuted for murder. A London court ruled the matter a mere civil dispute between an insurance firm and a client. As for the Africans, the judge declared their drowning was “just as if horses were killed,” which, as horrendous as it sounds today, was a view not far removed from the conventional wisdom that prevailed worldwide in 1785.

Slavery, after all, was an ancient institution. Even with our freedoms today, the number of people who have walked the earth in bondage far outnumbers those who have enjoyed even a modest measure of liberty.

Indeed, perhaps the luckiest of the people taken captive and bound for a life at the end of a lash were those who succumbed aboard ship, where mortality rates sometimes ran as high as 50 percent. Surviving the Middle Passage across the Atlantic from Africa was only the start of a hellish experience: endless and often excruciating toil, with death at an early age.

Moved by the fate of the Zong’s victims and the indifference of the court, a vice chancellor at the University of Cambridge chose this question for the university’s annual Latin essay contest:

“Anne liceat invitos in servitutem dare?” — Is it lawful to make slaves of others against their will?

The contest was known throughout Britain, and the honor of winning it was highly prized…

Authorities defend schoolboy’s arrest over ‘clock’

(London Guardian) A 14-year-old Texas boy who was arrested after bringing a homemade clock to school has accepted an invitation to visit the White House as school and city officials insisted they made the right decision when they handcuffed, interrogated and arrested him this week.

Ahmed Mohamed, an engineering enthusiast, brought the clock to MacArthur high school in Irving, Texas, on Monday to show one of his teachers. Hours later, he was handcuffed and arrested by school resource officers as part of “standard procedure” after being summoned to a school office to explain the device.

After his story swept across the internet and drew messages of support from tech companies and the US president, Ahmed told reporters outside his home on Wednesday: “I built the clock to impress my teacher, but when I showed it to her she thought it was a threat to her. It was really sad that she took a wrong impression of it.”

Don’t Smash the State

In an essay published in 1981, and apparently not available online, Sheldon Richman argued that if the state is like an onion, the proper strategy for liberty was not to peel back intervention layer by layer, but instead to, in the words of the article’s title, “Smash the Onion.”

I remember reading and loving that piece as a radical young libertarian, as did many of my radical young libertarians friends at the time. Even today, I still am sympathetic to the impulse behind that argument, coming as it does from a place that sees the injustice of the state as something that should not be tolerated for one more second. It echoes Martin Luther King’s line that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

However, like most political slogans, the rhetorical appeal and simplicity of “smash the onion” can easily divert us from thinking about the reality of rolling back the state.

Rather than an onion, let’s think about the state as a ticking time bomb. Libertarians are the bomb squad called in to defuse it before it goes off. We could argue for simply yanking out all the wires, or even “smashing the bomb,” but either option is likely to cause the bomb to explode. Defusing a bomb often requires careful thinking about how the bomb was constructed, which parts are linked, and what all those wires do. In other words, safely defusing the bomb requires snipping those wires in the right order.

Let me first address two other issues. One difference between the world of 2015 and that of 1981 is that we have a much greater ability now to work around the onion of the state rather than debating whether peeling it or smashing it is a better strategy. As Jeffrey Tucker and Max Borders argued in “Fifty Ways to Leave Leviathan,” there…

‘Allahu Akbar!’: Migrants rampage, attack police

Hungarian police spray rioting Muslims with water cannons and tear gas Wednesday.

Hungarian police spray rioting Muslims with water cannons and tear gas Wednesday.

Despite the best efforts of CNN, the BBC and other media giants to paint the European migrant crisis as a spontaneous humanitarian crisis fueled by Syria’s civil war, evidence continues to mount to the contrary.

On Wednesday full-fledged riots broke out at Hungary’s border with Serbia, where Hungary had just this week finished work on a razor-wire fence to keep the migrants from pouring into its sovereign territory.

About 1,500 migrants broke through the fence and were rioting, chanting “Allahu Akbar!” while throwing rocks and bottles and even food at police.

Police responded by using tear gas and water cannons to push back the surging crowd.

At least 20 police officers were injured in the rioting, which followed Hungary’s declaration of a state of emergency on Tuesday.

“That is a response to a surge by the migrants here, they are throwing stones, bottles, rocks, anything they can use as a projectile at police positions,” CNN’s Nic Robertson said. “I’ve had to move back out of the way. There are quite a lot of riot police. Tempers are running very, very high.”

Watch video of rioting migrants breaking through Hungary’s border fence.

Robertson then editorialized, saying: “This isn’t a great surprise. Tempers have been fraying now for many hours. And this is a consequence, I suppose it’s another indication, of Europe’s shambolic response to the European migration crisis.”

Many of the young men rioting had placed scarves over their faces.

Reuters reported that Serbia has been informed by Hungary that the border crossing will be closed for the next 30 days and patrolled by Hungarian Humvees with mounted guns which are moving toward the Serbian border.

According to United Nations data, 75 percent of the migrants who have swarmed into Europe this summer have been men, and only 51 percent have been from Europe. Reports about of caches of Syrian passports being found by police, and the demand for these passports grows from non-Syrians seeking to cash in on Europe’s welfare largesse continues to grow.

The rioting and chaos at the Hungarian border is raising eyebrows on both sides of the issue.

This is not the way true war refugees act, say those who have seen the horrors of war up close.

“The media is making this out to be a spontaneous refugee crisis when this is actually a very organized event,” said Dr. Mark Christian, an Egyptian-born former Muslim who served in the Egyptian military and is an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood, which his great uncle helped found.

Dr. Mark Christian grew up in a prominent Muslim family in Egypt and converted to Christianity as an adult.

Dr. Mark Christian grew up in a prominent Muslim family in Egypt and converted to Christianity as an adult.

Christian, who now lives in Nebraska and heads up the Global Faith Institute, said civil war in Syria has been raging for five years. So people should be asking why the surge of refugees from that war suddenly spiked this summer?

“Things are building up for things to start moving quickly in the Middle East. The purpose of these migrants is, they are making the West feel the pain,” he said.

The goal of the migrant invasion is to put pressure on Europe and the U.S. to enter the Syrian Civil War and take out Bashar al-Assad and replace him with a Sunni Muslim government, which is the mission of President Obama and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters, Christian said.

“This is continuing the so-called Arab Spring,” he said. “Keep making them to feel the pain, with ISIS recruiting, ISIS beheading, now ISIS sending jihadists (disguised as refugees). The West will come under more pressure.”

Christian said that under U.S. leadership, starting with President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, every secular Muslim dictator in the Middle East has been removed in favor of a religious Muslim regime. Saddam was dethroned in Iraq and replaced with Shiite mullahs, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was replaced with a Muslim Brotherhood government, which ended up being overthrown by a military coup, Libya’s Moamar Qadaffi was killed and replaced with radical Sunni elements fighting for power, while chaos has been unleashed also in Yemen.

The one sticking point has been Syria, where Russia and Iran have backed Assad and Russia is now moving in heavy combat equipment to join the Russian military advisers already on the ground.

Two years ago when Obama and the U.K. government of David Cameron tried to intervene in the Syrian civil war, both the Congress and the U.K. Parliament balked.

“So they have been given the green light to start the flooding of refugees, start making Europe and America feel the pain more, because this is reaching the point where taking Assad out will be imminent. This is not a spontaneous thing. There are hardly no women coming into Europe, no Christians, who are truly being persecuted. It’s mostly all Muslim men between the ages of 18 and 40. The more this continues the people of Europe and America will be begging for their governments to go into Syria and put and end to this.”

President Obama, meanwhile, has agreed to take 10,000 more Syrian refugees and now his administration let leak the fact that it is considering 85,000 refugees from all countries over fiscal 2016, which begins Oct. 1. And that could be upped to 100,000 in 2017.

Progressivism Is Illiberal

A New York magazine article headline declares, “De Blasio’s Proposal to Destroy Pedestrian Times Square Is the Opposite of Progressive.”

That’s Bill de Blasio, the current mayor of New York City, who was elected in 2013 after running unabashedly as the progressive, socially democratic candidate. I find it interesting that people are surprised by the mayor’s illiberal stands on many (though not all) of the major issues he has faced in his short time in office.

One of the latest is his proposal to return cars to Times Square Plaza, in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, by razing the outdoor space created by the administration of his Republican predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. You see, Mayor Bill says he doesn’t like the goings-on there, which lately include women soliciting topless on the street and people dressed as Elmo hustling tourists. His solution? We can’t control all the hucksterism, so let’s shut the whole thing down!

Justin Davidson, the author of that New York magazine article, says it well:

If de Blasio really believes that the best way to deal with street performers in Times Square is to tear up the pedestrian plaza, may I suggest he try reducing homelessness by eradicating doorways and subway grates?

My point goes beyond Times Square Plaza, of course, although that controversy is instructive, as are others (such as his recent attempt to rein in Uber).

The approach the mayor takes in this and similar matters is characteristic of any political ideology that views unrestrained political power as a legitimate tool of social change. That includes neoconservatism and other modern political ideologies, including progressivism.