Category Archives: Foreign Policy

Rahaf Mohammed

This week we learned of a beautiful, courageous, independent woman who had the initiative to escape her abusive, traditional Muslim, Saudi Arabian family. She was en route to Australia, tourist visa in hand, and ended up being detained by the Thai authorities, who–under pressure from Saudi Arabia–intended to send her back to her family. But did she give up? No. She barricaded herself in her airport hotel room, where she was told to wait for the next flight back to Kuwait. And she started tweeting. Soon the whole world became aware of her plight, putting enough pressure on the Thai authorities that they had to refrain from forcibly deporting her, and allow the United Nations to intervene.

More on Rahaf’s plight here:

At first I was skeptical as to whether the UN would be much help. After all, they’re the organization that is seriously considering trying to do whatever it can to outlaw “blasphemy,” and Rahaf is an atheist apostate. But, perhaps due to the spotlight Rahaf created for herself, they ended up granting her refugee status. This, under the current bureaucratic regime, allows countries to consider her application for asylum–and prevents Thailand from sending her back to Saudi Arabia. Her first choice had been Australia, but the latest word is that Canada was the first country on her list of preferences to actually agree to admit her. Good for them. And her.

Even though I spent much of Sunday night messaging any contact I could think of to help get her here, in hindsight I think this is probably better for her. (Even better, of course, would have been her first choice, Australia.) Our country, at its best, would have been the natural place for a woman with such independence, courage, and initiative. But our current President is too unwelcoming, and way too chummy with the Saudis. (And apparently we are, in the United States in the 21st century, regularly approving child bride requests, giving legal sanction to this horrific abuse of women and girls.)

So Rahaf is on her way to (relative) freedom, but that doesn’t mean that she’s no longer in danger. Even in the limited time I spent posting on social media on Rahaf’s behalf, I ended up receiving a number of hostile responses, including one actual threat. I can only imagine how many she must have received. (As of this writing, she has at least temporarily deactivated her Twitter account, due to the threats she received.)  Unfortunately the same actions that were necessary for Rahaf to take, to bring the world’s attention to her case, to give her a real chance of escape, will now also make her vulnerable wherever she goes.

Moroever, there are still many more women, still stuck in Saudi Arabia, facing the same conditions that Rahaf was. And their situation is not helped by the way that many in the media have been framing her story. The headline of the one I found on Apple News this morning says that she has “fled ‘abusive’ family.” And from what I hear, that’s typical of much of the news coverage about her case. How does anyone expect the conditions faced by Saudi women to improve, if no one is brave enough to even name the problem properly: She’s an atheist apostate, and her home country, Saudi Arabia, would allow her family to kill her for it, without even blinking.

Nonetheless, despite the media’s attempt to minimize the nature of the plight faced by Rahaf and other Saudi Arabian women, she has inspired many of them to demand better for themselves. I don’t know that I’m as optimistic as Mona Eltahawy, who said she thinks there will now be a revolution in Saudi Arabia due to the inspiration Rahaf has provided. But it’s clear, judging by the reaction I saw on Twitter and elsewhere, that Rahaf has made a difference.

And while, as I said, she herself is still at some risk, she has earned a real shot at a great life, in the type of country she deserves: one that provides religious freedom, equal rights for women, and significantly better prospects for safety. Rahaf, I admire what you’ve done and I wish you the best in your new life.

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The Science of Food and Energy

I wonder what the anti-GMO crowd will have to say about vegetables grown in space. The Independent reports that “Astronauts on the International Space Station will sit down to a very special meal tomorrow as they become the first people to ever eat vegetables grown on the station itself.” NASA scientists in charge of the Veg-01 experiment believe that growing and consuming fresh produce in space will confer both physical and psychological benefits on the astronauts, and they also see implications for improving “urban plant factories and agricultural practice designed to use electrical light sources and practice water conservation.”

Physical and psychological benefits of consuming healthful food? Don’t tell that to scientists recently funded by Coca-Cola. The soft-drink company reportedly donated $1.5 million to start the Global Energy Balance Network, an organization led by exercise scientists and dedicated to promoting the view that exercise is more important than diet in avoiding obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions.

“Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, ‘Oh they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much’ — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on,” the group’s vice president, Steven N. Blair, an exercise scientist, says in a recent video announcing the new organization. “And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.”

Hmmm. “Really virtually”? And he also had to add an “in fact” to the sentence? I think the Coca-Cola funded scientist doth protest too much.

Sugar is well known to be detrimental to human health. This recent article, for example, counts on readers to understand that, when scientists say that soybean oil is even worse for you than sugar, this is something you should heed. I have been blessed with a good metabolism that has allowed me to consume carbs with relatively little effect on my weight (thanks mom and dad!), but even with my metabolism I see that what I eat has much more of an effect on my weight and energy than does the amount of exercise I get. And that says nothing about the effect of carbs, particularly sugar, on the body’s all-too-precarious and little understood, in my opinion, balance of hormones and other life-sustaining chemicals (adrenals, thyroid, etc., etc.).

There may be some truth to the group’s assertion that many Americans are too fixated on the number of calories they consume, and that many would be healthier if they got more exercise. But if their message is, “Don’t worry, enjoy your sugary sodas. You can exercise it off,” then they are doing everyone a disservice. Not only is sugar bad for the body, but so is the type of exercise many use to burn it off: steady-state cardio. (See this article, which explains how steady-state cardio exercise, such as running, depletes muscle, tricks the body into retaining fat, and interferes with proper thyroid function.)

I have never been a big soda consumer, particularly in recent years as I’ve come to understand the effect of both sugary and reduced-calorie sodas on my health. Still, I’m somewhat sympathetic with Coca-Cola’s plight. Why? Because the company’s primary motivation for funding the Global Energy Balance Network is government intervention:

This clash over the science of obesity comes in a period of rising efforts to tax sugary drinks, remove them from schools and stop companies from marketing them to children. In the last two decades, consumption of full-calorie sodas by the average American has dropped by 25 percent.

“Coca-Cola’s sales are slipping, and there’s this huge political and public backlash against soda, with every major city trying to do something to curb consumption,” said Michele Simon, a public health lawyer. “This is a direct response to the ways that the company is losing. They’re desperate to stop the bleeding.”

This is one of many instances in which we can agree with the position that governments are taking on an issue, while at the same time maintaining that government has no place interfering. (Gay marriage, anyone?)

Speaking of being out of place, how about the group of 29 U.S. scientists who took it upon themselves to write a letter to President Obama praising the Iran “deal”? In a News Sandwich, I am supposed to deliver only one bad news story on a particular theme, but this is another example of scientists acting, not in service of human life, but against it. The letter, reports the New York Times, “praises the technical features of the Iran accord and offers tacit rebuttals to recent criticisms on such issues as verification and provisions for investigating what specialists see as evidence of Iran’s past research on nuclear arms.” Only tacit rebuttals, because these scientists are not able to refute arguments by, e.g., the Ayn Rand Institute’s Elan Journo, that the content of any “deal” with Iran is meaningless because this regime, a leading sponsor of terrorism controlled by totalitarian theocrats, cannot be trusted.

I’d much rather see this group of 29 top nuclear scientists working on ways to provide us clean, plentiful, inexpensive nuclear energy. I’m still waiting for my Coca-Cola-can-sized, residential nuclear reactor that will free me of dependence on government-imposed monopolies. But while many of us work to change the culture to one that will legalize true energy innovation, we will have to be content with those technological advances, made possible by science, that are still legal.

Here’s one for which entrepreneurs will, no doubt, find numerous applications: iSkin, which is

A skin-worn sensor that turns the human body into a touch sensitive surface for controlling mobile devices has been developed by scientists in Germany. iSkin is made from biocompatible silicone rubber with pressure-sensitive sensors that are stuck to the skin of the users, allowing them to use their own body to control mobile devices.

One of the scientists “also hopes that it could one day be possible to incorporate an energy-harvesting system that would power iSkin via the wearer’s body.”

I wonder if the iSkin scientists could team up with Coca-Cola’s scientists and see if they can suck out the calories we consume in sugary soda? Would that qualify as “sustainable energy”?

I’m off to write my Patent Application now…

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A “Life to America” News Sandwich

This week I was relieved to hear that a number of Democrat Senators–enough to, along with Republicans, create veto-proof legislation–oppose the “deal” with Iran that is currently being negotiated in Switzerland by John Kerry. These Senators thankfully didn’t get the memo from two Cato scholars that Islamic terrorism “poses no existential threat to America.” Writes Francesca Chambers at the Daily Mail,

[A] dozen Democratic senators, including Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Affairs committee, have said they will join with the GOP majority to pass bills inserting themselves into the [negotiation] process.

One would levy additional sanctions on Iran after June 30 if it doesn’t agree to the final terms of a deal, though monthly waivers would be allowed should more time be requested. The other would give the Senate the power to reject within 60 days any pact the executive branch makes with Iran.

(HT Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch)

If Iran were to develop or acquire a nuclear weapon, it would have the means and opportunity to “pose an existential threat” to many Americans. What about motive? This week, even while the negotiations are going on with John Kerry in Switzerland (did he bring James Taylor with him?), Khameni is back in Iran doing a “Death to America” reprise.

The Islamic doctrine of taqiyya, which permits Muslims to lie to “Infidels” like us, should be enough to keep any sane person away from the negotiation table with a theocracy like Iran. But, in addition, the New York Times today provides us with evidence that the doctrine is alive and well, and part of Iran’s strategy for developing its nuclear capacity. Yesterday the paper reported that, in late 2012, our intelligence agencies “uncovered an Iranian businessman’s scheme to buy specialty aluminum tubing, a type the United States bans for export to Iran because it can be used in centrifuges that enrich uranium, the exact machines at the center of negotiations entering a crucial phase in Switzerland this week.” Why should we think, if a “deal” were to be reached–even a deal that Senators would approve–that it would be worth anything at all? In fact, such a deal would likely aid Iran in its nuclear ambitions, because no doubt part of the “deal” would include us sending some of our tax dollars to them, among other “concessions.”

While the Senate may succeed in preventing some of the damage that would result from a “deal” with Iran, our real hope is to elect a candidate in 2016 who can begin to undo the accumulated foreign policy damage. This is no small task because, while the damage done has increased substantially under Obama, it goes back much further than that, arguably spanning decades. Ted Cruz, who is slated to announce his candidacy tomorrow, has been a vocal opponent of Jihad and shows signs that he is not the typical neoconservative. This is only one of many reasons we have to believe that a Ted Cruz presidency would bring back Life to America.

Is Ted Cruz “The Guy”? That’s a question we asked on my podcast back in 2013. Listen here.

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