Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Why is the world ignoring a wave of terror in Israel?

By Arsen Ostrovsky

In the last week, my country, Israel, including our capital, the Holy City of Jerusalem, have come under an unprecedented wave of Palestinian terror.

A week ago, Eitam and Na’ama Henkin were brutally executed by Palestinian terrorists point-blank in their car. Their four children, Matan, 9, Nitzan, 7, Neta, 4, and Itamar, 9 months old, who are now orphaned, were still in the back seat and miraculously unharmed. Their lives are now irreparably altered.

Days later, two more Israelis were stabbed to death in Jerusalem. One of the men killed was holding his two year old child at the time. More lives and families torn apart.

Two weeks ago, Alexander Levlovitz, who was on his way home after Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) dinner, was murdered when Palestinian youths threw rocks at his car and he lost control.

Over the past 48 hours in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and virtually all parts of Israel, we have had over 150 terror attacks, including stabbings, shootings, stones thrown and vehicular rammings.

Yet somehow the international community is silent in the face of this terror onslaught against my people. Is our blood cheaper? Do Jewish lives not matter?  Let there be no mistakes, ifs, buts or maybes. We are being targeted for one reason and one reason only: we are Jews.

I understand Europe has a number of pressing concerns, including Islamic State and the wave of Syrian refugees, but what about us? Do we not count?

Many leaders, especially in Europe, are quick to condemn Israeli settlements, yet sure take their time to utter a muddied, equivocal word of condemnation against these terror attacks. Likewise human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty.

Then I look at some of the media reporting on these attacks, such as that from the BBC, and ask myself how on earth they can twist the facts and logic beyond a semblance of recognition to actually place the blame on Israel.

"Only when the Palestinian leadership unequivocally renounces terrorism and roots out and condemns all those who preach violence against Israel and hatred of the Jewish people, can there be hope for real peace."

Even more exasperating are those international leaders who, after only noticing the situation when Israel has the audacity to defend itself, then predictably call for us to exercise "restraint". Excuse me? Restraint?

Imagine for a moment if people were being mown down with cars, guns or knives by Islamic terrorists on the streets of central London, Paris, Washington or Moscow. How would leaders of those countries react?

Where are all those so-called enlightened liberals, who continue to call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the Jewish State, but are silent in the face of Palestinian terror against Jews?

Israelis, like all people, have the right to live in safety and security, free from terror. And our government and security forces have an obligation to take whatever action necessary to ensure this.

The tension across Israel, especially Jerusalem, is increasingly palpable. Somehow this wave of terror feels different to last summer’s rocket barrage from Hamas. At least then we had the Iron Dome and time (albeit only 15 seconds) to find shelter. But it is something much more intimate and personal when a terrorist singles you out to kill you in cold-blood.

Many commentators and pundits are calling these "lone wolf" attacks. But how many lone wolf attacks does it take to constitute a co-ordinated wave of terror?

The bottom line is that attacks like these do not occur in a vacuum. Such acts of pitiless slaughter are the direct result of a pervasive Palestinian infrastructure headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, indoctrinating hate, inciting violence and instilling a worldview justifying such gruesome acts.

Barely a week ago, Abbas gave an incendiary speech before the plenary of the United Nations General Assembly, all but giving a green light to this wave of terror.

In a speech on Palestinian TV on September 16th, Abbas proudly stated “we bless every drop of blood spilled for Jerusalem. With the help of Allah, every shaheed (martyr) will be in heaven.” He then added “Al-Aksa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They [Jews] have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet.”

And people still wonder where these terrorists get their motivation.

Not only has the Palestinian Authority failed to condemn these barbaric terror attacks, they have now, incredibly, sought to condemn Israel for defending ourselves. Abbas is surely giving new meaning to the term "chutzpah". Is this really a sign of a leader who yearns for peace?

Only when the Palestinian leadership unequivocally renounces terrorism and roots out and condemns all those who preach violence against Israel and hatred of the Jewish people, can there be hope for real peace.

As the PA continues to insist that the world recognize a Palestinian state, one must ask exactly what type of state it wants: one that teaches the virtues of peace, or incites and glorifies terror?

In a groundbreaking speech on Islamic extremism this July, the British Prime Minister David Cameron made clear, if you say “violence in London isn’t justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter” – then you too are part of the problem.”

To all those people who fail to condemn this Palestinian terror, or find ways to excuse, equivocate or minimize it, I say the same – "then you too are part of the problem."



Lower the drinking age

By Abigail R. Hall

This semester I am teaching a lot of college freshman. As I look out into my classroom I am excited for my students. They will get to participate in university life, make new friends, and try to figure out what to do when they enter “the real world.” It’s an exciting time in their lives. But looking at my students, I also worry. I worry that some will have problems adjusting. I worry that some will abuse their newly found freedom, and it will get them in trouble. I worry about the choices they will make. It concerns me that, at 18, they may make decisions with life-altering consequences and repercussions they can’t yet appreciate.

I think back to when I was a freshman in college. I was by no means a partier, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have memories of drinking the worst rot-gut whiskey in my friends’ dorm rooms and houses. (The warm cola chaser didn’t help.) The worst I ever suffered were hangovers, but others aren’t so lucky. Every year about 2,000 college students die from alcohol-related injuries. Rape and sexual assault are issues on many campuses, and alcohol often lurks in the background. About 25 percent of students report their drinking has resulted in academic consequences ranging from missing class and failing exams to receiving poor grades. Tragically, more than 150,000 students develop health-related problems from drinking.

With these statistics in mind, I say that I care deeply about my students and will gladly advocate changes to make them safer.

That’s why I support lowering the drinking age.

Given the data I’ve presented, my position must seem crazy. But the laws setting the minimum drinking age at 21 are classic examples of a well-intentioned policy with truly devastating unintended consequences.

In 1984 the National Minimum Drinking Age Act required all 50 states to raise their drinking age to 21 or face a 10 percent decrease in federal funding for highways. On the surface this seems like a good idea. The federal government, interested in preserving the lives and health of American youth, pushed states to adopt stricter guidelines on alcohol. But the story doesn’t end there.

Prohibiting a substance doesn’t make the market for it disappear. Just as the prohibition of drug use and prostitution has not stopped these activities, banning drinking for persons under 21 doesn’t stop 18-year-olds from drinking. Prohibition does, however, make underage drinking a lot less safe. By pushing that market for alcohol underground, people like my college students have to do their drinking in secret or risk getting caught, fined, and possibly jailed. They could face additional consequences at school.

The problem here is obvious. If a 21-year-old woman overindulges at the bar, the bartender, friends, or even other patrons can encourage her to stop. If she becomes ill or injured, someone is there to help.

But if the woman is 18 she can’t go to the bar. So, like many college students, she goes to her friends’ place or a party. If she becomes violently ill from overconsumption or something else happens, what options are available? The woman, unable to help herself, must rely on friends who are probably also underage. They are faced with the choice of calling for help and getting busted or trying to care for their friend themselves and hoping for the best.

Another problem is what economists call “potency effects.” Underage drinkers are more likely to consume stronger or greater quantities of alcohol at each opportunity than legal drinkers because they know they may be caught or not have regular access to alcohol. They “pregame” -- that is, drink -- before going out, knowing they won’t be served alcohol later. This behavior, encouraged by the drinking laws, is more likely to lead to alcohol poisoning and even death. In fact, of all underage drinking, some 90 percent is consumed through binge drinking.

People who care about the perils of alcohol should seriously consider supporting a lowering of the drinking age. While that policy won’t eliminate alcohol abuse among youth, it could save thousands of lives.



Health Jobs Dominate Terrible Jobs Report

No good words were used to describe last week’s Employment Situation Summary: “Every aspect of the September jobs report was disappointing,” wrote Michelle Girard, chief U.S. economist at RBS (quoted in Forbes). This is largely a repeat of the August jobs report, although those and previous months’ figures were also revised downwards.

One-quarter of September’s new jobs were in health services: 34,000 of 142,000 added to nonfarm payrolls. Of those 34,000 health jobs, 37 percent were in ambulatory facilities, and 45 percent in hospitals. This is a change from the past few months. Because of a long-term shift in the location of care, there are now almost seven million people working in ambulatory settings, versus just under five million working in hospitals.

We should hope September’s disproportionately high hospital jobs growth is idiosyncratic, and the trend to faster growth in ambulatory facilities is restored. Hospitals are very expensive facilities and have very concentrated lobbying power that they bring to bear to keep their payments higher than they would be otherwise. One of their most successful talking points is that hospitals are the largest employers in a community, which obviously attracts the support of politicians. As the health services workforce shifts to ambulatory settings, this talking point will lose its power.

Significant revisions to previous months’ reports are reflected in the longer term change (See Table II). Over the past twelve months, employment in ambulatory settings has somewhat faster (4.06 percent) than hospital employment (3.04 percent). The health services workforce overall has grown faster (3.17 percent) than the non-health workforce (1.83 percent).

Labor costs comprise a large share of health spending, which is less productive than spending in other parts of the economy. Unfortunately, continuing high growth in health jobs likely contributes to slow economic growth today and Obamacare’s failure to slow the rate of health spending.



FDA Driving Drug Prices into Stratosphere

Bloomberg Business has another story of a jaw-dropping price hike for a very old medical. In this case, Colchicine, a gout remedy so old that the ancient Greeks knew about its effects, used to cost about 25 cents per pill in the U.S. Then in 2010 its price suddenly jumped 2,000 percent.

How did this happen? Colchicine is one of a small number of drugs that were marketed in the United States before 1938. That year, Congress passed the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to require new drugs to be approved for “safety” as well as be “pure” (that is, not adulterated or misbranded, as had been required since 1906).

When the Act was amended in 1962 to require “efficacy,” drugs approved since 1938 had to be approved again. However, pre-1938 drugs have never had to be approved. In today’s parlance, they were “grandfathered.”

Or, at least they were grandfathered until 2006, when the Food and Drug Administration decided to cause the makers of those drugs to apply for approval under the 1962 standards of both safety and efficacy. This is called the Marketed, Unapproved Drugs Initiative and Compliance Policy Guide.

Winning approval requires very expensive clinical trials. Pre-1938 drugs are no longer patented. However, forcing them to go through the FDA regulatory gauntlet effectively gives their manufacturers’ exclusivity similar to patents. The FDA asserts the unapproved drugs were unsafe, citing a few examples. Nevertheless, it looks like the cure has serious side effects, suggesting the FDA has overstepped reasonable boundaries by requiring drugs used for almost a century to submit to regulation.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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