Posted in TV, World, tagged Aleppo, Arab World, Bashar al-Assad, Crisis, SUN ecurity Council, Syria, TV, UN, United Nations, World on January 30, 2013 |
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People have forgotten about Syria, but not because things have gotten better there. Instead, Syria has simply been knocked off the front page by the French action in Mali, Lance Armstrong’s confession, and countless other, fresher stories.
Yesterday, evidence emerged of another horrific mass killing in Syria. More than 70 bodies were found by a river near the town of Aleppo; some had hands tied behind their backs and gun shot wounds to the head. The UN estimates that more than 60,000 people have been killed in a conflict between the Assad government and opposition groups that has lasted for a year. The opposition blames the government, and the government blames the opposition forces, and in the meantime Syrians keep getting slaughtered.
Predictably, the news of the latest massacre brought another call for international intervention and action by the UN Security Council. There will be no UN action, of course, because the Security Council is deadlocked, with China and Russia resisting any action that might be taken against the Assad government. Even the U.S., Great Britain, and France are just pushing for resolutions that threaten sanctions. UN resolutions aren’t likely to do much good when armed men are kicking in your door and taking members of your family out for execution.
We’re paying no attention to it, but Syria should be teaching us two valuable lessons and reminding us of a third, sad reality of the modern world. The first lesson is that the UN is a weak institution that will rarely take decisive action; contrast the French action in Mali to the UN’s dithering about Syria, and you get a good idea of the difference between a nation and an “international institution.” The second lesson is that the cries of the “Arab street” about mistreatment of Arabs are hollow and hypocritical. Where are the mass protests in front of Syrian embassies throughout the Arab world when each new outrage is unveiled? We should all remember the lack of any meaningful Arab response to the murder of thousands of Syrians the next time we hear angry Arab denunciations of claimed Israeli misconduct toward the Palestinians or American unfairness.
And the cold, cruel reality is that the world has only so much appetite for horror and outrage before it turns off the TV. The BBC story linked above refers to the “Syria crisis,” but that’s not quite right. A true “crisis” involves a crucial point of decision. That doesn’t exist here, because the world seems to have accepted that the Assad regime will remain in power and continue to kill its opponents. If there were a policeman in front of the yellow tape surrounding the Syrian crime scene, he would be saying: “There’s nothing to see here. Move along.”
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The Onion has fooled many with its fake news stories. Now it has caught its biggest fish yet: the official Iranian news agency, Fars.
Fars reported as fact an Onion spoof about a fake Gallup poll that found that 77 percent of rural white Americans would rather vote for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than President Obama. The Fars story included The Onion‘s fake quote from a West Virginia resident who purportedly said the Iranian leader “takes national defence seriously, and he’d never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does”.
Fars has apologized for its blunder, but I think its apology tells us something more significant about Iran than the fact that Fars was initially duped by The Onion. In the apology, the Fars editor-in-chief said: “Although it does not justify our mistake, we do believe that if a free opinion poll is conducted in the US, a majority of Americans would prefer anyone outside the US political system to President Barack Obama and American statesmen.”
If the head of the official Iranian news agency truly believes that Americans would prefer a hateful, repressive, anti-Semitic figure like Ahmadinejad to our own President, there is a huge gulf in understanding between our two countries. When those two countries are jousting about Iran’s reckless efforts to obtain nuclear capabilities, such a lack of understanding can be extremely dangerous. If Iranians think it is plausible that rural Americans would vote for an intolerant, deluded bigot like Ahmadinejad, what are they thinking about President Obama’s warning, in his recent speech to the United Nations, that the United States “will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.“ Are they taking that warning seriously, or are they kidding themselves about that, too?
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Posted in America, World, tagged America, Egypt, First Amendment, freedom, freedom of speech, Islam, Liberty, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mohamed Morsi, Muslims, Pakistan, The Innocence of Muslims, U.N. General Assembly, United Nations, World on September 23, 2012 |
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The Muslim world has been giving the United States a lot of advice and information lately. No doubt we’ll hear more thoughtful recommendations and guidance in the next few days, as Muslim leaders come to New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. America needs to decide how to respond.
In Egypt — where only days ago raging mobs stormed the U.S. embassy and ripped down our flag — the new President, Mohamed Morsi, says in an interview with the New York Times that the United States needs to fundamentally change its approach to the Muslim world and show greater respect for Muslim values. In the meantime, the head of the largest fundamentalist Islamic party in Egypt, which supported Morsi, is calling for U.N. to act to “criminalize contempt of Islam as a religion and its Prophet.” And in Pakistan — a supposed ally — the government Railways Minister has offered a $100,000 payment to whomever kills the makers of the YouTube video The Innocence of Muslims and called upon al Qaeda and the Taliban to help in murdering the videomakers. (Fortunately, the Pakistani government says it “absolutely disassociates” itself with the comments of its Railway Minister. Thank goodness!) And we haven’t even heard yet from the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will be speaking to the U.N. General Assembly, too.
It’s heartening to hear from the enlightened leaders of a region that is widely recognized for reasoned discourse and thoughtful consideration of opposing viewpoints. But I’d like to see whoever speaks for America at the U.N. General Assembly share some of our views with the assembled Islamic leaders — and do so in pointed terms. We should say that we relish our First Amendment, and we’re not going to change it no matter how often Muslims go on murderous rampages at some perceived slight. We should say that will fight any effort to criminalize speech and will veto any ill-advised U.N. resolution that attempts to do so. We should emphasize that we think that the world needs more freedom, not less, and that we stand with the forces of liberty. We should tell the Muslim leaders that their real problems are not with freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but with tribal-based, anti-female societies that crush individual initiative, medieval economies that leave huge swathes of the population unemployed and ready to riot at any moment, and corrupt leaders who are more interested in amassing their own fortunes than helping their people realize a better way of life. Oh, and we should make clear that we won’t do business with government where ministers are offering bounties on the heads of filmmakers.
I’m tired of our simpering, whimpering approach to defending our fundamental freedoms. It’s high time that we stood up for what we believe in and told the Islamic world that they can riot all they want: we aren’t going to back away from our liberties.
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There is a curious controversy brewing in Europe, about “baby boxes” and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
So-called “baby boxes” are locations, typically found outside a hospital, where a parent can leave an unwanted infant, ring a bell to summon someone to come to the child’s aid, and then vanish from the child’s life. There are almost 200 such “baby boxes” spread throughout Europe, and since 2000 some 400 babies have been left in them. Proponents of the practice say it is a regrettable, but nevertheless necessary, safety valve that protects a child’s life — apparently arguing that, without such an option, infants might die from neglect or an intentional act by a parent.
The UN contends that “baby boxes” violate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. That document says every child has a right to be known and cared for by his or her parents, and the state has a “duty to respect the child’s right to maintain personal relations with his or her parent,” even if they are separated. A UN Committee is writing to European governments that permit “baby boxes” to urge that the practice be outlawed and replaced by improved state family planning and unwanted pregnancy services.
I obviously don’t support abandonment of infants — I can’t fathom what might motivate a parent to take such a drastic action — but are “baby boxes” really a top priority in a world where outrages against children are sickeningly commonplace? At least the relatively few infants left in “baby boxes” are in a place where they will be found, and cared for, and ultimately made available for adoption. Consider, by comparison, the countless children who are left to die from exposure in countries where there are limits on how many children families may have, or are physically mutilated as a result of primitive beliefs, or are sold into sexual slavery, or are pressed into military service by tribal warlords, or are forced to work under horrible sweatshop conditions?
In a world of finite money and resources, wouldn’t every penny spent on the issue of “baby boxes” be much better spent on trying to end the many more widespread, life-threatening problems that are bedeviling unfortunate children around the world?
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Posted in America, World, tagged Afghanistan, America, Arab League, Iraq, Libya, NATO, Syria, United Nations, World on June 9, 2012 |
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The news from Syria is all bad. The various UN ceasefire proposals and peace plans have been abject failures — predictably. And while diplomats talk, and talk, and talk, the Syrian people are getting slaughtered by their own government in a series of bloody massacres. The latest incident came last night, when Syrians in the town of Deraa were shelled, apparently by government forces, even as UN observers try to investigate an earlier atrocity.
The Syrian situation is one of those instances that reveal the remarkably cold-blooded nature of foreign policy in the modern world. Unfortunately for the Syrians, their dusty country is one of the few places in the Middle East that lacks oil reserves. Nor is it a place that has served as the launching ground for successful terrorist attacks. As a result, for all the hand-wringing, neither Europe, nor the United States, nor any other country has sufficient skin in the game to do anything to depose the evil Assad regime and stop the awful civilian carnage in Syria. And any effort to take military action under the umbrella of the UN inevitably will be blocked by the Russians and the Chinese, who aren’t fans of international interventions, anyway.
Compare events in Syria to what happened in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Life in Syria is as violent and repressive as it was in any of those countries before regime change was imposed at the point of a sword. The difference is that the United States and other governments viewed those other countries as involving crucial geopolitical interests and had the ability, through their own resources and the NATO construct, to take affirmative steps to address those interests. The Syrian situation doesn’t invoke such crucial interests, and therefore the Syrian people will continue to suffer and die.
I’m not advocating that America act unilaterally for humanitarian reasons; our human, financial, and military resources are finite, and I don’t think we can or should serve as the world’s policeman whenever tyrants begin campaigns of indiscriminate killing in distant lands. I’m just noting that the sad futility of the Syrian “peace plans” and escalating rhetoric of the diplomats exposes the ultimate hollowness of most multi-national organizations, like the UN and the Arab League. Why aren’t Syria’s oil-rich Middle Eastern neighbors taking steps to stop the bloodshed in their own backyard? The Arab League should be ashamed.
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Posted in America, Technology, World, tagged America, computers, Congress, Democrats, International Telecommunications Union, Internet, News, Republicans, Technology, United Nations, World on May 27, 2012 |
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Some countries are pushing a proposal to give the U.N.International Telecommunication Union (“ITU”) more control over the internet. The proposal will receive a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives next week.
Currently the internt is “governed” (if you can call it that) by a a collection of non-profit entities. The result has been a lot of freedom and not much regulation. Governments, however, are concerned that they don’t have sufficient control over this massive, still developing communications medium. The U.N. proposal, backed by governments in China, Russia, Brazil, India, and other countries, would give the ITU more authority over cybersecurity, data privacy, technical standards and the Web’s address system.
This is such an awful idea that there appears to be bipartisan opposition to it in Washington, D.C., with both the Obama Administration and both Republican and Democratic lawmakers expressing opposition. Imagine — a proposal that is so obviously terrible that our splintered representatives can agree that it sucks!
And, it does suck. The last I checked, the internet wasn’t broken. We can write what we want, and read what we want, without concern that some ponderous and corrupt U.N. regulatory body will try to stop or direct us. Indeed, the internet is one of the few international activities where cooperation has managed to produce tremendous growth — economic growth, growth in access to information, growth in communications, and growth in freedom. That’s why repressive governments hate the internet. Why would we want to hand repressive regimes a tool they can use to silence critics and punish dissidents? Let’s all hope Congress does the right thing and tells the U.N. to keep their hands off the internet.
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In a few hours another UN-brokered cease fire is supposed to take effect in Syria. Don’t hold your breath.
This is just the latest in a series of would-be cease fires announced by the United Nations. The cease fires were supposed to stop the systematic killing of women and children, but the Syrian government has either ignored them or taken advantage of them. The UN announces that a cease fire will take effect in the future, and Syria continues to shell residential areas and murder civilians while the world waits to see if the cease fire will somehow take effect at the announced deadline. Then the deadline passes, the killing continues, and the whole “peace process” starts all over again.
The Syrian situation shows that the UN is a hollow shell that is effective only when the United States and its allies are pushing for action. Otherwise, its pronouncements are toothless, and its efforts to broker peace agreements are rejected by petty despots like Bashar al-Assad without fear of consequences. UN “cease fire” declarations are pathetic, like a punch line to a bad joke.
The sad thing is that the people of Syria may hear the latest declaration of a cease fire and hold out hope that the UN and the “world community” will actually do something to stop the violence. Their situation is bad enough without the UN raising their hopes for peace and then dashing them, again and again and again.
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Posted in World, tagged donations, International Criminal Court, Invisible Childen, Jacob in Uganda, Jason Russell, Joseph Kony, Lord's Resistance Army, Uganda Revolution, United Nations on March 12, 2012 |
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The next twenty nine minutes are an experiment, but in order for it to work you have to pay attention …. that’s the start of a short film you can watch below created for Invisible Children charity by Jason Russell.
The intent of the film is to draw awareness to Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony and to make him well known internationally which will hopefully lead to his arrest. So far 75 million have viewed the film via YouTube and events are to culminate on April 20th when people will awake to posters of Kony everywhere.
The basis of the film is that Joseph Kony kidnapped and coerced young male children to serve in his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in parts of Africa and those that chose not to were rounded up and killed. Kony is accused by the International Criminal Court of rape, mutilation and murder of civilians.
The film also features Jacob a young Ugandan male whose heart wrenching account of being witness to his brother’s killing makes you want to cry not to mention the fact that he too wishes he were dead.
My initial reaction after viewing the film was what can I do to help, give money, perhaps I could post a blog that would provide even more awareness ….. not so fast ! Reports say that people in Uganda believe the initiative is a good one, but that it should have come years ago (fighting has been going on there since 1988). The Ugandan government says its people want to rebuild their lives and live in peace now because Kony was driven out of their country in 2008 and may even be dead.
Regarding the possible financial contribution I was considering, a little less than thirty cents out of every dollar contributed to Invisible Children is going toward the actual cause, the rest to staff compensation, travel expenses, more film making and the like. Hardly seems worth making a donation.
So in the end will I end up doing nothing at all ? I hope not. I guess what bothers me the most is if the United Nations whose primary aims are social progress, human rights and world peace can’t mobilize the international community to action when the worlds children are being subjected to this type of treatment then haven’t they outgrown their usefulness ?
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It’s bad in Syria, and it seems to be getting worse. This is not good news for the United States, or the world.
Fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels apparently is raging across the country. The rebels are reporting that 95 people were killed in clashes that reached the suburbs of Damascus. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is clinging desperately to power while the international community debates how to proceed and whether to approve a UN resolution that calls upon Assad to step down and hand power to a deputy. Russia and the United States are on opposite sides of the issue, and Iran, as always, is a wild card.
These are perilous times in the Middle East. Old governments have fallen, Islamist groups have assumed power in formerly secular states like Egypt, and the United States is trying to redefine its role. Any kind of armed conflict could spill over into other countries, further destabilizing the region.
Assad obviously is not a significant historical figure — but he could become one if his downfall leads to broad-scale conflict in the Middle East. No one today would remember Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand but for his assassination, which plunged the nations of Europe into the First World War.
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Posted in Humor, World, tagged Adnan Nevic, Danica May Camacho, Humor, News, Philippines, United Nations, World, World Population on November 1, 2011 |
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Yesterday, the United Nations reckons, the world’s seven billionth inhabitant was born. The UN has determined that no. 7,000,000,000 is Danica May Camacho, born in the Philippines.
The UN has shouldered the burden of designating a kid to represent each of these population milestones. Resident Of Earth No. 6,000,000,000 is a Bosnian boy named Adnan Nevic, now aged 12. Adnan got to be held by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan when he was an infant, but says he hasn’t heard from Annan since then. How did a Bosnian birth get picked from all of the births happening worldwide, virtually simultaneously? Who knows — except to say that the selection undoubtedly was the product of the byzantine politics and horse-trading that seems to characterize all UN decision-making.
Of course, even the UN doesn’t presume to have the omnipotence to time births and deaths and determine precisely who is no. 7,000,000,000 — although it isn’t too far-fetched to imagine legions of self-important UN functionaries instructing expectant women the world over to take “short, quick breaths” until the lucky grunting Mom in Manila got the job done.
What is the UN’s message with these designations? With all the hoopla, are we supposed to drink a toast to Danica — her Mom certainly seems proud of giving birth to the official no. 7,000,000,000 — or are we supposed to shake our head in dismay at the thought of seven billion humans treading the soil of Mother Earth? If it’s the latter, why pick the second child born to unmarried parents in a country where, according to the first story linked above, one in ten girls aged 15 to 19 has been pregnant?
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Does the United Nations have much credibility anymore? The principal function of the U.N. these days seems to be providing ineffectual peacekeeping forces, providing an international forum for nuts like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to spout his crackpot, anti-Semitic theories, and provide legitimacy for the governments of dictators and thugs.
Here’s the latest case in point: Syria — bloody Syria, where the despotic government is shelling and shooting its own citizens for having the temerity to protest for a more democratic government — is in line to become a member of the UN Human Rights Council. Of course, that Council has always been a bit of a jest — it includes Cuba, China and, until quite recently, Libya.
If UN processes and procedures allow a state like Syria to don the mantle of protector of human rights, why should the UN or its pronouncements have any credibility on the world stage?
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Posted in America, World, tagged America, American Foreign Policy, foreign policy, Hugo Chavez, Iran, Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, Robert Mugabe, United Nations, World on March 17, 2011 |
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This morning’s BBC features this headline “Libya: US urges tough United Nations resolution.” One can only imagine the rueful reaction to that headline in Benghazi, where rebels wait while the forces of Muammar Gaddafi close in, or in Tripoli, where Gaddafi and his bloodthirsty supporters must be laughing at an international community that has done little to prevent him from crushing the rebellion. Given what has happened over the past few weeks, this headline on a Reuters story may be more apt: “Leaders dither as Gaddafi hails final showdown.”
The reality is that urging “tough” United Nations resolutions doesn’t mean much in the face of guns and mercenaries. And saying that a foreign leader should leave doesn’t mean much, either. The days when pronouncements of American presidents left people quaking in their boots are long since over. If there is no resolve to take actions, words ring hollow — but even meaningless words and lack of action nevertheless can have negative consequences.
If, as now appears likely, Gaddafi survives the rebellion and executes or imprisons all of those who defied him, what message has been sent? If you live under an authoritarian regime and are considering a rebellion, the message is loud and clear — you might get a pat on the head from the ever-debating members of the U.N., but don’t expect much more than that. If you are Hugo Chavez, or Robert Mugabe, or the leadership of Iran, you realize that there isn’t much stomach for confrontation, and perhaps you decide to conduct your affairs even more recklessly. And if you are Israel, or some other pro-Western government in a volatile region, you begin to calculate your chances of survival if American words aren’t backed up with deeds and you adjust your policies accordingly.
I’m not saying that America should intervene militarily in every foreign policy crisis or act as the world’s policeman. I am saying, however, America should zealously guard whatever is left of its credibility and not issue pronouncements unless it is willing to back them up.
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Posted in Food, World, tagged Corn Ethanol, Egypt, Egyptian Protests, Food, Food Prices, Hunger, News, Revolution, Tunisia, United Nations, World, World Food Prices, World Hunger on February 3, 2011 |
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Worldwide food prices are up sharply in the last year. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization food price index, which measures the wholesale price of a basket of basic food, has increased seven months in a row. Food prices are now at record highs, according to the index.
The price increases are largely supply-driven and are expected to be long-lasting, according to the experts. Weather conditions, such as droughts, floods, and cyclones, have interfered with normally farming and harvest patterns and have kept food from the marketplace. Other factors affecting supply include the increasing efforts to use food as fuel — the heavily subsidized corn ethanol industry in the United States is a good example — and the spread of cities into areas that used to be agricultural producers. And as we all know from the law of supply and demand, when available supply does not meet demand, prices will increase. That is precisely what has happened.
If history teaches us anything, it is that food and famine often effect revolutionary change. The French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and countless other incidents of regime overthrow have been motivated by the actions of hungry, desperate people. The recent unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, and other parts of the Middle East also is being attributed, at least in part, to food prices and hunger. Leaders of regimes in those volatile, hungry parts of the world must be wondering whether they soon will be going the way of Nicholas and Alexandra and Marie Antoinette.
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With all of the problems in the world, it is noteworthy that the United Nations has decided to focus on the pressing topic of impending extraterrestrial visits and has appointed Mazlan Othman as the person aliens should contact if they come knocking at Earth’s door.
Who is Mazlan Othman, you may ask? Why, she is a Malaysian astrophysicist who heads up the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, and therefore is the perfect person to deal with the issue of alien first contact. She explains that, when aliens first communicate with Earth, “we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all sensitivities related to the subject,” and the UN “is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.” One can only imagine what kind of meaningless, politically correct drivel the slow-moving UN political processes would produce as Earth’s “coordinated” response to an alien contact.
Perhaps the clever plan is to baffle the alien ambassadors. When they show up and say “take me to your leader,” we will escort them to some unknown, politically powerless head of an obscure UN organization who will read them some multicultural blathering and expect them to be satisfied with the UN’s coordinated balancing of various “sensitivities.” And then, with any luck, the aliens will conclude that Earth is too weird to deal with and move on to Venus.
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Posted in America, Politics, World, tagged America, Arizona, Immigration, Politics, United Nations, United Nations Human Rights Council, World on August 30, 2010 |
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Here’s a curious story: the United States State Department has cited the federal government’s lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law in a “required report” to the United Nations Human Rights Council as one of the 100 steps the federal government has taken to uphold human and civil rights in the United States. Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, has reacted to this news with studied outrage.
There are lots of weird facets to this news item. For example, why is the United States “required” to file a report about its internal affairs with the United Nations Human Rights Council? (If we didn’t file the report, would the Council “flunk” us?) Why should we be reporting to a Council that includes such noted freedom-loving countries as Cuba, Libya, China, and Saudi Arabia (among other countries where citizens enjoy fewer freedoms than are found in the U.S.A.)? Moreover, do we really think that bringing a lawsuit that sought to enjoin the Arizona law before its enforcement was even attempted by police officers was really an important step in upholding human and civil rights?
The clear impression is that the State Department is pandering to an international community that is desperate to conclude that the United States is filled with angry xenophobes whose hate-filled bigotry is only barely being held in check through legal steps taken by our federal government. The reaction of the Arizona Governor reported in the story linked above seems overdone, but it does rankle to think that our own national government is suggesting that one of our states needs to be restrained from violating human rights — and then is broadcasting that suggestion to repressive governments who don’t afford their citizens even the most basic freedoms provided by our Bill of Rights.
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