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Sri Lanka’s govt. integrity, economic freedom deteriorate – Daily Mirror

Posted: February 20, 2017 at 7:44 pm

By Chandeepa Wettasinghe Sri Lanka slipped down to the Mostly Unfree country territory this year in the Index of Economic Freedom, with the lack of government integrity being the only contributor towards the slip in both the ranking and the score. The perceived level of corruption is debilitating, the US-based Heritage Foundation, which compiles the index, said. Sri Lanka slipped to the 112th place from the 93rd place last year, while the country score, which had increased to 59.9 out of 100 in 2016, just 0.1 below a Moderately Free country, declined to 57.4 this year, recording a 6 year low, since 57.1 recorded in 2011. A score below 50 indicates a Repressed country, while a score above 70 denotes a Mostly Free country, and above 80 is classified as Free. Under the rule of law category, the score for property rights increased to 48 in 2017 from 40 in the last year even though the Heritage Foundation noted, investors claim that protection could be flimsy. The unity government, which came to power in 2015, had attracted greater rankings on government integrity, reaching up to 39 in 2016, before nose-diving to 30 this year, matching the lowest levels of 1995 and 1996. Global corruption watchdog, Transparency International, too in its Corruption Perception Index recently pointed out the increasing threats to transparency in Sri Lanka under the current government. However, government ministers claim there is a gap between their good work and the communication of their endeavors to the public. The current government had come to power promising to eliminate corruption, on a wide platform of good governance and transparency. However, many stakeholders are now contradicting the publicly announced policies with the policies formulated in secrecy. The countrys government securities market was also shaken through insider deals allegedly connected to a Central Bank Governor appointed by the unity government, for which action has been slow. Judicial effectiveness for this year was recorded at 48.3. Meanwhile, Sri Lankas tax burden was considered as free, with a score of 85.3, up from 85.1 YoY, despite the increases in taxation legislated in late 2016. Government spending too fared well, increasing to 90.2 from 90.0 YoY continuing an upward trend, despite cuts witnessed in expenditure in 2016 to bring the budget deficit. Fiscal health however, recorded at 31.2. Regulatory efficiencies recorded all-around improvements in 2017, with business freedom increasing to 72.8 from 70.3 YoY, labour freedom increasing to 57.5 from 56.5 YoY and monetary freedom increasing to 76 from 71.5 YoY.

The business start-up process has been streamlined, and the number of licensing requirements has been reduced, the Heritage Foundation said, but noted that labour market lacks efficiency. Sri Lankas commitment towards open markets remained relatively unchanged, with only trade freedom increasing to 74.5 from 72.4 YoY, while investment freedom and financial freedom remaining stagnant at 35.0 and 40.0, respectively. Sri Lanka ranked 25th in the entire Asia Pacific region, while China ranked 24th, Bangladesh 28th, Pakistan 32nd, India 33rd and Vietnam 35th. Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia were ranked in the top 5 both in Asia Pacific as well as in the World. Switzerland managed to edge out Australia by ranking 4th in the world, while Taiwan filled up the 5th position in Asia Pacific.

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Trump appoints Philly native, Valley Forge grad to lead NSA – Philly.com (blog)

Posted: at 6:56 pm

President Trump on Monday named a Philadelphia native, Army Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, to serve as his National Security Adviser.

Herbert Raymond “H.R.” McMaster, 54, was tapped after Trump’s first NSA chief, Michael Flynn, was forced out last week and another candidate, retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, turned down the position.

Known in military circles as an intellectual strategist, McMaster grew up in the city’s Roxborough section and graduated in 1980 from Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Radnor Township. Four years later, he graduated from West Point.

During the 1991 Gulf War, McMaster was awarded the Silver Star for a battle in which his armored cavalry troop of nine tanks destroyed more than 80 tanks and other vehicles from an Iraqi mechanized brigade.

He later earned a doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, writing a dissertation that turned into a widely-acclaimed book, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, published in 1997.

A 2006 article in the New Yorker that focused on McMaster’s service during the Iraq War said the book “assembled a damning case against senior military leaders for failing to speak their minds when, in the early years of the war, they disagreed with Pentagon policies. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, knowing Johnson and McNamara wanted uncritical support rather than honest advice, and eager to protect their careers, went along with official lies and a split-the-difference strategy of gradual escalation that none of them thought could work. Dereliction of Duty won McMaster wide praise, and its candor inspired an ardent following among post-Vietnam officers.”

The same year, CNN called the book “the seminal work on military’s responsibility during Vietnam to confront their civilian bosses when strategy was not working.”

McMaster also wrote a 2003 monograph for the U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership, titled “Crack in the Foundation: Defense Transformation and the Underlying Assumption of Dominant Knowledge in Future War.”

The New Yorker piece noted that McMaster, “who describes himself as ‘a bit of a Luddite,’ argued against the notion that new weapons technology offered the promise of certainty and precision in warfare.”

His military education at Valley Forge included several leadership roles and athletics.

“We are very proud of H. R. McMaster’s distinguished career in the defense of our nation,” saidCol. John C. Church Jr. USMR, president of Valley Forge Military Academy and College.

During his senior year, McMaster was class vice president and a Company Commander, or cadet leader. He was a member of theNational Honor Society and won theSuperintendent Award,Gold and Silver Stars, theschool’s interscholastic debate medal, the American Legion Military Excellence medal, and theNational Guard medal, according to school officials.

McMaster was also the co-captain of the football team and played on the baseball team. He participated in intramural soccer, basketball, wrestling, rifle-shooting and swimming.

In Tom Clancy’s 1994 book, “Armored Cav: A Guided Tour of an Armored Cavalry Regiment,” the famed author interviewed McMaster about his life and career.

McMaster, born July 24, 1964 in Philadelphia, told Clancy that his father was an infantryman during the Korean War and his mother was a school teacher and administrator. He had a younger sister, Letitia, who graduated from Villanova University.

In 2011, he served as a deputy to Gen. David Petraeus in Afghanistan and led a special anti-corruption task force at ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) headquarters in Kabul.

Most recently, McMaster has served as director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center at Fort Eustis in Virginia.

In 2014, Time magazine included McMaster on its list of “The 100 Most Influential People.” In a brief essay written for the magazine by Dave Barno, a retired lieutenant general, McMaster was called “the architect of the future U.S. Army.”

Barno wrote that McMaster “might be the 21st century Army’s pre-eminent warrior-thinker” and “also the rarest of soldiers one who has repeatedly bucked the system and survived to join its senior ranks.”

Published: February 20, 2017 4:30 PM EST | Updated: February 20, 2017 6:32 PM EST The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Vietnamese Bitcoin P2P Platform Remitano Targets Global Expansion – CryptoCoinsNews

Posted: February 19, 2017 at 10:53 am

Remitano, a Vietnam-based P2P platform for trading bitcoin, has expanded its services across the English-speaking world.

The company is targeting bitcoin exchangers, investors and users of remittance services, beginning with Asian countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and China.

Leading sources of traffic on Remitano besides Vietnam are Nigeria and Malaysia.

Our new platform will help bring bitcoin to everyone, by means of preventing fraud and scamming among the bitcoin community, said CEO and co-founder Dung Huynh. Bitcoin fraud is a problem that is deterring people from partaking in this exciting market, hampering its overall potential. At Remitano, we want to fix that.

Fake exchanges, fraudulent bitcoin wallets which allow malware into a computer, phishing and Ponzi schemes are all things that would-be bitcoin traders need to look out for on a daily basis, according to Remitano.

Remitano features a simple user interface and responsive customer support. Customers in need of support can jump on a live chat and get questions answered quickly.

When a user opens a trade, Remitano holds the amount of bitcoins they wish to buy in escrow. The buyer can send payment to the seller without having to worry about not receiving bitcoin.

The bitcoin remains locked until the seller confirms the payment.

Also read: Bitcoin survey: 1 in 4 bitcoin users defrauded by exchanges

The Remitano support team will resolve disputes based on evidence provided by both sides.

The 0.5% fee charged by the platform is lower than the other major platforms in the market.

Remitano is owned by Babylon Solutions Limited, which is incorporated in Seychelles.

The team is comprised mostly by banking professionals with experience in financial products, electronic currencies and payment services.

The app is available on the App Store and Google Pay.

Image from Shutterstock.

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Libertarianism in the United States – Wikipedia

Posted: February 18, 2017 at 3:44 am

Libertarianism in the United States is a movement promoting individual liberty and minimized government.[1][2] Although the word libertarian continues to be widely used to refer to socialists internationally, its meaning in the United States has deviated from its political origins.[3] The Libertarian Party asserts the following to be core beliefs of libertarianism:

Libertarians support maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters. They advocate a much smaller government; one that is limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence. Libertarians tend to embrace individual responsibility, oppose government bureaucracy and taxes, promote private charity, tolerate diverse lifestyles, support the free market, and defend civil liberties.[4][5]

Through 20 polls on this topic spanning 13 years, Gallup found that voters who are libertarian on the political spectrum ranged from 1723% of the US electorate.[6] This includes members of the Republican Party (especially Libertarian Republicans), Democratic Party, Libertarian Party, and Independents.

Libertarianism, like many other concepts, predates the official coinage of that word. In the US the general movement started, philosophically, with the founding of the country itself, which was based on classical liberal ideas, which came to be known in the 20th century US as libertarianism. The ideas of John Locke, fundamental to those of the Founding Fathers, are considered a starting point for libertarian thought. Minarchists like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, influenced by Locke, advocated positions that are not only compatible with modern American libertarianism, but are also considered foundations for that movement.

In the 19th century, key libertarian thinkers, individualist anarchists and minarchists, were based in the US, most notably Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker. These political thinkers argued that government should be kept to a minimum, and that it is only legitimate to the extent that people voluntarily support it, as in Spooner’s No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority. American writers Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson advocated for individualism and even anarchism throughout that century, leaving a significant imprint on libertarianism worldwide.

Moving into the 20th century, important American writers and scholars like H. L. Mencken and Bertrand Russell carried on the intellectual libertarian tradition. They were subsequently bolstered by a new movement who actually used the word, most noteworthy among these being Albert Jay Nock, author of Our Enemy, the State, one of the first people in the world to self-identify as “libertarian”, and European immigrant Ayn Rand, strongly influenced by Nock, who helped popularize the term, as well as Science Fiction author Robert Anson Heinlein, whose writing carried libertarian underpinnings, and who identified himself by the term as well.

In 1955, writer Dean Russell, a classic liberal himself, proposed a solution:

Here is a suggestion: Let those of us who love liberty trade-mark and reserve for our own use the good and honorable word “libertarian”.[7]

Subsequently, a growing number of Americans with classical liberal beliefs in the United States began to describe themselves as “libertarian.”[8] Academics as well as proponents of the free market perspectives note that free-market libertarianism has spread beyond the US since the 1970s via think tanks and political parties[9][10] and that libertarianism is increasingly viewed worldwide as a free market position.[11][12] However, libertarian socialist intellectuals Noam Chomsky, Colin Ward, and others argue that the term “libertarianism” is considered a synonym for social anarchism by the international community and that the United States is unique in widely associating it with free market ideology.[13][14][15]

Arizona United States Senator Barry Goldwater’s libertarian-oriented challenge to authority had a major impact on the libertarian movement,[16] through his book The Conscience of a Conservative and his run for president in 1964.[17] Goldwater’s speech writer, Karl Hess, became a leading libertarian writer and activist.[18]

The Vietnam War split the uneasy alliance between growing numbers of self-identified libertarians, anarchist libertarians, and more traditional conservatives who believed in limiting liberty to uphold moral virtues. Libertarians opposed to the war joined the draft resistance and peace movements and organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society. They began founding their own publications, like Murray Rothbard’s The Libertarian Forum[19][20] and organizations like the Radical Libertarian Alliance.[21]

The split was aggravated at the 1969 Young Americans for Freedom convention, when more than 300 libertarians organized to take control of the organization from conservatives. The burning of a draft card in protest to a conservative proposal against draft resistance sparked physical confrontations among convention attendees, a walkout by a large number of libertarians, the creation of libertarian organizations like the Society for Individual Liberty, and efforts to recruit potential libertarians from conservative organizations.[22] The split was finalized in 1971 when conservative leader William F. Buckley, Jr., in a 1971 New York Times article, attempted to divorce libertarianism from the freedom movement. He wrote: “The ideological licentiousness that rages through America today makes anarchy attractive to the simple-minded. Even to the ingeniously simple-minded.”[23]

In 1971, David Nolan and a few friends formed the Libertarian Party.[24] Attracting former Democrats, Republicans and independents, it has run a presidential candidate every election year since 1972. Over the years, dozens of libertarian political parties have been formed worldwide. Educational organizations like the Center for Libertarian Studies and the Cato Institute were formed in the 1970s, and others have been created since then.[25]

Philosophical libertarianism gained a significant measure of recognition in academia with the publication of Harvard University professor Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia in 1974. The book won a National Book Award in 1975.[26] According to libertarian essayist Roy Childs, “Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia single-handedly established the legitimacy of libertarianism as a political theory in the world of academia.”[27]

Texas congressman Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns for the Republican Party presidential nomination were largely libertarian. Paul was affiliated with the libertarian-leaning Republican Liberty Caucus and founded the Campaign for Liberty, a libertarian-leaning membership and lobbying organization. His son, US Senator Rand Paul continues the tradition, albeit more “moderately”.

The 2016 Libertarian National Convention which saw Gary Johnson and Bill Weld nominated as the 2016 presidential ticket for the Libertarian Party resulted in the most successful result for a third-party presidential candidacy since 1996, and the best in the Libertarian Party’s history by vote number. Johnson received 3% of the popular vote, amounting to more than 4.3 million votes. Johnson has expressed a desire to win at least 5% of the vote so that the Libertarian Party candidates could get equal ballot access and federal funding, thus subsequently ending the two-party system.[28][29][30]

As was true historically, though, there are far more libertarians in the US than those who belong to the party touting that name. In the United States, libertarians may emphasize economic and constitutional rather than religious and personal policies, or personal and international rather than economic policies,[31] such as the Tea Party movement, founded in 2009, which has become a major outlet for Libertarian Republican ideas[32][33] especially rigorous adherence to the US Constitution, lower taxes and an opposition to a growing role for the federal government in health care. However polls show that many people who identify as Tea Party members do not hold traditional libertarian views on most social issues, and tend to poll similarly to socially conservative Republicans.[34][35][36] Eventually during the 2016 presidential election many Tea Party members abandoned more libertarian leaning views in favor of Donald Trump and his right wing populism .[37]

Additionally, the Tea Party was considered to be a key force in Republicans reclaiming control of the US House of Representatives in 2010.[38]

Polls (circa 2006) find that the views and voting habits of between 10 and 20 percent (and increasing) of voting age Americans may be classified as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal, or libertarian.”[39][40] This is based on pollsters and researchers defining libertarian views as

Through 20 polls on this topic spanning 13 years, Gallup found that voters who are libertarian on the political spectrum ranged from 1723% of the US electorate.[6] Most of these vote for Republican and Democratic (not Libertarian) party candidates. This posits that the common single-axis paradigm of dividing people’s political leanings into “conservative”, “liberal” and “confused” is not valid.[41] Libertarians make up a larger portion of the US electorate than the much-discussed “soccer moms” and “NASCAR dads”, yet this is not widely recognized. One reason for this is that most pollsters, political analysts, and political pundits believe in the paradigm of the single liberal-conservative axis.[39]

Well-known libertarian organizations include the Center for Libertarian Studies, the Cato Institute, the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the Reason Foundation, the International Society for Individual Liberty (ISIL) and the Ludwig von Mises Institute. The Libertarian Party of the United States is the world’s first such party.

The Free State Project, an activist movement formed in 2001, is working to bring 20,000 libertarians to the state of New Hampshire to influence state policy. As of May 2015, the project website shows that 16,683 people have pledged to move once 20,000 are signed on, and 1,746 participants have already moved to New Hampshire or were already residing there when New Hampshire was chosen as the destination for the Free State Project in 2003.[42] Less successful similar projects include the Free West Alliance and Free State Wyoming.

The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, DC It was founded as the Charles Koch Foundation in 1974 by Ed Crane, Murray Rothbard, and Charles Koch,[43] chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the conglomerate Koch Industries.[nb 1] In July 1976, the name was changed to the Cato Institute.[43][44] Cato was established to have a focus on public advocacy, media exposure and societal influence.[45] According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Cato is number 16 in the “Top Think Tanks Worldwide” and number 8 in the “Top Think Tanks in the United States”.[46] Cato also topped the 2014 list of the budget-adjusted ranking of international development think tanks.[47]

The Center for Libertarian Studies (CLS) was a libertarian and anarcho-capitalist oriented educational organization founded in 1976 by Murray Rothbard and Burton Blumert, which grew out of the Libertarian Scholars Conferences. It published the Journal of Libertarian Studies from 1977 to 2000 (now published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute), a newsletter (In Pursuit of Liberty), several monographs, and sponsors conferences, seminars, and symposia. Originally headquartered in New York, it later moved to Burlingame, California. Until 2007, it supported LewRockwell.com, web publication of CLS vice president Lew Rockwell. It had also previously supported Antiwar.com.

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Star-Studded Broadway on the High Seas 8 Sets Sail Feb. 17 – Playbill.com

Posted: February 17, 2017 at 1:40 am

Broadway on the High Seas 8, featuring 19 Broadway performersPlaybills most star-studded cruise yetsets sail February 17-24 from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The eighth cruise in Playbills series of exotic and unparalleled trips, travelers board the newly renovated luxury liner Silverseas Silver Wind for a Caribbean cruise, including stops in St. Maarten, St. Kitts, St. Johns, Antigua and Barbuda, and more.

Broadway on the High Seas includes nightly main stage performances from our Broadway lineup, as well as Chatterbox interviews, Broadway trivia, autograph and photo sessions, cocktail parties with performers and celebrity guests, Playbill Happy Hour and After Dark programming, and more.

Among the stars sailing on Broadway on the High Seas 8 are Drama Desk Award nominee Bryan Batt, Tony nomine Kevin Chamberlin, Tony nominee Melissa Errico, Tony nominee Judy Kuhn, Lacretta, Lorna Luft, Tony winner Andrea Martin, Drama Desk nominee Karen Mason, Tony nominee Howard McGillin, Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell, Tony nominee Louise Pitre, Christine Pedi, Tony winner Alice Ripley, Emmy winner Ernie Sabella, Tony winner Lillias White, Virginia Ann Woodruff, and Tony nominee Tony Yazbeck. They are joined by Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky, and Grammy-winning music director John McDaniel.

In May, Playbill will also launch its first-ever river cruise, which will venture down Frances picturesque Rhne River. This sold-out experience departs from Avignon, and explores Tarascon sur Rhone, Viviers, Tournon/Tain LHermitage, Lyon, and Macon.

From August 1320, Playbill will sail the Rhine River. Departing from Basel Switzerland, stops are planned in Breisach, Kehl, Mannheim, Koblenz, Cologne, Amsterdam, and more. Stars include Andrea Burns, Charlotte dAmboise, Terrence Mann, Faith Prince, and Seth Rudetsky.

Playbill Travel operates the premier vacation programs for discerning travelers with a shared love of exotic locales and the theatre. The Broadway on the High Seas series has become a hit with hundreds of theatre-loving travelers since its inaugural voyage in September of 2011. Entertainers aboard Broadway on the High Seas and its sister resort program, Broadway By The Sea, have included Patti LuPone, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Christine Ebersole,Tommy Tune, Andrea Martin, Ana Gasteyer, Megan Hilty, Lewis Black, Sherie Rene Scott, Laura Benanti and others. Since its inception in 2011, over 1,000 Playbill travelers have visited over a dozen countries including Italy, Greece, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, Poland, Germany, French Polynesia, Vietnam and beyond!

Visit PlaybillTravel.com for inquiries and booking.


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Can Russia project power while battered by economic woes? – Asia Times

Posted: February 10, 2017 at 3:09 am

As the United States foreign policy under new President Donald Trump is still faltering and China refrains from becoming a full global playmaker, Russia and its post-Soviet helmsman Vladimir Putin are apparently calling the shots in the world stage.

From the Baltic in Europe to the South China Sea in East Asia, a Russian diplomatic cobweb has in fact been spun across the Eurasian continent and its appendices in North Africa. Now, the question is whether Moscow will be able to handle this strategic over-extension, which entails the use of considerable resources, while its economy is in bad shape.

Many believe that the Kremlins current transcontinental projection will not be halted by the countrys economic problems; and this because Russia included in its Soviet configuration has always been an imperial power capable of facing up to structural economic weaknesses.

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According to this vision, economic liabilities historically have never prevented the Russian bear from expanding its territorial boundaries to prop up the nations internal security. In this equation, the Russian rulers would have successfully leveraged on the deeply-rooted patriotic sentiment of their people, who have showed a strong resilience to material shortages through the centuries.

So, encouraged by the perceived vulnerability of the US, which is linked to many factors, among them former President Barack Obamas decision to shift focus from Europe and the Middle East to Asia-Pacific, Donald Trumps shocking electoral triumph, a confused presidential transition and a turbulent start of tenure for the new US commander-in-chief, it is reasonable to expect that Russia will continue to move on many fronts, regardless of its economic woes.

Moscows hunt for geopolitical influence is indeed remarkable, starting from its squabbling with the European Union (EU) and Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Eastern Europe, where it has been supporting separatist rebel groups in eastern Ukraine after annexing Crimea in 2014. The Kremlin is also developing a robust military apparatus in the Baltic area and reactivating military capabilities in the Arctic region.

The post-Soviet space from the Caucasus to Central Asia obviously remains Russias strategic backyard. Still, the Kremlin will insist on playing the kingmakers role in the Syrian crisis while trying to extend its clout in the Middle East and North Africa. In this sense, Moscow is enhancing ties with Egypt, eying a possible part in the Libyan peace process and cautiously monitoring developments in the worn-torn Yemen.

Furthermore, the Russian diplomacy is reaching out to Afghanistan, where it is working to find a diplomatic solution to the current civil war, quite separately from Washington. To conclude, Russia has a visible presence in the Pacific region, where it still has to settle the age-old territorial row with Japan over the Kuril Islands; Moscow is also an important stakeholder in dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat, discreetly teams up with China on the South China Sea territorial disputes and has even promised naval help to the Philippines against piracy in the Sulu and Celebes seas.

Russia/Soviet Union found itself in a similar situation between 1974 and 1979, when it raised the stakes in the confrontation with the US. In the space of six years, in fact, the Kremlin displayed a wide-ranging foreign policy that led many to believe that it was going to win the Cold War. All of this as Washington was struggling with a deep political and identity crisis amid a climate of widespread cultural contestation, marked by President Richard Nixons resignation due to the Watergate scandal and the countrys defeat in the Vietnam War.

Moscow tried to profit from the American apparent disorientation during that period and launched its multi-pronged challenge. It backed communist guerrillas in Central America and sent military advisers in Angola and Mozambique. In these two African countries, which had just gained independence from Portugal, the Russian troops supported along with Cuban soldiers the local Marxist armed formations in their efforts to seize power.

Then, Russian regular and irregular military personnel came to the rescue of Ethiopia as this was fighting the Ogaden War against Somalia. In addition, Moscow strengthened further its ties with the Baathist regime in Syria, buttressed the communist-leaning government in Southern Yemen, where it had naval facilities, and sustained Vietnams occupation of Cambodia against the pro-Chinese Khmer Rouge regime. Lastly, the Soviet Red Army placed the icing on the cake by invading Afghanistan.

This far-flung foreign commitment proved to be largely unsustainable in the short-run. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union was in a critical economic situation, largely dependent on grain and technology supplies from the US, with a centralized and inefficient political system and a natural resource-based economy resembling an underdeveloped countrys. A picture that has several similarities with the current health of the Russian economy, hit hard by years of budget deficit. Though a timid recovery is forecast in 2017, at the recent Gaidar Economic Forum, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned the nation against the structural problems of Russias economy, particularly its technological gap with developed countries, the dependence on commodity export at a time of low oil and gas prices and the excessive public role in the productive processes.

Thus, a hypertrophic foreign conduct, not backed up by a solid economy, contributed to the fall of the Soviet empire along with other geopolitical and cultural factors. If Russia wants to avoid this outcome and protract the Putinian Pax for a while, it will have to eliminate this antinomy; or, at least, it will have to find creative alternatives. The idea of using money and propaganda to bolster the rise of anti-EU and anti-NATO populist movements in Europe could serve this purpose. Unless, like in the 1980s, the Western world comes out with new, effective antidotes to the Russian advance.

Emanuele Scimia is a journalist and foreign policy analyst. He is a contributing writer to the South China Morning Post and the Jamestown Foundations Eurasia Daily Monitor. In the past, his articles have also appeared in The National Interest, Deutsche Welle, World Politics Review, The Jerusalem Post and the EUobserver, among others. He has written for Asia Times since 2011.

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TrueHoop Presents: The Washington Wizards and virtual reality – ESPN

Posted: February 9, 2017 at 6:13 am

JOHN WALL LOOKS down to discover that the nice, safe carpeted floor beneath him has disappeared. Impossibly, he is suddenly swaying on a wooden plank, the width of a diving board, 30 feet above a rusty pit. His heart races. Just the slightest wobble could be fatal.

Safety is merely 8 feet in front of him, a distance the stressed Wall chooses to cover on tiptoes. He’s about halfway there when someone nearby gives him an instruction: “Turn and step off the plank.” Wall shakes his head. He won’t do it.

After telling himself over and over that this can’t possibly be real, he finally turns to his right, steps off the plank and plunges into the abyss below.

Then Wall peels the black virtual reality headset off of his face, relieved to rejoin the safety of the physical world as we know it.

Welcome to the bleeding edge of the NBA’s 30-team wrestling match to find a competitive edge, where a hot new frontier is the use of virtual reality to get into the heads of NBA players as never before.

A Stanford study found that sawing down a virtual tree can cause people to use 20 percent less paper in real life. Another study found that football players improved decision-making by as much as 30 percent and sliced almost a full second off their decision time after they used virtual reality to simulate defensive coverages.

Can it apply to basketball? The Wizards intend to be at the forefront of finding out.

“I really thought I was gonna die,” says Wall, who was coaxed into trying virtual reality largely after hearing that Tony Romo, of Wall’s beloved Dallas Cowboys, is a fan. “This, is going to be great for the NBA.”

STANDING IN BURNT-GREEN khakis and a gray half-zip sweater just outside the Washington Wizards’ locker room, majority owner Ted Leonsis shakes the hand of 76-year-old former coach and player Kevin Loughery, dressed in a pressed navy suit for Bullets Night at the Verizon Center, a salute to the team’s past. Leonsis can’t stop talking about the future, specifically the virtual reality company he invested in two years ago, STRIVR, which originated in the halls of Stanford University with a bent toward the sports world.

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“We should get him in virtual reality,” Leonsis jokes of the white-haired Loughery, who seems to have only a vague understanding of what the heck Leonsis is talking about.

Loughery offers a conciliatory chuckle and, before long, heads for his seat. Leonsis presses on, explaining that his Wizards may have won just two of their first 10 games, but they won’t lose this race: “It obviously hasn’t shown in our record, but we want to be on the ground floor of this.”

Leonsis brings up the Socratic method and other traditional avenues of idea creation and cognitive learning. He explains that virtual reality is just another tool to deposit information into the brain.

Wall can tell you: The difference with VR is that it is immersive. Coaches will tell you it’s like pulling teeth to keep the attention of a roster for an entire film session. What if they could go over plays, study shooting drills and hammer out defensive rotations without players’ thoughts wandering to Instagram feeds?

An early benefit has come from players noticing things they used to miss on laptops — especially hitches in their shot mechanics.

“I really saw a difference in my jump shot and free throws,” says 20-year-old wing Kelly Oubre, who grew up playing “Call of Duty” and is used to wearing a headset. “I could see my mechanics, what I needed to do right.” Oubre’s true shooting percentage is up this year, from 50.7 to 53.4.

ACCEPTANCE, OF COURSE, is the challenge. Deploying virtual reality means developing new habits, and in that department the Wizards are at something of a disadvantage. The NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots have VR labs built into their facilities. The Wizards, meanwhile, have just one headset to share, and it’s not for everyone.

“It can really screw your mind up. I started bending down, trying not to fall and stuff. I was in the room, trying to figure out, like, ‘What is going on?'”

Marcin Gortat

When Marcin Gortat — a 32-year-old 7-footer with a giant goblin tattoo on his left arm — tried what’s commonly referred to as “the plank,” he went into a panic, getting on all fours to grab the board.

“It can really screw your mind up,” Gortat says. “I started bending down, trying not to fall and stuff. I was in the room, trying to figure out, like, ‘What is going on?'”

Gortat is still trying to decide whether he hates virtual reality or loves it.

“Oh man, it’s amazing,” Gortat says. “I think it can be successful, but for me, as a 10-year veteran, it’s not going to change anything right now. It’s the new tool of the century.”

Wall isn’t one of the team’s heavy users, but he sees the benefit. “Oh, it’s helpful now,” Wall says. “I could see a lot of NBA teams starting to use it. I think it’s helping so many different ways — ballhandling, shooting, moving.”

WIZARDS HEAD COACH Scott Brooks is a big believer in the power of visualization and VR. Brooks says he stood 4-foot-11 when he joined the East Union High School basketball team in Manteca, California. Not ideal for someone who had NBA dreams. Though he grew a foot by the time he graduated from high school, Brooks never topped the 6-foot mark.

Still, he could shoot with the best of ’em. By his senior year at UC-Irvine, Brooks shot 42 percent from beyond the arc and 85 percent from the charity stripe. Brooks owes much of his shooting success to a homework assignment given to him by Bill Stricker, his high school coach.

The task? Train his brain every night before bed. Don’t count sheep. Count swishes.

“Visualizing is so huge,” Brooks says. “My high school coach taught me that a long time ago. I used to visualize making free throws every night.”

At first, young Scott was skeptical of the concept of mental imagery. Really, this was going to be the trick? But then the coach told him a story, a tale that Brooks loves to retell to this day.

It’s about a prisoner of war in Vietnam who was locked in solitary confinement for years. To pass the time, he came up with the idea of playing a round of golf every day in his mind. He had never swung a golf club in his life, but he knew it was something that could keep his mind busy for four or five hours at a time. One day, he got rescued and decided to go play his first real round of golf.

“And he shot 2 over,” Brooks says.


“Yes,” Brooks says, with his eyes stretching from ear to ear. “My high school coach told me this 30 years ago, and I’ve heard that story so many times.”

A quick internet search reveals that the tale first appeared in a book in 1975 and later popped up in “A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul.” It’s one of the most retold inspirational stories out there.

The only thing? Alas, in virtual reality, it’s hard to know what’s real. After a long dig into the story’s origins, Snopes.com concludes the following about a man coincidentally named James Nesmeth (not James Naismith):

“Although many current versions of this legend identify one ‘Major James Nesmeth’ as the Vietnam POW whose playing golf in his mind translated to his becoming a far improved linkster once he was back home, we have been unable to verify that anyone of that name served in Vietnam, was held as a POW, was released from captivity, or achieved notable results on the links after returning to the U.S.”

Brooks went on to play 10 years in the NBA, and he currently ranks top-100 in career free throw percentage, making 85 percent (564-of-664) in the pros. In this case, maybe visualizing the truth is more important than the actual truth.

THE COACHING STAFF of the Wizards works with the team’s analytics gurus, Brett Greenberg and Ben Eidelberg, to figure out the most impactful experiences that can help players improve their games.

They have been focusing most of their attention on Ian Mahinmi, who has been wearing the headset so much he’s worried he might short-circuit it.

“I don’t want to sweat all over it!” he shouts, holding the VR headset in the air inside the Wizards’ practice gym.

Mahinmi was the poster boy of last summer’s free-agency bonanza before Miami’s modestly toothed reserve, Tyler Johnson, stole that label. After eight seasons in the NBA, and only one as a full-time starter, Mahinmi received a four-year, $64 million contract from Washington to fill a bench role. Combine Mahinmi’s age (he just turned 30) with the fact that he’s fresh off of a monster deal, it doesn’t seem that he would be the most likely candidate to be a VR guinea pig.

It turns out that a knee injury and a free throw affliction made him a perfect test case. Mahinmi’s career free throw percentage is just under 60 percent, including a recent season in which he shot just 30.4 percent.

“It’s more like building muscle memory, but for your brain. Kind of like, OK, if you see it, your brain is going to register it. And then, when you shoot live, you’re going to think about it and see yourself shooting and making. You know you can do it.”

Ian Mahinmi

Two weeks ahead of the 2016-17 season, Mahinmi underwent surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his left knee.

Over the next several weeks, the Wizards put together a rehab program with two key objectives: minimize excessive time on his feet and, secondly, get him to work on his free throws so they can remove him from the Hack-a-Shaq list.

To build up his confidence as a shooter, the Wizards used a 360-degree camera to film him making free throws. Then they played the makes on repeat so he could watch himself making free throws over and over in the first-person perspective. Before his daily shooting drills, he put on the VR headset and underwent a session to prime his brain with success — his own success. Seeing is believing.

“It’s more like building muscle memory, but for your brain,” Mahinmi says. “Kind of like, OK, if you see it, your brain is going to register it. And then, when you shoot live, you’re going to think about it and see yourself shooting and making. You know you can do it.”

Hours after finishing his morning workout, Mahinmi is back on the floor, this time on the game court just before tipoff. As rainbow-clad analyst Walt Frazier does a pregame MSG hit a few feet away, Mahinmi walks to the basket stanchion and puts on the headset so he can watch himself make free throws. Next to Mahinmi stands Eidelberg, who is watching Mahinmi’s perspective on a MacBook Pro. That way, Eidelberg and Wizards assistant coach David Adkins can see exactly what Mahinmi is focusing on. It’s at this moment that a handful of nearby fans take out their phones to snap a photo of this bizarre scene.

“What are you seeing, Ian?” shouts Adkins. “See your hands? Keep them up. Keep the follow-through up.”

Mahinmi is talking his way through it. Make after make. After eight minutes in VR, Mahinmi takes off the goggles and walks to the free throw line. He starts shooting free throws. Swish.

Adkins walks over with a grin and relays Mahinmi’s success rate.

Sixty-five out of 70.

“There’s a bunch of stuff I didn’t realize I was doing,” Mahinmi says. “My hands, sometimes after I make a few of them, they drop. My body is shifting sometimes. There’s a bunch of stuff that I notice now that I didn’t before.”

After a series of light jumpers, Adkins tells Mahinmi that he’s good, the workout is done. Time for regular treatment on his real knee.

LIKE MANY HYPED tech revolutions, the VR bonanza hasn’t taken off yet. While the short term has seen intriguing signs in beleaguered Detroit Pistons big man Andre Drummond (sporting a career-high 43.8 percent from the free throw line this season after incorporating virtual reality into his training), the long term is riddled with potential.

Consider that STRIVR is developing a “hangover experience” to demonstrate to NBA players what it’s like to play basketball with slower reaction times as a result of a long night of drinking and a lack of sleep. There is talk of creating experiences that allow injured players to feel as if they’re on the court while their teammates sweat out road games.

What is the value of helping people feel closer together and more empathetic? Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, created “the plank” and other scenarios not just for basketball players but for all people. He’s a co-founder of STRIVR and works with companies such as Google, Facebook and Samsung. He says the most interesting development in VR may be diversity training to reduce bias.

The “Walk a Mile in Digital Shoes experience” is one in which the subjects see an avatar version of themselves in a virtual mirror, and then the avatar changes between races, ages and genders to feel what it’s like to be the target of racist, sexist or ageist remarks. Consider an older white male who swaps bodies with a young African-American man. (Roger Goodell tried out the empathy training at Stanford last summer).

Bailenson says that within four minutes of being in someone else’s avatar, the brain undergoes a “body transfer” in which it fully believes it is that person. Once racial discrimination is inflicted to your avatar, you feel that it’s happening to you. Studies show that the empathy felt in that experience can last long after you take the goggles off.

“This is what virtual reality is all about,” Bailenson says. “Changing human behavior for the better.”


TrueHoop Presents: The Washington Wizards and virtual reality – ESPN

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When the Secular is the Sacred – Patheos (blog)

Posted: at 6:10 am

In Kenneth Woodwards fantastic new book,Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama, we are treated to an accessible, insightful, and critical examination of Christianity in the 1960s, which Woodward knows can be extended five years either way, in which his thesis is ever-so-telling and right: the secular becomes the sacred.

That is, social activism became the fundamental core of Christian faith and discipleship during this period for a large segment of American Christianity. This is a really good chapter in Woodwards book and is worth the price of the book.

He opens with the theme of hope in the secular arising in the Great Society of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Hope in the secular isnt just a play on semantics. Rather, it allows roomfor those aspirations that arise from within religious communities and that seek to be realized in a secular fashion. In the midSixties, that hope was embodied in the civil rights movement under the leadership of King (96).

Woodward, at the center ofNewsweeks news sources, watched up close the civil rights movement with an eye on how religion was at work. As a Catholic, Woodward had a sense of history, of liturgy, of institutional strength, of tradition and of theology. His approach to the Protestant liberals then was an outsider. Here is what he observed: a shift toward making the secular, the world, the center of what God was doing. Thus,

It was largely because of the civil rights movement, and the political response to it, that the nations liberal Protestant leadership came to embrace the secular as sacred: that is, to assume that if God is to be found anywhere, it is in the secular world, not the church (96).

Consistent with the time in which these things occurred, Woodward uses Negro throughout the book. It made me comfortable, and it reminded me of the reality of those days. His thoughts on ML King Jr?

A major question, much debated at the time, was whether the Negroes quest for civil rights was a secular or religious movement (96) That said, King always insisted that whatever else he was to othersthe list included agitator, troublemaker, and, to FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, communistin his heart he remained fundamentally a clergyman, a Baptist preacher (97). In sum, Martin Luther King Jr. succeeded where other civil rights leaders fell short because he appealed to black religion more precisely, to what generations of American Negroes had made of the Christianity that was originally taught to them by white slave owners (98).

A summary that may be a bit blunt or un-nuanced, but generally helpful:

Black religion, in short, was the religion of the civil rights movement for as long as King was its prime spokesman (8).

This is where he gives some overall insights from King and what happened to the religion of Protestant liberals who had a hope in the secular:

After Selma King would call it a coalition of conscience, one that crossed old religious boundaries and created new forms of religious belief, behavior, and belonging. Thereafter, where one stood on the issue of public agitation on behalf of civil rights became for activist clergy the measure of authentic faith and commitment (102).

This last observation pierces to the heart of this approach to the Christian faith. I have friends for whom their participation in Selma, or at least their claim to have been there, became the core of their faith and was often the nostalgic touching point.

A one off that is more or less probably right on:

It seemed to me that one difference between Evangelical and mainline Protestants was this: when Evangelicals saw the churches going to hell they preached another revival, while mainliners in the same mood called for a reformation of church structures (105).

All of this emerges into nothing less than a secular theology. What happens? Clearly, the church is diminished and the world becomes central. I have been observing this, and at least fearing this, in the rise of social justice activism among so many of our young evangelical Christians. I dont see it as a slippery slope, I see it as a fundamental distortion of what the Christian faith is. Yes, what it was then is what is may well be now: hope in the secular. Heroes of the day? Harvey Cox and Bishop Pike.

In the middle Sixties, a small but influential group of Protestant thinkers sought to ratify the move from church to world by formulating various secular theologies. Matching the mood of the times, the were wildly optimistic about the world, considerably less so about the church (109).

Parsing Bonhoeffer, Cox defined secularization as the liberation of man from religious and metaphysical tutelage, the turning of his attention away from other worlds and towards this one (111).

Liberal mainline Protestants had nothing to fear from the secular city: as its prophetic avant-garde, they would still be custodians of its conscience (112).

What happens to theology? Woodward, a Catholic observer from a good perch, puts it this way:

But it wasnt just optimism about the secular world that distinguished the secular theologians from their more distinguished predecessors like Niebuhr, Barth, and Tillich. Even more pronounced was their dismissive approach to classic Christian doctrines and their blithe disregard of the historic Christian church (115).

Bishop James Albert Pike: Following his career was like watching a weathervane register every new breeze blowing from the Zeitgeist (115) In life, as in his religious views, Pike was tumbling tumbleweed, always moving on, always reinventing himself according to whats happening (116) In short, he was a church careerist without religious convictions or commitments (123). Pikes very public non-trial was the strongest signal yet that civil rights had emerged within the mainline churches as the index by which fidelity to Christs teachings was to be judged. There would be others, notably the war in Vietnam and womens liberation, and woe to those who did not properly discern what God was doing in His secular manifestations (120).

In one quick sentence Woodwards words summarize hope in the secular:

For the Presbyterians, as for the rest of the mainline churches, the problem was that the boundaries between themselves and the world in which they moved had effectively vanished (126).

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When the Secular is the Sacred – Patheos (blog)

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Shut it! West’s free speech challenges are sign of systemic insecurity – RT

Posted: at 5:58 am

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Masters graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.

Over the past week hallowed Western institutions of free speech have become sites of struggle for this basic democratic right. Is it a sign of creeping intolerance or systemic insecurity?

Britains House of Commons Speaker John Bercow sparkedcontroversy this week when he declared that US President Donald Trump would not be invited to address elected MPs and members of the House of Lords at Westminster Hall during a state visit later this year. Bercow said his decision was based on the presidents alleged obnoxious views of racism and sexism.

The move has caused uproar with many lawmakers saying that the proposed ban discredits the British Parliament supposedly the mother of all parliaments. British Prime Minister Theresa May is also annoyed that boycotting Trump could jeopardize her efforts to burnish the special relationship between the US and Britain, which she assiduously tried to renew last month as the first foreign leader to be received in the new White House.

Last week, another hallowed Western institution for free speech came under an embarrassing spotlight when rioting students at University of California Berkeley forced a Trump acolyte to abandon a planned speech. Milo Yiannopoulos, the editor of the alt-right publication Breitbart, which is a big supporter of Trump, had to be escorted off campus by police amid students denouncing him as fascist scum.

The irony was not lost on many observers, including the LA Times, who noted that UC Berkeley was the modern home of the free speech movement which sprang up in the 1960s against the Vietnam War and for civil liberties among minorities. Now the same bastion of free speech is running people off for expressing views considered objectionable by some.

Still another quirk in recent days was the US Senates banning of Senator Elizabeth Warren from addressing Congress. The Democrat Senator was due to recite from a 30-year-old letter written by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr, in opposition to Trumps nominee as Attorney General Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. The letter, which accused Sessions of racist practices while serving as Alabama governor in the past, was deemed to violate Senate rules against impugning other members of the chamber.

Going back to the British parliament case, it does seem an extraordinary transgression of the right to free speech, as well as diplomatic etiquette. One may not like Trumps brand of nationalistic politics nor his selective immigration controls on certain Arab countries allegedly for national security reasons. But it seems an over-the-top reaction to turn around and declare him persona non grata in the British parliament.

It also smacks of double standards. As parliamentary critics point out, the Speaker previously welcomed the Emir of Kuwait and Chinese President Xi Jinping to Westminster, both of whom are accused by British rights groups of overseeing grave violations in their respective countries. Whatever the merit of those accusations, it seems contradictory for the British parliament to object to Trump speaking.

Former US President Barack Obama was afforded the right to address the House of Commons. Even though his military forces were at the same time bombing seven countries and he was personally responsible for summary killing of foreign nationals with drone assassinations. There were no qualms among British parliamentarians to Obama speaking.

Read more

Nevertheless, despite ones own personal biases, it is arguable that freedom of speech is a fundamental right supposedly cherished in Western democracies that must be protected for all dissenting views.

International defense lawyer Christopher Black told this author that there is a danger of cherry-picking this fundamental right. And in doing so, it could open up a Pandoras Box of blanket censorship, leading potentially to despotism.

He said: Leftists might want to shut down all speech they deem as fascist. But the problem is that if that can be justified then the political rightwing can respond by justifying shutting down the left. Look what the blacklist did in the US during the 1950s Communist-hunting McCarthyite era.

The lawyer added: I think free speech should be respected no matter what the opinions expressed are excepting those that are libelous and slander, that is, speech designed to injure someones reputation. The best way to deal with arguments we do not like or agree with is to make better counter-arguments and point out why they are wrong.

That seems an apt point regarding the controversy at UC Berkeley. The anarchist groups who claimed victory in preventing the Breitbart editor from speaking in the name of fighting fascism only ended up scoring an own goal by elevating the magazine and its reactionary political views to a global profile. Yiannopoulos, the speaker in question, seems more like a stand-up comedian with obnoxious, facetious views rather than the reincarnation of the Third Reichs fascist orator Josef Goebbels. Besides, Yiannopoulos was invited to speak by a Republican party student group within the university. People who dont like his cringeworthy views were not forced to attend.

A further repercussion is that President Trump threatened to cut off federal funding to the whole university over the debacle due to its apparent intolerance to free speech.

The Breitbart editor appears to be a walking contradiction openly gay, but ostensibly denouncing gay rights, and relishing sexual relations with black men, while at the same time espousing white nationalist views. Like his self-declared daddy Donald Trump, and many of Trumps White House team, the articulated views are riddled with anomalies and errors. The discourse is more comedic than threatening.

Surely it is much better to let such people have their say up to the point beyond which it becomes physically injurious. And thereby let them spin their way into oblivion with quackery. Prohibition is not only a breach of rights, it is also counterproductive as it leads to destructive spirals, as witnessed in many other areas of culture.

The election of Donald Trump in the US and the rise of populist politics elsewhere is perhaps best understood as a breakdown in the status quo. That breakdown is long overdue as political systems have become ossified, elitist and unrepresentative of democratic rights. Excessive political correctness and identity politics are part of this oppressive order upheld by the elites.

The recent rush to close off free speech is more a sign of uncertainty in societies amid political turmoil. The uncertainty is evident on both the traditional right and left of the political spectrum. However, it seems more indicative of insecurity as opposed to any objective social movement toward intolerance.

Now, more than ever, is the time to keep public debate open, not shut it down due to some narcissistic sense of being offended. Where views are obnoxious or wrongheaded, they should be challenged and thwarted through intelligent argument.

There are valid discussions to be had about equality, secularism, immigration, national and economic rights, globalization, war and peace, and many more issues.

Discussion and dialogue are the best way to evolve public understanding, nationally and internationally.

If we begin practicing communication apartheid, then the outcome is what we are seeing underway among certain Western states declaring Russian media as somehow illegitimate. Closing down communications is often the first act of conflict.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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Shut it! West’s free speech challenges are sign of systemic insecurity – RT

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Freedom of Speech: General – Bill of Rights Institute

Posted: February 7, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Schenck v. United States (1919)

Freedom of speech can be limited during wartime. The government can restrict expressions that would create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. Read More.

Abrams v. United States (1919)

The First Amendment did not protect printing leaflets urging to resist the war effort, calling for a general strike, and advocating violent revolution. Read More.

Debs v. United States (1919)

The First Amendment did not protect an anti-war speech designed to obstruct recruiting. Read More.

Gitlow v. New York (1925)

The Supreme Court applied protection of free speech to the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Read More.

Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942)

The First Amendment did not protect fighting words which, by being said, cause injury or cause an immediate breach of the peace. Read More.

West Virginia v. Barnette (1943)

The West Virginia Boards policy requiring students and teachers to recite the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional. Reversing Minersville v. Gobitas (1940), the Court held government cannot force citizens to confess by word or act their faith in matters of opinion. Read More.

United States v. OBrien (1968)

The First Amendment did not protect burning draft cards in protest of the Vietnam War as a form of symbolic speech. Read More.

Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

The Court ruled that students wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War was pure speech, or symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment. Read More.

Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969)

The Supreme Court held that the First and Fourteenth Amendments protected speech advocating violence at a Ku Klux Klan rally because the speech did not call for imminent lawless action. Read More.

Cohen v. California (1971)

A California statute prohibiting the display of offensive messages violated freedom of expression. Read More.

Miller v. California (1973)

This case set forth rules for obscenity prosecutions, but it also gave states and localities flexibility in determining what is obscene. Read More.

Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982)

The Supreme Court ruled that officials could not remove books from school libraries because they disagreed with the content of the books messages. Read More.

Bethel School District v. Fraser (1986)

A school could suspend a pupil for giving a student government nomination speech full of elaborate, graphic, and explicit sexual metaphor. Read More.

Texas v. Johnson (1989)

Flag burning as political protest is a form of symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment. Read More.

R.A.V. v. St. Paul (1992)

A criminal ordinance prohibiting the display of symbols that arouse anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender was unconstitutional. The law violated the First Amendment because it punished speech based on the ideas expressed. Read More.

Reno v. ACLU (1997)

The 1996 Communications Decency Act was ruled unconstitutional since it was overly broad and vague in its regulation of speech on the Internet, and since it attempted to regulate indecent speech, which the First Amendment protects. Read More.

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society v. Stratton (2002)

City laws requiring permits for political advocates going door to door were unconstitutional because such a mandate would have a chilling effect on political communication. Read More.

United States v. American Library Association (2003)

The federal government could require public libraries to use Internet-filtering software to prevent viewing of pornography by minors. The burden placed on adult patrons who had to request the filters be disabled was minimal. Read More.

Virginia v. Hicks (2003)

Richmond could ban non-residents from public housing complexes if the non-residents did not have a legitimate business or social purpose for being there. The trespass policy was not overbroad and did not infringe upon First Amendment rights. Read More.

Virginia v. Black (2003)

A blanket ban on cross-burning was an unconstitutional content-based restriction on free speech. States could ban cross burning with intent to intimidate, but the cross burning act alone was not enough evidence to infer intent. Read More.

Ashcroft v. ACLU (2004)

The Child On-Line Protection Act violated the First Amendment because it was overbroad, it resulted in content-based restrictions on speech, and there were less-restrictive options available to protect children from harmful materials. Read More.

Morse v. Frederick (2007)

The First Amendment did not protect a public school students right to display a banner reading Bong Hits 4 Jesus. While students have the right to engage in political speech, the right was outweighed by the schools mission to discourage drug use. Read More.

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Freedom of Speech: General – Bill of Rights Institute

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