GUEST COMMENTARY: The Law of the Sea treaty will sink America’s economy.


The Law of the Sea treaty will sink America’s economy.

Guest Commentary By: Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator John Cornyn

 

Americans despise taxes.  After all, one of the key issues that paved the way for the American Revolution was the unfair taxation that King George III levied against the Colonies.

Now some in the US Senate want to say yes to an international tax.  It would be the first time in history that an international organization would possess taxing authority, and it would amount to billions of American dollars being transferred out of the US Treasury.

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, or the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) is the vehicle through which such taxes would be imposed on U.S.-based commercial enterprises.

The treaty that Reagan refused to sign in 1982 is reappearing once again in the Senate.  The truth is, LOST contains numerous provisions that hurt the U.S. economy at a time when we need more jobs – not fewer.

Under the guise of being for “the good of mankind, ” LOST would obligate the United States to share information and technology in what amounts to global taxes and technology transfer requirements that are really nothing more than an attempt to redistribute U.S. wealth to the Third World.

At the center of these taxes and transfers is the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a Kingston, Jamaica based supra-national governing body established by the treaty for the purpose of redistributing cash and technology from the “developed world” to the “developing world.”

Ceding authority to the ISA would mean that the sovereignty currently held by the U.S. over the natural resources located on large parts of the continental shelf would be lost.  That loss would mean lost revenue for the US government in the form of lost royalties that the U.S. government collects from the production of those resources. According to the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Task Force, which is currently mapping the continental shelf, the resources there “may be worth billions if not trillions” of dollars.

In case proponents of LOST have not noticed, the US is over $15 trillion in debt, and we still have more than 20 million Americans who can’t find a job. The last thing we need to do redistribute funds from our country to our economic and strategic competitors.

To make matters worse, the US would have no control over how or to whom the taxes and technology would be redistributed.

Undoubtedly funds that rightfully belong to the American taxpayer would be sent to corrupt governmental regimes, make dictators wealthier, and could even be used for activities directed against the United States and our interests.

Under the treaty, the transfer of these funds does not end with nation states.  These royalty revenues would even be extended to “peoples who have not attained full independence or other self-governing status.”  That means groups like the Palestinian Authority and potentially other groups with terrorist ties.

Proponents of the treaty will claim that the technology transfer portion of the treaty has been significantly changed.  In truth, nations with mining and resource recovery technologies like the United States will be obligated to share those technologies with Third World competitors, and that is one of the many issues, which trouble those of us opposed to the treaty.

In other words, US companies would be forced to give away the very types of innovation that historically have made our nation a world leader while fueling our economic engine.

Under the best of US economic circumstances, the Senate should say no to such an egregious breach of the trust Americans have placed in us. Our current economic struggles are all the more reason to say no to a treaty that is all cost and no benefit.

Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch is the ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee. Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn is a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee.

One unwary phone call led US to Bin Laden’s doorstep


Guest Commentary provided by:  Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo/AP

When one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted aides picked up the phone last year, he unknowingly led U.S. pursuers to the doorstep of his boss, the world’s most wanted terrorist.

That phone call, recounted Monday by a U.S. official, ended a years-long search for bin Laden’s personal courier, the key break in a worldwide manhunt. The courier, in turn, led U.S. intelligence to a walled compound in northeast Pakistan, where a team of Navy SEALs shot bin Laden to death.

The violent final minutes were the culmination of years of intelligence work. Inside the CIA team hunting bin Laden, it always was clear that bin Laden’s vulnerability was his couriers. He was too smart to let al-Qaida foot soldiers, or even his senior commanders, know his hideout. But if he wanted to get his messages out, somebody had to carry them, someone bin Laden trusted with his life.

In a secret CIA prison in Eastern Europe years ago, al-Qaida’s No. 3 leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, gave authorities the nicknames of several of bin Laden’s couriers, four former U.S. intelligence officials said. Those names were among thousands of leads the CIA was pursuing.

One man became a particular interest for the agency when another detainee, Abu Faraj al-Libi, told interrogators that when he was promoted to succeed Mohammed as al-Qaida’s operational leader he received the word through a courier. Only bin Laden would have given al-Libi that promotion, CIA officials believed.

If they could find that courier, they’d find bin Laden.

The revelation that intelligence gleaned from the CIA’s so-called black sites helped kill bin Laden was seen as vindication for many intelligence officials who have been repeatedly investigated and criticized for their involvement in a program that involved the harshest interrogation methods in U.S. history.

“We got beat up for it, but those efforts led to this great day,” said Marty Martin, a retired CIA officer who for years led the hunt for bin Laden.

Mohammed did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He identified them many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.

It took years of work for intelligence agencies to identify the courier’s real name, which officials are not disclosing. When they did identify him, he was nowhere to be found. The CIA’s sources didn’t know where he was hiding. Bin Laden was famously insistent that no phones or computers be used near him, so the eavesdroppers at the National Security Agency kept coming up cold.

Then in the middle of last year, the courier had a telephone conversation with someone who was being monitored by U.S. intelligence, according to an American official, who like others interviewed for this story spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation. The courier was located somewhere away from bin Laden’s hideout when he had the discussion, but it was enough to help intelligence officials locate and watch him.

In August 2010, the courier unknowingly led authorities to a compound in the northeast Pakistani town of Abbottabad, where al-Libi had once lived. The walls surrounding the property were as high as 18 feet and topped with barbed wire. Intelligence officials had known about the house for years, but they always suspected that bin Laden would be surrounded by heavily armed security guards. Nobody patrolled the compound in Abbottabad.

In fact, nobody came or went. And no telephone or Internet lines ran from the compound. The CIA soon believed that bin Laden was hiding in plain sight, in a hideout especially built to go unnoticed. But since bin Laden never traveled and nobody could get onto the compound without passing through two security gates, there was no way to be sure.

Despite that uncertainty, intelligence officials realized this could represent the best chance ever to get to bin Laden. They decided not to share the information with anyone, including staunch counterterrorism allies such as Britain, Canada and Australia.

By mid-February, the officials were convinced a “high-value target” was hiding in the compound. President Barack Obama wanted to take action.

“They were confident and their confidence was growing: ‘This is different. This intelligence case is different. What we see in this compound is different than anything we’ve ever seen before,'” John Brennan, the president’s top counterterrorism adviser, said Monday. “I was confident that we had the basis to take action.”

Options were limited. The compound was in a residential neighborhood in a sovereign country. If Obama ordered an airstrike and bin Laden was not in the compound, it would be a huge diplomatic problem. Even if Obama was right, obliterating the compound might make it nearly impossible to confirm bin Laden’s death.

Said Brennan: “The president had to evaluate the strength of that information, and then made what I believe was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.”

Obama tapped two dozen members of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six to carry out a raid with surgical accuracy.

Before dawn Monday morning, a pair of helicopters left Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. The choppers entered Pakistani airspace using sophisticated technology intended to evade that country’s radar systems, a U.S. official said.

Officially, it was a kill-or-capture mission, since the U.S. doesn’t kill unarmed people trying to surrender. But it was clear from the beginning that whoever was behind those walls had no intention of surrendering, two U.S. officials said.

The helicopters lowered into the compound, dropping the SEALs behind the walls. No shots were fired, but shortly after the team hit the ground, one of the helicopters came crashing down and rolled onto its side for reasons the government has yet to explain. None of the SEALs was injured, however, and the mission continued uninterrupted.

With the CIA and White House monitoring the situation in real time — presumably by live satellite feed or video carried by the SEALs — the team stormed the compound.

Thanks to sophisticated satellite monitoring, U.S. forces knew they’d likely find bin Laden’s family on the second and third floors of one of the buildings on the property, officials said. The SEALs secured the rest of the property first, then proceeded to the room where bin Laden was hiding. A firefight ensued, Brennan said.

The SEALs killed bin Laden with a bullet to the head. Using the call sign for his visual identification, one of the soldiers communicated that “Geronimo” had been killed in action, according to a U.S. official.

Bin Laden’s body was immediately identifiable, but the U.S. also conducted DNA testing that identified him with near 100 percent certainty, senior administration officials said. Photo analysis by the CIA, confirmation on site by a woman believed to be bin Laden’s wife, who was wounded, and matching physical features such as bin Laden’s height all helped confirm the identification. At the White House, there was no doubt.

“I think the accomplishment that very brave personnel from the United States government were able to realize yesterday is a defining moment in the war against al-Qaida, the war on terrorism, by decapitating the head of the snake known as al-Qaida,” Brennan said.

U.S. forces searched the compound and flew away with documents, hard drives and DVDs that could provide valuable intelligence about al-Qaida, a U.S. official said. The entire operation took about 40 minutes, officials said.

Bin Laden’s body was flown to the USS Carl Vinson in the North Arabian sea, a senior defense official said. There, aboard a U.S. warship, officials conducted a traditional Islamic burial ritual. Bin Laden’s body was washed and placed in a white sheet. He was placed in a weighted bag that, after religious remarks by a military officer, was slipped into the sea about 2 a.m. EDT Monday.

Said the president: “I think we can all agree this is a good day for America.”

___

Associated Press writers Kimberly Dozier, Eileen Sullivan and Ben Feller in Washington and Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Pakistan contributed to this report.

Odyssey Dawn, Unified Protector? Here’s what it means… Guest Commentary Provided By Adm. James Stavridis


Odyssey Dawn, Unified Protector? Here’s what it means…

Guest Commentary Provided By: Adm. James Stavridis — Commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe

Not surprisingly, I’ve received a lot of questions about what is happening in Libya in both my capacity as Commander of the US European Command (USEUCOM) and as the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR).

Given the amount of interest, let me address the role of both USEUCOM and Allied Command Operations (ACO) in Libya – the former in a supporting role, the latter acting upon direction from the North Atlantic Council (NAC). Forgive me if this blog runs a little longer than most – we’ve got a lot to cover!

Allow me to underscore that in both cases – as a US Combatant Commander and as SACEUR – our purpose with respect to Libya is to support the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR). The Resolution calls for humanitarian assistance; enforcement of the arms embargo; support of a no fly zone; and the protection of civilians. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read the actual UNSCRs 1970 and 1973.

Now, let’s start with USEUCOM. As most of you know, the United States military is organized into geographic and functional Combatant Commands. The Combatant Command with the lead role in ongoing US military operations in Libya – titled Operation ODYSSEY DAWN – is the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM), under the very able leadership of GEN Carter Ham. USEUCOM is involved in support of USAFRICOM.

“Alright, Admiral,” you might think to yourself. “What exactly does that mean?” To be more precise, some of the ways USEUCOM is providing support include manpower augmentation (e.g., intelligence, operations, public affairs, etc.), contingency planning, communications connectivity and infrastructure, logistical support at bases within the European theater, and basing/overflight rights. Overall, USEUCOM has helped to enable the effective execution of the operation in a complex and dynamic environment; however, USAFRICOM is the lead combatant command capably directing forces in support of Operation ODYSSEY DAWN.

Let’s turn next to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Of course, all NATO decisions are based on the consensus of the 28 member nations. Any decision is, therefore, the expression of the nations’ collective will. While numerous committees and groups exist to explore issues and guide discussion, the primary decision making body is the NAC, chaired by the NATO Secretary General and formed of Ambassadors, Defense Ministers, Foreign Ministers, or Heads of State and Government. In permanent session, NATO nations have Ambassadors in the NAC, also known as Permanent Representatives or PERMREPS.

As you’d expect, gaining consensus amongst 28 sovereign nations is not always a simple matter, but when it does occur, it is a very powerful expression of the collective will that I mentioned earlier. NATO has reacted to the crises in Libya with unprecedented speed. If you’re interested in learning more about how NATO works, there’s a good interactive introduction to the organization here.

On March 22, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the NAC’s agreement to enforce the UN-mandated arms embargo on Libya within the context of UNSCRs 1970 and 1973. NATO operations for Libya have been named Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR. Under the scope of UNIFIED PROTECTOR, NATO is authorized to enforce the arms embargo and the no-fly-zone (NFZ). This was just five days after the UNSCR passed.

The arms embargo mission is focused on assisting the international community to reduce the flow of arms and material into and from Libya in order to reduce acts of aggression against the Libyan civilian population. Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR will assist in reducing the flow of arms, related material and mercenaries to and from the coastal waters off Libya only. NATO nation ships and aircraft will conduct operations to monitor, report and, if needed, interdict vessels and intercept aircraft where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that they are carrying cargo in violation of the arms embargo or suspected of carrying illegal arms or mercenaries. This is being conducted in close coordination with international maritime authorities, commercial shipping, and regional organizations to ensure the free flow of legitimate shipping to and from Libya.

As for the NFZ, it was originally initiated by a coalition of primarily NATO countries coordinating under Operation ODYSSEY DAWN. It quickly became apparent that NATO is uniquely qualified to assume leadership of the NFZ, bringing both capabilities through its members’ military commitments and coherence through NATO’s well established command and control structure. As we have seen in Kosovo, Afghanistan, operations supporting counter-piracy and other missions, NATO has the experience and expertise to lead this effort. On March 24, the NAC took the next step to approve enforcement of the NFZ, which puts NATO in that leadership role, just seven days after the UNSCR.

And finally, just last night, NATO Allies decided to take on the whole military operation in Libya, ten days after the UNSCR. As defined by the United Nations Security Council Resolution, our goal is to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack. NATO will implement all aspects of the UN Resolution.

The bottom line is that in both cases – on the US side and within NATO – we are seeking to protect innocent lives and allow Libyans the freedom to decide the future of their country. Important work, indeed.

Adm. James Stavridis
Commander, U.S. European Command and
Supreme Allied Commander, Europe

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 9:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Roadmap for modernizing the teaching profession


Roadmap for modernizing the teaching profession

Guest Commentary provided by: Former Governor Jeb Bush

Last week, the Florida Legislature passed landmark legislation that brings common sense reforms to the teaching profession. Because of unwavering legislative leadership and a strong, supportive governor, Florida is once again transforming the educational status quo.

And if Florida can do it, every state can — and must.

Under the new law, for the first time in Florida, teachers will be evaluated and rewarded based on how much their students learn.

Starting July 1, tenure for new teachers is effectively ended. All new teachers will receive an initial one-year probationary contract. After that, new teachers will work under annual contracts, subject to renewal every year.

The bill also ends the policy of “last in, first out” — making merit the basis of retention. Seniority will not be the only measurement for retention and no longer will new teachers be the first to receive pink slips when layoffs are necessary. All teachers — from the experienced educators to those entering the classroom for the first time — will be assessed and paid based on their effectiveness in teaching.

Currently, annual teacher evaluations are subjective and very few teachers receive negative reviews. For the first time, an objective measure of teacher effectiveness — based on standardized tests that measure student learning — will be part of annual evaluations. Fifty percent of teacher evaluations will be based on what matters most — students’ knowledge and skills. Essentially, do students know more at the end of the school year than they knew at the beginning? This common-sense evaluation system provides a healthy balance of student data and valuable peer feedback.

Teachers will be evaluated as highly effective; effective; needs improvement; and unsatisfactory. Teachers who need improvement will receive professional development. Teachers who are rated unsatisfactory for two out of three years will not have their contracts renewed.

The bill establishes a fairer salary system, improving Florida’s ability to attract and retain excellent teachers. The current salary structure is blind to effectiveness; pay increases are largely based on years of service. Teachers who are effective and highly effective will earn raises — not one-time bonuses but annual increases that build their base salaries.

Teachers who take the toughest jobs, like positions in inner-city schools, will earn a bonus. So will teachers of high-demand subjects, like math and science. Higher salaries for these positions will attract talent and energy to our greatest challenge — preparing all students for college and careers.

The law is based on a bedrock belief that all students can learn. That core principle is backed by decades of research that confirms students with great teachers learn more — up to four times as much — than students with ineffective teachers.

Florida is debunking the myth that some kids can’t learn because of life’s circumstances. The state has proven that a quality education and great teachers can overcome the obstacles of poverty, language barriers and broken homes. Florida is now forging a seismic path for modernizing the teaching profession nationwide.

Jeb Bush, chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.

Published in: on March 23, 2011 at 5:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

VIDEO: The Forgotten Man. A must watch


The Forgotten Man

Guest commentary provided by: Jon McNaughton

Published in: on February 26, 2011 at 1:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Energy Efficient Construction


Energy Efficient Construction with Trade Wind Builders
Guest commentary provided by: Brett McMeans

The use of insulated concrete forms (ICFs) is growing rapidly due to its ability to give a building enhanced comfort, solidity, durability, resistance to natural disasters, quietness and energy efficiency.

Buildings constructed with ICF walls have a more even temperature throughout the day and night. They have virtually no “cold spots” and far fewer drafts.

ICF walls have negligible air infiltration. The superior insulation, air tightness and mass of the walls can reduce the cost of operating HVAC in a building by up to 40%.


In addition, ICFs allow the installation of smaller heating and cooling equipment. The high R-value combined with the thermal mass means ICF walls exceed most energy code requirements.

The insulated panels is that of pure genius. Insulated concrete forms (ICF) are hollow “blocks” or “panels” made of expanded polystyrene insulation (EPS) that our professional in-house crew will stack to form the shape of the walls of a building.

After inspection the workers then fill the center cavity with reinforced concrete to create the structure. ICF construction sandwiches a heavy, high strength material (reinforced concrete) between to layers of a light, highly insulated material (EPS). This combination creates a wall with many desirable properties: air tightness, strength, sound, sound attenuation, insulation and mass.

The superior insulation, air tightness and mass of the walls can reduce the cost of operating HVAC in a building by up to 40%. In addition, ICFs allow the installation of smaller heating and cooling equipment.

If the building is like most buildings, it is using fossil fuel. By reducing the building’s fossil fuel requirements, the ICF plays an important role in reducing the negative environmental impacts associated with fossil fuel use.

For more information on energy efficient building options, please visit:  www.TradeWindBuilders.com