What Fireworks Does ISIS Plan for the 4th of July?

James Carafano /

What to make of reports that ISIS may try to pull off a terrorist attack on Independence Day?

Let’s look at the facts.

It is not the first time after 9/11 that U.S. authorities have expressed concerns about possible terrorist attacks timed to coincide with significant dates like the Fourth of July. In 2011, a senior U.S. official told reporters, “We have received credible information very recently about a possible plot directed at the homeland that seems to be focused on New York and Washington, D.C.,” timed for the anniversary of al-Qaeda’s big attack on the two cities. Some hold that the assault on the U.S. compound in Benghazi was scheduled to coincide with 9/11. In fact, warnings of impending terror threats from authorities go back as far as 2002.

Next, we know that ISIS is active—both promoting and inspiring transnational terrorist attacks. Just last week near simultaneous assaults occurred in France, Kuwait and Tunisia.

Further, the U.S. remains a prime target for terrorist activity.  There was another Islamist terrorist related plot uncovered last week—the third in less than a month.

Additionally, we can’t even be sure of where an attack might happen. Terrorists have contemplated hitting everything from high-profile targets in big cities to shopping malls in the suburbs.

None of that necessarily means that something bad will happen between grilling the hot dogs, cheering on the main street parades and watching the fireworks over the Capitol.

Coordinating a terrorist attack to happen at a specific time and place, particularly when there will likely be heightened awareness and security, complicates the challenge of pulling off a terror strike–though those obstacles didn’t thwart two relative amateurs who bombed the Boston Marathon (and who had also considered conducting an attack on Independence Day).

Still, if an attack does occur the odds of any particular American being a victim are pretty small.  That’s cold comfort, as the real purpose of terrorist attacks is to terrorize us, killing us is just a consequence.

Best advice is to have a nice day, but take the common-sense precautions that people should always take in public. There are plenty of lists out there of the right steps to take. Read one.

The reality is that even the best security can’t childproof a free society. On July 4, of all days, Americans shouldn’t want it any other way. When a free society gives up on freedom the terrorists win.

Originally published in the PJ Tatler

What American Institutions Conservatives Trust, And Which Ones Liberals Trust - The Daily Signal

What American Institutions Conservatives Trust, And Which Ones Liberals Trust

James Carafano / Kate Scanlon /

Trust in American institutions varies widely by political ideology, according to a new Gallup poll.

Gallup found that American liberals and conservatives “report markedly different levels of confidence in nearly every key institution” that they measure, a shift they attribute to a significantly different “worldview” embraced by each group.

Photo: Gallup

Photo: Gallup

Conservatives are more likely to trust organized religion, the police and the military. Liberals are more likely to trust the Supreme Court, television news and public schools.

Congress inspires little confidence in the American people, with only 11 percent of conservatives and 9 percent of liberals reporting that they trust the institution.

Gallup asked Americans about the office of the presidency rather than the president himself. Liberals are more likely than conservatives to trust the presidency by 36 percentage points.

Photo: Gallup

Photo: Gallup

Gallup notes that “confidence in most major U.S. institutions continues to linger well below historical norms,” and is not limited to one particular political ideology.

These 18 Photos Show America’s Long History of Celebrating the Fourth - The Daily Signal

These 18 Photos Show America’s Long History of Celebrating the Fourth

James Carafano / Kate Scanlon / Samantha Reinis /

 

Many Americans have honored the nation’s birth in numerous ways and festivities. Here are some photos showing how Americans have celebrated over the years.

An engraving of a picnic on the 4th of July, “A day to be remembered.” (Photo: Saml. Hollyer & J. Rogers/ The Library of Congress)

An engraving of a picnic on the 4th of July, “A day to be remembered.” (Photo: Saml. Hollyer & J. Rogers/ The Library of Congress)

The Brazilian Gunboat Tiradentes fires a salute to honor the 4th of July in 1893. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

The Brazilian Gunboat Tiradentes fires a salute to honor the 4th of July in 1893. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

Chariot race at 4th of July celebration, dated between 1900-1930. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

Chariot race at 4th of July celebration, dated between 1900-1930. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

Greek Americans march in a celebratory parade in N.Y., dated between 1910-1915. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

Greek Americans march in a celebratory parade in N.Y., dated between 1910-1915. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

Patriotic marches in a 4th July Parade in 1911, N.Y. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

Patriotic marches in a 4th of July Parade in 1911, N.Y. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

A local parade down Front Street to celebrate Independence Day, 1916. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

A local parade down Front Street to celebrate Independence Day, 1916. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

Some locals gather for a picnic in Vienna, Virginia, July 4th, 1921. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

Some locals gather for a picnic in Vienna, Va., July 4th, 1921. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

Young boys march in a 4th of July celebration at Takoma Park, 1922. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

Young boys march in a 4th of July celebration at Takoma Park, 1922. (Photo: The Library of Congress)

Fireworks over the Washington Monument, in Washington D.C., 1939. (Photo: Harris & Ewing/ The Library of Congress)

Fireworks over the Washington Monument, in Washington D.C., 1939. (Photo: Harris & Ewing/ The Library of Congress)

Fourth of July celebration at St. Helena Island, S.C., 1939. (Photo: Marion Post Wolcott/ The Library of Congress)

Fourth of July celebration at St. Helena Island, S.C., 1939. (Photo: Marion Post Wolcott/ The Library of Congress)

A soapbox auto race is part of the festivities July 4th, 1940. (Photo: Jack Delano/ The Library of Congress)

A soapbox auto race is part of the festivities July 4th, 1940. (Photo: Jack Delano/ The Library of Congress)

Clown at July 4th celebration in Salisbury, Maryland, 1940. (Photo: Jack Delano/ The Library of Congress)

Clown at July 4th celebration in Salisbury, Md., 1940. (Photo: Jack Delano/ The Library of Congress)

Beauty contest during July 4th celebration at Salisbury, Maryland, 1940. (Photo: Jack Delano/ The Library of Congress)

Beauty contest during July 4th celebration at Salisbury, Md., 1940. (Photo: Jack Delano/ The Library of Congress)

A crowd watches the 4th of July Parade in El Paso, Texas, July 4, 1998. (Photo: Jack Kurtz UPI Photo Service/Newscom)

A crowd watches the 4th of July Parade in El Paso, Texas, July 4, 1998. (Photo: Jack Kurtz UPI Photo Service/Newscom)

A U.S. marine carries food from a barbeque celebrating July 4 while on tour in Yugoslavia, 1999.    (Photo: Laszlo Balogh/ Reuters/Newscom)

A U.S. marine carries food from a barbeque celebrating July 4 while on tour in Yugoslavia, 1999. (Photo: Laszlo Balogh/ Reuters/Newscom)

Local veterans stand in formation after firing rifles in salute during the presentation of the colors. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom)

Local veterans stand in formation after firing rifles in salute during the presentation of the colors. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom)

Capt. Brandon Price of the Virginia National Guard and his daughter Chloe, 5, prepare to march in Leesburg's Independence Day parade, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/ Newscom)

Capt. Brandon Price of the Virginia National Guard and his daughter Chloe, 5, prepare to march in Leesburg’s Independence Day parade, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/ Newscom)

Fireworks over the Nation’s Capital to celebrate the holiday in 2008. (Photo: Carol Highsmith/ The Library of Congress)

Fireworks over the nation’s Capital to celebrate the holiday in 2008. (Photo: Carol Highsmith/ The Library of Congress)

A little girl in Charleston, SC celebrates Independence Day in style on her patriotic bike. (Photo: Richard Ellis/Zuma Press/Newscom

A little girl in Charleston, S.C. celebrates Independence Day in style on her patriotic bike. (Photo: Richard Ellis/Zuma Press/Newscom)

Obama’s Pessimistic Outlook Hurts Our Trade Dealings - The Daily Signal

Obama’s Pessimistic Outlook Hurts Our Trade Dealings

James Carafano / Kate Scanlon / Samantha Reinis / Ted Bromund /

No thanks to his fellow Democrats, President Barack Obama won a victory in Congress last week when Republicans voted to give him the authority to negotiate trade agreements in Asia and Europe. Too bad so much of the president’s case for the agreements is based on his belief that the United States is in decline.

Let’s take a step back. Since 1945, the United States has advanced the cause of free trade around the world. We’ve done this partly because it’s in our economic interest to sell and buy more. But we also did it to help make the world safer for democracy, and safer from the Soviets.

We believed the rise of protectionism in the 1930s had made the Great Depression worse, and that the Depression had led to the rise of the Nazis and the Second World War. Trade, we decided, doesn’t guarantee peace, but the absence of trade can help bring war. Prosperity was our best defense against communism.

At its core, our trade diplomacy was optimistic: We believed that a free economy was good for the free world, and that the United States and our democratic allies would be more powerful and more secure if we were more free. And to their credit, it was mostly liberals who were responsible for making that case.

Certainly, Republicans played their part. But it was Democratic presidents like Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy who led the way. Promoting free trade was a great, positive act of American grand strategy.

Unfortunately, President Obama chooses to preach pessimism. For the first time, a U.S. president is making the case for trade agreements by arguing that we’re in decline. Speaking at Nike in April, for example, he argued that we need new trade agreements now, “while our economy is in the position of global strength.”

If we waited, he warned, China would write the rules of trade “in a way that gives Chinese workers and Chinese businesses the upper hand.”

Obama’s not the only one who talks this way. The Europeans say the same thing. This month, Cecilia Malmström, the European Union’s trade commissioner, said that we need a trade deal now, because in the future the United States and the European Union will “account for far less purchasing power.”

There’s just enough sense in this idea to make it dangerous. It’s true that, as the rest of the world grows, the U.S. and European share of the pie will likely shrink. But if the president is right that China will someday be so powerful that it can write the global rules of trade on its own, a new U.S. trade agreement is a pitiful response. The idea that our rules will keep on working if China is in charge is naive.

But the chances are that Obama is wrong. China’s economic growth is slowing, and even the United States at the peak of its relative strength—after 1945—didn’t have the power to write the rules of trade on its own.

And, worst of all, one reason we’re likely to have a smaller share of the pie going forward is that we’ve burdened our economy with lots of expensive rules. New trade agreements that focus on imposing even more rules aren’t the answer: They’re the problem. They’re also not free trade.

American trade diplomacy since 1945 has been based on believing the future can be better than the past, and that the best thing the government can do for trade is to get out of the way. The answer on trade now isn’t more rules to cushion our decline. It’s more freedom to boost our growth.

Originally published in Newsday 

Thanks to This Supreme Court Decision, The Government Could Seize Your Living Room - The Daily Signal

Thanks to This Supreme Court Decision, The Government Could Seize Your Living Room

James Carafano / Kate Scanlon / Samantha Reinis / Ted Bromund / Daren Bakst /

Take a look around your living room. There’s a risk that it could become part of a food court in a mall or an assembly line in a factory.

This is possible because of a decision handed down 10 years ago this month by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Kelo v. City of New London, the court ruled that private property can be seized and transferred to another private party for economic development. In the case, the city of New London, Conn., seized the homes of Susette Kelo and other property owners in order to revitalize the city.

A decade later, Congress still has not taken meaningful action to address this attack on property rights—despite overwhelming bipartisan support to do so. This failure by Congress needs to end this year.

Under the Fifth Amendment, private property may be seized only for a public use. Kelo effectively deleted “public use” from the Fifth Amendment. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor famously said in her dissent, “The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.”

While the threat of economic development takings can impact everyone, lower-income individuals are the most at risk, victims of a “reverse Robin Hood effect”—taking from the poor and giving to the rich. After all, cities typically seek out inexpensive properties that are not generating the desired economic benefits and transfer those properties to private parties that government officials think will help with economic development.

Even if the takings are foolish, a court is unlikely to step in. In New London today, empty fields sit where the seized homes used to stand.

These economic development takings are also a prime example of cronyism. A developer can use the government as its middleman to seize properties and avoid paying what likely would be their true costs. Kelo has made it easy for government officials to benefit their friends and politically-connected businesses using the awesome power of eminent domain.

While many states have tried to address Kelo, with varying levels of success, these attempts don’t excuse Congress from taking action. If the Supreme Court gutted First Amendment protections, there would be widespread outrage. Policymakers wouldn’t believe it was adequate to protect federal First Amendment rights through a state law. The same holds true for private property rights.

Congress needs to prohibit the federal government from engaging in such takings. Congress should also clarify that states and local governments are ineligible for certain funds, such as Community Development Block Grants, if they engage in prohibited takings.

Certainly, takings for economic development should be prohibited, but any prohibition must be carefully crafted because the government can find ways around many prohibitions. The government often identifies some non-economic development reason for a taking and courts aren’t going to bother figuring out whether that reason is just a convenient cover for taking property for economic development. This is why it’s critical that the government have the burden of proving that a taking isn’t for economic development and it would have occurred even if there was no economic development benefit.

The blight excuse is a major way government seizes private property for economic development. State blight laws don’t usually define blight in any commonly understood way, such as properties that are unsafe. Instead, these laws often have vague and easy-to-meet definitions of blight that would cover properties in good condition. Even pristine properties can sometimes be seized if they are in blighted areas.

Blight abuse is alive and well. For example, after Kelo, an overbroad definition of blight was used to seize private property in Brooklyn for apartment and office towers, as well as private property in Harlem for Columbia University, a private institution. Congress should prohibit these blight takings, unless a property poses a concrete and imminent risk to public health and safety.

Congress should mark the 10th anniversary of Kelo by adopting reforms that properly address economic development and related takings. The American dream of owning a home should no longer be threatened by the nightmare of eminent domain abuse.

Originally published in InsideSources 

Forget Greece. Here’s the Country We Should Be Panicking About. - The Daily Signal

Forget Greece. Here’s the Country We Should Be Panicking About.

James Carafano / Kate Scanlon / Samantha Reinis / Ted Bromund / Daren Bakst / Mike Gonzalez /

Sick of what Greece is doing to your 401(k)? Well, there’s a bigger threat looming in the form of a far leftist movement in a larger Mediterranean country. Spain’s Podemos party has just taken over the country’s biggest cities. Oh, and it really doesn’t care about your capitalist savings.

Podemos, or “We Can” in Spanish—one of its regional affiliates is actually called “Si, se puede,” or literally “Yes, We Can”—might quibble with being identified as leftist, or even as an organized party at all. It sometimes calls itself “an alternative project,” or a “social movement,” and it insists it is all about transcending the left-right paradigm. All the other parties, from left to right, are disparaged as “the caste.”

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, a 36-year-old ponytailed academic-turned-media-darling, also insists the party did not borrow its name from Barack Obama but that both borrowed it from Latino activists in the 1960s and ‘70s. “Obama was quite clever using that, but it’s not a creation of Obama,” Iglesias eagerly told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman in a Feb. 17 interview.

But party, movement or simply “space,” Podemos has been very good at winning elections and amassing power. Even though it did not even present itself as a party in local elections in May, candidates linked to it walked away with the mayoralties of six of Spain’s biggest cities: Madrid, Barcelona, Cadiz, Santiago de Compostela, Zaragoza and La Coruna.

Think of it as not just New York, but also Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas and Atlanta all being run by Bill DeBlasio. It means Podemos is now in charge of local policies for 6 million Spaniards in a country of 40 million and leaves it poised to create greater electoral havoc in national elections that have to be called by December this year.

If it were to win, it promises to restructure Spain’s massive debt of $1.16 trillion, which is close to 100 percent of GDP, to adjust it to “social justice criteria and legitimacy.” This, of course, would mean ending the mild spending cuts instituted by the center-right government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (cuts which Podemos denounces as an “austerity program”) and turn on the Keynesian spending spigot.

But Iglesias doesn’t stop there. He also promises to copy France’s 35-hour work week model; ban companies that make a profit from firing workers; raise taxes on companies with profits above $1.1 million; raise the minimum wage and establish a “maximum wage;” audit the debt to figure out which part is “illegitimate” and thus not worth paying; and, of course, “make rich people pay taxes.”

There’s much, much more to Podemos’s program, but you get the picture. Suffice it to say the party and Iglesias are very close to the government of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his leftist Syriza party, which caused so much consternation this week by breaking off talks with his European Union and International Monetary Fund creditors.

But Greece is small potatoes by comparison. Spain is the euro’s fourth largest economy, and Podemos has associations beyond Athens.

A foundation associated with Podemos has done consulting work for Venezuela, and Podemos is also linked with Iran, as one of Iglesias’ two TV shows are run by Iran’s state-run Spanish-language TV service. Iglesias also calls Fidel Castro’s Cuba “a reference point.”

Iglesias always takes great umbrage when he’s reminded about his links with these unsavory, despotic regimes. But it is clear that when he quips that he wishes that Spain’s head of state were elected, and not be a title that King Philip VI has inherited, he conveniently forgets that no Iranian or Cuban ever voted Khamenei or Castro into power.

It also is clear the party seeks nothing less than the complete overthrow of Spain’s post-Franco status quo, from the destruction of the two-party system, to the end of the monarchy, the aristocracy and the way the economy is run.

Small wonder that members of Spain’s weak center-right party, Rajoy’s Popular Party, say Podemos candidates, such as the new mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, want “to break the Western democratic system as we know it.”

It also doesn’t help that once in a while he admits even in public that, sure, he’s a leftist, but that crying this from rooftops is not always a good strategy. “I’m leftist, of course,” he told Goodman. “But in order to create a new political majority in our country, the notion of left and right is not always useful.”

Podemos has benefited mightily from Spain’s rocketing 22.5 percent unemployment (50 percent among the young who flock to Podemos); corruption scandals which have ensnared the leading parties and the royal family; the EU’s endemic democratic deficit (important decisions are taken by unelected bureaucrats); and the general lack of confidence that is weighing down many Western societies.

It probably helps to think of the Podemos phenomenon as the terminus point of the various anti-globalization, anti-capitalist and occupy movements the globe has seen over the past few years. It has simple answers to complex problems that, if enacted into policy, would make the global economy wish it were still dealing with just Greece.

Originally published in Forbes 

Heroes Saved: Service Dogs Rescue Veterans From Mental Illness - The Daily Signal

Heroes Saved: Service Dogs Rescue Veterans From Mental Illness

James Carafano / Kate Scanlon / Samantha Reinis / Ted Bromund / Daren Bakst / Mike Gonzalez / Chelsea Scism /

When former Marine Corporal Cole Thomas Lyle returned from his 400-day deployment to Afghanistan in November of 2011, he had never given much thought to post-traumatic stress. Eager to return to normalcy, Lyle attended a Rangers baseball game with his closest friends, the tickets a gift from his relieved mother.

Standing proud as the National Anthem reverberated throughout the Texas stadium, Lyle suddenly heard celebratory fireworks explode above. Before he could even process why, he had instinctively dropped to the ground in the middle of the crowd, covering his head with his arms. It was the first indication that something might be wrong—that Lyle might be facing the mental illness, characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness, and hyper-vigilance.

He soon participated in a Post-Deployment Health Assessment and was diagnosed with PTSD. His doctor prescribed him a mixture of anti-depressants and sleep aides. He took them dutifully, and began working with a psychiatrist. Neither treatment program helped.

It wasn’t until a third option became available over two years after he was first diagnosed that his life began to change for the better. The Veterans Administration informed Lyle that a service dog was his last option, so he turned to a private organization to secure his own service dog. Soon after, a spunky German Shepherd named Kaya soon became his constant companion, and his lifeline.

“I don’t understand why that wasn’t the first option,” Lyle says.

Kaya poses for a puppy photo in Lyle's car before her training begins. (Photo: Courtesy Cole Lyle)

Kaya poses for a puppy photo in Lyle’s car before her training begins. (Photo: Courtesy Cole Lyle)

An invisible epidemic

According to the Pentagon, more than 155,000 U.S. troops suffer from PTSD. That’s roughly 11 to 20-percent of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom veterans.

People who have the disorder often encounter a host of other problems as a result, including depression, anxiety, employment issues, alcohol or drug addiction, and relationship strains that can sometimes result in divorce.

“Not only is there a huge strain on the service member, but also on the family and on the close friends of the service member,” explains Luke Coffey, Margaret Thatcher Fellow at the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation and himself a veteran. Coffey, who works on these policy issues, knows first-hand that post-traumatic stress disorder can negatively impact effectively every aspect of a veteran’s life.

Although veterans who served in combat seem the most likely to develop PTSD, servicemen like Lyle who may not have had those direct combat experiences can still be diagnosed, isolation setting in as they become further removed from the support system that surrounded them in the military.

“[Returning home] is a shock, even if you never served in combat,” Lyle says. “That has a detrimental effect mentally. If you add the problems of post-traumatic stress and acute anxiety, it just exacerbates those problems dramatically.”

These difficult issues become much worse when veterans conceal their struggles. According to Coffey, veterans remain afraid that despite decreasing social stigma about mental illness, some still see PTSD “as a sign of weakness, not an illness.”

This shame and hesitation to seek medical help has led to an increased suicide rate within the U.S. military since 2001. In 2012 alone, nearly 350 service members took their own lives, exceeding the 295 members of the Armed Forces who were killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan during the same year.

“Dogs help their handlers to live the lives they once did.”

Despite the hardships that many veterans face at the end of their service, some, like Lyle, have overcome mental illness with the help of the invaluable addition of a service dog.

A service dog wears his handler's hat at a training session.  (Photo: Courtesy Canines for Service)

A service dog wears his handler’s hat at a training session. (Photo: Courtesy Canines for Service)

“[Caring for a service dog] gives you a sense of purpose again,” Lyle says. “And a lot of veterans, when they come back, that’s what they’re looking for … they’re looking for some sense of purpose.”

Service dogs, trained with specialized skills, assist the veterans they’re assigned to in a variety of ways depending on their handler’s needs. A veteran struggling with being in large crowds may be paired with a service animal trained to create a distance between the veteran and other people. Similarly, service dogs may post behind a veteran’s back, alerting them when someone is coming up behind them to avoid panic.

Service dogs like Kaya can be trained to pop around corners before the veteran does to make sure that nobody is standing there.

“That’s peace of mind,” Lyle said. “In the course of a vet’s service, sometimes they’ll have to turn a corner real quick and there will be somebody hiding there that’s waiting to shoot at you.”

Veteran service dogs can also do more general day-to-day tasks like reminding a veteran to take medication, searching the house when they return home, and even turning on the lights. In short, according to the American Humane Association, “The dogs help their handlers to live the lives they once did.”

Kaya is also especially trained to help Lyle deal with recurring nightmares. Each night, she will jump in bed or lick his hand to wake him up if he appears to be suffering from one.

“Don’t ask me how they do it,” he says. “It’s a miracle.”

Consistency and reward

Globally, there are 110 service dog agencies accredited by Assistance Dogs International. Amy McCullough, National Director of Humane Research and Therapy at the American Humane Association, describes ADI as “the gold standard in service dog agencies.”

Due to the sheer volume of agencies around the world, training practices differ among organizations. At Canines for Service, an ADI accredited agency that places service dogs with veterans, the average service dog receives about 2,500 hours of training. Training ranges from basic obedience and socialization to more advanced skills addressing specific disability needs.

A veteran and his service dog rest during their training session at Canines for Service.  (Photo: Courtesy Canines for Service)

A veteran and his service dog rest during their training session at Canines for Service. (Photo: Courtesy Canines for Service)

Pat Hairston, the Program Manager at Canines for Service, says the key to training a service animal is consistency and reward, and that a dog could practice a complicated, multi-part task up to 100 times before learning it.

“People think that you can train a dog and ask it to do something one or two times and it knows it,” Hairston said. “If you get a [service] dog like that, truly you’ve been given a gift.”

Before the training begins, service dog agencies must evaluate possible dogs to ensure that they possess the qualities to make a good working dog. While certain breeds like labs are preferred by many agencies, the key is that the animal has the right kind of temperament—specifically, that they are more interested in people than in other animals.

Canines for Service also administers a 15-point test to determine how a dog will react to certain things. If the animal is afraid of loud noises or jumps when an umbrella opens, for example, it’s not suited for service work.

“The reality is, when they go out to Walmart and it’s crazy noisy, [some dogs] are not going to be able to handle it,” Hairston explains.

Not enough pups to go around

While Hairston admits that the exact number of veteran service dogs that are working is “uncaptured,” ADI does know for certain that there are less than 100 new service animals placed with veterans every year. When compared to the 1,000 veterans diagnosed with PTSD each week, it is obvious veterans seeking service animals are working with an enormous deficit.

Moreover, considering the evaluation that goes into selecting a service dog and the thousands of hours of training that follows, it comes as no surprise that cost is often an inhibitor for veterans seeking a companion dog. What is surprising, though, is just how steep the price tag of a service dog is: between $15,000 and $20,000, according to McCullough.

Kaya rests in the grass while wearing her service dog vest, complete with an American flag patch and Lyle's name. (Photo: Chelsea Scism/The Daily Signal)

Kaya rests in the grass while wearing her service dog vest, complete with an American flag patch and Lyle’s name. (Photo: Chelsea Scism/The Daily Signal)

Many nonprofit organizations are dedicated to helping veterans overcome the cost, should they be able to locate a dog to pair them with. Groups like Canines for Service offer the dogs to service members free of charge, while the American Humane Association offers grants to offset adoption and training costs.

Unfortunately, nonprofits face real budgetary constraints of their own.

“Right now we have 11 dogs in training,” Hariston explains. “Multiply that by $25,000. That’s what it takes to run a budget to be able to train the service dogs and have them ready for our veterans.”

Because these organizations rely on donations and grants, the impact of their reach has its limits.

Welcoming a change to the VA service dog policy

While the United States Department of Veterans Affairs contributes to costs for service dogs trained to assist with physical disabilities, they do not currently provide service dogs to veterans with PTSD and other mental health conditions. The primary reason for this is the lack of research on the topic.

“It’s the lack of evidence that’s showing that service dogs are helping in some quantifiable way,” McCullough says. “Not just ‘Yeah I feel better, I like dogs!’ They want some hard measures.”

To account for this shortcoming in the research, Congress mandated in 2010 that the VA conduct a study to investigate the impact service dogs have on mental health. After two early setbacks, VA researchers finally began the three-year study earlier this year. Using a rigorous design and tight standards for service dogs, the study aims to enroll 230 veterans with PTSD from three regions in the U.S.

Dr. Patricia Dorn, director of VA Rehabilitation Research and Development, said that the revised study meets a high bar in terms of its ability to generate reliable scientific evidence.

“The findings of the study should give VA a solid basis for making decisions about the provision of service dogs for veterans with PTSD,” Dorn says.

Positive findings could change the VA policy of providing service dogs only to veterans with physical disabilities rather than ones with mental health issues.

Lyle checks his email while Kaya stays by his side, giving him peace of mind. (Photo: Chelsea Scism/The Daily Signal)

Lyle checks his email while Kaya stays by his side, giving him peace of mind. (Photo: Chelsea Scism/The Daily Signal)

In the meantime, the American Humane Association continues to lobby for an increase in service animals they believe are in fact effective in helping with physical as well as mental health needs.

For his part, Lyle cannot imagine having come this far in his recovery from post-traumatic stress without Kaya’s help.

“Even three, four, five years go by, and you think about that stuff, and it is, I mean, it’s as fresh in your mind as if it happened yesterday,” Lyle says, recounting the events in Afghanistan that contributed to his post-traumatic stress.

“You feel like nobody else will understand except for the guys that you were there with. And when you don’t have any of those people around, you feel alone. And so what a dog does is, they don’t talk back to you. You know that they don’t actually understand you. But you know that they understand you’re going through something.”

This Could Be the Beginning of the End for the European Union - The Daily Signal

This Could Be the Beginning of the End for the European Union

James Carafano / Kate Scanlon / Samantha Reinis / Ted Bromund / Daren Bakst / Mike Gonzalez / Chelsea Scism / James M. Roberts /

Its failure to make a €1.73 billion euro payment to the International Monetary Fund by June 30 makes Greece the first developed country in history to default to the IMF. It could also mark the beginning of the end for the European Union as the world has known it.

Brinkmanship by Greece’s hard-left Syriza government—rejecting its creditors’ demands to cut public sector wages, pensions, and other domestic spending while honoring its international debt obligations—continued down to the wire, and beyond.

This default triggers a 30-day grace period, after which there could be serious consequences for Greece beginning in August, or sooner. Greece’s other multilateral, government-backed international creditors—the European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission—may now be forced to declare Greece in default in accordance with the terms of the current €130 billion euro bailout package that they and the IMF (the “Troika”) gave to Greece in 2012.

That bailout was needed because the first one, a €110 billion euro package awarded by the Troika in 2010, failed to revive economic growth and put Greece back onto the path of fiscal stability. The fact is that Greece has now essentially defaulted three times in the last five years, although the Troika institutions have tried to paper over the previous two defaults (which were euphemized as “haircuts” for investors), because they agreed to them.

This third default, however, will be less orderly than the previous two. Failure to make a €3.5 billion payment to the ECB on July 20 could be the final nail in the coffin and force Greece to leave the eurozone.

Heritage Foundation analysts criticized the IMF decision to proceed with the first bailout in 2010, which violated the IMF’s “exceptional access framework” lending caps. They also noted the certain predictability the first bailout would fail to solve the Greek debt problem in spite of the IMF’s bending the rules.

The whole point of those IMF rules was to stop additional lending and force the Greek government to make the fundamental reforms and government spending cuts that must happen for a true economic recovery to begin. But those reforms were barely being put into effect before the Syriza government—elected just last January—began rolling them back.

This week the Syriza government imposed capital controls and forced a week-long shutdown of the banking system, to head off a run by Greeks to grab what few euros are left in the vaults. Meanwhile, Greece’s inexperienced and reckless Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced a referendum vote on Sunday, July 5, when Greek citizens can vote to accept the “austerity” measures being imposed by Brussels and Frankfurt—five days after the Troika deadline.

There is an almost universal consensus among economists and policy analysts that Greece’s entry into the eurozone was a tragic mistake, especially for the citizens of Greece. At first the euro and the low interest rates it enabled provided a financial windfall.

Unfortunately, the Greeks did not handle that unique opportunity prudently, but instead acted profligately. Strong public sector unions demanded bloated government payrolls and generous early-retirement benefits. For their part, Greece’s protected and self-interested private business elites enjoyed the eurozone benefits in tourism and shipping—then made tax evasion into an art form. The heavily indebted middle class saw this example and followed suit.

Greece is ranked 130th of 178 countries in the 2015 Wall Street Journal/Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom, bettering only Ukraine and Belarus among its European counterparts. The rule of law is weak and corruption is pervasive. Despite some past efforts to create a more business-friendly regulatory environment, the labor market remains rigid and slow to adjust to market realities.

Getting out of the eurozone that it should never have been permitted to enter will be extremely painful for Greece. But at the end of the day, independence from the eurozone could be a blessing—albeit one accompanied by lower living standards for a while.

A “Grexit” from the eurozone will also spur further soul-searching by Greece’s similarly indebted and economically less efficient EU neighbors in the southern tier. And that will spell more trouble for the EU grand project, and the bureaucrats in Brussels.

Originally published in The National Interest 

State Silences Bakers Who Refused to Make Cake for Lesbian Couple, Fines Them $135K - The Daily Signal

State Silences Bakers Who Refused to Make Cake for Lesbian Couple, Fines Them $135K

James Carafano / Kate Scanlon / Samantha Reinis / Ted Bromund / Daren Bakst / Mike Gonzalez / Chelsea Scism / James M. Roberts / Kelsey Harkness /

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian finalized a preliminary ruling today ordering Aaron and Melissa Klein, the bakers who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to the couple they denied service.

“This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage,” Avakian wrote. “It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal.”

In the ruling, Avakian placed an effective gag order on the Kleins, ordering them to “cease and desist” from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs.

“This effectively strips us of all our First Amendment rights,” the Kleins, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which has since closed, wrote on their Facebook page. “According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech.”

The cease and desist came about after Aaron and Melissa Klein participated in an interview with Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins. During the interview, Aaron said among other things, “This fight is not over. We will continue to stand strong.”

Lawyers for plaintiffs, Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, argued that in making this statement, the Kleins violated an Oregon law banning people from acting on behalf of a place of public accommodation (in this case, the place would be the Kleins’ former bakery) to communicate anything to the effect that the place of public accommodation would discriminate.

Administrative Law Judge Alan McCullough, who is employed by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries and was appointed by Avakian, threw out the argument in the “proposed order” he issued back in April.

But today, Avakian, who was in charge of making the final ruling in the case—and is also an elected politician—reversed that decision.

>>> Emails Raise Questions About Bias in Case Against Sweet Cakes by Melissa

“The Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries hereby orders [Aaron and Melissa Klein] to cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published … any communication to the effect that any of the accommodations … will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination be made against, any person on account of their sexual orientation,” Avakian wrote.

(Photo: Alex Anderson/Facebook)

(Photo: Alex Anderson/Facebook)

The Kleins’ lawyer, Anna Harmon, was shocked by the provision.

“Brad Avakian has been outspoken throughout this case about his intent to ‘rehabilitate’ those whose beliefs do not conform to the state’s ideas,” she told The Daily Signal. “Now he has ruled that the Kleins’ simple statement of personal resolve to be true to their faith is unlawful. This is a brazen attack on every American’s right to freely speak and imposes government orthodoxy on those who do not agree with government sanctioned ideas.”

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, called the order “outrageous” and said citizens of Oregon should be “ashamed.”

“This order is an outrageous abuse of the rights of the Kleins to freely practice their religion under the First Amendment,” he said.

It is exactly this kind of oppressive persecution by government officials that led the pilgrims to America. And Commissioner Avakian’s order that the Kleins stop speaking about this case is even more outrageous—and also a fundamental violation of their right to free speech under the First Amendment.

Avakian would have fit right in as a bureaucrat in the Soviet Union or Red China. Oregon should be ashamed that such an unprincipled, scurrilous individual is a government official in the state.

The case began in February 2013 when Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer filed a complaint against the Kleins for refusing to bake them a wedding cake.

At the time of the refusal, same-sex marriage had not yet been legalized in Oregon.

The Bowman-Cryer’s complaint went to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, which is in charge of defending the law that prohibits businesses from refusing service to customers based on their sexual orientation, among other characteristics, called the Equality Act of 2007.

In January 2014, the agency found the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against the couple because of their sexual orientation. In April, McCullough recommended they pay $75,000 to Rachel and $60,000 to Laurel.

In order to reach the total amount, $135,000, Rachel and Laurel submitted a long list of alleged physical, emotional and mental damages they claim to have experienced as a result of the Kleins’ unlawful conduct.

Examples of symptoms included “acute loss of confidence,” “doubt,” “excessive sleep,” “felt mentally raped, dirty and shameful,” “high blood pressure,” “impaired digestion,” “loss of appetite,” “migraine headaches,” “pale and sick at home after work,” “resumption of smoking habit,” “shock” “stunned,” “surprise,” “uncertainty,” “weight gain” and “worry.”

In their Facebook post, the Kleins signaled their intention to appeal Avakian’s ruling, writing, “We will not give up this fight and we will not be silenced,” already perhaps putting themselves at risk of violating the cease and desist.

Bernie Sanders Talks ‘Real Issues’ With Iowans: Campaign Finance and Minimum Wage - The Daily Signal

Bernie Sanders Talks ‘Real Issues’ With Iowans: Campaign Finance and Minimum Wage

James Carafano / Kate Scanlon / Samantha Reinis / Ted Bromund / Daren Bakst / Mike Gonzalez / Chelsea Scism / James M. Roberts / Kelsey Harkness / Leah Jessen /

FORT DODGE, Iowa—Bernie Sanders, the second-term independent senator from Vermont, spoke on “real issues” at Iowa Central Community College today, promising that his policies would “strengthen families” if he were elected president.

Sanders, who is running as a Democrat in 2016, stated a top priority of his is combating the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling—allowing unlimited campaign spending by corporations—because it “touches on every other issue.”

“It’s not only overturning Citizens United … I want you to be able to get up and run for office without having to bow down and beg wealthy people for campaign finance support,” Sanders said to the crowded college lecture hall.

“Everybody has one vote. That’s what democracy means to me,” he continued.

Sanders stated that if he were president he would only appoint Supreme Court justices who will vote to overturn Citizens United.

Sanders said he wants to protect working families and the middle class.

He promised to guarantee 12 weeks of paid family leave and two weeks of paid vacation to all working Americans if elected president.

He stated that the U.S. is an “international embarrassment” since the country does not already guarantee things such paid family leave and sick leave.

Bernie Sanders poses with a fan at Iowa Central Community College. (Photo: Leah Jessen/The Daily Signal)

Bernie Sanders poses with a fan at Iowa Central Community College. (Photo: Leah Jessen/The Daily Signal)

He said that other countries are well ahead of the U.S. on these issues.

Wanting to raise the minimum wage, Sanders said, “I don’t think that’s a radical idea to say that if you work 40 hours a week in America you should not be living in poverty.”

It is “unacceptable” that there is unequal pay between men and women, Sanders said.

Stating that youth unemployment is a “huge generational crisis,” Sanders would like to see this issue more openly discussed.

He believes youth unemployment is correlated with the amount of people incarcerated in the U.S.

Another “huge consequence issue” that Sanders addressed was higher education.

He said that working class kids should be able to receive an education no matter their financial circumstance.

Refinancing debt at lower interest rates and lowering student debt interest rates would help combat this issue, he said.

“We need to start talking about the real issues and not about political gossip,” Sanders said.