Split on Border Spending Bill Prompts Republicans to Delay Recess

Josh Siegel /

On their last scheduled day in session before leaving for August recess, House Republican leaders pulled legislation to address the border crisis after conservatives criticized the proposal for failing to address the problem.

Wary of leaving town without addressing the border crisis, lawmakers planned to stay in Washington, D.C., Friday to resolve the split among members in hopes of passing a spending bill intended to slow a surge of illegal immigration into the country.

The Democrat-controlled Senate, meanwhile, failed to adopt a border spending bill Thursday.

In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner addressed the dilemma facing Republicans:

This situation shows the intense concern within our conference about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries. We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country.

Crucially, to some conservatives, the spending plan does not include language to address President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which delays deportation for certain immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children.

“You have to address DACA,” says @DanHoller, communications director for @Heritage Action

That program, created by Obama through executive action in 2012, “defers action” against illegal immigrants who have continuously resided in the United States since 2007 and who came to the country before their 16th birthday.

Conservatives believe Central American families misinterpret that legislation as a free pass into the United States, leading parents to send their unaccompanied children to a dangerous journey through Mexico over the border into Texas.

“Our point of contention is that no matter what you put in the bills, you have to address DACA,” said Dan Holler, communications director for Heritage Action. “The House leadership has tried to address that point with a separate vote, but it contains weaker language than what some wanted. People abroad see DACA as a way to get legal status.”

In a signal to the resistance to the border spending plan, House leadership planned to hold a second vote on a separate bill that would stop DACA, but the only if the emergency funding legislation won passage.

Believing he did not have enough votes to pass the pared-down $659 million emergency spending measure, Boehner pulled the legislation from consideration Thursday afternoon.

The House spending plan, short of of the $2.7 billion that Senate Democrats proposed and the $3.7 billion that Obama had requested, would beef up border security and speed the deportation of Central American children migrating to the U.S. illegally—achieved by changing a 2008 law intended to combat human trafficking.

Those who support the House plan seem to reluctantly do so.

“There is nothing in the bill that I am opposed to,” Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., told The Daily Signal. “It does not go far enough. Maybe when we control the Senate we can go further.”

The White House, and other critics, quickly pounced on House Republican’s indecision.

And by pulling their own bill, the House GOP once again proves why the President must act on his own to solve problems

— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) July 31, 2014

Even Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently deployed 1,000 National Guard troops to his state’s border to address the border crisis, decried Congress’ inaction.

“While Texas has taken what steps it can to mitigate the damage caused by a porous border, Congress and the President have a duty to address our border security issues without further delay,” Perry said in a statement. “Congress should not go into recess until the job is completed.”

Heritage Action Offers Bipartisan ‘Opportunity’ Agenda as Recess Reading - Daily Signal

Heritage Action Offers Bipartisan ‘Opportunity’ Agenda as Recess Reading

Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn /

As lawmakers prepared to head home from Washington for the long August recess, one ambitious organization sent them packing with a blueprint for delivering conservative policy reforms that emphasizes opportunity for all Americans.

Heritage Action for America, the lobbying arm of The Heritage Foundation, today delivered “Conservative Policy Agenda: Opportunity for All, but Favoritism to None” to all members of the House and Senate ahead of the summer break.

Three months before midterm elections, one of its authors describes the treatise as a call to action that challenges lawmakers to renew their commitment to just such a “bold agenda.”

It’s time for lawmakers on Capitol Hill to return home with an ear to the concerns of Main Street, Heritage Action Chief Executive Officer Michael Needham said in an interview with The Daily Signal, the multimedia news organization of The Heritage Foundation:

We feel there’s a real need for conservatives in Washington, D.C., to reconnect with the American people, who increasingly feel that they don’t have a voice in Washington. And this lays out the groundwork for lawmakers to be able to go home and talk about opportunity for all but favoritism for none, which would be a new way of operating here in Washington.

The Conservative Policy Agenda outlines a dozen legislative priorities focused on promoting a strong, thriving economy, a commitment to marriage and religious liberty, and a vigorous foreign policy.

>>> Read More: Opportunity for All, Favoritism to None

To boost the economy, the agenda calls for the end of housing finance agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, implementation of a flat tax, and the defense of Internet freedom — policies that Heritage Action argues will bring the country back to its free market roots and away from government intervention.

Though some Democrats as well as Republicans are shifting their attention to the fiscal challenges confronting the country, the group’s agenda puts equal emphasis on the importance of family and religion. The report reads:

While Washington focuses on policies that grant favoritism to the well-connected, the next generation of Americans faces an uphill struggle against social breakdown, a welfare system with the wrong incentives, and poor educational opportunities.

Reforms proposed to promote a “strong society” include eliminating marriage penalties in the welfare system, increasing choice and competition in public education, and improving Medicare and Medicaid — a common thread woven through conservative agendas.

Heritage Action praises the Supreme Court in the policy agenda for its 5-4 ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which said the government cannot require certain businesses to provide abortion-inducing drugs or devices in employee health plans when doing so would violate deeply held religious beliefs.

“This is a step in the right direction, but this recent decision neither protects all Americans’ religious freedom when it comes to health care nor ends the danger they face from the marshalled forces of intolerance,” the agenda reads.

In its third theme, the policy agenda encourages a robust military and strong foreign policy.

Recent cuts to Pentagon spending led to a decrease in troop strength in the Army and Marine Corps, and the Navy had to reduce its fleet even as China “aggressively expands” its own, the report says.

Heritage Action advocates a “thorough, transparent defense appropriations process” that would set Pentagon spending “through an analysis of the threats our nation faces, the capabilities needed to meet those threats, and — only then — the programs needed to achieve those capabilities.”

Needham said release of the group’s Conservative Policy Agenda comes as Americans, grown increasingly cynical toward Washington, are more likely to voice concerns to senators and congressmen when they return home for the summer break.

“It’s important for members of Congress to be going home and talking about positive reform ideas which reconnect Washington, D.C., to conservative values our country shares,”  he  said.

Though the Heritage Action agenda promotes conservative principles and reforms, the think tank’s lobbying arm distributed copies to all 535 Republicans and Democrats in Congress with the pitch that the ideas should garner bipartisan support. Needham said:

We’re putting out good ideas, and we don’t care who takes them up, whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat or anybody else. These are the ideas the American people want, these are the ideas America needs if we’re going to remain the strong, free country that we’ve been, so we’re making sure that everybody in Washington has access to them and we’re hoping that everyone rallies around them.

 

Baker Who Won’t Make Cakes for Same-Sex Weddings Appeals Mandatory Re-Education Order - Daily Signal

Baker Who Won’t Make Cakes for Same-Sex Weddings Appeals Mandatory Re-Education Order

Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Leslie Ford /

Jack Phillips, the cake artist facing legal action and a ruling to re-educate his staff because he declined to design a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony in 2012, has filed a notice of appeal with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., said in his appeal he would be happy to provide other baked goods, but he could not design a wedding cake for them because of his beliefs about marriage.

In the appeal, Phillips says that he “declined [the same-sex couple’s] request, explaining that he would be happy to provide any other baked goods, but he could not design and create a wedding cake for them because of his beliefs about marriage.”

As he said at the time: “I don’t feel like I should participate in their wedding, and when I do a cake, I feel like I am participating in the ceremony or the event or the celebration that the cake is for.” In the same vein, Phillips does not design cakes for Halloween celebrations because he does believe he should participate in what he believes is a pagan holiday.

Following the incident, the American Civil Liberties Union then filed a lawsuit against Masterpiece Cakeshop. On May 30, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission upheld a December ruling by Administrative Law Judge Robert N. Spencer that Phillips had discriminated against the couple “because of their sexual orientation.”

The commission’s order requires Phillips to design wedding cakes for same-sex ceremonies in violation of his beliefs, institute re-education classes for his staff on the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act and send quarterly “compliance” reports to the commission for two years.

Phillips claims in his appeal that under the First Amendment, the government cannot compel him to convey a message with which he does not agree.

As many celebrity cake-makers agree, creating a wedding cake is not an assembly line production. It takes hours of careful work to design cakes that reflect the interests, personality and commitment of the couple. In fact, the same-sex couple he turned away obtained a cake from a nearby bakery with a rainbow-filled center, a design about their relationship.

This is the issue at the heart of the appeal: Phillips claims the government should not be forcing business owners to betray their consciences and convey what they do not believe. Even more importantly, he says, the government should not be in the business of “rehabilitating” consciences or “re-educating” its citizens to change their moral beliefs about the definition of marriage.

 

 

Q&A: Ebola in Africa Not Yet a National Security Issue - Daily Signal

Q&A: Ebola in Africa Not Yet a National Security Issue

Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Leslie Ford / Steven Bucci / Charlotte Florance / Drew Tucker /

This latest outbreak of the Ebola virus is getting a great deal of attention, as it should. Here are some questions that need to be asked and some answers you need to know:

What is Ebola?

The Ebola virus is a severe, often fatal disease that is in the hemorrhagic fever category. The symptoms include sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in most cases, both internal and external bleeding.

How deadly is Ebola?

The fatality rate is between 60 percent and 90 percent, and there is no known vaccine or cure. In previous outbreaks it has killed 79 percent of those infected. Treatment requires intensive infection control precautions. Isolation and comfort often is the only recourse.

Where does it come from?

Ebola is found primarily in central Africa near tropical rain forests. Its name comes from the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it was first reported in 1976. Like most viruses, there are multiple strands. The current outbreak in West Africa is of the Zaire Ebola virus, the most virulent of the strands. More recent outbreaks have occurred in central and southeastern Africa.

How is it transmitted?

Ebola is normally transmitted via blood or bodily fluids of infected animals or humans. It also can be transmitted by contact with contaminated environments. Humans initially come into contact with the virus when someone handles or eats raw meat from an infected bat or monkey.

Why does it matter?

More than 670 have died and more than 1,000 have been infected in the last six months. The current Ebola outbreak started in Guinea in February and spread to Liberia in March and Sierra Leone in May. The disease is being closely monitored in these countries—precautions have included closing schools, cancelling public gatherings, increasing border checkpoints, quarantining communities—but containment is difficult because public health and sanitations standards are poor in much of the region. Nigeria also is now on high alert following the death of a Liberian man who flew into Lagos, Africa’s largest city, last Saturday.

The incubation period for Ebola is two to 21 days. Only then do infected persons exhibit signs of the disease. This means infected persons could travel to other areas on planes etc., before they know they are sick. Although it cannot be passed on until symptoms begin to show, the disease could be inadvertently introduced to new populations before the carrier knows they are contagious. Family members of Ebola victims, morticians handling their bodies and healthcare workers are at elevated risk.

Why is this outbreak different from previous outbreaks?

Previous Ebola outbreaks have been confined to small villages and limited geographic areas. The current outbreak affects large urban areas where the disease can spread more easily given the close proximity of people and their increased access to transportation. The current outbreak has reached the point where the U.S. has suspended Peace Corps programs in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Two Peace Corps volunteers are under observation for the virus.

Are we at risk in the U.S.?

Although the Centers for Disease Control says there is “no significant risk” of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S., it has alerted the American medical community. This is to ensure that no one makes an assumption that any initial symptoms are the flu or some other less concerning illness, but will be checked as expeditiously as possible. There has never been true outbreak in a developed country, according to Doctors Without Borders, but three times (twice in the US, once in Italy) individuals exposed to infected monkeys developed antibodies.

The well-developed medical “alert system championed by the CDC gives the U.S. a great deal of resilience in cases like this. Unlike other viruses, such as measles, SARS or influenza, Ebola does not spread through the air.

Do Large Banks Enjoy a Subsidy? GAO Wavers - Daily Signal

Do Large Banks Enjoy a Subsidy? GAO Wavers

Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Leslie Ford / Steven Bucci / Charlotte Florance / Drew Tucker / Norbert Michel /

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a new report that examines whether “too big to fail” banks enjoy a cost advantage over smaller banks due to implied government protection.

The GAO report hedges its findings carefully. It says that large banks may still have a cost advantage over smaller banks due to the perception that they will be bailed out (i.e., that they are “too big to fail”), but this advantage “may have declined or reversed” since the 2008 financial crisis.

In today’s written congressional testimony on the study, Lawrance L. Evans, the GAO’s director of financial markets and community investment, makes two careful points that highlight the difficulty in estimating any possible cost advantage these firms may enjoy:

  1. “Our analysis suggests that large bank holding companies had lower funding costs than smaller ones during the financial crisis but provides mixed evidence of such advantages in recent years.”
  2. “Given the nature of this analysis and associated limitations, our results should be interpreted with caution.”

Given that firms in any industry can generally lower their average costs as they increase the size of their operations, separating out specific subsidy effects for large banks—from implied government protection—is a difficult, if not impossible, task. Regardless, several Members of Congress have already decided they need to remedy the situation.

Senators Sherrod Brown (D–OH) and David Vitter (R–LA), who requested the report, have already introduced a bill that would raise capital requirements for large banks without providing much regulatory relief. In a joint statement released today, the Senators noted:

Wall Street lobbyists may try to spin that the advantage has lessened. But if the Army Corps of Engineers came out with study that said a levee system works pretty well when it’s sunny—but couldn’t be trusted in a hurricane—we would take that as evidence we need to act.

The fact that Congress wants to punish firms for being given bailout money from Congress would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous to the economy. These firms have already been forced to accept an enormous increase in regulatory costs, and now certain Senators want to impose punitive capital requirements and/or force the companies to divest (i.e., break up).

A much simpler solution would be for Congress to stop bailing out financially troubled firms. One good way to ensure that such an option is credible is to amend the bankruptcy code so that large financial firms have a viable bankruptcy alternative.

Senators Pat Toomey (R–PA) and John Cornyn (R–TX) have already introduced a bill that would help do just that. In fact, the House Judiciary Committee has just released a discussion draft of its own bankruptcy bill, and it appears the House Financial Services Committee is about to introduce similar legislation.

If Congress can’t stop bailing out banks under current law, they should fix the law to make their task easier.

The Government Should Stop Discriminating Against Religious Adoption Agencies - Daily Signal

The Government Should Stop Discriminating Against Religious Adoption Agencies

Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Leslie Ford / Steven Bucci / Charlotte Florance / Drew Tucker / Norbert Michel / Sarah Torre / Ryan T. Anderson /

Kelly Rosati, whose four children joined her family through foster care adoption, knows first-hand the pain and difficulties caused by a broken child welfare system.

“These are kids who wake up every day not knowing if they are going to be moved that day, who have no permanence in their lives,” Rosati said. “Many of them have only known neglect, abuse and abandonment.”

“Because we don’t have orphanages in America,” she says, “we think we don’t have orphans—but we do.”

Every year about 400,000 children spend time in our nation’s foster care system, with roughly 100,000 eligible for adoption, as we point out in our recent Backgrounder. Many bounce from home to home and are never adopted. Many will “age-out” of foster care, facing increased risk for low academic achievement and poverty.

And yet various states have adopted policies that would require faith-based providers to place children with same-sex couples, in violation of some agencies’ deeply held beliefs that children deserve a mom and a dad – effectively forcing these agencies out of adoption and foster care service. These policies do nothing to help children and unnecessarily limit the number of good agencies working on their behalf.

On Wednesday,, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, which would protect the right of child welfare providers, including private and faith-based adoption and foster care agencies, to continue providing valuable services to families and children. The federal government and states receiving certain federal child welfare funds would be prohibited from discriminating against a child welfare provider simply because the provider declines to provide a service that conflicts with their religious or moral convictions.

This is good policy. The efforts of faith-based organizations and the work of more than 1,000 private, licensed foster care and adoption providers across the United States are helping to increase the number of children adopted every year.

As vice president of Community Outreach for Focus on the Family, Rosati directs the organization’s Wait No More program. Wait No More conducts one-day events that provide the tools, information, and network to encourage families to consider opening their homes and lives to the hundreds of children waiting for adoption in their own communities.

To date, 2,700 families across 17 states have begun the process of adopting children who are in foster care. In Colorado alone, the number of children in foster care waiting for adoption was reportedly cut in half within just a couple of years because of ongoing efforts such as Wait No More and other faith-based collaborations.

Private providers handle roughly a quarter of the domestic adoptions by non-relatives that occur in the United States. Faith-based agencies also provide spiritual, emotional and relational support to families that seek to adopt or become foster parents they are less likely to receive from state-run agencies.

Foster care and adoption policy should seek to increase the number of families willing to foster and potentially adopt children, not risk reducing the number of agencies or families working for children. Provided these agencies meet basic requirements, they should be free to operate according to their values, especially their reasonable and religiously informed beliefs about marriage.

Protecting religious liberty in this instance takes nothing away from anyone. Couples who do not wish to work with faith-based agencies because of a difference of belief are free to work with another private provider or directly with the state offering foster care services. A diversity of providers only increases the chances more children will end up in permanent, loving families.

America’s foster care programs are in dire need of systemic reform. Foster care and adoption policy always should put the best interests of children first, and that means removing barriers to families seeking to adopt and providers seeking to place children in those loving homes.

How Our Broken Accreditation System Increases College Costs - Daily Signal

How Our Broken Accreditation System Increases College Costs

Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Leslie Ford / Steven Bucci / Charlotte Florance / Drew Tucker / Norbert Michel / Sarah Torre / Ryan T. Anderson / Sen. Mike Lee / Rep. Ron DeSantis /

One of the most disheartening trends in America today is the steep and relentless increase in the cost of higher education. As almost everything else in our economy has gotten better and more affordable, tuition at public four-year colleges has nearly quadrupled since 1982.

The hardest hit by these skyrocketing costs are middle-income families who struggle to pay those prices out of pocket but don’t qualify for needs-based assistance. Meanwhile, the changing economy is making post-secondary education more important than ever.

Today, most students and families’ only option is federal student loan programs, which offer some temporary relief but lead to decades of debt. And for students who never acquire the skills necessary to succeed in today’s economy—because they leave college early or because they pursue a major that doesn’t prepare them for the job market—this debt can become overwhelming.

So far, the federal government’s only response to this catch-22 is to marginally reduce the interest rate on student loans.

But instead of asking how Congress can help students pay off exorbitant loans, we should ask how Congress can reduce the cost of higher education so students won’t have to go so far in debt.

It all starts with recognition of two important facts. First, in today’s society, getting a four-year college degree is not the only way to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to start a successful career. For many students, apprenticeships or occupational training programs make more sense than a bachelor’s degree.

Second, in recent years educational entrepreneurs and innovators have used new technology to redesign the traditional educational model—through online courses, for instance—making post-secondary cheaper and easier than ever before.

Unfortunately, federal law ignores both of these facts. Our current system makes it harder and more expensive for students to access alternatives to the traditional college track. The primary roadblock facing these students is our outdated, inefficient accreditation system, which is made up of various non-governmental agencies that determine which educational institutions or programs are eligible for federal student-loan money.

Under current law, students can access federal loans and grants only if they attend schools that are officially “accredited.” But for a school or occupational training program to acquire this stamp of approval—and thus be able to admit students who are paying their tuition bills with federal loans—it must go through a review process conducted by faculty members of already-accredited schools.

This is a classic case of the regulated becoming the regulators. Expensive degree-issuing colleges and universities get to decide who joins their elite club, and they have a strong financial incentive to lock out new, more affordable educational models that could be a better match for some students.

This lack of competition is a primary driver of rising tuition, which gives too many students an impossible choice—crippling debt or limited opportunities.

We believe there is a better way.

We have introduced the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The HERO Act will allow states to experiment with their own accreditation systems. Under our plan, states could choose to accredit alternative education providers such as apprenticeships, specialty schools, professional certifications, all the way down to individual courses. This way, students who have been locked out of the current system would be able to use federal student loans and grants to gain access to the skills they need at lower prices on a schedule that works for them.

Our reforms don’t touch the traditional accreditation system, which works well for existing universities. It creates a new, parallel system that opens doors for the millions of low- and middle-income and non-traditional students the current system leaves behind.

Many would benefit from education alternatives to traditional brick-and-ivy institutions, and we owe it to our students to give states the opportunity to develop these options. The HERO Act is an important first step towards ensuring that higher education is affordable and accessible and gives our students the resources, skills and education to succeed.

Lawmaker Moves to Tax Sugary Drinks - Daily Signal

Lawmaker Moves to Tax Sugary Drinks

Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Leslie Ford / Steven Bucci / Charlotte Florance / Drew Tucker / Norbert Michel / Sarah Torre / Ryan T. Anderson / Sen. Mike Lee / Rep. Ron DeSantis / Philip Wegmann /

A Connecticut lawmaker hopes to open another front in the war on childhood obesity and diabetes. On Wednesday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat, introduced a bill that would impose a national tax on sugary soft drinks.

DeLauro’s legislation, the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax Act, would levy a one-cent excise tax for every teaspoon of sugar within a beverage. DeLauro believes that her legislation would improve overall national health by discouraging soda consumption.

“People want to be healthy and they want their kids to be healthy,” DeLauro said. “But we are in the midst of dual epidemics, with obesity and diabetes afflicting our nation and the related, astronomical health care costs.”

Introduced on the eve of August recess, the bill stands little chance at passage. DeLauro hopes, however, to raise the issue’s national spotlight. Wednesday marks the first time a soda tax has come to the floor since 2009 when lawmakers contemplated a similar tax to fund the Affordable Care Act.

Harold Goldstein, the executive director of the California Center for Public Health, predicts DeLauro’s legislation would “do more to curb the diabetes and obesity epidemics than anything that has been done to date.”

The American Beverage Association argues that argument has gone flat and furthermore that a soda tax is a historic non-starter that’s already failed.

“People don’t support taxes and bans on common grocery items, like soft drinks,” Christopher Gindlesperger, an ABA spokesman said. “That’s why the public policy debate in the U.S. has moved away from taxes and bans and onto real solutions.”

Politicians should focus on more pressing issues “and leave the grocery shopping to us” Gindlesperger said.

Chris Dubay, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, agrees and notes that the bill “is not the proper way to use the tax code.”

Dubay fears the measure would turn government revenue collection “into a political tool” and open the door to future persecution of “other political pariahs.”

Syria: Both Sides Using Child Soldiers - Daily Signal

Syria: Both Sides Using Child Soldiers

Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Leslie Ford / Steven Bucci / Charlotte Florance / Drew Tucker / Norbert Michel / Sarah Torre / Ryan T. Anderson / Sen. Mike Lee / Rep. Ron DeSantis / Philip Wegmann / Lauren Aragon /

A recent United Nations report shows that both pro-government forces and rebels in Syria have been actively recruiting children to fight in the civil war.

Children routinely participate as common soldiers, snipers, and spies both for and against the regime. According to reports, Syrian children began actively fighting in the war in November 2012. Since 2012 the Violations Documenting Center, a Syrian monitoring group, has documented the deaths of 194 child soldiers.

Interviews with the child soldiers have brought to light that all groups, from moderates to extremists, had been recruiting child soldiers to their fight. Both al-Nusra (a violent al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have been attracting youth by offering free lectures and schooling, while others have joined because their family members had joined previously.

Children were originally also recruited to the Kurdish forces, the Syrian National Council, and the Bashar al-Assad regime, but these groups have publicly stated their aim to end the practice. In 2013, Assad issued a law punishing those who recruited children for combat with 10–20 years of penal labor. In January 2014, the Kurdish groups acted to demobilize child soldiers. More recently, in March 2014, the coalition groups supported by the Free Syrian Army announced a new policy for the training of the army “members in International Humanitarian Law to eliminate the recruitment and participation of children in armed conflict.” Such commitments are important, but as long as the conflict continues, Syrian children and the Syrian people will face a grim future.

Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, children have suffered enormously. Syrian children have been killed, maimed, and made refugees; many lack access to education and basic health care services, while also seeing their families torn apart or murdered. Of the 22 million Syrian people, 5.5 million Syrian children have already been affected by the conflict, and over 1 million now live as refugees in the region. For many Syrian children, the situation only worsens as they are recruited to fight in the conflict.

In fact, the humanitarian crisis resulting from the Syrian civil war has been labeled as the worst since the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Heritage senior fellow James Phillips predicts that the conflict will create an anarchic patchwork of warring fiefdoms in Syria. As the conflict continues to spiral out of control and destabilize portions of Iraq, the future of Syrian children and communities in the region continues to worsen.

Lauren Aragon is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.

Wind Farms Divide Environmentalists: Renewable Energy vs. Dead Birds - Daily Signal

Wind Farms Divide Environmentalists: Renewable Energy vs. Dead Birds

Josh Siegel / Melissa Quinn / Leslie Ford / Steven Bucci / Charlotte Florance / Drew Tucker / Norbert Michel / Sarah Torre / Ryan T. Anderson / Sen. Mike Lee / Rep. Ron DeSantis / Philip Wegmann / Lauren Aragon / Rob Nikolewski /

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Paul Domski is a falconer and a bird lover. And he seriously doesn’t like wind farms or the federal government’s recent decision to protect wind energy companies from punishment for 30 years for killing eagles.

“If I was the country’s energy czar, I’d get rid of [wind farms],” said Domski, who also is the mountain region director of the North American Falconers Association. “From an avian standpoint, from a biological standpoint, they’re a disaster.”

Domski was one of a few dozen people to show up Tuesday night at a “public scoping meeting” on eagle management by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—one of five meetings the agency is holding across the country to gather comments about possible changes to the agency’s regulations.

One of the hottest topics is the 30-year permit the agency approved last December.

“The span of time that a wind project is operational is about 30 years,” Brian Millsap, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national raptor coordinator said. “So a five-year permit only covers them for one-sixth of a project’s life.”

Environmentalists are split when it comes to wind farms—embraced by some as a big part of the country’s renewable energy portfolio but disliked by others because of the number of birds that are killed by the turbines spinning in the wind.

“They look like they’re going slow,” Domski said, “but at their tips, they can move as fast as 150 to 160 miles an hour, and they just kill the birds.”

It’s hard to determine how many birds are killed each year. Last December, a study published in Biological Conservation estimated 140,000 to 328,000 fatal bird collisions each year at wind farms.

In a separate study, federal biologists say at least 85 eagles have been killed by wind turbines in the United States since 1997.

Read more on Watchdog.org.