Modi’s Landslide Victory A stunning win in state elections gives India new reform momentum.

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies won a remarkable 80% of the assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state, in election results announced on Saturday. This political earthquake will boost Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chances of re-election in 2019 and give him a fresh chance to advance economic reforms.

The opposition Congress Party and its allies thought Mr. Modi crippled his party’s chances when he withdrew almost 90% of the country’s banknotes last November. The resulting chaos hit the poor hard and slowed the economy. But voters saw the move as necessary to tackle corruption, crime and tax evasion.

It is tempting to attribute the BJP’s wins in Uttar Pradesh and two other states to Mr. Modi’s promises to reinvigorate manufacturing and create jobs. But Mr. Modi said little about economic reform in his stump speeches. Instead he focused on development broadly, making government more responsive to the poor and continuing the anticorruption campaign.

As always, caste played an important role. Mr. Modi’s strategist Amit Shah handpicked the candidates for each constituency rather than using the usual party loyalists and quota-fillers. Fresh faces from backward castes drew votes from these key communities, even as the BJP delivered a message of pan-Hindu unity and rejection of the incumbent Samajwadi Party’s caste-based politics.

That shrewd coordination shows the importance of a strong national leader. By contrast, Congress is saddled with Rahul Gandhi, whose indecisiveness and lack of charisma have left the party rudderless. Congress won in Punjab only because the incumbent BJP-allied Akali Dal Party saw its support collapse after communal violence.

The question is whether Mr. Modi will use some of his political capital to jump-start reform immediately or wait until after 2019. Mr. Modi has been stymied by the BJP’s lack of a majority in Parliament’s upper house, which is largely selected by state assemblies.

Saturday’s wins will increase the government’s leverage in the upper house, but only after a delay. Uttar Pradesh is not due to replace its legislators until April 2018. By then the looming general election will put much-needed but unpopular changes to labor laws and land acquisition on hold.

Soft boycott: How the news of a revolutionary new cancer treatment was spun to hide its Israeli origins The news of an amazing new treatment for prostate cancer shot around the world this week – but it was missing one important detail…

Medical laser iStock

The past 24 hours have seen wall-to-wall coverage of an amazing breakthrough on prostate cancer. Newspapers, TV, radio and social media have all carried reports of the research.

According to the BBC report:

“Surgeons have described a new treatment for early stage prostate cancer as ‘truly transformative’. The approach, tested across Europe, uses lasers and a drug made from deep sea bacteria to eliminate tumours, but without causing severe side effects. Trials on 413 men – published in The Lancet Oncology – showed nearly half of them had no remaining trace of cancer.”

And when I heard the report on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, I thought it does indeed sound amazing.

But let’s leave the science aside and look at another aspect of the story.

Guess where the breakthrough happened.

I say that not as a figure of speech but as an instruction – because from almost all the coverage, you would indeed have to guess where the research was carried out: the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Israel.

Not once in the Today programme report was it mentioned.

And in this BBC report there is a throwaway line right at the end detailing the originators of the science.

I wish I could believe this is just an honest mistake – that, purely by chance, the Israeli origins of a medical breakthrough had been left out. But I’m afraid I don’t think that – and I don’t think you will, either. It happens too often and too regularly for it to be pure chance. It’s what I call the soft-boycott strategy.

The campaign for BDS is so obviously racist and antisemitic, singling out the Jewish homeland alone in the world for boycott, that some of those who would rather Israel doesn’t exist choose an alternative approach – ignoring anything remotely positive about Israel and focusing only on bad news that fits their anti-Israel agenda.

On ‘Right to Try,’ the FDA Should Proceed With Caution More access to unapproved drugs could be good policy, but there are risks even to terminal patients. By Henry I. Miller See note please

Again, unless there is real tort reform the FDA will have a permanent problem, and so will the pharmaceutical companies…..rsk
The Food and Drug Administration is the nation’s most ubiquitous regulatory agency, overseeing everything from syringes and CT scanners to drugs, vaccines and most foods. These products account for more than $1 trillion annually, or about a quarter of U.S. consumer spending. This slow, dysfunctional agency needs drastic reform of its requirements, procedures and attitudes.

One reform Scott Gottlieb, President Trump’s nominee to lead the agency, will likely embrace is “right to try”—that is, giving terminally ill patients access to unapproved medicines. He could remove the FDA from judgments about “compassionate use” of unapproved drugs. There is already a trend in this direction: Thirty-three states have passed laws aimed at providing easier access to experimental treatments that are still in the earliest stages of human testing.

The right to try unapproved drugs has the potential to be compassionate and sound public policy—but there are dangers. The concept must be implemented in a way that takes into consideration the realities of drug testing.

According to the libertarian Goldwater Institute, right-to-try legislation would allow “terminally ill Americans to try medicines that have passed Phase I of the FDA approval process and remain in clinical trials but are not yet on pharmacy shelves.” It would also expand usage of “potentially life-saving treatments years before patients would normally be able to access them.”

But here’s the rub: About three-quarters of drugs that pass Phase I will never be accessible. They ultimately won’t be approved, because of either safety concerns or lack of efficacy. Most legislative proposals, including the one recently introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), would enable patients to request the drugs after only the most meager safety testing.

Phase I testing, often the first time a new drug has been administered to humans, provides extremely limited information. These trials are performed on between 20 and 100 patients and last only a short time. They’re usually administered to paid, healthy volunteers, who may not provide a good representation of how the drug will affect terminal patients. Such trials essentially exist to determine what doses of the drug are tolerated without causing gross safety problems such as seizures, organ failure or death.

The determination of efficacy starts in Phase II, when the drug is administered to volunteers who suffer from the disease or symptom for which the drug is intended. If the results of Phase II are promising, the drug moves into still larger Phase III trials—the most extensive and expensive part of drug development.

A physician at a large health insurer, who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, recently raised concerns about right to try. He wonders “where liability will ultimately lie when and if something goes wrong.” Even trickier: “Who is the deep pocket if and when the treatment fails and the patient’s family is looking for someone to blame?” He warns that the right to try could become an “unfunded mandate” and raises questions about who will pay for the drugs and how their prices will be determined. Medical insurance as we know it was never designed or intended to cover unproven treatments of last resort. CONTINUE AT SITE

Another Hollywood Ignoramus Richard Gere ” Israeli settlements are ‘absurd provocation,’ ‘completely illegal’ by Alex Ritman

Richard Gere has voiced his opposition to Israel’s presence in the West Bank and the ongoing construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

“Obviously this occupation is destroying everyone,” the actor told Israeli newspaper Haaretz during a two-day visit to the country for the local premiere ofNorman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer. “There’s no defense of this occupation.”

But his strongest criticism was of the Israeli settlement program, a major source of debate between Israeli and other countries and a matter regularly used as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

“Settlements are such an absurd provocation and, certainly in the international sense, completely illegal — and they are certainly not part of the program of someone who wants a genuine peace process,” Gere said. “Just to be clear about this: I denounce violence on all sides of this. And, of course, Israelis should feel secure. But Palestinians should not feel desperate.”

More than 600,000 Jews live in around 140 settlements built since Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. Having been increasingly criticized by the Obama administration as a barrier to peace, the inauguration of Donald Trump saw an immediate escalation of settlement activity. In February, a controversial law was passed in the Israeli parliament that retroactively legalized almost 4,000 settler homes built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Speaking of his visit to Israel, Gere said that, despite having been before, it was “more complex” to visit now than at any previous time.

“I had people on all sides — those who have been close friends and people I barely knew — telling me not to come,” he said. “I had people living here who told me, ‘Look, no good will come of this. The bad guys will use you’ — ‘bad guys’ meaning the policy-makers of this government. It was a complex month of going back and forth: ‘I’m coming….; I’m not coming.'”

Sydney M. Williams: Trump, Russia and Lies

Despite Sophocles declamation that “no lie ever reaches old age,” we will likely never know the truth about who is responsible for all that has been written about Trump and Russia, nor the truth of the accusation that Obama tapped Trump’s phone. FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) courts, at the request of the President, can implement wiretaps opaquely in the murky recesses of the intelligence world. Did Trump, or someone on his team conspire with Putin to affect the election, as has been claimed by some in the media and by many Democrats? Did former President Obama or his minions spy on Trump and his associates, with the goal of undermining his Presidency, as Mr. Trump’s recent tweets suggest?

It has always beggared belief to conclude that Putin would have preferred Trump (a political unknown and cited as mercurial) to Mrs. Clinton, a woman who had been part of an administration that had given him little push-back in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria. What we do know is that from the first hours after an election that surprised them, Democrats have been crafting a story to explain their (to them) inexplicable loss. Not willing to accept the possibility that responsibility may be theirs – a flawed candidate and/or identity policies that ignored middle class working Americans – they settled on Russia and Putin as scapegoats.

It was an inspired choice. Russia had become Mr. Obama’s nemesis. Mr. Putin, whatever his faults (and they are many), is not stupid. Remember how President Obama belittled Mitt Romney in 2012 when the latter suggested that Russia was the greatest threat we faced. Remember Mr. Obama’s comments to Mr. Putin that same year: “After the election I will have more flexibility.” Over the past several years Mr. Putin out-maneuvered Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton and John Kerry, in places like Crimea, Ukraine, Eastern Europe and Syria. Accusing the Trump camp of colluding with Russians deflected criticism of the Obama legacy. We all know that it is in Mr. Putin’s interest to discredit democracy. We know that the Russians had the means to interfere in the election, because they had hacked Mrs. Clinton’s private server, as well as that of the Democratic National Committee. And, because of Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks, we also know that our government has the means to listen in on and record phone calls, messages and e-mails. Regardless of what is the truth, Mr. Putin must be smiling at the discord he is accused of having sown.


The world isn’t going to wait.

Tomorrow, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet face-to-face with President Trump for the first time, each to take the other’s measure. Mr. Trump has previously criticized Mrs. Merkel for her open-door immigration policy and, by implication in his criticism of NATO, for Germany’s paltry defense spending.

Mrs. Merkel, the European press says, is on the defensive against Mr. Trump’s nationalist-populist positions, including his criticisms of the European Union. A few weeks ago, she floated the idea of more defense spending, but it turns out that her 2018 budget raises defense spending to the lofty level of 1.23 percent of Germany’s Gross Domestic Product, well below the 2 percent that all NATO members committed to a decade ago. Free riders like Germany deserve a repeated dose of “Dutch uncle” counseling by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has a lot on his plate. General Joe Votel, commander of Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that the Taliban has fought us to a standstill in Afghanistan. It remains a permanent war, a quagmire, resulting from Mr. Bush’s nation-building approach.

Mr. Trump sent about 200 Marines and their artillery to the fight to take Raqqa, Syria, from ISIS. As good as they are, they are far too small a force — even combined with our air forces and special operations guys in Syria — to determine the outcome of the war. And what comes after? Mr. Trump hasn’t said what our plan is for the future of Syria, assuming that ISIS can be defeated there. If ISIS is defeated in Syria, what does he propose to do about ISIS in Libya and elsewhere? How long and large a war is he in for?

On the other side of the globe, the threat from North Korea grows by the day. The North’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs are, by almost universal judgment, going to be capable of attacking the continental U.S. with nuclear weapons in less than five years. Secretary of State Tillerson is visiting Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul this week. What will he be telling those nations, and what will he be asking of them?

Those are only the most visible parts of the international status quo. Mr. Trump would do well to remember that President Reagan said that “status quo” was Latin for “the mess we’re in.”

Mr. Trump has no experience or expertise in defense or foreign affairs, so he is left to make decisions based only on the advice of others. Sitting atop the advisers’ pyramid is the National Security Advisor, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who is entirely ill-suited for that position.

As I’ve written earlier, McMaster is a politically correct product of the Bush and Obama eras who insists that there is no connection between Islam and terrorism despite the fact that the connection is thoroughly documented and compelled in Islamic scripture. McMaster, having refused to retire to join the Trump administration, is a careerist, trying to ensure he gets his fourth star after his term in the White House.

Change In Our Time By Herbert London

Published in:
From Heraclitus to the present, historians and philosophers addressed the issue of change. Is change built into the nature of society or is it a mirage that reflects a different side of sameness? It would appear that there are years in the so-called modern age that suggest a departure from the past: 1789 and The French Revolution; 1914 the Great War and the End of Innocence; 1939 and the onset of World War II. Although it is too early to argue with any certainty, 2016-2017 may be a candidate for historic proportions, since the institutions and their philosophical underpinnings which accounted for relative global stability are in disarray. The world is turning and not necessarily on its axis. “The wheel keeps turning the sky’s rearranging.”Alas, the rearrangement brings into focus an uncertain future in large part because the political and economic institutions such as the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, the European Union have lost or are losing their legitimacy. In fact, liberal internationalism – a belief that nations can share “rules of the road”- is undergoing challenge from a newly emergent nationalism. Not only is President Trump calling for America First, but the nationalist sentiment has gained traction across the European continent and into the Asian heartland. Rules are being renegotiated or dismissed and the pattern for going forward remains unclear.

Accelerating this percolation is technological innovation that has produced a social media of narcissism and personal fulfillment that virtually excludes any other pursuits. Secularization across the board has elevated “me” into the position of a transcendent force. How does one manage a society that does not recognize the limits of freedom? How can order be maintained without modesty and humility?

As Jacques Ellul once announced, “technology exists because technology exists.” Presumably it is a force of its own, resistant to the controls of manners, morals or human welfare. If in a Schumpeterian equation there is as much destruction as creation, will employment be a privilege? How do you deal with those left behind? A guaranteed income? Rewards for the idle? The puzzle parts seek a framework.

If trade deals are filtered through the prism of job creation, will tariffs be imposed to equalize comparative advantage? And if so, would these tariffs be applied internationally – what is now called import taxes? National assertiveness, with its broad political appeal, could result in a diminished world order or even global depression. Admittedly Smoot Hawley has faded from public memory and it was not the actual cause of the Great Depression as many have conceded, but it did exacerbate a declining world economy.

Artificial intelligence is already addressing these issues without the requisite policy constraints. Most manufacturing jobs will soon be obsolescent. Even higher level positions in medicine will be rendered unnecessary. These are changes advancing incrementally. A person with cancer might consult an oncologist today, but in short order he will ask a computer bank for the best treatment based on all the empirical evidence of his disease. Of course, this example cannot be generalized to all jobs, for society will probably need some work. The question is who gets rewarded and who doesn’t and who is left out of the equation completely.

While the change in the past was largely political and economic, the change we are in is the tail wagging the cultural shifts. The loss of confidence in institutional foundations moves down a slope of cultural realignment. When President Trump denounces political correctness, he speaks to a portion of the population largely forgotten by elites and resentful at the adversarial dominance of the “chattering class.” President Trump is an unlikely voice of the disenfranchised, but there you have it. The confidence deficit fills the air as people come to question the leadership in their nations; change will be unhinged from notions of the past.


President Trump to Invite Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas to White House Eli E. Hertz

I suggest President Trump review the text below before the meeting.

The PLO Charter, also known as “the Palestinian National Charter” or “the Palestinian Covenant,” was adopted by the Palestine National Council (PNC) on July 17, 1968. It reads:

“Article 2 : Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.

“Article 9 : Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. Thus it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase.

“Article 19 : The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time.

“Article 20 : The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history.”

The FATAH Constitution calls under Article 12 for the:

“Complete liberation of Palestine, and obliteration of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.”

As for how it will achieve its goal to wipe Israel off the map, Fateh’s constitution, Article 19, minces no words:

“Armed struggle is a strategy and not a tactic, and the Palestinian Arab People’s armed revolution is a decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence, and this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.”

The Hamas Charter (acronym for “Islamic Resistance Movement” and at times referred to as the Hamas Covenant) states in its second paragraph:

“Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors. The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, May Allah Pity his Soul.”

Why has Iran wrecked its economy to fund war in Syria? With a growing dependence on China and Russia and budding geopolitical ambitions, Iran is willing to make sacrifices David Goldman

Estimates of Iran’s military expenditure in Syria vary from $6 billion a year to $15-$20 billion a year. That includes $4 billion of direct costs as well as subsidies for Hezbollah and other Iranian-controlled irregulars. Assuming that lower estimates are closer to the truth, the cost of the Syrian war to the Tehran regime is roughly in the same range as the country’s total budget deficit, now running at a $9.3 billion annual rate. The explanation for Tehran’s lopsided commitment to military spending, I believe, is to be found in Russian and Chinese geopolitical ambitions and fears.

The Iranian regime is ready to sacrifice the most urgent needs of its internal economy in favor of its ambitions in Syria. Iran cut development spending to just one-third of the intended level as state income lagged forecasts during the three quarters ending last December, according to the country’s central bank. Iran sold $29 billion of crude during the period, up from $25 billion the comparable period last year. The government revenues from oil of $11 billion (655 trillion rials) were just 70% of official forecasts, and tax revenues of $17.2 billion came in 15% below expectations.

Chaos in Iran’s financial system prevents the Iranian government from carrying a larger budget deficit. The $9.3 billion deficit reported by the central bank stands at just over 2% of GDP, under normal circumstances a manageable amount. But that number does not take into account the government’s massive unpaid bills. According to a February 27 report by the International Monetary Fund, the government arrears to the country’s banking system amount to 10.2% of GDP. Iran’s delegate to the IMF Jafar Mojarrad wrote to the IMF, “Public debt-to-GDP ratio, which increased sharply from 12% to 42% in 2015-16, mainly as a result of recognition of government arrears and their securitization, is estimated to decline to 35% in 2016-17 and to 29% next year. However, it could rise again above 40% of GDP after full recognition of remaining government arrears and their securitization and issuance of securities for bank capitalization,” Iran’s banks have so many bad loans that the government will have to issue additional bonds to recapitalize them, Mojarrad added. Iranian press accounts put toxic assets at 45% of all bank loans.

Iran’s financial system is a black hole, and the government cannot refinance its arrears, recapitalize its bankrupt banks, and finance a substantial budget deficit at the same time. Its infrastructure requirements are not only urgent, but existential. The country’s much-discussed water crisis threatens to empty whole cities and displace millions of Iranians, particularly the farmers who consume more than nine-tenths of its disappearing water supplly. Despite what the Tehran Times called “a desperate call for action” by Iranian environmental scientists, the government slashed infrastructure spending by two-thirds during the last fiscal year.

The Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps evidently has first claim on the public purse. It is also willing to shed blood. Reported dead among Iranian-led forces in Syria include at least 473 Iranians, 583 Afghans, and 135 Pakistanis, as well as 1,268 Shi’a fighters from Iraq. In addition, perhaps 1,700 members of the Hezbollah militia have died. Other estimates are much higher. The IRGC’s foreign legions include volunteers from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Shi’ites are an oppressed minority often subject to violent repression by the Sunni majority. IRGC-controlled forces include the Fatemiyoun Militia recruited mainly from Shi’ite Hazara refugees from Afghanistan, with reported manpower of perhaps 12,000 to 14,000 fighters, of whom 3,000 to 4,000 are now in Syria. Iranians also command the Zeinabiyoun militia composed of Pakistani Shi’ites, with perhaps 1,500 fighters in Syria.

This compares to an estimated 28 Russian casualties in Syria. Moscow has a very good bargain with Tehran. Despite the high casualty rate, the IRGC “has more volunteers for the Syrian War than it knows what to do with,” Kristen Dailey reported last year in Foreign Policy.

Trump Should Be Appalled by Police Asset Forfeiture Cops can seize cash, cars and real estate without its owner ever being charged or convicted of a crime. By Lee McGrath and Nick Sibilla

America’s sheriffs have given President Trump a woefully inaccurate view of civil asset forfeiture—the process through which police seize, and prosecutors literally sue, cash, cars and real estate that they suspect may be connected to a crime. “People want to say we’re taking money and without due process. That’s not true,” a Kentucky sheriff told the president last month at a White House meeting. Critics of forfeiture, the sheriff added, simply “make up stories.”

In fact, thousands of Americans have had their assets taken without ever being charged with a crime, let alone convicted. Russ Caswell almost lost his Massachusetts motel, which had been run by his family for more than 50 years, because of 15 “drug-related incidents” there from 1994-2008, a period through which he rented out nearly 200,000 rooms.

Maryland dairy farmer Randy Sowers had his entire bank account—roughly $60,000—seized by the IRS, which accused him of running afoul of reporting requirements for cash deposits. Mandrel Stuart had $17,550 in receipts from his Virginia barbecue restaurant confiscated during a routine traffic stop. A manager of a Christian rock band had $53,000 in cash—profits from concerts and donations intended for an orphanage in Thailand—seized in Oklahoma after being stopped for a broken taillight. All of the property in these outrageous cases was eventually returned, but only after an arduous process.

Photo: istock getty

This kind of abuse has united reformers on all sides of the political debate: progressives, conservatives, independents, even a few former drug warriors. Since 2014 nearly 20 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws limiting asset forfeiture or increasing transparency. Nearly 20 other states are considering similar legislation. Last week a reform bill passed the Indiana Senate 40-10. It would require a criminal conviction before a court can declare a person’s assets forfeited.

Another good step for state and federal legislators would be to bar agencies from keeping the money they seize. Today more than 40 states and the federal government permit law-enforcement agencies to retain anywhere from 45% to 100% of forfeiture proceeds. As a result, forfeiture has practically become an industry.

The Institute for Justice, where we work, has obtained data on asset forfeiture across 14 states, including California, Texas and New York. Between 2002 and 2013, the revenue from forfeiture more than doubled, from $107 million to $250 million. Federal confiscations have risen even faster. In 1986 the Justice Department’s Assets Forfeiture Fund collected $93.7 million. In 2014 the number was $4.5 billion.

Allowing police and prosecutors to keep part of what they confiscate gives them an incentive to target cash instead of criminals. In 2011 a Nashville TV news station investigated seizures on nearby interstate highways. Drugs usually came in on the eastbound lanes, while the money would flow out on the westbound lanes. The reporters found that police made “10 times as many stops on the money side.” They were less focused on stopping the drugs than on grabbing the cash.