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Federal Magistrate Orders Apple To Help FBI Hack Its Own Phones . . . Apple Refuses

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Apple has decided to fight an unprecedented and highly controversial order by US Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym that the company has to assist the government in breaking into one of its encrypted phones. Apple says that it does not have the technology and does not want to be part of such an effort to create a privacy stripping tool for the FBI. Pym seems to believe that she can order companies to become unwilling participants in surveillance research and development. I fail to see her legal basis for such an extraordinary order against a private company.

CEO Tim Cook said the order by US Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym “has implications far beyond the legal case at hand”. He said that the company cooperated with the FBI “But now the US government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.”

Pym has gone far beyond what I consider the scope of her authority. Indeed, her actions appear almost legislative in nature. Congress has not ordered such back door access to be supplied by companies and such a move would raise difficult privacy questions. It would also conflict with some other countries that have balked at the effort of the Obama Administration to strip phones of privacy encryption protections.
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Turkey Bombing Syria - The Start Of Something Big?

After four days of bombing US allies in Syria -- the Kurdish YPG militia -- the Turkish government is now requesting that the US begin a ground invasion of Syria. Saudi fighter jets have reportedly arrived in Turkey to take part in the invasion if the US agrees. Meanwhile, the US has asked the Turks to stop bombing Washington's Kurd allies. And Turkey is also bombing Russian-backed Syrian government forces. We try to unravel this all in today's Liberty Report...
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Cold War Redux: Dishing it to the Russkies

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One of the most astonishing news stories I have read of late appeared in Business Insider at the beginning of February entitled “‘The Russians are going to have a cow’: the US’s message to Putin ‘is a really big deal.’” The article described how the Barack Obama Administration has decided to build up “its military presence in Eastern Europe in an effort to deter Russian aggression in the region.” The “cow” and “big deal” verbal effusions were attributed to Evelyn Farkas, who, until recently was the Pentagon’s “top policy official on Russia and Ukraine.” Farkas, for what it’s worth, is of Hungarian descent and has made a career out of being suspicious of Russia. She has the usual credentials in academia so admired by the Obamaites and has served in host of government bubbles but never been in the military. As is all too often the case she and her peers will not be wearing the boots on the ground if the United States goes to war over giving Moscow a “cow.”

According to the article, the US will quadruple its military spending in Europe up to $3.4 billion for fiscal year 2017. The extra money will provide heavy weapons and armored vehicles, including tanks, to America’s Eastern European associates in NATO and also to non-allies including Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Unlike previous assistance to Ukraine, the new weapons are both lethal and capable of being used offensively. The United States has also committed itself to bolstering its own presence in former Warsaw Pact states to include Poland, Hungary, and the Baltic Republics through an increase in bi- and multi- lateral training exercises in those countries. American soldiers will be eye-to-eye with those of Russia in a confrontation not seen since the Cold War ended.

The article cites Tony Badran of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), who claims that “Russia is of course trying to leverage the entire intervention [in Syria] as a way to lap up as much real estate in the Middle East as possible.” The FDD is, of course, a neocon outfit, which is not noted in the article, and the implausible suggestion that Moscow wants to obtain “real estate” in the Middle East which would be an enormous burden and liability is given a pass without even the slightest editorial objection or contrary comment.
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Ron Paul Rewind: All US Supreme Court Justices are Good and Bad

With the death last week of United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, there is much discussion of whether Scalia was good or bad on the court and whether President Barack Obama and the next president will nominate good or bad people for the court. If you value the protection of liberty, however, it is clear that none of the current or recent justices are on your side and that Obama and the next president are unlikely to appoint anyone who is either.
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Presidents Day 2016: Who Was Best? Who Was Worst?

Today is the day we are supposed to celebrate the unitary executive -- well not exactly, but unfortunately the celebration of Presidents Day has come to mean the iconization of the strong leader who takes the country into wars and takes charge of the economy. But might there be a better way to measure the greatness of a US president? How about their dedication to the Constitutional separation of powers and their promotion of peace, prosperity, and freedom? Today's Liberty Report takes a look at the US presidents through the prism of Ivan Eland's great book, Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty...
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Turkey Flexes Muscle in Syria

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The Turkish army has continued for the second day the shelling of the positions of the Syrian Kurdish militia across the border, demanding that the latter withdraw from the territories they’ve gained lately in the northern Aleppo province, especially the strategic military base of Menagh, which is vital to the supply lines from Turkey for the Syrian rebel groups.

But the Kurdish fighters are defiant and have rejected the Turkish demand. In turn, they have warned that they will resist any Turkish incursion. The Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim told Reuters that the Turkish army will find “the entire Syrian people confronting them”.

The latest reports suggest that the Kurdish militia, with Russian air cover, are encircling another strategic town of Tal Rifat close to the Turkish border. To be sure, Ankara faces a frontal challenge from the Kurdish militia who have rubbished its ‘red lines’ to the west of Euphrates and are now steadily advancing to take control of the territories straddling the Turkish border.

The Turkish objective will be to carve out a buffer zone inside Syria, which it has long advocated, ostensibly to provide for refugee camps for people fleeing the conflict zone, but in reality to gain control of the border territories and prevent the Syrian Kurds from gaining access to them.
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What Markets Are Telling Us

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Last week US stock markets tumbled yet again, leaving the Dow Jones index down almost 1500 points for the year. In fact, most major world markets are in negative territory this year. There are many Wall Street cheerleaders who are trying to say that this is just a technical correction, that the bottom is near, and that everything will be getting better soon. They are ignoring the real message the markets are trying to send: you cannot print your way to prosperity.

People throughout history have always sought to acquire wealth. Most of them understand that it takes hard work, sacrifice, savings, and investment. But many are always looking for that “get rich quick” scheme. Monetary cranks throughout history have thought that just printing more money would result in greater wealth and prosperity. Every time this was tried it resulted in failure. Huge economic booms would be followed by even larger busts. But no matter how many times the cranks were debunked both in theory and practice, the same failed ideas kept coming back.
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The Future of Banking: The Dangers of Electronic Currency

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We live in a world in which more and more things happen electronically. It is now possible to buy all your clothes online, all your books, all your food, and have them all delivered to you. Online communication allows us to communicate with almost anyone on the planet, anywhere, at any time. Someone who had fallen asleep 30 years ago would be amazed at how different things are. That extends to the realm of payments as well. Millions of people now access their bank accounts online, transferring money between accounts and paying off credit cards. Payment services such as PayPal are used by more and more merchants. Cash is being displaced by credit and debit cards, which are themselves beginning to be displaced by new digital currencies and payment systems such as Bitcoin, Samsung Pay, and Apple Pay. A world in which everything is transacted digitally may not be far off. But will this digital revolution enable a dream world for consumers or a never-ending nightmare?


Digital currencies, electronic payments, and online financial services are turning the monetary, financial, and banking systems on their heads. But despite all the advances brought about by the digital revolution, there are still quite a few drawbacks. The most obvious is that it is reliant on electricity. One major hurricane knocking out power, a mid-summer brownout, or a hacker attack on the power grid could bring commerce to a halt. With cash, transactions are still possible. With digital payments, civilization comes to an end until power is restored. Unless you have food stored or goods with which to barter, you’re out of luck. Just imagine a city like New York with no power and no way to buy or sell anything. It won’t be pretty. But those instances will hopefully be few and far between. There are other, more important problems with digital currencies and payments.
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Coming to Terms With Iraq

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It seems that Iraq will continue to haunt the American people for the indefinite future. And it should. Including the Persian Gulf intervention, the 11 years of sanctions, the no-fly zones, the post-9/11 invasion and and occupation, and the post-occupation bombing, the U.S. government has killed, injured, and maimed several hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens.

There is also the massive destruction of homes, businesses, automobiles, infrastructure, and other property in Iraq.

There are also the Iraqis who were rounded up, tortured, sexually abused, or executed, including those at Abu Ghraib.

Finally, today there are US presidential candidates who are practically foaming at the mouth in the hope that they will have the opportunity to order US troops to wreak even more death and destruction on Iraq, this time under the rational of attacking ISIS.
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The Three Republican Stooges Who Would Draft Your Daughters

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We have a word in English to describe the act of taking someone against their will and forcing them to work for you. It's called slavery. One form of this, indeed the most heinous form of this, would be a military draft. Because this particular form of slavery involves much more than being forced to pick cotton on a plantation; it involves the high possibility of being blown to smithereens on a battlefield. All while working a profession that you did not choose, fighting a war that you might not agree with, to benefit politicians that you probably don't even know. Regardless of whether you are drafting men or women; the very premise of a draft is completely at odds with the idea of liberty. Drafting men is evil. Drafting women is evil and insane.

Some would say that drafts are sometimes necessary to defend liberty. But what type of liberty is this defending? The liberty of a nation to say that certain people have no liberty at all? That certain people are required by law to be killed if their government gods dictate it is so? To die for such a liberty as this is to die for liberty as a myth. True liberty means you choose what you will and won't do with your life. And no one, including the self-perceived federal masters can force you to.

The great economist Walter Williams (who happens to be black) once stated that requiring young men to register for the draft is like asking black people to register for slavery, just in case the government decides they want to change their mind and re-institute it. Williams dramatic illustration is right on point. Should black people be forced to do something against their will just because they are black? Of course not. Should 18-25 year old males be forced to?
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