US Navy Veteran Detained in Iran Gets 10 Years in Prison, Lawyer Says

A U.S. Navy veteran has been sentenced to 10 years in an Iranian prison, his family’s lawyer said, after he was arrested last July while visiting an Iranian woman in the city of Mashhad.

Michael White, 46, was convicted of two charges, insulting the country’s top leader and posting a private photograph publicly, in separate hearings on March 6 and March 9, according to the lawyer, Mark Zaid.

The basis for the first charge is not yet clear. The second charge appears to have been leveled after White uploaded a picture of himself sitting with the woman, an Iranian national, Zaid said.

Iranian authorities have not released details of the charges. The U.S. State Department said it was aware of White’s detention, but added that it could not provide additional information because of “privacy considerations.”

“We are aware of the detention of a U.S. citizen in Iran,” a State Department official said. “We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad.”

 

The family learned of the sentence earlier this week from the State Department, which in turn received the information from Swiss diplomats. The Swiss represent U.S. interests in Iran because the countries do not maintain diplomatic ties.

White, a California native, served 13 years in the Navy.

The family and the State Department are still trying to determine whether the charges are politically motivated or the result of a criminal prosecution, Zaid said.

“It’s been very unclear,” he added.

White’s arrest has further strained the difficult relationship between the Trump administration and Iran, which worsened after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from an international agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear program and re-imposed sanctions.

The Iranian regime has imprisoned several other American citizens in recent years, including father-and-son Baquer and Siamak Namazi, and Xiyue Wang.

All three were accused of espionage-related activities and have denied the allegations. The United Nations has condemned the prosecutions as unjust, and Trump has demanded that Iran release all U.S. citizens in custody.

Since January, when Iran first confirmed White’s arrest, he has not been permitted to contact his family, Zaid said.

His court-appointed lawyer for the two hearings did not speak English, Zaid said, adding that the family is working on hiring an Iranian lawyer to handle White’s appeal.

By Joseph Ax

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Author: Reuters

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6-Year-Old Nigerian Model Dubbed ‘World’s Most Beautiful Girl’ Has Stormed the Internet

Is this the most beautiful girl in the world? Many of her fans think so, describing her as “an angel,” “absolutely stunning,” and “doll-like” on Instagram. This young girl has since accumulated thousands of adoring fans. Six-year-old Jare, from Nigeria, first hit the spotlight in 2018 when photos of her and her two sisters went viral on the internet.

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Wedding photographer Mofe Bamuyiwa, from Lagos, Nigeria, posted a series of photos of 5-year-old Jare on her site, who then received thousands of likes and comments on her striking beauty.

“I could have made her smile and make her laugh out loud but I put her in their natural moments for us to see through their eyes!” Mofe captioned on one of her images.

“All I want is for everyone to see Jare’s powerful potential. … I want the photo to speak to her when she has reached her adulthood,” said Bamuyiwa to Yahoo Lifestyle.

Bamuyiwa taught herself photography where she focused on capturing the beauty of people in Africa and Nigeria. “Most times I look for the weakness and make it strong and inspirational,” she said in an interview with Bored Panda.

Photo courtesy of Mofe Bamuyiwa 

“I am very surprised because I have handled a camera for many years and I never saw this coming too soon to me and I’m eternally grateful and willing to do more and better.”

The pictures of Jare have received tens of thousands of likes, with hundreds of comments on Jare’s incredible natural beauty. “Oh, yes, she’s human! She’s also an angel!” wrote Bamuyiwa.

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Jare is now a model whose future looks bright. Her two sisters Jomi, 7, and Joba, 10, have also come under the photographer’s lens and will most likely have a promising career in the modeling industry.

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An Instagram page, called The J3 Sisters, was set up by the trio’s mother and has garnered 128,000 followers.

One admirer said: ”Beautiful! Stay sweet and innocent the way you are. Don’t let the popularity go to your head. Natural beauties!”

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The trio are modeling with Princess Ford Haute Couture—a luxury fashion brand for young girls. The brand aims to create “memorable pieces that would make girls feel special … turning heads wherever they go to—everything a little girl and her mom could ever want!” the website says.

Other child models have been big on social media. Seventeen-year-old Thylane Blondeau, from France, was called “the most beautiful girl in the world” when her photos were published in a Vogue Paris supplement called Vogue Enfants. Blondeau was 6 years old when she hit fame only two years after she began modeling. In 2017, at age 16, she became L’Oréal’s latest brand ambassador. She was again given top mention in 2018, in a video called The 100 Most Beautiful Faces of 2018.

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Will Jare end up with the title of  “the most beautiful girl in the world?” Whatever her future has in store for her, let’s hope she keeps a firm grip on reality, and having looks that are to die for can help others reach their potential—be it beauty, brains or helping others—one of the many other ways humans can leave a good imprint.

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Author: Chris Ford

New Zealanders Respond to the Christchurch Mosque Attacks

AUCKLAND, New Zealand—Communities throughout New Zealand are coming together both in disbelief and collective grief in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque massacres.

On March 16, a day after the attacks in the country’s South Island, many events around the nation were canceled due to security concerns, and as a mark of respect for those affected by the attacks. The final day of the ASB Polyfest, the largest Polynesian festival in the world, was one of those events.

People gather around flags at half-mast
“ASB Polyfest” staff, organizers, and community leaders come together to reflect on the Christchurch mosque attacks, in Auckland, New Zealand, on March 16, 2019. (Lorraine Ferrier/The Epoch Times)

The Epoch Times asked ASB Polyfest staff, organizers, and community leaders, as they came together to reflect, how they think New Zealand can heal from this tragedy.

Roger Jolley, Maori strategy adviser, Ministry of Education

Kiwis are resilient people: We take it on the chin, and we move on. When faced with adversity, we pull together when we need to, and we achieve some great things.

I can see some good coming out of this.

The other side of it is that for Maori and Pasifika [Pacific Island] people, we are warrior people; we understand life and death and what that means, so being able to connect spiritually through the understanding of life and death is going to put us all in good stead.

Two man standing outside
(L) Roger Jolley, strategy advisor Maori at the Ministry of Education and (R) Greg Pierce, chair of the “ASB Polyfest” Trust. (Lorraine Ferrier/The Epoch Times)

Greg Pierce, chair, ASB Polyfest Trust

My immediate response to that is I think we are really fortunate that we are a strong spiritual place, built up over many centuries.

Man in front of flags
Rangi McLean, national cultural adviser. (Lorraine Ferrier/The Epoch Times)

Rangi McLean, national cultural adviser

By doing things like [gathering as a community]. I suppose this is something unique to us because of our culture. One of the good things is that over the 200-plus years since the English came over, we’ve intermixed our cultures. For example, I’m a Tuhoe [Maori tribe] with Scottish heritage, and for me, I acknowledge that.

I’m proudly, staunchly, fiercely Tuhoe, but I will say that I am also Scottish and it’s with that type of interlink in our thinking throughout—which is what proud New Zealand is—it permeates throughout the country. People will say that they are Ngapuhi [Maori tribe], for example, but they will also acknowledge their English heritage, their Scottish heritage, or their Irish heritage, as it is with our Pacific Island brothers and sisters.

Woman giving a speech
Seiuli Terri Leo-Mauu, “ASB Polyfest” event director. (ASB Polyfest)

Seiuli Terri Leo-Mauu, event director, ASB Polyfest

New Zealand is such a diverse country with so many different cultures. I’d say we’re a resilient culture. So the way we’re going to recover is just step by step.

We see these things on TV all the time and hear it about it in the news hitting other countries, such as America and England, but you never think it is going to hit you so close to home.

Our hearts do go out to Christchurch—they have gone through a lot, and now this has happened as well.

As our prime minister said, New Zealand has changed forever now because of this incident, but it also means that we need to prepare for anything [that] arises again.

We canceled this event on our terms: You haven’t defeated us.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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Author: Lorraine Ferrier

Rabbit Hole in Farmer’s Field Leads to Mysterious Cave Network

In a farmer’s field in Shropshire, England, a seemingly innocuous rabbit hole leads to a mysterious underground chamber. According to locals, it used to be a secret meeting place for a medieval religious order—but could this just be a myth?

Known as the Caynton Caves, the site is located on private land near the town of Shifnal. It is so well hidden that someone could easily walk right by it without even seeing it. The entrance is so small that a person has to crouch just to enter.

One meter below the ground, the cave is cramped. It features pillars, bays, and apses carved into the sandstone bedrock. The interior is adorned with carvings, including two crosses symbolizing the once-powerful Catholic military order known as the Knights Templar, who were founded in 1119 AD.

Caynton Caves in Shropshire, England (Flickr)

More recent inscriptions from the current century are also visible, which were carved into the stone by vandals for practicing “black magic.”

The original purpose of the caves remains a mystery. Yet, experts dispute the connection between the caves and the famed knights. Historic England estimates that they date back between the late 1700s to early 1800s. The site is believed to be what is called a “folly”—a playful, architectural work of art with no real, functional purpose. Part of a popular trend in those years, follies represented status and wealth.

Caynton Caves in Shropshire, England (Flickr)
Caynton Caves in Shropshire, England (Flickr)

Architecturally, the caves exhibit neo-Norman, Romanesque Revival style—characteristics of a Victorian grotto.

The farm owner had originally kept the grotto open for public viewing, but sealed it in 2012 when visitors started using it for Halloween rituals and vandalizing it.

Caynton Caves in Shropshire, England (Flickr)

Although it seems unlikely that the caves were carved by the medieval warriors, who were the Knights Templar?

The order was originally founded by the king of Jerusalem to protect pilgrims traveling to and from the Holy Land, who were often at the mercy of bandits on the perilous journey. However, with support from within the Catholic Church, including the Pope, they soon grew in power and wealth. Young noblemen who wished to help the fight in the Holy Land flocked to fill their ranks.

The organization was eventually dissolved, following their military decline starting in the late 12th century Crusades, when Pope Clement V eventually suppressed and banned the order.

Convent of Christ Castle in Tomar, Portugal, was built in 1160 as a stronghold for the Knights Templar. (Public domain)
Illustration of Knights Templar (Public domain)

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Author: Michael Wing

2 People Killed at St Patrick’s Day Disco in Northern Ireland Amid Reports of a ‘Crush’

Two people have died and two others have been taken to hospital with injuries following reports of a crush at a St Patrick’s Day event in Northern Ireland, according to emergency services.

One person is in hospital in critical condition, while another is in a stable condition, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) confirmed on Monday, March 18, following the event at Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown.

Greenvale hotel in Cookstown, Ireland
Police have now re-opened the road at the Greenvale hotel in Cookstown, Ireland, after reports of two young deaths during a St. Patrick’s day party. (Brendan Marshall)

An investigation is currently underway to determine the cause of the incident, which was believed to be a disco for young people, reported the BBC.

“While the exact cause of the incident is still unknown, there are reports of a crush at the scene. At this stage, the cause of the incident is unknown.

“However, police have commenced a full investigation into the circumstances,” PSNI’s assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton, said.

Ambulance services scrambled to the scene after reports of several people feeling unwell, with doctors, paramedics and five emergency crews dispatched at around 21:30 p.m. local time.

Over an hour later, at 22:41 local time, emergency services urged parents to come to the hotel immediately to pick up their children.

Reports of a stampede at the event began to circulate, after an eyewitness reportedly phoned UUP Councillor Trevor Wilson saying there had been a crush, the Independent reported.

“There’s clearly a deep sense of shock here tonight that an event for young people just wanting to celebrate St Patrick’s night went so horribly wrong,” Wilson told the Belfast Telegraph.

“There seems to have been a stampede, and a number of people have been badly injured,” Wilson added.

But the DJ who was performing at the disco at the hotel reportedly told journalist Brendan Marshall, who made his way to the scene, that the reports were false, according to the BBC.

Marshall explained he had heard that several young people fell seriously ill at the event.

“He confirmed that—contrary to the rumours that had been circulating—there had been no crushing and nothing had collapsed.

“He told me that a number of young people had become seriously ill. He said one young person was brought to him by a friend to have their pulse checked.

“The DJ then shone a light in their eyes to check whether they were alive,” Marshall told BBC News NI.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said her “thoughts and prayers” are with all those affected by the incident.

The injured have been taken to Craigavon Area Hospital and Antrim Area Hospital, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said.

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Author: Isabel van Brugen

First Couple Spend Morning of St Patrick’s Day in Worship

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump spent St. Patrick’s Day morning worshipping at the “Church of the Presidents” near the White House on March 17.

The first lady turned heads when she stepped out in a snow-white coat.

President Donald Trump with first lady Melania Trump
President Donald Trump with first lady Melania Trump, and Reverend Bruce McPherson, waves to media as he arrives to attend service at Saint John’s Church in Washington, on March 17, 2019 (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

The president and the first lady joined parishioners for Sunday’s 11 a.m. service at St. John’s Church, a historic yellow church across from the White House and Lafayette Park.

Every president since James Madison, who served in the 1800s, has attended a service at St. John’s, according to the church.

The Rev. W. Bruce McPherson greeted the Trumps after the short drive from the White House.

President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump
President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump and Reverend Bruce McPherson, waves to media as they arrive to attend service at Saint John’s Church in Washington, on March 17, 2019. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

The Trumps returned to the White House after the hour-long service.

The Trumps last attended religious services in December at Washington National Cathedral. Trump had skipped spending the holiday at his Florida estate and stayed in Washington during the government shutdown.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk to their motorcade after attending service at Saint John’s Church in Washington, Sunday, en route to the White House, on March 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

By Darlene Superville

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Author: The Associated Press

Facebook vs. Conservatives

According to socialist Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, Facebook and other tech giants such as Google, Twitter and Amazon should be broken up. In an ironic twist, Facebook immediately validated the senator’s concerns by taking down her Facebook page soon after she called for Facebook’s dismantling.

She then tweeted, “Curious why I think FB has too much power? Let’s start with their ability to shut down a debate over whether FB has too much power.” 

Is she right?

Although it pains me to say this: She is.

In fact, in all likelihood, that’s one area where many conservatives would agree with the socialist-leaning Massachusetts senator. After all, it’s an established fact that Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, along with Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and many other social media platforms actively and regularly censor conservatives. It’s not even up for debate at this point. They’ve admitted their bias.

To put it in blunt terms, if you’re a conservative or libertarian, especially a successful and significant one, the statist technological potentates in Silicon Valley don’t like you. Literally, it’s personal with them. More to the point, they hate your point of view and will often find ways to prevent your message from being published. That’s just who they are.

Monopoly or Monopsony?

Is Facebook really a monopoly? Does it have dominant control over the supply of media? Does it actually produce content? That answer to these questions is “no.”

Facebook isn’t actually a monopoly. A monopoly is where an organization has controlling dominance over supply. For example, for decades, AT&T was the only phone company for millions of Americans because stifling regulation served as a barrier to entry for would-be competitors. This monopoly on supply allowed AT&T to exercise control over the price and access to telephonic communications with minimal competition.

In contrast to controlling the supply of content, Facebook has been described as having dominance over the demand for it. This makes its position in the market a monopsony. It controls, or at least has tremendous influence over and advantage in, how users access content. What’s more, it also has the power to determine the kinds of content it makes available for users to access.

The Power to Restrict Access Is the Power to Censor

In short, Facebook, along with the other tech and social media giants, have the power to restrict information that they don’t like. Again, they’re not owning or even creating content in any way. But instead, they own users’ access to it and revoke that access to users when they decide that content is inappropriate or offensive.

The problem is that both of these criteria are rather elastic. At any time, they can be as broad or as narrow as, well, as Zuckerberg, Dorsey, and Google decide they should be.

Did you catch that?

Mark Zuckerberg et al have their own, self-determined standards on what constitutes proper or valid content and that which, in their opinion, does not. Not the Federal Communications Commission, nor any other federal agency. Just Mr. Zuckerberg, Mr. Dorsey of Twitter, and a handful of other narrow minded, anti-conservative, leftwing bigots wielding algorithms to silence ideas and opinions they don’t like. They’re literally a cluster of ideological Maoist billionaires who hate free speech.

Controlling the Bridge to the Market

Think of it as if Facebook built and owned the first bridge into Manhattan, for example. This new bridge opened up access to all the business opportunities on both sides of the bridge. Then, a competitor – say, Instagram or Twitter – builds a bridge down the street. There’s now healthy competition for access to business and buyers, right?

But wait – Facebook then buys the Instagram and Twitter bridges – and most others – and so no matter which bridge you use to access Manhattan, Facebook owns it. It gives them the power to block a business’s access to customers. And with 2.37 billion monthly active users, that’s a lot of power.

It’s the same with internet search engines. Is it really “Google versus Bing?”

“Bing who?” you might be asking. Yeah, it’s just Google.

The Tip of the Zuckerberg for Totalitarianism

But in reality, these companies are just the “tip of the Zuckerberg.” The fact is, Facebook, along with Google, Twitter, Amazon, and a whole slew of other internet, tech, and social media leaders, are helmed by postmodernist fascists who don’t like people with traditional values. They especially don’t like those who convey them effectively. Chances are, they don’t like you.

And, since they’re all billionaires, or at least make more than enough money to ever spend in three lifetimes, they’re fine without your business. They also wield significant influence with likeminded lawmakers, and that’s putting it mildly.

So, they decide to drop you, block you, suspend you, edit you, minimize you algorithmically or otherwise censor conservatives like you. You, your business, and especially your conservative values, be damned. Even without notice, and often so, your entire online presence, your digital persona and even your business lifeline on Facebook can be scrapped.

Economic Persecution on Social Media

But that’s just the beginning. Once we move beyond personalities and values, the real harm done is at economic persecution of those with whom they differ politically. Think of it like refusing to allow a liberal – or a conservative – to buy gas to put in their car or to advertise on public television. It shouldn’t be allowed.

Denying access to basic needs and services or preventing some citizens from using the public airways is illegal, unethical and immoral. And yet the leftist cats in Silicon Valley love playing their little social media god games that let them destroy your means of earning a living if you’re a conservative.

Meanwhile, your dyed-in-the-wool socialist/commie neighbor who openly favors the overthrow of President Donald Trump, or worse, is good with them. It’s nothing less than political suppression via economic repression – or vice versa. In fact, one may even catch the stench of Social Credit System that is used by the Communists in China to oppress those folks who don’t think correctly.

But no. Not here. Not now. Not ever.

Break Them Up – Before They Break Us Up

These are the reasons that these technocratic dictators need to be broken up. They’re technologically brilliant children who have no idea what the U.S. Constitution is, why it is, and why it must be protected. All they care about is getting their way and shutting the mouths of people – Americans – who differ with them.

Tyrannical petulance is a distasteful character trait in a five-year-old, but a major character flaw and a political and economic hazard in social media CEOs. They’ve proven time and time again that they’re not up to the task of protecting the rights of Americans.

It’s time the adults stepped in and take the toys away.

James Gorrie is a writer based in Texas. He is the author of “The China Crisis.”

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Author: James Gorrie

Student Loans Are Exploitation in Disguise

Student-loan debt in the United States has reached $1.56 trillion, half a billion more than credit-card debt. Only a minority of the 44.7 million loan holders are paying back, so who is picking up the tab?

And old saying goes like this: If you don’t know who the sucker is, you are the sucker. It is not the universities; that is for sure.

No, it is the trusty taxpayer. The Department of Education holds 92 percent of student loans—$1.44 trillion. That is $4,380 for every man, woman, and child in the United States.

Not only is the magnitude alarming, it is growing with no end in sight. The total has more than doubled in the past decade, with another $72.3 billion added in the past year.

So ubiquitous is student debt, we all know people under water. Many bear in excess of $200,000, which they will take with them to their graves, as student loans are non-dischargeable and will not go away, even if personal bankruptcy is filed.

Eventually, the federal government will acknowledge the money will never be repaid, and taxpayers will eat the loss. If federal officials were to sell the debt on the open market, they would get pennies on the dollar.

Thinly Veiled Cronyism

If universities believed in their capacity to generate higher incomes for students, they would either offer loans directly or partner with private loan providers. In fact, for programs that deliver clear value—such as graduate medical and business education—there are already eager private loan providers.

Instead, we observe institutions channeling taxpayer money to themselves through programs that do not merit loans and for students better off in alternative paths of career development. University administrators are selling inflated outcomes and preying on the naiveté of young adults who often have little understanding of the burdens they are accepting—but can take on a loan of $100,000 or more the minute they turn 18.

Graduation rates depend heavily on the form of institution students attend, but the best case is private nonprofits. Within six years for four-year programs, 64 percent of entrants graduate from their institution, versus 55 versus for state institutions. The rates are lower for two-year community colleges and for-profit institutions: 28 and 26 percent respectively.

Of the roughly half who get through after a costly six years or less, 40 percent take jobs that don’t require a college education. After 10 years, 20 percent remain in low-skill or trade work not aligned with traditional higher education. The worst performing major for employment is psychology, in contrast to computer science and engineering, which enjoy strong demand.

Making Tuition Less Affordable

The rise of university tuition in the United States, much higher than inflation and household incomes, belies logic, unless you consider subsidies. Since 1989, the average cost of attending a four-year college, when adjusted for inflation, has doubled and grown eight times faster than wages.

Providing a service to people with no-questions-asked credit, universities have engaged in an arms race of luxury. Students with no wealth or income still enjoy grandiose gyms, stadiums, and all manner of coddling. Since the 1970s, university bureaucracy has grown at twice the rate as full-time instructors. Easy money has bankrolled dubious majors such as costume production, offered by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and bagpiping, offered by Carnegie Mellon University.

If people want to spend their own money, that is their prerogative. However, as explained by Scott Piazza and Victor Nava of the Reason Foundation, the results of federal subsidies and perverse incentives have been “unfair to students and taxpayers alike: students end up paying higher college tuition fees and are saddled with more debt; taxpayers are left sitting on a ticking time bomb of accumulated government-backed debt,” on top of the $21 trillion in actual government debt.

Crowding Out a Better Way

Their report, subtitled “Cronyism in Higher Education Finance,” details the long history of lobbying by student-loan providers. Working with the Department of Education, they have received advantages beyond taxpayer underwriting, including lower capital requirements, tax exemptions, and lower interest costs.

Given the capacity of the loan intermediaries to impose the risks on taxpayers rather than themselves, it is no surprise these lenders have voraciously expanded their businesses. Universities, with their own lobbying muscle, have welcomed and become addicted to the mounting debts.

The loan subsidy has likewise contributed to credential inflation and dependence from students who now feel entitled to the supposedly necessary support. This mentality has manifested in the popularity of loan forgiveness, particularly within the Democratic Party.

Rather than address the cause for the problem, the feel-good non-solution among the 2020 presidential challengers is to declare higher education “free” and cancel the debts. They wish to collectivize the debts further, drive up the cost, and compound the problem. Given the federal government’s gargantuan deficits, the debt will be transferred to future taxpayers, whether they went to college or not, punishing the latter for being being financially prudent.

Meanwhile, innovative financial intermediaries who lend to ineligible students, such as foreigners, find themselves crowded out. As documented by Andrew Kelly and Kevin James of the American Enterprise Institute, private lenders are finding new ways to use forward-looking criteria for credit.

They inject market discipline and consider the merits of the major and the student, as opposed to lending “to any accredited program at almost any price.” Private lenders could reverse “the most significant flaw in the current system: loans … given out with little regard for whether students will be able to pay them back.”

Whether any legislator has the courage to tell the truth and cut the bleeding remains to be seen, but until Congress addresses that flaw, the problem will fester. The price paid to crony institutions will grow, inevitably shouldered by taxpayers.

Fergus Hodgson is the founder and executive editor of Latin American intelligence publication Antigua Report. He is also the roving editor of Gold Newsletter and a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. 

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Author: Fergus Hodgson

Christchurch Mosque Attacker Obsessed With Video Games, Relatives Reveal

The accused Christchurch mosque attacker was obsessed with playing video games, the suspect’s grandmother has revealed.

Brenton Tarrant, who has been charged with murder in relation to the horrific massacre of at least 50 people at two New Zealand mosques on March 15, is believed to have live-streamed a 17-minute video as he was allegedly shooting the mosque-goers.

Grandmother Marie Fitzgerald, 81, told Australia’s 9News that when Tarrant attended Grafton High School in country New South Wales, he seemed more interested in playing computer games than dating girls.

“He spent most of his time playing games on computers in and outs of computers and playing games,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t think girlfriends were on the agenda … getting married was too hard.”

 

 

After his father died from cancer in the year 2010, Tarrant travelled to Europe at a time when there was a surge in Islamic extremist attacks. He was never the same after coming back, Fitzgerald told 9News.

“It’s only since he travelled overseas. I think that this boy has changed completely to the boy we knew,” she said.

Tarrant, 28, who is originally from Grafton, did not apply for bail when he appeared before the court on March 16 to face his murder charge. He is expected to face further charges when he next appears in court on April 5.

The country boy had no criminal history and was on no watch lists either in Australia or New Zealand, even though his online profiles have since been linked to extremist material.

Before the attack, Tarrant allegedly posted a 74-page manifesto on the internet, entitled “The Great Replacement,” which said that the attacks were to avenge “thousands of deaths caused by foreign invaders.” Police believe the document contains evidence that Tarrant had planned to carry out the deadly shootings.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called the shooting an act of terrorism, and the worst-ever peacetime mass killing in the nation’s history. New Zealand’s national security threat level has been revised to high. Ardern promised that affected individuals and their families will receive financial compensation for months and even years in the wake of the bloodshed.

Counter-terrorism police in Australia raided two homes near Coffs Harbour and Grafton on March 18 in connection with the attacks.

One property at Sandy Beach, 24 kilometres (15 miles) north of Coffs Harbour in NSW, where Tarrant’s mother and sister reportedly lived as raided at around 8:30 a.m. local time. At the time of the raid, the pair were already safe with police in protective custody. They been co-operating with the authorities and there is no suggestion that they have done anything wrong.

Shortly after, police separately searched a house in Lawrence 30 kilometres (19 miles) south of Grafton that is understood to belong to the mother’s boyfriend as they sought to formally obtain evidence that may help New Zealand Police in their investigation.

 

 

“The community can be assured that there is no information to suggest a current or impending threat related to this search warrants,” the Australian Federal Police and New South Wales Police said in a joint statement.

 

 

The NSW joint counter-terrorism team (JCTT) comprises of the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police Force, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and the NSW Crime Commission staff.

 

 

Police allege that Tarrant had been planning the attacks for two years while living in New Zealand.

During his time, he returned to Grafton a year ago for his sister’s birthday. Fitzgerald said there had been no signs he would carry out the attack.

“He was just his normal self you know,” she said. “We all chatted we and had a meal together to celebrate that occasion and now everyone is devastated.”

She said the family could not believe Tarrant was involved in the attack even after the news began spreading on television.

“First up I thought it could not be then I saw his photo … it’s just not right … it’s un-repairable,” Tarrant’s uncle, Terry Fitzgerald, said.

Police urged anyone with information to contact the National Security Hotline by phoning 1800 123 400.

“NSW JCTT is unable to provide further detail regarding this matter,” police said.

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Author: Richard Szabo

‘It’s Extraordinary:’ Renowned Musicologist Impressed By Shen Yun’s Artistry

NEW YORK—Renowned musicologist and music professor Dr. Arbie Orenstein is familiar with great performances. He has taught at Queens College for almost 50 years and has worked with famous choreographers. When he experienced Shen Yun Performing Arts, he was captivated by the performers’ artistry from their elegant dance movements to the notes that graced the entire theater.

The music is, in addition to everything else, is just wonderful,” Orenstein said. “This is some of the most beautiful dancing I’ve ever seen.”

Orenstein saw Shen Yun at The David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center on March 17. The music professor has a Ph.D. in musicology and is an expert on the life and works of French composer Maurice Ravel, where he has authored a number of books about him. As a pianist, Orenstein has recorded the world premieres of several works by Ravel and accompanied many outstanding cantors and concert artists, according to the New York Philharmonic website.

Orenstein said he found Shen Yun’s blend of Eastern and Western musical instruments unique.

“It [has] many of the harmonies from the West and the subtle sounds of the East from the instruments—[which] are really quite unique. It’s a beautiful performance,” he said, adding that the overall artistic level of the performance was extraordinary.

The distinct yet harmonious sound is achieved through using a Western orchestra as the foundation while using traditional Chinese instruments that lead the melodies, according to the Shen Yun website. The Chinese instruments include the erhu, dizi, pipa, and suona. This ensemble is able to express both the grandeur of a Western orchestra as well as the unique sensibilities of China’s 5,000-year-old civilization.

“Bringing out the quintessence of each of these two great musical traditions, while at the same time presenting a unified theme is one of the distinct features of Shen Yun’s compositions,” Shen Yun’s composer Junyi Tan said in a previous interview.

Shen Yun is in the midst of its 2019 tour, and has just completed its New York run at Lincoln Center, where it performed to 29 full houses over January and March.

Based in New York, Shen Yun’s mission is to revive traditional Chinese culture after it was nearly destroyed by seven decades of communist rule, according to the company’s website.

The production displays the inner spiritual core of China’s culture, which encompasses the virtues of benevolence, kindness, and honor. The dances draw upon the vast history of China’s 5,000-year-old civilization.

Orenstein thinks Shen Yun’s mission is a “wonderful thing.”

He said, “These old traditions are really very modern [and] we need very much what they are talking about, people showing other people their ways of life, reaching out so that everyone sees the beauty of each culture in the world.”

With reporting by NTD Television.

The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time and has covered audience reactions since the company’s inception in 2006.

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Author: Epoch Newsroom