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February 27 2014

08:50

February 25 2014

09:50

February 21 2014

09:00

February 20 2014

20:36
07:31

February 17 2014

18:48

February 14 2014

23:02
08:11

Week In The News: Snowy South, Debt Ceiling, Michael Sam

Sochi medals. A debt-ceiling deal. Monsieur Hollande in Washington. Snowmageddon  in the South. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Cars are left abandoned along Franklin Street after a winter storm left poor conditions in Chapel Hill, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning lasting into Thursday covering 95 of the state's 100 counties. (AP)

Cars are left abandoned along Franklin Street after a winter storm left poor conditions in Chapel Hill, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning lasting into Thursday covering 95 of the state’s 100 counties. (AP)

Guests

Major Garrett, chief White House correspondent for CBS News. Correspondent-at-Large for National Journal. (@MajorCBS)

Laure Mandeville, U.S. bureau chief and chief White House correspondent for Le Figaro. (@lauremandeville)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: The Four Most Notable Nuggets From ‘The Hillary Papers’ – “Republicans are seizing Monday on a report published Sunday titled “The Hillary Papers.” The lengthy piece from the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news Web site, details personal documents from one of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s closest friends, Diane Blair, a political science professor who died in 2000.”

CNN: The Southern snow was round one; here comes ice, the heavyweight –” The snow was here, two weeks ago. With just a smattering of white, it wreaked havoc on the South. But it may have been just an opening round. Now, an ice storm is hitting. And matched with snow, it’s the heavyweight of the two. Weather mavens expect up to an inch of ice will give broad swaths of the South a good shellacking. An inch doesn’t sound impressive? A foot of snow may look big and bad, but it’s a bunch of fluff compared to a solid inch of ice.”

Politico: Obamacare finally clears the tower – ”The new report is good enough that it might reset Washington’s expectations: maybe Obamacare isn’t going to be a train wreck after all. Maybe it’ll be more like one of those Metro trains that runs kind of slowly, and sometimes stops in the middle of the tracks for no apparent reason, but eventually gets you where you need to go.”

08:11

Blackbeard And The Golden Age Of Pirates

On Valentine’s Day, we’re talking booty —pirate booty—and the last days of the world’s most notorious pirate, Blackbeard.

“Capture of the Pirate, Blackbeard, 1718″ depicting the battle between Blackbeard the Pirate and Lieutenant Maynard in Ocracoke Bay. (Jean Leon Gerome Ferris / Creative Commons)

Guests

Colin Woodard, award-winning journalist and author. Author of “The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down.” Also author of “American Nations” and “The Lobster Coast.” State and national affairs writer for the Portland Press-Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram. (@WoodardColin)

Captain Mike Daniel, ship captain, maritime explorer and underwater explorer. Founder of the Maritime Research Institute.

From Tom’s Reading List

Smithsonian Magazine: The Last Days of Blackbeard — “Out of all the pirates who’ve trolled the seas over the past 3,000 years, Blackbeard is the most famous. His nearest rivals—Capt. William Kidd and Sir Henry Morgan—weren’t really pirates at all, but privateers, mercenaries given permission by their sovereign to attack enemy shipping in time of war. Blackbeard and his contemporaries in the early 18th-century Caribbean had nobody’s permission to do what they were doing; they were outlaws. But unlike the aristocrats who controlled the British, French and Spanish colonial empires, many ordinary people in Britain and British America saw Blackbeard and his fellow pirates as heroes, Robin Hood figures fighting a rear-guard action against a corrupt, unaccountable and increasingly tyrannical ruling class.”

National Geographic: Blackbeard’s Shipwreck — “No one knows where the man named Edward Teach, or Tache, or Thatch, called home. Capt. Charles Johnson (who some believe was Daniel Defoe) claimed he came from Bristol in his 1724 tome, ‘A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates,’ the primary source of most Blackbeard legends. Others trace him to a prominent family on Jamaica, or to the Carolinas.”

History: 8 Real-Life Pirates Who Roved the High Seas –”Blackbeard intimidated enemies by coiling smoking fuses into his long, braided facial hair and by slinging multiple pistols and daggers across his chest. In November 1717 he captured a French slave ship, later renamed the Queen Anne’s Revenge, and refitted it with 40 guns. With that extra firepower he then blockaded the port of Charleston, South Carolina, until the town’s residents met his demands for a large chest of medicine. “

February 13 2014

08:01

Crowdsourcing And The New Genealogy Boom

The genealogy craze meets crowdsourcing . Soon, you may be meeting your 17th cousin. Be prepared for surprises.

US first lady Michelle Obama, center, with her daughters Sasha, and Malia, second from the right, look through archives documenting the Obama's Irish Ancestry during their visit to the Old Library at Trinity College, in Dublin, Ireland, Monday, June 17, 2013. The first lady and her daughters were given a presentation on their own family genealogy and connection to Ireland. (AP)

US first lady Michelle Obama, center, with her daughters Sasha, and Malia, second from the right, look through archives documenting the Obama’s Irish Ancestry during their visit to the Old Library at Trinity College, in Dublin, Ireland, Monday, June 17, 2013. The first lady and her daughters were given a presentation on their own family genealogy and connection to Ireland. (AP)

Guests

A.J. Jacobs, author and journalist. Author of “The Know-It-All,” “The Year of Living Biblically,” My Life As An Experiment” and ‘Drop Dead Healthy.”  (@ajjacobs)

Judy G. Russell, writer and genealogist. Blogger at “The Legal Genealogist.”

Spencer Wells, geneticist and director of the Geographic Project at National Geographic.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times:  Are You My Cousin? – “My family tree sprawls far and wide. It’s not even a tree, really. More like an Amazonian forest. At last count, it was up to nearly 75 million family members. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re on some far-flung branch of my tree, and if you aren’t, you probably will be soon. It’s not really my tree. It’s our tree.”

The Verge: Who am I? Data and DNA answer one of life’s big questions — “Taking a peek into the past now requires nothing more than a decent internet connection and a laptop. DNA testing, which just a few years ago cost thousands of dollars and offered little information for genealogists, is now a growing consumer option, reaching back hundreds of years to provide undreamed of amounts of information about our ancestors.”

The Desert News: Gaming for genealogy: Helping bring genealogy to a digital generation –”One of Taylor’s most compelling arguments for introducing gaming to genealogy was that current family history methods need to speak to a ‘new generation of genealogists.’ The upcoming generation has been involved in the digital world since birth, and many of them have hardly any experience with physical records.”

February 12 2014

07:51

Drones And The Kill List Now

The White House debates a drone attack against a U.S. citizen and terror suspect in Pakistan. We’ll look at Washington’s kill list and American drone policy.

Pakistani protesters burn a representation of the U.S. flag to condemn American drone strikes on militants' hideouts in Pakistani tribal areas, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 in Multan, Pakistan. The U.S. is now said to be considering legal options for using an unmanned drone to kill an American citizen in Pakistan. (AP)

Pakistani protesters burn a representation of the U.S. flag to condemn American drone strikes on militants’ hideouts in Pakistani tribal areas, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 in Multan, Pakistan. The U.S. is now said to be considering legal options for using an unmanned drone to kill an American citizen in Pakistan. (AP)

Guests

Greg Miller, intelligence reporter for the Washington Post. (@gregpmiller)

Spencer Ackerman, national security editor for the Guardian U.S. (@attackerman)

Micah Zenko, Douglas Dillon Fellow in the Center for Preventative Action at the Council on Foreign Relations. Author of “Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies” and “Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post-Cold War World.” (@MicahZenko)

Philip Mudd, director of global risk at SouthernSun Asset Management. Former deputy director of the counter-terrorism center at the C.I.A.  Former senior intelligence adviser and deputy director of the F.B.I.’s National Security branch.

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: U.S. weighs lethal strike against American citizen — “The Obama administration is weighing whether to approve a lethal strike against a U.S. citizen who is accused of being part of the al-Qaeda terrorist network overseas and involved in ongoing plotting against American targets, U.S. officials said.”

Council On Foreign Relations: Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies – “Like any tool, drones are only as useful as the information guiding them, and for this they are heavily reliant on local military and intelligence cooperation. More important, significant questions exist about who constitutes a legitimate target and under what circumstances it is acceptable to strike. ”

The Intercept: The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program — “According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.”

February 10 2014

05:51

Putin’s Games And Putin’s Russia

As the world watches Sochi, Russia and Vladimir Putin, we’ll look at the Olympic Games and their host.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, declares the 2014 Winter Olympics open as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, looks on during the opening ceremony, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, declares the 2014 Winter Olympics open as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, looks on during the opening ceremony, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP)

Guests

John Cherwa, deputy sports editor at the Los Angeles Times. (@jcherwa)

Gregory Feifer, Europe editor at the Global Post. Author of “Russians: The People Behind The Power.” Also author of “The Great Gamble.” (@gfeifer)

Julia Ioffe, senior editor at The New Republic. Former Moscow correspondent for Foreign Policy and The New Yorker. (@juliaioffe)

From Tom’s Reading List

Los Angeles Times: Sochi Olympic organizers prepare for a rainy — and sunny — day –”The 2014 Sochi Games will take place 1,000 miles south of Moscow, at a Black Sea resort that qualifies as one of only a few Russian cities with a subtropical climate. If that seems less than hibernal, the organizers insist they can stage a successful competition no matter what kind of weather there is over the next month.”

New York Times: A Triumph for Putin, if Not for the Rest of a Sagging Russia –”Now, as the first events begin, the Games have for Mr. Putin and his allies become a self-evident triumph of Russia’s will. The avalanche of criticism that has already fallen, from minor complaints about ill-prepared hotels and stray dogs to grave concerns about the costs, security and human rights, is being brushed away like snowflakes from a winter coat.”

The New Republic: Russians Think We’re Engaging in Olympic Schadenfreude. They’re Right. — “There’s a fine line between fair criticism and schadenfreude, and the Western press has been largely well on the side of the latter. I’d also argue that there’s something chauvinistic, even Russophobic in it. The Europeans may not be ready for their Olympics, but, okay, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and hope for the best. The Chinese prepare for theirs ruthlessly, but we don’t understand them so whatever. ”

Read An Excerpt Of “Russians” By Gregory Feifer

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February 07 2014

07:41

Week In The News: Obamacare, Jobs, Tobacco-Free Pharmacies, Sochi Olympics

Obamacare and jobs. CVS quits tobacco. Terror and toothpaste warnings for Sochi.  Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his speech at the IOC President's Gala Dinner on the eve of the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his speech at the IOC President’s Gala Dinner on the eve of the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP)

Guests

Heidi Moore, U.S. finance and economics editor for The Guardian. (@moorehn)

Bob Cusack, managing editor of The Hill. (@BobCusack)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Guardian: CVS doesn’t need tobacco for its revenues: it has Obamacare — “It turns out that the timing however, is perfect. CVS doesn’t need tobacco for its revenues because a bigger source of business is on the horizon: Obamacare. And Obamacare is invested in pressuring smokers to quit by forcing them to pay more for healthcare.”

The Wall Street Journal:On Eve of Winter Games, Worries About Sochi Mount –”Athletes and others arriving in Sochi encountered what appears to be a strong security presence. As of late Wednesday no incidents had occurred. But hanging over these Games is a threat from terrorists. On Wednesday it emerged that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has warned airlines sending flights to Russia to look out for explosives hidden inside toothpaste tubes.”

 Bloomberg: Twitter’s Loss Exceeds Estimates as User Growth Slows –”There were 241 million monthly active users in the fourth quarter, Twitter said in a statement today, up 30 percent from 185 million a year earlier and slower than 39 percent seen in the prior period. Usage also declined, with 148 billion views of Twitter timelines compared with 159 billion views in the third quarter. Net loss was $511.5 million compared with $8.7 million a year earlier, and was more than double analysts’ projections of $253.5 million.”

February 04 2014

08:41

‘Emerging Markets’ Take A Hit

“Emerging markets” around the world — Turkey, Argentina, South Africa, more – were supposed to be the next big wave of economic energy. Now, they’re in trouble. We’ll ask why.

The going rate of U.S. dollars and euros is displayed outside a foreign exchange business in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. The Argentine government announced Friday Jan. 24, it was relaxing restrictions on the purchase of U.S. dollars. The measure would start taking effect Monday, allowing Argentines to buy dollars for personal savings, reversing a 2012 restriction. (AP)

The going rate of U.S. dollars and euros is displayed outside a foreign exchange business in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. The Argentine government announced Friday Jan. 24, it was relaxing restrictions on the purchase of U.S. dollars. The measure would start taking effect Monday, allowing Argentines to buy dollars for personal savings, reversing a 2012 restriction. (AP)

Guests

Mike Regan, editor-at-large for Bloomberg News. (@Reganonymous)

Scheherazade Rehman, professor of international business, finance and international affairs at George Washington University. (@Prof_Rehman)

Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group. Author of “Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers In a G-Zero World.” (@ianbremmer)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Economist: China loses its allure –”For the past three decades, multinationals have poured in. After the financial crisis, many companies looked to China for salvation. Now it looks as though the gold rush may be over.”

Wall Street Journal: Gobal Companies Address Latin American Risk — “Drooping currencies in Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela have reduced the value of sales there in dollar terms, while inflation has made it hard for many consumers to afford much beyond necessities. Argentina’s heavy government spending and a loose money policy have fueled inflation estimated at more than 25% a year. In Venezuela, inflation is running at more than 50%, and price controls are creating shortages.”

Reuters: Weak U.S. data sends dollar, equities lower — “Emerging market stocks extended a two-week selloff as weak Chinese manufacturing and services data weighed, while the Turkish lira and South African rand weakened after policymakers poured cold water on expectations of higher local interest rates.”

January 31 2014

08:41

Week In The News: Southern Freeze, State Of The Union, So Long Bernanke

A southern deep freeze. State of the Union. Bye, bye, Ben Bernanke. Our weekly news roundtable goes beyond the headlines.

In this aerial view looking at I-75 north at Mt. Paran Rd., abandoned cars are piled up on the median of the ice-covered interstate after a winter snow storm Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Atlanta. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said early Wednesday that the National Guard was sending military Humvees onto Atlanta's snarled freeway system in an attempt to move stranded school buses and get food and water to people. Georgia State Patrol troopers headed to schools where children were hunkered down early Wednesday after spending the night there, and transportation crews continued to treat roads and bring gas to motorists, Deal said. (AP)

In this aerial view looking at I-75 north at Mt. Paran Rd., abandoned cars are piled up on the median of the ice-covered interstate after a winter snow storm Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Atlanta. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said early Wednesday that the National Guard was sending military Humvees onto Atlanta’s snarled freeway system in an attempt to move stranded school buses and get food and water to people.  (AP)

Guests

David Wessel, director, Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution. Contributing correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.  (@davidmwessel)

Kelly O’Donnell, Congressional correspondent for NBC News. (@KellyO)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Interstate-clearing focus turns over 2,000 abandoned cars — “More than 2,000 cars still left abandoned on metro Atlanta interstates as of Wednesday evening, and with road conditions now passable city-wide, state officials were turning their focus Thursday to getting those cars safely off the roads.”

Reuters: Households, trade keep U.S. economy humming in fourth quarter – “Gross domestic product grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the final three months of last year, the Commerce Department said on Thursday, in line with economists’ expectations. While that was a slowdown from the third-quarter’s brisk 4.1 percent pace, it was a far stronger performance than had been anticipated earlier in the quarter and welcome news in light of some drag from October’s partial government shutdown.”

The Economist: Praying for peace — “Only  a few weeks ago the dismissal of the Ukrainian government by President Viktor Yanukovych and his offer to appoint an opposition leader as the country’s new prime minister would have had an electric effect. It would have been cheered by protesters on Kiev’s Independence Square (the Maidan) as an important victory. It might even have persuaded them to unblock the roads in the capital. Not any more. On January 28th Mr Yanukovych at last surrendered Nikolai Azarov, a long-serving but ineffectual prime minister. But that was met with a shrug of the shoulders by those manning the barricades in Kiev. “

January 30 2014

10:42

The Next Trade Frontier

President Obama is pushing for two big new trade deals – in the Pacific, with Europe. Democrats are resisting. We’ll dig in.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second right, speaks with his country's Trade Representative Michael Froman, as New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, second left, speaks with his Trade Minister Tim Groser, left, at the Trans-Pacific Partnership meet in Bali, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013. Leaders of the dozen countries involved in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership met in Bali after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to work on plans for a free trade area they hope will eventually encompass the entire region. (AP)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second right, speaks with his country’s Trade Representative Michael Froman, as New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, second left, speaks with his Trade Minister Tim Groser, left, at the Trans-Pacific Partnership meet in Bali, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013. Leaders of the dozen countries involved in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership met in Bali after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to work on plans for a free trade area they hope will eventually encompass the entire region. (AP)

Guests

William Mauldin, international economics and trade correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. (@willmauldin)

Jim Kolbe, senior transatlantic fellow for the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Former 11-term Congressman (R-Arizona). Strategic consultant to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy Research. (@markweisbrot)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Guardian: NAFTA: 20 years of regret for Mexico — “Our neglected infrastructure aside, it is easy to see that NAFTA was a bad deal for most Americans. The promised trade surpluses with Mexico turned out to be deficits, some hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost, and there was downward pressure on US wages – which was, after all, the purpose of the agreement. This was not like the European Union’s (pre-Eurozone) economic integration, which allocated hundreds of billions of dollars of development aid to the poorer countries of Europe so as to pull their living standards up toward the average. ”

Washington Post: In Davos, nations vow to extend global trade deal — “WTO Director-General Robert Azevedo said negotiating process must be transparent and inclusive, so every member can have a voice and participate, but that ‘the do-ability test is very important” in working toward an expanded free-trade deal that balances “ambition and realism.’ The Bali deal could boost global trade by $1 trillion over time, and its centerpiece was an agreement on measures to ease barriers to trade by simplifying customs procedures and making them more transparent.”

Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers Unveil ‘Fast Track’ Bill for Trade Agreements — “Under the fast-track procedure, known formally as ‘trade promotion authority,’ Congress agrees to approve trade deals with an up-or-down vote, without amending them or slowing them down with procedural tactics. But the measure is shaping up as a hard sell on Capitol Hill, and even groups that support it say they don’t expect it to advance without a fight. Labor groups and some environmental organizations oppose it, and a number of Democrats are unhappy that the currency language is nonbinding, meaning negotiators will press countries to comply but can fall short of the goal.”

January 29 2014

06:42

State Of The Union And The State Of The Obama Presidency

We’ll dive into President Obama’s State of the Union Address. Analysis — and where the President stands — with Riehan Salam, Kristen Welker and Amy Davidson.

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union Address in front of the joint session of the U.S. Congress on Jan. 28, 2014. (AP)

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union Address in front of the joint session of the U.S. Congress on Jan. 28, 2014. (AP)

Guests

Amy Davidson, senior editor at The New Yorker. (@tnycloseread)

Reihan Salam, writer for National Review and Reuters Opinion. Co-author of “Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.” (@reihan)

Kristen Welker, NBC News White House correspondent. (@kwelkerNBC)

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal: Obama to Press for ‘Year of Action’ – “The speech repackages many of the policy proposals Mr. Obama has so far failed to achieve, including infrastructure projects, early childhood education programs and plans for making college more affordable. He’s also renewing calls on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, covering all U.S. workers, and pass an overhaul of the immigration system.”

New York Times: Obama Taking Up Economic Issues on His Authority – “Promising ‘a year of action’ as he tries to rejuvenate a presidency mired in low approval ratings and stymied by partisan stalemates, Mr. Obama used his annual State of the Union address to chart a new path forward relying on his own executive authority. But the defiant, go-it-alone approach was more assertive than any of the individual policies he advanced.”

Washington Post: Obama prepared to avoid Congress, go it alone on carrying out modest initiatives – “For the first time since taking office, Obama spoke to Congress on Tuesday evening from a clear position of confrontation. The areas he identified for possible cooperation with a divided Congress have shrunk, leaving an agenda filled out by a growing number of modest initiatives that he intends to carry out alone.”

January 24 2014

10:49

RD Extra: Debate – Is Belief in God Irrational? Chris Hallquist vs. Randal Rauser » Reasonable Doubts

I finally had the chance to listen to the debate and decided to contribute my 2 cents. I have not yet read other people’s comments so I’m sorry if I’m repeating anything. First, as a theist, I found this debate just as frustrating to listen to as every other similar debate I’ve ever heard. Both presenters spoke past each other and I cannot say there was any significant contribution to the overall understanding of the issues. Instead of bouncing around from point to point, they would have done much better to choose one argument and dissect it into its essential elements and hopefully provide a little more insight into whether or not the argument is valid.  Re: The Evil God Argument This argument can actually be flipped around like so: - lets say for whatever reason we agree that a god who is partly good and partly bad is the most likely type of god to create a partly good and partly bad world. - can we nonetheless conceive of a scenario wherein an evil god would create a partly good, partly evil world? Sure. A sadistic god might create a partly good world so that when evil happens it is perceived as that much more painful as it can now be contrasted with the good. - but if we can conceive of a scenario where an evil god would create a partly good world, couldn’t there also be reasons why a good god would create a partly bad world? Not sure if there is much value to this argument but neither did I see much value to the original argument. Re: The Problem Of Evil The atheist presenter made the claim that every attempt to resolve the problem of evil, including the Free Will defense has failed. I would have really liked to see him explain how exactly that defense has failed. Instead he mentioned Plantiga, a contemporary, as if he is either the originator of that defense or the one who best articulates it when in fact the free will defense has been around for millennia and Plantiga’s version was only meant to have a limited application and was never intended to address the kinds of questions he is asking.  He then gave an example of how that defense fails by stating that if HE was in god’s shoes he would definitely have stopped the rapist from hurting the little girl regardless of whether that interfered with his free will or not. But that has nothing to do with how the Free Will defense was intended to work.  So I’m going to give a brief description of the free-will argument as it has been traditionally used in Christian theology and maybe someone here can explain to me what part of this is irrational or in what sense this defense fails. In order to do this in as short a space as possible I will ignore some of the variables that are normally addressed when making this point and focus instead on the core of the argument. Let’s say we have 10 individuals that were created with free will. An immediate problem the creator is faced with is the possibility that one or more of these individuals will choose to exercise his/their free will in a way that harms or otherwise obstructs the freedom of the others.  So the first measure a creator might take is to set up a set of rules detailing the rights and obligations of each created individual.  The next step however would need to be an education process explaining exactly why these rules are of benefit to one and all, since simply legislating behavior only goes so far.  But now what if in spite of these measures, 5 of the 10 created beings decide that the creator is overreacting with his restrictions and choose to no longer adhere to them. What should the creator do in this situation? The first option the creator has is to try to resolve the situation immediately and restore order. But, since reasoning with them has obviously already failed, he would probably need to resort to more forceful measures. And this could mean several things: - some might actually become emboldened by these measures and refuse to turn back no matter what.  - others might give in but obey only out of fear of punishment leading to a miserable existence of unwilling servitude.  - there is a good chance that some time later even these will decide to go back and do it all over again.  - the other 5 who had previously remained obedient will likely begin to obey out of fear as well and might even start to side with the defiant.  The other option the creator has is to separate the disobedient from the other five and to then just let things play out for some time. This would allow them to experience the consequences of their own actions and to better understand why the rules were in place to begin with. Allowing things to go on will inevitably lead to suffering and, while the creator could intervene and prevent that suffering, doing so would defeat the purpose since the full effect of disobedience would never be fully understood.  In the end, - it will become very clear to everyone which is the better way of life.  - the purpose of the rules and the intentions of the creator would be understood through experience. - those who choose to turn back to the creator will now submit to his code of conduct willingly.  - if anyone chooses to persist in disobedience even still, they will no longer have the sympathy of the others.  - most importantly, this problem will not occur again a second time since everyone now understands why it is a bad idea.  So there’s quite a bit more to the Free Will Defense than just that the creator allows people to suffer because he doesn’t want to interfere with anyone’s free will.  Now I am fully aware that there are significant differences between my scenario and the situation our world is in. For example, the five year old girl did not choose to disobey so why does she have to suffer? But, while addressing those differences IS essential, it will not make the above response any more rational if it happens to be irrational as is. And, if the above response IS rational, at least we could all agree that there are situations where an omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent god COULD rationally allow suffering to exist. http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts/2014/01/18/rd-extra-debate-is-belief-in-god-irrational-chris-hallquist-vs-randal-rauser/
07:30

Week In The News: Syrian Peace Talks, Olympic Terror Threats, Obama On Pot

Syria peace talks. The President on pot. A hunt for black widows in Sochi. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Haitham al-Maleh, senior member of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), Syria's main political opposition group, sits alone at the opposition table during the first day of the Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. The Syrian peace talks begin with a bitter clash over President Bashar Assad's future. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Assad's decision to meet peaceful dissent with brutal force had robbed him of all legitimacy, while Assad's foreign minister declared that no one outside Syria had the right to remove the government. (AP)

Haitham al-Maleh, senior member of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), Syria’s main political opposition group, sits alone at the opposition table during the first day of the Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. The Syrian peace talks begin with a bitter clash over President Bashar Assad’s future. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Assad’s decision to meet peaceful dissent with brutal force had robbed him of all legitimacy, while Assad’s foreign minister declared that no one outside Syria had the right to remove the government. (AP)

Guests

Stephanie Grace, columnist for The Advocate in New Orleans. (@stephgracenola)

Michael Hirsh, chief correspondent for The National Journal. (@MichaelPHirsh)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

BBC News: Syria Geneva II: UN to hold talks with rival groups – “If all goes well, the hope seems to be that the big political questions which they cannot agree on will be sidestepped, our correspondent says. Instead concrete steps such as local truces and access for aid convoys in Syria will be discussed. But with the lack of trust on either side, even that may collapse into disagreements.”

The Guardian: Rouhani to take center stage at Davos economic forum — “Officials have played down the chances of a meeting between the pair but stranger things have happened in the cushy corridors of Davos, where world leaders mingle freely with celebrities, CEOs and ministers in a more relaxed atmosphere than usual summits. Rouhani announced on Twitter that he was to have bilateral meetings with officials from other countries.”

NBC News: Sochi Olympics terrorism threat: Two more ‘black widow’ suspects identified — “Russian security officials are hunting for two more young Muslim women — so-called “black widow” terror suspects — who they believe are planning to target the final stages of the Olympic torch relay with suicide bomb attacks. Wanted posters distributed by police say that the women have been dispatched by underground groups to attack between Tuesday and Thursday in Rostov-on-Don, where the torch is expected to arrive Wednesday on its way to the Olympic city of Sochi.”

January 20 2014

07:10

More Iran Sanctions: Leverage, Or ‘A Path To War’?

As a new nuclear deal goes into effect with Iran, a growing number of US Senators call for still tougher sanctions. The White House says that’s the path to war.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, center, arrives at the 27th International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. (AP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, center, arrives at the 27th International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. (AP)

Guests

Robin Wright, journalist and author, distinguished scholar at the United States Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center. Author of “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World,” “The Iran Primer: Power Politics and U.S. Policy” and “The Islamists are Coming: Who They Really Are.” (@wrightr)

Peter Beinart, contributing editor at The Atlantic and The National Journal. Associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York. Author of “The Crisis Of Zionism,” “The Good Fight: Why Liberals — And Only Liberals — Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again” and “The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris.” (@PeterBeinart)

Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Co-chair of the project on U.S. Middle east Non-Proliferation Strategy. Co-author of nine studies on economic sanctions against Iran. (@dubo1968)

From Tom’s Reading List

TIME: A New Beginning In Tehran — “Since President Hassan Rouhani’s upset victory in last summer’s election, Iran has been consumed with a strategic recalibration. The signing of the short-term nuclear deal in November, which diplomats will spend the next six months trying to turn into an enduring pact, generated tangible change in Iran’s relations with the world. And among ordinary Iranians, it’s no longer off-limits to talk openly about eventual reconciliation with a country long known as the Great Satan.”

Haaretz: U.S. Senate sanctions bill is all about torpedoing a nuclear deal with Iran — “Even if a reasonable time frame were specified, there’s a bigger problem. By insisting that Obama certify an end to Iranian missile tests and support for terrorism, Menendez and company are insisting that a final deal cover subjects it was never meant to cover. The interim agreement makes clear that the sole goal of current negotiations is to “ensure [that] Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.”

Wall Street Journal: A Bad Agreement Likely to Get Worse — “In the absence of verifiable Iranian commitments not to proceed with nuclear-weapon and ballistic-missile research, there is nothing to stop Iran from having a designed bomb and ballistic missile ready to go. Once Iran completes a dash to weapons-grade uranium, it can insert the warhead and quickly have a deliverable nuclear weapon.”

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