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    The United Kingdom on Digital Advertising

    Day by day, digital marketing is increasingly seen as invasive of users’ personal data, rightly or wrongly. Take for example the leaked video titled “The Selfish Ledger,” a disturbing glimpse into the near-future of the intuitive technologies. Whether it is reality or not belies the concerns raised.

    Arguably, digital technology can deliver content users are inclined to consume with targeted ads. From the marketplace perspective, this is a very efficient way to deliver ads of interest and not random pitches. But it also raises concerns about how deeply the technology can dip into personal data and whether consumers are informed about what they are sharing. Beyond blind consumerism, it is argued that analytic tools can be used to determine how you respond to an item and even influence the pages and posts you are exposed to in your web browsing.

    The United Kingdom’s Competitions and Marketing Authority (CMA) has now expressed its concern in a very direct fashion.

    Beginning July 3rd, the CMA launched an investigation into the alleged harm digital advertising has on consumers. More specifically, the purpose of its investigation is to see how much control consumers have over their personal data, and if these activities are anticompetitive in a free market

    An invitation was extended to those concerned with the issue to submit comments. The window for commentary closed July 30th, and the investigation is well underway. From now until January 2nd, 2020, the CMA will be collecting data on digital advertising practices across the UK. After a report outlining their findings is published, the CMA has until July 22nd of 2020 to determine whether or not further action needs to be taken. What that action, if any, might be is unknow, and speculation is a fool’s errand.

    You can find the initial report here.

    This begs some questions. Depending upon the CMA’s findings, could we be at yet another crossroads where control further shifts to consumers? If so, is that shift truly beneficial to consumers in a free market? What will that mean to the lure digital platforms offer advertisers? Only time will tell.

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    What Should We Do About Putin and Russia?

    As the world stood by, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukrainian rule. Sanctions failed. Worse, Europe refused to stand firm by our side. So we cannot blame failure solely on the Obama administration—it was the world’s failure.

    We cannot trust Putin.  But everyone knows that.  That’s old news.  He is squarely in control of Russia and one of the longest-sitting heads of state in the free world.  Most other key leaders in Europe are, by comparison, new kids on the block.  And unlike the U.S., Europe not only doesn’t trust him, they’re afraid of him.

    There are many issues separating us from Russia—Crimea, the Middle East, Russia’s aid to ISIS, human rights, gas rationing to Europe, arms control, and meddling in our elections, being just a few. This is complicated by a growing alliance between Russia and China where the two have obvious objectives to harness as much of the world’s energy supply as possible. While that doesn’t pose a direct threat to the U.S., it is a serious problem for Europe because of its dependence on Russian gas supplies and Middle Eastern oil.  Hence their fear.

    So what should we do about Putin and Russia?  With partisan politics poisoning Washington, we can conclude that Congress has no clue.   And with the Justice Department more interested in indicting people who will never see a trial since they’ll never come here nor be extradited, Mr. Mueller and his crew have no idea what to do about the bigger picture.  Meanwhile, President Trump seems to waffle with inconsistencies between his words and his actions only adding to the confusion.  But at least he’s pushing sanctions. Meanwhile, our lack of a united front addressing Russia only plays into Putin’s hands.  Who is the fool in that game?  When will Washington stop the insanity among its partisan politicians and get back to leading this country?

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    Should the US Meet with North Korea?

    The return of three detained Americans from North Korea was indeed an opportunity to celebrate. As the countdown begins for a meeting with the U.S. President and Kim Jong Un, this gesture seems like a nod in our favor. But, we need to take care not to get ahead of ourselves.

    The infamous Trojan Horse was a gift filled with soldiers who, once the gate was down, stormed the city. Are the detainees a modern-day version of the same? Or should we look upon the symbolic walk between the South and North Korean borders by the leaders of these countries as the end to the Korean War? Will North Korea cease trying to create and stockpile nuclear weapons?

    These are difficult questions and most government officials must be thinking the same things. In addition, we know that the North Korean people are starving and rumors of crimes against humanity are circling about. Given its history, the United States will have a hard time making a deal with a country that is letting its population suffer in the name of global dominance. As simple as the news media portray this “historic” meeting between two nations, people with experience in government at high levels know there are many layers to the discussion.

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    North Korea: Providing Chemical Weapons to Syria

    There are no evil countries. There are evil leaders. President Bush was right in 2001 when he described Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the Axis of Evil. While there is a fractioned peace in Iraq thanks to the blood of thousands of Americans, Iran and North Korea continue rhetoric threatening our security and the security of our allies.

    According to the BBC, the United Nations announced that North Korea has been providing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad the materials for chemical weapons likely in exchange for money that can help fund North Korea’s nuclear weaponry program. Allegedly some of these trades have been sent through a Chinese trading firm.

    These are chemical weapons that are not only banned, but that Syria has used as an attack towards its own citizens—time and time again.

    North Korea relies on China for most of its imports. We must leverage our relationships with other countries working with North Korea that unless they stop supporting this rogue nation they will lose our support as well. With support from China, the US can sanction global banks that work with North Korea and inhibit its money supply.  But will China cooperate?

    The United States and other global leaders need to stop a failed foreign policy that pacifies and placates. It is time to devise practical solutions that will force North Korea to change what it is doing. Without serious consequences, the country will not bend.  And without China, the solutions are difficult.  Let’s hope China wakes up and starts acting like a responsible global power.

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    What Should We Do About North Korea?

    The Korean War never officially ended, and North Korea has loomed large as a potential problem. For over fifty years, the older generations have favored diplomatic solutions to their disputes over war and aggression. With a new and less experienced leader, North Korea has taken center stage and airtime, overshadowing other pressing issues like Iran, Syria, and Isis. By testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and with an angry rhetoric that would reap death and destruction were it carried out, Kim Jong-un clearly needs a reality check.

    The “how” is not to be found in a war of words between leaders. As a global superpower, the United States has many more tools in its arsenal, and it’s time to be creative and use them. One of the most effective assets we have is our consumerism and the trade agreements we have with the few countries that do business with North Korea.

    The biggest player in the import/export business is China, and if the U.S. made a “trade” with China whereby China imposes sanctions on North Korea in exchange for concessions from us, North Korea would be in serious trouble. It relies on China for most of its imports. We could also cease our relationships with any of the other countries working with North Korea unless they stop supporting the rogue nation. With support from China we could also sanction the global banks and inhibit North Korea’s money supply, which they need to fund a nuclear program, among other things.

    It’s time to devise practical solutions that will force North Korea to change what it is doing. Without serious consequences, the country will not bend. Crippling their economy on all sides is the less damaging way to come to terms, and it is of utmost importance that we put our energies into this kind of effort, not war.

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    Women’s Rights, Foreign Aid, and Meaningful Reform

    In some societies, women can be owned, bought, sold, traded, and collected as if they were commodities. Women are sold into slavery, stoned to death for merely expressing what they felt in their hearts, and raped without consequence to the attacker.

    This is happening every day in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. It is the real war on women, and it’s been going on for far too long. America has condemned such beliefs, and none of us—Democrats or Republicans—condone such behavior. In fact, we condemn it.

    Yet it continues.

    Our solution so far has been unsuccessful: throw money and governments and organizations. That has become America’s way to solve complicated problems. It has not, and will not, work. We need to take a deeper look and try to understand why we have such difficulty finding solutions. If that means considering some hard choices that include withdrawing support from regimes denying women their equal rights, then we need to make those choices.

    This violence must end. I will not support a government full of hypocrites. Our foreign aid support must be coupled with meaningful reform.

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    Interrogation Methods: Should We Use Waterboarding Against Terrorists?

    “[T]he law — has long been clear: Waterboarding detainees amounts to illegal torture in all circumstances. To suggest otherwise — or even to give credence to such a suggestion — represents both an affront to the law and to the core values of our nation.”

    Letter to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, November 2, 2007 from Rear Admiral Donald J. Guter, United States Navy (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Navy, 2000–02, Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, United States Navy (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Navy, 1997–2000, Major General John L. Fugh, United States Army (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Army, 1991–93, and Brigadier General David M. Brahms, United States Marine Corps (Ret.) Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant, 1985–88

    Waterboarding, mock executions, introducing hypothermia, and other forms of torture are forms of interrogation that are not within the federal guidelines for interrogating witnesses. But are these interrogation methods ones that the United States should consider using for terrorist detainees?

    As much as conventional politics may demand I consider these measures, I believe that they are barbaric and counterproductive in the same way that I cannot support the death penalty. It is also abundantly clear that those in the military who oversee proper policy on detained prisoners agree that waterboarding is illegal.

    That’s enough for me to conclude that, until someone gives me concrete evidence that such techniques like waterboarding work, I will not consider approving them. And even if such evidence were presented to me, I’m not at all certain I’d agree to allow them unless experts like the Generals and Admirals who wrote to Sen. Leahy in 2007 agree.

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    America: Still the Beacon of Freedom?

    Throughout the world, America is seen as the beacon of freedom.

    We should not shrink from our role to protect that beacon whenever and wherever it is challenged, or our national security is at risk.

    After suffering eight years with a Democrat in the White House, our image and honor around the world doesn’t seem to be getting much better than when President Barack Obama took office and systematically dismantled our image over the eight years of his administration. This country cannot afford four more years of a failed foreign policy that pacifies and placates. We need strong leadership the world will respect—and who will protect the American people.  If President Trump can bring that to his administration, the beacon of freedom will continue to shine.  If not, there’s no telling what will be left of this great nation.

    Where “America First” fits in to all of this is uncertain.  Of course we need to address our domestic problems and the unfair global marketplace that is costing Americans jobs.  But we must also be cautious of isolationism.  Historians will remind us that isolationism was a major reason the world was unprepared for the World Wars of the last century.

    As President John F. Kennedy promised, “America is unwilling to witness or permit the undoing of human rights, and we will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, and oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

    America will never be true to those words if it shirks its global leadership by asking permission from others to keep the beacon of liberty brightly shining.

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    Be Thankful for Our Freedoms. Pray for Paris. Demand More from Your Leaders.

    As Thanksgiving nears and we witness the horrors of the Paris attacks, Americans are once again reminded to be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy. But we must also remember those freedoms are only protected by vigilant law enforcement, strong national defense, and an aware citizenry. We all mourn with our allies in France. We all agree that we cannot allow society to become victimized by Islamic extremist barbarians like those who murdered innocent people in France under a misguided belief that their God condones such atrocities. Say what you will about any religion, but none, including Islam and the Quran, justify such cowardly acts. If not stopped they will continue and expand into other countries, including America.

    The reaction of politicians has been all too predictable.

    President Obama, in remarks on Friday, said, “We’re going to do whatever it takes to work with the French people and with nations around the world to bring these terrorists to justice, and to go after any terrorist networks that go after our people.” I guess we’ll continue to wait, as we always seem to do, to hear what the president has in mind and what strategy, if any, he will deploy. If it’s placing another 50 advisors into Syria, that is far too little, far too late. Hillary Clinton had little more to add. While her heartfelt sympathy for Parisians is sincere, former Secretary Clinton also failed to express any plan of attack.

    Using an odd analogy, Ben Carson commented that allowing Syrian refugees into the United States is akin to medical malpractice and opined that withdrawing from Iraq after the Gulf War created the vacuum that allowed ISIS to grow. Other candidates conveyed condolences for the losses endured by the French. But some went further, weighing in on Twitter. Ted Cruz tweeted, “We must make it clear that affiliation w/ ISIS & related terrorist groups brings w/ it the undying enmity of America.”

    Not surprisingly, Donald Trump was less diplomatic, tweeting, “President Obama said ISIL continues to shrink in an interview just hours before the horrible attack in Paris. He is just so bad! CHANGE.” and “We need much tougher, much smarter leadership – and we need it NOW!” Even Newt Gingrich chimed in with a tweet, “Imagine a theater with 10 or 15 citizens with concealed carry permits. We live in an age when evil men have to be killed by good people.”

    Not a single politician with a plan. And no doubt as the days pass, we’ll hear more rhetoric from presidential wannabes. The Democrats will criticize the Republicans and the Republicans will criticize President Obama. It will be more of what we’re all tired of hearing.

    Now is not the time for politics and rhetoric. It is a time for decisive leadership. We need to seriously consider an alliance with all other threatened nations, including Russia, to eradicate the ISIS cancer. If that means boots on the ground, so be it. We need to make it clear that we will not stand by while Middle East leaders fail to lend adequate support to the solution, including ending our financial aid if they continue on the sidelines. The leadership of the Muslim community must speak out more forcibly and encourage every Muslim worldwide to cooperate and identify those who mean us harm. We need to strike at the sources of ISIS finances and weapons, even if that means destroying oil wells ISIS controls. We and our allies need to seize, not just freeze, the assets of any financial institution that harbors terrorist funds. Arms dealers need to be held responsible. We know who they are and where they operate. Shut them down. And as regrettable as it may be, we need to think hard before we fight enemies that pose little threat to our heartland. Enemies like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. As diabolical as Assad is and as antithetical he may be to our beliefs, his regime poses no credible threat to the United States.

    ISIS is the one enemy that every right-thinking person─including Americans, French, and Russians─agrees must be annihilated.

    President Obama is in Turkey at the G-20 after which he goes to Paris for a summit on climate change. While economic issues on the agenda in Turkey and climate change discussions in Paris are important, they pale in comparison to the ISIS threat. Let us pray that President Obama uses those meetings as an opportunity to build a true coalition and stop being the paper tiger ISIS seems to believe we and our allies are.

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    Iraq – Will Democracy Fall as President Obama Does Too Little?

    Advances by ISIS  in Iraq go on unthwarted with few victories by the Iraqies.  ISIS is within a few miles of Baghdad.  The latest reports  are alarming.  Even al-Qaeda wants nothing to do with these barbarians.  President Obama’s solution?  Military advisors and troops to guard U.S. interests.  Three hundred in harm’s way to face down ISIS.  And now millions in spending to help Syrian rebels who have been “vetted” for appropriate loyalties.  Another example of leadership at its worst and more embarassment for America.  It’s time for decisive action.  Air strikes and drones.  The President justifed using drones on Americans overseas accused of terrorisim.  Why not ISIS?  And Secretary Clinton?  She says, “I could not have predicted, however, the extent to which ISIS could be effective in seizing cities in Iraq and trying to erase boundaries to create an Islamic state. That’s why it’s a wicked problem.”  Wicked?  Really, Mrs. Clinton?  Washington needs to wake up.

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