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Venezuela Is on the Verge of a Massive Humanitarian and Economic Collapse. the Culprit? Socialism.

August 13, 2018 in Economics

By Juan Carlos Hidalgo

Juan Carlos Hidalgo

The recent and bizarre alleged assassination attempt on
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, complete with exploding armed
drones, remains mostly a mystery. Regardless of who perpetrated it
or why, however, the controversy is already allegedly being used by the regime
to persecute political enemies and distract from the serious
economic crisis besieging that country.

Despite constant condemnation from outside observers, the
situation in Venezuela continues to worsen. A top U.N. official
recently warned that the country is on the
verge of turning into “an absolute disaster in unprecedented
proportions for the Western Hemisphere.”

What was once Latin America’s richest nation, is now
sending hordes of refugees into neighboring countries. Since 2016,
nearly two million people have fled the country. Those unfortunate
enough to stay are facing life-threatening shortages of food and
medicine, one of the highest murder rates in the world
and an annual inflation rate that now sits above 40,000 percent.

The seeds of this crisis
were planted in 1999, but the chaos has flourished under President
Nicolas Maduro and his incompetent, corrupt ideologues.

A national survey in 2017 found that 87 percent of families live
below the poverty line. Nearly two-thirds of Venezuelans reported
losing an average of 25 pounds in the previous year —
some have called it the “Maduro
diet.”
The Pharmaceutical Federation estimates that
80 percent of drugs are not available in
drugstores. There are outbreaks of diseases that had been
eradicated or were under control, such as diphtheria, measles and
malaria.

Maduro has reacted to the collapse of the economy by
consolidating the dictatorship, intensifying human rights abuses (including
torture)
and further cracking down on the private sector. He
claims that his regime is the victim of an “economic war”
waged by the opposition and the United States. The reality is that
this man-made tragedy has a well-known culprit: socialism.

The seeds of this crisis were planted in 1999, when the late
President Hugo Chavez came to power. He soon went about rebranding
his nationalist Bolivarian revolution, proclaiming it 21st-century socialism. Chavez
dramatically increased the size of the government payroll and the
reach of social programs. In fairness, patronage had been a common
practice in Venezuela for decades. However, buoyed by more than
$1 trillion in oil revenues during his time in
office
, Chavez took that practice to unprecedented levels.
These social policies earned him popularity at home and plaudits
from abroad — including
from Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz
— even though they
were financially unsustainable. Today, an estimated 60 percent …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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California Senate Bill 1421 Helps Hold Bad Cops Accountable

August 11, 2018 in Economics

By Jonathan Blanks

Jonathan Blanks

Of all 50 states, California has enacted perhaps the most
stringent legislative barriers to police accountability. Not only
do state laws protect misconduct findings against officers from the
public, but the law also keeps that information out of the hands of
prosecutors who need to trust the police to ensure justice. A
prosecutor cannot put an officer on the witness stand that she
knows has a history of lying. But if that prosecutor cannot easily
get access to the officer’s disciplinary record, as California law
currently ensures, then she may be relying on bad police
information or, even worse, prosecuting an innocent person on the
word of a dishonest officer. As both a matter of principle and
practicality, the government should do its best to maintain the
honesty and integrity of its police officers.

For police to be effective in their job to protect and serve the
public, they require the trust of the communities they serve.
Without trust, witnesses will not cooperate and provide testimony
to bring criminal perpetrators to justice. Without witness
cooperation, perpetrator apprehension becomes less likely —
negating the greatest deterrent to committing crime — and
thus public safety suffers. When police are not held accountable
for their actions and misconduct against the community, then, the
public suffer twice: first, the community is damaged by the
misconduct itself and second, the community’s security is
compromised by the diminished trust that comes from misbehaving
police who remain on the streets.

Restoring community trust
in police and the justice system writ large will require more
transparency from departments and more accountability for those
officers who have abused their positions.

There is currently a bill before the California Legislature that
would ease the burden for the prosecutors and the public to know
whether the officers in their communities are trustworthy. SB1421
would require police departments to release information about,
inter alia, sustained findings of dishonesty in the course of
criminal cases and other instances of police misconduct. This bill
would also require police departments to release information about
serious uses of force, including officer-involved shootings, to
increase transparency.

Law-and-order conservatives can support SB1421 because it may
restore a level of legitimacy to criminal prosecutions. When
dishonest officers are found out after many years of misconduct,
hundreds or thousands of prosecutions in which they played a role
may be jeopardized because of their misdeeds. The criminal justice
system relies upon honest police officers and shielding the
dishonest among them, as California law currently does, undermines
the integrity and, ultimately, the final disposition of criminal
prosecutions.

Officers who honor the badge and have no history of lying or
other serious misconduct — which, in …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Congress Missed Its Chance to Strangle the Imperial Presidency in Its Cradle

August 11, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

There are growing bipartisan
concerns
and warnings about the unrestrained power of
presidents to take the republic into war. That worry has surfaced
most recently with respect to U.S. military involvement in Syria
and the looming danger of war with Iran. Both Barack Obama and
Donald Trump committed U.S. military personnel to Syria, ostensibly
to repel the terrorist threat that ISIS posed, but also to assist
other insurgent forces attempting to overthrow Syrian dictator
Bashar al-Assad. Obama and Trump did so without seeking (much less
obtaining) a declaration of war—or even a more limited
congressional authorization.

Those episodes are just the latest manifestations of what
historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. labeled the imperial presidency more than four decades ago.
Schlesinger worried that the ability of presidents to launch major
military ventures on their own had grown steadily during the Cold
War and had reached the point that it undermined the constitutional
system of checks and balances. Matters have grown considerably
worse since he expressed such concerns. Indeed, the reality of an
out-of-control presidency regarding decisions of war and peace may
well have reached the point where it cannot be reversed.

The emergence of an imperial presidency reflects both executive
usurpation of the constitutional war power and congressional
abdication of that power. The most crucial episode was Harry
Truman’s commitment of U.S. troops to the Korean War in the summer
of 1950. True, there had been earlier episodes of executive
military missions with little or no congressional approval,
especially interventions in Latin America during the first decades
of the twentieth century. But there had never been anything close
to the scale of the Korean War. Not only the two world wars, but
smaller conflicts such as the Spanish-American War and the War of
1812, were authorized as the Constitution required: with a formal
declaration of war. Yet Truman sent more than three hundred
thousand U.S. military personnel to the Korean battlefield to wage
a full-scale war that ultimately lasted more than three years and
resulted in some thirty-six thousand American fatalities without
even asking for such a declaration.

The rule of law and the
health of the republic suffered a severe blow when the eighty-first
Congress failed to fulfill its constitutional duty and impeach
Truman.

The flaccid congressional response to Truman’s violation
of the Constitution was an omen of how subsequent Congresses would
fail to defend the war power that the founders explicitly entrusted
to the legislative branch. Members of the eighty-first Congress had
an opportunity to strangle the imperial presidency in its cradle by
impeaching the president if he persisted. But at …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Yes, the Press Helps Start Wars

August 10, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Donald Trump has again stirred the wrath of his critics by
charging that the media can cause wars. His opponents immediately howled
that he’d launched another salvo in his ongoing campaign to
vilify journalists as the “enemy of the
people.” They also ridiculed his contention as factually
absurd. Fox News reporter Chris Wallace bluntly asked National Security Advisor John Bolton:
“What wars have we caused?” Princeton University
historian and CNN analyst Julian E. Zelizer epitomized the view
that Trump’s charge is unfounded with a piece in The
Atlantic
titled, “The Press Doesn’t Cause
Wars—Presidents Do.”

Zelizer and similar critics are technically correct, of course.
Media outlets have no power to launch attacks on foreign countries
or order U.S. troops into combat. But that view is much too narrow.
As Zelizer himself admits, the new media have considerable ability
to influence public opinion. Such a capacity to shape the overall
narrative is not a trivial power. An irresponsible press can, and
has, whipped up public sentiment in favor of military actions that
subsequent evidence indicated were unnecessary and even
immoral.

Two cases stand out: the Spanish-American War and the Iraq War.
Historians have long recognized that jingoistic “yellow
journalism,” epitomized by the newspaper chains owned by
William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, played a significant
role in the former conflict. Months before the outbreak of the war,
one of Hearst’s reporters wished to return home from Cuba
because there was no sign of a worsening crisis. Hearst instructed
him to stay, adding, “you furnish the pictures, and
I’ll furnish the war.”

History shows that a
jingoistic media can whip up support for hardline policies, as
Trump rightly pointed out.

Hearst’s boast was hyperbolic, but the Hearst and Pulitzer
papers did repeatedly hype the Spanish “threat” and
beat the drums for war against Madrid. They featured stories that
not only focused on but exaggerated the uglier features of
Madrid’s treatment of its colonial subjects in Cuba. Those
outlets also exploited the mysterious explosion that
destroyed the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana’s
harbor. To this day, the identity of the culprit is uncertain, but
the yellow press exhibited no doubts whatever. According to their
accounts, it was an outrageous attack on America by the villainous
Spanish regime.

Such journalistic pressure was not the only factor that impelled
William McKinley’s administration to push for a declaration
of war against Spain or for Congress to approve that declaration. A
rising generation of American imperialists wanted to emulate the
European great powers and build a colonial empire. That underlying
motive became evident when the first U.S. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Kids Are Safer When They're in Private Schools

August 9, 2018 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

Representatives from President Trump’s Federal Commission on
School Safety just met in Cheyenne, Wyo., for their third
public listening session aimed at reducing violence in schools. In
these meetings, people have called for arming teachers with guns, hiring more counselors, putting more officers on campuses, and throwing more
money at the issue. But none of these types of proposals address
the root of the school safety problem.

A just-released study by
Harvard University’s Dr. Dany Shakeel and I suggests that private
school vouchers could be tickets to safer schools.

A just-released study by Harvard University’s Dr.
Dany Shakeel and I suggests that private school vouchers could be
tickets to safer schools.

We employ nationally representative data from the Schools and Staffing Survey for the most recently
available (2011-12) school year. Using survey responses from school
principals across the nation, we find that safety problems are less
likely to occur at private schools than government schools. In
fact, we find that private schools have a statistically significant
advantage for each of the 13 discipline problems examined – even
after controlling for factors such as school size, school type,
enrollment, student-teacher ratio, percent of minority teachers,
percent of minority students, and urbanicity.

And the safety benefits of private schooling are large.

For example, as shown in the figure below, private schools are
about 8 percentage points less likely to have physical conflicts
among students and 12 percentage points less likely to have
students using illegal drugs than government schools. Moreover,
private schools are about 18 percentage points less likely to have
gang activities at school and 28 percentage points less likely to
have student possession of weapons than government schools.

But that’s not all. We also find that private schools are less
likely to restrict student liberties than government schools. After
controlling for student and school characteristics, we find that
private schools are about 6 percentage points less likely to
require students to pass through metal detectors each day, 20
percentage points less likely to search for drugs using random dog
sniffs, and 7 percentage points less likely to require students to
use clear backpacks. Obviously, the prison-like environment in
government schools doesn’t create a healthy school culture, which
could lead to less student learning and more discipline
problems.

And this new study isn’t the only evidence suggesting that
private school choice can lead to more safety for students in U.S.
schools. As I pointed out at the second public listening
session (in Lexington, Ky.) all four rigorous evaluations linking private
school choice …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Why America’s Allies Should Develop Nuclear Weapons

August 9, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Germans are losing their trust in America’s security guarantees.
Believing that U.S. troops would always defend Europe, Berlin has
allowed its military outlays and capabilities to wither. German
defense spending at present barely breaks 1 percent of GDP. With
only slight overstatement, political scientist Christian Hacke
recently said of the German military, “nothing flies, nothing
floats, and nothing runs.”

For years, Washington officials have whined about Europe’s and
especially Germany’s failure to take defense seriously. Yet the
U.S. also continued to spend money and deploy troops to “reassure”
its allies, giving them less incentive to do more.

Despite his tough rhetoric, in practice, President Donald
Trump’s policy has proven to be more of the same. He criticized
America’s defense commitments to Montenegro, yet allowed it to
enter NATO. At the latest alliance summit, his subordinates
advanced new subsidies for member states. This year the
administration is putting another $6.5 billion into the European
Deterrence Initiative, formerly called the European Reassurance
Initiative.

Nevertheless, the president’s crude hostility and
unpredictability have set him apart from his predecessors. Thus,
many Germans and other Europeans worry that he might walk away from
NATO.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been particularly vocal.
Last year she defiantly responded to President Trump’s criticism by
calling on Europeans to “take our fate into our own hands.” She
remains committed to bumping her country’s military outlays up to 2
percent of GDP, despite opposition from her coalition partners.

Proliferation is a good
thing if it means relieving some of America’s numerous security
guarantees.

Other Germans want to do even more. For instance, shortly after
Trump’s election, Roderich Kiesewetter, a member of the Bundestag
and former German general staff officer, suggested creating a
European military budget to expand the French and British nuclear
arsenals. Berthold Kohler, publisher of the influential
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, urged direct German
support.

Two weeks ago, the Welt am Sonntag ran an article by
Christian Hacke that argued Germany was no longer under America’s
nuclear umbrella and that “national defense on the basis of a
nuclear deterrent must be given priority in light of new
transatlantic uncertainties and potential confrontations.”
Criticism of his idea was fierce — a former intelligence
official denounced it as “reckless, foolish, and incendiary.”

U.S. commentators also dumped on Hacke’s proposal. Jim Townsend,
a one-time deputy defense secretary, argued: “Trump
notwithstanding, the U.S. nuclear guarantee is not going anywhere.”
That, of course, is the conventional wisdom inside the Blob, as the
Washington foreign policy establishment has been called, which also
believes that America must forever defend Europe, Asia, and the
Middle East; fix failed societies and sort out foreign civil wars
everywhere; and underwrite every authoritarian regime that claims
to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Ivanka, the Private Market Already Provides Paid Family Leave

August 8, 2018 in Economics

By Vanessa Brown Calder

Vanessa Brown Calder

Since her father’s inauguration, Ivanka Trump has
campaigned for federal paid family leave. A few weeks ago, Ivanka
was instrumental in organizing a Senate hearing to discuss her
government-supported paid family leave proposal. The
“Economic Security for New Parents Act” relies on Social Security to front parental
benefits
and was introduced in the Senate recently.

Previously, Ivanka tweeted her support for the proposal and
argued, “Only 15% of American workers have access to Paid
Family Leave, and of those, only 6% are low-income
workers.”

That is alarming if true, but abundant data paint a different
picture. The private market at-large is voluntarily providing paid
family leave to millions of workers, and the market is on-trend to
provide paid family leave to millions more in coming years.

For example, the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program
Participation and the National Survey of Working Mothers found more than 60 percent of employed mothers
have access to paid leave following the birth of a child. These
figures are about four-fold the amount of paid leave Ivanka claimed
parents are receiving today.

The private market
at-large is voluntarily providing paid family leave to millions of
workers, and the market is on-trend to provide paid family leave to
millions more in coming years.

SIPP data show that access to paid leave use has grown
substantially between 1961 and 2008, without government
intervention. The share of first-time mothers that report using
paid leave and/or disability grew from 16 to 61 percent over 50
years.

The only state that implemented a paid leave program during the
surveyed period was California, during the last year of the survey.
The vast majority of increases in the paid leave provision occurred
before California’s policy could have any impact. This suggests the
private market is responsive to employee demands after all.

Meanwhile, over the same time period, working mothers’
commitment to work grew naturally. The share of first-time mothers
quitting jobs declined significantly in previous decades, from over
60 percent in 1961 to just over 20 percent in 2008.

There is reason to think private paid leave continued growing
following the Census Bureau’s last survey. For example, in the last
three years, 100 name-brand companies created or expanded paid family leave policies.
Since late 2017 alone, companies such as Walmart, Walgreens, Home
Depot, Target, Starbucks, Amazon, FedEx and McDonald’s created or
expanded paid leave programs that apply to low-wage and hourly
workers.

Although data and news stories demonstrate that the private
market continues to improve its paid leave offerings, policymakers
still want to intervene with a government-provided option.
Advocates seem to think government-supported …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Ending the Korean War Is in the National Interest

August 7, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

It has been decades since bombs fell and bullets flew on the
Korean peninsula. Yet the United States, China, North Korea, and
South Korea still technically are at war. The Korean War ended in
an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The time is long overdue for the “combatants” to
declare a state of peace.

Until now formally ending the war might have seemed premature.
North Korea launched routine rhetorical fulminations and occasional
violent attacks over the years. The North’s conventional
forces were essentially spring-loaded just north of the
Demilitarized Zone, ready to resume combat. Furthermore, despite
Pyongyang’s sometimes pacific protestations, it didn’t
seem like the North Korean leadership actually wanted peace.

Everything changed this year. Although the Trump-Kim summit was
the highlight, there was much more. Kim’s three meetings with
China’s Xi Jinping suggest that the Democratic People’s Republic of
Korea has moved closer to Beijing’s position, which for years
emphasized stability and peace.

Kim met twice with the Republic of Korea’s Moon Jae-in and the
second visit was arranged overnight. South Korean diplomats report
that the DPRK’s Supreme Leader treated Moon, his elder, with
traditional Asian deference. Kim rules with a lethal hand but is
deftly playing the game of international statesman.

A peace treaty will do
more to change Pyongyang’s behavior than a return to a cycle of
escalation.

Indeed, Kim apparently has been invited to Moscow to meet
Vladimir Putin, and there is even talk of a summit with Japan’s
Shinzo Abe. The North Korean leader appeared to enjoy his stroll in
Singapore. He appears unlikely to revert to his father’s and
grandfather’s hermit-like behavior.

Equally significant, the North recently ended its anti-American
propaganda. Cleaning up Pyongyang, so to speak, will be no easy
task. Posters line streets and fill walls. The United States was a
frequent target. This change could be a ruse, of course. But likely
not. For seventy years Washington and its “puppets” in
the ROK were the primary enemies used to rally North Koreans behind
the regime. Now Kim Jong-un has implicitly declared that peace
reigns on the peninsula.

Recognizing changing reality is a good reason to make peace
formally, but there is a better one: encouraging movement toward
denuclearization.

Grant that no one has ever gone broke betting against DPRK
intransigence. Moreover, America has given Kim much cause to hold
on to his nukes. The last international pariah to disarm in return
for Western expressions of love and affection, Muammar Gaddafi,
probably wondered in his dying moments why he had trusted the
Americans.

Nevertheless, Kim appears to be different than his predecessors.
He is more committed to economic reform and comfortable with the
international spotlight than his …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Tories Should Ditch the Pro-Business Label and Focus on Being Pro-Market Instead

August 7, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

The great and good of the commentariat fear that Brexit will
mean the Tories’ abandoning the terrain as the
“pro-business” party.

But is that even a label worth fighting for and a good guide to
how the party should approach policy?

Those who self-define as free-marketeers or libertarians have
long argued that politicians should aim to be
“pro-market” rather “pro-business”. This
distinction might appear trivial or meaningless for most issues
— but it’s an important one to make.

Being pro-market implies a starting point of considering
consumer welfare, competition, and ease of exit and entry of firms
(including those that do not even exist yet). It’s about
getting the institutions right, and then allowing businesses to do
their thing.

Describing oneself as
pro-business then is to put the cart before the horse.

Being pro-business, on the other hand, inevitably means a
tendency toward the status quo and government favouritism.
Politicians often think of themselves as “pro-business”
if they acquiescence to demands from existing firms for
protectionism, subsidies from government, industrial strategies, or
support for things such as childcare, even though these might harm
the economy overall.

Some, such as prominent libertarian economics blogger Bryan
Caplan, argue that abandoning the pro-business label cedes too much
ground to capitalism’s critics. Sure, he says, some dumb
government policies do tilt the playing field towards some
businesses over others, but the overall impact of business on
society is positive, and therefore worth defending.

Caplan points out that businesses play an extraordinary role in
organising us to undertake activities to fulfil the wants and needs
of others, much more efficiently than governments could ever
do.

Given negative media portrayals of prominent business leaders
and a tendency towards reporting only nefarious activities, it is
necessary to make the counter case for business as a positive
force.

Caplan may well be broadly right about the role of business in
western societies. But being pro-something implies unconditional
support for it.

If I were to take to Twitter to describe myself as pro-Trump,
people would justifiably ask how I could support some of the
President’s more economically illiterate policies, such as
the imposition of highly damaging tariffs using the veneer of a
“national security” threat.

In the same way, whether one likes it or not, self-defining as
pro-business is seen as apologising for all sorts of bad business
activity.

The important question, therefore, is why do businesses have the
positive impact Caplan outlines?

The very reason businesses are a force for good in the way he
describes is because they are embedded in a market economy. The
frameworks set out under the law mean that, in most cases, the way
businesses make money is by meeting our demands. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Fighting Violent Extremism by Teaching Tolerance

August 7, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Although terrorism understandably has become the focus of U.S.
foreign policy, the problem of religious intolerance and violence
is far broader. As Islamic extremism has erupted throughout the
Middle East, most dramatically in Iraq and Syria, Christians,
Yazidis, and other religious minorities are being driven from their
historic homes.

What to do? U.S. “public diplomacy” has been
ineffective, essentially attempting to put lipstick on a pig in
terms of selling American foreign policy. Washington has spent
millions on foreign aid to promote education and provide social
services for supposedly at-risk Islamic youth, without any evident
impact on violent behavior.

America’s military response has turned into endless war,
which appears to create as many terrorists as are captured or
killed. Indeed, America’s multiple interventions and wars
have both spawned violent extremists and created chaos in which
they thrive. The Islamic State, the fount of so much horror, was
merely the most notable beneficiary of misguided U.S.
war-making.

However, the fact that there is no simple, quick answer
doesn’t mean there is nothing to do. Education can work, but
of a unique kind. The group Hardwired, run by Tina Ramirez, a
former Capitol Hill staffer, engages in what it calls
“rights-based education,” which has had notable if
small-scale success in building support for religious tolerance and
liberty.

Washington has spent
millions on foreign aid to promote education and provide social
services for supposedly at-risk Islamic youth, without any evident
impact on violent behavior.

I witnessed the group’s approach at a conference held in
Erbil, Kurdistan. Hardwired brought together people of varying,
even contentious faiths and backgrounds — most of whom had
suffered persecution at the hands of Islamic radicals. Although
divided in beliefs, they came to recognize their shared interest in
respecting the rights of others.

Hardwired also has targeted children, efforts detailed in a new
study by Lena Smith, Tina Ramirez, and Mary Anne Rea-Ramirez,
“Protecting Children from Violent Extremism.” The
report reviewed Hardwired’s efforts in Iraq, Lebanon, and
Morocco, in which the group taught 56 teachers and 1161 students at
46 different schools. The overall assessment: “students
demonstrated greater acceptance of the rights of others, greater
respect for the equal rights of women and minority communities,
were less intimidated by public expression of belief, and reflected
greater resiliency to extremist thinking.”

As almost everyone recognizes, kids are the most important
target for purveyors of violence. Explained the group, “The
threat of intolerance, extremism, and radical ideology is evident
everywhere, and children throughout the Middle East and North
Africa are particularly vulnerable to its influence.”

The problem is not just that children are exploring their way,
gaining new experiences, and coming under new influences. With
conflict and oppression widespread …read more

Source: OP-EDS