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Jerusalem Embassy

Los Angeles Times

At least 55 Palestinians dead in the Gaza Strip, 2,700 wounded. Is anyone surprised by this turn of events? If you are, you shouldn’t be.

It was inevitable. The peace process is moribund, and with it the hopes of the approximately 2 million people crammed into this narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean between Israel and Egypt. According to Alexandra Zavis in Monday’s Times, much of the water in Gaza today is undrinkable. Most homes get only a few hours of electricity each day. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Half the population is unemployed. Every few years there’s a new round of violence, usually involving rockets fired by militants into Israel, followed by a devastating Israeli counter-assault.

So what surprise is there that Palestinians in Gaza are without hope, fantasizing about a homeland they’ve never seen, willing to cross the border fence and face down better-armed Israeli soldiers in futile protest?

Of course the Israelis are right that there’s been violence at the recent protests; the photos of the rock throwers and the fiery kite fliers are pretty unequivocal. But the Palestinians counter, correctly, that the vast majority of the demonstrators are peaceful — and besides, don’t people who’ve lived under occupation for 50 years have a right to protest? But there is no occupation, comes the predictable retort — Israeli soldiers and settlers were pulled out of Gaza years ago. To which the Palestinians respond: Israel didn’t really leave Gaza; it still controls the ingress and egress of people and goods, thanks to a punishing blockade imposed in 2007.

And so it continues. The cycle of blame stretches back past the Hamas takeover of Gaza, past two intifadas, past 1973, past 1967, past 1956. “Original sin,” in the eyes of the Palestinians, is the establishment of Israel on Palestinian land 70 years ago Monday; to the Israelis, it’s the unwillingness of the Palestinians to recognize that fledgling country.

What’s needed today is renewed effort to bring the parties back to the table to negotiate a just peace that creates two secure, independent, sovereign states living side by side.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to see how that happens without the assistance of the United States. And this week, with its reckless, provocative and one-sided relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — thus conceding Israeli sovereignty over that much-disputed city — the Trump administration further undermined its claim to be an honest broker. That’s another step backward in the search for peace.

Betting is about to go mainstream

The Charlotte Observer

There’s a good bit of sorting out to do with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday to strike down a federal law prohibiting sports gambling, but it’s difficult to overstate the ruling’s impact.

The decision gives states permission to decide whether they want to allow sports gambling inside their borders. New Jersey will be the first, followed by a few others that are close to ready. Other states, including North Carolina, will get around soon enough to debating sports betting. Most will allow it, in part because everyone else will be doing it, but also because it’s harder to build a moral case against gambling when you already offer a state-sanctioned form of it with a lottery. (And no, it shouldn’t make a difference that lotteries theoretically do some good with their revenue.)

So what does this mean? Get ready for a different landscape out there — and not just financially. (Media companies have been contemplating how to take advantage of sports gamblers for years.) The bigger change will be cultural. Gambling just became mainstream. It went from being pot to being cigarettes — not quite embraced, but not so illicit.

Here’s why: Imagine walking into Spectrum Arena and seeing kiosks that allow you to place small (or not so small) bets on the Charlotte Hornets game you’re about to see. Imagine getting a notification on your phone that not only tells you about the latest Carolina Panthers’ rushing touchdown — but invites you to make a bet on what will happen next.

(Imagine also if those notifications came from media companies — say, ESPN — that realize sports betting revenue is the key they’ve been searching for to make their business models work.)

It’s not that far-fetched. In-game betting — which means placing wagers on action as it’s happening — already is common with soccer matches in England. The same will happen here. Sports gambling will transition from something confined to the hard core and on-a-lark bettors. Placing a wager will become so easy, and so common, that more people will dabble in it.

Is that a good thing? It won’t be for those vulnerable to addiction, of course, and it won’t be for families that are damaged in the short or long term by poor gambling decisions. States that approve sports gambling in their borders should also consider offering additional resources to combat the addiction issues that might follow. Sports leagues, too, will face new challenges, including ensuring that the integrity of their games aren’t compromised.

But like so many things in commerce, availability and ease will dictate what society eventually thinks about it. It will take time, but betting just became less of a dirty word.

No wall, no problem – seize the kids

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Trump administration, having been unable to get Congress to fund its border wall, has adopted vengeful meanness as its next-best substitute. Speaking at an Arizona law enforcement conference, Attorney General Jeff Sessions erased any doubt about the motives behind his excessive new crackdown on parents crossing the border with their children.

He pledged in no uncertain terms to prosecute anyone who crosses without proper documentation, including asylum seekers who are supposed to be protected under America’s international treaty obligations. Sessions warned that children will be yanked from their parents’ arms if they’re caught.

Gone is any pretense that some children need to be separated for their own protection as potential victims of human traffickers. Sessions threw that notion out the window in his speech. He made clear he wants to terrorize immigrant parents by threatening to confiscate their children.

His and President Donald Trump’s harsh new policies are so overboard they received pushback last week from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who publicly distanced himself from some of Trump’s harsher anti-immigrant positions.

Sessions stated in his speech that the southern border was facing a “massive influx of illegal aliens. … We are not going to let this country be invaded. We will not be stampeded. We will not capitulate to lawlessness.”

He warned: “If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. … If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.” In other words, the policy of child separation is being used solely as a punitive measure.

The administration already has separated parents from children more than 700 times, including one case involving an 18-month-old child, according to a New York Times report last month. More than 100 seized children were under age 4.

Is this really serving any useful purpose? U.S. immigration authorities absolutely should be working night and day to keep dangerous criminals from crossing the border. But neither toddlers nor their parents even remotely fit that bill.

This policy is simply cruel, motivated solely by mean-spirited politics, not security. If Sessions was so serious about monitoring undocumented children, then how is it that federal authorities lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children who had been transferred to the custody of adult sponsors last year? If they can’t even manage the existing caseloads of migrant children, how does Sessions propose to handle more?

American streets are made no safer by this new policy. Murderers, rapists and drug traffickers might even have better chances of slipping through the net while immigration officers are devoting their energies to this fruitless, excessively punitive effort.

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