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NYC’s transit authority changes advertising standards in wake of anti-Islam ads

The New York Times reported today that New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority voted 8-0 to change its rules on what advertising it will accept after the furor created by Pamela Geller's anti-Islam ads. Geller, executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, won a court case last month, compelling the MTA to post her ads, which read, "In the war between civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."

A wave of public outrage over the ads, which were posted in New York City subway stations, has lead to incidents of vandalism, with activists and angry citizens defacing the posters. On Tuesday, Egyptian-American activist and journalist Mona Eltahawy was arrested for defacing one of the ads with pink spray paint.

Ostensibly in response to the vandalism, the MTA stated that they would, from now on, prohibit advertising which "would incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace, and so harm, disrupt, or interfere with safe, efficient, and orderly transit operations." Geller's ads won't be taken down just yet, since the rule change doesn't apply  ads that are currently posted; however, the new guidelines might prevent her from renewing them once they have expired.  The new rules will also require that all ads featuring political, religious, or moral expressions prominently feature a disclaimer stating that the MTA does not endorse the views expressed.

Protestors at the committee meeting held signs reading "The subway belongs to the 99 percent. Take the racist ads down." According to the New York Times, Geller attended the meeting and urged MTA officials to "have the courage of your convictions." She was "repeatedly shouted down."

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On Libya, has Romney learned to hold his fire?

Earlier this month, when Mitt Romney swiftly denounced President Obama's handling of the attacks on U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya as news of the deadly Benghazi assault was still developing, the Republican challenger was showered with criticism from both sides of the aisle.

"Sometimes when really bad things happen, when hot things happen, cool words or no words is the way to go," conservative columnist Peggy Noonan argued. A Pew poll released last week found that 45 percent of respondents who followed news about the attacks approved of Obama's handling of the crisis, while only 26 percent supported Romney's condemnation of the president's actions. 

In a provocative column today, the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer argues that Romney should issue a sweeping indictment of Obama's foreign policy in light of the president's response to the violence in Libya, especially as the administration shifts its position on whether the incident constituted a terrorist attack.

Earlier this week, Romney briefly criticized Obama for referring to the Mideast unrest as "bumps in the road" and for not classifying the Libya assault as a terrorist attack. But when it comes to foreign policy critiques, Romney has spent much more time this week on pending defense cuts and unfair Chinese trade practices. Conservative pundits and the Republican National Committee (and now even some Democrats) have been far more relentless in hammering Obama on Libya.

Here's Krauthammer on Romney's missed opportunity on Libya:

Here was a chance to make the straightforward case about where Obama's feckless approach to the region's tyrants has brought us, connecting the dots of the disparate attacks as a natural response of the more virulent Islamist elements to a once-hegemonic power in retreat. Instead, Romney did two things:

He issued a two-sentence critique of the initial statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on the day the mob attacked. The critique was not only correct but vindicated when the State Department disavowed the embassy statement. However, because the critique was not framed within a larger argument about the misdirection of U.S. Middle East policy, it could be - and was - characterized as a partisan attack on the nation's leader at a moment of national crisis.

Two weeks later at the Clinton Global Initiative, Romney did make a foreign-policy address. Here was his opportunity. What did he highlight? Reforming foreign aid.

Yes, reforming foreign aid! A worthy topic for a chin-pulling joint luncheon of the League of Women Voters and the Council on Foreign Relations. But as the core of a challenger's major foreign-policy address amid a Lehman-like collapse of the Obama Doctrine?

I'm not sure I agree with Krauthammer's critique of Romney's foreign aid speech; the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) wasn't exactly the right forum to proclaim the spectacular failure of the Obama doctrine. Obama, after all, devoted his CGI address not to championing his counterterrorism record or celebrating his commitment to ending America's wars but rather to discussing human trafficking.

But I also wonder whether Krauthammer's larger assessment is accurate. Is Romney's decision not to seize on the mounting controversy over the Libya attack a strategic blunder -- a sign that Mitt has a self-destructive preference for small ball? Or has the GOP candidate heeded Noonan's advice and concluded that silence is the best policy as the administration contends with a gathering storm of criticism?

A Fox News poll released on Friday shows that 39 percent of registered voters approve of the Obama administration's handling of the situation in Libya -- down from 48 percent in a Fox News survey in August. That's a trend the Romney campaign may not want to meddle with.

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