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Archive for July 2011

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Looking Back

A Young Spaniard Betrays a Cause and joins the Fifth Column to Survive--and Tell the Tale

July 25th 2011

Europe Topics - Spanish Civil War recruiting poster
Catalonian recruiting poster

When Spain’s Civil War came in 1936, Gaspar Viana lived in a small farming community in the province of Guadalajara called Peralveche. Located in Castile, Peralveche had “neither fascists nor reds,” according to Viana. “In town, we didn’t know anything about what was going on in Madrid, where they had already killed the Economics Minister, they had burned down convents, and the Montaña barracks had rebelled. We only knew what was going on at home.” Viana noted “There wasn’t a newspaper or anything.”

Nothing, apparently, had prepared the then young Spaniard for the coming war between the Republican government and its leftist, Soviet, and anarchist allies on one side, and Francisco Franco’s Nationalist troops, Italian fascists and German Nazis on the other. Tensions had been growing throughout 1936, but neither Viana or his father were aware. Proof of the establishment of the Second Republic came in 1931 when Viana was 13 years old. While planting oats at their small place, Viana’s father asked a neighbour “Irene, what are those rags you have put up?” The woman answered, “Cirilo, it’s the banner of the Republic that has been installed in Spain!”

This sort of disconnection between the rhythms of the earth, and the mechanized and electric onslaught that marked the European wars of the 20th century, was notable in many places in Spain. Despite some material advances, Spain was largely poor and rural as Gaspar Viana grew to manhood. Read more ..


Edge on Terrorism

UK Editor of The Muslim News Denounces Focus on Islamist Terror

July 24th 2011

Islamic Topics - Ahmed Versi
Ahmed Versi, editor of The Muslim Times

Ahmed Versi, the editor of Britain's The Muslim News, drew parallels between Norway’s bombing and massacre on July 22 to the devastating bomb set off by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City OK in 1995. Versi said “When the news of the bombing broke all the media, including al Jazeera English, began speculating that the perpetrators could be al-Qaeda, Islamists, Islamic terrorists.” The Muslim News claims to be Britain’s leading Muslim news organization. According to The Muslim News, the paper “monitors the numerous Islamophobic attacks in Britain,” while Versi added that speculation even extended to the possibility that the Libyan government could be behind the blast in Oslo and the subsequent killing of young campers. Versi mused that there was “no mention of right wing extremists.” Read more ..


Edge on Terrorism

Norway Not Taking any Chances Even Though Killer Says He Acted Alone

July 24th 2011

Europe Topics - Anders Breivik action hero
Anders Breivik

Norwegians mourned at church services throughout the Scandinavian country, marking the death of the at least 93 killed at the hands of Anders Behring Breivik, a 32 year-old Norwegian in dual attack on July 22. A further 86 were wounded by Breivik, who allegedly set a fertilizer-fuelled carbomb that detonated at approximately 3:45 pm on a Friday afternoon, devastating a central Oslo building that housed the offices of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and government agencies.

This was followed soon after by a killing spree on Utoya island, some twenty miles from Oslo, where young members of the ruling Labor Party were on a camp out. It was there that Breivik, disguised as a policeman, opened fire and killed scores of young people, some of whom were felled by bullets as they attempted to swim to safety. A special police unit was hampered in arriving on the scene, blaming the lack of adequate boats for the 90 minute delay in arresting the culprit. Read more ..


Egypt After Mubarak

Egypt after Mubarak: A Triangular Power Struggle Emerges

July 24th 2011

Egypt - Members of Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt's political future is being decided by the military, the Muslim Brotherhood, and protest groups in the streets.

On July 21, Egyptian prime minister Essam Sharaf swore in a new cabinet in front of Field Marshal Muhammad Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). During the Mubarak era, changing ministers was a rare event. These days, it is becoming an almost routine occurrence -- but one with only peripheral importance in Egyptian politics.

Currently, three groups are battling for the country's political future, and the civilian government is not among them. First is the SCAF, which has controlled the country since Hosni Mubarak's February resignation. Second is the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which has formed alliances with most major political parties and will likely prevail in this fall's parliamentary elections. Third are the protestors, who continue to pursue their demands through mass demonstrations that often bring daily activity in downtown Cairo and other key areas to a halt. Read more ..


Edge on Terrorism

Iran's Double-Talk on the Anniversary of Deadly Bombing in Argentina

July 24th 2011

Argentina Topics - AMIA bombing 1994 and cop

Seventeen years ago this week, Hezbollah operatives working closely with Iranian intelligence blew up the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and wounding 300 more. Now, after years of obstructing investigation into the attack, Iran claims it is ready to "engage in constructive dialogue" with Argentina about the case, but insists that talk of an Iranian link is nothing more than "plots and political games."

In fact, it is Iran that is playing games.

Argentinean authorities conducted an extensive investigation into the AMIA attack, with significant international cooperation, and concluded that "the decision to carry out the AMIA attack was made, and the attack was orchestrated, by the highest officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the time, and that these officials instructed Lebanese Hezbollah -- a group that has historically been subordinated to the economic and political interests of the Tehran regime -- to carry out the attack." Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Energy Sector Targeted

July 24th 2011

Syrian Issues - Syrian oil tanks

By targeting Syria's energy sector, the United States can hit President Bashar al-Assad where it really hurts -- his pocketbook.

Four months into Syria's uprising, the violence wracking the country is bad and getting worse. The restive city of Homs witnessed sectarian clashes over the weekend that reportedly left dozens dead, while forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad converged on the eastern town of Abu Kamal. As the Assad regime's iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove approach to the uprising continues to fail, all eyes are focused on the Aug. 1 start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when the minority Alawite regime's killing of predominately Sunni protesters could transform the uprising into a sectarian bloodbath.

This bloodshed, which is tragic in its own right, is also causing the sputtering Syrian economy to grind to a halt. Such a development would be particularly dangerous for Assad, as it could cause the business elite in the commercial hubs of Damascus and Aleppo to finally break ties with the regime and join ranks with the opposition. Read more ..


PEPCO to be Fined Millions

July 24th 2011

As the public might remember, during the recent session of the General Assembly (which ended in April), we passed legislation which significantly increased oversight of electric utilities, particularly PEPCO. I think all will be pleased to know that the "People's Counsel" has recommended that the Public Service Commission fine PEPCO between $10 to $14 million dollars. This is only a start, but finally perhaps, PEPCO will realize that we are serious in our effort to have secure, reliable electic power. I also want to emphasize that PEPCO will not be able to pass the cost of the fines to electric consumers.They must be absorbed by the shareholders. The provisions of our legislation include:

    * $25K per violation per day on penalties
    * Increased penalties for safety violations
    * The utilities are prohibited from passing on the costs of penalties to the ratepayers
    * The bill is an emergency bill so it takes effect as soon as the governor signs it into law

Kumar P. Barve is the Demoratic Majority Leader of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing central Montgomery County, Maryland.


Edge of Terrorism

The Consequences of Terrorist Attacks in Norway

July 22nd 2011

Terrorism - Oslo bombing

At least 17 people have died and more have been injured in an explosion in downtown Oslo and a shooting at a Labor Party youth camp outside the Norwegian capital. Norwegian police arrested the shooter at the camp and believe he is connected with the explosion, though others could be involved.

The significance of the events in Norway for the rest of Europe will depend largely on who is responsible, and the identity of the culprits is still unclear. However,one can extrapolate the possible consequences of the attacks based on several scenarios. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Terrorists Claim the Lives of at Least 10 Children in Norway, in addition to Deadly Bomb Blast in Oslo

July 22nd 2011

Terrorism - Norwegian terrorism victim

Norwegian police have found an explosive device on the secluded island of Utoya, northeast of Oslo, where earlier on July 22 a gunman now identified as an ethnic Norwegian killed at least 10 young campers according to police. Fortunately, the device did not detonate. The attack on the island was the second terrorist attack in Norway that very day.

Described as blond and approximately 6 feet tall, the assailant was dressed in a police uniform and claimed that he was on official business. He proceeded to shoot innocent campers and staff. Police are still combing the waters around the island and seek to find the corpses of other victims as fears that the death toll will rise. Read more ..


Inside Cuba

Jailed for Counter-Revolutionary Activities in Cuba, American citizen seeks Clemency

July 22nd 2011

Jewish Topics - Alan Gross and Judy Gross
Alan Gross and Judy Gross

The Supreme Court of Cuba held a hearing on July 22 in the case of Alan Gross, a US citizen who was tried and convicted to 15 years imprisonment for allegedly seeking to subvert the island republic’s communist government. The 61 year-old Marylander had been employed by the US Agency for International Development and contracted to update Internet access for the Jewish community of Cuba. He was sentenced in a Cuban court in March 2011 despite strong condemnation by the US government and denials that he was engaged in illegal activity. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Defense Spending is Not the Opposite of Domestic Spending

July 22nd 2011

Military - USS George Washington

The Constitution obliges our government to provide for the common defense. Determining against whom, under what circumstances, with what capabilities and under whose direction is the prerogative of the President, the Commander in Chief. The military services carry out the directives of the President, so the priorities of Service Chiefs and the Joint Staff carry great weight in determining how the military is organized, and what it requires in terms of manpower, equipment and training. Congress pays the bills and can fund - or defund - any number of presidential or military priorities. Thousands of moving parts go into the creation of the Defense Budget, and thousands more into the creation of a military that is able to respond to the security challenges we face.

Unfortunately, America's deficit difficulties have resulted in Congress and the Administration trying to "match" priorities for cuts in domestic spending with priorities for cuts in defense. If "one side" has to slash agriculture subsidies and housing vouchers, the "other side" has to cut airplanes and submarines. If "one side" wants to preserve Social Security at current levels, the "other side" has to cut military R&D. Or, if the "other side" wants to preserve veterans' benefits and increase funding for PTSD and the long-term disabled (IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan have created a veteran population that will require extensive care for years), it has to trade off the future size of the force.

Nothing says defense spending cannot be cut; indeed, it already has been - Tom Donnelly and Gary Schmitt of the Heritage Foundation remind us that in 2009, $330 billion was cut from future procurement programs and another $78 billion came off in 2010. Add in the newly proposed $400 billion and more than $800 billion comes out of planned levels of defense spending; more, if certain people have their way. Read more ..


Inside India

Diamonds and Religious Tensions May Be Keys to Terrorist Attacks in India

July 22nd 2011

India Topics - Mumbai Massacre

The diamond industry and tensions between the Muslim militant community and the Hindus may be two key elements to understanding the background to the deadly and recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. As Rev. Cedric Prakash, a Catholic priest and Director of the Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace 'Prashant' in Ahmedabad in Gujarat reported, "it is difficult to understand what and who inspired the attacks in Mumbai. The police are working hard. Certainly it is clear that specific business areas were affected, such as those of the diamond trade, in which the population of Gujarat is very present".

According to FIDES news service, Fr. Prakash continued, "It is known, moreover, that the massacres of 2002 in Gujarat, where over 2,000 Muslims were killed by Hindu extremist groups, have not been forgotten by many. Read more ..


The Philippines on Edge

The Limits of Tyranny in the Philippines

July 22nd 2011

Asia Topics - Sarah Duterte
Mayor Sarah Duterte, Davao City, Philippines

The television images tell it all, imagine how it was last July 1, Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte, daughter of the all-powerful and most feared former-mayor Rodrigo Duterte (now vice-mayor), is surrounded by a crowd of followers and security personnel.  She is agitated, she wants her authority and position to be respected and obeyed without question.

The sheriff has been told by her to delay a court-approved demolition of a squatters' community for whom the city administration has failed to provide a resettlement site for as required by law.  Perhaps she wants the squatters to think she is their saviour and champion rather than part of their problem. Read more ..


Edge on Terror

Libya is Feared to be New Source of Weapons for Palestine

July 22nd 2011

Israeli Military - Moshe Yaalon
Moshe Yaalon

Israel's Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said on July 21 that Libya has become a new source of smuggled weaponry for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking to foreign correspondents, Yaalon said, "Weapons are available in Libya as a result of the unstable situation there, and Hamas has exploited it to buy weapons from Libyan smugglers," he told foreign journalists in a briefing. The official did not specific what sort of munitions or materiel are involved.

With Libya largely divided between dictator Muammar Gaddaffi on the west and rebels on the east, armaments flowed back and forth over the eastern frontier with Egypt to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, said Yaalon - a former defense minister. As of yet, the Hamas terrorist organization has not commented on Yaalon’s charges.

Israeli concerns over the smuggling of armaments spurred the interdiction of the so-called Gaza Flotilla, which brought vessels from several countries this month to attempt a breach of the Israeli naval blockade. Most of the flotilla was held in Greece, including one U.S. flag vessel, while another boat was halted on the high seas by Israeli naval vessels and brought into the Ashdod port in Israel before it could land in the Hamas-controlled territory. Israel allows food, medicine, and other non-military goods to enter Gaza along already established land routes. Read more ..


Religious Tolerance

Muslim Leader Calls for Death of Muslim-Christian Married Couple

July 22nd 2011

PakistanTopics - Anti blasphemy protest

Intolerance for differences as to religion continues unabated in Pakistan. The latest case to stir up sectarian passions is that of Muslim woman and a Christian man who were forced to flee for their lives in the face of Muslim retribution.

Asthma Zubaida, a Muslim woman, and Basharat Masih, a Christian man, fell in love in the town of Gujranwala where Zubaida was a teacher in a local public school. Masih was an official in public school administration. Following their marriage in September 2010, they soon began to receive ever more frequent death threats, which caused them to flee. They now go from place to place to avoid punishment. Read more ..


The Geologic Edge

Dirty Diamonds Contain the Record of How the Earth's Surface Was Created

July 22nd 2011

Science - Diamond in the rough

Impurities may not actually add to the value of diamonds, but geophysicists, geologists and other scientists find them to be a boon to understanding the forces that created the face of the Earth. These impurities, found within the super-hard structure of diamonds, are unaltered and ancient minerals that reveal our planet's distant past. Researchers analyzed data from the literature of over 4,000 of these mineral inclusions to find that continents started the cycle of breaking apart, drifting, and colliding about 3 billion years ago. The research pinpoints when this so-called Wilson cycle began.

The lead author of a recent study of diamond impurities, Steven Shirey at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism explained “The Wilson cycle is responsible for the growth of the Earth’s continental crust, the continental structures we see today, the opening and closing of ocean basins through time, mountain building, and the distribution of ores and other materials in the crust. Read more ..

Iran on Edge

Iran's Incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan Signals Escalation in the Coming Weeks

July 21st 2011

Iran - Iranian military on parade

A border dispute between Iran and the Kurdish region of Iraq underwent a significant escalation this week, as Iranian Revolutionary Guards crossed the border to engage with guerrillas of the PJAK (Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan) organization. The incursions began on Saturday night. Fighting continued throughout most of Sunday. By late Sunday afternoon, a tense quiet had returned to the border area.

Reports differ regarding the number of casualties, and the areas of engagement. The official Iranian news agency (IRNA) said that five PJAK members and one Revolutionary Guardsman had been killed in fighting in the area of Sardasht, a Kurdish town close to the border. The Iranians also claimed to have captured a wounded PJAK member. A Colonel of the Revolutionary Guards, Delavar Ranjbarzadeh, told IRNA that PJAK had suffered a ‘heavy and historic defeat.’ Read more ..


In Wake of Brutal Ketzky Murder, Seeking Incentives for More Surveillance Cameras

July 21st 2011

I am truly devastated by the tragedy that occurred this July 11, 2011. According to law enforcement officials, 8 year old Leiby Kletzky was abducted and murdered at the hands of Levi Aron. On July 18, 2011, I attended Leiby’s Shiva to pay my respects to his family. I again want to give my sincerest condolences to the Kletzky family and the Borough Park community. I know it is hard to lose any family member; but when it is under horrific circumstances such as this one, it is especially difficult. I too, along with Senator Savino and Assemblyman Hikind represent the Borough Park community. It is one of the safest areas in my district. I will do all that I can to assist the family in their time of need. In an effort to deter any future tragedies, I plan to support the Savino/Hikind legislation to provide economic incentives to our business owners to install surveillance cameras. I also believe it would be helpful to law enforcement if we had a uniform system to address missing persons such as the Lori Ann’s law introduced by Senator Valesky and Assemblyman Reilly (S.659/A.3526). I call on the Governor and Senator Skelos to pass these bills at the next special legislative session. Additionally, I call on the District Attorney to conduct a thorough investigation and prosecute this case to the full extent of the law. Rest assured, I will do all that I can to help the family receive closure and to deter any re-occurrences of such a horrific crime.

Senator Kevin S. Parker represents a large Hassidic Jewish population in his district, and is the Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, former Majority Whip and Chair of the Democratic Task Force on New Americans.


Film News

Watch 'Enemies of the People' Free from PBS until August 12

July 20th 2011

Film - enemies of the people

Cambodia's communists, known to the world as the Khmer Rouge, slaughtered nearly two million people in the late 1970s. A Hollywood movie, The Killing Fields, brought the horror of the genocide to the consciousness of many, yet the systematic murders in Cambodia remain largely unexplained until now.

Thet Sambath, lead reporter for an English-language newspaper in Cambodia whose parents were murdered by the genocidal leftists, made it his goal to find out why so many were killed. Working on the film in his free time for a decade, Sambath would gain the trust of the men and women who perpetrated the massacres.

From the foot soldiers who slit throats to Pol Pot's right-hand man, the notorious Brother Number Two, Sambath and co-director Rob Lemkin record shocking testimony never before seen or heard, in Enemies of the People.

The film has been entered as evidence in the trial of octogenarian Nuon Chea, a.k.a. Brother Number Two, on charges of crimes against humanity. Brother Number Two, a leader in the Khmer Rouge politburo during the genocide answers Sambath's burning question, "Why?"

Produced in association with American Documentary | POV. A co-presentation with the Center for Asian American Media. Winner of the 2010 Sundance World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Australian Muslim Convert insists Islam is Beautiful Despite 40 Lashes for Drinking Alcohol

July 20th 2011

Islamic Topics - Australian victim of shariah
Chris Martinez displays wounds from lashing

An Australian who had recently converted to Islam was allegedly punished with lashings by four fellow Muslim believers who broke into his home during pre-dawn hours because he had been drinking alcohol. Chris Martinez of Sydney said, nonetheless, that the Australian Muslim community has been supportive since the July 17 assault. Martinez confessed to a drinking problem and that he had been imbibing before the lashing. Two men have been charged in the incident. Non-Muslims raised concerns about the application of Islamic religious law known as Shariah in Australia.

Martinez was held down on his bed and whipped up to 40 times by the four bearded strangers who awakened him at approximately 1 am at his apartment on Sydney’s west side. Three of the men restrained him as the fourth applied the canonical 40 lashes with a cable. The assault lasted approximately 30 minutes and left Martinez (31) covered with welts. Martinez said, nonetheless, that Islam is a “beautiful religion.” Read more ..


Iran’s Nukes

Iran, Venezuela, Argentina Possibly Cooperating on Nuclear Projects

July 20th 2011

Latin American Topics - kirchner chavez ahmadinejad
Presidents Kirchner (Argentina), Chavez (Venezuela), and Ahmadinejad (Iran)

A number of Congressmen have requested an investigation of possible nuclear cooperation between Venezuela, Iran, and Argentina. Suspicions of such connections are based on information made available by the State Department.

According to sources, Iran is interested in a program of modernization of the Argentine nuclear plants. Argentina maintained a nuclear cooperation agreement with Iran that was suspended in the early 1990s by the Argentinean government. Then, tensions between the two countries deteriorated as a result of the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the Jewish Community Center in 1994. Read more ..


The Edge of Hate

Distinguished Senator Resigns from Belgian University board over Anti-Semitic Incidents

July 19th 2011

Jewish Topics - Jacques Brotchi
Jacques Brotchi

After denouncing several grave anti-Semitic incidents at the Free University of Brussels (ULB), Dr. Jacques Brotchi – a member of Belgium’s Senate and an internationally renowned neurosurgeon – resigned from the UCB board. Brotchi, who also holds an honorary professorship at the Brussels-based institution, told EJP on-line news "I resigned from the Board of the University Foundation which collects funds for research because I deeply deplored the absence of a strong and appropriate reaction from the university authorities to a succession of anti-Semitic incidents."

In his May 5 letter of resignation, Brotchi wrote, "I don’t feel at home anymore at ULB." He added, "I asked if the university of free-examination has not become the university of free anti-Semitism." Brotchi said he is saddened by the lack of an adequate response on the part of the university. He likened the current climate to the years just prior to the Second World War when Nazi Germany was just beginning the Holocaust. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Candidate Cain says he Would Not 'Sit Back' Should Iran attack Israel

July 19th 2011

Politics - Herman Cain
Herman Cain

Outspoken Republican presidential contender Herman Cain said in an interview with the Washington Times that if he were in President Obama’s place, he would not “sit back and wait” for United Nations permission to retaliate in case of an attack by Iran upon Israel.

A Baptist minister and businessman, Cain spoke with the Washington Times on July 18 and described his “Cain Doctrine” with regard to the United States’ stance as to Israel. Cain answered affirmatively when asked whether he agreed with a comment made by John Bolton—a former US ambassador to the UN—that a preemptive strike against Iran was the only option to prevent the Islamic Republic from advancing its nuclear weapons program in view of years of failed diplomatic initiatives.

While saying that he would want all necessary information before making a decision, Cain “My first option would be to make it crystal clear, and to use the words that I've used previously, if you mess with Israel, you're messing with the United States of America.” If Iran or any other nation failed to heed his eponymous foreign policy, Cain said, “They already know what plan B is.” Read more ..


Edge on Food

The World's Tardy Response to Unfolding Famine Crisis in the Horn of Africa

July 19th 2011

Africa - Kenya dying child
Malnourished refugees at Kenyan camp

Representatives of the United Nations and the UK admitted at Nairobi conference on July 17 that the international community was slow to act in confronting the drought crisis that has flailed the Horn of Africa region.

Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said at a press briefing that relief assistance should have started arriving much earlier to save the thousands dead and dying of hunger. The UK has now offered to host a private conference of donors and aid agencies to urge them to step up their efforts to avert the crisis. “Do we blame the international community? Do we blame any particular individuals or groups? No. A combination of many different factors led to this (crisis),” Lake said. Read more ..


Edge on Iran

The U.S.-Saudi Dilemma: Iran Reshaping Persian Gulf Politics

July 19th 2011

Iran - Ahmadinejad-Abdullah buddies

Something extraordinary, albeit not unexpected, is happening in the Persian Gulf region. The United States, lacking a coherent strategy to deal with Iran and too distracted to develop one, is struggling to navigate Iraq’s fractious political landscape in search of a deal that would allow Washington to keep a meaningful military presence in the country beyond the end-of-2011 deadline stipulated by the current Status of Forces Agreement. At the same time, Saudi Arabia, dubious of U.S. capabilities and intentions toward Iran, appears to be inching reluctantly toward an accommodation with its Persian adversary.

Iran clearly stands to gain from this dynamic in the short term as it seeks to reshape the balance of power in the world’s most active energy arteries. But Iranian power is neither deep nor absolute. Instead, Tehran finds itself racing against a timetable that hinges not only on the U.S. ability to shift its attention from its ongoing wars in the Middle East but also on Turkey’s ability to grow into its historic regional role. Read more ..


Flotilla to Hamas

Israel Intercepts Another Gaza-bound Vessel

July 19th 2011

Palestine Topics - Dignite AlKarama

The Israeli navy boarded and seized a French vessel during the early morning hours of July 19 that was ferrying pro-Palestine activists bound for the Gaza Strip.A spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces stated that the vessel was forced to go to Israel’s Ashdod port. There were no reports of resistance to the Israeli marines who boarded the Dignite AlKarama in the eastern Mediterranean. An IDF spokeswoman said “I can confirm that the yacht has been boarded and that everything went smoothly, there were no casualties,” the spokeswoman said. Chief military spokesman Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai averred that passengers were transferred from the small yacht to one of the Israeli warships and were sailing to Ashdod. Read more ..


Egypt after Mubarak

Egypt’s Enduring Challenges as it Faces the United States

July 18th 2011

Presidential - bush and mubarak
Former Presidents Hosni Mubarak, George W Bush

The U.S.-Egypt bilateral relationship developed rapidly following the 1978 Camp David Accords. While the ties spanned many fields, the foundation of the contact was the military relationship. As a memo from the U.S. embassy in Cairo explained in 2009:

President Mubarak and military leaders view our military assistance program as the cornerstone of our mil-mil relationship and consider the USD 1.3 billion in annual FMF [foreign military financing] as “untouchable compensation” for making and maintaining peace with Israel. The tangible benefits to our mil-mil relationship are clear: Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and the U.S. military enjoys priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

America’s Heavy-handed Foreign Policy Not Working

July 18th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Barack Obama Israel speech

The Obama administration is withholding $800 million of the $2 billion in current aid to Pakistan, angry over the (limited) level of Pakistani pursuit of Taliban elements attacking U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The United States believes intelligence information provided to Pakistan has been shared with insurgents and that the Pakistani government is not committed to “cleaning out” Taliban strongholds in the tribal areas. The Pakistani government, on the other hand, believes the United States violated Pakistan’s sovereignty by capturing Osama Bin Laden without prior consultation and by killing Pakistani civilians in drone strikes in the tribal areas. Pakistan is furious about the aid reduction, particularly the $300 million meant as reimbursement for expenses already incurred.

There is, naturally, some justice on both sides, and the money—while important to Pakistan and not insignificant to the United States—is only a metaphor for the difficult relations between the two. The real problem is that the United States and Pakistan do not have the same goal for Afghanistan or for the future of Pakistan and we appear to have forgotten that it is, in fact, their country. Read more ..


Liberia on Edge

Univ. of Maryland Professor embroiled in Pre-Electoral Scandal in Liberia

July 18th 2011

Africa Topics - Larry Gibson and display
Larry Gibson, University of Maryland

The American professor at the center of what is becoming a pre-election scandal in Liberia says he played no role in preparing a pre-election analysis for the ruling Unity Party of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Online Liberian publication FrontPage Africa reported over the July 9-10 weekend that Larry Gibson, a law professor at the University of Maryland prepared a pre-election analysis in which he advised the ruling party that it faces a tall order in the coming October elections and that the party should keep its connections at the National Elections Commission.

Gibson, who admits he did some work for the 2005 election campaign of then-candidate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said he did not do any poll analysis for the October election. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Nigerian "Elders" Forum Concerned over Military Response to Violent Islamist Sect

July 18th 2011

Nigeria - Nigeria joint military task force

In Nigeria, a leading member of the “Elders Forum” in northern Borno State has expressed concern about a government-backed unit formed to stop violence by the Islamic sect Boko Haram. According to the Nigeria Tribune newspaper, the federal government recently set up the Special Joint Military Task Force with its headquarters in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. The group includes elements of the army, navy, air force, state security and police.

Spokesman Bulama Mali Gubio said the force is ineffective. His group wants it replaced by what he described as seasoned and well-trained police officers. Nigeria’s military makes up most of the task force. “We are not satisfied with the way and manner they are conducting the operation they are carrying out,” said Gubio. “Instead of calming down the situation and bringing it under control, the conflict has escalated. People are fleeing the city and becoming refugees.” Read more ..


The Music Edge

Smithsonian Celebrates the Richness of American Rhythm and Blues

July 18th 2011

Art Topics - Jerry Williams swamp dogg
Jerry 'Swamp Dogg' Williams

Rhythm and blues. It's an American treasure and a powerful influence on popular culture. The evolution of this art form was celebrated at the Smithsonian’s recent Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington. Rhythm and blues was invented by African Americans more than 70 years ago. The term "R&B" was originally a marketing tool, but now refers to various musical styles including Gospel and Electric Blues, which was popularized by BB King.

Seventy years later, R&B is still going strong. At the celebration on the National Mall, thousands - young and old - came out to listen and dance. Some remembered the dance moves from the popular television show "Soul Train," which ran for 35 years. Many at the festival got into the moves and the mood. Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History, kicked off the R&B tribute.

"I realized this is the music that told us volumes about America, and it was also the kind of music that spoke about pain. It spoke about resiliency," says Bunch. "In some ways it becomes a universal music and then the music is so infectious. You can be anywhere in the world and hear people tapping their toes to Rhythm and Blues because it’s that special.” Read more ..


The Metal's Edge

Conflict-free Tantalum Emerges for Telecom Industry

July 18th 2011

Environment Topics - Tantalum in the hand

AVX Corporation, in partnership with a leading producer of communications technology, has developed the “Solutions for Hope Project,” which is a pilot program established to demonstrate a process to deliver conflict-free tantalum material from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines.

The process’ basis is a ”closed pipe” principle in which tantalite ore mined from a single site within the Katanga Province of the DRC is traced along its secure closed supply chain to the end-customer’s equipment in the form of tantalum capacitors supplied by AVX. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

SolarOr to Power Buildings with Honeycombs in Windows

July 17th 2011

Energy Topics - SolarOr BIPV window panels
SolarOr BIPV installed; closeup of window panel

Many governments worldwide now require double pane glass in windows for energy efficiency. In between the panes is usually a gas that helps to cut down on unwanted heat transfer. But what if, sandwiched between the two panes of glass, instead of merely a substance that helped conserve energy, there was also an actual energy generator? That is the ingenious energy innovation supplied by Israel’s SolarOr, which was on display at this month’s Intersolar event at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

Between the two panes, SolarOr inserts tiny faceted solar photovoltaic cells facing the sky at the top of a honeycomb inside the glass. Read more ..


The Grid's Edge

Off-grid Energy Storage Market to Grow Rapidly for Next Five Years

July 17th 2011

Energy Topics - ultracapacitor and flywheel
Ultracapacitor and cross-section of flywheel storage unit

Battery, flywheel, ultracapacitor and fuel cell developers need to act now if they wish to tap the USD 4 billion market for off-grid applications, says Lux Research. Struggling to get their feet in the door of transportation and grid-tied markets, emerging electrical storage developers have begun eying off-grid opportunities as a way to attain scale and lower costs. Read more ..


Military on Edge

House Offers Budget Boost to Troubled Pentagon Agency Fighting Roadside Bombs

July 17th 2011

Military - Unexploded IED in Iraq
An Unexploded Roadside IED

Despite unprecedented budgetary pressures, a recently passed House appropriations bill would both increase the overall defense budget and boost funds for a controversial Pentagon organization set up to combat roadside bombs.

That agency, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) has since 2006 been given more than $21 billion dollars to spend on combatting improvised explosive devices and now employs 1,800 people. But it has not managed to substantially reduce IED-related casualties among U.S. troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

IED attacks kill or maim hundreds of American soldiers each year. As of May, the most recent month for which IED figures were available, a total of 2,894 U.S. service members have been killed and another 27,502 injured by roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Fuel

CNG Conversions Still Going Nowhere Fast

July 17th 2011

Automotive - CNG Toyota trunk tank

So the price of gas goes up again, and everyone wants to jump on the CNG bandwagon: the investors, the dreamers, the educators, the regulators, the politicians, the everyday driver—and the list goes on and on. The only problem is that there is one big CNG roadblock. No CNG conversions available at a decent price for the common man, no one has any money, and the rules-and-regulations bogeyman is hovering. Yes, there are new vehicles with EPA certifications for $40K that come with government handouts for their purchase, and there are a few older OEM CNG vehicles still on the road. But there still isn't a readily available conversion system.

Why is that? I will tell you why: the average driver in the United State drives a vehicle that is so over-regulated for emissions that if they are faced with something as revolutionary as converting to natural gas and their check engine light comes on, they go screaming to the closest governmental agency or dealership for protection. Read more ..


Syria vs Lebanon

A Victory for an Iran-led Coalition

July 17th 2011

Lebanon Topics - Jumblatt and Berri
Walid Jumblatt, Nabib Berri

This week, beleaguered Syrian dictator Bashar Assad gave a speech in which he referred to protesters as “vandals” and re-issued a tired promise of reforms. The speech did nothing to lessen the anger of his opponents, and the uprising against the regime is continuing apace.

Yet in neighboring Lebanon in the same week, the Assad regime and its allies scored a signal achievement. After 140 days of wrangling, Syria, Hezbollah, and its allies held the first meeting of the new, pro-Syrian government in Beirut. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Lawrence of Judea

July 17th 2011

Arab Topics - Lawrence, Churchill, and Abdullah
Churchill, Lawrence, and Abdullah at Cairo (credit: Clio)

T.E. Lawrence—better known in Britain and throughout the Middle East as Lawrence of Arabia—was a lifelong friend of Arab national aspirations. In 1917 and 1918 he participated as a British officer in the Arab revolt against the Turks, a revolt led by Sharif Hussein, later King of the Hedjaz. He was also an adviser to Hussein’s son Feisal, whom he hoped to see on the throne of Syria. For generations of British Arabists, Lawrence was and remains a symbol of British understanding of and support for the Arab cause. Virtually unknown, however, is his understanding of and support for Jewish national aspirations in the same era.

In mid-December 1918, a month after the end of World War I, Lawrence was instrumental in securing an agreement between Emir Feisal and the Zionist leader Dr. Chaim Weizmann. The meeting was held at the Carlton Hotel in London (a building subsequently destroyed in the London Blitz). Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Purchasing Israel—not Stealing Palestine

July 17th 2011

Israel Topics - Titus memorial frieze 70CE
Arch commemorating Titus’s victory over the Jews in 70 CE

Zionists stole Palestinian land: that’s the mantra both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas teach their children and propagate in their media. This claim has vast importance, as Palestinian Media Watch explains: “Presenting the creation of the [Israeli] state as an act of theft and its continued existence as a historical injustice serves as the basis for the PA’s non-recognition of Israel’s right to exist.” The accusation of theft also undermines Israel’s position internationally.

But is this accusation true?

No, it is not. Ironically, the building of Israel represents about the most peaceable in-migration and state creation in history. To understand why requires seeing Zionism in context. Simply put, conquest is the historic norm; governments everywhere were established through invasion, and nearly all states came into being at someone else’s expense. No one is permanently in charge; everyone’s roots trace back to somewhere else. Read more ..


Book Review

A Timely Guide to Restoring America’s Greatness

July 17th 2011

Book Covers - reawakening virtues - williams

Reawakening Virtues: Restoring What Makes America Great. Armstrong Williams. New Chapter Publisher, 2011. 208 pages.

It was 8:21 on a Friday night, and there I was, reading yet another book on how to reclaim the morals and principles that America used to hold dear. What a way to start a weekend. Rather prudish, don’t you think?

When I found out that my husband had to work late, I decided it was as good a time as any to start reading the copy of Armstrong Williams’s new book Reawakening Virtues: Restoring What Makes America Great, which this newspaper had asked me to review. To be perfectly blunt, I was expecting to read what I’ve read (and even written about myself) a million times before.

The cry goes something like this: “Our nation is going to hell in a handbasket, and if we don’t do something fast, we’re doomed.” Don’t get me wrong—I believe the statement is true. The sad reality is that it is nothing new.

Mr. Williams’s book, however, is something new—and on that quiet summer evening, I discovered that it is quite powerful, too.

At the title of Chapter 1, Williams had my undivided attention: “The Virtue of the Sabbath.”

I immediately recalled a meeting I had several years ago with a friend—radio host and film critic Michael Medved—about the very subject of the Sabbath. Michael wanted to know why Christians seem to ignore the commandment about keeping the Sabbath. He had the same question about his own Jewish brothers and sister, too. Although I know the early Christians began observing the day of rest on Sundays because that was the day of Jesus’s Resurrection—I really could not answer as to why the day—whether it be Saturday or Sunday—has lost its sense of holiness with so many people of faith. What I do know is that it wasn’t destroyed by a secular culture. I can blame a lot of our ills on that, but not this one. No, the failure to take a complete day and set it aside to rest in God is the fault of every single Christian and Jew who chooses to ignore this very clear command—myself often included. Read more ..



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